Through Shadows

Chapter 31

Chapter 31

Almond blossoms

"Seven days," said Faramir. "but think not ill of me, if I say to you: they have brought me a joy and a pain that I never thought to know." Faramir to Éowyn, quoted from: The Steward and the King; The Return of the King, Book VI by J.R.R. Tolkien

Minas Tirith, 5th April, 3019, Third Age

With a sigh Éowyn lowered herself deeper into the warm water. What bliss to be able to stretch oneself out, to feel the muscles loosen and all tension the day had brought ebbing away. The towel that Nínim had wound around her head after washing her hair served as a nice pillow, and with her splinted arm resting on a polished board which the handmaid had put across the tub there was nothing that kept her from profound relaxation in the bathtub.

And what a tub! Closing her eyes, Éowyn could not help a grin. A huge copper vat, polished to perfection and set on massive bronze feet, cast in the shape of lion's paws. After a busy morning, spent training her sword arm and visiting the wounded, she had met the Lady Saelind for lunch as appointed. The table had been laid in the same sun-drenched room where the women of the household had assembled on her first visit. They had eaten a light meal, consisting of chicken and different kinds of greens, and with only the two of them plus the lady's daughter and Tuingail attending, the meal had been a very pleasant affair. At least for her, as she had highly enjoyed the ladies' dry sarcasm, their clever word-play and the ruthless candour with which they had commented on both the participants of the upcoming feast and Gondor's nobility in general.

Only Tuingail had become more and more quiet, and Éowyn wondered if that had been because her enthusiasm had been dampened thoroughly by what she had heard or if the girl simply had not been able to follow the ladies' shrewd puns. She did not doubt the Lord Faramir's assessment that the girl was good-hearted, but she was not at all sure about her intelligence.

The Lord Faramir's assessment... Groaning, Éowyn tried to immerse herself even lower in the huge tub. How could a single remark, something that he had probably said without thinking confound her that strongly? She would have to concentrate on the people she had to deal with, no matter what emotions existed or did not exist between her and the Steward. And she knew she was up to that. Had she not sparred and fought with the due concentration and vigour all those months when she had been sweet on Fréaláf, before they had finally confessed their feelings for each other?

With a jolt she sat upright, yelping with pain as her knees knocked the board against her splinted arm. How could she compare Faramir and Fréaláf? How...

"My lady? Is anything wrong?" Still holding the brush with which she had just been brushing out Tuingail's hair, Nínim dashed around the screen that divided the tub from the rest of the dressing room, a distraught Tuingail trailing behind her.

Thoroughly embarrassed, Éowyn shook her head. "No, I just... I think I must have dozed off and waking up I bumped my arm. It's nothing, Nínim."

The handmaid nodded understandingly. "Perhaps we had better get you out of the tub, my lady, before you really fall asleep. Just let me finish brushing Lady Tuingail's hair."

Stifling a groan, Éowyn sank back into the water. What had got into her? Had she really come to that? All through the morning she had tried to get that confusing man out of her mind, and all the morning she had failed miserably. At training there had been the iron rod he had gifted her, walking towards the wards she had realised she was wearing the shoes he had commissioned for her, and then there had been Maeron, his chief archer, talking about his lord in such warm words.

She had hoped to have got rid of all the reminders when she had finally set forth for the Eorlingas' ward, only to have Grimbeorn sing the Steward's praise to her in terms of Anwen's future. And then the captain had made her ears bleed by repeating what he had already told her several times: What a crying shame it was that a woman like Mareth was forced to live only half a life, being deprived of the pleasures of a good man's company. How skilled a healer she was, how impressive her bearing, what a stupid idea it was to shroud a body like hers in those shapeless sacks they called healers' robes, how splendid she would look in green... In the end she had asked him how much breakfast ale he had had and left him, instead accompanying a group of convalescents out into the garden.

