Keep back, cried Drizzt. Back!
He stretched out his arm, pointing the tip of his scimitar at
the Uruk Hais throat. We have all come this far, and
there is no reason for anyone to be harmed now. As soon as the
door is opened
Female! shouted one of the Orcs and, slipping
under the drows guard, it made a grab for Wilawen.
No! shouted Drizzt. No! She is not your enemy!
She is one of you!
He heard the surface elf draw his great bow, and he saw, to his
surprise, several of the mob fall back, but
At last, the Mage had opened the door! Coloured light was flooding
into the corridor and, from the shadows moving on the wall beside
him, Drizzt knew that his companions were escapinghe retreated,
scimitars still raised to hold back the mob
Drizzt! Come on, cried Wilawen.
He took a few more steps and found himself outside.
The air was filled with smoke and floating debris. Directly ahead,
a portion of the outer fencean intricate confection of glistening
metalhad fallen, and the Mage was scrambling through the
gap, followed by the archer and his wounded brother. The other
surface elfthe healerwas trying to persuade Wilawen
to go next. Drizzt sheathed his blades and grasped her arm.
No! Wilawen pulled herself free. I have dropped
the pouch, she cried. Valandil! I have dropped
The healerwho did not understand what she was sayingtried
to calm her. Drizzt scanned the ground. The prisoners were streaming
through the ruined door; the bag was lying at the threshold.
They will trample him! shrieked Wilawen. She shook
off the surface elf and ran back, battling her way through the
crowd of prisoners. Drizzt followed, aware that the healer was
close behind him.
Wilawen reached the pouch and scooped it up, but the big Uruk
Haithe door breakerhad spotted her, and it grabbed
her and, holding her with one of its massive hands, it roared
and beat the other upon its chest, and the mob responded, moving
in for the kill.
LET HER GO, Drizzt commanded, reaching for his swords
But, before he could draw them, something streaked past his shoulder,
and he saw an arrow bury itself between the Uruk Hais startled
eyes. Panic spread through the mob; Wilawen broke free and Drizzt
grabbed her, andwith the surface elf in towdragged
her back to the fence.
Thank you, he said to the archer, pulling Wilawen
through the gap. The healer clambered after them.
Ah, here you are, at last, said Pharaun, cheerfully.
They had planned that Drizzt, with his scouts knowledge
of the Dark Dominionthe network of tunnels that surrounded
Menzoberranzanwould take the escapees to somewhere they
could safely hide, but that had been before they had acquired
their murderous escort. They will follow us, he said,
taking Wilawen by the hand. They will draw too much attention
You do not think, said Pharaun, impatiently, that
it took me all that time just to open the door, do you?
Drizzt looked back at the fence. Several of the prisoners had
seized the metal web and were shaking it, angrily. The gap had
No one can pass through unless I have named himor
her, said the Mage. They,he nodded
towards the frenzied mobwill act as our diversion.
Now, please, let us move away, before my genius is completely
Do you have the pouch safe? asked Drizzt.
Drizzt led them, briskly, down the shabby-genteel streets of
Eastmyr; into the chaotic slums of The Braeryn where, though they
drew more attention than he would have liked, no one dared challenge
three nobles travelling with their slaves; through the dense fungus
forests of Donigarten, to the edge of the mantle, where they slipped,
unseen, into the Dark Dominion.
Are you sure that this place is safe? said
Pharaun, looking dubiously at the strange, smooth-walled cavern.
Yes, said Drizzt. It is new. The patrols do
not know of it as yet.
A Svirfneblin mine. They have quarried out the rock.
Satisfied, the mage positioned himself beside the small, rounded
entrance and began an incantation.
What do you suppose he is doing now? asked Wilawen,
fishing inside her bodice for the black velvet pouch.
I think, said Drizzt, that he is sealing us
in. I suspect he needs to rest again.
The elves had sat Rumil down close to the wall and, whilst Orophin
held the glowing crystal over him, Dínendal examined his
I am feeling much better, said the injured elf. He
stretched out his arms. SeeI could not have done that
Wilawen laid the pouch upon the ground, untied its cord, and
pulled it open. Valandil was still sleeping soundly. She sat down
There, said Pharaun, joining the others. We
should be safe for a few hours, at least. I suggest you sleepor
whatever it is you surface dwellers do. He repeated the
advice in Westron, for the benefit of the elves. The next
part of our journey will not be so easy. He settled himself
against the wall.
