An hour before dawn
Haldir, standing at the mouth of the alleyway, now sealed
with a stout wall, was gazing up at the eastern sky. Another
night survived, Master Arador, he said.
How in Middle-earth did you know it was me?
You are quiet, for a human, but you drag your left foot.
I do not! The boy came up beside him. They
will be attacking soon, he said, the King and Princess
Eowynstorming the drow encampment.
She will be alright. Both of them will.
The elf did not reply.
I need to go back into the shop, said the boy. And
I will need the portal key.
An hour before dawn, the combined forces of Gondor assembled
on the fortified plateau south of Emyn Arnen.
Under King Elessars overall command, the troops were divided
into four companies. The first, led by Aragorn himself, accompanied
by Legolas, Eowyn and Gimli, would storm the main encampment from
the north, with the aidit was hopedof the drow mercenaries.
The second, led by the shadow Eowyn, would simultaneously deal
with the smaller encampments sited in the clearings to the east.
The third, led by the shadow Legolas, would strike from the south,
cutting off the drow retreat, and protecting Eryn Carantaur from
The fourth and smallest company, led by Captain Alfgar, would
remain up on the plateau, to defend the weak and the wounded.
At a nod from Haldir the guards either side of the doorway raised
their crossed spears, and the elf and the boy entered Geruils
shop. Immediately, the portal transformed, the wall dissolving
to a shimmering film of silver, though much of it was obscured
by a rough stone cairn that had hastily been erected in the centre
of the room.
Ignoring the portal, Arador crossed to the counter, took something
from his pocket, and laid it on the polished wood.
Haldir looked at the strange objecta shard of mirror, a
silver thimble, a battered goose featherall tied together
with what looked to be a lock of drow hair. What is that?
Arador reached into another pocket, pulled out his waterskin
and carefully filled the thimble. The portal, he said,
drawing his pocket knife from its scabbard. Or, rather,
it will be, once I have added...
He slipped into the space between the cairn and the translucent
wallBe careful, warned Haldirand scratched
a tiny quantity of dust from the stone surrounding the gateway.
Once I have added this, said Arador. Back
at the counter, he dropped the dust into the thimble of water,
then laid the drow brooch on top of the bundle. This is
the portal, he said, if I have got it right. The portal
Are you saying that if you destroy that, the portal
will be destroyed?
According to the book, Arador sighed, as
above, so below. In other words, whatever we do here,
also happens over there. But this is not making bottles of spirits
explode; this is magic; this isscary.
I know. Haldir patted his shoulder. But we
are at war, Arador, and we must each do what we are called upon
I did not mean, said the boy, that I was afraid
for myself. I meant thatwell, have you never
worried about the consequences of what you were doing? He
approached the portal. That if you got it wrong, everything
would be even worseoh! Oh, gods, look, he
pointed through the watery gatewaylook, Haldir! Can
you see it? Is this it? Are they coming?
Get behind me, said the elf, loosening his sword
in its scabbard. Get behind me, now! Ailbric,
he shouted to the guards outside, get in here; Ricbert,
rouse the rest of the men!
As dawn broke over the Mountains of Mordor, the gates of the
barricade were hauled back, and the three companies moved out.
All wrong, this, muttered Gimli.
Creeping about in daylight.
Smiling, Legolas glanced at Eowyn, riding beside him, and she,
feeling his gaze upon her, turned and smiled backa smile
filled with courage and determination mingled, in her eyes, with
a deep sadness.
We are doing this, he mouthed, for himto
keep him safe.
Beyond his beloved, Legolas could see her double, the shadow
Eowyn, cutting sharply eastwards, followed by the loyal Captain
Drago, and Lord Fingolfin, and a motley collection of soldiers
and hastily-armed citizens, some of them women.
He looked west, but his own double had already vanished into
Within the portal, the now-familiar view of the passage into
the Underdark had disappeared, blotted out by a dark shape, long
and narrow, like the body of a massive worm. Shadowy figures moved
inside its belly, one of them struggling, it seemed, to escape.
