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I wasn't sure whether to post this here because the OC who already made an appearance in the first two chapters takes up some more space here. But then today I felt like posting it, since I like Éowyn in here. I hope you also do. (I mentioned before that the OC is from another longer story I posted on ffnet and AO3, but you may read it just as any unknown OC here, maybe contrasting or emphasizing Éowyn's character.
Many thanks to Ruiniel for beta-reading; you are such a treasure!
The Glimpse of a Secret
Hisses and short, yet sharp shouts of effort soared from behind the rock. Then a pause and fast breathing, and then again swift footsteps dulled by grass and moss and blows cutting the air.
She dismounted and left her horse behind, her thoughts not very coherent as she circled cautiously around the rock to get a sight of the happening. She had left the forest to seek for something. But she had come far, not even knowing what it was that had made her leave.
As she approached it sounded louder and louder in her ears; the fierce breathing, the sharp hisses of a blade in the air, and a female voice bursting out strength.
The sounds of a battle?
Still, she heard no clash of blades nor their sickening plunge into flesh, and there was only one voice, one panting breath, always the same.
She slid past the edge of the rock and upon seeing the scenery, surprise moved her ever closer, one step after the other, slowly, unthinking, fearless - mesmerized even.
As if through a soundless warning that suddenly ringed through her mind, her feet stopped, and she stood perfectly still. A light, flying dress came swirling before her and the point of a sword was held firmly against the hollow at the base of her throat. A pair of grey, menacing eyes stared at her.
She stared back, unblinking.
Just one thrust and she would be killed. But strangely, she did not care in that moment. She only stared with dark, dazed eyes deprived of fear. Her thoughts slowly regaining meaning, she regarded the woman holding the sword to her throat intently.
The woman was very young. Her slender frame still heaved with her excited breathing, her nostrils flared, her long hair gleamed a light gold and blew fiercely behind her, sent astray by the wind.
She studied the storm in those eyes and recalled the motions that had surprised her, before, when she approached. The girl had been handling the sword with the smooth and skilled motions of a fine warrior. She had been training. Hidden behind the rock - and the intruder had glimpsed her secret.
The storm in the girl's eyes ebbed down, and she faltered. The stranger could see her slightly confused gaze wandering down over her body, scanning the unexpected presence. And when those eyes rose to meet hers again, she noticed the frown in the young woman's features, the slight crease between her delicate brows.
"You are unarmed," the girl uttered aghast.
The stranger slowly lifted her hands to provide the evidence, and breathed deeply, studying the young woman's pale visage.
"That I am, as you can see," her voice came out even more raucous than it usually was, since she had not spoken in a very long time and not even sung from the day she left the forest.
But the young woman seemed unimpressed by her appearance. She lifted her chin and her eyes flashed as she literally threw the words, "Do you always sneak up on others like that? I would take care next time, especially when they are armed. It could mean your death!"
She did not immediately react to the reproach, instead, taking another deep breath, for a moment she considered those words. She could not deny that the girl was probably right with her warning. But oddly, she found that it mattered not at all to her in that moment.
Indifference seeped through her voice and words as she retorted flatly, "You might call it sneaking, yet it was not. I am of another kind, our movements are different, and our ears are sharp, any of my people would have sensed my steps. I beg you pardon if I have startled you."
The young woman shot back immediately, "I have no fear of you, nor was I scared before. My sword was straight and my hand secure. A strike and you would have been dead. But I do not kill one that is unarmed. Yet, next time you should be more careful."
She did not reply to the fierce attack. This time it was her turn to frown. This young one seemed bold. And her gaze softened at the thought. She asked the question that still puzzled her.
"Why do you hide here with your sword?"
The other took a sharp breath, narrowed her large grey eyes glistening with suppressed sadness and anger.
"I hide because they do not want me to fight. But I will train even more, no matter what they say! The time will come when they cannot restrain me!"
And in the grey of her eyes, a silver gleam was lit. The longing to fight and the dream of glory and prowess, of honour and battle - all burned brightly in her.
"I will defend my people! I will fight for them! I am ready to die if it is necessary to save all I love and all I live for!"
Those words so fiercely spilt from young rosy lips, and the girl's eyes, so brightly alight, hit her. She was at the same time impressed and saddened. Because for her there was no adventure in this world, no heroes, no glory in battle. Only illusions.
And so she spoke low, pouring into her words all the darkness lingering in her soul.
"From war only misery emerges! Heroes die and only grief persists and grows evermore."
She felt all her years of struggle and suffering. All the lives she had failed to save weighed heavy on her spirit. She asked herself, regarding this young one before her; was it naivety or was it strength?
The young woman unexpectedly interrupted her musings with a direct question.
"You are certainly not a warrior! What are you doing here in the hills, in times of war all alone and unarmed as you are? - And you are not of the Rohirrim, you look … different. "
"I am not from here indeed. I came from the South. I am not a warrior but I have learned what war is with the passing of long years. You were so ready with your sword, but you did not pay attention to my words. I said I am of another kind. I might look young but I am not. If I speak of long years they are long indeed, longer than you could imagine."
