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 Post subject: Dreams
PostPosted: Sun 23 Dec , 2007 9:34 pm 
A maiden young and sad
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Joined: Wed 27 Oct , 2004 10:49 pm
Posts: 3304
Location: Friendly quarters... sort of
With all the drama that's been going on in my life this past month or so, I need some sap. Deal with it. :P


Éowyn sat against the carved headboard of her bed, reading a letter by lamplight. Outside the wind gusted around Edoras as it dried out the earth soaked by early spring rains. Today had been quite cold and gloomy, a sombre day to remember the sombre events that had taken place a year prior. Today they had commemorated the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, remembering those who had fought and died in the bloody grass and honoring those who lived to walk among them still. There had been cheers for her, cries of “The White Lady!” and “Maiden of the Shield-arm!,” and someone had even started one of the songs that had sprung up about her. Tomorrow she would appreciate their love, but not tonight. The grief was still too heavy to take joy in honors, grief over family and friends slain, good knights that were sorely missed. That grief dominated her spirits now, but another also added to the ache.

She finished reading the letter and looked at the signature for several long moments. The handwriting she had come to know and cherish, though it reminded her that the writer was far away. Faramir had been sent down to the lands beyond Poros on the 5th of Nénimë (two weeks before his birthday, she rued.) King Elessar had charged him with quelling an uprising that had begun at an outpost of Haradrim rebels. It was not the start to another great war; just a small fire started by stray embers. Clearly some in the South were in denial that they had lost the War and that Gondor was regaining its power over the lands it had lost.

This was the second letter she had received since he had been gone, dated the first of Súlimë. The first letter he had written shortly after arriving, describing the journey and the strange lands he found himself in. This one turned more to the business at hand. They had already fought in some skirmishes, he said, and the rebels had proved to be fierce fighters. They held themselves to an outrageous code of honor, going so far as to kill themselves sooner than becoming prisoners to the tarks of Gondor. The few we managed to find alive, he wrote, we had to bind hand and foot lest they try to kill themselves with their own hands.

Éowyn shivered and pulled the blanket closer around her shoulders. Not so long ago she would have commended them on their value of honor in death. Now she knew that there was joy to be had in living, and seeking out death was the mark of the hopeless. Hopeless, perhaps, but being hopeless did not mean one always gave up life without a fight. Faramir had written of some strange news he had received upon his arrival.

One chieftain has even set a price on my head. He comes from the area they call the “gold springs.” I believe he's called Corazir, or something like that. (The names are strange down here, and yet have a sense of the familiar. Maybe that comes from the influence of Númenor of old.) I am not sure why he has taken such an interest in me, unless he's fascinated with the idea of capturing the Steward of Gondor since the king has not come here. Strangely enough, the higher price is for me to be brought to him alive rather than dead. Ah, forgive me, melda, I have just realized that these words are far from comforting. Do not despair. I am well guarded and have no intention of ever meeting this chief unless it be he comes to surrender and be forgotten as nothing more than a mere rebel.

Éowyn sighed, folded the letter, and placed it next to the other in the drawer of the small nightstand beside her bed. She did not like that he was far away from her. She did not like that he was in danger, despite his assurances that all was well. She hated Elessar for sending him on this mission six weeks before their marriage. The needs of the nation were greater than that of a single marriage, but surely there were other capable men who could have led the companies?

She had known something was wrong when Faramir came to Edoras on the 21st of Narvinyë (to celebrate her birthday the following day) and she had seen a lingering sadness behind the happiness in his eyes. He put off her questions until late in the evening when he explained the situation simply, without any frills or embellishments. Gondor needed him to make peace. She had argued with him about why he had to be the one to go, but in the end she relented, if only because she knew there was no swaying him. Their wedding day would have to be pushed back from Súlimë 20, a year to the day after their first meeting in the Houses of Healing, to sometime in the summer.

“Perhaps Midsummer?” he asked, running his thumb over her fingers clasped in his hand. “Things in the South should be taken care of by then, and if they are not entirely, then surely well enough under control to spare me for a while.”

She had agreed, somewhat reluctantly. Summer was a pleasanter season for weddings than early spring, but she had been looking forward to this day for almost a year now, and she did not want to extend her wait. Once they had reached the agreement, the matter was set aside, though not entirely forgotten. Maybe kisses lasted a little longer or embraces were held a little tighter than they would have if the eminent parting had not cast its shadow.

The next evening they spent in front of the fireplace, letting the hearty birthday supper settle while sipping large mugs of hot cider. Éomer would have frowned at the number of kisses they stole, but then he also had not quite come to terms with the idea of his sister being married soon.

“I want to give you another birthday present,” Faramir said after a comfortable lull in the conversation.

Éowyn lifted her head from his shoulder. “Another? Léofa, the music box was more than enough.”

