Ignoring the bear, which, despite having taken several of Haldir's
arrows in the shoulder, was quickly closing on him, Legolas plunged
into the black water and dived below the surface. Moments later
he emerged bearing Eowyn's unconscious body, and, battling the
enchantment that was already deadening his limbs, he began the
long, slow struggle to reach the eastern bank, where Eomer and
Haldir, shoulder-deep in the water, waited to help him.
"They look dead," said Eomer, softly, gazing
down at the couple.
"They are not, your Majesty," said Dínendal,
firmly. Legolas and Eowyn were lying side by side on a stretcher
that the wood elves had improvised from fallen branches. The healer
had already examined Legolas and was now checking Eowyn's pulse.
"They are simply sleeping," he concluded, gently placing
Eowyn's hand back on her breast.
"Wellthen at least put her hands down by her sides,"
said Eomer. He yawned.
"You should be resting, too, your Majesty," said Dínendal,
carefully moving Eowyn's arms.
Eomer shook his head. "No. There is nothing wrong with me.
I am just worried at the prospect of appearing before King Thranduil
bearing his only son on what looks like a funeral bier..."
"Perhaps we should wait here until they awake," suggested
"We do not know how long that will be, Gimli," Eomer
replied, yawning again. "And we would be risking another
attack from the bear... What do you advise, Lord Fingolfin?"
"I agree that this will not create a favourable impression
on King Thranduil," said Fingolfin, pointing to the stretcher,
"and he can be most protective where is son is concerned.
But the bear almost seems to be..." He hesitated. "It
seems to have an interest in Lord Legolas and Lady Eowyn.
I think we should keep moving."
"So do I," said Haldir. "The sooner we reach the
safety of King Thranduil's Halls, the better."
Eomer nodded, thoughfully. "I agree," he said. "Let
us proceed then. Haldir, Eofredsince the path is wider here,
I want elven lookouts at the front and rear of the column, archers
before and after the stretcher, and Rohirrimwith swords
drawnalong the flanks. I want that stretcher fortifiedorganise
it between the pair of you." He yawned.
"Your Majesty..." Dínendal began.
"And I will ride, Master Healer," said Eomer, yawning
again. "Will that keep you happy?"
Lulled by Westwind's slow, steady gait, Eomer was finding it
harder and harder to stay awake.
His head fell slowly forwards
"Take care, beloved..." said a soft, musical voice,
close behind him.
His head jerked up, and he turned in surprise, but there was
no one to be seen.
Now you are hearing imaginary women, he thought. You
have been away from Lothíriel for far too long...
They made camp at dusk.
Eomer, yawning more frequently now, sat beside his sleeping sister
and watched the wood elves build a series of small fires around
the campsite. At night, when the sun's healing rays vanished,
the forest was filled with moths and bats and strange pairs of
eyes, but inside the charmed circle of the fires all was warm
and comfortable, and the elves and the men supped together like
"Will the fire keep the bear away?" Eomer asked Haldir.
"I am not sure, your Majesty," said Haldir, "but
the camp will be well guarded. Leave that to Eofred and me."
Eomer nodded wearily. "Why have you not been affected
by the enchantment?" he asked.
"I have, but I am an elf," replied Haldir.
"How could I have forgotten?" said Eomer. He smiled
broadly, but the smile quickly turned into a yawn. "How much
further do we have to go?"
Haldir turned to Valandil, who, with Camthalion, was building
a shelter for Eowyn and Legolas. "It is still two days' journey
to King Thranduil's Halls, your Majesty," said the wood elf,
"but many of his subjects live some way outside the cavesin
trees and on the groundand we should begin to encounter
them early tomorrow."
"Good," said Eomer, using his hand to stifle another
yawn. "I was beginning to think that we were the only people
left in Middle-earth... Now gentlemen, if you will excuse me,
I think I will get some sleep."
Eomer awoke just as the rising sun was beginning to break through
He looked around the campsite. Several guards were watching the
perimeter but most of the cavalcade was sleeping, apart from a
small group of elves who had already begun to strike camp, working
silently, in perfect accord. Eomer watched them for a moment,
admiring their graceful movements. Elves, he thought, shaking
his head, are like horses...
A slim white hand touched his arm.
