21. Goss -- Save The Queen!
I took my leave of her and making my way through the same doors to the King’s apartment entered the secret passage leading to Morfindel’s bedroom. When I reached it I had to walk carefully – there was no carpet (it was lying miles away in Grey Wood, unrolled upon the ground) and the floorboards creaked.
A freshly made fire was blazing in the grate. With a pang of dismay I saw a poker in the blaze. I pulled it out – it was glowing white hot! I left it by the grate to cool down.
Who had done that? The servants of the White Tower were not in the habit of leaving the poker in the fire when they lit it. I assumed the worst. Imalad had left it there against the chance of discovering the Queen and needing to kill her without spilling elf blood. My heart went bump and the hairs on the back of my neck crept with horror.
A creaking noise made me place my ear to the wall. Someone was creeping along the hidden corridor. I looked around wildly and then hid myself under the bed. I had a profound sense of deja vu.
The hidden door beside the fireplace opened and Imalad crept out, large as life. He was still dressed in the sober clothes he had worn in the courtroom. But he was carrying a drawn sword.
Putting on Narya he glanced keenly round the room. He looked shrewdly at the bed. Very slowly he came across and made ready to probe under it with his sword. But before he could do so, his head span round at a shuffling sound from the fireplace. Elandrine emerged from the very door he had just come through. She must have come along the other secret passage of course, the one from the Queen’s bedroom. Whereas Imalad had come up from the main entrance hall, as he had done the first time I’d met him.
Rising slowly to his feet Imalad gazed at her in utter consternation.
“Whatever happened to you? Why are you naked – and covered in blood? And unless I’m much mistaken, it is not man-blood, but orc-blood!”
Elandrine smiled wanly and shrugged. “Much has happened since we parted...”
Imalad scratched the back of his head. “It has indeed! The son of Gandalf vanished away before our very eyes in the courtroom. Those fools had allowed him to keep hold of one of his rings. Fortunately I was able to grab the other ring from the guardroom and set off in search of him.”
“I tried to kill him in the courtroom,” said Elandrine. “Did you not see me?”
“No...” replied Imalad, with eyebrows raised.
“It was at that point he became invisible,” continued Elandrine. “And I too. Though I hadn’t intended it. I wanted everyone present to see me take my revenge.”
Imalad said, “I took the palantíri with me out of the wain and I have since put them in a safe place. I made certain not to place them in contact, but somehow they must have rolled together. Which must be how he became invisible and so escaped.”
A look of puzzlement crossed his brow. “But as for you... How come you too have a ring of Power? For I see full well that you are in the invisible world like me.”
“It is the Queen’s ring I’m wearing. I secretly accompanied her on the wain. And the reason I am covered in blood is because I had to punish the orcs – for daring to lay hands on my Mistress!”
From where I was lying I could only just see Imalad’s face, but I thought the look of disgust that he put on was less than sincere.
“Ugh! Serves them right. I told them not to dare do that.”
Lying there beneath the bed, my mind went back to our breakfast together in Hotel Doom, at which I had told him about Arwen’s worst nightmare. Right now he was wearing exactly the same open boyish look. I clenched my fists. Far from forbidding the orcs to molest Arwen, he may actually have ordered it!
I saw a look of doubt steal across his face. “Is the wain still on its way? You didn’t kill them all, did you?”
Elandrine too must have noticed something in Imalad’s voice, for I saw her face harden. “The wain is going exactly where it was planned to go,” she said with deliberation.
Imalad lowered his head and shook it, smiling grimly. “It doesn’t matter now. Aragorn and the royal companions have ridden in pursuit. They cannot fail to overtake it.”
“And so the Queen will be saved...?” Elandrine masked her voice with honey – but not nearly well enough. “And so she will be brought back here?”
Imalad looked up in alarm. “Yes! Yes – of course! Be at ease. No harm can come to her now.”
“How can you say that?” she snapped. “Is not the son of Gandalf still at liberty – here in this Tower?”
Imalad was momentarily stuck for an answer. He doubtless had three or four answers contending for his tongue, but he must have realised that none of them would serve.
