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Crossover Fic: Les Morts Dansant (LotR/Forgotten Realms) Epilogue

Here is the Epilogue to my ‘Lord of the Rings’/‘Forgotten Realms’ crossover story ‘Les Morts Dansant. Previous parts can be found HERE.

Crossover between ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (Book-verse) and the ‘Forgotten Realms’ stories set in the ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ game-world of Faerûn – the canon Forgotten Realms, in which ‘Tabula Avatar’ and its sequels never took place, and terrible things happened instead.

Summary: following the death of Eilistraee, goddess of the good Drow, a few of her worshippers decide to flee from Faerûn and find a way of reaching another world; Middle Earth, shortly after the end of the Ring War, during Éomer King’s courtship of Princess Lothíriel of Dol Amroth. When a vengeful Haradrim warlord carries out a devastating attack the Drow get caught up in it. After the battle Legolas has to deal with unexpected feelings and situations… 8,125 words. Rating R.

Les Morts Dansant

Their words mostly noises
Ghosts with just voices
Your words in my memory
Are like music to me

I'm miles from where you are,
I lay down on the cold ground
I, I pray that something picks me up
And sets me down in your warm arms

Snow Patrol, Set the fire to the third bar

Epilogue: Far away on the other side

Legolas released the elleth’s hand and stood up. “She’s dead,” he said. “And I never even learned her name.”

“Her name was Laelryne,” Lothíriel told him. “She styled herself Protector of the Song. She truly was a protector. And, although I knew her for less than a day, she was my friend.”

“Protector of the Song,” Legolas repeated. “A worthy title.” He gazed down at the body. Laying there, pierced with arrows, she reminded him of Boromir. On the face of it the comparison seemed ridiculous; surely this slim elleth, who he estimated would have stood barely over five feet tall, could not have been a match for the mighty Captain of Gondor. Yet the positioning of the fallen foes about her, and the wounds that had slain them, implied that she too had been a formidable warrior.

Gimli was surveying the scene of carnage. “What a last stand,” he said, in tones of awed respect. “These few who fell here slew fifty before they were brought down.” He was about to say more but broke off when he saw Éomer leaping down from Firefoot and dashing into the circle of wagons.

“Lothíriel!” Éomer cried. “Are you safe?” His sword Gúthwinë was in his hand but, as Lothíriel rushed to meet him, he sheathed it hastily and held out his arms to sweep his beloved into his embrace.

Legolas turned away, leaving them to their reunion, and walked around to the other side of the carriage. There he found four of the Rohirrim, battered and wounded, sitting or leaning against the side of the coach. He recognised one as Heruwine, commander of the éored that had provided the escort for the caravan, who had distinguished himself as a warrior both at Helm’s Deep and the Pelennor Fields. An arrow had struck him in the calf and penetrated all the way through his boot, through the flesh, and out through the other side. The other three Rohirrim all bore wounds; one had lost a hand at the wrist and a comrade was still busy binding it to staunch the flow of blood.

Bodies lay all around. The corpses of the fallen Swan Knights were out in the open, hacked to pieces, surrounded by Haradrim dead. Legolas guessed that the knights, in their heavy armour, had been overhauled as they ran back from the wagons to the coach and had been pulled down like stags surrounded by a pack of wolves.

“Lord Legolas, well met,” Heruwine greeted the Elf. “Éomer King is here?”

“He is, with five hundred Riders,” Legolas said. “I found traces of the passing of the Haradrim and Éomer set out as soon as I reported to him. We rode at speed for a day and a night. Would that we could have got here sooner.” He noticed that the Haradrim corpses on this side, although many, were noticeably fewer than on the side that had been defended by the Black Elves.

“I live,” said Heruwine, “but my éored is destroyed. I heard the Princess crying out that Laelryne was hurt unto death. Does she yet live?”

“No,” Legolas said. “She died. All the Black Elves perished.” He felt a strange emptiness, a hollow feeling, inside him.

“Even Cierre?” said the Man who had been binding the wound of his fellow who had lost a hand. “I had thought her invincible.”

“I do not know of whom you speak,” Legolas said, “but they are all dead.”

“Cierre, baresark, bare-breasted she fought, bare-handed she slew, like Helm Hammerhand returned,” Heruwine said, speaking rhythmically as if reciting. “I shall compose a verse in full at a later time, when I do not have an arrow through my leg.”

By now more of Éomer’s Riders were entering the circle. Men with experience of treating battlefield injuries hurried to the aid of Heruwine and his companions. Legolas wandered back to the side of the coach where Laelryne lay.

For a while he simply stood and looked around, trying to deduce the course of events from the physical evidence, and listening with one ear to Gimli doing the same thing and speaking admiringly about his findings. Legolas also was considering, and trying to come to terms with, the strange new feelings he was experiencing.

He’d never given much thought to affairs of the heart until recently. Occasionally his father had hinted that he should think about finding a wife but it hadn’t been a matter of urgency. Legolas had assumed that, one day, he would meet the right elleth but that day might be yéni, or even millennia, in the future. Only in the past year, after seeing Aragorn with Arwen, Faramir with Éowyn, and Éomer with Lothíriel, had Legolas felt in any way discontented with his unattached state.

