"No, Lady, I'm busy. Don't you have that book I gave you to learn?"
"Ioreth, please. I shall follow somebody else, if it please you. You know that my pains come when I am left alone…"
"Well I'm afraid we'll just have to risk them. Leave off me, now,"
And off she went, and left me here, all alone again, all alone, without anybody, and the sun laughed at me through the window, Maid-not-a-maid, all alone! All alone! Unwanted!
I did not want to be warmed so, no! The pale wall of the passageway was cool; I pressed my forehead to it, and closed my eyes. Cool it was upon my brow, it sunk in and numbed me, numbed my head and slowed it, slowed its endless spinning into nowhere, slowed it; perhaps in time I would grow into the stones, and become a statue, in the blessed cool of the tomb, to freeze me beyond aging and weakening, to freeze my child beyond growing to dishonour, aye, frozen through and through.
And then, there, a new sound. And it was a new sound, a brand new sound, a new-wakened sound; something like a new-hatched bird or a fresh-laid kitten.
"…but I think he's fine, aren't you Arinain?"
Iorlë? She had been around assisting her cousin some days now. I peeped around the corner, and saw there a woman with a babe in her arms. The child's swadlings were laid open and there he was, red as if he had been burned, long stick-like limbs waving as if he thought he were falling over the edge of the world (well who knows what infants think?); and his head was covered as if with soot, but it was not, no, it was dark hair, very dark and thick; when the woman lifted him onto her shoulder I noticed that a fine fuzz of it came right down the back of his neck to his shoulders- not to mention a purple spot on the base of the child's back. How sad and strange! Was this a half-orc? What evil was this visited on an innocent child?
"Evil? What do you mean, Lady? There's nothing wrong with the child at all. Little love," Iorlë said to me as the woman departed. "Born in the wains he was, a week ago, but he's doing just fine he is. Dear little thing, isn't he?"
"Do all your children look like that?" I said to her.
"Like what, Lady?"
"Do they all have so much dark hair as that?"
"Yes, lady- boys and girls just the same. It's not grown-up hair- falls out in a few weeks. Why, do your children in Rohan not have hair?"
"No. None, or hardly any; a few colourless streaks. Usually hardly any at all. And I don't think they have- bruises on their backs like that." I bit my lip. "Though I'm not that sure… I don't know if I've ever seen one unclothed." I only knew what their heads looked like- pale, spidery blue-viens and contors of their lumpen skulls visible through near-transparant skins. I had always wondered at the mothers that bore them on their backs that those thin skulls did not get cracked; they seemed as frail as egg shells.
"No younger brothers or sisters?"
Iorlë smiled and patted my shoulder; for I had winced and shut my eyes- foolish as the image was on the inside.
"You've been lonely, haven't you, Lady?" she said. "I hope things works out better for you, really I do,"
"Thank you," I said.
I went to my room and sat with my book of herblore. Oh this was no good. I rose to my window that looked out over to the distant mountains. Somewhere out there the river was flashing in the miday heat.
Would my child look like that, all red but for that bruise-like spot?
No, for we would both be long dead.
Would it have all that mass of sooty dark hair, all the way down its neck?
No, because it would be destroyed before it even had a neck.
or would I be able to see its paper-thin skull through its transparant scalp?
No because it would be long dead and so would I.
Ioreth came to check on my progress after she had broken off for miday. I had made none, for I was curled up below the window- the only cool place in the room- and I had not read the book because I had been weeping.
"What's all this? Lady, what's the matter with you? Are you ill again?"
"Then what is it?" She knelt down stiffly, and I was sorry then for the trouble I was putting her old knees to. "What's the matter?"
I burried my face in her shrivelled frontage.
"I do not want to die so soon!" I whispered. "I do not want the end of all things to come now!"
"Hush, hush. Oh dear, oh dear, Lady," she lifted my chin to look into her face. "You're still not recovered, are you?"
She coaxed me into my bed, and she offered me a sleeping-draught, which I declined; not because I needed to weep, no, but because I needed to think.
For suddenly away fell that rocky bottom of the pit into which I tumbled, suddenly there was revealed only sky, empty air that would neither break nor save me, tumbling as I was never to be caught, what was there to grasp at except that I must live, I must live, I must live! How long was it since I had first looked ahead and seen only shadows? Here I was, gasping in the cruel light of day, dragged from the certainty of drowning, beached and then abandoned!
I am to live! And I was to bear living! Oh dreaded task! Dreaded chore that I had fled from and risked any pain to escape- now thrown back at me with double force- to live! What a dread duty! Last time it had been laid to me I had fled it- o cowardice! O shame! O dishonour! And it was my flight that had led me to be ensnared ever tighter! And so the task was laid upon me again threefold- I must live, and I must live without help, it seemed.
That was the question- where from here? when my trouble could no longer be concealed? What then to do with myself, not to mention my bastard child?
I knew such things came to pass in the Mark, and I knew that the herbwives could often stop them, but often failed or else were too late when the unfortunate maid-not-a-maid spoke out. Surely in all this herblore there was some woman who knew… or some way of finding out?
My fingers tightened around the edge of the sheet.
Éomer- would he cast me out? Not without asking: "Sister- no! Tell me 'tis not so!" Good Éomer; he did love his sister, why, he would say: "What man has seduced you, sister? His name! He shall pay dear for my sister's good name, indeed he shall!"
