| Caranthir had identified forty
guests whose innocence had not already been established. He reasoned
that, at thirty minutes per interviewA very optimistic
estimate, he thoughtit would take each of the interviewers
more than seven hours to talk to the whole list. He had therefore
sorted the names in order of priority, placing the least likely
suspects at the bottom of the list.
To the very bottom went Lord Gimli's three dwarven companions.
Since he had come to know Gimli, Caranthir no longer distrusted
dwarves, and he could see no reason why these three would have
killed the Mistress of the Ceremony. The rite means nothing
to them, he thought; this is an elf's crime.
Also to the bottom went the sword smith, Tathar; the healer,
Findecáno; and their families. These were people of unimpeachable
character who, moreover, lived in the city and could easily be
interviewed at a later date. For the same reasons, Caranthir eliminated
all the courtiers who had attended the ceremony.
But that still left over twenty people to be interviewed individually,
all of them either ellithWhom I myself chose to take
part in the ceremony, he thought, his blood running coldor
their families. Which does make some sense, because
they had the most to gain from the ceremony.
And that brings me back to Angaráto...
He arranged the remaining names in order of urgency, placing
those who would be leaving the city tomorrow near the top.
At the very top, he placed Angaráto and his daughter,
Fingolfin and Caranthir had insisted that Aragorn take Legolas'
place at the head of the Council table and chair the proceedings.
Aragorn looked round the table. Gimli sat beside him, strong
and dependable; Fingolfin and Haldir sat to his left; Caranthir
and that hot-headed Captain of the GuardWhy in all of
Middle-earth had Legolas appointed him?sat to
his right. Aragorn felt slightly uncomfortable taking precedence
over the old, distinguished elves, but three years of kingship
had taught him how to act the part of a monarch.
"Well, my lords," he said, "Lord Caranthir has
drawn up a list of guests to be questioned." He indicated
the parchment in front of him. "And I suggest that we divide
them equally amongst us."
The elves murmured their agreement.
"Lady Eowyn has made some suggestions about how we should
proceed, which I believe you have all read. She suggests that
we should interview people one at a time, to ensure that they
give us independent testimony, and that we ask each person who
else they remember seeing, when, and where. Lady Eowyn believes
that, whilst they may lie about their own whereabouts, if two
or more of them agree about someone else's whereabouts, we can
probably assume that they are telling the truth."
"I think we all agree that that is a wise approach, your
Majesty," said Fingolfin.
The elves nodded.
"She also asks us to make a written record of each interview
and ask the witness to sign it," continued Aragorn, "and
I think that is a sensible idea, too. The Gondorian Guard do something
similar. I am not sure what she means about drawing a plan of
the banqueting hall, so I suggest we leave that to her."
The elves agreed.
"How is Lady Eowyn, your Majesty?" asked Caranthir,
with genuine concern.
Aragorn looked at the Chief Counsellor. They have already
accepted her as their Queen, he thought. "She is tired,
my lord," he replied, "but I believe she will recover
with no ill effects."
Caranthir's relief was evident.
"Now," said Aragorn, "before we begin the interviews,
I think it would be useful if you can tell me what you have already
discovered. Obviously, Gimli and I have not been involved in your
investigations so far."
Lord Fingolfin described what Legolas and Eowyn had uncovered:
that the elleth had been killed just before dawn, that she had
been strangled using a boot lace, that there had also been some
sort of struggle involving a candlestick, possibly after the elleth
was dead, and that the culprit had later searched his victim's
Caranthir talked about his visit from Angaráto and the
elf's attempts to bribe him. "He wanted me to persuade Lord
Legolas to choose his daughter for the Harvest Ceremony, your
Majesty," he explained.
Haldir described what he had seen of Eowyn's attacker. "He
was wearing a long cloak with the hood raised, so I could not
see his face. But he was definitely an elf, your Majesty, average
height, slightly heavy build, but fasthe was over the wall
and away before I realised what he was doing. And he used another
bootlace. Hehe tied it around Lady Eowyn's neck..."
