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The Green Knight  by Le Rouret


            When Faramir and his Lady entered the tent they were immediately aware of a great tumult stirring amongst the occupants.  The Dwarf stood before the pallet, fists upon his hips, glaring up at the healers, who stood about angrily expostulating with him.  Cirien and Hador were unbuckling the bloodied cuirass straps and Cirien was telling Gilmir firmly to leave, though the esquire was reluctant to do so, and argued with his lord on the case.  Arwen and Bandobras knelt by the Green Knight’s head, the Queen speaking softly in her own tongue, and Bandobras with his head buried in his outflung arms sobbed upon the pallet. 

            “Silence!” cried Faramir, and instantly the tent fell still, save for the labored breathing of the injured knight, and the weeping of the Halfling.  The leeches turned to him with their complaints, vexed and indignant, but the Lord of Emyn Arnen said gently to them:  “Nay!  The Dwarf is right in this, good healers; the face of the Green Knight still must needs be obscured, even from such sight as your own.  We shall attend to him, yet I assure you should his injuries prove too much for us we shall certainly bid you here.”  He looked to Gilmir and said, “You also, Gilmir esquire of Cirien!  All shall be revealed soon enough.  Go you with these leeches to the outdoors.”

            Grumbling the healers retired, taking the reluctant esquire with them, and at once Gimli turned his attention to his friend.  “Legolas, Legolas!” he groaned, pulling out the bevor pins from the aventail.  “What happened; why did my father’s armour fail to protect you?  What devilry was this that pierced even his metal?”

            “B – black powder,” gasped the Elf, and when Gimli made to remove the helm he cried aloud.  “Wait!  There – I have a – ai!”

            “I see it, Legolas,” said Arwen, and pointed out the other splinter to Gimli, where it protruded between the joint of the bevor and the face plate.  “You will have to bend the bevor back, Gimli.”

            “I have the straps, Lord Cirien,” said Hador, “but how shall we move aside the breastplate with that fiendish weapon still perforating it?”

            The tent flap opened, letting in the muted noise of the crowd, and Mardil and

Araval entered, their arms full of blacksmith’s tools.  “Herion is indeed dead,” said Mardil grimly, setting the tools upon the table.  Gimli at once took up a pair of nippers and set it to the largest of the shards.  “And his unfortunate horse is as well; they shrouded it from view and slit its throat, so relieving it of its suffering.”

            “So many steeds are the unwitting banes of their masters,” said Éowyn, shaking her head regretfully; “it was thus with King Théoden.  I am sorry for Herion of Pelargir; he need not have died at all.”

            “My – fault – “ groaned the knight upon the pallet, but Arwen answered him sharply in Elvish, and he fell silent.

            “This will hurt, my friend,” said Gimli, and with the nippers he sheared the protruding end from the shard.  Legolas gave a convulsive shudder and cried out, and Bandobras sobbed all the louder.  “Bandy!” shouted Gimli angrily.  “Stop!  You are not helping at all!  Get me the small tongs – Bandy, listen!”

            “Ah, now we may remove the breastplate,” said Cirien, and he and Hador pulled it off Legolas’ chest.  The arming doublet was completely soaked in blood, shining and fresh, and all could see where the cruel spike entered his body.

            “There, that is not so bad,” said Faramir, cutting the arming doublet with a pair of shears and peeling it aside.  “You see, it has gone in at an angle, no doubt deflected from the charnel, and it does not look as though it has pierced either heart or lungs.”  There was the screech of bending metal and Gimli removed the bevor.  “And see this; it is a large splinter yet but it has missed your eye, I perceive.  Ah, Prince of Mirkwood, your fortune is yet with you!”

            “Oh, oh, oh!” sobbed Bandobras into his arms.  “O Master, O Master!”

            “O cease this wailing!” grunted Gimli, easing the top of the frogmouth from around Legolas’ head.  “If you cannot be of assistance I shall tell you to leave the tent.”

            “No, no!” cried Bandobras.  “Don’t make me leave my Master!”

            “Then do something!” said Gimli.  “Make yourself useful at least.  Can you not bring in water, or help to remove his cuisses?”

            “We must needs remove these spikes from him first, to let the wounds bleed clean,” said Arwen.  “Have you brought pincers, my lords Mardil and Araval?”

            “I have some here,” said Araval, turning pale.

            “Good!” said the Queen.  “Now who shall do the deed?  If it is not done swiftly and with strength the agony will be too great for Legolas to bear.”

