eowyn and her protector

“Do stop behaving like a spoilt elfling, Lassui,” said Thranduil, impatiently.

“A spoilt… Meaning what Ada?” Legolas hurried after his father. “Meaning that I do have cause to be jealous—which, of course, I am not, but—”

The Elvenking stopped abruptly, and turned to face his son.

“Please do not lie to me, Ada,” Legolas persisted. “You have just revealed your true feelings.”

“When I spoke of love, I was thinking of your mother.”

Taken by surprise, Legolas began to stammer out an apology—then, suddenly raising his head, eyes narrowed, he scrutinised his father’s face, trying to decipher the emotions hidden behind the smooth mask.

Thranduil stood his ground. “Shall we continue?”

Legolas nodded.

They had reached a fork in the rose-lined path and, hearing light footsteps ahead, they entered a canopied walkway, rounded a corner, and found themselves face to face with Eowyn.

“Melmenya!” Legolas stepped forward, hands outstretched.

But King Thranduil, grasping his son’s arm and holding him back, placed his free hand upon his heart, and bowed his head, in a greeting of profound respect, to the woman’s strange companion.

Eryn Valen

Gimli patted Hentmirë’s hand. “Just take it easy, lass.”

He nodded to the stretcher-bearers, and they lifted the little woman—still cradling the baby, and protesting that she was too heavy to be carried—and took her into the barn that was serving as a healing room.

The dwarf surveyed what was left of Eryn Valen.

Fire had gutted the houses at the centre of the village, and three more dwellings had been hastily pulled down to prevent its spreading. Two of the villagers—one of them Godith’s mother—lay dead upon the scorched grass, together with four of the tad-dail; three other villagers, badly injured, were being tended in the barn. Hentmirë’s wounds appeared superficial (but Gimli was not inclined to take risks where the little woman was concerned); Rimush was scratched and bruised; Thorkell bogsveigir, unharmed, was herding the tad-dail prisoners into one of the goat pens.

What do we do now? the dwarf wondered.

Eowyn stared at Thranduil in astonishment.

She had seen the Elvenking with elves of lesser rank, like Lord Fingolfin, and with men of high standing, like Bergthórr beytill, and with Aragorn—a man he truly seemed to admire—but she had never seen him show genuine respect before.

Beside him, Legolas—though obviously as surprised as she was by his father’s behaviour—slowly bowed his own head.

Eowyn glanced at the green man, a broad smile spreading across her face. Her strange friend was graciously receiving the elves’ greeting, one gnarled hand upon his leafy chest.

He was clearly a being of some importance!

She placed her own hand on her heart in a formal gesture of thanks. “You have been watching over me since we met in the Forest,” she said. “I have felt your presence. Thank you.”

The green man returned her bow. Then he turned to Legolas with a gesture that seemed to say, I leave her in your care, and stepped backwards, and merged into the roses.

Eowyn gasped.

She searched the prickly foliage, and the trellis that stood behind it, but only a faint, reassuring scent, of new leaves and lemons, told her heart that, like the creatures of the forest, she remained under the green man’s special protection, and that he would re-emerge from the leaves, if ever she needed him.

Eryn Valen

“How is she?” asked Gimli.

The elven healer, Master Findecáno, finished securing the bandage on Hentmirë’s arm before answering. “Lady Hentmirë has a serious burn,” he said, “which I have treated with an ash poultice—the dressing must be renewed every five hours. Otherwise, she is in good health, my Lord.”

“Good.” Gimli leaned his axe against the wall and sat down beside his friend. “We are sending the villagers to safety,” he said. “And I want you and Rimush to go with them.”

“But do you not need me, Gimli? To mark the map?”

The dwarf smiled. “Aye, lass, you were doing a fine job there. But the search was a waste of time—all those men, out in the Forest, and the buggers just slipped behind us, and attacked here! The only one who found anything was the Beorning, and that was one hut. But we have prisoners now and, if we lean on them—”

Lean on them, Gimli?”

“Frighten them a bit.”

“We will threaten them, my Lady,” said Thorkell bogsveigir, who had just entered the barn in search of the dwarf, “and make them talk.”

“But they do not talk,” said Hentmirë. “Not that I have heard. They… Bleat.”

