orophin, haldir and rumil

Five o’clock
Eryn Laeg

It had taken almost two hours to find all of the dead—sixteen men, fourteen women including the bride, and seven children, some of them only toddlers. Master Dínendal was still moving from body to body looking for signs of life, but the other elves knew that his search was hopeless.

“This is an entire village,” said Haldir. “All dead, except the child. And I do not understand how she survived.”

“She was hidden beneath a headless corpse,” said Valandil. “Of her mother, I think.”


The two elves walked to the edge of the clearing, where Wilawen was tending the tiny girl. The child shrieked the moment their shadows fell upon her, and struggled in the woman’s arms, desperate to get away.

“She seems to be afraid of elves,” said Wilawen. “Or, perhaps, of males.”

“Is she badly injured?” asked Haldir, stepping well back.

“No. The blood is not hers.” Wilawen looked up from the child. “That is the strange thing; there is not a mark on her. Somebody sliced through her clothing and rubbed the blood on her—you can see the marks of his hands on her shoulders.” Gently, she pulled back the remains of the child’s dress to show him.

“That,” said Haldir, looking at the fingerprints, “is a very small hand—”

“Haldir!” cried Rumil. “Look! Over here!”

“Stay with them, Valandil.” He crossed the clearing to join his brothers, crouching beside one of the bodies.

“Have you ever seen anything like this before?” Rumil held up a fragment of silvery metal. “We pulled it from one of the wounds.”

Haldir took the bloodstained object—the tip of a finely-wrought blade—and examined it closely. “No,” he said, “it does not look human—nor elven—and these runes...”

“It is no language I have ever seen before,” agreed Rumil. “It was a beautiful blade, though.”

“Fragile,” corrected Haldir. He dropped it into the leather pouch at his waist. “Lord Fingolfin may know where it comes from—he may recognise the runes. Anything else?”

“Yes,” said Orophin, stretching out his hand, palm up. “A good many of these—careful—we think they are poisoned.”

“They are too small to do much damage in themselves,” said Rumil. “And a fast-acting poison would explain why none of the men seems to have fought back.”

Haldir looked at the tiny black object. “A crossbow quarrel,” he said.


“This does not make sense.”


“Finely-crafted blades that snap in human flesh, tiny crossbows firing poison darts...” He shook his head. “These animals were not men, not elves, not orcs.”

“A new enemy, then,” said Rumil. “But from where?”

“And what do we do about them?” asked Orophin.

Haldir sighed. Taking the bodies back to Eryn Carantaur had been a sensible plan when they had thought they might be dealing with six merchants from Minas Tirith, killed by outlaws.

But now...

He had fourteen warriors. “Valandil,” he cried, “Orodreth, Camthalion!” He showed the Mirkwood elves the strange weapons.

“Take Wilawen and the child, and the rest of the civilians, and set up camp with your back to the Divor Rocks,” he said to Valandil. “Find somewhere sheltered and defensible. We do not know where they are coming from, but they seem to attack in the dark and at close range.” He held up the quarrel to make his point.

Valandil acknowledged his orders with a hand on the heart and a bow of the head.

Haldir turned to Camthalion and Orodreth. “Leave the bodies where they are, but light fires around the clearing and patrol the perimeter—I do not want these people violated by scavengers. Is that clear?”

“Yes, March Warden.”

“In the meantime, Rumil, Orophin and I will ride to the nearest settlement and see if we can trace any relatives—they will surely want to claim their dead and perform the appropriate rites—and the child may have family still living. With luck, we will be back with help later tonight.”


Seven o’clock

Eryn Laeg ended abruptly, just east of the Divor Rocks. From the edge of the trees to the slopes of the mountains of Mordor, some hundred miles further to the east, the landscape lay like a piece of parchment—a flat expanse of pale, bleached grass, divided into a pattern of squares by human homesteads, widely spaced to the north, tightly clustered around the tiny town of Newhome to the south.

“Humans are an industrious people,” said Rumil. “But they will fight the land.”

Haldir led the way along the dirt road between two sets of fences, slowly approaching the closest of the wooden houses, where an elderly couple was sitting outside in the evening sun, the man smoking a pipe, the woman shelling peas into a bowl on her lap.

“Good evening,” said Haldir with a polite salute.

“’Evening,” replied the old man—and if he was surprised to see three elves on his land, he did not show it.

Haldir dismounted. “We come with bad news,” he said, quietly.

The woman looked up from her work. “Take a seat—you and your companions—can I fetch you a drink?”

Haldir shook his head. “No—thank you.” He introduced himself and his brothers formally, and explained, as tactfully as he could, what they had found in Eryn Laeg.

“It’ll be the Mayor’s daughter,” said the woman. “It was her wedding...”

“All dead, you say?” asked the man.

The elf nodded. “Except the child. We are looking for their families.”

“Was it Orcs?”

“No, we do not think so.” He carefully removed the crossbow quarrel from his pouch and showed it to the old couple. “We found these... We believe they are poisoned.”