And he’d never expected that, when it happened, it would be so sudden. He’d taken it for granted that he would get to know an elleth and gradually come to realise that their fëar were in harmony. Love at first sight was a Mannish concept and rare enough even amongst Men; in fact he’d come across the idea primarily in conversations about Éomer and Lothíriel. Never in his wildest imaginings had he thought that it would happen to him – before first sight, even, for he had felt a pull within him when he was yet several miles from the elleth in question.

He had set eyes on her only when she was already dying. There had been time for only a few words before death had parted them. And yet the death of this virtual stranger had sent pangs of grief and loss flooding through him as painfully as when he had seen Mithrandir fall from the Bridge of Khazad-dûm. He didn’t understand how it had happened but he could not deny how he felt.

It wasn’t logical. Legolas tried to think about it rationally. He hadn’t known this elleth Laelryne at all. She had been pretty, certainly, even with her face twisting in response to the pain of her mortal wounds; her deep brown skin was unlike anything he had seen before but it was not unattractive, in fact it gave her an exotic air that only added to her appeal. However physical attractiveness was the norm among Elves and certainly she had not been outstanding when compared to renowned beauties such as Arwen and Galadriel. And, as for Laelryne’s character, he had only a few words on which to base his opinion.

Once healers had tended to Erchirion’s wounds Legolas approached the prince and asked him about Laelryne. Almost Legolas hoped to hear disparaging words, descriptions of flaws, revelations that would enable him to persuade himself that the Dark Elf elleth could not really be his soul-mate. Instead Erchirion heaped unstinting praise upon the warrior maid who, the prince was convinced, was the only reason he was still alive and his sister had not been carried off as a captive by the Haradrim.

“She was a marvel with a sword,” Erchirion reminisced. “Never have I seen anyone so skilled. Even our King Elessar could not have matched her. She moved in a dance, graceful and smooth, with not a motion wasted. It was beautiful to behold – although her opponents never lived long enough to appreciate it. And she was a gifted commander and tactician. She claimed to be nothing special, merely a subordinate officer, but she had learned well from her superiors – who must themselves have been quite remarkable. It was Laelryne who was the true commander of our defence. She projected an air of calm authority that was reassuring, even in the direst of situations, and inspired us all to follow her lead. And her people loved her.”

“You make her sound like Aragorn,” Legolas remarked.

“It was Faramir of whom she reminded me, but you are right too,” said Erchirion. “Certainly her companion Cierre was to her what Gimli was to our king during the Ring War. Or yourself and Gimli rolled into one, rather, for Cierre was an archer who might perhaps have matched you for accuracy and power as well as being formidable with sword and axe. And her lust for battle was more that of a Dwarf than an Elf.”

“She fought on even when they cut off her hands,” Gimli chimed in. “I could tell that from the way the bodies lay and the injuries on the foemen. What a fighter! I would have been proud to swing my axe at her side.”

The conversation then turned to Cierre. Legolas did not attempt to direct Erchirion back onto the topic of Laelryne, for he felt that he had learned what he needed to know, and he reflected on what he had heard as Erchirion and Gimli discussed the other warrior maid.

It was obvious that Laelryne had impressed Erchirion greatly. Legolas had a great respect for Erchirion’s father, Prince Imrahil, and Imrahil’s sons were all worthy Men. That Laelryne had inspired Erchirion to such loyalty, hero-worship even, spoke volumes about her character. And he had compared her to Faramir; from a Man of Gondor such a comparison was praise of the highest order. Legolas had hoped to find something that would enable him to put aside this feeling of loss; instead he now felt it even more keenly. He would have delighted in getting to know her but the chance had been snatched away. He would have to wait until they were reunited in Valinor and who could tell how long that would be? Already he had vowed not to sail to the West until after Aragorn had departed from this life; now it would be even harder to fight against the sea-longing.

Later, as he waited for a chance to talk with Lothíriel, Legolas sought out Cierre’s bow and examined it. The wood of which it was made was unfamiliar to him and the craftsmanship, too, differed from that of the Elves of Eryn Lasgalen and that of the Galadhrim. A Haradrim arrow had struck it and split the wood along the grain, ruining the bow, but he could tell that it had been a superb weapon. He tested the strength of the undamaged end and estimated that it would have had a draw weight almost as great as that of the bow given to him by Galadriel. It was not surprising that the Haradrim had learned to fear the bow and its wielder and, according to Erchirion, they had launched one attack with no other purpose than to slay Cierre; a task at which they had failed but which had destroyed the bow.

Then, at last, Legolas saw that Éomer was no longer with Lothíriel. The main body of the Rohirrim had returned with captives, a mere dozen Haradrim all of whom were wounded, and Éomer went to oversee what was to be done with them and to direct the cleaning-up of the battle site and organise burials. Legolas took the opportunity to seek out the princess.

“She was a good person,” Lothíriel said. “Compassionate and kind. Most of all, I think, she was determined to do the right thing, whatever the cost. She reminded me, very much, of Éowyn; although more… intellectual.”

