Elfwine: Part Eight
Several moments passed before Mayda returned to her senses allowing her to move from where had been rooted to the spot. Within minutes she had located the boys and dragged them away in the direction of the stone walls. None spoke as they fled, as they were all too shocked by their own actions. Behind them the acrid smoke was rising into the cold night, and the screams of women rose with it. Finally the children reached the wall and Mayda led the boys along it until she reached a rather insignificant looking stretch of stone. Here she started to pull her costume over her head.
"Remove your costumes!" she ordered almost harshly when the boys did not follow her lead. Once she was in her gown once more she reached at the wall and pulled at one of the slabs. It fell away easily, revealing a large hole inside the city wall. "Hurry!" she whispered as she began to stuff the ghoulish clothes and mask into the cavity. Within no time the boys had done the same and Mayda had pushed the façade of the slab back into place. "Come, we must act swiftly, if you see a bucket of any kind pick it up. We are going to the well!" The boys nodded and followed the princess through the lanes on route to the well. Before they could reach it however, Mayda was suddenly lifted from her feet. She screamed in surprise.
"Hush child, have you gone mad?" Éomer instructed sounding surprised.
"We have to get water uncle, there is a fire!" Mayda exclaimed wildly. Éomer nodded gravely.
"Yes, I know there was a fire, Master Elfhelmson is most displeased that his chicken coop has been reduced to ashes," Éomer corrected putting Mayda back on the ground, not noticing the look of sheer relief that adorned his foster-daughter's face. "I heard you had sprained your ankle and yet when I went looking for you, you were nowhere to be found. What were you doing?" He looked suspiciously to the two boys that stood behind the princess. "With them? Alone?" he added. Mayda furrowed her brow.
"They came to aid me and help me join in the parade, however as we came down the hill we saw the flames and ran to get water in case there was an outbreak," she lied, almost seamlessly; the only thing that gave her away was the shame in her eyes. She hated lying to Éomer more than anything in all of Middle-Earth, even more so than wearing a dress! Éomer stared at her with an unreadable look for a few moments.
"I would like a word with you young lady," he said and began to walk towards the Golden Hall. Mayda gulped and started to follow, her head hanging. Not knowing what to do, the boys too started to follow their leader. " Alone!" Éomer's angry tone came, causing the boys to stop dead in their tracks their eyes wide with fear, their hopes with their princess friend, hoping she would not suffer.
X X X
Éomer's deadly silence as foster-father and foster-daughter stared each other down over the drawing room was reason enough for Mayda to realise she had gravely disappointed her uncle. She almost wished for him to start shouting, anything was better than this silence.
"I..." the girl finally began, but she did not know what to say. Even she felt terribly wicked for what she had done. Éomer raised one eyebrow at the girl, still staring at her coldly.
"The deed itself was reason enough for me to be angry Mayda," he finally spoke. "But to lie to my face has caused me to feel ashamed of you, something that I have never truly felt before." Mayda's jaw quivered. "I cannot abide liars. Until this moment I believed that you escaped your uncle Maydir's guardianship of you without flaw, and yet now I see that perhaps you have more in common with him than I thought." A tear rolled down the girl's face and for a moment Éomer's eyes creased in pain. "Oh be gone from my sight, I no longer wish to look upon you," he uttered, getting to his feet and turning his back as the young girl jumped to her feet and ran for the door. Before she had completely escaped the drawing room a sob escaped from her and with it a tear from her uncle.
He had not wished to be so cruel; he had not wished to make her cry. He felt dark and wicked for suggesting that she was anything like her uncle as this was not true by any means. He loved his foster-daughter as though she were his own, and she had disappointed him so much, that the anger he had felt had been almost overwhelming.
"You were too cruel," Lothiriel's disapproving voice came from the balcony. Éomer's hung his head and sighed.
"And she too wicked," Éomer countered petulantly as his wife approached him, her face graven.
