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A/N: Many thanks to Ellynn for divining my meaning as my beta! ((hugs!))
Ch. 8 – “It Shall be done!”
Théoden sat at his desk and upon hearing a sound, he looked up expectantly at the door hoping against hope to see his niece at the entrance. He sighed; again he was disappointed. He did not know what to expect, but he knew exactly what he feared. The look in Éowyn’s eyes said it all. Disappointment, betrayal. He truly never meant to hurt his niece, whom he could not love more if she were his own daughter. How had it all gone so wrong, so quickly?
Théoden’s heart stopped. He looked up and saw both his niece and nephew in the doorway. Éomer paused for a moment, bent with his fist on his heart and took his leave, his eyes inscrutable. He looked at his niece. She looked pale, uncertain and a little hesitant, but she was there. That was something. Théoden made a motion to rise from his chair and Éowyn walked in a few steps.
“No. Don’t get up.” Éowyn said a bit forcefully. She paused, biting her lower lip as she always did when pensive or worried about something. Théoden waited for her to speak, his heart in stasis, not knowing whether it was going to sing with repentant joy or shatter to pieces.
Éowyn just stood there staring at her uncle. “I should be very angry with you, Uncle. By rights I should.” She looked at her uncle, even now her heart swelled with both pity and anger at the look in his eyes. One of mute supplication. “Have you nothing to say?”
Théoden found his voice. “I can say nothing to excuse my lies. I am heartily sick. I can only ask your forgiveness. It was done out of love,” he ended quietly as he cast his eyes to the carpeted floor.
Éowyn looked at her uncle, wanting to forgive him, aching to forgive him. Part of her could not, but she made the conscious decision to set that aside to be dealt the next day. At this moment, she needed to feel her uncle’s arms around her. She walked up to her uncle’s chair, tears beginning to fall down her cheeks. Tears of betrayal and tears of sadness, perhaps both together, but Éowyn said through a tear choked throat, “I am likely to be angry with you for some time yet, but that doesn’t ever mean that I have stopped loving you!” Éowyn bent to kiss her uncle’s bristled cheek.
Théoden’s heart began to beat again rapidly. He stood feeling a little lightheaded as he wrapped his beloved niece in his arms. His heart soared as she returned the hug with a little hesitancy at first and then just as fervently. He thought of his sister, gone these ten years. Thank you, he said in his heart, thank you for the blessing of this spirited, wonderful child. I shall endeavor to be worthy of her love.
Three months later…
Éowyn gathered up her baskets filled with necessary bits and pieces for cottagers in the lower portion of Edoras and placed them in the cart she used for her visits. These weekly visits to the cottagers, besides her archery and the now only occasional swordplay between her and her brother or cousin, were her favorite time of the week. She could go among the people and simply talk with them and see if she could make their lives any easier with help or extra foodstuffs or some new thing for the children to play with. It gave her joy to help others; it lessened the ache in her heart and filled at least a portion of her soul with purpose.
She and Héohelm, the young Rider currently tasked with fetching and carrying for her on her rounds, stepped out of the kitchen entrance to Meduseld after having retrieved a few healing salves and poultices and a basket of mince tarts to give to the children in the lower edges. She stated to the young Rider, “First to Mistress Holdlith. I want to give her this healing salve.” She looked at Héohelm when all she received was a mumbled reply. He was busy trying to surreptitiously swallow one of the tartlets. “Héohelm! Those are for the children!”
“But they smell so good!” Héohelm said after swallowing the last of the tartlet.
Éowyn tried for a stern, reproachful look but failed and smiled instead. “They do smell good! Thilda may have many faults, but she does make a very good tartlet!” She admitted. She looked into the opening amid the cheesecloth and slipped a hand in to extract one of the delicious little pastries. She bit into it, warm and lightly spiced, it was indeed delicious. After finishing it off and licking her fingertips to clean them of the delicious yet sticky residue of the tart, she said, “Let us make a move before we are tempted to eat even more!”
