Lady vanishes, The: 10. Dernhelm

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10. Dernhelm

They waited until Berodin was safely inside the Banqueting Hall, then they rode down to Rath Amrûn on Eowyn's horse, leading Arod behind them. "Legolas will have my beard for this," grumbled Gimli. "You will be responsible for the world's first bald-faced dwarf… "And where is your hair, might I ask?" "Senta would not let me cut it off," said Eowyn. "She pasted it down with lanolin and covered it with my cap. It smells terrible." "Thank Aulë," said Gimli, "I was afraid I might have to revive the elf after he caught sight of your cropped head." Eowyn laughed, her worries forgotten for a moment-but they soon returned. "We will find him, Gimli…" "Of course we will, lass." "Are you sure you know the plan?" "Yes." "Tell me once more." Gimli sighed. "You have grown far too much like him," he said. "Very well-you will go to the back door and demand to see Olemi, claiming that he owes you money. Whilst you are making a commotion, I will strike the lock off the cellar door and enter the house-you are sure that there is a cellar door?" "Yes, Lëonórwyn was forced to go down there to fetch her own coals. She says there is a trapdoor and she is almost certain that it leads to the passageway at the side of the house. She tried to open it, but it was locked from the outside." "From the outside-that is strange," said Gimli. "As if the lock were intended to keep people in, rather than out?" asked Eowyn. "We will see," said Gimli. "What about the inner door?" "It is wooden and nothing an axe cannot demolish. It opens into the passage leading from the kitchen to the entrance hall." "It will need to be a long commotion-and loud." "I will do the best I can." "Remember: if things turn nasty-run. Hit them where it hurts and get out. Do not worry about anyone else, just get back to the Citadel." Eowyn said nothing. "Promise me, or the deal is off," said Gimli. "What deal?" "The deal in which I risk my life for your husband and in return he throws me to the orcs for not keeping you safe in the King's House," said Gimli. "That deal." "Thank you, Gimli," said Eowyn, softly, "I promise. But, if all goes well, I will try to make myself known to Olemi and Admant and persuade them to take me up the tower. With luck, you will already be there. With Legolas…" "Do not hope for too much luck, lass," said Gimli, gently. "Berodin may have imprisoned him elsewhere." "I know," said Eowyn. "But I cannot help hoping." … "Come," said Haldir. Dínendal was scanning the Banqueting Hall, searching for a familiar face. "I thought we were going to wait until the guests had started eating," he said. "I have changed my mind," said Haldir. "I cannot see Lady Eowyn." "What do you mean?" "She was not at the killing of the wren," said Dínendal, "and she is not in the Banqueting Hall. I am worried. She may be distressed." "I am sure she is." "I mean clinically," said Dínendal. "Humans are prone to an illness called melancholia. It is like the sea longing in many respects, but there is no equivalent of Valinor. The afflicted can become so despondent that-in some cases-they will take their own lives." Haldir shook his head. "It is true that Lady Eowyn was upset earlier, but she is not the sort to succumb to despair. She is the sort to…" His voice trailed away, and the two elves stared at each other. "I thought Lëonórwyn was behaving suspiciously," he said, "and she was fetching something from the stables." "Lord Gimli is not here, either," said Dínendal. "We had better hurry." … The woman and the dwarf dismounted a few hundred yards from Berodin's house. Eowyn began tethering the horses, but changed her mind and, instead, patted Brightstar's neck. "Avo visto, Brightstar," she said, repeating the words she had often heard Legolas use, "avo visto, Arod." "Will that work?" asked Gimli. "I hope so," said Eowyn, "we may need them to come to us in a hurry." "How well can you whistle?" asked Gimli. Eowyn smiled. "I will manage," she said. They walked to the corner of Berodin's house, slipped into the passageway beside, and-to Gimli's surprise-soon found the cellar trapdoor, sealed with a large padlock. "Stay here," whispered Eowyn to the dwarf. "I will make as much noise as I can." She carried on down the passage and turned the corner. Then, screwing up her courage, she hammered loudly on the back door and, making her voice sound as deep as she could, she shouted, "Olemi! Olemi, come out here and face me or I will bring the guards! Olemi! Come out!" The door flew open and Eowyn found herself face to face with a large woman-The cook, she thought-blocking the entrance with her legs astride and her hands on her hips. Eowyn swaggered