Stepping carefully over the urine-soaked sand, Haldir
approached the Guardhouse door. Captain Ramess was still lying
on his back, but his eyes were open and he was clearly conscious.
Good morning, said the elf. That
was an interesting performance.
The man scrambled to his feet and attempted to draw his knife,
but Haldirtoo quick and too strong for himcaught him
by the wrists.
I have no interest, he said, in your friendI
daresay he paid well for his freedom. All I want is a chance to
bargain for your services.
Let me go, then, said Ramess, calmly.
Provided you understand, said Haldir, that
I can restrain you again whenever I want. He released the
captains arms. Shall we go to your office?
Reluctantly, Ramess led the way, down a twisting corridor, to
a door within sight of the entrance hall.
In here, he said.
Perhaps you want to inform your men of the prisoners
escape before we speak? Haldir suggested, helpfully.
Ramess opened the door. Wait for me here.
With a polite nod, Haldir entered the office.
The room was bare apart from a worn carpet, a table strewn with
papers, and two chairs. There were no personal touches. Not
someone who enjoys his work, thought Haldir.
He sat down.
A few moments later, a troupe of men jogged past the doorDo
not search too hard, mellyn nínthen Captain
Ramess entered the office, carefully closing the door behind him.
Now, he said, what do you want from me, Master
Haldir described the events of the previous evening.
The mans attitude changed the moment Cylliens name
was mentioned. Is she?
She is shaken, said Haldir, but she has not,
I believe, suffered any lasting harm. She insists that she will
sing at The Silk Road tonight. Prince Legolas has the elf, Vardamir,
under lock and key and will be taking him back to Eryn Carantaur
to stand trial.
But Wolfram is still at large?
Yes. I do not believe that he drowned, said Haldir.
The man is a survivor. And, as long as he is free, Lady
Eowyn is in dangerand possibly Cyllien, too. Haldir
leaned forward. Prince Legolas and Prince Faramir have recently
rendered the Hatja a great service. They havehow
would you put it?they have his ear. He waited
for Ramess to show that he understood. In return for my
silenceabout what I witnessed todayI want you to mount
a search for Wolfram. And I want Cyllien protected, discreetly,
whenever she is at The Silk Road.
Ramess nodded. I will watch her myself.
I thought you might.
No. Haldir rose, placed his hand over his heart,
and bowed his head. Then another thought occurred to him. Except...
he said. The man who escaped; who was he?
His name is Abdi. He owns
The Blue Parrot.
Haldir swore in Elvish. Then there is something
else. Something you should know. He leaned on the table.
Wolframs interest in Lady Eowyn is personal,
he said, and his attack on Lady Hentmirë was opportunistic.
But he told Cyllien that he had a customer who wanted her.
Did he say who?
No. But I happen to know thatshortly before Cyllien
was kidnappedyour friend, Abdi, offered Ribhadda a considerable
sum of money for her.
Are you sure that this is the right place? shouted
Legolas, across the djinns chest.
Eowyn raked her streaming hair back from her face. I think
so... she replied. Yesthat is where I fell.
She pointed to the cave mouth.
Sweet Eru, Melmenya, it is a long way down...
Yes. But I think the tide was higher last night. TAKE US
LOWER, she called to the djinn.
Grasping them more tightly, the djinn swooped down and hovered
over the gently swelling surface of the sea. Legolas scanned the
foot of the cliff.
Can you see anything, Lassui?
I am not sure... Do you see that darker patch? I think
it might be the mouth of another cave.
Beneath the water?
Yes. He addressed the djinn. CAN YOU FLY UNDER
The djinn sighed. Mistress?
Could you bear it, melmenya?
Of courseif it is over quickly.
Legolas smiled. Then ask him to take us down to the dark
patch, he shouted. Tell him that if the rock is solid
he must bring us up immediately. And then take a deep breath!
You saved her, thought Wolfram, for the hundredth time. You saved
her, and that pricking thing stole her and took her back to elf-boy!
He grabbed a pebble and threw it into the sea with a thunk.
Stunned by the djinns blow, he hadfor some momentsfloated
helplessly in the water. But then his predators nature had
asserted itself. He had revived, and dived beneath the waves,
and, in that uncanny way he had when acting on pure instinct,
he had followed his nose along the cliff face until, lungs bursting,
he had swum into another cave, and broken the surface, and found
himself in a pocket of sweet air.
He threw another pebble.
Gods, the relief! He had scrambled onto a rocky ledge, collapsed,
and lain there all night.
