eowyn and legolas

“Leave those, Hiram,” said Ribhadda. “Go on home now.”

The barman dried another tankard. “It’s no trouble boss.”

“They’ll still be here in the morning. And you’ve worked hard tonight. Go home to your lady.”

Hiram dried his hands on the cloth. “Well... Good night, then, boss.”

“Good night,” said Ribhadda, absently. He locked the door behind the barman and, moving the odd chair as he went, made his way to the stage door.

We were never meant to be, Rib; I just wish that she’d come back...”

Ribhadda sighed. And then what? he wondered. She couldn’t stay here. We’d have to sell The Silk Road and leave Carhilivren. But go where? And would we take the boy?

No, she’s better off wherever she is, and the boy has landed on his feet...

He walked slowly down the dark corridor, paused beside Cyllien’s empty room, and laid his hand on the wooden door. Everybody moves on, he thought.

Gods, Ribhadda, you’ll be drowning your sorrows with customers next...

His own room was farther down the corridor—just before the storeroom—and he kept it locked. He stood beside the door, feeling for his key—

Someone moved behind him.

It had been a long time since Ribhadda had hunted orcs—and men—through the wilds of Ered Mithrin, but his instincts had not dulled with the years and he went straight for the throat. His assailant was younger, taller and physically stronger, but Ribhadda possessed a steel the other lacked; he also knew his storeroom like the back of his hand.

Caught unprepared by his victim’s resistance, the assassin dropped his knife. Ribhadda reached for a bottle of spirits and, without hesitation, smashed it into his face.

By the moonlight filtering through the storeroom’s high windows, Ribhadda peered at his would-be murderer.

Not so good-looking now, are we, Master Kurian? he thought.




Shhhhh.” Legolas scooped Eowyn into his arms and turned her onto her stomach.


Gathering her thick hair to one side, he kissed the back of her neck.

She squirmed against the bed. “What are you doing?”

Legolas laughed against her skin and, straddling her, let his hardness brush between her thighs.

“But we are going to Rihat...”

“Later, Melmenya,” he whispered. “Later... Come up on your hands and knees.” He slid his hands under her hips and lifted her, gently. Then, lightly kneading her belly, he pressed himself against her. She was ready, and he slipped smoothly inside her. “Ahhh...”

His sighs, coming from deep within his throat, were a mixture of pleasure and relief, and accompanied each body-tingling thrust.

Eowyn’s head sank down on her crossed arms. “Oh, Lassui,” she moaned. “Oh... There... Oh, ye—ohhh—yes, THERE...”


“But how will you find Prince Faramir?” asked Hentmirë, at breakfast.

“We will start at the House of Healing,” said Eowyn. She poured a glass of cordial and handed it to Legolas with a smile.

“And if they have not seen him, we will try the taverns,” said the elf.

“At the same time,” added Eowyn, pouring another glass for Gimli, “we will make discreet enquiries about Riya.”

“You have thought it all out,” said Hentmirë, stirring her porridge.

“What is wrong, gwendithen?” asked Legolas, gently.



She set down her spoon. “It is just... I have been to Rihat, Legolas. It is a horrible, horrible place—you cannot trust anyone there. Promise me you will be careful—all of you. Is Gimli going with you?”

“No,” said the dwarf. “I am staying here, to protect you and Keret.”

Hentmirë bit her lip. “Then take Rimush with you. He comes from Rihat—you could stay with his family.”

“We plan to be back by nightfall, gwendithen,” said Legolas. “But it might be useful to have a guide. Do you think the djinn could carry all three of us, Melmenya?”

“Oh, yes,” said Eowyn. “If he can be persuaded.”

“What shall I tell Keret?” asked Hentmirë.

“Where is he?”

“Upstairs with Donatiya, refusing to bathe,” said Hentmirë. “Shall I tell him you are still looking for his mother?”

“Yes,” said Legolas. “If he asks. But try not to raise his hopes too high, gwendithen.”


Rimush climbed into Hentmirë’s palanquin. “I have never been inside it before,” he said, smiling. He sat down opposite Legolas.

Eowyn summoned the djinn. “I want you to carry this,” she pointed to the palanquin, “to Rihat. Can you do that?”

