pharaun and wilawen

“Home Sweet Home,” said Pharaun, closing and locking the door. “Is that not what you surface dwellers say?” He lit a series of candles with a sweep of his hand. “Put her in the ch—oh...” He switched to his own language and repeated the instruction.

Gently, Drizzt set Wilawen down and took up position beside her, standing, like a bodyguard, with his hands upon his swords.

“Whatever did you do to inspire such loyalty in the brute?” asked Pharaun. “I assure you, his manly protection is not required—I need you, and in good condition.”

“For what?”

“What do you think?” Side-stepping past Drizzt, the Mage walked to the far side of the room—which was covered, Wilawen could just see in the candlelight, with bookshelves—and selected a book. He began leafing through the pages.

“But I can control you,” she said.

“In small things, yes—in small things you seem to have total control.” He looked up from the book, keeping his place with his forefinger. “It is an interesting sensation. With larger tasks, however, I find that I can question your orders, though you still have the upper hand. When you try anything too ambitious, I can refuse.”

“Why did it happen?”

“I have no idea. And neither, it seems,”—he closed the book and waved it at her—“does our esteemed author.” He replaced the volume and selected another.

“All I have to do,” said Wilawen, “is keep each step very small.”

“So I have noticed. And at that you are proving quite adept...” He looked up at her. “You really are the strangest combination of mental strength and physical docility. Are all surface women like you?”

“I will have nothing more to do with the demon,” said Wilawen, ignoring his question, “nor with that—hole you have made.” She stood up—Drizzt shifted to let her pass, but followed close behind her as she approached the Mage. “You are going to help me and my friends get back home,” she said. “And we will start by rescuing the others.” She drew herself up to her full height and commanded him, firmly, “Take me to The Silken Rack.”

“Too far,” said Pharaun. “And,”—he put his book down—“before you start showering me with little tasks and set us off on a course that we will both regret, for Lloth’s sake, sit down and let us make a sensible plan.”

“I will not help you summon the demon again.”

“Perhaps we can come to some arrangement—”


Drizzt, seeing Wilawen’s agitation, stepped between her and Pharaun, using his greater bulk to intimidate the taller drow.

“All right! Call him off,” said the Mage. “And then, at least, listen to what I propose.”

For a long moment Wilawen considered her options. Then—“Drizzt...”—she laid her hand upon the warrior’s arm. “Let him go.”

Drizzt stepped back.

“Thank you,” said Pharaun, brushing, with great dignity, several imaginary creases from his embroidered robes. “Now, sit—both of you.” He repeated the words in drow. “I, for one,” he added, “am in need of a stiff drink.”

He crossed to the dresser and, from one of its richly carved shelves, selected a bottle, pulling out the cork and smelling its contents appreciatively. “Yes—a drop of surface Brandy—most appropriate, under the circumstances,” he said.

“These are your chambers,” said Wilawen, suddenly. “Those other rooms belonged to someone else...”

“Unfortunately, yes.” He handed her a glass of spirits. “To the Archmage of Menzoberranzan, to be precise. One might have thought,” he added, offering another glass to Drizzt, “that it would have been better protected. I now suspect that the figures on his study floor are merely decorative. He must have some other space, properly prepared, that he uses for professional purposes. It is a pity. With adequate warding, the summoning might have worked...” He sat down opposite Wilawen and took a long draught of brandy. “Mmm—that is better. Now—”

“Make Drizzt understand me,” said Wilawen.

Pharaun frowned.

“If we are going to discuss a plan,” she persisted, “he must be able to join in. Make him understand Westron.”

“I cannot.”


Pharaun shrugged. “I feel no compulsion to do so—so it must be too ambitious.”

“Then make me understand your language.”

Without any further argument, the drow reached inside his robes and drew out a goose feather. “From the surface,” he explained. “I bought two—they cost a Matron Mother’s ransom.” And, holding it like a quill pen, he wrote a few words upon the air, pronouncing each syllable as he formed it. “There,” he said, “speak to him.”

“I did not feel anything—”

“O’Wilawen! You can speak drow!”

Wilawen turned to Drizzt. “Can you understand what I am saying?”

“Yes!” He beamed.

She reached out to him. “Thank you, Drizzt,” she said. “Thank you for rescuing me in the caves, and for leaving Guenhwyvar to protect me; thank you for bringing Valandil—”

“Yes, yes; very touching,” interrupted Pharaun. “But shall we get down to business?”

Drizzt and Wilawen exchanged smiles. “I want to rescue my friends,” she continued. “Will you help me?”

“Of course.”

“Do we need him?” She jerked her head towards Pharaun.

“A skilled wizard is always useful,” Drizzt admitted.

Are you skilled?” asked Wilawen, turning back to Pharaun.

“You have seen the evidence.”

“I have seen a hole in the floor.”

“Summoning that demon would have taxed even the most senior Masters of Sorcere,” said Pharaun, re-arranging the front of his robes and smoothing the fabric over his knees. “On reflection—yes—perhaps it was a little ambitious of me to attempt it at this stage. But I have given you ample evidence besides.”

Wilawen sighed. “What is your plan, then?”

“You will help me close the portal, then we will rescue your friends and I will send you and them back to the surface.”

“No. We will rescue my friends first, and you will send them to the surface, then I will help you with the hole.”

Pharaun shook his head. “Time is of the essence here—you said yourself that the portal is growing. Happily, I was able to seal the outer door, so that—at present—it is confined. At present. But I must close it before the Archmage returns and discovers that half his chambers is missing. Besides,” he picked an imaginary thread from his sleeve, “you can force me to do whatever you like, whenever you like—it is I who must do the trusting...”

“For how long?”

The drow shrugged.

“Or is it that...” Wilawen drew herself up, straight-backed, and said, commandingly, “Answer me truthfully: will sealing the hole break my hold over you?”

