Haldir ran back into the house.
Dínendal was crossing the entrance hall, supporting the
distraught father who had earlier attacked Eowynand, to
the left of the main staircase, four men were racing down the
corridor towards him.
Haldir raised his bow. "Get him outtake the horses,"
he hissed urgently. "Get him up to the Citadel, as quickly
as you can."
"I will," said Dínendal, dragging the man through
The servants were almost in the hallway. Haldir loosed two warning
shots. Three of the men threw themselves to the ground, but the
fourth kept running. Haldir nocked another arrow and shot him
in the shoulder. The man stumbled and fell.
"Your master will not reward you for losing your lives,"
said Haldir in his most imperious voice. "Take your wounded
comrade, go back down the corridor and stay there. If you are
sensible, there is no reason why you cannot survive this."
He nocked another arrow, drew, and awaited their reaction.
After a few moments, one of the men crawled cautiously forward
and began to drag his injured friend towards the kitchen. Slowly,
all four men retreated.
Haldir lowered his bow, but kept the arrow nocked.
It is quiet upstairs, he thought, so I can probably
ignore the main staircase. But if I were in the kitchen,
I would send someone around the outside of the house to attack
from the front. And I cannot hold both the corridor and the door
"Haldir! What is happening?" called Eomer, emerging
from the spiral stair, followed by Berkin and Gimli.
"Your Majesty," said Haldir, "quickly, defend
the door! I have driven the servants back towards the kitchens,
but there is nothing to stop them coming round the frontwe
must leave immediately."
"No! No," cried Berkin, "we cannot leave yet,
my lords. I still need to find my father's papers and the evidence
He limped over to the corridor. "Can you hear me?"
he called to the servants. "It is Master Berkin. I want you
to know that I am with these people of my own free will. I beg
you not to risk your lives on my account." He turned to the
others. "That should persuade at least two of them to do
nothing," he said, softly.
"Do you know where these papers are, lad?" asked Gimli.
"In my uncle's study, through there," said Berkin.
"Come on then."
The boy and the dwarf disappeared into the study. Haldir and
Eomer exchanged worried looks. "I think we may be here for
some time, your Majesty," said Haldir.
"How is he?" asked Edric.
"In tupping pain," gasped Penda.
Olemi tore open the injured man's tunic and gently examined the
"Shit!" cried Penda.
"He is fortunate," said Olemi, "it is only a flesh
woundI imagine the elf knew what he was doing. And the arrowhead
does not appear to be barbedso, if you let me pull it out
for you straightaway, and clean and dress the wound, you should
Penda looked doubtful, but agreed.
"I will need some help," said Olemi to the others.
"EdricI will need you to hold him down. Admantboil
some water and find some clean cloths and soap. And some spiritstry
"We cannot just stay here playing at healers whilst there
are strangers in Lord Berodin's house," said Osuald.
"Why not?" asked Admant, filling a kettle. "You
heard Master Berkin. He is in no danger. And anyway..." He
hesitated for a moment, gathering his courage, then added, firmly,
"And anyway, Berodin has no right to keep the lad locked
up, so maybe it is for the best."
Edric murmured in agreement.
"That's as may be," said Osuald, "but Berodin
will have our hides if we let those bastards escape. Come on Ricbert,
we'll see if we can get help elsewhere. The rest of you can do
as you pleasebut you'll come with us if you have any sense."
Gimli looked around the study. "Where do we start?"
"The desk," said Berkin, pointing to a strange piece
of furniture in the far corner of the room. "It has a hidden
strongbox. My father showed it to me as a child, but I do not
remember where it was."
Gimli looked at the desk.
