Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Three: The Festival

In the spring of that year, it was decided that the King would hold a day of tournament and mounted games. The court children waited excitedly for the day to approach, and all their talk was of the upcoming festival. Theoden had told the children, in confidence that he was expecting a visitor. Saruman the white wizard had decided to honour them with his presence, and with him was coming the wizard that the Rohirrim called Greyhame, a beggarly sort, but one who was always a welcome guest in Theoden's hall for his deep knowledge and ready wit, and his fantastical tales of far off lands.

The children could talk of little else in the days before the tournament. Eowyn rode now most days upon Windfola, and practised her swordplay with the others in any corner they could find.

The day of the festival dawned clear and chill. Eowyn was awake early, and she and Grima chased each other laughing through the courts of Edoras, until Theoden banished them to the stables.

The wizards had arrived the evening before, and now Saruman sat in earnest converse with the king, while Gandalf Greyhame played with the children. He sat with them now in the short grass above the field prepared for the tournament, his blue eyes twinkling as he listened to the children's talk. He held a long-stemmed pipe between his teeth, from which he sent forth, much to the alarm of the stable hands, trailing tendrils of thin blue smoke. This peculiar art was not practiced in the Mark, and the children wondered much about it.

"Aer faeder," young Idis asked with her eyes wide "Why dost thou spout smoke from thy mouth? art thou a dragon then?" The wizard chuckled merrily, his eyes alight with mirth.

"Nay, young mistress" he replied, solemnly "This art I learned from the Hobyltan, who dwell far away from this land." The children, sensing a tale, moved closer to the old man, and began the ritual encouragement.

"But thou knowest that the Hobyltan are but a tale." said Hama "They are not real, aed faeder."

"Are they not?" said the wizard, amused. "Well, I will tell you a tale of the Halfling folk, and at it's ending, you shall judge whether or no I speak the truth!"

The children cheered at this news, and snuggled closer, and Eowyn exchanged a quick smile with Grima. Tales of the little people had always been her favourite. A fantastical tale the wizard now proceeded to tell them. A tale of one of the Halfling folk, who had gone with the wizard and thirteen dwarves on a marvelous quest for dragon gold. The children laughed at the funny tale of a fat little Hobyltan who never wanted an adventure. Eowyn laughed with the others, and almost, she believed the wizard's tale. She would like to meet a Halfling, she decided.

The day was a great success. Theodred's eored won the mock charge, and he himself bested Erkenbrand of Westfold in single combat. Eomer bested every boy of his age, and Eowyn also defeated a good many of them. The King had at the last surrendered to Gandalf Greyhame in single combat, for the wizard, despite his age was one of the most skilled swordsmen Eowyn had ever seen. Theoden had made up for it, though in the jousting and feats of horsemanship, for, mounted on but a small bay mare, even the wizard was no match for the King of the Mark atop his great horse, Snowmane.

Saruman had declined to enter the competition, but sat in a wooden chair upon the bank, keeping a wary eye on the combatants. Suddenly, Eowyn noticed Grima leaving the ringside. He had bested Hama in riding at the ring, and now approached Eowyn.

"Come, Lily!" He shouted excitedly "It is time we were matched against each other!" Eowyn smiled, and sprang down the slope towards him.

"Come, then!" she replied, laughing. "I'll wager one of aed faeder's stories that thou canst not best me!"

 Grinning, the two children entered the ring. Both drew their short swords and bowed low to each other. Then suddenly, they were in motion. Eowyn struck first, her sword darted out, aiming a blow at Grima's breast, but he parried it easily, and suddenly, the two were flying, dancing this way and that across the ring. Their antics brought gasps of admiration from the younger members of the crowd, while Theoden looked proudly on his niece. Theodred had taught her well. Grima and Eowyn sprang apart, laughing, and then with the light of battle shinning in their eyes, and the blood coursing swiftly through their young bodies, they were drawn together again. Swords flashed silver in the sunlight, and the air was filled with the clash of weapons. Suddenly, Grima seemed to miss his footing, slipping in the treacherous mud. As he fell, his flailing sword caught Eowyn above her guard, striking through the linen of her dress. Grima heard the sickening sound of a blade cutting into flesh, and as he lifted his face from the mud of the field, he saw the red blood blossoming over the front of her smock.

For a moment, Eowyn met his gaze, his large eyes horrified and his face deathly white. Then Eomer was there. Swiftly, he vaulted the rope, and, gathering his sister into his arms, he bore her away towards the healers. Grima stayed where he was, kneeling in the mud, his face stricken with guilt and remorse, staring at the red blood staining his sword.