“She came to you with soup. There was potion in the soup?”
“Yes,” came Legolas’ muffled reply.
“And a pot of more potion as well?”
“She held the knife to your throat and made you eat some.”
Legolas’ breath hitched into a hiccoughing sob and he nodded, long yellow hair dancing around his ankles.
“You couldn’t fight her? You’d had too much of the philter?”
“She tore at your ears to make you respond to her?”
Arwen covered her face with her hands.
“How much did she make you eat?”
“All of it,” came his answer in a small, shaking voice.
“All of it? How much was it?”
“I’m not sure,” Legolas said, raising his head. His face was blotched and tear-streaked; he wiped his cheeks with the heel of his hand. “A pint, maybe more.”
“A pint!” Aragorn was aghast; Arwen made a gagging sound and turned her head away, closing her eyes. “Eru! She could have killed you!”
Legolas hid his face again. “I wish she had.”
“No wonder you were so ill! And when you hid yourself under your hood, you were hiding the marks she left on your ears and neck; is that it? You weren’t covering yourself to put the men of Rohan at ease, like you told me?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. I didn’t want anyone to find out.”
Aragorn sighed and rubbed his hand over his face. Arwen turned back to them and gave her husband a searching look. “She ought to be punished,” she said. “That was a horrible thing to do to one of the Eldar.”
Aragorn glanced uneasily at Legolas, who had pulled himself into a tighter ball and was rocking back and forth, hair swinging. “I don’t know, my love,” he said apprehensively. “Such a thing would have to be done publicly, and I don’t think the people would understand; they don’t know enough about the Elves to begin with, and it would lead to a lot of resentment between the races.”
“There’s plenty of that already,” sighed Arwen.
“Please, don’t make it public,” begged Legolas, raising his mottled face to them. “I don’t want anyone else to know. Having you know is bad enough. Having Faramir know is worse,” he added with a groan, fresh tears rolling down his cheeks. “We are such friends. He’ll never act the same towards me again. I know he doesn’t understand that I had no choice.”
“Neither of them fully understand, I think,” said Aragorn, pulling at his lower lip and thinking. “Not even Éowyn. I don’t think she has any idea how much she hurt you. She feels guilt, I’m sure, but she’s so proud she doesn’t want to admit her responsibility, even to herself. Having it out in the open, especially having Faramir know, is a great blow to her.”
“Good,” said Arwen, voice flat. “It’s a shame we can’t punish her further.”
“I’m not sure what we’d do, anyway,” said Aragorn. “Legolas, I know you’ve probably harbored thoughts of revenge against her these past three years; is there anything we could do – within reason, within the privacy of the five of us – that would ameliorate this situation? You and your people will be living in Doro Lanthiron for many years, and Éowyn will almost always be at Osgiliath. We can’t banish her; that would cause too much talk, and Faramir is needed here. What can we do for you, Legolas? What can we do to make it better?”
“Nothing, I think,” said Legolas, taking a quivering breath and sitting up a little. He ran his shaking hands through the golden mass of his hair and sat back against the headboard, looking blankly out the window. “There is no revenge I could take. I can think of nothing, nothing that would make me feel vindicated, nothing that would show her how appallingly she has treated me.”
Arwen turned thoughtfully to her husband. “I’m not sure,” she said, “that we need seek revenge or punishment upon Éowyn at all. Faramir knows what she’s done, and he is sufficiently dismayed; his good opinion of his wife means a great deal to Éowyn, and this will be a terrible blow. For three years Faramir has done nothing but boast about her perfections, and she’s lapped it up like a cat drinks cream. You could almost hear her purring. Now Faramir has seen a terrible flaw, and he may forgive her, but he will never forget; that will always be between them now. It’s taken her down from the pedestal he’s erected for her. You mentioned her pride,” she explained to Aragorn, who looked a little puzzled. “She’s very proud of her nobility, her courage, her flawlessness, her accomplishments. The approbation of her subjects and her husband are of paramount importance to her. This takes her down a few notches; that will be unbearable for her.”
