Eowyn left the room, and sat in the garden, in a grey, cold morning. She couldn’t sit for long, however. It was too cold, and there was a disturbing oppression in her heart that made her want to scream for some relief, and if she wasn’t screaming like she needed, there had at least to be some other way of dispeling that energy. So she walked about the place, going back and forth in her new enclosement, still wondering what she was supposed to do while healing.
All the people passing through the garden looked like they had a sense of purpose. What were they occupying their times with? Eowyn went back inside but not to the dormitories. She took the steps downstairs, and found herself in a wide space where the newly arrived were brought to. The sight of so many dying and sick people lying on the floor, and especially the smell of them, were so horrifying Eowyn couldn’t think. She stood there, scared of so much death, growing more and more convinced she had to do something about it.
She walked through aisles of people lying on the floor, and didn’t get very far before an old man begged her for water. She promised to get him some, and moved back to the stairs, where she saw the healer, Ara, who was coming down. Eowyn was reminded of her aimless fury the day before, and tried to pretend there was nothing to be embarrassed of, when the woman greeted her with a smile, and kind eyes. “Good morning, Lady Eowyn. How is your arm?”
“Good morning. My arm is mending, thank you for asking.” She didn’t know what else to say, but before she could excuse herself, and climb the stairs, Ara asked: “Have you decided to lend a hand to us healers?”
She stared at her, wondering if she meant “lend a hand” as a joke, since she could only use one, but Ara looked honestly expectant of her answer, so she gave her one. “I’m just going to fetch some water to that man over there.”
The healer looked where she pointed. “Tarion,” she named the man, before looking back to Eowyn. “There’s a barrel down here, you don’t have to go upstairs for water. Let me show you where it is.” She was still smiling but there was something new to his tone that made her follow without questioning.
It was simple, most of the tools they had were stored on shelves under the stairs, and should be returned there. “Here you are,” the woman brought her to the barrel. “Maybe you could help us hand out the food, it will be any minute now,” she suggested. “Of course,” Eowyn agreed.
Ara, then, excused herself, and left Eowyn to her task. She brought Tarion some water, and humored him by doing some small talk. Then, as the healer had predicted, food was brought. Two boys in their teens carried a big pot of food downstairs. They were followed by the same old woman Eowyn had seen in her room the day before, who started filling bowls with porridge and giving them to the boys, so they’d hand them out. Eowyn offered to help.
The old lady eyed her up and down, and handed her a bowl. As Eowyn got to work, she heard the boys address the old woman as Granny, and when she asked her name, that’s what she was told to call her as well.
Before they could feed everyone, the boys had to go upstairs and refill the pot. In the meantime, Eowyn was left with Granny, who immediately asked: “Have you eaten?” Eowyn denied it with a shake of her head and a guilty twitch of her lips. Granny smiled and tsked, disapprovingly. “Once we’re done here, you will.” Eowyn didn’t mind the old woman telling her what to do, she could see the reason for her words. “I will,” she promised.
“What brought you here this morning?” Granny went on asking. “I had to do something,” Eowyn told her.
“A good thing to do,” she said, adding a firm nod to those words. “Do you feel any better today?” Granny continued, sounding practical about her question, and not at all like she was asking to be polite. Eowyn didn’t know the answer, but she felt compelled to be as honest as possible. “I don’t know, I think I’m slightly better than yesterday.” And at the moment, it was true. “And I think I have behaved terribly. I’m sorry I was rude to you. I swear I was raised better than that.” As Eowyn thought about her anger the day before, she took another look around the room, and managed to give form to her explanation: “I was thinking only of myself, and there’s much more happening right now.”
The boys came back with more porridge at that point, so Eowyn and Granny put their conversation on hold and went back to work. By the time they were collecting the bowls back, one of the boys approached Eowyn, and introduced himself as Verges. “How did you break your arm, my lady?” “Holding a shield,” she told him, simply. It was enough to widen his eyes.
“Is it true you defeated the Witch King of Angmar?” he asked, in awe. “Who told you that?” Eowyn asked instead. “Everyone’s talking about it,” he shrugged. “Is it true?” She simply nodded, taking a few steps while the boy remained fixed to the ground, stunned.
Granny told Eowyn to accompany her to the kitchen. She went upstairs with her, after Verges and the other boy, who ran out hurriedly, as if they had something else to do. As soon as she left that room behind, the rest of the world felt easier in comparison. There wasn’t the foul smell of decay outside, the one Eowyn had grown used to in the last hour.
She sat in the kitchen, where Granny and the cook talked about some common petty enemy of theirs, while Verges and the other boy, who the cook called Tom, sat with Eowyn, eating porridge. The boys kept asking questions about her riding to battle now they knew it was true. She wished they’d talk about something else, but gave them answers anyway. Verges asked the more difficult questions such as what the dark rider looked like from stabbing distance, and Eowyn didn’t remember, which the boys thought was hard to believe. Tom’s questions were sillier, and she would’ve preferred only answering his, or even better, not saying anything.
“Is it true the Rohirrim can talk to their horses?” the boy asked. Eowyn shook her head, and wondered where the boy had heard such a thing.
Ara entered the kitchen cheerfully, turned to the boys, and said: “Run to Aureth, you’re not gonna believe what he found up an-- well, you’re not going to believe this one.” And they both ran away excitedly, without wasting another second.
“You kids like the weirdest things!” the cook said, including Ara with the kids although she was in her mid thirties.
“I got them out of your kitchen, didn’t I?” “Thanks for that!” the cook laughed.