manfully. "Where's Olemi?" she cried. "He owes me money! I want to see him-now!" To her surprise, the woman laughed. "Well aren't we the little fireball?" she said. "How old are you? Fifteen? Sixteen? What trouble's Olemi been getting you into, lad?" It was hardly the response Eowyn had expected and she decided that an insult was called for. "Who are you-his mother?" she yelled. The woman laughed again, delightedly. Gods, thought Eowyn, this is not how it happens in stories. By now, the whole house should be in an uproar. "Let me in!" she shouted. The woman stepped aside. Orc's breath. Nothing works! Eowyn looked around the kitchen. It was empty. Silent. The whole house was silent. "Where is everybody?" she asked. "The cat's away, so the mice are out playing for a couple of hours," said the woman. "All of them?" "All except me. Your friend Olemi's being 'bitten' by one of the golden geese as we speak…" She winked and took a step towards Eowyn. "Is that where you met him? You're a handsome little fellow, aren't you?" "Madam!" cried Eowyn, "please…" She backed against the wall. "You're all polite now!" laughed the woman, coming closer. Eowyn could smell the ale on her breath. "I'll bet that, for all your bluster, you've never done it, have you, lad? Want to learn from an expert?" "No!" cried Eowyn, as the woman's hand slipped between her thighs. "What the-" The woman stared at her. "You're no lad-ah!" "Sorry mistress," said Eowyn, as her staff came down on the woman's head. … "Gimli! Gimli!" shouted Eowyn. The dwarf came running around the corner, his axe drawn, "What is it, lass?" "The house is empty," she said, leading him through the door, "but I do not think we have much time." Gimli stepped over the unconscious cook. "What happened?" he asked. "She tried to seduce me," said Eowyn, absently. She was opening doors, looking for the way through to the front of the house. "This is it," she said, and they hurried down a narrow corridor that took them, almost miraculously, from the drabness of the servants' quarters into the gilded opulence of the entrance hall. "Berodin is not short of a gold piece or two," said Gimli. "Lëonórwyn thinks that the stairs to the tower are at the back of the lobby," said Eowyn, examining the wall beside the main stairs. "Here," said Gimli, opening a small door, "a spiral staircase." He pressed his ear to the wall and listened carefully. "It is hard to believe," he said, "that they have really left the lad up there unguarded, but I cannot hear anyone moving-all the same, better let me go first, just in case." Eowyn sighed. "Very well," she said, "though it is really not necessary, I-oh!" She grasped his arm, startled by a loud pounding at the main entrance. "Who is that?" asked Gimli. "How should I know?" "Ignore it." The pounding continued. "We cannot ignore it, Gimli," said Eowyn. "A house this size would never be left completely empty." She glanced around the entrance hall. "Hide in the staircase," she said. "I will answer the door and send whoever it is away." She pushed the protesting dwarf out of sight, straightened her cap, and limped purposefully to the entrance. The pounding was growing more insistent. She pulled back the heavy bolts, lifted the latch, and opened the solid wooden door. "Yes?" "Where is he?" cried the visitor, pushing her out of the way. He rushed through the hall and threw open the door to the front parlour. Eowyn went after him. "Who is it you seek, sir?" she asked. "Whom do I seek? Your orc of a master," He shook a piece of crumpled parchment in Eowyn's face. "A ransom! Did he think I would not know who was responsible? I followed his miserable henchmen here! Three hundred gold pieces! I am a poor man, but I will give him gold pieces! I will give him as many as he can eat-" "Sir," cried Eowyn, "what are you saying?" She pursued the angry man into the parlour and followed him around the room, watching him pull aside hangings, and turn over chairs and tables, as though he might find Berodin hiding behind the furniture. "What am I saying, you animal?" he cried. "I am saying that you have taken my son. My son!" He lunged at Eowyn. She dodged his hands. "Sir," she cried, "I am not Berodin's servant! I am here for the same reason as you-I hope to rescue someone I love…" But the man ignored her words and grabbed at her again, this time getting his hands around her throat- "Awwww!" roared Gimli, rushing forward with his axe raised. At the sound of the battle cry, the man dropped Eowyn and turned, bewildered, to face the dwarf. "What-who are you?" "I am the dwarf who will blunt his axe on your head if you do not step away from her," cried Gimli. "Do as he says-get away from her," said a quieter voice, from the