The long column of elves wound its way silently
through the forest of Eryn Carantaur. Legolas had planned to travel
the last few mileswhere forest gave way to open plainunder
cover of darkness and, as dusk fell, the column left the forest,
cut eastwards across the flood plain, and joined the Athrad Road.
The ruins of Minas Athrad stood, dark and mysterious, silhouetted
against the starry sky.
Slowly and quietly, the elves threaded their way down the road,
through the ruined gatehouse and into the castle ward. Legolas
set guards at the gatehouse and at the breaches in the great walls
and, with the castle secure, the elves set to work by the light
of the moon.
Eowyn watched in fascination as groups of elves worked silently
in perfect accord, anticipating one another's movements and providing
timely help, like bees in a hive. They stabled the horses in the
shelter of the northern wall, and installed the support crew in
the ruins of the keep, turning the Great Hall into a workshop
and the solar into a healing room. The cook set up his field kitchen
in one of the two bastions on the southern wall, and Legolas commandeered
the other bastion as a war room.
The Mirkwood elves had escorted the support crew on the journey
and were now installing the craftsmen and their equipment in the
Orodreth and Maeglin had helped the swordsmith, Nolofinwë,
test the chimney of the massive fireplace and erect his portable
furnace. "The walls of this building are thick," said
Nolofinwë, "and the flue is well-sealed, so I should
have no trouble getting the fire up to temperaturewithout
filling the healing room above full of smoke."
Finrod and Amras had helped the bowyer, a fellow Mirkwood elf
called Taurnil, to improvise a workbench against the eastern wall
of the Hall.
"The light will be good here, Mahtan," said Taurnil
to his fletcher, "coming from all around us. And we can hang
our patterns on this pier." He looked up towards the ceiling.
"Strange; the pier is not full height."
Finrod turned to Taurnil's stringer, "We have met before,"
"No, I do not believe so."
"You are not from Mirkwood"
"So it must have been in Imladris we met, when I attended
the Council of Elrond with Prince Legolas..."
"I have told you," said the stringer, "that we
have never met before"
"Fëanáro," called Taurnil, "come and
help me position this vice."
"Excuse me," said the stringer.
Fëanáro, thought Finrod. Give me time,
and I will remember where I have seen you before.
When the camp was complete, the elves laid out their bedrolls
in the grassy castle ward, and settled down under the stars to
rest. Lulled by their gentle singing, Eowyn soon fell asleep.
When she awoke it was still dark.
She was lyingas Legolas had insisted when he had 'agreed
to let her come'in Legolas' bedroll, snuggled in his arms,
warm and comfortable. Legolas was awake, still singing softly
to the stars.
How unworldly elves can be, she thought. How wonderful
and how different from men! How could I ever think of leaving
However infuriating he can be sometimes...
She rolled over so that she was lying on top of Legolas and kissed
"Good morning, melmenya," he whispered, "are you
"Mmm," she whispered back, burying her face
in his hair. She felt his hands slide down her back and wrap themselves
around her hips, pulling her body against his, and she laughed
softly at the proof of his love for her.
Legolas laughed too. "We cannot, now, melmenya," he
whispered, stroking her hair, "I need to make a start on
organising the raid." He hesitated. "I am sorry, Eowyn.
You were right and I was wrong. We did agree that ours would be
a relationship of equals and I had no right to try to stop you
coming here." He kissed the top of her head. "Besides,"
he added, mischievously, "I like having you in my bedroll."
Eowyn raised her head, so that she could look him in the eye
when she gave him her stinging reply, but a movementlike
the movement of a creatureover by the castle keep caught
her attention, and some instinct told her that whatever it was
would disappear if she startled it.
I must keep very still, she thought, raising her eyes
to get a better look. Gods, what is it?! For a moment she
was completely overcome by fear.
"What is wrong, melmenya?" asked Legolas, anxiously.
"Shhhhh!" She pressed her hands down on his
shoulders to keep him still.
