The noise was unmistakablethe grunts and the
guttural howls and the clash of steel on steel.
But why here? Eowyn wondered, leaning over Brightstars
neck to peer through the forest ahead. Why here, when they
should be three miles further east by now, approaching Doro Lanthron,
where Legolas and Haldir are waiting for them?
She had never seen Orcs avoid a fighteven if this band
had, somehow, learned that a company of archers was waiting for
them at the settlement, she was sure that it would not have stopped
them mounting their raid.
So either they were fighting amongst themselvesa petty
grievance having escalated into a full scale battleor they
had crossed paths with some unsuspecting traveller. And if that
were the case
Eowyn urged Brightstar through the trees.
As she approached the melee, concentrated in a small forest clearing
backed by a rocky ridge, she saw hima single, hooded warrior,
surrounded by more than a dozen orcs shoving and jostling each
other in their eagerness to engage him.
But the manhis height and build told her that he was
a man, though the fluidity of his movements suggested otherwisewas
quickly reducing their numbers. He fought with a quarterstaffhis
attacks and guards like nothing Eowyn herself had ever learnedspinning
his weapon before him, leaping and whirling like a dancer, sometimes
using the strange glowing ends of his staff like a sword, to cut
or stab his attackers, sometimes kicking them with his powerful
legs, and sometimeswith a mere gesture of his hand, it seemedraising
rocks from the ground to knock them senseless.
Eowyns martial heart stirred with admiration, and she had
almost decided to withdraw, and leave the warrior to enjoy his
well-deserved victory alone, when a big Uruk Hai, standing on
the ridge behind him, hurled a boulder andby sheer luckcaught
him, mid spin, in the centre of his back, and he stumbled, and
hunched over, winded.
Then she had no choice.
She swung from the saddlewhispering, Fetch Legolas,
Brightstar! Quickly!already planning her attack.
She knew that she could not hope to defeat so many Orcs by herself
but, as she ran through the trees, skirting the pack and making
for the rocky outcrop, she could see that the stranger was already
recovering. His staff had somehow broken, but he was standing
with his back to the rocks, and using what was left as a club,
smashing it into the face of any Orc foolish enough to come close.
Once again, Eowyn wondered whether he would welcome her interference
Gods, one of the Orcs had caught her scent! And he, with three
of his companions, immediately lost interest in the cornered man
and, instead, rushed for her. Eowyn dodged right and, ducking
between them, streaked up the ridge, weaving through the boulders
until she reached the summit, then slipped under the Uruk Hais
outstretched blade, and dropped to the ground at the warriors
As she fell through the air it seemed to her that some force took hold
of her, and slowed her descent.
The warriors only acknowledgement of her presence was to
turn away, and they stood, almost back-to-back, Eowyn doing her
bestwith defensive cuts and blocksto hold the Orcs
at bay until her strange companion was ready to help her beat
We must break out soon, she muttered, and find
a proper redoubt. More will come
And Legolas may not be
She sensed a sudden surge of energy behind her, and heard a strange
noiselike the buzzing of a thousand horsefliesand
she risked a glance over her shoulder.
The warrior was back on the offensivethe remains of his
staff having somehow turned into a sword with a blade of fireand,
giving her no warning, he had begun to advance, wielding his weapon
with both hands and striking with deadly precisionand, for
the first time, Eowyn realised that the acrid smell hanging over
the glade was the stench of burnt Orc flesh.
For a moment she was mesmerisedas much by the wonderful
weapon as by the strangers skill with ituntil she
recognised that, by abandoning her, he had left her an easy prey
for the Orcs that were already closing in on her.
She surged forward, unconsciously imitating his aggressive stylewith
mixed successbeheading the first Orc, but merely scratching
the Uruk Hai behind him. The monster roared, and lashed out with
its serrated blade, and Eowyn dodged the Uruks cutbut
her strange companions spinning attacks did not allow for
a second at his back, and a near miss showed her that she was
in almost as much danger from his blade as she was from
Fuming with anger and frustration, she went for the Uruk Hai,
going in close and hacking with no finesse. Her fury took her
opponent by surprise, and his momentary hesitation was all the
opening she needed to take off his sword arm.
Eowyn continued to press, but the situation was already changing
around herthe Orcs were losing heart and beginning to withdraweven
her Uruk Hai was backing away unsteadily, nursing his bleeding
For a few more moments she waited warily, sword raised in a high
guard, but the battle was overfor nowand the enemy
had melted away. She turned to her companion, and was just in
time to see his fiery blade disappear into the hilt of his sword.
