Uncle was a little better today. We took a short walk around the garden; he called me 'Wyn. He has good days and bad - the good are few and far between. Once they gave me hope that he was coming round, that he would soon be himself again. But every time it is a false recovery, and I have no hope left; I have nothing but this lump of ice in place of my heart.
I have some small comfort tonight, for Théodred and Éomer are home for a time. Éomer helped me put Uncle to bed. Théodred has been withdrawn since dinner. They think I do not hear them when they talk amongst themselves. I know how badly the war is going, how they find themselves pressed on all sides. It is but a matter of time before one or both of them come home on their shields; and I dare not consider what will happen then.
That clatter - it came from the hall where we take our meals. I see Théodred inside, bracing himself against the table, leaning down for the chair he's knocked.
He is drunk.
Disgust surges up from the pit of my stomach. I take his flagon and drain it in two gulps, refill it from the barrel, and swallow it all. It shocks my stomach and I nearly bring it back up. I go for another and 'Dred leans over me, taking hold of the flagon.
" 'Wyn, you will be drunk," he mumbles, breath stinking of ale.
I push him away.
" I want to be drunk!" He stumbles backwards, somehow maintaining his balance. I care not if he falls on his rear, I care not if he splits his head open on the floor. " Is that not what you want? To run away? To hide?"
I will hear no excuses.
" I have greater cause to drown my sorrows than you. I see him every day! Limping...mumbling...dribbling his food..." Curse these tears of weakness burning my eyes! "You - both of you - take every chance you can to escape from here, and then you are gone for weeks!" Théodred will not look at me. " Do you care nothing for him?"
He looks up suddenly, face flushing red in beer-fuelled rage.
" He is my father!"
" And he is mine also!"
Inside something breaks, and salt water floods down my cheeks. 'Dred pulls me into a clumsy bear hug. His chest shudders; he is crying too. A moment later, Éomer is here, holding us both.
Eventually the well runs dry, but we remain for a time, clinging to each other. Éomer snuffles.
" Éowyn, put Théodred to bed."
" No." Théodred moves away a little, trying to stand on his own. " No, that will not be necessary..." He holds onto the table. " I can make my own way..."
I go to him before he falls.
" Come, 'Dred."
He puts his arm around my shoulders.
" I am sorry, 'Wyn."
" Think no more on it."
Théodred's chamber is not far. I support him as he lets go and sinks onto his bed. His hair is turning grey. I did not notice before. His brow has many furrows. I own I thought him quite handsome once - when I was thirteen I fell madly in love with him for the summer, even though he was my kin. In my mind's eye he will ever be impossibly tall, surprisingly young, a teasing, playful smile on his lips.
I cannot remember when last I saw him smile.
He looks up at me, ashamed.
" I am sorry, Éowyn," he says again. He looks about him, then shrugs in despair. " I am sorry for all this. I should be here..." Oh, do not cry, 'Dred, please! Your tears are contagious, and I would not leave your chamber with weak, reddened eyes. " You should not have to bear this burden alone."
" If Rohan did not need you, then you would be here." I spoke in anger before; I did not mean a single word. He remains unconvinced, staring at the floor. I sit next to him and take his hand. The palm was smooth once, but now it is coarse and rough, callused by sword and rein and war.
“ Promise you will not worry about me.”
“ You know I cannot,” he whispers.
I know not how to lift his spirits. My own lie in the dirt, perhaps never to rise again. He withdraws his hand from mine, turns away and starts, clumsily, to undress.
“ Can I help?”
I do not think he is talking about his ties.
Since I can do nothing more, I kiss his cheek and leave him be.
I have taken three, perhaps four strides before I hear Wormtongue's poisonous voice.
" You should take care, my lady." I like not how he moves around me - slithering and watchful, like a rat that has grown bold enough not to run from man, but still knows to keep its distance. "Who knows what ugly rumours may spread if you are seen leaving men's quarters at this time of night."
" You know well that it is my cousin's chamber. I was bidding him goodnight." Wormtongue does not need to know that 'Dred is drunk.
" Indeed." He stops in front of me, and I cannot place the expression on his face. Oh, to burn out those beady little eyes...
" I have often wondered why it is that a man of Théodred's years has not yet wed," Gríma says. " This is no way to provide his house with heirs." He adopts an air of innocence. " I wonder - are his desires entirely natural?"
What? How dare he say such a -
He touches my arm, full of concern.
" He has not made any advances towards you, I hope?"
I grab a sword and plunge it deep into his chest, relishing his screams as I force his ribcage apart. His heart is a lump of blackened, rotting meat, pumping vile green slime around his body in place of blood.
Alas that it is just a fantasy.
Wormtongue must see something in my eyes, for he steps back, feigning contrition and deference.
" Forgive me. I spoke only out of concern for you, my lady."
I want to laugh. Concern for me? He is but waiting for one moment of complete despair; one moment when I am so desperate I will do anything, say anything, to make things better, and then he will play the part of my saviour. His intentions are utterly selfish and he seeks to cloak them in honeyed words and kindness. My lip curls in disgust.
" It pains me to see you this way." Why must he continue with this charade, all mournful eyes and sorrowful voice? Does he take me for a fool? " I would take you away from all this." Humbly he directs his eyes to the floor. " I would...ease your suffering, somehow."
I regard him for a moment, his pasty skin, stooped frame, lank, greasy hair. It is not his appearance that I find repugnant; it is the darkness in his heart that leaks out through the facade.
" There is one way you could ease my suffering."
He looks up. Hope flares suddenly in those sunken, bloodshot eyes.
He recoils at the venom in that single word, much to my satisfaction. I stalk past him, towards the balcony.
It is not as cold out here as I expected; likely because there is no wind tonight. The stars are veiled; nothing can get through the heavy cloud.
It is a long way down from this balcony.
Perhaps there is only one way to ease my suffering.
Éomer touches me gently on the shoulder. Fear and love are intertwined in his eyes. I know that he would help me, if he was not needed elsewhere. I take his hand. He cups my cheek - his hand is rough and callused, like Théodred's.
I wait for him to continue, but instead he looks upwards, at the night sky.
A single star, a solitary point of light, pierces the thick cloud.
I put my arm around him.
" It will be all right."
He looks at me, surprised. Then after a moment he slides his arm around me.
It will be all right.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.