But the creature, striding across the castle ward, had become
aware of her. It paused for the briefest of moments, turning to
look her directly in the eye, then it continued on its journey,
disappearing through a gap in the castle wall, its graceful, sinuous
motion at odds with its hideous appearance.
For a moment, Eowyn continued to watch the empty space. Then
she buried her face in Legolas' shoulder and wept.
"Oh gods," she sobbed, "Oh gods, no!"
"Are you sure it was not an orc, my lady?" asked
"Of course I am sureit did not look like an orc"
"Orcs come in many shapes and sizes," Haldir persisted.
"IT WAS NOT AN ORC!"
"Melmenya!" cried Legolas, surprised by her outburst.
He put his arms around her and tried to calm her.
"Describe it to us again, my lady," said Gimli.
"It looked like a manor an elftall and lean
and it walked upright. But it was naked and covered in thick grey
haireverywhere except top of its head, which was bald. It
had long fingernails, like claws. And its face... Its face was
angry and it was baring its teeth." Then she added, in a
very small voice, "And I was afraid of it..."
Legolas hugged her, exchanging worried glances with Haldir and
Gimli, who both nodded in agreement. This was not like Eowyn.
The Shieldmaiden who had protected the women and children at Helm's
Deep by standing at the entrance of the caves and slaying every
orc that tried to enter, who had ridden into battle at Pelennor
Field, with a hobbit before her, bringing down two Mûmakil
and slaying the Witch King of Angmarthis woman did not frighten
"We will search the keep again, melmenya," said Legolas,
"looking for any trace of this thing; and tonight we will
post guards within the castle wall as well as without."
"You think it will come back?" asked Haldir.
"I think," said Legolas, "that, from what Eowyn
has told us about it, we are sleeping in its lair."
Shortly after dawn, Rumil and Orophin returned from scouting
the main orc band at Eithel Hûn. "They are still there,"
said Orophin, "clustered around the spring itself. About
sixty of them now."
"They are strangely subdued," added Rumil. "Normally
groups of orcs are noisy. They bluster and bicker and fight. But
these are just sitting. Waiting..."
"It is eery," agreed Orophin.
The scouts sent to observe the other bandson the island
of Toll Thâr, to the south west in Eryn Brethil, and across
the river at Habad Pennall reported similar behaviour.
"They sit and wait," said one of the Mirkwood elves.
"Some of them have their knees drawn up to their chests and
rock back and forth, moaning. It is as if they were in pain. My
lord..." he hesitated.
"Yes, Valandil?" Legolas prompted.
"Itit seems wrong to attack them when they are so
Legolas nodded. "It does. But we have no choice Valandil.
This... condition of theirs may only be temporary. And I would
not be surprised if our attack roused them from their stupor."
"At least." said Haldir, when the Mirkwood elves had
left them, "it appears we can attack each band in turn without
worrying too much about the others coming to their aid."
"Yes, it does," said Legolas. "Eowyn, what are
your thoughts on all this?"
Eowyn, who had been sitting quietly, staring at her own feet,
raised her head and looked at Legolas. Her face was pale and drawn
and her eyes seemed unnaturally large. "I think it is the
creature," she said.
"I think they have seen it."
Legolas motioned Gimli, Haldir and the rest of the elves to withdraw.
Haldir herded them outside, but he himself remained hovering just
beyond the door.
Legolas knelt before Eowyn and took her hands. They were deathly
cold. "My love," he said, "you are not well and
I am going to ask Master Dínendal to look at you."
She stared at him, surprised. "There is nothing wrong with
me, Legolas," she said. "The creature frightened me,
that is all. And I think it has frightened the orcs. There is
something strange about it. I am not ill..."
But her voice sounded small and brittle.
"Shhhhh, my love," Legolas whispered, kissing
her forehead gently. "Let me take you to Master Dínendaldo
it just to humour your stupid, bigoted, oppressive elf-husband.
There is plenty of time. We will not be leaving on the first raid
until just before dusk." And he lifted her into his arms,
and carried her across the ward, into the keep, to the solar,
which Master Dínendal had prepared as a healing room.