Haldir's voice faltered, and Aragorn saw Gimli look up in surprise.
Yes, he thought, the haughty March Warden has lost his
Then Golradir reported Maranwë's disappearance. "She
must have disappeared at about the same time that the Mistress
of the Ceremony was killed," he said, repeating Eö's
words exactly, "and the route from her rooms to the kitchens
would have taken her past the banqueting hall. I have assigned
two of the palace guards to search for her, your Majesty."
"Let us hope they find her alive," said Aragorn, gravely.
The elves agreed, and Gimli gripped the haft of his axe at the
thought of any harm coming to a young elleth.
"My lords, Haldir, Captain Golradir," said Aragorn,
coming to the point, "do any of you have any idea who may
have been responsible?"
"No," said Fingolfin. Haldir and Golradir both shook
Caranthir sighed. "Myfor want of a better wordintuition
tells me that it was Angaráto, your Majesty. But for no
other reason than that I do not like the elf."
Aragorn and Gimli spent almost five hours interviewing the elves
on their list.
Their fourth interview was with a pleasant wood elf called Arafinwë.
He had travelled to Eryn Carantaur from the rural settlement at
Doro Lanthron with his wife, and his daughter, who had been selected
to take part in the Harvest Ceremony.
"Lord Legolas did not choose my daughter, your Majesty but,
in truth, I think she preferred one of his friends," he smiled
at Gimli, who blushed beneath his beard.
Aragorn tried hard to put Gimli's love life out of his mind.
"We have all had a wonderful time," Arafinwë continued.
Then he remembered himself. "Though, of course," he
added, quickly, "we are sorry that the elleth was killed."
Aragorn nodded. She is not mourned, he thought.
He asked Arafinwë whom he had seen at the banquet, and during
the festivities afterwards, butapart from Aragorn himself,
Arwen, Legolas and Gimli, and, of course, Eowyn"The
most beautiful lady I have ever seen,"and the elf sitting
beside him, whose name he could not rememberArafinwë
had noticed no one.
It was not until Aragorn thought to ask him whether he had met
any of the other guests before the Ceremony, that Arafinwë
said something startling: "Only Master Angaráto, your
Majesty, for he protects us."
"Yes, your Majesty. He keeps the orcs away from our settlement."
Gimli and Aragorn exchanged glances.
"Do you pay for his services?" asked Aragorn, tactfully.
"Well, yes, your Majesty. And at first I refused. But then
we were attacked, andwell I would pay anything to prevent
that happening again."
"Why did you not tell Lord Legolas about this?" asked
"Master Angaráto said that it was not necessary to
trouble Lord Legolas, Lord Gimli..." His voice trailed off.
Aragorn had the distinct impression that Arafinwë had been
Gimli made a careful note of Arafinwë's evidence and asked
him to sign the statement; Aragorn thanked him for his time, and
asked him to send in his wife.
"I wonder," said Gimli, "if Angaráto had
a hand in that orc attack?"
"I was wondering exactly the same thing myself, Gimli,"
said Aragorn. Then he added, "So now we know that Angaráto
is a thoroughly bad elf, but we still have no proof that he is
Arafinwë's wife, Amarië, was a beautiful, lively elleth,
whose recollections were as precise as her husband's were vague.
This was the first time she had been to a function at court and
she had missed nothing. Over the course of the evening she had
watched the other guests with keen interestthough, Aragorn
noticed, no maliceand could tell them exactly who had been
where, and with whom, throughout the night and into the small
hours of the morning. She had retired to bed, with her husband
and daughter, at about four.
Gimli carefully transcribed every detail of her testimony onto
parchment, then read it back to her, corrected some points, and
asked her to sign it.
The couple's daughter, Eámanë, beamed affectionately
at Gimli throughout the interview, but she also confirmed much
of her mother's testimony.
