"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
"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 traderstravelling here from Minas Tirithof
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
"That things were even worse than we had feared," replied
Orophin. He rose from his seat and leaned over the map. "We
the first groupLady 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 themand 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 smallthere
are no more than a dozen of thembut 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, aboutwhat
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 yearswithout that,
we would be unaware of this threat to our colony."
The assembled elvesand one dwarfclapped their hands
on the table; Eowyn bowed her head in embarrassment.
"Secondly," Legolas continued, "I would like to
hear your comments and suggestionsMarch 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
"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 behaviourand then only to go
on short-lived forays. Here, they are behaving as ifwell,
as if they are waiting for something to happenor for someone
"It is as though they have been summoned," said Lord
Caranthir. "That is what I have been thinking."
"Yes, I agreethough 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
"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 timesperhaps
that is why the castle was abandonedand 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 spatethough
for a band of orcs, none of this would present any difficulty,"
"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
battlefieldis it possible to question them?"
"Could we take one of them prisoner and ask him what he
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 sortsit 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 importantas much for
the morale as for the safety of your peoplethat 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. HaldirI want a troop of at least fifty warriors,
plus a support crewa swordsmith, a bowyer with a stringer
and a fletcher, a healer, and a cook. We will pitch camp inside
the castle ruins andonce we have confirmed the orcs' positionswe
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?"
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 LegolasaloneHaldir,"
"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 crynot under these circumstancesso
she rose and walked to the window, turning her back on him.
"EowynEowyn! 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 andand 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 itand I want to be there. I have
been tracking those orcs for two years. I know more about their
behaviour than anyone hereyou 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 mana 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
youI 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
Haldir, hovering outside the Council Chamber door, reached for
"Leave them be, lad," said a gruff voice behind them.
"They will sort it out."
"Butthe 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, thoughno 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 chambersthe hobbits
brought it from The Shire. It is made from applesa 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,
"Why will you not listen to sense, Eowyn nín?"
"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. Andto her surpriseshe 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 womanbut 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
wereoh gods!we were investigating the Mistress of
the Ceremony's murder andand when we went to her chambersgods,
Legolas!to her chambers, the door was open andandand
you told me to wait outside and went in alone andand I had
no choice but to waitoh!to wait, for I was not armedoh!and
I would have been a liability to you. But I sworeI sworeoh!I
swore that I would never let you go into dangerinto danger
alone again. And I have proved myself since thenahatat
Dol Amrothahahoh godsyes!and on
the Sea Maidenyesyes!and I will again,
LegolasI will againI willI willIoh!
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 soand
who knows what might happen to me then! And if you lock me up,
I will just persuade someone else to set me freeand 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.
"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 interestingdo 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,"
"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 dwarfboth of himsitting
in the chair opposite.
"Lady Eowera 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 menthe 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
menot 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 warriorsall 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 availableincluding
ourselves and Lord Gimlimore 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, NolofinwëI have heard good
reports of himyour 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
"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
suppliesthe palace storerooms are open to him. We will need
sufficient pack horses to carry the support crew's equipmentperhaps
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
kitshears, awl, thimble, needles and thread, spare bucklesher
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
shiftsone to wear and one to washa 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 ita small
gift from the Lord of Eryn Carantaur. But it was the first thing
that Legolas had ever given hera soothing lotion delicately
scented with rose and watermint oilsand 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
cookthough 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,"
"Citizens of Eryn Carantaur," said Legolas, "warriors.
Our colony was foundedat the end of the Ring warto
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
"But now a new threat has arisena 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 stayfor 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 worldfar 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 mortalcold where I am hot, hot where I am coldhe
is elf where I am human. Yet he is my love and I would not change
himnot for all riches in Middle Earth...
And she drew her sword and held it aloft and cheered with the
elves around her.