Haldir, lying beneath the stars, watched Eärendil
slip inexorably towards the horizon. Less than an hour,
Eomer, he knew, had been awake all night, pacing back and forth
along the river bank.
Gimli had taken a lantern, found a fallen tree, and spent the
dark hours choppingThe Beornings burn their dead,
he had explained, between blows, they will need plenty of
Berryn, the poor, innocent excuse for all this misery, had tossed
and turned in his bedroll, sobbing quietly. Haldir had not known
how to comfort him.
The Valar only knew what she and Legolas had endured during the
One hour, thought Haldir, and then we must find a way to
He gazed bleakly into a future without her.
If she does not kill that orcs member, he swore, I shall
do it myself.
Legolas shook Eowyn gently.
She opened her eyes, and stared up at him in confusion.
Valar, how could he remind her of what the dawn held for her?
But it was not necessary. Thorkell bogsveigir, she
said, her voice still thick with sleep.
He nodded. The sun will rise in less than an hour.
I must dress. She sat up.
Do you want to eat?
He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and kissed her forehead.
I will help you put on your armour.
She reached for the door of her little hutand hesitated.
Melmenya? Legolas crawled beside her and grasped
her outstretched hand. It is not too late, meleth nín
Legolas! She turned on him, genuine anger
distorting her lovely face. How could you think
I am not afraid of him!
Then what, melmenya?
The others! I cannot face the others! Eomer
and Haldir, Gimli
Eomers anger and Haldirs grief
I cannot face it.
Legolas pulled her close and hugged her tightlydespite
the layers of leather and mail that came between them. She laid
her head upon his shoulder.
First, he said, say that you forgive me.
You know I do, she mumbled.
He pressed his lips to her temple. Then, Now, he
continued, unnaturally cheerful, breathe deeplyinand
outand inand out
Good. Keep breathing
He pushed open the door flapAnd go!and
he slapped her bottom.
She turned and grinned, her coming ordeal momentarily forgotten.
I will pay you back for that, elf! she said, and crawled
through the door.
As the sky lightened, the Beornings could be seen approaching,
trotting in formation, with Chief Bergthórr beytill at
the head; his champion, Thorkell bogsveigir, by his side; and
six pairs of armed warriors, dressed in mail and carrying streaming
pennants, following behind.
Jumped-up horse thieves, muttered Eomer.
With Haldirs help, the King of Rohan had selected the field
of combat with care, settling on a smallish oval of good, solid
earthfree from mud and potentially lethal mole holesand
covered with a fine, springy turf. The members of the cavalcade
had already assembled around it.
Suddenly a murmur of anticipation spread through the men, and
Eomer heard Haldir sigh, and he turned to see the crowd part to
admit Eowyn, dressed in her armour and carrying her broadsword,
leaning incongruously on Legolas arm.
She caught his eye and gave him a warning frown.
Eomer raised his hands in a gesture of peace. I shall not
try to dissuade you, he said, quietly. But
He cleared his throat. No man ever had a braver sister,
he mumbled, and took his place, as her second, by her side.
With all her attention focussed on the man riding towards her
out of the rising sun, Eowyn had failed to notice the slight figure
that had worked his way through the crowd andlooking as
though he were carrying the entire weight of Middle Earth upon
his backwas now approaching her.
Berryn. She smiled.
What can I do? he asked. Tell me what I can
do, and I will do it.
Eowyn patted his arm. Have courage, she said, and
wish me well.
Oh, my lady! He slid to his knees.
Gently, Lord Fingolfin, who had followed Berryn onto the field,
raised him to his feet and, giving Eowyn a sympathetic nod, led
him back into the crowd.
Still on horseback, Chief Bergthórr and his champion forced
their way through the ring of spectators.
Completely ignoring Eowyn, Bergthórr addressed Legolas
and Eomer. My champions challenge has been taken up,
he said. But since the circumstances are,he
glanced at Eowyn for the first timeunusual, we
are willing to accept a proxy. Who will fight in this womans
Before Legolas or Eomer had a chance to respond, Eowyn stepped
forward. There will be no substitute, she said, firmly.