Eowyn glanced at the Elvenking.

She had hoped to show the evidence to Legolas in private, and to decide with him the best way to proceed, but Thranduil was looking at the parcel, and was bound to ask what it contained.

And, although she was more convinced than ever that Legolas’ father, if not actually responsible for the death, had been closely involved in its aftermath, she realised that there might be advantages to taking him into their confidence sooner rather than later. We are dealing with ancient lore, she thought. Even Legolas knows nothing about the tad-dail and the green man…

And, though Thranduil is wily, he is not wicked. When he chooses to deceive—well, perhaps, on those occasions, deception is what is called for.

What was Dernhelm but a lie?

“I have something to discuss with you,” she said, “both of you. But we must go somewhere where we cannot be overheard.”

“My quarters,” said Thranduil. “Allow me first to wake Cyllien, and take her to Arinna’s, then I will meet you there in half an hour.”

“In my country,” said Hentmirë, thoughtfully, “my old country, that is, when a man needs water, he finds a monkey.”

“Does he really?” said Gimli, politely. He and Thorkell bogsveigir were trying to revise their plan.

“Yes,” said the little woman. “He scatters lumps of salt on the ground—salt is scarce in the desert—and lets the monkey eat it. Then, when the monkey gets thirsty, he follows.” Hentmirë frowned. “If you set the creatures free, Gimli, would they not return home? And then you could follow them.”

The dwarf and the man exchanged glances. “It is a clever idea, lass,” the dwarf admitted, “very clever—but these goat-things know the Forest better than anyone and, according to Eowyn, they can disguise themselves as men. If we let them go, the chances are we would never see them—”

“No, you are forgetting the salt,” interrupted Thorkell bogsveigir. “We can track them easily with a dog. The problem is that the creatures are canny, and will know exactly what we are up to, unless—as Lady Hentmirë says—we give them salt and let nature take its course.”

Salt?

“Girls, Lord Gimli,” replied the Beorning. “Give them girls.”

“Well, melmenya,” asked Legolas, as Thranduil disappeared into the Banqueting Hall, “what is it that you are so anxious to show me beforehand?”

“Let us climb,” said Eowyn.

She waited until they were halfway up the main staircase before quietly describing the contents of the parcel. “The green man saw who threw it into the pool,” she said, “and—and saw him drop this.” She fished down the front of her bodice, brought out the tip of a deer antler (drilled through its centre), and showed it to Legolas.

“Oh…” The elf laid a comforting arm about her shoulders and pulled her close. “I am so sorry melmenya.” He kissed the top of her head.

“I am sure that he was just following orders.”

“Of course.” Legolas sighed. “How are we going to handle this, my darling?”

“I think we must simply tell your father all we know.”

“And then?”

“And then, I really have no idea, Lassui.”

No,” said Gimli.

“One girl.”

“NO.”

“A volunteer.”

“Who in her right mind would volunteer to be—ravished by a goat?”

“First,” said the Beorning, “there will be no ravishing—we will see to that. Secondly, someone who is so afraid for her sister, she has already been into the Forest to search for her, alone.”

King Thranduil’s apartment

The Elvenking arrived late.

Legolas and Eowyn had been waiting anxiously beside the great curved window, watching the dawn light, filtering through the red carantaurs, gild the roofs of their beloved city, bringing the colony to life.

For a few moments, father and son faced each other in uneasy silence. Then Eowyn took the lead: “Please sit down, Ada—Lassui.” She set the damp parcel on the table between them, pulled it open, and placed the deer horn button beside it.

King Thranduil uttered a quiet oath.

Eowyn sat down next to her elf.

“We believe, Ada,” said Legolas, “that it happened like this: the day you arrived, you went for one of your secret walks, saw Heral dragging Cyllien from the marketplace, followed them, and rescued her.”

Thranduil’s eyes were fixed upon the murder weapon, and Legolas noticed that his hands, which would normally have been toying with his sash, or with the buttons at his cuff, were resting in his lap, perfectly still. “You escorted Cyllien home,” he continued, glancing at Eowyn, “and, we assume, gave her one of your white knives to defend herself with.” He picked up the knife, and examined its handle. “Master Cammiron’s craftsmanship is as distinctive as a scholar’s hand, Ada,” he said, “and, as you know, he never uses the same decoration twice. This pattern is based on the arms of the Woodland Realm—the blade is yours.”

