Chapter 1: Evenstar’s Holiday
Liv Tyler sipped her coffee as she gazed upon the busy streets of New York City, far below the living room window of her spacious apartment. The day had begun much like any other when she was between photo shoots and film work. She had been up at dawn and, after a quick breakfast and half-hour play period with Milo, was busily going over the portfolio for her latest Givenchy media work.
“Where is the morning going?” Liv said in amazement as she glanced at her watch. She walked back to the large sofa and placed her cup and saucer on the coffee table. Her short break was over. Spread before her was a series of sketches for her next photo layouts and magazine ads as well as a few tentative scripts for her upcoming commercials.
Liv leaned back on the cushions as she propped her feet on the table and placed a folder of sketches on her lap. She scribbled ideas of her own on a notepad as she riffled through the drawings. The studio rarely altered the designs of its art or photo departments, yet still welcomed her suggestions.
Liv idly stroked one ear as she perused another sketch. An odd, yet not unpleasant feeling, was immediately generated as her finger passed over the ear’s sensitive tip, sending a tingly sensation through her entire frame. Liv shivered for a second or two. “I’ve got to stop doing that,” she giggled.
Liv’s managers had gone to great lengths to cover up her sudden and inexplicable Elvish appearance. Most of her business associates wrote it off as the result of a psychological obsession with her role as Arwen Evenstar in Lord of the Rings. But how had she managed to have surgical alteration done in such a short time with no apparent healing period? Rumors soon abounded of a new team of miracle plastic surgeons offering their private services to the acting community. The tabloids took little time in speculating about Black Magic.
Liv sighed as she took another sip of coffee and pondered the events of the previous year. Although her world had been thrown into confusion, she remained a very resourceful and resilient individual. In a very take-charge manner, and with the assistance of good professional people around her, she speedily adapted to the situation. Her Elven ears were cleverly disguised by skilled makeup artists and even, in the case of her recent film roles, normalized through the use of CGI technology.
Liv’s stomach rumbled a bit as she checked her watch again. It was already well past eleven o’clock. “I wonder what’s for lunch?” she thought. As if on cue, a faint aroma of roasting chicken wafted through the room. Liv smiled as she picked up her pen and made another notation on her pad. No doubt, her housekeeper Rosa would soon make an appearance and announce that the table was being set for the noonday meal. A pile of unopened mail lay alongside her portfolios, but that could wait until afternoon.
* * *
NarqueliŽ 27, Year 52 FO
What a horrid month this has been! The weather has been mostly cold, windy and rainy. How I long to take a few early afternoon strolls on the Citadel lawn with the sun’s rays warming my shoulders. It looks as though I won’t have much of a chance to do that before the really cold weather arrives.
I thought the Senate would never finish debating the last tax reform bill. Poor Estel! It cost him many a sleepless night and long hours at his desk, yet he prevailed. I don’t know how he maintains his patience with those cantankerous old men. And yet, I must admit that it’s the same old grey beards who help him run the country, and it’s a remarkably fine job they do.
I stood outside the door of the Great Conference Hall yesterday, listening to the tail end of the final debate. Estel came out of it all smiles. He says he finally got everything he wanted at the end, but I can’t make heads or tails of any of it from the mountains of paperwork that were involved. I’d better just stick to the running of my own departments and the royal household, lest my husband’s business drives me bonkers.
Luthiriel and Forlong are already at the end of their three-week visit. They and my darling grandchildren brought a ray of light to an otherwise dull month. Luthiriel will be staying in Minas Tirith for another month after her family departs to resume her post as the Chief Advisor’s assistant. She’ll rejoin them at their Lossarnach estate at the end of the Senate’s autumn session.
What a pillar of support my daughter has become for Lord Orgrip. The aging Chamberlain has finally decided to retire after more than a century at his post. No date has been set, but Luthiriel says it will probably be within a year or two. It will be hard to see him replaced by Lord Myrica. The man has an irritating, nasal twang to his voice, but Estel and I both agree that he’s more qualified than anyone else for the job.
