singollo greycloak

Fingolfin held up the next letter and pointed to the signature.

"Celeborn," said Eowyn.

"Correct," said Fingolfin. He handed her the parchment.

Eowyn placed it on the correct pile. "Next?" she asked, smiling.

Fingolfin selected another. "Ereinion. That elf must spend all his time writing," she added.

"He is certainly a very communicative fellow," Fingolfin agreed.

"My uncle had a name for men like that," said Eowyn, scanning the next letter, "—another from Celeborn—he called them ealde cwéne, 'old ladies', continually gossiping..."

"Why do men despise women so much?" asked Fingolfin, handing her the next letter. "I do not think you will have too much trouble recognising that signature."

"Legolas!" Eowyn found the correct pile. "It is partly fear," she said. "A man is expected to be strong—and most of them know they are not. Around them they see women running households and bearing children and tending the sick, without rest, without complaint, and it scares them. So they pretend that women are weak and foolish and peevish. And they chastise any man who does not act like a real man by calling him a woman..."

She placed the next letter on the appropriate pile.

"Is that why you fled from marriage to a man?" asked Fingolfin, gently.

"Oh, Faramir was not like that... No..." She looked up suddenly. "I do love Legolas," she said.

"I know you do."

"I could not bear to be parted from him."

She rubbed her aching back as she looked at the desk—they had been working for five hours, and she was already tired, but the pile of papers hardly seemed any smaller. "Do you think we will finish in time, my lord?" she asked, quietly.

"Trust the Valar, my lady," said Fingolfin. "Trust the Valar."


In the wake of the bear's attack, Thranduil had stationed guards at strategic points throughout the palace and had provided both Eomer and Bergthórr beytill with an escort.

Waste of time, thought Eomer, as he approached the Council Chamber accompanied by his Chief Counsellor and two guards. That animal is not a man-eater. It just likes young girls and pretty elves.

Firith, on the other hand, is almost certainly following me, and every elf in these gods-forsaken tunnels knows it—

"It is a pity Lord Fingolfin cannot be with us, your Majesty," said Counsellor Colgan, quietly.

"He cannot?"

"No, your Majesty. King Thranduil's advisor, Lord Astaldo, told me that Lord Fingolfin is helping Princess Eowyn complete her first task."

"Did he tell you how she is faring?"

"He did not know that, your Majesty. But he did say that the majority of King Thranduil's subjects wish her success, especially after the courage she displayed last night."

Eomer smiled. Much as he hated to see his sister taking risks—and he knew that finding her lying on Pelennor Field would haunt his nightmares for the rest of his life—he was, nevertheless, extremely proud of her.

"There is no help for it," he said, quietly, "we will have to do without Fingolfin. But we must be careful, Colgan. Thranduil claims he is our ally in this but I am not sure that we can trust him. He knows that we have malcontents in the north of Rohan; he claims that the Beornings are moving into East Lorien, and he"— Eomer tried to think of the right word—"he is trying to make me believe that Bergthórr beytill intends to ally with our potential rebels. But it seems to me that Rohan has precious little to gain from an alliance with either of them. We must take things slowly—and commit ourselves to nothing at this stage."

"I understand, your Majesty," said Colgan.

They entered the Council chamber.

"Welcome, Eomer King, Lord Colgan," said Thranduil. "Please, take your seats."

He has done this deliberately, thought Eomer, scowling. He has called me here later than the others to put Rohan at a disadvantage.

Eomer took his place beside Gimli and looked around the table. Thranduil was shuffling a pile of papers; everyone else was waiting expectantly. "Have I missed anything?" Eomer whispered.

"No lad," said Gimli, "just Master Horse-penis causing a fuss about the bear." He mimicked Bergthórr's deep voice, "'Just how is the Elvenking going to ensure my people's safety?' And then he insisted that his son should be present at this meeting—"

"The boy on his right?" said Eomer. His memory of the previous night's introductions was, to say the least, hazy.

