68. Busy Days
A few days later, Legolas and Gimli returned from their trip to the Glittering Caves.
Éomer had a table set up out on the terrace in front of the Hall of Meduseld, so we could eat our lunch in the warm sunshine of the last days of August.
"So, how was it?" I asked Legolas. The elf sipped at a glass of white wine, his eyes veiled.
"It was... strange... disturbing... but wonderful..." He trailed off. Then he shook himself. "I don't have the words to describe the miracles of these caves. Only Gimli will do justice to the description of the beauty of this netherworld."
Gimli grinned fondly at his friend. "Hear, hear! Never before has a Dwarf claimed victory over an Elf in a contest of words. This should be set down in the annals of Rohan."
Éomer laughed at that. "I will order it done immediately. Frohwein, what do you think?"
Frohwein had taken up the duties of Éomer's squire since Merry had left. He was actually too old for that duty-which was usually carried out by the teenaged son of a close relative of the king-, but Éomer trusted him implicitly, and so Frohwein had taken on this duty of friend, adviser and aid in all things of the daily life. Now Frohwein, a tall, thin man in his twenties with lanky, dark brown hair and greenish eyes, grinned at his lord. "Excellent decision, my lord. I will go and advise your scribe of this momentous decision at once." He made as if to rise, and everyone laughed at the shared joke.
"See, master Elf! Didn't I tell you?" Gimli turned to Legolas smirking. But Legolas only turned his piercing gaze calmly to his friend.
"And now for the other part of our deal," Legolas said. "Let us go to Fangorn and set the score right."
Gimli blanched. "You do know that it's dangerous in that forest?"
Legolas grinned. "Not any more dangerous than in those caves of yours."
"That is not true. My caves are not inhabited by any dangerous creatures, be they Ents, Huorns, or what have you," Gimli objected frowning at the elf.
"I thought dwarves aren't afraid of anything that goes bump in the night?" I asked Gimli jokingly. The dwarf blushed promptly.
"No, that we aren't, my lady," he said grumpily. "But Fangorn... that's plain uncanny. How about we go to Lórien? There's trees there a-plenty!"
Legolas gave Gimli a highly amused look. "Really? You suggest a wood with even taller trees?"
Gimli only growled in answer. Legolas held out his hand to the dwarf. "First to Fangorn, then to Lórien. What say you?"
Gimli sighed. "As if I did not know that you will drag me to Mirkwood after that. But remember that you promised to accompany me to Esgaroth and Dale."
Legolas echoed the dwarf's sigh. "Never fear, I remember very well what promises I made in the heat of the moment."
But they shook hands solemnly, sealing their plans for the next months.
This reminded me of something. "Gimli, do you remember a promise you gave me, concerning a certain Elvish jewel?"
Gimli's face brightened at once. "Of course I do. You will want the setting ready for the wedding, won't you, Lothíriel?"
I smiled happily. "That was my thought. Only, there's more. Lord Glorfindel sent me two smaller gems of the same kind of jewel. I think perhaps they might be fashioned as ear rings to go with the necklace? I would pay for them, of course."
"No, you won't." Gimli glared at me. "Don't insult me. I promised you the necklace months ago. What are two wee ear bobs on top of that? And I could not think of any more fitting wedding gift than making the jewellery for the bride. And no greater honour for me as your friend to be allowed to do this for you. Now, why don't you get those pretties out that I might have another look at them? And I would take them with me to Dale, for there are the best smithies to be found at the moment."
I must have looked a little dubious, for Gimli raised his bushy eyebrows, his eyes blazing. "I will guard the jewels with my life, you know that. And I will be on time. I promise."
Legolas added, "You can trust him. I will watch over him-and your jewels!"
Gimli turned and glared at him.
I rose from my chair and laughingly fled to my room to get the jewels.
When I returned, the sun shone directly on the terrace. I hesitated for a moment at the corner of the hall, watching the scene before me. Arwen and Aragorn were sitting side by side, holding hands, completely gone on each other. Éowyn and Faramir were not present; they were out riding with Míri. Imrahil was off somewhere, too, together with the Lords Grimsir and Eutharich-politics and trading agreements on their minds.
