| Aragorn opened the door wearing
his nightshirt and a dressing robe and looking somewhat the worse
for the previous night's activities.
He looks, thought Legolas, almost as unkempt as he
did when we were running across the plains of Rohan. "May
we come in, mellon nín?" he asked.
Aragorn showed them into the sitting room. "Should Arwen
be here?" he asked. "She is asleep and I would prefer
not to wake her..."
"Of course, mellon nín; let her rest."
"Is this about your choice of lady last night?" asked
Aragorn, seating himself in one of the armchairs and looking pointedly
"No, Aragorn," said Legolas. "Andbefore
you say anything moreEowyn and I plan to talk to Faramir
once the festival is over, and come to some compromise with him.
And, though I would value your support in the matter, mellon
nín, I will understand if you feel you cannot give
it. But know this: it was the Valar that gave Eowyn to me last
night. And, though she was my heart's own choice,"he
took her hand"I would not have performed the rite with
her had they given me another."
Aragorn nodded, but Legolas noticed that his jaw was still clenched.
"Now, that matter is closed for the time being," he
continued, "for I have bad news. Some time last night, the
Mistress of the Ceremony was murdered. One of the serving ellith
found her in the banqueting hall this morning. She had been strangled."
"By the gods," said Aragorn; "who would wish to
harm her?" He thought for a moment, then, "Gods,"
he murmured, "she must have been killed whilst we were allersleeping
in the hall."
"Yes, mellon nín. It is a distressing thought; I
am sorry." He paused. "We must, of course, find her
murderer and bring him to justice, but I have also decided that
the Harvest Ceremony will continue."
"For the good of the colony. You are right, of course. But
how do you plan to find her killer?"
"I have already met with my Inner Council, the Captain of
the Guard, and the March WardenHaldirand we have decided
that we must question all of the guests. Haldir is sealing the
borders of Eryn Carantaur as we speak and has orders to bring
back anyone who has left since last night. Naturally, you and
Arwen, Arwen's brothers and Prince Imrahil, and the ladies who
were with you, are in the clear, since you can no doubt vouch
for each other's movements." Aragorn nodded. "And I
dare say that most of the other guests will be in a similar position.
We will be discreet.
"I will make a formal announcement at the banquet this evening,
and will ask the guests to co-operate with the investigation.
And I would be grateful if you would join your voice to mine,
"Thank you. Eowyn has agreed to help me interview the witnesses,
since she has had some experience of investigations of this sort.
We cannot begin until tomorrow because we still need to examine
the body and search the banqueting halland we must do that
before we can prepare for the banquet tonightbut we will
post guards throughout the guest quarters to ensure everybody's
"And I would ask you to take care, mellon nín,"
said Legolas, "of yourself and yours,"he glanced
towards the door of the bedchamber where Arwen was sleeping"for
we do not know what this elf's motives are, and we cannot be sure
that he will not strike again."
Legolas hesitated. "I have deliberately kept you out of
the investigation, Aragorn, because I hope you will preside over
the trial, when we catch this orc of an elf."
"Of course," said Aragorn. Then, as Legolas and Eowyn
rose to leave, he caught the elf's arm. "Be careful yourself,
Legolas," he said, quietly. "If the killer's aim is
to disrupt the harvest ceremony, you and Eowyn must also be at
risk. If I can do anything to helpanything at alljust
send for me."
"I shall." Legolas patted Aragorn's hand. "Thank
you, mellon nín. We shall speak more, later."
Míriel sat uncomfortably in Legolas' private study, trying
not to stare at the exotic creature seated before her.
She had never seen a woman before.
She had seen a few human menKing Elessar, Lord Faramir,
Eomer King, and their various attendantsand she had always
found them interesting.
But this woman was fascinating.
