Legolas in Esgaroth

“Wait here, Valandil,” said Legolas. “I do not expect to be long.” He climbed nimbly from the small boat and paused on the wharf to get his bearings.

The house he sought was in the north eastern corner of Esgaroth. He set off down the winding, wooden street, prudently keeping to the shadows, avoiding the aggressive drunkards who seemed to own the place at this time of night.

He had passed two taverns—noisy, brightly lit, and enveloped in a haze of liquor fumes—and a rundown peep show, before he found the bawdy house with its tell-tale red lanterns—his mission already stirring memories of visits to a similar house, elsewhere, and kindling the strangest sensation in his loins.

It is the recollection of desire, he thought, but not desire itself.

He knocked at the door.


Before the Ring war he had visited Esgaroth at least twice a year, coming personally to select fine wines for his father’s cellar—and for his own—from a woman merchant in the docklands. She was a widow—plump, silver-haired, and full of life—and she regarded him with unashamed admiration!

He had always looked forward to their meetings: the mild flirtation; the sharing of food and wine and stories; the fascination of seeing her grow older—and, he thought, more beautiful—as the years passed by.


The door opened. A young maidservant bade him enter, showing him into the parlour where her mistress—Madam Mab—greeted him with enthusiasm. “Come in, sir, and welcome! Do sit down and take a glass of wine with me—Almiel,” she shouted over her shoulder, “fetch the young gentleman a goblet of sack—we’re always pleased to see the fair folk here, sir.”

Yes, thought Legolas, because, compared to men, we are insatiable—and we pay accordingly.

“What are you looking for, sir?”

Legolas glanced around the room. It was divided across the centre by two heavy velvet curtains—scarlet, edged with a deep golden fringe—drawn back to provide a tasteful frame to the scene beyond. But the elf was unimpressed by the five or six young women reclining, entwined like lovers, on the ornate, gilded day bed.

“I am not here to—”

He broke off, mid sentence.

It cannot be!


On his last visit, they had spoken of life and death.

The wineseller had envied his eternal youth; he had envied her mortality.

We call it the gift of the Valar, he had said. It is both a gift and a blessing, for this world is a vale of tears and, one day, you will be at rest.

He had waved to her as his raft pulled away.


The illusion lasted for no more than a moment.

The girl, Almiel, had emerged from behind the curtain carrying a goblet of wine and—just for a moment, with her golden hair rippling down to her slender waist, her graceful figure, and her lightly muscled arms, left bare by her chemise and corset—she had looked like her.

Just for a moment.

But that moment had been enough to awaken his desire—with a vengeance. Legolas closed his eyes and breathed deeply.

“I came here bearing a message for a friend,” he said, his voice sounding surprisingly calm. “But now I find...” He swallowed hard. He could not bed the golden-haired girl, Almiel. It would have to be one of the others. “Dark hair,” he said, softly. “I am looking for dark hair, dark skin, brown eyes.”

“Of course, sir—Aedith, take the gentleman upstairs. Are you sure that one will suffice, sir?”

“Yes, madam. Thank you.” He rose to follow the girl. “If my friend should finish whilst I...”

“I will bid him wait for you, sir.”

“Thank you.”


The wineseller had died a few days later.

Her nephew had sent word to Thranduil’s Halls, but Legolas had already left for Imladris and did not receive the letter until long after the Ring War.

She will miss your friendship in the next world, the nephew had written. Your words were a great comfort to her at the end.

He had been a callous fool, Legolas realised now, never thinking of the pain his unchanging face must be inflicting on a mortal woman—his friend—When she was clinging to her short life with such determination, he thought.

How could I put her through such torment?


The room was small and unexpectedly plain, but clean. Legolas unlaced his leggings with a sigh of relief, and sat down on the bed.

“What would you like me to do, sir?” asked the girl.

Legolas tried not to look at her. “I...” He held out his hands. “Come here.”

She knelt before him, pulling aside his tunic. “Oh, sir, you are a horse!” She wrapped her mouth around him.

It had been a long time. Not since Lorien, thought Legolas, leaning back on his hands, his back arching. Not since the two ellith at the bathing pool. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the sensation. It was pleasant—her tongue rough on his sensitive flesh, its caress reaching deep into his body...

But she was never going to make him come. Where is the love?

Stop,” he gasped, catching the girl’s head in his hands. “Stop, child.”


I am hers, he thought, in body as well as spirit.


Singollo was waiting in the parlour. “What is it, Lassui?”

“My father requires your return, immediately,” said Legolas.

“Of course.”

They paid Madam Mab, left a gratuity for the girls, and hurried back to the dock, where Valandil and the others awaited them.

Legolas glanced along the wharf. “You go on,” he said. “I will make my own way back.”

Singollo frowned. “Surely it is not the girl, mellon nín?” he asked, quietly, “Not after what you told me last night...”

Legolas smiled. “No, Collo, it is not the girl. I need to talk to a wineseller, that is all, so I may as well stay here until morning. I will cross the lake by ferry and walk back through the Forest.”

Singollo placed his hand upon his heart and bowed his head. “Take care, Lassui. Le cenithon ned lû thent,” he said.


Legolas sat on the wooden quay, legs dangling over the water, watching his friends disappear into the mouth of the Forest River.

