13. Kiss by Moonlight
The air was flat. It wasn’t going to be as pleasant sitting out on the balcony as I’d hoped. Turning to go in I spotted two figures standing on a pier of rock, rapt in each others’ arms. Goldberry sidled up and slipped her hand around my shoulder.
“They don’t look like orcs to me,” I said. There was hardly need to point them out.
“But don’t they make a pretty couple!”
“Oh! – to be young again,” said she.
I looked at Goldberry’s fair brow and chuckled. It had sounded so incongruous and yet it was perfectly apt. “Can you remember what the world looked like when you were young?” I asked.
“This hill of fire wasn’t here... nor were the grey fells of the Ered Lithui. Gorgoroth was a field of waving grass and in springtime a carpet of bright flowers. The Moon did not look so bruised and shattered when the world was young... and many were my sisters in this land.”
She slid her arm down to my waist and hugged me. “Tell me, in your turn... what the world looked like when you were young.”
“Burnt homesteads. Shattered windows. Broken gates a-swinging. Walls thrown down and grass growing through the stones. Vast mounds fresh-reared over fallen warriors. Trees cut down in leaf and left to wither. Yet the hope in men’s eyes gave promise of renewal – and such has come about. But in truth the light went out from the eyes of the elves. And they themselves... went out over the sea. And with them went my father and my mother... leaving me behind.”
I sighed painfully. “The light died in their eyes! Permanence and steady growth – nevermore to be in the earth’s gift. Speedy growth in its place, hasty, reckless – a handful of years of wild-rose beauty, a handful more of creeping decay. And then an age of silence, till the world’s end. That is the promise held out to those young folk we see down there.”
It was Goldberry’s turn to chuckle. “I’m sure they’d be pleased to hear that! Will you tell them?”
“Will I ever see them again? Namárië! Nai hiruvalyë Valimar...”
“But of course you will! Don’t you recognise them?”
I turned to stare at her. She said “The girl is Elandrine, I fancy. And her swain...”
I turned to look at them again. “...Is Imalad – or I’m a dwarf! What are they doing here?”
“Same as us. Relaxing in the spa! Enjoying themselves.”
“‘Same as us’ – would mean combining pleasure with business! But what is their business here? That’s what I’d like to know!”
The following evening, Grimwald again extended an invitation to dinner. Goldberry begged to be excused, but as it happened the invitation was for me only. Some sort of council was evidently going to take place.
Grimwald had booked a private room. ‘Krax’ Restaurant was no place to go discussing confidential business and in any case we needed hush. The room was well-appointed, in keeping with the decor of the bath-houses – mock broken pillars dotted around, fountains, pebbles and pools, alcoves and concealed lighting. A plush table had been laid in the centre of the room for four people.
Grimwald was there waiting for us all and he offered me some of his pipe-weed. Next came Guthmud and the three of us chatted desultorily about the Mandate’s chances of winning the open falconry championship for the fourth year running. Then the door opened and the flunkey standing guard outside ushered in the fourth member of our little council.
My jaw dropped. It was Imalad!
He strode to the table and greeted the others by name. But before me he hesitated, then gave a short bow in silence. It was clear he was as surprised to see me as I was him. He turned to Grimwald, his eyes appealing for a formal introduction.
“Ah, yes, Imalad – you two won’t know each other. This is Mr Overdale, a merchant and traveller. He has not long returned from Haradwaith and has taken up residence, I’m given to understand, in Minas Ithil. Mr Overdale – this is Imalad, the son of Prince Imrahil, in the King’s service. He is a close friend of the good Morfindel, whom we know, and who, alas, cannot be here with us tonight.” Turning to Imalad he said, “And how is Master Morfindel faring?”
Keenly holding my gaze Imalad replied “As well as can be expected. He’s had a pretty nasty – er...”
“...Fall,” I prompted.
“Fall,” repeated Imalad. “They’re making him as comfortable as they can in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith. He sends his regards by the way.”
