The couple instantly sprang apart. Legolas pulled
down his night-shirt. "Ada!" he cried. "You might
"This is a public place, Lassui," said Thranduil, unimpressed.
"Anyone could have walked in." He sat down beside the
bed. "Wellare you going to introduce me properly, ion
Legolas took a deep breath. "Adar, this is Princess Eowyn,
bereth nín; Eowyn, this is my father, King Thranduil."
Eowyn was blushing deeply, but she still managed to smile, place
her hand on her heart and bow her head graciously. "Gîl
síla erin lû e-govaded vín," she
"Baren bar lin," replied Thranduil.
"To return to your question, híril nín,"
continued Thranduil, looking at her with some interest, "as
far as I know there have been no bears in the Woodland Realm since
the time of Beorn the skin changer. Do you know of Beorn?"
"Legolas and Gimli have told me a little," said Eowyn.
"Beorn dwelt, some years before the Ring war, on the east
bank of the Anduin, near The Carrock. It is said that he lived
in a house full of animals..." Thranduil shrugged his shoulders.
"It is certainly true that he could take the form of a giant
bear and that, in that shape, he would guard the fords and mountain
passes from orcs and wargs. Where he learned the trick of changing
skin I do not knowperhaps from Beren, his distant ancestor,
or perhaps from the bears themselves. No matter; he was our friend,
and the wild bears followed him as soldiers follow their general.
That is why, since his time, no bear has ever troubled Eryn Lasgalen."
"Until now," Eowyn corrected.
Thranduil was momentarily taken aback. Then he smiled. "As
you say, híril nín, until now."
"But, if Beorn could change shape," said Eowyn, "and
if, as Legolas says, he is believed to have passed on the gift
to some of his descendants, might not this bear be one of them?
I have little experience of bears, but, to me, this one did not
seem to behave like an animal. Could it have been a Beorning?"
She glanced at Legolas.
Thranduil shook his head. "I do not think so, híril
nín. True, Beorn is reputed to have passed his knowledge
to the men of his line. But his son, Grimbeorn, fought beside
me during the Ring war. The Beornings have territorial ambitions,
but they are still a noble, if simple, people. Nothis creature
is not a man. This creature is wild bear from the south."
"Then what are you going to do about it?" Eowyn asked.
She heard Legolas clear his throat, but she chose to ignore his
warning. "After all," she added, "the bear has
attacked your son."
"I am aware of that, híril nín,"
said Thranduil, and his tone had an edge that could have been
anger but could, equally, have been admiration. "I have already
sent a detachment of guards to the Enchanted River. They will
find this animal and kill it. It is regrettable; but once an animal
has attacked an elfor a manit can no longer be trusted."
Then he added, "But you said that it does not behave like
a bear. How, then, does it behave?"
Eowyn considered his question for a moment. "Like an orc,"
she said. "It behaves like an orc."
Thranduil walked slowly down the corridor.
Lassui is right, he thought. She is quick and clever
and bravea fearsome warrior, too, by all accounts. And
he could not help wondering, for a moment, what a Shieldmaiden
might be like in bed, for he had caught a glimpse of her little
He shook his head.
Yes, she would make the perfect consort for Lassui were it nothe
sighedwere it not that, like some beautiful butterfly, she will
flutter her wings, and mate, and die within the day.
And then my son will die too.
So I must separate them.
But suppose it is already too late?
"My father likes you, Eowyn nín," said
Legolas, softly, still looking towards the door.
"He hides it well."
Legolas smiled, and shook his head. "No, melmenya. No, he
shows it very clearly." He turned to her. "Are you sure
that you want to attend the Welcoming Feast tonight, meleth
nín? Because, if you do, we will need to bathe and
He led her down one of the long, torch-lit passages. "You
must remember, melmenya," he said, "that I have not
been here for some years."
"Are you trying to warn me that your chambers will be untidy?"
Eowyn asked, playfully.
Legolas laughed. "Here we are," he said. He opened
a heavy, panelled door and stepped aside to allow her to enter.
Eowyn gasped. "It is wonderful!" she said, clasping
her hands together.
Someone had already lit the candles and, in the soft light, Eowyn
could see two rows of natural stone pillarstastefully rugged
in some places but delicately carved with leaves in othersflanking
a large central living area. To the left, beyond the pillars,
was the bedroom, its elegant bed draped with translucent silks
embroidered with more leaves. To the right was the bathing room,
with a carved marble bath silhouetted against an open doorway,
which led to a garden cavern filled with exotic foliage. Eowyn
stood in the centre of the chambers and turned full circle. "It
is all so beautiful, Legolas!" she cried. "Lasgalen!"
