The sky was grey, malevolently infused with smoke from the remnant fires
burning below on the battlefield. Even the pale marble bench on which
Éowyn sat seemed dull, despite the wretched distance from the
clanging of swords and ferocious cries of the Rohirrim, now off fighting
ever nearer to Mt. Doom. She angrily picked at a thread on the ragged
edge of her sling.
She was caged, yet again, a wounded bird that would prefer death than
bound to earth. In frustration, she got up and paced over to the parapet
to look down at the plain below. The height was near that of the
Firienfeld, and no less daunting. Off in the distance, the demonic black
mountain smouldered, its filthy ash adding to the haze, which clung
mercilessly to the air.
She decided to test her wing. Easing her left arm from its cradle, she
attempted to straighten it but could only reach a hand's span before
gasping in pain. Chagrined, she rebound it, wishing that one of the
healers from Meduseld were with her. As a way to occupy her mind,
Éowyn listed herbs and their uses while she stalked the cobbled
paths in the garden. By the time she'd reached Vervain- aids against
feeling fire when relieving oneself,
she was weary of the tedious
exercise, and made her way back to her usual perch.
Back at the stone bench, Éowyn arranged her skirts and sat down. A
flicker of movement caught her eye and she glanced over to the edge of
the marble. A black ant meandered its way across the flat surface until
it reached the fabric of her dress, when it backed away and marched to
the corner. Captivated and compelled, she followed the insect's course,
leaning backward to watch its progress down the carved leg and return
path. Out of curiosity, she put her right hand down to see if it would
crawl up, which it did. Bringing her fingers to her face, she rotated
her wrist as the ant scuttled the surface of her skin.
"I am too much like you, little one," she said as it crept along her
arm, passing a few freckles before she brushed it off and it dropped to
the milky stone. "Insignificant. Wandering aimlessly and getting
Still tracking the ant's journey, she thought of Meriadoc. In all
likelihood he was to be found helping the cook - or helping himself - or
assisting in tending the wounded, especially those of Rohan. How
monstrous that battle must have been to him, and yet his bravery against
the horrific minion of Sauron was beyond compare.
With a wistful smile, Éowyn remembered the incredulous expression
of gratitude on the hobbit's face when she, or Dernhelm, rather, offered
him his rightful place in the ranks of the Rohirrim. How far he was from
his self-described lighthearted fellows. As she mulled that over, her
brow furrowed. Merry did have his moments of joviality, but from the
long days together astride Windfola, Éowyn knew in her bones that
sombre responsibility flowed in his veins. He mourned the loss of King
Théoden as dearly as though he were kin; not that Meriadoc had
spoken such, but Éowyn had learned at a young age to intuit words
unspoken. Merry's clear eyes bespoke worry and sadness, revealing far
reaches of complexity in his nature, she decided.
A bee buzzed around her head and with her good arm she swatted it away.
It landed in a small patch of nearby clover, quickly busying itself. How
strange that despite the battles being fought and hopelessness that
pervaded these stone walls, shrubs still stretched out verdant leaves.
Flowers continued to bloom. Why? What was the point?
Preoccupied, she leaned down and picked a few of the clover stems and
dropped them in her lap. One at a time, she twisted them together, a
long-latent activity her mother had taught her early in her childhood.
When the chain was completed, she held it up and looked scornfully at
"Some shieldmaiden you are now," she said. With a disgusted snort,
Éowyn tossed her handiwork to the ground.
She was restless. Admittedly, patience had never been a trait for which
she was known, but this endless waiting made her all the more irritable.
Perhaps she would return to the stateroom that the young Steward had
shown her the day before. Meduseld had many glorious hangings, but they
paled in comparison to the procession of portraits that lined the walls
in this massive hall. Faramir had taken his time, explaining the
background of the men featured in each frame. Éowyn had been taken
aback by his depth of description of his forebears, and felt no small
amount of pride in revealing to him her knowledge of Eorl when they came
to Cirion's portrait.
Faramir had paused to elaborate both on his namesake, but also that of
his father. Denethor the First stood regally, his auburn hair lifted in
a breeze and an elegant stone city behind him.
"That was Osgiliath before its end," Faramir had explained, his
expression rueful. "He was the last Steward to rule there; it was
overrun and destroyed by uruks sent to task from Mordor. At that time
Minas Tirith became the primary stronghold of Gondor, though others went
further and joined those in Dol Amroth. It was there, by the sea, where
my mother and her kin lived."
Éowyn was struck by the softening of his tone, already aware that
his mother had died when Faramir was young.
"I believe she missed her home, and the gulls' cries, very
Éowyn had nodded. "There can be much grief in life."
Faramir had paused, weighing his words.
"And yet there can be beauty amid despair."
Alone now in the garden, Éowyn reconsidered his phrase, looking
about her at the unstoppable fecundity. Was this despair that she felt?
No, surely that heart spearing rush had crashed on her only as she saw
her uncle fall before her. This that she endured was more deadly, a
futility that seeped ever more deeply into her marrow. Would that she
had her sword, its fine craftsmanship mere detritus on the sea of
carnage below. Any piece of arms could suffice now. She clenched and
opened her fist in agitation, willing Béma himself to cast down a
weapon from the steel skies, a sturdy sword hilt into her open
Béma- immortal horseman and defender of her people. Where was the
huntsman in these foul days? Show me you are not lost,
pleaded inwardly. Bring forth a sign of hope.
Éowyn cast her silent lament to flight, her attentions so focused
on their journey that she started as the Steward's compassionate voice
spoke behind her.
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