The Golden Hall was filled with bustlemen hurrying, here
and there, packing the Royal household into wooden chests and
carrying it out to the carts.
As they passed the great double doors, a glimpse of something
within the chaos brought Aragorn to an abrupt halt. Legolas followed
She had taken a broadsword from one of the chests, and was sliding
it from its scabbard.
The elf and the man both watched in fascination as she lifted
the blade and held it before her eyes, running her palm along
its length, transported to some distant battlefield
she raised it above her head, spun, and advancedone step,
twocutting to right and leftexecuting each move cleanly,
with speed and grace.
Aragorn drew his knife.
No, thought Legolas, leave her be
She paused, in a perfect horizontal guard, then spun againand
Aragorn caught her weapon and held it, mid-cut. You have
some skill with the blade, he said.
He had taken her by surprise, but she did not flinch: she kept
her sword aloft, her enormous grey eyes steady, unblinking.
He has underestimated her, thought Legolas, smiling, and
now she is trying his strength.
With perfect timing, the Shieldmaiden swung her hands down and
to the left, throwing Aragorns blade aside and leaving her
own perfectly aligned to strike at his throat. Now it was the
mans turn to be surprisedby her open challengeand
he let his sword arm drop in surrender.
Satisfied, she released him and turned away, re-sheathing her
sword. The women of this country learned long ago,
she said, that those without swords may still die upon them.
I fear neither death nor pain.
What do you fear my lady?
A cage, she said, her voice suddenly throbbing with
emotion. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept
them, and all chance of valour has gone beyond recall or desire.
She searched his face for some sign of hope.
You are a daughter of kings, said Aragorn, evasively,
a Shieldmaiden of Rohan. I do not think that will be your
fate. He bowed courteously, and backed away.
Legolas watched him go. Aragorn! If you will not open the
door for her, at least leave her be
A strange screeching noise behind him pulled him, shuddering,
from his thoughtsand he turned to see Eowyn dragging the
weapons chest across the floor, gritting her teeth against the
sound of its wooden base scraping on the stone tiles.
She paused. Sir Elf?
Legolas smiled at the quaint title. May I help you?
She was surprised by his offer, but accepted it. Take the
He could have carried the chest by himself. But what Eowyn lacked
in strength she more than made up for in determination, so he
held himself in check, and tried not to worry for her as they
slowly shuffled towards the doors.
I have heard, she said, already a little out of breath,
that the women of your race fight beside the men.
The ellith fight beside the ellyn, yes, he replied.
Ellith are taught the sword, the knife, and the bow, as
we are, and are expected to serve as guards and warriors, but
But what? she prompted, swiftly raising one hand
to her face and wiping her forehead.
There is far less difference between an elf and elleth
than between a man and a woman
What do you mean?
We are physically alike, in size and strength, he
said, your men are so much bigger and stronger than you
You think it is physical size that matters? She tossed
her hair back from her face.
I think it helps.
Lord Gimli told me that, in Moria, you killed a cave trollran
right up its chain and shot it in the head.
That was not the kill, said Legolas. He smiled. But
yes, you are right, skill can outweigh strength, and spirit outweigh
My uncle does not think so. She was panting now.
Nor does my brother. And nor, it seems, does Lord Aragorn.
They confine me to womanly duties.
Can we put this down for a moment?
They lowered the chest to the floor and Legolas tried to hide
his concern when she remained leaning over it, her hands spread
on its gabled lid. Womens duties, he said. Like
the one you performed this morning, bidding your cousins
Births, marriages, disease and death. Those are our
province: where we are allowed to rule.
Those are the most important events in life, said
Legolas. To help another pass safely through birth or illness
is surely a noble thing?
But not something to be remembered throughout the ages
for, she answered, bitterly. Not a thing that brings
renown. If it were, it would be reserved for men
nodded at the chest. Shall we continue?
They picked it up, and shuffled, Legolas searching for something
more to say. As they passed the next great pillar, two men standing
behind, speaking in their native tongue, seemed to be sharing
a joke. The elf looked to Eowyn, expecting her to join in the
laughterand was startled to find her staring, wide-eyed,
What is it? he asked. What are they saying?
She shook her head.
II cannot repeat it.
Still laughing heartily, the men stepped into the central hall,
and caught sight of Legolas. One froze, his face contorted with
shame; his companion bowed apologetically, and hurried his dumbstruck
Legolas lowered the chest. My lady, he demanded,
tell me what they were saying about me.
You do not want to know
They said that you were Lord Aragorns lover,
she whispered, his mistress. They said
that you and he
She looked away, her cheeks aflame
No! hissed Legolas, no, I am not that,
my lady, I assure you! He looked about him, wildly.
Why would they think that?
They find you womanly, she said.
Do they want proof I am not?
You will give them proof, she said, when you
Fight them? Her words brought him back to
reality. He shook his head. No. I will not fight them. No.
Because elves to do not fight over insultsand because
those men are my comrades, or will be when we stand together on
the battlefield. And because it does not matter what they think
It only matters what you think, meleth nín.
Why are you smiling, my lady?
You have just known something of the contempt they show
us women, she said. Though you, being male, will have
the chance to prove yourself.
Slowly Legolas reached out and laid his hand upon her shoulder.
Be patient, my lady. Your moment will come. I know it will.
Be patient? She shook her head. I thought
Being patient is not accepting the cage, said Legolas.
The skilful warrior awaits hisor herbest chance.
You know that. Your moment will come
Easy for an immortal to say.
You will not run out of time, my lady.
I see it happen every day, said Eowyn, passionately.
When a womans body ages, used up by birthing and by
raising children, she isshe becomes a figure of fun.
The woman I saw this morning will always be respected.
She is a Queen, said Legolas.
Only if she can marry a King.
The woman who sparred with Aragorn is a fighter.
He squeezed her shoulder. I know he spoke the truth, my
ladythe life you fear will not be your fate. The gods have
other plans for you and they will set you free, when the time
is right. What you must do is watch the door.
And not falter when it opens, said Eowyn, softly.
Legolas smiled. Shall we ask two of these strong men to
carry the chest for us?
We shall order them, said Eowyn.