The Silken Rack stood close to the Bazaar,
a glimmering palace of slender towers and delicate turretsovertly
feminine in a world already dominated by the female.
Escorted by the two male drow, Wilawen strode towards its elegant
gates. Her heart was pounding, but her journey through the busy
market place, where males of every species had bowed, and stepped
aside with cringing respect, had convinced her that, provided
she could control her nerves, and could talk her way inside
Let me do the talking, said Pharaun.
Wilawen turned on him, her eyes narrowed, but the drows
gaze was respectfully lowered. Remember, she warned,
how much you need me.
We are in this togethermistress. He
bowed. Then, assuming a regal air, he approached the drow guards
with a curt, Open the gates for my Lady!
Wilawen saw one of the males cast her a surreptitious glance.
But it was no more than a quick appraisal of her new, curvaceous
body; and, when their eyes met, he hastily bowed, then swung the
gate open, and backed away to let her pass.
With Pharaun and Drizzt in tow, Wilawen swept inside.
The proprietress of The Silken Rack welcomed her new client
into an elegantly furnished parlour. I was just about to
take a little refreshment, she said, will you join
Thank you, said Wilawen.
The madam looked at her curiously. Is something troubling
you, my Lady?
This is all new to you, said the drow, soothingly.
I can see that. Please, sit down...
There was a small table standing between them, with a crystal
decanter and goblets upon it, and the madam poured two glasses
of pale green wine and handed one to Wilawen. Believe me,
she said, these males may look differentand
it is true that most of them have more spirit than a drowbut,
in the end, they are still only males. There is no reason for
a Lady to be nervous.
I must be bolder, thought Wilawen.
She took a sip of wine, set the goblet back on the table, and
told the tale that she and Pharaun had concocted beforehand: that
she was a noble, from the city of Ched Nasad, visiting House Mizzrym,
that her hostess had heard that the Rack had recently acquired
a number of surface elves, and that she, Wilawen, was... curious.
Ah, the new elves, said the drow, leaning back in
her chair with a self-satisfied smile. Yes, they are
exceedingly popularand with good reason. They are so skilled.
Might I...? Wilawens voice stuck
in her throat. She pretended to cough.
You are most fortunate, my Lady. It just so happens that
one of them is free.
Then I should like to see him.
The madam took up a little bell from the table and shook it,
and a male drow immediately emerged from the shadows. Vorion
will show you to your room, she said.
The drow presented himself to Wilawen with a bow.
Myermy males... she said.
They will be quite safe in the waiting room, replied
No, said Wilawen, firmly, I want them with
With you? The drow frowned. That is a most
unusual request, my Lady. You will not need them, I assure you.
I... I want them, said Wilawen. It sounded
pathetic. She squared her shoulders and tried again. It
is bettermore enjoyablewhen they are present.
If I cannot have them She began to rise.
But the madam reached out, andwithout actually touching
her guestkept her in her seat. Of course, my Lady,
she said, with a forced smile. The Rack takes pride
in satisfying its patrons desires.
Vorion, escort the Lady to the Blue Room, then have her
males taken to join herbut, she added, quietly, tell
Kyrnill I want them thoroughly searched and disarmed, first.
The Blue Room was an elegant, high-ceilinged cavern, subtly decorated
with web-like carvings, and softly lit by lavender-blue faerie
Wilawen wandered nervously amongst its graceful pillars, breathing
deeply in an attempt to control her nerves.
Which of the elves would they bring to her?
Please, gods, let it be Valandil!
But would he recognise her?
And how would she convince him if he did not?
Orophin followed his gaoler down the pitch-black corridor.
What had happened to Valandil had changed everything.
Orophin did not know whether his friend was alive or dead but,
even if he were still alive, there could be no possibility
now of their escaping together.
A great, hollow misery filled the elfs heart.
Wilawen shuddered. She was sitting on the bed, and the mattress,
filled with something soft and fluid, kept rippling suggestively
Suddenly, a doorhitherto concealedopened in one of
the carved walls, and a burly female drow entered, leading an
elf. Wilawen leaped to her feet. Oro!
She stopped herself just in time. Oh, she
said, deliberately. Thank you.
The drow removed the elfs shackles, and gave Wilawen a
perfunctory bow, before withdrawing, and shutting the door behind
Orophin steeled himself.
His guest was small, with delicate features that
seemed very familiar, though he could not recall where he had
seen them before, and she was standing awkwardly, as though trying
to hide her shapely body. Had she been an elleth, he would have
said that she was shy.
Orophin made up his mind: if an opportunity arose, he would take
it; one way or another, he would not spend another day in this
Orophin! cried Wilawen, running to the elf
and throwing her arms around him. Oh, Orophin, I am so pleased
to see you! Where is Valandil? Tell me that he is safe,
To her surprise, gently but firmly, the elf pushed her away.
