the orcs

"As you can see, my Lord, my Lady, March Warden," said Lord Caranthir, Chief Counsellor of the elven colony of Eryn Carantaur, "a great deal has happened whilst you have been away.

"The orcs that you were tracking back and forth along the Anduin, Lady Eowyn, finally settled here, at Eithel Hûn"—he pointed to the area on the large map that he had spread out on the Council table—"about five days after you left for Dol Amroth. Two days later, we received reports from a group of terrified wine traders—travelling here from Minas Tirith—of another band, lurking at the confluence of the Anduin and the Erui. A week after that, we heard of a third band, moving into Eryn Brethil. That is when I decided to send Rumil and Orophin on a scouting expedition."

Caranthir had been in charge of the colony for the month that Legolas had been away in Dol Amroth; supervising the border patrols and maintaining Eowyn's orc map had been part of his duties.

"What did you find?" asked Legolas, turning to the brothers.

"That things were even worse than we had feared," replied Orophin. He rose from his seat and leaned over the map. "We located the first group—Lady Eowyn's original marauders"—he acknowledged the woman respectfully—"quite easily. They were about fifty strong but, whilst we were watching, a further five Uruk Hai joined them—and there may be even more of them by now. The second group was much harder to scout. They have established themselves on the island of Toll Thâr and we could not get close enough to count them, but we estimate that there are about thirty of them, with about ten wargs. The third group, here,"—he pointed to a densely wooded area on the map—"is small—there are no more than a dozen of them—but they are well hidden. And," he said, pausing dramatically whilst he found the appropriate place on the map, "we found a fourth group, camped on the west bank of the Anduin, here, at Habad Penn, about—what would you say, Rumil, twenty of them?"

His brother shook his head. "Nearer thirty, I would say," he answered. "So far," he added, "they do not seem inclined to join forces, though whether that is because they are not aware of each other, or whether it is their natural tendency to distrust others, we could not tell. We did consider leaving a small detachment of border guards there to watch them and report any further movements, but we decided it was too dangerous."

"You were right," said Legolas. "Far too dangerous."

He looked around the Council table. "First," he said, "I think we should thank Lady Eowyn for all the painstaking work she has put into gathering information about the orcs and plotting it on her map for the past two years—without that, we would be unaware of this threat to our colony."

The assembled elves—and one dwarf—clapped their hands on the table; Eowyn bowed her head in embarrassment.

"Secondly," Legolas continued, "I would like to hear your comments and suggestions—March Warden?"

Haldir looked at the map. "I say we take a force of fifty warriors out to the Anduin and deal with each band, one at a time, starting with the largest, at Eithel Hûn. We need to strike now, before they group together. We cannot afford to wait."

His brothers murmured in agreement.

Legolas nodded. "Lord Caranthir?"

"I agree with the March Warden," said Caranthir. "We must act whilst their numbers are still relatively small and whilst the bands are isolated, though..."

"My lord?" prompted Legolas.

"What concerns me, Lord Legolas," said the older elf, "is their motive. Why are they gathering here? What is attracting them?"

"That is exactly what I have been wondering, too, Lord Caranthir," said a quiet, feminine voice. The company turned to Eowyn. "This is unlike anything I have seen in the two years I have been tracking the orcs," she said. "Orcs do not plan, they seldom co-operate, and I have never seen them stay in the same place for any length of time. They act on instinct, only very occasionally deviating from their normal behaviour—and then only to go on short-lived forays. Here, they are behaving as if—well, as if they are waiting for something to happen—or for someone to arrive."

"It is as though they have been summoned," said Lord Caranthir. "That is what I have been thinking."

"Yes, I agree—though we may be mistaken, my lord, for our minds actively seek patterns and explanations, and sometimes we see them where they do not exist," Eowyn admitted. "What is this, here?" She pointed at the map, to a small symbol beside the river, roughly at the centre of the area occupied by the orc bands. "Minas Athrad?"

"It is a ruin, my lady," said Orophin. "Rumil and I searched it thoroughly. The castle once controlled access to the river and, presumably, navigation along it. But it has long been abandoned. And we could find no sign of any recent occupation."

"Strange," said Eowyn. "Athrad. Does that not mean 'ford'?"

"Yes, it does, melmenya," said Legolas. "Is the Anduin still fordable there?"

"With difficulty, my lord," said Orophin. "The level of the river must have risen in recent times—perhaps that is why the castle was abandoned—and the current is now swift across the rocks. Rumil and I crossed using a rope, but it would be difficult to lead a line of packhorses across, and impossible to take a cart. Even a group of riders might risk losing one or more of their number if the river was in spate—though for a band of orcs, none of this would present any difficulty," he added.

