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the alewife

Eowyn took Legolas’ arm, and he led her out of the manor, towards the village.

“You look,” he said, eyeing her green silk gown with its gauzy skirts, be-ribboned bodice, and fantastical trimmings, “like a woodland sprite.”

“When we get home,” she said, crossly, “I shall need to bathe for a week.”

“And shall I be invited to join you?”

You,” she replied, “will be required to scrub the parts I cannot reach.”

“Whatever has upset you so?”

Eowyn glanced over her shoulder. Then, confident that she could not be overheard, she told him of the trying time she had had with Gléowyn, of her surprise encounter with the younger son, and of her conversation with the older. “Guthmer is a spoilt child, and he has probably ruined half the maidens of Eastfold, but I do not believe he killed Deorhild and—”

“I have found their remains, Melmenya,” said Legolas.

Eowyn stopped walking. “Lassui!”

“They are in Wyrm’s Hollow, not ten yards from the others.”

They needed somewhere to sit down together, share their discoveries, and plan their next move. Eowyn looked around the village. Up ahead she spotted a pole, garlanded with foliage, set above the door of one of the houses—the sign of an alehouse.

“What do you say to a mug of ale?” she asked.


The alewife was a cheerful, rosy-faced woman with an entire Éored of small, noisy children. She sat her guests down in the parlour, drew them a large jug of excellent ale, and shooed her offspring out into the kitchen, leaving the couple to talk in peace.

Legolas described what had happened in Wyrm’s Hollow: how the men had identified the ‘man-mountain’ and his master, how he had persuaded them to look for more bodies, and how they had found Deorhild and Guthwyn. “I cut the Dragon Flame from their ashes,” he said, softly, “and covered them with my cloak. Baldor plans to send his serfs to the Hollow tomorrow, to gather up the remains and bring them here. The women will be buried in the family graveyard with their ancestors, and Holdred and his servants will be sent back to his father.”

“And Baldor made no attempt to destroy the evidence,” asked Eowyn, incredulously; “not even to kick away the ashes?”

“No. He was as horrified by the discovery as everyone else.”

Eowyn looked up from her mug of ale, surprised.

“I am sure of it, Melmenya,” said Legolas. “He is a man whose feelings show clearly in his eyes and, just as he could not hide from me the fact that he did not like being in my debt, nor could he conceal that he had recognised the women. But there was no guilt in him. In fact, I would say that there was sorrow.”

“Sorrow... Well... So now we know that it was not Baldor who killed them,” she said, putting complete trust in Legolas’ instincts. She took a sip of ale. “And Guthmer,” she continued, thinking aloud, “had definitely seen Theodred’s ghost before, probably more than once, so—oh, of course! Theodred has been trying to persuade Guthmer to find the women’s remains!”

Legolas smiled.

“Yes, that is a wild shot,” she admitted. “But I am sure that, though Guthmer knows something, he had nothing to do with the deaths.” She took another sip.

“So it was neither Baldor nor Guthmer,” said Legolas. “Who does that leave?”

“There is the younger son,” said Eowyn. “He is strange, Lassui; I do not even know his name, because no one ever uses it. And there is that big, churlish servant who is always lurking in the shadows...”

“There is also,” said Legolas, raising a possibility they had both been side-stepping, “Lady Gléowyn herself.”

“Yes...” Eowyn sighed. “The landlord of the White Horse was right, she is a shrew. She advised me to dispose of you and marry more prudently, but made it very clear that her son was out of bounds. Guthmer, it seems, is betrothed to the daughter of Walda, the sister of poor, dead Holdred... But many women have fierce tongues, Lassui. It does not mean they are murderers.”

She poured more ale into their mugs, and they sat in silence for a few moments.

Then Legolas, whose understanding of the Mannish laws of inheritance was sketchy, said, “If one of the women had married Holdred, then Walda’s manor—which, according to our friend the landlord, is the richest in Eastfold—would have gone to Eofor’s descendants, would it not? But if Guthmer marries Walda’s daughter—”

“Who now has no brother—”

“Then Walda’s estate goes to Gléowyn’s descendants.”

“And, thus, she had a strong reason to murder the women,” agreed Eowyn. “But we need proof, Lassui.”

“And there is still,” said Legolas, “one body we have not yet found.”


They paid for their ale, and made their way to Lionel Cartwright’s workshop, arriving in the middle of a heated argument between the man and his son.

“Oh, sir—lady,” cried the carpenter, “I don’t know how it’s happened!”

“Please, my friend,” said Legolas, gently taking the distraught man by the arms and guiding him towards a wooden stool, “sit down, calm yourself, and tell us what is wrong.” He glanced at the man’s son, who seemed to be trying to disappear into thin air.

“I was only gone for half an hour, sir, to get a bite to eat, and the boy was supposed to stay here, and keep an eye on things...”

“What happened?” asked Eowyn.

“Someone came into the the workshop, climbed into your wagon, and broke into one of the cupboards, my Lady.”

Legolas and Eowyn exchanged glances, both fearing exactly the same thing.

The steps up to the door had been removed for repair; Legolas hopped lightly onto the threshold, went inside, and checked the poisons cupboard. “Yes, Melmenya,” he said, gravely.

“Have they taken anything?” asked Eowyn, soothing the cartwright with a gentle squeeze of the shoulder.

“I cannot be sure, but I think so.”

“Help me up, Lassui. I shall make a list of everything that is still there and, when we get back to the barn, I shall compare it to the list in the Ledger.”