Haldir, muttered Arador, that looks like a
womanit looks like
Stay back. The elf climbed up onto the pile of stones.
Sir warned the guard, uneasily.
Back! cried Haldir, gesturing with his hand as he
peered into the portal. The feminine figure had raised her hands
and was pushing against the side of the worm, stretching it thinner.
Oh gods, gasped Arador, it is. It is
our Mistress Wilawen! Inside that thing!
Stay down there, said Haldir, calmly.
Is she alive? asked the boy.
Perhaps. Haldir climbed higher, leaning forward,
searching for confirmation that what he was seeing was real.
Wait, said Arador, I will call the cat.
But a second figure had seized Wilawen from behind and,
as she tried to break free, her small fist burst through the worms
side and clenched convulsively, grasping at empty space
Haldir leaped over the stone cairn and plunged into the portal.
A silent message passed from warrior to warrior until it reached
Aragorn at the head of the main company: Princess Eowyn and
her troops are in position.
Sound the charge, cried the King, drawing his sword,
Left and right, the trumpets blared. Eowyn spurred her horse;
Legolas urged his mount forward; side by side, they followed Aragorn
through the sparse undergrowth, gathering speed and momentum,
the army of mounted warriors and heavily-armed footsoldiers surging
As they raced on, Eowyn could hear nothing but the pounding of
her own heart. Scanning ahead, she spotted the enemy soldiers
lurking between the trees, their red eyes glowing, and she drew
her sword, holding it high and leaning forward in the saddle,
crying, For Eryn Carantaur!
Then the army of Gondor breached the forest, and the drow ran
forward to meet them; and, suddenly, the noise of battle was deafening:
steel clashing with steel; axe thundering on plate armour and
slicing through mail; bowstrings whipping, arrows whistling...
Eowyn, guiding her horse with her legs, waded into enemy, wielding
her sword with all her might, slashing at drow heads and necks,
dodging their counter-blows, and shrugging off the tiny crossbow
bolts that skidded over her elven armour.
Good luck, laddie! cried Gimli, slapping Legolas
back as he rolled from their horse, drawing his axe in mid air,
and hitting the ground running.
Straight ahead, Eowyn was laying into a crowd of drowSave
some for me!
But then, to his right, the dwarf spotted the ladBerkinalready
in trouble, his mount cut from under him by a huge drow swinging
a broadsword. The boy, lying on the ground, one foot still in
the stirrup, had gamely drawn his axe, and was watching the approaching
warrior, awaiting his chance to strike.
The dwarf smiled. Go on, laddie, he shouted, now,but
his smile turned to a growl as the drow struck first, and he rushed
forward, cutting the sword from the warriors hands, giving
the boy time to swing his axe upwards, and slice his attacker
from groin to chest.
The drow fell.
Come on lad! Gimli pulled Berkin to his feet as a
shout went up to the east and a troop of lizard riders broke cover,
rampaging across the battlefield, trampling all before them. Bring
your axethere is sport enough for both of us!
Fighting at Aragorns side, Legolas loosed arrow after arrow,
picking off drow warriors as they crowded in on the King, dropping
reinforcements as they scurried through the trees, taking out
a lizard rider who passed too closeand, all the time, keeping
a part of his elven senses trained on Eowyn, in case she should
Wilawens hand had vanished, pulled back into the worms
belly by her shadowy assailant. Haldir grasped the edges of the
Arador had taken out the onyx cat.
Inside the portal, two ebony hands seized Haldirs shoulders;
the guard, Ailbric, drew his sword, but the boy was faster.
Shit, he shouted, launching himself up the heap of
All along the clearings to the east, the shadow Eowyns
company was fighting like demons, her footsoldiers driving forward
in close formation; her citizens following with pitchforks, hammers,
and carving knives, pelting the lizard riders with stones and
with improvised spears and, when all else failed, finishing off
the better-armed but smaller drow with fists and feet.
