"There's a somebody I'm longing to see
I hope that he
Turns out to be
Someone to watch over me..."
Tall and lovely, and with a voice like honey, the elleth drifted
from table to table, teasing every man in the room with the suggestion
that he might be that someonethe one to unleash the
passions hidden beneath her serene exterior.
"I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood
I know I would
Always be good
To one who'd watch over me..."
Her song came to an end and, after briefly acknowledging the
applause, she made her way to the bargracefully avoiding
several drunken advancesand sought out a handsome, middle-aged
"I waited for you last night, Rib," she said. "Where
"That's so long ago I don't remember," replied the
"Will I see you tonight?"
"I never make plans that far ahead."
"Ohhhh..." The groan came from deep in Eowyn's
Legolas, kneeling between her spread legs, smiled against the
delicate skin of her inner thigh, and kissed it lightly.
"Shhhhh..." The elf turned his headbrushing
her with his silky hairand, whisper-soft, ran his tongue
over her centre, probing gently.
"Ohhhh!" Clutching the coverlet in both hands,
Eowyn arched her body, squeezing her muscles tight.
Legolas slid onto the bed and, holding her by the waist, turned
her on her side with her back to his chest.
"What are you"
"Shhhhh..." He pulled her close, softly biting
her exposed neck, and gently kneading her breasts and belly.
It was all too much. "Pleaseplease Lassui," she
wailed, her body trembling, "I cannot bear it!"
He said nothing; but, without warning, he slipped his hand beneath
her upper thigh, raised her leg, and drove himself inside her.
"Ohhhh!" she cried. She was so sensitive now,
each deep thrust seemed to be touchingslicing throughevery
particle of her body. "Oh," she sobbed, from the tight
cage of his arms, "ohhhh!"
She was already teetering on the brink when he suddenly rolled
her over and, rising up on his knees, drew her onto all fours.
"Come now, Melmenya," he whispered, "come for me..."
He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her into the air and,
for a few terrifying moments, she hung upon him, moaning in something
close to agony.
But then his climax filled her belly and she, too, found
"Melmenya..." He kissed her hand.
In response, she drew their entwined fingers to her own lips.
Then, "You look tired, my love," she said.
"That is your fault."
"No, it is more than that. You look... wan."
"I think it is this place, melmenya. A country where there
are no treesexcept in pots."
"Oh, my darling...." She took him in her arms, settling
his head on her breast. "It will not be long now, Lassui.
Captain Mutallu calls it the 'Raging Calm'. We have been unluckyhe
says it does not normally happen at this time of year, and he
is confident that the wind must return before the end of the month.
Then we can sail."
"I suppose it will give us a chance to find Vardamir."
"There is still no sign of him?"
"No. Faramir has spoken to most of Captain Oliel's contacts
butalthough there is talk of an elleth singing in one of
the tavernsno one will admit to knowing anything about an
elf. Valandil is beginning to think that he imagined seeing
"Poor Valandil. Do you think the elleth might know something?"
Legolas smiled. "She might, melmenya. Faramir is looking
into it now."
Eowyn stroked his hair. "There must be some trees here,
Lassui," she said, "somewhere. Hentmirë will know..."
"The Silk Road," read Haldir, looking up at the painted
"Mmm," said Faramir. "Apparently, the tavern is
named after a caravan route. Its owner goes by the name of Ribhadda"
"Goes by the name of?"
"Well, according to Captain Oliel, he is a northerner, like
us, so that is clearly not his real namehe must have something
to hide. But Oliel says he is a decent enough fellow, though a
law unto himself."
"A human, then," said Haldir, softly. "Does the
captain know anything about the elleth?"
"Only that she is tall and dark and very beautiful."
"An elleth, then."
"Let us go in."
The interior of the tavern was a pleasant surprisea large,
open chamber, spotlessly clean, lined with white marble and lit
with a thousand candles.
Potted palm trees lent privacy to small clusters of tables grouped
about the room, and ceiling fanshuge flaps of woven matting,
operated by liveried boys pulling on ropescreated a gentle
motion in the lightly perfumed air.
"The people of Gondor could learn a great deal here,"
The patrons, he noticed, whether sitting at the tables or along
the wide marble counter, or playing at the gaming tables to the
right, were all facing a small stage at the left of the room,
where a group of musicians had just finished tuning their instruments.
