Aragorn and Eomer had risen early, breakfasted, and, as dawn was breaking, ridden northwards across The Pelennor to the Greywood on the edge of the Forest of Druadan, where the Woses had given King Elessar permission to hunt whenever he wished.
The royal trackers had, with the help of the Woses, already singled out a large young boar that could be expected to show courage and stamina, and had stationed relays of hounds throughout the forest. Aragorn and Eomer approached the boar's bed on horseback.
Eomer dismounted. "The bed is warm," he called, feeling it with his hand. Around him, the hounds bayed and strained at their leashes. "The boar is close." He placed his hunting horn to his lips and blew for the release of the pack. "They have the scent!" he cried, springing back onto his horse, as the dogs dashed off through the trees.
"There!-There it is!" shouted Aragorn.
Eomer gasped as a huge, dark creature emerged from the undergrowth and attacked the hounds, goring the foremost with its sharp tusks then catching the next in its foaming mouth and breaking its back with a shake of its massive shoulders.
"It has spirit!" cried Eomer. He blew for the chase and the horsemen surged forward, startling the boar into flight. The huntsmen followed on foot. "More dogs," cried Eomer, sounding the horn again. "Release the next pack!"
Eowyn looked down at the dead man, sadly. "His name is-was-Banduil," she said. "He was a Rider of the Mark, one of Eomer's most trusted lieutenants. I know his wife, his children…"
Legolas carried her back to her horse. "We will take him to Minas Tirith, Eowyn nín," he said, gently. "And Eomer can perform the rites necessary to lay his spirit properly to rest."
Eowyn smiled gratefully. "Thank you," she said. But then a disturbing thought struck her. "Legolas-he would not have been travelling alone. Where are the others?"
Haldir laid out a bedroll and they carefully lifted the body onto it. Then-whilst Eowyn watched in frustration from horseback-Dínendal, assisted by Haldir, tried to determine the cause of death and Legolas and Gimli searched the rest of the plaza.
Gimli poked his axe into a drift of snow. "Nothing, thank Aulë," he said.
"No," said Legolas. "Whatever has happened to his companions, I do not think they are lying here-the wolves would already have found them-"
"My lord!" cried Dínendal.
"What is it?" asked Legolas.
The healer had turned the body over. "Here, my lord," he said, pointing to the remains of three arrows, buried deep in the dead man's back. "These are what killed him. This one would have punctured his heart."
"Somebody shot him in the back
…" said Eowyn.
Legolas crouched beside the body and examined the arrows. "The shafts have been deliberately cut off," he said. "And look-here," he pushed his fingers through a hole in the dead man's clothing, "there was a fourth arrow that was pulled out completely."
"Why would anyone do that?" asked Eowyn.
"I suspect they have taken the crestings, melmenya," said Legolas. "The men of Gondor mark their hunting arrows with crestings-coloured rings-to indicate ownership. Can you pull out one of the heads, Master Dínendal?"
The healer hesitated.
"It will do him no harm, now, mellon nín," said Legolas, gently.
Dínendal nodded. "March Warden," he said, "would you bring me the small pouch from the top of my pack?-Thank you."
The healer selected a sharp, narrow-bladed knife and made two careful incisions, either side of one of the arrows, then gently pulled out the barbed head and handed it to Legolas.
"Yes," said Legolas, "a broadhead-used for hunting game." He examined it carefully. "It is Gondorian but there is nothing particularly distinctive about it."
"But it does show that he was not killed by his companions," said Eowyn, her relief evident in her voice.
They were met at the Great Gate of Minas Tirith by Aragorn's secretary. "Welcome, Lord Legolas, Lady Eowyn, Lord Gimli, gentlemen," he said, bowing low. "King Elessar and Eomer King are hunting-his Majesty asked me to escort you up to the Citadel and the King's House."
"Thank you, Master Halmant," said Legolas. "But I am afraid we have some sad news." He explained what they had found in the ruins of Osgiliath.
Halmant frowned. "And that is the body, there?" he asked, pointing to the bundle lying over one of the packhorses.
