The servants had been working for most of the night
to transform the vast, glittering cavern of the Great Hall into
an intimate lovers' bower.
They had strung a delicate canopy of spring greenerygarlands
of ruby-red iârloth, and fragrant mithorn,
and clouds of creamy-white gilgwalothbetween the
rugged stone pillars. Beneath this low ceiling, they had arranged
three long tables, draped with runners of apple-green silk and
arrayed with hundreds of tiny silver lanterns. They had set each
place with richly-enamelled tableware and tall crystal goblets.
And they had placed a small, tastefully wrapped gift from the
Crown Prince of Eryn Lasgalen on each plate.
The effect was one of elegant opulence.
Now the Steward, Arafinwë, who had master-minded the transformation,
was waiting for his king's verdict.
"Good morning, meleth nín," Legolas whispered.
He scooped her into his arms and kissed her neck, and one of his
hands slipped downwards, found the hem of her night-gown and pulled
the fabric up above her waist. Gently, he turned her onto her
back, and eased himself on top of her, moving his hips until he
found his home.
"Oh yes," Eowyn whispered, still half asleep.
Slipping both hands beneath her, Legolas pushed himself deep,
deep inside her.
"Oh..." Eowyn's body arched.
Rising up on his hands, Legolas began to thrust, slowly but firmly.
"Stay still, melmenya," he murmured, "stay still
for me, hervess nín..."
"Oh!" cried Eowyn, writhing in sweet agony, "you
wonderful, wonderful, WONDERFUL ELF!"
"Not yet, melmenya! Waitwait, meleth nínno!oh
Thranduil stood at the centre of the Great Hall and looked sadly
at the two intricately carved thrones at the head of the high
table. You are no longer my elfling, Lassui, he thought,
but a grown edhel.
"Yes," he said to Arafinwë, "it is just what
I asked for. A lovers' bower."
He heard the steward begin to breathe again and, despite his
sadness, he could not help smiling. "And the menu?"
"Exactly as you requested, your Majesty. A chilled soup
of tomato and basil flowers, then grilled fish and roasted fowls,
and tarts of spring vegetables, followed by apple snow and sweetmeats.
And then, of course, the bean cake."
"Ah, yes," said Thranduil. "The bean cake."
"Will I do?" asked Eowyn.
Legolas laid down his mûmak comb and turned to look at
She was standing between two carved pillars, dressed in a close-fitting
elven gown of pale golden silk that her seamstress had wittily
embroidered, at the neckline, sleeves and hem, with a border of
tiny prancing horses. Her long, thick, waving hair was covered
by a fine, transparent veil, held in place by a golden coronet.
Legolas smiled. "You look"he shook his head,
slowly"like the sun, melmenya," he said. "Beautiful."
Eowyn bit her lip. "Legolas..."
He knew that tone. "Come here, Eowyn nín,"
he said, gently, holding out his arms to her. He pulled her down
onto his lap. "Something is worrying you. Is it the ceremony?"
"The ceremony? No"
"Because my father meant what he said, melmenya. And even
before this happened, he had accepted you."
"It must have been the Edair's silver," said Eowyn.
Eowyn smiled. "You do love him so very much," she said,
stroking back a strand of his still-loose hair, "you will
miss him when we go home. And I shall miss him too; though
I am not sure why..."
"I am so glad, melmenya."
"I shall miss Aredhel and Singollo, too. No, it is not the
ceremony, Lassui, it is that everything has changed," she
"What do you mean, meleth nín?"
"I mean"she leaned her forehead against his"me."
"You keep telling me that you feel no different."
"Nono, I feel no different at all. But it is
a big change," she said, closing her eyes. "You always
said that you loved me exactly as I wasdo you still love
"Oh, melmenya! Of course I do! Did I not show you this morning?"
He took her hand and kissed her fingers. "You still glow,
melmenya. I do not know if your body can sustain its mortal brightness
for eternitywe shall have to seebut," he whispered,
nuzzling her neck, "if it does fade, I shall love the new,
mysterious Eowyn just as much." He hugged her close.
"I shall miss them," she said.
