Even with Romilde’s help, and her own memory of seeing the apothecary standing outside it, the shop proved difficult to find, though once they had found it, Eowyn could not say exactly why it had been so elusive.

The apothecary must be using some sort of spell, she thought, l to hide it from all but his customers’ eyes.

Though drab and grimy, the outside of the shop was unremarkable, except for the thick wooden planks that had been tacked over the door and the windows. It looks as if they have been there forever, thought Eowyn, yet Senta was here only two days ago.

Gimli drew his axe and made short work of the planks on the door, then set about clearing the windows, and letting in some light, whilst Aragorn, Legolas and Eowyn ventured inside to look for any traces of the shop’s owner, or clues to his whereabouts.

Even with the planks removed, the shop was dark and gloomy but as Eowyn’s eyes adjusted to the light—and the overpoweringly sharp smell—she stared in amazement. Every available space—the walls, the heavy wooden counter, the desk, the chairs, the floor, the ceiling beams—everything was covered with bottles and jars and pots and twists and bundles of strange and exotic substances.

There were bottles of liquid, some of it thick and dark, like treacle, some of it thin and brightly coloured. There were jars of powder—white, bright yellow, rusty red, and green, like dried herbs. There were jars of ointment, some of them marked with a skull—were they poison? There were bundles of twigs and dried plants and tree bark. There was the articulated jaw of some terrifying creature with a wide pointed mouth and several rows of cruel, triangular teeth. There was a strange dried fish, round like a ball, its body covered in spikes. There were—

Eowyn heard Legolas cry out in horror, and she hurried to his side.

Standing on the floor behind the counter was a large glass jar containing a pickled baby.

"Dear gods," she whispered.

"I will kill this vile orc," said Legolas. He knelt before the jar, placed his hand over his heart and, bowing his head, whispered elvish words of comfort to the spirit of the little victim. Eowyn’s eyes filled with tears. She placed her hand on his shoulder.

"In here," called Aragorn from the room at the back of the shop.

Eowyn hesitated for a moment, then squeezed Legolas’ shoulder and left to join Aragorn.

"This is where Elladan was kept," he said, pointing to a makeshift bed in the corner of the room. "That is Elladan’s glove."

"We need to search the apothecary’s papers," said Eowyn. "We need to know where he is and what he intends to do next."

Aragorn agreed, and began searching the back room. Eowyn returned to the shop and looked around. The most likely places, she thought, are the desk and that small strong box mounted in the wall.

"Gimli," she said, "can you open this?"

Two blows of Gimli’s axe left its door hanging off its hinges, but the strong box contained only jars of powder.

"This stuff must be truly vile—or valuable—or both—to be kept under lock and key," said Gimli.

Eowyn moved on to the desk. To her surprise, the apothecary seemed to keep his records in the common tongue, though most of the language was technical. She looked through the untidy pile of papers, but could see nothing relevant to Elladan. Then she pulled out each of the desk drawers in turn, checking their contents.


Wait a minute—she thought, what is this? She picked up an open book lying beside the stack of papers and read the title:

and how it may be used
to achieve immortality.
Together with a description
of all the ingredients required,
where they may be obtained,
and how they must be combined

"Have you found anything, melmenya?" asked Legolas.

"I am not sure," she answered, and she tucked the book under her arm, intending to have a better look at it later.

After searching the shop thoroughly, the four friends left—closing the door behind them, but not restoring the planks—and began walking slowly back towards the castle. Once they had reached the market place, Legolas stopped them.

"He was there, Aragorn."


"Our eyes were cheated by some spell, mellon nín, but I could feel him there. He was in the shop with us. I did not say anything then because I thought it better that he did not know we knew. I suggest you keep a guard posted beside the shop—sooner or later, that Balrog will reappear and the guard can take him."

Aragorn nodded. "We will need several people to maintain a watch," he said, thinking aloud; "we must disguise them, perhaps as carpenters, or as stonemasons repairing one of the buildings opposite; and they must all have some knowledge of spells, for our friend must be properly restrained once they have captured him. I have one of my own guards in mind—and I will talk to Imrahil, Eomer and Faramir to see if we can use any of their men."

"Curse the woman," cried Herzog, emerging from the shadow he had cast around himself. "Those dolts had seen nothing. But she is sharp. Too sharp for her own good. It will be a pleasure to help Wolfram have his way with her."

On the way back to their apartment, Legolas and Eowyn stopped at the castle healing rooms to enquire after Senta.

They were greeted by Master Dínendal, who was sitting in Master Hagen’s study, reading a book about the diseases of old age. When Legolas asked about Senta, Dínendal held his finger to his lips, then led them to the women’s healing room and pointed to the bed in the corner.

