wilawen and pharaun

“Keep back,” cried Drizzt. “Back!”

He stretched out his arm, pointing the tip of his scimitar at the Uruk Hai’s throat. “We have all come this far, and there is no reason for anyone to be harmed now. As soon as the door is opened—”

Female!” shouted one of the Orcs and, slipping under the drow’s guard, it made a grab for Wilawen.

“No!” shouted Drizzt. “No! She is not your enemy! She is one of you!”

He heard the surface elf draw his great bow, and he saw, to his surprise, several of the mob fall back, but—


At last, the Mage had opened the door! Coloured light was flooding into the corridor and, from the shadows moving on the wall beside him, Drizzt knew that his companions were escaping—he retreated, scimitars still raised to hold back the mob—

“Drizzt! Come on,” cried Wilawen.

He took a few more steps and found himself outside.

The air was filled with smoke and floating debris. Directly ahead, a portion of the outer fence—an intricate confection of glistening metal—had fallen, and the Mage was scrambling through the gap, followed by the archer and his wounded brother. The other surface elf—the healer—was trying to persuade Wilawen to go next. Drizzt sheathed his blades and grasped her arm.

“No!” Wilawen pulled herself free. “I have dropped the pouch,” she cried. “Valandil! I have dropped Valandil!”

The healer—who did not understand what she was saying—tried to calm her. Drizzt scanned the ground. The prisoners were streaming through the ruined door; the bag was lying at the threshold.

“They will trample him!” shrieked Wilawen. She shook off the surface elf and ran back, battling her way through the crowd of prisoners. Drizzt followed, aware that the healer was close behind him.

Wilawen reached the pouch and scooped it up, but the big Uruk Hai—the door breaker—had spotted her, and it grabbed her and, holding her with one of its massive hands, it roared and beat the other upon its chest, and the mob responded, moving in for the kill.

“LET HER GO,” Drizzt commanded, reaching for his swords—

But, before he could draw them, something streaked past his shoulder, and he saw an arrow bury itself between the Uruk Hai’s startled eyes. Panic spread through the mob; Wilawen broke free and Drizzt grabbed her, and—with the surface elf in tow—dragged her back to the fence.

“Thank you,” he said to the archer, pulling Wilawen through the gap. The healer clambered after them.

“Ah, here you are, at last,” said Pharaun, cheerfully.

They had planned that Drizzt, with his scout’s knowledge of the Dark Dominion—the network of tunnels that surrounded Menzoberranzan—would take the escapees to somewhere they could safely hide, but that had been before they had acquired their murderous escort. “They will follow us,” he said, taking Wilawen by the hand. “They will draw too much attention to us.”

“You do not think,” said Pharaun, impatiently, “that it took me all that time just to open the door, do you?”

Drizzt looked back at the fence. Several of the prisoners had seized the metal web and were shaking it, angrily. The gap had sealed itself.

“No one can pass through unless I have named him—or her,” said the Mage. “They,”—he nodded towards the frenzied mob—“will act as our diversion. Now, please, let us move away, before my genius is completely wasted.”

“Do you have the pouch safe?” asked Drizzt.

Wilawen nodded.


Drizzt led them, briskly, down the shabby-genteel streets of Eastmyr; into the chaotic slums of The Braeryn where, though they drew more attention than he would have liked, no one dared challenge three nobles travelling with their slaves; through the dense fungus forests of Donigarten, to the edge of the mantle, where they slipped, unseen, into the Dark Dominion.


“Are you sure that this place is safe?” said Pharaun, looking dubiously at the strange, smooth-walled cavern.

“Yes,” said Drizzt. “It is new. The patrols do not know of it as yet.”


“A Svirfneblin mine. They have quarried out the rock.”

Satisfied, the mage positioned himself beside the small, rounded entrance and began an incantation.

“What do you suppose he is doing now?” asked Wilawen, fishing inside her bodice for the black velvet pouch.

“I think,” said Drizzt, “that he is sealing us in. I suspect he needs to rest again.”

The elves had sat Rumil down close to the wall and, whilst Orophin held the glowing crystal over him, Dínendal examined his back.

“I am feeling much better,” said the injured elf. He stretched out his arms. “See—I could not have done that yesterday.”

Wilawen laid the pouch upon the ground, untied its cord, and pulled it open. Valandil was still sleeping soundly. She sat down beside him.

“There,” said Pharaun, joining the others. “We should be safe for a few hours, at least. I suggest you sleep—or whatever it is you surface dwellers do.” He repeated the advice in Westron, for the benefit of the elves. “The next part of our journey will not be so easy.” He settled himself against the wall.

Drizzt and Wilawen exchanged glances.

“Do as he says,” said the warrior, quietly. “I will be over by the door, just in case.”


