"There are many creatures that live hidden
on the margins of Middle-earth, unknown to the rest of us, Berryn,"
said Maglor. "There is a creature, called a blemmye,
that has no headbut is reported to have its face in its
He slid a ladder into position and began climbing up to the
top shelf of the bookcase. "There is a creature called a
sciapod that has a single foot, but that foot is so large
that it can raise it above its head to shelter from the sun!"
"That does not seem very practical," said Berryn.
"It is a creature of the desert," said Maglor, "so
shade is perhaps more important to it than locomotion... Ah, here
He pulled out a large book, richly bound in red leather, and
carefully climbed down the ladder with it. "Chronicles
of the Grey Havens," he said. "This came from Lord
Elrond's library." He laid the book on a table and began
turning its pages, carefully. "Now, if my memory serves meah,
Maglor began reading, "'In the year 3410 of the second age,
men fishing off the coast of Harlindon caught in their nets a
wild man. He was naked and was like a man in all his members,
covered with hair and with a long shaggy beard. He eagerly ate
whatever they brought him but if it was raw he pressed it between
his hands until all the juice was expelled. The men brought him
to the elves of the Grey Havens, who tried to speak with him but
he would not talk. He showed no signs of reverence or belief.
He was allowed to go into the sea, strongly guarded with three
lines of nets, but he dived under the nets and came up again and
again. Eventually he came back of his own free will. But later
on he escaped and was never seen again.'
"I believe there is a picture of the creature," said
Maglor, turning the page. "Yes, here!"
"By the gods," said Berryn, reaching towards the woodcut,
"that is it! That is the creaturethe hairy body, the
"Good," said Maglor. "Now I know where to look."
The raiding party advanced silently through the treespicking
off the orcs below with ruthless efficiencyuntil it came
to a group of four, crouching on the ground with their hands raised,
as if in submission to some invisible being.
What on Middle-earth are they doing? wondered Legolas,
signalling his warriors to lower their bows. "We need to
take prisoners," he said, softly, to Haldir.
Haldir nodded. "Kill two, capture two?"
The two elves raised their bows, drew and loosedtwo orcs
fell. The surviving orcs, panic-stricken, leaped to their feet
and ran off into the forest.
The elves dropped nimbly to the ground and followed, quickly
gaining on them.
"Stay behind them," cried Legolas, running up the trunk
of the nearest tree, crossing its branches to the next tree, crossing
to the next, and the next, then dropping down in front of the
"Stop," he shouted. His bow was raised, with two arrows
Haldir, behind them, had drawn his sword.
The orcs fell to the ground, trembling.
"What is wrong with you," said Legolas, exasperated.
"What were you doing in the clearing? Is it the creature?
Thethe thing that is living in the castle? Is that
what you are afraid of?"
The orcs, on their knees, turned to face one another. Then, without
a word, each drew a dagger and slew the other.
"It is called," said Maglor, moving his ladder, "a
'merman'or, more properly, men call it a merman.
Elves call it a 'gaearbenn'. And, of course, we do not
know what it calls itself."
He climbed the ladder. "Now what have we here? The Higher
Creatures of the Sea," he said, translating the title
into the common tongue, "yes..." He pulled the book
from the shelf and handed it down to Berryn. "Dangerous
Animals of the Sea, yes... And there should beah, here
we are, The Natural History of the Merman." He handed
both books to Berryn. "Do you read Elvish?"
"No, sir," said Berryn.
"Then I will have to translate the relevant parts for you.
There is just one other thing I think we should look at..."
He slid the ladder across two book cases. "Now whereah
yes, A Discourse on the Mind."
"Maglor," corrected the librarian.
"I am sorry, sMaglor. Why do we need the last
"Because what you described, my young friendthe fear
you experiencedwas the merman influencing your mind. As
we have seen, the merman cannot speakat least, not in the
world above the sea. I suspect that he communicates in thoughts
and dreams, and that he implants extreme fear in his enemies'
minds as a way of protecting himself"
"Which would explain why the orcs are all so frightened,"
said Berryn. "And suggests that itheis
not really as dangerous as he seems. But then who killed and attacked
"Let us see what else the books have to say about him, Berryn,"
Eowyn stopped pacing when she heard the raiding party returning.
She ran through the trees, past the field kitchen, past the bedrolls,
past the healing cave, to the clearing where the horses were kept.
"Legolas!" she cried, "Legolas!"
Legolas leaped down from his horse and wrapped her in his arms.
"Since there has been no further sighting of the creature,"
said Legolas, "we will proceed with the next orc raid. There
are two bands left, one on the island of Toll Thâr and another,
about thirty strong, across the river at Habad Penn. Neither is
particularly easy to reach but I propose we take Habad Penn firstthe
river is quite low at present."
He was holding a council of war with Eowyn, Haldir and Gimli.
"There is no tree cover on that shore," said Haldir.
"No," agreed Legolas, "so we will have to adapt
our tactics. We will take thirty warriors, cross the ford, get
into position just before dawn and attack at first lightfive
volleys of arrows, then we go in to deal with the survivors. Any
"How do we cross the ford?" asked Gimli.
