"Lindorië," said Eowyn, calmly, swinging
the torch over her head to draw the bear's attention, "drop
to the ground."
The elleth did not move.
"Lindë! Listen to me! You must get out of the way!
Drop to the ground!"
Lindorië began to turn...
"DOWN!" Eowyn bellowed.
Suddenly understanding, the elleth collapsed to the floor, and
the Shieldmaiden ran forward, swinging the torch back and forth,
the full width of the corridor.
The bear took a step backwards.
Eowyn, now standing protectively over Lindorië's huddled
form, jabbed her torch at its head, shouting, "Get back!
Get back! You will not have her!"
The bear retreated another step.
Eowyn felt Lindorië's shaking hand clasp her ankle. "Courage,
Lindë," she said, softly, never taking her eyes off
the bear, "help will soon be here." She jabbed the torch
"Eowyn! Melmenya, where are you?" Legolas' voice echoed
down the tunnel.
"Legolas!" Eowyn shouted, "Legolas! We are here!
"Ilúvatar!" cried Thranduil.
He tore another torch from the wall. "Back," he shouted.
"Back, brôg! Get back!" He ran up beside
Eowyn and, together, they lunged at the creature. The bear backed
away a few more steps.
Legolas threw himself in front of Eowyn and held up his hands
in a gesture of peace.
"I love my wife," he said, "and
my father, and Lindë is my friend. Please do not hurt
them." Then he repeated, in Elvish, "I love them."
For a moment, the bear seemed to listen; then it dropped to all
fours and, with a howl filled with immense sadness, it turned
and loped away.
Thranduil made to follow.
"No, Ada," Legolas cried, as he reached for Eowyn.
"No! Do not go after it! Send the guards!"
Thranduil turned to the four elves who had followed them from
the Great Hall. "I want it captured," he said. "Bring
it back alive."
The guards took off in pursuit.
Legolas gently removed the torch from Eowyn's hands. "Are
you all right, melmenya?" he asked.
"Yes." She smiled. Now that the danger had passed she
seemed dazed. "But Lindorië needs attention,"
she said. Legolas kissed her forehead; then, handing the torch
to his father, he knelt, with Eowyn, beside the terrified elleth.
"Your woman saved me, Lassui," whispered Lindorië,
"she saved me..."
Legolas smiled. "I know," he said.
"Can you carry her to the Healing Room?" asked Eowyn.
"I will carry her," said Thranduil. "You
take your adaneth back to your chambers, Lassui, and put
her to bed. We will talk about thisand the other thingtomorrow."
Legolas gave his father a grateful smile.
"I have singed my sleeve," said Eowyn sadly.
"I am sure that Valaina will be able to replace it for you,
my darling," said Legolas. "Shall I help you undress?"
Legolas began unlacing her gown. "What are you smiling at,
Eowyn nín?" he asked.
"You call me 'melmenya' when everything is normal and 'Eowyn
nín' when you are either pleased or angry with me.
It is only when we have had a real scare that you use the Common
Tongue and call me 'my love' or 'my darling'."
Legolas, carefully drawing her sleeves down her arms, paused
to kiss her hands, then smiled up at her.
"I am so tired, Legolas," she said, touching his face.
"Do you mind if I just sleep tonight?"
"Of course not, my darling."
"Will you lie with me?"
Legolas smiled. "You know I will." He slid her bodice
down to her waist. "Can you stand?" Eowyn rose to her
feet. "Step out of it... Good. Now, sit down, and I will
fetch some water to wash that soot off your face. Would you like
a drink, melmenya?"
"You were very brave tonight, Eowyn nín,"
said Legolas, as he poured a glass of fruit cordial. "Brave
and selfless, going to Lindë's aid like that." He uncorked
a small flask and added a few drops of a thick, silvery liquid.
"I am so proud of you."
"You will make my head swell," said Eowyn, yawning.
Legolas smiled. "Drink this. I have added some miruvor;
it should make you feel better."
He fetched a bowl of water. "My father wants to talk to
me early tomorrow morning," he said, carefully sponging her
face, "I think he intends to give us his permission."
"Can I come with you?" asked Eowyn.
"I do not see why notif you are awake by then."
He pulled back the silken sheet and helped her into bed, then
began to undress himself.
"It is strange," said Eowyn, watching him. "Now,
we are as close as evercloser perhaps. But there were moments,
during our journey here, when I really thought I was losing you.
I was afraid that you were ashamed to show me to your father.
