legolas and eowyn

Captain Mutallu rapped on the door of Faramir's cabin and opened it without waiting for permission to enter. Faramir looked up from the chart he was studying.

"What is it, Captain?"

"The Hatja's fleet sir," said Mutallu, in a low voice. "Closing fast."

"Much sooner than expected."

"Yes, sir. What are we going to do?"

"You fear an incident?"

"I fear war, sir."

Faramir nodded. "Are we flying recognisable colours?"

"Yes sir. The Bird's registered as a merchantman of Carhilivren."

"Good. Then take us in close, Captain. We need to find some way to penetrate the shroud and show them our ensign. Then the elves and I will row over to the flagship, and try to buy Legolas some time..."

...

"Goodness gracious," gasped Hentmirë, averting her eyes from the naked man. She slipped off her cloak. "Here," she said to Legolas. "Give him this."

"Thank you, my lady," said the young man, draping the cloak over his lap. "And thank you, Magus. Might I trouble you to do the same for my Court? Starting with my personal bodyguard, here?" He indicated the rats standing on the dais.

Then, as the magician lifted his wand, he added, "You may prefer to look away, ladies."

Hentmirë turned her back. Eowyn, smiling, lowered her eyes.

There was another flash of light, and the four rats became four men.

"You may leave us," said the king to his guards. "Return when you are properly attired."

With a brief nod of acknowledgement, the naked men jogged from the chamber.

"May I look now, your Majesty?" asked Hentmirë.

"Indeed, you may, my lady," said the King of Kuri. He gestured towards a row of benches grouped in front of the dais. "Please," he said, "make yourselves comfortable. I am afraid I cannot offer you refreshments at present."

...

"They're still not seeing us, sir," said Mutallu, "despite the extra lights."

"No," said Faramir. "Lower the boat. We shall row away from the Bird and, with luck, become visible after a few feet. We shall take the ensign with us."

"Very good, sir," said Mutallu. He turned to his first officer. "Lower the boat, Taru. His Highness will need six rowers in addition to the two elf-gentlemen. Take the helm yourself..." A thought occurred to him. "How will you find your way back to us, sir?" he asked.

"I have no idea," Faramir admitted.

"Leave that with me, then, sir," said Mutallu. "I will think of something."

...

"When did it happen, your Majesty?" asked Niqmaddu. "The transformation?"

"I am not sure, Magus," said the king. "Some time in the night... Two or three days ago, I think."

"Do you know who was responsible?"

"No."

"We are looking for a man, your Majesty," said Legolas, "a magician, who has, we believe, taken refuge in the Palace."

"That is impossible," said the king. "The Palace is too well-guarded."

"Under normal circumstances, your Majesty," Legolas agreed, "but since the transformation... My friends and I, for example, were able to enter unchallenged."

"You may not have been challenged, sir," said the king, with a touch of impatience, "but you were observed and followed."

"Of course," said Legolas, remembering the rats.

"Now," said the king, "might I ask who has come to my aid?"

Niqmaddu glanced at Legolas for permission to take the lead.

"Please," said the elf.

"I am Niqmaddu, son of the great Niqmepa," said the magician, "advisor to the Hatja of Carhilivren. This is Prince Legolas of the Woodland Realm; Princess Eowyn; and the warriors Haldir and Valandil. And this is Lady Hentmirë, daughter of Mursilis."

"Ah," said the king, looking at Hentmirë with interest. "The mistress of the famous djinn."

...

"They have seen our lights," said Camthalion. "And they are nervous. They have sent bowmen to the forecastle."

Faramir nodded, gravely. "Show them the ensign, Master Taru."

"Very good sir." The man rose to his feet and, bracing himself against the bobbing of the boat, lifted the flag aloft and waved it back and forth. Faramir raised his lantern and directed its beam at the colours.

"That has caught their attention," said the elf. "The bowmen are standing down. The officers are in conference."

"Good," said Faramir. "Take us up close, Master Taru, as quickly as possible."

