pharaun and wilawen

The air above Wilawen was swirling like a tornado, bearing curled flakes of charred flesh and the singed fragments of what had once been the room’s rich furnishings, downwards into the glowing portal through which the demon had escaped.

She struggled to free herself from Pharaun’s grasp. “We must get out of here,” she cried, shouting over the roar of the wind. “Let go of me!”

The drow released her.

Wilawen tried to rise, but the hot air tore at her head, crisping her hair and scorching her face.

“Come on!” she shouted. “Keep low!”

On her belly, in the unnatural layer of stillness beneath the chaos, she crawled to the door and, wrapping her hand in her leather skirts, she reached up through the rushing heat, and tried to turn the handle.

The door was locked. Of course! But the drow was behind her. “Open it!” she bellowed.

Again, he obeyed, withdrawing a key from inside his tattered robes, reaching up—his hand blistering as it entered the whirlwind—unlocking the door and turning the handle.

The door remained closed.

“Push!” cried Wilawen, throwing her weight against it, “the wind is sucking it in and holding it shut! Push!

Once again, the drow followed her orders, shoving the door until it suddenly gave, and the pair scrambled through—Wilawen just managing to drag herself clear before it slammed shut again. “Give me the key!” She turned the lock. “That will give it more support, but I am not sure it will hold for long; the wood is being pulled apart… When will the wind die down?”

“It will not. Not by itself.”

“Not…” Wilawen frowned. “You can stop it? With your magic? Why do you not—”

A finger of air suddenly lifted her skirts, drawing her gaze to a stream of dust, sparkling in the bluish light, that was flowing beneath the door.

“The wind is growing,” she cried.

Dínendal’s cell

“Come,” said the female drow, beckoning. “Quick!” She pointed to the ground beside her feet, for emphasis.

Calmly, Master Dínendal rose and joined her in the corridor outside his small cell.

“Another guest has asked for you,” she said, in heavily accented Westron, “‘the surface elf with the magic hands’ she called you. She is waiting for you in the steam room. Come—this way.”

She had brought a lantern for his benefit, and she raised it high, and led him along the passageway, prattling as she went, “I have five hundred saved, and a free afternoon next week, so I may just decide to hire you and see for myself what all the fuss is about…”

Dínendal followed her in silence, letting her chatter wash over him, unheard. Rumil, he knew, was in the cell next to his own—he had been permitted to examine the injured elf twice since they arrived—but as to where the others might be… He strained every one of his senses, searching for the slightest sign of them.

“I said this way,” said the drow sharply, grasping his arm and guiding him round a corner—and Dínendal found himself face-to-face with Orophin, chained hand and foot, being led in the opposite direction by a burly female brandishing a snake whip.

In the dim light of the lanterns, the two elves exchanged a silent greeting, and Dínendal managed to mouth, “Do not give up hope,” before Orophin’s gaoler dragged him away.

“We die,” said Dínendal to the talkative girl. “If we are forced to couple against our will, like beasts, we die.”

“Lucky, then, that you are so good with your hands,” said the drow.

Come away from the door!” cried Wilawen, crouching behind a chair.

Pharaun immediately dropped down beside her, obeying her without question, like a child.

The woman frowned. What had happened to the confident Mage who had used her as bait to lure a demon? Why was he being so compliant, so—

With a sudden flash of insight, she squared her shoulders and, speaking in a firm voice, said, “Take me back to the slave market.”

The drow smiled, though his handsome face immediately crumpled in pain. “Clever,” he said, delicately probing his blistered skin with the tips of his fingers, “but you are aiming too far.”

“Then take me outside,” said Wilawen.

“Still too far.” The drow held up a scorched hand. “Now, try to be quiet.” He closed his eyes and, moving his fingers in a series of subtle—and, Wilawen thought, rather beautiful—gestures, he said a few words in his own tongue.

In the dim light—most of it streaming from beneath the shuddering door—the woman watched as the blisters on his hands and face burst and drained, and the skin knitted itself together, the blemishes quickly fading until the damage was completely healed.

Pharaun opened his eyes. “You should close that mouth,” he said.

Wilawen held out her hands. “Heal me.”

Without the slightest hesitation, the drow repeated his conjuring and Wilawen felt the pain seep away, to be replaced by a maddening itching as her skin repaired itself. She scratched her cheek.

“Stop that,” said Pharaun, knocking her hand away. “You will spoil my work.”

Wilawen clasped her hands behind her back and, looking into his fiery eyes, said, “There. Now—take me out into the corridor.”

With a sigh, Pharaun rose, and helped her to her feet.

Wilawen smiled—but her triumph was short-lived. There were, she noticed now, two doors in the far corner of the opulently furnished room, and she had no idea which was the right one. She glanced at Pharaun.

How far could she trust the power she now seemed to have over him?

Valandil’s cell

No,” said Valandil. “I am betrothed, soon to be married.” He sat down on his bunk and folded his arms across his chest.

“Betrothed? Not any more.” The female drow stepped inside his cell.

