Lady Hentmirë, said Legolas, quietly, will
you leave us, please?
Eyes wide, Hentmirë turned to Eowyn. The younger woman nodded,
mouthing, Fetch the healer. Hentmirë rose,
and hurried away.
So I have a son, said Legolas, bitterly, the moment
they were alone. And you decided to keep him from me.
You would have forced me to marry you.
Forced! He struggled to sit up. Elves
No! Eowyn caught him by the shoulders and pushed
him down onto the bed. Lie still until the healer has seen
My sonI do not even know his name! Legolas
tried to shake her off. My son and his mother should
be with me! When this nightmare is over, I am taking you both
back to Eryn Carantaur.
No, said Eowyn, firmly, you are not. You and
I do not belong together, Legolas, whatever we may once have wished.
And Arwen and Aragorn love Meldon as though he were their own.
You can visit him, whenever you
He is my son! he cried, still trying to escape
her grasp. Valar! Why am I so weak?
You were poisoned, byby Alatáriëls
father. The healer will explain it to youHentmirë is
fetching him now. And you must do whatever he says, Legolas,
because we need you. I have hired the drow mercenary, and
Why did you give him away, Eowyn? He lifted a shaky
hand and grasped her shoulder. Our son? After what
I said to you that nightafter what I promised you.
What sort of life could we have given him? What sort of
family would we have made? I will age, and die long before
Meldon reaches manhood; and youyou will live, unchanging,
till the end of days. Our son needed a mother and father like
himselflong-lived but not immortal. I did what was right
for him; I know I did. But do not imagine that a day passes, Legolas,
when I do not miss my child.
I think, whispered Hentmirë, drawing her hand
back from the tent flap and turning to the healer, that
we should give them a few more moments.
Arador watched the fine grey mist rise from the onyx figurine,
swirl upwards, and curl in upon itself. Oh shit, he
muttered, shit, shit, shit. What if it eats us?
It is too late to worry about that, said Haldir,
gripping his sword. You have called ityou must command
Yes. Butsuppose I cannotdo you think you can
Right. Frowning, Arador concentrated on the cloud,
watching it take shape, gathering into a long, muscular body,
four sturdy limbs, and a broad, powerful head; he saw the cats
eyes open, and brighten with life; and, the moment he judged the
creature sufficiently aware, he said, Guenhwyvar...
His voice wavered.
The cat growled, deep in its chest.
Guenhwyvar, he repeated, trying to sound confident,
I have summoned you to help us guard the portal. He
gestured towards the blank wall.
The cat turned full circle, as if surveying its new territory.
The boy glanced at Haldir. I think it understands.
Guenhwyvar turned towards the shop door and, ears flattened against
its head, growled again
No, said Arador, the portal.
But Haldir, too, was watching the door. Someone is coming
Behind them, the wall transformed, solid stone melting into shimmering
And, at the same moment, the door flew open, and three drow ran
into the shop.
Shit! cried Arador.
The cat leaped, bringing down the first warrior and pinning him
to the ground. Haldir, sword already in hand, cornered the second.
The third, a female, streaked past her comrades, heading straight
for the portal, pursued by Aragorn and Legolas.
Stop her, shouted the King.
Arador scooped up the onyx figurine, and hurled it.
The Queens bedchamber
With a final glance around the chamber, Eowyn approached the
closet. Gimli had removed the drow bodies; she and Berkin had
cleared away the rest of the debris and straightened the furniture.
Everything looked normal.
She hoped that the little boys would feel safe.
Arwen, she called, softly, you can bring them
out now. She opened the door
Something very small and very blond shot through the gap, and
cannoned into her, burying its face in her stomach. Ooof!
she cried; then, smiling, she wrapped her arms around her doubles
Arwen appeared in the doorway, carrying Eldarion.
It is safe for them now, said Eowyn. Do they
need anything? Food? Water?
Where is Estel?
Some of the drow escaped. Eowyn guided the elfling
to a chair and sat him down. He and Legolas went after them.
Gimli has caught the rest, and their human collaborators, and
has recalled your servants. She kneeled down before the
child, hoping to reassure him, and found herself buttoning his
crumpled jerkin. She smiled up at the Queen. Everything
will soon be set to rights, Arwen. Do you need anything? Do the
I am sure he will be back soon. She shifted her weight,
intending to stand, but the elfling caught her hand. Do
you want something? Would you like a drink?
