I am sorry, melmenya.
It was my fault. Eowyn turned her head and gazed
into the elfs blue eyes. I should not have looked
at the figurine, Lassui, I should not have touched it, but I was
No. He raised her hand to his lips. I
wanted to know what it would be like if we were both aroused by
the charm; I insisted on keeping the thing here.
It was exciting, said Eowyn.
But it was not love, said Legolas.
I did sense your love for me, melmenya, still there, beneath
the appetite, but
I felt your hunger, said Eowyn, stroking his face.
Ravenous hunger. She smiled, sadly. And I felt
your penis, as though it were mine; felt its power as it entered
my body and thrust into the warmth and the wetness, just as though
it were mine, and my body were yours. Her smile became radiant.
That was wonderful, my love.
I know. Legolas kissed her hands, again and again,
though he did not admit what he had felt. But is
it worth risking the love that we already share, he asked,
at last, for that?
She tucked a loose strand of hair behind
his pointed ear. But, whatever we do, my darling, we must
not be hasty. It is growing more like you. She described
the changes she had noticed. Then she added, And I examined
the braid ring more closely, Lassui, and I think I know now what
the creatures gave Heral in return for the baby.
North of Eryn Valen
Elven rope, muttered Thorkell bogsveigir, unconsciously
addressing the knots securing his horse, a quarter mile away,
do not let me down. He raised his fingers to his mouth
and whistled. Beneath his other hand, the tad-dal began to struggle.
Stop that! he growled, cuffing its ear.
Moments later, the horse trotted into view.
With a sigh of relief, Thorkell grasped his prisoner by the scruff
of its neck anddragging it to its cloven feet with a few
oaths and another well-placed blowhe bundled it, face down,
over his saddle, securing it with the rope hanging from the horses
Then, taking the reins, he began the long walk back to Eryn Valen.
Legolas clutched the arms of his chair, riding out the deep shiver
that twisted his body, as Eowyn, behind his back, carefully wrapped
the magical figurine in its cloth.
I cannot be certain, of course, she said, but
the hair in the braid seems too coarse to be Cylliens. And
it does make sensethe tad-dail are known for their potency.
She laid the wax charm in her jewel box and closed the lid. There.
Legolas sighed, and fell back in his seat, though his hands remained
Whether he deliberately got Godith with child, Eowyn
continued, or whether it was just a lucky accident, we may
never know. She shrugged. If he did, he and the tad-dail
must have made their bargain some time ago. She crouched
down beside Legolas, smiling up at him.
Do not touch me, melmenya, said the elf, softly.
Eowyn frowned. You cannot still
My whole body is aroused.
Oh, Lassui! She pulled away from him. It is
less than two hours until the Rite, my darling. Bathe now, and
I will go to Hentmirës house, and dress there.
North of Eryn Valen
Thorkell bogsveigir scanned the Forest to left and right.
He could see nothing, but he was certain that he was being stalked
by the tad-dail. They are unlikely, he thought, glancing
at the creature sprawled across his saddle, to give me much
His prisoner let out a sudden, piercing cryand, in response,
a storm of tiny stones rained down on the Beorning, stinging his
hands and face and forcing him to close his eyes. Bastards!
he yelled, struggling to control his startled horse. Damn
Through narrowed eyes he saw a tad-dal dart into the open, whirling
a slingshot around its head.
Oh no, you do not! Andforgetting, in his haste,
the elven ropeThorkell pulled out his knife and, ducking
down behind his horses shoulder, he cut through the binding at
his prisoners ankles and dragged the creature to the ground.
Let us see how fast you can run
Another hail of stones stung the Beornings face. Gods
damn you! he roared, swinging up into the saddle.
He dug his heels into the horses sides, and the terrified
creature galloped off, dragging the wailing tad-dal behind it.
King Thranduils apartment
My dear, said the Elvenking, gazing up at Cyllien,
Luthien herself would fade in your company. His eyes
shifted to her bosom, and rested upon the soft curves revealed
by her low-cut gown of pale elven lace. You are perfection.
Smiling, he patted the seat beside him. Come!
Cyllien bit her lip. I have another favour to ask of youyour
I have told you not to call me that, remember? Thranduil
studied her face. Hmm. I think a tonic is called forsit
He had dismissed the servants, so he rose, crossed to the sideboard,
took up the decanter, and poured out a large measure of cherry
brandy himself. Here, drink this,he handed her
the glassthen tell me what I can do.
He sat down beside her.
The elleth took a sip. I was aout to tell Mistress Perfect
everything, Thoron, she said, staring into her drink, I
really wasmy hand was upon the door
Cyllien blushed. Princess Eowyn.