But Gimli kept saying"
"Gimli is wise in these matters," said Eowyn, smiling,
"and a good friend to both of us."
"What did he say?" asked Legolas, climbing into bed
"'That fool of an elf is just worrying about the cavalcade
and he thinks he is sparing you by not telling you, lassie!'"
Legolas laughed. "You sound just like him." He pulled
the embroidered coverlet around her shoulders. "He was right,
"Especially about the fool part. You should know by now
that you do not need to spare me anything, Legolas. I want
to share your troubles."
He drew her into his arms and settled her head on his shoulder.
"I think I will always be a fool when it comes to you, Eowyn
nín. Half the time I want to wrap you up in lambswool
and keep you safe; the other half I want you fighting by my side.
I need two of you."
"One to wear and one for best," said Eowyn, chuckling.
"Which would you sleep with?"
"Oh, the warrior. No question." Legolas laughed. "Do
you remember the night I spent drinking with Aragorn and Eomer
at Minas Tirith, with some of the Gondorian nobles? One of the
lords was describing, in some detail, his notion of the ideal
woman. And I happened to say, 'I prefer a warrior'"
"And he said"
"I can imagine what he said!" said Eowyn. "He
said, 'We already have too many of your sort down in the barracks!'"
"Almost word for word."
"You are so innocent, Legolas! What did you say?"
"I said, very coldly, 'Then they will each need to find
their own Shieldmaiden, my lord, for I intend to keep my wife
Eowyn snuggled against his chest. "How do you suppose the
bear got through your father's gates?" she asked, suddenly.
"I have been wondering that myself, melmenya; and I daresay
my father has too."
"Is there another way into the palace?"
"From the riverthe way Gimli's father escaped."
"Gimli's father escaped?"
"It is a long story, melmenya. My father caught him trespassing
and imprisoned him and his companionsI do not now remember
all the details but I am sure that Gimli would be only too pleased
to tell you his father's version of events."
Eowyn smiled. "How did he get out?"
"There is an underground stream, running through the mountain,
beneath the palace, that is used to transport suppliesa
trapdoor in the palace cellars opens straight into the tunnel."
"But the trapdoor must be locked?"
"No. There is a watergate at the tunnel mouth, where the
water flows out of the hillside, but so much traffic passes along
the stream that even that is often left raised... Though getting
in by that route would still be difficult, even for an
elf. And a bear is nowhere near so agile."
"No." Eowyn thought for a moment. "You know,"
she said, "I still think it could be one of the Beornings.
He would have come in through the gates as a man and not turned
into a bear until he was safely inside. And that would explain
why you can feel him only some of the timewhen he is a bear."
"It would make sense," Legolas agreed, slowly. "But
why would a Beorning attack Lindë? Or you or me, for that
"That, I do not know," said Eowyn. She smiled at him.
"Legolas," she said, running her fingers across his
cheek and over the tip of his ear, "suddenly, I do not feel
tired at all..."
Legolas poured a little more scented oil into his palm and rubbed
his hands together. "Where were we?" he asked.
"Tynd," said Eowyn.
"Yes..." He laid his hands lightly on her breasts,
gently massaging them. "Tynd voe," he said. "Soft"
"That tickles," said Eowyn.
"It is supposed to be sensual, melmenya."
"No, it tickles."
"It still tickles."
Legolas laughed. "Perhaps Shieldmaidens are not sensitive
there," he said. "What about this?" He swept his
hand down, over her stomach, and let it rest, lightly, on her
small patch of golden hair. "Thâr," he
"That," said Eowyn, wriggling against his hand, "is
a much nicer word. Thâr... What next?"
Legolas slid his fingers down between her thighs andwhisper
softtickled her swollen lips. "Criss,"
A peal of laughter burst from Eowyn's throat, "Criss,"
"Shhhhh, melmenya," said Legolas, laughing too.
"We are only just starting!" He stilled his hand and
waited until she had regained some of her self-control. Then,
leaning down to kiss her mouth, he slipped his fingers just inside
"Rond," he said, exploring her, gently, "agor...
laug... loen... rond."
"Oh... rond. Even nicer..." Eowyn arched
her back, trying to take his hand deeper. "Legolas,"
she said in a small voice, "I want you..."
"Just one more to learn, melmenya," he said, kissing
He slowly withdrew his fingers, sliding them over her sensitive
flesh, then brushed them against her swollen bud. "Tuiw,"
he said, circling his fingertips, "though some call it 'mîr'"he
pulled up his nightshirt with his free hand"and others"he
knelt between her open legs-'meril'..."