Éomer was laughing about one of Gimli's jokes. But I could see that he was not really relaxed. His new duties and responsibilities as a king weighed heavily on his heart. I was glad that Frohwein had agreed to be Éomer's squire. I knew he would be far more than the guy who lugged some extra weapons for the king around. He'd double as friend and advisor and throw in his life to protect his king if need be. I was glad that Éomer would not be completely alone with so much difficult work and no friend to advise him during the next months. I contemplated, not for the first time either, that we would probably miss Gandalf forever and a day.
When I approached the table, Éomer looked up and his eyes sparkled with those strange flecks of amber fire in the sun. My heart skipped a beat, as it always did, when he looked at me that way. I sat down next to him and laid the three jewels on the table in front of Gimli. "Here they are. What do you think?"
Gimli sighed happily at the sight of the green beryl jewels sparkling in the sunlight. Then he took them up one after the other and held them up against the sun. At last he whistled appreciatively. "My lady, you have a very good friend in the Lord Glorfindel. These are really some of the most beautiful green beryl jewels I have ever seen. When they are properly set in gold, they will make the green of your eyes gleam like another set of beryl jewels. I will see to that. As I have promised."
"Thank you," I replied simply. I could not imagine that my eyes would ever gleam like any Elvish jewel, but I knew better than to contradict the romantic dwarf.
"You do have the most interesting eyes," Arwen remarked, startling me completely.
I blinked at her in astonishment. "My eyes are as interesting as a muddy puddle."
"Let me assure you... meine Liebe, they are not," Éomer murmured, turning me around to face him. "They are as changeable as the sea, or as a great forest in a strong wind. Brown and green and golden, light and dark, depending on your moods. They remind me of amber." He raised my hand to his lips and dropped a soft kiss on my betrothal ring.
My heart was beating in my mouth, my connection to the earth and reality almost severed by Éomer's hypnotic, dark voice and his beautiful eyes. "If you say so," I finally breathed and exhaled deeply, trying to get a hold on myself again. He enjoyed doing that to me. I kept thinking that I should manage to disconcert him in the same way, but I never seemed to get there.
The sound of chuckling-Gimli and Aragorn-brought me finally back to the world. I glared at them. Especially at Aragorn. Making goo-goo eyes at Arwen and laughing about my infatuation with Éomer at the same time, should not be allowed.
"Take the jewels, Gimli, and I hope your art will keep your promise of magnificence, just as you told me," Éomer told Gimli, carefully returning the jewels to their velvet bag and passing the bag to the dwarf.
The dwarf got to his feet and bowed to Éomer. His face was very solemn when he spoke. "I, Gimli, son of Glóin, promise to use all my art and experience to create the most beautiful jewellery any queen of Rohan has ever worn. So do I swear, aver and affirm, and should I not hold this oath, the fires of the dragons may take me forever."
"That was unnecessary," Éomer smiled and held his hand out to the dwarf. "You are my friend, and I trust you in every way there is."
Gimli took the proffered hand and smiled. "But it is custom among my people to seal any promise with a proper oath. We do not give promises lightly. And this task is not a task to be taken lightly. And I don't. And I would honour our customs of old as long as Middle-earth holds."
"And you keep telling me that I am too solemn for my own good..." Legolas commented, shaking his head at Gimli.
Gimli sat back down and put the small bag with the jewels away. From there the talk turned to lighter matters, my encounter with the ledgers of the royal household - what I had learned in the few weeks at Rivendell of the runes currently in use in Middle-earth had not been up to the ledgers - and the puppies of Gwirith tumbling about the Hall of Meduseld.
As the puppies were too young to be parted from their mother when I had to leave for Dol Amroth, Éomer would keep my pup along with his and train them together. I was a little disappointed about this, but there was simply no way of taking the little dog with me.
