As the second witness was leaving, Chief Counsellor Caranthir arrived.
"Please come in, Lord Caranthir," said Legolas, waving him towards a seat by the fireplace. "Well, my lords—and my lady," he added, unable to suppress his high spirits at having cleared Gimli of all suspicion, "what have we discovered so far?"
Since neither of the elves answered, Eowyn began.
"We know that that the elleth was killed in the banqueting hall only shortly before she was found, at about six o'clock. Lord Fingolfin thinks he saw her leave the hall immediately after the rite, so she must have returned later for some reason…"
"Perhaps to meet someone?" said Fingolfin.
"Yes, perhaps," agreed Eowyn. "We know that the killer probably took her by surprise, and attacked from behind, so perhaps she was sitting on one of the chairs, waiting for him."
"But we also know," added Legolas, "that there was some sort of struggle, involving a candlestick."
"And the chairs," added Eowyn, "were disturbed after the elleth fell to the ground, because her body was surrounded by them and the guard had to move them to reach her. We also know that someone, possibly a couple, was lying in the main doorway when Míriel arrived, and left when she found the body."
"And," added Fingolfin, "we know that the killer used a very distinctive boot lace as a weapon."
"Yes," said Legolas, "that is strange. To use such a personal object that can so easily be identified. He must have been carrying it in his pocket-he could hardly have pulled it out of his boot on impulse. Does that mean that he had planned the murder beforehand?"
"Perhaps, my lord, he is the sort of person who is always prepared," said Chief Counsellor Caranthir.
Legolas gave that idea some thought. "It is certainly not an honourable weapon," he said. "Did you have someone in mind, Lord Caranthir?"
"Well, I had been thinking back over the last few days, my lord, trying to remember anything unusual…"
"I had a visit yesterday-from Angaráto." The other elves groaned. Angaráto was not a popular elf. "He—I would say that he tried to bribe me, my lord."
"To do what?" asked Legolas.
Caranthir looked at Eowyn uncomfortably. "To persuade you to choose his daughter for the harvest rite, my lord. He had some idea that it might develop into a more—permanent arrangement."
"By the gods," said Fingolfin, "how did he think you would accomplish that?"
"I do not know, my lord," answered Caranthir, "I gave him a quick lecture about the part the Valar play in the selection of the lady and sent him away. But after the Mistress of the Ceremony was killed, I began to think that an elf who would attempt to use a sacred rite for his own purposes might not hesitate to commit murder if it was in his interest."
"Marrying his daughter to Legolas would clearly be in his interest," agreed Eowyn, "but how would killing the Mistress of the Ceremony help him? In fact, that is the strangest thing about this murder-who would want to kill her? Unless—"
"I for one," said Legolas, "threatened her with violent death only hours before she was killed."
"My lord!" exclaimed Caranthir.
"I will not go into details, Lord Caranthir, but—believe me—in my position you would have done the same," said Legolas. He stood and walked to the window. "She was a difficult elleth," he began pacing, "she had only one purpose in life and that was to ensure that the harvest rite was performed correctly."
"That is surely not a bad thing, my lord," said Fingolfin, gently.
"It should not have been," said Legolas. "But she was concerned only with the letter of the rite, not its spirit. She forgot-or she ignored-that she was dealing with the most intimate of matters. She—she—" Legolas paused, surprised at depth of the feelings welling up inside him as he remembered her hands on his body. "Her obsession with the physical details of the rite led her to overstep—certain boundaries. And she—she—I disliked her very much."
"Do you," said Eowyn softly, "think she may have been killed by someone else she had-distressed?"
Legolas sighed. "I do not know, meleth nín."
"Perhaps," said Fingolfin, tactfully, "we should decide what to do next."
"Yes, said Eowyn, still looking at Legolas with concern, "there are many questions we need to answer. First, why did the elleth return to the hall? If she was meeting someone, who was it? Have we any way of finding out? Perhaps we should search her chambers."
"That is a good idea, meleth nín," said Legolas.
Eowyn smiled, relieved to see he had recovered something of his usual composure.
Legolas consulted the hourglass on his desk. "My lords, Eowyn, I believe there is just time to search the elleth's chambers before we need to prepare for the banquet this evening."
