"The woman lying dead in the House of Healing
is poor Rosemant, my sister's lady's maid," said Florestan.
Legolas and Eowyn exchanged glances.
"Have you told Eomer?" asked Eowyn.
"No my ladyand I would be grateful if you did not."
He looked cautiously around the room, as if afraid that someone
might be hiding behind one of the tapestries, listening. He had
refused to speak to them in a public place, so they had brought
him back to their apartment, and it had taken them some time to
persuade him to allow Haldir to join them.
"Surely you cannot suspect my brother"
"Of course not, my lady," said Florestan. "Few
know better than I that Eomer King would never behave dishonourably.
But, once the investigation begins, all eyes will be upon him
and King Elessar. Rosemant was disguised as my sister," he
explained. "Wearing her clothes and her jewellery. Whoever
killed her probably thinks that he has killed Lëonórwyn.
And the fewer people who know the truth"
"The safer your sister will be," said Legolas, "assuming
that she is still alive."
"Yes, my lord."
"You are sure," said Haldir, "that the maid did
not steal your sister's belongings?"
"Yes, sir," said Florestan. "Rosemant was devoted
to Lëonórwyn." He turned to Legolas and Eowyn.
"Are you still willing to help me find her, my lord, my lady?
It would mean acting in secret."
Legolas looked at Eowyn. "I do not like the idea of going
behind Eomer's back," she said.
"Then we will not, melmenya"
"But I have no doubt at all," she continued, "that
Eomer would happily leave me in the dark if our positions were
Legolas smiled, ruefully; she was right.
"Let us do what we can," she said. Legolas squeezed
"You have your answer," he said to Florestan, "but,
with your permission, I would like to ask Lord Gimli to join us.
Dwarves are very practical, resourceful peopleGimli more
so than most. And, like us, he will slip by unnoticed whilst the
crowd is busy watching Aragorn and Eomer."
"Of course, my lord," said Florestan, after a moment's
"Good," said Legolas. "This evening, we must all
be seen at the dressing of the Yule Tree. But, after that, Haldir,
Gimli and I will be paying a visit to the whorehouse."
"Ready, melmenya?" asked Legolas. He took one last
look at himself in the mirror and straightened the broad sash
of his long green robe; then he wrapped Eowyn's fur-lined cloak
around her shoulders, and fastened the clasp.
"Legolas," she protested, "I am not a complete
The elf laughed. "Those words will come back to haunt you
tonight, when you have had too much wine and I am not here to
carry you to the privy."
Eowyn swatted his arm. "I will crawl," she said. Then
she added, "You will be careful tonight?"
"Of course, melmenya. Now that we know that Lëonórwyn
is probably hiding somewhere, it is even more important to be
"That is not what I meant. Those places can be dangerous.
Sometimes, the women keep the meneroccupied
whilst their pimps steal from them. Or worse..."
"And how do you know that, melmenya?"
"I am a Shieldmaiden," said Eowyn, "and warriors
Legolas kissed her forehead. "Come," he said, lifting
her into his arms. Then, as he carried her out of their apartment
and they joined the crowd of excited guests descending the main
staircase of the King's House, he added, "You need not worry,
Eowyn nín, for this will not be the first time I
have been in a brothel. And do not forget that I will have Gimli
to protect me. And, besides, all the women will be looking at
"When have you been in a brothel?" whispered Eowyn.
"You have never mentioned that before!"
"A husband must have some secrets, melmenya."
"Legolas," she began but, at that moment, he stepped
out through the massive doors and into the courtyard at the centre
of the house. "Oh, look!" she gasped.
The scene was magical. Strings of lanterns were sparkling like
stars around the snowy courtyard. Servants were handing out hot
spiced wine and festive sweetmeats. And, at the centre of everything,
the Yule Tree, a noble fir, stood in a huge wooden barrel, awaiting
Legolas gazed at the tree. "Evergreens are a refuge for
the woodland spirits throughout the winter months," he said
"Do the spirits mind being brought here?" asked Eowyn.
Legolas smiled. "No, melmenya," he replied, "they
enjoy a celebration as much as we do."
"And the tree?"
"The tree is happy."
Eowyn kissed his cheek, her worries about his past sexual adventures
"Gingerbread, my lord, my lady?" asked a passing servant,
carrying a large tray.
"Thank you," said Eowyn, taking a piece. She held it
up to the light and laughed. It was shaped like a woman, with
a face and hair drawn in icing. She took a bite, then offered
it to Legolas.
"Shhhhh, shhhhh," hissed some of the
crowd. Legolas turned towards the sound. Aragorn and Arwen were
standing beneath the Yule Tree.
