"My lord," said the messenger, bowing to Legolas, "a dispatch from Eryn Lasgalen."

Legolas thanked the elf. "There will be a reply," he said, "but it will take me a while to work through all this. I will arrange accommodation for you."

It took him almost an hour to find the messenger a place to stay in the crowded city and by the time he returned to the apartment, most of the guests had gone, and the servants were clearing away the remains of breakfast. He placed the dispatch bag on the desk and glanced over at Eowyn. Someone—he noticed with a pang of jealousy—had carried her from the table to the bed and now Gimli was sitting beside her, talking and no doubt explaining away his adventure with Esmarë.

"My lord? Can I have a word?"

Legolas turned towards the quiet voice.

"I do not believe you have ever called me that before, March Warden," said Legolas, softly. "Do you want to go out onto the balcony?"

Haldir glanced towards Eowyn. "Yes, that would be more comfortable," he said.

The two elves walked silently past the bed, unnoticed by either the woman or the dwarf, and out through the elegant stained-glass doors.

"Well?" said Legolas.

Haldir took a deep breath. "I want to apologise, my lord."

"There is that word again," said Legolas.

"I should not have behaved as I did, threatening you. If you want me to resign my position, or to leave Eryn Carantaur..."

Legolas leaned over the low wall of the balcony and gazed into the Queen's garden. "That will not be necessary, Haldir. Though I admit that part of me was disappointed that you would think me capable of betraying Eowyn—and ruining the life of a young boy—in truth I knew exactly how you were going to react. I needed to deceive the brothel keeper and your anger made my actions all the more convincing."

He turned to face the other elf. "I know what it is like to love her when she belongs to another. And I am sorry that you suffer. But my concern is for her. Never let your feelings cause her pain, Haldir." The March Warden began to protest but Legolas held up his hand. "I assume that if anything were to happen to me, Eowyn would have a protector?"

"Of course, my—"

"I am not your lord, Haldir," Legolas interrupted. "I like to think that we are friends. So please do not ever call me that again. It really does not sound well on your lips."


After seeing Haldir and Gimli to the door, Legolas returned to find Eowyn perching on the edge of the bed, tentatively stretching a foot towards the floor...

"No, melmenya!" he cried, running to her. "Whatever you want, I will fetch for you."

"I want to walk! I feel that am trapped here, in this room, whilst everyone else in Middle-earth is out having adventures."

Legolas laughed. "I have just received a pile of documents from my father," he said, "all of which must be read, and some revised, and others commented upon—so I will also be trapped in here, with you, for some time."

"But it is Yuletide..."

"Which is precisely why my father has sent them." Legolas grinned. "He does not want me to forget my responsibilities as a 'Crown Prince' so, at Yuletide, he sends me some light reading."

"Can I help?" she asked.

"Do you really want to?"

"Yes, of course I do."

Legolas smiled. "Let me sort through them first, Eowyn nín," he said, gesturing towards the dispatch bag on the desk. "Some of them only require a signature. I will take you to visit Arwen for a few hours, and when you come back I will have a pile of documents for you to enjoy."

"Legolas," said Eowyn, softly, "I am not sure I am comfortable visiting Arwen alone."

"Why not, melmenya?" He sat on the bed beside her.

"She was your mistress."

"Oh, meleth nín!" He hugged her. "That was over hun—" He stopped himself. "It was over years ago. I hardly remember it. I doubt that Arwen remembers it."

Eowyn looked at him, suspiciously. "I thought that elves had exceptional memories. Besides..."

Legolas kissed the top of her head. "Besides what, Eowyn nín?"

"If you do not remember it, how do you know that I am the better lover?"

Legolas laughed. Then he pushed her over on the bed, and kissed her tenderly. "I have chosen to be with you, melmenya," he whispered, "and you have chosen to be with me. Forever. The past makes us who we are, but it is the past. So—will you let me take you to see Arwen?"

Eowyn nodded. "Yes," she said. "But I will need my boots, and my cloak, for we may want to walk in the garden."

"Oh no, melmenya, you are not walking. And Arwen is certainly not carrying you!"

"One of the twins could carry me."

