Beregond awoke to the sound of a rooster’s distant crow. He opened his eyes slowly and his sight was immediately adjusted to the semi-dark in which his room was – it was obvious that the sun hadn’t risen yet. The man sighed with regret, not wishing to get up, for the warmth of the blanket covering him felt so very nice. However, there was nothing for it: Faramir had said that they would have to leave Meduseld before noon and Beregond would make sure that all arrangements were properly made long before that. Pushing the blanket aside, he quickly got up and dressed before feeling the morning cold, then headed for the water basin nearby.
He had been in the great city of Rohan for almost three months now. Lady Éowyn had wished to see her brother, King Éomer of the Mark, and Faramir was more than happy to accompany her, since things had been quiet in Ithilien and he was certain he could leave for a while without anything amiss happening. Beregond naturally had accompanied them on their journey, since he was the commander of the couple’s escort. The captain had to admit that he liked life in Rohan, but it was still quite different from what he had grown used to. Also, despite the fact that Éomer had made certain that each of the Gondorian knights felt at home, the truth was that Beregond missed Ithilien and his son even more. After all, they had hardly been separated ever since Bergil was born, so he wasn’t at ease after so many weeks of them being apart. It was only logical to feel happy when Faramir had decided it was high time to return home.
He washed his face and shaved, feeling himself completely alert now. Then he swiftly collected all his personal belongings and walked out of the room to find the rest of his men. It didn’t take him long, since they had all gathered in the Golden Hall and were now waiting for him to give them his instructions. After he had made certain that everyone was packed and ready, Beregond ordered them to go to the stables and saddle their horses and he also told his second-in-command to see that Lord Faramir and Lady Éowyn’s horses were prepared as well. With that done, he went to see to the provisions that they would take on their journey. The servants of the Golden Hall had assured him that they would take care of everything themselves, but he still wanted to be certain that everything was done right.
In the meantime, the Lady of the Mark was preparing her own things, but she wasn’t in all that much of a hurry. She cast brief glimpses about the quarters, looking at its every part and memories flooding her mind – this had been her room long before she married Faramir. She was still looking around when she saw from her window that the sun was rising, colouring with its rays all the plains of Rohan gold. She stood by its ledge, gazing outside like she had always done when she was but a girl, wishing to see the realm unfolding before her out of the shadows of the night. She smelled the morning dew and, for an instant, she thought she was a child once more.
It was then that she leant on the threshold for support, her one hand holding herself protectively. That, however, did little good against the pain that seemed to burn her insides.
“It has already begun,” she murmured, knowing only too well what was happening to her.
The door opened, cutting her off of her train of thought; and she was glad to see Éomer coming in.
“Am I interrupting you from something, Éowyn?” asked the king of Rohan. Even though the woman seemed happy to see him, he didn’t fail noticing how tense she was.
“No, indeed,” answered she quickly, “You just startled me, that is all. What are you doing here?”
“I simply wanted to see you one last time before saying goodbye. I missed you, sister and, frankly, I wanted you to stay a little while longer.”
“I missed you too, Éomer,” replied the noble lady, taking her brother’s hands into her own affectionately. “I wish at times Ithilien was closer so I could see you more often.”
Her brother looked at her intently.
“You have been living there for almost five years now and yet you still have not called it home yet?”
“Do not get me wrong, brother,” said Éowyn, smiling sadly. “I love Faramir with all my heart and even more, if that were possible. But still, Rohan is where I grew up.”
“You miss the carefree days of old then? When you could ride a horse and let it take you wherever it will, your hair flowing against the wind?”
“That too. But I miss the most the days I was a shieldmaiden. When I would take joy in songs of war and in sword fights: when I knew
I was strong.”
Suddenly, her grip on Éomer’s hand tightened; and Éomer was surprised to see a spasm of pain passing across her features.
“Éowyn? What is the matter?”
“What do you mean nothing? Are you all right?”
“Yes,” said the woman, tired of her brother’s questioning. “Do not trouble yourself, it has happened before.”
