"What do you mean, she has disappeared?"
"When Florestan and I went to visit her, yesterday morning,"
said Senta, "her husband's uncle, Lord Berodin, said that
the couple were travelling, visiting family in Ithilien. But,
at supper last night, the palace healer told Florestan that the
young man does not have a wifehe has been confined to his
rooms for years, sick of the wasting disease."
Eowyn and Legolas exchanged puzzled glances.
"You had better tell us everything you know, Senta,"
said Legolas. "What is the girl's name?"
"Lëonórwyn, my lord."
"And the boy?"
"Just a moment," said Eowyn. "Do you mind if I
take notes, Senta?"
"No, my lady," said Senta.
Legolas set down his wineglass, opened Eowyn's small travelling
pack, pulled out her wax tablet, and handed it to her with a smile.
Eowyn smiled back. "Yesthank you. Lëonórwyn,"
she said, inscribing the name on her tablet. "Lord Berodin.
And the boy's name?"
"Master Berkin, my lady," said Senta.
"How did Lëonórwyn come to be in Minas Tirith?"
"Florestan comes from a noble family on his mother's side,"
said Senta, "but his father was just a poor scholar"
"My uncle's secretary," said Eowyn.
"Yes, my lady. Lady Silwyn'sFlorestan's mother'sfamily
would have nothing to do with Florestan's father. But Florestan
and his sister were sometimes allowed to visit their grandparents,
and Lëonórwyn was always her grandfather's favourite.
When she was still a child he promised her hand in marriage to
Master Berkin. And, when he died, he left her all his fortune."
As an elf, Legolas was unfamiliar with the rules of inheritance
amongst men. "Is that usual?" he asked.
"No," said Eowyn. "Different lands have different
laws, but in Rohan everything is usually left to the eldest son."
And there was more than a trace of bitterness in her voice.
"Florestan says he would not have accepted a penny from
his grandfather, anyway," said Senta. "He says it would
have been an insult to the memory of his father."
Eowyn nodded. "Presumably," she said, "the inheritance
was to be held in trust until Lëonórwyn married?"
"Yes, I believe so, my lady," said Senta.
Legolas looked at Eowyn, questioningly.
"Because women are so foolish and empty-headed," she
explained, "even though the fortune nominally belongs to
the woman, it remains in the control of her male relatives until
she marries. Then it is given to her husband to squander on horses
or dogs or mistresses, as he sees fit. And her only hope
is early widowhood."
"Melmenya!" Legolas chided. "Carry on, Senta."
"Lëonórwyn set off for Minas Tirith about three
months ago, just after her eighteenth birthday," said Senta.
"Florestan told me that he wanted to bring her himself, but
Eomer King was preparing for the birth of his heir and could not
spare him. So, instead, she had an escort of four Rohirrim, her
lady's maid, and her old nurse. Florestan has not heard from her
since she left..."
Legolas and Eowyn exchanged glances.
"Do you know the names of the Rohirrim who were with her,
Senta?" asked Eowyn, softly.
"No, my lady, I do not."
Eowyn looked at Legolasalmost imperceptibly, Legolas shook
his head: Do not tell her just yet.
"What do you want us to do, Senta?" he asked.
"I do not know, my lord. Florestan is so worried, and he
does not know where to turn. I just thoughtI thoughtthat
if anyone could find Lëonórwyn it would be you and
"Oh, Senta," said Eowyn, softly, leaning forward to
touch her hand. "We will certainly do our best."
"Eomer," said Aragorn, quietly. "I have some bad
Eomer rose from the fire and followed Aragorn to the mouth of
the cave. Aragorn held out the glove. Eomer took it, examined
it carefully, and frowned.
"This is familiar," he said, "I believe it was
made by my own glove maker. Where did you get it?"
"Orinthe stable ladhas found the body of a young
woman outside in the snow; she was wearing it," said Aragorn.
Eomer stared at him for a moment, then looked back at the glove.
