"My lord," said the messenger, bowing
to Legolas, "a dispatch from Eryn Lasgalen."
Legolas thanked the elf. "There will be a reply," he
said, "but it will take me a while to work through all this.
I will arrange accommodation for you."
It took him almost an hour to find the messenger a place to stay
in the crowded city and by the time he returned to the apartment,
most of the guests had gone, and the servants were clearing away
the remains of breakfast. He placed the dispatch bag on the desk
and glanced over at Eowyn. Someonehe noticed with a pang
of jealousyhad carried her from the table to the bed and
now Gimli was sitting beside her, talking and no doubt explaining
away his adventure with Esmarë.
"My lord? Can I have a word?"
Legolas turned towards the quiet voice.
"I do not believe you have ever called me that before, March
Warden," said Legolas, softly. "Do you want to go out
onto the balcony?"
Haldir glanced towards Eowyn. "Yes, that would be more comfortable,"
The two elves walked silently past the bed, unnoticed by either
the woman or the dwarf, and out through the elegant stained-glass
"Well?" said Legolas.
Haldir took a deep breath. "I want to apologise, my lord."
"There is that word again," said Legolas.
"I should not have behaved as I did, threatening you. If
you want me to resign my position, or to leave Eryn Carantaur..."
Legolas leaned over the low wall of the balcony and gazed into
the Queen's garden. "That will not be necessary, Haldir.
Though I admit that part of me was disappointed that you would
think me capable of betraying Eowynand ruining the life
of a young boyin truth I knew exactly how you were
going to react. I needed to deceive the brothel keeper and your
anger made my actions all the more convincing."
He turned to face the other elf. "I know what it
is like to love her when she belongs to another. And I am sorry
that you suffer. But my concern is for her. Never let your
feelings cause her pain, Haldir." The March Warden began
to protest but Legolas held up his hand. "I assume that if
anything were to happen to me, Eowyn would have a protector?"
"Of course, my"
"I am not your lord, Haldir," Legolas interrupted.
"I like to think that we are friends. So please do not ever
call me that again. It really does not sound well on your lips."
After seeing Haldir and Gimli to the door, Legolas returned to
find Eowyn perching on the edge of the bed, tentatively stretching
a foot towards the floor...
"No, melmenya!" he cried, running to her. "Whatever
you want, I will fetch for you."
"I want to walk! I feel that am trapped here, in
this room, whilst everyone else in Middle-earth is out having
Legolas laughed. "I have just received a pile of documents
from my father," he said, "all of which must be read,
and some revised, and others commented uponso I will also
be trapped in here, with you, for some time."
"But it is Yuletide..."
"Which is precisely why my father has sent them." Legolas
grinned. "He does not want me to forget my responsibilities
as a 'Crown Prince' so, at Yuletide, he sends me some light reading."
"Can I help?" she asked.
"Do you really want to?"
"Yes, of course I do."
Legolas smiled. "Let me sort through them first, Eowyn nín,"
he said, gesturing towards the dispatch bag on the desk. "Some
of them only require a signature. I will take you to visit Arwen
for a few hours, and when you come back I will have a pile of
documents for you to enjoy."
"Legolas," said Eowyn, softly, "I am not sure
I am comfortable visiting Arwen alone."
"Why not, melmenya?" He sat on the bed beside her.
"She was your mistress."
"Oh, meleth nín!" He hugged her. "That
was over hun" He stopped himself. "It was over
years ago. I hardly remember it. I doubt that Arwen remembers
Eowyn looked at him, suspiciously. "I thought that elves
had exceptional memories. Besides..."
Legolas kissed the top of her head. "Besides what, Eowyn
"If you do not remember it, how do you know that I am the
Legolas laughed. Then he pushed her over on the bed, and kissed
her tenderly. "I have chosen to be with you, melmenya,"
he whispered, "and you have chosen to be with me. Forever.
The past makes us who we are, but it is the past. Sowill
you let me take you to see Arwen?"
Eowyn nodded. "Yes," she said. "But I will need
my boots, and my cloak, for we may want to walk in the garden."