            The men stood about doubtfully, looking from one to another.  None, it seemed, desired to put to the test their strength against the Green Knight’s anguish.   “As it is it shall be painful enough,” said Cirien, shaking his head.  “I am not sure I trust myself in this; his cries would unman me.”

            “Well, as I am a Dwarf and cannot be unmanned I shall do it myself,” said Gimli angrily, snatching the pincers from Araval.  “Besides I do not trust anyone else to do it!  Now, Legolas,” he said, laying his hand upon his friend’s cheek and looking deep into the gray eyes shining with unshed tears.  The Elf panted roughly, blood oozing from his wounds afresh with each breath.  “I am going to inflict such pain upon you as I swore I would avenge from any other creature; yet you know I do this in love and concern for you.  Try not to move therefore, that I may not unintentionally injure you further.”

            “We ought to hold him down,” said Cirien, “so his thrashings will not impede the procedure.”  He gestured to his fellow knights and said, “My lord Mardil, you and Lord Araval take his legs, and hold them still, so he does not kick out with them; I shall take his arm upon this side, and my Lord Faramir, if you perhaps would take his other arm – “

            “No, no, O I cannot bear it!” sobbed Bandobras, and Legolas with great difficulty and with halting breaths turned to him.

            “O -- my Little One,” he gasped, “Will you – not help me, your – your Master?  I – I have need of you, my – my Bandobras!”

            “What can I do, what can I do?” cried the Hobbit.

            “Take – take you my h – hand, Little One,” the Elf panted, “so that when – when Gimli pulls out – the spikes the – the pain will not seem – not seem so – so great.”

            “Like this, Master?” sobbed Bandobras, taking Legolas’ long white hand in both his own, and clasping it against his chest.  Legolas gave a broken smile.

            “Y – yes, Little One!” he said.  “With – with you holding my – hand I shall not – shall not feel pain.  And – and look into my eyes – my Bandobras – so that the sight of you – may distract me – from these – these ministrations.”

            “Like this?” said Bandobras, turning to look into his Master’s face.  Tears still rolled down his rosy cheeks but he had stopped sobbing, and gazed anxiously instead at his Master.  Legolas turned his pale lips into a smile and said, “Y – yes, my – my Little One – just like that!”

            “Shall I hold your other hand, my friend?” murmured the Queen, slipping her hand into his.  Without taking his gaze from his esquire’s face Legolas gave an abrupt nod.

            Gimli looked round the tent.  The three knights held Legolas down firmly upon the pallet, the Lord and Lady of Emyn Arnen stood by with water and clean cloths, and Bandobras and the Queen held each one of the Elf’s hands.  “Are you ready, my friend?” he asked.

            “Yes, Gimli,” gasped Legolas.  “I – I beg you, friend – do it quickly!”

            “Very well!” said Gimli, and gritting his teeth he took the end of the spike in the pincers.  There was a moment of intense silence, when even the noise from the stadium seemed quelled, then with a violent abrupt motion Gimli wrenched upward.  There was an appalling sucking sound, and a soft pop, and a jagged splinter of wood fully five handbreadths long quivered at the tip of the pincers, dripping with blood.  Éowyn poured water over the wound, and Faramir pressed upon it with a great mound of bandages, which turned scarlet beneath his hands.  “There!” said Gimli, holding it aloft; “I think I shall keep this, Legolas, and turn it in to my father, so that he may work on ways by which this will not occur again.”

            “You did well, Prince Legolas,” said Mardil admiringly from the foot of the pallet; “you did not recoil, even with such a great wrench as that.”

            “It was because I held his hand and looked into his eyes, Lord Mardil,” said Bandobras earnestly.  “See, I did just as he told me and he didn’t feel any pain, isn’t that right, Master?”

            “Yes, my Bandobras,” smiled Legolas, though his face was whiter than before.  “You did well, Little One.  I hardly felt anything at all.”  But Cirien was looking down at the Queen’s hands, which the Elf in his anguish had clutched; there were livid spots upon them, perfect imprints of the Green Knight’s fingers.  “Now if you will divest me of this last large splinter, my good Gimli, I shall almost feel myself again.  That shard of wood pressed so upon my ribcage that I found it difficult to breathe, but now the obstruction is gone I am so much better.”

            “Shall I continue to hold your hand and look into your eyes, Master, so you don’t feel any pain?” asked Bandobras anxiously.

            “Yes, Little One; you have comported yourself capitally and I am indeed very grateful to you,” said Legolas.  “Be sure to look into my eyes now!  I do not want you looking away; then I may be distracted and feel something.”

