Aragorn and Eomer had risen early, breakfasted,
and, as dawn was breaking, ridden northwards across The Pelennor
to the Greywood on the edge of the Forest of Druadan, where the
Woses had given King Elessar permission to hunt whenever he wished.
The royal trackers had, with the help of the Woses, already singled
out a large, young boar that could be expected to show courage
and stamina, and had stationed relays of hounds throughout the
Aragorn and Eomer approached the boar's bed on horseback.
Eomer dismounted. "The bed is warm!" he called, feeling
it with his hand. Around him, the hounds bayed and strained at
their leashes. "The boar is close." He placed his hunting
horn to his lips and blew for the release of the pack.
"They have the scent!" he criedspringing back
onto his horseas the dogs dashed off through the trees.
"There! There it is!" shouted Aragorn.
A huge, dark creature had emerged from the undergrowth, and it
attacked the hounds, goring the foremost with its sharp tusks,
then catching the next in its foaming mouth and breaking its back
with a shake of its massive shoulders.
"It has spirit!" cried Eomer.
He blew for the chase and the horsemen surged forward, startling
the boar into flight. The huntsmen followed on foot.
"More dogs," cried Eomer, sounding the horn again.
"Release the next pack!"
Eowyn looked down at the dead man, sadly. "His name iswasBanduil,"
she said. "He was a Rider of the Mark, one of Eomer's most
trusted lieutenants. I know his wife, his children..."
Legolas carried her back to her horse. "We will take him
to Minas Tirith, Eowyn nín," he said, gently.
"And Eomer can perform the rites necessary to lay his spirit
properly to rest."
Eowyn smiled gratefully. "Thank you," she said.
Then a disturbing thought struck her. "Legolashe would
not have been travelling alone. Where are the others?"
Haldir laid out a bedroll and they carefully lifted the body
onto it. Thenas Eowyn watched in frustration from horsebackDínendal,
assisted by Haldir, tried to determine the cause of death whilst
Legolas and Gimli searched the rest of the courtyard.
Gimli poked his axe into a drift of snow. "Nothing, thank
Aulë," he said.
"No," said Legolas. "Whatever has happened to
his companions, I do not think they are lying herethe wolves
would already have found them"
"My lord!" cried Dínendal.
"What is it?"
The healer had turned the body over. "Here, my lord,"
he said, pointing to the remains of three arrows, buried deep
in the dead man's back. "These are what killed him. This
one would have punctured his heart."
"Somebody shot him in the back," said Eowyn.
Legolas crouched beside the body and examined the arrows. "The
shafts have been deliberately cut off," he said. "And
look, here"he pushed his fingers through a hole in
the dead man's clothing"there was a fourth arrow that
was pulled out completely."
"Why would anyone do that?" asked Eowyn.
"I suspect they have taken the crestings, melmenya,"
said Legolas. "The men of Gondor mark their hunting arrows
with crestingscoloured ringsto indicate ownership.
Can you pull out one of the heads, Master Dínendal?"
The healer hesitated.
"It will do him no harm, now, mellon nín,"
said Legolas, gently.
Dínendal nodded. "March Warden," he said, "would
you bring me the small pouch from the top of my pack? Thank you."
The healer selected a sharp, narrow-bladed knife and made two
careful incisions, either side of one of the arrows, then gently
pulled out the barbed head and handed it to Legolas.
"Yes," said the elf, "a broadheadused for
hunting game." He examined it carefully. "It is Gondorian
but there is nothing particularly distinctive about it."
"But it does show that he was not killed by his companions,"
said Eowyn, relief evident in her voice.
They were met at the Great Gate of Minas Tirith by Aragorn's
secretary. "Welcome, Lord Legolas, Lady Eowyn, Lord Gimli,
gentlemen," he said, bowing low. "King Elessar and Eomer
King are huntinghis Majesty asked me to escort you up to
the Citadel and the King's House."
"Thank you, Master Halmant," said Legolas. "But
I am afraid we have some sad news." He explained what they
had found in the ruins of Osgiliath.
