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The Green Knight  by Le Rouret



            The Lord of Emyn Arnen sat beside his Lady in the pavilion overlooking the lists; all about them the people of Osgiliath and its surrounds thronged, jostling each other, finding seats with proper views, chattering and calling to each other in cheery voices.  High above in the blue dome of the sky long streaky clouds stretched from horizon to horizon, milky banners wisping and tattering in the winds far above them.  Rooks and starlings wheeled and circled, rising up like swept cloaks from treetop to treetop, chattering and chirping, aviary echoes of the people on the Tournament grounds.  It seemed odd to Faramir that he had to sit there, dressed in his finest black doublet with a silver circlet about his hair, when he knew he ought rather to be mustering a troop of knights and archers to march upon Amon Din.  Indeed Éowyn had begged that privilege herself, saying she could be of more use rallying a fighting force than being presented in the royal entourage at the reception, but her husband had objected, wanting her in her proper place at his side when King Thranduil arrived.  So she displayed herself before her people, clad in raiment of glimmering green, her fair hair covered with a thin shimmery cloth.  As the stadium and royal box filled Faramir noticed she kept turning to and fro, looking from seat to seat and marking the faces of the people who sat therein; every once and again she would frown to herself.

            “What is it, my Lady?” asked Faramir, taking her hand in his.

            “Where are Egalmoth and Eradan, my Lord?” she asked.  “There is Belecthor speaking with Mardil; there are the other minor lords that make it their habit to sit behind us – but where are your councilors?”

            “I know not; most likely preparing Thranduil’s reception,” said Faramir.

            “Have the scouts returned, then?  He is coming?”

            “One only; he said from the hill on the western side of Cair Andros he could see a great flotilla of golden barges, hung with green sails and filled with folk.  But to his eye they appeared to have dropped anchor, and did not advance any further; also he said many smaller boats were clustered about the western shore of the river.  The other two scouts are watching, and will report when the armada resumes its voyage.  Lasgalen of Dale has assured me the Elven King will arrive today, and he and Beregond have met with Aldamir and Gimli to arrange the division of troops.  They believe we shall have over fifty knights and archers on horseback, and perhaps another hundred foot-soldiers.”

            Then Éodild arrived, with Híldaf beside her; they bowed to the Lord and Lady of Emyn Arnen, and Éodild said:  “So here we come to the last few days of this Tournament!  I am eager to see who wins the prize but O, I do not want it to end!  It has been so exciting and so much has happened.  Will we have a Tournament next year, Lord Faramir?”

            “We may, but not I hope as this one has been,” said Faramir.  “I prefer my games to be less fraught with intrigue.”

            “Some are saying the intrigue has improved the games, my Lord,” said Híldaf.  “My Lady Éowyn, are the rumors true?  Is the Elven King himself sailing down the Anduin from the north?  I have spoken to Hador of Tarlang and he said he could not tell me, but all in Osgiliath are buzzing with the news.”

            “I hope that it is true,” said Éodild fervently.  “How I would love to meet an Elven king!  Of course I know Queen Undómiel is an Elven lady, but she and her attendants are so quiet and civilized, and I have heard the Silvan Elves are quite feral.  Do you know any Silvan Elves, Lord Faramir?”

            “I know one,” smiled Faramir, “and I do assure you, Lady Éodild, the rumors of their uncouth conduct are greatly exaggerated.  If you are so curious about them, why not ask the Queen herself?  For her mother’s folk are Silvan, out of Lórien.” 

            “O are they?” asked Éodild, looking crestfallen.  “Then they must not be so coarse and unruly as I had heard.  It is a great pity for I thought they would be more interesting than that.”

            Híldaf disguised his laugh behind his fist, feigning a cough, and Faramir said, “You have not heard any of the King’s tales of Mirkwood then?  For he was a frequent guest there, and is a good friend of the Elven King’s.  Ah, here is the Queen herself!  If she is willing, good Éodild, you may ask her to enlighten you concerning the ways and customs of the Wood-Elves; you may find them interesting even though they are not as unrefined as your tutors would have you believe.”