It was agreed that Legolas and Eowyn would search the elleth's chambers, since Chief Counsellor Caranthir had offered to draw up a list of guests to be interviewed, and Lord Fingolfin had already agreed to take Aragorn and Arwen on a brief aerial tour of the city.
"We will be accompanied by King Elessar's own guards and we shall also be escorted by some of Haldir's border guards," said Fingolfin.
"A wise precaution, Lord Fingolfin," said Legolas. He inclined his head. "I look forward to seeing you both at the banquet tonight, my lords."
"What will happen tonight?" asked Eowyn, as they strolled along the walkway towards the guest quarters.
Legolas turned to her in surprise. "I am sorry, melmenya, I forgot that you had never attended a harvest ceremony before."
He stopped walking. Together, they leant over the wall of the walkway and looked out across Eryn Carantaur. For as far as Eowyn's eyes could see, walkways curled around the trunks of the mighty carantaur trees, connecting the flets. Eowyn looked at the buildings of carved wood and glass, with their pale green paintwork and their white canvas sunshades. Though it was still light, some of the dwellings, in the darker parts of the forest, were already lit by candles. It is magical
, she thought, and now it is my home
"Tonight, meleth nín," said Legolas, "we will be crowned King and Queen of the Harvest and then, after the banquet, we will perform the rite again." Eowyn felt the colour rising to her cheeks. She had been hoping that that part of the festival was over. Legolas smiled, "I am sorry, cuanen, I know that making love in public makes you uncomfortable; I know that humans have strange ideas about sex—"
Eowyn laughed, "I would say it is elves who have the strange ideas!"
"We celebrate life through it, meleth nín. We count the giving and receiving—the sharing—of pleasure through lovemaking the greatest of the Valar's gifts. We offer it back to them in thanks; and we share it with others, as they intended."
"But I was hoping to have you all to myself, tonight!" said Eowyn, playfully. Then she continued, more seriously, "What will happen tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow, after the banquet, we present gifts to all our guests. And then we perform the rite for the last time." Eowyn nodded. Legolas raised her hand to his lips and kissed her palm.
"Legolas, I cannot imagine what the Mistress of the Ceremony did to you. No," she said, pressing her fingers to his lips, "you do not have to tell me if it is too painful. I just—I—Oh, I do not know what to say to you, my love, except that I would do anything in my power to spare you the pain I saw in you this afternoon."
"Eowyn nín…" he whispered, and kissed her gently.
After a moment she asked, "What does everyone mean when they say that it was not really you but the Valar that chose me?"
"It is difficult to explain, melmenya," said Legolas.
He led her over to a seat built into the wall of the walkway. "On the first night of the festival, at the appointed time, the Mistress of the Ceremony gives the celebrant a potion."
"I saw you drink it," said Eowyn.
"You did? The potion contains herbs that—well, they delay the pleasurable moment—but they also cause visions. The Mistress of the Ceremony could not tell me what to look for, because that is a mystery known only to the celebrant and the Valar themselves. All she could tell me was that when I saw the sign I would know it in my heart. And when I looked at you—"
"Perhaps you should not tell me what you saw," said Eowyn.
"No, perhaps not. But I can say that I saw your spirit, meleth nín; I saw your spirit shining like Ithil." He kissed her forehead. "And my spirit sang with joy, because the Valar had given me my heart's own choice."
"Do you think they do that for every celebrant?" Eowyn asked.
"That is a pleasant thought, melmenya."
They sat silently for a while then Legolas turned to Eowyn. "Come, melmenya, we have a job to do," he said.
But as they approached the door to the Mistress of the Ceremony's chambers, Eowyn already knew that something was wrong.
The healer, Master Dínendal, had sent word that he had found no further evidence on the elleth's body and was therefore requesting Legolas' permission to have her removed to the house of healing and prepared for burial. Legolas had given his permission almost two hours ago, yet the door to the elleth's chambers was still open.
Legolas pulled Eowyn to a stop. "Stay here, melmenya," he said. He drew his white knives and entered the chambers cautiously. Eowyn would normally have protested at being left behind, but this time she thought better of it. The situation demanded speed and stealth, not a loud altercation. Besides
, she thought ruefully, I am unarmed. In future I will wear my sword; in future I will not wait safely behind whilst Legolas goes into danger alone
But Legolas reappeared unharmed. "It seems to be safe but I am afraid someone has been here before us."
