Captain Oliel was on deck, supervising repairs to
the main mast. Good morning, my friend, he said to
Faramir. Come below; I have not forgotten my promise to
To return your money.
Oliel! That is not why I have come! But I...
Faramir glanced around. Several of the sailors, though busy,
were listening to their Captains business with interest.
I would like to speak to you in confidence,
If its about
Just ten minutes of your time, Oliel, said Faramir.
Come below, then.
Oliel closed the door of the small cabin. Is this about
Of course. Faramir sat down on the narrow bunk bed.
Why, Oliel? After all these years of searching, why
hand her to another man?
It was Gwiriths decision, Faramir. And Ribhaddas
a good man. Oliel uncorked a bottle of spirits and
poured two large measures.
Yes, he is. And he loves her. But she loves you.
Then why did she change her mind? Why did she decide to
stay? He held out one of the glasses.
Do you really not know? said Faramir, accepting
For a long moment, he stared into the brown liquid, then, with
a shrug, he knocked it backGods!and
shuddered, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. Gwirith
needed reassurance, Oliel; when she told you how she had killed
Abdi, she needed... Something. Anything. Anything would
have been better than silence.
I am not a demonstrative man, Faramir. I cant help
But you searched for seven years!
That was the easy part.
Do you want to lose her?
Its too late.
No, it is not too late! But it is time to make a
decision. If you want herif you can live with the woman
she has becomego to her. Go to her, and tell her, and make
her believe it.
There were two funerals that morning.
The first, attended by the Hatja, his heir, Lord Aperel,
his Court, and various visiting dignitaries, was held in the Valley
of Tombs, the traditional resting place of the rulers of Carhilivren.
The second, attended by just four mourners (one of them under
guard), took place in the commoners cemetery, close to where
Hentmirës parents lay buried.
Eowyn watched the gravedigger as he slowly shovelled sand onto
Wolfram's coffin. Do you think he is with his ancestors,
I am not sure that a man like that has ancestors,
Melmenya, said Legolas, gently taking her arm and trying
to draw her away, but Eowyn resisted, slipping her mantle from
her shoulders and dropping it into the grave.
It may be cold there, Lassui, she said.
Oh, do not feel guilty, meleth nín,
said Legolas, wrapping his arm around her. Sooner or later,
someone would have killed himI would have killed
I know... But...
But he saved your life.
Eowyn shook her head. It is not just that... She
slid her arm around his waist. I wanted him dead, Lassui.
In my mind, he was a monster. But in reality, he was just a man.
And when he died, he was smiling. I think that the gods had forgiven
For saving you, my darling. He kissed her
forehead. Come, Eowyn nín. There is nothing
you can do now...
Navaer, mellon nín, whispered Vardamir,
his head bowed, his hand upon his heart. No baid lín
galen a glor... He raised his head. He was the
only friend I ever had.
Hentmirë bit her lip. I am sorry.
And he loved her. In his own way.
But she was not meant for him, Master Vardamir, said
Hentmirë. We must pray that his spirit has found peace
at last. And that you...
She looked up at the elf. When my parents died, Master
Vardamir, I thought I would be alone forever. And I was
alone for a very long time. But then Legolas came, and
Eowyn, and Prince Faramir and his friend, and March Warden Haldir
and his friend, and suddenly...
She patted his arm. Never give up hope, Master Vardamir.
Be brave and do the best you can, and do not give up hope...
Since the official period of mourning had already been observedtwo
years earlierthe Hatja decreed that his sons
funeral would be followed by just seven days of prayer and fasting,
and that the marriage of his heir, Lord Aperell, would take place
on the eighth day.
Five days after the burial, Lord Abdosir and his daughter arrived
on the outskirts of Carhilivren, where they camped for two nights,
awaiting the hour when Lady Bint-Anath, dressed in her golden
wedding gown, would make her joyful entry into the city.
You have a visitor, my Lady.
