"But why must I sit at home, like a housewife?" asked Eowyn.

Legolas had sent Haldir and Gimli to search Wolfram's hideout again, whilst he escorted Eowyn back to Hentmirë's house. "On the prison island," she said, "you did not make me stay behind. There, we fought side-by-side..."

"This is different, melmenya."

"Wolfram does scare me—I admit that," she said. "For he is not an honourable enemy. But if I start to behave like a—like a woman because of him, then he has won."

Legolas smiled. "'I am to be sent with the women into the caves.'"


"That is what you said, Melmenya, at Helm's Deep. Not 'with the other women', but 'with the women'. Because you were not like them; you were a Shieldmaiden, and Aragorn refused to see it." They had reached Hentmirë's gate; Legolas called to the gatekeeper, "Yassib! Wake up."

"Well, that is the truth," said Eowyn, "but why are you doing the same now?"

The elderly servant shuffled out of his small gatehouse and unlocked the great iron padlock. "Good afternoon, Master Legolas, Mistress Eowyn." He swung open the wrought-iron gate to admit them, then closed and locked it behind them.

"Thank you, Yassib," said Legolas, guiding Eowyn through the courtyard and into the house. He waited until they were out of earshot of the old man, then said, "This is not a fair fight, Melmenya. That animal wants to lie with you. He wants to subjugate you in the most vile way—by entering your body and filling you with his seed. And who knows—who knows, Melmenya—how you would recover from that; if you could ever recover from that? What if you conceived his child? And I—" He looked away from her, as if ashamed of what he was about to say. "He would have violated the bond—the sacred bond—between us, Melmenya—the union that we, only we, share—he would have taken it and covered it with his filth. And I just want to keep you safe from him—"

"Shhhhhh..." Eowyn came up on tiptoe and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Hush, edhel nín," she whispered, kissing his cheek. "I shall stay at home."


The caravan had been travelling, slowly, steadily, for six hours, following a narrow, rocky ridge between two great seas of soft, undulating sand, and had come, Faramir judged, some twenty-five miles. Ahead, the Ripa'a Ridge reared up above them, and the mouth of the Ripa'a Pass was less than a mile away.

To Faramir's surprise, the caravan driver had taken his report of 'something suspicious moving in the hills' very seriously, and had stationed mounted warriors, armed with bows and swords, at the head of the column and along its flanks.

"If they attack," he said, "it will be just before, or just after, the Ridge itself. That way, the rocks will give them cover, but we'll be out in the open, where our camels are most vulnerable. Can you use that bow you are carrying?"


"Good. Put yourself on the right flank, towards the back. What about your friends?"

"Berengar is no archer," said Faramir, "I do not know about Oliel."

"Both are able-bodied men. Give them swords and have them ride beside you."

Faramir glanced at Berengar. The secretary smiled and, unconsciously, touched the hilt of his sword.

Please, gods, do not let him have to use it, thought Faramir. He was not made to be a warrior.


"Legolas!" Hentmirë came running into the house. "Lego—Eowyn! Where is he?"

Eowyn looked up from the map she was studying. "Goodness, what is the matter? Legolas is still searching for Wolfram—"

"I have found him! I have found both of them!" Hentmirë waved her arms excitedly. "I saw them, down at the docks—a small man with a limp and a tall, thin man with pointed ears—an elf! I said to Captain Mutallu, 'We must follow them!' So we did—right out to the ancient quarter. But then they disappeared..."

"Show me where," said Eowyn. "I found this plan of the city amongst your father's things." She smoothed the map out on the table. "We are here..." She pointed to the Great Royal Road. "This is the docks, here, and the Early Bird would be about here. Where did you follow them to?"

"This way," said Hentmirë, "I think." She ran her plump finger westwards along a thin line—a dirt road—running parallel to the Great Royal Road but further inland. "This must be the ancient quarter." She pointed to a cluster of villas, where the old road curved nearer to the coast. "It is all derelict now."

"What were they doing there?"

"Just walking. And the elf was carrying something. A bundle. Captain Mutallu thought it was a carpet, but I said—"

"Carrying a carpet?" Eowyn looked up from the map. "Could it have been a person, Hentmirë—wrapped in a blanket? Someone tall and slender, like Haldir's friend?"

"The March Warden's elf-lady?" Hentmirë thought carefully. "What makes you say that?"

Eowyn bit her lip. She had promised Legolas that she would stay at home. But everything he feared might happen to her could just as easily happen to Cyllien. More easily, perhaps, because, although she acted tough, the elleth struck Eowyn as a natural victim. In truth, Eowyn was not sure that she liked Cyllien very much, though she had tried. But Haldir likes her, she thought.