Eowyn smiled at the sight before her. Senta lay in the bed, sleeping peacefully. On a chair beside her, also asleep, sat Florestan, holding her hand. And on the nightstand beside the bed, at the top of his cage, sat Sweep, his little head tucked under his wing.

Eowyn turned to Legolas and he put his arm around her waist and led her out into the corridor.

"It seems that we no longer need to worry about her, melmenya. She and Sweep have found themselves a protector. He is not the father, though, is he?"

"No, my love. She told him that her betrothed had been killed in a hunting accident. And it may be a little early for us to assume that all will be well with them. But Florestan is certainly in love with her and he is a patient, resourceful man. I think we can be optimistic."

Legolas had been quiet since they had returned from the healing room.

He was troubled by the dead baby in the shop, thought Eowyn, and by Senta’s abortion. He has seen death on the battlefield but he is not used to the everyday fragility of mortal lives.

"My love," she said softly, kneeling beside him. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

Legolas raised his hand and, smiling sadly, stroked her hair. "It is time, melmenya," he said. "Time to talk to Imrahil."

"Do you want me to come with you?"

He slipped his hand behind her neck and gently pulled her forward. "Eowyn nín," he whispered, kissing her lips, "given the choice I would never be parted from you, not for one instant. But this is something I must do alone."

"I understand, my love; but if you should need me, Legolas, I will be here. You need only send for me."

He placed his hand over his heart and bowed his head. And Eowyn found the formality of his gesture even more moving than a smile or a kiss.

He rose, and walked to the door but, as his hand touched the latch, he suddenly stopped.

A moment later he had swept her off the floor and was devouring her mouth, crushing her body against his. Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. He laid her gently on the bed, and went out of the door, leaving Eowyn sprawling on her back, panting for breath.

Wolfram had entered the castle by his usual route and was now perching upon his gargoyle, watching the woman.

He had seen the elf kiss her and leave her lying—provocatively open-legged—on the bed. And, after some minutes, he had seen her struggle to her feet and walk to the full-length mirror by the window.

She was wearing a deep blue gown that clung to every curve of her body. Wolfram watched her raise each arm in turn and undo the lacings down the sides, then slip her arms out of the sleeves and let the gown drop to the floor. Now she was wearing nothing but a short white shift and a pair of blue boots.

Wolfram imagined using his knees to force those long slim legs apart...

The woman examined her face in the mirror, then—unexpectedly—drew the shift off over her head. Completely naked now, apart from the boots, she looked like one of the high class whores from the brothel in Bell Lane. Gods, thought Wolfram, a man could make a mint selling her favours. And still have enough left to enjoy himself…

The woman moved away from the mirror and Wolfram’s eyes followed her from the bedchamber to the bathing room. This, he had to see. He swung his leg off the gargoyle and, keeping in shadow, climbed swiftly across the castle wall, dropping lightly onto the balcony. If he stayed slightly back from the bathing room window he could still see her without risk of being seen.

She had pinned her hair up and was washing herself with a large, yellow sponge, dipping it in the soapy water and drawing it lightly over the curves and planes of her body, leaving the skin damp and taut and glistening. She ran the sponge over her breasts and Wolfram held his breath as a moan tried to escape his throat.

He reached into his breeches…

Legolas nodded to the two guards standing outside Prince Imrahil’s private chambers then knocked briskly on the door, displaying a confidence he did not feel. For a moment, he wished he had accepted Eowyn’s offer of support. But we shall be discussing things I would not want her to hear, he thought. And, besides, I have already burdened her with my sea longing; this is a demon I must face by myself.

Imrahil opened the door and Legolas, in his nervousness, almost laughed out loud at the look of surprise on his face.

But he controlled himself. "We need to talk," he said.

Imrahil glanced at the guards, then motioned Legolas to step inside. He closed and locked the door.

"About what?" he asked.

"You know about what," said Legolas, "or you would not have locked the door."

Eowyn dried herself, slipped on a comfortable old gown, picked up the book she had taken from the apothecary’s shop and curled up in a chair by the fire to wait for Legolas.

She opened the book. THE ELIXIR OF LIFE, she read, and how it may be used to achieve immortality. Together with a description of all the ingredients required, where they may be obtained, and how they must be combined...

She turned to the list of ingredients.

Dried hellebore..........10 grains
Corpse powder..........3 grains
Mûmak gall..........3 ounces
Fresh elf seed..........2 drams

Eowyn leaped from her chair.

Fresh elf seed!

She paced back and forth across the room. She needed to show this to Legolas, but she could not interrupt him now.

Should she go to Aragorn?

No, she thought. I promised him I would be here if he needed me. This will wait a while. The guards are watching for the apothecary—he will not escape. Legolas is safe for now. I will show him this when he returns.

