Chapter XVI: EOWYN
It had been a very long night for Eowyn. A night spent thinking and pondering, trying to sort out her way through the stormy thoughts plaguing her. She had been even reluctant to talk to Cyrene about them, whom she considered a sister, but she had finally made up her mind.
As far as she could remember, since her mother had died, and she had been very young when that had happened, Eowyn had been the lady of the castle.
Theoden loved her as the daughter he never had. Theodred and Eomer loved her even more, if possible, for she had always been by their side, to look after their needs and offering sound advice if needed. She was the White Lady of Rohan, the Jewel of the Mark's Crown. Eowyn had been educated as a lady, but also taught in the ways of warfare and the use of weapons, for the evil Lord from Mordor had been a threat to Rohan even before the reign of Eorl the Young.
Before Cyrene's arrival at Edoras, she had been insecure about her prowess with weapons, since no man in Meduseld would really challenge the lady of the castle in practice. But she knew that she was equal to the Amazon in fight, and that meant as equal as any man of the Rohirrim army.
She had seen her uncle leaving her in charge of Edoras as an honor and a great responsibility, both of which she had been born to assume. But know she needed more. Eowyn wanted to ride into battle.
When Aragorn had told her about him riding the Paths of the Dead, she knew her time had come. She would prove herself worthy of her heritage and defend Rohan.
By all the gods, she was a shield maiden, trained to fight side by side with the Rohirrim, as had many warrior women of her lineage done before her. She was direct descendant of Eorl …. and her sire as noble as Aragorn's himself.
When she thought about the handsome and melancholic Lord of Gondor sleeping under her same roof, her pulse went faster and warmth spread all over her body. She had dreamt about him, the savior of Middle Earth, the one foretold by the prophecies to defeat Sauron and redeem Isildur's betrayal of the Last Alliance. Eowyn imagined herself riding by his side into the battlefield, defeating the hordes of orcs and bringing peace to their Kingdoms.
But Cyrene had been right. Aragorn's heart had been given away before he ever set foot in Edoras. An her dreams were only that, childish dreams of an infatuated girl. She was too proud to seek his attention.
However she would seek his acquiescence for riding with them to the Paths of the Dead. If they survived, it was a heroic feat about which there would be songs and tales to be told to the next generations. And Eowyn had no doubt that if anybody could achieve this feat, it would be Aragorn.
The final battle was approaching, and Eowyn swore to herself to be there no matter the cost.
Shortly before sunrise, the White Lady of Rohan washed her face, braided her golden hair and wore her battle gear, from the shiny silver chain mail to the high winged helmet forged especially for her. Her light sword and a dagger completed her outfit. She was ready to face her first battle. She had to convince Aragorn to let her join him and the Dunedain on their ride.
As Aragorn stepped out of his quarters, he saw the soldier standing in the corridor and acknowledged him with a curt nod. Then he looked again, for the soldier had stepped forward and laid a hand on his arm. He did not recognize Eowyn at first sight. But as close as she was standing to him, he recognized the bright sky-blue eyes. This was not a young soldier, but the Lady of Rohan.
"Lady Eowyn, may I be of service to you?"
"Lord Aragorn, it is not your service I seek but to offer you mine. My sword and my ability to fight. I wish to join you and your men, Lord Aragorn. I am ready to defend Rohan and go into battle " said the young blonde woman.
Aragorn closed his eyes. The look in Eowyn's blue orbs was almost too much to bear, especially at a this moment. He had not slept a single minute, the thought of the responsibility he was carrying on his shoulders too much to bear to grant him any rest. He had been brooding all night , and decided to face his doubts and conquer them before the sunrise would be the very first test to his true heritage. He was weary and sad , but determined to face the challenge and overcome it.
Eowyn's look spoke of courage, determination and love. Aragorn knew that Eowyn's virginal love was set on him and it hurt him to know he would have to crush her illusions.
