By the time Wolfram arrived at the Circus there
was no sign of My Ladys carriage.
Too late, he thought. Too pricking late... Ill
never find hernot in this crowd. He climbed down from
the cart, thanking the young farmer, and shuffled towards the
nearest gate. What do I do now?
Did you see him? cried a breathless
voice at his elbow. Did you see his face?
And those eyes?
Wolfram instinctively turned his own facethough shroudedaway,
but it was not him the woman was talking to.
I saw his arse! said her friend.
Not my type, said a third voice.
All that pretty blond hair. I like a man to look
like a man. Sweat and stubble.
He isnt a man, replied the
first woman. Hes an elf. And you know what they say
Her friends laughed, dirtily.
Did you say an elf? asked Wolfram, keeping his head
lowered and his voice disguised. Can you still see him?
Where is he?
Erhes over therethere, by the olive stall,
said the first woman. Why? Do you fancy your chances?
Four red flags, please.
Skilfully, Hentmirë worked herself to the front of each
queueFour Race Lists... Four jars of olives, please,then
led her friends through one of the arched gates and up the stairs
to the first tier of seats, where she handed the attendant a silver
I thought you said it was free, whispered Legolas.
Nothing is ever quite free, she
The attendant gave them cushions and showed them to the front
row of benches. Legolas gazed down at the enormous oval tracklong
and narrow with a central stone barrier forming a tight turn at
Those, said Hentmirë, pointing to a row of arches
running along the southern wall, are the starting gates.
When the magistrate drops his white handkerchief, the doors open,
and the chariots race outthe drivers must stay in the lanes,
she pointed to the markings incised in the hard dirt surface,
until they reach the spine...
The attendant showed Wolfram to a seat at the end of a bench.
Handy if you need the privy, he said.
And only three rows behind My Lady, thought
The Silk Road
Well, well, what have we here? asked Ramess.
He nodded towards a tall, dark man, with long braided hair, staring
up at the stage.
Ribhadda followed the Guardsmans gaze. A Kurian,
he said. A new face. There are lots of new faces here tonight.
The Kurian turnedas though he had overheard their conversationand
fixed Ribhadda with his dark, painted eyes; then he turned back
to watch Cyllien.
Theyre a good-looking people, said Ramess.
He knocked back his drink. By the way Rib, have you had
any success finding that Letter of Pardon?
No, Ramess. Have you had any success
Berengar froze, mid-sentence, raised his handwarning Bint-Anath
to be silentthen quietly moved to the door and listened
Is it Faroth? He could not tell until the
The secretary slid back the bolt and opened the door. Smiling,
Faramir stepped insideand stopped dead as Bint-Anath threw
herself at him, pressing a small dagger to his throat.
No! cried Berengar.
Lower the weapon, my Lady, said Faramir, calmly.
Never! cried Bint-Anath. I may only be a woman,
but I will defend him, sir, if need be!
Please, said Berengar, please, Bint-Anathremember
what I explained earlier! Please! Do not hurt
It took a moment for his words to register. Then, What
you explained? Her hand dropped to her
side. Are you saying... You and he... Oh Berengar...
The knife fell from her fingers, forgotten.
I am sorry, said Berengar. I should have told
But Bint-Anath had already joined her dagger on the floor.
Is there something I should know? asked Faramir.
Berengar was bathing Bint-Anaths temples with a damp cloth.
What do you mean?
What was she doing in your bedroom? With the door locked?
Faroth! She came to rescue me, after you
convinced her that you were about to kill me. He dipped
the cloth in water, wrung it out, and laid it over her forehead.
I told her the truth about myself, but I did not mention
To protect you. He lifted Bint-Anaths hand
and checked her pulse. The woman stirred and curled a little closer.
Lie still, my Lady. He stroked her hair, soothingly.
Faramir sat down with a weary sigh. We must get her back
to her father as soon as we can andsomehowpersuade
him that her honour is still intact. You do realise that he will
probably have us killed anyway. He raked his hand through
Mmmm? Something in Berengars tone slowly penetrated
Faramirs troubled thoughts. He looked up. Oh gods,
what ludicrous idea have you had now?
The secretary, still stroking the womans hair, did not
reply immediately. Then he said, very quietly, Why can you
not find her a husband?
That has to be your best yet.
I mean it, Faroth. We know many eligible men in Gondorthe
son of that spice merchant, for onewhat is his name?
Artamir, said Faramir, reluctantly. Artamir,
son of Angbor.
