Heart pounding, lungs burning, Arador burst through
the surface of the water and fell, gasping, upon the shore.
Legolas advance party filed silently down the old sheep
herders trail. The sun was already low in the sky, and its
hazy golden light, filtering through the beech trees, cast alarming
shadows throughout the Forest.
Hentmirë, said Eowyn, softly, you need
not cling so tightly.
I am sorry, whispered the little woman, looking to
left and right. I am a bit nervous.
We are all nervous, replied Eowyn, reassuringly,
but you know Legolas orders. If we are attacked, I
am to get you safely away from the fight.
Yes, said Hentmirë, but that means leaving
Legolas behind. And Gimli and Berryn.
Smiling, Eowyn patted her hand.
Arador raised his head. The noise was unmistakable, andnow
that he had seen exactly what made itterrifying. We must
move, he thought. Orophin?
Where is he?
Where am I? Clumsily, he rolled onto his back.
Still in the starlit cavern
But how can that be? He remembered being dragged down
by his heels, deep, deep into the suffocating water, but he had
no memory of rising up again. Am I dead? Is this
He is not here. The voice was familiar, but sounded
strange. Not Orophin. Not Rumil, it said. There
are boththey are not here.
Haldir? Arador struggled onto his elbows. The big
elf was sitting at the edge of the lake, staring out across the
mirror-still water. The boy crawled towards him. Haldir
They did not survivenone of them survived
Arador laid a hand on the elfs arm. I am not sure
that it is we
My brothers are both dead!
The boy jumped. Gods, it is getting closer! Haldir, we must movecome! We cannot stay here. Pleasecome!
Captain Alfgar coughed respectfully.
The soldier lifted the tent flap and ducked inside. Eowyn was
sitting at her little writing desk, working her way through a
pile of papers. Alfgar waited until she had laid down her pen.
The prisoner wants to talk to you, my lady.
Good She turned to face him. Are we ready for
The braziers have been moved further out, as you instructed.
The barricade has been strengthened
We felled some trees. Radulfs citizens are drilled
and ready to fight.
We will keep them in reserve.
Alfgar nodded approvingly. Gybon has had the civilian blacksmiths
working hammer and tongs, turning every bit of metal he could
scrounge into spikeswe have lined the gulley with them.
The demons can fly.
I know that, my lady. But their mounts cannot. And some
of the lads from the boatyard have helped Hallyng build two crossbowsmassive
things, mounted on wooden horsesthat shoot bolts as thick
as your wrist.
For the lizards?
Yes. He smiled, grimly. If they come back tonight,
my lady, we shall be ready for them.
And Captain Drago?
No word as yet, my lady.
Captain Drago moved cautiously through the undergrowth.
He had been searching for the dark elves encampment since
shortly after dawn, starting at the wooded foothills of Eryn Vorn,
ten miles east of the gorgewhich was where he had told Princess
Eowyn they would be, because that was where he would have
But they had not been there.
So, disobeying Eowyns direct orders, he had continued the
search, leading his small band of men farther and farther east,
deeper and deeper into possible enemy territory, towards what
would have been his second choice of hideout, the great overhanging
rocks of Gynd Thûn.
Fighting the panic that was rising, like bile, in his chest,
Arador dragged Haldir through a low opening in the cavern wall.
The noise had multipliednow there were two, perhaps three,
crab-creatures, and they were closing in.
Hunting us, thought Arador. By sound or smell or
something. Haldir! He grasped the elfs good
arm and shook him as hard as he could. We must keep moving!
I am sorry. I
Here. The boy pulled the glowing crystal from his
pack and put it in the elfs hand. Go!
For a long moment, Haldir simply stared at the thing in confusion,
then he set off down the twisting tunnel.
Arador followed. He had sealed his map in its oilskin pouch before
entering the water, and he knew that it would take too long to
retrieve it now, so he could only hope that he was remembering
Drizzts instructions correctly.
Where is Drizzt?
The boys final memory, before he had slid beneath the water,
was of the dark elf, watching them cross the lake. It is not
that the others have drowned, he thought, as he scrambled
after Haldir. If they had, Drizzt would still be beside the
It must be that we have drowned.
Oh mama, I am so sorry
Shit! They have followed us into the tunnel!