Yes, mistress,” said the djinn, obviously puzzled by her question.

“It is not too heavy for you?”

The djinn flowed down and peered through the curtains at its occupants. “No, mistress.”

“Good. And Rihat is not too far?”


“And you know where it is?”


“Good. Let me climb aboard, then take us there.”

Your wish is my command, pretty little mistress.

“What you have to do,” said Eowyn, taking her seat beside Legolas, “is anticipate all of his objections.”

The djinn scooped them up and carried them off.

“Goodbye,” shouted Hentmirë, waving. “Come home safe...” She walked back into the house with a sigh.

Children to wash, dwarves to find ale, prisoners to exercise, singers to rouse, prostitutes to put to work, beggars to feed...

A huge smile spread across her plump little face.


“What the...?”

Wolfram almost pulled off his headdress to get a better look at the palanquin as it disappeared towards the east. Now I’ve seen everything!

He sat down. What do I do now?—Gods’ turds, if I’ve lost her after all this waiting—

Another slave was leaving the house, carrying a basket of food. Can this be breakfast? he wondered.

The slave crossed the road and approached him, smiling.

Yes, it’s breakfast. Well, here’s as good a place to stay as any. And My Lady may be back later.


Rihat: the House of Healing

“Ready?” asked Faramir.

“No,” said Oliel. He straightened the collar of his shirt. “But let’s go in.”

They climbed the steps and, once again, entered the cool, quiet reception hall.

Ahead of them, the broad corridor, with its marble walls, and doors leading to the separate healing rooms, made Faramir feel suddenly nervous. There is nothing to stop a patient walking out of here, he thought. Or someone else walking in. We should have stayed the night...

Oliel asked to see the doctor.

She appeared immediately. “Ah, Captain—sir...” She drew them aside, and spoke quietly. “I have had to do something rather unconventional.”


“Gwirith tried to leave yesterday—after you had gone—so I locked her in my study.” She sighed. “She was entirely within her rights to leave—I have no power to keep a patient here against her will. But... I am placing a great deal of trust in you—in both of you—now.” She drew them further down the corridor. “Gwirith’s spirit is exhausted. She will not last much longer out there on her own.”

“Oh...” Oliel shook his head, unable to say more.

“We are grateful, madam,” said Faramir. “Very grateful.”

“This must not become public knowledge, sir,” said the doctor. “Or I could lose my position.”

“I understand.”

She handed Faramir a small key. “This is my study, here. Leave the key at the desk when you go.” She turned to Oliel. “I have done all I can for your wife, Captain. Her body is on the mend, but you must heal her spirit.” She squeezed his arm. “Now I must see to my other patients.” She hurried away.

“Faramir... I cannot...”

“Would you like me to speak to her?” asked Faramir.

“What would you say?”

“I am not sure—I suppose I would start by offering to rescue her from this nightmare, whatever it is.”

“And persuade her to come back with us?”


“Do it. I shall wait out here.”

Faramir fitted the key in the lock.

“Faramir? When we get back to the Hunter, I will return everything you have paid me, my friend...”

“Oh. No.” Faramir waved his hand.

“How else can I thank you?” asked Oliel.


Faramir opened the door. The study was empty.


She is behind the door, he thought. He glanced around the room. Desk, chairs, bookcase... Ah... The row of statuettes on the bookcase had a suspicious gap at its centre. She is armed.

He threw the door wide—


—and, drawing his sword, rounded on the woman, who had dropped the statue and was clutching her wrist.

Faramir pushed the door closed and, keeping his sword trained upon her, said, “I am sorry, madam. Shall I call the doctor?”

Gingerly, Gwirith moved her hand back and forth. “It’s not broken,” she said, sullenly.

“Good. Then sit down,” said Faramir, “and I will bathe it for you.”

“What?” Her head came up and she stared at him, eyes narrowed, her opinion of him clearly written on her face: Fool!

“Truce?” said Faramir.


“If I lower my sword, will you promise not to attack? At least for now?”

“Where did Oliel find you?”

