The Great Race of Rohan
The characters are the property of the Tolkien estate. No profit has
been made from this story.
Aragorn struggled to keep an interested expression on his face. As
Éomer's honoured guest for the younger King's birthday
celebrations, he needed to look as if he were enjoying the proceedings.
Éomer's idea to hold a challenge for his Riders, to help them
remain strong and alert now the War was over, was a good one, but after
watching a seemingly never ending stream of Rohirrim race past him on
horseback or on foot, it all became rather tedious after a while.
They were all strong young men, skilled riders and swift of foot.
Éomer had promised a fine grey colt as the prize for the victor. How
his friend and fellow king would choose, Aragorn had no idea. He was
simply thankful that the task did not fall to him.
Éomer raised his arm for silence as the horses came to a halt. The
challenge was taking place on a field on the banks of the Snowbourn.
Éomer sat on a makeshift throne, with his Queen and Aragorn either
side of him. All around the field, spectators were gathered, loudly
cheering their kinsfolk.
"Riders of the Mark," cried Éomer. "You have proved your
skills well today on horse and foot. You have shown yourselves swift and
strong, ready to defend our lands in the hour of need. The final test I
challenge you with is a swimming race. The first man to swim across the
river and back again will win the prize!"
Aragorn raised an eyebrow. During his years of service to King Thengel,
the Rohirrim had hardly been noted for their swimming prowess. There
were few warm summer days like today that would tempt anyone into the
water. He could only surmise that matters had changed over the
Most of the men made their way down to the riverbank and started to pull
off their garments. Lothiriel whispered a few words in her husband's
ear and then with her ladies started to walk back towards a refreshment
stall on the far side of the field. The rest of the audience, men and
women together watched as the swimmers entered the water.
"I thought this challenge would help me choose a winner,"
Éomer informed Aragorn quietly. "I have been encouraging my
Riders to learn to swim, but many are reluctant. If they see the prize
going to a strong swimmer, it should encourage them to learn not to fear
Many of the Rohirrim had not even entered the water, while others had
paddled out a little way and were now disconsolately making their way
back to shore and pulling their clothes back on. Only about a dozen
hardly souls still remained in the race and were purposefully, albeit
slowly, making their way across the river, cheered on by their fellows.
"The Snowbourn is excellent for swimming in," said Éomer.
"I learned to swim myself last summer."
"An excellent achievement," Aragorn commended his friend.
"It is not easy to learn past childhood. I was fortunate that the
Elves taught me when I was but a child." His keen eyes returned to
the swimmers and lingered on one man who was separated from his fellows.
The others had already reached the far bank, while the straggler was
still in the middle of the broad river. Suddenly he gave a cry and flung
his arms in the air. The spectators all started shouting. One of the men
who had turned back before, started to pull off his clothing again.
Several of the women screamed and one looked about to enter the water.
"No!" Éomer cried. "No one else must enter the water, or
you will all drown!"
"Keep Andúril safe for me" Aragorn thrust the precious sword
into Éomer's hands.
Swift as an arrow, Aragorn raced down to the riverbank, shrugging off
his outer garments as he ran. He paused only to kick off his boots when
reached the water's edge.
All around people were crying, "Thormund will drown! Alas, no man
can reach him in time!"
Aragorn waded in. The swimmers on the far bank were turning back towards
their stricken fellow, but they would never reach him in time. Compared
to the Anduin, where Aragorn often swam with Faramir, the Snowbourn felt
icy cold. His heavy shirt and breeches made his limbs feel like lead,
but Aragorn ignored the discomfort and swam with haste towards Thormund.
"Stay calm!" he cried. "I am coming to get you."
Thormund only struggled more frantically and Aragorn wondered however he
was going to restrain him. Worst was to follow, though, as the man
suddenly ceased flaying his arms and started to sink beneath the
His arms aching and his lungs near to bursting, Aragorn managed to reach
the drowning man and grab hold of his hand just before he sank beneath
the surface. He felt almost as if his arm would be wrenched from its
socket, but grimly hung on, wrapping one arm around Thormund's chest
and raising his head above the water. Thormund coughed, expelling
mouthfuls of water and started to struggle again, almost dragging
Aragorn down with him. "Easy now, I have you," said Aragorn in a
tone most often used to control an army, but Thormund was too panicked
to heed him. Aragorn wondered just how long he could hold on when he saw
a handful of swimmers approaching from the far bank. "Fetch a
boat!" he cried. Two of the men helped him support the struggling
Thormund, while the others swam in search of a boat.
Aragorn was tiring and wondering just how much longer he could keep his
heavy limbs afloat, when an old man appeared rowing a coracle of the
type used by fishermen of the Mark. One of Aragorn's helpers
clambered into the boat and together they succeeded in dragging Thormund
"Thank you!" Aragorn gasped as the old man paddled towards where
Éomer and a crowd of people were waiting. Thormund collapsed in the
bottom of the boat, coughing and spluttering. Aragorn tended him as best
As soon as they reached the shore, willing hands reached to take
Thormund. "He needs keeping warm," Aragorn instructed.
"I know, my lord," the voice belonged to Aethelstan,
Éomer's personal Healer, who was ready with a blanket.
"As do you, my friend!" Éomer drew Aragorn against him in a
close embrace, oblivious of the older man's saturated condition. The
King of Rohan drew his own cloak from about his shoulders and wrapped it
around his friend. "I have never seen the like as the haste with
which you swam to Thormund's rescue!"
The people cheered, " Hail Elessar King, hail Éomer
"Come, my friend, let us ride back to the Hall swiftly so you can
change into dry clothes," said Éomer, shepherding the exhausted
Aragorn towards where horses were waiting.
"What of Thormund? I should tend him," Aragorn protested.
"Aethelstan is familiar with victims of near drownings and skilled
in their treatment," Éomer said firmly, helping Aragorn mount.
"It is you needs care now, my friend. You are today's true
Lothiriel had ordered a fire prepared in Aragorn's chamber and a
little while later, Aragorn, wrapped in a robe, was seated by the fire
being plied with hot drinks by Éomer, while he rubbed his hair dry.
"That is the last swimming race I shall ever hold!" Éomer
"A wise decision," said Aragorn, putting down his towel and
swallowing a mouthful of comfortingly warm tea. "Who has won the
"By rights it should be yours, my friend," said Éomer, but I
have finer colts my far I would give you. I have decided to award it to
old Elfmund, the fisherman."
Aragorn nodded his approval, suppressing a smile at the thought of the
wizened greybeard taking the prize that the young riders coveted so
"Poor Thormund," Éomer added. "The young fool was
desperate for a fine horse, though he had hardly swim! Methinks I should
give him a boat instead!"