Legolas and Eowyn leaned against the rubble beneath the breach in the castle wall. Together with Gimli, they had crawled over every inch of ground, inside and outside the castle, searching for hair, fragments of cloth, signs of a struggle-anything that might give them a clue to the killer's identity. But they had found nothing.
"Perhaps Master Dínendal will find something on the body," said Eowyn.
Gimli was perching on a large piece of fallen masonry, just outside the wall, preparing his pipe. "Who could come and go-and kill-without leaving any trace?" he said.
"An elf," said Legolas.
"But why would an elf kill one of his own comrades?" asked Eowyn.
"A personal grudge," said Legolas. "Maeglin was a Mirkwood elf-and our Silvan ways do not endear us to everybody…"
"Nonsense!" said Eowyn. "Eryn Carantaur is the most harmonious of places. Elves join this colony because they believe in its ideals. And there is not a single warrior here who does not love and respect you
"She is right lad," said Gimli, reaching in his pocket for his tinderbox. "Awwww," he cried, as the small box slipped from his hand, rolled down the stone block, and fell to the ground. Gimli jumped down after it.
"Gimli?" said Legolas after a moment. The dwarf was hidden from view. "Gimli? Are you alright?"
"Come here lad," cried Gimli. "Come and look!"
Legolas and Eowyn knelt beside the dwarf and peered at the ground. Gimli's tinderbox lay in a patch of soft mud behind the stone. And to either side of it was a partial footprint. The feet that had made them had been bare-long and narrow with sharp nails that had left scratches in the earth. "They are like a dog's claws," said Eowyn. "And look at the way his heel is missing-"
"He was running, melmenya," said Legolas.
"But when I saw him," said Eowyn, "he was walking. Even after he realised that I had seen him, he did not run away." She shuddered, remembering the creature's expression, "He snarled at me, and then he strode
"So this was probably a different occasion," said Gimli. "Perhaps he was running from the scene of his crime."
"Let us see where he went," said Legolas.
But another half-hour of careful searching across the flood plain and along the riverbank did not yield any more footprints.
"We can do no more here," said Legolas.
Master Dínendal had examined the body carefully but, aside from the broken neck and the terrified expression, had found nothing.
"Poor Maeglin," said Legolas looking at the dead elf. "We used to patrol the borders of Mirkwood together. He taught me a lot about living off the land-showed me how to skin and cook a rabbit." He shook his head, sadly. Eowyn squeezed his hand.
"There are no other wounds on his body, my lord," said Dínendal, "and no sign that he struggled or tried to defend himself." He showed them the elf's unblemished hands. "And yet he must have been aware of the attack," he added, stroking the pale hair back from the distorted face. "It is as if he was paralysed with fear-and his attacker simply twisted his neck and snapped his spine like a twig."
"Did you know Maeglin, Taurnil?" asked Nolofinwë, the swordsmith. He had several swords to repair, after the previous day's raid, and was making an early start.
"Not really," replied the bowyer. "I did most of my work for the royal family-Prince Legolas, his father-"
"Yes. And the palace guards. But I know that Maeglin was well regarded-he attended the Council of Elrond with Prince Legolas. And he was liked by the other border guards. He will be missed."
"Who could have killed him?" asked Mahtan. "They are saying that someone has a grudge against Mirkwood elves-we had better be careful, you and I, Taurnil!"
Taurnil laughed. "I have heard that it was this creature that Lady Eowyn is supposed to have seen," he said. "Pass me that awl, Fëanáro."
"Something has been troubling me, Haldir, and that is, why was Maeglin alone?"
Haldir had joined Legolas, Eowyn and Gimli in the war room.
"That troubled me, too," said Haldir. "He should have been on watch with Amras but, when Valandil found him, he was alone. I had the castle searched for Amras-we found him lying inside the keep, in the Great Hall, under the bowyer's workbench. He was in a profoundly deep sleep, with his eyes closed. It took us fifteen minutes to waken him. He says he does not know how he came to be there." Haldir hesitated. "And I believe him."
