The Dragon and the Fox
Chapter 68: Stormsinger
The Riders laid their
cloaks across spear shafts to make a crude litter and placed the Lady
Éowyn carefully on it but she showed no sign of life. In their
grief and haste they were not gentle and Éowyn’s broken arm was
jolted, but a numb blackness had settled on her and she was barely
aware of the pain of jagged bones raked against each other.
As if in a dream she felt her sword taken from her hand..
‘Not my sword!’ she thought fiercely, but she was helpless to stop the
hilt being prised from her grasp; the deathlike chill that had entered
her blood when she struck dead the Lord of the Nazgul prevented her
from speaking or moving…
‘Can you not leave it to your brother Éomer to avenge your
father, my dear Éowyn? I would have you here by me in Edoras,
not riding out in peril to fight our foes on the Riddermark….’
It was early evening and the bright spring sunlight was streaming into
the Golden Hall. Servants were hurrying past to prepare the evening
feast, but Théoden ignored them. He threw a turf on the great
open hearth that stood in the middle of the hall then straightened up
and brushing the dust from his hands he said quietly.;
‘Éowyn, my sister-daughter, you are as dear to me as
Théodred my son. Among our people it is a great honour for a
woman to carry arms and bear a shield, but your place is in the royal
‘Spinning and weaving, my lord uncle?’ Éowyn broke in
impatiently. ‘Rather than embroider some fine cloth for the moths to
eat I would have the ravens of the battlefield devour me!’
Théoden frowned and shook his head, then laughed in spite of his concern.
‘No-one will ever cage you, shieldmaiden of the House of Eorl!’ he
said. Then he drew a long sigh and took Éowyn’s hand in his own
and said gently;
‘The people could not bear to lose you, Éowyn. I could not bear
to lose you. Sometimes we must put aside what we want and do what we
He raised a hand as Éowyn went to protest.
‘No, I am not going to give you a lecture on duty. Just remember the wishes of an old man….’
And a roguish gleam came into Théoden’s eye and Éowyn
thought wryly that he had never looked stronger or more capable. Then
her uncle put a hand on his sword hilt and said;
‘I will order the smiths to make a sword just like my own Herugrim. You
may bear it to war, on condition you bide here too when I command it.
Do you agree?’
The great sword Herugrim, handed down by his forefathers to King
Théoden, had hilts wrought in the likeness of two horses’ heads
facing each other and was the most famous in all the Mark. Éowyn
could hardly restrain her excitement;
‘Yes, my lord uncle!’ she exclaimed. ‘and by your leave, order your
swordsmiths not to make the blade any lighter. I can wield what a man
Théoden bowed in assent.
‘As you wish, Lady’ he said, silently resolving to order the smiths to
pare the fuller and so lighten the weapon by an ingot of steel. He took
his niece’s arm and went on;
‘Tonight we hold a feast to welcome the counsellor sent by Saruman; his name is Grima; you will grace the banquet….’
And so the smiths of Edoras made Stormsinger, the sword of Princess
Éowyn. It matched Herugrim in design but the horses' heads were
smaller and had eyes of garnet, glowing red in the light of the forge.
When Éowyn first bore it to weapon practice the men called it
Breo Dearg, the Red Brand.
When Théoden saw how much Éowyn loved the sword he was
glad; but when he saw how much time she spent at practice with it he
grew uneasy. At last he said to her;
‘My dear Éowyn, it is time you took a waiting lady….’
Éowyn looked aghast.
‘My lord uncle, I have no need of some silly girl to wait on me. I can dress myself!’
They were standing in the weapons hall and Éowyn wore a riding
suit of leather, scuffed and stained. Théoden said drily;
‘So I see’. Then he put his hands on his niece’s shoulders and said;
‘I would like you to be attended, at least during feasts when we welcome lords from afar…’ he saw Éowyn’s shoulders sag.
