Home Stories Whos who Maps Costumes Recipes References Contacts Spacer
legolas and ma everill


Part 18

The Reeve of Newhome raised a hand, and called off the attack.

There was a moment of uncertainty—some of the Watch were reluctant, having drawn their swords, to sheathe them without drawing blood, and some of Ma’s followers were still goading them on—but Arador slipped past Ma and her sons and walked forward alone, and the Reeve slid his sword back into its scabbard and came to meet him, and gave him a perfunctory hug.

“Whatever that woman has been telling you,” the Reeve began, addressing Legolas.

“She has told me nothing,” Legolas replied. He glanced at Eowyn; Eowyn shook her head. “But I think it is time that one of you explained what is going on here.”

“How about a nice cup of tea, dear?” said Ma, as though the past few minutes had never happened.


The Reeve dismissed the Watch with strict orders to round up their horses and return home.

Ma sent her people back to work, and led her guests—including a very out-of-place and thoroughly uncomfortable-looking Belecthor—to one of the stone buildings.

The dwelling inside was neat and clean, with a well-blacked cooking range, a wooden table scrubbed almost white, lace-edged cloths and embroidered seat-cushions—though, even here, blue had seeped in through the shutters and under the door, and had settled in a fine layer on the floor and over the furnishings.

Ma made everyone sit down, and busied herself making the tea, warming the pot with a little hot water before she spooned in the tea leaves, added the boiling water, and let it brew for a few moments.

“I’ll be mother, shall I?” she said, when it was ready, pouring it into dainty little cups and handing them round. “Help yourselves to milk and sugar.”

Legolas politely took a sip before setting the cup and saucer down on the table. “Perhaps now you will tell us, Mistress,” he said, “what you are doing out there?”

“Making blue,” said Ma. Then, when she noticed that Legolas was still looking blank, she added, as though speaking to a simpleton, “Laundry blue.”

She offered him a biscuit.

“I am sorry,” he said, taking one and putting it on his saucer. “What is laundry blue?”

“Noble folks!” said Ma. “You want everything whiter than white, but you never stop to think how it’s done! Washerwomen put laundry blue into the final rinse, to banish any hint of yellow—so that the linens look fresh.”

Legolas and Eowyn exchanged glances.

“And you are making it?” said Eowyn. “Here?

“A hundred and twenty-five pounds of it a week,” said Ma, proudly. “Two thousand ounces. It’s a long and complicated business.” She settled back in her chair. “Of course, the real stuff’s made from a natural blue stone. What we make here is a fake blue—from clay, and caustic soda, pitch and, well, a few other things. We have to grind it, bake it, wash it... But the mine and the forest provide everything we need. It’s a blue gold mine.”

“And you sell the blue?” said Legolas

“To laundries all over Gondor—the Royal Laundry at Minas Tirith can’t get enough of it—and my representative’s taking samples to Edoras as we speak. I didn’t bother with you Elves—well, you don’t yellow your smalls, do you?”

Blushing delicately, Legolas turned to the Reeve. “And what is your part in all of this?” he asked.