It was a long, slow tramp along the shadowy tunnels
of Mount Mindolluin to the foot of the Hill of Guard; then an
even slower climb up the steep, uneven staircases linking the
rough-hewn under-raths. The friends walked in silence and, when
they encountered other travellers, took care to keep their faces
hidden, as Berkin had advised.
At last, their guide brought them to a halt. Third level,
he muttered to Berkin. Rath Luin. How many are going out?
Two, said Berkin, indicating Haldir and Arador.
The man scrutinised the pair, looking them up and down as though
trying to decide if they were trustworthy. Then, Wait here,
he said. Ill prepare the way. Be ready when I get
back. Ten minutes. He walked off into the darkness, taking
his torch with him.
They have to be very careful, said Berkin, apologetically.
Legolas patted his arm.
Ten minutes, sighed Eowyn, sitting down, heavily,
on one of the worn steps.
Legolas laid a hand on her shoulder. And another
ten or so whilst he lets them out, melmenya.
He was proud of herof her courage and resiliencebut
he knew that the physical demands of next few hours would be far
harder on her than on him. Eowyn smiled up at him, shuffling sideways
to make space for him beside her, but Haldir had already caught
In a moment, Eowyn nín, he whispered, squeezing
her shoulder. I need a word with the March Warden first.
Haldir drew Legolas away from their companions. There is
something I... He sighed. Then, making up his mind, he
continued, resolutely, It is not my secret, but she did
not ask me not to tell you, and only you can know whether
Eowyn need be warned.
He beckoned Legolas still further down the tunnel. There
is a child, he said, softly.
The guide returned sooner than expected. Come, he
said, showing the way with his torch. Everything is ready.
Haldir turned to his fellow travellers. Ortheritham
hain, he said.
Eowyn scrambled to her feet. Be careful Haldir, she
murmured, making a final adjustment to his headgear. And
you, too, Arador.
The boy mumbled a replyhiding a huge, blushing smile by
fussing with his travelling pack.
Remember, said Legolas. Afterwards, we will
meet at Berkins fathers house.
Na-den pedim ad, agreed Haldir, with a curt
nod. Come, Master Arador.
Arador and Haldir followed their guide down the curving under-rath
for a few hundred yards before turning into a narrow side-passage.
We could almost be back in the Underdark, whispered
No, replied Haldir. These tunnels are safe.
I can feel it.
The boy frowned. Yes, he said, suddenly serious,
why have they not captured them? Then, Sir,he
addressed the guidehave you ever seen them
Ignore him, sir, interrupted Haldir, grabbing Arador
by the arm. He is a dreamer.
The side-passage ended abruptly in a well-lit chamber, with a
heavy iron door set in the far wall, barred and bolted and guarded
by two armed men.
Wulfric will see to you from here, said the guide,
and left without another word.
Eowyn shifted on her uncomfortable seat, stretching out her aching
legs with a sigh. What was Haldir saying, Lassui?
she asked. It looked... I thought he seemed to be looking
Legolas kissed her hand; she had decided it for him. He
was telling me something that your double told him, melmenya,
he said, not exactly in confidence, but she begged him to
say nothing to my double... He glanced around.
Gimli and Berkin were standing, some distance away, in a pool
of torchlight, Gimli showing Berkin how to grip an axe. You
remember that night, after Helms Deep, outside the Golden
Hall? He was referring to the moment when he had first revealed
his feelings for her.
Of course, said Eowyn.
Well, on that night, they...
Yes. And... He squeezed her hand gently. There
was a child, melmenyaa boy.
Eowyn turned to him abruptly, her face frozen in a frown. Then
she smiled, and she whispered, excitedly, That is
what went wrong, Lassui! That is why everything is so different
here! You were right all alongyou said that I was wrong
to regret not making love that night, and you were right!
She stood upand the sudden movement startled both Gimli
and Berkin, who turned, and stared her for a moment before returning
to their lesson. Eomer must have stepped in, with all his
usual tact, and that is why he and my double are estranged!
Yes. And my double took himself off to Eryn Carantaur
in a sulk, said Legolas. He rose, and caught her, mid-stride.
But the child, melmenya, he began, gently
If they can have one, Lassui, so can we! She
Oh. Yes. He hugged her close. Yes, melmenya,
he said, kissing the top of her head, so can we. But the
child has been adopted by Aragorn and Arwenand if they are
being held prisoner then, the chances are that he is too.
The concealed exit
Over here, gents.
The man called Wulfric left his station beside the door and crossed
to a shelf cut into a wall of the chamber, beckoning Haldir and
Arador to join him. These are your permits, he said,
indicating two parchments lying on the stone slab, signed
and sealed by the King himself. He winked. But theyre
good enough to keep you out of trouble, provided you get your
Story? said Haldir.
