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The Green Knight  by Le Rouret


            “Surely you would not eject him!” cried Éowyn in dismay after Legolas had left.  Elessar, his face pale with wrath, had sent the trembling Bergil with a message to Belecthor, Eradan, and Egalmoth, bidding them wait upon him at once, then threw himself back into his heavy oaken chair with a scowl.

            “Lady Éowyn,” said Aragorn sharply, “he has entered this Grand Tournament under false pretenses and in disguise.  That would be enough for me to force him to withdraw.  But in addition to that, remember the reason for this tournament!  We seek to unite the scattered Men of my kingdom; not to perplex our potential allies with the spectacle Legolas makes of himself.  Think of the people – my people and your own!  What do they hope to realize?  Parents hunt for marriages for their daughters; knights seek friendship and alliances with other knights to strengthen their hands against any onslaught; Faramir hopes, as do I, that Ithilien will become so desirable in their sight that many will settle here, to strengthen our borders.  And whom do we have trampling over the letters patents of these noble guests?  A Wood-Elf!  It is true; he is neither Quendi nor Noldor, yet still his immortal being mocks his opponents’ weaknesses.  And beside – “ Aragorn paused, considering “ – I do not think Belecthor opened this tournament to any save free Men of Rhovanion, Rohan, Eriador, and the fiefs of Gondor.  If I am not much mistaken, Eryn Lasgalen is not one of those places.”

            “My lord,” said Faramir, looking uncomfortable, “Legolas Greenleaf is indeed one of your vassals.”

            Aragorn stared at him in amazement. “A vassal!” he exclaimed.  “How could that be?  A Wood-Elf from the Northern Kingdom?  No, surely you are jesting with me, Faramir.”

            “He does not,” retorted Éowyn with a lift of her chin.  “My husband and I have granted Legolas and his people a tract of land in North Ithilien.  He and his kin shall come at the spring of the next year, and continue their work of restoration in our embattled woods.  Had I a map present, I could show you the boundaries of his fiefdom myself.”

            The king frowned, nonplussed.  “Well,” he said darkly, “he has at least entered this tournament under disguise, and with patents of nobility that are very obviously counterfeit; I cannot allow him to stay.”  As Elessar said this, his three Council members entered with Bergil, and Belecthor drew himself up in alarm.

            “Who is it you speak of, my lord?” he asked anxiously.  “Have I allowed an impostor into this tournament?  Please, my lord, do not judge of me too harshly!  My Quartermaster, Targil, has been tasked with handling the patents of nobility, and – “

            “Oh, peace, Belecthor,” said Egalmoth moodily, kissing Elessar’s fingers and sitting heavily in a chair beside Faramir.  “From my previous experiences with his majesty, I do assure you his face darkens not with offence but with annoyance.”  He pulled a packet of papers from an inner pocket in his doublet and fanned himself.  “This tent is very close, my lords and ladies; could we not continue this council out of doors?”

            “No, Egalmoth, we cannot,” said Elessar, frowning.  “This is a secret council, and I caution you now to let no words that pass between us be heard outside the tent walls.  Bergil son of Beregond, I show a trusted esquire much disservice by this, but would you please retire for the space of half an hour?  I must needs disclose my mind to my councilors in a matter that deeply concerns one of the knights in this tournament, and both the identity of the knight and the nature of his offence should be kept quite secret.  Will you do this for me, Bergil?”

            The boy blinked in surprise at his king’s gentle tone, and filled with love for his lord he knelt and took one of Elessar’s hands in his own.  “I shall be silent as the grave, my lord king!” he assured Elessar, kissing his fingers, and then bowing to Faramir and the ladies he quitted the tent, closing the flap behind him.

            Eradan, who had lowered his vast bulk down upon a creaking oaken chair, also fanned himself.  “I ought to have asked for a cooling goblet of wine before he left,” he sighed.  “My lord, you are more gentle with that boy than you ought; with what certainty can you tell me he will not listen at the seam?”

            “I vouch for Bergil myself,” said Faramir a little stiffly.  “His father –“

            “Let us not bandy wasted words; time is of the essence,” interrupted Éowyn angrily.  “Belecthor’s servants are arranging the ordering of the foot-combats and jousts for tomorrow, based upon the lists of knights who won the field today.  Lasgalen of Dale is prominent upon that list, is he not, Ceremonies Master?”

