You think, said Eowyn, that tupping
can get you out of any trouble.
Legolas laughed, nuzzling her neck. He had pushed her onto the
bed the moment they had entered their chamber and, arms wrapped
around her waist, was wrestling with her, completely ignoring
her attempts to argue.
Legolas! I am angry with you.
He bit her neck.
Ow! Stop it!
He devoured her mouth.
Mmmm, mmmm... Nnnnn!
He lifted his head. What are you saying, Melmenya?
Aaagh! yelled Eowyn, with frustration. Will
youwill youahwill... will... oh...
But he had finally got her where he wanted her. And he was righttupping
could get him out of any trouble. At least, with her.
Eowyn struggled against his rhythmwhether because of her
earlier anger or the emotional exhaustion that had replaced it,
she could not find release. She shifted her hips, trying to reach
that elusive place...
Stop, Melmenya, gasped Legolas, catching her face
in his handsStop, Eowyn nín! He
kissed her fiercely, holding her still until she surrendered to
him. Then he lifted himself up on his hands and, smiling down
at her, he began to thrust with firm, hard strokes, grinding his
hips each time he filled her
Oh yes! There! There, Lassui! Thereohyes, THERE!
She twisted suddenly, her words sliding from nonsense into one
long, heartrending wail.
Her elf collapsed on top of her, his head coming to rest on her
And Eowyn held him, happily, in arms still flickering with pleasure.
I tried to reach you, she said, stroking his silken
hair; I tried to find you with my thoughts. But it did not
I think it takes powerful emotions to form that bond, Melmenya.
There were powerful emotions, said Eowyn.
Anger and fear. Suppose something had happened to you, Lassui?
Suppose you... She could not say it. Instead she pulled
him closer. I would never have seen you again. All I would
have had of you was your silly note. And I would have had to endure
eternity without you.
Legolas raised his head. That is a fear you must learn
to live with now that you are immortal, Melmenya, he said,
Immortality is not the simple blessing most mortals imagine
Eowyn reached up and tucked a loose lock of hair behind his ear.
It will be, Lassui. It will be, provided you never leave
me, she said.
You survived, then? said Gimli.
Aww! Gimli threw up his hands. I do not want
to hear anything about that!
Where is Faramir, elvellon?
In the garden making plans with Ribhadda and Oliel.
Spinning through the house like a whirlwind, dragging young
Keret behind her.
Legolas walked over to a tall, ornately painted dresser and,
taking a key from around his neck, opened one of its small cupboards
and removed a brown glass bottle.
Is that it? asked Gimli.
Yes. Legolas held the bottle up to the light. Just
one more spoonful, I think.
What was she like before?
Slower, said Legolas. But, otherwise, much
How long will the effect last?
I have no idea.
Let us hope it lasts a long while...
Gwirith is not going to the Palace with you, said
How many times do I have to tell you she's safe?
Faramir, you are with me on this
She has a Letter of Pardon
Will you stop talking about me as if I were not here!
cried Gwirith, suddenly. I am going to the Palace.
Nohear me out, Oliel! She held up a slender hand.
I have spent the best part of four years fending for myself,
or looking after Keret; I have learned to take control of my own
life. If I did not go with youif I were not there to plead
my own casehow could I live with it afterwards? Whatever
the outcomelife or deathI must be there to
hear it decided.
Faramir acknowledged her argument with a courteous bow of the
head. It is agreed, then, he said.
You are going to have your hands full with her, said
Ribhadda, quietly, to Oliel. And he tried to hide his envy with
one of his rare smiles.
An hour later
Move it a little more to the left, said Hentmirë.
I do not think your customers will notice the position
of the tables, gwendithen, said Legolas, but he and
Gimli did as instructed.
But we must give them enough space to move around and look
at things properly, said Hentmirë. Now, where
are the clothsKeret, what are you doing?
The boy was rummaging through one of the boxes of knickknacks.
How much do you want for this? he asked, holding up
a tiny bronze figure of a dancing god.
You do not have any money, said Gimli.
No, said Keret, not yet. But if you let me
take it to Old Yarih, I can probably get more than you thought,
and we can split the extra, half-and-half.
Why would you need money, now? asked Legolas.
People always need money, said Keret, polishing the
statuette with his shirt sleeve, in case something happens...
He set the little figure on one of the tables, admiring his handiwork,
then he picked up the cloth Hentmirë had asked for, and began
Hentmirë glanced at Legolas. What could happen,
Keret? she asked.
The boy shrugged his shoulders; he spread the cloth over a table.
Your mother has a Letter of Pardon, said Hentmirë.
You are not going to lose her again.
He might not want me, said Keret, smoothing out the
Of course he wants you, said Hentmirë.
If he doesnt, can I live in the Forest with you?
