Daughter of Kings
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,
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.