Legolas and Eowyn leaned against the rubble beneath
the breach in the castle wall. Together with Gimli, they had crawled
over every inch of ground, inside and outside the castle, searching
for hair, fragments of cloth, signs of a struggleanything
that might give them a clue to the killer's identity. But they
had found nothing.
"Perhaps Master Dínendal will find something on the
body," said Eowyn.
Gimli was perching on a large piece of fallen masonry, just outside
the wall, preparing his pipe. "Who could come and goand
killwithout leaving any trace?" he said.
"An elf," said Legolas.
"But why would an elf kill one of his own comrades?"
"A personal grudge," said Legolas. "Maeglin was
a Mirkwood elfand our Silvan ways do not endear us to everybody."
"Nonsense!" said Eowyn. "Eryn Carantaur is the
most harmonious of places. Elves join this colony because they
believe in its ideals. And there is not a single warrior here
who does not love and respect you."
"She is right lad," said Gimli, reaching into his pocket
for his tinderbox. "Awwww!" The small box slipped from
his hand, rolled down the stone block, and fell to the ground.
Gimli jumped down after it.
"Gimli?" said Legolas, after a moment. The dwarf was
hidden from view. "Gimli? Are you all right?"
"Come here lad," cried Gimli. "Come and look!"
Legolas and Eowyn knelt beside the dwarf and peered at the ground.
Gimli's tinderbox lay in a patch of soft mud behind the stone.
To either side of it were partial footprints. The feet that had
made them had been barelong and narrow with sharp nails
that had left scratches in the earth. "They are like a dog's
claws," said Eowyn. "And look at the way his heel is
"He was running, melmenya," said Legolas.
"But when I saw him," said Eowyn, "he was walking.
Even after he realised that I had seen him, he did not run away."
She shuddered, remembering the creature's expression, "He
snarled at me, and then he strode away..."
"So this was probably a different occasion," said Gimli.
"Perhaps he was running from the scene of his crime."
"Let us see where he went," said Legolas.
But another half-hour of careful searching across the flood plain
and along the riverbank did not yield any more footprints.
"We can do no more here," said Legolas.
Master Dínendal had examined the body carefully but, aside
from the broken neck and the terrified expression, had found nothing.
"Poor Maeglin," said Legolas looking at the dead elf.
"We used to patrol the borders of Mirkwood together. He taught
me a lot about living off the landshowed me how to skin
and cook a rabbit." He shook his head, sadly. Eowyn squeezed
"There are no other wounds on his body, my lord," said
Dínendal, "and no sign that he struggled or tried
to defend himself." He showed them the elf's unblemished
hands. "And yet he must have been aware of the attack,"
he added, stroking the pale hair back from the distorted face.
"It is as though he were paralysed with fearand his
attacker simply twisted his neck and snapped his spine like a
"Did you know Maeglin, Taurnil?" asked Nolofinwë,
the swordsmith. After the previous day's raid, he had several
swords to repair, and was making an early start.
"Not really," replied the bowyer. "I did most
of my work for the royal familyPrince Legolas, his father"
"Yes. And the palace guards. But I know that Maeglin was
well regardedhe attended the Council of Elrond with Prince
Legolas. And he was liked by the other border guards. He will
"Who could have killed him?" asked Mahtan. "They
are saying that someone has a grudge against Mirkwood elveswe
had better be careful, you and I, Taurnil!"
Taurnil laughed. "I have heard that it was this creature
that Lady Eowyn is supposed to have seen," he said. "Pass
me that awl, Fëanáro."
"Something has been troubling me, Haldir, and that is: why
was Maeglin alone?"
Haldir had joined Legolas, Eowyn and Gimli in the war room.
"That troubled me, too," said Haldir, "for he
should have been on watch with Amras and, when Valandil found
him, he was alone.
"So I had the castle searched for Amras. We found him lying
inside the keep, in the Great Hall, under the bowyer's workbench.
He was in a profoundly deep sleep, with his eyes closed. It took
us fifteen minutes to waken him. He says he does not know how
he came to be there." Haldir hesitated. "And I believe
Legolas nodded. "I know Amras. He is another Mirkwood border
guarda brave warrior and an honourable elf," he said.