Eowyn gazed at the elleth's bedchamber. Someone—presumably the killer—had searched it thoroughly. Clothing had been pulled out of the wardrobe and torn, and the pieces strewn across the floor. Cupboards and chests had been opened, and their contents—Things that were precious to her in life
, thought Eowyn—had been smashed. Books had been ripped apart. And the bedclothes had been dragged from the bed.
Eowyn hated to see books damaged. She stooped and picked one up, smoothing its pages flat. Love Potions
. A handful of pages had been torn out. She shook her head. "What could he have been looking for?" she asked Legolas, placing the book on the bed. "In such a frenzy—and with so much malice?"
The sitting room and the bathing room were in the same condition. The killer had even smashed open the plant pots on the small balcony outside the bedchamber window.
"Perhaps someone saw him do that?" suggested Eowyn.
Legolas nodded. "We can ask Golradir to make enquiries. I think he is afraid of us, meleth nín. I think he is afraid."
As they walked back to his chambers, Legolas had a sudden thought.
"This shows us that the killer is still in Eryn Carantaur," he said. "So Haldir can return to the city. I would feel more comfortable if he were here, melmenya. He is far more reliable than Golradir. Perhaps I should ride out—"
"No!" said Eowyn, firmly. "You are tired. In fact, you look exhausted, and not like an elf at all. Come with me!" And she took him by the hand and led him up the stairs to his private garden.
She had had a bed made up for him, under a canvas awning, by the trunk of the carantaur tree, and food laid out on the table.
"You have not eaten since before the banquet yesterday, so Gimli is joining us for a light meal," said Eowyn, "and you can tell him the good news. Then you are going to lie down for a few hours and rest whilst I am fitted for my gown."
Legolas shook his head. "Elves do not need as much rest as…" But Eowyn silenced him with a look. Secretly he loved the way she was beginning to take care of him. And he was
hungry. He walked to the table. There was bread and fresh butter, cooked meat for Gimli, cheeses and cooked vegetables for himself and Eowyn, and lavender cakes.
"I asked Míriel to bring fruit bread," said Eowyn, "but she said that lavender cakes were your particular favourite."
"How did she know that?"
Eowyn laughed. "She is your serving elleth, Legolas, and she is in love with you. She knows everything there is to know about you."
Legolas stared at her.
Eowyn wrapped her arms around his waist. "You really are very innocent in some ways, my love."
"Ha-hmm," said an unmistakably dwarven voice. "Is it safe to come up, or will I see something that will give me nightmares for a week?"
"It is safe, Gimli. Come up," said Eowyn, "we are waiting for you."
The three friends spent a pleasant hour eating and drinking—Gimli had brought some dwarven ale—and, by common agreement, Legolas did not discuss the murder except to tell Gimli that they had proved his innocence beyond any doubt. Then Eowyn enlisted Gimli's help in persuading the 'crazy elf' to lie down and rest.
"You have scarcely slept or eaten for a week, to my certain knowledge, lad," said Gimli. "And you have a very demanding—er—task to perform tonight." Gimli winked at Eowyn as he pushed Legolas towards the improvised bed. "Just lie down beneath the tree and make your lady happy," he whispered.
Legolas smiled and, for once, did as he was told.
The seamstress, Valaina, was waiting for Eowyn in Legolas' sitting room.
As soon as Eowyn entered, Valaina called for Míriel, and together they helped her into the gown she would be wearing for the 'coronation' ceremony that evening.
Eowyn had never seen anything like it. The cloth was woven from threads of softly glowing mithril but the gown was as light as silk. It was embroidered all over with carantaur leaves and acorns in pale gold. And the close fitting bodice, laced down the front, the full skirt, and the wide sleeves, were all edged with delicate mithril lace.
Eowyn looked in the mirror. Gods! I look like one of the faery folk
, she thought. Let us hope I am not called upon to fight tonight!
The bodice was loose around the waist. Valaina pulled and tucked and pinned the fabric until she was sure she could make the dress fit Eowyn's human figure. Then, with Míriel's help, she removed the gown, and began to make the alterations, sewing quickly and efficiently.
Legolas lay on his makeshift bed. He had drawn back the canvas sunshade Eowyn had thoughtfully had provided—Humans
, he thought, afraid of Anor
—and was looking through the canopy of carantaur leaves to the sky. The pattern of red leaves against the bright blue backdrop was beautiful. The second most beautiful thing I have seen today
, he thought. And he could not stop himself grinning like an idiot. He still could not believe that the Valar had given her to him.