direction of the door, his words accompanied by the unmistakable sound of a great Galadhrim bow being drawn. "Wait," croaked Eowyn, scrambling to her feet, and holding up her hands to stay both Gimli and Haldir, "we need him. Aragorn needs his testimony." She turned to the man. "Sir," she said, with surprising calm, "we are also here to rescue one of Berodin's victims. And we must be quick. You can come with us-and perhaps find your son-or you can continue to obstruct us-in which case Gimli will tie you up. The choice is yours." The man stared at her, dumbfounded. "We do not have much time," she urged. "You are a woman…" "Leave him," she cried, "his fire is burned out; he is harmless now. We must find Legolas." She limped out of the parlour, through the lobby and started climbing the spiral stairs. Haldir followed her, beckoning to Dínendal, who was hovering by the front door. Gimli poked the man with his axe. "Go on," he said, "after them." … The key to the tower room was-just as Admant had said-hanging by the door. Nervously, Eowyn took it down from the hook and tried to fit it into the lock. "Let me help you, my lady," said Haldir, gently guiding her shaking hand. The key turned with a loud click and, together, Eowyn and Haldir pushed open the door. … "You are not leaving already, Master Edric?" cried Silrim. "Aye, landlord," said Edric. "Though 'tis no reflection on your tavern. I have had my hour. Olemi did not need anywhere near an hour with Marglyn,"-three of his comrades raised their tankards and cheered- "Admant is sulking because the dwarf has carried off Esmarë. Osuald, Ricbert and Penda are already the worse for ale… "And we must all be getting back, for we have left Lord Berodin's house unguarded for far too long." … Eomer was used to the open plains, not city streets and, as he wound his way down the narrow raths, he felt as though every window and every doorway he passed was filled with prying eyes. What I am about to do, he thought-break into the private house of a citizen of another realm-is madness. If I am caught there will be a scandal. And Lothiriel will never speak to me again. But, then, Lothiriel might never speak to me again if I use the wrong knife at dinner… He tethered his horse near the fifth gate, adjusted his hunting knives, pulled the hood of his black cloak down over his face and proceeded along Rath Amrûn on foot. … Eowyn stepped through the door and looked around the tower room. It was dark but, as her eyes adjusted, she could make out the outline of an occupied bed, a wash stand beside it, a small table with two chairs, and-she cried out in relief-an elf. Legolas was lying awkwardly on the floor, in the bay of the massive window, clearly injured, but still glowing very faintly. She ran to him and took him in her arms. "Legolas," she said softly, "Legolas, can you hear me?" Slowly, the elf opened his eyes, recognised her, and tried to smile-but only managed a grimace. "Oh, my love," whispered Eowyn. In the dim light of the candle that Haldir had found and lit, she could see angry bruises on Legolas' face and neck and a makeshift bandage around his head. "Dernhelm…" sighed Legolas. "Yes, my darling," said Eowyn, pressing her lips to the top of his head, "Dernhelm." "Please, allow me, my lady," said Dínendal, gently, taking Legolas out of her arms and laying him down on the floor. "Can you bring that light a little closer, March Warden?" He removed the bandage and looked carefully at Legolas' wound-a deep gash near the hairline that someone had tried to clean and dress. Then he carefully palpated the bruises on his forehead and throat. "Open your eyes, my lord," he said, "and look at me. How many fingers can you see?" "One," said Legolas, hoarsely. "Good. Now keep your eyes on my finger…" Dínendal watched Legolas' gaze follow the movement of his hand. "Very good, my lord," he said. "March Warden, I suggest that you take Lord Legolas and Lady Eowyn back to the Citadel." He pulled Haldir aside. "He does not seem to have suffered any lasting harm, but I suggest that you have Lady Eowyn sit behind him, to support him, and ride very slowly, just in case." … The front of the house is far too exposed, thought Eomer. Overlooked by at least three sets of windows and anyone could be lurking under that archway… He slipped into the passage running along the north wall and looked for a possible means of entry. There was a line of smallish windows on the second floor, but the wall beneath them was far too smooth to climb. Halfway down the passage there was a cellar door-but that was secured with a solid-looking padlock. Perhaps the back of the house would be more inviting. Eomer turned the corner-and shook his head in disbelief. The back door