Eowyn grasped Legolas hand and, as their eyes
met, her heart lurched at the expression on his face.
Her mind was racing: Has Lassui grown to need
the charm? Was I wrong to hide it? Or is this because of the medicine
he sniffed in Herals chamber?
She felt his fingers, strong and sure, press hers, and some of
her fear subsided.
Perhaps it is just the strain of the last few days
She raised his hand to her lips, and kissed it. Then, leaning
forward, across the table, she beckoned Lady Lessien.
Haldir brought his horse to a halt, and dismounted. Across the
scorched remains of the village green, Berryn and another manwhom
the elf vaguely recognised as one of the Beornings attached to
King Thranduils householdcame running towards him.
Thank the gods you are here, March Warden, cried
the cartographer. The tad-dail have been tracked to a disused
fortification, about four miles to the north. Lord Gimli and Master
Thorkell have them surrounded, but need reinforcements. We are
to join them without delay.
There is a potion, my Lord, whispered the Mistress
of the Ceremony, specially blended for this problem.
And you have it ready? asked Legolas.
It is a part of my duties.
I did not know.
Eowyn gave his hand a supportive squeeze.
It is swift to act, my Lord, Lessien assured him,
and we can delay the Rite some moments, if necessary.
Well, he sighed, I cannot see that we have
a choice. Please bring me the potion, hiril nín.
He received her curtsey with a bow of his head, and watched her
return to her place at the table. What if it does not work,
melmenya? My father is not here to take over.
If it does not work, Lassui, said Eowyn, decisively,
I will slip away, and fetch the figurine.
He turned to face her. You are
so clever, and so sensible, my darling, but I do not want to taint
the Harvest Rite with Herals foul magic.
Then, if the potion does not work, said Eowyn, kissing
his hand again, we will simply find some other way to honour
Gimli jogged back to the gatehouse.
Thorkell bogsveigir, standing guard over the captured tad-dail
and the two sleeping women, stepped aside to admit him. Anything?
No. The dwarf sheathed his axe. I have been
right round the castle. There is no other way out that I can find,
and the guards at the doors have seen and heard nothing, but
Warriors instinct, said Thorkell. Yes.
Something is happeningor is about to. He climbed
up to one of the broken loopholes, and looked out across the clearing.
But what? And where?
Look! hissed Gimli.
The man turned; the dwarf was pointing at the head mans
hound, which had suddenly lifted its head, ears pricked.
It seems, said the Beorning, that our friend
here agrees with us.
The banquet was finished, and the entertainment over, and the
guests had begun to murmur expectantly.
Eowyn turned to Legolas; the elf shook his head.
Could it be, she whispered, that you are trying
too hard? She saw the despair in his eyes and apologised
immediately; and, suddenly, she knew what she had to do. We
must trust in the Valar, my darling. Even if you cannot give them
your seed tonight, we can still give them something very precious.
Come with me, my love
She rose from the table, holding out her hands, and when the
elfafter a moments hesitationtook them, she drew
him up and led him out onto the Threshing Floor.
The musicians, seated on the balcony above the Halls main
entrance, began playing a soft, repetitive melody; serving elves,
stationed by the wall-sconces, started snuffing out the candles.
The crowd fell silent, their eyes fixed upon the couple standing
in the remaining pool of light.
I love you, Lassui. Eowyn reached up and, taking
his face in her hands, drew him close, and kissed him.
Around the Hall, surprised gasps and soft mutterings protested
that this was a departure from the ancient practice of the Rite.
But Eowyn felt Legolas respond to her kiss and, as it deepened,
her confidence grew. Gently, she withdrew from his arms, and stepped
back, andsmiling at his surpriseshe reached out, grasped
the ends of his embroidered sash, and pulled. The elven knot unravelled,
and the robe fell open. No longer concerned by his lack of arousal,
Eowyn pushed the fabric from his shoulders, and let the garment
She heard the sighs of admiration that greeted her bare-chested
elf (his muscular arms lightly tensed, his powerful loins clearly
visible through his thin silk leggings), and she smiled. But her
own attention had been caught by a wayward strand of pale hair,
disturbed when she had removed his robe, and she carefully brushed
it over his shoulder, letting its silky length run through her
Then her fingertips grazed his skin, and she heard his breath
Her hands dropped to his lacings, and she pulled them loose,
and lowered the sheer fabric over his hips and down his thighs.
He was still not quite aroused but Eowyn, knowing his body so
well, saw signs for hope, andsure of her own skillsshe
looked about her and, seeing exactly what she needed, ran to the
table, seized a flask of olive oil, and brought it back to him.
Lie down my darling.
