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Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 9: Emyn Arnen

by Lialathuveril

Chapter VIII: Emyn Arnen

Emyn Arnen was located in a broad fertile valley on the eastern side of the hills of the same name. Éomer knew that the house that had been built there by Steward Húrin, one of Faramir’s ancestors, had been burnt down and razed by orcs during the war and he was impressed by the amount of rebuilding that had been done already. Across the entrance to the valley an earth wall had been heaped up, limiting access to a narrow wooden bridge directly underneath the watchtower. A little earlier he had sent one of his men ahead to announce their coming and they were hailed in a friendly fashion by the guards stationed there.

Once past that point the valley widened again and they could finally see their destination, the manor house built halfway up the hill on the opposite end. There was a swift stream coming down the hill and running through the valley, its bank lined with willows and lush meadows. As they drew nearer they passed fields of wheat and barley and orchards of tall apple and cherry trees.

Éomer wondered if it was true that his sister had taken up gardening. Somehow he could not picture Éowyn pulling weeds, but her letters lately had been full of small domestic details. She and Faramir had been married only six months ago in Edoras, but she had obviously taken to her new life here like a duck to water.

The road now started to rise towards the main house and he noted with approval the good defensive position it was built in and the obviously new wooden palisade surrounding the whole complex. The gates were thrown open in welcome and they passed into the wide courtyard beyond, filling it to capacity.

Éomer’s face broke into a wide smile as he spotted his sister standing with Faramir on the steps to the main house and he dismounted quickly and enveloped her in a tight hug, for the first time realizing how much he had missed her.

“You look well,” he remarked, beaming down at her. Eyes the same deep blue as his own smiled back at him.

“It is good to see you, brother. Welcome to Emyn Arnen!”

For a long moment they just stood there silently, delighting in each other’s company, before Éowyn recollected her role as hostess. She turned to greet Lady Melian who was helped down from her horse by Faramir and who looked very tired. Then her eyes widened as Lothiriel rode up.

“Éomer!” she exclaimed, “that is Nightwind, isn’t it? You never told me you…”

“I did not give her the horse!” Éomer interrupted hastily, trying to keep his sister from jumping to conclusions.

Éowyn looked confused. “What do you mean? That is your mare, isn’t it?”

“She won it from me. I will explain later.”

Faramir had turned to Lothiriel and had swung her down from her horse. “And how is my favorite cousin?” he asked laughing, “Still up to your usual tricks?”

Her eyes met Éomer’s for one moment and she colored slightly. “Not at all,” she replied meekly as Éomer returned her gaze with a sardonic smile.

Éowyn had watched the exchange with open interest. “So this is your ‘little’ cousin?” she asked Faramir and embraced the princess warmly. The two women were of the same height.

“She has grown somewhat since last I saw her,” Faramir admitted, “and in more than one way,” he added, looking Lothiriel up and down with open approval. Lothiriel blushed and he grinned at her mischievously.

Éowyn cut in with a playful frown at her husband. “If you are quite finished with teasing our guests, maybe they would like to step inside and freshen up. I’ve had hot baths prepared for you.“

Melian looked relieved. “That sounds wonderful,” she admitted with a tired smile.

It certainly did, Lothiriel thought to herself as she made to follow Éowyn up the steps. After spending two full days on horseback all her muscles were aching and a certain part of her anatomy was rather sore.

“Haven’t you forgotten something?” Éomer stopped her, indicating Nightwind with a raised eyebrow. She looked at him in disbelief. He cannot be serious, she thought with a sinking feeling in her stomach.

“You’re not giving up on your first day already, are you?” he asked with a grin and Lothiriel recognized he was serious after all.

“Certainly not!” she replied through gritted teeth.

***


By the time she had finished grooming and feeding the mare her muscles were aching in earnest but by then the promised bath was no more than lukewarm. Not that she would have had much time to enjoy it anyway, Lothiriel thought, as she hurriedly slipped on one of her gowns at random. She did not even have the time to dry and braid up her hair again before one of the maids knocked on her door to announce that dinner was ready.

“Poor Lothiriel, did you fall asleep in the bath?” Faramir asked her solicitously when he noticed her damp hair as he escorted her to her seat.

“I was delayed somewhat,” she admitted and nodded coldly at Éomer who was seated across from her.

