They scarcely made it through the door of their
Afterwards, as Legolas lay on his back, briefly exhausted, Eowyn
bent over him, and kissed him, lovingly. "Ceredir fain,"
she whispered, "gerich veleth nín."
"Melmenya..." Tired as he was, his body responded instantly.
Eowyn smiled. "Hentmirë's maid," she said, kissing
him again, "the former whore,"kiss"says
the best lovers,"long, lingering kiss"the
very, very best lovers,"kiss"are
just a little too big." She ran her tongue along his length
and kissed his smooth, ruby head. "Just big enough to hurt,
ever so slightly,"kiss"especially
if they are very gentle to start with." She placed a tiny
kiss on his precious opening. "I said"
"You did not discuss my..." He sat bolt upright.
"Shhhhh..." She silenced him with a thorough
kiss on the mouth. "I said that you were perfect,"
she whispered against his lips, "that is all..."
He pretended to be annoyed.
But, holding his gaze, Eowyn reached down and stroked himmeasuring
by feel the length and breadth of his sturdy shaft and the full
roundness of his ceryn, until
"I can see," he said, with a mock sigh, "that
I shall have no peace until I give you what you want." He
grabbed her and rolled her onto her back. "Yet more perfection."
Eowyn's merry laugh could be heard in the courtyard garden.
"Will I see you again?" asked Haldir, watching Cyllien
"That's entirely up to you," she said. "I
shall not come looking for you."
He weighed her words for a moment, testing his own feelings.
"I am not sure that I can do this..."
"You can do it very well. Especially when you keep your
"You know what I mean."
"Look: you will never have her, Haldir; I
will neverwell, let's just say that we both need
to make do with what we can get. But, as I say, it's up to you.
Will you see me out?"
"You could at least pretend to be considerate."
With a most un-elven weariness, Haldir struggled to his feet
and escorted her into the courtyard. "Yassib will open the
gate for you..."
"Valar!" cried Cyllien. "You really need to watch
how Prince Legolas treats her."
"Come, melmenya," said Legolas, rousing Eowyn with
a gentle kiss, "we must get you washed and looking presentable
She smiled up at him, stretching luxuriously.
He fetched a bowl of water and a towel from the bathing room,
and helped her sit up, then he took his time, carefully sponging
and drying her face and body, and combing the tangles from her
long golden hair. "There. And if we can find you something
more demure to wear, no one will have any idea what a dangerous
wanton you are."
Eowyn hugged him tightly. "I love you, Lassui," she
said. Then she added, thoughtfully, "Do you think they are
"No," said Legolas. "No. It is no more than physical
desire at present. But that is a good start."
"So I asked for a single hair of her golden head,"
said Gimli. He took a swig of the ale Hentmirë had managed
to find for him. "She gave me three."
"And now she is gone forever," said Hentmirë.
"It is so sad..." She hesitated. "Gimli, what
does it mean, to sail West? Do they... Do they go there to
"Die? Oh no, my Lady. No. They go there to live with the
Valar, in a land where everything is beautiful, and peaceful,
and all the cares of this world no longer concern them."
"That sounds very like death," said Hentmirë,
"Perhaps to us," said Gimli, "because we are mortal.
But not to them." He leaned forward and pressed her hand.
"Elves are a fine people, but most of them lack our
"Not Legolas," said Hentmirë, loyally.
"Oh, no. Not Legolas." He took another swig of ale.
"But if Legolas heard the gulls' cry so many years ago,
why has he not sailed? Why did he not go with your Lady?"
"He wanted to stay with his mortal friends."
"But what will happen when his friends die"
"I am sorry we are late, gwendithen," said Legolas,
leading Eowyn downstairs, "are you ready to leave?"
"Yes," said Hentmirë. She turned to the dwarf.
"Legolas and Eowyn and I are going to visit the Turquoise
Gardens. Would you like to join us, Gimli?"
Gimli rose to his feet. Standing beside him, Hentmirë was
only a few inches taller than he was. With a slight bow, he proffered
his arm. "I should like that very much, my lady."
"I want a certain job done," said Abdi, the owner of
the Blue Parrot. "And I was told that you were the
one to ask."
"'Certain jobs' is what I do," said Wolfram, cautiously.
"Take a seat."
Wolfram glanced around the room. There were two doors and three
windows. The door he had just used was now blocked by two well-armed
slaves; the other, behind the fat man, might lead anywherebut
almost certainly deeper into the buildinghardly the best
route in an emergency. The windows were big and their shutters
were openperfect exits, had they not been on the second
floor. Still, he thought, the middle window is my best
option if things turn nasty. He sat down.
