Written for the D-Group's 2006 Yule Fic Exchange.
Warning: This story contains the spanking of a child with a belt.
“May it be a Light to You in Dark Places…”
Eowyn entered the cavernous common room of the king’s quarters and paused, a little smile playing about her lips. In the far corner near the huge Yule tree the new Steward of Gondor stood quietly, hands clasped behind his back, his presence almost undetectable due to his stillness. His gaze was fixed upon the gleaming star perched upon the very top bough, his demeanor more that of a small boy enthralled by the sight before him, rather than the grown man he was in actuality. Yet there was an air of profound sadness clinging to him in spite of his childlike fascination with the decorations.
Eowyn felt her heart twist painfully as she watched her beloved, her own grief still too near. This was their first Yuletide celebration together, and the first since the tragedies of the Great War. They had all suffered losses of such magnitude that the wounds carved from the fabric of their very souls would never entirely heal. Nay, the scarring would be visible until their own passing some day provided them with release. However, her betrothed was a strong man, stronger than he himself even realized, and Eowyn was certain he would prevail. She would accept no less from him. She would engulf him in the arms of her love, stand at his side in times of strife as well as happiness, help him to heal from the terrible loss of his adored older brother and his hateful father.
And she would lean upon him in the times of her own need, draw upon his new found strength and take it into her very being, use it to sustain herself when the terrible memories sought her out in the dark of night. Together they had already survived. And they would learn to laugh again. And to give thanks for all of the coming Yuletides they would share with those who were dear to them now, and those yet to be born.
She allowed herself to linger at the doorway enjoying the scene, and found her own eyes drawn to the silvery star the former Ringbearer had fashioned, his humble contribution to the celebration. Her thoughts traveled unbidden to a time when she was small and similarly overcome with grief, to the time of her first Yule in her uncle’s home, and the first since the passing of her parents. What a difficult and yet joyful time that had been and how like this one in many ways. It was a time of getting to know newfound family and friends, to mourn one’s loss, to seek happiness and love.
She had stood just as she was now, across the large room gaping in wonder at the towering Yule tree as the servants stood on a ladder stringing garlands of flowers round the green branches. The scent of evergreen lingered in the air as fresh and delicate as the new fallen snow she spied outside the window. Her uncle was nearby, speaking quietly with her older cousin, her brother watching them, obviously anxious to join in the conversation but not quite sure of his place. Her long blonde hair was swept back with a green satin ribbon and she remembered how she had played the ends of her hair through her fingers as she watched. Eowyn felt she could reach out and touch that young girl so clear was her vision, and she felt another painful turn of her heart.
Her reminiscing was interrupted by a feather light touch on her arm and she startled slightly and found herself looking up into the gentle eyes of the wizard. Gandalf smiled and Eowyn lowered her gaze shyly, a bit embarrassed to be caught in her reverie of the past.
“Tis quite alright my dear, to indulge one’s self in pleasant memories. And to anticipate creating new ones.”
“Yes,” she answered softly.
Faramir looked up at the sound of their voices, surprised to find he was no longer alone. He moved toward them as they entered the great room and extended his hands to Eowyn. “My lady,” he whispered as he clasped her pale hands and then tilted his head in acknowledgment of the wizard.
“I can see you have all done a fine job in decorating the tree. And Frodo has created a true work of art for the top! He always was an artistic lad,” Gandalf chuckled.
“Yes, everyone had a hand in the effort. Merry and Pippin in particular seemed to take quite a bit of joy in their participation. And Pippin insisted Aragorn hold him up so he might have the honor of placing the star on top.” Faramir shook his head and a little smile appeared on his face with the memory of the lad perched upon Aragorn’s shoulders, reaching high above his head to position the star. “The hobbits never fail to bring a bit of merriment to anything they do. I shall miss them dearly when they leave Gondor after Yuletide.” He glanced back at the great tree and the smile grew sad. “I shall miss them all.”