The Elvenking said nothing.

Legolas went on: “That same night, Cyllien and Heral met in the building works. We know why Heral was there—we will not go into it now—but we have no idea what Cyllien was doing.”

“And that is important,” said Eowyn, “because it determines the nature of the crime.”

“Exactly. We believe that it was Cyllien who stabbed Heral, and cut off his ears, but…” Legolas searched his father’s face. “Did you see her Ada—were you looking down into the building works? Did you take pity on her and send your lackey out to help her? Or did she come to you?”

“She came to me,” said Thranduil, softly.

“So you ordered Thorkell to cover up the crime,” said Eowyn. “He could not do much with the body—the blood had already stained the untreated wood, so it would have been pointless to move it—but he made sure that there was nothing left to incriminate Cyllien, and disposed of the weapon. Unfortunately, the green man saw him, and picked up the button that fell off his jerkin.”

“And gave it to you.” The Elvenking sighed. “What do you intend to do, Lassui?”

Do? Ada, you have put me in an impossible position!” Legolas rose to his feet and began to pace. “My father has covered up a murder!”

“Your King,” said Thranduil, quietly, “has taken matters in hand.”

Eryn Valen

“You do not have to do it, lass.”

“I want to.” Myldreth smiled reassuringly at the dwarf, and then at the anxious little woman sitting beside him. “I need to, Lady Hentmirë—I must find Annis and bring her home. And I trust Lord Gimli and Master Thorkell to keep me safe.”

“Good,” said Thorkell bogsveigir. “Then this is the plan…”

“We must question Cyllien,” said Legolas. His anger having quickly spent itself, he had resumed his place beside Eowyn. She, having borrowed a wax tablet from the Elvenking, was making notes.

“We must establish, beyond any doubt,” the elf continued, “that it was self defence.”

“The man was a brute,” said Thranduil. “What else could it have been?”

“Premeditated murder, Ada, as you well know—revenge for the humiliations she had already suffered; a desperate measure to ensure that he would never touch her again.” Legolas leaned towards his father. “I would like you to be present when we talk to her, Ada—as a sort of advocate, if you will—to give her support and to encourage her to be frank with us. We know that she did it, so anything she can tell us in mitigation—”

“And then what? A public trial?”

“There will have to be an inquiry. But if it was self defence and if she gives us a full confession, it will be as brief and as painless as we can make it,” said Legolas.

“And the punishment?”

Legolas turned to Eowyn. “She will be asked to serve the colony,” said the woman, “for a fixed number of hours, doing something that makes use of her particular skills—something not too onerous.”

“And what of my bodyguard?”

Legolas sighed. “Since he was acting on your orders, Ada, and since, as King of the Woodland Realm, you are technically above the law, so is he. We cannot touch him.”

Eryn Valen

“You have fifteen minutes,” announced Thorkell bogsveigir. “Bring your wives, your children, your weapons, and water for the journey—leave everything else.”

Several of the villagers muttered, angrily.

“Space is limited.” The Beorning gestured towards the vehicles—two hand carts, a haywain, a box wagon, and Hentmirë’s carriage—assembled on the patch of burnt ground that had once been the village green. “We will load the injured first; then the old and the young; and then, if there is room left, the women. The rest will have to walk. Everything you need will be provided when you reach the city—”

“What about our dead?” cried one of the men.

“We can’t leave them lying here!” agreed another.

Thorkell sighed. “Does anyone have a cellar? Somewhere cool that can be made secure?”

The village head man raised a hand.

“Lay them out in there. Tomorrow morning, when the Harvest Rite is complete, Lord Legolas himself will meet with your representatives to decide the future of Eryn Valen. The dead can be given a proper burial on your return.”

He turned to Gimli. “Can you think of anything else?”

The dwarf shook his head.

“Then we leave in a quarter of an hour.”

Walking the short distance from the Royal guest apartments to Arinna’s house (where Cyllien was staying), accompanied by his father and Eowyn, Legolas was relieved to encounter none of the colony’s more prominent citizens.

