Early August, 3019 Third Age
My brother and I share ale around the campfire with these amiable Riders, partaking in their traditional songs and stories.
As the evening progresses, Éomer persuades one shy young bard, well in his cups, to sing the lay he had lately composed. It is a long, involved tale of Eorl Langsceaft on the field of conquest, who single-handedly stabs all within reach of his spear and leaves a mound of moaning opponents — ruined but respecting his skill.
Elladan smiles encouragement, yet I cannot help but join in the uproarious laughter as I gradually begin to grasp its more earthy undertones.
Elladan compliments the youth on his songwriting skill. "But," he adds, "Eorl did not fight alone... Éomund and his guards never left his side."
Startled, the young singer leans forward. "Y-y-you know of this b-b-b-battle?" he asks, eager to expand his stock of stories.
"We were there."
Éomer's jaw drops. The singer turns pale and makes an unseemly dash towards the bushes.
Seeing the unsettled looks among the Riders, I wait until my brother is about to swallow some ale, then elbow him — hard — in the arm. He splutters indignantly.
"Elladan, you have got to stop shocking mortals like that."
"Elrohir!" I snarl, dribbling drink from my mouth and chin. "What in the name of...."
"And you missed the point of the ballad, brother!"
Little caring about a silly song while sopping up ale from my face and tunic, I snap, "Have you taken leave of your senses?"
He chuckles at my ire — but fills in what I missed in rapid Sindarin. At first, I boggle at the brazenness of the songwriter... and afterwards flush in chagrin when it dawns on me how dense I must seem.
As the absurdity of the situation soaks in, I burst into helpless laughter.
I laugh until the young singer stumbles back to the campfire, looking dazed. I master myself enough to gasp, "Forgive me, friend! Elrohir understands the tongue of the Riddermark better than I... but now I, too, appreciate your skilful way with words. Well done!"
Rising to show my newfound respect, I clap the beaming youth on the shoulder — but gently, so as not to upset his unsteady gait. Éomer and several Riders stand in turn to grasp his hand and commend his efforts... discreetly drawing him back to his vacated seat, safely away from the sputtering embers of the fire.
"You must excuse my brother's dim wits." I smirk.
"Our Elven minstrels compose endless lays, some mournful, others celebratory, yet they never engage in parody.... Long ago, Elladan and I tried to mend that oversight with some light-hearted tunes, but none are deemed fit for the Hall of Fire.
"However, our Northern Dúnedain friends — the handful who write songs — sometimes make the best of bad conditions by mocking their lords. One ballad ridicules the youngest son of Eärendur; 'tis sung that he loved dice so much, he gambled away Rhudaur."
Elladan chimes in, "Though your song was far more clever!"
Elves and Eorlings alike ply me with praise for my song-craft. 'Tis gratifying, yet I cannot forget the Elf's astounding claim.
In my desire to question him, I stammer: "Wh-wh-wh-what did you m-m-mean, you w-w-were there? You look no older than m-m-m-me!"
They glance at each other, grinning, before one of them replies. "We have lived many centuries and fought countless battles... until recently, one of the greatest was with Eorl on the Celebrant."
His words make me queasy in my ale-besot state; I grab hold of the familiar green turf beneath me to prove 'tis not a drink-crazed dream.
Finally, I reach the end of the story: "The Riders of Éothéod pursued the rabble across the Wold. But we remained on the battlefield to heal the wounded, before taking leave of Eorl and returning to Lórien."
Elrohir adds, "Eorl's ride and the charge on the Celebrant were courageous, as were Théoden's on the Pelennor. Aragorn was much heartened when we spotted the White Horse from the Corsair ship."
"I agree. Twice now have we been honoured to witness the valour of the sons of Eorl." I hoist my tankard, proposing a toast:
"To deeds worthy of song and glory!"