September 17, 3017
Frithlíc held Éowyn tightly to him, his arms around her waist, her head on his shoulder. “It is only a few weeks- it will be time for the winter festival before you know it and you will be dancing in my arms.” The tall youth placed a light kiss on her forehead. “Besides, this is not my first time to go away, and from what you told me, you quite enjoyed having so much time to yourself.”
The stalls were full of the sounds of horses eating and of swishing tails. Whitelock nuzzled Éowyn’s hair, but she pretended not to notice. “I did, yes, but your absence was keenly felt.” She leaned back just a bit to be able to look into his face. The gaze of her grey eyes were steady while her hands pressed into his upper back, lovingly kneading his shoulders. “After all, you will be in Éomer’s care, and I know that he will be a fine leader. He has been appointed Third Marshal after all.” She ran her pale fingers through Frithlíc’s mane of hair, which now reached only halfway down his neck since she had cut it an hour before. “Théoden I fear is listening more and more to the inane suggestions that Gríma calls sound advice, but the King is still in his right mind when it comes to Éomer, Théodred and myself, and that appointment for Éomer was the right one.”
Frithlíc leaned down and kissed her deeply. “You are very proud, my dear,” Frithlíc said, a hint of mirth in his voice. After a second, more soft kiss which Éowyn teasingly tried to thwart, he whispered, “But your beauty outshines everything else about you. I still think that you are indeed a star sent from the heavens, my blæse.”
Éowyn smiled and pulled him to her. “You have a honeyed tongue, my Rider,” she said coyly. Then she murmured, “It is a good thing that you are talented with it in more than just words.” Surrounded by the sounds of the stables, she surrendered to the passionate rain of kisses that followed until she was out of breath.
They did not remain very long as Éowyn’s absence would soon be noticed, but before they left the sanctuary of the royal stables, Frithlíc embraced her again. “I feel as though none can harm us when we are together,” he spoke low into her ear. “It is as though within each other our affections have found asylum. I hope you feel the same.”
She nodded. After a moment, she said quietly, “Our pledges to each other will stand firm.” Then shaking herself from her reverie, she smiled. “Come- we will have years to adore one another. And do not try to be overly brave, should you find it necessary to do battle, simply so that Éomer will tell the King about your actions.”
Frithlíc opened his mouth in mock astonishment at the comment.
“Surely you have noticed by now that my brother, as marvellous as he is, is rather unaware of my pursuits and desires.” Éowyn remorsefully shook her head. “That is what older brothers do, though, is it not?”
Frithlíc took her hands in his and kissed them both before replying. “Yes,” he said, his grey-green eyes divulging his good humour. “We pride ourselves on our ability not to meddle in the affairs of our sisters.” Before parting at the door, he looked at Éowyn again. “Ever. It is far safer that way!”
Éowyn rolled her eyes. “Get home, son of Frithmund. This will be the last comfortable night of sleep you will have for a while. Let your head enjoy your pillow while you can.”
They kissed briefly, then Éowyn watched the slim fiery-haired man walk quietly down the dirt path. Once he was no longer in her sights, she made her way to the back of Meduseld to a seldom-used door out of sight of the main guards, and entered. Caught up in the flush that she always experienced when with her beloved, she did not sense that she had been watched by a pair of pale blue eyes following her from the stable to the side of the fortress.
blæse= firebrand, torch
Gríma strode to Éowyn’s chamber, his dark cape fluttering behind him. The time was nearing for the departure of the patrol that he had suggested Éomer lead, now that he had been named Third Marshal of the Mark. Théoden is becoming sentimental in his old age, he mused spitefully, appointing his nephew to the rank that he once held. Saruman was right; the way to ruin king and kingdom alike is to remove the pillars of his heirs, not to instigate infighting among the ranks of the Mark. He found that he had stopped before her chamber door, the pull of Éowyn’s presence on him as strong as Dwarves to mithril. As he raised his hand to knock, he found his thoughts troubled and muddied, and he paused. He desired her very much, this young woman of the house of Eorl, let free to run wild and possessing an unnatural interest to her skills of sword and knife. And that freckle-faced peasant boy, Gríma snarled. She is the daughter of kings, and she will do far better than him once the White Wizard has come through on his promises. Saruman had been using his dark cleverness of speech, and many of his sour words about the people of Rohan had settled softly into Gríma’s subconscious, a smattering of tender barbs finding fertile soil in which to grow and fester. My skills here are wasted among these people with their almost familial relations with sheep and wet-nosed dogs.