            “He is,” admitted Belecthor, casting a worried glance at the angry king.  “Though his showing is but a little above average in sword-fighting, he is a terror on the lists and has tied with Vorondil today.  Even Malbeth fears to meet him again, and Hallas of Lossarnach, a young and hale knight himself, trembles at his name.  Targil and my other servants are working on the numbers now; shall I bid them wait?”

            “Let us come to an accord first,” suggested Faramir; “to do that you must be aware of his circumstances.”  Briefly, and without mentioning Legolas’ name or race, Faramir told the three older men what the Elf had done.  Eradan chuckled, all his chins jiggling upon his round chest and the rings on his fingers flashing.  Egalmoth and Belecthor seemed nonplussed, looking to Elessar in confusion.

            “Well, he seems a very secretive and mysterious young man indeed,” said Egalmoth, lacing his thin bony fingers together over his doublet, “yet I see not why this should be grounds for his expulsion.  You yourself, my lord, if you will remember, entered the foot-combat in Dol Amroth under the name Telcontar of Gondor, after Eradan had advised you not to endanger your royal person in such frivolous competition.”  Eradan laughed aloud, and even Belecthor smiled, while Elessar’s anger faded to consternation under the surprised looks of his wife and friends.  Faramir in particular seemed amazed by this and said slowly,

            “You told me, my lord, that you were going to Dol Amroth to see to the betrothal papers between Lothíriel and my brother-in-law.  Mean you to tell me, then, that the bruises you sustained on that trip were not due to the fall from a horse, as you had said to me, but to injuries – “

            Eradan laughed again, and the queen turned not to her husband but to her friend, saying, “Did I not say to you, Éowyn, that boys grow not wiser, only taller?”

            “That was not the same,” said Aragorn, growing angrier in his embarrassment.  “It was only a small tournament, with no jousting or prizes, and Faramir, I did not lie to you; indeed that was my purpose of the trip, to speak to Imrahil of Éomer’s desires.”

            “But I did tell you it would be unwise to put yourself in such danger,” Eradan reminded his king, smiling.  “And you did enter the tournament under a false name, as this Lasgalen has done.”  He cocked his egg-shaped head to one side, considering.  “And who is he, then, my lord?  May we not know even the name of the offender?”

            “’Twould mean naught to you; you know him not,” said Faramir.

            “Yet Elessar must know him well,” pressed Eradan, “to have recognized him under all that armour.”  The king shifted uncomfortably, anger fading, and said:

            “Eradan, I rue the day I let you continue on in your role as councilor after my coronation; you are too shrewd for me.”

            Eradan shrugged.  “Shrewd or blind, it matters not!  Yet I would know why Lasgalen of Dale’s deception affects you so strongly.  What is it in this young man that disturbs you so?  You need not fear for his health, for he has so far escaped injury by his great agility; Lord Faramir has told us he is indeed of noble blood, so it is no commoner disgracing the lists; his true name is not important, as we have proved by your own example – “  He gave the king a keen glance, and Aragorn flushed red.  Eradan smiled and turned to the Ceremonies Master, who was nervously plucking at his collar.  “Belecthor, my friend, what say you?  It is your tournament, yours and Lord Faramir’s anyway; before I make up my mind I think I would like to know your own in this matter.”

            Belecthor considered for a moment, turning his head this way and that around the circle, reading the expressions upon his companions’ faces.  Egalmoth seemed to him more irritated and impatient than concerned; Eradan was amused, Éowyn indignant, Arwen impassive, Faramir worried and Elessar abashed and angry because of his predicament; it was with great reluctance he said:  “Your majesty, you have said nothing to me that causes me to think Lasgalen of Dale should retire or be ejected from the Grand Tournament.  Though his letters patents are forged, yet you our king have assured us of the legitimacy of his claims, and there are no rules governing the entering of tournaments in disguise – in fact, in times long past it was customary, as knights warring against one another would come together to spar without enmity.  Nay, my lord, should you ask me to cast my vote for his expulsion, my answer would be Nay.”  Éowyn took a deep breath at this, and smiled at Belecthor, who was still looking anxiously at his king.  Aragorn turned to Faramir.

