Legolas looked at Haldir.
The March Warden's horrorand painwere
written clearly on his face but, always supportive, he patted
Legolas' shoulder encouragingly. Legolas lifted Eowyn into his
arms and carried her out of the healing room, through the forest,
and into the their cave.
"Forgive me, my love..." he whispered, laying her down
on their bedroll. Carefully, he removed her boots and leggings,
then undressed himself and knelt down beside her.
How could he do this without hurting her?
Gently, he stroked her stomach, sweeping his fingers in wide
circles, warming her skin. Eowyn moaned. Very slowly, so as not
to frighten her, he slid his hand down between her thighs, pressing
his fingers against her most sensitive flesh, caressing and probing,
and preparing her for lovemaking.
"No," whispered Eowyn, barely loud enough for even
an elf to hear, "no, no, no."
Tears ran down Legolas' face. "Trust me, melmenya,"
Then he lay between her legs, and slipped slowly into her body,
a fraction of an inch at a time, until he was completely inside
her. And he began making love to her, in a gentle, rocking rhythm.
"Come lie with me," hissed the merman, laying her down
on its rocky bed. And it stretched out its long thin fingers,
caressing the scaly green skin of her belly and running its hand
downwards to probe the strange opening where her body joined her
Eowyn felt the first stirrings of desire... "No,"
she whispered, "no, no, no."
"Leave her, if you want to live!"
Eowyn pushed hard at the merman's chest and turned her head
And her heart leapt with joy to see Legolas, standing tall
and magnificent in the water, his angry face surrounded by billowing
"She is my wife!" he cried, "and you shall
not have her!" He drew his bow and loosed a warning shot
that grazed the merman's shoulder.
The merman slid off Eowyn's body and swam towards the him,
its hands outstretched. "She isss no longer your wife, little
creature," it hissed. "She isss a woman of the sssea,
my mer-maid. She can no longer walk on land, or live in air"
"You lie!" cried Legolas and, moving faster than
Eowyn's eyes could follow, he loosed two more arrows that pierced
the merman's chest, but the creature hardly paused as it pulled
the arrows from its flesh and dashed them away.
Legolas threw down his bow and drew out his two white knives,
spinning them in the water to align their blades.
"Foolish little creature," hissed the merman. "Your
weaponsss cannot harm me!" With a sweep of its arm, it knocked
the knives from Legolas' hands and trapped the elf in a lethal
But it had underestimated its opponent. As it moved its hand
to the back of Legolas' head, the elf broke its grip, swept up
his knives from the seabed, and buried both blades in the merman's
fragile gills. The creature howled in pain as ribbons of blood
spiralled through the water.
"She is mine!" cried Legolas. "You shall not have
her! I will take her back to the forest, where she belongs!"
He dropped his white knives and knelt beside Eowyn.
"Trust me, melmenya," he whispered. And there, in
the water, on the merman's own bed, he gently entered her strange,
scaly body, and began making love to her, in a gentle, rocking
"Oh, Legolas!" gasped Eowyn, her eyes flying open,
"Oh! Oh! My love!"
She clung to him as the pleasure crested and rolled through her
body, leaving her head and her arms and her legs tingling with
"I am still myself," she whispered. "It was just
As the riders approached Eryn Brethil, where the great carantaurs
disappeared and the beech forest that lined the Anduin began,
the elves suddenly reined in their horses.
Berryn, who was riding between them, began to protest, but Orophin
held up his hand.
"Shhhhh," he said.
He pulled his bow from its strap and nocked an arrow, then gestured
to his brother. Rumil drew his sword and slowly rode forward.
"What" Berryn began.
Orophin waited until Rumil was thirty yards ahead, then gestured
for Berryn to follow. The three riders edged forward, slowly,
the elves watching and listening, and the man jumping at every
movement of the trees.
Five minutes passed, then ten...
And Berryn had just managed to convince himself that it was all
a false alarm, when three orcs leaped from the undergrowth in
front of Rumil, swords raised. The brothers were ready; Orophin
brought two down with perfectly-aimed arrows, and Rumil finished
off the third with his blade.
But another group of orcs had already surrounded Berryn and were
attempting to drag him from his horse. Berryn, who, despite his
courage, was no fighter, had drawn his sword and was slashing
wildly at his attackers.
The brothers rode back through the melee, cutting and slicing.
"Ride!" cried Orophin. He caught the bridle of Berryn's
horse and the three riders galloped out of the ambush, Rumil slashing
at the single orc that tried to follow.
"Out onto the flood plain," cried Orophin, "where
we can see them coming! We will ride along the forest edge. It
will take longer, but we will have more chance of getting there
"We must hurry," shouted Berryn. "I think the
merman knows we are coming!"
"What is wrong?" asked Eowyn, anxiously.
