Legolas peered through the spy hole.
His view was restricted, but he immediately recognised the small
reception room where, in his world, with the help of several
secretaries, Aragorn conducted most of his day-to-day businesstalks
with foreign emissaries, meetings with his own counsellors, audiences
with his peoples representatives.
Here, the room was empty.
Pressing his cheek to the stone, the elf peered at the entrance
to the royal chambers.
No guards, he muttered.
Theyre inside, whispered Redwald. Two
of them. You can see them when the door opens.
And you say that the King has not been out for two weeks?
At least two weeks. His new counsellor comes out here to
give the men their orders.
Who is he, this new counsellor?
The outlaw shrugged. Some out-of-towner.
Is he human?
Oh yes. And he knows the local villainshe knew who
to take on and who to avoid.
He avoided you, said Legolas.
The man said nothing.
The elf shifted, turning his head to look in the opposite direction.
What? whispered Redwald, when it seemed safe to speak.
Someone just entered the royal apartments. Can we get any
closercan we see into the Kings bedchamber?
Can we get out? Into the Palace?
Yesbut I wouldnt advise it in daylight.
Daylight will be our best chance, said Legolas.
The mercenary leader swept off his wide-brimmed hat and, clasping
it to his chest, bowed low. My Lady, he said, in accented
Westron, I hear that you have need of my services.
He set the hat back on his shaven head, and regarded her with
one fiery eyethe other being covered by a black eye-patchand
Eowyn had never been subjected to such open and insolent appraisal
in all her life.
Sir, she said, with a dignified bow, thank
you for agreeing to meet with me. This is Lord Fingolfin, my advisor.
My headquarters are up in the hills. And she gestured towards
the gorge, saying, After you, sir, for she would not
have allowed him to walk behind her for all the wine in
Crouching in the darkness, Legolas found Eowyns hand, squeezed
it, and felt her fingers press his own in response
Then the door swung open, and the elf and his small band of warriorsincluding
ten men hand-picked by Redwaldran out into the Queens
Garden and, keeping low, darted across the courtyard to the pretty
archway in the northern wall. The door was locked, but Legolas
could sense no one in the corridor beyond, so he signalled to
two of Redwalds men and, within seconds, they had pulled
the pins from the hinges and pushed the door open.
Legolas stepped inside.
He was standing at the very heart of the Palace, in the corridor
leading from the public rooms to the reception chamber that he
and Redwald had earlier been observing. In his own world he had
walked its length many times, meeting and greeting courtiers,
stepping aside to permit functionaries to hurry past
here, in the shadow world, the corridor was deserted. Reaching
out with his elven senses, Legolas sought some sign of lifethe
discreet hubbub of palace businessand found nothing; the
chambers were empty.
Legolas closed his eyes. Deep in the royal apartments, he sensed
a presencesomeone small, bewildered, and very, very frightened.
Oh, dear Valar!
And having found him, the elf quickly discovered the restArwen
and Eldarion, huddled with him; Aragorn, frantic, confined in
a separate chamberall of them surrounded by dark shadows.
He glanced at Eowyn, standing beside Gimli, her hand on her sword,
Thank the Valar that she cannot sense him too,
Well, what are we going to do now? whispered Arador.
Haldir, watching Wilawen rearrange her fathers cushions,
and hand him his tea, came to a decision. With your permission,
sir, he said to Geruil, the boy and I will go back
to your shop.
The old man nodded, slowly. You have my permission,
of course, he said. But
These men, said Wilawen, who threatened my
father,for Geruil had lied to her about his reasons
for abandoning the premisesmight they not come back?
That is precisely why we are going, Mistress, said
Haldir. If they come again, we will be waiting for them.
It is all we can do at present. He turned back to Geruil.
I must get a message to Lord Olivan.
Wilawen will take it for you.
Of course I will, said the woman. What do you
want me to say?
Tell him that his son has made contact with Prince Legolas
and that they have gone up to The Citadel, said Haldir.
Ask him to tell themwhen they come to himthat
we have found what we were looking for, and will defend
it. And tell him where they can find the shop.
I will. I will write it all down.