            “I’ll concentrate hard as I can, Master,” promised Bandobras, though Gimli’s pincers were uncomfortably close to Legolas’ eye where the splinter protruded from his cheek.

            “There are many small splinters embedded in you also,” said Gimli.  “I will take care of them when I have got this next big bit out.”

            “Hurry, Gimli, before I look away!” begged Bandobras, and with a nod Gimli gave a quick jerk, and a long spike came away from the Elf’s cheek.  Éowyn once again washed it, and took a bandage from Faramir, pressing it to his face.  Legolas sighed.

            “Much, much better, my friends!” he said.  “Now, ere I lose too much more of my life’s blood upon this excellent pallet, who shall bind my skin back together again?  For if it is not drawn up I will grow ever weaker, and will be unable to joust on the morrow.”

            “Joust!” exclaimed Araval in surprise.  “What are you thinking, your highness?  You cannot joust after such an injury!”

            “But how shall we determine which of our esquires shall be the winner of their wager, lest we meet at the tilt?” asked Legolas.  “Surely you would not deny them that pleasure, Araval of Tarlang!”

            “Elves!” muttered Gimli, taking the splinters into his hands and looking at them.  Then his expression became keen, and he turned them over.  “Faramir!” he exclaimed.  “These are not merely wood.  Look!  That is lead or I am no son of Durin!”

            “Lead?” said Cirien.  “That has no business upon a tourney-lance.  Let me see!”

            Hador, Cirien, Mardil, and Araval all clustered about the Dwarf, examining in turn the long bloodied shard.  One side of it was smooth and sanded, but its reverse curved inward and sported a thick layer of bubbled lead, much pock-marked and scored.  “Very curious!” pronounced Araval, frowning.  “One might almost be tempted to say the lance itself had been hollowed, and this metal pressed upon the inside, though how that were affected I know not, nor may I guess.”

            “Can you not?” said Gimli with a grim smile.  “I believe I may, but I shall have to inspect quite carefully the rest of the lances this poor Herion bore.  And also we must determine whence they came, and perhaps discover who made them, and for what purpose.  Where is Beregond, Lord Faramir?  He and I ought to start our examinations immediately, lest some sly person carry them away and turn our search upon its head.”

            “You may go to seek him,” said Faramir, gesturing to the tent flap; “take Mardil with you, however, that you may not walk alone and unguarded.  It grieves me to say that my fiefdom is not safe for you now, but in light of recent events it were foolish to deny it.”

            “Lord Cirien, will you be so good as to accompany my esquire back to my tents?” asked Legolas from the pallet, as the Queen and Éowyn examined his wounds.  “I do not think I shall exit the leeches’ tents in my armour, and as I have little else to wear and no wish to either remain here indefinitely, or to quit it in my skin, I have need of clothing.”

            “Bring back a fine needle and thread as well, Bandobras of the Shire,” said Arwen as the Hobbit rose to go.  “Legolas is right; these wounds must be stitched together immediately, and the cat-gut thong is far too thick to use upon his face.  And while we await him, my friend, I shall take these small pliers here, and divest you of the numerous splinters embedded in your skin.”

            “Good-bye, Master!” said Bandobras, leaning down and kissing Legolas upon his unmarked cheek.  “I’ll be back quick as two shakes, honest I will, and I’ll bring your clothes and something to stitch you up with and – and – what else shall I bring you, Master?”

            “A bottle of wine would not go amiss,” said Legolas, with a shaky laugh.

            “Two or three bottles of wine, by your leave!” said Araval.

            “And goblets!” added Hador.  “It is difficult to drink wine without goblets.”

            “If you are quite finished,” said Arwen coldly, turning to the knight and his esquire, “I believe Bandobras has a commission appointed to him, and you are delaying him!”

            “Yes, your majesty!” said Bandobras, and giving his Master a hasty caress followed the smiling Cirien from the tent.

            “Has aught been done with my horse?” asked Legolas, as Queen Undómiel commenced her tasks.

            “Aye, Prince of Mirkwood, he is well enough,” smiled Éowyn.  “I commanded my kinsman Fréawine to see to him, and he, accompanied by both Híldaf and Éodild, have taken him to my own stables in Osgiliath, where they will see no further harm befalls him.”

            “He was wounded?” asked Legolas in surprise.