"No real harm was done my Lord," she said. "Children make mistakes and the pressures upon her to reinstate her name were very great, it is not surprising that she attempted something such as this. From the tales I have heard Eowyn tell, you have done much worse in your time..."
"I did not lie flat-out to my uncle's face with no sign of remorse Lothiriel, I respected him and cared for him too much!" Éomer countered angrily. Lothiriel managed a smile.
"You are insecure about her affections," she concluded, her disapprove washing away. Éomer shifted uncomfortably and shook his head.
"I know not what you mean," he grumbled. Lothiriel smiled even more, realising she had hit the spot.
"Yes, you do," she repeated. "My darling, you fear that she has gone away and fallen in love with Faramir as her father and these boys she has brought before us. You feel that she has no place in her heart for you now?" Éomer looked at her with a heavy heart.
"You know me too well," he uttered helplessly. "And her too it seems, as the words you speak are true." Lothiriel snorted in a very unladylike manner.
"Hardly my Lord, I must say you are being awfully melodramatic," she said fondly. " A little girl is probably weeping right now because her 'father' just brushed her away as though she were nothing, because that is who you are to her now Éomer, you are a father for her." Éomer shifted once more, grinding his teeth together. "Her daughter's love for you is as clear as day to the rest of the world and yet you choose now to ignore it..."
"How could she lie to me if she cares as you say?" Éomer demanded, her words striking too close to the truth.
"She is a naughty child, she lies to everyone. It is a trait that all children of your line seem to share," Lothiriel replied simply. "And yet she has a wonderful soul that loves us very much, and we her." With this she headed for the door. "Now," she said, pausing by the frame and turning on her husband. "I am going to comfort our 'daughter', and I shall tell her that you will come and see her when I am gone!" Well aware that he would be sleeping in that very drawing room if he objected, the King nodded and sat down to ponder what he would say to his niece.
X X X
An hour later he stood outside Mayda's room in the breezy corridor wishing Lothiriel would finish cheering the girl up so he could get out of the cold. Their laughter was taunting him and he fought very hard to resist the urge to break the door down. Finally it would seem Lothiriel had the girl in high spirits once more and the door creaked open.
"Now my darling, should I send for one of the waiting maids to make up a bed in the drawing room or are you going to be pleasant?" his wife asked with a twinkle in her eye. Éomer glowered at her.
"I shall be more pleasant than even you my sweet lady," he sang mockingly. Lothiriel playfully slapped his arm before ushering him in and shutting the door behind him. Once inside Éomer looked about his niece's chamber uncertainly. Was the little scamp hiding from him? Had he upset her so much?
"Mayda?" he asked worriedly.
"Here I am," Mayda's voice came from her cupboards. Éomer spun around in time to see Mayda reappear from her messy cupboards with a large jar in her hands. "What is that?" he asked dubiously.
"This is my savings," she said with a beaming smile and she dropped the jar down unceremoniously on her bed. It jangled melodically as the copper coins rattled around.
"You don't have any savings, you may have anything you desire," Éomer said curiously, wondering where this mysterious jar had come from.
"Yes now," Mayda exclaimed obviously. "But when I was living in Archanion, I would collect any money I could find. I needed it then," the girl explained. "Remember when you took me back to Gondor to gather anything from my home that still remained in tact?" Éomer nodded, remembering the occasion well. It had been their first outing as a family and he and Lothiriel had been so overjoyed with the experience that as soon as they returned home to Edoras they scheduled another such outing to the coast. "I collected it then and have never needed it until this moment." Éomer raised his eyebrows in curiousity.
"And why do you find cause to need it now?" he asked. Mayda hung her head shamefully.
"I wish to give it to Master Elfhelmson in repayment for the damage my skulduggery caused him," she replied softly. Éomer could not keep the smile from his face.
"That is a very fine thought indeed my child," he said, before taking a deep breath and carrying on. "I am sorry for what I said, it was wicked of me. You just angered me so." Mayda looked up, her eyes large and vulnerable. "I should never have reminded you of that man."
