interlude

A thorough search of Godith’s parents’ house, and of the few buildings, clustered around a bend in the Heledir river, that comprised the village of Eryn Valen, yielded nothing—no sign of the missing baby, no clues as to who might have taken him, or why—so, leaving the distraught mother in Hentmirë's care, Legolas and Eowyn, Gimli, and Haldir and his Border Guards proceeded to search the surrounding forest.

Late afternoon

“Do not get lost,” said Legolas—seriously, for the Woods were unfamiliar to him and something about them, a feeling they aroused in him, which he could not quite name, made him uneasy—“or I will never let you go by yourself again.”

Eowyn walked a few paces down the narrow track, found a dense patch of undergrowth, and—after quickly arranging some twigs in an arrow that pointed back to where Legolas and Gimli were waiting—slipped behind it, unlaced her leggings and pushed them down.

Behind her, someone laughed.

Eowyn gasped. “Who is there?”

Whoever it was did not reply and, peering through the trees, Eowyn could see no one—but then, as she hurriedly re-laced herself, she heard him laugh again.

“Who are you?” she demanded. “And what are you?” she wondered aloud, for she was sure from his voice, and from his wayward laughter, that he was neither elf nor man—and nor was he the strange leaf-being who had once rescued her from Orcs.

I must get back to Legolas, she thought. And she stepped out onto the path, and looked for her sign.

It was gone. “No!

Nervous now, Eowyn called out, “Legolas? Legolas, where are you?”

But all she heard was more laughter.

And then—

“Do you think the poor mite is still alive?” asked Gimli.

“I hope so, elvellon,” said Legolas, distractedly, for he kept looking in Eowyn’s direction.

“What kind of Orc steals a baby? And why?”

“That, I do not know, Gimli—Valar, what is taking her so long?”

“Give her a few more moments, lad,” said the dwarf. “You know, women are not built like us.”

The soft, haunting melody curled like scent upon a breeze, seeping into her, stirring her limbs, until—though a small, quiet voice within her told her that it was foolish—Eowyn raised her arms, and began to dance.

“She is lost again, Gimli,” said Legolas, suddenly. “Stay here with the horses, elvellon. I will go and find her.”

Slowly, she followed the music’s ebb and flow—and the creature came out from his hiding place and joined her, lifting his double-flute high as he twisted and turned, weaving his magic around her.

Another appeared, with bells at his wrists, and he joined in the dance, trailing silvery notes behind him.

Then a third emerged, and silently beckoned Eowyn to follow.

And—though some lingering sense warned her of danger—when she tried to resist, her doubts simply floated away. And then it no longer seemed strange that her companions should have horns on their heads, nor hair on their legs, nor that, in place of feet, they should have little, cloven hooves.

Legolas strode along the path, following the traces of Eowyn’s passage—a trampled leaf here, a handful of scattered twigs there—until, in a patch of soft mud, he found several of her small footprints, pointing in different directions…

Gimli’s eyes flew open. “Wait!”

The young woman, whose stealthy footsteps had disturbed him, froze, mid-step. “I am sorry, my Lord,” she said, raising her hands in surrender, “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

“I was just resting my eyes,” said Gimli. “But you should not be here, all by yourself, lass. These woods are not safe.”

“You’re right, Lord Gimli,”—she lowered her hands—“they’re not. But I know them well.” She gestured towards the north. “I live nearby.”

“How do you know my name?”

“Everyone’s heard of Lord Legolas’ friend.” She looked about her. “Is Lord Legolas with you?”

“Yes,” said Gimli, “somewhere.”

“Do you think he’ll help me, my Lord?”

Still weaving their enchantments, the three creatures led Eowyn further and further down the path—deeper and deeper into the Forest—until they came to a great mead hall, standing atop a platform of hewn stone (and it did not seem strange to Eowyn to find such a fine building in that remote part of the Forest).

Then one of them took her by the hand, and drew her up the steps, and through the carved wooden doors.

With mounting anxiety, Legolas searched in every direction until, to the east, he found a single, pale hair snagged upon a bramble, glittering in the sunlight like a thread of pure gold.

He pulled his bow from its strap, and hurried on.

“But why have these creatures taken your sister, lass?” asked Gimli. “Is your family rich?”

The woman blushed. “They’ll not ask for a ransom, my Lord. They just want to bed her. They have no women of their own.”

Eowyn frowned.

The mead hall was dark, lit only by the fire and by a smoky shaft of sunlight falling through the hole in the roof, but there was no mistaking what stood beside the fire pit.

Legolas crouched and examined the ground—More footprints, he thought, and fresh. But not hers—not even human.

“Come on, lass,” said Gimli, jumping from Arod’s back. He drew his axe. “We will both look for her. Avo visto, Arod; avo visto, Brightstar.”

Eowyn approached the row of tiny cribs.

“Hello,” she whispered to the first child—and he smiled up at her, waving his perfect little fists—and something about a baby stirred in Eowyn’s memory, and she was about reach in, and lift him from his bed, when she heard a whimper.

The next child, a blond elfling, was fast asleep—though Eowyn gently touched his cheek with the back of her hand, to make sure that all was well, before moving on to the next cradle.

“Hush, little one,” she whispered to the third infant. “What is wrong? You are quite safe here.”

