Legolas had been nervous for daysever since
speaking to Wystan.
Eowyn had no idea what the old man had said to him, and she did
not askHe will tell me when he is ready, she thoughtbut,
each day, she unconsciously took pains to put him at his ease,
making an extra effort to ensure that the time he spent with her
Tonight, she had taken him into her little hut, and she sat him
down on her bedroll, and carefully unbraided his hair, beginning
at his temples with his warriors braids.
I love your hair, she said, running her fingers through
its length, soothing him with the gentle motion of her hands.
Legolas closed his eyes and leaned back, smiling. I love
your hair, he said.
I love your hair.
Startled, Eowyn turned from her mirror, dropping her comb. You
should not be in here, she said.
Because I am not a little girl anymore. She was wearing
nothing but a shawl over her shift and she pulled it tighter across
That is precisely why I am here, said her cousin,
smiling. He had closed the door behind him and now he came closer,
moving like a hunter, his soft boots making no sound on the stone
Can I comb it? He stooped with cat-like grace, and
picked up the fallen comb.
What would your father say?
He would probably send me out to groom the horses.
Eowyn smiled. A fitting punishment.
Punishment? For untangling this mess? He took a handful
of her thick, golden hair and, starting at the roots, carefully
worked the comb through it. His hands were surprisingly gentle.
It would be scant reward.
I thought you said you loved my hair.
He separated another strand. But
not when it looks like handful of hay. And, he grinned,
not as much as I love certain other things about you.
Eowyn blushed. Such as?
Ohlet me see. Your excitement, at the sight of a
newborn foal; your fierceness, when you practise your quarterstaff
He laid a hand, lightly, on her shoulder.
You will be king one day, said Eowyn, for she knew
where this conversation was leadingthey had had it before.
And your father expects you to make an alliance.
With Ædith, pig-woman of the North.
Theodred! Eowyn laughed. Ædith, daughter of
Æðelbert, had unfortunately inherited her fathers
features. Or with the daughter of Prince Imrahil.
Whom I have never seen.
Wellthey say there is elven blood in the family,
said Eowyn, slipping out of his grasp and rising from her chair,
so she is no doubt very beautiful. Now you must go, because
I need to dress and you and Eomer need to patrol the Five Villages. She tried to push him towards the door.
I meant it, Eowyn, said Theodred, suddenly growing
serious. I meant every word of what I said the other night.
I was not drunk.
I am fond of you, Theodred. You know I am.
Then say yes. My father can be persuaded. You know I can
persuade himon a good day.
Oh, Theodred! Eowyn shook her head, weakly. There
would need to be more than fondness. There would need to be
But she could not bring herself to say the word.
That will come in time.
But if it did not
It will. I will make sure of it.
But if it did not, she repeated, gravely, you
would grow to hate me.
He took her in his arms and embraced her, and she could feel
him restraining himself, in deference to her feelings, and it
made her heart ache.
I said, he repeated, softly, What are you thinking?
She realised that her hands, which had been combing his hair,
had stopped moving. Nothing reallyjust a memory, Lassui.
Of what? He was sitting with his back to her and
he suddenly turned, and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her
close. And it was such an ungainly manoeuvre for an elf that Eowyn
knew at once that he wanted to tell her something important.
She laid her head on his shoulder. Something has been troubling
you these last few days.
He told her the story that Wystan had told him, and explained
the old mans interpretation of his dream. But you
already knew what it meant.
I had heard something similar.
Do you, he said, lowering her onto their bedroll
so that they might curl up together, have any idea who it
That desires me violently? No! And I am not sure
that your dreamwell, it may not have been a premonition,
Lassuiit may just have beena dream. She snuggled
against his chest.
It was so real.
Dreams often are.
You would tell me if there was someone whoscared
yousomeone like himyou would tell me?
She sensed that Legolas was hesitating over his answer.
Do you mean Gríma Wormtongue? she asked.
She felt his head move against hers as he nodded, silently.
Of course I would, Lassui. I would come running to you.
She heard him sigh with reliefand then she heard the sigh
turn into a chuckle, and she hugged him, smiling.
Theodred! She flew into his bedchamber.
Her cousin, just returned from patrol and still in full armour,
turned in surprise. What is it? What has happened?
What? She had thrown her arms around him and he drew
her close, cradling her head against his chest. Shhhh, shhhh,
calm down. Tell me what is wrong.
Hehe touched my faceand
Theodreds arms tightened around her. Just your face?
It was not that, Theodred, she said, though she shuddered
at the memory, it was what he said.
That there would come a day when I would be glad of his
Theodred drew her to his bed and sat her down. We both
know that it may only be a matter of time before he is in complete
control, Eowyn, he said. Every day, my father falls
further under his spell.
Why do you not do something, Theodred?
What can I do, whilst my father lives and will hear nothing
against himrelies upon him?
Eowyns head sank in despair. Then she asked, quietly, Where
He stayed behind in one of the villages toer
I do not like her, she said, sullenly.
Theodred smiled. You hardly like anyone, Shieldmaidenbut
Eomer likes her, and that is what matters. Will you help me out
of my armour?
Of course. Theodred turned his back, and Eowyn went
to work on his lacings. So you are resolved to do nothing?
she asked. About Gríma?
