Lord of the Rings
Title: Daughter of Rohan
A/N: No romance at all. Alysa is pretty young- about seven years old at the beginning.
Summary: Eowyn's daughter grows up disfigured in a court where the beauty of women counts for everything. Desperate to perform deeds such as her mothers, she is repressed at every stroke, by her mother's bitterness and unfulfilled potential.
Alysa looked down into the garden. It was flowering with all the exotic plants in season, in this late spring/ early summer season. Down below her, she could see her mother toiling and labouring in the garden, occasionally pressing a hand to her back. Alysa knew her mother was going to have a baby- everyone had been telling her so, and she was looking forward to a sister to play with- though she knew how much her mother wanted a son. Her father was always away now at the court of King Aragorn. Her mother had used to go with him, but now that the baby was coming she refused even the risk of a litter. She was so certain that this time she carried a boy. Alysa didn't know why her mother didn't ride a horse. It seemed so silly to her that only men could ride horses. Slipping into a daydream- her favourite occupation, she locked her arms about her tree. When she was grown up, she was going to be a shield maiden, and fight like her mother, and ride horses all the time.
She didn't know exactly how she was going to do this, every time she told her mother her dreams, her mother mocked them, telling her that only men could do such things, and that she was not a man. And when she asked her father if it was possible, he merely looked sad, as though he dreamt of far away days and deeds. Lost in her thoughts, she didn't notice that she was sliding down the branch, until she was at the end. She fought wildly to stay balanced, and for a moment succeeded, until a gust of wind shook the branch- and threw her off. As she fell, she felt a branch tear at her face. All she could see was blood, and all she could taste was the same. She hit the ground with a sickening crack. Her last image was of her mother screaming. Then mercifully she lapsed into unconsciousness.
What seemed like years later, she swam back to consciousness, only to be greeted by a dull ache of pain in her head and in her arm. She felt tears slide gently down her face. She couldn't see anything. Panic forced it's way up to the surface, and opening her mouth she screamed. Within moments a cool compress was on her head, and a quiet voice was talking to her. "Hush child." Gentle fingers raised the bandage that had slipped causing the illusion of blindness. Her first impression was light.
The man in front of her was unlike any she had seen before. Golden hair, similar in colour to her own was held back in a warrior's tail, and humorous grey eyes were looking at her. She stared at him too frightened to speak. He wasn't human. A lump seemed to gather in her throat. What was it?
The person seemed to read her thoughts. "I'm an old friend of your fathers. I haven't passed by for a few years. When last I came you were but a babe in arms, and now look at you! Falling out of trees." He smiled gently, inviting her to share in the joke, and nervously she smiled back. "I'm Legolas."
"I'm Alysa," she said politely though she knew he knew her name. Then his name sunk in. "You're an elf!" She should have guessed. He was taller than any other man in court- even her father, but at the same time he was of a slender build. Dressed in dark garments, that seemed to accentuate his fairness he looked at her cheerfully.
"Right first time. Like I said, I was visiting your mother with some news, when I heard there had been an accident. I attended to your mother first, and then you."
Alysa looked frightened. "Is mother well?"
Legolas looked grave. "She's fine now. But just be kind to her." Alysa tried to get up, but firm hands restrained her. "You've broken your arm, and you've got a nasty cut on your face. I wouldn't worry about getting up for the time being. Go back to sleep. Your father has returned, I'll go tell him you are awake."
Alysa lay back, reassured somehow by the presence of someone else in the room. She heard quiet voices in the next room, then her father came in. She heard his sudden intake of breath, but had no idea what it was about. Next moment he embraced her, rocking back and forwards slightly. Worried now, she asked where her mother was. She didn't see the look father flicked at Legolas, or the slight shake of his head, only heard her father. "Not yet dear. Mother is resting." Satisfied Alysa lay back, drifting up to sleep. It was only when she was almost fully asleep that it occurred to her to wonder why all the mirrors in the room had been removed.
Healing came slowly, and it was more than a week before she was well enough to be carried into Eowyn's room. Her mother lay in the bed, and looked at her with empty eyes. "What are you doing here?" There was no inflection in her voice at all.
Alyssa replied timidly. "I came to see you."
Eowyn's eyes came alight. "How can you face me child? You killed my son. I can see in your eyes that you know you did. Look at yourself in the mirror, at your deformities. Why even the blackest of beings would not do what you did. Look in the mirror and see the evil written on your face. You'll never make a good match now, and that's all you were worth to me and your father."