Legolas nodded. "I know Amras. He is another Mirkwood border guard-a brave warrior and an honourable elf," he said. "I believe him too."
The Uruk Hai and the orc were curled up, just as Gimli had described, in separate corners of the cell, moaning. Legolas drew his white knives and entered. Eowyn, Gimli and Haldir remained outside, their weapons ready. Legolas bent over the Uruk Hai. What do you say to a fiend in distress?
he wondered. "What are you doing here?" he asked. "Why did you come to Eithel Hûn?"
There was no response.
He reached under the Uruk's body and, grasping its chin, lifted its head by brute force and stared into its yellow eyes. "I said," he said fiercely, "why did you come to Eithel Hûn?"
The Uruk bared its teeth at him. "Little elf," it growled, "you have no chance."
"Of what?" asked Legolas, coldly.
"Of anything-of living. He is here. He will destroy us all! We have come here to die!"
The orc in the opposite corner howled.
"Who is here?" asked Legolas.
The Uruk lifted one massive arm and brought it down in a crushing blow, but the elf leapt nimbly to the side, raised his knives-and stopped. Two arrows had already pierced the beast, in the eye and throat, almost simultaneously. Legolas turned towards the cell door. Haldir and Eowyn both stood with their bows still raised.
"Beaten to it by a slip of a girl," grumbled Gimli.
"Who do you suppose it meant?" asked Gimli. "Could some lackey of Sauron's still be alive?"
"I do not know, elvellon."
"It is the creature," said Eowyn, softly.
The elves and the dwarf exchanged glances. Legolas took Eowyn's hand. "Yes, it could be-"
"Do not humour me, Legolas," said Eowyn coldly. "I mean it! They are afraid. They are crippled by unreasoning fear. That is what the creature made me feel."
"But they have been nowhere near the creature, my lady," said Haldir.
"How do we know that?" asked Eowyn. "We do not know where it has gone. Besides, I have been thinking…" she hesitated.
"What meleth nín?"
"I have been wondering," she said, "why you did not sense it when I saw it. And how it could get close enough to Maeglin to take him by surprise and kill him. I think that humans may be more susceptible to its-its influence
than elves. And perhaps orcs are even more susceptible than humans…"
"We need to know more about this creature," said Legolas. "So far, all we have is your description, meleth nín, and two footprints. And some ominous words from a dead Uruk Hai."
"Tonight we will deal with Eryn Brethil," said Legolas to Haldir, pointing to the area on Eowyn's orc map. "The scouts we sent yesterday reported seeing fifteen orcs, well hidden throughout the forest. We will take a force of twenty archers, up in the trees, and pick them off one by one. We will not use any ground forces, so Gimli, Eowyn, you will stay here."
Eowyn bit her lip, but nodded her head in agreement. "Gimli and I will search the castle again-we will see if we can find any trace of the creature," she said. Gimli grunted in agreement.
to tell her to stay with the others in the castle ward, and on no account go looking for the creature. But if I try to keep her wrapped in lambswool I will lose her
, he thought. "Be careful, melmenya," he allowed himself to say, "especially in the uninhabited parts of the castle-make sure that you and Gimli both stay together at all times."
A young man climbed down the rocky slope towards the edge of the forest. He had spent two days and three nights safely hidden in a cave, And, given the choice, I would be hidden there still
, he thought. But he had been entrusted with a job to do. And if you are to have any hope of future advancement, Berryn, you will have to go back inside that castle.
Ducking low, he slipped out of the forest and into the thick brushwood that marked the start of the flood plain. The sun was high and the sky was bright, and after two days and three nights of turning it over in his mind, he was almost sure that the castle would be safe now. In the daylight.
Still, it would be sensible to keep out of sight for as long as possible. So he followed the scrub along the edge of the forest, as it snaked its way westwards, to the narrowest part of the flood plain.
"We have a visitor," said Haldir.
"A man. The lookout on the southern wall spotted him half an our ago, working his way along the edge of the forest, trying to stay out of sight." Haldir smiled. Though he had become quite fond of humans-some humans-in recent times, he still found their clumsiness amusing.