What a handsome prince my son has become! He’s just begun his first-year studies in politics and law at the Royal Academy. Estel and I have invested all our hopes and dreams in Eldarion. He has not disappointed us.
I’ve been having the oddest feeling that something unusual will happen soon. A premonition? It started about three weeks ago. At first, I thought it was Elvish intuition, but Melody Mirkmir assured me that it was most likely brought on by stress due to overwork and the unsettled weather. At least it doesn’t seem to be a return of my debilitating melancholy. I haven’t had a bout of that for nigh two decades. Melody and Adgar have both advised me to take a few days off──sound advice indeed. Late this afternoon I informed Luintelch that I'd be taking the next five days off for a bit of rest and recreation.
Like many important public officials, I sometimes think the government would fall apart if not for my constant presence. The King does not labor under such delusions. Estel needed a break from his duties in YavanniŽ and took a week off for a hunting trip, while I foolishly insisted on staying at home and working my butt off. I haven’t had a decent rest since last spring and I certainly deserve one now. My secretaries have already rescheduled my meetings for the next week. It will be good to sleep late tomorrow and spend the balance of the morning lounging about in my robe.
The hour is late and Estel has just ordered Elweena and Freida to extinguish the candles. I shall go to bed now.
(Excerpt from Arwen’s Diary)
* * *
“Good morning, My Lord,” said the custodian of the Minas Tirith Historical Archives, springing to his feet at the appearance of an elderly scholar at his office door.
“Nine o’clock in the morning is hardly early by my schedule,” the old gent growled in feigned grouchiness. “I’ve been up for more than three hours. Why can’t you people open up earlier?”
The custodian grinned as he took his keys from his belt and placed them in a desk drawer. He had unlocked the building and let in his assistants just moments ago. He and Zangdan Wolf went through this charade every time the ancient scholar came to do research here──which was increasingly often as of late.
“So, what’s on today’s agenda, My Lord?” the custodian asked jovially. “Are you finally going to gather material for that biography of Gandalf the Wizard that you’ve discussed so many times?” He couldn’t help but notice the two thick notebooks that the retired Chief Magistrate of Pelargir carried under his arm. “Or are you going to investigate another aspect of the Occult for yet another book on that subject?”
“None of the former and a bit of the latter,” Zangdan replied with a sly wink. “Do you remember that Evenstar look-alike who caused a minor stir in the Citadel about two decades ago?”
“Yes,” said the custodian, offering his guest a chair as an assistant brought in tea, “although all I heard about her was the gossip. Her name was Lady Livtyler as I recall. All her possessions are still stored here under lock and key.”
“That’s why I’m here,” Zangdan said. He accepted a proffered mug of tea, then dismissed the assistant with a curt nod toward the door. “To the best of my knowledge, no one has subjected those objects to scientific scrutiny since they were deposited.”
“That’s right. At our last inventory, the box containing her things still bore my seal. No one has opened it for nineteen years.”
“Excellent,” Zangdan said, taking a tentative sip of the hot herbal brew. “Unless you’ve got urgent business to take care of, I’d like you to retrieve it for me at once. I’ll need the use of one of your empty offices too.”
The custodian thoughtfully bit his lip for a moment. Usually, a request to view such controversial items had to be accompanied by a permit bearing the seal of a government official; in this case, the seal of the Chief Constable or even that of the Queen herself. But, over the past three decades, Zangdan Wolf had established himself as one of Gondor’s leading scholars and historians. His credentials were impeccable. He was more than fully qualified to have access Lady Livtyler’s possessions.
“I’ll give you the key to the room directly above my office,” the custodian said, “as well as the key to the box. One of my assistants will bring it to you shortly.”
* * *
Arwen awoke to the faint, girlish whispering of her handmaids somewhere in the royal bedchamber. She moved her arm under the blankets to embrace and snuggle with her husband, only to find a cold hollow where he had lain. “Estel must have gotten up a while ago,” she thought, remembering that this was the first morning of her five-day hiatus from work.