The guests shifted in their seats, leaning forward to see their
Lady gently push their Lord to the ground and straddle him, her
mithril skirts gathered up around her hips.
Eowyn withdrew the stopper, and poured a little of the oil, scented
with lemon and thyme, into her palm, rubbed her hands together
and, leaning down, slid them up Legolas arms and across
Gods, he was beautiful!
Slowly, her hands explored his musclethe strong curves
of his upper arms and the hard swell of his chestthen she
leaned down, and kissed a patch of the finest, softest, most golden
She felt him stir beneath her and, smiling, brought her hands
down lowermassaging him in long, slow circleslower,
and lower, down to his stomach, pressing a little harder, lower
She felt him stir again, and shiftedstill caressing his
bellyand felt his hands push her skirts aside, and she came
up on her knees, and reached down to guide him, andyes,
he was growing in her hand, rising up, hardening; yes, he was
almost ready! And, suddenly, he grasped her hips, and pulled her
down, and she was impaled upon him, and his size was almost unbearable,
but she rode him, slowly at first, then faster, and wildertaking
him deeper as she leaned in to kiss himand
Oh, gods, she was tired!
But his hands were holding her, his strong arms were carrying
her, and she raced on, and on, crying out with urgency, and need,
and then with triumph, as she brought her elf to a sharp and sudden
climax, and the world turned black as she followed him there.
She came to her senses lying upon her elf, surrounded by quiet
applause, and the soft, joyful singing of the assembled company.
Guests were rising from the table, and pairing up, and falling
eagerly to coupling, their passions inflamed by the lovemaking
they had just witnessed.
Tired but happy, Eowyn lifted her head, and smiled at Legolas.
You did it, melmenya, he whispered, hoarsely. You
performed the Rite, my darling, and,he gathered her
close, and kissed her mouth with lingering tendernessyou
cured me, Eowyn nín. He moved inside her, teasing
the most delicious echoes of release from her core, and Eowyns
body shivered with pleasure.
Gimli led the dog back into the gatehouse. Sitthey
are somewhere in that knot of trees, to the south.
So we are squeezed between them and the herd in the ruinsif,
that is, any of the buggers are still inside the ruins.
If they have us trapped, why are they waiting?
The Beorning shrugged. It is what they did at Eryn Valen.
Then they sent out one or two warriors with sling shots and burning
missiles, and tried to smoke us out.
Gimli stroked his beard. What about throwing caution to
Haldir held up his hand; his men froze.
From somewhere up ahead, the sounds of battlethe clash
of steel, the thud of arrows, wails of pain, and the roar of dwarven
battle criesechoed faintly through the Forest.
We are too late, said a quiet voice.
It is never too late to aid someone, Master Berryn.
Haldir gave the signal, and his men surged forward, the Beorning
messenger leading the charge with blasts of his hunting horn.
Dropping a tad-dal with his elven knives, Thorkell bogsveigir
spun them back into line, and moved on.
Behind him, Gimli whirled past, felling creatures to right and
Thorkell sliced neatly through another throat, and turned to
tackle a third tad-dal, coming at him from behind. It was dark
in the Forest, and the Beorning suspected that the creatures could
see better than men, but they were timid at heart, with no real
taste for close combat.
He finished off another.
Some were fleeing and, once they had got a few yards behind them,
there was nothing he could do to stop them. But his men were fighting
well, and taking few casualties. If no more came it would soon
be over and, when everything had stopped movinghe ducked,
turned, and stabbedthey would pick up the bits, carry them
out into the open, and gauge the damage
Thats a Beorning horn, thought Thorkell. Otkel
harthfari, with reinforcements!
From the corner of his eye he saw more warriors joining the fight,
and Gimli charging another of the creatures, and somethinghe
was not sure whatmade him turn, and look, and
NO! he bellowed. NOT THAT ONE!
The dwarfs blow fell short.
Thorkell barged in, seized the tad-dal by its scrawny neck, and
pushed it into a shaft of moonlight.
Metal leaves, woven into the creatures coarse, goaty hair,
glinted in the pale lightthe thing was wearing some sort
We want this bastard alive.
At daybreak, Legolas awoke to find that Waning had arrived early,
in the form of a fine, soft drizzle.
He took Eowyn by the hand and led her outside and, together,
they crossed the clearingshe in her pale mithril gown, he
naked as the day he was bornand they climbed up the main
staircase, pausing now and then to look out across the city, enjoying
the cool, refreshing rain, and marvelling at the beauty of all
they were building together.
They bathed, and had a light breakfast in the big, bay window
of their sitting room. Then Legolas left for his brief daily meeting
with Captain Golradir, and Eowyn retired to the study, to collate
And now, said Thorkell bogsveigir, looking up at
the sky, it pisses down.
