"When did you last see Finrod?" asked
He had summoned the Mirkwood elves and Haldir, and had asked
Gimli to join them, and was questioning Valandil just outside
the cavehe wanted to give Eowyn some privacy.
"I am not sure, my lord," said Valandil. "He was
helping the bowyer move his tools. Master Taurnil had forgotten
his draw bench and Finrod went back to the castle to fetch it.
I do not know if he ever returnedthough the draw bench is
there in Master Taurnil's workshop."
"You have searched the entire campthe clearing, the
"Yes, my lord,"
"Have you tried the castle?"
"Yes, my lord, Amras and I went back and searched the Great
Hall, but we found nothing."
Legolas sighed. "If something has happened to him, we need
to find him as quickly as possible. And though I am not happy
sending our people into the castle after dark, I do not think
we can wait." He thought for a moment. "Torches. We
will each have a torchmaybe the creature is afraid of flame.
We will leave in fifteen minutes. Haldir, see if Master Berryn
is willing to join us."
"What are you doing, melmenya?"
"Please do not start, Legolas. I am coming with you.
I will have my own torch, and my sword, and I will stay by your
side at all times, my love. Besides, I seem able to sense the
creature better than you, so I may be useful."
Legolas shook his head. "You will be the death of me, meleth
nín," he said, strapping on his quiver and white
knives. He held out his hand to her. "Come, Shieldmaiden,"
he said, "let us join the others."
They crossed the floodplain quietly, not lighting their torches
until they had passed through the castle gatehouse.
"Valandil, Amrassearch along the walls, inside and
out," said Legolas. "Pay particular attention to the
breaches. Camthalion, Orodrethcheck the bastions and the
dungeon. When you have finished, all four of you search the ward.
"Gimli, Berryntake the ground floor of the keep.
"Eowyn, Haldirwe will search the upper floors."
Eowyn had never been in the castle keep in the dark before and
she was forced to admitthough only to herselfthat
the place was frightening; but whether she was simply experiencing
normal fear or whether she was somehow sensing the creature, she
could not say.
"Stay close to me," hissed Legolas.
Do not worry, thought Eowyn, I have absolutely no intention
of getting left behind, but she decided it was best to keep
that thought to herself.
Their torches cast strange shadows as they passed through the
Great Hall and climbed up the spiral stairs to the floor above.
The solar, which Master Dínendal's presence had made a
place of warmth and comfort, was now cold and forbidding. They
searched the main living chamber thoroughly, and the bedrooms
opening off it, then they worked their way along the narrow gallery
that ran full circle through the thickness of the walls, examining
various small rooms, until they returned to the staircase.
"Let us try the next floor," said Legolas.
The next floor was even colder and more cramped. Slowly, they
made their way around the gallery, checking each small room in
Eowyn, following behind the two elves, lifted her torch above
her head and looked around. The gallery walls were featureless
apart from a row of arrow loops.
Strange, she thought, there is scarcely room for an
archer to draw... She stepped up to the nearest opening and,
raising herself on tiptoe, peered outside.
The clouds had cleared since they had crossed the floodplain
and now the sky was bright. She was looking northwards towards
the Anduin. She could see the river, sparkling in the moonlight,
and the steep cliffs of the northern bank glowing white, and she
Gods, she could see a figure wading in the water.
"Legolas!" she hissed, in a hoarse, urgent, whisperAs
if, she though, the creature can hear me at that distance!
He was beside her in a second, his white knives drawn, ready
to defend her.
"No," she said, pointing through the arrow loop, "look."
Legolas peered through the narrow opening. "Sweet Eru,"
he whispered, "it is real!"
"Haldir, go after it! We will follow as quickly as we can."
As the March Warden disappeared down the gallery, Legolas grasped
Eowyn's hand"Come melmenya!"and dragged
her past the remaining rooms, down two flights of stairs, across
the Great Hall"Come on, Gimli!"and out into
the castle ward. Together they climbed through the breach in the
western wall and, with the dwarf and the man following behind
them, scrambled over the rubble and ran down to the Anduin.
