Legolas and Eowyn

The young man was small and slender, with the colouring of a native of Far Harad, and was dressed in the loose trousers and the long, embroidered tunic favoured by the men of that region.

“Who do you suppose he is?” whispered Eowyn, as she and Legolas approached the house of their friend, Hentmirë.

Legolas, less curious—or, perhaps, better mannered—than his wife gently squeezed her hand, as if to say, Shhh, Melmenya!

The stranger, meanwhile, had knocked at Hentmirë’s door and, as the couple drew nearer, her housekeeper opened it, and peered out.

“Good evening,” she said, eyeing the young man suspiciously, “can I help you?” Then, seeing Legolas and Eowyn coming up behind him, she added, with a crooked little curtsey, “Good evening, my Lord—my Lady.”

“Good evening, Mistress Donatiya,” said Legolas, placing his hand upon his heart and bowing his head. “Perhaps I might escort Lady Hentmirë’s visitor inside?” He smiled at the stranger.

The young man returned this friendly greeting with a curt nod, and Eowyn noted that he was really little more than a boy, with smooth cheeks and a chin as hairless as a girl’s.

“Thank you, my Lord,” said Old Donatiya and, with obvious relief, she stepped aside to allow them to enter. “My Lady’s already at table, sir, with Master Gimli.”


In the fifth year of the Fourth Age, Legolas and Eowyn had been kidnapped by Haradin corsairs, taken to the city of Carhilivren, and sold as slaves to a rich and lonely middle-aged woman, Hentmirë daughter of Mursilis.

Hentmirë had set them free, and when—after many strange adventures in the southern lands—they had returned home to Eryn Carantaur, she had accompanied them, together with her faithful old housekeeper, Donatiya, and her giant manservant, Rimush.

Hentmirë had sold her house in Carhilivren, but had kept her ship, the Early Bird—the last of her father’s merchant fleet—which still sailed between Pelargir and Carhilivren, carrying timber from Ithilien to the desert lands, and returning with perfumes and spices for the merchants of Gondor.


“You have a visitor, Gwendithen,” said Legolas to Hentmirë. He urged Eowyn to enter the breakfast room with a gentle hand upon her back, then stepped aside to allow the stranger to follow.

Hentmirë, who was serving Gimli a dish of porridge, looked up, and frowned, and it was clear that she did not recognise the young man.

“My Lady,” he said, in husky, heavily-accented Westron, pressing his hands together and bowing over them, “may the gods smile upon you. I bring you a message from your kinsman, Hesyrë son of Ezana.”

“From Hesyrë?” Hentmirë seemed more puzzled than ever. Legolas slipped silently into the room, and went to stand beside her.

“Indeed, my Lady,” said the stranger. He was wearing a leather satchel at his hip, and he opened it, and brought out a small wooden box which he set upon the table, and—when Hentmirë seemed reluctant to reach out for it—pushed towards her.

The box was decorated with a green fish, cut from delicately-tinted mother-of-pearl.

Hentmirë stared at it.

“Why not open it, lass?” said Gimli, using the encouraging tone he often resorted to when training her to swing an axe.

“Of course...” She glanced up at Legolas, then over at Eowyn, then—gingerly—she raised the box lid, reached inside, lifted out a small roll of papyrus, which she set aside, and a tiny object of smooth, polished wood.

“What is that?” asked Eowyn.

“My spinning top,” said Hentmirë.


Emyn Elenath, The Starry Hills

Master Hisaelion crossed the prison courtyard, his ledger tucked under his arm.

The guards had already roused the inmates and supervised their morning ablutions, and had herded them into the mess tent, where they were awaiting their orders for the day.

Hisaelion mounted the little platform, set his ledger on the book rest, and opened it. “Maer aur,” he said—then, as always, for the benefit of the Men who made up the majority of his charges, he added, “Good morning.”

Some of the prisoners muttered a grumbling reply.

“Today,” said Hisaelion, “we begin work on the Great Tower.”

He had organised the prisoners into several crews, giving Men the tasks that required ingenuity, and Elves the work—like quarrying—that took them farther afield—for although, in Hisaelion’s opinion, Men’s short lifespan made them quicker to solve problems, it also made them more restless; the immortal Elves, he believed, though not so inventive because they did not feel the pressure of time, were far less likely to run away...


“I suppose he means this as a peace offering,” said Hentmirë. She had been staring thoughtfully at the little toy, and now—with a flick of her plump fingers—she dropped it onto the table top, and her friends gasped as it spun gracefully across the wood. “I always knew that Hesyrë had stolen it...”

“What does the letter say?” asked Legolas, when the top had wobbled to a stop. Indicating that the young messenger should also take a seat, he drew out the chair beside Hentmirë’s and sat down.

Hentmirë broke the wax seal and unrolled the papyrus. “Little Cuz,” she read, “I am in deep trouble and everyone else has abandoned me. Hesyrë.”

There was a long silence.

Then Legolas said, “‘Cuz’?”