Not that that had eased her mood. Everything had reminded her of their meetings, their walks, their shared breakfasts, had made her recall their conversations, the way he had smiled and in everything she had discovered the possibility of a double meaning, of a purpose she had not grasped before.

Thoughtfully, she let her hand trail through the warm water. His understanding, his openness, his presents... Everything spoke of care, of sympathy, of friendship and yet... Béma, she was making a complete idiot of herself. He had not known what the gift of a knife meant in the Mark when he had given that dagger to her. And even if he had, the situation they had been in had let them both think of the end they had wanted to face as steady and prepared as possible. There had been no trace of any romantic reveries.

And yet he had told her about Emyn Arnen, had invited her to share his dream... And had she not shared it? Blushing profoundly, she remembered that she had even told him about her dream. And that morning after the Dark Lord's downfall, when she had found him asleep on the bench in the garden he had noticed that she had been ogling him. And perhaps that had triggered his rather bold remarks about wanting to build her a bower of pine branches in Ithilien and his comparing her hair to the rising moon. He had been drunk, and it certainly was stupid to put more meaning into his words than they had probably held. But then he had repeated his remark that he would have liked to wake and see her when she had told him she had been in his room... Perhaps he had been comparing both situations and therefore suspected her to have done it again.

Suppressing a sigh, she bit her lip. Most likely she was just imagining things. And yet, only to think about how his smile warmed her heart, how much she trusted him, admired his intelligence and his dry humour, simply enjoyed being with him... Not to say anything about that tempting body that had made her realise to her own surprise how much she was alive. Annoyed, she clenched her fist. She had better calm down, try to kick her mind into working correctly and wait what would happen in the next days. The only thing that really bothered her was the fact that she had to attend that dratted feast tonight, and not only attend it, but more or less represent the Riddermark while all the time being in the same room with a man who... She did not even dare to phrase the thought in her mind. What if she was totally wrong? What if she advanced and he told her that he was sorry but she had misunderstood his conduct? Béma, how was she going to survive that cursed feast?

Pulling herself together, she shook her head at her own futile reflections. She was no chicken and no simpering maiden. The feast was a task. It was her duty to win as many members of Gondor's nobility to support the Steward's aims. So all she had to do was to be nice, convince everybody to go to Cormallen to meet the heroes of the war and let Aragorn and Imrahil do the rest. She actually was nothing but the honey in the wasp trap. The idea nearly made her chuckle. The only aspect that might be difficult was the task to keep her wits about in case any of the more ambitious lords or ladies opened their mouths to thwart Faramir's plans. Lady Saelind was right to compare the entire affair to a battle. And about battles she knew.

"Well now, my lady. Do you need a helping hand?" Nínim removed the board and positioned herself beside the tub, a large towel in her her head, Éowyn stepped out of the bath and let Nínim wrap the towel around her and usher her over to a chair.

"Sit down, my lady. How's your arm?"

Éowyn shrugged. "Fine, I would think. It was just a moment's pain and the splits have not moved.

The handmaid nodded. "Then we'll get you dry and into a shift and I'll brush out your hair. I suggest you just don a robe afterwards and relax a bit in the parlour, letting your hair dry at the same time. Are you ticklish?"

Éowyn shook her head and kneeling down, Nínim started to vigorously towel her feet. They were in Lady Saelind's dressing room, the same room in which the seamstress had nearly driven her to despair the day before with all her chatter, and like the day before Éowyn's gaze was drawn to the huge mirror on one of the walls. But where she had only had eyes for the dress the other time, this time there was nothing to distract her. Thoughtfully, she scanned her own reflection. Serious grey eyes in a narrow face, a straight, thin-bridged nose, a slightly too large mouth over a stubborn chin. Nothing that in her eyes justified calling her a beauty.

"There you are, my lady. Now for your body." The handmaid's brisk voice interrupted Éowyn's thoughts, and standing up, she let the towel sink, her eyes still on the mirror.