"By the gods, yes," he said, "my secretary's sister!
I gave these gloves, and a pair of riding boots, to Florestan's
sister as a wedding present. Where is she lying?"
Aragorn turned to Orin.
"She is in a deep snow drift, close beside the cliff, your
Majesty, a few yards hence," said the stable boy, bowing.
"I think I can find her again..."
"No." Aragorn shook his head. "It is already dark,
and the wind has risen again. Conditions outside are treacherous.
A few more hours in the snow will not hurt her now. I suggest
we wait until morning."
"Where do we start?" said Eowyn, after Senta had left.
"I have no idea, melmenya."
"Was I wrong to say yes?"
"No, Eowyn nín. What else could you have said?"
"That we had no idea what to do," said Eowyn.
Legolas took her in his arms. "Arwen is waiting for us,
melmenya. We can discuss this whilst we bathe."
"Hmmm," said Eowyn, "we seldom talk when
"Well, you will have to control yourself, Eowyn," said
Legolas, lifting her off the bed and carrying her into the bathing
"I will have to control myself?"
"You are an insatiable woman, meleth nín."
"And you are an elf"
Legolas laughed. "Irresistible to women," he said,
lifting her into the water and climbing in beside her, "through
no fault of my own."
Eowyn pursed her lips.
I cannot argue with that, she thought. She began unbraiding
his hair. "How long should it have taken Lëonórwyn
to reach Minas Tirith?" she asked.
"It is about four hundred and fifty miles, so, at between
ten and twenty miles a day," said Legolas, "she should
have been here more than a month ago."
"The body we found had not been dead that long."
"No; but it must surely be connected with her disappearance,
melmenya. Unless someone is lying in wait for Rohirrim?"
Eowyn rubbed a small amount of soft, scented soap between her
hands and began massaging it into Legolas' hair. "We need
to know whether Banduil was part of her escort," said Eowyn.
"We need to talk to Florestan."
"Mmmmm," said Legolas.
"And we need to find out more about this Lord Berodin and
his nephewperhaps we can talk to somebody at the banquet
tonight," she added. "And we need to find out
whether the girl had any reasons of her own to disappear"
"Harder," said Legolas.
"What? Oh..." Eowyn pressed her fingertips against
his scalp; Legolas sighed with pleasure. "You have not been
listening to a word I have said," she complained.
"Yes I have," said Legolas. "We will talk to Florestan
before we join Arwenand she may know something about Berodin."
Eowyn carefully rinsed the soap from his hair. "Will you
wash mine?" she asked.
Legolas smiled. "With pleasure, melmenya," he said.
"She was to have married a man of Minas Tirith," said
Eomer. "I cannot remember his name, but their families have
a trading agreement."
Aragorn sighed. "They trade horses?" he asked.
"Yes," said Eomer. "Wild horsesfrom the
Downsnoble animals distantly descended from the Mearas.
I have tried to end the trade, but the agreement was approved
by Helm, and there is nothing I can do. Do you know the Gondorian
"I have heard of them," said Aragorn, "unfortunately."
Florestan was surprised to see them. "Come in, Lord Legolas,
Princess Eowyn," he said, showing them into Eomer's apartment.
"Please, sit down. I am afraid that Eomer King is still out
hunting, and with the weather as it is I think he has probably
taken shelter for the night. Queen Lothiriel and Prince Elfwine
are visiting Queen Arwen."
"It is you we have come to see, Florestan," said Eowyn.
"I do not understand, my lady..."
"Senta told us about your sister, Florestan," said
Legolas, "and asked us if we would help you find her."
"She should not have troubled you, my lord," said Florestan.
"She is worried about you, Florestan," said Eowyn.
"And..." She glanced at Legolas for guidance; Legolas
nodded. "We think we may already be involved. On our
way here, we found the body of a man in the ruins of Osgiliath.
I recognised him as one of Eomer's riders."
Florestan turned to Eowyn, alarmed. "Who was he, my lady?"
