5. The Help Of Strangers
Six months had passed since Eowyn returned to Rohan. Faramir was but a thought swept to the back of her mind. She no longer grieved over him every waking moment though he was not completely gone. She still held a spot in her heart for him and sometimes wished he would change his mind and come for her.
She surely thought Boromir would have returned home by now and sent word to her whether he still planned on marrying her or not. But no messenger came and the days in Rohan grew darker and darker as all hope seemed to disappear from her forsaken city.
Eowyn sat in her room, crying. Her brother, Eomer sat next to her with his arms wrapped around her slumping shoulders. It tore his heart apart to see his sister in this state of agony. He wished he could change things and put everything back the way it used to be. But it was an impossible wish and one that he could not bring true. Evil had shown itself in Rohan and all hope seemed to be fading. Orcs ran freely across their land. The king seemed to take no notice as he sat withering in his throne. Grima Wormtongue now seemed to make all the decisions for the court. There was something very wrong taking place and Eomer had no power to change it. But this latest news was too much to bear. It was what caused Eowyn's grief. Their cousin, the king's son, was killed by an Orc army ambush. It should have never happened but Wormtongue had cut back on the number of Rohirrim patrolling the region. This particular army went unchecked. There were too many of them and they overpowered the riders. It was evident that their main goal was to kill the king's son and unfortunately they were successful.
"Why has this happened, brother? Rohan has ever been strong and able to protect its people. But now things deteriorate quickly and Théoden does nothing. It is not like him. What is wrong with him? He does not even grieve for Théodred, his only son and heir."
"Something unnatural has settled over our city and it is my belief that Grima has something to do with it. He is not the man of Rohan he once was. I do not trust him." Eomer had felt these intuitions for quite some time now. But Grima was the king's chief advisor. It would be considered an act of defiance to disrespect such a high ranking officer of the court. Eomer had no solid proof that Wormtongue was doing anything to hinder the king. He had already been scrutinized for disobeying the king's orders to reduce his troop's numbers. He was walking a very thin line as it were.
Eowyn wiped the tears from her swollen eyes. "I do not like him much either. Always, his eyes are upon me, watching my every move. When I turn a corner, there he is. When I need a moment alone to collect my thoughts, I feel him secretly watching me. I'm afraid of what he is planning."
"I did not know of this." Eomer said, hate building in his eyes. "I will not have my sister fearful of being harmed in her own house. This has to stop and now." Eomer released his comforting hold on Eowyn and turned to leave her room. He was going to confront Grima and get things out in the open. It was time to put an end to the fear they all lived with.
Afraid of what Eomer might do, Eowyn jumped up and ran to her brother catching him by his arm. "Please wait. Can we just wait until Boromir arrives? He is in good standing with the king. Surely he will be able to get through to Théoden."
"There has been no word from him in months. I fear something has happened. I do not want to worry you, but we should have received a message from him before now. I don't think he is coming, dear sister. It is up to me now to make our city safe."
Eomer could take it no more. Théodred was dead and no retaliation was taking place. He took it upon himself to muster an army of Rohirrim to hunt down and destroy this band of Orcs. Wormtongue got news of this and forbade the riders to leave the city. Eomer confronted Grima and accused him of wizardry. He was told that anyone who agreed with Eomer and left to pursue the Orcs would be permanently banded and not allowed entry to the city. If they came back they would be locked up. But Eomer's followers stay true to him and agreed to leave their loved ones behind to save Rohan from further attacks.
Eomer went to Eowyn before he set out to tell her he would not be returning. "You must protect yourself now, sister. I have no choice. I cannot sit idly by and watch as Rohan becomes overrun with Orcs."
"But what shall I do about Grima? Without you here, I'm afraid of what he might try." Eowyn shook at the thought.
"You are a Shieldmaiden of Rohan. It's time to put your training to use. I have seen your skills and you are a strong fighter. Keep your weapon close at all times. I do not think that snake will try anything just yet." Then Eomer leaned close to Eowyn and whispered in her ear. "I do not think he acts alone. I believe the wizard Saruman gives him his orders. This is why I must leave, to find out who is behind all of this treachery and put a stop to it." Eomer kissed his sister on the cheek. Out of the corner of his eye he saw two of Grima's henchmen approach. His time was up and he was being forced out.