Youre a merchant, said Wulfric, showing him
the appropriate place in the document. One Master Lennard.
He folded the parchment and handed it to the disguised elf. And
he,he nodded towards Aradoris your apprentice.
Do you know a Master Geruil? asked Arador, scanning
Are you sure? His shop is somewhere near
No. Now, continued Wulfric, speaking to Haldir,
if they stop you, bow politely keeping your hands by your
sides and in full view. If they ask to see your permit, show them
that, and pray. Do not ever mention us. Understand?
Yes, said Haldir. Do they stop everyone?
No. But its early in the morning, so theyll
be suspiciousthough, saying that, the main patrol has already
passed and you may just slip through. Ready?
Haldir glanced at Arador; the boy nodded. Yes, said
Once this door closes youre on your own, said
Wulfric. Theres no coming back inside. He signalled
to his fellow guard and the man snuffed out the torches. In the
darkness, Haldir heard the well-oiled bolts slide back in their
chutes. Then a line of light appeared, growing wider as the door
swung silently open.
Now, said Wulfric, quietly.
And Haldir and Arador stepped outside.
Are you all right, melmenya?
They had scaled three more levels, by Legolas estimation,
and Eowynclimbing doggedly, head down, up step after stepseemed
miraculously to have discovered an extra reserve of strength.
She nodded, smiling, though she looked tired.
Almost there, said the guide.
The door that had closed behind them was set in a shadowy alcove,
tucked beneath the arches of a portico that ran the full length
of a row of shabby shops. From the outside, it was indistinguishable
from the rest of the stone wall.
Cautiously, the pair stepped out into Rath Luin.
In the damp, early morning light, the fabled White City was a
dull grey. Arador looked up and down the street to get his bearings,
then set off eastwards, following the curve of the rath towards
the Third Gate. Haldir followed, glancing behind every few steps,
his elven senses alert
Suddenly, the boy grasped his arm andwith a grin of triumphdrew
him into an alley that headed back into the Hill of Guard. If
the shop exists, he whispered, it will be down here.
I am sure of it...
The lane twisted its way past several small workshopsa
tanners, a boot-makers, a place selling lanternsall
closed and shuttered, before reaching, at the very end, a double-fronted
shop displaying a faded sign,
Geruil and Daughter
The elf peered through one of the dusty windows. It is
empty, he muttered. Abandoned.
No, said Arador, it always looks like this.
He pushed the door. Hmm. Locked.
Haldir looked to left and right. They were not visible from the
main rath, but he could see nowhere for them to hide if anyone
were come down the alleyway...
Arador, however, had slipped off his pack and was rummaging inside.
Keep watch, he said, brandishing a bunch of bent metal
rods and, crouching down beside the shop door, he selected one
and slid it into the key hole.
Haldir had had little experience of locks, but he immediately
understood what his companion was doing. Where, he
whispered, moving to screen the boy, did you learn that?
My father sent me to school, here in Minas Tirith, for
a while. He selected another rod, and aligned it with the
And they taught you to pick locks?
Arador grinned. They shut us in at night, soahthere
we are! He withdrew the skeleton keysSimple!pushed
the heavy door open, and stepped inside. Bugger!
What? Haldir followed. Oh. His first
impression of the shop had been correct; two overturned chairs,
a half-emptied display case, and an open strong box sitting on
the counterall suggested that the owner had left in a hurry,
taking his valuables with him.
Arador reached into the display case and, ignoring the amethyst
crystals and the lumps of fools gold, lifted out a piece
of carved black onyx. Why would Geruil bother to lock the
door behind him? he wondered, putting the object in his
Perhaps to protect what remained of his shop from people
like you, replied the elf.
The boy smiled. I will pay him for this when I see him,
he said. Wellwhat do we do now?
Yes, repeated the guide, almost there...
Legolas frownedreaching out to hold Eowyn backbecause
there was something up ahead...
Men! Not one of the groups of travellers they had been
passing from time to time, but warriors lying in wait!
The elfs hands flew to his white knives and, immediately,
Gimli pulled out his axe and, a split-second later, Eowyn drew
her sword, and the three stood, side by side across the passage,
with the nervous guide in front and Berkin, safely shielded, behind.
Now, now, gentlemen, came a friendly-sounding voice
from the darkness above, is that any way to treat your host?
Put up your weapons.
With elven speed, Legolas sheathed one knife, caught the guide
by the neck, and laid his second blade across his throat. I
have your man, he shouted.
The voice laughed. What is that to me? he asked.