Thank you, Mistress. And, he continued, if
you should know of a pair of strong, reliable men who would be
willing to wait in the shop with us
Well, said Geruil, scratching his chin
Ailbric, son of Alberic, said Wilawen. He
is stronga carterand he has worked for my father before.
He may have a friend. I could speak to him on my way up to Lord
We are in your debt. Haldir placed his hand on his
heart and bowed his head. Wilawen blushed. The elf turned back
to her father. And the boy will search through your books,
I pray that he will find the answer.
You are not the only one, muttered Arador, under
Haldir set down his tea cup and rose to his feet. Well.
Thank you, sir, Mistress, for your helpcome, Master Arador.
Oh,he paused by the parlour doorI believe
that you owe Master Geruil some money, Arador.
Yes, I had forgotten! The boy pulled out the onyx
carving he had taken from the shop and held it up. How much
do you want for this, sir?
Have it, young master, said Geruil, with my
Sitting at the map table, opposite the drowhe with his
lieutenant, her former prisoner, she with Lord Fingolfin and Captains
Golradir, Alfgar and DragoEowyn decided that her attempts
to question him, to sound him out and decide whether she dare
trust him, were doomed to failure.
She leaned back in her chair.
Instantly, the drow mimicked her, leaning back in his
chair and folding his arms across his chest.
Eowyn sighed inwardly. Time to change tactics. Can
I offer you some refreshment?
The drow answered with a slow, suggestive smileEowyn felt
Captain Alfgar bristle, and willed him to let it pass. Thank
you. I should like some of your surface brandy, if that is not
too much trouble.
Eowyn nodded to Berengar, then turned back to the drow. His smile,
disconcertingly, was still frozen upon his face, but she ignored
it. I will not waste any more of your time, she said,
firmly. You know our positionno doubt better than
I do. We are out-manoeuvred and outnumbered. We need your assistance.
My fees are high.
Then I will expect you to earn them.
The smile vanished; and, for the first time, the drow seemed
to take her seriously. Do you have a plan? he asked.
Yes, said Eowyn.
The warriors ran through the deserted reception chambereach
man already in position, with Legolas at the front, his bow raised.
As they reached the doors to the royal apartments, Berkin slipped
past, knocked loudly, then dropped back.
The doors opened, Legolas loosed two arrows, and both guards
The band surged into the corridor following Eowyn and Gimli to
the next set of doors, whilst Berkin and Legolas, with two of
Redwalds men, hung back, fashioning a barricade using furniture
from the reception chamber.
You know what to do? asked the elf.
Hold the doors, said Berkin.
We may need to leave in a hurry, with the King and his
Legolas patted the boys shoulder, and sprinted off to join the
Surviving the next attack is not enough, said Eowyn
unrolling her battle plan and spreading it out on the table. To
win the war, we must attack. We must inflict sufficient casualties
Wipe them out, said Drago.
Thank you, Captain, said Eowyn, tersely. We
must persuade them
No. Your man is right, said the mercenary. Casualties
mean nothing to them. Males are, by definition, expendable. And
when they run out of drow, they will send in orcs, and goblins,
Then how would you defeat them? asked Lord
I would strike at the heart, said the drow.
The heart? Eowyn frowned. You mean their
Queen? The drows infuriating smile broadened.
She would like that.
Eowyn continued. Our plan, she said, is quite
simple. You get your men into key positions,she
pointed to various places on the sketch map that Golradir had
drawn for herand then we both attack, simultaneously,
The mercenary looked at the sketch. They are more spread
out than this, he said. There are other campsover
here. He waved his hand to side of the parchment.
We know that, said Golradir. We will need as
much information about those as you can give us.
It will cost you. The drow leaned back, looking Eowyn
up and down. It will cost one hundred thousand gold,
he said, and a night with you.
Eowyn threw out an arm to restrain Captain Alfgar. He is
joking, she cried, over the bubbling anger of her
male companions. Are you not?
The drow smiled.
We will pay you fifty thousand in advance, she said,
and the restof the moneyafter the battle.
Gimli was waiting at the next doorway and, as Legolas approached,
with an arrow already nocked, he swung his axe, dealing a series
of mighty blows that split the wood and pushed the leaves inwards.
