Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan

by Vison
Note to Readers: this is an Unfinished Tale, as the author departed these shores before she was able to finish it.  Please enjoy the journey, realizing at its end there may be questions that remain unanswered.


Part One

“Eowyn Eomund’s daughter, awake! For your enemy has passed away!”

She did not stir, but now she began again to breathe deeply, so that her breast rose and fell beneath the white linen of the sheet……..
The Lord of the Rings, book V, Chapter 8, The Houses of Healing.

I.


After her brother Eomer King of Rohan left her, the Lady Eowyn lay unmoving for many hours in the quiet room. Beyond, in the hallway, was the bustle of many folk coming and going, the moans of the wounded, the weeping of the bereaved. Though she slept for a time, she woke wondering that she felt so little in herself, for what she felt was a kind of numb emptiness, no joy to find herself still among the living; nor did she feel any grief.

It seemed she could not fasten her thoughts on any one thing, neither the death of her uncle King Theoden, nor the scenes on the field of battle. She knew that she had slain the Nazgul, knew that the Halfling Meriadoc had fallen beside her…..but these images and sounds would not stick in the forefront of her mind. Instead she saw the white curtains lift gently in the breeze coming through the open window, felt the rough texture of the coverlet beneath her hands. Now and again someone came in, she would be asked if she was athirst, or if she hungered. She did not speak, only shook her head. Words did not want to form.

No, words did not want to form, but she felt that a shriek of agony was coiled in her throat, choking her. Not from the pain of her body, but from the pain of shame and defeat and longing. That long road from Dunharrow, and to come to this! To come to lying helpless in bed, bound and bandaged and pitied. Why could not it have fallen out that she had been killed in honourable battle, her life’s blood spilled on this foreign soil, another Rider of Rohan, nameless and unseen, free at last from her cage?

It grew dark and through the partly open door she saw lamplight and shadows. Still there was a bustle of coming and going. The sounds of footsteps and voices and the clattering of trays and noises from the other rooms all blended into a kind of murmurous rumble, vaguely soothing. Her arm ached, but fitfully, and was warming with little tingling shocks as if she had stayed out too long in snow.

She slept. Very late in the night she awoke with a gasp, and felt the cold sweat of fear all over her body. Her eyes were open, but she could see nothing, nothing! Turning her head she saw the white blur of the curtains, and the panicked pounding of her heart slowed. What had wakened her? A dream? The voice of the Nazgul, and the way it shivered along her bones and turned them to water. Her uncle, his dead face ghastly, his dead eyes unseeing but looking at her nonetheless, they were dragging him away, they were taking him to the City of the Dead. That creature caught her uncle’s body in its claws and lifted itself from the ground with foul airs stirring as it spread its leathery wings…………

“My lady! My lady!” a gentle voice said. A soft hand touched her face. “My lady, do not be afraid! Thou hast been dreaming only, and art safe here. Come. Sit up here and lean on my arm, and take some wine. There, there, my lamb, ‘twill do thee good.”

She stared up at the woman’s broad face, a face lined with age and weariness. She sipped the wine like a child, then let herself be lowered to the pillow again. The woman wiped her forehead and bathed her hands with a cloth dipped in a basin. “Kingsfoil,” the woman murmured, “it ever smells so sweet. I shall leave the basin here, my lady, that the perfume may drive the bad dreams away.”

Eowyn closed her eyes. She drifted into restful sleep, her warm unhurt hand cradling her cold one.

The next day she kept to her bed, although it fretted her. She could not yet fasten her thoughts on any thing. She was given a fresh gown, and a shy young girl took a brush to her hair, then braided it back so it did not trouble her. Eowyn was patient under these ministrations, but when the Warden came in at sundown she questioned him eagerly, desiring to know what news there was of the War. He could not, or would not, tell her anything, saying there was no news.

She was puzzled that she could be so weary, having done naught all day but lie in bed. But weary she was, bone weary, scarce able to lift her hand to carry the spoon to her mouth. Once again it was the broad-faced old woman who waited upon her, and this woman took the spoon from her and fed her like a child. “My lady, do not wonder at thy weariness. Thy body hast suffered much, and thee only a lass!”

Eowyn allowed herself to be fed and washed and moved about, it was easier to give in than to protest. At last they left her be and sleep fell upon her.

Then again came the awful dreams, and she woke sobbing, sitting up in the dark with one hand at her mouth to stifle a scream. It was there again, the thing that was to carry her away, she could hear it, she could smell it…..not death, no, it wasn’t death waiting for her, but torment, torment in the dark……

The door opened and the nurse was there again, bearing a candle on a tray, and a basin of steaming water. “Dreams again, my lady?” the woman said. She looked at Eowyn’s pale face, blotched with tears. “Mayhap it would ease thee, my child, if thou spoke of thy dream.”

“No, no,” Eowyn said, drawing a long, shuddering breath. “It is better now.” She took a few sips of the sweet red wine, and allowed the nurse to smooth her pillow.

“Shall I leave the candle?” the woman asked.

“No, I thank thee” Eowyn replied. “But leave that basin, if thou wilt? For the scent of that herb is soothing, and seems to lighten the darkness.”
Alone again, she lay back with her eyes closed. Now it was no monster perched before her, waiting to bear her away. Now her jumbled thoughts had come together, and one above all. Shame scalded her heart, burning in her hot cheeks and causing her uninjured hand to clutch at the coverlet. Everyone knew! Everyone knew now. So much for her pride, Shieldmaiden of Rohan that she was, daughter of kings. Brought low by something so common that every serving wench shared her fate: unlucky in love.