"How long will you be away?" asked Legolas.
"It is two days' journey to Rihat on horseback," said
Faramir. "So, depending on the woman's condition, we could
be back in five days..."
"Or not," said Legolas.
"I will not go if you need me here."
"Of course you must go. Captain Oliel has been very good
to us. Will you take Berengar with you?"
"If he is willing."
Legolas smiled. "Oh, I am sure he is willing! When
do you leave?"
"Tonight at dusk. But I must speak to Oliel this morning."
Eowyn had been trying to find the djinn a new home since they
had returned from the Land of Kuri. Though she was sure
that the kettle she had found for him was perfectly serviceable,
it seemed that the djinn had more refined tastes.
She had spent hours examining lamps of all shapes and sizesearthenware
lamps glazed with pastoral scenes, brass lamps chased with calligraphic
patterns, enamelled lamps that shone with a subtle lustre, silver
lamps with jewelled lids... Nothing seemed to meet the djinn's
exacting requirements. Today's visit to a rather disreputable
part of the souk, where Hentmirë had heard of a man selling
novelties from the east, was a last resort.
"Look, Eowyn," cried Hentmirë, "there he
is! Over thereand he has hundreds of lamps! You are sure
to find one here. Take us closer, Rimush."
The bearers tried to cross to the other side of the narrow street,
but the constant stream of people had suddenly coalesced into
a procession, with musicians sounding trumpets and banging drums,
and acrobats turning cartwheels, and groups of slaves carrying
cages of wild animals. "I cannot, just now, my lady,"
"They are from the circus," said Hentmirë.
"I shall go on foot," said Eowyn.
"Are you sure? Remember what you promised Legolas..."
"I shall be fine," said Eowyn patting her hand. "I
do not want this to take too longLegolas is looking forward
to seeing the gardens." Hentmirë still looked unsure.
"It is just a few steps," Eowyn insisted. "And
I am a warrior, remember."
"Then do you mind if I stay here? The water sometimes makes
my legs shaky and I do not think I could manage..."
"Please do not get lost, Eowyn. Legolas would be so
cross with me."
Smiling, Eowyn climbed down from the palanquin. As if Legolas
would ever be cross with you! She waited for a break
in the river of people. Just after those striped cats,
Gods, they are big! I wonder if Legolas would like to see
No, he could not bear to see animals confined. He might even
set them free... Imagine the uproar.
Seeing her chance, she stepped into the crowd, twisting and turning
to avoid colliding with the acrobats, and she had almost reached
the other side when a giant of a manone of the performerssuddenly
caught her round the waist.
"Come, pretty lady," he laughed, "this way. I
shall make sure you get a good seat."
"Let me go!" she cried. "Please! Please!"
But her protests were swallowed up by the beat of the drums and
the roar of the tigersand within seconds she had left Hentmirë
and Rimush far behind.
Gimli joined Legolas in the courtyard, washed and brushed, and
wearing a robe of midnight blue silk that one of the maids had
found for himAnd which probably, the elf thought,
belongs to Hentmirë. It was a trifle long.
"Ah. You look much better, elvellon. Sit down. I
have had the servants bring you some food." Gimli perched
on a floor cushion beside the low table. Legolas poured him a
goblet of the local wine. "Help yourself."
The dwarf picked up a chicken leg. "It is good to see you,
you crazy elf," he said, taking a bite. Then he shook his
head, grinning. "Only an Elf could get himself bought by
a woman. 'Property of a Lady...'" He took a swig of
wine. "No match for ale," he said, wiping his mouth.
"Hmm." Legolas smiled. "I think you will find
it much stronger than ale, Gimli... "
"Where is Eowyn?"
"Out shopping with Hentmirë. They are looking for a
lamp... Valar, Gimli, there is so much to tell you!" He settled
back against the wall. "You will like Hentmirë, elvellon;
she is likenot a mother, or a sister, exactlymore
like a mother's sister. I am very fond of her."
"What does Eowyn think of that?"
