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Night Games
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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[Index]

1

August 3009, Dunharrow, Rohan

Late summer on the plains of Rohan was brutally hot and humid, with few rains to cool the land. The Kings dealt with this by moving the entire court of Rohan up to the mountain stronghold of Dunharrow, because it was cooler and more comfortable than the Golden Hall of Edoras. Along with the King came the nobles, and aristocrats, and their families and servants. It was Rohan’s summer holiday. During the holiday, titles of rank were less important, and for the most part the adults feasted and enjoyed each other’s friendship, while the children explored and played. August was a time to forget your troubles and enjoy the good life.


~~~

The heat of the day had faded to the crickets of evening. The old people were talking and drinking by the fires or sitting in groups on the grass and the sky had just turned to black. The full Moon was rising.

At the edge of the tent city, three young people stood talking. Two boys, nearly grown to men, and a tall slender girl, the younger sister of one of the boys.

“’The third full Moon of summer rises,” said Háma ominously, “The Night of The Wandering Spirits.”

“Hmh,” said Éowyn.

“That is when they come out,” said Éomer. “A night to be wary.”

“Find some little children to scare,” answered Éowyn.

Her brother looked at her sternly and said, “It is when the dead who did not find their way to the other side, roam and haunt the living.”

Háma moved closer to the girl, “perhaps you need a protector.”

She hit him in the arm.

“Ow!” Háma exclaimed, “Why did you do that?”

“This is just another one of your lame attempts to get me to kiss you,” she replied, “How stupid do you think I am.”

“Why would I want to do that?” Háma asked, sounding insulted.

“I assume, for the same reason as when you tried last week in the stable,” she answered,

Háma looked hurt, “I thought you would like it.”

“I did not. I do not kiss boys,” Éowyn said sharply.

“You kiss your horse,” Éomer said, trying to rescue his friend.

“That is different, I love my horse,” She said.

“I think she is changing the subject because she is scared,” Háma said.

“Sacred that you will get too close,” she snorted.

“That is definitely the answer of a scared little girl,” Éomer offered.

“I think you are on to something,” Háma said, feeling the tides shifting. “These young girls scare easily.”

“Clearly scared of the Wandering Spirits,” Éomer said solemnly. “They sometimes carry off young maidens, you know.”

“You two should go to the cook tent and try this on the scullery girls,” Éowyn laughed. “You might get lucky.”

“You cover it up well,” Éomer laughed in return.

“Cover up what?” Éowyn asked.

“The fear, fear of the spirits,” Háma answered gravely.

“I can smell the fear in her,” Éomer said.

“I am braver than both of you put together,” she said defiantly.

“Prove it,” Éomer challenged.

She thought for a moment, and said, “Come.”

She walked off swiftly, leaving the two boys to follow as they left the glowing the fires of the camp, and walked a path lit only by the Moon.

“Where are we going?” Háma asked as they caught up.

“You will see,” she replied.

After they had walked for a few minutes, it seemed the trees were sickly, and the Moon wasn’t as bright, as if something was sucking the life and the light out of things.

“This is not a good idea,” Éomer said.

“Getting scared?” Éowyn asked.

“Of course not,” Éomer replied, “I just do not want to get lost.”

“I am not lost,” Éowyn answered.

She looked at him with sideways with an arched eyebrow and said, “I have heard that the spirits like to carry off young virgins, be they boy or girl.” Getting no answer, Éowyn continued, “Of course, experienced older boys like yourselves have nothing to fear on that account.”

Uncomfortable silence hung over them as they walked on. The air seemed chill, despite it being a balmy summer night. The boys moved closer to her and she took each by the hand.

“We should turn back,” Háma said.

“I am not scared,” Éowyn answered, “I have two brave Riders of the Mark to protect me.”

Their palms were quite sweaty in her hands when she stopped because the boys were resisting going any further.

“I have proven my point,” Éowyn said triumphantly. “I have led the both of you closer to the Dark Door of Dimholt than you care to go. I am the braver.”

The three pivoted where they stood, relieved that the test of nerve was over.

“Quiet!” Éomer hissed, “I hear something.”

“What?” Háma asked.

Éowyn’s eyes were as wide as saucers as she scanned the area.

“There, see it is watching us,” she whispered.

The boys strained their eyes, and made out a large shape in the shadows.

“I see it too,” Éomer exclaimed in a hushed tone.

“It is coming towards us,” Háma exclaimed.

Startled, Éowyn let out a loud scream, turned and bolted as fast as her long legs could carry her. The boys tried to keep up, but she had always been the swiftest afoot.