"So the band now at Habad Penn could easily cross the river and join with the others," said Legolas. "Gimli?"

"I agree with the March Warden," said the dwarf. "Strike now and strike hard. Problem solved."

"Problem solved for now, Gimli," said Eowyn tactfully, "but if something really is drawing them to Minas Athrad it will not be long before more orcs arrive to take their place. We need to find out why they are coming here and deal with that, too. I have little experience of orcs other than on the battlefield—is it possible to question them?"


"Could we take one of them prisoner and ask him what he is doing?"

The elves and the dwarf looked from one to another, shaking their heads in surprise. "That is a suggestion I have never heard before, my lady," said Haldir.

"No," said Legolas, "nor have I. Normally, we just slaughter them like animals. But they do have intelligence of sorts—it does make sense..." He smiled at Eowyn. "Does anyone have anything else to add? Lord Fingolfin? You have been very quiet."

"I am afraid I have no practical experience of orcs, my lord, and can add little to your discussion," said the Counsellor. "But my concern is that you are planning to travel to Gondor in ten days' time and I think it is important—as much for the morale as for the safety of your people—that you deal with the problem before then."

"Yes, my lord," said Legolas. "I agree." He thought for a moment. "We will leave for Minas Athrad in two days. Haldir—I want a troop of at least fifty warriors, plus a support crew—a swordsmith, a bowyer with a stringer and a fletcher, a healer, and a cook. We will pitch camp inside the castle ruins and—once we have confirmed the orcs' positions—we will make four separate raids on them. We will take a few prisoners from each band, melmenya, question them, and send the information back to you. In the meantime, I will write to the King of Gondor and explain that we may not be able to attend his Yuletide celebrations, since we have no idea what we may find at Minas Athrad nor how long it may take us to deal with whatever is there. Gimli, I assume that you will be happy to come hunt some orc with us?"

"Indeed I will, lad; indeed I will!"

"Legolas," said Eowyn, "what do you mean, you will send the information back to me? Where will I be?"

"Here, melmenya."

There was a noticeable gasp from Rumil and Orophin, but the rest of the company managed to remain silent.

"Why?" asked Eowyn.

"An orc hunt is no place for a woman, Eowyn."

"My lords, March Warden, gentlemen," said Eowyn calmly, "would you leave us please?"

"Lord Legolas is right, my lady," Haldir began, but Eowyn, though she was very fond of the March Warden, did not permit him to continue any further.

"I wish to speak to Legolas—alone—Haldir," she said.

"He is bound for the Halls of Mandos!" whispered Orophin to his brothers as the trio left the Council Chamber.

Eowyn waited until she and Legolas were alone in the Council Chamber, then turned on him, angrily. "I do not believe what you have just done," she said. "We agreed that this was to be a union of equals. And now you have destroyed everything."

She could feel her eyes filling with tears, and her throat burning with the need to shed them, and she was determined not to let Legolas see her cry—not under these circumstances—so she rose and walked to the window, turning her back on him.

"Eowyn—Eowyn! An orc hunt is no place for you!"

"I have fought orcs before!"

"On the open plain! On the battlefield!"

"And in the caves at Helm's Deep!"

"But not in the forest! Not one-to-one in the dark! Not where they could capture you, and carry you away, and strip you naked, and rape and torture you and—and leave you crippled in body and spirit, Eowyn. I cannot endure the thought of—"

"You cannot endure it! Who do you think you are?" stormed Eowyn, turning to face him. "This is my life! I decide how to use it—and I want to be there. I have been tracking those orcs for two years. I know more about their behaviour than anyone here—you said yourself that you would not know of the danger were it not for me! Now, suddenly, I am not fit to take part in the raids. Not fit to see my own work come to fruition—"

"Do not be childish—"

"Childish! You had better be careful Legolas Greenleaf, because you are acting like a man—a stupid, bigoted, oppressive man. You humiliated me in front of Haldir, Gimli and your Counsellors! And I am beginning to think that I was wrong to stay here with you—I do not know you at all!" She pushed past him and walked angrily towards the chamber door.

"No!" cried Legolas. "NO! COME BACK!" He ran after her and gripped her around the waist and dragged her back towards the Council table, knocking over two chairs with a crash.

Haldir, hovering outside the Council Chamber door, reached for the latch.