And there was one who did deserve to pay dear for his sister's good name, yes, he did. How would it be if I declared that my child was the spawn of Grima Wormtongue? I would be believed, yes, should he be found his word would never stand against that of the White Lady, not now, not now, hurrah! Ah, me, he would be dragged to Meduseld and sliced apart, his neck opened clean, his dark blood pouring into the dust…
And then what? Then what of the Shieldmaiden, if no maiden she? And what of the ill-gotten child of Grima Wormtongue?
Ah, the poor girl need not even see it. She need not ever even look upon it.
No. Whether that tiny head cradled in my hand was dark and hairy or goldy and bare, it would not be so unjustly broken.
I had heard the word: demimondaine. And it sounded like a city word, so presumably that was where the precedent was (Rohan wouldn't have a word like that, no). I wasn't sure what they did, but I had an idea.
A smile in spite of myself. Perhaps the King would use me for his pleasure.
No. Don't be silly. It wasn't as if it was a welcome thought for the lords of Gondor to all be using me for their pleasure-
-though I did remember in that friction suddenly something paralysingly pleasant and though I closed my thighs tight at the memory I could not stop the shiver that came upon me nor the change in my breathing-
but there were plenty of men of Gondor besides one… or two- and that…
Perhaps there was a place where we could go, my babe and I. Enough were those who would mistake my face, should I cover myself plainly, if not in the outlying Mark then in the Outlands of Gondor. Bastards were a different matter outside of the court- any court- and why need the child be named as a bastard when the dead were so many and young widows there were aplenty?
For which I would have to desert Éomer and Medulsed and the Golden Hall and my white gown with the cloth of gold and my sword and the horses and the tapastries and angelica sweetmeats and the harp and the hurdy-gurdy…
Yes I wept. And why should I not?
I wept to realise that I would; I would. Such is the cost of living.
I was really asleep when Faramir came to me again, and that is the truth; I only knew because Iorlë said that he had.
"I told him you'd had a bad afternoon and to come back tomorrow in the morning. He didn't want to wake you up if you'd been having a bad time of it, after all,"
Though there was one trace, lying in the empty fire-place- well the all but empty fire-place:
Torn fragments of paper, the ink smudged but still just legible:
last spoke; nay,
unforgivable that I have
not a habitual seducer of maids, not of
habits low and despicable in any man, most of all he who
bolster his suit. Though such an idea barely holds sway in the case of
Lady of the Mark! But I digress; I shall not insult you by offering justifications;
abominable that your pity for me should have left you open to such a vile offence; I can but supplicate that my most deferential apologies and admissions of guilt will go some way towards quieting those agonies which my betrayal of your good nature will have unleashed.
If a man who had ever any honour has transgressed thus the least he can do is
not to turn from his ill deeds. I do not know what forfeit yourself and your
consider fitting; whatever it may be, I offer it freely; if it be my life,so
see you then plunged into any misfortune upon my account.
must be wedded, I would see to it that you find
find yourself needy of any thing, I offer it
than to name you as my bride,
I rummaged, and found smaller pieces:
be it; but I would still not
If by custom of your people you
yourself bereft of no comfort. Should you
freely without hope of return.
I would know no greater joy in the circles of this world
but I would not have you forced to accept such a cruelly made suit as that
was of no consequence; I would have you full willing or else not at all; to deflower
unsuspecting maid is not a valid form of courtship!
Indeed it is not my lot to speak upon these matters, and upon my word of honour they shall be disclosed by myself to none. I retire to await the stroke of my sentence, should the hour fall.
I shifted; there was a discomfort, yes, a definite discomfort, coming in the base of my back, sitting thus. I stretched, and sat differently. I read another:
to most humbly beseech forgiveness for my conduct some weeks ago when we
not forgiveness; my conduct was unforgivable- still more has it been
not approached you sooner; I beg you understand that I am
any rank or station- I have always found such
uses so-called nobility to
I would have to think about this indeed, yes, I would have to think; but wait, I could not think clear yet, not just at the moment-
A few minutes later I tried to call out as softly as I could, in case someone heard me, which is always a risk when you call out I know:
"What is it, fair one? Can I help you?"
"Ah, Ioreth- might I have some clean linen?"
"For your bed, or to wear?"
"To wear, I need some- cloths- you know,"
"Ah, yes. Of course I do. I shall not be a minute." She was, and she did not expect to come back to find me weeping- yes, weeping again! "What ever's the matter now?"
"Oh Ioreth it's nothing- but- I do feel such a fool- you have been so good with all my moods and foolishness when you are busy- I do- oh- well it doesn't matter, really it doesn't,"
"Ah, dear one," she said, "You've been having a very bad time; if you're worried that you've come on unexpected, lots of women get out of time with themselves when times are hard. It's my own personal feeling that your body puts it off when it knows that this is no time to be having a new baby."
"It's not just that, really,"
"I know, I know it isn't. Oh, this might cheer you; Iobeth said his lordship the Steward sent word to say he wishes to see you in the morning, if you are well enough. Does that cheer you? You were almost on the mend before he went away; he's good with you, is he not?"
I thought about it.
"Yes," I said. "He's good with me." I thought of his enigmatic look; or was it so? For now it seemed, it was as though he knew me, far better than any ever had, better than I knew myself, and knew every part was to be treasured. And did it vex me, that he should presume that he knew me so well? No. "Yes. It does cheer me, that I shall see him tomorrow."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.