The card showed a skeleton, beheading a warrior with a sweep
of its scythe, and beneath the grotesque image was written a single
We green elves are unaccustomed to... feasting,
said Túon to Hentmirë, as she led him and his family
towards the Banqueting Hall.
Well, replied the little woman, patiently, there
is a wide choice of foodsome of it quite plainand
you can eat as much or as little as you wish.
She took them up the steps, and into the domed pavilion, andhaving
foregone her usual place near the head of the tableshe found
them seats next to Lord Fingolfin, who had volunteered to help
her entertain Lord Legolas guests, seating herself beside
Then trumpets sounded, and everyone rose to greet Queen Arwen
and Queen Lothiriel as they entered the Hall, accompanied by King
Shamash of Kuri, and took their places at the table. Arwen, glancing
round the company, honoured Hentmirë with a brief formal
greeting, hand upon heart, which the little woman returned in
kind, and smiled at Melannen, whohaving recenty been introduced
to both of the beautiful ladieswaved back enthusiastically,
until his father caught hold of his hand.
Meanwhile, a small army of servants had begun carrying out the
first course of pork-and-cheese tarts, spicy minced-meat pies,
and simple platters of bread and cheese.
Hentmirë heard Túon sigh, and she turned towards
him, intending to suggest that he choose the latter.
The elf was not looking at the food, however, and the little
woman followed his gaze, up one of the elegant pillars and across
the intricately carved ceiling, taking in the velvet hangings
and the garlands of Yuletide evergreens. Human follies,
she heard him mutter.
But Lord Fingolfin had heard him, too. Our colony,
he said, a trifle sharply, welcomes elves from all over
Middle-earth, humans from Rohan, Gondor, and the hot lands to
the south, dwarves from the Glittering Caves, and halflings from
the Shire. We live together in peace and friendship, and we are
proud to observe the customs of all of our citizens.
One of the serving elves set a plate of tiny minced-meat pies
on the table, between Hentmirë and Melannen.
Those are my favourites, said the elfling,
in a loud whisper.
I know, Hentmirë whispered back and, with a
wink, she slipped an extra pastry onto his plate.
The Two Ways
Eowyn awoke suddenly, sat up in bed, and peered into the darknessand
it took a second or two before, with a gasp of relief, she recognised
Legolas, sitting on a stool beside the dying embers of the fire.
Light a candle, my love... she said.
He went over to the dresser and, moments later, the room was
filled with soft light.
You look troubled. She held out her hand. Come
and sit beside me and tell me what you are thinking.
Legolas pulled up a chair. I have just spent more than
two hours in the parlour, melmenya, he said, sitting down,
quizzing the locals.
What did you find out?
There are no elves living in the Forest. They are all agreed
on that. Several people have explored the remains of the flets,
and one even admits to having found a gold brooch, which he sold
to a jeweller in Caras Arnen for a tidy sum, but no
one has ever seen a living elf there.
Did you mention the noise?
I did. They believe it was wolves
That was no wolf!
Or possibly Orcs. At any rate, it seems that the men of
the Night Watch patrol the eastern slopes regularlythough
they seldom venture into the Forest itselfand the farmers
tell their children that the trees are haunted to keep them out
We must go and see for ourselves, said Eowyn. She
leaned over to the night stand and poured two glasses of water.
Are you hungry, my darling? I can ask the landlady
No,she took a sip of waterno, I
will wait until breakfast.
Legolas leaned closer, and lowered his voice. Melmenya...
Something else happened down there. Something strange. He
told her about the man and his pack of cards.
He has really upset you.
He showed me Melannen, melmenya. And I have no idea
how he did it.
Nor have I, she said, softly. She set down her glass,
and reached for his hand. But at least he seemed to think
that I was your destiny.
Death was my destiny.
Oh, Lassui, no! She grasped his hand, firmly. You
told me, she said, that he turned over your
card, and then mine, and then he had to take an extra
card from the pack. If that means anything at all, it means that
we have a joint destiny. And we are not afraid to face it together,
are we, my love?
