Then to stifled cries of “Ooh!” and “Aah!” I detailed the extent of the treason of Morfindel son of Gollum, describing everything that took place in Hotel Doom and naming Imalad himself as my witness for the events at which both he and I were present. The rest I said were indisputable facts known to Grishnakh son of Grishnakh, the head of GUB. Since Commissary Grishnakh could not be present the court was at liberty to reject my evidence—which was immaterial anyway in view of the capital charge against me which still stood. But I wanted somebody with a passion for the truth as well as the law to establish these facts at their leisure after I had been executed.

At first the assessors tried to object that what I had to say had no bearing on the business of the court, which was solely to determine my guilt or innocence. Looking at Lady Éowyn I replied that I had been given leave to speak and that I resolved to do and that everything I said was relevant to the case, whether or not it serve to convict me or exonerate me. “What is more,” I added, “it is of sufficient importance for everyone to know!” At that the courtroom cheered me mightily.

You could have heard a pin drop as I described my battle with the wargs and the demise of the underworld boss Grimwald Uruksson. Though when I had finished that episode the cheering was deafening. Grimwald Uruksson was hardly everybody’s favourite person. To show their satisfaction that the Realm was rid of him at last, people got to their feet, climbed on the benches, waved their arms and threw hats in the air. The judge tried to beat his gavel and again banged his finger.

I raised my hands and a hush fell on the courtroom. Thereafter the judge gave up his efforts to call the court to order and left it to me to do, sitting back to enjoy my story like everyone else. Everyone that is except Imalad.

Then warning the court that everything I was going to say would be amply corroborated by the Mandate authorities I launched into a description of the GUB raid on Guthmud’s hideout. A gasp went up when I described how we found Guthmud dead, yet the kidnap party had nevertheless set off and I had been unable to intercept the wain. Consequently the kidnap, so far as anybody knew, had proceeded according to plan (though whose plan it was now we weren’t sure) and to a successful completion. That is unless the King and his two close friends could overtake the wain and rescue the Queen before she arrived at the Tower of Orthanc.

I faltered. I was suddenly no longer laying before the court the facts as I knew them. It wasn’t my intention to deceive but I didn’t want to say anything about Elandrine’s exploits as Gimli had reported them to me. Because it suddenly occurred to me that if I did I would be placing the Queen in grave danger. Exactly from whom I wasn’t sure. But whoever intended the Queen to be sequestered in the Tower of Orthanc might well have done so to silence her and might well resort to desperate measures if they discovered her still here in the Citadel.

All of a sudden I saw Elandrine!

She was standing at the back in the gangway in full view of everyone. I couldn’t understand why the judge had not ordered her to sit down. Was his eyesight that bad? Then I saw that what I first took for scanty garments was black orc-blood spattering her naked skin. Her long black hair was tangled and dishevelled and she was clad in nothing but a sword-belt. As she stepped slowly and deliberately down the gangway, swinging her graceful hips and shapely breasts, I couldn’t understand why everybody wasn’t ogling her in consternation. Indeed why everybody was ignoring her!

My tongue stuck in my throat. I couldn’t utter another word. Why had I not seen her before? “I’m in a dream,” I told myself with utter conviction. “This is a dream. A nightmare…!”

As I stood there in stunned silence people gaped at me. They rose slowly from their seats. Guards began calling out to each other. Officials got up and started to rush about in all directions. To start with I thought it was simply because I’d stopped talking, but it soon occurred to me that this wasn’t the response of an audience to a performer who had suddenly dried-up on-stage. It was the response to a performer who had suddenly vanished before their eyes.

Then I realised why I could see Elandrine but nobody else appeared to do so. Both she and I were now invisible! Both she and I were in the world of the Rings! Someone had just brought the palantíri back into contact!

I grasped with fresh insight what it meant to be “struck dumb”. When something so utterly unexpected happens one is not only struck dumb but paralysed as well. A dumb, numb spectator to the events unfolding before my astonished eyes.

Elandrine descended the steps of the gangway and slowly advanced across the courtroom floor, her face stern, her eyes fixed on me. She had her hand on the hilt of her sword. Ignoring the people rushing around her, and being ignored by them in her turn, she advanced right up to me as I stood there in the prisoner’s box. With a shrill ring of steel she swept out her sword. Then carefully, deliberately, as if unleashing a bolt of lightning, she brought it swishing down. Had the blow fallen I would have been cloven from crown to crotch.

Instinctively I threw up my hand, the hand wearing Nenya, and caught her wrist. The sword flew out of her grasp, skated down my back and stuck quivering in the boards behind me. Seizing it and wrenching it out with an effort I backed away, facing her. My heart pounded like a paviour’s mallet. Then I leapt from the prisoner’s box and began running towards the exit. I was so aroused and, I’m ashamed to admit, so terrified that I’d have cut down anyone standing in my way. Fortunately nobody was. I did not bother to look round because I knew that Elandrine was racing after me, even though she was now without a weapon.

…to be continued.