"Please send word to the Lady Ivriniel that I am still indisposed," said Éowyn to Acha, her maid, and leaned back on the pillows. "And I do not wish to be disturbed. Not even by you."
"But my lady –"
"Not even by you," repeated Éowyn. "Now leave me alone, please. I want to sleep. I will call you if I need you."
Acha shrugged, dropped a curtsey and bustled out of the room with the breakfast tray. As soon as she had left, Éowyn threw back the covers and sat on the edge of the bed. She glanced around. There on the clotheshorse, where Ivriniel had left it, hung the heirloom dress. Alas, it hadn't just been a nightmare. The morning sun that came in through the window revealed the sheer awfulness of the gown. There was no way she was going to wear it, tradition or not.
Pleading illness had excused her from the fitting session the previous afternoon and it would be a good excuse again today. Unfortunately it also meant that she was a prisoner in her own quarters, for she could not risk being seen in the city. But she needed to buy time and she needed to think. She wondered whether it would be a good plan to fake sickness for the entire rest of the week and thus escape the horrible dress. After all, if it couldn't be altered for her, she couldn't wear it, could she?
She rose, walked over to her trunk and took out the dress she had intended – still intended! – to wear at her wedding. It wasn't one of her usual white gowns, but a rich green like the banner of Rohan. She, Brandwyn and Acha had embroidered the hems with white flowers. The fabric felt light and soft against her cheek. For a while she stood hugging the dress. Then she draped it over the edge of the bed and stationed herself by the window.
Tiny white clouds dotted the sky. The view from up here was spectacular, overlooking the Anduin Valley towards South Ithilien. From the West, behind the Mindolluin Mountain, the River Erui came down to join the Great River. She could just about make out the villages that were situated on the long, thin stretch of land between the two rivers, morning sun glinting on the slated roofs. On the eastern shore of the Anduin rose the wooded hills of the Emyn Arnen clad in the fresh greens of May. Somewhere on the far side of those hills Faramir was showing their house to his uncle Imrahil. It suddenly occurred to Éowyn that it would have been rather more proper if he was showing it to her. Why hadn't he taken her with him? Why hadn't she said she would come? If she was away at the Emyn Arnen, Lady Ivriniel couldn't prey on her with ridiculous dresses. Ah, but there was a custom in Gondor, wasn't there, that the bride was not to see her new home until after the wedding. Éowyn snorted in the most unladylike manner. There was probably a reason for that, she thought.
For a long time she stood by the window thinking how lovely it would be to ride out, until the vision made her so irritated that she turned back into the room. She took her scissors out of her reticule and trimmed her fingernails. After a moment's thought, she trimmed her toenails, too. Then she opened her tresses, brushed her hair and braided it again. She emptied the entire contents of her reticule onto the bed and put every item back neatly. When she had finished, a broken button, a plum stone and an unsavoury mess of crumbs, hairs and unidentifiable pieces of fluff were left on the sheet. She brushed them off and pushed them under the bed with her foot.
For about half an hour she occupied herself with emptying and repacking her trunk. Then she put on a gown and went through to the day chamber. The window here faced north and overlooked the road that had brought her down from Rohan. There was brisk traffic of walkers, riders and wains there these days. She watched it for a while. It was, however, not a spectacle that could occupy her for very long. The large oak cabinet at the east wall of the room promised more entertainment. Éowyn opened every single one of the little drawers and compartments, but they contained nothing more interesting than a few scraps of parchment and some candle stumps. All the better. Another half hour went by during which she emptied her trunk and placed her possessions in the cabinet. She would have to remove them again in a few days' time, but it didn't matter.
Around noon she sneaked out to the privy and when she came back she stood in the middle of the room and wondered what to do next. After a while, she went into her bedroom. There was nothing to do here, either. And she was getting hungry. Well, the miraculous bell pull would help her. Somehow or other she would take advantage of the superior achievements of Gondor. She took off her gown and crept back into bed, then pulled the cord. A few minutes later, Acha appeared.
"How are you feeling now, my lady?"
"The same as this morning, but I would like something to eat."
"Of course, my lady."
Acha curtseyed and left. While she waited for her food, Éowyn inspected the embroidery on the bedspread. It was a profoundly tedious occupation. Her thoughts returned again to her predicament. For a moment she considered speaking to Aragorn, but it seemed frivolous to trouble the new king of Gondor about a dress. If only Éomer were here! He would know what to do. Unfortunately, he had been struck down by a real illness, a nasty turn of shingles that had seized him the day before her departure for Gondor. She had been inclined to postpone the whole wedding and wished now she hadn't given in to his urgings.
At last Acha came with a tray of bread, fruit and cold meat. Éowyn sent her away and devoured the meal. Then she got up again and looked out of the window. The sun was barely past its zenith.
All afternoon she paced back and forth between the two rooms, picking up objects and dropping them again. She tried to practise some sword movements, but with a hairbrush in lieu of a sword this proved uninspiring. Three times she cleaned her teeth. She even sorted all her ribbons by length and colour and mended a tear in her riding habit. At last, dusk crept over the valley and the birds began their evening song. It had been a beautiful day, she had spent it entirely indoors, and now her only choice was to send for more food and then go to bed early. Her plan to think of a solution remained unfulfilled, for she had not been able to fix her mind on the issue for any length of time. Éowyn sighed. There was no way she could endure another four days of confinement. Tomorrow Faramir would be back and he would settle everything to her satisfaction.