Elandrine raged at him. “You told me that the Queen had to be kidnapped, just as Morfindel planned – to protect her from the son of Gandalf! Not to mention Captain Bergil – and any other palace plotters working for the King!”
“Well – yes! That’s right, but...”
“Then she is not safe at all! Maybe she is in danger from more people than I ever dared suppose?”
Imalad must have decided that his best defence was attack. “Did you kill all the orcs in the wain?” he shouted at her.
“Yes!” she cried in defiance. “Every one!”
“Then... who is looking after the Queen now? Where is she?”
“That is for me to know and you to find out. What plans did you really have for my mistress?”
Imalad’s eyes narrowed. “Was the Queen ever in the wain? Was it you rolled up in the carpet instead of her?” He strode up to her, making as if to clutch her with his left hand. She evaded his grasp and stepped smartly behind him, mutely reminding him that she too carried a sword.
Realisation dawned on Imalad. “She was never in the wain! She is still here – in the White Tower! Is it not so? Where have you hidden her?”
Elandrine now spoke with cold fury. “You never wanted to save her at all! You wanted her kidnapped... imprisoned... killed! Anything to silence her! Why?”
“No, Elandrine,” cried Imalad, clinging to the shreds of injured innocence. “You’ve got it all wrong!” But he could see that the game was up.
“Because he is convinced that Queen Arwen knows he murdered Morfindel,” I said, sliding out from under the bed and getting to my feet. I thought it was high time I intervened before Elandrine struck him dead. I wanted to make an arrest.
Imalad staggered back spluttering and his face went red. “You!” he cried. “You!”
“Murderer!” Elandrine’s sword whistled through the air and came down with a heavy clang on Imalad’s defensive blade. Sparks showered across his face. I fully expected both swords to fly from their hands. When they didn’t I knew that the palantíri must have come apart again. The rings were no longer enabled!
The two erstwhile lovers fought with fury and skill. I had hoped that my presence might tip the balance and force Imalad to capitulate without a fight. But I quickly discovered I was only in the way.
Suddenly Imalad flung the bedding at Elandrine and made a bolt for the concealed door. Duck-feathers flew as Elandrine slashed at the counterpane. I tried to trip him up but it failed to fell him. Thrusting my fingers into the crack to prevent the door shutting and being locked from the inside I had them painfully crushed.
“Stop him!” yelled Elandrine. “Don’t let him reach the Queen!”
Wrenching the door open with my good hand I thrust myself through the gap after him. A breeze carried a copious quantity of feathers in with me. That should have warned me, but it didn’t.
Imalad knew far more about these passages than I did. He knew that there was a trap door he could release to throw off pursuit. Down this I plunged. It was a pitfall – filled with sticky tar in which knives were concealed. I would have died agonisingly had not something firm broken my fall, like an island in the pool of tar.
“Goss!” Elandrine’s anxious voice came down to me. “Are you all right?”
“Be careful! Yes, I don’t think I’m hurt. But I’m stuck fast in tar! I’m standing on a body.”
I took out my palantír ring and inspected the corpse by its glow. It was Bergil son of Beregond. He had been dead for three days. No other reason need be sought for his failure to appear at the courthouse.
“Goss – I’ve got to get across! Is it very wide? I can’t see...”
“Too wide to jump across without hitting your head.” An idea struck me. “I know! – skip across on my shoulder. I’ll brace myself firmly. I won’t let you fall.”
She didn’t need telling twice. As her foot dashed down on my shoulder a bolt of pain shot through me and her ankle nearly scraped my ear off, leaving it ringing like a bell. But she got across.
A minute or two later Lady Éowyn, no doubt hearing noises in the secret passages, came and peered down at me stuck in the pitfall. With a struggle she pulled me out, having first torn sheets into strips to make a sort of rope.
“What has happened?” I asked. “Did Elandrine stop the rascal?”
“No! He had a start on her. And he got to the Queen first. He’s just dashed out of the front entrance with her over his shoulder. Come on quick – follow me!”
I slipped and stumbled after Lady Éowyn across the courtyard of the White Tree, sliming the greensward with tar. Hurrying through the gate of the Citadel we came upon a dreadful scene.