It was a curiosityas tall as a manin the shape of
an elegant four-storied town house, its steep pitched 'roof' painted
to look like tiles, its 'walls' painted to look like stone. The
top storey consisted of an upwards-opening door, suspended on
chains and decorated with four roundels depicting Childhood,
Adolescence, Manhood, and Old Age. Beneath
that were two shallow cupboards and a central drawer, carved to
look like supporting beams. The next storey was much deeper and
contained one large cupboard on the leftits folding door
decorated with images of Love and Learningand
two alcoves on the rightarched like the gates of Minas Tirith
and filled with shelves of books. Below that, and equally deep,
was a single locked doordecorated with painted 'statues'
of the legendary Kings of Gondorthat folded down to form
a writing desk. And finally, beneath the desk, there was an arched
recess, containing two large, plain boxes, one labelled Letters
and the other Accounts.
"My mother had it made for my father," said Berkin,
proudly. "The image of Love is her portrait."
"She was very beautiful," said Gimli.
"Do you suppose that the images are clues to the whereabouts
of the strongbox?" said Berkin.
"They may well be," said Gimli, "but a sensible
dwarf has more practical ways of solving puzzles." He drew out
a small, bone-handled hunting knife and began tapping the sides
of the desk. Berkin watched, with fascination.
"This is wood, not stone, but it should still be possible
todid you hear that?" Gimli asked.
"No..." said Berkin.
"It was a duller sound." He examined the bookshelves
carefully. "By Aulë," he said, "the books
are not real!"
Berkin tried to pull one out. "You are right! But they are
so convincing," he said, "with their leather bindings.
The strongbox must be behind them, but how does it open?"
Gimli examined the front and side of the desk, looking for any
signs of a catch or a hinge, but with no success. "It must
open from inside the cupboard," he said.
"Behind my mother's portrait," said Berkin, smiling.
They opened the door, pulled out the few items inside, and tried
to find the mechanism to unlock the compartment. Gimli shook his
head, "I think thattime being pressingand with
your permissionI should use my axe," he said.
"Yes," said Berkin.
Gimli drew his axe and swung it at the false books. The wood
and leather splintered, but the blow stopped short with a dull
clang. "It is metal-lined," said Gimli. "I may
have to do more damage than I had hoped."
Gimli stepped to the side of the desk, repositioned his hands
on the axe, shifted his weight on his hips, and swung again. The
front face of the bookcase peeled away from the desk; the concealed
compartment was open.
Berkin reached inside, pulled out a pouch filled with papers,
and thrust it down the front of his ragged shirt. "Let us
go!" he said.
"A moment," said Gimli. He drew his small throwing
axe and delicately removed the cupboard door. "We cannot
leave her behind in this place," he said, handing Berkin
his mother's portrait.
"Thank you, Gimli," said Berkin, smiling.
After careful consideration, Eomer had decided to leave the front
He had checked the windows on the ground floor and all were barred,
which meant that the door was their only means of escape. He reasoned
that it would be far safer to clear attackers from an open door
than to throw open a closed door not knowing what was outside...
"It is too quiet," he said, checking the rath from
behind the mantlet he had improvised from an upturned table. Though
he was not particularly proficient, he dearly wished he had a
bow; something with a good range. "How much longer are they
going to be?"
There was a loud crash from the direction of the study.
Eomer glanced at Haldirthe elf had not moved. In fact,
Eomer could swear that the elf had not so much as breathed in
the past fifteen minutes.
"They are coming," said Haldir, suddenly.
"Who?" asked Eomer, gripping his staff.
"Gimli and the boy."
The study door opened and the boy rushed out, followed by the
dwarf. "We have the papers!" said Berkin.
"Good," said Eomer. "Now, how are we going to
"Where is your horse?" asked Haldir.
"Down by the fifth gate," said Eomer. "Too far
"Eowyn left her horse untethered," said Gimli, "like
Legolas does, so she could summon him with a whistle."
Haldir smiled. "Yes. I had forgotten. We will make an elf
of her yet. Watch the corridor, Gimli." He turned to the
boy. "When I call the horse you must be ready to mount itcan
you do that?"
"I will do my best," said Berkin.
"Brightstar is a good horse; he will help you. Are we all
"Yes," said Eomer.
