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eowyn searches wyrm's hollow

Crossing the road to where the wagon stood, sheltered beneath a stand of oaks, Eowyn could scarcely contain herself.

“Calm down, Melmenya,” said Legolas, “or you will have an apoplexy,” which was a saying he had heard Men use under similar circumstances, though he had no idea what it meant.

He unlocked the door, and Eowyn rushed into the cabin, and seized the map. “Here it is,” she said, breathlessly. Legolas sat down beside her. “The second glade, just west of the path to Halifirien and the seventh beacon. See, it is not named.”

“Because Berryn did not know its name...”

“That is right.” She traced the line of Great West Road, westwards. “And here,” she said, “are the manor and village of Mereworth,”—she measured the distance with her fingers—“only ten miles away.” She looked up at Legolas. “What do we do first?”

“We must go to Wyrm’s Hollow first,” said Legolas, decisively. “If there is any chance of finding the bodies, Melmenya, they must be our main concern.”


They checked their provisions and, whilst Eowyn was hitching the horses, Legolas went back into the town and bought bread from the tavern (because, his wife argued, they would be fools to eat anything made by the poisoning baker), cheese from the dairymaids, and a fruit pie from one of the housewives.

Then they turned the wagon round and drove back into Firien Wood, crossing the Mering Bridge at about midday, and stopping beside the first of the standing stones, which marked the way to Halifirien, shortly after.

“The path is narrow,” said Legolas, bringing a big smile to Eowyn’s face. “And far too steep for the horses, Melmenya. We will have to climb it on foot.”

Eowyn changed into her jerkin and leggings, and strapped on her sword; Legolas, having stowed the food and some extra clothing in his travelling pack, checked his bow, arrows, and quiver, examined his white knives, and slung everything across his back.

Then the couple freed the horses to graze and, with an “Avo visto,” set out.

Though the sun was at its zenith, the trees were dense along Firien-dale and the path was shrouded in darkness, the gloom broken only rarely by pale splashes of light that, far from bringing relief, illuminated lurid fungi and teeming insects, which Eowyn would rather not have seen. High above her, magpies cursed and crebain cawed; all around her, unknown creatures rustled and grunted, reminding her of the great Boar of Everholt that had gored poor King Folca to death...

“Do you still sense evil?” she asked.


“So do I.” She looked around, warily. “I should not be surprised if Baldor had stationed a few serfs—or even a glam of orcs—here to deter visitors.”

Legolas stopped, and turned back to face her. “Then the best strategy, Melmenya,” he said, softly, “is to be very, very quiet.”

Eowyn brought her forefinger and thumb up to her mouth, and pinched her lips closed.

Legolas grinned and, stooping, kissed her forehead.

But ‘very quiet’ was easy for an Elf to say. Eowyn soon found that climbing up a steep path paved with uneven stones, in near darkness, without breathing heavily, or gasping when she stumbled, or yelping when she turned an ankle, was very hard indeed.


They had been walking for almost an hour when the path suddenly turned into a raised stone causeway, and crossed a broad clearing, carpeted with reeds.

“Moss,” said Eowyn, poking the boggy ground with her sword. “This must be Folca’s Glade.” She sheathed her weapon and unrolled her map. “Yes... Look, the path will veer east in a few hundred yards. At this rate, Lassui, we shall reach Wyrm’s Hollow just before dusk.”

Legolas uncorked his waterskin and passed it to her. “We must find somewhere to spend the night, Melmenya,” he said, “and then begin the search at first light.”


Wyrm’s Hollow was a spoon-shaped valley, some two hundred yards at its widest and perhaps a quarter mile in length, bordered to the north, south, and east by steep rock walls.

“Now that I see it,” said Eowyn, surveying the field of dense colour stretching out before her, “I find it hard to believe that anything really bad could have happened here...”

Legolas followed her gaze. The entire ‘hollow’ was crammed with purple-red flowers, which to Eowyn clearly spoke of innocence, but to him hinted at some violent disturbance, some tainting of the forest—a shivering pool, blood-red in the waning light, with a cloying scent that reminded him of the orc carcasses he had seen burning on the Plains of Rohan.

He scanned the cliffs for a suitable camp site. “Over there,” he said at last, pointing to a ledge high up on the northern wall. “We will be safe up there. Can you climb, Melmenya, or shall I carry you?”

Eowyn laughed. “That is a very tempting offer, Lassui,” she said, “but my honour insists that I climb.”

“Very well.”

He took her by the hand and they waded into the purple-red sea until they reached the foot of the rock wall, and scrambled up. Legolas shrugged off his pack and, whilst Eowyn arranged the bedrolls and laid out the food, he went back into valley to gather some fire wood. Then, after the sun had gone down, they sat in the firelight, and they ate, and talked, and Legolas opened a box of sweetmeats he had taken from their stocks, and they shared happy memories—Eowyn holding Melannen’s toy rabbit—until Eowyn grew tired.


Some time later, feeling warm and safe in Legolas’ arms, Eowyn looked out across Wyrm’s Hollow.

In the soft moonlight, something was moving, hovering above the lightly waving Dragon Flame. “Lassui,” she whispered, “look. Is that the spirits? Or is it just mist?”

Legolas looked. But he could discern nothing human about the apparitions, and the overwhelming sense of sadness and loss that hung upon the air did not seem any greater for their presence.


Eowyn awoke with a start, sensing her husband’s distress. “Legolas? What is wrong?”

The sun had risen and, at the western end of Wyrm’s Hollow, the Dragon Flame was glistening like amethyst in the morning light. Legolas was sitting on the edge of the rocky platform, his legs dangling.

Lassui?” Eowyn wriggled out of her bedroll, and crawled to his side.

