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Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 5: Legolas makes a bet

by Lialathuveril

Chapter IV: Legolas makes a bet

After showing her the rest of the horses they somehow ended up at Nightwind’s enclosure again and as he watched the princess lovingly stroke the big black warhorse, Éomer felt the first twinge of disquiet. He had seen this particular look before on some of his riders’ faces and had probably worn it himself the first time he had set eyes on Firefoot.

His thoughts were rudely interrupted, though, when one of Lothiriel’s sleeves slid back slightly and he noticed a livid bruise on her arm. She quickly tried to hide it, but Éomer had sharp eyes. “What is this?” he exclaimed and taking her arm in his hand gently pushed back her sleeve. A wave of fury swept through him as he saw the extent of her bruises. “Who did this, was it your brother?” he hissed, looking murderous.

She took a step back, startled by the violence in his voice. “It was you, when you jumped on me last night,” she said, surprised.

“I did this to you?” he repeated in stunned disbelief. Éomer felt as if she had punched him in the gut. Never in his entire life had he hurt a woman. Had one of his riders been responsible for it, he would have had him whipped and thrown him out of the éored in disgrace.

Lothiriel suddenly felt sorry for him as she heard the shock and remorse in his voice. It was the first time she had seen him loose his remarkable self-possession and she actually felt vaguely guilty.

“You didn’t know I was a woman, you took me for a spy,” she said, quite forgetting her uncharitable thoughts of that very morning.

Éomer looked down at her. Now she was defending him as well! He shook his head in wonder. “You have my sincerest apologies, Lady Lothiriel, “ he said with genuine feeling and gently took hold of her arm again.

“Have you had this seen to?” he asked as he inspected the damage he had unwittingly inflicted.

“I can’t, not without raising awkward questions,“ she replied. “Don’t worry, I’ll survive, “ she added with a self deprecating smile.

“Well, that is one thing I can remedy. Come along,” he commanded.

He led her to one of the tents where a young rider sat mending some tack. “This is my squire Beda,“ Éomer introduced the young man and then addressed a quick stream of orders in Rohirric to him. The squire nodded his head once and then went running off.

“He will fetch some ointment for your bruises,“ Éomer explained and held the opening of the tent open for her to pass through. After the bright sunshine outside it seemed dim and stuffy inside and it took Lothiriel a moment to adjust her eyes. The floor was covered with faded carpets and most of the space seemed taken up by a trestle table strewn with maps and parchments, but there was also a primitive looking cot over on the far side of the tent.

“Please excuse the mess,” Éomer said with a chagrined smile, “this is not the place where I usually entertain my visitors.”

Intrigued, Lothiriel realized it was his own private tent and had another look around. This was not really how she would have imagined the King of Rohan to live; apart from a wall hanging depicting a white horse on a green field there was no ornamentation at all. In fact the only thing shiny and gleaming was an immaculately kept suit of armour hanging on its stand over in one corner. A beautifully worked helmet with a white horse tail topped it.

He seemed to have the uncanny ability to read her thoughts. “I am afraid, I am a bit of a disappointment to you,“ he grinned, “a king without a proper crown living in a simple tent.” Lothiriel thought privately that he didn’t need a crown to look like a king, but she wasn’t going to tell him that.

The next moment the tent flap opened again and Beda came hurrying in, carrying a small earthenware jar filled with a pungent smelling salve, which he solemnly presented to her.

“Thank you,” Lothiriel said gravely and gave him a smile. The squire blushed hotly, muttered something in Rohirric and then ducked out the tent again.

Éomer, who had watched the exchange with amusement, now nodded at her, “go ahead, put some on.”

Rather uncertainly she rolled back her sleeve and dabbed a little bit of the concoction on her arm. Éomer shook his head. “Not like that!” he said, taking the jar away from her. Then he took a generous dollop in his hand and started kneading it into her arm. Lothiriel gasped in pain, but he just carried on.

“It hurts at first, but it really helps. I use it on my horses all the time.”

“That is very reassuring,“ Lothiriel said through clenched teeth and he gave her one of his white grins. She had to admit, though, that after the first burning sensation her arm actually started to feel more limber.

“Maybe next time you want to see the King and Queen of Gondor you might consider using the palace doors instead of climbing over the wall?” Éomer remarked with a raised eyebrow.

“Maybe,“ she murmured softly, “maybe not. Some things are worth a little pain.”

“And was seeing them worth the pain?” he asked curiously.

Lothiriel’s eyes lit up. “Oh yes. The king is simply splendid and so kind! I can understand now why our men followed him to the very gates of Mordor. And as for Queen Arwen,” she paused, “I just can’t find the words to describe her. She seems young, yet old and wise, full of joy and somehow sad at the same time.”