"You know Ribhadda?" asked the fat man. "Owns
The Silk Road."
"I want him to disappear."
Wolfram nodded, reflectively. "Disappear, as in"
"Go, and never come back."
"That can be arranged. For a price."
"I've got a Kurian that'll do it for five hundred gold."
"Then use him," said Wolfram, "and, in future,
don't waste my time." He rose, and took a few steps towards
the door. The two slaves blocked his way, towering over him menacingly,
but some instinct told Wolfram that the man on his right was the
weak link. He bared his teeth. "You don't want to
make an enemy of me," he hissed.
The slave backed away.
Behind him, Abdi laughed. "Zimri told me you had a pair.
And he says you're an artist."
"He's right," said Wolfram, still glaring at the slave.
"Make it twelve hundred and we have a deal."
"Two thousand if Ribhadda disappears and you bring
me his Elf-womanunharmed."
Wolfram sighed. Not more pricking Elf-napping... "That
is an entirely different proposition," he said, turning back
towards the fat man.
Abdi spread both hands, as if to say, What can I do? That's
"I'll let you know," said Wolfram. He looked up at
the slaves. "Move!"
"Don't leave it too long," shouted Abdi as Wolfram
left. "Or I will use the Kurian.
Hentmirë had had a large, open carriage brought round from
her stables. Legolas smiled at the sight of Eowyn making friends
with the horses, four fine greys.
"Do you think I should ask March Warden Haldir if he would
like to come with us?" asked Hentmirë quietly. "He
is standing over there, by the thorn bushes, gazing out to sea..."
"I think that would be very kind, gwendithen nín,"
"Where have you been?" asked Ribhadda.
"Seeing her home," said Cyllien. She glanced
at her reflection in the mirrored wall. Her hair was tangled,
and she had bruises on her neck and a love-bite just above her
left breast. She smiled. I shall have to cover those up...
"Hiram was back hours ago."
"I dare say." She pushed past him. "I need to
He caught her arm. "Who have you been with?"
"Are you jealous?"
"No. I just don't want to see you beaten black and blue
again. It upsets the customers."
"You're all heart." She shook off his hand. "Her
husband wants to thank you personally. He is coming here tonight.
He's an Elfan elven prince."
And he makes the rest of you look like baboons, she thought.
The carriage came to a halt beside a massive rectangular enclosure,
fortified with square bastions and crenellated battlements like
a Northern castle, but decorated with glazed tilesmost of
an intense turquoise-bluethat made it shine like a jewel
against the dull red of the desert sand.
"Is it not beautiful?" said Hentmirë, clapping
her hands together. "And I have not been here for years!"
She led them up a shallow ramp, to the guard post beside the
gates, andwith a mixture of name dropping, innocent flirtation,
and gold coinshe obtained permission for them to enter.
They passed quickly through the entrance hall, with its tree-shaped
columns, painted and inlaid with coloured glass"It
reminds me of King Shamash's palace," said Eowyn to Gimliand
out into the Gardens themselves.
The enclosure was dominated by a huge artificial lake: broad,
shallow and perfectly rectangular. At the nearer end, an elegant
stone jetty stretched out into the deep blue of the water; towards
the farther end, a small island of white stoneagain, perfectly
rectangularoffered the comfort of a shady pavilion.
Hentmirë turned to Legolas. "After you have walked
under the trees, my dear," she said, "we could take
one of the little boats out to the island."
The lake was surrounded on all sides by a broad stone path, but
the rest of the garden was filled with trees; there were
dates and sycamores and pomegranates, acacias and willows and
tamarisksthe greens of their foliage and the reds and yellows
of their fruits all contrasting charmingly with the turquoise
blue of the towering walls. Beneath the branches, tiled flower
beds were filled with daisies and cornflowers and sweet marjoram,
with small yellow chrysanthemums, and with poppies.
As Legolas wandered along the path, gazing upwards in wonder,
an orange and black bird wearing an enormous crown of striped
feathers, alighted on a nearby branch and called down to him,
"Hoo-hoo-hoop, hoo-hoo-hoop, hoo-hoo-hoop..."
Laughing, Legolas called back, "Hoo-hoo-hoop!"
"Oh, my dear," whispered Hentmirë. "We should
have come here much, much sooner..."
"We've got a job," said Wolfram, stepping inside. He
waited whilst Vardamir went through his customary ritual of barring
the door and lighting the candles, then he threw himself down
in his usual chair. "It will mean forgetting about My Lady
for a couple of days... But it's a piece of cake: a removal
and a relocation for two thousand gold."
