1. Never Underestimate Your Mother
"Raising kids is part joy and part guerrilla warfare." Ed Asner
"Hmm," said Eowyn, looking over her husband with a critical eye. "I thought you were to wear blue today."
"Beloved, this is an official portrait, and blue is the livery of Dol Amroth," reminded Faramir gently.
"Your mother was from Dol Amroth, and besides, blue makes your eyes a most lovely blue-grey color."
"And what does black do to my eyes?" asked Faramir half-playfully, half-curiously.
"Make them look silver, of course," responded Eowyn quickly. "However, you will look handsome in anything, and I must attend to our children. Hopefully they will be equally respectable."
She whisked out of the room, leaving Faramir to gaze into his looking-glass. Silver? Surely not—hmm. Well, the point could be argued.
"Mama," came the plaintive tone of Theowyn, and Eowyn paused on her way to her youngest's chamber. "Mama, look!"
Eowyn looked obediently as her daughter swept out of her room. Her gown was royal blue and embroidered with stars, and her golden hair was swept up into a magnificent braided crown dotted here and there with jeweled hairpins. "You look like a queen today, dearest," responded Eowyn, wondering how that vision could be her own daughter.
Theowyn sighed frustratedly. "That is what everyone is saying, Mama, but I know they are lying!"
Eowyn blinked. "Oh?"
"Tell me truthfully, Mama, does this hairstyle not make me look very short? Not to mention the dress."
"How could it, love, for you are not short?"
"Yes, I am," protested Theowyn. "I am shorter than everyone but Elliriel, and she is only four!"
Longing desperately for some tea, Eowyn drew her daughter in to an embrace, patting her back comfortingly. "You are very beautiful my dear, and not in the least short, and I do believe that you are still taller than Turion by at least a full inch and a half. I would not lie to you."
"No, but mothers are always biased," said Theowyn sulkily.
"I am sorry for that, but I cannot help being a mother. I understand that today is a bad day, but please do not cry, and go to your father. I must see to your brothers and sister."
"Of course you must," said Theowyn in a dark and knowing tone, but Eowyn had no time to respond to that. Sighing as she continued down the hallway, she soon began to hear the sound of some sort of tussling coming from a nearby room. Muttering under her breath, she threw open the doors of the next room and marched in, saying in her most threatening tone:
"If either of you have spoiled your outfits, you will find yourself spending the rest of eternity—Elboron!"
The afore-mentioned young man looked half-sheepishly at his mother.
"You didn't knock, Mama," said Beren, squirming uncomfortably in his mostly un-clothed state.
"I am a mother. Think you that I have not seen you in your birth clothing before? Now speak at once and tell me what the meaning of this outrage is."
When Eowyn used a word like outrage, they knew to offer her no nonsense, but she wondered how on earth they would have anything else to say, judging from a visual analysis of the situation.
Elboron, sixteen and gangly, was standing in his full garb, holding the collars of his brothers in each hand. These two were glaring furiously at each other, and wriggling to be free of his grip. Beren, ten, had been clenching his fists menacingly, and Turion looked equally ready for battle, though sniffling as if he had been crying.
"Well," started Elboron slowly, "they were fighting—"
"Please, Ellion, something I do not yet know," said Eowyn.
"—over their costumes."
"Costumes! I suppose you mean their uniforms?"
"They're no better than costumes, Mama," protested Beren indignantly. "I look like a doll!"
"A doll!" spluttered Eowyn, not wondering whether to be furious or overcome in laughter. "Beren, you are wearing an exact copy of your father's uniform! Surely you do not believe that he looks like a doll!"
"Well," began Beren, but Eowyn put out her hand, stopping him before he said something that she would find too ridiculous to meet with a straight face.
"I will hear no argument on this. You look very dignified, and you will wear that uniform for your portrait. Now, how did you make your brother cry?"
"It was not my fault, Mama! He cries at everything!" protested Beren, throwing a dark glance at his younger brother.
"He called me a girl," said Turion, looking as if he was about to both cry and tackle Beren.
"Beren!" Eowyn's reproach was enough to make the boy lower his head, but not enough to make him feel ashamed. "Why on earth would you say such a thing to your brother?"
"He does look like a girl," muttered Beren.
"I do not!"
"Yes, you do!"
"Then you do too, because you look just like me!"
"Say that again, little girl!"
"Stop it at once!" said Eowyn firmly. "Beren, you are behaving shamefully."
"It's not my fault that he has long golden curls, like a girl," added Beren before quailing under the icy gaze of his mother.