"Leave them be, lad," said a gruff voice behind them. "They will sort it out."

"But—the noise. Something may have happened to—"

"Surely you have heard a lover's tiff before? I would wager you have had a fair few yourself! They are being quiet enough now, though—no doubt making up."

Haldir's face froze in a strange grimace as he tried to master his emotions, and his struggle tore at Gimli's gentle heart.

"Come with me, lad," said the dwarf, "I have a few jars of something called 'cider' in my chambers—the hobbits brought it from The Shire. It is made from apples—a very pleasant taste and far stronger than your elven wine."

And just the thing for drowning sorrows in, he thought.

He crushed her against his chest and held her there with all his elven strength. "Shhhhh, shhhhh, melmenya," he whispered, rocking her back and forth. "You do not mean it; you know you do not mean it..."


"Shhhhh. You are just angry, meleth nín. And you are right to be angry because I did embarrass you. But that does not mean that we are not meant to be together, Eowyn nín; it does not change our love for one another..." And he held her even more tightly.

"I am going to Minas Athrad with you," said Eowyn, firmly.

"Why will you not listen to sense, Eowyn nín?" said Legolas.

"Because it is not sense." She moved her foot. "And if you do not want to find your balls hanging from your ears, melethron nín, I suggest you let go of me."

But, far from releasing her, Legolas pushed her over the table, so that she was trapped beneath him, and held her down with the weight of his body. "Shhhhh, melmenya," he whispered and kissed her forehead. And—to her surprise—she could feel him hardening against her.

"Legolas!" she cried, outraged, and she struggled to free herself, but her movements only made her feel him rubbing harder against her belly and then, as she struggled more, against the flesh between her legs.

Oh gods! she thought. How could I possibly think I could escape him?

"A less honourable woman than I would break you with sex, Legolas," she said, her teeth clenched. "She would withhold it until you were forced to give her what she wanted simply to satisfy your own needs. You are fortunate that I am an honourable woman—but I will not give up on this; I am coming to Minas Athrad with you."

Legolas reached down between their bodies and began tugging at Eowyn's skirt, taking care to rub and stroke her each time he hoisted the fabric an inch or two more.

I must keep my head, thought Eowyn.

"I will not be distracted like this, Legolas," she said, still struggling. But she moaned when he entered her and, without thinking, she wrapped her legs around him. "Do you remember the first day we spent together?" she gasped. "We were—oh gods!—we were investigating the Mistress of the Ceremony's murder and—and when we went to her chambers—gods, Legolas!—to her chambers, the door was open and—and—and you told me to wait outside and went in alone and—and I had no choice but to wait—oh!—to wait, for I was not armed—oh!—and I would have been a liability to you. But I swore—I swore—oh!—I swore that I would never let you go into danger—into danger alone again. And I have proved myself since then—ah—at—at Dol Amroth—ah—ah—oh gods—yes!—and on the Sea Maiden—yes—yes!—and I will again, Legolas—I will again—I will—I will—I—oh! oh! OH GODS! OH GODS! LEGOLAS!"


"You need not think you have won, Legolas," said Eowyn, as they lay side by side on the floor, recovering.


"No! Do not 'melmenya' me! If you leave me behind I will simply follow you. If I am forced to travel alone I will do so—and who knows what might happen to me then! And if you lock me up, I will just persuade someone else to set me free—and you know there is no one amongst your people who can resist me. I will be with you on those raids, Legolas. Nothing will stop me. I—"

"For Mandos' sake, woman, be QUIET!" cried Legolas. And he rolled on top of her and covered her mouth with his own.


"You stay with me. Right beside me. You never move more than five paces from my side. You do not go haring off to help Haldir or Gimli or one of the others. You do not chase off after an orc by yourself. You do not wander off to investigate something interesting—do not pretend you do not know what I mean, Eowyn, I know you!"

Legolas was lying on his back with his eyes closed, so he could not see Eowyn mimicking him as he laid down his rules.

"At night, you stay in the camp, beside the fire, beside me. You sleep in my bedroll; you stand watch with me. You stay beside me at all times! Do you understand?"

"Yes, I understand," she said, deciding that since she had won the war she could afford to lose the skirmish. "But it will be difficult to relieve myself squatting beside you."

"Well you will just have to learn."


"Her hair is spun from the purest gold, her skin is as clear and as smooth as the finest alabaster, her eyes have fire and depth like flawless sapphires. There is none so fair as she," said Gimli.

