2. The Crown
An air of expectancy abounded in the camp, even though the sun had not yet topped the Ered Nimrais. The light meal was hurriedly eaten amidst a final flurry of polishing and preparation. Gandalf stalked around inspecting the main players in the event, most of whom were accepting his interference with good grace. Éomer tried to keep out of the general furore. He had been up earlier than anybody else, and had been washed and dressed well before his esquire had come to help him don his armour. After all the hanging around he was now impatient to get the whole thing over with. Not fond of pageantry and all that went with it, he really just wanted to see his sister. He also, he admitted to himself, wanted to take a good look at Faramir. He knew he should be pleased for Éowyn, and he was pleased. He only wanted to make sure she really knew her own heart this time and was not seeking for some kind of escape. He felt sure that once he saw them together he would be able to tell if there relationship would work. He knew his sister well.
The first of the sun’s rays hit the camp as he finished his food and handed plate and cup to one of the Gondorian servants. Looking around he saw his esquire leading Firefoot toward him, the huge grey letting out a soft wicker of greeting as he spied his master.
“They are all starting to line up, Lord,” the young man advised him.
“I am ready, Haldrad,” Éomer nodded towards Firefoot, “did he give you any trouble?”
“No, Sire. He is getting used to me. He seemed quite pleased to see me this morning.”
Éomer sighed as he took the reins from Haldrad and ran his hand down his horse’s strong neck. Something else he had to get used to: not always being able to totally look after his own steed.
He mounted up and trotted over to join Aragorn and Imrahil. The three of them were riding at the front of the host with Gandalf and the four hobbits, who for the first time were looking a little overawed. The Dúnedain were forming a guard. Éomer swept his eyes over the bunch of tall, dour, grey-clad men, imagining what this day must mean to them after years of lurking in the shadows and ranging the wildernesses of Middle-earth. He glanced at Aragorn, starting, as he realised that the former ranger looked very different than he had the night before. Much more serious and, Éomer appreciated, very regal. It could be the imposing outfit he wore. Black, silver and white, tended to look quite majestic, he decided, or maybe he had just not noticed Aragorn’s rather kingly countenance until now. Suddenly his friend grinned at him and the effect was spoilt, he just looked like Aragorn dressed up.
They waited until everyone had lined up behind them and then Gandalf gave the signal to move forward. Minas Tirith emerged out of shadow to face the new day. A very different day. The early sun sparked on the white stone, later it would become glaring. Éomer could already see the crowds of people that were flanking the wide area outside the City walls. He could make out some sort of barrier across the gateway and a few figures standing in front of it, but as yet they were too far away to make out their identities, although he guessed one must be Faramir.
As they got nearer he realised one was indeed Faramir. He stood tall and stately. His long black hair moved with the wind, but he himself remained immobile waiting for his new King to approach him and ask for entrance to the City. Éomer cast his eyes to the right seeking out Éowyn. He saw Elfhelm first, the tall blond Marshall easy to pick out amongst the dark Gondorian nobles. Éowyn was not next to him, as he thought she would be, for between them stood another young woman. One with black hair. Éomer passed his eyes over her seeking out his sister, who, when he focused on her, was not looking at him at all but had her eyes fixed on Faramir. So much for missing her beloved brother, he thought ruefully. As the thought entered his head however Éowyn withdrew her gaze from the Steward and sought him out. Although she was still a distance away he could tell she had spotted him and she turned to her dark haired companion and made some remark. The girl looked in his direction and presumably replied to Éowyn. Éomer wondered who she was and kept his eyes on her as they rode closer. The wind was getting fresher and she had trouble keeping her long hair out of her eyes. He watched unashamedly as with unconscious grace she took what looked to be a ribbon from her pocket and reached up with both hands to smooth her hair backward and tie it behind her. The action caused her breasts to lift delightfully, and Éomer immediately felt his male interest stir. There was something very attractive and elegant about her. Then he chided himself, he had not even entered the city and here he was ogling an unidentified young woman. Worse still, from her prominent position between his sister and Elfhelm, she was no doubt a young noblewoman, the sort he definitely had not better ogle.
