Eowyn looked in the mirror and smiled.
Her gown, though hastily finished for Elfwines Naming Ceremony,
had been made by her own elven seamstress at Eryn Carantaur, and
was magnificentrich, pale rose velvet with deep bands of
exotic flowers, in wine red and rose gold, embroidered across
the bodice and sleeves. And I look quite exotic myself, she thought.
I look almost elven.
Since Senta was still recovering in the healing rooms, Arwen
had insisted on sending one of her own ladies to dress Eowyns
hair. The girl, Richardis, a close friend of Elladan and Elrohir,
combed through Eowyns long, golden tresses and began to
twist them into an elaborate chignon.
"No..." said a gentle voice behind them. "Do not
Eowyn laughed. "I cannot take part in Elfwines Naming
Ceremony with my hair loose, my love."
"Why not, melmenya? It is beautiful."
"I could pin just the front part, like this, and leave the
back loose, my lady," said Richardis. "And then put
the circlet on like this..."
Eowyn looked to Legolas for his approval.
"Yes, melmenya," he said, with one of his radiant smiles,
"you look lovely." He disappeared into the bathing room.
Eowyn caught Richardis eye in the mirror. "Elves,"
she said, "are nothing like men."
And the two women exchanged knowing smiles.
The ceiling of the Great Hall was supported by thick wooden beams
that provided a perfect vantage point from which Wolfram could
observe the Naming Ceremony and track his prey.
Beneath the standards of Belfalas and Rohan mounted on the north
wall of the hall, stood the proud parentsthe King and Queen
of Rohanand their young heir, in the arms of a nurse. Behind
them stood the childs three sponsors, Prince Imrahil, a
dwarf, and the woman.
Wolfram took a good look at the woman. Now that he knew she was
a princess in her own rightthe King of Rohans sister,
the laundry woman had saidhe wondered why he had not realised
it beforenormally he had a good nose for the value of a
thing. Would not the King of Rohan be willing to pay more than
five hundred gold pieces to get his sister backperhaps as
much as a thousand? And elf-boy was apparently a prince, too,
and ruler of his own elven kingdomsurely he would pay the
sameDo elves use money?to get his woman back.
So perhaps he should just kidnap her.
Especially since the elves were being extremely cautious today.
He had followed elf-boy all over the castlefirst to the
King of Gondors apartment, then to Prince Imrahils
study, then to the guardhouse, and finally back to his own apartmentand
at no time had he been alone. And now all six full-bloods had
started moving around in threes andWolfram was fairly surewith
a discreet escort of men.
It would be much easier to take the woman. When she was not with
the elf she had no guards and it would be a simple task to overpower
her, even without the potion Herzog had promised him.
He watched the woman step forward and take the baby in her arms,
reciting the words of the ceremonyWolfram was too far away
to hear, but he knew it was something about her being ready to
protect the runt should any harm befall his parents.
I wonder how elf-boy would like that? Raising a man's baby?
Strange that the woman is wearing a sword. It must be part
of the ceremony, though he could not remember ever having
seen a female sponsor wear a sword before.
He leaned back against the wall and weighed his options.
If I take the elf, all I will get is four hundred gold pieces,
though Herzog is a good customer, and I can always have the woman
afterwards. If I take the woman as a hostage, I might get as much
as two thousand gold pieces if I handle it rightbut only
if I keep her in reasonable condition.
He decided to wait and see.
"You are cold, melmenya," said Legolas.
"It is just the sea breeze," said Eowyn, smiling up
at him. "It is damp."
They were walking, with the others who had taken part in the
Naming Ceremony, across the castle courtyard to Prince Imrahils
private garden, where they could relax together for a few minutes
whilst the Great Hall was prepared for the banquet in honour of
little Prince Elfwine.
"I will fetch you your cloak," said Legolas.
"No!" cried Eowyn. "Noyou must not go anywhere
"Melmenya!" He laughed.