He shook his head, but his little fingers held onto hers, tightly.
This, said Legolas to Aragorn, is Arador. He
can tell you more.
The King eyed the boy, standing between Haldir, whom he had seen
die at Helms Deep, and the massive black cat, which was,
apparently, some sort of demon, and shook his head in disbelief.
Can you close it? he asked, gesturing towards
The boy shook his head. It seemed to become active when
the drow approached it, your Majesty, he said, without any
of his usual jauntiness, and, from what I have read, I would
say that they are carrying some sort of keya jewel, or other
magical object. If you can find that, and take it far enough away,
the portal will close. But it will not seal permanently, sir,
Aragorn ordered one of the men to search the drow prisoners.
Whatver it is, you will probably find it on the woman,
he said. What will seal it, Arador?
I do not know, your Majesty. I am still trying to find
Aragorn approached the shimmering wall. Beyond its watery surface,
a narrow tunnel, with walls of jagged rock, seemed to recede into
the distance. And it leads to their homeland?
Yes, said Legolas. A world, deep underground,
that is almost completely dark, and filled with strange beings.
Like the cat.
Far worse than the cat, your Majesty, said Haldir.
Aragorn turned to his old friend, smiling. How long were
you down there?
It is hard to tell, said the elf. The depth
of rock and the darkness confuse the sensesbut I believe
it was no more than two days.
I see. Aragorn turned to Legolas. This,he
indicated the shadowy tunnel beyond the portalis a
serious breach in our defences, but there is no sign of preparations
for an invasion.
And Emyn Arnen is already under siege.
Yes... Aragorn seemed to make up his mind. Haldir,
he said, if you are willing to stay here and guard this,
I can leave you a company of warriors, and,he gestured
towards the men who had followed him earlier and were still thronging
the alleyway outsidea citizen militia.
The elf placed a hand upon his heart and inclined his head. It
will be an honour, your Majesty.
Hannon le, mellon nín, said Aragorn,
returning his bow. Then, Arador, he continued, keep
looking for a way to seal it.
I shall, your Majesty, said the boy, bowing low.
The Queens bedchamber
Hugging the elfling, Eowyn spoke quietly to the Queen. Why
did he call me his other Nana?
Because he knows, Eowyn, replied Arwen. He
has always knownthe moment he could speak he began asking
about his other Nana and his other Ada.
It has been hard, answering his questions without breaking our
word to you.
Eowyn stroked the boys silken hair. Thank you for
taking such good care of him, Arwen, she said, kissing the
crown of his little head. But there is something I must
explain to you.
It is just like the old days, said Aragorn, as he
and Legolas jogged back to The Citadel, accompanied by a small
band of men escorting the drow prisoners.
Aragorn, said Legolas, there is something I
must explain to you.
Arador sorted through the collection of objects that had been
confiscated from the drowtwo tiny crossbows and their poisoned
quarrels, a jewelled dagger, several heavy rings, a carved wooden
rod, a large, circular brooch, set with a single, glowing gemstone,
and an ivory bracelet.
He picked up the brooch and examined its stone more closely.
This is the most likely, he thought. And, followed by Guenhwyvar,
he walked out of the shop, through the crowd of men, and turned.
The wall was solid stone.
Well, he said, I suppose that is a start.
The King and the elf entered The Kings House and climbed
the Great Staircase. The Palace was bustling with activity.
I cannot believe it, said Aragorn. I know youor,
if you are right, your doubletoo well to doubt your sincerityyou
are an elf, after allbut, still, I cannot believe
it. And yet I have seen Haldir, alive...
You will be in no doubt once we reach Emyn Arnen,
said Legolas. Two Eowyns, two of me.
Hmm. They approached the Royal Apartments. Aragorn
eyed the unfamiliar guards flanking the doors.
They are Redwalds men, said Legolas, and
trustworthy, for the present.
Where is the queen?
One of the men bowed, awkwardly. I think she is in her
bedchamber, your Majesty
Laddie! cried Gimli, running to Aragorn, and
throwing his arms around him.
Old friend, said the King, returning the dwarfs
embrace, it is good to see you after all this time!
Come inside, come inside, said Gimli. We have
caught the Orc that was calling himself your Counsellor, and one
or two of his friendsbut you can deal with all that laterthe
Queen is safe, in there, with the little lads and Eowyn.
Aragorn opened the bedchamber door.