Wilawen was awoken by a sudden tingling in her limbs.

She rubbed her hands up and down her quivering arms and, in the dim light of Orophin’s crystal—for her drow eyesight was already fading—she watched her skin turn from ebony black to milky-white.


When she woke again, she found Pharaun awake, consulting a tiny book of spells. “When are you going to send my friends back to the surface?” she demanded.

The drow looked up from his reading. “Well, I see that you are back to your old self again—almost.”

Wrong-footed, Wilawen scowled.

Most females,” said Pharaun, complacently, “pay good money for bosom enlargement. But you will probably find that they return to normal in a day or so.”

“They had better; I must look ridiculous.”

“No, actually, you look quite...” He cleared his throat. “I am not going to send your friends back,” he said. “I am going to take them back. By shadow walking.”

“What does that mean?”

The Mage laid down his book. “In the gaps between this world and, well, other worlds,” he said, “there exists a place without dimension. Provided you know how to enter it—and, fortunately, I do—you can travel very rapidly from place to place, as long as you know the way.”

“Do you?”


Wilawen sat down beside him. “Answer me truthfully,” she said. “Do you know the way to the surface?”


“And the way back?”

Pharaun smiled. “Would you miss me?”

“I have given you my word,” she said, “that I will stay here and help you with that—that hole, whatever it is. And I shall. But, the moment it is closed, I will follow my friends back to the surface just as quickly as I can.”


Pharaun insisted that Valandil must be taken out of the velvet bag. “The pouch is a bridge between dimensions,” he said, “and we will be travelling in a place where dimensions have no meaning. There is no telling what might happen to it. No—the pouch stays here. You must carry him.”

Orophin turned to Wilawen. “You are sure that you will stay?”

“Yes,” she said; Pharaun translated.

“Then it will fall to me to explain to Valandil.”

Tell him,” said Wilawen, emphatically, “that I will be back with him very soon.”

Orophin placed his hand upon his heart and bowed his head. Then he took his place beside Valandil, and he and Master Dínendal lifted the sleeping elf between them.

“Good,” said Pharaun. “Now—do not move until I give the signal.”

He began yet another incantation.


Wilawen, watching her friends closely, and not knowing what to expect, thought, at first, that the elves’ growing paler, and less distinct, was just a trick of the light. But then Pharaun stopped speaking, and beckoned to the others, and she almost laughed out loud as the translucent figures took a single, giant step and shot through the wall of the cave.


They were travelling down a smooth, grey tunnel.

Through its membranous walls they could see things, vague scenes, that would burst into view and, just as suddenly, disappear—a dazzling gateway, seething with power; a stone city, swarming with tiny grey dwarves; a herd of formless creatures, floating in a void; an ink-black lake, teeming with fish-men; a great, carven labyrinth, choked with dense, grey matter...

The elves soon learned that it was best not to look.

The constant shifts of perspective made them nauseous.


“If, for some reason, he does not return,” said Drizzt, crouching down beside Wilawen, “I will take you to the surface.”

The woman, sitting with her knees drawn under her chin, unconsciously rocking back and forth, turned to him in surprise.

“That is what you were thinking, is it not?” he persisted. “You were wondering what would happen to you if he did not return.”

“I... Well, yes, that was part of it.”

“We would find a way.”

“Thank you.” Wilawen stopped rocking. “Drizzt... Why are you helping me? Right from the start—I would not have survived if you had not. Why are you?”

The drow sighed.

“Drizzt! What is it?”

Guilt,” said the warrior. “I helped you out of guilt—at least, at first.”

“I know that you were one of the drow who attacked the wedding party,” she said. “The little girl described you—your eyes.” She turned to him. “But it was you who tore open her dress and covered her in her mother’s blood; it was you who made it look as though she were dead. You saved her life.”

“It was not much,” said Drizzt.

“It was everything,” said Wilawen.

“What happened to her?”

“The elves went for help. Someone will have come for her—a relation. They will adopt her and raise her as their own. You did a good thing, Drizzt. It counts.”

“I had never seen a surface dweller before,” said the drow. “They were dancing. Our teachers had told us that they were evil. How could they be evil, when they were dancing...?”

Wilawen patted his arm.


Eryn Carantaur
The Divor Rocks

It had taken Orodreth and his elves almost a full day’s search to find the tiny opening in one of the Divor Caves that led to the network of tunnels within the rocks and, ultimately, Orodreth was convinced, to the home of the dark people.

In the two days that had since elapsed, he had made several cautious sorties into the tunnels and found traces of Haldir’s earlier expedition, but nothing he had seen in that hostile place had persuaded him that his troops stood any chance of penetrating the dark world, or of rescuing their comrades.

