DISCLAIMER: I am not the amazing JRR Tolkien, and thus I own no characters, locations, or anything of importance in this piece. The silly plot is mine, and that is all, and it certainly is not for profit.
For most of Eowyn's young life, Meduseld had been a site of reverence, even at points of near-abandon. The vast, golden hall, with its intricate carvings and earliest relics, had been treated as a precious gem in the ancestral crown of Rohan. Even in its darkest days, when few were permitted (or dared) to cross the threshold, Meduseld served as the young woman's refuge. There, at least, she was able to remain aware of the Rohirrim and their struggles, whilst having a chance to slip away and simply be alone with her own conflicting thoughts as they arose.
In the merriment before her now, however, the fair lady of Rohan found little solace. All of Edoras, it would seem, had gathered to celebrate an announcement of intended marriage: Eowyn had finally yielded to the romantic whims of Faramir, once a steward of Gondor and, presently, the Prince of Ithilien. The rejoicing came as no surprise, of course: a bond as substantial as matrimony would serve only to strengthen the unity of the two noblest kingdoms of men in Middle Earth. However, with the torches flickering fiercely, and the fervently upbeat music sounding endlessly in her ears, Eowyn was compelled to join the insignificant shadows, where the ecstatic throng would most assuredly not seek her out.
Hiding in the corner was not the act of a proper shieldmaiden, naturally, but what worried Eowyn more was the dishonesty she feared she had committed on behalf of her own heart. It was cowardice, in her mind, to have promised herself to someone she wasn't even sure she loved in a wifely manner. "And how will I ever cope," she fretted inwardly, "shut away eternally in some house of stone, never allowed to roam or fight? I know Faramir would never risk losing me, especially in battle. I'll be watched and followed always. It would seem I've chosen yet another cage."
Heading for one of the many doorways leading out of the royal abode, onto the front steps, Eowyn had to abruptly duck behind a column to avoid the very man who had her so inadvertently cornered. Faramir and her brother, King Eomer, were on their way back into the grand hall and its festivities, having just relieved themselves outdoors from the uncomfortable burden of too much ale. Eomer's flushed face and unvarying grin signaled to his sister that she should remain hidden, lest she become the object of a truly intoxicated (albeit, loving) brother's boisterous attention. She needed no more ceremony, and certainly could not handle anyone else staring at her, serving as a jury to her inner turmoil.
From a crouched position behind the thick, wooden beam, Eowyn was a captive audience to the potential banter of her brother and fiancé. "I only hope I don't have to listen to Eomer's preferences in women. My stomach is sour enough as it is."
Luckily, her brother's mind seemed focused somewhere other than his masculine lower quarters. Rather, the young ruler of the Riddermark was choosing to honor the fine man he felt, more than any other, deserved the sister he had affectionately protected most of his life.
"Faramir, friend, you are a dignified and most suitable…suitor!" Eomer's enthusiasm was louder than usual, boosted most undoubtedly by his earlier beer consumption. Rohan's king swayed where he stood, but clapped his arm across the prince's back amicably, which served to bring a grin to the shaken lord's visage, both in appreciation and ill-masked amusement. Faramir was not one to drink great draughts of ale or spirits, and so he had been careful the whole day long, keeping his wits about him always. In spite of Eomer's present near-stupor, the Gondorian prince was quite genuine in retort, and it panged Eowyn to hear his hesitant mind.
"I know not that I am so worthy as that, Eomer King, for the White Lady of the Rohirrim is like no other of our race. Honestly, I am only too sure she has simply pitied me at last, and I am just selfish enough to accept such grace." Faramir smiled, a hollow smile to Eowyn's keen and familiar sight, but Eomer merely chuckled at his friend's humility and uncertainty.
"Put yourself at ease, brother. No other has come so near to claiming Eowyn, and none but you will. She must love you to give up battle as she has done these past years. Now, let us stop with misgivings and get back to the rest of our happy comrades!" And with that, Eomer lightly shoved Faramir back into the bright lights and cheery faces of the crowd in Meduseld's main hall.
"Phew, I thought that silly man would never go…now I can finally have some peace." The fair-haired woman slipped out unseen, and instantly felt the chill of the late autumn winds nipping at her bare ankles. Soon, the frost of winter would be out on the plains, though Eowyn of Rohan would not be there to see it. This year, though, she knew it was more than a temporary parting.
The young maiden shivered in her thin gown of mossy green, though not entirely from the frosty air, tossing her long, pale locks with each mild gust of a breeze. "What have I done? I cannot remain in anyone's keeping, even gentle Faramir's. I see no way out…I am utterly trapped." Eowyn's apprehension sparked a recollection: a memory so vivid, with a voice that set her hairs on end. The words she'd dreaded so long ago came drifting back into her ears.