"Removal..." said Vardamir, reluctantly. The Elf was
not a career criminal, and he lacked the Man's pride in his work.
"Who do we kill?"
Wolfram scowled. "I have told you before"
"Don't use that word."
"Is it so hard to remember?"
"No," said Vardamir. "It's just ridiculous. Who
do we remove?"
"Manwë's balls, Wolfram!"
"Keep your voice down! Gods, anyone would think you'd never
kiremoved anyone before."
"But I know him!"
"Exactly! And he trusts you. That's why it will be
a piece of cake."
"I daren't ask who we have to relocate..."
Wolfram slipped out of his chair and crouched beside the Elf.
"Remember it's two thousand gold," he said. "Our
customer wants your elleth. Cyllien."
Haldir was standing beside the jettyleaning over the handrail,
gazing at a flock of geese swimming on the deep blue waterwhen
Eowyn approached him. "Is it not wonderful here?" she
asked. "Just look at Legolas!"
Haldir looked. The other elfWould you not know it?had
coaxed the crowned bird onto his hand, so that Hentmirë could
see it more clearly. "He is very happy here."
"Does it not affect you in the same way?"
"I am not a wood elf," said Haldir. Then, "Can
He offered his arm, human fashion and, though she seemed surprised,
she accepted it. He led her to a secluded bower, just off the
main path, and they both sat down on a turquoise-tiled bench.
"Are you not jealous of Hentmirë?" he asked.
Eowyn smiled. "There were many things I thought you might
say, but that was not one of them! Why should I be jealous?"
"Legolas cares for her."
"Legolas loves her."
"And that does not worry you?"
Eowyn shook her head. "There is room in his heart for both
of us," she said. "It is not an entirely chaste
love, like a mother and sonnot on her side, at leastbut
it is still a very innocent love. I think they are more like a
favourite aunt and nephew. Neither Legolas nor Hentmirë is
capable of anything bad or ugly. Yes, there is room in his heart
for both of us."
"As always, you put the rest of us to shame," said
"Please do not say that."
There was a difficult silence, andwhen it seemed to her
that the elf did not intend to say anything morevery tentatively,
Eowyn touched his hand. "Tell me about her."
"Is that not what you wanted to talk about?"
"I want to talk to you about everything. You are the only
person I feel I can talk to"
"I do not know what is happening to me."
"It has been very quick." Eowyn looked down at their
hands. "Do you love her?"
"You sound disappointed."
"I want you to be happy, Haldir."
"Surely you know why?"
"Can I ask you a question?"
"You need not answer..." He took hold of her hand.
"If I had approached you, Eowyn, after Helm's Deepbefore
Faramir, before Legolasif I had asked youwould you
have said yes?"
Eowyn looked up into his hypnotic blue eyes. "I do not know,"
He carefully placed her hand back on her lap. Then he said, "But
that is not a 'No'."
"It is not a 'No'." She blushed deeply. "I do
care for you, Haldir. And you are very attractive."
He smiled. "We are like Legolas and Hentmirë."
"Not entirely chaste..." agreed Eowyn. "But
I am not old enough to be your aunt."
His smile was almost a laugh. "I never intended to tell
you this, but after these last few daysand because of what
might happen in the futureI think you need to know. When
we were in Kuri, I had the Magus Niqmaddu remove my love for you."
"I do not understand."
"He removed my love for you, by magic." His head was
bowed, and he could not see that she was staring at him, appalled.
"After what had happened," he said, "I had to do
"Did it work?"
"In that I have no memory of how I used to feel for you,
yes. But in some ways it has only made things worse."
"And did it not occur to you that that was likely
to be the outcome? Meddling with your mind! I am disappointed
in the Magus."
"He did try to dissuade me."
"But, of course, you knew better. I begged
you not to do anything foolish. I even sent Legolasdoes
"He was too late to stop me."
"He lied to me!"
"Only to protect you, Eowyn; you know that."
"How are things worse now?"
Haldir sighed. "It seems I am still obsessed with you. I
just do not remember why."
"If it was your Lady you would not do it," said
"Of course I would," said Wolfram. "Just not for
two thousand. My Lady is a princess. I'd want at least
ten. Maybe twenty."
"You might kidnap her, but you wouldn't hand her over. You
would keep her for yourself."
"Not for twenty," said Wolfram. He turned his back
on the elf; conversation over.
I could warn Cyllien, thought Vardamir. I could get
her out of The Silk Road... But where would I hide her?
Arinna's whorehouse! That place is like a fortress. Andsince
that business with the knifeArinna won't let Wolfram through
the door. Yes, she'd be safe at Arinna's...
