Faramir and Éowyn
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Thawing Lily: 2. Maiden no more
I may have been mistaken, but it seemed that there had been no witness. But then if there had been, what would they say, as they saw me making hence to my own room?
I spun round- no-one there.
“Down here, milady.”
“Merry? What now?”
“Nothing, nothing! Faramir alright now, is he?”
“What? Oh he’s not so bad, no, not so bad when I left him.”
“Good, good; it’s a bad business, isn’t it milady, he’s really such a splendid fellow, is he not? I do always wish he’d be a bit happier in himself; I think he worries a lot, you know that he’s only thirty-four? But then perhaps it’s the fact that he’s a man that makes the difference, for I remember that’s probably really quite well-grown looking from your point of view, milady, with all due respect, he and I must both seem as old gaffers to you o’times, Éowyn, are you alright?”
What was it, what was it? did I look changed, now I was no more a maiden, a maid-not-a-maid? How could I look to see if there was blood showing? Did I look so very rumpled? Had he caught the strange mingling of smells that seemed to have crept up upon me?
“Éowyn, you look rather peaky again; your eyes look funny; I think you look a bit pale,”
“I do feel a bit pale, Merry,”
“Shall I away and let you take a rest?”
“That would be… thankful at this time, my dear hobytla,”
He grinned, though there was not much of his usual devil in it.
“Poor my Lady! You must not be well, that you agree you should go lie down a little! I have half a mind to call someone to you!”
“No, Merry, thank you. I just want some rest.”
He patted my hand.
“Shall I look in on you later?” he said. “Shall I come and tell you when his lordship’s going?”
I must have stared at him for quite some seconds, looking for words; for when I said:
“As you see fit, friend,” (a ridiculous answer, a nonsense answer) he said:
“As you wish… dear oh dear, I think you shall miss him when he’s gone, sharen’t you? Ah! It’s alright, you don’t have to answer! Go, Lady, go, the sooner you’ll feel yourself again,”
“I don’t know, Merry; I don’t know if I want to be feeling myself again,”
“Now you go on, go!” He fussed me into my room, though, thankfully, he did leave me once I was there.
Without him, it was suddenly lonely.
Though, lonely, it was not so very bad.
I sat on the chaise and stared at my feet.
I felt cold. My hands and feet were cold.
How it would be comforting to be wrapped in an embrace of velvet and lambs’ wool.
A maternal embrace.
But no mother of mine.
I pull the shawl out from between the bedclothes. The movement caused the mantle of Finduilas, which had been lying folded on the bed, to fall off the bed and onto the floor on the far side.
I thought to pick it up.
I laid myself out on the chaise, and closed my eyes. There was sunlight upon my face. It had been unseasonably fine of late. It seemed strange, at the approach of the end of all things.
My feet were cold. I was uncomfortable. My gown felt stuffy.
I lay there a while.
If I left it any longer, the end of all things would come and I still would not have got comfortable.
At last I summoned the will to get up. The end of my nose was freezing.
I undid my gown and slipped it off, wincing at the shooting pains in my bound arm- out of habit taking a sudden look, in the way of the hunted, over my shoulder, in front of me, behind me again. No-one there.
I put my nightgown on, and pulled off my underpinnings from under it.
Two spots of blood, the size of thumbprints.
I folded my things neatly on the chaise- something that I wasn’t very good at, so when I had finished they just looked as if I had been, for reasons known to myself, stirring them about. Well, I had made an effort.
I got into bed, and curled up with my knees up to my chest, my head pulled down so that the sheet came up almost over my eyes. I would rest, yes; maybe if I warmed a little I could even sleep.
With my eyes closed, I drifted away and looked back at myself, the White Lady in her white nightgown curled up under the white sheet, curled up like a frightened babe hoping for the warm embrace of a mother who would never come to her, who would have known her for what she was- a maid-not-a-maid?
Standing beholding the Shieldmaiden (though not a maiden) as I was, I grew tall, very tall, my chest broadened and deepened, my limbs became mighty, my jaw hefty and bearded- as I had become oftimes before; and as oftimes before my phantasmal fists clenched and mighty muscles swelled, pumping ectoplasm, to wreck revenge for my hapless little sister… but this time the throat they ached for was not so sallow and scrawny, and yet this time his guilt could be proved, at last…
Guilt. Of the Steward, who had violated this poor maid-not-a-maid. No.
I shrank, I shrivelled, past my own form, my hair became steely, I grew bent and lined. In Gondor there was a word for girls like her, yes, oh full of aspersions they can be, thinking that when the gentlemen’s full attention is in their grasp their hearts and minds will follow, o yes; it is not so with men, my girl! they will not pay for what they can have for free they will not bond with a maid-not-a-maid whoshowsuchdoubtf
I rolled over, and stretched out my legs.
Did I grieve, then?
I had grieved myself numb already, and now I did but await the end of all things.
Except for one feeling that sank into my stomach as if I had swallowed a ball of lead.
Lord Aragorn was gone far beyond my grasp. I was not for a man such as him.
And he was not for a woman such as me.
He did come to me, before he left. I elected to be asleep.
From experience, I knew the feeling of when someone was standing by my bed; through my eyelashes I saw his hand hover over me, oh do go away! I heard him sigh when he took it back; and whisper:
Then he moved away, and then, warmth, softness. I knew what that was.
He had told me of her, yes, I saw her; tall and dark she was, and slender, slender they would call her, to hide the fact later as she became gravely thin, her delicate face aged by shadows and a hopeless look; of course she could never live; a woman so beautiful touched the earth only lightly; she could not endure as the end of all things drew near; but I saw her, not yet dead, draw him to her, her baby, her little boy:
“Be good, my little one! Grow up to be good!”