Tonight? Bint-Anath looked up from her book. Who
is it, Aneksi?
The other young man, my Ladythe secretary.
Berengar? Bint-Anath leaped to her feet. Does
my father know he is here?
Lord Abdosir has given his permission, my Lady. I am to
stay here with you
And there will be guards outside the door.
That will not be necessary.
Those are your fathers orders, my Lady.
But Berengar has already provedoh, very well,
if my father insists. Show him in, Aneksi. Bint-Anath closed
her book and laid it on her bed, then turned to greet her visitor.
My Lady. Berengar bowed low. He was dressed in loose
trousers, and a waistcoat of midnight blue silk spangled with
silver stars, and his unruly dark hair, framing his bronzed face,
fell about his bare, lightly muscled shoulders.
Bint-Anath ran forward, and caught his hands. Berengar!
It is good to see you!
Hello, Bint-Anath. He kissed her hand. I wanted
to wish you joy, he smiledand to give
you this. He handed her a tiny object wrapped in
What is it? Bint-Anath pulled open the wrapping and
examined the gift closely.
It is a gold ten-piece, from my own country, Gondor.
Your king is handsome. But not so handsome as you.
Berengar smiled. It is a pledge, he said. If
ever you should need a champion, Bint-Anath, return it to me and
I shall come immediatelythough I should point out that,
since my skills lie more in the administrative sphere than in
warfare or diplomacy, I may have to bring Prince Faramir along
to assist me.
Bint-Anath laughed. Thank you, Berengar. I shall treasure
it always. She kissed his cheek. Then she crossed to her
dressing table and carefully locked the coin in a small casket.
Will you drink a toast with me?
I would be honoured.
The woman hesitated, mindful of Lord Abdosirs orders, butat
a frown from her mistressshe left to fetch some wine.
Good, said Bint-Anath. I did not want her listening.
She motioned Berengar to sit down. I can never thank you
enough for what you have done for me, she said. A
less honourable man would have thrown me outor taken advantageor,
perhaps, have demanded a ransom. But you went out of your
way to help a girl who had caused you nothing but trouble
It was Faroth
No, said Bint-Anath. No. It was you.
Whatever Prince Faramir may have done, he did for your sake. Thank
Berengar looked away, embarrassed by her praise. It was
nothing, really. I, er, I justoh, what are you reading?
He picked up her book.
But he had already opened it, at random, and was studying a beautifully
painted miniature of a man and a woman (on her hands and knees)...
He closed the book.
Bint-Anath blushed. I thought I should find out... Because
I know so little; I know less than my maids...
Berengar smiled at her, fondly.
It was a good idea, he reassured her. But you
already know everything you need to know, in here.
He patted his own chest. You love Aperel and he loves you.
So just listen to your heart, Bint-Anath. It will tell you what
The following morning, Lady Bint-Anath, carrying a Gondorian
coin for good luck, entered Carhilivren in a golden palanquin,
with her father at her side.
She was received at the gates of the Palace by her future father-in-law,
the Hatja, and escorted into his private temple, where,
before a host of courtiers and foreign dignitaries, she was married
to Lord Aperel.
Then the young couple descended the temple steps, and walked
slowly round the great Central Court of the Palace, greeting the
throngs of people who had gathered to congratulate their popular
young lord and his lady.
Hentmirë, standing just outside the temple, amongst the
guests of honour, threw a handful of petals at the bride as she
passed. The pale flakes rose in the air, swirled in the lightest
of breezes, and fell back upon the thrower.
Legolas laughed. You look like an elleth at her coming
of age ceremony, gwendithen, he said, giving her
a hug. But more surprised!
Dawn, the next day
Eowyn awoke and stretched her limbs. Beside her, the bed was
Wrapping herself in a sheet, she padded out onto the balcony.
Legolas was leaning over the wall, gazing out to sea. Can
you feel it, Melmenya?
