Lady vanishes, The: 1. The winter solstice: Mother Night

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1. The winter solstice: Mother Night

"Welcome, my lord," said the innkeeper of he Four Alls, stepping aside to allow Legolas to carry Eowyn through the door and into the parlour. "Everything is ready. My wife has prepared our best room for you and your lady-if you will follow her upstairs, the boy will carry your luggage for you. "Lord Gimli, you are in the attic room-the girl will show you up. "And you, gentlemen," he added, to Haldir and Dínendal, "are in the front rooms-please come with me." … Legolas followed the innkeeper's wife upstairs to a bedchamber at the back of the inn. "Here we are, my lord, my lady," said the woman. "I've lit you a nice fire and aired your bed-the bathing room is through there," she pointed to a door in the far corner of the chamber, "and there is already hot water in the bathtub if you want to bathe before the festivities start." Legolas looked around the bedchamber. It was a simple room, but someone-presumably the innkeeper's wife herself-had worked hard to make it fit for royal guests. Two wooden settles and a small table were grouped around the large open fireplace, and bowls of Yuletide herbs and spices-pine, ginger, rosemary, and cedar shavings-sat on the table, the mantelpiece and the windowsills. The bed was covered with an ornate patchwork quilt, and its four posts were trimmed with red and green ribbons and with sprigs of mistletoe. "The bedchamber is lovely, Mistress Hildë," said Eowyn. "Thank you." "I am pleased you like it, my lady," said Hildë, curtseying. She turned to the young lad struggling through the door with Eowyn's luggage. "Put the chest over by the window, Norwas." Legolas set Eowyn down on the bed, took a silver piece from his money pouch, and handed it to the boy, "Thank you, Norwas," he said. The boy bowed shyly and backed out of the chamber. "We will be fetching the Yule Log home at half past two, my lord," said Hildë. "Would you like me to send the boy up to remind you?" "Yes-thank you, mistress," said Legolas. The woman curtseyed again. "I will leave you, then, my lord, my lady." Legolas waited until the woman had closed the door, then sat beside Eowyn. "Shall we bathe now, melmenya?" he asked. "Then I can change your dressings and help you put on your gown…" "Yes-thank you," replied Eowyn. "Who would have thought that a few cuts on my feet would have left me so helpless?" She sighed-then suddenly looked up at Legolas, suspiciously. "Did you bribe Master Dínendal to pretend that I cannot walk? I am not at all sure I can trust you, Legolas…" Legolas gathered her in his arms, smiling wickedly. "But you know you can trust Dínendal, melmenya," he said. "He is an honourable elf-and incorruptible." Eowyn grinned. "You have tried to corrupt him, then?" she asked. "I decline to answer that," said Legolas, carrying her into the bathing room. "But I do not deny," he added, softly, "that these last few days have been very-pleasurable." He set her down on a chair beside the bathtub and carefully removed her jerkin. "Mmmmm," he sighed, kissing the tender skin of her neck, and caressing her breasts through the soft silk of her tunic, "you cannot escape, melmenya…" "Legolas!" said Eowyn, laughing and pushing him away. "We will be late!" Legolas laughed too. "You are right, meleth nín," he said, "let us bathe." And he helped her remove her tunic, her leggings, and the dressings from her feet, and lifted her into the warm, scented water. … An hour later, Legolas carried Eowyn downstairs into the parlour, where a large, noisy crowd-including Gimli, Haldir and Dínendal-had already gathered. "A bowl of wassail, my lady, to warm you before we set out?" asked the innkeeper. "Yes, please, Master Gerhal," replied Eowyn. The man ladled a good measure of spiced ale into a drinking bowl, then pulled a poker from the hot embers of the fire and plunged it into the liquid. The wassail hissed and steamed. "There you are, my lady," said Gerhal, "that will put hairs on your chest." "I hope not," said Legolas. Eowyn laughed, "It is just a human saying, my love," she said. "It means that the wassail is strong." "Good health, my lady!" cried one of the men. Eowyn raised the bowl to him, then took a sip. "Goodness! It is very strong." She laughed again and handed the bowl to Legolas, who drained it. "That," said Legolas, placing the empty bowl on the bar, "is very good, Master Gerhal-" "My lords and lady! Masters and mistresses," cried the innkeeper's wife, suddenly throwing open the front door, "it is time!" Outside, it was still light, and the snow-covered landscape glittered in the cool winter sun. Eowyn pulled her fur-lined cloak tightly around her body and raised her hood. Legolas lifted her into his arms and, together with their friends, they