The Halls of Her Fathers
By Eowyn
The Hornburg, June 16

After the battle of Helm's Deep, the Hornburg became a makeshift healer's house, with those hurt in the battle resting upon piles of straw lining the walls on either side of the many halls, corridors and chambers of the stone fortress. The stifled air was heavy and filled with the buzzing of flies, the sounds of men milling about and tending to the ordering of the fortress, and the shrill cries and anguished moans of wounded.

For those unlucky enough to be among those lying upon the straw, the activity in the Berg blends together in a murky sea as the men struggle with the pain that grips at their mind. Those cursed with the Shadow float in and out of dark nightmares of unbelievable terror or the slow, spirit-quenching dreams of despair. The noises of the fortress undulate in clarity, their own cries joining the rest of the din, as surroundings fade from sharp and clear to dim and misty. Those who are conscious direct all thought upon the act of merely bearing their pain and waiting for each agonizing minute to pass, while those who were given sleeping draughts slumber restlessly, their dreams scattered and troubled.

Eowyn had spent the weary hours since she was brought in off the field lying upon the straw, not getting up unless need called. One of the healer's assistants, a lad of about twelve years, had brought her a set of crutches to use. He also returned her cloaks, for which she was very grateful, for their hoods would conceal the features of her face. When someone came by with water, she drank greedily, then fell back upon the straw, weak from pain and loss of blood. Indeed, she was spent, her exhaustion caused by the battle, her wounds, the shadows which plagued her mind and the sleeping draughts which she had been given.

In the early morning hours of the day before, the wounded man lying beside her had died, his last breaths coming in wheezing gasps. His body had been reverently taken away, but Eowyn barely comprehended the man's presence when he was alive nor his passage from the circles of the world.

Eowyn's body was wracked with pain, great physical pain and exhaustion, but her mind was tormented with a different type of anguish, intense sadness, grief and shame. Upon her shadow lay heavy, and she could not discern which was the shadow of the Nazgul and which was the shadow of her own mind. Over and over again, she saw the events of Pelennor and experienced anew the battle, her capture and enchantment, and subsequent thraldom.
Many times, she had dreamed that she had died and gone to the halls of her fathers. It was a pleasant summer night, the warm air stirred by a soft breeze from the west. Before her was a great hall, the biggest and finest she had ever seen, akin to, yet far more grand than Medusled. The thatched roof of the hall was made of pure golden straw which glittered in the light of the infinite stars, and its sides were made of fine wood gilded with golden scrollwork, jewels and carvings of horses. Amber light from torches and chandeliers of wrought iron poured from the windows, and the sounds of joyous reveling and merrymaking wafted through the air.

Inside, the spirits of the dead were singing songs of glorious battles and daring deeds of bravery, of good mead and good life, and of horses galloping across fair fields of green. Sitting around a large rectangular table were the greats of her people, Eorl the Young, who rode from the north to come to the aid of Gondor; Fram son of Frumgar, who slew Scatha the Worm, the great dragon of the Grey Mountains, many other great warriors and men and women of valor. At other large tables were seated lesser men of the Eorlingas, riders, noblemen and peasants.

However, when Eowyn had passed through the elaborately carved doors, all quieted their voices and shifted their gaze to the shieldmaiden. No more thought was paid to the feast and making merry, and stern, grim figures stared at her, expressing their disapproval in wordless scorn. She searched their faces, her eyes pleading and desperate, yet she found no mercy, no pity, for she was a traitor. Most of all, she felt the anger and disappointment of her uncle, father and cousin, the guilt and shame crushing down on her like an immense weight. She hung her head in disgrace, the reception of her own kinsmen more withering even than the fires of the Dark Lord.

Eowyn slowly walked away from them and retreated into the murky shadows along the edges of the great hall. The moment she left, the nightly celebration of the dead Eorlingas continued. Tears stung her eyes and she blinked hard, causing them to cascade down her cheeks in little rivulets. A soft voice interrupted her despairing thoughts. "My lady...?"

Someone spoke to her! She thought she would spend all eternity in silence, every dead Eorling glaring at her when her foul presence crept out of the shadows. Shocked, she looked up and through her tears, she saw the figure of a man, clad in dark robes. But how - how did he slither into the halls of the slain? Their eyes caught, and she saw empathy and compassion beneath those heavy lids, for indeed, they were both of the same kind. "My heart grieves to see your own kinsmen shun you, my lady, but I am no stranger to their scorn." The darkly clad man sighs heavily. "What strange twist of fate is this, that the once-beloved White Lady must now dwell in shadows with he who is called Wormtongue!"

His brow furrowed with concern and a look of hurt came over his face. "But why that Tower, my lady?" he asked quietly. "Why the Dark Tower? Why not Orthnac?" He studied her face, saddened that Eowyn had betrayed Rohan for Barad-dur and had loved the Witch-King of Angmar, instead of him. Saruman may have been a cruel and demanding master, but at least he was better than the Dark Lord.

Eowyn burst into convulsing sobs which shook her body. "Oh, Grima!" she wailed mournfully, feeling utterly wretched and loathsome. Two traitors were they, having betrayed their country by each serving their different Tower in their living moments.

The shieldmaiden's eyes fluttered open, her face wet with tears. She was back in the Hornburg, lying on a pile of straw, but still, the memories of her dream haunted her, heightening her despair. Was she really a traitor, an evil woman who betrayed her own people? She did not know anymore.

True, her mind had been brought out of its cage of spells and sorcery, but to what had she returned? Gondor had fallen, her land was ravaged. She felt she had betrayed Theoden whom she had tried so hard to save and she was now a disgrace to her kin. She had abandoned the duties which had been assigned to her so she could fight as a man, which in the end seemed to prove folly. She had tried so hard to defy Angmar by singlehandedly charging into a group of orcs, but what good had it done? It proved nothing, but that she had made a rash decision and was now paying for it. And the West was slowly but surely driving the forces of Mordor out of the Mark, while she lay wounded! What use did she have? What use had she ever had?

Suddenly Eowyn saw the figure of a young boy hovering over her. She gasped and twitched, old fear seizing her. "Sir?" the boy looked at her with a puzzled expression. "Here is some soup for you." Eowyn relaxed, and the boy handed her a bowl of soup. "Thank you," she answered gruffly, not really feeling like eating, but not wanting to hurt the child's feelings either. She took a few tiny spoonfuls, swallowing painfully, and nodded to the boy as he went to aid the next among the wounded. As soon as he was out of sight, she put the bowl down, feeling like she was about to retch.

Later, after taking a draught of watered-down wine and valerium, the shieldmaiden drifted off into another restless slumber filled with grim dreams of darkness, sorrow, grief and guilt. The hood pulled low over her head partially concealed the tears that squeezed out of closed eyelids as she slept, washing away some of the dirt and grime upon her face.

Return to Third Age: The War of Second Darkness

Return to Index