Eowyn took Legolas arm, and he led her out
of the manor, towards the village.
You look, he said, eyeing her green silk gown with
its gauzy skirts, be-ribboned bodice, and fantastical trimmings,
like a woodland sprite.
When we get home, she said, crossly, I shall
need to bathe for a week.
And shall I be invited to join you?
You, she replied, will be required to
scrub the parts I cannot reach.
Whatever has upset you so?
Eowyn glanced over her shoulder. Then, confident that she could
not be overheard, she told him of the trying time she had had
with Gléowyn, of her surprise encounter with the younger
son, and of her conversation with the older. Guthmer is
a spoilt child, and he has probably ruined half the maidens of
Eastfold, but I do not believe he killed Deorhild and
I have found their remains, Melmenya, said Legolas.
Eowyn stopped walking. Lassui!
They are in Wyrms Hollow, not ten yards from the
They needed somewhere to sit down together, share their discoveries,
and plan their next move. Eowyn looked around the village. Up
ahead she spotted a pole, garlanded with foliage, set above the
door of one of the housesthe sign of an alehouse.
What do you say to a mug of ale? she asked.
The alewife was a cheerful, rosy-faced woman with an entire Éored
of small, noisy children. She sat her guests down in the parlour,
drew them a large jug of excellent ale, and shooed her offspring
out into the kitchen, leaving the couple to talk in peace.
Legolas described what had happened in Wyrms Hollow: how
the men had identified the man-mountain and his master,
how he had persuaded them to look for more bodies, and how they
had found Deorhild and Guthwyn. I cut the Dragon Flame from
their ashes, he said, softly, and covered them with
my cloak. Baldor plans to send his serfs to the Hollow tomorrow,
to gather up the remains and bring them here. The women will be
buried in the family graveyard with their ancestors, and Holdred
and his servants will be sent back to his father.
And Baldor made no attempt to destroy the evidence,
asked Eowyn, incredulously; not even to kick away the ashes?
No. He was as horrified by the discovery as everyone else.
Eowyn looked up from her mug of ale, surprised.
I am sure of it, Melmenya, said Legolas. He
is a man whose feelings show clearly in his eyes and, just as
he could not hide from me the fact that he did not like being
in my debt, nor could he conceal that he had recognised the women.
But there was no guilt in him. In fact, I would say that there
Sorrow... Well... So now we know that it was not Baldor
who killed them, she said, putting complete trust in Legolas
instincts. She took a sip of ale. And Guthmer, she
continued, thinking aloud, had definitely seen Theodreds
ghost before, probably more than once, sooh, of course!
Theodred has been trying to persuade Guthmer to find the womens
Yes, that is a wild shot, she admitted. But
I am sure that, though Guthmer knows something, he had nothing
to do with the deaths. She took another sip.
So it was neither Baldor nor Guthmer, said Legolas.
Who does that leave?
There is the younger son, said Eowyn. He is
strange, Lassui; I do not even know his name, because no one ever
uses it. And there is that big, churlish servant who is always
lurking in the shadows...
There is also, said Legolas, raising a possibility
they had both been side-stepping, Lady Gléowyn herself.
Yes... Eowyn sighed. The landlord of the White
Horse was right, she is a shrew. She advised me to
dispose of you and marry more prudently, but made it very clear
that her son was out of bounds. Guthmer, it seems, is betrothed
to the daughter of Walda, the sister of poor, dead Holdred...
But many women have fierce tongues, Lassui. It does not mean they
She poured more ale into their mugs, and they sat in silence
for a few moments.
Then Legolas, whose understanding of the Mannish laws of inheritance
was sketchy, said, If one of the women had married Holdred,
then Waldas manorwhich, according to our friend the
landlord, is the richest in Eastfoldwould have gone to Eofors
descendants, would it not? But if Guthmer marries Waldas
Who now has no brother
Then Waldas estate goes to Gléowyns
And, thus, she had a strong reason to murder the women,
agreed Eowyn. But we need proof, Lassui.
And there is still, said Legolas, one body
we have not yet found.
They paid for their ale, and made their way to Lionel Cartwrights
workshop, arriving in the middle of a heated argument between
the man and his son.
Oh, sirlady, cried the carpenter, I dont
know how its happened!
Please, my friend, said Legolas, gently taking the
distraught man by the arms and guiding him towards a wooden stool,
sit down, calm yourself, and tell us what is wrong.
He glanced at the mans son, who seemed to be trying to disappear
into thin air.
I was only gone for half an hour, sir, to get a bite to
eat, and the boy was supposed to stay here, and keep an eye on
What happened? asked Eowyn.
Someone came into the the workshop, climbed into your wagon,
and broke into one of the cupboards, my Lady.
Legolas and Eowyn exchanged glances, both fearing exactly the
The steps up to the door had been removed for repair; Legolas
hopped lightly onto the threshold, went inside, and checked the
poisons cupboard. Yes, Melmenya, he said, gravely.
Have they taken anything? asked Eowyn, soothing the
cartwright with a gentle squeeze of the shoulder.
I cannot be sure, but I think so.
Help me up, Lassui. I shall make a list of everything that
is still there and, when we get back to the barn, I shall compare
it to the list in the Ledger.
