"I have asked Cyllien to come back to Eryn Carantaur with me," said Haldir.

"That is wonderful news, Haldir! Has she agreed?" asked Eowyn.

They both took a seat on the edge of one of the raised flower beds.

"Yes, but..." He sighed. "We are neither of us under any illusions, Eowyn. We shall try to make it work but, if it does not, we will go our separate ways."

"Promise me that you will not give up too soon," said Eowyn, earnestly. "A deeper love will come in time, I am sure of it. Promise me that you will give it a chance."

"Perhaps Men are different from elves," said Haldir, "but in my—admittedly limited—experience, true love is instantaneous."

"No," said Eowyn. "No, we are not different. Men do fall in love at first sight, sometimes. But I have come to distrust a too-hasty love. I did not fall in love with Legolas until I had known him for some years."

"The Magus is willing to make me fall in love with Cyllien, if I ask it. But he advises me to let nature take its course."

"He is wise; I am sure he is. What does Cyllien say?"

"I have not spoken to her..."


The elf smiled. "I have not had the chance, Eowyn, that is all. I am not quite so insensitive as everyone thinks me."

"I am sorry..." Eowyn blushed. Then she said, quietly. "I really do not know whether I should say this, because I may be wrong... But I think I am right... In fact, I am sure I am right... Yes... When I first met Cyllien, Haldir, she was jealous of me—"

"I am sorry. It was my fault. I—"

"Haldir!" cried Eowyn in exasperation. "Do you really not know what that means?" She seized his hands to emphasise her words. "It means that she wanted you for her own. So go and speak to her. Go now."


An hour later

"Ready?" asked Legolas. Gimli and Eowyn both nodded. "You have the djinn?" Eowyn held up a small carpet bag. "Good. Now, at the slightest sign of danger—Oh, Hentmirë..."

He walked over to the little woman, who had just descended the stairs dressed in trousers and boots, and put his hands on her shoulders. "Not today, gwendithen. I want you to stay here."

"But if this man is a danger to Eowyn," said Hentmirë, "we must all look for him—and find him as quickly as we can. I will be an extra pair of eyes."

"You have never seen him, gwendithen, so you would not recognise him. And you have just had your water, so you should be resting. Besides," he added, when neither of those arguments appeared to be carrying any weight with her, "there is something I need you to do for me."

Hentmirë's expression showed that, whilst she did not entirely believe him, she could not bring herself to believe that he would actually lie to her. "What?" she asked.

What indeed? "If we catch him—them—both of them—I want to take them back to Eryn Carantaur to stand trial," he said. "So we will need two cells—absolutely escape-proof—on the Early Bird. I need you to arrange it with Captain Mutallu—to oversee it. You must impress on the Captain that they have to be escape-proof. Because we do not want to be murdered in our beds on the way home."

"But..." Hentmirë bit her lip. "Very well," she said.

"Good." He kissed the top of her head. "But get some rest first—come, Gimli, Eowyn."

Hentmirë watched them file out of the doors. Then—"Legolas!"—she ran out into the courtyard and threw her arms around his waist. "Promise me you will come home safely! All of you."

"We shall, lass," said Gimli. "I promise you that. And if he lets you down, he'll have my axe to deal with."


Haldir hammered loudly on the door of The Silk Road until it was opened by the barman, Hiram. "I need to speak to Cyllien."

"I am sorry, sir, but Rib does not allow anyone in the tavern outside opening hours—"

"It's all right, Hiram," said a male voice, "he's a friend."

The barman stepped aside and Haldir entered. Ribhadda was standing just inside the door. The elf placed his hand over his heart and bowed his head. "Thank you," he said.

"Sit down," said the man.

"I need—"

"Sit down." It was a command and Haldir was a warrior; he obeyed.

Ribhadda took a long, hard look at him. "What Cyllien does in her own time is no business of mine," he said, "unless someone starts to slap her around. And then I make it my business. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"I think so."

"Good. Because there are more ways to slap a woman around than with the flat of your hand."

Haldir smiled. "She imagines you do not care for her."

"She knows I care," said Ribhadda. "What she wants is for me to stick my neck out for her. And I don't stick my neck out for anyone."


Legolas, Eowyn and Gimli had found a small tavern on Garden Lane—no more than ten yards from the alley Meryt had eventually identified—and had taken an outside table. A waiter brought them three glasses of herbal tea.

Without taking his eyes from the entrance to Lotus Alley, Gimli raised one of the glasses to his lips and drained it. "Ugggghhh!" He shuddered at the taste, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth and beard.

"You are sure this is the alley she meant?" asked Legolas.