Eowyn herself had dismounted and sent her horse back to safety;
and, flanked by Captain Drago and Lord Fingolfin, was leading
the attack on a troop of lizards, dodging their snapping jaws
and their riders flashing swords, hacking at the beasts
vulnerable throats and bellies.
She scored a lucky hit, goring one of the lizards and slicing
through its saddle-straps, and its rider tumbled to the ground
but, quickly releasing himself from his harness, the drow leaped
to his feet, sword in hand, and lunged for her.
The drow struck again.
Eowyn side-stepped and, bringing her sword up to shoulder height,
deftly cut his head from his shoulders.
Then something heavy hit her squarely in the back, and she pitched
forward, hitting the ground with a thud, and rolled over to find
herself pinned beneath a drow; and she panicked, squirming backwards,
trying to escape himuntil she realised that his eyes, staring
down at her, were dead, that an elven arrow was buried deep in
his skull, and that Lord Fingolfin was running towards her, his
bow still raised.
He held out a hand and she took it, and he helped her to her
Thank you, my Lord, she said.
Then, Give the signal, she shouted to Captain Drago.
It is time that the mercenary earned his money. And call
for the stretcher-bearershave them take the casualties back
to the camp.
We must advance.
Aaagh, gods! cried Arador.
There was a moment of unbearable painas though his entire
body were being skinned with knives of iceas he passed through
the portal; then he landed on the other side.
Master Arador, gasped Haldir, his upper body buried
inside the strange, grey worm, help me!
Taking a deep breath, the boy thrust his head and hands through
the tear, grasped one of Wilawens arms, and tugged. The
woman, pulled between himself, the elf, and two drow, cried out,
but Arador hung on. There was a brief struggle. Then one of the
drow, shouting something that sounded like a command, released
her. Wilawen stumbled forwards, Arador and Haldir staggered backwards,
and the worm split from top to bottom, disgorging its contents
onto the rocky ground.
Out, cried Pharaun, scrambling to his feet. Through
the portal! Now! Now! Move, move, move!
Hentmirë blundered across the busy plateau as fast as her
legs would carry her, narrowly missing a handcart laden with jars
of water, and a boy carrying a sack of arrows. Master Findecáno,
The elven healer, crossing in the opposite direction, caught
her, gently. Yes, my Lady, what is it?
They are arriving, she panted, the wounded
Take your time.
Hentmirë took a deep breath. Some of them are badly
injuredMaster Berengar is having them brought up here, to
the Healing Tent
Yes. The elf nodded. I am on my way there now.
Hentmirë grasped his arm. But some have only been
struck by sleeping darts, she said. And they are being
attended to beside the barricade. Master Ethelmar sent me to ask
if you have any of that elven tonicer
Yes. Yeshe wonders if it might be used to revive
the soldiers, so that they can go back into the field.
The elf frowned, thoughtfully. That is a good question,
my Ladyyes, I think it mightnot by itself, perhaps,
but combined with certain other herbs... Yes, follow me.
He led her quickly up the winding path to the elven encampment,
further up the hillside. Two or three drops on the tongue
should be sufficient, he said, thinking aloud, it
can be dispensed from a waterskin. Will you administer it yourself,
The little woman nodded. Yes. But prepare two waterskins,
Master Findecáno, she said. Then Aradors mother
Master Ethelmar asks for more water, and wood for the fires,
said Berryn, counting the items off on his fingers, salt
for cleansing, and a good, strong man to help with bone setting
The water is already organised, replied Berengar,
directing a team of stretcher-bearers towards the gate, and
I have sent some of the young boys up the hillside foraging for
firewood but, if the worst comes to the worst, we can demolish
one of the sheds. Salt is in short supply, but I will make sure
that what we do have is delivered to the Healing Tent. As for
the other,he drew Berryn asidethere is
a young man working with one of the blacksmiths. He is simple,
but good-hearted, and strong. You will need to persuade him to
Berryn nodded. I will, he said, quietly.
Berengar patted his shoulder. Good man.
MOVE, bellowed Pharaun, elbowing the big elf
aside and pushing Wilawen towards the gateway, go,he
shoved her throughmove, DoUrden! Move, you fools!
