Chapter 2- The story of Maranwe Ar Feiniel, Woman Rider of Rohan - In which Maranwe enters Edoras.
I rode two days, and on the second day I spied the city in the fading light of day. I set up camp, and watched the city in the rosy light.
Edoras is a great city, though small compared to the cities of Gondor. It is set on the top of a hill, in front of White Mountains streaked with black and the grasses flow around it like a great river. The buildings are of simple wood and thatch, but they are noble at the same time. At the summit of the hill, rising above the rest, is a great hall, with great columns carved and over laid with gold, and the thatch shines like gold.
The next morning I rode to the city, but was stopped at the gate, and questioned in the tongue of the mark by the two gate wardens. There was a fatherly looking man, about forty, and a younger man, about thirty by my judgment. I told them my name and asked "Orcs have burnt my home, killed my kin. Where can I go?" They withdrew and conferred together before the older man answered me.
"Go to the Golden Hall. They may be able to help you there." The speaker smiled kindly. "Good luck."
I smiled back, the first smile to cross my face for three days. "Thank you."
I passed through the gates, and entered the city. It was quiet in the streets, without the typical chatter and bustle. A very somber, gloomy sort of quiet.
Almost at the top of the hill I dismounted Fea, and tied her to a ring in the wall. All the other horses were tied to the saddle for me to lead.
I climbed up the broad, flagstone steps, and was halted by two more guards. I told them what I had told the gatekeepers, and silently they swung the doors open.
I entered the grand hall, with its great tapestries, and it's wondrous gilded carved pillars. On a floor of many colored stones intertwined many beautiful, though strange, designs. A long hearth ran the length of the hall, and at one end was a dais. The wall behind was hung with banners of rich, bright colors; The banner of the Westmarch, the banner of the Eastfold, The banner of Edoras and the banner of the Wold, all of them representing the areas of Rohan. In front of the banners was a high throne, and on it was sitting an old, weary-looking man. Behind him stood a young woman, about ten years my elder, by appearances, and on the steps below them sat a shriveled man, with pale face and lank dark hair, swathed in a black cloak. The woman noticed me, and called me forward.
"Who are you?"
Feeling awkward, and out of place in my boyish clothes, I briefly told my story to her, and ended with, "I had no place to go, so I came here. But I would not be a burden, and would do any task set before me, so to earn my keep."
The lady smiled slightly. "I do not think you are a servant, nor would I treat you as one." She came down the steps, stepping scornfully over the pale man. "Come," she said, taking my arm and leading me out, " You would be no burden either. It will be good to have another younger, unmarried woman here. The king," she said, motioning towards to the old man in the hall as we left, "Is asleep. He is old and not well...It is unlike him to do nothing in his grief. It is as if he is under a spell...." She shook herself from her reverie. "I suppose you don't know who I am. I am the king's niece, the daughter of his youngest sister, Theodwyn. That man, who sits at the kings feet, is Grima, son of Galmod."
While she was talking she was leading me through a corridor, and in front of a heavy oaken door she stopped. "I hope you won't mind sharing my chambers? Edoras is crowded these days. Refugees come almost daily, and space is limited."
"Oh no," I replied, "I won't mind at all."
"Well, I must warn you, I am no weak girl...But" as she looked admiring at my outfit, " You look like a girl who is not afraid to be daring." I glanced down at my dusty clothes.
"I can't help it. All my other clothes...."
"I know. Those vile orcs. An old story." She led me into the room. "Would you like to change clothes?" She reached into a large cupboard, and pulled out a blue dress with long, slightly flowing, sleeves, and brown, lace up, vest like over tunic. "We are about the same size. You can change behind that screen there." Gratefully I took the clothes and went behind the screen. As I was changing, I asked about the city.
"Why is it so quiet?" Eowyn sighed.
"My brother set out, three days ago, after a band of orcs that had come down from the Emyn Muil. Our cousin, the king's son and only child, was killed three days before that at a battle at the fords of Isen. He was like an older brother to Eomer and I, and the king like a father. So Eomer seeks revenge, but also peace for Theoden...The City is quiet because most of the men went with him."
We both fell silent.