joined the throng of excited people spilling out of the inn. "How far are we going?" asked Gimli. "The oak grove is just a quarter mile hence, my lord," said one of the revellers. "This year's Yule Log is a fine old tree that fell last April, when the sap was rising." "Very auspicious," said Legolas. "A gift from the Valar, Master, er…?" "Ulsil, my lord," said the man. Legolas nodded politely. The cheery procession sang and danced and jostled its way to the oak grove where the chosen tree lay-partially covered in snow-with all but one of its branches neatly removed and its trunk already cut into several large lengths. Legolas bowed his head respectfully and whispered short prayer of thanks to the fallen tree. Eowyn squeezed his shoulder, gently. "Lord Gimli," said Master Gerhal, "will you do us the honour of removing the final branch?" Gimli bowed, drew his axe and struck a single blow-and the crowd cheered as the branch came clean away. Several of the village maidens then came forward with red, green and white ribbons and lovingly decorated the chosen piece of trunk. When they had finished, Mistress Hildë stepped up and poured a libation of wassail over the Yule Log, thanking the forest and its gods for providing warmth and good luck in the coming year. Then eight able-bodied men, assisted by Haldir and Dínendal, lifted the Yule Log onto their shoulders and carried it, amidst much merrymaking, back to The Four Alls tavern. … The revellers brought the decorated Log into the parlour and laid it on a carefully prepared bed of embers in the large open hearth. Mistress Hildë took the remains of the previous year's Yule Log from a silver tray and added it to the fire, pushing it beneath the new Log. Master Gerhal stepped forward and offered Eowyn a lighted torch. "Will you set the Log alight for us, my lady?" he asked. Smiling, Eowyn took the torch and-leaning forward in Legolas' arms-touched the flame to the piece of old Log. The dry wood caught quickly, and the revellers cheered as its fire spread upwards to kindle the new-which hissed and spat as its damp bark began to dry out. "Thank you, my lady," said Gerhal taking the torch back from Eowyn. "Will you lead us to the dining table, my lord?" he asked Legolas. "With pleasure, Master Gerhal." The crowd parted and-followed by Gimli, Haldir, Dínendal and the rest of the revellers-Legolas carried Eowyn to the long trestle table at the far end of the parlour. Once everyone was seated, the innkeeper and his family brought in the festive fare. Gerhal himself carried a roasted boar's head, singing, in a resonant bass voice, the traditional Yule song, "The boar's head in hand bring I, Bedecked with bays and rosemary. I pray you, masters, merry be As you feast so heartily." His wife, son, and daughter followed with trays of roast fowls, pease pudding, hot chestnuts, caraway bread, apples, pears, and a ripe blue cheese. Gerhal laid the boar's head on the table, and the rest of the revellers joined in the chorus, "Lo, behold the head I bring And praises to the gods I sing." "Lord Gimli, will you carve the boar for us?" asked Gerhal. Gimli removed the garlands of herbs from boar's head and took the roasted apple from its mouth, offering it to the lady of the house, who raised her plate to accept it. Then he whetted the carving knife against the fork and began to cut thick slices of meat from the boar's cheeks. Eowyn sighed softly. "What is wrong, melmenya?" "The boar looks so sad," she said. Until she had come to live with the elves of Eryn Carantaur Eowyn had never questioned the eating of meat and, at first, she had found something faintly ridiculous about fierce warriors-and implacable orc-hunters-refusing to kill animals. But Legolas believed that it was wrong to kill a sentient creature for food if something else was available. He had taught her that all living things should be respected. Legolas touched her hand. "Can I get you some of the other food, Eowyn nín?" he asked, gently. She turned to him, smiling, "I love you," she said. … "Will you have some spiced cider, my lord?" asked Hildë. "No-thank you," replied Haldir, "but I am sure that Lord Gimli would like some. In fact, I think that he would like a jug-or three..." … Having demolished the savoury courses, the revellers lolled contentedly in their chairs, eating Yule cake, fruit, and nuts, and drinking wassail. "Time for some riddles," said Master Gerhal. "Ulsil, start us off." Ulsil bowed. "I have one for Lord Gimli," he said. "I drive men mad For love of me, Easily beaten, Never free." Gimli laughed. "Easily beaten," he said. "That sounds like gold!" The revellers clapped and cheered. "Now I have one for Mistress Hildë," said Gimli. "I am always hungry, I must be fed, The finger that I lick Will soon turn red." Hildë laughed. "Always hungry-is it a dog?" she asked, playfully. "No," said