It had taken almost two hours to find all of the deadsixteen
men, fourteen women including the bride, and seven children, some
of them only toddlers. Master Dínendal was still moving
from body to body looking for signs of life, but the other elves
knew that his search was hopeless.
This is an entire village, said Haldir. All
dead, except the child. And I do not understand how she
She was hidden beneath a headless corpse, said Valandil.
Of her mother, I think.
The two elves walked to the edge of the clearing, where Wilawen
was tending the tiny girl. The child shrieked the moment their
shadows fell upon her, and struggled in the womans arms,
desperate to get away.
She seems to be afraid of elves, said Wilawen. Or,
perhaps, of males.
Is she badly injured? asked Haldir, stepping well
No. The blood is not hers. Wilawen looked up from
the child. That is the strange thing; there is not a mark
on her. Somebody sliced through her clothing and rubbed the blood
on heryou can see the marks of his hands on her shoulders.
Gently, she pulled back the remains of the childs dress
to show him.
That, said Haldir, looking at the fingerprints, is
a very small hand
Haldir! cried Rumil. Look! Over here!
Stay with them, Valandil. He crossed the clearing
to join his brothers, crouching beside one of the bodies.
Have you ever seen anything like this before? Rumil
held up a fragment of silvery metal. We pulled it from one
of the wounds.
Haldir took the bloodstained objectthe tip of a finely-wrought
bladeand examined it closely. No, he said, it
does not look humannor elvenand these runes...
It is no language I have ever seen before,
agreed Rumil. It was a beautiful blade, though.
Fragile, corrected Haldir. He dropped it into the
leather pouch at his waist. Lord Fingolfin may know where
it comes fromhe may recognise the runes. Anything else?
Yes, said Orophin, stretching out his hand, palm
up. A good many of thesecarefulwe think
they are poisoned.
They are too small to do much damage in themselves,
said Rumil. And a fast-acting poison would explain why none
of the men seems to have fought back.
Haldir looked at the tiny black object. A crossbow quarrel,
This does not make sense.
Finely-crafted blades that snap in human flesh, tiny crossbows
firing poison darts... He shook his head. These animals
were not men, not elves, not orcs.
A new enemy, then, said Rumil. But from where?
And what do we do about them? asked Orophin.
Haldir sighed. Taking the bodies back to Eryn Carantaur had been
a sensible plan when they had thought they might be dealing with
six merchants from Minas Tirith, killed by outlaws.
He had fourteen warriors. Valandil, he cried, Orodreth,
Camthalion! He showed the Mirkwood elves the strange weapons.
Take Wilawen and the child, and the rest of the civilians,
and set up camp with your back to the Divor Rocks, he said
to Valandil. Find somewhere sheltered and defensible. We
do not know where they are coming from, but they seem to attack
in the dark and at close range. He held up the quarrel to
make his point.
Valandil acknowledged his orders with a hand on the heart and
a bow of the head.
Haldir turned to Camthalion and Orodreth. Leave the bodies
where they are, but light fires around the clearing and patrol
the perimeterI do not want these people violated by scavengers.
Is that clear?
Yes, March Warden.
In the meantime, Rumil, Orophin and I will ride to the
nearest settlement and see if we can trace any relativesthey
will surely want to claim their dead and perform the appropriate
ritesand the child may have family still living. With luck,
we will be back with help later tonight.
Eryn Laeg ended abruptly, just east of the Divor Rocks. From
the edge of the trees to the slopes of the mountains of Mordor,
some hundred miles further to the east, the landscape lay like
a piece of parchmenta flat expanse of pale, bleached grass,
divided into a pattern of squares by human homesteads, widely
spaced to the north, tightly clustered around the tiny town of
Newhome to the south.
Humans are an industrious people, said Rumil. But
they will fight the land.
Haldir led the way along the dirt road between two sets of fences,
slowly approaching the closest of the wooden houses, where an
elderly couple was sitting outside in the evening sun, the man
smoking a pipe, the woman shelling peas into a bowl on her lap.
Good evening, said Haldir with a polite salute.
Evening, replied the old manand if he
was surprised to see three elves on his land, he did not show
Haldir dismounted. We come with bad news, he said,
The woman looked up from her work. Take a seatyou
and your companionscan I fetch you a drink?
Haldir shook his head. Nothank you. He introduced
himself and his brothers formally, and explained, as tactfully
as he could, what they had found in Eryn Laeg.
Itll be the Mayors daughter, said the
woman. It was her wedding...
All dead, you say? asked the man.