"Welcome, friends," said Aragorn. "This is the
fifth time the Queen and I have celebrated Yule at Minas Tirithfor
almost five years we have all worked hard to achieve peace and
prosperity. Let us join together now to dress the Yule Tree; let
us thank the gods, and the spirits of our ancestors, for the blessings
they have given us; and let us always remember those less fortunate
than we are."
One by one, the guests came forward and hung their decorations
on the treelights to honour the sun, moon, and stars, and
to greet the spirits of the dead, and small offerings of wood
and glass for the land wights, the sprites of earth and forest.
Then, when the tree was covered, and the royal guests were returning
indoors for their Yuletide feast, an army of servants was sent
out from the palace to distribute parcels of food and warm clothing
to the poor and needy.
Arwen had arranged the seating so that the friends of the Ring
could sit together, sharing their Yuletide meal and exchanging
their gifts in private.
"Gimli," said Eowyn, unable to wait until after the
feast, "this is for you." She grinned at Legolas and
handed Gimli a small, spherical object covered in rose-pink gauze
and decorated with a large rose-gold bow. "I helped choose
it, but Legolas wrapped it..."
Gimli gave Legolas a slightly strange look, then carefully opened
the gauze. "What beautiful workmanship," he said, holding
the golden ball up to the light and admiring a sun, moon and stars
engraved on its surface. "Made by men?"
"Yes," said Legolas.
"Open it," said Eowyn, excitedly.
Gimli peered at the gift for a moment, then pressed an almost
invisible button with his thumb. The sphere slowly opened to reveal
a tiny, intricately detailed timepiece, complete with folding
"By Aulë!" he exclaimed, "it is wondrous!"
"It is a travelling sundial," said Eowyn. "It
will work anywhere in Middle-earththough not, of course,"
she admitted, "underground."
Gimli smiled at his friends. "A dwarf always knows the time
when he is underground," he said. "It is above the ground
that he can get confused. Thank you; I shall treasure it."
He hesitated for a moment, before saying: "Let me give you
your gifts, though these are nothing so special." He reached
into a leather bag hanging from the back of his chair and handed
them each a small, rectangular wooden box.
Legolas opened his box. Inside it was a hair ornament, made from
interlocking green leaves of delicately enamelled mithril. "Gimli,"
he whispered, "you made this for me?" He gave
Gimli the most beautiful smile the dwarf had ever seen.
"For shame, you crazy elf," said Gimli. "It is
just a hair clip."
Legolas shook his head. "No Gimli, it is exquisite. Open
Eowyn removed the lid of her box, and gasped. "Oh Gimli!
"May I see it, Eowyn nín?" asked Legolas.
It was another hair ornament, of enamelled gold, depicting the
white flowers of Rohan embraced by the green leaves of Eryn Lasgalen.
"Yes, thank you Gimli," said Legolas, softly. "Thank
you for the gift, and for the sentiment it expresses, elvellon.
Let me put it in your hair, melmenya. The green matches your gown
Later in the evening, the party broke into smaller groups and
the guests of honour began to mingle with the citizens of Gondor.
Gimli and Haldir had instructions to discover as much as they
could about Lord Berodin and his nephew and, whilst talking to
Lord Olivan, the Mayor of Minas Tirith, Gimli managed to mention,
quite casually, that he had heard that Lord Berodin possessed
the best stables in all of Gondor.
"I would dearly like to see his horses, and so would my
"I can introduce you to Lord Berodin, if you would like,
my lord," said Olivan. "I confess we are only passing
acquaintances, but my dear late wife was a close friend of both
Lord Berodin's wife, and her sister, his nephew's mother."
"He has a nephew?" asked Gimli, innocently.
"Oh, yes, my lord. The boy lives with his uncle. He is a
good-hearted young lad. My dear late wife was very fond of him."
"Does he attend court?"
"No, my lord." Olivan thought for a moment. "No.
In truth, I have not seen him in years..."
"What happened to his parents?" asked Gimli.
"It was a tragedy, my lord. His father and mother were set
upon by orcs in the Forest of Druadan; no one was sure what they
were doing there. Fortunately, Lord Berodin adopted the boy. But
then, shortly afterwards, Berodin's wife diedfell down stairs,
"I would very much like to meet this Lord Berodin,"
said Gimli, quietly.
"Then come with me, my lord," said Olivan. He led Gimli
across the Banqueting Hall, towards a tall, dark figure with a
"Lord Berodin," he said, bowing slightly, "may
I introduce Lord Gimli? Lord GimliLord Berodin. Lord Gimli
was interested to hear that you own some fine wild horses of Rohan,
"I did not know that dwarves had any interest in horse flesh,
Lord Gimli," said Berodin haughtily, placing a peculiar emphasis
on the word 'lord'.