Please, allow me, mistress, he said, lifting her into
his arms and carrying her to the bed.
He laid her on its swaying mattress and, sitting down beside
her, he ran his hands over her body, caressing her breasts, her
waist, her hips, then bringing them down between her thighs...
No weapons, thought Orophin, except for the snake whip,
And if I try to wield that, will it obey me? Or will it strike?
No! Wilawen knocked his hand away. What
are you doing? Orophin!
The elf frownedand it seemed to Wilawen that her blow had
awoken him from some sort of trance.
What was that? he asked. Were you saying
my name? He leaned over her. The mattress shuddered beneath
them. How do you know my name? I have not told anyone my
Wilawen shuffled backwards on the heaving bed, and pushed herself
up on her elbows. I am Wilawen, she said. In
Did you say Wilawen?
He grasped her shoulders. Where is she? What have you done
to her? Tell me!
Orro-phinn, cried the drow.
Tell me! He shook her hard. Tell me!
He lifted a hand andValar forgive himhe threatened
to strike her, and her eyes widened with shock
And then he knew where he had seen her face before.
The public doorthe one through which Wilawen had enteredsuddenly
opened, and Orophin released her, and quickly backed away.
Wilawen turnedand could hardly believe how relieved she
was to see Pharaun enter, followed by Drizzt.
Well. I see that you have lost no time in getting reacquainted
with your friend, said the Mage, dryly.
Why does he not understand me? Wilawen crawled across
the swaying mattress, rolled awkwardly to her feet, and advanced
upon the drow. What have you done?
What have I done? I? He turned her
to face Orophin. The elf cannot understand you because you
are speaking drowas you commanded, remember? You
will continue to speak drow until you ask me to remove the spell.
He examined his beautifully-shaped hand.
Wilawen sighed. It was too soon to risk that. But you
can speak Westron, she said. You tell him who
I am. She made it a command.
Pharaun waved at Orophin to draw his attention. This,
he said, pointing, and enunciating his words carefully, as though
to an idiot, is your friend,he turned back to
Wilawenwhat did you say your name was?
She had told him that it was Eowyn but now was not
the time for caution. Wilawen, she said.
Ah... This is your friend, Wilawen, whom
I have, very cleverly, disguised as one of yourercustomers,
so that she may help you escape.
The elfs eyes narrowed, but he said nothing.
I do not think he believes me, said Pharaun.
Tell him to ask me something, said Wilawen. Something
that only IWilawenwould know. And, as
Pharaun translated, she moved closer to the elf, willing him to
Orophin stared at her for a long moment, then said, hoarsely,
What happened to my older brother?
It was impossibleridiculousand yet Orophin already
knew that it was true. What happened to my older brother?
And the drow who was really Wilawen, tears spilling down her
ebony cheeks, replied.
And he had no need of that arrogant fellows translation
to understand what she was saying.
He drowned, said Wilawen, softly, in the starlit
They gathered beside the bed to plan their next move.
Valandil refused, said Orophinand Wilawen,
who could understand him, though she could not make him understand
her, translated his words for Drizztand fought them.
I saw them drag him from his cell. I do not know where they took
him. I do not know whether... He saw Wilawens anguish
and touched her hand. I am so sorry.
Drizzt took charge. We must release the others first,
he said, decisively. If he is badly injured we will need
their help. Mizzrym,he turned to Pharaunyou
must find him for us.
The Mage sighed. Just remember that I am not an
infinite resource. Do you have anything that belongs to this elf
Wilawen wiped her eyes. No, she sniffed. Unless...
Yes, I do have the ring he gave me when we made our vows.
Pharaun held out his hand.
Wilawen fished down the front of her bodice. I was keeping
it safe, she explained, dropping it into his palm.
Oh, good. It is warm.
Holding the ring in his open hand, and using the fingers of his
free hand to draw delicate patterns in the air above it, Pharaun
recited his spell. As he finished, the ring jumped, and he quickly
clasped his hands together. There, he said, keeping
the jewel trapped, now it will lead us to him.
We will need the weapons, OWilawen, said Drizzt.
Once again, the woman reached into her leather bodice, this time
pulling out a small, black velvet pouch, and offered it to Pharaun.
The Mage turned to Drizzt. This is your territory, not
mine, he said. You had better do the manly part.
Drizzt set the pouch on the bed, untied the knot in its drawstring,
and loosened the fine cord. Then, slipping on his gauntlets, he
carefully pulled the pouch openand as his hands moved, the
velvet seemed to stretch with them, stretching and stretching
until it spread out over the bed like a black coverlet; and lying
upon it was an assortment of knives, and swords, and Drizzts
pair of scimitars hanging from their tooled leather belt, and
a small self-bow, made of dark, polished wood and inlaid with
golden leaves (which must have originated in the Woodland Realm),
and lying on top of all
My bow, said Orophin.