He slipped his oily hands beneath her, lifted her onto his lap,
"Ceber," whispered Eowyn as he entered her.
"Ai, gerich veleth nin, ceber vain."
Someone was pounding at the door.
"Leave me!" cried Eomer.
"Your Majesty," said a familiar, gentle voice. "I
think I can help you."
Eomer sat up far too quickly. "Gods!" He clasped his
head. "Come in then," he called.
The door opened and Master Dínendal entered, diffidently.
"Did you put me to bed?" asked Eomer.
"I helped, your Majesty," said Dínendal, "but
it was the March Warden and your Counsellor who carried you."
"Did I win?"
"Not quite, your Majesty. But I think you might be considered
to have come second."
Unwisely, Eomer nodded. "Oh!" he gasped, shuddering.
"I do not remember much..."
"That is why I am here, your Majesty," said Dínendal.
He had already half-filled a tumbler with water and was carefully
adding various ingredients to it. "It occurred to me,"
he explained, "that you and Lord Gimli will need all your
wits about you later today." He carefully added a measure
of red syrup to the water. "Though dwarves seem far less
affected by the after effects of alcohol than men"he
dipped his wooden stirrer into an earthenware jar and drew out
a small quantity of white powder"which is strange,
because you would think that their bodies, being so much smaller,
would be more easily overwhelmed..."
"Dwarves are as tough as old boots," Eomer grumbled.
Dínendal considered his assessment. "They are certainly
very resilient," he said, uncorking a small flask and adding
a few drops of miruvor. He stirred the cocktail carefully, then
handed the glass to Eomer.
"This is my mother's recipe, your Majesty," he said.
"You must drink it all down at once."
"Does it taste bad?"
"It is not pleasant," Dínendal admitted, "but
its effects are almost instantaneous. It is worth the ordeal."
Eomer looked dubiously at the foaming pink liquid. Then he raised
the glass to his lips, threw back his head, and drained it. "By
the gods," he cried, shuddering as he wiped his mouth on
the back of his hand, "that is powerful stuff!" He let
out a long, slow breath. One by one, he stretched his limbs. Then,
smiling at Dínendal, he stood up. "Your mother is
a very clever womanellethMaster Healer."
"Thank you, your Majesty," said Dínendal. "One
glass should be sufficient, but if the discomfort returns, just
send for me."
"I shall. Thank you."
Eomer looked around his chambersmemories of the previous
night had suddenly come flooding back to him. "Master Dínendal
he said, as the healer began packing up his ingredients, "are
you as sensitive toto things as Legolas is?"
"Things, your Majesty?"
"If there were somethinginvisiblein this chamber,
could you sense it?"
"You mean the sprite?"
"Thunder and lightning," said Eomer, "can everyone
see her but me?" He sighed. "She is still here, then?"
"Yes, your Majesty. I cannot see her, but I know that she
has been... guarding you, ever since Lorien," said Dínendal,
closing his bag.
Eomer shook his head. "If you happen to see Valandil in
your travels, will you tell him that I would like to speak to
him? And thank you again, Master Dínendal."
He waited until the healer had left. "Firith!" he called,
slowly turning round to face each corner of his chambers in turn,
"FirithI know what you did last night. And I am grateful.
But you cannot stay with me! You cannot!"
Thranduil opened the door of his study anduncharacteristicallyallowed
himself to show his surpriseand annoyance. "I had planned
an informal talk between father and son, Lassui; I did not expect
you to bring your advisor."
He beckoned Legolas and Lord Fingolfin into his spacious study-library
and closed the door behind them. Legolas looked around the chamber.
It had not changed in all the years he had been awaypiles
of open books still littered the marble floor, tattered notes
and sketch maps still hung from the finely carved mouldings, and
a deep drift of paper still hid the massive oaken desk.
Thranduil took a seat by the fire.
"If this were a informal talk, Ada," said Legolas,
gesturing that Fingolfin should sit opposite his father, "we
could have had it last night. Besides, Lord Fingolfin has a legitimate
interest in this matter."
"Indeed?" Thranduil looked to Fingolfin for an explanation.
"I represent the citizens of Eryn Carantaur"
"The people of Eryn Carantaurelves and, increasingly,
menare not subjects, your Majesty," said Fingolfin.
