The Great Hall of the castle had been hung
with the standards of Gondor, Rohan and Ithilien, in honour of
the illustrious guests, and three large tables had been laid out
The King and Queen of Gondor and the King
and Queen of Rohan were seated in state at the high table, and
the other dignitariesFaramir, Legolas and Eowyn, Gimli,
the hobbits Merry and Pippin, Elladan and Elrohir and the host
himselfwere placed according to precedence, but once the
formal part of the evening was over, the guests simply moved their
seats and mingled, like the good friends they were.
Imrahil had spared no expense on food and, in addition to roast
meats, potages of beans and vegetables, salads of sweet herbs,
and various breads, there were many delicacies that Eowyn had
never seen before. She and Legolas tried some small parcels of
crisp pastry filled with highly spiced vegetableswhich made
them laugh when their mouths tingledand a yellow-green pear-shaped
fruit with fragrant, deep pink flesh, andtheir joint favouritesome
small pieces of sweet, rose-flavoured jelly covered in powdered
sugar. "The people of Near Harad call it Delight,"
Between the courses, there were musicians, jugglers and, finally,
a troupe of dancers from Far Harad whose leader played a strangely
shaped pipe whilst the rest, who were all women, gyrated to the
erotic music, removing their clothing, piece by piece, and tossing
it to the male guests. One of the dancers invited Legolas to untie
a small scarf from around her breasts, but Legolas extricated
himself gracefully, shaking his head with a charming smile and
suggesting that the twins were far better qualified to help than
After that, the evening degenerated. The hobbits were soon dancing
on the tables singing raucous drinking songs from the Shire. Merry
invited Eowyn to join him and, together, they spun along the tables,
jumping over bowls of fruit and flowers, while Legolas and Haldir
clapped enthusiastically. Gimli, Eomer and Faramir took turns
draining tankards of ale and stacking them in neat piles, whilst
Aragorn laughed, and Arwen smiled, and Lothiriel watched them
Then Elladan asked Legolas to sing, and the whole company fell
silent to listen. Legolas chose a hauntingly beautiful song, in
the common tongue:
Black is the colour of my true loves hair,
Her face is something wondrous-fair,
The clearest eyes and the dearest hands:
I love the ground whereon she stands.
I love my love and well she knows,
I love the ground whereon she goes.
And still I hope the time will come
When she and I will be as one...
The melody ended on an unexpected note, high and sad and full
of longing. And, though he smiled, Legolas close friends
were in no doubt as to the songs meaning for an immortal
whose true love was mortal.
At half past eleven, Herzog the apothecary opened the back door
of his shop.
"You are lucky the boy found me," said his visitor,
"for I have been busy of late, and my work has taken me far
"Come in, quickly," replied Herzog, glancing up and
down the alleyway. "Did anyone see you coming here?"
"No, you need not concern yourself on that scoremy
livelihood depends on moving about unseen."
Satisfied, the apothecary locked the door and turned up the lamp.
"Take a seat, Wolfram," he said, and sat down opposite.
At first glance, his visitor was unremarkableof medium
height and medium build, with dark eyes and a ready smileno
different from a thousand other men in Dol Amroth. But anyone
who took the trouble to look more closely, as Herzog was doing
now, would see something disturbing; he would see that Wolframs
smile was not a smile at all, and hid a heart that was not so
much evil as empty.
He is the perfect man for this job, Herzog thought. "I
need you to remove someone from the castle and bring them here,"
"I take it that this would be against the persons
"Who is it? The new grandchild? One of the Queens? That
pretty thing that rode in with the elves this morning?"
"No. I require a male elfany one of males that rode
in with that pretty thing will be adequate."
"A male elf? Are you mad? They are stronger than
men, and faster"
"Are you saying that you cannot do the job?"
"No," said Wolfram, guardedly, "but I am saying
that it will cost you."
"You will be well paid for your services. Four hundred gold
pieces if he is alive, two hundred if he is dead."
"Four hundred? For the risks I would be taking?" Wolfram
"My client has already agreed a price," Herzog lied.
"My hands are tied."
Wolfram rose and walked to the window. The blind was down but
he gazed at it as though he were looking outside. "I will
need a means of... quieting the elf."