was open. He slipped silently to the side of the lighted entrance, flattened himself against the wall and drew both hunting knives. Then he swung himself through the door, his body poised, his knives raised. But the kitchen was deserted, apart from a woman lying on the floor. Eomer crouched beside her. She had a large bruise on the side of her head-which looked suspiciously like a blow from a quarterstaff-But she smells so strongly of ale that she might just have knocked herself out falling against the edge of the table, he thought. At any rate, she is still alive. Then something else caught his attention. Voices. Coming down the side passage. By the gods, at least five men. Drunk and spoiling for a fight! … Abandoning the distraught father to Dínendal's care, Gimli approached the dark figure lying in the bed. "Master Berkin," he said, bowing slightly, "we have come to take you up to the Citadel." Berkin pushed himself up on his arms. "You are the dwarf," he said, "the King's friend. Admant told me about you." Gimli bowed again. "That is right, lad. Let me help you up." Berkin shook his head, sadly. "I cannot leave, my lord. Not yet. Please go. Go quickly." "Why would you want to stay, lad?" asked Gimli, confused. "I am very close." "To what?" "To proving that Berodin killed my parents-" "Where is my son? He is not here!" cried the father, suddenly. "Who is that?" asked Berkin. "Another victim of your uncle's greed," said Gimli. "His son has been kidnapped." "Ask him to come over here," said Berkin. "Lad," said Gimli, shaking his head, "we cannot stay. There is no time. Come with us and we will help you avenge your parents." Berkin sighed. "I cannot," he said. "There are documents-and other things-still hidden in the house-" "Tell the King about them. With your evidence, he can send the guards to search for them." Berkin looked into Gimli's eyes. "I can see that you are a man-a dwarf-of honour," he said. "But if I leave with you, my uncle will destroy everything." "Then we will have to get it now lad," said Gimli. He turned to Dínendal. "Take the man down the stairs and out through the front door, my friend," he said. "Master Berkin and I will follow as soon as we can." … Eomer sprang to his feet and looked for a place to hide. Beyond the unconscious woman there was another door, which appeared to lead to the rest of the house. And from that direction he thought he could hear quiet footsteps. Someone small, he thought. Perhaps another woman. As he stepped warily into the corridor, a slender silhouette appeared at the far end. No, not a woman-a young lad. And if I can take him hostage, I will have something to bargain with. … Carrying Legolas, Haldir followed Eowyn down the spiral staircase and into the entrance hall. "Take him through here," said Eowyn, softly, opening the front door. "Arod should be waiting nearby. I told him not to stray." She stepped aside to let Haldir pass and suddenly became aware of a black shape moving silently down the corridor towards them. Her first thought-her only thought-was to protect Legolas. "Go!" she cried, pushing Haldir through the door. Then, raising her staff to guard, she turned to face the danger. It was a man, tall and broad, armed with a hunting knife. She waited, motionless, until he emerged into the hallway; then she brought her staff down on his outstretched arm with all her strength. The man yelped and dropped his knife. Head! thought Eowyn, swinging the staff back to the other side of her body, one good blow will finish him off. But, as she began to strike, something about him suddenly seemed familiar-"Eomer!" she cried, diverting her blow away from his head-and missing him by mere inches. "What in Middle Earth are you doing here?" hissed her brother, angrily. "I am rescuing Legolas," said Eowyn. Then she smiled, "And so are you!" "How many times must I tell you-" But the lecture was interrupted by loud noises from the kitchen. Brother and sister stared down the corridor. The men had found the unconscious cook. "The servants have returned," said Eomer. "We must get out of here, now! Come on!" "No. Gimli and Dínendal are still upstairs-" She pointed to the staircase. "I will stay to help them," said Eomer. "You go!" To his surprise, Eowyn did not argue. "I will take Legolas back to the King's House," she said. She caught his arm. "Take my staff. And be careful, Eomer." He patted her shoulder. "I will. Now go!" … Haldir had summoned Arod and was lifting Legolas, semiconscious, onto the horse's back. "My lady," he said, clearly relieved to see her safe, "come, you must ride behind him." Eowyn ran down the steps and mounted Arod, taking Legolas in her arms. She looked down at Haldir. "Eomer is in there," she said. "The