Laughing, Legolas pulled her into his arms and kissed her happily.
"I am glad you like it. It is very different from Eryn Carantaur."
"Yes. But it still shows the same refined elven taste"
Legolas nipped her neck.
"AwI will kiss it better, melmenya
said, slowly manoeuvring her towards the bedchamber. Giggling,
Eowyn slid her hands down to his leggings, pulled at his lacings,
and slipped her hands inside.
"Oh," he whispered, "oh, yes..." He
gently pushed her down onto the bed. "We are alone at last,
Eowyn nín. We do not need to be quiet"
From somewhere by the garden, an elleth cleared her throat.
Still straddling Eowyn, Legolas looked over his shoulder. "Rothinzil?"
"My lord..." The elleth stepped forward and curtsied.
"I was justerI was just tending the plants..."
She gestured towards the garden cavern. "And King Thranduil
has asked me to take care of the lady."
Eowyn sat up, pushed her hair back from her face, and peered
around Legolas' arm, smiling. "That will not be necessary,
thank you, Rothinzil," she said, cheerfully. But then she
noticed how the girl's eyes were lingering on Legolas. And something
stirred in her memory: A serving elleth... I treated her well.
Eowyn felt a sudden surge of annoyance. "So you may leave
us now," she said, firmly.
"Yes, my lady." The girl curtsied again and hurried
from the room.
"That was one of them," said Eowyn, softly.
Legolas sighed. "Yes, melmenya. I am sorry." He lay
down beside her.
"And she still wants you." She sighed. "But not
as much as I want you!" And she threw herself on top of him,
and pinned him to the bed.
Their playful wrestling quickly turned to urgent lovemaking.
After almost three weeks of strained celibacy, frequent interruptions
and the constant fear of being overheard, it was glorious, finally,
to let themselves go. "Oh my love," Eowyn gasped, between
Legolas' exuberant thrusts, "ohohI had forgotten
it could be like this..."
And suddenly, with almost no warning, her release rushed through
her, twisting her body with its power, and she cried out to her
elf in gratitude. And then, as the pleasure began to ebb, she
felt another tiny, miraculous spark flicker deep inside her and,
as her beloved elf kept thrusting, a second release, softer than
the first, but no less beautiful, washed through her limbs and
left her weeping with joy. And Legolas, trembling from his own
climax, kissed away her tears.
And then they lay together, clasping hands and gazing into each
other's eyes, smiling.
Once everyone had been seated in the Great Hall, Thranduil's
Chief Counsellor called for silence and the Elvenking himself
rose to welcome his guests. He introduced Eomer and Gimli, sitting
on his left, to Bergthórr beytill, High Chieftain of the
North Beornings, and his son, Bjarni Bergthórsson, and
his lovely daughter, Gunnhildr Bergthórsdottir.
Then he asked them all to join him in celebrating the return
to Eryn Lasgalen of his only son, the Crown Prince Legolas.
At a sign from the Chief Counsellor, the court musicians played
a joyful fanfare, and the assembled company applauded as Legolas,
wearing his state robes and coronet, entered the Hall leadingto
Thranduil's annoyanceEowyn by the hand.
The Elvenkingwho never spent a silver piece without good
causehad spared no expense on the banquet. His magnificent
Hall, hewn from living rock, glittered with the light of a thousand
candles, and his tables, laid with the finest silver, groaned
under platters of roasted meats and exotic vegetables and dainty
elven delicacieslavender cakes and rose petal sorbets and
creamy cowslip syllabubsand flowed with ale and mead and
with the strong wines of Dorwinion.
Legolas was so completely absorbed by Eowyn's company that he
had not noticed the beautiful elleth sitting opposite.
"Good evening, Lassui," she repeated
Legolas slowly dragged his eyes from Eowyn and looked across
the table. "Lindorië," he said. "It has been
a long time..."
"Only five years," said Lindorië. Then she added,
in Elvish, "Nothing to us; though I imagine a mortal would
feel the passage of five years."
Legolas turned back to Eowyn. She did not appear to have caught
Lindorië's comment, but she raised her eyebrows slightly
as if to ask, Another? and Legolas nodded, almost imperceptibly.
"Melethril nín," he said, "may I
introduce Lady Lindorië? Lady Lindorië, this is Princess
Eowyn, my wife."