He gave her an ironic smile. “Your cousin has earned her dinner for once,” he said to Faramir, “she has agreed to look after her horse completely by herself.” When the Prince of Ithilien looked startled he added, “I hope you didn’t let Beda help you?”

Lothiriel, who had in fact received an offer of help from the squire and had been sorely tempted by it, took a deep breath and silently counted to ten and back in Rohirric to keep from retorting in an unladylike manner. “No.” was all she said in reply, but the look she gave the King of Rohan promised revenge.

Mercifully Melian and Éowyn came in just then and the conversation moved on to other topics. When the food was served Lothiriel found she was ravenous and for a while concentrated almost exclusively on eating, only listening absentmindedly to what her cousin was telling Éomer about the building work still going on.

“You are our first guests,” he was saying now, “and I think this house is unlikely to ever see a more illustrious company: a king, a prince and no less than three beautiful princesses!”

Éowyn laughed. “All that is missing is a queen,” she said with a wink at her brother who just groaned. Then she turned to Melian and Lothiriel. “Tell me, did you make Éomer’s acquaintance in Minas Tirith?”

Melian just nodded, but Lothiriel suddenly saw an unexpected chance for revenge open up before her. The opportunity was simply too good to pass up. “We did,” she said in a nonchalant tone while watching the King of Rohan out of the corner of her eye. He was talking to Faramir again and was just lifting his wineglass to his lips. In a voice pitched to carry across the table she announced “the first time we met he jumped at me in the Queen’s Garden.”

Éomer choked on his wine.

As Faramir gave her a horrified look she innocently added, “luckily he was unarmed or I would now be dead, or so he informed me.” The look the King of Rohan gave her through his violent coughing fit promised her she might well still suffer that fate.

Even so, she started to feel slightly concerned when his coughing showed no sign of abating and he went red in the face. She had just intended to punish him for his teasing words and certainly did not want to be the one to finish off the last King of Rohan. Wasn’t there a Steward once who choked on a fishbone? Lothiriel thought worriedly. Fortunately for her peace of mind and the future of the Mark, Éomer recovered after having several strong pats administered on his back by his sister.

While he was cautiously sipping a glass of water Faramir said in a severe voice to his cousin, “perhaps you would care to explain your remarks?” In a considerably chastened frame of mind Lothiriel did just that and told them the story of that night’s adventure. Melian, who had previously only been given a heavily edited version of events looked close to fainting again while Faramir didn’t know if he should be amused or horrified.

“I can’t believe you took the route across the stable roof,” he exclaimed, “I’d completely forgotten about it.” Éomer who for the first time realized she had had to cross Firefoot’s box to get to the trapdoor in the roof closed his eyes. The Princess of Dol Amroth would probably never know how lucky she had been to survive that experience.

Melian and Lothiriel retired soon after, the one genuinely exhausted, the other feeling she had said enough for one evening.

Faramir looked after them, shaking his head. “I can see Lothiriel hasn’t changed one bit, she always was a handful!” He smiled reminiscently as he remembered some of the mischief they had gotten into as children. “And you haven’t even told us yet how she got hold of a Rohirric warhorse,” he added shrewdly.

Éomer hesitated for a moment when they looked at him expectantly, then he sighed. Éowyn would hear the whole story from his men anyway, so he might as well tell them himself. “She won it in an archery competition,” he explained and went on to tell them the whole story, only leaving out their acrimonious argument at the end, not being very proud of the way he had lost his temper that day. Éowyn probably wasn’t fooled, but she held her peace for the moment.

Faramir was chuckling when he finished his tale. “Lothiriel was always in some sort of trouble and still is by the sounds of it. I think the only one who ever managed to quell her was my father. She was always on her best behavior around him.” Éomer wished he could ask the late Steward his secret but didn’t voice the thought.

Faramir now got up and gave his wife an affectionate kiss on the brow, “Well, no doubt you two have a lot of catching up to do in that incomprehensible language of yours. I’ve still got some work to do and will be in my study for a while.”

Éomer had taken him aside before dinner and told him about the incident at the crossroads and Faramir had decided to send some of his rangers to scout out the area around Morgul vale. A number of travelers had disappeared over the last few months and he was hoping that with the help of his brother-in-law’s men they might to be able to flush out the bandits. The only problem was finding their lair amongst the many caves and hidden passages that riddled the Ephel Dúath.