A light footstep disturbed him from his pleasant thoughts and he looked towards the staircase.
"My lord?" said a quiet but confident voice.
Legolas sat up and swung his legs off the bed. "Lady Lessien," he said, "please come and sit in my garden." He indicated a seat by the table.
Lessien walked slowly over to the seat.
She is troubled
, thought Legolas. "If you are here to 'prepare' me for the rite," he said, "I can assure you that that will not be necessary—"
"No! No my lord." Lessien blushed.
"Am I right in thinking you find that as unacceptable as I do?"
"Indeed my lord, in fact…"
"Shortly before she died, the Mistress of the Ceremony ended my noviciate for precisely that reason, my lord. So if you would prefer for me not to officiate tonight..."
"I can think of no one to whom I would rather entrust the rite, my lady," said Legolas, sincerely. He paused. "But if you are not here to—to do that, why are you here?"
"It may be nothing, my lord, but when I heard what happened this morning, I thought I should tell you. Last night, I happened to see the Mistress of the Ceremony preparing the Celebrant's Potion." She hesitated.
"I am not an expert, my lord. Indeed, I have not yet prepared the Celebrant's Potion myself, but I believe she was adding extra ingredients. I do not know exactly what she added or what effect it might have had on you, my lord—or whether she tampered with the Lady's Potion as well."
Legolas started; had that elleth poisoned Eowyn? "Why would she do that?" he asked.
"I do not know, my lord. But I suggest that you and your lady both see the healer as soon as you can."
Eowyn waited, feeling uncomfortable being idle whilst Valaina worked. At last, the seamstress seemed satisfied. "My lady?" she said. "Would you like to try it again?"
This time, the dress fitted perfectly.
"Eowyn! You look so lovely!"
The gentle voice sent shivers down Eowyn's spine. She turned to see Legolas smiling at her, his beautiful face radiant, and she offered up a prayer of thanks to the Valar for creating this elf and for making her his lady.
"I am afraid we do not have much time, Master Dínendal," said Legolas. "The banquet begins in an hour."
He had described the ingredients Lessien had seen the Mistress of the Ceremony adding to the potion-the uil
fronds, the aeglos
root and the ground alfirin
petals-and the willow twig whisk.
"None of those substances in themselves is harmful my lord," said Dínendal. "Indeed, they are all used to promote health—alfirin petal in particular, though it would normally be administered in a fraction of the quantity. And willow bark, I believe, is used to cure the headache in humans. But when used in combination with whatever else might have been in the potion, I do not know what effect these things might have. Let me examine you, my lord."
Dínendal checked Legolas' eyes and ears and smelled his breath, then counted his pulse and checked his heartbeat.
"You appear to be in good health, my lord. No sign of any poisoning. My lady?"
He checked Eowyn's eyes and her mouth, and the tips of her fingers, pinching them and watching the colour return. Then he wrapped his hand gently around her wrist and counted her pulse. He blushed slightly. "With your permission, my lady?" he asked.
Eowyn nodded, and he placed his hand on her breast and checked her heartbeat.
"You appear to be in perfect health, too, my lady, though I confess I know far less about the bodies of humans. But there is one more test I would like to perform on you, and for that I would need," Dínendal hesitated and cleared his throat, "a sample of water." Legolas smiled; the healer was normally perfectly business-like about such matters, but Eowyn clearly made him nervous.
"Oh!" Eowyn smiled, "I see, well, perhaps—"
"Perhaps tomorrow?" said Legolas.
"Of course, my lord," agreed Dínendal. "An early morning sample will be the most informative," he added, blushing again.
An hour later, Legolas led his Harvest Queen into the banqueting hall of Eryn Carantaur.
Walking slowly round the table, the couple greeted each of the guests in turn. Eowyn smiled bravely at friends old and new—Aragorn and Arwen and the Queen's twin brothers; Gimli and his dwarven companions; Prince Imrahil; and Lords Caranthir, Fingolfin and Lenwë. Haldir, she noticed, had still not returned from the borders.
