Lady vanishes, The: 4. The dressing of the Yule Tree

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4. The dressing of the Yule Tree

"The woman lying dead in the House of Healing is poor Rosemant, my sister's lady's maid," said Florestan. Legolas and Eowyn exchanged glances. "Have you told Eomer?" asked Eowyn. "No my lady-and I would be grateful if you did not…" He looked cautiously around the room, as if afraid that someone might be hiding behind one of the tapestries, listening. He had refused to speak to them in a public place, so they had brought him back to their apartment-and it had taken them some time to persuade him to allow Haldir to join them. "Surely you cannot suspect my brother-" "Of course not, my lady," said Florestan. "Few know better than I that Eomer King would never behave dishonourably. But, once the investigation begins, all eyes will be upon him and King Elessar. Rosemant was disguised as my sister," he explained. "Wearing her clothes and her jewellery. Whoever killed her probably thinks that he has killed Lëonórwyn. And the fewer people who know the truth-" "The safer your sister will be," said Legolas, "-assuming that she is still alive." "Yes, my lord." "You are sure," asked Haldir, "that the maid did not steal your sister's belongings?" "Yes, sir," said Florestan. "Rosemant was devoted to Lëonórwyn." He turned to Legolas and Eowyn. "Are you still willing to help me find her, my lord, my lady? It would mean acting in secret." Legolas looked at Eowyn. "I do not like the idea of going behind Eomer's back," she said. "Then we will not, melmenya-" "But I have no doubt at all," she continued, "that Eomer would happily leave me in the dark if our positions were reversed." Legolas smiled, ruefully. She was right. "Let us do what we can," she said. Legolas squeezed her hand. "You have your answer," he said to Florestan, "but, with your permission, I would like to ask Lord Gimli to join us. Dwarves are very practical, resourceful people-Gimli more so than most. And, like us, he will slip by unnoticed whilst the crowd is busy watching Aragorn and Eomer." "Of course, my lord," said Florestan, after a moment's hesitation. "Good," said Legolas. "This evening, we must all be seen at the dressing of the Yule Tree. But, after that, Haldir, Gimli and I will be paying a visit to the whorehouse." … "Ready, melmenya?" asked Legolas. He took one last look at himself in the mirror and straightened the broad sash of his long green robe; then he wrapped Eowyn's fur-lined cloak around her shoulders, and fastened the clasp. "Legolas!" said Eowyn. "I am not a complete invalid!" Legolas laughed. "Those words will come back to haunt you tonight, when you have had too much wine and I am not here to carry you to the bathing room…" Eowyn swatted his arm. "I will crawl," she said. Then she added, "You will be careful tonight?" "Of course, melmenya. Now that we know that Lëonórwyn is probably hiding somewhere, it is even more important to be discreet-" "That is not what I meant. Those places can be dangerous. Sometimes, the women keep the men-er-occupied-whilst their pimps steal from them. Or worse…" "And how do you know that?" "I am a Shieldmaiden," said Eowyn, "and warriors talk." Legolas kissed her forehead. "Come melmenya," he said, lifting her into his arms. Then, as he carried her out of their apartment and they joined the crowd of excited guests descending the main staircase of the King's House, he added, "You need not worry, Eowyn nín, for this will not be the first time I have been in a brothel. And do not forget that I will have Gimli to protect me. And all the women will be looking at Haldir, apparently." "When have you been in a brothel?" whispered Eowyn. "You have never mentioned that before!" "A husband must have some secrets, melmenya." "Legolas-"she began but, at that moment, he stepped out through the massive doors and into the courtyard at the centre of the house. "Oh, Look!" she gasped. The scene was magical. Strings of lanterns sparkled like stars around the snowy courtyard. Servants handed out hot spiced wine and festive sweetmeats. And, at the centre of everything, the Yule Tree, a noble fir, stood in a huge wooden barrel, awaiting decoration. Legolas gazed at the tree. "Evergreens are a refuge for the woodland spirits throughout the winter months," he said softly. "Do the spirits mind being brought here?" asked Eowyn. Legolas smiled. "No, melmenya," he replied, "they enjoy a celebration as much as we do." "And the tree?" "The tree is happy." Eowyn kissed his cheek, her worries about his past sexual adventures forgotten. "Gingerbread, my lord, my lady?" asked a passing servant, carrying a large tray. "Thank you," said Eowyn, taking a piece. She held it up to the light and laughed. It was shaped like a woman, with a face and hair drawn in icing. She took a bite, then offered it to