Night was falling as the noisy procession filed into Eryn Valen—Eowyn on Brightstar, carrying one of the howling babies; Legolas, walking beside her, carrying another; the girl, Myldreth, riding Arod; and Gimli, seated behind her, carrying the third.

When they reached the village green, Godith ran out to meet them and, as Legolas had predicted, immediately recognised her own son. Gimli handed Little Godwin to his mother with a weary smile. “Here he is, lass—none the worse for his adventure, and with his fine little pair of lungs well-exercised…”

“Oh sir—oh, my Lady—oh, Little Godwin!” Godith’s knees gave way, and she sank to the ground, cradling the child in her arms, laughing and sobbing with joy and relief. “Oh, he is so hungry…” She fumbled with the buttons on her bodice.

“Take them inside,” said Gimli, turning to a woman he took to be Godith’s mother, “and make them both comfortable.”

Meanwhile, Legolas had handed ‘his’ baby to Hentmirë, and he and Eowyn were deep in discussion with Master Eral, the village head man. “You are absolutely sure that you can keep the child safe from now on?” he asked.

Eowyn, jogging ‘her’ crying baby up and down on her shoulder, hissed, “Shhh, shhh, now.”

“I am certain, my Lord. We’ll just keep him and his mother indoors. The tad-dail won’t cross a threshold—it’s not their way. They prey on the unprotected—on babies left outside in the sunshine, on foolish maids wandering by the river when they should be doing their chores—”

“Like my sister,” said Myldreth.

“Tad-dail?”

“That is what we call them, my Lord.”

“Do you know what it means?”

The man shrugged. “Does a name have to mean anything, my Lord?”

“It means animals,” said Legolas. “This cannot go on, Master Eral. How long have these animals been preying on the villagers?”

The head man shrugged again. “The tad-dail are as old as the Forest, my Lord—they were here long before we came.” He glanced uneasily at the women; then, moving closer to Legolas, and leaning forward, he added, man-to-man, “They are lusty creatures, my Lord, driven to spread their seed, and they have no women of their own but, as I say, they only take the foolish…”

Legolas glanced at Eowyn. “Well, we will protect these foolish victims, Master Eral,” he said. “Your people cannot live under constant threat.” He scanned the village, noting the neat, wooden dwellings, the stables, the animal sheds with their little pens, and the various storehouses. “We will move you west, closer to the city.”

“Oh no, my Lord!” Then the head man, remembering his place, bowed respectfully. “That is: we are very grateful for your concern, my Lord, but—”

I am responsible for your people’s safety, Master Eral.”

“Yes, and I thank you… But, my Lord, our lives are here. We make our living from this land. The girl there,”—he gestured towards Myldreth—“she is from the flash lock—aren’t you?” She nodded. “One of Master Elmer’s daughters, my Lord—and Elmer feeds his family by working the lock…”

“We will find you somewhere where you can live in safety,” said Legolas firmly. “We will move your houses, we will build you new farms; and we will build you another lock.”

“And how would the river traffic reach it, my Lord,” asked Eral, unhappily, “if this lock were left unmanned?”

Legolas sighed. “We must discuss this further, Master Eral, with all your people, and soon. Your situation is urgent; but, at present, I have even more pressing demands—”

Lad…” Gimli, who had been listening closely to the discussion, stepped forward. “Let me sort it. Let me stay here, with the March Warden (if he is willing) and his warriors. We will search the Forest—as I promised Mistress Myldreth—we will find her sister, and we will stop these buggers—”

“We cannot simply kill them, Gimli.”

The dwarf growled.

“They have a right to be here,” Legolas insisted. “A prior right. That is the problem.”

Gimli grabbed his arm and pulled him closer. “Would you say that if they were Orcs?” he hissed.

“Orcs are an abomination,” said Legolas, quietly. “Orcs were created by evil.”

“And who is to say that these things were not?”

“Find them,” said Legolas, “rescue their captives, and take the tad-dail prisoner if you can. I will return after the Harvest Rite—”

“We will both return,” said Eowyn. She had been silent all through Legolas’ talk with the head man, distracted by the baby; and now, at the sound of her voice, the child began to cry again. “Oh, no! Oh shhh. Shhhhhhh.”

