The young woman pushed her way through the
crowd that was milling about in the market place, then turned
right into Broad Street and hurried past the brightly painted
shops. Normally, she might have stopped to admire the wares on
displaythe elven glassware, the tooled leatherwork from
Rohan, and the fine fabrics imported from Near and Far Haradbut
today she had no time for window-shopping.
Her friend had told her to go to the far end of Broad Street,
where it joined Silk Mill Lane. "It is a strange, dark place,
Senta," she had said. "Sometimes, you can walk right
past it without even noticing it. But if you get as far as Broad
Gate, you know you have missed it."
She was right, thought Senta.
She turned her back to Broad Gate, and scanned the houses lining
both sides of the street, but could see no sign of an apothecarys
shop. On her left, though, she could see the entrance to Silk
Mill Lane, and she walked slowly towards it, looking carefully
at each house and down the alleys between.
What am I going to do? she thought. My lady will throw
me out and my parents will not take me back. I wish I had died
As she started back towards the market place, her eyes filling
with tears, something fluttered beside her, and she turned to
take a better look.
It was a small, yellow bird in a wire cage, hanging over the
door of one of the houses
No, it was not a house. It had a window and a sign, like a shop,
but the window was so grimy, and the sign of the Pestle and Mortar
so faded, Senta had not noticed it before.
Poor little bird, she thought. Then, slowly, she walked
to the shop door, opened it, and stepped inside.
The first thing she noticed was the smellnot unpleasant,
exactly, but earthy, spicy, sharp and overpowering; the second
thing she noticed was the shopkeeper.
He was standing behind the countertall and thin, with hair
and eyes the colour of waterwatching her, suspiciously.
He is a man who never sees the sunlight, Senta thought.
And he is dangerous; very dangerous. She wondered for the
hundredth time that day whether she was doing the right thing.
"Can I help you?" the apothecary asked. His voice was
warm, rich and seductive, and completely at odds with his colourless
Senta licked her dry lips. Just say it, she thought. "I
am told you sell herbs that will remove an unborn child,"
"How much do they cost?"
"How much can you afford?"
Senta stared at him. "III have some savings..."
"Very well. Four drams of the herbssufficient to do
the trick for most womenwill cost you ten gold pieces."
Senta nodded. "I will have four drams, then," she said.
The apothecary took a heavy key from around his neck, unlocked
a small cupboard in the wall behind the counter, and took out
a smoked glass jar. He removed the stopper and carefully weighed
out a quantity of powdered herbs. Then he poured the powder onto
a piece of waxed paper, twisted the ends together to form a pouch,
and handed it to her.
"Stir the herbs into warm water and drink them before you
go to bed. If you are lucky it will all be over by the morning.
If not, stay in bed. Ten gold pieces."
Senta memorised the instructions, then took the gold pieces from
her purse and paid.
"Good day," said the apothecary.
"Good day, sir," she replied, and turned to leave.
But as she opened the door, the little bird fluttered in his cage.
"How much is the yellow bird?" she asked.
"Two gold pieces."
Senta sighed. It was a ridiculous price, and would use up the
rest of her savings, but she was about to do a terrible thing
and, perhaps, if she saved the little bird...
"Very well," she said, handing over two more gold pieces.
"Will you lift him down for me?"
Eowyn was relieved to enter Dol Amroth.
They had been travelling for ten days, and she had been worried
for most of the journey. They had ridden westwards through the
forest of South Ithilien, andfinding no sign of the marauding
orcs she had been trackinghad forded the Anduin at Pelargir,
crossed the bleak, flat Anduin delta and, from then onwards, following
the rugged coast road northwards through Belfalas, had never been
more than a mile from the sea.
None of the others appeared troubled by the seas call,
but Eowyn knew that Legolas was hearing ithearing it, seeing
it, smelling it, feeling itand fighting it. During
the day he would ride beside her, talking incessantly about Mirkwood,
about Gimli, about the hobbits, about everythingnothinganything
that would keep his mind off the sea.
At night he would lay out their bedroll as far from the water
as possible and he would make love to her, desperately. As
if for the very last time, she thought.
And, gods, if I thought I loved him before...
But Eowyn would sometimes catch him gazing at the sea, looking
out beyond the water, beyond the horizon. And she would repeat
to herself, over and over, as though chanting a spell, I will
not let you leave, Legolas! I will pull you back. I will!
It was a comfort to reach the city at last, but her relief proved
short-lived. As they rode through Broad Gate, Eowyns eyes
met those of a strange, colourless man, who was handing a caged
bird to a pretty young woman in a yellow dress, and Eowyn shivered.