Between them they had decided not to mention anything to the women in order not to alarm them unnecessarily. It was a well-meant decision and it was really not their fault that it should turn out to have such unfortunate consequences.

Companionable silence descended as Faramir left the dining room. Éomer watched his sister as she poured herself another glass of wine and made a thorough inspection of the sweetmeats on offer, finally settling on a particularly sugary looking confection. She looked well, he thought, and it wasn’t just the added color brought to her complexion by the southern sun. Éomer had noticed during dinner how she seemed more relaxed and happy than what she used to be, laughing with her guests and being teased gently by her obviously adoring husband. He was glad to see that the wall of icy reserve she had built up in the unhappy years before the war had finally been broken down.

“I see Faramir has found out the secret of how to win your heart,” he remarked as she picked out another revoltingly sweet looking sweetmeat. His cousin Théodred and he had always teased Éowyn for her predilection for honeyed sweets.

“He is a wise man,” she replied, licking the sugar off her sticky fingers.

“Well I can see he hasn’t managed to turn you into a Gondorian lady yet,” he said with mock severity.

“Faramir knows a hopeless task when he sees one,” Éowyn replied and they shared a grin.

“Married life seems to agree with you,” Éomer observed more seriously.

“It does,” she said simply, “oh, I miss the plains of the Riddermark and I miss you, but this is the first time I have really got a place I can call my own.”

“But Meduseld was your home!” Éomer protested, honestly shocked.

“It was my home, but I always felt like a caretaker. First for Théodred’s future wife and then for yours.” Noticing his surprise at her frank words she added, “I’ve done a lot of thinking lately and have realized this house is like a fresh start with no bitter memories attached to it. Simply a place to share my life with Faramir and to be happy.”

Éomer sighed. “Your happiness is all I ever wished for. I still miss you, though,” he added wistfully, “Meduseld has been grim and empty without you.”

“What you need is a wife,” Éowyn replied impulsively and he groaned.

“Don’t you start as well! My advisors have been telling me little else these last few months than that the Mark needs an heir. The only good thing about it is the fact that they can’t seem to agree on who is to provide it.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Éowyn protested, “although they are of course right. I’m just worried about you being all on your own without any family.” What her brother needed, she thought privately, was somebody he loved to come home to, somebody to keep him from brooding on the past too much.

“I know my advisors are right,” he admitted with a sigh, “it’s just that I have spent my whole life fighting and I don’t really know how to go about looking for a wife.”

“Well, what qualities are you looking for?” Éowyn asked.

“I suppose she should be able to run the household in Meduseld and be capable of looking after things while I’m away and she should be liked by the people of the Mark.”

His sister frowned. “You are only speaking of your queen, yet what of your wife?”

“I will have to consider myself lucky if she’s moderately pretty.”

Éowyn looked at him in dismay. It squeezed her heart to hear him speak so despondently and made her realize anew what a precious thing she and Faramir had between them. “Oh Éomer,” she exclaimed and took his hand in hers, “I wish you could have the same good fortune as myself.”

He gave her hands a gentle squeeze. “Don’t worry about me, sister. After all I’m the lucky one, I survived the ring war against all expectations,” he added bitterly and they fell silent remembering their cousin Théodred who had died fighting Saruman’s armies.

Éomer tried to lighten the mood again. “I will do my duty by the Mark eventually. After all Rohan was nearly left without an heir a little earlier tonight,” he joked.

Éowyn smiled at that, but she was not fooled. Her brother had always been very good at hiding his true feelings behind being the consummate warrior and a façade of self-deprecating jokes. “So whom are your advisors recommending as a queen?” she asked, unwilling to drop the matter.

“Fortunately they can’t make up their minds whether she should be from the Westmark or the Eastmark. I don’t know what I will do if they ever gang up on me.”

Éowyn, who didn’t have the slightest doubt that he was the absolute master in his own home, frowned. “Does she have to be from Rohan?”

“They seem to think so. You would be astonished at the number of Rohirric maidens who have visited Edoras recently.” He named a few of them and she raised her eyebrows in surprise.

“Impressive list, isn’t it,” he said bitterly, “considering I haven’t spent more than a week at a stretch in Meduseld since your wedding anyway, I was so busy. Mind you, Minas Tirith was worse.”

“Worse?” Éowyn asked, starting to feel amused.

“In the future I will have more sympathy for the stags I hunt. It was like being pursued by a pack of dogs, what with all the Gondorian lords pushing their womenfolk at me!”

