2. Under Attack
On the other hand, the lady herself seemed to notice her husband’s persistent stares and, even though there were times she didn’t bother to do anything about it, most of the time she glared back at him with a slight frown of irritation. The only comforting thought was that they hadn’t reached a quarrel for the time being.
The more Beregond pondered on this situation, the more he had to admit that Faramir had more than enough reasons to feel concerned. Ever since his friend told him about the lady’s condition he watched her at all times too, and even now he could clearly see how weakly the fair woman held on to the reins and how pale her face had become – more than it usually was anyway. On the other hand, knowing Éowyn and what was the matter with her enabled him to see that there was no need for such an alarm, and moreover, he could understand what thoughts – and fears – were causing such behaviour on her part. This was why he decided that he should talk to her alone for a while as soon as chance appeared.
It was then that Faramir’s voice calling him startled him out of his musings. He motioned his horse next to his friend’s to see what he wanted.
“You were falling behind,” said the prince. “Though you were too lost in your own thoughts to realise that. What is on your mind?”
Beregond was just about to answer when something made him ride fast to Éowyn’s side. Indeed the woman had started swaying dangerously on her horse and it was only by the captain’s quick reaction that she ended up in his arms instead of the ground. But Faramir didn’t remain idle either. He quickly followed closely behind Beregond, stopped her horse and helped his companion lower her down.
The sight was so sudden that the rest of the soldiers immediately gathered around to see what happened, but Beregond ordered them to stand back and let the lady have some breathing space. As for the prince, he was kneeling now by Éowyn and was trying his best to help her out of her swoon, holding her hand in his own and speaking to her gently.
Finally, Éowyn came around and she quickly realised that she wasn’t on her horse anymore.
“What happened?” she whispered, trying to push herself into sitting position.
However, Faramir made her lie down once more.
“You fainted,” he said. “I am afraid all these hours of riding tired you out. We have to rest.”
Éowyn wouldn’t have it though.
“That will not be necessary. I am all right now,” she said in reassurance.
“Perhaps,” replied Faramir, “but I would rather be certain of it. Anyway, we all need to stop for a while. Arriving at Ithilien a few hours later will not make a difference.”
“Because of a passing weakness?” asked the lady with a discernible edge in her tone. But her husband quickly leant close to her and spoke quietly next to her ear.
“We both know that this is not a passing weakness. And you may not wish to tell me what ails you so I can help you, but I am not going to sit back and watch you abuse yourself either. We will rest.”
Éowyn looked at Faramir and she realised by the firm stare in his eyes that any more arguments would be in vain. With a light huff she stood up and started unpacking her horse without saying a single word, while the rest of the riders started unpacking their own things as well.
Faramir sighed, understanding only too clearly that he had angered her, a thing quite unfair in his opinion: he was only meaning well when he suggested the rest. He rose to his feet, his eyes meeting Beregond’s, and he shook his head in a gesture of defeat. But the captain still sounded as encouraging as ever.
“Be patient, my friend. You said it yourself that she’s not herself lately.”
“I do not think I can be patient much longer,” replied Faramir bitterly. “Why will she not tell me what is wrong with her? I am her husband! Who else is she supposed to talk to if not me?”
“She will tell you eventually, you must give her some more time though. You think this thing doesn’t trouble her also?”
“I suppose you are right,” sighed the prince and then looked curiously at Beregond. “Did this ever happen to your own wife? You seem quite calm concerning Éowyn’s situation.”
“Actually it did. A few months before Bergil was born,” answered the loyal friend with a tinge of meaning. But Faramir simply nodded his head absent-mindedly and then turned to unpack too.
“Have some men to stand guard. You can never be too careful in these parts,” he said, thus ending their conversation.
Beregond obeyed, and as soon as he sent each man to his errand he went to his own horse. It was then that he heard the Rohirrim captain, Éothain, speaking in a soothing manner to his steed, which seemed nervous by the way it flattened its ears backwards. When the Gondorian looked at his horse too, he saw to his surprise that it was just as apprehensive.
“The horses sense something,” he said to the fellow warrior.
“They do indeed, Master Beregond. And nothing all that friendly it would seem,” replied Éothain.
Beregond nodded his acknowledgement and replaced his belongings back on his horse.
“Gather your men, I will inform Lord Faramir. I’m afraid the rest will have to be put off.”
At that moment a blood-chilling howl filled the air, and both captains clearly heard one of the scouts shout “Wargs!” just before his cries were replaced by shrieks.
Beregond understood perfectly well what happened, yet there was nothing he could do but raise the alarm. “To arms! To arms!” he shouted, mounting swiftly his horse and unsheathing his sword instantly.
In a heartbeat, all the Rohirrim had mounted their own horses, soon to be followed by Faramir, Éowyn and the Gondorian knights.
“Did you see any of them just yet?” the lady asked the Rohirrim captain, her eyes darting in every direction and her sword in hand.
“No, my lady,” answered Éothain, “but they can’t be too far away.”
Faramir heard the report and acted quickly. He had barely enough time to order the men into defensive formation when the Wargs charged with many a growl. It was then that everybody saw to their horror that the flesh-hungry monsters weren’t rider-less as they were led to believe.