Faramir smiled. “Sit down, let me bathe your wrist, and hear me out. Then, if we have not come to an agreement, you can take up the statue again. How does that sound?”


Wearily, she dragged herself to one of the chairs, sat down, and held out her wrist, supporting it with her other hand. “What agreement?”

Faramir sheathed his sword. “Come with us. Let us take you back to Gondor.” At one end of the room there was a small consulting area with a couch, and a sideboard holding a ewer and basin, several bottles of coloured liquids, and some jars of powdered herbs.

“Is that all?” said Gwirith.

Faramir poured water into the basin. “What more do you want?” He ran his fingers over the jars. “Ah, this looks like”—he removed the stopper and sniffed—“yes, iârloth.” He sprinkled a little into the water, then took up a piece of linen and soaked it in the mixture. “She must import this from the North...”

“I want to be safe.”

“Then come with us.” Faramir knelt beside her.

“You do not understand.”

“What?” He wrung out the cloth and wrapped it around her wrist. “There, how is that—what do I not understand?”

“Can you keep me hidden? Can you? Because, the moment anyone sees me, I am a dead woman and you are a dead man, if you are with me.”

“Who is ‘anyone’?” Faramir asked.

“My... My owner. And...”

“And who?”

“The Hatja’s Guards.”

“Why? What did you do?” Faramir unwrapped the cloth and dipped it back in the water, pressing it down to soak up the healing herbs.


Nothing?” His tone made it clear that he did not believe her.

“I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Gwirith.


“And I saw something.”

“You saw someone commit a crime?”

She nodded.

“Then you are a valuable witness. Why are you afraid of the Hatja’s Guards?”

“Because he made me help him.”


The journey to Rihat had taken less than two hours.

They had followed the Silk Road across the vast sea of sand, passed a slow-moving camel caravan—waving to its astonished travellers as they flew by—and soared over the Ripa'a Ridge, winding their way along the narrow gorge that cleft the rocks in two; swooped down low over the open desert, taking a small detour to marvel at a tiny oasis to the south; then swept northwards into Rihat, the city of towers.

We are here, mistress,” said the djinn.

“Take us to the House of Healing,” said Eowyn.


“Made you help him how?” asked Faramir. “What did you do?”

“He liked me—the victim. You wouldn’t think so, to look at me now,” she said, unconsciously running her good hand through her ragged hair, “but I was beautiful, and he wanted me. On that night, I pretended to want him...”

“You got him alone?”

She nodded.

“You distracted him whilst someone—what?”

“Killed him. While he was inside me...” Gwirith whispered.

“Oh, gods.” Faramir laid a comforting hand on her back.


The House of Healing was on the Northern edge of the town. The djinn set down the palanquin in a narrow alley running along its western side, close enough to open ground to be quiet, but sufficiently overlooked to be safe from thieves.

“I will stay here and watch over it,” said Rimush.

Legolas patted his arm. “Thank you. Are you ready Melmenya?”

Eowyn stowed the djinn’s lamp in her bag and they made their way to the front door.


“I knew I wouldn’t last long without protection, so I went to the Hatja’s Guards—to Captain Ramess. He told me I was an accessory to murder and would hang for it...

“But his eyes were all over me.” Her face hardened. “And when he rolled off and fell asleep, I slipped out of the Guardhouse and hid myself at the docks. I tried to get passage on a ship, but then...”


She shrugged. “I decided to stay. I thought we’d be safe if we just kept moving...

“But I was a danger to anybody I cared about. So I left Carhilivren and came to Rihat, where I didn’t know anyone.” She turned to Faramir. “What’s your name?”

“Faramir. Why?”

“I’ve never told anyone the whole story before. Thank you, Faramir.”

Faramir bowed his head. “You are welcome, Gwirith,” he said. “What are you going to do about Oliel? You know that he has been searching for you for seven years.”

Gwirith shook her head. “No. He has been searching for the little girl he married for seven years. And the truth is...” She looked at him closely. “You don’t like women, do you, Faramir?”

“Some of my best friends—”

“You know what I mean.”


