the battle

Minas Tirith
An hour before dawn

Haldir, standing at the mouth of the alleyway, now sealed with a stout wall, was gazing up at the eastern sky. “Another night survived, Master Arador,” he said.

“How in Middle-earth did you know it was me?”

“You are quiet, for a human, but you drag your left foot.”

I do not!” The boy came up beside him. “They will be attacking soon,” he said, “the King and Princess Eowyn—storming the drow encampment.”

Haldir nodded.

“She will be alright. Both of them will.”

The elf did not reply.

“I need to go back into the shop,” said the boy. “And I will need the portal key.”


Emyn Arnen
The battlefield

An hour before dawn, the combined forces of Gondor assembled on the fortified plateau south of Emyn Arnen.

Under King Elessar’s overall command, the troops were divided into four companies. The first, led by Aragorn himself, accompanied by Legolas, Eowyn and Gimli, would storm the main encampment from the north, with the aid—it was hoped—of the drow mercenaries. The second, led by the shadow Eowyn, would simultaneously deal with the smaller encampments sited in the clearings to the east. The third, led by the shadow Legolas, would strike from the south, cutting off the drow retreat, and protecting Eryn Carantaur from further invasion.

The fourth and smallest company, led by Captain Alfgar, would remain up on the plateau, to defend the weak and the wounded.


Minas Tirith

At a nod from Haldir the guards either side of the doorway raised their crossed spears, and the elf and the boy entered Geruil’s shop. Immediately, the portal transformed, the wall dissolving to a shimmering film of silver, though much of it was obscured by a rough stone cairn that had hastily been erected in the centre of the room.

Ignoring the portal, Arador crossed to the counter, took something from his pocket, and laid it on the polished wood.

Haldir looked at the strange object—a shard of mirror, a silver thimble, a battered goose feather—all tied together with what looked to be a lock of drow hair. “What is that?”

Arador reached into another pocket, pulled out his waterskin and carefully filled the thimble. “The portal,” he said, drawing his pocket knife from its scabbard. “Or, rather, it will be, once I have added...”

He slipped into the space between the cairn and the translucent wall—“Be careful,” warned Haldir—and scratched a tiny quantity of dust from the stone surrounding the gateway.

“Once I have added this,” said Arador. Back at the counter, he dropped the dust into the thimble of water, then laid the drow brooch on top of the bundle. “This is the portal,” he said, “if I have got it right. The portal in miniature.”

“Are you saying that if you destroy that, the portal will be destroyed?”

“According to the book,” Arador sighed, “‘as above, so below’. In other words, whatever we do here, also happens over there. But this is not making bottles of spirits explode; this is magic; this is—scary.”

“I know.” Haldir patted his shoulder. “But we are at war, Arador, and we must each do what we are called upon to do.”

“I did not mean,” said the boy, “that I was afraid for myself. I meant that—well, have you never worried about the consequences of what you were doing?” He approached the portal. “That if you got it wrong, everything would be even worse—oh! Oh, gods, look,” —he pointed through the watery gateway—“look, Haldir! Can you see it? Is this it? Are they coming?”

“Get behind me,” said the elf, loosening his sword in its scabbard. “Get behind me, now! Ailbric,” he shouted to the guards outside, “get in here; Ricbert, rouse the rest of the men!”


Emyn Arnen
The battlefield

As dawn broke over the Mountains of Mordor, the gates of the barricade were hauled back, and the three companies moved out.

“All wrong, this,” muttered Gimli.

“What, elvellon?”

“Creeping about in daylight.”

Smiling, Legolas glanced at Eowyn, riding beside him, and she, feeling his gaze upon her, turned and smiled back—a smile filled with courage and determination mingled, in her eyes, with a deep sadness.

We are doing this, he mouthed, for him—to keep him safe.

She nodded.

Beyond his beloved, Legolas could see her double, the shadow Eowyn, cutting sharply eastwards, followed by the loyal Captain Drago, and Lord Fingolfin, and a motley collection of soldiers and hastily-armed citizens, some of them women.

He looked west, but his own double had already vanished into the trees.


Minas Tirith

Within the portal, the now-familiar view of the passage into the Underdark had disappeared, blotted out by a dark shape, long and narrow, like the body of a massive worm. Shadowy figures moved inside its belly, one of them struggling, it seemed, to escape.

