The roc flew along the shorelinekeeping a
careful watch for other birdsuntil, at last, she spotted
her destination and, sweeping in a gentle arc, struck out across
the dark sea towards the tiny islet where she knew that her masterstill
saddened by her earlier failurewould be waiting in his lonely
"Tell me more about your colony, my dear," said Hentmirë.
They were sitting on her balcony, drinking iced tea, and watching
the sun set over the sea. To his right, through the windows of
his own bedroom, Legolas could see Eowyn, dressed in her loose
trousers, practising her sword techniques with a wooden dolly
she had borrowed from the laundry. He smiled.
"It is called Eryn Carantaur," he said, "which
means 'Great Red Forest'."
"The trees are red?"
"All year round. And tall," said Legolas. "The
oldest are hundreds of feet high. Most of the city is built amongst
their branches. Our homes are in the trees and the forest is a
part of our lives."
"And you are its ruler? But you are so young!"
Legolas laughed. "I am almost three thousand years old,
"Three thousand years! I cannot imagine"
Sensing a third presence on the balcony, both Hentmirë and
Legolas turned towards the door. "What is it, Rimush?"
"A letter, my lady," said the servant, bowing, "addressed
to you. It was not formally delivered, just pushed under the iron
gates, and no one in the house saw the messenger."
"Thank you, Rimush." Hentmirë took the scroll
from him. "There will be no answer. You may go." She
broke the seal, unrolled the papyrus, and quickly scanned its
Legolas watched her with interest. Though, outwardly, she appeared
calm, he could sense her mounting anxiety. "My lady,"
he ventured, quietly, "what is it?"
"It is nothing," said the woman. "Nonsense."
She screwed the letter into a ball and threw it on the floor.
"But I am quite tired, now, my dear, so I think I would like
Though troubled by her change of mood, Legolas immediately rose
to leave, but Hentmirë caught his arm. "You must promise
me, faithfully, Legolas, that you will never leave the house at
"My lady," said Legolas, "Eowyn and I have already
given you our word that we shall not run away..."
The woman looked confused. "Yes! Yes, you have." She
released his arm.
But then she caught his hand again. "No," she said.
"No! This is different, Legolas. Please promise me."
"What was in that letter?"
"Nothing," cried Hentmirë. "It was nothing,
justjust leave me."
"Look at the island," shouted Valandil, pointing towards
a tiny rock standing isolated in the deep blue ocean. "It
looks as though there is some sort of building carved into the
cliff." He peered intently, craning his head forward. "Yes!
And I can see someone," he cried, "standing on top of
the tower. I think he is calling to the bird! Can you see him?"
Wilawen did not respond.
Valandil turned to her anxiously, not knowing whether she was
too exhausted to speak or whether she simply could not hear him
over the beating of the bird's wings. "Wilawen?"
Still no response.
Then the roc stilled her wings and, fanning out her feathers
to catch the air, began a rapid descent towards the mysterious
island, and Valandil instinctively closed his eyes, so he did
not see the precision with which the bird opened her claws at
the critical moment, dropping him and Wilawen onto the stone terrace,
nor how she turned abruptly, and rose again, and swooped a second
time to land neatly on the low wall herself.
It was the bird's cry of joy that brought him back to his senses.
He opened his eyes and stared at the graceful elf standing beside
"Figwit!" he cried. "What are you doing here?"
"Legolaswhat is wrong?" asked Eowyn. She
caught the elf by the arm and, partially supporting his weight,
led him to the chair beside the dressing table and sat him down.
"What is wrong, my love?" she repeated, gently sliding
his short, embroidered waistcoat off his shoulders.
"It is not the physical confinement," said Legolas,
shaking his head, bitterly. "It is the surrender of all responsibility
that is unbearable. It isoh
" His complaint
turned into a sigh of pleasure as Eowyn began to massage his neck
and shoulders. "Oh, do not stop..."