"Correct—Bjarni Bergthórsson—or Bjarni bjarki, as his friends call him—"

"Bjarni bear-cub?"


"And the Elder on Bergthórr's left?" Eomer nodded towards to a distinguished-looking man with a thick mane of white hair.

"That is Bergthórr's chief Advisor, Óttarr in spaka—Óttarr the wise," whispered Gimli.

"Gentlemen," called Thranduil, suddenly looking up from his papers, "let us begin.

"As you know," he continued, "at the end of the Ring War, the southernmost part of Eryn Galen—Greenwood the Great—was annexed by Lord Celeborn. Large numbers of Lorien elves moved into the forest and began tending the trees—reversing the damage caused by Sauron's presence at Dol Guldur." He paused. "I think that we would all agree," he said, looking pointedly at the Beorning Chieftain, "that the forest is now healthier than it has been for well over a thousand years."

Bergthórr beytill shrugged his shoulders. "I—having lived somewhat less than sixty years—will have to be guided by you on that," he said.

Thranduil bowed his head, graciously. "Since Lord Celeborn departed for the Undying Lands, almost a year ago," he continued, "the elves of East Lorien have looked to the Woodland Realm for protection—"

"Protection from what?" asked Bergthórr beytill.

"From any number of things," replied Thranduil. "From anything or anyone that might threaten their way of life. They are few in number—"

"Who is threatening their way of life?"

"Anyone who invades the forest, delves into the ground, taints the water, or cuts down the trees."

Why is Thranduil behaving like a bull in a buttery? thought Eomer.

"The elves of East Lorien are isolated and understandably nervous," Thranduil continued, "and I am naturally concerned for them." He leaned forward, dramatically. "But what I really want to know, Chief Bergthórr beytill—and I am sure that Eomer King will support me in this—"

Oh horsepiss, thought Eomer, here we go...

"—is what, exactly, are you doing in East Lorien?"


"Lassui! You came!"

Lindë was lying, gracefully arranged, on one of the Healing Room beds, dressed in a frothy white night-gown that hid very few of her charms.

"Voronwë said that it was urgent," said Legolas. "Have you remembered something more about the bear?"

"The bear? No..."

"Then what is it?"

"Sit beside me," said Lindë, patting the bed.


"Sit beside me. I have had an idea, Lassui."

Legolas perched uncomfortably on the very edge of the bed.

Lindë smiled. "You never could resist me, Lassui," she said.

"Lindë!" he chided. "We discussed the past last night. You know that I am bound to Eowyn. So if your 'idea'—"

"Your lady is very nice," said Lindë. "And Voronwë is very nice. And I thought that we could all get together... And be very nice together."


"Yes. I am sure that your lady and Voronwë would get on well. She could teach him—"

"No, Lindë," said Legolas firmly.



"Oh, Lassui... Please."


"I have not had a decent cuildithen since you left!"

"I am sorry, Lindë," said Legolas, "but you will just have to teach Himwë what to do."

"Could you not talk to him—"

"No!" Legolas shook his head. "No, Lindë I could not."

He patted the small patch of shoulder that was still covered by her night-gown. "I am glad to see that you have recovered so quickly," he said, "and I hope that you will join Gimli and me at supper. But you know, Lindë, that you and I will never again be anything more than friends." He rose to his feet. "Now, I must leave you, mell nín. I need to talk to Singollo about capturing the bear."

He walked towards the door.

"Thank your lady for saving me, Lassui," called Lindë, as he reached for the latch.

Legolas turned and smiled. She is spoilt and she does not always think before she speaks, he thought. But she is so elfling-like...

Perhaps I could have a word with Himwë.


Bergthórr beytill leaped to his feet and leaned over the Council table.

"How dare you insult me! How dare you insult the Beornings! How dare you speak thus of the men who, during the long reign of Sauron—and without the luxury of immortality—single-handedly kept open the High Pass and the Ford of Carrock, and secured the passage from Dale to Rivendell—the men who stood beside you at the final Battle, you—you—you arrogant wood elf!" he cried.