"Where are you going?" asked Wolfram.
"To get us some decent wine," Vardamir lied.
Eowyn watched Legolas, with Hentmirë and Gimli, walking
under the trees, laying his hands upon the trunks, communing with
them, and sharing their lore with his two companions.
Yes, he lied to me, but how could I be angry with him?
She could swear that the trees stood taller, held their leaves
higher, and offered their fruits more willingly, after receiving
How could anyone ever be angry with him?
It was hard to remember now the liberator who had dealt with
Gríma's followers in the Golden Hall, the grim avenger
she had seen dispatching fallen orcs at Helm's Deep, the fearsome
warrior she had glimpsed conquering the mûmak on the Pelennor...
Please, gods, she thought, let him have some peace now. Do not
let Hentmirë ever have to see him like that. It would break
And, all of a sudden, she needed to be near her beloved elf.
She lifted her long, full skirts and ran across the stone paving
to join him.
"Hello, Melmenya," he said, happily. "Come and
listen to the pomegranate trees."
Vardamir entered The Silk Road the moment the door opened.
"Hello Hiram," he said to the bar tender. "I just
need a word with Cyl"
"Oh, hello, Rib."
"Come here." The man was behind the bar, inspecting
his stocks of spirits.
"Here." It was not necessary for a man like Ribhadda
to shout. Vardamir did as he was told.
Ribhadda poured him a drink. "On the house."
Vardamir looked, suspiciously, at the deep brown liquid.
"There was a man in here last night," said Ribhadda,
"asking for youa big noise from the North." He
looked Vardamir in the eye. "Now I don't care what you did
in the pastwe've all made those mistakesbut I do care
what you're doing now. I don't like that weasel friend of yours
and I don't want to be playing host the day he destroys you. Your
money's no longer accepted in here. Good bye Vardamir."
"But, Rib, I need to speak"
"Good bye, Vardamir."
By the time the friends arrived back at Hentmirë's house,
Faramir and Berengar were waiting, with Captain Oliel, to take
"We should reach Rihat the day after tomorrow," said
Faramir. "If Gwirith can be moved, we will return immediately.
If not, I shall send word.
"Good bye, Eowyn, my dear." He kissed her cheek. "Good
bye, Legolas." He clasped the elf's hand. "Goodbye Gimli;
Haldir. Good bye, Hent"
Hentmirë threw her stout little arms around his waist. "You
promise you will come back to us?" she said.
"Of course," he answered, smiling.
"Legolas and Eowyn are both very fond of you. They would
miss you terribly if you did not. And so would I."
Faramir hugged her tightly. "I shall be back before you
even know I have gone."
A strange silence fell over the house once Faramir and the others
Hentmirë and Eowyn were sitting side-by-side on the day
bed, sorting through Hentmirë's father's papers in preparation
for selling the house; Legolas was sitting close by, listlessly
turning the pages of a book; Gimli was perching at the bottom
of the stairs, sharpening his axe; Haldir was standing by the
doors, gazing out into the courtyard...
At last, as darkness began to fall, Legolas roused himself and
beckoned Gimli and Haldir into the study. He described to Gimli
the attempts that he and Faramir had made to find Vardamir, and
told them both of Eowyn's brush with Wolfram in the souk.
"She does not know whether he saw her, but if he did..."
He removed one of his white knives from its scabbard and checked
the sharpness of its edge. "Eowyn never talks about what
happened between them on that galleyall she will say is
that she made him pay. But I will never forget the malice I sensed
when he took her from me in the castle. I will never forget what
he threatened to do to her when I was lying paralysed. And if
he ever gets a chance for revenge"
"Just let me find him," muttered Gimli, unconsciously
gripping the haft of his axe. "The animal!"
"We must find both of them," said Legolas, replacing
his knife and strapping on the holster, "and quickly. The
three of us will pay a visit to The Silk Road. I shall
speak to Ribhadda; GimliI suggest you see if you can charm
any information out of the patrons, elvellon; Haldirperhaps
you can have a word with Cyllien? Eowyn will stay here with Hentmirë."
The Silk Road was buzzing. Ribhadda was behind the bar,
passing the time with one of his regular customers, the Captain
of the Hatja's Guards, Ramess.
"I have often speculated," said Ramess, "on why
you've never returned to the North, Rib. Did you abscond with
the Poor Relief funds? Did you run off with a Counsellor's wife?
I like to think you killed a man. It's the romantic in me."
"It was a combination of all three," said Ribhadda,
"And what in god's name brought you to Carhilivren?"
"My health. I came to Carhilivren for the waters."
"Waters? What waters? We are in the desert."
