Ho-bbieeee! Eowyn lowered her torch
and, trying to think like a tracker (as Legolas had shown her),
searched the ground for signs of the boys passagetrampled
earth, broken branches...
She glanced at Haldir, searching by her side.
The elf shook his head. He is small and quick-witted,
he said, we will not find him if he does not want to be
found. That is, unless
But he did not finish the sentence,
for the idea of a childs body, hanging from the trees, was
too terrible to be spoken aloud.
Eowyn frowned. All around them, men and elves were callingHob!,
Hob?, Hobbie!and some of the voices
sounded angryHOB! Where are you, boy?
Do not be afraid, Hobbie, she shouted, it is
just Lady Eowyn, come to take you back to your mother. Hobbie?
She saw Haldirs head turn and, raising her torch and holding
it out before her, she followed his gaze. There seemed to be somethingperhaps
a small, dark figurehiding in the trees to the north of
the path, less than ten yards away. Is it
Yes, said Haldir. Quiet, he called
to the searchers, quiet, now! He turned back to Eowyn.
Go to him.
Eowyn took a few cautious steps towards the boy. Do not
be afraid, Hobbie. Look,she brought the torch closer
to her faceyou know me.
That is rightcome to me, Hobbie.
The child hesitated for just a moment longer. Then, suddenly,
he darted from his hiding place, and ran to Eowyn, throwing his
arms around her waist.
Oh, you silly boy, she said, rubbing his back with
her free hand, whatever were you doing, out here in the
I dont know, the boy mumbled.
Eowyn held out her torch, Haldir took it from her, and she grasped
Hob, gently, by the shoulders. Did you come here to see
the dead man that everyone was talking about? The other
searchers had begun to gather round them, but Eowyn signalled
for them to stay back. Is that why you were hiding from
us, Hobbie? she persisted. Is that why you were afraid?
Did you think that we would be angry with you?
I thought you were the bad men.
Eowyn hugged him close. What bad men? Did you see
bad men, Hobbie?
Yes, whispered the boy. Wolf-men. There
were grunts and murmurs from some of the searchers. Two
What do you mean, Hobbie, asked Eowyn, gently, what
made you think they were wolf-men?
They had wolfs heads, Lady Owen, cried
the boy. And fur.
Shhh, Hobbie. It is all right.
Where did you see them? asked Haldir.
I dont know.
Think hard, Hobbie. It is very important, said Eowyn,
giving him another hug.
The boy lifted his head and looked about him. Down the
path, I think, he said, frowning. There was a tree
Yes. One of the outer ring of talans, said Haldir.
It was past there. There was a big tree. Over that way.
The major mallorn, said Haldir, nodding. It
is one of the oldest trees in the Forest.
Thats where I saw them, said Hob. He looked
up at Eowyn. I dropped my knife
not need to add, Because I was scared.
Eowyn kissed the top of his head. You are a very brave
boy, she saidignoring the mutterings from some of
her menand if we do not find your knife, Hobbie, I
will give you mine. Now, Osbert and Liulf,she thought
for a momentand Kenric and Herolt will take you back
to your mother. She handed the boy to Osbert. Take
good care of him, she said, giving the man a meaningful
Welldo we press on now, she asked, quietly,
or do we wait until dawn? She looked up at Haldir.
Are these wolf-men werewolves, or just depraved men who
want to make us think that they are demons?
I have no idea.
What do you advise?
Haldir glanced around the remaining members of the search party.
Men or wolves, they are creatures of the ground. I suggest
that we take to the trees, and see what more we can learn from
Eowyn agreed. But I will need helpclimbing.
Of course. Haldir showed her the length of elven
rope hanging from his belt.
I do wish that Legolas were here, she said.
They doused the torches and, moving in elven silence now, made
their way along the winding pathEowyn staying close to Haldiruntil
they reached the stairs to the talan.
Belegorn examined the steps. The boy climbed, he
said, softly, up to the first level, and crouched there
for some timethere are small hand and knee prints beside
his footprintsbut there are no adult-sized prints, nor any
wolf claw marks.
Then we will climb up, said Eowyn.
The talan, small and leaf-shaped, sat precariously on a slender
branch, high up in the Forest canopy. Eowyn, used to the sturdier
flets of Eryn Carantaur, with their walls and handrails, immediately
felt dizzy and, like Hob before her, dropped to her hands and
knees and crawled to the centre of the swaying platform.
Haldir laid a strong hand upon her shoulder. You will get
used to it, he said, softly.
Eowyn watched Belegorn and Celeblas step off the talan, walk
out along its supporting branch, and leap effortlessly into the
next tree, followed immediately by Faerval and Cúven, and
then by the men, Goduin and Osgar, using ropes. No,
she said, sadly, not quickly enough.
Then I will carry you.
But she shook her head. It would hold you back, Haldir,
she said, and I need you at the front, in charge of the
others. Better to leave me herewhere at least there is a
flet for me to sit on. Find out all you can, then come back for
me. I shall be quite safe here.
Haldir scanned the branches above, hoping to find a better hiding
place for her, but could see nowhere more secure. He squeezed
her shoulder. I will send back one of the elves, he
said, just in case you should need an archer.
Eowyn had lost track of how long she had been sitting in the
middle of the flet, listening to the sounds of the Forest at nightthe
leaves gently rustling, the insects quietly chirruping, and, now
and then, a bird calling softly to its matewhen another
sound, loud and clumsy, startled her and, at the very same moment,
the Forest fell silent
She raised her head, saw the elf, Cúven, and one of the
men, Osgar, making their way back to her, and she held up her
hand, signalling them to stop
Something is wrong!
Trembling, she crawled, flat on her belly, to the very edge of
the flet and peered, through the branches, at the ground, far,
Oh no, she whispered. Oh, dear gods, no!