"There are many creatures that live hidden on the margins of Middle-earth, unknown to the rest of us, Berryn," said Maglor. "There is a creature, called a blemmye, that has no head—but is reported to have its face in its chest."

He slid a ladder into position and began climbing up to the top shelf of the bookcase. "There is a creature called a sciapod that has a single foot, but that foot is so large that it can raise it above its head to shelter from the sun!"

"That does not seem very practical," said Berryn.

"It is a creature of the desert," said Maglor, "so shade is perhaps more important to it than locomotion... Ah, here we are."

He pulled out a large book, richly bound in red leather, and carefully climbed down the ladder with it. "Chronicles of the Grey Havens," he said. "This came from Lord Elrond's library." He laid the book on a table and began turning its pages, carefully. "Now, if my memory serves me—ah, yes..."

Maglor began reading, "'In the year 3410 of the second age, men fishing off the coast of Harlindon caught in their nets a wild man. He was naked and was like a man in all his members, covered with hair and with a long shaggy beard. He eagerly ate whatever they brought him but if it was raw he pressed it between his hands until all the juice was expelled. The men brought him to the elves of the Grey Havens, who tried to speak with him but he would not talk. He showed no signs of reverence or belief. He was allowed to go into the sea, strongly guarded with three lines of nets, but he dived under the nets and came up again and again. Eventually he came back of his own free will. But later on he escaped and was never seen again.'

"I believe there is a picture of the creature," said Maglor, turning the page. "Yes, here!"

"By the gods," said Berryn, reaching towards the woodcut, "that is it! That is the creature—the hairy body, the face..."

"Good," said Maglor. "Now I know where to look."

The raiding party advanced silently through the trees—picking off the orcs below with ruthless efficiency—until it came to a group of four, crouching on the ground with their hands raised, as if in submission to some invisible being.

What on Middle-earth are they doing? wondered Legolas, signalling his warriors to lower their bows. "We need to take prisoners," he said, softly, to Haldir.

Haldir nodded. "Kill two, capture two?"


The two elves raised their bows, drew and loosed—two orcs fell. The surviving orcs, panic-stricken, leaped to their feet and ran off into the forest.

The elves dropped nimbly to the ground and followed, quickly gaining on them.

"Stay behind them," cried Legolas, running up the trunk of the nearest tree, crossing its branches to the next tree, crossing to the next, and the next, then dropping down in front of the orcs.

"Stop," he shouted. His bow was raised, with two arrows drawn

Haldir, behind them, had drawn his sword.

The orcs fell to the ground, trembling.

"What is wrong with you," said Legolas, exasperated. "What were you doing in the clearing? Is it the creature? The—the thing that is living in the castle? Is that what you are afraid of?"

The orcs, on their knees, turned to face one another. Then, without a word, each drew a dagger and slew the other.


"It is called," said Maglor, moving his ladder, "a 'merman'—or, more properly, men call it a merman. Elves call it a 'gaearbenn'. And, of course, we do not know what it calls itself."

He climbed the ladder. "Now what have we here? The Higher Creatures of the Sea," he said, translating the title into the common tongue, "yes..." He pulled the book from the shelf and handed it down to Berryn. "Dangerous Animals of the Sea, yes... And there should be—ah, here we are, The Natural History of the Merman." He handed both books to Berryn. "Do you read Elvish?"

"No, sir," said Berryn.

"Then I will have to translate the relevant parts for you. There is just one other thing I think we should look at..." He slid the ladder across two book cases. "Now where—ah yes, A Discourse on the Mind."


"Maglor," corrected the librarian.

"I am sorry, s—Maglor. Why do we need the last book?"

"Because what you described, my young friend—the fear you experienced—was the merman influencing your mind. As we have seen, the merman cannot speak—at least, not in the world above the sea. I suspect that he communicates in thoughts and dreams, and that he implants extreme fear in his enemies' minds as a way of protecting himself—"

"Which would explain why the orcs are all so frightened," said Berryn. "And suggests that it—he—is not really as dangerous as he seems. But then who killed and attacked the warriors?"

"Let us see what else the books have to say about him, Berryn," said Maglor.

Eowyn stopped pacing when she heard the raiding party returning.

She ran through the trees, past the field kitchen, past the bedrolls, past the healing cave, to the clearing where the horses were kept.

"Legolas!" she cried, "Legolas!"

Legolas leaped down from his horse and wrapped her in his arms.


"Since there has been no further sighting of the creature," said Legolas, "we will proceed with the next orc raid. There are two bands left, one on the island of Toll Thâr and another, about thirty strong, across the river at Habad Penn. Neither is particularly easy to reach but I propose we take Habad Penn first—the river is quite low at present."

He was holding a council of war with Eowyn, Haldir and Gimli.

"There is no tree cover on that shore," said Haldir.