Still warm from the bath, her skin glowed rosy, but she did not heed that. Her critical gaze fixed on her sternum, the upper part of which was clearly visible under the skin. She pressed her mouth into an angry line. She had always been lean, but what she saw now in the mirror was simply scragginess. Her collarbones stood out, creating shady hollows at their upper edges and also her ribs were clearly visible the same as her hipbones. Grimacing, she passed her hand over her flat belly. She had eaten these last days. How could it be that she was this skinny? She must have been a scarecrow when she had ridden for Mundburg.

No, that was certainly no body that would make any man desire her. Her breasts were too small, her hips no way as curvaceous as she would have liked. The only thing she was truly pleased with were her legs, long and straight with strong, well-muscled thighs and calves.

"Turn, my lady, and raise your arms a bit." Nínim's remark was accompanied by an enquiring look, and still frowning, Éowyn shrugged. "I'm too thin."

"But you are so beautiful." Tuingail's naïve voice was so full of serious protest that Éowyn could not help a chuckle.

"Nay, Tuingail, I'm not. I look like one of those cows in the mountain villages when they are let out to pasture for the first time, having almost starved during the winter."

The girl looked utterly shocked, but Nínim stepped back with a mocking look. "A starved cow? No, my lady. I dare say you lack the udder."

Béma, who ever said that all Gondoreans were prissy? Snorting with laughter, Éowyn let the handmaid continue her work and even when she had already been clad in a fine lawn shift she could not stop chuckling. Finally Nínim asked her to sit down again and spreading another dry towel around Éowyn's shoulders, the handmaid started to brush out her hair. Éowyn was almost starting to doze off in truth under the soothing strokes of the brush when the handmaid spoke again.

"You certainly are a bit on the skinny side at the moment, my lady, but other than that Lady Tuingail is right. You are beautiful. And certainly it will not be too difficult to get a little fat on your bones, now that we have peace. You need not be a fighter who has to be careful about every ounce of fat on his body anymore ."

Her mouth went dry as the image of a certain fighter's lean body rose before her inner eye. Pale skin over distinct muscles, a dusting of black hair on sinewy arms, calloused hands with polished nails... Suppressing a groan of frustration, she shifted to sit up straight. Had she not been told since childhood that one had to face a problem as running from it only made things worse? If she only had not tried to hide from Ioreth and the seamstress!


When they entered the parlour half an hour later, Lady Saelind was resting on one of the upholstered settees and giving them a scrutinising look over the brim of a delicate cup. "Ready for battle, my beauties?" With a wry smile the lady motioned to the small table in front of her. "Let's have a cup of tea and some last instructions before I leave."

They took their seats and received their cups, filled with the same aromatic, golden-brown brew Éowyn had tasted the previous time she had been at the lady's house. Sipping it appreciatively, she asked Lady Saelind what it was.

"An herb that the Umbarian merchant I buy it from claims to be grown in Khand, probably only to justify its absurdly high price. It goes by the name of chai, though over the years I have noticed that there is quite a range of different qualities. And unfortunately my supplies have been somehow interrupted for obvious reasons lately." With a mock sigh, Lady Saelind put down her cup. "If you ever plan to get addicted to something, make sure that it can be produced in your own country."

Tuingail giggled at that and then proffered the plate holding some honey-cakes and pieces of candied fruit to Éowyn. "You said you needed to put on weight. Here's a nice chance to make a start."

Ignoring Lady Saelind's raised eyebrows, Éowyn gingerly took one of the small cakes, when Tuingail suddenly asked: "Where is Ivoriel?"

The lady shrugged. "My daughter is taking a nap. Even with that it will not be easy for her to last throughout the entire feast. But as her husband is the most important ministry official of Minas Tirith that can't be helped. I will be leaving soon to take a last look at things with Faramir's seneschal. A pompous idiot, but quite a genius if you are aiming at making an impression. Now let's see: Marshal Elfhelm and his captains will come to accompany you in two hours. That should be enough time for you to get ready. The litters will be waiting for you in the yard..."