Legolas. "Shhhhh, shhhhh," hissed some of the crowd. Legolas turned towards the sound. Aragorn and Arwen were standing beneath the Yule Tree. "Welcome, friends," said Aragorn. "This is the fifth time the Queen and I have celebrated Yule at Minas Tirith-for almost five years we have all worked hard to achieve peace and prosperity. Let us join together now to dress the Yule Tree; let us thank the gods, and the spirits of our ancestors, for the blessings they have given us; and let us always remember those less fortunate than we are." One by one, the guests came forward and hung the decorations on the tree-lights to honour the sun, moon, and stars, and to greet the spirits of the dead; and small offerings of wood and glass for the land wights, the sprites of earth and forest. And then, when the tree was completely covered, and the royal guests were returning indoors for their Yuletide feast, an army of servants was sent out from the palace to distribute parcels of food and warm clothing to the poor and needy. … Arwen had arranged the seating so that the friends of the Ring could sit together-sharing their Yuletide meal and exchanging their gifts in private. "Gimli," said Eowyn, unable to wait until after the feast, "this is for you." She grinned at Legolas and handed Gimli a small, spherical object covered in rose-pink gauze and decorated with a large rose-gold bow. "I helped choose it, but Legolas wrapped it…" Gimli gave Legolas a slightly strange look, then carefully opened the gauze. "What beautiful workmanship," he said, holding the golden ball up to the light and admiring a sun, moon and stars engraved on its surface. "Human?" "Yes," said Legolas. "Open it," said Eowyn, excitedly. Gimli peered at the gift for a moment, then pressed an almost invisible button with his thumb. The sphere slowly opened to reveal a tiny, intricately detailed timepiece, complete with folding gnomon. "By Aulë!" he exclaimed, "it is wondrous!" "It is a travelling sundial," said Eowyn. "It will work anywhere in Middle Earth-though not, of course," she admitted, "underground…" Gimli smiled at his friends. "A dwarf always knows the time underground," he said, "it is above the ground that he can get confused. Thank you-I shall treasure it." He hesitated for a moment, then said, "Let me give you your gifts, though these are nothing so special." He reached into a leather bag hanging from the back of his chair and handed them each a small, rectangular wooden box. Legolas opened his-inside was a hair ornament, made from interlocking green leaves of delicately enamelled mithril. "Gimli," he whispered, "you made this for me…" And he gave Gimli the most beautiful smile the dwarf had ever seen. "For shame, you crazy elf," said Gimli. "It is just a hair clip…" Legolas shook his head. "No Gimli, it is exquisite. Open yours, melmenya." Eowyn removed the lid of her box-and gasped. "Thank you Gimli," she said, smiling at him. "May I see it, Eowyn nín?" asked Legolas. It was another hair ornament, of enamelled gold, depicting the white flowers of Rohan embraced by the green leaves of Eryn Lasgalen. "Thank you Gimli," said Legolas, softly. "Thank you. For the gift, and for the sentiment it expresses, elvellon. Let me put it in your hair, melmenya. The green matches your gown exactly." … Later in the evening the party broke into smaller groups and the guests of honour began to mingle with the citizens of Gondor. Both Gimli and Haldir had instructions to discover as much as they could about Lord Berodin and his nephew. Whilst talking to Lord Olivan, the Mayor of Minas Tirith, Gimli managed to mention, quite casually, that he had heard that Lord Berodin possessed the best stables in all of Gondor. "I would dearly like to see his horses-and so would my friend, Legolas…" "I could introduce you to Lord Berodin, if you would like, my lord," said Olivan. "Though I confess we are only passing acquaintances-but my dear late wife was a close friend of both Lord Berodin's wife and her sister, his nephew's mother." "He has a nephew?" asked Gimli, innocently. "Oh, yes, my lord. The boy lives with his uncle. He is a good-hearted young lad. My dear late wife was very fond of him." "Does he attend court?" "No, my lord." Olivan thought for a moment. "No. In truth, I have not seen him in years..." "What happened to his parents?" asked Gimli. "It was a tragedy, my lord-his father and mother were set upon by orcs in the Forest of Druadan-and no one was sure what they were doing there. Fortunately Lord Berodin adopted the boy. But then, shortly afterwards, Berodin's wife died-fell down stairs, I believe…" "I would very much like to meet this Lord Berodin," said Gimli, quietly. "Then come with me, my lord," said Olivan, and he led Gimli across the Banqueting Hall towards a tall, dark figure with a hawk-like face. "Lord Berodin," he said, bowing slightly, "may I introduce Lord Gimli? Lord