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The Dark of Night
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1

Betas: Chrissie, Nerdanel Istarnie, Weird Alfi

Terms: fëar - spirits
Calaquendi - elves of light (elves of Valinor)
elleth - female elf
ellon - male elf

Many thanks to my betas: Chrissie, Nerdanel Istarnie, Weird Alfi

Extra special thanks to the folks at HaldirLovers for their feedback and encouragement in the telling of this tale.

Disclaimer: Most of this is Tolkien's. I make no money from this.


~~~

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Since the Night before nights, the First Born have told tales of creatures that stalked the unwary, snatching them from the world of the living. With the birth of the sun and the moon, these tales ended, to be replaced by rumors among the elves of a different sort of horror, an interminable darkness which fed upon the light. With the captivity of Morgoth, the slaughter of his minions, and the destruction of Beleriand, it was hoped among the elves that these dangers were at an end. Then Sauron rose to power and the stories resurfaced. With the loss of the One Ring at the end of the Second Age, it was believed that this threat had died with Sauron. Now the elves of the Third Age will learn how very wrong they were.

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Chapter 1
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“Celegon!” The elleth complained in frustration as the ellon stole another sweet kiss then escaped yet again.

“Silly Green elf,” he shot back as he danced away. “You will never catch a Noldo with your feet. You must use your wit and your charm, for you will never match us in speed.”

She found his taunts frustrating, yet endearing at the same time. He was the silly one, not she.

“Keep running, Noldo,” she egged him on. “For the trees speak to my kind where they have no care for yours.”

He turned and sped away.

Silencing her squeal of delight, she pursued her lover and his friends into the trees. It was a moonless midnight and the sky was lit with stars. How perfect, she thought as she sped unhindered through the dim wood. The trees whispered of their presence ahead and all too soon she spotted them. This nightly chase was becoming far too easy. Soon she would catch him, then his friends would foolishly tease before departing, leaving them alone in each other’s arms for the night.

Creeping closer, she saw the glow of their Calaquendi fëar, betraying their location. These descendants of the elves of Valinor whose eyes and fëar still reflected the light of the now extinct Two Trees must learn to go hooded and cloaked if they wish to hide in the dark. But she was never going to tell them that and spoil all of her fun!

Still unobserved, she snuck around the group until she was behind Celegon.

Suddenly an impenetrable shadow descended between her and her beloved, obscuring him and his ever-present glow from her view. Frozen with horror, unable to even breathe, she clung to the tree in front of her. Unwillingly, she watched as the blackness swelled while her lover and his friends screamed their agony.

When the echoes of their cries died away, the shadow melted into the black of the night. Her lover and his four friends lay sprawled on the dark forest floor, bleeding from their chests and backs. Slowly, she moved closer and fell to her knees beside the nearest prone form. Tentatively, she reached out a trembling hand and turned his head to face her. His skin was pale and clammy. The delicious mouth she had kissed minutes before gaped open as he struggled for breath. His terror-stricken grey eyes were dark. In fact everything about him was dark. She looked around and saw that the same was true of his friends as well.

“Oh Celegon,” she whispered as tears stung her eyes. “What...wh...”

“Help me,” he quietly begged.

She lovingly brushed his cold cheek with her hand. “I…I will go find help.”

Rising, she ran through the trees as fast as she could, their own terror thrilling through her as she fled.

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The council chamber was filled with every one of the lords and councilors of Imladris. Lord Elrond looked around at the anxious faces as the nervous tension consumed the air, permeating every corner of the room.

Breaking the latest silence, Erestor calmly replied to his lord’s question. “My lord, the pattern of attack is always the same. The victim suffers a wound to the chest or the back in the region of the heart. The wound is seldom fatal, yet the victim in completely incapacitated and appears to have been drained of his or her vitality.”

“How have mortals fared in similar attacks?” A councilor seated beside Erestor asked.

“Oddly enough,” Erestor replied. “We know of no mortal who has ever been attacked. The victims that we know of have all been elves. The number of victims varies with each attack, however not every elf in the company of the victims has been attacked. Some victims have been fully armed warriors while others have been maidens frolicking in the moonlight. The attacks only occur under stormy skies or at night.”

“We have established that the assailant is not an orc. Has anyone been able to give us a description of it?” The same councilor asked.

Erestor hesitantly replied, the disbelief evident in his voice. “Impenetrable darkness. Sudden opaque shadow. Shapeless evil. It makes no sense to me. The victims with whom I spoke all seemed to struggle with the words they used to describe it. According to them, none of these descriptions are exactly correct, but none of them could tell me why.”

Elrond rested his elbows on the table and massaged his temples. They had known peace for many years now. There were many new marriages and many new elflings about in all of the elvish settlements. Sighing heavily, he asked, “For nearly 1000 years, there has been peace in these lands. Why does this menace strike now?”

The occupants of the room collectively shook their heads or shrugged their shoulders.