And Haldir would not hesitate to come for me. Or for Legolas...

If only the djinn would come home...

But Legolas will understand—he would do the same.

"I must go and find out," she said.

"No!" cried Hentmirë. "No! You must not! What if something were to happen to you? Legolas would never recover. And he might..." Her voice trailed away.

"He would not blame you, Hentmirë," said Eowyn. "Now, show me exactly where you saw them last."

Hentmirë shook her head, vehemently.



"Think of the March Warden," said Eowyn. "Think of his elf-lady. Think of how scared she must be."

"Ohhhh..." Hentmirë's face was a picture of misery. "Why not wait for Legolas to come back?"

"Because the man who may rape Cyllien will not wait for Legolas to come back."

That decided it. "All right," said Hentmirë. "But," she added, firmly, "I shall come with you. And we will send Captain Mutallu into the city to find Legolas and fetch him back—just in case we need rescuing."


Keret approached the stallholder with a cheeky grin. "Wait till you see what I've got for you!"

"I'm not interested if it's stolen," said Yarih.

"Stolen? It belonged to my mother. The only thing she had to leave me."

"Let me see it then."

Keret opened the carpet bag and brought out Hentmirë's lamp, setting it on the stall with a flourish.

"A brass lamp," said Yarih.

"It isn't brass!" cried Keret. "Look closer."

The stallholder flicked his finger against it. "Brass," he said.

Keret grabbed the lamp and gave it a quick rub with the hem of his ragged shirt. "Look how it shines up!" he said.

Yarih took it from him. "It's good quality workmanship, I'll give you that... Very good." He tried to open it. "But the lid's stuck."

"How much?"

"A couple."



Keret snatched the lamp back. "Forget it!" he said.



The djinn opened one eye. What—

The lamp soared into the air, taking him with it, but leaving his stomach far behind. OooOOOOoohhh...

He braced himself.

Am I being summoned?

No—some oaf was just trying to remove his lid! The djinn grabbed its rim and hung from it, holding it down with all his might.

You are not my pretty little mistress! WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO MY PRETTY LITTLE MISTRESS?

He dropped to the bottom of the lamp and banged his fists on its sides. Let me out! LET ME OUT! I must find my pretty little mist...



The lamp was safely back inside the carpet bag, and the djinn was sleeping once more.


Despite the caravan driver's misgivings, they had entered the Ripa'a Pass without incident but, once inside, the riders had instinctively fallen silent—as though aware that some danger was lurking ahead—and the column had reformed itself, with the unarmed travellers and pack animals tight against the left-hand wall, and the armed warriors shielding their right flank.

Faramir gripped his bow. Where is Legolas, he thought, when you need him?

Slowly, the caravan made its way eastwards.

Faramir glanced anxiously at Berengar. The younger man was flushed, nervous. Faramir gave him a reassuring smile, and turned to check on Oliel—just as something moved, on the very edge of his vision—

Whooping and shouting, and blowing great, curved horns, the mounted bandits came streaming out from the rocks ahead—two riders to a camel, each armed with a bow and carrying a sword.

The men of the caravan stood their ground, presenting a solid wall of defence.

Gripping the saddle with his knees, Faramir raised his bow and shot steadily—nock, draw, loose—emulating the elf he had so often practised with—and it seemed to him that the bandits, with their noisy but undisciplined attack, would soon be repulsed.

Then, from somewhere behind him, a single word pierced his concentration.


Berengar! Faramir turned in his saddle, and his heart missed a beat.

The younger man had dismounted and was standing, his back to a hollow in the rock wall, shielding several terrified women from a group of men, who had somehow managed to slip through the caravan's defences. Faramir felt a strange mixture of pride and fear at the sight of him, sword in hand, slashing wildly—but with immense courage—at the would-be abductors.

Dear gods, he cannot survive long. "Oliel!" cried Faramir, "Oliel! With me!"

Dropping his bow, Faramir swung from the saddle, drew his sword, and hacked his way to Berengar's side. Moments later, they were joined by Captain Oliel. Working together, the three friends drove the swarming attackers back, sending two to meet their maker, though each of the dead was immediately replaced by more men.

Behind them, one of the women cried out to the gods for mercy.

"Fall back," cried Faramir, "do not let them draw us away from the women! Do not let them pass!"


"They were over there," said Hentmirë.

