faramir and berengar

"The moment I knew that Eowyn was safe," said Haldir, "I took Vardamir back to the main part of the cave and made him free Cyllien and help me carry her and Hentmirë out of the tomb. The last I saw of Wolfram, he was floating, face down, in the sea."

Legolas, Gimli and the March Warden were eating breakfast in the courtyard. Eowyn was standing beside the gates, feeding her flock of birds with scraps. Haldir spread a slice of bread with honey. "It is strange," he said; "I did not like honey before..."

Legolas, his mind still focussed on Wolfram, said, gravely, "When the djinn went back for him, he had disappeared."

"Do you think he drowned?" asked Gimli.

"No, elvellon," said Legolas. "No. Had he drowned, I think the djinn would have found him floating; I think he swam ashore."

"Yes," agreed Haldir. "But where? The cliff face extends for at least a quarter mile in each direction. I think," he continued, "that we should involve the Hatja's Guards in this. I have met their Captain—Ramess—and, although he does not seem a particularly honourable person, I do think that he will want to investigate an attack on one of Carhilivren's richest citizens. And he has enough men to carry out a thorough search."

"You are right," said Legolas. "But we must be careful what Hentmirë says about her own part in the incident—hitting Wolfram with a stone! She really has no idea of her limits."

Gimli smiled. "The lass has spirit," he said. "She was only trying to protect Eowyn." He leaned closer to Legolas, and added, "And to live up to your example."

"Then I shall have to have a good talk with her," said Legolas. "She is taking far too many risks." He turned to Haldir. "How is Cyllien?"

"Still very quiet. She has taken it all much harder than I would have expected."

"Well—she is nowhere near as tough or as worldly as she likes to pretend," said Legolas. "Is there anything we can do to help her? Perhaps if Eowyn were to spend some time with her?"

"No. She... I think she is intimidated by Eowyn."

They both glanced across the courtyard, to where Eowyn was surrounded by her coloured birds. Legolas smiled. "That is hard to believe! Has Cyllien ever told you how she came to be in Carhilivren?"

"No. We, er..." Haldir cleared his throat. "We have never had much time to talk."

Legolas and Gimli exchanged glances; Legolas tactfully changed the subject. "What are we going to do with Vardamir?"

"I have absolutely no idea," said Haldir.

"We cannot keep him locked in the cellar," said Legolas. "It is too cruel. Eowyn thinks—"

"What do I think?" asked Eowyn, joining them at the table.

"That Vardamir is no longer a threat, Melmenya."

"Well, I..." She sat down on a cushion, beside him. "I think that he is just very easily led—first by the rebels at Imladris, and then by Wolfram. But, if he were set a good example—"

"He did attack Finrod," said Haldir, gently.

"Yes, he did..."

"And would have finished him off, given the chance."

"Perhaps he would... I do not know," said Eowyn. "It was just a feeling I had, in the cave, that there might be some good in him still..."

Legolas wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "What do you think Gimli?" he asked. "Is there any way to restrain him that does not involve locking him in a cage?"

"You mean chains?"

"I suppose so."

"Something light but strong. A deterrent. I shall give it some thought," said the dwarf. "I am more concerned about the young lad. He is the one who needs to be set a good example."

"Where is he?" asked Haldir.

"He spent the night in the room next to mine—quietly enough," replied Gimli. "But he is no doubt making an inventory of the valuables this morning."

Legolas smiled. "I shall talk to him, Gimli; after all, he and I made a bargain. Melmenya, I want you to ask the djinn to take me back to the sea cliff to have one last look for Wolfram. Haldir, I think you should go and speak to Captain Ramess."

"Immediately," said the March Warden.

"But do not forget," said Eowyn, "that this afternoon we are all going back to the Turquoise Gardens."


"Put it down!" said Legolas, sternly.

The boy set the small statuette back on the table and turned to the elf with a cheeky grin. "I was only looking at it! Do you know how much Yarih would give for it? At least two gold—and lots more if it was made by someone famous! That old woman must be rolling in it!"