Thranduil laughed. She is not bad, you knowfor a
human. She would die for Lassui.
You did not speak to her?
Ino, I was too afraid.
Good. Come here. The Elvenking wrapped an arm around
her slender shoulders, and drew her close. Just tell me
what you want me to do, mell nín. His lips brushed
Save Haldir, said Cyllien.
Later: in the Banqueting Hall
Eowyn smiled nervously at Legolas.
His hand was trembling, but he gave hers a brief squeeze before
they stepped into the Banqueting Hall.
They worked their way around the ring-shaped table, greeting
each of their guests in turn, before crossing to the centre of
the Threshing Floor, where Legolas seated Eowyn on one of a pair
of elegant thrones.
The guests fell silent.
I call upon all those present, announced Lady Lessien,
to witness that Legolas Thranduilion, Lord of Eryn Carantaur,
takes Eowyn Eomundiell, Lady of Eryn Carantaur, as his Harvest
As the crowd applauded with genuine affection, the Mistress,
turning back to the couple and joining their hands, continued,
Repeat after me, my lord: My heart is your heart
Hentmirë, sitting in the doorway of Godiths parents house,
scanned the line of trees beyond the village green.
Godith, her parents, and the three babies were upstairs in the
sleeping room, whereHentmirë had assured everyonethe
children would be safest should the tad-dail attempt to recapture
Rimush was in the storeroom, carefully packing up parcels of
provisions to be handed out to the search parties when they returned
for fresh instructions.
That left the little woman on watch aloneand with plenty
of time to appreciate just how boring a very important job could
Berryns search party had returned at dusk to report that
the region to the north westlabelled tinco on Hentmirës
mapwas clear. Hentmirë had crossed it off, allocated
them andoa large, featureless tract of Forest to
the westand, as they moved out again, had watched them light
their torches and snake away in single file, like a huge fire-worm.
Now she was expecting Gimlis party, back from the south
west. The dwarves will be hungry, she thought; and she
was about to ask Rimush whether the food would be ready when she
saw a movementYes, there it is again
The little woman leaned forward, peering into the dark Forest.
The disturbance did not have the telltale rhythm of marching men;
the Forest was rippling to right and left, Like a pack of hounds
closing in on their prey, she thought.
Quickly, Hentmirë rose to her feet, moved her chair aside,
and began to shut the door
Thorkell bogsveigir burst out of the Forest and thundered across
the village green, dragging the tad-dail behind him.
As he reached the house he leaped from his horseslapping
its flank to drive it awayand, with his prisoner still in
tow, he dashed for the part-closed door, crying, Stand back!
Hentmirë disappearedand the Beorning dived through
The creature, having no choice but to follow, hit the door jamb,
Thorkell hauled it inside.
Rimush, cried Hentmirë, pushing the door, Rimush,
The huge man flew from the storeroom and, together, they shut
and barred the door, barricading it with the map table for good
measure. See to the shutters, my dearhurry,
Thorkell bogsveigir, meanwhile, had lashed the tad-dal to a wooden
post and silenced its wails with a blow to the head.
Leave that one open, he called to Rimush, as the
latter approached the window beside the door. We will need
to see what they are doing.
Would it not be better, said Hentmirë, fetching
some hot water and a cloth, to watch from upstairs? There
are three windows in the sleeping roomlet me clean your
wounds, Master Thorkell.
The Beorning rewarded her with one of his rare smileswhich
quickly turned into a wince. Very good thinking, my Lady.
He nodded to Rimush and the big man, having secured the window,
helped him drag his prisoner up the wooden stairs.
Do take care not to wake the babies, muttered Hentmirë,
following them, anxiously. They are very loud when
The Banqueting Hall
Too excited and too nervous to eat, Eowyn watched restlessly
as King Thranduil selected a peach from the silver charger before
him, took a bite, and offered the rest to Cyllien.
He is such an old rake, she thought. And she cannot
take her eyes off him.
She remembered the conversation she had overheard earlier.
Gods, she thought, we have still not spoken
to Cyllien! Lassui and I have become so obsessed with sex we are
in danger of forgetting that a man has been murdered!
She turned to Legolas.
The elf smiled, but looked so ill that her heart faltered in
If only I could take him in my arms!
At last, a trumpet fanfare signalled the end of the feast, and
Lady Lessien, rising from her seat, took the couple by the hands
and led them out to the centre of the Threshing Floor.
The King and Queen of the Harvest stand before you,
she cried; and, as the guests cheered, she added, softly, Repeat
after me, my lord: As my seed fills the Queens womb
The tad-dal had been gagged, but not before its cries had woken
the babies. Now Godith, her mother and the long-suffering Rimush
were doing their best to quieten the infants, walking them back
and forth, rubbing their little backs.