The young woman regarded her questioningly, unbelieving even, her lips drifting slightly open as if she struggled to make sense of her words.
"Are you… of elven kind?" She finally gasped.
The stranger did not answer but her fingers reached for her thick raven hair falling over her shoulder, and she tucked it behind her ear, revealing the arched pointed tip.
The reaction came prompt, without any judgement, but with genuine surprise.
"I would never have guessed! I mean… Now I remember your words from before, they registered somewhere in my awareness, but I have not pursued them further… you look not the way I imagined them, nor as any tale I have heard described them to be."
The elleth shrugged her shoulders, "I told you I come from the South…" and she added nothing more on the subject.
The young woman blinked several times as if running those words through her mind. The wind blew some stray strands of her pale, silken hair across her face, but she did not bother to brush it away. Instead, she spoke to the elleth. The fine strands of hair ghosted over her lips as they formed the words.
"The South is dark they say. The darkness creeps ever closer and into our lands. I want to fight against it! We are at war! – But why are you here? Where is your kin?"
"They are gone," the elleth answered.
"Gone?… I-... am sorry…" the girl uttered, her eyes widening. She took a deep sigh, and sorrow veiled the bright grey of her eyes. "I know of loss... my parents died, when I was but a child."
The revelation struck the elleth, and she found that she had no words to offer. She bowed her head in respect for the girl who stood before her; one more child sharply marked by the cruelty of life.
The girl answered with a soft smile. "My uncle cared well for me and my brother, he and my cousin are our beloved family."
But then her eyes turned earnest and questioning again. "But you? Why are you here, all alone?" she insisted, "Did you flee? Flee the darkness and the war?" The girl pressed on.
So many questions all at once asked by this young one… How could she give answers that she herself did not even have? She knew not why, but there was such a genuine honesty about this girl that she sincerely wished to share more with her.
She felt such sympathy for this young woman, who still dared to hope and dream and be fierce, despite the mark fate had left on her.
And she remembered that she had also once dreamt and hoped.
Deep down she felt that Arda needed that. Young ones with dreams and hope and determination. And she decided that it was worth supporting, for there was unbound strength in it.
"I am not a warrior, but I did fight. Healing is like battle. It is a fight. A hard fight against misery, against pain, against death. You can lose or you can win. And every time you lose, with the one dying, something dies within. But when you win, the life of the one you saved revives your soul. And you will carry on. - I will never flee the war."
Éowyn could see tears well in the elleth's eyes before she quickly blinked them away.
It felt so strange; here stood a being so old as she had never seen in her life, carrying a weight of years and knowledge she could not fathom.
And yet she looked so deceptively young in that moment. The sudden moisture in her dark eyes made Éowyn's heart constrict. Caught in her grief, fighting back tears, she looked like a girl barely older than herself, and Éowyn felt the urge to comfort her.
She stepped forward taking her hand and squeezed it gently.
The elleth allowed it, just briefly shutting her eyes, and then gazing back directly into hers with her deep black ones. Something about them looked lost, piercing, grieving and empty all at once and it made Éowyn shiver. She found it hard to stand that dark stare.
But despite herself, she smiled.
"My name is Éowyn, I am the niece of the King of Rohan," she offered.
The elleth nodded in acknowledgement. Her gaze softened, but she did not smile as she replied in a low voice, "I am Mîaddar, of the Sirith, the Elves of the South."
Éowyn knew not what to do with the information. She had never met an elf before, nor had she known until now that Elves dwelled in the South. But the maiden of Rohan found it of no importance where this one hailed from, or that she looked different.
"You say you are a healer… come with me, there will be purpose for you. My people are in need. We are at war already."
The elleth took a deep breath, still staring at her. And it was to Éowyn as though a flicker passed through her dark eyes.
Was it hope? Was it a flash of light?
But the sadness immediately reclaimed its place. And even as the elleth stood tall before her, her whole being seemed to slump with heavy uncertainty.
"But your people… will they accept me in their midst?" she whispered.
"As certain as the war lasts, with time, they will," Éowyn said confidently.
The elleth regarded her with an unreadable look, unblinking and steady. And then she nodded. "I will come," she said, "I promise."
Mîaddar felt her own breath quicken in a surge of hopeful excitement, but even as she strangely trusted that unknown girl, she was uncertain about revealing emotions to her. So, bowing her head, her hand to her heart, she then turned, concealing her face as she slightly blushed with a sudden surge of energy.
She walked away leaving the young woman behind, feeling her stare burning into her back as she went.
"Where are you going?... You said you will come…!" she heard her call out. It made her stop in her stride, and turn back again to meet those fierce, hopeful eyes.
"I will… but not now… The fenced city on the hill, is it not? - When it calls I will heed it."
And this time she turned and ran, without glancing back again. Only once the girl could see her no more she slowed and took off her boots to feel the grass under her feet. She breathed the breeze that was carried over the hills, and she was suddenly incredibly thankful to this young woman, Éowyn, for she had offered her the next stage in her journey, her next purpose.
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