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the boar in happier times

Though he had needed no sleep himself and had spent the night awake, watching over Eowyn, Legolas waited until the hunting party had assembled before he joined them in the stable yard, threading his way through a half-dozen men on horseback, concerned to find that neither Guthmer nor his younger brother was amongst the riders.

“Good morning, Master Elf,” said Baldor, twisting in the saddle as his mount turned about. “I have picked out a horse for you, since your own is still missing. His name is Firebrand, and—I promise you—he is a challenge.”

Legolas placed a hand upon his heart and bowed his head in thanks.

“Will you require a saddle, sir?” asked a harassed groom, struggling to lead a magnificent milk-white stallion through the swarm of mounted men.

Legolas reached out, and gently took the animal’s head in his hands, wondering how Baldor had come to own a horse that had obviously been sired by one of the Mearas. “Gerich faer vara,” he murmured and, touching his forehead to the horse’s muzzle, he added, “estelio nin, Firebrand.” Then, “Le hannon, mellon nín,” he answered the groom, “but no. I shall ride him as he is.”

And he sprang lightly onto the horse’s back, ignoring the looks that passed between the riders, though he had little doubt that wagers had been laid, and that money would be changing hands at the end of the day.

“Well then,” said Baldor, “let us depart.”

Eowyn set her foot upon a step, and hitched up her skirts.

Legolas had insisted that, from now on, she should carry a hunting knife, and he had selected one from their stocks—a long, slender, Gondorian blade, lightweight but strong, that slipped easily from its smooth leather scabbard.

She wrapped the strap around her thigh and threaded it through the buckle, smiling as an image of Guthmer’s startled face appeared in her mind’s eye.

“My Lady?”

“Yes...” She lowered her skirts and turned to find a serving girl hovering just inside the barn door. “What is it?”

Blushing, the girl dropped a hasty curtsey. “Lady Gléowyn asks you to join her in the solar, my Lady.”

“Thank you, er...?

“Eldit, my Lady.”

“Thank you, Eldit. I shall come at once.”

The solar—the lord and lady’s private chamber—sat above the western end of the Great Hall, supported on a row of carved wooden pillars. If the lady were to discover that she is entertaining the sister of the King of Rohan...! thought Eowyn, smiling as she climbed the stairs.

She knocked lightly at the door, and opened it without waiting for a reply. To her surprise, the solar was bright and cheerful; a lady’s chamber. She closed the door behind her and, approaching Lady Gléowyn, who was sitting upon the great bed working a piece of elaborate embroidery, she curtsied.

Gléowyn waited a few moments more than strictly necessary before slowly raising her head and looking Eowyn in the eye. “Sit down,” she said.

Eowyn glanced behind her, spotted a couple of stools, drew one a little closer, and sat.

“I am told,” said Gléowyn, pinning her needle to her embroidery and setting the frame aside, “that you and your husband have a fine selection of silks and trimmings.”

“Indeed we do, my Lady,” replied Eowyn, slipping into the role of merchant’s wife. “This,”—she indicated her slightly outlandish gown with a graceful sweep of the hand—“is made from Elven silk, and trimmed with Haradin lace.”

Lady Gléowyn did not seem impressed.

“Most of our stock is still locked in the wagon,” Eowyn continued, unabashed, “which is down at the roadside, but it is being brought up to the cartwright’s workshop today and, if my Lady wishes, I will be happy to show you our wares tonight. My husband,” she added, recalling the woman’s open admiration of Legolas, “is always happy to demonstrate the weapons.”

“Tell me about Minas Tirith,” said Lady Gléowyn. “You must have been there on your travels. Tell me what the great ladies wear. Do they follow the Elvish Queen’s example?”

“Yes, they do, my Lady.” Eowyn began a long and detailed account of the fashions she had seen the last time she had been at Court, and it was not until she had been talking for some time that she noticed Gléowyn’s younger son, lurking behind the curtains of the great bed. Fortunately, her surprise went unnoticed because, at the same moment, the surly servant entered the chamber, and whispered in his mistress’s ear.

“I seems I cannot be spared,” said Lady Gléowyn, wearily; “I am needed urgently elsewhere. Please wait here for my return.”

Eowyn watched the woman depart, relieved to see her younger son slink out behind her, closely followed by the ill-tempered servant.

By the time the hunting party reached Firien Wood, all was prepared. Baldor’s efficient master huntsman had stationed relays of hounds throughout the forest, and was waiting for them on the Mering Bridge. “We’ve found a bed, my Lord,” he said, “down in the dell beside the Blue Rocks. It’s still warm, so the boar can’t be far.”

“Take us there,” said Baldor. He turned to Legolas. “Are you game Master Elf?”

Legolas assented with a polite bow of the head, though hunting animals for sport gave him no pleasure, and he questioned the wisdom of pushing the horses up and down the steep slopes.

Baldor eyed him thoughtfully, sensing his disapproval.

