115. Chapter 114 - May 1444
Ivy leaned against the rail of the bridge, nervously tapping her foot. Her mother was supposed to be here any time now. A message had come from Bree that morning to let them know she was arriving. She pushed away from the rail, paced along the length of the bridge, then went back to her spot, tapping her foot again.
“You’re starting to take on some of Pippin’s less endearing characteristics,” her father said.
She looked up at him, confused. “What?””
He chuckled. “I don’t think you’ve stopped moving the entire time we’ve been here.”
She stopped her tapping foot. “Sorry,” she said. A few moments later, her foot was tapping again.
They heard the approaching horses just as the first rider crested the hill at the edge of the forest. Ivy grabbed her father’s hand. Éowyn was finally here.
While her father greeted the Rohirrim escort, shaking hands with her cousin Elfwine, Ivy rushed to the woman riding with them. Éowyn dismounted and swept her daughter into an embrace.
Éowyn pulled back to look at her. Ivy was surprised at how old her mother looked. Her face had lines at her eyes and her hair had silver streaks. “Oh, Ivy, I’ve missed you!” She looked Ivy up and down. “You look wonderful! You’d never know you’ve had four babies!”
Ivy laughed. “It must be the exercise I get running around after them!”
Éowyn hugged her again. “I can’t wait to see them.”
Ivy pulled back from her mother and looked around. The Riders were dismounting now and gathering their supplies to set up camp next to the river. She didn’t see her sister in the mix of horses and men. “Where’s Wyn?”
The smile on Éowyn’s face faltered. “She... She didn’t want to come.” Éowyn took Ivy’s hand. “It’s nothing to do with you. It’s...” Éowyn sighed. “We had a bit of an argument. She wanted to stay in Gondor.” She shook her head. “We can talk about it later.”
Ivy nodded, but she wondered what could have happened to make her sister argue with their mother, to the point that Wyn didn’t want to come to the Shire.
Éowyn looked up and the smile came back to her face. “Merry.”
Ivy turned. Her father had come up behind her. “Éowyn.” He reached out to her, and Éowyn bent to embrace him. They clung to each other and Ivy had to swallow a lump in her throat. They had both suffered so much pain.
She stepped away, to give her parents some privacy, and went to greet her cousin Elfwine. “How are you?” she asked, hugging him around the waist. He had changed a lot from the boy she had once been able to tackle during games of tag. She smiled up at him. “Last I heard, you were about to become a father.”
He grinned. “I have a son, born in August. Éomund.”
“That’s wonderful,” Ivy said. “And how is Leofwine?”
“Good. She enjoys being a mother.” He chuckled. “Though she is convinced my father is spoiling the boy.”
Ivy laughed. She could just imagine her uncle being a doting grandfather. Under his gruff exterior, Éomer King had a soft spot for children.
“It is easy to spoil grandchildren,” Éowyn said, coming up to stand next to Ivy. “And I have some of my own I need to go meet.”
“Will you be staying long,” Ivy’s father asked Elfwine.
Her cousin shook his head. “I am sorry to say we must be heading back in the morning.”
“You’ll stay with us for the night, at least?” Ivy asked.
“Of course.” He smiled, then nodded to Ivy’s father. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to speak to the men before I go. We’ll need to be ready to leave quite early.” He turned away towards the camp that was rapidly taken shape.
“They are needed at home,” Éowyn said sadly. “Many of the Riders are in Gondor...” She shook her head and smiled. “Enough sadness. I want to go see my grandchildren!”
They arrived in the yard in front of Brandy Hall’s stable, and Elfwine helped his aunt from her horse. He looked around at the Hall and stable, then leaned over to Ivy. “It’s...smaller than I remember,” he said.
Ivy grinned up at him. “You were only thirteen when you were here for my wedding. You’ve grown a bit since then.”
He smiled back and Ivy saw him glance at the stableboys who were gaping up at the horses. “I should help with the horses,” he said with a wink.
Shrill voices preceded the rush of children from the garden. Pippin followed them, carrying Éoleof. They came to Ivy first and she hugged them. “We missed you,” Willow said quite seriously. Ivy had to bite back her giggle--they’d only been gone for a few hours at most.
Éowyn came and kneeled down next to her. Ivy smiled at her mother, then turned to her children. “This is my mother, your grandmother,” Ivy said. All three of them stared at Éowyn with wide eyes. They’d never seen one of the Big Folk before.
