37. Chapter 37
Eomer reached Bree in the afternoon. He’d ridden his pony hard and Guthwine was dripping foam when they arrived at the wall surrounding the town. He dismounted just outside the gates to walk the pony in, letting him get a drink at the trough near the Prancing Pony.
He’d nearly turned around and went home a dozen times on his journey, but always he’d remind himself of the promise he’d made to Goldi. And he owed her that, because of what had happened last night. If being heartsick made him do things like that, then he needed to resolve this.
He led Guthwine up the road towards the mill. In the yard next to the river, he tied the pony to the post. Eomer could hear the sounds of hammering coming from inside the millhouse. He paused for a moment, considering what he was about to do, then took a deep breath and went in.
Mr. Underhill and Hugh were replacing the peg teeth of a gear. Moira stood next to them, her back to Eomer, holding a box of pegs.
Hugh looked up and saw him. “Eomer!” he cried, his hammer pausing in mid-swing.
Moira looked over her shoulder at him and dropped the box. She blushed and knelt down to pick up the pegs.
“Welcome, Mister Brandybuck,” said Mr. Underhill. He wiped his hands on a cloth tucked in his belt and came over to greet Eomer, grinning broadly? “So what brings you to Bree?” he asked cheerfully.
“I, um...” The words stuck in Eomer’s throat. He looked down at Moira, who had finished picking up the pegs and was now watching him, still kneeling on the flour-dusted floor. “I c-came to see Moira.”
Mr. Underhill put a friendly hand on his shoulder. “Moira, why don’t you take Eomer up to the house for tea?” he said. “We still have quite a bit to do here, so Hugh and I will be a little late.” He grinned again, looking quite pleased about something, then went back to his gears.
“Yes, Papa.” Moira stood and wiped her dusty hands on her trousers. “Come along then, Eomer,” she said. Eomer followed her out the door.
“Oh, your pony!” she exclaimed. Eomer cringed with shame. He’d pushed Guthwine to the point that the pony was now standing with head down, exhausted, and still damp from his run. “Take him up to the stable,” Moira scolded. “I’ll have the tea ready by the time you’re done.” She patted Guthwine’s nose, then hurried up to the house.
Eomer led Guthwine up to the stable and gave him a good rub-down. He could kick himself for riding him so hard, not just because poor Guthwine was tired but because Moira had chided him for it. Not exactly the best way of making a good impression on the lass you were about to admit your feelings to. He turned the pony loose with the Underhill’s ponies in the small paddock, then headed to the house.
Moira was just setting out the tea on the table. “You can wash up in the basin there,” she said, pointing towards the kitchen, then turned around to retrieve plates from the sideboard. Eomer did what he was told, not sure what to say at this point. He supposed they’d do the normal tea-time small talk first. Then maybe he could bring up his reason for being here.
Moira wasn’t going to let him off that easily. “So why is it so important to see me that you ran your pony into the ground to get here?” She didn’t meet his gaze, but busied herself with pouring and serving.
“I...um...” Eomer clenched his fists. He had to do this. Just say it, and then she could tell him ‘no’ and he could move on.
She set down the kettle and seated herself across from him, looking at him expectantly.
“I wanted to...” Just say it! “I wanted to tell you how I feel about you, that I really like you. So, um, I...well, I guess I just told you, so...” He looked down at his plate of cake and the words came out in a rush. “I understand if you’re not interested and if you say so I won’t bother you anymore about it.”
Moira was quiet for a moment, intent on stirring sugar into her tea. “Your brother said I’d have to give you a shove. I’m glad he was wrong. Well, mostly wrong. I think you still need a little push.” She looked up and smiled at him.
Eomer’s heart leapt in his chest. Did she just say what he thought she said? “What?”
“Eomer.” She shook her head, then got up and walked around to sit in the chair next to him. She laid a hand on his shoulder. “There’s nothing to worry about. I like you, too.” She leaned over and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. Then she stood up and went back to her chair. “Now, finish your tea and then you can ask my father if you can take me for a walk.”
“Your f-father?” He’d been so worried about talking to Moira that he’d forgotten about that, that he’d have to ask Ardal Underhill for permission to court his daughter. “Do you think he’ll mind me coming here so suddenly and asking...”
Moira cut him off with a laugh. “He probably did a celabratory jig as soon as we left the mill. He’s been so worried no lads would be interested in a girl with chopped hair and trousers. And he likes you, and your family, and I don’t think you’ll have anything to worry about if you’re wanting to court me.” She smiled a bit coyly and blushed again. “If that’s what you’re wanting.”
Eomer nodded. “I want that very much,” he said. The knot that had been sitting in his stomach all day left, but his heart was still pounding--only now it was from happiness. She liked him!
“Tell me, lad. Why are you interested in my daughter?”
Eomer squirmed under the serious gaze of Ardal Underhill. This hadn’t turned out as easy as Moira had thought it would be. After Ardal and Hugh came home for tea, Moira had a quick talk with her father, then Mr. Underhill had called Eomer into his study.
Eomer swallowed, fighting a dry mouth. “Well, sir, I, uh...I’ve just never met many girls like her. She’s smart and she’s sure of herself and...she’s very pretty, too.”
Mr. Underhill lit his pipe and took a few puffs. “Most lads don’t want an opinionated lass who’s going to argue with him and point out his faults. Are you sure you want to put up with a girl like her? Or are you planning on breaking her of it?”