Does it matter? Haldir, leading the tad-dal king
on a rope, approached the castle ruins.
You have not been inside, said the Beorning. Believe
me, more wet will not help.
Cautiously, they entered the posternGimli and the dog,
Thorkell, Haldir and the tad-dal, and eight hand-picked men, elves
and dwarves, all heavily armed.
Last night, they were here, said Gimli. Lying
on that filthy straw. He turned to Haldir. Can you
No. But the stone is thick. If they are deep inside
The dwarf put his ear to the inner wall. Nothing.
He brought the dog back to the straw beds and let it snuffle about
in the mess. Then he led it around the chamber, urging it to explore
the various gaps in the walls.
Suddenly, its head came up, and it whined, as though asking for
permission to follow the scent.
Through there, said the Beorning, is where
we found Myldreth.
They climbed into the next chamber and, following the dog, crossed
the filthy floor and passed through an open doorway. Three chambers
later, the hound stopped at flight of muddy steps.
Down there? asked Gimli.
The animal whimpered.
Wonderful, said Thorkell. Well, we will need
Hearing a tap upon the study door, Eowyn looked up from her notebook.
Master Bawden to see you, my Lady, said Galathil.
Goodplease send him in. Eowyn greeted the craftsman-builder
with a smile. Good morning, Master Bawden. I have your hammer
and chisel, here, safe
She picked up the leather tool
bag, adding, softly, Do you have any news for me?
Thank you, my Lady. Yes, I know how to break the charm.
But I had to swearumthat I would share the secret
with no one but Lord Legolas himself.
I do not understand.
The knowledge, as I explained before, my Lady, is traditionally
passed down from father to son. It is not,he hesitated
again it has never been told to a woman, my
I see. A part of Eowyn was annoyed. But she was grateful,
and had far too much respect for the craftsman-builder to consider
trying to persuade him to break his word. I will send him
to you, she said, crossing to the door. Then, turning back,
she added, Master Bawden, is it common for the men to use
this magic to seduce women?
Oh no, my Lady. No. Its proper use is to encourage the
friendly spirits to bestow good fortune upon a building and those
who dwell in it. Every craftsman I spoke to was appalled that
Heral had used it for his ownumsatisfaction.
Thank goodness. Wellplease make yourself comfortable,
Master Bawden. Legolas will not keep you long.
Gimli and the dog went down the stairs first, followed by two
men carrying improvised torches.
Haldir pushed the tad-dal king to the top step. Go on
The creature descended.
Thorkell bogsveigir gestured to the remaining warriors, and they
climbed down, one at a time; the Beorning, carrying another torch,
brought up the rear.
The narrow space reeked of piss and worse. Thorkell grasped the
kerchief at his throat and pulled it up, over his nose and mouth.
Rain had given way to pale sunshine.
Eowyn was waiting in the garden; Legolas came running up the
Do you know what to do, Lassui?
Legolas smiled. Yes. It is quite straightforward.
But is it safe?
Master Bawden assures me that it is, melmenya. He
took her in his arms, and kissed her, apologetically. Poor
Eowyn nín, he said. I cannot tell you what
must be done, for I have given my word, but Master Bawden has
agreed that you might help mein fact, I think I will need
This tunnel is well-used, said Haldir, quietly, but
the air is not moving. I do not think that this is a way out.
I think that they are still down here.
There,Eowyn held out her jewel boxit
is safely inside. But I am afraid we will need the wall repairedI
did not do it so well the second time. How do you feel, Lassui?
Fine. The elf shrugged.
Then what do we do next?
Next, we need a dish, and some sunlight.
Sunlight? Eowyn frowned. You mean, to melt
Legolas gave her a little half-nod.
Are you sure, Lassui? Once it has gone we cannot re-make
it. You will have to live withwellwhatever you are
Chuckling, the elf wrapped his arm around her waist. My
wonderful, practical Shieldmaiden! Sunlight, my darling, is older
and more potent than any human magic. Besides, he added,
very softly, what happened in the Banqueting Hall, when
I finallyyou know
It was not because of the charm,
and it was not because of Lady Lessiens potion. It was because
of you, melmenyabecause of your smile, your touch, your
In the end, I did not need any help but yours.
Well, said Eowyn, blushing happily. I hope
you are right.
The tad-dal king let out a sudden screech, and sticks, and stones,
and handfuls of filth suddenly rained down upon the warriors at
the front of the column.
One of the men drew his sword, and rushed forwards.
No, shouted Gimli, holding back the excited dog,
no, no! It is the women! Just the women!
