Well? said Abdosir, What do you
have to say for yourself?
Berengar stared up at him, dumbly.
You can speak?
Faramir cleared his throat. My Lord Abdosir...
Who are you?
I am Lord Berengars friend, said Faramir, cautiously.
Why does he not speak?
I believe he is overwhelmed, my Lord.
Abdosir waved his hand. Immediately, his retinueincluding
the naked slave girlsdisappeared. Come here,
he said, beckoning to Berengar, and indicating the throne beside
Berengar stumbled onto the dais andafter a moments
hesitationperched uneasily on the edge of the seat. The
war lord, who was, it seemed, short-sighted, peered into his face.
Yes, he said, yesyou are just the sort
of handsome neer-do-well that would steal a young girls
With respect, my Lord, said Faramir, Berengar
rescued your daughter from bandits, who attacked the caravan withI
am convincedthe sole aim of kidnapping her. No doubt they
are known to you?
Abdosir inclined his head, as if to say, They may be...
In single-handedly defending your daughter and her womenwho
were otherwise unprotectedLord Berengar showed great courage.
And it was his gallantry that led herhe caught sight
of the fathers expression, and changed course, slightlygraciously
to bestow her favour upon him.
What are you saying? asked Abdosir, his eyes, narrowing.
I... I do not want... stammered Berengar.
Lord Berengar has a previous attachment, said Faramir.
That means nothing, said Abdosir. He rose from his
throne, exuding such a sense of his own worthdespite his
small sizethat Berengar automatically leaped to his feet.
Sit down! said the war lord, impatiently. He walked
to the window and, gazing out over his precious garden, he said,
in businesslike way, My Bint-Anath is also betrothed, Lord
Berengarto the Lord of Ar Khalba. And their alliance would
give me undisputed control of the Silk Road from Ar Khalba
to Rihatthe final and most lucrative stage of the journey
from the East.
He turned his back to the window. Until she met you, Lord
Berengar, my daughter was perfectly content with the prospect.
She is a sensible girland she could see that the man is
far too old to trouble her much beyond the wedding night, and
more than rich enough to keep her in the manner to which shes
He sighed. But the moment you appeared, Lord Berengar,
all that changed. You are a menace, sir. A menace.
My lord began Faramir.
Abdosir held up his hand. Let me finish. Bint-Anath refuses
to marry her betrothed. No doubt I could force her, but that has
never been my way. So you must marry her, Lord Berengar; you must
marry her and make her happy. And, if the fates should choose
to make her a widow
Oh gods, whispered Faramir.
she will mourn; and then remarry. I shall send her
to receive your proposal.
He left the chamber.
Trust me, Berengar, said Faramir. Trust me,
and stay behind me.
The liveried servant emerged, once more, from the door beside
the dais. The warrior escort swept in again, scimitars drawn,
and took up their positions. They were followed, this time, by
a group of veiled women who climbed gracefully onto the platform
and sat cross-legged beside the two thrones.
Then the lady herself appeared, dressed from head to foot in
cloth-of-gold, and wearing a fine golden veil that clearly revealed
her strong, but attractive, features.
She seated herself on the left-hand throne. Faramir scanned her
entourage, looking for the woman who had previously acted as interpreter.
You may speak directly to me, my Lord, said the lady,
correctly reading his actions, I do understand your language.
Ah... Faramir placed his hand upon his heart. My
Lady Bint-Anath, he said, with a low, sweeping bow, may
the gods bless you and keep you in health. He raised his
eyes and studied her face. Your beauty is praised the length
and breadth of Rihat, my Lady, but I can see that mere words cannot
do it justice.
He approached the throne. Berengar followed at his heels.
Thank you my Lord. Bint-Anath seemed unconvinced,
but she accepted his compliment with a gracious bow of the head.
Then, unconsciously, she craned her neck, trying to see past his
shoulder to Berengar.
Faramir shifted his weight slightly, and blocked her view. Your
father, he continued, has granted me permission to
declare my love
Your love, my lord? The young woman frowned.
If you would consent to be my wife, Lady Bint-Anath,
said Faramir, grasping her hand and impetuously raising it to
his lips, it would make me the happiest man in Middle-earth.
There was a chorus of gasps from the seated women.
My Lord, said Bint-Anath, your proposal is
unexpected. Most unexpected. She withdrew her hand. I
am, of course, honoured to receive it... But I cannot accept it.