"Give me your mother, lad; I will take good care of her,"
said Gimli. He pushed the piece of cupboard down his belt and
turned to Haldir. "Aye," he said, "we are ready."
Eomer and Haldir stood either side of the door. Haldir whistled,
and the horse seemed to appear from nowhere. "Now!"
cried Haldir. "Follow us, Berkin!"
The man and the elf ran down the steps and stood either side
of the horse. Berkin staggered behind them and threw himself at
the horse's back. Gimli grabbed his waist and pushed him upwards...
Two men leaped out of the passageway. One ran towards Eomer brandishing
a long knife, but Eomer dispatched him with two blows of the staff.
The second kept his distance, watching Haldir intently.
Berkin struggled to mount Brightstar.
Three archers stepped from a doorway further down the rath and
took aim; four more men, armed with swords, ran to back them up;
and at least ten more archers appeared on the rooftops around
The way to the Citadel was blocked but, at last, Berkin was astride
"Gimli," said Haldir, calmly, "take the boy and
head for the Golden Goose; your Majesty, you follow them."
His bow still drawn, the elf stood at the corner of Ostrad Tinnu,
covering their departure.
The archers, knowing that the first man to try shooting an elf
would die, watched and waited, but the second man from the passageway
had begun to move, slowly raising his hand to swing something
around his head.
Haldir knew that the moment he gave the man his full attention
the archers would shoot. From the corner of his eye he watched
the man's hand, trying to understand what was happening. What
is he holding? he wondered. Why is he swinging... Orc's
breath, the weighted cord! And the archers are raising their bows...
Moving with elven speed Haldir loosed his arrow and threw himself
towards Ostrad Tinnu.
The bolus-thrower howled in pain.
A hail of arrows fell on the paved rath.
But the elf had already gone.
"Lord Berodin," said Captain Berctuald, catching up
with the man as he passed through the fifth gate, "we have
had reports of a disturbance at your house. Allow us to escort
Berodin bowed stiffly. "That will not be necessary,
Captain," he said, coldly. "I am sure that whatever
you have heard has been wildly exaggerated. My servants are good
men, but some of them can be a little high-spirited when they
have been drinking, and then the neighbours complain. I will deal
with this. Please do not trouble yourself."
"The King has ordered me to investigate, my lord,"
said Berctuald, firmly.
The rath was quiet as they approached the house, but Berctuald
noticed several men lurking in doorways and a telltale splash
of fresh blood on the pavement.
"Your door is wide open, my lord," he said. "Please
"Captain, I have told you"
"I have been ordered to ensure your safety, my lord,"
Berctuald lied, "please wait here. Offa, Hengist, follow
The men dismounted, drew their swords, and cautiously entered
the house. Berctuald scanned the hallway. There were several doors
to the left, one of them open, a passageway to the servants' quarters,
a broad central staircase, and a small open door, almost concealed
beneath the main stairs, leading to a spiral stair.
"Offa, fetch Glimal, Marol and Nishryn. Send two of them
up the main stairs to look for any sign of intruders. You take
the other man up that spiral staircaseI want to know what
is hidden up there. Hengist, come with me."
Berctuald moved cautiously from door to door, inspecting the
rooms. The open door led to a studyuncluttered, precisely
ordered. The retreat of a man who likes to be in control,
he thought, but that folly of a writing desk is out of place.
And someone has taken an axe to it. What were they looking for?
Money? No, money would be somewhere more obviously secure. Papers...
Berctuald turned to Hengist. "Let us check the kitchen,"
They crept down the corridor and entered the kitchen with swords
"What is going on here?" Berctuald asked, sternly.
A drunken woman was lolling in a chair by the fire, three servants
were removing an arrow from a man's hand, and a fifth man was
sitting at the kitchen table, his left arm in a sling, his right
hand raising a large measure of spirits to his lips.
One of the servants tending the wounded mana commanding,
intelligent-looking fellow who reminded Berctuald of Prince Faramirlooked
up from his task and said, "It is nothing, Captain. Just
a foolish, drunken dispute."