"Sit down," said Legolas.

The boy hesitated for just a second, then threw himself on Hentmirë's day bed.

"Now," said Legolas. "First of all, you do not call Lady Hentmirë 'that old woman'—she has been very kind to you—you call her 'Lady Hentmirë'. Do you understand?"

The boy nodded.

"Secondly, if you ever steal anything from this house—if I so much as hear that one of Lady Hentmirë's hairpins is missing—our deal is cancelled—"

"You can't do that!"

"Oh yes I can," said Legolas, firmly.

"You're worse than Old Dagon," grumbled the boy.

"Far worse. Now, I trust that you have had breakfast?"


"Then you do not need your pockets filled with food. Empty them."

That was too much for Keret. "No! I'll need this when I go home tonight!"

"You will be staying here tonight," said Legolas. "And you will eat your supper with the rest of us."

Keret looked dubious. "Is that what the old—what Lady Hentmirë says?"

Legolas smiled. "It is. So—your pockets."

Shaking his head, and muttering something about 'waste', Keret emptied each pocket in turn, dumping his store of food on the table—three slices of bread, a piece of cheese, an apple, a pile of nuts, and some very sticky honey cake; the boy took one last bite from the cake before he abandoned it.

"Good," said Legolas. "Now, in a moment, I shall ask one of the servants to take you upstairs for a bath and to find you some clean clothes but, first, you and I made a deal."

"You bet we did," said Keret.

Legolas brought a stool closer to the daybed and sat down. "Anything you want," he said.

"Three wishes," said Keret.


"Oh, good morning!"

Eowyn had been about to knock at Hentmirë's door when she noticed Cyllien emerging, pale and weary-looking, from one of the guest bedchambers. "How are you feeling this morning?" she asked, cheerfully. "I am afraid you have missed breakfast, but I can easily arrange—"

Cyllien shook her head. "I never eat in the morning."

"You should," said Eowyn coming forward to help her down the stairs. "Especially after what you have just been through. You need to build up your strength. For an elf, you are looking very tired."

"Do you ever stop?" asked Cyllien.

"Stop what?"


Eowyn opened her mouth to reply, but Cyllien did not give her the chance. "I just want to get back to The Silk Road—"


"What Haldir and I do is none of your business!"

"I was merely going to say," said Eowyn, with firm dignity, "in case you were hoping to speak to him before you left, that Haldir has already gone out."

Cyllien wrenched her arm from Eowyn's grasp. "He knows were to find me if he wants me."

"What does that mean?" Eowyn asked. Then she added. "I am sorry. Perhaps it is none of my business, but I cannot help caring—"

"You just like to meddle!"

"Is it because Haldir saw you," said Eowyn, undeterred, "last night, in the cave, broken and frightened? Are you trying to push him away—"

"You arrogant adaneth—"

"Do not lose him, Cyllien. Men—elves—like Haldir do not come along every day. And you love him. I know you do. You would not be so jealous if you did not—"


"Of me. Of what Haldir used to feel for me. But that is in the past. Please, Cyllien, this is not bullying, it is begging—please do not just walk away. At least come with us to the Turquoise Gardens this afternoon—"

"The Turquoise Gardens!" Cyllien laughed.

"It is beautiful there," said Eowyn. "You could have some time amongst the trees alone, or you could walk with Haldir and talk... Legolas is so happy there."

"I," said Cyllien, contemptuously, "am not a wood elf."

"Well perhaps that is your problem," said Eowyn, finally losing her temper. "Oh, go if you must! As you say, Haldir knows were to find you—if he thinks you worth the trouble." And she swept back upstairs and knocked, rather loudly, on the door to Hentmirë's bedchamber.


Legolas stared at the boy. "Three wishes?"

"Yes. One from each of you," said Keret; "the elf, the dwarf and the golden-haired princess, like in the story."

"Which story?"

"The one my mother used to tell me."

"I see," said Legolas. "You had better tell me the story."