"I was misinformed."
Five musicians had filed out onto the stage and, arranging themselves
on a cluster of wooden stools, they began tuning their instruments.
"Cyllien is about to sing..." said Ramess, wistfully.
"What I would give for a woman like that."
"You and ten thousand others," said Ribhadda, unimpressed.
A murmur of surprise, suddenly rippling through the bar, announced
the arrival of three strange customerstwo of them tall,
otherworldly beings, and one a very short, powerful man wearing
a woman's robe but carrying a lethal-looking axe strapped to his
"Interesting," said Ramess. He turned to Ribhadda,
raising his eyebrows.
"Very interesting," said the other man. "Would
you like a quick word with Cyllien before she sings?"
"You do not think she would mind?"
"No. Go on through."
Ribhadda waited until the Guardsman had disappeared before he
approached the smaller of the two elves. "You must be Lady
Eowyn's husband, Prince Legolas," he said.
"And you must be Master Ribhadda," said the elf, placing
his hand on his heart and bowing. He raised his head, smiling.
"I wanted to thank you for taking such good care of her."
His face reminded Ribhadda of those of the divine spirits carved
on the walls of the Golden Hall of Eshmunazar. The man shook his
head. "It was my privilege," he said. "She's a
The elf leaned towards him, slightly. "Can I ask you"
Out of the corner of his eye, Ribhadda saw Ramess emerging from
the stage door. "Not just now," he said. "Cyllien's
about to sing. I'll give you the nod when the coast is clear."
Haldir had found a seat beside the stage. He looked distastefully
at the sweaty customers thronging the bar, all of them waiting
for Cyllien and most of them wanting hereven some
of the women...
And I could have her, he thought. Valar, if
only things were that simple.
The musicians had begun to play and, just as on the previous
night, the elleth emerged from behind the curtain, singing.
She scanned the audience, saw him, and fixed her eyes upon him.
"Some day, when I'm very low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow
Just thinking of you...
And the way you look tonight."
Ribhadda beckoned to Legolas. "Follow me," he said.
Unnoticed, the pair slipped through the door at the side of the
stage. "I assume you want information about the man who was
following your wife?"
"Yes," said Legolas.
"I didn't see him. But she said she knew him,"
"Yes. We have had dealings with him before," said Legolas.
"Do you know his name?"
"In Dol Amroth he called himself 'Wolfram'."
"Wolfram." Ribhadda smiled, cynically. "That
piece of work. I barred him from The Silk Road after he
lifted a necklace and earrings from one of my lady customersright
here, in front of two hundred people. Nobody saw him do it."
"Do you know where I can find him?"
There was a pile of packing crates in the corridor. Ribhadda
leaned against them. From beyond the door, Legolas could hear
"Rapture; I'm in rapture,
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak,
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're here together
Dancing cheek to cheek..."
"I don't normally meddle in the affairs of my customersnot
when they don't affect me, or The Silk Road, personally"
"Dance with me,
I want my arms about you,
The charms about you
Will carry me through
Rapture; I'm in rapture..."
"but he's a dangerous animal and, as I say, your wife's
a classy lady. I've heard he has a hideout on Garden Lane,"
"In an alley behind one of the stalls. That's as much as
"Thank you," said Legolas.
Cyllien wiped the colour from her lips, shrugged off her bodice
and skirts, doused herself liberally in perfumed oil, slipped
on her most seductive gown, and perched upon her dressing table,
Moments later, the door opened.
"You came!" she said, betraying far more of her feelings
than she had intended.
"I was not sure you would..." She twined her arms around
his neck and pressed herself against him, expecting to arouse
in him the same wild passion he had displayed the previous night.
But, this time, his body was unresponsive.
She placed her hand on his chin and pulled his face towards her.
"You have been with her," she said.
"I have had a long talk with her, yes."
"She wants us to be happy, Cyllien."
"That is very big of her." She gave up trying to arouse
him and instead went over to her dressing table, searching for
her clay pipe. "You should fuck her."
She turned to face him, shouting angrily. "Yes, fuck her!
That is your cure! Fuck her and fuck her and fuck her and be disappointed.
Fuck her and find that her tynd are no bigger than mine!
Fuck her and find that her rond is no tighter than mine!
Fuck her and fuck her and fuck her and"
"Oh! Oh..." With the hysteria gone she was left
shaking, her hands covering her wet face.
"I am sorry," said Haldir. Then he added, with unconcealed
distaste, "You have been amongst them too long, Cyllien.
You are no longer an elleth and you will never be a woman; I do
not know what you are." He walked to the door.
"And she would not disappoint me," he said.