"Litters?" Éowyn almost dropped her cake.

"Well, what do you think would happen to the hem of your dress if you walked all the way to the Steward's palace?"

Putting down the rest of the cake, Éowyn glared at the lady. "I won't be carried in a litter like an invalid."

The lady shot her a thoughtful glance. "No, you wouldn't. I should have expected that." Having taken another sip, she put her cup down. "What if I took the dress with me, my lady, and you came a bit earlier to change at the Steward's? You have your own guards with you and would not have to make the way unattended. So just get your hair dried and done and then come over to the palace. I'll have someone let you slip in through the private garden and a maid ready to help you with the dress. Ivoriel and Tuingal will wait here for Marshal Elfhelm and when they arrive in the palace yard you can join them and enter the palace officially through the main entrance."

Éowyn nodded, relieved that she was spared the humiliating ride in the litter, and smiling, Lady Saelind reached for a small rosewood-box that had been placed beside her.

"Well then, my dear, there is only one more thing. You should really be wearing some jewellery. A necklace won't do as you will be having the sling supporting your arm around your neck. But I have thought of something. I have here the headgear I wore at my first ball and I would like you to wear it tonight." She made to open the box, but Éowyn forestalled her.

"No, my lady. You provided me with the most appropriate and really beautiful garments, and I very much appreciate your effort. But I will not don your headgear. As far as I understand it is a typical Gondorean piece of jewellery, and as you said before, I will be the representative of the Mark. I rode to Mundburg a warrior, and if Gondor's nobility cannot accept that and the consequential lack of female trappings they are certainly not worth my attention."

With a sigh the lady rose. "I will not discuss that with you, Lady Éowyn, as you certainly know your own council. But I'll leave this behind, should you change your mind, perhaps after having talked to my daughter."


An hour later Éowyn was ready to leave. She wore the dress she had come in but her hair had been arranged and braided in a most complicated pattern and only her unusual hair colour had prevented the two women who had busied themselves with her hair to also add some fake plaits. Tuingail, wearing a golden-green kirtle over a cream coloured underdress had her hair arranged in a similar way and seemed to be unable to tear her gaze from the mirror in front of them, until all of a sudden she turned, picking up a small box from the table.

"Look, Éowyn, this is the lhawsmir my mother gave me to wear at the feast here in Minas Tirith." Smiling, the girl held out the jewel to Éowyn for a closer look. It consisted of a number of gold strings and what seemed to be two circular brooches made of gold studded with green gems and cream-coloured pearls with a fine lustre. The arrangement reminded Éowyn of an open flower, and she said so.

"You certainly are right. The origin of this kind of headgear no doubt lies in the floral wreaths and the ribbons the women of Gondor have been using to adorn themselves with since the beginning of time." Ivoriel's voice was low-pitched and warm, and Éowyn smiled genuinely when she turned to greet Lady Saelind's daughter. She already wore her headgear, one similar and yet totally different from the one Tuingail was holding. High on her temples brooches made entirely of tiny freshwater pearls were fastened in her hair and only now Éowyn understood why Tuingail had called them hair-slides the other day. Across the lady's forehead a bead of similar pearls lay, spanning from one of the slides to the other. But what delighted Éowyn most were the strings that hung down from the brooches, framing Ivoriel's face in a cascade of shimmering pearls.

Smiling, the lady reached for the jewels Tuingail was still holding out and started to fix it in the girl's hair. The green and gold fitted perfectly both with the golden-brown of Tuingail's locks and the colours of her dress and soon the girl looked expectantly at Éowyn, a thin strand of gold with two pearls framing a gem across her forehead.

"Don't you want at least have a look at Lady Saelind's lhawsmir, Éowyn? It would look so marvellous on you."

Smiling, Éowyn shook her head. "No, Tuingail, I won't, though I do not doubt that it would look nice."

The girl sighed. "At least don't forget to apply your perfume."