Yeshe is young, handsome, and the sole heir to a
massive fortune. Or, if her father insists on a noble, there is
Lord Valacars sonor that widower, Lord Minastan. He
is still quite young
He has two children.
They are both babiesBint-Anath would soon grow to
love them. Why not, Faroth?
Faramir sighed. Let me get dressed. We will talk to her
when she wakes up, and see what she thinks of your harebrained
He paused at the door. And Berengar? Before she does wake
up, put a shirt on.
The tiers had filled with excited spectators, all drinking ale
and eating olives and waving their coloured flagsand all
looking impatiently towards a massive arch in the northern wall
of the arena.
What are they waiting for? asked Legolas.
The procession! cried Keret waving his little flag.
As Legolas looked, a company of guards, with long, curved trumpets,
marched out onto the track and blew a rousing fanfare.
The crowd cheered.
Then an important-looking man, on a magnificent white stallion,
emerged from the archHe is the Chief Magistrate,
shouted Hentmirë, he will be starting the races,followed
by a troupe of acrobats, performing somersaults and cart-wheels
and forming themselves into human pyramids as they passed, and
trainers leading exotic animalsbig, striped cats, straining
at the leash, and tame mûmakil, and a massive, fur-covered
wild man, riding in a metal cage, who gazed sadly at the shrieking
crowd (whilst Legolas heart broke for him).
And then, at last, amidst a deafening roar, the chariots rolled
out! The drivers, wearing their colours, entered one-by-one, manoeuvred
their vehicles into groups of three and joined the processionReds,
then Blues, then Whites and, finally, Greens.
The Reds won last time, shouted Hentmirë. That
is why they are coming out first. And that is Scorpus. He drives
for the Reds.
Scorpus! cried a young woman behind Legolas
shoulder, Scorpus! Look over here! Oh, Scorpus!
Legolas slipped his arm around Eowyns waist. Anything
could happen in this place, he thought.
Cyllien had left the stage with a final searing look in
Haldir's direction. Impatiently, he forced his way through the
Good evening, sir, said the stage doorkeeper, with
a grin. Nice to see you again. She is expecting you.
The elf scowled.
The corridor, and the storeroom beyond, was dark and, as he raised
his hand to knock at Cylliens door, Haldir sensed a presence
in the shadowsIs that the boy, Aqhat...?
Then Cyllien called, Come in, and he opened the door,
and she was sitting on her dressing table wearing little more
than a very provocative smile, and everything else was instantly
My Lady? Berengar leaned over Bint-Anath. How
are you feeling?
Bint-Anath sighed. What happened?I... Oh!
She tried to sit up. Gently, Berengar lowered her down again.
She gazed up at him. Is it true, Berengar? You and him?
Or is that another lie?
The man sat down beside her and took her hand. It is true,
my Lady. And I am sorry that we misled you before. But it is not
something we can safely make public. In our own country
You could be flogged, said Bint-Anath. Here.
You could be flogged for it.
We are in your hands, my Lady.
You think that I would report you? I
would never hurt you!
Berengar smiled. Thank you, my Lady.
I like it better when you use my name, said Bint-Anath.
She curled up into a ball. What am I to do, Berengar?
Faroth and I will take you back to your father
You must go back, Bint-Anath. He patted her hand.
Shhhh. You must. At least, for now.
What do you mean? For now?
Well... Your father wants you to make a strategic marriage
But I do not want to
I know... But suppose Faroth and I were to find you
someone else? A young man, of our country,
the son of someone rich and powerful
But I want you! Or
Bint-Anath sighed. Or someone else who cannot marry me.
Who is Aperel?
The Hatjas son.
And you like him?
Yes. She gave a great, shuddering sigh. We
were betrothed, she said, but then his older brother
was killed and Aperel became his fathers heir.
And, suddenly, you were not good enough for him,
said Faramir, entering without knocking. He sat down on a chair
beside the bed, and finished lacing his shirt and fastening his
You are not a nice man, said Bint-Anath,
Faramir smiled. I did not mean it as an insult, my Lady.
Would you be happy with this Aperel?
The Hatja would never
Faramir held up his hand. Would you be happy to
Then we must arrange it. Berengar insists.
All eyes were on the Chief Magistrate. He lifted his white handkerchiefwaitedand
let it drop.
There was a moment of eerie silence as it slowly drifted down...
It touched the floor.
And the crowd erupted as the starting gates flew open and twelve
chariots surged onto the track. Neck-and-neck, they disappeared
behind the spine. Seconds later, they reappearedjostling
each other round the turnand thundered down the straight.