"What did she mean, the orcs have seen the creature?"
"She is not well," said Orophin. "She does not
know what she is say" Rumil gave him a sharp dig in
the ribs as Legolas and Haldir approached.
"How is she?" asked Gimli.
"I do not know, elvellon, and I am worried,"
said Legolas. "We have searched the castle keep twice but
have found no trace of this creature. I did not see itnor
did I sense anything when it passed. None of the elves on watch
saw it. The only person who has seen it is Eowyn"
"Are you sure that this creature exists?" asked Orophin.
"Of course it exists," said Haldir, quickly stepping
between Orophin and Legolas. "Eowyn is no foolish maid, but
an experienced warrior who has seen many strange and terrible
things on the battlefield. If she says she saw it, then there
was something to see, even if its exact nature was hidden by some
"Yes," said Legolas, "and we will keep looking
until we find it."
Gimli cleared his throat in agreement.
"But," Legolas continued, "let us plan our attack
on the orcs." He turned to Haldir. "I want forty warriors,
and the healer Findecáno, ready to advance by mid afternoon;
we will leave at four."
The March Warden acknowleged his orders with a curt nod of the
"Thirty of us will take to the trees," Legolas continued,
"encircle the orcs, and shoot five volleys down into the
encampment. Once the shooting is over, the rest will move in on
the ground and deal with the orcs that are still alivethough
Gimli and Haldir will each take a live prisoner and bring him
back here. I am sorry, Gimli," he added when the dwarf began
to protest, "but this task is important and requires your
strength and determination, elvellon.
"Now, does anyone have any comments?" he glanced at
each in turnGimli, Haldir, Rumil, Orophin; all shook their
heads. "Good. I leave the preparations in your hands, March
Warden. I will be in the healing room if you need me."
Eowyn was sitting in master Dínendal's makeshift dispensary,
carefully preparing a thick herbal paste.
"Master Dínendal asked me to help him," she
said. "This stuff stops infection and helps skin knit together,
apparently. But it takes a lot of grinding." She grinned,
rubbing her face, and accidentally smeared some dark green paste
across her cheek.
"Are you feeling better?" asked Legolas, gently wiping
away the smear with his thumb.
"I was never ill, Legolas," she replied. "When
do we leave?"
The elf hesitated, but he did not want to have another fight
with her. "At four," he said. "In five hours."
"I will be ready by then."
"Let me speak to Master Dínendal for a moment, melmenya,
then I will come and help you with your paste." He beckoned
the healer over, and drew him outside the solar. "How is
she?" he asked quietly.
"I am not sure, my lord," replied Dínendal.
"She insists that she is not ill and I confess I can find
nothing physically wrong with her, butbut I agree with you
that she is not herself. She is... vague."
"What have you given her?"
"Nothing my lord. Her recovery, such as it is, is due to
her own constitution. Are all human women so strong?"
Legolas shrugged. "She is the only woman I know, Master
"Mmm. I suspect that she is still protected, to some extent,
from magical harm by King Elessar's healing powersthis creature
is a being of magic, is it not?"
"I do not know, Master Dínendal. I do not know anything
about it. Eowyn is the only person who has seen it."
The healer nodded, gravely. "There is a tonic I could have
given hersomething that we give to elves who are succumbing
to griefthe early symptoms are quite similar. But in the
end I was too unsure of the effects it would have on a woman to
risk it. Besides, I did not want simply to mask her symptomswe
know nothing of this condition and we need to observe it carefully.
So, instead, I put her to work. Taking her mind off the creature
seems to have helped."
"Is it safe for her to go on the raid?"
"I believe her physical symptoms are merely a reflection
of her mental state my lord, and you will know better than I whether
her mind is fit for battle."
In the event, Legolas spent a few pleasant hours working at Eowyn's
side, preparing the healing paste. They talked and laughed and
teased each other and, by the end of it, Eowyn seemed restored
to her normal self.
