1. In the Woods
What had happened? The Dunlendings had come down the ridge upon them quite unexpectedly, and though ill-armed were far more numerous than her escort; Éowyn's guard was swarmed under, unable to defend themselves against their attackers. Hiriand had fallen at her side, the young man from Osgiliath who had sworn to protect her during her journey; she had watched the swarthy man's sword cut him down, and in her fury had dispatched his bane. Then all had gone dark and she remembered no more.
Heaving herself awkwardly to her feet she stood, but had need to brace herself upon the bole of a tree; she felt ill and very weak, and knew without a horse she would not survive long in the woods of Anórien. "If I could but reach Amon Din!" she though, leaning heavily upon the tree. Her legs were wobbly and her head ached. "Or even Nardol – I should at least find a post-stop there, where someone could help me."
With faltering steps she examined the bodies around her. It was as she had feared; none lived, neither the Dunlendings nor her own guard. Counting the bodies she determined that fully half the enemy had escaped, likely upon her own horses; Éomer had said to her ere she quit Edoras that the Dunlendings were instituting raids for mounts from Rohan to Firien. "And further east now, I guess," she thought, stooping to cover Hiriand's face with his cloak. "I ought to have listened to Éodild, and remained in Meduseld ere Faramir came to fetch me. Alas for my men!"
She straightened, then cried out as a sudden searing pain shot from her back across her abdomen. Her eyes were shuttered by flashes of light as the excruciating grip squeezed at her, and with a groan she sank to her knees upon the bloody ground. "That is it then," she thought ere the darkness claimed her; "I and my babe shall die here." Then she swooned again, and the pain receded.
"Lady Éowyn! Lady Éowyn!"
Éowyn opened her eyes; hovering before her face was the fair pale visage of her champion, the Green Knight. His eyes were anxious, and the fingers that supported her head trembled; his breath came out in white misty puffs in the chill air. Éowyn could hear behind them the sounds of movement, of something being dragged across the dried leaves. She blinked up at him, wondering if she were dreaming.
"Praise Elbereth," he sighed, closing his eyes a moment. "When I found your body lying here I thought you were slain; when I saw you yet breathed I then feared some great hurt to you." Then putting his arms about her he drew her up until she was sitting, leaning her back against something giving and warm. Struggling to clear the clouds from her vision Éowyn looked about the clearing. The bodies had been shifted, and there were two Elves there, clad in dark clothing, erecting a stack of helmets and shields in front of a grotesque lumpy pile dusted with new snow. Éowyn saw a face in the pile, its eyes staring and still; she turned away, and then another pain shot through her and she cried aloud.
"What is it? Are you injured?" asked Legolas. He drew back and looked fearfully into her eyes. "What pains you, my lady?"
"There are none left alive, my lord," said a voice over Éowyn's head. She looked up; Meivel was there, his dark face grim. "We are about to build a cairn for Lady Éowyn's men. What shall we do with the horses?"
"A moment, Meivel," said Legolas, turning to Éowyn. "I see blood upon you, my lady, but no wound. What ails you?"
Panting Éowyn laid her hand upon her distended belly. "It is the baby," she said, giving another groan. "I fear – I fear it is time."
"It is too early," said Legolas, shaking his head. "Perchance this is naught but your flesh's reaction to the battle – do not fear, my lady; all shall be well." He touched her hair gently with his long white hand and smiled at her. "I am here, and Meivel and Himbaláth as well. What harm might befall you now?"
"It is not harm to me but to my babe I fear," said Éowyn. She shifted upon the ground, and the dried leaves beneath her crackled. "I am very uncomfortable."
"At least it is not your first," said Legolas, bolstering her form with rolled blankets and packs to ease her discomfort; "there is naught to fear there! But rest you here a while, my lady, whilst we see to your unhappy escort."
"Very well," sighed Éowyn, and shivered; Legolas seeing this removed his cloak and laid it over her. Éowyn then saw he was not in his armour but was clad in simple hunting kit, a leather jerkin over dark clothing. When he stood she said: "It is strange to me, my champion, that you come so garbed to me! I had expected to see you in your beautiful green armour upon Piukka."
"When one goes a-hunting but light kit is necessitated," he said. "In truth we did not think to come across you so soon, nor in such dire circumstances; I thought you to be yet in Rohan." When she shivered again he asked, "Are you warm enough? Shall we build you a fire? The proper disposal of the bodies shall take us some time."
"I am well for now, since you are here," said Éowyn, forcing a smile; Legolas bowed, and then went to busy himself with his two scouts.
By the time the Dunlendings' corpses had been burned, and the escorts' and horses' set beneath stone cairns with their shields and lances about them, Éowyn had slipped into an uneasy slumber, punctuated by the occasional grip of pain, or the light musical sound of the Elves' voices speaking as they labored. When night fell over her again Legolas returned, wiping his hands upon a scrap of cloth which Éowyn recognized as one of her enemy's cloaks. "Well we have done as best we could to see to the carnage," he said. "And we have collected all the goods we need from the sacks still affixed to your poor horses. We shall call our own steeds to us now, and ride through the night to Amon Din. The darkness impedes us not and it is imperative I return you to your husband, so the sooner we begin the better. You shall ride Piukka with me; he is strong enough to bear us both I deem."