He smiled and put a finger to her lips to silence her protests. “I will give you as many gifts as I want, and there is nothing you can do to stop me.” He brushed a strand of hair that had fallen on her face behind her ear, then reached into his pocket and took out a long key. Éowyn lifted and studied it when he put it in her hand, then gave him a questioning look.

“That is the key to the doors of our home in Ithilien, melda,” he said as she took a quick breath. “Reconstruction is not finished yet, but it should be livable by the time we are ready to go there. I give you this key because I want you to remember that I am ready to start a home with you, and when I am with you, I am home.”

“Even now?” she asked, leaning forward to kiss him swiftly.

Faramir chuckled. “Yes, even now. For these three days, Edoras is my home. And while I am on this errand beyond Poros, I will certainly be homesick.”

They had tried to make their parting the next morning as painless as possible, but neither could deny that they had held their last embrace several extra moments. Éowyn watched him and his escort ride east until they were out of sight, then swiftly strode back to her chambers ere anyone could see the tears that had sprung into her eyes.

What is he doing now, I wonder, she thought as she gazed at the letters and the key lying next to them.

Probably resting, just as you should be, another part of her answered. Yawning, she turned and blew out the lamp. Embers glowed in the hearth, keeping the chill from biting too hard. Éowyn pulled the thick blankets over her and settled for the night. She had not been feeling well at all today. The joints in both her arms had ached, and she wondered if there was more to that than just the springtime cold and damp. She had felt sick from time to time, weak, tired. She lay awake for a long time before drifting off to sleep as the wind continued to moan.

The battle raged. Men shouted. Horses screamed. Horns took up their calls with varying pitches and fervency. Amid the sound of pounding hoofs on turf came the whistling of blades and the clash of metal on metal, followed the cries when the blade finds its mark. The fields reeked of sweat and blood and fluids, and over all on the wind came the acrid smoke of the burning city. Dawn had come, but it only made clear the horrors of the night.

She rode at the tails of the king's knights, or would be if they were still in formation. They had made their charge and had broken up to confront the enemy where needed. Elfhelm led a charge toward the siege engines, laughing at the challenge of felling those armored trees. They clove through the ranks of their enemies, but it seemed like there were always more to spring up where others had fallen. Throughout the field camps were ablaze, their flames and smoke obscuring the view and worrying the horses. And always foes. Another appeared whenever one fell to blade or spear or hoofs. Orc and man, they came without end.

Then darkness came, as though the sun had been blotted from the sky and would never shine again. The horses shrieked in their terror, throwing their riders and fleeing like the wise beasts they were. She found herself on the bloody ground as Windfola spun and fled. The Halfling had fallen as well, but in the confusion she could not see where he had gone.

“To me! To me!” She heard her uncle crying. “Up Eorlingas! Fear no darkness!” She forced herself to rise, and when she looked to the king, she saw that proud Snowmane had risen on his hind feet to face his foe. And then Snowmane fell, crushing the king beneath him. She wanted to scream, but terror had taken her voice. She wanted to run to him and pull the wretched beast from him, but she stood as stone.

The field grew strangely quiet as she lifted her eyes from the broken king to the black-mantled threat before her. His fell steed cries in victory, but its rider makes no sound. Around her lay the knights of Edoras, slain and bloodied: Guthláf, Dúnhere, Déorwine, Herefara, Herubrand, Beorl, Léod, Aldor, Brytta. Knights from whom she had begged to learn the sword and who had humored her. Knights who had brought her news of war and told her tales of glory. But had they not been many paces from her when they fell? How were they here now beside her?

“Death, death, death! Death take us all,” she heard them whispering. “We have ridden to ruin and the black dawn. The world has fallen, and we with it. The abyss opens before us.”

She spun, and the black-mantled threat was behind her, beside her, in front of her. Everywhere she turned he was there, surrounding her. Was he just one foe, or a thousand come to destroy her? She took a step and the great foul beast took one of the fallen surrounding her in its mouth and threw him at her feet. The helm rolled off and out spilled raven hair over a pale, still, bloodied face.

“The shadow has taken him. He is lost,” came the cold voice of the black king. The sword fell from her hand as her eyes widened in horror. “You are lost, Éowyn, Éowyn, Éowyn,” the cold voice said with mocking laughter that descended into madness.

At long last, her breath came back, and she could finally scream.

And scream.

And scream.

She woke to a room bathed in light and filled with guards, servants, those who had been drawn by the shrieks. Éowyn's eyes saw her maidservant kneeling by the bed, eyes wide and face pale, but her mind saw one of the mocking ghosts that had lain at her feet. Feeling arms around her, she writhed furiously as screams continued to rip from her throat.

