eowyn stalks the bear

"Lindorië," said Eowyn, calmly, swinging the torch over her head to draw the bear's attention, "drop to the ground."

The elleth did not move.

"Lindë! Listen to me! You must get out of the way! Drop to the ground!"

Lindorië began to turn...

"DOWN!" Eowyn bellowed.

Suddenly understanding, the elleth collapsed to the floor, and the Shieldmaiden ran forward, swinging the torch back and forth, the full width of the corridor.

The bear took a step backwards.

Eowyn, now standing protectively over Lindorië's huddled form, jabbed her torch at its head, shouting, "Get back! Get back! You will not have her!"

The bear retreated another step.

Eowyn felt Lindorië's shaking hand clasp her ankle. "Courage, Lindë," she said, softly, never taking her eyes off the bear, "help will soon be here." She jabbed the torch again.

"Eowyn! Melmenya, where are you?" Legolas' voice echoed down the tunnel.

"Legolas!" Eowyn shouted, "Legolas! We are here! Come quickly!"


"Ilúvatar!" cried Thranduil.

He tore another torch from the wall. "Back," he shouted. "Back, brôg! Get back!" He ran up beside Eowyn and, together, they lunged at the creature. The bear backed away a few more steps.

Legolas threw himself in front of Eowyn and held up his hands in a gesture of peace.

"I love my wife," he said, "and my father, and Lindë is my friend. Please do not hurt them." Then he repeated, in Elvish, "I love them."

For a moment, the bear seemed to listen; then it dropped to all fours and, with a howl filled with immense sadness, it turned and loped away.

Thranduil made to follow.

"No, Ada," Legolas cried, as he reached for Eowyn. "No! Do not go after it! Send the guards!"


"Please, Ada!"

Thranduil turned to the four elves who had followed them from the Great Hall. "I want it captured," he said. "Bring it back alive."

The guards took off in pursuit.

Legolas gently removed the torch from Eowyn's hands. "Are you all right, melmenya?" he asked.

"Yes." She smiled. Now that the danger had passed she seemed dazed. "But Lindorië needs attention," she said. Legolas kissed her forehead; then, handing the torch to his father, he knelt, with Eowyn, beside the terrified elleth.

"Your woman saved me, Lassui," whispered Lindorië, "she saved me..."

Legolas smiled. "I know," he said.

"Can you carry her to the Healing Room?" asked Eowyn.

"I will carry her," said Thranduil. "You take your adaneth back to your chambers, Lassui, and put her to bed. We will talk about this—and the other thing—tomorrow."

Legolas gave his father a grateful smile.


"I have singed my sleeve," said Eowyn sadly.

"I am sure that Valaina will be able to replace it for you, my darling," said Legolas. "Shall I help you undress?"

Eowyn nodded.

Legolas began unlacing her gown. "What are you smiling at, Eowyn nín?" he asked.

"You call me 'melmenya' when everything is normal and 'Eowyn nín' when you are either pleased or angry with me. It is only when we have had a real scare that you use the Common Tongue and call me 'my love' or 'my darling'."

Legolas, carefully drawing her sleeves down her arms, paused to kiss her hands, then smiled up at her.

"I am so tired, Legolas," she said, touching his face. "Do you mind if I just sleep tonight?"

"Of course not, my darling."

"Will you lie with me?"

"Of course."

"And sing?"

Legolas smiled. "You know I will." He slid her bodice down to her waist. "Can you stand?" Eowyn rose to her feet. "Step out of it... Good. Now, sit down, and I will fetch some water to wash that soot off your face. Would you like a drink, melmenya?"

Eowyn nodded.

"You were very brave tonight, Eowyn nín," said Legolas, as he poured a glass of fruit cordial. "Brave and selfless, going to Lindë's aid like that." He uncorked a small flask and added a few drops of a thick, silvery liquid. "I am so proud of you."

"You will make my head swell," said Eowyn, yawning.

Legolas smiled. "Drink this. I have added some miruvor; it should make you feel better."

He fetched a bowl of water. "My father wants to talk to me early tomorrow morning," he said, carefully sponging her face, "I think he intends to give us his permission."

"Can I come with you?" asked Eowyn.

"I do not see why not—if you are awake by then." He pulled back the silken sheet and helped her into bed, then began to undress himself.

"It is strange," said Eowyn, watching him. "Now, we are as close as ever—closer perhaps. But there were moments, during our journey here, when I really thought I was losing you. I was afraid that you were ashamed to show me to your father. But Gimli kept saying—"


"Gimli is wise in these matters," said Eowyn, smiling, "and a good friend to both of us."