“Forgive me, sister, but I cannot help but troubling. Have you spoken to a healer about this thing?”
“I have, he said there was nothing wrong with me,” answered the fair lady quite truthfully.
“Then why does it happen? What are you hiding?”
Éowyn looked intently at her brother, feeling herself trapped. She didn’t wish to tell him of her new worries, for she believed that there was nothing that he could do; but now it seemed she didn’t have any other choice except to confide in him. She had already opened her mouth as in a motion to speak, when Faramir walked in.
“I am sorry,” he apologised, as soon as he saw Éowyn wasn’t alone. “I merely wanted to see if you are ready, my love.”
“She would have been if it were not for me delaying her,” stated Éomer, answering for his sister. “For that I ask your forgiveness, Lord Faramir.”
“You have it,” answered the prince courteously, “for I know the love you have for her and you do not want to see her go just yet.”
“However, she must follow her husband,” replied the king. “Give us five more minutes, if you can.”
“I can and I will. I shall wait in the Golden Hall, my love,” said Faramir, turning once more to Éowyn.
“Éomer and I will find you there,” promised the fair lady, hoping that neither of the two men noticed the way her hands clenched as another wave of pain penetrated her.
Faramir nodded his acknowledgement, his eyes always on his wife; then walked out. Once he was gone, Éomer turned to the woman and looked at her hard.
“He knows naught of what you are going through, does he?”
Éowyn shook her head yes solemnly.
“Sister, he is your husband. He of all people has every right to know about the condition you are in. Especially if it is some kind of an illness the healer is not aware of!”
“It is nothing like that, I assure you. And as for Faramir, I do not want to tell him; not when even I do not know what to think of it yet.”
“You are not certain he can help you?”
“Frankly, I believe no one can help me but myself,” said the lady softly. “You must understand, Éomer. There are some matters that one has to settle by herself and this is one of them.”
“If you say so,” said Éomer with a sigh. “ I only wanted to be helpful.”
“I know and I thank you for it.”
“Still, there is something that I can
help you with: call a servant to help you carry your things!”
The fair haired-woman smiled at this and, with her brother’s help, resumed with her packing.
Faramir was still waiting in the Golden Hall when Beregond found him. He noticed the man frowning, lost in deep thought and worry. The captain was baffled at this, since he had expected his friend eager to start the trip.
“Faramir?” he said hesitantly, not wanting to startle the prince.
“Yes?” answered he, turning to the captain.
“The men are ready and willing to follow their lord and his wife back to Ithilien as soon as they mount their horses,” replied Beregond in respect.
There was silence in the room once more. Any other captain would have waited patiently to be dismissed, but Beregond never did that and Faramir wouldn’t have it otherwise either. After so many years of mutual friendship, they had come to understand each other’s thoughts, wishes, desires and feelings so well, that a simple nod or a gesture was more sufficient than any verbal word that could be uttered. And now Beregond could clearly see that Faramir’s mind was in torment.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.
“Actually yes,” answered Faramir immediately. “That is, I meant to ask you something.”
Beregond nodded his head in understanding and waited for his friend to proceed.
“Did you notice anything strange about Éowyn?”
“I’m not sure I understand what you mean,” said the captain, puzzled.
“Did you ever see her face turning pale? Or as though about to fall in a swoon?”
“No, nothing like that, why?”
Faramir sighed, his face growing lines of anguish. He turned his face at the window that was behind him and looked vaguely outside.
“I am afraid she is sick,” he said in the quietest of tones.
Beregond stared at his friend in surprise and shock.
“How do you know this? Did she tell you?”
“She did not have to say anything, she is acting like it!” said the prince, a grim chuckle escaping his lips. However, even that slight mirth was to die out soon to be replaced by bitterness and frustration. “She thinks I do not see it, but I do, and I am at a loss as to what am I supposed to do for her. At one moment she is ravenous, the next it seems her stomach can keep nothing inside! Not to mention her dizziness and the way she hides her pain!”
