haldir and eowyn

“Ho-bbieeee!” Eowyn lowered her torch and, trying to think like a tracker (as Legolas had shown her), searched the ground for signs of the boy’s passage—trampled earth, broken branches...

She glanced at Haldir, searching by her side.

The elf shook his head. “He is small and quick-witted,” he said, “we will not find him if he does not want to be found. That is, unless…” But he did not finish the sentence, for the idea of a child’s body, hanging from the trees, was too terrible to be spoken aloud.

Eowyn frowned. All around them, men and elves were calling—“Hob!”, “Hob?”, “Hobbie!”—and some of the voices sounded angry—“HOB! Where are you, boy?”

“Do not be afraid, Hobbie,” she shouted, “it is just Lady Eowyn, come to take you back to your mother. Hobbie?”

She saw Haldir’s head turn and, raising her torch and holding it out before her, she followed his gaze. There seemed to be something—perhaps a small, dark figure—hiding in the trees to the north of the path, less than ten yards away. “Is it…?”

“Yes,” said Haldir. “Quiet,” he called to the searchers, “quiet, now!” He turned back to Eowyn. “Go to him.”

Eowyn took a few cautious steps towards the boy. “Do not be afraid, Hobbie. Look,”—she brought the torch closer to her face—“you know me.”

“Lady ’Owen!”

“That is right—come to me, Hobbie.”

The child hesitated for just a moment longer. Then, suddenly, he darted from his hiding place, and ran to Eowyn, throwing his arms around her waist.

“Oh, you silly boy,” she said, rubbing his back with her free hand, “whatever were you doing, out here in the dark?”

“I don’t know,” the boy mumbled.

Eowyn held out her torch, Haldir took it from her, and she grasped Hob, gently, by the shoulders. “Did you come here to see the dead man that everyone was talking about?” The other searchers had begun to gather round them, but Eowyn signalled for them to stay back. “Is that why you were hiding from us, Hobbie?” she persisted. “Is that why you were afraid? Did you think that we would be angry with you?”

“I thought you were the bad men.”

Eowyn hugged him close. “What bad men? Did you see bad men, Hobbie?”

“Yes,” whispered the boy. “Wolf-men.” There were grunts and murmurs from some of the searchers. “Two wolf-men.”

“What do you mean, Hobbie,” asked Eowyn, gently, “what made you think they were wolf-men?”

“They had wolf’s heads, Lady ’Owen,” cried the boy. “And fur.”

“Shhh, Hobbie. It is all right.”

“Where did you see them?” asked Haldir.

“I don’t know.”

“Think hard, Hobbie. It is very important,” said Eowyn, giving him another hug.

The boy lifted his head and looked about him. “Down the path, I think,” he said, frowning. “There was a tree with stairs.”

“Yes. One of the outer ring of talans,” said Haldir.

“It was past there. There was a big tree. Over that way.”

“The major mallorn,” said Haldir, nodding. “It is one of the oldest trees in the Forest.”

“That’s where I saw them,” said Hob. He looked up at Eowyn. “I dropped my knife…” He did not need to add, Because I was scared.

Eowyn kissed the top of his head. “You are a very brave boy,” she said—ignoring the mutterings from some of her men—“and if we do not find your knife, Hobbie, I will give you mine. Now, Osbert and Liulf,”—she thought for a moment—“and Kenric and Herolt will take you back to your mother.” She handed the boy to Osbert. “Take good care of him,” she said, giving the man a meaningful look.

“Well—do we press on now,” she asked, quietly, “or do we wait until dawn?” She looked up at Haldir. “Are these wolf-men werewolves, or just depraved men who want to make us think that they are demons?”

“I have no idea.”

“What do you advise?”

Haldir glanced around the remaining members of the search party. “Men or wolves, they are creatures of the ground. I suggest that we take to the trees, and see what more we can learn from up there.”

Eowyn agreed. “But I will need help—climbing.”

“Of course.” Haldir showed her the length of elven rope hanging from his belt.

“I do wish that Legolas were here,” she said.

They doused the torches and, moving in elven silence now, made their way along the winding path—Eowyn staying close to Haldir—until they reached the stairs to the talan.

Belegorn examined the steps. “The boy climbed,” he said, softly, “up to the first level, and crouched there for some time—there are small hand and knee prints beside his footprints—but there are no adult-sized prints, nor any wolf claw marks.”

“Then we will climb up,” said Eowyn.

The talan, small and leaf-shaped, sat precariously on a slender branch, high up in the Forest canopy. Eowyn, used to the sturdier flets of Eryn Carantaur, with their walls and handrails, immediately felt dizzy and, like Hob before her, dropped to her hands and knees and crawled to the centre of the swaying platform.

Haldir laid a strong hand upon her shoulder. “You will get used to it,” he said, softly.

Eowyn watched Belegorn and Celeblas step off the talan, walk out along its supporting branch, and leap effortlessly into the next tree, followed immediately by Faerval and Cúven, and then by the men, Goduin and Osgar, using ropes. “No,” she said, sadly, “not quickly enough.”

“Then I will carry you.”

But she shook her head. “It would hold you back, Haldir,” she said, “and I need you at the front, in charge of the others. Better to leave me here—where at least there is a flet for me to sit on. Find out all you can, then come back for me. I shall be quite safe here.”

Haldir scanned the branches above, hoping to find a better hiding place for her, but could see nowhere more secure. He squeezed her shoulder. “I will send back one of the elves,” he said, “just in case you should need an archer.”


Eowyn had lost track of how long she had been sitting in the middle of the flet, listening to the sounds of the Forest at night—the leaves gently rustling, the insects quietly chirruping, and, now and then, a bird calling softly to its mate—when another sound, loud and clumsy, startled her and, at the very same moment, the Forest fell silent—

She raised her head, saw the elf, Cúven, and one of the men, Osgar, making their way back to her, and she held up her hand, signalling them to stop—

Something is wrong!

Trembling, she crawled, flat on her belly, to the very edge of the flet and peered, through the branches, at the ground, far, far below.

“Oh no,” she whispered. “Oh, dear gods, no!”



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