Gimli. Hildë grinned. "It must be a family, then-a son?" "No, no, my lady," said Gimli, laughing. "It is a fire," she admitted. "Yes!" "Well done, my dear," said Gerhal, patting her back. He turned to Haldir. "Will you give us one, my lord?" Haldir thought for a moment, then said, "If you break me I do not stop working, If you touch me I may be snared, If you lose me Nothing else matters." "The mind," said one of the men. Haldir shook his head. "The heart," said Legolas. "Yes," said Haldir, glancing past Legolas. "Will you give us one, Lady Eowyn?" asked Norwas, timidly. Eowyn laughed. "Let me see…" she said. "Yes, I know! "If a man carried my burden He would break his back. I am not rich, But I leave silver in my track." "I know this one!" said Hildë. "A donkey," said Norwas. "That is a good guess, but no," said Eowyn, kindly. "A dwarf," said Legolas, winking at Gimli. Eowyn shook her head, laughing. "Will you tell us the answer, Mistress Hildë?" asked Dínendal. Hildë looked to Eowyn for permission-Eowyn nodded-then turned to her son. "A snail!" she said. "Oh!" said Norwas. He smiled shyly at Eowyn as the guests applauded. "We have heard much of the singing of elves," said the man sitting beside Haldir, suddenly. "Will you sing for us, my lords?" "Legolas is the singer here, Master Torglar," said Haldir. "He is famous for his voice." "Will you sing for us, then, Lord Legolas?" asked Torglar. Legolas laughed. "You need never ask an elf that question twice, Master Torglar." "Sing a love song!" cried one of the women. Legolas bowed graciously and began to sing, unaccompanied, a bitter-sweet melody, "Bryd one brere, brid, brid one brere Kynd is come of loue, loue to craue. Blithful biryd, on me thu rewe Or greyth, lef, greith thu me my graue. "Hic am so blithe, so bryyit brid on brere, Quan I se that hende in halle Yhe is quit of lime, louveli, trewe, Yhe is fayr and flur of alle "Mikte hic hire at wille hauen Stedefast of loue, loueli, trewe, Of mi sorwe yhe may me sauen Ioye and blisse were Eere me newe." [Bird on a briar, bird, bird on a briar, Mankind is come of love, love to crave. Blissful bird, on me have pity, Or build, love, build thou me my grave. I am so blithe, so bright, bird on briar, When I see that maid in the hall. She is white of limb, lovely, true, She is fair and flower of all. Might I at will her have, Steadfast of love, lovely, true, Of my sorrow she might me save, Then joy and bliss were ever to me new.] Master Torglar wiped a tear from his eye. "That was beautiful, my lord," he said. "Truly beautiful…" The other revellers murmured in agreement. Legolas shook his head. "It was far too sad for this occasion," he said. "Perhaps Gimli will sing us a dwarven drinking song to cheer us up!" … By midnight, some of the revellers were beginning to leave. "Come, melmenya," said Legolas, "let me carry you upstairs." He lifted her into his arms. "Good night, ladies and gentlemen," he called, merrily. "Good night!" said Eowyn. "Good night-Good night, my lord, my lady," cried the remaining guests. "Sweet dreams!" shouted Gimli, adding an empty tankard to the pile in front of him. … Legolas laid his embroidered tunic over the back of the settle and reached for the lacing of his leggings. "No," said Eowyn. Legolas looked at her questioningly. "I want to undress you," she said. "Come here." Legolas smiled. "I thought you would never ask," he said, climbing onto the bed beside her and taking her in his arms. Immediately, desire welled up in his groin and spread through his limbs. "Oh," he gasped. "My love?" asked Eowyn. "I need you," he whispered. Eowyn stroked his face. "I need you too." "I want to take my time-" "Then I will have to be patient." "-that is, once I am inside you..." Eowyn smiled at him, conspiratorially. Then she quickly unlaced his leggings and pushed them down. Legolas took her little hand and placed it on his penis. "Guide me," he said. "Oh Legolas…" She stroked her fingers along his length then curled her hand around him and pulled him gently between her thighs, sighing with pleasure as the head of his penis brushed her flesh. "There," she whispered. Legolas entered her gradually, then began to thrust, slowly, gently, covering her neck and shoulders with kisses each time he eased himself into her. "Eowyn nín," he whispered against her skin, "Eowyn… Eowyn nín…" But Eowyn seemed strangely unresponsive. He raised himself up on his arms and looked down at her. She was grasping the bed sheet, her eyes tightly closed, and he knew that she was fighting hard to be patient. Gods, he thought, he is so sweet, so loving. And so beautiful, and the desire that had been smouldering inside him suddenly burst into flame and he began to thrust harder-harder and faster. Eowyn's eyes flew open, "Oh, yes," she gasped, "yes, my love, yes!" Faster and faster he