She must be about to sing, he thought.
There was a moment's expectant silence; then the little band
began to play, and the elleth emerged from behind a translucent
"Are the stars out tonight?
I don't know if it's cloudy or bright
When I only have eyes
She was, indeed, tall, and dark, and very, very beautiful. She
was dressed, like Eowyn, in one of those tiny bodices and the
soft, almost transparent, trousers that had given him so much
trouble before the Magus had cured him. Over her long, lustrous
hair she wore a jewelled headband, with strings of tiny bells
that jingled as she moved.
She stopped at the edge of the stage and glanced around the room,
surreptitiously inspecting the patrons but carefully avoiding
eye contact with any of them.
Until her gaze fell on him.
"The moon may be high
But I can't see a thing in the sky
When I only have eyes
Haldir stared back at her. Emotionsdesiresof a sort
he had denied himself for so long, flooded his mind; physical
sensations he had had to master, time and again, whenever he looked
at Eowyn, suddenly surged through his body unchecked.
He collapsed into the nearest chair.
"It is hot..." said Haldir.
Faramir nodded. "I shall fetch you a drink. And I shall
try to have a word with our host."
Haldir struggled to breathe. Besides the other feelings, there
was a terrible sense of guilt. You are betraying Eowyn by desiring
another, he thought.
But how can I feel so guilty, he wondered, when I have
no memory of my love for Eowyn?
Faramir approached the bar.
There were three men standing behind the counter. Two were obviously
no more than bartenders. The third was a smallish, middle-aged
manhandsome, but, on the face of it, nothing special.
The man was talking to a customer; Faramir moved a little closer
and listened carefully.
"Too bad about those two couriers, wasn't it, Rib?"
"They got a lucky break," said the landlord. "Yesterday
they were just two clerks. Today they're 'the honoured dead'."
"You are a very cynical person, Rib, if you'll forgive me
for saying so."
Ribhadda paused for a heartbeat. "I forgive you."
"You despise me, don't you?" said the customer.
"If I gave you any thought, I probably would."
"Can I help you?"
It took Faramirand the hapless customera full moment
to realise that Ribhadda's attention had shifted to him.
The attention was surprisingly intimidating.
He is entirely his own man, thought Faramir. "May
I buy you a drink?" he asked.
"I never drink with customers."
"Then may I have a word with you? Somewhere private."
"I never take customers anywhere private."
Faramir smiled. "Will you at least sit with me?"
"That," said Ribhadda, "I will do. Until
my attention is required elsewhere." He indicated a nearby
table with a sweep of his hand.
"Hiram," he said, as he walked out from behind the
bar, "bring the gentleman a glass of spirits. Not too much
water. Now," he said, sitting down opposite Faramir, "what
is it you want to know?"
This man cannot be bought, thought Faramir, not in
the usual way. To deal with him you must simply be honest and
hope that your aims coincide with his.
"My name," he said, "is Faramir, son of Denethor.
I am Steward to the King of Gondor." He showed Ribhadda his
seal of office, mounted on a heavy gold ring. "Whilst visiting
Carhilivrenfor other reasonsit has come to my attention
that a certain elf, wanted in my country for attempted murder,
is hiding somewhere in the city. I want to take him back to stand
trial. I am told that you may be able to help me."
"That's a pretty story," said Ribhadda. "But why
would it be any concern of mine?"
"You are a man of honour."
"You're confusing me with someone else."
"I do not think so..."
"Who did he try to kill?"
"Not a widowed mother or an orphaned child?"
In spite of himself, Faramir smiled. "I will leave it with
you," he said, and knocked back his drink. "The elf's
name is Vardamir. If you have anything to tell me you can reach
me via your friend, Captain Oliel."
A small shadow of a man limped unnoticed past the brightly-lit
stalls of the soukpast people haggling over piles of vegetables
and joints of meat and sacks of beans and lentils; past people
choosing colourful bolts of cloth and richly embroidered carpets;
past people buying oil lamps and brass lanterns and enamelled
At the corner of Lamp Street he stopped to examine a pretty jewelled
dagger. Nice, he thought. She would like that. He slipped the
knife into his pocket, and moved on before the stall holder noticed
At the end of Garden Lane he paused again and casually glanced
around. No one was paying him any attention; the closest stall
holder was busy with a customer.