“That’s why it’s so easy to talk to you about this,” she said. “Oliel thought I was a virgin when he married me. But I’d had men before—many men—my father’s foreman, the farm hands, the migrant workers—I was never the innocent little girl he wanted for a wife. It was not that hard to fool him. He’d spent most of his life at sea and the only women he’d ever known were whores. So, with a little reluctance—”

“He is my friend, Gwirith. Please do not tell me any more.”

Faramir got up off his knees and settled himself on the chair beside her. “I have promised to plead his case.”


The cool, white marble was a strange contrast to the dusty mud brick of the outside walls. Legolas scanned the hallway for any sign of Faramir. To his left, at a desk beside the door, a veiled woman was rising to greet them. Ahead, more veiled women flitted from room to room carrying bottles of tinctures, jars of unguents, and pitchers of water. To his right...

In a narrow corridor, leading off to the east, sat Captain Oliel, nervously drumming his fingers on this thighs.

Legolas turned to the veiled woman. “We have a message for our friend,” he said, softly, nodding towards the Gondorian. “May we speak with him?”

The woman bowed her head, graciously.

“Thank you.” He led Eowyn into the corridor. “Hello, Captain Oliel,” he said, quietly, “is there any news of your wife?”


“Why did you marry Oliel?”

“What do you mean?”

“You could have had any man you wanted but you chose to marry him. Why?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“The doctor told me you were still wearing his ring when you arrived here. How did you hide it from the slavers?”

“You don’t want to know.” She shifted uncomfortably on her seat.

“You did that just to keep Oliel’s ring?”

“It’s valuable.”

“It is silver,” corrected Faramir. “Practically worthless. A worthless little ring from a worthless little—”

“No! It is not! He is not...”

“Not what?”

“You are clever.”

Faramir bowed. “Thank you,” he said. “And so are you. There is a way out of this mess, Gwirith, and you and I are going to find it.”

“You are wasted on a man.”

“I shall take that as a compliment. Now—have you noticed how the ladies dress here—Lady Bint-Anath, for instance?”

“Abdosir’s daughter? She decorates herself like a Yule Tree.”

“Not when she is travelling,” said Faramir. “She wears black—a heavy black veil that completely covers her face. With one of those, and an armed escort, we can pass you off as a Lady from the East, take the first camel caravan back to Carhilivren, and keep you hidden until Oliel is ready to sail.”

“What if it doesn’t work, Faramir?”

“It will—”

“Not the disguise. Oliel and me—what if that doesn’t work? He’s is in love with an innocent girl and I’m in love with a dashing sailor, when—the truth is—I’m a broken old hag and he’s—he’s what? You know him better than I do...”

“He...” Faramir smiled. “He reminds me of my older brother.”

“Is that good? Do you love your brother?”

“I did. Very much.”


“He died in battle. Bravely.”

“I am sorry...” She was silent for a moment, then she asked, “Did he prefer men?”

Faramir laughed. “Boromir? No, not at all.”


“Shall I ask Oliel to come in, then?”

Gwirith bit her lip. “Yes,” she said. “Quickly, Faramir, before I lose my nerve.”


The door opened and Faramir came out. He smiled warmly at Legolas and Eowyn, then turned to Oliel.

“She has agreed to return with us,” he said. “Go in and speak to her.”

“What should I say?” whispered Oliel.

“Say whatever your heart tells you to say.”

He pushed Oliel through the door and closed it behind him, but not before Legolas had caught the briefest glimpse of Gwirith as she rose to greet her husband.

Strange,” he murmured.


The Silk Road

“Are you sure you want to stay with me all day?” asked Cyllien, playfully. “I shall be surrounded by men—by Rib and Hiram and Aqhat. No one could touch me in here, not even Wolfram.” She knocked on the door of The Silk Road.

Haldir shook his head. “We Lorien elves prefer to take care of our own ellith.”

Laughing, Cyllien kissed his cheek. “I love it when you act like a Beorning—ah, Hiram—Valar, Hiram! What’s wrong?”

“The boss was attacked last night.”

“Attacked...” Cyllien pushed past the barman and ran inside. “Rib? Rib?”

“That’s quite a row you’re making,” said Ribhadda, with one of his rare smiles.