"Yes," said Gimli.

"She was very drunk," said Legolas. "You may have misheard her. Or she may have been mistaken. I should have stayed with you—"

"And let her carry on molesting you! Elves have no idea how to handle women..."

Eowyn squeezed Legolas' hand.

"I need to take a closer look," said Gimli. "You wait here."


The ragamuffin

Passing through Garden Lane, at the half-way point of his daily round of the souk, the boy could hardly believe his eyes. He slipped behind the sausage stall to get a better look.

An elf, a dwarf and a golden-haired princess—all the people from the story his mother used to tell him—were sitting at a tavern table! Of course, he thought, a story's just a story. No one can expect to be taken home to the Forest in real life. But who cares? The princess is real. And a princess means treasure, doesn't she?

He quickly assessed the value of the dwarf's axe—Nice—and the elf's knives—Even nicer—with their curved white handles—Ivory?—inlaid with gold. But what really intrigued him was the princess's bag. When does a princess carry her own bag? he reasoned. When she's got her treasure in it.

"Here, Keret." The stall holder handed him a piece of sausage that had fallen on the ground.

Keret gave him a cheeky salute, wiped the meat on his shirt and took a bite.

Not bad.

So now he had food and all the time in the world—he settled down on a wooden box to watch the princess.

He did not have to wait long. The Dwarf drained his glass of herbal tea—He won't do that again in a hurry!—jumped down from his chair and stumped off into Lotus Alley—Needs a pee, thought Keret. That stuff does the same to me—and the princess put her bag down on his chair.

Here we go! They say elves are fast, but not as fast as me! He stuffed the remainder of his sausage into his pocket—A bit of fluff won't hurt—and darted for the chair.


Haldir knocked at Cyllien's door.

Why are you smiling, you fool?

He was not sure. Because Eowyn has given you her blessing? Or because she thinks that Cyllien may actually care for you? He tried to master his face but his new expression seemed to be permanent.

He knocked again. "Cyllien?"

There was no reply. He opened the door. "Cyllien?" The room was empty.

And something was wrong.

Haldir stepped inside and surveyed the room. Cyllien's cosmetics and other knick-knacks were lying in a heap on the floor; the chair was on its side by the door; the rug was bunched up; the curtain had been pulled down; and the bedclothes were in complete disarray...

Just as when I left.

So what is wrong?

The wardrobe door was hanging open and several gowns were strewn across the floor. Haldir could not remember clearly, but something about that seemed wrong. Cyllien takes pride in her appearance, he thought. She would no more leave her clothes lying in the dust than I would leave my bow...

He crouched beside one of the gowns and ran his fingers over its fine silken fabric. There was something lying underneath—he lifted the silk—a small leather pouch, filled with pellets of lead. Haldir sprang to his feet and hurried back to the bar.


The princess was reaching for the bag.

But Keret already had it!

He ran down the street, weaving through the oncoming people, laughing with relief.


"The djinn!" cried Eowyn. She leaped to her feet and made to follow the child, but Legolas caught her arm.

"No Melmenya! No! It is far too crowded. We would never find the boy—and we might lose each other."

"But the djinn—"

"Remember what happened last time he was stolen? Hmm?" He pulled her into his arms. "The moment the boy rubs the lamp, the djinn will come back to you. All you have really lost is a bag and an old lamp. The important thing is for you to stay safe, here, with me."

"But what if the boy never rubs the lamp? What if the djinn never escapes?"

"He will, Melmenya. Eventually." He kissed her forehead. "Do not take any risks, my darling. Not here. Promise me."

"I promise," said Eowyn. "I do promise, Lassui. But I shall miss the djinn. I am missing him already."


"When did you last see Cyllien?"

Ribhadda, sitting at one of the tables, carefully inscribing his accounts on a papyrus scroll, looked up from his work. "Not since last night," he said. "Not since she sang her last song. Why?"

Haldir laid the cosh on the table. "She is missing."

Ribhadda picked up the weapon and examined it. "This belongs to a professional. Who would want to take her?" he asked.

"I was hoping you would know that."

Ribhadda sighed. "Every one of my male customers, and quite a few of the female." He thought for a moment. "Abdi... Abdi, the owner of the Blue Parrot. He wanted to buy The Silk Road. When I said I wasn't selling, he offered me money for Cyllien."

Haldir walked back towards the stage door.

"Where are you going?" asked Ribhadda. "The Blue Parrot's that way." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder, indicating the main doors.

"Your evidence against this Abdi is hardly conclusive," said Haldir. "But I am an elf. If the kidnapper has left a trail I will find it."