"You do not think I am like him then?" Mayda asked wearily. Éomer smiled and shook his head firmly.
"You bear as much resemblance to him as I do to..." he trailed off. "An orc! Though I must have seemed as wretched as an orc this evening." Mayda shook her head quickly.
"It was I who was dressed as one," she sighed. Éomer grinned.
"Then we are as bad as each other," he chuckled and he extended an arm to the girl. She rushed to his side within seconds. "Will you forgive me?"
"Only if you forgive me!" the girl countered cheerfully. Éomer smiled and nodded.
"Though I forgive you, will you still permit me to be upset with you for being naughty?" he asked leaning his forehead against hers. Mayda looked thoughtful for a moment before she nodded reluctantly. "Very well, then tomorrow we shall discuss your punishment." With this the tension was gone and after he had kissed her cheek Éomer leapt to his feet spinning his foster-daughter around as fast as he could, her laughter healing his heartache until he felt well again. "You know that I love you," he said softly after dropping her down on her bed, where she crawled beneath her heavy blankets.
"And you know that I love you!" Mayda replied exuberantly. Éomer smiled and nodded, tucking her blankets around her.
"Sleep well my child," he whispered and he started to leave her room.
"Wait!" Mayda sat up straight in bed, a look of panic on her face. "Dior and Huor! I know not where they went. They have nowhere to bed the night uncle, they could still be out in the snow." Éomer nodded knowingly.
"You are right, I shall go and find them and show them to our most wretched dungeon," he said casually.
"Uncle!" Mayda gasped. "It was I who fouled the evening, not they, they merely..."
"Fell for your charms my girl, yes I know," Éomer laughed. "Rest assured, I will not lock them in a dungeon." However much I'd like to, he added secretly. "I shall find them and show them to the guest chambers." Mayda nodded in a relieved way and sank down into her bed.
"Now," Éomer said walking over to tuck her in once more. "Are there any more naughty friends that you have lured here to Edoras that I should know about, so as we might be more adequately prepared next time?" Mayda grinned and shook her head. "No? Very well. Sleep well my darling."
"And you my darling," Mayda laughed mockingly, though there was fondness there, before rolling over on her side, a smile adorning her face. It remained there till morning.
X X X
Following Mayda's departure, her two friends from Tolfalas were left utterly at a loss as to where to go. They knew they couldn't march up to the Golden Hall and announce their arrival, so they decided to head for the well, which was found in some form of a central square. Once here they rested at its side, wondering what on earth they were going to do if no one came to find them. It is here that Mathain found them.
"Hey you," the village-boy shouted across the square and he approached, his hands balled up into fists at his side. The brothers looked to each other curiously, both recognising this boy from the feast, before they climbed to their feet and faced off with the other boy.
"Are you talking to us boy?" Dior called back, sounding surprisingly arrogant; something that earned him a look of surprise and admonishment from his younger brother.
"Dior, do not be a fool," Huor whispered.
"Yes I am talking to you," Mathain hissed. "And if you wish to call me boy once more then I shall make you regret it." Dior leaned back on his heals, but kept silent.
"What is it that you want with us?" Huor asked. "Surely you can have no quarrel with us?"
"If by that you mean am I angry with you? Then you are wrong!" Mathain spat. "I am very angry with you! How dare you come to Edoras uninvited, disrupt our parade and lead the princess astray."
"Lead Mayda astray?" Dior laughed. "You must be jesting my friend, none could lead that girl astray." Mathain's eyes went wide.
"You insult her honour," he hissed and stepped towards the brothers. Huor quickly darted between them before the situation got out of hand.
"He does not intend to," he said quickly. "We are very dear friends of the princess, we jest with her all the time. My brother merely means that Mayda is slightly...well, naughty and that we were just going along with her plans," he explained as diplomatically as he could.