Legolas sighed. "Do you really want to go outside so much? Very well, I will fetch your boots and cloak. Wait there."

He walked over to her clothes chest and opened the lid, and he did not see Eowyn quickly pull something out from under her pillow and hide it down her bodice.


After leaving Legolas and Eowyn, Gimli returned to his apartment to prepare for his mission.

He took a long, relaxing bath, combed, perfumed and re-braided his hair and beard, then searched through his clothes chest and carefully selected a tunic of deep blue velvet—well made but not showy—matching breeches, and a dark red cloak.

He studied himself in the mirror. Perfect, he thought, a dwarf of some means—generous but not ostentatious; a talkative fellow, who enjoys company.

"Can we go down into the city?" Eowyn asked, as soon as Legolas had left.

Arwen smiled. "Why?"

"I want to buy Legolas a Yuletide gift. When we arrived I saw a shop on the fifth level that sells cloth from all over Middle-earth. I want to have something made for him." She took a strip of fabric from inside her bodice. "Something beautiful, like this. You know how much pride he takes in his appearance."

"Yes," said Arwen. "But are you sure you want to encourage his vanity?"

"He is not vain."

Arwen thought it best not to contradict. "How would you get down there?"

"I was hoping that your brothers might take me."

Arwen smiled conspiratorially. "I will send for them," she said.


Legolas picked up the leather dispatch bag, broke the seal, unfastened the buckles, and had just started to pull out the papers when someone in a hurry knocked loudly at the door.

"Come in," he called.

The door flew open.

"Eomer," said Legolas. "Come in. Sit down. How can I help—"

"I have had to wait two days to get you alone," cried Eomer. "What possessed you to take her on an orc hunt? She could have been killed—ripped from throat to belly, like Theodred. She could have been raped—left permanently crippled, or mad, or pregnant—"

"I know."

"She could have been taken off to their den and used as a—"

"I know!" cried Legolas. "Do you think I wanted to take her?" He took a deep breath and calmed himself. "Please, Eomer, sit down. I had planned to leave her at Eryn Carantaur—I was terrified that something would happen to her—but she persuaded me—"

"The way she was persuading you last night, outside the Banqueting Hall, no doubt."

Legolas gave him a dark look. "I hope you did not stay to watch," he said softly.

"I did not need to watch," said Eomer. "Her commentary was perfectly explicit and could be heard all the way to my apartment."

"Eomer!" cried Legolas.

"You are a bad influence on her—"

"Will you sit down!" Legolas pushed the irate king into a chair. "Good. Now—" he said, "listen to me! I took her on the raid because her determination—her refusal to give in—broke me. I could not leave her behind. She threatened to follow us by herself."

"You should have locked her up."

"She would have escaped, Eomer," he said. "You know how resourceful she is." He suddenly smiled, fondly. "There is no one like her! She is unique."

He poured two glasses of spiced wine. "Here," he said, handing one to the king. "I know that you have always felt responsible for her—though, in truth, she is stronger than any of us—but you cannot keep her wrapped in swansdown. Eowyn has the spirit of a warrior and—however much you might want to protect her—if you keep her caged you will destroy her. So, no—though it terrifies me—I am not going to try to stop her training, I am not going to try to stop her fighting, and I am not going to try to stop her going on orc raids. I am going to let her be herself—"

He was interrupted by another knock. He set down his wine, and went to open the door.

"Ah, Mistress Hereswið," he said, "come in."

The woman entered carrying a large, flat parcel, but when she saw Eomer, she stopped. "I am sorry, my lord," she said, "I am interrupting you. Shall I come back later?"

"Certainly not, mistress," said Legolas, "I am anxious to see your work."

The woman smiled and laid her parcel on the bed. Legolas opened it, unfolded its contents and examined them carefully. Then he held them up for his brother-in-law to see.

"What do you think, Eomer?"

Eomer searched for the correct response. "It is blue," he said. Legolas' face told him that he had failed. "Fine," he corrected. "It is a very fine gown indeed. Blue."

Legolas shook his head. "It is perfect, Mistress Hereswið," he said. "The cut of the bodice and the beading around the neckline..." He ran his fingers over the embroidered icicles. "And the sleeves..." He examined the beaded white lace. "The sleeves remind me of frost on a pane of glass!"