But the warrior had already struck.
Too late, he realised his mistake and, for a long moment, simply
stared at the womans lifeless body. Then he bent down, and
scooped her screaming infant into his arms.
The others, meanwhile, had flowed past him and, shielding their
faces with their hands, they backed the spitting, clawing captives
against the walls, and gradually overwhelmed them.
Legolas and Eowyn climbed up to the sea fletthe
tiny platform, high above the trees, that the elf had built (once
upon a time) so that he might gaze upon the sea, far to the south
westfor there the late autumn sun fell in its full strength,
unhindered by leafy branches.
Legolas set a silver dish upon one of the benches; Eowyn placed
her jewel box beside it. I do not know if I dare do it.
Come here. Legolas put his arm around her shoulders.
I know that all I will ever need is you, melmenya,
he murmured, kissing her temple. Do you trust me?
Of course I trust you, Lassui.
Then do it, my darling. Do it now. He released her,
andstill a little reluctantlyshe knelt down to the
bench and, very carefully, took the wrapped figurine out of the
box. Are you ready?
Very well, then. She opened the cloth. The wax figure
lay upon its back, its huge phallus rearing up in the sunlight.
Oh, said the elf. Um
Legolas? She looked up at him, anxiously. What
His own voice sounded strange. It
is justvery warm, melmenya.
I am going to pick it up.
He nodded, gritting his teeth.
Carefully avoiding its erection, Eowyn grasped the figure by
its legs, and lifted it into the silver dish. There.
Itit is just,he was breathing heavily
nowthe sun is so hot, melmenya
was burning, his testicles were aflame.
And Eowyn was kneeling before him.
He reached for herher name spilling from his lipsand
drew her close. She pressed her cheek against him, and his penis
responded, hard and eager!
Eowyn reached up, and opened his leggings, and wrapped her fingers
around his shaft, and took the rest of him in her mouth
Ah! Legolas cried out, in surprise and gratitude,
for her mouth felt cool; and, hands tangled in her hair, he urged
her on, Yes
Oh, yes, yes! Oh! oh! Oh no! No! Wait!
Wait! I wantI wantto come inside youmelmenya!
He fell to his knees; and Eowynsmiling up at himlay
back on the sun-drenched flet, and stretched out her arms.
And the last shred of his control burned up in the suns
brightness, and he threw himself upon her, devouring her mouth,
her neck, and her bosom, tearing away her skirts and exposing
her pale, flawless flesh to his need; and she opened her legs
for him, andOh sweet Eru!he was between them,
driving himself deep into her wetness, just in time.
Ligulf, Kenard, Otkel harthfari, barked Thorkell
bogsveigir, seizing one of the trussed up women and shoving her
at his men, take them back to the gatehouse.
He waited just long enough to make sure that everything was under
control, then he followed Haldir, Gimli, and the rest, deeper
We cannot stay here forever.
He raised himself up on his elbow, and smiled down at her, his
expression both loving and mischievous.
You, she said, are definitely cured.
His smile broke into a grin; and he leapt to his feet, and held
out his hands, and helped her up with effortless strength.
Eowyn yawned. The figurine?
He looked into the dish. Completely melted.
Already? She came up beside him. I thought
that it would take days. I was afraid that we would have to sit
here with it, to fend off the birds, and the squirrels.
The suns magic is swift, melmenya.
Do you feel anything? She trailed her fingertips
over the formless wax.
We must do the same to Cylliens, Lassui. And to Haldirs.
As soon as we can.
She smoothed her skirts over her hips, straightened and re-laced
her bodice, and then ran her fingers through her tousled hair.
How do I look?
Legolas smiled. Beautiful. And reasonably respectable.
It will have to do. I shall bathe again as soon as we get
They took one brief look at the sea, glittering in the distance,
then they descendedLegolas carrying the bowl of waxfollowing
the spiralling stairs, down through the deep red foliage, until
they reached the main walkway.
My Lord! An elleth rushed forward to meet them.
Lady Tóriel. Legolas greeted her formally.
I have been waiting here for you, she said, hurriedly
returning his greeting, for Camthalion told me that he had
seen you go aloftand I must speak with you, my Lord, urgently.
I have just heard the most vicious rumour!
The elleth refused to speak to them on the main walkway, fearing
that she might be overheard, so Legolas and Eowyn took her up
to their own garden.
Please sit down, Lady Tóriel, said Legolas.
Flushed and breathless, she sat, pressing a hand to her bosom,
as though in pain.
Would you like a drink, Lady Tóriel? asked
Eowyn, gently. Some brandy, perhaps?