The head cook, who often travelled to Dol Amroth to buy fish,
had told her that human women were short and fat. Míriel
had not believed itand this one, on the contrary, was as
tall as an elleth, and slenderbut she could see how the
cook had made the mistake. The woman's body waswell, there
was no elvish word for that shape, for the swell of the full breasts,
the tiny waist, the curving hips. Such a beautiful, ripe shape,
thought Míriel. Yes, that is the word; ripe,
like a fruit. She suffered a sudden, uncharacteristic pang
of jealousy. No wonder Lord Legolas had chosen to perform the
rite with this lady. Who better?
The woman smiled at her, and the glimpse of her generous spirit
took Míriel's breath away. She is worthy of my lord,
"Good morning, Míriel," said Legolas, "I
believe Captain Golradir has already told you why we have asked
"Yes, my Lord."
"First, I want to thank you, Míriel, for behaving
Míriel blushed, proudly.
"Then I need you to tell me, Míriel, exactly what
you saw when you found the bodyevery detail, no matter how
insignificant it might seem."
Míriel nodded, and then thought for a moment.
"The elleth was lying face down, " she said. "I
did not see her at first, because I was looking at the table,
and there were several chairs lying on the floor around her."
"Were there chairs elsewhere on the floor?" asked the
"Yes," said Míriel, "and people, too, and
it was difficult to walk across the floor." She noticed that
the lady was writing rapidly. She is writing down everything
I am saying, she thought. Why?
"The moment I saw her," she continued, "even before
I saw her terrible face, I knew that she was dead. Her fea
had left her hroa," she added softly. Legolas nodded,
"Most of her body was hidden under the tableonly her
head and shoulders were notbut I could see that she had
been choked. There was a leather cord around her throatit
had cut into the skinand her face was bruised. Her eyes
were full of blood..." Míriel lost control of her
The lady poured a glass of water and pushed it across the table.
Míriel accepted it gratefully.
"Did you see anything near the body that did not seem to
belong? Anything that her killer might have left behind?"
"I did not see anything, my lord, just the cord."
Legolas glanced at Eowyn, silently asking her whether she had
any further questions; she nodded. "Apart from yourself and
the other serving ellith," she asked, "was there anyone
else in the banqueting hall who was not asleep?"
Míriel thought carefully, trying to conjure up a picture
of the hall in her mind. "I do not think so, my lady, but..."
"Yes?" asked Legolas.
"When I left, I ran through the main door, because that
was the easiest way to get out, but when I entered the hall I
used one of the side doors, becausebecause there was someone
asleep in the main doorway. It may have been a couple..."
Legolas and Eowyn exchanged glances.
"Did you recognise them Míriel?" asked Legolas.
"No, my Lord. And the more I think about it, the more unsure
I am that they were there at all."
The other interviews, with Golradir, and the two guards who had
moved the body, seemed to uncover nothing more of interest, though
Eowyn patiently wrote down each statement, read it back to the
witness, and asked him to sign it once he had agreed that it was
Legolas was full of admiration.
"I am just doing what I have seenumseen Faramir
do," she said, awkwardly.
"Oh, Eowyn," said Legolas, "I am so sorry. Do
"No!" She pressed her fingers to his lips. "First,
I offered to help," she said. "Secondly, do you
know the first thing I thought when you woke me this morning?
I thought, I am going to spend the rest of my life with him.
And I was so happy! I love you, Legolas. I have loved you since
the day you found me in my garden and wrapped me in your cloak
and sang me the song about the faithless oak tree. And I would
rather be with you, here, than be the Queen of all Middle-earth!"
Legolas laughed and took her in his arms, and kissed her forehead.
"So what have we learned so far, melmenya?"
"Not much," Eowyn admitted. "We know that someoneor
possibly a coupleleft the banqueting hall when Míriel
found the body."
"And he may have been the killer, pretending to be asleep,"
said Legolas, "or he may have been an innocent guest who
just happened to wake up and crawl off to bed at exactly the wrong
Eowyn nodded. "It would help to know what time the elleth
diedif she had only just been killed when Míriel
found her, then there is more likelihood that he was the murderer.
We need to examine the body."
