Princess Eowyn stared worriedly at the green gown she had laid out on her bed. The pleasures of the afternoon had come to an abrupt halt.
Eowyn had always refused the use of a lady's maid, arguing that a woman who had slain the Witch King of Angmar—and his steed—could certainly manage to lace up her own gown. But at this moment she was dearly wishing that she had a second opinion to call upon.
She had been carefully transferring reports of orc movements onto her map of North and South Ithilien when Faramir had announced that he had decided to send her to Legolas' festival—"One of us should attend,"—and she had packed very quickly, simply choosing the first green item she had found. Green had seemed an appropriate colour to wear to a festival held by a wood elf but, now that she had seen Legolas' beautiful colony, she felt completely foolish.
I should have known—when have I ever seen Legolas look anything less than elegant, even in the heat of battle, smeared with orc blood? Even those leather pauldrons he chose to wear at Helm's Deep were beautiful... though probably better suited to sport in the bedroom than protection on the battlefield.
Bad thoughts, Eowyn!
When she had arrived she had hoped she might speak to Legolas about her orc map. She had come to believe that by tracking where the orcs had been
she could predict where they would attack next. But none of the commanders of the North Ithilien guard, not even Faramir, would take her ideas seriously. And she had hoped that Legolas would be different.
But Legolas had obviously been far too preoccupied, and far too nervous, to think about security today. She would have to wait. She sat down on the edge of the bed and sighed. Lying on the beautiful embroidered coverlet, her green gown looked rough and tasteless.
A small gauze bag lay on her pillow—a personal gift, the Chief Counsellor had said, from the Lord of Eryn Carantaur to his lady guests. She opened it and examined its contents: a leaf-shaped cake of soap, clean smelling, with a hint of ginger; a small earthenware jar of soothing lotion-she sniffed it thoughtfully—it smelled delicately of roses. And, best of all, a tiny, cut-crystal bottle of perfume oil—she remembered Faramir telling her that Legolas planned to develop a crystal manufactory in South Ithilien. She pulled out the glass stopper and sniffed. It smelled of rain—no, it smelled of forest rain. It smelled like Legolas. She dabbed a little on her wrist.
Gods! What was she going to wear? How could she possibly attend a banquet held by the exquisite Lord of South Ithilien in her old green gown? Perhaps she should wrap herself in the coverlet?
She was so preoccupied with this problem that she did not hear the knock on her window.
She turned to see Arwen framed in the doorway, a picture of elven elegance, with the golden evening light setting her glossy, dark hair on fire. Oh, thank you, gods!
"Is something wrong, Eowyn?"
"Yes. No. Oh, I don't know, Arwen, I just feel—I feel…"
What? Graceless? Ugly? Foolish!
"You are missing Faramir?"
"Yes," Eowyn lied.
"I hope you do not mind, Eowyn, but as my maid was unpacking this," Arwen laid a gown on the bed, next to Eowyn's green monster, "I thought it would look far better on you than on me."
Eowyn looked at the gown. It was made of the finest elven silk in a pale shade of cream, embroidered all over with leaves of yellow, green and delicate orange—Spring, summer and autumn
, she thought—and decorated with clusters of tiny beads of pure mithril that glistened on the leaves like raindrops.
"Oh Arwen," said Eowyn, feeling slightly embarrassed to be so moved by an item of clothing, "it is beautiful, but—"
"I would be honoured if you would wear it. Would you like me to help you dress?"
Eowyn hesitated at the thought of Arwen seeing her naked, but the practical part of her mind was forced to admit that her training as a Shieldmaiden had not equipped her to deal with the tiny fastenings and the intricate lacings of an elven gown.
Moments later, she was examining her reflection in a full-length mirror. The dress fitted surprisingly well and the colours seemed to make her skin glow. The lightly gathered neckline, scooping far, far, lower than she would normally wear, flattered her small bosom, and the bodice clung softly to her waist and hips, showing her slender figure to its best advantage. But there was something rather suggestive about the lacing down the front of the bodice… She lifted her hands to tug the edges closer together.