"I believe him too."
The Uruk Hai and the orc were curled up, just as Gimli had described,
in separate corners of the cell, moaning. Legolas drew his white
knives and entered. Eowyn, Gimli and Haldir remained outside,
their weapons ready.
Legolas bent over the Uruk Hai. What do you say to a fiend
in distress? he wondered. "What are you doing here?"
he asked. "Why did you come to Eithel Hûn?"
There was no response.
He reached under the Uruk's body and, grasping its chin, lifted
its head by brute force, and stared into its yellow eyes. "I
said," he said fiercely, "why did you come to Eithel
The Uruk bared its teeth at him. "Little elf," it growled,
"you have no chance."
"Of what?" asked Legolas, coldly.
"Of anythingof living. He is here. He will
destroy us all! We have come here to die!"
The orc in the opposite corner howled.
"Who is here?" asked Legolas.
The Uruk lifted one massive arm and brought it down in a crushing
blow, but the elf leapt nimbly to the side, raised his knivesand
stopped. Two arrows had already pierced the beast, in the eye
and the throat, almost simultaneously. Legolas turned towards
the cell door.
Haldir and Eowyn were both standing in the doorway, bows still
"Beaten to it by a slip of a girl," grumbled Gimli.
"Who do you suppose it meant?" asked Gimli. "Could
some lackey of Sauron's still be alive?"
"I do not know, elvellon."
"It is the creature," said Eowyn, softly.
The elves and the dwarf exchanged glances. Legolas took Eowyn's
hand. "Yes, it could be"
"Do not humour me, Legolas," said Eowyn coldly. "I
mean it! They are afraid. They are crippled by unreasoning fear.
That is what the creature made me feel."
"But they have been nowhere near the creature, my lady,"
"How do we know that?" asked Eowyn. "We do not
know where it is. Besides, I have been thinking..." she hesitated.
"What meleth nín?"
"I have been wondering," she said, "why you did
not sense it when I saw it. And how it could get close enough
to Maeglin to take him by surprise and kill him. I think that
men may be more susceptible to itsits influence than elves.
And perhaps orcs are even more susceptible than men..."
"We need to know more about this creature," said Legolas.
"So far, all we have is your description, meleth nín,
and two footprints. And some ominous words from a dead Uruk Hai."
"Tonight we will deal with Eryn Brethil," said Legolas
to Haldir, pointing to the area on Eowyn's orc map. "The
scouts we sent yesterday reported seeing fifteen orcs, well hidden
throughout the forest. We will take a force of twenty archers,
up in the trees, and pick them off one by one. We will not use
any ground forces, so Gimli, Eowyn, you will stay here."
Eowyn bit her lip, but nodded her head in agreement. "Gimli
and I will search the castle againwe will see if we can
find any trace of the creature," she said.
Legolas wanted to tell her to stay with the others in the castle
ward, and on no account go looking for the creature.
But if I try to keep her wrapped in lambswool I will lose
her, he thought. "Be careful, melmenya," he allowed
himself to say, "especially in the uninhabited parts of the
castlemake sure that you and Gimli stay together at all
A young man climbed down the rocky slope towards the edge of
He had spent two days and three nights safely hidden in a cave,
And, given the choice, he thought, I would be hidden
there still. But he had been given a job to do. And if
you are to have any hope of future advancement, Berryn, you will
have to go back inside that castle.
Ducking low, he slipped out of the forest and into the thick
brushwood that marked the start of the flood plain. The sun was
high and the sky was bright and, after two days and three nights
of turning it over in his mind, he was almost sure that the castle
would be safe now.
In the daylight.
Still, it would be sensible to keep out of sight for as long
as possible, he thought. So he followed the scrub along the
edge of the forest, as it snaked its way westwards, to the narrowest
part of the flood plain.
"We have a visitor," said Haldir.
"A man. The lookout on the southern wall spotted him half
an hour ago, working his way along the edge of the forest, trying
to stay out of sight." Haldir smiled. Though he had become
quite fond of menand womenin recent times, he still
found their clumsiness amusing.