The truth, he thought, is that, somehow, My Lady has
got you by the prick. And she will always have you by the prick.
Its her or nothing.
So you must get out of here. He struggled to his feet
and looked down into the water.
Eowyn felt a moment of heart-stopping fear as her body was engulfed
by water, but she forced herself to open her eyes.
Down below her, all along the cliff foot, rocky flowerbeds were
filled with sea-plants that rippled in a water-breeze, their fingery
leaves home to brightly coloured fish. To her right a big sea-serpent,
dark and velvety, with tiny white eyes, paused in his undulating
journey to peer at her inquisitively. Beside her head, a strange
bat-like creature flapped its pointed wings
Then the djinn swept her through the cave mouth and up, up, out
of the water, and into the cavern. She gasped for breath.
Legolas held a finger to his lips.
Eowyn looked around the chamber. It was smallperhaps forty
feet acrossand quite shallow, its rear wall and ceiling
smoothly curved. There was no sign of Wolfram. And nowhere for
him to hide.
Ask the djinn to take us to that ledge, melmenya,
said Legolas softly.
Eowyn relayed the instructions and they hovered over the rock.
Can you see any trace of him? she asked.
No. But the entire ledge is wet... Legolas took one
last look around the empty cave. Ask the djinn to take us
Oh, gods bollocks!
Wolfram tried to relax. Calm down; calm down; yes... Thats
it. Calm... Calm... He was loose! Oh, thank you, gods!
He wriggled out of the narrow fissure, kicked his legs and bobbed
to the surface.
I will throttle that pricking elf!
He shoved the gold tube he had been breathing through back into
his pocket and pulled himself up onto the ledge. Lucky elf-boy
always underestimates me. He might have seen me if hed looked
a bit harder...
He sat down, took out the tube and several other parts, and carefully
reassembled it, screwing on the distinctively-shaped head, inserting
the tiny sprung mechanism, adding the ridged base
He glanced across the glittering water.
During the night he had watched the sea fall, then rise again,
and nowhe was sureit was falling once more. If
I wait a few hours, he thought, until the cave is only
part-flooded, I can swim out and make my way back towards the
town. There are several places along the Great Royal Road where
I can climb up unseen...
And then, My Lady, he thought, winding up the toy, I have some
unfinished business with you.
The golden phallus vibrated in his hand.
Faramir had taken Oliel into a nearby tavern. Here,
he said, removing the seal from a jar of beer. Drink this;
it will do you good.
Mechanically, the other man raised the soupy liquid to his mouth
and took a swig. Thank you.
Eat some bread.
Oliel smiled. Berengar is right, he said.
You would make a good mother. He took another mouthful.
Did you see how she looked at me, Faramir?
Faramir laid his hand on his friends arm. Yes,
he said. But do not make too much of this first meeting.
She was trying to protect you.
Protect me from what?
Faramir told Oliel what he had learned of the man who had posed
as Gwiriths husband. It seems he was sent to capture
heror to kill her.
But she killed him?
That is what the doctor believes. Faramir took a
draught of beer.
No wonder she says she has changed. All this time, when
I thought I was plumbing the depthsbreaking laws,
befriending slavers, turning a blind eye to... to everything...
He shook his head. All this time, my sweet wife was outdoing
She has survived in thisthis nightmare worldfor
seven years, Oliel, said Faramir. She has shown
remarkable courage and tenacity.
What shall I do, Faramir? What would you do?
Me? I would take her back to Gondor, as soon as possible,
said Faramir. Even if... He pressed the mans
arm. Even if it does not turn out as you hopedeven
if you can no longer be together as man and wifeshe will
be safer in Gondor. We can still find her a refugewith Berengar
and me in Caras Arnen, perhaps, or in Eryn Carantaur with Legolas...
No one could touch her there.
Yes, said Oliel. Yes, of coursethank
you, Faramir. Then he sighed. But it will not be easy
to persuade her, my friend. And we can hardly force herwe
would more than likely find our throats cut.
He might have intended it as a joke, but Faramir answered in
deadly earnest. No, he said, grimly, we cannot
force her; so you must find some way to persuade her.
Is this really yours? asked Keret, staring up at
the Early Bird.
Yes, said Hentmirë. She took the boys
hand and led him up the gang plank, with Gimli following behind.
Good morning, Captain Mutallu, she called, brightly.
Good morning, my Lady! The man immediately finished
giving the Mate his orders and came over to greet her. How
are you feeling this morning, my Lady?
