| Though Eowyn could not eat,
she was pleased to see that the rest of the guests were enjoying
Once again, the hall was exquisitely decorated, with candles
and flowers and autumn fruits, and with Master Eö's beloved
ice sculptures. Eowyn looked at them carefullythey were shaped
like carantaur branches and, as they began to melt, Eowyn realised
that the leaves were designed to 'fall' away, leaving only bare
"The sculptures are ingenious," she said to Legolas.
"Where does Master Eö get the ice?"
"I believe," said Legolas, "that he sends an expedition
to Mount Caradhras every winter. And I think that he stores it
under ground. But I cannot tell you for certain because the exact
details are a secret, known only to Master Eö and his most
trusted assistant, meleth nín!"
When the banquet was over and the thrones had been removed from
the threshing floor, Lady Lessien led Legolas and Eowyn into the
centre of the floor.
"The King and Queen of the Harvest stand before you,"
And, as the guests cheered, she added, softly, "Repeat after
me, my lord, As my seed fills the Queen's womb..."
"As my seed fills the Queen's womb..."
"...so may the grace of the Valar fill the land of Eryn
"...so may the grace of the Valar fill the land of Eryn
"Undress your lady, my lord," she whispered.
Legolas reached for Eowyn and, together, they performed the harvest
rite a second time.
He froze, his eyes open wide, then he thrust himself deep inside
her and she felt his warm seed flood her body.
The guests began clapping their hands on the table.
And Eowyn's heart broke with joy.
All around the banqueting hall, in the gardens surrounding it,
on the walkways above it, and in the forest beyond it, elves,
dwarves and humans were finding secluded places to make love.
Earlier in the day Elrohir and Elladan had approached Arwen's
lady's maid with a proposition. The young woman came from one
of Gondor's most illustrious families and had been shocked at
first, but the twins were irresistible when they used their charm,
for there was no malice in them, and their lust for life was infectious.
So young Richardis had considered their invitation. Why should
I not have some fun? she thought, in this enchanted wood,
where the whole world is turned upside down and the people think
it a sacred rite to watch their lord make love to his lady? It
will be an adventure—just this once in my life.
And she had agreed.
The twins had arranged to meet her immediately after the rite,
in a small forest clearing just outside the palace gardens—and
there they were joyfully exploring the pleasures of the flesh,
elf and woman and elf.
Lord Caranthir and his wife, still happy after three thousand
years of marriage, had strolled far out into the forest and, in
the starlight, were renewing their vows.
Lord Fingolfin, a widower of many years, who usually found the
rite and its aftermath a trial, had this year been approached
by a beautiful young elleth, one of the eligible girls chosen
to attend the ceremony. She had led him up through the branches
of a great carantaur, to a small kiosk where her father, the colony's
astronomer, made his observations of the night sky. And there
she was showing Fingolfin that, old and dignified as he was, he
was, nevertheless, neither too old nor too dignified to experience
Gimli had again retired to his room before the rite began, but
this time with a large flagon of dwarven ale in one hand and a
very curious young elleth in the other.
Idril, the daughter of Tathar, had left the banqueting hall with
a handsome young Gondorian soldier, one of King Elessar's private
guards, who had offered to escort her to her chambers.
"We have been told to ensure the safety of all the young
ladies, ma'am," he said.
Though quiet and studious, Idril was no fool, and she quickly
planned their route to make the walk last as long as possible.
When they reached her door the young soldier bowed courteously.
"Perhaps I can escort you again, tomorrow night, ma'am,"
"I should like that very much, sir," said Idril. "Good
Idril leaned her back against the door and hugged herself. He
was certainly not Lord Legolas, and he was a Man. But Idril knew
she would be seeing more of the beautiful young soldierfar
more than just another brief walk back to her chambers tomorrow
Alatáriël, daughter of Angaráto, sat at the
banqueting table, staring at the couple hidden under the velvet
"My lady?" said a quiet voice. Alatáriël
did not respond. The handsome elf, unused to being ignored, persisted.
"My lady?" he said again.
But Alatáriël could not be distracted.
Aragorn and Arwen wandered happily through the gardensAragorn
with Anduril at his sideuntil they found themselves in a
tiny courtyard, filled with fragrant roses.