“I will not betray my beloved,” said Valandil.

The drow shrugged her shoulders. “Who said anything about betrayal? Just come and pleasure the Matron Mother.”

“No!” Valandil rose to his feet. “I will not lie with another.”

The drow raised her snake whip. “Come,” she said, coldly; the snakes writhed with excitement.

“No,” said Valandil.

“Then we must persuade you,” she said—speaking of her snakes—and she cracked the whip beside Valandil’s ear, letting its venomous heads brush his cheek. “Next time,” she hissed, “they will use their fangs—and you will die.” She raised the whip again. “Now do as I say!”

Valandil shook his head—

The drow lashed her whip—

And Valandil—his elven speed enhanced by desperation—caught the writhing heads in both hands and, silently offering up a prayer of remorse for the destruction of six enslaved beings, he snapped their necks.

The drow—mentally bonded with her demonic weapon—shrieked in agony, lashing out with her free hand, knocking the elf to the ground and kicking him, frenziedly. “Animal!” she cried. “Cursed of Lloth!”

Valandil, dazed by her blows, curled up in a ball.

“Coward!” she screamed, kicking him again and again. “Piece of surface shit!”

And she kicked and stamped, and might have killed him, if one of her colleagues, drawn by the commotion, had not dragged her from the cell.

Pharaun walked straight to one of the doors and grasped the key—then jerked his hand back. There was something outside—something with a deep, angry growl.

Open the door,” Wilawen commanded.

This time there was a split-second’s hesitation before the drow obeyed, but then he turned the key, pulled the door open—and was immediately knocked to the ground by a sleek, black shadow that shot through the gap and skidded to a halt before Wilawen, nuzzling her outstretched hand.

Patting Guenhwyvar, Wilawen smiled, through the doorway, at the cat’s familiar companion. “Pharaun,” she said, “ask Drizzt what he is doing here.”

Still sprawling on the floor, the Mage muttered something in his own language then translated the other drow’s reply. “He is rescuing you, apparently. And you might help me up.”

Ignoring him, Wilawen glanced back towards the study door—it was standing up to the whirlwind, but there was no telling for how long—she would have to be quick. “Ask him to come inside—and to shut the door,” she said. “Then ask him if he knows where Val—where my friends are.”

“He says that he followed the surface elves,” said Pharaun, struggling to his feet, “to The Silken Rack—a choice establishment,” he added, brushing himself down, “where—”

But his explanation was cut short by the sharp report of the study door splitting, its two halves sucked inwards by the magical storm.

“Take us somewhere safe,” cried Wilawen, “quickly!”

The special chamber

Smiling wickedly, Orophin’s naked ‘guest’ brandished the key to his shackles.

The elf held out his hands.

The female drow had hired a special chamber for her amorous adventure—a sculpted grotto featuring a canopied bed surrounded by a shallow pool of gently lapping water, set amidst a garden of softly glowing fungus; she was clearly a woman of some substance, and she was bent on teasing him—reaching between his outstretched arms, she trailed the cold metal down his bare chest and slid it under the waistband of his leggings, smiling triumphantly.

Orophin gritted his teeth, telling himself (again) that the only way to survive this ordeal was to play along with her, and—as she continued to enjoy herself, slowly divesting him of his remaining clothing—he tried to occupy his mind by analysing everything he had learned so far.

The building is carved from living rock, he thought, and appears to be windowless, its only weak points being the main door—which Orophin had never seen but had deduced must exist—and the rear entrance, through which we entered—was it only a day ago?

The drow wrapped her arms around his waist and slid herself down his body. Orophin spread his legs and, clasping his shackled hands together, braced himself.

With a little luck, I could retrace the route from my cell back to the rear entrance—

The drow’s hot mouth took him by surprise.

No! I must stop this. Now.

Holding his chains back in one hand, he placed the other hand on the top of her head and, gently but firmly, pushed her away. “Allow me, mistress,” he said. He had no idea whether she could understand him—but when he lifted her onto the bed, she seemed happy enough.

Where was I, he wondered. Yes… Retracing the route.

He ran his hands over the drow’s curvaceous hips, brought them together, and slipped them between her shapely thighs, gently spreading her legs. He leaned in.

His cell was one of eight and, since briefly seeing Dínendal, he was reasonably certain that three of the others were occupied by his companions. That means that up to four potential allies are imprisoned in the rest, he thought. Surely, they will want to escape with us?

The drow cried out in appreciation.

All that remains is to find eight weapons—and some way of opening the doors.

Whilst Pharaun locked—and magically sealed—the door to the devastated apartment, Drizzt returned the big cat to its own dimension. Then the three unlikely allies hurried away into the darkness, Drizzt carrying Wilawen over his shoulder.




Contents page


Previous chapter: Departures & arrivals
Legolas and his companions set out for Minas Tirith; Shadow Legolas arrives.

chapter 18

Next chapter: Osgiliath
Legolas and Eowyn get some unexpected help; Shadow Eowyn and Hentmirë make friends.

chapter 20