“What’s your opinion, Imalad?” said Grimwald. “Will he be fit to take part in the Big Event?”
Still keeping his eye fixed firmly on mine Imalad slowly shook his head. “I fear that is out of the question, unless we postpone it, which none of us has any inclination to do.”
“Well,” said Grimwald, “as it happens I think we can go ahead without him. When he’s better he can then drop by and reap the benefit of it all. For which I’m sure he’ll be glad to reward us all a little bit more. I was however rather relying on him for an essential link in the chain, so to speak. Have you any news about that, Imalad?”
“No... at least – nothing positive to relate. It seems he has enjoyed little in the way of luck so far.”
“Then maybe we have a pleasant surprise for you. But first – dinner. A man cannot be expected to plot on an empty stomach.”
Grimwald rang a little silver bell and a feast was carried in. Dishes of food of all sorts, but I was thankful to notice no deep fried snapping fish.
Imalad eagerly fell on the food. You would have thought he hadn’t eaten for days. I too was quite hungry and we ate solidly and silently for several minutes, during which the orcs did little more than watch us.
From time to time Imalad’s eyes would rise from his plate to meet mine. I couldn’t decide whether the looks he gave me were of suspicion, complicity, puzzlement, interrogation, or sheer and utter desperation. Was he deciding when and how to denounce me as an impostor? Was he trying to decide whether I was in on the plot? Or was he, like me, a spy for the King? Somehow, I knew, he would have to resolve this issue. I wondered how he’d go about it.
I cast a quick glance at Grimwald. He was watching us both with veiled amusement. I wasn’t altogether sure just whom he thought the joke was on.
Imalad must have realised he wasn’t making a good job of hiding his discomposure because he blurted out, “Forgive me for saying, but when a new member is brought into a plot at a late stage, the others can’t help it if they feel a little in need of reassurance as to his bona fides.”
Grimwald folded his fingers. “Mr Overdale’s credentials are impeccable. What is more he has rendered us a signal service.” He turned to me. “Now is the time, I think, to show our little conclave what you showed Guthmud the other day. You do have it on you, don’t you?”
“Most definitely,” I replied. “I thought you were never going to ask.” I took out the fake Angrennan and placed it on the table.
Imalad dropped his knife with a clatter. He looked from Guthmud to Grimwald to me and then round the three of us again.
This was the moment of truth. If Imalad did indeed possess the real Angrennan, the ring he’d described to me so accurately, he would know that this ring was a fake. But what would he do then? Would he challenge me directly? Or indirectly? Or would he simply keep quiet for the present, secretly denouncing me to the others when the opportunity arose?
“How came you by this?” It must have been just what was on his mind, but I hadn’t expected so direct a question.
“I would rather not say right out. I am offering this ring for sale, so naturally I don’t want its price bargained down. But I assure you I do have some title to it. I’ve come by it honestly – I have not taken it from the previous owner against his will.” I stressed those last words to counter the aggressiveness of Imalad’s question and to warn him not to probe too deeply, in case I started alluding to our earlier conversation. He might well be angry with me for letting him describe the ring to me as if it were lost and all the while I had it in my possession. Or so it would appear to him. He would wonder what my motives were. I decided to let him think they were the basest, most venal imaginable. In the present circumstances, that was the safest course.
“Imalad does have a point,” interjected Grimwald. “When we have agreed on a price for it, will you then tell us how you came by it?”
“Gladly!” I exclaimed. I smiled in Imalad’s face. “But first let me ponder this. Would somebody care to tell me exactly what they think it is?”
Grimwald reached into his pocket and pulled out a jeweller’s eyeglass, which he twisted expertly into his eye socket. He picked up the ring and subjected it to a quick scrutiny. Then he put it back on the table. “It’s a piece of fashion jewellery. The stone is of no great value, but the craftsmanship is superb. It would be hard to value it on the open market.”
I turned to Guthmud. “You seemed very excited when you first saw it. What did you suppose it was?”