"As a rule, no, we do not," said Gimli, "but I
have had much experience of ridingespecially during the
Ring warand I appreciate a good horse. My current mount
was bred in Eomer King's own stable. Arod is as fine a horse as
you will find this side of Rivendellalmost a match for the
Mearas themselveswith a light, smart gait, intelligent eye
and gentle temperament, though in no way lacking courage,"
he added, quoting Legolas almost too the letter, and hoping that
Berodin would not think to test his knowledge of horse flesh too
But Berodin had no interest in conversing with a dwarf, and rudely
turned his back on Gimli. "Do you think that the thaw will
come before Twelfth Night, Lord Olivan?" he asked.
Appalled by Berodin's behaviour, Olivan tried to make amends:
"Come, my lord Berodin," he said, "will you not
invite Lord Gimli, and his friend Prince Legolas, to view your
"My stables are not open to visitors," said Berodin,
coldly, and walked away.
"I hear my wife was talking to you last night, Prince Legolas,"
said a slightly drunken guest, dropping into the empty seat beside
the elf, "about her favourite subject, the Golden Goose tavern."
"Oheryes, Lady Emliet. Lorder?"
"Glarimar," said the man. "She hopes that you
will use your influence with the king to have it closed down."
He leaned closer. "But I beg you to reconsider, for the Golden
Goose is the best stew in the city. Many married men frequent
it, myself included. You should try it, your Highnessescape
the leash for a few hours," he added, inclining his head
towards Eowyn, who was talking animatedly to the man sitting opposite.
Legolas smiled, politelyand felt Eowyn lay her hand on
"A man may do things with whore that he cannot do with his
wife," said Glarimar, drunkenly.
Legolas felt Eowyn's hand slide down between his legs and her
fingertips press against his rapidly hardening flesh.
"Such as?" he asked, his voice sounding strange.
Eowyn's fingers traced his penis upwards then began, gently but
firmly, to circle its sensitive head. Legolas grasped the edge
of the table and risked taking a glance at her. She was still
talkingquite naturallyto the man opposite.
"A wife's duty is to bear children. It is not necessary
for her to please her husband," said Glarimar.
Eowyn's fingers became more insistent.
"In fact, it is better if she has no interest in the physical
act at all. That way, she is unlikely to stray"
"Oh Valar," moaned Legolas.
"I am sorry?"
Legolas shook his head and smiled weakly. "Please continue,
Eowyn's fingers began to move faster.
"A whore will do the unexpected, if you ask her with coin!"
"Ah!" gasped Legolas.
"Exactly. A man needs a wife to give him heirs, but he needs
a whore to pleasure him." He leaned towards Legolas and whispered,
conspiratorially, "You would enjoy yourself in the Golden
Goose." A small movement caught his eye and he glanced
down at Legolas' lap. "By the gods!" he exclaimed.
"IerIahI must take my wifeerplease
excuse me, Lord Glarimar," Legolas yelped.
Andthankful for his long, flowing robehe rose from
the table, lifted Eowyn into his arms and fled from the banqueting
Eowyn fastened her mouth to the tip of his ear and sucked mercilessly.
"Sweet Eru!" cried Legolas, setting her down on the
pedestal of a statue. He pulled open his robe and reached for
her skirts. But Eowyn pushed him away. Then, smiling wickedly,
she leaned forward, took him in her little hand and began to stroke
him, hard and fast.
"Oh," cried Legolas, burying his face in her shoulder,
his body meeting her movements, "Ai!Ai!Ai!Oh!
Na vedui!" And he cameacross her gown, and the
statue, and the marble floor.
"Will you enjoy whoring, Legolas?" Eowyn asked, nuzzling
"No!" he hissed, pushing up her skirts. "But I
will enjoy taking you, meleth nínright
here, right now, in this corridor. Then the whole of Middle-earth
can see what a wanton woman you are!"
"Oh!" gasped Eowyn, as he entered her, roughly. "Oh
She wrapped her arms and legs around him, and pressed her lips
to his ear, "You are so big," she whispered, her body
arching to take him deeper, "oh yes, so big..."
And her cries filled the vaulted ceiling.
Legolas was wearing his usual travelling clothes of green suede
jerkin, grey tunic and leggingswith a single white knife
at his waistbut Eowyn had decided that his costume was not
drab enough for a visit to a whorehouse.