"On horseback," said Legolas. "You will ride with
Gimli muttered something unintelligible about dwarves and horses.
"What are you going to do about the stringer, Fëanáro?"
asked Eowyn. She had already described what she had seen whilst
waiting for the raiding party to return.
Legolas thought for a moment. "We will keep the Mirkwood
elves guarding Finrod," he said. "But ideally... Ideally,
we need someone to watch Fëanáro without his knowing."
Haldir agreed: "Someone we can trust, who has good reason
to spend a lot of time with him, like one of the other craftsmen"
"Master Nolofinwë!" said Eowyn.
The elves and the dwarf turned towards her.
"I know himwell, slightlyArwen introduced
me to him when I first arrived in Eryn Carantaur for the Harvest
Ceremony," she smiled at Legolas. "She asked him to
make her a sword as a Yuletide gift for Aragorn. He was Lord Elrond's
personal swordsmith. It was he who reforged the sword of Elendil..."
"He forged Anduril?"
"Why did he not tell us?" asked Haldir.
"He struck me as a very honourable and a very modest person,"
"Let us speak to him," said Legolas.
When Rumil and Orophin came to take Berryn to supper, they found
him still with Maglor, pouring over a large pile of books, and
making careful notes on a sheet of parchment.
"Thank you for coming for me," said Berryn, "but
I will not have time for supper if I am to get this information
back to Lord Legolas in time."
The brothers returned with two plates of food, promising that
they would come back at midnight to take Berryn to his lodging.
But at midnight, they found Maglor still engrossed in his books
and Berryn already fast asleep, his head resting on the table,
his food untouched.
"Master Nolofinwë," said Legolas, "Please
sit down." He paused a moment to collect his thoughts. "I
am about to ask you to do something that you may feel you cannothonourablydo.
And if that is the case, I want you to say so. Your honesty will
not be held against you."
"First I must stress that, whether you agree to help me
or not, what I tell you must not go beyond these walls. Can you
agree to that?"
"Of course, my lord," said Nolofinwë.
"Good. As you know, Finrod is lying in the healing room,
recovering from an attempt on his life. What you will not know
is that Master Dínendal does not believe his injury was
inflicted by the creature."
"Then by whom, my lord?" asked Nolofinwë.
Legolas turned to Eowyn. "Melmenya?"
"This afternoon, Master Nolofinwë, I saw Fëanáro,
hiding behind the trees, watching the healing room," she
said. "He was there for at least an hour. I do not think
he knows I saw him."
"It may be nothing," said Legolas. "He may have
an entirely innocent reason for his concern. They may be friends"
"No, my lord," said Nolofinwë. "I do not
believe they are. I heard them talking when we first arrived..."
He hesitated, evidently trying to decide whether he should continue.
At length, he said, "Finrod was convinced that they had met
before but Fëanáro insisted that they had not."
Legolas exchanged glances with the others.
"What we want you to do, Master Nolofinwë, is keep
a discreet watch on Fëanáro. If he is innocent, then
you will see nothing, but if he intends Finrod some harm, you
may be able to raise the alarm and prevent it."
Nolofinwë thought carefully; then he said, "Yes, my
lord, I will. Some instinct tells me that all is not right with
Fëanáro. I will do as you ask, my lord."
The raiding party crossed the ford without incident. By dawn,
they were in position, encircling the orc encampment.
As the sun rose, Legolas gave the signal and the elven archersin
perfect synchrony, and with ruthless precisionshot five
volleys into the unprepared orcs. Then the entire party moved
in to finish off the survivors.
Haldir ran to the nearest orc, drawing his sword. The creature
had been hit twice in the chest but was still struggling to draw
There is more fight left in these, Haldir thought, and
he raised his sword and drove it through the orc's heart.
The blade passed straight through the orc and buried itself deep
in the ground beneath. "Orc's breath!" the elf cried,
twisting the sword to free it
"HALDIR!" screamed Eowyn. And there was no mistaking
the warning in her voice.
Haldir spun aroundhis sword still trapped in the groundto
face an injured Uruk Hai bearing down upon him with its sword
raised to strike. Haldir abandoned his own sword and reached for
his knife... But Eowyn had already slipped between them. She calmly
raised her blade and stabbed, driving the tip through the weakest
part of the beast's armour, where the plates left a yawning gap
at its neck.
The Uruk Hai grasped its throat. It knew it was dyingblood
was bubbling from its mouth and spilling out through its fingersbut
it still had the strength for one final, frenzied blow and, with
all the power of its massive sword arm, it lashed out at Eowyn,
slicing through her leather cuirass and mail hauberk.
"Ah!" Eowyn's cry was more of a sigh than a scream.
She grasped her shoulder and turned towards Haldir. "It burns,"
she whispered, and collapsed into his arms.
Legolas' shriek was so loud and so anguished that the elves momentarily
stopped their workthough they soon remembered their orders,
and continued the grim job of dispatching the surviving orcs.
Legolas ran to his wife and helped Haldir lower her to the ground.
"She saved my life," said the March Warden. "She
saved my life..."