Ribhadda sighed. You don't stick your neck out for anyone, he reminded himself, but you don't put your faith in the Faeries, either.

He rose from the table and followed the elf backstage.


"Come on," said Gimli, hurrying back to the table, "I have found a way in—what is the matter?"

"The djinn has been stolen, and Eowyn is very upset," said Legolas, giving her a comforting squeeze. "But it is only a matter of time before he finds his way back to her." He turned to the dwarf. "Are you saying you have found Wolfram's hideout?"

"Well—not yet, but as good as. I will show you." He pressed Eowyn's hand. "I am sorry about your friend, lass..."

He led them along the backs of the stalls until they reached Lotus Alley but, instead of turning the corner, he carried on down Garden Lane, to the building on the right. "In here," he said, climbing up the steps.

"Gimli! We cannot—"

"It is empty," said the dwarf. "Deserted. See." He pushed the door open and walked inside.

Legolas looked around, guiltily. "So many people," he said, softly, "and yet no one notices anything."

"Come on!" shouted Gimli.

Legolas and Eowyn followed him into the house.

"See," said the dwarf, waving his arms to indicate the room.

There was an open staircase running up the right-hand side, and a large window, overlooking the souk, but otherwise the place was bare.

"What are we seeing?" asked Legolas.

"Count the paces," said Gimli. He flattened his back to the right-hand wall, then—taking unnaturally large steps—walked over to the left, counting aloud.

"The room is too narrow," said Eowyn.

"Far too narrow," said the dwarf, "the window is off-centre; and look out of it—see how high we are. This house has a cellar, but there is no way into it..." He pulled his axe from its strap and swung it at the left-hand wall of the room.

"Gimli!" cried Legolas.

But the dwarf kept swinging.


"Anything?" asked Ribhadda.

The elf was crouching beside Cyllien's dressing table, examining a mark on the wooden floorboards. "Someone stepped in this red powder—"


"Do you employ anyone with a limp? A small man?"

"No. And, before you ask, I've no regular customers with a limp, either. But your friend, Wolfram—he has a limp. A bad one. And he's small."

"Wolfram?" said Haldir. "Why would Wolfram take Cyllien?"

"I can think of a hundred reasons," said Ribhadda, "chiefly to do with him being a man and her being..." He made a vague gesture. "But I have heard that that's how he makes a living—kidnapping and assassination. Which points us right back to Abdi. Let's pay a visit to the Blue Parrot."


"There," cried Gimli, triumphantly.

Eowyn peered through the door-shaped hole. "A hidden room!"

"Let me go in first," said Legolas, drawing his white knives. "Gimli, you wait here with Eowyn." He gave the dwarf a significant look. Gimli nodded, instinctively tightening his grip on his axe.

Legolas stepped into Wolfram's lair.

It was a small space, furnished with two chairs, a dresser and a mattress. Beside the latter, a padlocked trap door presumably led to Gimli's cellar. Legolas checked the door to the alley. It was closed, but not barred—the occupants were clearly out.

"Come through," he called "it is safe."

There was a candle standing on the dresser; Legolas lit it and held it aloft, and, in the pale light, confirmed what he had already suspected—the doors of the dresser were open, the mattress askew, as though someone had hastily pulled off a blanket, and an open bottle of wine had been knocked over and left to empty itself across the floor...

"They have flown," he said. "Caro!"

Eowyn bent down beside one of the chairs and picked up a round object. "Legolas," she said, "bring the candle over here—let me see this better... Oh gods, look!"

It was a large silver brooch, of the sort used to fasten a cloak at the shoulder, and its design, like flowing water, was distinctively elven. "This is Cyllien's," she said. "It was pinned to the mantle she lent me... Oh, Lassui! What has Wolfram done to her? Haldir... Haldir was on his way to The Silk Road—to talk to her—to ask her to move into the house with us!"

Legolas caught her hands. "Melmenya, Melmenya, shhh, shhh, shhhhhh."

He hugged her, tightly. "We do not know that anything has happened to her! All we know is that Wolfram had her brooch. We shall go to The Silk Road now, Melmenya, and find out... Come, Gimli."

He led Eowyn to the steps but, as she started down them, Gimli caught his arm.

"What is it, elv—"

"Shhhhhh." The dwarf held out his hand. "Recognise this?" Lying in his palm was a small piece of rose-coloured velvet with a fragment of golden embroidery in one corner.

Legolas quickly covered it with his own hand.

"If we were not sure what the orc wanted before," Gimli whispered. "I think we are now."


The doors of the Blue Parrot were open, but two of the Hatja's guards, standing either side of the entrance, were turning people away.