Halmant turned to Eowyn. "May I express my sorrow at the death of one of your countrymen, my lady," he said. Then he turned back to Legolas. "This is a complex matter, my lord, since the deceased lost his life within the realm of Gondor, and his sovereign lord is currently residing here as a guest… May I suggest that I have the body taken to the House of Healing, and that you might then inform their Majesties-together-of what you have found? And they can decide between them what must be done to find his killer."
Legolas could not help smiling at the secretary's neat solution to the problem of protocol. "Of, course, Master Halmant," he said.
For several hours the hunters had pursued the boar, sometimes closing in on it, sometimes losing its scent in the showers of fresh snow. Five hounds had fallen to its cruel tusks. One tracker had been lightly gored.
By mid afternoon few riders still kept pace. And Eomer, ahead of the field, suddenly found himself facing the demon alone. It is at its most dangerous now
, he thought. Tired, but not winded. And this is no time for hesitation
. Drawing his sword, he prepared for the kill but, before he could spur his mount forward, the boar charged, ripping the horse's belly from end to end. The noble beast fell without a cry. Eomer rolled clear, and scrambled to his feet-he had seen fallen men split from groin to throat by a boar's tusks.
"Eomer! Eomer!" came Aragorn's voice, through the trees.
Help was at hand-but not close enough. Eomer gripped his spear and watched his adversary carefully-he knew the signs-snout low to the ground, ears flat against the head, tusks clashing together. He raised the spear to waist height. "Come on, then," he cried, "show me what you are made of! Come! Charge!" The boar rolled its eyes and pricked its ears, took several small steps-This is it
, thought Eomer-and charged.
Eomer stood firm, one foot forward, leaning in towards the beast. May the gods protect me
, he thought. Now!
He struck-a perfect hit, his spear sinking deep into the beast's massive throat-then he gripped the shaft under his arm and thrust hard.
But the boar was strong. And Eomer was forced dance with it, holding his weapon firm as the animal writhed and thrashed. I must hold on
, he thought, till either the gods give me more strength or help arrives
As they wound their way up the levels of Minas Tirith-past houses decorated with wreathes of evergreens and garlands of ribbons, and shops filled with Yuletide gifts, and busy market stalls loaded with baskets of cakes, and nuts, and exotic fruits-Eowyn could not help thinking how sad it was for a man to have lost his life when the rest of Middle Earth was joyfully celebrating the birth of the new year.
, she thought, there are few good times to die-and there is no good time to be murdered
At the sixth level they left Banduil's body at the House of Healing. Then they continued up the long, lamp-lit slope to the seventh gate and emerged into the High Court. They skirted the Place of the Fountain and the White Tree, gleaming whiter than ever under its frosting of snow, and the dazzling Tower of Ecthelion, and entered through the gateway of the King's House just as another heavy snow shower began to fall.
Servants ran forward to greet them. Legolas sprang down from his horse and lifted Eowyn from hers.
"Follow me into the house, my lords, gentlemen," cried Halmant. "The servants will take care of the horses." And he led them, swiftly, across the courtyard, through the massive arched door, and into the great entrance hall.
"Are you alright, melmenya?" asked Legolas, as his companions shook the snow from their clothes.
Eowyn had huddled herself against his chest, burying her face in the crook of his neck. She nodded against his shoulder. "I have no complaints," she whispered.
"EOMER!" called Aragorn, looking about him. He could hear the sounds of a struggle, but could not determine its direction. "Eomer! Where are you?"
"Here!" came Eomer's voice, from the west. "Quick! Quick! I have it!"
Aragorn urged his horse forward, through the dense thicket, and broke out into the small clearing where Eomer-close to exhaustion-was still wrestling for his life. "Gods," said Aragorn, seizing his bow, "that creature is not of this world." He nocked an arrow, drew, and waited for a clear shot. Hold it still
, he thought. Still, Eomer… Still
And Eomer, sensing Aragorn's intention, made one final effort. Summoning all of his remaining strength, he braced his legs and held the boar steady. "Now!" he cried.
