Eowyn felt a tear sliding down her cheek as she stood in front of the Witch King, but she did not weep for herself. The king was dead. He must be. He was the closest thing she had known to a father since she was seven years old… and she could not reach him.
Filled with anger and disgust at the evil that had caused so much death and misery, she raised her chin defiantly. She faced death – painful, and perhaps brutal – but she would not cower before this thing. He would see her courage and loyalty before she died.
“Leave this place, ladlic Dwimmerlaik*,” she heard herself saying, her voice strong and steady. “Lord you may be, but you are lord of nothing but carrion. Depart and leave the dead in peace.”
With no mouth that she could see a voice spoke to her, deep but icily cold, from beneath the iron crown. “Do not come between the Nazgul and his prey,” it said. “Or you will be the next creature slain – perhaps eaten alive by my servants after this battle is won.”
Eowyn did not flinch, but looked squarely at her adversary, throwing aside her spear and drawing her sword. “Do what you will,” she said. “But I will hinder it, if I may.”
“Hinder me?” the Nazgul said, mockingly. “You fool. No living man may hinder me.”
Before she could stop herself, Eowyn laughed. All this time she had been held back because she was not a man, and now this demon of the Dark Lord thought he was invincible because she was a man? She laughed again, her heart suddenly light and carefree within her, and proudly took off her helm to face her enemy as an equal.
“But no living man am I – as you see,” she said, with something akin to a smile. “You look upon a woman. Eowyn am I, Eomund’s daughter – and you stand between me and my lord and kin.” The light of battle rekindled in her eyes as she thought of the king lying there between them, and her fair, pale face grew hard and grim. “Begone, if you be not deathless,” she cried. “For living or the dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.”
She raised her sword, her hair flying free in the morning breeze, but to her surprise the Nazgul held back. Surely he was not afraid of a woman? That would be the greatest irony of all. She laughed again – for the joy of battle and the pleasure at creating even a moment’s uncertainty in an enemy so powerful. At the sound of her laughter the creature on which the Nazgul rode sprang into the air and plummeted down to attack her.
Without thinking Eowyn stepped quickly to the left side of the beast, avoiding its outstretched claws with a quick twist of her body. It screamed in anger, but before it could strike again, her blade flashed in her hand, cleaving its head from its neck with one stroke. The beast’s body crashed to earth beside Theoden’s horse and as it did so, the rising sun began to break through the darkness of Sauron a second time. It shone upon her as she looked again into the face of death, and she smiled.
In his fury, the Witch King began to grow, sucking up the light like a deathly plague. Darkness emanated in sickening waves from his body as he stood before her, crying with a voice that poisoned the very air with hatred and revenge. With one mighty swing of his mace, he shattered Eowyn’s shield into fragments and broke her arm in two places.
Eowyn dropped her sword and fell to her knees, her head swimming with pain. She felt sick, dizzy and strangely weak. She tried to struggle to her feet but could not, her legs unwilling or unable to obey her brain as she began to shiver uncontrollably. Evil thoughts seeped into her mind as the Nazgul towered above her, ready to strike again. She should die here beside her uncle, die with them all, go to the place of hell he spoke of, serve him there, Sauron her master…
As she knelt, swaying, muttering to herself, the Nazgul himself gave a shriek of pain: he was thinking of her no longer. Her mind suddenly clear, slowly she raised her heavy eyes and saw Merry, sword in hand, and the lord of the Nazgul wounded, hobbling, stabbed from behind by the little hobbit.
Amid her wonder, Eowyn’s training took over. Somehow, her weakening body responded to her command to stand and she grasped her sword, holding herself straight. She did not hear the hobbit’s alarmed cries for her, but concentrated instead on what must be done – now, now, before it was too late. She raised her sword and, aiming for the gaping hole between her enemy’s crown and his kingly cloak, thrust at it with all of her might.
Her strength spent, she crumpled to the ground and did not hear his dying wail or see the black cloud of his presence blown away by the morning’s wind from the sea.
* ladlic Dwimmerlaik – loathsome spectre