“Agreed!” Héohelm said cheerily.
Éowyn smiled at the young Rider, one of the more pleasant of the Riders her uncle detailed to be with her on her rounds. “What are the odds that we should be offered some special mead by Mistress Holdlith today?”
“The odds of that, my lady, I would say are quite high indeed!”
Éowyn laughed again. “I do believe you are right.”
Mistress Holdlith ran true to form and Éowyn sat in her little cottage sipping the sweet mead and sitting in the older woman’s best chair, once again at Holdlith’s insistence. Héohelm stood attendant inside the door but was also sipping the fine mead at the older woman’s firm command.
“Now, Mistress Holdlith, you must tell me the truth!” Éowyn began briskly. “How are you doing?”
“Ah! My lady! I am well. I am well.”
Éowyn fixed her friend with a gimlet stare, for friend she had become over the years since she started this. “Holdlith, do not lie! I saw you reach for your back when you reached for these finely carved goblets."
“Ah well, yes. My back does pain me a little from time to time. But I am getting up there in age, M’dear!”
“Nonsense!” Éowyn exclaimed, but she reached into the sack she had set on the small table where they sat, near the small lit hearth. “This should ease some of those aches and pains. Rub a little in where it hurts, and you should feel as right as a spring rain smells good.”
“I shall save it for most need.”
“No,” Éowyn said somewhat firmly. “There will be more when needed. I will make sure of that! Use it when you will and not only when you must.” She looked Mistress Holdlith in the eye and would not look away until she received the older woman’s acquiescence.
“All right! Done!” she looked into Éowyn’s eyes. “You are a good girl. Good and kind-hearted. You will make a fine wife someday.”
Éowyn smiled, but she mentally sighed. The automatic assumption of her impending marriage to whomever cowed her spirit inwardly. It seemed the only road open to her and she looked upon it as an unwelcome duty, as so much her life was quickly becoming. Still she pushed such thoughts aside for the present and pasted a smile upon her face, but not fast enough for Holdlith who smiled knowingly.
“Héohelm, my lad! Can you inspect the chicken coop for me? The door keeps sticking and I would know why! Off you go!” Héohelm respectfully took his leave to fulfill his task.
“Good, he is gone. A nice young thing though, I do say!” She looked back at Éowyn. “I noticed that look, I’ve seen it before.”
Éowyn quickly demurred and began unpacking various bits from the sack. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Holdlith looked at her, “Yes you do, my dear. You have had a disappointment. What about I do not know, and I do not need to know.” She indicated the space in front of the stool upon which she sat. “Come here, child. Kneel here. I sent Héohelm outside because I sensed something. Now it is not widely known, nor do I wish it to be widely known, but I have always had something of the Sight.” Éowyn looked at her friend intently. She had not expected this. Holdlith held her hands out, palms up. “If you will permit me, my lady?”
Éowyn nodded, not knowing what to expect, but knowing that she trusted the older woman’s judgment. Holdlith took a few deep breaths and then gently laced her slender fingers through Éowyn’s reddish blond hair with her palms gently covering the girl’s ears. She closed her eyes lightly and faintly hummed a soft lullaby Éowyn had known as a child. It had a meditative effect on both women, young and old. They stayed that way for many moments. Holdlith then lightly kissed the crown of Éowyn’s head and unlaced her fingers from the young woman’s hair. Éowyn looked up into wise old eyes.
“You are sad now and I am afraid that will not end soon,” the older woman said with great empathy, “but it will not be forever. You will know great happiness and there will be a great love in your life. Eyes that have seen much and will have known their own pain will bring you to happiness.”
Éowyn stared at her friend. She did not quite know what to make of her words, but she did know her own feelings. “But I do not want love!” She fervently avowed because, by her observation, love only lead to sacrifice and submission. It meant giving up all one was, everything one called their own. Marriage meant becoming someone she simply could not be. “I would wish for renown though I know now that can never be!”