‘It will not be some silly girl, I promise. Gamling has a niece, and I
hear she can wield bow and blade as well as you can yourself. Her name
At the feast that night Éowyn sat stiffly at the King’s table,
and beside her sat her new lady in waiting, a girl about a year younger
than herself and somewhat shorter, with long red hair wound in heavy
braids and a broad, composed face. She had heavy-lidded grey eyes and
did not seem put off by her new mistress’s coldness. Éowyn
wondered was she really as good at bow and swordplay as her uncle said.
She glanced along the table at the king; Théoden was talking
battle tactics with her brother Éomer and Prince
Théodred. Beside them, bored but watchful, sat the weasel-faced
counsellor sent by Saruman. Grima. No-one would notice her leave. She
rose and bowed and the guests bowed back. Mira got up to follow her.
‘You can stay’ whispered Éowyn as they got to the walkway running along the outside of the hall. ‘I don’t need you….’
Mira flushed in the darkness beyond the reach of the feast-hall lamps. She said;
‘I was told to wait on you…’
‘I want a sword-thane, not a maid-servant….’ said Éowyn.
‘I can wield a sword as well as you!’ snapped Mira.
Éowyn studied the girl’s broad honest face; spots of angry colour burned in her cheeks. Éowyn said;
Mira smiled and said;
‘Very well, I will. Follow me….’
Outside the moon was sinking to the jagged black line of the distant
mountains. Lady and maid disappeared and returned some minutes later
with their swords. They eyed each other as they tied up their kirtles
and bound up their long hair with strands of wool. Éowyn gripped
Stormsinger and Mira held a finely-wrought sword which her uncle
Gamling had borne as a young warrior; its hilts were of silver and
fashioned in the likeness of a wolfs-head.
‘Guard yourself!’ said Éowyn and attacked first, wanting to end
the contest as quickly as possible. But Mira, whose name meant
swift-footed, dodged the stroke and returned the blow. Moonlight
glinted on the fine steel blades and blue sparks flew and faded in the
The moon sank lower and touched the tops of the mountains, and still
they traded blows, but without either gaining advantage. Éowyn
was taller and quicker, and had had only the best swordmasters, but
Mira was dogged and strong and gifted with an instinct for what move
her opponent would make next.
At last they paused, exhausted, standing back and leaning on their
swords. Mira smiled at Éowyn in the moonlight and said;
‘Well, will I do?’
Éowyn, still out of breath nodded.
‘Yes’ she panted. ‘You’ll do…’
‘Mira!’ said Éowyn. ‘Where is Stormsinger?’
All around them servants and guards were hurrying up and down the Hall,
packing what was to be carried with them to Helm’s Deep, and locking
what was to be left behind in great wooden chests.
‘They have locked it up!’ replied Mira indignantly. Éowyn laid a hand on the girl’s arm and said;
‘Find it, I beg you Mira, and bring it to me ….’
She unfolded the sacking to reveal Stormsinger’s fine scabbard of red
leather, worked in gilt and bearing a device of galloping horses.
Ignoring the chaos of the Hall she picked up the familiar weight and
gripping the handle she drew the great bright blade from its sheath.
She smiled; she would bring it with her. In the confusion no-one would
notice…she laid a long slim hand on the blue-tinged steel then taking
hold of the hilts she swung the sword up and over her head and
down….and without warning it clashed with another blade raised to block
Éowyn started and moved quickly to recover her guard. The other
weapon was removed and she found herself facing Aragorn. Without
thinking she lunged again, and again he blocked her thrust. A charge of
energy ran from the blue steel of the Rohan sword down the white steel
of the fine Noldorin dagger. Aragorn felt it in his arm like the shock
of ice or fire; it seemed to run straight to his heart and he sensed
the anger behind Éowyn’s sword stroke. But he felt something
else too; fear…..
‘You have some skill with a blade, my lady…’ he said softly, for
Éowyn’s face was pale and fierce. He lowered his Elven hunting
knife and spread his hands, leaving his heart undefended to her sword
point. As if suddenly remembering herself, Éowyn hastily drew
back. She fumbled to sheath the sword, avoiding Aragorn’s gaze and
‘The women of this land learned long ago that those without swords can still die upon them. I fear neither death nor pain…’
‘What do you fear, my lady?’ asked Aragorn, thinking of how her sword had crackled with the intensity of her feelings….