Imrahil sighed. "Sit down," he said. "Do you want a drink? Wine? Water? A cordial?"

Legolas was about to refuse, but his mouth suddenly felt very dry. "Water—please."

Imrahil handed him a glass. Legolas sat silently for a moment, examining the exquisite pattern cut into the crystal. Then, without raising his eyes, he said, "I am sorry, Imrahil, if my recent behaviour has been like a spoilt child. But the truth is, when you touched me in your tent outside Minas Tirith, you abused my trust—and it has taken me three years to come to terms with it."

"I abused your trust?" said Imrahil, incredulously. "You came to me and lay on my bed, half-naked and very obviously aroused, and then acted like a virgin girl when I tried to give you the comfort you so plainly wanted—"

Legolas stared at him. "From Eowyn! How could you think—how could you possibly think—that I wanted it from you? I was in love with Eowyn! Eomer had just announced her betrothal to Faramir. I needed to talk. I needed to open my heart to someone. I thought you were my friend. I thought I could trust you. I opened my heart to you—"

"You told me nothing of your feelings!" cried Imrahil. "You talked of some—some remote being—some ideal of perfection, not a woman of flesh and blood that you wanted to bed..." His voice trailed off. Then he added, "Your true tastes seemed otherwise."

After a long silence Legolas said, "I was dreaming of her, when you—when I awoke with your hands on me." Tears filled his eyes, but he swallowed hard, and tried to control the burning in his throat.

"But now Eowyn knows," he said, "I have told her what happened."


"And she still loves me," he whispered.

"Did you really doubt that she would?"

"You do not know the circumstances..."

Imrahil sighed. "What do you want, Legolas?"

"I want for it never to have happened, but I cannot have that. So I want to forget that it happened," he said. "And I have tried, but I cannot. You made me feel unclean. You made me feel guilty. You made me feel that I had misunderstood everything, everyone, throughout my whole life. You made me doubt myself, and doubt others. It was only when I grew closer to Eowyn that my heart and my spirit began to heal. But I will always be diminished by what you did—"

"I thought you wanted it!"


Legolas calmed himself, and repeated, more quietly, "I know you did, Imrahil."

"So where does that leave us? What do you want me to do? What do you want me to say?"

"Eowyn says that you did not mean to harm me—"

"She is right."

"Make me believe it."

"Oh, Legolas!" Imrahil sighed. "You came to me distressed and I had no idea why. I had never seen you show interest in anyone, male or female, but I do not exaggerate when I say that it was very obvious that you were aroused. I touched you and you responded. You did not say nay. Not until afterwards. If I diminished you—as you say I did—then I am sorry, but my intention was only to comfort you.

"Tell me, Legolas, if it had been Eowyn that had touched you—if you had woken to find Eowyn making love to you—would you have been upset?"

Legolas stared at him.

"At the time, I thought—old fool that I was—I thought that I might be to you as Eowyn is now..."

"Oh gods," Legolas whispered. "Why?"

"What do you mean, why?"

"Why do men think of me in that way? Is it something I do?"

"You are an elf! You are beautiful! Surely you know that? The way you look, the way you behave—all the grace and beauty of a woman with more than the strength of a man..."

"It gets worse," whispered Legolas, his voice cracking. He rose from the chair, walked to one of the bay windows and, grasping the mullions, pressed his forehead against the cool pane of glass.


Wolfram stayed on the balcony, watching, until the woman had fallen asleep in the chair. Then he approached the door and carefully tested the latch. It lifted easily, but made a loud clicking noise, so he stepped quickly back into the shadows and waited.

But the woman did not wake and, after a moment, Wolfram pulled the door open, stepped silently into the bedchamber, and approached her, stretching out his hand and drawing it, less than an inch above her skin, over her cheek, her throat and the shadowy cleft between her breasts. Then he lifted a single tendril of golden hair and let it slide between his fingers and fall back upon her bare shoulder.

The woman stirred, but still did not wake.

This was easier than Wolfram had expected and he was sorely tempted to take her now, bound, gagged and struggling.

Gods, yes!

But he needed to deal with the elf first, because without the elf there would be no five hundred gold pieces—and very probably no more work from Herzog.

And Herzog was one of his best customers.

So he would have to be patient.

"Goodnight, my lady," he whispered. "You do not know what you are missing. But you shall—and soon." And he left, closing the balcony door behind him.

Legolas was standing with his back to Imrahil, his forehead still pressed against the glass, but Imrahil was not about to let him hide from reality much longer.

"Legolas," he cried, joining the elf at the window, but careful not to touch him, "you are fair, even among your own kind. Men will always find you attractive; women will always find you attractive. That is your curse!