But Éomer had allowed me to choose names for the dogs. Drawing on Norse mythology I had come up with "Freki" and "Geri". Although the grey hounds of Rohan were usually named in Sindarin in reverence to Oromë the hunter, the God the Rohirrim honoured above all other Valar, Éomer liked my choice, after I had explained what the names meant. Geri and Freki are the wolves accompanying the God Odin. In Walhalla they sit at his feet and eat whatever food he gives to them, for the God Himself only takes the wine of the feasts served in this hallowed hall. Our Geri and Freki were pretty greedy about their food, too. They were sucking as much as they might and were by far the largest puppies of the litter. They would grow into fine, kingly dogs for Éomer.
I would get a chance at a dog of my own when I'd come to live in Edoras for good.
Legolas and Gimli left again early in the morning on the next day.
I had no time to mourn their departure. Éowyn, Míriël and Mistress Gosvintha kept me busy with the intricacies of the royal household. The ledgers were only the tip of an iceberg.
If anyone ever offers you to become a queen, think twice.
No. Don't think twice. Just turn around and run.
The only good thing about my introduction to the duties of a queen was that it kept me too busy to think about letters and friends I would never see again.
I was up before dawn and on my feet until way after sunset.
Those damned ledgers with their spidery, crabbed handwriting started haunting my dreams in next to no time. If I ever learned how to read them, I would probably lose my eyesight before the first snow. I should have done more history of law at university. I know that they worked with the original medieval folios during one or two classes of history of law.
You just never know when something you have learned will come in handy.
The days flew by. Bemused, I stared at the date I had just written down in my journal.
30th of August, 30th of Úrimë.
Tomorrow we will leave for Minas Tirith. Aragorn has been growing restless during the last week. There's this progress through his kingdom that he still has to complete before winter.
It's not as if they did not use the time in Rohan well-with councils, audiences, negotiations about trading and troops, the confirmation of contended borderlines, the treatment of Easterlings and Southrons and God knows what else.
If I sound as if I am gnashing my teeth a little, then it is because I am doing just that.
I was busy, Éomer was busy. We hardly ever saw each other. A few dinners, a few breakfasts, a few trips, a few walks, a few conversations and very, very few opportunities to kiss or make out.
Talk about the daily grind.
I would not gripe so much if there had been a little ground for a more intimate grinding-one body against the other, if you take my meaning. But, of course, there was no such thing. Damn Éomer and his morals. I know I should not be bitching that way. His purpose was only to honour me. Only when I thought about those long, lonely months of fall and winter, I felt that I could do without so much honour.
Damn, why the hell was I crying like a child? I was still in Edoras right now. I should simply enjoy this evening.
And I would be back, after all.
As if to mock me, the morning of the first of September dawned bright and beautiful.
Apart from a few fluffy white clouds the sky was a deep, ultramarine blue, and the sun was warm and golden. The air was still and clear like glass. The white peaks of the Ered Nimrais stood out in sharp contrast to the blue of the sky. Every crag seemed to be visible, and from the hill of Meduseld you had the most amazing view of the wide rolling plains of the Mark. The grass on the plains of the Mark had dried to a dun golden colour that reminded me of Éomer's hair. The soft breeze that swept down from the mountains today moved the tall grasses in many flowing, rustling waves.
Although the birches and elder trees of Rohan were still green with summer, it was obvious that fall was close at hand. I recognized the crystalline quality of the day from holidays spent in the South of France eons ago. The atmosphere is only this clear and still on the brink of fall, on the very last days of summer, when the halcyon days have already slipped away.
I would be riding Mithril on my way back to Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth. Éowyn had made her a gift to me. She wanted to keep Brego, her cousin's horse, and a single rider can't exercise two Mearas. Nevertheless it was hard for her to let go of the horse she took from its mother right after birth, fed through many nights and days and trained through many years for riding and battle with much patience and love. She cried into Mithril's mane. I ignored her tear streaked face and embraced her. "I have never received such a precious gift, Éowyn. You know that I will take good care of her. She's my friend."