"Who knows what you have spoken to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all your life seems to shrink, the walls of your bower closing in about you; a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?"
No one else had ever been able to so accurately declare her inner workings aloud, and the sheer fear of it repulsed Eowyn, making her ashamed. "Grima…" Her heart still raced at the memory of his voice, the way his utterances wound their way into her very soul. Eowyn loathed him, feared him still for his treachery and the ease of his silver tongue. "But, he is gone." She reasoned. "He is said to have been taken down by the Halflings when Saruman fell. Surely they would have been aware if he'd survived."
Eowyn raised her eyes to the sky: clear, brilliantly punctuated with thousands of stars. To never see this sight from Edoras' broad steps ever again…her heart lurched, and the shieldmaiden knew pain as she hadn't since King Elessar's dismissal years prior. Though, if she was honest with herself, she'd felt a similar pain when someone else took a swift exit from her life. "No, he was a snake." Her inner voice tried to reason away any emotion she still bore him. To this day, she had trouble discerning how and why she cared for the twisted man who had ensnared the former king, her beloved uncle. "He was my only steady companion for so long in this place, when it was naught but a prison for me."
And, truly, if Eowyn had had a friend beyond her occasionally present brother or cousin, it was only Grima Wormtongue. He had made her smile on rare occasions, with his odd musings about the ways of the world and inconsequential stories from farther lands than Rohan or Gondor. Eowyn grew to be wary of this man, but he at least feigned to care about her, not as a royal familial pawn, but as a person. Yes, in the end he had used her, and she assumed the rumors of his wanting her as a mate were somewhat true: he likely assumed his work for Saruman would garner him the kingdom, and what better way to reconcile with the folk of the region than by marrying their last remaining royal?
There were intercepted glances, though, that taught her better. Grima's otherworldly gaze had begun to put her ill at ease for different reasons in his final days, as did Eomer's repeated complaints that Eowyn and Wormtongue were entirely too close…in proximity. What her doting brother did not realize, of course, was how very deep the relationship had, on Eowyn's part, unwittingly become. Without intending to, she had poured her heart into a friendship with the traitor: every time he passed along a new book, discussed military strategy, or even asked about her future in a guarded, vague fashion, she had all but handed him pieces of herself. "And I haven't been able to do that with anyone since." This epiphany stung, provoking her to pity Faramir further for her ill-suited betrothal.
Without warning, the breeze, merely chilling a moment prior, hastily swelled into a bitter, violent gale, and Eowyn swiftly tucked her arms to herself. It was then that she realized she could no longer hear the sounds of drunken singing, or boisterous cheers, or even the crackling of the great fire pits within.
"Why…?" She murmured aloud, letting her natural instincts take over as she turned her head back to observe the hall.
But the White Lady of Edoras, spinning around to test her senses, never finished her thought. For there, in front of her, stood an entity she had been assured would never enter her world again: the traitor of Rohan, the ex-counselor to Theoden King. Grima Wormtongue's eerie, grey glance was cutting into her once more, as he emerged leisurely from the shadow of the nearest eave.
"My lady." Simple words, as ever he had begun their former exchanges. But these two small words practically dripped of melancholy and anguish, and the earnest face peering out at the shieldmaiden was more ghost than man. His eyes seemed sunken, with purple crescents beneath. Grima's stare, however, seemed to have lost none of its potency: the quivering maiden felt frozen where she stood.
Reluctantly, Eowyn noted a twinge of unbidden remorse growing in her heart for the pitiful being, now inching toward her. "Gri- Wormtongue, how is it that you're…here?" Her hesitation betrayed her dual intent: she wondered how the banished, infamous Grima made it through the rocky plains of Rohan unscathed, but more so how he was alive at all.
Eowyn's words felt awkward as they left her tongue, and she kicked herself inwardly for appearing so affected. Grima seemed to roll his eyes before lifting his arms out toward the woman who shivered before him. "My lovely Eowyn; I am not forbidden here, if you have called me. And as you have need of me, I will always come to your call."
"I have not called you in any way, nor have I any need for your sort of service, sir. But tell me, before I raise the alarm, how are you not deceased?" An audible gulp escaped the golden haired young woman's throat, and she realized she was trembling before her enemy. "Not quite intimidating to the snake, are you?" She berated herself.
The sinewy man, taller than the shieldmaiden remembered, knelt before her, as he had come close enough to touch her skirt's hem with the toes of his shoes. Taking her shaking form softly in his arms, his cold hands on the small of her back, Grima raised his head to meet the path of her eyes. The hypnotic gaze sent familiar pangs of angst and depression through Eowyn, as she sensed a twinge of formerly unknown bitterness in the silver orbs. His voice, though, was more disarming to her shield of feigned indifference, and she struggled to force herself from his grasp. Something about the unsettling embrace, though, felt soothing, reassuring. She was staid in alien arms.