It was not as if he really needed a woman, there had been plenty of them at Cormallen. They had been attracted there like wasps to jam. But whatever fancy names they called themselves in Gondor, a whore was a whore and he had never found them very satisfying. He liked to talk, as well as make love to his bed partners.
He glanced back towards the unknown girl, it would not hurt to look and enjoy. She seemed to be searching the rows behind him. All of a sudden a radiant expression lit up her face and she waved excitedly to whoever she had spotted. Éomer turned around, not being able to resist seeing the object of her interest and was in time to witness a big grin covering Amrothos’s handsome features and the end movements of an enthusiastic wave. Of course, that is who she would be, Amrothos’s intended. He couldn’t remember her name, except it had something to do with a goddess. He felt a shaft of disappointment which he immediately recognised as stupid seeing that he knew nothing about her; apart from having been told that she was the daughter of Adian one of Imrahil’s most experienced and senior knights who Éomer had become quite friendly with. He sighed; if she was promised to the young Prince of Dol Amroth then he would not be learning much else. He turned his gaze away to concentrate on the proceedings and pushed her from his mind.
Undeniably a magnificent spectacle: the clear blue sky and the climbing sun making the various colours of the uniforms and the many different standards even more striking. Something about the colours struck a cord in him and he realised that he would be home just in time to see another spectacle as the green fields of the Mark were transformed into a carpet of blue when the masses of cornflowers made their welcome appearance. A wave of homesickness hit him hard and for a moment he let his mind drift back to the few days before they had left. He had departed in haste. They had done the job they had come for and then lingered here while body and soul mended. Now he was in haste to return. But first he had to see this through. He had to witness Aragorn crowned and claim the throne of Gondor. After all, that was the point of it all. He looked across to the man whom he now loved above all other men. Béma, was it really Gandalf’s idea to dress him in a white cloak? Éomer hid his mirth behind his gauntleted hand – a ranger in a pure white cloak – it must be a sign of change. It would not be the only change; change had come fast and without mercy for him. The Lord of the Mark looked down at his own cloak, the intricate bright gold and red embroidery caught the sun and the jewelled clasp winked at him. You are a King, it said. He grinned to himself, he knew why Elfhelm had arranged for a Rider to travel four hundred miles and back again to collect a cloak: so that the Riddermark would not be disgraced amongst all this splendour. White cloaks indeed. Once again he tried to concentrate on the ceremony.
Aragorn dismounted and approached the barrier to be met by the Steward of Gondor, Faramir. Éomer nodded to himself, pleased to see that Faramir looked his King straight in the eye, and to Éomer’s mind, showed nothing but pleasure that he was about to lose his authority. He spoke his part clearly and with conviction and appeared genuinely astounded when Aragorn gave him back his rod of office and proclaimed that his position would remain.
Éomer hid his smirk whilst listening to the long list of titles bestowed on the former ranger and watched with interest as the ornate crown was brought forward. It did not surprise him that Aragorn asked for Gandalf to place it on his head or that Frodo was given the honour of carrying it. Without either of them none of this would be happening.
‘Behold the King’
It was done. Gondor had a King again. King Elessar mounted his horse and rode toward the barrier guards flung aside to allow him entry to his city. Éomer followed him through the hordes of people that were now crowding forward to get a better view of their new monarch. His eyes searched out Éowyn and he found her only yards away from him, he grinned at her and then his gaze fell on her dark-haired companion. The young woman looked at him openly with a friendly smile. Éomer caught his breath as he realised quite how lovely she was. He noticed that she had sparkling clear grey eyes just before she bowed her head slightly to him.
He came to a halt once having reached the main square just inside the city gates and looked around for Éowyn and Elfhelm, just in time to see Amrothos ride through the gateway and immediately sweep the dark haired girl up onto his horse and give her a resounding hug. He dismissed the faint twinge of envy he felt as ridiculous and decided that the Prince’s understandable behaviour would be overlooked, even in Gondor, on a day such as today. Suddenly he felt a tug on his leg. He looked down into the laughing eyes of his sister.
“You’re back then? I don’t know what took you so long, seeing off a few Orcs.”
