legolas and eowyn

"Hold on, melmenya," cried Legolas as Brightstar thundered up the broad stone steps and plunged through the Elvenking's gates, "we are almost there, Eowyn nín! Breathe for me, my darling…" Two guards ran forward to meet him. "Take her from me, Elerossë—be careful—support her head!" He dropped to the ground. "Now, give her back to me…"

Cradling Eowyn in his arms, Legolas ran towards the healing room.

Moments later, Gimli and Haldir burst through the gates.

"I shall fetch Master Dínendal," shouted Gimli as he rolled from Arod's back. "He will know what to do, lad," he called after Legolas, "do not worry!"

Haldir dismounted quickly. "Let me pass; please," he said, pushing his way through the chaos. Then, clutching the jar of salve to his chest, he hurried down the main thoroughfare towards King Thranduil's study.


"Hold on, melmenya," said Legolas, carefully laying Eowyn on one of the healing room beds. He took her hand. "Stay with me!"


Gimli pounded on Dínendal's door. "Master Healer!" he cried, through the wood, "you have an urgent case of poisoning to deal with. Come! Please hurry!"


"Your Majesty—"

"What has happened?" asked Thranduil.

"A terrible accident, your Majesty," said Haldir, bowing. He held up the jar. "Lady Eowyn obtained the salve, but has been poisoned by it—"


"Yes, your Majesty. Prince Legolas has taken her straight to the healing room. He asked me to show you this—to prove that she completed her task successfully—then to take it to the healer as quickly as possible, in case he needs to examine it."

"Of course," said Thranduil. "I shall come with you."


"Tell me exactly what happened," said Dínendal.

"It was so fast," said Legolas. "Some of the salve dripped onto her wrist"—he was still holding Eowyn's hand and he lifted it for the healer to see—"no more than a few tiny drops, but she told me that it was poisonous to mortals—and then she fell into this—this swoon—almost immediately."

Dínendal examined the woman's wrist. There were none of the tell-tale signs of poisoning, no discoloration, no raised welts. "Did she say anything more about the poison?" he asked.

"Dead-wood mushroom," said Legolas. "She said it was dead-wood mushroom."

"I see... In that case, I will need to speak to your father's healer," said Dínendal, "and to the elleth who made the salve."

"I sent Singollo to fetch her," said Legolas. "She should be here in—I am not sure—three, four hours? Will that be soon enough?"

Dínendal did not reply immediately. He lifted Eowyn's other hand and carefully measured her pulse. Then he said, "Do you have any more of the salve?"

"Yes, Haldir is bringing it."



Singollo ran up the spiralling staircase, along the walkway to the familiar door, and rapped on the wood.

"Serindë!" he cried, "Serindë, open up!"

The elleth opened the door a tiny crack. "What is it, Collo?" she asked. "I no longer entertain gentlemen callers."

"This is no time for games, Serindë," said Singollo pushing the door back. "Lady Eowyn has been poisoned by the stuff you gave her. Get dressed—we need you to come to King Thranduil's Halls and help the healer revive her."

"The foolish adaneth," said the elleth, softly, "I told her not to use it on herself—"

"She did not use it," said Singollo, impatiently. "It spilled. You had not sealed the jar properly. Come on, get dressed; we must hurry."

Serindë looked him in the eye. "This is nothing to do with me, Collo," she said. "I gave her the proper warning. I am going nowhere."

"Prince Legolas begs you," said Singollo, quietly.

"Then he should have come himself," said Serindë. "And begged. He is so beautiful when he begs."

"Look, you whore," said Singollo, grasping her arms, "I have never understood what Lassui saw in you—never—no one is that good in bed—and I will not think twice about using force! So you will come with me, now, or I will knock you out and take you there strapped to my saddle."

"Just you try it! Help!" screamed Serindë. "Ra—"

But Singollo had already clamped his hand over her mouth. "No one would believe you, anyway, Serindë," he said.


"Your Majesty." Dínendal bowed briefly to Thranduil then turned to Haldir. "Do you have the salve, March Warden?"

"Here," said Haldir, handing him the jar. "Will it help her? Is she...?"

"She is very weak," said Dínendal, gently. He pulled out the stopper and sniffed the jar's contents. "Lady Eowyn was right—dead-wood mushroom; once smelled never forgotten." He sat down beside Eowyn, dipped his forefinger into the jar and examined the substance on his fingertip. "Desperate circumstances," he said, placing the jar on the side table, "call for desperate measures. I am sorry, my lady." He lifted Eowyn's hand—

"Stop!" cried Legolas, and Haldir rushed forward. But Thranduil had already caught the healer by the arm.