"Naturally." Herzog indicated a small bottle sitting
before him. "Three drops of this, on a cloth held to his
nose and mouth, will put an elf to sleep. Do not use more than
three drops." He handed the bottle to Wolfram.
"When do you want him?"
Herzog was still awaiting a reply from his buyer, but decided
to take a chance. "As soon as possible."
Wolfram slipped silently down the back streets of Dol Amroth,
heading for Dinham Gate, just south of the castle. He knew that
the gate would be locked at this hour, but the gatekeeper owed
him a few favours, so it would not be difficult to get out of
Once outside, keeping well out of sight, he would work his way
along the castle wall to its north west corner. There, he would
enter the castle drains. It would be unpleasant at firstPart
of the job, he thoughtand he would have to be careful
not to get too soiled or he would draw attention to himself later
but, once he was safely in the drainage system, he could climb
up a disused privy shaft to the very top of the castle and, from
there, go wherever he wanted. It was not the first time he had
broken into the castle at night using that particular route.
And it will not be the last, he thought.
His main problem would be finding a lone elf in a situation that
would give him the advantage he needed. Wolfram was an artist
at his work but that did not mean he was complacent. He knew that
an elf would be stronger, faster, have better eyesight, and better
hearing, and might evenhe had heardhave some sort
of sixth sense, so he would have to be cunning.
And absolutely ruthless.
By one oclock the guests were starting to go to bedLothiriel
first; then Dínendal, who was not used to heavy drinking
and needed some help from Faramir and his secretary; then Aragorn,
who had decided he was far to old to watch drinking contests,
and Arwen; and then Eomer, who had decided he should not leave
his wife alone much longer.
Next came Legolas, Eowyn, Gimli, and the hobbits, who were all
lodged on the same staircase.
And, finally, came Haldir and the twinsElrohir and Elladanthe
last, surprisingly, very much the worse for drink.
Wolfram had positioned himself on a first floor balcony, which
gave him a clear view of the entire castle courtyard with no danger
of being seen.
The climb up the privy shaft had taken rather longer than he
had expected, and he was relieved to see that the banquet was
only just ending. A group of five revellers was walking across
the courtyarda dwarf, two strange-looking children, the
woman he had spotted that morning, and one of the male elves.
Wolfram watched intently, willing the group to separate and give
him easier access to the elf, but all five crossed the courtyard
together and entered the north western corner of the castle...
I will have to follow, and try to get closer to him,
he thought, but then an alternative presented itself.
Three more elves walked out of the hall, stood talking in the
courtyard for a moment, then split up, one crossing to the north
west, the other two heading south west.
The single elf was the obvious target, but he was powerfully
built and looked unusually heavy for an elf and, moreover, he
was heading in the same direction as the party of five that Wolfram
had watched earlier. The pair of elves looked lighter, and were
heading towards a quieter part of the castle...
He would follow the pairhe might get lucky.
He slipped over the edge of the balcony and, keeping well in
the shade, climbed down to the ground. Then he drew himself up
straight, like a soldier, and marched across the courtyard as
if he owned the castle.
Elladan was having trouble with the spiral staircase. I should
not have had those spirits, he thought. Mannish liquor
"You go on," he said, sitting down heavily on one of
the steps. "I will rest here a moment and join you shortly."
Elrohir shook his head. "I shall help you."
"No, brother. You are unsteady yourself. We would both break
our necksand how embarrassing would it be to be found dead
at the bottom of a staircase? All I need is a moments rest."
"Very well," said Elrohir. "But if you are not
up in five minutes I will come back for you, and carry you."
Wolfram climbed up the spiral staircase, trying to be silent
without looking stealthy, and almost fell over a sleeping elf.
The gods help those that help themselves, he thought.
But I had better make sure.
He took Herzogs vial and a piece of cloth from his pocket,
carefully tipped exactly three drops of the pungent liquid onto
the clothFor I want the full four hundred gold pieces for a
live oneand held it over the elfs nose
To Wolframs surprise, the elf awoke and began to struggle,
but Wolfram held him down with a knee on the chest, and he soon
passed out again. Then the man shoved the cloth in his pocket
and lifted the elf onto his shoulder. I shall not be able to
take him out the way I came in, he thought, for his victim
was tall, and surprisingly heavy. I shall have to carry him
to the gatehouse, in plain view, and think of a story that will
get us out of the gate.