Eowyn smiled. "Just for a moment," she said. Carefully,
she gathered Legolas' loose hair, twisted it, and secured it with
his mother-of-pearl comb. Then she selected a small jar from the
array of pretty bottles on the dressing table, uncorked it, and
poured a little of its contents onto her hands.
"Your Hentmirë is a strange woman," she said,
rubbing her hands together. "When she gave me this oil she
told me that her mother used to use it to soothe her father's
aches and pains. I told her that elves do not have aches and pains..."
She began to knead the tense muscles in Legolas' neck. "It
seems I was wrong. Tell me what has happened."
Legolas told her about the letter. "She will not talk about
it, melmenya. I know she is being threatenedbut if she will
not speak to me, what can I do?"
"You are not responsible for her, my darling."
"But she is so unworldly, Eowyn nín. She only
survives because she is rich."
"It is being rich that has made her unworldly, Legolas.
Had she not been so rich, she would have had to learn to survive,
like the rest of us." Eowyn sighed. "But I can see that
you will not be reasoned with, my darling, so... What did she
do with the letter?"
"She threw it on the floor."
"Of the balcony?"
"Then what are you waiting for? Go and get it!" She
wiped her hands on a small towel then pulled him to his feet.
"Go on," she said, pushing him out onto their own balcony.
"It cannot be more than three yards. And I have seen you
jump three times that."
Legolas grinned. "You exaggerate, melmenya, but you are
right; it is not too far..."
He leaped onto the balcony wall, jumped across the gap, and dropped
silently onto Hentmirë's balcony. Moments later he was back,
"It has gone," he said.
"Perhaps one of the servants has tidied it away," said
"No," said Legolas. "Hentmirë sent everyone
away. She must have come back for it herself."
"So she is worried..." said Eowyn.
Eowyn held out her hand. "Come," she said. "You
can concern yourself with this again tomorrow. Tonight, I have
plans for you."
"I am not sure that I am in the mood, melmenya"
"I will not have her come between us, Legolas."
The elf smiled, ruefully. "I cannot win, can I?"
"Oh, I do not know about that," said Eowyn, leading
him back indoors. "I think that most elves would consider
me a rare prize."
"Valar, it glows."
"Mmm. It contains pepper oil," said Eowyn, massaging
another of Hentmirë's balms into his buttocks and down the
backs of his muscular thighs, "to relieve more severe aches."
She leaned forwards and placed a soft kiss on the back of his
neck. "But Hentmirë's maid, who worked at Arinna's in
her younger days, tells me that a 'glow', as you called it, on
the back of the legs has a very interesting effect certain other
Legolas squirmed beneath her, rubbing himself against the bed.
"She is right."
"That is why some men enjoy being whipped, apparently..."
"I am quite sure," said Legolas, "that being whipped
is highly overrated."
"You never know," said Eowyn, "you may want to
try it later." She nipped his ear.
"Oh..." His hips moved again. "I do not think
I approve of your taking lessons from a former whore."
"You may change your mind about that, too. Turn over,"
she said, softly.
"Do not rub your oil there!"
Eowyn laughed. "Turn over!"
"There are far better ways to relieve that ache."
"I know." She leaned down and kissed his ceber,
gently brushing her lips over its head. "But," she whispered,
"since you will not allow me to touch it"she wriggled
her oily fingers"you will have to help me."
Smiling up at her, and with a touch of pride on his beautiful
face, Legolas used his hand to raise himself. Eowyn sank down
upon him, rocking her hips, pressing his oiled buttocks into the
bed. "How does that feel?" she asked. She leaned forwards
and kissed his mouth.
"Good," he answered, through clenched teeth. "Very
"It is quite nice from where I am sitting. Mmmm."
She smoothed her oily hands over his straining muscles, leaving
a glistening trail on his arms, his chest and his taut belly.
Then, grasping his wrists and pinning them to the bed, she began
to slide up and down on him, grinding her hips, until the elf's
sighs of pleasure had hardened into moans.
