Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Thirty-one: Eowyn's Cage

No darker days had Eowyn known in all her years of toil than those which followed her brother's imprisionment. Still stricken with disbelieving grief for the loss of Theodred, it seemed to her impossible that Eomer could be gone. Eomer had always been there for her, the one constant thing throughout her brief and bitter years. Yet now he was gone.

There had been anger at first. Disbelieving, horrified anger in which she had raged, and screamed, and drawn sword against the traitorous guards who kept her from her brother. Then Grima had come. They had dragged her, subdued and weaponless to his chambers, and then the Wormtongue had ordered that the guards should leave them, and Eowyn realised with horror that there should be none nearby to hear it if she screamed.

Then Wormtongue had spoken soft words to her, whispering of fearful, half-imagined things. His pale eyes had held her more surely than any bonds, giving her at last some desperate understanding of the veiled horrors within his labyrinth mind. His voice, soft and smooth as honey, and his mesmerising eyes, dead, and yet filled with some alien fire that glinted with living malevolence. He had whispered to her things of death, and of Theodred's body swinging in the bloodied tide. He had whispered of her brother, of treachery and darkness, of fearful rumors from afar, and the power of the great eye. His words slid past her, almost unheard, and she found that she could not look away from his pale, gleaming eyes. Dimly, she became aware that the worm's claw was at her throat.

Grima stared down upon her, his triumph, his great final prize. For all his pitiful years of existence since the accident he had desired only this. In some twisted way, he knew that she could still save him, could still reach through the shadows to reclaim him. But the Shieldmaiden no longer desired the redemption of the one who had betrayed them all. Slowly his hunger for her acceptance had tortured him; driven him until the thought of her had become an obsession, twisting his gentle love into a bitter, maddening lust. She was his. The master had promised him. And yet now at the last something still nagged at him. He should not have to force her to love him. Slowly, gently, his wasted fingers carressed the smooth curve of her neck.

Suddenly Eowyn's head snapped up, her eyes clear and free of the worm's spell. Suddenly, as if his thoughts had been laid bare to her, she could feel the sickening touch of his fingertips against her skin, hear the lying words upon his forked tongue. Terrified, she pulled back, away from the mishapen grasp of the traitor. Her eyes blazed with the old proud fire, and her voice stung with hatred.

"Thy words are poison!" she hissed.

Whirling about she thrust aside the unlocked doors, and passing swiftly through them, she was gone. The Wormtongue made no attempt to stop her. He merely stood, with an expression almost of pain, as he gazed in stricken silence at the pale, wasted hand that had so fleetingly touched that greatest of treasures.

Eowyn burst from the doors of Meduseld, her anger rising again like fire within her breast. The rage and bitterness of before had returned tenfold, and in her darkened mind there was nothing left save a boiling hatred of the worm. The east wind tore at her, whipping her white dress about her like a tempest. The wind screamed like a thing possessed, and in the wailing voice she heard that same wild passion which drove her own will mercilessly onwards. The wind screamed with a raw, bestial fury, drawing the golden tresses across her face like the lashes of a whip. Eowyn lifted her proud eyes to where the green and white banner of the King tossed high above the plains, like the sail of some great ship foundering in turbulent seas.

Eowyn looked out beyond Edoras across the wide expanse of Rohan. Her eyes followed the Snowbourne as it fell away from the high rock, fleeing the mountains to rush heedless over the plains. The pink shafts of sunrise pierced the grey dawn, and glinted upon the spears of the guard far below. The long line of barrows she saw; a great swathe of white flowers fallen in the shadow of the land; and in her mind, she counted them. Seven mounds upon the left and nine upon the right. So long those great barrows had stood, bittersweet with the memory of tears beyond numbering. And yet... Sorrowful they were, and yet beautiful also, those monuments to kings long dead, unremembered save in song. For an instant Eowyn almost felt tears stinging beneath her lashes. The sensation startled her. She could not remember the last time that she had wept. She turned her face full into the fury of the wind, proud, defiant and despairing. The tears did not fall.

Suddenly, with a great cry of wind, the banner was ripped assunder from the standard. The wind caught it, threw it high above Meduseld, and for a moment Eowyn saw the white horse galloping upon the air. The Shieldmaiden's eyes followed the banner as it fell, tumbling fast against the wind of wrath. For a moment the banner billowed upwards again, and then fell away, floating upon the edge of sight, to fall before the hooves of one who rode upon the long winding way towards Edoras, and the court of Kings.