She and Eowyn had borrowed clothing from the servants, dressed themselves—much to Hentmirë's guilty excitement—like street urchins, and armed themselves with knives, then made their way to the ancient quarter where, from the shadows of one of the fallen buildings, they were cautiously scanning the area for any sign of Wolfram's new hideout.

"Are you sure?" asked Eowyn.

"Yes. That is the rock wall; that is the well."

"Stay here."

"No!" Hentmirë caught her arm. "No—let us both stay here," she said, "and watch. Sooner or later they will have to come out, and then we will know where the entrance is and we can rescue the elf-lady. Whilst they are away."

It is a good plan, thought Eowyn. Except... "Every moment we wait gives him more time to hurt her," she said.

"Please," Hentmirë wailed.

"Shhhhhh." Eowyn looked around, nervously. "They will hear you!"

"At least wait an hour..." said Hentmirë, in a loud whisper.

Eowyn sat down on a pile mud bricks. "Half an hour," she said.



"BERENGAR!" Faramir threw himself in front of the wounded man, shielding him from his attackers. "You will pay for that," he cried, with fury, "I will make you pay—"

At that moment, a blast of the bandits' monstrous curved horns echoed through the Ripa'a Pass, and several of the mounted attackers broke through the caravan's defensive line, swept up their comrades, and galloped eastwards through the rocky corridor. The men of the caravan knew better than to follow. Within moments the would-be abductors had melted away.

Dropping his sword, Faramir threw himself to his knees beside Berengar. One of the women had already begun dressing his wound, tightly binding his shoulder with strips of linen torn from his shirt.


The younger man smiled, weakly. "It is just a scratch Faroth," he said. "No need to worry."

Faramir stroked his cheek...

Then, suddenly aware of the woman's surprised look, he drew back his hand. "Thank you, mistress," he said, "I shall leave him in your capable hands."

Oliel was helping the warriors deal with the dead bandits—dragging their bodies from the track, laying them out beside the southern wall and covering them stones. "We shall certainly need an escort on the journey back, my friend," he said.

Faramir agreed. "We will wait for another caravan. And we will hire four extra men to guard your wife..."

The rest of the travellers were already preparing to resume their journey. Faramir approached the caravan driver. "How many men did you lose?" he asked.

"One dead, three wounded," replied the driver. "But no camels lost, thanks to the rock wall protecting our backs. Had they come at us in open desert, as I expected, they could easily have taken some of the pack animals..."

"I do not think they were interested in the goods you are carrying," said Faramir. He glanced at the rock shelter, where the women were tending to Berengar. "I think they wanted those women."


"We have waited long enough," said Eowyn, firmly. "I must see if I can find any trace of them—"

"Look!" whispered Hentmirë, pointing west.

The two women instinctively drew further back into the shadow and watched, as a slight figure, swathed in black, staggered from behind the cluster of ancient graves, and ran unsteadily towards the road.

"It is Cyllien," gasped Eowyn. "She has escaped!"

She rose to her feet; but Hentmirë caught her arm. "No," she hissed, "There is someone coming after her!" Another figure had emerged from the tombs—tall and thin, with long, dark hair.

"Vardamir," whispered Eowyn.

She watched in frustration as the elf caught the elleth about the waist, lifted her from the ground, and carried her, struggling and sobbing, back into one of the tombs.

"I must go and help her!" said Eowyn.

"Yes..." said Hentmirë. "Yes, we must. I shall come with you."

"No—you stay here and wait for Legolas. Tell him where I have gone."


"Please, Hentmirë. Otherwise he may not find us."

The older woman nodded, reluctantly.

Eowyn smiled. "Thank you. Take care." She patted Hentmirë's arm, drew her knife, and cautiously emerged from the shadows, then—once she was satisfied that the way was clear—crept over to the tombs.

A pile of sand, swept to the side of one of the doorways, showed her which grave had recently been disturbed.

That was careless, she thought, pushing gently at the wooden door, which opened with only the slightest creak. Gripping her knife, she stepped into the tiny chapel and closed the door behind her. Inside, the dim light filtering through chinks in the mud brick and reflecting off the faded plaster of the walls was sufficient to show her a low bench running round three sides of the small room, and the remains of ancient food offerings arranged upon it and, in the centre of the floor, a square opening, leading to the burial chamber.

They must have gone down there, she thought.

Sheathing her knife, she climbed down the shaft, cringing when her hands and feet dislodged tiny stones and dirt from the rough walls. The burial chamber was much darker than the chapel above; but she could still make out three ancient, body-shaped coffins, lying in niches cut into the rock walls.

Where is Cyllien?

She stood still and listened.