Drizzt and Wilawen exchanged glances.
Do as he says, said the warrior, quietly. I
will be over by the door, just in case.
Wilawen was awoken by a sudden tingling in her limbs.
She rubbed her hands up and down her quivering arms and, in the
dim light of Orophins crystalfor her drow eyesight
was already fadingshe watched her skin turn from ebony black
When she woke again, she found Pharaun awake, consulting a tiny
book of spells. When are you going to send my friends back
to the surface? she demanded.
The drow looked up from his reading. Well, I see that you
are back to your old self againalmost.
Wrong-footed, Wilawen scowled.
Most females, said Pharaun, complacently,
pay good money for bosom enlargement. But you will probably
find that they return to normal in a day or so.
They had better; I must look ridiculous.
No, actually, you look quite... He cleared his
throat. I am not going to send your friends back,
he said. I am going to take them back. By shadow
What does that mean?
The Mage laid down his book. In the gaps between this world
and, well, other worlds, he said, there exists a place
without dimension. Provided you know how to enter itand,
fortunately, I doyou can travel very rapidly from place
to place, as long as you know the way.
Wilawen sat down beside him. Answer me truthfully,
she said. Do you know the way to the surface?
And the way back?
Pharaun smiled. Would you miss me?
I have given you my word, she said, that I
will stay here and help you with thatthat hole, whatever
it is. And I shall. But, the moment it is closed, I will follow
my friends back to the surface just as quickly as I can.
Pharaun insisted that Valandil must be taken out of the velvet
bag. The pouch is a bridge between dimensions, he
said, and we will be travelling in a place where dimensions
have no meaning. There is no telling what might happen to it.
Nothe pouch stays here. You must carry him.
Orophin turned to Wilawen. You are sure that you will stay?
Yes, she said; Pharaun translated.
Then it will fall to me to explain to Valandil.
Tell him, said Wilawen, emphatically, that
I will be back with him very soon.
Orophin placed his hand upon his heart and bowed his head. Then
he took his place beside Valandil, and he and Master Dínendal
lifted the sleeping elf between them.
Good, said Pharaun. Nowdo not move until
I give the signal.
He began yet another incantation.
Wilawen, watching her friends closely, and not knowing what to
expect, thought, at first, that the elves growing paler,
and less distinct, was just a trick of the light. But then Pharaun
stopped speaking, and beckoned to the others, and she almost laughed
out loud as the translucent figures took a single, giant step
and shot through the wall of the cave.
They were travelling down a smooth, grey tunnel.
Through its membranous walls they could see things, vague scenes,
that would burst into view and, just as suddenly, disappeara
dazzling gateway, seething with power; a stone city, swarming
with tiny grey dwarves; a herd of formless creatures, floating
in a void; an ink-black lake, teeming with fish-men; a great,
carven labyrinth, choked with dense, grey matter...
The elves soon learned that it was best not to look.
The constant shifts of perspective made them nauseous.
If, for some reason, he does not return, said Drizzt,
crouching down beside Wilawen, I will take you to
The woman, sitting with her knees drawn under her chin, unconsciously
rocking back and forth, turned to him in surprise.
That is what you were thinking, is it not?
he persisted. You were wondering what would happen to you
if he did not return.
I... Well, yes, that was part of it.
We would find a way.
Thank you. Wilawen stopped rocking. Drizzt...
Why are you helping me? Right from the startI would not
have survived if you had not. Why are you?
The drow sighed.
Drizzt! What is it?
Guilt, said the warrior. I helped you
out of guiltat least, at first.
I know that you were one of the drow who attacked the wedding
party, she said. The little girl described youyour
eyes. She turned to him. But it was you who
tore open her dress and covered her in her mothers blood;
it was you who made it look as though she were dead. You
saved her life.
It was not much, said Drizzt.
It was everything, said Wilawen.
What happened to her?
The elves went for help. Someone will have come for hera
relation. They will adopt her and raise her as their own. You
did a good thing, Drizzt. It counts.
I had never seen a surface dweller before, said the
drow. They were dancing. Our teachers had told us that they
were evil. How could they be evil, when they were dancing...?
Wilawen patted his arm.
The Divor Rocks
It had taken Orodreth and his elves almost a full days
search to find the tiny opening in one of the Divor Caves that
led to the network of tunnels within the rocks and, ultimately,
Orodreth was convinced, to the home of the dark people.