"Sweet Eru, melmenya," he sobbed, writhing in her fiery
grip, "I am going to drown you!" He began to thrust,
wildly. Eowyn drew herself upright and, still riding him hard,
pressed her hands down on his belly, just above his golden curls.
"Cuinon!" screamed the elf. "Cuinon!
YES!" And he let out a long, throaty roar as his body convulsed
and, spasm after spasm, all the frustrations of the day burst
out from him.
Two days later
"Follow me," shouted Oliel, over his shoulder, a, barging
through the crowds of people lining the wharf, he led the way,
through narrow, twisting streets, to a noisy tavern on the very
edge of the souk. "The Black Beast," he said.
"Most of the slave captains come hereit's where
they buy and sell amongst themselveslike a corn exchange
for slaves. I have a very good contact here."
He reached for the door.
"Now remember: be discreet," he said. "Most of
these animals would kill you as soon as look at you." He
nodded at Haldir, waited until the elf had pulled his traditional
Haradin headdress more securely over his ears, then shouldered
his way through the heavy door. The tavern was heaving with sailors,
talking, laughing and drinking with abandon, and Oliel greeted
several men as he wound his way towards the bar. Faramir and Haldir
followed him as best they could, Faramir nodding, in a curt, business-like
way, to Oliel's acquaintances.
"Bodeshmun," cried Oliel, slapping one man on the back.
"I believe you owe me a drink!"
The man turned to face him with a flash of anger in his eyes.
Then, recognising his associate, he smiled. "Your memory
is failing, Oliel," he replied, "for it is you, I assure
you, that owes me a drink."
Oliel caught the landlord's eye. "A tankard of your best
for Captain Bodeshmun, when you are ready, and three more for
me and my friends." He drew Bodeshmun away from the bar.
"I may have brought you a bit of business, Bodesh,"
The other man quickly downed the remainder of his ale and dumped
the empty tankard on the counter. "You know I'm always open
for business," he said, wiping his mouth with the back of
his hand. He looked appraisingly at Faramir and Haldir. "Hmmm,"
he said, "come with me." He led them into the much quieter
parlour. "Now, what can I do for you, friends?"
Oliel gestured at Faramir.
"We are looking," said Faramir, "for four elves"
"And a blonde woman," added Haldir.
"Yes." Faramir glanced at Haldir, silently ordering
him to be careful. "They would have arrived on the True Friend,
in the last day or so."
Bodeshmun nodded. "Three elves," he said, "but
only one was auctioned. And a womana real heartbreaker,
rumoured to be a princess"
"That is she," said Haldir.
"Fancied her myself. What do you want with them?"
"We want them back," said Faramir.
Bodeshmun nodded. "Let's get out of here," he said.
We could not be any more of a target if we were carrying a sign
saying 'archery butts', thought Legolas, as he and Hentmirë
moved slowly through the souk, carried in the woman's palanquin
by her four attendants.
The letter had been a threat. Legolas was certain of that now
for, although Hentmirë was still refusing to talk about it,
Eowyn had quizzed the servants and discovered that there had been
many letters, all delivered by hand, all making Hentmirë
behave strangely, insisting that no one leave the house after
Legolas scanned the bustling crowd. Any one these men could
get close enough to use a knife on her. I would never see it coming,
he thought. And if he used a bow...
He scanned the buildings above the wooden stalls. Windows,
balconies, flat roofs... He could be waiting anywhere.
He closed his eyes and tried to use his other senses to detect
any immediate danger.
"Look!" cried Hentmirë.
Legolas automatically reached for his white knives.
"What are you doing my dear?" asked the woman, laughing.
"I just wanted to show you the lovely saddles. Look,"
she said, happily, pointing to a stall selling richly tooled leather
ware, "would you like one of those?"
