Though he had needed no sleep himself and had spent
the night awake, watching over Eowyn, Legolas waited until the
hunting party had assembled before he joined them in the stable
yard, threading his way through a half-dozen men on horseback,
concerned to find that neither Guthmer nor his younger brother
was amongst the riders.
Good morning, Master Elf, said Baldor, twisting in
the saddle as his mount turned about. I have picked out
a horse for you, since your own is still missing. His name is
Firebrand, andI promise youhe is a challenge.
Legolas placed a hand upon his heart and bowed his head in thanks.
Will you require a saddle, sir? asked a harassed
groom, struggling to lead a magnificent milk-white stallion through
the swarm of mounted men.
Legolas reached out, and gently took the animals head in
his hands, wondering how Baldor had come to own a horse that had
obviously been sired by one of the Mearas. Gerich faer
vara, he murmured and, touching his forehead to the
horses muzzle, he added, estelio nin, Firebrand.
Then, Le hannon, mellon nín, he answered
the groom, but no. I shall ride him as he is.
And he sprang lightly onto the horses back, ignoring the
looks that passed between the riders, though he had little doubt
that wagers had been laid, and that money would be changing hands
at the end of the day.
Well then, said Baldor, let us depart.
Eowyn set her foot upon a step, and hitched up her skirts.
Legolas had insisted that, from now on, she should carry a hunting
knife, and he had selected one from their stocksa long,
slender, Gondorian blade, lightweight but strong, that slipped
easily from its smooth leather scabbard.
She wrapped the strap around her thigh and threaded it through
the buckle, smiling as an image of Guthmers startled face
appeared in her minds eye.
Yes... She lowered her skirts and turned to find
a serving girl hovering just inside the barn door. What
Blushing, the girl dropped a hasty curtsey. Lady Gléowyn
asks you to join her in the solar, my Lady.
Thank you, er...?
Eldit, my Lady.
Thank you, Eldit. I shall come at once.
The solarthe lord and ladys private chambersat
above the western end of the Great Hall, supported on a row of
carved wooden pillars. If the lady were to discover that she
is entertaining the sister of the King of Rohan...! thought
Eowyn, smiling as she climbed the stairs.
She knocked lightly at the door, and opened it without waiting
for a reply. To her surprise, the solar was bright and cheerful;
a ladys chamber. She closed the door behind her and, approaching
Lady Gléowyn, who was sitting upon the great bed working
a piece of elaborate embroidery, she curtsied.
Gléowyn waited a few moments more than strictly necessary
before slowly raising her head and looking Eowyn in the eye. Sit
down, she said.
Eowyn glanced behind her, spotted a couple of stools, drew one
a little closer, and sat.
I am told, said Gléowyn, pinning her needle
to her embroidery and setting the frame aside, that you
and your husband have a fine selection of silks and trimmings.
Indeed we do, my Lady, replied Eowyn, slipping into
the role of merchants wife. This,she indicated
her slightly outlandish gown with a graceful sweep of the handis
made from Elven silk, and trimmed with Haradin lace.
Lady Gléowyn did not seem impressed.
Most of our stock is still locked in the wagon, Eowyn
continued, unabashed, which is down at the roadside, but
it is being brought up to the cartwrights workshop today
and, if my Lady wishes, I will be happy to show you our wares
tonight. My husband, she added, recalling the womans
open admiration of Legolas, is always happy to demonstrate
Tell me about Minas Tirith, said Lady Gléowyn.
You must have been there on your travels. Tell me what the
great ladies wear. Do they follow the Elvish Queens example?
Yes, they do, my Lady. Eowyn began a long and detailed
account of the fashions she had seen the last time she had been
at Court, and it was not until she had been talking for some time
that she noticed Gléowyns younger son, lurking behind
the curtains of the great bed. Fortunately, her surprise went
unnoticed because, at the same moment, the surly servant entered
the chamber, and whispered in his mistresss ear.
I seems I cannot be spared, said Lady Gléowyn,
wearily; I am needed urgently elsewhere. Please wait here
for my return.
Eowyn watched the woman depart, relieved to see her younger son
slink out behind her, closely followed by the ill-tempered servant.
By the time the hunting party reached Firien Wood, all was prepared.
Baldors efficient master huntsman had stationed relays of
hounds throughout the forest, and was waiting for them on the
Mering Bridge. Weve found a bed, my Lord, he
said, down in the dell beside the Blue Rocks. Its
still warm, so the boar cant be far.
Take us there, said Baldor. He turned to Legolas.
Are you game Master Elf?