"We live there by choice. And Lord Legolas encourages us
to take part the day-to-day decision-making of the colony"
"Yes, yes," said Thranduil, dismissively. "But
why would that give you any say in my son's private life?"
"Because Princess Eowyn is not just Lord Legolas' chosen
companion, your Majesty," said Fingolfin, unintimidated by
the Elvenking's brusque manner. "She is our Lady; and the
people of Eryn Carantaur love her."
Then he turned to his son. "I am not unaware of this adaneth's
merits, Lassui. She is brave and clever andI have to admitshe
has a certain"he shrugged his shoulders"beauty,
if you happen to be attracted to mortals. But she has already
lived forwhat?more than a third of her allotted span.
She will die, Lassui! In much less than fifty years, she
will die. And what will happen to you then?"
"I will die with her, Ada," said Legolas, simply, "unless..."
He stopped short. He was certainly not ready to tell his father
about the prophetic dreams he had had at Yuletide.
"But you are too late, Ada," he continued. "Far
too late! Even if you could take her from me I would still
be bound to her. And no one can take her from me. I want
to marry her, properly. But if you refuse your permission I will
simply live with her unmarried. And, then, if we have a childyour
grandson, Adahe will be illegitimate."
I love my wife, and my father, and Lindë is my friend.
Please do not hurt them. I love them.
Eowyn awoke with a start and sat bolt upright.
A small piece of parchment lay on the pillow beside her.
'Since my father is not accustomed to waiting I thought it
wise to leave my sleeping beauty undisturbed this morning,' it
said. 'But if you do wake before nine o'clock, come and join us
in his study, melmenya.
Eowyn leaped out of bed, quickly washed and dressed, then set
off in search of Legolas and some answers.
Thranduil turned to Fingolfin. "My son says that the Valar
themselves selected this adaneth for him. What evidence
have you seen of that?"
Fingolfin shook his head. "The way the Valar indicate their
choice is a mystery known only to the celebrant"
"Do not presume tell me about the harvest rite, Fingolfin
Cammirthorion. I have performed more rites than you have had conception
days. And I know," he said, looking sharply at Legolas,
"that the sign allows a degree of interpretation. It is not
hard to overlook the Valar's principle choice and instead take
her neighbour, if she is more to one's own tastes"
"Ada!" cried Legolas, scandalised. "Use
the rite as an excuse to satisfy my own desires? I would never
do such a thing!" His eyes narrowed. "Have you?"
"Mind your own business," said Thranduil.
"Your Majesty," said Fingolfin, tactfully. "What
I can tell you is that Lady Eowyn is exactly what the colony
needswhat it has needed right from the starta strong,
capable co-ruler who throws herself whole-heartedly into all the
business of state; a gentle champion of our weaker citizens; and
an inspiration to our ellith and women. And I can also tell youif
Lord Legolas will permit me"Legolas nodded"that
it is clear to all the people of Eryn Carantaur that she has brought
your son immeasurable happiness."
Thranduil sighed deeply.
Then he rose to his feet, walked over to his desk and picked
up a small, pink book. He pulled open the ribbon ties and carefully
turned the pages.
"In this book there is a ancient decree," he began.
"'Pertaining to the case of Melethron and Gwilwileth',"
interrupted Fingolfin, somewhat unwisely.
"You have heard of it?"
"Yes. Lady Eowyn asked me to search out any legal precedent
that Lord Legolas might use to help persuade you."
Legolas stared at him in surprise.
Thranduil smiled. "Are you sure you want this woman who
runs rings around you, Lassui?" He turned back to Fingolfin.
"Why did you not mention it before?"
"Because the case ended in the woman's death"
"Lord Fingolfin," said Thranduil, showing just a tiny
fraction of the legendary cold fury that petrified friends
and enemies alike, "do you seriously think that I would set
my own prospective daughtermy son's belovedany
task that might threaten her already far too short life?"
For the first time since the meeting began Fingolfin seemed lost
for words, but his discomfort was interrupted by a light tap at
the door. Thranduil handed the book to Legolas, crossed to the
door, and opened it.
"Ah, Eowyn vell nín," he said. "Come
in, sit down. We were just talking about you."
Eomer laid down the lengthy intelligence reportcompiled
and painstakingly translated into the Common Tongue for him by
Thranduil's March Warden, Singolloand turned towards the
"Enter," he called. "Ah, Valandilthank you
"Your Majesty." The elf, apparently deciding that the
easy camaraderie he and the king had shared on the journey was
no longer appropriate, bowed courteously.