Now listen,and he sounded much less affable
nowif you want to enter the Citadelif you want
to leave these tunnels at allput up your weapons and surrender.
You are outnumbered, five to one.
Haldir and Arador had searched the shop and the dwelling above
it from end to end but had found no clue to the whereabouts of
Geruil and his daughter, nor any indication that the man might
know where the portalif it existedwas concealed.
Sodo we go up to the Citadel? asked Arador.
He uncorked his water skin and took a sip, then offered it to
The elf shook his head. No. Our orders are to wait for
the others at Berkins fathers house.
The alley outside was still empty, but the doors of the workshops
were open now and, as the pair approached the main rath, they
could hear the quiet sounds of people going about their business
in a time of trouble.
Haldir adjusted his hood. Try to look
Ordinary, said Arador.
They stepped out into Rath Luin.
A cart, laden with vegetables, was trundling by and Haldir, grasping
Arador by the arm, followed in its wake, letting it clear a path
for them. They reached the Third Gate unhindered, walked slowly
past the houses beyond, through the tunnel in the great stone
prow, and were about to enter the next level when a troop of liveried
horsemen emerged from the Fourth Gate.
The leading rider waved the cart past. Permit,
he said, to Haldir.
Of course, sir, said the elf, bowingas the
outlaw had instructedbefore reaching inside his cloak for
Lower your hood when you are spoken to, said the
Pardon... Sir. Very carefully, Haldir lowered
his hood. Arador did the same.
That is better. The man held out a gloved hand. Haldir
gave him the permit. It says that you are a merchant,
Master Lennard. What exactly do you sell?
Sell? Haldirs mind raced.
Curios, Arador piped up, from other
lands. Crystals and... and things.
Anything our clients want, said Haldir, regaining
his composure. Like this. He opened the leather pouch
at his waist, took out a leaf-shaped piece of gold, and handed
it to the soldier. It is a rare elven coin, he explained.
A fifty-piece, from the colony in South Ithilien.
A fifty-piece... The man weighed the coin
in his palm; then he tossed it in the air, caught it, and slipped
it into his pocket. Move along, he said.
Haldir bowed again. My permit, sir, he said, diffidently.
What? Oh. The soldier opened his fingers and
let the parchment float to the floor. Come, he called
to his men, and spurred his horse.
Haldir bent to retrieve the document. I will remember that
Haldir, said Arador, suddenly, Haldirlook!
Going into the house over there! Look!
Is there any change? asked Eowyn, looking at the
elf sleeping on her camp bed.
No, said Hentmirë, yawning.
The younger woman smiled, sympathetically. Were you awake
all night, my Lady?
Oh no, said Hentmirë. NoI was dozing.
I am not tired at all. She yawned again.
Well, said Eowyn, I will have Berengar arrange
some hot water for you, and thenwill you join me for breakfast,
Arador ran across the rath, reaching the door just as it closed.
Wait, he hissed, trying to speak through the wood
without drawing the attention of passers by, wait, please!
He knocked, anxiously, but softly. Open up! Please!
I have found some butter, said Berengar, just
for you. He set the tray down on Eowyns map table.
And a little strawberry jam, and some honey as well.
Thank you. Eowyn cut Hentmirë a slice of bread.
Please, my Lady, she said, indicating the tray, help
The little woman took a tiny portion of the precious butter.
You were saying that your Legolas is married to
my double, prompted Eowyn.
Yes, said Hentmirë, spreading her bread. Well,
they will not be fully married until they hold the public
ceremony at Yuletide but, yes, they have already taken private
vows. She added a small spoonful of honey.
Are they happy?
Oh, very happy. They are devoted to each other. Hentmirë
took a bite of bread and honey.
And, the other elvesdo they accept her as Legolas
She is the joint ruler of the colony, said Hentmirë.
And it is not just elvesmen have settled there, too,
and dwarves. We all live together.
And Eomer approves of this?
Hentmirë frowned, thoughtfully. Well, I have never
met Eomer King myself, she admitted, but I do know
that he visits regularly.
Desperately, Arador knocked louder.
The door opened. Hush, said the woman, go
away! You will bring the patrol down on us
May we come inside, Mistress? asked Arador, stepping
Wilawen... Haldirs voice was full of calm
authority, and he pulled off the velvet capborrowed from
Berkinwhich, with Eowyns help, he had been using to
conceal his pointed ears and most of his long, elven hair.
An elf! cried Wilawen. What...? How do you
know my name? She looked anxiously up and down the rath.
I will explain everything, said Haldir. Please,
let us in.
It is your father we need to speak to, Mistress,
said Arador. It is very urgent.
