Daughter of Kings

by Evermind

Chapter Thirty Four: Release from Bondage

For perhaps half a second, the three simply stared at Hama. Then as one man, they turned towars the door of the cell. With shaking fingers, Thrymma fitted the key into the lock and twisted it. The heavy door swung inwards with a touch.

Eomer lay upon his side, his hands twisted cruelly behind his back and his legs bound so that he could not move. Dried blood clung thickly to his cheek and brow, but his eyes burned with rage. The guards drew back slightly in horror at the look upon their captain's face. The rope was drawn tight, and the knots slick with blood, so that for a while they resisted the efforts of Eowyn's short knife. Then the young guard whose name Eowyn did not know knelt beside her, his blue eyes sick with anger as with his sword he severed the bonds. Eomer's arms slipped to the floor, and he drew a sharp breath as the blood returned to his wrists with a painful rush.

Her face set, Eowyn placed his arm across her shoulders, and gripping her brother about the waist she raised him to his feet. She did not meet his eyes. She would not shame him further before his men by weeping. Eomer did not look at her, but gripped her shoulder with all the strength in his shaking arm, and Eowyn felt a fierce surge of pride and love for him, her brother returned to her beyond hope. He stood tall and defiant, and his face betrayed nothing of the effort it cost him to stand upright before the guard, nor the weight he leaned upon his little sister. Coldly, Eomer spat the dirt and blood from his mouth, ignoring the swollen split in his lower lip.

"Bring me my sword Hama." He comanded, and his voice was as proud as it had ever been.

Eomer drew himself up to his full height, and Eowyn saw the admiration and respect shinning in the soldiers' eyes. Beaten, bloodied as he was, bereft of helm and mail and sword, he was still their captain. Quickly, Hama returned, the great sword Guthwine naked in his hands. Kneeling upon the filthy straw, he presented it to Eomer, his face struggling to contain his joy.
"Westu Eomer hal!" he whispered.

A keen wind was blowing from the North as the small party made their way back up the steps and out into the sunshine. A fountain stood beside the road, carven in the likeness of a horse's head, formed so that the white torrent of water gushed from the open mouth. Here Eomer paused to wash the blood from his face and comb back the tawny hair with his fingers. He distained the offer of Eowyn's arm for support, but with a smile. Walking proud and defiant, he ascended the stairs to the golden hall, Eowyn and Hama flanking him upon either side. A little way behind them, Thrymma and the young soldier, Ciaran, followed like a guard of honour.

"Your fingers would remember their old strength better," Gandalf was saying, "If they grasped a sword-hilt."

Eowyn's heart leapt in her chest. Theoden was standing upright and proud beside the wizard. His head was high, and his snowy hair blew in the keen wind of the plains. One aged hand grasped at his belt, but no sword hung there. "Where has Grima stowed it?" he muttered under his breath.

"Take this, dear Lord!" said Eomer's clear voice. "It was ever at your service." Pride welled up in Eowyn's breast as her brother knelt and bowed his head, laying the naked blade before the feet of the King.

Theoden moved almost as one in a dream. "How comes this?" he asked sternly, half-glancing at Hama as he did so.

"It is my doing, Lord," the captain answered. "I understood that Eomer was to be set free. Such joy was in my heart that maybe I have erred. Yet since he was free again, and he a Marshal of the Mark, I brought him his sword as he bade me."

"To lay at thy feet, my Lord." Eomer whispered. Half-shyly, his blue eyes moved upward to Theoden's face. Their eyes met, and Eowyn, standing by felt it almost as a physical pain to see how closely her brother resembled Theodred. She had never noticed it before, but it was there; the same proud tilt of the chin, the same burning passion barely concealed beneath those same eyes, light blue, bright and sparkling. To Theoden, the resemblance must have been even more painful. She wondered, with a sudden pang if he even remembered the last time that he had seen his son alive.

Still, Eomer knelt, and still Theoden stood before him, paralysed by fear or indecision.

"Will you not take the sword?" Gandalf asked quietly.

Slowly, as if his hand was no longer connected to his will, Theoden stretched out his hand towards the blade. As his old fingers closed about the hilt, a great rush of strength seemed to flow from the weapon into the thin arm. Slowly, he lifted the weapon. His blue eyes looked past the blade, unseeing. Suddenly, with a great cry, he swung the shimmering sword aloft, power and new strength flowing in his veins. His voice rang clear and proud as he chanted a call to arms in the tongue of Rohan:

"Arise now! Arise! Riders of Theoden! Dire deeds awake, dark it is eastward. Let horse be bridled, horn be sounded! Forth Eorlingas!"