...

"Your Majesty," said Niqmaddu, "may I ask how you know about the djinn?"

"There was a time, Magus," said the king, "before the Great War, when my aunt spoke of little else."

"Your aunt, your Majesty?" said Legolas.

"The former queen, Naqiya-Zakutu," said the king.

"But... I do not understand," said Niqmaddu. "The Great War ended thirty years ago, and you are scarcely thirty years old."

The king smiled his sad smile. "I am one hundred and ninety-three, Magus," he said.

"You drank the water," said Eowyn.

"My mother immersed me in the water, my lady," said the king. "She thought it was only way to protect me from Naqiya after the Queen had killed my father—her own brother—and Naqiya had her executed for it." He shook his head.

Clearly, the pain of losing his mother was still fresh, even after two hundred years.

"I am sorry, your Majesty," said Eowyn, softly.

"But," said Valandil, suddenly, "your spirit...

"Your spirit lives; it is healthy, whereas your aunt's spirit decays."

The king turned to the elf. "You refer to her strange condition?" he asked. "Yes; I suppose you could call it decay of the spirit. She is certainly not the vivacious woman she once was."

"I understood that to be the effect of the water, your Majesty," said Niqmaddu. "I had heard that the water was poison."

"Good," said the king. "Good."

"Your Majesty?"

"That is a rumour I started, Magus. One of many, I confess."

"To stop people wanting it," said Eowyn.

"Indeed, my lady." He acknowledged her deduction with a bow of the head, then he smiled at her, his eyes lingering on her face for a moment.

Legolas took hold of her hand.

"There was no hope," said the king, "of building a vigorous country whilst my people's only interest was in a Fountain of Youth. Now that the water is poison we have a thriving economy—we fish for pearls in the bay of Kuri and we mine for precious stones and metals in the hills of Kurigalzu. We are famous for our craftsmanship." He waved his hand, indicating the Audience Chamber's sumptuous decoration. "We have trading links with several countries to the south and east. My realm is prosperous."

...

The Hatja's sailors threw down a rope ladder.

Faramir, anxious to appear a credible statesman from the outset, sent the elves up first and watched their method carefully. Then, when his own turn came, he climbed aboard without any loss of dignity.

Bowing to what he assumed was the captain of the ship, he said, "I am Faramir, Prince of Ithilien, friend of the Magus Niqmaddu, advisor to the Hatja. I come to speak with the commander of the fleet."

He held out his hand, showing the captain a heavy gold ring lying in his palm. "I carry the Hatja's seal."

"Wait here," said the captain.

A few moments later, he returned. "The Hatja will see you, your Highness," he said, bowing slightly. "But the elves are to remain here."

...

"Then what happened to your aunt, your Majesty?" asked Niqmaddu. "Why is she a mere shell of a woman?"

"I believe," said the king, "that the wretch—her accomplice—did it to her. At any rate, it did not happen until after they had fallen out—and then he betrayed her to the Hatja of Carhilivren."

Legolas and Niqmaddu exchanged glances.

"We think, your Majesty," said Legolas, "that the person you describe as 'the wretch' may be the very man we are seeking—and the person responsible for your transformation—a magician named Baalhanno."

"That is the wretch," the king confirmed. "And I should have known that this was his doing!" He paused, as if tying to decide whether to share a confidence. Then he continued, "When he first appeared here—some forty years ago—and immediately bought his way into my aunt's presence, I thought nothing of it, for he was a tiny, ugly, slip of a man and I knew that my aunt had no time for anyone less than six feet tall and strikingly handsome."

He glanced at the elves.

"But I was wrong: the wretch offered her something far more seductive than a beautiful body. He offered her power. Unlimited power."

"What do you mean?" asked Niqmaddu.

"I did not hear all the details," said the king, "and much of what I did hear, I did not understand. It involved the Art of Transmutation."

"Alchemy," said Niqmaddu.

