Many Guises and Many Names
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Courtly Love: 9. Star Eagle
'Your father would have been proud to see you now,' remarked Gálmód gravely as they climbed the steps to Meduseld.
'He had no use for 'warmongering,' as he called it,' said the Marshal. 'A waste of good pasture in his eyes. But it is because of him that I am here today.'
'A born farmer makes an unwilling warrior. But you have the blood of Eorl on your mother's side and were made for greater deeds.'
'Bloodier ones, maybe.' Ælric laughed. As they entered the hall he glanced round and saw the northerner leaving the guesthouse below. 'Is that your pretty boy down there? Were it not for that scrap of a beard, I should have taken him for a maiden.'
Gálmód almost exploded, his sorrows forgotten. 'My horse's arse, Ælric, you're right! No real man was ever so fair. Think you the beard is false?'
'Undoubtedly,' agreed Ælric. 'We may have to put it to the test before long.'
'The lady fancies herself in the king's service,' returned Gálmód.
'And in his bedchamber too no doubt. But soft now. She comes.'
The newcomer mounted the steps to the Golden Hall. He had changed the blue shirt for one of green and the mud on his boots was gone. The dark locks were braided now, though not after the manner of the Mark and, unaccustomed to their bonds, the braids moved restlessly about his shoulders. Moreover, they afforded their owner a look that seemed older than his face allowed, for the depth of his gaze was revealed anew.
Ælric studied the young man with interest. The youth inclined his head in brief acknowledgement and smiled.
'This is lord Ælric, Marshal of West-mark,' said Gálmód.
'Are all the men of the North so fair, or just you, sir?' Ælric could barely conceal his mirth.
The stranger frowned, but replied solemnly, 'I confess I do not know, my lord. I am ill fitted to judge such a question. Perhaps you have more experience in such matters of taste than I.'
The smirk on Ælric's countenance lingered just long enough for the inference to sink in before turning to horror as the newcomer regarded him and, smiling benignly, came to his rescue.
'I have heard great tales of the valour of the men of Westfold. You must be mighty indeed to lead them in battle.’
Ælric grunted an unintelligible reply and turned on his heel to lead the way into the hall. The king and his queen were already seated and generous quantities of venison, bread and fruit were laid out before them. It was a relaxed meal even by the standards of Edoras and this always pleased Morwen as she had never enjoyed the forced formality of dining at the court of Ecthelion. The guests bowed low before their king, but apart from that and the rich furnishings and plentiful board, there was little to distinguish their supper from others that were at that moment being served in any farmhouse across the Mark.
The king greeted Gálmód and Ælric warmly and glanced dourly at his cousin Éothain, whom the queen had invited in a last minute gesture of regretful magnanimity. Then he surveyed the foreigner with a critical eye as though he was examining a horse. When he was satisfied he turned to the queen expectantly.
‘May I present a guest friend, my lords?’ began Morwen at last. ‘He has lately come to Rohan from the north.’
All waited patiently, but the northerner made no sign.
‘And his name?’ The king could be trusted not to stand on ceremony.
In a moment's hesitation, the queen recalled the rayed star at the stranger's shoulder and the gaze of those stern grey eyes. Then she knew.
‘He is Thorongil, my lords. That is ‘Star-Eagle’ in your tongue.’
'Star Eagle?’ said Gálmód. ‘That is a strange name for a strange fellow.'
But Morwen’s eyes were on the stranger. He returned her gaze, smiling, and nodded his assent.
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