Ivoriel nodded at that. "Yes, my lady, it would be advisable to do so now and to renew the scent in about four hours time."

Éowyn shrugged. "If I have to take it with me anyway, I can apply it when I have donned the dress and then deposit it somewhere where I will be able to reach it easily." But in the end she let Tuingail help her apply the fragrance, if only to appease the excited girl.

The way took her little more than some minutes, and leaving her guards at the gate to the yard where they would notice at once when the marshal and the ladies arrived, she took her way to the Steward's garden. The door stood wide open and on entering, she found herself confronted with a carpet of white and pink petals strewn across the flower beds near the gate and still the tree in their middle held more of the fragrant blossoms. How many days ago had she seen it just at the point of blooming? Ten, twelve? She was not sure. She was still staring at the tree when she heard approaching steps and looking up, she beheld the Steward. He was clad all in black, the only adornment being the impressive silver chain of office. He looked formidable, almost awe-inspiring, a true image of his office, and yet all that sable silk and velvet seemed to hide the man, lock him away in the fetters of the high-necked jerkin and stiff cuffs. But his face was still the same and she felt her heart speed up at his faint smile and the warm expression in his eyes.

"Lady Éowyn, welcome back to this place in happier times." He took her hand and raised it to his lips, only to stop suddenly, his smile deepening. "So your tour to the soap-makers' lane has been successful, my lady?"

Éowyn raised her eyebrows. If he wanted to tease her she too could play the game. "I bet you were informed by Lady Sealind about everything in detail."

"I was," he admitted, kissing her hand. "Though rather by Nínim, who highly enjoyed how you dropped the hapless shop owner in it. But as for the fragrance, I have a nose of my own."

She could not help a grin. "I know you have. It's quite obvious."

He laughed, simulating a groan. "That joke seems to be a Rohirric speciality. Boromir told me, how Théodred would tease him with the size and shape of his nose. But I'm afraid, my lady, I won't be able to grow a different one."

Laughing, Éowyn withdrew her hand, delighted by the easy banter. "Don't you worry, my lord. I won't ask you to do so. But please tell me, what tree is this? I have never seen the like in the Mark."

"It's an almond tree, my lady. It is blooming quite late this year, and as you see yesterday's rain has shattered much of its embellishment."

Reaching for one of the twigs, Éowyn had a closer look at the blossoms. "The rain would not have done anything to the blossoms had they not already been ripe for falling, I deem. But they simply smell lovely."

"And what are we but almond blossoms, ready to fall, eased to comply by the smell of the rain." He was standing close behind her, his voice a low whisper, little more than a breath caressing the nape of her neck. Her heart missed a beat. A voice murmuring caresses... Her toes, clawing at the edge of the abyss... Her body melting, flowing into nothingness...On the brink of panic, she gulped for air.

"My Lord Steward?" A young woman's timid voice sounded from somewhere near the building, and Éowyn felt him take a step back. Having caught sight of them, the servant approached and bobbed them a curtsy. "My lord, my lady. I beg your pardon, but the Lady Saelind bid me come and see if the Lady Éowyn had arrived yet and show her to the room to don her vestment."

Not daring to look back at the Steward, Éowyn followed her, her mind and heart in intangible turmoil. He could not know about her dreams, could he? What if he really was a wizard, able to read her mind?

"Take a seat, my lady, and let me first have a look at your feet." The calm voice of a middle-aged woman put an end to her confused musings. "I'm Éredhil, the Steward's first maid. Lady Saelind told me the shoes might be a bit tight, so let me see what can be done."

How good it felt to have someone talk about plain and practical things. Stifling a sigh, Éowyn sat down and tried to calm herself, breathing slowly through her nose. The woman shot her an encouraging look. "Never you worry, my lady. It really is just a wee bit, nothing that cannot be cured with a bit of talcum. You anyway will not have to walk much tonight and there will be no dancing. And if you should feel uncomfortable, just come back to this room and ring the bell, and I'll come and see what can be done."