Legolas, close behind him, heard one of the children cry out
in fear. Then a voice shouted, Daddy, Daddy!
and he saw Eldarion slide from his mothers lap and run to
his father, who lifted him into his arms.
Estel! cried Arwen.
But Legolas had spotted Eowyn, holding his doubles son,
and he rushed to them, and gathered them close.
Are you all right? asked Eowyn.
Yes. He pressed his lips to her forehead. We
caught them, melmenya, and Aragorn has agreed to come back to
Emyn Arnen with us.
Thank the gods. She smiled up at him. This
is Meldon, she said.
I know, said Legolas, hugging them both tightly.
Other Ada, murmured the elfling, contentedly. Nana
Arador picked up the figurine. I am sorry, he said,
I should not have thrown it.
But it does not seem to be damaged. He set it down
on the floor. The cat padded towards him. Gods, he
muttered, you are scary. I am so glad that you seem to be
on our side. He took a deep breath. Right, let us
hope you understand this: go home.
The animal circled the statuette, once, twice, again, and again,
smoke peeling from its body and swirling down into the stone;
andas the last grey wisps were finally draining awayArador
thought he heard a faint sound, almost like a voice, and it seemed
to be calling, Guenhwyvar?
So what Princess Eowyn told me is true, said Legolas.
I was poisoned?
Yes, your Highness, replied Findecáno.
A philtre, your Highness, designed to enslave you.
Enslave? You mean Alatáriëls tonic? No,Legolas
shook his head, smilingthat was simplyshe said
that was just...
To increase sexual appetite, said the healer, and
the ability to satisfy it.
It had no effect, said Legolas, colouring.
Its effects would have been so gradual, your Highness,
that you may not have noticed them. But you would, for example,
have felt increasingly dependent upon the lady, and have experienced
difficulty making decisions of your own
Leave me, said Legolas.
The healer bowed, and turned to go.
Forgive me, I am sorry... Will you ask Princess Eowyn to
Of course, your Highness.
Legolas watched the healer leave. Alatáriël,
he thought; and, closing his eyes, he tried to picture her, tried
to summon up the feelings of tendernessand of deep physical
desirethat had always accompanied his thoughts of her.
And he saw her face, with its wicked smile, and he smiled too;
but his heart and his body remained strangely unmoved.
Eowyn and Hentmirë were waiting in the busy Mess Tent.
You are more nervous than I am, said the younger
Well, I am to blame, said Hentmirë, miserably.
She toyed with her bowl of stew. I knew that he would
be waking soon. I should not have let you speak to me so openly.
Eowyn patted her arm. You did me a great kindness, Lady
Hentmirë, allowing me to unburden myself like that,
she said. And, now that Legolas knows about Meldon, I feel,
somehowlighteras though a great weight had
been lifted from my shoulders.
Will youI mean, what do you intend to do?
Legolas wants me to go to Eryn Carantaur with him. He wants
the three of us to live as a family.
No. She saw the disappointment on Hentmirës
face, and squeezed her arm, smiling. However...Though I
hope that he will leave Meldon with Arwen and Aragorn, if he insists
on taking him, I will not oppose it. I may even visit them from
time to time. Butassuming that I survive the next battleI
will have work to do here. Faramirs work. And, besides...
Her voice trailed away.
Does Haldir intend to stay with you?
Eowyn smiled. You are observant. Yes, he has suggested
it, she admitted. And he is kind, and honourable;
a brave warrior, and a natural leader of men.
Yes, said Hentmirë. Carefully, she removed a
lump of gristle from her bowl, and laid it on her platter. He
is all of that. But do you love him?
I... Eowyn frowned. I do think that I could
be happy with him.
But you do not think that that is enough, said Eowyn.
I am biased, said Hentmirë.
Legolas is not your Legolas, said the younger woman.
And I am not your Eowyn.
No. But he is my Haldir.
Ah... Eowyn smiled. You are a loyal
friend, Lady Hentmirë, she said.
Eowyn returned to her tent to find Legolas sitting on the edge
of the bed, fastening his jerkin.
You are leaving?
I am going back to the elven encampment, he said.
There are preparations to be made. Captain Golradir is a
reliable elf, but
The warriors are your responsibility. Eowyn
smiled. Yes, I understand that. But I must show you our
battle plan before you go. She beckoned him to the table.
Findecáno has told me about Alatáriël's
tonic, said Legolas, watching her unroll her map. I
do notI cannotI thought it was harmless.