"Eowyn," he rather huskily began, and the rush of blood to her face would have shamed her if there had been more light to see it. "I am alive because you keep me so. I will never leave you, because you do not wish it. You are mine, White Lady. Why else would you leave your own people, your own precious Meduseld, and your supposed love to take in the autumn chill and think on things past between us?"
It was a strange argument, albeit a true one. However, Eowyn had no memory of telling the sudden intruder about what she had been thinking prior to his arrival. A surge of minor panic traveled up her spine: how much power did this newer Grima truly have?
"How do you know…why would you think…?" The young woman's voice faded in her own ears, and her vision of Grima's pained face shifted unnaturally, like fluid on a pain. All of Edoras seemed to blur and blend, and her vision swam.
And suddenly all was dark, deeper than any night, and immediately Eowyn's shoulder raged with an all too familiar sting. The wind howled sharply, as though a storm raged all around, and the startled maiden realized there were no longer any arms supporting or holding her. She was utterly alone.
"Grima?" Her voice strained against the vicious gales. The inexplicably rickety ground felt unsteady beneath her feet, and Eowyn knew she couldn't keep upright much longer. As her equilibrium gave out in the quaking, dank surroundings, she became all too conscious of the loneliness she feared was imminent. It was the Witch King's injury all over again, with no hope that anyone might save her.
The inevitable fall came at last, though it seemed the earth fell from beneath Eowyn's struggling feet, not that she fell toward it. And she fell too long, her hands bracing for impact. Still, she plunged, though the wind whipped past her at a certain clip that meant an impending demise once she reached the still surface.
Opening her mouth to shriek, yell in vain, or just to hear a voice in the unending decline, Eowyn discovered her warrior cry nonexistent…silenced by something beyond. "Alone…I am defeated without battle, and dishon-"
But then, a collision, and all ended.
Struggling with the blur of tears in her eyes, it took Eowyn several moments to realize she'd awoken. The reassuring textures of her mat and blanket, and the fire on Merry's hearth that warmed her face, immediately told her she was far from the golden halls of Meduseld. "And anyone who might haunt me there."
Rising up on her elbows, she shook her long tresses from her dampened face and rose up to slip out of the hobbit-sized abode. It took a great deal of careful maneuvering, as she was not the only person relegated to sleeping on the floor, but she finally managed to step past a few snoring Brandybucks and out the front door. "Perhaps, were I born a hobbit, I would sleep much more soundly."
There was a hint of dew in the fresh, cool air that met Eowyn as she crept through the halfling-sized doorway, straightening out to her full height with outstretched arms. She could sense it would soon be daybreak, the deep indigo of night already giving way to a lavender haze on the horizon. As she stood on the stony stoop, the fair-haired lady of Rohan noted the familiar scent of horse, and soon accompanying it was a melody of whinnies and grunts. Ahead in the lane, leading away from Brandy Hall, Eowyn could make out the eager steeds being readied by their masters. The encampment from the night before was already a thing of memory, as Faramir's company meant to waste little time in completing the essential task at hand.
Eowyn gathered her skirts up and dashed along, enjoying the fresh, wet turf beneath her barren feet. She snuck up on her friend with relative ease, as the other soldiers were too busy and slightly far away to notice the mere slip of a woman as she soundlessly loped among them. Faramir was unaware as she came within a foot of his backside, for his attention was on his horse's harness, as well as the cargo the beast would have to carry.
"My lord, you seem quite eager to escape this place. Would you really you're your leave before bidding goodbye to our happy hosts?"
A life filled with many skirmishes had taught Faramir of Gondor to keep himself ready: he spun immediately to face the smirking lady he loved, and steadied his hand as it jumped to the hilt of his blade instinctively. A cocked eyebrow and friendly grin washed over his somewhat scruffy face as he took in the sight before him. The White Lady appeared disheveled from sleep, but her tresses strewn about her flushed face made her the loveliest he'd seen her since their days in the Houses of Healing.
"Good morning, Eowyn. You know all too well how those in combat must rise before light becomes an enemy. We hope to be beyond Fornost and well on our way to the North Downs by dusk, and it will be a tedious ride to approach the northern realm without our being discovered." The strategic captain paused, smirking as he raised his hands to gesture toward the well-laden animal behind him.
"As you can see, however, I have already bidden Peregrin Took and Meriadoc Brandybuck a fond farewell, as we were up quite late discussing the world and our lives over a long smoke of South Farthing's pipeweed. It is from Merry that most of this food has come, though he seemed shocked that we took so little."