Glorfindel replied, “I remember hearing tell of similar attacks in the Second Age and Erestor has found documentation of such as early as the First Age, though we never heard tell of them in Gondolin. I suggest we send word of what we know to the other elven realms. Perhaps they will know more.”

Elrond nodded to an elf seated beside Glorfindel. “Be sure to include everything we have discussed today. See to it that the messages are dispatched with couriers in the morning.”

“Yes, my lord,” the elf replied.

“How close to Imladris was this most recent attack?” Elladan asked from his seat at his father’s right side.

“A few leagues outside of our Southern, borders,” Glorfindel replied. “I have doubled the guard, but thus far, they have reported nothing unusual.”

Elrond clasped his hands, resting them on the pile of reports in front of him. “Lord Glorfindel, assemble a patrol of your most experienced warriors. I want you to explore the locations of the most recent attacks for anything we may have missed before. See if you can figure out what this menace is and why it haunts us here in Imladris.”

“Adar, I wish to accompany Glorfindel,” Elrohir said from his father’s left.

“As do I,” his twin immediately agreed.

“No!” Elrond’s resounding response silenced both of his sons. “I said I want Lord Glorfindel to take only his most experienced warriors. This is not the work of simple orcs. I do not know what this evil is nor how nor why it discriminates in its choice of victims. Your prowess with sword and bow is not in question. It is your limited experience in battle which keeps you from joining this patrol.”

The twins both stiffened, trying to hide their displeasure. Elrond would be sure to discreetly assign guards to his sons to make certain they did not depart Imladris without his knowledge.

“How soon can you leave, Lord Glorfindel?” Elrond asked, ignoring his sons’ scowls.

“Tomorrow at dawn,” Glorfindel confidently replied.

“Very well. We will adjourn for now and meet again upon your return to hear what you have learned,” the Lord of Imladris said.

Glorfindel nodded. “Yes, my lord.”

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The next morning, Glorfindel rode out as planned, accompanied by 25 of the best warriors in the service of Imladris. Looking back over his shoulder at the assortment of dark and silver heads, Glorfindel felt confident in his choice of soldiers. Each had fought in the Last Alliance; each had been trained either by him or by Gil-Galad’s captains in Lindon. This mixture of the finest Noldorin and Sindarin warriors remaining in Middle-earth truly was a force to be reckoned with.

Just after noon, the patrol searched the site of the most recent attack. On foot, the soldiers scanned the ground and rocks for signs of anything unusual. After several hours of sifting through earth and foliage, Glorfindel was about to call off the search in that area, when a Sinda called to him from high up in an oak.

“My lord,” the warrior cried, his silver hair glinting in the evening light. “I believe we have found something!”

“Galadin and his brother and I have searched each of the trees surrounding the area of the attack. We have found that many of their trunks show patterns of small gouges or loosened bark. In each tree it starts here, just below the canopy.” He pointed to a small indention just above his head, “And trails all the way down to about 8 feet above the ground. On each tree, the marks occur in equal lines on opposite sides of the tree. We have asked the trees what has injured them so, but their response makes no sense.”

Glorfindel raised his hand to examine the strange marks above his head on the warrior’s tree. “What is this odd response that the trees give you?” He asked curiously.

“My lord, all they say is that it was “the dark of night”.” At Glorfindel’s puzzled look, the warrior elaborated. “We have asked the trees if they refer to the time when the attack occurred or what did this to them and they all respond the same: ‘that which attacked the speakers of light’, which is their name for elves, was something the trees all refer to as “the dark of night”.”

Glorfindel looked around at his assembled troops who had all gathered to hear the Sinda’s report. Their bewildered expressions belied their answers to his questions before he even posed them, but he asked anyway. “Does this have any meaning for any of you? Have you ever heard of such a thing before?”

They all shook their heads and a few murmured “No, my lord.”

Glorfindel pondered the information for a while, then addressed the Sindarin warrior again, “Ask the trees where this “dark of night” went when it left and where it came from before it damaged them and attacked the elves.”

The warrior closed his eyes for a few moments as he communed with the tree. His face was full of confusion when he opened his eyes again, and replied, “My lord, the tree says that the dark of night came from the black of the sky and returned there after it attacked the elves. The tree says that there was more than one dark of night for each elf attacked. That is why so many of the trees are scarred. It also said that the dark has not returned since the attack.”

Glorfindel motioned for the elves in the trees to return to the ground. Slowly, he looked around at each damaged tree, trying to figure out what could possibly have done this, but nothing came to mind. Realizing nothing more could be learned here, he ordered his soldiers back to their mounts. His heart warned him that it would be best to camp within the borders of Imladris this night. They could begin their ride to the site of the next most recent attack in the morning.

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They made good time back to the borders of Imladris. For additional safety, Glorfindel met up with the regular patrol for that area and set up camp with them. Once the evening meal was complete, he met with the soldier in charge of the patrol and ordered 10 warriors to be on watch at a time.