Lord Fingolfin believes that it was really her fathers
I loved her.
I am so sorry. Eowyn grasped his arm.
And now I do not know what I feel for her.
I have decided, said Eowyn, that I will not
oppose you; if you want to take Meldon back with youif Arwen
will permit it, that isI will not try to stop you.
But you will not come with us?
I belong here, Legolas. I have work to do here.
Besides, you are still betrothed to Alatáriël, and
I,she turned from him and, smoothing out the parchment
on the table top, placed a weight on its cornerI am
Your double is not. Legolas came up beside her.
What do you mean?
She will not die. I do not know how it happened, exactly,
but my healers confirm that it is true. And my double believes
it to be a gifta sign from the Valar that he and she are
meant to be together.
That has no bearing on our circumstances, replied
Eowyn, placing another weight on the parchment. Now,she
pointed to the sketch of the drow encampmenttheir
troops are concentrated in this clearing and in three others to
Haldir of Lorien is immortal, he said, softly.
Eowyn looked up in surprise.
I have heard you mention his name, said Legolas,
Haldir has offered to stay with me, Eowyn admitted,
to be my consort and the Captain of my Guard.
And the father of your children?
We do not have time for these emotions, Legolas,
said Eowyn, curtly. Not now.
The elf sighed. I am sorry, he said. Show me
your battle plan.
There, said Haldir, placing a bowl of soup and some
bread on the counter, eat, Master Arador.
The boy laid down the book he was consulting, and took up the
horn spoon. Thank you. It smells delicious.
The alleyway is now a barracks. Mistress Wilawen has set
up a field kitchen in one of the workshops.
I never imagined her as a cook. Arador broke off
a piece of bread. Do you think the drow will attack tonight?
Haldir glanced at the wallblank stone once more, now that
the key had been removed and locked safely away in the lantern
Good, said Arador. Then, Why not?
Because they were not expecting todays defeat,
said the elf. The portal is small and the alleyway is narrowit
is designed for stealth, for gradual infiltration, not full-scale
invasion. Now that we have captured it, it will take them time
to plan a counter move.
Assuming, said Arador, that they even know
we are here. He dipped his bread in the soup.
No one got back through the portal to tell them.
No. But I would be willing to wager, said Haldir
running his fingers over the assortment of drow artifacts that
Arador had left lying on the counter, that they have other
ways of sending messages.
Yes, said Arador, taking a bite of bread, I
think I have read of spells...
Have you discovered anything more about the portal?
Lots, but nothing that really helps. He sighed. There
is still so much I do not know. I mean, we could try destroying
the keyassuming that it can be destroyedbut
ours is unlikely to be the only one. We could try building another
wall, here, in the middle of the shop, because you cannot pass
through a portal when there is a solid object at the other side,
apparently. But there is nothing, as far as I can see, to stop
them removing the wall magicallyunless their magic cannot
penetrate a portal
Haldir patted the boys shoulder. You are tired, Master
Arador, he said. When you have finished your meal,
go and find yourself a bed in the boot-makers shop. I will
have the men build your wallit cannot hurt. He walked
to the door. Keep the figurine with you, in case we need
to summon the cat in a hurry.
Legolas closed the door of the guest bedchamber We leave
for Emyn Arnen in six hours.
Eowyn smiled up at him. He is fast asleep, Lassui,
she said, all tucked up in his little bed. I had to tell
him a story.
Oh, melmenya,the elf stretched out his armscome
Eowyn rose and, sliding her arms around his waist, laid her head
upon his shoulder.
I want you to promise me something, said Legolas,
I will not stay out of the battle, Lassui. Whatever
dangers you face, I will face them with you.
No, it is not thatthough perhaps it should beno,
it is little Meldon. I want you to promise me that you will remember
he is not oursshh, shh,he pressed
his lips to her templeI want you to remember that,
when all this is over, if we survive, we must return to
our own world and he must stay here, with his real parentsor
with Arwen and Aragorn.
I know, Lassui.
Yes, he said, kissing her again, but knowing
and knowing are not the same thing; and I do not want to
see your heart broken, melmenya.
Then what am I to do, she asked, if he comes
running to meif he grasps my handtell him to go away?
Oh, my darling, no! I just
You are trying to protect me; I understand, she admitted,
but you cannot, not this time. She slipped from his
arms and sat down on the bed. It is already too late, LassuiyesI
loved him the moment I saw his little face, and I think that you
I did. Legolas knelt down before her. But he
is not ours, my darling. One day, we will have a child
of our own, Eowyn nín,he raised her hands to
his lipsand we will love him even more.
