the healing tent

“I am too tired to think just now,” said Eowyn, rubbing her forehead—for the extraordinary courage and resolution she had shown during the single combat had suddenly begun to take their toll. “I will speak to him later…”

Legolas wrapped a supportive arm around her waist. “You need to rest, melmenya.” He turned to Eomer. “I propose we spend another night here—I doubt that Bergthórr beytill will give us any more trouble.”

“I think we all need a rest,” said Eomer. He squeezed Eowyn’s shoulder. “Let Legolas take you back to your hut—and do not ever put us through that again.”

Eowyn grinned. “I won.”

“By the gods’ grace you survived another fight.”

“By my own strategy,” corrected Eowyn. She yawned.

“Oh—take her away, Legolas!”

Smiling, the elf lifted her into his arms. “He is as proud of you as I am, melmenya,” he said, in a stage whisper.

“Might I suggest,” interrupted Gimli, prodding the forgotten Beorning with his toe, “that we put this one somewhere secure before he wakes up.”

“Gimli is right,” agreed Haldir. “This peacock will not take kindly to finding himself the property of a woman. It would be prudent to restrain him whilst he remains senseless.”

“He is not really my property, Haldir,” said Eowyn, over Legolas’ shoulder, “and he is hardly a prisoner.” She yawned again. “Have Master Dínendal examine him and… And tell him I will speak to him later.”

Legolas carried Eowyn to her little shelter and set her down on her bedroll.

“Let me help you take off your armour, melmenya,” he said, “so that you can rest properly.” Gently, he moved her hands—she was trying, impatiently, to unlace her cuirass—and untied the leather thongs. “The fight did not go as you had planned,” he murmured, sliding the cuirass off her shoulders. “You expected him to hold back against a woman…”

“I expected him to be more chivalrous than he was,” admitted Eowyn, with a tired smile, “but he did underestimate me.”

“Leaving himself open?”

She nodded.

“Raise your arms…” He lifted her heavy mail hauberk off over her head. “I was worried when you did not strike back.”

“I am sorry.” She smiled again. “That was not entirely deliberate.”

“Oh, melmenya…” He hugged her tightly.

“But I am a better swordswoman than Eomer thinks, Lassui…”

“You are a fine swordswoman, melmenya.” He gave her a final hard squeeze. “We had better take off your boots and get you comfortable. I will stay with you until you fall asleep.”

“This must be death,” muttered Thorkell bogsveigir, staring up at the elf tending him.

“You are not dead,” said Master Dínendal, the colony’s healer. “But you have suffered a severe blow to the head and you did swoon for several minutes. It is important that you remain still until I have determined the full extent of your injury—”

“Is that why I am bound?”

“That is merely a precaution,” said a rather acerbic voice, from somewhere behind the healer.

Despite Dínendal’s advice, the Beorning pushed himself up on his elbows, shaking off the elf’s gentle hands, to look at the speaker. “You,” he said. “I might have known.” He fell back onto the bedroll.

Please,” exclaimed Dínendal. “March Warden—I shall have to ask you to leave the tent.”

“Wait!” said Thorkell bogsveigir. “Where is she?”

“Lady Eowyn,” said Haldir, pointedly, “asked me to inform you that she will speak to you later.”

Several hours later, Eowyn—well rested, and queenly in her velvet riding gown and boots—drew up a chair to sit beside Thorkell bogsveigir’s bed.

The Beorning—propped up, now, on pillows, but still bound hand and foot—greeted her with an almost respectful bow of the head. “That was a clever move,” he said.

“No—not really,” replied Eowyn. “It is a well-known move that worked because you underestimated me and left yourself unprotected. I could have taken your head off.”

“Why did you not?”

“I fully intended to. But…” She sighed. “I have never killed anything without good reason and today did not seem the day to begin.”

“Had you misjudged the blow,” said the Beorning, with a touch of arrogance, “I would have shown you no mercy. I would have turned on you and killed you.”

“In anger,” agreed Eowyn, smiling. “If, that is, you could have caught me. But I’ll wager that anger would have made you even less of a swordsman, Master Bow-swayer.”

“You are something.”

“I shall take that as a compliment,” said Eowyn. “Now,”—she leaned forward—“since your former lord no longer wants you, and has given you to me, what am I to do with you?”

Thorkell bogsveigir sighed. “Dress me in a petticoat and set me to spinning.”

I may just do that if you do not mind your manners.” Eowyn looked at him curiously—a tall, lean, darkly handsome man with a permanently arrogant air. “Tell me,” she said, “why did you challenge Berryn? You knew your accusation was a lie; you knew that he would not fight. Why did you do it?”

“I wanted the chance to serve as your maid.”

“You wanted to compete with Legolas! Did you think you could win? Is that what you told your Chief—Bergthórr beytill?—‘I will defeat and humiliate King Thranduil’s son’?”

“Is that why you accepted my challenge? To protect your precious elf?”

“I accepted,” said Eowyn, “because a man who is a coward and a bully does not deserve to breathe the same air as an elf.”

She had leaned further forward as she spoke the last and—at exactly the same moment—they both became aware of their physical closeness—so close that her breath was stirring the strand of dark hair that had fallen across Thorkell bogsveigir’s cheek—and—at exactly the same moment—they both drew back, uncomfortably.

“I will give you a choice,” said Eowyn, rising from her seat. “You can travel, as my prisoner, as far as Minas Tirith, where I will release you to make a life for yourself—a free man—as best you may—”


“Or, I will release you immediately, and you will swear loyalty to Legolas and join the Guards of Eryn Carantaur. Think on it. I will return to hear your decision in the morning.”



Back to main Challenge page


Master List

Last part



Next part



This starts immediately after Dawn.