"I was her March Warden for almost five thousand years," said Haldir, taking another draught of cider. "There is nothing you can tell me about The Lady. And I admit that she is fair... very fair... but she lacks the fire, the warmth of spirit that truly captures the heart."

He shook his head at the dwarf—both of him—sitting in the chair opposite.

"Lady Eow—er—a certain mortal lady of my acquaintance, though she is, perhaps, less obviously fair than Lady Galadriel, has more life in her, more love to give, more—"

"Lad, lad," said Gimli, gently. "Like The Lady, she belongs to another."


"Good morning, melmenya," whispered Legolas, raising himself on his elbow beside her and kissing her forehead.

Eowyn smiled, sleepily, and slid an arm around his waist. "You are very lively for someone who has spent most of the night in strenuous exercise," she said, reaching up to kiss his mouth.

"I am an elf, meleth nín," he replied, proudly. "We do not tire like men—the harder we work, the more energy we have!" He nibbled her neck.

Eowyn laughed, wriggling on the bed beneath him. "Even so," she said, "you cannot afford to waste any more energy on me—not if you are going to prepare an expeditionary force of fifty elves in less than two days."


Haldir was late for his morning meeting with Legolas for, during the night, some orc had sawn off the top of his head and was stirring his brains with a spoon.

I knew there was a reason why we did not trust dwarves, he said to himself.

"I am so glad that you are getting to know Gimli, mellon nín" said Legolas. "There is no truer elf-friend nor more dependable comrade-at-arms in all of Middle-earth. He has a heart of oak."

Why are you so cheerful? wondered Haldir, miserably.

"Now, down to business," said Legolas. "I want fifty warriors—all must be skilled archers, and as many as possible should have experience of hand-to-hand combat with orcs. Who do we have?"

Haldir rode out a wave of nausea. "I have already sent word to the settlements at Doro Lanthron and Talad Loth," he said. "By tomorrow morning we should have sixty-five warriors available—including ourselves and Lord Gimli—more than half of whom were at Helm's Deep. Six of them are former Mirkwood border guards."

"Good," said Legolas. "There are some very able orc hunters amongst the Mirkwood elves. Who would that leave to defend the city, if necessary?"

"I have called up some of the older elves and the war-trained ellith," said Haldir. "Lord Caranthir would lead them. I will also be leaving ten of my border guards on patrol."

Legolas nodded. "It is the best we can do," he said, "and please Valar, they will never be needed. Who will we have in the support crew?"

"I have had several volunteers," said Haldir. "A swordsmith from Imladris, Nolofinwë—I have heard good reports of him—your father's bowyer, Master Taurnil, who will bring his own stringer and fletcher. And, of course, the healer, Master Dínendal."

"He volunteered? Do you think he is up to it?" asked Legolas.

"He is a very able healer—"

"That is not what I meant," interrupted Legolas.

Haldir gripped his chair as another wave of nausea broke over him. "No, I realise that. I think we should keep Dínendal at the encampment, tending the wounded, and select another healer, tougher and with more battle experience, to work in the field."

"Good," said Legolas. "We will also need a field cook. We will take enough lembas to feed sixty-five warriors for ten days, but the cook can make his own arrangements for additional supplies—the palace storerooms are open to him. We will need sufficient pack horses to carry the support crew's equipment—perhaps some of the farmers will supply additional animals."

Haldir nodded, weakly, and Legolas added, with a smirk, "I see that Gimli has had you playing his drinking game."

"Yes," said Haldir, "but never again!" Then, thinking back to his state of mind the previous evening, he added, "Will Lady Eowyn be accompanying us?"

Legolas sighed. "Yes, she will," he said, "though I have given her strict orders to remain by my side at all times."

Haldir wondered how well the 'strict orders' had been received.

"But," Legolas continued, "her being who she is, mellon nín, I would be grateful if you will also keep a watch on her. Do not be obvious, though, or she will deliberately try to evade us."

Haldir was flattered that Legolas had asked him to watch over Eowyn. But he fervently wished that she were staying safely behind.

Eowyn had spent the day making her own preparations for the expedition.

She had carefully copied the relevant portion of her orc map, at a larger scale, onto a new sheet of parchment, adding additional information about the terrain, and about the size and behaviour of other orc bands that she knew were lurking just outside the area. Then she had rolled the new map, slipped it into a wooden tube she had begged from one of the palace carpenters, and stowed it in her travelling pack, together with a pen, some ink, a wax tablet and a stylus.