Oh! Come here! Hentmirë hugged him. Your
mother and your father both want you, and you are going to be
sailing on the sea with them. But you can come and stay with meand
with Legolas and Eowyn and Gimliwhenever you likeprovided
your mother agrees.
Thats my second wish, Keret mumbled, from the
confines of her bosom.
What is your third wish? asked Legolas, smiling.
Im going to save that until I really need it.
Very wise, said Gimli.
Well, said Hentmirë, now that is settled,
shall we set up our stalls?
Expecting to have to talk his way into the Hatjas
presence, Faramir was pleasantly surprised to find that the Palace
Guards had standing orders to admit him. With Haldir, Ribhadda,
Oliel and Gwirith following, he was escorted to the main Reception
Hall, where he was greeted by a slightly flustered secretary.
His Excellency has exactly ten minutes, your Highness,
said the man with a nervous bow. Had you come on any other
day... He spread his hands, helplessly. But today
he receives the Kurian ambassador...
Faramir returned his bow, politely. Ten minutes will be
sufficient, he said.
The secretary led them to the Hatjas private apartments
and opened the double doors. The Hatja, his head wrapped
in towels, was being shaved by the Palace barber. Waving the servant
aside, the secretary bent over his master and whispered in his
Prince Faramir, said the Hatja, without moving,
please take a seat. Who are your companions?
This was no time for tact. Witnesses, said Faramir.
The barber had already resumed his work, but he paused to allow
the Hatja to speak. Witnesses to what?
Your sons murder, said Faramir.
The Hatja threw up his handsand the barber stepped
back with a cry of dismay: he had nicked the Excellent chin.
Leave us, said the Hatja to the terrified
man, wait outsideno, no, you are pardoned, he
added, when the man attempted to throw himself to the ground in
Dabbing his face with a towel, the ruler turned to Faramir. What
do you know of my sons murder?
I can give you the name of his killer, said Faramir.
And, this afternoon, if all goes well, I will capture him
and deliver him to you.
If all goes well?
We are here because we need the assistance of some of your
Guards, said Faramir. Good, reliable men...
What does that mean?
Not Captain Ramess or anyone loyal to him, said Ribhadda.
Who are you? asked the Hatja.
One of your citizens, replied Ribhadda.
You are from the North.
Yesbut I have been paying your taxes for more than
ten years, said Ribhadda.
The Hatja studied him shrewdly. Very well.
He turned to Faramir. What do you want in return for this
We can discuss that later, said Faramir.
Tell me now.
Since you insista marriage, said Faramir, between
your second son and his former betrothed, the daughter of Lord
Abdosir of Rihat.
Faramir was taken aback. Are you saying you do not want
to know who killed your son?
The Hatja did not reply.
And to whom else would you marry your heir? The King of
Kuri has no daughter; Umbar is still ruled by pirates; the King
of Gondor is only recently married... To whom would you marry
him but Lady Bint-Anath? The alliance would give you joint control
of the Silk Road to Rihat and beyond. And...
And, if the marriage takes place, I am willing to enter
into a trading agreement.
You! What do you have to trade? asked the
Timber, said Faramir. Tall, straight oaks for
ship-building; cedars for house-building; walnuts and birches
for cabinet making...
And what would you want in returnI will not export
Perfumes and spices, said Faramir, cordials
and candied fruits. Such luxuries are as rare in my country as
timber is in yours
The Hatja held up his hand. My secretary will draft
an agreement, he said. Now, tell me everything you
know of my sons murder, starting with the name of the man
who killed him.
Wolfram was watching the fat little woman, elf-boy and the dwarf
slowly turn the courtyard garden into a souk...
He glanced to his right.
Another beggar had taken up residence on his patch of wasteland,
not ten yards away. Planning to live off the little womans
charity, he thought.
It was annoying, but it did not matter.
Two hours, thought Wolfram. Two hours and I will be
inside the house, claiming my prize.
He would pleasure My Lady in her own bedchamber, then leave Carhilivren,
follow the Silk Road, and try his chances in the East.
Unless... He smiled, wolfishly. Unless, that is,
My Lady decides to come with me.
Either way, he would not be sitting outside the house much longer.
The Circus was already busy, with crowds of spectators arriving
early to watch the drivers exercise their horses in the arena.
Faramir, Haldir and Ribhadda entered through one of the arched
gates and climbed up to the first tier of seats. Oliel and Gwirith
remained outside in Hentmirës carriage.
The meeting with Abdi was set for half past two. Huy, already
in position, was sitting at the bottom of the first tier, next
to the Hatjas own private box, surrounded by ten
members of the Hatjas personal bodyguard, all convincingly
disguised as ordinary spectators.
