Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Five: The Accident

Grima let Ellen have his head, and took the hill at a gallop. He was going too fast, he knew, but Ellen could take it. Ellen was the bravest horse Grima knew, sure-footed and strong. He trusted his young rider implicitly, and no matter what Grima asked of him, the colt would deliver, throwing himself across rivers or trees at but a touch of his master's heels. that was how Ellen had got his name. Courage, he was in the tongue of the Mark of old.

The border skirmishes with the orcs had flared up again, as they raided the herds for their war. Grima had been sent with messages from his father, the Fourth Marshal of the Riddermark to Gamling, the Marshall of the Eastfold. News had reached them that a new raid had begun, and it was feared that this time, the orcs were not looking only for horses. Now Grima urged his colt along the tree line, aiming for a fallen forest giant that lay across the crest of the hill. Grima loved to jump. He steadied the colt for the approach, counting the strides. On the last stride, he pressed his calves to Ellen's sides and the two rose as one, flying across the twisted carcass of the beech tree, their dark hair blowing in the wind of their speed. Neither of them heard the arrow.

Ellen landed, stumbling, and Grima leant back to give him time to regain his balance, but the horse stumbled again, momentum pitching them forward towards the earth, and this time, Grima heard the unmistakable twang of a bowstring. Ellen stumbled to his knees, and Grima saw the black-feathered arrow sticking from Ellen's chest, slick with the colt's dark blood. A third arrow swooped through the air to bury itself in the horse's neck. Ellen screamed, and rolled onto his side, hooves churning the ground into bloody waves. Grima fell beneath him. He felt the crushing weight of the horse upon his chest, and felt his own ribs break. Slowly, the great horse shuddered, and then was still. The crushing stench of him smote Grima, and he felt a darkness eating at the corners of his sight. Sick with pain, Grima heard the shuffling footsteps of the orc archers as they approached their kill.

"Dead." a harsh voice rasped.

"Good." Fangs bared in a slow smile. "And the strawhead?"

"Not dead yet. Hurt bad enough though."

"Good." the grim smile widened. "Let us inform the master."

'Who is the master?' Grima wondered. A stench was in his nostrils, of blood and the horse's thickening sweat. 'Who is the master?' This one thought echoed about Grima's brain until his thought fled far away, and his eyes saw no more.

It was another day before any man chanced to come that way. By the time the carcass of the great horse had been rolled away, Grima was nearly spent. The riders returned him to his father's house where Freda tended to him, but there was little the healer could do for him. Grima's back was broken, his chest and both legs shattered. He lay unmoving upon his bed, his eyes shut fast and his breathing shallow. Eowyn and Eomer lay curled asleep upon the bed on either side of their friend. Theodred sat in a low chair beside the bed, and a single tear rolled down his cheek at the sight of the bloodied horsehair bracelet on Grima's wrist.

Galmod as yet knew nothing of the accident, he had not yet returned from the Westfold. Eowyn, with no more tears to shed slept beside Grima, one of his hands clasped tightly in hers, and their hair mingled upon the white pillow. Freda leant upon the door frame, her head bowed in anxious thought. It would have been better if the child had died. Even if he survived this night, he would never walk again. A shadow fell across the threshold. An old man stood there, hooded and cloaked, a white staff in his hand. Theodred looked up as Saruman entered, and for a moment thought to wonder how he had come there.

"I heard that the boy was hurt." The wizard said, by way of explanation. "Wilt thou let me see him?" Freda shook her head sadly as Saruman made his way to the bedside.

"I doubt even thou will be able to cure him master." she said quietly "The boy is dying." The wizard made no answer. He studied the three sleeping children a moment, noting the white bandages bound about the boy's thin chest. He sighed softly.

"I can heal him, mother." Saruman spoke into the silence. "If you allow me to take him with me to Isengard, I will heal the boy for you."

"He is not fit to travel..." Freda began, but a look from the wizard's dark eyes silenced her.

 She nodded her head once, and the wizard, with surprising strength, lifted the broken body in his arms. Eomer and his sister did not awaken, but slept on, though a change came into their faces, as of uncertain dreams. A horse waited outside. Together, Theodred and Freda stood at the door of the house and watched as the white wizard bore the child swiftly away from them.

' Who is the master?' the thought swirled about Grima's drowning mind. 'Who is the master?' then, unexpectedly, another voice answered. It was a cold voice, subtle and twisting, seeming to slide in and out of the child's sleeping mind. 'I am the master'
'Who are you?' Grima's thought screamed within him 'Why are you doing this?'

'I am the master.' The voice again, layered with hypnotic venom. 'I am the master.' The voice crept into Grima's mind, and his face contorted with the effort of repelling it. 'I am the master.'

'Help!' screamed Grima's own voice inside his head. 'Faeder! Theodred!' But he was drowning, and they could not hear him. 'Eomer!' he screamed, his voice high and terrified. 'Eowyn! Help!'

'I am the master.'

'No! Help!'

'I am the master!'

'Lily! Lily!'

Eowyn awoke suddenly from the dream, her heart racing, and she knew that Grima had died.