“It would take us days to search this place thoroughly, Melmenya,” he said, sadly.

Eowyn nodded. “Even if we cut down the plants as we went,” she agreed, thinking aloud. “I suppose we could burn them...”

“Doing evil to expose evil?”

“To expose a much greater evil.”

“Is it, Melmenya? Surely poisoning an ancient forest is the greatest evil of all?”

“The forest will recover from this, Lassui,” said Eowyn, firmly. “With our help. You have proved that, in Eryn Carantaur.” She squeezed his arm. “I say we start the search over there.” She pointed to where they had seen the mist rising during the night. “If we find nothing, we will continue in a line until we reach the rocks over there. Then we will move a few yards over, and search along a parallel line—”

“I do not want to spend another night here, Melmenya.”

“Then we will finish before dusk and, whether we have found anything or not, we will go back to the wagon. The road is good. We can be in Meringburn for supper.”

They worked diligently until midday, then climbed back up to their refuge, and ate a simple meal of bread and cheese and fruit pie before continuing with the search, criss-crossing the little valley in straight lines with the aid of a length of Elven rope. The ground was ashy, and Eowyn’s feet stirred up a cloud of filthy dust as she shuffled forwards, her back bent—

“It is time to go, Melmenya,” said Legolas, with obvious relief.

Eowyn glanced around. Their search was recorded as ruts in the Dragon Flame, and she was shocked to see how little of the hollow they had covered. “You fetch our things, Lassui,” she said, wearily. “I want to carry on until I reach the rocks.” She watched him for a moment, striding across the clearing and climbing gracefully up the cliff, then she turned, and ploughed on.

“Anything?” he asked, rejoining her a few moments later.


“Come, then.” He held out his hand, and Eowyn took a step towards him—

And something crunched beneath her feet.

“Wait,” she cried, looking down at her boots, “wait, wait... Oh! Oh, Lassui, look!”

She stepped backwards, and Legolas peered into the gap she had left behind. Then he drew out one of his white knives and, crouching down and working carefully, he cut away the stems of Dragon Flame to reveal the bones of a finger, which soon became an entire hand, which joined to a wrist, and extended into a forearm, and then ended abruptly, just below the elbow, in a pile of white ash.

He looked up at Eowyn.

“Keep going,” she whispered.

Legolas continued cutting, slowly exposing—in piles of ash and the odd fragment of bone—the outline of an entire human body.

Eowyn reached down beside the head, and picked up a small object.

It was a jewel, such as a rich man might wear pinned to his velvet cap—a golden wolf, intricately detailed, its body inlaid with fragments of the deepest purple-brown stone. “This is a family crest, Lassui,” she said.


They tramped back to the wagon.

Eowyn sat down on the rear steps, pulled off her dirty boots and dumped them on the ground. “How do Elves stay so clean?” she asked, for—even after having lived with one for two years—it was still a mystery to her. “It is not just your face and hair, Lassui; your clothes are spotless, too.”

“No, they are not, Melmenya!” he replied, smiling as he drew some water from the barrel. “Come inside, and we will wash.”

He set the bowl of water upon the table and, helping her out of her clothes, dampened a cloth and gently wiped her face, her arms and hands, her legs and feet...

“What are we going to do now?” asked Eowyn.

Legolas sat back on his heels. “The forest is hopeful,” he said.


He nodded.

“Good! Then I think we should stay here tonight, and go back to Wyrm’s Hollow in the morning. Because, if we could just find the others...” She picked up the golden wolf, and held it in the candle light.

“Do you recognise the crest, Melmenya?”

She shook her head. “No. But perhaps it was Holdred’s.”

“Or another rich suitor’s.”

“We should leave it out tonight,” she said. “Because it might—you know—bring its owner here.”

But the couple were not disturbed during the night, and the following morning they cut six pieces of tarpaulin from their stocks and, rolling them up and lashing them to Legolas’ travelling pack, set out for Wyrm’s Hollow.

Several hours later, working in unseasonal heat, they had exposed two more bodies—one an exceptionally tall, well-built man; the other a small, slight figure, girt with a little knife-belt, of which the buckle, the point of the scabbard, and the small, fine blade of the knife, blackened by flame, remained.

But around the three figures lay a border of empty ground several yards wide; the trail had gone cold.

Legolas uncorked his waterskin and handed it to Eowyn and, after carefully rinsing the dust from her fingers, and dribbling some over her head, she took a few sips of water. “The small one could be a woman,” she said, thoughtfully. “But I do not think we have found Deorhild or Guthwyn, Lassui. I do not know why, but I picture them lying together, clinging to one another...” She looked out across the field of waving Dragon Flame, turning crimson in the failing light. “It is time to go.”

Legolas unrolled three of the tarpaulins and, murmuring, “Hiro hyn hîdh ab’wanath,” laid them over the ashes.

Eowyn, meanwhile, had gathered some stones. “Do you think we can trust the landlord, Lassui?” she asked, handing them to Legolas, one at a time.

“Yes, I do,” he replied, weighting down the tarpaulins.

She nodded. “Then I think we should take him into our confidence—not about the spirits, perhaps—but we can say we know someone who knew the women, which is true enough. And we can show him the wolf, and the scabbard point, and see if he recognises them.”

“And if he does?”

“If he does,” she said, “we will act on whatever he tells us. If he does not, we will come back here. With help.”






Chapter 5
Theodred appears again.

Chapter 5

Chapter 7
Legolas stages an accident.

Chapter 7

Avo visto ... ‘Do not stray’
Hiro hyn hîdh ab’wanath ... ‘May they find peace after death’


In England, Fireweed flowers July-August, but I've used artistic licence!