thrust, chasing an elusive bond with her, and Eowyn rose to meet each of his thrusts, until the bed was rocking violently beneath them. And when he suddenly realised what he was doing it was too late, for Eowyn was coming hard around him and he had no choice but to join her… "Oh, gods, oh gods, Eowyn nín, Eowyn nín!" He collapsed, exhausted, on top of her, his face buried in the crook of her shoulder. "You lied to me…" Eowyn whispered, stroking his hair. "Melmenya?" he asked weakly-unable to raise his head. "You told me that it was not better, just different." "I am sorry melmenya. I am so sorry." He withdrew from her gently, rolled over onto his back and looked upwards-twelve sprigs of mistletoe hung from the canopy of the bed, marking out a sacred space charged with procreative power. No wonder he had lost control! Legolas reached for Eowyn and pulled her into his arms. "I have spoiled everything-" he said. "No!" cried Eowyn, hugging him tightly. "No, my love! You have done nothing wrong-on this night, of all nights!" She kissed him passionately. "We must trust to the gods, as human lovers do. And if I do conceive," she added, "the child is their gift to us." … "Legolas…" He was so tired, he tried to ignore it, but the voice was insistent. "Legolas Greenleaf…" He forced his eyes open and stared at the being before him-a being of elven form surrounded by dazzling light. Legolas fell to his knees, his hand over his heart, his head bowed. "Do not kneel, Legolas," said the being, "come-stand," and it bent before him and gently raised him to his feet. "You have done us great service, my child, with no thought for your own safety nor that of your loved ones. You have risked everything for the well being of all. And such service should be repaid. Tell me, if you were to be granted one wish, what would you wish for?" Legolas answered, without hesitation, "To be with Eowyn-forever." The being smiled and faded away. … Legolas awoke with a start. Something had just happened. He could feel it. But his sleep had been unnaturally deep, and he did not know what it was… He looked around the bedchamber. The fire crackled comfortingly in the hearth, bathing the room in a rosy light. The bowls of Yuletide spices filled the air with a soothing fragrance. Eowyn lay in his arms, warm and soft. He clasped her more tightly. But he felt sure that whatever had happened had been no threat to them. Legolas closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep. … They were awoken by a tap on the door. "Dawn will be breaking in an hour, my lord, my lady," called Gerhal. "Thank you, Master Gerhal," said Legolas. "We will be down presently." He kissed Eowyn and laid his hand lightly on her stomach. Eowyn smiled, but placed her own hand over his. "Let us not worry, yet, my love," she whispered. "If that is what you want, meleth nín," he said softly, kissing her again. "Come, then, melmenya, we must make sure that you will be warm enough." Eowyn smiled. "There are times when being helpless is very pleasant…" She sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. "If it were permanent, you would soon tire of it, melmenya," said Legolas, helping her into her leggings. "You would ask Gimli to make you a set of wheels." "That is a good idea," said Eowyn thoughtfully, "a chair with wheels… But how would I move it?" Legolas laughed, holding out a very large black boot so that she could slip one of her bandaged feet into it. "I do not know, melmenya-though I am sure that Gimli would think of some mechanism. But you will be back on your feet before he could build it." He laced the boot tightly to stop it falling off. "I hope so," said Eowyn. "Because my feet do seem to be taking a very long time to heal." … By the time Legolas and Eowyn came downstairs, a large group of people, including Gimli, Haldir and Dínendal, had already collected outside the door of the tavern. A light frost had whitened the hedgerows and crisped the snow underfoot, and the merrymakers' breath was steaming in the candlelight-the humans were blowing on their hands and stamping their feet to keep warm. The innkeeper had set up a small table by the door and Mistress Hildë was handing out tankards of hot wassail, candles, and lighted tapers to the guests. "We do not have enough hands-we must share, melmenya," said Legolas, laughing. He carried Eowyn over to Gimli, who was standing by the garden wall, draining his tankard. "Good morning, elvellon, have you recovered from last night's contest?" "Good morning," said Gimli, wiping his moustache. "It would take more than a few tankards of cider to incapacitate me-though I am very grateful to the March Warden for keeping me company." The two friends exchanged knowing smiles-and Eowyn glanced across at Haldir, who did not seem quite himself. "What did you do?" she asked Gimli. "Nothing," replied