"That is our list completed," said Aragorn, "and
it is almost two. Let us return to Legolas' garden and let him
know what we have found."
Eowyn awoke feeling strangely elated, her body tingling. Legolas
was sitting beside her, holding her hand, but his back was against
the carantaur trunk and his eyes were fixed on the sky. Eowyn
took the opportunity to admire him unnoticed: his blond hair,
falling loose about his face, his well-muscled arms and chest,
and his long legs in those Gondorian riding breeches. His feet
Eowyn slipped her hand out of his, took up the wax tablet, wrote
a few words, and gave it to him. Then she slid her hand up his
Startled, Legolas looked up from the tablet. Then, slowly and
deliberately, he rubbed the words out with his thumb. She had
written, You look nice in leather breeches.
He bent over and kissed her mouth.
Eowyn took the opportunity to slip her hand between his legs.
"Valar, Eowyn!" he gasped.
Playfully, Eowyn pushed him onto his back and straddled him,
brushing her fingers up the front of his breeches, feeling his
hard, thick penis straining beneath the leather. Then, with a
wicked smile, she grasped the ends of his laces and pulled. The
knot came undone and she unlaced him, teasing him with the tiniest
touches as her fingers worked back and forth.
By the time he was free, Legolas' whole body was trembling.
Eowyn leaned forward and took the head of his penis in her mouth,
whilst her hands massaged its shaft.
"Ahhhhh, melmenya," Legolas gasped, "I
want to be inside you" But it was already too late;
his body suddenly arched like a drawn bow, and Eowyn, still holding
him, watched as a stream of warm, pearly seed shot onto her breasts,
once, twice, three times, then his whole body suffered one last,
intense convulsion, and he sobbed as he emptied himself completely.
That is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, she
thought. She caressed his penis.
"Agh!" he yelped.
"Did I hurt you?" she asked, anxiously, her voice little
more than a croak.
He gathered her into his arms. "It is very sensitive, meleth
nínimmediately afterwards," he explained.
"I am sorry," she said, in a plaintive little squawk.
He kissed her tenderly. "Shhhhh. Give me one moment,
melmenya," he said, taking her hand and rubbing her fingers.
"And then,"he smiled"I will make sure
that you are sorry—very sorry—I will make you beg for mercy.
And I will not stop until you have been severely punished."
He placed her hand on his now fully recovered penis, and pressed
his lips to her ear. "I will not stop punishing you,
meleth nín, no matter how hard you beg."
It had been agreed that Lord Caranthir should not interview Angaráto,
since he could not be impartial. The task therefore fell to Lord
Fingolfin, and this had the benefit of giving Haldir the chance
to take a good look at Angaráto and see whether he resembled
Angaráto's testimony was unenlightening. He had noticed
nothing, spoken to no one, and had retired to bed early.
Haldir made a note in the margin: Check with servants. He read
the sparse testimony back to the elf and asked him to sign it.
Then, as Angaráto rose to leave, Lord Fingolfin said,
"That is a very beautiful jerkin Master Angaráto.
I have never seen anything like it."
Haldir stared at the older elf as if he had lost his mind. Angaráto
nodded but said nothing.
"It was made by Men, if I am not mistaken," Fingolfin
continued. "The workmanship is exceptionally fine."
"It is a traditional riding jerkin from the foothills of
the Misty Mountains," said Angaráto, reluctantly.
"The Men there make them from the hides of their favourite
horses. As a kind of memorial."
"They apply some sort of treatment to the leather?"
"Fish oil," said Angaráto, warily. "They
import it specially. It makes the leather waterproof."
"But it is quite pungent," said Fingolfin. "And
the lacings, I see, are decorated with metal fobs." He lifted
one to look at it more closely. "Curious..." Out of
the corner of his eye, he saw Haldir's hand close around the hilt
of his sword and he shot the March Warden a warning look.
Haldir released his sword, but his eyes remained wild with anger.
Angaráto bowed stiffly. "If that is all, Lord Fingolfin?"