He and Legolas went to the breach in the western wall and, staying
well out of sight, watched the young man thread his way through
"Here he comes," said Haldir, as the man broke cover
and ran towards the castle, "running as if all the goblins
of Moria were chasing him."
"Take him prisoner," said Legolas. "And bring
him to me in the bastion."
Please gods, thought Berryn, sprinting across the uneven
ground, let my things still be there. If not... well, I will
have to go back and admit to King Elessar that I have made a complete
pox of it.
He was beginning to rise from the crouch, ready to clamber over
the rubble at the base of the breach, when three tall, otherworldly
figures stepped out from behind the castle wall, their bows drawn.
The young man stopped in mid stride, straightened up, and slowly
raised his hands in the universal gesture of surrender.
Gods, he thought, looking through the gap in the wall,
where did all the elves come from?
Hundreds of them!
His captor, a big, handsome elf in full armour, was quite courteous,
leading Berryn through the castle and into one of the corner bastions,
where a beautiful, young-looking elf seemed to be waiting for
"Thank you, Haldir," said the young elf. He turned
to Berryn, "Who are you, and what are you doing at Minas
Athrad?" he asked.
Berryn opened his mouth to reply but, at the same moment, caught
sight of a map laid out on a piece of fallen masonry, and all
other thoughts left his head.
He walked over to it.
"This is good work, gentlemen," he said, "There
are a few inaccuracies in the region of Toll Thâr, and here,
where the Anduin meets this small tributary, but otherwise it
is surprisingly accurate. These lines here... What do they represent?
'Band A, twenty of ten... twenty-three of ten'... Band...
Band of what? '50 orcs...' Orcs! You are mapping orcs! I have
never seen a map used in this way before! Who drew this?"
He looked up to find the elves staring at him in disbelief, and
the big one looking murderous. He raised his hands in a placating
"I am sorry, gentlemen," he said, "around maps
I forget myself. I am Berryn, son of Hador, cartographer by appointment
to His Majesty, King Elessar." He bowed low. "At your
service. Who made the map?"
"My wife," said the young elf, cautiously.
"I should very much like to speak with her," said Berryn.
"Why?" asked the elf, sharply.
"She is clearly a kindred spirit." He smiled.
The big elf gripped his sword but the young one raised a hand
to stay him. "You have not answered my question," he
said. "Why are you here?"
Berryn began to reach inside his jerkin, but froze as the point
of the big elf's sword touched his throat.
"Gentlemen!" he gasped, "I merely wanted to"
"Haldir, what in Middle-earth are you doing?" said
a new voice, from the direction of the door, but Berryn could
not see its owner.
"We caught him entering the castle where the body was found,
my lady," said the big elf. "And we are still waiting
for him to explain himself."
"Body? What body?" asked Berryn, trying to keep as
still as possible.
"Put your sword down, Haldir," said the smaller elf.
"I do not think he was reaching for a weaponwere you
MasterBerryn was it?"
Berryn nodded, with great care, as the sword point was slowly
pulled away from his skin.
"What were you going to show us?"
"My Royal Warrant, sir, from King Elessar. May I?"
The elf nodded.
Berryn reached into his pocket, withdrew a piece of parchment
and handed it to him. The elf unfolded it. Berryn took the opportunity
to turn and look at the lady. She was walking towards the smaller
elf, clearly curious to see the warrant. Berryn stared at her
What is a woman doing with all these elves? he
"Master Berryn was just admiring your map, meleth nín,"
said the elf, reading the parchment.
She is his wife? thought Berryn. She seems familiar.
Where have I seen her before?
He studied the woman carefully, as she stood beside the young
elf, one small hand resting on his arm, whilst they both read
At court! Princess Eowyn! Yes, now he remembered, he had
heard a rumour that Eowyn had run away to live with an elf. So
that must be Prince Legolas. What in Middle-earth are they doing
"Well," said Legolas, "this is certainly Aragorn's
signatureand the warrant does seem to be in order."
He looked up at Berryn. "But you were hiding from us in the
forest. And you were trying to enter the castle unseen. Why?"