Since Bergthórr was a relatively small man, his fury was somewhat less than intimidating.

Thranduil remained completely unruffled. "I merely asked for clarification," he said.

"Clarify my arse—"

"My lord," said Eomer, rapping his knuckles on the table to draw the Beorning's attention, "King Thranduil—please—sit down, both of you." Eomer's manner was calm, but when Bergthórr made to protest, he added, "Sit!"

The elf and the man, still eyeing each other over the table, lowered themselves into their seats simultaneously.

"Now," said Eomer, "what evidence do you have, King Thranduil, of an incursion into East Lorien—and what makes you think that the culprits are men?"

And when, exactly, he wondered, did it fall to me to be the diplomat?



Thranduil's March Warden had just finished briefing a detachment of Forest Guards and was watching them file out through the Main Gates.

"Lassui! Mae govannen, mellon nín! Good to see you again! I am sorry I have not had time to greet you before—what with this bear business..." Singollo placed his hand over his heart and bowed his head. Then he looked up, smiling. "But perhaps I should be doing this." He embraced his friend heartily, human-fashion. "Was that correct?"

Legolas smiled. "Yes," he said, "that was very good." He drew Singollo to one side. "Can we talk in private, Collo?"

"Of course. Now?"

Legolas nodded. "If you can."

"Your mother's garden?"


The two elves walked slowly, side by side, away from the well-guarded main thoroughfare and down the long, deserted passage that led to the garden cave. "I have a favour to ask of you," said Legolas.

"And you want to keep it secret from your father?"


"Does the favour have anything to do with your lady and the test your father has set her?"


"Good, because much as I want to see you happy—and she is a cordof, Lassui—I could not go directly against your father's wishes. But if it is not that, then—of course—what do you want me to do?"

Legolas smiled. "Come in," he said.

They stepped through the low, crumbling door to his mother's garden, crossed the meadow and sat beneath her beloved beeches.

Singollo looked out across the grass. "It is always delightful here," he said. "Does the Shire really look like this?"

"The Shire," said Legolas, thinking back to his and Gimli's visit to Bag End, just before Frodo left for the Undying Lands, "the Shire is even more beautiful, Collo. The hobbits love it, and tend it with simple, honest hearts, and the Shire loves them in return."

He sighed.

"What is wrong, Lassui? I mean, apart from..."

Legolas turned to his friend and smiled. "Apart from the fear of losing her? It is the bear, Collo," he said. "On our way here, Eowyn and I were attacked by it. At least, I was attacked, and she saved me..."

"I know—"

"Yes; but what you do not know..." Legolas told his friend everything—of sensing the bear's desire for him; of sensing its hatred of Eowyn, and of Lindë; of Eowyn's theory; and of Haldir's plan.

"There is no shame in being desired by a man, Lassui," said Singollo, gently. "I have heard that many men find elves attractive." He patted Legolas' back. "So—you want to search the caves, and you want to use the dungeons—of course. I will help you in any way I can. And no one knows these tunnels better than I do."

"I could not possibly ask you to come hunting with us, Collo—"

"Do you remember Thorondir Eaglegaze?"

"Of course I remember him," said Legolas. "What do you mean...? Oh, that. Yes, I remember that."

"Though not nearly so well as I do," said Singollo. "It was you who made him stop beating me. Even though you were the Crown Prince and I was just the son of your father's groom. And you were half his size. I do not want you to take this the wrong way, Legolas," he added, and a mischievous grin suddenly broke across his childlike face, "but I would do anything for you... Except give up archery. Or give up wine. Or, give up carel ellith, of course—"

"Collo, you idiot," said Legolas, laughing, "you make Gimli sound like Lord Elrond! It is good to be back with you, Collo," he admitted.

"When do you want to go on this bear hunt?" asked Singollo.

"As soon as possible."

"I understand that your lady will be occupied until dawn?"