Inside the chamberthe Queens sitting roomdark
warriors, taken by surprise, overturned the furniture in their
haste to defend themselves.
Legolas loosed a handful of arrows into the moving shadows and
was gratified to hear their points pierce flesh and bone. Now!
he cried, and his warriors crashed through the doorway, and took
on the survivors, hand-to-hand.
From the far end of the dimly-lit corridor, Berkin watched Gimli
demolish the doors and Legolas shoot into the darkness beyond,
wondering, Why is it so dark?
Stay here, he said, slipping through the barricade
and, back in the reception chamber, scanning the remaining furnishings
for something he could use.
In the corners of the room there were free standing candle holdersfive
feet high, cast in bronze, with heavy, circular bases. Berkin
seized the nearest. Perfect!
He carried it back into the corridor.
Fetch the others, and see if you can light them,
he said, discarding the candle from his own.
Then, grasping the metal shaft in both hands, he set off down
the passageway, smashing the enchanted glass from the windows,
and letting the daylight back in.
Haldir closed the door, and he and Arador stood with their backs
to it, staring at the blank wall opposite.
It is hard to believe, said the boy.
Do you think it is active? Stretching out a hand,
he slowly walked forwarduntil his fingers touched solid
Haldir pulled off his velvet cap. You had better start
looking through the books, he said.
You do know that that is a crazy idea? said
Arador. It is like looking for a needle in a haystack when
you do not even know there is a haystack
Yes, said Haldir, but I have great faith in
you, Master Arador.
What will you be doing?
Arranging a few surprises for our guests.
Why wait two days? asked the mercenary.
Because that is the plan, said Eowyn, firmly.
The drow smiled. You are expecting
reinforcements. From where? He looked around the table,
searching for the weakest link. Gondor? Hm? Rohan?
Or is it from the elves of East Lorien? His fiery eye settled
on Eowyn. You will not tell me? Your ally?
You are not our ally, said Eowyn. We are paying
for your services.
You wound me.
We are under no illusions, said Eowyn. You
fight for the highest bidder. And you will not know which side
pays most until the battle begins.
Our plan allows for that. But if you do fight for
us, you will make the difference, and that is why it is worth
Gimli! Arwen and the children! cried Legolasfor
his elven senses were telling him that the drow in the Queens
bedchamber had grown nervousand the dwarf hurled himself
at the chamber door, ripping it from its hinges, and plunged inside.
He was immediately hit by a hail of tiny crossbow quarrels, but
his gauntleted hand was already raised to protect his face, and
the poisoned points glanced off his helm and caught harmlessly
in his thick dwarven mail.
Roaring, he charged his attackers.
Stay back, melmenya, cried Legolas, and ran in after
There were five drow inside the chamber, two of them femalesand
one of them appeared to be casting a spell, but Gimli barged through
the males surrounding her and put a stop to her incantation with
a single swing of his axe.
The other female had seized Arwenhuddled on the bed with
the childrenand was holding a blade to her throat. Legolas
shot two arrows into her skull, and the knife fell from her dead
hand as she toppled forwards over her prisoner.
One of the children howled in terror.
But Arwen had already freed herself and was gathering them into
Legolas drew his white knives and turned to help Gimli finish
off the males.
Watching anxiously from outside the door, as Legolas had ordered,
Eowyn could see Arwen struggling to calm the two terrified children.
Come, she cried, darting past the fight, bring
them in here. She opened the door to the Queens closet.
Stay inside until I come back for you.
Yescomesee if you can find some way
to block the door from the inside.
What are you doing here?
I will explain later.
Arwen had gathered up one of the boys, but the other was still
hiding amongst the bedclothes, too frightened to move.
Get Eldarion into the closet, said Eowyn, I
will bring him. She slipped her arms around the smaller
boy andawkwardly, because she had had no experience of childrenshe
lifted him up and, for the first time, saw him properly.
His little face was round, and dirty, and tear-stained but, with
his pale, silken hair, his huge blue eyes and his sweet button
nose, he was the image of his father. Eowyns heart lurched.
And the elfling, wrapping his arms around her neck and hiding
his face in her hair, whispered, Other Nana.