Pharaun’s handsome face contorted in pain. “Yes...” he hissed, through clenched teeth. “I believe so.

Wilawen heard Drizzt suppress a laugh.

“Answer me truthfully: can you really send us safely to the surface?”


“Good. Then, as I said, we will rescue my friends first and—well, you will just have to trust that I will help you once they are safe.” She rose to her feet and began to pace, back and forth. “What is this place, The Silken Rack?” She turned to Drizzt.

“A—a brothel,” he answered, shyly.

“Have you ever been there?”

He shook his head, averting his eyes with embarrassment.

The Silken Rack,” said Pharaun, his voice sounding smooth and cultured once more, “caters for Matron Mothers, and for the elder daughters of the great houses, who have an illicit taste for... certain types of mate.”

Women go there?”

“Of course. Women are obsessed with sex—is it not so on the surface?”

“You are saying that Valandil will be expected to...? Service...?” Wilawen wrung her hands in anguish. “We must hurry! We must—” She looked down at her clenched fists. “You healed my skin,” she said. “Can you change its colour? Can you make me look like one of you? If I looked like a drow I could simply walk into this place, take you and Drizzt in as my servants, and...”

She stepped before Pharaun holding out her hands as though she expected him to paint her skin black. “Make me look like a drow,” she commanded.

Pharaun raised his hands, touching his fingertips to hers. Then, closing his eyes in concentration, he murmured a long, musical spell.

Wilawen stared at her fingers. The ebony hue seemed to be flowing from Pharaun’s body into her own, and she felt her skin tingle as the colour spread along her arms, across her shoulders, up her neck, and over her face to the roots of her hair (which seemed to be growing), down to her bosom (which was certainly growing), spreading to her waist (which was shrinking), over her belly and down her thighs, then (all in a rush) to the tips of her toes. Her leather gown, meanwhile, was altering itself into a low-cut bodice and knee-length breeches, closely moulded to the contours of her ample new curves.

“That is better,” said Pharaun.

Wilawen scowled.

“If you are going to visit a brothel,” he said, “you must look like one of those sex-obsessed strumpets... It is not my fault if it also makes you a little easier on the eye.”

“How long will it last?”

“A day at most.”

“You are not sure?”

“How could I be? I have had no chance to practice on humans, and—aside from a few tortures—the books are silent on the subject.”

“Could I change back into myself whilst we are in The Silken Rack?”

Pharaun shrugged. “For your information, that spell does not fall into the category of ‘small tasks’. It is actually quite difficult. I cast it because it was a surprisingly good idea. However, we will also need money. Any suggestions?” He looked from Wilawen to Drizzt and back again. “I have none,” he added. “A noble does not carry coin.”

“Can you not use a spell to make some?” asked Wilawen, trying to pull the neckline of her bodice higher.

Pharaun slapped her hands away. “Leave it! No,” he said, “not without a focus. So, unless you happen to have a coin that I can use...”


“I do,” said Drizzt, suddenly. “The one you gave me, O’Wilawen.” He opened the pouch at his waist—the pouch in which he kept Guenhwyvar’s statuette—and pulled out the silver ten-piece that Wilawen had given him in the starlit cave. “I shall want it back,” he said to Pharaun. “It is a keepsake.” He dropped it into the other drow’s palm.

“I will do what I can.”

“What about weapons?” said Wilawen, remembering the Bazaar with its stalls of elven bows and swords. “If we can arm Valandil and the others we will all stand a better chance of getting away. We will need two lots of money.”

“The next person who calls me ‘indolent’,” said Pharaun, “will quickly wish that he had never been born.” He carried the coin to a small table and set it down on the velvety cloth. Then he fished two fragments of leather from one of his many pockets, and placed them either side of the coin. “Talk amongst yourselves,” he said, “this may make some time.”

Naturally, Wilawen and Drizzt watched his every move, in silence.

Pharaun took two long, deep breaths, stretched out his hands, and muttering the same strange phrase over and over (which Wilawen, despite her new ability to speak his language, could not decipher), slowly built, it seemed, out of thin air, two leather pouches bulging with coins.

“There,” he gasped, picking up the original ten-piece and tossing it back to Drizzt with a triumphant (though weak) smile. “I shall need to rest before we go to the brothel—at least six hours of reverie. But first,” he added, breathlessly, “whilst I am on such form, one last spell.” And he produced a slender wooden baton from inside his robes.

“Hold this,” he said, handing the rod to Wilawen. “No mistress would be complete without her deadly snake whip. I am afraid that my snakes will not be properly animate, but if you use them sparingly, they should suffice.”


The Silken Rack

“Here,” said Orophin’s burly keeper. She handed him a small block of dried fungus, then turned to unlock his cell door.

“What is it?” asked the elf.

“Eat it later. It will keep your strength up.” She winked.

Orophin handed it back. “I have no need.”

The drow laughed. “No. At least, not yet—or so I have heard.” She looked him up and down, her eyes travelling slowly over his bare chest and lingering on the bulge in his leggings. Then she nodded towards the cell door. “Go on...” It was perfectly clear what she intended to do.

Orophin swallowed hard. Play along, he thought. For now.

He stepped past her into his cell, bracing himself to deal with her demands but, to his surprise (and relief), she did not follow and he realised that something must be happening, further down the corridor—and, suddenly, some elven instinct told him that it involved Valandil.

Oh. Valar.

Quietly, he stepped back to the door and peered out. The passageway was dark, but Orophin was still able to make out the shapes of two drow females, carrying between them Valandil’s limp body.




Contents page


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

chapter 20

Next chapter: Minas Tirith
Haldir and Arador pose as merchants; Legolas takes a chance; Shadow Eowyn quizzes Hentmirë.

chapter 22