"I know you will, melmenya. It will be hard for you to watch
Eomer and Gimli, Aragorn and Faramir grow old and die; hard to
lose their children; and then their children's children; and never,
"Is this how you felt about losing me?"
"How did you bear it?"
"By making up my mind to join you in death, melmenya,"
he said. "But, now, we shall both livetogetherfor
you will always have me, meleth nín."
"Yes, I shall always have you," she said. And she raised
her head from his shoulder and smiled at him, radiantly.
When they had finished dressing they waited, nervously, until
a page knocked on the chamber door to tell them that the King
was ready for them. Legolas offered Eowyn his arm but she suddenly
"You swear that there are no others?" she whispered.
Legolas smiled. "I swear, melmenya; and except for the dancer
from Imladris and the bathing attendants from Lorien, you have
met all of them."
"I am just..."
"You are nervous. I know. So am I. We never wanted any fuss.
And worsethis ceremony questions the commitment we have
already made. This ceremony gives you the opportunity to change
your mind and leave me, melmenya"
"I would never leave you!"
"Then why are you nervous?"
Eowyn smiled. "Because I am being silly," she said.
"I am ready."
Smiling too, Legolas took her hand upon his and led her, out
of the chamber and, swiftly, down the tunnel to the double doors
of the Great Hall, where they both listened for their cue.
"Honoured guests," the Elvenking was saying, "we
are about to witness the solemn betrothal of my son, Crown Prince
Legolas, and his chosen bride, Princess Eowyn. Please join me
in wishing the couple joy."
The guests applauded and someone thumped the table. "That
will be Gimli," whispered Legolas, grinning. "Come,
"Make your vow," said Thranduil.
Legolas raised Eowyn's hand to his lips. "Gwedhithon
na, Eowyn Eomundiell; le annon veleth nín," he
said. Then he repeated the words in Westron, "I will bind
to thee, Eowyn, daughter of Eomund; I give my love to thee."
He kissed her hand.
Thranduil turned to Eowyn. "Make your vow," he said.
Smiling radiantly, Eowyn raised Legolas' hand to her lips. "Gwedhithon
na, Legolas Thranduilion; le annon veleth nín: I will
bind to thee, Legolas, son of Thranduil; I give my love to thee."
She kissed his hand.
"Exchange your rings," said Thranduil.
Legolas took the betrothal ring that he had already given Eowyn,
months earlier, from his little finger and placed it on Eowyn's
ring finger; Eowyn took the betrothal ring, which she had had
made by Thranduil's own jeweller, from her thumb and placed it
on Legolas' ring finger.
Then Thranduil took their joined hands in his own. "You
have my blessing, ion nín, iell nín,"
he said, "may your union be all that you wish for."
And then, as the guests cheered and the palace musicians played
a joyful fanfare, Eomer and Gimli tossed handfuls of white rose
petals, like fragrant snow, over the happy couple.
"Congratulations, Eowyn," said Eomer, softly, as they
sat down to dinner. "You could not have made a better choice."
Eowyn smiled at her brother. "It means a great deal to me
to hear you say that, Eomer."
"I am not always the brightest sword in the armoury,"
Eomer admitted, "and it has taken me some time to come to
terms with what you did. But Legolas will make you a good husband.
And now that you are both"
"Eomerit will not change anything between us,"
said Eowyn. "My marriage, mythe change that has happened
to menone of that will make any difference to us. You are
my big brother and I love you." She took Eomer's hand. "You
were always there when I needed you. And I know that you always
will be. And I will always be there for you. I swear it."
Eomer swallowed hard. "What is it about a ceremony that
makes a man melancholy, thinking only of change and loss?"
"I believe it is called a 'rite of passage', Eomer,"
said Eowyn smiling. "And I know that Lord Fingolfin would
be only too happy to explain it to us. But, as you said, we are
neither of us particularly bright swords in the armoury..."
As the guests were making short work of the apple snow and the
dainty sweetmeats, Thranduil called for silencetapping his
knife on his crystal gobletthen rose to his feet.
"My son has insisted," he said, "that we follow
the ancient custom and elect a King of the Bean to preside over
the evening's merry-makingI trust that he will not regret
it. Master Arafinwëthe bean cake, if you please."