"Eowyn loves her too. She is coming back to Eryn Carantaur
with us, just as soon as the wind picks up. Quite a few people
As Gimli ate, Legolas described how Valandil and Wilawen had
been snatched from the slave ship by the roc, and how, in the
course of rescuing Figwit, they had fallen in love. "Valandil
plans to marry her. Figwit is undecided about his futurewhether
to continue on to Valinor or to return with us to Eryn Carantaurso
Valandil and Wilawen have taken him back to the island for a few
days, hoping that he will find it easier to make a decision in
Then, with a grin, he described how Camthalion and Orodreth had
been bought by the brothel keeper, Arinna, and how they seemed
to have fallen completely under her spell. "She must be a
very inventive woman, Gimli," he said, "because in Mirkwood
they both had reputations I envied. She will be coming with us,
too, if they have their way."
Finally, Legolas described the djinn. "You will need to
see him to believe in him, elvellon."
"How is the March Warden?" asked Gimli.
Legolas frowned. "In truth, Gimli, I am not sure."
"It is such a pity that Eowyn does not have a sister."
The dwarf shrugged. "We dwarves are a practical people,"
Faramir was packing a change of linen into his small travelling
"Oliel could arrive in Rihat to find her already dead and
buried," he said. "If that happens, he will need someone
to make the necessary arrangementsand to make sure that
he gets back here safely." Berengar's face was slightly averted.
"You will come with me?"
"What is wrong?"
"You like this man."
"I doI like his dedication to his purpose;
his refusal to give in, no matter how long the oddshe reminds
me of Boromir in so many ways." Faramir did not see the relief
that suddenly lit up Berengar's face. "But there is something
that worries me..."
He sat down on the bed. "For seven years, Berengar, he has
done nothing but search for his wifehis every thought, his
every action, has been dedicated to that purpose. The search has
taken on a life of its own. I do not know how he will cope when
"So, even if there is a happy ending, it may not be happily
"He is not your responsibility, Faroth," said Berengar.
"You are doing everything you can for himmore than
anyone else would do. You cannot save the whole of Middle-earth."
Then, "Your father has a lot to answer for," he added,
By the time Eowyn had managed to free herself from the giant's
arms, she was completely lost.
There is no need to panic, she thought. Just find the
Great Royal Road. From there you can easily walk back to Hentmirë's
Gods, Hentmirë will be panicking! I just hope that Rimush
has managed to stop her running into the crowd after me. If anything
were to happen to her Legolas would break his heart!
I must ask for directions.
She scanned the nearby stalls, searching for a trustworthy-looking
stallholder, and caught a glimpse of someone familiar...
She slipped behind the nearest stall and peered out from under
a swag of embroidered cloth. Gods! Wolfram... Still alive and...
and walking againthough, she noticed with some satisfaction,
moving with a pronounced limp.
"Beautiful isn't it?"
"Silk from Chipangu," said the stallholder.
"The colours are exquisitesee." He reached towards
the fabric, intending no more than to draw it into a better light.
But Eowynher nerves on edgeinstinctively shrank back,
knocking over a bale of cloth. The first bale dislodged another,
and that pushed over two more, and all the beautiful silks tumbled
down onto the dusty cobbles. The stallholder swore loudly.
Wolfram turned towards the commotion.
Eowyn threw herself to the ground andignoring the irate
stallholder and the other people milling around herquickly
crawled away. After several yards she found a doorwaya back
entrance to something. She came up on her knees and tried the
She pushed the door open and fell inside.
For a few moments she lay, legs splayed, with her back to the
door, trying to catch her breath. Then she rose to her feet and
carefully turned the key in the lock.
"Can I help you, lady?"
The voice was not particularly deep, but it had a commanding
quality that might have made Eowyn nervous had she not been so
relieved to haveshe hopedescaped from Wolfram unseen.
She turned. Her interrogator was a smallish man, middle-aged,
but handsome, and still very attractive.
"I apologise for trespassing, sirIerI
was being followed," she said.
"That can hardly be a new experience for a pretty lady like
you," said the man.
"This person is..." How much should she tell a stranger?
"I think he is dangerous."