Guthmud regarded me with a cunning smile. “It’s all very well for you to say you don’t want the price bargained down. But can you blame us if we don’t want its price bargained up? Telling you what I think it is might do just that.”
“It has ever been my principle,” I replied, “to charge for goods and services according to their perceived value to the purchaser, not according to someone’s guess at their inherent value. If indeed there is such a thing. Because if there is no willing seller nor willing buyer, then there is no price, inherent or otherwise.”
“Well,” said Grimwald, looking round the table, “Mr Overdale puts it on a plate for us. Are we ‘willing buyers’? Do we want it? Why I called us all together is so that we can be sure we have agreement on this vital question. If the answer is yes, I would have Mr Overdale rewarded most handsomely for his diligence in searching it out and for bringing it all the way here to Hotel Doom.”
I nodded to Grimwald. “Many have spoken to me about you,” I said, “and all are agreed that you’re a most generous man.” That made him smile, but not broadly. “Yet I have to ask myself, am I a ‘willing seller’?”
“Why should you not be?” snapped Guthmud. “What are you here for, then? Once having put it down on the table, are you seriously proposing to pick it up and take it away again?”
I folded my fingers and held his eye in a level gaze. “Are you suggesting that I am in no position to do just that? Why then, you could offer me whatever price you liked, no matter how absurd. That is why I made a point of saying that I enjoyed some title to the thing – that I was entitled to sell it. Or not to sell it, if I so choose. I am not a common fence of stolen goods! Nor am I without redress... if there are any who would wish to steal from me.”
Guthmud’s features contorted. “Do you really suppose you could just get up from the table and walk out of here...?”
I snatched up the ring and put in my pocket, returning his fierce glare.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen!” Grimwald crooned. “I have not the slightest intention of letting Mr Overdale depart from here... without being fully recompensed. All we have to do between the four of us is to decide on the price.” He turned to me. “But I see you have misgivings...”
“Simply this, Master Grimwald. Just now Imalad son of Imrahil uttered the word ‘plot’. So did you. By selling you this ring I imagine I become embroiled in this putative ‘plot’. Now you may take the view that I oughtn’t go seeking to know more than is good for me. But there is much that I come to know, in travelling to and fro – all of which on principle I keep to myself!”
Casting a fierce gaze round the dinner table I challenged anyone to gainsay me. Nobody did.
“And another of my principles,” I continued, “is not to be held accountable for things I don’t know the first thing about. Am I to be denied access to the King’s court, with its wealthy clientele, as a result of being branded a consorter with plotters against the Realm? Or worse... as a plotter myself? If so the price must go up somewhat to reflect that.”
There was silence. Grimwald broke it at last. “Well, what do you all say to that? I propose that we let Mr Overdale in on the plot. He may then decide for himself whether we are plotters against the Realm – or whether we are in reality its benefactors! I would rather he came to the latter conclusion. Then maybe the price would go down somewhat” – he winked at me – “to reflect the privilege of working with us.”
“If only Morfindel were here!” groaned Guthmud. “...Yes, all right, I agree.”
Imalad seemed to be fighting with himself to come to a decision. At last he said “Yes, all right. Let us let in Mr Overdale on our plan, if it will help him decide whether the price he is getting is fair and generous.” He turned abruptly to me. “No, Mr Overdale, you will not be denied access to the King’s court. Not if the plan succeeds – as it will. Rather you will be welcomed as a hero – by the new King!”
“By the new King! Whoever might that be?”
“None other than Morfindel son of Gollum!” The three of them raised their glasses.
I whistled. “And how is that to come about?”
“First we capture the Queen. Then we kill the King. Then Morfindel weds the Queen and achieves what Aragorn son of Arathorn seemingly cannot (snigger-snigger): get her to bestow a son and heir upon her loyal subjects.”
“Excuse me,” I mumbled, “while I pick myself up off the floor.”
“Mr Overdale is impressed by the boldness of our plan,” said Grimwald. “But to be bold it is not necessary to be foolhardy. Our plans are well laid and cannot help but succeed.”
