Author's Notes: Thank Iluvatar, it's not another cheesy Legolas romance nor a sickening yaoi/slash! ^^ This work contains SPOILERS for those who have not finished The Return of the King (including the appendices). Apologies if the dialogues are too long, the descriptions too sparse, and the story not as engaging, for not all can be as Lord Tolkien-sama. ^_^ Reviews will be very much appreciated.


Shieldmaiden


"I stand in Minas Arnor, the Tower of the Sun," she said; "and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren." -Eowyn, The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien

Chapter One:
Celebration

The stable housed horses and foals of both Rohan and Gondor. Straw and hay were scattered neatly in piles, the air was musty yet clean, and the horses overlooked the vast expanse of meadows and homesteads of Ithilien. A woman in white stood beside a grand and noble stallion.

She brushed Rohir's mane, watching chestnut hairs float softy with the wind, waving goodbye to the birds that lined the skies. Horses of Rohan, strong and mighty steeds they were, the pride of the Rohirrim.

"What is this? The Lady of Ithilien tending the horses as one of the stable boys?"

Eowyn smiled, not facing Faramir, who stood not far away. "You startled me, my lord," she said, continuing to brush Rohir.

"Indeed? If I did so, it does not seem to show in my fair wife's person. It seems that she had been alerted of my presence. Then I have not really tamed the shieldmaiden's instincts as of now." Faramir's footsteps neared.

Eowyn permitted a small chuckle as she turned around and threw a well-aimed brush at a grinning Faramir. "My husband, the Steward of Gondor, teases his wife as he would tease the girls in the inns."

Faramir caught the brush deftly with one hand. "Nay, too much of my time were spent in lore and not in women," he replied laughingly. He bent down and kissed his wife's brow. "News from Rohan, my dear."

Eowyn gave a start. "News of my brother Eomer?"

"Perhaps. A Messenger is waiting for us at the chamber."

Eowyn's grey eyes sparkled, lighting the white-grabed lady. "Then let us go in haste," she said, taking her husband's offered arm.



Emyn Arnen, the Hills of the Royal Water, where the princes of Ithilien lived.

It was most fitting that a magnificent castle, one rivaling Minas Ithil of old, be built for the Lord and Lady of Ithilien, but Lord Faramir had instead built a modest fort which he called Minas Arnen, where he and his wife now dwelled. It was built on terraces on two levels, a very small, miniature imitation of Minas Tirith with less size and grandeur. Yet simple as it looked, it boasted of a strong defense against enemies with its mighty walls and strategic positioning. Inside this fortress was a garden of exquisite beauty, of numerous trees, healing herbs, and countless blooming flowers, all which Lady Eowyn has nurtured with her own hands.

The throne room was bright as many paned windows served as its walls where shafts of sunlight readily passed through and soaked the chamber with light. The panes were stained with light colors that shaded paintings of the great many heroes of Middle-earth. Dotted along the sides of the hall were little fountains in which water flowed in little rivulets, wetting the aisle. Standing beside each of the fountains was a royal guard dressed in mail.

On the ceiling were inscribed many runic designs of the history of Middle-earth. And at the center of the room were two thrones carved out of elvenwood, draped with rich, velvet cloth. At each side of the thrones stood the banners of Gondor and Rohan.

The traveler from Rohan, dressed in brown leather jerkin, cloak, and hood, bowed in obesiance as Faramir and Eowyn entered the room and took their places at the thrones.

"Hail Lord Faramir and Lady Eowyn of Ithilien! May the many days of your life be showered with blessings from Iluvatar!" he greeted.

"Greetings, Rider of the Mark," returned Faramir. "Beautiful words you have spoken to me, and they are well-received. What hails from Rohan?"

"Glad tidings from King Eomer, my lord," said the messenger. "He and his wife, her ladyship Queen Lothiriel, call upon you for the grand celebration in Rohan of the birth of their son."

"Great news indeed!" Faramir rejoiced. "What is this son's name?"

"Master Elfwine, sire, who bears a great resemblance with his father and has the peaceful soul of his mother. Shall the lord and the lady join Rohan in this joyful celebration?"

"There shall be no doubt about it!" said Faramir with great spirit.

Yet Eowyn kept silence. Her eyes were staring at the messenger who knelt with his hood not doffed.

"Take off your hood, Master Rider," she finally said quietly. "Deceive us no longer. For I have played that part once, under another name, and know the signs that can give away one's identity."

The Rider seemed to have flushed, then in a low voice he answered, "Then truly have I seen the Lady Eowyn of Rohan."

He raised his hand to the hem of his hood. It fell off, revealing a raven head, braided, and a young lady's tanned face. Brown eyes shone out and a strong jaw set firmly.

"A woman Rider!" exclaimed Faramir, shooting a meaningful glance at his wife.

"A girl, lordship," corrected the stranger. "I am not yet of age to be called a woman."

"Has my brother made it his hobby of sending female pages for his errands?" asked Eowyn a little dryly.

"No, ladyship, I came on my own will. My brother Rohrithe is one of King Eomer's pages, but I asked him to give me this chance to deliver the king's message."

"For what purpose?" asked Faramir.

The girl looked straight at Eowyn. "To see Lady Eowyn of Rohan and of Ithilien, Slayer of the Nazgul Lord, with my own eyes, to see if the songs sung at home of the Shieldmaiden's valor are true."

Faint color diffused on the Lady's fair face while Faramir burst forth in merry laughs, but a sharp glance from his wife quieted his guffaws.

"What songs?" said Eowyn calmly.

The girl's eyes widened. "Mercy, please don't ask me to sing! I sing queer-like."

"Very well then, what is your name?"

