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There were many events taking place during the Grand Tournament: archery, wrestling, dances and feasts as well as the jousts and foot combat. The first two were open to all contestants; gentry as well as nobility, but in keeping with tradition the foot combat and jousts were reserved only for the nobility. Because of this, the archery and wrestling competitions were held in a separate area to the east of the lists, and no stands erected; all stood about and watched as they could, propped on bales of hay or standing upon benches to cheer their champions on. The foot combat contests were in a small, out-of-the-way corner outside the stadium proper, and if one were cunning one could gain the inner stadium seating, push aside the rear hangings, and watch from above: a prime location. But the stadium itself was set aside for the jousts.
Not many of the competitions were concurrent, allowing the spectators to watch as many events as they desired. The foot combat started the day, to be followed by the wrestling, but because these two affairs did not draw as many onlookers they overlapped some. The jousts and archery competitions were held after noon, when the sun was high and hot; archery first, then, on into the earlier afternoon, the jousts.
Lord Faramir and his bride had watched the foot combat with interest, both hoping to see the mysterious Green Knight fight, but alas! The order of combatants for the day did not include his seal. They could descry a perian, however, hovering anxiously overhead from the back of the stands, watching the fights, counting points, and nervously nibbling on his fingers. Eowyn smiled at him, remembering the two hobbits she had known well, but Faramir was troubled by his presence, knowing the Little Folk rarely traveled this far from home. Before the foot combat was quite over, the little hobbit ducked back inside the stadium and disappeared from sight.
When they had regained the stands, Eowyn asked Belecthor for the order of competitors, and he handed her a sheet of parchment, which he had secreted in an inner pocket of his doublet. Shading the afternoon sun with her hand (causing the Ceremonies Master to hiss angrily at his servants that the screens must be moved, for the comfort of the Lady), Eowyn scanned the list and found that Lasgalen of Dale was to joust opposite Malbeth of Celos in the fourth match of the day. She looked upon the small shield inscribed beside the name and smiled to herself, murmuring softly, “Oakleaf of Dale!” Faramir, who had been talking over the kingdom’s accounts with Eradan, glanced in her direction and frowned.
The jousts were exciting to watch and therefore the most popular event; the stands were filled to overflowing and the voices of the spectators drowned out the heralds announcing the knights’ names. But near-silence fell when the first two knights, one in pale blue and the other in ragged brown, faced each other down the length of the tilt and set the butts of their lances into their rests beneath their besagues. The herald standing to the east of the tilt glanced left and right to determine whether both combatants were prepared, then dropped his upraised pennant to signal the charge and stepped quickly out of the line of attack.
The two destriers were spurred forward, their hooves sending up clouds of dust and throwing back clods of earth to either side. The armour gleamed in the high sun and the surcoats billowed out. Then with a crash, the knights came together; the lance of the Brown Knight struck the Blue full in the center of his charnel, throwing him off balance, but not before his own coronel had snapped against his opponent’s helmet, sending him spinning to the earth in a haze of yellow dust.
“Do we follow traditional rules of engagement?” Eowyn asked Belecthor.
“What mean you, my Lady?” asked Belecthor, applauding with the rest.
“I mean, does the Blue Knight win the Brown Knight’s horse for unseating him?”
“Nay, my lady,” said a voice on the other side of Belecthor; Egalmoth’s. “A slight change in the regulations was required, as many of the competitors are poor, and further beggaring them in such a happy event would be unthinkable. We are here to forge ties, not tear them asunder.”
“That is as well,” said Eodild; “the Brown Knight’s horse is less than desirable. See the fistulations upon his hocks!”
“Indeed,” said Eowyn, “I do believe that is the reason he threw his master.”
As the Brown Knight was able to regain his steed, the combatants once again faced each other down the tilt, and the pennant was dropped. For a second time the knights spurred their destriers forward. This time, though, when the Brown Knight’s coronel came into contact with the other’s cuirass, the lance shattered, and the coronel flew into the stands, to be caught by an enthusiastic young boy. It took the guards stationed around the stands a moment to convince the youth to return the coronel to its owner, which he did with a look of sharp disappointment.
“That is one point to each,” said Faramir.
A new lance was brought to the Brown Knight and the charge was made. This time, the Blue Knight was unhorsed. “Two to Brown,” said Eradan.
“Who is he?” asked Egalmoth.
Eodild glanced down at the parchment in her Lady’s hand. “Hallas of Lossarnach.” When Eradan grunted disapprovingly, Eowyn asked: “Do you known anything to his discredit, Eradan?”
“Not he, but his father,” said Eradan, folding his hands over his fat stomach and settling his many chins into his collar. His face was red and he was sweating. “Baldor of Lossarnach is a merchant who holds extensive lands around the ports of Pelargir. There are reports of trade with Harad.”
“Is that not illegal?” frowned Eowyn.
“It is,” supplied Faramir. “Long did my father seek to discourage such trade, but the merchant princes of South Ithilien and Ethir Anduin have their own codes of honor.”
Eradan sighed, and Belecthor murmured, “Disgraceful!” But none who heard him knew whether he referred to the merchant princes’ treason, or to the Blue Knight’s finally being unhorsed, giving the victory to Hallas of Lossarnach.
During the interval, when the next two knights were being rallied, a servant boy came by with chilled wine and fruit, and Eradan asked the screen to be moved again. “It is too much sun for a fat man,” he added with a jovial laugh, taking a goblet in his jeweled fingers. The sun swung slowly to the west during the next two meets, as knight met knight in a flurry of hooves and dust and the splintered remains of lances, and at last to Eowyn’s satisfaction Lasgalen of Dale stood to the tilt against Malbeth of Celos.