Gimli-Lord Berodin. Lord Gimli was interested to hear that you own some fine wild horses of Rohan, my lord," said Olivan. "I did not know that dwarves had any interest in horse flesh, Lord Gimli," said Berodin, haughtily, placing a peculiar emphasis on the word 'lord'. "As a rule, no, we do not," said Gimli, "but I have had much experience of riding-especially during the Ring war-and I appreciate a good horse. My current mount was bred in Eomer King's own stable. Arod is as fine a horse as you will find this side of Rivendell-almost a match for the Mearas themselves. With a light, smart gait, intelligent eye and gentle temperament-though in no way lacking in courage," he added, quoting Legolas almost verbatim and hoping that Berodin would not think to test his knowledge of horses too deeply. But Berodin had no interest in conversing with a dwarf and rudely turned his back on Gimli. "Do you think that the thaw will come before Twelfth Night, Lord Olivan?" he asked. Appalled by Berodin's behaviour, Olivan tried to make amends. "Come, my lord Berodin," he asked, "will you not invite Lord Gimli, and his friend Prince Legolas, to visit your stables?" "My stables are not open to visitors," said Berodin, coldly, and walked away. … "I hear my wife was talking to you last night, Prince Legolas," said a slightly drunken guest, dropping into the empty seat beside the elf, "about her favourite subject, the Golden Goose tavern." "Oh-er-yes, Lady Emliet. Lord-er?" "Glarimar," said the man. "She hopes that you will use your influence with the king to have it closed down." He leant closer. "But I beg you to reconsider-the Golden Goose is the best stew in the city. Many married men frequent it-myself included. You should try it-escape the leash for a few hours," he added, inclining his head towards Eowyn, who was talking animatedly to the man sitting opposite. Legolas smiled, politely-and felt Eowyn lay her hand lightly on his thigh. "A man may do things with whore that he cannot do with his wife," said Glarimar, drunkenly. Legolas felt Eowyn's hand slide down between his legs and her fingertips press against his rapidly hardening penis. "Such as?" he asked, his voice sounding strange. "Adventurous things." Eowyn's fingers traced his penis upwards then began, gently but firmly, to circle its sensitive head. Legolas grasped the edge of the table and risked taking a glance at her. She was still talking-quite naturally-to the man opposite. "A wife's duty is to bear children. It is not necessary for her to please her husband," said Glarimar. Eowyn's fingers became more insistent. "In fact, it is better if she has no interest in the physical act at all. That way, she is unlikely to stray-" "Oh gods," moaned Legolas. "I am sorry?" Legolas shook his head and smiled weakly. "Please continue, Lord-er…" Eowyn's fingers began to move faster. "A whore will do the unexpected-if you ask her with coin!" "Ah!" gasped Legolas. "Exactly. A man needs a wife to give him heirs but he needs a whore to pleasure him." He leant towards Legolas and whispered, conspiratorially, "You would enjoy yourself in the Golden Goose." A small movement caught his eye and he glanced down at Legolas' lap. "By the gods!" he exclaimed. "I-er-I-ah-I must take my wife-er-please excuse me, Lord Glari-mar," Legolas yelped. And-thankful for his long, flowing robe-he rose from the table, lifted Eowyn into his arms and fled from the banqueting hall. … Eowyn fastened her mouth to the tip of his ear and sucked mercilessly. "Sweet Eru!" cried Legolas, setting her down on the pedestal of a statue. He pulled open his robe and reached for her skirts. But Eowyn pushed him away. Then she smiled wickedly and, leaning forward, took him in her little hand and began stroke him, hard and fast. "Oh-gods," cried Legolas, burying his face in her shoulder, his body meeting her movements, "Ai!-Ai!-Ah!-Na!-Vedui!" And he came-across her gown, and the statue, and the marble floor. "Will you enjoy whoring, Legolas?" Eowyn asked, nuzzling his neck. "No!" hissed Legolas, pushing up her skirts. "But I will enjoy taking you, meleth nín-right here, now, in this corridor. Then the whole of Middle Earth can see what a wanton woman you are!" "Oh!" gasped Eowyn, as he entered her, roughly. "Oh gods!" She wrapped her arms and legs around him, and pressed her lips to his ear, "You are so big," she whispered, her body arching to take him deeper, "oh yes, so big…" And then her cries filled the vaulted ceiling. … Legolas was wearing his usual travelling clothes of green suede jerkin, grey tunic and leggings-with a single white knife strapped to his waist-but Eowyn had decided that his costume was not drab enough for a visit to a whorehouse. "You promise me that you will be careful?" she said, pulling his Lorien cloak around his shoulders and fastening his mallorn-leaf brooch. Then she raised the hood over his