Faramir and his companions climbed higher up the tier. Abdi
has chosen the place well, he said, glancing around the
stadium. There are three staircases close by and, if he
cannot reach those, he can easily drop to the track and disappear
through one of those hatches.
Ribhadda shook his head, One of us could do that, perhaps,
but not AbdiAbdis breathless after raising a glass
of spirits to his lips. In fact, Im beginning to doubt that
hell come here in person. Hed be too conspicuous...
Ribhaddas eyes narrowed. Unless... See the man
in the yellow headdress? He pointed to fat man waddling
up the nearest staircase.
Is that Abdi?
He is the right size, Haldir confirmed, but
I cannot see his face.
And he is going in the wrong direction...
They looked down at Huy. The villain had already risen to his
feet and was pushing his way past the bodyguards. The Hatjas
men, clearly confused by the change of plan, all remained in their
placesuntil two of them, sitting on the ends of the benches,
finally decided to take the initiative and follow their charge.
Come on, said Ribhadda.
They forced their way down the tier.
The man in the bright yellow headdress had found a seat on the
far side of the staircase. The two bodyguards were watching him
from a distance. Where is Huy? asked Haldir.
Oh gods, muttered Ribhadda, thats not
Down the stairs! cried Faramir, summoning the bodyguards
with an angry wave of his hand.
I need the room of easement, said Gwirith.
The gates to the pink house had been open for a quarter of an
hour but, as yet, only a handful of customers had arrived. Wolfram
watched them walking slowly round the tables, picking things up
and putting them down, the men staring at the dwarf and the women
fluttering their eyelashes at elf-boy.
My Lady was nowhere to be seen. She must be staying indoors,
thought Wolfram. Perfect!
He was still waiting for more people to gatherSafety
in numberswhen his new neighbour, the other beggar,
suddenly stood up and began stridingStriding!towards
the house. Watching him, open mouthed, Wolfram caught a glimpse
of something glinting beneath his ragged robes as he moved.
A knife! Whats he going to do with a pricking-great
Gods turds! My Lady!
Wolfram leaped to his feet and, despite the cramp in his limbs,
sprinted after the stranger.
Battling against the tide of people, Faramir and Haldir followed
Ribhadda down the steps and out into the open space surrounding
the Circus. Here, the crowds were thinner, but they looked in
vain for any sign of Huy.
He hasnt had time to go far, Ribhadda reasoned.
He must have gone into one of the shops.
Where do we start? asked Faramir.
With the closest. Ribhadda set off towards a small
pipe weed shop. Faramir turned to Haldir. Take the bodyguards
and search the rest, he said. Tell them to arrest
Huy and anyone they find with him. He followed Ribhadda.
The pipe weed shop was closed, but the next store, a much larger
establishment selling perfumed oils, was notand there they
found Huy, standing just inside the doorway, staring at something
in the room beyond.
Silently, Faramir drew his sword and Ribhadda pulled out his
knife, and the two men advanced. Sensing their presence, Huy turned
and raised his hands in surrender. Ribhadda grabbed his arm and
pulled him out of the shop.
And Faramir entered, just in time to see Gwirith cut Abdis
throat from ear to ear.
It had taken Wolfram several minutes to push his way through
the small crowd of bargain hunters blocking the gate. But, once
inside the courtyard, he had slipped easily past elf-boywho
was showing two simpering women how to draw a bowand past
the dwarfwho was haggling loudly over the price of a meat
cleaverand entered the house.
There was no sign of the man with the knife.
If that bastard touches My Lady... Which way?
The place was vast, but Wolframs instincts had never failed
him in the past.
He threw off his headdress and his enveloping robes, and approached
Eowyn picked up her scimitar and examined its curved blade. It
had served her well on the prison island. But it would be silly,
she thought, to keep it, for I will not need it in Eryn Carantaur.
I shall take it downstairs.
She wrapped it in its silken cover, tucked itcarefullyunder
her arm and, closing the bedchamber door behind her, made her
way to the top of the stairs. As she placed her hand on the rail,
she heard a voice say, You are coming with me.
Eowyn turned, startled; there was no one in sight.
Stand upthats it, said the voice.
One of the chamber doors was open. Cylliens door...
Take my armkeep smiling. The voice did not
belong to Haldir.
Eowyn crept along the landing.
Nowrememberif anyone asks, Ribhadda sent me
and Im taking you to The Silk Road. Make any other sound
and Ill cut that pretty face in two...
Dont start that!
Calmly, Eowyn pulled the silken cover from her scimitar and let
it fall to the ground. Then, grasping the sword in both hands,
she took up position beside the door, her feet spread, her back
to the wall, her blade ready.
Wolfram reached the top of the stairsand froze. My Lady
was lying in wait beside one of the chamber doors...
For the stranger?
What a woman!