"Let us do it tonight, then—we will search one tunnel at a time and, once we are sure it is clear, we will seal it."


"We will give the guards at the entrance nice, simple orders: no bears, no Beornings—"

"We cannot do that—"

"Of course we can. Everyone has heard about the bear, and everyone is nervous—or should be. The Beornings are our honoured guests. It is only right that we offer them our protection."

"They will know that we suspect them."

"Perhaps. But we will be polite and helpful and they will have no grounds for complaint."

"You are good at this," said Legolas.

"Thank you," said Singollo. "Keeping your father happy all these years has meant learning to swim like a fish and fly like a bird..."

Legolas smiled. "Tonight, then," he said. "And now I had better see how my father and Eomer have fared in their negotiations."

"And I had better get back to the guard room," said Singollo. He rose from the bench with a look of casual innocence on his childlike face. "Tell me, Lassui," he said, "is it true?"

"Is what true?"

"What they say about elves and women?"

"Is... Oh, Collo!"

"You can tell a friend."

Legolas shook his head in mock despair. "Find your own Shieldmaiden!" he said. "And that is all I am saying!"


"I have no doubt that you deliberately set out to provoke Bergthórr beytill," said Eomer to Thranduil after the Beorning Chieftain and his supporters had stormed out of the Council Chamber, "but what I do not understand is why. What could you have hoped to accomplish?"

"Exactly what I did accomplish," said Thranduil.

Eomer glanced at Gimli; the dwarf shrugged his shoulders. "Which is?" the man asked.

"First," said Thranduil, "I broke his self-control: a man reveals many secrets when he is angry."

"He revealed nothing," protested Eomer.

"You think not?" Thranduil smiled. "On the contrary—I heard him say that he knew nothing about any fires. But I had not mentioned that the ground had been burnt. I think he revealed that he knows exactly what is going on in East Lorien.

"Secondly, I may just have provoked him into trying to cover up his tracks. If that is the case, the elves I have assigned to watch his people will soon learn about it.

"Thirdly, I have shown him that—whilst I am thoroughly unreasonable—you are calm and diplomatic." He smiled, bewitchingly. "If Chief Horse-penis decides that he does want to negotiate, he will approach you first."

"And the benefit of that is?" asked Gimli.

"They are both men," said Thranduil, as though the answer was obvious. "Bergthórr will try to convince Eomer King to ally with him. And to do that he will have to explain what he is up to."

"So that interminable security report I studied this morning was a waste of time?" said Eomer.

"Some of the details may be useful—it remains to be seen."

Eomer was not pleased.

"What is going on in East Lorien?" asked Gimli, suddenly. "Why do you not just send in a scouting party to take a look?"

"Where would be the fun in that?" asked Thranduil.

"You have a strange idea of fun."

Thranduil smiled. "I have tried sending scouts," he admitted, "but it is useless. Somehow, the Beornings always know when strangers are nearby and they immediately cover up whatever it is they are doing. My elves found nothing but raked soil—suspicious enough in the thick of the forest—and traces of burning."


Legolas closed the door behind him. He had decided that he would return to his quarters to bathe and change before joining his father, Eomer, and Gimli in the Great Hall.

But Eowyn will not be there, he thought, sadly.

He walked into the bedchamber, unhooking the fastenings on his pale green tunic. Eowyn's velvet riding gown was lying, freshly laundered, over the chair beside the bed. She wore this on the ride from Edoras to Dunharrow, he thought, running his fingers over its soft, russet pile, after she had convinced Aragorn that she was simply going to 'farewell the men'!

"I love you, Eowyn nín," he said aloud. "Gerich faer vara!"

He shrugged off his tunic and laid it on the bed, slipped out of his soft boots, then unlaced his leggings, slid them down over his thighs, and stepped out of them.

I must hurry if I am going to bathe, he thought, scratching his bare stomach—

"My lord?"