"What did he say?" asked Legolas, climbing into bed beside her.

"'That fool of an elf is just worrying about the cavalcade and he thinks he is sparing you by not telling you, lassie!'"

Legolas laughed. "You sound just like him." He pulled the embroidered coverlet around her shoulders. "He was right, melmenya."

"Especially about the fool part. You should know by now that you do not need to spare me anything, Legolas. I want to share your troubles."

He drew her into his arms and settled her head on his shoulder. "I think I will always be a fool when it comes to you, Eowyn nín. Half the time I want to wrap you up in lambswool and keep you safe; the other half I want you fighting by my side. I need two of you."

"One to wear and one for best," said Eowyn, chuckling. "Which would you sleep with?"

"Oh, the warrior. No question." Legolas laughed. "Do you remember the night I spent drinking with Aragorn and Eomer at Minas Tirith, with some of the Gondorian nobles? One of the lords was describing, in some detail, his notion of the ideal woman. And I happened to say, 'I prefer a warrior'—"

Eowyn laughed.

"And he said—"

"I can imagine what he said!" said Eowyn. "He said, 'We already have too many of your sort down in the barracks!'"

"Almost word for word."

"You are so innocent, Legolas! What did you say?"

"I said, very coldly, 'Then they will each need to find their own Shieldmaiden, my lord, for I intend to keep my wife for myself.'"

Eowyn snuggled against his chest. "How do you suppose the bear got through your father's gates?" she asked, suddenly.

"I have been wondering that myself, melmenya; and I daresay my father has too."

"Is there another way into the palace?"

"From the river—the way Gimli's father escaped."

"Gimli's father escaped?"

"It is a long story, melmenya. My father caught him trespassing and imprisoned him and his companions—I do not now remember all the details but I am sure that Gimli would be only too pleased to tell you his father's version of events."

Eowyn smiled. "How did he get out?"

"There is an underground stream, running through the mountain, beneath the palace, that is used to transport supplies—a trapdoor in the palace cellars opens straight into the tunnel."

"But the trapdoor must be locked?"

"No. There is a watergate at the tunnel mouth, where the water flows out of the hillside, but so much traffic passes along the stream that even that is often left raised... Though getting in by that route would still be difficult, even for an elf. And a bear is nowhere near so agile."

"No." Eowyn thought for a moment. "You know," she said, "I still think it could be one of the Beornings. He would have come in through the gates as a man and not turned into a bear until he was safely inside. And that would explain why you can feel him only some of the time—when he is a bear."

"It would make sense," Legolas agreed, slowly. "But why would a Beorning attack Lindë? Or you or me, for that matter?"

"That, I do not know," said Eowyn. She smiled at him. "Legolas," she said, running her fingers across his cheek and over the tip of his ear, "suddenly, I do not feel tired at all..."


Legolas poured a little more scented oil into his palm and rubbed his hands together. "Where were we?" he asked.

"Tynd," said Eowyn.

"Yes..." He laid his hands lightly on her breasts, gently massaging them. "Tynd voe," he said. "Soft—"

"That tickles," said Eowyn.

"It is supposed to be sensual, melmenya."

"No, it tickles."


"It still tickles."

Legolas laughed. "Perhaps Shieldmaidens are not sensitive there," he said. "What about this?" He swept his hand down, over her stomach, and let it rest, lightly, on her small patch of golden hair. "Thâr," he said.

"That," said Eowyn, wriggling against his hand, "is a much nicer word. Thâr... What next?"

Legolas slid his fingers down between her thighs and—whisper soft—tickled her swollen lips. "Criss," he said

A peal of laughter burst from Eowyn's throat, "Criss," she giggled.

"Shhhhh, melmenya," said Legolas, laughing too. "We are only just starting!" He stilled his hand and waited until she had regained some of her self-control. Then, leaning down to kiss her mouth, he slipped his fingers just inside her.

"Rond," he said, exploring her, gently, "agor... laug... loen... rond."

"Oh... rond. Even nicer..." Eowyn arched her back, trying to take his hand deeper. "Legolas," she said in a small voice, "I want you..."

"Just one more to learn, melmenya," he said, kissing her forehead.

He slowly withdrew his fingers, sliding them over her sensitive flesh, then brushed them against her swollen bud. "Tuiw," he said, circling his fingertips, "though some call it 'mîr'"—he pulled up his nightshirt with his free hand—"and others"—he knelt between her open legs-'meril'..."

He slipped his oily hands beneath her, lifted her onto his lap, and—

"Ceber," whispered Eowyn as he entered her. "Ai, gerich veleth nin, ceber vain."