Eowyn had deliberately chosen to emphasise her non-elven nature
by wearing a gown cut in the human stylethough exquisitely
stitched and beaded by her own elven seamstressand by leaving
her thick, waving hair loose about her shoulders, the way that
Legolas liked it. She held out her hand, human fashion.
Lindorië looked at it dubiously; after a long moment's consideration,
she briefly grasped it, then she turned back to Legolas and said,
in Elvish, "I had heard that your father did not approve
of your mortal, Lassui."
"Use the Common Tongue, Lindë," said Legolas.
"There is nothing you cannot say in front of Eowyn."
The elleth smiled at Legolas wickedly. "How long have you
known Tithen Lassui, Princess Eowyn?" she asked, still watching
"Since the Ring waralmost five years, Lady Lindorië,"
said Eowyn politely.
The elleth's smile broadened. "Hmmthen he must have
climbed straight into your bed after leaving mine."
Legolas swallowed hard. But he had underestimated Eowyn.
"Oh no," said the woman, sweetly. "He made several
more conquests after he left you; but once he had met me he lost
all desire for any other."
Legolas squeezed her hand in admiration.
"Would you care for some roast venison, my lady?" asked
Gimli, politely. He had been trying to draw Bergthórr beytill's
daughter into conversation all evening.
"No, thank, you," she saidso softly that Gimli
could scarcely hear her.
"Some wine then?" he persisted.
Gunnhildr shook her head again.
The girl's shoulders quivered slightly.
At last! thought Gimli. I have made her laugh. "Will you
not raise your veil, my lady, and let us see your lovely face?"
"That is not the custom amongst my people, my lord,"
"But you are amongst friends from different lands here,
my lady," said Gimli. "And you may rest assured that,
if anyone tried to treat you immodestly, I would defend your honour
The girl still hesitated for a moment longer, then slowly raised
She is, sadly, no beauty, thought Gimli, but it is
a good, honest face. He smiled warmly. "Gimli, son of
Gloin, at your service, Lady Gunnhildr," he said, "and
may I present my friend, Eomer King..."
Eomer bowed his head politely. "My lady," he began,
"it is a pleasure"
A sharp gust of wind blew across the table, and extinguished
"Pay no mind to Lindorië, my lady," said the elleth
sitting to Eowyn's right. "Her tongue can be sharp but she
is not really malicious."
Eowyn turned to her neighbour, a pretty elleth with pale brown
hair and intense, golden-green eyes, and briefly wondered where
her strange colouring had come fromshe had learned that
elves, gentle and compassionate in so many ways, could be unthinkingly
harsh towards those they considered to have tainted blood.
"I am Aredhel, my lady," said the elleth, placing her
hand on her heart and bowing her head, "daughter of Astaldo,
King Thranduil's Chief Counsellor."
Eowyn returned her greeting. Then she remembered Legolas' confession:
There was the daughter of my father's Chief Counsellor
She looked deeply into the elleth's eyes.
Aredhel smiled warmly.
Yes, thought Eowyn, we will be friends. She held out her hand,
"I am pleased to meet you, Lady Aredhel," she said and,
leaning towards her, she added, softly, "Legolas has told
me a great deal about his past."
The elleth blushed slightly. "That ended many years ago,
my lady," she said. "WeLegolas and Iwe were
both very young, but now we are grown up." She smiled. "And
I am betrothed to Prince Legolas' friend, Singollo. Seehe
is sitting beside your March Warden. And the elf beside him is
my cousin, Voronwë. Legolas, Singollo and Voronwë were
inseparable as elflings. Always getting into scrapes."
"Your betrothed is very handsome," said Eowyn. She
smiled at the thought of Legolas as a mischievous elfling. "Now,
you must tell me some embarrassing stories of Legolas'
"Just what do you and Thranduil expect to achieve by these
negotiations, Eomer King?"
Eomer shook his head, good-humouredly. "The talking does
not begin until tomorrow, Chief Bergthórr beytill,"
he said, and he could not help but smile at the man's name. "Tonight
is for feasting." But Bergthórra small, shrewd
manwas clearly still suspicious and Eomer decided that a
diversion was required. "I have heard the Beornings praised
for two things," he said, loudly, "their fierceness
in battle and their ability to hold their liquor."
Bergthórr beytill's companions cheered loudly. "But
we Rohirrim are no blushing maidens in these things eitherand
nor are our friends, the dwarves. Which Beorning is willing to
match Lord Gimli, here, and me, tankard for tankard?"