Eomer pulled away, falling onto his back in surprise andfor
a secondfear. The beingfor he was sure that it was
a being, though it looked like a womanleaned over
him. "Do not be afraid, beloved..." it said.
"I am still sleeping," said Eomer.
"You are somewhere between sleep and waking, beloved, and
that is why you can see me now..." She smiled and stroked
his hair and her touch was like the breeze.
"You are a creation of my own mind," Eomer persisted,
"something that the enchantment has summoned up."
"No, beloved, nothe elves know that I am here. And
the elf prince has bid me welcome..."
"Leg-o-las..." she said, sounding every syllable
in her musical voice. "Yes..."
Then I shall certainly have something to say to Leg-o-las when
he wakes up, thought Eomer. "Who are you? And what do you
"My name is Firith," she said, smiling, "and I
live among the trees..." She sat down beside him, wrapping
her slender arms around her knees. "The elves left me alone
in Lorien, but then you found me..."
"No, I did not find youI did not even know you were
there," said Eomer, shaking his head. And then, "Lorien?
You have followed me from Lorien?"
Eomer rubbed his forehead. "Do not call me that," he
said. "I am married."
"What do you want?" he repeated.
"To be with you..."
Eomer looked into her eyes. "What does that mean?"
"I do not understand, E-o-mer..."
He reached out and touched her hand; it was warm, but insubstantial.
"I am a man, you arewhat? A spirit? Or a dream? I will
never see you again, will I?"
"And I am married," he said, firmly.
Two days later
Eomer watched as Dínendal examined Legolas and Eowyn for
what seemed like the hundredth time. The pair lay side-by-side
on their wooden stretcher, their bodies slightly inclined towards
one another, their hair and clothing dusted with hundreds of tiny,
creamy blossoms that had fallen from the trees as they had passed
They truly look enchanted, thought Eomer.
"They are still sleeping very deeply, your Majesty,"
said the healer.
Eomer turned to the messenger from Mirkwood. "You say that
King Thranduil awaits us?"
"Yes, your Majesty," replied the elf.
Eomer sighed. "Lord Fingolfin," he said, quietly, "what
do you advise? There is no telling how long they will continue
to sleep, so the decision becomes one of state crafthe
is waiting. Do I jump to his command or do I make him wait longer?
Which would give me the advantage?"
Fingolfin shook his head. "King Thranduil is a consummate
negotiator, and his actions are never easy to predict, your Majesty,"
he said. "I advise that you do whatever feels most natural
Eomer smiled. "Then I shall proceed," he said, "for
I am not one for games. Everyone in their places," he called.
"Let us give the King of Eryn Lasgalen a good show."
The Forest Path gradually widened into an imposing, tree-lined
avenue, whichstraight as an arrowled down to the edge
of the swift Forest River, across a massive stone bridge and up
a tall flight of equally massive stone steps, to the Elvenking's
fabled gates, where King Thranduil and his court were waiting
This elf, thought Eomer, has more than a touch of man
The Elvenking was sitting, beneath a pale green sunshade, on
a magnificently carved wooden throne. Eomer's keen eyes took in
the long blond hair, the perfect, impassive face, the slender
body in heavy robes of silvery green brocade, the coronet and
collar of silver and white gems... He looks like Legolas' older
brother, he thought. And he is just as vain as his son.
But he is much more of a showman.
Slowly, the cavalcade crossed the bridgefirst, Haldir and
Eofred with their lieutenants; then the two Counsellors, Fingolfin
and Colgan; then the stretcher, with its guard of honour, followed
by Eomer himself with Gimli riding behind; and then the rest of
the party, men and elves, all riding side-by-side like the people
of a single realm.
The great caravan came to a halt at the foot of the stone stair
and the bearers carefully laid the stretcher on the ground. Eomer
and Gimli dismounted and climbed the steps, followed by Lord Fingolfin.
"Do not concern yourself, King Thranduil," said Eomer,
bowing briefly, "about your son's conditionmy sister
and he have merely been enchanted by the river and will, I am
assured, awaken soon." He placed his hand over his heart
and, bowing his head, recited, as Fingolfin had taught him, "Gîl
síla erin lû e-govaded vín."
Thranduil inclined his head, graciously. "Baren bar lin."
"Thank you. Would you like to see your son?"