She sighed at the inadequacy of her words. “Are all elves like that?”

Rolling down her sleeve again he laughed, “I’m hardly an expert on elves! However,” he added, “if you want to come to the archery tournament, I can introduce you to Prince Legolas of the Woodland Realm.”

Her eyes went wide. “Legolas who is one of the Fellowship? Is he a friend of yours?” she asked, impressed.

“In a manner. He threatened to kill me the first time we met,” Éomer said with a reminiscent smile.

Laughter sprang to her eyes. “You seem to have that effect on people!”

“Princess Lothiriel,” he growled and gently imprisoned her wrists with his fingers, “didn’t anybody ever warn you not to provoke a king in his own home?”

She looked up at him, her sea green eyes still dancing with laughter beneath those indecently long lashes. A few locks of hair had come undone from the long braid that hung down her back and he couldn’t resist the temptation to brush them away from her forehead. She wasn’t in the least alarmed he observed and wondered if it was just innocent trust in his honor or if she had classed him as a friend of her father’s and thus completely harmless. As Éomer stared down at her the laughter slowly faded from her eyes to be replaced by puzzlement.

It had been foolish to take her into his tent he realized suddenly and released her abruptly. He had wanted to spare her the curious glances of his men, but if anyone saw them together now they would draw all the wrong conclusions. “Time to go, I think,” he said roughly.

Lothiriel looked up at him uncertainly. All of a sudden the tent seemed very small and the air was stuffy. She didn’t think she had offended him, in fact they had seemed to get along remarkably well. But for a moment he had loomed over her and something had flashed up in the back of those cool blue eyes of his. Something intense and unsettling and entirely unlike the youthful admiration she had come used to seeing more and more often on the faces of her brothers’ young friends. Why did he sound so angry now?

She felt uneasy. In a dignified manner she said “Thank you for the ointment, my Lord King,” and then swept out the tent without waiting for him to hold the tent flap open.

She nearly fell over Beda who was just about to enter the tent and only her quick reflexes saved her. The young squire jumped back in alarm, blushed once more and stammered what was obviously an apology. He then delivered a quick message to Éomer who had come out behind her. The king nodded.

“I have to attend the archery tournament now, “ he explained.

“That is fine,“ said Lothiriel, who had just spotted Hilarion between some tents looking for her, “my guard has returned and I have to speak to him. I will see you later.”

He looked so relieved it was almost insulting. “Until then, my lady,” he agreed and quickly took his leave. For a moment she stood looking after him, but then she shrugged and went to find her guard. There were more pressing matters to attend to than to puzzle out the King of Rohan’s strange behaviour.

***


The shooting range had been set up on an open field beyond their tents and several pavilions of heavy cloth had been put up to provide shade. One of them had been raised on wooden boards to provide a better view and it was there that Éomer now headed. A large crowd of spectators had gathered already along both sides of the course and had to be kept away from the end where his men had set up the targets.

The heat was oppressive even though the sun had hazed over and as he looked south over the expanse of the Pelennor he could see the first clouds piling up in the distance. It was a relief to get inside the tents where refreshments had been set up, at least until he realised with something close to dismay that several of the hopeful lords with their even more hopeful daughters had chosen to attend the archery tournament. As their host he had no choice but to make them welcome and to exchange pleasantries. At least it kept his mind too busy to think about a certain impudent little Princess of Dol Amroth.

There were only two people he was really pleased to see and it took him a while to work his way through the crowd towards them, exchanging polite greetings along the way. They couldn’t have been more different, yet they were the best of friends: the elf prince Legolas and Gimli the dwarf. Éomer clasped their arms warmly and then enquired of the elf if he had come to take part in the contest.

“For if you have,” he added, “I might as well hand the reins of my mare over here and now.”

Legolas laughed and shook his head. “I have no need of another horse. No, I’ve just come to have a look.”

They turned towards the field where the first contestants had started to line up. They were a motley lot, ranging from simply clad farmers with their homemade bows to noble lords in all their finery. There were young farm boys, hunters clad all in green, guards from the citadel in their uniform of silver and black and even a few grizzled old soldiers, veterans of the ring war. Éomer wasn’t sure if they were attracted by the prospect of winning a battle steed or by the two bags of gold that would go to the runners-up.

One of his men, the master of the tournament, now stepped up and at a nod from his king loudly blew his horn. The crowd hushed expectantly. “The tournament is opened,“ he proclaimed in a sonorous voice. “May the best man win!”

As the crowd cheered his words, the first ten contestants lined up to try their luck. Éomer winced as the some of the arrows went hopelessly astray. It had been a wise decision to keep the spectators well away from the end where the butts had been set up.