"Are you all right, meleth nín?" asked
"Someone just walked over my grave," said Eowyn.
"I am sorry, my love," she said, "it is a saying
we have in Rohan. It means that I have just had a feeling of foreboding."
And she thought, Any mention of my mortality terrifies him.
Herzog the apothecary handed the caged bird to the young woman
who had just bought the abortifacient herbs, but he had already
forgotten she existed.
He had never seen so many elves in one place before!
Strange that they should have a woman with them, he thought.
And such a beauty. But he had heard that elves did not
breed well. Perhaps a woman is more fecund than a she-elf,
being mortal. She clearly belongs to the handsome young buck riding
Now he is a fine specimena very fine specimenand
all the others seem to defer to him.
He walked back inside the shop, closed and locked the door, and,
seating himself at a desk behind the counter, took out two small
pieces of parchment.
On the first piece he wrote a quick note:
I have a job for you. Be at the back door of the shop tonight
at eleven-thirty sharp. Herzog
He folded and sealed the note, and wrote on the front, To
Master Wolfram at the sign of the Pyewype. He would get his
neighbours boy to deliver it.
The second letter took some time to compose, and Herzog tried
out a few different phrases on a spare piece of parchment. Finally,
The commodity you have been seeking has recently arrived
in Dol Amroth. If you are still interested, the price is one
thousand gold pieces live, or eight hundred gold pieces for
the dried equivalent. More than one can be supplied if required.
Please advise by return.
He folded and sealed the parchment, addressed it, then he went
to the window and looked out.
Good, it is already getting dark.
He closed the shop for the rest of the day, left the city through
Dinham Gate, and went down to the docks. He knew a sea captain
who would be willing to deliver the letter, and bring back the
reply, for a gold piece.
Prince Imrahil had just finished welcoming the King and Queen
of Reunified Kingdom, and was already standing in the outer bailey
of the castle, when the travellers from Eryn Carantaur rode through
the gatehouse. He greeted Legolas, Eowyn and their companions
"Welcome to Dol Amroth, my lord, my lady, gentlemen,"
he said, with a sweeping bow. "My home is your home; may
your stay here be all that you wish."
Legolas dismounted, bowed, and replied with equal formality,
"On behalf of my lady and my company, Prince Imrahil, I accept
your gracious welcome..." Then he flinched slightly as Imrahil
embraced him like an old friend, but he forced himself to smile.
Eowyn, who had also dismounted, came swiftly to Legolas
rescue. "It is good to see you again, Prince Imrahil,"
she said, andas she held out her handshe felt, rather
than heard, Legolas' sigh of relief when Imrahil turned to her
and raised her hand to his lips, murmuring, "Princess Eowyn."
"Have my brother and Lord Gimli arrived yet, my lord?"
"They have not, my lady, but my lookouts have spotted Eomer
Kings cavalcade on the coast road and I expect him within
an hourtwo at most.
"I have assigned you the apartment next to Aragorn's,"
he continued. "March Warden Haldir and Master Dínendal
will stay with you; your guards will be lodged in the guardhouse.
Now I will leave you in the capable hands of my Steward, who will
show you to your apartment, and I look forward to seeing you all
at dinner." His gesture indicated that the invitation included
Haldir and Dínendal.
"Thank you, Prince Imrahil," said Legolas, rather stiffly.
The party left their horses with their three guardswho
would take them to the stables and rub them down before finding
their own lodgings in the guardhouseand followed Imrahils
Steward through the inner gate and into the castle ward.
Legolas and Haldir insisted on carrying their own packs, but
Eowyn and Dínendalwho had a number of books, vials
of tinctures, jars of salves, and other equipment in his baggageallowed
Imrahils servants to help them.
The Steward led the small convoy to a doorway in the north west
corner of the ward, up a broad, spiral staircase, and into a spacious
apartment. The accommodations consisted of a large chamber on
the first floor, with two small bedchambers overlooking the ward,
and a main bedchamber on the floor above, with its own bathing
room and a balcony looking out to sea.
The Steward installed Legolas and Eowyn in the main bedchamber,
leaving Haldir and Dínendal to organise themselves.
Legolas had removed his dusty jerkin and his tunic, and was sitting,
bare-chested, at the dressing table, whilst Eowyn unbraided and
combed out his hair.
It was a ritual that often turned into something even more intimate,
and Legolas could see Eowyns smile in the mirror.
"What are you thinking, melmenya?" he asked.