Legolas gasped. "Rothinzil! What are you doing here?" He quickly picked up his tunic and wrapped it around his waist.

"I am here to take care of you, my lord," she said and, smiling—almost shyly—she took a few graceful steps towards him.

"I beg your pardon?"

A few hundred years ago, those words would have brought out the animal in him. He would have scooped her up in his arms and carried her to his bed, laughing. But now...

Legolas stepped backwards.

"Your father asked me to see to your needs, my lord," said the Rothinzil, still trying to play their old game. She stretched out her hand and lightly ran her fingers own his bare chest.

"Rosui!" Legolas took another step.

"It has been a long time, my lord," she admitted. "But you cannot have forgotten what it was like..." She slid her hand down to his waist and pulled at his improvised loincloth.

Slowly, Legolas opened his arms and let the tunic fall to the ground. Then he took Rothinzil's hand and held her fingers against himself. "I love Eowyn," he said, simply. "I am bound to her. And you know what that means: see—nothing."

Rothinzil swallowed hard. The pain in her eyes was genuine.

Legolas let go of her hand. "I am sorry, Rosui," he said, picking up his leggings and slipping them on. "I do not blame you. I know that my father told you to do this—"

"He said—"

"I can imagine what he said—that I was infatuated with an adaneth and that you could save me. But now you know that what he said was untrue. I love Eowyn. And, Rosui, you and I—our affair—was over, long before I met her." He stroked her back in a brotherly fashion.

"Please, do not do that, my lord," she whispered.

"I am sorry," said Legolas, gently, "Come, Rosui, you must leave. I will speak to my father and have you appointed to another lady."

Rothinzil nodded, sadly,letting him escort her out of the chamber. "Please forgive me, my lord," she said, as he opened the door.

"There is nothing to forgive, Rosui," said Legolas. He kissed her forehead lightly. "Good night." He watched her walk along the passage, towards the Great Hall. Then, as he was turning back to his chamber door, he noticed a small, veiled figure standing further down the corridor.

"Lady Gunnhildr? You should not be walking about alone. Is anything amiss?"

The girl did not speak, but merely shook her head. Her veil made it impossible for Legolas to see her expression, or even to see exactly where she was looking, but her posture was awkward—uncomfortable—and he had the distinct impression that she was staring at his bare chest. Poor little thing, he thought. She has never seen a male undressed before.

Why do humans treat their daughters like this? Making them afraid of their own shadows? Making them think that the whole world wants only to steal their gweneth. They would say it is to protect the weak. But it seems to me that the prevention is worse than the disease...

He thought of Eowyn's courage and independence. Thank the Valar!

Then another thought struck him. If the bear is a Beorning, who knows what intentions he may have towards his chieftain's daughter? Perhaps Bergthórr beytill is right! "Allow me to escort you to your chambers, Lady Gunnhildr."

He held out his hand to her, elven fashion. She hesitated for a moment, her posture suggesting even greater discomfort; then she placed her hand on his, and allowed him to lead her down the corridor.

"Is this the first time you have accompanied your father on an official visit, my lady?" asked Legolas, turning to look at her. The angle of her head showed him that she was staring fixedly at the ground, but she replied with a nod. "Are you enjoying it?" She nodded again. "Is there anything you would like to do or see whilst you are here, my lady?" He felt her flinch slightly. "I meant," he explained, "that I could arrange for some of the ladies of the court to spend time with you. You would not have to wear your veil with them. And you could relax..."

Her voice was so soft that he almost missed her reply. "It is kind of you, Prince Legolas, to be concerned for me. But my father prefers me not to mix with other ladies."

Legolas' immediate impulse was to ask her why, but he curbed his tongue. It was not his place to openly criticise Bergthórr beytill's raising of his daughter. "Well, if you do need anything—if there is anything that I—or Lady Eowyn—can help you with, just send me a message. Ah—I believe we are here, my lady." He stopped outside her chamber door, and gently dropped her hand. "Until we meet again, my lady," he said.

