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Part 22

They said their farewells at the foot of the cliff, Eowyn crossing her heart and hoping to die if she did not return at the appointed time or—at Legolas’ insistence—soon after, and the dragon promising to eat nothing but wild beasts whilst it waited for her.

Then the couple resumed their journey, skirting Emyn Arnen until they reached the main Caras Arnen road, then following it northwards, taking Prince Arthur—riding Arod—and Sir Bors—gently coaxing the highly strung mare—with them.

...

“This is very kind of you,” said Arthur to Eowyn, who was riding beside him. “I only hope that your friend will not mind the intrusion.”

“Faramir will be delighted to meet men from a hitherto unknown region,” Eowyn replied. “He is a scholar, and a great lover of lore.” Then she added, “And, though his library is not so extensive as the Library at Eryn Carantaur, I am sure there will be something there about your homeland, and where to find it.”

Arthur glanced at Legolas, running effortlessly at his wife’s side. “You speak of Prince Faramir warmly,” he said

“We are old friends,” said Eowyn.

...

They broke their journey at midday, having reached the great cliffs of Amon ‘aer where, sheltering in the lee of the hills, they shared a simple meal of lembas bread and melted snow.

“I understand from your husband,” said Arthur, watching Legolas water the horses, “that you are skilful with a sword, my Lady. Perhaps, when we reach the City, and you are sufficiently rested—and with Lord Legolas’ permission, of course—you will do me the honour of sparring with me—we might teach Sir Bors here a thing or two.”

“I do not need my husband’s permission to spar, Prince Arthur,” said Eowyn, rising to her feet and drawing her sword. “And I am ready now.”

Here?

“You have challenged a Shieldmaiden, Prince Arthur,” said Legolas, laughing.

Arthur looked from Eowyn to Legolas and back again. “Very well...”

He rose, and drew his own sword.

The pair assumed their guard positions, each watching the other closely.

Then Eowyn struck, and Arthur parried; Eowyn struck again, and Arthur’s parry was less elegant; Eowyn struck a third time, and Arthur forgot that he was fighting a Lady, and began sparring in earnest.

Blow followed blow; the pair circled, cutting and thrusting until, suddenly, their swords locked.

Sir Bors, who had been watching the fight avidly, moved in closer. He was aware (though, perhaps, his Lord had forgotten) that the position now favoured Arthur, since Eowyn was physically smaller, and undoubtedly the weaker of the two—

But it was Eowyn who broke the deadlock, swinging her hands down, and to the left, throwing Arthur’s blade aside, and leaving her own sword’s point poised at his throat.

Arthur reeled back, startled.

Then a slow smile spread across his face, and he dropped his sword, and raised his hands in surrender. “You are good,” he said, with genuine admiration. “I only wish—”

But the words died in his throat when the red whirlwind—absent so long that he had almost forgotten its existence—rose up from nowhere and surged towards him, eating a path through the snow.

Arthur backed away, looking frantically for a refuge.

Behind him soared the mighty wall of Amon ‘aer.

There was nowhere for him to hide.

 

 
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