"Melmenya," cried Legolas, "melmenya,
where are you?"
"Here! I am here!"
Somehow, in the darkness, he found her and took her in his arms.
"I could not move," she whispered. "I could not
"Shhhhh, my darling." He held her tightly, as
though afraid she might still be stolen from him, "Oh, Eowyn
nín." Without the tiny sun, the cavern was
dark and eerily quiet. "Magus?"
"Can you give us some light?"
There was a rustling of robes, then Legolas heard the word "Burn!"
and all the torches in the cavern simultaneously burst into flame.
"The sun?" he said, "is it...?"
The Magus bent towards the Mithril shell, and sighed with relief.
"It is water and earth," he said.
"I must find Hentmirë," said Legolas.
"Yes, go to her," said Faramir, "both of you.
I will see to things down here."
Legolas seized a torch from the cavern wall and he and Eowyn
ran up the tunnel. Hentmirë was still crawling downwards,
her movements slow and painful. "I was not me," she
"Oh, gwendithen nín!" Handing the torch
to Eowyn, Legolas fell to his knees beside her.
"I was staying in the room, like you said."
"I know you were, mell nín," said Legolas.
"I know you were. Come, I shall carry you up to the Palace
and then the Magus will help you."
"I am too heavy," she wailed.
"No, you are not, gwendithen." He scooped her
into his arms and rose effortlessly to his feet. "I am an
Hentmirë grasped his waistcoat and, leaning close to his
ear, whispered, "I killed him."
"Baalhanno. I killed him."
They found the magician lying further up the tunnelarms
and legs stretched out in agonyhis lifeless body crushed
in the plant's thick, green coils, his face already partially
devoured by its spiked leaves.
"Dear gods," whispered Eowyn.
"Do not get too close, melmenya," said Legolas. "We
shall have him cut free and his remains sent back to the Hatja.
Faramir will deal with it."
Slowly, the others filed past Baalhanno's body: King Shamash
supported by Faramir; Valandil, helped by Niqmaddu; and a very
disoriented Haldir, escorted by Orodreth and Camthalion.
At Shamash's suggestion, Legolas carried Hentmirë to the
king's private chambers, where Niqmaddu quickly reversed the damage
Baalhanno had inflicted on her heart and lungs. Then the magician
also excised all remnants of magic from Eowyn, Valandil, and Haldir,
before beginning the long, slow task of visiting every room in
the palace and restoring the rats to their human forms.
"Do you require," asked Legolas, quietly, "that
my March Warden be punished for this, your Majesty?"
The king shook his head. "Without you and your companions,
Prince Legolas, I might have spent the rest of eternity as vermin!
And the wretch would undoubtedly have destroyed my land and my
people. You have rendered me a service beyond price," he
said, "all of you, and I would be churlish to seek
retribution." He lifted his hand from his shoulder and examined
the wound. "Besides," he added, "it is already
healing. It will be gone in moments."
He smiled, sadly.
Before daybreak, Faramir, the two elves, and the Hatja's assassinwho
had survived his epic battle with the king's bodyguards unscathedescorted
the King of Kuri's Ambassador to the Hatja's flagship.
"Welcome, Excellency," said the Ambassador, bowing
low. "His Majesty, Shamash III, King of Kuri, presents his
cordial greetings and begs that you and your retinue vouchsafe
to accept his hospitality..."
Whilst the formal arrangements were being made, Faramir apprised
the Hatja of his half-brother's plans and of his sorry fate.
"So I was right, and you were wrong," said the Hatja.
"Indeed," said Faramir. "It seems that, since
he could not rule it legitimately, he did intend to destroy Carhilivren.
We have brought his body back to you, to dispose of as you see
The Hatja nodded, gravely. "And the woman?"
"She has not been found," said Faramir. "But the
Palace guards are gradually being restored and the Palace is being
searched. It is only a matter of time."
"Do you have any weaknesses, your Majesty?"
"When we find your aunt," said the elf, slowly, "we
must kill heror, rather, kill her body, for Baalhanno has
already destroyed her spirit. It will be a mercy to lay her to
rest, both to her and to her followers."
"To her followers... You mean her soldiers? I thought you
said they died in the prison."
"They did, and their spirits are there still," said
Legolas. He described the despair that Valandil had sensed, and
the promise he had made.