"I mean it Legolas. It is far too dangerous. At least let
Haldir and Eofred go with you"
But Legolas was already frustrated by the constant presence of
his elven and human escorts. "I cannot endure being treated
like an elfling, melmenya," he said, "He will not try
anything today. Trust methe castle is far too busy and too
well guarded. And I will only be a moment..." And he ran
across the courtyard and up the stairs to their apartment.
"Foolish elf-boy," said Wolfram, watching Legolas from
the rooftop of the Great Hall.
He swung himself over the ridge and rancrouching lowalong
the outer edge of the roof, to the north west corner of the castle,
where he climbed down onto his usual gargoyle and, from there,
onto the elfs balcony.
Eowyns cloak lay on the bed. But, as Legolas reached for
it, he was suddenly aware of the same overpowering sense of menace
he had felt the night before.
He looked around the bedchamberwhere there was nothing
out of placethen, through the windows, at the balcony.
Yes, the threat was on the balcony.
All his senses fully alert, Legolas drew one of his white knives,
moved quietly to the balcony door, and pushed it open.
The odour of something familiar reached his nostrils.
What is that smell? he wondered, his mind feeling strangely
sluggish. Gods, my head hurts.
He took a single step forward, his vision already clouded, his
knees already giving way. Then a hand clamped itself over his
nose and mouth, and his body disappeared.
Eowyn was panic-stricken, her mind racing. She had no idea how
long Legolas had been gone.
I should not have let him go alone, she thought. Why
did I let him go alone?
"Haldir," she cried. "I am going to look for Legolas.
Find Eofred and come up to our apartment." Then she ran across
the courtyard and up the spiral staircase, leaving Haldir staring
after her, open-mouthed.
The moment she reached the bedchamber she knew something was
wrong. Her cloak was still lying on the bed. "Legolas?"
she called. "Legolas?"
The door to the balcony was open. Why would he go out there?
Eowyn ran to the door and wrenched it fully open and, for a split
second, she froze at the sight before her.
A small, shadow of a man in a dark cloak had somehow overpowered
Legolas and was holding a cloth over his nose and mouth. Legolas
was already unconscious, hanging limply in his arms. The man did
not appear to be carrying any weapons other than his cowardly
Eowyn drew her sword. "Release him. Now," she
The man smiledthe coldest, most chilling smile she had
ever seen. "I am sorry my lady," he said, with mock
courtesy, "but I cannot do thatthis elf is worth money
to me. But do not worry. You will see him again when I come back
for you." Then he lifted Legolas over his shoulder
andnot taking her sword seriouslyturned to make his
escape off the balcony.
For Eowyn, the world seemed to come to a standstill as she planned
her attack. She knew she could not risk a cut to the fiends
upper body, for Legolas head and shoulders were shielding
his back and arms. She would have to strike at his legs and hope
that she could bring him down. And she would have to do it before
he reached the balcony wall.
Eowyn sprang forwardbringing her left hand to her right
in a two handed gripand slashed downwards. The man screamed
in pain and staggered, but he kept his hold on Legolas. Eowyn
brought her sword back along the same arc, and the man sank to
"I have underestimated you, my lady," he gasped through
clenched teeth, twisting his upper body towards her. "You
are a worthy opponent. I will be back for you." He dropped
the elf, scuttled to the balcony wall, and disappeared over the
"No Haldir! Stay well back!" cried Eowyn, cradling
Legolas in her arms. "Eofred, please, come and help me!"
The man slipped out onto the balcony and knelt beside her. "I
should follow him, my lady," he said.
"The other guards will catch him," said Eowyn. "Please
help me carry Legolas..."
"Of course, my lady. Here, let me take him." He slipped
his arms around Legolas shoulders and under his knees. "I
saw your sword-work, my lady. That was a tidy wound you gave the
wretch. He will not be walking straight again."
"Ohoh!" cried Eowyn, trying to catch Legolas
head as Eofred lifted him.
"I will be careful with him, my lady," said Eofred,
settling the elf against his chest. "He weighs hardly anything."
Haldir was hovering inside the door, his eyes wild with anger
and frustration. Eofred waited until he had stepped well back,
then carried Legolas inside and laid him on the bed.
"Haldir," said Eowyn, running to Legolas side,
"please fetch Master Dínendal. Quickly."