"And am so pleased that you like it, my lord—and the head-dress was made by the Queen's own jeweller." The woman held up an intricate silver coronet decorated with trailing strings of blue and ice-coloured beads.

"She will look wonderful, mistress," said Legolas. He carefully laid the gown on the bed and fetched his money pouch from the desk. "Five hundred gold pieces, I believe?"

Eomer choked on his wine.

Legolas counted out the money and handed it to the dressmaker. "Thank you Mistress Hereswið. I shall be sure to recommend you to my friends."

The woman bowed, and left.

Eomer shook his head. "I do not understand you," he said.

"Why?" asked Legolas, carefully folding the gown.

"One moment you act like a Uruk Hai beserker, the next you act like a girl."

Legolas turned and stared. "A girl?"

"All this." Eomer waved his hand at the gown. "Lace and ribbons."

"This is for Eowyn," said Legolas.

"Choosing her clothes, dressing her up like a doll. It is not manly."

"I am not a man," said Legolas.

Gimli left the Citadel and sauntered down into the city. I will take my time, and get myself into the right frame of mind, he thought.

He meandered along the raths, window-shopping and greeting passers-by with a cheery wave or a sweeping bow. He sampled hot chestnuts from a street seller in Rath Bein, and rosy red apples from a buxom country girl with a stall beside the fifth gate, and he bought a shining silk scarf for Esmarë from a small shop on Rath Amrûn.

Then, as he approached Berodin's house, he noticed a youngish man emerging from the alleyway beside it. Hello, he thought, could that be the servant, Olemi, on his way to the Golden Goose?

"Good afternoon," he said, loudly.

The man turned towards him in surprise.

"And what a wonderful afternoon it is," Gimli continued. "Clear and dry with an invigorating chill in the air."


Gimli fell into step beside the man. "I am Norin, son of Oin, visiting Minas Tirith for the Yuletide holiday," he said. "Ah, I see we are going the same way, Master—er?"

"I am in a hurry, I am afraid," said the man.

"So am I, my friend," said Gimli, walking faster. "There is a young lady in the Golden Goose I am anxious to see again." He winked. "Do you know the establishment?"

The man's shoulders sagged visibly. "I am going there now," he said.

"Good!" cried Gimli. "Then let me buy you a drink."

Legolas sighed. I am an elf, he thought, and we are different from men.

But if Eowyn's brother thought him effeminate, then no doubt other men would, too. Eowyn's ancestors...

And what of Eowyn herself?

No. She loves me.

He opened the dispatch bag and pulled out the pile of papers. Lying on top was a letter from his father. He broke the seal and read its contents. Then he walked out onto the balcony, climbed up onto the balcony wall, and sat gazing down into the Queen's garden.


"There is the shop, March Warden," said Eowyn, with some relief.

Elladan and Elrohir had been in conference with Aragorn and had sent a substitute, and neither Haldir nor Eowyn had dared admit—either to Arwen or to the other—that the situation made them both acutely uncomfortable. So Haldir had carried Eowyn out to the stables, and lifted her onto her horse, and they had made their way down to Rath Bein.

The shop was on the main thoroughfare, a double-fronted building with an elegant arched doorway flanked by stone porticoes filled with tables piled with bales of cloth. Haldir dismounted, tied both horses to the tethering post, then lifted Eowyn down from her saddle and carried her into the shop.

"My lady," said the owner, bowing deeply, "welcome! Please sit here." He gestured to one of his assistants who came forward with a chair and set it down beside the elaborate wooden counter.

Haldir carefully lowered Eowyn onto the seat, then said, "I will wait outside, with the horses, my lady."

Eowyn nodded.

"How can I help you, my lady?" asked the owner.

Eowyn showed him the sash she had stolen from Legolas' clothes chest. "I am afraid I have left it quite late, Master Osric, but can you make me one of these and have it delivered to the King's House by this evening?"

Osric took the sash from her hands and examined it carefully. "Exquisite work, my lady. Elven?"