“Maybe you’re right,” said Aragorn. “I hope you are. I can think of nothing else that would chastise her; she is too stubborn.”
“She’ll only resent me further,” said Legolas wearily. “My very presence is a rebuke. This will only make things worse. She doesn’t see that her actions were wrong.”
The three friends were silent, each ruminating the problem. A cool breeze stirred the curtains at the window, and a few flaxen strands of Legolas’ hair were teased up around his head, dancing languidly about his face. It was the first fall-like day they had had after the warm summer; farmers were already starting to break up their fields with ploughs to let them lie fallow, and the leaves were turning golden and red and orange, hanging heavy like warm velvet upon the tree branches. Suddenly, to the surprise of her two companions, Arwen gave a chuckle.
“Legolas,” she said, leaning across the bed and taking his hand. “Are you still planning to have a Spring Festival in Doro Lanthiron next year?”
“Yes, of course,” said Legolas blankly. “At Echuir, when the moon is full. You and Aragorn are invited again, if you’d like.”
Aragorn ducked his head and smiled a little sheepishly. The Spring Festival for the Wood-Elves was indeed a stimulating experience, and he let memories of his last encounter there flit across his mind. He found his eyes fixed upon the graceful tip of his wife’s pointed ear, and a little tremor ran through him at the thought of the delights he’d experienced.
“Oh, we went last year,” smiled Arwen, winking at Aragorn, whose face fell. “I think it’s Faramir and Éowyn’s turn this year.”
Aragorn looked perplexed, and Legolas a little angry. But Arwen laid a finger on the Elf’s lips, silencing his protest, and added, “And I think you, as Lord of Doro Lanthiron, should initiate the Cauldron Ritual to the southern realm.”
Legolas sat back, shocked. He stared at Arwen as though she’d suggested he squat on the bed and lay an egg. Curious, Aragorn asked, “What is the Cauldron Ritual?”
“She doesn’t know what she’s done,” Arwen said to Legolas, ignoring Aragorn. “Think! This would show her. Then she would know, then she would realize what she did to you; she would see how wrong it was. Her sorrow would be better than revenge.”
“If she is even capable of sorrow,” said Legolas bitterly.
“You can but try,” said Arwen. “And the invitation will seem to her a munificent and forgiving gesture. Faramir will force her to accept graciously, despite her exasperation. It will be twisting screws into her stomach; she’ll hate it.”
Legolas pursed his lips thoughtfully. “That’s reason enough, really,” he admitted. The ghost of a smile played about his mouth. “It will be a long, cold winter,” he mused, looking out the window at the blue sky. “My people will be looking forward to the Festival. The Cauldron Ritual would be a pleasant surprise for them.”
“Your people deserve a pleasant surprise,” smiled Arwen. “And think how eye-opening it will be for the Lord and Lady of Emyn Arnen.”
“Eye-opening!” Legolas laughed, a breathy sound of relief. He scrubbed his palms over his face, rubbing his reddened eyes. “Very well, Undómiel, I’ll do this. I’m not sure if it will accomplish what you hope, but it’ll be worth it, anyway, to shock Faramir – or to arouse him,” he added, eyes twinkling.
“Good!” Arwen embraced him warmly. “Wash your face, then, and come down to the banquet hall. Put on a good show for them. And invite them publicly, so she cannot refuse; it would seem boorish, and we all know how she likes to look gracious before the assembly.”
“I will,” said Legolas, climbing off the bed. He stood before the polished glass mirror of the wardrobe, tugging at his rumpled tunic contemplatively. “Silver, I think,” he murmured, and started untying the lacings.
Arwen led her husband from the room, shutting the door softly behind them. Aragorn was still baffled. “What is the Cauldron Ritual?” he asked again. Arwen didn’t answer him, but she blushed a little, and gave her husband a faintly naughty look that set his pulse racing.
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.