The whispering continued. This time, her handmaids’ voices were joined by that of her husband. This meant that he must have decided to work at his desk for a few hours before setting off for the day’s business. Indeed, she could hear the faint scratching of his nib on paper after the handmaids quietly left the room. “Mmmm,” Arwen purred contentedly as she pulled the covers up to her ears. She would sleep a while longer.
Evenstar had little idea if she had dozed off again or how long she might have slept, for she was suddenly again aroused by girlish whispering and giggling. This time, the voices of ElladanÍth and EllamanÍth, her twin daughters, were added to those of her handmaids. Arwen peeked out from her cozy nest, blinking in the early morning sunlight streaming through the partially opened drapes. “A sunny day at last,” she thought happily. “I think I shall go for a stroll today.”
The pleasant odors of bacon, eggs and steaming lembas tickled her nostrils, bringing her to full wakefulness. Her daughters were placing covered serving trays on a folding table which the handmaids had set up near the royal bed.
Arwen pushed back the covers. She could stay abed no longer. “Will you hand me my robe, Elweena?” she said to her First Handmaid as she stretched languidly. “The room is a bit chilly.”
Freida, the Queen’s Second Handmaid, immediately added a couple chunks of wood to the stove at the center of the bedchamber. Within a minute, the fire crackled invitingly.
“We were hoping to serve you breakfast in bed, Nana,” ElladanÍth beamed.
“Yes, Nana,” her ten-year-old twin chimed in eagerly. Ada told us at breakfast that you were taking a few days off from work. Does this mean you’ll get to play with us?”
“Of course,” Arwen replied as she slipped into the robe Elweena held out for her. Once seated, she immediately sipped the hot herbal tea. The cobwebs in her brain gradually dissipated. “Aren’t you two rascals supposed to be at your lessons?” The twins merely exchanged glances and giggled.
“You have been working too hard, my dear,” Aragorn said over his shoulder. “You’re losing track of time. It’s Saturday. The girls are off from school.”
“In that case, I’ll definitely have time to spare for my darling daughters,” Arwen said, helping herself to bacon and scrambled eggs. “Now, I want to have breakfast in peace,” she told the twins. “Go do your homework. We’ll take a stroll around the Citadel and then do some shopping in the city before lunch.”
“We’ll have to have a late lunch if you’re going to do that,” Aragorn remarked. “It’s already a bit after nine o’clock.”
“It would appear that Doctor Mirkmir was right,” Arwen said in amazement. “I must have been totally exhausted to have slept so soundly and so late.”
“A late lunch is alright by me,” Aragorn said, gathering up his paperwork into a portfolio. “Eldarion and I have to meet with some of the city engineers in a little while. We probably won’t be finished until early afternoon. Let’s eat around two o’clock.”
“That sounds good, Nana,” ElladanÍth said eagerly to her mother. “EllamanÍth and I can have a quick snack before we set out.”
Arwen helped herself to more tea. She was already in a carefree mood. “Very well. Run along and do you homework now. We’ll leave in an hour.”
“I’ll be off too,” Aragorn said, seizing a daughter in each arm and swinging them in a circle while they squealed with delight.
“Be careful,” Arwen laughed. “You’ll break the furniture!” She soon found herself smothered by hugs and kisses from the boisterous trio. Arwen heaved a delighted sigh as they left her alone to finish breakfast. The handmaids dutifully retreated to a bench to await their mistress’ next command.
Arwen hummed tunelessly to herself as she buttered a square of warm lembas. Her premonitions of the past several days had completely slipped her mind.
* * *
Zangdan Wolf looked down from the second story gallery of the Minas Tirith Historical Archives building. Below him was the foyer and reception desk where the Chief Custodian and several of his assistants worked. Behind them was a tall bronze statue of Mardil, first Ruling Steward of Gondor. Mardil had donated the archive building to Minas Tirith near the end of his stewardship. It had undergone numerous additions and renovations over the next millennia, the most recent of which had been done during the early years of King Elessar’s reign.