"Elves do not usually ride with a saddle," said Legolas,
"and you have already given me more than enough gifts, my
lady." He hesitated. "But, if you will buy me something
more, what I need is a weapon"
"A weapon!" Hentmirë shook her head. "No,"
she said. "A servant who carries a weapon is a target for
his master's enemies. You are safer without, my dear."
"My lady, you are clearly being threatened"
"My mind is made up, Legolas."
"Wines! Wines! Come buy my wines!
Lovely sweet whites from Harlindon;
Robust ruby reds from Dorwinion
"Come now, sir," said the wine seller, grasping Faramir
by the arm, "you look like a man who knows his wines. Taste
this and tell me what you think."
"Perhaps later, madam," said Faramir, smiling. He bowed
politely and pushed his way back into the crowd, quickening his
pace to catch up with the others.
Without warning, Bodeshmun ducked behind a tailor's stall, took
a key from around his neck, unlocked the small, low door to what
looked like a warehouse, and motioned them inside.
"Now gentlemen," he said, locking the door behind him,
"we can talk. What do you want from me?"
Faramir looked around. His first impression had been right: it
was a warehouse, stacked floor to ceiling with bales of
cheap cloth. "We wantfor want of a better wordto
buy our friends back," he said. "Oliel tells us you
can help us."
"Five thousand now, another five on delivery," said
Bodeshmun. "In metal."
"Agreed," said Faramir. "But I do not carry so
much with me, for obvious reasons."
"We cannot do business until you hand it over," said
"Sir," began Haldir, with a coldness that made the
man's eyes widen, "if you know the whereabouts of Lady Eo"
"They are good for it, Bodesh," said Oliel, suddenly.
"I will vouch for them. And you can collect the money from
Bodeshmun sighed. "It's irregular," he said. "But,
since Oliel trusts you... Sit down." He perched himself on
a pile of cotton. "No? Suit yourselves." He took a deep
breath. "Three elves, two men and seven women arrived on
the True Friend two days ago and were taken to Arinna'sthat's
a whorehouse on the edge of town. Milkherem pays Arinna to prepare
his goods for marketwash them, dress them up, and so on.
Now," he said, "three elves went in but only
one came out"
"How do you know this?" asked Faramir.
"I make it my business to know. Only one came outthe
pretty one that couldn't keep his hands off the blonde woman"
"Legolas," said Haldir. "But there were three
others. What happened to them?"
Bodeshmun shook his head. "Only two," he said. "And,
word is, Arinna took a fancy to them and kept them. They will
be easy to get outif, that is"he winked"they
want to leave their beautiful and, ahem, very talented new mistress."
"What happened to Legolas and Eowyn?" asked Faramir.
"The pretty elf and the woman were both bought by the same
Haldir sighed with relief.
"A rich spinstervery richHentmirë, daughter
of Mursilis. Said to be worth a cool ten million." He nodded,
as if to confirm the sum. "The woman has not been seen since.
The elf, on the other hand, is now old Hentmirë's prize possession
and has been seen, on numerous occasions, riding in her palanquin
with her, dressed up like a tart."
"Do you have a contact in the house?" asked Oliel.
"No one official," said Bodeshmun. "But I've never
met a servant yet who can't be bought."
"Where is the fourth elf?" asked Faramir. "They
"If you say so."
"Where is he?"
Bodeshmun shrugged his shoulders. "He never got off the
ship," he said. "So he's either still on itwhich
is unlikely, since the only person who could afford him is Milkherem
and his tastes are surprisingly conventionalor he
left before the ship reached the harbour. Not our problem..."
"Yes it is," said Haldir. "We must find him. He
is my responsibility. I left him on watch."
"Haldir," said Faramir, gently, "the others may
be able to tell us where he is."
"Yes," said Haldir, "yes." He paced up and
down in the small space, obviously trying to decide what to do
next. "First," he said, "we must rescue Legolas
He turned to Faramir. "Give the man his ten thousand. We
will do it ourselves."