The king listened gravely. "She made them swear allegiance
for as long as she lived," he said. "I thought it was
He looked up at the elf. "In the last two hundred years,
Prince Legolas, I have been stabbed, strangled, beaten senseless
twice and shot three times and, in every case, I recovered in
a matter of hours. I have no idea how to kill my aunt."
Searching for some wine to help Hentmirë sleep, Eowyn came
unexpectedly upon Haldir, standing by one of the great glazed
windows, gazing out across the City of Kuri.
"March Warden," she said, softly, "are you well?
In the cave, you seemed to be in pain."
Haldir could not bring himself to look at her. "It was nothing..."
He sighed. "Eowyn," he said, his eyes still averted,
"I can think of no words to express my remorse to you, and,
especially, to Legolas, for he has never shown me anything but
understanding. All I can do is apologise"
Eowyn placed her small hand on his arm. "You were not yourself."
"You think not? You are kind, as always. But I think that
I was more myself"
"No matter," said Haldir. "It will soon be put
"What do you mean?"
"II cannot say."
"Please," said Eowyn, "do not do anything foolish,
Haldir. Not on my account. Promise me!"
At last, the elf turned his face to her, and smiled, sadly. "Trust
me, Eowyn," he said. "And forgive me."
Faramir's next task was to find the Early Bird.
True to his word, Captain Mutallu had sent out a second rowing
boat to act as a marker buoytethered to the Bird, but far
enough away to be visible.
Faramir's boat slipped inside the shroud. "We are to moor
the Early Bird on the north dock," he shouted to the captain.
"The Magus will come down to the wharf and lift the spell
as soon as his work in the Palace is complete."
Troubled by Haldir's words, Eowyn had to pause and steel herself
before opening the door.
"Here we are," she said, laying her tray on the small
table beside Hentmirë's bed. "This is made, I am told,
from one of the local flowers, and it tastes like violets."
She handed the other woman a glass of pale, rose-pink wine.
Legolas, sitting on the opposite side of the bed, reached out
to steady Hentmirë's hand and help her take a sip. "How
are you feeling, gwendithen?" he asked.
Hentmirë smiled. "Much better, thank you," she
said. "Whatever the Magus did, all that terrible pain just
drained away. In fact, I feel better than ever!"
She took another sip. "Legolas..."
The elf smiled. "I know that look," he said, "what
is worrying you now, gwendithen nín?
"Did you mean it?"
"Of course he meant it," said Eowyn.
"And you do not mind?" asked Hentmirë.
"Of course not."
"Then when can we go?" she asked, beaming. "Soon?"
Legolas laughed. "As soon as we can settle your affairs,
and book passage"
"Oh no, my dear," cried Hentmirë. "Captain
Mutallu will take us."
"WILAWEN!" Valandil ran along the wharf. The berth
seemed empty, but from the direction of the sea he could hear
the sounds of a ship lying at anchor. "WILAWEN!" he
cried, "WILAWEN! CAN YOU HEAR ME?"
"The people of Minas Tirith can hear you," said a female
voice. "Wait: they are about to lower a gang plank."
A few moments later, she appeared from nowhere, on the quay beside
him. Valandil swept her into his arms.
"You survived, then," she said, burying her face in
"Only just," said the elf, kissing the top of her head.
Then he lifted her into the air and whirled her round, laughing.
"Put me down, you idiot elf!" cried Wilawen.
But she did not mean it.
Hentmirë had settled down to sleep.
Eowyn drew Legolas away from the bed. "I am worried about
Haldir," she said, softly. "He is behaving strangely."
"You think he is still enchanted?"
"No... No, I am sure he is free of that, at last. But I
think he feels a need to pay, somehow, for what he did."
Legolas sighed. "Stay with Hentmirë, melmenya. I shall
go and find him."
"You are certain that you want me to do this?" asked
"Perhaps you should discuss it with Prince Legolas first"
The magician sighed. "You are placing great trust in metrust
that is, perhaps, unwarranted."
"You seem to get it right most of the time."
Niqmaddu smiled. Then he said, "Have you really considered
what the absence of feeling might entail?"
"I have no choice. Things cannot be left as they are. What
happened down there must never happen again."
"Very well, then. Sit down and lean forwards." The
magician touched his wand to the back of elf's head. "Forget."
There was no bang, no flash, no fanfare. But when Haldir raised
his head, his face was wet with tears.