He rapped on Éowyn’s door. Silence reigned for a few moments, then he spoke. “Lady Éowyn! The Riders are leaving. Your presence is requested as niece of Théoden King to wish them well.”
Gríma stood in the quiet hall, and was about to move forward to knock again when suddenly the door opened outward, barely missing his feet. Éowyn stood, clothed in a dark green dress, sword belted around her waist. Gríma felt the familiar sensations of awe and long-simmering yearning as he saw her, her golden hair shining in the morning sun.
“I will be there in a moment.” Éowyn spoke curtly, then nodded her head, indicating that the conversation was over.
A disturbed expression crossed his face. “Shall I not escort you to join the King and his guards? You need not be without company, fairest maiden of Edoras.” He put his hand on the door to open it further, and proffered his other arm to her.
Éowyn’s hostile gaze bored through him as she stood motionless. In return, he withstood her steely look and returned it. “I do not ask for your hand in betrothal, lone shieldmaiden.” He tilted his head the slightest bit toward her bed. “I ask only to walk by your side to the steps of Meduseld. Surely it will not do you injury to do so.”
Myriad emotions flitted through her before she settled on the safest one: dispassionate. “No, counsellor to Théoden, it will not do me a disservice to have you accompany me to the doors of the Golden Hall.” Éowyn walked forward, pulled the door until she heard the satisfying snick of latch into its hole, then taking a deep breath, laced her arm through Gríma’s and walked down the stone corridor toward the entrance of the Golden Hall, her heavy train trailing behind her.
She stood on the top step, relishing the presence of Meduseld’s guards and feeling the more secure for it, despite her close proximity to Théoden’s counsellor. Éowyn looked out at the ranks of Eorlingas soon to ride off in the morning sun, and cast her eye about until she could see him. Though his hair was bound in a short braid, the copper colour of his hair was easy to spot despite his similarly coloured helm. After glancing at Frithlíc, she cast her glance around the citizens of Edoras to find his sister, also easily viewed in the morning rays.
From a much closer distance near the gates of the city, Fréalas looked at her brother, leaving again for another patrol on the East March. He was wearing his helm and light armour, including a leather vest that she had decorated for him with twining snakes on both the right and left of the front. From this relatively close distance she could see him clearly once his horse stopped fidgeting, his narrow shoulders managing to bear the weight of his armour. Despite herself, she tried to find Tóswífan as well, even though they were on rather uncertain terms with each other. After only a brief time she saw him on his horse, Threohness, whose beautiful russet colouring was almost as unique as her own hair. With a small sense of satisfaction she saw that even though they weren’t currently speaking, the vest he wore was the one that she had made for him. No serpentine figures adorned it, however; rather there were emblems of eagle feathers and clouds. She caught his gaze briefly, but then he turned to look at Éomer.
Firefoot pawed the ground as Éomer, his rider, raised his sword. “The Third Marshal and his company rides to the east to patrol our borders. We shall return before wintergamen, if all goes well.”
He gazed up at the wide stone steps of Meduseld to see uncle, sister, and ever-present counsellor Gríma. “Hail, Théoden King!” He turned his horse back around and the rest of the band readied their horses. Frithlíc and several other of the younger men in the group turned their heads to the assembled well-wishers to convey in a quick glance a last goodbye. For the next two months it would be nothing but riding and scouting, and while none hoped for battle, they knew that the orcs on their borders had become more numerous - by the thousands, some had said - and needed a more constant watch. Théoden raised his hand and Éowyn followed suit. “We shall return!” Éomer cried, then led his horse forward, and the group of twenty followed, their horses cantering, the last rider carrying a banner with the white horse of Rohan, which waved in the morning breeze.
“Ahhhhh.” Gríma breathed out the one-syllable word over multiple moments as a steed snorted off in the distance. “It is a grave day indeed when such fearless - ” He breathed, nostrils twitching, “ - such brave youths must be sent away to go and keep check on the borders of our lands.”
As he casually combed his fingers through his hair, the man from northern Rohan with eyes of pale blue turned his head ever so slightly to catch Éowyn’s eye, but unsurprisingly he found no respite there. Instead, he bore the brunt of two granite-grey globes staring at him. He continued to stand his ground quietly, since despite her obvious negative judgment, for months now he had held the power of the King behind him.