Dínendal had carefully removed her dressing and was staring
at her shoulder. "There is nothing wrong, my lady, your wound
is healing nicely." The scaling had disappeared. "But
I want you to stay here for the rest of the day, so that I can
watch your progress."
He drew Legolas aside. "I am concerned," he said, "about
the sudden disappearance of the skin reaction, for I do not believe
that all the poison has left her body. I will continue applying
the salve and will keep a watch for any return of the symptoms.
"You are welcome to stay here with her, my lord."
Eowyn soon fell into a troubled sleep and Legolas, sitting by
her side, holding her hand, had just begun to slip into reverie...
"Orc attack! Orc attack!"
Legolas leaped to his feet. Haldir was running towards him. "About
thirty have invaded the encampment to the south west," he
cried, "but we have them contained."
"Reinforce the entire perimeter," said Legolas. "I
will join you..."
A movement caught his eye; Eowyn was struggling to get out of
"No melmenya!" he cried. "Not this time. You are
not fully recovered; you must stay here." When she began
to protest he continued, sternly, "I will not argue with
you Eowynyou will stay here if I have to tie you down. And
I will, melmenya."
A tiny smile appeared on Eowyn's face, and she sat down on the
"Good," said Legolas.
He turned to the two Mirkwood elves, who were guarding their
sleeping comrade. "Valandil, Orodreth, we need you defending
the encampment," he said. "We must leave Finrod in the
"Gods speed, Legolas," whispered Eowyn, as she watched
him leave with Haldir.
And she suddenly felt very tired, so she lay back on the stone
bed and closed her eyes.
He is nervous, thought Nolofinwë, glancing at Fëanáro.
The stringer was quietly packing the tools of his trade into a
small pouch. He is very nervous. Perhaps he plans to attack
Finrod whilst everyone else is distracted by the orcs. And what
does he intend to do with those?
Fëanáro had slipped the pouch into his pocket.
Nolofinwë picked up his sharpening stone and began to hone
a blade. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the stringer glance
round the workshop, as if to check that no one was watching him,
then slip out of the cave without a word.
I must follow, Nolofinwë thought, putting down his
"I will be back in a moment," he said, to Taurnil and
Mahtan, as he was leaving the workshop.
Fëanáro was already disappearing through the trees,
heading in the direction of the healing cave.
Nolofinwë followed silently, at a safe distance.
"Three!" roared Gimli, pulling his axe from the back
of an orc's skull and spinning round to cut down another beast
with a blow to the neck. "Awwww! Four!"
"Eight!" cried Legolas, nocking another arrow.
"Six!" shouted Haldir, dodging an Uruk Hai's sword
and stabbing upwards, cutting its throat.
Master Dínendal, busily preparing the healing room to
receive casualties, immediately stopped what he was doing and
went to her bedside.
The lady was flushed and restless. Dínendal laid the back
of his hand against her brow; she was feverish. Carefully, he
removed her dressing and examined her wound. The discolouration
and scaling were back. Dínendal fetched some water and
a cloth and began to clean the wound, working from her shoulder
to her breast.
"No!" cried Eowyn. "Get away from me! Get away!"
She began to struggle.
Dínendal leaned over her, intending gently to restrain
her, and was taken by surprise when Eowyn suddenly lashed out,
punching him in the face.
"He isss not here," hissed the merman, leaning over
her and trailing its thin hand across her throat and down between
her breasts. "He hasss abandoned you, my love."
"No!" cried Eowyn. "That is not true! He is
protecting mehe is protecting all of usfrom your vile
orcs! Get away from me! Get away!"
She beat her fists against the merman's head and chest.
Fëanáro had stopped at the edge of the clearing and
was staring into the healing cave. Nolofinwë crept closer.
What is he looking at...? he wondered.
By the gods!
Through the mouth of the cave the swordsmith could see Lady Eowyn
pounding Master Dínendal with her little fists. And, as
he watched, the healer, taken by surprise, and far too gentle
to retaliate, sank to the floor, stunned, and the lady rose from
her bed, pulled off her long white shift, and walkednakedout
into the forest.
What do I do now? Nolofinwë wondered. The lady
clearly does not know what she is doing, and must be brought back,
but I have been charged to protect Finrod...
He looked around. The healer was still lying on the ground, and
there was no one else in sight that he could call to for help.
Fëanáro had started to move.
Nolofinwë grasped the hilt of his sword, ready to run forward
and defend Finrod, but the stringer did not enter the healing
cave. Instead he walked across the clearing and back into the
forest, to where the horses were kept.
Keeping his distance, in the cover of the trees, Nolofinwë
watched Fëanáro untie one of the horses, mount it,
and set off at a gallop, heading south east, into the densest
part of the forest.
With everyone either fighting the orcs to the west or watching
the flood plain, no one will see him go, thought Nolofinwë.
Should I follow?
No, Finrod is safe. Lady Eowyn is my priority now.
