14 July 2012 | 6000 words | Work in Progress
Title: East of the Moon
Pairing(s): Faramir & Éowyn, Legolas, Éomer
Summary: Éowyn, Faramir and Legolas journey to Rhun to rescue Éomer from a mysterious threat. A four chapter post-rotk adventure tale written as a self-challenge.
This tale was written out of a challenge to myself. I wanted to write a four chapter post-rotk adventure story with one of my favourite characters featured in each chapter. The result of this method is perhaps a more sparse tale with less introspection and more action/adventure. I hope you enjoy the first chapter, would love to hear what you think and whether you plan to continue reading :)
Chapter 1 – Éowyn
Éomer’s chest shuddered beneath her blood-stained hands and Éowyn held him closer. Over her brother’s laboured breathing she listened, but only the rustling of leaves and far off thunder reached her desperate ears.
“Éomer,” she whispered, her own voice unfamiliar to her in its grief and terror, “Éomer, do not leave me here alone.”
Fear for what might have become of Faramir and Legolas wracked what remained of her thoughts, and she nearly called out, wishing only for a sign they yet lived.
“It is not far now.” Éowyn rose in her saddle as she rode, hair streaming and eyes bright. The lofty citadel of Edoras rose proudly ahead as she topped the rise.
She turned in the saddle to where Faramir and Legolas rode some way behind alongside their guard. Beregond had remained in Ithilien due to his banishment from Minas Tirith, through which they had passed, but a small contingent of the white company had ridden forth.
She raised her hand, gesturing to Meduseld and the home of her ancestors, and saw Faramir raise an arm and a smile in response.
She saw Legolas looking ahead also, seeking the first glimpse of Edoras.
She wondered at the Elf accompanying them on this visit, but did not resent his presence. She was still new to her home and her marriage and had not yet come to know Legolas as her husband had. Legolas and Faramir had spent much time together in the establishment of the new colony while Éowyn had eagerly helped those making new homes in Ithilien, many having lost their previous homes in the war. In accompanying them to Edoras she hoped she might come to know him better.
She turned, smiling back at them again. “I would ride the harder for this last mile!” Her gallop outstripped the others in their party, and the thunder of hooves drummed great joy into her heart. She closed her eyes briefly, enjoying the sensation.
Éowyn rode along the high stone and wood wall as she waited for the others to arrive, examining the repairs completed since the war, and the new spiked ramparts.
Returning to the gate, feeling flushed and exhilarated by the ride, she allowed Faramir to lift her down. He had removed his riding gloves and his hands were warm on her waist.
“I have never seen such speed,” he said into her ear.
She breathed deeply of the familiar Rohan air, regaining her breath, and enjoyed the lingering touch at her waist.
“Someone is coming to greet us,” Legolas said, squinting into the shadows cast by the warm sun.
Éowyn looked too, and recognised Heithin, keeper of the records since Éomer had taken up his Kingship.
The portly man was out of breath, his cheeks red and an expression of concern on his face. “We saw you from the city,” he said, still breathing hard.
“Good Heithin,” she grasped his hands within her own, “tell me, how fares Edoras since I departed? How fares my brother?”
Heithin seemed to take in in her exuberance and his words faltered.
“Do not say he is ill?” The happiness of a moment before fled quickly, slipping into concern.
Faramir took her arm as she glanced back to him.
“Not ill, my lady. I met you here at the gates as I would not have idle ears overhear what I have to tell you.
“Prey do not wait any longer then, give us your news.”
The King… he is gone…”
“Gone?” Faramir repeated. “He knew we were to arrive this day, did he not?”
“A party of Easterling diplomats came to the city some weeks since…”
Éowyn felt herself pale.
“Why came they not first to Gondor?” Faramir asked, brow furrowed.
“They claimed they wished to create new ties of friendship after long years of war. They came, so they said, out of the West, where they had traveled. They would visit Gondor too on their way back to their own country.”
“We have had no word of them,” Faramir said.
“I feared as much,” Heithin said, and sweat beaded on his brow. “They showed us no ill will while they stayed, and indeed spent many nights in the company of the cityfolk, entertaining with tales and songs.
The Lord King Éomer… he began to spend more and more time in the company of one of their ladies.”
Heithin did not meet Éowyn’s steady gaze.
There was talk of a diplomatic visit, a party from Rohan traveling to the East. That is why, when the King was found to be missing this very morning, I hesitated to call out the riders.
“Could it be that he simply went to farewell the envoy?” Legolas suggested, the worry on Heithin’s face showing that it wasn’t a very likely possibility.
“Perhaps we can gain some clue from his chambers,” Faramir suggested, “Have they been searched?”
“Not yet, his disappearance only just being discovered, I did not wish to alert the city until we were sure.”
“Let us go then, and not waste any more time, it may well be precious”.
“And he left no note or sign?” Éowyn asked as they climbed the stairs to the hall.
“None that I have discovered, lady, but I have not yet searched thoroughly.”
When Heithin turned the key and pushed open the door of Éomer’s room an undisturbed chamber met their eyes. There were bright green wall hangings and comfortable chairs; all seemed in order.
Éowyn stepped into the room after the other three, and the only thing that seemed to her out of the ordinary was the stuffiness of the chamber, as though it had not been aired for some time.
Faramir had gone straight to the writing desk, sifting quickly through papers.
She herself opened the cupboard, peering inside at the garments.
“This is strange,” she said, “There are many clothes missing.” She pointed out the gaps where garments would ordinarily have hung. “What kidnapper would take the time to prepare clothes for the ride?”
“This too seems odd.” Faramir showed them several documents where the ink trailed off into a long scrawl mid sentence, as though Éomer had lost his chain of thought. “I do not like this.” He looked to Éowyn, “We should check the stables to see what has been taken.”