Thranduil rose with great dignity and followed Eomer down the
steps. Eomer watched him examine Legolas. His expression was,
as Fingolfin had warned, indecipherable, but Eomer heard him murmur,
with obvious disappointment, "Oh Lassui," and it seemed
as though he were looking at Eowyn when he said it.
At length, the Elvenking turned to the stretcher-bearers. "Take
my son to his chambers," he said, "and the adaneth
to the Healing Room."
Eomer opened his mouth to protest, but Lord Fingolfin quickly
stepped forward. "With your permission, your Majesties,"
he said, smoothly, "might I beg that Prince Legolas also
be taken to the Healing Room? He risked his own health to rescue
Lady Eowyn"he placed a slight emphasis on her name"and
I have no doubt that he would be extremely distressed were he
to awake and not find her."
Thranduil looked at Eomer; the man inclined his head in agreement.
"Very well," said the Elvenking, "take them both
to the Healing Room." He dismissed the bearers. "Eomer
King," he continued, "I had planned to begin these negotiations,
as is our tradition, with a great Welcoming Feast. But may I request
that we postpone the festivities until my son awakes?"
"And my sister with him," said Eomer. "Of course,
The Elvenking's Halls were built in 'a great cave' that 'wound
far underground' with 'many passages and wide halls'. Most of
the caverns were 'lit with red torch-light' but, here and there,
shafts cut through to the surface allowed natural light to filter
in and, as Eomer walked through the passages, he caught glimpses
of underground gardensmysterious grottoes filled with ferns
and exotic flowers.
"It is impressive," he whispered to Gimli.
"Humph," said Gimli. "The best parts were built
by dwarves. All the foolishness is the work of the elvesand
why anyone would want to grow plants underground is beyond my
understanding. It is not natural."
With dusk came cool, favonian breezes
Ed Darack, Wind, Water, Sun
Eomer's apartment was a large, well-appointed cavern close to
the Elvenking's Great Hall.
Having arranged for Haldir, Gimli and Lord Fingolfin to join
him and Counsellor Colgan as soon as they had rested, he quicklyout
of years of habitunpacked his own belongings, washed off
the grime of travel and changed into a clean shirt and breeches.
Then he poured himself a glass of fruit cordial and took a sip.
Gods, he thought, savouring the warm, slightly sharp taste, liquid
gold. Is there anything that elves do not do better?
The apartment had its own gardenabout ten feet squarefilled
with greenery of every possible shape, shade and texture, exuberantly
spilling from small stone beds sprinkled by an artificial waterfall.
Eomer sat down on a bench and watched a tiny red bird fly from
plant to plant, sipping nectar from large white flowers.
Like folded handkerchiefs, he thought, then shook his
head: Gimli is right. And all this elven flightiness is corrupting
But Lothíriel would love it...
A soft breeze kissed his face and stirred his hair.
Mmmmm, that is nice. He looked around the cavern. But
where is it coming from? The shaft is deep, the walls are solid,
and there are no windows...
Eomer sprang to his feet and walked quickly back into the sitting
"I have seen them both, very briefly," said Gimli,
"and they seem comfortable. But Thranduil is guarding Legolas
like a she-warg guards her cubseven Master Dínendal
was shooed away."
"King Thranduil has always been very protective," said
Fingolfin, "and understandably sodo not forget that
he has had to raise his son himself."
"What did happen to Legolas' mother?" asked Eomer.
"She was a fragile elleth, by all accounts," said Fingolfin,
"and childbirth was too much for her."
"In labour. She is waiting in the Halls of Mandos
"No wonder Legolas never mentions her," said Gimli.
"That is a cruel fateto die bringing life into the
world. And a cruel inheritanceto be the cause of your own
"Indeed," said Fingolfin. "And, at first, King
Thranduil would have nothing to do with his son. But, in time,
he softened, and then, gradually, he became fiercely possessive."
"That does not bode well for Eowyn," said Eomer. He
rose. "More cordial gentlemen?" He walked over to the
sideboard, collecting Gimli's glass on the way. "I will never
understand what happened between Eowyn and Faramir, and I cannot
say that I approve of dissolved marriagesas far as I am
concerned a marriage is for life. But Eowyn loves Legolas and
he loves her. And I will do everything in my power to see that
they stay together."
"As will I, your Majesty," said Fingolfin.