“Haldir,” muttered Arador, “that looks like a woman—it looks like—”

“Stay back.” The elf climbed up onto the pile of stones.

Sir—” warned the guard, uneasily.

“Back!” cried Haldir, gesturing with his hand as he peered into the portal. The feminine figure had raised her hands and was pushing against the side of the worm, stretching it thinner.

“Oh gods,” gasped Arador, “it is. It is our Mistress Wilawen! Inside that thing!”

“Stay down there,” said Haldir, calmly.

“Is she alive?” asked the boy.

“Perhaps.” Haldir climbed higher, leaning forward, searching for confirmation that what he was seeing was real.

“Wait,” said Arador, “I will call the cat.”

But a second figure had seized ‘Wilawen’ from behind and, as she tried to break free, her small fist burst through the worm’s side and clenched convulsively, grasping at empty space—

Haldir leaped over the stone cairn and plunged into the portal.


Emyn Arnen
The battlefield

A silent message passed from warrior to warrior until it reached Aragorn at the head of the main company: Princess Eowyn and her troops are in position.

“Sound the charge,” cried the King, drawing his sword, “for GONDOR!”

Left and right, the trumpets blared. Eowyn spurred her horse; Legolas urged his mount forward; side by side, they followed Aragorn through the sparse undergrowth, gathering speed and momentum, the army of mounted warriors and heavily-armed footsoldiers surging behind them.


As they raced on, Eowyn could hear nothing but the pounding of her own heart. Scanning ahead, she spotted the enemy soldiers lurking between the trees, their red eyes glowing, and she drew her sword, holding it high and leaning forward in the saddle, crying, “For Eryn Carantaur!”

Then the army of Gondor breached the forest, and the drow ran forward to meet them; and, suddenly, the noise of battle was deafening: steel clashing with steel; axe thundering on plate armour and slicing through mail; bowstrings whipping, arrows whistling...

Eowyn, guiding her horse with her legs, waded into enemy, wielding her sword with all her might, slashing at drow heads and necks, dodging their counter-blows, and shrugging off the tiny crossbow bolts that skidded over her elven armour.


“Good luck, laddie!” cried Gimli, slapping Legolas’ back as he rolled from their horse, drawing his axe in mid air, and hitting the ground running.

Straight ahead, Eowyn was laying into a crowd of drow—“Save some for me!”

But then, to his right, the dwarf spotted the lad—Berkin—already in trouble, his mount cut from under him by a huge drow swinging a broadsword. The boy, lying on the ground, one foot still in the stirrup, had gamely drawn his axe, and was watching the approaching warrior, awaiting his chance to strike.

The dwarf smiled. “Go on, laddie,” he shouted, “now,”—but his smile turned to a growl as the drow struck first, and he rushed forward, cutting the sword from the warrior’s hands, giving the boy time to swing his axe upwards, and slice his attacker from groin to chest.

The drow fell.

“Come on lad!” Gimli pulled Berkin to his feet as a shout went up to the east and a troop of lizard riders broke cover, rampaging across the battlefield, trampling all before them. “Bring your axe—there is sport enough for both of us!”


Fighting at Aragorn’s side, Legolas loosed arrow after arrow, picking off drow warriors as they crowded in on the King, dropping reinforcements as they scurried through the trees, taking out a lizard rider who passed too close—and, all the time, keeping a part of his elven senses trained on Eowyn, in case she should need him.


Minas Tirith

Wilawen’s hand had vanished, pulled back into the worm’s belly by her shadowy assailant. Haldir grasped the edges of the tear—

Arador had taken out the onyx cat.

Inside the portal, two ebony hands seized Haldir’s shoulders; the guard, Ailbric, drew his sword, but the boy was faster.

“Shit,” he shouted, launching himself up the heap of stones, “Haldir!”


Emyn Arnen
The battlefield

All along the clearings to the east, the shadow Eowyn’s company was fighting like demons, her footsoldiers driving forward in close formation; her citizens following with pitchforks, hammers, and carving knives, pelting the lizard riders with stones and with improvised spears and, when all else failed, finishing off the better-armed but smaller drow with fists and feet.