Below them, the soothing sound of hooves was growing ever distant. Fréalas kept her gaze set on the last rider, holding the banner, until he and the company were nothing more to be seen than a cloud of dust on the horizon.
“Yes,” Gríma spoke again quietly, “it is a grave day.” Something in his countenance changed as he asked, “Lady Éowyn, would you care now to take counsel with me?” Gríma motioned with pale fingers, and the very guards of the Golden Hall escorted their liege into the building, leaving Gríma, Éowyn, and the ever-present swordsmen at the doors to the hall in a rather intimate foursome to bear the brunt of the autumn wind.
As the other residents of the city began to disperse and resume their routine activities of trade, farming and husbandry, Fréalas motioned her head toward the stables, and Léah, who stood near her, nodded in assent.
Éowyn instinctively used all of her warrior’s senses to survey the odds about her, and judged that they were in her favour. “Gríma, trusted counsellor,” she began, with all the formality that she could muster, “I have other pressing matters to attend to.” After taking a lungful of air, she continued. “Please do not hesitate to consult me if issues of state become of such urgency that you need to see me, but otherwise I shall be out in Edoras dealing with the rather more mundane aspects of ensuring that the citizens of Rohan are safe enough to tend to their horses and loyal canine friends.” Even as she said it, doubtful thoughts darted quickly through her mind: Does Gríma think that we are all swayed by his words, or is he going to try and send me away as well? Maybe we Rohirrim are seen only as horse-riders who can wield sword and spear, useful only for keeping Orcs at bay. But surely not, surely Saruman will help defend us... At this moment, Gríma, with a look on his face that she couldn’t read, bowed and gestured for her to leave the confines of the stairs. Wait. She looked at him, anguish on her face. Wait. You are the key, though I would not be the hand to turn you. Her emotions battled as she quickly nodded her head and began the walk down the main road to the barrows and lands beyond the gates, her traditional sanctuary during the day.
Behind her she heard Gríma speak in a voice that rang with haughtiness, “Another time, then. These are dark days indeed for all who call the grasses of the Mark their home.”
She wheeled around, her hand on the hilt of her sword, and was shocked at the unexpected expression that she saw on his face. It was one of misery, one that startled her enough to stop her purposeful pace away from the royal home. Éowyn locked her gaze to his, suddenly realizing that despite her personal loathing for him, she could be looking into the eyes of any one of her countrymen. She stood, listening subconsciously to sounds of women beating rugs, of family pigs running happily in the mud alleys of Edoras. She listened to the almost tangible sounds of now-absent men making their way to the furthest borders of the Mark on horses, their young riders unwise in the ways of the world...
This is what I shall inherit? The stone steps of Meduseld, a city of women and old men, myself the replacement ruler? she thought wildly, loss and pride commingling, making her unsteady on her feet. No, no… we are honourable and laudable people- we are worth defending. We shall defend Rohan even in her darkest days, no matter the words coming from this usurper’s tongue.
Suppressing her maelstrom of emotions, she replied, “Another time.” Turning her back on the carvings of the Golden Hall, she continued walking toward the gates of the city. Though she felt Gríma’s eyes bearing on her as she made her way down the path, she refused to turn around as she walked down to and then outside the city gates, needing to get away from him and everyone else as well for awhile.
While she walked, some melancholy crept in under her bravado. She would miss Frithlíc, terribly. And she did wish that she were allowed to go on patrol with them. Though they would not acknowledge it openly, a few of the men being sent out in these companies knew that she, and a few other women, were their equals. And that they were needed. But not unless there is actual war on our lands, Éowyn thought bitterly. Held safe until the last, and at that time, would there be aught to save?
Standing near the barrows of her ancestors, she looked at the white flower-covered mounds, savouring the wind coming from the west. She stood for a moment, controlling her breathing, then took her sword out of its sheath and unbuckled the belt on which it hung, placing the decorated leather off to the side. Before beginning, she took part in her own ritual, holding the sword upright before her face, and breathing its name aloud. “Cwicseolfor.” Then, with a steady arm, she lowered it, the blade facing horizontally in front of her. Slowly at first, then faster she engaged her sword, leaning into parries and slices, but realized that her mind was wandering despite herself, thinking about Frithlíc, his kisses on the hollow of her throat, his narrow waist and firm belly, the inexpressible, joyous-painful-rapturous rush of passion that had overwhelmed her the first time they became familiars, only a few weeks before...