"No," agreed Legolas, "so we will have to adapt our tactics. We will take thirty warriors, cross the ford, get into position just before dawn and attack at first light—five volleys of arrows, then we go in to deal with the survivors. Any comments?"

"How do we cross the ford?" asked Gimli.

"On horseback," said Legolas. "You will ride with me, elvellon."

Gimli muttered something unintelligible about dwarves and horses.

"What are you going to do about the stringer, Fëanáro?" asked Eowyn. She had already described what she had seen whilst waiting for the raiding party to return.

Legolas thought for a moment. "We will keep the Mirkwood elves guarding Finrod," he said. "But ideally... Ideally, we need someone to watch Fëanáro without his knowing."

Haldir agreed: "Someone we can trust, who has good reason to spend a lot of time with him, like one of the other craftsmen—"

"Master Nolofinwë!" said Eowyn.

The elves and the dwarf turned towards her.

"Why melmenya?"

"I know him—well, slightly—Arwen introduced me to him when I first arrived in Eryn Carantaur for the Harvest Ceremony," she smiled at Legolas. "She asked him to make her a sword as a Yuletide gift for Aragorn. He was Lord Elrond's personal swordsmith. It was he who reforged the sword of Elendil..."

"He forged Anduril?"


"Why did he not tell us?" asked Haldir.

"He struck me as a very honourable and a very modest person," said Eowyn.

"Let us speak to him," said Legolas.

When Rumil and Orophin came to take Berryn to supper, they found him still with Maglor, pouring over a large pile of books, and making careful notes on a sheet of parchment.

"Thank you for coming for me," said Berryn, "but I will not have time for supper if I am to get this information back to Lord Legolas in time."

The brothers returned with two plates of food, promising that they would come back at midnight to take Berryn to his lodging. But at midnight, they found Maglor still engrossed in his books and Berryn already fast asleep, his head resting on the table, his food untouched.

"Master Nolofinwë," said Legolas, "Please sit down." He paused a moment to collect his thoughts. "I am about to ask you to do something that you may feel you cannot—honourably—do. And if that is the case, I want you to say so. Your honesty will not be held against you."

"My lord?"

"First I must stress that, whether you agree to help me or not, what I tell you must not go beyond these walls. Can you agree to that?"

"Of course, my lord," said Nolofinwë.

"Good. As you know, Finrod is lying in the healing room, recovering from an attempt on his life. What you will not know is that Master Dínendal does not believe his injury was inflicted by the creature."

"Then by whom, my lord?" asked Nolofinwë.

Legolas turned to Eowyn. "Melmenya?"

"This afternoon, Master Nolofinwë, I saw Fëanáro, hiding behind the trees, watching the healing room," she said. "He was there for at least an hour. I do not think he knows I saw him."

"It may be nothing," said Legolas. "He may have an entirely innocent reason for his concern. They may be friends—"

"No, my lord," said Nolofinwë. "I do not believe they are. I heard them talking when we first arrived..." He hesitated, evidently trying to decide whether he should continue. At length, he said, "Finrod was convinced that they had met before but Fëanáro insisted that they had not."

Legolas exchanged glances with the others.

"What we want you to do, Master Nolofinwë, is keep a discreet watch on Fëanáro. If he is innocent, then you will see nothing, but if he intends Finrod some harm, you may be able to raise the alarm and prevent it."

Nolofinwë thought carefully; then he said, "Yes, my lord, I will. Some instinct tells me that all is not right with Fëanáro. I will do as you ask, my lord."


The raiding party crossed the ford without incident. By dawn, they were in position, encircling the orc encampment.

As the sun rose, Legolas gave the signal and the elven archers—in perfect synchrony, and with ruthless precision—shot five volleys into the unprepared orcs. Then the entire party moved in to finish off the survivors.

Haldir ran to the nearest orc, drawing his sword. The creature had been hit twice in the chest but was still struggling to draw its dagger.

There is more fight left in these, Haldir thought, and he raised his sword and drove it through the orc's heart.

The blade passed straight through the orc and buried itself deep in the ground beneath. "Orc's breath!" the elf cried, twisting the sword to free it—

"HALDIR!" screamed Eowyn. And there was no mistaking the warning in her voice.

Haldir spun around—his sword still trapped in the ground—to face an injured Uruk Hai bearing down upon him with its sword raised to strike. Haldir abandoned his own sword and reached for his knife... But Eowyn had already slipped between them. She calmly raised her blade and stabbed, driving the tip through the weakest part of the beast's armour, where the plates left a yawning gap at its neck.

The Uruk Hai grasped its throat. It knew it was dying—blood was bubbling from its mouth and spilling out through its fingers—but it still had the strength for one final, frenzied blow and, with all the power of its massive sword arm, it lashed out at Eowyn, slicing through her leather cuirass and mail hauberk.