Legolas assented with a polite bow of the head, though hunting
animals for sport gave him no pleasure, and he questioned the
wisdom of pushing the horses up and down the steep slopes.
Baldor eyed him thoughtfully, sensing his disapproval.
Then he signalled to his fellow riders, and they followed him
into the valley, their horses struggling to retain their footing.
When they reached the bottom, Baldor dismounted and inspected
the boars bed.
Hes a big one, Waldef.
Yes, my Lord.
And, as you say, not long gone. Release the dogs.
The master huntsman waited until his lord had remounted before
signalling the dog handlers to slip the leashes. The hounds scurried
away, barking excitedly.
Come on! cried Baldor, spurring his horse. The riders
set off in pursuit, jostling each other in their eagerness to
stay close to their lord; Legolas hung back, concerned for his
mount, whichthough swift and high-heartedwas wary
Suddenly, the dogs turned south, flowing up the rocky hillside
like an enchanted waterfall.
This way, Baldor shouted, and the riders wheeled
east, retracing their previous path until they found a way up.
Legolas followed, climbing the slope, crossing the road, and plunging
into the forest beyond, following a trail he immediately recognised
as the narrow path that he and Eowyn had taken up to Wyrms
This will be interesting...
More dogs, cried Baldor. The demon is close!
The master huntsman, running beside his lord, blew his horn,
and another pack came streaming from the trees to join the chase.
If we can drive him into the Hollow, someone shouted,
well have him cornered!
A second later, they burst into the clearing and sighted their
quarry for the first timea massive boar, fighting for his
life as the dogs leaped for him like a single, snapping monster.
Baldor swung from the saddle and, gripping his spear, approached
the rout. Call them off, Waldef, he ordered.
The dogs were summoned by their handlers.
Baldor faced the boar alone.
Legolas, meanwhile, had taken his bow from its strap and nocked
an arrow and, urging his mount forward, was working his way to
the front; for Baldor, though fit, was not a large man, and in
the final struggle the Elf knew that weight would count for more
Baldor raised his spear, and waited, his eyes fixed upon the
The beast pricked its ears, and took several small steps.
Baldor leaned in
The boar charged
Baldor struck, and missed, his spear glancing harmlessly down
And, in the split-second before it reached the man and ripped
him asunder, Legolas drew and loosed, and buried his arrow deep
between the boars eyes.
Eowyn moved quickly round the chamber, picking up the various
knick-knacks and examining them, unsure of what she was looking
for. The large chests that lined the southern wall were all safely
lockedmore evidence of the lord and ladys excellent
housekeepingbut lying upon one of them she found a carved
box, about the size of a book, shallow, and ornately gilded.
She pulled the pin from the catch, and opened it.
It housed the portrait of a womanan exotic beauty with
dark eyes and long, black hairand, as Eowyn studied it,
she was reminded of Baldors sharp features, and of his unusually
dark hair and beard...
Quite rare in Rohan, she thought. Is this a picture
of Baldors mother?
The two murdered women, Deorhild and Guthwyn, had beenas
far as she could tellblonde, like her own family. But Baldors
sons were both dark, like their father...
Could Baldor be a bastard? she wondered. Did he have
to kill off the legitimate heirs to secure his inheritance? Eofor
died in a skirmish, but what of his wife? Might Baldor have killed
her to prevent his brothers having more heirs? Might she
already have been with child when
What are you doing?
Eowyn recognised the voice. Guthmer.
She closed the portrait and replaced it. I am snooping,
she said, made bold by the knife strapped to her thigh. She turned
to face him.
Guthmer, to her surprise, merely grunted, as though her answer
were perfectly satisfactory. He crossed to the great bed and threw
himself down upon it.
Eowyn returned to her stool.
The wraith did not harm you, then? he asked, after
a few moments awkward silence.
On the contrary, Eowyn replied, boldly. The
wraith is the spirit of one my ancestors, and he protects
me whenever an impetuous boy threatens my honour. She saw
Guthmers expression change. Oh,she said. You
have seen him before.
The young man did not reply.
When? she demanded.
Eowyn rose to her feet. I am not lying, Guthmer,
she said. The spirit is one of my ancestors
And you are no merchants wife, he said, with
a sneer. So who are you?
That is not important
Horse shit! He rose, and came towards her
and, through her silken skirts, Eowyn felt for her hunting knife.
Who are you, Melmenyaif that is even your name? And
what are you doing here, with all your airs, and your ancestors,
and your pretty Elf husband Suddenly, his hand shot
out, and he seized the the golden chain about her neck, and yanked
the ring from her bodice. Oh, shit! he cried. Shit,
shit, shit! You are an agent of the King
Who are you? Why are you here? What does he know? Why are
you in disguise?
