"Indeed," Éowyn said, wondering if Lothíriel's unease stemmed from a reason identical to hers-- that Faramir would get himself hurt. She knew that he'd be the match of any man in the Mark with live steel, but with practice swords Éomer's greater size and total lack of reluctance to punch people in the face would certainly come into play. She had fought practice bouts with Éomer before and he never pulled his punches. Not even for his baby sister. And certainly not for his brother-in-law.
Éomer stood in the ring, fastening the straps of the padding around his midsection. He was easy in his practice gear, and was grinning somewhat wolfishly. Faramir strode into the ring, and Éowyn bit her lip at how slender and small he looked.
"Are you sure about this?" Éomer asked teasingly, tucking his braided hair into his high padded collar. "I'll understand if you don't want the women to watch."
"I don't mind them at all," Faramir said. He turned and saluted to them, and then saluted Éomer. Éomer had fenced enough Gondorians to know the salute, and returned a Gondorian salute of his own before putting his helmet on. Faramir fastened his helmet easily, one-handed, and stood attentively. "Ready?" he asked.
"Ready," Éomer answered, balancing lightly on the balls of his feet. All at once he rushed forward, catching Faramir's wooden sword with his own and beating it wide. Faramir disengaged the blades with a quick flick and brought his blade back in to easily block Éomer's continued attack, and slid from the parry of the blade into a riposte. Éomer sprang back and Faramir fell short, and Éomer darted in, lighter on his feet than any man his size had a right to be. Quicker than the women could blink, he had snaked under Faramir's guard and landed a blow to the smaller man's hip.
Faramir brought his own sword down across Éomer's shoulder as the Rider's blow landed, and they stood still a moment, their swords where they had landed. "Your touch," Faramir said. "I'd've been dead before this could land with any force."
Éomer pulled back and straightened up. "Maybe," he said. "Maybe not. You're fast, Captain."
"A dubious one for Éomer," Lothíriel said, keeping score. "Should I give Faramir a mark as well?"
Faramir shook his head. "I was taught that unless you block an attack before launching your own, it's not success. If both men die it's no victory."
Éomer shrugged. "Ready?" he asked.
"Ready," Faramir said. Again Éomer was the first to move, feinting toward Faramir's sore hip and then changing the direction of his attack abruptly to go for Faramir's other side. Faramir moved quickly to parry the real attack, caught Éomer's blade, swept his blade around Éomer's, and drove back toward Éomer with the other's blade harmlessly deflected by his own. Éomer once again sprang back, freeing his blade from Faramir's guard, and this time continued to retreat as Faramir advanced toward him.
Faramir took a quick step, then a slow one, then another slow one, and suddenly he leapt forward, beating Éomer's blade to one side and in the same motion continuing on toward Éomer's chest. Éomer brought his blade back and beat Faramir's attack aside at the last minute, deflecting it wide. But it caught his arm squarely with the tip, and he grunted, stepping back.
"I don't even need to acknowledge that," he said ruefully, rubbing at his arm. Faramir had caught him in an area with only light padding.
"Sorry," Faramir said. "I wasn't aiming for your arm."
"It's not mortal, but it's yours," Éomer said with a laugh. "Ready?"
"One for Faramir," Lothíriel said, holding up both hands, one finger up for each.
"Ready," Faramir said, and they stood motionless a moment, staring at one another.
"This is an odd way of doing things," Éowyn said. "You and I worked things out with a simple conversation."
"Hush," Lothíriel said. "This is more entertaining."
Éomer rocked back slightly, and Faramir darted forward. Éomer's face split into a grin and he took Faramir's blade with obvious delight (and wicked speed), circling around it and bringing his sword down onto Faramir's defenseless shoulder with little force, his feet still in their original position. Faramir laughed and stepped back, raising his hand to acknowledge it. "Ahh, I fell for it," he said.
"Yes," Éomer said gleefully, and Éowyn realized he'd tricked Faramir into thinking he was preparing to attack. "I am not all brute force."
"Indeed," Faramir said, "I was sure I'd've broken something by now."
"Just wait," Éomer said, grinning widely. "Ready?"
"Éomer, two, Faramir, one," Lothíriel said.