Feel what? She came up beside him and let him gather
The wind, said Legolas. Coming from the south
west. He looked down at her, smiling. I think we shall
soon be leaving, Melmenya. I think we can go home at last!
The Early Bird was due to sail with the tide, at half
At eleven, the roc arrived carrying Valandil and Wilawen; shortly
afterwards she returned with Figwit.
Tell Prince Legolas what you have decided, said Wilawen,
I should like to come back with you, said Figwit.
If you will allow me.
Legolas placed his hand on his heart and bowed his head in a
formal greeting. You are most welcome, Aegnor, he
said. Then, with a smileand much to Figwits surprisehe
embraced the Rivendell elf, human fashion.
See, said Wilawen, we told you.
At midday, when the final preparations were complete and the
friends and their luggage had been installed in the cabins, and
Vardamir had been found a small room below decks, Faramir received
Ive come to say good bye, said Oliel.
You are leaving without her?
Oliel nodded. I did go to see her, he said, as
ordered. But she seemed soI dont know, Faramirso
happy with himI couldnt speak.
I am so sorry, Oliel.
Do not be, my friend, said the Sea Captain. We
found her, and now she is safethat is the main thing.
What will you do?
Ill keep doing what Im good at, said
Oliel, carrying passengers, helping people rescue their
loved ones—if you should ever want to return to Far Harad,
I will come straight to you.
Faramir removed a heavy ring from his finger. This is my
seal, he said, take it. I shall soon be needing someone
I trust to make regular runs from here to North Ithilien with
cargoes of small itemsperfumes, cordials, candied fruits.
Come and visit me in Caras Arnen, Oliel, and we will make a formal
I shall, Faramir. Thank you.
The two men embraced. Less than an hour later, Faramir watched
the Hunter sail out into open sea, heading northwards.
You really didnt need to come with us, Rib,
Looking up at the Early Bird, she waved to Legolas and
Hentmirë. Keret has come to say good bye to you,
And to Gimli! shouted the boy.
The three friends came down the gang plank, followed by Eowyn.
Good bye, Keret, said Hentmirë, hugging him
tightly. Remember to be good for your mother. She
wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Take good care
of him, she said to Gwirith.
I shall, Lady Hentmirë.
Keret turned to Legolas. How do elves say good bye?
Legolas smiled. You put your hand on your heart like this,
bow your head, and say Navaer. Gûren ninnatha nanarad
as achên len.
Navarrr, purred Keret. Gurren nin
atha nana-akken-len... He hugged Legolas for good measure.
Then he turned to Gimli.
Rasup gamut, said Gimli. Tan menu
selek lanun naman, tak khaz meliku suz yenetu. Now come here,
laddie! He smothered Keretwho was no taller than himselfin
a great bear hug. Remember to visit us in the Forest when
you are older, lad. We shall all be waiting.
Good bye, Ribhadda, said Eowyn, quietly. Thank
you for the kindness you showed me when I invaded your storeroomit
seems so long ago, nowand for the help you have given us
Ribhadda kissed her hand. The pleasure was mine, my Lady.
Would you like me to fetch Cyllien?
Ribhadda shook his head. Ive said my good byes to
her and Haldir, he said, but... He turned
to Legolas. Can I ask you both a favour?
Do you have room for two more passengers? A woman and a
Legolas looked from Ribhadda to Gwirith and Keret, and back again.
We can find room for them, of course, he said, but
What are you saying, Rib? asked Gwirith.
Ribhadda took her by the hands and drew her a little way apart.
You belong with these people, Riya. I wasnt sure before...
But now I can see it. You belong with them and with your husband.
Shhhhhyouve got to listen to me.
Do you have any idea what youd have to look forward
to if you stayed here, Riya? Nine chances out of ten wed
both wind up in the Hatjas prison. And then who would
look after the boy?
Youre saying this only to make me go.
Im saying it because its true, Ribhadda
corrected. Inside of us we both know you belong with Oliel.
