Legolas and Berkin

This scene is a slight spoiler in that it introduces Berkin before we have met him properly in the main story. You may prefer to read it after you have read Chapter 11.

Lëonórwyn is safe!

Berkin lay on his back, staring at his usual patch of ceiling, considering everything that Admant had just told him.

More than safe—she is back with her brother and under the protection of two Kings and two Princes! He smiled at the irony of it. And, if Admant has understood their discussion correctly, the King and his friends are concerned about me, too.

Berkin tried to decide how this might affect his plans—his life’s work. He was so close...

But he had not yet decided how he would use the evidence once it was in his grasp, and he had never, ever, allowed himself to wonder what would happen after he had revealed it—he had always assumed that his life would end at the moment of success.

But if the King’s friends are showing an interest in me...

Of course, Berodin might still kill him at any moment.

But what if he were to give Admant a letter to give to the dwarf? He would have to time it exactly right, but just suppose—

Berkin sat bolt upright. Someone was climbing the stairs. Not Olemi—he would know his friend’s footsteps anywhere—No, three men, two of them carrying something, the other, my uncle. What are they bringing?

Oh gods, he thought, is this it?

He looked around the room, though every detail was already branded on his memory. No way out. Nowhere to hide. No weapon.

Not that I could use a weapon if I had one.

He swung his legs off the bed and struggled to his feet. If I am going to die, he thought, it will not be lying in bed.

And he clasped his hands behind his back because his limbs were unsteady and he did not want his uncle—or those bastards, Osuald and Ricbert—to think that he was quaking with fear.



Legolas tried to make sense of the splinters of light and noise and pain that were spiralling through his body.

Eowyn nín?


Osuald and Ricbert were carrying a man.

“Move,” snarled Ricbert. “Over there.”

Berkin snarled back—prudently, at the same time, shuffling backwards—watching them dump the slender body on the floor. This was the first time one of his uncle’s other victims had been brought into his room and Berkin wondered why.

What is special about this one?

In the slow, slightly foolish manner he always adopted in his uncle’s presence, he asked, “Who is he, uncle?”

“None of your concern,” said Berodin. He motioned his two servants to leave.

“How long will he be here?” Berkin persisted. Then, “Is he dangerous?”

“Dangerous?” Berodin shook his head, but not in reply to his nephew’s question. “He will be here for as long as I wish him here,” he said, “and he is no more dangerous than you are.”


The moment his uncle had slammed the door, Berkin was on the floor, crawling on all fours towards his fellow prisoner. “Can you hear me?” he asked, softly.

The man was moaning.

Berkin leaned over him, tentatively touching his shoulder. “Are you all—oh my gods!” A glance at the delicately pointed ears confirmed it. “You are an elf,” he said. “Are you Prince Legolas? Yes, you must be...”


Melmenya? Help me…

He struggled to tell her—to make her understand. “Thirsty, melmenya. Drink...”


An elven prince, thought Berkin, a hero of the Ring War—the King’s personal friend. Is there no one Berodin dare not attack? Is there nothing he cannot get away with?

Faug,” muttered the elf. “Sog...

What was that? The boy leaned closer, turning his ear to the elf’s lips.


Elvish! “I do not understand, your Highness—are you in pain?” Carefully, Berkin examined the prisoner’s head and neck, grimacing at the bruises around his throat and the deep gash across his forehead.

“We must stop that bleeding.”

Everything in the room—Berkin’s clothes, his sheets, anything he might otherwise have torn into bandages—was filthy. “It will have to be your own shirt,” he said softly. “I will be careful...”

Sog, melmenya.”

“Yes, sogmelmenya,” replied Berkin, assuming that the sound of his own language would comfort the elf, “sogmelmenya.”

The silvery fabric of the elf’s shirt was soft but too strong for the boy’s weakened hands. He growled in frustration and, ignoring the pain in his joints, worked his thumbnail into the fibres until the silk finally gave way—and then he laughed with relief, tearing off a long strip, forming it into a pad and pressing it firmly against the elf's forehead.

Faug,” moaned the elf. “Faug...”

Faug,” repeated Berkin.


I think I am dying, melmenya.

Legolas’ throat burned with thirst and with unshed tears. I am...

No! he thought. No, melmenya! I shall not leave you without a fight! I shall not!


The elf had grown restless. Berkin was trying to hold him still, but his own ravaged body was no match for elven strength. “Please, your Highness, you will hurt yourself—”

More footsteps. But this time he recognised them, and they were most welcome. He turned towards the door, struggling to keep the elf from thrashing about. “Olemi! Come and help me...”

