No Light in the Shadows|
is so easy to die in the name of love. Many have done it, Elves and
Men alike. But very few have the strength to take a harder road.
All characters belong to Tolkien. I am only borrowing them, and everyone
will be returned alive and unspoiled.
Disdain, despair, and
disgust – this was all she could feel now. Disdain at the servants
of the Enemy who continuously ravished her homeland and at her own inability
to ride out and stop them. Despair at watching her uncle fade away and
lose all his former strength and glory, and at her own predicament to
stay in the Golden Hall and serve him until all dreams of valour have
been forgotten. And disgust at the foul snake that haunted her every
Éowyn could always
feel his filthy gaze upon her, no matter where she went and where she
tried to hide. If she turned around, she would see Gríma Wormtongue’s
eerily pale eyes, under heavy eyelids, fixed at her. He would not look
away, ashamed at being caught staring, as a normal man would. Often
he would speak to her in his sleazy voice, his words like venom dripping
off his forked tongue.
She tried not to look
his way, but she always knew when he was there. His gaze felt like hundreds
of spiders crawling on her bare skin; it made her feel sullied, and
every time she took a bath, she would scrape her skin until it was red
and raw, in the hopes of washing away the filth of his stare. But she
could not, for this foulness had touched her deeper than the skin and
had grown roots inside her heart.
The Golden Hall of
Edoras had long ago ceased to be a home for her. She felt so alone here,
and so hopeless. Oh, how she envied Éomer! So often he was absent from
this dreadful place of darkness and despair, away to fight the Enemy
and protect their people. She wished she could be by his side, with
a strong horse underneath her and a sword in her hand. But no, she was
doomed to stay here and fight the hopeless battle of keeping the realm
together in these troubled times.
Only duty kept her
going now. Duty for Rohan and for her kin. It was what gave her the
strength to get out of bed every morning and face another dark day.
But there was no joy for her, no happiness, no laughter. And no hope.
There was a gaping crater in her heart, and she did not know if anything
could ever fill this void.
But one day her torment
was ended in a most unexpected way. Gandalf the Grey had come to condemn
Gríma and to bring her uncle back to the light. And he had not come
alone, for with him were three companions. “Three ragged wanderers
in grey” Gríma had called them, but they were so much more than that.
One was a Dwarf, short
and stout, with a long and thick copper-coloured beard. A smile was
on his face every time he greeted her, and there was kindness in his
warm brown eyes. A brave warrior and a loyal friend, and a lover of
good ale and a good smoke.
The second was an Elf.
Slender as a birch, and yet strong, he was fair beyond imagination.
His long golden hair was smoother and more lustrous than that of any
human. His face looked as if chiselled of pale marble and his skin was
flawless and soft as silk.
And the third…
The third was him.
A Man he was, but unlike
any man Éowyn had ever seen. His hair was dark like that of the men
of Gondor or the strange Dunlendings, but his face was nobler and his
bright grey eyes held the wisdom of many winters. He had seen the world;
his long legs had carried him to Mordor and back, and he had stories
to tell from places known and unknown. His face seemed stern and troubled,
as if he carried many burdens, and yet every time a smile lit up his
features, she could see that he possessed a caring spirit and bore a
deep love for all that was good. She admired the strength and skill
of his arms whenever he gripped a blade. An heir of kings he was, come
on the wings of song out of the forgotten days, yet not a king himself.
It mattered not. He had been her king from the moment she had laid eyes
upon him. Under that grey cloak and unimpressive exterior, she could
feel the power he was trying to hide. He might have lived in the shadows
until now, but he was born to lead, and it was so easy to follow him,
He had done everything
she had ever wanted to do. He had travelled to distant lands, battled
the forces of evil, accomplished great deeds. He had been free. And
now he could free her from her own prison. He could take her away from
this dreadful life and they would ride together across all of Middle-earth
and fight for all that was good. She would be his Queen and they would
lead armies against the forces of darkness and the bards would sing
ballads of their deeds for ages to come. And at the end of each day,
filled with valour and glory, he would be only hers. Those strong hands
would caress her hair and hold her close, those bright eyes would look
at her only and shine at her, this deep voice would sing for her. And
then the dark emptiness in her heart would be filled, and she would
be whole and happy as she had never been.
But all this was nothing
more than a foolish girl’s dream, for it would never come to pass.
He was now leaving for the Paths of the Dead, from whence he could never
return. She would have walked with him even if sure death awaited her.
Her heart yearned to die by his side instead of wasting away in uncertainly
and despair. But he had not allowed it. He had ordered her to stay home,
as if she was some servant! And she was angry, so angry! She was no
servant, she was a shieldmaiden of Rohan, and no one could order her
what to do!