It is no wonder, muttered Thorkell bogsveigir, drawing
an arrow from his quiver and fitting it to his bowstring, that
my father did not like children. He peered out of the window.
Hentmirë crept up beside him. Can you see them?
Do not cramp my bow arm,the woman quickly stepped
backyes, they are over by the goat pens. At least
two dozen of them.
What are they doing?
They have set the beasts free, said the Beorning,
and now they are watching. And waiting.
They want him back,he nodded towards
the captive tad-daland I daresay they will take as
many women as they can find.
But how? asked Hentmirë. If we all stay
indoors, how can they
But the rest of the question died
on her lips, for it suddenly became very clear how the tad-dail
intended to drive everyone outside.
His mouth and his hands were everywhere at oncedevouring
her lips, kissing her throat, cupping her breasts, nuzzling her
neck; and then his penis was thrusting and filling her, thrusting
and filling, and every heart-stopping stroke was making her body
arch and twist with joy.
OhLassui, mymy Lassui
After the savagery of the afternoon and the torture of the banquet,
she had expected him to cover her like a stallionand she
would have welcomed itbut this was tenderness; this was
marriage; and, as she basked in its sunshine, she sensed
the emotions of their guests, deeply moved by the love they were
seeing expressed before them.
Water, said Hentmirë; we need water!
Hush! Thorkell bogsveigir raised his bow.
One of the tad-dail had darted from the shadows, and was whirling
its slingshotloaded with burning strawaround its head.
The Beorning drew, took aim, and loosed.
His arrow sliced through the darkness with a menacing hiss and
pierced the creature between the eyes; it fell, and the burning
missile rolled from its dead hand.
Well done, Master Thorkell, said Hentmirë, watching
from the next window.
Keep back! cried the Beorning, drawing another arrow.
You are a big target! He steadied himself, loosed,
and dropped the next tad-dal just a split-second too latebut
the straw fell short, landing upon the road, and its plume of
flame spread harmlessly across the dirt.
They are using oil, said Rimush, beside Hentmirë.
He turned away, using a hand to shield the babys eyes from the
Now two tad-dail were running forward; Thorkell drew and loosedhit
the firstdrew and loosed againnarrowly missed the
Oh! cried Hentmirë, as the straw projectile
shot through the window and landed upon the wooden floorboards
behind her. Fire spilled across the floor. The little woman blundered
over to the bed, pulled off a blanket, and tried to beat out the
Here, sir! Rimush pushed the baby into Godiths fathers
arms. Take everyone downstairs, he said, quickly.
And, grabbing another blanket, he attacked the fire with powerful
blows. Keep back, my Lady.
But the flames were spreading out along the floor, and they caught
the coverlet of the nearest bed, ran up the bed frame, leapt up
the wall and, in a sudden burst, exploded across the ceiling,
dropping burning thatch upon the tad-dal, which squealed behind
its gag, writhing in its bonds as its fur caught light.
Dodging the flames, Hentmirë rushed to the nightstand, seized
a jug of water and dumped it in the creatures lap.
Thorkell bogsveigir, ignoring the commotion behind him, was still
shooting steadily. But the tad-dail were attacking in greater
and greater numberstwo missiles had fallen on the roof and
another on the porchand he was running out of arrows. Get
downstairs, he shouted to the others, we will have
to take our chances outside
Smiling fondly, Eowyn snuggled up beside her elf.
The hum of activity all around themmuffled by the blanket
the Mistress of the Ceremony had draped over them once the Rite
was completewas pleasantly soothing.
Eowyn closed her eyes, and drifted off to sleep.
Rimush, barked Thorkell, pulling out his knife,
I said: take her downstairs!
The big man stopped beating back the fire reluctantlybut,
when he saw how Hentmirë was risking the smoke and flames
in her attempts to release the tad-dal, he immediately dropped
his blanket and, opening the way by kicking back the burning bed,
he grabbed her by the arm, and pulled her clear.
Thorkell, meanwhile, had drawn his knife, and he rushed in, cut
the terrified prisoner free andgrasping it by the hairhe
dragged it past the searing flames, but Hentmirë and Rimush,
still hesitating at the top of the stairs, were blocking his way
Move! he shouted.
The steps were alight, and burning thatch was raining down into
the stairwell. The little woman took a few faltering steps.
Pull your jerkin over your head, my Lady, said Rimush,
like this. And, grasping her around the waistForgive
me,he plunged down the stairs.
Thorkell followed, shielding his face with one hand, and dragging
the tad-dal with the other.