"Ready," Faramir said. This time Éomer circled a little bit to Faramir's left. Faramir shifted his grip, and Éomer darted in. Faramir was ready, and blocked his attack. But he was unable to get his blade free of the parry to riposte, and they came together shoulder to shoulder with their blades locked together. Éomer shoved, and Faramir reeled back, only half in control of his momentum. Éomer pressed the attack, bringing his blade down toward Faramir's helmeted head. Faramir caught it in a high parry and swept both blades down to the side. He moved toward Éomer, turning, and drew his blade up across Éomer's abdomen in a slash that was entirely painless with wooden blades but would have disembowelled him with metal.
"Ooh," Éomer said, stepping back. He pushed his helmet up to wipe his forehead on his sleeve. "Very good."
"Two Faramir, two Éomer," Lothíriel said.
"He's doing well," Éowyn said, sounding surprised, but wisely didn't say which one she meant. Faramir gave Éomer a wry half-smile, and Éomer rolled his eyes a little.
"Ready?" Éomer asked.
"Ready," Faramir answered.
"I'd expected blood by now," Lothíriel agreed mildly.
Faramir feinted towards Éomer's right, but as Éomer parried he changed lines to come in on Éomer's left, and when Éomer blocked it he continued the attack to move past Éomer. Éomer turned quickly, and to Faramir's evident surprise counterattacked viciously into Faramir's renewed attack, beating Faramir's attacking blade aside and continuing his motion after it with the weight of his entire body. Faramir defended adequately, pushing the blade out and down in a wide sweep, but Éomer closed the distance and ducked a little so that his shoulder met Faramir's chest firmly, his foot snaking quickly behind Faramir's forward foot. Faramir fell with a breathless grunt, and Éomer held his sword to Faramir's chest, standing over him with a wide grin.
Faramir waved his hand, acknowledging, and pushed himself up onto his elbows, winded both by the shoulder's heavy contact with his chest and with his back's heavy contact with the ground. Éomer's face creased in concern and he lowered his sword.
"Are you all right?" he asked, all triumph disappearing from his face.
Faramir chuckled. "Fine. Aren't you a big fellow." He pushed himself to a sitting position and coughed experimentally. "Nothing broken," he said. Éomer exended a hand to him and pulled him up.
"I told you I had seventy pounds on you," Éomer said, clapping him on the back soundly. Faramir coughed and laughed at the same time.
"I know," he said. "At least you didn't land on me. That might have proved ill."
"Three," Lothíriel said, looking down at her hands. "Three Éomer, two Faramir."
Éowyn peeked out from behind her hands. "Don't break him," she said. "I have plans for him for later and I'd be very put out if you spoiled them."
"He's harder to break than that," Éomer said. "Ready?"
"One moment," Faramir said, rubbing at his chest.
"Sorry," Éomer said, lowering his sword. "When you're ready."
Faramir took an experimental breath, the air whistling in the back of his throat. "All right," he said. "Ready?"
"Ready," Éomer answered. Faramir launched himself forward in a straight attack. Éomer expected a feint, and was ready in the wrong line of defense, and so Faramir caught him straight, his sword thudding down onto Éomer's heavily-padded shoulder unobstructed. "Oof," Éomer said, snorting with laughter. "Who's a nitwit?"
Faramir laughed, stepping back. "I am not all guile," he said. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," Éomer said, rotating his shoulder gingerly. "Your hand is heavy."
"Four," Lothíriel said, and looked at her hands in confusion. She laughed. "Whoops. Three, Faramir, three Éomer. Wrong hand."
"Good," Faramir said. "I was worried for a moment."
"I want no taint of favoritism," Éomer said. "You be careful with that score."
Lothíriel laughed. "I didn't say I was rooting for you," she said. "Don't be cocky."
"Well," Éomer said, putting a hand on his hip. "I like that. Will you take my side, then, sister?"
"I think she has," Faramir said, shooting her an amused look. "She's been cringing for me enough."
"I have not," Éowyn said defensively. "I am counting on you to uphold the honor of Rohan, brother."
"Of course," Éomer said gravely, saluting her. "Are you ready, man?"
Faramir grinned. "Of course," he said.
Éomer moved first this time, a hesitating step forward. Faramir started forward but his back foot remained on the ground. They were both getting cagey now, each knowing the other's strengths. Éomer jerked forward, but then stepped backward. Finally both started forward at the same time. Faramir's blade met Éomer's with a ringing shock and as his blade deflected, Éomer dropped his sword. Faramir hesitated a moment, and Éomer ducked, scrambling to pick the weapon up again.
