I shivered uncontrollably. Vague memories of black faces, slit yellow eyes, sharp fangs, claws grabbing at my body pressed in on my mind, making me feel sick to the stomach.
During the night the painkiller had worn off again, too, and my wrists and ankles now hurt badly. My head throbbed dully along to the rhythm of the painful pulse in the wounds at my wrists and ankles. I felt horribly weak.
And I needed to go to the bathroom. I tried to sit up in bed. I was successful at the second attempt. See, Lothíriel, you're not hurt all that bad!
I swung my legs around and tried to stand. My knees buckled. I slumped back down on the bed. I need to go to the bathroom! I did so not want to use the chamber pot that sat on the low stool next to the nightstand. I was not a cripple! Furious tears filled my eyes. I am not that weak. I can't be that weak!
I tried again. This time I remained standing, wobbling precariously.
I clutched at the back of the chair, thinking that I might get to the door if I managed to hold on to the chair. Please, God, don't let the privy be far away from my room!
The door opened. Éowyn entered the room, looking furious. I slumped back down on the bed.
"Good morning, my lady," I said politely.
Éowyn rounded on me with blazing eyes. I could not help myself, but I shrank back from her anger. Taken aback, she inhaled deeply and sat down on the chair. Her hands were clenched to fists.
"May I ask why you are so angry?" I ventured bravely.
"Manage the household!" she exploded. "As if, in a time like this, there was nothing better I could do with myself! Manage the household! Calm the people! Prepare the Halls of Healing! Why did I have to be born a woman!" She closed her mouth, tightening her lips into a thin white line.
I blinked at her, surprised at this unexpected outburst. I had taken her for a rather cool and composed person. Who would have thought that there was such a hot temper hidden under her coolness? Well, Tolkien had, if I recalled the stories correctly. And who was Tolkien anyway that he knew so much about Middle-earth…
"They rode off to war, to defend our people and our country, leaving me behind to do the cleaning!" Éowyn interrupted my thoughts. My, was she mad. I remained silent. If someone is angry like that, you have to let them vent off their fury, even if it is really unreasonable. A little bit of sympathy, faked or real, will calm down such anger much more quickly than any attempt at setting someone right.
I knew what had happened, too. Éowyn had wanted to go with the warriors to defend her people with the sword. Instead she had been appointed to rule the Rohirrim in Théoden's place for as long as he would be gone.
This was – as far as I knew, anyway – an unprecedented honour for a woman in the history of Rohan, and there was no doubt in my mind that a lot of responsibility went with that honour.
Éowyn was an intelligent woman. She would know very well just how great an honour it was for her to be named regent in the absence of the king. She would know just as well that it was necessary to maintain some kind of order here in the capital.
There was no need to point that out to her. That would only make her angry with me. I did not want to have that formidable warrior maiden angry at me.
"You will want to use the bathroom now that you are better," Éowyn said briskly, changing the topic somewhat abruptly.
"Yes, I would," I said. "Only, my knees are still kind of wobbly. Is it far?"
Éowyn sighed. Having vented off her temper, she was calm and business-like again.
"No, it is just outside, across the courtyard. Whatever some people may say, the Rohirrim are a civilized people."
And who had teased her about bathrooms? Not Legolas or Aragorn, I thought. Gimli?
"By the way," Éowyn suddenly smiled at me. "Aragorn, Legolas and that dwarf send their best wishes. They could not come and visit you yesterday because you were too exhausted and they had to leave in a hurry. But they asked me to tell you how happy they are that you escaped, and that they hope you will recover soon. They were very worried about you. Especially Aragorn."
The last two words held a certain tension. I swallowed hard. This was the time where I should probably tell her… something… anything… I had never been any good at girl talk. I sighed. Best get it over with quickly. Not that it will help. It never does. I knew that all too well from my own heartaches back on earth, which had involved unattainable men…
"You know that Aragorn is betrothed, do you?" I said bluntly.
She stared at me. "Who… how… why do you say that?"
"I saw a gleam in your eyes just then." I am not only no good at girl talk. I hate girl talk. "His heart is far away and always will be. Trust me on that. If it's not too late, turn your heart away from him."
"You?" She hissed at me, her eyes narrowing dangerously.
I gaped at her for a moment, confounded. Then I laughed out loud. "What do you take me for? A slut? I am perhaps not a lady such as you are, but I am not an easy girl. No. I have accompanied Aragorn and the Halflings for many weeks now. We travelled together from Bree to Rivendell, Imladris, and then from Imladris to Moria, to Lórien and Amon Hen.
I met his betrothed in Imladris, that is all. I just saw how your eyes lit up when you said his name. I know heartache." I tried in vain not to think about Boromir. "And if you fall for Aragorn, you only set yourself up for some serious heartache."
She looked at me for a long moment. The tension and the anger slowly drained from her face as if she had to make a conscious effort to calm herself. She believed me. I suppressed a sigh. Éowyn made me nervous. I had the feeling that she might easily draw a sword or produce a knife if someone made her too angry.