Éowyn dashed impatiently at her eyes. "I know. You need a Meara as the future queen of Rohan. And you'll never be able to get one for yourself. Brego should have been killed and buried with Theodred... A riderless Meara means misfortune..." She sighed. "So this is truly the best solution for Mithril and for Brego." She hugged me back. "And for you, too. Take care, sweostor min, my sister. And take care of brydguma min, of my fiancé." She insisted on introducing simple words of Rohirric to me on the sly. So far, I had no trouble understanding her. I was pretty sure it wouldn't stay like that.
"Take care yourself, and watch out for Éomer," I whispered into her ear.
"Of course I will, silly," she replied. "Keep up your sword practice and see that you learn Rohirric. I expect you to do well when you return here to take over from me."
"I will do my very best," I answered her. I had to keep swallowing because of my sentimental tear ducts. "I promise."
She let go of me and grinned grimly. "I shall expect exactly that. Your very, very best."
I gulped. If I didn't do my very best, Éowyn would want to know the reason why. If I needed a threat to push myself even harder, this was it. Gods, how I would miss Éowyn!
Éowyn would remain at Edoras until a few weeks before her wedding. It had been agreed that we would all meet at Minas Tirith in April. Éowyn would be married in May in Ithilien as this would be her home with Faramir. It was hoped that at least a part of Osgiliath could be rebuilt until then. Gimli had promised dwarvish help, and Legolas wanted to come and live in Ithilien with a company of Wood-elves from Mirkwood. They would help with replanting the gardens of the destroyed cities of Minas Tirith and Osgiliath.
Then it was Éomer's turn to bid me goodbye.
He kissed me on each cheek and drew me close against his chest. I inhaled the spicy, male scent that was all Éomer, and all love, mingled with desire. I could not say anything. I just sobbed like a child. He held me close until I calmed down.
Then he bent his head and murmured ever so softly, "Don't cry, lufian min, my love. It's only a couple of months. And they will be busy months for both of us. You will hardly notice the passage of time. After all, we will meet again at Éowyn's wedding, and that's already in nine months. And after that it's only a few months to our wedding, and then we will never be parted again."
"I know, I know," I replied, my voice muffled against his tunic of soft cream coloured leather. But I needed another couple of minutes until I regained enough of my composure to let go of him. Whenever had he become so important to me? Somehow it felt to me as if he was the very breath that kept me alive, as if he was the anchor that kept me afloat in a stormy sea, as if he was all in one person, in one loving heart what all of Middle-earth was to me: the home of my soul, meine Seelenheimat.
But in the end I did let go. I mounted Mithril and walked her to Míri's side, who was on her calm brown mare, Dorry. Imrahil was on his fierce, black stallion, patiently waiting for Éomer and me to finish our goodbyes.
Éomer mounted Hiswa. Frohwein was already on his horse, one of the rare half-blood Meara, a piebald stallion called magpie. Behind them an honour guard of noble riders, famous warriors and high ranking captains of the Rohirric cavalry waited on their pure white Mearas to escort us to the border of Rohan-nothing but the best for the King of Gondor and the betrothed of the King of Rohan.
At last Frohwein raised the great silver horn of Eorl to his lips and blew it lustily. Bright and glad sounded the call of the horn across the plains. I knew that signal by now. It signalled "get going" in times of peace.
Frohwein and Aragorn's herald rode at the front of the train, carrying the banners with the royal colours of Rohan and Gondor. Behind them followed the two kings, riding companionably side by side. Arwen and I rode behind them, and after us came Míri, Imrahil and Faramir, along with the other lords and ladies that had accompanied our journey to Edoras and had not yet returned home. At our sides the royal guards rode in two grim columns. The sunlight glittered brightly on shields, helmets and the silver mail of the warriors.
Our company was magnificent to behold. When the Rohirric guards started singing one of their marching songs, my heart finally lifted.
I would survive a few months away from Éomer. I had survived being kidnapped by orcs. How much worse could it be to be parted from Éomer for some months and learning sword fighting and Rohirric from Elrond's sons?
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.