Six days later
Eowyn, on her hands and knees, cinched her bedroll with a
leather strap, fastening the buckle and tying off the loose end.
Behind her, Legolas was carefully dousing the fire with the remains
of their hot water.
Sleeping under the stars is very romantic, she said,
rising stiffly to her feet, when the bards sing about it.
They had taken the Emyn Arnen Road to Gobel Doron, turned west,
and ridden an old sheep-herders trail to the bank of the
River Anduin. There, turning northwards again, they had followed
the riverbank to Osgiliath, where they had spent their third night
as guests of the garrison commander, hiring messengers to deliver
letters of apology to Aragorn in Minas Tirith, and to Faramir
in Caras Arnen. Early the next morning they had crossed the river
and cut sharply west, riding in the shadow of the Rammas Echor
until they met the Great West Road. From then on, though the going
had been easier, they had needed to be more careful, riding quietly
through the sparse settlements, and pulling off the road to avoid
too much contact with their fellow travellers.
At midday on the sixth day, they were approaching the small town
of Caras Calenhad, in the shadow of the sixth beacon
Finding Derufin, son of Herluin did not prove difficult.
A gaggle of buxom women, washing linens in the towns open-air
laundry, were only too happy to direct them to the house of the
unfortunate trader in return for a jug of urine, to be used as
bleach, though they laughed when Legolas disappeared behind a
wall to provide it.
Derufin lay upon his bed, his broken leg bound between two wooden
splints. He read his brothers letter slowly, his lips barely
moving, then looked thoughtfully at Legolas, frowned, and read
the letter again.
So you want to buy my wagon, he said at last, laying
down the letter, and folding his hands upon his stomach.
Your wagon and your stock, replied Legolas.
The Elf glanced at Eowyn. In the course of their journey, they
had decided that they would, as far as possible, tell the truth
and, though Legolas had dyed his hair to prevent his being recognised
as one of the Nine, and had asked Derufins brother not to
mention his name in the letter, he had made no attempt to hide
his Elven nature.
We are searching for two ladies, sir, he said, friends
of my wifes foster-brother. Your merchandise will open doors
that would otherwise be closed to us. And, since you cannot travel
Hmm. Derufin stroked his beard. Well,
he said, at last, my brother says that you are trustworthy,
sir, and that is good enough for me. So all that remains for us
to decide is a price.
Name it, sir, said Legolas.
Two thousand gold pieces, said Derufin. That
is what it will take to replace everything, once I am back on
His brother had anticipated that exact amount, and had advised
Legolas to haggle, but Legolas could not bring himself to quibble
over money. Done, he said, unbuckling his belt and
removing a leather pouch containing forty fifty-piece coins. Though
I shall need you to show my wife and me yourI meanour
Derufin tipped a few of the leaf-shaped coins into his lap, picked
one up, and bent it in his teeth. Pure Elven gold,
he said, approvingly. But the lad must train you up, sir,
for I shall not be going outdoors for many a day.
Of course, said Legolas, holding out his hand because
sealing deals with a handshake had begun to feel quite natural.
Thank you, Master Derufin.
The wagon was a sturdy, four-wheeled vehicle with high sides
and a curved wooden roof, gaily painted in red and blue and decorated
with curlicues of cream and yellow. Eowyn grasped Legolas
arm, and their eyes met, and each knew what the other was thinkingthat
it was going to be hard to destroy something so pretty...
The lad, Derufins apprentice, climbed up the
steps and unlocked the door. Never leave this open,
he said, or theyll rob you blind.
Inside, there was a tiny shop, fittedat the far endwith
a small counter and lined from floor to ceiling with drawers and
cupboardseach secured against the perils of a bumpy road
with a sturdy turn-buckle. Beyond that, a narrow door led to an
even tinier cabin for eating and sleeping in, and the lad demonstrated
how to convert its table and benches into a bed before he brought
them back into the shop, and showed them the stock.
Right, he said. Here, youve got your
haberdashery. He ran his hand over a column of drawers,
then tapped each one in turn, starting at the top: Needles;
threads; horn buttons; glass buttons; laces; ribbons; lace trimmings;
collars; cuffs. His hand moved to the next column. Heres
your trinketspipes; charms; bells; glass doodahs. This is
your exoticsperfumes; salves; pipeweed boxes; lanternsall
from Far Harad.
He moved to the other side of the wagon. These are your
beauty preparations, but I dare say the lady already knows more
about that than I do. These are your medicines
Medicines, said Eowyn. Do they work?
The lad shrugged. Weve never had any complaints.
Master Derufin has them made up by a wise woman this side of Firien
Wood. Theres flaxseed pastilles to make you shit; dandelion
root powders to make you shit; prune and nettle tea to make you
shit and piss
We understand, said Legolas.