Colgan nodded, and Gimli grunted, and only Haldir remained silentbut
no one was in any doubt that the March Warden would give Eowyn
whatever support she needed.
"Now, gentlemen," said Eomer, handing Gimli his refilled
glass, "the Beornings. King Thranduil tells me that he will
be introducing us to their chieftain at the Welcoming Feast. So
we must be very careful to give nothing away..."
And he shook his head as a warm breeze ruffled his hair.
"Ada?" Legolas smiled up at his father, "What
are you doing here?" He stretched his long, slim body
luxuriously... then sat up, suddenly, in alarm.
"Sweet Eru," he cried, "where is Eowyn?"
"In the next bed," said his father.
Legolas threw back the coverlet, swung his feet to the floor,
and stumbled across to her. "Is she all right?"
"She will soon recover."
"Oh, meleth nín," said Legolas, climbing
up beside her and taking her in his arms, "I am so sorry..."
"Lassui!" chided his father. "What are you talking
about? I have already told you that there is nothing wrong with
Legolas kissed the top of Eowyn's head and she sighed contentedly.
"She knows I am here," he said, happily, gently stroking
a stray strand of hair away from her face. "Is she not beautiful,
Thranduil shook his head. "I dare say that she passes for
a beauty amongst her own kind, Lassui, but by our standards she
is quite plain... She really has very little to recommend herapart,
that is, from the fire that all men seem to possess, including
that brother of hers."
"They arrived safely, then?" said Legolas, carefully
arranging Eowyn's night-shirt.
"With great pomp and circumstance."
Legolas smiled. "Which I am sure you more than matched,
Ada. How long have we been here?"
"About three hours," said Thranduil. "I had intended
to postpone the Welcoming Feast until tomorrow but, since you
are awake, we can dine tonight as planned."
"Not unless Eowyn has awoken, too, Ada," said Legolas.
"Lassui," said Thranduil, with a long-suffering sigh,
"I know you think of this adaneth as your wifeand
I admit that your loyalty to her does you creditbut I will
not treat her as my daughter-in-law."
"I am here to change your mind about that."
"See sense, ion nín." Thranduil was growing
exasperated. "An adaneth is not for you."
"The Valar themselves gave her to me, Ada"
Thranduil held up his hand. "We will discuss this in the
morning, Lassui. When you have had a chance to consider it further.
And you will dine with our guests tonight, whether the woman has
awoken or not."
"I will not leave Eowyn's side while she is still sleeping,
Ada," Legolas replied, firmly. "Besides, consider what
an insult it would be to her brother to hold the Welcoming Feast
without herwhen you need him as an ally."
Thranduil sighed again. "Very well," he said, holding
up his hands in mock submission, "we will wait until she
wakes." Then he added, "She has made you insolent, Lassui."
"No Ada," replied Legolas. "It was you
who taught me the importance of twisting my opponent's arm during
"Is your father in here?" asked Eomer, peering round
the door of the Healing Room.
"No," said Legolas, "you have just missed him."
Eomer stepped inside and closed the door behind him. "How
is she?" he asked, taking a seat beside his sister.
"Still sleeping. But she is aware that I am hereand
every now and then she murmurs something. I do not think it will
be long before she wakes." He looked intently at Eomer. "Something
else is troubling you, mellon nín. Has my father
"No, no. I can see that he will be a difficult manelfto
deal with, but it is not that." Eomer paused, looking down
at his hands. "Before we entered the forest, Legolas, you
said that you could sense something else travelling with us, besides
"Was it a woman?"
Legolas smiled. "No," he said. "It was a woodland
sprite. A harmless being."
"Is she here now? In this room?"
"No..." Legolas was surprised at the question, but
he looked around the Healing Room. "No, I do not think so."
"Why do you ask?"
"Because I would not want to hurt her, but"
"Eomer!" Legolas' startling blue eyes widened. "You
are saying that you know of her!"
"I have seen her, spoken to her, felt her touch." Eomer
sighed. "I have told her that I am married"
"It is not a joke, Legolas. She says that she wants to be
with me. What do I do?"
Legolas smiled reassuringly. "I do not think that you need
do anything, mellon nin. I am sure that she will soon forget
you now that she is back in the forest."
"She is not in the forest," said Eomer. "She is
in my chambers."