To Legolas he remarked, “Not quite in your league, I think.” The elf had to hide a smile.

Éomer watched for a while before he felt it his duty to go back inside the pavilion to entertain the rest of his guests. The ladies showed little interest in the contest going on outside, he rather thought they were after different prey.

It was then that he heard Legolas call out to the dwarf, “have a look at this, Gimli. I didn’t know they had women archers in Gondor. I wonder if she’s any good?” As he went to join his friends at the opening again he had a sudden sickening premonition of what he would see.

It was indeed the Princess of Dol Amroth standing there slim and straight, a look of fierce concentration on her face. As he watched in disbelief she drew her bow and with deadly grace loosed her arrows one after the other. All but one hit the target.

“That wasn’t too bad,“ Legolas observed thoughtfully “I wonder who she is?”

“Princess Lothiriel of Dol Amroth,” Éomer said grimly, feeling seriously annoyed. He realised he had underestimated her determination to get exactly what she wanted. It was a feeling that would have been familiar to her eldest brother.

“Imrahil’s daughter?” the elf said, surprised. Then he turned to Gimli. “Care for a bet?” he asked with a grin. “I say she’ll reach the last three.”

The dwarf shook his head regretfully “I never bet against you where matters of archery are concerned,” he said.

“I will, “Éomer said, much to their surprise. “The usual stakes?”

The elf nodded. “The usual. Would you introduce us?”

The King of Rohan nodded curtly. “I promised to,“ he said.

Lothiriel was vexed at missing that last shot. Shooting in front of so many people had made her nervous and she had lost her concentration. Luckily it didn’t matter as only three arrows had to hit the target for her to qualify for the next round.

As a child she had pestered her father mercilessly until he had allowed her to learn to shoot a bow like her elder brothers. They didn’t really have an aptitude for it but she had discovered that she had keen eyes and a gift for archery, perhaps inherited from her elven ancestors. During the ring war she had started to practice daily in the grim hope of at least going down fighting if the worst came to pass.

Now she risked a quick glance at the pavilion where she had spotted the King of Rohan earlier on. It was as she had feared, he was looking most displeased. Her heart sank as she saw him making his way towards her, accompanied by an elf.

“What do you think you are doing here, Princess?” he asked her without preamble.

She stiffened and gave him a defiant look. “My Lord King, I am taking part in the tournament. You said yourself that anybody could.”

“I most certainly didn’t mean you, “ he said, his voice full of disapprobation, “what could you possibly want with a warhorse?” His friend was looking at him in surprise at his tone.

Lothiriel fumed. Who was he to think he could lay down the rules for her? “I don’t need you to tell me what I can and can’t do,” she replied hotly.

“Very well. If you want to make a spectacle of yourself then go ahead,” Éomer said angrily and departed, leaving Lothiriel looking stricken.

“My friend promised to introduce us but he seems to have forgotten it,“ the elf now said with a bow, sounding faintly amused, “so I’ll just have to do it myself. I am Legolas.”

Under normal circumstances she would have been thrilled to meet a member of the famous Fellowship, but now Lothiriel just gave him a weak smile. She was still staring after the King of Rohan, biting her lip.

“Don’t worry,“ the elf now advised, “he’s got a quick temper but he doesn’t really mean it.”

“I think he does,” she replied with a sigh. “But then I probably won’t make it through the next round anyway.”

Now Legolas was looking slightly alarmed and asked her why.

She motioned at her horse standing nearby, grazing placidly. “I have no idea how I’ll get her to canter.”

Legolas was surveying the fat little mare in dismay. “This is your horse? We will have to do something about that!” he exclaimed. “Can you ride?”

She looked at him in surprise. “Yes. But why are you helping me?”

He gave her a wink. “I have ulterior motives,“ he admitted and explained.

***


It took quite a long time for the first round to finish. Of well over a hundred entrants only about forty now remained. All but one target were removed and as Éomer watched with a frown the first contestant prepared to ride by. He had obviously borrowed his horse somewhere, had trouble just holding on and all his arrows went hopelessly wide.

Legolas had joined them again and Gimli asked him with a curious glance what he’d been up to.

“Just improving the odds,“ the elf replied innocently. Éomer looked at him suspiciously but at that moment the Princess of Dol Amroth was announced.

He couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the grey horse she was riding.

Gimli frowned. “That is Arod, isn’t it?” he asked. It was indeed the horse Éomer had lent Legolas when they had first met on the plains of Rohan and had later gifted to him.

The dwarf shook his head. “It never ceases to amaze me what lengths you’re prepared to go to, to win a bet.”

The King of Rohan was looking at the elf with murder in his eyes.

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Legolas makes a bet
Created
27 Sep 2005
Last Edited
27 Sep 2005
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