            “Yes, but only a little,” said Éowyn.  “Some diverse splinters of wood caught his legs, but were all, so far as Fréawine could tell, deflected from his body by the peytral and crinet, and harmed him no more than a stinging fly might harass him.  It was his wild concern for his master that excited him so, and caused those three no little trouble on their way back to Osgiliath, for he pulled and strained so upon the halter in his desire to be with you.  How is it, Prince of Mirkwood, that you cause even the beasts to love you?  I have met no one who has inspired such loyalty by the mere aspect of his face than you, nay, not even my friend the Evenstar here, who busies herself plucking splinters from your face as a middle-aged woman would pluck hairs.”
            “I do not know,” confessed Legolas; “it is all the more confounding that this unseemly trust and devotion confines itself to members of other races and not my own; many is the time I have been thwarted in my duties as regent through some subject or minor lord’s aversion to my commands.”

            “That is it then, your highness,” said Hador, stepping forward to pour water upon the stippled surface of the Elf’s face.  “You commanded; you did not simply stand and smile, as you do with us lesser beings.  How can we help but love you when you are kind and gentle and amusing?  But place you in the council-chamber against those whose will you oppose, or set you upon the battlefield over captains who disagree with your tactics, and I am sure you will find plenty of men to quarrel with.”

            “That is so,” agreed Legolas, smiling at him.  “So mark this thought well, O Lady of Emyn Arnen!  For soon will come the day when you and I are at loggerheads over some trifling thing, grazing rights or wells, perhaps; then I shall ask you to think back to when you asked me how I made all things love me, and you will know the answer.”

            “Or rather, I shall know the converse,” said Éowyn.  “But I do not think you could ever cause anyone to hate you.”

            “O yes!” said Legolas, looking at her with raised eyebrows.  “I have known hate.  Haven’t all who have fought the Dark Lord?  His minions hate all who oppose him.”

            “Well, perhaps,” conceded Éowyn, “but I still look forward with great pleasure to having you upon our right flank, for a strong ally is good, but a strong and amiable ally is best.”

            “And it seems to me, whoever this lord is who commands these dark deeds here, he hates you as well, Legolas of Eryn Lasgalen,” said Araval.  “Count up all the evil things he has done to you and yours!  He even hates you enough to slay innocent knights in his efforts to harm you.”

            “But I do not even know him,” protested Legolas; “how can he hate me, whom he has never known?”

            “I should rather say, he hates you for he has never known you,” smiled Hador.  “If he knew indeed who you were, if he sat with you and spoke to you, or shared a cup of wine with you; if he watched you as you are with Bandobras, if he saw you care for your horses – well then, your highness, I should guess he would never set you up as such a target of his plans, for though your father’s advance may retard his own advances, if he but met you face to face he would repent of these actions.  So I often feel myself, my lord, if I harbor discontent, or envy, or peevishness, and am confronted with the smiling and beneficent face of my own master:  How can such evil earthly things move me, when there are men such as he in the world?  It is a standard all esquires may strive to achieve.  So to my mind, he must be a man either greatly ignorant of the pain he is causing, or else he is completely wicked and cares only for his own gain, disdaining the worth of others.”

            “Either way, he is quite inconvenient,” said Legolas, as Arwen moved down to pluck the wood from his side.  “I had hoped to have a merry time here, jousting and fighting and afterwards feasting and meeting my new neighbors; instead I am maligned and libeled, my esquire kidnapped, an attempt made upon my very life!  I feel I ought to have rather taken my place at Faramir’s side and merely watched the Tournament, not sought to enter it.”

            “What difference would that have made?” asked Faramir.  “You would still have been discovered as the son of the one who was to refortify the Ethir Anduin.  You would still have been the target of malice and violence.  But then you would have been known as an Elf, and those weapons brought to bear against you would have been all the more powerful; as it is, your detractor thinks you a mere mortal knight, full of the fear of death and the lust for gold and accolades, and he gauges your strength and reaction against a mortal’s; it is in this he has been so far confounded.  It is your very character, Legolas, which perplexes him.”

            “Well I wish he would stop it,” said Legolas; “is it not bad enough, Faramir, that all the knights in the Tent City think I am stealing the hearts of the eligible maidens of Osgiliath and its surrounds; is it not enough my dear little Bandobras was assaulted and kidnapped and threatened; is it not enough poor Herion of Pelargir died beneath the death-throes of his horse on my account?  You have told me, dear Undómiel, to not blame myself; well and good, but how can I not, at least for Brytta, and Hallas, and Herion?  Would they not all be hale and whole had I never entered this Tournament?  Would not Hallas’ betrothed have remained faithful; would Brytta’s pride have not been pricked; would not Herion still breathe?  Had I stayed in the royal box and not ventured into the lists or the barriers those men would have remained untouched by the intrigue that surrounds me.”