Éomer wanted to hug her. He had thought he would never hear that voice again, “If I have any cheek from you, I’ll let you walk all the way back up to the Citadel.”
Éowyn took no notice and reached up to be hauled on top of Firefoot.
“Elfhelm!” Éomer dropped the reins, ordered Firefoot to stand, held on to Éowyn with one arm and clasped the Marshall’s arm with the other. “Is all well?”
“Better now that you are back, my Lord,” the Marshall answered with a grin. Elfhelm looked around. “We had best move out of the way, everyone is trying to crowd in here.”
The square was filling up with relatives and friends eager to meet the returning army.
“Well, you will have to walk,” Éomer laughed.
“I am sure I will be able to keep up,” Elfhelm indicated to Aragorn and Faramir who had only got a little way up the first street. The whole road was lined with people and filled with flowers, making progress very difficult. They had not gone very far before Éomer realised that a great many Rohirrim were interspersed between the Gondorian crowd and most were calling out greetings to him and Éowyn. Also that Éowyn was very popular and greatly admired by the citizens of Minas Tirith after her bravery on the battlefield. He briefly wondered if they would be pleased if she did end up marrying their beloved Steward. He then speculated on if she would bring the subject up herself but found he could not resist giving her a helping hand.
“Faramir did well in the ceremony.”
“Yes,” she replied. “He has also been very helpful to us in dealing with all the Rohirrim in the City.” She looked towards Elfhelm for confirmation.
“We have worked well together,” the Marshall agreed. “He is a good man.”
Éomer put his features into neutral. “I understand that the two of you kept each other company whilst convalescing, Éowyn?”
Éowyn swivelled around, probably to read his expression. He gave nothing away. “We did spend some time together, yes. In fact,” she went on, “I thought you might like to get to know him better so I have arranged for us to go riding in the morning. In the hills above the City. You will enjoy it.”
Éomer managed to keep a straight face until she turned around again. But then he caught the glint in Elfhelm’s eye and he winked at the Marshall. “I am sure I shall,” he whispered softly in his sister’s ear.
There was not much opportunity to talk on the way up through the City as crowd of well-wishers were running up the various shortcuts and appearing again on the higher levels. Eventually though, they reached the relative peace of the stables. Éomer wanted to see Firefoot settled himself, although most of the others had handed their mounts to the stable hands. Elfhelm and Éowyn leant over the door of the stall and watched him.
“What is there planned for today?” he asked Elfhelm as he brushed Firefoot off and checked his stall for any hidden dangers.
“Aragorn… I mean King Elessar,” Elfhelm corrected with a grin, “Imrahil and Faramir have meetings with the Gondorian elders and nobles most of the day. I have arranged for you to take the noon meal with our own people. Those who fought in Anórien and stayed in the City would like a chance to talk to you and perhaps hear a bit of what happened out there,” he waved his hand towards Mordor. “After that I thought you may wish to visit our wounded. It would please them to see you. You will have plenty of time to relax before the big celebrations tonight.”
Éomer nodded his agreement with these arrangements, “What about you, Éowyn?” he asked. “Will you come to the Healing Houses with me?”
“No, I have been most days. I am popping down into the City straight after the noon meal. We are going to buy some shoes, ribbons and lace.”
“We?” Éomer enquired, trying not to show his amazement at the thought of his sister buying ribbons and lace. Now he was convinced!
A strange, rather mischievous look took over Éowyn’s countenance. “I have made a very dear friend. In fact, Brother, you looked to be particularly interested in her as well. You could hardly keep your eyes from her.”
That jolted him, but surely she exaggerated. He had only looked a couple of times. “If you are referring to the young woman who stood next to you during the ceremony then Amrothos told us about her, so naturally I wished to see what she was like.”
Éowyn raised her eyebrows and said wryly, “Totally understandable, of course.”
Éomer decided it was best to change the subject so while he finished with Firefoot he started a conversation with Elfhelm about the arrangements for the vast number of horses that were being corralled outside the city gates.
“Now that’s done,” Éomer said as he watched the big grey munching contently, “I would like to get this armour off if there is something else to put on; it seems that I have worn nothing else for months. Have you seen Haldrad?”
