The Power of Love

by Varda
Éowyn closed the door softly, trying not to waken her uncle again. Some nights it was so hard to get him to settle down, but she always sat close by his bed, or held his hand, until he drifted off into sleep. She did not want any of the leeches or servants to fulfil this duty; she hated anyone else seeing her beloved uncle in his weakness, and so not only by day but also by night she took his care upon herself alone….

However as quietly as she tried to move the handle some slight sound escaped, and at once Éowyn was aware of someone behind her, almost touching her long cloak.

She turned at once, twisting round quickly, her hand going instinctively to her side where at other times she might be wearing her sword. But tonight she had no sword, and she drew in her breath sharply as the dim light of the taper in her left hand revealed Grima Wormtongue standing behind her.

‘What do you want?’ she demanded, trying to capture some authority in her voice, but managing only to sound afraid. Grima smiled, his yellow face twisting into a mirthless grin, revealing long, crooked teeth…
‘I am sorry, my lady…’ he said in his smooth, almost hypnotic voice.
‘I see I startled you….’
‘No!’ she retorted, too quickly. She bit her lip, remembering how easily her uncle might be awoken. She went on more quietly; ‘No, I am …..’

But she could not think of anything to say, no excuse. She was exhausted, and it was past midnight. Grima studied her closely, and nodded inunderstanding.
‘You are tired, my lady..’ he said gently. ‘By day and by night you watch over your uncle. No-one could care more, but it has taken its toll. You are weary. You need someone to share your burden with. I would be honoured if you would lean on me…..’

As he spoke Grima moved to block her path down the corridor. As niece of the King and herself of royal blood Éowyn had her own room, a spacious chamber in the women’s quarters. But she often slept in a small bower close by her uncle’s apartments, in case he called for her in the night. Now the door to this small room seemed many miles away, although she could see it over Grima’s shoulder.

‘I need no help, thank you….’ She said, trying to sound firm. ‘I pray you, Master Wormtongue, let me pass….’
‘Not Master Wormtongue!’ he snapped, his patience giving way and his wheedling mask slipping. Then he recovered himself and added in an ingratiating tone;
‘Call me Grima, my dear Lady….’

And as he spoke he moved to prevent her reaching her room, seeming to block the whole passage. His long, black, fur-lined cloak swung aside and she saw he wore a black tunic reaching to the ground clasped with a row of silver buttons and a belt of silver and blood-red garnet. Just visible was his sword, a long fine black blade in a well-decorated sheath which he kept concealed but always wore, to show the men of Rohan who despised him that he was of Numenorean descent and gently born, whatever they thought of him.

Close to him Éowyn noticed as if for the first time that Grima was tall, and although slightly stooped he was of strong if thin build. He shot out a long white hand and closed it over hers as she held the candle holder. In her fright she almost dropped it.
‘Allow me to light you to your bower….’ He said in a silky voice.

His hand was strong and warm. He stood even closer, and Éowyn noticed a faint smell of some scent emanating from his clothes. He bent his head near to hers and she saw his eyes were grey but with flecks of amber, like leaves in a winter lake. She wanted to push him away but seemed paralysed.
‘Do not send me away from you….’ He said, in a voice so low it seemed to come from inside her head.

The worst of it was Éowyn felt drawn to him; to be understood, to have someone to share with...Éomer was many leagues away, riding to war under a flying banner; he could not help her now.

‘One way or another, you will be mine….’ he whispered.

She awoke then as if from a horrid dream and putting a hand on Grima’s chest she pushed him away and stumbled past him to her door. Fumbling with the latch she flung herself against the wood and fell inside and slammed it shut behind her. Listening in fear she at last heard his slow, creeping footsteps retreating away down the hall. She threw herself on her bed and wept tears of rage and shame…

‘Éowyn! Wait!’

She ran down the passageway to the kitchen quarters, a bundle of sweet-smelling rushes in her hand. She glanced behind and saw Théodred hurrying to catch up with her.
‘Éowyn! Please….’