In the two days that had since elapsed, he had made several cautious
sorties into the tunnels and found traces of Haldirs earlier
expedition, but nothing he had seen in that hostile place had
persuaded him that his troops stood any chance of penetrating
the dark world, or of rescuing their comrades.
In the absence of explicit orders, Orodreth had decided to wait,
concentrating his forces at the foot of the rocks and maintaining
the ring of lookouts he had posted on the first night.
He climbed up the cliff face, and crawled into the cave. His
warriors, who had been on watch all night, were more than ready
to be relieved. Good morning, sir, said their leader.
Nothing to report. Not a
Without any warningeven as the mans lips were forming
the word soundfour blades of pure light
burst from the cave wall and, before Orodreth could reach for
his bow, coalesced into four very familiar shapes.
From the corner of his eye, the elf saw his lieutenant grasp
his sword. Stop! he cried, stretching out a hand.
Do you not recognise them?
The ghost of Pharaun emerged from the rock, stumbled over Wilawen,
and fell in an inelegant heap in the middle of the cave.
One slight drawback of shadow-walking, he
said, brushing the dust from his sleeves.
The Divor Rocks
You are sure he is... Orodreth could not bring himself
to say the word. Gone?
We searched, said Orophin, for as long as we
were able. He shook his head. There was no sign of
I cannot believe it.
I am so sorry.
Orodreth looked across the camp site, to where Orophins
companions were resting. What will you tell Valandil when
The truththat Wilawen made a bargain with the wizard
to save himand us. She is a brave adaneth.
The other elf nodded.
Valandil will no doubt blame me
No, said Orodreth. He knows her. And he is
proud of her spirit. Then, This wizardcan he
be trusted to bring her back?
No, said Orophin. But the other oneDrizzthe
has a sense of honour.
Are they safe? asked Wilawen.
I believe so. Pharaun approached the mouth of the
cave, gesturing impatiently for Drizzt to step aside. I
did not lingertheir friends were too heavily armed.
The Mage frowned. Thank...? Oh! He waved a
hand, dismissively. Since that was your price, I
paid it. Now, if you will just be quiet for a moment. He
positioned himself beside the small passageway, and raised his
What is wrong? asked Wilawen, eyeing him curiously.
Ignoring her question, Pharaun took a deep breath.
Why are you soflustered?
I have a lot to do. He ran a hand through his hair.
Will you please be quiet?
Wilawen backed away.
And, please, he added, do not delay
me with one of your petty orders. As I have said before, time
is of the essence now. He composed himself again, then recited
another brief spell. There, he said, now we
can leave. Where is the pouch?
Still watching him suspiciously, Wilawen pulled the little bag
from her bodice.
Open it up, said Pharaun, and sit on it.
Wilawen spread the velvet sheet out on the ground and crawled
onto it. Is this how you plan to smuggle me back into the
Academy? She drew her knees up under her chin. Why
did you not do this before?
Because I did not think of it, said Pharaun, leaning
over her to draw up the corners of the bag. I really cannot
be expected to think of everything, you know.
Wilawen looked up at Drizzt in alarm. I am not sure I
Pharaun popped the pouch into one of his pockets. Ready?
Drizzt grasped his arm
With unexpected skill, the Mage swung his hand in an arc, breaking
the warriors grip and freeing himself. Twin sisters,
he explained, one of them a terrible bully. Then he
added, I assume that you were about to issue some sort of
I will not let you hurt her, said Drizzt, seriously.
Pharaun shrugged. Magic is seldom an exact science.
No one paid them any attention as they walked back to the Academy
via the Bazaar.
None of the proprietors who sold Pharaun the various magical
supplies he needed was surprised when the Mage also probed him
for news of the recent disturbance at The Silken Rack.
Some of the studs escaped, apparently, said one of
the stall holders, and killed a few of the women. No ones
saying whether they got out of the grounds, but if they did...
He shrugged. Good luck to them.
None of the guards at the entrance to the Academy bothered to
stop Pharaun, nor to search him when they detected the magical
items on his personassuming, no doubt, that a small pouch
of unknown contents was just part of a Master of Sorceres
The door to the Archmages chambers was still intact, for
Pharauns hastily-improvised magical seal was holding, and
from the outside there was no sign of the devastation within.
So much to do, so little time, muttered Pharaun,
and no one, alas, to appreciate it. He turned to Drizzt.
I speak of sorcerers. You and she do not count.