"Let us go to the lady's chambers," said Legolas. "Lord
Fingolfin and Master Dínendal should already be waiting
Eowyn picked up a wax tablet and a stylus and followed Legolas
out of his study; she would take notes on the tablet, then make
a more permanent copy on parchment later. Then I will have
to get the healer to check it and sign it, she thought. Gods,
there is so much detail to get right, and Legolas is relying on
me. And I am a swordswoman, not a scribe...
Fingolfin and Dínendal were, as Legolas had hoped, already
waiting for them.
The Mistress of the Ceremony lay upon the bed, her body arranged
as though she were asleepbut her face was contorted in agony.
Legolas felt a sharp pang of guilt. He had disliked her intensely
and, when she hadhad upset him, the previous afternoon,
he had threatened her with violent death.
It was irrational, he knew, but he felt as though he had wished
this terrible fate upon her. He placed his hand on his heart,
bowed his head, and said, softly, "We had our differences,
my teacher, but you accepted my choice of Lady Eowyn last night,
and for that I will always be grateful. I swear, by the love that
I bear her, that I will do everything in my power to find and
punish the person who did this to you."
The two elves beside him whispered their response as witnesses
to his oath.
Eowyn stood with her head bowed.
"Master Dínendal," said Legolas, after a respectful
pause, "are you willing to examine the body for us?"
"Indeed, my lord," replied the healer, "though
I have no experience in these matters, and am not sure what I
can tell you."
"I am new to this too, Master Healer," said Legolas,
"but I have many questions to ask you and I have the feeling
that, as you answer them, you will find that you know more than
"First," he continued, "is it possible to tell
when she was killed?"
"It would not ordinarily be so, my lord but, as it happens,
the Captain of the Palace Guard summoned me when she was first
foundshe was still warm and I think he hoped that it might
be possible to revive her. When I examined her, though she was
clearly dead, her body was still pliant. As you can see it has
now begun to stiffen. When Lord Fingolfin asked me to assist you,
I consulted my booksin an elf, this stiffening usually happens
about six hours after death, though in humans," he glanced
at Eowyn, "I believe it may happen sooner. I would estimate
that she had been dead no more than a few minutes when she was
Eowyn and Legolas exchanged glances. "That is very helpful,
Master Dínendal," said Eowyn.
The healer coloured slightly, and bowed.
"What do her wounds tell us about the killer, Master Dínendal?"
asked Legolas. "Would he, for instance, have had to have
been very strong to have killed her thus?"
Dínendal considered the question. "No, I do not think
so, my lord. Not if he took her by surprise. Once he had the ligature
tightly round her neck, she would have been panicking, and struggling
to breathe. All her efforts would have been concentrated on trying
to pull the cord looseyou can see the scratches where she
has clawed at it. And she would soon have lost consciousness.
I do not think he needed to have been particularly strong."
"So it could have been another elleth?" asked Legolas.
Dínendal looked surprised. "Well, I suppose so, my
lord, provided she was tall enough to get the cord around the
neck. It all depends on doing that quickly and cleanly, because
if the victim can get her hand inside the cord, the killer will
find it impossible to pull it tight. Of course, if the victim
were sitting down..."
"Might she have injured the killer?" asked Eowyn.
Dínendal lifted the elleth's hands and examined them carefully.
"The knuckles are not damagednot bruised or grazedso
I do not think she hit him," he said. "There are traces
of skin under her fingernails, so she may have scratched him,
butequallythe skin may have come from her own throat."
Legolas nodded. "What about the cord," he asked. "What
Dínendal shook his head. "I have never seen anything
like it before, my lord."
"I believe it is a bootlace, my lord," offered Lord
Fingolfin. "When I used to travel between Imladris and Lorien,
I often encountered the men who dwell in the foothills of the
Misty Mountains and ride across The Wold. They wear long riding
boots laced from ankle to knee with thick leather laces, and the
ends of the laces are decorated with metal fobs, just like these."