shining blond hair. "There," she said, tucking a stray lock beneath the fabric. "Melmenya," he asked, softly, catching her hands, "what are you afraid of?" "What do you mean?" "I think that-for some inexplicable reason-you have got it into your head that I am going to bed a whore-" "No-" "Yes. That is why you had to molest me amidst the entire Gondorian court." He smiled. "I am not complaining about that, Eowyn nín-but how could you possibly think that I would betray you?" Eowyn's eyes filled with tears, and she quickly looked away. "You have so much past experience," she said. "And you are leaving me behind. I feel so, so-" "Shhhhh melmenya!" he chided. "You have had too much to drink, meleth nín." He sighed. "I have heard it said that a man will have sex at any opportunity," he said, gently lifting her chin, "-though I do not believe it-but, however that may be, the same is not true of an elf, Eowyn nín. I could not betray you. My body would not do it." Eowyn stared at him. He lifted her hand and placed it between his thighs. "Only you can do this, my love," he said. "My heart and body are yours. You have no rivals. You need have no worries." He leant forward and kissed her cheek, and she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him fiercely. "Now," said Legolas, laying her gently on the bed and covering her with the quilt. "Get some sleep, melmenya." He kissed her forehead. "I will be back soon-and let us hope that when I return I will have a better idea of what is going on." … "It could, of course, be a coincidence," said Legolas, as they rode slowly down to Rath Amrûn on the fourth level of Minas Tirith. "Oh yes," said Gimli, "sheer coincidence-the poor lad's very rich mother and father just happen to ride out to the Forest of Druadan for no purpose other than to get killed by orcs. Then his aunt just happens to fall down stairs and leave him completely at the mercy of his uncle, who then just happens to move into his parents' house and 'adopt' him. And, finally, not five hundred yards from where his parents died, the poor young lass posing as his wife just happens to meet her death in the snow." "I must admit that, when you put it like that, it does sound suspicious," said Legolas. "I do wish Eowyn were here-" "She has a way of asking the right questions," agreed Haldir. "Well, we will just have to do our best without her," said Gimli. "We can hardly take a lady into a brothel." … "That," said Gimli, as they made their way along Rath Amrûn, "is Lord Berodin's house." He pointed to an imposing building with a large square tower, like a castle keep, rising over the main entrance, and crenellated battlements-apparently added quite recently-defending the high pitched roof. "What do you think the architect was trying to say there?" asked Legolas. "Keep out," said Haldir. "I wonder where the poor wee laddie is?" asked Gimli. "In the top of that tower, I should not wonder." "We do not know that the boy is a prisoner," said Legolas. "He may be an accomplice." "Hmmmph," said Gimli. "He must have been all of eight when his parents died… Even for a human that is a mere child." Legolas nodded. "But he is twenty now," he said, "almost a man." They passed Berodin's house and turned the corner into Ostrad Tinnu, where the buildings were noticeably shabbier than on the main rath, then turned under the archway into Cocks Alley, where the jumble of tenements stacked against the Hill of Guard looked like a pile of children's bricks. The horses slowly picked their way along the narrow stone lane, through piles of dirty snow, household rubbish and-Legolas suspected-raw sewage. "Orc's breath!" said Haldir. "How do they live like this?" "Humans have a surprising affinity with filth," said Gimli, "-Lady Eowyn excepted," he added hastily. "Look, that must be the Golden Goose, there." He pointed to a brightly-lit tavern with two large bay windows. "Hmmm. Interesting interpretation of the word 'goose'," he added, looking up at the sign as they rode to the front door. "I have never heard it called that before…" "It does look like a goose's head and neck," said Haldir, "emerging from a pair of breeches. But why is it so small?" Legolas cleared his throat. "I get the impression that men are somewhat smaller," he said. Haldir and Gimli looked interested but Legolas did not elaborate. "Well," he said, springing down from Arod and tying his reins to a tethering post, "let us go in." … The smell was overpowering. Ale, thought Legolas. Ale and wood smoke, and candle wax, and sweat, and-sex. Thank the gods I did not let Eowyn persuade me to bring her here. But, sweet Eru, I miss carrying her in my arms. He lowered the hood of his cloak and looked around. The tavern was almost empty. Three elderly men were sitting around the fire, drinking tankards of ale and telling tall tales-and paying no attention to the three scantily clad