“She reminded you of Éowyn? Because of her deeds of arms, you mean?”

Lothíriel shook her head. “I have known Éowyn only since she has been with cousin Faramir,” she said, “and she is happy and contented now. But Éomer has told me of the dark times she endured, and of the despair into which she fell, and which drove her almost to cast her life away. That is what I sensed in Laelryne. It seems that her leader went through a decline like unto that which afflicted Théoden King but, unlike Théoden, she did not rise above it and brought disaster upon her people. Laelryne’s people were the survivors of that catastrophe and were still afflicted by its shadow. There was a deep sadness within Laelryne, I could tell, although she hid it well most of the time. Only sometimes did it show through.”

“Something that occurred during the War of the Ring?” Legolas asked.

Lothíriel’s eyebrows shot up. “Did you not know? No, of course, you were not here and no-one will have told you. Laelryne and her people were not from this world. They came here after the catastrophe, which had left them as homeless refugees, seeking a place in which they could find peace. They arrived only hours before the attack of the Haradrim.”

“Not from this world? What do you mean?”

“I do not fully understand it myself,” said Lothíriel. “She told me only part of the story; there was no time to go into the matter in depth, although I heard more from Srulauthe as we took shelter in the carriage. All I know is that their ancestors left Middle Earth long Ages ago; I suspect that they were fleeing from Morgoth. They found a world called Faerûn, or perhaps Toril – Srulauthe used both names, and I know not what the difference is – and settled there. Later some of them fell into evil, and they split into factions, and warred amongst themselves for long Ages. A short time ago her faction was defeated, their stronghold sacked, and their people massacred. Laelryne escaped with some of the survivors and led them here.”

“Another… world,” Legolas said, slowly. “How can there be another world? And how can people travel between worlds?”

“I am the wrong person to ask,” Lothíriel said. “I know only what they told me. Perhaps Mithrandir, or a loremaster such as Lord Elrond of Imladris, might be able to tell you more. All I can say is that they travelled by magic and arrived in an ancient stone circle near the road, perhaps a league and a half to the west of here, shortly before our caravan reached that point.” She sighed. “For me it was the most fortunate of chances and my salvation; for them, alas, it meant their deaths. I pray that they do not suffer the fate that Laelryne told me was to be their doom.”

“Their… doom?” Legolas echoed.

“Yes. Laelryne told me that her people, and herself, would not go to the Halls of Mandos and thence to Valinor upon their deaths. Instead they would be imprisoned in something called the Wall of the Faithless until their souls were… destroyed.” Lothíriel choked back a sob. “It seems so unjust. They followed one among the Valar of their world who was slain and refused to transfer their allegiance to another upon her death. This, it seems, is a crime to those Valar and incurs that cruel punishment. Yet to me it seems that they were faithful beyond any and to call them Faithless is the opposite of the truth. I implored our Valar to treat her fallen people as Elves of Middle Earth. I can only hope that they will.”

- - - - -

“The prisoners tell me,” Éomer told Legolas, “that their Amir had ordered them to take Black Elf women alive if they could. That, I think, is why the Southrons concentrated their efforts, in the final assault, upon the side where the Black Elves made their stand.”

“And yet they slew them, with arrows in almost every case,” Legolas said. “That does not fit with an attempt to take captives.”

“I suspect that the Black Elves simply fought so ferociously that taking them alive was impossible and the Men ignored their Amir’s orders,” Éomer said. “None of the prisoners were involved in that attack, as all of them had been injured earlier and were unfit for anything other than looking after the horses, and they could not confirm my guess. I would be surprised, though, if I was wrong.”

“But why…?” Legolas began, and then the answer to the question he had been about to ask came to him. “They wanted to take them as slaves,” he said, his lip curling with disgust.

“Indeed so,” Éomer confirmed. “Apparently such exotic women would have sold for a fortune in the slave markets of Harad.” He spat on the ground. “Despicable swine.”

“Indeed,” Legolas agreed. “Tell me, Éomer, is there a stone circle near here?”

“I do not know this area well,” Éomer said, “but I shall find out. Guthred and Garwalda, who survived the siege, are from the last village we passed through and may well know. Also some Riders have just arrived from the village that lies to the east. I shall ask them too.” He raised his hand and stroked his beard. “Hmm. If there is such a circle it might make a suitable location for the mound we will raise to inter the fallen Black Elves with honour.”

“Wait,” said Legolas. “I must see the place first.”

- - - - -

Legolas gazed at the stone circle. It was difficult to recognise as a deliberate construction; the stones had eroded away, and sunk into the soil or been buried by the detritus of the ages, so that most protruded only a few feet above the ground or had disappeared entirely. Legolas doubted very much if any magic remained in this place.

“This place is old beyond reckoning,” Gimli said. “Does it speak to you, as the stones in the land of Hollin spoke to you?”

“No,” said Legolas. “I can learn nothing here. Perhaps Mithrandir might be able to discover something but to me these stones are dead.”

“What are your plans?” Gimli asked.

