Eowyn laid down her pen and, looking up from her Orc map, glanced out of her study window.

Two servants, having slipped into the courtyard below—her garden—and being unaware that their mistress could see them, were groping urgently, the man quickly hoisting the girl’s skirts, the girl pulling open the man’s leggings—

Eowyn caught a sudden glimpse of stiff flesh and turned away.

Such behaviour was forbidden; Eowyn thought of sending someone down to stop them for, as mistress of the household, she was personally responsible for the honour of her maids...

But how could she deny them a joy that she envied?

“My Lady...”

Startled, Eowyn turned towards the door. “Legolas!”

The elf placed his hand upon his heart and bowed his head. “Good morning.”

“Good morning! Come in!”

Since the day he had found her sitting, miserable, in her garden—when he had held her, and sung to her—they had grown less formal with each other. Eowyn rose from her desk and, taking the elf by the arm, guided him to a group of chairs clustered, cosily, around the fireplace. “To what do we owe this pleasure?”

Legolas waited for her to sit before taking a seat himself. “I have been summoned to Minas Tirith,” he said, “and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make a little detour and bring you this.”

“Hardly a little detour.” She took the wooden box from him and looked at it curiously. It was tall and narrow with a hinged door; it looked like the one of the cases that wine merchants used to protect their most precious vintages, except that it had holes drilled in the top. “What is it?”

“Open it and see.”

Smiling, Eowyn slid back the catch and opened the door. “A flower.”

Legolas laughed—so fondly that Eowyn found herself blushing. “Not just any flower, híril nín,” he said. “A very rare flower.”

Eowyn looked at the plant more closely. It was about as big as her hand, with deep red petals and thick, succulent leaves.

“It is called a hûnlass,” said Legolas, “and the edain of South Ithilien credit it with very special powers.”

Eowyn frowned, suspiciously, for there was still a hint of laughter in his voice. “Powers? Is it used in healing?”

“Of a sort.”

“What does that mean?”

“Look at the shape of its leaves.”

“They are like little hearts.” Could it be used to make love potions? she wondered.

“It is believed,” said Legolas, “to bring joy to all who see it.”

See it? Eowyn looked up at him, only to find that he was looking at her, his eyes lingering upon her face. She blushed again. “Thank you.”

“It was growing in the middle of the Doro Lanthron road,” he explained, “dispensing much joy, but causing even more chaos. So one of the colonists dug it up, and asked me to find a safe home for it. Shall we take it outside and settle it in your garden?” He rose from his seat, and strode over to the window.

“Yes,”—Eowyn remembered the amorous couple—“oh no! No, wait!” But the elf was already staring down into the courtyard. “Are they still there?” she asked, faintly.

Yes,” said Legolas.

And—except in battle—it was the only time that she had ever heard him sound angry, and she was surprised by it.

By the time they reached the garden, the lovers had disappeared. Legolas stood, hands on hips, staring at the plants they had crushed underfoot.

“I am sorry,” said Eowyn, anxiously. “I should have stopped them, I know, but I…”

“This garden is not theirs to make free with,” said the elf, bitterly. “It is ou—it is yours.”

Eowyn blushed deeply, and Legolas must have sensed her sudden, inappropriate, thoughts for he turned to her, and he seemed to be blushing, too. “Is there anything we can do?” she asked, desperately. “Is there an elven blessing that will...?”

But he took her arm and patted her hand, already himself again. “We will dig up the injured plants and take them inside,” he said, referring to the little glasshouse that he had had built in another courtyard. “Perhaps, with care, they will flourish again. Then, we will plant our new friend over here, well away from the walls, where it may grow safely. And, after that, my worried Lady,”—he smiled down at her, expectantly, and Eowyn felt her frown melt into an answering smile—“that is better! After that, I am at your disposal.”

He bade her sit down on one of the stone benches, and went to work, carefully lifting each battered plant from the trampled earth and setting it in one of his wooden trays—all the while suggesting places they might later ride out to, sights they might see together.

And Eowyn, one hand resting on the little hûnlass in its wooden box, listened, smiling. She did not care where they went; she would gladly spend the afternoon in the garden.

She was happy.

But the edain of South Ithilien were wrong, she thought. It was not their plant that brought me joy.



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Written for Valentine's Day 2007.