Eowyn squeezed his hands, gently drawing his attention back to her. Faramir smiled and brushed a lock of her golden tresses from her brow. She returned his smile. Sensing her melancholy the young steward’s eyes held a question. Eowyn sighed lightly. “I was recalling a memory of a past Yule celebration, that is all.”
“I was actually doing the same.” Faramir glanced back at the great tree. “The star atop this evergreen is much like the one that adorned our Yule tree many years ago when I was a small child. Boromir made it for our mother. It has remained in my heart all these many years since and not a Yuletide passes that I don’t recall standing like this, admiring it high upon the treetop.” He chuckled softly and blushed. “I must admit I was quite taken aback there for a moment when I first laid eyes upon Frodo’s creation. It is remarkably similar.”
“I confess to being a bit reminiscent myself,” Eowyn said softly. “This grand tree is very like the one we had upon my first Yule celebration in my uncle’s house.” Her eyes wandered over the green branches for a moment before she continued. “I thought I had never seen such a beautiful thing ever before in my life.”
“I should like to hear that tale sometime!” Gandalf draped an arm around each of their shoulders and embraced them. “Perhaps following the evening meal? When we all meet by the fire to pass the time before retiring for the night. ‘Twould be a fine time to recall some of the good times we have all had during Yuletides past!”
“Aye, Mithrandir. That is an excellent idea. I am certain we can--”
Faramir was interrupted by a loud squeal before the room was set upon by the sudden appearance of the youngest hobbits. Pippin slid from the grand staircase railing landing with a thud and tripped over his own feet as he stumbled ungracefully into the room. Merry was hot on his tail, careening in a moment later and reeling about the room in pursuit of his cousin.
“Give it to me Pip! I vow I’m going to hang you out by your ears to dry if you don’t stop--”
Pippin laughed and continued to hop about the room, always just a hairsbreadth out of Merry’s reach. “Come and get it then! What’s the matter Mer? Why, you’re as slow as molasses in Afteryule!* I do believe you’re becoming quite feeble in yer old age.”
Merry growled and renewed his efforts, launching himself into the air and barely missing his cousin’s shirttail as he reached for him. Pippin outdid himself dodging this way and that, determined he would not be caught. Something bright sparkled in his hands and he popped the small object inside his shirt as he picked up his pace, doubling back the way he had come and darting smoothly in between the startled onlookers and back around the room a second time. Merry whirled and retraced his steps but miscalculated and went in the wrong direction as Pippin feinted a right turn and then ran left, exiting the room in a blur of hairy feet and flying curls.
“Peregrin Took!” Merry’s face was bright red as he spun around and a moment later was right behind him. “You wait til I catch you lad! You’re gonna be sorry you ever took my…” His voice faded into the distance with the sound of their pounding feet.
Eowyn pressed a hand to her mouth and gasped when they heard another squeal and a loud crash further down the great hall. Faramir winced.
“I do hope that wasn’t anything too awfully valuable dear boy,” the wizard grimaced.
“Um, no! No, of course not. The items in this particular hallway are only a mere few centuries old. Nothing to be overly concerned with.” Faramir stifled a groan.
“Hmph! We’d best go see they haven’t injured their fool selves,” Gandalf huffed and stalked away.
The evening meal was finished and the fireplace glowed brightly with the warmth of a summer’s day. The scent of the crackling cherry logs mixed with evergreen and Eowyn’s nose twitched appreciatively. Another warm memory filled her mind and she became lost in her thoughts once more as she snuggled into the crook of her beloved’s arm. Her reverie was interrupted by the sound of others entering the room. The king seated himself across from them after first offering a seat to Lady Arwen. They were soon followed by all four hobbits who plunked down next to the fireplace while the dwarf took a seat by his newfound dearest friend and comrade. Legolas favored Gimli with a grin and nodded discreetly at the cuddling steward and his lady.
“Ah, the end of a lovely day, wouldn’t you agree, Lady Eowyn?”
“Why, yes indeed Gimli. ‘Twas a beautiful day.”
“Where is Gandalf?” Aragorn glanced around the room.
