The young man was small and slender, with the colouring
of a native of Far Harad, and was dressed in the loose trousers
and the long, embroidered tunic favoured by the men of that region.
Who do you suppose he is? whispered Eowyn, as she
and Legolas approached the house of their friend, Hentmirë.
Legolas, less curiousor, perhaps, better manneredthan
his wife gently squeezed her hand, as if to say, Shhh, Melmenya!
The stranger, meanwhile, had knocked at Hentmirës
door and, as the couple drew nearer, her housekeeper opened it,
and peered out.
Good evening, she said, eyeing the young man suspiciously,
can I help you? Then, seeing Legolas and Eowyn coming
up behind him, she added, with a crooked little curtsey, Good
evening, my Lordmy Lady.
Good evening, Mistress Donatiya, said Legolas, placing
his hand upon his heart and bowing his head. Perhaps I
might escort Lady Hentmirës visitor inside? He
smiled at the stranger.
The young man returned this friendly greeting with a curt nod,
and Eowyn noted that he was really little more than a boy, with
smooth cheeks and a chin as hairless as a girls.
Thank you, my Lord, said Old Donatiya and, with obvious
relief, she stepped aside to allow them to enter. My Ladys
already at table, sir, with Master Gimli.
In the fifth year of the Fourth Age, Legolas and Eowyn had been
kidnapped by Haradin corsairs, taken to the city of Carhilivren,
and sold as slaves to a rich and lonely middle-aged woman, Hentmirë
daughter of Mursilis.
Hentmirë had set them free, and whenafter many strange
adventures in the southern landsthey had returned home to
Eryn Carantaur, she had accompanied them, together with her faithful
old housekeeper, Donatiya, and her giant manservant, Rimush.
Hentmirë had sold her house in Carhilivren, but had kept
her ship, the Early Birdthe last of her fathers
merchant fleetwhich still sailed between Pelargir and Carhilivren,
carrying timber from Ithilien to the desert lands, and returning
with perfumes and spices for the merchants of Gondor.
You have a visitor, Gwendithen, said Legolas to Hentmirë.
He urged Eowyn to enter the breakfast room with a gentle hand
upon her back, then stepped aside to allow the stranger to follow.
Hentmirë, who was serving Gimli a dish of porridge, looked
up, and frowned, and it was clear that she did not recognise the
My Lady, he said, in husky, heavily-accented Westron,
pressing his hands together and bowing over them, may the
gods smile upon you. I bring you a message from your kinsman,
Hesyrë son of Ezana.
From Hesyrë? Hentmirë seemed more
puzzled than ever. Legolas slipped silently into the room, and
went to stand beside her.
Indeed, my Lady, said the stranger. He was wearing
a leather satchel at his hip, and he opened it, and brought out
a small wooden box which he set upon the table, andwhen
Hentmirë seemed reluctant to reach out for itpushed
The box was decorated with a green fish, cut from delicately-tinted
Hentmirë stared at it.
Why not open it, lass? said Gimli, using the encouraging
tone he often resorted to when training her to swing an axe.
Of course... She glanced up at Legolas, then over
at Eowyn, thengingerlyshe raised the box lid, reached
inside, lifted out a small roll of papyrus, which she set aside,
and a tiny object of smooth, polished wood.
What is that? asked Eowyn.
My spinning top, said Hentmirë.
Emyn Elenath, The Starry Hills
Master Hisaelion crossed the prison courtyard, his ledger tucked
under his arm.
The guards had already roused the inmates and supervised their
morning ablutions, and had herded them into the mess tent, where
they were awaiting their orders for the day.
Hisaelion mounted the little platform, set his ledger on the
book rest, and opened it. Maer aur, he saidthen,
as always, for the benefit of the Men who made up the majority
of his charges, he added, Good morning.
Some of the prisoners muttered a grumbling reply.
Today, said Hisaelion, we begin work on the
He had organised the prisoners into several crews, giving Men
the tasks that required ingenuity, and Elves the worklike
quarryingthat took them farther afieldfor although,
in Hisaelions opinion, Mens short lifespan made them
quicker to solve problems, it also made them more restless; the
immortal Elves, he believed, though not so inventive because they
did not feel the pressure of time, were far less likely to run
I suppose he means this as a peace offering, said
Hentmirë. She had been staring thoughtfully at the little
toy, and nowwith a flick of her plump fingersshe dropped
it onto the table top, and her friends gasped as it spun gracefully
across the wood. I always knew that Hesyrë had
What does the letter say? asked Legolas, when the
top had wobbled to a stop. Indicating that the young messenger
should also take a seat, he drew out the chair beside Hentmirës
and sat down.
Hentmirë broke the wax seal and unrolled the papyrus. Little
Cuz, she read, I am in deep trouble and everyone
else has abandoned me. Hesyrë.
There was a long silence.
