For a moment I thought I was trapped. The guards, seeing the door open all by itself, rushed towards me with a yell. Desperately I pushed at the blank door—it opened! It too was unlocked. I slipped into the Queen’s bedroom and turning round I applied the catch. Just in time, as the guards thumped into it from the other side. It was a stout door and resisted their hammering and kicking. I heard orders being given and I knew that men had been despatched through the open corridors to the Queen’s bedroom (actually an appreciable distance away). Yet guards, I knew, would still be waiting behind the adjoining door.
I looked round. The Queen’s bedroom was empty, so far as I could tell. Two separate secret passages, I now knew, led from this bedroom. But I did not know how to access either of them.
The fireplace was identical to the one in Morfindel’s bedroom—to the point of concealing an identical hidden door! Naturally enough it was the first thing I tried. I slipped inside it and closed the door, just as the main bedroom door burst open and a score of guards plunged in.
Through the spy hole I watched them searching the bedroom meticulously, opening cupboards and chests, probing under the bed with their swords and prodding the bedding. The urgency of the situation had overcome any reticence they might have had at treating the Queen’s belongings so shamefully. In this of course their priorities were absolutely right. A Queen’s belongings can be replaced—but a Queen not quite so easily.
Eventually they gave up the search, formed up and marched out of the room. As I stood there in silence, debating what to do next, I heard voices. Women’s voices.
“I daren’t show myself to you, my lady! I am unclad, just as I was in the carpet. Only now I am besmirched with blood.”
“My poor child! Are you bleeding badly? Come here and have no shame—I can heal the hurt.”
“No, Madam, it is not my blood. It is the blood of the orcs who would have captured you. I am in sound health. I must go now and seek that traitor, the son of Gandalf.”
“Take my cloak! Disregard the blood…”
“If you’ll permit me, Madam, I prefer to remain as I am. I still have blood-soaked work to do, and ever at need my adopted kinsmen would fight naked. It gives liberty to the limbs and the sword-arm.”
“But you’re not a bare-sarker, my precious Elandrine! You’re a woman!”
“That is to my advantage. I go now, my Queen. Keep safe till I return. Farewell!”
“Hurry back…” came Arwen’s voice in a whisper. There was movement in the passage. I froze. If Elandrine was coming this way, one of us was about to die. But for a long time nothing happened. I stood in the darkness with bated breath.
Taking my glowing palantír ring from my pocket I briefly looked about me. The hidden corridor went both ways. I’d found the entrance to both secret passages.
I dared not use either. Quietly I crept back through the concealed door in the fireplace, stepped out into the bedroom, put on my ring and cautiously opened the main door into the corridor.
There was a footfall and I turned round. There facing me was a solitary guard, sword at the ready. But I knew by the very clarity with which I could see him that this was no servant of the Tower of Guard. Like me he was clad in the black cloak and winged helmet, with the mithril mesh hiding his face. But like me he was invisible. Because—like me—he was wearing a ring of Power.
The secret watcher! The figure I’d momentarily glimpsed!
I swept out Glamdring. To my dismay the blade shimmered red like a flame.
The implications struck me like a thunderbolt. It couldn’t be Imalad! Imalad was in possession of Narya which the guards had taken from me. Glamdring was shining now as Frodo’s sword had done… when he faced the Ringwraiths. I knew with the full force of conviction that whoever it was that confronted me was wearing the Angrennan.
The real Angrennan.
The ring Morfindel had possessed when he was murdered. Was I at last face-to-face with Morfindel’s murderer?
Wielding Glamdring with a cry I struck at my adversary with all my might. The sword he was armed with was nothing special—just the standard issue from the Citadel armoury. If I struck it at the correct angle I could smash it with Glamdring. But whatever the quality of his sword I realised by the way he defended himself that in sheer swordsmanship I was vastly outclassed.
This man had been trained by the Rohirrim. It told in every thrust and parry he made. I was up against a mighty warrior. Someone seasoned in battle, who had laid low adversaries far more powerful than any I had ever encountered. Against such a one the possession of Glamdring gave me no advantage—just the opposite. He had detected my intention to smash his sword and so caught my blows against it in such a way as to prevent that happening, jarring my arm with every blow. My fingers grew numb. At any moment Glamdring would be knocked spinning from my nerveless grasp.
Whether my agility was the better of the two, or whether it was sheer terror that drove me, I found the strength to leap upon the banisters and launch myself to the top of one of the giant wardrobes which dotted the landing. For the moment at least, my opponent was unable to reach me. Like a treed cat with teeth and claws showing I helplessly pointed Glamdring at his heart.
On top of the wardrobe there were some rusty swords which at one time had been hung as ornaments on the walls, likewise some spearheads and the tips of halberds. These I flung at my foe. But effortlessly he batted them this way and that and they went spinning and clattering away down the stairs, ringing like bells.
I braced myself to leap down upon him with Glamdring swinging. I was meaning to deliver him a mortal blow as he was in the act of running me through, as he undoubtedly would. “Are you a man?” I cried out in challenge “…or a nazgûl?”
Imagine my astonishment when my adversary sighed heavily, shoulders heaving as if pounding a mighty drum with both hand. Sword was flung down and helm torn off, letting there burst forth long golden hair.
“I’m neither, you bloody fool—I’m a woman!” It was Lady Éowyn! “Goss, you clown! Why didn’t you say it was you?”
Sheepishly I slithered down from the wardrobe, mumbling, “I thought you might have recognised Glamdring…”
“I thought I was fighting Imalad! I didn’t know you’d got Glamdring back. And anyway—doesn’t Glamdring shine blue when it faces foes?”
“The ancient swords of Westernesse shone red when confronting one of the Nine,” I said.
Éowyn blinked and looked down at the Angrennan on her hand. “Oh well, that explains it.”
“Lady Éowyn,” I declared solemnly, “I charge you in the King’s name to say how you come to be wearing that ring.”
“It’s mine, isn’t it?”
“Yes—but it was stolen!”
“Well—I got it back!”
…to be continued.