No, said the elleth. It is just
is circulating, my Lord, that I havedalliedwith
your fathers bodyguard, the man, Thorkell bogsveigir.
Legolas glanced at Eowyn. I see.
And it is not true! I am a daughter of Dúnedhil,
my Lord. My parents raised me in the old ways, instilled in me
the strictest standards. For me, an act of bodily union is marriage
undissoluable, and I would never join myself with a mere mortal!
She realised, just a moment too late, what a terrible thing she
had said, and turned to Eowyn.
I understand your position, Lady Tóriel, said
the woman, quietly.
My Lady,her voice falteredI thank
you. But if this man is saying
He is not, said Eowyn. Others must have seen
you leave the banquet together, and leaped to that conclusion.
Then what am I to do? My reputation is ruined!
No, no, said Legolas. In my experience, Lady
Tóriel, the best way to quash a rumour is to ignore it.
We humans, Lady Tóriel, said Eowyn, helpfully,
have a saying, the Lady doth protest too much,
meaning that the more a person denies something, the more others
think it true.
The elleth shook her head. That is
ridiculous! And most unfair.
My Lady, said Eowyn, there is something
you can dosomething that will help Lord Legolas and me to
put things right, for it has a bearing upon the death of one of
the craftsman-buildersyou may have heard about him.
The elleth shook her head.
Well, that is not important now. But: we know that Thorkell
bogsveigir left the Banqueting Hall with you that night. Did he
accompany you all the way home?
And did you invite him inside?
I have already said not!
You have said that you were notintimatewith
him, said Eowyn, carefully. But that does not mean
you did not spend time with himoffer him a drink, perhaps,
or talk with him for a while.
I did not!
So he left you at your door?
Thank you, Lady Tóriel, said Legolas. You
have been most helpful. He exchanged a glance with Eowyn.
We will leave you now, but please do stay here for as long
as you wish. I will have some refreshments brought up to you.
He bowed his head. No i Melain na le, hiril nín.
And rememberthis rumour will soon vanish, like mist in the
Eowyn took his arm, and they turned to leave but, as they reached
the staircase, the elleth suddenly called after them: My
Lord! Camthalion asked me to give you a message.
They were shown into Cylliens bedchamber, where the elleth was
waiting for them, sitting up in bed, looking pale and beautiful
in one of Arinnas frothy night gowns.
Eowyn took the bedside chair; Legolas stood behind her. We
came as soon as we received your message, he said.
What happened that night, Cyllien?
The elleth frowned. I remember your father taking me home,
she said, and I remember his giving me the knife; I remember
that it was early eveningit was still light when he leftand
I remember, as I closed the door, how the sun glinted on his hair
Legolas cleared his throat.
But I still do not remember how I came to be on the building
site. The only thing I do know, is that when I woke up, it was
dark, and Heral was heavy, holding me down. And his thighshis
thighs were forcing my legs apartit hurtand hishis
She broke down, sobbing.
Eowyn leaned forward, and touched her hand. Cyllien flinched.
Then, I am sorry, she whispered. I am just not
used to having friends.
Eowyn gave her hand a brief, reassuring squeeze, then sat back
in her chair.
Cyllien, we have to ask, said Legolas. Did
Heral rape you?
No. She wiped the tears from her cheeks. At
least, not then. But maybe earliermaybe when I cant
rememberI do not know.
Did you have any injuries, asked Eowyn, gently, down
I am not sure. I was already bruised, from earlier.
When we talked before, said Legolas, you said
that, when you woke up, Heral was dead. But now you are saying
that he was still alive.
Because I have remembered more.
Tell us everything you have remembered, Cyllien,
The elleth ran a hand through her hair. He was holding
me down, she said, and shoutinghorrible thingssaying
that Ithat I was a prick teaser, and that it was no wonder
that Haldir couldnt do me. Thenthen one of the treesI
swear itcame to life, and grabbed himI swear on Erkenbauds
grave, Eowynit had hands, and eyes, and it grabbed him,
and pulled him away.
She reached over to the night stand and, hands shaking, picked
up her pipe, though she made no attempt to light it. Heral
must have wrenched himself free, because he came at me again,
and he got his hands round my throat. But I had pulled out Thorons
And I stabbed him.
There was a moment of deafening silence.
Then Eowyn said, What did the green man do?
I have seen him, too, Cyllien.
You mean the tree? II dont know. I did not see it
again. It disappeared.
Back into the foliage, said Eowyn. He never
meant to be party to a killing.
I did not mean to kill Heral, cried Cyllien.
I just wanted to stop him, Eowyn. Just to stop him!
They are up ahead, murmured Haldir, and the dog whimpered
in agreement. I cannot tell how many.