As Glorfindel observed the first four hour rotation of guards disappearing into the trees, he desperately hoped that it would be a quiet night. The full moon shone brightly, dimming the stars, but his heart misgave him. When sleep came upon him at last, he dreamt of a time he had not considered for more than a thousand years: the last festival he had attended in Valinor before the Two Trees were destroyed forever.

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Galadin quietly shifted his position in the tree, moving to a branch with a better view of the forest to the north of the camp site. The trees surrounding them had little to complain about except for the occasional tickling of an owl on a branch. A dark-haired elf from the regular patrol perched alertly in the next tree. Their watch was almost over and the moonlight was lengthening the shadows cast by the trees. It was a mindlessly boring watch.

Catching the attention of the dark-haired elf, Galadin pointed to the moon’s position in the sky. Then he closed his eyes and tilted his head to the side in imitation of mortal sleep. The other elf answered him with a wide-eyed smile and a vigorous nod of his head. He was obviously bored and ready for the watch to be over, too.

Galadin smiled back, but his face fell in dismay as he watched a shadow suddenly descend over the dark-haired guard, blocking him from view. Frozen in place, unable to move or even blink, he watched the darkness and listened as the guard and a few others around him screamed in agony.

When the screaming ceased, the darkness moved through Galadin’s tree, sucking the air from his lungs, freezing the blood in his veins as it passed. Just as quickly, the shadow passed. Galadin gasped for air, shivering as his chest heaved and warmth returned to his body. Briefly, he heard the sounds of heavy objects crashing through the limbs of neighboring trees. As the sounds faded, the trees called to him and to the others of his kind, asking for aid for the fallen speakers of light they had caught in their lower branches.

Gathering his wits, Galadin realized he was still hale and turned, sounding the warning call to the camp. Within moments, he could hear the commotion of a roused camp preparing defenses. Scrambling from tree to tree, he passed a couple of wounded elves dangling in the crooks of branches. Other hale warriors joined him as he made his way to the camp site as swiftly as possible.

The screams started before they reached their destination, but nothing could have prepared them for what they beheld when they arrived within site of the camp.

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The warning from the patrol had come too late. There was barely time to react as shadows descended upon the camp. All too soon, the ground was littered with the bodies of soldiers, some with swords, some with daggers, some who never even managed to draw a weapon. The bodies which were not bloody lay prone as if forced down by a great weight. Depthless shadows still hovered over some of the wounded, eliciting agonized screams. In the back of his mind, Glorfindel realized there was something eerily familiar about this.

Drawing his sword against he knew not what, Glorfindel stood in challenge in the middle of the camp. Putting forth all of his power, he felt his eyes blazing as the brilliant light of his powerful fëa cast outward, illuminating the entire area. The few warriors near him who still stood, brandished their weapons, their faces determined masks of abject terror in the odd light. A few fired arrows, but to no visible effect.
What command was he to give them? Were the shadows even solid?

Moments later, the shadows completed their vicious assault and vanished up the trees. Glorfindel turned his head, following their progress up into the branches until they disappeared into the darkness of the night.

No wonder the trees gave the menace that name, he thought.

After a couple of minutes of silence and no discernable movement from the foe, Glorfindel relaxed his stance, allowing his light to fade to a more normal radiance. Turning to his remaining guard, he said, “Go help the wounded and then...”

Suddenly, shadows descended all around him like a cloud of blackness, obscuring his surroundings. Unbelievable pain seared through him eliciting screams the likes of which had never before escaped his lips, not even when he had faced the balrog at his death. Many sets of dull yellow eyes met his gaze as fangs like knives bore into his chest and stabbed his back. He felt as if he were pierced to the core as the strength of life seeped forth from his fëa. When he was finally released, he collapsed to the ground, hollow and empty, a mere shell of what he had been.

After an indiscernible amount of time passed, he realized his shirt felt wet and sticky, but he did not know why. Perhaps it had something to do with the dull ache in his chest and back. Something touched his face, but he did not have the strength to turn toward it. Explicatives uttered in horror in the background did nothing to ease him as he felt his head being turned. He struggled to focus on the terrified eyes of the silver-haired warrior who was kneeling beside him.

“Mmm...my...my lord,” the warrior stuttered.

Glorfindel moved his mouth, trying to form words, trying to make some sort of sound come out. Dully, he realized now what the creatures and the attack had reminded him of. Putting forth all of the strength he had left, he managed to whisper, “Tell Elrond it was the death of the Trees.”

The warrior looked confused. “My lord, no trees have died.”

Glorfindel gasped, inhaling sharply, painfully as he felt his shirt, tunic, and cloak being cut away, chilling his body and exposing his wounds. “No...” he gasped. “No...not...not these trees.” His vision began to cloud. He felt so very tired, weary to the bone. With one last great effort, he tried to explain, “The...the Two Trees. I ...I remember. I was there when they died.”

And darkness closed about him.

[Index]

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