It is wonderful what you can find in the Bazaar these days,
Please, said Drizzt, speaking as one warrior to another,
and needing no translation, take up your weapon.
So Orophin lifted his great Galadhrim bow and, with a smile that
mingled triumph and relief, tested it with a slow, careful draw.
Then he watched in fascination as Drizzt, having set aside his
own swords, and a dagger for Wilawen, drew up the edges of the
velvet sheetwhich instantly reformed itself into a tiny
pouchsealing the remaining weapons inside. How is
that possible? he asked.
What you are seeing is a simple bridge between dimensions,
said Pharaun. On the outside it is a pouch, on the insideoh,
never mind. It is magic.
Then, with a complacent smile, he added, The clever
thing was hiding it where our hostesses would never have dared
They put their plan into action.
Drizzt took up position beside the door.
Orophin, kneeling astride Wilawen, who was lying on her back
on the bed, wrapped his hands around her throat.
Begin, said Pharaun.
Help, she screamed. Help! Help!
Again, said Pharaun. Louder.
HELP, cried Wilawenthe Mage added the sounds
of a violent struggle with a few sweeps of his elegant handHELP!
At last, the concealed door flew open and Orophins burly
gaoler rushed in, snake whip already raised
But she had not taken more than three steps towards the elf before
Drizzt called upon her to turn and, as she stared at him in surprise,
he stepped forward, and sliced her head from her shoulders with
a single cut of his scimitar.
They laid the drows body on the bed and left the Blue Room,
closing the door behind them. It is not worth wasting my
energies on sealing it, said Pharaun. They will not
miss her for at least another hour, and the fun will have begun
long before that.
Orophin had broken a glowing crystal from one of the chandeliers,
and he led them down the maze of corridors, following the route
that he had memorised.
Tell me, said Wilawen to Pharaun, in her most
commanding whisper, where is Valandil?
Happily, we appear to be heading straight towards him,
replied the drow. And I must add that your mistrusting
me now shows extremely poor judgement.
Despiteor perhaps because ofthe state of her nerves, Wilawen
Shhhh! hissed Orophin; there was someone up
Drizzt laid one hand on the elfs arm and, gesturing with
the other, indicated that he should hide the crystal, and allow
the drow to investigate. Orophin agreed, handing the light to
Pharaun, who slipped it inside his robes.
Drizzt disappeared into the darkness.
The others waited.
There was a short, muffled cry, and then a thud.
Pharaun returned the crystal to Orophin.
They found Drizzt crouching beside another female. She
was delivering a prisonershe will soon be missed,
he whispered, and there is nowhere to hide her body.
Her chargea giant, heavily muscled manwas watching
His spirit has been broken, murmured Orophin.
But Wilawen waved a hand in front of the mans eyes and,
when he looked down a her, bewildered, she said, relying on Pharaun
to translate, We have come to set you freeto free
as many of you as we can. Will you help us?
The man nodded.
Wilawen handed him her dagger.
They found the cells, exactly as Orophin had described, arranged
in pairs along a closed side-passage. Two of the eight doors were
already standing openOrophins own, and Valandils.
The others must be occupied, whispered the elf. This,he
pointed to one of the stout, fungus-wood doorsis Rumils,
Open all of them, ordered Wilawen. She turned to
Pharaun and looked him directly in the eye. Open them.
Slowlybecause, although it was not really in his interests,
he found that he could resist this command, just a little, and
he did not want the woman thinking that she had more power over
him than she really hadPharaun raised both arms and pronounced
a very loud and very agitated spell
The doors burst open, smoke and dust and splinters of fungus-wood
flying out into the corridor and raining down upon the rescuers.
Drizzt ran back to the mouth of the passage, scimitars drawn,
ready to deal with anyone who might come to investigate the noise.
Orophin plunged into his brothers cell.
Wilawen, one arm raised to protect her face from the debris,
turned to Pharaun. Could you not have done something less
The doors had to come outwards, said the drow, or
the blast would have killed your friends. He approached
one of the open cells, cautiously.
I meant could you not just have broken off the locks
andoh, Master Dínendaloh, no!
She caught the elfs arm as he tried to retreat back into
his cell. Dín-en-dal, she said, as clearly
as she could, please, go in there, with Or-o-phin and Ru-mil.
She pushed the elf towards Rumils cell.
Meanwhile, the occupants of the other cells had emergedtwo
more humans, a dwarf, and a huge Uruk Hai.
There really is no accounting for female taste when
it comes to sex, muttered Pharaun, prudently taking shelter
behind the big, dull-witted human, but the prisoners were not
interested in himthey were closing in on Wilawen, whom they
took to be one of their gaolers
Help me, she hissed.
Pharaun considered his options.
HELP ME, she bellowedand, suddenly,
he had no choice but to step in front of her.
