Chapter 1: Come What May
The tears ran down the woman’s cheeks, a river of the sadness and pain she felt inside. She leaned back against the cave wall and slid down it until she was sitting hunched up with her knees against her chest. The woman was very beautiful, with blonde curly hair and pale, luminous skin; but at present her beauty was marred by the pain in her heart. She was Eowyn, Daughter of Eomund, a Shield Maiden of Rohan, a daughter of kings. As a ward of Theoden King, her uncle, it was her duty to calm the woman and children who filled the caves beneath the refuge of Helm’s Deep. The people of Rohan had fled there in terror, and they were to be ready for battle. But that was not why she cried. Normally, Eowyn rarely cried. She was a strong woman, who prided herself on being able to keep her emotions under wraps.
But the news that Aragorn, Son of Arathorn, had fallen while Saruman’s wargs were fought against, had made her lose her self-control, her hope. She had met him two days earlier, in the hall of Theoden. And she had fallen in love, just like that. In just one moment. She did not know why, but she felt a strong attraction to him, a bond. But he carried an Elven pendant, which he had been given by another woman he loved. Though Aragorn had said she was sailing to The Undying Lands with her kin. Eowyn moved closer behind the rock and let her tears flow freely, crying quietly. She could not let any of the people hear her anguish, for she was a tower of strength to them, someone to depend on. As she sat there, she began to remember……….
************* flashback begins **************
A room in The Golden Hall of Theoden
Eowyn took the sword from the scabbard and swished it about, practising her movements. But as she spun round, CLANG! Her sword had crossed with another. She scowled, wondering who had the audacity to block her weapon, when looked up into the the face of Lord Aragorn. He was standing there, a smile on his face and holding his sword against hers so the blades were locked together. She noticed he was wearing smart clothes and looked so…………regal, so kinglike somehow.
“You have some skill with the blade”, he said, nodding to her. To prove to him she really did, she sharply yanked the sword away from him. Aragorn looked surprised, but impressed. Eowyn then turned away, went over to a chest and put the sword away.
“Women of this country learned long ago that those without swords can still die upon them”, she said as she did this. “I fear neither death nor pain.” Aragorn looked searchingly at her and she looked away, afraid to meet his eyes.
“What do you fear, my lady?”, he said softly, a slight smile curving his lips. Eowyn looked up into his eyes, staring deeply into them, wondering why he had asked her such a question. He held her gaze unfixedly, waiting for her answer.
“A cage”, she said finally, tucking a stray curl behind her ear. “To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them; and all chance of valour has gone beyond recall or desire.” At this Aragorn came closer to her .
“You are a daughter of kings”, he said sincerely. “A Shield Maiden of Rohan. I do not think that will be your fate.” And with that he bowed to her and walked away, his grey elven-cloak billowing out behind him. Eowyn shook her head, more confused than ever, and went back to the preparations for leaving for Helm’s Deep.
****************** flashback ends *******************
Eowyn stood up and wiped her eyes on the back of her sleeve. There is no hope for his return, she told herself firmly. He will not come back. Forcing a smile onto her face, though she felt no better; she headed back up the stairs to collect some more provisions for the women and children in the caves. As she picked up another basket however, something caught her eye. The man talking with the elf, Legolas, he couldn’t be……Then the man turned his head. It was Aragorn! Eowyn felt a surge of joy in her heart and walked forward to meet him, but she stopped still when she saw Legolas hand Aragorn the Evenstar pendant, and the happiness on his face when he received it. At that moment, she sadly realised that she would never be loved by the man she sought after. Or would she?
Later, near nightfall, the Hornburg Tower
Eowyn made her way slowly up the tower steps, her leaden feet dragging under her. Once there, she sat down on a stone at the foot of the horn of Helm Hammerhand. It was so full of people downstairs, and she wanted to be alone to think. She stared up at the carved horn and sighed. What are we fighting for?, she found herself thinking. We are only going to get massacred. Indeed, Theoden had said that Saruman’s orc-army was ten thousand strong. “What hope do we have?”, she said aloud, despairing.
“There is always hope”, said a voice. Startled, Eowyn whirled round. Aragorn was standing in the corner of the tower room with an odd expression on his face. Whether it was anger, or sadness, she could not tell. “My lady”, he said, bowing.
“Oh, I am sorry, my lord”, she said with a curtsey, and blushed. “I was just thinking out loud.” He came forward and sat on a stone beside her.
“Do not be afraid, for I have thought it also”, said Aragorn slowly, as though it was costing him an effort to say this. Eowyn looked at him in astonishment.
“But I thought you would always believe that there is still hope”, she said, incredulous. He took her hand in his and squeezed it gently.
“I do believe”, he said wearily, but with a small smile. “But like all others, there a moments when I…..doubt.”. Eowyn nodded in acknowledgement, but when she looked at Aragorn’s face again, she saw there were tears in his eyes.
“Why do you cry, my lord?”, she asked him kindly. He placed his hands on her shoulders and looked deep into her eyes.
