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The Sword in the Tree
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Show your sharpness, cutting edge, come out of your scabbard to me!)

Zeig' deiner Schärfe
schneidenden Zahn:
heraus aus der Scheide zu mir! – Wagner – Die Walküre Act 3

(Show your sharpness, cutting edge, come out of your scabbard to me!)

Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra

"But how can I leave my lady at a time like this?" Éomer protested.

"Lothiriel said she wanted you to take Firefoot for a ride," said Faramir. "Believe me, brother, a birthing chamber is no place for a man. We must leave Lothiriel to the care of the midwives."

"First babies usually take many hours," said Aragorn. "We will be back long before the birth. It will go easier with Lothiriel if she does not need to concern herself about you this day."

Éomer hesitated for a moment then nodded his reluctant consent. "Very well, let us ride to Dunby."

Aragorn clapped him on the shoulder approvingly. The three men made their way to the stables where, in accordance with the custom of the Mark, they saddled their own horses. Éomer called for three of his guards to accompany them.

"I think you should take more guards with you, Éomer King," said Éothain, Éomer's captain. "I have heard rumours that Wargs are abroad. They are hungry and attacking unwary travellers."

Éomer laughed. "I thank you for your concern, but we are three seasoned warriors, not helpless old women. Three guards will be more than enough for a short journey in daylight."

The small party set off at a brisk canter.

It was a perfect autumn morning. A hint of frost lingered in the air. The frost- dusted autumn leaves, resplendent in shades of copper and gold, sparkled in the early morning sunlight beneath a clear blue sky.

The men gave the horses their heads and were soon enjoying an invigorating ride across the open countryside dotted here and there with small farms. All too soon, they reached their destination. Dunby was a nondescript village that most travellers would usually pass through without a second glance.

Leofric's Hall was the most imposing building and easy to spot, especially as two burly Riders from Éomer's Éored were stationed at the door. They greeted their king and reported that all was quiet and Leif had not caused any trouble when he was told that the King commanded the sword to be guarded.

Aragorn, Faramir and Éomer entered the Hall, followed by the guards and a group of women and children who had observed their arrival with interest, as well as several old men, too ancient to work in the fields.

A flustered looking young woman with a small child clutching at her skirts, and apparently soon to be blessed with another addition to her family appeared from the depths of the building. She was attractive with pleasant features, rosy cheeks and an abundant head of golden hair, which she wore coiled round her head in braids. "If you're another one trying to draw forth the sword, take your turn and then be off with you!" she said sharply. "I have cows to be milked!" She then noticed the emblem of the House of Eorl on the guard's uniforms and realised the identity of one of her visitors. She flushed scarlet. "Your pardon, Éomer King, I did not realise at first it was you. Let me bring you some mead. Be welcome to my hall as an honoured guest!"

Éomer smiled at her reassuringly.

The young woman bustled away and returned a few moments later with a horn filled with mead. "Welcome to my hall, Éomer King," she said, offering him the horn.

Éomer drank deeply then passed it to Aragorn and Faramir. "Mistress Signi, we are honoured by your welcome," said Éomer.

"I'm glad you are here, Éomer King," said Signi warmly after Éomer had given her back the now empty horn and her guest had been properly greeted. "This sword is driving me to distraction with all the men squabbling over it! It was surely put there for you as the most worthy man in Rohan! Come, I will show it to you."

Éomer, Aragorn and Faramir followed as she let them into the hall. It was unlike any they had seen before for a living great ash tree formed its centre pillar. The living branches entwined with the thatch and continued growing above it. About half way up the trunk, a sword could be seen, embedded up to the hilt. The hall was a fine building, comfortable furnished. At one end, a great fire burnt in the hearth. Tapestries showing horses, adorned the walls and the tables and benches were of carved oak and decorated with carven horses.

"Please draw it forth, Éomer King and put an end to this strife!" said Signi.

Aragorn and Faramir stood back while Éomer approached the tree.

"It just needs a firm grip," said the King of Rohan. "Obviously, those who have tried until now were not holding it correctly." Thus saying, he grasped the hilt with both hands and gave it an almighty tug. Nothing happened. He pulled again with no more success. However hard he pulled, the sword budged not a single inch.

Éomer pulled and tugged until the sweat from the exertion was running down his face. Eventually, he shook his head and conceded defeat.

"It cannot be meant for me after all," he said ruefully. "I would not exchange Gúthwinë for another blade, though, so maybe that is why, for I have no need of a sword, fine though this one most surely is!"