Youre a part of his work, the thing that keeps him going.
If youre not with him youll regret it.
Oh, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But soon, Riya.
And for the rest of your life.
But what about us?
Well always have what we had. We didnt; wed
lost it until you came back to Carhilivren. We got it back in
the last few days.
I said I would never leave you.
And you never will. Go with them, Riya; go and find Oliel,
and let the boy live somewhere clean.
Gwirith raised her eyes to his, and a look of understanding passed
between them. Then, Good bye Rib, she said, softly.
May the gods bless you.
Ribhadda watched the Early Bird sail out of the harbour.
Everybody moves on, he thought; he turned to leave.
Standing in his path, regarding him with dark, painted eyes,
was a familiar, kilted figure.
Master Ribhadda, said the Kurian.
No. I have missed ship. I must wait.
Ribhadda looked him up and down, thoughtfully. You looking
for a job?
To do what?
Ohthis and that. Captain Ramesss replacements
a new broom, and hes sweeping Carhilivren clean with a vengeance.
It might be useful to have someone around who can keep his eyes
and ears open. Someone, you understand, who doesnt speak
The Kurian smiledand Ribhadda noted that the healer had
done an extremely skilled job on his face. Hell attract
a different sort of customer, thats for sure,
but, in his own way, hell be as big a draw as Cyllien
I understand, said the other man, but why you
Ill be paying your wages.
I take your job.
Good. They shook hands. Master Kurian,
said Ribhadda, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful
Farewell, sweet lady
As Hentmirës boat rounded the rocks at the harbour
mouth and caught the wind in her sails, a giant bird swooped down
from the sky and crossed her bows, crying plaintively.
Figwit ran along the deck and climbed atop the forecastle. Navaer,
híril velui, he called, waving his hand in farewell.
Avo aphado nin, meldis nín!
The roc circled her beloved master one last time, then rose up
into the cloudless blue sky and, with steady wing beats, cut out
across the sea, back towards her mysterious home.
Nîr tôl erin baded lîn,
The elf dropped lightly to the deck and walked to the stern,
never taking his eyes from the birds silhouette.
And there he remained, standing at the taff rail, staring back
towards Carhilivren, untillong after sunsetValandil
and Wilawen persuaded him to join the others below decks.
An honest woman
You knew him before he was kidnapped, said Wilawen,
closing the cabin door; was he always so unworldly...?
She looked around the narrow, corridor-like cabin, then down at
the elf, who was sitting on the lower of two bunks. Valandil?
This is a very small room.
I believe it is called a cabin.
I know it is called a cabin, Valandil. That does
not change the fact that there is nowhere for usfor meto
wash or undress.
Valandil smiled. Would you like me to move in with Figwit,
Wilawen bit her lip. Can I ask you a question?
Of course. Valandil patted the lumpy mattress.
Wilawen sat down beside him. I told you that I have neverer
She waved her hand, giving Valandil the opportunity to catch it
and draw it to his lips.
Wellwhat about you? You have never said.
She watched himkissing her handas though the hand
did not belong to her. Do elves wait, Valandil? You have
been so patient with me...
Elves do frown upon making love before marriage,
said the elf. But, if the couple is reasonably discreet...
So you are the same as humans, said Wilawen. And
Valandil nodded. Kiss.
Wilawen! His tone was gentle, amused. But he did
not answer her question.
I was never given the chance, said Wilawen, quietly.
No one ever wanted me.
Valandil looked up from her hand in surprise. The men of
Gondor are fools, he said.
Wilawen smiled. Unlike elves, who can charm the birds down
from the treesand no doubt do, all the time, in Eryn Carantaur,
she said, where everything is perfect and everyone is happy...
You will love it there, Wilawen.
If I come to live there.
You will. He smiled. I shall make sure of it.
Do you want to, Valandil?
Live in Eryn Carantaur?
Make love. Tonight.
Oh, faer vara! Do you want to?