young women draped over the bar. Perhaps there are more customers upstairs, thought Legolas. "Welcome, gentlemen," cried the landlord. "It is not often we see the fair folk in these parts-nor dwarves, neither. What can I get you?" "Three tankards of your finest ale, please," said Gimli. Haldir opened his mouth to protest but Legolas stopped him with a hand laid lightly on his arm, then smiled at the landlord. "Perhaps you will join us, Master-" "Silrim," replied the man. "Thank you. I will have a tankard too, Master-er-" "-Caranthir," said Legolas, wishing that they had had the wit to agree on aliases beforehand. "This is Fingolfin," he said, ignoring the expression on Haldir's face, "and Norin," he added, pointing to Gimli. "Pleased to meet you, gentlemen," said Silrim. "And what brings you to the Golden Goose?" "We have heard," said Gimli, "that this is the best place in the city for strong ale and-er-good company." He smiled and bowed towards the young women. "Hello," said one of the women, rising from the bar and walking towards him. She smiled-a charming, innocent smile, "Come with me, my little lord," she said, taking Gimli by the arm and leading him over to the stairs, "bring your ale to my room. We'll take off your boots and jerkin and make you comfortable-" She bent over him, her almost-bare breasts brushing his shoulder, and whispered, "I have never been with a dwarf before, but I have heard much of the stoutness of their hearts…" "Er," said Gimli, glancing at Legolas-but Legolas only shrugged his shoulders, unhelpfully. "Er-I would be honoured," he said, and followed her upstairs. "Well, you're a pretty one," said another woman, twining herself around Legolas. She ran her fingers, seductively, down his cheek, and chest and stomach, then thrust her hand between his legs and held him. When she felt no response, she stepped away and stared up at him. "Are you sure it's a woman you're looking for, love?" Legolas considered saying no-Perhaps if I pretend to prefer men, he thought, they will leave me alone. After all, Eowyn would have been be devastated by that... "If you do prefer male company, sir, I have just the thing," said Silrim. "Fidélin! Come here!" he called. "A new boy, sir. Never been with anyone, man or woman. Still waiting to learn the ropes, so to speak." No, no, no, thought Legolas. But then he saw the boy. By the gods! "Thank you, Master Silrim," he said, "Do you have a room we can use?" "Of course, sir. Fidélin, take Master-Caranthir-into the front room." "Do you have any wine?" asked Legolas. "Indeed, I do, sir, a good Ithilien red, kept for discerning clients, like yourself." "Then we will have a bottle, Master Silrim," said Legolas. "Are you ready, Fidélin?" he asked, deliberately ignoring the terror in the boy's eyes. "Come." And, as Fidélin reluctantly led him to the stairs, Legolas risked a glance at Haldir. If I were to stay a moment longer, he thought, the poor March Warden would slaughter me. … Haldir stood gripping the handrail of the stairs, his right hand crushing the hilt of his sword, staring after Legolas and the boy. She is the loveliest creature in all of Middle Earth-warm and generous and sensual-and a brave and honourable warrior. And she thinks that Anor shines out of his backside. How could he? How could he? "What's wrong with you, love?" asked the woman. "Did you want the boy yourself?" "Certainly not!" said Haldir. "Oh, it's him you want." He gave her a withering look. "It is his wife I-" He took a deep breath. "It is his wife I feel sorry for." "Then maybe you should poke her." "Madam-" "Marglyn. In the meantime, why not buy me a drink?" "What?" "Whilst you're here, love, you might as well buy me a drink." "Mistress Marglyn, I…" Haldir stopped. He was supposed to be asking questions, finding out about Lord Berodin. "Oh-very well. Please give her whatever she wants, landlord," he said. The landlord poured a measure of clear spirit into a horn tumbler and handed it to the woman. She perched on a stool next to the bar and took a large mouthful, washing it around her teeth then letting it slip slowly down her throat. "What is she like?" she asked. "Who?" "His wife." "Tall, slender, beautiful, with a body like a fawn, hair like a river of gold, eyes like-" "I'll imagine the rest! What's her name?" Haldir hesitated. Did he really want to hear that precious name on this trollop's lips? He sighed, "Eowyn." "Princess Eowyn, the one who ran off with-" she looked upstairs, "the elf?" She laughed. "Two of them! Some women have no luck!" She took another mouthful of the spirit. "Well, love, you can call me Eowyn if it would make it more fun for you," she said, looking into the empty tumbler. "Madam," said Haldir, "I would cut my tongue out before I would call you anything." …

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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