My elf, said Eowyn, stroking his face, tears running
down her own cheeks, my beautiful elf...
Legolas gave her fingers a final kiss. Let me help you
undress, melmenya. You will feel much better for a few hours
You will stay with me tonight?
There is nothing in this world that could drag me away,
And I want you to be a good boy, and take care of your
Nana and your muindor, Eowyn whispered. She leaned
into the cot and kissed him.
But Meldon was not asleep, and the smile that he gave herand
Legolas, standing beside herwas just as dazzling as his other
As the sun rose over the mountains of Mordor, the King of the
Reunited Kingdom rode out from Minas Tirith at the head of his
By midday he had crossed the Great Riverpassage having
been secured by an advance party he had sent out the some hours
beforeand at dusk, having seen no sign of the enemy on the
eastern bank, he entered the shadow Eowyns stronghold in
the southern foothills of Emyn Arnen.
Eowyns scouts had spotted him as he approached from the
west, and the Shieldmaiden was already waiting on the plateau
to receive him. Your Majesty, she said, bowing deeply.
Eowyn, my dear friend, you must not bow to me! he
said, dismounting and taking her by the hands. It is good
to see you againI only wish that the circumstances were
happier. Faramir was a wise counsellor and a good friend, and
I shall miss him.
Eowyn nodded, her eyes glistening with tears.
Aragorn leaned closer, to speak privately. If there is
anything that Arwen or I can do...
Thank you. She smiled, sadly. Perhaps, when
this is over...
Yes,he squeezed her handslet us
discuss your battle planLegolas,he placed his
hand upon his heart to greet the shadow LegolasMae
govannen, mellon nín.
Gîl síla erin lû e-govaded vín,
My headquarters are in the hills, said Eowyn.
Lead the way.
As the procession reached the encampment, a plump little woman,
dressed in trousers and boots, came blundering from the Healing
Tent and hugged Legolas, Eowyn and Gimli.
After the fire, said Captain Alfgar, we expected
them to retaliate immediately.
But they missed their chance, agreed Drago. They
sat in their camp, licking their wounds, and now our scouts report
that their numbers are dwindling.
The warriors belong to different noble houses, explained
the shadow Eowyn. According to our mercenary, the old woman
is not their Queen but the matron mother of the largest
house. She holds the alliance together by little more than threats
and promises, and the other matrons will rebel at the slightest
sign of weaknesssome of them have already deserted her,
and taken their warriors with them.
Aragorn looked at the sketch map laid out on the table before
him. How accurate is this? He indicated the positioning
of the drow troops.
It was updated at midday, said Eowyn. These,she
pointed to a ring of symbols running around the edge of the main
clearingare all women. The men have been moved out
into the forest. Our mercenary says that the holy women are preparing
to perform some sort of rite, seeking the aid of their goddess,
and the men must be kept at a distance. The ceremony will begin
at nightfall, and will last until they get an answer.
Whatever that might be, muttered Drago. But
the male drow know that you are here, your Majesty. We have seen
their scouts flitting through the trees; they are ready for us.
And... They are brave warriors, he added, grudgingly.
But we know their strengths and weaknesses,
said Eowyn, and now they are outnumbered.
Let us get some rest, said Aragorn. We will
follow your plan, and attack at first light.
As her captains were filing out of the tent, the shadow Eowyn
drew her double aside. Where is Haldir? she asked.
Why did he not return with you?
He is safe,Eowyn smiled, placing a reassuring
hand upon her armhe stayed in Minas Tirith to defend
the city. Aragorn left him in command. But he will come back as
soon as he can.
The shadow Eowyn glanced at her Legolas. He was deep in conversation
with his own double. Did you,she hesitateddid
you see Arwens children?
Yes, I saw your son. He is beautiful.
"Myyou know? Did he see you?
Eowyn nodded. Then she squeezed her doubles arm, and whispered,
He thought that I was you.
What do you mean?
"He loves Arwen and Aragorn, and little Eldarion, and he
is happy with themyou can rest assured of thatbut
he knows that they are not his real family. He came to mehe
held my handwhen he was scared. She smiled,
her eyes bright with tears. And Legolas and I just wanted
to gather him up, and keep him safe with us forever.