Satisfied that he had not been followed, the man slipped behind
the stall and turned into the alley behind, counting his steps
down the narrow, featureless passageOne, two, three...
He glanced behind him. Clear... Nine, ten, elven... Another
glance. Still clear. Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen. He tapped
lightly on the wooden wall to his right: one-two; one-two-three;
An invisible door opened to admit him.
Wolfram stepped inside. "Someone is looking for you,"
Vardamir closed and barred the door.
It was pitch black. Wolfram stretched out his hand, found the
dresser, and felt around for a candle and tinderbox.
"Wait," said the elf, imperiously. "Let me do
that. You cannot seeyou will have the whole house alight."
Moments later the room was lit by three candles. "Do you
want a drink?"
They were an unlikely pairthe small, quick, rodent of a
man, and the tall, graceful, arrogant elfbut, in truth,
each was the closest thing to a friend the other had ever had.
Wolfram threw himself into a chair. "Did you not hear what
"Someone is looking for me." The elf poured two large
goblets of wine. "So? It is not the first time that someone
on the receiving end of our services has tried to track us down"
"They are looking for Vardamir," said Wolfram.
"Not Elrond, not Glorfindel, not Legolasnot any of
the other stupid elf-names you like to go by. Vardamir."
A ferocious scowl at the would-be door keeper was the only permission
Haldir had needed to get backstage. He tapped lightly on the door
and entered without a pause.
The elleth turned in surprisein the midst of changing her
clothesher bodice open. "You," she said,
In her presence Haldir felt dizzy. He leaned against the door;
the space between them was charged with sexual desire.
Haldir reached out to her.
It was short and urgent and very noisy, his cries accompanied
by the sound of their bodies pounding against the door.
Faramir set Haldir's drink on the empty table. Where has he
gone? The elleth had finished singing. Perhaps he is questioning
There was a small door beside the stage. Faramir approached it,
smiling at the doorkeeper. "I should like to speak to the
singer," he said, giving the man a glimpse of a gold coin
nestling in the palm of his hand.
"And if it was up to me, you could," said the man,
with a wink, "but she's already got company, if you know
what I mean." He cocked his head to indicate the faint but
unmistakable sounds of frantic sex, coming from somewhere down
"I shall come back another time," said Faramir, handing
the man the coin.
"What is your name?" asked Haldir.
"Cyllien," said the elleth. "Yours?"
"Do you make a habit of doing strangers, Haldir?"
Haldir was taken aback. "Do you?"
The elleth sighed. "Do you smoke?"
She rose from the floor and walked over to her dressing table,
sorting through the clutter until she found a small clay pipe.
Haldir watched with a mixture of horror and fascination as she
filled the bowl with pipe-weed, lit it, and took a long drag.
"Where did you learn to do that?" he asked.
She shrugged her shoulders. "What is it to you?" She
exhaled a cloud of smoke.
Haldir re-laced his trousers. "Do you want money?"
A vial of perfumed oil narrowly missed his head and smashed against
the wall. "Get out!"
Bowing courteously, Ribhadda gestured a customera morbidly
fat man with two massive bodyguardstowards one of the better
tables. "Hello Abdi. How's business at the Blue Parrot?"
"Fine," said the man, "but I would like to buy
"It's not for sale."
"You haven't heard my offer."
"It's not for sale at any price."
"What do you want for Cyllien?"
"I don't buy or sell people."
"That's too bad," said Abdi. "That's Carhilivren's
"It must be Elf Boy," said Wolfram, thinking aloud.
"NoI cannot believe that Legolas would bother to come
after meor even send anyonenot after all this time."
"Then who else could it be?"
Vardamir shrugged his shoulders. "Elrond and Celeborn have
both sailed West; the King of Gondor has far bigger fish to catch."
"So, as I said, it must be Elf Boy. I wonder if she is with
him." Wolfram reached into his pocket and drew out the dagger
he had stolen earlier.
"What is that?"
"Just a little gift." He pulled the blade out of its
scabbard. "Small and light," he said. "And pretty,
He opened a door at the bottom of the dresser and added the knife
to a pile of glittering objectssilver manacles complete
with key, an enamelled collar and chain, a leather whip with a
jewelled handle, and a thick golden rod, like a large phallus...