What can I do? she thought, dismayed, her concentration as scattered as the stars across the wide skies over the Riddermark. Then it came to her- she could try with her left arm. A warrior never knows when she may be struck and have to wield with her weaker arm. Standing straight again, this time with her sword in her left arm, she tried to do the same set of exercises, but she was much more sluggish and her wrist was not as strong. Again! she admonished herself, and swung again, leaning in and back, her knees making occasional cracking noises from the effort. Up, a controlled swing down, up, a controlled curve with her wrist... soon she was beginning to sweat, and when she eventually stopped to wipe her forehead with the back of her right hand she realized that the sun had moved a distance in the sky. The moment she stopped, though, panting with effort, her vision was again filled with her recent lover, whose adoring kisses she would now be without for several weeks. She missed him. He had not been gone from her side but for a few hours, but already she wanted to tell him more about her past, about how important it was to cool your feet in river water in summer, how she wanted to devour him with kisses, how she needed to hear his heart beat like butterfly wings...
Éowyn leaned down and picked up her belt, not for the first time pausing to admire the serpentine decorations that Fréalas had burned into it, the pattern an echo of the one that adorned Frithlíc’s vest. She buckled the belt, then sheathed her sword, and after taking in another long look of the valley spread out before her, turned to return to the city. Perhaps Fréalas and Léah could use some assistance in the stables, she considered. Poor Windchaser has been sickly, and I’m sure there is some mucking out to do. While the niece of the king was not very fond of the sheep that were a mainstay of the economy of Rohan, she could spend day after day with the horses in the royal cavalry, even though many of them were now gone, off to the borders with their riders. She looked up warily at the imposing facade of the Golden Hall, but was relieved to see it absent of anyone except for the omnipresent guards, their polished helms shining in the sun.
She made her way around to the stables, which were strangely quiet. Not many horses left, I suppose, she mused as she walked through the door. Éowyn was troubled by all injuries sustained by the horses as though they were her own, and she found that she had unwittingly quickened her step approaching the stables. Once she reached the front of the building she continued in, then halted, unused to the quiet that awaited her. “Fréalas!” she called into the stables as she entered, rolling up the sleeves on her gown.
Léah leaned out first, a pitchfork in her hand. “Lady Éowyn! Fréalas and I began cleaning the back of the stalls shortly after the Riders departed.” Her blonde braided hair had several pieces of hay in it, and sweat on her face caused even more matted strands to stick to her forehead.
Fréalas appeared from behind a sturdy wooden beam and walked into the main corridor between the stalls, wiping her hands down the front of her coarse dress. “Éowyn!” she smiled as she spoke. “What brings you here? Surely the mostly empty stables do not hold much interest for you.”
Éowyn bore a sheepish expression. “Well, I was out doing sword practice, but I did indeed miss the stables, horses or no. I am used to being able to brush down Whitelock and I wanted to visit his stall for a moment, then look in on Windchaser.”
The two older women looked at each other, then at Éowyn. “Shall I leave, Fréalas?” Léah asked. “Surely not all of us are needed here.”
Fréalas nodded. “There are many tasks at hand to be done, and I thank you for your assistance in this rather ungratifying job of mucking stalls.” She clasped Léah’s shoulder and let her fingers linger there for a moment, then took her pitchfork as Léah nodded to Éowyn and left the structure.
Éowyn found her gaze following Léah as she walked away, noticing her full chest and eyes fringed with thick dark lashes for the first time. With questioning eyes she turned back to her friend. Something was happening in the silence between the words being said that she could not fathom and it made her feel slightly dizzy. Grey eyes found their mark in those of grey-green, freckles across her nose, so similar to that of Frithlíc.
“Why are you and Tóswífan not betrothed?” Éowyn asked the question as Léah’s steps were heard around the side of the stables.
While she clasped the pitchfork, Fréalas turned her gaze to the floor, studying the patterns of hay and horse droppings as though through their unique placement on the floor they would reveal hidden messages to the viewer. Flies buzzed around the stable in the ensuing quiet.