"Yes. The water, it seems, can be used to transmute base metal into a substance so powerful that the smallest quantity will destroy an entire country. It will incinerate its people, raze its cities to the ground, and leave its soil tainted for centuries to come..."

"How?" asked Legolas.

The king shook his head. "I do not know."

"But you believe it to be true?"

"I have no doubt."

...

The Hatja wasted no time on polite greetings. "The Magus mentioned you in his letter," he said. "Sit down." He gestured towards a low divan. "Tell me what is happening."

Faramir explained everything they had pieced together. "We believe that Baalhanno is responsible for the 'plague'," he said, "and I suspect that he intends to restore Queen Naqiya to the throne, as his puppet, and rule—"

"He wants more than that," said the Hatja with a dismissive gesture. "Kuri is our natural enemy. He intends to use her against us. He wants Carhilivren."

...

"But why does Baalhanno want the djinn?" asked Eowyn.

"The djinn," said the king, "once belonged to the wretch's mother, a beautiful sorceress—"

"Muttenbaal," said Niqmaddu.

"Yes. She seduced the Hatja of Carhilivren—your present Hatja's father—and the wretch was the result."

"He is the Hatja's brother!"

"Older, but illegitimate. Muttenbaal assumed that her son would inherit the throne of Carhilivren but, shortly after his birth, the Hatja's wife, who had been believed barren, conceived and presented the Hatja with a legitimate son. The sorceress and her child were banished."

"But how did my father obtain the djinn, your Majesty?" asked Hentmirë.

"I believe he tricked the sorceress into selling him the lamp," said the king.

"My father always was a cunning negotiator," said Hentmirë, proudly. "Many of his associates have told me so."

"By coincidence, Muttenbaal died shortly afterwards and, when your father summoned the djinn, he became its master."

"He was known for his luck, too," said Hentmirë.

"So Baalhanno lost his mother and his birthright in a single moment," said Niqmaddu. "That explains a great deal. And his powers were always quiescent within him. All it took was a few lessons from me to awaken them..." He shook his head, sadly. "I should have sensed it."

"You must not blame yourself, Magus," said Legolas, gently.

"But does Baalhanno have a use for the djinn, your Majesty?" asked Eowyn, unconsciously hugging her bag to her chest. "Does he mean to force the djinn to take part in his wickedness?"

"As I say," the king replied, "I did not understand much of what I heard. But I am convinced that the evil I told you of is a physical object. And I believe he intends to use the djinn to deliver it."

"Deliver it where?" asked Legolas.

"Carhilivren."

...

"The bastard must be stopped," muttered the Hatja. He turned to the captain of the ship. "Signal the rest of the fleet. We shall land in one hour."

"Yes, Excellency—"

"No!" cried Faramir, leaping to his feet and blocking the cabin door, physically preventing the captain from leaving. "You will start a war! And it is not necessary. The Magus and my friends will find Naqiya-Zakutu. Once she has been laid to rest, Baalhanno's plans will come to nothing."

"Sit down," said the Hatja, imperiously. "Sit down or—Prince or no Prince—I will have you thrown overboard!"

Faramir remained where he was. "I counsel you to wait," he said, calmly.

...

"May we see the spring, your Majesty?" asked Niqmaddu.

"The spring? Why?" asked the king.

The magician thought for a moment. "If you are certain, your Majesty, quite certain, that Baalhanno is not hiding in the Palace—"

"I am."

"Then we must begin by looking in the cave. When a place is closely associated with a particular magic," he said, exchanging the tiniest glance with Legolas, "it is sometimes possible, by visiting the place, to sense the magic's source..."

"I have never heard of that," said the king. "Very well. But I must take you there myself. Perhaps you would turn your backs for a moment, my ladies?" He took up a pleated linen kilt from the floor, wrapped it around his hips and knotted the belt at the front.

"You may look now," he said, smiling at Eowyn as her eyes met his. "Come..."

...