            “Perhaps,” said Faramir.  “But then others no doubt would have become involved, and so been wounded or hurt because of it.  There is too much money, my dear prince, and too great stakes for our lion to become fastidious about whom he harms in his campaign.  Legolas, you have ever been in my eyes modest and unassuming; stay this arrogant assumption then!  It is not you the lion hunts; you are merely the obstacle in his path, and the others as well are but periphery impediments.”

            “Thank you, Faramir!” said Legolas with a sigh.  “It is well to know after all that I am too insignificant to be any more than a theoretical hurdle for a traitor to jump.”

            “I would not say that!” said Hador, who looked indignant for Legolas’ sake.

            “Well, I would,” said Legolas.  “Fear not for me, Hador!  When you have lived as long as I you will know that sometimes obscurity is the most effective tool in accomplishing one’s ends.”

            “That would be very difficult, for I doubt I shall live that long,” said Hador with a laugh.

            “And in that you have put your finger upon the most significant difference between Elves and Men,” said Arwen, not looking up from her work.  “We of the Eldar have lived long enough to see how inconsequential are our accomplishments in the span of time; Men have not that luxury, and so believe all their doings are of great importance and significance.”

            “But you are concentrating so hard upon pulling splinters out of someone’s chest,” said Araval.  “How is that significant?”

            “It relieves his pain,” said Arwen.  “That is one of the most noble tasks to be appointed anyone.”

            “Well, to be honest at the moment you are causing more pain than you are relieving,” laughed Legolas, flinching as she pulled a particularly large splinter out.  “But I know that in the long run I shall be grateful I shall not have to be sanded upon my right side.”  He turned to Faramir.  “Thank you, Lord of Emyn Arnen, for your truthful words!” he said.  “They are timely and wholesome, and have healed my inner hurts more than platitudes and flattery would have done.  You are right; this lion cares not for me, nor for my retainers, nor for any of the knights in the Tournament; he cares not for Aragorn, nor Undómiel, nor you and your lady.  He cares only for himself, and will see us dead in place of his plot’s ruination.  So I shall put aside this morose speculation and think instead upon what my next move shall be.”

            “And what shall it be?” asked Faramir smiling.
            “The joust with Lord Araval of Tarlang, of course!” laughed Legolas.  “I defeated the Red Knight yesterday, and after my joust with Herion I was to have been tried against the Dun Knight of Tarlang here.  What say you, my lord Araval?  Shall we joust on the morrow?”

            “If you wish it,” said Araval doubtfully; “however I do fear me your hurts shall impede your skill somewhat.”

            “Well, all the better for you then,” said Legolas.  “This Tournament has dragged on long enough.  There have been so many interruptions I am sure the Ceremonies Master must be beside himself.”

            “Perhaps he is,” said Faramir.  “But remember, that lance, the shards of which the Queen is removing from your body, was given Herion by Belecthor the Ceremonies Master.  To my mind that is very suspicious.”

            “Think you so?” said Legolas.  “It would be a bold move, and so far the lion has proved himself very subtle.  For myself I think the Ceremonies Master has been the pawn in this game, and had his foresight turned upon him.  Ever our enemy has used others to achieve his purposes – Hallas, Brytta, the unhappy Herion, even the traitorous Fenbarad.  It would not surprise me to learn Lord Belecthor knew nothing of this substitution.”

            “I hope not,” said Arwen, pulling out the last of the splinters and setting it with its brothers in a bowl.  “I like Belecthor, though he is exacting and high-strung; it would grieve me greatly to know him a traitor.”

            “Who would you rather, then?” asked Éowyn.  “Eradan?  Egalmoth?  Telemnar, who watches over Minas Tirith in King Elessar’s absence?”

            “Egalmoth, perhaps,” said Arwen thoughtfully.  “He has expressed on many occasions his dislike of foreign knights in general, and the Green Knight in particular.  It seems to me he resents the proof of power from sources other than Gondor.”

            “Did we not just determine I was merely his obstacle, not a man to be personally disliked?” asked Legolas.  “It seems to me he would be subtle indeed to allow his aversion to show publicly, for that would point the finger of suspicion upon him immediately, yet those with insight would think: ‘Nay, it could not be Egalmoth, for he would feign equanimity, in order to deflect mistrust from him.’  Well, as I know none of these men I cannot even guess with any accuracy.  But hark!  Is that not Gimli’s tread outside?  Aye, it is he, and our friend Beregond beside.”