“He went straight to see his brother in the Healing Houses. I did not think you would mind as I can help you with your armour,” Éowyn answered him.
“Like old times then,” Éomer smiled at her, pleased that he would get some time on his own with his sister.
“Come on,” she grinned grabbing his arm, “You need to change before the meal. There are some clothes ready for you in your chamber.”
“I will meet you at noon, my Lord,” Elfhelm confirmed, “I would like to make sure there are no problems with the accommodation for our extra riders.” The Marshall stared at Éomer for a moment and then pointed at the saddlebags over his shoulder, “Shall I arrange for those to be sent to your quarters, my Lord?”
Éomer raised his eyebrows to his hairline, “Don’t you start that. My new station does not mean that I am not capable of looking after myself. And as we are on the subject, when we are alone my name is Éomer. Is that clear? And my sister does not count,” he grinned.
A slow smile spread over Elfhelm’s face, “It’s good to have you back, Éomer.”
Éowyn held his arm in a more ladylike fashion as they left the stable and made their way through the tunnel toward the Citadel. The area outside the main entrance thronged with people and Éomer groaned at the thought of being waylaid. It would be noon before they got through that lot. He had not reckoned on Éowyn, though. His sister abandoned her formal bearing and suddenly jerked his arm and pulled him to the right under the shadow of the wall. It was so unexpected that he nearly lost his balance.
“Where are we going?” he asked as soon as he had regained his footing.
“Through the public gardens and then into the private ones. We can get into the corridor outside our chambers from there.”
They followed the path along the bottom of the wall which led into a large garden There were a few people walking but Éowyn guided him the other side of a tall hedge and they followed this until she led him through a gap which brought them in front of an arched stone gateway, a sentry stood guard. He smiled as soon as he recognised Éowyn and then quickly saluted when he must have guessed the identity of her companion.
They went through the gateway into a beautiful fragrant garden and a lawn that sloped gradually upwards until it met the wall. Stone seats, protected by railings were set to give views over the Pelennor. An aura of peace pervaded over the private space. Éomer looked down at his sister, “You seem to have become familiar with the layout of the place. I found it difficult to find anything in those few days before we left.”
“Faramir gave me a tour. He showed me the short cuts and the back entrance. He loves the seclusion of this garden.”
“Does he now?” Éomer could not hide his amusement as Éowyn must have realised what she had said and her face turned bright pink. That’s what he loved about Éowyn, she could not hide anything and she always spoke without giving any thought to her words.
“Éomer I…,” she broke off unable to voice what she wanted to say.
“Is there something you want to tell me, Éowyn?” They reached a large carved wooden door within the outside wall of one of the wings at the back of the Citadel. Éomer opened the heavy door still waiting for Éowyn to reply.
She went to go through but then stopped suddenly, “You know don’t you?”
Éomer gently took his sister’s arm, “Come on, show me where we are going. We can talk while you remove my armour.”
The door opened into a wide corridor, Éowyn took the first branch on the right, and went up to the first door, “This is yours, I am the next along and then Elfhelm. Yours is the biggest and best, as it should be of course,” she stated, rather tongue in cheek. She put her hand on the handle to open the door but at that moment a figure rounded the corner from the main corridor. They had heard no footsteps.
“My lord Éomer, Lady Éowyn.” The man bowed so low Éomer thought he would topple over.
“This is Felcon, Éomer,” Éowyn introduced the Gondorian. “He is acting as steward to you and Elfhelm.”
“My Lord, everything is ready for you. Yours clothes have all been pressed. Would you like a bath and some help with your armour?”
Éomer took a deep breath, the last thing he wanted was to offend anybody but he hated this fuss, “I will have a bath later, before the festivities tonight. My sister will help me remove my armour,” that will probably shock him, he smirked to himself. “I will just have a jug of hot water now for a quick wash.”
“Certainly, my Lord, I shall see to it immediately.” No flicker of anything other than compliance crossed the man’s face and he retreated the way he had come, silently. Éomer followed his sister into the chamber and stared.
“Lavish, isn’t’ it?”