"Ah!" Eowyn's cry was more of a sigh than a scream. She grasped her shoulder and turned towards Haldir. "It burns," she whispered, and collapsed into his arms.



Legolas' shriek was so loud and so anguished that the elves momentarily stopped their work—though they soon remembered their orders, and continued the grim job of dispatching the surviving orcs.

Legolas ran to his wife and helped Haldir lower her to the ground.

"She saved my life," said the March Warden. "She saved my life..."

"She does not seem to be bleeding much," said Legolas, "help me get this armour off." He unlaced the leather cuirass and, together supporting the woman's unconscious body, they slipped her cuirass off her shoulders and pulled her mail hauberk over her head.

Legolas ripped open the front of her tunic. The wound ran diagonally from her left shoulder to her breast.

"It is just a scratch," he said, confused.

"Poison!" said Haldir. "Poison! She said it burned!" He lifted the Uruk Hai's sword and sniffed it, then held it up to the light. A faint trace of dried liquid was still visible on the blade.

"We must get her to Master Dínendal now," said Legolas. "Tell Gimli to take charge of the mopping up, then follow me."

Berryn awoke at dawn, his arms cramped and his shoulders stiff.

He rubbed the back of his neck and looked around. He was still in the library, Maglor was still reading, and his plate of food was still sitting beside him.

His stomach growled.

"Ah," said Maglor. "You are awake. Good. I have found out some very important things about our merman."

Berryn took a quick bite of bread, and picked up his pen. "I am ready to take notes," he said.

"First..." said Maglor. "Now, where was it? Ah, yes. The merman has a very distinctive method of killing his prey." He began to read from Dangerous Animals of the Sea, "'The merman feeds on large fish, turtles and seals, considering the young of the seal a particular delicacy. It kills its prey by grasping it in its powerful arms and suddenly twisting its head to break its neck.'"

"By the gods!" said Berryn.

Legolas gave Arod his head, and the horse, seeming to understand the urgency of his mission, galloped across the ford and through the forest, leaving his master free to cradle his lady in his arms.

Haldir followed close behind.

When they reached the campsite, Legolas rode straight to the mouth of the healing cave. "Master Dínendal," he cried, "Master Dínendal! Help her, help her, please!"

"Lay her down here, my lord," said the healer, quickly preparing a rock-shelf bed. "What has happened?"

"We believe she has been poisoned by an Uruk Hai blade," said Legolas. Haldir showed the healer the traces of dried liquid on the sword.

Dínendal carefully drew Eowyn's tunic aside. "The wound is not deep, my lord," he said. "Fortunately, it is no more than a scratch. March Warden, please pass me those shears." He carefully cut away the tunic. "Hold her still, my lord," he said to Legolas.

Legolas took Eowyn in his arms and gently held her head against his chest, leaning down to hear what she was saying.

"Legolas?" she whispered.

Master Dínendal returned with water, clean cloths, and a jar of granular paste. "This salve will draw out any poison that is left in the wound," he said, "but I am afraid that a great deal of it will already have passed into her blood."

Whilst Legolas supported her, Dínendal carefully cleaned the wound, then spread on the thick, pink salve and covered it with a pad, which he bound in place with the cloth.

Eowyn began to tremble violently.

"It is the effect of the salve, my lord, drawing out the poison," Dínendal explained. "We must renew it, every half hour."

Eowyn curled up against Legolas' chest and began to sob, her voice full of fear and hopelessness. It was heartbreaking. Legolas pressed his lips to the top of her head then raised his eyes to look at Haldir.

The March Warden's face was wet with tears.


The last thing she remembered clearly was Legolas' calling her name, but Legolas had gone—she looked around for him, desperately—and she was surrounded by kneeling orcs.

"Get down," growled the beast beside her. It reached up with its filthy hands and pulled her to her knees. "He is coming. Stay down."


The orc cuffed the side of her head. "Quiet! Eyes down! Or we all will suffer!"

A wave of fear rippled through Eowyn's body.

"He is coming," gasped the orc. "Stay down!"

Eowyn felt another surge of fear, then another, and another, each stronger than the last—stronger and stronger—until her body was trembling violently and her mind was filled with nothing but the hopeless, helpless sobs of a broken woman.

Was that voice her own?

I will not give in to this, she thought, and she forced herself to raise her head and look at the creature that was filling her with so much terror.

It was standing before the orcs like a king before its people, and it was looking straight at her—singling her out from the crowd of its wailing subjects, just as it had that night in the castle ward. Their eyes locked once more, but this time it did not walk away. Instead, it came towards her, pushing through the grovelling orcs.

It raised her to her feet.

"At lassst," it said, "you are here."

Berryn grabbed another mouthful of bread and cheese and continued writing.

"'The merman,'" read Maglor, "'does not have a natural mate'—"

"What does that mean?" asked Berryn.

