He is tired, Lassui, said Eowyn.
Legolas looked at the elfling. Melannen had already finished
his bread and cheese and, lying on his stomach, was watching a
large, black beetle make its laborious way through the long grass.
It was pointless trying to explain to Eowyn, yet again, that elflings
did not tire like human children. Still, He likes having
you fuss over him, melmenya, he said, quietly.
But I cannot blame him for that, said the elf, smiling.
He kissed her hand. Very well. Rather than drag you both
all the way to Eryn Davor, I will go by myself, and you and Melannen
can ride straight to the inn. I will meet Gimli, and bring him
Take care, Lassui.
The elf laughed. Come, Melannen, he said, springing
to his feet, help your Gwanur Eowyn pack up the food and
the blanket. He summoned Arod with a whistle. I will
be as quick as I can, melmenya.
It was a warm spring day. Fresh young leaves, gilded by sunlight,
stirred gently in the blossom-scented breeze. Eowyn lifted Melannen
onto Brightstars back and, as she led the horse down the Emyn
Arnen road, she and the boy played a guessing game.
I know, she said, snake!
The boy laughed. There are no swans here.
Well, there are no snakes, eitherI hope.
Do you give in?
Sparkle. On your necklace.
On my necklace! That is cheating! I cannot see
Gwanur Eowyn, said Melannen, suddenly, someone
is coming. He sat up in the saddle and peered into the Forest
to the east. A man.
Following his gaze, Eowyn spotted a dark, shadowy figure moving
towards them, stealthily. Hold the reins, she said,
softly. And, if I tell you to ride, make straight
for The Four Alls tavern. Do not stop until you reach it.
Do you understand?
Good boy. Eowyn laid her hand upon the hilt of her
sword and turned to face the stranger. Good day, sir,
she said, calmly.
Good day, mistress, replied the young man, emerging
from the trees. He bowed. Then, glancing quickly, right and left,
he asked, Are you travelling alone?
No, sir, said Eowynand she felt Melannen
flinch at the lie but, luckily, the child said nothingmy
husband and his friends are close behind.
Good. The man smiled.
Eowyn stared up at him. Though he was dressed like a servant,
not a soldier, she could see strength in his lean frame, and something
told her that he would be dangerous in a fight, butwith
his unruly mop of brown hair and his cheerful, slightly foolish
smilehe seemed trustworthy enough, and he was unarmed, except
for his sturdy walking staff.
Well, she said, we must press on. And
she heard Melannen sigh with relief, and saw Brightstars
reins sag as the boys little hands relaxed their grip.
I am on my way to The Four Alls tavern, said
the man. Perhaps I can walk with you?
Eowyn could not see that she had any choice. If you wish.
He fell into step beside her. So, he said, your
husband is an elf.
What makes you say that?
Melannen is not my son, said Eowyn, softly, but,
yes, my husband is an elf.
I must mind my manners, then, said the man, smiling,
for I do not want to anger an elf.
No, said Eowyn, you do not.
The stranger proved good company. By the time they reached The
Four Alls, both Eowyn and Melannen were sore from laughing
at his outrageous tales about a dashing young outlaw and his band
of merry men.
Here we are, then, he said, opening the tavern door.
Welcome, my Lady, cried the landlord, rushing forward
to greet Eowyn. Is Lord Legolas not with you?
Eowyn stepped into the familiar parlour, where she and Legolas
had spent a very happy Mother Night during their first Yuletide
together. He is following close behind, Master Geruil, with
Lord Gimli, she said, smiling. They will be here very
Well, my Lady, your room is all ready. My wife has gone
to market, but she has made up the room opposite yours for the
boyhello, little sir!would you like to go straight
up, or would you prefer something to eat first? There are cold
cuts, and potage, and there is some fruit tansyyou could
take it in the alcove, over there, by the window
Are you hungry, Melannen?
The boy nodded.
We will have potage, Master Geruiland I am sure we
will both find room for some fruit tansy afterwards. She
winked at the elfling. But we must save some for your Gwanur
Legolas, nadithen, or there will be trouble.
Please take a seat, my Lady. Norwas will take your bags
upstairscome on boy, Lady Eowyn is waiting!