The stranger raised his gloved hands to his hood and, very deliberately,
Eowyn gasped. The jagged pattern of red and black markings on
his face was, she realised, tattooed, but the crown of short,
curved horns that encircled his bald head, and the golden eyesGods,
those eyes!that stared down at her, unblinking, measuring
her, like a healer listening to her heartbeatthose
were not human.
The Lady of the Shield Arm squared her shoulders, and stared
back at the creature, defiantly.
He immediately bared his yellow-black teeth in a feral snarl.
Eowyn remained calm, silently projecting strength and superiority,
facing him down as she might one of her brothers hounds.
The creatures expression changed and his interest shifted
from her spirit to her physical body. Eowyn, suddenly realising
that her jerkin had been ripped open in the fight (and feeling,
for the first time, the sting of a flesh wound), saw his golden
eyes linger on her bosom, and she fought to stay composed as his
pulled off his glove and stretched out his handslender but
clawedtowards her chest.
A sudden sounda twig breaking underfootstartled them
both, and they turned as one. The Orcs, said Eowyn.
They have brought reinforcements. She reached for
But the stranger caught her wrist. You are injured,
he said. Come.
His voice had shocked hersoft, culturedand
she now felt surprisingly little anxiety following him deeper
into the forest, except, Where are you going? she
asked. There is nothing defendable here. But if we head
She stopped dead, her free hand flying to her mouth. What
It looked like the body of a huge, silver dragon lying, partially
hidden, amongst the trees. Eowyn took a slow step backwards.
Her companion jerked her wrist impatiently.
Eowyn jerked back. No!
Ha! He dropped her hand, raised his wrist and touched
his broad silver cuff. Immediately the belly of the dragon opened.
The door descended, like a castle drawbridge,
and, inside, Eowyn could see a flight of steps. It is a
building, she gasped. But how
He seized her by the arm and hurried her to the entrance, dragging
her up the stairs. Eowyn could hear the Orcs closing in; but,
as she looked back, once again she felt an invisible force take
hold of her, and push her upwards.
The drawbridge was rising behind her.
Inside the building, everything was metalthe walls, the
floors, the ceilingeverything except the wide glass window
that overlooked the drawbridge.
The stranger set her down on a padded metal chair. Remove
your tunic. The timbre of his voice was naturally seductive,
but his manner was brisk. Eowyn did as she was told.
He opened a small chest, took out a bottle and a scrap of cloth,
formed the cloth into a pad and poured a few drops of green fluid
onto it. Then, without warning, he pressed the pad to her wound.
There is no pain where strength lies.
She stared up into his unblinking eyes.
You must learn to use pain: draw strength from it.
He poured more liquid onto the pad. It would be foolish,
however, to leave broken flesh untended. He worked the fluid
into the gash.
Eowyns hands crushed the arms of the chair, but she made
no further sound.
He nodded approvingly. You are not afraid of me.
You have given me no reason to be afraid, she replied,
You are strong in the Force. He took a second pad
from the small chest, peeled the skin from it, and
pressed it to her breast. You will bear strong children.
I am married, said Eowyn, for something told her
that his honour would require him to respect her marriage bond.
She was right. Your husband is fortunate.
You will let me go?
When it is clear outside
He replaced the bottle
and closed the chest.
What is this place? Yourhouse? Why are the walls
metal? And thistablewhat makes the panels glow?
She reached for one of the coloured squares
Do not touch that. He caught her hand and placed
it back on her lap, but there seemed to be no anger in his action.
Metal is strong.
Glass is not. She nodded, through the window, at
the band of Orcs that had gathered outside, jeering, trying to
goad them into fighting again. They could break through
it with rocks.
And, as if it had heard her, a big Uruk Hai suddenly hurled a
Eowyn ducked. But the missile bounced harmlessly off the window.
The viewport is not glass, said the stranger, stowing
the chest back in its cupboard, but something much stronger.
He took the seat beside her. I will deal with them.
His fingers danced lightly on the glowing squares.
A blade of dense white fire shot out from somewhere beneath
the window, slicing through the crowd of Orcs and Uruk Hai, from
right to left.
Gods! Eowyn, shielding her eyes with her hand, watched
the creatures stagger, and slowly collapse, cut in pieces by the
terrifying weapon. They are dead!she leapt to
her feetYou have killed them all!
They are vermin.
Yes, I know. But
It was not the honourable way, agreed the stranger.
But sometimes, crude measures are necessary.
You were playing with them. She sank back into her
chair. At first, I meanyou were using them for practice.
A warrior must hone his skills. The stranger reached
behind her, and opened another cupboard.
