Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Thirty Three: The King's Command

"Open!" Cried Gandalf, "Open! The Lord of the Mark comes forth!" With a single thrust, the great doors rolled back. Sunlight spilled through the breach bourne upon a keen wind, welcome as spring after winter. The guards before the doors stared in amaze.

"Send thy guards down to the stairs' foot, and you lady, leave him a while with me." Gandalf instructed softly. "I will care for him."

Eowyn met the aed faeder's eyes coolly. There was pity in his glance for her, and apology, but also, perhaps, respect.

"Go Eowyn, sister-daughter," Theoden smiled, and his eyes were those of a man once more. "The time for fear is past."

Only once, before the doors to the hall Eowyn paused and looked back. Her uncle leant upon his staff, tired eyes sweeping the horizon as if searching for something that was no longer there. Pity for him welled up in Eowyn's breast like a physical pain, and she knew that he was thinking, beyond hope of Theodred his son, who would never now return to that high seat to which he was heir.

Glancing upwards, Eowyn once again met the gaze of the tall, dark-cloaked ranger. There was a strange look in the grey eyes, a fair, noble look, like that of a warrior who turns his weary eyes at last upon some captivating and unattainable vison. And suddenly Eowyn was aware of him, felt the same violent strength behind his gaze that at once drew and terrified her. She could feel the power that radiated from beneath the grey shroud of his cloak as the glance between them kindled to flame, twin fire springing up within each breast. One moment Eowyn stood, helpless against that power, then turning swiftly, she was gone.

Eowyn pushed the door quickly shut behind her and leant against it for a moment, her heart pounding in her breast, breathing as hard and fast as if she had been running. Then with a sudden grim resolve, she snatched the nearest weapon, a short-bladed knife, from the mead table where it had been discarded after the morning meal, and strode purposefully towards the dungeons.

At the end of the stone-flagged corridor, two men stood to attention before the heavy door behind which her brother lay captive. Swinging the purloined blade to head height, Eowyn bore down upon them.

"Open this door, now."

"You know that we may not do that, my Lady," the closest guard said softly. He was young, with blue eyes the colour of a rain-washed sky, and he looked upon the Lady Eowyn with a well-merited wariness, but also with pity.

"You may, and you will." Eowyn said grimly, her eyes boring into his own. The guard exchanged an exasperated glance with his companion, who half-shrugged, his hand hovering about the hilt of his sword.

"Do not be a fool, Thrymma, if thou canst help it" she shot coolly at the taller man. "Brave warrior though you be, thou knowest thou cannot match me in a fight."

The guard of Rohan did not falter.
"I have no wish to fight thee, my Lady." He answered softly, courteous as he had been throughout the long years of their childhood together. "The traitor within may have no conference with any. My King commands it."

"You truly believe that my brother is a traitor, Thrymma?" She asked quietly, and she thought that she saw something flicker for a moment behind his eyes.

"I know not." He answered levelly. "But I believe the word of my captain, and of my King. You, my Lady have been too long sheltered behing these walls. It is long since thou knew what it is to ride and fight, to live and die at the will of one man. Whether my King commands me fight or stay, if he commands me slay myself, or even to keep guard upon a man I once loved as a brother, then I will obey him. You are free from all command save thy own, and for this I envy thee, but pity thee as well."

His eyes were grey-green, serious and noble, and in them, Eowyn saw mirrored the same unknowing fear which makes a child cling steadfastly to some loved toy, refusing to let go his only comfort while his home burns all around him. 'Nay,' her thought whispered inside of her, 'Nay. It is I who should pity thee.'

With a sudden noise of rushing footsteps, the spell was broken. Hama burst through into the corridor, his golden hair flying about his face, and a glad shout in his throat.
"Release my Lord Eomer!" Hama exclaimed, his face alight with relief and wonder. "Release him! King Theoden commands it!"