Finally she inclined her head. When she looked up again there was some kind of shadow in her grey eyes, a hint of a dark emotion, longing and pain, perhaps; a lonely yearning for love and a kindred spirit. "I'm afraid it is too late for that. But thank you for your warning. I should have made an utter fool of myself."
Then she rose from the chair, effectively ending our conversation.
"I will help you to the bathing house. Put your arm around my back. – Yes, like that. – Oops! I've got you, Lothy, don't worry, I won't let you fall!" She was very strong for a woman, far stronger than I was, even though she was slimmer.
It was a slow, exhausting progress from my room out into the courtyard, across the courtyard and into the bathing house. It was not just a privy, but a privy attached to a real bathing house.
It was not as luxurious as the elvish bathes I had seen, but it was very nice. It reminded me of the spa facilities labelled "Swedish" in Germany. There was a whirlpool and a sauna, a wooden bath tub and a shower with icy water. The water was taken from the spring below the Great Hall, Éowyn explained. It was led to the bathing house in a tunnel. The used water from the bathes was used to flush out the latrines, and the dirty water was led out of the city in another set of tunnels.
"We have another system of tunnels working like that in the lower city on each side of the channel. It is still new. There has been no more killing sickness of the bowels in the Lower City since we have had it installed. Théodred devised it. He loved building, more than he loved practicing with his sword and bow," she fell silent rather abruptly. Théodred was the King's only son who had died at the hands of some orcs not very long ago. Her cousin. There had been nothing about what kind of person he had been in the books, I remembered. So he had been an architect, not a warrior… Had he spent more time with his weapons and less time on building things, he might still be alive today.
Suddenly I recalled a history lesson from way back at school. "You have to understand that being able to choose what to do with your life, or even what to do to make a living, is a very new phenomenon. Not only for women, but also for men. Not very long ago it went without saying that the oldest son inherited the business or the lands of the father and that the younger sons became soldiers or monks. There was no choice at all…"
I sighed. I had chosen to come here…
It was pure bliss to be able to use the toilet on my own. I would have died of shame if I had had to use the chamber pot in front of Éowyn. In the process I got a good look at my thighs. There were deep gashes on my hips and on my thighs. My inner thighs were black and violet with bruises and there were some more cuts there, crusted with blood, but it was really only the thighs; no deeper place had been touched. I felt immeasurably relieved. But it was no wonder my whole body ached so horribly.
Éowyn made me take a warm bath, to which she added herbs and oils. She took off the bandages from my breast and neck, my wrists and ankles. I have to confess that I screamed when she tore off the bandages where the fabric had stuck to the wounds, soaked with dried blood. The wounds around my wrists and ankles had been tidily stitched. Looking at the stitches made me feel slightly sick.
"Now, you may not remain in the water for long. I don't want those wounds to reopen. But cleanliness is next to goodliness my old nurse always said. And I agree in so far as that it simply feels better to be clean all over. There was no way to really wash you when my brother brought you to Edoras. You were in a right state" Éowyn told me, surprisingly gentle in scrubbing my back. Then she started on my hair, lathering it with a soap that smelled faintly of chamomile. Then she rinsed it thoroughly with lukewarm water.
Afterwards she helped me out of the tub and wrapped me in a large blanket.
"Sit down on that bench. I have to put salve on all those gashes and have to look which of the cuts still need bandages."
"Was I really in such a bad shape?" I asked. I felt very weak still, but the warm water had subdued the pain to a comparatively comfortable ache.
Éowyn, who had walked over to some shelves containing jars and bottles of many shapes and sizes, turned to me, her expression serious.
"I have no idea how you survived," she said simply.
She returned with a jar of athelas salve. With gentle fingers she lathered the salve on my assorted cuts and bruises. "I think it will be enough to bandage those wrists and ankles of yours. As I told you before, the fever was the real danger. Those cuts and bruises should heal soon, and heal well. The wrists and ankles will take time. You have no idea how lucky you were that no tendon was cut. You might very well never have been able to walk again."
I gulped again.
"So, that's it. Now it's back to bed for you." She helped me up and supported me every step back to my room. She might prefer being a shield-maiden, I thought, but she is a very good healer all the same. Éowyn knew how to take care of people and putting them at ease, even if the treatment was painful, or concerned intimate areas.
By the time I was back in my bed, I was completely exhausted again.
Weak as a kitten. In every word of the meaning.
"Don't worry, you will feel much better tomorrow," Éowyn promised. "Now sleep an hour or two and then I will have a nice dinner brought to you. And in the morning you will feel like a new woman."
"I'd be content to settle for little old me – with no pain," I said somewhat wryly.
She smiled at that. "Don't worry, Lothíriel," she repeated. "All will be well."
Then she was gone.