Then he signalled to his fellow riders, and they followed him into the valley, their horses struggling to retain their footing. When they reached the bottom, Baldor dismounted and inspected the boar’s bed.

“He’s a big one, Waldef.”

“Yes, my Lord.”

“And, as you say, not long gone. Release the dogs.”

The master huntsman waited until his lord had remounted before signalling the dog handlers to slip the leashes. The hounds scurried away, barking excitedly.

“Come on!” cried Baldor, spurring his horse. The riders set off in pursuit, jostling each other in their eagerness to stay close to their lord; Legolas hung back, concerned for his mount, which—though swift and high-hearted—was wary of men.

Suddenly, the dogs turned south, flowing up the rocky hillside like an enchanted waterfall.

“This way,” Baldor shouted, and the riders wheeled east, retracing their previous path until they found a way up. Legolas followed, climbing the slope, crossing the road, and plunging into the forest beyond, following a trail he immediately recognised as the narrow path that he and Eowyn had taken up to Wyrm’s Hollow.

This will be interesting...

“More dogs,” cried Baldor. “The demon is close!”

The master huntsman, running beside his lord, blew his horn, and another pack came streaming from the trees to join the chase.

“If we can drive him into the Hollow,” someone shouted, “we’ll have him cornered!”

A second later, they burst into the clearing and sighted their quarry for the first time—a massive boar, fighting for his life as the dogs leaped for him like a single, snapping monster.

Baldor swung from the saddle and, gripping his spear, approached the rout. “Call them off, Waldef,” he ordered.

The dogs were summoned by their handlers.

Baldor faced the boar alone.

Legolas, meanwhile, had taken his bow from its strap and nocked an arrow and, urging his mount forward, was working his way to the front; for Baldor, though fit, was not a large man, and in the final struggle the Elf knew that weight would count for more than determination.

Baldor raised his spear, and waited, his eyes fixed upon the boar.

The beast pricked its ears, and took several small steps.

Baldor leaned in—

The boar charged—

Baldor struck, and missed, his spear glancing harmlessly down its shoulder—

And, in the split-second before it reached the man and ripped him asunder, Legolas drew and loosed, and buried his arrow deep between the boar’s eyes.

Eowyn moved quickly round the chamber, picking up the various knick-knacks and examining them, unsure of what she was looking for. The large chests that lined the southern wall were all safely locked—more evidence of the lord and lady’s excellent housekeeping—but lying upon one of them she found a carved box, about the size of a book, shallow, and ornately gilded.

She pulled the pin from the catch, and opened it.

It housed the portrait of a woman—an exotic beauty with dark eyes and long, black hair—and, as Eowyn studied it, she was reminded of Baldor’s sharp features, and of his unusually dark hair and beard...

Quite rare in Rohan, she thought. Is this a picture of Baldor’s mother?

The two murdered women, Deorhild and Guthwyn, had been—as far as she could tell—blonde, like her own family. But Baldor’s sons were both dark, like their father...

Could Baldor be a bastard? she wondered. Did he have to kill off the legitimate heirs to secure his inheritance? Eofor died in a skirmish, but what of his wife? Might Baldor have killed her to prevent his brother’s having more heirs? Might she already have been with child when—

“What are you doing?”

Eowyn recognised the voice. Guthmer.

She closed the portrait and replaced it. “I am snooping,” she said, made bold by the knife strapped to her thigh. She turned to face him.

Guthmer, to her surprise, merely grunted, as though her answer were perfectly satisfactory. He crossed to the great bed and threw himself down upon it.

Eowyn returned to her stool.

“The wraith did not harm you, then?” he asked, after a few moments’ awkward silence.

“On the contrary,” Eowyn replied, boldly. “The ‘wraith’ is the spirit of one my ancestors, and he protects me whenever an impetuous boy threatens my honour.” She saw Guthmer’s expression change. “Oh,”she said. “You have seen him before.”

The young man did not reply.

“When?” she demanded.

He scowled.

Eowyn rose to her feet. “I am not lying, Guthmer,” she said. “The spirit is one of my ancestors—”

“And you are no merchant’s wife,” he said, with a sneer. “So who are you?”

“That is not important—”

“Horse shit!” He rose, and came towards her and, through her silken skirts, Eowyn felt for her hunting knife. “Who are you, Melmenya—if that is even your name? And what are you doing here, with all your airs, and your ancestors, and your pretty Elf husband—” Suddenly, his hand shot out, and he seized the the golden chain about her neck, and yanked the ring from her bodice. “Oh, shit!” he cried. “Shit, shit, shit! You are an agent of the King—”


“Who are you? Why are you here? What does he know? Why are you in disguise?”

No!” Eowyn tried to limit the damage. “No, it was the spirit who led me here, Guthmer. The spirit! And I do not know what he wants. When has he appeared to you?”

