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legolas and eowyn enter the great hall

“Up at Wyrm’s Hollow?” said the landlord, incredulously.

Legolas nodded. “We have found three bodies so far, but we believe there are more.”

He and Eowyn had returned to Meringburn, opened up the wagon with considerably more success than on previous occasions, then joined their customers in the tavern, lingering until, at last, they had found themselves alone with the landlord.

“Killed by orcs, maybe,” said the man, rubbing his chin, “during the war...”

“We do not think so,” said Eowyn. She brought out the golden wolf they had found beside the first body, and set it on the table. “Have you ever seen this crest before?”

He picked it up. “Aye... It’s of the House of Gárulf.”

“What can you tell us about them?” asked Legolas.

The man hesitated.

“We will make it worth your while,” said Eowyn, encouragingly.

“Nay, it’s not that,” said the man, looking from her to Legolas, and back again. “Look, I know he’s an Elf—and you—you seem like a lady—but how am I to know you’re not planning to rob them—or to do worse, maybe, being as they say you’re faery folk and all?”

Eowyn caught Legolas’ eye and, touching the golden chain around her neck, asked a silent question. Legolas nodded. Eowyn grasped the chain and lifted it, drawing something from inside her bodice and dropping it into her cupped hand. “I cannot prove,” she admitted, “that I did not steal this, but...” She opened her hand.

In her palm, at the end of the chain, lay a golden ring bearing the crest of the Kings of Rohan.

“My Lady!” gasped the landlord—and he slid from his chair, and fell to his knees.

“Please,” said Eowyn. “All we want is some information.”

“Friend,” said Legolas, touching the man’s arm, “will you join us in another drink?”

“A drink? Oh... Aye... Aye!” The landlord scrambled to his feet and scurried behind the counter.

“We were asked,” Legolas explained, “to find out what happened to two young women, friends of the late King’s son, but what we have discovered instead is the body of a young man and what may have been two of his servants—or, perhaps, a servant and a younger kinsman, or a kinswoman...”

“The young man was wearing the crest,” said Eowyn, fingering the wolf, “so we know that he was of the House of Gárulf. But the women we seek were the daughters of Eofor, and we believe that they were murdered by his brother, Baldor.”

“Baldor, son of Eoheort,” said the landlord, setting down the mugs of ale with shaky hands. After a moment’s confusion—during which it appeared that he was trying to decide whether it would be better to prostrate himself on the floor—he sat down. “Aye, well, if you want to know about him, my Lady, you’ve come to the right place.”


The following morning, Legolas and Eowyn spent almost two hours carefully rearranging the contents of their little cupboards and making sure that the turn-buckles securing the doors were in the right positions.

Then they hitched the horses and set out, travelling westwards along the Great West Road until, about half a mile before the road branched off to Mereworth, Legolas brought the wagon to a halt in the lee of one of the rocky outcrops that dotted the plain. “You are well-hidden here, Melmenya,” he said, raising the hood of his cloak. “But I shall not be long.” He dropped lightly to the ground.

“Take care,” said Eowyn.

The Elf smiled. “I shall.” Then, bow in hand, he set off at a run.


The village of Mereworth lay a few miles to the south of the Great West Road, where one of the many streams that trickled down from the mountains pooled to form the lake from which it took its name. The manor itself stood upon a natural rise to the west, its fine Hall, stables, and orchard enclosed by a stout wooden fence, its farm lands, divided into narrow strips, stretching out in all directions and, to the north, fringing the Road itself.

Moving swiftly past the men working in the fields, and almost invisible beneath his Elven cloak, Legolas scanned the road until he found exactly what he needed and, after making a careful note of its location, he ran back to Eowyn.

“All set,” he said.

They waited until the fading light told them that the men would soon be returning home.

“Are you ready?” asked Legolas.

“I would be, if Theodred had come last night and given us his blessing.”

The Elf put his arm around her shoulders and hugged her gently.

“But, yes,” she said.

“With luck, Melmenya,” he said, addressing the unspoken cause of her sadness, “we will have it repaired. And if it cannot be repaired, we will have another built just like it, and we will take it to Pelargir, and spend a week there, watching the boats in the harbour...” He took up the reins.

“With Melannen?”

“With Melannen. Now hold on tightly.”