Eowyn gave her travelling companion a brief nod before leading
Melannen into the alcove. As she helped the child climb up onto
the bench, she heard the young man ask, Is everything ready,
Are you with the lawyers from Caras Arnen? asked
Eowyn did not hear his reply.
As you can see, said the landlordand Eowyn
heard him open a doorthe table is set, the wine is
uncorked, and the food is waiting in the kitchen.
Good, said the man.
Eowyn settled back in her chair.
When I grow up, said Melannen, tapping the table
with his spoon, do you think the outlaw prince will let
me join his merry men?
Eowyn laughed. The outlaw prince is not real, nadithen,
she said. The man was just making up stories to amuse you.
Here we aremy Ladylittle sir, said Geruil,
placing two dishes of potage on the table.
Thank you, said Eowyn. What do you say, nadithen?
Thank you, Master Geruil.
You are most welcome
Landlord! The young man called impatiently
from the doorway of the dining chamber.
Excuse me, said Geruil. Yes, what is it?
Eowyn smiled at Melannen. Eat up.
The child dipped his spoon in the thick soup. Do you think,
he said, that Gwanur Legolas will be here soon?
Oh, I am sure he will.
There is no pipeweed, said the young man.
Pipeweed? Geruil sounded surprised.
You do have some?
A little. In the cellar.
Then, please, fetch itthey will be here any minute.
Eowyn watched the flustered landlord disappear through a door
behind the bar, and heard his footsteps descending a flight of
Moments later, just as the young man had predicted, the important
guests arrivedtwelve elderly men, all richly but soberly
dressedand, with much obsequiousnessPlease,
allow me to take your cloak, good sir,the stranger
welcomed them, and showed them through to the dining chamber.
Did you enjoy that, nadithen?
The child, scraping the last traces of fruit tansy from his dish,
Eowyn reached for her wineglass, and found it empty. She glanced
over to the bar, but Geruil seemed to have disappeared again,
no doubt sent on another errand by the officious young man.
Mmm? Yes, Melannen?
I said, May I read my book whilst we are waiting for Gwanur
Of course you may. Where is it?
In my travelling pack.
Stay here, said Eowyn. I will fetch it for
It took Eowyn a few minutes to unbuckle her sword belt and carefully
lay the sword on top of the clothes chest, and then to find the
childs travelling pack, and rummage through his belongings,
and find the book, and by the time she returned to the parlour
with it, the sounds of Shhh, shhh, coming from
the dining chamber told her that dinner was over and the speeches
were about to begin. But, passing the bar, she heard another,
stranger, sound, and stopped to investigate.
The cellar door was locked, and someone on the inside was knocking
impatiently. She leaned against the door, calling, Who is
it?and, at that moment, she heard the young mans voice,
coming from the dining chamber behind her, say, Might I
trouble you, Masters, to settle your account?
Of course, landlord, replied one of the diners.
Landlord? Now she knew who was locked in the cellar! Just
a moment, she called to Geruil, searching the bar for the
Here, said the dinerand Eowyn heard the clink
of gold coins in a leather pouchand you will find
a little extra in there, for your excellent service.
Thank you, Masters, said the young man.
Stay where you are, Melannen, cried Eowyn, do
not move! She ran to the dining chamber door.
The man was in the doorway.
Eowyn took a deep breath, intending to shout a warning to the
diners, but the man quickly closed the door behind him and, with
one of his cheery smiles, bowed slightly, and pushed past her.
Eowyn followed. Stop! she cried. And, to her surprise,
Then he turned, flashing her another smile, and said, calmly,
Well, now, what have we here? And, reaching into his
pocket, he pulled out a band of fine silver, studded with white
Eowyns hand went to her throat. My necklace!
You must take more care when talking to strangers, my Lady,
he said. And, with a wink, he tossed it to her, like a child throwing
a ball. Up the jewel sailed, in a high, glittering arc, and Eowyn
jumped up, and caught it.
And, when she landed, the man had gone.
Gods! She ran outside, just in time to see
the thiefs accomplice ride out of the trees leading a second
horse, and the young man leap onto its back, and gallop away,
almost colliding with Legolas and Gimli as they approached on
Who was that, melmenya? asked Legolas, as the pair
disappeared into the night.
The outlaw prince, said Eowyn, and one of his