There were only three
things that she desired – freedom, great deeds, and him. Freedom
had been denied to her, but she had no intention of obeying. Great deeds
she hoped to accomplish. And him… him she could never have. And if
she could not have him, only one thing was left for her.
She does not fear death.
And why should she, when death is nothing more than an escape from a
life full of suffering? And she does not fear pain for no physical ache
is greater than the agony in her heart. And so she sheds her maiden
clothes and dons armour. A helm hides her long golden locks and a sword
in her hand makes her feel strong.
She raises her sword
and fights in this hopeless war. For Rohan. For Mankind. For glory.
For Aragorn. For death. Another foe falls under her blade, and then
she seems him.
This terrible demon
of death, looming over her fallen uncle. Everyone flees before him,
but she is not afraid. No man can kill him, he informs her, and she
wants to laugh. She is no man. She is Éowyn, Éomund’s daughter,
and this creature stands between her and her lord and kin. He breaks
her shield and arm, but she does not let fear and pain overtake her
and thrusts her sword into the dark nothingness between crown and mantle.
Her sword shatters and the wraith vanishes with a wailing cry.
A mantle of darkness
and terror suddenly falls over her. Her grip on consciousness fades
away as she feels a creeping coldness spreading though her body and
her soul. Is this what death is? If yes, it is just as she has expected.
It is so much better
But all this is only
a memory. And it is already starting to fade…
It is so dark here,
so dark and so cold. She likes it. There is no pain in this place, and
no fear. Only numbness and indifference. All of her past dreams and
memories have faded beyond recall and she has no desire to dig into
unhealed wounds to find them once again. It matters not. Silently, she
keeps walking towards the deepest darkness and knows that this will
be the end. Once she steps over the threshold, there will be no going
back. This is good, very good. She has no wish to go back.
And then, she hears
it. A voice, faint at first, but steadily growing stronger, beckoning
her to leave the shadows and come back. And then, all forgotten memories
rush back into her mind like a flood, and her heart lurches. It is
his voice. He has come here for her!
She turns back and
runs, runs, runs! Towards him, towards life, towards the light. She
runs, tears streaming down her cheeks, her hair flapping behind her
in a cascade of molten gold. She runs until she has forgotten why she
had wanted to die in the first place. He has called, and she will answer.
She will follow him everywhere, no matter where he chooses to lead her
– to death and glory, or to peace and happiness.
Finally, there he is,
standing tall before her, like one of the great kings of old, walked
out of a legend. She falls down, her knees week with relief and excitement
and happiness. Timidly, she looks up and raises her hand to brush her
Suddenly, she freezes
and her hand falls down listlessly. There is pity in his eyes. Some
guilt perhaps, and some grief, but most of all pity. And no love.
He has never loved
her. He could never love her. She knows it now, she knows it for certain.
She clenches her fists and her blood boils in anger. How dares he pity
her? She desires no man’s pity, and his least of all!
But all that rage is
clouded by despair when she realizes that all her dreams have been for
naught. It has all been a fantasy, an illusion created by her tortured
mind. She is ashamed now; ashamed at the weakness she has shown, ashamed
at baring her soul before this man. She wishes to live no longer. She
turns around, her back to him now, and starts walking towards the darkness.
But he keeps calling.
His voice is so strong and commanding, and filled with such authority.
It is the voice of the king, and no one can disobey. She fights to resist,
but knows that she cannot. Despite herself, she stops and turns around.
Her blazing eyes lock with his. His pity-filled eyes. His will
is strong, but so is hers.
“King you may be,”
she says, and there is only the barest of tremors in her voice. “But
I am of the House of Eorl, a shieldmaiden of Rohan, and I am no man’s
servant. I owe you no allegiance. I choose to die, and you can do nothing
to stop me. You hold no power over me.”
There is fear on Aragorn’s
face, and grief, and her heart is torn. She hates to cause him pain,
but at the same time she feels deeply satisfied. A sad smile graces
her lips and she nods to him in a final farewell, before she turns back
towards the darkness. He keeps calling, but she will never again answer
But then the king grows
silent and another voice comes. A voice familiar and deeply loved, a
voice aching and terrified. Her heart breaks. Forgive me brother.
I cannot do it. I cannot go back. Not even for you.
She keeps walking,
but Éomer’s voice is stubborn and leaves her no peace. She can hear
his love for her in this voice, and his growing fear and agony. Tears
start rolling down her cheeks once again and she brushes them away angrily.
She hates hearing her brother sounding so lost and broken. He is her
older brother and is expected to take care of her, but she has always
been the one to give him comfort and strength. She wishes to comfort
him once again.
Hesitantly, she stops.