the dwarf, with elaborate innocence. "If an elf is foolish enough to try to compete with a dwarf-again…" Eowyn shook her head. "Poor Haldir. You are wicked-both of you." She took a sip of wassail, then offered it to Legolas, holding the tankard to his lips. "Mmm," said Legolas, "that is very good, melmenya-but perhaps a little potent for so early in the morning!" The sky had started to lighten and the crowd suddenly fell silent, awaiting the reappearance of the sun with anticipation. Eowyn put her empty tankard on the garden wall, and prepared to light her candle. Everyone waited. At last, a tiny sliver of light appeared above the mountains of Mordor. Eowyn touched the lighted taper to the candlewick. The flame flared, died down as the wax melted and pooled, then rose up again, steady and strong. Together with the other revellers, Eowyn lifted her candle to greet the rising sun. And Legolas, his heart bursting with joy, hugged her to his chest. … After breakfast they settled the bill, thanking Gerhal and Hildë for their hospitality, and presented the family with Yuletide gifts-intricately wrought Elven hunting knives for Gerhal and Norwas, and exquisite Elven shawls, of jewel-bright silk, for Hildë and her daughter. "Oh! Thank you, my lord, my lady," said Hildë, wrapping the shawl around her shoulders, "it is the loveliest thing I have ever owned." As they were about to leave, Hildë came running up to Eowyn. "Here, my lady," she said, "please-take this. It is not much, but it belonged to my mother, and I would like you to have it-take it as a Yuletide gift." And she handed Eowyn a small silver flower on a fine silver chain. "Oh, Mistress Hildë, I could not-" But Legolas stopped her by laying a hand on her arm. "Thank you Mistress Hildë," he said. "It is beautiful. We will not forget the welcome you have given us-and you can rest assured that we will recommend your inn to all we meet travelling this way." Then he placed his hand over his heart and bowed his head. "Farewell, mistress." … They left The Four Alls tavern, and the little town of Gobel Doron, and continued north, along the eastern shore of the Anduin, skirting the hills of Emyn Arnen, to the hamlet of Edeb where they spent a rather less comfortable night in the local inn. The next day they left at dawn, following the river until they reached the ford north of Osgiliath, and approached the Rammas Echor and the snow-covered plain of The Pelennor, with the white city of Minas Tirith not a half day's ride distant. … It was such a small thing that no human would have noticed it. But little escaped the eyes of the March Warden of Eryn Carantaur-and certainly not the flock of black birds circling over the ruins of Osgiliath. Crebain, he thought. Carrion crows. And just what are they feasting on? He reined in his horse and fell back until he was riding beside Legolas. "You have seen them too," said Legolas. "Should we investigate?" asked Haldir. "It is probably some unfortunate animal that has died in the ruins," said Legolas, "but, given that city's unhappy history, it would be wise to make sure." … They rode through the shattered city gates and made their way through the once elegant streets, following the cawing of the birds. At length, they emerged into the ruins of a spacious plaza. "By the gods," said Haldir, softly, "look-over there." Lying face-up in the snow, surrounded by small black scavengers, was a body. Legolas and Dínendal dismounted and approached the corpse. Some large animal-a dog or a wolf-had dragged it out from amongst the rubble, and had gnawed at its face and neck and torn off one of its legs at the knee. A partially eaten arm lay some yards away. "The only footprints," said Legolas, "are of animals and birds. He must have come here before the last fall of snow." Dínendal crouched beside the body and carefully lifted its head. "Legolas," said Eowyn, suddenly, "I need to come down-I need to see his face." "No, my lady," said Dínendal, shaking his head, "this is no sight for you." But Legolas lifted her from her horse and carried her to the dead man. "Turn his head to the right," said Eowyn softly. Reluctantly, Dínendal did as she asked. The face was badly damaged but there was no missing the old, jagged scar that ran down its left side from cheek to chin. "Dear gods," said Eowyn, "I know him." … The song that Legolas sings, Bryd one brere, is the earliest English love song (1300) . You can find the music here: http://home.uchicago.edu/~atterlep/Music/Songs/brydonebrere.htm There are also recordings available. The song that Gerhal sings is based on The Boar's Head Carol, which also has an interesting story attached to it: http://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/boars_head_carol.htm

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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