"Whatever did Eowyn do, to make you love her so?" asked
Legolas was taken aback. "Nothing, my ladybut everything.
She is my heart's own choice, the companion of my spirit."
"Do you think that you might learn to love another, in time"
Legolas shook his head. "No, my lady. An elf lovestruly
lovesonly once. He may care for others. But he loves only
"But Eowyn is a woman," said Hentmirë, "and
you will live forever. What will happen when she dies?"
"When an elf's love dies," said Legolas, evasively,
"he spends the rest of eternity alone, unless he dies too."
"Of a broken heart?"
"Yes my lady."
"Then we had better take good care of Eowyn..."
Legolas smiled. "May I ask you an impertinent question,
"You may. But I need not answer it."
"How did you come to be left alone?"
The woman stared at him.
"I am sorry my lady; I have gone too far."
"No... No," said Hentmirë, quietly. "It is
all right. My parents were quite old when I was born. My mother
died when I was twelve and my father followed her a few weeks
laterlike an elf, you see. I had no brothers or sisters
and I was left very richlike the girl in the Fairy Tale"she
smiled"but not, like her, beautifulnever beautiful.
There was a man, once. But I knew that all he wanted was
my money. So I sent him away. And then I waited."
"For what, my lady?" asked Legolas.
"For fate to bring me my heart's own choice, the companion
of my spirit. But it never did. That is, until you came."
"Do not say anything, Legolas. Let me pretend. Just for
a few hours."
Faramir followed the big elf out of the building. "Where
are you going?"
"To find this Lady Hentmirë," said Haldir.
"And do what?"
Haldir stopped. "From what we have just been told,"
he said, "that woman has Eowyn scrubbing floors and washing
dishes and Legolas sharing her bed. What do you think I
am going to do?"
He started walking again.
"Leave it to me," said Faramir.
Haldir shouldered his way through a group of men, clustered around
a small stage, watching a woman discarding heralready flimsyclothing.
"Orc's breath, what a place!" he cried. "Leave
what to you, your Highness?"
"Let me talk to her," said Faramir.
Haldir stopped again and, this time, turned to face the man.
"Because you are a soldier. And this calls for a diplomat,"
"I am not leaving Eowyn in that house a second longer"
"A moment ago we thought she might have been tortured and
raped!" said Faramir. "Now you are angry because she
may be scrubbing floors! Eowyn is not the type to baulk at a little
menial labour. If you go at this like a bull at a gate you will
"It is not the menial labour I am concerned about,"
said Haldir. "It is the other thing that she is having
to endure. Watching that woman with Legolas..." He shook
his head. "And you will forgive me," he added, "if
I question the judgement of a man who had his marriage to Eowyn
"I shall pretend that I did not hear that, March Warden,"
said Faramir, with a distinct edge to his voice. "Lookwhat
will you do? Hmm? Threaten the woman? I will negotiate."
Haldir sighed. "We shall both go," he said.
"Good. Then slow down. We need to find the Great Royal Road
that runs along the sea shore. Bodeshmun said to take the first
turning on the left, which would be over there...
"Haldir! Look! Look over there!"
"My lady! Stop!"
"What? What is it?"
"My friends!" cried Legolas, jumping out of the palanquin,
leaving Hentmirë's four attendants struggling to keep it
"No, Legolas! It is getting late!" cried Hentmirë.
But the elf had already disappeared into the crowd.
"Help me out, Rimush," said Hentmirë, urgently.
"My lady, it is not safe here."
"You shall accompany me," said the woman. Taking her
servant's hand, she climbed carefully down the steps of the palanquin
and hurried in pursuit of Legolas, pausing impatiently when anyone
blocked her path until he or she had the courtesy to step out
of the way.
"Faramir! Haldir!" cried Legolas. He embraced Faramir.
"Eowyn said that you that would find us. 'Faramir is clever,'
she said, 'and'"he greeted Haldir in a more
elven fashion"'Haldir will never give up on us.'