When they reached the lower end of the table Eowyn faced the dozen disappointed ellyth, and their families, with her shoulders squared and her chin raised, like a true Shieldmaiden of Rohan, but with a smile of genuine warmth on her face. Legolas presented each of the elves to her in turn, including the infamous Angaráto, and Eowyn felt sorry for the subdued elleth beside him, whom he introduced as his daughter.
When all the guests had been properly greeted, Legolas led Eowyn to the centre of the threshing floor and seated her on the leftmost of two ornate thrones standing on a low platform.
, thought Eowyn, he looks regal
. His hair was dressed, not in his usual warrior's style, but like a king, with the sides swept back and caught behind in a single intricate braid. He wore a delicate silver circlet, and his tunic, which matched Eowyn's dress, was embroidered all over with ears of corn. His face seemed to glow in the candlelight.
Legolas waited for the hall to quieten then made his difficult announcement. "Friends," he said, informally, "some of you will already have heard that the Mistress of the Ceremony died this morning." There were murmurs, some of surprise, some of acknowledgement. "My Counsellors and I have nevertheless decided that the harvest ceremony should continue and I invite you all to remain in Eryn Carantaur to witness the remainder of the rite. The Lady Lessien," he gestured to the elleth waiting at the edge of the threshing floor, "has agreed to officiate.
"As the circumstances of the Mistress of the Ceremony's death must be investigated," he continued, "I ask you all to assist me tomorrow, when either Lord Fingolfin or I will see you to discuss anything you may have noticed last night. I assure you that everything you say will be treated in the strictest confidence."
There were a few moments of uncomfortable silence and Eowyn's heart began to pound. What if the guests refuse to stay? What if they feel the rite has been ruined? What if they are afraid for their own safety?
But then Aragorn rose to his feet. "I, for one, will be happy to co-operate in any way I can," he said.
The atmosphere changed immediately—others made similar declarations, the guests started to relax, and soon the hall was filled once more with the normal hubbub of a banquet. Eowyn sighed with relief for Legolas.
At a sign from Lady Lessien, a group of musicians, sitting on the small balcony above the hall's main entrance, played a short fanfare. The guests fell silent and Lessien and two attendants walked slowly to the centre of the floor.
"Please stand, my lady," she said softly.
"My Lord," said Lessien loudly, "have you chosen a lady worthy of this realm?"
"I call upon all present," she said, "to witness that Legolas Thrandulion, Lord of Eryn Carantaur, takes Eowyn, daughter of Eomund, Princess of Rohan, as his Harvest Queen."
She joined their hands. The guests murmured their assent.
"Repeat after me, my lord," said Lessien, "My heart is your heart
"I love you, Eowyn," Legolas whispered, then he added, loudly, "My heart is your heart."
Lessien motioned one of her attendants to step forward. The elleth presented Legolas with a delicate silver circlet of carantaur leaves, sitting on a red velvet cushion.
"Crown your lady, my lord, and say, My crown is your crown
Legolas carefully placed the circlet on Eowyn's head and said, "My crown is your crown."
"Now enthrone your lady, my lord, and say, My throne is your throne
Legolas took Eowyn's hand, elven fashion, led her to the throne, and waited for her to sit. Then he said, "My throne is your throne."
A fanfare filled the hall and the guests cheered.
Lady Lessien called her second attendant forward. This elleth presented Legolas with a mithril goblet. He raised it to his lips and took a sip, then passed it to Eowyn who also took a sip. The liquid was thick and tasted bitter and Eowyn wondered what effect it would have tonight. She gave the goblet back to the elleth.
Then the musicians played a final fanfare, and the guests cheered even louder, and some applauded. Eowyn looked around the table and was relieved to see that even the disappointed families seemed to be joining in.
"Sing, Legolas," cried one of the twins.
"Yes, sing! Sing!
" called several of the other guests.
Legolas nodded to the musicians, who waited for silence then began to play. A haunting melody floated over a web of soft shimmering notes filling Eowyn with a feeling of profound longing. Then Legolas began to sing, weaving his beautiful alto voice over and under and through the melody, like a thread of pure gold.
A Elbereth Gilthoniel,
silivren penna míriel
o menel aglar elenath!
o galadhremmin ennorath,
Fanuilos, le linnathon
nef aear, sí nef aearon!
O Elbereth Star-kindler
Sparkling down like jewels
Glory of the star-host!
Far distant having gazed
From tree-tangled mid-lands,
Fanuilos, to thee I chant
From this side of the Ocean!
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.