It is easier for him, Éowyn thinks jealously, childishly, envying Faramir’s ease with their son. Faramir seemed to always have the right words to ease the small boy after a bad dream, or to enthrall him with a tale of hidden Elven cities.
Elboron had ridden heavily in her womb; the nine months she had carried him were beset by fears and fancies. What if the babe should sicken within her, late and bitter fruit of the Witch-King’s touch? His delivery had been a mercifully swift battle; the babe its whole and perfect prize.
Caring for him in his infancy had not been so hard. Elboron was a happy babe, riding out the pangs of teething with ease. He rarely cried. He never got colic. And she could hold him steady then, when he was little enough to lie softly in her arms, too young to walk or run into harm’s way.
Seeing him grow, that had been harder. He reached up and out, laughingly tottering away from her arms and into the dangerous world. Refusing to hobble him, she had reined back her own fears, and taken pride in his boldness. But oh, to see him trip on unsteady legs, to see him tumble from a tree‘s lowest branch…the mishaps had scared her far more than they frightened the child.
Today Elboron will take his first ride without a lead rope. Éowyn watches Faramir adjust Elboron’s feet in the stirrups. Her baby looks so small on the pony’s back, although he is sitting up very proudly in the saddle that she had checked three times to assure the fit of the cinch. Faramir swings lightly onto his own horse‘s saddle.
“Ready?” He asks the boy. Éowyn clutches too tightly on her own mount’s rein, then eases her grip. Her heart pounds. Elboron could fall! Elboron could ride away and never return! She wants suddenly to pull him back, off the pony and into her arms forever, to hold him tight, away from all danger.
“Ready!” Elboron proclaims happily; then looks back and forth at both parents. Eowyn knows her duty as a mother; she nods her encouragement, gives her best “it is well” smile.
Their son clucks quietly to the pony, and whispers, as if it were a secret message between boy and beast, the command ‘Walk!’. And then the pony steps to the child’s order, walking forward. Faramir and Eowyn move their steeds out, flanking the pony.
Faramir bestows a warm smile upon mother and son. Her husband is not given to easy pleasure; but now he fairly shines with gladness of heart. And look, their little boy is riding, really riding, holding the reins properly, a true heir of the House of Eorl and of the Captain who masters both beasts and men!
Elboron’s grey eyes narrow in fierce concentration. Éowyn suddenly sees so much of his father in him, despite the child’s golden hair, that she would laugh if she did not fear to distract him. The familiar tightness of mother-care melts as her heart pounds in joy instead of fright. There is also a pang of wonder: had her own mother also trembled in mingled terror and delight to see Éomer take his first ride unaided? Her fearless cousin Theodred had lifted the orphaned Éowyn onto a gentle gelding’s back and bid her walk the pony behind him. What had her mother felt when her firstborn took yet another step away from the safety of her hold? For an instant, Éowyn can almost feel the pride of Theodwyn, of Morwen Steelsheen, indeed of all the mothers standing behind her. She smiles through her tears.
With a forward shift, a slight squeeze of his lower legs, and a quiet word, Elboron quickens the pony’s pace. He trots ahead; while Faramir draws back to let him have half a horse-length’s lead. Éowyn matches the move, her fears eased. Though he still has much to learn, her son rides free now, with no mother’s hand to guide his steps. She can no more keep him as a babe in arms than she can stop the sun from rising, but she will always hold him close to her heart.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Originally written for SallyK’s birthday, posted on HASA Birthday Cards Forum 6.6.05, June Babies Take 2