Notes: Sorry I've gone so long without an update. I seem to have lost my mojo on this one. I have a vague sense of where it's going, but I'm just not feeling it well enough.
Eomer spent a lot of free time watching these warriors from another world. His uncle was too busy to notice that a few of them disappeared for two or three days, and returned in a larger number than they had left. Theoden-King was trying to give the women as little attention as possible. He acknowledged that they were great warriors, and that his kingdom was in their debt. He even acknowledged that women could not thrive caged. He gave them room to be without forcing duties upon them. He had always given Eowyn freedom. She didn't always feel free, but he knew that in other courts, the women were given much less freedom.
There was a large training area outside the palace, for swordplay and archery practice. The slayers spent a lot of time there. Some of the men did enjoy competing with the girls in different ways. But the slayers weren't the only novelty. There were several elven warriors who'd chosen to stick around with the men until the final fight, many propelled onward by the loss of comrades, by the battle anger brought about by loss. The elven warriors were much more willing to spar with the slayers than the human men, who still saw them as little girls.
Faith was watching the younger slayers train with some of the elven warriors. Buffy came up behind her to join her, and Faith found that she didn't even have to turn her head to know that it was Buffy behind her and not one of the others.
“So, what's the verdict?” Buffy asked.
“Most of the girls are stronger than most of the elves,” Faith said, “But as far as the sword fighting goes, the elves are way better. Like, amazingly better. Watch,” she pointed to where Kennedy was about to have a practice match with Orophin. They started fighting, and for about five minutes Kennedy was able to hold her own against the elf.
“He's going easy on her,” Faith said.
“Really?” Buffy asked. And as she watched, Orophin disarmed Kennedy and had the point of his sword at her throat. “Wow, he's amazing.”
“I think we can learn a lot from these elves, even if they are guys,” Faith said.
“How are you all such good fighters?” Buffy asked Haldir.
“They are Galadhrim,” Haldir said simply. She sighed and turned her head to look at Legolas, hoping he'd explain better.
“In order to earn the title of Galadhrim, which is the highest honor an elven warrior of Lothlorien can possess, he has to study the art of combat for a thousand years,” Legolas explained.
Faith and Buffy both went bug-eyed. Their warriors were lucky if they made it past eighteen.
“You've been fighting for a thousand years?” Buffy asked Legolas.
“I am not Galadhrim. I come from Mirkwood, not Lothlorien,” was all he said. He might tell them more later, but for now he enjoyed watching their reactions.
Buffy turned to Haldir. He was the leader of the Galadhrim. They could learn a lot from these elves.
“When we fight, it's mostly instinct. We haven't had a lot of training. Would you and your soldiers be willing to teach us?”
“I was led to believe your warriors didn't trust males,” Haldir said. “Are you sure you want out assistance?”
“We don't trust human men,” Buffy said. “They look down on us and try to put us in cages. None of you have tried that. After the battle at the big wall, you've looked at us like equals, and not like children. Even though, compared to you we're practically babies.”
“We would be honored to help you improve your weapon skills,” Haldir said. He let out a whistle and waved over his brothers. He had a brief conversation with them in Sindarin, and then both Orophin and Rumil went back into the sword arena. They walked over to Kennedy, and spoke to her. With their enhanced hearing, Buffy and Faith could hear them discussing training in stilted Common. Nobody knew why they were all able to communicate. They knew that English couldn't be the same as Common, but for whatever reason—most likely magic—English and Common sounded the same to their ears. Though the dialects and jargon were different, they were able to understand themselves.
Kennedy split the girls into groups and set them up with some of the elves to help them get better at their sword-fighting. Archery would be later, since the wood elves were generally much better archers than swordsmen. But even though they were archers more than swordsmen, they were still better swordsmen than all the Rohirrim.
“She has much anger in her,” Legolas said, pointing to Shannon, who was working to one of the Galadhrim. “We would call it battle anger. The true seething rage that fills your heart and pushes you to bring the enemy to its knees. But I've never seen it in one of the race of men before.”
Buffy looked down at Shannon, her hair pulled back out of her face as she fought with a borrowed sword, in borrowed clothes.
“Most of our enemies aren't men anymore, if they ever were. Most are demons, or evil things like those orcs. But sometimes men can be the enemy too,” Buffy sighed. “A couple weeks or so before we got here, a man who was an agent of the First, caught Shannon and trapped her in a box. He believed all girls were 'dirty' and needed to be cleansed from the earth. He branded her, like an animal, and tried to gut her.”