Halmant frowned. "And that is the body, there?" he
asked, pointing to the bundle lying over one of the packhorses.
Halmant turned to Eowyn. "May I express my sorrow at the
death of one of your countrymen, my lady," he said. He turned
back to Legolas. "This is a complex matter, my lord, since
the deceased lost his life within the realm of Gondor, and his
sovereign lord is currently residing here as a guest... May I
suggest that I have the body taken to the House of Healing, and
that you might then inform their Majestiestogetherof
what you have found? And they can decide between them what must
be done to find his killer."
Legolas could not help smiling at the secretary's neat solution
to the problems of protocol. "Of, course, Master Halmant,"
For several hours the hunters had pursued the boar, sometimes
closing in on it, sometimes losing its scent in the showers of
fresh snow. Five hounds had fallen to its cruel tusks. One tracker
had been lightly gored.
By mid afternoon few riders still kept pace, and Eomer, ahead
of the field, suddenly found himself facing the demon alone.
It is at its most dangerous now, he thought. Tired,
but not winded. And this is no time for hesitation. Drawing
his sword, he prepared for the kill but, before he could spur
his mount forward, the boar charged, ripping the horse's belly
from end to end. The noble beast fell without a cry. Eomer rolled
clear, and scrambled to his feethe had seen fallen men split
from groin to throat by a boar's tusks.
"Eomer! Eomer!" came Aragorn's voice, through the trees.
Help was at hand, but not close enough.
Eomer gripped his spear and watched his adversary carefullyhe
knew the signssnout low to the ground, ears flat against
the head, tusks clashing together. He raised his spear to waist
"Come on, then," he cried, "show me what you
are made of! Come! Charge!" The boar rolled its eyes and
pricked its ears, took several small steps, andThis is
it, thought Eomerit charged.
Eomer stood firm, one foot forward, leaning in towards the beast.
May the gods protect me, he thought. Now!
He strucka perfect hit, his spear sinking deep into the
beast's massive throatthen gripped the shaft under his arm
and thrust hard.
But the boar was strong. And Eomer was forced dance with it,
holding his weapon firm as the animal writhed and thrashed.
I must hold on, he thought, till either the gods give
me more strength, or help arrives.
As they wound their way up the levels of Minas Tirithpast
houses decorated with wreathes of evergreens and garlands of ribbons,
and shops filled with Yuletide gifts, and busy market stalls loaded
with baskets of cakes, and nuts, and exotic fruitsEowyn
could not help thinking how sad it was for a man to have lost
his life when the rest of Middle-earth was joyfully celebrating
the birth of the new year.
But, then, she thought, there are few good times to
die, and there is no good time to be murdered.
At the sixth level they left Banduil's body at the House of Healing.
Then they continued up the long, lamp-lit slope to the seventh
gate and emerged into the High Court. They skirted the Place of
the Fountain and the White Tree, gleaming whiter than ever under
its frosting of snow, and the dazzling Tower of Ecthelion, and
entered through the gateway of the King's House just as another
heavy snow shower began to fall.
Servants ran forward to greet them. Legolas sprang down from
his horse and lifted Eowyn from hers. "Follow me into the
house, my lords, gentlemen," cried Halmant. "The servants
will take care of the horses."
He led them swiftly, across the courtyard, through the massive
arched door, and into the great entrance hall.
"Are you all right, melmenya?" asked Legolas, as his
companions shook the snow from their clothes.
Eowyn had huddled herself against his chest, burying her face
in the crook of his neck. She nodded against his shoulder. "I
have no complaints," she whispered.
"EOMER!" called Aragorn, looking about him. He could
hear the sounds of a struggle, but could not determine its direction.
"Eomer! Where are you?"
"Here!" came Eomer's voice, from the west. "Quick!
Quick! I have it!"
Aragorn urged his horse forward, through the dense thicket, and
broke out into the small clearing where Eomerclose to exhaustionwas
still wrestling for his life.
"Gods," muttered Aragorn, seizing his bow, "that
creature is not of this world..." He nocked an arrow, drew,
and waited for a clear shot. Hold it still, he thought.