Wolf gazed upward. Two more galleries circled the foyer. Above the fourth story gallery was a series of large skylights which cast a warm morning glow on the lower levels. Small cards were fastened to the many doorways leading from the galleries, indicating what books or scrolls were stored therein.
Very few people crossed the foyer within Wolf’s view as he leaned against the ancient balustrade to get a better overhead look at the Chief Custodian’s work area. Only the occasional scholar or lawyer accessed the archives at this early hour. He scarcely noticed two cleaning women toiling with mops and rags at the far end of the gallery. Had he paid more attention, he would have exercised more caution, for he had met them many years ago. Both had had an intimate connection to the articles he was about to study. Wolf’s attention was suddenly drawn to the sound of a door being unlocked behind him.
“I believe this is the office the Chief Custodian was referring you to, My Lord,” said the assistant who had accompanied him. He pushed the door inward, beckoning Zangdan to precede him. Without realizing it, he pocketed the key instead of turning it over to the scholar.
Wolf found himself in a large room, made smaller in appearance by crowded shelves of musty books against the walls and a much cluttered table at its center. Early morning sunrays streamed through a row of small, high windows opposite the door.
“Sorry about this mess, My Lord,” the assistant muttered as he placed the lantern he carried on the table and moved untidy stacks of dusty books out of the way. He brought several candles to the table and lit them.
“Yes, this should do quite nicely,” Wolf said approvingly, placing his notebooks on the table and pulling up a heavy oaken chair. “I just hope your co-workers don’t take all morning with that box.”
He didn’t have long to wait. Scarcely had he seated himself when two young men entered carrying the aforementioned box between them.
“Does one of you lads have a penknife?” Zangdan asked, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. One was quickly produced. Wolf eagerly cut the cord and removed the Chief Custodian’s seal. The three assistants crowded forward, keen for a peek at what had sparked the scholar’s interest so deeply, but sighed in disappointment as he motioned them all toward the door.
Zangdan groped in his pocket for the key the Chief Custodian had entrusted him with. He swung back the box’s lid, raising the lantern over objects which had not seen light for nineteen years. Gingerly he removed Lady Livtyler’s cloak and laid it neatly on the table. Next to it, he placed her boots, gloves, dress and the exquisite copy of Hadhafang. Much to his surprise, her leather purse containing twenty gold sovereigns had also been stored with the collection. Lastly, he removed the small jewelry box in which Luthillia had kept Livtyler’s Evenstar pendant.
Zangdan was surprised and delighted with the well-preserved condition of the objects. He had fully expected those made of cloth and leather to be severely degraded by mold, but those objects had been meticulously cleaned before storage. The jewelry box had been buffed with wax and the metal items covered with a thin, protective film of oil. Lady Livtyler’s things were in the same condition as the day on which the airtight chest had been sealed.
Wolf opened one of his notebooks to a blank page and began recording a detailed description of each item. For a few of them, especially the pendant, he made meticulously accurate, fine-lined drawings. Thus, he labored, filling well over a dozen pages with notes. In what appeared to be a short space of time, he was rudely interrupted by a growling stomach. “It can’t be lunchtime already!” he muttered to himself as he got up and headed for the door.
* * *
“You men hold the fort,” the Chief Custodian said to two of his newly arrived assistants. “I’m going out for a bite to eat.” The two looked up only briefly from the books they had begun cataloging.
“I say, my good man,” came a voice from above. The Custodian looked up to see Zangdan Wolf regarding him from the second-level balustrade. “Is it noontime already?” the scholar asked.
“Yes, it is, My Lord,” the Custodian replied, reaching for his hat and coat. “I’m going to the Shy Maiden Tavern for lunch. Would you care to join me?”
“I’d love to,” Zangdan replied. His good-natured voice echoed loudly in the huge chamber. “Let me grab my cloak and I’ll be right down.”