            “I shall ask her then.  What a splendid gown she is wearing!  It is on account of the Elven King everyone is so well dressed then?  Look at all the empty seats!  May we sit in the pavilion?  I know Híldaf is only an esquire but he is my guest and that ought to secure his place beside me, ought it not?”

            “Lady Éodild,” said Híldaf, cheeks turning pink, “I do not think that – “

            “Of course Híldaf may sit with us,” said Éowyn.  “He is after all distant kin of mine, and more agreeable company than many others who claim places here.”

            “Good!” said Éodild.  “Sit here, Híldaf, where Lord Eradan usually sits.  He is not here, and if he arrives I will tell him to sit elsewhere because you preceded him.  He is jolly and good-natured and I am sure he will not object.  Were this Lord Egalmoth’s chair I would not dare give it you.”

            Faramir rose and greeted the Queen, forewarning her of Éodild’s inquisitiveness concerning Wood-Elves; sure enough as soon as she had seated herself the young lady launched into a tirade of questions, which Undómiel answered sedately enough, and Faramir and Éowyn could see her eyes twinkling though her face was grave and composed.  After a moment Belecthor came up the steps, nodding to them and taking his seat.  “Well, if naught else goes ill we shall draw ever closer to deciding the winner of the Tournament today,” he said; “I have met with my heralds and we have elected to tighten the tourney rules regarding disqualification in order to shorten the contest, else we shall be here ‘til the snow flies on Cair Andros.  The lowest ranking knights have been withdrawn from the competition, and after today’s joust we will know better who shall complete the heats.  Tomorrow, if the Valar permit it, we shall in foot combat and joust determine the finalists, and of the two remaining knights the final joust shall establish the winner.  It is shameful; we have already finished the foot races and archery, and those victors await the completion of the tournament only to receive their prizes.”

            “It has certainly been a game filled with interruptions,” agreed Faramir.  “Who are the last knights?”

            “Malbeth, Lasgalen, Araval, Vorondil, Mardil, Ingbar, and Cirien, ” said Belecthor, ticking them off on his fingers.  “Ethmor!  Do you not see there is no wine for the ladies?  Repair this oversight immediately!  I am sorry, Lady Éowyn; since we discovered Fenbarad’s treachery we have been at sixes and sevens in the servant’s tent.”

            “How was placed Fréawine of Rohan, my kinsman?” asked Éowyn.

            “Ah!  I regret to inform you, my lady, he was defeated soundly in the barriers today by your champion,” said Belecthor.  “Lasgalen of Dale seems to have undergone a marked improvement in his disposition; today he fought light upon his feet but deadly to the mark; he was observed during the combat laughing and exchanging songs with several of the knights watching, Aldamir and Mardil in particular.”

            “Between him and several other knights has arisen a strong friendship,” said Faramir.  “Despite his desire for secrecy the events surrounding this Tournament have forced acquaintances upon him, and he has become popular in the face of his anonymity.”

            “I am gratified,” said Belecthor; “I had feared he would shun the company of his brother knights, but it seems my fears were unfounded.  And, my Lord, Ethmor and I took the rest of the lances from my storage and examined them; none sported the hollowed shaft and powder that injured the Green Knight.  We have been forced to conclude, he and the Dwarf and Beregond and I, that the lances taken by Herion were the only ones altered, though how it were arranged I cannot guess.”

            “You feel the altered lances were meant for the Green Knight alone, then?” asked Faramir.

            “I am certain of it,” said Belecthor grimly.  “With all else that has occurred in this Tournament, all centered around this unhappy knight, what other conclusion could I come to?  I know not why he is the target of such hatred and opposition, but I think me the caltrops, the letters, the abduction of his esquire, and these lances are part and parcel of a larger plot, and it would behoove us to watch more closely for this knight’s safety.  For that reason I am doubly glad he has made friends with some of the other knights here.”  He looked around.  “Where are the Lords Eradan and Egalmoth?  I spoke not an hour ago to Lord Egalmoth and he did assure me he would be here to see the joust today, in spite of the preparations for the Elven King’s arrival.”