The man nodded, sagely, as if weighing some complex argument.
Then"Come,"he gestured for her to follow,
leading her down a narrow corridor and into a large, marble-lined
Like a white Mead Hall, Eowyn thought, taking in the tables,
the barrels of ale and the bottles of wine and spirits.
Eowyn perched on a stool before the marble counter.
The man poured out a large measure of spirits. "Here,"
he said. "You look like you need this."
Eowyn accepted it gratefully. "Thank you." She took
a sip and, because it was strong, and because she felt slightly
uncomfortable drinking it alone, she added, "Will you not
"Sure. Why not." The man poured himself a glass. "Tell
me: what's a blonde doing wandering through the souk on her own?"
Eowyn gazed into her glass. "I was not on my own. But I
got separated from my friends, and I was trying to find my way
back to The Great Royal Road when"
"He started following you."
"Did you know him?"
The man knocked back his drink. "Wait here," he said.
"I'll get one of my barmen to take you home."
"That is very kind of you sir, but"
"No buts. You walk into my bar, you're under my protection."
Eowyn smiled. "I am sure that is not the general
rule, sir," she said.
"It's my rule."
"I'll see if Cyllien has something you can put onto
cover up that golden hair"
"She sings here."
"Why are you helping her, Rib?" the elleth asked.
"I like her," said Ribhadda. "She's got class."
Captain Oliel looked up from his map. "Faramir! What are
you doing here?"
Faramir spread his hands. "I thought it was time to repay
"That is not necessary, my friend"
"I know you would never ask for it," said Faramir,
"but, whatever happens, you will need help." He shrugged
his shoulders. "Transporting an injured woman will not be
easy. Berengar and I both have some skill at healing..."
Oliel glanced at the secretary. "You are looking on the
bright side," he said, "but thank you. You too, Master
Berengar." He turned back to the map. "I was just looking
at the caravan route." He traced it with his finger. "This
is Rihat. This is the Silk Roadit passes through the oasis
and then continues east."
"Why does it meander so much?" asked Berengar.
"It runs from well to wellherehereand
here, and passes through the only gap in the Ripa'a Ridge, here"
"That looks dangerous," said Berengar, pointing to
the far end of the narrow pass, "perfect for an ambush. On
the way here, Gimli and I heard much talk of bandits, though we
did not encounter any."
"Bandits are always a threat in the desert," said Oliel.
"But they're less likely to attack a caravan than three men
travelling on their own. Have either of you ridden a camel before?"
"No," said Faramir.
Berengar shook his head.
"Well... You will soon get used to it."
"Legolas! Legolas!" Hentmirë jumped from
the moving palanquin, and collapsed into a heap as she hit the
"Gwendithen!" Legolas was by her side in a second.
"Whatever is the matter?"
"I have lost her! Someone took her away. We looked and looked
but we could not find her. You must come back with me"
"She was caught up in the crowd! The circus! But when we
got to the arena she was not there..."
Legolas turned to Rimush. "I do not think that the man who
took her intended her any harm, Master Legolas," said the
attendant. "He thought that she wanted to join in. I am sorry,
sir, I should never have let her get out"
"I shall fetch my knives," said Legolas. "Then
you will take me back to where you lost her. Hentmirë, you
will stay here. Gimli, will you join me, elvellon?"
"Bring your axe. And bring the March Warden. Do not worry,
gwendithen," he said, lifting Hentmirë into his arms
and carrying her swiftly indoors. "We shall find her."
Hearing the sound of a door closing, Eowyn looked up from her
still-full glass of spirits.
Walking towards her, carrying a dark mantle, was the loveliest
elleth she had ever seentalltaller even than Arwenwith
a statuesque but slender figure, long sable hair, a beautiful,
child-like face, and such an air of sadness!
Rejection, thought Eowyn. But, then, she may be the
only elleth for hundreds of miles. It must have been such a comfort
to speak to Haldir last night. No wonder he did not have a chance
to ask her about Vardamir...
She smiled warmly. "Thank you," she said, accepting
the mantle. She rose and draped it over her shoulders, and raised
"Almost invisible," said the elleth.