Coming out from behind the screen, I looked at the room while I laced up my vest. It was a nice room, rather like my own. It had two walls paneled in wood, the other two were of stone, one with a fireplace, and all draped with rich, warm colored fabrics and tapestries. The bed was well carved, and was covered with many warm looking blankets and furs. A fire roared merrily in the fireplace. A beautifully carved cupboard stood in the corner. A nice room. So like my own...Tears came to my eyes. I hadn't cried since I had found my parents dead. It had all seemed so unreal. I hastily wiped the tears from my eyes. I could mourn later. As it was, Eowyn had enough on her hands with out a blubbering girl. I sighed, and tied the laces together. Then I remembered the horses and asked, "Where are the stables?"
"What? Oh, the stables. They are behind the hall. Why?"
"I completely forgot about Fea and the rest of the horses I brought from my home."
"Well, lets go take care of them. Or" As she spied the tears still lingering in my eyes, "We could ask someone else to take care of them, if you would rather that."
"No, I would rather take them myself."
"Then the stables are this way."
As we walked to get them, I pondered what I knew about Eowyn. I knew that she was the king's youngest sister's daughter, and that Morwen had been Theoden's favorite sister. Both her parents had died when she was young. But that did not account for her maturity. She was twenty-three, I knew, but she looked almost thirty. Then I remembered the absolute scorn with which she had swept past Grima. Why the scorn? I decided the best way to find out was to ask.
"Who is that man, Grima? Why does he sit in council with the king?" Eowyn glanced at me sharply as we went down the out side steps.
"You are new to the city, aren't you? Grima Wormtongue he is known as to all but the king. A worm he is too, worming into our lives, so that he could control the king. I hate him." She spoke the last words with vehemence rarely shown.
" A vile, foul, snake he is. Don't have anything to do with him if you can."
"I shall take your advice, but why do you hate him so?"
"Because he is foul. He asks me love him. I'd rather a snake." We walked on in silence to the courtyard where I had tethered the horses.
I took Fea and eight other horses, about half of the horses from my home. Eowyn took Vanwa and Caranaranel, and eight other horses. Reaching up and stroking Vanwa's glossy black coat she said, "So beautiful. What is his name?"
"Vanwa Meleth." "That is a strange name. It sounds like the names of Gondoriens. What does it mean?"
"Lost love. I named him so after my father's death. Before he was called Estel, that is, Hope. I don't think I have much hope now." Eowyn was silent for a moment, as we led the horses down the hill to the stables, then spoke.
"It seems that my whole life is like that now. I am a shield maiden," She said proudly, "and can keep up with the best of warriors," then she spoke with scorn. "But I am a lady, to be coddled and fussed over, with no chance to prove myself otherwise. And all the while, Wormtongue coddles my uncle, weakening him. Does that not sound like a hopeless life?" While she was saying all this, we were turning the horses in to a large paddock. Before I could answer her, we heard a commotion down at the gates. Eowyn listened intently, and spoke one word as she mounted reflexively on Vanwa.
I mounted Fea and nudged her to a canter, and soon caught up with Eowyn, and then we rode up towards the hall together. After tying the horses to the ring in the wall, we entered the hall. Momentarily blinded by stepping from bright sunlight to the dimness of the hall, we just heard voices.
"You are outlawed!" I heard the cold voice of Wormtongue, and felt Eowyn stiffen beside me. A noble voice range back in challenge.
"You have no such power, Grima Wormtongue. You are but a councilor, and have never had power to issue such an edict."
Wormtongue answered with malicious delight dripping from his voice.
"Oh, but I am not the one who issues it. The king signed it this morning." My eyes then were adjusted, and I saw Wormtongue standing with a cruel smile on his face, several guards behind him. He was holding out a piece of parchment, with the kings wandering, spidery scrawl at the bottom, out to noble looking man, clad in armor, and holding a helm with a long, white horse tail flowing from the crest. Grima took the man's sword, and motioned for the guards to take him away. Eowyn watched the whole scene in silence, until they led Eomer away-for that is who I guessed he was-, and then she stifled a sob, and ran out of the hall towards her chambers. Wormtongue turned and looked at me, his eyes raking my body with a cruel, appraising stare. I turned, seized with a weird sense of terror, and fled outside.