"Please, your Majesty, Lord Legolas," said Dínendal, "she is too weak to fight it. We no longer have a choice. We must let the dead-wood mushroom complete its work."

"Which is?" asked Thranduil.

"Lady Eowyn, being mortal, must pass through death."

Legolas fell across Eowyn's body.

"Are you mad?" asked Thranduil, hoarsely.

"This will buy us some time, your Majesty," said Dínendal, softly.

"Let him do it, Ada," sobbed Legolas. "I trust him."

Thranduil released Dínendal, and the healer rubbed the salve into the woman's wrist.


"Gimli," said Haldir, his voice catching in his throat, "someone must tell her brother."


Thranduil drew Dínendal out of his son's earshot. "How long?" he asked, quietly.

"It is hard to say," said Dínendal, "but she is sinking fast."

"What happens then?"

"Once she is dead, we can, in principle, revive her," said Dínendal.

"What does 'in principle' mean?" demanded Thranduil.

Dínendal sighed. "It means that although I know we must administer the extract of another fungus, I do not know which fungus. It means that although I know, once she passes, that time is limited, I do not know how limited. I—"

"You do not know much," said Thranduil.

"And your own healer," said Dínendal, "knows less than I. Our only hope is that the elleth from Eryn Aras will be able to tell us—"

"Valar," said Thranduil. "We are entirely in the hands of Serindë." And, knowing her, he thought, I shall have to marry her and make her my queen before she agrees to help. He looked at his distraught son, holding the dying woman in his arms. Still, that would be a small price to pay...

He took Dínendal's arm and pulled him further from the bed. "If time is so precious," he asked, "why on Middle-earth are you hastening her death?"

"To limit the damage, your Majesty," Dínendal whispered. "The quicker the death, the quicker the revival, the less the damage—that much I do know."

Thranduil walked to the healing room door and spoke quietly to the guard. "Make haste to Captain Voronwë," he said. "Tell him to take a troop of horse to Eryn Aras, find March Warden Singollo and escort him, and his prisoner, back here. Tell him that the life of Prince Legolas' betrothed—no, the life of Prince Legolas himself—depends on it. Tell him that there is not a moment to lose."

He watched the guard leave. Then he returned to his son's side and, gently squeezing Legolas' shoulder, he whispered, "Courage, Lassui. She needs you to be strong, ion nín."


Eomer and Colgan had dissected Daelhard's letter, listed all the Rohirrim implicated in the Æðelbert plot—plus their dependants, allies and known associates—and were now, with the help of Berryn and Lord Fingolfin, attempting to assess the scale of the problem by marking all the disaffected parties on a map of Rohan.

"Eowyn is right," said Eomer. "You can see things better when you use a map—come in!" He turned to greet his visitor. "By the gods, Gimli, what is it?"

"I am so sorry, lad," said Gimli, wiping his wet face with his hand.

"Eowyn..." said Eomer.

"They are doing all they can—"

"Where is she?"

"In the healing room."


"She has been poisoned. Dead-wood mushroom."

Eomer, unnaturally calm, looked down at Fingolfin. "Come my lord," he said, squeezing the stricken elf's shoulder. "Let us see if we can help."


Singollo had ransacked Serindë's home looking for anything that might help save Eowyn and, at length, had found—buried deep in a notebook—the composition of the salve and a description of its properties. After that he had managed—with a mixture of threats and ridiculously generous promises—to extract something approaching the elleth's word that she would help revive the woman.

Together, they had packed up the notebook, several bottles of coloured liquids, and a pouch full of dried fungus, and had set off for the palace at the gallop.

Now he was riding recklessly through the trees with Serindë clinging to his back.

I shall never forget the look in Lassui's eyes when he ordered—no begged—me to fetch help, Singollo thought. "Dear Valar," he prayed, "That woman is Lassui's life. Do not let me be too late!"


"She has passed away," said Dínendal, softly, placing Eowyn's hand back on her chest.

"No," sobbed Legolas.

"Are you sure?" asked Eomer, "she is strong..."

"I am sorry, your Majesty," said Dínendal. "The healer, Serindë, is her only hope now."


Berryn rushed into the library.

"Ornendil!" he cried. "Ornendil! Are you here?"

"Why, young adan, what a noise you are mak—"

"Please concentrate—just this once," said Berryn, breathlessly. "What do you know—about dead-wood mushrooms?"

"They are not my chief field of study—"

"Anything or nothing?" asked Berryn, sharply.