"His name was Banduil"
Florestan sprang to his feet. "Oh gods!" he cried.
"Was he part of your sister's escort?" asked Legolas.
"Yes! Yes!" cried Florestan. He walked over to the
window and gripped the sill. "I knew it! I knew I should
have brought her myself!"
"Florestan," said Eowyn gently, "Legolas searched
the area very thoroughly and found no other bodies. There is still
hope that your sister is safe. Will you let us help you look for
"Oh, my lady!" said Florestan, turning towards her.
"I am sorry; I am behaving like a oaf." He lifted his
hands to his face and took a deep breath.
"I would be very grateful for your help, my lord, my lady,"
"Do you mind if we ask you some questions?" asked Eowyn.
"No, my lady," he said, coming back to sit opposite
her, "please do."
Eowyn took out her wax tablet, and thought for a moment. "Senta
told us that your grandfather arranged your sister's marriage,"
she said. "Do you know why he chose Master Berkin?"
"I believe the two families have trading links, my lady.
But I did not know my grandfather very well."
"How did Lëonórwyn feel about the marriage?"
Florestan hesitated. "I do not think she would have chosen
to leave Edoras, my lady," said Florestan, "but she
and her husband-to-be had been corresponding for a while and he
seemed like a good sort. I would say that she accepted it. Yes,
she was resigned to it."
"Did her fortune travel with her?"
"The plate and jewellery went with her, my lady, but the
bloodstock is still in Rohan. And much of her fortune is tied
up in property"
"From which she will receive regular rents?"
"Yes, my lady, and tithes."
"Tithes?" asked Legolas.
"Once a year," said Eowyn, "her tenants must pay
her one tenth of whatever they produce. It is a sort of tax."
"That is a heavy burden," said Legolas.
Eowyn nodded. "Life is hard for a peasant," she said.
She turned back to Florestan. "So Lëonórwyn is
a wealthy woman. Did she leave a sweetheart behind in Edoras?"
"II really do not know, my lady. She did not confide
such things to me."
"But you have your suspicions?"
"I know that one of the men chosen to escort her was sweet
on her, my lady, but whether Lëonórwyn returned his
feelings, I do not know."
"What is his name?" asked Eowyn.
"Eowulf, my lady."
Eowyn made a note. "I know him; he is an honourable man.
Who were the other riders?"
"There was Banduil, my lady; and Theodort, son of Halael;
and Ailhard, son of Ailhart. Then there was Lëonórwyn's
lady's maid, Rosemant, and her nurse, Mistress Amarri. Gods, if
they are all dead!" He buried his face in his hands.
Eowyn leaned forward and laid her hand on his arm.
"When did they leave Edoras?" asked Legolas, gently.
"On the twentieth day of Ivanneth, my lord," said Florestan.
"Just over three months ago."
"Do you know which route they planned to take?"
"Along the highway from Edoras to Minas Tirith."
"They did not intend to make any detours on the way?"
"No, my lord, not that I know of."
"How will we find her, my lord?" asked Florestan.
Legolas looked at Eowyn; she was deep in thought.
"At this moment, I do not know, Florestan," he said.
"But we will think of something"
"Servants!" said Eowyn.
"Servants know everything." She began to rise to her
"No melmenya!" cried Legolas, placing his hand on her
knee, "you must not stand!"
"But it is so hard to think sitting down," said Eowyn,
in frustration. "Very wellif Lord Berodin lied to Florestan
about his nephew's whereabouts to cover up Lëonórwyn's
"Then he knows something about ithe may even have
been responsible for it," said Legolas, following her train
"Yes. And whatever he knows about it, his servants
know as well. So what we need to do is talk to the servants."
She smiled. "A dishonourable man has dishonourable servantsor
else servants who are badly treated. Either way, we should be
able to bribe them. We just need to think of a way of approaching
them without Lord Berodin's knowing."