After that, it would be a relatively simple matter to carry him
to Herzogs shop.
Since elves do not normally experience illness of any kind, Elrohir
was surprised to wake with his head aching, and even more surprised
to find himself lying on the floor with his back against the door
of his apartment.
I must have fallen asleep here, he thought; then he remembered
his conversation with Elladan. If I spent the night against
the door, he reasoned, he cannot have come back. He must
have fallen asleep on the stairs.
Elrohir got up with some difficulty, opened the door and climbed
carefully down the staircase to where he had last seen his brother.
But his brother was not there.
Legolas and Eowyn had risen early, bathed and dressed, and were
heading, with Haldir and Dínendal, towards the hall for
breakfast when Elrohir came across the courtyard towards them.
"Have you seen Elladan?" he asked Haldir, anxiously.
"Not since I parted from you both last night," replied
the March Warden. "Why?"
Elrohir described how he had left Elladan on the stairs and had
woken up to find him missing.
"He has probably fallen asleep in a privy somewhere, Elrohir,"
said Legolas, "butin case he has hurt himselfHaldir,
go and inform the Captain of the Palace Guard, and ask him to
request Prince Imrahils permission to send a couple of guards
to search for himand take Master Dínendal with you;
he may be needed."
The two elves hurried towards the guardhouse.
"Now," Legolas continued, "Eowyn and I will take
you back to your apartment, Elrohiryou need to restno,
I am sure the guards will soon find Elladan," he added, when
Elrohir began to protest. And he ducked under Elrohirs arm
and, supporting him across the shoulders, helped him walk back
across the courtyard and up the staircase to his apartment.
Eowyn followed behind, staying well back as the two elves staggered
up the spiralling stairs. Arwens brothers are soso
worldly, she thought, not at all like Legolas or the other
elves of Eryn Carantaur. She had just decided that she preferred
elves otherworldly and was about to run upstairs and help
her own elf, who was having trouble supporting Elrohir whilst
opening the apartment door, when she spotted something lying on
one of the steps.
It was only a small piece of cloth, and ordinarily she would
have ignored it, but it seemed strangely out of place in a castle
that was otherwise kept extremely clean and tidy. And, as she
bent to examine it more closely, she noticed it was smeared with
a red, oily substance.
What is that?
She carefully picked up the cloth, and sniffed the red oil.
Ugh! What a disgusting smell, she thought.
And, although she had no idea what it was, she had a sudden feeling
that it might somehow be connected to Elladans disappearance
and that Legolas should see it. So, holding the cloth at arms
length, she hurried up the stairs to show it to him.
When she reached the apartment Legolas had already set Elrohir
down and was fetching him a glass of water.
"This will teach me not to drink men's liquor," said
Elrohir, holding his head. "This must be how it feels to
"Elrohir," Legolas chided, "do not say things
like that! Here..." He handed him the glass of water. Then
he spotted Eowyn standing in the doorway. "What is it, melmenya?"
"I am not sure," Eowyn replied. "I found this
on the stairs near where Elladan must have been sitting. It has
a red substance on it that smellswell, strange." And
she handed him the cloth.
Legolas raised it to his nose and sniffed it, thento Eowyns
horrorhe swayed, and fell forward into her arms.
Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods, thought Eowyn. "Elrohir!
Elrohir" but she already knew that the other elf was
in no state to fetch help.
Legolas was unconscious, but his breathing was quite normalin
fact, had he been mortal, she would have assumed he was asleepand
she took comfort from that, but she knew that she needed to find
She looked around the room, trying frantically to form a plan.
Elrohir had rolled off his chair and was crawling towards her
on all fours. Eowyn made a decision. "Here, support his head,"
she said, allowing Elrohir to take Legolas in his arms. "Keep
him on his side, in case he should vomit. I will be as quick as
I can. I am so sorry, my love," she whispered to Legolas.
