"Eowyn! Wait!" Legolas caught her by the
arm. "Where are you going, meleth nín?"
"We need to talk," said Eowyn.
"Yes, but"he pressed his hand against her back"come
"We need privacy," said Eowyn, trying to pull him in
the direction of their chambers.
"I knowpleasethis way."
"But there are guards everywhere..."
"Not where we are going."
With a sigh, Eowyn gave in and followed him.
"No one comes here any more," said Legolas, drawing
her away from the main thoroughfare and down a long, narrow passage
that led deep into the mountain "because my father forbids
it. In here."
Together, they stepped through a low, crumbling, arched doorway.
They were standing inside an enormous garden cavern. She walked
out into the space and turned full circle to look at it properly.
It was not, in fact, a garden, but a small piece of woodlandshafts
daylight, spilling from vents cut through the hillside above,
fell on beeches and hawthorns, on creamy, scented elders, and
on patches of delicate meadow grass littered with wild, pastel-coloured
"This is how I imagine the Shire..." she said.
"That is exactly what my mother wanted. This was her
garden," said Legolas, smiling. "It is my secret place,"
he explained, leading her to a wooden seat beneath the trees.
"However bad things may be, they always seem better sitting
Eowyn held out her arms to him.
"I could not live without you, melmenya," whispered
Legolas, burying his face in her hair.
"It will not come to that, my love," said Eowyn, "not
if you are right about my being the Valar's choice for you."
"There can be no doubt of that, Eowyn nín,"
Legolas replied, shaking his head. "They surrounded you with
an aurawith glorious rays of mithril. You glowed like Ithil."
Eowyn pressed her hand to his lips, trying to stop him revealing
too much. But he kissed her fingers and whispered, "Ithildin
They sat in silence for a long while, holding each other. Then
Eowyn said, "I shall succeed, Legolas; I shall."
"I know. But if you do not"
"But if you do not, Eowyn nín, I will follow
you. To Edoras or to wherever else you go"
"I promised your father that I would never see you again."
"Then we will meet in the dark"
"I mean it, Eowyn nín. I am an elf. My love
is eternal. I cannot live without you."
"King Thranduil," said Eomer, bowing his head, stiffly.
"Eomer King. Please, take a seat." Thranduil was all
graciousness. Eomer looked cautiously at the chair before sitting,
worried that its legs might be designed to collapse beneath him.
"Can I offer you a drink?"
"Nothank you," said Eomer.
"I must congratulate you on your remarkable recovery after
last night'sercontest," said the Elvenking, pouring
himself a glass of wine. "Very remarkable."
"We Rohirrim are known for our resilience," said Eomer,
"and," he admitted, "your son's healer is very
"You know my son well," said Thranduil. He seated himself
"I consider him one of my closest friends," said Eomer.
Then, watching Thranduil carefully, he added, "I consider
him my brother."
"Indeed?" Thranduil gazed into his wineglass.
"And that will not change," said Eomer, firmly.
"In what respect?"
"What do you mean?"
"Are you saying that you will always have brotherly feelings
towards my son? Or are you saying that you will always count him
your sister's husband?"
"Both," said Eomer.
"Would it surprise you to know that your sister has agreed
never to see my son again"
"She would not!"
"Oh, but she has. She has agreed to perform three tasks
that I will set for her. If she fails to complete any of those
tasks, she will comply with my wishes and never see my son again."
"Eowyn has never failed at anything in her life," said
Thranduil smiled. "You think very highly of her."
"She is my sister; I love her."
"It is more than that, I think," said Thranduil. "You
admire herfor her strength and for her quickness,
and because she is far cleverer than you are."
Legolas pulled Eowyn down from the wooden seat and laid her on
the grassy ground.
"You look like a woodland sprite, meleth nín,"
he said, tracing his fingers along the contours of her face, and
carefully spreading them through her golden hair, letting its
strands fall amongst the pink and lilac flowers. "Oh, Eowyn
He leaned down and kissed her mouth, gently sucking her lips,
like a succulent fruit. "I will not give you up," he
whispered. "Not for anything..."
