He sat in the tent, listening. The sounds from outside were comforting, reminders of all things natural and good. An army, encamped, on the eve before battle, was always somber and reflective, yet even though great danger lay ahead there was still a certain amount of laughing and drinking. If this was to be their last night on earth they would celebrate it, not mourn it prematurely.
Closing his eyes all that had happened in the past months came into his thoughts and his heart was heavy. ‘I remember,' he thought, the words straining to get out but sounding only like a whisper. ‘They are the hardest words,' another sigh, but this time full of pain.
He thought of his son, of their last parting. How could such a thing happen, so young and brave, he lay in the earth, a covering of white flowers was all that was left to comfort him, while he was left to live? How had it come to this, so much hate? How could they allow such a thing to creep and grow in the world? How had it wanted to? Men, on the whole, were not evil soulless things, how could they have become so in the eyes of so many. Power corrupts, but what of the responsibility that went along with it? He could not understand. He had always thought that, with age would come wisdom and the knowledge that, in youth, had remained hidden, would be known, but there was nothing that could make this clear. This was the folly that men told to themselves when they could no longer find an excuse, some reason to carry on.
Laying his head in his hands he wept, allowing the sense of loss to claim him. For a moment he would allow himself to be a father and a man, and not a king. For a moment he would see his loss as any other parent would – and wonder what he should have done to make it turn out differently. He had made so many mistakes and had failed his people and he could not claim Saruman’s black shroud as an excuse. That was one thing he could never allow himself to do.
But to think that he had done the same with his family would haunt him. He had rewarded Eomer’s loyalty and bravery by saying banishment, ignored his sister, and allowed his son to die without him. No matter what grace or good he would perform tomorrow, this would remain with him, a part of his soul.
Opening his eyes he suddenly felt a sense of comfort, listening to the quiet tune that could be heard from the tent beside his, its melody soothing and familiar. Looking up he smiled, recognizing Eowyn’s sweet voice.
‘Perhaps there was hope’ he whispered. ‘I have to believe this, if not for myself, then for all of the others whose life I hold.’
He got up and stood by the entrance, moving the flap aside, so that
could hear more closely. "