It is still quite early, he thought. They are no doubt resting after last night’s revels.

Thank the Valar.

To his surprise, however, Arinna was not only up and about, but appeared—with the aid of Camthalion—to be cleaning the house. Legolas greeted her formally, explaining that he and his companions were there in an official capacity, and asked that they might be allowed to speak to Cyllien in private.

Arinna graciously agreed, settling her visitors in the dining chamber, and fetching Cyllien for them herself. “They are good people,” he heard her say as the pair approached the chamber door, “and they will treat you fairly. Tell them everything.”

“Please sit down,” said Legolas, indicating the seat beside King Thranduil. “My father is here to give you advice, should you need it.”

The elleth smiled shyly at the Elvenking but, at the same time, Legolas noticed, her expression was tinged with familiarity. “Thank you—Thoron.” She looked so pale, so vulnerable, that—for the briefest of moments—he felt sure that he and Eowyn must be mistaken. Then he remembered what a consumate performer she was. “Mistress Cyllien,” he said, formally, “you know why we are here.”

The elleth nodded.

“Tell us what happened on the night that Heral died.”

Cyllien—head bowed, eyes fixed upon the table—took a great, sighing breath, but did not answer.

King Thranduil poured out a glass of water, and pushed it towards her.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“Begin,” Legolas insisted, “by telling us how you became involved with Heral.”

The elleth glanced at Thranduil. Almost imperceptibly, the Elvenking nodded.

“I first saw him in the marketplace,” she said. A delicate flush spread across her cheeks. “I could not miss him. He was so big, so handsome; so—vital. And he made it absolutely clear what he wanted.” Her colour deepened. “He could not wait until we got home—he had me in somebody’s garden, up against a tree. And it was good at first—so exciting—he was never considerate, but that did not seem to matter.” She tucked a strand of dark hair behind her pointed ear. “Then, one day, he brought a little wax figure with him, and made me touch it, and—you may think me crazy but, I swear, I felt things—things I had never felt before.”

Under the table, Legolas grasped Eowyn’s hand. “Go on,” he said.

“That was when it all went wrong,” said Cyllien. “I began to feel,”—she bit her lip—“guilty. I let Arinna talk me into ending things with Heral, and making another effort with Haldir, but Heral would not leave me alone, and Haldir could not make love, and—”

“Tell us what happened on the day of the murder,” said Legolas, brusquely.

Cyllien sighed. “I went to the market. Heral must have followed me. He dragged me off into one of the gardens, and pinned me against the flet wall—he would have,”—she sobbed—“would have forced me, if not for King Thranduil.”

Legolas watched his father reach out, and gently pat the elleth’s hand. “Tell us how you came to be on the building site with Heral that night,” he insisted.

For the first time, Cyllien looked him in the eye. “I do not know,” she said.

“What do you mean?” Legolas frowned. “Tell us why you went there.”

I do not know.”

“Did Heral take you there?” asked Eowyn, suddenly.

“I do not know.”

“Take your time, my dear,” said Thranduil, laying a gentle hand upon her arm. “Have another sip of water.” He shot Legolas a warning look.

Refusing to be intimidated, Legolas ploughed on: “We must be clear on this point: are you saying that you were on the flet, but you do not remember how you came to be there?”

“Yes.”

“What do you remember?” asked Eowyn. “What is the last thing you remember before you found yourself in the building works?”

“Opening the door,” said Cyllien. Her voice wavered. “When Thoron brought me home, we said goodbye, and I opened the door.”

Eowyn glanced at Legolas. He nodded, encouraging her to continue. “Did you go inside?” she asked.

“I…”

“Yes,” said Thranduil. “She did. I saw her close the door behind her.”

“What time was that?”

“Late afternoon,” said the Elvenking.

“Well,” said Eowyn, trying to jog the elleth’s memory, “did you change your gown?”

Cyllien frowned.

“She must have,” said Thranduil. “Later, she was wearing red. Do you remember, Cyllien?”

The elleth shook her head.

“Perhaps you bathed?” said Eowyn.

“I do not know…”

“You have several hours to account for,” said Legolas.

“I know!”