The moment she was sure that Elrohir had Legolas safely supported,
she sprang to her feet and was about to run downstairs when she
thought of the window.
Please, gods, let there be someone in the castle wardshe
looked outyes, yes! Aragorn!
Aragorn and Arwen, and a large retinue, were crossing the courtyard,
heading for the hall. Eowyn threw open the window and, ignoring
protocol, cried out: "Aragorn, Aragorn! Something has happened
to Legolas! Please help him! Please! We are in Elrohirs
apartment! Andand somebody please fetch the healer, Master
Dínendal. He is in the guardhouse!"
Legolas awoke to find himself in Elrohirs bed, with Eowyn
on one side and Master Dínendal on the other, and Haldir,
Elrohir, Aragorn and Gimli all standing around him looking anxious.
"Valar," he said. "What has happened here?"
"What has happened here, you crazy elf?" cried Gimli.
"What has happened here is that you have just frightened
ten years off our lives!"
"I am so sorry, my love," said Eowyn, with a sob in
her voice, "but the oil had no effect on me, so I did not
know it would harm you."
"Yes, the cloth," said Legolas. "I remember now.
I smelled it." He squeezed Eowyns hand gently. "Please
do not cry, meleth nín," he whispered. "I
Everyone carefully ignored the fact that Haldir had also placed
a comforting hand on the ladys shoulder.
"It was hardly your fault, my lady," said Dínendal.
"It is a substance known as elfsbane, which has no
effect on men but makes elves sleep. Fortunately, most of the
active ingredients had evaporated, so Lord Legolas was only slightly
"Slightly affected?" cried Gimli. "You
call that slight? The elf was dead to the world!"
"Indeed, Master Gimli," replied Dínendal, "deeply
asleep. But, at the right concentration, elfsbane will
paralyse its victim and keep him asleep for as much as twenty-four
hours. And at higher doses it can be fatal."
"Elladan!" cried Elrohir.
"It looks very much," said Aragorn, squeezing his brothers
shoulder, "as if someone drugged Elladan and took him away
last night. Let us pray they got the dose right," he added
gravely. "I will ask Imrahil to extend the search to the
entire city and I will join itGimli, Haldir, are you with
me? Thank you. We will also ask Eomer and Faramir. No, Legolas,
you need to restand you too, Elrohir.
"Let us pray that we find Elladan in time."
Both Aragorn and Dínendal had insisted that Legolas rest
for several hours andmuch to Legolas embarrassmenthad
had him carried back to his own apartment and put to bed.
"He needs healing sleep," said Dínendal to Eowyn.
"That is the best way to work the remainder of the poison
out of his body."
Eowyn closed the curtains and, having washed her hands several
times to ensure that all traces of the oil had gone from them,
lay down beside him. "I am so sorry, my love," she whispered,
taking him in her arms.
But Legolas was already asleep.
With Imrahils palace guard and his visitors guards
of honour, including the three elves from Eryn Carantaur, there
were more than fifty men available to search for Elladan.
Ten men were already working their way through the castle. Aragorn
and Imrahil quickly divided the city into four, placed Gimli,
Eomer, Faramir and Haldir in charge of the fourths, and assigned
each of them ten men. Their orders were to search every building
and to question every occupant. They were also to pay particular
attention to empty properties.
Anything they uncovered was to be communicated back to Imrahil,
at the castle, who would co-ordinate the operation by relaying
information to Aragorn and the search leaders.
Eowyn had drifted off to sleep, so she did not hear the intruder
open and close the door, quietly cross the room, and set something
down on the dressing table. It was not until the intruder pulled
back the curtains, flooding the bedchamber with bright sunlight,
that both Legolas and Eowyn awoke with a cry of alarm, and Legolas
leaped out of bed, pinning their assailant to the wall.
"Who are you?" he cried. "What are you doing in
Eowyn looked at his prisoner. She was small and slender, wearing
a pale yellow dress, and Legolas was holding her by the throat.
"Legolas!" she cried, "Legolas, look at
The elf hesitated for another moment, his senses still clouded
with healing sleep, then he understood and released the girl.