“This place is too dangerous for women, mel—”

“Well I will help Gimli,” said Hentmirë, suddenly. “They are hardly going to kidnap me, are they, my dear? I will come back with you now, to pack a few things, and stay with Eowyn tonight, and then I will return tomorrow with Rimush, and anyone else who is willing to come.”

They sent word to Haldir—who was still searching the Forest for Little Godwin—and waited until he had returned and agreed to stay with Gimli before they prepared to set off for home.

“We had better put the babies in my carriage,” said Hentmirë.

“No,” said Eowyn, “we should leave them here.”

Frowning, Hentmirë turned to Legolas for clarification. The elf, who had been growing more and more concerned for Eowyn, laid a gentle hand on her back. “Why melmenya?”

“Because the human has cloven hooves,” said Eowyn. “Oh, it is no use looking now, Hentmirë, you will not see them; but I saw them, in the mead hall. Goat’s feet. And I will wager the elfling has them too. We must leave them here so that, when Gimli captures their fathers, he can get rid—he can give them back.”

“Melmenya…”

“But they are hungry,” said Hentmirë, unconvinced, “and,”—she lowered her voice to a whisper—“I think this one needs changing.”

“Gwendithen,” said Legolas, “if Eowyn thinks it best, I am sure that Godith and her mother will take care of them—they do know far more about babies than we—and I will give them something for their trouble. Come, let us arrange it.”

Godith’s parents were reluctant to keep the babies, fearing that it might draw further misfortune down upon their daughter and grandson but, eventually, they agreed to take care of them for two gold pieces a day.

As she left their house, Eowyn fell silent, and did not argue when Legolas suggested that she ride home in the carriage with Hentmirë. By the time they reached the city, she seemed to have withdrawn into herself completely, and both the elf and the woman were watching her anxiously.

“Let me have a few moments alone with her,” whispered Legolas, as the trio made their way up the spiralling staircase to the Palace. “I will bring her to you before midnight,”—he smiled at Hentmirë’s worried frown—“with our honour intact, I promise.”

Gently, he led Eowyn into their sitting room, and sat her down before the fire; then he poured out a measure of apple brandy, and offered it to her. “Melmenya?”

When she did not take the glass, he crouched down beside her and held the drink to her lips. “Take a sip, melmenya; and another; good.” He set the glass down. “You have not told me everything that happened this afternoon, have you, Eowyn nín? What did these tad-dail do to you? Why could you not bear to bring the children home? Eowyn?”

She laid her head on his shoulder and he hugged her close. “They did not do anything to me, Lassui. They wanted me for a servant. I am not a comely young girl to be bedded; I am an old woman who must serve their offspring.”

“Melmenya! What are you…?” Legolas was genuinely shocked. “You are upset because they did not rape you?

“Oh, Lassui!” She began to cry, in great, heart-wrenching sobs. “I cannot remember anything else, Lassui, only that! That I was not good enough for them!”

“Melmenya!” He shook her: gently at first, and then harder. “They ensorcelled you with their music; they made you see things that were not there to be seen—the great mead hall, remember?—and they have left you haunted by this foolish fear.”

Foolish?

“You are immortal, Eowyn,”—his anger vanished at the sight of her tear-stained face—“you will be young and beautiful—you will be enchanting, melmenya—when the Mistress Godiths and the Mistress Myldreths of this world are old and shriveled. You are the most desirable woman—the most desirable lady—I have ever seen. And I am not alone. Haldir, Fingolfin, Thorkell bogsveigir—they would all throw themselves at your feet and beg for your favours, if you were to give them the slightest encouragement…”

Eowyn sniffed.

“It is the Harvest Rite, my darling. Somehow, those animals sensed your fear of rejection, and they played upon it, using it to weaken and confuse you. But you must be strong, melmenya, and put these false thoughts behind you.”

“You still want me?”