"Oh no, melmenya, you are not walking. And Arwen is certainly
not carrying you!"
"One of the twins could carry me."
Legolas sighed. "Do you really want to go outside so much?
Very well, I will fetch your boots and cloak. Wait there."
He walked over to her clothes chest and opened the lid, and
he did not see Eowyn quickly pull something out from under her
pillow and hide it down her bodice.
After leaving Legolas and Eowyn, Gimli returned to his apartment
to prepare for his mission.
He took a long, relaxing bath, combed, perfumed and re-braided
his hair and beard, then searched through his clothes chest and
carefully selected a tunic of deep blue velvetwell made
but not showymatching breeches, and a dark red cloak.
He studied himself in the mirror. Perfect, he thought,
a dwarf of some meansgenerous but not ostentatious; a
talkative fellow, who enjoys company.
"Can we go down into the city?" Eowyn asked, as soon
as Legolas had left.
Arwen smiled. "Why?"
"I want to buy Legolas a Yuletide gift. When we arrived
I saw a shop on the fifth level that sells cloth from all over
Middle-earth. I want to have something made for him." She
took a strip of fabric from inside her bodice. "Something
beautiful, like this. You know how much pride he takes in his
"Yes," said Arwen. "But are you sure you want
to encourage his vanity?"
"He is not vain."
Arwen thought it best not to contradict. "How would you
get down there?"
"I was hoping that your brothers might take me."
Arwen smiled conspiratorially. "I will send for them,"
Legolas picked up the leather dispatch bag, broke the seal, unfastened
the buckles, and had just started to pull out the papers when
someone in a hurry knocked loudly at the door.
"Come in," he called.
The door flew open.
"Eomer," said Legolas. "Come in. Sit down. How
can I help"
"I have had to wait two days to get you alone,"
cried Eomer. "What possessed you to take her on an orc hunt?
She could have been killedripped from throat to belly, like
Theodred. She could have been rapedleft permanently crippled,
or mad, or pregnant"
"She could have been taken off to their den and used as
"I know!" cried Legolas. "Do you think
I wanted to take her?" He took a deep breath and calmed
himself. "Please, Eomer, sit down. I had planned to leave
her at Eryn CarantaurI was terrified that something would
happen to herbut she persuaded me"
"The way she was persuading you last night, outside the
Banqueting Hall, no doubt."
Legolas gave him a dark look. "I hope you did not stay to
watch," he said softly.
"I did not need to watch," said Eomer. "Her commentary
was perfectly explicit and could be heard all the way to my apartment."
"Eomer!" cried Legolas.
"You are a bad influence on her"
"Will you sit down!" Legolas pushed the irate
king into a chair. "Good. Now" he said, "listen
to me! I took her on the raid because her determinationher
refusal to give inbroke me. I could not leave her
behind. She threatened to follow us by herself."
"You should have locked her up."
"She would have escaped, Eomer," he said. "You
know how resourceful she is." He suddenly smiled, fondly.
"There is no one like her! She is unique."
He poured two glasses of spiced wine. "Here," he said,
handing one to the king. "I know that you have always felt
responsible for herthough, in truth, she is stronger than
any of usbut you cannot keep her wrapped in swansdown. Eowyn
has the spirit of a warrior andhowever much you might want
to protect herif you keep her caged you will destroy her.
So, nothough it terrifies meI am not going to try
to stop her training, I am not going to try to stop her fighting,
and I am not going to try to stop her going on orc raids. I am
going to let her be herself"
He was interrupted by another knock. He set down his wine, and
went to open the door.
"Ah, Mistress Hereswið," he said, "come in."
The woman entered carrying a large, flat parcel, but when she
saw Eomer, she stopped. "I am sorry, my lord," she said,
"I am interrupting you. Shall I come back later?"
"Certainly not, mistress," said Legolas, "I am
anxious to see your work."
The woman smiled and laid her parcel on the bed. Legolas opened
it, unfolded its contents and examined them carefully. Then he
held them up for his brother-in-law to see.
"What do you think, Eomer?"
Eomer searched for the correct response. "It is blue,"
he said. Legolas' face told him that he had failed. "Fine,"
he corrected. "It is a very fine gown indeed. Blue."