Gimli drew his axe.
No, said Thorkell bogsveigir. Give me the prisoner.
Because the trouble with elvesand dwarves,
said the Beorning, pulling out one of his knives, is that
neither of you can think dirty. He grasped the bound (and
now gagged) tad-dal king by its spangled hair and set his blade
to its throat. Just make sure that we are well-lit.
And, forcing the creature forwards, one step at a time, he advanced
towards the rest of the creatures, shouting, Come on! Come
out and give yourselves up! Surrender, or Ill kill
Arinna poured out a glass of apple brandy. Here,
she said, handing it to Cyllien, get this down you.
The elleth took a large gulp, and coughed, covering her mouth
with an elegant hand.
Do you want me to send them away?
Cyllien took another gulp of brandy. I
want it over with.
Arinna patted her arm. Shout if you need me. She
left the room, adding, to Legolas and Eowyn who were waiting just
outside, Go easy on her. Legolas bowed his head, gravely.
Eowyn returned to her seat. Are you feeling any better?
The elleth nodded.
Well enough to tell us what happened next? asked
I cut his ears off, said Cyllien.
Because he was dead.
Eowyn looked up at Legolas. We do not understand,
he said. What do you mean?
I mean that he bullied me, said the elleth.
He bullied me, and bullied me, and made me think that he
was so much better than meso much bigger and strongerand
that I couldnt fight back. And yet there he was, dead! Just
like anyone else! Hed made me so afraid of him, and he was
So you punished him for lying to you, said Legolas.
He sighed. And my father saw you, and sent his bodyguard
to clean up after you.
Thoron? Cyllien frowned. No, it was Thorkell.
Thorkell told me to go to Thoron; Thorkell said he would help
me. She looked up at Legolas, suddenly very frightened.
What is going to happen to me?
Oh, Cyllien! The elf drew up a chair, and sat down.
If you had not mutilated his body, there would be no question
that you acted in self defence
He looked at Eowyn.
She seemed scarcely less frightened than Cyllien, and he reached
out and touched her arm. But, even so, you have convinced
me. He heard Eowyns sigh of relief. When
you are fully recovered, you will be asked to pay for taking a
life by serving the colony. The length of your service, and the
exact nature of the tasks you will perform, will be decided by
the Inner Council.
Are you saying that I will be free?
You will not be imprisoned.
Oh,Cyllien burst into tearsthank
you, thank you, she sobbed. You will not regret it.
I promise you.
So, said Eowyn, as she and Legolas walked back to
their chambers, it seems that Thorkell was not acting on
your fathers orders.
Oh, I suspect, melmenya, that Master Bowswayer had standing
orders to protect Cyllien whenever the need arose. And, for all
his cynicism, I know he takes his duties seriously, and is genuinely
loyal to my fatherand, Eru knows, he would wade through
the fires of Mount Doom for you. The problem is that he
is always so sure he knows best.
So he will not be punished for trying to destroy the evidence?
Legolas wrapped an arm around her shoulders. I have heard
of a certain fish, melmenya, that swims along the sea bed,he
mimed its motion with his other handeating the carrion
that falls down from above. It is a poor sort of creature, but
it does keep the waters clean.
You sound just like your fathers son! Eowyn shook
her head. Thorkell would not be flattered by that comparison.
You think not? I think he would find it quite amusing.
They had reached their chambers, and Eowyn glanced up the stairs
to the garden. Do you think that Lady Tóriel could
still be hiding up there?
Legolas laughed. Perhaps you should go and find out, melmenyaand
escort her home if need be. I want to speak to my father, and
I think that things will go better if I do it alone.
Hmm, said Eowyn. I am not sure which is the
harder task, Lassui, butif you insistI shall go and
see if the daughter of Dúnedhils reputation can stand
being seen in public with a mere woman. Do not be too long, my
darling. We are dining in our own chambers tonightalone.
Legolas kissed her cheek. Do you know, melmenya, I feel
Free. Yes, free! Better than I have felt in a long while.
Thorkell bogsveigir shoved the tad-dal king into the gatehouse.
It had not taken long to round up the others, once they had surrendered,
and the makeshift prison was filled with the creatures, bound
and gagged with every piece of cord, leather, and stout fabric
the warriors had managed to lay their hands on.
Where are the women?
Over there, said Berryn, pointing to a series of
small shelters, built from branches and blankets, along the foot
of the castle wall. It is cleaner out here than inside.
The healer and Myldreth are washing them, and some are showing
signs of coming back to their sensesthough, if poor Annis
is anything to go by, when that happens, we are in for a lot of
weeping and wailing.
