Through the Eyes of Children - A short story
this is a short story i wrote about TTT. i had been thinking about doing it through these two children and finally found time to write it! enjoy!
I stood outside the door of our house, watching the hills. All of a sudden we heard screams and yells as the wild men approached.
"Éothain! Éothain!" I heard my mother calling, "Go and saddle Garulf. Hurry!" I raced off to where my mother's horse stood grazing and whistled a call. Garulf shook his head and snorted, coming up to me. I saddled him swiftly, just as my father taught me, and led him back to our house.
"Éothain! Éothain! You take your sister. You'll go faster with just two." My mother told me while giving me a leg up. She then beckoned to my young sister Freda.
"Father says Éothain must not ride Garulf. He is too big for him." Freda protested as my mother helped her up onto Garulf in front of me. I placed my arms about her, comforting her. I looked expectantly at my mother, waiting for her to mount up behind me. My face turned into a mixture of shock and fear as she didn't mount.
"Listen to me, you must ride to Edoras and raise the alarm. Do you understand me?" my mother said swiftly and urgently.
"Yes momma," I replied, desperately striving to hold my feelings in. My father had told me to take of them, to be the man of the house while he was gone with the lord Eomer.
"I don't want to leave. I don't want to go, mama." Freda cried out, reaching down towards my mother.
"Freda, I will find you there," my mother held Freda's face gently between her hands and kissed her. Suddenly we heard more screams as the wild men descended the hill. "Quickly!" she begged, and I reluctantly urged Garulf into a gallop. I could just hear my mother say, "Go child."
We followed the others from the village, pausing at the top of the hill. We saw the wild men burn our village. I turned Garulf towards Edoras, remembering my mother's words.
We rode for a day straight. I knew it was only a day and a half journey from our village to Edoras; and I also knew that we could not rest for fear of the wild men. My sister leaned against me, sleeping restlessly: I could barely keep my eyes open from weariness. My father never had me ride Garulf, for he was too big for me; I had my own horse, a smaller one. My father had promised to get me a big horse on my thirteenth birthday which was not for two years still. The reason was because I would not be able to control him, not having enough strength, but that did not seem to matter now. It was as if Garulf knew the urgency and knew he carried precious cargo for he was gentler than usual. I was suddenly aware of my sister pulling on my tunic.
"Éothain," Freda cried, "do not fall off!"
"I won't, Freda," I replied, blinking, "I won't. Promise."
"I am hungry," Freda said softly, whimpering slightly.
"Here, take the reins," I handed them to her and leaned down to one of the bags my mother had strapped to the saddle. I pulled out some bread and a waterskin for us. I silently handed them to her and took back the reins. "Eat," I urged, biting my bread.
By now Garulf had slowed into a trot, breathing heavily. I saw the flecks of sweat on his back and the foam from the bit, but we couldn't stop: not yet. I thought back to my mother: her looks of fear and worry as she bade us farewell.
Will she meet us?I wondered, Will she find us? Is she alive? Is my father alive?
I remembered the day I said goodbye to him. He had on his lightweight armor, the kind the horsemen of Eomer wore. I had stood tall next to him, swearing I was not going to cry. He had leaned down.
"Take care of your mother and Freda, Son," he had said seriously, "You are the head of the house till I get back." He saw my look of doubt, "I will return, Eothain." He had ruffled my hair affectionately and swung up on his horse. He galloped out, armour shining in the sun, hair blowing in the breeze. I was so proud to be called his son. We have had no word of him since, only rumours. I do not know if he is alive or dead.
"Eothain!" Freda called out, "Is that a landmark?"
"Yes Freda," I replied, "we are very close to Edoras."
The night came, and the stars shone brilliantly. Garulf kept a good pace, sensing my unease. I knew we had to warn the king, to warn the people. If we didn't, the wild men could come onto Edoras unawares...like in my village. I sighed: my village. I learned to ride on the very same hills the wild men came down from. I remember my father teaching me; I had just learned to walk. My mother protested, saying it was too early; but my father quieted her. He said every child of Rohan learns to ride even before they can walk. My first horse had been a small pony of white, a gentle horse. Then I had gotten a bigger one for my eighth birthday: a black beauty with a white star on its forehead. I had ridden him for hours, taking Freda with me. One day, he disappeared and never came back. My father said he had heard the call of Shadowfax, the king of all horses. It had made me feel better, thinking he was running wild than--we had heard cries of wolves the night he had disappeared.