Fingolfin nodded, and Angaráto left.
"That orc," Haldir exploded, "that filthy
orc, thatthat Balrog"
"Hush, March Warden," said Fingolfin, "we are
about to see his daughter. We shall discuss this later."
Alatáriël was even less helpful than her father had
been. She sat sullenly throughout the entire interview, answering
Fingolfin's questions with monosyllables, and thenwhen he
finally gave her permission to leaveshe walked from the
room without a further word.
"That," said Fingolfin, "is a very disturbed young
"Why did you not allow me to take him prisoner, my lord?"
asked Haldir. "The laces, the smell of his jerkineven
his build condemns him."
"It is not sufficient, March Warden, said Fingolfin, "we
need more conclusive evidence."
"Evidence! That warg's-member attacked Eowyn, and
would have killed her had I not happened to disturb him; he could
attack her again! Yet we have let him go free! Perhaps you would
like me to hold her down while he finishes the job"
"March Warden!" cried Fingolfin, "I will
overlook your hasty words, because I know that you are not yourself
where Lady Eowyn is concerned." Haldir gave him a withering
look. "But let me remind you that we still have three more
guests to interview, and that the sooner we do so, the sooner
we can report back to the others. In the meantime, I think we
can trust Lord Legolas to take care of his lady."
Eowyn lay in Legolas' arms, as contented as a cat.
She smiled; he had indeed made her begsqueakilybut
the word 'stop' had never passed her lips. Gods, she thought,
elves do have stamina. At least, this elf doesoh, gods!
What time is it? What time did Lord Fingolfin say they would be
It was one thing to perform the harvest rite before an audienceshe
was actually beginning to find that quite excitingbut it
was another thing altogether to have their friends intrude on
their private moments.
"Legolas," she said, as softly as her cracked voice
Legolas sighed, sleepily. "I am sorry meleth nín,
I do not think I can..."
Eowyn managed a small laugh. "You had better be recovered
by tonight!" she said.
"Of course, melmenya." Then he added, with a touch
of pride, "I am an elf."
She hugged him tightly. "An elf who needs to bathe and dress
before his friends and counsellors arrive," she croaked.
"Orc's breath," said Legolas, "I had forgotten,
She helped him to his feet and, together, they went downstairs
to the bathing roomEowyn taking her wax tablet with
herand, whilst Legolas organised the hot water, she
wrote a series of instructions for Míriel.
Please arrange food for our guestseight people, including
King Elessar and Lord Gimli.
Míriel made some helpful suggestionsit seemed that
Legolas was not the only elf who loved lavender cakes, and that
the dwarf was particularly partial to a delicacy called 'honey
Have the food laid out on the table in the gardenwe
will need three more chairs.
"Yes, my lady."
Then please go to my chambers in the guest quarters and bring
my white gown. It is in the chest at the end of the bed.
"Very well, my lady."
Eowyn wrote one final instruction.
Eowyn nodded emphatically.
"Are you quite sure, my lady? Lord Legolas may not like"
She fell silent when she saw the determination on Eowyn's face.
"Very well, my lady."
Master Gelmir, his wife, Orelindë, and his daughter, Eldarwen,
were Caranthir's last interviewees.
So far, the Chief Counsellor had learned very little, aided not
one whit by Captain Golradir, but he had high hopes of Master
Gelmir, the colony's astronomer; it was his job to observe.
He did not disappoint.
"I am so glad to have this opportunity to talk to you, my
lord," he said, "because the more we think about it,
the more my wife and I believe we may have seen something important,
the morning the elleth was killed.
"At the time, I was not sure, but now..."
"Please explain, Master Gelmir," prompted Caranthir,
"I am sorry, my lord, it is just that I feelwell,
foolish. And if anything has happened to the elleth..."
Gelmir pulled himself together. "Wemy wife and I,
my lordwe fell asleep just outside the main entrance to
the banqueting hall, some time during the night. We woke shortly
after dawn, because the serving ellith had begun to clear the
tablethey were being very quiet, my lord, but my wife is
a light sleeper.
