To the Sea, to the Sea! The white gulls are crying: 2. Beauty and the Beast

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2. Beauty and the Beast

The young woman pushed her way through the crowd that was milling about in the market place then turned right into Broad Street and hurried past the brightly painted shops. Normally, she might have stopped to admire the wares on display-the elven glassware, the tooled leatherwork from Rohan, and the fine fabrics imported from Near and Far Harad-but today she had no time for window-shopping. Her friend had told her to go to the far end of Broad Street, where it joined Silk Mill Lane. "It is a strange, dark place, Senta," she had said. "Sometimes, you can walk right past it without even noticing it. But if you get as far as Broad Gate, you know you have missed it." She was right, thought Senta. She turned her back to Broad Gate, and scanned the houses lining both sides of the street, but she could see no apothecary's shop. On her left, though, she could see the entrance to Silk Mill Lane, and she walked slowly towards it, looking carefully at each house and down the alleys between. Nothing. What am I going to do? she thought. My lady will throw me out and my parents will not take me back. I wish I had died with him. She started back towards the market place, tears forming in her eyes. But then something fluttered beside her and she turned to take a closer look. A small yellow bird in a cage was hanging over the door of one of the houses. No, it was not a house. It had a window and a sign, like a shop, but the window was so grimy and the sign of the Pestle and Mortar so faded she had not noticed it before. Poor little bird, she thought. Then, slowly, she walked to the shop door, opened it, and stepped inside. The first thing she noticed was the smell-not unpleasant, exactly, but earthy, spicy, sharp and overpowering. The second thing she noticed was the shopkeeper. He was standing behind the counter, watching her, suspiciously-tall and thin, with hair and eyes the colour of water-He is a man who never sees sunlight, thought Senta. And he is dangerous, very dangerous. And she wondered for the hundredth time that day whether she was doing the right thing. "Can I help you?" the apothecary asked. His voice was warm, rich and seductive and completely at odds with his colourless eyes. Senta licked her dry lips. Just say it, she thought. "I am told you sell herbs that will end a pregnancy," she said. "Indeed." "How much do they cost?" "How much can you afford?" Senta stared at him. "I-I-I have some savings-" "Very well. Four drams of the herbs-which is sufficient to do the trick for most women-will cost you ten gold pieces." Senta nodded. "I will take four drams, then," she said. The apothecary took a heavy key from around his neck, unlocked a small cupboard in the wall behind the counter, and took out a smoked glass jar. He removed the stopper and carefully weighed out a quantity of powdered herbs. Then he poured the powder onto a piece of waxed paper, twisted the ends together to form a pouch, and handed it to her. "Stir the herbs into warm water and drink them before you go to bed. If you are lucky it will all be over by the morning. If not, stay in bed. Ten gold pieces." Senta memorised the instructions, then took the gold pieces from her purse and paid. "Good day," said the apothecary. "Good day, sir," she said, and turned to leave. But as she opened the door, the little bird fluttered in his cage. "How much is the yellow bird?" she asked. "Two gold pieces." Senta sighed. It was a ridiculous price and would use up the rest of her savings. But she was about to do a terrible thing and, perhaps, if she saved the little bird… "Very well," she said, handing over two more gold pieces, "will you lift him down for me?" … Eowyn was relieved to enter Dol Amroth. They had been travelling for ten days and, although there had been no obvious incident, she had been worried for most of the journey. They had ridden westwards through the forest of South Ithilien and-finding no sign of the marauding orcs Eowyn had been tracking-forded the Anduin at Pelargir, crossed the bleak, flat Anduin delta, then followed the rugged coast road northwards through Belfalas. And once they had joined the coast road they had never been more than a mile from the sea. None of the other elves appeared to be troubled by the sea's call. But Eowyn knew that Legolas was hearing it-hearing it, seeing it, smelling it, feeling it-and fighting it. During the day he would ride beside her talking incessantly-about Mirkwood, about Gimli, about the hobbits, about everything, nothing, anything that would keep his mind off the sea. At night he would lay out their bedroll as far from the water as possible and he would make love to her, desperately. As if for the very last time, she thought. And, gods, if I thought I loved him before… But Eowyn would sometimes catch him gazing at the sea, looking out beyond the water, beyond the horizon. And she would repeat to herself over and over, as if chanting a spell, I will not let you leave, Legolas! I will pull you back. I will! It was