Eowyn hurried back to the barn, hoping that Legolas
would be there
They disappeared, said Baldor. All of them.
I can tell you no more than that. Deorhild had formed an attachment
to Holdred son of Walda, and her fathermy brotherencouraged
it. The boy set out from his fathers manor with his body
Yesand a page. He was coming to ask for the girls
hand, but never arrived. We searched, of course, as we later searched
for my nieces, butwell, you have seen Wyrms Hollowwhy
would we look there? And, if we had, how would we have
found them? He turned, a sudden realisation showing upon
his face. It was you, he said. You and that
bewitching little wife of yours. You found Holdred, and
covered his remains.
His spirit led us to his body, said Legolas.
Spirit! Yes, my lady sees spirits. And my son, Guthmer,
too. He sighed and, suddenly, he looked oldold like
an Elf who has waited too long to sail West. Spirits,
he muttered. Spirits...
Eowyns first impression was of a stifling combination of
smell and taste and roughness covering her face
I cannot breathe!
She clawed at it, and it moved, and with some frantic struggling
she managed to pull it off and throw it away
A horse blanket, she thought.
Everything was dark.
And the air was cold, and the floor beneath her, hardstone
flagsand she was certainly not in the barn!
My head hurts.
She brought up her hands, and carefully examined her skull, finding
no wound, but a large swelling, hot and tender.
Someone must have hit me on the head...
He must have been waiting for me.
A shaft of fear pierced her chest. Has he left me here to
die? she wondered. Am I to vanish, like poor Deorhild and
Guthwyn, whilst Legolas searches for me, frantically, like their
Instinctively, she wanted to shout for help, but, No,
she thought. If the Lurker hears me, he will come and silence
me. No, I must stay quiet, and get out of here myself!
She shifted her hipsrealising, for the first time, that
she was sitting on something uncomfortableand she reached
down and, feeling with her fingers, discovered her carpet bag.
Goodness, I must have been holding it tightly!
A slow smile spread across her face. Fumbling in the dark, she
opened the bag and felt inside, burrowing past the rolls of lace
Eldit had helped her rescue, until her fingers brushed a cylinder
She drew out the long, narrow pouch and opened it, and a pale,
bluish light spilled out over her hands. Bless you, Master
Arador, she thought. I shall kiss you when I get home!
And, as she pulled the glowing crystal from its sheath, she chuckled
to herself, imagining the young lads embarrassment if she
were to keep her promise.
At the same time, feeling with her free hand, she found the scabbard
strapped to her thigh. The idiot has left me my knife!
Heartened, she scrambled to her feetswallowing down the
sudden nauseaand, raising the crystal high above her head,
looked about her.
She was standing in a stone chamber, small and narrow like a
corridor, lined with workbenches on its longer sides.
She tried the door.
She lifted her skirt and drew her knife, and set to work on the
door frame, stabbing and gouging, trying dig away the wood around
the lock, and she had been working hard for several minutes when
she suddenly sensed someone behind her, and swung round, brandishing
But the figure who emerged from the darkness, his handsome face
and long waving hair glowing in the dim light of the crystal,
had not come to hurt her.
Theodred. Relief flooded Eowyns entire body. Oh,
Shieldmaiden. He gestured towards one of the
What is it?
Eowyn had so far ignored the chambers paraphernalia, and
only now did it occur to her what a place like this might be used
for. Is it the poison, Theodred? She came forward,
holding out the crystal, scanning the array of jars and bottles
that littered the work bench.
Theodred pointed to a small cabinet. In there.
Eowyn opened the door.
Within, she found a glass jar, and took it out. It had been corked
and dipped in molten wax, andshe peered more closelystrange
runes had been carved into the seal.
She held the glowing crystal against the glass.
Inside, were two pieces of folded parchment; one had opened slightly
and, with effort, Eowyn made out five letters, written in a firm,
D E O R H
Deorhild! She looked up at Theodred. This...
This is the womens names!
Stolen... Locked away... Should I smash it open?
Theodred shook his head.
Very well... She found her carpet bag and, discarding
some of the lace, stowed the jar safely inside. Is there
a quicker way out of here?
Eowyn sighed. I had better get back to work, then.
Legolas left Baldorstill deep in thoughtat the stables,
and strode swiftly to the barn, looking for Eowyn.
But, the moment he entered, he knew that something was wrong.
Disquiet hung in the air like dust in a shaft of light. Just inside
the door, two parallel scratches in the earthen floor, ending
in piles of straw, showed where someones heels had been
Melmenya! he cried, but he knew she was not there
to hear him.