Out of the corner of his eye, Eomer saw King Thranduil shake
his head, disdainfully. You will get your chance to prove yourself
in the council room tomorrow, my lord Elvenking, he thought, but
I will prove myself, here, tonight.
Legolas slipped his arm around Eowyn's waist and kissed her cheek
lightly. "I am glad to see you making friends with Aredhel,
melmenya," he said. "Hers is a kindly spirit."
"I like her very much," said Eowyn. "And we have
a great deal in common."
"I did not mean being bedded by you, you conceited elf!"
"Yes, you did."
"Well, perhaps I wanted you to think that I did..."
She grinned mischievously. Then she asked, more seriously, "Your
father has surrounded us with your former lovers, has he not?"
"Then you had better introduce mewe cannot have him
thinking that you are keeping secrets from me."
Legolas smiled. "Have I ever told you how much I admire
your spirit, Shieldmaiden?"
"Yes. But I always enjoy hearing it again."
"Are you ready?"
"How do I look?"
"Like a golden flower," said Legolas.
"Is that good?"
"Then let us do it."
"Twelve," said Heðinn austmannaskelfir, calmly,
adding his empty tankard to a carefully constructed pyramid.
"Twelve," cried Snorri blátönn, wiping
his forehead on his sleeve.
Eomer threw back his head and emptied his tankard in a single
draught. "Twelve," he said.
"Thirteen!" roared Gimli.
"Lady Carnëmírië," said Legolas, "may
I present my wife, Princess Eowyn. Melmenya, this is Mírië."
Eowyn and the elleth both smiled, each recognising a kindred
spirit. Another friend, thought Eowyn. "I am very pleased
to meet you, Mírië," she said, bowing her head.
But Mírië held out her hand, human fashion and, laughing
happily, Eowyn clasped it in both of hers.
The drinking contest had attracted a large crowd of onlookers.
Heðinn austmannaskelfir, still calm, and showing no signs
of flagging, added another tankard to his neat pile, "Eighteen."
Snorri blátönn paused to belch, "Sixteen,"
before slamming his empty tankard on the table and lifting another.
Eomer loosened the collar of his tunic. A cooling breeze blew
softly across his temples and he suddenly felt invigorated. He
drained his tankard. "Eighteen," he said.
"Twenty!" shouted Gimli and, ever the showman, he set
down his tankard with a mighty flourish, raising a cheer from
the elves of Eryn Carantaur, who considered him their champion.
And they say, thought Thranduil, shaking his head, that the future
belongs to men.
They have the all refinement of swineexcept that swine
do not hack down the trees and burn away the undergrowth. I shall
never sail west. Not whilst the Greenwood needs my protection.
But Legolas has already heard the gulls' cry...
He watched his son, calmly introducing the woman to each of his
former lovers. She is exceptional, he thought. And I suppose there
is some consolation in his bedding a mortal, for she cannot sail
with him and he will not leave whilst she lives. Should I, then,
give them my blessing? He could certainly have chosen a worse
A loud cheer rose from the crowd watching the drinking contest.
Eomer King is far shrewder than I gave him credit for, Thranduil
thought. But I suspect we will still find little Bergthórr
beytill a hardhe smiled at the punnegotiator.
"Meleth nín, may I introduce Lady Tindomerel?
And her sister, Lady Culurien?" said Legolas. "Hiril
nín, this is Princess Eowyn, my wife."
"I am very pleased to meet you, Lady Tindomerel, Lady Culurien,"
said Eowyn, bowing her head with a smile.
The two ellith returned her greeting with frosty politeness.
"You slept with two sisters?" whispered Eowyn
as they walked back to their seats. "They must have made
your life a misery"she had a sudden thought"not
Legolas hesitated. "Only once..."
"It was during a harvest ceremony. They ambushed me."
Eowyn smiled, wickedly, "Were you very badly hurt?"
"Can we go back to our chambers?" she asked, suddenly.
Snorri blátönn lay, face down, in an elegant dish
of sweetmeats, surrounded by his empty tankards.
Eomer had slowed slightly, but was still drinking gamely. "Twenty-two,"
he said, wiping his beard.
Gimli and Heðinn austmannaskelfir were now neck and neck.
"Twenty-five," they both gasped, banging their tankards
"LegolasI have left my purse in the Great Hall!"
Legolas smiled. "You should have strapped it around your
waist, like a sword, melmenya. Do you know the way back to our
"Then you go ahead and I will go back for it." He kissed
her forehead, "And, when I return," he added, in a whisper,
"I hope to find you undressed and waiting for me."