Still, Eomer, still...
Eomer, sensing Aragorn's intention, made one final effort and,
summoning all of his remaining strength, braced his legs and held
the boar steady.
"Now!" he cried.
"Elbereth gilthoniel," breathed Aragorn, and
His arrow pierced the beast's forehead, between its eyes, and
it fell to its knees. Aragorn shot again, and again. Slowly, the
animal's head drooped until its snout came to rest on the ground.
Eomer dropped his spear and stepped back from the carcass.
"There are times," he said, wiping his gauntlet across
his forehead, "when a bow cannot be beaten. But do not tell
the elf I said that."
Whilst the King's Steward showed Gimli, Haldir, and Dínendal
to their own apartments, Master Halmant led Legolas and Eowyn
to a spacious set of rooms overlooking the Queen's Garden, whichwith
its elven furnishings of swirling pale wood and richly embroidered
fabrics, and its large balcony filled with tubs of evergreen shrubs,
snowy crocuses and fragrant white hyacinthsimmediately reminded
Eowyn of home.
"The Queen hopes you will be comfortable here, my lord,
my lady," said Halmant. "She invites you to join her
in her sitting room, when you are rested from your journey."
"Thank you, Master Halmant," said Legolas. "Will
you send word to me when King Elessar returns?"
"Of course, my lord," said Halmant. Then he bowed,
and left them alone.
Eowyn was sitting in a chair before the fire whilst Legolas removed
"You sat with me," she said, suddenly. "You sang
"I did not remember," she said. "Not until I saw
the House of Healing again. It was while I was sleeping. Before
Aragorn's kingsfoil had begun to take effectbefore he ordered
me to wake and dragged me back into the world... You sang to me
about the forest. About Eryn Carantaur"
"About Mirkwood," Legolas corrected, softly.
"Why did you not remind me? Why did you keep it a secret?"
"It was not a secret, but it did not help you." He
shook his head. "You needed Aragorn. You needed the touch
of the king..."
"Legolas." She placed a hand on his shoulder. "Look
at me," she said. "Please."
He raised his head, sadly, and Eowyn thought that she had never
seen him look more beautiful. "I remember it,"
she said. "You reached me before anyone elsewhen
no one else could." She stroked his cheek. "I love you,
He rose up on his knees and wrapped her in his arms.
"You have not made love to me since Mother Night."
"I know that you are afraid you will lose control again"
"Elves do not have children by accident, melmenya. It was
She took his face in her hands. "Other elves are not married
to women," she said. "I know what they say about that,
LegolasI have heard them talking."
"I overheard some of the warriorsin the stablesbefore
we left Eryn Carantaur. You are greatly envied."
"I am sorry you had to hear that, melmenya."
"Is it true? Why did you not tell me?"
He sighed. "Yes, Eowyn nín. It is true. With
a woman things are far, far more intense." He sighed again.
"But that is not the reason, melmenya"
"I know that is not the reason you are with me!" She
hugged him tightly. "I know that you love me, Legolas."
Then she lifted her head and smiled, wickedly. "So I am the
reason it is often over in moments?"
Legolas reached up and gently pushed a strand of hair back from
her face. "Suchimpatienceis not elven. But I
am not complaining, melmenya," he said.
Eowyn laughed. Then she pressed her lips to his ear. "Show
me some impatience now, my love," she whispered. "Make
love to me."
He carried her to the bed and helped her undress, then undressed
himself and climbed up beside her. But as he reached for Eowyn,
she suddenly pounced on himpinning him to the bed with a
hand on each wrist and a knee either side of his hips.
Legolas laughed. Then his expression became serious. "Be
careful, melmenya," he began.
"I tire of being an invalid," said Eowyn. She grinned.
"I crave excitement. And danger." She shifted her hips,
began rubbing herself against his erection, and shivered. "Mmmmm...
Oh Legolas!" She leaned forward to kiss him, whispering,
"I cannot look at you without wanting you inside me."
Legolas smiled. Thenwith no warninghe reared up from
the bed, turned her onto her back, and entered her with a single,
"Oh gods!" she screamed. "Yes! Oh yes! Hard! HARD!"