Very well, thank you, said Hentmirë. She leaned
forward and added, quietly. It is the water, you know.
This is Keret, she continued. Would you mind
if I took him to sit up there, she pointed to a wooden locker
on the aft deck, so that we can watch the boats for a while?
Of course not, my Lady. I will ask the cook to bring you
They settled themselves on the lockerHentmirë to the
left, Gimli to the right, and Keret sandwiched betweenand
looked out across the bay.
Since the Raging Calm had descended on Carhilivren,
many ships had been forced to extend their stay and now languished
at anchortheir sails stowed, their colours hanging limply
in the still airwhilst their crews took the opportunity
to clean, paint and refit them. In the next berth, kilted Kurians
were patching the great sail of a long, papyrus cargo ship, helped
and hindered by two tame baboons.
Look at the monkeys! cried Keret, laughing.
Hentmire handed him a tankard of lemonade. Tell us about
your mother, my dear, she said, passing another to Gimli.
What do you want to know?
Well, what was her name?
The boy shrugged his shoulders. I called her Mummy.
The djinn swept Legolas and Eowyn through the balmy air and deposited
them, still damp, at the end of the Great Royal Road, where the
private villas gave way to tenements, and the bustle of the city
began. Eowyn carefully stowed him, inside his lamp, in her carpet
bag. Then, hand-in-hand, she and Legolas wound their way through
the busy streets to The Silk Road, where Hiram admitted
Ribhadda was behind the bar, checkingas was usual in the
morninghis inventory of spirits. Please, he
said, gesturing to one of the tables, sit down. Is this
about Cyllien? He took a seat opposite them. She came
back about an hour ago, but I havent had a chance to speak
No, said Legolas. This is something else. This
concerns a young boy that wefor want of a better wordrescued
yesterday. His name is Keret.
Yes. He says he knows you.
Ah, said Ribhadda, but whether he was admitting that
he knew Keret, or merely acknowledging the question, Legolas could
Eowyn tried a different approach. The boy has asked us
to help him find his mother, she said.
He says that she disappeared on her way to see you.
Oh, Melmenya! thought Legolas. Now he will lie to us!
But Ribhadda seemed genuinely surprised by the information. On
her way here?
Did she arrive? asked Legolas.
No. No, I dont believe she did. When was this, exactly?
Legolas decided to follow Eowyns lead. Keret says
that he saw youthe night before his mother disappearedkill
someone at the Circus. A man called Balashi.
Ribhadda rose to his feet. Legolas and Eowyn looked up at him
in surprise. You are saying that Riya disappeared the next
The boys mother. I did not realise it was so soon
You did kill this man, then? asked Eowyn, softly.
Ribhadda replied with perfect frankness: Yes, my Lady.
I did kill him, because I thought it would protect Riya
and the boy. It seems I was wrong.
Eowyn sighed with relief.
Beneath the table, Legolas sought her hand and squeezed it, gently.
Protect them from what? he asked.
Let me fetch us all a drink, said Ribhadda. He walked
over to the bar and poured out three glasses of spirits.
HereI thought that Balashi was planning to hand them
over to Abdi. He knocked back his drink. Riya was
Abdis slavehe paid a mint for her. She was quite beautiful
thentall, slender, face like... He sighed. She
looked a lot like Cyllien. Pretty soon, Abdi was treating her
like a wifehe got careless around herlet her see too
much of his operationand he underestimated her. She saw
so much, she went to the authorities.
What did they do? asked Legolas.
What they were paid to dothey told Abdi. Riya managed
to escapedont ask me howand hid herself at the
Circus. Thats where she found Keret.
He is not her natural son.
I do not think that Keret knows that, said Legolas.
No, probably not. Ribhadda returned to the bar to
refill his glass. Anyway, he said, thats
how I got to know herthe boy broke into my storeroom, I
found him, locked him up to teach him a lesson, and she came looking
for him... She had a real way with her, in spite of how she made
a livingreal classy way.
He gave Eowyn one of his rare smiles, letting his eyes linger
on her for a moment. Some women just have it.
He knocked back his drink. After that, I saw a good deal
of both of them.
But she was still seeing other men, too? asked Legolas.
That was her choice, said Ribhadda. One day,
I went down to the Circus and ran into another of her regular
customers. And I recognised him.
Yes. Abdis new right-hand man.
Did he know who Riya was? asked Eowyn.
Ribhadda nodded. I dont know what he thought he was
doinghed been visiting her for a week or two. Maybe
hed taken a liking to her, maybe it was his way of interrogating
herI couldnt take the risk. I threatened him; we fought;
I killed him.
