"This dress has been in the possession of the Steward's family for nine generations," declared Lady Ivriniel as her maids busied themselves with pins and measuring tapes. "It was commissioned for the wedding of Ecthelion the First to Elwaloth of Pinnath Gelin. They say it was made by Elves, who wove in a spell to protect the fabric; though how true that is I do not know. After Ecthelion's death it passed on to the family of Egalmouth, who was the grandson of Ecthelion's aunt, for Ecthelion had no children. He was succeeded by his son Beren, who was in turn followed by Beregond, and both those Stewards did a lot to help your people against the Corsairs and the Dunlendings." She managed to make it sound as if this put Éowyn under a particular obligation to wear the dress. "At the wedding of Beregond's son Belecthor to Lothwen of Anfalas a table was knocked over and red wine was spilled over the bride. Fortunately the dress was saved, so when Thorondir married..."
While Ivriniel droned on and on, Éowyn struggled to keep awake and upright. The gown seemed to be getting heavier by the minute and was so hot she was beginning to feel faint. Sweat trickled down her back. Her longing glance wandered to the window and to the summery landscape far below the city. Everything was green out there, green and fresh, with a wind just strong enough to swell the flags on the battlements. Her mind drifted off to the cool winds on the grass of Rohan. She should have got married at home. Why had she come here? Whatever had possessed her to agree to a Gondorian wedding? Wasn't it the custom that the groom came to the bride's home? No, she remembered, in Gondor it was the other way round, Faramir had explained. Still, why should his tradition count more than hers? She felt rather impatient with Faramir right now. Why could he not support her?
"Well, there are a good three inches we can let out from the hem. You are very tall, Lady Éowyn. Gondorian ladies are usually smaller."
Éowyn felt inclined to comment that this was odd, since Gondorian men were tall enough, but she checked herself and decided that she didn't have to justify her height. It didn't matter anyway. It wasn't as if she was going to wear the wretched dress. Succumbing to this fitting session was just a strategic retreat until she could think of a way out of the quagmire.
But was there a way? Ivriniel had cast one look at the green gown and dismissed it as a flimsy thing not fit to be worn at court. "Dignity, my girl, is to people of our station more vital than the air we breathe," she had declared. There had been a sharp retort sitting on Éowyn's tongue about the amount of lace that was compatible with dignity, not to mention colour schemes, but she had thought of Faramir's reproach. Indeed, she couldn't win anything by falling out with his aunt. However, the question of how she was going to avoid the humiliation of getting married in a dress out of a nightmare was becoming a little more pressing with every pin the maids put in place.
"What broad shoulders you have, girl. And such strong arms!" Ivriniel's voice left no doubt that she considered Éowyn's muscular build a most unbecoming and unladylike thing.
Éowyn shrugged, dislodging in the process the pins that fitted the sleeve to the bodice.
"It's the sword practice, I suppose."
She savoured the look of forced indifference on the old lady's face. However much she might abhor the very thought of a young lady taking up arms to fight, even Ivriniel had heard that Éowyn had slain the witch king, and she could hardly disapprove of that.
The opening of seams, the tucking, folding and pinning went on for another hour, by the end of which Éowyn felt ready to collapse. When at long last the maids peeled her out of the lacy abomination, she staggered over to the washstand and dipped her arms up to the elbows into the water bowl. Then she took a cloth and washed the sweat off her face and neck.
"Lady Ivriniel," she said when she had finished. She walked up to her and put a hand on the dress that now rested on the older woman's arm, pickled with pins. "I have given some thought to the matter. This is a very special gown indeed. It is very stately and very dignified. However, and I am sure you will agree with me there, it is too heavy and too hot for a May wedding in such delightful weather. No doubt by some strange chance all other weddings in the Stewards' family have taken place in winter and I think –"
"Nonsense, girl," interrupted Ivriniel. "The wedding of Turgon to Camring of Lossarnach was in August. She was the third daughter and Turgon almost married one of her older sisters, but then they both died of Measles and Camring was only seventeen. She was a very beautiful woman by all accounts and a most demure and decorous wife. If you are worried about being too hot, bring a fan."
With a short, sharp movement of her head, Ivriniel ordered her maids to get ready to leave.
"My maids will set to work directly. I will be back tomorrow afternoon to see if the dress fits properly. Await me at four o'clock. Good day, Lady Éowyn."
And Éowyn, exhausted and craving a drink of water, let her go without another word. A last glimpse at the gown before it disappeared through the door confirmed her thought that Elves would never have created anything so appalling.
That night she dreamt that she walked through a forest, and the trees bore sleeves instead of branches. Lace cuffs reached out to grab her. The ground felt wobbly underneath her feet and when she looked down she saw that she was treading on a slippery sea of brocade. From above her head she heard the eerie rustle of starched ruffs. Pin pricks in her shoulders and back made her flinch. But not far ahead she saw the trees opening up to a grassy slope. She began to run. Soon she had reached the edge of the forest, but just as she emerged from among the trees and rejoiced in the thought of rushing all the way up that slope, she was tripped up by an enormous purple satin sash.
With a cry of anger she fell to the ground and looked up. And there on the top of the hill stood the witch king and laughed at her.
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.