"I see no immediate threat to Carhilivren," said Faramir. "Give the Magus until daybreak—give him and Legolas the chance to settle the matter bloodlessly. If they have not returned by dawn, we will know that they have failed.

"And then it will be up to us."

...

Queen Naqiya's private apartments were decorated with exquisite refinement, but the furnishings were covered with a thick layer of sandy dust.

"I permit no one to enter," said the king, "not even to clean. The water is too great a temptation."

Legolas looked carefully at the marble floor. "The dust has been disturbed," he said, very softly, to Niqmaddu. "Swept—or moved magically, perhaps—to hide footprints." He glanced at the other elves; Haldir nodded in agreement. "We must be prepared."

"This way, sirs, Lady Eowyn, Lady Hentmirë," said the king, throwing open a pair of elaborately decorated doors.

Several of the party gasped. Inside the bedchamber, all was sophisticated—coloured stones, marble and granite, cut into intricate shapes, polished, and laid in neat patterns. Beyond the doors all was wild—ragged rock walls, dripping with iridescent green water and infested with monstrous creepers whose huge, spiked leaves and thick, trailing tendrils seemed to reach towards the open door...

"Stay well away from those," the king warned.

The small cavern ended in a narrow shaft that plunged deep into the rock beneath. Legolas stared anxiously into the darkness. There was a sound, too faint for men's ears—a strange, continuous hum, like a hive of angry bees—coming from the far end of the tunnel. "Can you use a sword, your Majesty?"

"I can," said the king. "Why do you ask?"

Legolas drew his white knives.

...

"If you act with the consent of the people of Kuri—"

"This is wasting time!" cried the Hatja. "Baalhanno has King Shamash under his thumb—"

...

"Wait for me here, gwendithen nín," said Legolas. "When this is over, I will take you back to Eryn Carantaur and you can live there with us for as long as you wish. I promise. But stay here." He kissed Hentmirë's forehead.

"I shall," she said.

Legolas turned to the king, who had found himself a scimitar. "Let us elves go first, your Majesty. Eowyn, Magus, stay close behind."

He led them into the narrow, steeply sloping corridor and followed it downwards, all his senses straining. With each step the humming noise grew louder, and now a strange orange light was casting lurid shadows on the walls and lending the trails of water a fiery glow...

At last, the tunnel opened into a natural hall.

Legolas halted at the cave mouth, sheathed his knives, and pulled his bow from its strap. "Ready?" he whispered to Haldir and Valandil. "Now!"

The three elves sprang into the larger space, their weapons raised.

There was no sign of Baalhanno or the woman, but none of them was aware of that, and neither did they notice the 'Fountain of Youth', with its evil-green water, cascading into the natural rock pool opposite the entrance.

Instead, their entire attention was fixed on the strange object at the centre of the cave.

...

Faramir had one card left to play. "Send the elves," he said.

"What?"

"To see what is happening. Elves are like shadows—they can pass amongst men without being seen. Send them to scout the city. If troops are being mustered they will signal and you can invade immediately. If not, they will gather valuable intelligence that you can use at daybreak."

There was a pause.

"One of my men goes with you," said the Hatja.

"We men lack the necessary stealth—"

"You, my man, and the elves," said the Hatja. "And if there is any hint of deception, my man will kill you."

...

I am become death, the destroyer of worlds…
Robert Oppenheimer, quoting the Bhagavad Gita

"It looks," said Eowyn, coming up behind Legolas, "like a tiny sun."

Floating above an open shell of pure mithril, two hemispheres of vivid orange were surrounded by a containing spell so powerful that—like a curtain of transparent fabric—its limits were visible to the naked eye as a distortion of the light.

"Keep well away from it, melmenya," said Legolas. "Magus—what is it?"

"I do not know..."

"It is the thing that destroys," said the king. "The wretch has created it."

...

"It seems I have underestimated you, daughter of Mursilis."

Hentmirë—peering anxiously through the cavern doors for any sign of Legolas' return—froze with her back to the speaker.