Terribly scared, Alysa picked up the small hand mirror that lay by the side of the bed. She looked at her reflection and screamed. Where before she had, had smooth pale skin, there now rippled a scar- a slightly raised welt of flesh that ran from her hairline to her chin, near to her ear. It was ugly and feverish looking. That was not all. Her beautiful hair had been cut off. It had been waist length and golden as the sun. Now all that remained was the short shock of hair that could have been any colour. She was hideous. Throwing the mirror away, she bent her head down in agony. She was ugly, so ugly. She stumbled to her feet, ignoring the pain in her left arm, and fled the room. She wanted to get away from her mother's bitter accusing smile. She ran, until the pain came back, and she could run no more. Then finally she collapsed, tucking herself into the small room used for storage. There she felt her heart breaking, as she remembered the cruel words flung at her head. She didn't know that Eowyn was delirious, her mind unhinged from the miscarriage of her child, and that she needed someone to accuse. All she knew was that her once-beloved mother, hated her, and wanted her dead.
Two hours later she made her way back. Pausing outside her parent's door she heard them arguing.
Faramir was placating Eowyn. "Eowyn it wasn't her fault. The doctors say that you would have miscarried anyway, and that it wasn't connected to the shock."
Eowyn's voice came, sobbing through the door. "It was a son."
Faramir again, even more gentle. "It was another daughter Eowyn. But no less welcome for that. I grieve with you, my queen of hearts, but we shall mend this between us."
"And how do we mend her scarred visage, her twisted arm? What if I have no more children?"
There was no sound. Then finally. "We will have more children Eowyn dearest. And Alysa may heal with time."
There was no more talking, apart from the sound of sobbing. Alysa crept away heavy hearted. She had killed her sister. She was a devil child. All the stories she had ever heard about wicked orcs, and Easterlings came back to her. She bit back her tears. She was evil, she belonged with them.
She didn't know that her fever was making her feverish, and incoherent. All she knew was that she must go to the mountains, where she was sure orcs were still. Fleeing down the corridors blind to the picture she made, she crept into the stables, seeing the pony which she could ride side saddle on, when her mother permitted it. It was saddled astride already. She felt light headed and dizzy, as she mounted with the aid of a tall block, and Dapple's willingness. Then kicking her heels in, and clutching the reins with her good arm, as the other flopped useless by her side, she rode from the stables.
She could not have chosen a better time. It was noon, and the place was deserted apart from sleeping stable boys. She was three miles away when she fell from the pony.
When gentle hands shook her, she flinched away. Her father sat beside her, stroking her head. "Why did you run away dearest?"
Slow tears crept down her face. "Mother hates me. She wants me to die. I killed my sister and I'm ugly."
Her father's hand paused. "And you're right child. You did kill your sister, and you are ugly. Your mother never wants to see your face again. Wake up and run."
Alysa sat bolt upright and screamed. The pony had wandered away, but she wouldn't have been able to mount it anyway, with a bad arm. She stumbled up, and started walking. Legs weakened by her stay in bed, nonethless, she struggled onwards. There was a sound of thundering horses, and grateful for the chance to rest, her legs collapsed beneath her. Gentle hands picked her up, and settled her on the horse. She didn't recognise the man who held her, but to one side she saw the elf and her father.
The first thing Alysa learnt when she woke was the art of deception. In a preface to what her life was to become, she didn't open her eyes, so she could listen to them talk. "Shall I take her to Aragorn's court with me? I'm sure Arwen would raise her well, or maybe a noble lady would."
Then her father's voice. "No Legolas. Eowyn is determined that the child shall stay here."
"If you will forgive me Faramir, I doubt that the Lady Eowyn is in a fit state of mind at the moment to be making that decision."
"But what can I do Legolas? Eowyn insists she is perfectly lucid, and that the child must remain here. She claims to feel no enmity towards her."
There was a sigh. "As you wish Faramir. It distresses me to see how Eowyn has changed, from the shield maiden I once knew."
Faramir's voice was soft and regretful. "Sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing, in taming her, and making her my wife. Would it have been more merciful, if she had died in battle, as even now after all these years her soul still yearns to do. She is not a creature of earth and sand, and yet she works in that garden of hers, as though she is tied to it. She does not remember what she once felt, but do dreams appear to her, in which she is once again young, body unbowed by childbirth, mind filled with dreams of heroes?"
"She chose her path, that day Faramir. She renounced the sword and shield, and the dreams that came with them. And yet I fear that Nienna does not smile upon her, for no flowers grow in her small realm."