a comfort to finally reach the city; but her relief proved short-lived. As they rode through Broad Gate, Eowyn's eyes met those of a strange, colourless man who was handing a caged bird to a pretty young woman in a yellow dress-and Eowyn shivered. "Are you alright, meleth nín?" asked Legolas. "Someone just walked over my grave," said Eowyn. "Melmenya?" "I am sorry, my love," she said, "it is a saying we have in Rohan. It means that I have just had a feeling of foreboding." And she thought, Any mention of my mortality terrifies him. … Herzog the apothecary had never seen so many elves in one place before. He handed the caged bird to the young woman who had just bought the abortifacient herbs-but he had already forgotten she existed. Strange that they have a woman with them, he thought. And such a beauty. But he had heard that elves did not breed well. Perhaps a human woman is more fecund, being mortal. She clearly belongs to the handsome young buck riding beside her. Now he is a fine specimen. A very fine specimen. And all the others seem to defer to him. He walked back inside the shop, closed and locked the door, and, seating himself at a desk behind the counter, took out two small pieces of parchment. On the first piece he wrote a quick note: I have a job for you. Be at the back door of the shop tonight at eleven-thirty sharp. Herzog He folded and sealed the note and wrote on the front, To Master Wolfram at the sign of the Pyewype. He would get his neighbour's boy to deliver it. The second letter took some time to compose, and Herzog tried out a few different phrases on a spare piece of parchment. Finally, he wrote: The commodity you have been seeking has recently arrived in Dol Amroth. If you are still interested, the price is one thousand gold pieces live or eight hundred gold pieces for the dried equivalent. More than one can be supplied if required. Please advise by return. He folded and sealed the parchment and addressed it, then he went to the window and looked out. Good, it was already getting dark. He closed the shop for the rest of the day, left the city through Dinham Gate, and went down to the docks. He knew a sea captain who would be willing to deliver the letter, and bring back the reply, for a gold piece. … Prince Imrahil had just finished welcoming the King and Queen of Gondor, and was already standing in the outer bailey of the castle, when the travellers from Eryn Carantaur rode through the gatehouse. He greeted Legolas, Eowyn and their companions formally. "Welcome to Dol Amroth, my lord, my lady, gentlemen," he said, with a sweeping bow. "My home is your home; may your stay here be all that you wish." Legolas dismounted, bowed, and replied with equal formality, "On behalf of my lady and my company, Prince Imrahil, I accept your gracious welcome." Then he flinched slightly as Imrahil embraced him like an old friend, but he forced himself to smile. Eowyn, who had also dismounted, came swiftly to Legolas' rescue. "It is good to see you again, Prince Imrahil," she said and held out her hand. She felt, rather than heard, Legolas sigh with relief as Imrahil turned to her and raised her hand to his lips, murmuring, "Princess Eowyn." "Have my brother and Lord Gimli arrived yet, my lord?" she asked. "They have not, my lady, but my lookouts have spotted Eomer King's cavalcade on the coast road and I expect him within an hour-two at the most. "I have assigned you the apartment next to Aragorn," he continued. "March Warden Haldir and Master Dínendal will stay with you; your guards will be lodged in the guardhouse. Now I will pass you into the capable hands of my Steward, who will show you to your apartment, and I look forward to seeing you all at dinner." His gesture indicated that the invitation also included Haldir and Dínendal. "Thank you, Prince Imrahil," said Legolas, rather stiffly. The party left their horses with their three guards-who would take them to the stables and rub them down before finding their own lodgings in the guardhouse-and followed Imrahil's Steward, through the inner gate, into the castle courtyard. Legolas and Haldir both insisted on carrying their own packs, but Eowyn and Dínendal-who had a number of books and some medical equipment packed in his baggage-allowed Imrahil's servants to help them. The Steward led the small convoy to a door in the north west corner of the castle courtyard, and up a broad spiral staircase, to a spacious apartment. The accommodations consisted of a large sitting room on the first floor, with two small bedrooms overlooking the courtyard, and a master bedroom on the floor above, with its own bathing room and a balcony looking out to sea. The Steward installed Legolas and Eowyn in the master bedroom, leaving Haldir and Dínendal to organise themselves. … Legolas had removed his dusty jerkin and his tunic and was sitting, bare-chested, at the dressing table, whilst Eowyn unbraided and combed out his hair. It was a ritual that often turned into something even more intimate. Legolas could see Eowyn's smile in the mirror. "What are you thinking, melmenya?" he asked. "I was thinking of the first time I saw you with your