The craftsmen-builders worked in four gangs.

The carpenters built the framework, sawing and shaping the massive beams, cutting the mortices and the tenons, hauling the timbers into place with ropes and pulleys, and climbing—with death-defying confidence—over the wooden skeleton to hammer home the joists. Next came the plankers, cladding the roofs, the floors, and the walls, planing them smooth ready for the carvers, who followed close behind, adding the decorative elements—the swirling window frames and the fretted canopies. Last of all came the decorators, who filled the windows with coloured glass, painted the woodwork, and built the canvas sun-shades.

Cyllien’s lover belonged to the first gang, the carpenters—the real men.

“How will I know when to step in?” asked Camthalion.

“You will see me pinned to a beam.”


The woman smiled. “Use your judgement, Cami. But leave it as long as you can.”

The elf was obviously unhappy with that arrangement; but Arinna reached up and stroked his face. Then she slipped out from behind the carantaur trunk, walked gracefully across the walkway, entered the building works, and—ignoring the stares and snide remarks—she picked her way, through the organised chaos, to where the planking came to an abrupt end, then walked out onto one of the bare beams.

“Hey, lady!” cried one of the men.

Her quarry was crouching, his back turned towards her, carefully trimming out a mortice with his hammer and chisel. “I think this,” said Arinna, holding out a large carpet bag, “is yours.”

The man swung round, his expression turning from surprise to derision as he eyed the flowered holdall. “What?”

“The dead cat,” said Arinna, quietly, “is yours.” She placed the bag on the beam between them. “When you left this, the situation turned from a foolish mistake to something altogether different—something quite nasty. I have not taken the matter any further as yet. But I shall, if you do it again. You have been warned.” She turned to leave.

“What are you going on about, you old bat?”

“I have said my piece,” said Arinna over her shoulder. “If you know what is good for you, you will dispose of the cat and that will be an end of it.” And, raising her hands for balance, she walked back to the safety of the solid floor.

The carpenter flew after her.

“If you think you can come here, in front of all my mates…”

He grabbed her by the shoulder and jerked her round, and—as she turned—Arinna saw Camthalion emerge from behind the tree and come running across the walkway—but the carpenter had already raised his fist, and contempt made her reckless. “You can hit me all you like—I have ripped off bigger balls than yours and when I have them I will give them to her, on a plate—”

“That's enough, Heral!” One of the other workmen caught the carpenter by the shoulders and pulled him back. “I have warned you before about threatening women. You had better go, lady.”

Arinna stepped back and, with Camthalion standing guard behind her, looked the carpenter in the eye. “Remember what I said,” she insisted. “It need go no further if it stops now.”

And, as she let the elf lead her away, she saw the man angrily shrug off his colleague’s restraining hands.




Contents page


Chapter 1: Repercussions
Legolas welcomes his father; Heral the carpenter makes another enemy; someone is watching Eowyn.

chapter 1