Two months later
It began with a few boys, venturing out onto the ice and, finding
it thick enough to bear their weight, playing their games upon
its broad, white expanse.
Then some of the farmers, travelling to market, cautiously drove
their carts across it, cutting several tedious hours from their
Other travellers, making their way from Pelargir to Minas Tirith,
began to use it as a short cut, and to tell their friends and
business acquaintances of their adventure...
Soon people were flocking to the frozen lake just to see the
ice and to walkor slideacross its frosty surface.
And where the crowds came, commerce swiftly followed.
In less than two weeks, the frozen waters of Ael ûrnen
had been transformed into a fairground, with streets of little
boothsall gaily hung with lanterns, streamers and painted
signsselling mulled wine and hot, spiced ale, pies and pasties
and roasted pork, books and trinkets and souvenirs. There were
puppet shows, swings and skittle alleys, andat the very
centre, where the rows of stalls metthere was a fenced space
where, for a silver piece, the bravest of visitors could hire
skates, and glide to and fro across the ice.
You are sure you will be warm enough?
Eowyn lifted the hood of her fur-lined cloak, and smiled at her
beloved elf. Yes, quite sure.
She took his arm and they went outside, along the frosty walkway,
and down the main staircasehung with iciclesto the
clearing beneath the city, where two carriages, each drawn by
sturdy elven horses, waited to take them to the Frost Fair.
Legolas waved to his father, already seated in the first carriage
with Cyllien, then he and Eowyn joined Gimli, Hentmirë, Wilawen
and Valandil in the second, and the elf signalled to Haldir, who
was leading the procession on horseback, to move off.
Haldir brought the carriages to a halt at the edge of the trees,
and the passengers climbed down and joined the line of excited
people tramping through the snow to where an enterprising farmer
had built a flight of sturdy wooden steps, canopied with striped
canvas and lit by glowing lanterns, and was charging visitors
a silver piece to use them.
Was this your own idea? asked Thranduil, whilst the
farmer searched for the correct change.
To tell the truth, sir, replied the man, counting
the coins into the elfs hand, it was the wife as thought
Very astute of her... Thranduil offered his arm
to CyllienCome, my dear,and led her down
Eowyn nudged Legolas. Your mouth is open, my love,
At the bottom of the stair a group of horse-drawn sleighs was
waiting to ferry anyone willing to pay another silver piece to
the centre of the lake. Legolas watched his father help the elleth
climb aboard andsmiling!hand the driver a large
I thought that was over... He glanced back at Haldir;
the big elfs face might have been carved in stone.
Mmm? said Eowyn, carefully putting her change back
in her purse.
Has Haldir said anything to you about it?
Legolas nodded towards Thranduil and Cyllien, bunched together
under a fur blanket. About that.
Eowyn frowned. No.
My father and I will be having a serious talk tomorrow.
He smiled as Eowyn squeezed his arm in sympathy. But I shall
not let it ruin our fun tonight, melmenya.
Legolas hired a sleigh to carry the friends to the little wooden
village. The moment it came to a halt, Haldir jumped out and disappeared
amongst the crowd of merrymakers.
Legolas and Eowyn exchanged glances.
Tomorrow, said the elf, quietly. Then, Let
me help you, melmenya, it is slipperyGimli...
The dwarf offered Hentmirë his arm; Legolas lifted Eowyn
down to the ice.
They wandered along the narrow streets, stopping at each gaily-lit
booth to examine the wares on sale and to buy mugs of steaming
aleGoodness, it is strong! said Hentmirë,
handing hers to Gimliand roasted chestnutsLet
me take off the shells for you, melmenya,and spiced
pastries. Eowyn bought a necklace of red, green and white beans
from a little boy who tugged at her hand, and some sweetmeats
And Hentmirë paid for a very expensive sheet of parchment,
painstakingly inscribed in the finest calligraphy by a young scholar
with frost-bitten fingers, which read,