Five Senses

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Ideas

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In the Name of Love

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One Title: Your Story

A Fairy Tale, Middle-Earth style

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Friends in Small Places

No Light in the Shadows


In the Name of Love

Summary: It 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.

Disclaimer: All characters belong to Tolkien. I am only borrowing them, and everyone will be returned alive and unspoiled.

Rating: T



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 step.

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, everywhere.

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.

Death.

-o-

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 than life.

-o-o-o-o-o-

But all this is only a memory. And it is already starting to fade…

-o-o-o-o-o-

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 tears away.

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.

Damn him! 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 his call.

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 another.

-o-o-o-o-o-

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 it.

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 has.

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 it.

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 hope?

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.

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