"You promise me that you will be careful?" she said,
pulling his Lorien cloak around his shoulders and fastening his
mallorn-leaf brooch. Then she raised the hood over his shining
"There," she said, tucking a stray lock beneath
"Melmenya," he said, softly, catching her hands, "what
are you afraid of?"
"What do you mean?"
"I think that, for some inexplicable reason, you have got
it into your head that I am going to bed a whore"
"Yes. That is why you had to molest me amidst the
entire Gondorian court." He smiled. "And I am not complaining
about that, Eowyn nínbut how could you possibly
think that I would betray you?"
Eowyn's eyes filled with tears, and she quickly looked away.
"You have so much past experience," she said. "And
you are leaving me behind. I feel so, so"
"Shhhhh melmenya!" he chided. "You have
had far too much to drink, meleth nín." He
sighed. "I have heard it said that a man will have sex at
any opportunity," he said, lifting her chin, "though
I do not believe it, buthowever it may bethe same
is not true of an elf, Eowyn nín. I could
not betray you. My body would not do it."
Eowyn stared at him.
He lifted her hand and placed it between his thighs. "Only
you can do this, my love," he said. "My heart and body
are yours. You have no rivals. You need have no worries."
He leaned forward and kissed her cheek, and she wrapped her arms
around him and hugged him fiercely.
"Now," he said, laying her gently on the bed and covering
her with the quilt, "get some sleep." He kissed her
forehead. "I will be back soon. And let us hope that when
I return I will have a better idea of what is going on."
"It could, of course, be a coincidence," said Legolas,
as he rode slowly down to Rath Amrûn, on the fourth level
of Minas Tirith, with Gimli and Haldir.
"Oh yes," said the dwarf, "sheer coincidencethe
poor lad's very rich mother and father just happen to ride out
to the Forest of Druadan for no purpose other than to get killed
by orcs. Then his aunt just happens to fall down stairs and leave
him completely at the mercy of his uncle, who then just happens
to move into his parents' house and 'adopt' him. And, finally,
not five hundred yards from where his parents died, the poor young
lass posing as his wife just happens to meet her death in the
"I must admit that, when you put it like that, elvellon,
it does sound suspicious," said Legolas. "I do wish
that Eowyn were here"
"She does have a way of asking the right questions,"
"Well, we will just have to do our best without her,"
said Gimli. "We can hardly take a lady into a brothel."
"That," said Gimli, as they made their way along Rath
Amrûn, "is Lord Berodin's house."
He pointed to an imposing building with a large square tower,
like a castle keep, rising over the main entrance, and crenellated
battlementsapparently added quite recentlydefending
the high pitched roof.
"What do you think the architect was trying to say there?"
"Keep out," said Haldir.
"I wonder where the poor wee laddie is?" said Gimli.
"In the top of that tower, I should not wonder."
"We do not know that the boy is a prisoner," said Legolas.
"He may be an accomplice."
"Hmmmph," said Gimli. "He must have been all of
eight years old when his parents died. Even for a man, that is
a mere child."
Legolas nodded. "But he is twenty now," he said, "almost
They passed Berodin's house and turned the corner into Ostrad
Tinnu, where the buildings were noticeably shabbier than on the
main rath, then turned again, under an archway, into Cocks Alley,
where the jumble of tenements was stacked haphazardly against
the Hill of Guard, like a pile of children's toy bricks.
The riders slowly picked their way down the narrow stone lane,
through piles of dirty snow, household rubbish andLegolas
"Orc's breath!" said Haldir. "How do they live
"Men have a surprising affinity with filth," said Gimli.
"Lady Eowyn excepted," he added hastily. "Look,
that must be the Golden Goose, there." He pointed
to a brightly-lit tavern with two large bay windows. "Hmmm.
Interesting interpretation of the word 'goose'," he added,
looking up at the sign as they rode to the front door. "I
have never heard it called that before..."
"It does look like a goose's head and neck," said Haldir,
"emerging from a pair of breeches. But why is it so small?"
Legolas cleared his throat. "I get the impression that men
are generally somewhat smaller," he said.
Haldir and Gimli looked interested, but Legolas did not elaborate.
"Well," he said, springing down from Arod and tying
his reins to a tethering post, "let us go in."
The smell was overpowering.
Ale, thought Legolas. Ale and wood smoke, and candle
wax, and sweat, and... And sex. Thank the gods I did not let Eowyn
persuade me to bring her here.
But, sweet Eru, I miss carrying her in my arms.
He lowered the hood of his cloak and looked around.
The tavern was almost empty. Three elderly men were sitting around
the fire, drinking tankards of ale and telling tall tales, paying
no attention to the three scantily clad young women draped over
Perhaps there are more customers upstairs, Legolas thought.