Eowyn herself had dismounted and sent her horse back to safety; and, flanked by Captain Drago and Lord Fingolfin, was leading the attack on a troop of lizards, dodging their snapping jaws and their riders’ flashing swords, hacking at the beasts’ vulnerable throats and bellies.

She scored a lucky hit, goring one of the lizards and slicing through its saddle-straps, and its rider tumbled to the ground but, quickly releasing himself from his harness, the drow leaped to his feet, sword in hand, and lunged for her.

Eowyn parried.

The drow struck again.

Eowyn side-stepped and, bringing her sword up to shoulder height, deftly cut his head from his shoulders.

Then something heavy hit her squarely in the back, and she pitched forward, hitting the ground with a thud, and rolled over to find herself pinned beneath a drow; and she panicked, squirming backwards, trying to escape him—until she realised that his eyes, staring down at her, were dead, that an elven arrow was buried deep in his skull, and that Lord Fingolfin was running towards her, his bow still raised.

He held out a hand and she took it, and he helped her to her feet.

“Thank you, my Lord,” she said.

Then, “Give the signal,” she shouted to Captain Drago. “It is time that the mercenary earned his money. And call for the stretcher-bearers—have them take the casualties back to the camp.

We must advance.”


Minas Tirith

“Aaagh, gods!” cried Arador.

There was a moment of unbearable pain—as though his entire body were being skinned with knives of ice—as he passed through the portal; then he landed on the other side.

“Master Arador,” gasped Haldir, his upper body buried inside the strange, grey worm, “help me!”

Taking a deep breath, the boy thrust his head and hands through the tear, grasped one of Wilawen’s arms, and tugged. The woman, pulled between himself, the elf, and two drow, cried out, but Arador hung on. There was a brief struggle. Then one of the drow, shouting something that sounded like a command, released her. Wilawen stumbled forwards, Arador and Haldir staggered backwards, and the worm split from top to bottom, disgorging its contents onto the rocky ground.


“Out,” cried Pharaun, scrambling to his feet. “Through the portal! Now! Now! Move, move, move!”


Emyn Arnen
The camp

Hentmirë blundered across the busy plateau as fast as her legs would carry her, narrowly missing a handcart laden with jars of water, and a boy carrying a sack of arrows. “Master Findecáno, Master Findecáaaano!”

The elven healer, crossing in the opposite direction, caught her, gently. “Yes, my Lady, what is it?”

“They are arriving,” she panted, “the wounded—”

“Take your time.”

Hentmirë took a deep breath. “Some of them are badly injured—Master Berengar is having them brought up here, to the Healing Tent—”

“Yes.” The elf nodded. “I am on my way there now.”

Hentmirë grasped his arm. “But some have only been struck by sleeping darts,” she said. “And they are being attended to beside the barricade. Master Ethelmar sent me to ask if you have any of that elven tonic—er—”


“Yes. Yes—he wonders if it might be used to revive the soldiers, so that they can go back into the field.”

The elf frowned, thoughtfully. “That is a good question, my Lady—yes, I think it might—not by itself, perhaps, but combined with certain other herbs... Yes, follow me.” He led her quickly up the winding path to the elven encampment, further up the hillside. “Two or three drops on the tongue should be sufficient,” he said, thinking aloud, “it can be dispensed from a waterskin. Will you administer it yourself, Lady Hentmirë?”

The little woman nodded. “Yes. But prepare two waterskins, Master Findecáno,” she said. “Then Arador’s mother can help.”


“Master Ethelmar asks for more water, and wood for the fires,” said Berryn, counting the items off on his fingers, “salt for cleansing, and a good, strong man to help with bone setting and amputation.”

“The water is already organised,” replied Berengar, directing a team of stretcher-bearers towards the gate, “and I have sent some of the young boys up the hillside foraging for firewood but, if the worst comes to the worst, we can demolish one of the sheds. Salt is in short supply, but I will make sure that what we do have is delivered to the Healing Tent. As for the other,”—he drew Berryn aside—“there is a young man working with one of the blacksmiths. He is simple, but good-hearted, and strong. You will need to persuade him to help you.”

Berryn nodded. “I will,” he said, quietly.

Berengar patted his shoulder. “Good man.”


Minas Tirith

MOVE,” bellowed Pharaun, elbowing the big elf aside and pushing Wilawen towards the gateway, “go,”—he shoved her through—“move, Do’Urden! Move, you fools!”