"Perfect!" said Arwen, delicately deflecting Eowyn's hands. "Aragorn and I will collect you in half an hour, and we shall all go down to the banquet together. And Eowyn?" she added, as she stepped through the door, "I think you should wear your hair loose tonight."
In spite of having been told that she was a disgrace to the harvest rite, and would never be allowed to officiate, Lady Lessien decided to act as though nothing had happened earlier. After, all, it was not the first time that the Mistress of the Ceremony had threatened to end her noviciate.
When Lessien arrived at the banqueting hall annex, where the potions to be used in the rite were being prepared, the Mistress of the Ceremony was carefully adding ingredients to a steaming, sweet-smelling liquid. Lessien waited patiently for her to finish the task, anxious not to disturb her at a critical moment.
The Mistress of the Ceremony picked up a bunch of dried uil
fronds, selected five, and crumbled them into the cauldron. Then she took up a small piece of aeglos
root and, with a sharp knife, shaved off three slivers and added those to the potion. Finally, she added two large pinches of ground alfirin
petals—Lessien could smell their distinctive odour—and began to beat the potion with a willow twig whisk.
That is not right
, Lessien thought. "My lady," she said, "what are you doing?"
The Mistress of the Ceremony spun round, startled. "What are you
doing here?" she demanded. "I told you that you would never be allowed to take part in the harvest rite. You are not permitted in here. Guards! Guards!" she called.
She looks guilty
, thought Lessien, and she tried to get a better look at the book the Mistress of the Ceremony was working from.
But two palace guards seized her by the arms and, courteously but firmly, ushered her from the annex.
The banquet was everything Eowyn had expected from the Lord of South Ithilien.
He has chosen the perfect food for each of his guests
, she thought. For the dwarves there was roast chicken, suckling pig, red meat on the bone—and limitless dwarven ale. For the men there was a spicy ragout of beef and vegetables with warm farmhouse bread and strong, red elven wine. For the elves, who ate like birds and loved sweet things, there were ripe cheeses, sweet fruited breads, honey buns and elderflower champagne. And, especially for the ladies, there was a delicate confection of whipped cream, flavoured with mead and decorated with candied lavender.
She looked at her host. Gods! He is beautiful
, she thought. Beautiful, inside and out
His long, embroidered robe was tied with a sash around his waist but was otherwise open, leaving most of his chest bare. As a Shieldmaiden, Eowyn had seen many men stripped to the waist, but never one so perfect as Legolas. He is so slender
, she thought, yet so muscular, strong but graceful. And his hair…
She had never seen his hair loose before. It makes him look wild, like a force of nature, a creature that might carry a helpless woman off into the woods and ravish her…
Legolas suddenly looked straight at her and Eowyn, feeling as if he had heard her thoughts, turned quickly to the guest on her left.
Elrohir, on Eowyn's left, and Arwen, on her right, were discussing the harvest ceremony.
"A lord's first time," Elrohir was saying—and he winked at Eowyn—"is a very auspicious moment to choose a wife."
Eowyn had met the twins only briefly before, but she knew of their reputation—and they were certainly living up to it tonight.
"What better way to ensure that his wife is amenable than to test her before all of his friends?" continued Elrohir.
"And, perhaps, let his friends test her a little, too," said Elladan.
Eowyn looked at Arwen, expecting her to rebuke her brothers. Instead, she said, "How much do you know about the rite, Eowyn?"
"Only that it means a great deal to Legolas and that he does not deserve to be ridiculed," she answered, looking at the twins, icily.
The three elves exchanged knowing nods.
"The rite is a sacrifice to the Valar. It takes place on the ceremonial threshing floor," said Arwen, gesturing to the circular patch of earth, strewn with ears of corn, at the centre of the hall. "When it is time, Legolas must choose a lady from the company and lead her onto the threshing floor. Then the Mistress of the Ceremony," she pointed to the forbidding elleth sitting beside Legolas, "will join them, as if in marriage. And Legolas must consummate
the marriage—by making love to her."
