Disclaimer: I do not own any of the recognizable characters; I am only borrowing them for fun for a little while. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.
Many thanks to my wonderful Beta’s, Marsha and J.
Many thanks to my wonderful Beta’s, Marsha and J.
Éomer paused in his headlong flight. Some sound had reached his ears even over the noise of his booted feet striking the stones that paved the path from Meduseld to the royal stables. There it was again. A whimpering, mewling sound… perhaps it was a kitten. Éomer’s eyes lit up at the thought even though he’d rather have a puppy. He doubted his uncle would let him have either one, though. He didn’t know Uncle Théoden very well yet and Théodred didn’t have any pets. Still, if there were kittens he and Éowyn could come and play with them. That thought gave him pause. Where was Éowyn? He hadn’t seen her for hours and that was unusual. Frowning briefly and deciding to first find the kittens and then go and find his sister, Éomer crept toward the woodpile where he had heard the noise.
The sound became clearer as the boy drew near the large pile of wood and Éomer quickly realized that it was not kittens or any other animal making the noise… it had to be a human. Crouching down next to the pile, he carefully peered around the corner and, seeing nothing, he crawled around the pile to the next corner hoping no one would see him. Peeking around the corner, Éomer gasped when he saw his sister curled up on the ground, clutching the small rag doll their mother had made her for her seventh birthday. Her small body shook with sobs, though he could see that she had stopped crying. Faint traces of tears on her cheeks mute evidence of her earlier weeping.
“Éowyn? Éowyn, what’s wrong?” Éomer asked as he quickly crawled to her side. He placed a hand on her shoulder and gently shook her.
Her eyes popped open and she sat up, drawing away from him, frightened by his sudden appearance. Where had he come from? “Go away, Éomer! Just leave me alone,” she said crossly as she turned away from him. She wrapped her arms tightly about herself and leaned heavily against the woodpile trying to ignore her perplexed older brother.
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s wrong,” he said stubbornly to her back. He hesitantly reached his hand out to touch her shoulder but thought better of it and let his hand fall back to his lap. “Are you hurt?” he asked when she ignored him. Éomer inched closer to his sister, staining the knees of his new riding breeches as he slid through the grass.
Éowyn vigorously shook her head, wincing when she hit it against a piece of wood that stuck out from the pile. She tried to pull away when she felt Éomer arms around her. “Don’t, Éomer! I’m not hurt,” she said even as tears began trickling down her cheeks.
“Just let me look at it,” he replied. “It’s bleeding.” Which was stretching the truth quite a bit, but Éomer didn’t care. The wood had only scraped Éowyn’s forehead and the ‘wound’ had barely broken the skin. He felt his sister’s body relax a bit in his arms even as she let out a resigned sigh. Pulling loose a corner of his undertunic, Éomer spit on it and then carefully wiped the abrasion off, trying to be gentle.
“You shouldn’t spit,” Éowyn scolded him. “Mama would have used water,” she said, tears filling her eyes once again. She hiccupped and turned her face into Éomer’s chest and he awkwardly patted her back.
“She’s not here,” he whispered, suddenly blinking back his own tears. Eleven year old Eorlingas didn’t cry. “And I don’t have any water,” he added unnecessarily.
“She’s not coming back, is she?” she asked, her voice muffled.
“No, she’s not. You know she’s not, Éowyn. The funeral was almost two weeks ago, so why are you crying today?”
The little girl shrugged and Éomer scowled down at the top of her head wondering what to say. She had seemed perfectly fine at lunch… though, perhaps she had been quieter than usual the past couple of days. He picked up a small twig and began digging a small furrow in the ground next to him as he thought. As far as he knew nothing bad had happened to her since they’d arrived in Edoras. Everyone had been nice to them – Uncle Théoden, Théodred, the servants, the stable hands, the door wardens, everyone. Of course it wasn’t like Aldburg and he missed his friends desperately at times, but Edoras was… well, home now. But Éowyn was so young yet and he didn’t know what to do to help her.
“I wanna go home,” Éowyn said startling Éomer who thought she’d fallen asleep since she hadn’t moved for some time.
Uncertain as to whether she meant Meduseld or Aldburg, Éomer cautiously said, “I’ll take you to your room. Supper should be ready soon.” He was hoping that since her tears had stopped things would return to normal now.
“No! I wanna go home,” she sobbed. “I miss mama and I miss… I miss…” her voice trailed off and she angrily wiped at her eyes.
Éomer looked around for help but no one was in sight. With a sigh he looked down. “Who do you miss besides mama? Déore and Félewyn?” he asked thinking of two girls he had often seen her playing with.
She nodded. “And… and,” she hiccupped and turned her tear-filled eyes up toward him. “Wynléas.”
“Wynléas?” he asked, shocked. Their old nursemaid? How could she miss that cranky old woman? Even though it had been a year or more since he’d had much to do with Wynléas, Éomer’s ears started throbbing in response to hearing her name. Too often had she grabbed his ears to punish him for some imagined transgression. “Why would you want to see her?” he asked scornfully.
Éowyn pushed away from him, glaring at him briefly before her gaze dropped to her lap. She picked up the doll and cuddled it against her. How could she make him see the Wynléas at least was part of home, not like the new nursemaid she had. This stranger who seemed cold and distant, that didn’t seem to like children or maybe it was just girls. Éowyn wasn’t sure which it was because she knew the woman had been Théodred’s nursemaid many years before and he seemed to like her well enough. She looked back at her brother.
“I d-don’t like,” she bit her lip and took a deep breath. “I don’t like Lyfides and she doesn’t like me. Wynléas liked me even though she wasn’t always very nice to you,” the words poured out of her in a rush. “I don’t like it here,” she added. “I don’t like my room, it’s too dark and I’m scared at night,” she whispered.
“Oh, Wyn,” Éomer said scooting over and putting his arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. “I’m so sorry.” He scowled as he stared into the distance while she cried. Finally, he spoke. “What does Lyfides do? Does she hurt you? If she does, then we’ll tell Théodred and he’ll help us or tell Uncle and they won’t let you be hurt anymore,” he said confidently. He already knew that neither his cousin nor his uncle would allow anything bad to go on in their household.
“She doesn’t hug me… or talk to me very much,” Éowyn said staring down at the ground.
Éomer blinked in surprise as he pulled away slightly and looked at his sister with a frown creasing his brow. “She doesn’t… hug you?” he asked. Éowyn nodded. “Or talk to you?” His sister nodded again and Éomer gave an exasperated sigh. “But she’s a nursemaid, Éowyn,” he said in a low voice, “she’s not supposed to do those things. Just make sure you’re dressed and in bed at night and up in the morning and things like that.”
“Wynléas did,” she replied stubbornly, crossing her arms.
“She did?” He shook his head at the image of the old nursemaid hugging his sister. “Well, maybe Lyfides will too once she gets to know you. Though I can’t imagine why anyone would want to hug you,” he said with an impish grin and Éowyn giggled and slapped him on the leg. “Ouch,” he said rubbing his leg while she just smiled. He turned serious once more.
“I don’t know what we can do about your room. There aren’t many…” Éomer was interrupted by a strong, firm voice.
“But I can do something,” Théodred said and, startled, the two youngsters looked up to see their tall cousin standing over them.
Author’s Note: The next chapter will be posted in a couple of days as the story is already finished – that’s a first for me and I like the feeling.