“I must learn more,” Legolas said. “I cannot rely upon meeting Laelryne again in Valinor. If her fëa is imprisoned elsewhere, and doomed to destruction, then I must at least seek for a way to rescue her. I suspect the task would be impossible – but if there is any way to achieve it then I must at least try.”

“And I will aid you,” said Gimli. “We have achieved the impossible before.”

“Or at least what was thought to be impossible,” Legolas said. “Thank you, my friend. Your staunch comradeship lightens my heavy heart and steels my resolve. Now let us leave this place. I would have further speech with Éomer before the dead are laid to rest.”

- - - - -

In the end it was Lothíriel who gave instructions for the burial of the Drow. “Srulauthe and I talked,” she explained, “as we sat waiting for the end. They bury their dead where the moon can shine upon the graves. A mound, such as the Men of the Mark raise, would suit perfectly. And they do not inter their dead with weapons but pass them on to the successors of the departed. In this case,” she said, “I feel that they should go to Legolas.”

“I can hardly take four dozen swords,” Legolas protested. “More, in fact, for many of them wore swords at each hip. Nor can I take a multitude of their ‘crossbows’. I will take Laelryne’s sword, though, and return it to her if I find her in Valinor… or elsewhere.”

“Those ‘crossbows’ could be of use to the Dwarves,” said Gimli. “I will take one, if I may, so that craftsmen of my people can study it and fashion copies.”

“I have some thoughts on their use myself,” Erchirion said.

“As I seem to have been thrust into the role of the representative of the Dark Elves,” Legolas said, “I grant you permission to take them. You were their comrades in battle and fought, and died, side by side. I cannot imagine they would object.”

“I’ll look after the axe that was Cierre’s,” Gimli volunteered. “If I can’t return it to her any other way, I’ll pass it on to you when you take ship to the West. An Elf who uses an axe deserves her weapon back – and, unlike a sword, it can also be used to split logs for the fire.”

“And there is the gold,” said Lothíriel. “Again it should go to Legolas.”

“Gold?” queried Gimli.

“Their pack mules bore two chests of golden coins,” Lothíriel said. “It was to set them up in their new life in this land. There must be some thousands.”

“Should it not go to the relatives of the dead here?” Legolas asked.

“There are three hundred Haradrim horses to count as weregild,” Éomer said, “and other saleable possessions that are forfeit to us. There is no need for us to take the gold from fallen allies.”

“The Drow gave their lives for us,” said Lothíriel. “We cannot ask for more.”

“And if you manage to find this ‘Wall of the Faithless’,” Erchirion said, “and mount an attempt to rescue Laelryne’s shade, you may need to arm and equip an army. The gold will serve you well for that purpose. And, if you need volunteers for that army, you have my sword.”

Gimli grinned. “And my axe.”

- - - - -

Elrond examined Laelryne’s sword and then passed it over to his smith Angmir.

“Remarkable workmanship,” Angmir said, after a careful study of the weapon, “worthy of the great smiths of Eregion in the Elder Days. And it bears cunning enchantments. Only one who is pure in heart can wield this sword without doom coming swiftly upon them. Would that I could have met the lady who bore this blade. There are many questions I would have asked her.”

“And I,” said Legolas, “had she not already been hurt unto death. There was time only for a few words.” He turned back to Elrond. “Can you tell me anything of Dark Elves? Are there any histories in your libraries that mention them?”

“Only in the sense of those who refused the invitation to go to Valinor,” Elrond said. “Perhaps Glorfindel might know more?”

“Eöl Mornedhel was dark of skin,” Glorfindel said, “although not as dark as you describe. He did not speak of his ancestry – indeed, he spoke little unless pressed – and he was kin to Thingol, who was as fair-skinned as are we. Perhaps, though, one of his parents was a true Dark Elf. That is all that I can suggest. I am sorry that it is so little.”

“What about you, Gandalf?” Gimli asked. “Do you know anything that would help Legolas in his quest?”

Mithrandir pursed his lips. “I have studied many works of lore in the libraries of Imladris, and of Gondor, and in the North Kingdom before its fall,” he said, “and never have I seen reference to Elves like those of which you speak. However I do have a volume retrieved from Orthanc, after Saruman’s departure, containing notes which up to now have made no sense to me. He writes of seeking gates to other worlds ‘like those the Avari of Morwë used long ago’. But he makes no mention of finding them. The notes end, with the matter unresolved, and the next section deals with research into the loss of the One Ring. Presumably Saruman lost interest in gates between worlds as his obsession with the Ring grew.”

“I have heard the name Morwë before,” said Glorfindel. “He was the founder of one of the tribes of the Avari, I believe, a contemporary of Nurwë. But this was a matter of ancient history and legend even before the fall of Gondolin.”

“From the few facts that we have,” said Elrond, “I would deduce that Morwë’s people were the ancestors of the Dark Elves who fell in Rohan. They departed from Arda, no doubt to escape the dominion of Morgoth, through a gateway that led them to another world. But how this was achieved, and how it might be achieved once more, remains a mystery. I am afraid we have been able to contribute little to add to your existing knowledge.”

“Saruman may have known more,” said Mithrandir, “but whatever knowledge he possessed died with him. And I suspect that it would have been of little help in any event.”