And Legolas decided that they should both prepare for battle.
"Take care of her for me Gimli," whispered Legolas,
briefly clasping the dwarf's shoulder before effortlessly swinging
himself up into a tree. The majority of his warriors were already
aloft, awaiting his command. Legolas gave them the signal to advance
and the elves began to advance silently, making not the slightest
rustle to give themselves away.
We must be within a hundred yards of the orc encampment, thought
Legolas, but the forest is silent. Eery.
Within seconds they had reached the edge of the clearing. Legolas
looked down at the orcs. They were exactly as the scouts had described
themgrouped around the spring, waiting.
And they were frightened. He could feel it.
Legolas experienced a moment of remorse for what he was about
to do, but he reminded himself of the countless times he had dealt
with the aftermath of an orc attackburying the dead, comforting
the violated, as best he could, and despatching cleanly those
whose body and spirit were too torn and broken to survive.
Valar, it has to be stopped!
He gave the signal.
Thirty elves, encircling the encampment, simultaneously nocked
an arrow, drew, and looseda good third of the orcs were
gone. Of the rest, some began to panic, leaping to their feet
and trying to runthey were brought down by the next volley.
Some orcs stood their ground, drew their weapons, and scanned
the trees, searching for the enemythey fell in the third
volley. But a large number had simply remained sitting on the
ground, as if they accepted their fate, and most of those were
picked off by the final volleys. Then the shooting stopped and
the ground force ran forward, Eowyn amongst them, to finish off
Legolas dropped to the ground and drew his white knives.
Gimli had no idea how to take a prisonerhe suspected it
involved pointing an arrow at an orc and making some sort of threat.
The March Warden will be in his element, he thought. But
I will have to improvise.
He selected a slow-moving Uruk Hai as his target, drew his axe
and ran towards it. It was sluggishthe whole band was sluggishbut
big. Using a slight incline topped with a large flat stone as
a ramp, Gimli leaped into the air, throwing himself onto the Uruk's
back and battering it about the head with the flat of his axe.
Caught by surprise, the Uruk Hai had no defence. It sank to the
ground, unconscious, taking Gimli with it, and trapping the dwarf's
legs beneath the dead weight of its great torso.
Gimli pushed his hands against the Uruk's shoulders, struggling
to free himselfJust who is supposed to be the prisoner here?
Then a commotion amongst the elves to his right caught his attention.
A warg was rampaging through the encampment, trampling all in
its path, and heading straight towards him.
"Awwww!" Gimli roared, pushing, and wriggling,
and swearing, but he could not free himself.
So this is it, he thought and he turned his head to face his
But a small warrior with long golden hair had placed herself
between him and the galloping beast. She raised her sword and
awaited her chance.
Legolas had heard his friend's battle cry and was running towards
him, knives drawn, already aware that he might be too late, when,
with a mixture of horror and pride, he saw his wife place herself
in the path of the furious warg.
Eowyn waited, sword raised, until the animal was almost on top
of her. Then she stepped aside at the critical moment, and calmly
brought her blade down in a two-handed slice.
The beast fell to its knees within inches of the dwarf's chest,
its head almost severed from its neck.
"Retrieve the arrows," shouted Legolas. "We cannot
risk burning the bodiesit might alert the other bandsand
we do not have enough elves to bury them. We will build a pyre
and stack the bodies on it, but we will not set it alight until
after the other orcs have been dealt with."
They dragged Gimli's dazed Uruk Hai and Haldir's orc back to
Minas Athrad and down into the remains of the castle dungeon.
Gimli inspected the cells and pronounced one of them sufficiently
secure to hold the prisoners, but Legolas also posted four guards
at the door.
"We will question them first thing in the morning,"
he said. "What they tell us may affect how we plan the next
The elves were celebrating their victory in typical elven fashion,
sitting under the stars, singing softly but, tonight, Legolas
was too agitated to join in.
"Eowyn," he whispered, "come with me." He
lifted her to her feet and led her across the castle ward and
into the bastion that was serving as his war room. There, he closed
the broken door and wedged a saddlebag beneath to keep it closed.