"And the robbery?"
"What robbery, Captain?"
"Someone has broken into the desk in your master's study."
"I know nothing about that, Captain."
"Can you deal with these injuries by yourself?"
Berctuald and Hengist returned to the entrance hall, where Offa
was already waiting for them. "There is no one in the main
part of the buildingand nothing up the spiral stairs now,
Captain," he said, "but it is obvious that someone has
been kept prisoner there. Very recently."
Berctuald nodded. "Say nothing of what you have seen in
front of Lord Berodin," he said. It appears that the King's
friends have already escaped, he thought, and have taken someoneand
He walked out into the rath.
"My lord," he said, "your house is safe, but your
servants are in disarray and you appear to have been robbed. I
have no way of knowing what might have been taken."
Berctuald saw panic flicker across Berodin's face. "It is
unlikely to have been anything of consequence, Captain,"
he said. "I thank you for your assistance. Good evening."
Berctuald had been dismissed. He bowed his head briefly, then
mounted his horse and led his company back to the Citadel.
By the time Haldir caught up with the others they had reached
the Golden Goose, and were lifting Berkin down from the horse.
"Quickly," said the elf, "inside."
Berkin smirked at Gimli. "I have always wondered what it
looked like," he said. "The sign is a nice touch!"
"Behave yourself," said Gimli, opening the door. "You
are a married man."
"Of course," replied Berkin. "Of course."
Haldir followed the others into the tavern and looked around
anxiously, but the parlour was empty except for an elderly man
asleep by the fire.
"Master Fingolfin, Master Norin," cried Silrim, "welcome,
welcome! And you have brought more friends with you." He
looked curiously at Eomer, but said nothing. "A pity the
fair gentleman is not with you"he winked"tell
him I have another fine young man he might enjoy introducing to
the pleasures of the bedroom"
"We need a room for the night," said Haldir, curtly.
"And we need your silence."
The landlord considered the elf's request. "Do you want
a woman?" he asked.
Silrim looked at Berkin. "It will cost you extra if you
plan to use your own," he said.
Berkin laughed delightedly. "Master Silrim," he said,
"you are every bit as dishonourable as your reputation suggests!"
"Do I know you, young master?" asked Silrim, haughtily.
"Berkin, son of Alrin, at your service," said Berkin,
with an unsteady bow. "I believe my account is in credit."
"Master Berkin! Yes sir! Of course, sir! Come this way."
"We will want some food," said Berkin, limping up the
stairs after the landlord. "And something to drink. And it
is very important that you do not tell my uncle's men that we
are herethere will be a bonus for you if we spend the night
"I understand, sir," said Silrim. "Incognito,
as they say. In here, sir." He ushered them into his 'front
room' with its bath and mirrored bed and manacles. "I will
send one of the girls up with some food. You can keep her, too,
if you likeon the house."
"That will not be necessary, Master Silrim," said Berkin.
"Thank you, but I am a married man."
Still half-asleep, Eowyn opened her legs and sighed contentedly
as his hardness entered her. "Oh," she whispered, "oh
She sank back into the bed and smiled luxuriouslyhis deep
thrusts and long, slow withdrawals were unbearably beautiful.
She wanted them to last forever.
Her eyes flew open. "Legolas!" she cried, "we
should not be doing this! You are injured."
She looked up at him. His bruises had already faded and his wound
had healed over. But his fearraw and visceralwas still
there, plain in the frown on his beautiful face.
"Oh, my love," she whispered.
And, not knowing how else to comfort him, she wrapped her arms
and legs around him and willingly gave him her body.
Gimli had laid the food out on a strange wooden contraption that
he had dragged out from beside the bath, and had gathered together
various objects that could be used as stools.
Haldir was keeping a discreet watch at the window.