Then he realised why the elf and the human were behaving like idiots and, as he dived through the portal himself, he yelled at them in Westron, “Come now or be sucked into nowhere.”


Emyn Arnen
The battlefield

The sun was high now, flooding through the trees in shafts of searing white light and only the lizard riders, reckless young bucks, were still pressing forward on the left flank. The rest of the drow, blinded and outmanoeuvred, were retreating towards the main encampment.

The temptation for the human soldiers was to break ranks and hunt them down.

“Sound the recall,” shouted Aragorn to the trumpeters; and, raising his sword, he cried, “To me, to me!”

All over the battlefield, soldiers heard their orders and obeyed, falling back to their King’s side, and regrouping.

Legolas brought his horse up beside Eowyn’s.

His beloved sat upright in her saddle, her helm lost, her golden hair falling loose about her shoulders, her face smeared with blood and grime, her eyes shining with battle fury.

Legolas felt an inappropriate stirring in his loins as he looked at her, and he laughed, his heart suddenly full of love and pride, and the exhilaration of being alive amidst so much death. “Stay beside me, melmenya,” he said, “in this next push.”

“Sound the charge,” shouted Aragorn.

The trumpets blasted; and the army of Gondor surged forward once more.


Working together, Gimli and Berkin were stalking their third lizard, a tired, nervous beast that had somehow got separated from what was left of the main troop. Its rider—brave but exhausted and, now, blinded by the sunlight—was still struggling valiantly to control it, to force it to charge. But the pair, banging their axes against their shields, shouting, and caterwauling, had driven it steadily backwards, and trapped it within a narrow funnel of trees.

“Now lad!” cried Gimli.

Crouching, Berkin darted forward, ducked under the beast’s drooping head, rose, raised his axe above his shoulders, and with two strokes, forward and back, hacked out its throat. At the same time, the dwarf, having first dismounted the rider by cutting through his saddle straps, dispatched him.

A rousing fanfare echoed across the battlefield.

Berkin wiped the lizard blood from his face. “What was that?” he asked.

“The charge,” said Gimli. “Come on, lad!”


Further east, the shadow Eowyn had already regrouped her men and was preparing to storm the clearings.

Having fled to the camp seeking safety, both lizards and drow—unused to sunlight and finding no shelter in the wide spaces—were openly panicking, the riders struggling to control their mounts, the beasts snapping at their handlers—one or two of them breaking free and running down anything that stood in their path.

“There is no sign of the mercenary,” said Eowyn to Drago.

“No, my lady. It seems that he took the money and ran.”

“Well, we cannot wait. Sound the attack.”

“Very well, my—”

Eowyn recognised the sound—a hiss and a dull thud—and, eyes wide, she turned to her second-in-command.

A single arrow had pierced his forehead.

For a moment, he simply stared at her, and she thought, against all sense, that he might still live. Then his body sagged, and he slid sideways, and fell from his horse.

“No!” she cried. “Nooooooooo!” Her head whipped round, and she saw a drow with a longbow—a human bow stolen from one of her own fallen men—and she spurred her horse and, drawing her sword, she dashed into the clearing like Túrin Turambar, and cut him down as he tried to run away.

Charge,” shouted Lord Fingolfin, raising his sword high, “chaaaarge! PROTECT YOUR LADY!” And the people of North Ithilien, following the elf, thundered to the rescue.


Minas Tirith

One-by-one, they scrambled through the icy teeth of the portal and, aided by Ailbric climbed down the cairn into Geruil’s shop.

At a sign from Haldir, the other guards lowered their weapons, and withdrew.

“Which genius blocked the way out?” asked the tall drow, running a hand through his dishevelled hair.

“I—er...” Arador blushed. “I thought that it might stop people getting through.”

“Obviously.” The drow scanned the shop, his fiery eyes immediately drawn to the boy’s model of the portal, still sitting upon the counter. “If that really works,” he said, “you had better use it. Now.”


Emyn Arnen
The battlefield

On and on, the army of Gondor advanced, driving the last of the drow back through the trees.

“Something is happening,” cried Legolas, “up ahead—look—the drow are being slaughtered by their own men!”

“The mercenaries,” shouted Aragorn. “They must have struck, at last. Sound the delay,” he called, “send men west to surround the encampment—they are to kill all who run; let us hope, Legolas, that your double is in position, and ready to deal with any who flee south.”