Arador grabbed Haldir. They are catching up.
One of your bottles, said the elf.
They rounded a sharp turn, stopped, andwhilst Haldir held
the crystal over the boys packArador found his tinderbox,
wiped away the worst of the water, and unscrewed the metal lid.
At least the tinder is dry.
If I am already dead, he thought, as he struggled to strike
a spark, why am I so scared? Can I be killed again? Do we pass
from world to world, dying over and over? No. I was born
in the last world; I remember growing up there.
Besides, why would Haldir be in the same place as me
CLACK! CLACK, CLACK!
No! We are still alive! We are alive and we are going to stay
Fired by a new determination, Arador uncorked the bottle and
touched its cloth wick to the glowing tinder, waited until the
flame caught, then stepped around the cornercrying out in
shock as a pair of massive pincers snapped at his headand
flung the flaming bottle between the monsters legs.
The bottle exploded.
For a split-second the boy froze, mesmerised by the sight of
the creatures writhing in the flames and the sound of their
hard shells cracking in the heat.
Then Haldir dragged him back to safety.
You, the boy gasped, are the warrior. You are
supposed to do the killing.
The drow prisoner was still bound to the tent pole, but someone
had taken pity on him and found him a pair of breeches and a shirt.
Eowyn crouched beside him. Captain Alfgar tells me that
you have agreed to talk.
The dark elf turned his beautiful face towards her. What
do you want to know?
What I asked you before, said Eowyn. What are
your people planning, and why?
The drow shook his head. They have no plans, and they have
Eowyn sighed. What is that supposed to mean? She
sat back on her heels.
The drow stared thoughtfully at the ground, and Eowyn realised
that he had meant what he said. They act upon the orders
of their goddess, he explained, and she lusts after
It increases her power.
So we arewhat?a sacrifice to her?
The drow raised his head and eyed her with sudden respect. You,
he said, are clever.
Why did they capture Caras Arnen?
They did notyou abandoned ityou left it in
To save our people, said Eowyn.
The drow nodded. That was a surprise. You do not behave
as they expected. But your resistance is only playing into her
Increasing her power.
But someoneone of the dark elvesmust lead your
army. Who is it? Your king?
The drow smiled. We have no king! He considered her
question. The soldiers belong to the noble houses; the army
is commanded by the matron mother of the foremost houseHouse
A woman? Your leader?
Not my leader.
Eowyn looked at him curiously. You said that beforeyou
said that you were nobodys slave
I am a free male. A soldier of Bregan Daerthe,
said the drow, proudly.
Meaning what, exactly?
How do I know that I can trust you?
Eowyn turned to Captain Alfgar. Cut him free.
My Lady, it is far too dangerous
He knows that if he puts one foot outside this tent your
men will cut him down.
He can do a lot of harm without ever leaving the tent,
I can defend myself, Captain. She tapped her sword
hilt. Cut him free.
Reluctantly, Alfgar drew his long knife and, taking care to stand
behind the drowbeyond his reachsawed through his bonds.
The dark elf gasped as feeling flooded back into his cramped arms.
Now, said Eowyn, what have I earned by trusting
The dark elf, rubbing his upper arms, gave her a faltering smileand
Eowyn, though surprised again by his extraordinary beauty, carefully
kept her expression neutral. Most male drow, he said,
are slaves, kept for nothing more than breeding and fighting
Captain Alfgar made such a strange noise that the drow turned
towards him, startled.
Go on, said Eowyn.
The members of Bregan Daerthe do not belong to the
houses. Our services must be bought. Our leader is respected by
all the matron mothers.
So you fight for the highest bidder?
Do you think they are dead? asked Arador.
Haldir passed him the crystal. I do not know. But I can
hear no sound from them. He sighed. Are you sure that
this is the right way? The tunnel had suddenly closed in
upon themthey could no longer stand uprightand, in
places, the gaps were so narrow that Haldir had difficulty squeezing
I have never killed anything before, Haldir. Do you think
any of the drow in the acid cave died?
It had human eyes. The boy handed back the crystal
and slipped easily through the slit, pulling his pack behind him.
It was afraid of the fire.