“Why is this ring so important to those plans?”
Grimwald shrugged and splayed his hands. “Ah – that I do not wish to divulge just yet. It will benefit you not at all to know it, and indeed it would be dangerous for you. Suffice it to know that you have contributed an essential ingredient. One which, as you correctly surmise, embroils you... up to the neck.”
The way he stressed those last words sent a shiver down my spine.
“But were GUB to pounce on you the moment you left here,” he continued, “it would avail them nothing to try and squeeze the information out of you, because you would have nothing to tell them. They might even let you go and the plan would be safe – and in the New Kingdom you would be amply compensated for your pains (...agonies, perhaps!). Are you prepared to accept that, in return for becoming party to our broader intentions?”
“Grimwald,” I smiled, “I trust to your judgement in the matter.” Since I knew already what they were proposing to withhold from me I was happy to agree. It was the rest of the plan I needed to know about.
The plan was a simple one. Morfindel had arranged to sell Guthmud a valuable carpet and the palace scribe had drawn up a legal deed on the finest vellum which made it all neat and tidy. The coming Sunday, 14th May, a covered wain would enter Minas Tirith by the Great Gate and climb the zigzag route to the Citadel entrance in the Sixth Circle. A party of workmen – orcs from Minas Ithil in the pay of Guthmud – would emerge, cross the courtyard and enter the White Tower, with the vellum as their authorisation, and proceed on up to Morfindel’s bedroom. There they would collect a carpet rolled up ready and waiting for them. The carpet would contain the person of the Queen herself, seized and subdued by the palace insiders, Morfindel and Imalad. They would then calmly drive away, taking the road north, which led through Grey Wood. Rounding Amon Dín the road became the Great Western Road that led through the lands of the Rohirrim to Edoras – and thence to the gap of Rohan, whence lies Isengard.
As Legolas had already informed me, the Tower of Orthanc, standing in the centre of the Ring of Isengard, had been secretly purchased from the ents by Morfindel and sumptuously equipped to house a royal prisoner, and of course to withstand a long siege. The Tower of Orthanc is unassailable, having been built by the Numenoreans in a former age. The sole recourse open to Gondor would be to occupy Isengard and lay siege to Orthanc – which was something it would easily withstand for two or three years. Ample time to conduct negotiations, not to mention reducing the Queen to submission in case she was of a mind to resist.
But it would probably not come to that. Shortly after the kidnap the King would be assassinated, via the same agency as was used to lay hands on the Queen (here everybody’s glance strayed to the ring on the table) and Morfindel would be proclaimed King. If the people of Gondor resisted him, a resurgent Mordor would rise in rebellion, invade the Pelennor and lay siege to Minas Tirith once again, as it had done half a century before. Plans were in hand to take over Minas Ithil, which Morfindel would hold as his seat of government until the Tower of Guard capitulated. This would come swifter the sooner Morfindel won over the Queen, and of course got her with child. The realm of Gondor, presented with an accomplished fact, would settle down for another 50 years of peace and prosperity under the reign of the same beloved Queen. But with a younger, more virile King, safe in the knowledge that the succession was secured.
“Has anyone thought to sound out the Queen?” I asked.
Grimwald took a deep breath. “Master Morfindel has not been idle,” was all that he would say. I looked at Imalad but he declined to comment.
“And where does Lady Elandrine stand in all this?” I inquired. This time I looked straight at Imalad, expecting an answer. Imalad remained silent.
I continued, “I think it essential that her full co-operation be assured, or else a reliable plan put in place for her elimination. And don’t imagine for a moment the latter will be easy. That’s a lady who can look after herself.”
Imalad lowered his gaze. “I’m working on it right now,” he said.
“Mr Overdale speaks for us all,” said Grimwald sternly. “How is the girl shaping up?”
“Oh... very well! Very well indeed! Morfindel had – I mean: has – an excellent relationship with Elandrine. They get along like a house on fire.”