“Is there nothing more you can add?” Legolas pleaded. “Surely any sources of knowledge open to Saruman must be open to you too.”

Mithrandir sighed. “I shall see what I can do,” he said. “The powers granted to me were for the purpose of combating Sauron and they are not to be used for frivolous ends. Yet this is, plainly, no frivolous matter and you are, after all, Legolas of the Nine Walkers. You deserve whatever aid I can give and you shall have it. However, to do this, I must spend time in silent contemplation. I shall return.” He rose and departed from the chamber. Even before he had left the room he had withdrawn a pipe from within his robes.

The Sons of Elrond had taken no part in the discussion thus far. They were not loremasters and were far too young to have anything to contribute from their own experience. Now, however, they spoke up.

“Tell us more of this warrior maid Cierre,” said one. Legolas believed the speaker to be Elladan but, he had to admit, he was not absolutely sure.

“Yes,” said the other. “She sounds… interesting.”

- - - - -

“I can add little to what you have already been told,” Mithrandir admitted. They sat in a private room, just the wizard and Legolas, for this information was not for all ears. Mithrandir smelt strongly of pipeweed and the shadows under his eyes had deepened. “I can confirm, however, that there was a tribe of the Avari who had skin of deepest brown. They were led by Morwë, as Glorfindel suggested, but little else was known of them even by the Ainur. They did not answer the Call but hid themselves in the deepest forests. Then, around the time of Morgoth’s return to Middle Earth, they disappeared without trace.” He paused, took out his pipe, and then reconsidered and put it away again.

“It was believed that Morgoth had captured them all,” Mithrandir went on. “When the Orcs appeared it was deduced that he had twisted the Dark Elves to form Orcs. Morgoth, after all, could never create life but only mar and distort it. Yet I am no longer sure that this is the true story. Laelryene’s people were familiar with Orcs, you said, and that does not fit with them being of Morgoth’s shaping. If that been the case how, then, could her folk have encountered them?”

“Erchirion told me that the Dark Elves knew Orcs well, and held a great contempt for them, and slew them with ease,” Legolas confirmed. He sat alone with Mithrandir, in a private room, for this information was for his ears only.

“It may be that Morgoth brought the Orcs from outside Arda, in a similar fashion to that used by the Dark Elves to depart from this world,” Mithrandir said. “I am only hypothesising, of course, but it seems to me that it fits those few facts of which we are sure at least as well as the accepted idea that he shaped Elves into Orcs.”

“If Morgoth could open gates between worlds,” Legolas said, “why then did he not flee when he was facing defeat in the War of Wrath?”

“That is a question I cannot answer,” Mithrandir said. “Perhaps the One intervened to prevent his escape, not wishing the evil to spread. It could be that his way was barred by those on the other side of the gate; that other world has Valar of its own, you said, and they would not have welcomed such an interloper. A tribe of Elves is one thing, a mighty spirit of Evil something entirely different. Whatever the truth of the matter, whether my guess is accurate or mere wild supposition, I can see no way to investigate further. I will re-examine Saruman’s documents, in case there is more to learn, but I doubt it. And soon I will be sailing West.”

“I thank you for what you have done,” Legolas said. “At least I have a starting point. And Glorfindel’s information could be helpful also. Morwë was a contemporary of Nurwë, he said, and Nurwë was an ancestor of my own mother. Perhaps I might find someone in my father’s kingdom who can tell me more.”

- - - - -

King Thranduil gave Gimli a warm greeting, rather to Legolas’ surprise; he had expected that his father’s reaction would have been, instead, a hot reception.

“I welcome you to my halls, Gimli son of Glóin,” Thranduil said. “I have heard much about you that is good and naught that is bad. My son could have wished for no better comrade.”

“I thank you, Lord King,” Gimli answered, “and I could have wished for none better than your valiant son. His bow and my axe spread fear among the hosts of Mordor and, at his side, I learned that my preconceptions about the Elves were not accurate. And word has reached me of your own valiant deeds against the Orcs from Dol Guldur. I accept your welcome gladly.”

“Well said, Gimli son of Glóin,” Thranduil replied. “And you may tell your father that he too would be welcome to visit my halls. And, this time, he will be treated as an honoured guest rather than locked away – and he will be free to leave at any time of his choosing instead of having to be smuggled out by a Hobbit.”

Thranduil held a feast in the evening. The atmosphere was convivial; a few of the Elves treated Gimli with a degree of suspicion, at first, but Thranduil glowered at them until they modified their behaviour. At the end of the evening Gimli retired to his allocated chamber, replete after a hearty meal of venison and a plentiful supply of ale and wine, and Thranduil took Legolas into a private room to converse further.

“There is something different about you, my son,” said the Elvenking. “I think it is nothing to do with your experiences in the War. You have the air, I would say, of one who is in love.”

Legolas was thrown off balance by his father’s statement but had to agree. “I… yes, you are correct,” he admitted. “Indeed I have met the elleth with whose fëa mine sings in harmony.”