            Sure enough Gimli and Beregond entered, each holding a lance in his hand, though when Gimli approached the pallet where Legolas lay they saw it had been dismantled: the coronel was unscrewed, the vamplate removed, and the tip of the lance was hollow.

            “Faugh!  What is that smell?” demanded Araval, recoiling.

            “Black powder,” said Legolas immediately.  “There is sulphur in it, the odor of which is rather unpleasant. I knew its scent the moment of impact.  Is that how it got into the lance, Gimli?  It is hollowed?”

            “Yes!” said Gimli, setting the pieces of the lance upon the table.  “Were this not so distressing a task I should be greatly interested in the construction of this weapon.  It is clumsy, though, risking hurt to the one who wields it as well as its victim.”  He thrust one thick finger into the hole of the lance.  “See you this?  Not only has the tip of the lance been hollowed, some six handbreadths or so, but lead was poured into it as well, lining it so that it would be heavy enough to fool any knight, and preventing the smell of the powder from seeping through the wood.  Then the coronel!  Do you see this little spring?  It is stiff, and it will take more than the strength of a man to press it.  But a great impact will cause it to depress, and then this piece here – “ Gimli held up a small piece of flint “ – also attached to a spring, will come into contact with it – “

            “Causing a spark, which ignites the black powder,” finished Legolas.  “Ingenious!”

            “Appalling!” said Faramir.  “Then the lance tip would explode, the shards of wood and lead fly like so many arrows in all directions, piercing all in its surrounds.”

            “Including Lord Herion,” said Beregond.  “I took the liberty of examining his body, my Lord Faramir, and had his horse not crushed him he would have soon died anyway.  There was a great chunk of lead embedded in his stomach.”

            “And the herald, Ethmor, has just had a big sliver taken from his shoulder,” said Gimli.  “Another few inches and it would have pierced his heart.  This was a close thing for you, Legolas my friend.”

            “But I do not understand,” said Hador, frowning and turning the pieces over in his hands.  “How does sulphur cause wood to fly apart in this fashion?”

            “It is not only sulphur; that is but the smaller part of it,” said Legolas.  “Black powder is mostly saltpeter and charcoal, and if the slightest spark or flame touches it, it causes a great bang, and if you are not careful you lose your hand, or worse.  We do not use it much, for it is volatile and dangerous, but the orcs loved it, caring not how many of them were destroyed in its implementation, provided their enemies were killed.”

            “Machinations of evil!” said Araval, but Faramir shook his head and said, “Nay!  Charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter are in themselves not evil; the evil lies in their use.”

            “Were it possible to ignite it from a distance, at no risk to the user, it would be efficacious in mining,” said Gimli thoughtfully, fingering the flint.  “A string, perhaps, that would burn slowly . . .”

            “At any rate, my lord, we have appropriated all the other lances that were given to Herion, Ingbar and Turgon,” said Beregond.  “I have set my men to carefully inspect them, to see if they are likewise tampered with.  I would not have a repetition of this joust for all the money in Harad.”

            Mardil came in at that point, and behind him were Aldamir, Cirien and Bandobras.  “Here we are at last, Master!” said the Hobbit cheerfully.  “And we picked up Aldamir on the way too.  He brought the goblets.  Put the wine down there, Lord Mardil, and Lord Aldamir, would you set the goblets on that table over there?  Has anyone got a corkscrew?  O, thank you, Hador!  Would you mind opening the bottles, please?  It’s that nice light red, Master, that we bought from that merchant in the village, the stuff you like so well.  I’ve put that leg of lamb on to roast.  We may as well eat it tonight, for if we don’t it won’t be fit for anyone’s consumption.  And I managed to find Hyardil, Master, and we have peas and mushrooms to eat.  I wanted to get some fresh bread, but I – “

            “Have you remembered the needle and thread?” interrupted Undómiel firmly.

            “O!  Yes, here it is!” said Bandobras, digging it out of his pocket.  “And I brought some clothes too, Master, and your hood and cloak so no one will see you.  Erm – “  He watched as Arwen sat beside Legolas and began to thread the needle with the fine silk filament.  “Do you, er, want me to do that, your majesty?”

            “That will be unnecessary, Master Bandobras,” smiled the Queen.  “I am a good seamstress, and you need have no qualms about my damaging him any further.  Éowyn, would you please pull down those cloths, and hold the candle aloft here, that I may better see what I am doing?”

