A Liminal Patience

Only she could make the sound of a crashing sword-blade seem like birdsong. The affectionate murmurings he overheard as she bestowed them to Léoma, her steed, were rain spatters on the dry earth of his ears, parched with the King's affairs and ever-widening responsibilities sent from his true master in his tower of Orthanc. Many nights he lay awake, the moon battering her light through his window, as he tried to trace the path of his heart. There had been another, in the more isolated folds of his youth, but her wounding and memory had dimmed as he threw himself into the workings of the court in the Golden Hall.

During his years in Meduseld, he had proven himself insightful and vigilant in matters of state. As time passed and he grew in favor with Théoden, so had the King's precocious niece matured. Éowyn, now fifteen years of age, resembled nothing so much as a silver birch; slender, pale, and grounded in the soil of Rohan. She was shrewd and deliberate, possessing a beauty so untarnished it bruised his spirit. Always aware of the lingering suspicion in the eyes of the King's son, he was careful as he managed occasions to watch Éowyn ride. To his mind, her body shimmered with joy astride her horse, thundering across the plain or simply riding in the royal paddock, her goldspun hair in a heavy plait. He admired her strong, lithe form as she practiced for battles she would never see. She determinedly engaged in the thrusts and parries taught to her brother, wielding a foreign sword, surreptitiously discovered to have belonged to her Gondorian grandmother. The darkness forgave him his thoughts, as he imagined himself a tear of her sweat, sliding from pulsing temple to jaw, down her creamy column of neck.

Too late he had realized that his patron, the wise, gracious wizard, used his skills of speech to encourage him to reveal more than he had wished about his affections. Saruman had not chided him for his longing, but he now restrained his tongue to speak only of the tidings of Rohan and her rulers. His visions of Éowyn he treasured like aged wine, and he savored them as such, unhurried and alone: a crooked lower tooth, glimpsed as she laughed unabashed at a tale of questionable propriety told by her cousin; an expression of utmost resignation as she sat through the tedium of an embroidery lesson; a faint flush in her throat when one of the royal stableboys grasped at her wrist, vying for her attention. The last brought with it the icy burn of jealousy, molten ire which he assuaged with calm self-assurances. Time would reveal to Théoden that he, Gríma of the Westemnet and devoted, loyal councillor, had from his first days cherished her. She, too, would see how he had willed for her protection, that through these many years he had served as watchful, loving guardian, patiently awaiting the day when she would turn at the sound of his footfalls…

and hold out her hand.

Only she, Éowyn of the House of Eorl, could proffer herself, necessary air to his soul. For without her, the grasses of Rohan were a sea, and he, a drowning man.

Gift for Cim_Halfling
Merry Yule, 2005

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