            “Well, Lord Faramir?” he said, the corner of his mouth quirking up.  “What say you?  You know this . . . this ‘young man,’ Lasgalen of Dale; you know what could be at stake here, should he be gravely injured, or perhaps killed, as does happen in these tournaments, be he possessed of extraordinary strength and skill or not.  My friend, can you think upon Gondor’s war-chests and cast your vote in accord with Belecthor’s?”

            “What is this, my lord?” asked Eradan, sitting up suddenly.  “Is there aught else we should be told?”

            “I was going to keep it secret,” said Aragorn, “until the end of the tournament.”

            “You have half-disclosed it already, my husband,” said Arwen.  “Desist in this teasing; it is most unbecoming.  Tell Eradan about the gold!  He is your chief Financial Advisor, after all.”

            “Very well,” sighed Aragorn.  “Alas that I rode out from Minas Tirith this morning!  Now all my secrets are laid out, and I have no reward for the faithful Eradan.”  He smiled at Eradan and said, “Lasgalen of Dale’s father is making to Gondor a loan of ten thousand gold marks, to be given to the treasury for the defense of Gondor, particularly at sea; already he has told me to commission the building of ships to send down to Pelargir.  I received his letter yesterday, my friends,” he said, looking from Eradan to Belecthor and Egalmoth, all of whom sat staring at him in amazement; “I meant to tell Eradan after the tournament, to thank him for his suggestion, and to reward him for his diligence in watching over my accounts; I knew it would be a great relief to him and the taking away of a troublesome burden.”

            Egalmoth let out a great breath and looked over at Eradan, who was speechless with surprise.  “A great reward indeed!” he said shakily.  “Ten thousand gold marks!  Why, that could build – “

            “Twenty-five ships, properly armed with trained sailors and soldiers,” said Eradan blankly, staring at his king.  “Ten thousand gold marks!  Upon my head be it, my lord, if I do not find some way to repay you for this news!”  He drew his fat hand across his forehead.  “Ten thousand gold marks!  But Lasgalen – “ he looked sharply at Elessar.  “His father, said you, my lord?  Well, and what would he do, then, should Lasgalen be injured, or killed?  Would he be so capricious as to withdraw his aid from you?”

            “I think not; he has ever been true to his word,” said Aragorn slowly, “though I know not for certain; I do not even know if he is aware his son has entered the Grand Tournament, nor do I know what his reaction would be, were he told.”  He turned to his wife.  “You know his father better than I,” he said; “think you he would withdraw his aid from us, should his son die?”

            “He?” asked Arwen in surprise.  “Nay, I think not, though I am not certain; Lasgalen is his only child, and he loves him very much.  But I do think me his generosity would suffer somewhat, should some ill befall the son he loves so dearly.  I am not certain.  And forget not his wife!  I am certain this venture of Lasgalen’s is made without her consent, if not without her knowledge, and should he fall injured or dead her mourning may be great enough to convince her husband to rethink his munificence.”

            Eradan made a face.  “Well, Belecthor,” he said, “what think you now?  Still say you Nay to his expulsion?”

            “Aye,” said Belecthor; “though it would warm my heart to see the Anduin so richly guarded, I think little of depending upon the caprices of some northern vassal for our succor; if he is so undependable an ally I do not think it would matter whether the Green Knight jousts or no.  He is a popular contestant – rich, and strong, and fast; already a great clamour and clatter is being made in the inns and farmsteads of Ithilien amongst the ladies seeking sons-in-law, and knights from the northern reaches of Gondor are eager for his friendship.  To expel him would be to shame him, and to deny the strength of his hand to our people, no matter if he is of Dale or elsewhere.  I say again:  Let him compete!  Besides, though we lose ten thousand gold marks, or ten million, I do not believe any harm will come to Lasgalen of Dale.  This is only a tournament, and he has already proven his arm is mighty.”

            “Well spoken,” said Egalmoth, though his smile was forced.  His thin hands were gripping the arms of the chair upon which he sat, and his fingers were white at the tips; when he saw the king’s eye upon him he let go and folded his hands slowly in his lap.  “But what says the Lord Faramir?  This tournament is being held in his fiefdom; the offense was made against him truly, not against King Elessar.  What say you, my lord?  Shall the Green Knight be made to withdraw?”