," whispered Aragorn and loosed.
His arrow pierced the beast's forehead, between its eyes, and it fell to its knees. Aragorn shot again, and again. Slowly, the animal's head drooped until its snout came to rest on the ground.
Eomer dropped his spear and stepped back from the carcass. "There are
times," he said, wiping his gauntlet across his forehead, "when a bow cannot be beaten. But do not tell the elf I said that."
Whilst the King's Steward showed Gimli, Haldir, and Dínendal to their apartments, Master Halmant led Legolas and Eowyn to a spacious set of rooms overlooking the Queen's Garden, which-with its elven furnishings of swirling pale wood and richly embroidered fabrics, and its large balcony filled with tubs of evergreen shrubs, snowy crocuses and fragrant white hyacinths-immediately reminded Eowyn of home.
"The Queen hopes you will be comfortable here, my lord, my lady," said Halmant. "She invites you to join her in her sitting room, when you are rested from your journey."
"Thank you, Master Halmant," said Legolas. "Will you send word to me when King Elessar returns?"
"Of course, my lord," said Halmant. Then he bowed, and left them alone.
Eowyn was sitting in a chair before the fire. Legolas was removing her boots. "You sat with me," she said, suddenly. "You sang to me."
"I did not remember," she said. "Not until I saw the House of Healing again."
"It was while I was still unconscious. Before Aragorn's kingsfoil had begun to take effect-before he ordered me to wake and dragged me back into the world… You
sang to me about the forest. About Eryn Carantaur-"
"About Mirkwood," corrected Legolas, softly.
"Why did you not remind me? Why did you keep it a secret?"
"It was not a secret-but it did not help you." He shook his head. "You needed Aragorn. You needed the touch of the king-"
"Legolas…" She placed a hand on his shoulder. "Look at me," she said. "Please…"
He raised his head, sadly, and Eowyn thought that she had never seen him look more beautiful. "I remember it
," she said. "You
reached me before anyone else-when no one else could." She stroked his cheek. "I love you, Legolas."
He rose up on his knees and wrapped her in his arms.
"You have not made love to me since Mother Night." she whispered.
"I know that you are afraid you will lose control again-"
"Elves do not have children by accident, melmenya. It was shameful-"
She took his face in her hands. "Other elves are not married to human women," she said. "I know what they say about that, Legolas-I have heard them talking."
"I overheard some of the warriors-in the stables-before we left Eryn Carantaur. You are greatly envied."
"I am sorry you had to hear that, melmenya."
"Is it true? Why did you not tell me?"
He sighed. "Yes, Eowyn nín. It is true. With a human woman the experience is far, far more intense." He sighed again. "But that is not the reason, melmenya-"
that is not the reason you are with me!" She hugged him tightly. "I know that you love me, Legolas." Then she lifted her head and smiled, wickedly. "So I
am the reason it is often over in moments?"
Legolas nodded. He reached up and gently pushed a strand of hair back from her face. "Such-impatience
-is not elven. But I am not complaining, melmenya," he said.
Eowyn laughed. Then she pressed her lips to his ear. "Show me some more impatience, my love," she whispered. "Make love to me."
He carried her to the bed and helped her undress then undressed himself and climbed up beside her. But as he reach for Eowyn she suddenly pounced on him-pinning him to the bed with a hand on each wrist and a knee either side of his hips.
Legolas laughed. Then his expression became serious. "Be careful, melmenya…" he began.
"I tire of being an invalid," said Eowyn. She grinned. "I crave excitement… and danger." She shifted her hips, and began rubbing herself against his erect penis. She shivered. "Mmmmm… Oh Legolas…" She leant forward to kiss him, whispering, "I cannot look at you without wanting you inside me."
Legolas smiled. Then-with no warning-he reared up from the bed, turned her onto her back, and entered her with a single hard thrust.
"Oh gods!" she screamed. "Yes! Oh yes! Hard! HARD!
