Legolas slung Eomer’s hunting horn over his shoulder and set off down the trail, scanning the ground for Eowyn’s tracks.

The sky was dark now and—though still convinced that Eowyn had simply gone somewhere private to relieve herself—he was starting to worry. She does not see well in the dark, he thought. She could easily get lost. If I do not find her soon, I will go back for one of Eomer’s dogs… Then his elven hearing caught the distant sound of her voice, saying, angrily, “Drop it!”

Legolas broke into a run.

“Drop what?”

Recognising the second voice—Thorkell bogsveigir!—Legolas reached for the hunting horn—but immediately changed his mind. By the time Eomer comes, he thought, I will have dealt with the Beorning myself. Say something else, melmenya—to help me find you…

“Drop whatever it is your are holding in your other hand!” said Eowyn.

Yes! Legolas veered left and plunged down the riverbank, darting between the trees, leaping over rocks and fallen branches.

“A spade,” he heard Thorkell bogsveigir say, “it is just a spade…”

And something about the way he said it—with genuine astonishment—took Legolas by surprise, and his senses, which from the moment he had heard Eowyn’s voice had been directed entirely at her, suddenly widened focus, and detected something else.

Something nearby.

Something between him and—

He ducked aside as a long, ragged blade, thrown from somewhere up ahead, flew past his shoulder and hit the ground.


His hands rose automatically, seizing the handles of his white knives, and he drew them, whirling them into alignment.

There were five of the brutes, directly in front of him—three small and quick but relatively weak; the fourth a heavily-muscled, slow-witted creature; the fifth a big Uruk Hai, clad in steel armour. Weak at the neck, thought Legolas, beneath the arms, and just above the belly…

He cleared his mind and let his instincts take over, launching a spinning attack that took him in close to the first Orc—he thrust both blades into its chest—propelled him under its flailing arms and positioned him before the second beast—he slit its scrawny throat with a snarl—turned him full-circle to face the third—quickly adjusting his grip, he sank his knives into its windpipe—spun him on, inside the Uruk Hai’s guard—he found the chink in its armour and ripped out its belly—then—


Eowyn! Her voice pierced his battle fury as nothing else could have done and, even as he dispatched the final Orc, his elven senses pinpointed his wife and reached out, beyond her cries of fear, to analyse her situation. Five more Orcs! Legolas sheathed his knives and ran, raising the hunting horn to his lips and calling for Eomer with three long blasts.

As he drew closer, one sickening sound, suddenly separating itself from the rest, filled his ears—the sound of bone splintering, the sound of a skull being beaten to a pulp—and his step faltered as his heart lurched in despair.

No! EOWYN! No, NO!

Then he heard her voice, sounding small and uncertain but—Thank the Valar!—proving that she was still alive, saying, “Thorkell?”; and, his spirit soaring with hope once more, he ran into the clearing, and found her.

She was lying on the ground, sprawled across the Beorning, and Legolas fell to his knees and pulled her from the man’s embrace and—barely noticing the expression on Thorkell’s face—he crushed her to his chest.

“They were going to rape us, Lassui,” she whispered.

“I know, my darling.”

“Thorkell stopped them.”

Legolas glanced, over her shoulder, at the Beorning.

“We both stopped them,” said the man, struggling to sit up. “She saved my life, with the spade.”

“We must move,” said Legolas. “More are coming and—melmenya?” He had noticed her injured hands and, quickly examining her, had found more bloodstains, on her leggings. “What happened?”

“It is nothing,” said Eowyn. “I just slipped.”

Hugging her tightly, Legolas turned back to the man. “I dare not risk telling the Orcs where we are by sounding the horn again. Can you walk?”

Thorkell shook his head. “No.” Then he added, “Leave me. Get her to safety—”

I can walk, Lassui,” said Eowyn. “We can both help him.”

Oh, melmenya! His heart brimming with conflicting emotions—with pride at her bravery and fear for her safety—Legolas kissed her forehead. Then, releasing her, he scrambled to his feet and helped her up and, with difficulty, they both raised Thorkell bogsveigir.