Given the burden the horses already seemed to carry, Eowyn giggled quietly at the idea of the poor beasts having to carry a hobbit-sized set of provisions. "Indeed." She mused, mirth in her tone. "Well, I suppose I am to see you off alone, then? And you're certain you won't be in need of a shieldmaiden on your journey, Faramir?"
The broad gentleman moved swiftly, wrapping Eowyn in a strong embrace in one stride. Reciprocating the hug felt strange, but owed, and the woman in Faramir's arms held tight to the soon-to-be endangered prince. He rested his head against her soft, flaxen hair, and the words he gave her next were nearly a whisper in the humming bass of his voice.
"You know, Lady Eowyn, how much I would love to allow your accompanying us. And I am quite glad of having a moment to tell you how I love you without the prying eyes and eager ears of our shorter comrades." A steady hand was stroking golden wisps down on the fair woman's head, and Eowyn realized she would miss her companion deeper than even she had thought previously. His warmth was radiating through her, and the gentle buzz of his words was reassuring, promising safety when she was near him.
It was too much to bear, and a guilty conscience tricked Eowyn into a quick offer without further contemplation. "My lord," she began, pulling away enough to keep her words from muffling against his chest. "I have been thinking of your proposal you made nearly a year ago, of our making a union?"
Faramir jerked slightly, stunned. He peered down at the quaking creature he held, and pulled back to give her a bit of space to breathe. She had not spoken of his request since he made it, not once. "Yes?" His voice was tentative, measured.
Daring to glance up from the mossy ground, Eowyn felt her heart rise in her chest at the gentle blue-grey gaze gauging her every word. There seemed an unspoken promise in them, as though love would be a constant, no matter her next phrase. "When you return from your mission, and when all is settled enough that you may take your leave of such affairs for a time…"
Her heart was racing wildly, and Eowyn was quite glad her princely friend was being so patient with her trembling tongue. "What I mean to say, Faramir," she began as calmly as she could, casting her eyes down once more, "is that I am ready to make a life with you, in marriage, if that is still your wish."
If ever she had been embraced before, it had never been so exuberantly or tightly as this, and most assuredly not by Faramir of Ithilien. "Aha!" Faramir cried out, a booming, happy sound rarely heard by anyone, and it thrilled Eowyn to see such a glad countenance. With a startling grip of her by her back and arms, the White Lady of Rohan was no longer on her feet: her beaming companion was spinning around with her in his arms.
"I will make you my bride as soon as I can, my lady. These lands will never see a princess so glad as you by my side, I promise you. You are the only match for me."
Laughing gaily, the young woman pecked her captor on his fuzzy cheek. "I do hope so, Faramir. I wouldn't want to lose you to another you meet in your travels, most especially if she were of orc-ish descent."
The whirling about ceased, and the dark-haired Prince of Ithilien ducked his face in to kiss his beloved fully, romantically, in ways he had not yet dared in their times together. The warmth, the promise of safety and eternal love, forced Eowyn to admit how very attached she had become to this brave, kind-hearted noble.
"No worry of that, love." Her prince assured her, still grinning broadly. Faramir set her on her feet again, kissed her forehead, and called out for the men to ready themselves. Turning to face his fiancée one last time, his eyes were filled with love, if not immense gratitude.
"I will come for you when all is well, Eowyn. Please take care and keep out of trouble with our friends here."
It took a great deal of effort not to roll her eyes at the young man's command, for it was most certainly an authoritative request, not a whim. She stood up on her tip-toes to peck her adoring friend on his forehead, and stood back to take in his visage one last time. "I will take care, my lord. And you would do well to take care of yourself, being that you're expected to return for your intended bride."
Faramir chuckled, a hearty sound, and wrapped the golden beauty in his arms a final time. He kissed her hair where it crowned the top of her head, and reluctantly let her go once more as he spun and mounted his horse. "Goodbye, Lady Eowyn. Until we meet again, fare thee well."
A simple nod was her reply, and Eowyn put on a brave face as her closest companion and his company of soldiers took their leave of the Shire. The sun was just cresting the hill when they disappeared from sight altogether, and the White Lady turned back to wake her friends in Brandy Hall.
"So much for dreams of battle and adventure abroad. For now, I'll have to be happy with hobbits and their mishaps for stimulation."
Author's Note: It isn't much edited, because I was really eager to post this once I found the little pieces of it in a notebook I hadn't touched in…well, almost a year now. Hopefully, I'll be able to finish chapters 2 thru 4 over the next two or three weeks, posting as regularly as I can. Thanks for returning to this, those of you that have, and any recommendations are always welcome…I'm never hesitant to edit, given that I have no Beta of my own. (And Grima is coming soon, I promise. Chapter 3 is, for the most part, a ridiculously Grima-only bit of reading. I just feel like Merry and Eowyn need a bit of catching up in the beginning to give some background.)
Thanks for reading!
Badger on the Run,