Still invisible I crept back to the bedroom, dropped Grimwald’s hand in the washbasin and got Glamdring out of my pack. Keeping Narya on I swapped Nenya for the palantír ring. As I had painfully discovered when Grishnakh gave me the latter, they didn’t mix on the same hand. What they would have done now that Nenya was re-activated I didn’t dare think.

Then I made my way down to the kitchens. These were located beneath the hotel in the cavern formed by the suspended foundations and the floor of the crater. There in the fierce volcanic heat I saw a solitary troll using an enormous wooden rake to push trays of bread and pies into recesses cut in the lava walls. Lava which although no longer glowing was still oven-hot—and would remain so for centuries. Always assuming the volcano didn’t erupt again in the meantime.

Inside one of these simple ovens was an exceptionally large pie, its surface crisping to a golden brown. A person-sized pie. In the centre was a decorative lump of dough shaped into a bunch of berries.

My heart thumping I seized another large rake and dragged the pie out of the oven. It tipped over the ledge and crashed to the floor, shattering the pie dish but leaving the crust intact. Immediately the troll came over to see what was happening. I realised I would have to kill him or there would be no time to rescue Goldberry from the pie before she was baked alive. If indeed she hadn’t been already. As the troll bent over the fallen pie I hewed his neck with all my strength. Any other sword than Glamdring would have rebounded in a shower of sparks from his stony flesh. But black blood spurted out and his head tipped slowly forward and fell off, smashing the pie crust.

In a frenzy I heaved the head aside and scrabbled in the wreckage of the monster pie. I encountered ice-cream. So it was a Goldberry Pie Surprise! There might yet be a chance for her…

Soon my fingers, reaching down through crumbled pie crust, troll’s gore and yellow ice-cream, felt girlish limbs. Rapidly I dug her body out of the mess, sucked ice-cream out of her mouth and tried to blow air into her lungs. Her nostrils were clear—straws had been inserted to let her breathe. For that I was immensely grateful, but I feared the hot air of the oven would have scorched her lungs. However, in her drugged and chilled condition, she seemed to have stopped breathing altogether. But I felt her heart still beating, weak slow taps beneath her left breast. Still invisible I carried her unconscious body, cold, clammy and dripping cream, to the foot of the tunnel leading up to the restaurant.

Then I heard voices! A posse of orcs was making their way down to the kitchen to collect their Goldberry Pie.

“Where’s Grimwald slipped off to? He’ll miss the fun with the girl.”

They stopped, stricken with amazement at seeing Goldberry hover unconscious in the air before coming gently to rest on the ground. Suddenly Glamdring flashed into view before their eyes, cold and blue. It was the first and last sight they had of it before their heads went rolling plock-plock down the stairs. I picked Goldberry up again and sped on my way. Soon I reached the bedroom, having left a number of wide-eyed guests gaping in the foyer. It’s not every day you see a swooning naked girl levitating up the stairs, shedding ice-cream dollops and bits of pie crust.

My brief skirmish in the kitchens would soon raise the alarm unless I did something about it. Rapidly I ran the warm waterfall into the bath and lowered Goldberry’s sleeping form into it, before taking off my rings and seizing a bathrobe. Then I hurried back down to the foyer, making vigorous show of panic, banging my fists on the receptionist’s desk.

“You’ve got to do something! Orcs are fighting in the kitchen and they’re beginning to chop each other’s heads off!”

“Ugh!” said the girl in disgust. “They’re always doing that!” She got to her feet and dashed into the back offices to get help. I turned and before anyone could stop me to ask what it was all about ran back up to the bedroom. There was still no pursuit. Grimwald’s gang couldn’t yet have fathomed what had happened.

In the bath Goldberry was beginning to come round. Being immortal she was made of sterner stuff than I’d given her credit for. I chafed her limbs and worked the greasy ice-cream off her pure white skin. Still refusing to open her eyes she took a deep breath, groaned and slid her arms round my neck.

“No time for that, pet! We’ve got to get out of here!”

“Why?” she murmured drowsily. “We’ve missed checkout time for today. And I was just beginning to unwind…”

…to be continued.