“That is wonderful news,” Thranduil said, beaming broadly. “For a minute there I feared that you had fallen for Gimli – and, although I am pleased to welcome him as your comrade, I would be less pleased to think of him as a son-in-law.”

Legolas laughed. “No, nothing like that,” he said. “You need have no fears on that score.”

“Good,” said Thranduil. “Then, tell me, who is this elleth? Andriel of Imladris, perhaps? She performed great deeds in the North during the War, including rescuing Glorhirin from Orcish captivity, and Glorhirin tells me that she is as fair as she is courageous. And you have just come from Imladris. Am I correct?”

Legolas shook his head. “I have met Andriel, and she is indeed both fair and brave,” he said, “but there is nothing between us. She has lost her heart to a Mortal, a Ranger of the Northern Dúnedain, but the choice of Arwen is not open to her. She is to sail West, with Lord Elrond, in the hope that she can forget him in time.”

“Ah,” said Thranduil, his mouth twisting. “A sad fate.” His smile returned. “Then who? A maid of the Galadhrim, perhaps?”

“No,” said Legolas. “Her name is Laelryne. She is – was – a Dark Elf. And I met her only as she lay dying.”

“Oh.” Thranduil poured out two goblets of his finest Dorwinion wine and passed one to Legolas. “I think you had better tell me all about it.”

- - - - -

“Yes, my father spoke of Dark Elves on occasion,” said Cennandor. He was one of the eldest of the Elves of Mirkwood and the only one Legolas had been able to find who knew anything about Dark Elves other than the tale of Eöl. “Rarely did he say more than ‘son, you are as secretive as a Dark Elf.’ Once, though, we talked of spiders and he said to me ‘There are those who say that Ungoliant went far to the south and died there. My father’ – that is, my grandfather – ‘says that tale is false. He told me that she pursued the Dark Elves beyond the circles of the world. Would that she had taken all her fiendish spawn with her!’ Alas, the conversation then turned back to spiders and he said no more on the subject.”

“I take it your father is… departed,” Legolas said.

“Indeed so,” Cennandor confirmed. “He perished serving under your grandfather at the Dagorlad. My mother sailed for the West some two yéni later. They would have known more, I am sure, but they are gone.”

Legolas thanked the Elf and, once he had departed, sighed. This was new information, indeed, but little enough to add to what he already knew. It did not move him any further forward in his quest. His father had found Cennandor for him but had failed to locate anyone else who claimed any knowledge of Dark Elves. And soon he would have to leave Mirkwood, for he had received an invitation to the wedding of Éomer and Lothíriel, and the journey was long. Still, perhaps he might find someone among the Galadhrim of Lothlórien who could tell him more.

- - - - -

Legolas learned nothing new in Lothlórien. He travelled on to Rohan with Gimli, retracing the steps he had followed as part of the Fellowship, and was at Edoras in time for the wedding.

There he learned that Éomer had ordered a search of Dunland, to ensure that no other Haradrim were in hiding there, and the Riders had discovered the village where the raiders had made their lair between their flight from the Pelennor Fields and their attack upon Lothíriel’s caravan. The Haradrim had massacred the village’s entire population; Men, women, and children.

At first the Dunlendings had believed the Rohirrim responsible, and the situation had been tense for a while, but eventually the truth had become clear. And this had solved Éomer’s dilemma over what to do with the prisoners taken at the site of the battle on the Great West Road; he had handed them over to the Dunlendings to do with as they saw fit. The end result had been an improvement in relations between the Rohirrim and the Dunlendings. As for the Haradrim, Éomer hadn’t even asked what the Dunlendings had done with them; Legolas was certain, however, that it would have been nothing pleasant.

The wedding was a joyous occasion. Éomer seemed to stand even taller than usual, beaming with pride, and Lothíriel was radiant. Legolas wished the couple joy, and bestowed upon them gifts he had brought from Mirkwood, and then, after the festivities were over, he and Gimli travelled to Minas Tirith in company with Aragorn and Arwen, Faramir and Éowyn, Prince Imrahil, and Imrahil’s sons.

It was good to be reunited with Aragorn. Legolas enjoyed time with his friend, and resumed work on the restoration of the city’s gardens while Gimli carried on with the project to rebuild those parts of the city walls and buildings destroyed during the siege. And Legolas spent a considerable amount of time in the extensive libraries of Minas Tirith.

He found nothing of use. There were reams of material about the history of Gondor, and a fair amount concerning Númenor, but almost nothing relating to the Ages before that. Aragorn was something of a loremaster himself, and Legolas hoped that he might have come across some relevant knowledge in his extensive travels, but his hope proved false. Aragorn was fascinated by the tale Legolas related but could contribute nothing of any use. Faramir, too, was enthralled but could provide no information that was helpful to Legolas.

Eventually Legolas departed from Gondor and went with Gimli to the Glittering Caves. There Gimli settled, bringing relatives from the North to populate his realm of Aglarond, and Legolas considered doing something similar. There was a place in Ithilien that would make a fine Elven settlement…

Time passed. Mithrandir, Elrond, and Galadriel sailed for the West and took with them Bilbo and Frodo. Lothíriel gave birth to a son and she and Éomer named him Elfwine, meaning ‘Elf-friend’, in remembrance of the Dark Elves who had saved her. Aragorn and Arwen had a son and named him Eldarion. And then war came once more to Gondor and Aragorn took an army south to fight against the Haradrim.