"Of course, my lady."
"And HaldirAragorn; fetch Aragorn, too." Haldir
nodded, and hurried off down the stairs.
"Help will soon be here, my love," she said to Legolas,
smoothing his hair. "Eofred, take my jewellery box from the
dressing tableyesunlock it and tip out the jewellerynow
take it outside, and shut the cloth inside it and leave it out
there. We will dispose of it later. Then make sure you wash all
traces of that vile oil off your hands."
"Although he appears lifless," said Master Dínendal,
"his breathing and his heartbeat are both normal, andfrom
the way his eyes respond to lightI suspect that he is still,
to some extent, aware of what is going on around him. I do not
think the poison will do him any lasting harm, though I do expect
him to sleep for at least another twenty hours, and then to fall
into a natural, healing sleep almost immediately after he recovers."
"That is good news," said Aragorn.
"But that creature is still on the loose," said Eowyn,
resuming her place beside Legolas and taking his hand, "and
could come back for himor for one of the others. If only
I had finished him off, but I could notnot without fear
of injuring Legolas."
"No one could have done more than you did, my lady,"
said Haldir. "Legolas owes you his life." He placed
his hand upon her shoulder.
"Who is he?" said Aragorn. "How is he getting
in and out of the castle? How is it that he can move about unseen?"
He looked questioningly at Imrahil, but the prince shook his head.
"Describe him again, Eowyn."
"He washe was nothing. No one. Medium height, medium
build, ordinary face, wearing a dark cloak. He was very agilethough
not, please gods, any more."
"Perhaps that is your answer, Aragorn," said Imrahil.
"He looks unremarkable so no one gives him a second look."
Eofred cleared his throat. "My lady," he said, diffidently,
"I believe I heard him say something to you."
"Did you?" Eowyn frowned. "I cannot remember."
"I believe he said he would back for you, my lady."
"Are you sure of that?" asked Aragorn.
Eofred hesitated. "Well, II could not swear to it,
your Majesty." He looked to Haldir for confirmation, but
Haldir shook his head.
"I did not hear anything," said Haldir, "but would
it not be wise to keep Lady Eowyn under guard as well, as a precaution?"
"I will be staying here, with Legolas," said Eowyn
"Very well, then," said Aragorn. "We will guard
you both, here, until the villain has been caught."
It had taken every ounce of Wolframs determination and
cunning to get out of the castle.
His normal routes had been impossiblehe could not climb
far and there was no chance of his walking out through the gate
unnoticednot this time. But there was a third route, which
Wolfram had spotted the first time he had found his way into the
castle drains. It was dirty and disgusting but, physically, it
was easy, and he had kept it in reserve for an emergency.
Wolframs legs were almost dead, but his arms were still
strong and he had managed to slip off the balcony and climb into
the next apartment. There he had spent a few moments tearing a
shirt into strips and binding his legsif he was going to
escape he had to avoid bleeding to death.
And he must not leave a bloody trail.
Then he had found a clean pair of breeches, pulled them on, picked
up a quarterstaff to use as a walking stick, and made his way
out of the apartment and slowly down the spiral staircase.
And luck had been on his side.
He had emerged exactly where he needed to be, at the north east
corner of the castle courtyard, next to the surface drain, and
a convenient commotion in the far cornerPrince Imrahil giving
orders to a handful of guards and the big elf urging the King
of Gondor across the courtyardhad drawn all eyes away from
Wolfram had slipped into the drain unseen and had immediately
been engulfed by the filth beneath.
Once out of the castle, he had dragged himself to the village
of hovels and taverns and stews that stood by the docks and sought
out the small boy he often used as a messenger.
And whilst the boys mother helped him clean himselfas
best she couldhe had sent the boy, who was bright and quick
and more than a match for any guards that might be watching the
apothecary, to fetch Herzog.
Brenal had been peering out of the window for almost eight hours.
He had taken his eyes off the back door of the apothecarys
shop only twiceto relieve himselfand, even then, he
had made sure that the lady of the house, who had insisted on
keeping watch with him, had covered for him.