Turion's tears started to leak out from under his eyelids, and he looked up with big blue eyes to his mother for support.
Giving the culprit an 'I'll deal with you in a minute' look, Eowyn gave her youngest son a big squeeze, whispering in his ear: "You make me proud, my little man, no matter what your brother says."
"But it's true," said Turion pathetically. "I do have long golden curls."
Eowyn snorted. "As if that has anything to do with it. Your uncle Eomer had the longest golden curls in the land of Rohan, which is saying something, and I would dare any of you to say to his face that he looked like a girl."
Elboron, who remembered his uncle, blanched at the thought. Beren seemed about to say something, but Eowyn put up her hand again:
"I have had enough with your name-calling and arguing. You are sons of the Steward, and should know better than that. Now, apologize and hug your brother, Beren."
"Hug?" protested Beren, shocked.
"Yes, hug." Eowyn's arms were crossed, and she was determined. Burying any manly pride he had fostered, Beren hugged his brother, muttering: "Sorry."
"Now, get dressed. If you aren't in the great hall in ten minutes, I will personally shave your curly locks. And that includes yours, Beren, though they are raven! Elboron, come with me!"
Shaking his head at his brothers, Elboron followed his mother dutifully as she went out.
"You should not have gotten involved, Elboron, you know it only escalates the situation. Do you want them to resent you?"
"No, mother," said Elboron resignedly. "But I think in this case I saved them from causing bruises on portrait day."
"Bruises? From such little fists?" asked Eowyn indignantly.
Elboron laughed. "Mama, they are not your little boys anymore—well, maybe Tur-tur—but really, Mama, Beren is ten!"
"I know, I know," chuckled Eowyn. "But they are too cute for—no, you did not hear me say that, so do not ask."
"Mama, please may I be excused today?" begged Elboron, using his most pathetic look, that most often got him what he wanted. But Eowyn was not in the mood for spoiling.
"Absolutely not. This is a family portrait, and we must all be there, at least for the first day."
"But—" and Elboron indicated various red spots on his face sheepishly.
"What do you expect at sixteen, love? Think you that your father did not have those? I have seen his portrait at that age—you are lucky, in fact. Now, go and straighten up your hair, and hope that this artist is a little tactful."
As her eldest's long legs carried him quickly to his own chamber, Eowyn paused and put her hand under her chin. "Now, who have I forgotten?"
"Other than me?"
"Theowyn, why are you not with your father, like I told you? I did not forget you; you are old enough to dress yourself, I believe."
"He didn't need me. No one needs me."
"I do not believe that I asked you to see if he needed you, but to just go to him. Please Wyn, do not play the martyr today. You know we all love you." And Eowyn placed her hand gently but pleadingly on her daughter's arm.
Sniffling, Theowyn did not answer, and started walking with an injured air towards the Great Hall. Eowyn felt ready to call the whole thing off right then and there, but resolved that her children would not stop this, no matter how hard they tried.
"Ah yes, Elliriel!" she said, remembering where she was going.
There was no noise at all coming from her youngest's chamber, which was not unusual, but when Eowyn entered, she could not see the little one either.
"Liri?" she called. "Liri, where are you?"
"Here, Mama," came a little voice, but from—the window? Eowyn ran over, just in time to see her four-year-old daughter jumping to the windowsill from her perch on one of the boughs, a book in one hand and a plum in the other.
"Liri!" exclaimed Eowyn, holding the little girl by the shoulders and willing herself not to shake her. "Liri, what in Middle-earth is the meaning of this?"
"I was reading?" said Elliriel, obviously confused.
"In a tree?"
"It is very sunny today, Mama," said Elliriel.
Eowyn sat on the edge of the bed and covered her face with her hands. "Surely, surely, surely, I have told you before that you are not to climb out the window."
"No, Mama," said Elliriel.
Eowyn peeped through a gap in her fingers. "Tell me, Liri, that you did not go out there in your best dress."
"Of course not, Mama! I have not put on my dress because I am not baffed."
"Not bathed?" Oh please let her little Elliriel be mistaken!
"No, Mama, not yet."
"Halig mearas! Why why why," moaned Eowyn, "did I ever think that motherhood would be easier than being a shieldmaiden. At least orcs do not have emotional breakdowns and need baths!"
"What are orcs, Mama," asked Elliriel, climbing up onto the bed by her mother.
"Never mind," said Eowyn. "You will be ready for the portrait if I have to do it myself."