The girl looked relieved as she bowed her head and introduced herself. "Solrithe, daughter of Ardomiel and Elenwin." Then she hastily looked back up. "King Eomer knows of the switch with my brother, and the invitation is true and he is inviting the lord and lady for the celebration. Will you come? I've spent many days in journey, and I must go back soon to tend the horses at home, else Mother will have a fit."

"You do not lie to us about the birth of Elfwine?" asked Faramir, looking amused.

"Indeed not, lord," answered Solrithe. "You have my word. May the sword strike me if I speak false."

"Then you may tell my brother that we will attend this joyous occasion," declared Eowyn. "Safe journey to Riddermark, Solrithe."

Solrithe stood up and bowed again. "Thank you, Lord and Lady."

When she left, Faramir leaned towards his wife, smiling. "She reminds me of someone not far from my heart."

Eowyn gave him a blank expression in return.

***

Meduseld was alive in its jubilation of the birth of Eomer's heir. Singing was heard at every room, laughter echoed throughout the great halls, and the castle was lit from the ground to its golden roof. It was a grand celebration.

Meriadoc Brandybuck, guest of King Eomer, stood on one of the balconies, surveying the night sky with its blanket of sparkling jewels lighting up the entire land of the Rohirrim, as far as his hobbit eyes could see.

He thought aloud, "If only Frodo was still here; he would have loved the feast we had. Pippin certainly did. And dear old Gandalf, if he hadn't crossed the Sea yet...his fireworks would had been just splendid for this occasion. Where is Strider? It's not like the King to be late for a royal appointment."

"It was the time for Gandalf Grayhame and the Ringbearer to leave," said a voice behind him. "And King Elessar may have had great matters in his hands."

Merry turned to face Lady Eowyn, magnificently clad in linen of white and green, the colors of Rohan. "Lady Eowyn," he greeted, bowing his curly brown head.

"Master Holbytla, Holdwine of Rohan," returned Eowyn with a little curtsy. "And what of the Shire?"

"Quite fine, thank you," replied Merry. "Pippin and I found a new kind of pipe-weed and it's selling like there's no tomorrow. Most successful, if I might say so myself."

"Great is your fascination with herbs, Master Meriadoc. My uncle would had delighted in discussing herblore with you." Eowyn leaned on the stone wall.

A look of sorrow crossed Merry's face. "I know." There was a moment of silence, then Merry's face brightened up. "But let us talk of happier things. Your new nephew certainly looks very fit for the kingship of Rohan in the future."

Eowyn laughed. "And my dear brother wasted no time in proclaiming so."

A chilly wind whistled by and she said, "Come, let us go inside, Master Merry, before the cold wind catches us unguarded."

They entered once again the merrymaking and the sea of familiar faces. Legolas Greenleaf the Elf was talking with Sam, and Gimli son of Gloin was hobnobbing with some of the dwarves of his Glittering Caves of Rohan. Pippin was telling stories of the War of the Rings to the younger Eorlingas, and Faramir and the many lords of Middle-earth talked of the peace of their domain.

"Sister! And Master Holbytla!" Eomer hurried to them and gave each a warm embrace. "Apologies for having not spent much time with you tonight; many guests there were that needed acquainting."

"No reason to fret, Lord Eomer," said Merry. "How is Lady Lothiriel?"

"She is resting at her quarters for she is still a little weak, but she is Dunedain and she shall be up to her feet soon." Eomer's eyes sparkled at the mention of his wife, Imrahil's daughter.

"The last time I saw her was at your wedding, Lord. I would like to see her again soon." Merry glanced at Pippin, still story-telling to the young lords, who were starting to look horrified. "Excuse me, I must remind Pippin not to scare the children too much. He has a tendency to get carried away, he does."

As Merry walked away, Eomer concernedly questioned Eowyn, "Have you seen Lord Aragorn and Lady Arwen? The messengers I sent to them told me that they would come, but I have not yet seen their presence."

"I'm afraid I have not yet either, brother," said Eowyn. "But about your messengers, you remind me; do you have one of the name Rohrithe who has a sister called Solrithe?"

"Rohrithe and Solrithe," mused the king of Rohan. "Why yes, the girl who took the place of her brother to take my message to you." He shook his head. "Strange of the girl to do so, but I allowed her, remembering how my sister once took the disguise of Dernhelm."

"This is far more different, Eomer. She is only a child."

But before Eomer could answer, a great horn sounded by the great gates of Meduseld, and a herald cried, "Hark! For here comes Isildur's heir, the King of Gondor and of Arnor! Hail King Elessar!"

"Lord Aragorn has arrived!"

"Telcontar! Telcontar!"

"Strider!" Merry grabbed Pippin by the arm and rushed with the tall lords of Men to greet the King of the Reunited Kingdom and the Lord of the Western Lands.

Yet Aragorn was brought into the great chamber garbed in traveler's clothes and a gray elven cloak fastened with the Elfstone. Anduril was gilted on his his hip, and nowhere to be seen was the winged crown nor the robes of Gondor , nor a great host of his soldiers to protect him. He looked not the King, but as the Strider the Ringbearer had first met, Ranger of the Dunedain.

"Hail Lord Eomer! Master Meriadoc, Master Peregrin, Master Samwise, Legolas, and Gimli son of Gloin, old comrades of the Fellowship! Greetings!" But the King's face looked troubled.

"Lord Aragorn!" Eomer bowed in respect. "Where is the Lady Arwen Evenstar?"

The King sighed heavily, saying, "She stays at Minas Tirith, for, even as I rejoice of the birth of your son, alas! I come not to Meduseld to celebrate." And even more he looked tired and haggard as he continued, "I come to warn you, for an awakened evil has risen, and its darkness will cloud over the lands of Middle-earth."

chapter one, end, 02/06/02, SwordSkill