servants have returned and Eomer has gone upstairs to help Gimli and Dínendal." She hesitated. "Haldir…" she began, biting her lip. Haldir nodded, in understanding. "You go, my lady-go slowly," he said. "I will stay." Then he slapped Arod's flank and returned to the house. … It was a long, slow journey back up to the Citadel. Eowyn cradled Legolas in her arms, talking softly, asking him simple questions, trying to keep his mind active and focussed. As they reached the fifth level, she began to notice groups of people making their way down to the lower levels. Aragorn's guests, she thought, returning home from the feast. And Berodin will be amongst them. Eowyn wondered what to do. He is unlikely to try to stop us in public, she thought, but he will know that something has happened at the house-and that will put Eomer and the others in even more danger. We could hide in an alley until everyone has passed by, but that might take hours, and I need to get Legolas to safety… She decided to keep going. Slowly, they made their way along Rath Bein, through the great stone spur and the sixth gate, then they turned sharply down Rath Fain, rode up through the long, lamp-lit tunnel to the seventh gate, and into the Place of the Fountain. And there she saw him-her enemy-riding a magnificent white stallion from the Downs of Rohan. As they passed, his face was a mask of cold fury, and his dark, hawk-like eyes seemed to bore through her flesh and pierce her very spirit. Instinctively, Eowyn tightened her hold on Legolas and, suppressing a shudder, bowed her head politely as she rode by. … Aragorn was standing with Arwen on the steps of the King's House, bidding farewell to the last of their guests, when he noticed a strange couple riding into the courtyard. A young lad and an injured elf-Eowyn and Legolas! "Safe journey, my lord," he said to Lord Glarimar, giving him a brief squeeze of the hand and a pat on the back, "excuse me!" He ran down the steps, with Arwen following. "Is he…" "He will be alright," said Eowyn, "Master Dínendal says that he will make a complete recovery. But we must be careful with him. I need to put him to bed and get his wound cleaned and re-dressed…" "Let me take him." Aragorn lifted Legolas down from the horse and, with Arwen's help, carried him into the house. Eowyn dismounted and, leaving Arod in the care of the servants, ran up the steps after them. "Halmant," Aragorn called to his secretary, "send Master Cuthbert to Prince Legolas' apartment." "At once, your Majesty." "Aragorn," cried Eowyn, chasing after him, "wait! Eomer and the others are still in the house, and Berodin is returning…" Aragorn swore. "Halmant!" he shouted. "Before you speak to the healer, send Captain Berctuald down to Lord Berodin's house on Rath Amrûn. Tell him to do whatever he thinks is necessary to get my friends out of there with the minimum of fuss." … "How is he?" asked Aragorn, anxiously. Master Cuthbert dipped a clean piece of linen into the bowl of herb-infused water, carefully squeezed it out, and gently began to clean away the dried blood from Legolas' wound. "Remarkable," he said, softly. "You need not worry, your Majesty," he said to Aragorn, "he shows no signs of having sustained permanent damage to his mind, and his wound is already healing. All he needs is rest. It is quite remarkable." "Good," said Aragorn. He looked at Eowyn, who was sitting on the other side of the bed, holding Legolas' hand. "In that case we will leave him with you-but I shall have something to say to you, my lady-and to the others, if they survive Lord Berodin's wrath-tomorrow." And he swept out of the apartment. Arwen gave Eowyn an apologetic smile, then followed her husband. … "Eowyn?" Eowyn, holding Legolas in her arms, pulled him closer. "I am here, my love." "I was afraid." "Of what, my darling?" she asked. "Of dying." With an effort, he turned himself and buried his face in her shoulder. And he spoke so quietly that she had to strain to hear him. "All through the Ring war," he said, "I was never afraid of death. I saw others die for the first time-Gandalf, Boromir. Your uncle. It was terrible. Senseless. But I did not fear it, for I did not know what it meant. Not until now…" "What does it mean, Legolas?" she asked softly. "It means leaving," he said. "In the world of the elves life was eternal. But in this world-this world of men-life is brief, and fragile, and easily lost, and losing it means leaving-and I do not want to leave you." …

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: Complete

Era: 4th Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 01/14/11

Original Post: 07/24/04

Go to Lady vanishes, The overview

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