But he remained suspicious: "Who are you," he asked
again, "and what are you doing in our bedchamber?"
"I am sorry, my lord, my lady," said the girl, rubbing
her neck. "I thought the apartment would be empty with all
that is going on. My name is Senta, my lady. Prince Imrahil asked
me to act as your maid"
She was interrupted by a warbling sound from the direction of
the dressing table.
"What are you doing with a bird in a cage?" Legolas
"You bought him yesterday, did you not?" said Eowyn.
"From that strange man. I saw you, when we arrived."
The girl was surprised. "Yes, my lady, I did. I was going
to set him free, my lord."
Some of his usual gentleness returned to Legolas manner.
"That is an admirable intention, child," he said. "Let
me see him." He picked up the cage and looked closely at
the little bird. "But I am afraid I must ask you to reconsider."
"Why, my lord?"
"Because this poor little bird does not belong in Belfalas,"
he said. "If I am not mistaken, he comes from Far Harad.
If you release him, the native birds will attack him, for his
bright yellow plumage makes him a target. And even if he is lucky,
and they do not kill him, he may still starve to death."
"Oh, my lord!"
"His only hope for a tolerable life is for you to take care
"But I am not allowed... Will you let me to keep him here,
"Of course we will, Senta," said Eowyn.
"Thank you, my lady," said Senta, curtseying. Then
she remembered her duties. "Do you require any assistance,
Eowyn sighed. Why does Imrahilwhy do all menassume
that I am incapable of tying my own laces? "Later, Senta,"
she said. "Return at six."
Senta nodded and, after saying goodbye to the little bird, left
Legolas, still holding the cage, whistled softly, and the bird
"What does he say?" asked Eowyn.
"He says that his name is Sweepit means Goldenand
that he loves Senta very much. Your mistress will be back at six,
Tears filled Eowyns eyes as she watched her beloved elf
set the bird back on the dressing table.
"What is it, melmenya?" Legolas asked anxiously, taking
her in his arms.
"I love you," she whispered.
"And that makes you cry?"
"I thought I had lost you..."
"Oh, Eowyn!" He kissed her tenderly.
"You should be resting," said Eowyn softly. "I
am so sorry, Legolas."
"There is nothing to be sorry about, melmenya. If you had
not found the cloth we would not have known what had happened
to Elladan, and we would still be assuming he had fallen asleep
somewhere. I am fine, truly," he said, stroking her hair.
"And tonight," he murmured, placing several light kisses
on her face and neck, "I will be very happy to prove it to
Eowyn managed a small smile.
"But in the meantime, meleth nín," he
added, gently, "I think we should go and see if there is
any news of Elladan."
Elladan was lying, still unconscious, on a makeshift bed in the
back room of Herzogs shop. Herzog was pacing up and down,
trying to think, whilst Wolfram dogged his every stepback
and forth, back and forth.
"How will the buyer know that he is only half-elven?"
"It will be obvious, you imbecile! His sehe is inadequate
for the purpose. Incomplete. Defective. It must be a full-blooded
male elf. You must take him back and bring me another."
"What? NoI did as I was told. I brought you an elf.
You owe me my money." Wolfram stepped in front of Herzog
and stared at him, menacingly, andalthough he was almost
a foot taller than his accompliceHerzog felt a brief chill
It was time to bargain.
"I will pay you five hundred gold pieces," he
said, "half in advance, if you bring me a full-blooded male
elfone of the six you saw enter the city with that woman
you admired so much. They were all full-blooded. And you
can have her too, if you want."
Wolfram hesitated. Five hundred gold pieces. And maybe he could
go back later for the woman.
"Will thethe stuff work on her?"
"No; but I will give you something else for heronce
you have delivered the elf."
That decided it. "Agreed. But it will take time. The whole
city is looking for him," he jerked his thumb at Elladan,
"and the castle guards will be extra vigilant. I will take
him back tonight and dump him outside the walls. Then I will return
to the castle in a couple of daysafter the ceremony, when
everyone has relaxedto take another."
Herzog considered Wolframs plan. He had still not heard
back from his buyer and could afford to wait two or three days.
"Very well" he said, "I will give you the advance
payment once you have disposed of him."