“I thought those boys would’ve annoyed you too much by now,” Ara said, turning to Eowyn, who didn’t want to bad mouth the boys, but was happy they had left. “Tarion fancies himself in love with you already.” Eowyn gave her a bitter smile, while the others laughed. “I’d say so does Verges,” the cook added to their laughter. She had to admit it was a little funny.
It was less funny when Granny said: “I hear they’re not the only ones.” And the others looked at Eowyn, expecting her to say something. And because gossiping in the kitchen was the closest to fun she’d had in a long time, she agreed to speak. “You mean Lord Faramir, don’t you?” And those women, much older than her giggled like girls.
“It was very gallant of him to have you moved to a better room,” Ara commented. “It was,” Eowyn admitted.
“And he asked all about you to your friend who’s not a little boy,” the cook informed her. “To Merry? What for?” Eowyn said, frowning.
The women laughed. “Do you really not know or you prefer not knowing?” Granny asked, an amused sparkle to her eyes.
“Well, he did ask me to go see him again, and keep him company.” “I’m sure you’ll find him ready to talk about whatever he was told you enjoy,” the cook said.
“I’m not so sure I want to find him at all,” she confessed, even though it would only lead to more questing.
The cook laughed, and said: “Do it for us then.” Ara laughed the hardest at that joke.
“Why not?” Granny asked, as if those words surprised her. “I don’t like the way he looks at me, like he pities me.” And while Ara and the cook had to think what to say next, Granny had the answer ready in a second: “Then stop talking about how you want to die. Pity’s the best you can hope for with that kind of talk.”
Eowyn frowned, convinced the old woman was right. “I guess I don’t have to talk about that,” she decided. “Not with him,” Ara agreed, implying she could talk to her about it.
“What if I still don’t like him?” Eowyn wondered. “Then you get to choose between Tarion or Verges,” said the cook, to their amusement.
“If you don’t like him, then that’s it,” Granny said. “The real trouble is what if you do like him.”
“The real fun, too,” Ara added. “Fun never lasts,” the cook said with a snort. “It’s more work than fun, that’s for sure, but work’s good, too, for some of us at least,” she added. “Fun is good and all, but sometimes a place to rest your head is priceless.”
“It would be nice to find both,” Ara said, shrugging. “Sure,” the cook answered, her voice heavy with sarcasm. “It would also be nice if summer and winter happened at the same time.”
Granny rolled her eyes at their talk, which Eowyn found amusing. “Nevermind those two. You go ahead and spend some time with him, it’s not like you have anything else to do. And if you don’t want to see him again after that, you don’t.” Eowyn nodded. “But,” the old woman went on, “if there’s one you hope will come back from the war to you, well, our Lord Steward will have to be patient about it, won’t he? If he can’t do that, then what good is he?” Eowyn simply nodded again, too embarrassed at the mention of a man she hoped would come back to her.
She looked away, certain Aragorn wouldn’t come for her even if he won. She had hoped he would cry for her death, but she had never considered this: would her riding to battle make him see her any differently? “I know he’s not coming for me,” she admitted. As she said the words, however, she also realized, even if he did, she wasn’t the same anymore. Aragorn and his friends had meant hope when they first appeared in Edoras, freeing them from Grima, giving Theoden king back to her. In that short time when she’d thought herself whole, maybe if Aragorn had returned her affections, she would’ve fallen in love. But he didn’t. And what was left of her didn’t have the energy to wonder about that man’s heart anymore.
“Just go,” Granny insisted. Ara came closer and offered her hand. “Let’s get you ready for him.” Eowyn sighed, then forced a smile, and went with Ara.
It was early in the afternoon, and Faramir was nowhere to be seen, so she walked about the wall, looking East, ignoring a feeling that was either relief or disappointment, but she didn’t know which. She conjured the image of Eomer riding away (not a difficult thing to do, unfortunately), and wondered if he was safe. That’s when Lord Faramir, with his fine features and saddened eyes, found her.
He wished her a good afternoon, and said she looked even more beautiful than he remembered. Though the day before she’d taken such words from him as idle flirting from a bored man, all that kitchen talk had given it a more serious meaning for her. Which wasn’t such a good thing, because it made her feel uncomfortable, and not say anything to him.
But silence was even worse, so she said the first polite sentence she could put together: “I’d like to thank you for my East facing room. It was very generous of you.” And to her surprise, those few words of thanks lit a tiny spark in his eyes, which didn’t look so sad for a moment.
“If there’s anything else I can do to make your time in this house more pleasant, you have but to ask,” he offered. It looked like he would’ve preferred if she did, but Eowyn didn’t want anything, so she shook her head softly. “Have you found anything to do?” he asked, since she had been so passionately against doing nothing when they last spoke.
“If pestering the healers can be called that, then I have,” she told him lightly. “But they’re very patient people, and endure my presence graciously.”
“That’s good,” said the Steward. “I’m having trouble finding ways to keep myself busy. And even more so when it comes to resting.” And with those words they took to walking. “Staying still has saved my life more than once as a ranger, but it never looked like this.” He took a glance at their surroundings to reinforce his meaning. “And it never lasted as long.”
“What were those times like?” Eowyn asked, genuinely curious. She listened to Faramir’s anecdotes that started with the name of one of his brothers in arms and told about some trouble he’d escaped from, which offered a glimpse into what a ranger’s life was like. She found she liked listening to those stories, imagining what that kind of freedom felt like.
She listened to him, until a gust of cold wind made her shiver, and Faramir noticed it. “We should go back inside,” he said. Eowyn looked around, and noticed the sky was getting dark, so she went inside with him. Indoors, however, they belonged in different places. “I hope I’ll see you again tomorrow,” he told her, as they said goodbye.
And Eowyn realized she had every intention of seeing him again.