            So while Hador opened the wine and poured it out for the knights in the crowded little tent, Queen Undómiel used her skills in needlework to close up the wounds of the Green Knight, who did not even flinch under her ministrations, the reason being, Bandobras announced, that he had held his Master’s hand throughout, and looked him in the eye, so he would feel no pain.  After his body had been wrapped in strappings, Bandobras and Gimli helped him dress while the Queen and the Lady of Emyn Arnen went with Hador in search of his horse.  Mardil and Araval propped him up with cushions and gave him a goblet of wine, and they sat discussing the incidents amongst themselves.  Faramir, it appeared, had changed his mind about waiting.

            “One day gone, no word from the King’s patrols, and victory on the Ethir Anduin,” he said.  “I am done with hesitating.  I care not whether Belecthor finishes his Tournament or not; tomorrow we muster and the day after we ride to Aldamir’s lands, to see what these men are about.  And when they are in our custody we will go to Minas Tirith, and try to flush out any spies or turncoats there.  Denuded of his tools the lion will have his teeth pulled, and we may pursue him with less fear of harm.”

            After a time there was the noise of hooves outside, and they could all hear Hatchet’s armour rattling and jingling as he moved.  The Queen entered and they all rose, save Legolas, who when he attempted to was pushed back down by Gimli.  “Here is your destrier, Lasgalen of Dale!” she said with a smile.  “He was most anxious to accompany us, as he knew you had great need of him.  Conceal yourself therefore, and get you hence; the leeches are anxious to have their tent back.”

            With Hador and Mardil’s aid Legolas rose slowly to his feet, though he had to stand still a moment while the room whirled about him, and he turned so white Faramir feared he would swoon.  But he shook himself instead and made his way haltingly to the door of the tent.  Arwen pulled up his hood and held the tent flap aside for him, and he stepped out.

            A great crowd of people ringed the tent, all watching for him anxiously, and when he appeared they all gave a great shout, crying his name and praising his strength.  Hatchet stood still while the Green Knight mounted, slow and painful though his progress was, and when he sat up in the saddle Gimli handed Bandobras up to him.  Beside the destrier were a light cavalry horse and a white palfrey, Éowyn’s Windfola and the Queen’s own steed, Tyelka.  The two ladies rode with him through the cheering crowd, accompanied by Araval upon his own destrier and Hador with his hackney, and left the Tournament grounds for the Tent City.

            The way was lined with folk, waving green and blue pennants and casting flowers and cattails upon the hard dirt track, which Hatchet trod insouciantly upon in his great gleaming shoes.  Legolas was glad of their accolades, for he had harbored a secret thought the whim of the crowd would be turned against him, thinking him responsible for Herion of Pelargir’s death; however it appeared he was in public opinion exonerated, and he felt relieved by their veneration.  So he nodded politely to them, and even accepted a posy from a young girl who sat perched upon a tree-branch, holding it out to him. 

            The crowd thinned when they entered the Tent City, but within the knights and esquires, the lackeys and servants, the blacksmiths and cooks all thronged about his destrier, shaking his hand and giving him their good wishes, which Legolas returned with sincere thanks, though the hand-shaking caused him a little discomfort.  Finally they gained his quarters, which were guarded by several of Beregond’s men, and Legolas felt he had never seen such a welcome sight as the great ostentatious tent, lit from within and glowing a soft green in the mellow twilight; several speckled wood-thrushes were perched upon its crossbars, and sickle-winged swallows darted to and fro about the pennants, hunting the moths drawn to its lights.  He could smell the fresh, pungent smoke of thyme-wood being burnt in the inner stove, and the savory rich scent of the roasting lamb.  The sky was opalescent, green and blue and flecked with vermillion clouds, and the great forest to the north was black against the horizon.  With a sigh of contentment Legolas allowed Araval and Hador to assist him from Hatchet’s back, and leaning upon Gimli’s shoulder he went inside.

            Bandobras went immediately to his kitchen, and Gimli to the stables; the Dwarf told him, “Sit you down upon one of those couches there, my good friend; but let us attend to these small duties first and we shall wait upon you forthwith.”  Legolas invited the others to stay, but they declined.  “Hador has been in a fever of apprehension concerning his stew,” smiled Araval; “it has been simmering all day and he fears this delay has caused it to burn.  Yet if it be wholesome and I not eat it in a timely fashion, he shall be all the more vexed with me.”

            “We are both slaves to our esquires’ stomachs, are we not?” laughed Legolas, and embracing Araval watched the good knight and his esquire go out.  The Queen and Lady Éowyn declined as well. 