“Short for ‘cousin’,” said Hentmirë. “He is my father’s brother’s son.” She seemed unusually subdued.

Legolas turned to the messenger. “Can you tell us any more about this trouble your master says he is in?”

“He is always in trouble,” sighed Hentmirë, before the young man had had a chance to reply. “He takes after his father in that respect.” She leaned across the table, picked up the little spinning top, and dropped it back into the box.

“He is being held prisoner, my Lord, by the King of Biridiya,” said the messenger.


“Because,” said Hentmirë, “he has no doubt swindled the King of Biridiya out of his Crown Jewels.”

Legolas looked to the young man for confirmation.

“I do not know, my Lord,” said the boy, quietly.

“Of course,” said Hentmirë, “I shall have to go to him.”

Legolas glanced at Eowyn; she nodded. “Well, Gwendithen,” he said to Hentmirë, “Eowyn and I shall come with you, and I am sure that Gimli will be only too happy to accompany us.”

“Of course I will, lass.”

“Thank you,” said Hentmirë, with a sad smile. Then she added, almost too softly for even Elven hearing to discern, “Then Hesyrë can ruin all of us.”


Next morning

After a long night spent sitting in the open window of his bedchamber, watching over Eowyn as she slept, Legolas rose from the window seat and, kissing Eowyn good bye without waking her, he descended the aerial city’s main staircase, collected his horse from the stables, and set off for the prison camp at Emyn Elenath, the Starry Hills.

It had been decided that Hentmirë, together with Legolas and Eowyn, Gimli, and the young messenger, would set out for Pelargir in two days’ time, and join the Early Bird, which was due to sail for Carhilivren at the end of the week. Legolas had immediately sent a message to Captain Muttalu, informing him of their intentions, and asking him to prepare quarters.

Hentmirë had been reluctant to talk about her cousin, as though to do so would be to invite the disaster she believed Hesyrë was going to bring down upon them.

But I, thought Legolas, need to know more about this mysterious man.


“Prisoner Vardamir is in the tile workshop,” said Master Hisaelion. He nodded to one of the guards. “It will take a few moments to fetch him, my Lord.”

“Tell me about him,” said Legolas, as they waited. “Does he give you any trouble?”

“No, my Lord... I cannot say that he is an enthusiastic worker—few of the prisoners are—but he follows my orders, and the quality of his work is perfectly adequate... Though there is one thing, my Lord,” he added, after a slight hesitation, “which has always seemed strange to me—unlike the other Elves, who avoid Men, Vardamir seems to enjoy Men’s company.”

Legolas nodded, thoughtfully; then the door opened, and he turned.

It had been almost two years since he had seen Vardamir, and the change was shocking—the timid, broken creature, who had held himself as though anticipating a blow, now stood tall and confident, and moved with grace.

Legolas was not sure that it was a good sign.

“I shall leave you, then,” said Master Hisaelion. “But I will be just outside, should you need me.”

“Thank you, sir.” Legolas saw the ghost of a smile twitch Vardamir’s lips. “Take a seat,” he said.

Vardamir sat down, stiff-backed, with his hands upon his thighs.

“Do you know a man called Hesyrë son of Ezana?” asked Legolas.

Vardamir said nothing, but Legolas could see that his interest had been piqued. “I need you to tell me everything you know about him,” he explained. “And, if you co-operate, I may be willing to reduce your sentence.”

“He was a regular customer,” said Vardamir, clearly having decided that there was nothing to be lost by co-operating.

“Go on,” said Legolas. He knew that Vardamir, having fled from Eryn Carantaur wanted for attempted murder, had found refuge in Far Harad, where he and a man named Wolfram had hired themselves out, specialising in kidnappings and other ‘disappearances’.

“Hesyrë has a legitimate business,” said Vardamir, “importing exotic fruits from the Biridiyan Islands, but that is just a cover for his real business.”


“Smuggling,” said Vardamir. “Draughts and potions, poisons, and potent weeds. Some of the potions are worth ten, perhaps twenty times their weight in gold.”

Legolas could not imagine what cures such valuable potions might promise. “What did you and Wolfram do for him?” he asked.

“Mostly, we collected debts.”

“With violence?”

Vardamir shook his head. “Wolfram seldom needed to resort to violence.” He smiled, and Legolas was startled by his sudden resemblance to his late friend and mentor.

“Are you still in good standing with Carhilivren’s villains?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Answer me.”

Vardamir shrugged. “I suppose so. I never dealt with our clients directly; they do not have any reason to distrust me.

“Good,” said Legolas. “Then I have a proposal.” An idea had been forming itself since he had first offered to accompany Hentmirë to Carhilivren, though he did not voice it now without misgivings. “You will come with me and my friends to Carhilivren. You will help us extricate Hesyrë from whatever trouble he has got himself into. If you prove trustworthy, on our return, I will grant you a pardon. If you betray us—and you survive—I will send you to the salt mines at Emyn Gern, and you will never see the light of day again.” He waited, expectantly.

“I accept,” said Vardamir.




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