“I cry because of what I feel inside my heart.”, he said quietly, wrenching his gaze from her and walking over to the small arrow-slit window. He gazed out of it, feeling the breeze rushing through his hair. “A ranger should not cry”. At this, Eowyn came and stood beside him. They stood there silently for a moment. Then Aragorn turned back to her. One of his fists was clenched.
“What do you feel?”, she said. They were so close now, his face was barely an inch from hers. He opened his palm to reveal the Evenstar pendant.
“I feel torment.”, he said, reaching up to stroke Eowyn’s face. But she took hold of his hand and placed it around her waist.
“Do you miss her?”, she said softly, her voice no more than a whisper. “Why do you feel torment?”. She took the Evenstar and fastened it about his neck once more.
“I know not, fair lady of Rohan”, he said sadly. “I do miss her, yes, but………that is not why I cry.” He touched the Evenstar around his neck, fingering it. He avoided Eowyn’s questioning gaze, but he felt her eyes boring into him.
“Will you not confide your fears in me, my lord?”, she said. Aragorn took both her hands once more and looked out the window, where the sun was setting.
“She sails to the Undying Lands. But the reason I cry……….I love another.” Eowyn was slightly taken aback at this, but stared at his eyes and saw they were full of remorse and sadness. Her heart was thumping. Who did he love?
“May I ask who?”, she said, her gaze unfaltering. Surprisingly, he laughed, but then he stroked her hair gently. She shivered at the feeling of his touch on her skin, but still held his gaze.
“My lady…………”, he began, stumbling over the words. “This is wrong……..but it is you I love.” Eowyn broke away from his touch and backed away to the wall.
“You jest!”, she cried, turning her face away from him. Aragorn looked dismayed and came nearer to her.
“I do not jest.”, he said, coming closer. She looked up, her eyes full of wonder. “But I feel guilt.” Eowyn leaned closer and touched his face, feeling the rough stubble on his chin.
“And yet, Lady Eowyn, your beauty captivates me.”, said Aragorn sadly. “And so do your words, your proud manner. “
“You do not lie!”, gasped Eowyn, a look of dawning comprehension on her face. Could this be true? Was Aragorn telling her he LOVED her? But why did he look so sad? Aragorn shook his head.
“Nay, I do not, my lady. And I feel the guilt of loving you, when I am bound to another. For I have loved ever since I first set eyes on you.”, he said quickly, his eyes betraying his nervousness at telling her this. Eowyn moved nearer to him, so they were almost touching.
“My lord……this is too good a dream to be reality….and I thought you were dead not long ago……”, she breathed, a tear falling from her eye. Aragorn then saw really just how beautiful she was as she stood in front of the small window, the little sunlight there was illuminating her. Her skin glowed milky-white and her soft curls cascaded down her back like a waterfall of gold. She was beauty itself, even wearing only a plain sackloth dress. He stroked her face, wiping away the tears that shone on her cheeks.
“It is real, Eowyn, daughter of Eomund.”, said Aragorn, so close now that his breath fluttered her hair. All of a sudden, he moved in to kiss her. But to his surprise Eowyn pulled away forcefully and turned away, afraid to do this. Looking round, she saw him walk away to the stairs, a grim expression on his face.
“Wait!”, she said pleadingly. He paused.
“I should never have said those things to you, my lady”, he said bitterly, his head hanging. “Even though I do mean them, it changes nothing!”, he added angrily, banging his hand on the wall. “I wear the necklace of the elven princess Arwen Undomiel, the Evenstar of her people. I am betrothed to her, but still I feel more for you than her!!!” By now Eowyn seemed to have found her voice. She came forward to stand at his side, her dark eyes blazing and her normally pale cheeks flushed.
“But she sails away with her people! Do you not love me more?!”, she cried, waiting for his answer. Aragorn sighed.
“I still must hold out hope that she will stay, though I love you more!”, he said distractedly, dragging his fingers through his unruly hair and turning to look at her once more. Eowyn, staring at his face that was lined with the cares of years past, and at this moment saw through his tough exterior, saw the anguish inside him. So when he wrapped his arms around her and lowered his mouth onto hers, she did not protest, and kissed him back, stroking his hair. She kicked the door shut with her foot. For a minute or two they kissed passionately, the twilight from the window shining on them. Then Aragorn broke away, breathing heavily. Eowyn smiled slightly at him, and, taking his hand, led him to a dark corner of the room where a pile of old blankets lay. His eyes widened and he spun her around to face him. “Eowyn…….”, he murmured. “Are you sure this is what you want?”.