“Could you see it it, Heithin?” Éowyn asked
Heithin left them, and Éowyn sank down onto the bed. “This is not the homecoming I looked for.”
“I wonder if they knew of our coming,” Legolas said, “to have departed the night before we arrived.”
Éowyn heard something rustle at her side, and rummaged beneath her, pulling out a crushed piece of parchment that had been hidden under the cushions.
“What is this?”
Unfolding the paper carefully…
“The stables at midnight. Let none follow.”
Faramir took it from her. “It is scented, do you think perhaps…”
“I do not doubt it,” Éowyn said, standing quickly and looking out the window. “What kind of witch is this foreign lady to entrance my brother so?”
“A lady does not need to be a witch to gain such power over a man,” Legolas said, then at Éowyn’s flashing eyes, continued, “There is something unnatural, however, in this, and I fear for your brother’s safety.”
“To leave no note or message…” Faramir continued, “he was clearly not of his own mind.”. She felt Faramir take her arm and turned from the window. “What should we do? What do we risk by alerting the city to his departure? What danger are we placing Éomer in if we take riders and guards and follow in their tracks?”
None of them spoke for some time.
“We can tell no-one,” Éowyn whispered, and Faramir and Legolas did not contradict her.
Heithin offered to accompany them, but it took little to convince him the dangers of the situation. If the trail led towards Rhûn, their journey could last weeks, even months.
As it was they must needs wait until nightfall to depart, for they could not risk even the White Company knowing of the departure.
In the darkness of the night, Éowyn pulled the hood of her cloak more tightly about her face and readied their horses, fretting at the delay.
As she did so she overheard Faramir’s words to Heithin. “If you have not received word in one month, send this to Gondor. Ensure it is handed to none other than the King.” He looked grim, and Éowyn did not need to wonder why. She had never traveled to the East, but memories of the conflict of the war of the ring convinced her that even should they be welcomed by some, many would not welcome people of Gondor or Rohan.
She had only finished making ready their steeds when Faramir spoke close by, his beard brushing her cheek. “Gather your own belongings and we’ll be ready to depart.”
She looked to him and saw at once his gray face and tired eyes. She had paid little heed to those around her as they prepared, intent on packing what they would require to survive should they be forced to follow the Easterlings into the heart of their own land. Now she allowed her gratitude that she was not alone in this volatile mission to show, and brushed her hand over his worried brow.
He relaxed under her touch, and grasped her tightly to him for the briefest moment. “We will find him”.
They steadied their sights and departed Edoras. It was hoped that their departure would not be remarked upon. As they rode she spared no thought for the company of Ithilien they had left behind and what they might think when they awoke to find their lords and lady gone. There had been no time to invent a story to explain their return, and she could only hope Heithin would think of something in their absence.
Despite her desire to see more of the world, riding into unknown lands brought Éowyn no joy. Any pause in their pursuit burned her like a slow fire, and she could barely take food while they yet began the long journey.
Sheltering under a light canopy of leaves as heavy rain drenched through to her undergarments, Éowyn barely recalled the hope with which she had set out from Emyn Arnen.
It had been over a week since leaving Edoras, and as they had feared the trail still led north-east. Crossing the Endwade and skirting the most ravaged areas of the Wold, their quarry was drawing them steadily towards Rhûn
During the long days, she wondered whether they had been foolish to set off alone and not alert a stronger force to Éomer’s disappearance,. It was only when she reminded herself of the letter they had found, of how Éomer must have been compelled in some way to follow the Easterlings back to their own land, she knew they had been wise to have caution.
The small fire flickered and sputtered in the rain, giving very little heat.
“You are kind to come with us, Legolas,” Éowyn said, not for the first time, watching the Elf carefully peeling a fruit with deft fingers.
“Rain is of no concern to me,” Legolas said, and indeed he seemed to barely feel the cold that had reached her very bones.
“Legolas is always perfectly turned out,” Faramir put in, his small smile only a little jealous. He wiped a streak of mud from his own cheek to demonstrate the point.
“You should have known me in younger days,” Legolas said, a mischievous glint in his eyes.
Éowyn tried to imagine the Elf as a child, but could not quite conjure the image.
“Do tell me, Legolas, how it was to live in Mirkwood as a child? We are on its borders now, after all, and I know so very little outside my own homeland.”
As she waited for him to reply, the rain eased a little, and the flames of the fire grew stronger. She tugged at the sleves of her cloak, curling her fingers further into its warmth.
Legolas’ eyes seemed misty, perhaps with recollection, perhaps reluctance.
“Look up to the night sky, to the stars,” he said at last, “then see how the sparks from the fire reach upwards, and the colour of the firelight on the trees.”
Éowyn followed the bright red sparks up into the sky, until her vision blurred and she saw a haze of distant stars and firelight. The trees around them were lit with a burnt light, and she saw Legolas and Faramir in the firelight too as though somehow changed; Legolas’ sharp jaw and keen eyes softened and Faramir’s usually gentle eyes reflecting the flames. She no longer felt the cold.
“That was Mirkwood,” Legolas said softly, his voice not disturbing her vision, “but always behind the dancing lights and laughter lay a distant menace. See the shadow cast by the flames, behind every tree, beneath every bow, shadows…”
Éowyn could not help but shift her eyes behind the Elf, opening them wider to see further into the deep darkness out of their small circle of light. The smallest noises drew her ears and she tensed, feeling foolish that so suddenly she should become aware of these things, and that fear should rise so stiflingly inside her until she almost spoke it aloud.
“Ah, the words of Elves, my friend…” Faramir’s steady voice broke into the world her mind had made for itself.
Éowyn shook herself and looked back to the fire.
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