Finding herself alone, on her wedding night, Eowyn stretched
out a hand and felt the bed beside her.
She threw back the coverlet, swung her feet down to the floor,
andputting on her thick, velvet cloak and her fur-lined
slipperspadded out onto the frosty veranda.
Legolas was sitting on the flet-wall, naked but for his silken
He turned, smiling. I am sorry, melmenya. Did I wake you?
He raised an arm, and she ducked beneath and let him pull her
But I can see that something is wrong, my darling,
she said, gazing up at him. What is it?
I had a dream.
Oh... Eowyn buried her face in his chest. Was
it about us? she asked, nervously. About our future?
Oh, no, melmenya. He kissed the crown of her head.
At least, no more of our future than the next few days.
He told her about his encounter with the being of light.
And you do not know what this task might be?
Well, she said, snuggling closer, perhaps everything
will be clear when we return to the Daw Valley.
Dawn was approaching, and Eryn Carantaur was beginning to stirdoors
were opening, and people were coming out onto the walkways, carrying
candles and lighted tapers.
Having already made their own preparations, Legolas and Eowyn
watched their friends join others from all over the cityHentmirë
and Gimli, with little Melannen (wrapped up in a warm woollen
mantle, a muffler, and a matching cap); Aragorn and Arwen with
Eomer and Lothiriel; King Thranduil and King Shamash with Thorkell
bogsveigir; Haldir and, to the couples surprise, Cyllienall
Suddenly, first light touched the tops of the trees, and the
elves and the dwarves and the humans all lit their candles and,
singing softly, lifted their flames into the air to welcome the
sun back from its perilous journey through longest night of the
Oh, look, said Eowyn, pointing her candle
at Melannen, who was standing on tip toe, holding his flame as
high as his little arm could reach. Just look at
Legolas smiled. All will be well, melmenya, he said,
suddenly. I am sure of it now.
The bathing room of their hideaway was small but, like the rest
of the building, beautifulthe bath carved from a rosy, polished
stone and decorated with swirling curves that formed elegant ledges
planted with bright green ferns, which dripped down into the tub.
Whilst Eowyn was admiring the plants, and the complexities of
the plumbingno doubt Gimlis workLegolas filled
the bath with a cascade of warm water and a scattering of herbs.
I thought, said Eowyn, already feeling the effects
of the sensual aroma, that we were going to plan ourourohLassui!
His mouth had claimed hers, and his hands, sweeping down her
back, had grasped her hips, driving all thoughts of their forthcoming
journey from her mind.
This morning, he murmured, is special,
She felt his erection, hard against her belly, and her body responded
with a pang of physical need. She slid her hands up his chest
and around his neck; he guided her closer to the bath; she let
him lift and lower herstill wearing her beautiful wedding
nightgowninto the scented water.
And then he was astride her, and her nightgown was floating around
them like lily petals; his weight was pushing down upon her, and
he was pressing himself between her thighs. She moved her hips
and let him slide into her, wrapping her legs around him.
Lassui... There were thingssecrets, hidden
within her heartthat she wanted to tell him.
But, Shhhh, he whispered, I know,
Eowyn nín. He raised his head and his eyes sought
hers. I know everything about you, my darling. Everything.
Andstill looking deep inside herhe began to thrust.
And it seemed to Eowynas it had the night beforethat
marriage had somehow changed them, that their bodies had been
remade, and were now, all at once, both more intimate and yet
less familiar with each other.
And she leaned back in the delicious water, and let him make
love to herteasing her, then pleasuring her, and thenstarting
very small, somewhere in her coremaking a great wave of
sensation gather, and crest, and break, and rush out in all directions,
filling her head, her hands, her breasts, and leaving her trembling
in his arms.
Some time later
But... We cannot leave him behind, Lassui.
Wrapped in dressing robes, they were sitting before the fire,
eating breakfast. Legolas pulled a slice of fruited bread from
his toasting fork and dropped it onto Eowyns plate. We
cannot take him with us.
Eowyn spread the toast with butter. Why?
Because,he threaded more bread onto the fork,
and held it to the flamesone, it may be dangerous
He will be with us
Two, it may come to a fight.
Eowyn frownedshe had not considered that.
And, three, said Legolas, his parents
are coming here. Do you want another piece of toast?