"Exquisite," he said, turning it over in his hands. "Yes, I am sure we can help you. And," he added, "I think that the gentleman will be pleasantly surprised by the level of our craftsmanship. What fabric did you have in mind, my lady?"

"Something... beautiful," said Eowyn. "Very beautiful."

Osric smiled. "This would, I take it, be a gift for Prince Legolas?"


"Then might I make some suggestions? The Prince's colouring..."


"Two tankards of your best ale, Master Silrim," said Gimli, cheerfully.

"Coming right up, Master—er—Norin," said the brothel keeper. "And I see you have already met Admant," he added, "one of our best customers." He winked.

Admant, thought Gimli. Well, well!

He turned to the man. "A regular, my friend? I cannot say I blame you. Come—let us sit by the fire whilst you drink your ale." He pushed his companion towards a wooden settle. "Sit down. There, that is better. What do you do, Admant?"

The servant looked at him nervously. "I—er—I work in one of the big houses on Rath Amrûn."

"Really?" said Gimli. "A secretary?"

"A footman."

"You must see all of life's rich pageant working for one of the city's important families—powerful men, beautiful young women. Have you ever met the King? Or," he raised his eyebrows, "the Queen?"

"No, sir," said Admant. Then he added, by way of apology, "My master does not entertain much. His nephew—" He stopped short.

Gimli waited.

"Lord Berodin does not entertain much," Admant repeated.

"His wife must find that very dull," said Gimli.

"Lord Berodin is a widower."

"Ah," said Gimli. "That is sad. But he has a nephew living with him, you say?"

"Yes, sir." Admant fiddled with the handle of his tankard.

"Well, that is a blessing. At least he has company. And the lad is fortunate to have such a caring uncle."

The man bit his lip and pushed his empty tankard towards the centre of the table.

Gimli considered probing further, but decided against it. Better to win his trust first, he thought.

"I live in Rohan," he said. "But I have friends here in Minas Tirith and in Ithilien. Now, would you like another drink, Admant, or is the young lady waiting?"


Eowyn was in high spirits as she and Haldir left the shop.

"In the end I could not decide between the two," she said, "so I am having both made up and—Oh Haldir," she whispered, "Haldir! Stop! Stop here!"

"My lady?"

"Shhhh! He must not see us."

Haldir ducked behind one of the pillars of the portico.

"By the gods," said Eowyn. "The man in the embroidered surcoat—do you see him? Over by the water pump—"

"In the riding coat? Yes, my lady. It looks like..." Suddenly, he understood what she had seen. "It looks like the coat your brother often wears—though less fine."

The man turned into an alleyway running off the main Rath.

"We must follow him."

"We will have to go on foot, my lady," said Haldir, walking swiftly to where the man had disappeared. "The alley is busy but horses would be too obvious."

"Whereas an elf carrying a woman will not," said Eowyn as they threaded their way through the crowds, ducking under washing lines and skirting chickens foraging for scraps in the dirty snow. People were staring at them.

"I should have left you at the shop, my lady, and come alone—"

"No," said Eowyn, firmly. Then she added, "At least you are not wearing your armour."

"What is wrong with my armour?"

"It is very—er—bright," she replied. "You should wear something that blends in with your surroundings."

"Like a green suede jerkin?"

"Something like that, yes. Look! There he is."

"I see him."

As they watched, the man glanced furtively behind him before disappearing through a shabby door.

"Shall I follow him, my lady?" asked Haldir.

"No," said Eowyn. "If I had the use of my feet it would be a different matter but, as it is, we must get back to Legolas."


After exactly an hour, Admant returned downstairs.

Gimli was entertaining the Golden Goose's elderly customers with a tales of Rohan. "Admant," he cried, breaking off from a detailed account of Eomer's heroic charge at the Battle of Helm's Deep, "come and join us, and drink another tankard."

Admant hesitated, looking behind him; Esmarë was coming downstairs. He blushed. "I—er—I need to get back to work..."

Gimli shook his head. "Surely one tankard would not hurt, lad—"

"Norin!" cried Esmarë, running downstairs, past Admant, and throwing her arms around the dwarf's neck. She sat on his lap. "I knew you would come back!" she said.