“I believe he is tending to his wound at the moment. I saw him headed for the bathing chambers a short while ago,” Frodo said.
Aragorn arched his brow. “I did not think it was a serious cut?”
“Nay, it was not but apparently it bled through the bandage I applied earlier,” Arwen reassured him.
“Ah.” Aragorn turned a stern eye on the two youngest hobbits. Merry and Pippin had the decency to look ashamed. “Perhaps he should have bid the culprits responsible for the mess clean up the broken glass, hmm?”
“Umm, he didn’t want us to get cut he said, so we should allow him to do it,” Merry told him.
“Aye! We tried to help, Aragorn! Truly!” Pippin’s head bobbed up and down.
Frodo and Sam hid their grins.
“I believe you two have done enough ‘helping’ for one day!” The disgruntled wizard appeared in the doorway.
“Come Gandalf, and be comfortable. We were thinking earlier of sharing some Yuletide memories. Perhaps that would help lighten your mood.” Faramir beckoned at a chair.
“Hmph.” The wizard took the proffered seat and waited expectantly.
“Well, I think it would be wonderful if my dear lady would relate the tale she alluded to this afternoon. Eowyn? Would you mind?”
Eowyn smiled gently at her betrothed and nodded. “Certainly, if others would care to hear it.”
A round of agreement echoed from them all. Eowyn took a deep breath and paused to collect her thoughts for a moment before beginning. Her gaze became transfixed upon the crackling flames in the fireplace as her mind focused on that long ago time.
“It was the first Yule following the death of my parents, and my brother and I were feeling quite lost amidst the preparations. I was but eight years of age, however I was certain I was already quite grown up. Eomer was twelve and I looked up to him as my protector but I sometimes thought he was a bit bossy. And too bold for his own good!” This statement brought chuckles from several of her listeners. She smiled.
“We had not lived in my uncle’s house for long when the first Yuletide was upon us and the great house fairly came alive with the preparations. I was fascinated by it all. But what held my attention and my brother’s also was the huge evergreen tree that was placed in the parlor opposite the fireplace.” Eowyn’s blue eyes glittered at the memory and took on a distant look. “It must have been fifteen feet tall! I had never before seen such a tree indoors. And when the servants began stringing great garlands of flowers around it, why…it nearly took my very breath away!”
Faramir gently squeezed her hand and she laughed, the corners of her eyes crinkling in her merriment. “Yes, twas a most fascinating sight! And then to my utter amazement, they began securing candles to its branches. Uncle Theoden told us they would be lighted on the eve of the great Feast, and how I looked forward to it after hearing that. I recall I asked him what if the tree caught afire? He simply laughed and pointed at the buckets of water sitting near it, just out of sight. I think I fell in love with my uncle that season. He always had the answers to all my questions and he always knew what to do or say. I realized I felt secure for the first time since my parents died.” Eowyn sighed.
“However, Eomer was another story. It seemed he was still testing the boundaries in our new home, trying to find out where he fit in. Seeking his own reassurance of security …”
“Here we go children! Now don’t be shy, help yourselves and then we’ll go and watch them putting up the Yule tree.” The head mistress of the king’s household bustled about the kitchen removing trays of small cakes and pies from the great oven to the shelf to begin cooling. Mistress Hedger supervised the domestic staff and helped care for his new charges. Little Eowyn reached timidly for one of the sweets as her brother and cousin eagerly delved in without further encouragement.
Eowyn followed them into the common room and stood in the doorway nibbling on her bit of cake. She watched Eomer and Theodred immediately make themselves the center of attention as they got underfoot trying to be helpful with the hanging of holly and boughs of evergreen as well as the stringing of the garlands around the big tree.
Eowyn finished her sweet and delicately brushed the crumbs away, staying put in the doorway. She twirled her golden hair about in her fingers while she wondered how long it would take for the boys to get themselves in trouble this time. Studying the increasing frown on Uncle Theoden’s face Eowyn figured that it wouldn’t be much longer. She struggled to hide a mischievous grin when her uncle reached his limit as he tripped over Theodred for the third time and then nearly fell into the tree when Eomer backed into him.