Would I choose mortality for her sake?

Of course I would, were it possible. Would my love be love, otherwise?


“Good morning, your Highness!” The winesellers nephew bowed, formally; then he took out his keys, unlocked the warehouse door and swung it open. “ It’s been a few years! Are you looking for something in particular?”

Legolas hesitated. He had not thought of buying wine. “Something that will travel well,” he said. “To Caras Arnen on horseback. A single bottle—it is a gift.”

The nephew scratched his head. “For a lady?”

Legolas was taken aback. “Yes—since you ask.”

“It is just that ladies generally prefer a sweeter, lighter wine, your Highness. Let me see...” He led the elf past rows of carefully labelled barrels, and crates of glass bottles, and between shelves of stone jars, to the back of his storeroom. “I’d suggest this one, sir—it’s young but smooth—light, fruity, with just a hint of clover. Comes all the way from The Shire. Would you like to try it?”

Legolas shook his head. “I always trusted your aunt’s judgement, Master Wineseller,” he said, “and now I will trust yours. Will you pack it for me?”

“Of course, your Highness.” The man called to his apprentice, “Fetch a bottle-box and some straw, lad.”

“I wanted...” Legolas began, “that is...” He was unsure of the correct words. “I wanted to offer my...” No. He began again. “I will miss your aunt,” he said, simply. “I am sorry you have lost her.”

“Thank you, your Highness. But it was some time ago now.”

“Yes—I am sorry—I was away—I did not hear of her death until a few days ago—”

The nephew smiled, shaking his head in apology. “I just meant, sir, that time has healed the wound.”

“How?” asked Legolas.

“Your Highness?”

“How does it happen? The healing? Is it sudden? Or slow? Does it leave a scar? Are there some wounds that never heal?”

The nephew looked at him intently. “You have lost someone, sir? Was it during the war?”

“I,” said Legolas, quietly, “I have made more mortal friends, Master Wineseller. Many mortal friends...”

The nephew nodded, sympathetically. “There is no telling, your Highness,” he said, gently. “Sometimes the healing is swift; sometimes the pain lingers. But there is only one medicine, and that is to get on with your life as best you can, and make the very most of what is left to you. Yes, there are scars—always scars. But, if you are fortunate, sir, they will be the sort that you are proud bear—fond memories of the ones you have lost.”


Legolas paid the ferryman and set off at a steady pace, following the northern bank of the Forest River.

She is unhappy—I know she is—but what can I offer her? For me there will be loss whatever happens—perhaps I will fade; perhaps I will sail. But, for her, there would be...


The torment of growing old amongst immortals.


Two months later

“Prince Faramir and Master Berengar are inspecting the Ranger outpost at Parth Forod, your Highness,” said the steward. “They will not be back until late.”

“And Princess Eowyn?”

“She is in her garden, your Highness.”

“Thank you, Master Godart. I know the way.”

Legolas walked swiftly through the empty palace, to the garden which he, with Gimli and Eowyn’s help, had created—breaking through the stone paving, freeing the good Ithilien earth beneath, and transplanting trees, planting seedlings, and sowing seeds...

He found Eowyn asleep, curled up on a wooden bench, beneath one of his favourite cherry trees. He crouched beside her. “My lady?”

She stirred, opened her eyes, and—for a moment—stared at him in charming confusion. Then, “Prince Legolas,”—she always seemed to address him formally these days—“Prince Legolas,” she sighed, “I fell asleep.” There were tear marks on her cheeks.

“Shall I fetch a servant to carry you indoors, my lady?” asked Legolas, gently.

“No, Master Elf!” she said, suddenly the feisty Shieldmaiden he knew of old.“I am quite capable of walking! In fact, I shall walk around the garden with you.”

“Will you permit me, then?” He offered his arm.

She looked up into his eyes, trying, he felt, to judge his intentions, before she accepted his help—she had clearly not forgotten his behaviour outside the Golden Hall. “I trust you found your father well?” she asked.

“He is an elf, my lady,” replied Legolas. “And elves do not suffer illness.”

“Of course not. How strange that is!”

As she said it, he noticed that she was walking with a limp. “My lady? Are you ill?”

“Ill? Oh, no. No, it is just a cramp.” She smiled. “I am not as young as I used to be—

“Dear gods, Legolas, what is wrong?”

Do not leave me.”


Within the hour he was on the road, galloping back towards Eryn Carantaur, having made some incoherent excuse to explain his change of plan.

Had he stayed with her one moment longer—gazing into those tear-filled eyes, hearing her gentle reassurance that no one amongst his mortal friends would leave him, were they given the choice—just one moment longer, and he would have taken her in his arms, and then...

And then, who knew where it might have led?


Here,” he gasped, hunched over Eowyn, his forehead pressed against the cool marble folds of the statue’s robes.

He could say no more until his crisis had passed. And then, with a deep, contented sigh, he whispered, “It would still have led here, melmenya. But so much sooner.”




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Chapter 4

Illustration by Tolkien.


The wineseller of Esgaroth
Part of this piece was inspired by two wonderful short stories by Regina, The Finest of Vintages and The Last of the Summer Wine.


Le cenithon ned lû thent … ‘I will see you in a short time’.