"Stay safe and trust no outsiders. There are spies about." he said to her. Just then the two men came up to him and grabbed him by the arms. Eomer didn't resist as they led him to the city gates where the other Rohirrim gathered, ready to ride. Eowyn could only watch as tears rolled down her face.
A week had passed since Eomer left. He was correct in his assumption of Grima as no advances were made on Eowyn. But always his eyes were upon her. She figured she was some sort of future prize for his good work. Everyday she lived in fear that he would be aloud to cash in on his reward.
Eowyn still hoped that Boromir would come for her but her prayers went unanswered. Something must have happened. Boromir would have come to help if he could. He loved Eowyn and would not abandon her. Then her thoughts drifted to her first love, Faramir. She thought of that first kiss they shared so long ago, in the stable. She remembered the promise he had made, that he would keep her safe if Boromir could not. But things had changed and she was sure that was not the case now. All she could do was wait and hope Eomer would find and send help. For now she spent her days alongside her uncle, trying to bring him out of his trance. Nothing worked and the king continued to wither away in his throne.
Then one day there was a commotion at the gate. Eowyn went to one of the guards who informed her that four strangers approached the city.
"One of them wears white robes and carries a staff, a wizard I think." the guard said.
Immediately, Eowyn thought of Saruman. "Is it the White Wizard of Orthanc?" she asked the guard, panic in her voice.
"I can't be for certain, my lady, but that is the only White Wizard I know of."
"Then we must be prepared. Gather those who stay true to Rohan. Take no action against our visitors until we know for sure who they are. Do not allow them into the Golden Hall. I will decide if they are friend or foe. Let us just hope they are here to help." Eowyn said to the guard. With Eomer gone and the king indisposed, she felt she was in charge of those who did not trust Grima. They looked to her for guidance.
As the travelers got closer to the gate, they were met by some of the Rohirrim guard. Eowyn watched from the safety of the terrace. She could see the wizard speaking to a guard. He rode on a white stallion. Next to him rode a man on a dark horse. For a split second, her heart skipped a beat as she thought it was Boromir. But upon seeing his profile, she knew it was not him.
Behind this man, riding on a grey horse were two beings she had never seen before. One was tall and fair skinned with long flaxen hair. In his hand was a bow and on his back was a quiver of arrows along with two long knives. The weapons of the Elves, she thought to herself. Behind him rode a figure, much shorter and quite stout with an axe in his hand. Who were these strangers? Eowyn had never seen the like before.
Suddenly she realized that she knew the horses they rode on. The black and the grey were horses of the Rohirrim. What were these travelers doing with her horses? The white horse looked like the lord horse, Shadowfax. But that could not be. He was untamed and let no man ride him. Something odd was taking place here. Then the words of her brother came to the front of her mind, 'There are spies about.'
Eowyn watched as the travelers spoke to the guard. She looked again at the fair haired figure. He turned his head and looked up to where she stood on the terrace. Eowyn never dropped her stare and looked back at him. He was very handsome. She found she could not look away. He was so fair and beautiful.
Suddenly, she jumped as a cold hand touched her shoulder. She turned to see Wormtongue standing behind her. He had slithered up to her without a sound.
"These riders are no friends to Rohan. They should not be aloud to enter. I believe they bring great harm." he hissed.
Eowyn did not trust Grima, but the fact that he wanted these people to be chased away made her feel slightly better. If he didn't like them then they couldn't be too dangerous. But she remained cautious.
"I will go down myself and find out who they are before I make any decisions." she said taking a step away from Grima. His mere presence made her sick to her stomach.
Eowyn went to the gate and saw that this indeed was a wizard, but not Saruman. It was Gandalf or Mithrandir as he was known in Rohan. He had been a long time friend of Théoden. This gave her great relief and a new found hope to have him here.
"Gandalf? Gandalf the Grey? I almost didn't recognize you. You shine as bright as the sun on a clear day. I have never seen you like this before." she said with surprise in her voice.
"Dear Eowyn, Lady of Rohan, you look more beautiful every time I see you. Is all well here, my child?" Gandalf climbed down from his horse and approached her, giving her a warm embrace.
Eowyn looked over her shoulder making sure Wormtongue was not there eavesdropping. When she saw he was nowhere to be seen she spoke again, shoulders slumped in defeat. "Our situation is dire I'm afraid. Théodred has been slain by Orcs. The king is not himself. He sits on his throne and does nothing, not even grieving. I fear he is locked in a spell. And Eomer has been sent away with most of our armed riders."