Vardamir shook his head. "You need your wits examined,"
Wolfram closed the door. "You can talkfollowing that
singer around, begging like a puppy, instead of just taking what
you want..." He shrugged his shoulders. "Anyway,"
he said, sitting down and taking a swig of wine. "What are
we going to do about Elf Boy?" He dried his mouth with the
back of his hand.
"We do not even know that he is here."
"I do," said Wolfram. "I can feel her.
Here." He clutched his groin.
"So where is she?"
Wolfram thought for a moment. "The souk. She will be in
Tailor's Row, buying herself some golden drawers. Did I tell you"
"About the pink gown? Many times."
Wolfram pulled a small piece of rose-coloured velvet from his
breast pocket. "The metal on this would have fed me
for a year," he said. "A year. My Lady is worth
a lot of money."
"Only if you can control yourself."
"The trouble with Elves," said Wolfram, "is they
don't understand the importance of timing."
"What are you talking about?"
Wolfram swung himself off the chair and crouched beside the Elf.
"We collect My Lady; we collect the money. Then I
have my way with her. He realises he's been duped and comes
to rescue her; we have our way with him, too. Not the same
way, of courseunless you are interested."
Vardamir shot him a murderous look.
"Tomorrow," said Wolfram, "I shall start looking
for her. In the souk."
The sailor at the bottom of the Hunter's gang plank gave
Faramir a courteous nod and stepped aside; in recent days the
Prince of Ithilien had been a regular visitor.
The captain was in his cabin, sitting at his desk despite the
late hour, and something about his posture immediately caught
Faramir's attention. "You've had news," he said, "of
"Not bad news?" The other man looked up, showing
his face for the first time. "Oh, gods. What has happened?"
"I have just received these."
He dropped two objects into Faramir's hand. The first was a small
silver ring, engraved with the word 'Forever'. The second was
a strip of torn fabric, stained with blood.
"Are you sure these are hers?"
"The ring is. No doubt about it, my friend. I had it made
for her in Minas Tirith. I don't recognise the cloth."
"What does the letter say?"
"Not much. She was found in Rihatthat's an oasis about
fifty miles to the eastwith a bad wound to her shoulder.
She was still alive when the letter was written, six days ago."
"When are you leaving?"
"I will have to wait until tomorrow nightthere's a
caravan leaving at dusk. I am letting you down, my friend; I am
"Do not be foolish," said Faramir. He squeezed the
other man's shoulder. "But do not go alone Oliel. Take a
friend, just in case. I would come with you myself, if I could."
"He's very lucky," said Oliel.
"Your..." He gestured to indicate the man they had
never discussed but that Oliel instinctively knew existed.
Faramir smiled. "I pray that you find her, Oliel,"
he said. "Alive and well."
"Good morning," said Eowyn, softly.
"Today, we are going to find you some trees, my love."
She was leaning over him, supporting herself on her right arm,
her left hand lying lightly on his chest. Smiling, she leaned
down to kiss him...
And there was none of the adventurous coupling of the night before,
just the sweet union of two people very much in love.
After long hours spent pacing the streets, telling himself that
he was looking for Vardamir, Haldir approached the house, in a
murderous mood, to find Eowyn standing in the courtyard garden,
feeding kitchen scraps to a flock of brightly coloured birds.
As he reached the gates, she turned and smiled at him, and his
heart inexplicably lurched in his chest.
"Good morning, March Warden," she said. "Where
"Weerwe split up." He cleared his throat.
"In the tavern."
"I hope nothing has happened to him."
"I am sure he is fine."
"Did you speak to the elleth?"
Haldir turned to look at the birds. "Only briefly,"
he said. "And I did not get the chance to ask her anything
"Perhaps another time," said Eowyn. She threw the last
handful of bread on the ground. "Haldir..."
"I really have no right to say thisand I have no right
to expect your friendship"
"You have every right to expect my friendship, my
"It is just... You have changed, Haldir. Since we came
back from Kuri, you are distant." She, too, looked down at
the birds. "I know that things have often been difficult
between us, but I had come to rely on you... I miss your advice."