“In what way?” I asked, suppressing a chuckle. I couldn’t resist gathering even more Morfindel titbits.
“Why, don’t you know? ...Of course I was forgetting. As a stranger, you won’t be familiar with court gossip. Morfindel likes to take a rest now and again from being a domineering sort of chap and he books Elandrine to come into his bedroom at midnight, dressed in black leather gear, and whip him around a bit. The guards are instructed to ignore screams coming from the bedroom at that hour.”
The orcs sniggered. I must confess I couldn’t help smiling myself. “We could do even better for him in Minas Ithil,” laughed Guthmud. “But he never gets around to asking!”
With ill-concealed distaste Imalad replied, “Morfindel prefers to be mauled around by someone prettier than you’d be able to field, Master Guthmud.” He rounded on Grimwald. “Perhaps when this business is over I could even lend Elandrine to you – as the star attraction in one of your night-spots. But the price would be high. Even Mr Overdale can have no idea just how high...”
Both orcs laughed heartily at that. Grimwald waved his hand palm-downwards. “Relax... relax, Imalad, my dear friend. We don’t mean to trample all over your – er – personal dealings. But like Mr Overdale here, we all crave reassurance. That girl could put a spoke in our wheel! Her attachment to the Queen is beyond all doubt. If she cannot be persuaded to co-operate, for the Queen’s own good, then I fear she will have to be eliminated. The worst that could happen is that she pretends to go along with the plan and then turns round and stabs us in the back at a critical juncture. I mean – you do see our point, don’t you?”
It took a few seconds for Imalad’s eyes to stop smouldering, but they did. He hitched up his sleeves. “If I can’t bring her round to our point of view I’ll waste her myself. There – will that do?”
Grimwald rubbed his beautifully manicured hands. “That’s what I like to hear. Dedication to the Cause. I’ve no doubt you can do the job perfectly well. But be assured of our complete co-operation...”
Imalad settled back into his chair with an injured smile, thinking that was the end of the matter. But Grimwald wasn’t for letting it go. “And we must all think of ways to implicate her as an accomplice. Ways which will compromise her so thoroughly, she has no choice but to cast in her lot with us. Mr Overdale – that means you too.”
I sat up in my seat. “Why – what can I possibly do about that? Short of persuading Elandrine to murder me...?”
“Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” I could see down Grimwald’s throat. “No, I don’t think that will be necessary. Just watch your precious Miss Gee carefully for the next day or two. Something will present itself to you.”
I was puzzled. “What do you mean by that?”
“Never you mind. Just wait and see.”
Something Imalad had said was burning a trail through my mind like a shooting star. I wondered if I dared clarify the matter there and then.
“Morfindel and Elandrine...” I ventured. “Is that story true, then?”
Imalad turned hostile eyes on me. “I’ve never seen them at it, if that’s what you mean.”
“No – no... I mean to say, surely they go to some lengths to conceal the appointment? However does Elandrine get in and out of Morfindel’s bedroom unseen?”
“Through the secret passage of course!” Imalad snapped.
I nodded slowly, glazing my eyes as if he had hit me between them with a leg of ham. I wanted to say, “But the secret passage that you and I both know about leads to the ground floor!” ...but I didn’t dare. Not in the present company. Later maybe, if I got the chance.
But it didn’t make sense. Elandrine, as the Queen’s personal bodyguard, lived with the latter in her apartments when she was on-duty. To be seen leaving those apartments on a regular basis, in the wee small hours, when she was supposed to be guarding the Queen, to go down the main staircase to the Grand Hallway – but once there not to proceed on out of the building, would invite curiosity and unfavourable comment. There was another secret passage, as I now knew, from the King’s bedroom. But Elandrine was most unlikely to be using that. Unless – that is – she had something going with the King? ...I dismissed the idea without a second thought. It was exactly the sort of liaison Aragorn had told me he was at pains to avoid and I had no cause to doubt it. Unless Queen Arwen was actually lending him Elandrine? ...but that too I rapidly dismissed.