He turned, and rushed outside, almost colliding with the girl,
Eldit. My wife, he said, do you know where she
No, sirI was coming to see if she was all right...
She described what had happened at the cartwrights workshop.
Master Ulric, she said, the stewardhe
was very angry...
The Lurker, muttered Legolas and, boiling with anger,
went to find him.
Oh, this is hopeless, said Eowyn, sinking down to
the floor. She was desperately tired, hungry, thirsty, her head
was aching, and her hand had started to blister. I need
She realised that she could no longer feel her foster-brothers
presence and, when she looked round, she saw that he had gone.
With a sob, she reached for her carpet bag, took out a roll of
soft, silken ribbon, cut off a length, and wrapped it protectively
around her hand. Thenas she was stuffing the rest back into
the bagshe noticed a small, pointed ear sticking out of
the sea of lace, and pulled at it.
It was Niben, Melannens toy rabbit.
Eowyn sat back on her haunches, thinking of the tiny elflingof
his sunny, irrepressible nature, and of the way that taking care
of him brought out the very best in both herself and Legolas.
She kissed Niben, put him safely back in her bag, and returned
to her carving with renewed purpose.
Having searched the hayloft, the stables, the orchard, andwith
mounting panicthe well, Legolas was at his wits end.
His instincts told him that Eowyn was still alive, and somewhere
nearby, but his warriors experience kept reminding him that
the difference between life and death was no more than a split-seconds
slash of a knife...
And he could not forget the fate of Deorhild and Guthwyn.
He strode into the Great Hall, grabbed a passing servant, and
demanded to speak to the steward.
Ive not seen him since he went down to the village,
sir, said the man politely, obviously accustomed to being
treated roughly. I think hes still down there.
Legolas let the man go.
He knew that Eowyn had been taken from the barn. If the Lurker
is still in the village, he thought, someone else must
The one person he could be sure it was not, was Baldor, for the
man had been with him when it must have happened.
He approached the private end of the Hall and, without knocking,
barged into Baldors study.
It was empty.
Eowyn set her knife on the floor and, ignoring the pain in her
already-bruised shoulder, threw herself against the door.
This time, there was a sound of wood splitting...
Then the door gave way, taking Eowyn by surprise and sending
her sprawling over the threshold. She pushed herself up on her
hands. A dim light, filtering through small windows set high in
the walls, and a familiar smell told her where she was.
Ceryn Béma, she swore, the Buttery.
Another valar-forsaken door to get through!
But, at least, she should be able to find something to drink.
Remembering her previous days work, she dragged herself
to the corner where the cider barrels were stored, found one with
a tap and, cupping her hand beneath it, lapped the liquid from
her palm, like a cat.
She got to her feet, retrieved her knife, bag, and the crystal
and, back in the Buttery, searched the shelves until she found
a wheel of cheese, and cut herself a slice.
Mmm, she thought, Lady Gléowyn will have a fit...
There was no bread, but she found some oat cakes, took a couple,
and re-assessed her situation.
Gléowyn must know what is behind that door...
And then it hit her, like an arrow between the eyes: The writing
in the jar is hers! It was she who stole the womens
For some reason, the realisation filled her with terror. Dropping
the uneaten oatcake, she took up her knife, and approached the
Eowyn scurried backwards, her knife raised defensively.
But it was not Gléowyn who came in.
Well, said Thengel, my brothers right,
you are a clever she-orc. And with more fight in you than
any of the others had. He drew his sword, and his voice
which, until now, had sounded weak and sulky, was suddenly hard
and purposeful: Get back in my mothers leechcraft
No, said Eowyn. In the confined space of the
smaller chamber she knew she would stand no chance, knife against
sword. But here in the Buttery, where there was room to manoeuvre,
she might, perhaps, dodge his cuts for long enough to find his
weakness, and exploit it.
Besides, she thought, I would rather die than cower
before this little turd.
As you wish, said Thengel, and lunged.
Legolas threw open the door of the solar. Where is my wife?
Baldor and Gléowyn, deep in a quiet but fierce quarrel,
Gléowyn was the first to recover. She extricated herself
from her husbands grasp and, smoothing her gown, said dismissively,
She is about somewhere.