Eighty-four heads, at the third count, said Gimli,
jogging up to them, though we do not have all of them.
I do not think we need all of them when we have their king,
said Thorkell. I wasnt sure, down there, how the young
bucks would reactwhether they would be happy to see him
die. But it seems they respect him.
And if Legolas can make peace with him, agreed Haldir,
they may just keep it.
Legolas, or the Elvenking.
Well, said Gimli, I cannot see any sense in
trying to drag them all the way back to Eryn Carantaur. I say
we dig in here, and send a messenger to fetch Legolas and his
I will go, said Haldir.
I have been expecting you, said Thranduil. Was
the Rite concluded successfully? He crossed to the sideboard
and poured out two large glasses of elderberry spirits.
I noticed that you were not there, Ada, said
Legolas, taking a seat.
No. Thranduil handed him a drink. It did not
seem appropriate, with Cyllien indisposed.
She has confessed, Ada. Legolas took a sip of spirits.
Under the full force of his fathers scrutiny, he found himself
hesitating. The mutilation aside, he said, at last,
I am convinced that she acted in self defence. So she will
not be punished, though she will be asked to make amends by serving
That is as I expected. But you are working up to something
Legolas set down his glass, rose from the couch and, turning
his back on his father, walked over to the broad, curving window.
Beneath him, the unfinished guest apartment lay empty. Only Master
Bawden was at work, quietly polishing a carved window frame.
Legolas smiled. That is a good man. He understands
what matters in life.
You told me that you did not love her, Ada, he said,
but we both know that you
He turned to face his father. Told me what I wanted to
And are you going to warn me to stay away from her, Lassui?
No! Of course not! Because I want you to be happy, Ada.
Legolas smiled, sadly. I just wish that you could have chosen
But these are damaged times, Lassui, said Thranduil,
gently. And you and I have elected to stay here, in Middle-earth,
to help make them better. I have asked you before: is Cyllien
any less deserving of our care than the Forests of South Ithilien?
Legolas said nothing.
I do not always give you credit for such wisdom,
Do you trust me to do what is right?
Legolas could not meet his fathers gaze.
Of course not, said the Elvenking, and he sounded
more amused than angry. That is a fathers lot in life.
But, in this case, Lassui, I am asking you to trust me.
He joined his son at the window and, drawing him into his arms,
gave him a fatherly hug. Now go back to Eowyn, ion nín.
I know what she did for you last nightyes, I know all about
it. Go on. Go and show her how much you appreciate her.
Less than half an hour into his journey, Haldir slowed his horse
and, leaning over its neck, struggled to control his breathing.
An image of Eowyn, her lovely face frowning, had suddenly formed
in his mind, and with it had come the most disturbing sensationsof
her strong fingers curling around his penis, and her warm hand
engulfing his testicles.
Oh, Valar, he moaned, clenching his fists, please,
no. No! Somehow, he managed to deny himself the pleasure
Then, just as abruptly as they had come, the feelings vanished,
leaving behind not the discomfort he had expected, but an unnatural
sense of well-being, as though he were now under Eowyns
The elf waited for his heart to stop pounding. Then he urged
his horse forward, and was soon galloping west again.
Eowyn hurried along the walkway.
She had escorted Lady Tóriel home, doggedly ignoring the
elleths endless complaints; but soon as Tóriel had
closed the door on her, she had been struck by a terrible thought,
and had rushed to Herals chambers.
Who knows what charms that man might have created and then
discarded, she thought, without properly lifting the magic?
Somewhere amongst those lumps and flakes and rolls of wax must
be the remains of the phallus he tore from his figure of Haldir.
Who knows if it still has power?
She had not looked too closely at the fragments, simply gathered
them up and wrapped them in her handkerchief. But when she and
Legolas came to melt the other figurines, she would add the extra
wax to the dish, and Haldir would be safe.
She turned onto the main walkway.
Up ahead, a long line of stretcher bearers was bringing casualties
to the Healing Rooms. Eowyn broke into a run, crying, Whatever
Hello, Eowyn! Hentmirëher singed hair
standing on end, her face black with soot, her right arm strapped
up across her cheststepped out from behind Master Dínendal,
and waved a plump hand, cheerily. The village was attacked!
Two days later
Having delivered his message, Haldir was immediately sent back
to the tad-dail stronghold with ordersinitially resisted
by both Gimli and Thorkell bogsveigirto release the creatures,
and allow them to re-enter the ruins, where they were to be kept
under a respectful house arrest.