Berryn was taken aback. They were camping in its dendid
they not know about it? "The monster, my lord,"
he said. "I was hiding from the monster." His three
captors looked at each other in surprise.
Then Eowyn smiled at him. A radiant smile.
Gods, she is beautiful, thought Berryn.
"You must tell us everything you know about the monster,
Master Berryn," she said.
"Did it attack you?" asked Haldir.
"No sir," said Berryn, "I did not give it the
chance. But it scared the shit gave me a scare."
"How did you come to be in the castle, Master Berryn,"
asked Legolas. Then he added, suddenly, "When did you last
Berryn was surprised. "Erbefore my boat capsized,
my lorderthree days ago."
Legolas nodded, gravely. "Sit down," he said, indicating
a stone block covered with a blanket. Eowyn, meanwhile, had opened
the door and was sending one of the guards for food.
"Carry on, Master Berryn," said Legolas, "you
say your boat capsized?"
"Yes, my lord. It was my own faultI had been travelling
down the river, taking sightings of the northern bank, and I had
left it too late to find a mooringit was already quite dark
when I spotted the castle ruins, with a wharf, of sorts, and it
seemed ideal. But I must have hit something in the water as I
rowed acrossa rock or a logand I lost my parcel of
parchments overboard. Three months' work! So I was stupid enough
to lean over the side to try and reach it."
He shrugged his shoulders. "My boat turned over. But I did
manage to rescue my parchments," he grinned, "and some
of my equipment, and swim ashore."
The food had arrived. Eowyn handed him a plate of lembas bread,
cheese and dried fruit and Berryn began to eat, ravenously.
"I was soaking wet," he said, with his mouth full,
"so I dragged my equipment into the keep, and went back into
the ward to gather some firewood. When I got back inside, my stuff
had gone andgods, this is hard to explain. I am not normally
a nervous person, my lord. My work takes me into all sorts of
lonely and dangerous places. But I suddenly felt fear.
Not because my things had gone, though that was disturbing enough.
No, the feeling was not natural. It wasit was as if the
hall was filled with it. I could feel it on my skin, in my mouth
and throat, like a mist... Fear. I was bathing in it.
"I was terrified."
"That is exactly how I felt," whispered Eowyn. Legolas
put his arm around her.
Berryn continued. "And then I saw the monster. It was standing
in the shadows, but I could see its face in the moonlight. And
He shook his head.
Then he put down his piece of lembas bread, and ran his hand
through his hair. It was clear how much this plucky young man
had been scared by his experience. "I ran. I do not know
how I got out into the forest, nor how I found the cave. But I
lit a fire and I stayed there for three nightsuntil this
"Why did you come back?" asked Legolas.
"My parchments, my lord. I did not want to come back, believe
me. But three months' work! I needed to find my parchments and
my equipment. And the more I thought about it, the more I felt
that the castle would be safe in the daylight."
"Why?" asked Eowyn.
"I do not know for certain, my ladyI suppose because
the monster was lurking in the shadows. Yes, that was it, I felt
that it was hiding in the dark."
"Did the creature follow you when you ran?" asked Haldir.
"I have no idea, sir. I did not look back. But, now that
you mention it, no, I do not think it did. No, I think that if
it had, I would have felt it behind me."
Haldir looked at Legolas. "This seems to be its denwhere
it feels safe. But where does it hide?"
Legolas shook his head. "We have searched the castle three
times since we arrived and found no trace, and now we have a dead
warrior. We need to move out of the castle, March Warden, and
into the forest. How big is your cave, Master Berryn?"
"Not large enough for all your menyour elvesmy
lord, but there may be others about."
"Will you join forces with us, Master Berryn? Your knowledge
of this area would be very useful to us. I am afraid we have found
no trace of your parchments," he added, "but when we
have dealt with the orcs, and with this creature, I will provide
you with any assistance you need to repeat your work. And you
need not trouble yourself about AragornKing ElessarI
will explain to him what happened to you. And," he
added, "I am sure my wife will be only too willing to talk
to you about her map."
Berryn bowed deeply. "I would be honoured, my lord."
