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mistress livilda


Part 7

Legolas sighed.

“I am sure that, when you meet him, Elvellon,” he said to Gimli, who had been chuckling to himself ever since they had left the graveside, “you will find that he hates dwarves just as much as he hates elves.”

He glanced at Eowyn, who smiled back at him.

“We shall soon be passing through Sad Dholt,” said Haldir. “It is no more than a handful of houses, set between the road and the river, but I suggest that we stop there, and ask if they have anything to tell us about the knight.”


Soo-illy-ad, Master Haldir,” said the big, cheery woman who opened the door of the first house.

Haldir bowed. “Suilad, Mistress Livilda.”

“Oh, such a gentleman, he is,” said Livilda, beaming at the rest of her visitors, whom she obviously did not recognise. “Always so polite!” She stepped back, and held the door open so that the friends could enter.

The little house, though simply furnished, was spotlessly clean, with a stone cooking range in the far wall and, at the centre of the room, in pride of place, a long, oak table flanked by oaken benches.

Mistress Livilda bade them sit, and set about preparing a meal: “Nobody leaves my house with an empty belly,” she said, proudly.

“We are looking for a man who may already have enjoyed your hospitality, mistress,” said Haldir. “A knight, travelling towards Caras Arnen.”

“Well, if it’s him you want, you’ve missed him, dear,” said Livilda, filling five tankards from a barrel in the pantry, “but only just.” She set the drinks on the table. “He came along yesterday morning—and we should thank the gods for it, I say!”

“Why, mistress?” asked Legolas. He took a sip of ale; it was excellent.

The woman fetched out a platter of cold meats and a wheel of cheese. “Because, sir,” she said, setting the food in the middle of the table, “without him we’d have had a tragedy. Little Alvar—that’s Gertruda’s son,” she explained, for Haldir’s benefit, “was playing on the ice, and fell right through, into the water—well, we all know how that usually ends.”

She brought out a fresh, brown loaf, and began cutting it into thick slices. “But the knight, he jumped off his horse, and went in after him—in full armour—got him out, and brought him back home. And Gertruda couldn’t get him to take one bronze piece as a reward, but she did persuade him to stay long enough for her to dry his arming jack, and get Bodwine to oil his armour.”

“Is the boy well?” asked Haldir

“Right as rain.”

“When did the knight leave Sad Dholt?” asked Legolas.

“This morning, at first light.”

“We are catching up with him!” said Gimli, draining his tankard and thumping to down on the table to celebrate. “Did he tell you his name, Mistress?”

The woman shook her head.

“I do not suppose, Mistress Livilda,” said Eowyn, cutting a piece of cheese for Legolas, and another for herself, “that he showed you or Mistress Gertruda a brass oil lamp, and asked you if you wanted to buy it?”

“A fancy thing with enamelled leaves?” said Livilda, laying a slice of beef on her bread. “Yes I saw that when he was packing up his bedroll.” She looked at Eowyn curiously. “Why d’you ask?”

“I hope to buy it from him.”

“Well, as far as I know, dearie,” she replied, through a mouthful of bread-and-meat, “he took it with him when he left here.”