The problem preoccupied Eowyn all through the hour she and Legolas
spent with Arwen, all through dinnerso that she failed to
notice that Legolas seemed to be flirting with the handsome woman
on his rightand she was still oblivious as Legolas carried
her back to their apartments.
"I said, at least now we know how we can talk with Lord
Eowyn sat up in his arms, startled. "We do?"
"Oh! Careful, melmenya!" He settled her back against
his chest. "Were you not listening?"
"Ino, I was thinking..."
Legolas laughed, and kissed her cheek. "The charming Lady
Emliet," he said, referring to the woman who had been sitting
beside him at dinner, "who, incidentally, seems to be a reliable
source of information on all the noble families of Gondor,
tells me that, since the death of our friend's wife, his household
has been most disorderly. And that half his servants squander
their time and money in the Golden Goose tavern on Cocks
Alley. Which is, incidentally, a notorious stew. And Aragorn should
have closed it down years ago to preserve the health and morals
of all the men of Minas Tirith."
Eowyn hugged him tightly. "Legolas," she cried, "you
are a genius!" Then she added, "It is a pity that Berryn
is not with us."
"Berryn! Why melmenya?"
"Because he is a man."
"I do not understand."
"He could walk into the tavern without arousing any suspicion.
Whereas an elf or a dwarf, or a woman with no feet"
"You are not going in there, melmenya," said Legolas,
"Why ever not? I might make us some money. You could pose
as my pimp"
Legolas made a strange, unelven sound, almost like a dwarven
battle cry. "I am serious, Eowyn!"
"You must take Haldir and Gimli with you," said Eowyn
as Legolas laid her on the bed. "There is safety in numbers.
Dínendal is far too unworldlyhe would set up a healing
room for the women and we would never get him home. And Florestan
is too emotional at present. But perhaps you could take Eomerand
"Lothiriel would never allow Eomer to visit a brothel, melmenya.
Besides, he is tootoobig"
"Obvious. With all that hair. And I cannot take Faramir,
Legolas raised his eyebrows.
"We are not asking him to sleep with anyone, Legolas,"
said Eowyn. "Just to talk to them. And Faramir is very good
at talking to women."
"It would be better if I went in alone," he said, helping
her out of her beautiful red gown.
"No, no. As I said, there is safety in numbers. On your
own you would look suspicious, but with companions you will just
look as if you are having a drunken adventureeven if somebody
recognises you, it will look innocent. Besides, Gimli has a gift
for making unlikely friends, and"
"What does that mean?"
Eowyn smiled. "And Haldir will distract the womengive
them something to look at"
Legolas shot her a suspicious glance.
"And you promise that you will not try to follow
us, melmenya?" he demanded.
Eowyn sighed. "I promise," she said, slipping out of
her shift. "On one condition."
"What is that?" asked Legolas.
She reached behind him and began unlacing the broad red sash
around his waist. "That you make me scream,"
"Please," Eowyn whimpered.
"Shhhhh." Slowly, he withdrew, inch by tortuous
inch, every part of him stroking every part of her swollen inner
flesh. He paused, smiling down at her, then gradually entered
"I cannot bear it..."
"Yes you can, melmenya," he whispered, kissing her
face. "You can bear it. For me."
"Yes, my darling." He drew himself out of her again,
"I love you," he whispered, then slowly, oh so slowly,
he entered her again, filling her, pushing deep inside her, pressing
against her womb. And he held himself there.
"Oh gods, no..." She arched beneath him, desperately
trying to release the pressure he had built in her. But then he
reached down between them and gently brushed her with his fingertips
and it was all over.
Eomer sighed. What would otherwise have been a very pleasant
nightsharing good food and ale and tall stories around the
fire with his hunting companionshad been turned into an
interminable vigil by the discovery of Florestan's poor sister.
What in Middle Earth had happened to her? And what had happened
to the escort he had sent with her? He peered out of the cave
mouth. A faint glow was appearing over the horizonit would
soon be dawn and, thank the gods, it had stopped snowing.