Then Legolas said, Cuz?
Short for cousin, said Hentmirë.
He is my fathers brothers son. She seemed
Legolas turned to the messenger. Can you tell us any more
about this trouble your master says he is in?
He is always in trouble, sighed Hentmirë,
before the young man had had a chance to reply. He takes
after his father in that respect. She leaned across the
table, picked up the little spinning top, and dropped it back
into the box.
He is being held prisoner, my Lord, by the King of Biridiya,
said the messenger.
Because, said Hentmirë, he has no doubt
swindled the King of Biridiya out of his Crown Jewels.
Legolas looked to the young man for confirmation.
I do not know, my Lord, said the boy, quietly.
Of course, said Hentmirë, I shall have
to go to him.
Legolas glanced at Eowyn; she nodded. Well, Gwendithen,
he said to Hentmirë, Eowyn and I shall come with you,
and I am sure that Gimli will be only too happy to accompany us.
Of course I will, lass.
Thank you, said Hentmirë, with a sad smile.
Then she added, almost too softly for even Elven hearing to discern,
Then Hesyrë can ruin all of us.
After a long night spent sitting in the open window of his bedchamber,
watching over Eowyn as she slept, Legolas rose from the window
seat and, kissing Eowyn good bye without waking her, he descended
the aerial citys main staircase, collected his horse from
the stables, and set off for the prison camp at Emyn Elenath,
the Starry Hills.
It had been decided that Hentmirë, together with Legolas
and Eowyn, Gimli, and the young messenger, would set out for Pelargir
in two days time, and join the Early Bird, which
was due to sail for Carhilivren at the end of the week. Legolas
had immediately sent a message to Captain Muttalu, informing him
of their intentions, and asking him to prepare quarters.
Hentmirë had been reluctant to talk about her cousin, as
though to do so would be to invite the disaster she believed
Hesyrë was going to bring down upon them.
But I, thought Legolas, need to know more about this
Prisoner Vardamir is in the tile workshop, said Master
Hisaelion. He nodded to one of the guards. It will take
a few moments to fetch him, my Lord.
Tell me about him, said Legolas, as they waited.
Does he give you any trouble?
No, my Lord... I cannot say that he is an enthusiastic
workerfew of the prisoners arebut he follows my orders,
and the quality of his work is perfectly adequate... Though there
is one thing, my Lord, he added, after a slight hesitation,
which has always seemed strange to meunlike the other
Elves, who avoid Men, Vardamir seems to enjoy Mens company.
Legolas nodded, thoughtfully; then the door opened, and he turned.
It had been almost two years since he had seen Vardamir, and
the change was shockingthe timid, broken creature, who had
held himself as though anticipating a blow, now stood tall and
confident, and moved with grace.
Legolas was not sure that it was a good sign.
I shall leave you, then, said Master Hisaelion. But
I will be just outside, should you need me.
Thank you, sir. Legolas saw the ghost of a smile
twitch Vardamirs lips. Take a seat, he said.
Vardamir sat down, stiff-backed, with his hands upon his thighs.
Do you know a man called Hesyrë son of Ezana?
Vardamir said nothing, but Legolas could see that his interest
had been piqued. I need you to tell me everything you know
about him, he explained. And, if you co-operate, I
may be willing to reduce your sentence.
He was a regular customer, said Vardamir, clearly
having decided that there was nothing to be lost by co-operating.
Go on, said Legolas. He knew that Vardamir, having
fled from Eryn Carantaur wanted for attempted murder, had found
refuge in Far Harad, where he and a man named Wolfram had hired
themselves out, specialising in kidnappings and other disappearances.
Hesyrë has a legitimate business, said Vardamir,
importing exotic fruits from the Biridiyan Islands, but
that is just a cover for his real business.
Smuggling, said Vardamir. Draughts and potions,
poisons, and potent weeds. Some of the potions are worth ten,
perhaps twenty times their weight in gold.
Legolas could not imagine what cures such valuable potions might
promise. What did you and Wolfram do for him? he asked.
Mostly, we collected debts.
Vardamir shook his head. Wolfram seldom needed to resort
to violence. He smiled, and Legolas was startled by his
sudden resemblance to his late friend and mentor.
Are you still in good standing with Carhilivrens
Why do you ask?
Vardamir shrugged. I suppose so. I never dealt with our
clients directly; they do not have any reason to distrust me.
Good, said Legolas. Then I have a proposal.
An idea had been forming itself since he had first offered to
accompany Hentmirë to Carhilivren, though he did not voice
it now without misgivings. You will come with me and my
friends to Carhilivren. You will help us extricate Hesyrë
from whatever trouble he has got himself into. If you prove trustworthy,
on our return, I will grant you a pardon. If you betray usand
you surviveI will send you to the salt mines at Emyn Gern,
and you will never see the light of day again. He waited,
I accept, said Vardamir.