Legolas shook his head. "It is perfect, Mistress Hereswið,"
he said. "The cut of the bodice and the beading around the
neckline..." He ran his fingers over the embroidered icicles.
"And the sleeves..." He examined the beaded white lace.
"The sleeves remind me of frost on a pane of glass!"
"And am so pleased that you like it, my lordand the
head-dress was made by the Queen's own jeweller." The woman
held up an intricate silver coronet decorated with trailing strings
of blue and ice-coloured beads.
"She will look wonderful, mistress," said Legolas.
He carefully laid the gown on the bed and fetched his money pouch
from the desk. "Five hundred gold pieces, I believe?"
Eomer choked on his wine.
Legolas counted out the money and handed it to the dressmaker.
"Thank you Mistress Hereswið. I shall be sure to recommend
you to my friends."
The woman bowed, and left.
Eomer shook his head. "I do not understand you," he
"Why?" asked Legolas, carefully folding the gown.
"One moment you act like a Uruk Hai beserker, the next you
act like a girl."
Legolas turned and stared. "A girl?"
"All this." Eomer waved his hand at the gown. "Lace
"This is for Eowyn," said Legolas.
"Choosing her clothes, dressing her up like a doll. It is
"I am not a man," said Legolas.
Gimli left the Citadel and sauntered down into the city. I
will take my time, and get myself into the right frame of mind,
He meandered along the raths, window-shopping and greeting passers-by
with a cheery wave or a sweeping bow. He sampled hot chestnuts
from a street seller in Rath Bein, and rosy red apples from a
buxom country girl with a stall beside the fifth gate, and he
bought a shining silk scarf for Esmarë from a small shop
on Rath Amrûn.
Then, as he approached Berodin's house, he noticed a youngish
man emerging from the alleyway beside it. Hello, he thought, could
that be the servant, Olemi, on his way to the Golden Goose?
"Good afternoon," he said, loudly.
The man turned towards him in surprise.
"And what a wonderful afternoon it is," Gimli continued.
"Clear and dry with an invigorating chill in the air."
Gimli fell into step beside the man. "I am Norin, son of
Oin, visiting Minas Tirith for the Yuletide holiday," he
said. "Ah, I see we are going the same way, Masterer?"
"I am in a hurry, I am afraid," said the man.
"So am I, my friend," said Gimli, walking faster. "There
is a young lady in the Golden Goose I am anxious to see again."
He winked. "Do you know the establishment?"
The man's shoulders sagged visibly. "I am going there now,"
"Good!" cried Gimli. "Then let me buy you a drink."
Legolas sighed. I am an elf, he thought, and we are different
But if Eowyn's brother thought him effeminate, then no doubt
other men would, too. Eowyn's ancestors...
And what of Eowyn herself?
No. She loves me.
He opened the dispatch bag and pulled out the pile of papers.
Lying on top was a letter from his father. He broke the seal and
read its contents. Then he walked out onto the balcony, climbed
up onto the balcony wall, and sat gazing down into the Queen's
"There is the shop, March Warden," said Eowyn, with
Elladan and Elrohir had been in conference with Aragorn and had
sent a substitute, and neither Haldir nor Eowyn had dared admiteither
to Arwen or to the otherthat the situation made them both
acutely uncomfortable. So Haldir had carried Eowyn out to the
stables, and lifted her onto her horse, and they had made their
way down to Rath Bein.
The shop was on the main thoroughfare, a double-fronted building
with an elegant arched doorway flanked by stone porticoes filled
with tables piled with bales of cloth. Haldir dismounted, tied
both horses to the tethering post, then lifted Eowyn down from
her saddle and carried her into the shop.
"My lady," said the owner, bowing deeply, "welcome!
Please sit here." He gestured to one of his assistants who
came forward with a chair and set it down beside the elaborate
Haldir carefully lowered Eowyn onto the seat, then said, "I
will wait outside, with the horses, my lady."
"How can I help you, my lady?" asked the owner.