"I was thinking of the first time I saw you with your hair
loose," she answered. "It was just before the Harvest
Rite, and I thought..." She laughed.
"What, meleth nín?" he asked, smiling.
"I thought you looked like a wild creature who carried defenceless
women off into the woods and ravished them," she said. "And
I was right!"
"I would not call you a defenceless woman, melmenya."
"What would you call me, then?" she asked, passing
the comb through the full length of his hair.
"I would call you..." He thought for a moment. "I
would call you a wanton woman!" he laughed, grabbing
her round the waist and pulling her onto his knees, kissing her
neck and making her scream with laughter.
They wrestled for a few moments, then both suddenly stilled and
Eowyn, who had ended up straddling Legolas, bent forward to kiss
She was stopped by a loud pounding on the door.
"If I had a bow for every time we have been interrupted
by a knock at the door," said Legolas, "I could arm
a company ofoh, about six elves, by now."
Eowyn laughed, swatted his arm, and released him. Legolas threw
on his tunic and stalked over to the door, taking care to pull
the skirts of the tunic straight at the front.
"Yes?" he asked, opening the door.
"Humph! I have interrupted something..."
"No, no, Gimli," said Legolas, clasping his friends
shoulders, "Eowyn was only combing my hairand we are
both very pleased to see you. Come in, Elvellon, and tell
us all your news."
He took Gimli out onto the balcony while Eowyn arranged for some
"Is it safe here?" asked Gimli.
"So near the sea?"
"To tell you the truth, Elvellon, I do not know.
But I want to test myself with it..." His voice trailed off
for a moment as he gazed at the sparkling water. "Whilst
she is with me, Gimli, I am sure I am safe."
Gimli nodded and squeezed his arm, thencatching
sight of Eowyn, hovering uncertainly at the balcony door, carrying
a third chairhe asked, "And how are you, my
lady? How is this crazy elf treating you?"
He was rewarded with a ravishing smile.
"He is treating me very well, my lord," she said, bringing
her chair and sitting down beside him. "And how are things
in the Glittering Caves?"
A servant brought out some wine, and some dwarven ale, and the
three friends spent the next few minutes happily discussing the
work Gimlis people were doing at Aglarond and their plans
for the future.
Then Gimli put down his goblet and got to the main point of his
visit. "I wanted to warn you," he said to Legolas, "that
Eomer is veryshall we sayconcerned about his
sister." Eowyn sighed loudly. "He is not sure of your
intentions, lad. He is worried about thethe differences
between you. And about the effect your sea longing will have on
Eowyn. He is worried you will one day abandon herand any
children the pair of you might haveand set off for Valinor."
"He seems to worry a lot," said Eowyn, tartly.
"I thought it would be wise if you knew, lad, before you
meet up with him, so you can be prepared with a bit of tact"
"Oh no, Gimli!" said Eowyn, angrily. "Thank you
for warning us, but no! I shall deal with Eomer!
Just let me get my hands on him! He was never a match for me!"
Legolas laughed and caught her hands. "This is not a job
for your sword, melmenya!" He kissed her fingers. "We
will both go and talk to Eomer."
He turned to Gimli. "Thank you for the warning, Elvellon,"
he said. "You are wise beyond your years."
And he ducked, laughing, as Gimli tried to swat him for his insolence.
Legolas and Eowyn were admitted to Eomers apartment by
a tall, handsome young man whom Eowyn recognised as Eomers
Eomer was standing in the middle of the main chamber, giving
orders to his Captain of the Guard, whilst a nervous tailor was
trying to alter his magnificent embroidered surcoat. He greeted
Legolas and Eowyn cordially, and asked them to take a seat for
a moment. Legolas and Eowyn were pleased to recognise Captain
Eofred, the messenger who had visited Eryn Carantaur, and both
nodded to him discreetly.
Between talking to Eofred and to Florestan, Eomer kept pulling
at his cuffs and complaining that his collar was too tight. "Why
can I not wear my gold coat for the Naming Ceremony?"
he called to his wife, Queen Lothiriel, who could be seen through
the door of the bedchamber, settling their son in a cradle with
the help of the babys nurse.
"Because Elfwine is your heir," she called back.
Eomer shrugged his shoulders at Legolas and Eowyn, giving his
tailor another problem, and the couple smiled back, sympathetically.
Eomers secretarywho, Eowyn noticed, had set a pen
and parchment on the sideboard so that he could make notes whenever
necessarymoved discreetly back and forth between the two
rooms, trying to impose some order. He is a good man, thought
Eowyn. Eomer is a natural leader but not a natural king and
he is lucky to have Florestan.