Holdlith looked at her with a mixture of compassion and surprise. “That is also something I see, though that path remains clouded in my vision.”
Éowyn looked at her with the eyes of hope warring with futility. “Praise to the Valar that it should come to pass!”
“My visions are always true, though I am never given a straightforward to path to them.”
“But you have given me hope! And that is priceless beyond jewels.”
She kissed Holdlith on the cheek and bowed to take her leave of the older woman.
Héohelm entered hurriedly. “You had better come quickly. There has been an accident.”
Éowyn raced outside only to find young Háláf under the wheel of a cart. His face was ashen white from the pain. She immediately flew into action. “Héohelm, take that end! Déor!” She motioned to Háláf’s father. “Grab the other end!”
He flew to the opposite end of the cart. “All right, together! And lift! Balwine!” she commanded the nearby cottager. “Help me to gently move Háláf out from under the cart!”
The boy groaned through clenched teeth, trying to be stoic as they gently shifted his position.
“Shh-shh! It’ll be all right! My brave boy!” Éowyn whispered fervently as she smoothed back his blond hair before inspecting the damage to his leg. She recalled all the bits of healing knowledge passed to her from her nurses. The lower part of the boy’s leg was starting to swell but there was no blood and she sent several prayers of thanksgiving to the Valar for the fact that no bones were protruding though the skin, because the only time she had ever seen that happen the man had to have the lower portion of his leg removed and he had unfortunately died afterwards of a fever that could not be controlled. This particular injury had happened to Éomer when he was fourteen. They had been roughhousing and Éomer had been felled by a tree stump and he fell wrong. To this day she still could not have told anyone how it happened that he fell, but fall he did and a broken leg was the result. But thankfully, it healed fully and it did not bother him. She could only hope the same for Háláf.
She looked into the worried eyes of his father, Déor. She felt for him. She knew that Háláf was his only son and he had recently been chosen to start training as a Rider. She had been present when the First Marshal Heregar’s herald had come to Déor’s cottage just a few months previous to reveal that Háláf had been accepted into the training Eored for the Muster of Edoras. Déor and his wife, Saeryth, had been beside themselves with joy and pride. It was the honor of a lifetime for the son of a potter to be named to the training Eored for Edoras. She saw in his eyes the dying of a dream. A determination to not let this particular dream die flared within her heart. She might not be able to see her life’s goal come to fruition, but she could do something for this family, for Déor, Saeryth and young Háláf. She would not see his dream die because of a random accident.
“He will be fine!” she told the father about his son. Her fervor filled her voice. “I will have my uncle send his healer to him! You will see.” She looked about for something to make a temporary splint for the boy’s leg. She spied two broken boards of middling length and ripped up the cloth that covered the contents of the small cart Héohelm had been pulling behind her.
“Thank you, my lady! Your generosity overwhelms me!” Déor stumbled out the words of gratitude.
“Pish! Don’t thank me yet. Not until the deed is done,” Éowyn stated as she continued to rip the cloth covering into strips. She looked at Háláf, who was gamely trying not to cry. “Háláf, I am going to tie your leg up so you can be moved to back to your cottage. I am sorry sweetling, but this is going to hurt.” She looked up and another cottager’s wife, Aldwyn, had come out of her cottage to see what had happened. “Mistress Aldwyn, might I borrow that cooking spoon in your hand?”
Aldwyn looked down at the big wooden mixing spoon she realized she was still carrying. “Yes, of course. My Lady!” She wiped off the residue of stew making on her apron and hand the spoon to Éowyn.
“Thank you, Mistress.” Éowyn turned back to the injured boy. “Now Háláf, you know what to do. Bite down on this as I wrap your leg, sweetling.”
Háláf did as he was told.
She set about wrapping his leg by first placing the strips gently under the length of his leg, then placing the middling sized boards on either side of the broken leg. Háláf squirmed and bit down on the spoon throughout the process. Soon she had the leg splinted. Déor watched wide-eyed and winced in sympathy pain for his son and was amazed at the Lady Éowyn’s skill in such matters. He started as he heard his name. He had been so fixated on the pain he saw in his son’s face.