He and Legolas went to the breach in the western wall and, staying well out of sight, watched the young man thread his way through the brushwood.
"Here he comes," said Haldir, as the young man broke cover and began running towards the castle, "running as if all the goblins of Moria were chasing him."
"Take him prisoner," said Legolas. "Bring him to me in the bastion."
, thought Berryn, sprinting across the uneven ground, let my things still be there. If not… well I will have to go back and admit to King Elessar that I have made a complete pox of it.
He was beginning to rise from the crouch, ready to clamber over the rubble at the base of the breach, when three tall, otherworldly figures stepped out from behind the castle wall, their bows drawn. The young man stopped in mid stride, straightened up, and slowly raised his hands in the universal gesture of surrender.
, he thought, looking through the gap in the wall, where did all the elves come from? Hundreds of them!
His captor, a big, handsome elf in full armour, was quite courteous, leading Berryn through the castle and into one of the corner bastions, where a beautiful, young-looking elf seemed to be waiting for him.
"Thank you, Haldir," said the young elf. He turned to Berryn, "Who are you and what are you doing at Minas Athrad?" he asked.
Berryn opened his mouth to reply but, at the same moment, caught sight of a map laid out on a piece of fallen masonry, and all other thoughts left his head. He walked over to it. "This is good work, gentlemen," he said, "There are a few inaccuracies in the region of Toll Thâr, and here, where the Anduin meets this small tributary, but otherwise it is surprisingly accurate. These lines here… What do they represent? 'Band A 20/10… 23/10'…
Band. Band of what? '50 orcs…'
Orcs! You are mapping orcs! I have never seen a map used in this way before. Who drew this?"
He looked up to find the elves staring at him in disbelief and the big one looking quite murderous. He raised his hands in a placating gesture. "I am sorry, gentlemen," he said, "around maps I tend to forget myself. I am Berryn, son of Hador, cartographer by appointment to His Majesty, King Elessar." He bowed low. "At your service. Who made the map?"
"My wife," said the young elf, cautiously.
"I should very much like to speak with her," said Berryn.
"Why?" asked the elf, sharply.
"She is clearly a kindred spirit."
The big elf gripped his sword but the young one raised a hand to stay him. "You have not answered my question," he said. "Why are you here?"
Berryn began to reach inside his jerkin, but froze as the point of the big elf's sword touched his throat. "Gentlemen!" he gasped, "I merely wanted to-"
"Haldir, what in Middle Earth are you doing?" said a new voice, from the direction of the door, but Berryn could not see its owner.
"We caught him entering the castle where the body was found, my lady," said the big elf. "And we are still waiting for him to explain himself."
What body?" asked Berryn, trying to keep as still as possible.
"Put your sword down, Haldir," said the smaller elf. "I do not think he was reaching for a weapon-were you Master-Berryn was it?" Berryn nodded, with great care, as the sword point was slowly pulled away from his skin. "What were you going to show us?"
"My Royal Warrant, sir, from King Elessar. May I?"
The elf nodded. Berryn reached into his pocket, withdrew a piece of parchment and handed it to him. The elf unfolded it. Berryn took the opportunity to turn and look at the lady. She was walking towards the smaller elf, clearly curious to see the warrant. Berryn stared in surprise. What is a human woman doing with all these elves?
"Master Berryn was just admiring your map, meleth nín," said the elf, looking at the parchment.
She is his wife?
thought Berryn. She seems familiar. Where have I seen her before?
He studied the woman carefully, as she stood beside the young elf, one small hand resting on his arm, whilst they both read the warrant. At court! Princess Eowyn!
Yes, now he remembered, he had heard a rumour that Eowyn had run away to live with an elf. So that is Prince Legolas. What in Middle Earth are they doing here?
"Well," said Legolas, "this is certainly Aragorn's signature-and the warrant does seem to be in order." He looked up at Berryn. "But you were hiding
from us in the forest. And you were trying to enter the castle unseen
Berryn was taken aback. They were camped in its den-did they not know about it? "The monster
, my lord, I was hiding from the monster." His three captors looked at each other in surprise. Then Eowyn smiled at him. A radiant smile. Gods, she is beautiful
, thought Berryn.
