It had taken all day to decorate the banqueting hall of Eryn
Carantaur for the colony's first harvest ceremony, but now
garlands of corn and rosy red apples hung between its columns,
and dried flowers and autumn fruits and hundreds of candles decorated
its large, ring-shaped table.
Legolas Greenleaf, Lord of Eryn Carantaur, took one last, careful
look around the hall. All was ready. The banquet would begin in
less than three hours. And thenóLegolas glanced nervously to centre
of the hallhe would perform his very first harvest rite.
Maranwë, the scullery maid, should not have been in Legolas'
It was her job to scrub all the crockery, cutlery and cooking
utensils used in the royal household. She never left the kitchens
during the day except on the very rare occasions when the cook
asked her to run errands. And that, she thought, is probably why
Master Eö asked me to help him, too.
"Lord Legolas has requested a vase of fresh roses in his
sitting room," Master Eö had said, "and all my
serving ellith are busy decorating the banqueting hall, so I am
relying on you, Maranwë."
He had handed her a bowl of deep red roses and sent her to Legolas'
chambers with strict instructions: "Put the mat on Lord Legolas'
desk, to the right of where he sits, and well out of arm's reach.
Put the bowl of roses on the mat. On no account spill any of the
water on the desk. And, when you have finished, make sure you
run straight back here."
And Maranwë had meant to do exactly as he said. She really
had. But once she was inside Lord Legolas' chambers, she simply
could not bring herself to leave.
Like all the female servants, Maranwë believed herself in
love with Legolas and to have the opportunity to explore his private
She had looked around his beautiful sitting room, admiring the
huge desk by the window and the elegant furniture grouped around
the fireplace. She had examined the pale, polished wood and the
deep red upholstery, tracing with her fingers the embroidered
carantaur leaves. She had even imagined herself sitting by the
fire, graciously entertaining the wife of one of Lord Legolas'
guests, whilst their husbands discussed important things.
And then she had spotted the bedchamber.
Gingerly, she had opened the door and peeped in. Like the sitting
room, Legolas' bedchamber was severely elegant, though the effect
was lighter and more decorative. The bed, the nightstand and the
dressing table were again of pale wood but were finished with
carved mouldings that reminded Maranwë of flowing water.
She ran her fingers along the swirling edge of the dressing table
mirror. The chair seat, like the coverlet and the bed curtains,
was of pale pink silk embroidered with young, green carantaur
leaves. Maranwë sat down, picked up Legolas' comb and ran
it through her hair.
The bed had been placed by the windows so that Lord Legolas could
lie looking up at the stars. It looked so inviting. She walked
over, perched on the edge and began to swing up her legs, intending
to stretch out on the bed, just for a moment. Then something on
the nightstand caught her eye. It was a large, flat box, ornately
carved. It was beautiful. Maranwë picked it up, unfastened
the catch, and opened it.
The box was not a box at all but some sort of album. And it contained
just one picture, a portrait of a beautiful golden-haired lady.
Maranwë studied her rival. The face was flawless, delicately
shaped with a generous mouth, pale blue-grey eyes and an expression
that spoke of strength and determination. This lady is a match
for my lord, Maranwë thought. She studied the face more
closely. There was something strange about it and it took her
a few moments to work out exactly what it was. The lady was human!
Maranwë was taken aback. Why in all of Middle Earth does
Lord Legolas have a picture of a human beside his bed?
Whilst she was still pondering that question Maranwë realised
that there was someone else in the chambers. Heart pounding, she
peeped around the door to the sitting room andDear ValarLord
Legolas had returned! She quietly closed the door.
Perhaps she could leave by the window?
But no, a group of palace guards was talking just outside. She
would have to wait. And just hope that she was not discovered.
She crept back to the door and listened intently. If Lord Legolas
should decide to come into his bedchamber she would need plenty
Legolas had been preparing for the harvest rite for three months.
It was the most important of the wood elves' festivals andsince
Legolas would be performing it for the first timehis father,
King Thranduil, had sent his own Mistress of the Ceremony to Eryn
Carantaur to prepare him. For three months the terrifying elleth
had lectured Legolas on the mysteries of the rite, insisting that
he remain 'pure in body and spirit' during his period of preparation.