Once the Court had been restored, and the Palace was once more
running smoothly, and the route from the port to the Great Gates
had been cleared of its barricades, and all the broken doors and
windows had been covered over, King Shamash and his Inner Council
went down to the quayside and formally bid the Hatja of Carhilivren
"Too long," said the king, "have our countries
been sundered by the malice of one individual. Tonight, we shall
seal our new friendship with a Great Feast.
"And, tomorrow, we shall confirm our alliance with a formal
"He has done what?" cried Legolas.
"He has had his love for Princess Eowyn removed from his
heart and his mind," said Niqmaddu.
"And what effect will that have?"
"I do not know, exactly."
"Why did he not talk to me first?" asked Legolas.
"He did not want to burden you or, especially, Princess
Eowyn. And, of course, he was afraid that you might talk him out
"Pleasedo not tell Eowyn what he has done."
"Of course not."
Legolas turned to leavethen another thought occurred to
him: "Magus," he said, "what is to stop him falling
in love with her again the moment he sees her?"
"Nothing, your Highness," said the magician. "Absolutely
"I want the woman dealt with," said the Hatja, quietly,
as he preceded King Shamash into the king's palanquin. He waved
graciously to the cheering crowd.
"Naturally," said Shamash, taking the seat opposite.
"Will you return her to Carhilivren to complete her sentence?"
Shamash shook his head. "My poor aunt is beyond the laws
of men, Excellency. It is time she was sent to make peace with
"You intend to execute her?"
Shamash waved to the crowd. "Nothing public. She will be
treated mercifully and with compassion."
The big elf was sitting on a stone bench just outside the king's
apartments, leaning back against the marble wall, staring at the
Legolas threw himself down on the seat. "Do not tell Eowyn
what you have done."
"You have spoken to the Magus."
"Yes. Do not tell Eowyn."
"Of course not." Haldir looked down at his hands. "I
was not an innocent victim in this, Legolas," he said. "Baalhanno
took my feelings and distorted them, yes, but the feelings were
"Do you think," said Legolas, "that when Eowyn
was married to Faramir, I did not feel the same thing? That he
was not good enough for her?"
"But did you try to kill him?"
"Ceryn Manwë, edhel," cried Legolas, "if
I had, I should not have missed!"
There was moment's stunned silence. Then Haldir laughed.
Legolas grinned. "Why are you sitting outside the door?"
"I need to know if it has worked."
Legolas nodded. "Either way, you lose," he said.
Legolas quietly closed the door behind him.
Hentmirë was asleep, snoring lightly. Eowyn rose from her
chair and joined him.
"Did you find Haldir?" she whispered.
"I did," said Legolas.
"He is still blaming himself. But I do not think he will
do anything foolish now." It was not exactly a lie.
"Are you sure?"
Eowyn squeezed his arm, gratefully. "Thank you." Then,
"There is another thing," she said. "What am I
to do with the djinn?"
"He is your slave, melmenya," said Legolas, "for
as long as you live. So I do not think you have any choice but
to take him back to Eryn Carantaur with you. But I doubt that
he will object. Especially if you buy him a nice new lamp and
leave him undisturbed inside it."
King Shamash held the Great Feast that same night, with Legolas,
Eowyn, and the others seated at his own table and treated like
his own family.
And when the formal part of the evening was over, and the guests
had relaxed and begun to mingle, the people of the North found
themselves much in demand.
Haldir, sitting alone at the end of the table, glanced at Eowyn,
testing, for the hundredth time, the strange emptiness that flooded
his heart whenever he looked at her. She is beautiful,
he thought, so fragile and yet so strongit is no wonder
I loved her. And, in time, I could easily fall in love with her
He sighed. Are things any better than before?
One of the king's eunuchs was singing:
"The men in yon forest, they ask it of me,
'How many strawberries grow in the salt sea?'
And I answer them all with a tear in my eye,
'How many ships sail in the forest?'
Oh dig me a grave and dig it so deep,
And cover it over with flowers so sweet.
And I'll lay me down to take a long sleep
And maybe in time I'll forget her.
Haldir rose from his seat and left the Hall.
"Your small friend is very happy tonight," said King
Eowyn looked across the chamber to where Hentmirë was learningwith
little natural grace but with great determinationto dance
like an elf.
"I think she has everything she has ever wanted," she
said, smiling. "And she deserves it."
"That is a very generous sentiment," said Shamash.
Then he asked, softly, "You are like me, are you not?"
"You are no longer mortal, either."
"What makes you say that?"