"I had to restrain myself from killing that inept healer Legolas. If it hadn't been for him, it would have been no more than a broken bone. He set it wrong, and I'm sure that he has not helped Eowyn."
Alysa had not understood the last part of the conversation- who was Nienna? Why would mother have died in battle? And seeing that there was no more forthcoming, she yawned and stretched, feeling the sharp twinge of pain in her arm. "May I have a drink father?"
Water was held to her lips, and she sipped. Her arm was in a tight sling, and her heart in her eyes she looked at her father. "What is wrong with my arm?"
Her father's voice was warm and soothing. "It was broken my dear. It'll soon mend though." He turned away, and Alysa caught a sharp almost soundless whisper. "Damn that healer to hell."
"What about my face?"
"It'll be fine daughter. You are still my pretty baby"
Alysa turned and a tear flowed from her eye. She knew he was lying. She was no-one's pretty baby.
Three years later. Alysa is eleven now.
"Alysa come here," her mother's voice called. The cold peremptory tone with which she always addressed her daughter was in full evidence. She was standing near the dress maker, and with dragging footsteps, Alysa walked in. She knew what the fitting was for. A new headcovering. The dressmaker had designed, a tightfitting band, that covered her hair, and concealed the scar. It was itchy and tight, but it hid the scar.
At eleven, Alysa was an illfavoured child. Her hair and part of her face were covered, and her best features- her eyes were heavily lidded, allowing no-one to see their clear green colour. Tall for her age, she was thin and bony, knees covered in scratches and scars. One arm was twisted a little, and though it moved as well as the other arm, it was unsightly. Her clothes did nothing to help. Emphasizing her boniness and height was a summer dress in light blue. Too short and too constricting, she looked as though no-one had cared for her in years.
The dress maker seized her, and stood her on the stool. Alysa stared at the floor, so she would not have to meet her mother's eyes. Eowyn was thirty now. Tall and slender in a gown of blue, her eyes were like chips of ice, as she stared at her only child. Golden hair twisted softly in artifical curls around her shoulders. She was as beautiful as a statue, Alysa always thought. Remote, untouchable and probably unbreakable.
As the ruler's only daughter, she did not school with the other children. A tutor had been bought in to teach her. Though the intricacies of social positioning, the names of the well known families at court and the arts of being desirable, were never going to be much use to her, she was still obliged to learn them. At her father's insistence, and with bitter opposition from her mother, she had been taught not only to read and write, but simple mathematics as well. The rest of the day was her free time. She spent it mostly in the guardsroom, sitting on the hard wooden bench as they joked and gossiped. They paid her no attention, and as so many of them were scarred much worse than she was, she felt comfortable around them. She drilled with a stick, shedding many silent tears, as her arm pulled unbearably. Again the guards paid no attention, except maybe to chuckle a little as they saw her try and emulate them, or to place her feet a little better. She had given up her dreams of being a shield maiden long ago. They were beautiful and brave, with two whole arms, and unscarred faces. But still she fought to master the sword, as all other weapons were denied her. She was short sighted, and the lenses of glass did nothing to correct it. Her persistence paid off slowly, as each move came a little easier, and her arm ceased to tug quite as much when she pulled with it.
She had never seen Legolas again, after those panicked first days. Her father had told her he was travelling, and that he might see them again, but she hadn't ever expected him to come back. As she trailed from the dressmaker's rooms, she heard a hubbub of noise in the castle. A group of men had ridden into the courtyard, and her mother held her firmly as she leant to see. "It's Eomer," she exclaimed, sounding anything but overjoyed. She looked properly at Alysa, and gave her a little push. "Why must you always look so utterly shabby child?" she demanded.
For the first time in her life, Alysa longed to answer back. "Because you don't give me proper clothes." She bit her tongue, and also for the first time, she felt ashamed of how she was dressed. It wasn't her fault she was growing so fast, or that her clothes ripped so easily. Eowyn gave her a sharper push. "Don't come down child. I don't want them to see you looking like this."
Alysa watched her mother sweep down the stairs, a smile plastered on her face, and exchange an embrace with her brother, and a select few others. She seemed brittle and cold, and alone at the top, Alysa wondered if she was the only one who saw that. She knew what Eomer was here for. Every summer, her mother and father went to King Aragorn's court, to stay for some weeks, and every year Alysa had to stay at home. Her mother claimed that Alysa was too delicate for the journey, not wanting still possible matches to know that her child was disfigured.