He ran back towards the healing cave. Master Dínendal
was already struggling to his feet.
"Lady Eowyn is walking towards the castle," Nolofinwë
called, as he passed by. "Send help after us!"
And he plunged into the forest, in pursuit of the errant woman.
"Why are we always in the place furthest from the
action?" said Orodreth. He and Valandil had been sitting
in the trees, keeping a watch on the castle, since the orc attack
"Perhaps Prince Legolas just wants to keep his old Mirkwood
comrades safe," said Valandil, grinning.
Suddenly, he held up his hand, listening hard, "Hear that?"
he asked, softly.
Valandil nodded. "Something in the undergrowth."
Both elves silently nocked an arrow and, peering down through
the branches, drew.
An orc emerged into the clearing beneath the tree. Both elves
instantly loosed their arrows, and the orc fellto be immediately
replaced by another.
The elves dispatched the second beast, and it was replaced by
another, and then another, and another.
The pair soon fell into a steady rhythm, shooting each orc as
it emerged from the brushwood.
Neither noticed the naked woman who slipped out of the forest,
walked across the flood plain, and entered the castle.
And neither noticed the elf following her.
Cautiously, Nolofinwë entered the castle keep.
Lady Eowyn was in the Great Hall, sitting on the floor, waiting.
"My lady?" said Nolofinwë, gently. "My lady,
you should not be here." He took off his jerkin and tried
to drape it around her shoulders, but the woman pushed it away.
"Please my lady..."
"No!" cried Eowyn, "No! I do not want to leave!"
"Very well, my lady," said Nolofinwë. "We
And, please Valar, he thought, let help come soon.
"Sssoon, my love," hissed the merman, draping a sharkskin
mantle around her shoulders, "sssoon we will leave this dry
"No!" cried Eowyn, shrugging off the mantle. "No!
I do not want to leave!"
"Thirty-three," shouted Gimli, swinging his axe, "thirty-four..."
This does not make any sense, thought Legolas.
"Gimli, Haldir, to me!" he yelled, drawing his two
friends out of the battle.
"What are they doing?" he asked. "They are not
making any attempt to advancethey are hardly fighting. And
they have not attacked anywhere else along the perimeter. It is
as if they want to keep us here. But why? What else is
happening and where?"
He shook his head. "I need to go and look. Gimlitake
charge here. Haldircome with me!"
Master Dínendal, following the sounds of battle, met Legolas
and Haldir racing through the forest.
"What has happened to you?" asked Legolas, taking the
Dínendal touched his damaged face. "Itit was
Lady Eowyn, my lord," he said. "She attacked me and
left the healing roomleft the campsite."
"No," said Legolas, "no!"
"She was rambling, my lord; I believe she was seeing things,"
said Dínendal. "And I frightened her. She seemed to
think that she was defending herself."
"Where did she go?" asked Haldir.
"Master Nolofinwë said that she was walking towards
the castle. He was following her."
Legolas looked at Haldir. "We must go after herfetch
her back, quickly," he said. "And we will need Gimli
with us if we are to find her in that castlecan you make
your own way back to the healing room, Master Dínendal?"
The healer nodded.
"Why would Eowyn go to the castle?" asked Haldir as
they ran back towards the battlefield.
"I do not know," answered Legolas, "but I would
be willing to wager that the creature has had a hand in all this."
In the strange darkness of the castle keep, Nolofinwë's
senses were strained to their limits. He could hear the water
dripping from the cistern in the roof; he could hear the mice
running under the floorboards beneath him... And now he could
hear footsteps coming from inside the castle wall.
Beside him, Lady Eowyn, who, until then, had been sitting unnaturally
still, raised her head and looked towards the opposite wall.
Nolofinwë stood, drew his sword, and silently stepped forward...
At the last moment, some instinct told him to step aside and
he watched in amazement as the front of one of the piers swung
towards him and a creaturetall, thin, and covered in thick
grey hairstepped out into the hall and beckoned to Lady
By the Valar! It is real, he thought. He raised his sword.
"Leave her!" he cried.
The creature spun around and, raising its right arm, knocked
the sword from Nolofinwë's hand, and the swordsmith's mind
was suddenly filled with a voicea terrible, raw, hissing
voice, laden with malice: Foolish, foolish little creature,
it said. She isss my chosssen mate. And you cannot ssstop her
coming with me.
"No!" cried Nolofinwë. "She does not belong
to you. She is the wife of the Lord of Eryn Carantaur! She is
my sovereign lady!"
He threw himself between the creature and the cowering woman.
The creature snarled, wrapped its arms around him, and began
to squeezesqueezing the air out of Nolofinwë's lungs,
squeezing the life out of his bodyand, as his eyes began
to darken, Nolofinwë felt its hand slide up to the back of
"No!" screeched Lady Eowyn. "No! No! Legolas!"
