Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Seven: Shadowfax

Eowyn held her breath as the huge stallion charged towards her. His ears were flattened against his skull, and his nostrils flared wide, scenting the invader. The stallion cried aloud as he closed in on her. His teeth were bared. Eowyn held her ground. She did not think that the horse would hurt her. He was a noble creature, and none of the Mearas would ever kill a child. She hoped. The great horse pounded up the slope towards her.

"I'm not scared of you." Eowyn whispered.

"Never let a horse know you are afraid." Theoden had told her once "Never show fear."
Eowyn looked Shadowfax full in the eyes as he halted before her. His ears were pricked suspiciously, and his eyes rolled.
 "I'm not scared of you." Eowyn repeated, lifting her chin defiantly. An amused look seemed to flicker in the horse's eye. He understood everything that she said. Quietly, Shadowfax lowered his head and blew gently in Eowyn's face. The girl blew solemnly back at him, exchanging a greeting with him as her uncle had taught her. This was it. Somehow, a horse knew by the smell of you whether you meant him harm.
"I need a favour, Shadowfax." Eowyn told him seriously. "I need thy help. It concerns my friend Grima."
The horse's ears flicked once.
"Grima is waiting on the next ridge." Eowyn told Shadowfax. She met the stallion's unflinching gaze, never breaking eye contact. "I need thou to let me ride thee."
 The horse did not move, but stared into the child's eyes.

 "Please." she whispered "I need thy help. It is important for Grima. If thou wilt bear me, mayhap he will take courage. He is trapped, Shadowfax, and I alone can free him. But I need thy help. Please."

 Silently, the great horse bowed his head. Then, slowly, the great animal knelt in submission. Eowyn placed a small hand upon the horse's silky mane, and swung herself onto his back. With a smooth motion, the stallion rose to his feet. Eowyn tightened her grip on the horse's mane, clasping her legs firmly about his silken sides. Her face was white, and she clung tightly to the horse's back. This was madness. None but the King of the mark might ride the Mearas. Eowyn thought of the trapped look in Grima's eye, and her resolve hardened. If this was what it took to free her friend, then this was what she would do.

"Run, Shadowfax." she whispered to the stallion. "Find Grima." Shadowfax surged forward, running with a strange, floating gait so that his hooves seemed barely to touch the ground beneath him. The stallion was faster than any horse since Felarof himself, the father of horses. Swift he ran as the wind in the grass, yet smooth as the snowbourn river. Eowyn clutched tight to the horse's mane, trusting the Stallion to bear her where he would.

Grima sat upon the rise, waiting. Eowyn had insisted upon going alone. He was filled with a nervous excitement, and a great fear. He didn't know why it was important to ride Shadowfax, but he knew, that if he could once master the great stallion, then the Wizard could never touch him again. In some strange way, Grima's escape, and very survival depended upon this horse. If once he could ride Shadowfax, then Saruman would know indeed that Grima could not be overcome, that he was still the rider he had been before the accident. Before he had killed Ellen.

'Don't think of that'Grima told himself. It is not Ellen, now who matters, but Shadowfax.'

 As though summoned by his thought, the white stallion crested the rise. His mane blew like snow in the wind, and a small golden figure nestled upon his back. Grima smiled almost his old smile. Lily was riding him. He knew she could do it. Lily could tame anything. He sometimes thought she was like a wild horse herself, so free of spirit, so untamed. Grima's whole body coursed with determination. If Lily could do this, so could he.

Eowyn slid from Shadowfax's back, smiling at Grima with a confidence she did not feel.

 "Now, Shadowfax" she said "Now, by thy will, Grima will ride thee."

The stallion bowed his head once, and stepped a pace towards the boy. Grima stood as Eowyn had, letting the stallion get the scent of him. But something was wrong. Eowyn knew it in the way Shadowfax's eyes rolled back, in the slight baring of his teeth. Something, he sensed about the boy was unsafe. The was a faint, sinister sense about the child, and Shadowfax could see what men could not. Grima reached out his hand to the stallion, asking, pleading that the horse accept him.

Shadowfax bowed his head, nostrils flared, and Grima reached out to grasp the horse's mane. Suddenly, the great stallion reared and wheeled, his ears flat against his skull, and his eyes angry. He screamed at the child before him, then swiftly, he turned and was gone. Grima fell to the ground, defeated. It was not until years later that Eowyn fully understood what had happened in that moment. It was the taint of Saruman Shadowfax had smelt, the touch of a cursed traitor. Eowyn watched Grima as he lay unmoving on the ground, and knew that in some strange, inexplicable way she had failed him.