And before she could bethink herself a reply to deflect him, before she could raise her defences, Éowyn said;
Aragorn nodded, thinking;
‘Then we are alike, Lady Of Rohan, for I too fear a cage, prepared for
me by friend as well as by foe….’ And he looked at her with
understanding and pity, and she saw his look and for a moment her lower
lip trembled and tears sprang into her eyes. Then he bowed, as if he
was aware that he had caught a glimpse into her very heart, as he
should not have, and he hastily took his leave…
The late afternoon sun was still slanting strongly, but now a great
shadow fell across Éowyn’s face as she lay on the crude
stretcher. She opened her eyes and saw that she was being carried under
the great gate of Minas Tirith. The underside of the arch was blackened
by smoke but she could discern a frieze of mounted knights and a king
in arms wearing a high winged crown.
‘Aragorn!’ she thought with desperate longing then drifted back into darkness.
She was once again in the Golden Hall of Meduseld, but it was no longer
full of busy servants and noblemen. The doors lay open and the guards
were not at their posts. There was a smell of late summer, withered
grass and ripe wheat. A warm wind blew through the hall and in the
bright shafts of sunlight thistledown whirled and shimmered like great
silver stars. Overhead the banners of the noble houses of Rohan
billowed in the wind and Éowyn realised she was alone in the
hall of her fathers….
She was seated on her chair, which stood at the right hand of the
king’s, or had until Grima took it over. Now there was no sign of
Grima, nor of her uncle.
‘Am I awake?’ she thought ‘Or is this a dream? Where are the people…?’
As if in reply to her question a figure appeared in the open doorway.
Outlined against the brilliant sunshine he was tall and gaunt and clad
in a mail tunic. Éowyn’s heart leaped with all the pain of
hopeless desire; Aragorn!
The man walked forward into the hall and Éowyn clasped the
carved armrests of her high seat, feeling the smoothness of the worn
horses’ heads. The long stride, not wasteful of effort, as of one used
to long journeying in the wilderness, could only be that of Aragorn.
‘Has he come back to claim me, or to torture me?’ she thought.
But the figure continued walking towards her, and suddenly she realised
it was not Aragorn. The long hair on the shoulders was red and bound in
dreadlocks. The face was fair but fell and not like the face of a man.
And the hand resting on the hilts of a great long sword of ancient
design bore the sign of a red dragon. Despite herself Éowyn
shrank back in her chair; what land neither of the living nor of the
dead had she descended into when she struck the Lord of the Nazgul and
felt his dying spirit engulf her own?
‘You must come with me’ the figure said in a voice not unkind but cool and distant.
‘Who are you?’ demanded Éowyn but the figure ignored the question and repeated;
‘You must come with me. You cannot stay here…’
Suddenly Éowyn realised that he was right; the hall was empty
and bare and deserted. Were all her people dead, then? She looked at
the stranger and said in a defiant voice;
‘I slew the Witchking’
Marfach bowed and said;
‘All praise to the one who smote the Lord of the Nazgul. But he has
slain your uncle, the King of Rohan, and taken your past. And Aragorn
whom you love but who does not love you has taken your future. The
sword Stormsinger that you treasured has been burned to vapour by the
fierceness of the Nazgul which it destroyed…’
Éowyn stared at him aghast.
‘What then is left for me?’ she asked. ‘..but death?’
And Marfach stepped up to her and reaching out he took her hand in his.
It was strong but not ungentle. ‘Another destiny awaits you, Lady of
‘What?’ she asked in a faltering voice..
‘The promise of Ithilien….’ Marfach replied. Éowyn stood up and
faced the open door. She looked at him; his face was pale and his mail
tunic stained with blood.
‘Are you an Elf?’
Marfach smiled and answered.
‘Not any more’
‘‘With these great powers came many
spirits of like kind but less might and authority; these are the Maiar,
the Beautiful, the folk of the Valar. And with them also are numbered
the Valarindi, the offspring of the Valar…they are many and fair…..’’
The Annals of Aman
JRR Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien.