The roc flew steadily, following the currents of
warm, dry air along coast of Far Harad. To the west her sharp
eyes could see nothing but water, sea green and empty; to the
east nothing but sand, blinding and deadly.
Eowyn awoke with a start and looked about her, momentarily confused.
Yesshe remembered nowshe was inside the shelter
the elves had built for her to sleep in, on her way home to Eryn
Where is Legolas? He should be here, beside me.
She pulled on her leggings and boots and crawled outside. It
took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the darkness but,
gradually, she managed to make out the shapes of Faramir, Lord
Fingolfin, Berryn, Haldir, and several more elves, all lying in
their bedrolls, clustered around the faintly glowing fire.
Legolas must be checking the guards around the perimeter of the
camp, she thought. But why? He did not seem worried at supper.
Yawning, she turned back towards her little bedroom...
What was that?
Beyond the camp, deep in the forestshe could swear
she had seen something move.
Probably a deer, she thought, stooping to enter the shelter.
To her right something glinted in the darkness.
That looked like steel!
In this part of the forest, close to the Anduin, the trees were
small and widely spaced but there was a thick undergrowth of bushes
and bracken that made it hard to move except along the track where
they had set up camp.
Eowyn walked to the edge of the clearing. "Legolas,"
she whispered, "is that you?"
There was no answer.
Perhaps I should go back for my sword, she thought.
I could wake Haldir, andAgh!
Something dark and foul was covering her head and crushing her
throat and she struggled, trying to shout, but it filled her mouth
and she clawed at it in terror, because she could not breathe!
The sound of the oars dipping into the water was soothing.
"How is she?" The voice was quiet, and it took Eowyn
a while to recognise it.
"Her neck is bruised, but she is breathing steadily; I think
she will be all right."
Legolas! Eowyn struggled to open her eyes. Legolas!
"I just wish that Dínendal were here..."
"What do you think they want with us?" asked Valandil.
"Nothing good," replied Legolas, grimly.
Faramir awoke, instantly alert. "Yes Haldir. What is it?"
"Legolas and Lady Eowynand three of my guardsare
Faramir struggled to his feet. He knew that Haldir was a capable
March Wardenas capable as any Captain of Rangersand
he did not waste any time doubting his statement. "What has
happened?" he asked.
"It appears they were taken in the night," said Haldir.
"Over here," he explained, leading Faramir behind Eowyn's
shelter, "there are signs of a struggle." He pointed
to a patch of trampled ground surrounded by broken bracken.
Faramir crouched low and examined the marks. "These smaller
footprints are Eowyn's," he said.
"Yes," Haldir agreed. "And she put up a considerable
fight. Through here"he led the man deeper into the
undergrowth"there are was another struggle."
"Probably Legolas," said Faramir. "Yes, look."
He reached down amongst the foliage and retrieved one of Legolas'
white knives. "This is serious," he muttered. Then,
"Where were your guards stationed?"
"In the trees." Haldir led him deeper into the forest.
"Valandil was here," he said, pointing up into a large
birch, now occupied by two elven guards, "Camthalion was
about thirty yards to the left; and Orodreth was much closerover
in that big beech."
"And the Anduin is that way," said Faramir, pointing
ahead. "It looks as though whoever it was came up from the
river and attacked the guards. Legolas must have heard it and
come out to investigate. And then Eowyn must have followed him."
He shook his head. "Whoever these people were, they possessed
"Why did they do it?"
Faramir shrugged his shoulders. "Has anyone threatened Legolas?"
"Not that I know of."
"Have you examined the river bank?
"Only a superficial search."
"Then let us have a better look now."
Eowyn sighed. Her head and neck and her shoulders hurt, and there
was something cold gripping her wrists and pulling her arms awkwardly
behind her back.
She opened her eyes and waited for the strange, blurry shape
hovering before her to come into focus. Then she smiled: it was
Legolas, bending over her. Why is he frowning? she wondered.
Only he could look so beautiful frowning.
"Hello," she said.
Legolas laughed and Eowyn smiled again, wondering why he sounded
"Where am I?" she asked.
"Lookhere," said Faramir. He pointed to a deep,
narrow hole cut into the river bank. "I think this is the
mark of a mooring stake. There should be another one... Yes, here."
He walked about ten yards up the bank and crouched beside the
second hole. "They came up the Anduin in a large vesselsomething
with a deep draughtthen rowed ashore in a small boatabout
thirty feet long. They drove two stakes into the ground and moored
He examined the footprints on the bank. "There were at least
ten of them," he said. "And they spread out in three
groups." He pointed to the faint traces of three separate
passages that had recently been forced through the undergrowth.
"They must have attacked the guards simultaneously,"
said Haldir. "But how did they know where we were?"
Faramir pulled a small piece of fabric from a bramble thorn and
showed it to the elf. It was silkdirty and discoloured,
but intricately embroideredtorn from a garment that had
once belonged to someone rich and important. "I do not think
they did, exactly," he said. "Their tactic is to swarm
across a patch of land, taking anyone they find."
"Who are they?"
Faramir smiled grimly. "I had forgotten that you are new
to these parts, March Warden," he said. "And I doubt
that they ever venture as far north as Lorien."
"They are Haradrim," said Faramir. "Slavers."
"We are on a ship, melmenya," said Legolas, softly.
"We are heading towards the sea."
Despite the pain in her head and arms, Eowyn pushed herself up
into a sitting position and looked around. There were twelve peopleincluding
Valandil, with a large gash on his forehead, Orodreth and Camthalionbesides
herself and Legolas, all chained to the walls of the small hold.
Most of the others were young women. "What is happening?"
"I am not sure," said Legolas. "Our captors are
Haradrim. They seem to be kidnapping peoplesome of these
were captured as much as a week ago."
"What do they want with us?"
"I do not know," said Legolas. "The man in the
corner is a merchant from Minas Tirith. He was travelling near
Emyn Arnen when they caught him. He thinks that they will ask
our families for a ransom. But the woman in the green gown, lying
beside him, is convinced that they will take us back to Far Harad."
"She has heard that there is a market for slaves from the
north. And she says that the Haradrim prize fair-haired women"
"Gods! They probably prize elves as well!"
"I want you to promise me something," said Legolas.
With difficulty he shuffled closer and spoke very quietly. "You
are immortal now," he said, "and I want you to remember
"I do not understand."
"If they do sell us..." He looked away. "Of course,
we will do everything we can to escape before we reach Far Harad.
But, if they do sell us, melmenya, we may well be parted. And
if that happens, I want you to promise that you will not take
any unnecessary risks. You are immortal, Eowyn, you can afford
"Are you saying"
"I am saying that you will outlive whoever buys you. You
will outlive your owner, you will outlive his son, and you will
outlive his son's sons; you will outlive the port of Umbar; you
will outlive the very ideaValar willingof slavery.
However long we are separated, melmenya, however far we are apart,
all we have to do is wait and eventually we will be reunited.
This is the truth that all elves are taught as elflings. But it
is something that you must learn as an grown woman... So
I want you to promise me that whenever you make a decision you
will remember what I have just told you and choose your actions
"Oh, Legolas," Eowyn whispered, and leaning forwards,
she laid her forehead against his shoulder.
"Will they ask for a ransom?" asked Fingolfin.
Faramir shook his head. "I do not think so," he said.
"The sister of one of my rangers was taken some years ago.
Her family have never heard anything more of her. I would say
that they will take them straight to Far Harad and sell themeither
in Umbar or Carhilivren. I have heard they can get a good price
for a strong man with plenty of work left in him. I imagine they
will get even more for a beautiful woman. And as for an elf, well..."
"I must go after them," said Haldir, grimly. "Straight
"How?" asked Fingolfin. "The colony does not own
any sea-going vessels."
"If we can get to Pelargir," said Faramir, "we
can buy passage to Umbar. Elves are rare in Far Harad. If they
have been seen there we shall soon hear about it. If not, we will
"Are you saying that you will come with me, your Highness?"
"Of course," said Faramir. "Legolas is my friend
and Eowyn isshe means a great deal to me."
The coastline was running north easterly now, curving into the
Bay of Belfalas. Fixing her eye on the isle of Tolfalas, the roc
left the safety of the shore and flew out over the sea. She could
already smell the wonders she had heard of.
The sailor threw a pile of stale bread into the middle of the
floor. A second man banged a pitcher of water down beside it.
"How are we supposed to eat?" asked Valandil, turning
slightly to indicate his hands, chained behind him.
"You use your mouth," said the first man.
"Grovel like a pig?" exclaimed Valandil.
The sailor picked up the heavy pitcher and, holding it as a weapon,
"Wait!" said Legolas, in an unexpectedly commanding
The man stopped in mid stride and turned to look him. "What?"
he asked, casually emptying the pitcher over Valandil's head.
"I want to speak to your captain."
The second man started to laughbut stopped as soon as he
realised that his companion was giving the elf's request serious
"What's in it for me?" asked the first man.
"Tabnit, you can't"
"Shut up. What's in it for me?"
Legolas ran his thumb across the inside of his fingers. The Haradrim
had taken his weapons and had torn the silver fastenings from
his tunic but, surprisingly, had missed his betrothal ring. "I
am sorry, Melmenya," he whispered. "My ring," he
"Let's see it."
Tabnit pushed the elf's shoulders forward and reached down to
take the ring. But Legolas closed his hand into a fist. "At
the captain's door," he said.
Grunting, the man stamped out of the cabin and returned with
a bunch of keys.
"Tabnit! Why are you listening to him?"
Tabnit unlocked the hasp securing Legolas' chains to the wall
and lifted the elf to his feet. "Come on, then," he
said, dragging him towards the door.
"Please, sir, what are we to do for water?" asked one
of the women, timidly.
"Lick it off his face," said the second sailor, nodding
towards Valandil. And he slammed the door behind him.
"Do not worry, my friend," said Faramir to Fingolfin
as he swung himself up into the saddle. "We will bring them
back home. Are you ready, March Warden?"
"Ring?" The sailor held out his hand.
Legolas turned and raised his hands, as best he could. Tabnit
wrenched the ring from his finger and held it up to the light.
"Not bad..." He hammered on the cabin door.
The man hastily pocketed his bribe before lifting the latch.
"One of the prisoners wants to speak to you, sir," he
Tabnit advanced further into the cabin, and Legolas noticed that
his posture had suddenly become submissive. "He has a way
with him, sir," said the man. "Regal-like. I
thought it might be worth your while to hear what he has to say."
Legolas heard the captain sigh. "Bring him in."
"Straight away, sir." Tabnit jerked hard on the chain
and Legolas, his legs cramped from hours of confinement, stumbled
The cabin was tiny. The elf, being taller than either of the
men, was forced to stoop. The captain was leaning over a small
chart table, plotting his course on a large map of the coastline.
Legolas cleared his throat. "Captain er"
"Milkherem," said Tabnit.
"Captain Milkherem," said Legolas, "I am Legolas
of the Woodland Realm; my father is King Thranduil of Eryn Lasgalen"
"I told you he was regal"
"My wife is sister to the King of Rohan. Our families will
pay handsomely to have us and our people returned to Eryn Carantaur."
"Name your price," said Legolas.
"Well now," said Milkherem. He carefully laid down
his dividers and sat on the cabin's only chair. "I can get
five hundred gold pieces for a strong man. Two thousand for a
fair young woman. As many as five thousand for your wife if she's
as tasty as my men say she is. And, as for you..." He grinned,
showing a row of ugly black teeth. "Oh, there's more than
one rich man in Far Harad that would pay ten thousand to have
you in his bed. A couple of rich old women, too. Though
whether you'd survive the night..." He picked his ear with
his finger. "There are three more elves down there, you say?"
he asked Tabnit.
"I suppose, so, sir," said Tabnit, uncomfortably.
"Done," said Legolas.
"if I was interested in a ransom. But I'm not."
Legolas was taken aback. "Why ever not?"
"Because I have regular customers," said Milkherem.
"I've already promised them something special and I never
break my wordat least, not where business is concerned."
He turned to Tabnit. "Take him back to the hold."
Tabnit jerked Legolas from the cabin by his chain. "Pity
about the ring," he said.
Eowyn watched anxiously as the man pushed Legolas down onto his
knees and reattached his chain to the wall. Legolas waited until
they were alone. "I am sorry, melmenya," he said, softly.
"I tried to buy our freedom but the captain refused a ransom.
It is as the woman said: he intends to sell us in Far Harad and
he does not want to disappoint his customers." He struggled
into a sitting position. "How are you, my love?"
Eowyn smiled. "I am still hungry and my arms ache. But I
am fine otherwise," she said. "I have saved you some
Legolas shuffled close and kissed her forehead. She laid her
head on his shoulder. "I am sorry that I gave your ring away,"
"You did the right thing," said Eowyn firmly. "It
might have workedit was well worth the risk. And,"
she added, "I will replace it as soon as we are freed."
"They will have missed us by now, Legolas. Haldir will be
coming for us."
"If he can find us."
"Faramir will find us," said Eowyn, confidently.
"Faramir is clever. He will realise what has happened and
will follow our trail. He will find us."
"Who's knocking at this hour?"
"How should I know, my dear? JUST A MINUTE,"
the man shouted, pulling on his breeches, "YES! I'M COMING!"
He stumbled over to the bedroom window and pushed open the shutters.
"Yes? Who is it?"
"Captain Brentor? I once hired you to ferry me to Pelargir,
andI am sorry to disturb you at this hour, but I am in need
of your services again."
"Is that Prince Faramir?"
"Just a moment, your Highness; I'll be down straightaway."
Brentor shut the window and turned back to his wife but she had
overheard his conversation and was already struggling to pull
on her dress.
"Prince Faramir!" she said. "And with the place
in such a state... Is there anybody with him?"
"Yes," said Brentor, lacing his jerkin, "an elf."
"No. No, much bigger than him. Must be from the colony,
"I wonder why they're wanting to travel at this time of
"That," said Brentor, "is not for us to ask."
"Make sure you get paid extra for the inconvenience."
Brentor grunted. He descended the stair and opened the heavy
front door. "Come in, your Highness." He turned to Haldir,
"Please, sit down, your Highness, my lord," said his
wife. "May I fetch you a drink?"
The man glanced at his elven companion. The elf nodded.
"Ale would be most welcome if you have it, Mistress,"
"Of course, your Highness."
The prince turned back to Brentor. "We need to hire your
boat, Captain Brentor, immediately. Some of our friends have been
kidnapped by slavers"
"if we can get to Pelargir and find passage down to
Umbar, we hope to get them back. We will, of course, pay you double
for the inconvenience of the hour"
"We would not hear of it, your Highness," said the
woman, handing Faramir a tankard of ale with a curtsey.
Two days later
"Can you smell it?" asked Legolas, softly.
"The rotten wood, the rats or the sewage?" said Eowyn.
Legolas smiled, sadly. "The sea, melmenya,"
he said. "We are crossing the Anduin delta, where the river
mingles with the sea. I can smell the salt."
They were lying facing each other, as close as the chains would
allow, but Eowyn tried to shuffle closer. "No, I cannot smell
it," she said. "Are you going to be all right, my love?"
Legolas smiled again. "I think so, Eowyn nín."
Then he added, "Do you ever think about the light?"
"You mean... The light I saw when"she smiled"it
sounds so foolishwhen I was dead?"
"Sometimes, as I fall asleep, I dream I am seeing it again."
"Do you ever wish that you had walked into it?"
"No!" She pulled at her chains, trying to reach out
to him. "Never!"
"I think that the sea is my light," said Legolas. "And
I think thatas long as you are holding my hand, melmenyaI
will always want to stay here, with you."
Eowyn smiled but her eyes were glistening with tears. With her
wrists chained behind her back there was no possibility of holding
Flying towards the great river delta, littered with tiny black
ships, the roc gazed in wonder at the landscape to the eastforests
of tall, leafy trees; water spilling unchecked over rocks and
rapids; and grassacres and acres and acres of tall
grassnot dry and burnt but green and sweet-smelling. And
she knew that somewhere in this extraordinary land, which her
master had called South Ithilien, she would find what she was
"Your Highnessit's time to wake up," said Brentor,
tentatively shaking Faramir by the shoulder.
"Are we there?"
"Just coming into the harbour."
"Where is Haldir?"
"Already up on deck, your Highness. They don't sleep much
Faramir tried to rub some life back into his stiff limbs. "Noelves
do not generally need to sleep unless they are injured. In fact,
they hardly need to rest at all." He picked up his cloak
and draped it over his shoulders.
"Wish I could say the same," said Brentor, leading
him up the companionway. "Just think how much time I'd have
in the tavern. And still be awake to listen to the wife."
Faramir laughed. "How much do I owe you, Captain?"
"Just the usualten gold pieces, sir."
"You are sure?" asked Faramir. "It was your wife
who agreed to the standard fee."
"She'd skin me alive if I took any more from you, your Highness."
Faramir opened his money pouch and counted out the coins. The
man accepted them with a courteous bow.
"Now, as I said, your Highness," he said, "look
for Captain Oliel at the sign of the Staggering Pirate.
Tell him I sent you. I'd take you to Umbar myself, if the Sunlight
were a bit sturdier. Butthough she's a lot of heartshe
could easily break up if the weather's rough in the straits of
"I understand, Captain Brentor," said Faramir. He shook
the man's hand. "Thank you for your help, my friend."