I know it is difficult, said Haldir, wearily, but
you must save your remorse, just as I must save my grief.
He grimaced as, pulling himself through the next gap, he grazed
his bound hand on the rough wall. If this is the
way, he said, holding up the crystal, how much farther
do we have to go?
Captain Drago raised a hand, bringing his men to a halt. The
sun is already going down, he said, quietly. So we
do not have much time. Janekincome with me. The rest of
you, stay hereeyes open.
The two men crept forwards through the scrub, then dropped to
the ground and, bellies in the dirt, crawled out into the long,
dry grass at the foot of the rock shelter.
Cautiously, Drago raised his head. Well Ill be
Let me go first, said Haldir.
Alright, said Arador. But be quick. Do not
leave me alone in here too long.
Haldir patted his shoulder. Then he slipped his arm from its
sling and pulled himself through the tiny hole into the daylight
Captain Drago leaped to his feet, ripping his sword from its
scabbard as he ran towards the stranger.
The big elffor it was obviously an elf, not a dark warriorturned,
and immediately drew his own sword, holding it, Drago noticed,
in his left hand
Captain Drago! he said, suddenly smiling and lowering
the tip of his blade. What are you doing in Eryn
Frowning, the man planted his feet and levelled his sword. Janekin?
Have you got your bow on him?
One wrong move, elf, said Drago, and you will
be waiting in your Halls of Mandos. Nowslowlydrop
your swordgoodand tell me who you are, and how you
know my name.
We have met before, said the elf, twice or
thricewhen you have accompanied Prince Faramir to Eryn Carantaur.
I have never seen you before, said the man. And
I have never been to the elven colony
A sudden movement beside the prisoner's feet caught Drago's eye.
Remember, elf, he said, cautiously approaching the
cliff, my man has you in sight.
He watched, sword at the ready, as a battered travelling pack
emerged from a small gap at the foot of the rocks, followed by
a very dirty but familiar-looking young man, crawling on all fours.
Master Arador, said Drago. What are you doing
Shielding his eyes from the dying sunlight, the boy peered up
at him. Have we met before, sir?
For more than an hour, the Captain hurried them through the trees,
staying close to the forest edge with the rocks of Emyn Arnen
visible to the right, until they emerged into a wide, triangular
plateau, fortified with a barricade running diagonally from the
forest on the left to the cliff face on the right, defending a
narrow gorge that sliced into the cliff behind.
Drago approached the wooden wall. Amandil, he shouted,
let us in. A man appeared above the parapet and immediately
lowered a ladder. Drago gave both prisoners a push. Go on.
Arador began to climb.
My Lady expected you hours ago, said Amandil. Who
have you got here? He helped Arador over the barricade,
holding him firmly by the arm. Nowhere to run from here,
songods, is that you under all that dirt, Master
The boy shrugged.
Your father thinks you are dead
Drago pushed Haldir again. Hurry up! he said. Princess
Eowyn is anxious to give me a roasting.
Eowyn! Haldir turned to face him. What is Eowyn
Eowyn laid down her pen. Come in, Captain Drago.
She turned to greet him. Did you find their camp?
I did not, my Lady, but I have taken two prisoners, who
may be able to tell us something more. He explained how
he had caught an elf and a boy, emerging from inside the rocks.
The boy is the spitting image of Lord Aubins son,
maam, but claims he does not know me. The elf
Bring them in, Captain.
Very good, my Lady. Drago lifted the tent flap. Come
Eowyn watched the prisoners enterAubins son, Arador,
and a big, handsome elf, who seemed familiar.
Helms Deep! she said, rising to her feet. You
led the elves at Helm's Deep. But
Eowyn! The elf rushed forward, arms outstretched,
and caught her by the hands.
You died. I saw your body
Eowyn! He laughed, uncomfortably. What on
Middle-earth are you talking about? What are you doing here? Where
Eowyn frowned. Sir Elf, she said, for he was clearly
a person of some authority, please, calm yourself.
She guided him towards one of the folding chairs. I see
that you are injuredBerengar, please fetch Master Ethelmar.
She sat him down. You mentioned Prince Legolas. Is he on
his way? Were you separated from him?
The elf stared up at her. I left Legolas with you,
in Eryn Carantaur, three days ago.
Was I naked?
You are not the first person to mention having seen somesome
double of mine in the elven colony, said Eowyn. But
I assure you that she, whoever she is, is an impostor. As for
youyou bear an uncanny resemblance to someone I saw fall
at the Battle of the Hornburg. She sighed. But all
this can wait. What I need to know now isah, Master Healer,
here is your patient.
She stepped back to give Ethelmar space to work. All I
need to know now, Sir Elf, she repeated, is what you
can tell me about the dark demons.
About the drow? The elf shook his head. I do
not understand what is happening here, but
Very well, I
will tell you about the drow. Slowly, he described how he
had been sent to investigate a massacre near the Divor Rocks and
how one of his peoplea womanhad been kidnapped by
the dark warriors.
Master Ethelmar, meanwhile, helped him out of his jerkin and
tunic; Eowyn looked away.
As the healer cleaned and dressed his wound, the elf told how
he had led a small band of rescuers into the Underdark, how they
had been helped by one of the drow, and how the rest of the partyincluding
his two brothershad perished.
I am sorry, said Eowyn.
Finally, he explained how he and Arador had found their way out
of the rocks at Gynd Thûn.
Eowyn looked enquiringly at Arador. And you confirm this?
Of course, my lady, said the boy.
You befriended a dark elf?
He befriended us, my ladyor rather, he took pity
on Mistress Wilawen.
He took pity
? Do you have any injuries, Master
Not really, my lady. Arador smiled. I am just
Berengar will take you to the mess tent. She turned
to her secretary. Then find his father, Berengar. He will
be overjoyed to see that his son is still alive.
All done, my lady, said Master Ethelmar. I
will need to see him again tomorrow. But, for now, he is all yours.
Eowyn cleared her throat. The elf was still stripped to the waist,
but most of his broad, muscular chest was now covered in linen
bandages. Are you hungry, Sir Elf?
He shook his head.
Then I will leave you to get some rest. Please feel free
to use myerbedchamber.
Arador dumped his wooden bowl on the table and sat down heavily.
Now that the danger had passed he was both tired and hungryexhausted
and ravenousand it was hard to decide which need was more
But the soup smelled delicious.
He dipped his spoon into it.
When did you last eat?
The boy looked up. Berengar was sticking to him like a shadow.
I thought you were supposed to be fetching my fatherthough
I do not understand what is he doing here.
I will find him in a moment. Berengar sat down.
I am not that sort, said Arador.
I am sorry?
I like women.
I do not doubt itthough I think you are a little
young for women. Girls, perhaps.
Then what do you want?
Berengar beckoned to someone behind Aradors back and immediately
Captain Drago and the other soldier from the Princesss tentCaptain
Alfgarjoined them at the table.
We want to hear more about the drow, said Drago.
We plan to take the fight into their own territory
You think you can invade the Underdark? Arador looked
up from his soup. No,he shook his headimpossible.
First of all, it is dark down thereso dark that even an
elf like Haldir cannot see without some sort of light. But light
The dark demons?
And whatever other monsters are down there. They do not
even need the light to find youthe crab things tracked us
by some other sensesmell or hearing
He took a spoonful of soup, and continued, with his mouth full,
Then there was a lake of acid, and poisonous fungus, and
tunnels so narrow that Haldir had to take his clothes off to squeeze
through. You cannot lead an army down there. You would not last
The three men exchanged glances. The elf mentioned a map,
said Drago, as if the boy had said nothing during the past five
Arador sighed. Believe me. You would not last an hour.
But you did.
I was with elves! Besides, we had help
Tell us more about this friendly dark elf, said Alfgar.
Arador shook his head. Drizzt helped us because of Mistress
Wilawen. He would not betray his own people for you.
Deep in the forest
Legolas brought his followers to a halt, drawing them off the
trail and into the comparative safety of the trees. They
are up ahead, he said, softly. I can sense them.
Captain Golradir nodded in confirmation.
How many? asked Gimli.
Thousands, said the Captain, shrugging. The
How do we get past them? asked Eowyn.
They will not be camping on the trail itself, said
Legolas. Captain Golradir, Orodreth, and I will go ahead,
on foot, to deal with the lookouts. The rest of you will wait
here until we give the signal. He raised his hand to his
mouth and whistled like a bird.