Haldir was standing at the river's edge looking out across the
"Did you see it?" asked Legolas.
"No," said the March Warden, "not really. Just
a silhouette and a few ripples. But I have found these."
He pointed to several clawed footprints in the mud at the edge
of the river. "What are we going to do?"
"I do not know"
"My lord, my lord! We have found him! We have found Finrod!"
Legolas turned to face Valandil, running towards him. "Is
"He is alive, my lord, but barely."
They had found Finrod lying beside the western wall, hidden in
a narrow gap between the wall and the pile of rubble. Amras had
crawled in beside him and, by the light of his comrades' torches,
had checked his injuries, but Legolas sent for Master Dínendal
to examine him properly and to supervise moving him.
"Why would Finrod return to the castle alone?" Legolas
asked Eowyn as they followed the stretcher party back to the campsite.
"I do not know. Perhaps he forgot something. Or perhaps..."
"Perhaps the creature came into the forest and took him.
If he was on the outskirts of the campsite..."
"Gods," said Legolas. "You are right! I have been
thinking that the forest is safe, but you are right! We will have
to be more careful in future."
"My lord, a word..."
Dínendal drew Legolas and Eowyn to one side. "Are
you sure that this was done by the creature?"
"Why do you say that?" asked Legolas.
"The injury, my lord, is similar, but it is not the same.
And whoever did itI do not think they were as strong, or
as skilled, as the person who killed Maeglin. Could it have been
an orc, my lord? "
Legolas took his arm and drew him further away from the rest
of the elves. "Thank you for bringing this to my attention,
Master Dínendal," he said. "It is most worrying.
But can I ask you to keep it to yourself for now?"
"What are you going to do?" asked Eowyn, softly.
They were back in the privacy of their cave. Eowyn was undressing
before the fire and Legolas was sitting on the floor, watching
He sighed; he had been enjoying the way the light of the fire
made her skin glow and turned her hair into ribbons of gold. "I
have no idea, melmenya," he said. "I am out of my depth."
"We need to break it down," said Eowyn. "Consider
one problem at a time." She climbed into their bedroll. "Come
to bed, my love, and we will think it through."
Legolas slipped out of his tunic, leggings and boots, climbed
in beside her and took her in his arms. It felt good to lie with
her, to feel the warmth of her body, to feel so close to her.
It is not always necessary to make love, he thought. Sometimes
this is enough.
"We have three problems," said Eowyn, "or so it
seems to me. First there are the orcsthough they are not
giving us the trouble we expected. Secondly, there is the creaturewe
have no idea what it is or why it is herewe do not even
know how dangerous it is. Did it really kill Maeglin? Did it really
attack Finrod?" She paused. "And that brings us to the
"If it was not the creature that attacked Finrod, who, or
"Was it an orc? Or was it... Valar, what a mess," said
Legolas. "And why are the orcs behaving so strangely?"
"Legolas... What were you going to say? Was it what?"
"Was it an elf, melmenya?"
"Oh." Eowyn thought for a moment. "Is that likely?
I had always thought..." She hesitated.
"Thought what, melmenya?"
"That elves were above murder. That Angaráto was
Legolas sighed. "Many humans assume that immortality automatically
brings wisdom, Eowyn, but elves are like humans in that respectage
is no guarantee of honour. Some elves are better than other elves;
for every Lord Elrond there is also an Angaráto."
"So what do we do?"
Legolas smiled. He loved the way she was always ready to share
the burden of rule with him. And somehow her support now seemed
to put everything into perspective.
"We need to know more about the creature, melmenya"
he said. "What it is, what it wants, why it had such an effect
on you and Berryn and, possibly, on the orcs." Legolas knew
exactly where they needed to look for this information, but he
also knew that he was going to have a hard job persuading Eowyn
to go along with his plan, so he decided not to broach the subject
until later. "For the time being," he said, "we
must keep the creature containedobserve it, keep it away
from the campsite."