Cupping one of the blooms in both hands, Arwen inhaled its sweet
scent. "Are you happy, Estel?" she asked, softly.
"Why do you ask, meleth nín?"
She turned to face him. "I sometimes think that we expected
too much of the peace"
"Are you unhappy, Arwen?" he asked, anxiously.
"I? No, my love! I have everything I have ever wanted.
And now that I have it, I find I want it all the more. But you
have given up so much..."
"What do you think I have given up?" asked Aragorn,
"Your freedom. Your life as a ranger"
"No, no, my love." He took her in his arms. "It
is true that I never wanted the crown. But, when counsellors and
diplomats and trade delegations make my life unbearable, all I
have to do is seek out my wife." He smiled. "I could
not ask for a better Queen, Arwen, or a more loving wife."
And he kissed her tenderly.
Arwen laid her head on his shoulder. "Estel?"
"Yes, meleth nín?"
"I have some news. Good news, I hope." She leaned forward
and whispered in his ear.
For a moment, Aragorn was stunned, his eyes wide, his mouth slightly
open. Then he threw his arms around Arwen, and lifted her off
"Legolas?" whispered Eowyn.
"Yes, meleth nín."
"Am I with child?"
"But the rite..."
"It is symbolic, Eowyn nín. Do you want a child?"
"I do not know..."
"There is no hurry, my love, we have time to decide,"
he murmured, and kissed her forehead.
Just before dawn, Master Eö awoke with a start, and sat
With all the stress of the previous day he had forgotten about
the little scullery maid! Was she still missing?
Eö dressed quickly, and headed to the kitchens to find out.
Legolas and Eowyn awoke together, as the sky began to lighten.
"Good morning, meleth nín," said Legolas, softly.
"Good morning," she whispered, slipping her arms around
him, and hugging him tightly. "Thank you."
"For what, melmenya?"
"For last night."
Legolas laughed softly. "The pleasure was mine, Eowyn."
"I meant more than the pleasure," said Eowyn, "though
that was..." She had been looking into his startling blue
eyes but, suddenly embarrassed, she buried her face in his shoulder.
"I did not know what pleasure was until the night before
last," she whispered.
"Never, with a man," she admitted, "so I should
thank you for that, too. But I meant something else; I meantI
meant love, Legolas. I can feel your love for me.
When we walk together, sit together, talk together—even when we
crawl about the floor looking for blood and hair together. And
when you make love to me, it is..." She faltered for a moment.
"Whenever I am with you, Legolas, I can feel your
love for me. And I love you." She took his hand in hers and
lifted it so that they could both see their fingers entwined.
"I never thought I would have this."
"Shhhh." She kissed him tenderly.
Master Eö went directly to the cook, who was busy preparing
breakfast for the guests. "Has Maranwë turned up?"
"No, Master Eö," replied the cook. "I sent
Feärwen to look for her last night, but she could find no
sign of her. She said it looked as if Maranwë had left her
room in a hurrythe bed had not been made, and several things
had been dropped on the floor. I am very worried about her."
"Leave it with me, Master Elros," said Eö. "I
will talk to Captain Golradir. Do you need me to assign you another
"Feärwen has agreed to clean the dishes today,"
said the cook.
"Good; good. If Maranwë should appear, Master Elros,
please let me know straight away."
Eö looked across the kitchen. Captain Golradir, sitting
at the large table, eating his breakfast, was a prickly fellow
who needed handling 'with kid gloves', especially first thing
in the morning. Eö decided that flattery was his best option.
"Captain Golradir," he began. "I have a problem,
and I hoped you might be willing to give me some advice."
Golradir did not look up from his meal, but he motioned Eö
to take the seat beside him.
"One of my staff is missing, Captain. She did not turn up
for work yesterday morning and she has not been seen since, though
one of my serving ellith has checked her room. I am worried because
she is a good girl and not the sort to shirk her duties."
Eö hesitated. Golradir was clearly not interested. "I
would not normally bother the Captain of the Palace Guard with
this sort of thing..."
Golradir nodded in agreement.