It had been eight hours of nothing.
No comings. No goings. No lights. No smoke from the chimney.
Not even a twitching of the curtainif you could call that
filthy rag a curtain.
Actually, less than nothing, thought Brenal.
King Elessar had warned them that the apothecary might use a
spell to cloud their vision. And I think he has. It is as if
some invisible smoke is shrouding the door and windows. Even the
By the gods, what is that?
Brenal pressed his face to the windowpane and craned his neck
to get a better view down into the alley.
"Can you see something?" asked the lady, excitedly.
"I am not sure," replied Brenal. "No, I cannot
"What is it?"
"A small boy! He is knocking on the door of the shop."
"But the shop is empty. We have seen no sign of life in
all the time we have been watching."
"No. But hehethe door is still closed but he
appears to be talking to someone. He is pointing down the alley.
Now he is waiting..."
"Let me see!"
Brenal moved asside to give her better access to the window.
"Yes, you are right. How strange... Look!"
The boy was now walking quickly down the alley.
"It is as though," said the woman, thoughtfully, "he
is plucking at someones sleeve, trying to hurry him along,
but there is no one there."
"There is a shadow there," said Brenal. "Keep
a watch on that door for me, Mistress. I am going to report this
to King Elessar. Right away."
"Gods!" said Herzog pulling out his handkerchief and
holding it to his nose. "I expect to be well paid for this.
This is not part of our business."
"You will get your money; I know a way to make several thousand
gold pieces," said Wolfram. "Now fix me up. I need to
be able to walk."
Herzog stripped the bindings from Wolframs legs shaking
"Ilúvatar! Who did this to you?" he asked. "Boiling
water! And clean rags, " he called to the woman.
"She didthe elfs womanshe protected
him like a she-warg defending its cubsagh!"
"Keep still!" said Herzog, sponging away the caked
blood. "I will have to excise this; it is filthy and already
beginning to festerbring me something he can bite ona
leather strap," he called to the woman.
Herzog held the blade of his long, thin knife in the flames of
the fire for a few moments. "Put the strap in his mouth,"
he instructed, "and hold his arms behind his head. I need
more light," he added, turning to the boy. "Bring that
lamp over here, and hold it over his legs."
Working quickly and efficiently, one wound at a time, Herzog
sliced away the infected flesh, ignoring Wolframs stifled
cries"Hold him still!"drawing the raw edges
together, stitching up the wounds and covering them with a thick
layer of cleansing paste.
Finally, he bound each leg tightly with clean rags.
"I will leave you some of the ointment. You will need to
clean the wounds and renew the dressings every twelve hours. Do
not forgetotherwise, the wounds will fester."
"Give me something for the painI need to walk,"
Wolfram gasped, between harsh, ragged breaths.
"Do not walk for at least a week if you want these wounds
to heal well."
"I need to go back for the woman."
"Do not be foolish"
"She is the King of Rohans sister, and they say she
was the King of Gondors mistress before he married, and
now she belongs to the elf prince... They will all pay a fortune
to get her back... And the elves may try to rescue her... If I
bring her here, we will have everything we want."
"Wait until your wounds have healed"
"No! The Naming Ceremony is over. They will leave as soon
as the elf prince recoversmaybe even sooner... I must strike
nowgods! Give me something for the pain! I will pay
Herzog reluctantly opened his bag, sorted amongst its contents,
and removed a small, brown glass vial.
"This is the most powerful anodyne known to man. Used properly,
it will give you up to twelve hours free of painyou will
be able to walk and climb as if you had never been injured. But,
if I give it to you, there are rules you must follow.
"First, the dosageyou can take up to five drops every
four hours. But never take more than five drops, and do not take
more than three doses, or the anodyne will deaden your heart and
stop it beating. Secondly, take caredo not injure
yourself whilst your body feels no pain or you may sustain a fatal
wound and not know until sensation returns and it is too late.
Thirdly, remember that this is only buying you timeit is
an anodyne, not a cureand when sensation does return, the
pain will be intense.
