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Pitfalls of the Palantir  by Haleth

Lithul roared in anger as he clambered up the spiral staircase. There were entirely too many people here.† They were too loud, too quick and the blue robes had an unfortunate tendency of getting stuck between his teeth. He had climbed the tower to escape the worst of them.

The cold drake's ear-splitting bellow was abruptly cut off by a whooshing gasp as he caught as familiar scent. After tracking her for months, Lithul was almost upon the thief who had stolen his single greatest treasure.† She was somewhere above him.† He was certain of it.† The heady scent of her fear and desperation hung like the sweetest perfume in his nostrils.† Very soon he would have his long awaited revenge.

Once again the dragon began to roar, but the thunder of his voice immediately dissolved into a less than terrifying fit of coughing. The exertions of the past weeks had taken their toll on Lithul. He lowered his head to climb the rest of the way in silence, at least as silently as an asthmatic dragon can ever be.

At the top of the tower, Haleth, still clutching the palantir, stood with her feet braced upon the trap door. She had concocted a wild plan of escape; it depended entirely upon her keeping the trap door closed until the time was exactly right.† Once Lithulís head was visible, she would jump to the side.† The Hosluin would find themselves face to face with the Cold Drake. She would take to her heels in the ensuing confusion.

Suddenly the door flew violently upwards as though several Ents had pushed it with all their strength.

Haleth was not prepared for the brute force of the effort. She lost her balance and, moving backwards, slid off the door. Her arms automatically flew upwards as she fought to regain her footing, the palantir still locked in her stubborn grasp. In other circumstances she might have managed to recover, but she ran out of space on the narrow rooftop. The backs of her thighs encountered the edge of a crenellation and she flew over backwards, the weight of the palantir speeding her downwards path.

She twisted as she plummeted, the extra momentum of the palantir dragging her further from the edge of the tower.

A familiar voice cried out,

"Let go of it, you fool!"

There was no denying the power of that voice. Haleth immediately released the palantir. With her hands held out to protect her head, she prepared to crash into the stone staircase half a story below. She judged it would be a stunning blow but not a fatal one; not fatal as long as she recovered before Lithul reached her, that was. Even as she hurtled downwards Haleth frantically calculated her best course of action - she could either try to crawl back up the stairs or make her way downwards to lure Hosluin towards the dragon. This was optimistically assuming she was not too stunned to move after she smashed into the stairs.

These pleasant thoughts were rudely interrupted when, without warning, strong hands suddenly grasped her by the ankles. Now, instead of falling into the staircase, she was in danger of dashing her brains out against the stone wall of the tower. She barely managed to place her hands behind her head before the back of her skull crashed into the masonry. She hit with such force that she bounced back slightly, her knuckles smarting from the impact.

It was from that vantage point, hanging upside down from the top of the tower, that Haleth witnessed an amazing chain of events.

Immediately after she had released it, the palantir bounced off the stone banister. From there, it took on a new trajectory and dealt the panting but determined Lithul a lethal blow directly between the eyes.

The Cold Crake's eyes were already glazing over as the palantir continued its murderous path downwards towards a dwarf. Froi raised his axe to ward off the ferocious attack of the Seeing Stone. There was a sharp metallic ring as steel met unknown substance and the palantir flew down to the next level, where one of the group of tall, armoured warriors (Haleth realized with a shock that they were Dunedain) raised his shield to deflect it. There was a dull crunch of denting metal and the deadly orb flew upwards in a graceful arc. For an instant the glistening blue ball hung motionless in the air.† Four Ages of the history of Middle-earth glimmered in its depths. Then it plummeted once again, landing with a faint splash and disappeared into the depths of the bottomless pool.

Haleth saw all of this from her upside down vantage point. Inglor, who was holding her ankles, witnessed the whole episode from right side up. The entire sequence could not have been less likely no matter how the viewer was situated. They remained in their positions, as still and unblinking as statues, for several minutes.

A faint ringing began in Haleth's ears. She was too stunned by what she had just seen to notice it.

Inglor recovered his senses first.

"I am going to release one of your ankles," he said as he leant over the parapet. "Give me your hand."

Haleth braced the heel of her foot against the stone of the tower. She bent from the waist and grasped his outstretched hand. He pulled her upwards in one smooth motion, taking care not to scrape her against the stone.

Elf and woman stood together on the top of the tower, both at a complete loss for words. With her head aching and her knuckles smarting, Haleth leant against Inglor while they surveyed the scene of pandemonium below. A diminished crowd of mottled blue figures still churned and pushed for the main gate, unaware that most of the immediate danger had passed. The dwarves and the Dunedain had recovered from the surprise of the aerial attack and were climbing upwards.

Haleth squinted at the pool. The palantir had already sunk far beyond sight. She thought she could see small ripples expanding concentrically from the center of the water's dark surface.

"Well," she said determinedly. "I am not going retrieve it."

"And neither are you," she added to Inglor with complete sincerity.

He shifted his calm gaze from the pool to his companion, looking for all the world as though he was about to disagree, to tell her that it would be a simple thing to bring the palantir from the depths of the bottomless pool. She glared at him and was preparing to tread heavily on his foot when she noticed the mischievous gleam in his eye. Her outraged expression increased his amusement.

Haleth's scowl faded to an annoyed grin, and she began to chuckle. Inglor joined in the mirth, his laughter like the peal of a silver bell.

They both laughed until†tears rolled down their cheeks.





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