"I noticed a couple lying in the doorway and, at first,
I thought it was another pair of lovers who had fallen asleep.
But then the elf stood up, picked up the elleth, and hurried away."
"What made you suspicious, Master Gelmir?" asked Caranthir.
"Two things, my lord. The elleth seemed to have no life
in her. And then, there was something about the way he just threw
her over his shoulder, with no regard for her. It was as if,"he
hesitated"it was as if she were dead."
"Why did you not report this before?" asked Golradir.
His first question of the day, thought Caranthir.
"Because I thought they might beerplaying rough,"
Ah. "Can you describe the elleth, Master Gelmir?" asked
"I did not see her well, my lord," said Gelmir, "but
she was dressed very plainlylike a servant."
The wife confirmed her husband's story, adding that she had,
in fact, been woken by a loud noise"Like chairs falling
over,"shortly before her husband awoke.
The daughter, whom Caranthir remembered having seen with Lord
Fingolfin the previous night, had nothing more to add. She had
gone to bed earlyNo doubt disappointed not to have been
chosen by Lord Legolas, thought Caranthir. Still, she has
Relieved that the interviews were over, Caranthir carefully gathered
up his sheaf of signed statements, and his own pages of notes.
"Let us return to Lord Legolas' garden," he said to
Golradir, "and see what the others have found out."
Eowyn walked into Legolas' bedchamber, lacing up her white gown.
Legolas was standing before the full-length mirror wearing pale
grey leggings and black boots and holding a tunic of fine black
velvet against his chest. Eowyn smiled. She loved him dearly,
but she was more used to men who would happily wear the same linen
all year round if their servants did not take the trouble to lay
out fresh each day. And even then... she thought.
"I prefer the other one," she croaked, pointing to
an exquisite tunic of pearly grey silk, embroidered with a darker
grey blackberry pattern, lying on the bed.
Legolas turned, and thanked her with a dazzling smile.
But I could easily get used to helping him choose his clothes,
"You were wearing that gown the first time I saw you, meleth
nín," said Legolas, fastening his tunic, "but
your feet were not bare"
"No?" she asked, concentrating on tying her laces.
"No," he said, suddenly quite close, "you were
wearing little black boots."
And he grabbed her, and nipped her neck, and Eowyn laughedor,
rather, squawkedand squirmed in his arms.
"You are an elf with very strange tastes," she
croaked. "Stop it! You need to rest or you will disgrace
Legolas laughed too, burying his face in her shoulder.
The main door to their chambers opened and closed, and Eowyn
stiffened in his arms.
"What is it, melmenya?" he asked, concerned.
"My sword," she said.
He released her and she ran into the sitting room. "Thank
you, Míriel," she croaked; and she took the sword
belt and fastened it around her hips.
Míriel looked anxiously at Legolas.
But Legolas was smiling.
By two o'clock, everyone had assembled in Legolas' private garden.
Legolas welcomed them and seated them at the table, suggesting
that they should eat whilst they discussed their findings.
Aragorn explained that they had followed Eowyn's suggestions.
"Gimli and I have gathered a great deal of information about
the whereabouts of the guests throughout the night," he said,
"and I am sure that Lord Fingolfin and Lord Caranthir will
have done the same." The two elves nodded in agreement. "But
we have left it to you, Eowyn, to interpret all this."
Eowyn looked ruefully at the mountain of paper lying on the table.
Fingolfin glanced at Haldir. "The March Warden and I interviewed
Angaráto," he said, "and I must say that I am
now inclined to agree with Lord CaranthirI think that he
is the killer"
"I," said Haldir, "am absolutely certain."
"Why do you say that, mellon nín?" asked Legolas.