Eomer gave a small laugh. “Well, you’ve met my sister and my step-mother. My mum was the same way. I’m very used to opinionated lasses.”
Mr. Underhill put down his pipe and smiled broadly. “Good lad.” He got up from his chair and shook Eomer’s hand. “It will be difficult, with you in the Shire and her here in Bree. But we’ll try to work something out.”
Eomer took a deep breath, suddenly overwhelmed. He hadn’t expected things to move so quickly, especially since he had expected to be rejected today.
Mr. Underhill showed him back out to the parlor, where Moira and Hugh were waiting. “Well, Moira,” Mr. Underhill said, “I’ve given permission for Mr. Brandybuck to court you.”
Moira clapped her hands over a squeal, then rushed over to hug her father. Hugh came to shake Eomer’s hand and offer his congratulations. Then Moira came over to him and she slipped her hand into his.
“This calls for a celebration!” Mr. Underhill turned to Hugh. “Fetch a bottle of wine from the cellar, lad.” Hugh went to get the wine and Mr. Underhill turned back to look at Eomer and Moira. He looked happy enough to burst.
“You’re not so nervous anymore.” Moira squeezed his hand. “I’m glad.”
Eomer smiled at her. They were out for a walk after dinner, on a path that ran down to the small river that powered the Underhill’s mill. “I suppose because I know how you feel now.” He sighed. “Sorry I was such an idiot.”
She laughed and slipped her arm through his, pressing closer to him, and it sent a thrill down his spine. “Well, that’s behind us now,” she said. She shrugged. “It was kind of nice, actually. I never thought I’d ever have a lad get all nervous over me.”
“I never thought I’d find a girl like you.” He glanced at her, and she was staring at him, lips slightly parted, and he suddenly wanted very much to kiss her, but he wasn’t sure if it was quite proper yet. They may be courting now, but he’d also only just started to really talk to her today. When he got home, he’d have to ask his dad when it would be proper.
They reached the bank of the river and sat down in the grass. They were on the wrong side of Bree Hill to watch the sunset, but the light from the setting sun behind them still painted the river in oranges and reds.
“I’m glad you came to see me,” Moira said softly. She looked at him invitingly and Eomer swallowed. He decided that he didn’t care what was proper anymore. He leaned in and kissed her.
It was a gentle kiss, nothing like the kiss he’d shared with Goldi last night. But it was sweeter, because he meant it. It wasn’t a kiss stolen because he was upset, but one given to a girl he was quite certain he was in love with.
When they broke apart, Moira was smiling, her blue eyes shining. “When are you leaving,” she asked, reaching out to take his hand again.
He sighed. “Tomorrow morning. I didn’t tell anyone but Goldi I was coming here. I just left early this morning.”
“Why only Goldi?”
Eomer blushed. He didn’t think this was a good time to bring up what had happened between him and Goldi. “Well... we kind of made a deal. I’d come talk to you today, if she would finally talk to Fari.”
Moira chuckled. “I hope it works out for her, too. You lads can be awful thick about it when a girl likes you.” She winked mischievously and Eomer grinned at her little jibe. How did he get so lucky to find a girl like Moira?
She sighed and rested her head on his shoulder. “I’ll miss you.”
He nodded and pressed his cheek into her hair. “I can come visit again soon--as long as it’s all right with your Dad, that is.” She snorted and he chuckled. “Yes, I suppose I don’t have to worry about that.” Mr. Underhill had not stopped smiling since he’d given his permission for the courtship. “And our dads are going to have to meet soon, to make this official, so it won’t be long until we see each other again.” That was easy to say now. He wondered if he’d feel the same on his way home tomorrow.
Eomer arrived back at Brandy Hall the following afternoon and went in search of his father. They had a lot to talk about. He couldn’t find his father or Éowyn, but he did find Theo, Fari, Rose and Goldi in the kitchen, polishing off a pie.
“You’re back!” Theo said. “How did it go?”
Eomer shrugged, trying to be relaxed about it, but he couldn’t keep the grin from his face. “Moira said it was about time I said something, and Mr. Underhill has given me permission to court her.” He got a pang in his chest, thinking about her. He’d started missing her the moment he left Bree’s gate.
“Oh, that’s wonderful, Eomer!” Rose jumped up from her chair and ran over to hug him.
“What did I tell you?” Theo said as he gave him a congratulatory hug. Eomer just shrugged sheepishly.
“Congratulations,” Fari said, giving him a light punch on the arm, and then Eomer was facing Goldi.
She looked much happier than yesterday. He gave her a questioning look and she slipped her hand into Fari’s. He smiled. “I guess it worked out for you, too?”
She nodded. They stared at each other, and Eomer wasn’t quite sure what to do, considering what had nearly happened between them. “Oh, go ahead and hug him,” Fari said, and he gave Goldi a push into Eomer’s arms. “I’ve got you to thank for getting us together after all, Eomer.”
Eomer winced. Had Goldi told him what happened? He let her go and she stepped back next to Fari.
“I don’t even mind if you kiss her again,” Fari continued. Then he grinned and shook a finger at Eomer. “But only on the cheek. No more kissing her with your to--”
“Shut up, Fari,” Goldi said and she kissed him, keeping his mouth occupied for a while.
Theo smiled at the couple and sighed. “It’s so nice finally having someone who can shut Fari up.”
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.