She pressed her hand to his mouth. "Please, do not say that,
Legolas," she said. "It is not like you to say something
"I am not myself here," he said. "Not any
more. It is strange..."
Eowyn took that as her cue. "Last night," she said,
softly, "when your father and I were holding off the bear,
you spoke to it." She bit her lip, uncertainly. "I did
not think anything of it at the time but, when I woke up this
morning, I remembered what you saidand how you said it."
"'I love them', you said, and it worked. The bear
wasit soundedhurt by your words, but it walked
Legolas lay down beside her and stared up at the roof of the
cave. "I do not..." he began.
"Yes you do! You do know; so tell me: why?"
Legolas said nothing.
"It loves me."
Eowyn nodded. At last! "I know," she said. "I
think I have known since Lorien. Why have you tried to keep it
from me all this time, Legolas? Do you think that I am some foolish
elleth who cannot understand"
"I do not understand!"
"who cannot understand that it is none of your doing!"
said Eowyn, still exasperated. "It is clearly one
of the Beornings," she added, "though it is hard to
see which of those real men would set his cap at an elven
warrior. Perhaps it is Chief Horse-penis himself"
"I am sorry, Legolas." Her apology was sincere. "Have
you met any of them before?"
"Are you sure?"
"Wellwhat are we going to do about it?"
"I do not know"
He stopped abruptly, sat up, and leaned over her. "We?"
"You fool of an elf!" said Eowyn, annoyed again. "How
many times do I have to tell you? You think that I will bewhat?scared
away by the idea of your being desired by a Beorning skin changer..."
She smiled. "It does sound strange, now that I say it aloud,"
she admitted, reaching up to touch his face. "Perhaps you
are not being so foolish after all!"
"Oh, melmenya! I cannot cope with all of thismy head,
my heart... I feel I am ready to explodelike one of Mithrandir's
"You do not honey-glaze your words," said Eomer, dryly.
"I find it wastes time."
"I thought that elves had all the time in Arda."
"True; but those we deal with often do not," said Thranduil.
"Your sister does not. She is a remarkable woman, but she
is a woman, not an eldar."
"Of course. But Legolas believes that the Valar marked her
out for him," said Eomer, firmly. "He told me that they
made her glow for him, like Ithil"
Thranduil's head jerked up. "He told you that?"
"He does regard you highly..." Thranduil shook
his head. "You are a riddle to me, Eomer King," he said.
"Last night you acted like a buffoon. Yet I am reliably informedand,
indeed, the evidence is here before methat you are a brave
leader and a shrewd kingand I must admit that your antics
last night will almost certainly have improved your status with
our Beorning friends."
"Whichof courseI would not have realised,
being such a buffoon, had you not, so graciously, pointed it out
to me," said Eomer angrily. A cool, calming breeze softly
caressed his forehead. "You," he insisted, "are
"I beg your pardon?"
"You are a bully. You can say this to me because you know
that I will not retaliate whilst I am receiving your hospitality.
You can bully your son because you know that he loves youthe
gods only know why!far too much to ever risk hurting you.
And you are bullying my sister because you know that she would
risk everything she has for the chance to be with Legolas. You
find people's weaknesses and you bully them."
"It is called state craft," said Thranduil, coldly.
"Then," said Eomer, rising, "may I suggest that
you take your state craft and sheathe it"
"Do not be foolish!"
Eomer began walking towards the door.
"Ohceryn," Thranduil muttered. "Eomer
King!" He held out his hand in a peacemaking gesture. "Please!"
Eomer remained where he was standing, waiting expectantly, his
dark brows raised.
Thranduil sighed. "I am sorry," he said.
"Good," said Eomer. "Then I suggest that we discuss
this"he held up the intelligence report that
Singollo had prepared for him"that is, after you have
told me how you plan to deal with our friend, the bear."