Then he realised why the elf and the human were behaving like
idiots and, as he dived through the portal himself, he yelled
at them in Westron, Come now or be sucked into nowhere.
The sun was high now, flooding through the trees in shafts of
searing white light and only the lizard riders, reckless young
bucks, were still pressing forward on the left flank. The rest
of the drow, blinded and outmanoeuvred, were retreating towards
the main encampment.
The temptation for the human soldiers was to break ranks and
hunt them down.
Sound the recall, shouted Aragorn to the trumpeters;
and, raising his sword, he cried, To me, to me!
All over the battlefield, soldiers heard their orders and obeyed,
falling back to their Kings side, and regrouping.
Legolas brought his horse up beside Eowyns.
His beloved sat upright in her saddle, her helm lost, her golden
hair falling loose about her shoulders, her face smeared with
blood and grime, her eyes shining with battle fury.
Legolas felt an inappropriate stirring in his loins as he looked
at her, and he laughed, his heart suddenly full of love and pride,
and the exhilaration of being alive amidst so much death. Stay
beside me, melmenya, he said, in this next push.
Sound the charge, shouted Aragorn.
The trumpets blasted; and the army of Gondor surged forward once
Working together, Gimli and Berkin were stalking their third
lizard, a tired, nervous beast that had somehow got separated
from what was left of the main troop. Its riderbrave but
exhausted and, now, blinded by the sunlightwas still struggling
valiantly to control it, to force it to charge. But the pair,
banging their axes against their shields, shouting, and caterwauling,
had driven it steadily backwards, and trapped it within a narrow
funnel of trees.
Now lad! cried Gimli.
Crouching, Berkin darted forward, ducked under the beasts
drooping head, rose, raised his axe above his shoulders, and with
two strokes, forward and back, hacked out its throat. At the same
time, the dwarf, having first dismounted the rider by cutting
through his saddle straps, dispatched him.
A rousing fanfare echoed across the battlefield.
Berkin wiped the lizard blood from his face. What was that?
The charge, said Gimli. Come on, lad!
Further east, the shadow Eowyn had already regrouped her men
and was preparing to storm the clearings.
Having fled to the camp seeking safety, both lizards and drowunused
to sunlight and finding no shelter in the wide spaceswere
openly panicking, the riders struggling to control their mounts,
the beasts snapping at their handlersone or two of them
breaking free and running down anything that stood in their path.
There is no sign of the mercenary, said Eowyn to
No, my lady. It seems that he took the money and ran.
Well, we cannot wait. Sound the attack.
Very well, my
Eowyn recognised the sounda hiss and a dull thudand,
eyes wide, she turned to her second-in-command.
A single arrow had pierced his forehead.
For a moment, he simply stared at her, and she thought, against
all sense, that he might still live. Then his body sagged, and
he slid sideways, and fell from his horse.
No! she cried. Nooooooooo! Her
head whipped round, and she saw a drow with a longbowa human
bow stolen from one of her own fallen menand she spurred
her horse and, drawing her sword, she dashed into the clearing
like Túrin Turambar, and cut him down as he tried to run
Charge, shouted Lord Fingolfin, raising his
sword high, chaaaarge! PROTECT YOUR LADY! And
the people of North Ithilien, following the elf, thundered to
One-by-one, they scrambled through the icy teeth of the portal
and, aided by Ailbric climbed down the cairn into Geruils
At a sign from Haldir, the other guards lowered their weapons,
Which genius blocked the way out? asked the
tall drow, running a hand through his dishevelled hair.
Ier... Arador blushed. I thought that
it might stop people getting through.
Obviously. The drow scanned the shop, his fiery eyes
immediately drawn to the boys model of the portal, still
sitting upon the counter. If that really works, he
said, you had better use it. Now.
On and on, the army of Gondor advanced, driving the last of the
drow back through the trees.
Something is happening, cried Legolas, up aheadlookthe
drow are being slaughtered by their own men!