Berkin sat down at the 'table'. "It is hard not to think
about what thisumequipment might have been used for
in the past," he said. Eomer grunted in agreement. "But
it is preferable to sitting on the bed. And this will be the first
real food I have eaten inoh, ages. I will probably make
He took a large bite of fresh bread and a mouthful of roasted
ham. "Delicious," he said.
Gimli grinned. "You enjoy it, lad!"
"How do you plan to get out of here?" Berkin asked.
"We will wait until morning," said Haldir, "then
we will find a safe route to the Citadel."
"I have heard," said the lad, between mouthfuls, "that
there is a network of caves running up through the Hill of Guardan
alternative set of raths, if you like, used by thieves and smugglers."
"Caves do not usually form in this type of rock," said
"They are manmade," said Berkin. "They were originally
separate cellars but, over time, they have been joined together.
Perhaps Master Silrim will know something about them. If he does,
I am sure that we can persuade him to help us get into them. We
could probably hire a guide..."
"Where are you getting your money from, lad?" asked
"Ah," said Berkin. "My father left me well provided
for." He paused. "My father had a suspicion that Berodin
would try to kill him, so he made sure that I would have someone
to protect me, and enough money to live on."
"Olemi," said Gimli.
"Yes," said Berkin. "We will need to make sure
that he and Admant get out of this unharmed."
"Of course," said Eomer. "What other retainers
do you have?"
Berkin laughed. "I like to think of most of them as friends,"
he said. "There is Mistress Aedilhildshe was my mother's
nurse; Sigbert, one of the Gondorian Guard; the Mayor, Lord Olivanhis
wife and my mother were close friends; Master Cuthbert, the Royal
Healer; and, of course, Silrim, though he knows nothing of my
"The assassin, Alchfrid, told us that you bribed him to
save some of your uncle's victims," said Eomer.
"When I could," said Berkin.
"How did you keep track of what was happening outside the
"I got information through Olemi and Admant. The hard part
was having to remember it allI could not write it down.
But, then, I had little else to think about." said Berkin.
"Except Lëonórwyn, of course."
"What evidence do you have against your uncle?" asked
Berkin removed the leather pouch from inside his shirt. "The
Gondorian Guard investigated my parents' deaths and Lord Olivan
has obtained a copy of their report. Someone had cut the fingers
from their left hands.
"And in here"he reached into the pouch, and drew
out two gold rings, which he laid on the 'table'"are
my parent's wedding rings, engraved with their names. Berodin's
trophies," he added, bitterly.
The being of light had returned.
"My lord?" whispered Legolas, shielding his eyes.
"Why are you so afraid, Legolas?" asked the being.
"You wanted to share your life with a mortal, and the Valar
granted your wish. You wanted her for all eternity, and I have
shown you what the future may hold. Why do you still fear?"
Legolas' eyes filled with tears. "I am weak," he said.
"No, Tithen Lassui," said the being, gently, "you
are not weak. You have more than enough strength for the task
ahead, and you have a brave young wife to aid you. You fear because
you do not trust. Follow the true path, my child, trust the Valar,
and fear no more."
The being placed its hand on the elf's head in blessing, then
Eomer waited until both Berkin and Gimli had started snoring.
"What was that business about Legolas and boys?" he
asked Haldir. "Is he a tunic lifter?"
"No!" said Haldir, trying to forget his own earlier
suspicions. "No, of course not! Legolas immediately realised
that the boy was Lëonórwyn in disguise and pretended
to hire 'him' so that they could speak in private."
"Are you sure?"
"Of course I am."
"Then why is he so..." Eomer sighed. "Arwen's
brothers arewell, they are characters. But at least it is
clear what sex they are. And youyou are obviously a man"
"A male. But Legolas is soso pretty. And it
is not just his looks," said Eomer. "It is the way he
plays with herwashes her, dresses her, carries her everywhere.
The gods help us if she ever gets pregnant! He will probably have
morning sickness with her. He will want us all to feel her belly.
He will hold her hand while she gives birth."
"Did you not do that for your wife?"