Someone was pounding at the door.

"Leave me!" cried Eomer.

"Your Majesty," said a familiar, gentle voice. "I think I can help you."

Eomer sat up far too quickly. "Gods!" He clasped his head. "Come in then," he called.

The door opened and Master Dínendal entered, diffidently.

"Did you put me to bed?" asked Eomer.

"I helped, your Majesty," said Dínendal, "but it was the March Warden and your Counsellor who carried you."

"Did I win?"

"Not quite, your Majesty. But I think you might be considered to have come second."

Unwisely, Eomer nodded. "Oh!" he gasped, shuddering. "I do not remember much..."

"That is why I am here, your Majesty," said Dínendal.

He had already half-filled a tumbler with water and was carefully adding various ingredients to it. "It occurred to me," he explained, "that you and Lord Gimli will need all your wits about you later today." He carefully added a measure of red syrup to the water. "Though dwarves seem far less affected by the after effects of alcohol than men"—he dipped his wooden stirrer into an earthenware jar and drew out a small quantity of white powder—"which is strange, because you would think that their bodies, being so much smaller, would be more easily overwhelmed..."

"Dwarves are as tough as old boots," Eomer grumbled.

Dínendal considered his assessment. "They are certainly very resilient," he said, uncorking a small flask and adding a few drops of miruvor. He stirred the cocktail carefully, then handed the glass to Eomer.

"This is my mother's recipe, your Majesty," he said. "You must drink it all down at once."

"Does it taste bad?"

"It is not pleasant," Dínendal admitted, "but its effects are almost instantaneous. It is worth the ordeal."

Eomer looked dubiously at the foaming pink liquid. Then he raised the glass to his lips, threw back his head, and drained it. "By the gods," he cried, shuddering as he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, "that is powerful stuff!" He let out a long, slow breath. One by one, he stretched his limbs. Then, smiling at Dínendal, he stood up. "Your mother is a very clever woman—elleth—Master Healer."

"Thank you, your Majesty," said Dínendal. "One glass should be sufficient, but if the discomfort returns, just send for me."

"I shall. Thank you."

Eomer looked around his chambers—memories of the previous night had suddenly come flooding back to him. "Master Dínendal…" he said, as the healer began packing up his ingredients, "are you as sensitive to—to things as Legolas is?"

"Things, your Majesty?"

"If there were something—invisible—in this chamber, could you sense it?"

"You mean the sprite?"

"Thunder and lightning," said Eomer, "can everyone see her but me?" He sighed. "She is still here, then?"

"Yes, your Majesty. I cannot see her, but I know that she has been... guarding you, ever since Lorien," said Dínendal, closing his bag.

Eomer shook his head. "If you happen to see Valandil in your travels, will you tell him that I would like to speak to him? And thank you again, Master Dínendal."

He waited until the healer had left. "Firith!" he called, slowly turning round to face each corner of his chambers in turn, "Firith—I know what you did last night. And I am grateful. But you cannot stay with me! You cannot!"


Thranduil opened the door of his study and—uncharacteristically—allowed himself to show his surprise—and annoyance. "I had planned an informal talk between father and son, Lassui; I did not expect you to bring your advisor."

He beckoned Legolas and Lord Fingolfin into his spacious study-library and closed the door behind them. Legolas looked around the chamber. It had not changed in all the years he had been away—piles of open books still littered the marble floor, tattered notes and sketch maps still hung from the finely carved mouldings, and a deep drift of paper still hid the massive oaken desk.

Thranduil took a seat by the fire.

"If this were a informal talk, Ada," said Legolas, gesturing that Fingolfin should sit opposite his father, "we could have had it last night. Besides, Lord Fingolfin has a legitimate interest in this matter."

"Indeed?" Thranduil looked to Fingolfin for an explanation.

"I represent the citizens of Eryn Carantaur—"


"The people of Eryn Carantaur—elves and, increasingly, men—are not subjects, your Majesty," said Fingolfin. "We live there by choice. And Lord Legolas encourages us to take part the day-to-day decision-making of the colony—"

"Yes, yes," said Thranduil, dismissively. "But why would that give you any say in my son's private life?"

"Because Princess Eowyn is not just Lord Legolas' chosen companion, your Majesty," said Fingolfin, unintimidated by the Elvenking's brusque manner. "She is our Lady; and the people of Eryn Carantaur love her."

Thranduil sighed.

Then he turned to his son. "I am not unaware of this adaneth's merits, Lassui. She is brave and clever and—I have to admit—she has a certain"—he shrugged his shoulders—"beauty, if you happen to be attracted to mortals. But she has already lived for—what?—more than a third of her allotted span. She will die, Lassui! In much less than fifty years, she will die. And what will happen to you then?"