“Buffy cut him in half,” Faith supplied.
“Good,” Legolas and Haldir said together.
“You want me to teach you how to ride?” Eowyn asked.
“Some of us have never been on horses before,” Rona said, “And as it's the only mode of transport here, we need to know how. I'm not saying teach us anything fancy, you probably couldn't in a few days, but it would be nice to be able to get from point A to point B without falling off.”
“Of course we will teach you to ride,” Eowyn said. “We will fit riding lessons in among the new training schedule. I seem to require much less sleep now,” she said with a smile, “And during a time of war it is just as crucial to know how to ride in the dark.”
“Okay,” Rona said. “And you need to learn how to fight without a sword.”
“Why?” Eowyn asked.
“Some of the monsters we fight are much bigger than us. Being smaller, and using a weapon with a smaller reach, like a short sword or a dagger means you can get close to them, inside their reach. It's also good to know how to disarm or disable an enemy with just your hands, or with whatever you find around you.”
“That makes sense,” Eowyn said. “Also, I am sorry my uncle has been so insistent that you wear female clothing. I know you do not enjoy wearing dresses every day.”
“No sweat,” Rona said. “We have enough pants and comfy clothes so that we can wear them into battle. It's actually helping us to learn how to fight in dresses. When we first got here I couldn't have even imagined fighting in a bodice and skirt. Now I'm getting quite good at it,” she grinned. “Plus, it makes people underestimate us, and that's always a plus.”
“It would be,” Eowyn grinned. “I have found some more divided skirts. They're good for riding. They're still more restrictive than a man's leggings or trousers are, but as they are still traditional dress for a woman of Rohan, they will not draw as much attention as the clothing from your world.”
“That's kind of awesome,” Rona said. “I need food. You?”
“I am rather hungry,” Eowyn admitted. “Is this part of the slayer package?”
“Yep,” Rona said. “Let's get some eats.”
Rona liked Eowyn. Eowyn was really nice to her. They had instantly developed a sisterly bond, despite Eowyn being older. Rona wasn't very comfortable in this world. The men kept looking at her like she was a demon, because her skin was so dark. Some of them were very superstitious. But Rona was pretending the prejudices didn't bother her. She kicked ass, and she knew it, and she wouldn't let any of these men get her down.
“If we do go to battle, will your uncle let you go?” Rona asked.
“It is tradition for the women of the court to ride to the encampment to farewell the men. So, he will not stop me from riding out, if Rohan goes to war.”
“That's something at least,” Rona said. “Let's get food.”
Eowyn smiled, and she and Rona started walking down to the kitchens.
It was definitely good that Shadowfax was so big and strong, Joanie thought, and not for the first time. It carried the wizard, the small girl and a hobbit, along with Pippin's satchel and Joanie's bag and bedroll. And yet he never, ever tired. Pippin whispered to her that Shadowfax was the lord of horses, as sort of horse god, so that must be why he was able to run with such a load without ever tiring. They rode straight through the night, even when Pippin was asleep with Joanie's arms wrapped around him, and Joanie leaning back into Gandalf, half asleep.
“We are almost there,” Gandalf's deep voice caused a rumble in his chest, waking Joanie up.
“We are?” she asked.
“Yes. Remember, you are my page, and you are a boy. When we are in public, you don't speak unless spoken do, and you're to do things like fetching and carrying, but mainly try to stay invisible, out of the way. Most servant boys are ignored in court, so we should be able to use this to our advantage. Do not draw attention to yourself.”
“Yes sir,” Joanie said. Respect for authority was something Joanie had that few of the other slayers had. Back in California Joanie had been in military schools since she was ten. And at fourteen she still hadn't really hit puberty yet. Her mother called her a late bloomer.
“Do you know how to stable a horse?” he asked her.
“Yes sir,” Joanie said.
“Good,” Gandalf said, “As my 'boy,' it will be expected of you.”
“Yes sir. Pippin,” she shook him gently, “Wake up. We're almost there.”