"You are the only person hereapart from the elveswho
does not want the water." He smiled his sad smile. "Some
of them want it so fiercely that, given the chance, they would
kill to get it. And none understands what a burden it is... Tell
me: how can a woman who was born mortal be so calm at the prospect
of never-ending life?"
"I shall be with Legolas."
"Your Majesty... Did heBaalhannodid he approach
you? With the same promise of power that corrupted your
"How perceptive you are! Yes, he did. He was another who
misunderstood the nature of man."
He turned to face her and spoke vehemently: "I already have
what most desire, Princess EowynI do not age; I shall not
die. But a man is not equipped to outlive his allotted span. He
was never intended to see his childhood friends grow senile; to
feel his beloved wife age in his arms; to outlive his children,
and his children's children... And that is why I knew, without
a moment's thought, that power beyond the normal reach of man
was a thing to be feared, not welcomed. I sent him away."
Hentmirë, who had just returned to her seat, breathless,
caught the end of his answer. "Your Majesty," she asked,
"why did you not give your wife and children some water?"
"If a man is not immersed in the spring immediately after
birth, as I was, my lady," said the king, "he must drink
the water continually, over many years, to achieve the same result.
And my aunt guarded the source like a roc guards her eggs, making
her soldiers swear, on pain of death, to prevent anyone but her
from entering the cave. She would sell small quantities to the
rich and powerful, and allow her lovers to drink itwhilst
they remained in her favourbut she deliberately kept it
from my wife and children. And by the time I became king, they
"How sad," said Hentmirë, sincerely. "And
you have never met another woow!"
Eowyn had given her a sharp dig in the ribs.
Hentmirë changed the subject. "I would not want
to be immortal," she said. She dipped the tip of her finger
in a patch of spilled sugar. "But I do hope that the gods
grant me a long life." She drew a star in the white powder.
"I have already livedoh, a good many yearsbut
now that I have met Legolas and am going home with himand
with you, too, Eowyn, and the othersI should like a little
"So, you are saying that I must live in Minas Tirith with
you?" said Valandil. He followed Wilawen out onto the terrace.
"I am saying that I cannot leave my father there alone."
"Then bring him to Eryn Carantaur."
"He will not move, Valandil. He is far too set in his ways."
"You are doing it again!"
"Meleth nín," Valandil corrected, "let
me take you back to Minas Tirith and ask your father for your
hand. I will talk to him, elf-to-man. And either I shall persuade
him to come back with us, or I shall persuade myself to stay there
with you. We shall be together, Wilawen. I promise you."
Figwit, quite unaccustomed to crowds after his long isolation
in the prison, slipped out of the Banqueting Hall and wandered,
shyly, along the cooler, quieter corridors, admiring the artificial
forests adorning their walls.
He paused for a moment beside a fine mural, depicting some golden
age when men and strange beastsbig, fierce cats, and huge,
tusked pigs, and water-dwelling dragonslived together in
"There is something unwholesome in the way they counterfeit
nature, do you not think?" asked a familiar voice. "The
dwarves, at least, are honest in their use of stone..."
Figwit smiled. "I find it charming, March Warden,"
he said, "that a people who have so little chance to see
trees should love them so much, and depict them with such"
He stopped, mid sentence, his face frozen with horror.
"Aegnor," said Haldir, softly, "what is it?"
He turned, slowly, following the other elf's gaze. "Oh Valar!"
A womantall, slender, with long black hairwas emerging
from a field of ripe corn. She crossed the corridor, seemingly
oblivious to the two elves, and disappeared into the tangled undergrowth
between two mighty trees.
"Is that her?"
"The doors she is using are hidden by some spell. That is
why they could not find her... Come! I think I know where she
The doors to Naqiya-Zakutu's apartments were locked, but Haldir
prised them open with his sword and led Figwit through the chambers
and down the sloping tunnel to the mouth of the cavern.
Figwit caught his arm. "Perhaps we should go back and get
help," he whispered.
"No. She has no magician to help her now." Haldir stepped
into the cave, sword drawn.
Naqiya-Zakutu was standing beside the rock pool, staring down
into the green water. It would have been easy to attack her from
behindto take off her head with a single blowbut,
now that it came to it, Haldir could not bring himself to strike
her without warning.
"Madam," he said, quietly.
The woman turned, and stared at him with dead, unseeing eyes.
Then her gaze shifted. "Fig-wit," she said, and smiled.
Her voice was a dry rattle, and her smile was contorted, but there
was a grotesque affection in her manner...
