Let me help you."
Haldir caught up the hem of the thick woollen cloak she was trying
to pack and folded it with herin half, then quarters, then
eighthslike a blanket.
"Thank you," she said, stowing it in a large, cloth
travelling bag. "How are you feeling now? Are you... Er..."
She smiled, holding up her hands, helplessly.
"What you mean," said Haldir, "is will there be
any lasting effects?"
"That is part of what I meant. But do you know if... I mean,
can you feel whether..."
"What?" he prompted, gently.
"Baalhanno said that he had taken away your immortality.
Can you tell whether is has been restored?"
Haldir shook his head.
"I cannot imagine what it must have been like." She
began wrapping her sword in a silk cloth.
"Physically uncomfortableI longed to stand upright!
Mentally... Mentally, I was at constant war with the beast. Sometimes,
I had thoughts that did not seem my own."
"What kind of thoughts?"
"Anger, hatred." He shrugged his shoulders. "A
desire to chase cats..."
Eowyn smiled. Then she asked, softly, "Hatred towards whom?"
"By baboon standards," said Haldir, "he is small
and weak. By baboon standards, he is not good enough for you."
"By elven standards," said Eowyn, "he has no rival."
Haldir nodded. "Take care on the island," he said.
"Figwit!" shouted Valandil. "Figwit! We are back!"
"I thought he would be waiting for us," said Wilawen.
"Out here on the terrace..."
"Mmm." Valandil caught her arm. "Wait here,"
"Why? What do you sense?"
"Just... Just wait here. I will look inside."
"No," said Wilawen. She took out the knife Eowyn had
given her. "I am ready," she said.
Valandil sighed. "Then stay behind me." He drew his
scimitar and, together, they crept towards Figwit's small apartment.
"Can you be quieter?" he whispered.
Valandil shook his head. Four thousand years I wait, and the
Valar send me a woman. "Let me go in first," he
Valandil slipped silentlyand almost invisiblythrough
the door. As he had feared, the room had been ransackedthe
table turned over, crockery broken, food scattered over the floor.
SomeoneFigwit, he thoughthad tried to barricade the
bedroom door with the couch. Valandil placed one hand on its back
and hopped over.
The bedroom was empty but, beside the bed, the wooden panelling
had been demolished and, through the gaps in the planks, Valandil
could see an open door
"She has taken him."
"Ceryn Manwë, Wilawen!" cried Valandil. "I
did not hear you come in!"
"You told me to be quiet." She picked up a thick splinter
of wood and held it, in her left hand, like another dagger. "We
had better go after them."
"You do not have to," said Valandil, without
any real hope of dissuading her.
"Do you expect me to wait here alone, going out of my mind?"
She shook her head. "Besides, you may need me. Especially
if she stuns you again."
"Are you sure that it will carry all three of us?"
"Quite sure, your Highness," said Niqmaddu.
Eowyn checked the contents of her bag one last timeher
sword, wrapped in silk, some food, her warm cloak, and, of course,
the djinn in his lamp. She stepped nervously onto the carpet and
"How long will it take?" she asked.
"Less than an hour," said Niqmaddu.
Eowyn bit her lip. Legolas sat down beside her.
"Ready?" asked the magician.
Legolas wrapped his arm around Eowyn's shoulders and squeezed
her gently. "Yes," he said.
"Open up!" cried Faramir, hammering on the door of
"The house is closed until four o'clock," said a gruff
voice, from inside. "You'll have to use your hand."
"I have business with Arinna," said Faramir. "Open
"The mistress said nothing to me about visitors."
"Ten gold pieces if you open the door."
"Ten gold will be no use when she cuts my balls off."
There was a pause. Then the door opened a narrow crack and a
hand appeared through the gap.
"Here is five," said Faramir, dropping the coins into
the outstretched palm. "You will get the rest when we are
There was another pause, whilst the man stowed his money, then
the door opened and Faramir and Haldir stepped inside. Faramir
handed over the rest of the bribe. "Where is she?" he
asked, walking down the corridor.
"Wait," said the doorkeeper. "You haven't seen
me, right? You got in through the garden, right?"
"Right," said Haldir. "Now, where are those useless
orcsthe two elves?"
"They'll be with her. End of the corridor, right, then first
Faramir paused before the door. "Are you ready for this?"
"Just do not kill them. We may need them." He pushed
the door open. "Gods..."
The room was filled with steam. At its centre, Arinna lay, face
down, on a wooden table. The two elves, dressed in nothing but
silk loincloths, were massaging scented oil into her back and
One of the elves glanced towards the open door. "Haldir!"
he cried. "We knew it was only a matter of time!"
