How do you know so much about them, Lassui?
asked Eowyn, softly.
I think, said Legolas, that the gaur
told me. He frowned, trying to remember the exact moment
when he had become aware of the knowledge. Or, rather, that
when the gaur invaded my mind, it also revealed something of its
own nature. But, come, melmenya,he rose to his feet,
and held out his handswe have much to do.
Gimli and Osgar, having volunteered to stay behind and guard
the prisoners, bound the unconscious human to the tree, beside
his changeling friend.
Eowyn mounted Arodwho had galloped, bravely, to his masters
aidand she and Legolas, with the remainder of the search
party, hurried back to the river. By the time they reached the
encampment, dawn was already breaking.
Legolas surveyed the ring of overturned wagons protecting the
tents. You did well, melmenya, he said. March
Warden, have everyone gather outside the mess tent. As quickly
When all the travellers had assembled, the elf sprang up onto
one of the carts and addressed them.
I do not need to describe to you, he said, the
danger that now faces us.
A murmur rippled through the crowd.
Very shortly, we will be moving up onto the flets, where
we will all be safe. But the climb will be taxing, and space will
be short, so I ask you to take nothing with you but a blanket
and the rations that the cooks will give you as you leave. Everything
elseeverythingmust be left here in the tents.
Once we have dealt with the goer, we will return, collect our
belongings, and continue on our journey.
At that, a few of the Rohirrim began muttering, but no one went
so far as to complain out loud.
Legolas went on. Before we leave the camp, I have a favour
to ask of you. He held up his betrothal ring, so that everyone
could see it. A gaur may be killed, it is said, by silver.
Princess Eowyn and I will be giving our silver jewellery to the
arrowsmiths, to be melted down and cast into arrow heads. I ask
all of you to do the same.
Now there were protestsHow do we know that
silver will work? asked one; What if you melt it down
for nothing? grumbled anotherbut a tall, dark, limping
figure pushed his way to the front.
Here, said Thorkell bogsveigir, tugging at the chain
about his neck. Use this.
Less than an hour later, the crowd of travellerseach of
them carrying a blanket, and food rations wrapped in a clothhad
begun filing into the Forest, led by the two Lorien elves, Belegorn
and Celeblas, and helped by the other warriors, who were transporting
the elderly and the injured on stretchers, or lifting them onto
horseback and leading them down the trail.
Eowyn hurried along the line of people looking for Hobbie, for
she had promised to give him her hunting knife.
She turned. One of the servants was following her. Oh,
er, Heryeth, and,she glanced at the little boy clinging
to his mother’s skirtsCuthbert…
Yes, my Lady. The servant curtsied, clumsily. My
Lady, I know as
I am afraid I am rather busy, Heryeth
But it’s the little un, my Lady. The woman pushed
her son forward. Lord Legolas said as we wasn’t to take
nothing with us, maam, but Cuthberthe can’t sleep without
Oh. Eowyn looked down at the boy. Well,
she said, in that case
She crouched down beside
him. Can I see your horsie, Cuthbert?
Shyly, the child held out a small, shapeless toy, made from sack
cloth and wool.
Does he fit into your pocket?
Well, put him in there, she said, and keep
him nice and safe until you are up in the trees. She smiled
at his mother and, to her surprise, saw a familiar figure rush
past, behind her.
Oh, what do you say, Cuthbert, said Heryeth. Thank
you, my Lady."
But Eowyn was already hastening away.
Legolas! Eowyn pushed her way through the crowd,
trying to catch up with the elf. They had arranged to meet at
the arrowsmiths forge, where he would be examining the first
castings, so she was surprised to see him disappear into the Healing
I was right! she thought. That scratch on his arm is
deep, and it was bleeding badly. He must have decided to ask Master
Dínendal to bind it properly.
Inside the Healing Tent, Thorkell bogsveigir was making a fuss.
I do no need a bloody stretcher, he growled at the
elves who had come to carry him up onto the flets. I can
walk as well as you can!
Can you climb? asked Eowyn. She smiled at
Legolas, and was relieved to see him smile back.
Up stairs? The man raised his eyebrows.
But can you shoot? asked Legolas, mischievously.
Let him walk, said Eowyn to the elves. There
are people who deserve your help. The Beorning gave
her an impudent salute, and limped out of the tent.
Master Dínendal, meanwhile, had sat Legolas down on one
of the beds and was carefully unravelling Eowyn’s improvised dressing.
She came up behind the healer. It is a deep scratch,
she said, hovering at his elbow. From the gaur’s claws.