It will hurt to go back, she knows it, but for the love of her brother
she can face the torment. She would not run into death’s cold embrace
like a coward; this heartbroken maiden, scared of pain, is not her.
Resolutely, she turns around.
Aragorn is gone. Good,
she prefers to walk this path alone. She takes the first step. And then
Éowyn wakes up, but
as the pain of it all makes her heart shatter into pieces, she wishes
that she has not. And yet, she manages a weak smile at her brother’s
worried face, before she closes her eyes once again with a tired sigh.
Her love for Aragorn
had pushed her into the abyss, and her love for Éomer had brought her
back to the light. But it had not brought her all the way.
All is over now. Her
beloved uncle is dead, and both her brother and the man, who had stolen
her hopes and dreams, have gone to a hopeless war against the Shadow,
from which no one expected them to return. Not much time was left before
their final defeat and the enemy’s further advances. Rohan and Gondor
would be no more. Mankind would be no more. She wishes she has gone
with her brother to die a swift death by a blade, instead of being left
here to face this slow torment.
Every morning she wakes
up and wishes to go back to sleep. She has no will to open her eyes,
no will to fight this malady, no will to recover. Death is the easier
road to take now, and she prays it will come swiftly. She envies Aragorn
and her brother for being able to ride into battle and die like heroes,
and not sick and weak in the Houses and Healing as she would.
She has done her great
deed now, and everyone respects her for it, but it has brought her no
happiness. She wishes the Witch King had killed her and Aragorn had
never brought her back. A hero’s life has not been her wish – she
has desired a hero’s death.
Ashamed, she realizes
that she has not ridden into battle because she is brave. She has ridden
to seek her own death because she is a coward. Because life is too dark
and painful and she does not have the strength to face it and fight
Healers often come
to check on her, and maids come to bring her food and water. And in
all of their eyes she sees the same thing – pity. The same pity she
has once seen in Aragorn’s. Do they all know? She is so ashamed, ashamed
that so many know the deep secrets of her wounded heart. She wishes
she could cover herself under the blanket and never get out of this
bed, never face them again. She wishes she was an Elf, so that she could
fade from her grief.
But she is no Elf and
she has to keep on living. And she has to face their pity every waking
moment. And yet, there is one who does not offer her pity. He offers
her respect. He offers her understanding. And he offers her love. He
offers her what Aragorn never could.
Faramir shames her.
He has suffered like her, and perhaps more. He has lost his brother
and is the last one left of his line, while she still has Éomer. And
still, he has not given in to the darkness and forsaken life, like she
She has heard the healers
speak of Faramir. They have described him as a gentle spirit, more interested
in books and songs and lore, than in battles and weapons. He is a scholar,
they say, and no warrior.
They are wrong. For
Éowyn knows that one who has faced so much sorrow and has kept the
will to live and to love is the bravest and strongest fighter of them
all. And he is a much greater warrior than she has ever been.
And now this brave
man, this valiant man, has offered her his love. And she knows that
she can love him back, that she does love him back. Her heart
yearns for him to fill the void that has existed for as long as she
can remember. Yet, she is afraid.
How can she allow herself
to love again when darkness is approaching and the Shadow is so strong?
How can she allow herself to love and be happy amidst all the ruins,
when people are suffering and dying all around them? How can she allow
herself to love when they have no chances of winning this war and would
most probably soon be dead? Could she dare put together the pieces of
her broken heart and give it to Faramir, only to have it broken again
when the Enemy comes at the city gates and snatches him away from her?
It is so easy to die
in the name of love. To sacrifice yourself to help a loved one, to save
those you have sworn to protect. And it is so easy to lose your will
to live when all love is lost; to let your wounded heart bleed to death
without tending to it with bandages and salves, without fighting. Such
a pain has caused many Elves to fade and many Men to take their own
lives. Yes, it is so easy to die in the name of love. So many have done
But is it just as easy
to live in the name of love? Is it just as easy to wake up and open
your eyes and take a deep breath, when there is nothing but darkness
to see and nothing but poisonous fumes to breathe? Is it just as easy
to go on, to keep smiling, to keep hoping, when there is no reason for
Perhaps it is not.
In this world, in this age, death seems so much easier than life. But
she is Éowyn, of the House of Eorl, a Shieldmaiden of Rohan, and she
is not known to take the easy way out.
She would smile at
the darkness, she would laugh at the shadows, and she would sing in
the face of Death. She would dance amidst the ruins, her white gown
waving in the wind, and she would feel flowers growing beneath her bare
feet. She would fight to heal the wounds of this earth, but this time
not with a sword in hand. She would heal the injuries of men, and would
even heal the deep and festered wounds of her own heart, no matter how
much it would hurt. She would live, and laugh, and hope.
Because she loves him.