Eowyn laid her hand on the elf’s arm. “When you ‘woke up’,” she said, “on the flet, was Heral already there?”

“Yes.”

“Was he still alive?”

“No…”

“Where was the knife?”

“I… I was holding it.”

“Did you kill him, Cyllien?” asked Eowyn, softly. “Did you cut off his human ears?”

“I…” The elleth shuddered. The Elvenking squeezed her hand. “Yes,” she whispered. “I… Yes, I think I must have.”

Eryn Valen

Hidden amidst the smoking ruins, Myldreth watched the last of the villagers disappear from view. Over in the goat pens, the tad-dail were stirring—for, just before the cavalcade had moved out, one of the older village boys, a reliable little fellow, had been sent over to ‘accidentally’ loosen one prisoner’s bonds.

Through the fabric of her skirts, Myldreth checked the hunting knife, strapped to her thigh, that the Beorning had given her.

“Know how to use this?”

“I shall when the time comes.”

She waited until she was sure that at least one of the creatures was completely free, then she slipped out from behind the charred beams and—trying to look as foolish as she imagined her sister had done, with her hair loosened and her bodice unlaced—she sashayed towards them.

A ripple of interest ran through the herd, and Myldreth caught a waft of pungent scent as one of them, openly aroused, turned to look at her. For a split second her heart faltered in her chest, but—like every good country girl—she knew that it was not the creatures’ way to force their victims.

The tad-dail seduced.

Well, good luck to you, she thought.

Then one of the creatures raised a long, branched flute to its lips, and began to play.

King Thranduil insisted that Cyllien should be left in Arinna’s care. “Two of your most trusted warriors,” he said, referring to Orodreth and Camthalion, “will be on hand to watch her. And that woman seems reliable enough.”

Legolas and Eowyn walked back to their chambers.

“Are we any the wiser?” asked Legolas.

“We know the knife was in Cyllien’s hand,” said Eowyn, “and she says there was no one else on the flet with her and Heral. But as to her motive…” She paused beside the walkway wall and, leaning over the handrail, looked down at the ground, far below.

“Be careful, melmenya.”

Eowyn turned to her elf, smiling. “Have I told you how much I love you, Lassui?”

“Not today.”

She took hold of his hands, and raised them to her lips. “If Cyllien were lying to us, I think she would have made up a more convincing story.”

“So, when she says that she cannot remember—”

“I believe her.”

“But why would she forget?”

“Fear, perhaps. The horror of what happened. Many of the Rohirrim have scant memory of Pelennor Field, Lassui.”

Legolas sighed. “In the absence of any real evidence, we must presume that she is innocent—or, at least, that she acted in self defence.”

“Which does seem entirely reasonable,” said Eowyn, “given what we know of Heral, and his behaviour earlier that day—”

“Were it not for the fact that she had no reason to be on that flet.”

“And the fact that Heral had already walled up the figurine,” said Eowyn, “and so, presumably, was no longer driven by unreasoning lust.” She suddenly grinned at the elf.

“You can put that thought right out of your mind, melmenya,” said Legolas, with mock sternness. “Go back to our chambers and write up your notes. I will release poor Haldir.”

Eryn Valen

The moment the cavalcade was out of sight of the village, Thorkell bogsveigir gave the signal.

Two pairs of elves immediately left the main column, one pair cutting west towards Brethildor to intercept Berryn’s search party and bring it back to Eryn Valen, the second heading north to find the rest of the men and guide them back to the column, to protect the fleeing villagers.

At the same time, Gimli’s dwarves and their human comrades followed the Beorning back down the trail, accompanied by the village head man—leading his prize bloodhound, and carrying, in a leather satchel, a strip of fabric torn from Myldreth’s shift.

At the edge of the clearing, Thorkell bogsveigir gave a second signal, and his troops crouched down amongst the trees, and waited, whilst the dwarf and the Beorning watched the girl’s progress with keen-eyed interest.

“What in Aulë's name is she doing?” muttered Gimli.

Legolas nodded to the elves outside the March Warden’s house. “My compliments to Captain Golradir,” he said, “and tell him that a guard is no longer required here.” He pushed the door open, and went inside.

The place was unnaturally dark, and smelled strange—Musty, he thought. He crossed to one of the windows, pulled back the drapes, and threw open the shutters.