hair loose," she said. "It was just before the harvest rite and I thought-" she laughed. "What, meleth nín?" he asked, smiling. "I thought you looked like a wild creature that would carry defenceless women off into the woods and ravish them," she said. "And I was right!" "I would not call you a defenceless woman, melmenya." "What would you call me, then?" she asked, passing the comb through the full length of his hair. "I would call you-" he thought for a moment. "I would call you a lascivious woman!" And he grabbed her round the waist and pulled her onto his knees, kissing her neck violently and making her scream with laughter. They wrestled for a few moments, then both suddenly stilled and Eowyn, who had ended up straddling Legolas, bent forward to kiss him tenderly-but was stopped by a loud pounding on the door. "If I had a bow for every time we have been interrupted by a knock at the door," said Legolas, "I could arm a company of-oh, about six elves, by now-" Eowyn laughed, swatted his arm, and released him. Legolas threw on his tunic and stalked over to the door, taking care to pull the skirts of the tunic straight at the front. "Yes?" he asked, throwing the door open. "Humph! I have interrupted something-" "No, no, Gimli," said Legolas, clasping his friend's shoulders, "Eowyn was only combing my hair-and we are both very pleased to see you. Come in, elvellon, and tell us all your news." He took Gimli out onto the balcony while Eowyn arranged for some refreshments. "Is it safe here?" asked Gimli. "Safe?" "So near the sea?" "To tell you the truth, elvellon, I do not know. But I want to test myself with it…" His voice trailed off for a moment as he gazed at the sparkling water. "Whilst she is with me, Gimli, I am sure I am safe." Gimli nodded and squeezed his arm, then caught sight of Eowyn, hovering uncertainly at the balcony door, carrying a third chair. "And how are you, my lady? How is this crazy elf treating you?" He was rewarded with a ravishing smile. "He is treating me very well, my lord," she said, bringing her chair and sitting down beside him. "And how are things in the Glittering Caves?" At that moment, a servant brought some wine and some dwarven ale, and the three friends spent the next few minutes happily discussing the work Gimli's people were doing at Aglarond and their plans for the future. Then Gimli put down his goblet and got to the main point of his visit. "I wanted to warn you," he said to Legolas, "that Eomer is very-shall we say-concerned about his sister." Eowyn sighed loudly. "He is not sure of your intentions, lad. He is worried about the-the differences between you. And about the effect your sea longing will have on Eowyn. He is worried you will one day abandon her-and any children the pair of you might have-and set off for Valinor." "He seems to worry a lot," said Eowyn, tartly. "I thought it would be wise if you knew, lad, before you meet up with him. So that you can be prepared with a bit of tact-" "Oh no, Gimli!" said Eowyn, angrily. "Thank you for warning us, but no! I will deal with Eomer! Just let me get my hands on him! He was never a match for me!" Legolas laughed and caught her hands. "No, melmenya!" he cried, "this is not a job for your sword! We will both go and talk to Eomer." He turned to Gimli. "Thank you for the warning, elvellon," he said, "you are wise beyond your years." And he ducked, laughing, as Gimli tried to swat him. … Legolas and Eowyn were admitted to Eomer's apartment by a tall, handsome, young man whom Eowyn recognised as Eomer's secretary, Florestan. He always reminds me of Faramir, she thought. The scene inside was of not-so-organised chaos. Eomer greeted them quite cordially and asked them to take a seat for a moment. He was standing in the middle of the sitting room, giving orders to his acting Captain of the Guard, whilst a nervous tailor tried to alter the magnificent embroidered surcoat he was wearing. Legolas and Eowyn were pleased to recognise Captain Eofred, the messenger who had visited Eryn Carantaur, and both discreetly nodded to him. Between talking to Eofred, and to Florestan, Eomer kept pulling at the cuffs of his surcoat and complaining that the collar was too tight. "Why can I not wear my gold coat for the Naming Ceremony?" he called to his wife, Queen Lothiriel, who could be seen through the door to the bedchamber, settling Elfwine in a small cradle, with the help of the baby's nurse. "Because Elfwine is your heir." She called back. Eomer shrugged his shoulders at Legolas and Eowyn, giving his tailor yet another problem, and the couple smiled sympathetically. Eomer's secretary-who, Eowyn noticed, had set a pen and parchment on the sideboard so he could make notes whenever necessary-moved discreetly back and forth between the two rooms, trying to impose some order on the chaos. He is a good man, thought Eowyn. Eomer is a natural leader but not a natural king and he is lucky to have Florestan. At length, Eomer turned apologetically to Legolas. "Let us go out onto the balcony," he said. "We need to talk." But when Eowyn went to follow them, he stopped her. "No," he said "this is a conversation