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Reclaiming Khazad-dûm  by Ellynn

One step forward, one step backward.

Lying in his sleeping bag, Darri thought it was the right way to describe his opinion about the forest. In the first days – and especially nights – he felt uncomfortable. Then, he started to think that the forest was not so bad. Now, after it was announced that there might be giant spiders around – like in the old dangerous times, he again liked it less.

But at least this is the last night in the forest, he comforted himself. By the end of the next day they should finally reach its western edge and continue the journey through the plains around the Anduin. He thought that it would be much safer surroundings.

He rolled from one side to another for a while, and then finally managed to fall asleep. But soon – and it felt as if it had been only a moment since he had closed his eyes – a hand shaking his shoulders woke him up.

"Darri! Darri!"

It took him a few moments to get fully awake and to realize it was his brother calling him. He blinked and looked around. Everything was still lit by the torches, just like it was when they went to sleep. Next to him, Faldur rose to sitting position and watched the trees tensely.

"Do you hear those sounds?" asked Faldur, somewhat nervously.

Darri directed his attention to the forest. At first he heard nothing, but then sounds that resembled the breaking of branches reached them. Then, after few more moments of silence, they heard arrows whizzing and breaking of branches again. After the sounds of more arrows, the air was filled with loud screams. They were horrifying and not similar to any sound he had ever heard from any animal.

Around them more and more dwarves woke up, disturbed by sounds that were the sign that somewhere in the forest some battle was going on. The fighting became louder and more gruesome screams echoed in the night. They also heard dull impacts, as if something heavy was falling to the ground.

"Do you think that's the spiders?" asked Faldur.

Darri slowly nodded.

"From what we found out earlier... it might be."


The King jumped on his feet the very moment when the first sound was heard. That night he went to sleep in his full battle gear: before he lay down, he put on his chain-mail and vambraces, and his helmet and sword were in the reach of his hand. He ordered the members of his Guard to do the same. Altogether there weren't many of them – no more than two hundred, because there was no need for a great army in centuries of peace – but they were excellently trained. Apart for being masters in sword and axe fighting, all of them were skilled archers too. The members of the Guard had to be the best in everything, and anything less than best and perfect was out of the question.

He gave a quick glance to Dirhild, who woke up at the same time as him. Her lips silently formed "be careful". He quickly put his helmet on, took his sword and went out of the tent. In the light of the torches he saw his Guardsmen already mustering. And he saw Noin and Ernis too, also ready – in their chain-mails and with swords in their hands. Very good, he thought, satisfied. Responsibility above all.

"Brothers, are you ready?" echoed the strong voice of Nardi, commander of the Guard. He was a large dwarf with the broadest shoulders Durin had ever seen, who hadn't lost a single sparring-fight in decades. He was also a good friend, and Durin would put his life in Nardi's hands with full confidence.

Numerous cries answered him, two hundred voices merged into one. The King stood next to Nardi and raised the sword.

"Charge!" his voice roared.

"Your highness, it could be dangerous," his general warned him.

"As if that will stop me," replied Durin, and one end of his lips rose in a smile.

Several soldiers with torches in their hands stood in front, the King was just behind them, and next to him was Nardi. Then they ran towards the forest.


"If we can hear arrows, maybe there are elves involved," commented Faldur.

The sounds of fighting from the forest continued.

"I think so too," Darri agreed pensively. Curiosity then awoke in him, and grew with every next moment. "Judging from the direction of the noise, I'd say that the action is happening over there, in front of our position." He briefly waved his hand and showed the way. "But I'd say that it isn't very far, otherwise we wouldn't hear anything. Let's go there! I want to find out what is happening!" He was completely awake; right now, further sleeping was the last thing on his priority list.

"Hmm... you think so?" asked Faldur dubiously. "We'll only be in the way, especially if we'll not be the only ones with that idea..."

"Come on, let's go!" retorted Darri and bumped his brother in the shoulder. "We won't let important things happen far away from us, will we? Let us find out the news first-hand."

With those words, he quickly arose and pulled his brother. A moment later they were walking towards the focus of the action.


The run was short – not longer than seventy or eighty yards – and already they were in the centre of the battle. Or more accurately – beneath it.

The torches were no match to the day light, but when he lifted his head, the King still managed to see several huge silhouettes in the treetops. Their bodies were round, massive and completely black, and from each extended eight long legs.

