1. Uncharacteristic Fury
As she rode under the gate into Emyn Arnen, the sun broke through the clouds that had threatened rain all day. Eowyn drew her ambling mount to a halt to take in the beauty that stretched before her. The golden rays shone down on the winding, paved path leading through the town and up the low hill to the large, white stone keep, surrounded by gardens she had planted with Legolas's help. The sun kissed the many flowering plants, the colors spread across the landscape like a colorful quilt on a bed, and left dappled shadows under a row of manicured shrubs and the saplings dotting the hill. Oh, how she loved this place! This home they had made together in a land both wild and free.
She urged her mare, Scýne, to continue walking up the path. Eowyn's eyes drank in the colors, so different from those of the grassy plains of her homeland. Her gaze drifted across a terraced bed, over a swathe of manicured grass, on to the paving stones of the path to the keep. There she stopped, her brows drawing together in a small frown at the strange shadow falling across the flat stones. She looked up, and gasped.
Faramir stood there on the path, his eyes following her as she rode up the rise towards their home. He was furious. Eowyn could see it in the way Faramir held himself, feet spread, his arms folded across his chest. If it were Eomer standing there, it would be a familiar sight, but she could not recall ever seeing her husband poised in such a manner.
Eowyn would have smiled, but Faramir took long strides inside towards the stable, where she directed her mount. Indeed, he looked quite angry – more like livid, if he was not even waiting for her to release her mount to a stable hand to speak to her. Usually, she cared for Scýne herself, but as of late, she had difficulty picking out her mare's hooves, or lifting her tack, or even brushing the sleek grey coat.
She winced, knowing what was coming, and ran a hand over the curve of her belly that had become obvious even with her attempts to hide it. Squaring her shoulders, she dismounted with care. She refused to be intimidated, even by her irate husband.
"What, just what were you THINKING?" Faramir's voice rose from its usual low, calm tones to what could almost be called a shout – even though Faramir never shouted. Ever.
Eowyn flinched, and then berated herself for it. She had done nothing wrong; indeed, she had done something to be proud of! And so she answered calmly, the White Lady of Ithilien giving answer to her lord. "There was an accident. An axe glanced off a tree bole, catching Turgon in the leg. It needed stitching, and there was no one else to do it." She folded her arms across the swell of her belly and held his gaze with determination, though inside she quailed, for she had never seen him this angry before. He practically radiated fury!
Faramir ran a hand through his dark hair, glancing away for a moment. But when he looked back, his grey eyes flashed in a way that heightened her uneasiness. Again, his voice was louder than usual, hard and even cold. "You could have waited for Palanel to be called."
Her own anger spiked, and she could not stop herself from snapping back at him. "Palanel had already been called away!" When his eyes narrowed, she sighed and lowered her gaze to the ties of his tunic. This wasn't a sibling argument with her brother, or one of those cold, eerie discussions she'd had on occasion with Grima. This was her husband. He deserved her respect.
She took a breath, met his gaze and explained in a softer tone of voice. "Meren's pains began last eve. She was in much torment, and the babe had not turned. The midwife requested he attend them, as she feared for both lives. I could not call him away from that to tend something I could tend just as well."
She knew at once that her explanation had done nothing to lessen his ire. His hand shook as he lifted it to point at her. Very unlike him, not even when directing his men had she seen him like this. "It is not your place to tend every scrape and scratch!" He gestured to her angrily. "Especially not now!"
While the comment did not take her off guard, his tone caused the words to sting. "I thought it was the duty of the Lady of Emyn Arnen to help those in need. The wound was deep and the bleeding hard to control." She lowered her arms to her sides and stood firm. "I had to go!"
"You could have had your guard take you in a wagon if you felt the need was so dire." The coldness in his tone chilled her where she stood. "There was no need to risk yourself!"
Her pride demanded she defend herself. "It was faster to go on horseback, and less dangerous, and much more comfortable." She lifted her chin in defiance. "The wagon jars me until my teeth rattle!"
He strode closer, so close she felt his warm breath on her cheek. She felt a need to step back, but caught herself and stood fast, refusing to give ground. "You are in no condition to ride a horse." His voice had returned to its softer norm, and yet, she shivered at the ice in it. Though he no longer shouted, he was no less angry.
She could not help but laugh aloud in disbelief at what he insinuated. "I am of the house of Eorl. My mother rode a horse until the day she bore me, as she did with my brother, and her mother before her did with my mother and Theoden King. I was in no danger, nor was our child."
His eyes flashed again with a fury that caused her breath to still. He tread yet closer, and this time, Eowyn did step back. "Ioreth herself gave you instructions not to ride in your condition. Palanel concurred. No woman of Gondor in her right mind rides a horse when she is expecting a babe!"
"Then I am glad I am no woman of Gondor!"
That was the wrong thing to say, for his face contorted in rage for a moment before he replaced it with a calm demeanor that served to mask his true feelings. And in that second, frightened by the brief look on her husband's face, Eowyn took another step back and found herself pressed hard against a stall door. She glanced about and noted the lack of stable boys, grooms and other workers in the barn. Her horse had been led away, and she and Faramir alone occupied the building. Everyone had been frightened away, no doubt by their lord's uncharacteristic fury. Not that she blamed them. She did not feel comfortable herself at the moment.