"I will die with her, Ada," said Legolas, simply, "unless..." He stopped short. He was certainly not ready to tell his father about the prophetic dreams he had had at Yuletide.

"But you are too late, Ada," he continued. "Far too late! Even if you could take her from me I would still be bound to her. And no one can take her from me. I want to marry her, properly. But if you refuse your permission I will simply live with her unmarried. And, then, if we have a child—your grandson, Ada—he will be illegitimate."


I love my wife, and my father, and Lindë is my friend. Please do not hurt them. I love them.

Eowyn awoke with a start and sat bolt upright.


A small piece of parchment lay on the pillow beside her.

'Since my father is not accustomed to waiting I thought it wise to leave my sleeping beauty undisturbed this morning,' it said. 'But if you do wake before nine o'clock, come and join us in his study, melmenya.

Your prince.'

Eowyn leaped out of bed, quickly washed and dressed, then set off in search of Legolas and some answers.


Thranduil turned to Fingolfin. "My son says that the Valar themselves selected this adaneth for him. What evidence have you seen of that?"

Fingolfin shook his head. "The way the Valar indicate their choice is a mystery known only to the celebrant—"

"Do not presume tell me about the harvest rite, Fingolfin Cammirthorion. I have performed more rites than you have had conception days. And I know," he said, looking sharply at Legolas, "that the sign allows a degree of interpretation. It is not hard to overlook the Valar's principle choice and instead take her neighbour, if she is more to one's own tastes—"

"Ada!" cried Legolas, scandalised. "Use the rite as an excuse to satisfy my own desires? I would never do such a thing!" His eyes narrowed. "Have you?"

"Mind your own business," said Thranduil.

"Your Majesty," said Fingolfin, tactfully. "What I can tell you is that Lady Eowyn is exactly what the colony needs—what it has needed right from the start—a strong, capable co-ruler who throws herself whole-heartedly into all the business of state; a gentle champion of our weaker citizens; and an inspiration to our ellith and women. And I can also tell you—if Lord Legolas will permit me"—Legolas nodded—"that it is clear to all the people of Eryn Carantaur that she has brought your son immeasurable happiness."

Thranduil sighed deeply.

Then he rose to his feet, walked over to his desk and picked up a small, pink book. He pulled open the ribbon ties and carefully turned the pages.

"In this book there is a ancient decree," he began.

"'Pertaining to the case of Melethron and Gwilwileth'," interrupted Fingolfin, somewhat unwisely.

"You have heard of it?"

"Yes. Lady Eowyn asked me to search out any legal precedent that Lord Legolas might use to help persuade you."

Legolas stared at him in surprise.

Thranduil smiled. "Are you sure you want this woman who runs rings around you, Lassui?" He turned back to Fingolfin. "Why did you not mention it before?"

"Because the case ended in the woman's death—"

"Lord Fingolfin," said Thranduil, showing just a tiny fraction of the legendary cold fury that petrified friends and enemies alike, "do you seriously think that I would set my own prospective daughter—my son's beloved—any task that might threaten her already far too short life?"

For the first time since the meeting began Fingolfin seemed lost for words, but his discomfort was interrupted by a light tap at the door. Thranduil handed the book to Legolas, crossed to the door, and opened it.

"Ah, Eowyn vell nín," he said. "Come in, sit down. We were just talking about you."


Eomer laid down the lengthy intelligence report—compiled and painstakingly translated into the Common Tongue for him by Thranduil's March Warden, Singollo—and turned towards the door.

"Enter," he called. "Ah, Valandil—thank you for coming."

"Your Majesty." The elf, apparently deciding that the easy camaraderie he and the king had shared on the journey was no longer appropriate, bowed courteously.

But Eomer hated ceremony. "Please sit down, my friend," he said, warmly. "Would you like a drink?"

"Yes—thank you, your Majesty," said Valandil.

Eomer poured a glass of fruit cordial. "I have never tasted anything like this stuff before," he said. "What is it called?"

"Peich vallen," said Valandil. "Golden syrup."

"King Thranduil could make himself a small fortune if he exported it to Rohan," said Eomer, handing the elf a glass. "But please do not tell him I said so." The man and the elf grinned at each other with something like their previous ease.

"Perhaps Legolas could make it in South Ithilien," continued Eomer, "though he would have to find a better name for it." He took a sip. "The reason I asked you here, Valandil, is that I need a favour, and Legolas thought that you might be willing to help me."