The mercenaries, shouted Aragorn. They must
have struck, at last. Sound the delay, he called, send
men west to surround the encampmentthey are to kill all
who run; let us hope, Legolas, that your double is in position,
and ready to deal with any who flee south.
No, it is the women, Aragorn, said Eowyn,
suddenly. The women are killing the men!
My Lady,Lord Fingolfin rode up beside Eowynwe
must pull out.
Sound the retreat, said Eowyn. She wheeled her horse.
Look at them, my Lord, look at them! Falling upon each other
Is it not the men you hired?
No, my Lordit is the women. Do you remember my maphow,
at the last moment, the women forced the men out of the camp,
and formed a ring around the perimeter? It was because they were
preparing to perform some holy riteand now, it seems, they
are killing the men to maintain their secrecy. Let us leave them
She turned her horse northwards but, as she swept round, something
caught her eye, and she turned back.
At the far edge of the clearing, a familiar figure, wearing a
ridiculous plumed hat, emerged from the trees and favoured her
with an elaborate bow. Then he raised his hand and, at that signal,
more than fifty male drow ran from the forest and, quickly and
methodically, began slaying the drow women.
Use it? Arador looked from the drow to Haldir
and back again. You meanuse it to destroy the portal?
Llolth, what kind of idiot are you?
I am notII just copied it from a book,
said the boy. I do not know how to make it workI was
just going toyou knowtry, and hope for the best.
Can you close it? asked Haldir. He glanced
at Drizzt. The warriors hands were resting on the hilts
of his twin swords, but he appeared to be guarding Wilawen, and
Haldir doubted that he would bother to defend the other drow,
whom he did not appear to like. He moved closer. Close
it, he commanded.
The tall drow backed away with an arrogant snort.
Then Wilawen spoke; and Haldir had no idea what she was saying.
What will happen if it is not closed? she asked.
Things will fall into it, replied Pharaun, speaking
in Westron, so that the others could understand. Look.
He pointed through the portal, to where the torn ends of the shadow-tunnel
were flapping, as if in a brisk breeze, and two steady streams
of dust and rock were rising from the ground and disappearing
Not another of your holes! cried Wilawen.
My holes! Mine? This is your fault,
you idiot woman, replied Pharaun, indignantly. Not
content with dragging the shadow world into this world with all
your running and your peering, and your Oh, look over there-ing,
you had to tear a great big hole in the boundary and invite
your friends inside! He glared at Haldir. So now,
anythinganything big enough and strong enough to fight the
currentthat happens to be shadow walking can simply,he
waved his slender handsstep out.
That sounds bad, said Arador.
It is chaos, agreed Pharaun, with a acidic smile.
Things being sucked in, other things leaping out, right
here; right in thisthis
My fathers shop, said Wilawen.
Really? The drow looked around, unimpressed.
Close it, said Haldir. Repair the tear and
close the portal. Now.
Pharaun seemed to consider it. Then, No, he said,
folding his arms across his chest.
I can force you.
You can try. But,he raised an elegant handlet
me see: I have so many spells to choose fromyes, I could
turn you into glass and shatter you long before you managed to
do anything with that sword you are fondling.
Be careful, Haldir, said Wilawen, turning to the
elf, he is telling the truthat least, about that.
To her surprise, Haldir stared at her blankly.
Do it, Mizzrym, said Drizzt, suddenly. The
tear threatens our world as much as theirs. What have you to gain
He has a price, said Wilawen. She turned back to
Pharaun. He always has a price. Yes, he is afraid,
all move, move, move,the drow sneeredbut
he is gambling that we are more afraid. What do you want
Very little, said Pharaun, suddenly reverting to
his own language. In fact, hardly anything at all. Just
a few hairs from your pretty lifrom your head.
To do what with?
Oh... He shrugged. Various spells.
Wilawen glanced at the others. Why my hair?
Are you saying that you cannot take it without my permissionow!
She clapped a hand to her scalp. Drizzt and Haldir moved to protect
her, but she waved them away.