“Let her go! Let her go!” someone cried, and as she felt the arms loosen, she worked one of hers free and flung it back at her captor. She hit something, and the blow was followed by a curse as whoever had held her let her go entirely. She twisted a few more times until she was sure she was free, sitting up on her knees, looking around the room with wild eyes. By now her throat is raw and aching, and her cries fade as her voice fails her.

In the stunned silence that followed, she came to her senses, finally seeing the people gathered in the room as bright as daylight for all the torches and lamps that had been brought. The blankets that had warmed her earlier were strewn across the floor, and the sheets were ripped from the corners and gathered in the middle from her thrashing. As she caught her breath, she could feel her green nightdress drenched in sweat and sticking to her. She looked to her right and saw her brother sitting up on the floor, holding his nose with one hand and watching her warily, a look mirrored on many faces.

Éowyn sank to her heels and sagged forward, her hair falling around her face like a curtain. She started shaking from the horror and fear of the vivid memories and visions, and from the humiliation of knowing so many people had seen her in this state. She felt a hand on her back and blindly reached for her brother, who had dared to try to comfort her again, and wrapped her arms around his neck, clinging to him like moss on a rock. He murmured soothing words in her ear, occasionally giving instruction to someone she could not see.

The room emptied until it was just brother and sister alone in the light. At length her shaking stopped and her voice returned, though barely above a whisper. “They were all dead, Brytta and Déorwine and the rest. And so was he. I saw him,” she said. “The dark beast took him in its mouth and threw him at my feet, dead.”

“He fought well and died bravely,” Éomer told her soothingly. “It was a terrible day, and there is no shame in dreading these memories.”

“No, not the king,” Éowyn said, her voice cracking. “Faramir. Something has happened to him.”

Éomer remained silent, as though unsure of what to say. Finally he spoke. “I do not think you should put too much stock in this nightmare. It has been a grievous day for all, and that clearly has sparked your dreams. He will return to you. Have you not heard his rangers say his life is charmed?”

Éowyn continued to lean against him, unsure whether she believed his words. They continued talking for a long time, until finally she had settled enough to fall asleep again, though this time all the lights remained ablaze. Éomer stayed with her until he was certain she was resting well, then returned to his chambers to deal with his own nightmares.

Éowyn's sleep the rest of the night was dreamless, and when she woke in the morning she remembered the horror, but it was like the memory of any other dream, real enough to know it had happened but without the suffocating fear. But unlike other dreams, the memory haunted her for several more days, combining with the quiet dread of the approaching 20th.

That day as she sat in a small room just off the great hall, where she had often waited for her uncle to need her, her thoughts lingered on what could have been. She had not thought that the day would bother her so much. After all, the wedding was only postponed for a while, not canceled entirely. And yet... and yet an empty ache overwhelmed her. She could not fully put aside the knowledge that today she should have been making her vows and welcoming the embrace of her husband. But there were no festivities in the hall or on the green. The smells of roasts did not hang heavy on the air. Edoras was quiet. A brief rain shower had fallen, a cold downpour that chilled the day. Éomer had tried to distract her, but he ceased his efforts when he realized that they were useless.

She had brought the two letters Faramir had sent, read them yet again, and was now looking at the key he had given. It was not ostentatious or laden with metalwork embellishments. It was a simple key, but surprisingly heavy. Footsteps approached, and she looked up to see her brother enter.

“I thought I would find you here,” he said. “I have something for you.” He handed her a folded and sealed letter.

Éowyn looked at the seal and then glanced at him in surprise. “But I have not heard a rider arrive.”

He shrugged. “It came with the last one, but I was under strict orders not to give it to you until today.” He squeezed her shoulder gently and left.

Éowyn looked at the seal for a long time before carefully breaking it. As she began reading, she felt a lump form in her throat.

I hope for your sake that today dawns bright and shining, not gray and gloomy like early spring days so often are when winter holds too long. I know what day this is, and I know what it means to both of us. And I do not believe you were entirely honest with me when you said that it was no great matter to delay what was to happen. I know I dread waking up this morning and finding myself far from you, knowing this morning should have been the last that I was not at your side.

I had intended to take your hands in mine and make my marriage vow today, but since I cannot, I will make another vow instead. It is this: I will come back to you. Our wedding day shall not be delayed a second time. I will be in Edoras on Midsummer (whether I arrive weeks early or an hour before sunset none can tell, but I truly wish for the former) and we will be wed. Do not give in to doubt, melda.

She read the rest of the letter, tears trickling down her face. He knew. He had always known. She wiped her eyes and took several deep breaths to steady herself, then read the letter again and a third time after that.

When she was finished, she picked up the key that had been lying in her lap and tested its weight again. It was solid. It would last.

Ithilien, the garden of Gondor now desolate kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness.

Sweet home Indiana

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