And that had meant three months of complete celibacy. Sweet
Eru, it had been difficultfar more difficult than he
had ever imagined, even though he already lived a solitary life.
For, although there was no shortage of ellithor, it seemed,
of menready and willing to give him physical pleasure, Legolas
could not betray her. Since the day he had met her, three
years ago, he had lain with no one, merely satisfying his body
with self-pleasure when necessary. But now, after three months
without any opportunity for physical release, his longing for
her had begun to affect his spirit-he had started falling into
a mortal-like sleep, and dreaming.
And, Valar, what dreams they were!
Every night his ladyhis sweet, gentle girlwould behave
like a first rate whore. Every night she would slowly undress
before him, touching herself to excite him further, then straddle
him andafter much unbearable teasingimpale herself
upon him with a deep guttural cry of satisfaction. And then, once
she had him captive, she would smile a wicked, wicked smile, and
lean back, and pleasure herself with her own hand. And he, somehow
paralysed inside her, would be reduced to begging for his own
release. And only when she had satisfied herself, sometimes more
than once, and when she judged him sufficiently humiliated, would
she slowly lean forward, brushing his chest with her bare breasts,
and ride him into oblivion. And, Valar, it felt good! But always,
as he approached completion, he would wake to find himself alone,
his seed splashed across his belly and his body still aching for
Ai, hiril nín! Meleth nín! What sickness in
me would have you behave so?
Legolas' guilty thoughts were interrupted by the Mistress of
the Ceremony, who seemed to enter his private chambers whenever
she wished, with no regard for common courtesy. "We must
make our final preparations, my lord. Please sit down here."
She moved a dining chair to the centre the room.
Legolas sat down reluctantly, then watched, appalled, as she
knelt before him and reached for his leggings.
"What are you doing?"
"I am preparing you, my lord. We must ensure that your passions
are sufficiently roused to complete the rite."
"That will not be necessary."
"It is a part of the ceremony."
"No, I will not permit it."
"To refuse, my lord, is to dishonour the Valar. And if you
cannot perform the rite tonight, you will be failing your subjects."
Her standard answer permitted no further discussion. I have
no choice. He gritted his teeth and tried to allow her to
do her work. But there was something especially repulsive about
the way she handled him, as if tickling a trout
"My lord, you must relax and stop resisting me or
we will not achieve the result we desire."
Legolas' stomach churned.
But he told himself again that he had no choice. He was Lord
of Eryn Carantaur, and his father's son, and he had committed
himself to performing this rite. And he knew that there was only
one way to 'achieve the result' the Mistress of the Ceremony was
demanding. Guiltily, he closed his eyes and he thought of her.
Not the woman who tortured him in his fevered dreams but the woman
he had fallen in love with the first time he had seen herthe
woman who had slipped through his fingers, like a river daughter
swimming in the Anduin! He thought of her body, slender and graceful,
with small, full breasts; and he remembered how, as she ran past
him, her white skirts had lifted and he had caught a glimpse of
her long, slim legs in little black boots
Oh Valar! His body was beginning to respond. He let his imagination
She was standing in her garden, beneath one of the cherry trees.
The pink blossoms were just starting to fall and several had caught
in her golden hair. She smiled at him and held out a garland of
daisies she was weaving. He took the flowers, twisting them into
a coronet and placed them on her head, letting his fingers run
through her silky hair and graze her bare shoulders. He gathered
her against his body and made her shiver with pleasure.
"Make love to me, my lord."
He led her to a low wall where, under the blossom, they could
join their bodies in privacy.
Gently, he turned her over the wall and raised her skirts, running
his hands up her smooth thighs and over the perfect curve of her
buttocks. She writhed under his touch: "Please, my lord."
He pulled open his leggings. Then, slipping one hand beneath
her, he gently lifted her body, using his other hand to guide
himself inside her, and he began to thrust.
She was warm and soft, and so sweet that he was losing himself
He cried out her name. "Eowyn! Oh Eowyn! Sweet gods!"