Prince Erchirion commanded Gondor’s heavy cavalry in that war and achieved stunning successes with the aid of a new weapon and tactic; hand crossbows, triggered just before the charge drove home, then released to hang on thongs while the sword was drawn. When the Haradrim employed their tactic of turning and loosing shafts as they withdrew they were mown down, struck in their vulnerable rear, while the cavalry of Gondor were protected by shields and by barding on the horses’ heads and chests. Heruwine, now a Marshall of the Mark, and Guthred, commanding an éored, also distinguished themselves in the conflict. And the Haradrim were utterly defeated and sued for peace on terms favourable to Gondor in the extreme.

Legolas founded his settlement in Ithilien. Mirkwood was no longer a realm of peril, becoming again the Great Greenwood, and the spiders became smaller, less numerous, and far less of a threat. Even so Legolas had no trouble attracting followers to populate his small realm.

Gimli’s father died, then Prince Imrahil, and then Éomer. Lothíriel survived him by some years but she was a shadow of her former self. Erchirion died. Éowyn died and then, some years later, Faramir followed her.

All this time Legolas continued to seek for traces of the Dark Elves, for clues as to where the world to which they had travelled lay, and for some way to follow after them. He had no success. Eventually he had to admit that his only chance of a reunion with Laelryne was if she had indeed been re-bodied in Valinor. And now Aragorn, too, was showing signs of age…

Then the time came when Aragorn chose to accept the Doom of Men and depart from the world while he still possessed all his senses. Arwen departed soon after. And Legolas was freed from the vow that had helped him to resist the sea-longing. The only thing now that could keep him from sailing to the West was the possibility that Laelryne had suffered the fate she feared and been returned to her own world’s version of the Afterlife to face perpetual imprisonment. And still Legolas had learned nothing that could either confirm her fate or give him a way to, if necessary, free her.

- - - - -

“I feel as if I am abandoning Laelryne,” Legolas said to Gimli, “but the Sea pulls at me more each day. Resisting the pull is becoming almost a physical pain. And I have made no further progress in my investigations since the day we left my father’s halls a hundred and twenty years ago.”

“She may well be in the Undying Lands,” Gimli said, “and, if so, you’re wasting time. And who is to say that it is not possible to travel to her world from Valinor anyway? Elves may be forbidden to return to Middle Earth, these days – since Glorfindel did it, anyway – but I’ve never heard about any prohibition on going elsewhere. And there will be Elves there who date back to that long-ago time. You might find someone who helped them pack their bags for the journey, and waved them farewell – even, perhaps, one who cast the spell that opened the gateway but did not himself pass through. There is yet hope.”

“True,” said Legolas. “Very well, I shall build a ship. Will you come with me, friend Gimli?” The Dwarf, by this time, was visibly showing his age. His hair and beard were streaked with grey and his joints creaked on cold mornings.

“I’m not sailing on any ship you build,” said Gimli. “It will look like a bow and travel only to the bottom of the sea.”

Legolas laughed. “Well, when I say I shall build it, I mean that I will call for shipwrights from the Grey Havens and work only at their direction,” he said.

“In that case, lad,” said Gimli, “aye, I’ll come. I will see the Lady Galadriel again – and I still have an axe to deliver to that lass who fought on after they cut off her hands.”

- - - - -

And so the ship was built, and provisioned, and filled up with crew and passengers. Most of those who had followed Legolas to Ithilien chose also to follow him to the West. And two unexpected additions turned up.

“We had thought to stay on as Lords of Imladris,” said Elladan, or possibly Elrohir, “but it is fading and becoming depressing. Our father has gone, and now our sister, and there is nothing for us in Middle Earth any longer. We would see our mother again.”

“And we remembered the tale you told of the warrior maid Cierre,” the other twin continued. “We would like to see her for ourselves – and, if she is lost in the prison of which you spoke, there may be a passage there from Valinor. If so then our swords could aid you in the rescue.”

“You are most welcome, my friends,” said Legolas. “I hope that such a rescue will not be necessary, and that Laelryne and her people will be awaiting us in Valinor, but it is as well to be prepared for any eventuality. And I could ask for no better sword-arms than yours at my side. We sail within the month.”

- - - - -

Legolas felt his heart in his mouth as the ship approached the moorings of the port of Avallónë on Tol Eressëa. Who, if anyone, would be there to greet him? And what were the protocols of arrival, anyway? He had only the practices he had observed in the ports of Gondor to guide him. Were there equivalents of Gondor’s Customs Officers, inspecting arriving ships, checking for contraband? Presumably he, and his people, would need to find an inn in which to stay until they could acquire some more permanent accommodation. Cirdan’s people had informed him that new arrivals from Middle Earth were required to dock at Avallónë but, beyond that, they knew no more than he did. Really the Valar should have provided some sort of guidebook.