"It is said that they can be used to enhance beauty—but I believe that to be an old ellith's tale—"

"Anything else?"


Berryn threw himself into a chair. "Shit," he muttered.

"In fact, as far as I know," said the elf, "the ancient authorities mention the dead-wood mushroom only once..." He walked towards one of the book cases.

"Ornendil," said Berryn, "be quiet."

"All I was about to say," said Ornendil, with dignity, as he pulled out one of the books, "is that I think I have read that dead-wood mushroom can be used to send a mortal into the Halls of Mandos—or the mortal equivalent, that is—prior to reviving him—"

Berryn sat upright. "Reviving him how?" he asked.

Ornendil was clearly taken aback. "It is all in here," he said, waving the book; "one must use an infusion of oak mushroom..." as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Berryn leaped from his chair, grabbed the elf—still clutching his book—and pushed him bodily towards the library door. "Come on," he cried, "come on!"


"What is wrong?" asked Serindë.

"The horse is lame," said Singollo. "We shall have to run the rest of the way."

"Run? Are you mad? It must be twenty miles—"

"Start running," said Singollo, menacingly. "Now!"


"Lord Legolas! Oh, my lady. Oh—"

Berryn stared at the dead woman lying peacefully on the bed, surrounded by mourners.

"Do not disturb him now, Berryn," said Fingolfin, softly, trying to guide the cartographer back through the door.

"But I think I may have found a cure, my lord..." said Berryn.

He was speaking softly, but not so softly that elven ears could miss those words. Legolas raised his head. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"This is Ornendil," said Berryn. "Go on: tell Lord Legolas what you told me."

"Er," said Ornendil, nervously, "I—er—"

"He showed me this," said Berryn, holding up the ancient volume, "which says that another fungus can be used to revive Lady Eowyn."

"Let me see..." Dínendal took the book and scanned the page. "Yes, this describes Lady Eowyn's condition exactly," he said, "and it prescribes oak mushroom." He turned to the palace healer.

"We do not keep it, Master Dínendal," said the healer. "As you know, it has no medicinal value amongst elves. Do you have a specimen, Master Ornendil?"

"No, I have never seen a real one."

"Where is it found?" asked Eomer. "I will go and fetch it."

"According to this," said Dínendal, consulting the book, "it grows only on decaying oak boughs."

"Where is the nearest oak forest?" asked Eomer.

"Some fifty miles to the north west," said Thranduil, "I will send troops."

"That will take at least a day, Ada," said Legolas, softly. "And she does not have a day..." He stroked Eowyn's hand, helplessly. A profound silence descended as each person—elf, man and dwarf—tried to think of a way to obtain the fungus in time.

Suddenly Eomer cried out, "Firith! FIRITH, HELP ME!"


"Is this the cure?" asked Singollo, dragging Serindë through the trees. "In this pouch?"

"If it is administered in time, yes," said the elleth, panting for breath, "it should revive her. But she will never be the adaneth she was..."


"Calm down, Eomer King," said Thranduil, sharply, "this is no time to lose your nerve—"

He was cut short by a violent gust of wind that blew through the healing room, rattling the furniture and forcing all but the King of Rohan to take cover.

"My sister is dying, Firith," Eomer cried into the whirlwind. "Will you help me? I need to find..."

But the swirling column had already enveloped his body and whisked him away.


At the eye of the storm all was calm and silent; and it seemed to Eomer that he was looking down on Middle-earth from a great height. He could feel the sprite's arms holding him safe, and could hear her song, but he could not see her.

"Firith," he said, in awe, "what is happening?"

"I have called upon the north wind, beloved..." she said. "He will help us... Look! Look down there... Can you see her? That elleth holds your sister's future in her hands..."


Singollo threw himself on top of Serindë, using his body to shield her from the whirlwind.

"March Warden!"

The voice was strangely familiar. Singollo lifted his head and peered into the maelstrom.

"Reach out," it said, "both of you. Reach out to me."


"Is she his daughter?" asked Legolas, quietly.

"She is his niece," said Gandalf. "But, more than that, she has been Theoden's nurse for many years, coping with every indignity that Saruman, in his malice, has inflicted upon his body."

"Where are her parents?" asked Legolas


The elf shook his head. "What sadness you must have endured, hiril nín…" he whispered. But, even as he spoke, he saw the years melt from the aged man: saw his crusted skin become smooth and rosy, his white hair turn golden brown and his filmed eyes grow clear and alert.

"I know your face," said the king, "Eowyn..."

The woman smiled up at her uncle through her tears. And the elf smiled at her happiness.