"Do you think that is possible?"
"I do not know, melmenya. I have four elves watching that
breach in the western wallif the creature returns to the
castle, they will see it. And after that... We will keep a watch
on it until we know more about it.
"In the meantime, we will proceed with the orc raids, as
planned. We will take more prisoners, and see what they will tell
Eowyn nodded, thoughtfully. Then she asked, delicately, "What
if Finrod was attacked by an elf?"
Legolas sighed. "I do not want to start a panic amongst
the warriors, melmenya. I will keep Finrod under guard, and see
Eowyn snuggled closer; he kissed the top of her head.
"Where are you going to find out more about the creature?"
"The library at Eryn Carantaur. We have collected books
from all over elvendomI am sure we will find something amongst
"No! I will not go!"
"Send someone else. I will not go!"
"It must be someone who has seen the creature"
"I cannot send Berryn"
"I do not read Elvish!"
"The librarian will help you"
"No! Legolas, please! Do not make me leave you. We
have never been apart, except when I was kidnapped. I could not
bear itanything but that! Please! Please do not make
me leave you..." Her voice faltered. "I could not bear
Legolas lifted her chin. Her eyes were filled with tears and
she was swallowing hard, trying to stop them falling.
"Oh, melmenya..." She was right, he realised. How could
he ever have considered it? He kissed her forehead and folded
her in his arms. "Shhhhh, melmenya, sh, sh,
shhhhh. I will ask Berryn if he is willing to go."
She gave him a radiant, though slightly tearful, smile. Then
she snuggled back against his chest. But after a moment she said,
"Legolas, what did you mean, when you saw the creature and
said, 'It is real'? Did you not believe me?"
Legolas sighed. What had he meant? He had certainly had
doubts, but not about her; not really.
"I believed you, melmenya," he said. "I
had no doubt that you had seen what you described. But I did find
it hard to believe there was something living in the forest that
I, in all my years, had never seen, nor heard of..." He shook
"Perhaps it does not live in the forest," said Eowyn.
"Perhaps it is a creature of the river or of the sea. Perhaps
it is trapped here and that is why it is so angry... I am so glad
you saw it, Legolas," she added. "For I know you were
not the only one who doubted its existence."
Legolas smiled. "I did not doubt you, melmenya. And
nor did my warriorsthe fact that they listened to you is
proof of how much they love and respect you. As Haldir said to
his brothers, you are yourself an experienced warrior, and if
you say you saw something, then you saw it."
"Haldir said that? He believed me? Perhaps I should
be in his bedroll"
"Go to sleep, melmenya."
"I am not really sleepy."
"Wellwhat are you doing?"
"I am trying to find your hand, you conceited elf!"
Legolas laughed. "Here."
She lifted his hand to her lips and kissed it.
Shortly after dawn, Legolas sought out Berryn. To his surprise
he found the man breakfasting with Haldir, Rumil and Orophin,
eagerly asking them questions about the geography of Lorien.
"Master Berryn," said Legolas, "might I have a
Berryn flashed his new friends an apprehensive smile before rising,
and followed Legolas a short distance into the forest.
"I brought you here, Master Berryn, because I want you to
feel free to refuse my request if you find it unreasonable."
"I need someonesomeone who has seen the creaturethe
monsterto travel to our capital city and consult
some of the books in our library. I do not want to send my wife,
and you are the only other person who has seen the creature clearly.
I would pay you well..."
"No payment would be necessary, my lord," replied Berryn,
"To have the opportunity to visit your city, to see your
architecture..." He shook his head. "I have heard so
much about it, my lord."
"I am afraid you will not have time to see much on this
occasion, Master Berryn. But I promise you that, once this campaign
is over, you will return to the city as my personal guest."
"How will I get there, my lord?"