"If I were married to Eowto someone like Eowyn, I
would do all that with her and more," said Haldir. "I
would want to share everything with her, just as Legolas does."
"It is not masculine," said Eomer.
"Why?" asked Haldir.
"Because men were made stronger and less emotional than
women and women were made softer and more caring than men. It
is a man's task go out into the world and make it safe for his
woman and children, and it is a woman's task to stay at home and
take care of her husband's sons. That is how it should be. At
the end of the day they may come together, but they do not spend
their entire lives holding each other's hands."
"For an elf, masculine and feminine are not opposites,"
said Haldir. "Your sister is a remarkable womanbrave
and strong but gentle and loving. No elf would try to restrain
her. She..." Haldir's voice fell to a whisper. "I owe
her my life."
"Does Legolas know?" asked Eomer.
"How you feel about Eowyn?"
"Yes," said Haldir.
Eomer sighed. "Seea man would not countenance that.
A man would send you away."
"To protect his wife!"
"Do you not trust your sister?"
"Of course I do."
"Then you think that I might take her by force?"
Eomer stared at him. "No," he admitted. "But a
man would be jealous."
Haldir nodded. "A man would send his wife's unfortunate
admirer away and make an enemy of him, instead of keeping him
nearby as a friend, ready to protect his wife if ever he himself
"Is that the arrangement?"
Haldir said nothing.
"Does Eowyn know she has been bequeathed to you?"
Haldir looked uncomfortable.
Eomer laughed mirthlessly. "She would certainly have something
to say about it if she did! And are you sure you are up to the
task of 'protecting' my sister?"
"Yes," said Haldir. "I am sure."
"Elves," said Eomer, shaking his head.
"Good morning, Eowyn nín," said Legolas.
He was sitting, fully dressed, on top of one of the decorative
stone pillars that flanked the balcony doors, looking down at
her as if he had been watching her sleep.
Eowyn sat up and studied him carefully. "What has happened?"
"Last night you were upset. Now you are notyou are
behaving strangely, but you are not upset."
Legolas jumped gracefully down to the floor, sat on the edge
of the bed, and took her hand. "I had a dream last night,
Eowyn nín, after we made love," he said. "Do
you think that dreams can foretell the future?"
"I have heard people say so," said Eowyn, "but
I am not sure that I believe it."
"Nor am I," said Legolas. "But my dream..."
He thought for a moment. "My dream was about our future and
it comforted me."
"What happened in it?"
"I am not sure how much I should tell you, melmenya. I saw
many things, which may or may not come to pass. Would it be better
for you to knowand be burdened by expectationsor for
you to go forward unaware?"
Eowyn thought for a moment. "Were we happy, Legolas, in
He kissed the top of her head. "We were very happy, meleth
"Then I suppose that is all I need to know," she said,
hugging him. "I trust your judgement, Legolas. Though I should
warn you," she added, "that it is only my head talking
now. My heart is still very curious and will no doubt pester you
for days to come."
"Why were you sitting half way up the wall?"
"I needed to see the trees in Arwen's garden."
"Why did you not go out onto the balcony?"
"I needed to see you, too." His expression suddenly
became serious and he slowly leaned in, and kissed her with an
intense tendernesson her mouth, then on her neck and then
on her breasts, gently sucking her nipples.
Eowyn slid her hand down his body and fondled him, purring with
delight as she felt him growing. "Mmmmm..."
"Melmenya..." he whispered, pushing her gently onto
She sat up, suddenly. "Legolas!" she cried.
"What is it?"
"Eomer and Gimli! I left them in Berodin's house! Andoh!"
she put her hands to her mouth.
"Aragorn is angry with me. Very angry. Gimli and Iwe
went against his orders and broke into Berodin's house. We broke
Legolas kissed her forehead. "It is still early, melmenya,"
he said, brushing her hair out of her face. "But we will
talk to Aragorn laterI will plead your case and you
will apologise and throw yourself on his mercy. And do not worry
about Gimli and Eomer. I am sure they were back hours ago."