Wilawen took one last look at the giant slug, and
bid Valandil farewell, before her ensorcelled feet carried her
away from him, perhaps forever.
No, she thought. Do not think that! All you need do
is survive and, eventually, you will find your way back to himor
he will find his way to you.
She glanced at her new owner. I will survive, she
promised herself. I will do whatever it takes.
She worked her way through the jostling crowdthe drow following
close behindaware that her feet, no longer under her own
control, knew exactly where they were going and were navigating
her, with smooth efficiency, past stall after stallpast
cages of dejected slaves, naked and shackled; past displays of
embroidered silks and dyed leathers; past racks of extraordinary
weapons, and burnished armour, and fine, supple chainmail
And at every step the citys strange inhabitants loomed
out of the darkness at herdrow females, tall and strong,
striding confidently through the milling shoppers; fish-men with
strange goggle-eyes, staring at her and sniffing disdainfully;
smartly dressed orcs in elaborate livery, hurrying past on their
owners business; tiny reptile-men, scurrying to collect
rubbish; male drow...
The males, Wilawen noticed, were subservient to the femaleseven
the courtier stepped aside and bowed (almost respectfully) when
a female drow passed by. But shebeing, she supposed,
like and yet not like their own womendrew insolent stares
from every male drow she encountered, some going so far as to
reach out and grope at her until her owner dismissed them with
a flick of his elegant hand.
You are, he murmured in Westron, the stuff
their dreams are made of
They turned a corner, and Wilawens feet came to a sudden
and disturbing stop. To her right, a double-fronted stall caught
her attention. She peered into its dimly-lit interior.
Shimmerdarks Decanter, said the courtier, with
its astonishing collection of wines and spirits andif you
have the right currencypotions and poisons from all over
the worlds, below and above.
Why have you brought me here? asked Wilawen,
her mouth dry with fear.
Brought you...? The courtier frowned; then
his handsome face shone with amusement. I think you misunderstand,
My Surface Lady. We are here because I have a fancy for some wine.
The forced march through the city ended at the foot of a grand
staircase, wider and more imposing than the Great Gates of Minas
Tirith, sweeping up to another, smaller cavern. And in that cavernblazing,
it seemed, with lights of every colourstood three massive
buildings: to the right, a solid, windowless pyramid; to the left,
an elegant, many-spired tower; and in the centredwarfing
them botha stone spider, bigger than The Citadel itself!
Wilawens owner took her by the arm and drew her into the
shadow of the sweeping stonework, where another drow was waiting
for them. The two males greeted each other with a familiar hand-clasp,
though it seemed to Wilawen that the second drowa tall,
burly creature clad in plate armourwas angry. But the courtier
held up a hand and spoke soothingly and, suddenly, all was calmand
Wilawen strongly suspected that he had cast another of his spells.
This, he said, affably, is Master Argith and,
in a moment, he is going to carry you up the stairs and past the
Sentries, said Wilawen. Why do...
The courtier reached inside his cloak and drew out a small objecta
tiny glass lensraised it to his eye and sighted her through
it. Because I can make you invisible, but not without lifting
the spell that forces you to walk, which means that you must be
physically coerced, and I was not fashioned to carry heavy
Wilawen clenched her fists. She was seething with fear and anger
and indignationat being bought and sold; at being smuggled
into this place; at whatever the courtier intended to do with
her once he got her insidebut all she said was, I
am not heavy.
Hmm. Her owner signalled to his friend and the big
drow scooped her up, and held her fast.
Then the MageThat is what he is, thought Wilawencast
his spells, and the two drow ascended the staircase and, nodding
to the guards, passed unhindered through the gates, crossed the
cavern, and carried Wilawen into the smallest of the three buildings,
the slender tower.
Survive, thought Wilawen. I must survive.
Cyllien ran a hand through her tangled hair.
She had been lying on her bedthe bed she shared with Haldir
and, sometimes, with otherssince she had forced the carpenter,
Heral, to leave at knife point the day before.
Lying on her bed, and hoping that she might die.
But morning had broken and she was still alive.
And now she needed some pipeweed.
Sighing, she pushed back the coverlet, swung her feet to the
floor, and sat up.
A wave of nauseaan unfamiliar sensationmade her head
swim. She swallowed hard and, ignoring the cold sweat on her forehead,
and the sharp saliva filling her mouth, she stood up. It will
be all right, she thought, when I have had a smoke.