My heart, my Lord, already belongs to another.
Faramirs smile vanished. May I ask to whom?
he said, coldly.
The woman rose from the throne, stepped down from the dais and,
cunningly side-stepping Faramir, approached Berengar, one hand
outstretched, like a virgin trying to tame a unicorn. Have
you nothing to say to me, my Lord? she asked, softly.
Oh, my Lady... whispered Berengar.
What is this? demanded Faramir. Am I to understand
that you refuse me because you prefer my servant?
Bint-Anath was clearly shaken by this last revelation but, to
her credit, she recovered almost immediately. Perhaps Master
Berengar is lowly born, she said, but he has
the courage of a king. And, as my husband, he would have the love
and respect of both his wife and her people.
I will kill him, Lady, before I permit him to marry you,
Berengar, entirely absorbed by the drama unfolding around him,
cried out in dismay. Bint-Anath immediately came to his rescue.
You shall not! she said, stepping between them, arms
outstretched, ready to take the imaginary dagger in her own breast.
My Lady, said Berengar, finally finding his voice.
This cannot be...
My Lord? Lowering her arms, the woman turned to face
I am too far below you, my Lady; much too far. And I have
sworn an oath of fealty to my Lord... He nodded towards
Faramir. My life belongs to him.
But can you trust him, Berengar? Shall you be safe with
I believe I will, my Lady. He took her ring from
his pocket and held it out to her.
Oh! Her hand flew to her mouth. Oh no! Keep
it my Lord! Please! Keep it!
And fled she from the room, followed by her ladies.
Youre a canny one, said Abdosir, entering by
a concealed door on the far side of the dais. Very canny.
Who are yousomeone important?
Faramir, Prince of Ithilien, Steward of Gondor, at your
service, my Lord, said Faramir, with a bow.
Prince? Abdosir came up close and peered,
short-sightedly, at the taller mans face. A princebut
still not to my girls likingshame. With
a shrewd smile, he stepped back, and bowed, stiffly. I am
fully aware, Prince of Ithilien, of the service you have just
rendered me. If, during your stay in Rihat, you have need of my
protection, you need only use my name.
What a woman, said Berengar, as they walked slowly
back to the Boarding House.
Faramir gave him a sharp glance.
I mean, said the secretary, I mean... What
a woman, Faroth. The way she stood up to you! The way she protected
me! She deserves
A virile young husband, said Faramir. I know.
But she will marry this elderly Lord and she will find herself
a virile young lover instead. Trust me.
Legolas descended the cellar steps with a heavy heart.
The small, square room had been turned into a cell, simply furnished
with a bed, a table, and two chairs, but someoneHentmirë,
he thoughthad also provided a pretty blue coverlet, a few
books, and a box of sweetmeats.
The elf was sitting at the table, reading.
Legolas took the other chair. How did it ever come to this,
mellon? he asked, softly.
Vardamir laid down his book. What do you mean?
You should have come to me, at Minas Athrad, when Finrod
first recognised youI would have
You would have what? Sent me back to Rivendell to clean
latrines until the end of days? I am a craftsman.
It was a punishment, said Legolas. It was already
lenient and, if you had worked hard and shown remorse, your lot
would have improved, in time.
Would you have submitted to that?
I like to think, said Legolas, that if I were
found guilty of a crime, then, yes, I would serve my sentence
Vardamir smiled. And do you imagine that Lady Eowyn would
be so eager to lie with you if you smelled of other elves
Legolas ignored him. When you ran away from Rivendell and
came to Eryn Carantaur, did it never occur to you that someone
would recognise you?
Vardamir said nothing.
And when Finrod did recognise you, you tried to
That, said Vardamir, very quietly, was a moment
Then you waited by the Healing Cave, hoping to finish him
You were seen
I just wanted to be sure that he was all rightbefore
That might be more credible had you not immediately allied
yourself with Wolfram.
He was my friend.
Vardamir! Legolas sighed. When we return to
Eryn Carantaur, you will be charged with attempted murder and
you will be put on trialbut I am willing to speak on your
Provided you tell me where to find Wolfram.
He is dead.
Vardamir looked up sharply. You did not find him?
No. Where is he hiding?
Vardamir shook his head. He is my friend.
Do you honestly think that he would protect you? He is
a liar, a thief and a murderer; he cares only for himself.