I strove to keep my eyes open, peering into the darkness. The weight of my sister leaned heavily on me that night. I managed to take a rope and tie myself to the horn of the saddle, wrapping it around my sister and me. I do not know how I slept, but I did: if only for a few minutes at a time. I was woken by my sister shaking me.
"Freda?" I muttered hoarsely, my eyes bloodshot.
"Take the rope off," she begged, pulling at it.
I smiled slightly and gently undid it. Then I looked up and saw Edoras in the distance, standing tall on the hill. I murmured a word to Garulf who broke into a swift cantor, bringing us closer and closer to the city. I was blacking in and out from lack of sleep and exhaustion, barely able to keep my seat on the saddle. Suddenly as we approached a hill, I saw an old man in white turn and see us. I looked at him but seemed to peer right through him. I swayed on the horse and felt myself falling.
"Eothain!" I heard my sister's frantic cry as I blinked, trying to focus.
"Freda," I gasped, struggling to get up. I saw Garulf standing in front of me protectively, with Freda grasping the reins. I was aware of another horse approaching and, propping myself up on my elbow, turned to look. It was the old man.
"Freda," I grabbed the stirrup, using it to pull myself up. I held onto the saddle tightly, closing my eyes as the ground spun. Suddenly I felt a hand grasp me by the shoulder.
"Steady, my lad," a kindly voice said. I turned and looked into the warm eyes of the old man.
"The king," I murmured tiredly, "I need to tell the king--village--momma."
"Easy," the old man held me up, "you will see the king."
"Gandalf," another voice called to him.
"Ah," Gandalf muttered in pleasure, "just in time. I will take the lad, Aragorn, and you help the lass."
I blurrily saw another, much younger man race up. He had the mannerisms of a king even though he had the appearance of a wanderer. I felt myself being lifted easily up onto the white horse. I swayed unsteadily, and then Gandalf leaped up behind me, steadying me. He murmured soft words to the horse which started towards Edoras at an easy pace. I glanced back to see the other man go up to Garulf who snorted and sidestepped uneasily. Then I leaned wearily back against Gandalf, my eyes closing.
"Stille nú (be quiet)," Aragorn murmured softly, stroking Garulf's nose, "Stille nú." He glanced up at Freda who looked at him, eyes full of fear. He gently came up to her, "What is your name?"
"F--Freda," Freda replied, eyes filling with tears. Her head sank as she started to slide from the horse in sheer tiredness. Aragorn leaped up behind her, keeping her on the horse. Garulf shook his mane, neighing.
"Man le trast? Man cenich? (What troubles you? What did you see?)" Aragorn questioned softly, nudging him with his heels. Garulf went forward quickly, sensing the other horses in Edoras.
"Hwæt nemnað ðe? Hm? Hwæt nemnað ðe? (What is your name? Hm? What is your name?)" Aragorn pat Garulf's neck, glancing down at the little girl.
Freda woke and glanced up at him. She gasped and pulled away from him, but he held her firmly.
"Do not be afraid, Little One," he murmured gently, "I will not harm you."
"Where is Éothain?" Freda asked.
"In Edoras, where you will be soon," Aragorn soothed, "what is this horse's name?"
"Garulf," Freda replied softly, "he was too big for us."
"I see," Aragorn looked at Gandalf as they passed into Edoras, "Come," he slid off of Garulf and took her in his arms, "I will take you to your brother."
I shook my head as I came to. I was disoriented but could tell I was in a stable of some sort. I glanced around, and suddenly it all came back to me. I leaped up but grabbed the gate as the ground spun dizzily.
"There, Lad, easy."
I turned my head slowly to see who had spoken. It was the old man, Gandalf.
"My sister?" I managed to get out before closing my eyes as a wave of pain flashed over me: everything seemed to hurt, especially my head.
"She is coming with Aragorn," Gandalf smiled, "she is quite safe. Come, can you walk? You need to tell Théoden-king your message."
"I can walk," I answered, shaking my head and clearing my vision. I followed him out of the stable, walking briskly.