“Oh, Eowyn nín, of course I do!” He raised her hands to his lips, and kissed them tenderly. “Now,” he said, gently placing them back in her lap, “I want you to make me a promise. I want you to promise that, if any of these black thoughts come back to you, you will say to them, out loud, ‘Get out of my head!’ And you will keep saying it until they stop plaguing you. Do you promise?”

Eowyn smiled.

“I will assume that means yes.”

“I love you, Lassui.”

“Good.”

“Can I stay here with you tonight?”

“No, melmenya.” He drew back from her. “I am sorry; but I must take you over to Hentmirë’s house before we both do something we will regret.” He rose to his feet, and held out his hands. “Come, she is worried about you—and you need to rest, my darling. We still have a murder to solve and, preferably, before the Harvest Rite begins.”

 

The woman with hair like midday sun crosses the wooden pathway with her elf. I merge into the leaves, and watch her. She leans upon his arm, her head bowed with sorrow.

All the light has gone from her.

What has happened since this morning?

Her elf hands her to another woman, and returns to his own shelter.

I creep along the branches and climb up into the tree overlooking her nest. Tonight I shall not trust others to protect her; tonight, I shall watch over her myself…

 

Sitting at the dressing table in the quiet sanctuary of Hentmirë’s guest room, Eowyn combed and braided her hair.

At first, the miserable thoughts kept coming back to her. But she remembered her promise to Legolas and, muttering, angrily, “Get out of my head!” whenever they surfaced, she gradually found that they were disturbing her less and less.

At length, when her candle had burned low and she was finding it hard to keep her eyes open, she laid down her comb, and rose; but, as she was turning back the bedclothes, she suddenly felt a presence, outside the window, watching over her.

Legolas, she thought; and, smiling, she opened the window and leaned out. She could see no sign of him, but that did not surprise her, for she had long since learned that a human will never see an elf who does not want to be seen.

“It is working, Lassui,” she called.

And, as she pushed the window shut, she heard the branches, high above her, rustle in reply.

Next morning

When Legolas arrived for breakfast, he found Hentmirë’s house in chaos.

“Hentmirë has already eaten,” said Eowyn, taking him by the arm, and leading him through the crowd of men, elves and dwarves thronging the lobby, “but I waited for you.”

“What is going on?”

“Word has got out—and do not ask me how—that Gimli has asked for volunteers to help track down the tad-dail and, for some reason, they have all decided to congregate here—I think most of them are hoping for a ride in Hentmirë’s carriage.”

“And who put Thorkell bogsveigir in charge?” Legolas nodded a brief greeting to the tall, saturnine man, who was valiantly trying to impose some order on the enthusiastic recruits.

“Your father,” said Eowyn. “He is to escort Hentmirë to Eryn Valen, and then return.”

They escaped into the breakfast room and pushed the door closed behind them. “You seem so much better this morning, melmenya,” said Legolas, pulling out a chair for her. “How are you feeling—truthfully?” He sat down beside her.

“I am fine.” She gave him a grateful smile. “As I told you last night, your method worked.”

“Last night?”

“When you were sitting up in the trees.”

Legolas shook his head.

“You were not?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“I did not leave our bedchamber, melmenya.”

“Then who was it?”

“What did you see of him?”

“I did not see anything, Lassui; that is why I was so sure it was you.” Eowyn frowned. “But I did feel you—at least, I thought I did. And I heard the leaves rustle… Oh gods, you do not think—”

No.” Legolas caught hold of her hands. “No, from your description of their feet I am quite sure that the tad-dail are no climbers, melmenya. But I will have a look up there, myself, as soon as we have spoken to Cyllien—and I will ask Captain Golradir to double his night patrols.”

Later

After waving goodbye to Hentmirë and her motley army—“Do not forget, Legolas—Donatiya will be watching over Eowyn tonight,”—they climbed back up to their chambers to find a man waiting to speak to them.

“Captain Golradir says I should come to you, sir,” he said.

Legolas noted the man’s warm clothing and his leather money apron. “You must be one of the market traders,” he said.

"That I am sir. I comes ’ere regular, every month, and stays for two or three days. I ’as a regular clientele.”

"And what can we do for you, Master…?"

“Osborn, sir. I ’eard about the murder and, well, I think I seen something.”