* * *
Morfinn leaned wearily against the second gallery’s balustrade, waiting for her sister Celephinn to return from the washroom with two pails of fresh water. She was in no hurry to get on with the task of mopping and dusting, for their lives were a tedious, daily repetition of drudge. She perked up as an elderly scholar emerged from one of the rooms on the opposite gallery from where she stood.
“I say, my good man,” he called out to someone working at the desk below, “is it noon already?”
“I know that old fellow,” Morfinn thought. He failed to notice her standing in the shadows, or maybe he was simply indifferent to a cleaning woman going about her daily business. After a brief exchange with someone at the desk, he went back inside for his cloak, fumbled for something in his pocket that clearly wasn’t there, and finally left leaving the office door slightly ajar.
“What are you gawking at?” Celephinn asked, arriving at last with the water buckets.
“You know that creepy old scholar that we’ve been seeing lurking about the stacks of books every now and then?” Morfinn asked as she began half-heartedly dusting the balustrade with a damp rag.
“You mean Zangdan Wolf?” Celephinn replied, reaching for her mop.
“Yeah, him. He just came out of that office over there,” she said with a nod in that direction.
“So, he left the door unlocked,” Morfinn said in a low, mischievous voice.
“How do you know?” Celephinn rasped. A sense of danger came over her. She didn’t like the way the conspiratorial way her sister was whispering.
“He fished around in his pocket for something. Then shook his head and left. I think he was going to lock the door after him, but couldn’t find the key. The room must contain something of interest, otherwise he wouldn’t have tried to lock it.
“Morfinn, the Custodian expects us to get this whole gallery cleaned by day’s end,” Celephinn whispered back. “We don’t have time for any poking around.”
“Bollocks!” Morfinn giggled lightly. “The old scholar’s just gone to lunch with the Custodian. We might never have a chance like this again!” With that, she threw down her dusting rag and skipped like a young girl down the gallery. Celephinn had no choice but to follow.
“See?” Morfinn whispered as they arrived at the slightly-ajar office door. “It’s open, just like I said.”
“Morfinn, sometimes I think you’re the nosiest woman in Middle Earth,” Celephinn said in a low, exasperated voice. “You’re going to get us in trouble. Why are you always so keen to poke around in other people’s business? Let’s go back and finish our work.”
But Morfinn was too tempted by the thrill of discovery to quit now, for theirs had been lives of tedium and boredom for much of the past two decades. When the opportunity for even a trivial adventure presented itself, she took it, often to the embarrassment of herself and her younger sister. Morfinn carefully peeked through the spindles of the balustrade at the desk below. The clerks were completely absorbed in their work. Neither looked up or showed any sign of having heard the women’s stealthy movements.
The door creaked ever so slightly as the women entered the office. Morfinn glanced only briefly at the musty shelves and books. The real prize was what was on the table.
“Oh, why do I always listen to her and follow her?” Celephinn silently reproached herself. “She’s only a year older than me!”
“Lord Wolf has been making detailed notes and sketches of these items,” Morfinn observed, looking over the objects on the table with mischievous delight. “Here, look at his notebook! What exquisite drawings!”
“These things look familiar,” Celephinn noted apprehensively. “There’s something ominous about them too. We shouldn’t be in here, Morfinn. Someone probably had a good reason for keeping them locked up. Let’s forget about this nonsense and get back to work,” she pleaded. “Please!”
Morfinn ignored her. “You’re right. These things are familiar. Don’t you remember these riding clothes and this sword? These are the things that Lady Livtyler had in her possession when we were handmaids to her!”
Celephinn couldn’t help but heave a deep sigh of nostalgia. “Yes, you’re right,” she said in a barely audible voice. “That was a happy time, yet so brief. How could our fortunes have declined so precipitously after the Lady was gone? It wasn’t fair.”
Morfinn suddenly let loose a gasp of shock as she opened a small jewelry box and peered within. “Lady Livtyler’s pendant!” she exclaimed, lifting it out with both hands for closer inspection. “How beautiful!”