Beregond listened intently to all that Faramir said, watching how the man’s hand turned into a fist and hit with controlled force the frame of the window. However, a faint smile and a spark of realisation appeared in the captain’s face as he approached his friend of old and clasped his shoulder in encouragement.
“You need not worry,” he said confidently, “Everything will turn out all right.”
“You think so?” asked Faramir, feeling now a new hope rising within him at such words.
“I know so. But first, we have to return to Ithilien.”
“Someone is in a hurry,” remarked the prince with a slight tease.
Beregond’s face flushed embarrassingly, showing how right was his lord in his guess.
“Bergil said that he would show me his progress in his military training upon my return home,” said the captain warmly at the thought of his son. “Did you know he is practising his skill with a bow now?”
“Yes, and I am told that he is actually good,” said Faramir, only to add with a slight tease: “Pity I cannot say the same thing about his father.”
Beregond let out a small groan.
“What is the use of shooting a thin piece of stick if you are not sure where it will finally end up?” he exclaimed in mock indignation.
“That is the reason one should aim
at his target first,” pointed out the prince, remembering one of the – very – few times that he attempted to teach his friend how to shoot when they were children.
aim! It was windy!” said Beregond defensively, recalling the incident very well.
“Tell that to Maldir! Come to think of it, his helmet looked quite nice with an arrow through it!”
“I do not think he chased us all over the barracks to say ‘thank you’ for decorating it.”
They both looked at each other for a few moments and then burst out laughing, unable to control themselves any longer. They had just managed to drown their laughter when Éowyn and her brother walked in, followed by a servant who carried the lady’s belongings. Both the captain and the prince became serious once more, and Beregond bowed humbly at the newcomers in greeting.
“Well, Éowyn? Is everything proper?” asked Faramir with the mildest of concerned tones that could be discerned.
“Yes, indeed,” answered the fair woman. “Shall we go down to the court?”
Faramir nodded, and then they all followed Éomer outside. All the knights of Ithilien were already on their horses, and the creatures were snorting eagerly to move on. Only three of them remained without riders, and they waited proudly for their masters to climb onto them.
However, the Lord of the Mark felt that he had to say one last thing before Faramir and the rest departed.
“Two of my scouts returned from their usual patrol and I fear their tidings were not good. They were up on a hill and too far away, but they are both certain they discerned a pack of huge, hound-shaped creatures lurking and wandering at the area you and your men will have to pass to get to Ithilien.”
“You do not know what they could be?” asked Faramir.
“No, but I can make a pretty good guess,” replied the king. “Saruman had many Warg Riders at his disposal before he was defeated and, though we destroyed almost all the Orcs that were within the reach of our sword long ago, several of their so-called steeds survived. This pack could well be the last remnants of Saruman’s Wargs.”
“What do you suggest then, my lord Éomer?”
“I wish to send some Rohirrim riders with you. Not all the way to Ithilien, mind you, for that is not possible; but at least till the borders of Rohan. Such creatures are not to be taken lightly, for too many good men have fallen victims of their ferocity.”
“So I have heard,” replied Faramir and, after a few moments of thought, added: “Your men are welcome. It seems my forces are already strong enough to ward them off, but I am not to deny a help that is offered so generously. Thank you for your kindness.”
“It is the least I can do,” Éomer assured him. He called to several of his men, who, with the readiness that distinguished the Rohirrim among the human races, jumped onto the backs of their own horses and then set themselves at the sides and rear of the Gondorian knights.
Beregond quickly settled himself on his horse too and took his position in front of his men. He watched quietly and with patience as Faramir and Éowyn repeated their goodbyes to Lord Éomer and, as soon as the couple rode their horses and started cantering away, he gave the knights the command to set out as well. He noticed some of the citizens of Meduseld looking on curiously at the march, and even watched as some children waved and cheered frantically.
However, the looks and shouts were soon to be left behind as the gates of the city closed behind the troops. The captain scanned the open plain that was laid out before his eyes, and he couldn’t help but smile as he rode on. They were going home at last.
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.