A hundred guards there must have been, clustered in a crescent about Imalad. The Queen was on his shoulder and his back was to a precipice. The guards hung back, not knowing what to do. He was threatening to throw Queen Arwen over the edge, or to jump over himself with her still on his shoulder. Bowmen had their arrows trained on him but they held their fire, not being sure of their shot. I stood there powerless, Lady Éowyn by my side.
Then, against all hopes, Prince Imrahil himself arrived on the scene, having been brought hither by the day-old news of his son’s involvement in fell deeds. His arrival seemed to calm the lad. Gruffly the old man ordered his son to yield him the person of the Queen. As everyone stared with gritted teeth, Imalad complied, handing her over like a floppy doll.
But then, as his father turned and placed Queen Arwen in the arms of the nearest guardsman, something snapped inside the boy. Clutching at the back of Prince Imrahil’s coat he made as if to haul them both over the edge together.
Prince Imrahil promptly threw himself down upon his back. His feet came up and fetched his son a resounding blow. As Imalad teetered on the brink I rushed forward, wrenching aside the shoulders of the guards to get through the ring. The instant I saw him go over I had the presence of mind to utter the first word of my timing charge. Reciting it to myself I crawled to the edge and peered over, watching Imalad float down and down, turning head over heels, until he came to an abrupt stop and turned no more.
The Citadel is built out over the rocky chine which cleaves the City in two. It juts out over the Great Gate, allowing defenders to rain missiles down upon besiegers from a height of 750 ft. It takes a man eight seconds to fall that far. The last word I uttered of my charge told me that, and what is more, it tallies with my calculations.
There are two theories of falling bodies. Some claim that a man falls ever faster and faster. Others claim that, having reached a speed of about 200 miles an hour, thereafter a man falls with constant velocity. According to the second theory Imalad hit the ground just as hard as if he had fallen from the stars. Alas, 750 ft is at the critical point between the two theories and so Imalad’s death furnished support for neither over the other. The end of his wretched life didn’t even advance Science.
If it takes a man eight seconds to fall from the Citadel to the Great Gate, it takes a man a quarter-of-an-hour to make the same journey going by the steps and the stairs and the winding streets, zig-zagging deosil and widdershins to thread the intermediate gates from the Sixth Circle down to the First. Thus I came at length upon the young man’s body, gathering flies on the dusty ground.
Imalad had been wearing my elf ring on his right hand, which now lay beneath him. I had to probe through flesh and gore to retrieve it. As I held it up to the sunlight I could see not a scratch on it, although it was bent a little out of true. As I squatted there, covered in tar and duck feathers from the slashed bedding, the King rode up, accompanied by Legolas and Gimli. Approaching on foot to within sight of the City, they’d come again upon their faithful steeds waiting for them by the roadside. Thus they had been able to mount up and ride back to the City with some dignity.
I rose to my feet. Aragorn peered closely at me before he could be sure who it was that stood there, stained and splashed as I was with tar and stuck liberally with feathers.
“Morfindel’s murderer lies before you, Sire. The Queen is safe. I must apologise for my offensive condition. I fully understand if you do not wish to embrace me.”
Aragorn put his head back and roared with laughter. “Goss! Covered in muck as usual!” Then growing suddenly sober he climbed down from his horse and stood staring at the shattered body, his arm draped loosely around my neck. Legolas and Gimli stood the other side of me, doing the same.
“Imalad!” said the King. “I can tell by his hair. Alas – that it had to be him!”
I said, “His father it was who propelled him over the brink.”
Aragorn turned and looked at me like a man waking from a bad dream. “Did he now! What a capital fellow – to make a family matter out of it! I was just starting to agonise over how to break the news to him.”
At that instant, unaccompanied by guards or servants, Queen Arwen came running forth from out of the Great Gate. She flung her arms around her husband’s neck and kissed him passionately and long. And thus they stood in close embrace, oblivious of the world around them, as if they were standing alone once more upon a moonlit sward, strewn with blooms of elanor and niphrodel.
I’m a reckoner of times and seasons. According to my computations, Crown Prince Eldárion would have been conceived that very night. Lady Éowyn does not disagree with me. But of course she attends the Queen on matters of midwifery and so enjoys first-hand knowledge of events I can only compute for myself.
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.