Alysa knew that Prince Eldarion had been a possibility at one time, though not any more. Every eligible family, would be angling for the eight year old prince, and there was no chance that a scarred maiden, no matter how high ranking would be considered. Besides she didn't want to marry some child, even if he was going to be king some day.
Turning she bumped into one of Eomer's entourage. He was taller than any man she had ever seen before- even taller than the elf she had once met. His voice was a deep friendly burr, as he spoke to her. "You're Eowyn's daughter are you not? Why didn't you come down to meet us?"
The voice was gently teasing.
Alysa remembered her manners and curtsied, though she was aware of how ridiculous it looked in her short summer dress and bare feet. "I was instructed to wait here sir."
"Well, we musn't disobey your mother. I hope to meet you again some time, princess." The man whose name she realised belatedly she didn't know, moved off down the steps, leaving Alysa staring in bewilderment after him. Technically she wasn't a princess, though she was in line for the throne of Rohan, Eomer not having married yet and produced children. And her father was only Steward of Gondor.
Turning she saw Aoreth, bustling towards her. "You look a mess child," she puffed. "You must change at once." The only dress which fit Alysa properly was her winter robe, made of heavy velvet, and lined with fur. It was far too hot and thick to wear in the warm summer sunshine, especially if she was going riding, and Alysa wondered if she dared protest. At the gleam in Aoreth's eye she subsided though, and put it on uncomplainingly, and later submitted to being led to the table, and sat at the end of the table, next to the man she had met on the stairs. She tried to puzzle out his rank. He was sat on the high dais, and on his other side was her father. He must be high ranking, but she was certain that she had met most of the high ranking people in Rohan. Besides he did not look as though he was from Rohan- he didn't share the blond hair, and brown eyes of that race. Indeed he was as dark haired as a Gondor man, with blue eyes that neither race had usually. A faint foreign tang twisted the words he spoke.
He noticed her and smiled. "You are King Eomer's niece?"
She nodded warily. "Yes sir." She waited for him to introduce himself, but nothing was forthcoming. What he said next, came as a shock however.
"Why are you wearing that bonnet? In my country we do not make the little girls wear such things."
Alysa was struck on the raw. "It is not a bonnet, and I am not a little girl. It is my own business if I choose to wear such a thing, and I would thank you to remember your manners." She stopped, horrified, and looked to see if her father had heard her. He had, and a faint frown appeared above his eyes. She made haste to apologise. "My apologies sir," she said, casting down her eyes, though she was silently seething. "I did not mean to be so discourteous."
A laugh rumbled. "No my apologies princess. It was rude of me to ask."
Flicking her eyes up, to see if her father had turned, she asked "May I know your name?"
"Why would you want to know something like that, princess?"
Alysa stopped frustrated. This man was being irritating, and she injected a little frost into her voice as on many occasions she had heard her mother do. "I am not a princess, sir." She didn't tell him her exact rank, or how to address her. Let him struggle for words for a bit. "I wish to know your name, so I can know how to courteously address you."
"It is the custom of my people, to not tell their true name to just anyone. But I will give you a name you may call me. Raneth."
Alysa bit her lip in frustration at his obtuseness. She didn't want his name! She wanted his rank, after all she wasn't going to be calling him by his first name. "I see. Thank you sir." She cast her eyes back down to the table, signifying that their conversation was finished. He seemed to sense that, and turned to politely discourse with her father throughout the rest of the meal. Alysa didn't speak again, until three hours later, when the banquet was over. As they left the banquet hall, her uncle Eomer caught up. Again she curtsied, but waited for him to address her.
"Are you coming to court this year niece Alysa?"
"I am afraid not uncle. I do not believe my mother wishes me to come. Perhaps next year."
"Surely you are old enough. I will speak to her about it." His eyes lingered on the odd garment on her head, and he made a mental note to speak to Eowyn about it. Surely it wasn't necessary to make the child look so odd. She was plain enough as it was, without something like that to accentuate it.
Alysa hesitated, and then asked. "Uncle who was the man I sat beside?"
"That was Prince Raneth. He's part of the trade deputation from the Easterlings. A sort of goodwill token."
Alysa did not reply. A Prince? And she had been so rude to him. Her head dropped a little lower with shame. "I see Uncle. Thank you."
More is already written so if you fancy reading it, just review.
Alysa may appear to be a little know it all, but children in the sort of time period spoken of, would have been very well trained in matters of rank, precedence and social order.
I don't hate Eowyn in the least. In fact she is one of my favourite book characters. This is meant to be an exploration of what might have been/ have happened. After all I can imagine someone like Eowyn being seriously frustrated with being a wife and a mother.