Éomer stared at the flask of ale between his hands. It was an accident, really, the ale being in his bedchamber now. He wasn’t a steady drinker, but then again, he wasn’t opposed to having a good strong draught every now and then either. He glanced at the five other flasks on the floor by his feet. Yet, somebody had to drink all this! Éomer thought of his éored. They’d be more than happy to send the drinks round, he knew. Then he thought of his aching heart and how wonderful it’d be to drink himself to a state of painlessness, even if it only provided a temporary escape. Escape from the dark, wavy hair, supple form, and warm, sweet lips of the woman who haunted his mind and body without rest. He slowly raised the flask to his mouth and took a deliberately long draft Yes, surely this was a heaven-sent brew.
Only later, around the time he finished the third flask, he realized the term “heaven-sent”, in light of his feelings toward Ervinai and her faith, was quite ironic. Oblivion was closer now, he could feel it. Strangely though, he noticed between lazy gulps of the bitter brew, the pain in his chest had only grown heavier. He took another swig.
“Éomer?” Éowyn sweetly called through the oaken door. She pounded a few times with her fist. Then she tried the handle. It had been clumsily locked, as always, for it gave way when she applied her shoulder to it. Her brother still slept, in his clothes even! She stopped to think why he still slept at this hour, but her mind soon rushed on to other things. She and Faramir had arrived less than an hour ago and it appeared her brother had forgotten the lovingly-planned visit of his sister and sister-husband.
Éowyn was hurt. How could he forget about their annual jamboree? Her lip pouted. And oh! how she wished her glare would wake him! Éomer’s tunic was unbuttoned and helplessly askew, the blankets were haphazardly tossed around, and — wait — something on his back, partly revealed by the twisted tunic, caught Éowyn’s eye.
She strode to the other side of the bed in curiosity. As she drew closer she stretched her arm out to push the tunic open wider. No sooner had she reached the other side than her feet slipped out from under her and she landed on the floor. There was a brief flurry of arms, legs, coverlets, and something wet and sticky. A startled cry tore from her throat. She struggled to rise, but was caught, tangled in her brother’s bed clothes.
“In here, Faramir!” and she heard Faramir’s quick step coming toward her from the hall.
“Éowyn, what are you doing?”
“I don’t know…” she rubbed at a sticky spot on her arm.
“Is something wrong?” he asked, nodding toward the bed.
Éowyn’s mind abruptly reminded her body of the reason for coming to this side of the bed. “Yes! Yes, something is wrong.” Out of intense curiosity, she stepped closer to her brother. She looked at his tunic, as if she wished it would open itself for her.
Faramir had begun to gather the blankets from beneath their feet, and she vaguely heard him give a short “Ah-ha!” as if in understanding. Éowyn busied herself in prying the tightly wrapped tunic away from her brother’s rock-hard body. She too soon gave a cry, not one of understanding, but one of horror. Three, long, twisted scars ripped across her brother’s skin. They were fresh too, as the still-purple color and ropy appearance testified. Faramir winced with a hissing noise as he came to stand by her shoulder. She turned to search her husband’s face for an answer, but found none. He was just as clueless as she.
The couple’s heads jerked up in unison. A man stood in the doorway. His aged features wore a kind expression. The man was Hermön. He had ridden with King Theoden, and was a father of sorts to the sister-brother pair. He kept their secrets. They trusted him.
When Éowyn was eleven she bruised her cheek practicing with the old, wooden block-swords. (Her uncle had forbidden her to learn the skill of sword fighting.) The next morning Theoden looked all suspicion at the cheekbone, turning her face this way and that to better examine the bruise. When questioned, Éowyn’s eyes welled up with tears as she struggled to get the words past trembling lips. Hermön, the good man, had spoken for her, telling her uncle she’d fallen off of her pony and hit her face against a rock. Éowyn had nodded her head as frantically as possible in agreement, and that was that.
If anyone knew what was wrong with her brother now, it would be Hermön.
He met her gaze with a look full of meaning.
“What happened?” Éowyn whispered into the silence, thinking she’d probably prefer a falsehood to the truth.
“I believe it can be attributed to a young lady.”
Hermön smiled. “The way the stories have it, he saved her life, milady Éowyn.”
“From what? A balrog?” How could any damsel be in that much distress?
“A dragon, Éowyn.”
“A what?” Faramir interrupted.
Éowyn gaped. “A dragon?” She plopped onto the edge of the bed.
“Looks like there was truth in those rumors, after all.” Faramir murmured.
Éowyn reached for her husband’s hand, but, to her consternation, found it already full — of wine flasks.
He answered before she could ask. “I found them on the floor beneath the coverlet.”
Taking one of the empty flasks into her own hands she unscrewed the cap and sniffed it.
“Hermön, why would Éomer…?”
The old man smiled strangely. “Alas, milady, I fear your brother is no longer yours to govern.”
“Hermön?” But the old man had turned away and was making his way back down the hall. Éowyn puzzled after him. “What does he mean, Faramir?”
“I believe he means that Éomer is in love.” he smiled down on her.
Faramir laughed and yanked one of her braids playfully. “He probably asked Hermön the same questions when you fell for me. The old man has reason to be weary.” He laughed again.
Éomer stirred. Éowyn and Faramir quieted as he groped outward and caught her hand in his. “Ervi.” he sighed.
Éowyn’s eyes widened. Then she snorted. “Six flasks of ale, indeed.”
Oh my gosh, guys! Sorry it’s been so long! Life has been crazy! I started a job at the beginning of December, and ever since then I’ve had no time for anything other than work, school, and sleep! Ha! Lucky for me I already had this chapter written out, it just needed to be spruced up a bit. Unluckily for you the next chapter has to start from scratch! But never fear! I’m getting the hang of my new schedule… Lol. Thanks go to Celebel for prodding me on a bit. Blessings and Love to all!