The boy sighed. "You must know it; you're in it." Legolas shook his head. "Oh, all right!" He settled himself more comfortably. 'Once upon a time there was an orphan boy—"

"Where are your parents?" asked Legolas.

Keret shrugged his shoulders. "I never had a dad," he said. "Do you have a dad?"

"Yes," said Legolas, smiling fondly. "What about your mother?"

"She went away."


"Don't know. Years ago."

Legolas hesitated for a moment, then asked, delicately, "Will she be coming back?"

"Of course she will. When she can."

Legolas wondered what that might mean. "Carry on with your story."

"Like I said, once upon a time there was an orphan boy and, one day, when he was walking through the Forest, he saw an elf, a dwarf, and a golden-haired princess, just like I did—"

"What were they doing?" asked Legolas.

"You were drinking herbal tea."

"In the story?"

"I'm coming to that. 'Hello,' says the elf—how do elves say 'hello'?"

"Mae govannen," said Legolas.

"'Mae govannen,' says the elf. 'You look like a fine, strong boy. Perhaps you can help us settle an argument.'"

"He was arguing with the dwarf?"

"Yes. And the princess. 'What's the problem?' asks the boy. 'This fool of an elf,' says the dwarf—sorry about that—'this fool of an elf thinks he is stronger than I am!' 'And than I am!' says the princess. 'When everyone knows that dwarves are stronger than elves.' 'And so are princesses.'"

Keret spoke the dwarf's words in a deep, chesty voice and the princess's in a piping falsetto.

Legolas laughed. "What did they ask you—the boy—to do?"

"I'm just coming to that. The elf holds out a rope. 'Take the end of this,' he says. 'The dwarf is going to pull you past that big tree, over there, but if you are strong enough to stop him, he will grant you a wish.'

"So the boy looks at the dwarf, and he looks at the tree, and he looks at the dwarf again, and it doesn't look that hard. 'What's so special about the tree?' he asks. 'Nothing,' says the elf, 'but when the dwarf has failed, I will pull you past the tree.' 'And if you are strong enough to stop him,' said the dwarf, 'he will grant you a wish.'

"'Oh,' says the boy, 'and you will know which of you is strongest—'

"'Yes,' says the elf.

"'No,' says the princess, 'because when these two have failed, I will pull you past the tree.' 'And will you grant me a wish too?' asks the boy. 'Oh yes,' says the princess, with a wink, 'if you can stop me.'"

"So the princess won?"

"Now you've spoiled it!"

Legolas laughed. "I think the princess knew that the boy would be so tired after beating the elf and the dwarf, she could pull him easily," he said. "Am I right?" Keret nodded. "She deserved to win. But that means the boy was only granted two wishes."

"Yes," said Keret. "But I should get three."

"Keret," said Legolas, quietly. "Whatever you wish, Gimli, Eowyn and I will try to make it come true. But you must realise that we have no special magical powers."

"You do have a djinn," Keret corrected, "if you need him."

"What is your first wish?"

"I wish," said the boy, unconsciously closing his eyes, "that my mother would come home."


"There," said Faramir, carefully tying the ends of the bandage. "I will check again in a few hours; we must be extra careful in this heat. Now lie down and get some rest—"

"Yes, Faroth," said Berengar, with a mischievous grin.

"I am sounding like your mother again."

"Like Legolas with his Lady Hentmirë."

Faramir sat down on the edge of the bed. "I am sorry. But I cannot begin to describe the terror I felt when I saw you fighting those bandits."

"You make it sound as though I did not know what I was doing," said Berengar.

Now it was Faramir's turn to grin. "Oh, you were doing well enough—considering—but I shall not be making you a Ranger just yet." There was a knock at the door. "Come in, Oliel! I am ready—just let me rinse my hands."

The sea captain had washed his hair—or, at least, slicked it down with water—and changed into a clean, if slightly crumpled, pair of trousers and a loose shirt.

"You look smart," said Berengar, smiling. "She will fall in love with you all over again." Then his expression suddenly became serious, and he added, very simply, "Good luck, Oliel."