In the absence of explicit orders, Orodreth had decided to wait, concentrating his forces at the foot of the rocks and maintaining the ring of lookouts he had posted on the first night.

He climbed up the cliff face, and crawled into the cave. His warriors, who had been on watch all night, were more than ready to be relieved. “Good morning, sir,” said their leader. “Nothing to report. Not a—”

Without any warning—even as the man’s lips were forming the word ‘sound’—four blades of pure light burst from the cave wall and, before Orodreth could reach for his bow, coalesced into four very familiar shapes.

From the corner of his eye, the elf saw his lieutenant grasp his sword. “Stop!” he cried, stretching out a hand. “Do you not recognise them?”


The ghost of Pharaun emerged from the rock, stumbled over Wilawen, and fell in an inelegant heap in the middle of the cave.

“One slight drawback of shadow-walking,” he said, brushing the dust from his sleeves.


Eryn Carantaur
The Divor Rocks

“You are sure he is...” Orodreth could not bring himself to say the word. “Gone?

“We searched,” said Orophin, “for as long as we were able.” He shook his head. “There was no sign of Haldir.”

“I cannot believe it.”


“I am so sorry.”

“Thank you.”

Orodreth looked across the camp site, to where Orophin’s companions were resting. “What will you tell Valandil when he wakes?”

“The truth—that Wilawen made a bargain with the wizard to save him—and us. She is a brave adaneth.”

The other elf nodded.

“Valandil will no doubt blame me—”

“No,” said Orodreth. “He knows her. And he is proud of her spirit.” Then, “This wizard—can he be trusted to bring her back?”

“No,” said Orophin. “But the other one—Drizzt—he has a sense of honour.”


“Are they safe?” asked Wilawen.

“I believe so.” Pharaun approached the mouth of the cave, gesturing impatiently for Drizzt to step aside. “I did not linger—their friends were too heavily armed.”

“Thank you.”

The Mage frowned. “Thank...? Oh!” He waved a hand, dismissively. “Since that was your price, I paid it. Now, if you will just be quiet for a moment.” He positioned himself beside the small passageway, and raised his hands.

“What is wrong?” asked Wilawen, eyeing him curiously.

Ignoring her question, Pharaun took a deep breath.

“Why are you so—flustered?”

“I have a lot to do.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Will you please be quiet?”

Wilawen backed away.

“And, please,” he added, “do not delay me with one of your petty orders. As I have said before, time is of the essence now.” He composed himself again, then recited another brief spell. “There,” he said, “now we can leave. Where is the pouch?”

Still watching him suspiciously, Wilawen pulled the little bag from her bodice.

“Open it up,” said Pharaun, “and sit on it.”

Wilawen spread the velvet sheet out on the ground and crawled onto it. “Is this how you plan to smuggle me back into the Academy?” She drew her knees up under her chin. “Why did you not do this before?”

“Because I did not think of it,” said Pharaun, leaning over her to draw up the corners of the bag. “I really cannot be expected to think of everything, you know.”

Wilawen looked up at Drizzt in alarm. “I am not sure I—”


Pharaun popped the pouch into one of his pockets. “Ready?”

Drizzt grasped his arm—

With unexpected skill, the Mage swung his hand in an arc, breaking the warrior’s grip and freeing himself. “Twin sisters,” he explained, “one of them a terrible bully.” Then he added, “I assume that you were about to issue some sort of warning?”

“I will not let you hurt her,” said Drizzt, seriously.

Pharaun shrugged. “Magic is seldom an exact science.”


No one paid them any attention as they walked back to the Academy via the Bazaar.

None of the proprietors who sold Pharaun the various magical supplies he needed was surprised when the Mage also probed him for news of the recent disturbance at The Silken Rack.

“Some of the studs escaped, apparently,” said one of the stall holders, “and killed a few of the women. No one’s saying whether they got out of the grounds, but if they did...” He shrugged. “Good luck to them.”

None of the guards at the entrance to the Academy bothered to stop Pharaun, nor to search him when they detected the magical items on his person—assuming, no doubt, that a small pouch of unknown contents was just part of a Master of Sorcere’s usual paraphernalia.


The door to the Archmage’s chambers was still intact, for Pharaun’s hastily-improvised magical seal was holding, and from the outside there was no sign of the devastation within.

“So much to do, so little time,” muttered Pharaun, “and no one, alas, to appreciate it.” He turned to Drizzt. “I speak of sorcerers. You and she do not count.”

“When you open that door,” said the warrior, “the wind will—”

“Go to the end of the corridor,” said the Mage, “and keep watch.”

Reluctantly, Drizzt moved away, but only a few paces.

Turning his back to the door, Pharaun stretched out his arms and, closing his eyes, recited a complex spell, moving his elegant hands in time to the words, as though braiding the air.