The same afternoon, an army of functionaries, under Lord Fingolfins
personal supervision, set out from Eryn Carantaur with tents and
other necessaries, which they quickly assembled beside the tad-dail
castle. By the time the Elvenking and his son arrived, in state,
on the evening of the first day, the clearing had been thoroughly
cleaned, and transformed into a silk-and-canvas city.
The following morning, the tad-dal king, his eldest son, and
two of his followers, met with King Thranduil, Legolas, and Eowynwho
had insisted on accompanying her beloved, despite Legolas
fears for her safety. I know what they are, now, Lassui,
and how they ensnare their victims, she had said. I
shall not be tricked by them again.
Surmounting the language difficulties with the help of Lord Fingolfin,
and with Berryns maps to guide them, the parties had gradually
come to an agreement: the defeated tad-dail would leave Eryn Valen,
and re-settle in the forests to the south-east of the Doro Lanthron
hills, where the River Poros, meandering down from the Mountains
of Mordor, would provide them with a homeland very similar to
the banks of the Heledir.
Only one problem remainedthe tad-dal King insisted on keeping
the women and babies. They were, he explained, using bleats and
gestures, his wives and children.
In the end, it was Eowyn who suggested that the captives should
be allowed to choose for themselves.
To everyones astonishment, of the eight women (now washed,
and dressed in elven gowns), seven wanted to stay with the creatures.
Maybe, as you say, it isnt real,
said one, when Eowyn asked her why, and maybe they will
throw me out when Im old and wrinkled but, as long as it
lasts, its the best Im going to get. Because
they arent half men, my Lady,she winkedso
they never miss, if you know what I mean. And theres none
of that rolling over and snoring afterwardsthey either do
you again, or one of the others does.
Annis, however, had chosen to leavethough had been too
afraid to go home until Gimli had gallantly volunteered to see
her and her sister safely back, and to deal with any qualms her
parents might have in taking her in.
But I cannot help feeling, said Legolas to his father,
as they rode back to Eryn Carantaur, that we have simply
passed on the problem to others. We have sacrificed the women
on the banks of the Poros to keep our own folk safe.
And that, said Thranduil, is what it means
to be a ruler. You beginas one always mustby aiming
for the common good. But what choices did you have today? You
could have drawn your knives and killed every last one of them,
but the tad-dail, though the losers in this skirmish, have as
much right to live as you do and must follow their natures. Should
you, then, allow them stay in Eryn Carantaur, and to take your
women whenever they desire? Clearly not. All you can do, Lassui,
is find a compromise. And then everything becomes a matter of
priorities: if you put the welfare of your own people first, ion
nín, everything else will follow.
I still think, said Legolas, that there should
have been a better way.
Well, when you find it, Lassui, be sure to tell me what
The next day
In here, your Majesty, said Arinna, showing King
Thranduil into Cylliens bedchamber. And,she
curtsiedif I can be of any further assistance, please
do not hesitate to send your man to fetch me.
The Elvenking placed his hand upon his heart and bowed his head.
Thank you, Mistress. He waited until he was sure that
the woman was out of earshot, dismissed Thorkell bogsveigir with
a jerk of the head, then turned back to Cyllien. I hear
that you told my son the truth.
I did, Thoron.
Good. He sat down on the edge of the bed and took
up her hand, gently stroking it with his thumb. I am glad.
Is this the end? she asked.
For now, melethril nín. He lifted her hand
to his lips. Yes, we must part now. But, you know, there
will be another time. We have until the End of Days, hiril nín.
But why the market? asked Eowyn.
Do you not remember?
Then it will be a surprise, melmenya.
They turned a corner, and found themselves upon a busy flet,
crammed with stalls selling foodstuffs from all over Middle-earth,
some serving bowls of soup, and platters of bread and cheese with
pickles, and tankards of hot punch.
A hoarde of childrenled by a tiny dwarfsurged towards
Do you remember now, melmenya? My promise to Master Fili?
Oh, yes! Eowyn held out her hands, and several
of the boys took hold of them. Goodness, she said,
there are so many of you!
Lord Legolas said I could bring all of my friends,
my Lady, said the little dwarf.
Of course I did, said Legolas, laughing. Gwanur
Eowyn, will you take Master Fili and all of his friends
over to the tables, and get them seated, whilst I order some apple
pie andI thinksome iced cordial to go with it?
Eowyn thanked him with a radiant smile.
For a few moments, Legolas lingered, watching Eowyn, amidst gales
of laughter, lift each child onto his chair. And, just as he was
about to turn away, a slight movement caught his eye, and he looked
more closely at the tree behind her, and smiled.
The green man was still watching over his beloved.
Legolas placed his hand upon his heart and, though the ancient
creature had already merged back into the foliage, the elf bowed
his head, in a greeting of respect and gratitude.