As I ran I tried to grapple with the fact that I had just disarmed a Rohan-trained shieldmaiden bare-handed, in the very act of striking me a mortal blow. Then I realised that I had been far from bare-handed. I was wearing Nenya. Elandrine too was wearing one of the rings of Power—I guessed Vilya, which the Queen would have given her prior to her mission. Or else she had taken by force.
I had heard it said that the elf rings would never endure weapons to be raised against each other. Now I understood what this meant. Two people wearing the elf rings were quite unable to strike blows at each other without being disarmed in the process. So it had not been mere chance that Elandrine had dropped the sword when I grabbed her wrist. By the same token, I too could not spin round and strike her down or I would be disarmed in my turn. I kept running, she hard at my heels.
The courthouse is in the Citadel, as I’ve already said, and as I ran out into the open air I found myself in the courtyard before the White Tower of Ecthelion. I ran onto the greensward in which the White Tree grows beside the silver fountain and as I ran my foot slipped on the wet grass. I fell—and Elandrine went tumbling over me. I was first on my feet and I turned to face her, brandishing the sword. In that instant I was smitten to the heart by the sight of her valiance and the naked fury of her bloodstained beauty. She rose to her feet and squared up to me, quite prepared to fight me with her bare hands, armed though I was—and with her sword, which I knew to be a good blade.
We paced cautiously round each other, each seeking an opening. Did she know about the elf rings? She was acting as if she did, so I saw no reason not to tell her.
“Elandrine, come no nearer! While we both wear the elf rings, we cannot be hurt by each other’s weapons. But if you so much as touch me, I shall tear off my ring and run you through.”
“You bastard! I’m going to kill you!”
“Just as you killed Morfindel?”
“How… dare you say that? You killed him yourself!”
“If you really believe that, why didn’t you let the court send me to my death?”
“What—and forego the satisfaction of slaying you myself? For your ill-treatment of the Queen?”
“Look Elandrine, I meant the Queen no harm. I tried to foil the attempt to kidnap her. It was by pure mischance that I failed. My fire horse…”
“You lie! I was there, hidden among the trees, when Gimli the Dwarf made contact with you by palantír ring. He told you plainly it had been me, not the Queen, rolled up in the carpet. Why then did you lie to the court that the Queen had been successfully abducted? Once you said that, I was no longer in the slightest doubt of your guilt.”
“No Elandrine, that’s quite wrong…”
Suddenly a squad of guards dashed into the courtyard. Instantly Elandrine sprinted over to them crying, “Guards! Guards! To me! To me!”
They shied back visibly when, taking off her ring, she appeared before them, bare and bloody. “My Lady Elandrine!” one shrieked in dismay.
“Quick,” she said, “give me a sword! The prisoner is out there on the greensward. He is wearing a ring of Power which makes him invisible. But I can see him—when I too wear this ring of Power!”
Seizing a sword she ran back towards me shouting, “Follow me! Follow this sword, even if you cannot see me!”
I knew then what I needed—a disguise. Invisibility was no protection now. The guards had come from the armoury of course, having been recalled in emergency from their off-duty hours. Still invisible I managed to evade them as well as Elandrine and attained the archway from which they had come. Quickly I found my way to the armoury simply by thrusting against the flow of guards who were now emerging from it in large numbers. They must have wondered about the unseen body that pushed past them, not connecting it with the reason why they had been ordered to stand-to. Else with no room to wield the sword I would have been surrounded and captured easily.
As luck would have it, there standing behind the quartermaster’s desk was Glamdring, taken from me at my arrest. I quickly swapped it for Elandrine’s sword and kissed the blade. There were high winged helmets still on the racks and black cloaks emblazoned with the White Tree still on their stands. Rapidly I equipped myself and pulled off my ring. Just in time I managed to join the tail-end of a squad of guards leaving the armoury, at the very moment a sword floated in on its own, leading another squad of guards in the opposite direction.
…to be continued