Haldir, lying beneath the stars, watched Eärendil slip inexorably towards the horizon. Less than an hour, he thought.

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 chopping—“The Beornings burn their dead,” he had explained, between blows, “they will need plenty of firewood.”

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.

And Eowyn?

The Valar only knew what she and Legolas had endured during the night.

One hour, thought Haldir, and then we must find a way to carry on.

He gazed bleakly into a future without her.

If she does not kill that orc’s member, he swore, I shall do it myself.

Melmenya…” 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 hut—and hesitated.

“Melmenya?” Legolas crawled beside her and grasped her outstretched hand. “It is not too late, meleth nín…” he whispered.

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… Eomer’s anger and Haldir’s grief… I cannot face it.”

Legolas pulled her close and hugged her tightly—despite 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 deeply—in—and out—and in—and out… Good. Keep breathing…” He pushed open the door flap—“And 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 Haldir’s help, the King of Rohan had selected the field of combat with care, settling on a smallish oval of good, solid earth—free from mud and potentially lethal mole holes—and 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.

“My lady…”

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 and—looking as though he were carrying the entire weight of Middle Earth upon his back—was 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 champion’s challenge has been taken up,” he said. “But since the circumstances are,”—he glanced at Eowyn for the first time—“unusual, we are willing to accept a proxy. Who will fight in this woman’s stead?”

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 crowd—one 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 Eowyn’s 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 ready.

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 was ready.

Eowyn answered in kind—and the man immediately rushed forward, scarcely giving her time to block a furious rain of blows that sent her staggering backwards until—taking full advantage of her retreat—he brought his sword upwards in a mighty sweep that knocked her off her feet.


Awww!” cried Gimli, flinching in sympathy.

Ignoring the rules of combat—for this was only her first shield—Thorkell bogsveigir went in for the kill. Fortunately, Eowyn blocked with her shield, and his strike damaged nothing but wood.

“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 strokes—“He is no swordsman,” muttered Eomer—and 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 Eowyn’s 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 opponent’s head.

Thorkell bogsveigir’s 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 Beorning—placing one foot between his shoulder blades and pressing the point of her sword to the nape of his neck—and 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 horse’s 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.



Back to main Challenge page


Master List

Last part



Next part



This happens the morning after Just tell me you love me.