Still concealed beneath their hooded cloaks, the elf, the woman,
the dwarf and the boy followed their unknown captor down a narrow
passage, through a broad, vaulted hall (lined with armed men),
and into a large, well-lit chamber.
The room was furnished like a noblemans study, with heavy
wooden furniture, brightly coloured tapestries, exotic rugs; the
effect was rich, but tasteless. Legolas watched the door swing
closed and the two guards, who were standing either side, step
forward to block it.
This, he thought, is the lair of the Outlaw King!
He leaned closer to Berkin and whispered, How much should
I offer him?
Five thousand gold, replied the boy. Each.
The ‘Outlaw King’, meanwhile, had thrown himself down in a chair
behind his huge, carved desk and, with his hands clasped over
his bulging stomach, was looking at each of his captives in turn.
Slowly, his gaze returned to Legolas. I have been receiving
reports of you since you left Osgiliath, he said. I
must sayyou have some clever moves. Who are you? And what
do you want in The Citadel?
I will pay you twenty thousand gold piecesthat is
five thousand gold for each of usfor safe passage into the
Palace, said Legolas, calmly.
That hardly answers my question, said the man, though
it does tell me that you are someone important in the world
outside. Let me see your face.
Legolas could see no advantage in refusing. He lowered his hood.
An elf... The man seemed mildly surprised. Why
does an elf want to enter the Palace secretly?
Melmenya, said Legolas, let him see your
Eowyn lowered her hood.
And a princess, too, said the man. We are
honoured. He inclined his head in a mock bow, but it was
obvious from his expression that Eowyns presence had piqued
his interestand that he sensed an opportunity.
I am Legolas of the Woodland Realm, said Legolas,
with princely authority, Lord of the Elves of South Ithilien,
sworn ally and brother of His Majesty, King Elessar. In normal
times, Princess Eowyn and I would ride up to The Citadel with
a royal escortbut, as you know, these are not normal times.
You are speaking of the new laws? asked the man.
Why would they affect you?
I am speaking, said Legolas, of the people
responsible for the new lawsof the people who, it is my
belief, are holding the King and his family hostagethe people
who plan to destroy Gondor and, with it, your,he waved
his hand to indicate the opulent chamberyour kingdom
The crime lord stared at the elf for a long moment. Then, Nice
try, he said. Interesting story. But nothing happens
here that I do not know about.
You do know, countered Legolas, that
the King is behaving out of character. And you have wondered why.
Suppose I prove to you that what I am saying is true?
The mans eyes narrowed. How?
I assume that you have more than one way into the Palace,
said the elf, and that you can see into the royal chambers
from your tunnels?
Suppose I can?
I need to find the King, said Legolas, and
set him free. Then I need to help him drive out the invaders and
restore proper order. You need that too. For your help
I will pay you triple the sum I offered you beforeonce the
King is back in control. How he will reward you,Legolas
shruggedI do not know. But I can tell you that I have
never known him be less than generous to his friends.
Thief by appointment to His Majesty, King Elessar,
said the crime lord, rubbing his chin. It has a ring to
My lord. Eowyn greeted Lord Fingolfin with a formal
bow, and offered him a seat. I am afraid that Prince Legolas
condition has not changed, she continued. Lady Hentmirë
is sitting with him...
I am sure that he is in good hands, said the elf.
But, in truth, your Highness, I came here to speak to you.
Me? Something in the elfs manner made Eowyn
glance towards her bedchamber. The curtain was closed, but she
knew that the silk hangings would not prevent Legolas from overhearing
their conversation should he awaken, and something told her that
she would not want that. I was just about to inspect the
fortifications, my Lord, she said. Perhaps you would
They left the tent and crossed the busy plateau, and started
down the winding path to the outer redoubt with its barricade
I believe you know what I have come to say, your Highness,
said Fingolfin. Your obvious concern for Prince Legolas
has made me hope
Is this not a matter, my Lord, said Eowyn, for
Prince Legolas and me?
Of course, my Lady, said the elf, bowing slightly.
Of course. But I am speaking for the colony. I have
observed you; I have observed your double and my Lords double.
And it is my belief, your Highness, that you would make Eryn Carantaur
a fine co-ruler.
This is premature, my Lord! Prince Legolas is still betrothed
and II am not free.
There can be no question of Lord Legolas marrying
Alatáriël now, your Highness, said Fingolfin.
And, after the proper period of mourning has been observed
I do not speak of my late husband, my Lord.
Fingolfin frownedthen his brow cleared, as the truth dawned
upon him. Haldir of Lorien, he said.
Eowyn felt herself blushing.
But he does not belong in this world, your Highness,
said the elf, gently.