Sensing his presence, My Lady turned andas though his being
there were the most natural thing in the worldshe lifted
a finger to her lips in a silent Shhhh.
What a woman! Wolfram felt a thrill of excitement. What a pair
He had no weapon. He had no idea who the stranger was nor what
he was doing. But he tip-toed along the corridor and stood at
My Ladys side.
Its over, said Gwirith, staring down at Abdis
lifeless body, at last. I am free... She began to
Faramir quickly put away his sword. Give me the knife,
he said, taking it from her hands and, calling Ribhadda,
putting an arm around her.
The other man pushed Huy into the shop. What'soh
Take her, said Faramir. He crouched beside Abdis
massive corpse and closed the staring eyes.
You surely took him by surprise, said Ribhadda
to Gwirith. Wheres Oliel? Riya? He shook
her gently. Wheres your husband?
Waiting in the carriage...
Faramir rose to his feet. Take her to Oliel; I will find
the Hatjas bodyguards. He turned to Huy. You,
come with me.
Abdi outwitted us, said Ribhadda, gently guiding
the woman outside. Butonce againhe underestimated
Eowyn tightened her grip on the scimitar. How Wolfram came to
be standing beside her she did not know, but she had no time now
to worry about it; the door was opening.
She took a deep breath.
Out stumbled Cyllien, head bowed, oblivious to her surroundings.
Out came the stranger, chest to Cylliens back, his left
hand grasping her elbow, his right inside his robespresumably
holding a knife.
Eowyn pressed her blade to the back of his neck. Let her
Taken by surprise, the villain did as he was told. But, without
the support of his hand, Cylliens legs gave way. She fell
back against the mans chest; he fell against Eowyn; Wolfram
lunged forward to pull Eowyn out of the way; and somehow, in the
confusion, the stranger ripped Eowyn from Wolframs arms
and got his knife to her throat.
Melmenya! Legolas hand flew to his neck...
He gasped. I am sorry, he said to his startled customer,
I must... I... Gimli will take care of you!
Clumsily pushing his way through the crowd, he rushed into the
What are you doing, you prick! hissed Wolfram.
Its all turned to shit. Youll never get
the elf woman out of here now. Give My Lady to me and take off
before her elf-boy catches you.
He took a cautious step closer.
The door at the top of the stairs is your best chance.
He pointed to Hentmirës chamber: he had not wasted
the hours he had spent staring at the house. Go out onto
the balcony. Its only a couple of feet to the next villaand
next doors gates have no spikes.
He took another slow step.
Go on. Give My Lady to me... He held out his hands.
The stranger was almost convincedWolfram could see his
knife hand relaxingand My Lady knew it, too, because her
expression had suddenly taken on a new determination.
Thats right, Wolfram thought, get yourself ready...
Give her to me, he repeated, firmly.
Slowly, the man pushed Eowyn forward
MELMENYA! Legolas came flying up the stairs.
The man pulled Eowyn back, digging the point of his knife into
NO! cried Wolfram.
His left hand flew out, catching the knife and holding it firmthough
the blade was cutting through to the bonewhilst his right
hand ripped Eowyn from the mans arms and threw her towards
Wolfram turned back to the stranger with a triumphant smile.
The man pulled the blade from Wolfram's fingers and plunged it
into his chest.
Guiding her through the crowd, Ribhadda escorted the now exhausted
Gwirith back to Hentmirës carriage.
What happened? asked Oliel, climbing down to help
her up into her seat. You were gone so long I was about
to come and find you andGods! He turned to
Ribhadda. Why is she covered in blood?
Abdis dead, said Ribhadda, simply.
And Gwirith saw it happen?
Ribhadda sighed. She
I killed him, Oliel, said Gwirith. Her voice sounded
distant, but strongfull of cold determination. I saw
him send his substitute into the arena, and I knew everyone would
be fooled, so I followed him...
Why didnt you tell me the truth? Why did you tell
me you needed the room of easement?
Gwirith smiled, sadly. It was something that I had
to do, Oliel. With my own hands. With great effort, she
lifted her hands and laid them on top of his. He was waiting
in the oil shop, she continued. I knew that Huy would
be coming soonI knew I didnt have much time. I told
Abdi what I was going to do to him and I told him why. He didnt
believe me. I took out my knife
You were carrying a knife?
I always carry a knife, Oliel. How do you think I survived
in Rihat? I took out my knife and said, Look at me. Look
at this ruined face! I want this face to be the last thing you
ever see! And then I cut out his throat...
Strange that it doesnt hurt, thought Wolfram.
All he could feel was My Ladys little hands, pressing down
on his chest.
He stared up at her through the mist.
Around her lovely head, the stars were shining. Shes
not a woman after all, he thought. Shes a god...