" Her body arched to take him deeper but, otherwise, she stayed still, her eyes closed, chanting, "Yes!-yes!-yes!-yes!-"
"Look at me, melmenya," gasped Legolas. "Open your eyes. I want to see your eyes. I want-oh!-oh sweet gods!-Eowyn!-I am coming-"
Eowyn's eyes flew open and she reached for his shoulders, lifting herself off the bed and wrapping her arms around his neck-and she clung to him, screaming deep in her throat, as his seed filled her body and set her limbs on fire.
The huntsmen lit a fire and began 'the unmaking'.
Servants handed Aragorn, Eomer, and the other horsemen, steaming cups of mulled ale, and the riders sat astride their horses and watched the men at work.
Whilst the dogs were held back on their leashes, the chief huntsman severed the boar's head from its shoulders-letting the blood flow into a bowl-and removed its feet. Then the carcass was threaded onto poles and suspended over the fire to singe off its bristles.
"It grows colder," said Eomer to Aragorn.
"Yes, there is a blizzard in those clouds. Once the dogs have had their reward we must hurry-we do not want to be caught on The Pelennor."
The carcass was lifted off the fire and turned on its back. The chief huntsman cut off its testicles, then sliced open its belly and cut out its kidneys.
"The umbels, your Majesty," he said, presenting them to Eomer, with a bow.
Eomer shook his head, graciously. "I fear I have not earned them today, Master Torael," he said. "Give them to the dogs." The huntsman bowed. Then he sliced out the boar's remaining organs and put the offal over the fire to boil.
The dogs bayed impatiently. A few snowflakes drifted down from the sky. Master Torael soaked several great rounds of bread in the boar's blood and laid them on the embers to roast.
The snowfall grew heavier. "We are not far from the forest's edge," said Aragorn to Eomer. "And there are caves in the foot of Mount Mindolluin. If necessary we can shelter there until the snow passes."
Master Torael butchered the remains of the carcass and his men packed up the joints for transport. Then, at last, the dogs' food was ready. Torael mixed the chopped offal with the roasted bread and threw it amongst the pack. The handlers slipped the leashes and the entire company shouted encouragement as the ravenous hounds made short work of their reward.
"He was a man of courage and honour," said Legolas. "As Prince of Ithilien he served the world of men for fifty years. Then he came to live with us, in Eryn Carantaur, and he served our colony for just as long. He was a wise ruler, a prudent counsellor and a good friend. He will be sadly missed."
Legolas stooped, took a handful of earth, and threw it over the shrouded body lying in the flower-lined grave.
"May your spirit dwell happily with your ancestors, mellon nín," he said softly.
Then each of the mourners took his or her turn to add a handful of earth to the grave-Aragorn, his hair and beard now completely grey but his body still sprightly; Arwen, still lovely but, somehow, older too; Alberich, the young Prince of Ithilien, his grandfather's successor; Elfwine King, the image of his late father; Gimli, still strong as an ox, thank the Valar; Lord Fingolfin and Lord Caranthir, both openly grieving the loss of their human friend; and, finally, Eowyn. She scattered her handful of earth over the body of her first husband, then turned to Legolas and raised her black veil.
And her face was as young and as beautiful as it had been on the very first day he had set eyes upon her…
As the riders left the shelter of the forest the snow began to fall in earnest. A brisk wind from the north east turned the flakes into a hail of tiny arrows that scoured the riders' exposed faces and necks and worked their way through the tiniest gaps in their clothes.
Deep drifts were quickly trapping the men, horses and dogs alike.
Aragorn made a decision. "We cannot risk exposure on the plain. The nearest cave is only a few hundred yards distant," he cried. "Follow me!" He rode straight into the cave-ducking beneath the low ridge of rock at its mouth-followed by Eomer and the other riders, their servants, the huntsmen, and the yapping dogs.
Once out of the snow, the huntsmen lit a fire near the cave mouth, tethered and settled the dogs and tended the horses. The riders huddled around the fire, their damp clothes steaming in the warmth.
