Haldir pulled back the curtain; the booth was lined
with furs and heated with a glowing brazier.
Come inside, and take a seat, said the woman.
The sign outside said Fortunes Told. Haldir had heard
of human wise women and their extraordinary powers, and had been
expecting an old crone, bowed down by a lifetimes experience,
but the woman inviting him to sit beside her was no older than
Eowyna vibrant beauty with hair the colour of carantaur
Something told him that to enter the booth would be to court
He stepped inside and sat down.
You are troubled, said the woman, gazing at him intently.
Let us see why. She held out her hand.
Haldir gave her a silver piece.
She laughed, and it was a lovely sound. Well worry
about payment later, Master Elf, she said. First,
I must see your palm. She returned the coin.
Oh... Haldir fumbled the piece away, then laid
his left hand, palm upwards, upon hers.
By the gods, she said, what a lifeline!
She leaned in closer. You have cheated death, quite recently,
I see. And... More recently still, you have suffered some kind
of... Transformation. She looked up at him. I have
never seen anything quite like that before.
Her eyes were of the palest green, edged with a grey that was
almost as dark her pupils, and her gaze was like a wild creatures.
All that is in the past, said Haldir.
Yes. But we must understand the past to predict the future.
She looked at his hand again. Your love line... Branches.
Two identical paths... One ends suddenlyyou have loved and
lost the same woman twicelost her to the same man.
Elf, said Haldir. But, the second timewell,
it does not matter. Is there any hope?
Of winning her?
There is always hope. She stroked his palm with her
slender finger; Haldir shivered. Why do you value yourself
so little? she asked.
What do you mean?
This one betrays you. And you permit it.
He is a king, said Haldir. And... He
watched a tendril of flaming hair slide over her creamy shoulder.
That does not matter, either.
Gently, the woman folded his fingers over his palm, closing
his hand. I can see no more, she said.
But you have told me nothing.
Of the future, no. Some things I cannot see.
See? Or tell?
It is the same thing.
Without realising it, Haldir had raised his hand, and he lifted
her wayward tress, and smoothed it back over her bare shoulder,
and the woman, closing her eyes, turned her head and pressed her
cheek to his fingers.
This, said Haldir, softly, is what you saw...
Part of it.
Will you not tell me all?
She shook her head. I cannot. You must allow time to run
its natural course.
What is your name?
Ayleth, she said.
Then until time brings us together again, Ayleth,
said Haldir, raising her hand to his lips.
Eowyn followed the direction of Legolas gaze, across the
frozen lake to the far shore, where the sleigh bearing his father
and Cyllien was just visible against the dull grey ice and the
dark forest beyond. Do not worry, my love, she said,
patting his arm
The elf turned suddenly, eyes widestartledas
though he had forgotten that she was standing beside him.
What is it? asked Eowyn.
The woman, said Legolas. Over there.
Eowyn screwed up her eyes and scanned the shoreline. My
sight is not as sharp as yours, Lassui; all I can see is your
father and Cyllien. No woman.
She... Legolas looked about frantically. She
was thereshe came out of the birch trees. She called to
me for help.
Eowyn frowned. She called to you, Lassui? Singled you out
amongst this crowd?
Yes, she... Legolas stared across the lake again,
confused. I am sure I saw a woman. She was cold and frightened
and calling to me for help.
Eowyn was not entirely convinced, but she trusted Legolas
elven senses. Come, my love, she said. We will
leave the skating to Hentmirë and Gimli, and we will go and
Look! said Valandil.
In the next booth, several young men, sitting at writing slopes,
were carefully inscribing souvenir parchments. Shall we
Wilawen shook her head, laughing. No one can match an elf
for throwing money away.
Come sirlady, cried the proprietor, who seemed
to be the scribes teacher, look at the quality of
our work. No obligation. He pointed to the canvas wall behind
the hunched figures, where examples of their writing were pinned
up for customers to examinesome lettered in simple black,
others illuminated with elaborate interlace borderseach
bearing a blank space, at the top of the design, to allow the
scribes to add their customers names to order.
The couple came forward slowly, Wilawen leaning heavily on Valandils
arm. Which do you like best, Faer vara? the
elf asked, referring to the different styles of lettering.
Wilawen shook her head, still amused. You chooseit
is you who wants one!
Very wellI like that one, said Valandil.
It will take a few moments, sir, said the teacher.
Perhaps the lady would like to sit down whilst you wait?
Thank you, said Wilawen, that would
be a relief.
The man brought out a wooden crate, turned it onto its side,
then laid a folded cloth upon it. There, he said,
testing its strength by leaning down on it with all his weight,
it is quite safe.
Valandil helped Wilawen lower herself onto the seat. She smiled
up at him, gratefully, resting one hand upon her stomach.
What names shall I write, sir? asked the scribe.
Wilawen, Valandil and Shortly Expected Babe, said
the father-to-be, happily.
Holding tightly to Legolas hand, Eowyn glanced over her
shoulder. We are a long way from everyone else, Lassui,
The ice they were walking on seemed thinnerless substantialthan
the ice at the centre of the lake, and it occurred to her that,
if one or both of them were to fall through to the freezing water,
they would not survive without swift help. We should have
brought others with us, my love. Gimli and Haldir...
You can go back if you like, said Legolas.
Lassui! His words were like a slap in the facenever,
in all the time she had known him, had he treated her with such
indifference. Eowyn dropped his hand, and stood, arms akimbo.
It is time we both went back, she said, firmly.
She is here, said Legolas. She is alone and
frightened and she asked me for help. So I am going to help her.
You can go back.
What has happened to you?Legolas was approaching
the steeply sloping shoreLassui! The ice is very
Eowyn looked anxiously from the elf to the Frost Fairperhaps
a quarter mile awayand back again. Legolas was now climbing
where shelacking an elfs physical gracecould
not follow, but something else was worrying her, too. You
say that you heard this woman call to you over the crowd. But
I do not think that even elven ears can hear across such a distance,
What are you saying? asked Legolas, climbing the
snow-covered bank. That I imagined her?
Well... Perhaps you were mistaken.
Leave me, said Legolas. And without a backward glance,
he disappeared into the trees.
Legolas! cried Eowyn. Legolas, come back!