"Mayda's plans?" Mathain repeated through narrowed eyes. Huor nodded urgently, but it was Dior who spoke, once more in that condescending tone that irked Huor dreadfully.
"We are noble lords of Tolfalas," Dior stated. "We have not come here to cause trouble. We came to Rohan to protect Mayda, not lead her astray!"
"You couldn't protect her, you are nothing compared to her," Mathain countered with a smug smile. "She isn't like you," he added maliciously. "She doesn't wear her birthright on her sleeve!"
"Nor is she like you urchin," Dior hissed, his anger at being confronted by a perfect stranger – though a stranger he knew was well-loved by Mayda - getting the better of him.
"She has been my friend longer than she has been yours!" Mathain shouted furiously.
"Yes, well she is more my friend than she is yours," Dior shouted back. In hindsight, the normally well behaved boy realised he had perhaps crossed the line, leading to Mathain's fist connecting with his cheek. At the time though, this act spurred him into the most viscous fist fight he had ever had...in fact...into the first ever fist fight he had ever had.
"Oh that is enough," a girl's voice came from the shadows and within moments Laiken and Arin appeared on the scene.
"Mathain!" Laiken bellowed and sure enough the boys let each other go and skulked away from the other. "Mamma is going to throttle you, she told you no more fist fighting!" Mathain rolled his eyes and turned his back on his sister. Dior smirked, but upon turning on his younger brother, he was met with a look that was identical to the one that Laiken was donning.
"Oh leave it be Huor," the older brother grumbled, wiping his lip tentatively.
"What were you fighting about anyway?" Arin asked all three boys.
"Mayda," Huor replied when neither Dior nor Mathain looked inclined to do so. "I know not why, but they seem to think that if she is friends with one then she cannot be friends with the other." Laiken stamped her foot angrily.
"Mathain you cannot chase away all of Mayda's other friends, by the Valar what is with you?" she demanded, walking over to her brother and pinching his ear. Mathain glared at her, but kept silent, knowing his sister was more than capable of throwing a punch if she felt he deserved it.
"I am sorry for my brother's actions," Huor said, stepping forward and reaching his hand out to the feisty girl. After staring at his hand in confusion, Laiken finally realised what he wanted and she reached out eagerly to shake it more vigorously than Huor had ever experienced.
"And I for mine!" she said cheerfully. Huor grinned at her sheepishly. "Now come on," Laiken ordered, addressing her brother again. "We are going home before papa thinks that we caused the fire!" With this she dragged Mathain away and after a nervous wave, Arin chased after them.
"Why did you have to start a fight?" Huor demanded turning on his brother looking disappointed. Dior glared at him.
"It is unimportant!" he muttered before stalking over to the well and dropping down beside it. Huor joined him in silence and for a while they sat; hour contemplating why snow had to be so cold and Dior wondering whether Mayda would punch him for fighting with her friend.
Finally, when both boys were frozen to the core, two of the palace's maids approached them.
"Masters Dior and Huor?" one of them asked kindly, and in a flurry of movement she had her confirmation as the boys leapt to their feet nodding enthusiastically. "Come with me," the maid said with a smile and she led them up to the castle to a set of guest chambers that held two beds and a large bathroom. A bath was drawn already and Dior allowed Huor to go first as he inspected his wounds, he did not want to make the bath water bloody. Finally after both boys had bathed they were given clean clothes and a light supper.
"The King wishes to see you in his study," the maid who had found them told them once they had finished eating. The boys gulped worriedly, but nodded anyway and followed their guide through the corridors until they reached a door. Here the maid left them and finally Dior managed to muster up the courage to knock on the door.
"Come in," a booming voice from within rang and nervously the boys pushed the door open and stepped into the formidable looking study, huddling together like young children as they approached Mayda's uncle, the King of the Mark.
X X X
More to come soon. Okay, so this story is no longer so much about Elfwine, but there isn't much left I promise.