He laid the slice on his own plate. We are bringing them
here, melmenya, he said, gently, we cannot take him
away. He reached out, and touched her hand. I know
how much you love him, my darling, and I know that you are afraid
he will think you have abandoned him
Most people think that keeping a child physically safe
is all that matters, Lassui. But it will break his heart
Hervess nín! He grasped her fingers.
We will talk to himwe will tell him what we are doing,
and explain why he must stay behind. He will understand. He will
miss you, of course, but his Gwanur Hentmirë will take good
care of him. And he loves her, and Gimliand Thorkell bogsveigir,
too, it seems.
Gimli will be coming with us.
Well, that is another thing we must decide. He dropped
a second slice of toast onto his plate. Is there any honey?
Eowyn pushed a small, beehive-shaped pot across the table.
Thank you... Do we mount a full expedition, or do we go
Why would we go alone?
Because, he said, drizzling the golden liquid back
and forth, the Valathe being, that isin
my dream, said that the task was for us: for me and my
wife. I am wondering whether he meant that literally.
King Thranduils apartment
Sweeping majestically into his sitting room, the Elvenking caught
sight of his bodyguard, gazing up out of the window, andstopping
shortsighed loudly. What are you doing?
Nothing, sire, said Thorkell bogsveigir, with an
almost perceptible bow.
Thranduil let the unexpected courtesy pass. Good,
he said, because I have a job for you, and you will need
to be,he looked dubiously at the tall, dark mansharp.
You want me to go to the Daw Valley with them.
If Lassui insists on returning there, said Thranduil,
You will be my eyes and ears... He looked at the
man, thoughtfully. And she is my daughter-in-law:
do not forget it.
I can read you like a book, Thorkell bogsveigir.
So, said Eowyn, whilst I was waiting, I looked
at my Orc map. She was referring to the large map of North
and South Ithilien on whichwith the help of two elven assistantsshe
charted all the signs of Orc activity reported by border guards,
messengers and travellers.
Just moments before marrying me, said Legolas, with
a wink. And what did you see?
It was exactly as I remembered. There are no Orc bands
in that regionnone anywhere near the Daw Valley. She
took a bite of toast. Though, to the east, in Mordor
The house Melannen showed us, melmenya, must have been
attacked long before the Ring War.
I know it looked like that, Lassui, but
Do you remember the scream?
Of course, said Eowyn, softly.
In my dream, I heard it again: I saw us, standing in the
Forest near Melannens house, and I heard the scream.
Could you see whowhatwas screaming?
He shook his head. No.
They sat in silence for a few moments. Then Legolas said, But
I am sure that that is where we must start, melmenya. We
must find the creature that made that sound.
They dressed and, descending the secret staircase, slipped out
through the hidden door and returned to the bustling, everyday
life of Eryn Carantaur.
Legolas held his daily meetings with Haldir and with Captain
Golradir of the Palace Guard; Eowyn talked with Lord Caranthir
and Master Bawden about the ongoing building works, and discussed
the proposed expansion of the school.
Then, at midday, the couple welcomed their friends into their
private chambers for a festive meal.
Estel is planning to accompany you, said Arwen, as
she passed Legolas a dish of braised fennel.
Your story has piqued my curiosity, mellon nín,
Aragorn admitted. I want to see this town for myself.
And I have heard, said Eomer, from across
the table, that the hunting in that region is more than
worth the trip.
Thorkell bogsveigir tells me, whispered Eowyn, that
your father has ordered him to go with us, toowell, he underestimates
you almost as much as he distrusts the Green Elves, so
he was bound to send his right-hand man to keep an eye on us.
Legolas turned Gimli. And no doubt you are planning to
come, too, Elvellon?
Despite Legolas private misgivings, it was decided that
they should mount a full expedition, consistingin addition
to Legolas and Eowynof Aragorn, Eomer, Gimli, Thorkell bogsveigir,
the colonys cartographer, Master Berryn, and a host of human,
elven and dwarven warriors.
Arwen and Lothiriel would stay in Eryn Carantaur to lead the
remainder of the Yuletide celebrations.
And, since it seemed certain that she and Legolas would be leaving
before Melannens parents arrived, Eowyn gave Lord Caranthir,
Lord Fingolfin and Captain Golradir strict instructionsand
begged Arwen and Hentmirë, tooto do everything
in their power to keep the elfling and his parents safely in the
city until they returned.