Arinna raised her head. "Who are you?" she asked. "Gods,
another elf!" She drew herself up, naked but unembarrassed,
and looked at Haldir.
"Now you are something," she said. "Are
you looking for a job?"
"Madam," said Faramir, "we are here to free our
friends." He gestured towards Orodreth and Camthalion. "Name
your price. I will pay it."
"Ori and Cami are not for sale."
"Then we shall have to take Ori and Cami by
force," said Haldir. With flawless elven grace, he nocked
an arrow and drew his bow.
Arinna's admiration was undisguised. "Are you sure
you do not want a job?"
Cat-like, she rose from the couch and, ignoring the arrow pointing
at her breast, stalked towards him. "There are rich matrons
all over Carhilivren gagging for it. You could make discreet house
calls. They would pay us a fortune." She smiled. "Put
that bow down. You do not want to hurt me..."
As if mesmerised, Haldir slowly lowered his bow.
Arinna grasped his drawing arm, feeling his muscles. "Mmmm,"
she said, appreciatively. "I shall never sell my elves but,
since you are their friend, I may just let them out to play with
Faramir cleared his throat. "Madam," he said, "if
you will be serious for one moment."
"Sir..." Arinna turned towards him. "I am never
anything but serious. And I will not sell."
Faramir looked across to the elves. "Come with us,"
"I shall call my guards!"
"And where are your guards, madam?" asked Faramir,
suddenly losing all patience. "Why did they did not stop
us entering? They are no doubt sleeping off last night's excesses."
He shook her hand from his arm. "Come gentlemen." He
turned to leave.
"Sodomite," Arinna hissed.
"You shall not provoke me, madam," said Faramir, calmly.
She turned to the elves. "Ori? Cami?"
"It has been fun, my lady," said Camthalion. "And
we have enjoyed every moment of it. But, now, our duty calls,
and we must go."
"Come with us," said Orodreth. "Come with us,
Arinna shook her head. "I have my house..."
Smiling sadly, Orodreth raised his hand in farewell and followed
his friends through the door. Open mouthed, Arinna watched him
"Oh gods," she cried. "Wait! Wait for me!"
"I should have brought a candle," said Wilawen.
"Do you want to go back?"
"No. Can you see?"
"Yes. Put your hand on my shoulder."
Slowly, he led her down the stairs, past the prison.
"Where, exactly, did you see the spirits of the dead?"
she asked, peering down one of the corridors.
"They were lower. They will not hurt us."
Downwards they climbed, deeper and deeper into the rockWilawen's
grip on Valandil's shoulder growing tighter and tighteruntil,
at last, they reached the bottom. Valandil stopped outside the
door of the great burial chamber.
"This is it," he said. "Are you ready?"
"Where is the light coming from?"
"There are windows along the top of the outer wall. Are
Wilawen clutched her knife and her wooden stake. "Yes,"
They stepped through the door.
"It is empty," whispered Wilawen, peering into the
"She may be lying inside that box," said Valandil,
pointing to the huge stone sarcophagus. "That is where I
saw her before."
"Can you sense her?"
Silently, they crept down the aisle, climbed up the stepped plinth
and looked down into the coffin.
"What is that, up ahead?" whispered Eowyn. She was
clinging to Legolas for dear life.
"Storm clouds," said Legolas.
"Nothing to worry about," said Niqmaddu. "Though
we may get a little wet."
The stone box was empty.
"Now what?" asked Wilawen, deflated. She looked around
the walls. "Are there any side chambers?"
"None that I can see."
"There could be a concealed door," she said, "but
I do not know how we would find it." She sat down on the
stone steps. "Or she could be hiding him somewhere in the
prison. There could be another shaft, at the far end of the corridorsthere
could be a whole other wing over there.
"Or..." She sighed.
"She could have taken him off the island."
"I do not know," admitted Wilawen, "but this woman
does not have normal limits." She smiled up at him, suddenly.
"But, then, neither do you. Can you sense anything?"
Valandil shook his head.
"What about the dead?"
"They are surrounding us."
"Really?" Wilawen looked around the hall. "StrangeI
can neither see them nor feel them," she said, "and
I was sure that I would feel them. I was afraid I would be scared..."
She looked up at Valandil. "What do they say?"
"What do you mean?"
"You told me they were looking for a saviour. Wellhere
you are. Ask them where the woman is."
nature thunder'd in his opening ears,
And stunn'd him with the music of the spheres
"This is no ordinary storm!" cried Legolas.