I want it to be two years hence, when we are an old married
couple, and completely at ease with one another
Wilawen! Are you finally agreeing to marry me?
She blushed. I suppose I am.
And your father?
I will help you persuade him.
Valandil leaped to his feet and held out both of his hands. Come,
Where? Wilawen frowned. I thought you were
going to seduce me?
No, Wilawen, said Valandil. I am going
to take you up on deck so that we can make our vows under the
stars. Then we will come back here, he kissed her hands,
and we will make love.
Well, it is about time, whispered Legolas.
He nodded towards one of the rope lockers, where Valandil and
Wilawen sat gazing out across the shimmering water, the womans
head resting on the elfs shoulder, a contented smile lighting
Eowyn squeezed Legolas hand. Let us give them some
The couple climbed the steps to the aft deck, where Faramir and
Berengar were having a lesson in seamanship from Captain Mutallu.
Dont screw up your left eye, sir, the Captain
was saying, or youll strain it. Just let it relax,
and look through the glass with your right... Yes, like that.
Berengar swept the spyglass along the horizon. Oh!
He moved it back a little. I can see something, Captain.
Ship to port! cried a lookout, from up in the rigging.
Berengar handed Mutallu the glass.
Shes a three master, confirmed the Captain,
and shes fast, like a slaveror a pirate. Beat
to quarters, Master Taru. I want the Early Bird ready to
withstand an assault.
Very good, sir.
Wait! said Faramir, who was leaning over the gunwale.
I think she may be the Hunter! May I use the glass?
He peered through the misty lenses, examining the ship from stern
to stem, until he found the ships figurehead, a leaping
wolfhound. Yes," he cried. "It is the Hunter!
He returned the spyglass to Mutallu and turned to Eowyn, smiling.
Would you mind waking Gwirith, my dear?
Eowyn smiled back. Of course not.
Captain Mutallu signalled for the Hunter to come alongside
and invited Captain Oliel aboard.
Faramir greeted his friend cordially. This is sooner than
expected, he said.
I could not leave her behind, Faramir. You were right,
my friend, I should have spoken up before. But its better
late than neverand I shall be back in Carhilivren by midday
That will not be necessary, Oliel, said Faramir,
smiling. Come with me.
Gwirith was waiting in Legolas and Eowyns cabin. Faramir
left Oliel at the door.
Go in, he said, and tell her what you have
just told me.
Oliel opened the door. Gwirith
I cannot change, Oliel,said his wife, before he had
had the chance to enter the room. If you want an innocent
young girl, who will be content to do nothing but cook your food
and clean your clothes, and climb into your bed at night
I dont. Oliel closed the door. I want
you Riya. Why do you think I was coming back for you?
He held out his arms.
Gwirith shook her head. Just answer me this, Oliel: what
would you have done if I had told you that I had seen Abdi outside
the Circusand that I intended to kill him? What would you
I have asked myself that a thousand times, said Oliel,
overcoming his wifes resistance and gathering her into his
arms. And every time, the answer is the same...
I would have come with you, he said, kissing her
forehead, andmay the gods forgive us bothI would
have held him down whilst you cut his throat.
Keret pulled the wooden mûmak from his pocket. Do
you want him back? he asked.
Of course not, said Hentmirë, he is yours,
Oh... She threw her stout little arms around
the boy and hugged him fiercely. Do not forget to visit
us. Legolas and Gimli... Legolas and... and I... I want
you to visit...
I will. He hugged her back. Anyway, he
said, sniffing hard, I still have my third wish to ask for.
With a final wobbly smile he climbed down the rope ladder and
joined his mother and father in the Hunters rowing
It is so much harder, said Hentmirë, as she
watched the little boat pull away, to say good bye a second
Hentmirë's new home
The Early Bird reached Pelargir ten days later. Legolas
and Faramir hired horses, and carts for the luggage, and a carriage
for Gimli and the ladies.