I have given my pledge.
You have your answer, said Legolas.
Very well, said Bergthórr, jerking his reins
in annoyance. Then let combat commence without further delay.
He nodded to his champion, and left the arena.
As Thorkell bogsveigir dismounted, two of the Beorning warriors
emerged from the crowdone took care of his horse, whilst
the other, his second, laid three shields upon the ground and
invited Eomer to inspect them.
Eomer, gesturing towards a similar pile at Eowyns end of
the field, indicated that the Beorning should do the same.
When both were satisfied, the seconds retired, leaving the two
combatants, facing one other.
Thorkell bogsveigir was a slender man but Eowyn seemed tiny in
comparison, standing bravely in her leather and mail, her body
slightly turned, left hip forward, her shield raised, her sword
Tears welled in Legolas eyes. Gimli, standing beside his
friend, patted his back.
The Beorning banged his sword upon his shield to show that he
Eowyn answered in kindand the man immediately rushed forward,
scarcely giving her time to block a furious rain of blows that
sent her staggering backwards untiltaking full advantage
of her retreathe brought his sword upwards in a mighty sweep
that knocked her off her feet.
Awww! cried Gimli, flinching in sympathy.
Ignoring the rules of combatfor this was only her first
shieldThorkell bogsveigir went in for the kill. Fortunately,
Eowyn blocked with her shield, and his strike damaged nothing
Back off! cried Eomer, racing into the arena. Back
off! If you try that again, this contest is ended!
The Beorning reluctantly obeyed.
Eomer dragged his sister to her feet and, unable to suppress
a frown, handed her her second shield. Eowyn tramped back to her
own end of the field, and banged the shield twice.
Before the sound had died away, the Beorning was running again,
hacking with great, swinging strokesHe is no swordsman,
muttered Eomerand Eowyn was once more forced to back away,
retreating round the oval space, expertly blocking his cuts but
making no attempt to return them.
She must strike back, whispered Haldir. Soon.
She cannot survive much more
A massive blow shattered Eowyns second shield and sent
her reeling. She hit the ground with a sickening thud.
Eomer and Gimli held Legolas back. No, said Eomer.
She is still in the fight.
This is not fighting, grumbled one of the
Beornings. Gimli silenced him with a scowl.
Doggedly, Eowyn picked herself up, took her third shield and
returned to her position, banging the shield twice.
She is tired, said Legolas.
Confident now, the man charged at her a third time, hammering
left and right, quickly smashing her final shield to pieces. Eowyn
dropped the broken wood. The man raised his sword
It is over, said the talkative Beorning. She
is already dead
But his words were swallowed by a great cheer as Eowyn nimbly
stepped aside and, grasping her sword in both hands and using
the flat of her blade, delivered a perfectly-timed blow to the
back of her opponents head.
Thorkell bogsveigirs legs crumpled beneath him.
Melmenya! Legolas ran onto the field and, amidst
the cheers of men and elves, hugged her fiercely.
But Eowyn had not finished. Disentangling herself with a smile,
she stood over the Beorningplacing one foot between his
shoulder blades and pressing the point of her sword to the nape
of his neckand addressed Bergthórr beytill directly.
Your champion is beaten, she said.
Then finish him.
No, she replied. I will not take his life.
You will not
Bergthórr turned to Eomer
in exasperation. What is this crazy woman saying now?
I defeated him fairly, said Eowyn. Everyone
here witnessed it. It is not necessary to kill him.
Can no one control her?
The Lady of the Shield Arm is her own mistress, said
Legolas, standing proudly beside her.
Bergthórr beytill shook his head. You are as mad
as March hares, he said. All of you! Very well. If
you will not kill him, you must feed him, lady. He is yours.
He gave Eowyn a mocking bow, leaning low over his horses
neck. Then he gathered up his reins and set off at the gallop,
forcing his entourage to dash to their own horses and pursue him.
Legolas looked down at the fallen Beorning. Well. What
are you going to do with him, melmenya? he asked.