She picked up Haldirs hunting knife and, fumbling with
the buckle, strapped it to her thigh.
Her pipe was hidden in the sitting roomfor Haldir, though
he said nothing, did not like her smoking, and Cyllien, though
she took a childish pleasure in crossing him, was, for some reason,
sensitive to his disapproval of that vice.
She opened the bedchamber door
And, retching, clamped her hand over her mouth.
Lying in the middle of the sitting room floor, its head almost
sliced from its body, was a dead cat.
Where are we?
In the inky darkness of the holding cell at the rear of the slave
dealers stall, Dínendal sought out Rumil and Orophin,
and beckoned them closer. We are prisoners, he replied,
Wilawen! Valandil sat bolt upright.
Rumil and Orophin caught his arms.
Shhhh, whispered Orophin. She is still
alive, mellon nín. And where there is life, there
is hope. Sooner or later someone is going to open the door and,
when they do, we will be ready. They will be armed, but they will
not be expecting any resistance...
What makes you think that? whispered Rumil.
They have not restrained us, replied Orophin. They
have underestimated us.
They just know that we have nowhere to go, said Rumil.
So what are you saying? That we should give up? said
his brother, sharply. Are we going to cower in our cage
or are we going to fight?
Orophin is right, said Valandil, quietly. We
must try to escape.
Together, said Dínendal. Our
only chance is to stay
Shhhh, said Rumil, suddenly. Someone
Swathed in a dark mantle, and keeping to the shadows as she passed
the Palace building works, Cyllien descended to the main walkway
and followed it westwards to the quiet neighbourhood where Arinna
shared a house with the two Mirkwood elves.
Camthalion was surprised to see her, but politely invited her
Arinna, sitting by the fireplace, gestured towards a chair. You
look as though you had seen a ghost, she said.
Cyllien sat down heavily andsuddenly feeling safe enough
to let her control slipburied her face in her hands.
Camthalion, said Arinna, some apple brandy,
please. He has threatened you, she said to Cyllien. I
am sorry. I should have realisedahthank you, Cami.
Sensing the elf beside her, Cyllien raised her head, took the
glass from him, drained it, and handed it back. Camthalion glanced
at Arinna. The woman nodded. He went to fetch a refill.
Tell us what happened, said Arinna.
Cyllien frowned at Camthalion's back.
You may speak in front of Cami, said Arinna. He
already knows. And he is very discreet.
Cyllien sighed. When Heral came, yesterday, I told him
I wanted to end it. But he would not listen; he frightened me.
II threatened him with a knife and made him leave.
Camthalion handed her another apple brandy. Cyllien took a large
mouthful and cradled the glass against her chest.
The elf stood waiting.
Cyllien looked up at him, questioningly. Then, flushing, she
whispered, Thank you.
You are welcome. He went to stand behind Arinnas
Go on, said the woman.
This morning, said Cyllien, I found a dead
cat in the sitting room. He must have come in whilst I was in
bed and put it there. I had barred the door with a chair; I do
not know how he got inside
You are sure that this cat, said Arinna, could
not have crawled in by itselfbeen injured somewhere else,
No. Cyllien shook her head. Its throat had
been cut with knife.
Arinna leaned back in her chair. How much cleaner things
are, she said, when they are done properly. If I were
running a house here
Still, things are messy, you have made
your decision, and we must persuade him to accept it.
Accept it! He will never accept it! cried Cyllien.
He left a dead cat in my house! In Haldirs
Shall I fetch Captain Golradir? asked Camthalion.
said Arinna. Not yet. The Captain
would be honour-bound to tell the March Wardenand we must
avoid that, if we can.
I will see to the cat, then, said the elf. He gave
Arinnas shoulder a brief squeeze; then, placing his hand
on his heart, he bowed his head to Cyllien, and left.
He is the best sort, said Arinna, watching the door
close behind him. Completely trustworthy. They both are.
Like your March Warden.
Thank you, said Cyllien, bitterly.
The cell door opened.
