Till Death Do Us Part
By San Antonio Rose
The doors of the hall open, and the procession begins. To me it seems like an eternity as the groomsmen and bridesmaids file toward me and take their positions. And then I see her as Éomer escorts her into the hall; she wears a white gown trimmed with the green of her country and wears a wreath of simbelmynë in her golden hair. And my very breath is stolen away.
Last night my men held a celebration for me, and some of them had hoped that I would join them in becoming very drunk. But dear, faithful Beregond reminded them that I must not be drunk on ale so that I might become drunk on my lady's beauty this morning.
His description was accurate. I feel quite lightheaded.
She is radiant, and all of Meduseld seems to shine as she does. And this only gladdens my heart the more. At times I used to come with Boromir when he had business in Rohan, and I remember this hall as it was then, with the webs of witchcraft Wormtongue had woven, thus to enthrall Théoden King. (Ha—I should give those lines to a bard.) Then it was dark and dreary, and I was glad to leave it.
It was dark, too, when I returned for Théoden's funeral last fall, but it was no longer dreary. True, the people mourned, for Théoden was a good king, and the Rohirrim had cause to love him well. Yet there was Éomer, so at ease in his new role that I did not doubt that Théoden had given him the mantle of kingship himself… just as I had wrapped Éowyn in my mother's mantle on that morning in the garden and our hands met as we waited for the stroke of doom.
And when doom fell, the sun shone and our hearts were eased, and I kissed her brow for the first time and knew it would not be the last.
"Hail the victorious dead," Éomer said after we laid Théoden to rest in a mound near his fathers. And I knew then that it was not just a formula; it was a statement of fact. Théoden was victorious in death, for he overcame many mighty foes on that battlefield—not least Saruman. And though he died, he ensured that Frodo and his mission would succeed.
And Éowyn looked at me, and I knew she felt the same, though her sorrow was deep. She loved her uncle as though he were her father, and she had nearly given all to save him. But in that, too, there was victory—and that sorrow had brought us together in the Houses of Healing, and it was eased as Éomer placed her hand in mine and declared us trothplighted.
Now, as he places her hand in mine again, it seems that she and I are the only people in this ancient hall. I can scarcely feel where her sword-calluses used to be; she has been true to her word. And ah, how warm her hand is! Before, some people—the King included—likened her to a frozen lily. And I could see that in her. Mother had withered and died, but though Éowyn was hard and cold, I knew she could be thawed and take up her life again. There is no frost in her now, save that which melts but slowly; and that is more like the Morgul shard that nearly claimed Frodo's life than a mere winter of the soul.
Just ten days ago, in fact, while we were making the last of our plans, she suddenly cried out in pain and let fall the needlework that was in her hand. Her right arm had become cold and lifeless. I was unwell myself and did not know why, but her ailment told me that we were both suffering from our exposure to the Nazgûl. Thank Estë, Aragorn was on hand and had brought athelas with him.
But the scent as he bruised it was not crisp and cold like wind from a snow-covered mountain. It was the smell of a grassy field in Spring. And Aragorn smiled as he bathed her arm.
Éowyn leaned against me and sighed. "It has been a full year since I faced him," she said. "I thought I had overcome the horror."
"Not all horrors can be overcome so easily, my love," I replied. "It took great courage even to stand before the Witch-king, and greater still to strike him."
"And not all wounds heal readily," Aragorn added. "Frodo bears some wounds that will never heal, save perhaps in Aman."
"Does Merry suffer as I do?" she asked as her tears began to fall.
I caught one. I knew her when she could not cry, and I treasure every tear she sheds, whether in joy or in sorrow.
Aragorn nodded. "I expect that he does. All of you faced great evil, and I doubt that even Glorfindel could have escaped wholly unscathed. But he will heal, for hobbits are made of stern stuff, and he is not called Merry for naught. And you will heal, too. Faramir will help you."
He patted her arm dry and pulled her sleeve down, then gently turned her toward me. And I held her as we wept together.
I wish Glorfindel could be here now, though I have met him only once. Somehow knowing that only Legolas and Queen Arwen are here to represent the Elves diminishes the joy somewhat. Come to that, I wish Mother and Father and Boromir were here, too, and the hobbits and Mithrandir as well. But Éowyn squeezes my hand, and once again I forget all else but her, as I did that morning one year ago when I told her that I believed the darkness could not endure. I find it easy to lose myself in her shining face.
Aragorn reads us the vows, but I can scarcely hear him, and I know it is the same for Éowyn, as her sparkling blue eyes are staring into mine as intently as mine are staring into hers. We respond automatically when we can tell Aragorn has asked us the questions, and although I know Éomer is the one tying the cords around our wrists, I cannot see him; I can only feel the cords' strength as they join us. We are not merely handfasted, Éowyn and I, for our hearts are bound together by cords that neither death nor darkness can sever.
At last I hear Aragorn say the words I have longed to hear for twelve long months:
"I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss your bride."
I pull my beloved toward me, and as we kiss, we are back in the garden of the Houses of Healing, and all Arda rejoices that the darkness is gone at last. And I think my heart will burst for joy.
The White Lady of Rohan, a steel lily no more, is mine… till death do us part.