Back in Morfindel’s bedroom I continued my detailed search. There was little enough kept in the bedroom itself by way of clothes and personal effects. Morfindel would have relied upon servants bringing him these as he needed them. Nevertheless the boy would have owned a few personal possessions, of immense value to him. It was these I was looking for. Quite likely he had hidden them away from the prying eyes of servants.
There were pictures round the walls. Some of them quite clearly had been commissioned by the castellan as being generally suitable for palace walls—elf-maidens bathing, scenes from legend and so on. But some were too individualistic for that and clearly pointed to the victim’s personal taste. His father, I recalled, had been an untiring researcher into roots and beginnings. It was clear that his son carried on his father’s interest in these things. There were pictures of musty holes in the bases of trees, rabbit holes and badger holes in riverbanks, woodworm holes in old oak, even holes in socks and other garments. Plenty of pictures of stones with holes in them. In fact if the collection could be said to have a theme, that theme was “holes”. There was a picture of a pile of rings. To begin with I thought it fell into the same category.
I began to take the pictures down from the walls. Some of them were heavy and I examined these for secret cavities. I soon found one or two and began to spend more time than I cared to in trying to open the ingeniously concealed locks and slides, hinges and pivots. I considered having a whole lot sent to a carpenter to take apart and discover all the secret compartments. But it occurred to me that whatever I found was most likely to be something I wanted to keep to myself.
Most of the secret compartments were empty. Some however contained little notes. Writing down the exact locations from which these notes had come I put them in my pocket.
Whilst there was little in the way of chests and cupboards, the room didn’t lack for ornamentation. There was a heavy elaborate arch round the fire, the usual thing: twisted vines and bunches of grapes and little people with flutes poking their heads out at various points. Whilst I was working on the gilded mirror which I had taken down from above the fireplace (and a heavy thing it was too!) I heard a click from the vicinity of the arch and saw portions of the pattern beginning to move. Instantly I dived under the bed and peered out.
The secret door opened, for that’s what it was, and a young man came out. A personable young man, far too well-dressed be a servant. His eyes opened wide when he saw the pictures I had taken from their hooks and placed on the floor. He ran to inspect one or two of them, unerringly locating all the secret compartments which I’d discovered, plus a few I hadn’t.
The intruder was armed, whereas I had no sword. I wondered if there’d be time to alert the guards in the passage. But the door was locked—I had wanted total privacy whilst I inspected the scene of crime. I would either have to lie there concealed, possibly letting the intruder get away with vital evidence, or I’d have to disarm him myself without assistance. Judging that I was the bigger and stronger of the two I determined on the latter.
Backing away from the wall he stood close to the bed as he pondered the pictures. Thrusting out a hand I grabbed his leg and pulled sharply. With a shout he came tumbling down. I soon had his sword off him and flung it away to the corner of the room. But he proved stronger than he looked and was soon sitting on top of me, his forearm in an expert stranglehold across my voice-box.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?” he hissed. Clearly he didn’t want to make a noise which the guards outside would hear. I shook my head and mouthed silently to indicate that he needed to relax his hold slightly for me to be able to speak. This he did. I was rather relieved about that, because I’d just slipped my dagger out and was on the point of using it.
“I was about to ask you the same question. I’m a special investigator—on the King’s business.”
“Have you any proof of that?”
“None at all, on my person,” I replied. “But Captain Bergil knows me and knows that I’m here. Shall we go downstairs together and ask him? You might also wonder how I come to be in a locked room, with guards outside.”
“You might be a burglar and you might have come in the same way as I did.”
“So what does that make you?”
He seemed smitten by a sudden decision, or was it revelation? He leapt to his feet and helped me to mine. Then he casually sauntered to the corner of the room, picked up his sword and replaced it in its scabbard. He held out his hand in friendly fashion.
“Imalad son of Imrahil,” he declared. “Everybody knows me around here. But of course, you’re a stranger.”
“Now you’ve told me your name, I know you too. Or rather I know of you. The third son of the Lord of Dol Amroth, in the service of the King. Or would you consider yourself a prince of the household?”
“It’s all the same. Old Aragorn insists we all work for our living when we’re old enough to.”
I was impressed by the young fellow’s casual reference to the King. When I left court I had wondered if the informality with which King Elessar had commenced his reign would long survive the cobwebs of the Tower of Guard. Now I had my answer: yes—among the younger fraternity.
“You certainly seem to know your way around the White Tower, including the secret passages.”
Imalad laughed, like a boy with nothing to hide. “Well,” he said, “you live around here for a bit and you soon get to know them. Though I’m surprised who doesn’t. Most of the older servants don’t know about them. Or pretend they don’t. I suppose it’s the sort of thing which only young princes—or young servants—with time on their hands, get to discover.”
He looked at me with a puzzled frown. “Who did you say you were?”
“I didn’t. I’m Goswedriol son of Gandalf.”
His face lit up in recognition. “I’ve heard of you!” he said. “Investigator? …Bounty hunter, I was told. Adventurer. Don’t you travel to distant lands, fight with trolls and mûmakil and things?”
“Then how was it I was able to get on top of you so easily?”
“That was all a long time ago,” I replied. “And I don’t usually pick fights with healthy young striplings. Nor am I known to fight bare-handed. In fact it was a good job you got off me when you did. Didn’t you feel me getting my dagger out?”
His eyes widened with dismay. He shook his head. I was holding my dagger behind my back, but now I brought it round and slipped it into its sheath. “You’ve had a lucky escape, my boy.”
He grinned in embarrassment. I chuckled. “Well I suppose investigator sounds better than bounty hunter. But—yes—I’ve not long returned from distant lands. I’m presently on the King’s business. It’s a secret matter and I don’t want to go talking about it. But that’s why you didn’t recognise me. Like you, I was a boy at court, but that was a long time ago.”
His face lost its happy mien and he began to frown. “What’s happened to Morfindel?”
…to be continued.