Pippin and Joanie watched in wonder as they approached the large stone city. Neither of them had ever seen such a thing in their entire lives. Gandalf was telling them something about it, but they weren't really listening. The city was one great stone sculpture. Part of Joanie's mind couldn't wait to explore it, but she knew she had to wait for Gandalf's permission. When she'd dozed off in Gandalf's arms she'd talked to Willow for a little bit. Willow would help link her up with the Gondorian slayers so that she could ferret them out. There were four slayers in Rohan, one being the White Lady of Rohan herself. The youngest slayer they'd met so far was from Rohan, and she was only about ten. There were two slayers up north among the Dunedain, and four in Gondor. Three lived in the city of Minas Tirith itself and the fourth was from some place called Dol Amroth. Joanie knew that one of the Gondorian slayers was a nobleman's daughter and not usually allowed out much, so Joanie might have to be sneaky to find her. The other two were servants in the city, one working in the palace kitchens and the other working as a chambermaid.
Shadowfax ran right into the city, up the winding paths, right up to the palace. As they dismounted, two of the palace guards came up to them.
“Mithrandir,” one of them said. “It has been a long time since you visited Minas Tirith.”
“Yes. I need to see Lord Denethor immediately.”
“Of course, Sir,” the guard said.
“Joanie, as the guard to show you to the stables so you can water Shadowfax,” Gandalf instructed, making it clear to the guards that Joanie was his servant boy. “When you have finished come back up here with the packs, and ask for directions to my suite. Lord Denethor will give me quarters.” Gandalf had one hand on Pippin's shoulder and steered him towards the throne room. Gandalf rode bareback normally, but with three passengers the situation changed slightly. Shadowfax wore a light saddle blanket, light saddlebags, and simple light reins.
“Yes Sir,” Joanie said, taking Shadowfax by the simple reins. She looked to the guard, who walked away for a moment and then came back with another servant.
“Show Mithrandir's page to the stables,” the guard instructed. “Then bring him back up here.”
“Yes sir,” the other servant boy said. “Come on.”
Joanie followed the boy, gently leading Shadowfax.
“You're Mithrandir's page?” the other boy, who looked maybe a year or two younger than Joanie asked.
“Yes,” she answered. “I haven't been for long.”
“Why did you only take one horse?” the other boy asked. “My master would never let me ride with him.”
“I don't have a horse of my own, and Shadowfax is much faster than any horse I've ridden before. My lord Gandalf was afraid I couldn't keep up on a second horse,” Janie said. She didn't really know much about this world, but she'd seen “A Knight's Tale” and “Merlin” at least a dozen times each, and a bunch of other medieval movies too, so she hoped she wasn't too off. The boy seemed satisfied by her explanation, and they settled into easy small talk as she walked Shadowfax down to the stables. Before she'd left, Buffy had begged Legolas for some coins, which she gave to Joanie. Gandalf had explained the monetary system briefly as they rode, so she knew how much each coin was worth.
“Your lord lets you carry a sword?” the other boy asked, pointing to the scabbard on Joanie's hip.
“Yes. He's a kind of strange man, but I like him. He treats me well enough. Never hits me, and is teaching me simple combat,” Joanie said. She was making up a lot of this on the fly, but the boy seemed to be buying. He even looked a little jealous. They walked down the winding streets, and Joanie was surprised to learn that there was a stable up high in the city, in edition to others lower down, and near the entrance. But the other boy, whose name she eventually learned was Ramir, explained to her that the members of court couldn't be expected to walk all the way down to the bottom of the city to mount their horses. So there were stables in the higher levels of the city. And if the horses were stables in one of the lower stables, a servant would, of course, bring the horses up to the top of the city.
“This is an amazing city,” Joanie said. “I've never been this far east before. Gandalf told me of the city, but I couldn't really imagine what it was like. It's so beautiful from outside.”
“Is it?” Ramir asked. “I've never really left it, apart from going down to the Pelennor to pick up grain from the farmers. I've never approached it from a distance.”
“It's awesome,” Joanie said, and noticed Ramir gave her a funny look.
“That's a strange word. Is it like awe-inspiring?”
“Yes,” Joanie said.
They continued to talk, and at the stables Ramir kept talking to her while she unburdened Shadowfax, got him some water and oats, and gave him a much-needed brush down. When Joanie had finished taking care of the beautiful white horse, she followed Ramir back up to the palace. Joanie was happy that Ramir was such a chatterbox. She was learning all sorts of things already. When they made it to the palace, a chambermaid was instructed to lead Joanie up to Mithrandir's suite. Joanie was slightly disappointed that it wasn't the girl she was looking for, but at least, when she was tucked away in Gandalf's suite, she could relax for a bit.
*End Chapter 4*
So, I obviously made up the thing about the Galadhrim having to practice for 1000 years to earn the title, but I thought it was cool.
And before anyone asks, the slayer from Dol Amroth isn't Lothiriel.