Striding over to the dressing room, she grabbed the undershift and gown and came back to where her daughter was undressing.
"But Mama, I am not baffed!"
"No one will see in a picture," said Eowyn, and she put the undershift on Elliriel, and then the gown. Glancing at the clock, she saw there were only five minutes left, and she began hastily buttoning all fifteen tiny round buttons. Never having done this before, she had an incredibly hard time about it, and had only two minutes left when it was all done. Hastily brushing up Elliriel's dark hair into a respectable but simple up-do, she placed the delicate silver circlet on top, and pronounced:
"There! It is done."
Then she took a washrag and wiped the last traces of plum from Elliriel's face, and they quickly made their way to the Great Hall.
Faramir stood, looking at four of his progeny with slight confusion. Elboron looked as if his face had just been vigorously scrubbed, Theowyn looked sulky and about to burst into tears, and the younger boys were on opposite sides of the bench and glaring at each other.
"Is everything all right?" he asked quietly. Four distinctly unhappy 'No!'s answered him, but he did not think it wise to press the reason at the moment. Looking up at the clock, he was just about to send for Eowyn, when in she came, flushing rosily, and carrying Elliriel.
"Ah, we are all ready now," he said, smiling and taking Elliriel from her. "I shall send for the artist at—Eowyn?"
"What now?" she asked wearily, and then followed his gaze to her own garments. She sank into a chair and once again put her head in her hands. "I am doomed."
Faramir did not know exactly what this meant, but he sat down next to his wife, and soothingly stroked her back. "It is all right, beloved, we can wait. It is no hurry."
"It is not just that," she said.
"Ask your children. I will be back as quickly as I can." And she rose and departed without any further explanation.
Faramir rose and turned towards his progeny, crossed his arms over his chest, and said: "Who would like to volunteer an explanation for why your mother has placed the sole responsibility of your existence on me, a rare circumstance that can only be attributed to extreme aggravation?"
"Me, me!" said Elliriel, not quite grasping what was going on. "I'm not baffed!"
Elboron suddenly had a coughing fit.
"You are not—bathed?"
"No!" said Elliriel triumphantly. "And Mama got me dressed!"
"And Beren almost hit me," put in Turion.
"I did not!"
"Yes, you did!"
"Nuh-uh, Mama stopped me!"
"Nobody loves me!"
"Oh, be quiet Elboron! What do you know?"
"Ada, is she not overreacting?"
"Ada, doesn't Turion look a little bit like a girl? Ow!"
"Don't say that! Mama said you shouldn't!"
"She also said not to hit me!"
Four mouths were rapidly shut, and Elliriel looked up from her picture book when her father spoke.
"It appears to me that you have all been aggravating your mother, which is directly against my orders."
"Uh-oh, it's Ada's captain tone," whispered Beren to Turion.
"Silence, if you please, Lieutenant Beren." Faramir's voice was crisp and assured.
"Understand this, my children: if you do not fall down on your knees and beg forgiveness when your mother enters the room again, I will have three portraits made of each of you, during which the others will sit quietly and watch. Have I made myself clear?"
"Yes, Ada," came the chorus.
"Oh, Faramir, how sweet of you!" Five heads turned to the doorway where their mother stood, glistening in a gown of silver and white, and five humble forms were quickly kneeling before her, and five voices begged forgiveness.
"Of course you are forgiven," said Eowyn, smiling. "Did you think that your little plan of avoiding the portrait would succeed against me? Ha! You know me too little. I am a Shieldmaiden of the House of Eorl, and it would take more than all that to upset me."
"Plan?" asked Elboron, confused.
"Oh, so all that was unorganized?" asked Eowyn, mock-surprised. "Goodness gracious! Well! The portrait artist is coming down the hall, and you had better be in your positions when he gets here."
Not daring to ruin this good mood, the children scrambled to the platform, whispering in awed tones about her magnificent appearance attained after such a short period of absence, leaving their mother and father alone together.
"You are beautiful," breathed Faramir. "And you did all this in seven minutes?"
"No," said Eowyn with a twinkle in her eye. "Only four. The other three were spent in regaining my composure."
"Ah!" said Faramir knowingly, as he offered his arm to escort her to the platform. "You performed admirably."
"Yes," said Eowyn, "I think they have learned a valuable lesson today: never underestimate your mother."
And so they had.
Author's Notes: Halig mearas is Rohirric/Old English for "holy horses". This story is lovingly dedicated to my mother, who somehow manages to keep her head dealing with all seven of us in situations like these.
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.