One of the Greens, lashing his horses hard, tried to move up
the field, hit the wall, and was thrown from his chariot.
The spectators leaped to their feet.
Dear gods... whispered Eowyn, closing her eyes.
High up on the spine, the lap-keeper lowered a golden dolphinone
One driver dead.
Scorpus! cried the girl behind Legolas.
Scorpus! Scorpus! screamed half the crowd.
Scorpus! shouted Keret, waving his little flag.
Look! cried Eowyn. Look at the Blue chariot,
Lassui! It has knives on its wheels! Her hands flew to her
mouth as the Blue aimed his blades at his neighbours horses.
But his victim veered awayand their serrated edges ripped
into his wheel.
The chariot had collapsed but the horses were dashing on, dragging
their driver behind them. Frantically, he pulled out a knife,
cut himself free, and struggled to his kneesonly to be hit
from behind by one of his team mates.
The crowd cried out in sympathy.
The stretcher bearers whisked the bodies away, riders caught
the loose horses, and a group of slaves was dragging the shattered
chariot off the trackbut the drivers were already thundering
round the turn.
The slaves fled to safety.
Scorpus, wedged against the wall by the bladed Blue chariot,
was hurtling towards the wreckage. In desperation he hauled back
his reins and his horses jumped. His chariot rose and fell...
And the crowd went wild as he rounded the turn, clinging for
his life to its flimsy framework.
One lap to go.
Somehow, Scorpus climbed back on board, but now the Blue was
using his whip, lashing his opponent round the head and shoulders.
The leather thong curled round Scorpuss forearm, he closed
his hand on it, and pulled hard...
Scorpus dashed on to one more victory while horse after horse
trampled the dying Blue driver.
I do not want to see any more, Lassui, whispered
Eowyn, against Legolas chest.
No, Melmenya. We will go down to the animal sheds and ask
about Riya. He turned to Hentmirë. Eowyn and
I are going outside, gwendithen. Do you want to come with
Hentmirë wiped her eyes and nose with the back of her hand.
No... Keret and I will wait for you in the carriage.
She hugged the boy.
Why do people come to these terrible races, Hentmirë?
The little woman looked around the crowd. We come to see
life and death, Legolas, she said.
Wolfram was watching the performing oliphaunts when he spotted
elf-boy and My Lady making their way down the stairs.
Where are they going now?
With a sigh, he dumped his bowl of nuts on the next seat, got
up, and shuffled after them. If theyre not careful well
miss the next pricking race.
The war lords palace
How did you get out unseen? asked Faramir, scanning
The gatekeeper is sweet on one of my ladies, said
Bint-Anath. She kept himeroccupied whilst another
opened the gate for me.
That was selfless of her.
I would not have asked her had she not been willing,
said Bint-Anath, coldly. It was not the first time she had
lain with him. Berengar squeezed her shoulder.
Well, said Faramir, we cannot use the same
method to get you back in...
I thought you were going to speak to my father?
In the morning, said Berengar. We are going
to call on him
That makes no sense, said Bint-Anath.
What do you mean? asked Faramir.
Why would you suddenly visit him and suggest a suitor?
No. You must take me back now, explain what I did, and tell him
That will get us killed, said Faramir.
What are you talking about?
He is your father, explained Berengar. He is
bound to defend your honour.
Balls, said the young woman.
Bint-Anath! Berengar was genuinely shocked.
Well it is. Come on! She slipped from his grasp and
ran across the street. Nirari, she cried, Nirari!
Open the gates!
What is it about us that attracts so much trouble, Berengar?
asked Faramir, with a sigh.
Are you mad? The war lord, wearing his nightshirt,
and with his hair in curlers, stormed into the reception hall.
Do not be angry, papa, cried Bint-Anath. She threw
her arms around his neck.
Bint-Anath! What have you done to your hair?
I cut it off, papa. I was running away. But LoMaster
Berengar and his friend have brought me back.
Abdosir peered up at Faramir. Is this true?
And Master Berengar has a proposal, papa, said Bint-Anath.
One you will like.
Abdosir manoeuvred his daughter onto the dais and set her on
one the thrones. He turned to Berengar. Well?
It is really FaroPrince Faramirs idea.
The war lord sat down heavily. I can see that this will
take all night... What is your wonderful proposal, Prince Faramir?
Your daughter has told me that she would prefer to marry
the Hatjas son
We would all prefer her to marry the Hatjas
son, said Abdosir, with a dismissive wave of the hand.
Suppose I could arrange it?