"I wonder what's happened here," said Ribhadda. He approached one of the men. "Captain Ramess wants to talk to me," he said. "Is he inside?"

"He is, sir," replied the guard, "but he's—wait—sir—"

But the Man and the elf had already entered.

"What will you do if we encounter this Captain Ramess?" asked Haldir.

Ribhadda smiled. "I'm hoping we will. That line wasn't a lie—Ramess will want to talk to me. But who will get the most information from whom remains to be seen."

The Blue Parrot was very different from The Silk Road—small, cramped, and nowhere near as clean. Wooden screens divided the bar into separate cubicles. Haldir reached over one of the seats and, with the very tips of his fingers, picked up a piece of white fabric. A woman's bodice. He dropped it on the table.

"There are private rooms upstairs," said Ribhadda, seeing the elf's expression, "where patrons can smoke what they like, drink what they like, and do whatever—or whoever—they like."

"And this animal has Cyllien?"

"We don't know that for sure—ah—here's where we find out—good morning, Ramess."

"Good morning, Ribhadda, I was planning to call on you."

"I thought I'd save you the trouble. What do you want to know?"

The guardsman looked at him curiously. "Sit down," he said. "And you, too, sir."

They took the nearest cubicle. Haldir fastidiously pushed the bodice to the far end of the table.

"Do you know a man named Ugarti?" asked Ramess.

"You know I do," said Ribhadda. "You've seen him at The Silk Road—you've drunk with him on a number of occasions."

"When did you last see him?"

"Last night, about midnight."

"How did he seem?"

"Nervous, as always. Where's this going?"

"Ugarti died last night, resisting arrest."

"You don't say."

"I believe he was responsible for the theft of the Hatja's Letter of Pardon and for the death of the two couriers. The Letter, however, was not found on his person."

"I see."

"Nor was it in the safe here. Though, in the course of searching for it, my men and I uncovered evidence of certain other illegal activities."

"I'll bet you did."

"Shall I tell you what I think, Rib?" said Ramess, his manner suddenly becoming less formal. "I think that you have the Letter—no, don't say anything—I think that Ugarti left it with you. And—because I like you—I'm going to give you until the end of the week—that's almost five days—to hand it over. After that, I shall be forced to close you down. Something about trafficking in children, I should think."

"That's very fair," said Ribhadda, with only the faintest trace of irony. "I'll let you know if I find this Letter." He rose from the table. "Will you be coming to hear Cyllien sing tonight?"

"Of course," said Ramess. "Don't I always?"


"So Ramess did not find Cyllien in the Blue Parrot," said Haldir.

"Evidently not," said Ribhadda. "Nor any sign that she'd been there."

"Then where is she?"

Ribhadda shrugged his shoulders. "We need to ask our friend Wolfram that. Unfortunately, yesterday I barred the very person who could have led us straight to him."


"Someone of your type: a fellow named Vardamir."

"I thought you told Faramir that you did not know Vardamir?"

"I told Faramir nothing," said Ribhadda.

Haldir sighed. "Do you also have this Letter of Pardon Captain Ramess is looking for?"

Ribhadda did not reply.

"Are you going to hand it over to him?" asked the elf.

"That," said Ribhadda, "depends. Let's go back to The Silk Road. I still have a business to run, and you need to decide where to look next."


Hentmirë, dressed in her trousers and boots, was standing on the deck of the Early Bird almost arguing with Captain Mutallu. She was finding her special mission quite taxing.

"But if it rains," she said, "and they are on the deck, they will get all wet. I have heard that it rains every day in the North."

"They are prisoners, my lady," said Mutallu, "so it doesn't matter if they get a bit wet."

"But suppose they caught their deaths..."

"If we did put the cages in the hold, my lady," said Mutallu, "I wouldn't have the men to keep them guarded. And if the prisoners escaped below decks there are a thousand places they could hide. You and the other ladies would all be in danger. But if we put the cages up here—over by the heads—there are men on watch here twenty-four hours a day."

Hentmirë bit her lip. What would Legolas do? "Could we make cages with roofs?"

Mutallu smiled. "If you insist, my lady."

"I think that would be best. Do you have enough materials?"

She looked over the side of the boat, down to the wharf, where piles of supplies were waiting to be brought aboard.

"I shall need to hire a blacksmith," said Mutallu.

"Yes, of course. Hire the best one you can find, and—Captain!"

Hentmirë had begun to suspect that the water was improving her eyesight, but she still screwed up her eyes to get a better look. "Captain, come over here, quickly. Those two men—the tall one with the bundle and the short one with the limp," she said, excitedly. "Does the tall one really have pointed ears?"