Of course I can take it, said Pharaun, brandishing
the stolen hairs as proof. But I cannot use itnot
for this particular spellwithout your consent.
You said spells before. Various spells.
Spell, spells; particular, variousdoes it make any
It might. Wilawen sighed. With you, yes, it
probably does. But I no longer care. Close that portal, put everyone
back where they should be, make me speak Westron again, and you
can shave my entire head if you want to.
Still smiling at the audacity of the mercenary, the shadow Eowyn
stationed her men around the clearings, ready to capture any drow
that managed to escape the slaughter.
Thank you, my Lord, she said to Fingolfin, as they
lay in wait, for proving a most efficient second-in-commandbesides
saving my life, twice. She smiled, sadly. Poor
Drago. He will be buried with honours.
He was a fine soldier, said Fingolfin, and
a good man.
It must be hard for you, she said, seeing death
The elf smiled. I am old, my Lady, though I may not look
it to men. I fought with Lord Elrond in the Last Alliance of Elves
and Men, and with King Thranduil during the Ring War. So death
is, sadly, no novelty to me.
What about old age?
Are you used to old age? How would you deal with me, in
my dotage? How would Legolas?
We elves, my Lady, venerate
Legolas... said Eowyn.
Legolas! Something is happening to Legolas, somewhere
to the south! Come, Fingolfin, she cried, spurring her horse,
rally the troops! We must ride south!
Pharaun had insisted that everyone leave the shop whilst he sealed
the shadow-tunnel and destroyed the portal, so Arador never discovered
whether his method worked, thoughwhen he was finally
allowed to return insidehe found the elements of his model
completely fused together, and the drow brooch missing, though
he had certain suspicions as to the likely whereabouts of that
What was the other thing? asked Pharaun.
There were two more things, corrected Wilawen.
Stop me speaking drow
The Mage snapped his fingers.
What was that?
Try your big friend.
Wilawen walked to the door. Haldir, she called, can
you understand me? A moment later she returned. Very
well,the drow bowednow, put everyone back
where they are supposed to bebut let me say goodbye to Drizzt
The drow warrior was sitting quietly by the lantern shop, gazing
in fascination at the sky.
Does it not hurt? asked Arador.
The drow turned to him, uncomprehending, so the boy pointed to
his own eyes, and screwed his face up against the light, grimacing
in mock pain. The drow smiled and nodded.
But you like it anyway? Here, he said, digging into
his pocket, I will miss the cat, but I think it is best
for you to have this,he handed Drizzt the onyx figurineand
The drow took it from him with a bow of the head.
Now I think that Mistress Wilawen wants to speak to you.
Arador bowed, backing away, and went to find Haldir.
The drow turned to the woman.
Goodbye, said Wilawen, holding out her hands, and
thank you, for everything.
Drizzt grasped them gently, and raised them to his lips, saying
something in his own language.
Well, said Wilawen, goodbye.
As she walked away, the drow suddenly called to herOWilawen!and
he held up the coin she had given him in the starlit cave, and
kissed it, then dropped it back into his pouch.
Will we feel anything? asked Wilawen.
Oh,Pharaun shruggedperhaps a slight
Wilawen frowned. In other words, it will be most unpleasant.
The drow grinned and, suddenly; he reached out and, grasping
her around the waist, pulled her close and kissed her passionately.
Wilawen, taken by surprise, did not protest until he released
her. Oh, gods, what was that? she sputtered, wiping
her mouth with the back of her hand.
Pharaun dug into one of the pockets of his robe. You cannot
blame me for being curious.
Curious, youyouoh! You! I actually
think that I shall miss you! Yes, you are like the infuriating
older brother I never had.
Llolth, no, said the drow. My sisters are all
homicidal,he drew out a flat, curved wandand,
besides, incest is really not to my taste. Now, are you ready?
Yes, said Wilawen. Then, No! No, wait!
She wiped her mouth again. Put everybody back where they
want to beyes, where their hearts tell them
they should be. Then I will give you the consent you need.