The elf nodded. Except the child. We are looking for their
Was it Orcs?
No, we do not think so. He carefully removed the
crossbow quarrel from his pouch and showed it to the old couple.
We found these... We believe they are poisoned.
The dark people... muttered the woman, and
she made a gesture with her hand which Haldir instinctively recognised
as a charm intended to ward off evil.
Now, Mother, chided her husband, you know the
dark people are nothing but an old womens tale. Wait here,
sir, while I fetch my horse, he said to Haldir. Ill
take you into town.
Who are these dark people? asked Haldir quietly,
once the man was inside the barn.
The woman had retreated into herself, rhythmically dipping her
hand into her bowl and letting the peas run through her fingers
but, at length, she answered, They come out at night, into
the forest, killing anything they find. The last time they came
I was just a girl, but I still remember the bodies. So many funerals...
She glanced over her shoulder, making sure that her husband was
still out of earshot, then leaned forward and whispered, They
say they live inside the Divor rocks.
Valandil approached slowly, one hand raised as if in surrender.
Wilawen smiled. She is sleeping.
The elf lowered his hand and, taking care not to disturb the
child, joined his betrothed on the ground. I have brought
you some food, he said, handing her piece of lembas.
Valandil settled his back against the rock wall. Has she
Nothing I can make sense of, said Wilawen. Just
Yes. She said it over and over, getting more and more distressed.
And then she struggled, and tried to get away from me.
Purple... Perhaps it is what the raiders were wearing?
Wilawen shrugged her shoulders.
What will become of her, Valandil asked, if
Haldir cannot find her family?
Someone will take her in.
Do you think... He waved his hand.
If you want to.
Wilawen turned onto her side and smiled up at him. You
are truly a sweet elf, she said, smiling. But
no. I will care for her for as long as I must, but I have no burning
desire to be her mother.
Valandil took her hand and raised it to his lips.
Do you think they will come back? she asked.
He glanced round the camp. They had found themselves a natural
fortificationa broad alcove in the rock wall, with a long,
narrow, barbican-like entrance and high craggy walls providing
various emplacements for archers. It seems secure,
But? Wilawen touched his cheek. What are your
instincts telling you?
It sounds foolish.
Can we trust the rock?
What does that mean?
I do not know. He smiled at her. I did tell
you that it was foolish.
Will he be all right? asked Hentmirë, anxiously.
She had come into Legolas study and found him lying on the
floor, and had immediately sent for help. I could not wake
him, so I asked Galathil to fetch you, she said,
with Master Dínendal being away.
Lord Fingolfin searched for a pulse. Did you move him?
Um... I may have shaken him a bit. Will he
be all right?
I do not Fingolfin remembered to whom he was
speaking. Of course he will, híril nín. Galathilgo
and fetch Master Findecáno, as quickly as you can.
Can I do anything, my lord? asked Hentmirë,
watching the young elf hurry away.
Where is Lady Eowyn?
She went map-making with Master Berrynthey should
be back at any moment...
Good, said Fingolfin. He smiled at the little woman.
Help is on its way. All you and I need do is watch over
him until it arrives.
Findecáno opened his healing bag. Has this ever
No, said Hentmirë. At least, I do not
think so. What is that?
This, said the healer, removing the stopper from
a small brown bottle, is smelling salts. I can find nothing
physically wrong with Lord Legolas, so I think we can afford to
give him a little help. If you will support his shoulders, my
Ladyyes, like that.
Findecáno gently waved the open bottle under Legolas
nose, letting the pungent odour of the salts enter his nostrils.
For a moment nothing happened. Then the elfs eyes and mouth
flew open and he took a great, gasping breath. Eowyn!
Hentmirë struggled to hold him fast.
Eowyn! he cried, Let me go gwendithen! I must
go to her!
No, my dear, no, said Hentmirë, hugging
him tightly. You have been ill. And Eowyn will be back at
No! cried Legolas, No! She will not! She thinks
that I hate her! That I have betrayed her with... With...
Findecáno grasped the distraught elfs face, caught
his gaze and held it. Breathe deeply my lord, he said,
staring into Legolas eyes, deeply... In...
And out... And in... And out... That is right... Slowly,
he removed his hands. That is better. Now I will give you
something to help soothe your nerves...
But, even as he was reaching for his healing bag, the study door
flew open, and Berryn ran in.
Lord Legolas, he cried, it is Lady Eowyn!
He bent forwards, hands on knees, gasping for breath. Lady
Eowyn, he panted, has gone! I cannot find her! I think
she must havehave fallen into The Aelvorn!