Vardamir looked Legolas straight in the eye. He may be
everything you say he is, he said. But he is my friend.
And I am an elf.
In the hours that Wolfram had spent waiting for tide to go out,
he had devised a foolproof plan.
First, I have to get out of the cave.
That had proved much easier than expected, and he had had no
difficulty getting ashore, climbing out where the old dirt road
curved away from the sea and threaded its way through the jumble
of brick, wood and palm-frond shacks that were home to the majority
Then, I have to disguise myself well enough to get close to
her without elf-boy seeing me.
That had been where his true genius had shown itself. Once on
dry land, he had made his way through the patchwork of messy gardens,
looking for something very particular...
Yes! With a quick glance about himjust to make sure
that anyone who was looking did not carehe had grabbed
a handful of washing and tucked it under his arm. Then he had
followed the smell of urine to the nearest public latrine
and, in relative privacy, slipped the clothes on over his own.
Now, he thought, my own mother wouldnt recognise
menot that my mother would have recognised me before...
Hentmirë bustled through the house, rounding up the stragglers.
The picnic is ready, she called, the carriage
is waiting for us!
If that water gives you any more energy, gwendithen,
said Legolas, I shall have to tie you to a chair...
Next, thought Wolfram, I must find the house.
He shuffled along, slowly making his way towards the Great Royal
Road, ignored by everyone but the occasional kindly soul who stepped
aside to let him pass.
I should have worked a bit harder on Cyllien, he thought. I should
have made her describe the house... Still, all that golden
hair should be easy enough to spot.
Starting on the very edge of the town he hobbled past each villa,
scanning the windows, the balconies, and the courtyard gardens
for any sign of his prey. Several times, after catching a glimpse
of a slender, graceful figure, he bought himself a few more minutes
by leaning against the garden wall to catch his breath and exchange
a few words with the gatekeeper, until he was certain that it
was not her.
But his disguise was hot, and hiding his limp was tiring, and
he had just started looking for somewhere to sit down when Lady
Luck chose to smile on him yet again.
A large open carriage, drawn by four grey horses, came gliding
past and drew smartly to a halt a few yards further down the road.
Wolfram laid a hand on the wall beside him andgenuinely
Then the villa gates opened and a noisy party emerged and climbed
aboarda small boy dragging a familiar-looking dwarf, then
Cyllien with her big elf, and then pricking elf-boy, with the
fat little woman on one arm, and My Lady herself on the other.
Wolfram watched her, dressed in a tiny golden bodice and pair
of filmy red trousersThose things cannot be legaland
carrying a parasol, board the carriage. Then elf-boy followed
her, closed the door, and they set off.
Now, thought Wolfram, all I have to do is wait for an opportunity.
The second visit to the Turquoise Gardens proved just as soothing
to the spirit as the first. This time, the friends rowed out across
the shallow lake to the little island, and ate their picnic beneath
its sunshades. Thenafter Keret had told them the story of
the elf, the dwarf, and the golden-haired princess, and Gimli
had described his first encounter with The Lady, and Legolas and
Cyllien had sung the Song of Nimrodelthey crossed back to
the jetty, and spent the remainder of the afternoon strolling
amongst the trees.
I have been thinking, said Eowyn, as Legolas helped
her step from the rowing boat, that we should visit the
Circus and see if we can find out what happened to Riya. There
may be someone there who knows something. We should go tonight,
and take Keret with us.
Will it not be very late for a child to be out? asked
Legolas, turning to help Hentmirë. In such a place?
Eowyn laughed. He has been living in that and similar places,
all by himself, ever since his mother disappeared, my love. And
tonight he will be with us. Nothing will happen to him with us.
Is this the Forest? asked Keret, throwing his arms
wide and whirling around.
The Forest? No, lad. No, this is a garden. Gimli
looked around. A Forest has no walls: its trees are wild
Do you live in the Forest?
No lad, Gimli chuckled, I live in a cave, like
any sensible dwarfthough I do, on occasion visit Legolas.
And he lives in the Forest?
Oh yes. In a great aerial city, built high in the trees
I would like to see the Forest, said Keret.
Are you glad you came after all?
asked Legolas, joining Cyllien, who was leaning on the fence beside
The elleth smiled. It is very pleasant; but I am not a
Legolas laughed. So I have heard.