Her body arched to take him deeper, then she stayed still, her
eyes closed, chanting, "Yes-yes-yes-yes!"
"Look at me, melmenya," gasped Legolas. "Open
your eyes. I want to see your eyes. I wantoh!oh sweet
Eowyn's eyes flew open and she reached for his shoulders, lifting
herself off the bed and wrapping her arms around his neck, and
she clung to him, screaming deep in her throat, as his seed filled
her body and set her limbs on fire.
The huntsmen lit a fire and began 'the unmaking'.
Servants handed Aragorn, Eomer, and the other horsemen, steaming
cups of mulled ale, and the riders sat astride their horses and
watched the men at work.
Whilst the dogs were held back on their leashes, the chief huntsman
severed the boar's head from its shouldersletting the blood
flow into a bowland removed its feet. Then the carcass was
threaded onto poles and suspended over the fire to singe off its
"It grows colder," said Eomer to Aragorn.
"Yes, there is a blizzard in those clouds. Once the dogs
have had their reward we must hurrywe do not want to be
caught on The Pelennor."
The carcass was lifted off the fire and turned onto its back.
The chief huntsman cut off its testicles, then sliced open its
belly and cut out its kidneys.
"The umbels, your Majesty," he said, presenting them
to Eomer, with a bow.
Eomer shook his head, graciously. "I fear I have not earned
them today, Master Torael," he said. "Give them to the
dogs." The huntsman bowed again.
He sliced out the boar's remaining organs and put the offal over
the fire to boil. The dogs were baying impatiently.
A few snowflakes drifted down from the sky.
Master Torael soaked several great rounds of bread in the boar's
blood and laid them on the embers to roast.
The snowfall grew heavier.
"We are not far from the forest's edge," said Aragorn
to Eomer. "And there are caves in the foot of Mount Mindolluin.
If necessary, we can shelter there until the snow passes."
Master Torael butchered the remains of the carcass and his men
packed up the joints for transport.
Then, at last, the dogs' food was ready. Torael mixed the chopped
offal with the roasted bread and threw it amongst the pack. The
handlers slipped the leashes and the entire company shouted encouragement
as the ravenous hounds made short work of their reward.
"He was a man of courage and honour," said Legolas.
"As Prince of Ithilien he served the world of men for fifty
years. Then he came to live in Eryn Carantaur, and he served our
colony for just as long. He was a wise ruler, a prudent counsellor
and a good friend. He will be sadly missed."
Legolas stooped, took a handful of earth, and threw it over the
shrouded body lying in the flower-lined grave.
"May your spirit dwell happily with your ancestors, mellon
nín," he said softly.
Then each of the mourners took his or her turn to add a handful
of earth to the graveAragorn, his hair and beard now completely
grey but his body still sprightly; Arwen, still lovely but, somehow,
older too; Alberich, the young Prince of Ithilien, his grandfather's
successor; Elfwine King, the image of his late father; Gimli,
still strong as an ox, thank the Valar; Lord Fingolfin and Lord
Caranthir, both openly grieving the loss of their human friend;
and, finally, Eowyn. She scattered her handful of earth over the
body of her first husband, then turned to Legolas and raised her
And her face was as young and as beautiful as it had been
on the very first day he had set eyes upon her...
As the riders left the shelter of the forest the snow began to
fall in earnest. A brisk wind from the north east turned the flakes
into a hail of tiny arrows that scoured the riders' exposed faces
and necks and worked their way through the tiniest gaps in their
Deep drifts were quickly trapping men, horses and dogs alike.
Aragorn made a decision. "We cannot risk exposure on the
plain. The nearest cave is only a few hundred yards distant,"
he cried. "Follow me!" He rode straight into the caveducking
beneath the low ridge of rock at its mouthfollowed by Eomer
and the other riders, their servants, the huntsmen, and the yapping
Once out of the snow, the huntsmen lit a fire near the cave mouth,
tethered and settled the dogs and tended the horses. The riders
huddled around the fire, their damp clothes steaming in the warmth.