“Theodred! Eomer! Boys, you simply must remove yourselves from our way!” Theoden shook his head and shooed them out of the room. “This is your last warning now.” The king paused to pat Eowyn’s head and wink at her as he herded his son and nephew away. Out in the hall he placed a hand on each of their shoulders and looked them sternly in the eye. “I know you are trying to help but you will wind up getting hurt or causing others to with your rambunctious actions. Perhaps you should wait here with Eowyn until we are finished, hmm?”
“Yes Father,” Theodred nodded obediently.
“Yes Uncle.” Eomer was a bit less enthusiastic in his response and Theoden frowned slightly but said nothing.
Eowyn giggled and her brother tossed her a look of annoyance. She stuck her tongue out. “Thhrrppppp!”
“Oh, how ladylike,” Eomer muttered, wiping his shirt with exaggerated care.
Theodred chuckled at his little cousin’s antics.
“Whoever said I was a lady? I’m going to be a great warrior, just like Uncle!”
Eomer snorted, causing his sister to draw herself up to her full height and cross her arms in front of her. She stared at him disapprovingly. “You’ll see, Eomer! I’m going to learn to use a blade, just like you and Theodred. And someday I may even ride into a great battle on my big horse!”
Eomer snickered at his little sister. “Ladies don’t do those things Eowyn. Only men ride into battle and learn to use a sword.”
Eowyn stared him down. “Then I think it is time that changed. Just you wait and see.”
“Uh huh. That’ll take about as long as it’s taking them to put up this tree by the looks of things! I wish Uncle hadn’t chased us out of the room,” he grumbled. “I’m certain it would be going much faster if he hadn’t.”
“And I’m certain that someone would have ended up with a sore behind if you’d ‘helped’ him for much longer,” Eowyn shot back. She gave her cousin a knowing look and he grinned.
“Aww, Uncle Theoden wouldn’t tan me, would he Theo?”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that if I were you. Just because he never has is no reason to think he won’t. I for one know better than to push him too far. The last time I did he used his strap on my backside.”
Eowyn’s eyes widened and Eomer swallowed, some of his bravado forgotten. He chuckled a bit nervously.
“Laugh if you wish Cousin. But ‘twill be no laughing matter if it happens to you.” Theodred tilted his head to one side, studying him. “As a matter of fact, I dare you to test your theory.”
Eomer glanced back into the room and watched his uncle climb the ladder to assist the servants with the garlands. He wet his dry lips with his tongue and pondered the challenge. “Perhaps now would not be the ideal time to do so.”
“Ah, it is good to see you do have some sensibilities.” Theodred nodded.
Eomer scowled and turned his attention back to the activity. The youngsters continued to linger watching the progress with interest. The great tree was soon erected and decked in brilliant colors. Eowyn could not hide her fascination. She continued to stare at the tree in awe. Eomer and Theodred began debating the likelihood of being able to hide one’s self in the thick branches.
“I’ll wager I could climb it, and fast too! Why, I could reach the top in no time at all.” Eomer eyed the tree as if sizing up a plan to do just that. His cousin raised his hand in caution.
“I don’t think it would be wise to try such a thing Eomer. It could fall over.”
“No, I don’t think it would. See how securely they’ve fastened it to the walls?”
“Ropes can be broken, Cousin.”
Eomer didn’t answer and Theodred eyed him, concerned. Eowyn watched them both wondering who was right. A moment later their uncle beckoned them back into the room and they all stood admiring the beautiful decoration. Theoden reached out and drew them all to him.
“This is the beginning of many wonderful new memories for us, my children. We shall share a very special first Yule as a family, yes?”
Eowyn nodded happily and hugged him, her very being filling with love for her uncle. Eomer also nodded and then tossed a sly look at his cousin. Theodred shook his head in warning and Eomer rolled his eyes at the older lad’s cautious nature. Theoden swept his niece up into his arms and nodded at the boys.
