It is called a portal, said Arador.
It is like a doorway. You step into it herein this
case, somewhere in Minas Tirithand step out of it therewherever
it happens to lead.
Cramped together in Eowyns tent, the warriors exchanged
glances. There was a long silence. Then Legolas said, Lord
Fingolfin, have you ever heard of such a thing?
The scholar shook his head. Nothing precisely like this,
They are described in several books, Arador interrupted.
I brought one with me. He rummaged in his travelling
pack and pulled out a small, badly-worn volume, which he passed
to Fingolfin. I have marked the page...
Even if this thing does exist, said the shadow Eowyn,
I see no reason to change our plans. March Warden Golradirs
attack will buy us time, and give you the chance to reach
the river. If all goes well you will be back with reinforcements
at about the same time my mercenary returns with his leader. Nowe
already have the means to attack the enemy from withinthere
is no need to risk sending our men into the dark, and putting
them at a fatal disadvantage.
With respect, my Lady, said Captain Drago, you
cannot rely on this turncoat
Their leaders are here, Dragoon the surfaceLord
Legolas himself saw their Queen. Whether we hire the mercenaries
or not, this is where we will defeat them.
I agree with herwith your LadyCaptain,
said the other Eowyn, suddenly, we should not try to fight
them in the darkwe should attack them above ground and in
broad daylight. But this doorway does worry me. IfArador?the
boy noddedif Arador is right and it does exist, could
they not use it, to enter Minas Tirith?
There were gasps and murmurs all around the tent.
We must surely bar it, Eowyn continued. And
quickly. She turned back to Arador. Where is it?
The boy blushed. I am not absolutely sure, my Lady, but...
He dropped his gaze. The mark is against the third level
of the city, and thatin my worldis where one
of my contacts has his shop. If he also exists here, he
may know more about it. Then he added, with unusual diffidence,
I could go to Minas Tirith with you...
Legolas looked to Haldir. Is he up to it?
Yes. If he does as he is told.
Good. Then he will help you find this contact, March
Warden, whilst Eowyn, Gimli and I speak with Aragorn.
The mess tent was busy. Legolas and Gimli found four empty seats,
and sat down.
You are sure we need the lad? asked Gimli,
eyeing the lines of weary soldiers and frightened townsfolk waiting
for their evening meal. He is awful young.
I know. But it will not be the first time that you and
I have fought beside a child, elvellon, said Legolas,
and Haldir says that his knowledge of the dark warriors
has already proved invaluable
I am to sleep in Lady Eowyns own tent, said
Hentmirë to Eowyn, as she set two bowls of stew on the table.
She took the chair next to Gimlis. And Master Berengar
says that there are lots of jobs that I can help him with.
Berengar is a good man, said Eowyn, setting a third
bowl in front of Legolas, and sitting down beside him.
Where is yours, melmenya?
I am not hungry.
The elf pushed his bowl towards her. Eat half.
When are you leaving? asked Hentmirë.
In about an hour, said Legolas. He took a mouthful
of stew, then handed the spoon to Eowyn. We will leave the
enclosure shortly after Golradir attacks the enemy campaccording
to Drago's scouts, to the south east the way is reasonably clear,
and any drow lurking there should be pulled back when the alarm
is sounded. Once we reach the Anduin, we will turn north and follow
the river to Osgiliath.
You will be careful?
Of course, gwendithen.
Only, if it really were that easy, she said,
quietly, Lady Eowyn's men would have crossed the river weeks
Legolas patted her hand. Nothing much passes by you, does
it? he said. You be careful too, Hentmirë.
There has been some bleeding, said the healer, carefully
peeling back Haldirs dressing, but the wound has already
knit itself back together. He sponged away the dried blood.
Quite remarkable. If we humans had a tenth of your powers
of healing, Master Elf, I might even enjoy my work. He looked
up at Eowyn. I would say that he is fit to ride, my Lady,
if he takes reasonable care.
He applied a clean dressing and re-bandaged the shoulder.
Good, said Eowyn. Thank you, Master Ethelmar.
She waited until the man had left, then turned back to Haldir.
The elf stretched out his hands and she came to him, dropping
to her knees before him; he wrapped his arms around her. You
are sending me away, he said, burying his face in her hair.
You are needed. She closed her eyes, tightly. We
are both needed. Separately
I know. And I accept that, meleth nín. But
you would be sending me away even if it were not so. He
kissed the top of her head, adding, softly, I do
Do you? Gentlyvery aware of his injuryshe
disentangled herself and looked up into his face. Gods,
I am no good at this. She reached up and brushed back a
strand of his silvery hair.
At what, meleth nín?
At the afterwards. She smiled sadly.
At picking up the pieces, afterwards.
I am not Legolas... Her hand was still in his hair
and he grasped it, and drew it to his cheek. I have
no great destiny to fulfil, as he has. I would be content
to be your companion, Princess of Ithilien.
She grinned, suddenly. You would be my wife?
