15. For Living or Dark Undead
Éowyn rode, swinging her sword at orcs and Southrons alike, Meriadoc clutching at her. She was almost drunk with triumph, every sense filled to overflowing: the deafening sound of orcs running and the Mark descending upon the banner of the black serpent and those who carried it with their curved swords; the stench of burning grass and blood and sweat and horse; the view of fair folk and foul, some on foot, some on horseback, an unorganized, unrelenting madness.
And yet, the stray thought found her, You still ride. And kill. Urging Windfola around, she took her sword and hewed off the head of a swarthy man who challenged her as she rode past. All her thought was bent on the preservation of her uncle. Horse’s mane! her wild thoughts raced. Where is Éomer?
And then the sky was shrouded in black. Éowyn looked up uncomprehendingly, then back down at her kinsmen, crawling on the ground in fear. Crawling? Her mind could not absorb the images before her.
An otherworldly creature hovered above the battlefield. A hulking, black thing on a monstrous bird had descended from the sky and now placed itself above the man she loved as her father. She watched, horrified, as this devil-monster put its long talons into the pale, sweat-covered flesh of Snowmane, most beautiful of horses. At this, Windfola reared up and threw off her charges and raced away to safety. Éowyn picked herself up from the ground. Nothing broken. she thought quickly. Not yet, anyway.
All that mattered was facing this incomprehensible demon-creature and tearing its attentions away from the Lord of the Mark.
“Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion!” she cried into the swirling din, her eyes fixed on Snowmane as he writhed in agony. “Leave the dead alone!”
A vision ran before her eyes as she said the words: her father, her mother, Frithlíc, Aragorn to be sure, he who had borne such hope was most surely gone now…
The creature spoke again, taunting her. In reply, she drew her sword, saying, “Do what you will, but I will hinder it, if I may.”
There was nothing left to be lost. She stood, twenty-four years old, clad as a man, in a battle more nightmarish than anything she had ever experienced in her bleakest night. Snowmane twitched in his death throes, unwittingly crushing her surrogate father.
The voice that emanated from above was more chilling than anything she had ever heard, even out of the mouth of the Wormtongue. “Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me.”
As if in a dream, Éowyn tilted back her head. Surrounded by nothing save absurdity, she coddled a laugh centred in her belly, then let it loose across the carnage of the Pelennor fields. She laughed and laughed, then coughing after inhaling so much smoke, she threw off her helm and spoke clearly. “But no living man am I! You look upon a woman.” Not much longer for this world, she thought, but you will pay for your assumptions. Taking to her heart the memory of her parents, she said, “Éowyn I am, Éomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if ye be not deathless. For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him!”
Standing straight, she brandished her sword at the impossibly large creatures before her. As they rushed at her, a last warrior’s thought raced through her mind as she swung up at the leering black visage.
She swung, and felt a satisfying shock of having hit her mark. The winged creature fell to the ground, and the earth shook.
Swaying, Éowyn looked around, then saw the rider of the demon-thing coming at her. Out of sheer instinct, she raised her shield, all of her anger focused on the foul creature.
Damn you to the darkness, and I shall battle you there.
The impact was bone-shattering. Shuddering to her knees, she felt waves of pain wash through her. Everything seemed to have gone quiet, and Éowyn wondered if perhaps she would now wake up from what must surely be a long dream. Then she heard an unearthly laugh of victory, the sound rolling over her as though from a high distance. Slowly she looked up, and saw the unbelievably tall mockery of a man standing above her, a crown on its head. She tried to lift her shieldarm, but it did not respond. Broken, she mused through the red haze of pain. With a last cry, she stumbled to her feet and aimed the tip of her sword at the hideous crown-wearing head. “One for Eorendel the daystar!” she screamed as she leaned toward the horrific being, making contact with her sword. An icy cold filled her, and she fell.
Ah, peace at last, she thought as the blackness took her.
"Misthleoðu." Éowyn's lips moved, the word barely audible.
"What is the Lady saying?" Ioreth was distraught, a permanent furrow now above her greying eyebrows. "Is there aught who can understand her?"
Gandalf was summoned up to the Houses of Healing, and spent many moments sitting silently beside her bed.
"What does she say?" Hilda, one of the youngest healing-women of Gondor stood beside him, the language quite beyond her comprehension. She felt defeated herself, as one fully trained, yet unable to treat this sickness that held her charges in its throes. "I know she dreams," she spoke to the man with flowing white hair, "but I cannot decipher what it is that she says, or sees."
Gandalf looked long at the healer, his blue eyes almost piercing through her in their intensity. "She is on the wings of eagles," he said simply, then lovingly placed Éowyn's sword arm across her chest.