“It is my ankle,” gasped the Beorning. “It will not take any weight…” He started at a sudden sound—of splintering wood—somewhere nearby. “They are too close,” he panted, “leave me.”

Legolas glanced at Eowyn—but she shook her head.

“No,” said the elf, firmly. “We will stay together.”

They had hobbled less than ten yards when the first Orc broke cover. “Fresh meat,” it growled—shouting to its comrades behind it, “Come on! Get ’em!”

But Legolas had already lowered Thorkell to the ground and—having nothing to lose now—he unslung the hunting horn and dropped it in the Beorning’s lap. “Blow for all you are worth,” he ordered, drawing his white knives.

“Give me your bow,” cried Thorkell. “I cannot walk but I can still shoot!”

The elf hesitated—for just as long as it took Eowyn, with bloodied fingers, to drag her sword from its scabbard—then he pulled his Galadhrim bow from its strap and gave it to the Beorning with a handful of arrows.

“Stay behind me, melmenya,” he called, advancing on the Orcs, “keep your back to my back!”

Thorkell bogsveigir put the horn to his lips and blew one long, wavering note.

Then he took up the great elven war bow, and—with grim, human determination—straining muscle and sinew with every draw, he picked off Orc after Orc, keeping Eowyn safe until help arrived in a posse of men and dogs (and one furious dwarf), who came streaming through the trees and began slaughtering the enemy like a pack of terriers killing rats.

An hour later


“Do not be a baby,” said Eowyn.

“It is cold,” said the Beorning, glaring at her.

“The compress should prevent further swelling of the ankle,” said Master Dínendal, carefully tying off the binding. “But it is the damage to your shoulder that most concerns me. I will immobilise it with splints and you must rest it until the tissues have healed sufficiently to permit gentle exercise—”

“Rest!” exclaimed Thorkell bogsveigir, derisively. “Bergthórr beytill’s healers would have had me strapped up and back in action half an hour ago.” He tried to climb off the bed.

Dínendal, exerting his elven strength, restrained him. “No doubt they would,” he said. “And I can do the same—if you want to risk a permanent weakness in your bow arm.”

“No, we certainly cannot have that,” said Eowyn. She sat down beside the Beorning.

“What now?” he grumbled.

“Blood brothers?”

The man frowned. “Blood… You mean—like children?”

“We have fought,” said Eowyn, seriously, “and now we have saved each others’ lives… We are already bonded by blood.”

“If you say so… So now you want to cut my hand open?”

Eowyn laughed. “No,” she said. “I have bled enough for one day.” She held out a bandaged hand.

The Beorning eyed it for a moment; then, with his good hand, he grasped it gingerly. “Now what?”

“Now we swear that, henceforth, we will be as brothers to one another,” she said.

“You mean that we will fight and curse and vie with each other for our father’s property?” He looked up suddenly. “Does this make me an heir to the throne of Rohan?”

“—My Lady,” called Dínendal from the other side of the tent, “I can see you now.”

“Make sure that you do exactly as the healers tell you, Master Bowswayer,” said Eowyn, rising. “When I said we needed your bow arm, I meant it.”

She slipped behind the screen, which Dínendal had improvised by tying a blanket between two tent poles, stripped off her leggings and climbed onto the bed, pulling the sheet over her middle. “I am ready.”

Dínendal joined her. “How did it happen?” he asked, folding the sheet back.

“I slipped and landed astride a branch,” she said. “But there is nothing wrong there. I have grazed my thigh, that is all.”

“Bring up your knees…” Eowyn did as he asked and felt his hand examine her, gently. “Good,” he said. “You can lower them now.”

“It is just my thigh?” said Eowyn.

“Yes—fortunately,” said Dínendal. “And, like your hands, it is already beginning to heal, but I will clean and dress it for you.”

There was a small table beside the bed, with a bowl of herb-infused water upon it, and he took up a clean cloth and dipped it in the liquid. “I would think,” he added, gently sponging the dried blood from Eowyn’s leg, “that for the next few days at least, you will find riding on horseback quite uncomfortable, my Lady. Perhaps you should travel in one of the carts, with my other patient…”



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