Early morning, in Hentmirës house
Melannen, standing on a chair, was peering anxiously out of the
They will not leave without saying goodbye, said
Hentmirë. They promised. Besides,she
came up behind him and gently laid her hand upon his backthey
love you, and could not bear to be parted from you without
a proper farewell. So,she tried to sound firmcome
and sit with me, and we will look at your picture book whilst
Reluctantly, the child allowed himself to be lifted down to the
floor. Then, Gwanur Hentmirë, he said, can
we have a story? Gwanur Eowyn always tells me stories.
About Niben? Hentmirë tried to remember
a story from her own childhood that might serve. Um...
Well, yes. Yes, I think we can. Sit down... She
waited until the boy was settled beside her, with the toy on his
lap, then began: Once upon a time, in the city of Carhilivren,
there was a tiny rabbit
Called Niben, said Melannen, with a sniff.
Called Niben. And he was as poor as a temple mousein
fact, that is where he lived: in a burrow, at the foot of the
Gwanur Legolas says that there are no plants in Carhilivren,
except in gardens.
There are hardy plants, like palms, which spring up wherever
they can find water, said Hentmirë, and desert
plants, which bloom suddenly when there is rain. But Carhilivren
is not fertile like Eryn Carantaur.
So what did Niben eat?
Oh... Um... Offerings, said Hentmirë.
Yes. When people brought flowers and fruit as gifts for
the spirits of their ancestors, they would leave a little by Nibens
Niben likes carrots.
Well... Sometimes, they would bring carrots... Or lettuce.
Anyway, Niben was very poor. And, one day
Gwanur Eowyn, cried Melannen, turning towards
The elfling leaped from his chair, and flew across the roomGwanur
Eowyn!and threw himself into Eowyns arms.
Are you being a good boy for your Aunt Hentmirë?
she asked, hugging him tightly.
Melannen, said Legolas, crouching down beside him,
I want you to remember everything your Gwanur Eowyn told
you last nightwe are going away for a little while, to make
sure that the Forest is safe for you and your Nana and Ada. But
we will be back soon.
And whilst we are away, said Eowyn, crouching as
well, so that her face was level with the elflings, you
must be brave, and look after your Gwanur Hentmirë, and do
what she tells you. And, when your mummy and daddy arrive, tell
them we want them to wait here until we come back. Can you remember
Then give me a big hug, sweetheart, and give your Gwanur
Legolas a big hug, too, before we go...
Once clear of the city, the expeditionary force made good time,
galloping along the Doro Lanthron road until Legolas brought them
to a halt at the spot where he and Eowyn had found Melannen.
From there on, the warriors were forced to proceed in single
file, retracing the elflings still-visible footsteps through
the snow-laden pines, turning eastwards along the frozen stream,
and crossing the stone bridge.
So Niben waited until the thieves had been gone for fully
half an hour, said Hentmirë, and then he went
up to the mouth of the cave,she made the toy rabbit
walk along the arm of her chair and he said
OPEN SESAME, boomed Melannen.
Except that Niben has a little voice.
Open Sesame, he squeaked.
Yes. And the big rock just
The elfling suddenly grasped her arm and pointed at the window,
his eyes round.
Is that your mummy and daddy?
Hentmirë listened, nervously.
She heard the knock at the doorThey are impatient,
she thoughtheard Old Donatiya cross the lobby to answer
it, and heard the muttering that followed. Then the sitting room
door opened, and Donatiya peered inside. Master Túon
and Mistress Roseth say that they have come for Master Melannen,
my Lady. Shall I show them in?
Just a moment. Hentmirë turned to the elfling.
Let me see your hands. The boy held them up for inspection.
And your face. He leaned forward. She smiled. And
your boots. He stood up, and lifted each foot so that his
Gwanur could check the shine on the leather. Perfect,
said Hentmirë. Yes, please, Donatiya. Ask them to come
She rose, and greeted the two elves formally, hand on heart,
as she had been taught by Lord Fingolfin: Mae govannen,
hîr e hiril. Le hannon a tholel. Baren bar lin.
Túon was a dark-haired elf, older-looking and more dignified
than the little woman had expected; his wife seemed younger, and
more passionate, with quick eyes and flaming red hair, but she
walked a little behind her husband.