Eomer turned to Aragorn. "Let us go and find her,"
Aragorn agreed. "Orin," he called softly. The stable
boy, also awake, sprang immediately to his feet and bowed, hastily.
"Take us to the lady," said Aragorn.
Orin led them out of the cave and, keeping close to the cliff
face, tried to retrace his steps of the previous night. "I
left the buckets behind, your Majesty," he said, "so
it should be easy to find her, but there is so much more snow
now." He looked around. "It was near here, I think,
next to theoh!" He tripped and fell, full length. "Be
careful, your Majesty," he said, pushing himself up on his
knees and wiping the snow from his face, "that was one of
"She must be here..."
He pulled the bucket out of the snow andvery carefullybegan
digging with it. Eomer retrieved the other bucket and joined him.
"Oh, gods," said Orin softly, "here, your Majesty,
I have found her." He dropped the bucket and began scraping
the snow away with his hands. "Tup a duck!" he
suddenly exclaimed. Then, "Sorry, your Majesty"
"What is it?" asked Eomer, peering over his shoulder.
"It is another one," said Orin. "A man in armour."
Eomer looked up at Aragorn. "One of the riders who escorted
her," he said. "We will need some help."
Legolas took one last look at Middle-earth.
How he would miss itthe mountains of Gondor, the plains
of Rohan, the beloved trees of Eryn Carantaur.
But it was all in safe hands. Eldarion would carry on his
father's work with wisdom and honour. Elfwine King had been ruling
Rohan in peace and prosperity for many years. And his own son
had taken over the guardianship of Eryn Carantaur, with the help
of Lord Fingolfin and Lord Caranthir.
"Are you ready, my love?" asked a voice beside him.
"Are you ready?" he replied.
"I have said my good byes," she said. "And though
I shall miss Meldon every moment of every day, I know that he
will join us when it is his time." Then she added, in a whisper,
"Haldir is growing impatient and I think Gimli is getting
"Of course," he said. "Let us go."
And he took Eowyn's small, smooth hand upon his own, elven fashion,
and led her down the steps and along the quay, and onto the grey
After almost an hour of careful digging, Eomer, Orin, and two
of the huntsman, had uncovered the bodies of Florestan's sister,
the rider, and another man.
Reverently, Eomer laid a blanket over each body.
"Theodort, son of Halael," he said, "and Ailhard,
son of Ailhartforgive me, I sent you both to dishonourable
death. Lady Lëonórwynyour life should have been
blessed with a husband and children..." Aragorn placed a
hand on his shoulder. Eomer looked up at him. "If the others
are also here," he said, "we will not find them until
the snow thaws."
Aragorn shook his head. "No," he agreed. "We will
take these bodies back to Minas Tirith and I will instruct the
Gondorian Guard to search for the others as soon as conditions
"Do you think they froze to death?" asked Eomer.
"I have seen no obvious wounds," said Aragorn. "But
we will ask the royal healer to examine them. And if there is
any sign of foul play, the Gondorian Guard will investigate."
Legolas awoke late. He had been dreaming againsomething
about Eowyn; something that had filled him with so much joy he
wanted to singbut he could not remember it.
Should he tell her about the dreams?
He rolled onto his side and looked at her. She was already wide-awake,
and the radiant smile she was giving him promised him something
very, very wicked.
Legolas decided that the dreams could wait until later. He reached
And someone rapped at the door.
"Sweet Eru! Perfect timing, as ever!" Legolas
threw on his dressing robe and, pulling it closed across the front
of his body, opened the door. "Yes?"
The servant bowed nervously. "Master Halmant sends word
that King Elessar has returned, my lord, and awaits you, with
the King of Rohan, Prince Faramir, and Lord Gimli, in his study."
Legolas sighed. "Thank you." He closed the door. "Come
melmenya," he said, "it seems we are wanted."
"You took your time," said Eomer, turning towards
the door. "By the gods! What is wrong?"
"It is nothing, Eomer," said Eowyn, as Legolas set
her down on a couch by the fire, "just a few cuts on my feet.