So there must be a further passage that I had yet to discover. One leading to Morfindel’s bedroom... from the Queen’s apartments.
And then it struck me! This must be the very passage the plotters were planning to use to convey the Queen from her apartments to Morfindel’s bedroom, where she would be rolled up in the carpet waiting there to be taken away!
The existence of such a passage added a whole new scenario to the murder. What if it was Elandrine that had murdered Morfindel? I could picture him crouching naked on his bed, leaning on his elbows, fingers laced tightly around the back of his neck, awaiting the caress of the whip. But instead one day he gets a white hot poker between his conveniently presented buttocks. No need to tie him up, hence no marks on his limbs. No evidence of a struggle, beyond the obvious signs of his death-throes. Elandrine wouldn’t require assistance to hold him down. The guards – and this was crucial – the guards had been ordered to ignore screams! And after it was over she could quietly tiptoe out again... back to the Queen’s bedroom. With or without the knowledge of the Queen. But on balance I thought, with her knowledge.
I pictured them sitting side-by-side on the edge of the Queen’s bed, holding hands and laughing as Elandrine described, in detail fit to make an old maid blush and a minstrel go green with envy, how the son of Gollum had writhed and squealed under her merciless ministrations.
And how the Queen would laugh! Oh yes – how she would laugh!
I gazed round at the faces of my fellow conspirators. Grimwald had just cracked a joke to mollify Imalad and it seemed to have done the trick. All three of them were guffawing heartily till the blood rose to their faces. All of us were sitting here, feeling very much in control of events, as if the fate of Middle Earth rested in the palms of our hands – or sat there on the table in the guise of the black ring.
And yet – what if we were all merely the Queen’s instruments? Her cat's paws? What if that endlessly refined elvish mind had engineered all this as her escape route? If she were at risk of being unmasked as the murderess, as indeed I had threatened her with at our tryst in the Mallorn, without really meaning to, then Orthanc was to be her bolt-hole. It would give her time to conduct the delicate negotiations with her husband to escape the harsh if impartial law of Gondor. She was Queen of Elves as well as Men – and the Elves would have scant sympathy with Morfindel’s death being avenged in anything more than a token manner. And the Elves were not alone in that!
When I got back to my room, in my pocket a banker’s draft cashable in Minas Ithil for a million gold crowns, Goldberry wasn’t there. But soon there came girly chuckles from the corridor and Goldberry staggered in, her arms around the neck of Elandrine. Both of them were in the standard hotel garb of bathrobe, slippers and nothing else and both were glowing pink from the sweat-lodge and the massage slab, birch branches, hot volcanic poultices – and what else I durstn’t think.
“Oh, Goss! You’re back!” I couldn’t tell whether she was pleased to see me or not. “How did it go?”
“Wonderfully,” I said, my eyes on Elandrine. “I got everything I asked for.”
“No half-dead fish this time? – I told Elandrine about that...”
“No, you missed a treat.”
The girls looked at each other and giggled. “No, I don’t think so. We’ve had a gorgeous time together.”
I was about to say that I’d met up with Imalad and had had an equally gorgeous time with him, but something stopped me. Either Elandrine knew all about our little conclave, or she knew nothing. Either way, making her a gift of that intelligence was profitless.
Goldberry tottered into the bathroom. Elandrine flopped down on the bed. The front of her bathrobe fell open, but she didn’t do anything about it.
“What a surprise to see you here!” I said, thinking how such shapely breasts were wasted on a shieldmaiden like her. “Though I fancy I spotted you earlier...”
“I think I might have spotted Goldberry first.” Her voice didn’t sound awfully friendly. She was daring me to ask: “What are you doing here?” I knew the question would be flung right back at me.
When I said nothing, Elandrine continued in a drowsy voice, “I thought she looked fabulous in her evening dress yesterday. I wish the hotel would do something like that for me. But there! – when you’re the guest of Grimwald Uruksson...” she spat out the name “...money is no object.”