"You and your precious elf! It would be more fitting to kill you together. But no matter."

Hentmirë heard his robes rustle as he raised his wand. She bit her lip. Good bye, Legolas—

The blast hit her upper body, squeezing her internal organs mercilessly.

Good... Bye.

...

"Can we destroy it?" asked Legolas.

"No," said Niqmaddu. "I cannot penetrate the protective spell. And, even if I could, I would not know how to destroy it."

"Then what can we do—"

"Legolas," said Haldir, quietly but urgently, "someone is coming."

"Your Majesty, Magus, Eowyn: stand either side of the door!"

The elves trained their bows on the tunnel entrance. A moment later, a small, plump figure appeared in the archway.

Legolas swore. "I told you to wait in the Palace!" he cried.

"What is that?" asked Hentmirë, walking towards the strange object.

"We do not know—do not get too close!" Legolas caught her arm and pulled her back. "Go over there. Stand beside Valandil!"

...

The elves leaped up onto the wharf and disappeared into the shadows.

"Remember I have orders to kill you if they try anything foolish," said the Hatja's man, quietly.

Faramir shook his head. "For the hundredth time: we are both on the same side," he said. "And you will best serve your master by co-operating with us. Now, come."

...

Hentmirë glanced at Legolas, deep in discussion with Niqmaddu and King Shamash.

His back was turned.

She sidled closer to Valandil. "Go to sleep," she said, smiling as his body sagged, and his eyes closed.

She edged closer to Eowyn. "You cannot move; not one muscle," she whispered, nodding callously as the other woman's eyes suddenly filled with terror.

Silently, she worked her way round to Haldir. "He is not good enough for her," she said, softly. "But you cannot have her until he is dead."

...

Faramir and his three companions drew their swords and slipped into the Palace through an open door in the Great Gates.

Orodreth dropped to the ground and examined it carefully, tracing a faint mark with his fingertips. "These are Lady Eowyn's footprints," he said. "She went this way. Follow me."

...

"Soon after my aunt declared war on Carhilivren," said the king, "there was some sort of falling out. I think the wretch attempted to seduce her; at any rate, he betrayed her battle plans to the Hatja and she and her army were ambushed."

Niqmaddu shook his head. "It was not seduction," he said, "but a part of the Alchemy. He is the Sun, the male principle; she is the Moon, the female principle and his perfect sister. And that would explain why he has released her from the prison now. He is ready to perform the Transmutation, and needs her."

"You mean they created this by..." King Shamash made a vague gesture, shaking his head in disgust.

"Possibly. Possibly not," said Niqmaddu. "A powerful natural magician, like Baalhanno, risks losing his powers by lying with a woman. And I suspect that the work is still incomplete. A yolk does not fill its shell—"

"The white is missing!" said Legolas.

"Indeed."

"So all we need do is stop him creating the final part?" said the king.

"Unfortunately, I do not think that will be sufficient," said Niqmaddu. "The spell that surrounds this—this sun—is far more powerful than it would need to be were his aim merely to keep us out. I suspect that, without it, we would all burn up in its presence."

"Then what will happen if we kill Baalhanno?" asked Legolas.

...

"Kill Legolas, Haldir," said Hentmirë, softly. "Kill him now."

...

"STOP!" The king's personal bodyguards came running down the corridor, swords drawn.

"Hold them back," cried Faramir, pushing the Hatja's man towards them and following the elves into Queen Naqiya's apartments.

He barred the door behind him.

...

"It is possible," said Niqmaddu, "that if Baalhanno were to die, the sun would simply transmute back to its original matter. On the other hand—"

He was interrupted by the chilling sound of a great Galadhrim bow being fully drawn.

"Turn," said Haldir, "and face death like an elf."

"March Warden?" Legolas raised his hands in a peacemaking gesture. "Something has happened to you, Haldir: you are not yourself." He took a step forward. "Lower your bow."

"You are not good enough for her," said Haldir, taking a step back. "You were never good enough for her. She deserves so much more than you—"

Sitting motionless on the rock beside him, Eowyn began to make a strange keening sound.