"She does not seem to be bleeding much," said Legolas,
"help me get this armour off." He unlaced the leather
cuirass and, together supporting the woman's unconscious body,
they slipped her cuirass off her shoulders and pulled her mail
hauberk over her head.
Legolas ripped open the front of her tunic. The wound ran diagonally
from her left shoulder to her breast.
"It is just a scratch," he said, confused.
"Poison!" said Haldir. "Poison! She said
it burned!" He lifted the Uruk Hai's sword and sniffed
it, then held it up to the light. A faint trace of dried liquid
was still visible on the blade.
"We must get her to Master Dínendal now,"
said Legolas. "Tell Gimli to take charge of the mopping up,
then follow me."
Berryn awoke at dawn, his arms cramped and his shoulders stiff.
He rubbed the back of his neck and looked around. He was still
in the library, Maglor was still reading, and his plate of food
was still sitting beside him.
His stomach growled.
"Ah," said Maglor. "You are awake. Good. I have
found out some very important things about our merman."
Berryn took a quick bite of bread, and picked up his pen. "I
am ready to take notes," he said.
"First..." said Maglor. "Now, where was it? Ah,
yes. The merman has a very distinctive method of killing his prey."
He began to read from Dangerous Animals of the Sea, "'The
merman feeds on large fish, turtles and seals, considering the
young of the seal a particular delicacy. It kills its prey by
grasping it in its powerful arms and suddenly twisting its head
to break its neck.'"
"By the gods!" said Berryn.
Legolas gave Arod his head, and the horse, seeming to understand
the urgency of his mission, galloped across the ford and through
the forest, leaving his master free to cradle his lady in his
Haldir followed close behind.
When they reached the campsite, Legolas rode straight to the
mouth of the healing cave. "Master Dínendal,"
he cried, "Master Dínendal! Help her, help her, please!"
"Lay her down here, my lord," said the healer, quickly
preparing a rock-shelf bed. "What has happened?"
"We believe she has been poisoned by an Uruk Hai blade,"
said Legolas. Haldir showed the healer the traces of dried liquid
on the sword.
Dínendal carefully drew Eowyn's tunic aside. "The
wound is not deep, my lord," he said. "Fortunately,
it is no more than a scratch. March Warden, please pass me those
shears." He carefully cut away the tunic. "Hold her
still, my lord," he said to Legolas.
Legolas took Eowyn in his arms and gently held her head against
his chest, leaning down to hear what she was saying.
"Legolas?" she whispered.
Master Dínendal returned with water, clean cloths, and
a jar of granular paste. "This salve will draw out any poison
that is left in the wound," he said, "but I am afraid
that a great deal of it will already have passed into her blood."
Whilst Legolas supported her, Dínendal carefully cleaned
the wound, then spread on the thick, pink salve and covered it
with a pad, which he bound in place with the cloth.
Eowyn began to tremble violently.
"It is the effect of the salve, my lord, drawing out the
poison," Dínendal explained. "We must renew it,
every half hour."
Eowyn curled up against Legolas' chest and began to sob, her
voice full of fear and hopelessness. It was heartbreaking. Legolas
pressed his lips to the top of her head then raised his eyes to
look at Haldir.
The March Warden's face was wet with tears.
The last thing she remembered clearly was Legolas' calling
her name, but Legolas had goneshe looked around for him,
desperatelyand she was surrounded by kneeling orcs.
"Get down," growled the beast beside her. It reached
up with its filthy hands and pulled her to her knees. "He
is coming. Stay down."
The orc cuffed the side of her head. "Quiet! Eyes down!
Or we all will suffer!"
A wave of fear rippled through Eowyn's body.
"He is coming," gasped the orc. "Stay down!"
Eowyn felt another surge of fear, then another, and another,
each stronger than the laststronger and strongeruntil
her body was trembling violently and her mind was filled with
nothing but the hopeless, helpless sobs of a broken woman.
Was that voice her own?
I will not give in to this, she thought, and she forced herself
to raise her head and look at the creature that was filling her
with so much terror.
It was standing before the orcs like a king before its people,
and it was looking straight at hersingling her out from
the crowd of its wailing subjects, just as it had that night in
the castle ward. Their eyes locked once more, but this time it
did not walk away. Instead, it came towards her, pushing through
the grovelling orcs.
It raised her to her feet.
"At lassst," it said, "you are here."
Berryn grabbed another mouthful of bread and cheese and continued
"'The merman,'" read Maglor, "'does not have a
"What does that mean?" asked Berryn.
Maglor shrugged his shoulders. "There are no mer-women,"
"Then how does it reproduce?" asked Berryn.
"I am coming to thatwhere was I? Ah, yes. 'When the
merman is mature he comes ashore to find himself a mate. He may
chose a female of any specieself, human, hobbit or dwarfthough
humans seem preferred. When he has selected his consort he uses
his superior mental powers to persuade her to join him under the
sea. His potency is considerable and few are able to resist. Once
the female accepts him, an irreversible transformation occurs.'"
"What sort of transformation?" asked Berryn, knowing
that he would not like the answer.
"There is a picture," said Maglor. He turned the book
around and lifted it so that Berryn could see the pageswimming
along its margin was a creature that was part woman, part fish.