Eowyn, taking her comment as sincere, assumed that it was an
offer of friendship. "I believe," she said, "that
you spoke to one of my companions last nightHaldir? He is
an elf, like"
"Yes, I know Haldir," said Cyllien.
"My name is"
"Yes! How did you know that?"
"Just a lucky guess."
"I suppose Haldir mentioned me."
"You could say that."
"Will you sit with me for a while? I shall not keep you
long, but I do need to ask youHaldir should have done so,
last night, but I can understand why he did not"
"Have you ever metor heard ofan elf called Vardamir?"
"Vardamir!" For the first time since the conversation
had begun, Cyllien's supercilious manner slipped. "That orc!
Why do you ask?"
"He is wanted, in South Ithilien, for attempted murder"
"Murder!" The elleth shuddered. "I should have
known. He is so... strange."
"Do you know where we can find him?" asked Eowyn.
"No. He used to come here regularly. But I have not seen
him in weeks. And, now that I know what he is, I never want to
She was interrupted by Ribhadda, who emerged from the back room
with another man in tow. "This is Hiram, my lady. He will
take you home."
"Thank you very much, sir," said Eowyn, clasping his
hand. "If there is anything that I, or my husband, can do
to repay you..."
Ribhadda shook his head. "The pleasure was all mine."
He led her to the main doors.
"Madam," said Cyllien, as he was drawing back the bolts.
"Is Haldir staying with you?"
"Yes," said Eowyn.
"Then I shall come with you. I need to talk to him. I'll
be back before opening time, Rib."
"I tell you, it was her." Wolfram threw himself
down in a chair. "And she was this close." He
held out his hand andin his mind's eyeclosed his fist
around a hank of golden hair. "I could have had her...
In her tiny little bodice."
"Then why did you let her get away?" asked Vardamir.
He handed his accomplice a goblet of wine.
Wolfram took a swig. "When will you get us something decent
to drink?" he asked.
"When will you get us some money?"
"You can steal a bottle of wine!" cried Wolfram,
He set the goblet down with a clatter. "I didn't let
her get away. You know hershe's resourceful. She threw a
pile of cloth in my way and, by the time I'd got past the stall
keeper, she'd disappeared. But the only way she could have gone
was through the back door of The Silk Road, so I went round
the front and climbed up to one of the windows. And there was
old Ribhadda making her welcomeplying her with spirits so
he could get a good look at her titties. Did I tell you"
"You once saw her wash them."
"Like ripe melons..."
"Is she still in The Silk Road?"
"How should I know? There are limits to how long a man can
hang from a window ledge unnoticedwith his prick standing
to attention." He smiled at Vardamir wolfishly. "But
you can go in there and have a good lookthis afternoon,
as soon as it opens. Even if she's not there you may be able to
find out where she's staying. Ribhadda's always had a soft spot
for you. And it will give you another chance to see your elleth.
Who knows, today may even be your lucky day."
Eowyn and her escorts had left the souk behind them, reached
the Great Royal Road without incident, and had just begun the
long, pleasant walk past the private villas lining the sea shore,
"Is that really Haldir," asked Cyllien, "with
a dwarf andoh Valar!is that the Prince of Mirkwood?
Why is the Prince of Mirkwood running towards us? By Eärendil,
"Yes," said Eowyn. "He is." She lowered the
hood of her mantle. "Lassui!"
Legolas swept her into his arms, lifted her into the air, and
whirled her round. Then he set her back on her feet and began
kissing her, very thoroughly.
Gimli blushed under his beard. "Wait until you get her indoors,
you crazy elf," he mumbled. He bowed to Cyllien. "I
am Gimli, son of Gloin, at your service, my lady. My friend over
there is Prince Legolas of the Woodland Realm, and that lady's
husbandand this is March Warden Hal"
"Haldir and I have already met," said Cyllien. "I
am pleased to meet you Gimli, son of Gloin. I am Cyllien, daughter
of Eluchíl, formerly of Imladris; and this is Hiram, son
Legolas gave Eowyn one final kiss and turned to greet her escorts.