"Eowyn..." He grasped her hands. "You will
always have my friendship. You are the bravest, kindest, cleverest
woman I have ever met."
"To my knowledge, you have only ever met three women,"
Haldir smiled. "Woman or elleth."
She looked into his eyes. "You are cured," she said.
"I... I no longer feel as I once did, it is true."
"That is a good thing," said Eowyn, gently. "You
have been alone for far too long, March Warden."
But Haldir could say nothing in reply.
Eowyn returned indoors in time to witness what had become a daily
ritualHentmirë was sitting on her day bed, her entire body
rigid with fear. Legolas was looming over her, bottle in one hand,
spoonful of iridescent green liquid in the other.
He set the bottle down on the table. "Open your mouth, gwendithen."
"The sooner you drink it, the sooner you and Eowyn can go
Legolas smiled, indulgently. Then, quicker than Hentmirë's
senses could perceive, he shot out a hand and squeezed her waist.
The water was in her mouth; she swallowed, gagging, and swallowed
again, her eyes streaming.
"I am sorry," said Legolas, taking her in his arms
and rubbing her back, soothingly. "I am so sorry, gwendithen.
But just think of the effect it is having. Think of Eryn Carantaur,
and how happy we will be there."
"I try," she whimpered. "I do try, Legolas. I
know I am being ungrateful. But it is so horrid..."
Sitting on the deck of the Hunter, watching the sun rise, Faramir
had come to a decision.
There is no telling what might have happened to her in six
days, he thought. Oliel could arrive in Rihat to find her
already dead and buried. If I accompany him, at least there will
be someone to make the necessary arrangementsand to get
him back in one pieceif he is not capable himself.
Perhaps Legolas will let me take Haldir with me...
Eowyn kissed Legolas cheek.
"We shall be very quick," she said. "And, remember,"she
grinned, becoming more and more excited as she spoke"this
afternoon we are taking you to the Turquoise Gardens! Hentmirë
says they look just like a real forestyou will be able to
walk under the trees!" She hugged him tightly.
Legolas kissed the top of her head. "I shall look forward
to it, melmenya," he said. "But promise me that you
will be careful in the souk. If you are on foot, stay close to
Rimush. These people have little respect for women."
"I promise." She climbed into the palanquin and sat
down beside Hentmirë. "Good bye, Lassui." She waved.
"Good bye, Haldir."
Legolas watched Hentmirë's attendants lift the litter and
carry it down the dusty road. "Did you learn anything from
the elleth, March Warden?" he asked.
"I... No... No, I did not," said Haldir. Then he added,
quietly, "In fact, I did something very foolish."
Legolas gave Eowyn one final wave then turned to the other elf,
"I did speak with her," admitted Haldir, "briefly,
but I did not question her... I... I allowed desire to get
the better of me."
"Desire?" Legolas stared at his March Warden's face,
trying to make sense of his guilty expression. "What are
you sayingoh Valar!are you saying that you lay
Haldir did not reply, but his answer was obvious.
"No one could blame you for that, Haldir," said Legolas,
generously. "You had been alone for far too long."
"I feel as though I have betrayed her."
"Eowyn. Please do not tell Eowyn."
"I thought you had no feelings for Eowyn."
"I do not; I cannot explain it..." He stared into the
distance, at the palanquin bearing Eowyn away, then continued,
softly, "But, sometimes I feel as though the memory has not
been removed, just imprisoned in some dark corner of my mind.
And, now and then, it rattles the bars of its cage..."
An hour or so later, as Faramir approached Hentmirë's house,
he noticed two familiar-looking figures dismounting from a single
It cannot be!
The firststripped, incongruously, down to his underwearwas
short and powerfully built, with a mane of coppery hair and a
long, thick beard.
"Awwww, laddie!" cried the dwarf, runningbow-leggedlytowards
him. "It is good to see you!" He threw his arms round
Faramir's waist and almost crushed the life out of him. "Three
weeks it has taken us to get here! Three weeks! We had to land
up the coast and ride across the desert!"
"It is good to see you, too, Gimli," said Faramir.
"Legolas will be overjoyed."
He looked up at the second person and smiled.
The dwarf's companion was tall and lean with wild, dark hair
and a face that could break any heart in Middle-earth.
"Hello, Berengar," said Faramir.