"He takes her to his chambers?" asked Eowyn, thinking how painful it would be to sit waiting in the banqueting hall knowing that Legolas and his lady were making love elsewhere. And then to see them return, the elleth flushed with pleasure—No, she could not bear that. Perhaps she could make an excuse and retire to her chamber before it all began. Then she could always leave for North Ithilien first thing in the morning. It was not that far, and if anyone knew where to travel to avoid roaming orcs, she did.
But her thoughts were interrupted by Elrohir. "No, sweeting," he said, "he takes
Eowyn's blood ran cold. "And we must watch?"
"We must play our part in the rite," said Arwen. "The guests tend to find themselves-excited—by the rite. It has been known for them to spend the whole night making love, some of them giving pleasure to many partners. It is a beautiful festival."
Her brothers agreed.
That does it
, thought Eowyn, I am certainly not staying here with two rampant elves. I must make my excuses and leave
. Then a thought suddenly struck her: "That is why those ellyth are so excited," she said, softly.
The three elves nodded. "But he need not choose one of those silly creatures," said Elrohir. "He can choose any elleth here."
"Or woman," said Elladan softly. And his brother and sister nodded in agreement.
Eowyn shook her head. "No, he cannot. I
am the only woman here, and the other ellyth are married."
"It is considered a great honour, for the husband," said Elrohir, "if the lord should choose his wife."
Eowyn was appalled. "But how can the husband possibly bear it?" she asked. "And what if the wife does not choose to cuckold her husband?"
"Any elleth—or woman—who attends the banquet has already given her consent by being here. No one can leave before the rite ends-and no one can say nay," said Elrohir.
Panicking, Eowyn glanced at Legolas. And at that very moment, Legolas chose to look at her! She blushed crimson and looked away.
Faramir, did you think this would cure me?
she wondered, angrily. I will kill you when I return home
, thought Legolas, so good
A group of excited ellyth, carefully selected by his Chief Counsellor, was seated, with their families, at the far side of the table. Some, he noticed, were the worse for wine. When the time came, the Valar would help him make his choice.
He tried to remember the girls' names. There was Idril, the daughter of Tathar, a highly respected sword smith. She seemed a quiet, likeable elleth. There was Nerwen, the daughter of Findecáno, one of the colony's healers. Legolas had heard that she intended to follow her father's calling and had already demonstrated considerable skill. She seemed pleasant enough, if a little drunk at present. Then there was Angaráto's daughter, Alatáriël. Ilúvatar! That elleth thought of nothing but sex. The number of times he had tactfully had to repel her clumsy advances! Tonight she looked like one of those so-called 'bathing attendants' he had been offered in Edoras, her bodice cut too low and her skirts revealing her thighs.
The rest of them he simply could not remember.
He sighed. He supposed they were all pleasant enough and could all be considered attractive—though not to his taste, not like Eowyn. Dear Valar
, he prayed, if only you would give me her…
But then the rite is not about love.
, he thought, most of my guests seem to be enjoying themselves
He looked round the table. Gimli was busy winning an ale-drinking contest with Haldir and Prince Imrahil. Aragorn, seated beside Chief Counsellor Caranthir, appeared to be discussing a question of ethics. Arwen, happy to see her brothers again, was talking animatedly, and Elrohir and Elladan were clearly enjoying teasing Eowyn.
But Eowyn seemed uncomfortable. In fact, she seemed embarrassed. And when Legolas managed to catch her eye, she blushed and quickly turned away.
"Is he not handsome?" whispered Idril, daughter of Tathar, to the elleth sitting beside her.
Idril had been surprised to receive an invitation to the harvest rite, for she was the daughter of a lowly, though well-respected, sword smith and had never been counted a beauty. If only he would choose me
, she thought and her heart danced like a butterfly at the prospect. But such things do not happen to me
Her neighbour gave her a long appraising look. "You need not look at him so longingly," she said, "he will not choose a little mouse like you."
"They say that the Valar themselves guide him in his choice," said Idril, trying gamely to fight back.
"Then they had better guide him to me," said the elleth. "Because I want him. And I always get what I want."
"My lady?" A serving elf placed a goblet of wine before her.
"Thank you," said Eowyn. She took a sip, but the wine tasted strange: salty and very potent.
"What is this?" she asked the elf.
"Lord Legolas asks you to drink it my lady."