"Finally, if you want it, you must pay me now." Herzog
thought for a moment. He is desperate. "Forty gold
"Gods!" gasped Wolfram, but whether from pain or outrage
Herzog could not tell. "Very well... I will send the boy
to fetch the money. And then, when I am on my feet again, I will
take my beautiful ladyonce and for all."
"Varinyou remember him, a handy boyhe will be
coming with me to Minas Tirith and we will be repairing the mechanical
waterfall in the Queens garden. But we may need a labourer
to help us with the plants. Can you think of anyone? If not, we
will just have to get rid of all that niphredil-stuff ourselves..."
Legolas had been sleeping for almost five hours. But, because
Master Dínendal had told her that he was probably aware
of his surroundings, Eowyn was insisting that all his visitors
talk to him as though he were awake.
Senta had slipped across from the womens healing room to
see him and had told him of Sweeps latest adventureflying
out of the window, around the courtyard, and back onto the balcony.
She had been afraid, she said, that he might fly away, but Sweep
had returned to her when she called him and had hopped back into
his cage by himself.
Merry and Pippin had told to him about winter in the Shire, describing
the icicles hanging from the thatch of Hobbiton, and reliving
the joys of drinking mugs of mulled ale around the fire at Bag
End with Sam and Rosie. And Merry had invited him and Eowyn to
spend their next Yuletide at Crickhollow.
Haldir had described his recent visit to Lorienhow he had
rambled despondently through the great mallorn trees and climbed
up to the decayed flets, remembering happier timesand how
the thought of his future in Eryn Carantaur, with Legolas and
Eowyn, had cheered him.
And now Gimli was trying to goad the elf into waking.
Or perhaps he is just enjoying being able to say whatever
he likes, with no fear of a witty retort, Eowyn thought. "Pray
to the Valar that he will recover, Haldir," she whispered.
"Of course he will recover, my lady. He is a fighterand
he has something to fight for..." Haldir was tentatively
reaching for her hand when Aragorn burst through the door, followed
by a tall, dark man Eowyn recognised as one of Faramirs
"The apothecary has been spotted, we believe," said
Aragorn. "Tell them, Brenal."
Brenal described what he had seenthe clouding of his vision
whenever he looked directly at the shop, the strange behaviour
of the boy, and his impression that a shape or shadow was walking
down the alley beside the child.
"It is a pity you did not follow the boy, Brenal,"
"I am sorry, your Majesty. I realise that now but, at the
time, I did not trust my eyes. However, the lady of the house
is still watching the shop, your Majesty. And if the apothecary
returns I am sure she will see himat least, see somethingfor
that woman misses nothing, believe me."
"Might I make a suggestion, your Majesty?" said Haldir.
"You have four elves at your disposal. Set us to watch beside
your men. Keep us in pairs, if you fear for our safety, but make
use of our eyes and our earsmaybe we can penetrate
the shadow this villain has cast, when your own men cannot."
He smiled apologetically at Brenal, but Brenal was too good-natured
a man to bear any grudge.
Aragorn considered Haldirs suggestion. "It is true,"
he said, "that Legolas could sense the apothecarys
presence when we were in the shop, and I think that Haldir may
be right. Will you permit me to use the March Warden and his men,
Eowyn thought for a moment. "The danger they would face
is not honourable battle but something hidden and altogether more
sinister. I do not believe that Legolas would order them to do
thatI think he would explain the risks and ask them to volunteer.
I am sure that every one of them will agree to help, Aragorn,
but please ask themas he would." She squeezed Legolas
"Very well. I will leave you and Legolas in Gimlis
capable hands. There are guards outside the door, and more at
the foot of the staircase. You should be safe. Haldirlet
us go to the guardhouse and speak to your men. Come, Brenal."
It was not for a good hour after taking the anodyne that Wolfram
was able to stand and walk without showing any outward sign of
his injuries, but he had spent that hour devising a strategy,
such as it was.
I have less than eleven hours, he thought, for I must
make sure I am somewhere safe when the pain returns.
I have no idea what I am walking intowhere the woman
is, whether she is guarded, whether she has been able to describe
me to her guards...
I have only one option left.