The servant dumped the lunch tray and crouched beside his young master.

Faug...” muttered the elf.

“He keeps saying that,” said Berkin. “And ‘sog’ and ‘melmenya’. But I do not know what he means.”

Olemi examined the wound. “There is no sign of infection—in fact the cut is already beginning to heal. But he seems hot.” Olemi slid his hand inside the elf’s shirt. “Hot and dry... I think he needs water.” He scrambled to his feet. “Can you lift him up?”

Berkin struggled manfully.

“Here.” Olemi had brought a tankard of water and a spoon from the lunch tray. “Let me hold him.”

Berkin took a spoonful of water and carefully dribbled it into the elf’s mouth, smiling when his patient swallowed it greedily. “You were right,” he said to Olemi, “thank the gods you came when you did.”

Sog,” said the elf, gratefully.

Sog,” Berkin repeated, giving him another spoonful. Then, with sudden inspiration, “Water?

“Water,” the elf agreed.


Berkin looked down at his sleeping guest.

The boy had seldom seen his own reflection, but he knew that his thick black hair was wild and shaggy, his face dirty, his teeth—the gods alone knew what state they were in—his body thin and wasted.

But now is not the time for jealousy, he thought, struggling to his feet. He hobbled over to the table, grasped one of the wooden chairs, and dragged it—as quietly as he could—into the window bay, where he turned its back to the wall, and climbed up onto the seat.

The windows were covered with wooden planking, in which Berkin had, some months earlier, bored himself a tiny spy hole. He put his eye to the hole and watched the traffic on the rath below, smiling cynically when he recognised one particular passerby. And where might you be going to, uncle, wearing my father’s best sword? To sup with your friend, the King?


The elf was still sleeping, his eyes open, but lifeless. Strange, thought Berkin. Why do they not dry out?

A sudden noise, from beyond his prison door, caught the boy’s attention.

More footsteps—Osuald on his own—trouble.

“Keep quiet,” he whispered. Then he shuffled away from the elf and, using the table, struggled to his feet, and stood, hands spread on the table top, legs braced, ready to face his uncle’s favourite thug.

The door swung open and Osuald stood in the doorway, holding a knife. “What are you doing out of bed?” he barked.

“I needed exercise,” said Berkin.

The man sneered.

“What are you doing up here?”

Osuald was too foolish to dissemble. “Your uncle wants him dealt with.” He waved his knife at the elf.

Oh gods, no! Berkin watched the man stride arrogantly across the room, taking a pride in his despicable job.


An idea occurred to him. “When did my uncle give you the order?” he asked.


When did he tell you what you had to do?

“This morning.” Osuald was reaching for the top of the elf’s head.

“Because he has changed his mind,” said Berkin.

The man grasped the elf’s hair and, raising his head, got ready to slit his slender, white throat.

I said,” yelled Berkin, taking a few wild steps, “that my uncle has changed his mind.” He caught Osuald by the shoulder.

The man dropped the elf’s head with a thud and turned on the boy, brandishing his knife. “What are you talking about?”

“I heard him tell the elf, this afternoon, that he had decided to keep him alive—to get a ransom for him. He is a Prince, one of the King’s closest friends, and my uncle can get a fortune for him—but not if you kill him.”

Bollocks...” The man’s eyes narrowed. “You are talking bollocks.”

Berkin played his trump card. “Ask my uncle if you do not believe me—go on—go and ask him—ask him now. Then come back and thank me for saving your skin.”

Osuald stared at the boy for a long moment. Then he sheathed his knife. “I cannot ask him until morning,” he said. “But if he tells me that you were lying to me, I’ll come back and I’ll cut your prick off.” He spat on the elf. “It would have put me off my beer anyway.”

Berkin waited until the thug had closed the door, then sank down beside the elf. “So, your Highness,” he said, carefully wiping the spittle from his face and hair, “you will at least live until tomorrow. And then...

“Well, let us hope I can think of something else tomorrow.”




Contents page

Contents page

Back to Chapter 10

Chapter 10

Prequel: My body may be weak
Berkin takes a few matters into his own hands.

Extra scene

Prequel: The Wedding
Berkin marries Lëonórwyn.

Extra scene

Faug … ‘thirsty’
Sog … ‘drink’


Bollocks … If you are not British, you may not know this very versatile word. Literally, it means ‘testicles’. The way Osuald uses it,

“Bollocks…” The man’s eyes narrowed. “You are talking bollocks.”

the first time it means something like ‘damn’—in the sense of, ‘Damn, I was looking forward to that’—and the second time, ‘nonsense’—‘You are talking nonsense’.