"How long do you think it will last?" asked Eomer.
Aragorn looked out into the blizzard. "I would be surprised
if we can leave before morning," he said.
Eomer nodded. "Lothiriel will have my guts for a girdle
for staying out all night." He smiled at Aragorn, who laughed,
"You will have to make it up to her, Eomer." He turned
to his servant. "Daelvist," he said, "tell the
huntsmen to make themselves comfortablewe will be staying
here tonight. And roast the boar's head and shoulderswe
will have a proper Yuletide feast."
Legolas lay on his back, gazing up into the canopy of the bed.
Why had he started dreaming again? What did the dreams meanhe
felt sure that he had had others, though he could not remember
them. Should he tell Eowyn about them? He did not like keeping
secrets from her. But, even though he had decided he would follow
her in death, her ageing was still a difficult subject between
Unless the dream was a premonition...
No, that is foolishjust make-believe, he thought.
He rolled over and clasped Eowyn tightly in his arms.
Eowyn sighed, softly, "No more, Legolasnot just yetI
am too tired..."
Legolas smiled. "You must wake up, melmenya."
He laughed. "It is time to bathe and dress, meleth nín.
Arwen is waiting for us." He stroked her hair, playfully.
"I thought a Shieldmaiden was made of stronger stuff than
"You are an insufferable elf," she began, but she was
interrupted by someone knocking at the door.
"I will send them away, melmenya," said Legolas, patting
He slipped on his dressing robe and opened the door. "Hello,"
he said, surprised. "What brings you here?"
"Good evening, Lord Legolas. May I speak with Lady Eowyn?"
"I am afraid she is indisposed at the moment"
"No, no; I am awake now," called Eowyn. "Let her
Legolas stepped aside and gestured the young woman to enter.
"Hello, Senta," said Eowyn.
"Orin," said the chief huntsman, handing the stable
boy two wooden buckets, "the horses need more water. Go and
fetch some clean snow. We will melt it beside the fire."
Orin pulled the hood of his cloak down over his face and scrambled
outside, muttering to himself. The wind had dropped, but a heavy
shower of large flakes was still falling.
Gods, it is cold! Be carefuldo not go too far, he
thought, or you may never be seen again. At least, not until
Keeping close to the foot of the cliff, he worked his way to
a clean drift.
Keep your hands dry.
Holding the edge of one of the buckets, he carefully dipped it
into the snow and scooped. The rim scraped against something hardhard,
but not rock.
Orin peered into the hole he had made.
"Tup me!" he whispered, and ran back to the
cave, his buckets forgotten.
"I am sorry to disturb you, my lady, my lord," said
Senta. "But Florestan is so worried, and I did not know who
else to turn to." She wrung her hands together.
"Sit down," said Legolas, bringing a chair closer to
the bed. "Would you like a drink?"
Legolas poured three glasses of spiced fruit wine, handed one
to Senta and one to Eowyn. "Now," he said, "tell
us what is the matter."
Senta looked at each of them in turn. "I am to live at Edoras
now, as one of Queen Lothiriel's maids."
"To be near to Florestan," said Eowyn. She remembered
how her brother's secretary had met and fallen in love with Senta
during his stay at Dol Amroth.
"Yes. We plan to marryif Eomer King gives his permission."
"I am sure he will, Senta," said Eowyn, "Is that
"No, my lady. No. It is Florestan's sister." She shook
her head. "She has disappeared."
"Your Majesty," said Daelvist, softly, to Aragorn,
"I am sorry to disturb you, but a delicate situation has
Aragorn glanced around his companions. They were drinking ale
and sharing stories of past hunting adventures. Aragorn rose quietly
and followed Daelvist to the mouth of the cave.
"Well?" he asked.
"Master Torael sent young Orin out to fetch some snow, your
Majesty, for the horses. Tell King Elessar what you found, Orin."
The stable boy bowed low. "A dead body, your Majestydead
for some days, I think." He held out a fine leather glove
decorated with an ornate interlace border. "A woman of Rohan,