“It certainly is,” He looked around the huge room. A very large four-poster with hangings in red and gold dominated it. Ceiling to floor windows overlooked the gardens, they were draped with some kind of fine fabric for privacy and there were rich embroidered curtains to pull across at night. Most of the stone floor was covered by a vast cream rug woven into which were designs of animals and birds in blue and gold. An enormous carved wooden wardrobe and a matching chest of similar proportions stood against one wall. On top of the chest somebody, Felcon, had piled an assortment of clothes. Amongst them Éomer could see a dark green velvet tunic with the Rohan Horse on the front and a dark red wool one of a simpler design. There were some shiny boots alongside the chest; he thought he recognised them as his. “Where did that lot come from?” he asked Éowyn, not being able to hide his surprise.
“From Edoras, of course. I sent a letter to Fréowyn with the messengers asking her to organise some suitable things. Elfhelm wanted you to have the cloak for the ceremony but I thought it best to keep the rest here or you would be stuffing the tunics into your saddlebags and wading in the river in your boots. You have to hold your own tonight with all those dressed up Gondorians.”
“That is why you are off buying ribbons this afternoon, is it? With a Gondorian to help you? Or is there another reason, Éowyn? Perhaps you wish to impress someone in particular.” Éomer suddenly felt sorry as he saw his sister’s face take on a hunted look, he reached towards her and drew her against his chest. “Come on, Éowyn I am only teasing you. Don’t you think you had better tell me?”
“I am not telling you anything until we have removed this armour,” she muttered, “it cannot be comfortable.” She looked up at him and managed a smile, “It is clean though; I did not know it was this colour.”
He grinned. “I had forgotten. I think Gandalf worked some of his magic. Let’s get it off then.” He took off his sword and laid it on the chest and then started unclipping his vambraces whilst Éowyn expertly removed the heavy pauldrons. Then she unbuckled the even heavier cuirass. Once Éowyn unfastened it Éomer took it off himself. He could remove the whole harness on his own if he had to help made it easier. The hauberk was especially difficult as it fastened at the back. With his sister’s expert assistance he soon stood in just his breeches and shirt.
“You look surprisingly clean,” Éowyn remarked. She sniffed, “you smell of camp fires though.
“You should have seen me after the battle at the gate. Well, perhaps not,” he grinned. “Luckily a lot of stuff arrived at Cormallen on the supply ships and I have had plenty of baths in the streams.”
Éowyn looked surprised, “I thought they made the camp the height of luxury and that there were certainly baths.”
“Oh, there were, but I found it easier just to take a dip. After the rivers around Edoras the water felt like a bath anyway.” At that moment a knock sounded on a door in the wall opposite the window.
“That will be your hot water,” Éowyn informed him. “Come in,” she called.
The door opened and a pretty rather buxom girl of about twenty entered the room, she bobbed a curtsey, “My Lord, I have brought you some hot water.”
“Thank you…?” Éomer waited for her to give her name.
“Idril, my Lord. I shall be assisting Felcon in attending you. Is there anything else?”
“Not now but I would like a bath later this afternoon.”
“I will arrange it, my Lord.” She bobbed another curtsey and disappeared back through the door.
“Béma, I don’t need two of them,” he growled.
“Go on,” Éowyn gave him a push, “go and wash before the water cools.”
Éomer followed the girl into the adjoining bath chamber. Luckily she had exited through another door, probably to a servant’s passageway, he surmised. Wanting to talk to Éowyn before the noon meal he looked around quickly, taking in the fact that the whole chamber appeared to be lined with marble. A very large tub stood on the floor. There was also a long washstand with a bowl and two jugs of water on it. Steam rose from one of the jugs. Éomer poured in a generous measure of hot water, a little cold and then reached for a bar of soap. He splashed water over his face and neck lathered the soap in his hands and gave himself a quick wash. Then he noticed a small scrubbing brush and used it to give his hands and nails a treat. Grabbing a small drying cloth he rubbed it over his face and returned to the bedchamber.
“You didn’t take long,” Éowyn remarked with a grin.
“I was not that dirty, and I am only eating with my riders.”
“And you…,” he said slowly, “and it’s you we need to talk about.”
To be continued.
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.