Then inspiration struck Eö: "But," he said, "it
occurred to me that she must have disappeared at about the same
time the Mistress of the Ceremony was killed." He was winning
now. "And the route from her rooms to the kitchens would
have taken her right past the banqueting hall..."
For the first time, Golradir looked up at him. Then, without
a word, the Captain of the Guard rose from the table and hurried
And Eö was left wishing that his argument had not sounded
"Do you have any idea who the murderer might be?" asked
Eowyn as they picked their way through the piles of sleeping guests,
and quietly left the hall.
Legolas briefly acknowledged the guard at the main door.
"No, meleth nín, none at all."
"What will you do if you do not find him by tonight?"
"I do not know. I cannot keep our guests here by force...
I will have to let them leave. And, once they have gone, it will
be very much harder to keep my promise to the Mistress of the
"To find her killer and bring him to justice." He sighed.
"Then let us bathe, eat, and make a start on interviewing
the guests," said Eowyn.
As they were approaching the main staircase, Legolas noticed
a groom leading a familiar horse from the stables. "It looks
as though the March Warden has finally returned, melmenya,"
he said. "I have been thinking that perhaps Haldir could
help Lord Fingolfin with the interviews. He is far more reliable
"Yes," said Eowyn, "that is a good idea, though
I think it would be even more sensible if you were to work with
Haldir, and I with Lord Fingolfin."
"It might well be more sensible, meleth nín,"
said Legolas, "but we are not going to do it!" He kissed
her cheek. "We should find Haldir before we do anything else..."
Eowyn hesitated. She is uncomfortable; she wants to bathe,
thought Legolas. Perhaps I should send her back to our chambers
and see Haldir alone. He looked up to the main walkway. There
were guards stationed at regular intervals all the way to his
home; she would be safe.
"Go back to our chambers, melmenya," he said. "I
will see Haldir, then join you in the bath."
Haldir had, in fact, already left the stables but, instead of
going to the guard post, he had climbed the stairs to the main
walkway, which ran past Legolas' private chambers, and had been
standing for some time on a small flet off the main thoroughfare,
leaning over the wall, looking down at the city.
He had managed to avoid the previous night's ceremony, but he
could not delay reporting Legolas any longer. You will simply
have to control your jealousy, he thought. This is going
to be your life from now on, so you had better get used
Preparing himself for the worst, Haldir went back to the main
walkway and, taking a deep breath, approached Legolas' home.
A movement to the right of the building caught his eye, and he
turned to look. An elf and a naked elleth were making love in
the shadow of the carantaur tree. Haldir tried to look away, to
give them some privacy, but the elleth was so extraordinarily
beautiful that he could not take his eyes off her. He savoured
the sight of her small, full breasts and her tiny waist and the
unusual colour of her long waving hair. She looks just like
The realisation came to him fully formed; she was not an elleth,
and the elf was not making love to her!
With a cry of anger shading into terror, Haldir surged along
the walkway. The other elf, his face still hidden in shadow, looked
round in alarm. Then he threw the woman in Haldir's path, and
disappeared over the walkway wall.
All of Haldir's military training told him to follow the elf.
But what use would that be if she were to die?
Haldir lowered the woman to the ground and desperately tried
to remove the leather cord from around her neck.
He cursed the filthy orc that had done this to her; he cursed
his own clumsy archer's fingers that could not untie the knot;
and, as minute after minute passed by, he began to curse the Valar
for letting this woman die...
But, at last, the cord came free and the woman began to breathe,
hard and noisy, coughing and gagging.
Gods, what do I do now?
Haldir laid Eowyn gently on her side, supporting her head to
keep her throat open and prevent any further choking, then he
shouted for help.
He examined her neck for signs of a fracture, and he shouted
He checked her throat for swelling, and made sure that she could
still breathe, and he shouted for help.
He took off his cloak, and wrapped it around her trembling body,
and he shouted for help.
Then he spotted one of Legolas' serving elleth looking out of
a window. "Fetch Master Dínendal the healer,"
he yelled. "Then get Lord Legolas! Quickly!"
When Dínendal arrived outside Legolas' chambers, he found
the March Warden in a state of panic, supporting an unconscious
"What has happened?" he asked as he knelt to examine
Haldir explained the attack and his subsequent attempts to help
Eowyn, and showed Dínendal the leather cord.