He guided the horses back onto the road, commanding them, with a few quiet words of Elvish, to run swiftly. Off they went, faster and faster, dragging the wagon behind them, and the vehicle began to sway, growing more and more unstable as it picked up speed, until it was lurching terrifyingly from side to side, and Eowyn was clinging on for dear life.

Then Legolas steered towards the uneven ground he had found earlier and, as the wheels hit the ruts, he pulled on the Elven ropes holding the horses, and the animals shot from the shafts, leaving the wagon behind.

For a split-second it seemed to freeze, held upright by some mysterious stroke of luck...

Then it overturned with a sickening crash.

But Legolas had already wrapped his arms around Eowyn and thrown them both clear.


Cries of horror went up from the fields, followed by the sounds of running feet.

Legolas held on to Eowyn, and waited.

“Are y’all right, Master Elf?” said a voice.

Legolas looked up into a strong, honest face. “My wife,” he replied, “is badly shaken.”

The man looked about him, obviously wondering what to do. Behind him, his fellow serfs were jostling and crowding, trying to get a better look at the injured woman.

“The horses have gone,” said someone, helpfully.

“Shall we carry the lady up to the manor?” suggested another, but this was followed by a low murmuring, from which Legolas’ Elven hearing extracted several variants of ‘Baldor won’t like that...’

“You’d best keep an eye on all that stuff, Ealdfrith,” said a third man.

“Aye...” replied the first, and Legolas saw his gaze shift, unhappily, to the wagon.

It was lying on its side, with its door—which they had purposely left unlatched—wide open. Inside, patterned shawls and colourful ribbons streamed down from its open cupboards like banners at a banquet, whilst bales of cloth, and bundles of hose, and pouches of the finest Shire pipeweed lay piled beneath. Everything looked ruined, but—thanks to Legolas and Eowyn’s work that morning—it was mostly show, for only carefully chosen items had been permitted to fall.

And those things, thought Legolas, must be calling to poor men such as these like the sea to a Sindar.

Ealdfrith, meanwhile, had made up his mind. “Algar,” he said, to the young giant standing beside him, “get yourself by that wagon and don’t let anyone near.” He turned back to Legolas. “We’ll sort out your gear later, Master Elf. Let’s get the lady comfortable first.”

“Thank you, my friend,” said Legolas, with genuine gratitude. “I am most—”

“What’s going on here?”

Legolas turned towards the new voice. The crowd had parted—with much bowing and tugging of forelocks—to reveal a handsome young man sitting astride a magnificent white horse. The rider flexed his legs, urging his mount a few steps forward, and demanded, impatiently, “Well? Ealdfrith?”

“There’s been an accident, Master Guthmer,” said the man, bowing low. “They’re traders—the lady’s been shaken up. I’m about to take them up to the village.”

Guthmer studied Legolas, assessing his bow, his white knives and, lastly, his ears, then he turned to Eowyn, his expert eye lingering upon her body... “Bring them up to the manor,” he said, turning his mount around, “with their things. You can put them in the barn.”

Then he rode away without another word.


One of the men had had the foresight to bring a small hand cart down from the fields and, after making sure that Eowyn was comfortable, Legolas—with help from Ealdfrith and Algar—transferred half the contents of the wagon to it, selecting those things he thought would prove most useful—the Gondorian knives, the pouches of pipeweed, some of the more exotic trinkets, a few bottles of perfume and jars of salve, and several of the most attractive items of women’s clothing. Then, leaving the poisons secure in their special cupboard, he closed and locked the door.

As they climbed the gentle rise to the manor, Legolas carrying Eowyn whilst Ealdfrith pushed the cart as though it weighed nothing, the Elf asked him whether the village had a cartwright, and was assured that, yes, from what Ealdfrith had seen, Lionel Cartwright would have no trouble repairing the wagon, though Legolas would need to obtain permission from Eorl Baldor before he could ask Lionel to work on it.

Perfect, thought Legolas. An excuse to talk to Baldor and a reason to linger here in Mereworth—doubtless for several days.


The barn was a long, narrow building, set at right-angles to Mereworth Hall across a well-kept yard. Inside, at one end, a series of pens offered accommodation to animals during winter; at the other end, a line of raised stone platforms kept sacks of grain, barrels of salted meats, and jars of preserved fruits safe from vermin.

Whatever else he may have done, thought Legolas, Baldor runs an efficient household.

He set Eowyn down on one of the lower rungs of the ladder up to the hayloft and, smiling, kissed her forehead, for she was playing the part of the fragile woman to perfection. “How do you feel?” he asked, quietly.