But then all thoughts fled as he crept forward and his body pressed against hers. His head lowered so he could whisper in her ear. "You are my woman, and that is close enough."
In most circumstances, her pride would have her give a scathing reply. But for some reason, the way Faramir said the words 'my woman' instead of fueling her anger soothed and comforted her. For years she had not belonged to anyone. There had been no comfort, no place of safety. Here, with this man, Eowyn had found love and a place of belonging like she had never known in the Riddermark. She looked up into his eyes, and her breath caught.
He was her home, her love, her life. And in that moment, she understood just how much she meant the same to him. His anger was founded in fear: fear for both the safety of his wife and the babe she carried within her. He spoke the truth. In Gondor, ladies did not ride while carrying a child in their womb. Indeed, they seldom rode at all! They were not the hardy women of Rohan. And Faramir didn't understand that, perhaps would never understand that. And yet, she would try to help him see where she differed from those women.
She stared into the bottomless depths of his eyes, and her lips twitched. "I never left a walk," she told him in her sweetest voice, reaching up to kiss his chin. "I would never endanger our child." She kissed the corner of his mouth, slipping her hands up his chest. The coldness about him began to thaw as sudden warmth sprung to life in his eyes, though she could still sense his anger had not abated.
"Faramir," she whispered, pushing up on her toes to plant kisses along his cheek and jaw and behind his ear.
His arms came around her and he pulled her tight against him so she could feel the hardness of his chest, his firm thighs against her own. "I have no desire to keep you under a tight rein, but I cannot allow you to endanger yourself."
"I was in no danger," she breathed, tracing his ear lobe with her tongue.
"Eowyn," Faramir pulled back, and now she saw all his anger had fled, leaving only deep concern. This was the man she knew and loved with all her being; the gentle man who had called her back from certain death and darkness with his tender regard. "What if your mare had spooked and you'd fallen…"
He held up his hand as she opened her mouth to say that Scýne would never spook or unseat her rider. Faramir pressed his fingers to her lips, silencing her, his eyes pleading for her to hear him out. She breathed deeply, and tried to pull away from him, but he stood fast, and with her back to the stall, she had no where to go.
"Love, I know your horse, a descendant of the Mearas, would never spook on the plains of the Riddermark. But here," he reached up to smooth her hair as if that would also soothe her ire. "This is not a land of open grasslands where she can see danger coming. These are woodlands, full of strange and unfamiliar sights to her. And while she has done well, she has spooked on occasion."
Eowyn did not wish to acknowledge that he spoke the truth, for indeed, Scýne had spooked. But that had been some time ago, when Eomer had first sent the horse to her, before they had ridden many leagues in the woodlands and the mare had become accustomed to her new surroundings. She started to say so, when he shook his head and again pressed his fingers to her lips. The look he gave her chilled her.
"What you do not know is that while I was away, I learned from Legolas that there have been sightings of feladroe (1) not three leagues from here. What if you had encountered one? What if one had leapt at Scýne? Not even your mare, gentle as she is, would remain calm in such circumstances."
The blood drained from Eowyn's face at his words, leaving her feeling even colder than she had when facing Faramir's wrath. Most sightings of that strange and fierce predator were closer to the Ephel Dúath than near Emyn Arnen. She had seen not only the hide of one of the lions, complete with head and claws that a hunter had brought back as a prize, but a young man who had been attacked while hunting food for his family. The man had been gruesomely mauled and despite her and Palanel's efforts, the man had died.
Eowyn would never forget what she had seen or the horror she had felt.
Now she understood Faramir's fear, and his anger. "I'm sorry," she whispered, shuddering as her thoughts ran rampant. If a felaraw had attacked her horse, or herself…
She shuddered at the idea, and tears stung her eyes. She closed them as thoughts of what could have happened assailed her.
Faramir wrapped his arms around her, whispering soothing words as he stroked her back and hair. "Hush, love. It is well. You were not harmed, and now you know why I have acted the fool."
Through her tears, she looked up at him in disbelief. "Fool? You were right to be angry!"
He smiled and wiped a tear from her cheek. "Perhaps, yet I was a fool to allow myself to treat you so harshly. Forgive me. If I had but explained from the start…"
Oh, how she loved him! What other man would ever admit to such a thing? Would consider her feelings in such a way?
"I love you," she whispered, lifting her head to kiss him. She drew her fingers up his chest and cupped his face in both hands. Oh yes, she loved him, and she would show him, right here in the stable if need be. She traced down his jaw to the hollow of his neck, then fingered the ties of his tunic.
He pulled back, a question in his eyes. She smiled as she tugged the lacings loose and then dropped her hands to work at his belt.
He chuckled as his own fingers moved to assist. He didn't seem to mind in the least.
: - :
Scýne – Old English for 'fair, beautiful'
Palanel – the head healer of Emyn Arnen
(1) feladraw (pl. feladroe) "cave lion" from the Sindarin 'fela' meaning 'cave' and 'raw' (pl. roe) meaning 'lion'. The European cave lion was one of the largest cats to ever live and became extinct approx. 10,000 years ago, and could have inhabited Europe during the rein of Aragorn. Though called a cave lion, they also favored grasslands and forested and mountainous regions.
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