"No, my lord! You must not spill your seed!" The Mistress
of the Ceremony ruthlessly prevented his climax.
And then he cursed. He called her a perverted old hag, her mother
a whore and her father a cuckold. He called the harvest rite a
peep show for impotent old elves. He ordered her to leave his
kingdom and to pray to the Valar for protection.
"Or I might just hunt you down and carve you up like the
disgusting, filthy orc you are
Then he wrapped himself in a thick, warm dressing robe and stalked
angrily out of his chambers. He needed some fresh air.
That wicked, wicked elleth, thought Maranwë. How
could anyone treat Lord Legolas like that? Touching hishis
private parts like that. Then hurting him.
The Valar will see that she is punished.
If I were a warrior, and not just a scullery maid, I would punish
Seizing the opportunity to escape unseen, Maranwë slipped
out of Legolas' chambers and headed for the staircase that would
take her back to the kitchens.
An unexpected guest
The walkway outside Legolas' chambers was one of the busiest
thoroughfares of Eryn Carantaur, snaking between the various parts
of the 'palace'.
The protocol of the harvest rite stipulated that the celebrant
must not see any of the guests before the banquet began, so it
had fallen to Legolas' Chief Counsellor to welcome his visitors
and to ensure that they were comfortably settled in their quarters.
Fortunately, as he passed the guest chambers, the walkway was
Legolas smiled. Though he still ached, he did not feel quite
so unclean. The warm autumn air, carrying with it the scents of
ripe fruits and newly mown hay, had cleansed his spirit
"Good afternoon, Lord Legolas."
The merry voice took him completely by surprise, and for a moment
he froze like a startled deer. Then he pulled his robe tightly
across the front of his body and turned to face her.
"Good afternoon, Princess Eowyn."
She smiled and his heart broke. "I do hope you do not mind
my being here, my lord,"he had not invited her"Faramir
thought it would do me good to leave Caras Arnen for a while,
so he asked Aragorn and Arwen to bring me to your festival."
Legolas shook his head. "You are most welcome, my lady."
He allowed himself to look at her properly, taking in her tall,
slender figure, her long golden hairnow worn bound, as befitted
a married womanand her face, still flawless, yet warm and
generous when she smiled.
Perhaps he was staring, because she suddenly seemed uncomfortable
and looked away.
"Your settlement is very beautiful, my lord."
"Thank you." Now it was Legolas' turn to feel uncomfortable.
"May I show you something, my lady?"
She agreed and he led her to a flight of narrow stairs that wound
its way further up the trunk of the tallest tree. "It is
up here," he said, thinking, Valar! I sound like
an old witch luring a little girl to her doom with the promise
But Eowyn climbed nimbly up the stairs without any hesitation
and they both stepped out onto a small, open flet.
"This is the highest point of the settlement," said
Legolas. "From here, on a clear day like today, you should
just be able to see"
"The sea!" She laughed, clapping her hands together
with delight. Then, realising its significance for him, she asked,
"Do you intend to leave, my lord?"
"Nay, my lady. I have sworn that I will remain in Middle
Earth for as long as my mortal friends live," he answered.
"Does it hurtto see it?"
"It is bitter-sweet, my lady." He smiled, sadly. "The
sea longing is not itself painful, but it can be painful to resist.
Yet I could not bear to enter the undying lands knowing that I
had left my mortal friends behind. How could I leave and never
know their fates?"
Eowyn nodded, gravely: "Death, most times, does not come
when we choose it, so we leave our loved ones whether we will
or no. I had never thought so before, but our death is easier
than your leaving, for you must choose when to leaveand
I fear that your loyalty will cost you dearly," she added,
softly. "They are indeed fortunate, my lord, to have a friend
such as you."
"Nay, my lady. I count myself lucky to have so many mortal
friends. Mortals are full of lifethey are life; and
it makes an elf humble to see their fragile beauty, their brightness.
I love their brightness; and I love
" He stopped, suddenly
embarrassed. "I am sorry my lady."
"No, please continue."
"I simply mean that an elf gains much in the company of
"But," she said, delicately, "there will be so
much sadness for you." For a moment, he thought her eyes
filled with tears. "Thank you for sharing the sea with me."