Then, before Legolas could protest, she changed her story: She
is with my younger son, Master Elf; they will be coming up here
presently. In the meantime,she crossed to a side tablewont
you join us in some refreshment? She drew the stopper from
an ornate bottle and poured two large measures of wine into glass
Master Elf,she handed one to Legolas andmy
dear,gave the other to Baldor, who had sunk
down onto the great bed.
Legolas watched Baldor raise the goblet to his lips
No! he cried and, with Elven speed, streaked forward,
and knocked it from the mans hand.
Thengel swung his sword.
Dodging it, Eowyn passed her knife to her left hand, swept up
a broom and used it to deflect his next strike, followingwhilst
he was still off-balancewith a cut to his right side.
Her blow fell short, but Thengel howled as the blade scratched
his ribs. Bitch!
He swung again.
Eowyn needed a shield. She fell back, dropping the broom, andswitching
the knife back to her right handgrabbed a lid from one of
the cauldrons. It was small, but it would have to do.
Thengel laughed and, raising his sword high above his head, brought
it down like a hammer.
Eowyn blocked with the lid, moving her feet to find the flat
of his blade and pushing it away, but it was hard work, for though
she was strong for her size, the boythough he did not look
I need to out-fight him!
She retreated again, bringing up her little shield
to protect her head and neck and, crouching, her knife held in
the plough guard, she waited for him to slash again, preparing
herself to attack wherever he left open and, this time, to bury
her knife right to the hilt.
But Thengel hesitated.
He is nervous, she thought. He did not expect me to
fight back. But I need him make the first move. I must
Coward, she cried. Woman-killer! Mothers
He was standing with his back to the Buttery door, blocking her
escape, and there was murder in his eyes. Eowyn readied herself
for what she knew in her heart wouldone way or the otherbe
their final clash.
What are you doing, you oaf? demanded Gléowyn.
Legolas said to Baldor: The poison, my Lord.
Baldor looked from the Elf, to his wife, and back again. Surely
you have not
Hes lying! cried Gléowyn.
Is he? said Baldor, coldly. Am I safe, knowing
what I know? Am I to believe that some tender feeling still lingers
in your heartthat you would spare me for love? He
rose from the great bed. Ulric has been searching the village,
wifenoisily, Ill wager. If I should die, Guthmer will
know what to look for.
You fool! She seized the wine and raised it
to her lips.
Baldor lunged for her, but Legolas was faster. NO!
he shouted, knocking the bottle from her hand, TELL ME WHAT
YOU HAVE DONE TO EOWYN! He grabbed her by the shoulders
and shook her; Baldor did nothing to stop him. Where is
she? Where? Where?
In the leechcraft room! she screeched.
Legolas pushed her away.
Behind the Buttery, Master Elf, said Baldor, taking
charge of his wife. Down the stairs at the western end of
Eowyn watched Thengels eyes. Desperation was slowly replacing
the fear in them; timing would be everything.
Suddenly, a pale figure drifted into the edge of her vision and,
though her gaze remained steady, she knew that it was Theodred,
come to help her. But, as she waited for him to act, a more substantial
figure appeared beside him and, raising a heavy wooden club, struck
Thengel a mighty blow, which knocked him to the floor.
For several long moments, Eowyn and her saviour stood face-to-face,
eyeing each other in silence, Eowyn wondering whether she had
found a true friend or merely a deadlier foe.
Then Guthmer bowed. My Lady.
With a heavy sigh of relief, Eowyn dumped the cauldron lid and,
turning her back on the young man, wiped her knife and sheathed
Did you know? she asked.
She spotted the crystalstill glowing brightlylying
where it had fallen on the floor, picked it up, and took it back
into the leechcraft room to find its velvet pouch.
I... I knew that something wasnt right, that he...
Guthmer sighed. He was so young. I couldnt believe
that hed... So, no, I wasnt sure. Not until the spirit
spoke to me.
What did Theodred say?
That if I did not act, another womanhis own cousinwould
lose her life at my brothers hands.
Eowyn sheathed the crystal and put it in her bag. You know
that your mother is guilty, too? She helped him hide his crimes.
Thengel was always her favourite, he said. She
would do anything to protect him.
Well I, she said, taking another oat cake,
for the fight had made her even hungrier, have done what
I promisedyour cousins remains will be properly buried,
and the curse on them will be lifted. How you and your fatherand
Holdreds fatherchoose to punish your mother and brother
is no concern of mine or my husbands.
She approached the door. Guthmer stepped aside to let her pass.
But, as she reached the foot of the stairs, Eowyn paused. If
you still hope to serve my brother, Eomer King, I will speak to
him on your behalf.