"Gods," she whispered. "I am almost there, just
looking at you." She leaned forward, and kissed his shyly
emerging head, licking its moist tip. Low inside her body she
could already feel the place where that beautiful ruby flesh would
"Take me," she whispered.
He laid her on the ground and knelt between her spread thighs.
He was fully erect now, his penis standing stiffly against his
belly, and he took it in his hand and began to lower himself towards
her. But then he seemed to change his mind and, raising himself
up again and sitting back on his heels, he began to stroke himself.
"Legolas!" Eowyn gasped.
"Look at me." He smileda serene, dimpled smile.
"Watch me." And he continued to stroke himself,
slowly and thoroughly, sighing with pleasure.
"Please..." Eowyn whimpered.
Legolas shook his head. His hand was moving faster now. "Where
do you want me to come, melmenya?" he asked, rising up on
his knees. "On your breasts?"
"Oh Valar," he gasped, shivering with pleasure. "Where
do you want it?"
Legolas leaned forwardhis belly tense and his testicles,
drawn up against his body, beautifully tight. Eowyn cupped her
hand around them. "Take me..." she begged.
But it was too late; he held himself over her breasts and, with
a groan torn from deep inside him, covered her in gouts of pearly
The moment his warm seed splashed across her body, Eowyn came,
shaking and screaming like a speared warg.
"You are late."
"I am sorry, King Thranduil," said Eowyn.
He gestured towards the chairs by the fire. Eowyn took a seat.
"Are you well? You look flushed..."
Eowyn swallowed hard. She had bathed since the 'incident' in
the garden, and he could not possibly know... But perhaps he was
just trying to unsettle her. "I am perfectly well, your Majesty."
"Good," said Thranduil. He sat down opposite. "Before
I set you your first task, Eowyn, let us clarify a few things.
First, I accept that the Valar may help you in any way they see
fitthey can send a man, or an elf or"he shrugged"they
can send an army of ants to help you, if that is their
choice. I accept that. But they will not send my sonI
am convinced that they will not send him. Do I make myself
clear? I will not accept anything that has been accomplished with
my son's help as a sign."
"I understand, your Majesty."
"Good. Secondly, I am relying upon you to recognise what
is legitimate help and what is simply another person's performing
the task for you."
"Of course," said Eowyn, and she allowed her annoyance
to show in her voice.
Thranduil held up his hand, appeasingly. "Thirdly,"
he continued, "you must agree that the moment you fail a
taskwhether it be the first, the second, or the thirdyou
will remove yourself from my Hallsfrom my son's lifeand
return to your husband at Caras Arnen"
"No, your Majesty," said Eowyn, shaking her head, "my
marriage to the Prince of Ithilien has been legally dissolved
by the King of Gondor." She waited for Thranduil's acknowledgement.
"I shall not fail these tasks, your Majesty,"
she continued, "but, nevertheless, I agree that, should I
fail, I will return, with my brother, to Rohan. Though I trust
that you will allow me to remain here in Eryn Lasgalen until Eomer
has concluded his business with you and the Beornings?"
Thranduil smiled. "You could teach my son a thing or two
about state craft, Eowyn vell nín," he said.
"We agree then." He placed his hand on his heart and
bowed his head.
Eowyn returned the gesture. Then she said, "And the first
task, your Majesty?"
Thranduil pointed towards his desk. "My correspondence is
out of order," he said, indicating the massive pile of papers
that covered its huge surface and spilled down onto the floor.
"You have until dawn to sort it according to sender."
Eowyn looked around the study. "Are you sure, your Majesty?"
"What?" Thranduil was taken aback.
"It is my experience," she said, "that people
whoerstore things the way you do, always know where
to find what they need whenever they need it. If someone introduces
order into the chaos, they are lost..."
Thranduil laughed "You may well be right, mell nín,"
he said, "but that is the task I have set you." With
his hand on his chest, he gave her another brief nod of the head.
"And, now," he said, "I will leave you. I will
have food sent to you at the appropriate hours, and I will return
tomorrow at dawn to see how well you have fared."