between men; go and meet your nephew." Eowyn gave him a look that would have felled most men at thirty paces, but twenty-seven years of being her brother had made Eomer immune to her threats. Almost. "Very well," he relented, "join us in ten minutes. But let me talk to Legolas alone until then." Eowyn sighed and walked into the bedchamber. And, looking at Lothiriel and Elfwine, she suddenly discovered that she had no natural liking for babies at all. … Legolas and Eomer stood on the balcony, both facing the sea but neither seeing it. "Well," said Eomer. "Well?" asked Legolas, after a few moments had passed in silence. "Why?" asked Eomer. "I am sorry, Eomer, I am not sure I understand." "Yes you do. Why my sister? She had settled with Faramir. With him she had a chance to make a good life for herself-to become a wife and mother, and a grandmother. Then you come along, service her in front of half of Middle Earth, and next thing you know she is running off into the forest to live with you, like some wood nymph. That is not how she was raised to behave. "Oh, you are not the first to be obsessed with her. There was Theodred. And Wormtongue. And most of my Guard at one time or another. But you are an elf-a member of a superior race. So why are you trifling with a woman?" Legolas sighed. He had had this conversation far too many times. He decided to keep his answer short. "I love her, Eomer," he said. Eomer shook his head. "No. No, life is not about love-not for people like Eowyn and me. Life is about a marriage of alliance, and duty, and heirs. And, if you are lucky-very, very, lucky-you may just get yourself a decent man or woman into the bargain. Eowyn had a good man in Faramir-" "Yes she did; but she was not happy, Eomer-" "Happy! Have you heard nothing of what I have just said?" Legolas sighed. "Eomer, sit down. Sit down, please. I will explain-please." Eomer looked at Legolas for a long moment, as if trying to decide whether he could trust him. Finally, he sat down. "Well," he said, "explain, then." "I fell in love with Eowyn the moment I first saw her," Legolas said, "trying to protect Theoden King from Saruman in the Golden Hall at Edoras." He smiled at the memory. "But I said nothing to her," he continued, "because it was obvious she was in love with Aragorn, even though he was promised to another. "When she was injured at Pelennor Field-" "You helped find her; helped carry her back to Minas Tirith-" "Yes," said Legolas. "And I should have said something to her then, but after Aragorn had healed her, and she had lost the will to live, it was Faramir who seemed to give her back her hope. So I walked away. "And it was not until they had been married for some time, when I was working on her garden, and saw her often, that I realised all was not well between them. She was so unhappy, Eomer-they both were. It broke my heart. And we-she and I-we were in love, though neither of us knew that our love was returned by the other. It was Faramir who saw it. It was Faramir who sent her to me at Eryn Carantaur, hoping that we would find each other-" Eomer snorted in disbelief. "It is true, Eomer. Faramir did not love her as a wife, but she is a dear friend to him and he wants her to be happy. So he sent her to the harvest ceremony alone. I had prayed to the gods that they would give her to me-and they did." And because it was important to Eowyn that her brother accept their relationship, Legolas decided to tell Eomer something that was really not his to reveal, and that he would never tell to another person on Middle Earth. He asked the Valar to forgive him. "At the appointed moment in the harvest rite, Eomer, the Valar make their choice known to the celebrant-and he may accept it or reject it. When I looked at the ellyth-twelve of them-who had been chosen to attend the ceremony as potential consorts, there was no sign from the Valar. But when I looked at Eowyn-she was radiant!" He smiled. "She was surrounded by the most beautiful aura of silver light; she was sparkling and shimmering. She was radiant, Eomer! The Valar were showing me her spirit." He closed his eyes, shaking his head, part of him still unable to believe that his prayer had been answered. "And my own spirit sang with joy, for I loved her more than my life. I do…" His voice trailed away. Eomer watched him, more moved than he would ever admit, and was silent for several moments. Then he said, "What about the sea?" "I will not leave whilst she lives, Eomer." "Can you be sure? Can you control it?" "Truthfully? I do not know. But I swear to you-I will never willingly leave Eowyn. And what mortal can say more than that?" And Eomer, reluctantly, was forced to nod his head in agreement. … It had been far longer than ten minutes when Eowyn finally joined them on the balcony, and Legolas noticed that she had a damp patch on her shoulder that extended down her back and that she smelled strongly of disinfectant soap. "Do not ask," she said, shuddering fastidiously. "Well, are you happy, Eomer?" "We have talked," said her brother, "and I understand the position now." "Good," said Eowyn. "Let that be the end of it." But Eomer had