"Éothain!" I heard my sister cry out. I turned and saw the other man, Aragorn, striding up, Freda in his arms. He let her down, and she ran to me. I hugged her tightly, grasping her hand. Then we both followed Gandalf with Aragorn walking behind us. My eyes widened as we climbed the steps to the palace. I gulped, wondering how to tell the king of--I glanced down at the steps, my eyes filling with tears. I had seen some of my friends slain...and my mother--I did not know if she was alive or not. I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder, and I glanced up into the keen grey eyes of Aragorn. Even at my age I could tell that he was no ordinary man.
"Just tell the king what your mother told you to say," he smiled at me, "just tell him the truth."
I nodded, smiling in relief. I took a deep breath and entered the throne-room. Gandalf whispered to the king, who motioned me forward. I gently released my hand from Freda's and allowed Aragorn to grasp it.
"Gandalf tells me you have some news," Théoden remarked, his eyes full of grief, "Very well, out with it."
Hesitantly, I told of my village's burning and destruction. Théoden's eyes became hard and sad as I spoke, and when I finished he didn't say anything for what seemed like a long time.
A hand took my shoulder and guided me away from him. I glanced up into the face of a beautiful woman dressed in black with a thin gold circlet around her brow. It was the Lady Eowyn: I suddenly remembered how my father had described her:
A beautiful woman, my son, but very sad...and cold. She is like a wild thing that is caged. She wishes for valour and respect, but feels stuck in the walls of her home. She is loved by all her people, and her uncle the king, though she thinks he does not. She is meant for great things: no ShieldMaiden of Rohan has ever passed through her life without a great deed of valour and courage!
Eowyn guided me over to the table and fetched me a bowl of soup. She gently questioned me as I ate, and I answered. She gathered more from what I did not say than what I did tell her. I remember her brushing back Freda's hair as she rose and spoke to her uncle.
"They had no warning, they were unarmed. Now the wildmen are moving through the westfold, burning as they go. Rick, cot, and tree." Éowyn said, her voice full of sadness and anger.
"Where is mamma?" Freda cried out.
"Sh..." Éowyn placed a blanket around her shoulders, "sh..."
"Find them rooms to stay in, Éowyn," Théoden said wearily.
We stood and followed Eowyn out of the room, but I turned back and heard Aragorn say, "Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not."
I was chilled at the way Théoden looked at Aragorn as he replied, "When last I looked, Théoden, not Aragorn, was King of Rohan." I managed to see Aragorn take a step back, his eyes burning with anger, but then the doors closed before I heard anything else.
I thought about the way Aragorn gazed, almost glared, at Théoden keenly. I shook my head: kings were hard people to understand. I hurried after Eowyn and my sister, thinking on their slight argument with each other. Eowyn led us to an unoccupied room at the end of a hall.
"Here," she said, going in, "you will be quite safe and comfortable in here. Try to get some sleep," she pulled out several blankets and pillows, laying them on the floor, "we will get you back to your mother as soon as we can." She promised my sister softly, covering her up.
"Thank you, Lady," I whispered, curling up next to my sister, "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Lad," Eowyn smiled sadly and strode quietly out of the room. I sighed and shifted on the blanket, wrapping a protective arm about my sister.
I woke from a gentle shaking of my shoulder. I blinked, shielding my eyes from the bright light that poured in through the window. A young man stood in front of me, waiting.
"Come," he said, motioning to my sister, "we are leaving."
"Who?" I asked, bewildered, "Who is leaving?"
"The entire city is being emptied," the man answered, "going to Helm's Deep."
I picked up Freda, not bothering to wake her, and followed the man out of the room. He was a tall man, about the same height as Aragorn. He had blond hair to the middle of his back which was braided and had a quiver of arrows strapped to his back along with his bow. He also had two knives criss-crossing on his back as well. I noticed nothing odd about him until I saw the points of his ears sticking out.
An elf? I thought in disbelief, It cannot be. They are just stories...tales from long ago.
He walked swiftly, leading us towards the stables. All of a sudden, we heard a gruff voice say, "There you are, Lad. I was beginning to think you had disappeared....again."
"If you think I would disappear right before a battle, Gimli," the man answered amusedly, "then you do not know me very well."
"I do not know you very well," Gimli grumbled, "nor do I wish to." The other man simply shook his head, silently laughing. "And who are these young ones?" he saw us looking at him.