"But you have chosen Eowyn and she has accepted you. And if you are happy with her, if she is all you want in life, what do the desires of anyone else matter? What do I matter? What does something I did, by mistake, three years ago, matter, if you have her?"

Legolas was silent for a very long time. "You are right," he sighed, at last. "She is all I want in life and I do have her. And when I am with her I am so happy." He turned to face Imrahil. "But I came to you tonight because I am afraid. I have seen things here—death, horrors—that have made me fear losing her. I would die if I lost her, Imrahil—nay, I will die, for I will lose her, sooner or later. And I am afraid of anything that might taint the short time that we do have together.

"That is why I do not want us to be enemies, Imrahil." He took a step towards the prince, intending to close the distance between them, but lost his nerve. "Perhaps, if we were to behave as friends, we would become so again. You have been patient with me tonight," he continued. "And my request is entirely selfish, but—"

"Legolas—I cannot make you any promises. I sympathise. I do. But I did not want to be your friend that night in Minas Tirith, and I am not sure I could be your friend now."

"Can we at least be civil?" asked Legolas.

"Have I ever been anything else to you, since that night?" asked Imrahil.

"No," Legolas admitted, softly. "No, you have not." He sighed. "It is I who have been uncivil. It is I who must mend my ways."

Legolas needed Eowyn—he needed to hold her and to be held by her. He ran across the castle courtyard, took the stairs two at a time, and threw open the door to his bedchamber.

Eowyn was curled up in a chair by the fire, sleeping peacefully, but Legolas was overwhelmed by an aura of menace in the room, as if something had recently threatened her.

Oh Valar, he thought, I am so afraid of losing her that I am sensing danger in every shadow.

He carefully took a book from her hands, and laid it on the dressing table, then lifted her into his arms, carried her to their bed, and gently laid her down.

"Mmmmmm," she sighed, "Legolas?"

"Shhhhh, melmenya. Go back to sleep."

"But I have been waiting for you," she said. "I wanted to tell you something."

"What, melmenya?"

"I," she whispered, confused, "I—I have—I have missed you."

"Oh, Eowyn nín…" He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tightly.

"You are still dressed," she said. And she opened his tunic and snuggled against his chest. Then he felt her unlacing his leggings.

"You are too tired, melmenya," he said, catching her hand.

"I want to feel you inside me," she answered.

"Oh, Eowyn," he whispered, "I need you, too, meleth nín, but you really are too tired—"

"No," she said in a small voice, "Just lie with me, inside me, and let us sleep together."

Legolas lay awake, singing softly to the stars, with Eowyn sleeping in his arms.

How could an elf be happier? he thought.

She could be immortal, came the reply.

Legolas stopped singing. That was a wicked thought. Immortality and mortality are gifts Ilúvatar. Whether a true immortal seeks mortality or a mortal seeks immortality—both rebel against the one.

He must not think it. And he most certainly must not plant the desire for immortality in her.

The Valar gave her to you, he thought. Trust them.

But I want her. I want her forever, came the reply.

And he buried his face in her hair and wept.

Eowyn awoke to find herself crushed against Legolas’ chest, his arms locked around her like iron bands.

"Legolas," she whispered.

He stirred but did not wake.

His talk with Imrahil clearly did not go well, thought Eowyn. And I was no support—I was asleep when he returned. And—gods!—I did not tell him about the book.

"Legolas," she said, more loudly.

She felt him wake, his body becoming alert, but his grip on her did not relax.

"What is wrong, my love?" she asked, softly.

"I am sorry," he said, and released her, kissing the top of her head.

She hesitated. Then, "How did you fare with Imrahil?" she asked.

"We have agreed to be civil."

"Did talking to him help?"

Legolas sighed. "I do not know, melmenya. Only time will tell."

She hugged him sympathetically. "I found something last nightthe book I took from the apothecary’s shop describes a recipe—some foolish stuff about an elixir that confers immortality—that contains elven seed! That must be why that warg used Elladan as he did..."

"Immortality?" said Legolas, softly.

"Yes." Eowyn raised her head to look at him. "It is terrible, Legolas. Terrible. The recipe requires a large quantity of—of seed, and it must either be fresh or,"—she bit her lip—"or both testicles must be dried and ground up. And the victim must be a full-blooded elf. I suppose that is why he returned Elladan. We must tell Aragorn and Prince Imrahil—and decide how we are going to protect you and Haldir, and the others."

"Immortality..." said Legolas.



Contents page

Contents page

Previous chapter: The reject
Why has the first victim been rejected? And who will be the next victim?

Chapter 4

Next chapter: The next victim
Wolfram meets his match.

Chapter 6