1. Wind of Despair
I had been thinking about this story for quite some time, but Pippin's Lass' drabble request really provided the push for me to actually write it.
So I would like to say thank you to Pippin's Lass for the inspiration and Happy Birthday!
Also thanks so much to all who have reviewed so far, especially Raksha and Gwynnyd with their lengthy concrit that really helped give this story life.
Wind whipped across the plains of Rohan and through the grasses. Its wail echoed the sorrow in Éowyn’s heart. The seasons had turned and the chill of autumn had settled over the land. Everything was dying. Warmth, hope, safety…all had been snatched away just as the wind snatched the warmth from under her cloak.
She waited outside of the stable, shivering. It was so cold! Impatiently, she peered once more into the gloomy barn. King Théoden had disappeared into it ages ago. Bored, Éowyn turned and leaned against the wall to watch the people of Edoras as they hurried about their business. As always, nobody even looked at her. Éowyn sighed sadly. Nobody cared. Today was her seventh birthday, a day where everyone seemed to be happy – everyone but her. This was to be her first birthday without her parents; for her father had died in battle that summer. Then, soon after that, her dear mother took sick and followed him into his mound.
If they had still been alive, they would have celebrated her birthday as if it were the most important festival of the year. They had always made time for her. They had always cared. But her parents were gone forever, and here in Edoras she was alone.
Éowyn turned back to the stable. The king had been in the barn so long. Had he forgotten she was waiting?
He probably had. Why was she even standing here? Why not do something fun? A hint of a smile appeared on Éowyn's face, but it soon faded. Where would she go? Back to the Golden Hall where people shushed her? Into the town where people ignored her? Maybe standing out here in the chilling wind wasn't so bad after all. At least the wind didn't dismiss her.
She glanced down at the ground, kicking at the dirt for entertainment.
That morning, she was sitting by the hearth in the Golden Hall, huddled up for warmth, when King Théoden brought her a cloak and hurried her out the door, promising a surprise. The walk to the barn was not a long one, but to Éowyn the trip felt like endless torture. Everywhere she looked she saw strange buildings and strange people, and they reminded her of the cozy house and loving friends she had been forced to leave behind. This was not her home. How could it ever be?
Once they entered the stable yard, the king knelt down to her level and said, “Stay here. I need a moment to prepare your surprise.” He winked. “Do not worry, little one. I will not forget you.” Then, with a swish of his cloak, he entered the stable, leaving her to wait outside in the cold.
Surely by now, despite his promise, he had forgotten her. She was no one anymore. No one loved her, but Éomer, and he was always too busy with the men to bother with her. She knew it was easy to forget her. Most did now. Her uncle was the king, and she had been told more than once to keep silent and let the grown-ups speak.
There was a sudden rustling from inside the stable. Éowyn looked up expectantly as Théoden appeared out of the shadows of the barn.
“What were you doing back there, my lord?” she asked as he stepped forth into the daylight.
He smiled mischievously, and his eyes held a special twinkle that gave Éowyn a sudden rush of excitement.
“My dear niece, I have a very special gift for you,” he announced.
Éowyn’s gaze drifted behind him, deep into the barn, where she could distinguish a large shape, half hidden by the gloom. Théoden beckoned her forward, and Éowyn quickly followed him as he reentered the stable. He stopped just inside the door.
Éowyn gasped in joy as a stable hand led forth a horse. So this was the surprise! As she stood frozen in awe, the sun moved out from behind the clouds, sending a shaft of golden light through the stable doorway and onto the horse, revealing its features. Éowyn’s breath caught. Reaching out tentatively, she stroked the horse’s nose.
This was not just any horse. Ever since she had arrived here at Edoras, she had watched it run across the fields, swift and sure. She had thought it the most beautiful in all of Rohan, silvery grey with a mane that flowed like silk. And she would never forget the day when she felt that mane with her own hand...