"You have done well, March Warden," said the healer.
"Will she live?" asked Haldir, anxiously.
Míriel ranher skirts hiked up around her kneesdown
the main staircase and towards the stables, where one of the palace
guards had told her he had seen Legolas only moments earlier.
"My lord," she called. "Lord Legolas, Lord Legolas!"
Legolas emerged from the stables, lacing a pair of riding breeches
he had obviously borrowed from one of the Gondorian grooms. "What
is it, child?"
"It is Lady Eowyn, my lord," said Míriel, "she
has been attacked by the murderer. The March Warden"
But Legolas had already pushed past her and was running frantically
up the main staircase.
Legolas fell to his knees and tried to take the unconscious woman
into his arms.
"My lord," said Dínendal, gently deflecting
Legolas' hands, "pleaseshe is breathing and her throat
does not appear to be swelling, so I do not anticipate any complications
there. Her spine is, thankfully, uninjured.
"The danger is that the ligature may have prevented blood
from reaching her brain. And without the vital substances carried
in the blood her brain may have been starved. In such cases a
person may survive, but be altered."
"Altered how?" asked Haldir.
"Sometimes, the mind retreats into childhood," said
"What is beyond childhood?" asked Legolas, his voice
The healer hesitated; he realised he had said too much. "We
do not know whether she has suffered any injury as yet, my lord;
let us wait until she regains consciousness."
"Can we move her?" asked Legolas.
"With care, my lord."
Ignoring Haldir's quiet offer of help, Legolas lifted Eowyn into
his arms and carried her towards his chambers, but he did not
enter them. Instead, he began to climb the staircase to his private
"Where are you going, my lord?" asked Dínendal.
"She likes it up here," said Legolas.
He laid her, still wrapped in Haldir's cloak, on the bed she
had had made up for him, then sat beside her, holding her hand,
and talking to her softly. "Please, Eowyn, please, meleth
nín," he whispered, again and again, "please
do not leave me..."
Dínendal sat at the other side of the bed, checking Eowyn's
pulse and her breathing.
Haldir, fighting back his own despair, caught the healer's eye.
Dínendal shook his head and mouthed, "I do not know."
Haldir began to pace; he needed to do something!
He looked at Legolas. The warrior elf seemed to be disintegrating
before his eyes. In desperation, Haldir looked around the flet,
praying to the Valar for helpand, half-hidden in the corner
by the stairs, he spotted the serving elleth he had earlier sent
to fetch help.
Suddenly he knew what to do.
"Child," he said, "go to King Elessar, tell him
what has happened, and ask him to come. Then see if you can find
Lord Gimli." Though Haldir had no love for the nogoth, he
knew that Legolas would need his best friend, should the worst
The elleth disappeared down the stairs.
Haldir walked over to the bed and sat down beside Legolas.
Aragorn, Gimli, and Lord Fingolfin arrived together.
At a sign from Aragorn, Gimli and Fingolfin dragged the now distraught
Legolas to a nearby seat built into the low wall of the flet.
"Sit down, lad," said Gimli, "Aragorn will soon
have her on the mend."
Legolas stared uncomprehendingly, as though Gimli had been speaking
a foreign language. Fingolfin sat down beside him, gently restraining
him, and the dwarf gripped his shoulder, trying to pass on some
of his own strength.
Aragorn, meanwhile, had placed his hand on Eowyn's forehead and
closed his eyes. Moments passed. Then Eowyn's body suddenly convulsed,
arching up from the bed, and she took a great, gasping breath,
opening her eyes wide.
Legolas slipped through Fingolfin's grasp and was at her side
in an instant. "Eowyn," he whispered.
Eowyn tried to reply, but her lips made no sound.
"Do not try to speak yet, Eowyn," said Aragorn. He
removed the medicine pouch from his belt. "These herbs,"
he said, crumbling several dried leaves into a goblet and adding
water, "will strengthen your blood." He helped her to
drink. "Master Dínendal," he continued, "perhaps
you would examine Lady Eowyn for any permanent injury?" The
elf nodded. "You are in good hands, Eowyn."