He smiled. If that is what you need. And the Captain of
your Guard, perhaps. When all this is over.
But you said it could not last.
He kissed her fingers. Because this is not my world, meleth
nín, and I do not yet know whether I can stay.
But you would want to?
Oh, yes, he whispered. But... Would you want
me to stay?
Her reply was forestalled by a polite cough from outside the
tent. Who is it? she called.
It is Eowynyour doubleyou promised to lend
me a broadsword.
The woman looked up at the elf, mouthed, Later, then rose quickly
to her feet. Come in.
Eowyn lifted the tent flap and entered.
Directly before her was Haldir, sitting on a folding chair, his
broad chest bare apart for the bandage that passed under his arms
and over his right shoulder, and she blushed to the roots of her
Haldir picked up his tunic and slipped it on.
This is a bad time, she said.
No, said her double. Wait there. She
pulled back a silk hanging and disappeared into her bedchamber.
It is strange to see you here, said Eowyn,
quietly. She could not meet his eyes. I mean, in this world.
It is as though... Fate...
Haldir... She thought of Legolas double, and
the dreams that he had described to her, of himself with her own
double. Be careful
Here, said the shadow Eowyn, emerging from her bedchamber,
my cousin gave this to me on my sixteenth birthday. It is
a good sword, perfectly balanced. The blade
is forged from Haradin steel, said Eowyn, and
there is a firestone set in the pommel. She watched her
double draw the sword from its scabbard, and examine its edge.
Is he... Did Theodred survive the Fords of Isen?
No. He died bravely.
In your world too?
It was a terrible loss for his father. For all of us.
The shadow Eowyn re-sheathed the blade and gave the sword to Eowyn;
and she, impulsively, caught hold of her doubles
hand andalthough the other woman immediately pulled awaytheir
eyes met, and something passed between themand it was as
though Eowyn were seeing her own life, with all its joys and sorrows,
in the mirror of her doubles eyes.
All its joys bar one, she thought. The most important
The shadow Eowyn laid a hand on Haldirs shoulder. My
healer has pronounced Haldir fit to travel, she said. Then,
Will you give us a moment?
She knows, said Haldir.
Eowyn smiled. She is a woman; of course she knows.
She squeezed his good shoulder, gently. Does it trouble
She will tell Legolas.
Does it matter? She stepped in front of him and,
dropping to a crouch, peered up into his face. Gods, you
are feeling guilty!
Yes! Why? Because of her? Or because of him?
She stared up at him, her face suddenly flushed with annoyance.
Haldir! You have not betrayed her, because she chose
him; and you have not betrayed him because I am
not her. And when he did not respond she rose to
her feet and cried, Get out. Go on! Out!
But Haldir did not move. It is not guilt, Eowyn,
he said, quietly. It... It is embarrassment.
By making love to you, it is as though I have made love
to her... And... And shared with him.
I am not HER! Eowyn clenched her fists in
frustration. It makes no sense!
No, said Haldir, perhaps not, but... Yes, it
does: you are different but you are the same...
No! You said that I was your Eowyn. You said...
She ran her hand through her hair. So where does this leave
Haldir looked up at her, sadly. I do not know, my love.
Arador approached the jumble of wooden sheds and canvas awnings
that served as the field Healing Room. Captain Drago had told
him that his mother helped tend the wounded.
The boy was not sure what he was going to say to herhe
just knew that he had to say something.
He found her working in one of the outlying tents. She looked
exhaustedand the marks of her earlier tears were still on
her facebut she was doing her best to help, carrying a pitcher
of water from bed to bed, patiently giving each man a ladle-full.
Arador waited until she had emptied the jug, then he stepped
inside and caught her eye.
Aran! Her face lit up at the sight of him. Is
everything all right now? Has Lady Eowyn seen you?
He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and hugged her. Let
me help you fetch some more water, mama.
What is wrong, melmenya? Holding the reins of Eowyns
horse, Legolas watched Eowyn as she tried to buckle Theodreds
sword into her shoulder harness.
Wrong...? The straps were uneven and the sword was
hanging awkwardly; she pulled at it in frustration. Argh!
Here. Take these. Legolas handed her the reins. You
must calm down, melmenya. Once we leave this enclosure, you will
need all your wits
Do you think I am a green girl?
Legolas smiled (to himself) as he made a careful adjustment.
I am worried for him, she said. That is all.
He is a grown elf.
But he is so... You are all so... When it comes
to emotions, Lassui, you are like children. What?
Why should he not be with her, melmenya? Why does it trouble
you so much?
Her answer took him by surprise. Because he is coming.
Your double. Another you. And she... She is so like me, Lassui.
She shook her head. She is just like me.
Arador took the jug from his mothers hands
and let her lead him down the alley between the two rows of wooden
sheds, to the back of the plateau, where a low wall had been built
to catch the waters of a spring that bubbled up from the depths
of Emyn Arnen and, there, they joined the line of people waiting
to fill their pitchers.