"Yes, my lord," said Eowyn, "I think you are right."
She turned to Legolas. "Eomer has a pair of these boots;
the laces are decorated with horses' heads."
Legolas stared at her for a moment. What in Middle-earth does
that tell us? "Master Dínendal," he said,
"can I ask you for one last favour? Would you be willing
to examine the body for any traces of the killer's hair or clothing?
I am talking about tiny traces that the killer would not be aware
he had left behind."
The healer looked reluctant, but agreed.
"If you should find anything, please seal it in parchment,"
said Eowyn, "and bring it to Lord Legolas personally."
"Thank you, Master Dínendal," said Legolas,
"you have been most helpful. Melmenya?" He gestured
towards the door. "Will you join us Lord Fingolfin? I would
value hearing your thoughts so far."
As Legolas, Eowyn, and Fingolfin approached the banqueting hall,
they could already hear a commotion, and when they arrived, they
were greeted by a very agitated Steward of the Household.
"My lord," said the Steward, "the Captain of the
Palace Guard refuses to allow me or my staff to enter the hall.
And he says it is on your orders! My lord, I have the table to
clear, the floor to clean, the threshing floor to prepare for
the coronation; I have decorations to repair and candles to replace;
I have silver and crystal to lay out; and the ice sculptures,
my lord, the ice sculptures..." The Steward finally
took a breath.
"I apologise, Master Eö," said Legolas, with genuine
remorse, "I should have informed you of my decision to close
the banqueting hall. Please accept my apology."
The Steward bowed deeply.
"As you no doubt know, Master Eö," Legolas continued,
"the Mistress of the Ceremony died in this hall last night,
and it is important that I examine it before it is cleaned. The
hall will remain closed for another hour, at most, and I will
make sure that one of the guards is sent to inform you when you
and your staff may enter.
"In the meantime I have a personal request Master Eö;
I need to speak to the servants who tended Lord Gimli's fire and
heated the water in his bathing room during the nightno,
I have no complaints about their work, but please send them to
my chambers as soon as possibletell them to wait for me
if I am not there.
"I am sorry to be making things so much more difficult for
you, Master Eö," he added, "but I have every confidence
in you and your staff."
"Thank you my lord." Eö bowed once more, and then
withdrew. "At least," he muttered, as he passed the
Captain of the Palace Guard, "Lord Legolas knows how
to treat a Steward."
The banqueting hall was a large, circular pavilion with a domed
roof supported on intricately carved wooden pillarsLike
jets of water transformed into wood, thought Eowyn. Between
the pillars, wide, open windows allowed sunlight and breezes to
enter during the day, and at night were hung with sheer silk curtains,
delicately embroidered with carantaur leaves, that cast pretty
shadows in the candlelight.
Eowyn approached the main entrance.
This was where she had entered last night, directly opposite
the head of the table, where Legolas and Aragorn had already been
seated, with the Mistress of the Ceremony beside Legolas. But
there were also, she noticed now, two smaller doors, to the right
and left, designed to allow the serving ellith discreet access.
Golradir had posted guards at all three doors.
Eowyn dropped to her knees, and carefully examined the wooden
floor beneath the main entrance, but could see nothing of importance.
She wondered if Legolas, with his sharper eyes, might notice something
she had missed, but when she looked up at him, questioiningly,
he shook his head.
He helped her to her feet and, together with Lord Fingolfin,
they entered the hall. The velvet blanket was still lying where
they had left it in the middle of the threshing floor, and the
two lovers smiled at each other.
"Captain Golradir," said Legolas, "where was the
"There, my lord," replied Golradir, pointing to a spot
beneath the table, approximately half way between its head and
the main entrance.
"That is not where she was sitting during the banquet,"
said Eowyn. "Do you think she would have taken part in theumactivities
afterwards? I find it hard to imagine."
"I believe I saw her leave the hall immediately after the
completion of the rite, my lady," said Lord Fingolfin, "but
I cannot be sure. Perhaps one of the other guests could confirm
"If she did, my lord," said Eowyn, "then she must
have returned later. But why?"
