Legolas smiled at the handsome neighbour offering him a tray
of sweetmeats, and selected a small bunch of candied cherries
tied with a green ribbon. Thank you.
The Queen, said the lady, carefully replacing the
dish on the table, has told me that you and I have an interest
Legolas shot her a dazzling smile. Do we, my lady? And
what would that be? Archery? Or knife-work, perhaps?
The woman laughedand her genuine warmth charmed the elf
(who was all too used to finding himself the target of amorous
women). No, your Highnesswe both love our gardens.
Gardening! Of course!
The Queen told me that you, your Highness, are responsible
for her beautiful flower beds.
Legolas inclined his head, as if to say, You have found me out.
May I ask, said the lady, leaning a little closer
andunconsciously, Legolas was almost sureplacing
her hand upon his arm, where you obtained such fine specimens
of rîloth? I have some in my own garden, but it does
struggle in this thin soil.
They, and the soil they are rooted in, come from my fathers
own garden, in Eryn Lasgalen, my lady, said Legolas. Rîloth
is his particular favourite. And, he added, since
it is clearly one of your favourites, too, I shall write
to his gardener and ask him to send you a box of seedlings.
Oh! Your Highness! The woman bowed her head in thanks.
You are most gracious.
It is my pleasureand please, call me Legolas.
He smiled again, and shethough a woman of mature yearsblushed
to the tips of her rounded ears. That would hardly be proper,
your Highness, she returned his smileespecially
if my husband were to hear it.
Legolas grinned. And which of these gentlemen must I be
wary of, my lady? He glanced around the table. Would
it be the fine-looking man in red velvet?
The lady laughed merrily. Your Highness! Lord Minastan
is young enough to be my son.
The woman shook her head at his flattery.
The older gentleman, then, sitting beside him?
No! She pretended to be insulted. Lord Wistan
could be my father!
Ahthen it must be the distinguished-looking gentleman,
in blue, seated next to him.
The lady glanced at the man in question, then said, quietly,
She was no longer laughing, and Legolasknowing exactly
who the distinguished-looking man was, and sensing
that he might be about to obtain some valuable informationpressed
a little harder. He is perhaps too melancholic for a sanguine
lady such as yourself...
He The woman shook her head; all mirth had
Has he done you wrong, my lady? asked Legolas,
She sighed. One of his servants, your Highness,she
leaned close and spoke very quietlyseduced my ladys
maid and left her in the family way.
I should imagine that an elf has strong views on such things.
Are you saying that he abandoned her?
I am. He refused to acknowledge the childclaimed
that he had no way of knowing that it was histhat Faeleth
might have been with anybody. But my Faeleth is a good girl, your
Highness, andalthough she did not say soI am convinced
that he forced himself upon her. His master, of course, ignored
Surely his masters lady was sympathetic? said
Lord Berodins wife died some years ago, your Highness,
and, since then, his servants have been allowed to run wildthe
men spend most of their time in the Golden Goose.
A bawdy house, your Highness; a place that sells
womens favours, if you will pardon my speaking so plainly.
She looked awaythis time blushing with real embarrassment.
It is a terrible place; they are all terrible places,
and should be closed. I have petitioned the King, on numerous
Is it not preferable, my lady, said Legolas, gently,
that men like that servant should have a place to satisfy
Your Highness! The woman was shocked. You
cannot be defending the husbands who betray their wives in these
Certainly not, said Legolas, never! But unmarried
Or youths, who squander their innocence on bought women!
Legolas, remembering his own first time, with a courtesan at
his fathers Court, said quietly, It need not be a
shameful thing, my lady,though he remembered that
Eowyns reaction had been something similar to Lady Emliet'ssuch
women can be very kind and forgiv
Do you think they are happy, your Highness? Some
of them are little more than children. Do you think it a good
life for a woman?
Legolas was was reduced to silence. Then he admitted, Those
words put me to shame, my lady.