I will go and make some noisesthreaten himthough
he will not, of course, listen.
You should challenge himfight him
I cannot, Eowyn. And neither can you, nor Eomer, not whilst
he holds my fathers Seal. We must all bide our time
Until when? She opened his cuirass and he shrugged
Until he makes a mistake. Until he goes too farmoves
Eowyn turned to his nightstand, filled the basin with water,
took up the washcloth and a cake of soap.
In the meantime, said Theodred, stripping down to
his shirt, there is much for us to do, protecting our people
from Orcs and Wargs and Woodmen.
But what if
You did not answer my question, said Legolas, softly.
Did I not? What was it?
She settled her head comfortably on his chest and Legolas stroked
her hair. I asked you what you were thinking; you said it
was just a memory; and I said
Of what. Eowyn sighed. Just Theodred,
Lassui. I was thinking about Theodred.
Ah. It was always a difficult subject between them.
But, remembering what they had been talking about just before
she fell silent, Legolas suddenly asked, Did Theodred force
He sat on the bed as if sitting on his fathers throne,
his back straight, his hands resting on his knees. He was of a
size with Eomer and, though his features were stronger and his
hair long and straight, a stranger might have thought them brothers.
Eowyn cleaned the grime from his face, and carefully rinsed the
washcloth. Roll up your sleeves.
Instead, Theodred pulled his shirt off over his head. Then he
held out his arms in front of him.
Blushing, Eowyn took one of his hands, sponged the sweat and
dust from it, and slowly worked her way up his arm, the flush
spreading from her cheeks to her throat and down to her bosom.
Theodred waited until she had washed and dried both arms, then
he said, softly, I will never let him harm you, Eowyn. I
She kept her eyes lowered. I know.
Gently, he removed the washcloth from her hands, and dropped
it in the basin. Then he slipped his arms around her waist and
pulled her closeshe did not resistand, for the first
time, he kissed her as a lover might kiss his mistress.
No, said Eowyn, firmly.
But he took advantage
Tell me to stop, whispered Theodred. If you
do not want this, tell me to stop.
But Eowyn had made a decision. He is a good man, she thought,
who loves me and who willat the very leastdo everything
he can to protect me from Grímaand perhaps do more
if I am by his side. I do not want you to stop.
Smiling, he kissed her hands. Thank you
turned her, so that he could reach her back, and, gently brushing
her hair aside, he unlaced her gown, and slid it off her shouldersPerfect,
he whispered, kissing her neckand he pushed it down to her
waist; then he stroked his hands, lightly, down her arms, and
slid them forwards to cup her breasts, and smoothed them over
her stomach, and under the fabric of her gown, until his fingers
slipped between her thighs.
Perfection, he whispered.
Surrounded by him, caged in by his arms, Eowyn relaxed into him,
turning her head to expose more of her neck to his lips. Theodred
He kissed her tenderly. Stand up, my love.
She did as she was told, and her gown fell to her feet, and she
turned, and stood naked before him.
Theodred shook his head in wonder.
Are you going to undress?
He laughed. Bossy Shieldmaiden. Still smiling, he
unlaced his leather breeches and slipped them off.
Eowyn had seen many men stripped to the waist, even some nakedand
she had seen horses matebut she had never seen a man aroused
before. She blushed deeply.
Theodred reached out, and took her hands, and placed them on
his erection. It was warm and hard and Eowyn marvelled at the
silken texture of it smooth, pink head. You are beautiful.
Theodred pulled her into his arms. You do know what I am
going to do to you?
You can still say no.
I want you to do it. She smiled, I just did
not expect you to be so big.
Theodred laughed. There are many bigger than mine, my love.
Eowyn pulled back from him. How do you know?
He laughed again. Never you mind. Then, suddenly
serious, he said, It will hurt you, the first time.
I know. I have heard other women talk of itbut how
do you know about that?
He shrugged his shoulders. Warriors talk too.
I am not your first.
Shhhh. He put his finger to her lips. Not now.
Eowyn slipped from his arms and, climbing onto his bed, lay down
on her back. Do it quickly.
No, love. Theodred shook his head. You are
not ready yet.
He did nothing dishonourable, Lassui, said
Eowyn, firmly. He loved me and he believed that, in time,
I would love him too. I was the one who did the dishonourable
thing, because I knew I did not love him. She kissed his
chest, whispering, He was not you, edhel nín.
His caresses were gentle, and when he lowered himself upon her,
and she felt him between her thighs, pushing gently against her,
she reached down and guided him.
Supporting himself on his elbows, he held her face in his hands,
and gazed down into her eyes, smiling.
Then he thrust his hips forward.
And Eowyn heard someone screambut the pain in her head
was so intense that she could not be sure where the sound was
Oh my love
He gathered her in his arms and
lay still, kissing her, and whispering sweet words, until the
tension had left her body. And then he began to thrust, slowly
and gently. And Eowyn found that it was not unpleasant, if she
I was very fond of him, said Eowyn softly.
And you would have made him a loving wife, a supportive
queen, said Legolas. And
And I think he was
right, melmenyahe was a worthy man, and he loved youand
I think that you would have come to love him, in time.
But not as I love you. She raised her head and smiled
down at him (but there was sadness in her eyes). Poor Theodred.