We are here to save you, he said, in Westron. We
have weaponslook,he gestured towards
the big humanwe have already armed your friend.
Wilawen slapped his back. Oh! And the female is with us.
The Uruk Hai had armed itself with an axe and, as they swept
back along the corridors, following Valandils enchanted
ring, it released more and more of the prisoners, striking off
the locks and shouldering open the doors.
The supply of weapons was soon exhausted, but there was strength
in numbers, and the motley army, bound together by nothing more
than a common hatred of their gaolers, dealt ruthlessly with the
few females who tried to stand in their way.
He is in there, said Pharaun. He handed the ring
back to Wilawen and she slipped it on her finger.
The door that the Mage had identified looked no different from
any of the others, except that it did not appear to be locked.
Drizzt, however, signalled to the Uruk Hai, and the brute smashed
it open. Wilawen and Dínendal immediately slipped inside,
followed by the two drow and a handful of prisoners.
Two females, working at a bench on the far side of the room,
were quickly seized, thrown from male to male, and swallowed up
by the crowd.
What if they were healers, thought Wilawen, with a pang
But then she saw Valandil, lying unconscious on one of the beds,
and she sat down beside him, and took his hand in hers, whilst
Dínendal examined him. There are no broken bones,
said the healer, and no sign of serious internal injury;
but he is very badly bruised. He needs sleep. He glanced
round his companions and, not knowing whom to address, settled
for Pharaun. I would prefer not to wake him just yet.
Then we must carry him, said Wilawen. She leaned
over the elf and lovingly stroked a strand of his hair back from
Wilawen... whispered Dínendal, for
he had seen that gesture before.
Whatever we do, said Drizzt, we must hurry.
We cannot control this mob, but we need them. The Silken Rack
is run by two of the most powerful houses in Menzoberranzan; the
proprietress will be calling on their armies for protection. We
must get out quickly.
Wilawen turned suddenly to Pharaun. Answer me truthfully,
she said, would a person be safe inside the velvet pouch?
Would he be able to breathe?
Yes, said the Mage, without hesitation.
But the woman was cautious. Are you telling me the truth?
If he is not, said Drizzt, I will kill him.
You could try. Pharaun sighed. Yes,
he said, emphatically, he will be safe inside the pouch.
Then I will carry him. Wilawen pulled the
velvet bag from her bodice and handed it to the Mage. Pharaun
set it down on one of the beds and opened it out; Dínendal
and Drizzt carefully lifted Valandil and laid him upon the velvet
sheet, and Pharaun began gathering it up
Wait, cried Wilawen. She leaned down and kissed
the elfs forehead. What if he wakes whilst he is still
He will find himself in a warm, dark place, said
Pharaun. It may be confusing but it will not, I think, be
particularly unpleasant. He will be tucked in your bosomit
will probably smell of you.
Wilawen nodded. Close it.
Pharaun drew up the cornersthe pouch reformedand
he pulled the drawstring tight, and tied off the cord. Then he
handed the bag to Wilawen, and she slipped it inside her bodice.
Outside the Healing Room all was in chaos.
Up ahead, the furious prisoners had broken into the public rooms,
and the screams of female drow pierced the general roar of anger.
Behind, males still caged in the cells were banging on their doors,
and shouting for help, aware that something was happening outside.
Drizzt, leading Wilawen by the arm, found Orophin and his brother.
Which way? he asked.
And, though the elf could not understand the drows words,
he knew their meaning and, once again, he took the lead, forcing
his way through the mobwith the others following as best
they coulduntil, clear of the throng, he turned into a deserted
corridor and, still supporting Rumil, hurried towards the outside.
But some of the prisoners had seen the little group leave the
crowd, and understood their intention, and they began to follow,
crying to the other males, This way! This way! and,
Come with us!
Drizzt grabbed Pharauns arm as they rushed ahead of the
mob. The door will be locked, he said. You must
open it quickly, or we will be crushed against it.
I am preparing the spell as we approach, replied
the Mage, but I will need some time. You must hold
With a grim nod, Drizzt released Wilawen and fell back behind
the other drow. I will do my best.
Orophin had remembered the route correctly.
The passage, having turned a sharp corner, ended abruptly. The
door was unguarded, and there was no obvious lock, but when the
elf pushed at it, it would not move.
Stand aside, said Pharaun, in Westron; he raised
At the same time, Drizzt, drawing his scimitars, turned to face
the mob. Stay back! he cried. Give the wizard
room to work! You will all be leaving, but you must let
Female! cried a voice.
Female! repeated another.
Then others joined in, Fe-male! Fe-male!
And some of the prisoners began pushing forwards, trying to reach
Wilawen, who, until then, had been standing beside Drizzt, but
who now shrank back behind him.
Give us the female! shouted the Uruk Hai.
Hopelessly outnumbered, Drizzt raised his twin blades.