"Thank you, Berengar; thank you, my friend."


"You want us to find your mother?"

"Can you?"

"Wait here," said Legolas. "Do not move."


Having asked at the Boarding House for directions, Faramir and Oliel had little trouble finding the address mentioned in the letter, a large, public House of Healing on the Northern edge of the town.

Oliel paused uncertainly before the tall double doors.

"Take your time," said Faramir, patting his shoulder.

"Best to get things over with, I always think."

"Yes, if you can manage it..."

"Let's go in then."

They climbed the steps and entered a cool, quiet reception hall. Ahead of them, a wide corridor stretched into the distance, its white marble walls broken at regular intervals by doors leading to separate healing rooms.

Oliel approached a veiled woman sitting at a desk by the door. "Good morning, madam," he said, in a hushed voice. "I am looking for my wife, a woman from the North. I am told that she is being treated here—for a wound in the shoulder." He showed her the letter.

The woman read the details. "Ah, yes. Please, take a seat," she said. "I shall not be a moment."

Faramir sat down. Oliel paced nervously, back and forth, until the other man caught his eye, then he forced himself to stand, one hand on the back of Faramir's chair, shifting his weight from foot to foot.

After a few moments, the woman returned with a companion, also veiled, but older and, judging by her bearing, in a position of some authority. Faramir noticed that two large men had followed her and were hovering at a discreet distance.

"You say that you are the patient's husband," said the older woman quietly. "Can you prove it?"

Oliel was at a loss.

"A piece of jewellery, perhaps?" she prompted.

"My wedding ring..." Oliel removed the ring from his finger and handed it to her; then he took its companion, which had been sent with the letter, from his pocket. "If it was you who wrote the letter, you will know that this is hers," he said, "and you can see that the two match."

The doctor examined the rings closely. "Very well," she said, "follow me." She led them to a healing room at the farthest end of the corridor. "In here."

With a nervous glance at Faramir, Oliel entered the room. There were three beds, all ranged along the right-hand wall, each draped with a curtain of translucent fabric, to keep out dust and insects. The doctor drew back the curtain on the first bed.

The patient was a woman—tall, angular, far too thin, her body almost invisible under the white sheet—with raggedly-cropped dark hair, and a face which, though clearly once beautiful, was prematurely aged by suffering.

Oliel gasped. Then he whispered, "Gwirith?"

The patient raised her head. "Oh, Oliel! Why have you come after all this time?" she cried. "You must leave now! I am warning you!"


Hentmirë settled herself on the daybed beside the boy; Eowyn found a cushion and made herself comfortable on the floor; Gimli drew up another stool.

"Keret," said Legolas, "has asked us to help him find his mother."

"When did you last see her?" asked Eowyn.

The boy shrugged his shoulders.

"Years ago," said Legolas.

"Years? You have lived by yourself for years?" said Hentmirë.

"I had a kitten, but he ran away."

The little woman bit her lip. "Would you like a sweetmeat...?"

Legolas smiled. "I am sure that Keret will ask if he needs anything, gwendithen." He turned to the boy. "Tell us everything you remember about your mother."

"She looked quite like that elf lady," said Keret. He nodded to Hentmirë; she removed the lid from a small wooden box and held it out to him, and he took a piece of candied fruit. "She sang, and she told me stories."

"Where did you live?" asked Eowyn.

"At the Circus. Under one of the arches. It was good there because Uncle Balashi used to come and give me half-a-silver to go and see the animals—"

Legolas and Eowyn exchanged glances; Hentmirë offered the boy another sweetmeat.

"Do you still see your Uncle Balashi?" asked Eowyn.

"No," said Keret, biting the head off a marzipan bird, "someone killed him. Stabbed him right in front of me. He didn't see me, though. I was behind the Tiger cage."

Hentmirë placed the box of sweetmeats on the boy's lap.

"Did your mother see the murder?" asked Legolas.

"No," said Keret, selecting another marzipan bird.

"Did you tell her about it?"