He was standing behind the bar, checking his spirits as usual, but, to Haldir, he looked changed. Older. “What happened?” the elf asked.

“Nothing I couldn’t handle.”

“Tell us,” Cyllien demanded.

Ribhadda shrugged. “I closed up, went backstage to my room, noticed someone lurking in the shadows, and hit him with a bottle of spirits. The healer’s still sewing his head back together.”

“Oh, Rib...”

“Who was it?” asked Haldir.

“A Kurian,” said Ribhadda. “Probably hired especially for the job.”

“Was it a robbery?” asked Cyllien.

Ribhadda shook his head. “No, kid. It was attempted murder.”

“Who would want you dead?” asked Haldir.

“That’s something I’d very much like to know myself,” said Ribhadda. “You sticking around?”

The elf nodded.

“Good. Then when the healer’s finished with him, you and I can ask Master Kurian a few questions.”


“Good morning,” said Hentmirë, hoping that her nerves were not showing.

The elf, Vardamir, responded with an enigmatic smile.

“I thought,” she said, “that you might like to spend some time outside in the garden. There are no big trees out there, but there are some nice little perseas, and daisies, and cornflowers...”

The elf smiled again, and this time his expression seemed quite friendly.

“But I would have to put these on you, to stop you running away.” She held up the padded manacles she had used on Legolas at the slave market, which Gimli had examined and pronounced sufficiently sturdy. “Legolas would never forgive me if I let you escape—”

The elf laughed.

“Why is that funny?” asked Hentmirë.

The elf shook his head.

Would you like to go outside?”

“If you will sit with me.”

“Sit with you?” Hentmirë was taken aback—and, with her new, busy life to cope with, not at all sure that she really had the time. “For a little while,” she said.

“Then, yes, I would like to go outside.”

“Hold out your hands.” She slipped the manacles around his wrists and closed them. “You must go up the stairs first,” she said, remembering Gimli’s instructions: Never let him get behind you, lass...


The garden was cool and shaded. Vardamir dutifully examined the perseas and the daisies, then sat down on one of the raised flower beds and smelled the air. Salt, he thought. The sea. Strange that I should have no desire to sail West, even now. I never was a proper elf...

He sensed the little woman watching him, anxiously. “I will not try to run away, my lady,” he said. “You have my word.”

“Good,” said the woman. “But...”


“You have broken that before,” she said.

Vardamir smiled. “You are right, my lady.” He turned to her. “I am not trustworthy.”

“But you are an elf!”

An elf... She was so innocent, so ready to think the best of everyone—but especially of an elf—that it touched his heart. “And you,” he said, softly, “are a very special adaneth.” For a moment, something like decency stirred within him.

But then another presence, lurking somewhere towards the sea, came forward to quash it. Wolfram? he thought. Yes! Wolfram has come to rescue me!


Vardamir! thought Wolfram, as he watched the elf sniffing the flowers with the fat little woman. You prick!




“Hello Oliel.”

“Here...” He caught her by the elbows. “Sit down, you look exhausted.”

She laughed as he eased her back into her seat. “This is how I am, now, Oliel. Old and haggard.”

Oliel took the seat beside her and gazed at her, unflinchingly. “You look tired,” he said. “But you are still the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, Gwirith.” He reached out and stroked her cheek. “Beautiful...”

“Oh!” She buried her face in her hands and wept.

“My love, what is wrong?” He wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “Shhhh, shhhh.” He held her against his chest.

“I have been with men,” she whispered. “Other men...”

He stroked her hair. “And I have been with other women,” he admitted, “a few times—more than a few... But none of them could give me what I needed, Gwirith. None of them was you.”

“Will it work, Oliel? Can it work, after all this time?”

“We will not know unless we try.” He kissed the top of her head. “I will give up the sea...”


“I must, my love. If we are to have any chance after all the lost years, we must be together.”

“Then I shall come to sea with you.”

He lifted her chin. “It’s a hard life for a woman, Gwirith...”

His wife smiled. And, for a moment, the terrible scars of seven years seemed to fall away. “You,” she said, “have no idea what it’s like to live on a rubbish heap.”