“Elandrine...” I said softly. She didn’t disturb her pose of drowsy abandon, but I saw her eyes glint beneath her long black lashes. “Do you hold something against me?”
She sat up so abruptly the bathrobe slid off her shoulders. Almost as an afterthought she pulled it up again and wrapped it tightly around her. “Where shall I start, son of Gandalf?”
“Come on, out with it.”
“Well,” she said, as if we were discussing the weather. “I didn’t like your attitude to the Queen. She implored your help – and you simply walked out on her.”
I raised my eyebrows and shrugged. “What else could I do? There was a serious conflict of interest. I have been commissioned by the King to investigate a murder!” I looked her keenly in the eye as I stressed the word. She held my gaze without wavering. You’re a cool one I thought. And, I warned myself, you are not as sozzled as you’re making out.
She replied, “I suppose that includes plotting with Grimwald and Guthmud to kidnap the Queen? Isn’t that a conflict of interest too?” She raised her hand as I opened my mouth. “Oh, don’t bother to deny it. Imalad has told me everything.”
“To answer your first question – yes it does. And your second – no it isn’t. And just whose side is Imalad on anyway?”
“Just whose side are you on? Tell me that first!”
At that moment Goldberry came out of the bathroom. “Elandrine darling, you’re going to have to go, I’m afraid. Goss is back and he wants to go to bed.”
Elandrine sprang off the bed like a panther. Leaning forward with her hands clasped behind her back she puckered her lips and gave Goldberry a tiny kiss on the cheek. “Just going, gorgeous. See you around.” She stalked to the door without a glance in my direction.
Goldberry called out after her “We must do that again sometime!” The door slammed.
Goldberry looked at me. “Did you say something to upset her?”
“I might have done. Touchy girl.”
I moved across to lie on the bed and moodily pulled Goldberry down beside me. “Oh, Goss,” she said, “you’re not jealous, are you? It’s just a bit of fun. Elandrine and I are old friends.”
“I didn’t guess you even knew each other!”
“She’s my flat-mate.”
“What?” I sat upright so sharply my back twinged.
“She shares the flat with me in Minas Ithil!”
“She doesn’t live in Minas Ithil! She lives in the White Tower! She’s Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen!”
“I know. But she likes to get away sometimes. Living in the White Tower all the time would drive anyone lulu. She’s hardly ever there – I mean in our apartment. It’s the idea more than anything.”
“Wherever did you come across her?”
“She often used to come in the Headless Horseman. With Morfindel’s crowd at first. Then on her own. We really hit it off. Among other things she wanted to know how to use a whip, so I taught her. I never charged her for anything, though she’d press it on me. She only stopped when I told her I was doing it for love. Since then...”
“Where did you learn to use a whip?” I asked in a shocked voice. “You don’t mean to say: Tom...?”
Goldberry laughed, like a tinkling freshet. “No, silly! Tom never needed sex aids. Can you really imagine it? Tom? I had to learn it all in a crash course when they took me on at the Headless Horseman. Anyway I knew far more than Elandrine. She knew absolutely nothing about men. I don’t know what she was doing all the time with those horse-boys in Edoras. Learning to ride horses, I suppose.”
“What did Elandrine want to know for?”
“Morfindel, of course. You’ve no idea the mischief that bloke stirred up.”
“I see I’m barely scratching the surface when it comes to Morfindel.” I thought I’d try a long shot. “I suppose he wanted dominating, in his own bedroom, did he?”
“Yes, that’s about the measure of it. By a big strong handsome woman like Elandrine.”
I pulled off Goldberry’s bathrobe and slid her under the bedclothes with me. Then I blew out the candle. I badly wanted to share my suspicions with her. But I had to ask myself where her loyalties were most likely to lie. With me? Or with Elandrine?
“Goss...” she said after a while, “I thought you’d be really really passionate after winning that big deal. But you’ve gone all cold and distant!”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.