“No, it is the women, Aragorn,” said Eowyn, suddenly. “The women are killing the men!”


“My Lady,”—Lord Fingolfin rode up beside Eowyn—“we must pull out.”

“Sound the retreat,” said Eowyn. She wheeled her horse. “Look at them, my Lord, look at them! Falling upon each other like animals!”

“Is it not the men you hired?”

“No, my Lord—it is the women. Do you remember my map—how, at the last moment, the women forced the men out of the camp, and formed a ring around the perimeter? It was because they were preparing to perform some holy rite—and now, it seems, they are killing the men to maintain their secrecy. Let us leave them to it!”

She turned her horse northwards but, as she swept round, something caught her eye, and she turned back.

At the far edge of the clearing, a familiar figure, wearing a ridiculous plumed hat, emerged from the trees and favoured her with an elaborate bow. Then he raised his hand and, at that signal, more than fifty male drow ran from the forest and, quickly and methodically, began slaying the drow women.


Minas Tirith

Use it?” Arador looked from the drow to Haldir and back again. “You mean—use it to destroy the portal?”

“Llolth, what kind of idiot are you?”

“I am not—I—I just copied it from a book,” said the boy. “I do not know how to make it work—I was just going to—you know—try, and hope for the best.”

“Can you close it?” asked Haldir. He glanced at Drizzt. The warrior’s hands were resting on the hilts of his twin swords, but he appeared to be guarding Wilawen, and Haldir doubted that he would bother to defend the other drow, whom he did not appear to like. He moved closer. “Close it,” he commanded.

The tall drow backed away with an arrogant snort.

Then Wilawen spoke; and Haldir had no idea what she was saying.


“What will happen if it is not closed?” she asked.

“Things will fall into it,” replied Pharaun, speaking in Westron, so that the others could understand. “Look.” He pointed through the portal, to where the torn ends of the shadow-tunnel were flapping, as if in a brisk breeze, and two steady streams of dust and rock were rising from the ground and disappearing into them.

“Not another of your holes!” cried Wilawen.

My holes! Mine? This is your fault, you idiot woman,” replied Pharaun, indignantly. “Not content with dragging the shadow world into this world with all your running and your peering, and your ‘Oh, look over there-ing’, you had to tear a great big hole in the boundary and invite your friends inside!” He glared at Haldir. “So now, anything—anything big enough and strong enough to fight the current—that happens to be shadow walking can simply,”—he waved his slender hands—“step out.”

“That sounds bad,” said Arador.

“It is chaos,” agreed Pharaun, with a acidic smile. “Things being sucked in, other things leaping out, right here; right in this—this—”

“My father’s shop,” said Wilawen.

“Really?” The drow looked around, unimpressed.

“Close it,” said Haldir. “Repair the tear and close the portal. Now.”

Pharaun seemed to consider it. Then, “No,” he said, folding his arms across his chest.

“I can force you.”

“You can try. But,”—he raised an elegant hand—“let me see: I have so many spells to choose from—yes, I could turn you into glass and shatter you long before you managed to do anything with that sword you are fondling.”

“Be careful, Haldir,” said Wilawen, turning to the elf, “he is telling the truth—at least, about that.” To her surprise, Haldir stared at her blankly.

“Do it, Mizzrym,” said Drizzt, suddenly. “The tear threatens our world as much as theirs. What have you to gain by refusing?”

“He has a price,” said Wilawen. She turned back to Pharaun. “He always has a price. Yes, he is afraid, all ‘move, move, move,’”—the drow sneered—“but he is gambling that we are more afraid. What do you want this time?”

“Very little,” said Pharaun, suddenly reverting to his own language. “In fact, hardly anything at all. Just a few hairs from your pretty li—from your head.”

“To do what with?”

“Oh...” He shrugged. “Various spells.”

Wilawen glanced at the others. “Why my hair?”

“Why not?”

“Are you saying that you cannot take it without my permission—ow!” She clapped a hand to her scalp. Drizzt and Haldir moved to protect her, but she waved them away.

“Of course I can take it,” said Pharaun, brandishing the stolen hairs as proof. “But I cannot use it—not for this particular spell—without your consent.”