Legolas didn’t even know if the re-bodied dwelt in the same place as those who arrived by way of the Straight Road. Perhaps he should have asked Glorfindel, the only Elf who might possibly have known, but it hadn’t occurred to him and, of course, it was much too late now.

“Father!” cried Elladan, or Elrohir. Even after the long sea voyage in their company Legolas had not discovered any reliable way of telling the twins apart. Sometimes he could tell by the clothes they were wearing but they were quite capable of exchanging clothes deliberately to cause confusion.

“And Mother!” added the other twin. “Oh, it has been so long!”

Well, at least there would be someone there who knew Legolas and Gimli. They had never met Celebrian but Elrond would make sure they were not left bewildered and stranded. Then Legolas heard one of his people crying out with joyous recognition, followed the Elf’s gaze, and saw someone he knew who had been slain in the Battle of the Five Armies. It seemed that the re-bodied might indeed inhabit Tol Eressëa – or, at least, if they lived elsewhere they travelled here to meet incoming ships.

There were no Customs Officers, or any similar officials; once the ship was tied up, and the gangplanks lowered, the passengers and crew were free to go ashore in their own time. Of course no-one could reach Valinor without the permission of the Valar and the restrictions imposed in human ports were unnecessary here. Elladan and Elrohir raced down the gangplank, the moment it was in place, and almost threw themselves at their father and their mother.

Legolas did not hurry. Let the twins have their reunion with their parents first. He took up a single bag, containing the things he would need for an overnight stay in an inn, and left the rest of his possessions in his cabin. Then, struck by a sudden whim, he slung Laelryne’s sword over his back. Gimli, perhaps less trusting, loaded himself up with a heavy backpack. They held back while some of the others, who had recognised loved ones on the quay, hurried ahead. Then they walked, at a leisurely pace, down the gangplank.

“Ah, it’s good to be back on solid ground,” Gimli said. He planted his feet firmly and looked around. “Well, I suppose we’d best find an inn or something, lad. Let the twins have some time with their parents before we start pestering Lord Elrond.”

“Yes, that would be for the best,” Legolas agreed. He joined Gimli in looking around; the Dwarf’s view was obscured by the much taller Elves all around and it was Legolas who stood the best chance of spotting something suitable. He saw a building, not far away, that appeared to be an inn or a tavern. “This way, I think,” he said, and set off.

“Excuse me! Let us past, please! Make way!” Legolas heard a female voice calling out, as someone thrust her way through the crowd, but it was not a voice he recognised and he paid it no attention. Then he began to feel a sense of… excited anticipation. And then he heard singing.

Ghil il chu ’sohna,
Kyorl ilta alure harl l'slyannen,
Nixm’io morfeth dosst xukuth ju’zhas

And it was coming from the sword on his back. He had no idea what the words meant but the singing, surely, could mean only one thing. Lothíriel’s prayer to the Valar, all those years ago, had been answered.

The crowds parted to reveal first a fairly tall elleth with deep brown skin, clad from head to foot in green leather, clearing the way for her much smaller companion.

And there she was. Laelryne, small compared with those around her but eye-catching nonetheless, smiling in a way that lit up her whole face. She wore a gown of pale turquoise and had bangles of gold on her wrists.

“Lady Laelryne,” he said, taking her hand.

“Lord Elrond tells me you are Legolas Greenleaf,” Laelryne replied. “I did not hear your name when last we met.”

“Legolas Thranduilion at your service,” Legolas said, dipping his head.

“Laelryne Phaundal at yours,” answered Laelryne. There was a moment of awkward silence. Gimli cleared his throat.

Fridj tsoss ukta, dos wael,” the taller Drow, Cierre, said. Her tone indicated that she was urging Laelryne to a course of action.

“You should just kiss her, lad,” Gimli suggested almost simultaneously.

Cierre grinned at Gimli. “That is what I just told my Jabbress,” she said. “You are his second, as I am hers, are you not?”

“Well, I wouldn’t put it quite like that,” said Gimli, “but I’ve wielded my axe beside the lad in battle quite a few times. And, speaking of axes, I’ve brought yours for you, lass.”

Laelryne looked up at Legolas. “You will have to bend down,” she said, her eyes twinkling. “Or shall I send Cierre to find a box on which I can stand?”

Legolas delayed no longer. He bent, took her in his arms, and planted his lips on hers. And the kiss told him that, whatever the arrangements for life in the Undying Lands might be, he would be happy here.

The End

Glossary of Drow Phrases

• ‘Ghil il chu ’sohna’ = ‘Here she comes again’
• ‘Kyorl ilta alure harl l'slyannen’ = ‘See her dance beneath the stars’
• ‘Nixm’io morfeth dosst xukuth ju’zhas’ = ‘She’ll make your heart leap’
• ‘Fridj tsoss ukta, dos wael’ = ‘Just kiss him, you fool’

• ‘elleth’ (Sindarin) = ‘female Elf’
• ‘fëa/fëar’ (Sindarin) = ‘soul/souls’
• ‘yéni’ (Sindarin) = ‘periods of 144 years’

Tags: fic, les morts dansant, lotr
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