Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Ten: A Sword And A Broken Trust.

Theoden was indeed impressed by the cousins' tale. He seemed delighted to have the Eored return, and ordered a feast to be prepared in Meduseld. To that feast the King bore a mysterious bundle swathed in black cloth, and when the feast was ended he bade Eowyn bear the cup to him.

"Westu Eam Hal" Eowyn spoke softly and touched her lips lightly to the rim of the cup. She gave the cup into her uncle's hands and lifting it, he drank to her.

"Hail Shieldmaiden of Rohan" he smiled.

Eowyn inclined her head slightly, and would have returned to her place, but the King held out a hand to stay her. Then, to Eowyn's lasting amazement, he unwound the black cloth and took from it a shirt of silver mail that shimmered as it caught the light of the dying fire. The corslet was all of silver, it's links finer and lighter than any Eowyn had seen. About the collar it was decorated with gold, set with small jewels of clear green. As if he were her esquire, Theoden cast back Eowyn's cloak and clothed her in the glittering mail. Then he stooped and lifted a belt wrought of gold and emerald and girded it about her slender waist.

Lastly, Theoden took from beneath a fold of dark cloth where it had lain hidden a sword in a scabbard of green leather. The sheath was clasped with gold also, and golden was the hilt of the sword, wrought in the likeness of two horses that reared their golden heads on either side of the blade.

Eowyn took the scabbard from his as one in a dream, and drew the bright blade shimmering into the air. She felt the perfect balance of it, the way the soft leather of the hilt was moulded already to her hand. The blade was long and slender, it's edges honed to an infinite sharpness. The blade was fullered, and down it's center was laid a tracery of horses and of small silver flowers. It was easily the most beautiful weapon Eowyn had ever seen.

"This sword is named Aenlic." Theoden spoke to the assembled crowd "These arms were borne by my sister Theodwyn, and before her by Morwen Steelsheen, my mother. They come now to Eowyn, daughter of Eomund. Hail Shieldmaiden of Rohan." And the people raised their voices in a great shout that filled all of Eowyn's being.

Eowyn tightened Windfola's girth a notch and stroked the smooth silver curve of the mare's neck. With Aenlic belted tight about her waist, she led the mare from her stall. Grima was waiting for her. She felt the touch of his hand on her shoulder, and spun swiftly around. His pale eyes were unfathomable. Eowyn felt his other hand close over her neck as she backed into the stable wall.

"Let me go, Grima." Eowyn spoke steadily, her bright eyes matching his dead ones. "Let me go."

"I wish thou would remain here." Grima's voice whispered hypnotically. His cold hand stroked at her throat. "Thou must not ride away, my Lady. Too much is at stake. It is too dangerous. If thou were slain..."

"I fear no orc nor man." Eowyn replied

"Even the mightiest may be slain by a single black-feathered arrow."

Eowyn fell silent, remembering Ellen, and the black arrows that had slain her father.

"It would not be well for thee to ride with the Eored again." Grima continued "If any ill befell the King in thy absence..."

"No evil will befall the King."

"Surely there are many perils in the world." Grima whispered, and his hand tightened about her throat.

Eowyn pushed him sharply away from her. Reeling on his crippled leg, Grima collapsed to the ground. Eowyn left him there. Without a word, she slid her foot into the stirrup, and swung herself into the saddle. With a nudge from her heels she turned Windfola, galloping from the stable. She was a shieldmaiden now. None could deny her her right. Eowyn swung Aenlic from the sheath as she rode towards her mustering Eored. She never looked back at the crumpled shape of her best friend, still lying on the floor of the stable.