"Milady, this is absolutely out of the question. I will not allow you to ride with us. It is a perilous journey and …" he saw her stance straighten and her chin lifted stubbornly.
"I am well aware of the perils you will confront, Milord Aragorn. I am not a silly child. I am well prepared to face them."
"Eowyn, you cannot convince me. You are young and brave, you should not be putting your life at stake on this … you are very valuable holding up Edoras. We need you to secure our backs …" Aragorn saw Eowyn's face loose it's color, but she would not give up. And the way she looked at him, with adoration … this was not meant to be. "You ought to also find a better man to place your affections upon, Milady."
Eowyn had not said a word to him about her feelings. But Cyrene had said there were plain to see. She felt foolish and blushed imagining how dumb and childish she seemed to him.
"Aragorn, this has nothing to do with my … affection towards you. I will not stay behind when the fate of Rohan and all of Middle Earth will be decided in battle. I deserve to fight for my life and the life of my people … do not deny me that!" she pleaded.
"Forgive me my lady, but I will not have you join me and the company on this ride. May the gods be with you Eowyn, for you are truly a noble daughter of Rohan and deserve all the gifts from the gods upon your way," saying this Aragorn saluted her and turned to leave. He only heard the faint rustle of steel against leather as Eowyn draw her sword and as fast as lightning put the blade to his throat, blocking his way out. "You will not walk out on me, Milord. Not without even giving me a chance to prove myself to you."
Aragorn draw Anduril out of it's scabbard and assumed a defensive stance. Maybe if he could disarm Eowyn, the girl would understand she didn't belong on the battlefield.
Eowyn took one step forward and her stroke was parried by Aragorn who swiftly stroked back. Eowyn moved lightly to the side, parrying the blow as well. Aragorn saw that it was not going to be as easy as he had thought, and straightened his stance, studying Eowyn's moves to find a weakness in her fencing technique. He could not.
They kept on fencing, the loud clashing of the swords attracting the attention of the guests and inhabitants of Meduseld. Both moved lightly, gracefully almost as dancers. Aragorn was annoyed and admired at the same time.
Eowyn calculated her moves, holding out for the strength coming from her desperation at Aragorn's rejection, both as a woman and as a warrior.
Among the last who joined the bystanders watching the fight were Legolas and Cyrene.
The Amazon recognized her friend at once. She had seen Aragorn fighting and also knew Eowyn to be a formidable warrior, but she also knew the girl couldn't win. For Aragorn was holding her heart.
One of King Theoden's maidservants appeared and let out a small cry at recognizing her mistress. The cry was enough to distract Eowyn and Aragorn disarmed her with an masterful twist of Anduril's blade, sending Eowyn's sword away from her reach.
Eowyn stood in front of him, breathing hard , and she took her helmet off. Her face was a mask of pride and pain, while unshed tears pooled in her blue eyes.
Aragorn saluted her with his blade. "You are indeed an amazing fighter, Lady Eowyn. But I cannot let you accompany us. The responsibility of your welfare lies in the hands of your kin, fair lady. You will make any king a great queen . May the Gods keep you safe, Eowyn of Rohan."
Then, Isildur's heir turned on his heel and walked away.
Cyrene sent the servants away and approached her friend. She didn't hug her, but stood in front of Eowyn and saluted her bowing her head and putting her closed fist over her heart. A warriors salute.
Eowyn bent her head. She felt spent, rejected and worthless.
Cyrene kneeled down, picked up the fallen sword and gave it to Eowyn.
"I'll be waiting for you at Minas Tirith. It will be an honor to fight at your side, sister," said the Amazon gravely.
"I will be there, Cyrene, you have my promise" Eowyn answered, gripping Cyrene's forearm.
Cyrene turned and left, while Eowyn sheathed her sword and returned to her chamber to wash her tear-stained face. She still had to bid the travelers farewell. She was the Lady of Rohan, and she had to fulfill what was expected of her as such.