Haldir, hunched over the table, was a shapeless bundle of hair and woollen tunic.

“March Warden,” said Legolas, briskly, “you are free to go.” He approached his friend. “Did you hear me, Haldir? Cyllien has confessed.”

Slowly, the big elf raised his head.

“Ai, mellon nín,” gasped Legolas. “You look ill. I shall send for Master Dínendal.”

“No!” Haldir grasped Legolas’ arm. “A healer cannot help me, my Lord,” he said, smiling bleakly. “I am cursed.”

Cursed? I do not understand.” Legolas sat down beside him.

“I found it—found them—on the day of the murder.”

“Found what?”

“I have no idea how they got there.”

“Haldir, what did you find?”

“Three wax figures.”

“Oh…” Legolas sighed. “Did you touch them?”

“I picked them up.”

“Describe them.”

“Two of them…” Haldir looked away, his face flushed. “If I were to say that they were making love, Legolas, it would give you no idea of the depravity—they were fucking, like beasts. The one underneath—the female—was obviously meant to be Cyllien, with big, pointed ears and a foolish grin; the one on top was human.”

“Where are these figures now?” asked Legolas, gently.

“I left the couple here,”—Haldir gestured vaguely—“but I kept this one.” He reached into the pocket of his tunic and drew out a wax figurine. “I think it is meant to be me.” He set it down on the tabletop.

Legolas’ breath caught in his throat. The figure was identical to the one in his own chambers—though rubbed and scratched from its time in Haldir’s pocket—but where the other sported a vast erection, this had only a ragged scar, where its penis and testicles had been broken away.

“Was it like that when you found it,” asked Legolas, “with its ceber missing?”

“Yes.”

“Listen carefully, Haldir: take hold of that coil of hair on its head, and lift it off. Try not to touch the wax.”

Haldir frowned. “Why?”

“Trust me; just do it.”

The big elf hesitated for a moment longer; then, hand trembling, he did as Legolas had instructed, placing the silvery lock on the table.

Legolas glanced round the chamber. Several items of Cyllien’s discarded clothing were draped, here and there, over the furniture. “Take up that red gown and wrap it around the figure—make sure that the wax is completely covered. Good. Now lock the thing away somewhere secure.”

Lock?

“Please, Haldir; do exactly as I say.”

Eowyn slipped behind the carved wooden wall that screened off the building works, and stepped out onto the flet.

She smiled.

Work had officially been suspended for the duration of the Harvest Rite, but she had known that she would find Master Bawden there—standing on the porch of the unfinished apartment, conscientiously oiling the carved door jambs—for, “Wood,” he had once told her, “does not observe human—or even elven—feast days.

She greeted the craftsman-builder with a mixture of affection and respect.

The man bowed. “What can I do for you, my Lady?”

The subject was a difficult one, but she could see no sense in being coy. “The figurine,” she said. “Where, exactly, did you find it?”

Bawden led her through the empty doorway, across the high-ceilinged sitting room with its wide, curved windows, through the study, and into the main bedchamber. “There.” He pointed to a section of panelling, built to protect the carantaur trunk that stood, like a living pillar, at the centre of the room. A small section of the planking had been prised off, exposing a tiny, cupboard-like recess.

Eowyn touched the tree trunk. “This is at the very heart of the house…”

Bawden smiled—and Eowyn felt like an apprentice whose master had just praised her for a particularly fine piece of workmanship. “Indeed, my Lady. That is exactly what it is. And,”—he coloured deeply—“in the chamber where that particular object would be at its most potent.”

“But this is not Heral’s home.”

“No, my Lady. But guest apartments are empty for much of the time. And few doors are locked in Eryn Carantaur.”

“I see…” Eowyn chewed her lip, thoughtfully. Then she said, “What do you know of the tad-dail, Master Bawden?”

The man gestured towards a wooden window seat. Eowyn sat down. “Like the elves, my Lady,” he said, “we craftsman-builders are people of the Forest. But, unlike the elves, we must cut down the trees, and that puts us amongst its darker inhabitants. We know the tad-dail, and they know us. If we chance upon them we give them their due, and they leave us in peace.”

“Their due?”