Then he took her in his arms.
"Have you any idea how it felt," he said, "watching
my wife risk her life to save my best friend? All I could think
was that I might lose youthat I might lose both of you,
in one instant."
"Of course I know what it is like, my love. I have watched
you fight! I have watched others I love fightand die!"
said Eowyn. "But Gimli is my friend too. And, more
than that, he is my comrade, and I would have done the same if
any of the others had been in the path of the warg. And so would
"I do not think I can bear it, melmenya," said Legolas.
"Do you think I can bear seeing you in danger?"
asked Eowyn. "But I do not have a choice. And neither do
you, Legolas," she added, firmly. But she reached up and
stroked his face.
He pressed his cheek into her hand. "I need you, melmenya,"
"I know, my love. And I need you, too." She smiled,
"But we will have to be quiet!"
He seated himself on a piece of masonry, with Eowyn standing
before him, and slowly unlaced and removed her leggings, gently
rubbing her stomach and her inner thighs as he exposed them. Then
he pulled her down onto his lap and opened his own leggings, so
that his erect penis stood between her thighs.
"Oh Legolas," she whispered, stroking him gently.
But when she lifted herself and tried to sink down on him he
stilled her. "No, not yet, my love." He wrapped his
hands around her hips, tilting her backwards and pulling her closer,
and he began rocking her up and down so that the hard ridge of
his shaft rubbed gently against her most sensitive flesh.
"Oh my love," she whispered, shivering, "Oh Legolas;
"Shhhhh." He knew she liked to be penetrated
quickly, and he usually enjoyed her impatience, but tonight he
needed to feel like a real elfand that meant taking things
He took her little hand and placed it on his penis, gently pushing
it closed around his shaft, then began to guide it up and down.
The sensation was exquisite. But Eowyn began to squirm against
their joined hands, begging him to enter her, and the effect of
her need on his body was devastating. Gods, he thought, I will
not last: she makes me as impatient as she is. And he lifted her
quickly and brought her down upon him, coming as soon as he felt
her warmth surround him.
And Eowyn, now used to his elven stamina, waited the few moments
it took him to recover then began to ride him, hard and fast.
Legolas was sleeping more deeply than usual and it took a moment
before he was fully awake.
"I am sorry to disturb you, my lord..."
"What is it, Valandil?" he asked, gently shaking Eowyn,
who was still sleeping in his arms.
"It is Maeglin, my lord. He was on watch last night, at
the breach in the western wall..." Valandil shook his head,
"He is dead, my lord. When I went to relieve him this morning,
I found him dead."
"His neck has been broken," said Dínendal. "Snapped
by someone with great strength."
"Could it have been the Uruk Hai?" asked Legolas. "Could
he have escaped from the dungeon?"
"That is the first thing I thought," said Gimli, "so
I went down there and checked. But he is still in the cellthey
both are. Curled up in opposite corners, sobbing like babies."
"What is going on?" asked Legolas, in exasperation.
The dead elf was lying face down across a pile of rubble, like
a rag doll that some child had thrown down in a tantrum. Eowyn
crouched beside him and looked up at his face. "Dear gods,"
she said softly.
"What is it melmenya?"
"His expression," she said, "he lookshe
"Master Dínendal," said Legolas. "Take
him to the healing room and examine him thoroughly. You know the
sort of thing we are looking for."
"Yes, my lord."
"Let me know what you find as soon as possible. Haldir,
speak to the warriors, calm them down. I am sure this was done
by an outsider, but discreetly check that everyone is accounted
for. Eowyn, Gimli, let us inspect the ground carefully, and see
if we can find any trace of the killer. This is beginning to feel
familiar, meleth nín."
"Legolas," said Eowyn, as they examined the ground
around the breach in the wall, "this is where the creature
"I know," said Legolas. "Something strange is
happening here, Eowynthe orcs, the creature, the way you
behaved after you had seen it... There is something evil