Applying a generous amount of fine white powder on the inside of the shoes and Éowyn's feet, the woman then encouraged her to slip on the shoes, that were made of the same silver-white brocade as the dress. Éowyn was surprised. What a difference to when she had tried them on at the lady's house. When she said so, it earned her a warm smile from the woman. "I'm glad to be of help, my lady. And now let's try how you can get into the dress without disturbing your broken arm more than necessary."

Reassured by the woman's artless friendliness as much as her purposeful behaviour, Éowyn found her heartbeat slowing and the muddle of her thoughts clearing gradually. Looking at things soberingly, she had behaved like a skittish filly, bolting at the first unexpected movement in her scope of view. Thoughtfully, she bit her lip. What had frightened her had been the fact that she had not seen his face when he had spoken to her, thus making her nightmare come alive in a most uncanny way. But nevertheless her behaviour had been stupid. Faramir was an honourable man. Even if he had some knowledge of wizardry, he could be trusted not to use it to manipulate her. Squaring her shoulders, she took a deep breath. No, he would never do anything against her will, never fall back on tricks or lies to lure her into something she could not fathom or judge.

"You look splendid, my lady." Stepping back a little, the woman beamed at her. "Now, shall I bring you some refreshment out into the garden while you wait for the Lord Elfhelm to arrive?"

Éowyn shook her head. "No, thank you. But it would be kind if you showed me the way back to the garden. I'm afraid I did not pay much attention when the girl brought me here."

With another curtsy the woman complied and was just about to open the door that led into the garden when a sudden idea hit Éowyn. She motioned to the woman to stop. "Just one more question, Éredhil. Is there a certain meaning, any kind of symbolism about the almond in Gondor?"

The woman tilted her head. "Why, where I come from there is a saying that if you want to eat a sweet almond you'll have to crack a hard shell, but I doubt that that is what you mean." She shrugged. "In general the almond tree is called "the hasty one", for it is one of the first trees to bloom and it is often connected with hope.

Gondoreans and hope! She should not have asked. Checking herself, Éowyn thanked the woman and opened the door. He was a good and trustworthy man, and he deserved better than her running from him like a headless chicken. And they had the feast to face, had to make sure that even the last reluctant Gondorean noble was coaxed into pledging fealty to the king to ensure the unity of the realm, so she had better push aside her silly notions.

She found the Lord Faramir sitting on a bench near the door when she entered the garden. Putting his notebook aside, he rose as soon as he saw her. "My lady." He took her hand, searching her face with serious concern. "Are you feeling all right?"

She tried to shrug off his worry, but she could not help the blush she felt rising into her cheeks. "I am well, my lord. There is certainly no need to worry."

Almost reluctantly he let go of her hand. "I am afraid I frightened you, my lady, though it eludes me how."

Her blush deepening, she shook her head. "It was my fault in the first place to feel scared. It was just..." Her voice petered out. Béma forbid she'd tell him the situation had reminded her of a nightmare! Not knowing what to do, she shrugged. "It was stupid, my lord. Let us forget about it."

The gaze he gave her was rather doubtful, but with an accepting nod he led her to the bench and picked up the notebook to make room for her to sit. Looking at the book, Éowyn smiled. "Busy, learning Haradric?"

He nodded and opened the book, presenting the opened page to her. "I started to exercise my hand on the letters, and I hope I'll soon be able to take down notes on the vocabulary using the original letters."

Intrigued, she took the book. The letters did not resemble anything she knew, but the meaning and the pronunciation of the words were also written down in Tengwar. She turned the page. He seemed to have arranged the words in clusters concerning the same topic. There were lists with phrases of greeting, numbers, the times of the day and other topics beside.

Closing the book, she handed it back to him. "You have been quite busy today, my lord."