"I will provide you with a horse, and Rumil and Orophin
will escort you. At a gallop, you should reach Eryn Carantaur
in four or five hours.
"I will give you a letter of introduction to the librarian,
explaining to him what we are looking for. Briefly, I need to
know everything you can find about this creature. I need to know
what it is and how it lives. I need to know whether it is dangerous,
or whether this feeling of terror it seems to excite is just its
way of protecting itself. I need to know if it really is
responsible for the strange behaviour of the orcs. And, just in
case, I need to know how to trap it and how to kill it. And I
need all that by tomorrowor the day after at the latest."
Berryn's smile reminded Legolas of a warriorof Gimliabout
to go into battle. "Leave it to me, my lord!" he said.
After arranging Berryn's departure, Legolas returned to the cave
to find Eowyn and Gimli in serious discussion. Eowyn was eating
"Legolas!" she called, "Gimli has an idea about
Legolas sat down beside her and she handed him a plate of eggs
and strange herbs, and a small piece of lembas bread. He looked
at her quizzically.
"There was not much left by the time I woke up, but it is
really quite pleasant," she said.
Legolas took a tentative mouthful, then raised his eyebrows,
and nodded. "What is your idea, elvellon?"
"We search the castle in daylight, whilst the creature is
still in the river," said Gimli.
"Because we found no trace of it last night, lad."
Eowyn laughed at Legolas' expression. "Gimli thinks that
the castle may have hidden passagesmany stone-built fortifications
do. Helm's Deep is riddled with themEomer and I were once
lost in one for two days."
"Two days," said Gimli.
"We did not have a dwarf's instincts."
"The point is, lad, if the creature is sleeping in the castle,
maybe it has a nest. We saw nothing last night, but we may well
be able to find something in the daylight, whilst the thing is
"If we know where it sleeps," said Eowyn, "we
can approach it at its most vulnerable. When you arrived, Gimli
and I were discussing what we know about the creature's movementsor
possible movements. I saw it leaving the keep, Master Berryn
saw it inside the keep, so we think that that is probably
where it lives."
Legolas nodded, impressed.
Eowyn continued: "Berryn told me it was standing beside
one of the piers on the eastern wall andand this is more
speculativeAmras was found lying under the bowyer's workbench,
which was against the eastern wall...
"Well, it is a place to start."
Legolas finished his eggs. "Very well," he said, "let
In the daylight, it took Gimli less than ten minutes to find
the entrance to the creature's den.
He started in the south east corner of the Great Hall, tapping
the stones with the butt of his axe and listening carefully. "Hear
that?" he said, "That is solid stone... That is rubble
fill... Solid stone. Stone. Stone... Ah," he said, tapping
a pier, "empty space!"
He examined the carved mouldings running up the corners of the
pier, feeling the stone with expert fingers. "Yes..."
He grasped a section of moulding and pulled. The piece of stone,
attached to a long metal rod, slid out in his hand, and the face
of the pier swung open like a door.
"Quite a simple mechanism, really," said Gimli. "Seeonce
you are inside, you pull it back, and the door closes. We will
need those torches, lad."
Inside the pier, a spiral staircase wound its waynot upwards,
as Eowyn had expecteddownwards, into the bowels of the earth.
The three friends climbed slowly down the stairs.
"It is damp down here," said Eowyn. "Dripping."
"We are below the level of the river," said Gimli.
"The water filters through the stone."
"It seems you were right, melmenya. It is a creature of
"And it must be intelligent," said Eowyn, "to
have found the door mechanism"
"Look!" said Gimli.
A low door opened off the staircase. Gimli stepped through and
raised his torch. "Well," he said, "it does indeed
have a nest."
Ducking through the door, Legolas and Eowyn followed Gimli into
a small room. In the corner was a circular 'bed' made from woven
rushes and lined with bits of clothand with strips of torn
"Poor Master Berryn," said Legolas, "I am afraid
his maps will need redrawing."