"Of course! She wanted to know why I was so late."

"Think carefully, Keret," said Legolas. "How soon after that did your mother leave?"

"The next day."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, because that's where she went—to see the man."

"The murderer?"

Keret nodded.

"She knew him?"

"Yes. He used to bring me apples. And shoes. And he gave me a bird whistle. He still gives me stuff sometimes."

"But your mother never came back from seeing him?" asked Gimli.

The boy shook his head.

"Keret," said Eowyn, "do you know the man's name?"

"Of course," said Keret. "Uncle Ribhadda."


Faramir drew the doctor into the corridor. "Why did you ask Captain Oliel to show you his ring?" he asked.

The woman glanced along the corridor, as if to make sure that they could not be overheard. "The Captain contacted me some time ago, asking me to send word if ever his wife was brought in for treatment. I recognised her straight away—a dark-haired woman, obviously from the North—but when I questioned Gwirith, to make sure that it was indeed she, she begged me to keep her whereabouts a secret. And I got the impression that she was deliberately hiding from him..."

"Why would she do that?"

"She would not say. I assumed that he had beaten her. But she insisted that he was a good man, and she always—in unguarded moments—speaks of him very fondly. She was still wearing his ring, on a chain around her neck."

"So you sent him the letter."

"I persuaded her to let me write, yes, and she gave me the ring and a piece of cloth from her bodice to send with the letter. Four days later, her husband arrived to collect her. But when I brought him into the healing room, she had disappeared. She was gone for almost two days, and when she finally came back—after dark, crawling up the steps—it was only because her wound had re-opened and become infected."

"Where had she been?"

"From her condition, I would say that she had been hiding amongst the rubbish heaps."

"Gods!" Faramir shook his head in disbelief. "The man was an impostor."

"So I gathered."

"Did he ever come back?"



The doctor cleared her throat. "When Gwirith first returned, she had a high fever and, in her delirium... In her delirium, I believe I may have heard her confess to killing him."


Oliel took a seat beside his wife's bed.

"I have been searching for you for the best part of seven years, Gwirith," he said, gently. "Where have you been?"

The woman did not reply.


"Go away, Oliel. Go back to Pelargir."


"Go away, while you still can."

"I am not leaving without you. You are sick—"

The woman laughed. "Sick? Yes, sick! Sick of being pursued! Leave me alone!"


"I am no longer the little girl you married, Oliel. I have seen things—done things, in order to survive—that you could not possibly forgive. That I cannot forgive—"

"Why talk of needing forgiveness? You were kidnapped—a victim—"

"That was so many years ago. I think that that was somebody else..." Gwirith sighed. Then she continued, more calmly, "The woman you want, Oliel—the woman you think you love—is just a memory—an image in your own mind. You would not want me—"

"Do not say such things!"

"Why will you not listen?" she cried. "I am giving you a chance! Leave now, before it is too late."

"Too late for what?" asked Faramir, drawn back into the room by the commotion.

"Who is this?" asked Gwirith.

"A friend," said Oliel. "A good friend. He has come to help me take you home."

"I have no home!" cried the woman. "I have told you—"

"Gentlemen," interrupted the doctor, "I must insist that you leave now. Please, sir," she added, when Oliel began to protest, "you are distressing your wife. You may return tomorrow morning."

"No!" cried Gwirith, as the two men were ushered from the room, "No, Oliel! Do not come back!"


"Well, what are we going to do now?" asked Hentmirë. She had sent Keret upstairs with Old Donatiya, promising that she would take him to see the Early Bird if he would have a bath. "Master Ribhadda sounded like such a nice man, rescuing Eowyn and everything, but if he did kill Keret's uncle, we must tell the Hatja's Guards..."

"No," said Eowyn. "Ribhadda did not do it. He is a man of honour."

"But why would the lad lie?" asked Gimli.

"Perhaps..." said Legolas. "Perhaps Keret did not understand what he was seeing. Perhaps Ribhadda killed this Balashi in self defence?"