"It is worse than I thought." Gandalf said turning to the others. "Eomer was right to send us here."
Eowyn looked up at Gandalf at the mention of her brother. "You have seen Eomer? Is he alright? Does he return to Rohan?"
"I have not seen him but my companions have. Perhaps they can ease your mind. If you would let us in your hall, I think we can answer many questions." Gandalf spoke in a soft voice.
"I can let you pass, Mithrandir, but I know not of the others." Eowyn turned to the dark haired man. "Who might you be?" she asked him with a serious tone to her voice.
"My lady, I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn and these are my friends and companions, Legolas of the woodland realm and Gimli son of Gloin of the Dwarves."
Eowyn turned to Legolas and looked him up and down before she spoke. "You are an Elf, are you not?"
"Yes, my lady. I come from Mirkwood where my father, Thranduil, is king." Legolas said giving her a slight smile.
Eowyn did not return the smile but she noticed how his fair face lit up as he spoke of his land. She had never met an Elf before and now that one was standing in front of her, she found it hard to look away. She had heard of the beauty of the Elves and now saw how true that was. Some say they possess magical powers and this made her cautious.
Gimli stepped forward and spoke, "Aye, Lady of Rohan, we have journeyed far and would greatly appreciate some food and rest. A great many trials we have been through which have led us here."
"Tell me of my brother first and then you may enter our hall. When did you speak to him and where did you see him?" Eowyn said turning to Aragorn.
"It was not but four days ago. He rides with a large troop of your soldiers, to the north. He told us of your king. I believe Gandalf can help."
Eowyn turned to Gandalf and let her guard down slightly. "Is this true, Gandalf? Can you help cure him of this sickness?"
"I do not believe he is sick but under a spell. Saruman has done all he can to destroy Rohan but he is not finished. He readies an army of Orcs and Uruk Hai. Soon they will be sent forth to engage in war."
"Oh Gandalf, why does this happen? What has changed in the world to bring on war?"
"My child, a weapon of the enemy has been found and the Dark Lord Sauron searches for it."
"I know of the weapon, though I do not know what it is. That dreaded thing has already caused enough trouble in my life." Eowyn said, remembering it was the reason her and Faramir were no longer together. Gandalf looked at her, unsure of what she meant but surprised that she knew about the weapon. He was about to ask when she spoke again.
"Is that why you are here, to ask me to hide away this evil thing? Because I will not allow it in my city. I will bring no further harm to me or my people."
"We do not have it but we know it travels south. I will speak no more of this. It is not for you to know the whereabouts of this thing. You should not even know of its existence, but we will discuss that later. We are here to help aid Rohan and warn the king of the coming war. Now will you let us pass?" Gandalf pleaded.
Eowyn turned on her heal and proceeded to walk away. Then she turned back to the small group. "Well, are you coming?" she said and led the way to the kings throne.
When they reached the doors of the Meduseld, Aragorn turned to Eowyn. "Please, my lady, I think it would be safer if you waited here. I know not what is about to take place and would not see you in harms way. Gandalf will deal with the king. He has become very strong and I believe he can reverse Saruman's spell. The rest of us will deal with the others." Aragorn placed a strong but gentle hand on Eowyn's shoulder. She could feel his rough calloused skin.
"Watch out for a man all in black." she said. "Grima is his name. Grima Wormtongue. Gandalf knows of him but he does not know he has turned to the side of evil. I believe he assists Saruman. Do not believe any of his poisonous words." Eowyn could not help herself as she brought her hand up to touch the side of Aragorn's face. She wanted to make sure he took her seriously and believed what she had told him. "Please be careful. You and your friends are a last hope for me and my people."
Aragorn took her hand from his face and held it in his. He felt her concern and promised to stay safe. "No one has fooled this Ranger of the North before and it will not happen now. You have my word, Lady of Rohan."
Eowyn looked stunned. "You are a Ranger? I did not know. My people have told many stories of the Rangers. Some say you are true to no one but yourselves." Suddenly she was not sure she should let him enter. But then a warm hand was placed on her shoulder and she felt a sort of comfort in the feel of it. She turned and found Legolas at her side.
"My lady, Aragorn is honorable in all he does and only wants peace among all free peoples. We have been friends for a very long time. Trust him. Trust us and accept our help." Legolas said.