He should have left her then, but her earlier delight in the
sea and her gentle concern for him now were both addictive. And
on a sudden impulse he tried to shake off the melancholy he had
just brought down on them: "Come, my lady!"
Legolas led her down another flight of stairs, back through the
leafy canopy of the big carantaur, to a large flet, just above
his own private chambers, where he had made himself a secluded
garden of sorts, a place to entertain his guests. A table and
some chairs stood at the centre, with pots of his favourite plantsbrightly
coloured daisies, small, sweet-scented cabbage roses, lavender,
rosemary, and lemon sageall arranged around it. But he led
her past the table to a corner of the flet where, hanging from
one of the smaller branches of the carantaur, he had built a swing.
He had meant it for the children of his human guests, but it seemed
to him now the ideal way to cheer Eowyn.
"Sit down, my lady."
She looked surprised and, perhaps, a little insulted. But then
she sat on the swing and took a firm hold of the ropes. Legolas
stood behind her and gave her a gentle push. Eowyn swung to and
fro. He pushed again. She laughed happily. He pushed again. Higher
and higher she rose, back and forth, back and forth, both of them
And suddenly Legolas could see himself sitting on the seat, with
Eowyn straddling him, her head thrown back, her hair unbound,
and each sweep of the swing driving them both closer to completion
Oh Valar! "I am sorry, my lady," he said, hastily.
"I must go now and prepare for the ceremony."
"Yes. Yes, of course." She climbed down from the swing.
"Thank you. And thank you again for showing me the sea."
He took her hand on top of his, elven fashion, and led her downwardsthis
time using a much broader staircaseback to the main walkway.
"Goodness," she said, "do you ever get lost?"
"Not often, my lady."
She gave him a most unladylike grin. "Good bye, my lord.
Andand good luck, for this evening."
He placed his hand over his heart and bowed his head, then watched
as she walked gracefully across the walkway to the large open
windows of her guest chamber. He watched until she had disappeared
inside and closed the windows behind her. And still he watched.
And, unknown to him, two dark haired elves and a beautiful, dark-haired
elleth watched him watching.
An unwelcome visitor
The Chief Counsellor of Eryn Carantaur looked up from the papers
on his desk. At the sight of his visitor his heart sank, but it
was his job to soothe and flatter the egos of the colony's more
powerful citizens, and Chief Counsellor Caranthir took his duties
seriously. This citizen needed more flattery than most.
"Master Angaráto," he said, "please take
a seat. What can I do for you?"
Angaráto bowed courteously, but remained standing, his
hands grasping the back of the proffered chair. "As you know,
my lord Caranthir, my daughter and I are attending the harvest
Caranthir nodded. A dozen eligible ellith, all unmarried, had
been chosen to attend the festival. Caranthir had overseen their
"Before I settled in Eryn Carantaur," continued Angaráto,
"I farmed a large estate in The Brown Lands, on the borders
of what was then called Mirkwood."
Caranthir nodded. Though 'farming' was, he thought, something
of a euphemism for what Angaráto had been doing in The
"I hadand still haveconsiderable influence amongst
the men of The Brown Lands and The Wold
Yes, thought Caranthir. It is common knowledge that
King Thranduil tried, and failed, to bring you under control. It
was said that Angaráto had ruled the human settlements
surrounding his estate like a warlord.
"And I have trading links with human settlements as far
north as Bree and as far South as Near Harad."
And it is rumoured, thought Caranthir, that you have supplied
elven weapons as far south as Far Harad. He was finding it hard
to see where this conversation was going, but then Angaráto
came suddenly to the point and Caranthir was taken completely
"It is widely agreed," he said, "that the harvest
rite is the perfect opportunity for an elven lord to choose a
wife. I would thinkspeaking hypotheticallythat if
an elf of influence, someone with the ear of his lord, were to
recommend a particular ellethsimply on the grounds of her
beauty and her spotless character, you understandand if
his recommendation were toerbear fruit, thenagain
hypotheticallyI would think that that elf could expect a
considerable reward. From his lordand, perhaps, also from
his lord's grateful subjects."
