Title: The Web of Darkness
Author's notes: There are hints in this chapter at my other stories, "The Prisoner of Dol Guldur" and "The Vault of the Dead", but you don't have to read those to understand this one.
After three years and 30 chapters, this story is finally coming to an end. I might write a sequel about Drizzt's adventures in the city of the Moriquendi one day, but there are no guarantees. Thanks for staying with me on this long ride, and for the comments and the support.
Drizzt Do'Urden spent more than a hundred years in the Elvenking's realm. He led a solitary life, away from the court most of the time, for that fit his nature the best. After a while, with the help of Alagos, he built his own talan in the branches of a great beech, close to that of Silinde's, but kept visiting her almost daily, when she was at home.
The Wood-Elves got used to his presence easily enough. The Avari – the Faithful – were particularly fond of him as he reminded their elders of their poor kin whom they had freed from the pits of Utumno, loving them and accepting them, despite the fact that those unfortunate ones had been turned into Orcs… or already born as ones.
Only the Elvenking's older son, found and miraculously rescued from the deepest dungeon of Dol Guldur after more than three millennia of captivity, could not bear his presence. His black skin reminded Eradan too much of his jailers and torturers, the Orcs. While the terribly broken and weakened prince understood that Drizzt was not an Orc – understood with his slowly recovering mind, at least – he could not keep his mindless terror under control whenever he caught as much as a glimpse of the Drow. So Drizzt took great care not to cross the path of Prince Enadar, who did not move around much on his own in the first decades anyway.
King Thranduil was a little embarrassed about the whole affair, and so was Prince Legolas, apologizing for his brother's behaviour reputedly, but Drizzt waved off his apologies.
"'Tis not your brother's fault that I remind him of his gaolers," he said. "That poor Elf suffered impossible pain, being imprisoned for three thousand years, alone and in complete darkness. Surface Elves are not meant to live in darkness. I shall try to avoid him as much as I can. 'Tis a huge forest; there is room enough for us both. No need to cause him even more distress."
Prince Legolas thanked him profoundly, and they never talked about it again. However, when in the next year Legolas gathered quite a few younger Elves around himself to go and build a new Silvan colony in the Southern realm of Men, Drizzt accompanied them, for he felt the sudden urge to see more of Middle-earth.
What he saw filled his heart with awe and delight. The Rohirrim reminded him a little of Wulfgar's people, and the greatness of Gondor amazed him beyond everything he had seen in his previous life. The Men of Gondor, whose kings were related to the Elves, seemed a good and noble people, and even though some of them were a bit wary of the strange Dark Elf, they were nothing but courteous to him.
But the most important encounter happened to him when he was visiting the Stone of Erech: the place where Gondor had been born. The huge, globular black stone, now half-buried in the ground, which – according to legend – had been brought out of the ruins of Númenor, the mythical island-kingdom of Men, and set there by Isildur, the father of the kings upon his landing.
No-one could tell what the actual purpose of the Stone might have been. But as it was considered an almost mythical item, and thus sometimes visited by Men with an interest for their own history, despite the rumours of haunted mountains all around it. Even strangers were allowed to see it when they asked for it.
Drizzt found the stone impressive, even half-buried. It must have been at least ten feet in diameter, perfectly smooth and cool to the touch like marble, and deep black in hue. He reached out to lay his hand upon the surface, but a melodic voice stopped him mid-movement.
"Do not touch the Stone, Dark Elf," said the voice. "It is shrouded; it will show you nothing. As you are alien to it, however, it may react to you in a way you would not find pleasant."
Drizzt yanked his hand back hurriedly and looked around for the source of that voice. He soon spotted a female Elf, tall and willowy and clad entirely in black, although her tunic was adorned with little white jewels and embroidered with silver thread. Her raven hair was artfully braided away from her pale, fine face, the thin braids woven to an intricate coronet with strings of silver beads, resting upon her back like a great sheaf of crop. Her eyes were black like coal, too, almost glowing under her fine, arched eyebrows. She was unarmed, save from the throwing knives on her back – the same kind the Faithful of the Greenwood preferred to use.