Yes... If she strained her senses, she could just hear the sound of someone sobbing—and then another voice, low and wheedling—Vardamir!—coming from somewhere up ahead.

Slowly, she shuffled forwards, one arm outstretched, found the wall, and felt her way along it...

There was a jagged fissure in it, wide enough for her to slip through.

Come soon, Lassui, she thought, and stepped into the ga—p.


"Excuse me, ladies," said Faramir. "The caravan driver intends to leave in less than half an hour. If my friend and I"—he indicated Captain Oliel—"can be of any assistance in helping you prepare to resume your journey—"

One of the women—heavily veiled and more finely dressed than the rest—replied in her own language. The woman who had tended Berengar's wound rose and, holding her hands, palms together, before her, bowed. "My mistress thanks you," she said, in a heavily-accented voice, "but that will not be necessary, my lord. We women of Rihat learn to ride before we can walk."

Smiling, Faramir returned her bow. "There are women of my country who are proud to say the same, my lady." He turned to Berengar. "Will you be able to ride? "

"It really is no more than a scratch, Faroth," said Berengar, firmly, "and this kind lady has taken care of it." He got to his feet quite steadily, though his face, Faramir noticed, was drained of its usual healthy colour, and his teeth were set. He bowed to the women. "Thank you, ladies. If there is anything I can do to repay you—"

The veiled lady spoke again.

"Please do not imagine that you are in our debt, my lord," said her interpreter. "Without your brave assistance my lady would have been entirely at the mercy of those brigands, and would have suffered the most unspeakable indignities at their hands. She only asks that she might have the pleasure of presenting you to her father when we reach Rihat."

"I would be honoured, madam."

"Who is the lady's father?" asked Faramir.

"The noble Abdosir, son of Philosir, my lord," said the woman.

Faramir bowed. "We shall both be honoured to wait on him," he said, "soon after our arrival in the city." He grasped Berengar's good arm and guided him towards his camel.

"You realise," said Oliel, quietly, "that, in these parts, that request was tantamount to a proposal of marriage, my friend? And from the daughter of a man you really do not want to cross—the true ruler of Rihat?"

"What?" Berengar was aghast.

"I suspected as much," said Faramir. He shook his head, repeating to himself, "I did suspect as much."


Hentmirë stifled a yawn.

If she had eaten—which her stomach kept reminding her she had not—it would be just after lunch, and time for her nap.

That, she thought, is the trouble with adventures. They never give you the time to eat or sleep properly.

Where is Eowyn? And where is Legolas?

She crept to the corner of the ruin and peered around the corner, fully expecting the road to be empty.

What she saw made the coarsest oath she had ever heard—from one of Mutallu's sailors, who had slipped from the rigging and fallen astride a spar—slip spontaneously from her mouth.

The little man! Wolfram! Limping down the road as if he owned the whole of Carhilivren!

What was she to do?

I must keep him out of the tomb until Legolas comes, she thought. But how?

She picked up a stone, waited until Wolfram was—she thought—close enough, and threw it with all her might. Hentmirë had never thrown anything in her life, except a handful of petals at a wedding, but luck was with her.

The stone struck Wolfram, hard, just above the right eye.

"Agh!" He staggered, doubling over, both hands clutching his head.

Hentmirë picked up a bigger stone and, holding it to her chest, ran out into the road. The man was crouching on the ground. Hentmirë lifted the stone—

And hesitated.

She had never hurt another creature deliberately before. Even when she had 'killed' Baalhanno, she had, in truth, done no more than grasp his ankle for a few moments, intending to hold him fast until Legolas came—

But I must stop Wolfram...

She raised the stone a little higher.

But she had already missed her chance.


Eowyn felt her way through the darkness. The voices ahead were louder now, and she could make out the odd phrase.

"You are not... just been led astray..." sobbed Cyllien.

"Please... I cannot... he would... be good," replied Vardamir.

Keep at him, Eowyn thought. He is not beyond hope. But if he will not see reason...

She checked that her knife was still safely in its scabbard, and crept forward.


Through the blinding pain, Wolfram sensed, rather than saw, his attacker towering over him, and the predator's instincts that had seen him safely through so many similar situations came to his rescue yet again. Without even thinking, he threw himself to the right, cannoning into the man's legs, knocking him off his feet and rolling on top of him. The sound of the bastard's head hitting the ground—and his complete stillness afterwards—were a bonus.

Wolfram lay, panting, sprawled atop his would-be assassin, pinning him down, struggling to re-focus his eyes. Blood was trickling from his forehead and dripping onto his eyelids. He wiped it away with the back of his hand and peered into the man's face.