Malbeth was a man renowned for his deeds of prowess in war and peace, waging both with success and valor. His steed was black, polished black was his armour, and his lance was tipped with flaming silver. High and dark was his helm, crowned with a white plume, and his eyes were hidden behind the thin slit in his visor. By comparison Lasgalen looked pallid and wan as a pale flower, sitting upright upon the saddle and gripping his lance negligently against his besague. His terrible destrier snorted and pawed, the tooth-like edges of his shoes scraping great fissures in the earth beneath his hooves, the sun glinting from the flaring eyepieces in his shaffron. Malbeth’s horse shifted uncomfortably at the display.
The herald lifted the pennant, glanced this way and that, and signaled the charge. The Green Knight’s destrier screamed once, a horrible bellow, and flew snorting and whistling down the tilt. All in the stands gasped. A shaft of sunlight glanced upon the Green Knight’s armour, igniting him, and he flashed before them, leaning into his lance toward his opponent. Malbeth, however, had difficulty spurring on his unnerved horse, which finally leaped forward into the charge, but because of the larger destrier’s speed and ferocity the two knights met further down the tilt than intended.
They came together with a sound of lightning striking. Lances splintered and flew apart like fireworks and a spray of sparks lit up the heavy air. The crowd rose to their feet and cheered delightedly.
“Amazing!” panted Eradan, clapping enthusiastically. “I have never seen Malbeth of Celos so evenly matched. I had thought him to dominate this joust, but if this other knight’s prowess matches his, we shall see some struggles indeed!”
“Malbeth is certainly a mighty knight,” smiled Faramir, also applauding; “few are his equal. But perhaps Lasgalen of Dale will be his undoing.”
“Why has he a child as a squire?” queried Egalmoth indignantly. “That is no place for so small a boy!”
“That is not a boy,” scoffed Eowyn. “That is a holbytla, a halfling of the North.”
“A perian,” Faramir added, seeing Egalmoth’s confusion.
“Halfling or no, he seems most wroth with his master,” chuckled Eradan, taking another goblet of wine. Indeed as they looked, they could see the hobbit scolding the Green Knight, shaking with anger and wagging his finger at him. The knight only shook his head and took another lance from the armourer, a stout and grinning dwarf dressed in green, his long beard forked and braided and tucked into a richly worked belt.
“Perhaps he is annoyed at his master losing a lance so soon in the match,” suggested Belecthor.
“I know not,” chuckled Faramir. “But the periannath are amusing, whether they are mirthful or wrathful.”
“It is their size,” said Eowyn, looking at her husband with a frown. “One is always tempted to think them children, but yet their deeds are as noble as our own, if not greatly surpassing them.”
“Forgive me,” smiled Faramir, bowing over her hand. “But you did not have Samwise son of Hamfast call you foolish to your face, with hands on hips as he defended his master, railing you that you had no more sense than an orc. It is, indeed, one of my fondest memories.”
“Nay,” she answered, appeased, “but nor did you have Meriadoc son of Saradoc at your side in battle, helping to slay the Witch-King of Angmar.” And as there was nothing Faramir could say to this, he did not reply, but attended instead to the joust.
The knights positioned themselves at the tilt once more. More cautiously this time did the herald give the signal to start; he was unwilling to stand in the way of the Green Knight’s war horse. Again the destrier screamed and charged; again the knights, black and green, met at the tilt; but this time Malbeth’s lance struck true in the center of the cuirass. The Green Knight did not fall, though, but leant back in the saddle, recovering his lance, which had slipped upon the slick surface of his opponent’s helm.
“Two to one,” said Faramir, and Eowyn bit her lip in frustration.
The Halfling was dancing up and down by now, rebuking Lasgalen of Dale in a high voice, which they could hear but not understand. The dwarvish armourer was shaking his head, but still smiling. The Green Knight bent down as though to speak to them, then returned to the tilt.
The perian’s admonitions had perhaps been efficacious; at this next pass the Green Knight’s lance struck Malbeth squarely in the chest, throwing him from his horse with a thunderous clatter. The great destrier skidded to a halt, bellowing once more; the Black Knight’s horse gave a whinny of fright and bolted towards the stands, where guards and squires attempted to stop him.
“Two to two,” said Faramir, and Egalmoth said indignantly, “That destrier is a menace!” Eowyn covered her mouth with her hands fretfully. “My love,” said Faramir, “will you not open your mind to me concerning this knight? What is it about Lasgalen of Dale that disquiets you so?”
“If my lord has not yet descried it,” said Eowyn with a small smile, “perhaps he should look the closer, and determine it himself.”
Faramir looked back to the lists, where Malbeth’s destrier was being ushered back to his master. It took the Black Knight a moment to calm his horse, and in the interim the Green Knight stood to the tilt patiently, unmoving atop his pawing and snorting mount. Faramir found he was holding his breath, and when the pennant was dropped he inhaled sharply at the war-cry of the Green Knight’s mighty steed. Great chunks of earth flew from the scissoring hooves, and the dull gray haunches, bunching their great muscles, threw man and beast forward. The knights met and their lances found their marks, but Lasgalen’s was the truer, and losing his balance once more the Black Knight tumbled to the churned ground.
“Three!” cried Faramir, and Eowyn laughed and clapped her hands like a child. The stands erupted in cheers as the Green Knight turned his steed back to his vanquished adversary, leaning from his saddle to haul him to his feet. Malbeth’s squire hurried over and took charge of his master, and the Green Knight rode victorious to his own servants, while the green and brown standard of his house was hung on the victor’s wall.
“Now will you tell me who he is?” asked Faramir of his wife.
“Nay!” she laughed, eyes shining. “But watch him a while and you will see.”
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