Before they had parted, in the garden cavern, Eowyn had made
Legolas promise to talk to Haldir.
"I would normally have said speak to Gimli," she
said, "but if you have not confided in him by now you clearly
cannot. Talk to Haldirtell him what we suspect. He is your
March Warden, after all. It is his duty to protect you."
Legolas sighed. "Ada is right: she does run rings
around me." He tapped lightly at Haldir's door.
Legolas entered. The March Warden, sitting at his desk, carefully
closed the small journal he had been writing in and looked up
at his visitor. "Legolas!" he said. "I mean"
"If the words 'my' and 'lord' or 'your' and 'highness' pass
your lips, Haldir, you are a dead elf."
Haldir nodded ruefully, then gestured towards two seats, just
inside the garden cave. "Please, come in," he said.
"What can I do for you?"
Legolas took a seat but remained silent for several moments.
At last, he said, "It must be difficult for you, so old,
so used to serving the High Eldar like Lord Celeborn and The Lady,
to be reduced to taking orders from a wood elf and his adaneth."
"I count it a privilege," said Haldir, simply.
"Especially from the latter," said Legolas.
The two elves stared at each other.
"Sweet Eru!" cried Legolas, rubbing his hand across
his forehead, "I am sorry Haldir! I truly... If you want
satisfaction, mellon nín."
Haldir shook his head. "Of course not," he said. Then
he added, quietly, "She will succeed. I am sure of
it. And she will soon be back home with you..."
"I could not live without her, Haldir."
"It is hard for you, too." Legolas looked down at his
hands. "It was Eowyn who told me to come to you," he
He looked up at the March Warden. "The bear, Haldir,"
he finally admitted. "I need your help to capture the bear."
"But, surely, that is a matter for your father's guards
Legolas shook his head. "No," he said.
He rose to his feet and walked further into the garden. "I
am sorry, but I cannot look you in the eye when I tell you this."
He took a deep breath. "The first time the bear attacked,
I sensed desire. I was convinced that it was lusting after Eowynthat
it had somehow mistaken her for a she-bear. But it had not."
He hesitated for another moment, then he added, very softly, "It
wanted me, Haldir. And had Eowyn not come back for me when
she did, I have no doubt that it would have taken me."
He turned back to Haldir. The March Warden was staring at him,
Eowyn looked at the pile of letters. There must be thousands,
She lifted one from the top of the pile and looked at it carefully,
trying to remember everything that Lord Fingolfin had taught her
about the complex fluidity of Tengwar characters. The letter
was written in Sindarin. She scanned the last few lines, trying
to deduce from its layout where the sender's signature might be.
Slowly, she spelled out the name, E L R O N D.
She carefully laid the letter on the floor and picked up the
next. This will take me the rest of my life, she thought. Oh,
The second letter was written in Westron and she quickly identified
its author, Bergthórr beytill. She laid the parchment on
the floor, in a second pile.
The third letter boasted a very familiar signature: Elessar Telcontar!
She gave Aragorn his own pile. Three done, she thought; still
approximately two thousand left to do. Dear Valar, send me some
The fourth letter was in a strange dialect of Sindarin, and she
remembered Fingolfin telling her that the wood elves spoke a mixture
of Sindarin and Silvan. From a wood elf then, she thought.
Probably one of Thranduil's subjects. Not a formal document;
not a sophisticated writer... She scanned it, noticing a few
familiar words: mithril, sabar thurinMine; no,
secret mine, she thoughtgynd 'lyssWhite rocks?and
ebnninmenbefore she managed to find and
spell out the name, E R E I...
There was a light tap on the door.
"Come in!" ...N I O N.
Where do I put it, she wondered. If I find another
letter from this Ereinion, how do I find his pile again? She
shook her head. Of course! The piles must be arranged in Tengwar
order. She glanced towards the door. "Lord Fingolfin!"