“Not bad. A bit bruised...”

As he set about arranging their stocks, together with the contents of their travelling packs, to form a cosy bedroom in the alcove beneath the stairs, a servant entered the barn and invited them to sup with the family.

Legolas placed his hand upon his heart and, making the very low bow favoured by the serfs of Mereworth, asked the haughty messenger to convey his acceptance, together with his sincere thanks, to his master and mistress.

The man grunted.

When he had gone, Legolas hopped over the fence into one of the animal pens, found a wooden pail, and fetched some water from the well in the yard. “Come, Melmenya,” he said, smiling, “we must get you into costume.”


“You surely saw,” he explained, “how Baldor’s son was looking at you. I think a little faery magic might help you loosen his tongue.”

“He had better not try anything with his tongue,” said Eowyn, darkly.

Half an hour later, washed and with her hair brushed out, she was twirling for Legolas’ critical appraisal. He had dressed her in a gown of embroidered muslin, cut just short enough to reveal her feet in their little brown boots, and in a golden corslet, which—laced tightly beneath her breasts—lifted her bosom, hiding few of her charms.

“Hmm,” said Legolas. He fiddled with her neckline. “Perfect! Let us go.”


The Great Hall, though as well-maintained as the rest of the manor, felt curiously cold and unwelcoming.

As she approached the high table, with Legolas at her side, Eowyn surveyed the members of the House of Baldor.

At its centre sat the eorl himself, a man of about forty-five years, with dark, hawk-like features emphasised by a sharply-trimmed beard. On his left sat the lady of the house, a strong-looking woman, perhaps twenty years her husband’s senior, her steel-grey hair covered with a veil of the finest gold mesh.

Beside her, an empty seat awaited the more senior of their guests, and beside that sat the younger of the couple’s two sons, a pale, weak-looking boy whose eyes never left the wooden spoon he was turning in his hands.

On Baldor’s right sat the elder son, Guthmer, already regarding Eowyn as his personal property because, on his right, a second empty seat awaited her. And, hovering behind Baldor, stood the servant who had delivered his master’s invitation to supper, and had received Legolas’ answer so surlily.

“Who are you, friend?” asked Baldor, addressing Legolas.

“I am Lassui, a humble Elf of Mirkwood,” Legolas lied, “and this is my wife, Melmenya. Since the War, we have been travelling the southern lands, trading in knick-knacks and fancies.”

“What brings you north?” asked Guthmer.

A flicker of annoyance soured the father’s face. “Welcome,” he said, overriding his son’s question. “Take your places,”—he gestured towards the empty seat beside his wife—“and let us eat.”


“And so,” said Baldor, splashing more his wine into his goblet, “when Theoden’s call came, I ignored it.”

Legolas glanced at Eowyn. He could see—although he doubted that anyone else would notice—that she was seething with anger, but whether because Baldor had betrayed her uncle, or whether because Guthmer’s hand was hovering above her thigh, he could not be sure, though he knew that he would be teaching the young man a sharp lesson, once their mission was complete.

“You have hardly eaten anything at all, Master Lassui,” protested Baldor’s wife, Lady Gléowyn. “I do hope that our simple fare does not disappoint you.” She smiled coquettishly.

“No indeed, my Lady,” he replied, honestly, because the roasted meats, the briw of peas, beans and roots, and the fresh baked bread, though plain, were all of the finest quality and perfectly cooked. “We elves are not large eaters,” he explained, “especially of meat.”

“And yet you are so strong...” She laid a hand upon his arm, and he felt her fingers explore his muscles.

Her younger son guffawed.

Legolas gently removed her hand, but he smiled, and let his eyes linger on her face, so as not to discourage her flirtation completely.

“Tomorrow, Master Elf,” said Baldor, throwing back his head and tossing the last of his wine down his throat, “I shall be hunting, up in Firien Wood.” Legolas and Eowyn exchanged glances. “I hope you will join me. There are times when the hunter must admit defeat and fall back on a bowman, and I have heard many tales of your race’s prowess with the bow.” He glanced at Eowyn. “I am sure your wife can find something to amuse her here.”






Chapter 6
Eowyn finds 'the lair of the dragon'.

Chapter 6

Chapter 8
Theodred keeps his word.

Chapter 8

Eowyn's golden gown

golden gown