“Déor, take your son back to your cottage. Leave the splint in place until I return with my Uncle’s healer.”
She smiled at the worried father and kissed the sweaty forehead of the son. “I will return soon.” She turned to the young Rider beside her. “Héohelm, please continue with my rounds. I regret that I cannot complete them myself today, but I must return to speak with my uncle, and I do not want that the other cottagers should wait any longer.”
“As you wish, My lady!” Héohelm stated, his fist on his heart.
Éowyn smiled at him and then turned to Déor. “I shall return as quickly as I can.” With that she turned on a heel and swiftly made her way back up to the Golden Hall. Éowyn nodded and smiled at the Hall Guards after having ascended the stairs in a marked rush. “Good day to you both,” she called out with an energy she had not felt in a good while.
“Good day to you, Lady Éowyn!” exclaimed Hama, one of her favourite doorguards.
Upon entering the main hall Éowyn saw Déorgar, her uncle’s main councilor. “Déorgar, where is my uncle? I must needs speak with him urgently.”
Déorgar looked upon her affectionately, but Éowyn was alarmed at how ill his eyes looked and he coughed heavily before answering, “He has returned to his study before the meeting of the council.”
Éowyn eyes held a look of concern for the King’s councilor. She had known him since she was a little girl and had grown fond of him. “Oh dear, Déorgar. Are you quite well? That cough does not sound at all good. Perhaps you should take your rest.”
“No, no. My dear lady, I am well. Perhaps a bit tired. But I cannot stop. The King has need of me.”
Éowyn looked at him, chagrin clearly written on her face. “Regardless, you should take more care. If your ladywife were still with us I know she would make you,” she ended earnestly.
A sad smile crossed Déorgar’s face as he thought of Wídhild, his wife of many years who had died of a wasting fever the winter past. “Aye, My lady. That she would have.” He shook his head as if to rouse himself back to the present. “But you were inquiring after the King. He is in his study.”
Out of concern for the old councilor Éowyn had momentarily forgotten her errand of mercy. “Yes, thank you. But remember. Take care.”
“Yes, my lady.”
They parted ways and Éowyn made her way to the King’s study. Knocking, she waited for permission to enter. A “Come!” sounded and she entered the study. Her uncle sat at his desk, parchments clutched in one hand. He looked up and delight stole across his face. “Éowyn!”
Éowyn ran up to him and kissed his bristled cheek. “Uncle! I need your help!”
Théoden immediately stopped and looked at his niece. Her face was full of life and purpose. It had been too long since she had looked so. His heart flared with happiness. “And what is it that I can do for you, Lytling?”
Éowyn answered in a rush, her emotions getting out in front of her ability to make sense. “A cottager’s son has had an accident and I think his leg is broken! His name is Háláf. He is nine and had just began training with the young Eored for the Muster of Edoras. I know his parents. They are good, hard-working people! They were so proud that he had been selected and now–”
“Shh-shh!” Théoden clasped his niece’s gesturing hands to still them. He smiled. “What is it that you wish me to do for this boy and his family?”
“I want you to send Léoulf to help them and to heal Háláf’s leg!” She paused and then said firmly, “I might not be able to fulfill my purpose in life but I will not allow this random accident to dash the dreams of Háláf and his family! You must send Léoulf!”
Théoden looked at his niece with a mixture of emotions running through him. Sadness for the loss of her own dreams and overwhelming love for her and the empathy she had for this cottager family and their dreams. “It shall be done!”
Éowyn beamed at him. “Thank you, Uncle. They really are a fine family.”
Théoden smiled. “I’m sure they are, Lytling. I am always glad to be able to help my people. And I will gladly do anything I can to see you smile again.”
Lytling (Old English): A little one, a young person or child (Rohirric was based on Old English, so I looked up a few Old English words.)
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