"How long do you think it will last?" asked Eomer.
Aragorn looked out into the blizzard. "I would be surprised if we can leave before morning," he said.
Eomer nodded. "Lothiriel will have my guts for a girdle for staying out all night." He smiled at Aragorn, who laughed, softly.
"You will have to make it up to her, Eomer." He turned to his servant. "Daelvist," he said, "tell the huntsmen to make themselves comfortable-we will be staying here tonight. And roast the boar's head and shoulders-we will have a proper Yuletide feast."
Legolas lay on his back, gazing up into the canopy of the bed. Why had he started dreaming again? What did the dreams mean-he felt sure that he had had others, though he could not remember them. Should he tell Eowyn about them? He did not like keeping secrets from her. But, even though he had decided he would follow her in death, her ageing was still a difficult subject between them.
Unless the dream was a premonition…
No, that is foolish-just make-believe
, he thought. And he rolled over and clasped Eowyn tightly in his arms.
She sighed, softly, "No more, Legolas-not just yet-I am too tired…"
Legolas smiled. "You must wake up, melmenya."
He laughed. "It is time to bathe and dress, meleth nín. Arwen is waiting for us." He stroked her hair, playfully. "I thought a Shieldmaiden was made of stronger stuff than this."
"You are an insufferable elf-" she began. But she was interrupted by someone knocking at the door.
"I will send them away, melmenya," said Legolas, patting her shoulder.
He slipped on his dressing robe and opened the door. "Hello," he said, surprised. "What brings you here?"
"Good evening, Lord Legolas. May I speak with Lady Eowyn?"
"I am afraid she is indisposed at the moment-"
"No-no, I am awake now," called Eowyn. "Let her come in."
Legolas stepped aside and gestured the young woman to enter.
"Hello, Senta," said Eowyn.
"Orin," said the chief huntsman, handing the stable boy two wooden buckets, "the horses need more water. Go and fetch some clean snow. We will melt it beside the fire."
Orin pulled the hood of his cloak down over his face and scrambled outside, muttering to himself. The wind had dropped, but a heavy shower of large flakes was still falling. Gods, it is cold! Be careful-do not go too far
, he thought, or you may never be seen again. At least, not until the thaw
Keeping close to the foot of the cliff, he worked his way to a clean drift.
Keep your hands dry
. Holding the edge of one of the buckets, he carefully dipped it into the snow and scooped. The rim scraped against something hard-hard, but not rock…
Orin peered into the hole he had made.
" he whispered. And he ran back to the cave, his buckets forgotten.
"I am sorry to disturb you, my lady, my lord," said Senta. "But Florestan is so worried, and I did not know who else to turn to." She wrung her hands together.
"Sit down," said Legolas, bringing a chair closer to the bed. "Would you like a drink?"
"Yes-yes, please," said Senta.
Legolas poured three glasses of spiced fruit wine, handed one to Senta and one to Eowyn. "Now," he said, "tell us what is the matter."
Senta looked at each of them in turn. "I live at Edoras now, as one of Queen Lothiriel's maids."
"To be near to Florestan," said Eowyn. She remembered how her brother's secretary had met and fallen in love with Senta during his stay at Dol Amroth.
"Yes. We plan to marry-if Eomer King gives his permission."
"I am sure he will, Senta," said Eowyn, "Is that your problem?"
"No, my lady. No. It is Florestan's sister." She shook her head. "She has disappeared
"Your Majesty," said Daelvist, softly, to Aragorn, "I am sorry to disturb you, but a delicate situation has arisen."
Aragorn glanced around his companions. They were drinking ale and sharing stories of past hunting adventures. Aragorn rose quietly and followed Daelvist to the mouth of the cave.
"Well?" he asked.
"Master Torael sent young Orin out to fetch some snow, your Majesty. Tell King Elessar what you found, Orin."
The stable boy bowed low. "A dead body, your Majesty-dead for some days, I think." He held out a fine leather glove decorated with an ornate interlace border. "A young woman of Rohan, your Majesty."
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.