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How The Maidens Got Their Swords... by curiouswombat

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Story notes:

This was written for a Back to Middle Earth Month prompt.  It owes its style to both the Saga of Noggin the Nog (Oliver Postgate) and the Anglo-Saxon tradition of story telling by the scops (or bards).

The men were still carousing in the great hall, singing songs, raising mugs of ale, no doubt, and telling stories of their bravery and derring-do. There would be some sore heads and bleary eyes in the morning – it was well that the wedding ceremony was not ’til after noon.

In Éowyn’s room was a smaller gathering. Arwen and Lothíriel had joined Éowyn and her cousin (daughter of her father’s sister), for none felt ready yet to sleep.

Lothíriel was nervous. The others were prepared.

“Drink this,” said Arwen, passing her a large glass of wine, “and Éowyn will tell us a story.”

Éowyn smiled, sat straight in her chair, and then began her tale…

Whisht! Listen to me and I will tell you of the coming of the shield maidens.

In the lands of the Éorlingas, where the Black Rocks stood guard against the men from the Inland Sea, in the dark nights that were very long, the Men of the Mark sat by their great log fires and they told many tales... But this is the tale that the women tell of those days.

Brego was the king of the Mark, and strong was his hand in battle. Strong too were the arms of his men, and powerful their horses. Oft they rode out to guard their lands and herds, out to defeat the wild men from the East, and often they came home bearing wounds, home bearing the bodies of their comrades.

“Give us swords and shields that we can ride out to fight the wild men from the East,” said their wives.

“Give us swords and shields that we can ride out to fight the wild men from the East,” said their daughters

“Give us swords and shields that we can ride out to fight the wild men from the East,” said their sisters.

“No,” said Brego, King of the Mark.

“No,” said the Marshals and the Men of the Mark.

“For you are our wives, our daughters and our sisters, and your place is to stay by the fireside, to tend your pots, your kettles and your pans, to care for our children and wait for us to return.”

And so the men rode out, and the women stayed, until the day when the wild men from the East, who had dwelt by the Inland Sea, met not the Éorlingas in battle but came instead to the houses, came to the firesides, came to where the women waited.

Here they thought to wreak havoc, to spill blood and burn the houses. Here they thought to despoil the women and enslave the young.

But the women of the Mark took up their pots and kettles, and flung them in the faces of the wild men from the East. They took up their pans and held them to their chests as shields. They took up their kitchen knives, and the hoes they used to tend the crops, and they fought off the wild men from the East who had dwelt by the Inland Sea.

When Brego King and the Éorlingas returned they found the bodies of their enemies piled high across their path. In front of the bodies stood their wives, their daughters, and their sisters, holding their pots, their kettles and their pans. Holding their kitchen knives and the hoes they used to tend the crops.

But not all of their wives, their daughters, and their sisters stood there, and great was the sorrow of the men whose womenfolk had fallen defending home, and hearth, and young.

Then up spoke Wilburga Queen, to Brego King, “Husband, we asked that you let us use the sword and the shield and you said Nay. Now your daughter lies dead and your sister lies dead. For, though you would not have them take up the sword to kill, it stopped them not from dying by it.”

Then Brego King and the Éorlingas bowed their heads, in sorrow and in shame. And henceforth it was that those women of the Mark who wished it, were taught to fight with sword and shield; and shieldmaids we became.