Now that the slave ship had left the narrow confines of the River
Anduin, the prisoners were allowed to walk around the deckthough
chained together in pairs to deter them from jumping overboard
and trying to swim ashore.
Valandil formally introduced himself to his companion.
"I know who you are," she said. "You are the one
who had the water poured over his head."
"Yes. I am sorry," said Valandil.
"It is easy to provoke them," said the woman. "I
do not think they like their work."
"No? It seems to me that they enjoy it immensely."
"They may enjoy threatening us," said the woman, "but
their threats are empty. They cannot harm us or we will lose our
value. I imagine that if they injured us, they would themselves
Valandil turned to her in surprise. "That is probably true.
What is your name, my lady?"
"Wilawen, daughter of Geruil," said the woman. "My
father is a lapidary in Minas Tirith. We were collecting figured
stones on the bank of the Anduin when I was taken."
"Why did they not take your father?"
"They judge by appearances, Master Valandil," said
the woman. "My father is neither strong enough to labour
nor comely enough to bed. To them he was worthless."
"You speak plainly, Mistress Wilawen," said Valandil.
"I speak the truth," said Wilawen. Then she added,
softly, "It will be my lot to labour."
Faramir looked along the wharf. Between the tall warehouses,
the busy streets were filled with a riot of trade signs advertising
boarding-houses, shops, breweries, and taverns. "Sailor's
Row..." he muttered, scanning the street names.
"Over there," said Haldir. He led the way along the
quay, threading between crowds of waiting passengers. "What
was the tavern called?"
"The Staggering Pirate," said Faramir. "There
it is, beside the pipe weed shop." They walked carefully
down the narrow alley, stepping over piles of rubbish and horse
Haldir pushed open the inn door and they stepped inside. "Charming,"
he said, softly.
Faramir approached the bar and, smiling at the landlord, rested
his hand on the counter, making sure that the other man could
see the gold piece 'hidden' between his finger and thumb. "I
am looking for the friend of a friend," he said. "A
The landlord laid his own hand, palm up, on the bar, waited for
Faramir to drop the coin into it, then said, softly, "Over
by the firea jug of sack, was that, sir?"
"Yes," said Faramir. "And three glasses."
"Very good sir. I'll bring it over."
Beckoning to Haldir, Faramir took a seat opposite the sleeping
man. "Captain Oliel," he said, softly but firmly, "Captain
Brentor recommends you."
The sea captain raised his head from his arms and stared at Faramir
for a moment. Then he looked across at Haldir. "Don't see
many elves in places like this," he said.
"Our friends have been kidnapped by slavers, Captain,"
said Faramir. "We need passage to Umbar"
"Umbar, you say," said Oliel, suddenly alert. "Where
were they taken? And when?"
"About forty miles south of Emyn Arnen, before dawn, three
days ago," said Haldir.
Oliel nodded. "The only slaver that's been through Pelargir
in the past week is the True FriendCaptain Milkherem.
He tried to sneak some of his men ashore without paying harbour
dues. There was a right to-do."
"When was that?" asked Faramir. He poured the man a
glass of sack.
"Night before last," said Oliel. "He's got about
a day and a half on you."
"Will you take us to Umbar?" asked Haldir.
"He isn't going to Umbar, my friend," said the man.
He took a large draught of sack. "Good stuffMilkherem
sells his cargo in Carhilivren. It's a port further south."
"Yes, I've heard of it," said Faramir. "What makes
you so sure?"
"I know him," said Oliel. "Made it my business
to know all of them, over the years," he added, darkly. "The
price will be twenty gold, each. Now give me another glass of
sack, my friends, and we'll make a start."
"The strange thing is," said Eowyn, as they walked
along the deck, holding hands, "I have always wanted to see
Legolas smiled. "Why is that, melmenya?"
"When I was young, a man came to Edorasa merchant
from the south. He sold embroidered rugs and jewelled lanterns
and perfumes... and strange fruits packed in boxes of sugar. And
he told such tales!"
"I love you, melmenya," said Legolas, softly.
She turned towards him, smiling, but, as her eye fell on the
sky behind him, her reply died on her lips and, instead, she cried,
And she pushed him to the deck and lay over him, shielding him,
as a giant bird swept down from the sky and, passing only inches
above her, seized Valandil in its talons, andtogether with
his helpless companioncarried him away.