I, thought Eomer, cannot drink another drop. Not a
sip. Not a... He lowered his tankard very precisely, but the
table moved at the last moment and the metal hit the wood with
a deafening crash. "Gentlemen," he began, belching,
"gentlemen..." What was it he was trying to say? A
few gracious words to concede defeat. He began again. "Gentlemen..."
A cold blast of wind whipped past his shoulder. Eomer turned
to his neighbour, Heðinn austmannaskelfir, and watched him,
curiously. For a few moments the Beorning remained frozen in mid-sip,
his eyes round with surprise. Then he lowered his tankard, leaned
forwards, very, very slowly, and fell asleep the instant his forehead
touched the table.
"Gimli, my friend," said Eomer, gratefully laying his
own head down on his folded arms, "you have won..."
And, as he closed his eyes, a soothing breeze caressed the back
of his neck.
Legolas pulled out a chair and looked under the table.
"Has your woman run away, Lassui?" asked Lindorië
in a little-girl voice. "Do you need company, melethron?"
"Thank you, Lindë, but no thank you. Have you seen
"She makes you run errands for her?"
"Shameful, is it not?" said Legolas, smiling. "But
she rewards me so well."
Lindë pouted. "Do you ever miss me just a little bit,
Lassui?" she asked.
Legolas sighed. "We had fun, Lindë," he said,
leaning on the table, "I cannot deny that. But we both knew
that it was never meant to last."
"It was fun," agreed Lindë, "especially
that night in your father's bedchamber..." She glanced across
at Thranduil. Then she asked, wistfully, "Is it true what
they say about women and elves, Lassui?"
Legolas, pulling out another chair, did not answer.
"Well, at least you have the staying power. Voronwë
would not be up to it."
"You are exhausting Voronwë now, are you?"
"He tries, but he does not have your big ceber, Lassui,"
said Lindë, sadly, "ceber daur chîn. There
is no one like you. If she ever leaves you"
"You are drunk, Lindë," said Legolas, firmly.
Then he patted her shoulder, kindly. "Go to bed. Go on..."
He watched her leave, unsteadily, before turning to the woman
sitting bedside him. "Excuse me, Lady Gunnhildr, have you
seen my wife's purse?"
Eowyn sighed. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere,
she thought, as she tried to retrace her steps. This is beautifulshe
stepped through a carved stone door into a large garden cavern,
cupped her hands around a slender branch and sniffed a cloud of
sweetly scented blossombut I do not remember passing
Back in the corridor, she looked around anxiously. Legolas
will be back before I am...
A familiar figure drifted past an opening to her right.
"Lindorië!" cried Eowyn, lifting her heavy skirts
and running after the elleth, "wait! Lindorië!"
"It does not suit you, Lasdithen," said Thranduil,
nodding at Eowyn's purse. "Nor, to be honest, does it suit
her. I see her with a bow..."
"A sword," Legolas corrected, smiling. "She is
an outstanding swordswoman, Ada. And you like her, I can tell.
So why not give us your"
"We will talk about that first thing tomorrow morning, Lassui,
as we agreed."
"As you agreed, Ada," said Legolas, mischievously.
"I had no say in the matter."
"So you always claim," said Thranduil, dryly, "but
I find that you generally get your way in the end."
"Does that mean"
Legolas grinned. "Good night, then, Ada."
"Good night, ion nín."
Legolas had turned to leave, still smiling. But something in
his father's tone made him pause. He turned back and said, very
quietly, "Please do not take her from me, Ada. I know that
you only do what you think is best for me but, this time... I
love her, Ada."
Thranduil reached out towards his son and Legolas stepped back
towards his father. Butthe moment they embracedboth
elves suddenly sensed danger.
Legolas pulled back. "Eowyn!" He gasped.
"Near your chambers!"
Father and son ran from the Great Hall together.
"Come! Follow us!" called Thranduil to the guards at
Eowyn hurried through the ornate doorway and turned to the right.
Gods, she thought, catching a glimpse of Lindorië's deep
green skirts disappearing around another corner, elves can move
"Please wait, Lindë; I am lost"
Before she could turn the corner, a familiar sound echoed through
the vaulted space and a huge shape lumbered across her path, following
the route taken by the elleth.
No, it cannot be! Gods! Lindorië!
The Shieldmaiden pulled a torch down from the wall and, holding
it like a sword, ran through the arched doorway.
The elleth was cowering before the huge golden bear, frozen with