Downstairs, Godith and her parentswith the flames raging
behind themwere frantically trying to open the door. We
have to get out, cried the father, handing a baby to Hentmirë,
help me, sir!
Rimush dragged the map table aside.
Will they kill us, Master Thorkell? asked
Hentmirë, rocking the baby anxiously. Shhh, shhh!
Who knows? The Beorning shoved the tad-dal at Godiths
father. Here, hold it tight. He opened the shutters
and peered through the windowStay back!quickly
scanning the scene.
The bastards may prance along the riverbank with garlands
in their hair, he muttered, but they are bloody fierce
And, just as he feared, the tad-dail had
closed in, dragging a cart, a bench and a line of barrels across
the village green to give them cover. Ahead and to the right the
way was completely barred, but to the left Thorkells practised
eye detected a possible routethrough a narrow alleyto
one of the barns. Another wooden building. Wonderful.
He glanced at his companions. Lady Hentmirë is a game
old bird, he thought, and the servant is handy in a fight,
but the others are just one big pain in the arse
He made a decision.
We will give them him, he said, jerking his
thumb towards the tad-dal, and the two changelings,he
fitted an arrow to his bowand maybe that will be enough.
Rimush, get ready to open
They can have their friend back, Hentmirë interrupted,
but this baby is an elf, and the other one is human.
They have us surrounded.
A flaming beam crashed to the floor behind them.
But we would have to live with it afterwards, Hentmirë
There will not be an afterwards
Just do it, my Lady, shrieked Godith. Do
it for Little Godwin!
Hentmirë hugged the baby tightly. But
Another beam came tumbling down, bringing part of the upper floor
Shit! Open the door! cried Thorkell. Go!
Eowyn awoke suddenly and, wrestling herself out from under the
blanket, sat upright, pushing her hair from her eyes and looking
around the Banqueting Hall in confusion.
Towards the entrance, a naked woman, on hands and knees, was
rocking back and forth, moaning encouragement to the elf behind
her, who was thrusting steadily.
The Rite! Of course
Eowyns gaze travelled around the Hall, over the sleeping
couples and back to the lovers, then rose up above their heads.
Oh! she gasped, pulling the blanket over her breasts.
What are you doing here?
Give it the baby, shouted Thorkell to Godiths
mother. Go on! He stepped forward, bow raised, placing
himself between the attacking tad-dail and the humans, his gaze
sweeping back and forth along the enemy line.
The womanneeding little urgingdumped the infant into
the prisoners arms.
Release it, Thorkell called to Godiths father,
push it right out, past me! Yes! Now, everyone
The thatched roof behind him suddenly caved in, and flames leaped
up above the eaves.
Shrieking in terror, Godith ran for safety, and the others followed,
stumbling in their haste.
Make for the alley, yelled Thorkell, backing after
them, still protecting them as best he could. As he had hoped,
his former prisoner was providing additional cover, staggering
towards its comrades, bleating something in its own language.
Keep going, yelled the Beorning, go on, keepoh,
A handful of the tad-dail had leaped over the barrier and, whirling
their slingshots around their heads, sent fiery missiles hurtling
into the alley, cutting off the humans retreat.
Shit! Thorkell loosed his arrow. One of the creatures
fell. The Beorning reached into his quiver, and muttering, This
is badthis is badthis is very bad, he drew his
last arrow, loosed, and brought down a second. Rimush,
he shouted, casting his bow aside and reaching for his knife,
find us another way out! Fast!
More creatures came over the barricade, and ran at the humans,
attacking with spinning kicks.
Godith dropped to the ground, instinctively shielding her child
with her own body; her mother, kicked in the head, collapsed in
her husbands arms.
Nooo, cried Hentmirë, turning this way
and that as the creatures closed in on her from all sides, he
is not yourshe is not yours! In desperation,
she scooped up something from the ground, and protecting the baby
as best she could, she poked at the attackers, trying to keep
Eowyn watched, fascinated, as the strange green manhis
tall, spare figure wrapped head to foot in foliageraised
a branch-like hand and beckoned.
She remembered her fear when, months earlier, cornered by a band
of Orcs, she had sensed his presence behind her, and turned, and
had seen his golden eyes burning in what she had assumed was a
pile of fallen leaves
But she remembered how quickly that fear had turned to trust
when he had pulled her to safety.
The green man beckoned again.
I have no reason to fear him now.
She glanced at Legolas.
Her beloved elf was sleeping peacefully, eyes closed, like a
mortal. It would be a crime, she thought, to wake him
after all that he has suffered today
So she rose, and put on her gown and slippers, and picked her
way through the sleeping couples (carefully skirting the now-sated
lovers), and joined the green man outside the Banqueting Hall.