She stopped then and let him overtake her. She wore a plain dress of undyed wool over a linen tunic and her long golden hair escaped from her headscarf and gleamed in the dark passageway like a dragon’s hoard in a deep cavern. She had been cutting rushes for her uncle’s bed-chamber by the river. It was maid’s work but she loved wandering barefoot along the river and wading out into the shallows with her long curved sickle…

‘Why are you running away from me?’ asked the young man in exasperation, and Éowyn looked into his grey eyes and her smile faded. He had been riding out on the downs and he smelled of summer grasslands warmed by the sun. His face was pale though, not touched by its burning rays and his long fair hair was tangled by the wind.

In the dim light Éowyn could see a spidery, silver head of thistledown caught in the yellow locks on his shoulder. She reached out and took the gossamer star in her fingers. Théodred, not seeing the thistledown mistook her gesture, bent his head and kissed her hand. She did not pull back and he leaned forward and touching her face with his sword-calloused hand he drew her towards him and kissed her again….

The flowers were white, but not as white as his face where he lay upon the bier. She approached him slowly, aware of the eyes of all the people upon her and reaching up she placed the flower in his hands, already stiff and crossed upon his breast. Close to him she could see his face had the greenish pallor of death and his eyes were closed in the deepest sleep of all. She touched his fingers and felt them cold as stone. A bitter spring wind blew across the plain and tears escaped and ran down her cheeks.
‘Let me kiss you one last time….’ she thought, but already the King’s guard, in their green cloaks and high crested helms and white horse-tails, had borne him away from her towards his tomb….

Involuntarily she started and Elfhelm at once looked up from fastening the leather vambraces on her forearms.
‘My lady! I am sorry, I did not mean to catch you….’
‘It is nothing’ she said. ‘Please go on, you did not hurt me….’
But the pinch of the hardened leather smarted enough to bring tears to her eyes. She drew a deep breath; more hurts, even perhaps death, would come soon, when they reached the plains before Minas Tirith.

In the dim red glow of the brazier Elfhelm was completing Éowyn’s arming, strapping on Théodred’s vambraces. No other royal armour would she wear, for it would betray her. But she had taken his vambraces, the old ones he wore when he trained and rode hunting, to wear to battle to remind herself of him, and what she had to avenge. The vambraces were old and worn and scored and no-one would recognise the royal emblems tooled onto the leather. But they made her feel strong and protected, as if Théodred himself was with her, grasping her arm to show her something as they rode out over the Mark together….

‘It is finished, my lady…’ said Elfhelm, and on impulse he took her hand and bowing over it he kissed it and said;
‘My duty to you, Lady Éowyn, in battle and beyond. I am your servant….’

He paused, waiting. She looked down at him where he kneeled before her, noticing his long fair hair, almost like that of Théodred, and his bowed shoulders, broad under his bright mail and surcoat of white and green. He was a noble and fair warrior and she grieved to think he might perish in battle. She replied;
‘I accept your service, Elfhelm.’ When he looked up at her she smiled and said;
‘..and I thank you, friend to my cousin Théodred, and friend to me…..’

Elfhelm smiled then, relieved and glad to see her appear to regain her spirits. He said;
‘May the fates preserve you in battle, my lady…..’

‘May they give me death instead of this dishonourable life…’ she thought to herself.

The nights were the longest she had ever known, even when she had watched by her failing uncle’s bedside. How slowly the moonlight crept across the tiles of the floor! And the healing women coming and going softly in their long grey gowns, hardly talking to her, seeming to be afraid….

Although she wished for death, she had recovered. To her despair she felt her strength return, and the pain in her arm grow less.
‘If only they would grant me leave to fight!’ she thought desperately, but the healers only smiled when she sought their permission to rise and look for her war gear. They had given her a bright chamber hung with warm tapestries of summer flowers, but nothing could replace a horse of Rohan flying across the Mark and a sword in her hand….

One night when her fever was long gone she could bear it no longer and rose and peered out the door of her chamber. Days had gone by with no news of the army which had set forth from the gates of Minas Tirith and everyone in the Houses of Healing seemed to walk in fear and apprehension of news of the final battle which would commit their world to the flames, or deliver their city from destruction….