Legolas was examining the floor under the table; Eowyn noticed
several chairs lying close by. "Have any of these chairs
been moved, Captain?" she asked.
"We had to move them, my lady, to reach the body."
Though she did not know why, Eowyn was sure that the chairs were
significant. "Can you show us where they were, originally?"
After a moment's thought, Golradir began moving them: "This
one was herethis one was on its side, like thisand
this one... This one was here."
Eowyn made a careful sketch on her wax tablet. "So, this
chair," she said, "was nearest to the body?"
"And you are sure it was this chair?"
"Yes, my lady."
"What is it, Eowyn?" asked Legolas.
"This chair is damaged. Lookhere." She pointed
to a jagged gouge in its back.
"It looks as though it has been hit with an axe," said
"No," said Legolas, "an axeor any other
edged weaponwould have made a cleaner cut."
"A candlestick, perhaps," said Eowyn. She lifted one
of the ornate candlesticks from the table and swung it lightly
towards the back of the chair. Its bevelled edge fitted the damaged
"And there is a candlestick missing," said Legolas.
He pointed to the table decorations, closest to where the body
had been found.
"Valar," muttered Fingolfin. "Do you think the
poor elleth tried to defend herself with it?"
"No..." Legolas shook his head. "That does not
agree with what the healer told us about the speed of the attack."
"Then perhaps Míriel was right about the couple in
the doorway," said Eowyn. "Perhaps there were two killers
"Mmm," said Legolas, thoughtfully. "Perhaps, meleth
nín. The more we learn, the more confused I am."
Having sent one of the guards to inform the Steward that his
staff could begin preparing the hall for the evening's banquet,
Legolas suggested that Lord Fingolfin, Eowyn and he should retire
to his study to discuss what they had already learned.
By the time they arrived, the servants he had asked Master Eö
to send to him were already sitting in the lobby. Asking them
to wait a moment longer, he took Fingolfin through to the study
and, as he was pouring a glass of bubbling water for his counsellor,
he suddenly realised that Eowyn was missing and, for a moment,
he was overwhelmed with anxietythen she walked into the
study and the relief that flooded through him was equally intense.
Unaware of the tumult of his emotions, Eowyn gave him a small
smile as she sat down at his desk, and took up a pen and a fresh
piece of parchment.
Legolas called in the first servant, and offered him a seat by
the fireplace. The elf bowed to Fingolfin and Eowyn, then sat
down diffidently, obviously uncomfortable, his posture stiffly
Legolas smiled. "Thank you for coming, Master er?"
"Elerossë, my lord."
"Master Elerossë," said Legolas, courteously,
"I believe it was you who tended Lord Gimli's fire last night?"
"Yes my lord."
"How many times did you visit his rooms?"
"Three times, my lord, at midnight, three o'clock and just
before dawn. Was anything wrong with the fire, my lord?"
"No, Elerossë, your work was excellent. But tell me,
did you see Lord Gimli when you were tending his fire?"
"No my lord."
Legolas stared at him, clearly taken aback; Eowyn bit her lip.
"You did not see him?"
"No my lord."
"His bed was empty?" asked Eowyn.
"No, my lady," he said, turning towards the desk.
"I do not understand," said Legolas, with the slightest
touch of impatience.
"I did not see him, my lord," said Elerossë, turning
back to Legolas, "because he was hidden beneath the coverlet.
But I did hear him, my lord. Heerhe is a verynoisysleeper."
The servant looked apologetic. He was surprised to be rewarded
by one of his lord's most dazzling smiles.
"Thank you, Elerossë," said Legolas. "You
have been most helpful. Please let Lady Eowyn read your statement
back to you and if you agree with it, we will ask you to sign
The second servant, who had lit the water heater in Gimli's bathing
room at dawn, told much the same story. Legolas was overjoyed.
Gimli was in the clear!