No! Eowyn tried to limit the damage. No,
it was the spirit who led me here, Guthmer. The spirit! And I
do not know what he wants. When has he appeared to you?
The young man licked his dry lips. Behind his eyes, doubt and
fear were vying with anger and recklessness.
Tell me, said Eowyn, with the firm voice she would
have used to coax a horse.
But, at that moment, the chamber door opened, and Lady Gléowyn
entered with her younger son. Ah, Guthmer, she said,
I have been looking for you. Something is disrupting work
in the fields. Take your brother with you. Mistress Melmenya,
will you join me in the Buttery?
You have my thanks, Master Elf, said Baldor, with
a gracious bow of the headthough, when he raised his eyes,
Legolas saw shame in them. It appears that what they say
about your kind is true.
He gestured to his master huntsman, and the man moved in to
unmake the boar and prepare the dogs reward.
My younger son, continued Baldor, has shown
an aptitude for the bow. Perhaps...
Legolas doubted that the sulky boy had any skill whatsoever,
but replied, I would be honoured, my Lord, to see him shoot
and, perhaps, to offer some guid
My Lord! My Lord!
The Man and the Elf both turned towards the sudden commotion.
Some of the hounds, strangely having lost interest in the boar,
were dragging their confused handlers further down the clearing,
where several riders were examining something on the ground, and
calling, My Lord! My Lord!
Baldor waded through the yapping dogs; Legolas, knowing exactly
what the men had found, followed him.
Bodies, my Lord, said one of the riders. Burnt
beyond recognition. He stepped aside to allow Baldor better
This is the man-mountain, my Lord, said
another of the riders. He was holding up the tarpaulin with which
Legolas and Eowyn had covered the largest of the victims, and
was indicating his size with his free hand. I am sure it
Baldor poked the ashes with the toe of his boot.
Are there any more? asked Legolas, innocently.
In no time, the dogs had found two.
They were lying, as Eowyn had foreseen, huddled together, one
partially covering the other, as though trying to protect her.
Legolas crouched down beside them. The flames had done their work
less thoroughly here, and larger parts of the bodies were still
intact, including the bones of a small foot in a red leather boot.
Women, said Legolas, looking up into Baldors
And the emotions he saw there were unmistakable.
The Buttery was a stone-lined storeroom beneath the Great Hall.
A spiral staircase led down to its heavy wooden door, and a series
of small windows, high up in its walls, let air and shaded light
into its cool depths.
Can you read and write, Mistress? asked Lady Gléowyn,
as they entered.
Of course, replied Eowynadding, hastily,
Good. Then you can be my scribe.
Lady Gléowyn closed the door behind them, crossed to one
of the wooden shelves, took up a large slate and a piece of chalk,
and handed them to Eowyn. I will tell you what to write.
For almost an hour, the lady inspected and counted the items
on her shelves, and Eowyn erased, added, and updated the amounts
recorded on the slate.
My son, said Gléowyn, as she completed her
count of the jars of pickled cabbage, is spoken for.
Eowyn corrected the list. My Lady?
He is betrothed. To the daughter of Walda son of Galfrid.
She started on the jars of strawberry preserve.
I am married, my Lady, said Eowyn.
To a merchant, replied the woman. He is a pretty
fellowthere is no doubt of thatbut a bright, ambitious
young woman with a modicum of beauty can always raise herself
by a more sensible marriage.
The elves do not permit divorce, my Lady, said Eowyn.
There are other ways to end a foolish alliance, said
Gléowyn, airily. Two dozen. But do not think that
you will ever have my son, Mistressthere, all done. Now
let us return to the solar. Since you are so proud of your learning,
you can read to me.
At last, said Eowyn, tidings came
to Eorl of the need of Gondor, and late though it seemed, he set
out with a great host of riders. Thus he came to the battle of
the Field of Celebrant, for that was the name of the green land
that lay between Silverlode and Limlight. There the northern army
of Gondor was in peril
You read tolerably well, said Gléowyn, though
your voice lacks sweetness.
Eowyn cleared her throat. Do you wish me to continue?
Fortunately, the womans reply was forestalled by the sound
of clattering hooves rising from the courtyard below. The
men have returned, she declared and, setting her needlework
aside, she rose and left the chamber.
Eowyn, though she had not been invited, followed.
Outside, amidst the chaos of the riders dismounting and
the grooms leading away the horses, she quickly found Legolas.
Come, Melmenya, he said, quietly. Baldor has
given us permission to check Master Lionels progress with
the wagon, and I have much to tell you.