As soon as Goldberry had recovered sufficiently we were ready to go.

“How do we get out of here without being seen?” she said.

“The easiest way will be if these rings still work,” I replied. “With a bit of luck the palantíri are still in contact. It may not occur to anyone to part them. Here—which one do you want to put on?”

“Oh, just give me any one.”

“I’ll give you Nenya. I’ll hang on to Dad’s. Grimwald was wearing it when the wolves ate him. That might have magically contaminated it. So perhaps I’d better wear it rather than you, since you’ve never worn it before.”

We both put on the elf rings. “I can still see you,” said Goldberry. “Perhaps they aren’t working.”

“No—that’s because we are in the same invisible world. I explained all that with Grimwald. Now if I take my ring off I shouldn’t be able to see you.”

I pulled off Nenya and my heart sank. Goldberry looked just as solid as ever. “Damn! They’ve parted the palantíri!”

“Not necessarily,” said Goldberry. “I recall Tom saying that the rings had no power over us. And I also remember when Frodo was at our house he once put the ring on without telling us. Neither Tom nor I could see any difference. So I’ll be able to see you whether or not Narya is working.”

“It probably works the other way round too. Nenya won’t make you invisible either.” I sat down hard on the bed. “So that’s not a lot of use! Now what do we do?”

“Maybe the ring is making you invisible…” Goldberry put her fingers to her lips. “How can we tell?”

“I don’t know! I’ll have to go down to the foyer again and see if I bump into people. But that’s too risky…”

I snapped my fingers. “I know!” I dashed into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. Sure enough I could see no reflection. “Come here a minute, pet,” I called.

She came and stood by my side, putting her arm round my waist. “Everything looks normal to me,” she said.

“But I can’t see myself—and I can see you perfectly well. You do look silly standing there with your arm stuck out.”

She elbowed me in the ribs.

“Well, that’s a relief,” I gasped. “The palantíri are still in contact. But how long for?”

“You could go back to the spa room and fetch them. Then you’d be sure…”

“No—far too risky. And they’re heavy things—they’d weigh us down. And it still doesn’t solve the problem of what to do about you!”

“I need a disguise… I know!” Goldberry pounced on my pack and started unlacing it. “Did you bring my long green dress? And my yellow wig?”

“I did. I was hoping you’d get a chance to wear them. I did want to see you in them again.”

“Well, I’ll wear them now. I’ll simply walk out the door looking like myself. That should bamboozle everybody.”

I put my hands on my hips. “That is such a silly idea it might even work. I’ll stay close to your side, ready to draw Glamdring. And if anybody tries to stop you I’ll cut them down.”

“I’ve never heard of anything so desperate! And what’s going to happen when we get the bottom of the ropeway? I suppose they’ve ‘repaired’ it by now?”

“I haven’t thought that far ahead. Let’s do one thing at a time.”

Swiftly she donned her shimmering green dress and her yellow wig—and she was once more the Goldberry I knew long ago. And loved… though I’d never had the courage to tell Tom that.

“There! How do I look?”

“Ravishing! I wish you’d wear that dress more often. It’s my favourite.”

“It was Tom’s favourite too. But I must say it’s a bit tight round the middle. Must be all that ice-cream.”

“Never mind,” I said. “I’ll help you work it all off again.” She snatched the metal cup out of my pack and threw it at me.

“Come on—no time to fool around. Now for it!”

Down in the foyer, it became clear that Goldberry would only draw attention to herself if she marched out the main door all by herself. Nothing if not quick-witted, she slipped her hand under the elbow of an elderly lady who was shuffling towards the door.

“Let me help you the last few yards,” she said. “All these people rushing to and fro, they don’t look where they’re going.”

The old lady stared round at her and smiled. “I don’t need help, thank you my dear. I’m a hundred years old if I’m a day. You young people have no idea…”

“You’re looking very healthy I must say,” replied Goldberry. “Did you enjoy your stay here?”

“I’m not leaving yet. I just thought I’d have a sniff of air outside. It’s so stuffy in here.”

“Oh, we’re just on our way down to the ropeway. Have you seen the view from there? It’s splendid…”

“We?” said the old woman, stopping with a jerk and looking round. “I can only see you…”

A well-dressed man came up and laid his hand on the old woman’s shoulder. “Now, grandma, where d’you think you’re going?”

“I was just on my way down to the ropeway with this young lady and her companion—who seems to have disappeared for the moment…”

“No, grandma, you’re not to go straying outside. There are some nasty drops out there—and I’m afraid of somebody making off with you again and stealing all your jewels.” He treated Goldberry to a none-too-friendly look.

“I am sorry,” said Goldberry. “I was under the impression your grandmother wanted to take a breath of fresh air…”

“There is no fresh air in East Ithilien,” the man snapped. “She’s better off inside, where the air is at least filtered. And just who are you, may I ask?”

I glanced around. People were beginning to look at Goldberry.

“I’m…” She didn’t want to say her name out loud. “I’m one of the staff here. I’m—I’m employed to render assistance to guests in the lobby…”

Two hefty uruks appeared on either side of her and put their claws on her shoulders. I recognised them for Grimwald’s myrmidons. “Staff, eh? How convenient. Well—we’ve got a little job for you. Do you mind…?” They nodded to the old lady and her grandson, spun Goldberry around and marched her off.

…to be continued.