At length, Eomer turned apologetically to Legolas. "Let
us go out onto the balcony," he said. "We need to talk."
When Eowyn went to follow them, he stopped her. "No,"
he said "this is a conversation between men; go and
meet your nephew."
Eowyn gave him a look that would have felled most men at thirty
paces, but twenty-seven years of being her brother had left Eomer
"Very well," he relented, "join us in ten minutes.
But let me talk to Legolas alone until then."
With a sigh, Eowyn walked into the bedchamber and, looking at
Lothiriel and Elfwine, discovered that she had no natural liking
for babies at all.
Legolas and Eomer stood on the balcony, both facing the sea but
neither seeing it.
"Well," said Eomer.
"Well?" Legolas prompted, after a few more moments
had passed in silence.
"Why?" asked Eomer.
"I am sorry, Eomer, I am not sure I understand."
"Yes, you do. Why my sister? She had settled with Faramir.
With him, she had a chance to make a good life for herselfto
be a wife, and a mother, and a grandmotherthen you
came along, serviced her in front of half of Middle-earth, and
next thing you know, she was running off into the forest to live
with you, like some woodland sprite.
"That is not how she was raised to behave.
"Oh, you are not the first to want her. There was Theodred.
And Wormtongue. And most of my Guard, at one time or another.
But you are an elfa member of a superior raceso
why are you trifling with a woman?"
Legolas sighed. He had had this conversation far too many times.
He decided to keep his answer short: "I love her, Eomer,"
"No." Eomer shook his head. "No, life is not about
lovenot for people like Eowyn and melife is
about marriages of alliance, and duty, and heirs, andif
you are luckyvery, very, luckyyou may just get yourself
a decent man or woman into the bargain. Eowyn had a good man in
"Yes she did; but she was not happy, Eomer"
"Did you hear nothing of what I just said?"
Legolas sighed. "Eomer, sit down. Sit down, please. I will
Eomer looked at Legolas for a long moment, as if trying to decide
whether he could trust him. Finally, he sat down. "Well,"
he said, "explain, then."
"I fell in love with Eowyn the moment I first saw her,"
said Legolas, "trying to protect Theoden King, in the Golden
Hall at Edoras." He smiled at the memory. "But I said
nothing to her," he continued, "because she had fallen
in love with Aragorn, even though he was promised to another.
"When she was injured at Pelennor Field"
"You sat with her in the House of Healing."
"Yes," said Legolas. "And I should have said something
to her then, but after Aragorn had healed her, and she seemed
to have lost the will to live, it was Faramir who gave her back
her hope. So I walked away...
"And it was not until they had been married for some time,
when I was working in her garden, and saw her often, that I realised
all was not well between them. She was so unhappy, Eomerthey
both were. It broke my heart. And weshe and Iwe were
in love, though neither of us knew that our love was returned
by the other. It was Faramir who saw it. It was Faramir who sent
her to me at Eryn Carantaur, hoping that we would find each other"
Eomer snorted in disbelief.
"It is true, Eomer. Faramir did not love her as a wife,
but she is still a dear friend to him, and he wants her to be
happy. So he sent her to the Harvest Ceremony alone. I had prayed
to the Valar that they would give her to meand they did."
And because it was important to Eowyn that her brother accept
their relationship, Legolas decided to tell Eomer something that
was really not his to reveal, and that he would never tell
to another person on Middle-earth; he asked the Valar to forgive
him: "At the appointed moment in the Harvest Rite, Eomer,
the Valar make their choice known to the celebrant, and he may
accept it or reject it. When I looked at the ellithtwelve
of themwho had been chosen to attend the ceremony as potential
consorts, there was no sign from the Valar. But when I looked
at Eowyn, Eomer, she was radiant!"
He smiled. "She was surrounded by the most beautiful aura
of silver light; she was sparkling and shimmering. She was radiant!
The Valar were showing me her spirit." He closed his eyes,
shaking his head, part of him still unable to believe that his
prayer had been answered. "And my own spirit sang with joy,
for I loved her more than my life. I do..."
His voice trailed away.
Eomer watched him, more moved than he would ever admit, and was
silent for several moments. Then he said, "What about the
"I will not leave whilst she lives, Eomer."
"Can you be sure? Can you control it?"
"Truthfully? I do not know. But I swear to you, I will never
willingly leave Eowyn. What mortal can say more than that?"
And Eomer, reluctantly, was forced to agree.