Neither of them said anything in reply to Hentmirës
greeting, and she could only hope that she had got the words right.
Please, she added, in Westron, do take a seat.
Donatiyaperhaps we could have some refreshments?
The old woman shuffled away, grumbling under her breath.
Hentmirë smiled uneasily. Melannen, she realised, had not
run to the door to meet his parents, and was still waiting patiently
for them to notice him. As you can see, she said,
patting the boys shoulder, Lord Legolas and Lady Eowyn
have taken very good care of your son, and I am sure you will
want to thank them. They should be back in a week or so
We intend to return home immediately, said Túon.
Well, said Hentmirë, beginning the long explanation
that Legolas and Eowyn had given her, and that she had already
practised several times
This place, said Túon, cutting her short,
is not suitable for an impressionable young elfling.
This place? The little woman could not tell
whether he meant Eryn Carantaur in general, or her own home in
particular. I assure you, she said, that Melannen
has been completely safe here, and well-cared-for. But, please,
let me explain why you must stay
That is not possible.
I have it on the best authority, Hentmirë
persisted, that the Daw Valley is far too dangerous at present.
A troop of warriors, led by King Elessar himself, has ridden out,
and will make it safe. In the meantime, Lord Legolas and Lady
Eowyn ask you to wait here. If you need official confirmation,
I can send for Lord Caranthir or Lord Fingolfin, and they will
repeat what I have just told you. Or, you can meet with Queen
Arwen, who has a personal message for you from Lady Eowyn.
This is most vexing, said Túon, glancing at
his wife; she nodded in agreement. Very wellI want
to see this Lord Caranthir. At once.
Please understand, said the little woman, ringing
the bell to summon her servant, Rimush, that our only concern
is for your well-beingyours and your sons
And yet, said Túon, rising, you are
refusing to let us take him home, where he
ADAAAAAAA! shouted Melannen, stamping his little
foot, Gwanur Eowyn said we have to wait for her and Gwanur
This is it, said Legolas, dismounting. The way
into the valley.
He led Arod up to the cliff, and showed Aragorn and Eomer a deep
crevice, which appearedat first glanceto lead nowhere.
It is narrow, said Aragorn, running a gloved hand
over the rock wall, and the sides are sharp. Can a rider
get through it?
The path opens out, said the elf, just past
the first bend, though the ground remains uneven. It will be safest
to lead the horsesthough the going will be slower.
Aragorn gave the signal to dismount.
Give me your standard, said Legolas. Eowyn,
Gimli and I will go first, and ride down into the town as your
heralds. That way, the locals will be prepared for the sight of
a small army emerging from the rocks.
Roseth shook her head in dismay.
This is precisely what I feared, said Túon,
coldly. A few days in the company of this Sinda and his
mistress, and the boy has forgotten how he was raisedhe
is behaving like an Orc.
Hentmirë put her arm around the elflings shoulders.
Melannen, she saiddoing a passable impression
of King Thranduil at his most imperiousis a credit
to you; everyone who has met him says so. Now, please, sit down
and have some fruit tea, andwhilst we wait for Lord Caranthiryour
son and I will explain why he is so anxious for you to stay here.
Slowly, they worked their way along the narrow cleftLegolas
in front, carrying Aragorns standard; Gimli close behind,
leading Arod; Eowyn behind him, gently coaxing Brightstarand,
more than once, the dwarf remarked upon the strangeness of the
rock, and the unnatural pattern of its fractures and fissures.
At length, they filed out into the open and, shielding his eyes
from the sun, Legolas gazed down into the valley.
Has anyone noticed us? asked Eowyn, coming up beside
There are two men on the Forest road, he replied.
They seem to be watching us. And there is a man chopping
wood, over there. He pointed to a tiny homestead, at the
far side of the valley. He is looking in this direction.
Might they raise the alarm?
No. We three will reach the town long before they...
He looked back at the rock face, frowning. Gimli?
Eowyn scanned the cliff from east to west. Where is he?
I have no idea...
Legolas stepped into the mouth of the pass and shouted, ELVELLON!
and the word echoed down its length, ElvellonElvellonElvellon...
He was in front of me, said Eowyn, and
Aragorn was behind, and Eomer behind him, and then Thorkell
bogsveigir, and... Oh gods, where are they, Lassui,her
voice waveredwhat has happened to the others?