Slowly the friends made their way north east along the Forest
trail, watching the birches give way to elms, and the elms give
way to oaks, and then, on the morning of the fourth day of travel,
the oaks give way to mighty carantaurs.
Hentmirë climbed down from the carriage and picked up a
huge red leaf.
We are almost there, gwendithen, said Legolas,
Hentmirë slipped the beautiful leaf inside the cover of
her book, for safekeeping.
Time to wake up, said Legolas, gently shaking Hentmirës
shoulder. We are here.
Hentmirë rubbed her eyes. The carriage had come to a halt
in a broad clearing. To her right stood a large, circular pavilion
with an intricately carved roof; to her left, a wooden staircase
wound its way up one of the massive tree trunks.
Do we go up there? she asked.
Legolas laughed. You do not need to whisper, gwendithen.
With Legolas on one side and Eowyn on the other, Hentmirë
climbed the spiralling staircase, pausing now and then to catch
her breathI shall need to be fit!and to
look up into the Forest canopy, where elegant wooden buildings
nestled amongst the branches.
It is like a fairy tale! she whispered. Oh,
how Keret will love it!
At the top of the staircase all three stopped (waiting for Hentmirë
to recover from the climb) and gazed along the main walkway, Legolas
pointing out buildings of interestthe Council Chamber, the
Library, his own chambers, his garden flet. And this
will be your home, gwendithen, he said, leading her
to a single-storey apartment, built around one of the massive
Hentmirë looked at the wooden doors, carved in flowing,
interwoven curvesLike syrup pouring from a spoon,
she thoughtwith their frosted glass etched with pointed
leaves, at the pale green paintwork, and at the white canvas sunshades
stretched over the wide windows.
It is exquisite, Legolas, she said. The
whole city is exquisite...
And our door is just here, said Eowyn, pointing across
the walkway. So it will not seem so different from your
Tears of happiness filled Hentmirës eyes. Thank
you, she said, softly. Thank you for letting me come here
to live with you.
And so, to bed...
It had been a long, hard journey back from Mirkwood but, at last,
they were home: darkness had fallen and the sky, clear and moonless,
shimmered beyond a mesh of silver stars. Legolas, perching on
the windowsill, watched with lazy pleasure as Eowyn slipped off
her dressing robe and put on her white nightdress, carefully fastening
its tiny buttons one by one, then picked up her dark velvet mantle
and draped it around her shoulders.
She smiled at him. All ready. She held out her hands.
Are you sure you want to do this, Melmenya?
Of course, she said, it was my idea.
She led him from their chambers and up the steps to their garden
flet where, in their absence, Lord Caranthir had overseen the
building of a canopied bedto Eowyns specificationswith
a covering that, on warm nights such as this, could be rolled
back to allow its occupants to gaze up at the stars.
Thank you, meleth nín.
Legolas slid the mantle from her shoulders and let it drop to
the floor, then he lifted her into his arms, andin a subtle
show of elven strengthcarried her effortlessly across the
Make love to me, Eowyn whispered, brushing her lips
against his ear and making him shiver. In our own home.
Legolas settled her on the bed and straddled her. Then, taking
his weight on his hands, he lowered himself upon her, letting
his hard ceber brush between her thighs.
Eowyn shifted her hips beneath him, and Legolas entered her slowly,
making every inch count.
Pedo enethen, he whispered.
Legolas. Her voice was husky with desire.
He pushed himself deeper, arching his back to fill her completely.
Gazing down at her now, he began to thrust, his strokes gradually
growing harder, faster, more urgent, his hips grinding, his thick
shaft stroking some secret part of her, hidden deep inside her
Eowyn clawed the bed, her body arching and twisting. OH!
Legolas stilled, and cried out her name as though in pain; and
Eowyn felt him come, warm and wet inside her.
She stretched out her arms and let him sink into their comfort,
and bury his face in the crook of her neck. We are home,
Melmenya, he whispered. We are home at last.