“Eowel, Lord Arathor wishes to speak with you.”
Eowel looked up as her new servant, Perechoriel, poked her head through the girl’s bedroom door.
“Thank you, Perechoriel,” said Eowel. “Tell him I’ll be right down.” The servant nodded and pulled her head back through the door.
Eowel closed the book she was reading and looked around her room. The past three days she had spent in Gondor were eventful and exciting. There was a large feast to welcome her, and Rowa had been teaching her battle tricks on horseback. But she knew she would be in trouble when the Gondorian messenger that Aragorn had sent to Rohan would return with her parents.
As Eowel stood up, she thought of the punishment she may receive when her mother, Eowyn, found out that she had run away.
“I suppose I should go talk to Arathor,” she mumbled to herself.
“Eowel,” said Arathor as the girl approached him. “How did you sleep last night?”
“Peacefully, thank you,” she said. She really was enjoying her stay in Gondor. At least, more than she expected.
“We should begin your training today,” said Arathor. “You need to learn how to fight before you go on your journey back to Rohan.”
There was an awkward silence as Eowel thought of leaving this beautiful place. She already felt like she had lived in Gondor her whole life. But she could never imagine leaving it.
“Well, let’s begin then,” she said, breaking the silence. “What shall we start with?”
“Archery,” said Arathor. “It is probably the easiest out of all weaponry.” Eowel followed Arathor to the armoury, where he handed her a bow and three arrows. “Well, easy enough for a Ranger, at least.”
Eowel froze. Ranger? How?
“What-?” she said, the words stumbling over her tounge. But Arathor interrupted her.
“Save your questions for after the lesson, Eowel,” he said. “Please.” Eowel sighed.
“Fine,” she said. “So let’s get on with it, then.”
The fields were beautiful, like the rest of Gondor. Ripe fruits grew from trees and colorful flowers sprouted from the ground.
“There is your target,” Arathor said, pointing between two apple trees. “Aim for those and shoot.”
Eowel drew her bow.
“But wait!” said Arathor, so suddenly that he frightened Eowel. “You need to learn the basics.” The girls passed him a dirty look before he pulled her over to himself, showing her the way to aim.
After he showed her some positions, he had her stand in a stance. Walking around her in circles, he inspected her carefully.
“Shoulder up a little,” he mumbled to her. “And… fire!”
Eowel let go of the bowstring and an arrow whizzed through the air, straight for the bullseye- and hit it right in the center.
“Good,” said Arathor. “And on your first try, too. Now, keep practicing. I have to go talk to my father.”
Eowel watched her mentor walk away, back towards the castle. Then she turned to face the bullseye, which was a good fifty feet away.
“Good…” she mumbled to herself.
The messenger dug his heels into his horse’s sides, forcing the creature into a gallop. The darkness sent shivers up his spine, and he thought he had heard leaves crunching a few feet away.
‘Perhaps it’s just a wild hound,’ he thought. ‘Oh well. I must get this message to Rohan.’
He never saw the orc notch an arrow to its bow, never saw the weapon flying through the air, straight for his chest.
Eowel was awakened by Perechoriel, who had brought her breakfast.
“Not that it is any of my business, but how did the training go yesterday?” the servant asked.
“I guess it went well,” said Eowel. But something was trying to burst out of her mind, something she needed to know.
But the princess cut the servant off. “Is Arathor a ranger?” she asked.
Perechoriel looked surprised. Her cheeks turned red, and she furrowed her brow.
“Not that I know of, but, my lady, why do you ask this?” she said.
“I… it’s just…” Eowel could not think of what to say. She made up her own excuse. “I was… just wondering. Because, well, Aragorn was a ranger, and-“
“Yes, but that was long ago. And Arathor is royalty.” The expression on Perechoriel’s face told Eowel that the servant wasn’t lying. And she had a point.
“Okay, well, thank you,” the princess mumbled. “You may go now.”
Eowel was slightly embarrased as she watched her servant leave. She shouldn’t have interrupted her like that, even if she was just a servant.
‘I’ll apologize tomorrow,’ she thought. ‘Then I’ll feel better. Now I should eat. I’m sure Arathor is ready for me.’
“Today we will practice with a long-ranged sword,” Arathor said to Eowel. He could tell the girl wasn’t paying attention. “What’s on your mind?” he asked.
“Wha… oh! Nothing…” Eowel said.
“Well, alright then, pay attention,” said Arathor. “Now, it is much easier to use the longer sword, than the dagger. And I’m sure you know why.”
“Yes, because it gives you a better advantage,” said Eowel. “You don’t have to get so close to your enemy.”
“Good,” said Arathor. “Here, take- Eowel!”
Once again, the girl was not paying any attention. She was staring at the path ahead, her eyes foggy. When she heard her name, she snapped back into reality.
“What is wrong with you today?” Arathor asked. “You are not focusing on your lessons at all.”
Eowel made up an excuse. “I can not stop thinking of leaving this place. I don’t want my parents to come.” She was really thinking of her discussion with Perechoriel earlier that day.
“I know, but your training is more important,” said Arathor. “Now, take this sword.”
Eowel held the weapon in both hands. It was awfully heavy for her. Soon her arms were sore from the weight.
“Yes, I see that you have realized the downside to using a sword,” said Arathor, noticing the girl’s shaking arms. “That is why archery is the best form of weaponry. Long-ranged, and light-weight. Now, there is a tree down there. My servants have hung a ribbon from it. We must practice your aim. There is a metal ring around the ribbon. Stick the tip of your sword through it like this.”
The prince whistled, and a horse came trotting into view. He jumped onto its back, and forced it into a gallop. Holding up his sword, he aimed for the metal ring. Soon he was riding back to where Eowel was standing, the ribbon fluttering from the tip of his sword.
“Now it’s your turn,” he said. “Don’t worry, there are more ribbons.”
Eowel waited for Arathor to dismount before whistling for Lorel. The great stallion was soon next to his companion. Eowel slipped him a fruit she had found.
“How long have you known him?” Arathor asked.
“Since I was eight years old,” said Eowel. “So he is fairly old.” Lorel snorted.
“Well, anyway, before we get distracted, take a try. Make sure you are careful with that sword. Your horse may not be comfortable around it.”
Eowel nodded and mounted Lorel. The stallion tossed his head nervously, keeping an eye on the sword in Eowel’s hand.
“It’s alright, Lorel,” she whispered into his ear. As soon as they were settled, the two friends were galloping toward another ribbon. Arathor was shouting instructions across the field to Eowel when, all of a sudden, an arrow whizzed out of the trees, just missing the princess.