Éowyn had a vision of her brother being hunted through the palace gardens by shrieking women throwing themselves at his feet and started laughing helplessly. “Poor Éomer! Having all these ravishing Gondorian beauties yearning after you...”

“Ravishing indeed! I would rather face a pack of orcs.” When Éowyn broke into fresh laughter he added severely, “I see I can count on no sympathy from your side.”

His sister was wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. “What do you expect? It’s your own fault for being such an attractive warrior king. After all, it’s not as if there ever was a dearth of women wanting to share your bed, I seem to remember.”

He looked surprised at her outspoken words, then gave her a grin. “The problem is, this lot wants to share my life as well.” He sighed. “Half of them are too much awed and frightened of me to utter more than a few words, being pushed at me by their fathers, while the other half only have one thing in mind, to become a queen.”

“To which category does the Princess of Dol Amroth belong?” Éowyn asked unexpectedly.

He looked startled. “Lothiriel? Well, she certainly isn’t awed by me. Fortunately she is too young to think of marriage yet or I would probably have that brother of hers after me as well.”

Éowyn gave him a questioning look. “When she rode up on Nightwind today I thought for a moment you had gotten engaged.”

He winced. “Yes, I noticed. But like I explained I didn’t gift her the horse, she won it from me.”

“You didn’t tell us the whole story, though, did you?”

Inwardly he groaned. His sister knew him altogether too well. “No, I did not. We had a terrible argument after the tournament and I lost my temper with her.”

Éowyn raised an eyebrow. “You don’t usually loose your temper with women, I thought you reserved that for your foes.”

“Well I did that time. She said some unforgivable things.”

“Yet she seems to have been forgiven.” Éowyn remarked dryly.

“She apologized and we made a deal,“ Éomer replied, starting to feel being cornered.

“What kind of deal?”

“I teach her how to control her horse, but if I judge her not to be capable of it by the end of her stay I take Nightwind back with me.”

“That seems fair enough,” Éowyn remarked thoughtfully, “so why did she make you choke like that at dinner? Don’t tell me it wasn’t deliberate, I saw the guilt on her face.”

He grinned. “I am sure it was deliberate. Still, I deserved it really. I made her groom her horse before she could have her bath and then teased her about it.”

“You made the Princess of Dol Amroth groom her own horse like a common stable hand?” Éowyn asked aghast. She had met Prince Imrahil during the war and she could imagine what he would think of his only daughter being forced to do that kind of menial work.

“It won’t hurt her. In fact it might settle her down a bit. She reminds me of a box of Gandalf’s famous fireworks, you never quite know when they are going to go off.”

With a smile Éomer added, “don’t tell her I said that, though. I am already in her bad books for comparing her to a bag of grain earlier on today.”

“A bag of grain?” Éowyn repeated incredulously, “why, you had it coming to you! If word ever gets back to Dol Amroth you will have all the courtiers there howling for your blood.”

He didn’t seem particularly worried about it. “Let them,” he said shrugging his shoulders.

His sister gave him another searching look. “Faramir tells me Lothiriel has been managing the castle for her father for the last three years,” she remarked conversationally.

“Has she?” Éomer seemed surprised but then he nodded, “well, she can be quite commanding and certainly knows how to get her way.”

“She is a princess and she’s beautiful.” Éowyn pointed out.

“I suppose she’s quite attractive,” he admitted grudgingly.

“Quite attractive?” Éowyn exclaimed, “Why, she has that famous Gondorian beauty, raven hair, fair skin, gray eyes...”

“Her eyes aren’t gray,” he unexpectedly found himself forced to point out, “they are green.”

“So you noticed.”

“Well they are difficult to miss, aren’t they,” he said and then added hurriedly when he saw the triumphant look on her face, “and you must be mad if you think she would make me a suitable queen. The only suitable thing about her is the fact that she is a princess. You can’t leave her on her own for one moment without her getting into some sort of mischief. She would drive me crazy within a month!”

When his sister still looked unconvinced he declared firmly, “I would probably end up murdering her and I have no intention of going down in the annals of Rohan as Éomer wife-slayer, the first King of the Mark to kill his own queen. And that is my last word on it!”

Wisely Éowyn decided to leave it at that and changed the subject.

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Chapter name
Emyn Arnen
Created
22 Oct 2005
Last Edited
22 Oct 2005
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