Arador could stay silent no longer. Do you remember,
he said, what you said when you first saw me in the mess
tentthat you had seen me die?
The woman's eyes filled with tears. I am so sorry, Aran.
I do not know how I could have imagined it...
No. He put his hand to her cheek and gently turned
her face towards him. No, what you saw was real. Though
I do not know how to explain it to you... Unless,inspiration
suddenly struck himcome with me.
Where is the lad? asked Gimli. He should be
He has a few minutes yet. Legolas helped the dwarf
into the saddle.
Gripping the leather tightly, Gimli straightened up, and raised
his head. Hmmm, he said, and here is more trouble.
Legolas smiled. He could sense the shadow Eowyn and the March
Warden approaching from behind, but he resisted the temptation
to turn and stare. Shhhh.
What? growled Gimli.
Do not bait him. I am warning you.
But Gimli was not listening. It is hard to tell you ladies
apart, he said to Eowyn.
So, just as there are two Lady Eowyns, said Arador,
swallowing the lump in his throat, there are two
of you, andthere weretwo of me. The other you
is my mother; the other me was your son. He hugged her tightly.
I am telling you this because Lady Eowyn has asked me to
go to Minas Tirith, with Lord Legolas and the others, and it will
be dangerous, and I may not come back. So I wanted you to know.
I wanted to make sure that you did not lose your son twice...
Lord Legolas,the shadow Eowyn handed him a
leather dispatch pouchI have written a letter to King
Elessarto Aragornexplaining the situationthe
loss of Caras Arnen, Faramirs death, our present positionit
may help you convince him.
Legolas bowed. I am sure it will my Lady. Thank you.
He slung the bag over his shoulder.
My Lady! Captain Drago approached at a run. It
is almost time.
Very good, Captain. Prepare to open the barricade.
Legolas and his small band of warriors trotted forwards, lining
up along the cart that served as a gateEowyn to his right
on a powerful grey stallion; Arador to his left on a swift Haradin
gelding; and Haldir to the rear on one of Lady Eowyns own hunters.
Can you tell my double from me, Gimli? asked
Legolas, over his shoulder.
Oh, easily, said Gimli. He is the one with
the axe handle up his backside.
Outside the drow encampment
I would have preferred, thought Golradir, to have done
this at dawn. The sudden daylight would have helped us.
He signalled Camthalion and Orodreth to follow him, and the three
menall of them excellent warriors, though not up to the task
of approaching the drow unseento wait; they would be
needed to cover the elves retreat.
The trio advanced slowly, keeping their warm bodies, as far as
possible, hidden behind the trees. The encampment was just as
Golradir remembered it, and the elves worked their way along its
northern border, staying high up in the branches.
Lady Eowyn and the others, he thought, were wrong to
think that the dark elves might be sleeping. Night, he realised
now, was their natural element and, though some of them appeared
to be resting, most of them were fully alertwith their weapons
But now was not the time to falter.
Silently, Golradir gave the sign, and the elves spread out, taking
up their positions on three sides of the lizard herd.
He gave the signal to shoot at will, and they filled the clearing
with a blizzard of arrows, targeted, with deadly accuracy, at
the lizard handlers, at the tethering ropes, at the lizards
throats and bellies, andwhen the drow warriors all too quickly
realised that they were under attackbetween the pairs of
fiery eyes that were scanning the forest in search of them.
Several of the lizards broke free and caused havocone viciously
attacking its drow handler, the others lurching about the clearing,
trampling anyone who came between them and their quest for cover.
But, despite the chaos, Golradir could see no way to withdraw
without exposing his warriors backs, and he was painfully
aware that their ammunition could not last much longer...
Then fate kindly intervened.
The drow had lit no fireshad no light at all save, here
and there, the odd glowing jewelbut a tent towards the rear
of the clearing must have housed some kind of smithy, with a covered
furnace, and into this one of the lizards suddenly blundered,
scattering hot coals across the ground in a wide arc.
Clumps of dry grass and brushwood caught light instantly and,
as the fire quickly spread, Golradir raised his hand to his mouth
and gave the familiar bird-call, and his warriors retreated, leaving
the panicking drow to deal with their worst nightmare.
The sound was faint but unmistakablethe noise of an army
in chaos, of animals stampeding and of mendark elvesstruggling
to regain control whilst their comrades panicked andyesscreamed,
in terror and pain.
And then another sound reached thema snapping, crackling
Gods, whispered Drago, the forest is alight!
And he pointed, above the trees, to a dull red glow that was bleeding
up into the sky. Now, my Ladythey must leave
now. Before the fire spreads west and cuts them off from
Open the gate.
Drago gave the signal and his men hauled back the carts.
Andwith a final salute to Hentmirë (who had already
taken Aradors mother under her wing), and to
Berryn, Lord Fingolfin, Berengar and, of course, the shadow Eowyn
herselfLegolas small band of warriors galloped through
the barricade, cut sharply west, crossed the plain, and disappeared
into the trees.