"She is mortal, Legolas," Gandalf warned, sensing the flutter of his companion's heart. "And the love between mortal and immortal seldom ends well..."

"Dínendal," Legolas whispered. "I need to know—the moment it is too late—I need to know."

"My lord?"

"I cannot let her face this alone. You must tell me as soon as it is too late, then I can join her." He kissed Eowyn's hand. "Wait for me, melmenya. If Eomer does not return in time, remember what you promised—stay close by, and I will come to you."


Cautiously, Singollo opened his eyes.

He was lying, quite unharmed, before the Elvenking's great gates. Beside him, Eomer King was pulling Serindë to her feet.

"Where are the mushrooms?" he was asking.

"Here," said Singollo, reaching into his tunic. "I have them."

"Come with me!" cried Eomer.


"We have brought the cure," cried Eomer, pushing Serindë through the door; "the March Warden has the mushrooms—give them to Dínendal—"

Dínendal took the pouch. "What must I do with them?" he asked Serindë.

The elleth shook her head. "I do not know; I—oh!"

Legolas had drawn his white knives. "Tell him Serindë; tell him now or—by the Valar—you will wake to find yourself waiting in the Halls of Mandos—"

"I am not sure, Lasfain," said Serindë, "truly. I have tried using them on elven wounds; but I have never administered them to a man or woman."

"Then tell me what you do know," said Dínendal.

Serindë turned to Singollo. "Do you have the book?"

Singollo reached inside his jerkin and pulled out a small notebook. "The dried fungus must be infused in wine," he read, "the decoction must be introduced directly into the adan's—adaneth's—heart—"

"How is that possible?" said Legolas.

"Leave it to me, my lord," said Dínendal. "Give me the notes, March Warden."


"Your Majesty," said Dínendal to Thranduil, "all is ready. But I think it would be best if everyone were to leave the room except for myself, your healer, Lord Legolas and Eomer King."

"I understand, Master Healer," said Thranduil, gravely, "Leave it to me." Then he added, "You will be sure to call me should Lassui need me..."

"Of course, your Majesty."

Thranduil squeezed his shoulder. "Thank you."

Dínendal waited until the Elvenking had ushered the others through the door, then turned to Legolas. "My lord," he said, "I am ready."

Legolas looked at the silvery coil in the healer's hand. "What is that?" he asked.

"It is a very fine tube of mithril, my lord," said Dínendal, "attached to a jar of the decoction. Eomer King will lift the jar aloft until the fluid is running freely; then I will push the tube through the lady's breast, into her heart; I will allow the decoction to run for ten seconds; then I will pull the tube out."

"Can I hold her whilst you do it?" asked Legolas.

"Of course, my lord; just move your arms a little lower."

Dínendal bent over Eowyn, unbuttoned her riding gown, and carefully cut open her shift to expose her left breast. Using his fingertips he gently located her heart. Then, keeping his hand in place, he turned to Eomer. "Raise the jar, your Majesty."

Eomer lifted the jar above his head. Dínendal waited until the fluid was running freely then plunged the end of the tube into Eowyn's breast. Slowly, he counted the seconds, "One... Two... Three..."

Legolas kissed the top of Eowyn's head. "Come back to me, melmenya," he whispered.

"Seven... Eight... Nine... Ten..." Dínendal pulled out the tube.

For a moment nothing happened.

Then Eowyn screamed.


"Legolas," she cried, "Legolas! I will not leave you!"


"Thank you, Dínendal," said Legolas, holding Eowyn, weak but conscious, in his arms. "I shall not forget this."

"Nor shall I," said Thranduil.

"And you, too, Eomer," said Legolas. He reached out towards his brother-in-law and the two friends clasped hands, human fashion. "Will you tell Haldir and Gimli what has happened, mellon nín? They will be frantic with worry. And Berryn and Collo, too... And thank the sprite. Thank them all—"

"I shall," said Eomer but, he turned to leave the healing room, Dínendal caught him by the arm.

"Forgive my boldness, your Majesties," he said, drawing Eomer and Thranduil away from the happy prince, "but there is something that you should know, something that you, your Majesty," he said to Eomer, "may find distressing."

"Her recovery is only temporary," said Eomer.

"No, your Majesty. No! Quite the opposite—what I was going to say is that Lady Eowyn is no longer, in point of fact, fully mortal."

Eomer and Thranduil stared at each other. "Explain," said Thranduil.


"I have lost her," said Eomer, softly.

"What do you mean?" asked Thranduil.

"I shall die and she will live forever. She will forget me."

