Ayleths cousins farm, set slightly back from the
road, was a cheerful wooden house with an open shelter at the
western endhousing a cow, two pigs, and a handful of chickensand
a snow-covered vegetable plot in front.
As the four friends approached, Ayleths cousin came out
to meet them, carrying a lantern in the fading light.
Suilad, Ozwell, said Haldir, dismounting.
Have you had any trouble here in the past two or three
Trouble? The man shook his head. No, Master
Nothing out of the ordinary has happened? No strangers
have passed by?
Oh, you mean the traveller?
Obviously unhappy that he was neglecting his other visitors,
Ozwell turned to Legolas, Eowyn and Gimli, placed his free hand
upon his heart, and bowed his head in a hasty greeting. He
only wanted a little food and water, my Lord, he said,
having decided to address himself to Legolas, and he insisted
on paying for what he took. He didnt give me any trouble.
Haldir glanced up at Legolas; Legolas nodded. Might we
beg a favour of you, Master Ozwell? he asked. Might
we spend the night in your home?
That would be an honour, my Lord, said Ozwell,
The little house was warm and cosy.
Ozwell gave them a simple meal of winter stew and fresh-baked
bread and, over supper, the friends asked him about the stranger
he had called the traveller. Ozwell described him as a man in
his middle years, stern-faced and abrupt; he had refused an
offer of shelter, and had insisted on trading a silver buckle
for his bread and cheese. Ozwell rose, found a small object
on the mantelpiece, and brought it over to the table. It
was a matter of pride with him, I thinkbeing in no mans
You say he asked you a question, said Legolas,
picking up the buckle and examining it carefully.
He wanted to know if Id seen two strangers,
said Ozwell; a man and a woman on one horse, passing through
here three or four years ago.
What an odd question, said Eowyn.
And had you? asked Legolas.
Ozwell shrugged. So many people pass through here, my
Lord. Maybe I did and maybe I didnt. I cant be sure.
Legolas glanced at Eowyn, and she asked the question that she
had been longing to ask: Amongst the travellers
possessions, she said, did you happen to notice
a brass oil lamp?
Ozwell looked surprised. You mean the fancy thing with
red leaves around the middle? Yes, he asked me if I wanted to
buy it from him, but Ive no need for aught like