"It will soon be over, meleth nín," said Haldir, "and then we will be together."

"Haldir," said Legolas, quietly, "these are not your own thoughts. Baalhanno is still inside your mind. Fight him."

"He is lying, Haldir," said Hentmirë. "Kill him."

"What? Oh, gwendithen nín!" cried Legolas.

He turned towards the little woman in disbelief, just as Haldir loosed the arrow.

...

"Down here," cried Orodreth, racing into the cavern.

"Ai!" He ducked as one of the plants reached for him, but did not notice a second thick tendril approaching from behind until it wrapped itself around his neck, and pulled his face towards a ring of waiting leaves. "Daro! Daro!"

But Faramir was already hacking through the green limb—it fell to the ground, twitching like a severed arm.

"Ai, ceryn glam!" gasped the Orodreth, rubbing his throat. "Hannon le! Thank you, your Highness."

Faramir shook his head with a deprecating smile.

"Look!" cried Camthalion, pointing down the tunnel.

Faramir peered into the faint orange glow. A familiar small figure, obviously in great pain, was crawling laboriously towards the light.

"Hentmirë!" Avoiding another tendril, Faramir ran to her side and lifted her, gently, into his arms.

"No!" she sobbed. "No! He is pretending to be me! And he is going to kill Legolas! I must warn Legolas!"

"We shall stop him, my dear," said Faramir. "Do not worry."

...

As Legolas turned to the false Hentmirë, Haldir's first arrow missed its target and, instead, hit King Shamash in the shoulder.

The March Warden nocked a second.

"Nooooooooooooo!" wailed Eowyn, through her frozen lips.

"Yes!" cried the false Hentmirë. "Yes! Kill him, Haldir!" She moved closer to Niqmaddu.

"Listen to Eowyn, Haldir," said a steady voice from the mouth of the cave. "She loves Legolas. She does not want you to hurt him. She will never love you if you hurt him..." Faramir gestured to Orodreth and Camthalion, meaning, Restrain him the moment Legolas is no longer in danger.

Haldir began to lower his bow.

"No," cried the false Hentmirë, taking another step towards the magician. "No! He is lying! Your Eowyn wants to be free of him!"

Haldir took aim again.

"That is not Hentmirë, Haldir," said Faramir, emphatically. "The real Hentmirë loves Legolas. This creature almost killed her, but I found her crawling down the tunnel, still trying to reach him, to protect him."

"Haldir," began the false Hentmirë, at the same time reaching for Niqmaddu—

"NO," cried Legolas, drawing his white knives and slicing through both of her wrists.

...

Everything happened at once.

Haldir fell to the ground, clutching his head.

Valandil awoke with a blood-curdling cry.

Eowyn sprang to her feet, screaming, "Legolas! Legolas!"

And the tiny sun went out.

...

Baalhanno, thrown abruptly into his own form, had scarcely enough magic left to stem the bleeding, but he managed, in the dark, to evade Legolas, slip past Faramir, and make his way up the tunnel.

With luck, he would still have enough power to seal them in the cavern, then he would find somewhere to hide until his body was rested and he could restore his hands...

As he reached the top of the slope something small caught his ankle, and held it fast, and, trying to pull himself free, he stumbled, and fell against the wall, hitting his head on a jagged outcrop.

Dazed, he slid to the ground.

And a thick green limb, snaking down from the wall, wrapped itself around his neck, and pulled his face towards a ring of waiting leaves.

 

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Legolas
Contents page

Contents

Previous chapter: The Sea and Sindbad's ship
The djinn plays his part.

Chapter 10

Next chapter: Just deserts
Evil is its own reward.

Chapter 12

Elvish
Daro! … ‘Stop!’
Glam is the collective noun for a group of orcs—pride of lions, glam of orcs.
Ceryn glam … ‘orcs’ balls’
Hannon le … ‘Thank you’