Directly above them, the sky was pitch black; torrential rain
and a fierce crosswind were buffeting the carpet, making it jerk
and flap beneath them, and threatening to blow them far out into
the Great Sea. But less than twenty yards away in any direction,
all was bright and clear. The storm was like a huge, seething
ball with the carpet at its centre.
"Someone does not want us to reach that island," shouted
Niqmaddu. He looked up into the clouds.
"Storm," he cried, "desist!"
"Oh well," he shouted, "it was worth a try. Hold
on tightly. The bottom of a pocket of magic is often weakI
shall try to fly out of it."
Eowyn's hands were locked around Legolas' arm in a death grip.
He hugged her closer. "Hold on, melmenya," he shouted,
kissing her wet cheek.
She mumbled a reply.
Legolas pressed his ear to her lips. "I love you,"
she was saying, over and over, "I love you..."
Expertly, Niqmaddu turned the carpet downwards, and swooped towards
The storm followed.
And now there was a new threat: by some sixth sense, the magician
dodged a bright spear of lightning that flashed down from the
clouds, but he could do nothing to avoid the thunder.
It exploded over the carpetits energy reflected and multiplied
within the storm bubblemaking Legolas' organs vibrate inside
his body. With a cry of pain, the elf clamped his hands over his
And, at that very moment, a terrific gust of wind blew the carpet
out from under him.
"Legolas!" screamed Eowyn.
Her fear of flying conquered by an even greater fear, she lunged
for him, her fingers missing his arm by a fraction of an inch,
as he disappeared over the carpet's edge. Lying flat on her belly
she gazed down through the storm. The elf was floating in the
sea, a hundred feet below.
But whether he was alive, or...
She could not tell.
"I will try to land on the water," shouted Niqmaddu,
dodging another lightning bolt.
As the carpet spiralled downwards, followed by the storm, Eowyn
suddenly remembered the djinn's proud boast. Hands shaking, she
reached inside her bag and rubbed the lamp until the smoke began
"Save Legolas," she cried, the moment the creature's
face had materialised.
"How, mistress?" he asked, pulling his arm from
"I do not know! Stop the storm! Take us down to him!"
"I hear and obey."
With a majestic wave of his hand, the djinn dispersed the clouds,
and the storm vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Then, holding
the carpet before him, like a tray, he sailed down through the
bright blue sky, towards the floating elf.
Valandil looked at the wispy forms. "I have never actually
spoken to them before," he said.
"Dead," said Wilawen, with unconcealed exasperation,
"this is Valandil; Valandil, this is the dead. Now you have
been properly introduced. Speak away."
Valandil laughed. "I love you!" he said.
Then, when he saw the expression on her face, he added, "I
am sorry. I should not have said..." He turned back to the
ghostly spirits, clearing his throat. "Do you want us to
find the woman, Naqiya-Zakutu?" he asked.
Their reply flooded his mind: Yes.
"Then you must help us."
"Come, Wilawen," he said, catching her by the arm.
"They are going to take us to her."
"Legolas..." Eowyn reached out and touched his face.
"He is unconscious," she said.
"Rise," said Niqmaddu.
As if lifted by invisible hands, Legolas' body rose, shoulders
first, out of the water.
The elf, now horizontal, hovered for a moment, then drifted slowly
down onto the carpet.
"I suggest you use your body to warm him," said Niqmaddu.
"Can you not help him?" asked Eowyn, pulling the woollen
cloak out of her bag. She draped it over Legolas, then, stretching
out beside him, pulled him into her arms.
"His condition is not the result of a spell, your Highness,"
said Niqmaddu. "And I know very little about healing. Tell
the djinn to escort us to the island. We shall be able to take
better care of him once we are there."
Hentmirë was waiting at the bottom of the gang plank, dressed
in trousers and boots and looking like a stout little Shieldmaiden.
"The ship is all ready," she called to Faramir, as
he came down the wharf, "with supplies and everything. Captain
Mutallu says that we can sail immediatelythe wind is fair
for the island and we should arrive in less than an hour. Are
you going to introduce your friends, my dear?"
"Of course," said Faramir smiling. "This is Camthalion...
And Orodreth..." The elves bowed, graciously. "And this
"Welcome aboard," said Hentmirë. She waited until
the woman had climbed up on deck before she asked, quietly, "Who
"She is the woman who bought them. Sheerworks
for Captain Milkherem," said Faramir.
"She is the one who molested Legolas."
"He told you that?"
"Not in so many words." Hentmirë eyed the woman,
suspiciously. "It was wicked. But I shall not hold it against
her," she said. "We must all pull together."