Freda openly stared at him, gaping; while I looked at him, swallowing. He was no taller than I! He had a heavy mail-coat on and carried an ax. It was a dwarf complete with beard and axe.
"These are some children--" the man began.
"I know that." Gimli rolled his eyes.
"Children I was sent to see that they were ready to leave for Helm's Deep," the man finished, sighing.
"I will join you Legolas," Gimli fell into step alongside him, "I am ready to go."
"Very well," Legolas grinned, "I doubt they have had companions like us before."
"Nay," Gimli grinned, "by the way that lass is looking at me, I'd say you were right."
Freda blushed and lowered her head, holding my hand tighter. My eyes hardened slightly, wishing he would not embarrass my sister.
"Easy Lad," Legolas cautioned me, "he meant no harm to you or your sister."
"Of course I meant no harm to her!" Gimli said in shock, "I love children!"
Freda glanced at him curiously and began to laugh at his hurt look. She let go of my hand and walked hesitantly up to him.
"Hello there," Gimli said softly. Freda smiled and took his hand, walking with him. Soon she was chatting away to him, and he was listening intently.
I watched them together, surprised. Freda was usually very shy around strangers, let alone dwarves and elves! What had made her become friends so quickly with the dwarf?
"Your sister has taken a liking to Gimli," Legolas remarked thoughtfully.
"Yes," I answered, glancing up at him, "I am Éothain. And she is Freda."
"Legolas," Legolas shifted the quiver on his back.
"You are an Elf then?" I asked somewhat hesitantly and shyly.
"Yes," Legolas smiled softly, "from a realm far from here."
"You travel with Lord Aragorn? And Gandalf?" I questioned, wanting to know.
"Aye," Legolas's eyes took on a faraway look, "on a long journey."
"Oh," I turned away and gaped as I saw all the horses saddled. The whole city was indeed being emptied!
"Your horse is this way," Legolas steered me towards Aragorn and Théoden.
When I saw Garulf, I raced up to him, seeing that he was already saddled. "Hello, Garulf," I murmured, stroking his nose, "how are you, my friend? I have missed you. I think my father would not say you are too big for me now, eh?"
"He is a good horse," Aragorn startled me as he led his own horse beside mine, "you ride him well."
"Thank you, my lord," I said softly. Aragorn's lips twitched as he caught sight of Gimli and Freda walking towards us.
"Gimli has found a young friend," he laughed, shaking his head.
"Here you are, young master Éothain," Gimli handed my sister over to me, "take care of her--and stick close to us."
"Yes sir," I replied, struggling to lift her into the saddle.
Garulf was too big for me in this, and I was glad when Aragorn took Freda and set her in the saddle. I grabbed hold of his mane and clambered up onto him, not easily or gracefully, but I did manage to get on him. I took up the reins and directed him towards the others riding out of the city. I was aware of Aragorn following me and Eowyn was behind him, riding her own horse. We were headed to Helm's Deep.
Several hours of riding passed, and I was now walking next to Garulf, giving him a break from carrying two of us. Freda slept, somehow keeping her balance on him. I looked about at all the worried and frightened faces of the people. Suddenly I heard the sound of merry laughter and saw the happy face of Eowyn where she was talking with Gimli while leading his horse. I smiled, watching her. Aragorn was walking just a few horses in front of me, and Legolas had disappeared somewhere.
All of a sudden, we heard loud cries and howling. Aragorn ran ahead, leaving his horse in the hands of Eowyn. A few minutes later, he came racing back.
"Warg Riders!" he yelled in warning.
"Wargs!" the people started crying and yelling, holding young children close.
I swung up onto Garulf, waiting for a word of instruction. The men rode off to battle while Eowyn directed us down into the valley. We hurried along the path, praying the Wargs would not find us. After a few tense hours of riding and walking, we saw Helm's Deep before us.
"You did it, my Lady," a woman smiled at Eowyn, rushing ahead.
I urged Garulf into a gallop, going towards Helm's Deep. The gates opened for us, and everyone started to enter. I dismounted Garulf and pulled Freda down, looking around for Mamma.
"Freda! Éothain!" my mother called to us, opening her arms.
"Mamma!" I yelled, racing to her. She hugged us, crying softly. I buried my head in her shoulder, finally allowing myself to cry quietly after we were safe at last.