"Oh Valar," gasped Figwit.
Naqiya took a few steps towards him.
"Back!" cried Haldir, stepping between them. "I
A single blow from Naqiya's small fist sent the March Warden
Figwit panicked. "No!" He cried, "No! I shall
not submit to you! No!" He flew at her, pushing her with
all his strength. "No, no, no..."
She collided with the low wall of the enchanted pool and, as
she fell backwardsso slowlyinto the water's evil-green
depths, the expression on her face seemed to turn from love, to
dismay, and then to immense sadness.
"Oh no," sobbed Figwit, "no..." but, still,
he held her head beneath the water.
She hardly struggled.
And very soon her movements ceased altogether.
"I am sorry," sobbed Figwit. "I am sorry."
The elves carried Naqiya-Zakutu's body to her own apartments
and laid her upon her bed, then Haldir returned to the Banqueting
Hall to inform King Shamash of his aunt's death.
Accompanied by Eowyn, the king came to see her for himself.
"She looks at peace," he said, softly. "May the
gods be merciful to her..." He turned to Figwit. "I
must apologise, sir, for the horrors you have endured at her hands
and those of her accomplice. I am told that you were waiting to
sail West when you were taken. I cannot replace the years you
have lost, but my personal shipwrights are at your disposal, should
you wish to build another ship and continue your journey."
Figwit placed his hand upon his heart and bowed his head. "Thank
you, your Majesty," he said, "you are most kind."
The king offered his arm to Eowyn. "Strange," he said,
as he led her through the door, "that the water should be
its own cure. If I had known"
"Please, your Majesty," said Eowyn. "Do not do
"Would it really be so wicked, my lady? When I am so, so
tired? After all, the elves leave the world when they tire of
"But you are a man," said Eowyn. "And a
They walked slowly down the corridor. "Not all of the elves
have left, your Majesty," she said. "Legolas is restoring
the forests of South Ithilien and his father is protecting Eryn
Lasgalenboth are doing important work." She did not
mention that Legolas would also stay for her. "You inherited
a similar duty. And your countryyour peopleneed your
leadershipnow, more than ever."
Shamash sighed. "You shame me, my lady."
Eowyn smiled. "No, your Majesty. You carry a heavy burden,
and you carry it alone. But it may not always be so. Perhaps"
She hesitated a moment, then continued: "Yes, I know I can
speak for Legolas in this. Whenever you need time to rest, and
reflect, there will always be a place for you amongst the immortals
of Eryn Carantaur."
"Thank you," said Shamash, "thank you, my lady."
He kissed her hand. "Your husband is a lucky elf."
Eowyn slipped off her embroidered shoes and, hand-in-hand, she
and Legolas walked along the deserted beach.
"It is doing my spirit good to see the sea," said Legolas.
"Does it still call to you?"
Legolas smiled. "Yes..."
"I am so sorry, Lassui."
"When I was changed," she said, "you lost any
chance of sailing West."
"Melmenya!" He was taken aback. "How could you
say that to me? How could you think it?"
"I thought we understood each other! Come!" he said.
He pulled her across the sand and, at the water's edge, grabbed
her by the waist andquite roughlypushed her to the
A small wave broke, spread up the shallow slope, then ebbed awayand
Eowyn gasped as its cold water touched her bare back and shoulders.
Legolas pulled up her skirts.
"Shhhhh." He leaned forward and covered her
mouth with his own, and she felt his body lift up, and his hand
fumble with his own lacings, and then he was crushing her again
and his hard ceber was pressing against her sensitive flesh,
and it felt beautiful.
She opened her legs wider and
Another wave broke and surrounded her, soaking her skin and floating
and then he was inside her.
He rose up on his hands, and she watched himglowing faintly
against the night sky, his face transformed by passionher
wild, beautiful wood elf, possessed by the sea, fucking her with
its ebb and flow.
She stretched out her hands, and joined him, at one with the
sea, catching each wave as it broke and releasing it as it slipped
There was no sudden climax for her this time but, instead, a
long, slow kindlingof her core, and her belly, her breasts,
and all her limbsand a prolonged, almost unbearably sweet,
burning, and then a gradual dying away...
And then she felt him come, without a sound, his face
buried in the crook of her neck.
"Oh, Lassui." She stroked his hair.
"Do not think I will ever leave you," he whispered.
"The sea is part of me, melmenya. But you are my life."