Drizzt frowned. Nothing appeared any different, but it felt as though a wall had risen across the corridor—and, when he reached towards Pharaun, his fingers rapped against something solid. “You have shut me out.”

“Not just you.” Pharaun pulled the black velvet pouch from his robes and, crouching down, released Wilawen.

The woman rubbed her head. “Gods, you lied,” she said, swallowing hard. “It was horrible in there—like being tossed about at sea—”

“Yes, I know. Now, out of the way.” He pulled her to her feet. “Some of us have urgent work to do. Go over there and smile at Do’Urden for a moment.”

Wilawen took a step towards Drizzt.

“He has shut me out,” said the warrior, showing her the invisible barrier. “I cannot protect you, O’Wilawen. You are at his mercy...”

Pharaun, meanwhile, had taken out a small vial, uncorked it, and was sprinkling some of its contents on the open pouch. As each drop of liquid fell, the velvet was transformed, the fabric becoming smooth and transparent, its flat edges rising and curving, its corners joining—

Pharaun grasped Wilawen’s arm. “Inside!”

The bubble sealed itself around them.

“Perfect,” said Pharaun, “now, brace yourself!” He raised a hand and flicked his fingers at the door, as though dismissing an annoying slave.

The fungus-wood imploded.

The bubble lurched forwards, wobbled, squeezed through doorway (tumbling its occupants together), shot into what was left of the room beyond, and came to an abrupt halt, hovering at the edge of the portal.


The hole had grown.

It had spread from the study to the adjoining rooms, devouring everything—walls, floors, ceilings—that stood in its path. “So much for the Archmage’s priceless antiques,” muttered Pharaun.

He removed several items from the pockets of his robes and set them down on the curved ‘floor’ of the bubble—an incense burner, incense, a tinder box. “I have considered all the options,” he said, lighting the incense, “and there is only one that will conceal what I have—er—achieved here: we must perform exactly the same ritual, in reverse.” He wafted the fragrant smoke towards Wilawen. “Provided I can remember the words, and say them in the right order, everything should be fine.”

But Wilawen, crouching on hands and knees in the bottom of the bubble, was not listening to him. Beneath her, through the portal, an image was swirling in and out of view. “What is that?”

Pharaun sat down beside her. “Part of the astral plane.”

“It looks like a city.”

“Well, demons have cities too...” He reached for her.

“It looks like Minas—what are you doing?” She pushed him away.

“We must do everything in reverse, remember? Lie on top of me.”



“Do not call me that.”

The Mage sighed. “It is nothing personal, I assure you; it will last no more than a moment; and it is the first step on your journey home.”

“You have no intention of sending me back home,” said Wilawen.

“No,” he admitted, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her down. “But you never know. If all ends well, I may feel generous. Now, just go with the flow...”


He uttered a single word.

The bubble burst.

Pharaun’s arms flew open. Wilawen, lifted from him by some invisible force, sailed backwards through the air, and landed on the (non-existent) floor in a blaze of pyrotechnics, just as the demon shot up through the portal, beside her.

The Mage was shouting a strange-sounding curse, wringing his outstretched hands.

“PHARAUN!” the demon bellowed, sparks flying from its flailing fists—“PHARAUN! Me release! To you command I!”

The drow’s hands fell to his sides.

Disordered words tumbled from Wilawen’s lips. “You begging am I!” she cried. “Please, Pharaun!”

But the demon—naked and hideously aroused—was not interested in the Mage. It snuffed at her skirts. “Virgin she is?”

Terrified, Wilawen pleaded with Pharaun. “Ask you else anything! Do will I,” she sobbed. “Sir—please!”

Pharaun began to chant, using his hands to catch the incense and send it back into the burner—and the demon dropped, roaring its frustration, down through the (still non-existent) floor, disappearing as suddenly as it had first appeared.


Whilst Pharaun continued to chant, his voice growing gradually softer and softer, Wilawen watched, trembling, as some invisible hand restored the room to its opulent former glory.


“By Lloth,” muttered the Mage, running a hand through his hair, “that was something!”

“It ended well,” said Wilawen.

“Yes.” He smiled, triumphantly. “Yes, it did!”

“You said...” She came up beside him.


“Will you take me home?”

He turned to face her. “You are a mess,” he said. And, raising his hand, he brushed a strand of tousled hair back over her shoulder. “Strange...”

Will you?”

“Well,” he said, “that depends.”




Contents page


Previous chapter: The King
Legolas and Eowyn storm the Palace; Haldir and Arador take a risk; Shadow Eowyn shares a secret.

chapter 24

Next chapter: Preparations
Shadow Legolas confronts Shadow Eowyn; Legolas and Eowyn return to Emyn Arnen.

chapter 26