Be that as it may, my Lord, said Eowyn, he
They had passed through the inner barricade, at the mouth of
the gorge, and were walking out onto the plainand a commotion
at the outer barricade suddenly caught their attention.
I believe we have visitors, my Lord, she said. Yes,
I believe that my mercenary has arrived! She turned to the
elf. I would value your support during the negotiations,
Of course, your Highness. I am at your service.
So you are saying that he is the owner of the shop,
said Haldir, dubiously.
They were sitting, incongrously, in the pretty front parlour
of the little houseLike guests at a tea party, thought
the elfwaiting for Wilawen to fetch her father. He knew
that the woman had locked them in the room and, although he was
sure that there was no one else in the house, and he knew that
she would never summon the patrol, he had already planned his
and Aradors escape through the window, should the need arise.
But the boy was insisting that it was Wilawens father whose
help they needed. I am sure of it, he said. I
never met Geruils daughter in our world but, when I saw
Mistress Wilawen, I remembered what Valandil had told me about
her father, and I put two and two together, and... Well...
Then why does our Wilawen know nothing of the drow?
said Haldir. Why had she never seen that map of yours? And
why has she never mentioned a portal?
Arador shrugged. I do not know. Maybe she is not party
to all of her fathers dealings. Maybe, for her own safety,
Haldir rose suddenly, pulling back his cloak to uncover the hilt
of his sword.
What is wrong? said Arador, jumping up, too, as the
key turned in the lock and the door opened, but it was only Wilawen
and her elderly parent.
Haldir let his cloak fall back over his sword.
Expertly, the woman helped her father shuffle to a chair and
sit down. Father says that he knows you, Master Aradorthat
you are a good customer, she said; she turned to Haldir,
blushing. Please sit down, sir. I will fetch you some tea...
Her father watched her leave the room, then turned to his guests.
My daughter tells me you have been to the shop, he
Yes. Arador glanced at Haldir for permission to continue;
the elf nodded. We are looking for a portal, Master Geruil,
said the boy. Have you ever heard of such a thing?
The man said nothing.
Dark Elves, said Arador, drow, have
invaded Emyn Arnen and captured the City on the Hills. Princess
Eowyn is afraid that they will do the same here in Minas Tirith.
She has sent us to destroy the portal. Do you know where it is,
Close the door, said Geruil.
Arador leaped up and pushed the door shut.
The strange thing, said the old man, is that
it is a relief to finally tell someone, after all these years.
He sighed. It is in the shop.
Have the drow already used it? asked Haldir. Is
that why you abandoned your shop?
The man nodded.
How many came through?
Whilst I was there, about twenty.
When you were there? said the elf. But... Why
did they not kill you?
I... They could not see me, sir. You see, I
Bugger! said Arador, suddenly.
The man and the elf both turned to him in surprise.
You do not know how to close it, said the boy. You
ran away because you do not know how to close it.
It had taken almost an hour to convince the crime lordRedwald
son of Edricthat it was in his own interests to join the
fight against the drow but, at length, he had agreed to assemble
his men, and the four friends had suddenly found themselves with
half an hour in which to rest and prepare themselves for the next
stage of the mission.
Redwald had offered Eowyn the use of his private bathing room
and she had stripped off her cloak and jerkin, rolled up the sleeves
of her tunic, and was washing her hands and face.
Smiling, Legolas watched herthe fall of her hair, the delicate
line of her neck, the soft curve of her bare shoulder...
There was no one else like herno one so brave, no one so
Love and desire both welled up inside him, and he came up behind
her and, slipping his arms around her waist, pulled her against
him, sliding his hands up to cup her breasts.
Shhhhh, my darling... He kissed her neck.
No, she gasped, we do not have time...
Yes, we do...
He turned her to face him and, kissing her, he gently pushed
her backwards until she was resting against the wallhis
lips never leaving hersand his mouth curved in a smile when
he felt her little hands slide down between them and pull at the
lacings of his leggings.
They were both so aroused andafter a little fumblingLegolas
bent his knees and slid eagerly inside her, and felt her moan
against his kiss.
But he could not take her properly, hunched as he was, and he
lifted her off her feet andholding her against the wallhe
thrust up into her and felt her legs wrap around his waist, and
her hands grasp his shoulders, as she rode his desperate strokes.
Andin no time at all, it seemedthe waves of her climax
engulfed him, and he buried his face in her golden hair and came
with a ragged groan of satisfaction.
Smiling, Legolas set Eowyns feet back on the floor. My
lovely, lovely Shieldmaiden, he murmured, kissing her forehead.
When all this is over, melmenya, I am going to ravish