Later, when Eowyn had gone back to sleep, Legolas gently freed
himself from her embrace.
He was too unsettled to rest.
Had he been at home, he would have gone outside, and walked under
the trees; here, he did not want to leave Eowyn alone so, instead,
he drew back the curtains, and looked out.
Below him, the Yuletide market was quiet at last, its rows of
stalls boarded up for the night; the square was in darkness; the
lamplighters had snuffed out the street lamps.
Above him, the stars were shining like jewels scattered upon
a mantle of black velvet.
There are no clouds, he thought. It will be cold tonight.
There are no clouds, thought Gimli, looking up at the
stars. It will be cold tonight.
He nodded to a young Gondorian who, standing lookout at the edge
of the encampment, was stamping his feet and blowing on his freezing
fingers. Away to your bedroll, lad, he said. I
will take your watch.
The man bowed his head. I thank you, my Lord, but King
I will make it right with Aragorn. Go on.
Gimli watched the boy disappear into one of the canvas shelters
they had erected against the foot of the cliffs. Then he drew
his axe and, planting the butt firmly on the ground, he settled
down to watchfor a dwarf could stand, still and silent,
for hours, waiting like a coiled spring
What do you think happened to them?
Gimli growled; Thorkell bogsveigir had the most annoying habit
of sneaking up from behind. You, he grumbled, should
be getting some sleep tonight. It may be your last chance for
The Beorning ignored his advice. One moment, she was there,
in front of us, all golden hair and tight leggings; the next,he
shruggedshe was gone. And there was no trace of hernowhere
for either of them to have disappeared to, no crevices, no chimneys,
no holes in the ground... Nothing.
We will find them.
How? The Beorning had insisted that, as Thranduils
agent, charged with the protection of the Elvenkings son
and daughter-in-law, he be allowed to join the discussions between
Aragorn, Eomer and Gimli, and had made himself unpopularwith
Eomer in particularby pointing out the flaws in every plan
they had come up with. Oh, yes. By riding across the valley
and appealing to our friends, the green elves, for help. I do
not think so.
You made no better suggestion, said Gimli.
The man sniffed. Maybe not. But the green elves are already
here. Look, over there,he pointed to a knot of trees,
directly aheadand there are more, there, by the ruined
farmhouse and, there, where the stream cuts through the rocks.
When I spotted them lurking, I got Camthalion to have a look.
He has no idea what they are doing, nor why they are letting us
see them do it. He says that green elves are strange.
They had nothing to do with the disappearance, said
So what are they doing?
Just keeping an eye on us. Being cautious.
Hmm. Well, I seriously doubt that we will get any help
The Two Ways
Lassui... Eowyn padded over to window and, grasping
her husbands arm, coaxed him back towards the bed. You
must let it go, my darling...
He was still fully dressed; she sat him down and, kneeling before
himjust as he had earlier knelt before hershe parted
the skirts of his tunic and set to work on his leggings, untying
the lacings and pulling down the flap.
He showed no signs of arousal but, when her fingers brushed his
flesh, she heard him gasp, Oh! Melmenya, his
voice cracking on the second syllable of her name, and she felt
him jerk against her palm.
She leaned in and, supporting him in her hands, though he had
begun to harden now, and quickly, she took him in her mouth.
No, melmenya; no, you are too tired, you should notI
must not let youoh, melmenyaoh, oh no...
he protested. But her tongue and her lips soon silenced him, and
then she felt him lean back, and carefully shift his hips forward,
and relax, and grow to his full size, at last, in her mouth.
I love you, Lassui, she murmured, though the words
were muffled, I love you so much, my darling.
They left The Two Ways an hour before dawn, having asked
the landlady to hold their room, since they were intending to
return the same evening.
It was so good of her, said Eowyn, as they rode out
of the town, to provide us with all this food. The
woman had been horrified at the thought of their leaving without
a proper breakfast, and had insisted on packing a basket for them
to take with them. Theres bread and cheese and
apples, she had said, a couple of slices of pease
puddingmade with best butter, my Ladypasties for your
dinner, and a jug of pear brandy, to keep out the cold.