“They’re beautiful, Ivy” Éowyn whispered. She smiled at the children. “I’m so happy to see you,” she said to them.
They just continued to stare at her in amazement. Then Bori wrinkled his nose. “You’re huge,” he said.
Éowyn laughed. “That’s the first thing you said to me, Ivy.”
“It wasn’t?” Ivy exclaimed. She only had vague memories of her first visit to see her mother. She couldn’t believe she’d said that.
“I’m afraid it was,” her dad said. “Didn’t I tell you it’s from Pippin?” he said to Éowyn. He patted Bori’s head. “Why don’t you give your gran a hug?”
Bori stepped forward--with only the slightest hesitation--in front of Éowyn. She hugged him. “You are such a big boy, Boromir!” she said to him. Bori looked quite pleased at that.
Willow stepped up next into her grandmother’s arms. Éowyn kissed her granddaughter and fingered her reddish-brown curls. “You’re such a pretty girl, Willow,” she said. Willow smiled at the praise.
Not to be outdone by his brother and sister, Ari stepped forward, pushing his way in front of Willow. “Me next!”
“Ari, be nice,” Ivy warned. He just looked up at her with that exasperating “innocent” look he’d inherited from his father, then looked back towards his grandmother, but something else caught his eye. “Horses,” he whispered, his eyes getting big. He pointed at his the horses in the yard. “Can I ride a horse?” His grandfather just managed to catch him by the collar before he could to the animal.
“He’s our little Rohirrim,” her dad said and scooped up Ari into his arms.
“Can I see the horse, Granddad?” Ari pleaded.
Éowyn chuckled. “I can get my hug, later,” she said. “Horses are much more interesting than grandmothers.”
Ivy watched her dad carry Ari towards the horses. Elfwine came around the horses and Ari’s eyes got even bigger. “A Rider! Granddad! A Rider!”
“This is your cousin,” his grandfather said. “Elfwine.”
Elfwine bowed and greeted his small cousin in Rohirric. Ari gaped at him in awe.
Ivy exchanged smiles with her mother. “I think Elfwine will have a shadow during his stay.”
Éowyn stood up and Pippin handed her Éoleof.
“Hello, Pippin,” Éowyn said, bending over to kiss his cheek. Then she kissed the tiny girl in her arms. “Hello, Éoleof.” She looked the baby over, touching golden curls, then smiled at Ivy and Pippin. “She’s lovely.”
“She looks exactly like Ivy as a baby,” Pippin said.
Éowyn looked at the baby again and tears came to her eyes. “I’m so glad,” she said to Ivy. “I finally get to see what you looked like.”
“She didn’t want me to leave,” Éowyn said, her eyes on her hands in her lap. “And we argued about it.”
Ivy chewed her lip thoughtfully and studied her mother. The children were in bed, and Elfwine had also retired early. So now they had time to themselves, to sit together on the bed in Éowyn’s guest room and catch up. And the first thing Ivy asked about was what had happened with her sister.
“Why wouldn’t she want you to come visit us?” Ivy asked. She was hurt that Wyn wouldn’t want their mother to come to the Shire. She hadn’t seen her mother in years.
“It’s...complicated,” Éowyn said. “She..” She sighed. “She’s thinks I’m abandoning my family and that I’m not honoring her father’s memory.”
“I’m your family, too!” Ivy exclaimed angrily.
“She didn’t mean it like that, Ivy,” Éowyn said, keeping her voice calm. “It’s just... She’s had a hard time, losing her father.”
Ivy nodded. She supposed she could understand that.
“She’s fourteen, so I wasn’t going to make her come with me. She has to decide things for herself.”
Ivy thought there was more, something her mother wasn’t telling her. That hurt a little, too. But she couldn’t expect Éowyn to share all her secrets with her.
Éowyn took her hand. “I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve seen you,” she said. “Not since your wedding.” She smiled. “Is being married to Pippin everything you hoped for?”
Ivy couldn’t help the broad smile. “Yes. I couldn’t imagine being without him.”
“I’m glad, Ivy,” Éowyn said, patting her hand. “It’s a wonderful thing to find someone you truly love. I treasure every day I had with Faramir. Just remember to do the same while you still have each other.”
Ivy nodded. She did treasure every day with Pippin, especially after her parents had gone through their losses.
“How is your father doing?” Éowyn asked.