Eowyn showed him the sash she had stolen from Legolas' clothes
chest. "I am afraid I have left it quite late, Master Osric,
but can you make me one of these and have it delivered to the
King's House by this evening?"
Osric took the sash from her hands and examined it carefully.
"Exquisite work, my lady. Elven?"
"Exquisite," he said, turning it over in his hands.
"Yes, I am sure we can help you. And," he added, "I
think that the gentleman will be pleasantly surprised by the level
of our craftsmanship. What fabric did you have in mind, my lady?"
"Something... beautiful," said Eowyn. "Very
Osric smiled. "This would, I take it, be a gift for Prince
"Then might I make some suggestions? The Prince's colouring..."
"Two tankards of your best ale, Master Silrim," said
"Coming right up, MastererNorin," said
the brothel keeper. "And I see you have already met Admant,"
he added, "one of our best customers." He winked.
Admant, thought Gimli. Well, well!
He turned to the man. "A regular, my friend? I cannot say
I blame you. Comelet us sit by the fire whilst you drink
your ale." He pushed his companion towards a wooden settle.
"Sit down. There, that is better. What do you do, Admant?"
The servant looked at him nervously. "IerI work
in one of the big houses on Rath Amrûn."
"Really?" said Gimli. "A secretary?"
"You must see all of life's rich pageant working for one
of the city's important familiespowerful men, beautiful
young women. Have you ever met the King? Or," he raised his
eyebrows, "the Queen?"
"No, sir," said Admant. Then he added, by way of apology,
"My master does not entertain much. His nephew"
He stopped short.
"Lord Berodin does not entertain much," Admant repeated.
"His wife must find that very dull," said Gimli.
"Lord Berodin is a widower."
"Ah," said Gimli. "That is sad. But he has a nephew
living with him, you say?"
"Yes, sir." Admant fiddled with the handle of his tankard.
"Well, that is a blessing. At least he has company. And
the lad is fortunate to have such a caring uncle."
The man bit his lip and pushed his empty tankard towards the
centre of the table.
Gimli considered probing further, but decided against it. Better
to win his trust first, he thought.
"I live in Rohan," he said. "But I have
friends here in Minas Tirith and in Ithilien. Now, would you like
another drink, Admant, or is the young lady waiting?"
Eowyn was in high spirits as she and Haldir left the shop.
"In the end I could not decide between the two," she
said, "so I am having both made up andOh Haldir,"
she whispered, "Haldir! Stop! Stop here!"
"Shhhh! He must not see us."
Haldir ducked behind one of the pillars of the portico.
"By the gods," said Eowyn. "The man in the embroidered
surcoatdo you see him? Over by the water pump"
"In the riding coat? Yes, my lady. It looks like..."
Suddenly, he understood what she had seen. "It looks like
the coat your brother often wearsthough less fine."
The man turned into an alleyway running off the main Rath.
"We must follow him."
"We will have to go on foot, my lady," said Haldir,
walking swiftly to where the man had disappeared. "The alley
is busy but horses would be too obvious."
"Whereas an elf carrying a woman will not," said Eowyn
as they threaded their way through the crowds, ducking under washing
lines and skirting chickens foraging for scraps in the dirty snow.
People were staring at them.
"I should have left you at the shop, my lady, and come alone"
"No," said Eowyn, firmly. Then she added, "At
least you are not wearing your armour."
"What is wrong with my armour?"
"It is veryerbright," she replied. "You
should wear something that blends in with your surroundings."
"Like a green suede jerkin?"
"Something like that, yes. Look! There he is."
"I see him."
As they watched, the man glanced furtively behind him before
disappearing through a shabby door.
"Shall I follow him, my lady?" asked Haldir.
"No," said Eowyn. "If I had the use of my feet
it would be a different matter but, as it is, we must get back
After exactly an hour, Admant returned downstairs.
Gimli was entertaining the Golden Goose's elderly customers
with a tales of Rohan. "Admant," he cried, breaking
off from a detailed account of Eomer's heroic charge at the Battle
of Helm's Deep, "come and join us, and drink another tankard."
