Eowyn spurred her horse forward, anxious to catch up with Aragorn and his companions.
Unaware, for the first time in her life, of the bleakness of the Dwimorberg, her only thought was not to be left behind, not to be too late.
But the path that skirted the edge of the mountain to the Dimholt was bare and stony, and before long she slowed her pace so as not to cause Windfola any harm. With time to look around and the first rush of anger and daring behind her, she began to see how desolate the Haunted Mountain was.
Who could ever have lived up here? And yet the men of the mountains – now the dead who haunted it – had done just that. How strange not to want to walk and ride in the free air, and feel the wind at your back.
A stream of chilly air blew suddenly in her face, sighing like a widow for her dead husband, and Eowyn caught her breath. But before she had time to feel more than a small twinge of unease, she heard the sound she had been hoping for: hooves on the path ahead of her.
Slowing even further so as not be heard, she crept on, her heart beginning to hammer in her chest with mingled excitement and fear. The door must be close now – the company was getting closer, and she could hear voices.
Rounding a bend in the path, she saw movement under the trees beyond and stopped dead. The company had dismounted and was standing near a narrow opening in the mountainside. Eowyn also dismounted and led Windfola quietly towards them, through the trees. How black and dreary they were! She looked up and, for no reason she could fathom, felt suddenly afraid.
“My blood runs chill,” said Gimli. His words sounded flat and empty, as if the very air was eating their strength away. The others looked resolute but uneasy, and beside her Windfola dug his heels into the black soil and dead leaves beneath his hooves and would go no further.
Eowyn came up to his head and saw that his nostrils were flaring and his ears were back. This was no time to urge him to move – he was frightened, and she would be heard. Stroking his cheek, she waited and watched as the men walked to the entranceway – the Dark Door, she
remembered, was its name.
Halbarad looked squarely into the darkness beyond and shook his head. “This is an evil door, and my death lies beyond it,” he said, turning to Aragorn. “I will dare to pass it, but none of our horses will go in. They will run from it, surely.” Eowyn looked up at Windfola, and her heart sank. Halbarad was right. How was she to get the horse through that dreadful doorway?
“We must go in, so our horses must go too,” said Aragorn. “You know how many miles lie on the other side of the mountain. If we make it through that darkness, we are going to need their speed. Follow me.”
Without a moment’s hesitation he moved forward and walked through the doorway, and Roheryn fearlessly followed his master. Eowyn stifled a cry, and sought to move closer. Windfola took a few tiny steps, then shook his head up and down, flattened his ears right back and refused to go another inch.
One by one the Dunedain and their horses were walking through the door. Desperately, Eowyn hauled at Windfola and in his fear, he began to fight her. Eowyn stopped at once, tears of frustration starting in her eyes.
She looked again towards the doorway. Only three of the company were left: Gimli, breathing heavily; Legolas, whose horse, Arod, was clearly terrified; and Halbarad, who was preparing to enter.
He turned to speak to Legolas and the elf nodded, placing his hand over Arod’s eyes and singing quietly to calm him. Windfola, responding to the soothing sound, relaxed and shifted his feet. Halbarad saw the movement and looked sharply into the shadows as Eowyn shrank against one of the trees.
Too late. Halbarad had seen her. His eyes widened with shock and he looked at the other two, but they were preoccupied: one with his horse, the other with his fears. Eowyn began to walk towards him. Windfola, settled by the elven music, followed.
Halbarad did not speak. He simply looked at her, an expression of pain on his face. Then he he shook his head, turned abruptly and walked through the doorway. Legolas, still singing, led Arod after him. Gimli was left alone.
“No!” said Eowyn, trying to bridge the gap between them. She must get there before he went in. She must.
“Here is a thing unheard of!” she heard him say to the sheer rock walls. “An elf will go underground and a dwarf dare not” -and he walked in.
Still a good stone’s throw away, Eowyn cried out in anguish. “No! Wait, please… wait for me.” Breathing heavily, she arrived at the door and looked up at the strange, ancient writings graven into the archway. The chill breeze she had felt earlier rushed out to meet her, and she felt the top of her head prickle with fear. Windfola whinnied and reared, pulling the reins out of her hand.
Eowyn ran to the horse, trying to settle him, but it was no use; she was almost as terrified as he was. And they were gone – gone through the door, and she could not follow. She began to cry.
Just a weak and foolish woman, a voice said inside her head. What were you thinking of? Did you really think you could you have kept your presence a secret from them? But what does it matter? You were too frightened even to go through the doorway.
Filled with shame, Eowyn led Windfola away from the loathsome door. Tears rolling down her cheeks, she pulled herself up on his back and retraced her steps until they were back on the path that led to Dunharrow. She cast a final glance back at the door, set her jaw, and rode away.