I am not without influence, said Faramir, with
the Hatja, and with several rulers from the North. It should
be possible for me to negotiate a triangular trading agreement
in which your daughters hand would play a significant a
Why would you go to so much trouble?
Because we want Bint-Anath to be happy, said Berengar.
Thank you, Berengar, said Bint-Anath, smiling at
Will you give me leave to approach the Hatja on
your behalf? asked Faramir.
Abdosir sighed. Why not?
I still have some business in Rihat, said Faramir.
But when that is completed, Berengar and I shall return
to Carhilivren by the first caravan, and request an audience.
Underneath the arches
Legolas and Eowyn walked slowly round the outside of the Circus
to the animal sheds on south west corner. For a few moments they
paused, watching the trainers at work, herding the oliphaunts
back to their small cages, and feeding the striped cats with joints
It is strange, whispered Legolas, to see so
much cruelty and yet feel so much love...
Though they deny them their freedom, Melmenya, these men
love their animals; and the animals love them back.
Squeezing her hand, he drew her to the wild mans cage.
Heniach nin? he asked softly.
The creature considered him for a moment, its deep, unfathomable
eyes full of sadness, then it grunted a reply.
Man eneth lín? asked Legolas.
Legolas i eneth nín
Hey, you! Get away from him! cried one of the men.
No i Melain na le, mellon nín, said
Legolas, before he and Eowyn moved on.
Behind the sheds, where the noise and the smells and the insects
kept respectable people away, the Circus arches were home to ladies
of the night, who had furnished them, as best they could, with
rugs and cushions and closed them off with bits of curtain.
The couple walked slowly by. Noises from the first arch told
them its owner was hard at work and could not be disturbed. The
owner of the second archlolling, legs still spreadswigged
spirits from a bottle and waved drunkenly. Legolas squeezed Eowyns
hand and they carried on. The third arch housed a thin, bitter-looking
woman, sitting cross-legged, displaying her hard little breastswith
painted nipplesfor the benefit of potential customers.
Couples cost extra, said the woman.
How much? asked Legolas.
He raised his eyebrows. For what?
Anything you like.
Legolas looked to Eowyn for guidance. How long have you
lived here? she asked.
What does that matter? asked the woman.
It adds to the experience, said Eowyn.
I came here during Scorpuss first season, sothree
The couple stepped into the arch. Legolas dropped the curtain.
Money first, said the woman.
Eowyn opened a small beaded purse at her hip, took out two gold
coins, and handed them over.
He makes you pay?
Eowyn nodded. He is a brute. What is your name?
Call me anything you like.
I would like to use your real name.
Elissa. She turned to Legolas. What do you
want? One of us on your cock and the other working your balls?
Or are you the type that likes to feel himself while he watches
Legolas cleared his throat. We just want to talk.
Talk? She narrowed her eyes, shrewdly. Talk
can get a girl beatenor killed. Talk costs extra.
Ten gold. Extra.
Eowyn gave her the money.
Do you know a little boy called Keret? asked Legolas.
He is abouthow old, melmenya?
He would have been seven or eight when he lived here.
The woman gasped. This is about Riya...
Legolas and Eowyn exchanged glances. Yes, said
Legolas. Do you
A hundred gold.
We do not have that much with us, said Legolas. But
we can give it to you later
A hundred gold and passage out of Carhilivren.
Done, said Legolas.
And protection while I wait for the wind.
And some new clothes. Like hers. She nodded towards
Anything you want, said Legolas. Where is Riya?
The woman checked that her curtain was fully closed, then crawled
into the very back of the arch, pulled a knife from under her
skirt and, using its blade, removed a stone from the wall.
I always knew that Riya would come back to haunt me,
she said, taking out a leather pouch. She replaced the stone.
She gave me this the day she left Carhilivren.
Where did she go? asked Eowyn.
East, along the Silk Road. Elissa opened the pouch.
She asked me to take care of Keret but the little bugger
ran off. He never liked me. She tipped something
out into her palm. The number of times I could have spent
this on myself!
Why didnt you?
Riya would have slit my throat!
She handed the object to Legolas.
It was an elven ring.
Where have they gone? How could they just disappear?
Wolfram shuffled past the arches. They must be in here...
Cautiously, he pulled back the ragged curtain.
Hey! What are you doing?
A very big, very angry, and very aroused man shot out from the
arch, caught Wolfram by the headdress, grabbed his arm and shook
him hard. He raised his hand to strike. Filthy old bi
LEAVE HER ALONE! roared a familiar voice,
and a slender figure darted forward, grasped the mans hand
and broke his grip. Does it make you feel manly to
attack an old woman? My Lady demanded.
