And Inside That Room Was a Girl
We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever stories we tell.
Éowyn walks barefoot through the large and airy rooms of the not-so-old house. It smells of cut wood, beeswax and rosemary.
It has become a daily ritual to lock up the house against the approaching night, while trying to feel safely contained within as she does so. She still finds it hard, that last bit. She never liked being contained within anything.
And it is harder when he's away, even if it hurts her pride to admit it. He is in the City, with Elboron.
She stops by one of the windows and puts her candle on a table. Sometimes she imagines herself standing outside in the dark looking in at her own silhouette against the candle-lit window. Her past and future self somehow united, watching over her.
There is a soft patter of approaching feet. They stop by the door, but Mariel's rapid breathing continues across the room.
Éowyn turns to face her daughter. She looks like a tiny ghost in the large door-frame, or an elf of a hitherto unknown kind: ivory-coloured night-dress, hair like moonlit mist around her sharp face. Éowyn used to long for more substance to cover her bones, to form dimples at knees and elbows, but it never happened. Still, she is stronger than she looks.
Mariel suffered restless and broken nights the first few of years of her life, but of late her sleep has become more peaceful, even if she still gets up once in a while.
Éowyn never asks what has woken her. That is beyond Mariel's ability to tell. Sometimes she talks about water, and Éowyn pretends not to listen. Some dreams are best left alone.
Éowyn takes the candlestick in one hand, and cradles her daughter's fingers with the other. They walk slowly back to Mariel's room. She's been too much of a restless sleeper to share with anyone.
There is a not-quite-acknowledged ritual to these occasions, in the same way as Éowyn chooses to ignore how Mariel's broken nights tend to coincide with her own anxious moods. It is easier that way.
Éowyn puts the candlestick down in the far corner of the room while she awaits the softly whispered question.
"Tell me a story?"
The story she tells on nights such as these has no real beginning or end. It is a meandering room-within-rooms tale, where bits can be subtly removed or added within a comforting sameness.
Éowyn climbs into Mariel's bed, positions herself comfortably on top of the coverlet beside the girl, tucks her cold feet into her skirt and begins.
Once there was a chamber, bigger than everything. In that chamber was a moon. On that moon was a lighthouse. In that lighthouse was a man...
"Was he all alone?" Mariel asks into the coverlet, eyes fixed on Éowyn.
"No, I'm sure he had friends," Éowyn quickly assures her, not wanting to dwell on the lighthouse-keeper.
The man tended the lighthouse-beam day and night. It was the strongest light in the world. At the end of the light-beam, on the far side of the chamber, was a bird.
The bird carried a marble in its beak. That marble was a world. On that world was a green ocean.
"Why was it green?"
Éowyn ponders. "A giant tree grew under the surface, reaching up from the bottom of the ocean. Its large seaweed-leaves coloured the ocean green."
In that ocean was an island; on that island was a milk-white lake.
"What made the lake white?"
"I don't know, yet," Éowyn admits, "I just like the sound of it."
Mariel picks up the thread: "On that island was a temple. In that temple was a well, in that well swam a duck, in that duck was an egg, in that egg was the ogre's heart...."
"That's a different story," Éowyn says. "Listen".
In the milk-white lake was another island, blue, shimmering. On the island was a forest. Through that forest flowed a great white river that no-one could cross. On one side of the river was a seven gated city; on the other side was a house. In that house were many rooms and people, and in one of the rooms was a girl...
Éowyn stops. Mariel's head droops to one side like a large flower on a narrow stem. The soft, feathery wisps of her hair fall across her face and trail down her thin arms. Éowyn tucks her in and looks at her. She's so pale she's almost translucent; her breathing so still that Éowyn has to hold her own to hear it.
In time she will solidify, her skin become more opaque, her hair less like dandelion-fluff. In time.
And inside that girl were old, old dreams...
Éowyn takes the candle and walks quietly out of the room, leaving the door slightly ajar.
Back in her own room she looks in dismay on the wide double bed, filled to the edges with his absence. She blows the candle out and stands by the window for a long time. Someone made a bonfire of leaves and branches earlier that evening. It still turns a glowing eye towards the night sky and emits the odd defiant flare. Éowyn again tries to imagine herself standing outside looking in - just right of the bonfire, just beyond the corner of her vision. Her past, her future, her own story, holding her safely contained.
Éowyn starts to undress, one garment at the time. She removes it and folds it with slow and elaborate movements before she moves on to the next one. Finally, with nothing but skin between her and the darkness she climbs into the middle of bed. She tries to conjure up some of his warmth and solidity to fill the empty space on both sides, without success.
Once there was a story. Inside that story was a house. Inside that house was a woman. Inside that woman was a girl.
Inside that girl were crimson rivers...
The fire sends out a last flare and sinks into fading embers.
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.