"Never, Eomer King," said Thranduil, patting his arm. "She loves you dearly, that much is plain. And she will carry you in her heart for as long as she lives. The memory of her brother will cause her great sadness, but even greater happiness... She will never forget you. Trust me, I know."

Eomer willed back the tears. "Which of us is going to tell her?" he asked. "And Legolas?"

Thranduil thought for a moment. "We shall let the healer tell them. He will be gentle."


"The active principle of the oak mushroom, as it circulates through Lady Eowyn's veins," explained Dínendal, "will renew every particle of her body. Over the next few days, she will become immune to disease; after that, all but the most grievous injuries will spontaneously heal and she will cease to age."

"Dear Valar," whispered Legolas, "you are saying that Eowyn is immortal."

"Barring a fatal injury, yes."

"But," said Eowyn, "it is forbidden. For a mortal to seek immortality is forbidden."

"The change was hardly of your choosing," said Thranduil. "In fact—in fact, it could be construed a sign."

"A sign?"

"Of the Valar's approval. By setting you three tasks I asked them to show me whether you were indeed their choice for my son. I can think of no clearer answer."


Later that night

Eomer swallowed his final dose and looked around his chambers. Firith was standing in the doorway of the garden cavern. Eomer stretched out his arms and she flew to him.

"Thank you," he whispered. "Thank you." He buried his face in her hair. "What can I ever do to repay you?"

"Whatever I did, I did for you E-o-mer," she replied. "And I have made you happy... That is payment enough..."

"If only..." Eomer sighed. "Come over to the bed, Firith," he said. "I want to tell you something." He lifted her into his arms—she was lighter than a feather—and carried her across the room, laying her gently on the embroidered coverlet. Then he knelt down beside her and took her hand.

"If I had not already pledged myself to my wife," he said, "I would take you back to Rohan with me and marry you. And we... But what happiness could you find in the cold, bleak, empty plains? You would be trapped, Firith; trapped within four wooden walls far from the trees and flowers you love so much. And, in your unhappiness"—he tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear—"you would grow to resent me. So perhaps it is best that I am not free. Go home with my sister," he said. "Go to Eryn Carantaur where you can live as you were meant to live—"

"I shall, E-o-mer..."

"And I shall go back to my wife. But I will often think of you, Firith, amongst the red leaves, safe and happy. And I shall visit you there, sometimes, I promise."

"We shall both be happy, E-o-mer..." said the sprite, kissing his cheek.


"How do you feel, melmenya?"

Eowyn smiled. "No different from when you last asked me—all of a minute ago," she said. They were lying in bed together, her head resting on Legolas' chest. "Something is troubling you, my love."

Legolas sighed. "I had a dream," he said, "at Yuletide."

"The one you told me about? The one you thought foretold the future?"


"And this was not a part of it?"

"Yes, it was; but it happened differently."

"In what way?"

"I do not remember the exact words, melmenya, but the being of light said that I must choose the right path. And I thought... I thought that this was to be my reward."

"For being noble?"

"I am conceited," said Legolas.

Eowyn grinned. "About your looks you are conceited—very conceited!" She rolled onto her stomach and looked down at him. "But then"—she kissed his mouth—"you have something to be conceited about. As for the rest, my love—no. You are not conceited. You are a brave, noble elf who freely gives whatever is asked of him. And you have risked everything for me, many times. So, if what Dínendal has told us is true"—and she shook her head, for she could still not believe it—"who is to say that it is not a reward for something you have done in the past, or will do in the future?"

Legolas smiled. "You are so much wiser than I," he said.

"Now: ask me," said Eowyn.


"Ask me what you have been wanting to ask all night but are too gentle to mention," she said. "I do not mind."

Legolas still hesitated. But then he asked: "What was it like, melmenya?"

Eowyn thought carefully. "There was a light," she said. "A beautiful, beautiful light, and beyond it everything was wonderful—the trees were greener than any green I have ever seen—and fresh and fragrant—and the sky was bluer, and the clouds whiter..." She shook her head. "I cannot describe it adequately, Legolas. But my mother and father and my uncle were there, and they were beckoning me towards them. And a part of me wanted to walk right through the light and live forever in that beautiful world, with my ancestors. But something held me back."


Eowyn smiled. "You. You were holding my hand." She lifted his hand to her lips and kissed his palm. "And, as much as I wanted to pass through the light, I wanted to stay with you so much more, edhel nín."




Contents page

Contents page

Previous chapter: The third task
Eowyn meets the healer of Eryn Aras.

Chapter 12

Final chapter: Misrule in Mirkwood
All's well that ends well.

Chapter 14

The story of Cupid and Psyche.