Legolas was again surprised. "How do you know?"
"I can feel her when she touches melike a warm breeze."
"Where does she touch you?"
"In the garden."
Legolas shook his head. "That was not what I meant, Eomer.
Has shehow do I put thishas she touched you intimately?"
"You mean..." Eomer gestured towards his lap; Legolas
nodded. "No! No, of course not. She is not that sort of womanspiritsprite."
"Good," said Legolas.
"What do I do?" Eomer repeated.
Legolas settled back against the head of the bed. Eowyn, in his
arms, stirred but did not waken. "I am not sure there is
anything that you can do, Eomer," he said. "You
cannot see her and, though you can speak to her, you cannot hear
her reply, so you cannot reason with her. And you admit that you
do not want to hurt her feelings. Therefore, if she wants to follow
"No! I cannot allow that! She sleeps beside me. If she returns
to Edoras with me..." He held up his hands in despair.
"But Lothíriel cannot see her either."
"Legolas! If it were you and Eowyn, what would you do?"
"I would ignore her."
"And let her watch you? With Eowyn?"
"Perhaps she would not want to watch that. Perhaps that
would be too painful for her." said Legolas. "But, Eomer,
there are many beingscorporeal and incorporealthat
follow us and watch us as we pass through life. Some we can see;
some we cannot. If they do not harm usor our loved onesthey
are of no concern to us."
"She..." Eomer hesitated. "She has made
herself of concern to me," he said, softly. He rose to his
feet, walked over to the sideboard, and began fussing with the
glass tumblers. "I do not know if you know this," he
said, still very softly, "but I did not choose Lothíriel.
Our marriage was a matter of political alliance. And..."
He sighed. "But I would never betray her, Legolas, even
if such a thing were possible. Marriage is a commitment for life."
"How did you come to see herthe sprite?" asked
"I think it was the enchantment. I must have swallowed some
of the water. I did not fall asleep, as you did, but I was completely
exhaustedshe said that I was between sleeping and waking."
"Then perhaps that is the answer," said Legolas. "Send
someone to the Enchanted River to fetch a flask of waterValandil
and Orodreth would do it for you. Then take a drop, and see if
you can speak to her."
"Hello, melmenya." He kissed her forehead. "How
are you feeling?"
"I will fetch you a drink."
Legolas climbed off the bed, walked gracefully over to a side
table and poured out a tumbler of water. He was wearing a short
white night-shirt and as he bent with the jug, Eowyn could see
the beautiful curve of his buttocks through the thin fabric, and
his muscular thighs beneath.
"And frisky," she added.
Legolas laughed heartily. He held the glass to her lips and helped
her take a few sips.
"You are in a good mood," she said. She looked around
the room. "Where are we, Legolas?"
"In the Healing Room of my father's Halls. Do you remember
what happened, meleth nín?" He set the glass
down on the nightstand and took her in his arms.
She laid her head on his shoulder. "I remember the bear
coming out of the trees; I remember falling... You pulled
me out of the water?"
"With Eomer and Haldir's help."
She smiled. "Thank you," she said. "Are Eomer
and Haldir all right?"
"Eomer was here just before you awoke, melmenya. They are
"He is fine too. He had a few scratches, which Valandil
has taken care of."
"What about the bear?"
"Haldir wounded it, but it is still at large." He smiled.
"You are safe here, though, melmenya."
"It is you it wants," said Eowyn. "I was
just in the way. But..." She hesitated. "Why did you
not know it was there, Legolas? You knew that it was following
us along the Anduin..."
"I have been wondering that myself, melmenya. And why did
I not sense it on The Carrock?" He shook his head. "Perhaps
I was distracted. Paying too much attention to other things."
"Oh, melmenya, I did not mean that, I just... I feel I let
"No, you did not! You rescued meboth times. Besides,"
she whispered in his ear, "I would far rather have a lover
than a bodyguard. Especially at the moment..." She slipped
her hand under his night-shirt and stroked him encouragingly.
"You are a wicked woman, melmenya."
She grinned, sliding her fingers up and down.
"Mmmmm." Legolas moaned as he kissed her neck.
"Does your father know anything about the bear?"
Legolas laughed against her skin. "You never stop do you?
I have not had a chance to ask him, mel"
"No, Princess Eowyn, I do not."