“It is time for bed young ones. Come now.”
They followed obediently, Theodred shaking his head and his cousin grinning shamelessly.
“What are you doing Eomer?” Eowyn watched curiously as her brother circled the Yule tree as though sizing up a mountain he planned to ascend.
“Nothing. What are you doing in here anyway? I thought you were helping Mistress Hedger in the kitchen with the baking.”
“She let me do some things with her and then sent me off saying I was too small to be underfoot while they were doing the meal preparation. She said it could be dangerous, I could get burned.”
“Seems like we’re always in the way. Uncle just made me leave the armory. He was showing me some of the great swords when some of his men arrived to speak with him. I tried to get him to allow me to stay but he sent me away.”
“He probably wanted to talk to his men, Eomer. That’s all.”
“He could have let me stay. I could have looked at the swords while they talked.”
“We have to do what Uncle says though. He’s trying to take care of us.”
“He takes care of you. I don’t know if he really wants me around.”
“How can you say that? Uncle loves us!”
“Then why doesn’t he let me do the same things he allows Theodred to do? Why does he think I’m always underfoot and send me off?”
“I don’t know. He must have a reason.” Eowyn crinkled up her brow in thought. “Theodred is older,” she offered reasonably.
“But he doesn’t pay much attention to me,” Eomer said sadly.
“Yes he does, “ Eowyn insisted.
Her brother shook his head and Eowyn sighed. She plopped down in a chair with her book, her attention continuously drawn back to the beautiful tree. Behind her Eomer was thinking hard.
The morning of the great Yule feast dawned with a bright blue sky and fresh snow on the ground. The delighted youngsters plowed into it with great enthusiasm. All day long people were arriving for the celebration. Later that afternoon Eowyn again wandered into the common room to behold the great evergreen in silent wonder. She was still certain she had never beheld such a beautiful sight in her entire life. But there was something new here now! Beneath the tree brightly wrapped and decorated packages littered the floor. Oh my! The little girl crawled under the tree with great delight to examine them more closely. She hadn’t noticed the top of the tree swaying slightly, or the green branches rustling and parting.
Eomer was marveling at the many things he could spy from his high perch. He did not notice Eowyn’s presence or see her crawling underneath the tree. His attention elsewhere distracted him from his foothold in the branches and the great tree gradually shifted and then began to shake and sway. The ropes that held it fast were straining and twisting away from the wall. A slight misstep was all it took and the evergreen began to topple. Eomer gasped and reached out with flailing hands to try and regain his balance. He breathed a cautious sigh of relief when the tree appeared to steady and he grasped the sharp branches with shaking hands. His relief was short lived and he yelped in surprise and dismay as it suddenly tilted and came crashing to the floor. At the same time a shrill scream emanated from beneath the branches and Eomer recognized his sister’s voice. Immediately people rushed into the room, Mistress Hedger and Theoden among them.
“What in the…!”
“HELP! Oh, Uncle, please help me!” A muffled and very frightened voice sobbed from somewhere beneath the sea of green.
Theoden cursed in surprise and immediately fell to his knees and began digging into the branches with help from the servants and Theodred, finally plucking the frantic child out of the mess at last. He scooped her up and held her close for comfort and then set her down, scrutinizing her carefully for any injuries. Eowyn had sustained only a few scratches and the king sighed with relief.
Getting to his feet Theoden glanced around the room. “What happened here?” he demanded. Eowyn could do nothing but weep. It was then they heard another muffled voice from under the tree. The king frowned and bent to search under the branches once more, at last withdrawing his struggling nephew from the mess. Eomer was pale and shaken. He was covered from head to foot with scratches and his hair was filled with pine needles that cascaded down the fair locks and dripped off his nose like rain from a sudden cloudburst. Otherwise he appeared unharmed and his uncle scrutinized him closely. Realization dawned quickly and his eyes narrowed.
“Were you climbing this tree young man?”
Eomer gulped and stared up into his uncle’s stern eyes.