            “They are not the only ones missing,” said Éowyn.  “See you the two empty chairs!  Orodreth and his niece Dirhael are also absent.”

            Éodild turned at this and said over her shoulder, “O!  Yes, is that not strange?  I heard from Hyardil the grocer that they were in their rooms in the Inn this morning, but neither Híldaf nor I saw them in the village or at the barriers.  It is all the more curious as I know Lady Dirhael is very eager to see the contests, and has not yet missed one of the fights or jousts.  Is it true the betrothal ‘twixt she and Hallas is broken?  That is what Lady Alameth’s maid told me.  It is a pity for she is very rich and Hallas is very handsome, and I have heard Baldor of Lossarnach is beholden to his creditors.”

            “It is time to start the jousts, my Lord,” said Belecthor to Faramir, glancing round the quadrangle.  “All are waiting and impatient to see Malbeth and Ingbar meet each other at the tilt, though to my mind Malbeth is the better entrant and the black banner will be raised upon the winner’s wall this afternoon.”

            Faramir rose and lifted his hand to quiet the crowd, but at that moment Arwen said sharply, “Hold a moment, if it please you, Lord Faramir!” and from the leeches’ tents by the entrance they could see folk looking out of the grounds down the pathway, leaning curiously from stadium seats or around the corner; after a minute Faramir could hear the sound of hoofbeats, as though horses came at a dead gallop through the alley.  Then flashing round the corner and darting between the columns came a great dark horse, thick-limbed and strong; upon its bare back rode a slim rider clad in green, his bright hair streaming behind him.  Then after him came another horse with a Ranger on his back, one of the scouts Faramir had sent up the Anduin.  The two riders galloped past the tilt to the royal box where they halted, their horses steaming and champing.  The first rider looked up at them and said:

            “Mae govannen!  I seek Faramir of Emyn Arnen.”

            “O!  It is an Elf!” exclaimed Éodild in the sudden silence, her voice ringing throughout the stands.  A murmur followed her statement, and Arwen laughed.  The scout however looked foolish.

            “My Lord Faramir, this is one of the Elven King’s own scouts, whom we met south of Cair Andros; he has an urgent message from his Majesty, which he would not confide to us, but was importunate in conveying to you immediately.”

            “I have asked your pardon three times already as we rode, Tilraen of Gondor; there is no need to be irritable,” said the Elf equably.  “So you are Lord Faramir of Emyn Arnen?  Greetings to you!  I am Galás, one of Thranduil Oropherion’s emissaries.  Much as my lord enjoys the pomp and ceremony of civil folk, alas, he could not wait for the niceties of courtly procession this time.  There is trouble in your kingdom to the north, Lord Faramir; smoke rises from the western valleys and our scouts have come upon many of your folk slain in their villages, which have been sacked and burned.  An army of soldiers amasses upon your northwestern flank, spurred no doubt by the knowledge your king is currently engaged in entertaining the congenial folk of Harad down south and cannot attend to them immediately.  But my lord offers this to you, that he shall stand by your side and aid you in defending your people.  All he asks in return, he says, is to watch the final joust.  Is that not a generous offer?  But consider it swiftly, for he has anchored to the east of the pillage, and is anxious to begin, as two years have passed since last he slew a foe and he is growing peevish and jaded.”  As he spoke his eye roved about the royal box, seeking someone out; when he saw the Queen he flashed a grin and bowed his head.  “Aaye, Undómiel!  Cormamin lindua ele lle.”*  Arwen inclined her head graciously to him, smiling.