Ah. Where is MissEowyn?
She has gone with Hentmirë to find a rest room. Where
He has gone back to the carriage to fetch me a parasol.
Does an elleth need a parasol?
No. But he was anxious to do something for me.
Legolas grinned. Shall we wait for them over here?
He led her to one of the tiled benches that threaded their way
through the fig groves. It is always good to be amongst
trees, said Legolas, even if it is only in a garden.
Haldir tells me that the trees of Eryn Carantaur are like
mallorns, said Cyllien.
Legolas shook his head. They are neither quite so old nor
quite so tall as mallorns, he admitted, and their
leaves turn a deep blood red as they mature. But they are beautiful,
and we do enjoy living amongst their branches. Of course, you
are used to the sophistication of Rivendell
No, said Cyllien. Not now. It is many years
since I lived in Rivendell.
Why did you leave?
To sail West.
Were you taken by slavers?
No, I... She smiled, sadly. On the way to the
Grey Havens, I met a Man.
Yes. A fine manhandsome, strong, bravean adventurer.
So full of life...
But he died.
I am sorry.
And I did not die, said Cyllien. I thought
I would. But I didnt.
How long ago? asked Legolas, gently.
A hundred years... Perhaps less... I do not know.
I am so sorry.
So it is time, said the elleth, after a few moments.
Time for a new start.
Yes. We are neither of us young, Prince Legolas, and we
have both had our hearts broken. Perhaps that will help us make
a future together.
I do hope so, Cyllien.
Thank you. She turned towards him and said, very
quietly, What of you, Prince Legolas? What will happen to
you when Eowynwhen she?
Do you not sense it?
Eowyn is no longer mortal.
I do not understand.
She has been transformeda gift of the Valar.
He smiled. She is not quite as we are, but, barring a fatal
wound, she will never be taken from me. I thought that another
elf might sense it.
No, said Cyllien, softly. So she really is
They returned just after sunset, still laughing and jokingWolfram
caught a few snatches of the dwarfs tale about the big elfs
inability to hold his liquor.
He watched them all go inside the house, then he watched the
doorkeeper turn the key in the gate lock, and shuffle back to
his little hut.
Ten minutes and he will be fast asleep, he thought. Completely
An hour passed.
Then a big slave slipped out through the gates, and crossed the
road, coming straight towards him.
Surely they have not recognised me...?
No, if elf-boy had seen me he would be coming out himself. With
his fancy knives.
The slave approached him warily. Here, he said, holding
out a small basket, my lady saw you from the window. She
wants you to have this... He handed it to Wolfram, then
took a folded blanket from under his arm. And this.
Carefully keeping his face hidden, Wolfram accepted the charity
graciously. Give your lady my thanks, he said, disguising
his voice. May the gods smile upon her.
He waited until the slave was safely back inside the villa, then
examined the contents of his basket. There was bread and cheese,
chicken, olives, some dried fruits and a jug of ale.
He shook his head. Like taking sweetmeats from a baby.
Are we going now? cried Keret, jumping up and down
In a minute, said Eowyn.
Why cant Gimli come with us?
Because you wore him out this afternoon. He needs to rest...
Hentmirë came downstairs wearing a thick mantle and carrying
a blanket. Keret bounded up to her. Are we going now?
Yes! She took his hand and led him out into the courtyard.
With a grin, Legolas offered Eowyn his arm, and they followed.
The carriage was already waiting at the gates.
Can I have a flag? asked Keret, jumping up the carriage
We will all have flags, said Hentmirë, climbing
up behind him. Which colour do you want?
Red, said Keret. He waved his hands in the air. Come
on the Reds!
The Reds? Wolfram watched the carriage roll away. Theyre
going to the Circus... Pity I cant follow themit
would be a good place to get her alone
Do you want a ride?
Startled, Wolfram turned towards the voice.
Gods bollocks! Preoccupied with his prey, he had
wandered out into the middle of the road and forced the traffica
horse and cart laden with fruit and vegetablesto stop behind
Thank you, young man, he said, disguising his voice.
To the Circus.
The Circus! Im only going as far as the souk...
The farmer looked down at Wolfram for a moment or two, then sighed.
All right, I suppose it will only take a few minutes more.
Can you get up by yourself or do you need a hand?
Wolfram climbed up by himself.