Well, you cant go wrong if your bowels is regular,
my mum always says. Anyway, everythings described in the
Ledger, and youll need to keep a careful record of anything
you sellwho to, how much, and so onits all in
Finally, said the lad, this cupboard, here,he
tapped a largish door, painted dark redis your poisons.
For rats, bugs, weeds, that sort of thing. The cupboard
has two different locks, see,he held up the keyring
and showed them two small keysso you cant go
Good, said Legolas. He glanced at Eowyn and, again,
they both seemed to be thinking exactly the same thingthat
poisons would be very hard to deal with safely.
Show us how we should go about selling these things,
The horses they had brought with them were not their regular
mounts, but sturdy beasts, well used to pulling a cart. Eowyn
hitched them to the wagon whilst Legolas stowed her saddle and
the travelling packs in the bedroom, and checkedat the insistence
of the ladthat all the drawers were securely closed, and
the Ledger safely housed, and the poison cupboard securely locked.
Then they climbed up onto the seat and, with Eowyn at the reins,
pulled out of Master Derufins yard and rejoined the Great
West Road, travelling eastwards towards Firien Wood and the border
It was a pleasant afternoon, and Eowyn found that sitting beside
Legolaspointing out things that she could barely
see whilst plying her with pieces of dried fruitwas a very
enjoyable way to travel; besides, she was looking forward to converting
the table into a bed, and snuggling up
We should reach Linglow at dusk, Melmenya, said Legolas,
smiling, just as the villagers are gathering in the tavern,which,
according to the lad, was the best time for selling triflesso
we had better start rehearsing our parts.
Though it lay within Anórien, the little town of Linglowthe
hill of heatherbore a Rohirric name, and its wooden buildings,
arranged haphazardly around a marketplace of trampled earth, made
Eowyn feel the warm familiarity of a native returning home.
She stopped the wagon outside the tavern and, whilst she was
seeing to the horses, Legolas brought out a row of tiny bells
and, using leather-covered mallets, began playing the catchy tune
the lad had taught him as a way of attracting customers. Soon,
the door of the tavern opened, and a few curious people came shuffling
outside. By then, the Elf had warmed to his task and, inspired
by the presence of an audience, he deftly turned the simple notes
into a haunting Lay, singing, in his clear, sweet voice,
The summer slowly in the sad forest
Waned and faded. In the west arose
Winds that wandered over warring seas.
Leaves were loosened from labouring boughs:
fallow-gold they fell, and the feet buried
of trees standing tall and naked,
rustling restlessly down roofless aisles,
shifting and drifting...
Eowyn had finished watering the horses and, having taken a moment
to prepare herself, she stepped out into the light, drawing gasps
of surprise from the townspeople, who muttered, Faery folk...
Good evening, she said, smiling at each potential
customer in turn, as the lad had taught her, let me show
you our wares. She climbed up the wooden stepsconscious
that several pairs of eyes were fixed upon her seatturned
and, framed in the doorway, launched into her performance: For
the men we bring pattern-welded blades from Gondor, strong pipeweeds
from the Shire, and Cocodrille-skin pouches from the sunlands
of Far Harad; for the ladies, shawls of the sheerest Elven silk,
kerchiefs edged with the finest Blackwork, perfumes made to ancient
She looked at their faces, lit by a mixture of awe and superstitious
fear, and wondered whether it was wise to let them think that
she and Legolas might be otherworldly beings. We are here,
she thought, to find the daughters of Eofor, not to perform
There were two men amongst the crowd who had seen the Elven archers
at Helms Deep, and were fascinated by Elven weapons. One
of them unsheathed his dagger, and persuaded Legolas to give him
a lesson in Elven knife work, which drew a large, appreciative
crowd, and led to the sale of several Gondorian blades, each selected
with Legolas tactful guidance.
The women, somewhat bolder than the men, climbed into the wagon
to view the merchandise. One bought a lace collar, another a jar
of healing salve, and a third took Eowyn aside, and asked her
whether the Elves might know a charm that would let her lie
with imself and not get with child.
And, as Eowyn let her customers try on the delicate shawls, and
sniff the perfumes, and tell her their symptoms (so that she could
look them up in her book of medicines), she found them all too
eager talk. They asked her about the great Ladies she had seen
on her travelswhat had they bought from her?and she
asked them about the local familieswhich were the
most extravagant and which the most miserly, and which of them
were sadly lacking in women?
By the time the last of their customers had gone, and they had
moved the wagon to the outskirts of the town and set the horses
free to graze, and had locked up the store cupboards and made
up the bed, Eowyn was far too exhausted to talk about what she
Who would have thought, she said, settling in Legolas
arms, that a traders life would be so tiring?
You were not trading, Melmenya, replied the Elf,
stroking her hair, you were playing the spy, and that demands
spirit, and nerve, and concentration. Tonight was good practice
for the task ahead.