The moment he could walk, Wolfram paid the woman two gold pieces
for her help and her silenceI must be getting soft, he thoughtand
entered Dol Amroth by Dinham Gate. Then he made his way to the
castle gatehouse, pausing only to buy two jugs of good, strong
ale at The Pyewype tavern on Camp Lane.
Wolfram had always made of point of being friendly towards the
men who guarded the gates of both the city and the castleYou
never know when the effort will pay offand he had a
feeling that his diligence would be rewarded now.
Luckily there was only one guard on duty in the castle gatehouse,
and it was a man he knew well.
"Good evening Torul!" he said, heartily. "I hear
you have had some fun and games today! I thought you might welcome
a quart..." He slammed a jug of ale down on the table.
Torul looked around furtively, but there was no sign of the Captain
of the Guard, so he picked it up. "Cheers!" he said,
and took a long draught. "Gods, I needed that!" He wiped
his mouth with the back of his hand. "You have no idea what
it has been like today."
"They are saying someone attacked one of the elves."
"They are? Gods, news travels fast..." Torul looked
around again, but there was still no sign of the Captain, so it
was safe to talk. "Yes. Someone attacked one of the elves
and knocked him out with some sort of oil. He is still asleep,
and will be until tomorrow, they say." Torul took another
draught. "The elfs lady caught the villain just in
time and sliced off one of his legsor very nearly."
"So you guards all have extra work?" Wolfram prompted.
"Oh, yes; there are two pairs of guards on every staircase,
there are guards following the rest of the elves wherever they
go, and there are guards disguised as the-gods-know-what, lurking
around the town, looking for one of the suspects."
"They have a suspect?"
"Some apothecary that has been supplying the kitchen girls
with too much spirits and mustard,"Torul winked"if
you know what I mean. They think he supplied the oil. He may even
have designs on parts of the elf, to use in some witchcraft, or
so they say."
"That lady must be really something," Wolfram prompted
"Face like a goddess, temper like an orcPrincess Eowyn
of Rohan, Prince Elfs lady. She is the woman who slew the
Witch King of Angmar at Pelennor Field. She is still guarding
Prince Elf up in the healing rooms..." Torul drained his
jug of ale.
"I would certainly like to get a look at her," said
"Forget it, friend," said Torul. "That lady is
better guarded than this end of the Harad Road."
But Wolfram, at that very moment, had noticed a jerkin hanging
on one of the coat hooks by the gatehouse door...
About half an hour later, Wolfram put on the Gondorian guardsmans
jerkin and slipped out of the gatehouse, leaving Torulwho
had also drained most of Wolframs jug of ale as well as
his owndozing beside the window.
I have two hours before I need the next dose, thought
Wolfram. I must not waste any more time.
He walked purposefully to the south east corner of the courtyard,
nodded to the two palace guards at the door, and started down
"Wait a minute!" cried one of the guards. "Where
are you going?"
"The Queen of Gondor wants something from the kitchen,"
replied Wolfram, calmly.
The palace guards exchanged glances; the second guard shrugged.
"Very well," he said, "but you should have told
us what you were doing without having to be asked."
Wolfram bowed graciously then ran down the stairs, heading straight
for the kitchen. That stuff of Herzogs is certainly working,
he thought. The gods only know what will happen when it wears
The kitchen was busy. Most of the staff was clearing up after
the banquet that had been held earlier in the day, but some of
the cooks were already preparing a light evening meal. Wolfram
made straight for the most important looking man in the kitchen.
"Master cook," he said, bowing deeply, "my sovereign
lady, the Queen of Gondor, requests a dainty dish for her friend,
the Princess Eowyn."
"What are you taking about?" asked the cook.
"You must have heard what happened earlier todayhow
Princess Eowyn routed the villain who tried to kidnap her elven
lord? But the lady is now out of sorts and her Majesty wishes
to tempt her appetite with something light but nourishing. Surely
you have something for the gallant lady. A delicious syllabub,
perhaps? I am sure the Queenand the King of Gondorwill
be most grateful."
Ten minutes later, Wolfram emerged into the courtyard carrying
So far, so good, he thought.