one more thing to say and he waited until Eowyn had stepped back into the sitting room before he caught Legolas by the arm. "If you do leave for Valinor while she is still alive, my friend," he said, "I will follow you there and I will drag you back." Legolas nodded. "And then," Eomer added, cheerfully, "I will cut your balls off." And he clapped Legolas heartily on the back and followed his sister back into the sitting room. Well, thought Legolas, they say there is safety in numbers. And if the sister does not succeed in bringing me back, the brother surely will. … "Legolas," said Eowyn, thoughtfully, as they climbed the stairs back to their own bedchamber, "do you want children?" "Do you, melmenya?" "I asked first," said Eowyn. Legolas sighed. The answer was no. No, no, no. No, for the brief time he would have her he could not bear to share her with anyone, not even his own children. No, he could not bear the fact that his children might be immortal even though their mother was not. And no, he certainly could not bear to put her sweet little body through the terrifying business he had seen in the diagrams in Master Dínendal's new book of human anatomy. How women ever survived that he did not know. But he needed to be tactful. So he led her out onto their balcony and, as they both looked out to sea, he said, "We do not have to decide just yet, meleth nín." "That is what you always say, Legolas-does it mean no? Because, if it does, I do not think I want them either." "You do not, melmenya?" "No." And he could tell she was having difficulty finding the right words to explain it to him. "Living with you," she said, "is different from living with a man-you treat me as an equal-you expect me to play an equal part in everything we do. And that is what I have always wanted. "But if we were to have children I would have to devote all my time to looking after them. I could no longer be your equal, unless I were to give the children to someone else to raise. And if I were to do that, why would I be having children in the first place? For you do not need an heir." She shook her head. "I could not, in all conscience, not take care of them myself, but I would resent not being with you, my love. So no, I do not want children. I want us to stay as we are." "So do I melmenya." "Can we be sure?" "Sure?" "That I will not conceive." "Yes, meleth nín, I can be sure." "How? Yes, I know that elves can control their seed-but how? How do you do it?" Legolas laughed, embarrassed by her directness. He cleared his throat. "It is different, melmenya, the-the climax. It is different." "In what way?" "It-it feels different." "Better?" "I-no, melmenya, not better. Not better, just different." "How do you-" "Eowyn!" said Legolas, laughing again. "I am sorry," she whispered, and he could tell that she thought he was annoyed. He wrapped his arms around her. "No, meleth nín, I am sorry for being foolish and evasive-it just feels different." He tried to put the feeling into words for her. "I must-I must reach for a different place." She thought about his answer. "Have you ever tried to father a child, Legolas?" Legolas stared down at her, completely taken aback by her question. She was thinking of him as old; as having lived many lifetimes before her. And he hated any reminder of the gulf between them. "No, melmenya, of course not." "If I were an elleth would you-" "Eowyn!" Legolas grabbed her upper arms quite roughly and shook her a little. "I love you. I have loved you from the first moment I saw you. And though I did have lovers before we met, I did not love them as I love you, and so making love with them was not what it is with you. I do not want anyone but you. I will never want anyone but you. And the reason I do not want children with you is that I could neither bear to risk your life nor to share you with them. Now, are you satisfied?" And he crushed his mouth against hers before she could reply. … Legolas surveyed the trail of devastation. It started on the balcony, where two chairs had been turned over, continued in the bathing room, where clothes had been torn and water had been splashed, and ended in the bedchamber, where the nightstand and parts of the bed had collapsed. Eowyn smiled sleepily, curled against him like a little kitten. He kissed her forehead. "We must get washed and dressed melmenya," he said. "Or would you prefer me to tell Imrahil that you are indisposed and ask him to have some food sent up to you?" "Mmmmm," she replied. Legolas laughed. "Is that mmm-yes or mmm-no?" "It is mmm-you are dangerous," said Eowyn, rousing herself with effort, "and should be kept under lock and key. But also mmm-I will get ready." She raised her head, looked around them and sighed. "And also mmm-we must first do something about the damage." …

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.

Story Information

Author: ningloreth

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 4th Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 01/14/11

Original Post: 07/21/04

Go to To the Sea, to the Sea! The white gulls are crying overview


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