“WELL?” Theoden gave him a shake. “Answer me!”
“Yes, Uncle,” he admitted and hung his head in shame. He had never before seen him so livid. Perhaps Theodred had been right. Eomer had a belated feeling he should have listened to him.
Theoden’s face darkened. “What in the name of…you do realize you could have killed your sister just now? Of all the--”
“I didn’t know she was under there,” Eomer wailed in protest.
“You had no business climbing up the Yule tree in the first place!” Theoden released him and pointed toward the door. “Go to your bedchambers and wait for me, NOW! I will be there shortly.”
Eomer gulped and ran from the room as Eowyn burst into tears again and hugged her uncle’s leg, sobbing. Theoden knelt beside her and held her at arm’s length and then gently lifted her chin. “You are all right now child. Shhh, quiet down,” he soothed.
“Are you going to punish Eomer?” Eowyn asked in a trembling voice.
“Yes child, I am. Don’t you think he deserves it?”
“I don’t know!” Eowyn burst into a fresh round of tears.
“Eowyn, look at me,” her uncle said. When she raised her tear-filled eyes to his he smiled softly. “I told you both I would treat you as my own children when you came to live with us. I made that promise and I intend to keep it. And that also means a good spanking whenever either of you may need it.”
Eowyn sucked in a breath. “It does?” she asked in a small voice.
“Yes, it does.” Theoden brushed the silky blonde hair away from her brow and smiled again. “Never fear, my child. I will be there for you both, in good times as well as bad. And with a firm hand as needs be!” He turned to his son. “Take Eowyn and talk to her whilst I attend to Eomer, please.”
“Yes Father.” Theodred took his cousin by the hand and led her away.
Theoden took a deep breath and headed for his nephew’s chambers, trying to calm himself as he went. He shook his head. Obviously the boy was trying to get his attention. Well, so be it. He definitely had it now! Perhaps he had been neglectful, overlooking the boy’s earlier naughtiness in favor of giving him a second chance. He reached his destination and raised his hand to knock lightly on the door.
Eomer paced his room nervously, still uncertain how his uncle intended to respond to his mischief. He really had believed Uncle Theoden wouldn't thrash him, but now he wasn't so sure. A tap on his door caused his head to jerk up and he stared as the doorknob turned, his throat as dry as a desert. Theoden entered the room and stood for a moment eyeing his errant nephew before speaking.
“Now, would you care to tell me just what that little display of extremely poor judgment was about? Surely you knew better than to attempt something so foolish! I cannot believe you did not. You and Eowyn could have been killed or seriously injured!”
Eomer hung his head and said nothing.
His uncle took him by the arm and drew him over to the bed where he sat and placed both hands on the boy’s shoulders. “Tell me.”
“I…I guess I wanted to get your attention. I didn’t think you cared enough to treat me the same as Theodred.”
“What? How can you think such a thing, lad? Have I not treated you justly ever since you came to live here?”
“You have let me get away with things that Theodred said he did not,” Eomer told his uncle quietly. “I thought you didn’t care.”
Theoden stared at him in consternation, understanding dawning at last. He sighed. “I thought you needed more time to adjust to being here. I thought I was being considerate. But now I see you have taken it the wrong way. Very well. I will show you how much I care then, by treating you exactly the same as I would your cousin in these same circumstances.”
Theoden rose and began to remove his belt. He indicated the bed with a nod of his head. Eomer stared at him, eyes wide.
"You will take down your breeches and bend over the end of the bed.” He finished taking off his belt and folded it.
“I am waiting,” Theoden said patiently.
Eomer blanched and then moved to do as he was bid. With trembling fingers he loosened his breeches and pushed them down, then bent gingerly across the foot of the bed and waited in silence, his fingers digging into the bedclothes. Theoden took hold of his nephew’s shoulder to hold him in place. He raised the belt high before whipping it down with a loud CRACK!
“OWW! Uncle, that hurts!”