"What do they expect us to do? When we find her?" asked
"I do not know, Faer vara," said the elf.
"Then you had better ask," she said. "We need
to know. And what does that mean? Faer vara?"
Valandil addressed the wispy forms. "What must we do when
we find Naqiya-Zakutu?" he asked.
Lay her to rest. Set us free.
"What did they say?" Wilawen asked.
As the Early Bird sailed majestically out of the harbour and
into open sea, Haldir sat on deck, restringing a Galadhrim longbow.
"Is that Legolas' bow?" asked Faramir.
The elf nodded.
"Where did you get it?"
Haldir carefully reattached one end of the bowstring. "'Ori
and Cami' found ittogether with his quiver and his other
white knifeon a stall in the souk. The stall owner had quite
a collection of Gondorian weapons, apparently. The slavers must
keep him well supplied. Arinna bought it for them."
"Legolas will be glad to have it back."
"Yes." Haldir looked up from his task. "Is it
truewhat Arinna said about you?" he asked.
Faramir sighed. "That is none of your business," he
"No," said Haldir. "But I am asking anyway."
Faramir picked up Legolas' second white knife and turned it in
his hand. "Do I love another man?" he asked. "Yes.
Am I promiscuous? No. And I would be grateful if you kept this
"Does Eowyn know?"
"Of course Eowyn knows!"
Haldir shook his head in disbelief. "Orc's breath!"
he said. "Why did you marry her? How could you have done
that to her?"
"I did not do anything to her. I loved her. And I still
love her. Just not as a wife." Faramir sat down beside the
elf. "I did not understand what was wrong with our marriage
until I met him. Then everything became clear... And that
is why I sent Eowyn to Legolas"
"You sent her!"
"I knew that she loved him, Haldir. I can tell you the exact
day she fell in love with him, because it transformed her."
He smiled, fondly. "But I knew that she would never leave
meshe is just not the sort to break a promise. And
he, of course, would never have approached her. I thought they
would both suffer in silence until she dieduntil they both
died. But then I heard about the harvest rite..."
He smiled. "And I thought: Send her. Who knows what might
happen? Of course, it meant playing godhad the Valar
not chosen her for him, she would have been forced to watch him...
perform it... with someone else. So I risked breaking her heart.
But the Valar did smile on them."
"I had to watch him perform it with her,"
said Haldir, softly. "The first night. I was there."
"I am sorry." Faramir sighed. "You must find yourself
a companion, Haldir."
"I cannot." Haldir looked at the bow in his hands.
"He is my best friend," he said, "and yet, recently,
more and more...
"I do not think he is good enough for her, Faramir."
"We are almost at the island," said Niqmaddu. "From
what your friends told us I believe that the unfortunate Figwit
is being kept prisoner in the governor's apartment, at the summit
of the cliff. I shall take us straight there."
Eowyn kissed the top of Legolas' head. "It will not be long
now, my love," she said. The elf was conscious at last, and
sitting up in her arms, but shivering. "We will light a fire
to warm you..."
She scanned the island for any sign of Valandil and his companions.
Where are they? she wondered. I thought they would be
waiting for us.
"Hold on tightly," cried the magician, "we are
about to land."
He took the carpet up higha good thirty feet above the
cliff topand then began a slow, spiralling descent until,
more than ten feet above the terrace, the carpet came to a sudden
stop and lay flat in the air, as if sitting on an invisible floor.
Niqmaddu leaned forward and examined the transparent barrier.
"It is a powerful spell," he said, "and, doubtless,
what is holding the elf prisoner. It will not let me pass
but I do not think it will affect you. Can you jump?"
Eowyn looked down at the ground. "No," she said "I
cannot; and nor can Legolas in this condition."
"Can the djinn carry you?"
Eowyn looked across the terrace. There was still no sign of Valandil
and the others... and Legolas would be safer with the magician.
"No," she said, "we will stay with you."
"Then I will take us to the main entrance, at the foot of
the cliff," said Niqmaddu. "We can climb up from there."
"Can you tell where we are?" Wilawen was shuffling
along behind the elf, one hand on his belt, her forehead almost
touching his back.
"We are on the lowest floor of the prison," said Valandil.
"It is as you thought, I can see another staircase up ahead."
"What is that light?"
"One of the cell doors is open, and sunlight is coming in
through the window. When we pass the door, Wilawen," he added,
"do not look."
"Why? Oh." She patted his back. "I have seen dead
bodies before, Valandil; I have laid them out for burial."
"Laid them out?"
"Washed them, dressed them, arranged their limbs. Made them
fit for their families to see. It is easier for people,"
she explained, "if their loved ones look dignified."