The large shape was charging behind, and they dared not look back, lest they fall and be caught. They ran and ran, until they nearly ran into the standing stone that guarded the Dark Door, the opening to the Paths of the Dead.

They turned to face their fate, hearts pounding, panting from the hard run, trapped between the unknown creature and the Dark Door.

It seemed that a river of deathly cold was pouring out of the black doorway, sending a chill through them that quenched their souls.

The dark shape loomed closer; it too was panting from the chase as it approached.

“What are you idiots doing up here?” asked the familiar voice of Théoden King, uncle and foster father to Éomer and Éowyn.”

“Ah, um, a, well, aaa,” they answered as a group.

“That is what I suspected,” the King replied. “Let us leave this accursed place ere our hearts freeze.”

As they walked away, Háma spoke up, “You see Sire, we were just, well, it was like we were, I mean…”

“I was young once too,” the King said, interrupting Háma’s fine explanation. “No need to explain.”

“What were you doing up here?” Éowyn asked.

“I had stepped out behind my tent for a moment, when I saw you three walking on the path to the Dimholt,” the King said. “I decided to follow and see that you did not come into danger.”

As they walked, Éowyn slowed her pace just the slightest amount, and began to fall behind. Háma did the same.

Éomer noticed that Háma and his sister were not with them, and started to turn his head.

“Keep walking and don’t look back,” the King whispered.

“But,” Éomer began.

The King touched his finger to his lips, and shook his head. “Leave your sister be,” he whispered, and sped his pace a bit.

“That was fun,” Éowyn said.

“It was?” Háma asked.

“Yes, I was very scared, it was thrilling,” Éowyn answered. “How about you?”

“I was not scared,” Háma said.

“Yes you were,” Éowyn replied, giving him a light backhanded swat on the shoulder.

Háma was quiet.

“I do not think you a coward,” Éowyn said, “It was just fun, I was getting even with you and Éomer for treating me like a child.”

Háma walked along silently.

“I thought it was very brave of you,” Éowyn said. “You were quite scared, and yet you kept walking with me. It is good to know I have a friend who won’t abandon me in a pinch.”

“I was not brave,” Háma confessed. “I was afraid, like a little child.”

“That is courage,” She replied. “Anyone can do what they do not fear, courage is when you face up to what you fear.”

Háma walked and said nothing.

“‘Tis a fine Moon tonight,” Éowyn observed, sliding her arm through his, to walk linked arm in arm.

“Uh, yes,” Háma mumbled.

“I am lucky to have a brave man here to protect me, what with the spirits about, the Dark Door, and all,” Éowyn said, and leaned against his shoulder.

Éowyn stopped walking, and they were facing each other, just barely touching. She looked up to Háma, and her eyes locked on his. After a moment, he kissed her gently and then they fell into a deep kiss.

After a bit, she pushed him back. “That is all I can handle for now, my head is spinning.”

“I thought you did not want to kiss me,” Háma asked.

“That is not what I meant,” She answered. “I would not kiss a boy who approaches me in public. I will kiss the right man, when we are alone.”

Háma tried to kiss her again.

“First you must know something,” she said, putting one finger to his lips, and looking into his eyes. “You must be discrete; I am a princess. I have boundaries I must observe, appearances I must maintain.”

Háma started to speak.

Éowyn kissed his lips lightly. “Listen to me,” She said intently. “You must keep our secrets.” She kissed him again. “If you tell my brother what we do together, or brag about me to your friends, or speak to me as anything but a good friend in public, I will never do this with you again.” She kissed his lips softly and asked, “Do we understand each other?”

Háma nodded his head.

She kissed him deeply one more time before they resumed walking, holding hands. The other two were a long way ahead of them, and close to the tents. When they arrived at the King’s tent, they were walking as friends, not touching. The King and Éomer were standing and talking.

“We must have been walking too fast for you,” the King said. “’Tis a fine night for a stroll.”

“Spoken truly Sire,” Háma replied, wondering how much the King guessed.

You lads should be off to bed,” the King said, “I would have word with Éowyn before she retires.”

After bidding them a good night, the boys walked off. The King closely observed Éowyn as she watched the boys disappear into the night. She was blooming, the tomboy was fading, but not completely gone, he thought to himself.

“You and I need to talk,” the King said, motioning his head towards the doorway of his tent.

Éowyn flashed her most innocent smile, hiked her skirt a little bit, did a tiny curtsey, and walked past the King, into the tent, with a decided sway.

[Index]

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