With the help of Legolas and his Mirkwood elves,
the cavalcade crossed the Anduin at the Southern Ford, the able-bodiedleading
their horseswading through the swiftly-flowing shallows
on foot, the injured and the elderly riding across on the baggage
Le cenithon ned lû thent, melmenya, murmured
Legolas, kissing Eowyns forehead. We will join you
in Lorien, on the fifth day. He sprang upon Arods
backNo i Melain na le, meleth nín, he
added, with a smileand, with Gimli clinging on behind, he
crossed the river and, signalling his warriors to follow, he galloped
across the floodplain, to where Eomer and the Rohirrim were waiting
Take care, Lassui, whispered Eowyn. Gods speed,
The going was easier on the western bank.
Eowyn, riding beside the March Warden, led the travelling households
of Rohan and Eryn Carantaurthe lawyers and scholars, the
healers, cooks and servantsflanked left and right by a small
band of mounted warriors and followed by a rearguard of elven
archers, along the broad, grassy plain, keeping a sharp lookout
for any sign of danger.
At noon, havingby Haldirs estimationalready
covered more than half the distance to the guard post where they
planned to spend the night, she brought the cavalcade to a halt,
and gave orders for the warriors to form a protective circle,
whilst the cooks prepared a midday meal.
I have been thinking, she said to the March Warden,
as they threaded their way through the temporary encampment, checking
the condition of the travellers, their horses, and the carts,
that before we enter the Forest, we should send out scouts,
to make sure that the way is safe.
It will leave the column more vulnerable.
I know. But we will only send twoLorien elves, who
know the terrainand we will wait on the river bank until
they return. If there is danger ahead, Haldir, I would prefer
to face it in the open.
Very well, I will see to it.
Why do you do it? asked Eowyn, sitting down beside
Do what? asked the Beorningtrying, one-handed,
to slice a lump of cheese with his plate balanced precariously
upon his knees.
Do what, my Lady, corrected Eowyn.
Arrgh! cried Beorning, watching the cheese shoot
off his platter, and land upon the grass.
You know that Rothinzil is betrothed to Master Dínendal,
Eowyn insisted, retrieving the food, wiping it, and putting it
back on his plate, and you know that she dislikes you; so
why do you keep hounding her? Here. She set down
her own platter and, grasping his plate, held it steady for him.
Why are you getting your draws in such a twist over it?
He cut off a chunk of cheese and put it in his mouth. My
Because the cavalcade is my responsibility now.
Ah, yes. The hen is in charge of the foxes.
Meaning that I am a man
Oh, a man. Of course. Eowyn picked up her own platter.
One of those strange, exotic, never-understood-by-women-and-always-allowed-to-do-whatever-they-want
creatures, a man.
Thorkell bogsveigir took a bite of bread. What would you
know of men, he mumbled, married to an elf? We Beornings
are real menmy father, he
His voice trailed away.
Your father is dying, said Eowyn, quietly. Why
do you refuse to make peace with him?
The man did not reply.
Do you know what I think?
I am sure that you will tell me. My Lady.
I think that your father was cruel to younot
deliberately, perhaps, but because he believed that men should
The Beorning sneered. He favoured me. I was his son.
So it was your mother he treated as a chattel
You should get yourself a bag of seeing stones,
said Thorkell bogsveigir. If we knocked out a few of your
teeth and rubbed a bit of dirt on your face, you could make a
good living as an old crone, cackling out your visions and your
Do you want a warning, Thorkell? Do you? Leave Rothinzil
alone or else!
Or else what?
There are honourable men in this world, said Eowyn,
ignoring his question. There are men that even you must
look up tomy brother, for one. And Legolaselves show
us what men can bewhat you can be. Think about it,
Thorkell. Now,she rose to her feetI have
a cavalcade to get moving.
The Beorning watched her stride across the campsite in her little
suede jerkin and her elven boots, small but determined, and he
smiled affectionately, in spite of himself.
Two hours later
The elven scouts ran silently down the Forest trail, carefully
noting every twist and turn, assessing each steep slope and sudden
narrow gap, seeking, where necessary, alternative routes for the
cartsand, all the while, watching and listening, and reaching
out with their sharp elven senses, for the slightest hint of danger.
Half an hour after leaving the others, they reached the guard
post, climbed its ladders, and searched its deserted flets. Clear,
His companion nodded.
Back on the ground, the elves made a final inspection. If
we draw the carts into here, said Belegorn, indicating the
gaps in the natural ring of trees, they will form a fence.
There is no need, replied Celeblas. We will
be safe herethe Ladys grace still protects the Forest.
Let us deliver the good
Wait! Belegorn caught his companion by the
arm. Look! What is thatover there?
Ai, cried Celeblas, flinching from the hideous sight,
I spoke too soon.
An hour later
Describe it, said Haldir.
Celeblas turned to Eowyn. It is notit is hardly fit
for your ears, my Lady.
Speak to me as you would to Lord Legolas, said Eowyn.
The elf acknowledged her order; but he continued reluctantly,
glancing, from time to time, at the woman, as though to make sure
that his words were not causing her distress. It was the
body of a man, my Lady, he said, naked, and daubed
with rednot blood, I think, but some stain. He was hanging
from a tree. His flesh was corrupted,he flushedlike
He had been impaled, added Belegorn, quietly,
upon a branch that had been cut and sharpened for the purpose,
like a giant thorn.
And hanging beside him, said Celeblas, was
another figure, fashioned from bundles of twigs.
What do you think, March Warden? asked Eowyn.
Haldir shook his head. It is not the work of Orcs.
No. Orcs would never have wasted human flesh. She
scanned the Forest, her eyes lingering upon the distant mountain
range, beyond. Who lives to the west?
West of Lothlorien? There are Orcs and goblins in the Misty
But no men?
Not in any numbers, to my knowledge.
That leaves only the Beornings to the north, and Rohan
to the south.
There is Fangorn to the south west.
I doubt that the ents would permit whoever did this to
shelter in there. She turned to the elf. This was
done by a man, Haldirby a man or by men. I am sure of it.
Eowyn shrugged. As a warning, perhaps. Or in triumph. Or
She looked down the length of the cavalcade. We must speak
with Master Wystan, and with Thorkell bogsveigirhe has lived
east of the river all his life and may know something of local
lore. In the meantime, she added, I think we will
be safer making camp out here, beside the river.