And it looked as though there was some sort of dirt in
My Lady, said Dínendal, would you be
so kind as to fetch me some clean water from one of the pitchers
outside? Rothinzil will give you a bowl.
Oh… Yes, of course.
Dínendal turned back to Legolas. Did the gaur
No, said Legolas, quickly. It did not.
You are quite sure
because I understand that they can cloud their victims
I am certain.
Good. The healer nodded. Then all should be
wellah, thank you, my Lady. Please put it on the table.
Gently supporting Legolas’ arm, he peeled back the final layer
Eowyn gasped. The wound had closed, but the skin surrounding
the ragged scab was red and angryand she could not recall
ever having seen elven flesh inflamed before. I told you
that it was deep, Master Dínendal, she said, and
Elven bodies, my Lady, said the healer, selecting
a small vial and adding a few drops of reddish liquid to the bowl
of water, heal much more readily than human.
Yes, I know, said Eowyn, but
smiled, nervously. So, are you saying that it is all right?
There is no cause for worry. This tincture will cool it.
He dipped a pad of clean cloth into the fluid and gently bathed
the wound. Once I have renewed the dressing, my Lord, you
should have no difficulty drawing a bow.
Legolas handed the silver arrowhead back to the smith. Have
it set on a shaft, he said. I want to test it before
you cast any more.
He gestured to Eowyn, and they drew aside to wait, watching the
cooks assistants as they handed out food parcels to the
waiting travellers. We will soon see if Master Dínendal
is right about drawing a bow, melmenya.
How does it feel?
Warm. But otherwise fine. He smiled down at her.
Did you find Hobbie?
she said, frowning. But I did find
Haldir, and he and I set some of the horses free. I thought they
would be safer if they were able to run away from the gaurs
Goer, then. But when everyone has been moved, Lassui,
I think we should turn the other horses loose, too.
Legolas nodded, thoughtfully. Good thinking.
I also sent Osbert and Liulf with a message for Eomer,
she continued. I have asked him to come as quickly as he
can, but warned him to be cautious.
Legolas smiled. Good.
And I hid our betrothal contract in the iron chest.
Her hand went to the key, hanging around her neck. The goer
will have to break the lock to get at it.
Legolas laughed. I very much doubt that they are interested
in papers, melmenya!
Well, you can never be too,she reached out, and
caught hold of his handyou must not scratch your
arm, my darling!
By nightfall, everything was ready.
They had moved the travellers, including the injured, up onto
the highest of the flets, and made them as comfortable as possible.
I wish, said Haldir, that we were in Caras
Galadhon itself. The city talans are more like the sort of dwelling
humans are used to.
Legolas nodded, gravely. Well, we have no time to build
walls and handrails, mellon nín. Select your three least
capable archers and have them patrol the upper flets. Tell them
to keep everyone away from the edge, and to look out for any signs
of troublemen arguing, boys in high spiritsanything
that might end in a fall.
We can ill afford to lose warriors.
I know, said Legolas. But the last thing we
want is for one of the children to drop straight into the hands
of the goer.
He crossed to the next flet, where the fletchers, using the arrowheads
cast earlier, were making up the special, silver-tipped arrows.
Good work, Master Mahtan.
Thank you, my Lord.
Keep it up…
He descended to the lower ring of flets, where he had stationed
all available archersincluding Eowynoverlooking the
tree to which the two prisoners were lashed. Anything?
Gimli, waiting at the top of the stairs with a small band of
hand-picked axemen, shook his head. No. Though the changeling
may have perked up a bit…
Perhaps he senses that the gaur is close.
That is exactly what I was thinking.
Legolas patted his shoulder. Good luck, elvellon.
Aye. And you, elf.
Legolas crossed the flet and took his place beside Eowyn.
Celeblas just caught Master Dínendal sneaking down
to check on the prisoners, she whispered.
Legolas sighed. Where is Dínendal now?
I sent him up aloft, and made him give me his word that
he would stay there until you or Haldir sent for him.
Legolas nodded. Good. He took his bow from its strap
and drew it slowly, testing its action. Then, Melmenya,
he said, softly, please do not look at me like that.
Like you expected to see fur sprouting from my arm at any
Lassui! she hissed. I am not
Yes you are. And there is no need. I know that you went
to see Master Wystan, and I think I know what you asked him, butwhatever
he may have told youthere is only one way for an
elf to become a gaur, and that… He saw the look of horror
on her face, and gasped, What?
Look, she said.
He turned, following her gaze. To the east, the Forest was aglow.
Fire! cried one of the warriors.
And the word travelled, from flet to flet, growing louder and
more frightened with each repetition: FIRE! FIRE! FIIIIRE!