“Come in,” said Legolas. They took him into the study.

“Are you saying that you were near the building works that night, Master Osborn?” asked Eowyn.

“No miss—er, ma’am—no, I seen this earlier, in the afternoon.”

“Go on,” said Legolas.

“I ’ave a regular customer, sir, a lady, and that afternoon she comes to me to buy. Then I sees ’im, ’Eral the carpenter, dragging ’er into an alleyway—well I was all set to go after ’em, sir—’er bein a good customer, and ’im bein’—well you wouldn’t wish ’im on the wife of your worst enemy…

“Anyway, I was about to go after ’em, like I says, when someone else beats me to it—an elf, like, all dressed in green with ’is ’ood up over ’is ’air. ’E follows ’em, and then I ’ears a scuffle, and then ’Eral comes out, doin’ up ’is breeches and cursin’, and then the lady and the stranger come out, arm in arm, and ’e leads ’er off towards the palace.”

Doing up his breeches?

“Yes, miss.”

“Can you tell us anything more about this elf?” asked Legolas.

The man shook his head. “’E was ’ooded, sir. I couldn’t see ’is face.”

“Then how did you know he was an elf?”

“Oh, ’is bearing sir. ’E was—well, ’e was like you, sir. Tall, and royal-lookin’”

“What about the lady?” asked Eowyn. “You say that she is a regular customer. Do you know her name?”

“I don’t ask questions, miss.”

“Can you describe her?”

“Just a lady, miss.”

Eowyn glanced at Legolas. “What is it you sell, Master Osborn?”

The man grinned, understanding her question. “Pipeweed, miss.”

They gave the man a small reward and, after he had gone, Eowyn took out her wax tablet and they settled down to discuss what they had learned so far.

Galathil brought them a tray of cakes and bubbling water.

“The pipe-smoking ‘lady’ must be Cyllien,” said Eowyn, making a note. “If Heral was ‘doing up his breeches’ as the man said, he must have raped her, or tried to—which would certainly give Haldir a motive—but this strange elf is our most likely suspect, and the sooner we speak to Cyllien, and find out who he is, the better.”

“There is a slight complication there, melmenya,” said Legolas. He poured two glasses of water and handed one to Eowyn.

“And are you going to tell me what it is?”

He cut her a slice of cake. “When I went to see my father, to tell him about the murder, Cyllien was there—all painted and perfumed and wearing the flimsiest of gowns.”

“And he was laying on the charm, no doubt,” said Eowyn, licking lavender icing from her thumb.

“He told me that she had come to sing for him—”

“Oh gods! You are saying that he is the strange elf!”

“It is entirely possible, melmenya. Probable.”

“But—could he have killed Heral?”

“He is more than capable in a fight, Eowyn nin; but Heral was murdered, stabbed through the heart and left to die—”

“And then mutilated,” said Eowyn. “Yes.” She took another bite of cake. “You know, Lassui—perhaps it is unkind of me—but the only person I can think of, unhappy enough to have done something like that, is Cyllien herself.”

They decided that they must speak to Cyllien immediately; but, before they could leave, Galathil announced that Master Bawden was asking to see them.

“Show him in,” said Legolas.

“I have found the missing plank my Lord, my Lady,” said the craftsman builder, taking the seat that Legolas offered him. “And I think it does have a bearing on Heral’s death.” He drew a cloth-wrapped package from his pocket and set it down on the low table between them. “No, please do not open it, my Lord; not until I have left.”

Legolas glanced at Eowyn. She frowned. “What is it, Master Bawden?”

“An abomination, my Lady.” The man leaned back in his chair. “You see, when a building is erected, it’s right and proper for the builders to leave the odd offering for the wights who might come to inhabit it. We wall them up, in the frame of the building, where only the spirits can find them. And that is what Heral had done, using the missing plank—only the thing he walled up wasn’t an offering, my Lady, it—well, you’ll see. Just, please, be very careful when you open it, my Lord. Now, if you would be so kind as to excuse me…”

“Yes,” said Legolas, staring down at the package, “of course—thank you, Master Bawden.”