Rumil and Orophin, crouching either side, sprang forward, grabbing
the slave dealer by the arms and throwing him to the floor. Rumil
pinned him down
A second drow had appeared in the doorway, wielding a whipCrack!and
Rumil cried out as the lash bit into his back. His body convulsed
Rumil! Orophin dropped to his knees beside
Back! The second drowa magnificent femalestepped
into the cell, one hand on her hip, the other holding the whipwhich
she trailed suggestively down Orophin's cheek, letting its six
heads lightly brush his skin.
Then she drew it away, and the heads hissed
Snakes! cried Dínendal. The whip is
made of snakes! He crawled forward. Rumil has been
Back! The drow raised her arm.
I am a healer, said Dínendal, holding up a
hand in submission. Please! Let me help my friend!
He does not need help, replied the drow, in heavily-accented
Westron. That was just a warning. But,she cracked
the whip again, letting the snake heads pass within a whisker
of Rumils backa second lash will kill him. Release
Gently, Orophin and Dínendal lifted Rumil off the drow,
and laid him, face down, on the cell floor. The male scrambled
to his feet and stood before the female awaiting his punishment.
You told me they were docile, said the female, still
speaking in Westron.
Mercy, mistress, the male mumbled, head bowed so
low that his chin was resting upon his chest.
The female, however, was fondling her snakes, thoughtfully. You
have done well, she said. My clients will pay extra
for males with spirit.
Orophin paced back and forth across the tiny, dark room, cursing
under his breath.
After allowing the female drow to cow him with her demonic whip
he had let her force him to lift his unconscious brother onto
his back and, with Dínendal and Valandil in tow, and escorted
by a troop of heavily armed drow males, he had followed her across
the city like a gelded hound.
Manwë's balls! Orophin drove his fist into the wall.
The pain was excruciating but, at the same time, calming.
Dínendal was right, he reminded himself. Our
only chance is to stay together. Once Rumil had been bitten, we
had no choice but to bide our time
So why am I feeling like Orc shit?
The female drow had led them to an elegant tavern on the edge
of the bazaar, set, like a castle, in its own moated grounds.
She had brought them in through the rear entrance, had had them
looked over by another female, and had locked them up in separate
Orophin had no illusions about what the place was. He had visited
human brothels himself, and had heard that there were some where
males would lie with other males.
He punched the wall again. That will not happen to
me! I will die first, he swore. I will
The key turned in the lock.
Orophin clenched his fists, and prepared to fight. The door swung
open and a drow entered, carrying a dark lantern. Orophin charged.
The drow stepped aside.
Someone outside slammed the door shut. Orophin hit it with a
And, as he leaned against the planks, momentarily winded, he
felt a hand slide down his back, and over his buttocks, and reach
up between his legs.
No! He whirled around, lashing out with his fists,
knocking the filthy animal to the floor.
The drow's dark lantern fell open, and a soft light filled the
His molester was the drow femaleno longer wearing her boiled
leather armour, or carrying her fiendish whip, but dressed in
a translucent gown that scarcely contained her voluptuous curvesand
she was looking up at him with a mixture of sham contrition and
I have been a very naughty girl, Master Elf, she
purred, in Westron, her exotic accent lending her words an extra
frisson, and I have come here to be punished.
Wilawen stood beside the carved marble bath, staring at the warm,
flower-scented water. It had been so long since she had felt clean,
Undress and bathe, said the Mage
Why? she asked, sharply.
You smell. You must be cleansed.
The drow sighed. Here am I, about to involve you in one
of the most arcane, most abstruse, most audacious rites a Master
of Sorcere has ever attempted, and all you can do is quibble about
bathinghave you no sense of the honour I am conferring on
you? Have you no sense of gratitude?
Wilawen sat down on the rim of the bath and folded her arms across
Undress and bathe by yourself, said the Mage, or
I will send for Master Argith and he will do it for you.
He would not, said Wilawen, hoarsely. He is
your friend, not your servant, and he could never be persuaded
to do anything so dishonourable in the name of friendship.
The drow looked at her curiously. And you know this, how?
By observation, said Wilawen, of him and of
you. And from the way he held me when he carried me.
An impressive insight. But not, at this moment, of the
slightest use to either of us. Very well, I shall undress you
myself. He raised an elegant hand. With a single word.
If you could really do that, said Wilawen, you
would already have done soOH!
The Mage had uttered his word.
Wilawen covered herself with her hands.
I was refraining out of respect, said the drow. And
because watching a woman undress is always pleasurable. Now bathe!
He turned to leave.