"You must tell us everything you know about the monster, Master Berryn," she said.
"Did it attack you?" asked Haldir.
"No sir," said Berryn, "I did not give it the chance. But it scared the sh-it gave me a scare."
"How did you come to be in the castle, Master Berryn," asked Legolas. Then he added, suddenly, "When did you last eat?"
Berryn was surprised. "Er-before my boat capsized, my lord-er-three days ago."
Legolas nodded, gravely. "Sit down," he said, indicating a stone block covered with a blanket. Eowyn, meanwhile, had opened the door and was sending one of the guards for food.
"Carry on, Master Berryn," said Legolas, "you say your boat capsized?"
"Yes, my lord. It was my own fault-I had been travelling down the river, taking sightings of the northern bank, and I had left it too late to find a mooring-it was already quite dark when I spotted the castle ruins, with a wharf, of sorts, and it seemed ideal. But I must have hit something in the water as I rowed across-a rock or a log-and I lost my parcel of parchments overboard. Three months' work! So I was stupid enough to lean over the side to try and reach it."
He shrugged his shoulders. "My boat turned over. But I did manage to rescue my parchments," he grinned, "and some of my equipment, and swim ashore."
The food had arrived. Eowyn handed him a plate of lembas bread, cheese and dried fruit and Berryn began to eat, ravenously.
"I was soaking wet," he said, with his mouth full, "so I dragged my equipment into the keep and went back out into the ward to gather some firewood. When I got back inside, my stuff had gone and-gods, this is hard to explain-I am not normally a nervous person, my lord. My work takes me into all sorts of lonely and dangerous places-but I suddenly felt fear. Not because my things had gone-though that was disturbing enough. No, the feeling was not natural. It was-it was as if the hall was filled with it-I could feel it on my skin, in my mouth and throat, like a mist… Fear
. I was bathing in it. I was terrified."
"That is exactly how I felt," whispered Eowyn. Legolas put his arm around her.
Berryn continued. "And then I saw the monster. It was standing in the shadows, but I could see its face in the moonlight. And its expression…" He shook his head; then he put down his piece of lembas bread and ran his hand through his hair. It was clear how much this plucky young man had been scared by his experience. "I ran. I do not know how I got out into the forest, nor how I found the cave. But I lit a fire and I stayed there for three nights-until this morning."
"Why did you come back?" asked Legolas.
"My parchments, my lord. I did not want to come back, believe me. But three months' work! I needed to find my parchments and my equipment. And the more I thought about it, the more I felt that the castle would be safe in the daylight."
"Why?" asked Eowyn.
"I do not know, my lady-I suppose because the monster was lurking in the shadows. Yes, that was it, I felt that it was hiding
in the dark."
"Did the creature follow you when you ran?" asked Haldir.
"I have no idea, sir. I did not look back… But, now you mention it, no, I do not think it did. No, I think that if it had I would have felt
it behind me."
Haldir looked at Legolas. "This seems to be its den-where it feels safe. But where does it hide?"
Legolas shook his head. "We have searched the castle three times since we arrived and found no trace, and now we have a dead warrior. We need to move out of the castle, March Warden, and into the forest. How big is your cave, Master Berryn?"
"Not large enough for all your men-your elves-my lord, but there may be others about."
"Will you join forces with us, Master Berryn? Your detailed knowledge of this area would be very useful to us. I am afraid we have found no trace of your parchments," he added, "but when we have dealt with the orcs, and with this creature, I will provide you with any assistance you need to repeat your work. And you need not trouble yourself about Aragorn-King Elessar-I will explain to him what happened to you. And
," he added, "I am sure my wife will be only too willing to talk to you about her map."
Berryn bowed deeply. "I would be honoured, my lord."
"Take Master Berryn to Gimli, Haldir." He turned to Berryn. "Show Lord Gimli your cave, Master Berryn." He turned back to Haldir, "Ask Gimli to look for more caves. We need a defendable campsite with space for the horses and somewhere suitable for workshops, a healing room and a place to keep prisoners. We will move camp before nightfall. We will postpone the orc raid until tomorrow."