"That is a noble undertaking," said Valandil. He drew
her quickly past the open cell. "These dead, though, are
decayed. And their bodies are dried, twisted..."
Wilawen patted his back again. "I understand," she
They slipped past several more open doors before coming, at last,
to the end of the corridor and stepping into the well of the spiral
"Up or down?" Valandil asked the spirits.
"We are going down," he said.
"I do wish," said Wilawen, "that I had thought
to ask the magician to draw us a map."
Valandil smiled. "You would not be able to see it."
"It would have reminded me to bring a candle"
"Shhhh! There is something up ahead!"
The carpet landed on a broad wharf at the foot of the cliff.
Beside the quay, a massive flight of stone steps, cut from the
living rock, led to an impressive gateway fitted with an iron
portcullis and flanked by a stone guardhouse.
There was no sign of any guards.
Niqmaddu turned to Legolas, who was now fully conscious. "Can
you walk, your Highness?" he asked.
"Yes," said the elf, with a weak smile. "The noise
affected my balance and I hit the water unprepared, but I am quite
Eowyn helped him to his feet and the three companions slowly
made their way to the entrance, ducked under the partially raised
portcullis, and stared into the hall beyond.
A fall of rubble had filled the passage from floor to ceiling
and, here and there, crushed amongst the rocks, the remains of
the unfortunate prison guards still held their useless weapons.
"Dear gods," whispered Eowyn.
"This would explain why the prisoners were left to die,"
said Legolas. He turned to the magician. "But why has the
rubble not been cleared? Why have the guards not been replaced?"
"I do not know," said Niqmaddu, overcome by the sight.
"Let us go back outside..."
Eowyn helped him down the stone steps. "Sit down,"
she said. "Put your head between your knees. It will stop
you fainting." She smiled up at Legolas.
"I do not believe that the Hatja knows about this,"
said the magician, after a few moments. "But a supply ship
comes here every month. Why have they not reported it?"
"Stay here," whispered Valandil.
"Wilawen," he hissed, "you do not need to show
me how brave"
"I am not staying here alone."
"Hold my hand, then."
The staircase had opened into a wide entrance hall with a gently
sloping floor. To the right Wilawen could make out a wooden counter
covered with writing materials, official seals, and piles of dusty
parchmentall the paraphernalia associated with processing
prisoners. Directly ahead, blocking the hall from floor to ceiling,
she could see a solid wall of rubble. And to the left
Wilawen swallowed hard. Spilling from the doorway to the left,
which appeared to lead to some sort of accommodation wing, was
a pale shaft of light. And moving back and forth within the beam
was a shadow.
"Is that her?" she whispered.
"What is she doing?"
"I do not know."
"Is Figwit with her?"
"I think so."
"We must help him."
"I must. But you do not have to come with
"Yes, I do," said Wilawen, softly. "We are in
Valandil squeezed her hand. "Can you see well enough to
follow me?" he asked.
"Have your dagger ready."
Wilawen drew her short blade andfor good measurepulled
the wooden stake out of her belt. I must be careful not to stab
Figwit, she thought.
"Come on," whispered Valandil.
Silently they crossed the hall. The elf motioned her to wait
at one side of the guard room door then slippedinvisiblypast
the opening and stood at the other.
Ready? he mouthed.
By some miracle, Wilawen found herself inside the guardroom,
just a fraction of a second behind Valandil, her weapons raised.
They were surrounded by corpses.
There were men in armour, lying about the floor like toy soldiers
scattered by an angry child; there were men in shirt sleeves,
sitting at a large wooden table, their decaying heads sunk upon
their platters; and there were several naked men, evidently slain
as they had left the bathhouse at the end of a hard day's work...
Wilawen fought to stay in control. Valandil was beckoning her.
Carefully, she picked her way through the pitiful scene, following
the elf towards the source of light.
Where has the shadow gone...?
Wailing like a mandrake, Naqiya-Zakutu flew out from behind a
rack of weapons, leaped onto Valandil's back, and locked her hands
around his throat. The elf staggered, his arms flailing, trying
to shake her off.
Almost hysterical, Wilawen rushed forward and, with a desperate
cry, sank her dagger into the woman's shoulder.
The creature roared with anger, but did not loosen her grip.
Wilawen stabbed again, using both weapons this time, the wooden
stake in her weaker hand not penetrating but gouging the woman's
"Stop it," Wilawen cried. "Stop it! Get off him!
Get off him!"
She stabbed and stabbed, but the woman did not loosen her grip,
even when Valandil sank to his knees.