The young man licked his dry lips. Behind his eyes, doubt and fear were vying with anger and recklessness.

“Tell me,” said Eowyn, with the firm voice she would have used to coax a horse.

But, at that moment, the chamber door opened, and Lady Gléowyn entered with her younger son. “Ah, Guthmer,” she said, “I have been looking for you. Something is disrupting work in the fields. Take your brother with you. Mistress Melmenya, will you join me in the Buttery?”


“You have my thanks, Master Elf,” said Baldor, with a gracious bow of the head—though, when he raised his eyes, Legolas saw shame in them. “It appears that what they say about your kind is true.”

He gestured to his master huntsman, and the man moved in to ‘unmake’ the boar and prepare the dogs’ reward.

“My younger son,” continued Baldor, “has shown an aptitude for the bow. Perhaps...”

Legolas doubted that the sulky boy had any skill whatsoever, but replied, “I would be honoured, my Lord, to see him shoot and, perhaps, to offer some guid—”

“My Lord! My Lord!”

The Man and the Elf both turned towards the sudden commotion.

Some of the hounds, strangely having lost interest in the boar, were dragging their confused handlers further down the clearing, where several riders were examining something on the ground, and calling, “My Lord! My Lord!

Baldor waded through the yapping dogs; Legolas, knowing exactly what the men had found, followed him.

“Bodies, my Lord,” said one of the riders. “Burnt beyond recognition.” He stepped aside to allow Baldor better access.

“This is the ‘man-mountain’, my Lord,” said another of the riders. He was holding up the tarpaulin with which Legolas and Eowyn had covered the largest of the victims, and was indicating his size with his free hand. “I am sure it is he.”

Baldor poked the ashes with the toe of his boot.

“Are there any more?” asked Legolas, innocently.

In no time, the dogs had found two.

They were lying, as Eowyn had foreseen, huddled together, one partially covering the other, as though trying to protect her. Legolas crouched down beside them. The flames had done their work less thoroughly here, and larger parts of the bodies were still intact, including the bones of a small foot in a red leather boot. “Women,” said Legolas, looking up into Baldor’s face.

And the emotions he saw there were unmistakable.


The Buttery was a stone-lined storeroom beneath the Great Hall. A spiral staircase led down to its heavy wooden door, and a series of small windows, high up in its walls, let air and shaded light into its cool depths.

“Can you read and write, Mistress?” asked Lady Gléowyn, as they entered.

Of course,” replied Eowyn—adding, hastily, “my Lady.”

“Good. Then you can be my scribe.”

Lady Gléowyn closed the door behind them, crossed to one of the wooden shelves, took up a large slate and a piece of chalk, and handed them to Eowyn. “I will tell you what to write.”

For almost an hour, the lady inspected and counted the items on her shelves, and Eowyn erased, added, and updated the amounts recorded on the slate.

“My son,” said Gléowyn, as she completed her count of the jars of pickled cabbage, “is spoken for. Twelve.”

Eowyn corrected the list. “My Lady?”

“He is betrothed. To the daughter of Walda son of Galfrid.” She started on the jars of strawberry preserve.

“I am married, my Lady,” said Eowyn.

“To a merchant,” replied the woman. “He is a pretty fellow—there is no doubt of that—but a bright, ambitious young woman with a modicum of beauty can always raise herself by a more sensible marriage.”

“The elves do not permit divorce, my Lady,” said Eowyn.

“There are other ways to end a foolish alliance,” said Gléowyn, airily. “Two dozen. But do not think that you will ever have my son, Mistress—there, all done. Now let us return to the solar. Since you are so proud of your learning, you can read to me.”


At last,” said Eowyn, “tidings came to Eorl of the need of Gondor, and late though it seemed, he set out with a great host of riders. Thus he came to the battle of the Field of Celebrant, for that was the name of the green land that lay between Silverlode and Limlight. There the northern army of Gondor was in peril—

“You read tolerably well,” said Gléowyn, “though your voice lacks sweetness.”

Eowyn cleared her throat. “Do you wish me to continue?”

Fortunately, the woman’s reply was forestalled by the sound of clattering hooves rising from the courtyard below. “The men have returned,” she declared and, setting her needlework aside, she rose and left the chamber.

Eowyn, though she had not been invited, followed.

Outside, amidst the chaos of the riders’ dismounting and the grooms’ leading away the horses, she quickly found Legolas.

“Come, Melmenya,” he said, quietly. “Baldor has given us permission to check Master Lionel’s progress with the wagon, and I have much to tell you.”






Chapter 8
Theodred keeps his word.

Chapter 8

Chapter 10
Legolas and Eowyn make a worrying discovery.

Chapter 10

Gerich faer vara ... You have a fiery spirit
Estelio nin ... Trust me
Le hannon, mellon nín ... Thank you, my friend


The passage Eowyn reads to Lady Gléowyn is from The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, II: The House of Eorl.


A boar hunt

a boar hunt