The Steward came forward, carrying a rich fruit cake, already
cut into thick slices, on a golden platter. "Every elf, manand
dwarf," continued Thranduil, "must take a slice. One
of the slicesone onlycontains a dried bean. Whoever
finds it must choose himself a Queen"the guests cheered"and
then our newly elected King and Queen of Misrule must decide on
our evening's entertainment."
One by one, each of the male guests selected a piece of cake.
Legolas broke his into small pieces. "No bean!" he
Eomer did the same. "Nor one in mine," he said, with
Sighs of disappointment echoed all around the hall. Gimli picked
up his slice. It was a rich golden brown, filled with dried fruits,
and it smelled of exotic spices. "'Twould be a pity to waste
it," he said, taking a large bite.
"Oh," he roared, holding up the remainder of the slice,
"what is this? I think I have it! Yes! I have it!"
"Choose a Queen, Gimli," cried Legolas.
The dwarf jumped down from his chair and walked over to Gunnhildr.
"My lady," he said, with a sweeping bow, "will
you do me the honour?"
The girl's hands flew up to her mouth. "Oh! The honour would
be mine, Lord Gimli," she said, happily.
"Come on, then, lass," said Gimli and, ignoring Chief
Bergthórr's apoplectic expression, the dwarf proffered
his arm. Amidst cheers and applause, the couple made their way
to the head of the table where Legolas and Eowyn rose and respectfully
offered them their own seats. Eowyn scooped up a handful of rose
petals and scattered them over the new 'Queen'.
"Now Gimli," said Legolas, "what games shall we
"I know one," said Gunnhildr. She leaned over to Gimli
and whispered in his ear.
"That is a good one," said Gimli, "though I think
we will need to lay down some special rules. My Queen," he
said, loudly, "suggests a game of Hide and Seek. You have
until I count to one hundred to hide yourselves, and the winner
is the last person to be found." He paused, "But, to
make it harder, you must confine yourselves to the main thoroughfare
and its public chambersyou cannot hide in your own chambers.
And," he added, looking pointedly at Legolas and Eowyn, "each
person must hide by him or herselfno couples. Are you ready?
(Close your eyes, my dear)."
Eowyn gave Legolas one final kiss and slipped into the Library.
She skirted round the massive book stacks and ducked beneath the
desk at the farthest end of the chamber.
"Your Majesty!" she gasped.
"I think it is time that you started calling me Ada."
"Ada," said Eowyn, "we are not supposed
to be hiding together."
"I was here first," Thranduil began. "Oh,
very wellsince you are a lady, I will do the gentlemanly
thing and leave," he said, "in a moment. But first,
I am glad to have this opportunity to"he cleared his
throat"apologise, mell nín, for sending
you into so much danger. Though it was never my intention"
"What, exactly, was your intention?" said Eowyn,
boldly. "Making me find out about Serindë like thatwas
that your intention?"
"Nowell, yesin a manner of speaking"
"What does that mean?"
"I just wanted to be sureand for you to be sure"
Thranduil sighed. "Legolas is almost three thousand years
old. How old are you?"
"Twenty-seven," said Eowyn.
"Twenty-seven. There are bound to be things in Lassui's
past that he has not mentioned to youperhaps because he
is ashamed or embarrassed by them, perhaps because they have slipped
his memorywhatever. I just wanted to be sure that, if such
a thing did come to light, your love would be strong enough to
cope with it."
"The test," said Eowyn, coolly, though it was very
hard to give her rebuke the proper edge when crouching beneath
a desk with the object of her scorn, "was supposed to show
whether I was acceptable to the Valar. What gave you the right
to include a little learning exercise of your own?"
"He is my son," said Thranduil, simply.
"Your son." Eowyn shook her head as a new understanding
of her future father-in-law dawned upon her. "You love him
far too much," she said, softly.
"Is that possible?"
"Yesif your love is possessive and prevents him from
growingthen, yes, it is."
"Nothing I have done has ever stopped Lassui having his
own way," said Thranduil. "Going on the Quest, meeting
"I think you would be surprised just how much he tries to
please you, Ada," said Eowyn, softly. She held out her hand
to him. "We both love him more than our own lives,"
she said, "and we must make peace with each other, or we
will tear him in two."
