The Adventures of Laramir Pt. 13 (AU) - All That Glitters Is Not Gold
Suddenly a white dot on a brown splotch emerged from the horizon. As it approached Éomer recognized that the brown splotch was in fact a horse, certainly not as well-bred as his own but a proud beast none the less. And its rider rode bareback, her skirt and long red hair flowing in the mid-morning breeze.
Éomer raised his hand as a summons, and a page, not more than eight years old, came running up. When at first Éomer didn't speak, the boy looked at where the prince had been gazing, out across the field. ''Who is she?'' he wondered out loud.
'Why, I never imagined--Rohan has no flower to compare. The lady of Gondor, who can match her... '
The page looked at him questioningly. 'Sir?'
'Run and tell Théoden, and hurry. Our guest approaches. Run, lad! No, wait: on second thought, I'll go myself.' And with that he took off.
Éowyn had been walking along the garden path below, and happened to overhear Éomer's comments to the page. If the truth was to be told, she was more than a little jealous. Since she was a child the people of Rohan had always told her how beautiful she was. She had long blonde hair smooth as silk and bright as moonbeams, and a fire in her eye that hinted at the fire in her soul, some said.
Only in these last few years had she begun to leave childhood behind. Until recently she had fought with sword and lance with the boys of her uncle's court. But about three years ago her chest had begun to develop, so she could not move a sword as effectively. And the boys' mothers began to complain that, while swordplay with a girl had never been proper, swordplay with a woman was not modest as well. Suffice it to say that Éowyn's hair was no longer her most fetching feature.
If that was the cost of beauty, then Éowyn wanted no part of it. This lady of Gondor could have it! What was it Théoden had called her? Laramir? Now that was something to envy. Having a boy's name perhaps she could still act like a boy. Éowyn decided to climb a tree to get a better look.
Indeed, she had stayed in the world of men, at least if her arrival was any indication. Laramir rode bareback, not in the sidesaddle-fashion that was so popular with the women, but with her legs apart astride the horse's back, just like a man might ride. And she rode alone, not with her hair pulled back into a neat bun but flowing wildly in the wind. There was no chaperone, no guardian to protect this wild thing from the dangers of the road. And this Laramir was nearly three years younger than Éowyn by the looks of it. Yet these days if Éowyn, now almost grown at seventeen, wanted to ride she had to take her brother or some other man of Rohan with her: Théoden refused to have her riding around alone. Now that was something to envy this Laramir. And she had come from Fangorn: she had been outside her own country. Alone! Éowyn was a little mad at the freedoms Laramir seemed to enjoy, but more than that she was curious: who was this girl, and why did she get to do these things? She wanted to meet her.
That, unfortunately, would have to wait. By the king's decree, none of the royal court could meet Laramir until her brother arrived, and he was officially welcomed to Rohan.
Théoden sat in the golden hall, alone with three chiefs of villages on the eastern border, near Isengard, and his chief adviser Grima Wormtongue.
'My lord, many of our hunters have gone out to hunt the game, but have not returned. This has been going on for months.'
'Have your hunters never died in the field before?' Théoden asked. 'Hunting is a dangerous task, or at least it was when I was a lad.'
'Yes, of course, but never in this number. We usually send out groups of five hunters, and occasionally one will fall to a beast. Never more than ten in a given season. But in the last month alone fifteen have not returned--three whole groups, not individual hunters. This has never happened before.'
'It is as if,' a second chief suggested, 'they were being attacked. Not by animals, but by men.'
The third chieftain reached into his bag and produced a spear and a helmet, and set these before the king. The spear was unlike any that Théoden had ever seen, and the helmet bore a crude painted white hand.
The first chief continued: 'The spear, any could hold, but the helmet? It would hardly fit a child older than your stable-boy who took our horses. An orc, however--'
But Grima stepped forward, faced Théoden, and bowed. 'My liege, if I may. If these men are suggesting that an orc attacked their hunters, why they are living in the wrong part of Rohan! Even a child knows that orcs come from Mordor, in the east. And our western border is well-guarded. Saruman the Wise has ever been--'
But Théoden held up his hand to silence Wormtongue. The company listened closely, and heard the sound of rapid footsteps, someone running down a hall somewhere in the building.
The running steps promptly slowed to a somber, but hurried, walk. Théoden addressed the chiefs: 'I am afraid we will have to continue this later.'
The doors burst open and Éomer rushed into the hall. 'Uncle!' But with that he noticed the strangers in the hall. He bowed. 'Excuse me, sirs, but I have a matter of some urgency. If I may... King Théoden, you asked to be informed when the traveller from Fangorn arrived. I have just spied her riding toward Edoras as we speak. She should arrive within the hour.' He walked up to Théoden and leaned over so that only the king could hear what he said next: 'I understand, uncle, your reasons for not welcoming her yourself, until her brother arrives. But is it really necessary to have her first view of Edoras be the common gate guard? Let me--'
'No, Éomer. My mind is made up. Háma will escort her to the guest house, where she can rest until the feast to welcome them to Rohan. Both of them. You will meet her then.'
'But uncle, she is more fair than--than these great walls, made of solid gold. She sparkles with the sun, and with a fire I cannot see.'
'All that glitters is not gold, Éomer,' he said with a smile. 'My mind is set.'
As Laramir approached the city she found a path that led to a great gate. Just before she reached the gates they opened slowly, revealing a lone man. Burly with blond hair, he sat on a great jet-black horse, and was dressed as if for war: his great chest covered with mail, his quiver hung on his back, and his great spear resting against his shoulder.
'M'lady. If you will follow me I will show you to your quarters.'
He dismounted, looked to the side, and cocked his head, beckoning the two stable boys standing behind the wall to come forward. He walked over to Laramir's horse and helped her down. The stable boys took the two horses to the city stables.
'My lord Théoden--' but the guard interrupted with a chuckle. 'I am sorry to disappoint you, m'lady, but I am Háma, the Captain of the Guard. King Théoden is indisposed. You will meet him at the festivities.'
'But why the delay?'
'Festivities...? Surely you did not wish to meet him before your brother arrives?'
'Why, yes, of course. Our outer scouts spotted him not more than an hour ago. He should arrive this afternoon.'