Actions

Work Header

Warmaiden

Work Text:

She no longer remembers clearly how it came to her, nor does it matter. All that matters is that she will be the last--the destined, final, truest possessor. It had always been meant for her and she had always been meant for it. That was the reason for all her restless life of waiting, of impatience. Of preparation.

Even once it is hers things do not go smoothly, no more than they ever have. What remains of her uncle she leaves--not without a pang, at first, for she loved him once. But this frail, near-mindless husk is not the man she respected, not her foster-father. She turns his care over to those better suited for the humility of the task and gives herself to greater concerns.

Dealing with the Worm is a trifle, his misbegotten lust as easy to turn to her ends as it once was discomfiting. It does not take long to convert him, to learn all he knows of the White Hand and the ambitions of Saruman. Her brother is only too pleased to take the knowledge she gleans and put it to good use, and the armies of the Riddermark ride.

She rides with them, and for once none gainsay her right. Not when she sits tall and proud and cold in her saddle, the gold circle of the Ring shining where it rests on her armored chest.

Orthanc falls, and all the Mark rejoices, for great was the damage that the White Wizard did to the land before she found the keys to his undoing. At last only the wizard himself remains. He tries to twist her ears with words, but she only laughs and lifts up the chain for him to see, and then he stares at the Ring around her neck in horror and tries again with truth.

She heeds the truth no more than she heeded the lies, and cuts his head off, putting an end to both.

They return to Edoras in victory. She is more loved than ever, the true daughter of Eorl and saviour of her people. When it is decided that Théoden has earned his respite and a new ruler is needed, no one questions when she steps forward instead of her brother. No one suggests she does not have the right.

Not where she can hear them, and those few who do say it do not speak it for long.

Éomer remains her most loyal follower, his love for her strengthened and blinded by her glory. They ride out together as she always wished, and the fields run red with their slaying. No orcs, no creatures of darkness shall dare set foot on the Riddermark again, not for centuries. Not once they are done.

Between these journeys she sometimes visits them, where they remain captured. The four small halflings, who amuse her with their bumbling attempts at virtue, and who are curiously resistant to her charms. The dwarf who eyes her with hatred, the elf with frustration. The men. One of the men swears he will serve her if she will only release him, or at least let him send word to his father the Steward, but she sees how his eyes stray ever to her Ring, and she knows better.

The other man only watches, and she cannot identify what she sees in his eyes. Those eyes are like none she has ever seen--deeper, more noble, unfathomable, the gaze of an elf set in a man's face.

He is like no man she has ever seen, and she would win him if she could, would break him if she could, but he is made of truer steel than any sword she has ever held and will require more pressure than she can yet bring to bear. He will be hers in time, she does not doubt, as all will; this is merely a game they play for now. He rarely speaks to her, and when he does his words are warnings which she does not heed. She will do as she wills, as must be done for the good of the Riddermark. That is all her duty and calling and desire. His suggestions that she betrays it with her actions are the words of a fool.

And yet his voice stirs her, and angers her, and she always leaves in a fury after they meet. And she always returns, despite herself.

Her name becomes more widely spoken: Éowyn, the Red Lady of Rohan, whose skirts are stained with the blood of her foes and whose laugh is fierce and fearless, who will never be tamed, never be beaten. Soon it is heard beyond the Mark; soon she is called South, as the beacons are lit and Gondor begs for the aid only she can give. The Dark Lord himself is on the move. What more fitting than that the Warmaiden should meet him? The final battle is at hand, and she rejoices that she is alive for it.

She musters the Eorlingas, and they all ride -- all, all, even her prisoners. Let them witness her victory, their mutual enemy's defeat. Let them see she was right. Let him know his warnings were wasted breath.

They ride for days, and at the end of it she is as tireless as when she left. The Ring pulses in her blood, gives her strength beyond her own, for all that her own strength is considerable. All follow her, because they cannot do otherwise when she leads. She rides with sword upheld on the Pelennor Fields and none stand before her.

Until one does.

A Black Rider to face the Red, a Black Rider on a fell beast, whose shrieks send her men fleeing in terror and despair, but she does not quail before him. Her horse rears and she loses her seat, falling, but she is on her feet again at once, angry, sword outstretched. He calls her prey, informs her that no man can defeat him.

And she laughs, and laughs, and laughs, and removes her helm to reveal her hair, long and gold and streaked with blood, falling down her back. She has the words triumphant on the tip of her tongue, I am no man! -- and then feels the emptiness around her neck. The chain on which she wears the Ring has caught on her helm and been removed with it. The Ring has betrayed her, as it betrays all save He who made it. As she was warned.

The Wraith falls on the Ring, and he is in the air with it before her own scream of rage and dismay even begins, and then she hears the chaos around her. Almost in the next second there is a stabbing pain in her heart, and at first she thinks it is the loss of the Ring--her Ring, her only love, the only thing that ever saw her truly, loved her truly--but then she looks down and sees a swordpoint splitting her skin.

She turns and he is there, watching from only a few feet away as one of the orcs guts her, arrested mid-motion as though he would have blocked the stroke if he could. Only now can she identify the expression in his eyes: understanding, and pity.

Pity.

There is a sound filling her ears, a ceaseless howl of madness and denial, and it matches her own heart's fury so closely that she does not realize it is Éomer rather than herself. But she dies in silence, trying and failing to claw her way out of that ocean of pity, as Aragorn watches.

Until finally she falls, and he rejoins the battle, leaving only a woman's broken body on the field.