When you open that door, said the warrior, the
Go to the end of the corridor, said the Mage, and
Reluctantly, Drizzt moved away, but only a few paces.
Turning his back to the door, Pharaun stretched out his arms
and, closing his eyes, recited a complex spell, moving his elegant
hands in time to the words, as though braiding the air.
Drizzt frowned. Nothing appeared any different, but it
felt as though a wall had risen across the corridorand,
when he reached towards Pharaun, his fingers rapped against something
solid. You have shut me out.
Not just you. Pharaun pulled the black velvet
pouch from his robes and, crouching down, released Wilawen.
The woman rubbed her head. Gods, you lied, she said,
swallowing hard. It was horrible in therelike being
tossed about at sea
Yes, I know. Now, out of the way. He pulled her to
her feet. Some of us have urgent work to do. Go over there
and smile at DoUrden for a moment.
Wilawen took a step towards Drizzt.
He has shut me out, said the warrior, showing her
the invisible barrier. I cannot protect you, OWilawen.
You are at his mercy...
Pharaun, meanwhile, had taken out a small vial, uncorked it,
and was sprinkling some of its contents on the open pouch. As
each drop of liquid fell, the velvet was transformed, the fabric
becoming smooth and transparent, its flat edges rising and curving,
its corners joining
Pharaun grasped Wilawens arm. Inside!
The bubble sealed itself around them.
Perfect, said Pharaun, now, brace yourself!
He raised a hand and flicked his fingers at the door, as though
dismissing an annoying slave.
The fungus-wood imploded.
The bubble lurched forwards, wobbled, squeezed through doorway
(tumbling its occupants together), shot into what was left of
the room beyond, and came to an abrupt halt, hovering at the edge
of the portal.
The hole had grown.
It had spread from the study to the adjoining rooms, devouring
everythingwalls, floors, ceilingsthat stood in its
path. So much for the Archmages priceless antiques,
He removed several items from the pockets of his robes and set
them down on the curved floor of the bubblean
incense burner, incense, a tinder box. I have considered
all the options, he said, lighting the incense, and
there is only one that will conceal what I haveerachieved
here: we must perform exactly the same ritual, in reverse.
He wafted the fragrant smoke towards Wilawen. Provided I
can remember the words, and say them in the right order, everything
should be fine.
But Wilawen, crouching on hands and knees in the bottom of the
bubble, was not listening to him. Beneath her, through the portal,
an image was swirling in and out of view. What is that?
Pharaun sat down beside her. Part of the astral plane.
It looks like a city.
Well, demons have cities too... He reached for
It looks like Minaswhat are you doing?
She pushed him away.
We must do everything in reverse, remember? Lie on top
Do not call me that.
The Mage sighed. It is nothing personal, I assure you;
it will last no more than a moment; and it is the first step on
your journey home.
You have no intention of sending me back home,
No, he admitted, wrapping his arms around her and
pulling her down. But you never know. If all ends well,
I may feel generous. Now, just go with the flow...
He uttered a single word.
The bubble burst.
Pharauns arms flew open. Wilawen, lifted from him by some
invisible force, sailed backwards through the air, and landed
on the (non-existent) floor in a blaze of pyrotechnics, just as
the demon shot up through the portal, beside her.
The Mage was shouting a strange-sounding curse, wringing his
PHARAUN! the demon bellowed, sparks flying from its
flailing fistsPHARAUN! Me release! To you command
The drows hands fell to his sides.
Disordered words tumbled from Wilawens lips. You
begging am I! she cried. Please, Pharaun!
But the demonnaked and hideously arousedwas not interested
in the Mage. It snuffed at her skirts. Virgin she is?
Terrified, Wilawen pleaded with Pharaun. Ask you else anything!
Do will I, she sobbed. Sirplease!
Pharaun began to chant, using his hands to catch the incense
and send it back into the burnerand the demon dropped, roaring
its frustration, down through the (still non-existent) floor,
disappearing as suddenly as it had first appeared.
Whilst Pharaun continued to chant, his voice growing gradually
softer and softer, Wilawen watched, trembling, as some invisible
hand restored the room to its opulent former glory.
By Lloth, muttered the Mage, running a hand
through his hair, that was something!
It ended well, said Wilawen.
Yes. He smiled, triumphantly. Yes, it did!
You said... She came up beside him.
Will you take me home?
He turned to face her. You are a mess, he said. And,
raising his hand, he brushed a strand of tousled hair back over
her shoulder. Strange...
Well, he said, that depends.