They could still hear whizzing, but he wasn't able to see the archers – obviously they were too well hidden in the tree crowns. And it was more than clear that their arrows were finding their targets because they could hear screams of the big beasts. They were sharp, horrifying and ear-piercing.

"Watch out!!!" Nardi shouted loudly.

After the warning shout Durin heard cracking of branches, and only a moment later just a few feet from them a great black monster crashed. From up close, he realized the spiders were even bigger than he thought. The body, pierced by two arrows, was almost seven feet wide, the legs were about that same length, and the big jaws didn't promise anything good to anyone who came too close. Just a moment later they snapped, and the legs started to move.

"It's alive!" shouted the King. "Attack!"

Axes and swords were upon the big spider. It tried to fight back, but there were too many dwarves. Durin cut off one of its legs, and then another. They were solid, almost as if he tried to cut rock, and it was necessary to put all his strength to every blow. The beast screamed from pain and the sound was so loud that it was almost unbearable; he had a feeling that the sound was echoing inside his helmet and that his head was about to explode. But then he stepped forward and hit the head with as much strength as he could, and the noise stopped. The big spider was dead.

A moment later, another one fell from the treetops. And one more, a little bit further.

In the heights, the arrows were flying; on the ground, spiders' screams were mixed with heavy blows of axes and swords. But it didn't last long. As they soon discovered, there were about ten spiders, which meant that they were greatly outnumbered. Very soon none remained.

When everything went silent, the King quickly looked around. "Report! Are there any wounded? Any victims?"

As it turned out, all dwarves were unharmed. That was the moment when they could simply turn back and go to their camp, but Durin stopped, thinking. He had questions and he wanted to meet elven archers; he wanted to find out where the spiders had come from and if there were more, and he thought the elves could know it; the forest was their domain, after all. On the other hand, he didn't know if the elves would show up at all; obviously, they were up in the treetops, and if they decided to just leave, he knew he wouldn't be able to find them. And just when he wanted to shout to send a call to the elves – come what may – rustling was heard from the forest. A moment later a group of elves stepped into the torchlight. There were about fifteen, from what he could count in a glimpse. He strode two steps in front of his fighters and lifted his head proudly.

The King observed the elf who stood in front of the others – just like he did – which obviously marked him as a leader. The elf was darkhaired, and his hair was braided in several different plaits. Durin remembered that he had long ago heard that each had its own meaning, and that the fighter had to earn each with his deeds, but he couldn't remember their forms and meanings. All the elves were clad in simple and functional clothes – tunics, trousers and boots suitable for long dwelling in the forest, and all of them had swords and bows. Not for the first time, he wondered how someone so slender could be so strong. But he visited The Wood of Greenleaves more than once, attending some formal events as King under the Mountain, and saw competition in riding, archery and swordplay. And he had the opportunity to see how strong and skilful fighters the elves were.

But still, none of them is stronger than us, he thought, satisfied.

"If someone had told me that this expedition would turn into a mutual hunt with dwarves, I would have proclaimed him mad," slowly said the commander of the elves. His voice was soft and melodious, like the other elves Durin had heard – completely different than deep, throaty voices he was used to. "Of course, those spiders that fell to the ground would have been easy prey for my archers." The elf seemed very confident and self-satisfied.

"Unless some of them managed to escape in the dark... in which case you'd have a problem," replied the King in the same tone.

The elf observed him for a few moments, and he seemed to think. Finally, he nodded seriously.

"True. You contributed to faster and easier completion of our task." A slight smile appeared on his face. "I am Ellaron, the leader of the rangers of The Wood of Greenleaves."

"Durin VII, son of Throrin," said the King.

The elf's eyes opened wide for a moment.

"Indeed, this expedition is becoming more and more incredible," he said raising his eyebrows, looking amused, but soon his face returned to neutral expression.

Durin, though, still had questions and wanted answers.

"For a long time, the word has been widely spread that The Wood is free from all evil beings and that the shadow no longer lies upon it. But now I see that it is not so – at least not right here and not in this very moment. I invite you to our camp. I want to hear more about the newest events in the forest." Then he relaxed his face expression and tone. "You can also use this opportunity to take some rest after the battle, and you can refresh... with mead," he added with a smile. They had just accomplished a victory and it had to be celebrated, and everyone loved celebrations.

The last words were followed by merry comments on both sides. The dwarves and the elves moved towards the camp.

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