Caranthir suppressed a shudder. Angaráto was truly an
elf of the fourth age, ambitious and ruthless and without honour.
More like a man than an elf. Except that all the men Caranthir
had ever metKing Elessar, Prince Faramir, and Eomer Kingwere
people of exceptional honour.
Valar help me, he thought, how do I deal with this?
"Master Angaráto," he said, tactfully, "have
you attended a harvest rite before? No? Then let me describe it
to you, so that you will enjoy it all the more. At the appropriate
time, Lord Legolas, guided by the Valar themselves, will make
his choice. How the Valar show their preference is a mystery known
only to the initiated, that is, to the Mistress of the Ceremony
and to the celebrant himself. But rest assured, Lord Legolas has
been well prepared and can be relied upon to perform the rite
correctly and with all due piety.
"Now, if you will excuse me, Angaráto, I still have
much to do."
Since the Mistress of the Ceremony would be leaving once the
harvest rite was over, Legolas had asked her to reveal the mysteries
of the rite to a lady of Eryn Carantaur who would then become
the colony's own officiant.
The lady he had asked to take on the role was Lessien, a well-liked,
unmarried elleth of a good Lorien family who had joined the colony
when her parents had departed for the Grey Havens.
"I am not yet ready to leave Middle Earth," she had
told Legolas when she arrived. "I do not yet hear the sea's
call. There is still so much to be done here, and I feel that
I can make a contribution to your colony, if you will permit me."
And Legolas had been impressed by both her sense of duty and
her quiet dignity. "I would be honoured if you would join
us, my lady," he had replied.
But to say that Lessien did not see eye to eye with her teacher
would be an understatement. Though modest, Lessien had an intelligent,
analytical mind. She accepted nothing at face value, and would
continually ask questions. "But why must the lord do that?"
she would ask. The Mistress of the Ceremony's standard answers,
"Because that is how it is always done" and "Because
I say so" had several times driven her close to the point
of ending her noviciate.
Today, the Mistress of the Ceremony had arrived, unannounced
as usual, to teach her 'how to prepare the celebrant immediately
before the ceremony'. Lessien watched as she pulled a strange
wooden object from the bag she was carrying and placed it on the
table. It was so bizarre that it took Lessien a moment to accept
that she had really seen it correctly. She watched as the Mistress
of the Ceremony poured a small amount of oil into her hands, rubbed
them together, then proceeded to demonstrate the technique, clasping
her hands around the wooden phallus, drawing them up its length,
swirling them around its head, then pushing them down again. Then
she showed Lessien how to detect and prevent the climax.
"You intend to do this to Lord Legolas?" asked Lessien,
"The celebrant has already been prepared," said the
Mistress of the Ceremony, brusquely. "Now, please show me
that you understand this technique."
"No, my lady," said Lessien.
"You are wasting my time-"
"This is going too far," said Lessien. "The rite
itself is a beautiful celebration of life and a sacrifice to the
Valar. But thisthis is perverse." Lessien found she
could not imagine performing this 'technique' on Legolas without
having certain lascivious thoughts that, she was sure, were quite
inappropriate to the rite. Sacrilegious, in fact.
"You will practice this technique and you will do it now,"
said the Mistress of the Ceremony, icily.
"No, my lady. Lord Legolas has been celibate for three months,
and for him to have had to endure this, and at the hands of an
elleth not of his choosing
" She shook her head. "I
did not agree to become Mistress of the Ceremony in order to torture
The Mistress of the Ceremony drew herself up with dignity. "You,"
she hissed, "will never be Mistress of the Ceremony. Not
while there is a breath left in my body. And I will tell Lord
Legolas, and his father, that you are a wilful, disobedient, conceited
elleth who thinks she knows better than her teacher, even though
her teacher was officiating at this rite long before she was born.
You are a disgrace to your family."
Lessien rose, walked stiffly to the door and held it open. "Please
leave now, madam," she said.
Well, she thought, as she watched the Mistress of the
Ceremony hurrying angrily down the walkway, I have just made
myself a most influential enemy.
And she closed the door.