I thought you were in trouble.
You acted bravelywith honour. Though it would have
been more sensible to have ridden away. Here. He handed
her a black shirt, identical to the one he was wearing himself.
Are there many woman-knights amongst your people?
I thought not. You have skill and you have courage. But
your body is weak and you need better training. Had I not been
there, you would have died.
Had you not been there, I would not have fought.
He turned to her with what might have been a smile, though his
facial markings did their best to conceal his expression from
And it was my intervention, she continued, that
bought you the time to recover.
His eyes narrowed. It was your intervention that forced
me to temper my attack.
You are trained only for single combat.
I am trained to fight alone, he corrected.
It is a weakness, said Eowyn.
He replied by baring his teeth, like a dog. But, this time, Eowyn
saw past the tattoos, and recognised his snarl as the mildest
Do all warriors of your kind wear those markings?
We earn them, he replied, during a long apprenticeship.
Each Sith is free to choose the form and placing of his marks.
And you chose your face?
I chose to reveal my nature to our enemies. I chose to
inspire fear in them. My master chose to hide his
Your master? Who is your master?
You should wash, said the stranger. Hot water
will protect your muscles. Come.
Eowyn followed him, past the stairs to the drawbridge, into a
narrow metal corridor leading to the rear of the building. They
do not work, she said, your markingsat least,
they do not scare me.
No. A pity you are spoken for, he said.
In here. He opened a small door.
Eowyn peered round him into the room beyondit was little
more than a tall cupboard, with a strange metal flower hanging
from the ceiling. She looked at him in confusion.
Take your clothes off, turn the handle on the wall, and
wash yourself in the water, he said, impatiently. Turn
the handle back when you have finished. Then come and find me.
He left her.
The water was wonderful!
Eowyn found a bottle of soapy liquid and used it to clean off
the blood and grime and sweat of battle, memorising every detail
of the experience to tell Legolas later
Eowyn jerked the handle to stop the water andnot bothering
to dry herself or to dressthrew open the door and ran back
to the room that housed the terrible weapon.
The warrior stared at her, open-mouthed. Then he said, in his
soft, seductive voice, Your man is fortunate that I have
exceptional self control.
What? Ohnever mind that,she caught his
wristsjust do not kill Legolas!
He twisted from her grasp and grabbed her wrists in returnWho
is Legolas?and, pulling her hands down onto his chest,
he forced her to straddle his legs and arch over him.
My husband. He is coming for me.
He looked doubtful.
I sent word to him, when I decided to help you. He will
find metrack mehe is an elf
He will attack your
house to rescue me. Do not kill him with the white fire.
Do you realise, he asked, calmly, that if he
were standing outside, he could see you, in here, with me, naked?
Eowyn tried to pull away.
But he tightened his grip, smiling, and his expression was at
once terrifying and terrifyingly attractive.
Go, he said, releasing her suddenly. Go and
dress. I will kill nothing more without your permission.
She returned, moments later, wearing her leggings and boots,
and the black shirt he had provided, and took the seat beside
him. Why are you treating me so well?
He leaned back in his chair with a sigh, and stared up at the
metal ceiling. You called upon the dark side, he said.
I do not understand.
In the clearing, when you realised that I was not going
to wait for you, you were angry and you called upon the dark sideand
used it to defeat an enemy many times your weight. You lack discipline,
but, at that moment, you fought like a Sith apprentice. My
He sighed again. It would be dishonourable
to harm you. As I said before, you are strong in the Force. And
a worthy mate for a Sith.
But spoken for.
And not attracted to you.
He turned to her and smiled, knowingly.
Eowyn looked away. Are they your gods? The Dark Side and
The dark side
An arrow glanced off the window.
Is that him?
Yesthat was a warning shotwhat are you doing?
He was reaching for one of the glowing squares.
Eowyn lunged for his handYou promised!
But the warrior was faster. Trust me! he cried, holding
her wrists tightly, tell him that you are unharmed and that
you are coming out to him. For his sake, convince him that
you are telling the truth.
How will he hear me?
He tapped the glowing square. Speak.
He lowered the drawbridge.
But as Eowyn began to climb down he caught her wrist. Get
away from here quickly. Do not look back.
Run, cried Eowyn, grabbing Legolas hand.
Run! Run! Do not look back! She led the elves
past the pile of smoking bodies, through the forest, to the clearing
beyond the rocky ridge.
Behind them, the ground shook and a great wind parted the trees
as a silver dragon broke cover and rose above the foliage, wings
It hovered briefly.
Then it rushed up into the sky, spat fire, and disappeared.