At a sign from Grimwald the orcs began to grease my body with fat from a pot. “Beef dripping,” he explained. “The last few days relaxing in the spa have so cleansed your pores that we’re afraid you won’t have enough body-odour for the wolves to smell you. And we don’t want them just coming up and wagging their tails, so we’ve trained them to rend to pieces carcasses rubbed in dripping. But we’ll let you put your bathrobe on again. If they make heavy weather of finding you, I’d hate you to catch your death of cold waiting.”

Then they let go of me and retired to the edge of the pool. A canvas stool was brought for Grimwald and he sat down on it, behind the circle of orcs. “Now,” he said, “if you’d kindly put on the black ring, there will be a short interlude while I do a few experiments to find out how to make you disappear. As soon as I bring these stones together we’re going to let the wolves out of their cages.”

Some of Grimwald minions began dragging in cages, each one containing a snarling warg. The cages were grouped around the central pillar and lanyards were led from them to the hands of the waiting orcs.

“Please excuse the noise my puppy-dogs are making,” said Grimwald. “They haven’t been fed for three days, so they’re ready for their dinner.”

I donned the bathrobe and crouched down, putting the tethered ring on my right hand. Grimwald opened a leather satchel of the type employed in carrying the woods used for playing bowls, and took out two palantíri, discarding the spacer keeping them apart. He held them up, one in each hand, exhibiting them to me.

“You’ll recognise this one,” he said. Then he looked at it curiously, and then at the other. “Or perhaps you won’t! They look so alike. But this is the one you sent back to Guthmud. The Ithil Stone. And this one,” he held it up, “was used by the Dark Lord himself. Contrary to what some people imagine, it was not inside Barad-Dûr when the tower fell down. It had been taken to the Black Gate in the care of my father, known to all as the Mouthpiece of Sauron, the better to scry the minds of the captains of the West.”

He leaned forward, elbows on knees, and stared fixedly into first one and then the other. “Now excuse me while I try to evoke an image of the One Ring on the Dark Lord’s hand. I managed it once this afternoon. As soon as I do it again I shall touch the palantíri together and that will set up a sort of resonance which will keep the One Ring briefly in existence—at least insofar as its slave rings are concerned. With any luck you’ll disappear. Please be patient.”

“I’m happy to wait all day,” I said solemnly. Grimwald thought this a huge joke. “You know, I’ve enjoyed your company so much I’ll miss you when you’re gone. In fact I was half thinking of letting you live, but my vicious blood lust got the better of me. Ah, here it comes now…”

He brought the palantíri in contact a trifle too sharply and they pealed like bells. Cold fire blazed out from within their hearts. Suddenly it seemed as if the room had grown dimmer. The orcs became shadows, but Grimwald stood out clear as ever. Even clearer, if that were possible. That, of course, was because he was wearing the elf ring and so had become invisible like me. I saw him carefully place the palantíri, still in contact, back in the satchel.

“Well,” he said casually, “I am disappointed. You haven’t vanished yet. I wonder if that ring you’re wearing really is a fake, as Guthmud suspects?”

He could of course see me as clearly as I could see him, because we were both in the ring-world. But because his eyes were fixed on me he didn’t realise it. To reinforce his illusion I held aloft the fake Angrennan, having snatched it from my finger, and put it mockingly to my eye, its chain dangling like a monocle.

“You idiot! Put it on again! The wolves will spot you all too soon!”

The orcs stood between Grimwald and me, holding their staves out before them. They had seen me disappear, even if Grimwald hadn’t. “Now!” one shouted. They pulled on their lanyards, catches sprung open and with a crash of chains the wargs leapt from their cages.

Simultaneously the expanding circle of wargs reached the edge of the pool and were hauled up short by the chains round their necks. Rearing on their hind legs, their snarling jaws dripping foam, they howled in fury at their tormentors, snapping at the ends of the poles as the orcs goaded them. On the word “Now!” I’d darted unseen through the orc-line and bore down upon Grimwald.

He scrambled to his feet in consternation. “Get him, you fools!” But his companions were too busy staring into the red eyes of the wargs and didn’t think to turn round and see that their master had become invisible too. Robbed of assistance he rose to grapple with me all by himself. Holding on to one arm and the lapel of his bathrobe I flung myself onto my back, putting my foot in his stomach. Grimwald went flying over my head and into the pool. He must have fallen upon a wolf, because instantly he was submerged in a growling mass of hairy bodies. The orcs cheered with delight, thinking it was me the wolves had got.

“Agh! Get them off me!” I shouted from the floor, hoping to prevent the orcs realising the truth. I was still holding on to Grimwald’s hand, when all at once it was severed at the wrist by a single snap from powerful jaws. Instantly Grimwald came bloodily into view, an unrecognisable mass of parting flesh and ripping rags changing rapidly from white to red. The orcs roared with laughter, putting down their staves and slapping their thighs. Still invisible I scurried out of the spa room. Blood dripped from the bitten-off hand I still held. A hand, I noted with satisfaction, that amongst its other jewellery was still wearing Narya.

I stopped to remove it and put it on my right hand. Then I cursed myself for a fool. In my haste I had neglected to pick up the satchel of palantíri to take with me. I thought of going back but it was too dangerous and there was no time. I still had to find Goldberry and then we’d have to escape from the hotel, under the eyes of the Grimwald Gang. But with a bit of luck it would be some time before they realised that it was Grimwald himself that had been feasted on by wargs, not me. Of course they would be puzzled over Grimwald’s disappearance, but that too I might turn to good account, once my over-excited brain had calmed down enough to think rationally.

…to be continued.