            Faramir sighed deeply and shook his head, then looked regretfully at his lord.  “Your pardon, my king!” he said sadly.  “It grieves me to be at odds with you; never in our dealings have we happened across such a subject about which we so sharply disagreed.  I do not want the Green Knight to withdraw; for myself, I think his father would be offended by that gesture, thinking that we belittled Lasgalen’s heart and courage in challenging the might of Gondor.  I know his father to be a fierce warrior himself, and it would seem insulting indeed to say to him his son had no place amongst the soldiers and knights of the south.  Besides, the Green Knight is your friend; do you truly wish to sadden him by this decision?  He loves you; you know that; he will do as you wish, but it will ever be a sorrow to him, knowing you thought him unworthy, or unable.”

            “I think neither,” insisted Aragorn; “I want him to be safe, and I do not want him to jeopardize the other knights; it is madness for him to enter!  Do you not see it, Faramir?  Arwen?”  He looked at his wife pleadingly, but she smiled and shook her head.

            “Nay, Elessar!” she said, taking his hand.  “I do not wish the Green Knight to withdraw.  Trust him, as you used; he will not fail you, neither on the lists nor in the council chamber with his father, when he arrives. I know you fear for him, because he is naïve, and unused to tournaments and games and such entertainments as we have in the stone cities, and also because you know his strengths as a warrior are neither the sword nor the lance; but I have faith in him, that he will acquit himself well, and when his father arrives as promised next week you will be able to say to him that his son has honoured both you and him with his prowess.  Let him compete, my husband; do not let your fear do him a disservice.”

            Aragorn sighed and looked at Éowyn; steel shone in her pale eyes.  “I know your vote, Lady of Rohan!” he smiled.  “You would have him carry your token to glory and victory upon the heads of all who dared oppose him!  Is that not your mind?”

            “It is,” said Éowyn, her voice hard and angry.  “I know not why you resist this, my lord, when all others are against you.  To have him withdraw would be a great dishonour.  Though you have yet to heed my advice, I beg you, do not do this!  Allow him his trial of arms, so that he may prove himself worthy as herald of Gondor’s salvation.”

            “We have not heard from Egalmoth or Eradan,” Belecthor pointed out; the two other councilors were exchanging uneasy glances, and Egalmoth was fidgeting anxiously.  “Elessar has requested their presence and therefore their counsel; what is their recommendation?  To have the Green Knight, who lately has been calling himself Lasgalen of Dale, withdraw from the Grand Tournament?”  When they did not at first respond, Belecthor said, “Come!  What say you both?  Yea or nay?”

            Eradan was the first to speak, and he looked greatly troubled; his pouchy jowls were red and streaked with perspiration, and his hands shifted uneasily.  “Greatly do I desire the replenishing of the war-chests!” he said heavily.  “Yet I trust not this secret knight from the north, nor his mercurial father.  And yet,” he said, voice slow and thoughtful, “yet I have heard rumour that Orodreth of Linhir – I have spoken to you, my lords, of him before; he is not to be trusted – he has wagered heavily upon Hallas of Lossarnach, who is to be husband to his niece – should he lose money on his wager, should Hallas fall beneath Lasgalen’s lance – “  Eradan’s face creased into smiles  “ – why, that would beggar him, I am sure of it!  And less of a threat to our coastlines, too, should Orodreth find himself unable to pay his soldiers.”  His face cleared, and he smiled.  “Nay, my lords, my ladies, your majesty, I am forced to agree with the majority; I believe the Green Knight should compete – if only to trample over Hallas of Lossarnach in the process,” he added, laughing.

            “Very well!” said the king, though he sounded irritated.  “Egalmoth, my friend, yours is the last vote to cast; what say you to this?”

            Egalmoth shook his head, thin lips pursed.  “I beg your indulgence, my lord,” he said firmly, “but I must cast my vote with Eradan – much though it pains me to do so!”  He smiled his thin smile at Eradan, who laughed and bowed in his seat.  “I believe there is no legal reason the Green Knight should not compete.  And I also say, let him compete under his alias, so that no question of his legitimacy should arise amongst the population, or the other knights.  It would do this tournament no good were it whispered abroad that one of the knights had no right to be here.  We are in difficulties enough down south, where the fiefdoms are unwilling to fully swear allegiance to Elessar; let us not cast a stain upon our reputations further.”

            The king looked from one of his councilors to the other, reading their thoughts in their faces; at last he turned to Éowyn and let out a sigh.

            “Give me your scarf, Éowyn of Emyn Arnen!” he said, holding out his hand.  “I shall deliver it up to your champion myself.”


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