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18
Inroads (Éowyn)

Not all campaigns are fought with swords and spears. An unexpected alliance is offered during a pivotal battle...


~~~

Éowyn is weary now, wearier than she had felt after awakening in the Houses with the cold brand of the Witch-King’s touch on her skin. She is hosting her first dinner as the Steward’s Lady, while Faramir and Aragorn attend a late Council. The evening is long. Will it ever end?

Many of the ladies had flattered her, some had been wary; a few were openly spiteful. By the time the platters of fruit had been cleared, she had known that she might never be forgiven for having taken their coveted matrimonial prize - Faramir, long desired by mothers for their daughters, and daughters for their own dreams. Were it not for Arwen’s presence, Éowyn did not think she could have endured the past few hours. Her guests had laughed at her behind their soft hands, stabbed at her with their eyes.

But they cannot make Éowyn cry, not this flock of tittering women who could not tell a halberd from a glaive. She smiles with the pride of the House of Eorl. She comforts herself by imagining the simpering ladies as chattering magpies. Arwen, bound in conversation with Lord Hurin’s sister, gives Éowyn a glance of comradely approval.

"Lady Éowyn?" A shy young voice entreats. She turns to see a girl of fourteen or fifteen years, Lady Morduinel’s daughter. That lady had met Éowyn with derision in her eyes, surprised to hear her Sindarin greeting. As if a mare suddenly spoke to her in the tongues of Men, she thinks bitterly. She forces herself to look kindly upon the girl, who at least had offered her no discourtesy.

"Yes, my dear?" Éowyn answers, knowing that she is speaking over-familiarly, but unable to recall the girl’s name.

The girl blushes, her small hands curling into fists. She fears me, Éowyn believes regretfully. Now she is frightening young maids. How much more misery will this occasion bring?

Suddenly the girl curtseys before her, then shyly raises wide grey eyes to Éowyn. "I... I just wanted to tell you, my lady.." The girl sucks in an anxious breath, and continues. "To thank you. My father fell on the Pelennor Field. If you had not slain the captain of the Fell Riders, my brother would surely have fallen, and many others. My house owes you gratitude. We all do."

Éowyn’s smile is grave but unforced. Without thought, she takes the maid’s hand and tells her that she is a brave girl, that the blood of Gondor has bled with that of the Mark, two proud peoples joined as friends in war and now peace.

She does not see, but later Arwen will tell her, that many of the other women had heard the conversation, and how their faces had gentled as they glanced at the Lady of the Shield-arm and the fatherless maiden. Some of them look at Éowyn with new respect. A few will seek out her friendship in the weeks that follow. Roads once closed to her begin, slowly, to open.

~~~

Originally posted in the HASA Birthday Cards Forum to celebrate the fifteenth birthday of Nienna Narmolanya.


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