"I do not want you to search the castle when I am away tomorrow, melmenya," said Legolas when Haldir and Berryn had left them. "The creature is dangerous-Master Berryn has confirmed everything you told us about it. And what he says about its being active in the dark agrees with our own experience. When we have the opportunity we will take a search party over to the castle, together
. In the daylight. Please do this one thing for me, melmenya…"
Eowyn smiled. "Am I really so unreasonable, Legolas?" she asked.
"No…" said Legolas. "But sometimes you need careful handling. And then I am reduced to begging."
Eowyn laughed, reached up on tiptoe, and kissed his mouth.
Gimli and Berryn returned in less than an hour with the news that they had found a very acceptable campsite. "There are four caves, a nearby clearing for the horses, and," Gimli paused for effect, "a spring for fresh water! I know how much you elves like to wash…"
The move was completed, with typical elven efficiency, just after dark. Gimli had examined all the caves carefully and had allocated them according to the amenities they offered. The craftsmen were installed in the largest cave-which had a broad mouth and several openings in the roof to admit light-and their furnace was erected just outside. The smallest cave, with a narrow, easily guarded mouth, was turned into a cell to house the remaining orc prisoner, who was chained to one of several natural rock pillars. The middling cave, which was dry and airy, was given to the healers, who turned its various rock shelves into beds.
That left the fourth, smallish, cave for Legolas' war room. "It is well lit and shallow-not too oppressive for an elf," said Gimli. "But see this alcove?" he showed Legolas the back of the cave, "it is a natural hearth and chimney-you can light a fire in here, lad, lay out your bedroll in front of it and keep your lady nice and warm…"
Legolas squeezed his shoulder. "Thank you, elvellon. Thank you. I sometimes forget how much she must feel the cold-for she never complains."
Gimli nodded sagely, "I know, lad. You were very lucky to find her."
After the evening meal, when most of the elves had settled down to rest, Legolas turned to Eowyn. "You look tired, melmenya," he whispered. "Would you like some help undressing? And washing?" He grinned. "And getting into bed…"
Eowyn smiled. "You are a very wicked
elf," she said.
Legolas took her by the hand and led her up the steep, narrow path to their small cave, then lifted her into his arms and carried her inside. He had lit the fire, but she still shivered a little when he opened her tunic and-to keep her warm and cosy-he undressed her quickly and put her straight into the bedroll. Then he undressed himself, climbed in beside her, and took her in his arms.
"I thought you were going to wash me," she said.
Legolas smiled wickedly. "I have to dirty you first," he said.
Eowyn giggled, watching him intently as he knelt between her legs, lifted her lower body onto his thighs and, with a little help from her, entered her.
"Oh, Legolas," she sighed, "I love it when you do that…"
"I know, melmenya. I know my Shieldmaiden likes a swift attack… Keep still, melethril nín."
And he wrapped his hands under her buttocks raised himself up on his knees, and began to thrust-deep and hard.
"Oh gods, Legolas!" she cried. Her head and shoulders were still on the ground, cushioned on the bedroll and, with her body at that angle, Legolas seemed to be touching parts of her that had never been touched before. Her muscles tightened around him of their own accord. "Oh gods!
"Shhhhh, melmenya," he moaned, "shhhhh, or they will hear you!"
"I do not care
," cried Eowyn, her head thrashing from side to side. "I do not care!" And she continued to moan, and sob, and cry out, until she suddenly burst into peals of laughter as Legolas' thrusts finally pushed her over the edge.
They had been curled up together for almost an hour, Eowyn sleepy but not yet asleep, when Legolas heard someone, standing at the mouth of the cave, clear his throat nervously.
"Who is it?" he called.
"Valandil, my lord."
"What is it?"
"I am sorry to disturb you my lord, my lady-" he began.
"But?" asked Legolas.
"It is Finrod, my lord. We cannot find Finrod."
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.