Gimli used the toe of his boot to examine a pile of debris that
had been pushed into the corner. "Fish bones, tangled cord,
a broken rule... Ah, a notebook. A little mouldy, but at least
we can salvage that," he said.
"No Gimli," said Legolas. "Leave it where it is,
and let us go before we disturb too muchnow that we know
where the creature sleeps, we do not want to frighten it into
moving elsewhere. We can get the notebook after we haveerdealt
"Aye, you are right, lad."
They stepped out onto the staircase. "Where do you suppose
that goes?" asked Eowyn, pointing down into the darkness.
"Further into the rock," said Gimli. "Perhaps
there are more rooms. Or perhaps it connects with something else..."
"Let us get back to the camp," said Legolas, obviously
less comfortable underground than his companions. "The light
will be fading, and Haldir should have the raiding party ready."
Berryn, Rumil and Orophin had reached Eryn Carantaur after four
hours' hard riding. They left their horses in the main stables,
and began climbing the massive stairway to the aerial city.
Berryn's eyes were as round as saucers. The place was beyond
his wildest imaginings; as far as he could see, slender walkways
spilled between the branches of the mighty trees, connecting the
elegant wooden buildings that nestled in their branches.
He paused for a moment to get a better look at the buildingstheir
intricately carved woodwork, lustrous stained glass, pale green
paintwork and white canvas sunshades.
It is so beautiful, he thought, that words cannot
His mind was instantly filled with hundreds of questions that
poured from his mouth at random: "Did Lorien look like this?
Why did Legolas choose this site? How big is the cityhow
many people live here? Are they all elves? What are the trees
called? Why are they so tall? How did you lift the building materials
And Rumil and Orophin, their spirits already broken by his constant
questioning, took him by the arms and hauled him up the rest of
The library, though open to all the citizens of Eryn Carantaur,
and to visiting scholars, was part of the palace complex. Rumil
and Orophin dragged Berryn through its elegant doors, dumped himwith
a few words of Eelvishbefore the chief librarian, promised
Berryn they would return later to take him to supper, then left
to find some peace and quiet.
Berryn looked at the librarian.
He was one of those elves who looked old and distinguished rather
than young and beautiful, so Berryn drew himself up to his full
height, straightened his clothes, and bowed respectfully.
"I am Berryn, son of Hador," he said, "cartographer
to his Majesty, King Elessar, here on a mission for your lord,
Prince Legolas." And he made a quick attempt to smooth the
creases out of Legolas' letter before handing it to the librarian.
The librarian smiled and bowed his head, took the letter, broke
the seal, and read its contents carefully.
"Lord Legolas says you have seen this creature," he
"Yes sir," said Berryn.
"My name is Maglor, Berryn," said the librarian. "Please
take a seat and tell me everything you can remember about it."
Legolas had been gone for almost six hours.
Eowyn was pacing.
She had checked her mapfive timesmeasuring the distance
between Minas Athrad and Eryn Brethil, calculating the miles,
estimating the average speed of an elf climbing through trees,
adding on the time it would take him to kill one orc, two orcs,
And she was sure that Legolas should have been back two hours
I should have gone with him, she thought. I should not have let
him go alone.
It helped to keep moving. She paced past the cave she shared
with Legolas, past the rocks where the field cook had set up his
kitchen, past the ring of trees where the elves had laid out their
bedrolls, past the cave where the Mirkwood elves were guarding
Finrod, who was lying in healing sleep...
And where, to her left, an elf was hiding behind one of the trees,
Is he really watching Finrod? Eowyn walked a little
further, turned, and paced back towards her cave. Yes, he is.
A few moments later, she turned and paced back towards the healing
room. Who is it? One of the craftsmen; the stringer.
What should she do?
On reflection, Eowyn decided that, since she could not be sure
that the stringer was actually doing anything suspicious, she
would not tackle him now. She would wait for LegolasPlease,
gods, let him return safelyand tell him what she had
And in the meantime, she thought, it helps to keep moving.