"Take Master Berryn to Gimli, Haldir. Ask him to look for
more caves. We need a defendable campsite with space for the horses
and somewhere suitable for workshops, a healing room and a place
to keep prisoners. We will move camp before nightfall. We will
postpone the next attack on the orcs until tomorrow."
"I do not want you to search the castle when I am away tomorrow,
melmenya," said Legolas when Haldir and Berryn had left them.
"The creature is dangerousMaster Berryn has confirmed
everything you told us about it. And what he says about its being
active in the dark agrees with our own experience. When we have
the opportunity we will bring a search party back to the castle,
together. In the daylight. Please do this one thing for
Eowyn smiled. "Am I really so unreasonable, Legolas?"
"No..." said Legolas. "But sometimes you need
careful handling. And then I am reduced to begging."
Eowyn laughed, reached up on tiptoe, and kissed his mouth.
Gimli and Berryn returned in less than an hour with the news
that they had found a very acceptable campsite. "There are
four caves, a clearing for the horses, and"Gimli paused
for effect"a spring of fresh water! I know how much
you elves like to wash."
The move was completed, with typical elven efficiency, just after
dark. Gimli had examined all the caves carefully and had allocated
them according to the amenities they offered. The craftsmen were
installed in the largest cavewhich had a broad mouth and
several openings in the roof to admit lightand their furnace
was erected just outside. The smallest cave, with a narrow, easily
guarded mouth, was turned into a cell to house the remaining orc
prisoner, who was chained to one of several natural rock pillars.
The middling cave, which was dry and airy, was given to the healers,
who turned its various rock shelves into beds.
That left the fourth, smallish, cave for Legolas' war room. "It
is well lit and shallownot too oppressive for an elf,"
said Gimli. "But see this alcove?" he showed Legolas
the back of the cave, "it is a natural hearth and chimneyyou
can light a fire in here, lad, lay out your bedroll in front of
it and keep your lady nice and warm..."
Legolas squeezed his shoulder. "Thank you, elvellon. Thank
you. I sometimes forget how much she must feel the cold, for she
Gimli nodded sagely. "I know, lad. You were lucky to find
After the evening meal, when most of the elves had settled down
to rest, Legolas turned to Eowyn. "You look tired, melmenya,"
he whispered. "Would you like some help undressing? And washing?"
He grinned. "And getting into bed..."
Eowyn smiled. "You are a very wicked elf," she said.
Legolas took her by the hand and led her up the steep, narrow
path to their small cave, then lifted her into his arms and carried
her inside. He had lit the fire, but she still shivered a little
when he opened her tunic andto keep her warm and cosyhe
undressed her quickly and put her straight into the bedroll. Then
he undressed himself, climbed in beside her, and took her in his
"I thought you were going to wash me," she said.
Legolas smiled wickedly. "I have to dirty you first,"
Eowyn giggled, watching him intently as he knelt between her
legs, lifted her lower body onto his thighs and, with a little
help from her, entered her.
"Oh, Legolas," she sighed, "I love it when you
"I know, melmenya. I know my Shieldmaiden likes a swift
Keep still, melethril nín."
He wrapped his hands under her buttocks, raised himself upon
his knees, and began to thrust, deep and hard.
"Oh gods, Legolas!" she cried. Her head and shoulders
were still on the ground, cushioned on the bedroll and, with her
body at that angle, Legolas seemed to be touching parts of her
that had never been touched before. Her muscles tightened around
him of their own accord. "Oh gods!"
"Shhhhh, melmenya," he moaned, "shhhhh,
or they will hear you!"
"I do not care," cried Eowyn, her head thrashing from
side to side. "I do not care!" And she continued to
moan, and sob, and cry out, until she suddenly burst into peals
of laughter as Legolas' thrusts pushed her over the edge.
They had been curled up together for almost an hour, Eowyn sleepy
but not yet asleep, when Legolas heard someone, standing at the
mouth of the cave, clear his throat nervously.
"Who is it?" he called.
"Valandil, my lord."
"What is it?"
"I am sorry to disturb you my lord, my lady," he began.
"But?" said Legolas.
"It is Finrod, my lord. We cannot find Finrod."