Into The Dark

It was the morning of Midwinter's day when Bergil, Captain of the White Company, awoke Aragorn Elessar and the Evenstar his Queen. He knocked and entered almost entirely without ceremony, explaining that his message was urgent. He brought tidings from the Steward. The White Lady was dead.

When Aragorn heard the news, it hit him like a hard punch to the stomach. He sat heavily on his chair, barely hearing his own voice asking Bergil to leave. His wife sat transfixed on the bed for many moments, only moving when the sound of sobs echoed through their chamber. It was only when she sat on his lap and wrapped her arms around him that he realised it was he who wept.

He held his Evenstar close, burying his head in her shoulder, drawing what strength from her he could. Finally he drew away from her. Looking deep into her ever-youthful eyes he said, "I must go to Faramir. Will you be all right?" His wife shook her head, but said, "It matters not. Go to him."

He dressed himself swiftly, pulling on clothes that were warmer than usual. He needed to feel the warmth. He looked in the mirror as he did up his collar and noticed that his hair was now an almost equal mix of black and white strands. He had ruled the throne of Gondor for eighty years, but only now was he starting to age.

He remembered a conversation he had with Éowyn only a few weeks before. She had arrived in Minas Tirith to spend the winter, but had been too exhausted by the journey to see anyone for three days. When she could finally see him he had swept her into a hug as he always had. Yet when he set her down - for she was a tiny woman, much smaller than Arwen - he could not help but exclaim, "Éowyn, what happened? Have you been ill?"

Éowyn had looked at him with patience and said softly, "No Aragorn. I am just old." Her words had pained him, for they seemed to accept death. And he had looked at her and seen that she was right - her skin was wrinkled, her eyes pale and her hair a mass of thin silver strands - yet to him she would always be the Shieldmaiden he had met in Rohan.

Yet he had found the strength to doubt her and said heartily, "You're not old Éowyn, what are you, seventy years old?" She had met his eyes steadily and said, "A hundred and four. The Rohirrim do not live as long as those of Númenor. I am an ancient by the standards of my people." She placed her hand with skin like cool paper on his, "I am dying Aragorn."

He had stood, furious with her, "How can you accept it? Do you want to leave us?" For a moment she was silent, but then she said, "I cannot fight it anymore. I can feel it in my body my King. I am so tired I can barely breathe. Only death will rest me." He looked at her softly and said, "I do not wish to lose you yet Princess." She said fiercely, "You could never lose me. You are my oldest and dearest friend Aragorn - you cannot lose me ever."

She paused and looked at him piercingly, as only she could. "I must ask you to promise me something. When I am dead, and Faramir is alone, take care of him for me. Please. I know that if you promise you will keep your word. Only twice in my life have you sworn to me, and both times you fulfilled the vow."

He could not but ask, "When?" She smiled, "On the way to Helm's Deep, when the Wargs attacked. You looked at me, and I knew you were promising to return. And you did." she paused and said, "And when you drew me from death all those years ago. You swore to me that I would not die, and I did not".

They had embraced, and he had held her tightly, fiercely afraid that she would slip away from him in an instant. He held her for many minutes, and said softly into her hair, "I love you." She had whispered back the same words.

Aragorn had savoured the last few weeks with Éowyn, realising now that their time was limited. He could not pretend to be surprised by this morning's message, but it ripped him apart all the same. She was but the most recent in a line of losses that started with Frodo. Éomer had died barely two years earlier, and Lothliriel had swiftly followed him. Imrahil had been dead many years, and Elrond and Gandalf had departed with the Ringbearer.

He arrived at Faramir and Éowyn's chambers, and was let in by Bergil. The news of Éowyn's death had not yet spread, but it could not be kept quiet for long - Aragorn would give his Steward as much peace as possible.

When he entered, Faramir was sitting on his bed, a hand on his wife's cheek. As Aragorn approached, he said softly, "She died in her sleep. It was what she wanted. She did not want to pass in sickness." Aragorn put his hand on his friend's shoulder, but said nothing. After many minutes Faramir said, "I thought you would want to see her, though I knew the Queen would not."

Aragorn nodded as his Steward sat in a chair. He sat beside the Princess of Ithilien, and looked into her face. The beauty of shape and outline remained although Éowyn was greatly aged, and Aragorn saw again the Shieldmaiden dressed in white on the steps of Meduseld. He bent and kissed her chastely on the lips, and said softly, "Goodbye"

The White Lady, Princess of Ithilien and Stewardess of Gondor was dead. His friend of a lifetime - his sister. His loss was beyond words.