He went out, he went slowly, he kept stopping- oh how slowly he drew the door closed!
I drew the starry mantle closer. At least her little one survived her; a full man he was, yes, full indeed.
Should I prove with child now, my own babe would never see the light of day; the little embryo would expire nameless, ungendered, without ever knowing war.
And several days passed.
“Éowyn! Éowyn!” !” A hesitation- “M’Lady, rather,”
I looked out just as Merry nearly bowled into my waist.
“What is it, friend hobytla?”
“They have called me to go down to the Cormallen Fields, down in somewhere called Ithilien; with Pip and Strider and Gandalf and Legolas and Gimli and Éomer King and everyone and Strider has been made the King and the message says I’ll have an even better surprise when I get there whatever that means and it says will you go too and be with Éomer?”
“Are you going, then, Merry?”
“I? Well as I take it I haven’t been asked, I’ve been told I’m going, why, for I am a knight of the Mark and the king of the Mark has ordered me; but he’s also ordered me to ask you, so I take it you have a choice; so, are you coming, m’lady?”
I felt the warmth of Éomer’s arms thrown about me: “Sister! My pretty little sister!” And yet… and yet… “What has happened, sister? Tell me not that some man has hurt you? If any man has hurt you, he shall die for it, unless he cut me down as I would slay him!”
And a man there had hurt me, yes, he had, he had brought all this upon me, yet he Éomer would not draw against, no, he would draw against me first. And that king had not asked for me, seemingly had not spoken of me! Oh no, no, I would not go, I would not look upon him, I would not! In his triumph and glory and had not spoken of me, oh I would not go, I would not go!
“No, Merry, I will not go,” I said.
“Are you sure? It’s all happening out there. Or is there… some reason you’d like to stay here?”
“No, Merry,” For there and then, an excuse was forming, not in my head, but in my stomach- “No, Merry, I do not feel well enough to travel.”
“What, now? You do not mean to say that you are still not recovered? All the men who went under at the Siege are up and about again, those who had no other injuries, I’m sure you can travel with a sling on, it won’t be that hard, there’s easily a dozen men going, and me, we shall all look after you- Éowyn, what’s wrong?”
For I had fled from him and I went and threw myself face down on my bed, and there rolled over and drew in my arms and legs around the knot that my belly had twisted into.
“Éowyn, Éowyn!” he cried. “I meant no harm! What has happened? Why, you are gone white as milk! Do you want me to fetch someone?”
“Alright you- you stay there!”
“Merry, come back! Merry, give me a basin!”
“Alright, alright! What, where- oh, here- this had better not have been already used- there, hold that on your lap- oh, your arm- well put it on the bed. There.”
“Where are you going to? Hold back my hair!”
“Alright, alright, I’ll stay- wait a minute, let me just- there- and…”
“Ow! You’re pulling!”
“…there! Now it’s out of your way. I’ll be two minutes,”
“Merry, don’t leave me!”
“Alright. Alright. I’ll stay. Come on. Hold my hand.”
“Merry, I need a Healer to come to me!”
“Well do you want me to fetch one or to stay here and look after you? I can’t do both!”
Another hard spasm took me, and I cried out and curled up again. I think I heard him say:
“Oh Éowyn…no good… going to get someone to…” Or something like to that. A deep lowing swelled unbidden out of my throat; I heard him wince, then he was gone. The sheet was white and cold; the ceiling was greyish and my eyes framed it with ink; I tried to lean over the chamber pot, and settled with my head resting heavy on the rim.
“Now, lady, what’s this? Come lady, don’t do that, now,” Ioreth took the pot from me and raised my face to hers. “Thank you Master Meridioc; I shall take care of this if you don’t mind. Run along! Give a lady a little privacy, please!”
I gazed into her tatty old apple of a face, the heavy bones of her race all but obscured except for the long nose threatening to curl round and meet the chin.
“Well, you have no fever,” she said. “When are you due your Flowers, Lady?”
“Your time, my dear, your time of month; are you due soon?”
“I- oh- wait, I…”
“’tis April the second, Lady,”
“Then… about now.”
“Ah, there you are. It certainly sounds like that’s what’s troubling you.”
“But it is not there- it is in my stomach!”
“So it can be. I know it seems too bad for that, but you’ve been under a lot of strain- it can take you like that, sometimes. Don’t be worried about it. Lean back and try to rest; I shall make you an infusion that shall help. Try to rest; it will pass soon.”
But days went past, and the offending visitor did not arrive, though the sickening pains kept coming, half an hour one day, a few minutes the next.
How I wished not to have surrendered Merry! I did not care for the gardens to wonder on my own; my room was too silent; but I did not want to go out among the noise of the city, where people were singing and gay: “The King is come back! The King is come back!” Despondent, I begged to follow on Ioreth’s heels, not to be left alone with my thoughts to wait for death, I pleaded for her company that had never brought me to grief; the laws of the Houses had to be observed, and I was given a firm talking too by the Warden of the protocol of the Healers, that I must follow if I was to accompany her; and so it came to pass that the White Lady of Rohan was helping change dressings and wash invalids; oh that there were those who had sneered at this woman who had bent her back lifting crippled men, who could calm a young rider driven half mad with fever! So it came to pass that I came to see the helping of the helpless as the first duty of the strong.
Still the days’ heavy footsteps pounded in my head; any day now, they would return, from those fields to the east. And so would come my love, made the King at last, and I would fall again, fall into that black pit with now no hope of a strong hand to pull me back, still less than ever of an unfatal landing. Éomer’s offered embrace- “Sister? Why look you so pale?”, the shutting down of lights.
Surely, now, when I had waited so long, I would not be denied the end of all things.
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