"Thank you for your assistance, your Majesty," said
Dínendal, bowing his head, respectfully. He began checking
Eowyn's vision and her response to various tests.
"Yes," agreed Legolas, looking up from his place at
Eowyn's side, "thank you Aragorn. This is a kindness so great,
I can never repay it." Aragon shook his head, deprecatingly.
"Please, mellon nín," Legolas continued, "I
could not help her,"he looked down at Eowyn"so
at least allow me to renew my pledge of allegiance to the man
who could. And Gimlino elf ever had truer friend, elvellon."
"For shame, you crazy elf," said Gimli, wiping something
from his eye.
The friends waited anxiously for Dínendal's verdict. At
length, the healer looked up from his patient. "I believe
the lady is unharmed," he said. "Do you remember anything
of what happened, my lady?" he asked.
"Do not tire yourself, meleth nín," said
Eowyn shook her head; she tried to speak, thenfrustratedshe
Without a word, Míriel stepped forward and handed Legolas
Eowyn's wax tablet.
"You are sure you want to do this now, meleth nín?"
Eowyn nodded. He handed her the tablet and she began to write,
I was in the bathing room & heard a noise outside. I looked
out of the window. He slipped the cord round my neck & dragged
me out. I tried to fight but I could not breathe. Haldir stopped
"Valar," said Legolas. He turned to Haldir.
"Hannon le, mellon nín."
Haldir shook his head.
"Did you see his face, my lady?" asked Fingolfin.
"Do you remember anything about him?" he asked.
Eowyn gestured. I do not know.
She was clearly exhausted. "My Lord," said Fingolfin
to Legolas, "We can all see that the lady needs to rest,
and I am sure that you will want to remain here with her, so may
I suggest that I begin to interview the guests? Perhaps the March
Warden could accompany me?"
Legolas looked at Haldir and, in a moment of complete clarity,
thought: He is in love with her, too, and he wants to stay.
But Haldir agreed to go with Fingolfin.
"Perhaps Gimli and I can help," offered Aragorn.
"Thank you, your Majesty," said Fingolfin, bowing.
"And perhaps Lord Caranthir will help us, too," he added.
"Do not visit any of the guests alone," said Legolas,
"have Golradir go with Lord Caranthirwhat is it, melmenya?"
Eowyn pointed to some papers lying on the table. Míriel
brought them over and, with Legolas' help, Eowyn found one and
handed it to Fingolfin. It was covered in notes. Part of it read:
Questions: Ask who they remember seeing, when
IMPORTANT: Draw plan of banqueting hall. Mark
position of body.
If two witnesses agree where he was mark on plan.
If he was not in hall, check if servants saw in bedchamber.
IMPORTANT: Interview guests separately. Do not
allow to confer.
"Thank you, my lady," said Fingolfin, "With your
permission, your Majesty?" Aragorn nodded. Fingolfin slipped
the parchment in his robes. "We will go now, my lord, my
lady. I will return at two, my lord, to report on our progress."
He bowed, then motioned to Aragorn and Gimli, inviting them to
precede him down the stairs.
"Come, March Warden," he said, "let us follow
"I will leave you, too," said Master Dínendal.
"I am very happy with the lady's condition, but she needs
to rest," he said to Legolas. "My lady, I will return
in a few hours to check on you. In the meantime, if you are uncomfortableor
if you, my lord, are concerned in any waysend Míriel
to fetch me."
"Thank you, Master Healer," said Legolas.
Eowyn watched the healer disappear down the stairs, then she
picked up the wax tablet and wrote: Please sing to me.
"Oh, Eowyn," whispered Legolas. "I love you."
He took the tablet from her hands, climbed into the bed beside
her and wrapped his arms around her. Then he turned her so that
they could both see the sky, and he began to sing an ancient human
I will give my love an apple without e'er a core,
I will give my love a house without e'er a door,
I will give my love a palace wherein she may be
And she may unlock it without e'er a key...
My head is the apple without e'er a core,
My mind is the house without e'er a door,
My heart is the palace wherein she may be
And she may unlock it without e'er a key.
Legolas' beautiful voice soared up into the sky, and Eowyn thought
that, despite her near brush with death that morning, she had
never been so happy.