Daughter of Kings
Thirty Nine: The Queen of the Golden Hall
A hasty meal had been prepared, and Eowyn stood at the King's board and
waited upon the men there gathered. The talk was all of war, of the
strength of the defences and the position of Gamling and Erkenbrand.
The host would set forth within the hour. Already, men were come from
the armoury bearing spears and swords, banners and shields bearing the
device of the white horse. Strider and Legolas were clad now in shining
mail, and Theoden too wore a hauberk of steel over his tunic.
Carefully, the shieldmaiden lifted the heavy golden chalice from it's
place above the head of the table. Her every sense seemed somehow
heightened since her encounter with Strider in the hall. The gold felt
thick beneath her fingers, the ornate carvings smoothed by a thousand
other hands, precious with the weight of years. The mead filling the
cup was smooth and honey-golden, heady with a sweet, cloying scent.
Eowyn felt faintly sick.
She bore the cup to Theoden and knelt carefully at his left hand. The
scuffed stone flags were cold against her bare feet, the folds of the
heavy woollen dress a weight against her leg. She could feel the
strangers' eyes upon her; Gimli's bold, calculating stare, the cool
appraisal of the elf. The very air felt warm and close about her, every
breath filling her with nausea.
Struggling to keep her voice level, she offered the cup to him.
"Ferthu Theoden hal! Recieve now this cup and drink in happy hour.
Health be with thee at thy going and coming." Meaningless words.
Theoden drank and smiled down at her, merry as a boy on his first
spring outing after a long winter. The aged fingers that took the
chalice were strong and assured now, firm as steel beneath the
She held the cup for her brother, and his eyes too were sparkling with
lust, impatient for the thrill of the ride and the slaughter. Legolas's
eyes, sad, but beneath that a fountain of gladness ready to gush forth.
Gimli's eyes, dark and crinkled and humorous beneath scowling brows.
Gandalf's eyes, relieved, joyful, fearful, tender, knowing... many,
Aragorn's eyes. Dark grey, infinite, filled with a strange light. His
glance swept into her, washing away all her defences as if they had
never been, powerful, driven, staring deep into the darkest corners of
her thought. His hands closed over hers as she raised the cup to him.
Strong, warrior's hands, hardened by the grip of a sword, the fingers
calloused and leather-hard, but slender and sensitive as a minstrel's.
The heat and intensity of his touch sent an involuntary shudder through
her fingers. She wrenched her gaze away from his as though scorched by
"Hail Aragorn son of Arathorn." she muttered.
Inexorably, unwilling, her gaze was drawn back to his. The ranger
stared into the frozen grey eyes, and his face grew troubled as if what
he learned there disquieted him.
"Hail Lady of Rohan." he answered softly.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
After they had supped, Theoden went out before his doors and stood
gazing out over the host there assembled. The white horse ran rippling
in the wind from a score of banners, his captians stood upon the
uppermost stair, tall and proud and fell. He smiled upon them, eager
now for blood and for redemption.
"Behold!" he cried aloud to the assembled host, and the aged voice
was kingly again, grown in power and authority. "I go forth, and it
seems like to be my last riding. I have no child. Theodred my son is
And Eowyn marvelled at him, and the change Gandalf had wrought in
him, for he stood like some god out of legend, and his tears for
Theodred were swept away in the waxing of his power as he stirred the
hearts of the host to a quickening flame of vengeance.
"I name Eomer my sister-son to be my heir. If neither of us return,
then choose a new lord as you will. But to someone I must now entrust
my people that I leave behind, to rule them in my place. Which of you
No answer to that, for none was required. They were warriors,
captains of the Mark of Rohan. None could elect to stay and yet retain
"Is there none whom you would name?" Theoden asked. "In whom do my
"In the House of Eorl." Hama's answer.
"But Eomer I cannot spare, nor would he stay, and he is the last of
"I said not Eomer, and he is not the last," Hama replied. "There is
Eowyn, daughter of Eommund, his sister. She is fearless and high
hearted. All love her." As if by saying the words he could make them
true. "Let her be as lord to the Eorlingas while we are gone."
No chance for her now to disillusion them. 'The silence of a man is
taken for refusal, a woman's for acceptance,' she thought wryly. She
met Hama's gaze bitterly, and it seemed that in his eyes there was a
strange, almost fearful reverence. Something undefinable passed between
them then. A pride, a recognition of their small victory, though none
would ever know what sacrifices of these two had made this day
possible. Whatever tomorrow would bring, the House of Eorl would not
fall in treachery and dishonour. She remembered suddenly the words of
Grimbold so long ago, when Theodred had yet lived and there had been
hope in the morning."We shall not go lightly to death..."
"It shall be so!" Said Theoden. "Let the heralds announce to the folk
that the lady Eowyn will lead them!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As the host at last stood ready to depart, Aragorn looked back.
Upon the highest step Eowyn stood alone, clad in the mail that Theoden
had given her, the bright sword Aenlic set upright before her upon the
stone flags. Her hair floated upon the tossing wind like a banner of
gold. But for that, she might have been a statue, an eternal guardian
set in stone before the high doors of Meduseld.
The westering sun lit all the plains with a red fire, and even as
Aragorn watched in awe, the statue of the girl seemed gilded all with
molten gold. The sunlight caught in her hair, and the silver mail was
kindled to flame. Golden, piercingly bright she shone for a moment like
an image of the splendour of some great warrior queen out of the
Even as he turned his face aside from the great light, the trumpets
sounded the challenge. The horns of the host were lifted up in music,
and the horses reared and cried aloud. Then the King raised his spear,
and the host was swept together like a tide. The plains rang with the
thunder of their hooves and the clash of spear against shield. Two
riders galloped at the head of the host. Two horses bore them, white as
driven snow, Shadowfax and Snowmane, the last great Meara and his
scion. The King and the White Rider! With a rush like the sudden onset
of a great wind, the last host of Rohan wheeled towards the Eastern
hills, merged, quickened to a torrent, and was gone.