Faramir lunged and brought his sword down to Éomer's back, but Éomer had managed to get his blade and twisted out from under Faramir's attack. Faramir's sword hit the ground and Éomer rolled onto his back to bring his own sword up. Faramir broke off and circled around, knowing if he approached straight on Éomer would kick him. Instead he attacked as Éomer was scrambling to his feet. But Éomer parried the attack, and swung his sword around underneath to crack against Faramir's thigh as Faramir's sword, released too early, thudded into his neck.
"Oh," Faramir said, dropping his sword. "Oh, I'm sorry."
Éomer grimaced, rubbing at his poorly-padded neck. "Nothing broken," he said at last, but didn't get to his feet as Faramir stepped back. "Yours."
"Yours landed slightly before mine did, I think," Faramir said.
"I released your blade too early," Éomer said. "And I'd be dead anyway. Perhaps you'd bleed to death but I'd be dead immediately."
Faramir shrugged. There was no arguing that.
"Four, Faramir," Lothíriel said impassively. "Three, Éomer."
"Is that what the honor of Rohan is worth to you?" Éowyn asked, pretending peevishness.
"My head? Yes," Éomer said. He rubbed at his neck again, rotating the shoulder on that side.
"I didn't think it would get through," Faramir said, "so I swung harder than I meant to. Be grateful yours landed, because I think that slowed mine."
"I am," Éomer said, and struggled to his feet. He collected himself, and Faramir picked up his sword. Éomer sighed. "Ready?"
"Ready," Faramir answered.
Éomer made a very clean lunge forward, disengaging his blade around Faramir's parry, and caught Faramir across the chest with the end of his weapon. He laughed.
"Don't discount me yet," he said. "I may lack a head but I still have one arm at least." Faramir laughed, and Éowyn applauded.
"Nicely done," she said.
"Four to four," Lothíriel said. "Were you going to five?"
"I think so," Éomer said. "Did you want to keep going?"
Faramir shook his head. "I think it would be pushing my luck. Five is enough for me."
"All right," Éomer said, saluting Faramir again. Faramir returned the salute. "Then, for my people's honor. Are you ready?"
"I am ready," Faramir answered. They stood motionless a moment, and then Éomer leapt forward. Faramir held his ground, parrying Éomer's weapon, and ducked. His shoulder hit Éomer in the stomach and he pushed up so that Éomer flipped over him, but Éomer grabbed him as he went by and pulled him over. They landed with Éomer on his back and Faramir firmly gripped upside-down against Éomer's chest with his legs in the air. Both had lost their weapons somewhere along the way, and lay motionless for a moment.
Éomer sputtered, and Faramir slid off his chest, flopping his legs to one side and rolling up on his elbow to look at his fallen opponent with some concern. Éomer rolled onto his side and Faramir realized that he was laughing. Faramir began to laugh as well, and in a moment they were both helpless and howling with laughter. Wordless, Éomer mimed Faramir's duck, gesturing to indicate that Faramir's eyes had been wide in terror. Faramir sputtered, unable to stop laughing, and mimed Éomer's bug-eyed grunt as he'd connected with Faramir's shoulder.
Lothíriel and Éowyn exchanged glances. Lothíriel's shoulders were shaking. "I think they should quit while they're ahead," she said.
"If you can call it that," Éowyn chuckled.
The two men were both sitting flat on the ground, holding their ribs, tears streaming down their faces as they laughed. Éowyn hadn't seen Faramir in such an advanced state of mirth before. Lothíriel had, but not in many years. The women giggled, watching as Éomer tried to stand up and failed, his knees buckling. He flopped down onto his back, gasping for breath and laughing. Faramir was wheezing with mirth. Éomer raised his legs and wiggled them, imitating Faramir's landing. Faramir howled so hard he squeaked on the inhalation, and it set them off again with renewed gales of helpless laughter.
"What's all this noise?" Aragorn came up behind Éowyn and Lothíriel, his tone alarmed. "Is someone hurt?"
"They're fencing," Lothíriel said ingenuously, looking up at Aragorn. Aragorn blinked at the helpless pair.
"Who won?" he asked.
Éomer sat up, wiping his eyes, wheezing with convulsions of laughter. He tried to speak and failed. Faramir lay beside him, twitching slightly as he tried to stop giggling.
"Erm," Lothíriel said, "I think it was a tie."
Notes: For information on the relative heights and sizes of Faramir and Eomer, I referred to Unfinished Tales: in the Appendix to "Disaster of the Gladden Fields", there is a lot of interesting information on units of measurement and the heights of the various races and ethnicities.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.