"Greetings," she said with an elegant bow. "My name is Râmalê. I have been sent to speak to you on behalf of our chieftain."
"You know me?" asked Drizzt in surprise.
"I know about you," she corrected. "We still exchange messages with our Northern kin, by way of friendly birds. And some of us visit Queen Lálisin who resides within the Great Ash from time to time. So yea, we have heard about you and your deeds, which is why Morwêndî sent me to speak to you."
That name finally did ring a bell with Drizzt.
"You are one of the Mori-kwêndî, are you not?" he asked. "One of those who guard the Vault of the Dead."
"Indeed, I am," she replied. "And I have come to extend to you an invitation. The Dead who dwell among us are willing to accept your fêa – your spirit – when the time comes for you to shed your body. Yet should you grow tired of a life on the treetops, we who are still alive would welcome you among us as well."
"Why would you do so?" asked Drizzt in surprise.
"You slew a Nazgûl," she answered, "and for that, all Elves still dwelling in Middle-earth shall be in your debt. Beyond that, though, we know what it means to be profoundly different from everyone else. Most peoples of Middle-earth live in the sunlight; we do not. We are the children of twilight and starlight, and thus we consider you our kin. Should you ever find living in the harsh light of Anor too burdensome, you will always have a place among us. All you need to do to is to return to this place. We keep constant watch on the Stone; someone will be here to guide you to our hidden city."
"Perhaps I shall do so, one day," said Drizzt slowly, thoughtfully, remembering what Alagos had told him about the Dark Elves of Middle-earth.
"Then my work here is done," she replied – and then she simply vanished. Not even Drizzt's experienced eyes could tell where she had gone… or how she had done it.
After a year in the South, during which he witnessed Prince Legolas' wedding with Princess Indreâbhan of Dor-Lelmin and visited the Glittering Caves, the newly-founded Dwarven city, ruled by Master Glóin's son, Gimli, Drizzt returned to the Greenwood. There he led a fairly uneventful life for more than a century, and was fairly content with it.
Until, about a hundred and twenty years after the war, Prince Legolas finally succumbed to the mysterious condition called the Sea-longing and began to build a grey ship to sail to the West, to Elvenhome. Silinde decided to go with him, and so Drizzt's main reason to live in the Greenwood was lost. Thus when Silinde started preparations for the long journey to the South, to the Elf-haven of Edhellond, from where Prince Legolas' ship was supposed to sail, Drizzt began to think about changes, too.
"I had a good life in your realm, my Lord King," he said to Thranduil, "but now I feel I have to move on. The Mori-kwêndî of the South have offered me a place among them, and I think I should go there."
The Elvenking was loath to see him leave; but he was also distracted by the upcoming departure of Legolas, so he did not fight the Drow's decision. Drizzt paid a last visit to both Dale and Laketown and also made a trip to Erebor, to take his leave from his friends – or, in the case of Men, rather from the grandchildren of his late friends – and when Silinde and her entourage set off for the South, he joined them for a while.
In Rohan, he said his good-byes to Silinde, too, and it was bittersweet, as he knew he would never see her again. She would go on to the Undying Lands and, ultimately, be reunited with his re-embodied husband. He, on the other hand, would take his proper place among the Dead and their guardians.
He rode to the Stone of Erech alone, accompanied only by his hunting lynx, a progeny of his first friend on Middle-earth, the true-hearted Half-tooth. Once he reached the Stone, he dismounted and simply waited for someone to pick him up.
He did not have to wait for long. Barely had he rested for an hour, the black-clad figure of an Elf appeared nest to the Stone, as if materializing out of thin air. This time, it was a male one, with an angular face and his raven hair tied into a topknot, of which the feathers of some very short arrows were peeking out. He wore shadow-grey clothes that blended with the rock around them, and had a blowing pipe in one hand and throwing knives on his back.
"Greetings, Drizzt Do'Urden of the House of Daernon N'shezbaernon," he said. "I am Spanturo, one of the mountain scouts. I have come to take you home."
Soledad Cartwright, 27-06-2010