It had been far longer than ten minutes when Eowyn finally joined
them on the balcony, and Legolas noticed that she had a damp patch
on her shoulder that extended down her back and that she smelled
strongly of soap.
"Do not ask," she said, shuddering fastidiously. "Well,
are you happy, Eomer?"
"We have talked," said her brother, "and I understand
the position now."
"Good," said Eowyn. "Then let that be the end
But Eomer had one more thing to say and he waited until Eowyn
had stepped back into the sitting room before he caught Legolas
by the arm. "If you do leave for Valinor while she
is still alive, my friend," he said, "I will follow
you there and I will drag you back."
"And then," Eomer added, cheerfully, "I will cut
your balls off." And he clapped the elf heartily on the back
and followed his sister back into the sitting room.
Well, thought Legolas, they say there is safety in
numbers. And if the sister does not succeed in bringing me back,
the brother surely will...
"Legolas," said Eowyn, thoughtfully, as they climbed
the stairs back to their own bedchamber, "do you want children?"
"Do you, melmenya?"
"I asked first," said Eowyn.
Legolas sighed. The answer was no. No, no, no.
No, because, for the brief time he would have her, he
could not bear to share her with anyone, not even his own children.
No, because he could not bear the fact that his children
might be immortal even though their mother was not. And no,
because he certainly could not bear to put her sweet little body
through the terrifying business he had seen in the diagrams in
Master Dínendals new book, The Anatomy of Men.
How women ever survived that he did not know. But he needed to
be tactful. So he led her out onto their balcony and, as they
both looked out to sea, he said, "We do not have to decide
just yet, meleth nín."
"That is what you always say, Legolasdoes it mean
no? Because, if it does, I do not think I want them either."
"You do not, melmenya?"
"No," she said, and he could see that she was having
difficulty finding the right words to explain it to him. "Living
with you," she continued, at last, "is different from
living with a manyou treat me as an equal, you expect me
to play an equal part in everything we do. And that is what I
have always wanted.
"If we were to have children, I would have to devote all
of my time to them. I could no longer be your equal, unless I
were to give the children to someone else to raise. And if I were
to do that, why would I be having children in the first place?
For you do not need an heir."
She shook her head. "I could not, in all conscience, not
take care of them myself, but I would resent not being with you,
my love. So no, I do not want children. I want us to stay as we
"So do I melmenya."
"Can we be sure?"
"That I will not conceive."
"Yes, meleth nín, I can be sure."
"How? Yes, I know that elves can control their seedbut
how? How do you do it?"
Legolas laughed, embarrassed by her directness. He cleared his
throat. "It is different, melmenya, thethe climax.
It is different."
"In what way?"
"Itit feels different."
"Ino, melmenya, not better. Not better, just different."
"How do you"
"Eowyn!" said Legolas, laughing again.
"I am sorry," she whispered, and he could tell that
she thought he was annoyed.
He wrapped his arms around her. "No, meleth nín,
I am sorry for being foolish and evasiveit just feels different."
He tried to put the feeling into words for her. "I mustI
must reach for a different place."
She thought about his answer. "Have you ever tried to father
a child, Legolas?"
Legolas stared down at her, taken aback by her question. She
was thinking of him as old, as having lived many lifetimes before
hers, and he hated any reminder of the gulf between them. "No,
melmenya, of course not."
"If I were an elleth, would you"
"Eowyn!" Legolas grabbed her upper arms quite roughly,
and shook her a little. "I love you. I have loved you from
the first moment I saw you. And though I had lovers before we
met, I did not love them as I love you, and so making love with
them was not what it is with you. I do not want anyone
but you. I will never want anyone but you. And the reason
I do not want children with you is that I could neither bear to
risk your life nor to share you with them. Now, are you satisfied?"
And he crushed his mouth against hers before she could reply.
Legolas surveyed the trail of devastation.
It started on the balcony, where two chairs had been turned over,
and continued in the bathing room, where clothes had been torn
and water had been splashed, and ended in the bedchamber, where
the nightstand and parts of the bed had collapsed.
Eowyn smiled sleepily, curled against him like a little kitten.
Legolas kissed her forehead.
"We must get washed and dressed melmenya," he said.
"Or would you prefer for me to tell Imrahil that you are
indisposed, and ask him to have some food sent up to you?"
"Mmmmm," she replied.
Legolas laughed. "Is that mmm-yes or mmm-no?"
"It is mmm-you are dangerous," said Eowyn, rousing
herself with an effort, "and should be kept under lock and
key. But also mmm-I will get ready." She raised her head,
looked around them and sighed. "And also, mmm-we must first
do something about the damage."