Haldir glanced tactfully at Fingolfin for permission to continue;
the older elf nodded. "He was not co-operative during questioning,"
said the March Warden, "and he claims that he was in bed
at the time of the murder, which, of course, we must check with
the servants, as Lady Eowyn suggested." He bowed his head
to Eowyn. "But, as he left, Lord Fingolfin asked him about
a leather riding jerkin he was wearing. He was very reluctant
to talk about it, for he knew it had given him away. Apparently,
it was made by the men of the Misty Mountains. It has laces similar
to those used by the killer, and it is treated with fish oil to
make it waterproof"
"Fish," croaked Eowyn, "yes!" Then
she smiled, embarrassed by the strange sound of her own voice.
Legolas hugged her.
"It is a very distinctive smell, my lady," agreed Haldir.
"That is not enough, though," said Fingolfin, "to
prove Angaráto's guilt conclusively. Especially as we still
cannot show why he did it."
"No," said Aragorn, "you are right my lord."
He patted a paper lying beside him on the table. "But Gimli
and I also discovered something interesting about our friend Angaráto,
which will give you the opportunity to question him further. Tell
them Gimli, whilst I make up a soothing draft for Eowyn's throat."
Gimli explained about the 'protection' that Angaráto was
providing to the people of Doro Lanthron, and his and Aragorn's
suspicions that he might have somehow managed the orc attack himself.
"Why," said Legolas, "did they not come to me
with this? Did they think I was in league with him?"
"No, no my friend," said Gimli. "We believe he
threatened them." He clapped Legolas on the shoulder.
"But I should have knownI should have realised,"
said Legolas. "I swear I would lock that orc away and lose
the key, if I were not going to kill him for attacking Eowyn."
Aragorn stirred his herbal concoction. "We need more solid
proof before we can accuse him of that, mellon nínor
of the murder. Did you find out anything that might help
us, Lord Caranthir?" He handed the goblet to Eowyn.
Caranthir described Astronomer Gelmir's testimony. "It seems
that one of the servants, a good dependable girl, my lord,"
he said to Legolas, "went missing at about the time of the
murder. Captain Golradir has had his men looking for her since
dawn this morning. We think that she saw somethingand that
the murderer either knocked her out oror possibly killed
herthen lay down with her in the doorway so that the serving
ellith would think they were lovers and ignore them. Then, when
he thought that no one was looking, he made his escape, carrying
her with him."
Eowyn sipped Aragorn's soothing draft slowly, listening to Caranthir's
reasoning; it made perfect sense. Please, gods, let that poor
elleth be alive, she thought. They needed to find her...
"That he took her with him," she thought aloud, "suggests
that she was still alive." The others turned to her
in surprise. "Had she been dead," she explained croakily,
"he could have left her. What difference would a second body
have made? But alive she could tell us what she sawthough
he may have killed her since, of course."
"Eowyn, you are right; but you must stop trying to talk,"
said Aragorn, "or your voice will never get better. Drink!"
The liquid was thick and green, and tasted slightly bitter, but
not unpleasant, and it reminded her of the potion she had drunk
at the coronation ceremony.
I never did find out what effect that potion was supposed
to have, she thought. It had been different from the potion
she had been given on the first nightthat had given her
real physical pain, creating an aching void between her legs that
only Legolas could fill.
Gods, I love him!
She looked up from the goblet and watched him talking to Aragorn.
He feels so bad that his people have suffered at Angaráto's
hands, she thought.
...Or do I love him?
For a terrible, heart-stopping moment it occurred to Eowyn that
her feelings for Legolas, and all her present happiness, might
be an illusion. The potion had induced an intense, unreasoning
desire, and Legolas had fulfilled it.
Perhaps I only feel as if I love him!
But if I feel that I love him, and the feeling persists,
how is that different from 'true love'? she thought. And
even if the feeling were to wear offwell, so does true love,
Who is more worthy of love than Legolas?
And what does it matter how love begins?
And suddenly the motive for the murder became clear to her. Love
Potions! she thought, Love Potions! And she waved her
hands frantically, to catch everyone's attention.