He placed his glass on the side table, clasped his hands together and stared intently at his fingers. "I will not go into the details of why, but I need a small quantity of water from the Enchanted River." He looked up at Valandil and caught the fleeting expression on the elf's face. "But, of course, you already know why," he said, "because, like every other elf in the cavalcade, you can sense her too."

"The sprite? Yes..."

Eomer shook his head. "You all knew that she was following me, and yet nobody told me."

"Some of us knew," corrected Valandil. "But, no, we did not tell you..." He looked uncomfortable, and Eomer found the expression quite incongruous on an elf. "You see," he continued, "sprites often attach themselves to men or—more rarely—to dwarves. The sprite does no harm, but it is generally better that the man does not know. Otherwise he is always uncomfortable, always wondering where the sprite is, and what she is doing."

"What she is doing is meddling in my life," said Eomer. "I know that she means well, but..." He sighed. "That is why I need the water, Valandil. A small amount seems to allow me to see and hear her. I want to talk to her—to reason with her."

Valandil looked dubious. "Woodland sprites are not known for their powers of reasoning, your Majesty. They are creatures of instinct."

"I must try something," said Eomer. "Will you fetch me some enchanted water?"

"Of course, your Majesty."

"Thank you. Legolas thought that Orodreth might be willing to go with you. And, please, Valandil," added Eomer with a broad smile, "be careful. I do not want to have to send out a search party to rescue you. Just think how embarrassing it would be to have King Thranduil's guards—your former comrades—see you carried back, snoring, by a bunch of Rohirrim."


"I have a simple proposal," said Thranduil. "Since we cannot decide this matter ourselves"—he ignored Legolas' attempt to contradict him—"we will ask the Valar to guide us. This case"—he held up the book, Ancient Laws of the Silvan Elves—"the case of Melethron and Gwilwileth, provides a clear precedent." He turned to Eowyn. "Melethron's father set Gwilwileth three tasks on the understanding that the Valar, if they approved of the union, would make it clear to him by helping her complete them."

"And did she succeed?" asked Eowyn.

"No, my lady," said Fingolfin softly. "The final task proved fatal."

"I see..."

"No, Ada!" cried Legolas, throwing himself down beside Eowyn and wrapping her in his arms. "I will not permit it!"

"Do not be a fool, Lassui," said Thranduil curtly. "I have already said that I would do nothing to risk Eowyn's life. The tasks I shall set will be simple and practical—they will merely test her fitness to be your co-ruler."

"And if I fail the test?" asked Eowyn.

"If you fail, you will leave Eryn Carantaur and never see my son again."


"You have already assured me, Lassui, that the Valar approve your choice. If you are right, there is no risk. But if you are wrong this will save you from the consequences of your mistake."

"It is a sort of trial by ordeal, my love," said Eowyn.

Legolas shook his head. "What is that?"

"In ancient times my people would try a suspected murderer by forcing him to perform a seemingly impossible task—he might be held under water for several minutes, or made to carry hot coals in his bare hands. If he survived the ordeal unscathed, the Elders took it as proof of his innocence—they assumed that the gods would protect a blameless man, no matter how extreme the trial."

"Are you willing to submit to the test, Eowyn Eomundiell?" asked Thranduil.

Eowyn bit her lip.

"Suppose she is not?" said Legolas. "We could go on living as we are."

"You could. But would you want to, Lassui? If the Valar really have blessed your union, there is no risk. Would you want to spend the rest of your short life knowing that you behaved as a coward—in this of all things? Would your lady?"

"I will do it," said Eowyn.

"Melmenya..." Legolas' eyes were shining with tears.

"I will do it, Legolas. And I will succeed."




Contents page

Contents page

Previous chapter: Eowyn's rivals
Legolas' past is revealed.

Chapter 4

Next chapter: The first task
Will the Valar smile on Eowyn?

Chapter 6

Eowyn vell nín … 'my dear Eowyn'


Naughty Elvish
Tynd … 'breasts' (literally, 'mounds, hills'); tynd voe, soft mounds.
Thâr … 'pubic hair' (literally 'grass').
Criss … 'vulva' (literally, 'cleft, cut').
Tuiw, meril, mîr … 'clitoris' (literally, 'bud', 'rose' and 'treasure', respectively—thanks to Gimli for providing the latter).
Rond … 'vagina' (literally 'cave'); agor, 'tight (narrow)'; laug, 'warm'; loen, 'dripping wet'.
Ceber … 'erection' (literally, 'wooden stake'); Gerich veleth nín, 'I love you' (literally, 'you have my love'); ceber vain, 'beautiful stake'.