            “Ardún was loath to allow me to leave him,” explained the Lady of Emyn Arnen with a laugh.  “He feels the excitement has been too much for his lady in her delicate condition, and has commanded me to return directly to my couch, where he will feed me, no doubt, upon plain beef broth and white bread.  I envy you your gigot of lamb, Prince of Mirkwood!”

            “And I shall escort her and commiserate with her,” smiled Queen Undómiel.  “Besides I am awaiting news of the King’s patrols, and should they appear I would not want them to have to seek me out.  Rest, my friend!  Perhaps tomorrow you shall ride with less pain.”

            “I hope so,” said Legolas.  “Else Bandobras will lose his bet with Hador.”  And kissing the two ladies he let them out.

            Soon both Bandobras and Gimli came back in, and Bandobras with many grunts and gasps moved a couch to sit before the bandy-legged woodstove in the center of the tent.  “So you can sit here and keep warm, Master,” he said, throwing cedar logs into it.  “There!  Doesn’t that smell nice?”

            They took their plates and cups and set them upon the floor, and ate by the stove.  The lamb was done to a turn, the peas swam in rich buttery cream, the bread was studded with savory olives and soaked in gravy, and the mushrooms, lightly fried with bacon, were beyond even Gimli’s reproach.  And with all Bandobras insisted his master drink plenty of wine, “For the pain, you know,” he said, though he was careful to drink none himself.  “I’ve had enough of that stuff to last me a lifetime!” he said with a shudder.  At last they could eat no more, and Legolas with a contented sigh leant back upon the cushions.  Bandobras gave a great yawn.

            “O but I am sleepy!” he said, rubbing his eyes.  “What a week this has been!  I feel as though I’ve aged about ten years.  Well, I suppose I’d better do the washing up.”

            “Never mind that, Bandy,” said Gimli kindly; “I think you are still recovering from your ordeal yesterday.  Just you sit here with Legolas, and I shall take care of it for you.”

            “Why, thank you, Gimli!” said Bandobras.  “How nice of you!  I am so glad to know now that Dwarves can be as nice as Hobbits.  I wondered there for a while, when I was with Dwóri and Gáin and those others.  But you have certainly proved me wrong, and I’m ever so grateful to you, Gimli.”  So saying he threw himself at the Dwarf, putting his arms about Gimli’s neck and kissing his hairy cheek.

            “There now, there now!” said Gimli gruffly, blushing a rosy red.  “That is quite enough of that, Bandy.  There’s no need to get so maudlin.  Sit back down and take care of your Master.  And you, Legolas – “ he shook his knobby finger at the Elf, who was chuckling.  “Just you sit right there and do not think of moving until I return.  If you persist in wanting to joust against Araval tomorrow you must keep up your strength.”

            “Of course, dear Dwarf!” said Legolas, smiling.  Grumbling to himself Gimli gathered up the plates and cups and stalked out to the kitchen.  Bandobras and his Master sat quietly for a moment, the Hobbit playing absently with Legolas’ hair and the Elf with an abstracted gaze looking into the fire.  Then Bandobras said:

            “Master, do you remember when you first brought me to your mother’s rooms, and I was afraid to sleep?”

            “Yes, Little One,” said Legolas, smiling at him and stroking his curly hair.

            “You told me a story then, to help me get to sleep,” said Bandy, snuggling up against Legolas’ chest.  “Would you like me to tell you a story tonight?  I’ve got a good one, all about trolls and goblins and a great warrior who rescues a beautiful princess.”

            “That would be enjoyable, my dear Bandobras!” said Legolas.  “I would take great pleasure in hearing your tale.”

            “O good!” said Bandobras.  “Let us sit back a little then, and when we are comfortable I’ll start.”

            When Gimli had finished washing and putting away the cutlery, he went back into the tent, intending to tell Bandobras to stop chattering and go to bed so his Master could get some sleep, but as it turned out that was unnecessary.  He stood by the stove in surprise looking down upon the two of them.  Legolas had stretched his full form out upon the divan, though his feet dangled off the edge, and Bandobras was tucked snugly in his arms, looking for all the world like a doll clutched by a child in slumber.  They were both deeply asleep, and Bandobras had his thumb in his mouth.  Gimli shook his head, smiling the tender smile he would never let the Hobbit see; he took a rug from one of the other couches and spread it over them.

            “They’ll wake up soon enough,” he thought, tiptoeing to the corner and sitting down.  “I’ll just wait here until they do, and help them both get into bed.” 

            Within five minutes he, too, was fast asleep.

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