With a final glance over his shoulder to make
sure that no one was watching, Legolas ducked into the clearing.
At the far side of the depression, nestling amongst the great
tree roots, sat a crooked little hut fashioned from woven branches
daubed with mud. Pale young leaves sprouted from its twisted
door jambs and a thin curl of smoke rose from the gap in its
crazily pitched roof.
Legolas approached the dark hole of its door, calling softly,
Whos there? came the immediate reply, in
a voice that was unexpectedly sharp.
I am Legolas, of Eryn Carantaur.
Hmm. An old woman shuffled through the doorway.
Come closer. Yes, closer,she stared
up at him with milky, sightless eyesyes, she
said, nodding. What do you want?
I am told, he said, that you tell fortunes.
There were three pieces of tree trunk grouped around the door,
and she gestured towards one of them, indicating that Legolas
should take a seat. Its the past that troubles you,
she said, waving him away when he tried to help her sit down.
You want to change it.
I,he frownedyes. Yes, you are
quite right. I do.
The old woman nodded. Ayleth, she calledand,
for the first time, Legolas became aware of a second person,
standing just inside the hut, a young woman with hair the colour
of carantaur leavesfetch the glass.
For a moment the younger woman disappeared from view; she emerged,
reverently carrying a ball of crystal (veined and flecked with
moon- and starlight), which she placed carefully in the old
womans hands, guiding the gnarled fingers round its smooth
curves. Then she straightened up, and Legolas caught sight of
her pale green eyesFoxs eyes, he thought.
The old woman set the ball in front of him. Look into
it, she said.
Legolas leaned forward and, peering at its polished surface,
saw nothing but his own face, comically distorted.
Look deeper, said the woman.
Legolas leaned closer but, at that very moment, a movement
of the younger woman drew his eye, and he saw her cupped hands
open, and fragments of leaf and petal fall, and flames leap
up, and he caught the scent of something sweet
Do not look at Ayleth, said the old woman, look
into the glass.
So Legolas leaned closer still and, feeling strangely light-headed,
he gazed past his own reflection, and into the sparkling depths
of the crystal ball.
Laughing, Legolas ran up the broad stone steps. The men
standing beside the double doors were tall and stern but he
gave them his best smile and they let him pass. Inside, the
Hall was dark, and smelled of smoke, and roasted meat, and of
other, nastier things.
Legolas bounced across the patterned floor, jumping from
red square to red square, until he reached the platform, with
its carved wooden throne, then turned
Someone was crying.
Hidden in the shadows, somewhere behind the row of carved
wooden pillars, someone was sobbing her heart out.
Forgetting all about his hopping game, Legolas went to investigate.
It was a human elleth, no older than himself. She was sitting
on one of the wooden benches that lined the Great Hall; her
head was bowed, and she was clutching something to her chest.
Hello, said Legolas, cautiously.
The girl looked up, staring at him with big, tearful eyes,
and she was so pretty, he could not help smiling. What
Legolas hopped up on to the bench and sat beside her, legs
dangling. Why are you crying?
Melwenwyn, she sobbed.
Legolas frowned. What is a Melwenwyn?
She held out the thing she had been hugging.
Legolas looked at it, critically. A dolly. (His
friend Aredhel had a dolly, but he had never seen the point
of one himself).
Melwenwyn is a puppet, said the girl,
Oh, he said. Then, What is a puppet?
The girl slipped her hand under the doll's striped skirt
and held her up, wiggling her fingers. The little creature waved.
Legolas laughed. She looks quite like you, he said,
reaching out and stroking the long woollen hair, but,he
touched a fragment of blue button on the dollys faceher
eye is broken
I knowwwww, wailed the girl.
Oh, do not cry, said Legolas, anxiously. He
looked about him, hoping to find help. There was none. We
will ask Gwanur Nerdanel. Yesshe will know what to do.
She always knows what to do.
Whowho isGwanur Nerdanel?
She looks after me when Ada is too busy. Legolas
jumped down from the bench. She will be heresomewhere.
He held out his hand. Come with me.
The girl gave him the puppet. Hold Melwenwyn,
she said, with another sniff.
Legolas watched her roll onto her tummy and, grasping the
seat, reach for the floor with her feet. If Gwanur Nerdanel
cannot fix her, he said, kindly, you can have my
Beregond Bunny. He has two eyes.
To his surprise, the girl wailed again.
They found the elleth sitting on the stone terrace, mending
a tear in Legolas second-best tunic. She looked closely
at the dollys face. Of course I can, Little Prince,
she said, opening her work basket and searching through her
collection of buttons. Let me see
Blue. Well, I
have this one. Or this.
Legolas glanced at the girl. She shook her head. Those
do not match, he said.
I do not have an exact match, Little Prince, nor two
blue buttons the same, said Nerdanel, but
I do have two brown buttons.
The girl shook her head.
Legolas pointed to the line
of small, silver-grey buttons decorating the wide cuff of his
tunic. You could use two of those.
That would spoil the tunic, Little Prince!
No, not if you take one off each sleevethen
it will not show. He turned to the girl. Would you
Legolas smiled up at Gwanur Nerdanel.
The elleth shook her head indulgently. You and the
Little Princess had best go and play somewhere else for a while,
she said, taking up her scissors.
When you are older, said Legolas, hopping along
the terrace, I will come back and teach you how to use
The girl followed him. Why?
Legolas stopped, and turned, and the girlclose behind
and intent on stepping on the right stoneshead-butted
his chest. Oooof! He threw his arms around her,
to steady them both. Because then, he said, you
will always be safe.
I have a sword, she said, and a
staff. So I will teach you as well.
There, said Gwanur Nerdanel, handing over the
puppet. All done.
The girl looked at the dollys face. The two silver-grey
buttons were just the right size, and the elleth had embroidered
a fringe of dark lashes above each one. Thank you,
she said, shyly, and turned to Legolas, her own face transformed
by a beautiful smile.
Legolas smiled back.
Suddenly, she leaned towards him, and kissed his cheek.
Then she skipped away, up the stone steps and through the
double doors, waving the puppet at the silent door-keepers as
Legolas rubbed his face. When you are older,
he called after her, I will come back, and I will
Ah! Legolas head jerked back.
Did you see what you wanted? asked the old woman.
The elf said nothing for a long while, but sat, rubbing his
temples and breathing raggedly. Then, slowly, he straightened
up, and smiled broadly, and, clasping both hands to his chest,
he replied, Yes, Mistress. It was exactly what
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1 | Part 2