"Thank you, Mistress Cyllien, Master Hiram, for returning
my wife to me," he said. He placed his hand over his heart
and bowed his head. Then, with elfling-like impetuosity, he seized
the elleth's hand and kissed it.
The effect was remarkable. Cyllien melted in girlish embarrassment.
"Please," said the elf, treating her to one of his
most potent, dimpled smiles, "call me Legolas. May I invite
you both to take some refreshment with us?"
"Thank you, your highness," said Hiram, "but I
must be getting back to The Silk Road." He turned
to Cyllien. "And so must you."
"I should be delighted, Prince Legolas," said Cyllien.
"Why did you come here?" hissed Haldir. "You were
not concerned for her."
A quick glance at Eowyn showed him that she was not looking in
their directionshe was sitting beside Legolas, watching
with amusement as Hentmirë tried to referee the conversation
between him and Gimli.
Haldir pulled Cyllien towards the study. "In here."
He closed the door behind them. "What is all this 'Yes, Prince
Legolas; no, Prince Legolas' nonsense?"
Cyllien drew herself up to her full height and looked him straight
in the eye. "What was all that 'Eowyn, Eowyn; oh, sweet Valar,
"Why, exactly, do you like to imagine you're doing
the Prince of Mirkwood's wife?
"What are you talking about?"
"Last night. You kept calling me 'Eowyn', you stupid orc."
"Manwë's balls! That is not supposed to happen!"
"NoyouI had no idea..." He pulled up a
chair. "Sit down. PleaseI really did not know. And
I am sorry." He ran his hand over his hair. "And you
deserve an explanation."
"I know." She sat down.
"Where do I start?" Haldir pulled up a second chair.
"You have heard of the Battle of the Hornburg," he said.
"At Helm's Deep."
"Yes. I was wounded there. Twice, in factfirst in
the arm, and then in the backand the second was a grievous
wound, all but fatal."
Cyllien's manner had softened. Haldir smiled, she smiled backand
the elf felt a sudden stirring of the desire that had overwhelmed
him the previous night. He lowered his gaze.
"The casualties were heavy on that part of the wallelves,
orcs, men. By the time it was all over I was buried beneath a
pile of bodies." He shook his head. "I could hear them
"The Rohirrim. They were searching for survivors and finding
none, and they were dealing with the bodies of the elves with
as much care and respect as they could muster, but..." He
looked down at his hands. "I knew that they would not recognise
my condition. I knew that I had to tell them, somehow, that I
was still alive. But I could not: I could not move, I could not
"Valar!" whispered the elleth.
"They had built a huge pyre. I could smell the flesh burning."
He turned to her. "They were burning orcs, Cyllien,
but I did not know that."
"You must have been scared."
"I was," said Haldir softly. "I was very
scared. Hopeless. And then I felt her little hand on my face.
I felt her hair brush my skin as she bent over me. 'Here,' she
cried. 'I think he is alive!'"
"Who would have thought it," said Cyllien.
Haldir turned to her questioningly.
"She seems so stu..." The change in his expression
warned her not to continue.
"She dragged the orc off me herselfI am sure of that,"
said Haldir, "and had me carried to some sort of healing
rooma tent, I think. The elven healers said I that was beyond
saving. 'Let him go with dignity,' they said." He smiled.
"But she would not! She may look like a faun but she is made
of steel. She fetched a another healer, a mansomeone she
had no trouble intimidatingand, together, they cleaned and
dressed my wounds. She helped him herself...
"I do not know how long I lay in healing sleep. Or how much
time she may have spent at my sideperhaps none." He
shrugged. "But when I awoke she was sitting beside me. She
was pale and tired, the way men get, sometimesthe way she
gets now when she is pushing herself too hard to keep pace with
Legolas. He does not always see it...
"It is strange. I can remember thinking how beautiful she
was, but I cannot remember how it felt to look at heris
that not strange? She had become an obsession, a dangerous
obsession, and so I"
"How did she come to marry the Prince of Mirkwood?"