The dark people...” muttered the woman, and she made a gesture with her hand which Haldir instinctively recognised as a charm intended to ward off evil.

“Now, Mother,” chided her husband, “you know the dark people are nothing but an old women’s tale. Wait here, sir, while I fetch my horse,” he said to Haldir. “I’ll take you into town.”

“Who are these dark people?” asked Haldir quietly, once the man was inside the barn.

The woman had retreated into herself, rhythmically dipping her hand into her bowl and letting the peas run through her fingers but, at length, she answered, “They come out at night, into the forest, killing anything they find. The last time they came I was just a girl, but I still remember the bodies. So many funerals...” She glanced over her shoulder, making sure that her husband was still out of earshot, then leaned forward and whispered, “They say they live inside the Divor rocks.”


Valandil approached slowly, one hand raised as if in surrender.

Wilawen smiled. “She is sleeping.”

The elf lowered his hand and, taking care not to disturb the child, joined his betrothed on the ground. “I have brought you some food,” he said, handing her piece of lembas.

“Thank you.”

Valandil settled his back against the rock wall. “Has she said anything?”

“Nothing I can make sense of,” said Wilawen. “Just ‘purple’.”


“Yes. She said it over and over, getting more and more distressed. And then she struggled, and tried to get away from me.”

“Purple... Perhaps it is what the raiders were wearing? Purple cloaks?”

Wilawen shrugged her shoulders.

“What will become of her,” Valandil asked, “if Haldir cannot find her family?”

Someone will take her in.”

“Do you think...” He waved his hand.


“If you want to.”

Wilawen turned onto her side and smiled up at him. “You are truly a sweet elf,” she said, smiling. “But no. I will care for her for as long as I must, but I have no burning desire to be her mother.”

Valandil took her hand and raised it to his lips.

“Do you think they will come back?” she asked.

He glanced round the camp. They had found themselves a natural fortification—a broad alcove in the rock wall, with a long, narrow, barbican-like entrance and high craggy walls providing various emplacements for archers. “It seems secure,” he said.

“But?” Wilawen touched his cheek. “What are your instincts telling you?”

“It sounds foolish.”

“Go on.”

“Can we trust the rock?”

“What does that mean?”

“I do not know.” He smiled at her. “I did tell you that it was foolish.”


Nine o’clock
Legolas’ study

“Will he be all right?” asked Hentmirë, anxiously. She had come into Legolas’ study and found him lying on the floor, and had immediately sent for help. “I could not wake him, so I asked Galathil to fetch you,” she said, “with Master Dínendal being away.”

Lord Fingolfin searched for a pulse. “Did you move him?”

“Um... I may have shaken him a bit. Will he be all right?”

“I do not—” Fingolfin remembered to whom he was speaking. “Of course he will, híril nín. Galathil—go and fetch Master Findecáno, as quickly as you can.”

“Can I do anything, my lord?” asked Hentmirë, watching the young elf hurry away.

“Where is Lady Eowyn?”

“She went map-making with Master Berryn—they should be back at any moment...”

“Good,” said Fingolfin. He smiled at the little woman. “Help is on its way. All you and I need do is watch over him until it arrives.”


Findecáno opened his healing bag. “Has this ever happened before?”

“No,” said Hentmirë. “At least, I do not think so. What is that?”

“This,” said the healer, removing the stopper from a small brown bottle, “is smelling salts. I can find nothing physically wrong with Lord Legolas, so I think we can afford to give him a little help. If you will support his shoulders, my Lady—yes, like that.”

Findecáno gently waved the open bottle under Legolas’ nose, letting the pungent odour of the salts enter his nostrils. For a moment nothing happened. Then the elf’s eyes and mouth flew open and he took a great, gasping breath. “Eowyn!

Hentmirë struggled to hold him fast.

“Eowyn!” he cried, “Let me go gwendithen! I must go to her!”

“No, my dear, no,” said Hentmirë, hugging him tightly. “You have been ill. And Eowyn will be back at any moment—”

“No!” cried Legolas, “No! She will not! She thinks that I hate her! That I have betrayed her with... With...”

Findecáno grasped the distraught elf’s face, caught his gaze and held it. “Breathe deeply my lord,” he said, staring into Legolas’ eyes, “deeply... In... And out... And in... And out... That is right...” Slowly, he removed his hands. “That is better. Now I will give you something to help soothe your nerves...”

But, even as he was reaching for his healing bag, the study door flew open, and Berryn ran in.

“Lord Legolas,” he cried, “it is Lady Eowyn!” He bent forwards, hands on knees, gasping for breath. “Lady Eowyn,” he panted, “has gone! I cannot find her! I think she must have—have fallen into The Aelvorn!”




Contents page


Previous chapter: It begins
Eowyn struggles home. What has Legolas been up to?

Chapter 2

Next chapter: Three's a crowd
Legolas and Eowyn talk. Why are their stories so different? Lord Fingolfin has his suspicions.

Chapter 4