Éowyn watched as the horse was reined in and taken back to the stables. What she wouldn't give to stroke that amazing creature just once. Drawing a deep breath, Éowyn gathered her courage and finally decided to visit the mare in her stall. She entered the stable and approached the horse cautiously. Deep down, she was frightened. The mare was so large, so tall, so powerful; Éowyn half expected the horse to rear and crush her. But the mare only stood there, eyeing her calmly. With trembling fingers, Éowyn reached out slowly, barely brushing the horse's gleaming coat. The horse did not react, except for a soft snort, and the fear inside Éowyn faded. Her confidence growing, she stroked the soft coat again, harder this time. The mare seemed to accept her touch without annoyance, so Éowyn continued to rub gently, as she had watched some of the men do. A giggle of delight escaped from her lips as she petted the horse’s nose – so velvety soft – and ran her hand through that silken mane. For the first time since she had been brought to this place called Edoras, she felt a tiny bit of happiness.
Thereafter, whenever she could escape the indifferent eyes of court, she would run to the stable and cry. The mare was always there, waiting. Sometimes she felt that the horse was the only being who ever had time for her. And when she stroked that beautiful creature, her sorrow always seemed a little bit farther away.
One day, as Éowyn fed the mare a treat, a stable hand walked past the stall, carrying a rake. He paused. “That horse is quite fond of you, little lady,” he said with a smile, “This beauty is one of the king’s favorites.”
“She belongs to the king?” Éowyn asked with a sinking heart.
“Yes, she does.” The stable hand gave the mare an affectionate pat. Then, shifting his hold on the rake, he walked away, humming a tuneless song.
After she was sure the stable hand was gone, Éowyn dropped the remaining carrot from her hand, leaned into the mare’s soft mane, and cried. Her one comfort was suddenly moved a little bit out of reach.
Could this horse now truly be hers?
“But my lord,” Éowyn exclaimed, “Mother always said I couldn’t have my own horse until I was older.” Even as she said this, she winced, reminded that her mother was no longer there.
Théoden slowly knelt down beside his niece, taking her small, fragile hand in his large one. “Éowyn, child, you have been forced to grow up much in this past year, and I have deemed you ready for the great responsibility involved in caring for your own horse. I, of course, will help you when you need me. I know you will take this seriously." His lips curved in a soft smile. "You love this mare very much, I hear."
Suddenly, the king's face became serious again. Éowyn knew that expression, and she waited, bracing herself. Like everyone else, he would now speak "words of comfort." Didn't they know that mere words could never make things right?
"I have given her the name Gemunung."
Éowyn lowered her eyes. Why couldn't he just leave her alone? Why did everyone have to keep digging up the past? She didn’t want to remember. It hurt! It hurt so horribly...
Théoden's gentle voice broke into her thoughts. “Éowyn, you must remember your father and mother, even though it causes you pain. Do not brush their memory aside. Embrace it. Live your life in honor of it. And you must also remember that I love you like my own. I will never let harm befall you, little one. From this day forward, you are my daughter.” Squeezing her hand in assurance, he turned his attention to the beautiful horse. “Do you like her?”
Éowyn did not answer his question. She simply stared at him, disbelieving. He understood. She felt tears slide down her cheeks. Not again! She had cried much lately – too much. But suddenly she realized these tears were different. It didn’t hurt inside. She felt almost…happy. Éowyn hesitated. She missed her father and mother so much. Would it be wrong to escape the horrible, aching loneliness she had felt since they left her?
Her uncle must have understood her dilemma for he waited patiently, and did not seem angry that she was crying. He was smiling down at her, hand outstretched. He seemed kind. Suddenly she knew that here before her was the warmth and safety she thought she had lost forever. At the end of all the sorrow, loneliness, and longing, there was hope...and love.
In the end, there was no decision to be made. Her parents would want her to be happy, and she would try to please them as best as she could. Éowyn flew forward, throwing herself into her uncle's arms, the tears coming harder.
Théoden caught her in his embrace, holding her tightly, and as she wept, he stroked her hair gently. “No more despair…” he whispered, his voice but a breath in her ear.
Éowyn clung to him a long while. She would not let go. She could not let go. Finally, for the first time since the deaths of those she loved most, she felt safe.
The sun’s rays shone down on them, caressing them gently, and as Éowyn lost herself in the warmth and comfort of her uncle’s arms, the roar of the wind outside seemed to slowly die away.
Gemunung = "Remembrance"
“No more despair.” is a quote from the Return of the King movie. I thought including it in this story made for an interesting tie in with the scene in the movie where it’s spoken.
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.