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eowyn and legolas

frost fair

“We’re headin’ for a hard winter.”

The farmer had reached the end of his long, narrow strip of land and was giving the horses, tired from toiling through the heavy soil, a few moments’ rest before turning the plough.

His son, holding the horses’ heads, looked down the sloping field to the grey waters of the Long Lake—Ael ûrnen, he had heard the elves from the colony call it—then let his gaze travel slowly upwards, over the tall red forest and the white-capped mountains beyond, to the pale, cloudy sky above.

“How can ye tell? he asked.

“Bones are creakin’,” said his father, rubbing his back. “’S a sure sign there’ll be snow.”

The boy smiled. Perhaps this year, he thought, the lake will freeze.

Bruegel: Landscape with the Fall of Icarus


Two months later

It began with a few boys, venturing out onto the ice and, finding it thick enough to bear their weight, playing their games upon its broad, white expanse.

Then some of the farmers, travelling to market, cautiously drove their carts across it, cutting several tedious hours from their journey.

Other travellers, making their way from Pelargir to Minas Tirith, began to use it as a short cut, and to tell their friends and business acquaintances of their adventure...

Soon people were flocking to the frozen lake just to see the ice and to walk—or slide—across its frosty surface.

And where the crowds came, commerce swiftly followed.

In less than two weeks, the frozen waters of Ael ûrnen had been transformed into a fairground, with streets of little booths—all gaily hung with lanterns, streamers and painted signs—selling mulled wine and hot, spiced ale, pies and pasties and roasted pork, books and trinkets and souvenirs. There were puppet shows, swings and skittle alleys, and—at the very centre, where the rows of stalls met—there was a fenced space where, for a silver piece, the bravest of visitors could hire skates, and glide to and fro across the ice.


“You are sure you will be warm enough?”

Eowyn lifted the hood of her fur-lined cloak, and smiled at her beloved elf. “Yes, quite sure.”

She took his arm and they went outside, along the frosty walkway, and down the main staircase—hung with icicles—to the clearing beneath the city, where two carriages, each drawn by sturdy elven horses, waited to take them to the Frost Fair.

Legolas waved to his father, already seated in the first carriage with Cyllien, then he and Eowyn joined Gimli, Hentmirë, Wilawen and Valandil in the second, and the elf signalled to Haldir, who was leading the procession on horseback, to move off.


Haldir brought the carriages to a halt at the edge of the trees, and the passengers climbed down and joined the line of excited people tramping through the snow to where an enterprising farmer had built a flight of sturdy wooden steps, canopied with striped canvas and lit by glowing lanterns, and was charging visitors a silver piece to use them.

“Was this your own idea?” asked Thranduil, whilst the farmer searched for the correct change.

“To tell the truth, sir,” replied the man, counting the coins into the elf’s hand, “it was the wife as thought of it.”

“Very astute of her...” Thranduil offered his arm to Cyllien—“Come, my dear,”—and led her down the steps.

Eowyn nudged Legolas. “Your mouth is open, my love,” she whispered.


At the bottom of the stair a group of horse-drawn sleighs was waiting to ferry anyone willing to pay another silver piece to the centre of the lake. Legolas watched his father help the elleth climb aboard and—smiling!—hand the driver a large golden coin.

“I thought that was over...” He glanced back at Haldir; the big elf’s face might have been carved in stone.

“Mmm?” said Eowyn, carefully putting her change back in her purse.

“Has Haldir said anything to you about it?”

“About what?”

Legolas nodded towards Thranduil and Cyllien, bunched together under a fur blanket. “About that.”

Eowyn frowned. “No.”

“My father and I will be having a serious talk tomorrow.” He smiled as Eowyn squeezed his arm in sympathy. “But I shall not let it ruin our fun tonight, melmenya.”


Legolas hired a sleigh to carry the friends to the little wooden village. The moment it came to a halt, Haldir jumped out and disappeared amongst the crowd of merrymakers.

Legolas and Eowyn exchanged glances.

Tomorrow,” said the elf, quietly. Then, “Let me help you, melmenya, it is slippery—Gimli...”

The dwarf offered Hentmirë his arm; Legolas lifted Eowyn down to the ice.

They wandered along the narrow streets, stopping at each gaily-lit booth to examine the wares on sale and to buy mugs of steaming ale—“Goodness, it is strong!” said Hentmirë, handing hers to Gimli—and roasted chestnuts—“Let me take off the shells for you, melmenya,”—and spiced pastries. Eowyn bought a necklace of red, green and white beans from a little boy who tugged at her hand, and some sweetmeats for Melannen.

And Hentmirë paid for a very expensive sheet of parchment, painstakingly inscribed in the finest calligraphy by a young scholar with frost-bitten fingers, which read,

Legolas, Eowyn, Hentmirë and Gimli, son of Gloin.
Walked on the ice
the twenty-fourth day of Girithron
year Six of the Fourth Age.
She rolled it carefully and stowed it in her bag. “Shall we hire skates, Gimli?”

The dwarf looked to the elf for support.

“Have you ever skated before, gwendithen?” asked Legolas.

“No. But it does not look hard...” She watched a young elleth skate to the centre of the ice and, with her arms raised above her head, pirouette gracefully. “And it must be wonderful.”

“We will all hire skates," said Eowyn, smiling. “And Gimli and Legolas will stay either side of you, Hentmirë, to make sure that you do not fall.”

“Good idea, melmenya,” said Legolas, loyally.

As he waited, with one hand resting on the skating rink’s wooden fence—whilst the proprietor tried to find a pair of skates that would fit over dwarven boots—the elf could not stop himself looking across the lake, to where his father and Cyllien were still riding in their sleigh.

Tomorrow, he thought, shaking his head.

And I shall speak to Haldir too—or perhaps Eowyn should do that... He turned back to the rows of stalls, intending to look for Haldir, but—as his gaze crossed the dark rows of trees at the edge of the lake—a flutter of something pale caught his eye.

It was a woman, slight and fair, and wearing nothing but a thin gown, running across the frozen water, her arms outstretched.

And, as Legolas stared at her, he heard her voice—despite the constant murmuring of the crowd—though it seemed no more than a whisper, crying, “Help me, my Lord! Help me!”





Yuletide Calendar 2005


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Part 2

part 2

The landscape of Eryn Carantaur
Paintings by Pieter Bruegel