Thranduil took her hand and shook it, firmly, human fashion.
"You will make a fine Crown Princess, iell nín,"
he said. Then, "Shhhh... Was that the Library door?"
Legolas waited until the King and Queen of Misrule had closed
the Library door behind them, then slipped into the large garden
cavern opposite. It is not empty, he thought, as he hid
himself behind the dense foliage. Someone stealthy, but not
an elf, I think. Nor one of the clumsy Beornings...
"Eomer?" he said, softly.
He heard a sigh. "Over here."
Legolas followed the wall of the cavern to a hollow screened
by ferns and falling water. "This is a good place,"
"Firith found it," said Eomer.
"Can I ask you a favour?" the man asked.
"Of course," said Legolas. "I shall."
"Look after Eowyn."
Eomer smiled. "I know you will. That is not what I was going
"Will you take Firith home with you? She cannot come with
methere are precious few trees in Rohanand Fangorn
"Oppressivefor one as light and airy as she"
"Exactly. But with you she would be safe," said Eomer.
"In a forest that is wholesome and full of new life"
"And where you could visit her."
"Of course, Eomer. Eowyn and I will be honoured to have
her as our guest"
"I do not want Eowyn to know too much about her."
"Why?" asked Legolas. "She would not condemn you"
"I know," said Eomer. "But there are some things
a man does not tell his sister."
"Someone is coming."
"No need to worry," said Legolas, "I know who
it isCollo, over here!"
Thranduil winked at Eowyn. "Stay," he mouthed. Then
he ducked out from under the desk and raised his hands. "I
am here; you have found me," he cried. And he let Gunnhildr
tie his hands together with a ribbon and lead him back to the
Eowyn had just decided that enough was enoughthat it was
time to crawl out from under the desk and go looking for Legolaswhen
she heard the Library door open and instinctively crept back into
her hiding place.
A few moments later a large elf joined her beneath the desk.
"Are you still playing this foolish game?"
"Yesand so, it seems, are you," said Eowyn smiling.
"I should find somewhere else to hide," said Haldir.
"No," said Eowyn. "Noto tell you the truth,
I was about to give myself up. They have broken me."
"With tedium," said Haldir. "They should have
let loose a few orcs, to give us something to do."
With some difficulty, because there was very little space, Haldir
manoeuvred himself into a sitting position. "I cannot tell
you how glad I am," he said, "that things have turned
out as they have."
"I am sorry?"
"That you will not be taken from us," he said. Then
he added, softly, "I think that Legolas is the luckiest elf
in the world." He turned to face her. "I will not say
it, Eowyn, because I made you a promise. But I do not need to
say it, for you and Legolas both know how I feel. I am your servant,
my lady. If you, or he, ever need anythinganything
I have to giveyou have only to ask."
"Thank you Haldir," said Eowyn, softly. She looked
down at the floor. "Shall we give ourselves up?"
"I think that would be a very good idea."
"Caught you, Master Berryn!" cried Gunnhildr, pulling
the cartographer out from behind one of the pillars of the Great
Hall, "Hold out your hands!"
Berryn allowed the girl to bind his wrists with a ribbon.
"There," she said, tying off the bow, "now you
are my prisoner."
She raised her eyes to his, and they both smiled, shyly.
In the end it was Legolas, Eomer and Singollo who jointly won
the game. Gimli flushed them out of their strongholdby having
Gunnhildr pretend to be an elleth looking for a place to hideand
brought them back to the Great Hall in triumph.
Then there was much more feasting and playing of games until,
at last, when everyone was exhausted, and the royal timekeeper
had chimed the bells for midnight, Thranduil rose to his feet
and made an important announcement.
"It is the custom for an elven betrothal to last one year,"
he said. "But my sonwho, as you all know, has never
been one to abide by customhas decided that he and his lady
will marry at Yuletide. The ceremony will take place at Eryn Carantaur,
in South Ithilien and, on behalf of the happy couple, I invite
you all to join us there for the celebrations."
"Will the King of Rohan be at your wedding?" asked
Thranduil, as they waited for the last of their guests to leave
the Great Hall.