What do you want? she whispered.
He slowly lifted a long, gnarled finger, and pointed northwards,
indicating that Eowyn should walk.
He pointed again.
Do you want to show me something?
Hentmirë, already on her knees, slumped over the baby as
a vicious kick, to the middle of her back, drove the air from
Beside her, Rimush was still fighting like a lion; across the
village green, shouts and screams, strangely muffled by the ringing
in her ears, told her that the villagersold men and vulnerable
womenhad come out to help.
I am sorry, she panted, bracing herself for the final
She waited, cringing.
But the attack did not come.
Instead, a familiar sound, slowly penetrating her consciousness,
made the little woman open her eyes, and try to lift her head,
andthrough pain and tearsshe smiled, shakily.
The sound was a dwarven battle cry, coming from a small, ferocious,
axe-wielding figure, charging into the melée.
Gimli, groaned Hentmirë, in disbelief. Gimli
has come to save us.
Hand-in-hand, Eowyn and the green man left the clearing and entered
the rose gardens, crossing each grassy courtyard, with its carved
stone terraces overflowing with fragrant bloomsuntil they
reached, at the gardens centre, a rocky pool, gleaming in the
Eowyns strange companion released her hand.
You want me to wait here?
He bowed and, when he raised his head, Eowyn thought she glimpsed
the ghost of a smile in his vivid eyes. Then he waded out into
the water and, stooping, retrieved a long, narrow package.
What is that?
He brought it back to her and, setting it on the grass, carefully
unravelled its cloth wrapping.
Eowyn crouched down to examine the parcels gruesome contentstwo
pale shells of waxy flesh and the elegant white knife that had
sliced them from Heral the carpenters dead body. How
did they come to be here? She looked up into her companions
burning eyes. Did you see who put them here?
The green mans eyes seemed to dull with sadness. He slipped
his gnarled hand into a crevice in the pools rocky bank and withdrew
a small object, which he held out to her.
Eowyn stared at the damning evidence. Oh no
A sudden vision of Eowyn in distress jolted Legolas from his
sleep. He sat up and, instantly alert, looked around the Banqueting
She is in the rose gardens, he thought, frowning, with
He rose to his feet and, picking up his robe, quickly slipped
it on. Eowyn was upset, he realised, but not in any immediate
danger. Nevertheless, he was anxious to find her.
Legolas,his fathers voice, quiet but
imperious, stopped him in his trackswe need to talk,
Legolas looked back across the sea of sleeping lovers. Later,
Ada, he said, softly. I need to find Eowyn nín.
Then I shall come with you, said the Elvenking. I
am sure that Eowyn will not mind.
Legolas suppressed a sigh. Very well, Ada.
Deftly, King Thranduil retrieved his clothing from beneath the
sleeping Cyllien, donned the silver robe, and tied its embroidered
sash. Then father and son left the Banqueting Hall, crossed the
clearing, and entered the rose gardens, following the route that
Eowyn and the green man had earlier taken through the maze of
What was it you wanted to talk to me about, Ada?
asked Legolas, once he was sure that they would not be overheard.
Your March Warden.
Haldir? What about him?
The Elvenking paused to admire a cascade of ruby-red roses. He
is innocent, he said, bending to sniff the blooms. Release
I know that he is innocent, said Legolas,
waiting impatiently. I know that he is shielding
Cyllien, out of some misguided sense of honour, whilst she is
openly betraying him
The Harvest Rite does not count, Lassui.
I am not talking about the Rite, Ada, said Legolas,
as you well know. I am talking about all the singing!
Cyllien has a beautiful voice.
Legolas raised his hands in frustration.
Come Lassui, said Thranduil, suddenly setting off
again. I thought you were worried about Eowyn.
Ada! Legolas followed and, rushing to catch
up with his father, suddenly felt like an elfling once more. The
moment the Rite is over, Ada, Eowyn and I will be concentrating
all our time on solving this murderand we will not be swayed
It is nice to see that my son has at last grown a pair
Ada! Legolas grasped his fathers arm.
Tell meand, for once in your life, speak plainlydo
you love her? Do you?
The Elvenking hesitated. Then, No, he admitted.
Thank the Valar, said Legolas. Because, I will
speak plainly to you, Ada, she is not worthy to be your consort.
You wrong her, Lassui, said Thranduil, seriously.
She has suffered
We all suffer! But the best grow stronger as a result.
The true heart, said Thranduil, softly, loves
its beloveds weaknesses as well as her strengths; the true
heart loves more when more is needed.
Legolas turned to his father in horror. Oh Ada, he
said. You do love her.