"I only wrote the last two pages today, my lady. I met the envoy from Harondor, had a talk with Elfhelm concerning tonight's arrangements and paid a visit to Radhruin and the Lady Geliris. Apart from the usual work that is." He grimaced. "I should have known how much bureaucracy it takes to run this country. But the worst things are those expectant nobles eager to ingratiate themselves in the future king's favour and using me as a stepping stone. I already feel like a hunted fox."

As if on cue, a rather pompous looking servant entered the garden. "Forgive my intruding, my lord, but an envoy from Pelargir has just arrived, begging to have a word with you before the feast starts."

She could have sworn she heard the Steward gnashing his teeth, but his mien was absolutely blank.

"Will you excuse me, my lady? I will be back as swiftly as possible." With courtly politeness he bowed to her and then followed the servant.

With a sigh, Éowyn leaned back and reached again for the notebook. How neatly that man could write! And yet his letters were distinct and firm. Harmonious, she thought after a second look at the vocabulary list. And even those strange Haradric letters were written with such grace that they almost seemed like a drawing. Idly she turned some pages. Here the lists were entirely in Tengwar, and murmuring the words, she tried them out when she found one consisting of words about riding.

"Saddle – s'ale. Stirrup – britséo. Bridle – dírba."

It was a pity he did not know the language of the Mark, but the reasons he had given her for not having learned it made perfect sense. Being such close allies, and both sides able to communicate in Westron, there simply had been no need to devote any of his scarce time to it. But he had not been averse to learning it. Smiling to herself, she turned another page, revealing more lists. Would he have an accent? She had never heard any Gondorean speak the language of the Mark, save for the odd word Boromir had used. And his accent had provided a profound source of mirth.

Absentmindedly she leafed through the notebook, wondering how many words he had already taken down, when suddenly the structure of the writing was different. The top of the left page she had opened held no vocabulary, but something that rather looked like a stanza. Intrigued, she had a closer look at the content.

Your smile -

as faint as beams of moonlight -

it warms my heart

like summer sun.

She blinked and then read it again, feeling drawn to the simple words. Were they meant to be a poem, perhaps a part of a song? And why had he written them down? Perhaps they were a stanza of some Gondorean song that had come to his mind for a reason. A slow smile spread over her face. No matter what it was, these words described himself just so perfectly. That wry half-smile, so typical of him, and the joy she felt, seeing him smile, despite all the grief and terror he had gone through. Her fingers trailed the letters. Who knew, perhaps he had heard someone sing the words and just written them down. Or perhaps the song had a certain meaning for him, held some memory. And that small stab of jealousy she felt all of a sudden was surely absolutely idiotic.

She was about to close the page, when a word on the right hand page caught her eye. Éowyn. She frowned. No doubt, her name stood there as clear as anything. Still frowning, she made to read the rest of the text, but that proved impossible. There were four short lines in Tengwar, forming a stanza beginning with her name, but she could not understand the words. It was not Westron and neither Sindarin which the Men of the West sometimes used. Or perhaps the words were Haradric? Murmuring them softly under her breath, she tried them out.

Éowyn Niquesse

írima ná vea

She shook her head. She had never been too eager at learning languages, but these words looked and sounded different from any language she had ever heard. Feeling challenged, she tried again.

Éowyn Niquesse

írima ná vea

loscilda telemna

calta ve isil

No, there was not a single word aside her name she knew, though the last one, isil, had a certain similarity to ithil, the moon in the Elven language. Isildur... Yes, there it also was. So probably it was some old language of the Númenóreans. But why would the Steward use that language to write something down? And something about her. And it did not look as if he had taken notes, like: Remember to tell the shoemaker that Éowyn needs boots. No matter how she tried to turn it, it looked like a poem. A poem that started with her name. She swallowed. Perhaps it was just something funny like the songs the Riders would make in the hours around the camp fire.

Éowyn Niquesse...

Brusquely she closed the notebook. She would ask him when he came back. He had handed her his notebook and left it when he had followed the servant. He certainly would not have done so if it held anything he wanted to keep from her.


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