Keret saw you, and told his mother, said Legolas.
And she came to see you the next day, said Eowyn.
She never arrived. Though, of course, I cant prove
We believe you, said Legolas.
Keret is convinced that his mother is still alive,
But would she really have abandoned the boy? asked
Ribhadda thought for a moment. Like I say, Riya had class.
And theres no doubt she loved that boy. But she also had
something elsethe strongest instinct for survival Ive
ever come acrossexcuse me
Someone had begun hammering at the main doors. Ribhadda went
Eowyn turned to Legolas. If Riya was a slave, she
said, quietly, do you think she came from Gondor?
Good morning, said Haldir. I am sorry to disturb
you, but I have some important news andah, Legolas
Do you want a drink? asked Ribhadda, indicating that
the elf should join the others at the table.
Nono, thank you.
Haldir told them what he had seen in the alley behind the Guardhouse,
and of the deal he had struck with Captain Ramess. Of course,
he said, if Wolfram isas we suspectworking for
Abdi, there is little chance that Ramesss men will ever
find him. He turned to Ribhadda. I think
that Cyllien is still at risk.
Yes, said the man, so do II did even
before thisthats why the back doors locked,
the windows are barred, and Aqhat is camped outside her dressing
Has she told you that she has agreed to come North with
No, said Ribhadda, she hasnt told me
I am sorry, said Haldir. I know she attracts
I think Ill survive, replied Ribhadda. In his
own laconic way he was giving the two elves his blessing.
Haldir met his gaze, and smiled, gratefully. Is she here?
Do you mind if I have a word with her?
Ribhadda gestured towards the stage door. Be my guest.
He turned back to Legolas and Eowyn. You say you promised
Keret youd find his mother?
If we can, said Eowyn.
Ribhadda nodded, gravely. Be careful. Abdi has eyes all
over Carhilivren, and if Riya is still alive she has good
reason to be in hiding. If you go asking round for her
We could expose her, said Legolas. We understand.
Do not worry, Master Ribhadda. We shall be very discreet.
Who is it?
You had better come in.
Haldir entered; Cyllien spoke to his reflection in her dressing
table mirror. You left my bed without saying goodbye.
She leaned forward, and applied some stain to her lips with a
You were sleeping, said Haldir, and I thought
you needed the chance to heal...
What do you want?
Oh, Cyllien! Haldir pulled up a chair and sat, watching
intently as she applied paint to her eyelids.
It is not going to work, she said.
That depends on what you mean by work, said Haldir.
I care for you, Cyllien, I do
But theres a but coming.
I have no idea how you feel; and I am finding it hard to
trust my own feelings.
Ive said it beforeyou need to get away from
Haldir grinned. Cyllien!
For the first time, the elleth turned and looked at him directly.
That expression does not suit you, Haldir, she said.
You look better angryI imagine you look very good
killing orcs. Haldirs smile broadened. I dont
think that Ilúvatar ever intended you to be happyyou
just dont have the face for it. And I am quite sure he never
intended me to be happy.
She laid down her kohl pot and walked over to the wardrobe, stepping
carefully over the gowns that Wolfram had thrown on the floor.
They will have to go. Perhaps Mistress Perfect would
like them... She took two more from the cupboard. Which
one, she asked, holding up each in turn.
Dark blue, said Haldir. Dark colours suit you.
Then he added, And I think I could be happy. I think
I would enjoy sharing my life
Of course, said Cyllien. But would you enjoy
sharing it with me?
If you had asked me, before I met you, said Haldir,
to describe the womanthe ellethI wanted, I would
have said a comrade; a warrior; someone strong and resilient;
someone who carried her femininity lightly
But, this morning, watching you paint your lips and choose
your gown, I realise that I enjoy it. You are very feminine, Cyllienthe
way you look, the way you behaveand I enjoy it
That, said Cyllien, is lust talking.
Perhaps, said Haldir. But there is more. Last
night, seeing you in the cave, so helpless, so frightened, I wanted
to protect you.
And thats why you left me and went to find her?
I went to find her because I had promised Legolas I would.
He is my commander, my ruler, she is his lady, and she was in
immediate danger. Had that not been the case, I would never have
left your side.
Haldir... She draped her dark blue gown over the
back of her dressing table chair and settled herself on his lap,
wrapping her arms around his neck. Whatever I may feel for
you, she said, I will not share you. Socan you
ever be free of her?