Once the map was taken care of, she took out her sword and scabbard, her mail hauberk, her boiled leather cuirass and her leather boots, and carefully cleaned and prepared them. She assembled her repair kit—shears, awl, thimble, needles and thread, spare buckles—her sharpening stone, pumice for cleaning her mail, and dubbin and rags for her leathers, and tucked them all in her pack.

Next she checked her bow, quiver, and sheath of arrows. She unstrung the bow ready for travel and slipped the bowstring, a spare, and a piece of archer's wax into her pack. Then she laid out two linen shifts—one to wear and one to wash—a woollen jerkin, leggings, leather bracers and gloves. She would not need a helm.

Finally, she opened the drawer of the dressing table she shared with Legolas and took out a small earthenware jar. She knew that she was being silly; she knew that every woman or elleth who had ever stayed in the colony had one exactly like it—a small gift from the Lord of Eryn Carantaur. But it was the first thing that Legolas had ever given her—a soothing lotion delicately scented with rose and watermint oils—and she wanted it with her. She wrapped it carefully in her spare shift and tucked it in her pack.

She was ready!


Early the following day, elves from all over the colony gathered on the archery practice field.

The Mirkwood elves were standing together.

"Almost like old times," said Amras to Orodreth and Maeglin, "hunting orcs with Prince Legolas."

"But on a rather different scale from our Mirkwood raids," said Orodreth. "We never took a swordsmith or a bowyer! It was strictly repair your own weapons. And we never had a proper cook—though we could have used one! I remember eating some very strange concoctions, courtesy of Maeglin's enthusiasm for high class cooking."

"What was that stuff he kept putting in the rabbit stew? Tasted like orcs' filth?" said Finrod.

"Seregon. Mithrandir had told him it helped keep the bowels regular," said Camthalion, joining in the banter.

"We spent a whole week diving behind trees before we worked out what was causing it," laughed Amras.

Maeglin laughed too. "At the time you were all grateful that I was willing to do most of the cooking," he said. "And Prince Legolas was always ready to learn from me."

"Prince Legolas was eager to learn from anyone, Maeglin," said Valandil, self-styled leader of the group. "And always being held back by his father."

"Shame," said Finrod. The others nodded in agreement.

"He has turned out pretty well, considering," said Valandil. "Travelling to Imladris and joining the Fellowship of the Ring was the making of him. And that woman—"

"Shhhhh. It looks like something is about to happen," said Camthalion.

"Citizens of Eryn Carantaur," said Legolas, "warriors. Our colony was founded—at the end of the Ring war—to bring joy to a land long tainted by the dark forces of Mordor. For three years we elves have nurtured the forest, bringing life where there was once only death, and growth where there was once only decay.

"But now a new threat has arisen—a threat to the very meaning and existence of our colony.

"Over past weeks, bands of orcs have been settling along the banks of the Anduin, in the region of Minas Athrad."

Some of the elves murmured in surprise.

"We do not know why they have come, but we do know that they cannot be allowed to stay—for there can be no peaceful co-existence with yrch!"

Some of the warriors cheered, elven fashion, with a hard, disciplined bark, stamping one foot on the ground.

"I ride forth today with March Warden Haldir and his guards to deal with these orcs, and I ask you all to ride with me. We will track down these vermin and we will destroy them. We will not allow them to harm the forest again!"

The elven warriors drew their swords and raised their bows and cheered in unison, again and again.


Just a few hours ago, thought Eowyn, I was threatening to leave him. I was seriously considering going back to Faramir to live as his 'sister'! She shook her head. He can be the most infuriating person in the world—far more annoying than Faramir ever was! He is so much older and yet so much younger than I; so much wiser and yet so much more naïve. He is immortal where I am mortal—cold where I am hot, hot where I am cold—he is elf where I am human. Yet he is my love and I would not change him—not for all riches in Middle Earth...

And she drew her sword and held it aloft and cheered with the elves around her.




Contents page

Contents page

Next chapter: Something evil
What did Eowyn see in the castle ward?

Chapter 2

Extra scene: "I have fought orcs before!"
A story of Helm's Deep.

Extra scene

Place names
Minas Athrad … 'Ford Tower'. The castle.
Eithel Hûn … 'Heart spring'.
Eryn Brethil … 'Beech Forest'. An area on the eastern bank of the Anduin, to the south west of Minas Athrad.
Toll Thâr … 'Grass Island'. A small island in the Anduin.
Habad Penn … 'Sloping Shore'. An area on the western bank of the Anduin, close to the ford.


Eowyn's armour
Details of the layers.


Care of armour
Some historical details and a picture of a repair kit.