“Morfinn, don’t touch that thing!” Celephinn said worriedly. “Don’t you realize that it belonged to a sorceress? Who knows what dreaded powers it holds?”
Celephinn’s words had no effect upon her sister. Morfinn’s eyes filled with tears as she stared, transfixed at the pendant. “She was such a beautiful Lady──she was our Lady and we were her handmaids. Oh, why did she have to leave us?”
Celephinn took her sister gently by the shoulders. “I must confess that I missed Lady Livtyler for quite some time after she departed Middle Earth,” she said in a conciliatory tone, “but that’s the way it had to be. She didn’t belong here.” She cast a worried glance at the way they had come in. “Enough of this. Put it back and let’s go.”
“I can’t accept that,” Morfinn sobbed, ignoring her sister’s pleas. “I miss her so much, and our lives are so shabby. It’s just not fair, Celephinn! We would have served her loyally for the rest of our lives. Why couldn’t she have taken us with her?”
“I don’t know,” Celephinn replied as she embraced her sister. “I don’t understand such things. Now, please put that pendant back. We must get out of here. These things are making us too maudlin.”
“I can’t help it,” Morfinn sniffled, clasping the pendant to her breast. “I remember Lady Livtyler as clearly as if she’d been with us yesterday. Don’t you also wish that we could be with her again?”
“Of course I do,” Celephinn said soothingly, kissing her sister on the cheek. “Now, put the pendant back.”
Before Morfinn could respond, however, the candles began to flicker strangely.
“What’s happening?” Celephinn gasped in alarm as the air around them crackled and distorted grotesquely. “Morfinn, what have you done?”
* * *
“Galuchin, did you just see or hear something up there?” one of the archive clerks asked his co-worker.
Galuchin glanced briefly at his colleague, then followed his gaze to the office on the second-tier gallery above their desk. “Maybe a flash of light, Erthor,” he mused, “out of the corner of my eye.”
“Isn’t that the office where Lord Wolf is doing some research?”
“Yes, but it’s empty right now. We both saw him go to lunch with the Custodian a few minutes ago.” He motioned his friend to silence and listened for a moment. “Where are those two cleaning women?”
“Morfinn!” Erthor called out. “Celephinn!” His voice echoed and died in the cavernous chamber. “Hmmm,” he muttered suspiciously. “I’d better go have a look.”
Erthor quickly bounded up the stairs. The cleaning women were nowhere in sight. He strode to the door of Zangdan Wolf’s temporary office, alarmed to find it slightly ajar. There was a strong smell of sulfur and ozone about the room. The scholar had clearly paused to go to lunch in the middle of his work, for the contents of a nearby storage chest were laid out neatly on the room’s large table next to a pair of open notebooks.
Erthor’s heart skipped a beat. A handsome jewelry box bearing a lady’s crest lay suspiciously open and empty on the table. He examined Wolf’s sketches, then snatched up the manifest of the chest’s contents, hastily running his finger down the list. “By Erķ’s trousers,” he muttered, “there’s going to be trouble now.”
“Galuchin!” Erthor called down from the balcony. “Send the messenger boy to fetch the constables.”
“What’s happened?” Galuchin asked apprehensively from below.
“Lord Wolf was making a sketch of a very expensive-looking Elvish pendant,” Erthor replied urgently, “probably made of silver or mithril. The bloody thing’s gone──and so are those two cleaning women!”
* * * * *
Disclaimer: This story is fan fiction based upon the worlds and characters created by J.R.R. Tolkien and Rod Serling. It is written solely for the entertainment of my readers and I make no profit from it of any kind. This story is fictitious and is not intended to be an actual portrayal of the behaviors, lifestyles, business dealings or domestic lives of the actors mentioned herein.
This story contains more than a mystery. It also involves a journey from Minas Tirith to Lothlůrien and the things, places and people that a traveler might well encounter at that point of Middle Earth history.