Do not fuss."
"Those are honourable wounds," said Gimli, "received
when protecting Legolas from an extremely nasty creature that
was trying to break his neck. Very useful in a tight spot is your
sister, Eomer," he added. "She saved me from
a stampeding warg, and the March Warden from an Uruk Hai..."
Eomer looked pointedly at Legolas: I will speak to you
"It is good to see you Legolas, Eowyn," said Aragorn,
clasping Legolas' shoulders and giving Eowyn a brief bow of the
"We are both very pleased to be here," said Legolas,
returning his friend's embrace. "I assume that Gimli has
told you of the body we found in the ruins of Osgiliath?"
"Yes," said Aragorn. "He said that Eowyn recognised
"It was Banduil, son of Falemi," said Eowyn to Eomer.
"He had been shot in the back. Florestan has told us that
he was one of the riders who escorted his sister to Minas Tirith,
butfortunatelywe found no sign of her, or of the rest
of her party, so we assume that they...." She noticed that
Eomer and Aragorn were exchanging glances. "What is it?"
"This morning, we found the bodies of Lëonórwyn
and two riders," said Eomer.
"No!" cried Eowyn.
Legolas sat down beside her, took her hand, and pressed it gently.
"Have you told Florestan?" he asked.
"Yes," said Eomer.
"How is he taking it?"
"Badly," said Eomer. "Very badly."
"How did she die?" asked Eowyn.
"We do not know as yet," said Aragorn. "I have
asked the royal healer to examine all three bodies."
"If Master Dínendal can be of any assistance,"
said Legolas, "I am sure he will be happy to help."
"Thank you, mellon nín," said Aragorn.
"Since the man you found was clearly murdered, and by a Gondorian
archer, I will be instructing the Gondorian Guard to investigate."
"There is still one rider missing," said Eowyn. "And
the two women servants."
Eomer nodded. "They may still be buried in the snow. We
will not know until the thaw."
"We will send out search parties as soon as possible,"
said Aragorn. "As for the Yuletide celebrations, Eomer"
"They must continue, of course," said Eomer. "No
one would expect you to cancel rites intended to ensure the future
prosperity of your people. It would be seen as a bad omen."
"Would you mind if I spent a few hours in the archery practice
hall, melmenya?" asked Legolas as he carried Eowyn back to
their apartment. "I need to clear my head."
"Of course not," said Eowyn. "But can I come too?
I like watching you."
Legolas smiled. "I would enjoy your company Eowyn nínit
is a pity you did not bring your bow, or I could have taught you
how to shoot from a sitting position."
"Of course I brought my bow, and my sword! I would never
travel without them."
Legolas hugged her. "Then let us fetch it, melmenya, and
perhaps we can put this terrible business from our minds for a
"Once more, melmenya," said Legolas. He was crouching
beside her, with his right hand on her back, to make sure that
she was using the correct muscles.
"You are a slave driver," said Eowyn, drawing her bow.
Legolas laughed. "Yes, that is much better. Remember how
that feelsand tomorrow we will progress to shooting..."
"Can I join you?" asked a familiar voice.
"Certainly, March Warden," said Legolas. "Best
Eowyn smiled. She had no idea why Haldir still bothered to compete.
But perhaps he thinks that, one day, he will win, she thought.
"Will you be all right melmenya?" asked Legolas.
"Of course I will. Go ahead."
Eowyn watched Legolas' graceful body, working with a perfect
blend of power and precision, as he loosed all fifty arrows without
a moment's hesitation.
It is so arousing, she thought, smiling. If all women
were to watch their husbands practice the bowor the swordthe
average marriage bed would be a far livelier place
"Might I have a word, my lady? With you and Lord Legolas,
Eowyn turned towards the newcomer. "Florestan," she
said, "I am so sorry"
"The thing is, my lady," said Florestan, leaning towards
her and speaking very quietly, "the woman lying in the House
of Healing is not my sister."