Holding his candlestick like an axe, as Gimli had taught him,
Berkin followed the warriors into the Queens sitting room.
To his right, through an open door, he could see the elf and the
dwarf, fighting. To his left, Redwalds menthose who
had not fallenwere battling a pack of drow that had emerged
from another chamber; directly ahead, there were more darkened
windows to deal with.
Berkin took a step forward
Something grasped his ankle, and pulled
The young man kicked himself free, stamped down hard, swung the
candlestickonce, twice, again, and againand killed
another being for the first time in his life.
Arador dumped a pile of carefully selected books on the counter,
and looked across at Haldir.
The elf had found a handful of wooden chairs and a couple of
stools, had broken off the legs, and was using a hunting knife
to turn them into stakes.
What are you going to do with those?
Mount them on a beam
I found a weapons chest, the boy interrupted. in
one of the other rooms. There are swords in it.
We do not have anyone to wield a sword, Master Arador.
Noat least, not yet. But you could mount the swords
on your beam.
Haldir looked up from his carving.
Did I just prove my worth again?
The elf smiled. Show me this weapons chest.
I will, butthere is something else. The boy
was suddenly very serious. Something I
Well, I am
not sure that it will work even if we dare try it, but if it did
Arador pulled the piece of black onyx from his pocket.
Two days, then? said the mercenary.
Two days, agreed Eowyn. You will attack on
our signal. In the meantime, we will leave the first instalment
of gold at Gynd Thûn, as you requested. She held out
The drow took it andinstead of shaking it, as she had intendedraised
it to his lips. I had heard, he said, that human
women had no understanding of warfare, but you, my Lady
Human women, sir, can do whatever they are required to
do, said Eowyn, withdrawing her hand.
The drow smiled. Then, pulling off his hat, and sweeping his
arm in a wide arc that encompassed Eowyn, Lord Fingolfin, and
all three captains, he bowed. Until we meet again
He nodded to his silent lieutenant and the pair sprang over the
barricade, ran across the plateau, and disappeared into the forest.
And that is the last you will ever see of him,
muttered Captain Alfgar. If you are lucky.
Eowyn shut the closet door, and turned, just as Legolas dispatched
the last drow, and their eyes met, and she knew that he had sensed
the turmoil inside her, and had understood what had caused it,
and she ran to him
But the battle was not yet overa sudden cry in the Queens
sitting room startled both of them, and they dashed into the chamber
to find Aragorn, sword in hand, in full battle rage, fighting
his way to his wifes bedchamber.
Arwen and the children are safe, cried the elf.
Legolas? The King, dodging a close cut, and
striking back, smiled.
The room was flooded with midday sunlight, giving the surface
dwellers a natural advantage, and the drow, fighting blindly,
were soon surrounded. It seemed that it was overuntil three
of the dark warriors, led by a female, broke free and fled.
Stop them, cried Aragorn. She is their
The men holding the barricade advanced, with swords and lighted
candles, but the female veered left, sprang, and disappeared through
one of the shattered windows, with her warrior escort behind her.
Aragorn, close on their heels, ran at the window, and vaulted
over the sill.
Eowyn, Gimlistay with the Queen, cried Legolas,
They ran across the empty courtyard, skirting the White Tower
of Ecthelion, and emerged in the Place of the Fountain just as
the drow were entering the tunnel.
They move fast, muttered Aragorn, and they
leave no trail.
There were no guards beside the White Tree, nor any at the tunnel
mouth. The lamps inside the passageway had all been extinguished.
Let me go first, whispered Legolas, pulling his bow
from its strap and nocking an arrow.
Cautiously, the pair pressed forward, Legolas scanning the darkness
for any sign of an ambush. But all his senses told him that the
warriors were still moving. They are pulling away from us,
They are in their element down here, said Aragorn.
We must move faster.
So Legolas grasped his friends arm and led him, at the
run, down the curving passage until, at last, they saw the daylight
ahead, and sprinted towards it. At the tunnel mouth they found
grim evidence of the drows passagefour members of
the city patrol, shot with tiny crossbow bolts, and finished off
Aragorn crouched beside one of the bodies, and closed the dead
mans eyes. This is not one of my guards
No, said Legolas, anyone loyal to you has been
replaced. They have rewritten the laws by royal decree, and hired
thieves and murderers to terrorise your citizens.