You know, said the farmer, as he jerked the reins,
you really need to watch where youre going. I nearly
ran over you in the dark.
Why is everybody so excited? asked Legolas. He leaned
out of the carriage and gazed at the massive building up ahead.
All around its oval wall, queues of people were waitingto
enter its cavernous gates, or to buy savouries and sweetmeats
and jugs of ale from the food stalls beneath its arches, or to
waste their money on souvenirs from its little shops. Everyone
was talking and laughing and greeting friends. And everyone seemed
to be waving a coloured flagred or green or white or blue.
They are all expecting their team to win tonight,
said Hentmirë. But most of them will be very disappointed
when the races are over.
Legolas shook his head in disbelief. Where did you live,
Keret? he asked.
Round the back, said the boy. Near the animal
sheds. Do you want to go now? Only, were not supposed to
go there before the races.
Why not? asked Eowyn.
Keret shrugged his shoulders. The uncles dont like
Legolas cleared his throat. We will wait until afterwards,
The Silk Road was buzzing.
Cylliens absence on the previous night had disappointed
many patrons but today the story of her daring rescue by elves
from the North had spread through the town like wildfire, and
Ribhaddas regulars had been joined by many members of Carhilivrens
fashionable setall anxious to see and be seen whilst watching
the exotic singer.
From his privileged position in front of the stage, Haldir scanned
the room. True to his word, Captain Ramess, standing beside Ribhadda
at the bar, was personally watching over Cyllien. In addition,
two of his men, dressed like ordinary patrons, but still instantly
recognisable, were sitting close to the stage door.
There had been no sign of Wolfram. But, then, the man is invisible
when he wants to be, thought Haldir. If he were not such a poisonous
warg, I would suspect he had elven ancestry.
As if by magic, the crowd fell silent. Haldir turned back towards
the stage. The musicians began to play and Cyllien emerged from
behind her curtain, wearing the dark blue gown he had chosen,
Night and day, you are the one
Only you beneath the moon or under the sun
Whether near to me, or far
Its no matter darling where you are
I think of you...
Day and night,
Night and day...
Haldir smiled. Cyllien smiled back, mouthing, Later.
Night and day, why is it so
That this longing for you follows wherever I go...
Berengar opened his eyes.
Someone was tapping at the door. Faroth? Nohe would not
knock. Oliel perhaps.
There was no light in the room, but the sky outside was cloudless
and the moon almost full. Berengar threw back the sheet, swung
his legs off the bed and reached for his shirt.
The voice was familiar. Low andOh gods!female. Berengar
dropped his shirt back on the bed and walked over to the door.
Pleaseopen the door...
Berengar lifted the latch and opened the door a narrow crack.
My lady, what are you doing here?
She was smaller than he remembered, and younger looking, and
she had cropped her hair and dressed herself like a boy, in dark
trousers and a loose shirt.
Come with me, she whispered, holding out her hand.
Berengars heart sank under a welter of conflicting emotions.
Oh, my Lady! I thought we had agreed
You are in danger.
No, my Lady. No. He opened the door fully. Come
in here, and I will explain.
Into your bedroom? She hesitated for just a moment;
then she stepped inside.
Sit down, my Lady, said Berengar, gesturing towards
the bed. He closed and bolted the door and lit a candle. Where
do I start?
He sat down beside her. You are beautiful and brave and
truly, far, far above my station, he said. And yet
you have chosen to bestow your favour on me...
You saved my life, Berengar, said Bint-Anath.
Without my friends I would soon have been bested, my lady.
I am no fighter
I could see that, my love. That only makes your courage
Berengar smiled. Thank you, my Lady. But... There is no
way to explain this without risk of offending you, so I will simply
say it. If I could love a womanif I could make
love to a womanit would be you, my Lady. If.
If? Confused, Bint-Anath stared at his face, as if
the answer were written in his features. Then her hands flew up
to her face. Oh!
I am sorry my Lady.
Bint-Anaths eyes filled with tears. But I... Could
you not... Many of your kind marry...
No, my Lady.
I do not want to marry an old man, she whispered.
I want you.
I am so sorry.
She ran her hand through her dark locks. I have cut off
I know. Berengar smiled. It looks nice.
What am I to do, Berengar?
Berengar shook his head. I do not know, my Lady. But if
there is anything that I
He turned towards the door. Someone was rattling the handle.