"Welcome, gentlemen," cried the landlord. "It
is not often we see the fair folk in these partsnor dwarves,
neither. What can I get you?"
"Three tankards of your finest ale," said Gimli.
Haldir opened his mouth to protest but Legolas stopped him with
a hand laid lightly on his arm, then smiled at the landlord. "Perhaps
you will join us, Master...?"
"Silrim," replied the man. "Thank you. I will
have a tankard too, Masterer?"
"Caranthir," said Legolas, wishing that they had had
the wit to agree on aliases beforehand. "This is Fingolfin,"
he said, ignoring the expression on Haldir's face, "and Norin,"
he added, pointing to Gimli.
"Pleased to meet you, gentlemen," said Silrim. "And
what brings you to the Golden Goose?"
"We have heard," said Gimli, "that this is the
best place in the city for strong ale andergood company."
He smiled and bowed towards the young women.
"Hello," said one of the women, rising from the bar
and walking towards him. She smileda charming, innocent
smile. "Come with me, my little lord," she said, taking
Gimli by the arm and leading him over to the stairs. "You
can bring your ale to my room. We'll take off your boots and jerkin
and make you comfortable." She bent over him, her almost-bare
breasts brushing his shoulder, and whispered, "I have never
been with a dwarf before, but I have heard much of the stoutness
of their hearts..."
"Er," said Gimli, glancing at Legolas, but Legolas
only shrugged his shoulders, unhelpfully. "Er... I would
be honoured," he said, and followed her upstairs.
"Well, you're a pretty one," said another woman,
twining herself around Legolas.
She ran her fingers, seductively, down his cheek, and chest and
stomach, then thrust her hand between his legs and held him. When
she felt no response, she stepped away and stared up at him. "Are
you sure it's a woman you're looking for, love?"
Legolas considered saying no. Perhaps if I pretend to prefer
men, he thought, they will leave me alone. After all, Eowyn
would have been be devastated by
"If you do prefer male company, sir, I have just the thing,"
said Silrim. "Fidélin! Come here!" he called.
"A new boy, sir. Never been with anyone, man or woman. Still
waiting to learn the ropes, so to speak."
No, no, no, thought Legolas.
But then he saw the boy. By the gods!
"Thank you, Master Silrim," he said. "Do you have
a room we can use?"
"Of course, sir. Fidélin, take MastererCaranthir
into the front room."
"Do you have any wine?" asked Legolas.
"Indeed, I do, sir, a good Ithilien red, kept for discerning
clients, like yourself."
"Then we will have a bottle of good Ithilien red, Master
Silrim," said Legolas. "Are you ready, Fidélin?"
he asked, deliberately ignoring the terror in the boy's eyes.
"Come." And, as Fidélin reluctantly led him to
the stairs, Legolas risked a glance at Haldir.
If I were to stay down here a moment longer, he thought,
the poor March Warden would slaughter me.
Haldir stood gripping the handrail of the stairs, his right hand
crushing the hilt of his sword, staring after Legolas and the
What is he doing?
He has the loveliest creature in all of Middle-eartha
woman who is warm and generous and sensual, and a brave and honourable
warrior. And she thinks that Anor shines out of his backside.
How could he?
How could he?
"What's wrong with you, love?" asked the woman. "Did
you want the boy yourself?"
"Certainly not!" said Haldir.
"Oh, it's him you want."
He gave her a withering look. "It is his wife I"
He took a deep breath. "It is his wife I feel sorry for."
"Then maybe you should poke her."
"Marglyn. In the meantime, why not buy me a drink?"
"Whilst you're here, love, you might as well buy me a drink."
"Mistress Marglyn, I..."
Haldir remembered that he was supposed to be asking questions,
and finding out about Lord Berodin. "Ohvery well. Please
give her whatever she wants, landlord," he said.
The landlord poured a measure of clear spirit into a horn tumbler
and handed it to the woman. She perched on a stool next to the
bar and took a large mouthful, washing it around her teeth then
letting it slip slowly down her throat.
"What is she like?" she asked.
"Tall, slender, beautiful, with a body like a fawn, hair
like a river of gold, eyes like"
"I'll imagine the rest! What's her name?"
Haldir hesitated. Did he really want to hear that precious name
on this trollop's lips? He sighed, "Eowyn."
"Princess Eowyn, the one who ran off with"she
looked upstairs"the elf?" She laughed. "Two
of them! Some women have no luck!" She took another mouthful
of spirit. "Well, love, you can call me Eowyn if it
would make it more fun for you," she said, looking into the
"Madam," said Haldir, "I would cut my tongue out
before I called you anything."