Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Thirty Eight: Aenlic and Anduril

It was the ranger. Strider. "Thou hast some skill with a blade," he smiled, polite, condescending.

Angrily, Eowyn spun her blade away, struck back at him. Again, he met her blade with his own, held it there for a moment, testing her stregth. He struck back, and she parried the longer blade, twisting to take the weight of his thrust. Then they were duelling in earnest, silver blades flashing as they leapt and spun. The ranger's footwork was light, more delicate and refined than she would have imagined possible for a man of his height.

The larger sword darted back, aiming a thrust at her breast with considerable force. Aenlic caught it easily, turned it, spun back to the fight. The two swords danced seemingly with a will of their own, each the twin of the other. Aenlic sang through the air, and the resounding clash struck sparks from the ranger's blade. The weapon's song, so long repressed took flight again within Eowyn's blood, every fibre of her being thrilling to the clash of steel. The hall echoed with it; with the strong, assured steps of the ranger's leather boots; the light, springing footfalls of his partner. Neither took their eyes from the other's face. Eowyn glared into his grey eyes. The expression in them was unfathomable.

The ranger's sword flew from nowhere, and she sprang backwards with a yell of defiance. Her reflexes, so long disused were awake again, responding quicker than her thought could. The larger blade swept high and she ducked beneath it, her hair flying loose in the speed of her movement. She felt a wild rush of exhileration as the silver blade swept close enough to shear away a single lock of gold. With the eyes of a hunter, she found the opening she sought. Aenlic darted like a hawk of steel, and Eowyn felt the terrible joy and power of the sword.

And then, suddenly, they were still. Eowyn felt the bite of metal against the smooth skin of her throat, saw with a strange, double sense her own sword resting upon his collarbone. They stood as if stricken to stone, so close that the ranger could feel her breath, light and fast upon his cheek. Their eyes met with a sudden new respect.

"I flatter myself that I have more than some skill, my lord Strider." She smiled grimly, and there was a proud challenge in her tone. "The women of this country learned long ago that those without swords can still die upon them!"

Aragorn stared, shocked almost to silence. Suddenly, he knew who this girl was. Had known all along. It was there, in the precise turn of her head, in the cool stare of those queenly eyes. Not the daughter of Theodwyn alone, but the granddaughter of Morwen Steelsheen. Morwen, Thengel's Queen, who had been friend, and more than friend to him. This girl's eyes were grey rather than green, the proud sweep of her hair was pale gold to Morwen's copper, but their blood was one and the same. The Morwen he remembered had been a bright flame, her daughter Theodwyn a thing of ice. This girl was both, and more. Within her, the two elements seemed to clash and strive for dominance, beautiful and terrible to behold.

With true respect now, he withdrew Anduril and bowed to her. "Forgive me, Lady. You are indeed skilled beyond any I have met. Strider, you heard me called before, but my right name is Aragorn, son of Arathorn."

"And I am Eowyn, Eommund's daughter." She answered. She withdrew the blade from his throat and sheathed it. "You bear a beautiful weapon."

The ranger smiled. The shieldmaiden was a kindred spirit. "This is Anduril," he told her. "The Flame of the West."

Eowyn nodded slowly, as if he had answered some question that he had not known was asked.

"And are you so?" she asked lightly. Seeing his look of enquiry, she half-smiled. "The old women have a saying, here in Rohan. That you may know who a man is by the name of the sword that he bears."

The tall ranger considered her with a strange, almost appraising look. "And what name does thy sword bear, Eowyn of Rohan?" he asked her.

"Aenlic." The girl answered. "But she is not named for me. This blade once belonged to Morwen Steelsheen, my grandmother."

Aragorn smiled. "Even so, the name is fitting," he whispered. "Aenlic. Beautiful."