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Another Man's Son: 7. Armoring
Eowyn was asleep. Eomer sat beside her bed for some time, watching her breathe. What is the house of Eorl but a thatched hut where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among their dogs? He thought back on every conversation he could recall with her, viewing it through the filter of new understanding, and sat gazing in horrified understanding. He had misunderstood her deeply for a long time.
His love for Aragorn had been such that he had never questioned its foundation, and he had assumed hers to be similar to his-- adoration of the man for who he was and what he did. He had loved Aragorn for saving Rohan, of course. To think that Eowyn had loved him out of hope to escape Rohan...
He put his face in his hands and sat in silent despair.
"So glum, brother," a voice whispered after some time. He raised his head and looked at Eowyn. She had opened her eyes and was watching him sadly.
"Eowyn," he answered softly.
"Have you no great deeds to do today?" she asked. Her voice was weak, but cold. "You are the King of the Mark. Surely you have more important duties than to mope beside your sister's bed."
Eomer put out his hand and took her uninjured hand in his. "Sister," he said, "do not speak." His voice was thick with tears, and he closed his eyes to let them fall down his face.
"What, tears, brother?" she said. "Have you not won a great victory?"
"I am sorry, Eowyn," he said, exasperated. He did not wipe the tears away. "I am sorry. What would you have of me?"
A movement at the door behind him made them both turn their heads. It was Imrahil's servant. "Lord," the man said, "the Prince has sent for you to come to him. The lords Aragorn and Mithrandir desire for you and my lord to come down to the tents."
Eomer nodded. "I will come," he said. The servant bowed and departed.
"There," Eowyn said. "That is better than sitting here."
Eomer released her hand and stood. "Eowyn," he said, looking sadly down at her. "Eowyn, you are long past my understanding. I cannot understand what you want. Apparently I have not known you for years. I am sorry. There is nothing I can do now."
"Standing there and crying will not help," she said coolly.
"No," he said, and with that he turned and left.
Imrahil was waiting near the gate, his face wry. "I had thought to spare you a walk," he said, "but it seems the council is to be held down on the field after all."
"I am in a better condition now to make the walk," Eomer said humorlessly, preceding Imrahil through the gate.
"How is she?" Imrahil asked with some concern, hurrying to catch him up.
Eomer spared him a baleful glance, and then shrugged, shaking his head. Imrahil made a sympathetic face, and Eomer shook his head and looked away.
Imrahil tried several more times to engage Eomer in conversation, but Eomer was unresponsive, uttering even fewer words than he had in his exhaustion. Imrahil finally gave up, and they walked down in silence together.
Imrahil led the way unhesitatingly across the torn-up field to where the tents had been pitched. He had gone most of the distance with Eomer just behind him before suddenly Eomer wasn't there. He turned and looked back, and Eomer had stopped and was standing stock-still. He had his arms crossed over his chest and his shoulders oddly hunched, and he was gazing fixedly beyond the tents at a small hedge of spears set upright in the ground.
Of course, Imrahil realized. This was where Theoden had fallen, and where Eowyn had slain the-- the Captain. He went back to Eomer and touched the young king's arm. Eomer did not move for a moment, and Imrahil waited respectfully.
Finally Eomer sighed and turned to look at him. The young man looked old and tired, and Imrahil took his arm mutely and led him the rest of the way to the tents.
For the most part, Eomer kept silent in the Council. He was not a man given to despair, or perhaps more accurately who allowed despair to incapacitate him. He had labored in despair for years, simply because he had no other option. To hear Gandalf, whose wisdom he believed in completely, say that victory could not be achieved by arms, left him unfazed.
In truth he had never truly believed that they would prevail. He had come here to die trying. It mattered little to him whether his last stand was made at the Hornburg, the Pelennor, or the Morannon. He could die in peace as long as he knew that he had done everything he could. It did no good to speak of despair. So he spoke instead of his intention to reciprocate Aragorn's unstinting aid, and was grimly satisfied when Imrahil also pledged to follow.
Imrahil walked silently beside him when they came out of the council. Eomer spared him a glance; the Prince seemed deep in thought. At length Eomer touched his arm to get his attention. Imrahil looked up.
"I must go to my people," Eomer said. "Should you have need of me I will be there."
Imrahil nodded. "I must go to mine," he said. "When I am at the Houses of Healing I will look in upon your sister. If she has need of you, you can be sure I will send for you immediately."
Eomer nodded, touched. "Thank you," he said.
Two days later at dawn Eomer stood at the foot of Eowyn's bed, fully armored and armed. She awoke with a sigh and a stretch, and opened her eyes to look up at him. For a moment she could not orient herself, and stared at him in confusion. "Brother," she said, her speech indistinct with sleepiness. "Where go you, armored thus?"
He moved closer, and knelt by the side of her bed, offering her his gauntleted hand. She took it. "To Mordor, sister," he answered. "I may not see you again."
She stared up at him. "You go to die," she said.
"I go to defeat him or to die in the attempt," he answered. She drew his hand up to her face and kissed it. There were tears in her grey eyes, and her face was drawn with sorrow. "Give me your blessing, sister. I would not part from you thus, with harsh words between us."
"Do not leave me," she whispered. "Please, brother, do not leave me."
"I cannot stay," he said, deliberately misunderstanding.
"Take me with you," she pleaded, a tear spilling over. "If we all must die I would meet it with you. I would meet it standing up and fighting. I would not die on my back in bed. I would die with my people, with a sword. With my brother." She sobbed. "My king."
He bowed his head. "I am sorry," he whispered. "I cannot bring you. You are too gravely hurt. Be at peace, Eowyn. You have done much already in this fight. Mayhap by the time doom comes for you, you will be enough recovered to meet it fighting. I have left Elfhelm and three thousand horse here."
She gripped his hand with more strength than he had expected. This was the hand that had killed the Witch-King, and it was well to remember that. "Eomer," she whispered.
"It is foolish to hope," he said. "But I would have you hope, Eowyn."
"I cannot," she whispered.
"If you believe in nothing else, believe in me," Eomer said. "I will not die needlessly. I will make a worthy end."
"Take me with you," she whispered, tears rolling freely down her face.
He half-rose and embraced her. She was familiar in his arms, and the smell of her hair was comforting. "Eowyn," he whispered. "I would if it were possible." He released her and stood up, still holding her hand in one of his. He tightened his lips and blinked a tear from his lashes, stepping back and releasing her hand.
Her fingers slid from his and she looked up at him. "I love you," she said softly.
"I love you, little sister," he answered, and turned and left before he lost composure.
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