It is so good to see you both!"
"Another elf!" cried a feminine voice behind him.
Legolas shot his friends a slightly rueful smile then turned
and held out his arm. Hentmirë came forward and took his
hand. "This," said Legolas, "is Lady Hentmirë,
who showed me a kindness I can never repay when she rescued Eowyn
from the slave market. I shall always be in her debt. My lady,
this is my friend, Faramir, Prince of Ithilien"
Hentmirë curtseyed, respectfully. "Your Highness,"
"And this," said Legolas, "is another friendand
the March Warden of Eryn CarantaurHaldir of Lorien."
Hentmirë hesitated for a split second, clearly unsure of
the correct form address for an elven March Warden, then, "My
lord," she said, curtseying again.
"Lady Hentmirë," said Faramir, bowing politely,
"I know that I also speak for my companion"he
turned towards Haldir, and Haldir nodded"when I say
that there are not words sufficient to express our thanks for
your humane treatment of our friends. Might we be permitted to
see Lady Eowyn?"
"Come home with us? Of course, my dears," said Hentmirë.
"Though we must hurry. And, I am afraid, you will have to
"That will be no trouble, my lady," said Haldir, graciously,
his earlier opinion of her apparently forgotten.
Beaming happily, Hentmirë allowed Legolas to lead her back
to the palanquin and hold her hand whilst she climbed in. "But
you will still ride beside me, my dear?" she asked, a brief
moment of anxiety marring her excitement.
"Of course," said Legolas.
"It will be such fun," said Hentmirë, clapping
her hands together. "How long do you think they will stay?"
Legolas smiled. "I do not think they intend to stay long,
my lady," he said, gently.
"Oh, but they must at least let me show them around the
citythe Great Palace, and the Tombs of the Ancients, and
the Golden Hall of Eshmunazarand we must visit my riding
stableswe can all go riding, my dear! And then there is
"I did not realise that you had a ship, my lady," said
"Oh yes, with its own crew."
Legolas smiled. "I am sure they will stay for a few days,"
he said. "And who knows, they may decide to return your hospitality."
"What do you mean?"
"They may invite you to Ithilien."
"I could see your colony!"
Legolas nodded. "You could."
"Oh! But..." Hentmirë bit her lip. "You promised
me, faithfully, Legolas, that you would never leave me,"
she said. "You and Eowyn both promised."
"And we shall keep our word," said Legolas. Then he
added, softly, "Unless you choose to release us."
It was already growing dark when they left the souk, and Hentmirë's
happiness was beginning to turn to anxiety. "Hurry, Rimush,"
she cried. "We must not be out of doors after dark."
"Why is that, my lady?" asked Legolas.
Hentmirë looked uncomfortable. "It is just... a superstition
of mine," she said.
"Your face was not made to hide untruths, my lady."
Hentmirë did not reply. And, despite her urging, by the
time they reached the house the sun had already disappeared beneath
the horizon. The attendants lowered the palanquin and waited for
the door keeper to open the gates.
"Hurry," muttered Hentmirë. "Hurry! Please,
hurry!" She rose to her feet and climbed, without assistance,
down onto the road. "Yassib," she cried, "Please
The gate keeper emerged from his kiosk carrying a large bunch
of keys. "I'm sorry, my lady," he said, shuffling forwards,
trying to find the right key, "I must have dozed off."
Hentmirë turned to her guests. "I must apologise, your
Highness, my lord, for keeping you both waiting like this..."
"Pray, do not trouble yourself, Lady Hentmirë,"
said Faramir, graciously.
Haldir placed his hand over his heart and bowed. "Henion,
hiril nín," he said.
A slight figurealmost invisible in jet black robesemerged
from the darkness and touched the elf's brow with a slender wand.
There was a bright flash.
And by the time the others had regained their sight, both Haldir
and his mysterious assailant had disappeared. All that remained
where they had been standing was a very angry baboon.