The robbery aside, Lionel Cartwright was making good progress, and estimated that the wagon would be roadworthy in another three days. Legolas paid him for the work he had done so far, plus some extra to repair the poisons cupboard, have a strong metal lining made by the blacksmith, and fit it.

Eowyn, meanwhile, having carefully transcribed the labels of the remaining bottles, jars and phials onto her wax tablet, examined the door and floor of the workshop for any signs left by the intruder.

“Nothing,” she said, as she and Legolas left the cartwright’s. “There were no obvious footprints in the sawdust—perhaps he swept the floor as he left. And he did not force an entry—”

“He did not need to,” said Legolas. “These people trust one another, Melmenya. The only reason Lionel Cartwright even bothered to ask his son to keep watch was because he was concerned for our belongings.”

“But who would have known that we had poisons?”

“Anyone who saw us at Linglow or Meringburn.”

“Of course! So it may have nothing to do with the manor.”

“It may have been the baker of Meringburn, determined to get his rat poison,” said Legolas. “Though, somehow, I doubt it.”

“Well, if it were the baker,” said Eowyn, “I’d wager you Brightstar’s next foal that he didn’t want it for rats.” They both smiled, uneasily. “You know, Lassui, I think we should be careful.” She stopped walking, and turned to face him, speaking earnestly. “It was not one of the villagers; it was someone from the manor. I think we should go back to the tavern, buy bread and cheese and a few jugs of ale, and—for the foreseeable future—avoid eating or drinking anything that Lady Gléowyn offers us.”


Supper that night was a rowdy business, for Baldor and his lady were entertaining the hunting party—half-a-dozen lusty Rohirrim with healthy appetites and even healthier thirsts.

Legolas and Eowyn, being mere traders, had been banished to the lower end of the table but, with their delicate beauty and their exotic costumes, they still attracted much attention, especially once the ale had begun to flow, and they both found themselves having to discourage amorous advances from the drunken riders.

Still, the near-riot made it easy for them to put Eowyn’s precautions into practice and, although they pushed their food around their platters, and raised their goblets at every toast, neither ate a morsel nor drank a sip.


Ohhhh,” said Eowyn, “I thought it would never end!” She sank back on her bedroll.

Legolas lit one of the fancy Haradin lanterns, and hung it from the steps above the bed. “We had better check the poisons list, Melmenya.”


They worked together, quickly and efficiently, Legolas reading out the names from Eowyn’s wax tablet, Eowyn finding the corresponding entries in the Ledger and marking them with small crosses.

Finally, she set down her pen. “Not rat poison, Lassui,” she said, with a sigh. “Wolfsbane.” Then she read out the full entry:

    Wolfsbane. Ground root of plant, mixed with oils, is used for rubbing into aching joints to relieve pain. Leaves may be used to repel werewolves.

    “**Extremely poisonous if swallowed.

    “Death occurs within two to six hours. The initial signs are nausea, vomiting, and looseness of the bowels. These are followed by a sensation of burning, tingling, and numbness in the mouth and face, and of burning in the abdomen. In severe poisonings, tingling and numbness may also spread to the limbs. Other symptoms may include sweating, dizziness, difficulty breathing, headache, and confusion. The main cause of death is a paralysis of the heart and lungs. Signs after death are as for suffocation.”

Legolas swore.

Eowyn turned to the page on which she had previously made her notes about the murders, and updated them:

Victims found at Wyrm’s Hollow
Deorhild daughter of Eofor
Guthwyn daughter of Eofor
Holdred son of Walda
? ‘Man-mountain’
? Boy servant

People in the story at the Manor of Mereworth
Eofor – deceased
Wife of Eofor – deceased

Wife of Baldor Gléowyn
Son 1 Guthmer
Son 2

Servants? ‘Lurker’


“If you had stolen a bottle of poison, Melmenya,” said Legolas, “where would you conceal it?”

“You mean, if I were Lady Gléowyn?”

“Or any of the household.”

“Well, if I were Gléowyn, I think I would hide it in the solar. There are—oh—at least six good, strong chests in there, all secured with padlocks. If I were her, I would hide it in one of those.” She wiped her pen on a rag. “If I were one of the sons... In the stables, perhaps? Yes. Or in the weapons room, if they have one, with the whetstones and the cleaning oils. If I were a servant—”

“In the kitchen,” said Legolas. “With the cooking oils and vinegars.”

“Perhaps. Or in the laundry, with the lye...”

“We must get it back,” said Legolas, angrily. “You and I are safe, Melmenya, if we do not eat or drink anything except our own food and ale, but a poisoner does not care whom he kills, so long as one of the dead is his intended victim. Whilst it is missing, everyone is at risk.”

“Yes...” said Eowyn thoughtfully, replacing the stopper in the ink bottle. Then, “Tomorrow, Lassui, you must go to Baldor, and tell him that it has been stolen.”


“Only he—or Lady Gléowyn—has the authority to search the entire manor and, if need be, the village,” she explained. “We do not know if we can trust Gléowyn, but Baldor is at least innocent of the murder of the women. And reporting the theft will not compromise us—in fact, it is exactly what a genuine merchant would do.”

“Of course...” Legolas took her pen and ink from her and set them carefully aside. “You are right, as usual, Melmenya.”

“And I,” said Eowyn, settling down in her bedroll, “will talk to the serving girl, Eldit. We need to learn more about Master No-name and the Lurking servant. And she must know this household and its secrets better than anyone.”






Chapter 9
Legolas goes hunting.

Chapter 9

Chapter 11
Eowyn talks to Eldit.

Chapter 11

Eowyn's green grown

green gown