Nolofinwë dropped into oblivion.
"Come to me, come join me now, my love," hissed the
Eowyn shook her head, No! No! she thought, but the
merman was beckoning, beckoning, and she could not resist...
She began to rise to her feet, to follow him. But an elf,
tall and fair and noble, stepped between them.
"Leave her!" he cried, "she does not belong to
And Eowyn watched in agony as the merman grasped him and began
to squeeze the life from his body.
"No!" she screeched. "No! No! Legolas!"
As Legolas, Haldir and Gimli emerged onto the flood plain, three
riders approached them from the west.
"It is Berryn, with Rumil and Orophin," said Haldir.
"My lord!" cried Berryn, springing down from the saddle,
"Lady Eowynthe monster wants Lady Eowyn!" He ran
along beside Legolas. "The mermanthat is what it is
calledthe merman comes ashore to find a mate."
"Lady Eowyn would never leave unever leave Lord Legolas
for that thing!" cried Haldir.
"It has taken her against her will," said Legolas,
"The merman can control the minds oferlower
animals," explained Berryn, "such as orcs and, to some
extent, meneven elves, if they are close enough."
"And Eowyn is weakened by the poison," said Legolas.
"If she accepts the merman, my lord," said Berryn,
"it will take her beneath the sea. And if that happensif
she begins to breathe the watershe can never return."
"How do I kill this thing?" asked Legolas.
"No one knows, my lord," Berryn admitted. "Arrows
and blades do not appear to harm it in the normal way. But The
Natural History of the Merman suggests that its gills, on the
sides of its neck, may be its most vulnerable part."
Legolas nodded. "It is not much to work with, Master Berryn,"
he said. "Come, we must hurry."
They found Nolofinwë lying on the floor of the Great Hall.
"Is he...?" said Legolas.
"He is still breathing," said Orophin.
"Thank the Valar."
The swordsmith's sword was lying in front of the secret door.
Legolas picked it up. "He tried to protect Eowyn," he
said. "The merman must have taken her to its nestGimli,
can you open the door?"
Gimli ran his hand down the stone moulding and pulled on the
concealed handle. The front of the pier swung open.
"Rumil, Orophin, stay with Nolofinwë," said Legolas.
"If we are not back in an hour, fetch help. Master Berryn,
will you join us?"
"Of course, my lord."
Haldir lit four torches and the two elves, the dwarf and the
man stepped through the pier-door and descended the spiral staircase.
The merman's nest, lined with Berryn's torn parchments, was empty.
"My maps," whispered the cartographer, sadly.
"He must have taken her deeper into the rock," said
Gimli. "Come; follow me."
They continued descending.
"It is dank down here," said Haldir, looking around
uncomfortably. "It feels as though the entire weight of Arda
were pressing on our heads."
"Yes," Legolas agreed. "But," he added, "Eowyn
is used to buildings of stone and to underground caves, so the
confinement will not trouble her so much."
At last, the staircase ended, and the rescuers stepped out into
a low, broad cave. Legolas raised his torch. Strange rock formations
glistened in the firelightribbons of coloured stone spilled
from the ceiling to the floor, forming natural pillars and curtains
of rock and casting intricate shadows on the walls. The floor
sloped gently down to a dark pool of water.
"This is a strange cave," said Gimli. "Chilling.
I feel as though ten thousand ants were crawling across my flesh..."
"The merman is close, my lords," said Berryn, shuddering.
"I can feel the fear, smothering meperhaps that is
why you are finding this place so unnerving."
Gimli drew his axe and walked down to the rocky shore. "That,"
he said, pointing to the water, "will take them to the Anduin
and, from there, to the sea..."
"Eowyn!" shouted Legolas, his voice echoing around
the cave, "Eowyn! Where are you?" He strode towards
The merman rose out of the water.
Gimli lifted his axe and Haldir drew his sword, but Berryn, mastering
the fear that was threatening to paralyse him, stepped in front
of them, holding up both hands.
"No! My lords," he gasped, "no! Lord Legolas,
as her husband, must confront the merman alone. But beware of
it, my lord," he said to Legolas, "for, although it
cannot speak, it can place thoughts in your mind and it will use
them to deceive you..."
Legolas stepped forward. "You have taken my wife against
her will," he said. "Return her now!"
The merman bared its teeth, and its voice filled Legolas' mind:
She isss no longer your wife. She hasss lain with me and now
she isss my mate.
"You lie!" cried Legolas.
The merman laughed: Sssee how she livesss now!
And Legolas saw Eowyn, her legs transformed into a shimmering
fishtail, swimming through corals and diving for pearls, laughing
with her merman husband and playing with her mer-children.
I have given her what you could not, hissed the merman. I have
given her immortality. Asss my mate she will live forever.
A sharp pain pierced Legolas' heart and he sank to his knees