“You said ‘spells’ before. Various spells.”

“Spell, spells; particular, various—does it make any difference?”

“It might.” Wilawen sighed. “With you, yes, it probably does. But I no longer care. Close that portal, put everyone back where they should be, make me speak Westron again, and you can shave my entire head if you want to.”


Emyn Arnen
The battlefield

Still smiling at the audacity of the mercenary, the shadow Eowyn stationed her men around the clearings, ready to capture any drow that managed to escape the slaughter.

“Thank you, my Lord,” she said to Fingolfin, as they lay in wait, “for proving a most efficient second-in-command—besides saving my life, twice.” She smiled, sadly. “Poor Drago. He will be buried with honours.”

“He was a fine soldier,” said Fingolfin, “and a good man.”

“It must be hard for you,” she said, “seeing death like this.”

The elf smiled. “I am old, my Lady, though I may not look it to men. I fought with Lord Elrond in the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, and with King Thranduil during the Ring War. So death is, sadly, no novelty to me.”

“What about old age?”

“My Lady?”

“Are you used to old age? How would you deal with me, in my dotage? How would Legolas?”

“We elves, my Lady, venerate—”

“Legolas...” said Eowyn.

“My Lady?”

Legolas! Something is happening to Legolas, somewhere to the south! Come, Fingolfin,” she cried, spurring her horse, “rally the troops! We must ride south!”


Minas Tirith

Pharaun had insisted that everyone leave the shop whilst he sealed the shadow-tunnel and destroyed the portal, so Arador never discovered whether his method worked, though—when he was finally allowed to return inside—he found the elements of his model completely fused together, and the drow brooch missing, though he had certain suspicions as to the likely whereabouts of that object.


“What was the other thing?” asked Pharaun.

“There were two more things,” corrected Wilawen. “Stop me speaking drow—”

The Mage snapped his fingers.

“What was that?”

“Try your big friend.”

Wilawen walked to the door. “Haldir,” she called, “can you understand me?” A moment later she returned. “Very well,”—the drow bowed—“now, put everyone back where they are supposed to be—but let me say goodbye to Drizzt first.”


The drow warrior was sitting quietly by the lantern shop, gazing in fascination at the sky.

“Does it not hurt?” asked Arador.

The drow turned to him, uncomprehending, so the boy pointed to his own eyes, and screwed his face up against the light, grimacing in mock pain. The drow smiled and nodded.

“But you like it anyway? Here,” he said, digging into his pocket, “I will miss the cat, but I think it is best for you to have this,”—he handed Drizzt the onyx figurine—“and keep safe.”

The drow took it from him with a bow of the head.

“Now I think that Mistress Wilawen wants to speak to you.” Arador bowed, backing away, and went to find Haldir.

The drow turned to the woman.

“Goodbye,” said Wilawen, holding out her hands, “and thank you, for everything.”

Drizzt grasped them gently, and raised them to his lips, saying something in his own language.

“Well,” said Wilawen, “goodbye.”

As she walked away, the drow suddenly called to her—“O’Wilawen!”—and he held up the coin she had given him in the starlit cave, and kissed it, then dropped it back into his pouch.


“Will we feel anything?” asked Wilawen.

“Oh,”—Pharaun shrugged—“perhaps a slight disorientation.”

Wilawen frowned. “In other words, it will be most unpleasant.”

The drow grinned and, suddenly; he reached out and, grasping her around the waist, pulled her close and kissed her passionately.

Wilawen, taken by surprise, did not protest until he released her. “Oh, gods, what was that?” she sputtered, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

Pharaun dug into one of the pockets of his robe. “You cannot blame me for being curious.”

Curious, you—you—oh! You! I actually think that I shall miss you! Yes, you are like the infuriating older brother I never had.”

“Llolth, no,” said the drow. “My sisters are all homicidal,”—he drew out a flat, curved wand—“and, besides, incest is really not to my taste. Now, are you ready?”

“Yes,” said Wilawen. Then, “No! No, wait!” She wiped her mouth again. “Put everybody back where they want to be—yes, where their hearts tell them they should be. Then I will give you the consent you need.”




Contents page


Previous chapter: Farewell
Pharaun, Wilawen and Drizzt set out on a journey.

chapter 27

Final chapter: Sunshine & shadow
How will it end?

chapter 29