Admant hesitated, looking behind him; Esmarë was coming
downstairs. He blushed. "IerI need to get back
Gimli shook his head. "Surely one tankard would not hurt,
"Norin!" cried Esmarë, running downstairs, past
Admant, and throwing her arms around the dwarf's neck. She sat
on his lap. "I knew you would come back!" she said.
"Of course, my dear," said Gimli, smiling. "I
have a Yuletide gift for you." He handed her a small package
wrapped in plain blue cloth. Esmarë pulled it open, and a
long, shimmering length of silver silk spilled into her hands.
"Oh Norin," she cried, jumping to her feet and pirouetting
with it like a dancer. "It is beautiful. Thank you."
She bent and kissed his forehead.
"You are in good spirits tonight, lass," said Gimli.
"Will you join Admant and me for a drink?"
"Admant does not usually like to stay, afterwards,"
"Surely one tankard would not hurt."
The man still hesitated, torn between fear of offending the dwarf
and acute embarrassment at having to socialise with the woman
he had just spent an hour with.
How do I put him at his ease, Gimli wondered. I need to talk
to him. And to Esmarë too
"Perhaps Admant is right," said Gimli to Esmarë.
"It is almost time to eat, so I must be getting back. But
I will come and see you again tomorrow, lass, without fail."
He squeezed her hand.
"Let me walk back with you, Admant."
"Legolas!" cried Eowyn as the March Warden carried
her through the door. "Legolas, where are you?" She
glanced at the deskat the pile of papers lying there, apparently
untouchedthen looked out through the balcony doors. "Oh!"
At first she thought it was the sea longing, for he was sitting
motionless on the balcony wall, staring into space, and Haldir
must have thought so, too, because he carried her straight out
onto the balcony.
"My love?" she called, anxiously, "Legolas?"
To her reliefin a single graceful movement that was uniquely
elvenLegolas turned, swung his legs over the balcony wall,
dropped to the floor, and swept her out of Haldir's arms.
"Melmenya," he whispered, hugging her close.
Eowyn feltrather than sawHaldir retreat from the
balcony and quietly leave the apartment.
"What is wrong, my darling?" she asked.
"I have had a letter from my fatherwhen will we know,
"About the baby."
"Soon," said Eowyn, "two days, perhaps three.
"Is it always on time?"
"No," she admitted, "during the Ring war it stopped
for almost six months. The healer said that lots of women were
finding the samethat it was due to the uncertainty of the
"So if it does not start, we will still not know for sure."
"Our child would be illegitimate," said Legolas.
"I do not understand."
He carried her back through the stained glass doors, laid her
carefully on the bed, and sat down beside her. "My father
has consulted Lords Galdor and Nevlondeionboth experts on
elven law and custom," he explained. "And they agree."
"Agree what?" asked Eowyn.
"That we are not married, melmenya. That the Harvest Ceremony
was merely symbolic and that the private vows we took before Eärendil
cannot unite an elf with a womanI am sorry, melmenya."
Eowyn thought for a moment. "Do we care?" she asked.
"If Aragorn had not dissolved my marriage, I would have stayed
with you anyway."
"But, the child"
"May not exist. But if heor shedoes, he will
be adoredloved and cherished by his parents, by his Uncle
Gimli, by Haldir and Dínendal, by Lords Fingolfin and Caranthir,
and by all the citizens of Eryn Carantaur. No child could be more
Legolas smiled, sadly. "We will love him, melmenya, and
so will our friends. But, for most elves, an illegitimate child
will always be shameful, something to be hidden. Elves do not
have children by accident. We do not have them outside marriage.
And when you and I die, melmenya, our child's life will be unbearable.
"Perhaps for eternity..."
"Oh, Legolas, no!" Eowyn hugged him tightly. "Can
we not..." A thought occurred to her. "How does your
father know about the baby?"
"He does not."
"So it is me that he is objecting to."
"No, melmenya, he is not objecting. He is just concerned"
"Legolas!" she chided, "Do not lie to me! His
letter has turned you back into an elfling! What does he say?
Read it to me!"
Legolas hesitated, clearly trying to think of an excuse.
"Is it really that bad?"
"Then read it to me," she said.