"That would certainly put a different complexion on it," said Gimli. "But then why did he do away with the lad's mother?"

"Gimli!" cried Eowyn. "He did not 'do away with the lad's mother'! We do not even know that the lad's mother is dead! Keret certainly thinks she is still alive."

"I am not sure that is reliable evidence, Melmenya," said Legolas, gently. He patted her arm. "This is what we are going to do," he said. "Gimli, Hentmirë, you are going to take the boy to the boat, and see if you can help him remember anything more—his mother's name would be useful. Eowyn, you are going to command the djinn to take me back to the sea cliff for one final search—"

"Take us," Eowyn corrected.

"I shall be flying along the cliff face, Eowyn, close to the water—"

"I am not afraid of the water, Legolas. And I want to go. I want Wolfram caught. Besides, the djinn needs constant supervision—he can be very obtuse—and he will not listen to you. You will need me."

"Well, if you are sure..." Legolas kissed her forehead. "I do not hold out much hope of finding him, Melmenya, but it is certainly worth looking. And then we will visit Ribhadda. Whatever he may or may not have done, he is our only link with Keret's mother. So we will ask him a few tactful questions."


Haldir had been waiting for almost an hour. "You have told Captain Ramess that I am here?" he asked the young man sitting at the desk beside the door.

"Yes, sir."

"And that I have important information about a crime?"

"Yes sir."

The smell inside the Guards' headquarters—stale air, sweat, urine, and far worse, from the row of prison cells—was oppressive. Haldir sighed. "I shall return in ten minutes," he said. "I need some air."

"Most of us use the back alley for that, sir; turn left at the door, left, and left again..."

Men! thought Haldir.

Outside, the smell was, if anything, worse. Three filthy young men were making their way down the street, slowly collecting rubbish from the shops and houses and piling it onto an ox cart. It was at times like these that Haldir most regretted having stayed in Middle-earth. What became of rubbish in Lorien? he wondered. There must have been rubbish...

Without thinking, he fled down the alley to his left—the alley that ran alongside the Guardhouse—and, despite what the young man had told him of its use, found the atmosphere there rather less unpleasant. The house on his right had a garden courtyard and, through the wrought-iron fencing, Haldir could see greenery—tall, spiky-leaved bushes with bright red flowers. Jealously guarded, he thought. Men are strange creatures. They hide what should be shared and share what should be kept private. He had reached the junction of the two alleys and—filled with a morbid curiosity—he stopped and glanced down the 'latrine'.

A door was opening in the back of the Guardhouse and something about the movement—slow, stealthy, as if the person inside was afraid of being seen—caught Haldir's attention. He drew back against the garden wall and hid himself in the shadow.

As he watched, two men came out into the alley—both, Haldir noticed, taking great care where they stepped. The first, he recognised as Captain Ramess; the second was a stranger—tall, but vastly overweight.

Haldir strained to hear their conversation.

"Make it look good," said Ramess.

The fat man, who was not—it was obvious—used to exerting himself, raised his hand and hit Ramess on the chin. It was nothing, but the Captain of the Guard rolled with the punch and fell backwards through the door, leaving his surprised 'attacker' with nothing to do but run away.



Contents page


Previous chapter: The sacrifice
Wolfram loses his prize; Berengar receives a gift.

Chapter 7

Next chapter: Some answers
Legolas and Eowyn search for Keret's mother.

Chapter 9

Duchess asked me whether there would really have been a woman doctor in a society like Rihat. I thought it was plausible for two reasons. First, (as I understand it) in some cultures women doctors are encouraged because it’s considered more appropriate for a woman to be tended by another woman. And secondly, there is a Ancient Egyptian inscription that describes a Lady Peseshet as the ‘(Female) Overseer of the (Female) Doctors’. Some Egyptologists think that the second ‘female’ (which is just a single hieroglyph, ‘t’, added to the word ‘doctor’—doctress, I suppose) is a mistake, and that it should read ‘(Female) Overseer of the Doctors’. But even so, that would mean there was a woman with authority over doctors...