I realized that I had not thanked her at all. And why had she taken care of me herself? She had spent more than two hours with me, and managing Edoras had to be quite a task. She had to be pretty busy without taking care of wounded strangers. She could have had any maid-servant take care of me.
Why had she spent so much time and energy on me?
I was neither a hero nor a noble. There was no reason at all why Éowyn herself should take care of me. I could not believe that either Gandalf or Aragorn would have asked for any special treatment for me. Strange. I would have to ask her about that later.
But in the meantime I was too weary and aching to give that matter much further thought.
For a time I lay in the warmth of my bed and simply enjoyed being clean and in not too much pain. After some time I drifted off into a deep and dreamless slumber.
It was already late in the evening when I woke again.
I felt much better. I was clean and I was not in any real pain. Only a dull throbbing reminded me of my wrists and ankles. I was not awake for long when the door opened to admit the round faced, blond maid-servant who had been sitting with me the day before.
"Good evening, my lady," she said in a soft voice. In one hand she held a tray, in the other a candle stick. She set down the tray on the nightstand. Then she swiftly moved around the room and lit several candles set in sconces at the far wall. She returned to my bed and lit the large white candle on the nightstand. Now the room was almost bright.
"How are you, my lady," the girl inquired politely. "Are you hungry? I was told to bring you some supper."
My stomach rumbled noisily as I inhaled the delicious aroma of what was probably a hearty vegetable soup. I felt heat rise in my cheeks.
"Yes," I said. "I am hungry. Sorry."
The girl only smiled. She helped me sit up in the bed and deftly put the tray across my thighs.
"Do you wish for company, my lady?" the girl asked.
I frowned. I had never before encountered servants in my life. Apart from Rivendell. I was uncomfortable with servants. I simply did not know how to treat them.
In the end I smiled at the girl. "No, thank you. I am sure you have a lot to do. I don't want to keep you from your work needlessly."
She indicated a curtsy and then left the room.
On the tray there was a bowl of soup, a chunk of fresh brown bread, a piece of orange cheese and a mug of dark beer. The beer was strong and good. My heart warmed towards the Rohirrim. The people of Franconia, where I had grown up, prided themselves to have the largest number of active breweries per square mile. It's hard to live there and not develop a taste for beer. The beer in Bree had been weak and watery. In Rivendell and Lórien there had been only wine and water. Wondrous wine and wondrous water to be sure. But this taste of tart, aromatic beer made me feel at home.
The food was very good, too. To be able to eat slowly, to savour the taste – heaven!
On the journey there had not been many occasions where we had been able to enjoy our meals and the food had been cold and pretty monotonous.
I had to enjoy this little bit of paradise as long as it lasted.
As long as it lasted…
When would Aragorn return to Edoras with the Dúnedain? I tried to remember from the stories, but for the most part there had been no dates in the text. I knew that there were dates in the appendix, but I had never read the appendices really thoroughly. I had looked for my name in them, but that had been about it.
My name… the woman I was named for had been the daughter of Prince Imrahil. Perhaps I would meet her when I reached Tarnost. I would like that very much, I thought. Just to see if my mother named me after a nice person.
Perhaps I would be able to leave my bed tomorrow. I should meet that horse Gandalf had told me about. I should also have a look at a map of Gondor, so that I knew where I had to go from the Stone of Erech. Had Éowyn been told about my task? Probably not. She would have thrown a fit. Yippee… I get to tell a warrior maiden with a real hot temper that I have been appointed a task even though I am not back to health or strength and she has to stay at home.
She was going to love that.
Éomer seemed to be so much more easy-going than his sister.
He had really beautiful eyes…
…and an interesting voice.
I would like to hear him sing one day…
He seemed to be a very nice man, too.
The other Lothíriel, the daughter of this Prince Imrahil, would probably be a very happy wife in a few years, I mused.
In a few years… where would I be in a few years?
Provided, of course, that everything turned out as it was in the books.
Up until now it had been pretty much the way as it had been described in the stories.
But not everything, a small voice in the back of my mind objected. Some things were different from the start. And some things changed because of your interference.
I rubbed at my forehead, irritated at the road my thoughts were taking. But I did not change much. And some things I changed for the better.
That's what you think, the voice seemed to be saying.
I put the emptied tray to the side and lay back down.
Yes, I thought. That's what I think. What I hope. What I have to believe.
But the fact remained that living in Middle-earth now, at this particular time, faced with darkness and war, the promise of a happy ending seemed very fragile, very distant and not very substantial.
It was like the promise of paradise in the Christian religions of earth. Some people believe that paradise is as real as another country. But even if you have such a strong belief, you have to live out your life and die to get there. There is no real way of knowing what will happen until it does happen.
That was about the way I felt, lying in my bed that night. In my thoughts I was clinging to a promise of paradise, of a war won, an enemy defeated. But the road to that promise of paradise was long and dark and I had no idea at all what awaited me around the next corner of that road.
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.