Nobody ever found out how these Orcs managed to escape the vigilance of the Rohirrim. Nevertheless they had, and they had slowly formed an adequate force to hunt down and attack any unfortunate traveller who happened to cross their path. Stalking and surprising their prey was their most successful tactic and they made sure that they left no man alive. In fact, the only piece of evidence that they left behind was the bodies of the animals and the men maimed by the Wargs’ jaws, which naturally gave the Orcs a sense of security from being discovered and made them bolder in each attack. And when they noticed a troop of tarks (that’s what they called Men in their foul language) only a couple of hours before, tired from riding and moreover protecting what seemed to their eyes a sickly woman, they decided that that was too good an opportunity to pass by.
Unfortunately for them, this time the attack didn’t work as well as they had planned. For one thing, one of their steeds, overcome by its thirst for blood, attacked too early despite its rider’s efforts to control it: Wargs were always difficult to handle. And also, as they came closer to the Men at full speed, they discovered that their would-be victims weren’t ordinary travellers, but warriors, armed to the teeth. The fight would prove more difficult than they had thought.
And so it was indeed. Every man fought back his assailants one after another, the Rohirrim using their spears and shields, while the Gondorians used their swords. Even Éowyn joined the fight, wielding her own sword alongside her husband and encouraging everyone with her battle cries.
Despite all their valour though, the men could not ward off their enemies easily. Soon they were separated into two groups, killing and slashing desperately with their weapons at every Warg or Orc that their eyes were set upon. To make matters worse, they were getting tired, unlike their foes that kept attacking with the same vigour and fierceness, tearing the brave men to pieces.
Beregond plunged his sword into the mouth of another Warg that dared to challenge him and looked around, wishing to see who was near him. His eyes quickly found Lady Éowyn’s form only a few feet away and he noticed with dismay that she had grown too tired to defend herself successfully much longer.
“Faramir!!!” cried the soldier at the top of his lungs.
Faramir turned and, seeing also the plight his wife, he rode with Beregond at the woman’s aid. The captain thrust his sword into the monstrous steed’s neck and the prince swiftly reared his horse so it would kick the Orc with its powerful hooves and slay him. With that done, he moved to his wife’s side.
“Are you hurt, Éowyn?” he asked worriedly.
“No,” she replied quickly. “Do not worry about me, just keep fighting.”
But Faramir clearly saw how weakly her hands held on to her sword and how heavily she breathed. He cast a brief glance at Beregond, who simply nodded his agreement. Éowyn couldn’t fight anymore without risking any injury. The prince quickly reached his decision and then turned to his friend.
“Beregond, cenich i dhaur?”* he asked in the Elven tongue, motioning with his head to his right.
The captain looked at that direction and clearly saw the woods. He nodded, suspecting what his friend was about to say next.
“Mabo hen a drego ennas,”** commanded the prince.
Beregond shook his head. “Faramir…” he started.
“Caro man pedon! Govadatham athra-taur.”***
The faithful man sighed in defeat, saying in a quiet tone: “Be iest lin.”****
Meanwhile, the fair woman looked back and forth at them and the forest, trying to figure out what they were saying. It was then that Beregond reached for her horse’s reins.
“No!” she exclaimed angrily and she swiftly rode after Faramir, who was now charging once more against the enemy.
Surprisingly enough, Beregond didn’t follow her, but only cried a single word, meant for the lady’s horse:
The horse neighed and immediately turned back obediently. Such was the Lady’s surprise at this that she let Beregond take the reins and lead her to the edge of the forest, far from the battle. However, when the man dismounted and was about to help her down, she also dismounted quickly and slapped him with all the force of her anger and frustration.
“How could you do this?” she cried with rage.
“I only followed my lord’s orders,” said the captain passively.
“And I am your lord’s wife! All the more reason for me to be by his side in the face of danger!”
“No, my lady. All the more reason for you to be protected.”
Éowyn shook her head in disbelief and started running at the direction of the battle, but Beregond swiftly grabbed her and held her firmly against him.
“No, my lady! We must obey!”
Éowyn, however, still tried to wrench herself free, shouting at him to release her.
“They will kill him! I have to go!”
“They will not,” Beregond assured her once more in the calmest of tones. “It will take more than Wargs to kill Faramir. Trust me, my Lady. I know.”
Only then did Éowyn finally stop struggling. Beregond let her go cautiously, fearing that she might try to flee again.
However, she did nothing of the sort. She simply turned to the man, her face admitting her defeat.
“So what do you propose?” she asked.
“Meet him on the other side,” answered Beregond. “That is where he said he would be.”
“But how are we to find him? The forest is vast and it ends in more than one places!”
The captain didn’t answer immediately, but looked at his surroundings, obviously trying to get a sense of direction and his mind figuring the best route to take.
“We will go south-east, the direction Ithilien lies. It will be easier from there to ride on home, once we meet again with Faramir.”
“Will he know?” Éowyn asked.
“Yes,” answered the man confidently, a slight smile appearing on his lips. “He knows me.”
Each of them took the reins of their own horse and they started walking deeper into the forest. Before they went any further, Beregond turned his head carefully so Lady Éowyn wouldn’t notice him, and cast a worried look at the direction of the battle, wishing with all his heart and soul that his assurances to the woman would prove true. Soon enough, the shadows of the woods swallowed them out of the sight of all friendly and unfriendly eyes alike.
*Beregond, cenich i dhaur? = Beregond, do you see the forest? (Sindarin)
**Mabo hen a drego ennas = Take her and flee there (Sindarin)
***Caro man pedon! Govadatham athra-taur. = Do what I say! We will meet across the forest. (Sindarin)
****Be iest lin. = As you wish (Sindarin)
*****Tolo! = Come! (Sindarin).
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.