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eowyn faces the killer

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 father—my brother—encouraged it. The boy set out from his father’s manor with his body guard—”

“The ‘man-mountain’.”

“Yes—and a page. He was coming to ask for the girl’s hand, but never arrived. We searched, of course, as we later searched for my nieces, but—well, you have seen Wyrm’s Hollow—why 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 old—old like an Elf who has waited too long to sail West. “Spirits,” he muttered. “Spirits...”


Eowyn’s 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, hard—stone flags—and 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...

The Lurker!

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 father?

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 hips—realising, for the first time, that she was sitting on something uncomfortable—and 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 of velvet.


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 lad’s 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 feet—swallowing down the sudden nausea—and, 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 the knife.

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 Eowyn’s entire body. “Oh, Theodred!”

Shieldmaiden.” He gestured towards one of the benches.

“What is it?”

Eowyn had so far ignored the chamber’s 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, and—she peered more closely—strange 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, no-nonsense hand:


“Deorhild!” She looked up at Theodred. “This... This is the women’s names!”

He nodded.

“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 Baldor—still deep in thought—at 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 someone’s heels had been dragged...

“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 is?”

“No, sir—I was coming to see if she was all right...” She described what had happened at the cartwright’s workshop. “Master Ulric,” she said, “the steward—he 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 help, Theodred.”

She realised that she could no longer feel her foster-brother’s 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. Then—as she was stuffing the rest back into the bag—she noticed a small, pointed ear sticking out of the sea of lace, and pulled at it.

It was Niben, Melannen’s toy rabbit.

Eowyn sat back on her haunches, thinking of the tiny elfling—of 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, and—with mounting panic—the well, Legolas was at his wits’ end. His instincts told him that Eowyn was still alive, and somewhere nearby, but his warrior’s experience kept reminding him that the difference between life and death was no more than a split-second’s 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.

“I’ve not seen him since he went down to the village, sir,” said the man politely, obviously accustomed to being treated roughly. “I think he’s 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 have her.

But who?

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 Baldor’s 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 day’s 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.

That’s better!

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... she thought.

And then it hit her, like an arrow between the eyes: The writing in the jar is hers! It was she who stole the women’s names!

For some reason, the realisation filled her with terror. Dropping the uneaten oatcake, she took up her knife, and approached the door—

It opened.

Eowyn scurried backwards, her knife raised defensively.

But it was not Gléowyn who came in.

“Well,” said Thengel, “my brother’s 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 mother’s leechcraft room.”

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?” he demanded.

Baldor and Gléowyn, deep in a quiet but fierce quarrel, broke off.

Gléowyn was the first to recover. She extricated herself from her husband’s 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 table—“won’t you join us in some refreshment?” She drew the stopper from an ornate bottle and poured two large measures of wine into glass goblets.

“Master Elf,”—she handed one to Legolas and—“my 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 man’s 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, following—whilst he was still off-balance—with 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, and—switching the knife back to her right hand—grabbed 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 boy—though he did not look it—was stronger.

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 goad him...

“Coward,” she cried. “Woman-killer! Mother’s boy!”

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 would—one way or the other—be 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—”

“He’s 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 heart—that you would spare me for love?” He rose from the great bed. “Ulric has been searching the village, wife—noisily, I’ll 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 the Hall.”


Eowyn watched Thengel’s 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 it.

“Did you know?” she asked.

She spotted the crystal—still glowing brightly—lying 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 wasn’t right, that he...” Guthmer sighed. “He was so young. I couldn’t believe that he’d... So, no, I wasn’t sure. Not until the spirit spoke to me.”

“What did Theodred say?”

“That if I did not act, another woman—his own cousin—would lose her life at my brother’s 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 promised—your cousins’ remains will be properly buried, and the curse on them will be lifted. How you and your father—and Holdred’s father—choose to punish your mother and brother is no concern of mine or my husband’s.”

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.”






Chapter 11
Eowyn talks to Eldit.

Chapter 11

Legolas and Eowyn say farewell...