The robbery aside, Lionel Cartwright was making good progress,
and estimated that the wagon would be roadworthy in another three
days. Legolas paid him for the work he had done so far, plus some
extra to repair the poisons cupboard, have a strong metal lining
made by the blacksmith, and fit it.
Eowyn, meanwhile, having carefully transcribed the labels of
the remaining bottles, jars and phials onto her wax tablet, examined
the door and floor of the workshop for any signs left by the intruder.
Nothing, she said, as she and Legolas left the cartwrights.
There were no obvious footprints in the sawdustperhaps
he swept the floor as he left. And he did not force an entry
He did not need to, said Legolas. These people
trust one another, Melmenya. The only reason Lionel Cartwright
even bothered to ask his son to keep watch was because he was
concerned for our belongings.
But who would have known that we had poisons?
Anyone who saw us at Linglow or Meringburn.
Of course! So it may have nothing to do with the manor.
It may have been the baker of Meringburn, determined to
get his rat poison, said Legolas. Though, somehow,
I doubt it.
Well, if it were the baker, said Eowyn, Id
wager you Brightstars next foal that he didnt want
it for rats. They both smiled, uneasily. You know,
Lassui, I think we should be careful. She stopped walking,
and turned to face him, speaking earnestly. It was not one
of the villagers; it was someone from the manor. I think we should
go back to the tavern, buy bread and cheese and a few jugs of
ale, andfor the foreseeable futureavoid eating or
drinking anything that Lady Gléowyn offers us.
Supper that night was a rowdy business, for Baldor and his lady
were entertaining the hunting partyhalf-a-dozen lusty Rohirrim
with healthy appetites and even healthier thirsts.
Legolas and Eowyn, being mere traders, had been banished to the
lower end of the table but, with their delicate beauty and their
exotic costumes, they still attracted much attention, especially
once the ale had begun to flow, and they both found themselves
having to discourage amorous advances from the drunken riders.
Still, the near-riot made it easy for them to put Eowyns
precautions into practice and, although they pushed their food
around their platters, and raised their goblets at every toast,
neither ate a morsel nor drank a sip.
Ohhhh, said Eowyn, I thought it would
never end! She sank back on her bedroll.
Legolas lit one of the fancy Haradin lanterns, and hung it from
the steps above the bed. We had better check the poisons
They worked together, quickly and efficiently, Legolas reading
out the names from Eowyns wax tablet, Eowyn finding the
corresponding entries in the Ledger and marking them with small
Finally, she set down her pen. Not rat poison, Lassui,
she said, with a sigh. Wolfsbane. Then she read out
the full entry:
Wolfsbane. Ground root of plant, mixed with
oils, is used for rubbing into aching joints to relieve pain.
Leaves may be used to repel werewolves.
**Extremely poisonous if swallowed.
Death occurs within two to six
hours. The initial signs are nausea, vomiting, and looseness of
the bowels. These are followed by a sensation of burning, tingling,
and numbness in the mouth and face, and of burning in the abdomen.
In severe poisonings, tingling and numbness may also spread to
the limbs. Other symptoms may include sweating, dizziness, difficulty
breathing, headache, and confusion. The main cause of death is
a paralysis of the heart and lungs. Signs after death are as for
Eowyn turned to the page on which she had previously made her
notes about the murders, and updated them:
Victims found at Wyrms Hollow
Deorhild daughter of Eofor
Guthwyn daughter of Eofor
Holdred son of Walda
? Boy servant
in the story at the Manor of Mereworth
Wife of Eofor deceased
Wife of Baldor Gléowyn
Son 1 Guthmer
If you had stolen a bottle of poison, Melmenya,
said Legolas, where would you conceal it?
You mean, if I were Lady Gléowyn?
Or any of the household.
Well, if I were Gléowyn, I think I would hide it
in the solar. There areohat least six good, strong
chests in there, all secured with padlocks. If I were her, I would
hide it in one of those. She wiped her pen on a rag. If
I were one of the sons... In the stables, perhaps? Yes. Or in
the weapons room, if they have one, with the whetstones and the
cleaning oils. If I were a servant
In the kitchen, said Legolas. With the cooking
oils and vinegars.
Perhaps. Or in the laundry, with the lye...
We must get it back, said Legolas, angrily.
You and I are safe, Melmenya, if we do not eat or drink
anything except our own food and ale, but a poisoner does not
care whom he kills, so long as one of the dead is his intended
victim. Whilst it is missing, everyone is at risk.
Yes... said Eowyn thoughtfully, replacing the stopper
in the ink bottle. Then, Tomorrow, Lassui, you must go to
Baldor, and tell him that it has been stolen.
Only heor Lady Gléowynhas the authority
to search the entire manor and, if need be, the village,
she explained. We do not know if we can trust Gléowyn,
but Baldor is at least innocent of the murder of the women. And
reporting the theft will not compromise usin fact, it is
exactly what a genuine merchant would do.
Of course... Legolas took her pen and ink from her
and set them carefully aside. You are right, as usual, Melmenya.
And I, said Eowyn, settling down in her bedroll,
will talk to the serving girl, Eldit. We need to learn more
about Master No-name and the Lurking servant. And she must know
this household and its secrets better than anyone.