“Thank you, my Lord. And I will have that list of names you asked for by tomorrow.”

“What do you suppose that was about?” asked Eowyn, as Bawden closed the door behind him. Then, “You had better open it.”

Legolas picked up the object, untied its cloth wrapping, and held it out for Eowyn to see.

Gods,” she gasped.

It was the figure of a man, about six inches tall, and modelled in beeswax. His head was smallish, and wrapped in a strand of coarse blond hair, his body sturdy, and his limbs thick, save for his tapered ankles and tiny feet. But what had surprised Eowyn, what had provoked her oath, was his phallus, longer than his legs and fully four times as thick, rising proudly from between his powerful thighs. A braid of darker hair had been bound round its root, as though to maintain its magnificent erection.

“Well…” said Eowyn. “Now we know why Heral was in the building works that night—he was trying to cast some sort of spell. This must be his own hair,”—she touched the blond lock, and it slipped from the beeswax scalp and fell to the floor—“and I wonder if this,”—she fingered the braided ring—“could be Cyllien’s?”

“From everything we have heard, melmenya,” said Legolas, hoarsely, “I would not have thought that Heral needed magical help.”

“No. But perhaps,”—Eowyn frowned, thinking aloud—“perhaps he was afraid of losing his potency and intended this as an investment for the future. Or perhaps he was just greedy and wanted more.” She stroked the braided ring again…

Then her finger strayed, up the thick beeswax shaft and around the big, beautifully shaped head, until her fingertip came to rest in its carefully-modelled opening, and she caressed it.

“Oh!” Legolas dropped the figurine.

They stared at one another.

“I have no idea why I did that, Lassui,” said Eowyn. “I just—”

“Oh,”—Legolas’ eyes opened wide—“oh Valar!” And he leaped up and fled from the chamber.

Through the lobby Legolas ran, angrily waving Galathil aside, and he plunged into the bed chamber, and wrenched open the bathing room door, and scrambled into the bath tub fully clothed; then he pulled on the chain to release water from the tank above, and cried out in shock as the cold stream hit his body, which was burning with desire in every pore.

His phallus was a red hot weight between his thighs.

“Legolas?” Eowyn had followed him.

“No!” he shouted. “No! Stay away!” He grasped the handle of the water pump and, working it wildly, knelt in the gushing flow. “Ah!”

“Legolas,” cried Eowyn, frantically, “please: tell me what is wrong!”

“I—oh no! Valar, please, no!” He scooped up handfuls of cold water and threw them into his groin, wailing in agony.

But nothing he tried would quench the terrible fire and, finally submitting to his basest instincts, he tore open his leggings and took himself in both hands and—“Sweet Eru,” he sobbed—the unbearable pain immediately gave way to an overwhelming pleasure as, rocking back and forth, he stroked himself desperately.

“Lassui, let me help you!”

“No—ah—no—no!

But she climbed into the bath beside him, and he was too far gone to stop her; and her warm little hands took hold of him, and her soft, wet mouth engulfed him, and suddenly every particle of his body—of his belly, his thighs, his penis and testicles—was bursting apart as, clinging to her in a futile attempt to keep himself whole, he came and came and came.

“Well,” whispered Eowyn.

Mmmm.” Legolas held her close.

“Technically, we did not make love, so no one else need ever know,”—she craned her head back to look at the elf, and his expression of pure, satisfied bliss brought a smile to her own face—“as long as they do not see you like this.” She kissed his forehead. “Come, Lassui—we must dry you and put you to bed.”

It was hard work—for the elf was boneless in the aftermath of his orgasm—but, eventually, Eowyn managed to get him undressed and into bed, and he immediately fell into reverie.

Exhausted—and not a little frustrated—she sat down at the dressing table. The wax figure is a charm, she thought, there can be no doubt of that—a frighteningly powerful charm intended to give Heral limitless sexual potency.

Unconsciously, she opened her jewel box.

Somehow, its effect has been transferred to Legolas. But how?

She tipped her jewels out onto the table.