"Legolas? He says he fell in love with her the moment he
saw her. But she only had eyes for AragornKing Elessar"
"She preferred King Elessar to the fairest elf in Middle-earth!"
"Aragorn was our captain, the one who could lead her people
out of darkness. That is the reason she fell in love with him."
"You really do worship her."
"No. I had that removed. That is why last night happened."
He turned to her. "I had a magician remove my love for Eowyn
from my heart and mind. And it must have workedfor
you are the first person I have desiredother than hersince
the day I met her."
"You'd not... since before the Battle of Helm's Deep?"
"Well, that explains the sex," said Cyllien.
She rose to her feet. "You will never have her, Haldir,
and you need to get over herby yourself, not by magic. Growing
up in Imladris, I dreamed of finding that somebodya
companion for eternity... But this is not the time of the Eldar,
Haldir. This is the Fourth Age. And if we elves are to survive
amongst men we must learn to live like them." She sighed.
"You know were to find me if you want me."
Haldir watched her walk towards the door, admiring the light
on her charcoal-black hair, the subtle curve of her waist, and
the sway of her slender hips. She was not Eowyn and she never
would be, butin a wayher charms were more real to
him than Eowyn's had ever been.
As if she could hear his thoughts, Cyllien turned and almost
smiled. "You're an arrogant orc, Haldir, but you do
know how to pleasure an elleth."
Haldir stretched out his arms.
"He is limping," said Eowyn. "But he is just as
dangerous as ever." She had waited until Hentmirë had
gone upstairs for her nap before telling Legolas about Wolfram.
"So now we must find both of them," said Legolas.
"And find Wolfram before he finds you."
He took her hands in his. "I know that you dislike my saying
this sort of thing, melmenya, but I am going to say it anyway"
"You do not need to," said Eowyn. "I shall be
careful. I was scared Lassui..."
"In future, I want you to take the djinn with you whereever
you go. Then, if you get into trouble, you can just rub the lampthe
kettleno, that kettle is far too big for you to carry
about. You will have to persuade the djinn to use one of Hentmirë's
lamps for now. Just until our friends are under lock and key."
"Do you think they are together?"
"I think it likely, melmenya. Two criminals, both from the
North, in a city this sizeyes, I think that they will at
least have come into contact."
"Perhaps the Hatja could help us find them."
Legolas shook his head. "Faramir and I did consider asking
him to help us find Vardamir. But I think that a search by the
Hatja's men would only drive him further into hiding."
"Then what are we going to do? And without Faramir?"
Legolas smiled. "Are you trying to make me feel inadequate,
melmenya?" He wrapped his arm around her. "Tonight,
your second husband is going to The Silk Road to
have a long talk with your new protector, Master Ribhadda"
"Legolas!" She snuggled against him, grinning. "Yes.
I am sure he will help us. But be careful, Lassui. People
notice you. You are very conspicuous, my darling, especially here
in the South."
They sat in silence for a while, enjoying a few moments of peace
and quiet. Then Eowyn said, "Would you still like to see
the Turquoise Gardens, Lassui? When Hentmirë has finished
her nap? "
"I should like that very much," said Legolas. "One
of the serving girls has told me all about them. They were built
by the Hatja's great grandfather for his wifea woman
of the North who missed the trees of her native land."
"What a lovely gift," said Eowyn.
"The girl thinks that Hentmirë has a book about it.
Come, let us have a look."
Hand-in-hand they walked to the study. Legolas opened the door
and, for a split second, they both stood transfixed. Then Legolas
closed the door again.
"Did they see us?" asked Eowyn.
"No, Melmenya." He looked at her anxiously. "Are
you all right, Eowyn nín?"
"No. I shall be blushing for a week."
Legolas smiled. "Come." He led her back into the sitting
"Do you think that we look like that?" asked
"No," he said. "We are more beautiful."
Eowyn giggled. "You are, Lassui fain nín."
She came up on tiptoe and whispered in his ear, "And bigger."
"Ceber daur chîn," she whispered.
Their eyes met.
"Caro!" gasped Legolas. "I certainly am