“I am very fond of Tóswífan, and we have been in discussion about our future together,” Fréalas began, still staring at the ground. “After much time spent with Léah, I am also very fond of her.” She stopped for a moment, thinking briefly of how to explain how even passing friendly touches from this particular woman caused her skin to feel tingles wherever the others’ fingertips had rested, and yet how that also intensified the desires and longing that she had for her male companion, but that she could not give herself entirely to either of them. She racked her brain to find words that would express the tumult that she had been trying so desperately to order within herself. Looking up, she said quietly, “I find myself drawn to both of them, though why this is I am unsure.”
Éowyn’s eyes became very wide, and she shrank back toward the solidity of the stall door near her.
“Think of this, Éowyn,” Fréalas began again. “Do we not love both kin and friend, family and comrades in arms? We adore both mother and father. Why is it so incomprehensible that we should be drawn to both feminine and masculine, since we carry aspects of each within ourselves?”
Éowyn looked incredulously at Fréalas. “What does this mean? You still haven’t answered my question. Why are you and Tóswífan not pledged to each other? Your eyes light up around him, I have seen it. What could Léah possibly have to do with any of this?” Éowyn looked searchingly at this closest of friends whom she had known since her childhood, the sister of her treasured Frithlíc, and wondered how she could now seem like a stranger.
Fréalas shrugged her shoulders, then bent her head down, as though bearing a heavy burden. “Tóswífan and I are grateful for some time apart, though the absence of his improper jokes and his inspired artistry weigh heavily on me. Léah and I…” her voice trailed off, then she looked straight into Éowyn’s face. “Éowyn, I cannot explain it. It is as though she carries the shock of lightning. While I know that I am not to spend a lifetime with her, as our customs deem improper and wrong, I must admit that she seems to cast a spell around me. I would be lying if I said that my body is equally betrayed under her strong gaze as that of Tóswífan’s.”
Éowyn focused on the dust motes slowly dancing in the sunlight through the nearby window while Fréalas dejectedly stared at her hands on the pitchfork handle, then closed her eyes. She hadn’t wanted to say anything at all, but Éowyn had turned out to be surprisingly perceptive, and she wasn’t going to lie to her friend, as much as she wished that she could.
A horse snorted from another stall, and Fréalas raised her head to look at Éowyn. Her face bore a confused and mournful expression. “Fréalas," Éowyn began, "I do not understand how these conflicts have come to pass, and I will be the first to admit that I cannot begin to give you any guidance or advice, should you desire it. You and your brother have such generous hearts; I suppose it is small wonder that there is more than one whose affections you are attracted to.” Fréalas shook her head ruefully, while Éowyn added, “But I could not support you pursuing any kind of... unnatural relationship. I think you should keep your eyes fixed on Tóswífan. Think of what beautiful children you will have, he is quite handsome and talented..."
"I know much more about him than you do," Fréalas said, angrily. "And I know how handsome and talented he is. I did not ask for your opinion, you are the one who asked me an intrusive question." She threw the pitchfork to the ground. "These distressing feelings are something that I wanted to keep to myself and contemplate alone, not to be dealt your scorn and opinions."
Éowyn felt as though she had been slapped. "Fine! If all I have to offer you are my unwanted opinions, opinions that you used to value highly, I might add, and you want time alone, then time alone you shall have." She walked a few steps toward the door, then hesitated and turned around. "Does she know?" she demanded.
Fréalas' face was still flushed with anger. "Does Léah know how she affects me? No." She gave Éowyn a steely look. "I would never dream of behaving so improperly. No one knows. And Éowyn, if you value me at all, you will not say anything." Éowyn didn't move. "Not even Frithlíc. No one. I will sort through my feelings on my own. But you are free to go, if you wish." From the look on Éowyn's face, Fréalas knew that she had truly hurt her feelings, but she did not want to talk. She only wanted to do her work and then go for a long walk with Gold Eyes, who did not ask questions, but only wanted his head scratched.
"I am used to being dismissed by Théoden and Gríma," Éowyn said sharply into the hay-scented air. "But I did not know there would come a day when I would be dismissed by you." She turned and walked purposefully to the door, then left.
Fréalas' anger smouldered as she picked up the pitchfork from the stable floor and began tossing hay into organized piles. "Telling me about Tóswífan, as though she is my mother!" she muttered under her breath. "One day soon her wilful naiveté will be taken from her, and it cannot be too soon."
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.