Eowyn took another sip. It was going straight to her head. And to some other, rather more private, parts of her body. She looked across at Legolas, but he was no longer looking at her. Why did he want her to drink the wine?
"Did he say why?" she asked, but the elf had gone. Eowyn looked around. But there was no sign of him. He had completely disappeared.
"Did you see where he went?" she asked Arwen.
"The serving elf who gave me this wine. He was here a moment ago."
"No," said Arwen. "I did not see anyone. In fact, I have been trying to catch the eye of one of the serving elves for a while…"
Eowyn looked at the twins, but they both shook their heads.
"I did not see anyone, either," said Elrohir.
"Shhhh. The rite is about to begin," said Elladan, excitedly.
The wine had created a glorious, glowing sensation in Eowyn's lower body and she gulped down the rest, hoping that it would somehow make watching Legolas perform the rite easier to bear.
"My lord, it is time," said the Mistress of the Ceremony, placing a goblet in Legolas' hand.
The lord of Eryn Carantaur took a deep breath, lifted the goblet to his lips, drained it, and waited expectantly.
Nothing happened. He looked slowly around the assembled company, examining each female face in turn. Nothing was different. None of the eligible ellyth had changed in any way. If only he knew what to look for.
Something must be wrong
, he thought. Perhaps the Valar donot intend to bless our harvest ceremony. Perhaps, by lusting after Eowyn when I should have been secluded in meditation, I have doomed the entire colony to bad harvests…
But then he saw—out of the corner of his eye—a faint silvery glow surrounding one of his guests. And, as he turned to watch, the glow grew into an aura, shimmering and sparkling and completely surrounding the lady who, suddenly becoming aware of his attention, dropped her gaze and stared fixedly at the table.
, thought Legolas, it is just wishful thinking. She is mortal and is already married. The Valar would never give her to me
. And yet, when he looked once more at the rest of his female guests, he could see quite clearly that she was the only one that was glowing.
The Valar had answered his prayer!
He stumbled to his feet and, with something less than elven grace, half ran towards the radiant woman, holding out his hand: "My lady?"
A murmur of surprise—and some disapproval—rippled through his guests, but Legolas ignored it. The Valar have answered my prayer
, he thought, for she is my heart's own choice
Slowly, the woman raised her eyes and studied his face. For a long, heart-faltering moment Legolas though she might refuse him. But then she rose to her feet and accepted his hand.
And suddenly, Legolas could restrain himself no longer—he swept Eowyn into his arms and whirled her round and carried her, both of them laughing, to the centre of the threshing floor, where he lowered her gently and kissed her passionately.
"Arwen was right," said Elrohir, "he is
in love with her—and she with him—and now we
will have to make do with an elleth."
"A pity," said Elladan, "for I have heard there is nothing to match the carnal appetites of a woman."
"I have heard," began Elrohir, "that they can—" and he whispered the rest in his brother's ear.
"No! 'Tis not possible."
"I have it on the best authority. From one who has tried it."
They both laughed. "I fear poor Legolas may be in for a shock!" said Elladan.
Aragorn began to protest, but his wife's small hand closed firmly round his wrist.
"He has chosen her, Estel," said Arwen, "and she has accepted. You cannot stop the rite now."
"But does she know what will happen to her—what he will do to her? Before the entire company?"
"She knows." Arwen did not mention that Eowyn had not seemed to approve of the rite.
knew he would choose her! That is why you gave her your gown! Did he tell you?" Aragorn knew that Arwen and Legolas were as close as brother and sister.
But she shook her head. "I only knew that he was in love with her, Estel." And I hoped
, she thought.
Aragorn sighed. "She is a married woman, Arwen. Married to a man. I know that an elven husband would count this a great honour. But men are possessive, especially when it comes to their wives. A wife's reputation reflects directly on her husband." He sighed wearily. "This could turn into a major diplomatic incident."
"A woman," hissed Idril's neighbour. "He has chosen a woman
." She pronounced the word as though it referred to a particularly nasty type of vermin.
Idril turned to her and smiled sympathetically.
Unnoticed, Gimli left the banqueting hall. He would return later. When the worst was over.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.