“He’s good,” Ivy said. “It was hard on him at first, after Estella died. It took a while, but I think he’s moving on.”
Her mother’s eyebrows shot up. “Has he found someone else?”
“No.” Ivy chuckled. “Not that he hasn’t had every eligible girl in the Shire offered to him.” She shrugged. “He’s not at all interested, though. He--” Ivy looked up and noticed the look on Éowyn’s face. Relief? The pieces suddenly fell into place. “Oh!” she gasped.
“What?” Éowyn asked.
“Is that why Wyn is angry with you?” Ivy asked, trying very hard to suppress a smile that wanted to spread across her face. “Because of Dad?”
Éowyn shook her head. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said, but the slight blush on her face told Ivy that her mother knew very well what was meant.
Ivy patted her mother’s knee. “You probably won’t get any resistance. He feels the same way about you.” She was satisfied to see Éowyn’s blush deepen.
“Ivy, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Ivy stood up. “Well, it’s getting late. I’d better go get Pippin. It’s past his bedtime. But I’m sure Dad will be up for a while.” She winked at her mother and and left.
Merry looked up from his writing. “Éowyn! I thought you’d be asleep after your long journey today. I was hoping Ivy wasn’t keeping you up talking. She came by not too long ago and seemed in a hurry to get Pippin off to bed.” He wrinkled his nose. “I try not to think about that too much.”
Éowyn grinned at him. “Come now, Merry. Our grandchildren have to come from somewhere!”
“I know,” he sighed. “Estella always told me the same thing. But it’s still difficult to think about my daughter doing that. With Pippin.”
Éowyn laughed. Merry stood up and wiped the ink from his fingers. “Would you like something to drink?”
“No, thank you,” said Éowyn. She sat in a chair in front of the cold fireplace. Merry sat in the chair next to her. He took her hand and it was so warm in her own.
“How are you?” he asked.
She looked in his eyes. “It’s been hard,” she said, “I still miss him terribly.”
Merry nodded. “It isn’t easy. You feel like you’ll never stop hurting, then one day you realize you haven’t thought about her in days.” He sighed. “Other days I’ll miss her so much it hurts. I’ll go find Eomer, to remind myself of her eyes.”
Éowyn saw the glint of tears in his eyes and squeezed his hand. “ I know. Elboron looks just like his father. It hurt for a while. I’d see him coming into the room and think it was Faramir.” She brushed her own tears away. It felt good, having Merry to confide in. Merry understood everything she was going through. He’d always understood her, when others didn’t. It was one of the reasons she wanted to come here. “I realized I don’t really like Ithilien,” she confessed. “I tolerated it for him. After he was gone, I just wanted to get out. I felt like the trees were closing in on me. I needed to get back to open fields.” She rubbed Merry’s hand with her thumb. “I’m not going back. When I leave here, I’m going back to Rohan.”
“You know you’re welcome to stay here as long as you like.”
Éowyn looked up at him. She thought about what Ivy had said and she saw it then, in his eyes. She looked down at their entwined fingers, remembering a moment long ago when they sat together in a garden in Minas Tirith and she broke his heart. “I’ve often wondered what would have happened if things had been different.” she said, her voice just above a whisper. “If I hadn’t met Faramir.” She looked at him. He obviously hadn’t been expecting her to say that. “I fell in love with you both, Merry, but I chose the easier path. Can you forgive me?”
“Éowyn.” He lifted her hand to his lips, kissing it. “There is nothing to forgive. We had so many wonderful years with Estella and Faramir and I don’t think either of us would want to change that.” He sighed. “But I do admit to wondering the same thing.”
Their eyes met and on impulse she leaned in to kiss him. Merry met her halfway. He still tasted of pipeweed.
They pulled back to look at each other. Merry looked as surprised as she felt. She didn’t know what to do next, didn’t know what this might mean. She had feelings for him, yes, and she did wonder if something could grow between them if given the chance, but she hadn’t been expecting this so quickly. She averted her eyes back to their still-joined hands. “Merry, I...” She sighed.
“I know,” he said.
She looked back up at him, at his gentle, understanding smile. She smiled back. “I think I should get some sleep,” she said. “I’m tired from my journey and I fear it has made me impulsive.” She winked at him.
Merry chuckled and lifted her hand to kiss it again. “Good-night, Éowyn.”
She turned her hand within his grasp to touch his cheek. “Good-night, Merry.” She stood and left the study to make her way to her guest room.
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.