"Of course, my dear," said Gimli, smiling. "I have a Yuletide gift for you." He handed her a small package wrapped in plain blue cloth. Esmarë pulled it open, and a long, shimmering length of silver silk spilled into her hands.

"Oh Norin," she cried, jumping to her feet and pirouetting with it like a dancer. "It is beautiful. Thank you." She bent and kissed his forehead.

"You are in good spirits tonight, lass," said Gimli. "Will you join Admant and me for a drink?"

"Admant does not usually like to stay, afterwards," said Esmarë.

"Surely one tankard would not hurt."

The man still hesitated, torn between fear of offending the dwarf and acute embarrassment at having to socialise with the woman he had just spent an hour with.

How do I put him at his ease, Gimli wondered. I need to talk to him. And to Esmarë too…

"Perhaps Admant is right," said Gimli to Esmarë. "It is almost time to eat, so I must be getting back. But I will come and see you again tomorrow, lass, without fail." He squeezed her hand.

"Let me walk back with you, Admant."


"Legolas!" cried Eowyn as the March Warden carried her through the door. "Legolas, where are you?" She glanced at the desk—at the pile of papers lying there, apparently untouched—then looked out through the balcony doors. "Oh!" she gasped.

At first she thought it was the sea longing, for he was sitting motionless on the balcony wall, staring into space, and Haldir must have thought so, too, because he carried her straight out onto the balcony.

"My love?" she called, anxiously, "Legolas?"

To her relief—in a single graceful movement that was uniquely elven—Legolas turned, swung his legs over the balcony wall, dropped to the floor, and swept her out of Haldir's arms.

"Melmenya," he whispered, hugging her close.

Eowyn felt—rather than saw—Haldir retreat from the balcony and quietly leave the apartment.

"What is wrong, my darling?" she asked.

"I have had a letter from my father—when will we know, melmenya?"


"About the baby."

"Soon," said Eowyn, "two days, perhaps three. Why?"

"Is it always on time?"

"No," she admitted, "during the Ring war it stopped for almost six months. The healer said that lots of women were finding the same—that it was due to the uncertainty of the times."

"So if it does not start, we will still not know for sure."


"Our child would be illegitimate," said Legolas.

"I do not understand."

He carried her back through the stained glass doors, laid her carefully on the bed, and sat down beside her. "My father has consulted Lords Galdor and Nevlondeion—both experts on elven law and custom," he explained. "And they agree."

"Agree what?" asked Eowyn.

"That we are not married, melmenya. That the Harvest Ceremony was merely symbolic and that the private vows we took before Eärendil cannot unite an elf with a woman—I am sorry, melmenya."

Eowyn thought for a moment. "Do we care?" she asked. "If Aragorn had not dissolved my marriage, I would have stayed with you anyway."

"But, the child—"

"May not exist. But if he—or she—does, he will be adored—loved and cherished by his parents, by his Uncle Gimli, by Haldir and Dínendal, by Lords Fingolfin and Caranthir, and by all the citizens of Eryn Carantaur. No child could be more fortunate."

Legolas smiled, sadly. "We will love him, melmenya, and so will our friends. But, for most elves, an illegitimate child will always be shameful, something to be hidden. Elves do not have children by accident. We do not have them outside marriage. And when you and I die, melmenya, our child's life will be unbearable.

"Perhaps for eternity..."

"Oh, Legolas, no!" Eowyn hugged him tightly. "Can we not..." A thought occurred to her. "How does your father know about the baby?"

"He does not."

"So it is me that he is objecting to."

"No, melmenya, he is not objecting. He is just concerned—"

"Legolas!" she chided, "Do not lie to me! His letter has turned you back into an elfling! What does he say? Read it to me!"

Legolas hesitated, clearly trying to think of an excuse.

"Is it really that bad?"


"Then read it to me," she said.




Contents page

Contents page

Previous chapter: In the Whorehouse
Fidelin tells his story.

Chapter 5

Next chapter: Little Leafy
Legolas receives a letter from his father.

Chapter 7

Extra scene: Will he miss it?
A drabble.

Extra scene

Extra scene: The Yuletide gift
A talk with Arwen and a visit to Rath Bein.

Extra scene