She had had no experience with babies, but instinct guided her, and she slipped her hands beneath him and, supporting his little head, she lifted him from his crib and laid him upon her shoulder, gently rubbing his back and—

“Oh!” she gasped, for the boy, like his father, had tiny cloven hooves—and a question suddenly occurred to her.

“Where is his mother?” she asked. “Where are all their mothers?”

The creature merely smiled.

And then Eowyn knew why she had been brought to this place.

“You want me to take care of them,” she said, “you want me to be their mother. But I cannot stay here,”—and she knew it to be true, though she could not remember why—“no, no, I cannot, but I will fetch help.” She laid the baby back in his crib, and moved towards the door—

The creature caught her by the arm.

“I must get help for the children,” she insisted. “I must… I…” She was sure that there was someone she must find—someone who would know what to do—and she seemed to catch a glimpse of him in her mind’s eye, but when she tried to remember his name, she could not.

“Melmenya!” A sudden impression of Eowyn, worried and confused, and looking for him, filled Legolas’ mind. “I am coming, melmenya!”

He broke into a run.

“Eowyn!” Gimli charged down the path, following the sound of his friend’s voice. “Stay with me, lassie! Stay with me!”

Eowyn wrenched herself free. “I am going to get help,” she said, firmly. And, oblivious now to the seductive sound of the flute, she ran past the creatures, and through the doors, and out into the clearing—

“Melmenya? Where are you?”

I know that voice!

“Melmenya!”

Whose is it?

Then an elf—the fairest, most noble being she had ever seen—emerged from the trees and, suddenly, her heart leapt, and she cried out, “Legolas! Yes, yes! Legolas!”

“Oh, melmenya!” He gathered her into his arms and held her tightly.

But Eowyn sensed the creatures behind her, and she tensed—and then she felt Legolas raise his head, and look at them, and was surprised to hear him say, “Thank you for finding my lady.”

She turned.

And she knew it was they, for she would have recognised their wicked faces anywhere, but now they were just three simple woodsmen, dressed in trousers, and tunics, and caps of drab grey-green—all sign of their horns, their goats’ legs, their dainty cloven hooves, gone.

And the mead hall, too, had vanished.

“The babies,” roared Eowyn, pulling away from Legolas, “where are the babies? What have you done with them?”

The woodsmen fell back, as if startled by her fury.

“Come with me,” she cried, dragging Legolas by the hand, past the three men and deeper into the clearing. “I found the missing baby, Lassui, and some others too! They are here, somewhere! They must be here! One of them is an elf, and the other—the other is one of them.”

“One of what, melmenya?”

But Eowyn was too busy pulling aside the bracken and the brambles, and searching the ground beneath, to answer him. “I saw them, Lassui!” she kept repeating. “I saw them! I held one of them in my arms…”

“Wait, melmenya. I can hear something—over there.”

Hand in hand they waded through the greenery, step by cautious step, until Legolas squeezed Eowyn’s hand signalling her to stop, and he leaned forwards, and drew back the curtain of ferns.

And lying on the ground, in a small hollow, were three tiny babies.

“Gods, Lassui!” Eowyn fell to her knees and scooped up one of the children.

Legolas knelt beside her. “Are they all right, melmenya?”

“Yes, I think so.” She turned to him, fierce with anger. “You must punish them, Legolas. They stole these children. They may look like men now, but,”—she turned and, holding the baby safe, she frantically scanned the clearing—“where are they? Where have they gone?”

“We will find them, melmenya, and they will be punished, I promise. But the important thing, now, is to get the children back to safety.”

“But one of them,”—Eowyn examined the infants’ feet—“gods, Lassui,” she whispered, “one of the babies is theirs, but I cannot tell which!”

By the time Gimli rushed into the clearing, followed by the young woman brandishing a heavy stick, Legolas had thoroughly searched the undergrowth, and found no more children, nor any trace of the woodsmen.

“Is Eowyn safe?” asked the dwarf, sheathing his axe.

“Yes, elvellon.”

“Is that the missing babe—”

“Have you found my sister, my Lord?” cried the woman. “Is she here with them? Annis? Annis, where are you?”

Gimli glanced at Legolas. The elf shook his head.

“She is not here, lass,” said the dwarf, laying a comforting hand on the young woman’s arm. “But we will find her. We will come back, with men and elves, and we will find her.”

“Melmenya,” said Legolas, as they slowly made their way back to the horses, “do not worry. The mother will recognise her own baby.” He hugged the elfling in his arms. “And your parents will know you, nadithen.”

“But what will we do with the other one,”—Eowyn nodded towards the infant that Gimli was carrying—“with their child?”

“We will bring him back here.”

“And leave him?”

“They will be waiting for him, melmenya.”

“No,” said Eowyn, shaking her head. “You do not know them, Lassui. They do not care. They are feckless—completely selfish.”

And, as she said it, she heard the creatures’ laughter, ringing out behind them.

 

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Legolas
navigation

Contents page

contents

Previous chapter: The body
A body is found: Legolas and Eowyn begin their investigation.

chapter 2

Next chapter: The suspects
Leglolas and Eowyn question more suspects; Gimli and Hentmirë lead the search for the missing girl.

chapter 4

Notes
This chapter was inspired by Susanna Clarke's Mr Simonelli or The Fairy Widower, by Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un Faune, and by a strange experience I had at Stonehenge one midsummer's evening. This is what I imagined I saw!