A sudden vision of her elf, driven mad by magical need, thrusting inside her, hard and deep, turned her belly to water. She closed her eyes and rode out the wave of peverse desire. No, she thought. No, this is all wrong.

She rose and, quickly making sure that Legolas was settled, she returned to the study determined to destroy the figurine—still unaware that she was holding her jewel box.

The thing was lying where Legolas had dropped it, miraculously intact despite the fragility of the beeswax, its huge phallus still standing, proudly erect. Eowyn crouched down beside it; and the very sight of it seemed to feed her frustration, kindling within her a raging hunger, an obsessive need to touch it—to stroke it—to feel that enormous member—

NO.

Dragging her eyes from the figure, she leaned her head against the leg of the desk. It is evil, she thought, created to ruin women. So I must destroy it, crush it underfoot. Yes—

No!

No, what would that do to Legolas?

Suddenly, she was panting with fear. No. No, but I must conceal it—yes, hide it somewhere completely safe, where Lassui cannot see or touch it—

And that, she realised, is exactly what Heral was doing when he was killed!

She scrambled to her feet. The cloth that Master Bawden had used to conceal the thing—very sensibly, she now understood—was lying on the desk, and beside it—inexplicably—was her own empty jewel box. She scooped them up and, taking a deep breath and holding it, she knelt down, dropped the cloth over the figurine, lifted it into the jewellery box—it fitted perfectly—and shut the lid. She set the box on the desk.

Good!

Desire was still teasing her vitals, but now the feeling was nowhere near so urgent. And, anyway, she thought, what do you expect after pleasuring Lassui in the bathing room? Sitting on the floor, she leaned back against the desk, and tried to think.

Somehow, the charm that Heral had intended for himself had become attached to Legolas. How?

She thought back to what had happened. Lassui was holding the figurine, and I was stroking it… She blushed. But—oh gods, before that—the hair—the hair was Heral’s, and I pulled it off—when the hair was in place, the figure was Heral; the moment it had gone, Legolas’ touch was enough to transform it into him.

Thank the gods I did not destroy it!

But… What if I were to replace the hair?

She hunted for the tiny blond coil and, eventually, found it lying on the floor, beside her favourite chair.

She reached for the jewel box. There is no way to replace it without unwrapping the figurine, she thought. But I must be very careful. Gingerly, she opened the lid and lifted up the flap of fabric.

For a long moment she simply stared at the figurine, captivated by the beauty of its phallus; then she stretched out her forefinger and stroked the wax. Hot desire pooled between her legs and, through their bond, she knew that Legolas, though in reverie, was hardening in response to her touch.

Somehow, she pulled her hand away.

I must get someone else to do it, she thought, slamming the lid shut. But whom can I trust?

Hours later

“My Lady?”

Eowyn opened her eyes. Galathil was standing at the study door, looking down at her with undisguised alarm.

How long had she been asleep? Was she decent? “I… I dropped something,” she lied, “on the floor. I was looking for it.” Then, “Yes. What is it?”

“The March Warden, my Lady, wishes to speak to Lord Legolas. He says it is urgent.”

“Lord Legolas is resting.” Carefully arranging her skirt, Eowyn drew her legs up beneath her and rose as elegantly as she could, smoothing her gown over her waist and hips. “Tell him I will—”

“Eowyn,”—Haldir pushed his way into the chamber—“it is urgent.”

He was standing so close—tall, broad, heavy, and smelling of musk—why had she never noticed his scent before? Eowyn swallowed hard. “That will be all Galathil.” Her voice sounded surprisingly even. “Take a seat Haldir.” She turned her back on him. “As I said, Legolas is resting. But you can speak to me.” She walked over to the sideboard. “Would you like a drink?”

“No. Eowyn…” Something in his voice made her turn to face him, despite her acute discomfort.

I did it,” said the big elf. “I killed the carpenter.”

 

previoustopnext

Legolas
navigation

Contents page

contents

Previous chapter: Something in the woods
Eowyn makes a grim discovery.

chapter 3

Next chapter: The Rite
The investigation continues; Legolas and Eowyn prepare themselves for the Harvest Rite.

chapter 5

Elvish
Tad-dal … A ‘two-legged animal’