We must warn your double, Lassui, said Eowyn.
Yes. He glanced around the remaining elves. Malgaladyou
will ride back to Eryn Carantaur, immediately.
You intend to set the demon free? Drago shook
If this leader of his, said Eowyn, can be persuaded
to change sides
He would be asking his menhis elvesto kill
their own, said Alfgar.
They are mercenaries, Captain, said Eowyn, it
is how they make a livingand, from what the prisoner tells
me, their kind are constantly engaged in civil war.
You are assuming that he will keep his word, said
Because I will make it worth his while.
It is still a gamble, my lady, said Alfgar.
I will follow him, said Drago. This
is our best chance to find their camp.
No! said Eowyn. Nogoing into the forest
after dark would be suicide, Drago. Besides, if they attack tonight
we will need you here. We must trust him. And if he does betray
us, what have we lost? Just a few gold pieces.
Deep in the forest
Be careful, said Eowyn.
Legolas pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly. A
Captain kissing his second-in-command, he whispered. There
will be a scandal
I promise. He kissed her forehead. You know
what to do?
Wait for the signal then move out as silently as possible.
Take care of Hentmirë for me, melmenya.
You know I will, Lassui.
Five hundred gold, said Eowyn.
A thousand, replied the prisoner.
Seven hundred and fifty. And that is my final offer.
Two hundred now, said Eowyn. Five hundred
and fifty when I have spoken to your leader. She cocked
her head, regarding him shrewdly. And one hundred extra
if you bring him here in two days. Agreed?
The drow sighed. You drive a hard bargain, my Lady, but
Captain Alfgar will return your armour and your knife,
and escort you to the gulley. She held out her hand. We
humans, she said, shake hands when we make an agreement
like this. It binds each party, on his honour.
The drow took her hand but did not shake it; instead, he raised
it to his lips. I am your servant, my Lady, he murmured.
Eowyn calmly withdrew her hand. I will believe that
when you return with your leader, Master Drow. In two days.
Legolas, Golradir and Orodreth had left the trail and were moving
through the trees, bows in hand.
They found the first pair of lookouts less than a quarter mile
from where they had left Eowyn and the others. Legolas nocked
an arrow and drew, aiming for the nearer of the two. The dark
elf, suddenly sensing him, turned.
Valar, they look so much like us, thought Legolas, as
he loosed, but on the inside, they are no better than orcs.
He hit his target between the eyes, and the drow fell from the
tree, his mouth open in a silent cry.
His companion, shot by Golradir, fell a split-second later.
The elves pressed on.
The next pair of lookoutsalerted by the sound of their
comrades fallcame running to meet them, swords drawn.
Legolas took them both with two rapid shots.
We must hurry, he said, softly. The next pair
will know we are coming. And if they raise the alarm
We should split up, said Golradir.
The three elves broke into a run, weaving silently through the
trees, scarcely disturbing the undergrowth.
The forest is our world, thought Legolas. Here,
we have the advantage.
He saw the next pair of lookouts and, without breaking his stride,
nocked an arrow and loosed.
Golradir and Orodreth ran on to the next post, leaving Legolas
to take care of the second drow.
I am sorry, said Eowyn quietly. I did not mean
to wake you. I just need
You did not. Haldir swung his feet off the camp bed
and sat up. You look tired.
No. Eowyn smiled. That is, yes, I am, but not
in the normal way.
Why are you here, Eowyn? Where is Legolas? And Eomer? Where
Faramir was killed, said Eowyn, in the first
Yes. She sat down beside him. I miss him so
As for EomerEomer and I quarrelledhe does
not approve of me. And Prince Legolas and I had a misunderstanding.
So much has changed in three days? None of this makes any
Eowyn smiled, sadly. At least you seem to be feeling
better. I am so sorryabout your brothers, I mean.
You are not ready to talk about them.
Elves are not accustomed to deathI saw that at Helms
You saved my life at Helms Deep, he said. You
He looked at her intentlyso brave, and yet so small and
so vulnerable. So alone. His gaze dropped to her lips, delicately
curved and petal-soft, and he leaned in closer and, with his good
arm, he gathered her to his chest