"Would it not be rusted after so long in the tree?" asked Faramir.

"The blade is still sharp," said Éomer. He sucked a bleeding finger, from where the short piece that protruded had caught it during his struggles. "Perhaps it is only destined for the greatest of men to draw forth. "You should try, Aragorn, my friend. You are the greatest warrior of our age!"

Aragorn hesitated for a moment. He had no need of a sword, either, as he would never part with Andúril. This was Rohan, and if he were to draw the blade forth, it could wound the pride of her king. He was certain Éomer must simply not be pulling at the hilt correctly. The sword was high in the tree. Maybe a taller man, such as himself, could get a firmer hold on the hilt. He was loth to humiliate his younger friend in front of his own people. However, the weapon was proving a cause for dissent and needed to be removed from the tree.

Aragorn studied the hilt carefully. He could feel some jewels and engravings upon it, but positioned at such an angle, it was impossible to see clearly. He wondered if it might be made from mithril. It was fortunate indeed that these people had no idea just how valuable this sword must be, worth far more than their entire village! There was something oddly familiar about the hilt, but the thought was absurd. He could not have possibly seen it before.

Taking a deep breath, Aragorn grasped the hilt and shifted his weight forward, balancing himself squarely to draw it forth; He tried to twist the sword slightly to free it from its strange scabbard. He pulled at it sharply. The sword refused to budge an inch. Undeterred he tried again.

"Pull, harder!" Éomer advised. "I am certain it moved a little just then!"

"You can do it, mellon nîn!" Faramir encouraged. "Whoever put the sword there could not intend it stay in the tree forever!"

Aragorn pulled and pulled and pulled again. But however hard he tried, the sword would not yield an inch. He stepped back, shaking his head despondently." I am sorry, but I cannot draw it forth," he said.

"There must be some wizardry at work here!" said Éomer. He looked worried." If the sword will not yield to the mightiest who now lives, who then can master it?"

"I know not," said Aragorn. "I sense no evil within the blade. It will have to await its true master. There is one here, though who has not yet tried to draw it forth."

Signi, who together with a handful of villagers had been watching asked, "Who, my lords? Every man in the village has tried, even crippled old Gunnar here. Our kinsfolk who dwell in the surrounding villages have all tried in vain to win the weapon."

"You try now, Faramir," said Aragorn.

Faramir laughed. "You are jesting! If you cannot win the sword, how could I draw it forth from the tree? I am not the heir of Elendil!"

"You are a worthy warrior, though," said Éomer." I would not have let you wed my sister otherwise! You are, I fear correct, though. How could you free the sword from the tree when Aragorn and I cannot?"

Faramir nodded." I suggest that we tell the Guards to remain here while we return to Edoras and ask Leofric what he desires to do."

"I will send Riders to help him rebuild his hall, should he decide to cut down the tree," said Éomer. "That would help settle the dispute. It would be a great pity, though, for this is a fine hall."

"It is my home and where my wedding feast was held," said Signi. "I do not want it to be destroyed. Why ever did that strange old man choose to interrupt my wedding feast? I shall never forget the kindly twinkle in his eye when he smiled upon me, though."

"Cutting the tree down would solve nothing as the ownership of the sword would still be open to question," said Aragorn.

"I could decree that the sword be sold and the proceeds divided between all the villagers," said Éomer. "It would surely buy them many fine horses."

"That would be a fair way to settle the matter, my friend," said Aragorn. "It grieves me though that we could not help these poor folk by removing the sword causing such contention amongst them. Faramir, are you certain, you will not attempt to draw the sword forth before we leave?"

"I could not succeed where two kings have failed," the Steward said ruefully.

Éomer bowed courteously to Signi." I am sorry we could not help you, my lady," he said. "You may rest assured I will see this matter is settled."

"I thank you, Éomer King." Signi bowed low." May your horses ever run swiftly!"

"Help, help!" Signi and the villagers cried out in terror as a huge Warg charged into the hall, knocking over tables and benches in its wake.

Aragorn, Faramir and Éomer swiftly drew their swords and dispatched the beast.

"What happened? Is it…?"Before Éomer could finish his question, a woman's voice cried from outside, "There are dozens of them! Help us, my lord!"

"Stay there!" Éomer ordered the woman and children. He rushed outside followed by Aragorn, Faramir and the guards. A dreadful sight greeted their eyes. Wargs were rampaging through the village, trampling crops and flattening fences. A horse lay dead on the ground, several of the foul creatures eagerly devouring the noble animal.



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