            At his words there had begun a tumult not only in the royal box but in the entire stadium; women cried aloud, and men leapt to their feet, gazing in dismay at the messenger.  Belecthor lowered his face into his hands, and many other lords and ladies began speaking at once, indignant and alarmed.  Faramir let the noise roil for a moment, then held his hand up, and silence fell in the stands.

            “This is ill news but not unexpected, Galás of Eryn Lasgalen,” said Faramir to the Elf.  “I shall rally my men several days earlier than I had planned; and as to King Thranduil’s generous offer of assistance, I must tell you Lasgalen of Dale preceded him with this proposition, though that makes my acceptance of it no less grateful.  Belecthor!  Call your criers together; tell them to run abroad, in the inns and villages, the Tent City and its environs, calling to all that Lord Faramir bids all warriors, knights, able-bodied foot soldiers, archers and esquires to come with him to do battle upon the King’s enemies in Amon Din.  We muster in the field to the east of the staging area when the sun rises.  Bergil!  Alert Beregond your father that our time has run short, and we must needs begin our strategies this evening and not two days hence.  And see if you can find the Lords Eradan and Egalmoth!  They must be informed the reception will not be necessary right now; they will have to delay the festivities for a later time, and perhaps change them to a victory celebration.  Éowyn, I shall charge you with the protection of the old, the infirm, the injured, the women and children behind the walls of Osgiliath; despite its ruin a people may defend themselves there for a season, especially in the western quarter, where the damage has been less there than elsewhere. Had we more time I would send them to Minas Tirith; however I do fear me even such a short journey as that would be too much for some of them to hasten.  Ethmor!  Ring the bells in the old tower; send runners to the outlying villages and settlements, telling the people to come to Osgiliath with their goods and kine, to protect themselves from any further attack.  Híldaf of Rohan, despite your injuries, can you ride?”

            “I can, my lord,” said Híldaf, rising.

            “Then take you to horse and ride with all haste to Minas Tirith; when you gain the gates tell the guards you are sent by me to Turgon.  Tell them all that has passed here, and tell them they must send messengers to King Elessar down the Anduin informing him of the double threat to his kingdom.  But under no circumstances are they to further empty the garrisons; I would not have it said I armed the ruin and let the capital fall.  Should these soldiers prove too much for us, and march upon Minas Tirith, he must defend it against the King’s return.  We shall take our chances with the Elven King’s troops.”  Híldaf bowed and went out, though not without a smile for Éodild, who looked up at him with shining eyes.

Faramir looked back down at Galás.  “I see you are mounted, Galás of Eryn Lasgalen.  How many horses has Thranduil?”

            “Two hundred,” said Galás, “all very sea-sick and travel-weary. But ten of these has he sent on reconnaissance, spying out the lie of the land and seeking to determine the number of soldiers committing these depredations.  And we have three hundred archers besides those mounted, of which my lord has suggested we take one hundred to fortify your defenses here.”

            “Thranduil seems well-informed of the lie of the land already,” said Arwen.

            Galás shrugged.  “When has he ever joined in any campaign ignorant of the circumstances?  He is nothing if not cautious; our spies have been watching Gondor for three months now, reporting all your doings to him.  He heard of the attacks upon the Ethir Anduin yesterday, and resolved to come to your aid without waiting for invitation.”  Galás looked around; several of the knights who had been waiting to joust were approaching, listening to his words.  “Where is the Green Knight, Lasgalen of Dale?” he asked curiously.  “Surely he has not been vanquished!  My lord would not like to hear that.”

            “He is in his tents still, preparing to joust,” said Cirien.  “I have sent my esquire to inform him of your arrival.”

            “Ah!” smiled the Elf.  “So he is still in the contest.  Well, Lord Faramir, what do we now?  You seem to have things well in hand.  Shall I return to my lord or stay here with you?  For you still must decide upon a plan of attack, whether we go in together or attempt to crush them between us.  Will you meet with my king here or upon his barge?  It will take him several hours to reach you, for though the wind is from the north we are still a ways upriver.”