Maglor shrugged his shoulders. "There are no mer-women," he said.

"Then how does it reproduce?" asked Berryn.

"I am coming to that—where was I? Ah, yes. 'When the merman is mature he comes ashore to find himself a mate. He may chose a female of any species—elf, human, hobbit or dwarf—though humans seem preferred. When he has selected his consort he uses his superior mental powers to persuade her to join him under the sea. His potency is considerable and few are able to resist. Once the female accepts him, an irreversible transformation occurs.'"

"What sort of transformation?" asked Berryn, knowing that he would not like the answer.

"There is a picture," said Maglor. He turned the book around and lifted it so that Berryn could see the page—swimming along its margin was a creature that was part woman, part fish.

A mermaid


When Dínendal came to change her dressing, Eowyn was struggling so violently that it was taking both Legolas and Haldir to hold her down.

"Please try to keep her very still for a moment, my lords," said Dínendal, as he carefully cut open the bandage and removed the dressing.

"Gods!" cried Legolas, "what is happening to her?" The skin around the wound had turned green and scaly.

"It is the effect of the poison, my lord," said Dínendal. He showed Legolas the soiled dressing—the pink salve had turned a lurid green. "Here is the poison that has been drawn out of her body." He spread fresh salve on the wound and applied a clean pad.

"Is the change permanent?" asked Haldir.

"I do not know, my lords," said Dínendal, softly, as he secured the new dressing. "We will draw out as much of the poison as we can, and the lady is very strong, and—and, looking through my books, I think I may have found a cure—but I will let you know as soon as I am sure."

But at that moment, Eowyn began screaming, "No! No! Legolas! LEGOLAS! Help me!"


"At lassst I have found you," hissed the merman. "My mer-maid."

"I am no mer-maid!" said Eowyn.

The merman stretched out its thin, grey hand and traced its finger from her cheek to her chin. Eowyn tried to pull away, but two of its orc-subjects were holding her fast. The merman slid its hand down her throat and over her breast, stroking her scaly green skin, and laughed.

"You are a mer-maid," it hissed, "for, even asss we ssspeak, your fleshhh is changing. Sssoon you will be a creature of the sssea—and I will take you asss my mate, for I tire of sssolitude!"

The merman took her hand and, suddenly, they were swimming—diving and rolling and gliding through the sea, swimming through gardens of bright, waving sea-flowers and shoals of darting fish. And the merman was smiling and beckoning her into its rocky bed.

"Come, my love," it hissed, "come with me. We will live asss one throughout the long agesss and you will bear me many children..."

"No," cried Eowyn. "No! No! Legolas! LEGOLAS! Help me!"

"Maglor," said Berryn, softly. "There is only one female for miles around Minas Athrad, and that is Lady Eowyn."

Dínendal returned carrying a book.

"Have you news of the cure?" asked Legolas, anxiously.

"Yes, my lord, though I confess I do not understand how it can possibly work—"

"What is it?" asked Haldir.

Dínendal cleared his throat. "You must lie with her, my lord," he said.

"Lie..." Legolas looked from the healer, to Haldir, then to Eowyn. "But she is unconscious."

"Yes, my lord. But, according to the text"—he waved his book—"it is the only way to draw her mind back from the dark place in which it is now trapped. And, once she is conscious, the poison will have no hold over her." He cleared his throat, "I do recommend, though," he said, "that we also continue to treat her in the conventional way. I will change her dressing before you—er..."

Whilst Rumil and Orophin saddled the horses, Berryn packed up his notes.

Maglor escorted him down the main staircase to the clearing beneath the city, where the brothers were waiting for him with two very distinguished-looking elves.

"They are Lord Fingolfin and Lord Caranthir," whispered Maglor, "Lord Legolas' most trusted advisors."

"My lords," said Berryn bowing low.

"Please, Master Berryn," said Fingolfin, "do not stand on ceremony. Rumil and Orophin have told us of the merman. We are here to tell you how grateful we are for your assistance, and to wish you a safe and swift journey. Lady Eowyn is dear to all of us—very dear." Lord Caranthir nodded in agreement. "We pray that you will be in time to save her."

"I will do everything in my power, my lords," said Berryn, gravely. And he swung himself up onto his horse and, together with the two elves, left the city of Eryn Carantaur at the gallop.




Contents page

Contents page

Previous chapter: The castle keep
Where is Finrod? Legolas and Eowyn search the castle by torchlight.

Chapter 4

Next chapter: The duel
Legolas defeats the merman. But the creature is not so easily beaten.

Chapter 6

Extra scene: The return
Legolas returns from the raid; Eowyn is waiting.

Extra scene

Extra scene: My wife!
Legolas sees Eowyn wounded.

Extra scene

Mediaeval monsters
Pictures of the creatures Maglor describes.


The 'creature'
The Orford merman.