Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Twenty one: None But Traitors

They had scarce reached the plains when Shadowfax found them. The great stallion charged up the slope towards them with his strange, floating gait. His silver mane rippled in the wind of his speed, and his ears flicked suspiciously at the girl and the wizard. He slowed to a halt before them, his eyes narrowed at the aed faeder.

"This is Shadowfax." Eowyn said, almost reverently. "He is the chief of the mearas, lord of the descendents of Felarof."

Gandalf nodded as he held out his hand to the stallion. He stepped in close to the horse's shoulder, and Shadowfax blew questioningly into his face. Eowyn watcehd, amazed as the aed faeder returned the gesture. He looked the stallion fulll in the eyes, and his leathery hand carressed the smooth, white neck, feeling the hard muscle beneath the silky hair.

"Shadowfax," Eowyn spoke hesitantly. "If Gandalf Greyhame heals the King of his malady, wilt thou consent to bear him where he will?" for a moment the horse glanced at her, and his look was unfathomable.

"Eowyn," the aed faeder sighed "It is not within my power to heal thy uncle. I have neither the skill, nor the time. The horse will bear me when he knows my errand, but thy uncle must await my return. This much I will tell thee. It is Saruman the White who holds thy uncle in thrall. He is the chief of my order, and I may not work against him."

Eowyn's eyes narrowed. "Thou promised that thou wouldst heal him if I brought thee to Shadowfax. I have done so. Wilt thou aid me or no? Choose swiftly."

Shadowfax's ears flicked once, and his nostrils flared as he snorted. With half a glance at the horse, Gandalf protested urgently

"I tell thee, lady, I have no time!" he cried "I must needs go! I must reach the Shire before it is too late!"

Suddenly, Shadowfax reared up upon his hind legs and spun away. For a moment, they watched him galloping, his mane tossed defiantly, and then he was gone, and the sound of his hoofbeats faded into silence.

"Thou art a traitor, Greyhame." Eowyn hissed. "As much so as Saruman himself. Thou wizards art all in league, and Shadowfax knows it. I have brought thee to the horse. Catch him if thou hast a mind, and leave thy promises to rot, but he will not suffer such a traitor to mount him."

Angrily, the girl turned and strode swiftly back towards the courts.

Gandalf sighed. If only she could understand, that the only way he could help her uncle was by breaking faith with her. He must reach Frodo before the nine, or there would be far worse than this in store for Theoden of Rohan. And now Shadowfax was gone. He had lost so much time already. Perhaps it was already too late. Wearily, the wizard started forward, following the path that Shadowfax had taken. How many days it would take to catch him up the wizard could not guess. But there was no other horse in all the land of Rohan that could bear him with the stamina and speed that he needed now.

It was three days later that Hama of the guard brought the news to Edoras. Gandalf Greyhame was gone, and with him he had taken the finest horse that the Mark had known since Felarof himself. The King recieved the news in silence, but Eowyn's eyes flashed angrily as she stood silent in the deep shadows behind the King's chair. Cold anger filled her, and black despair; and Hama, looking long upon her vengeful face, knew that at last the final shreds of innocence and hope were torn from the Shieldmaiden of Rohan.

It was later that same day that Eowyn entered Theodred's chamber to find her cousin sprawled face downwards upon the stone flagged floor. Theodred's eyes were glassy and staring and a trickle of red blood stained the corner of his mouth. In his stiff hand was clutched a golden cup, and a pool of black poison stained the flagstones about his head.