“It is, Aragorn, Son of Arathorn”, she whispered, her cheeks damp with the tears thathe had not wiped away. “Whatever hope bestows on you in battle, at least I will have been loved by you”. Aragorn nodded and she reached her hands up to unbutton his tunic. He groaned and his hands went round her back to undo the ties of her dress. He gently slid it off her shoulders, kissing her again and they sank down on the blankets. A feeling was spreading through twnty-four-year-old Eowyn that she had never felt before, drowning her in its intensity…….at this moment she cared nothing for her chastity that she must keep till she was married. And so it happened. But what surprised her was the tenderness of the ranger’s touch as he made love to her, how gentle he was with her as his rough, callused hands ran over her body. If this was what it was like to be in heaven, thought Eowyn, she would not be afraid to go there now.
And afterwards, as they lay in each other’s arms, her golden hair spread out across the pillow, it felt perfect. But all too soon Aragorn rose and dressed himself. Eowyn lay there a moment, resting, then picked up her discarded garment from the floor and put it on again. As he rebuckled the belt that held his Elvish knife, they turned to face each other. He met her eyes and saw her look at him sadly. “My lady…..I must go to the armoury to prepare for battle. Are you afraid?”, he asked her. Eowyn shook her head.
“The women of Rohan are never afraid, my king”, she answered shortly, even though in the poor light it could be seen her eyes were sparkling with tears. Aragorn looked a little surprised at how she had addressed him as a king, but kissed her one last time, savouring the sweet taste of her lips, then turned on his heel and walked away. As he was about to leave, he stopped for a second and turned to look at Eowyn, who was standing in the middle of the room forlornly, her hands behind her back.
“Lady Eowyn, do not forget what I told you.”, he said quietly. “And do not fall prey to grief if I should die in battle. You must be strong, you are a Rose of Rohan, a bringer of hope to the people. There is always hope”. She slowly drew her hands out from behind her back and tossed something small to him. He caught it and, upon opening his fist, found it was the Evenstar, which had come off and lain forgotten during their lovemaking. He gazed at it briefly, then refastened it around his neck. He looked up again as if to say something to Eowyn, but could find no words and simply strode out. She heard the clatter of his booted feet as he went down the staircase, and sighed slowly. Walking over to the window of the Hornburg Tower, she peered out through the darkness at the fortress, where the people of Rohan were busily preparing for war. The tears were now coming thick and fast, pouring down her face. For she was afraid. Afraid for Aragorn, afraid for herself, afraid for everyone.
But she knew he loved her. But that might not be enough, for he still might marry Arwen. In her heart, she did not really believe they could be together, or that he really loved her. But she had made love to him this night, and that was enough for her. She had felt what it was like to lie next to him, to kiss him, to hold him. But now war was upon them, and she had to help to get the women and children into the caves. Eowyn rubbed the tears from her eyes and turned her gaze from the window. She must be strong, if not for Aragorn, for herself. She walked over to the door and left. Come what may, thought Eowyn as she slowly walked down the stairs. Come what may.
Much later, at dawn after the victory of Rohan
“My lady, it’s all over now!!!”, cried a woman joyfully. Eowyn smiled, despite her exhaustion at having to cope with the fear of death all night long.
“Yes it is.” The women and children were already making their way out of the caves. Eowyn followed quickly, picking up her skirts as she ran. As she reached the battlements of the Keep, she looked down at the battlefield, shielding her eyes from the bright sun. The carnage was incredible, with the bodies of dead orcs, men and elves everywhere. But she was only really looking for one person. But there Aragorn was, coming towards her, a smile gracing his tired face. He looked weary, and his clothes were torn and covered in blood and dirt, but to Eowyn he was kinglike. She gasped in delight and ran towards him. She touched his face, wiping the sweat from his forehead. And then she put her arms round him and hugged him, just glad that he was here.
“Lady Eowyn….”, he muttered after a moment, and they broke apart. She stared at him, and saw the smile had faded from his face.
“So you did not die, then?”, she said softly, her hands still on his shoulders.
“Nay, lady”, said Aragorn dully. “But, even though I care for you, I cannot be with you.” He sighed sadly. Eowyn nodded, fighting to keep the tears from falling from her eyes.
“I feared it…….was so, my lord”, she replied, faltering over her words slightly in her sadness at hearing this. Aragorn took her hands, and she saw that there were also tears in his eyes.
“You will always always have the memories of that night, Eowyn, Daughter of Eomund.”, he said, gazing deep into her eyes. “But my heart belongs to another, for she may return and marry me if I am king”.
“I know”, said Eowyn, her hair rippling in the morning breeze. “I had your love once, Lord Aragorn. That is enough for me. For memory alone is not enough.”. Aragorn bowed to her.
“And to me”, he said, drawing himself up to his full height. “I am sorry, Eowyn. Know only that”, he said finally, then turned away to speak to Gandalf the wizard, who was nearby. Now Eowyn felt no need to cry. For she would always have the memory of the love of Aragorn, even if she did not have his heart. And that meant something to her, and always would do, she decided as she made her way down the steps of the Keep to where the women and children were clustered. For she was a shieldmaiden, strong and tough, untameable. To all eyes but Aragorn’s. Yet Eowyn would find that was not true. Another did see her, but it would not be who she wanted to.