What is happening, Melmenya?
This real man, said My Lady, is bullying
a woman three times his age and a quarter of his size.
The real man was hastily fastening his trousers. The old
bitch was spying on me, he complained, watching me
withher. He gestured towards the arch.
Do not be ridiculous! cried My Lady.
She was lurking outside
She was walking past. She is slow on her feet! And who
would care that you were with a whore?
The man took to his heels.
I do not think that any real harm has been done, Melmenya,
said elf-boy, soothingly. Has it madam?
Oherno, said Wolfram, hunching over a
little more, and making his voice sound a little higher.
Will you be all right now? asked My Lady. Can
we take you anywhere?
The gods are laughing at someone tonight, thought
Wolfram. Do I dare? No, my dear, he said. Now
that the brute has left, I shall be safe.
Well, if you are sure, madam, said elf-boy. Good
night, then. Come, Melmenya; Elissa.
Elissa? Cautiously, Wolfram raised his head and watched
them leave. Now what would that pair be doing with a whore?
Ribhadda closed the door behind the last patron. The Silk
Road was quiet at last. Cyllien emerged from the stage door
carrying a dark mantle.
Ribhadda smiled. I hear youre going back North with
him, he said.
Cyllien slipped the mantle over her shoulders. Yes.
She fastened the pin. Rib...
Dont worry about me, kid. Ill be fine.
I know you willwe were never meant to be, Rib.
She came closer. I just wish, she said, quietly, that
shed come back.
You know who
Are you ready? called Haldir.
Cyllien smiled. Yes, melethron. Good night, Ribhadda.
She squeezed his arm.
Keret had sulked all the way home. I dont like
her, he said to Hentmirë. She hits me.
She will not hit you here, Keret. I shall
not let her, said Hentmirë, firmly. Now, wash
your hands and face, clean your teeth, and get into bedand
I will bring you a surprise...
Legolas handed Elissa a glass of fruit cordial.
Dont you have anything stronger?
She sighed. I gave you the ring. What more do you want?
Why did Riya leave Carhilivren?
Elissa shrugged her shoulders.
Eowyn took a bottle from the sideboard, removed the stopper,
and poured a large measure of brown liquid into the womans
drink. What did she say when she was leaving?
Elissa drained the spirits, shuddered with relief, and held out
the glass for more. Ignoring Legolas expression, Eowyn poured.
Its a long time ago.
Eowyn stopped pouring.
Oh, all right! She said she had to leave Carhilivren because
of the Hatjas son.
Well, he was murderedin some tavern over by
the soukand she was with him. She knows the man
who did it.
Legolas found Hentmirë searching for something in her fathers
I am sorry, gwendithen, he said. We
have filled your house with waifs and strays, and criminals, and
now a prostitute
Oh, that does not matter, said Hentmirë. I
have had a bed made up for her in the servants quarters.
Though there is one thing
What? What is worrying you, gwendithen?
I shall deal with it, Legolasah, here
it is! She held up a small wooden mûmak. Has
she told you where to find Kerets mother?
No. But we now know why Riya went into hiding... That
looks like one of the animals we saw tonight, gwendithen.
Hentmirë paused on her way to the stairs. I
will see Elissa to her room, she said. Come: this
As she led the woman into the servants wing, she said,
quietly, You are welcome to stay in my house for as long
as you need. But you are never to lay a hand on Keret again.
Lassui, said Eowyn, laying down her hair brush and
turning towards him, I have had an idea.
Legolas, already sitting in bed, held his arms out to her.
Eowyn sighed. This is so hard on you, she said, slipping
out of her dressing robe and climbing in beside him. Mortal
life, with all its uglinessbut we shall soon be back home,
Lassui; safe in Eryn Carantaur. She snuggled in his arms.
Legolas buried his face in her hair. What was your idea,
I was thinking that we should go to Rihat, and see if we
can find Riya there. If not, then I think we can honestly say
that we have done our bestand stop looking.
It is two days journey, to Rihat, Eowyn nín.
Not if the djinn takes us.
Gods, I love that woman! thought Wolfram, as he settled
down opposite the house to resume his watch. The way she stood
up to that big prick! He grinned at the unintentional pun.
She has bigger balls than the rest of them put together.
He made himself comfortable. She is wasted on elf-boy. What
she needs is a wolf...
And with that happy thought, he closed his eyes and got some