Gods' bollocks, it's a woman! A fat little woman! I must be losing it!

This was no ordinary robbery. The woman had disguised herself as a street urchin, but she was well-fed, well-preserved. Who was she? The wife of one of his victims? The mother?

A chilling thought struck him. How did she know where to find me?

He had to get off the road, and take her with him. It would be hard work, but he needed some answers. He could always dump her in one of the other graves when he had finished with her...

Still panting, he struggled to his feet and—with truly superhuman effort—lifted the heavy woman over his shoulder and struggled to the safety of the burial ground. There, he dumped her on a rock and tried to catch his breath.

A pile of sand, swept to one side of one of the doorways, pointed, like a six-foot sign, to the entrance of his hideout. The clumsy pricking oaf, thought Wolfram. How elves can be immortal I do not know. That prick wants to get caught.

He wiped more blood from his eyes and, leaving Hentmirë where she was, stamped around in the sand. Then, one by one, he opened and closed the door to each of the tombs, creating a similar pile of sand beside every doorway. If anyone does come after her, that should slow them down a bit, he thought.

He lifted the unconscious woman back onto his shoulder. Getting her down the shaft is going to be a picnic.


Eowyn's directions had been very precise. Mutallu climbed the steps of the empty house and pushed the door open—

He threw up his hands in surrender. "Prince Legolas!" he cried, "Lady Hentmirë sent me!"

Legolas re-sheathed his white knives. Gimli lowered his axe. Haldir replaced the arrow in his quiver.

"What is it, Captain?" asked Legolas.

"My lady asks you to come quickly, your Highness," said Mutallu. "And Princess Eowyn sent this." He handed Legolas the plan of the city. "The cross marks the spot where my lady and I last saw the man with the limp..."


Eowyn held her breath and, in the dark, instinctively tilted her head to listen more intently.

Someone had opened the door of the tomb.


There was a dull thud; then another noise—Stones falling. Someone climbing down the shaft, she thought. Not Legolas. Too clumsy.

She heard the sound of a flint striking; and then footsteps—slow, uneven footsteps. Someone with a limp.

Wolfram. And I am trapped in the middle!

Breathing hard now, she looked around in the rapidly increasing light. The corridor—cave—was quite narrow. She could not avoid being seen. I have bested Wolfram before, she thought. Twice. And if Legolas is right, he does not want to kill me—at least not until afterwards...

She felt for her knife. All I have to do is let him think he is getting what he wants, wait until his breeches are round his ankles, and then strike.

No... That cannot possibly work a second time. He will make sure that I cannot fight back—knock me out, or tie me up...

He is just around the corner!

The light had grown much brighter, illuminating the rugged surface of the rock but, in several places, Eowyn could still see patches of inky blackness at the foot of the wall. She dropped to her knees beside the nearest—Thank you, gods!—backed into a alcove, about two feet high and perhaps thrice as deep, and drew herself into the shadows.

No more than a heartbeat later, Wolfram limped past, the light from his oil lamp casting a grotesque shadow behind him.

He is carrying something, thought Eowyn. She inched to the mouth of her refuge and cautiously peered out. Wolfram had already turned the next corner, but part of his burden was still visible—and unmistakable. Gods, Hentmirë, what has he done to you?

Eowyn crawled from the tiny cave and drew her knife.

Now she really had no choice.


"Come on, Gimli!" cried Legolas.

The two elves were running effortlessly along the dirt road. Captain Mutallu—a fit, active man—was managing to stay with them, but Gimli—with his small, solid body—was hampered by the heat and lagging well behind.

"Go ahead," he cried, "go and find them! I shall catch you up."

"Lord Gimli is right," panted Mutallu. "You and the March Warden could be there by now. Go on—we will join you as soon as we can."

With a brief nod of acknowledgement, Legolas and Haldir set off at full speed, following the dirt road as it curved around the westernmost part of the city—passing the clusters of mud brick shacks, with their outbuildings woven from palm fronds, their tethered animals, and heaps of rubbish—and headed into the ancient quarter.

"Here," said Haldir, coming to a halt, "the mark on the map is here. Amongst these ruins."

Standing in the centre of the road, Legolas stared at the derelict villas. "If Eowyn were free, she would have joined us by now," he said. "Wolfram must have her. And he could be hiding her in any one of these houses."



Contents page


Previous chapter: Ragamuffin
Fate lends a hand; Haldir and Ribhadda search for Cyllien.

Chapter 5

Next chapter: The sacrifice
Wolfram loses his prize; Berengar receives a gift.

Chapter 7

A picture.

Chapter 2