Author's notes: Requested by Belle—thank you to her. If you haven't read my Legolas/Eowyn stories (which are too adult to be posted here), you just need to know that, in them, Legolas and Eowyn are a couple, and that Legolas has a special nickname ('Melmenya') for Eowyn.
It was very late.
Little Eldarion had been put to bed many hours before; Lothiriel and Arwen had also retired; King Thranduil had joined Cyllien in the bedchamber; Hentmirë had fallen asleep before the fire; and Gimli, aided and abetted by Aragorn and Legolas, was entertaining Faramir and Berengar with a blow-by-blow account of his dealings with the Army of the Dead…
Eowyn handed round a plate of gingerbread—"Thank you, melmenya," said Legolas—then sat down beside her brother at the fireside.
Eomer filled two goblets with hot, spiced wine and, smiling, handed one to Eowyn. "Do you remember," he asked, "when father was alive, how he used to take us to the Yuletide Horse Fair?"
Eowyn frowned. "I remember buying horses, yes—but I cannot say that I really remember the fair."
"Not even getting your puppet there?"
"My puppet?" She looked puzzled. Then her face suddenly brightened, and she smiled, broadly. "My puppet, Melwenwyn! Yes, I do remember her, now that you have reminded me! Oh, how I loved her! Fancy your remembering her when I had forgotten!"
"Well, Theodred and I were kept indoors for a week for throwing her over the roof of the Golden Hall—you always were uncle's favourite."
Eowyn grinned. "I remember that, too. You claimed that you were teaching her to fly, but you broke one of her eyes. Did I really get her at the Yuletide Horse Fair?"
She sank back in her chair and, with the help of the wine and the warmth of the fire, she let Eomer's reminiscences take her back, more than twenty years.
The Yuletide Horse Fair
"Now hold my hand."
Eowyn reached for the big, strong fingers, and felt them envelop her own small hand, squeezing it gently. She smiled up at her daddy. "Horsies!"
"Yes," he said, "and we are going to buy one."
Flanked right and left by a small guard of Rohirrim, the pair walked through the frosty market, past stalls displaying skeins of yarn and rolls of warm, woollen cloth; past strange, dark men selling fruits and oils and strong-smelling spices—one of them gave Eowyn a big, black berry and he and her daddy both laughed when she spat it out because it tasted horrid; past blacksmiths, saddlers and harness makers; past jugglers, tumblers, and a man eating fire…
And everyone seemed to know them, and stepped aside, bowing as they passed.
Eowyn pulled at her father's hand, and pointed to a man holding a brightly-striped box, and they stopped so that she could have a better look. Inside the box there were two tiny dwarves, with rosy-red cheeks and big noses, and her daddy told her that they were called 'puppets'. They were threatening each other with little axes.
Eowyn called to them, and they turned, startled, and peered at her, and they looked funny, so she waved to them, laughing—
And, whilst the smaller dwarf was waving back, the big one suddenly swung his axe, and knocked the small one flat. And then he hit him, again and again and again—
"Waaaaaaah!" wailed Eowyn.
And her daddy picked her up, and hugged her, but he was laughing. "It is not real, little lady," he said, rubbing her back, soothingly. "Come, I will show you." He carried her closer (and his Guards followed, forming a circle around the puppeteer). "See?"
Eowyn stared down at the two dwarves. The small one did not seem to be hurt…
"Show my daughter how they work."
Still breathing with little, gulping sobs, Eowyn watched in fascination as the dwarves collapsed and the man, though his hands were still holding the box, brought out two more hands and waved them at her.
"Daddy!" she shrieked, burying her face in his hair.
"Shhhhh! Shh-shh-shh!" Her father's voice was still full of laughter. "It is a game, Eowyn. Just make-believe. Look again."
She turned her head, slowly.
The man's second pair of hands had disappeared, and now the dwarves were bobbing up and down, taking it in turns to bow to her.
"Watch," said her father. "These,"—he touched one of the hands holding the box—"are just pretend hands." He pinched them, hard. "His real hands are inside the dwarves, making them move. There is nothing to be afraid of." He held out a finger and one of the puppets grasped it and pulled.
"Perhaps her Ladyship would like a puppet of her own, my Lord?" said the puppeteer.
"Would you like a dwarf, Eowyn?"
"I am going to take my hand out again, my Lady," said the puppeteer, cautiously. "There." He wiggled his fingers and, this time, Eowyn grinned. Then he felt in one of his big pockets. "Yes… This might be small enough for you." He held out a pretty little girl puppet with long yellow hair, blue button eyes, and a broad smile.
Eowyn took it from him, shyly. "Thank you."
"Put it on like a glove, my Lady—that's right. Now, move your fingers, like this… Yes, very good!"
He slipped his hand back into one of the dwarves and it immediately sprang to life.
"Wave to him, little lady," said Eowyn's father.
Eowyn made her puppet jiggle.
"Clever girl! Falemi," he said, to one of the Guards, "give Master Puppeteer a gold coin."
"Thank you, my Lord," said the man, bowing low.
Her father carried her the rest of the way, through the fair and out into the fields beyond, where the horse traders had gathered to parade and sell their animals. Clinging his shoulder, Eowyn looked this way and that.
There was so much to see!
There were strange little men, with big feet and curly hair, leading sturdy ponies; there were rough farmers showing teams of draught horses; there were men of Rohan selling brave young war horses; and there were elegant southern noblemen putting their smooth, sleek hunters through their paces.
Eowyn spotted a beautiful little colt, with huge, bright eyes and, forgetting that she was still holding her puppet, she tugged at her daddy's jerkin and pointed excitedly.
"You like him, do you, little lady? Yes, you have a good eye for bloodstock. But," he added, kissing her temple, "we are looking for something special today—very special—ah, yes! Look over there."
Turning, so that she could see where he was pointing, he showed her a group of dainty little mares, fine-boned and pale as milk. Eowyn had never seen horses so lovely—and their owners were just as fascinating: taller than her daddy, but slender (almost like her mummy), with smooth, fair hair and beardless faces.
"Pretty lady-man," said Eowyn, loudly, pointing to their leader.
"Oh! I do apologise, my Lord," said her father, with uncharacteristic embarrassment. He bowed slightly. "My daughter is used to the burly men of Rohan…"
"There is no harm done, my Lord," said the stranger.
His voice was gentle; and when he placed his hand upon his chest and returned the bow, smiling up at Eowyn with twinkling blue eyes, and said, "I am an 'elf', híril nín," she was captivated.
She reached out to him.
"And who is this?" he asked, for she was still holding her puppet.
Eowyn's big smile faded—the dolly had no name. "Don't know," she said, sadly.
"The toy is new," explained her father.
Eowyn hugged the puppet to her chest.
"Do you know what I would call her, híril nín?" said the elf, kindly. "I would call her 'melmenya', because that means belove—"
"Legolas!" cried Eowyn, leaping to her feet as the memory flooded back. "Legolas! Legolas!"