“That is why it is called a punishment Eomer,” Theoden told him calmly without altering the intensity of the licking in the least. He easily caught the hand that was thrown back and held onto it.
Eomer continued to sob into the quilt as the whipping continued. Just when he was certain he could bear no more, the punishment stopped. Theoden tossed the belt aside and gathered his repentant and weeping nephew into his arms. He sat on the bed and drew Eomer down at his side, allowing him to cry until he could find no more tears. Finally he took his chin in hand and tilted the swollen eyes up to meet his. Eomer tried to look away but his uncle would not allow it.
“My boy, do you have any idea why I did that?”
Eomer answered hesitantly, his voice trembling. “Because I was bad. I almost got my sister killed!” He began to weep anew.
Theoden gathered him closer and hugged him fiercely to his chest. “No, boy. What you did was a very foolish and ill-considered thing. That does not make you bad!”
His uncle’s words caused him to sob harder. “I’m sorry Uncle!”
“Shhh, it is all right. You have paid for your mischief. All is forgiven.”
Eomer clung to his uncle still unable to control his tears. Theoden rocked him gently. “I was remiss in my failure to punish you for your previous naughtiness. I ask your forgiveness for that. It will not happen again.”
A small, muffled groan came from his nephew, whose face was still buried in his chest. “It won’t?”
“Nay, my boy. It will not. Rest assured. You will have my complete and undivided attention and swiftly, for any future wrongdoing you may be considering,” Theoden chuckled and pulled back. “Now, pull up your breeches and dry your tears. Your sister will want to be reassured that I have not been too hard on you.”
Theoden stood and retrieved his belt. He replaced it while watching Eomer as he righted his clothing, and then headed for the door. He paused, his hand on the latch. “I love you my boy,” he said without turning.
“I love you too Uncle,” Eomer murmured shyly.
The room remained quiet as Eowyn finished speaking. She pulled her attention back to the present a bit reluctantly and glanced at Faramir. He seemed lost in his own thoughts. Eowyn looked around at the others. The wizard was the first to respond.
“That tale was quite lovely, my dear Lady. It seems you and your brother found the place where you belonged at last. Theoden had great love for you both, you know. Right from the very beginning.”
“I know,” Eowyn agreed softly. She smiled, her face lighting up and seeming to reflect the golden brilliance of her hair. “I miss him dearly.”
Merry watched her unobtrusively, forever fascinated by her beauty and manner. He had been held captivated by her ever since she had hoisted him onto her horse the day they rode toward battle, defying her uncle’s directives to both of them. She had held his unshakable faith and allegiance ever since. He rose then and approached her, offering his gift to her a bit shyly. Eowyn looked up in surprise.
“My Lady? I made this for you. To help you remember the happier times in your life.” He looked at Eowyn, gray eyes earnest. “I overheard you tell others that the star Frodo created reminded you so much of a past Yuletide of great importance.” He glanced down at his feet before raising his eyes to hers again. “I hoped it would cause you to smile.”
Eowyn studied the hobbit with gentle eyes before taking the shiny little package and undoing the carefully tied bow. She gasped with wonder as she pulled forth a tiny replica of the silvery star that perched atop the great evergreen. In the same design his cousin had created, Merry had fashioned a necklace with a star shaped charm at the end. Eowyn held it up appreciatively to the light, admiring its delicate filigree as she turned it this way and that. She reached out and gathered the halfling into her arms giving him a heartfelt hug much to the young one’s delight.
“Thank you Merry,” she whispered in his ear. “Your thoughtful gift will do much to help me recall that even when there is great darkness the light is waiting always, lingering just around the nearest corner, only seeking the proper time to make its appearance and allow its warmth to be felt.” Eowyn let her eyes wander around the room, taking in each beloved face in turn before coming back to her little friend. “The light of love and friendship. And the memories of those who have gone before us.”
“And await our coming,” Faramir finished for her. “Why should they be out of mind just because they are out of sight?”
“Aye, they are waiting for us somewhere very near, just around the corner,” Merry agreed. “All is well.”