By the time Ribhadda and Haldir reached The Silk Road, Legolas, Eowyn and Gimli had already been admitted by Hiram, who had decided that his boss would not want the classy lady left out on the street.

Eowyn ran up to Haldir and hugged him tightly. "We have some bad news," she said.


"We found Wolfram's hideout—or, rather, Gimli did," said Legolas, "but he and Vardamir had already moved elsewhere. And we found this." He showed Haldir the elven brooch.

"It is Cyllien's" said Eowyn.

Gently, Haldir handed Eowyn over to Legolas. "I found her missing this morning," he said. "Master Ribhadda and I have been out looking for her."

"Any trace?" asked Legolas.

Haldir shook his head.

"What are we going to do?" asked Eowyn.

"We are going to take you home," said Legolas. "And then Haldir, Gimli and I are going back to the empty house to see if we can pick up her trail from there."


With a very reluctant Captain Mutallu in tow, Hentmirë had followed Wolfram and Vardamir to the south-western edge of the city. The area had been a thriving suburb in ancient times, but a combination of natural disaster, thrifty townspeople removing useful building materials, and the advancing sand had turned the once-splendid villas into heaps of painted rubble.

Any one of the empty shells might have been a safe refuge, but neither the elf nor the Man seemed interested in the buildings. Instead, keeping to the dirt road, they were heading towards the open desert, where any pursuers would find it hard to stay out of sight.

"Where can they be going?" whispered Hentmirë.

"The sea cliff along here is riddled with caves," said Mutallu. "One of those would make a good place to hide."

"What do you suppose the elf is carrying?"

"It looks like a carpet."

"No. It is far too lumpy to be a carpet. If only we could get closer—"

"Please, my lady," Mutallu begged, for the twentieth time, "please go back to the boat. I will follow them and tell you—"

"Legolas is relying on me," said Hentmirë.

"He is relying on you to build two cages, my lady, not to capture the worst rogue in Carhilivren. Prince Legolas would throw a fit if he knew what you were doing now. And he would have me hanged from the yardarm for allowing you to do it—"

"Where have they gone?"

"My lady?"

"A moment ago they were on the road; now they have gone."

Ignoring Mutallu's protests, she blundered along the dirt road to where—she was almost sure—she had last seen the pair. There was a low ridge of rock, like a tiny cliff, on the left, running more or less parallel to the road. But they cannot have climbed up there, she thought. I would have seen them. A little further west was a cluster of ancient graves, their tiny loaf-shaped chapels part-buried in sand. To her right there was a circular wall—a well—with spiralling steps leading down to a wide, dark hole. Hentmirë was about to drop a stone down the shaft—to see whether the well was dry—when Mutallu caught her wrist and pulled her back from the edge, clamping his hand over her mouth.

"I am taking you home now, my lady," he whispered. "You can tell Prince Legolas about this, and leave the rest to him."


Keret was reasonably sure that the elf and the dwarf had not followed him out of Garden Lane.

But you can never be too careful, he thought, so he had gone home by a long, circuitous route and waited a good way off, until the two strangers had gone, before he darted for the door, pulled aside the ragged canvas curtain, and threw himself inside.

A quick glance round told him that nothing had been disturbed. He sat down on the brick bench and opened the bag.

Gods' turds, a lamp. A stupid brass lamp! All that trouble for a brass lamp! He almost threw it outside in disgust.

But then he started thinking: Why is a princess carrying a brass lamp? It's broad daylight. And if it was dark she would be carrying a lantern not a lamp. He looked at it more closely. It has no wick. I'll bet there isn't even any oil in it.

He gave the lamp a good shake. Empty.

There was only one explanation. It looks like brass but it must be gold. I'll take it to Old Yarih and see what he'll give me for it...


The djinn opened his eyes.

I am summon—!

His head banged repeatedly against the inside of the lamp—Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!—before the motion, mercifully, stopped.



And, with a sigh of relief, he went back to sleep.



Contents page


Previous chapter: Good advice
Haldir asks for help; Wolfram 'relocates' his victim.

Chapter 4

Chapter 6: Trapped
Eowyn gets into a tight spot.

Chapter 6

I looked up the meaning of ragamuffin at because I was afraid it might be racist. But guess what: it’s Middle English!

rag•a•muf•fin or rag•ga•muf•fin
n. A shabbily clothed, dirty child.
[Middle English Ragamuffyn, a personal name : probably raggi, ‘ragged’ + Middle Dutch moffel, muffe, ‘mitten’.]