            Faramir considered for a moment.  “I would that he came here,” he said, “for then your archers could enter Osgiliath ere we quit it.  And I greatly desire to hold council with him and various other knights and lords, to determine how best to move the pieces upon the draughts-board.  Will you ride to him and tell him so?  Or shall I send a runner on a fresh horse?”

            “A fresh horse, by your leave, Lord Faramir,” said Galás.  “Caryave is not as young as he once was, and this ride has wearied him: also it has been many months since I have foregathered with Lasgalen of Dale and I very much want to see him.  Besides I think the good Tilraen here requires a few more apologies from me for my unseemly haste.”

            “Not at all, my lord Elf!” said the unfortunate scout, turning very pink.

            “Very well!” said Faramir.  “Belecthor, I need another runner.”

            “As you wish, my Lord!” said the Ceremonies Master wearily.

            “What is the matter, good sir?” asked Galás curiously.  “You seem more resigned than dismayed by my news.”

            “Ah it is only this,” sighed Belecthor, gesturing to his servants; “I had hoped to cull the list today, but it seems this Tournament is fated to go on for several more weeks, if we end it at all!”

            “That is not so bad a thing then,” said the Elf smiling, “for I have never seen a Tournament and I would hate to miss anything.”

            “How impertinent you are!” exclaimed Éodild, leaning down from the royal box to gaze with interest at the Elf.  “I have never met a Wood-Elf.  Are you all so bold, or are you this way by accident?”

            “Well, if so you have met with the same accident as I,” laughed Galás.  “Am I impertinent?  I apologize, my lords and ladies; I am more used to the men of Dale and Esgaroth, who perchance are more rustic than you and do not require the niceties of speech and courtly behavior used in refined circles.  Besides when telling the lord of a land his people are being harried and slaughtered, one does not usually pause to consider proper decorum.”

            “Well, perhaps not,” admitted Éodild, smiling.  “But I care not whether you are impertinent; you are very amusing, is he not, my Lady, your majesty?  Do you not find him amusing?”

            Faramir turned back to them from where he had been instructing the various runners and criers in their duties.  “Galás, if you would, follow the Yellow Knight to my quarters in Osgiliath; we shall hold council there and await the coming of your king.”

            “Is the young lady coming too?” asked Galás, gesturing to Éodild.

            “Nay, my maid has other duties to attend to,” said Éowyn firmly.  The look of pleasure on Éodild’s face fell away and she sighed.

            Galás laughed.  “Fear not, little maid!” he said, winking at her.  “We shall meet again; I am certain of it.  Did not my lord tell me I was to be his son’s seneschal?  When my people arrive I will be sure to introduce you to them all, and then you may tell me if you will whether we are all impertinent, or if I am a peculiarity.”  With that he followed Cirien out of the grounds, leaving behind him a great many people babbling and gossiping, and Éodild watching him wistfully.   Éowyn turned to Arwen in delighted exasperation.

            “I had thought Legolas unusual in his audacity, for you are ever polite and well-mannered,” she said, “but now I see it is epidemic amongst the Silvan folk.  What merry, maddening neighbors they shall make me!”

            “Nay, it is not all of them, but only those of the line of Oropher,” laughed the Queen.  “I know Galás; his sire came out of Doriath with Thranduil and is counted his close kin, for Oropher’s sister’s son had children as well, and these were the playmates of the prince.  Fear not!  He is as skilled with bow and arrow as he is with his tongue, and is moreover blithe and young-hearted, excelling in song and dance and loving the fruits of the vine and the beasts of the field.  If he is indeed promised as seneschal to Legolas it will be a rich and contented fiefdom.”  She rose to her feet.  “Come, Lady of Emyn Arnen!  We have many plans to make, to see to the housing and feeding of your flock within the walls of Osgiliath.  And I am certain we shall not be the sole providers of help and comfort; the Queen of Eryn Lasgalen comes as well, and she succors her people with a strong and gentle hand.”  So saying she led Éowyn out of the box.


*”My heart sings to see thee”

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