But Eomer hated ceremony. "Please sit down, my friend,"
he said, warmly. "Would you like a drink?"
"Yesthank you, your Majesty," said Valandil.
Eomer poured a glass of fruit cordial. "I have never tasted
anything like this stuff before," he said. "What is
"Peich vallen," said Valandil. "Golden
"King Thranduil could make himself a small fortune if he
exported it to Rohan," said Eomer, handing the elf a glass.
"But please do not tell him I said so." The man and
the elf grinned at each other with something like their previous
"Perhaps Legolas could make it in South Ithilien,"
continued Eomer, "though he would have to find a better name
for it." He took a sip. "The reason I asked you here,
Valandil, is that I need a favour, and Legolas thought that you
might be willing to help me."
He placed his glass on the side table, clasped his hands together
and stared intently at his fingers. "I will not go into the
details of why, but I need a small quantity of water from
the Enchanted River." He looked up at Valandil and caught
the fleeting expression on the elf's face. "But, of course,
you already know why," he said, "because, like every
other elf in the cavalcade, you can sense her too."
"The sprite? Yes..."
Eomer shook his head. "You all knew that she was following
me, and yet nobody told me."
"Some of us knew," corrected Valandil. "But,
no, we did not tell you..." He looked uncomfortable, and
Eomer found the expression quite incongruous on an elf. "You
see," he continued, "sprites often attach themselves
to men ormore rarelyto dwarves. The sprite does no
harm, but it is generally better that the man does not know. Otherwise
he is always uncomfortable, always wondering where the sprite
is, and what she is doing."
"What she is doing is meddling in my life," said Eomer.
"I know that she means well, but..." He sighed. "That
is why I need the water, Valandil. A small amount seems to allow
me to see and hear her. I want to talk to herto reason with
Valandil looked dubious. "Woodland sprites are not known
for their powers of reasoning, your Majesty. They are creatures
"I must try something," said Eomer. "Will you
fetch me some enchanted water?"
"Of course, your Majesty."
"Thank you. Legolas thought that Orodreth might be willing
to go with you. And, please, Valandil," added Eomer with
a broad smile, "be careful. I do not want to have to send
out a search party to rescue you. Just think how embarrassing
it would be to have King Thranduil's guardsyour former comradessee
you carried back, snoring, by a bunch of Rohirrim."
"I have a simple proposal," said Thranduil. "Since
we cannot decide this matter ourselves"he ignored Legolas'
attempt to contradict him"we will ask the Valar to
guide us. This case"he held up the book, Ancient
Laws of the Silvan Elves"the case of Melethron
and Gwilwileth, provides a clear precedent." He turned to
Eowyn. "Melethron's father set Gwilwileth three tasks on
the understanding that the Valar, if they approved of the union,
would make it clear to him by helping her complete them."
"And did she succeed?" asked Eowyn.
"No, my lady," said Fingolfin softly. "The final
task proved fatal."
"No, Ada!" cried Legolas, throwing himself down beside
Eowyn and wrapping her in his arms. "I will not permit it!"
"Do not be a fool, Lassui," said Thranduil curtly.
"I have already said that I would do nothing to risk Eowyn's
life. The tasks I shall set will be simple and practicalthey
will merely test her fitness to be your co-ruler."
"And if I fail the test?" asked Eowyn.
"If you fail, you will leave Eryn Carantaur and never see
my son again."
"You have already assured me, Lassui, that the Valar approve
your choice. If you are right, there is no risk. But if you are
wrong this will save you from the consequences of your mistake."
"It is a sort of trial by ordeal, my love," said Eowyn.
Legolas shook his head. "What is that?"
"In ancient times my people would try a suspected murderer
by forcing him to perform a seemingly impossible taskhe
might be held under water for several minutes, or made to carry
hot coals in his bare hands. If he survived the ordeal unscathed,
the Elders took it as proof of his innocencethey assumed
that the gods would protect a blameless man, no matter how extreme
"Are you willing to submit to the test, Eowyn Eomundiell?"
Eowyn bit her lip.
"Suppose she is not?" said Legolas. "We could
go on living as we are."
"You could. But would you want to, Lassui?
If the Valar really have blessed your union, there is no risk.
Would you want to spend the rest of your short life knowing that
you behaved as a cowardin this of all things? Would your
"I will do it," said Eowyn.
"Melmenya..." Legolas' eyes were shining with tears.
"I will do it, Legolas. And I will succeed."