She faltered slightly when she stood up;
‘Not as strong as I thought!’ she murmured to herself, but holding first onto the bed post then a chest then the door she gradually inched across the room and out into the hall.

A high-ceilinged passageway with mullioned windows led away in both directions, crossed by great bands of moonlight. At one end it opened out into a large room where many of the sick and wounded were laid, and Éowyn could just see tapers moving to and fro as the healers tended to their charges. She looked the other way and saw the doors of several small secluded chambers like her own. One stood half open, and she made her slow way towards it…..

When she reached the room she leaned heavily on the door frame, her heart pounding and her broken arm aching. But she mastered her pain and weakness and looked inside.

Unlike her own the room was bare and unfurnished. One small window admitted a long shaft of moonlight and by its silver beam Éowyn saw a young man lying on a bed asleep, although so still was he that for an instant the face of the dead Théodred came to her and she wondered if this was one of the wounded or a dead prince laid out in state….

Then Faramir stirred in his sleep, and she realised he was indeed alive. She entered the room and moved closer….

Laid on a wooden chest at the foot of the bed was a woollen tunic such as the men of Gondor wore under their mail and armour. It was torn and bloodstained but embroidered on the front in faded blue silk were the Tree and Stars and Éowyn realised with a start that this must be Faramir, the youngest son of Denethor the Steward. She had heard the healing women talk of him….

‘He is laid within, yet sleeps long and slow will be his healing. Thank the King for his life, for he was almost spent when Elessar came to him! Long the King struggled, and gave of himself, to heal our most beloved Faramir…..’

‘Elessar!’ thought Éowyn bitterly. The very name was like a broken blade drawn across her wounded heart.
’He gives hope to all except me! And yet the leeches and wise women tell me he healed me in the very same way….’

And Éowyn stood leaning against the doorway and grieved for the first time she had ever seen Aragorn….

He had stood beside his friend the Elf, and never had there been two so different; the weather-beaten Ranger with his dark hair and worn and tattered clothes and the cool bright Elf, slender and strong as a steel blade. He looked at Aragorn with a smile and it was clear how he loved the Ranger. At Aragorn’s other hand was the low solid figure of the Dwarf, inclining his head and now and then glancing up at Aragorn, to catch his every word.

‘They all loved you, Aragorn.’ She thought ‘Was it any wonder I did too?’

For a moment sorrow rushed over her heart, and tears came into her eyes. Then she heard Faramir speak in his sleep;


There was distress in his voice. Éowyn moved closer and looked into the dreaming man’s face. He was pale, but not with the pallor of death which she had seen in Théoden. The moonlight drew all warmth and colour from Faramir’s face and she saw there sorrow and loss and she thought of what she had heard of the Steward’s youngest son….

‘He is not mortally wounded, but worn down by the Darkness he was called upon to fight, and by his father’s evil mood…it is said he rode to battle seek his own death…..’
‘But why did he do it?’ another wise woman broke in with a question. The first replied;
‘He hoped by dying to awaken the love his father could not show to him living….

And Éowyn caught her breath; for that was what she had wished for herself. To shame Aragorn by her death. Did she not hug to her breast the thought of his grief when she was found among the fallen? Suddenly she felt tired and sick and ashamed.

Faramir stirred again and looking at him Éowyn thought that she had never seen so fair a warrior, his face noble but kind even in sleep. His hand was laid on the coverlet and although cut and bruised in battle it was long and fine and suddenly she desired to take it in her own. She reached out and touched it and it was cold as marble but she felt it slightly warmed by her own...

Then she heard a footfall outside and she drew back and crept to the door and peered out. A healing woman hurried past, and when she had gone Éowyn, with a backwards glance at Faramir, silently left his room and returned to her own….

That night for the first time since Aragorn had called him back from the shadows of death Faramir’s dreams were not grey and fearful but bright and full of hope. He dreamed of a summer wind scented by grassy uplands, blowing down into Ithilien from the land of Rohan….