I shall always care for her, Cyllien. And admire her. And
I shall always owe her my life. But I no longer love her. She
is my past.
Am I your future?
Do you want to be?
Cyllien did not reply.
We are two damaged elves, Tithen Dúlinn;
all we can do is try to
Yes, said Cyllien. Yes, I do. I do want
to come back to Eryn Carantaur with you. I do want to share
your talan. I do want to braid your hair in the
morning and unlace your boots at night. She sighed. So
Mistress Perfect was right, and now she is going to be so full
Laughing, Haldir drew her against his chest, and held her close.
Rihat: the war lords palace
Must we, Faroth? asked Berengar. Could we not
We must, said Faramir.
I have not even seen her face!
Would that make a difference?
On whether I have to marry her or not.
Faramir patted his arm. I will not let it come to that.
The war lords palacein contrast to the tall, narrow
buildings surrounding itwas wide, and low, and surrounded
on all four sides by a walled enclosure filled with carefully-tended
Her father has money, said Berengar.
Her father has power, said Faramir. Give me
the ring. He approached the gate and summoned the gatekeeper,
showing him the token.
The man bowed. You are expected, my Lords, he said,
opening the gate. Please make your way to the house, without
stepping from the path.
Faramir guided the reluctant suitor along the pure white paving
Thank the gods I cleaned my boots, whispered Berengar.
They were greeted at the palace doors by a doorkeeper, who led
them into the reception hall. At one end of the chamber, on a
low dais, sat two elaborate thrones; two simple chairs had been
positioned before them.
Take a seat, my Lords, said the servant. My
Lord Abdosir will join you presently.
Ten minutes passed. Then a liveried servant emerged from a door
beside the dais. Stand! he cried.
Berengar glanced at Faramir. Both men rose to their feet.
The servant stepped aside to admit four warriors, armed with
drawn scimitars, who swept into the chamber and took up position,
either side of the dais, swords raised.
Oh no, whispered Berengar.
Then two heralds climbed onto the platform and, standing at either
side of the thrones, raised their trumpets and blew a fanfare,
whilst slave girls, wearing nothing but jewelled belts, showered
the waiting men with petals.
At last, a small, rotund man, wearing a magnificent robe of red
and gold, and a jewelled headdress surmounted by a peacock feather
crest, entered the chamber, climbed, with great dignity, onto
the dais, and seated himself on the right-hand throne.
He studied them with shrewd, dark eyes. Which of you is
The secretary froze, eyes fixed on the floor until, at a nudge
from Faramir, his head shot up and he stared back at the war lord,
looking confused and, for once, something less than beautiful.
So, said Abdosir, you are the young villain
that thinks he will steal my daughter.
Carhilivren: the bedroom...
Ah! Eowyn collapsed upon Legolas chest.
The elf, reaching his climax a moment later, arched his back,
stayed rigidAI!then relaxed. He
gathered her close. Melmenya... You will kill me...
I? It was you who pounced on me.
You had taken all your clothes off.
Legolas laughed, and nuzzled her cheek.
At least, said Eowyn, raising her head, we
have lifted your black mood.
She pushed herself up on her hands and gazed down at him, her
cheeks still flushed from lovemaking, her skin glistening in the
sunlight, tendrils of damp hair clinging to her shoulders.
Legolas reached up and touched her cheek. You are glowing,
Melmenya... Then, What do you mean, black mood?
Are you worried about Kerets mother?
He shook his head. I am worried about KeretI think
the woman is dead. He came up on his elbows and licked away
a bead of sweat as it ran down her throat. He was still hard inside
Oh... Eowyn closed her eyes. Why do you
Why else would she have abandoned a small boy?
There could be many reasons
It is not natural for an adult to desert a child.
He brushed his lips over her breast and kissed a damp, hard nipple.
Ah... Eowyn arched her back in response. No.
But Abdi could have threatened the boy: Come back to
me or I will kill him.
If she went back to Abdi, said Legolas, kissing the
other nipple, then she is dead. Do we stop looking?
Mmmm? Nowe made Keret a promise.
Suppose we find her, he slid his hands down to her
waist, pulling her hips closer, and she no longer wants
anything to do with him?
Eowyn bent over him, bearing down on him. Could we take
him home with us?
Of course. He grasped her buttocks, and began to
thrust. But are you sure...
I do not mean adopt himohbut we could
find him somewhere safe to livefind them bothohif
it came to that... They were making love in earnest now.
Oh, my elf! She leaned down and pressed her
lips to his ear, You are a stallion, Lassui.