Eowyn did not say a word but stepped aside as the company of strangers entered the hall. As Legolas passed her she noticed how tall and lithe he was. He smiled at her and she saw his eyes, blue as the sky. He seemed to not have a care in the world as he was about to face danger. He looked so young but there was an air about him and she knew he must be ancient compared to her lifetime, for the Elves were immortal.
They had all disappeared into the hall. Eowyn watched through a crack in the door as Gandalf raised his staff. Suddenly there was a blinding light and she could not see what had happened. Théoden began to look around. She could see his strength returning to his confused face. Then she watched as Legolas turned to the doors where she hid. He seemed to know she was watching through the crack and looked straight at where she stood outside the wooden door. With a slight smile, he gave her a nod and tilted his head, signaling for her to enter. She slowly opened the door and walked in.
Grima was being held down by Gimli. The others had knocked out his henchmen, who were lying on the floor. Gandalf stood by the king who was looking around the Golden Hall as he sat in his throne. Eowyn ran to him. She took his face in her hands and looked into his aged complexion.
"Uncle? Can you speak?" Eowyn said as Théoden locked eyes with her.
"Eowyn! What has happened here? I have no recollection of my recent memory. Where is Eomer? Where is my son?" he said with bewilderment.
It broke her heart to have to tell him of Théodred's death. But now was not the time. "Let your strength return and I will tell you all that has happened. As for now, a great many thanks are owed to this group of travelers for they have brought hope to our city. Mithrandir himself has saved you from the grasp of Saruman. You have been under his control no thanks to Grima Wormtongue. He has sided with evil and must be dealt with."
This was already too much for the king to digest. "Grima? But he is a man of the court. How could he do this?"
Gandalf stepped forward. "It is the work of Saruman. He tries to destroy Rohan and will soon bring war to your city. But let us speak no more of this until you have recovered. When you are strong enough I will give you counsel." Gandalf then turned to Eowyn. "My dearest Eowyn, would you be so kind as to show my companions your most welcomed hospitality? We have journeyed far on not but a little elvish waybread and could use some proper nourishment."
Eowyn bowed her head. "But of course. We have no regal feast so bread, cheese and wine will have to suffice." Gandalf nodded in agreement and Eowyn was off to the kitchen.
Everyone ate to their hearts content. When they had taken their meal and some rest they returned to the hall to find Eowyn sitting by the fire. Legolas watched as she stoked the flames. Her long hair was the color of wheat and seemed to shine in the light of the fire. She wore a dark green gown made of some heavy material. It seemed to weigh her down along with all of her tribulations. He wished to comfort her as Elves often do when they sense someone's suffering. It troubled his heart to see her like this. He approached her and stood next to her by the warmth of the fire.
"You seem unsettled, my lady. If it will help, you may confide in me." he said with a gentle smile. "I've often been told I'm a good listener."
"Oh, well, thank you but my troubles are my own. I would not burden you with them." Eowyn said glancing down to his muscular arms before looking to meet his stare. "Tell me. How is it you acquired our horses?"
"We came across Eomer and the others during our journey. Your brother is very brave and a good man though rather suspicious. I'm afraid he did not take too kindly to Gimli and me at first. Called us spies he did. It was Aragorn who set things right. Up until that time we traveled on foot. Your brother gave us the horses to aid us in our time of haste. He told us of the kings' demise and we eventually made our way to your city." Legolas made a point not to mention the other's of their fellowship or the ring or their travels through the different realms. That was none of her concern as of yet. Aragorn had asked him and Gimli not to say anything to her. He had a message for Eowyn that none of the others knew of and was meant only for the lady's ears. Legolas respected Aragorn's wishes and gave little information.
"Thank you for telling me this bit of news. I have missed my brother and have not received word of him until now." Eowyn felt very comfortable standing next to this Elf. He emanated a certain vibe that relaxed her, made her want to trust him. It was such an unusual feeling for someone she had never met before. Did all Elves have this affect on people or just this one? She was just about to continue with their conversation when Aragorn approached them. He nodded to Legolas in some kind of silent agreement.
"I will leave you with Aragorn now, my lady. It has been a pleasure talking to you." Legolas reached for her hand and brought it to his lips, laying a gentle kiss on the back of it. "Remember, if you find the need to talk, I will not be far." He released her hand and walked away leaving Aragorn alone with her.