"Very well," said Éowyn, though the though of riding all night was repugnant to her; she was stiff with cold and very weary, and wanted to sleep. But she allowed her champion to lift her to her feet; his touch was gentle but sure and strong, and she leant upon him while they slowly walked to where the three horses were waiting. Meivel and Himbaláth had already mounted, and were waiting in the dark for them, their bright eyes glinting.
Another sharp pain made her double over, and through her cries she heard Legolas calling to his scouts; then there was the feeling within her of something snapping, and warm water began to run down her legs. When the pain subsided she was surprised to find herself upon her knees in the frosty loam once more, with Legolas' arms about her; he was saying: "Make it very big – we need a lot of heat. And fetch water from that stream over there in the helms, and as many stray cloaks and blankets from the packs you might find. Was there any soap in the supplies?"
"I know not, my lord!" called Meivel from the darkness; "I left everything that was not foodstuff hanging in a sack from that linden-bough – I shall fetch it for you now."
"Do so, Meivel," said Legolas, and turned to Éowyn. Though his voice was soothing she could see in his eyes a sharp apprehension. "Well it does not appear we shall make the journey tonight!" he said, smiling faintly. "I would not put you to horse now for all the mithril in Moria. How glad I am you have gone through this one time before! 'Twould be traumatic indeed to make you deliver your first alone in the forest!"
"But I do not remember delivering Fastred!" cried Éowyn, her heart going cold. "Aragorn gave to me a sleeping-draught, for the babe presented wrong-way-to; when I awoke my son was in my arms. I have never seen a woman deliver an infant before – I do not know what to do!"
"No?" Legolas looked surprised, but not alarmed. "Well it is not so different from watching a mare foal, and I know well you have seen that. Do not fear, my lady; I am sure naught shall go ill."
"How can you say that?" Éowyn asked, her heart giving way to fear, and gripping him firmly by the jerkin. "I am in the woods in winter about to deliver a babe untimely, and all I have with me are three Elves, and all of them male warriors? O what shall I do!"
"Well, should you continue to grasp my jerkin in this fashion you shall certainly tear it," said Legolas calmly, unwinding her clutching hand from his clothing. "Peace, my lady! Have you forgotten how many years I have wandered betwixt my Lord Father's palace, and the villages and towns of the Long Lake? I have seen my share of births, and I am not squeamish."
"I can vouch for that, O Lady of Emyn Arnen!" laughed Himbaláth, from where he built up a large fire. "Many's the time he has aided some poor woman in her labor, so that he sometimes was called the Midwife of Dale. Why it was not fifty years hence – "
"Very well; that will do, Himbaláth," said Legolas calmly. "There is no need to bring up that particular example of midwifery – I was very reluctant as you will recall, for the circumstances were specious and I was not sanguine about my success."
"Well as that particular example is a grandfather now I should have thought it a very good illustration of your peculiar talent," smiled Himbaláth. "After all you have never shirked from aiding those in distress and this is but one of the ways in which you do so. Be at peace, my lady," he said to Éowyn; "you do not have some untried soldier attending you; Prince Legolas has done this many times before."
"Perhaps he has but it is unseemly to so speak of it!" said Meivel, returning with several bags of supplies. He fixed his subordinate with a steely glance and said, "Be you sure to set a goodly number of stones about the fire-pit; we need to boil water – is that not what we are supposed to do, my lord, boil water? It has been many centuries since I have been in such close proximity of a woman about to give birth, but it seems to me I remember that boiling water was required."
"Your memory behooves you," said Legolas, rising, but at that moment another pain afflicted Éowyn and she cried out again. Legolas knelt beside her, placing one comforting hand upon her belly; he could feel the muscles there tense and clench about her, then subside. "There!" he said soothingly; "that was not so bad, was it?"
"Easy it is for you to think so, O my champion!" panted Éowyn angrily. " 'Tis not your belly."
"And grateful am I for that!" Legolas rose and took the packs from Meivel, while the other two Elves fetched water in the helms. Éowyn watched as they spread blankets and cloaks upon the ground, and set up cakes of soap, rags, and cloaks shredded in strips around the fire. When the water in the helms began to boil she had had three more bouts of pain, and each time Legolas returned to her side, letting her hold tight to his arm, speaking gently to her until it subsided. At last the rags and strips were dunked in the boiling water, scrubbed with the coarse soap, rinsed and hung from branches by the fire to dry; Legolas turned to his scouts and said:
"Well we are about mid-way betwixt Rohan and Amon Din – Meivel, you ride to the west, and Himbaláth to the east to fetch aid. I shall remain here to husband Lady Éowyn. Be sure you both return as quickly as possible! It might be unusual for Dunlendings to range this close to Gondor but I am but one and the prospect of defending this clearing is a daunting one."
"A doughty one you are, though, my lord!" said Meivel with a bow, and Himbaláth, laughing, clapped his hands and said: "A race! Who shall prove the faster, do you think, my lord? Shall it be Himbaláth the Swift, or Sober-And-Conscientious?" Meivel shot him a dark look, but Legolas laughed.
"Do not speak to him so!" he chided; "you know it is only Galás has permission to call him by that name. Go you now, and stand not upon your orders! The White Lady of Rohan has need of your haste."
"Good-bye then!" cried the Elves, and mounting their destriers rode off into the darkness, leaving Éowyn with her champion.
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.