We must give them some extra coin when we leave, Lassui.
Legolas, riding beside her, stretched out his hand; Eowyn grasped
it and they exchanged smiles. We shall, he said. Then
he added, Who could be anything but happy, with you by his
Eowyn laughed, remembering how despondently he had been gazing
at the stars when, recognising the signs, she had lured him back
to bed. It does not take much to cure you of your melancholy,
I am lucky that way.
As the sun was rising, they crossed the little bridge where,
on their previous visit, they had encountered the children playing
on the frozen stream. Do you want to stop here for breakfast?
asked Legolas. I can clear the snow from the stones, and
you can sit down.
They ate their bread and cheese, and drank a little of the brandy,
and Legolas looked thoughtfully at the remains of the childrens
slide. I was hoping that we would follow your footprints
back to Melannens house, melmenya, he said, but
it has snowed since we were here before.
Eowyn handed him the jug, and walked out into the road. Her boots
left a distinctive marksmall and pointed, with a leaf-shaped
pattern worked into the solebut she could find no prints
that matched them, for everything was blurred by the fresh layer
Still, very few tracks go beyond this bridge, Lassui,
she said, looking at the ghostly marks. And, by the time
we reach the Forest, it may be that mine are the only ones left.
Hentmirë awoke with the uncomfortable feeling that the day
was going to be a difficult one.
She told Donatiya that, should anyone knock, she would answer
the door herself, and she was not at all surprised when, just
before breakfast, she opened it to find Melannen standing on the
doorstep, with Niben tucked under his arm.
Gwanur Hentmirë, he said, with a dazzling smile,
can I stay with you until Gwanur Eowyn and Gwanur
Legolas come back?
Eowyns conjecture had proved correct.
Her footprintsand, here and there, little Melannensthough
indistinct, could be followed, and they quickly retraced the route
to the ruined flet, climbed up, and searched it thoroughly. In
the kitchen they found a few broken utensils; in one of the bed
chambers, some blankets; and in the elflings chamber, a
wooden cheststill intactcontaining a few small, homespun
tunics, a pair of boots, and a cloth mouseShadow Niben,
said Legolas, and Eowyns eyes filled with tears. But they
found nothing that could tell them any more about the fate of
the colony than they already knew.
Eowyn went down to the lower level and, in the remains of the
sitting room, brushed the snow from the window seat, and sat down.
She looked at the destruction lying all around her. Then, Lassui,
she called, how old is Melannen?
I do not know, melmenya. Ten, perhaps. Or a little older.
He put the mouse back in its nest of tunics, and closed the chest.
But not as old as this damage?
No. He came down the stairs, and joined her in the
So, said Eowyn, thoughtfully, when this
happened,she waved her handour
Melannen had not been born. Here, we have found clothes and toys
and, when we came before, his picture book with his name in it.
What are you thinking, melmenya? He sat down beside
Well... This Melannen must have been conceived many years
earlier than our Melannen.
But, judging by the size of his clothes, this Melannen
must have been about the same age as our Melannen when the Orcs
attacked the settlement.
Yes, whichoh, Valar! He turned to face her.
Which means that, in our world, the attack may be just about
to happen! He sprang to his feet. We must try to get
But, Lassuiwait! If the Valar sent us here,
perhaps there is something they want us to see, something that
will prepare us for what we need to do. Might it be sensible to
search the other flets? If we could find out more about the Orcs,
even track their route through the settlement
Then we would know where the attack was likely to come
from! Good thinking, melmenya, but we had better hurry. It would
be a lot easier without all this snow...
I know, said Eowyn, butoh!
Her hands flew up and covered her face, for she had just heard
the same terrible cry that she and Legolas had heard beforethe
same wail of loss and pain and unbearable anguish that still haunted
their dreamsand it was coming from the ground, directly