Eowyn noticed how her hand tingled where his lips had touched her. Must be Elf magic, she thought to herself. Whatever it was she wanted to know more.
"My lady, I must talk to you. I could say nothing before because of our mission with your king. But I'm afraid I must be the barer of distressing news."
Eowyn felt all the blood rush from her face and she turned cold with fear. "Do not be long with your words. Tell me what you know. I have waited for some time to hear word from anyone." she said putting on a brave face.
"I bring a message from Boromir." he said. Eowyn's heart skipped a beat.
"You knew Boromir?" she said with surprise.
"For a while he was one of our companions, but…" Aragorn found he could not go on.
"So you were in Rivendell with him? Where is Boromir now? Something has happened to him hasn't it? Deep down in my heart I have known something bad has happened." Eowyn said trying not to show tears.
"I'm sorry, my lady but… Boromir fell, taken down by Uruk Hai branded with the white hand of Saruman."
Eowyn went cold and the color flushed from her face. Somehow she had known this but now that it was confirmed it made things no easier for her. She felt faint and began to stumble. Aragorn quickly caught her and sat her down on a bench by the fireside.
Eowyn put her face in her hands and slumped forward. Boromir was dead. It is why he never came to her aid. Her worst fears had come true.
"There is more, my lady." Aragorn said, not finished with his news. Eowyn looked at him with tear filled eyes. She nodded for him to go on.
"I was with Boromir as he lay dying. He fought valiantly against the Orcs, trying to protect two more of our companions. His last words were of you and your kindness and beauty. He said he truly loved you and was sorry for leaving without saying goodbye. He would not be forced to go through with your future plans and never meant to bring you any harm. Then he told me these words which I'm sure only you will understand. He said he knew of your hearts desire and gave his blessing for you to follow that desire now that he could no longer be there for you."
Aragorn reached for Eowyn as she burst into a fit of crying. She buried her face in his chest, wishing not to have heard these words from Boromir. Somehow he had known of her feelings for Faramir. Was this why he left for Rivendell without saying a word? He could not marry her knowing she was in love with another. She felt so ashamed. Boromir was a good man and she never meant to hurt him. She couldn't help that her heart longed for another. And in his last moments of life he had given her his blessing to pursue Faramir. This was too much to take all at once. She had to regain some self control. She needed to be strong, to become the Shieldmaiden. Eowyn sat up, wiped her eyes and took a deep breath. Aragorn watched as her manner changed from one of complete distress to total control of her emotions. He wasn't sure even he had the power to change moods so quickly. She was of strong will and determination unlike any woman he had ever met.
"Thank you Aragorn. You have helped to ease my mind and my heart. You have confirmed my intuitions. It is better to know than to be kept in the dark. Perhaps you can tell me one more thing. Boromir has a brother who he was very close to. Do you have word of him or where he is and if he knows about Boromir?" Eowyn was careful with her question as not to raise any eyebrows to why she was concerned about Faramir.
"Boromir told me little of his brother except for his name and that he took his place in Osgiliath to win back the city from the Orcs. But I do not know if he has received word of Boromir's death. I sent no messenger for I had none to spare."
Aragorn stood up to leave Eowyn alone with her thoughts. Before he left, she grabbed his hand. "Thank you again, Aragorn." Aragorn nodded and left her on the bench by the fire.
Her thoughts were that of days long past. So troubled she seemed then but not as she was now. She had wished to get out of marrying Boromir but not like this, not because of death. Now her thoughts turned to Faramir. Osgiliath was overrun with Orcs. Boromir had said it was a lost cause. He had tried to convince Denethor but he would not hear of it. Now Faramir was sent in his place. She feared for his life and needed to know he was alright, even if he had rejected her and refused to answer her letters. She hadn't heard from him in many months. He had broken her heart but she still cared for him. Eowyn remembered how her heart shattered reading his letter. She wrote many times trying to change things but he never answered any of her letters.
Now, she thought, maybe Faramir was right about Boromir's knowledge of their love for each other. His dying words were about her hearts desire. But why would he give his blessing? She assumed Boromir ran off because he was angry knowing his bride and his brother betrayed him. Something didn't make sense. But it didn't matter now. Faramir was gone from her life forever. Boromir would not get his final blessing. Besides, Eowyn needed to move on with her life even though somewhere deep within her heart she would always love Faramir.
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.