“Respect, my Lady,” said Bawden. “We doff our caps and give them the proper greeting.”

“I think,” said Eowyn, “that Heral gave them rather more than that.” She told Bawden about Little Godwin. “In return, I think the tad-dail gave him some of their hair. It is wound around the figure’s—well—it is wound around the figure.”

Ah.

“Can you tell me more about its magic?”

Bawden shook his head. “I have always stayed clear of that business.”

“But the others—could you make some discreet enquiries amongst the other men for me?”

“Of course, my Lady.”

“Thank you.” Eowyn rose to her feet. “And can I ask another favour of you, Master Bawden?”

“You look better,” said Legolas.

“I feel better. Better than I have since,”—Haldir shrugged—“since we first returned from the shadowland.”

“Good.”

“How did you know what to do?”

“I have seen one of the figures before—but it was Eowyn who worked out how to deal with it.” Legolas smiled. “You were telling me about Eryn Dholt.”

“Yes.” The big elf shrugged. “I stood beneath the waters of the Gynd Vyrn, hoping that the cascade would wash me clean. But then I started thinking: what if the figures were a threat? I had seen the sort of man Heral was. Suppose Cyllien had angered him in some way?” He looked up at Legolas. “She can be very provocative.”

“I know.”

“So I rushed back.”

“What did you find?”

“Nothing. She was in bed. Asleep.”

“But then you heard about the murder.”

“I was sure she must have done it. I thought it was my fault.”

“Haldir…” Legolas waited until the other elf’s eyes met his. “You thought that,” he said, “because Heral had emasculated you—magically—by mutilating the wax figurine. Now you are yourself again, as long as you keep the thing locked away.” He rose from the table. “When Eowyn and I find a more permanent solution, I will let you know. In the meantime, come with me. I have a job for the March Warden of Eryn Carantaur.”

Eowyn went straight to the bedchamber, and set Master Bawden’s bag on the dressing table.

The layout of her and Legolas’ home was very different from that of the unfinished guest apartment, and she spent some time—turning round and round—scanning the walls for a suitable place before deciding on the corner nearest the sitting room door, which was towards the centre of the house (though not at its heart), and a good distance from the bed.

She opened the tool bag, and took out a small chisel and a wooden mallet.

The wall was lined with wooden panels. Eowyn examined their construction. The planks were pegged to the wall frame with tiny wooden dowels. At about waist height a line of swirling curves formed a slight lip. Perfect! Doing exactly as Bawden had shown her, she placed the tip of the chisel behind the carved edge, and tapped the handle with the mallet.

The plank moved, very slightly. She repositioned the chisel.

“Melmenya? What are you doing?”

Eowyn frowned, concentrating on her work. “Solving our problem.” She tapped again.

“Can I help?”

“Well…” She moved the chisel along the plank. “Yes, I suppose this part is safe enough.” She tapped again.

“You never cease to amaze me, Shieldmaiden.” He leaned over her shoulder. “You are doing a good job.”

“Master Bawden showed me how.”

“One more will do it, I think,” said Legolas.

Eowyn tapped.

The elf grasped the edge of the panel and pulled. The wood came away in his hands. “There.” The couple looked into the narrow alcove formed by the framework behind the panelling. “Will it fit?”

“If I take it out of the jewel box.” Eowyn smiled up at him. “You had better go into the sitting room now.”

Legolas kissed her forehead. “Mmm. Will you be able to replace the panel by yourself?”

“Yes—all I need to do is knock the pegs back through the plank,” she said, seriously, “so that only the tips are protruding. Then, when I position the panel, I must fit the pegs into these,”—she touched one of the peg-holes in the framework—“and hammer them home.”

“Master Bawden is a good teacher.” He kissed her again. “I shall have breakfast waiting for you when you have finished, Shieldmaiden.”

 

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Legolas
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Contents page

contents

Previous chapter: More Lies
The tad-dail attack, Hentmirë is very brave; Thranduil tells some lies.

chapter 7

Next chapter: The rescue
Legolas and Eowyn make some important discoveries; Thorkell and Gimli deal with the tad-dail.

chapter 7

Something in the Woods
Eowyn's earlier encounter with the strange green man.

something in the woods