Aragorn examined the paving stones. Horses, he said.
They have taken the horses.
Then we will never catch them on foot, said the elf,
looking down the curving rath. We must go back to the stables
There are other ways down, said Aragorn. If
we are quick, we can cut them off at the next level. Come.
And he led the waythrough an arch, down a narrow alley,
over a wall, through a garden, under a washing line, through a
gate, into a kitchen
The cook turned, frying pan in hand, but froze, and dropped a
Acknowledging her with a hasty salute, Aragorn ran onthrough
the servants quarters, into the great Entrance Hall, out
through the front doors, and into Rath Bein.
Too late! The drow had already thundered past, leaving
chaos in their wake.
Come on! cried the King. Down another alley they
ran, vaulting two more walls, ducking through another gate, emerging
in Rath Amrûn. Aragorn stood in the centre of the street,
staring down its empty length. There was no sign of their quarry.
They have an affinity with stone, said Legolas, they
must have found a way through. But I think I know where they are
goingdown to Rath Luin.
Aragorn slapped his shoulder. Come on, then.
Off they ran again, down more alleys, over more walls, round
more gardens, through more gates. And, as they passed, more and
more people recognised their King, and his friend, Prince Legolas,
hero of the Ring War; they remembered the rumours that Elessar
knew nothing of the new laws, and would personally set things
right when he heard of them, and they began to follow him. Soon,
the pair had a band of warriors at their backsbrave, stout
fellows, though armed with nothing but the tools of their trades.
Legolas caught one of the men by the shoulder. A curio
shop, he said, that sells things from other landsbooks
and maps, crystals and strange weaponssomewhere near here.
Do you know it?
Theres a shop on the next rath that sells books
No, no, said the mans companion, he means
somewhere like old Geruils.
Geruil. Legolas frownedhe had heard that name before,
though he could not remember where. Yes, he said,
take us to Geruils.
Haldir stared at the black onyx cat. It may, of course,
he said, be nothing more than a piece of carved stone.
I know, said Arador. Geruil thought sohe
let me have it for nothing.
Do you remember the beasts name?
Yes. At least, I think I do.
The elf drew his sword. Try it.
Arador lifted the stone cat from the counter, and set it down
on the floor. Gwen
he began. No, Gu-en
He cleared his throat and took a deep breath. Guenhwyvar,
Try again, said Haldir. But, this time, make
it a summons.
Guenhwyvar, said Arador.
Eowyn pulled back the silken curtain and looked into her bedchamber.
Legolas was still lying on her bed, his eyes closed in healing
sleep. Hentmirë was still sitting beside him, but now she
was making bandagescarefully shredding fabric into strips,
forming the strips into rolls, and packing the rolls into a basket.
Eowyn smiled. I was just about to have a glass of brandy,
Lady Hentmirë. Would you care to join me?
That would be very nice, said the little woman. But
just a small one. She set down her work and, leaning over
her patient, she checked his breathing and his pulse. He
does not seem to be sleeping quite so deeply nowthank you,
she said, taking the glass from Eowyn, I think he may wake
up quite soon.
Eowyn sat down beside her. I do hope so. She took
a sip of the warming spirits. It would be a relief to have
someone more experienced take over command.
You are doing very well, said Hentmirë. Your
plan sounded like a good one to me, and even Legolas could not
have handled that dark elf any better thanoh
She clapped her hand to her mouth, blushing deeply. I am
sorryI could not help overhearing.
Eowyn smiled. Of course you could not. She patted
the other womans arm. Thank you. I do know that I
can do it. I just
I miss Faramir, that is all, and
It was such a relief to have someone to talk to, and Hentmirë
was a good listener; and soon, without realising quite what she
was doing, Eowyn had told her everything.
You have not seen the baby since he was born?
Eowyn shook her head.
I am so sorry. Hentmirë bit her lip. I
know that it is none of my business, she said, slowly, and
I know that he is not my Legolas, but... I am sure that
he would be a good father. Would it not be best to tell him that
he has a son? It might even be the making of him.
Neither woman noticed that the elfs eyes had opened.