Wilawen glowered at his back.
Two words and your face will stick like that,
A young drow climbed the massive staircase, gave his excuse to
the sentries, and entered the School of Wizardry.
The Mage returned carrying a gown of soft, black suede spangled
with blood-red gems, and laid it carefully on the bed. Are
you considered a beauty amongst humans?
Are youat leastintact?
Wilawen stared up at him.
I can look.
Still, it is the thought that countsand
you do have all the working partshere. He picked up
a towel and held it ready for her. But, if he should ask,
tell him that you are a virgin.
Orophin lay upon his bed, staring into the darkness.
The drow had not forced him. What he had done, he had chosen
Wilawen watched the Mage take a long, slender rod from a padded
box and approach the geometric figures inlaid in the marble floor.
What is your name? she asked.
What is yours?
I asked first.
Yes. He turned, abruptly, his handsome face lit by
something approaching a grin. But I have more to
lose. Then he went back to his work, slowly drawing the
rod down each side of the first figure, reciting a short phrase
at the end of each stroke.
Wilawen, watching him, noted his absorption in the delicate process,
and took a chance. Eowyn, she said. My name
Pharaun, replied the Mage, sweeping the rod around
a curve. Pleased to meet you, Eo
his breath, Oh Lloth, you addle-headed fool! He raised
his head, fixing Wilawen with his fiery eyes. Do you know
anything of arcane magic?
He took her by the hand and drew her into a circle, reciting
more words. Perfect, he said. Now we are ready.
He backed away. This may take some time
He had collected several items and arranged them on a table,
and now he stood behind them, lighting an incense burner and using
his hands to waft the fragrant smoke into the prepared space,
whilst he chanted a monotonous refrainquietly at first,
then louder, and louder, slowly building more and more momentum,
until, at last, his summons reached its climax...
And a massive, man-like creature suddenly shot up through the
floor, and stood beside Wilawen.
The young drow paused, and glanced back.
There was no one following him.
He drew a small onyx figurine from a pouch at his waist, set
it down on the floor, and whispered a single word.
The demon clenched its fists and roared.
Wilawen stared in horror at its naked bodyslimy mottled
skin stretched over broad shoulders, a heavily muscled chest,
powerful thighs, and a big, erect penis.
WHO HAS BROUGHT ME HERE?
I have, said Pharaun, calmly.
I WILL KILL YOU!
Do not be foolish, said the Mage. For one thing,
you are imprisoned
The demon lashed out, smashing both fists into the walls of an
Well, said Pharaun. I suppose there is no harm
in your trying. Unless, that is, I take steps to dissuade you.
He skimmed his fingers over the objects on the table and, dipping
them into a small bowl, took a pinch of dust, and threw it at
The substance fell in a silvery shower, cascading down the invisible
dome and studding its surface, like diamonds.
The creature fell silent, watching, as if mesmerised. Then it
reached out, and stroked the glittering surface
The dust motes exploded under its fingertips, shooting into its
hand like a thousand tiny arrows. The demon drew back, crying
out in pain.
Now, said Pharaun, if you will just calm down,
and look to your right, you will see that I have a gift for you.
The demon looked Wilawen up and down.
Is that not worth having? asked Pharaun.
Depends. What do you want in return?
We can discuss that later. Just give me your word that
you will grant me one wish, and I will dispel the walls, and leave
the pair of you to get acquainted.
No, cried Wilawen. No! PleasesirI
will do anything else you ask. Please!
It is a tempting offer, said Pharaun; but no.
He turned to the demon. Well? What do you say?
The creature leaned as close to Wilawen as his prison would permit,
and snuffed at her skirts. Is she a virgin?
Would I give you anything less?
No! cried Wilawen. No, I am not! He is trying
to trick you! Pharaun, please, I am begging you
PHARAUN! bellowed the demon, pounding on the magical
walloblivious, now, to the volatile dust that exploded with
every blowI command you to release me, PHARAUN!
Pharaun clasped his hands (as though around the creatures
massive neck), and hastily recited a spell that would shrink the
demons prison and grip him in an invisible vise
He completed it just as the creature broke freedisappearing
through the floor and back to the astral plane from which it had
been summonedand the spell closed on empty space, met
itself in the middle, and rebounded, lifting Wilawen bodily, and
depositing her almost neatly in Pharauns outstretched