"Eomer? Of course, Ada. He will act as Eowyn's Guardian
at the ceremony. Why do you ask?"
Thranduil shrugged. "I just thought," he said, casually,
"that it would be pleasant to spend more time with him."
"I knew that you would like him, Ada."
"Well... He is sharp. And he speaks his mind. Yes, I think
I shall miss him."
"That meddler, Fingolfin, on the other hand, I shall not
"You are just piqued because he is not afraid of you, Ada.
He used to serve Lord Elrond"
"He is my most able advisor. And Eowyn is very fond of him."
"Well, she would be. Speaking of fond, Lassui, you do realise
that your March Warden"
"Yes, Ada. I do. But he is an honourable elf and I trust
"By the way, would you allow Rothinzil to come back to Eryn
Carantaur with us?"
"Not for my benefit, Ada, I assure you!" said Legolas,
laughing. "But I think that she and Dínendal have
taken a liking to each other."
"Your healer? Then, of course, I have no objectionbut
what about your cartographer?"
"Yeswhy not give him a proper situation, with a stipend,
so that he can make the girl a formal offer of marriage?"
Thranduil laughed. "You have not noticed him with Chief
Horse-penis's daughter? Now that could be a useful alliance,
if handled carefully, Lassui."
"Chief Bergthórr would never agree to it," said
Legolas. "Berryn is far too lowly born."
"Then watch them carefully, Lasdithen. Make sure that the
girl does not follow him homeyou do not want the Beornings
to declare war on South Ithilien." Thranduil smiled, sadly.
"You are still planning to leave tomorrow?"
Legolas sighed. "I love Eryn Carantaur, Adaespecially
since Eowyn came there to live with me. It stands for everything
I believe ineverything that I learned on the Questand
I have been away from it for far too long. But a part of me does
not want to go home. I shall miss you so very much."
"I shall miss you, too, Lassui," said Thranduil, softly.
"I do not suppose you could come and live with us..."
"You and I are both doing important work, ion nín.
I could not leave Greenwood the Great in the hands of men."
"Astaldo and Collo would take good care of it."
"Are you telling me that you would not want Collo to live
in Eryn Carantaur, too? And then he would want Aredhel... And
she would want her father... And, very soon, every elf in Middle-earth
would be living in South Ithilien."
"I should like that."
"You have lived far too much with edain, Lassui"
Legolas began to protest but Thranduil cut him off, gently. "I
only meant, Lasdithen, that edain want everything today
because they know they will not see tomorrow. An elf has the time
to reflect, to choose, to make sacrifices. It may be painful to
be parted butin the endwhat does it matter to an elf
if he has to wait a year, a century, or a thousand years to see
those he loves again?" He laid his hand on his son's arm.
"Lassui," he continued, gently, "that is a lesson
that Eowyn will have to learnthat you will have to
teach heror she will burn herself out."
"I know," said Legolas.
"Your healer was right to be circumspect, Lassui. Her body
is now immortal. But we do not know what effect the change will
have on her mind. Especially when her loved ones begin to age
and die around her. Her brother"
"She has already begun to worry about that, Ada."
Thranduil nodded. "I will help you both all I can, Lassui,"
he said, sincerely.
"Thank you," said Legolas. Then he added, "Eowyn
would like you to join us for breakfast in our chambers tomorrow
"Yes. She wants us to spend as much time as possible together
before we part. Will you?"
"Well, if that is what Eowyn wants... Of course I will."
"And can I ask a favour for myself, Ada?"
"You know you can."
"Do not wait until Yuletide to come to us. Come sooner.
Much sooner. And bring Collo with you."
A little later
"Wait, melmenya," said Legolas as they reached the
door of their chambers. "There is an old elven custom we
"What custom?" Eowyn looked up at him. Then she smiled,
shrewdly. "Oh, I recognise that expression,"
she said, "I do not trust you, Legoh!"
He had lifted her into his arms.
"A newly betrothed elf," he said, "must carry
his love over the threshold"he opened the door with
some difficulty"and then"he kicked the door
closed behind them"he must lay her down on the bed,
and strip off all her clothes, until she is wearing nothing but
her little boots, and then..."