And, to his surprise, Gunnhildr Bergthórsdottir came up on her tiptoes and, through her veil, gave his cheek the briefest of kisses.


"How is she faring, Ada?" asked Legolas, softly, as he took his place at the supper table beside his father.

"I have no idea," said Thranduil. "Eowyn has until dawn: I shall not disturb her until then."


"I obtained this information from the Library, March Warden," said Berryn to Singollo.

Eryn Carantaur's cartographer had carefully copied a plan of the palace and mounted it onto a thin piece of wood—and had already made several corrections, in red chalk, to the mapping of the main thoroughfare. "How accurate is this part?" He pointed to the northern ends of the various tunnels.

Singollo took the plan from him and studied it carefully. "Hmmm. There are some side-tunnels missing—here, here, and here—Master Berryn but, in essence, I think it is correct. We will start here, in Gath Loen: it is damp and deserted and would be the best place to hide," he added, holding up the plan so that the rest of the hunting party—Gimli, Legolas, Dínendal and Haldir—could see it. "I have already placed a detachment of five warriors, here, at its mouth. As the plan shows, there is no other way out of this area, so I suggest that we go straight to the furthest point, here, and work backwards, checking these side caverns as we advance. If the bear is hiding anywhere in this wing it will be driven towards the entrance where my elves will capture and hold it. If we have no success in Gath Loen, we will scour each of these in turn," he pointed to the various complexes of tunnels.

"Might I suggest," said Dínendal, diffidently, "that we try the tunnel in which Lady Lindorië was attacked, next? I have read that bears are territorial animals..."

"Yes; that makes sense," said Singollo.

"How did you explain to the guards why you are allowing us to do the hunting?" asked Legolas.

"That is the great advantage of living in a traditional kingdom instead of a forward-thinking colony, Lassui," said Singollo, smiling. "You are the King's son and your word is my command; your friends want to hunt. The guards see nothing strange in any of that."

Gimli drew his axe. "Let us get started then, lad!" he said.

The hunters checked their weapons, Dínendal shouldered his healing bag, and Berryn tucked his map under his arm and his piece of chalk behind his ear. Then everyone picked up a torch and followed Singollo.

"Gimli," said Legolas, softly, as they entered Gath Loen. "I need to return before dawn. I must be outside my father's study when she needs me."

"Of course lad," said Gimli, patting his arm, "I will send you back in time. Leave it to me."


Seven hours later

"You are tired, my lady," said Fingolfin.

Eowyn nodded. "I would rather gallop for three days along the Great West Road and face a hoard of Haradrim on armoured Mûmakil than sort one more letter," she said.

"All warriors—without exception—underestimate how demanding the simple day-to-day tasks of running a realm can be," said Fingolfin, smiling.

"Well, I will not in future," said Eowyn.

She stretched herself up to her full height, rubbing the small of her back, and glanced around the chamber. The small garden cave in the corner of Thranduil's study was bathed in a soft rosy light...

"Look!" she cried. "Look, my lord! The sun has already risen!"




Contents page

Contents page

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

Chapter 6

Next chapter: Clues
Why does nobody see the bear?

Chapter 8

Ealde cwéne is meant to be Rohirric (Old English) for 'old ladies'.


Cordof … 'pippin'ónot the hobbit variety but a 'superior eating apple with yellow skin flushed with red; a person or thing that is admired'. ("She's a peach!") Gerich faer vara! … 'You have a fiery spirit!'
Gweneth is a genuine Tolkien word that means 'virginity'.


Naughty Elvish
Cuildithen … 'orgasm' (literally, 'little life')
Carel ellith … 'doing ellith'.


Legolas' friends
Legolas' friends are called Voronwë and Singollo. Both names are Quenya. Voronwë means 'steadfast one' and the Sindarin for 'steadfast' is him, so Voronwë's nickname is Himwë. Singollo means 'Greycloak' and the Quenya word for cloak is 'Collo', so that's his nickname.