"I have been having the strongest feeling that it is time
for your next Elvish lesson, my lady," said Fingolfin.
Eowyn froze in the midst of placing Ereinion's letter on the
floor. "Oh no, my lord!" she cried, "I really do
not have time for a lesson now!"
"Are you sure, my lady?" He looked from the parchment
in her hands to the huge drift of documents spilling from the
desk behind her. "I think you might find it very useful..."
Joining her at the desk, he selected a beautifully illuminated
letter from the top of the pile, and showed it to her. "For
example," he said, "this word, here, beginning with
a calma and ending with an óre, reads Ce-le-born."
He handed it to her.
Eowyn smiled. "I see, my lord," she said.
She laid the letter on the floor, arranging her piles in order.
Fingolfin took a quill from the inkstandshaking his head
at the condition of its nibtore a piece of parchment into
small squares, wrote a Tengwar character on each, and handed
the labels to Eowyn.
Carefully, Eowyn labelled the piles, "Yanta, umbar,
calma. Thank you, my lord."
Smiling, Fingolfin picked up the next letter. "S A E R O
S," he spelled out, pointing to each character in turn.
Eowyn started another pile.
"Since that first attack," said Legolas, "every
encounter has felt the samethere is desire for me and hatred
of Eowyn. And there was hatred of Lindë... Eowyn is convinced
that the bear is a manone of the Beornings who has learnt
to skin-change. She thinks that we need to capture the creature,
wait for it to change back into a man, and then confront him,
whoever he is."
"That seems like a wise plan," said Haldir.
"But we must be discreet, Haldir. I do not want my father
to know that the bear desires menor my fellow warriorsand
certainly not the ellith I used to bed."
Haldir nodded, sympathetically. "If only we knew who it
was," he said. "One of the Beornings is known as 'bear
cub'... Butnoit cannot be him, because he was standing
beside me, watching the drinking contest, when Lady Lindorië
was attacked. In fact," he said, narrowing his eyes as he
visualised the scene, "I think there were only two Beornings
who were not in the hall at that moment. One was their Chieftain"
"I beg your pardon?"
"It is what his namebeytillmeans, apparently.
That is why all the Rohirrim snigger whenever he is nearby."
"Do you suppose it is considered an attractive name?"
"A mighty name," said Legolas. "A chieftain's
name. Who was the other?"
"The tall, arrogant one who thinks he is too good to mix
with elves but would be more than happy to bed an elleth. Thorkell
bogsveigir. What does his name mean? Horse-arse?"
It was strange to hear Haldir accuse someone else of being 'arrogant'
and, despite the situation, Legolas smiled. "Bow-swayer,"
he said. "Apparently, he is considered something of an archer."
"Is he, indeed?"
"You do not suppose it is he? Some sort of rivalry?"
Haldir shrugged his shoulders. "Men are difficult to understand
at the best of times."
"Yes; sometimes, they are," Legolas agreed.
"Would you like a drink?" asked Haldir, suddenly. "Your
father has provided some excellent wine."
"It is a little early."
"I think we both need it." Haldir walked over to the
sideboard. "It will take more than two of us to hunt this
bear," he said. "I suggest that we take Gimli, Berryn
and Dínendal with us, and that we"
"In case anyone is injured," Haldir explained, pouring
out a large measure of fragrant red wine. "Both Dínendal
and Berryn, though not warriors, have valuable skills. You, Gimli
and I will supply the brawn."
Legolas nodded, thoughtfully.
"And, in case we need reinforcements, I suggest that we
talk to your father's March Warden." He handed Legolas a
goblet. "He seems like a good elf. Do you know him?"
"Singollo? He was my best friend as an elfling. We were
"So you can trust him?"
"Yes." Legolas smiled. "Yes, you are right, Haldir,"
he said. "Of course; I will talk to him."
"Good," said Haldir. "Andwhen we have captured
the animalI think we should do exactly as Lady Eowyn suggested:
chain it to the wall and wait until it changes its skin. And then
we will find out who it is..."