I followed close behind. They led Goldberry away down one of the side corridors leading to the spas. There was no time for this sort of diversion. I would have to do something. As soon as we were out of sight of the lobby I said sharply “Goldberry—down!”

The two uruks spun round. Goldberry obligingly dropped to the ground and as she did so Glamdring swept off the heads of her captors in a single blow.

“That wasn’t very clever!” she said. “Now you’ve got blood all over my best dress.”

Grabbing her arm and hauling her to her feet I dashed back with her towards the lobby. Behind us we heard screams—someone had discovered the bodies. It was hopeless to make a dash for it through the front door. We’d be stopped before we could get into one of the cable cars. Feverishly I cast about me for an exit—any exit—from the hotel.

“I know,” I cried, recalling what Snargy had told me. “The rubbish chute! It’s down in the kitchen!”

We scampered through the lobby and I led the way back down to the kitchens from which I’d rescued Goldberry scarcely an hour earlier.

“How do we find the rubbish chute? We won’t have time to go hunting around.”

“How’s your sense of direction?”

“Not very good underground,” admitted Goldberry. “I’m not used to being in the middle of a volcano. I’m a woodland person, me.”

“Well I’m not too bad,” I said. “A wizard should know which way is North at any moment of the day, over hill or under hill. I got through that part of the training at least.”

“Why is that going to help us find the rubbish chute?”

“Because whenever orcs build a rubbish chute, they always make it point due West.”


“Pure spite. The Elves point their rubbish chutes East.”

We were nearly at the bottom of the steps. Someone had cleared away the dead orcs. I wondered if they’d got the troll out too. That would take them longer, I guessed. Too heavy for even four people to carry. Too stony to cut up.

“Right, follow me!” Once in the blistering heat of the kitchen I made for the western wall. The rubbish chute was easy to spot—a two foot wide hole in the wall with rubbish lying in piles beside it, ready for tipping down. A vast cauldron of water stood seething beside the hole. I guessed it was used to scald the chute to prevent smells drifting back into the kitchen. Looking over my shoulder I saw the body of the troll still lying where I’d left it. But the pie mess was gone.

A dozen or so orcs spotted us and howled. At least, they spotted Goldberry. I thrust her head-first into the chute and threw my pack in after her. I was about to dive in too when I had the sense to step aside. The ring was still working, so they couldn’t see me. If I drew Glamdring and started hacking their heads off they might all flee in different directions, making it difficult for me to catch them all. If just one of them escaped he’d rapidly fetch help. Almost certainly they had some means of signalling to the bottom. A stretched cord, or a voice-tube.

The orcs came running up and peered down the chute after Goldberry. Then, almost without having to think about it, they picked up staves and slid them through rings round the top of the cauldron. This they lifted up and staggered with it to the chute. If I didn’t do something fast I would only have saved Goldberry from being baked alive in order to be boiled.

Fetching up a wooden rake I lunged with it at the backs of the legs of the nearest orc. As the cauldron went down on top of him with a clang I hopped up onto it and dived head-first into the hole. Behind me the screams of the scalded orcs came echoing down the tube.

The chute was slippery with grease and cabbage juice and I rapidly picked up speed. Hurtling down in the darkness I tried calling out to Goldberry in front of me, but I got no answer. She had had nearly a minute’s start on me. I had no idea what sort of reception to expect at the bottom—whether we would go tumbling into a cesspit, or into the arms of Grimwald’s men. I had to be ready for anything.

After what seemed like an age I shot suddenly into the daylight. The pile of kitchen slops I ploughed into made a soft landing. We were out in the open and there were orcs all around. Two of them had picked Goldberry up out of the rubbish and were dusting potato peelings off her shoulders—her dress was now quite ruined and she’d lost her wig.

I was just about to lay about me with Glamdring, cutting down orcs left right and centre, when I spotted Grishnakh among them. GUB had arrived in force.

…to be continued.