Ioreth's assistant looked at this old man clad in war-stained raiment, unwilling to let him leave without further explanation. He certainly bore an air of authority, and everyone had seemed to look to him for guidance in these recent awful days of siege and war. With a warm cloth, Hilda dabbed at the brow of this most odd person, a woman dressed in men's war-garb, now murmuring in a language that she could not begin to comprehend.
Éowyn's mouth formed the word again. "Misthleoðu."
The young healer with the cloth looked desperately at Ioreth, still by the beside of Faramir, the dying Steward of Gondor, whose whole body seemed to be consumed by a fire from within.
"Mist-what?" Hilda said with agitation.
Gandalf slowly raised his clear blue eyes from Éowyn into those of the young woman of Gondor and said, "Mountains wreathed in mist. Her spirit is being carried far away among the fog of highest mountains." His shoulders fell, and a haggard look shadowed his face. "The wounds of these two are most grievous." He rose and walked to Faramir's bed, his kind eyes full of sorrow.
Ioreth, who had been at the Steward's side since his arrival that morning, found herself awash in new tears of frustration and sadness, and said, "Alas! if he should die. Would that there were Kings in Gondor, as there were once upon a time, they say! For it is said in old lore: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer. And so the rightful king could ever be known."
A change came over Gandalf's face, and a new hope could be seen in his visage. He looked keenly at Ioreth who wiped a stray tear from her eye, tenderly soothing Faramir's brow, moving a tendril of his sweat-drenched dark hair from his forehead.
"Men may long remember your words, Ioreth!" Gandalf stood as she spoke. "For there is hope in them. Maybe a king has indeed returned to Gondor; or have you not heard the strange tidings that have come to the city?"
The senior healer gave Gandalf a weary but defiant look before replying, "I have been too busy with this and that to heed all the crying and shouting. All I hope is that those murdering devils do not come to this House and trouble the sick."
Gandalf ran as though a fire licked at his heels, and he was almost to the door when she finished speaking. Out he rushed, leaving Ioreth, Hilda and the other healers alone once more with their charges whose wounds baffled the knowledge of the frustrated women.
Éowyn blinked her eyes, and saw her brother above her as through a dim haze. Though she breathed deeply, she was utterly confused. Is he holding my hand? Are we not dead together? Suddenly her mind was troubled, racing through dream and waking alike.
Fighting. The holbytla behind her. Her uncle falling. The black creature.
She continued to gather breath, feeling as raw as a fish caught and sliced open on the shores of the Snowbourne, her very self there for all to see.
But there was her brother, his green eyes shining radiantly into hers.
“Éomer? What joy is this? For they said that you were slain. Nay, but that was only the dark voices in my dream.”
The dream… she had felt lifted up, only to be carried back down again. Were we not to light the dark sky together? What else had she seen that was but vision?
“How long have I been dreaming?”
“Not long, my sister.” Éomer’s voice seemed to carry devotion itself, and Éowyn was almost set adrift in his affections. “But think no more on it!”
She allowed herself to be carried away, from mountains to plains, to…
…the battlefield. Théoden. The orcs. Meriadoc!
“… and what of the king’s esquire, the Halfling?” she asked, desperately. “Éomer, you shall make him a knight of the Riddermark, for he is valiant!”
Even in saying so, she was taken back to their several days’ journey, his unique scent ever before her, his silent steps despite wearing heavy boots, both of them pretending to be something other than themselves. She heard her brother say that the holbytla was also hurt in battle, and in the next room. Her uncle was dead, and not solely in dreams. Then Éomer said, “Great gladness is it to see you wake again to health and hope, so valiant a lady!”
Éowyn found herself beginning to sink. It was such a far distance from the mists that she had climbed earlier. She had failed. She had not defended her King, she had been discovered, she was not of use as Éowyn, only as Dernhelm…
I have yet some use, were I to bind this injured arm to my ribs… the thought raced through her mind until she realized that Éomer was awaiting a reply.
“To health?” She looked down at her shield arm, bound in cloth, then with an almost defiant gaze, continued, “It may be so. At least while there is an empty saddle of some fallen Rider that I can fill, and there are deeds to do.” She started to sit up, then overtaken by exhaustion, she sank back into her bed.
Hope for what?
Éomer’s face was filled with a look that would have broken Éowyn’s heart had she not believed herself dead until a few moments earlier, and his company with her. He took her hand, kissed it, and in a rare show of affection, hastily shoved tears off of his eyes with the back of his hand, then left her side and took leave of the Houses of Healing.
I hope I never dream again. Éowyn thought, as she succumbed to slumber.
misthleoðu= misty cliffs
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.