Daughter of Kings

by Evermind


Chapter Thirty: Punishment for a Traitor

Eomer flickered slowly back to conciousness. Where was he? He willed his eyes to open, but his body made no answer. Where? His memory flickered slightly... someone was dead... Theodred. They had ridden.... there had been orcs....destroyed.... a man.... Strider....then.... what? He attempted to raise his hand and was rewarded by a burning pain that stabbbed through him. His overwrought brain collapsed beneath the fiery lance and he fell back into darkness.

When Eomer woke again the pain was still present. He lay unmoving trying to remember. He could not feel his own body, only racking pain where his limbs should have been. His mouth felt dry and there was a taste, thick and cloying.... the taste of blood. Experimentally he ran his swollen tongue about the inside of his mouth, but he could feel nothing... No broken teeth then... The taste and the smell of blood was with him still, bittersweet and dangerous.... What had happened? Where was he? Slowly his memory began to piece things together. There had been a fight.... and someone had hit him about the head... Who had he been fighting? His wandering memory found a face and held on to the image of it... a man with dark, greasy hair and heavy lidded eyes. He could fit no name to the image. Then the pain claimed him again, and he remembered nothing for a long while.

It was the noise of shouting that found it's way at last through the shadows to his numbed brain. Angry shouting and bitter, tearful replies. He caught his own name among the tumult, and he grasped at it, holding on to that voice alone. It was a woman's voice, high and distraught... he recognised it from afar... someone dear to him.... his sister. Where was she? Why did she not come to him? Was she hurt? She called for him... something was hurting her.... She cried his name again, and Eomer recognised the clash of steel.

"Eowyn!" he tried to call to her, but his parched tongue made no answer and he was powerless to help her.

Slowly the noise receeded out of hearing. Eomer became aware that he was lying against cold ground. His eyes blinked open, and he found himself face down upon stone flags, cold against his burning chest. It was utterly dark. He felt the scrape of his jaw against the cold stone, and attempted to turn over onto his back. He could not turn.

Gradually, Eomer became aware that the pain that wracked his body had a source. His wrists burned with agony, yet his hands were strangely numb, and he found he was unable to move his fingers. He concentrated hard on the pain in his wrists, seeking it out, focussing on that alone. Then suddenly, with a rush of realisation, he felt the coarse fibre against his bleeding skin, the taught thickness of the rope that held him. His wrists were bound. He was a prisoner.

How long he lay there, Eomer did not know, one hour, or many. There were no windows in his prison, no light with which to judge the passage of time. After a time he was able to move about, although it still pained him. HIs wrists remained bound behind his back, and he was utterly alone. At times Eomer leant against the door to his prison, half hopeful, half fearful of the words which he might hear. But the guards behind the door remained silent. Eomer lay restlessly in a stony corner, incapable of deed or action. His stomach was clenched in fearful anticipation of he knew not what. He wondered how long he had lain there, and what had become of the war.

Maybe Rohan was already conquered. Maybe no one came because there were none left alive to do so. With a sickening jolt he remembered hearing in his dreams the clash of steel, and Eowyn's voice crying out his name. His little sister. Where was she? Why did she not come? What if she were dead? Unbidden, the thought rose in his mind, and angrily he tried to thrust it aside. He was helpless, trapped like a fly within a spider's treacherous web, and maybe it was already too late. What had Grima done? Maybe they were already slain.

He saw in his mind's eye a vison, terrible and yet so compelling that, even in his mind, he found himself unable to look away. The great carven doors of Edoras he saw, but the high hall of Meduseld was golden no longer. With a thrill of horror, he saw a tangle of heedless bodies strewn about the doors, and the stones of the courtyard slick with their dark blood. The King's banner was torn from the standard, and above the doors, the carven silhouetes of horses shattered the skyline, their once familiar forms now sinister with dark foreboding; and red blood dripped like tears from their hollow eyes. Before the King's doors there loomed a great gallows. From the crossbar, like grotesque puppets on a string, hung two naked, bloodstained bodies. About them shrouds of golden hair billowed in the rising wind.