Cuthbert and Eowyn

Legolas and Eowyn returned to the campsite to find everybody fully occupied: the elves, having already dismantled one of the lower flets, had begun lashing the planks together to form the framework of a shelter; the cooks, having rescued a few pots, had set their assistants to picking herbs and digging up roots; and several groups of men and women, searching the remains of the tents, were gathering up blackened objects and laying them in a pile, close to where the elves were building.

No one, it appeared, had missed their Lord and Lady.

The March Warden was briefing volunteers for the expedition to Caras Galadhon. “We will concentrate on three areas,” he said, pointing with a stick at the simple plan of the city he had scratched into the dirt. “The first group, led by Lord Gimli, will search here, along the Hythe,”—he greeted Legolas and Eowyn with a nod—“the second, led by Lord Legolas, will search the Chamber of Celeborn itself; the third, which I shall lead, will search the flets to the north of the Lawn.”

“Good,” said Legolas, stepping forward to take command. “Gather up your rations, say your farewells. We move out in half an hour.”

The warriors quickly dispersed, leaving the couple alone with Haldir.

“Perfect,” said Eowyn, smiling at the elves, “because I have a few things to do before we leave.”

“Melmenya,” said Legolas, glancing at Haldir—and Eowyn knew what was coming—“are you sure that you are well enough?”

“Of course,” she said, firmly. “Master Dínendal says that I am healing quickly, but should rest my ankle for a day or so. Very well: I shall be riding Brightstar for the rest of the day, and sitting by the camp fire all night. By tomorrow morning, after a good night’s sleep, I shall be fine.” She looked up at Legolas, her expression suddenly changing. “And Eomer has told me so much about the Chamber of Celeborn…”

Defeated, the elf put an arm around her shoulders. “What are these things you need to do before we leave?” he asked, shaking his head at Haldir.

They found young Hobbie helping his mother check a wagon-load of food that had miraculously survived the fire.

“There’s a fair amount that’s still edible, my Lord,” said Averell, raising one of the lids, and sniffing, “though it may taste a bit smoky…”

“That is good news, mistress,” said Legolas.

“Hobbie,” said Eowyn, “I have have not forgotten my promise.” She unbuckled her belt, slid off her hunting knife (in its tooled leather scabbard), and held it out to him.

The boy stared at her outstretched hand.

Eowyn pushed the knife a little closer.

The boy continued to stare.

Hobbie?” His mother looked, uncomfortably, from her son, to Eowyn and Legolas, and back again. “He’s not usually like this, my Lord—Hobbie, where are your manners?”

“Do you not want it, Hobbie?” asked Eowyn.

The boy shook his head. “I never thought you meant it, Lady ’Owen.”

“Oh,”—she smiled—“of course I did, Hobbie.” She held out the knife again. “It is yours.”

The boy took it—“Thank you, my Lady,”—and drew it from its scabbard, holding it up to the light. The blade, broad and sturdy, glinted in the pale sun, and the intricately decorated handle glittered.

“Thank you, my Lady,” said his mother, with a quick curtsey. “It’s a beautiful knife; he’ll treasure it.”

“It is a fine knife,” said Legolas. “It has served its former mistress well, and I am sure it will do the same for its new master.”

“I was worried, Hobbie,” said Eowyn, “when I could not find you on the flets, just before the fire. I thought that you might still be in the Forest.”

“He was up at the very top, my Lady,” said Averell, “keeping the young ’uns in order.”

Since Hobbie, though a sturdy little boy, could not have been much more than seven himself, Eowyn’s heart was filled with pride. “Brave boy,” she said.

“What next?” asked Legolas.

Thorkell bogsveigir and his elderly Rohirrim were searching what was left of the mess tent. “Lucky no one was sitting in here when it went up,” he said. Then, “A small iron chest, you say?”

“Yes,” said Eowyn. “It was in my shelter. About… Oh, this big.” She moved her hands to indicate—in mid air—a box, ten inches wide and eight deep.

“And what was inside it,” asked the Beorning, “gold? Jewels?” He attempted to raise—one handed—the charred top of a trestle table.

“No. Papers.”

Papers?” He frowned. “Egric! Come and help—” Legolas grasped the other end of the table, and lifted it with him. “Thank you, my Lord.” There was nothing underneath; they set it down again.

“Our betrothal contract,” persisted Eowyn.

“I see.” Thorkell glanced at Legolas; the elf nodded. “In that case, my Lady,” he said, with a slight bow, “consider it found.”

“Thank you!” Eowyn grinned up at him. “And, when you have it—”

“I shall give it to Eomer King for safe-keeping, as soon as he arrives.”

Eowyn patted his arm. “Thank you, blood brother.”

“Just one more errand…”

Little Cuthbert—standing quietly beside his mother, who was helping one of the cooks—was sucking his thumb, a picture of misery. Eowyn squeezed Legolas’ hand.

“Cuthbert,” she said, crouching down beside him, “look what I have found.” She reached inside her cuirass and pulled out a battered toy, sewn from rough brown sacking and embroidered with big, lop-sided eyes and a straggly mane of dark grey wool. “Horsie.”

“Oh!” His mother laid down her knife, and the vegetable she was paring, and dropped into a very awkward curtsey. “Thank you, my Lady,” she cried, “thank you! What do you say to Lady Eowyn, puppy?”

The toddler said nothing but, stretching out a pudgy little hand, he took the toy from Eowyn and, turning it carefully, this way and that, he examined it, frowning.

“He has come to no harm,” Eowyn reassured him.

Thank Lady Eowyn, pup,” said his mother.

Cuthbert crushed Horsie to his chest and, still silent, dug his other hand into his pocket, pulled something out, and gave it to Eowyn.

“Master Thorkell gave him that, to cheer him up, my Lady,” said his mother. “But it looks as though he wants you to have it.”

It was a child’s hunting horn of polished brass. “Thank you, Cuthbert,” said Eowyn, smiling, “but I cannot take something that was given to you as a gift. Besides, I would rather have a hug.” She leaned closer. “Will you give me a big hug?”

Cuthbert nodded, solemnly. Then he stretched out his plump little arms, and Eowyn bent forward, and gathered him up.



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