Whilst Faramir waited for Oliel and Gwirith in the House of Healing, Legolas and Eowyn returned to the palanquin and Eowyn persuaded the djinn to take it to the Boarding House. Then, accompanied by Rimush, the couple set out in search of Riya.

“Where do you go if you want to hire a prostitute?” Eowyn asked the slave.

“My Lady!”

Legolas shot him a sympathetic smile. “Suppose a man wanted to hire a prostitute,” he corrected, “where would he go?”

“Down by the water station,” said Rimush. “Or so I’ve heard...”

He had heard correctly. All along the town’s outer wall, provocatively-dressed women lounged upon piles of mud brick, trying to persuade the male travellers to sample their wares.

Legolas sighed. “Stay with Rimush, Melmenya.”

“No,” said Eowyn, catching his arm. “No, Lassui, I think they are more likely to speak to me than to you. You keep watch.” And before Legolas could stop her, she had approached the first group of women.

“You’re in the wrong place, love,” said one of the whores, not unkindly.

“I am looking for my sister,” Eowyn replied. “She was kidnapped by slavers some years ago, and our parents have never recovered. I just want to find her and take her home...”

The women were sympathetic and made several suggestions, which the couple pursued, but no one in Rihat would admit to knowing, or having heard of, a tall, dark woman named Riya.


By the time Legolas, Eowyn and Rimush reached the Boarding House it was dark. Their friends were sitting in the lobby, drinking fruit cordial and eating savouries; Gwirith was upstairs, sleeping.

“She is exhausted,” explained Oliel. “Now that she is safe, I think she will sleep for days.”

Faramir called for more glasses. “Did you have any luck?” he asked, pouring three drinks.

“We did not,” Legolas admitted. “We must tell the boy that we have failed.”

“Let us hope,” said Eowyn, wearily, “that his other wishes are easier to grant.” She took a sip of cordial.

“Eowyn,” said Faramir, “we need to get Gwirith out of Rihat, and safely hidden aboard the Hunter—Captain Oliel’s ship—as quickly as possible. I was wondering...”

“We can take her in the palanquin,” said Legolas. “And you, too, Captain.”

“Of course,” said Eowyn. She smiled at Faramir. “Then I shall send the djinn back for you and Berengar, and Rimush.”

“Thank you, my dear.”

Eowyn turned to Oliel. “But could we not hide your wife at Hentmirë’s house until the wind returns? That way she could sleep in a proper bed, with a maid to take care of her, until she is feeling stronger.”

“That would be wonderful, my lady,” said Oliel, “if Lady Hentmirë would not mind.”

Eowyn glanced at Legolas.

“Hentmirë seems to thrive on having guests,” he said. “Especially guests who need special attention. But I shall speak to her as soon as we arrive, to make sure.”


An hour later, Oliel carried the still-sleeping Gwirith down to the palanquin, and the first group of friends set off for Carhilivren.

“What is wrong, Lassui?” whispered Eowyn, as they sped across the desert.


“You keep staring at Gwirith.”

“Do I?” He glanced at Oliel, who was dozing beside his sleeping wife. “She reminds me of someone, Melmenya.”


“Prince Imrahil...”

Ahead of them, Eowyn could see the lights of Carhilivren—at first as a faint glow on the horizon, then gradually brighter, and then resolved into hundreds of dazzling points.

Swooping down into the city, the djinn flew low along the Great Royal Road, slipped over the wrought-iron gates, and deposited the palanquin in Hentmirë’s garden.


“Legolas is back!” cried Hentmirë, happily. “Come Keret, come Gimli!”

Keret dumped his wooden mûmak on the table. There’s no arguing with her when she’s like this, he thought. He took her hand and allowed her to lead him into the garden, where Legolas and a strange man were helping a very tired woman to climb down from the palanquin.

Keret stared at the woman...

“Mummy,” he whispered.

Then he shouted, running towards her, arms outstretched, “Mummy! MY MUMMY!”



Contents page


Previous chapter: The race
Legolas and Eowyn visit the Circus; Berengar has an idea.

Chapter 11

Chapter 13: Ribhadda's choice
Can Abdi be stopped?

The Kurian
A picture.

Chapter 2