Eowyn, Shieldmaiden of Rohan
Eowyn woke long before the bell that signalled the change of door
wardens. It was yet black night, and there was no moon. She leaned on
her bedchamber window-ledge and breathed deeply of the clean fresh air,
and let her thoughts run free in the stars that blazed overhead.
No more would she walk the path she had walked before. Whether or
no change came from without, as Eomer hinted, she would no longer
submit meekly to her thralldom. Since it seemed she had to endure, she
would endure as she herself chose, not silent, but forthright and
clearspoken. Duty she would not set aside, for as a daughter of the
House of Eorl duty came with life. But that duty she would do as a
woman, not a child.
It seemed to her now that she had been mistaken all along. When bid
to set aside her sword and helm she thought that she had to set aside
that which made her what she was: her free spirit and heart. Never
again! The air she breathed this night was the air of freedom, no
matter that the outward signs would remain. Inwardly, she would be made
She gave some thought to how she would best meet this new day. Her
duty to the King required, in her mind, that she attend upon him first
thing. Then she would see Eomer, and if any dared say her nay, this new
Eowyn would soon show what metal she was made of. Her brother, in
prison! For naught but the lies of Grima Wormtongue and the folly of an
old man. The old man she owed respect, but it seemed only for what he
was on the outside, the King of the Mark. Inwardly? Where had the
warrior Theoden gone? Where the wise king?
This new Eowyn was not afraid to face the truth: there was some
evil sorcery at work, and Grima son of Galmod was at the least its
agent. Far off in Orthanc the wizard Saruman sat like a vile spider,
weaving webs of evil, and so the Mark was caught. Tangled in war, the
Mark needed a King in command, one who could cut through the threads of
confusion. Eomer must now take up his seat at the king’s right hand, so
Eomer must first be free.
Her new clearsightedness showed her that she must now do what she had
not done: she must go about Edoras and seek out those men who would
side with Eomer, those men who did not fear Grima son of Galmod, those
men whose hands were clean and whose first loyalty was to the Mark of
Rohan and the House of Eorl. That there were many, Eowyn knew. Those
who sided with Grima would fall away quickly, when loyal men spoke out
loud and certain.
Elfhelm and Erkenbrand were far afield, but right here at the Hall
were such as Ulfwine and the doorwardens and Theodred’s Eored and those
men who had ridden with Eomer. They obeyed the orders they believed
came from the King, but how long would they simply obey if they could
be shown that it was not the king who gave the orders, but old Galmod’s
son Grima, Grima Wormtongue? Many, many of the lords of the Mark knew
him of old, and few had liked him even as youths. It was not because he
was of lesser station, but that he resented those of higher position
and showed it with every breath he took. It seemed he blamed someone
for his birth and station. There was no harm in a low born man wishing
to raise himself. This commonly happened, and the “new man” was as good
as any. The great folk of the Mark did not require ten generations of
nobility, as they said was the case in Gondor. In the Mark a strong
swordarm and mighty deeds in battle were sufficient to lift a family
from obscurity to gentility. Theoden himself had granted lands and
titles to many, and thus the Mark was made stronger.
Grima could not grant lands nor position, except through his
influence over the King. He could only wheedle and connive and make
himself the King’s toady. Once secure in Theoden’s esteem, he had begun
to undermine the court, taking upon himself the office of granting
audiences with the king, taking upon himself the ordering of the
council. No longer could the folk of Edoras walk freely into the King’s
hall. Now they must make appointments with Grima, and likely grease his
Eowyn understood perfectly what it was she was proposing to
herself. There could only be one end, and that end was the exile or
death of Grima, son of Galmod. Once such deaths had been common in the
Mark, as lordling vied with lordling for lands or women or some such.
Generations of kings had slowly brought these wild ways into
seemliness, the Rohirrim had learned to deal with each other by law,
not might. Yet the wild blood was still there, and it seemed it coursed
through her own veins. She herself, she thought, could kill Grima, but
it would not be necessary. Nor would Eomer need to do it. Grima’s
crimes, his lies and deceits, would be enough, once the Lords of the
Mark put him to trial. Mayhap the midst of a war was the wrong time,
but while he was holding the reins of the Golden Hall, there was no
hope for the Mark any way.
She thought of the events of these last days. Theodred’s death,
ending the direct line of Theoden son of Thengel. Eomer’s imprisonment
and how near he had come to being killed! What more could she suffer?
Yet suffer was not the word she chose to use. She saw these events now
as trials, and found that she had passed some test she had not known
she was required to take. Like metal tempered by fire, she was stronger
At last her maid came in to find Eowyn already dressed, and plaiting
her own hair.
“My lady! I am here as thou bid me! Did you not say the bell?” the girl
“I did, but I found that I could not sleep. Do not trouble thyself,
Mercia, but see rather to my room. I am going now to the King, then I
will see my brother. Do you go along to the kitchen and tell the cook
to prepare a breakfast for the Lord Eomer. I do not think anyone else
will think of it.”
The King was alone in the room where he breakfasted. Eowyn entered
and, going to him, kissed his cheek as was her wont. “Good morrow,
uncle,” she said.
He looked at her in silence. At last he said mulishly, “I am the King,
Eowyn, and thy brother defied me!”
Calmly, she answered, “My brother Eomer has done no wrong, uncle. He
thinks only of the Mark.”
He said, “He has ever been a trusty man. If he will beg my pardon….”
“I am sure Eomer will do whatever thou might require, uncle,” she
Then entered Grima son of Galmod, as she spoke.
“No doubt!” Grima said. “A man might say much, to get out of
prison. But we must consider why he is there in the first place, sire!”
“We will speak of this matter later,” Theoden said peevishly. “I would
break my fast in peace.” Then, looking at Grima under his frowning
brows he said, “What news, Master Grima? Has word come from
Grima shook his head. “Nothing yet, sire. But we must consider that
he has ever been mighty thick with Eomer, and thinks himself as a
little king in that part of the Mark.”
Eowyn let her eyes meet Grima’s and she held that gaze long, until
at last he looked away. Never before had she done so. Always had she
avoided his gaze, thinking it defiled her. Well, it did not. This was
but a taste of what defiance she would offer him!
Then came in the chamberlain. “My lord,” he said, bowing to the
King. “There are come four strangers who would attend upon thee in
Grima began to speak, but Eowyn rose to her feet and said, “My uncle
the King will see them now.”
Grima glared at her, but said naught. He followed Theoden and Eowyn
down the corridor to the Hall.
It was as yet empty. The morning sunlight poured through the vents
onto the clear wood fire that burned upon the hearth. Theoden took his
seat, and Eowyn smiled inwardly to see Grima sit on the step below,
like a dog. She stood behind her uncle, and looked to the main doors.
The doors were flung open, and the four strangers entered……………………….