Darkness surrounded her, closed in about her, nearly suffocating her. Tears streamed down her face as all of her being was focused on him, wishing him well, wishing him life.
The wound was bad. She had known it when they brought him in. There was little hope that he would live. But then there was little hope for anyone in Rohan of late.
The king was mad. Her beloved uncle was gone, replaced by a decrepit shadow of the man he had been. It was as if a sickening poison was flowing through his veins. He would not listen to reason from any of his advisors. It seemed that Grima Wormtongue was the only one who held his hear these days. News that his son was gravely wounded had not even penetrated his addled brain; he had thrown her from his presence.
Eowyn looked down into Theodred's pale face; the face of a prince, of a king. He was so young.
Reaching out a hand, Eowyn brushed a tendril of blond hair back from his still features.
"Milady," came a soft voice from the doorway.
Eowyn did not turn or acknowledge the voice.
"Master Wormtonge wishes your presence in the audience chamber, Milady," the servant whispered again into the silence of the sickroom.
Not looking up from the still form of her cousin, Eowyn replied, "I will not leave here tonight. Please tell him that I am indisposed."
"Yes milady," the servant murmured quietly, leaving the room.
Eowyn's thoughts drifted over the last few months. What had happened to Rohan, to Edoras? It seemed as if her life was crumbling to ruin around her. And now here Theodred lay. His life was ebbing away.
"Does he still live?"
Eowyn raised her tear stained face and swung around at the sound of the familiar voice. "What do you want my lord?"
"I am merely here to inquire after your cousin's health, my lady." Grima Wormtongue answered smoothly.
"My cousin does indeed still live, my lord. No thanks to you or my uncle." Eowyn answered bitterly.
"We were advised when he was brought in that his chance for survival was very minimal, my lady. Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done for him. You would do well to let him go. Ease his suffering. He must be in pain, in agony. He must be lying there wishing for death to take him. How easy it would be to simply end his torture."
Eowyn looked at him with wide horrified eyes as the reality of what he was suggesting began to take shape. "Are you suggesting, my lord, that I end his life; that I kill my cousin? Or would you prefer to do it yourself?"
"I am merely suggesting…"
"Leave this room at once, my lord," Eowyn cut in, "You are not welcome in this sickroom. My cousin needs his rest."
"Your cousin needs your mercy," Wormtongue replied oily.
Eowyn rose and began to advance on him, "You are not my advisor, I do not need your council. While my cousin still breathes I will be here to attend him and care for him. You are not welcome."
Wormtongue gave her a sly look and took a step towards her, "Enjoy your freedom while you can, my lady. Soon I will be much more to you than an advisor and you will welcome much more than my council."
"You are mad," Eowyn said, awash in confusion. "How can you think that you and I…"
"You will be my wife Eowyn," Wormtongue stated plainly.
"You do not have a choice, my lady. When your uncle dies he will be left without an heir and the kingdom shall pass to me."
"Theodred is my uncle's heir."
"Not anymore…" Wormtonge said with a deliberate shake of his head.
Eowyn began to back away from him, wide eyed and full of dread.
"Eomer then, he is next in line." Eowyn stammered.
"Eomer has been banished…Your uncle has driven him from this land."
"No…you are not…you cannot…"
"Come sweeting…you and I would do well together," he said as he moved toward her and reached out his pale hand. "Your noble blood and my knowledge and experience, the kingdom will prosper and flourish, the old Rohan will reemerge. Can't you see it, my lady? There is hope for the future…with me."
"No!" Eowyn shouted at him, "What you say will never come to pass. My uncle will recover, Eomer will return."
"Believe what you will for now," Wormtongue said throwing his arms out in a conciliatory gesture.
"Leave me, please," Eowyn said entreatingly.
"My lady, let me comfort you in your time of grief."
"Get out!" She screamed out him, forgetting the dying man laying but a few feet away.
Bowing slightly, Wormtongue backed out of the room, at last leaving in peace.
Tears began to stream down her face as she thought over the counselor's words. He would be king, and he would force her to be his queen. She could never allow this. He would bring Rohan to its knees.
Approaching the bed once again she looked down on Theodred. His breathing was becoming shallower and more labored. Wormtongue was right that her cousin had little time left. She reached for the damp cloth on the nearby table, intending to bath his head and neck to offer him a little ease. As she picked it up her eyes spied the cool glint of steel. Lying nearby was her brother's dagger. He had used it to cut away the bloody cloths that had bound Theadred's wound.
She picked it up. The dagger felt heavy in her hand. Wormtongue's hated words returned to her mind in a rush…he deserves your mercy…
"No!" Eowyn cried out, dropping the dagger from her fingers as if it had scalded her.
Once again Wormtongue's words returned to haunt her...you will be my wife…you and I would do well together…
Slowly she reached toward the dagger again. She touched it hesitantly at first, as if she was afraid that it would burn her. Closing her fingers about it she picked up the heavy object and looked hard at it.
Her thoughts swirled in her head, Wormtongue's words mingling with images of her uncle, of Theodred. Coherency seemed lost. Hope was gone. In that moment there seemed but one way out. Taking the dagger she held the sharp edge to her slim wrist. Taking a steadying breath, she prepared to end it all.
"Eowyn…" the whispered word somehow penetrated her dark thoughts and brought her mind back from the brink. Still clutching the dagger, she turned toward the sound. The dagger dropped forgotten from her hand as she stared into Theodred's pain filled eyes.
"Theodred?" she said questioningly.
"Yes cousin, I'm still here," he replied with what appeared to be great effort. He fought to get his breath and began again, "Eowyn, look after my father…"
"Theodred, don't talk…please, you need to rest."
"I'm dying…" he stated plainly, "I need to know…I need you to promise..." He was struggling more visibly now. Pain passed over his features as he labored hard for a breath.
"Theodred…" Eowyn tried again.
"Take care of my father, Eowyn. Rohan…needs you, the…people…need…you." Theodred closed his eyes again as the effort to speak robbed him of all strength.
"Promise…" came his silent entreaty as no sound passed his lips.
"Yes, Theodred," Eowyn sobbed quietly by his side. "I will stay," she said gripping his cold hand. "I will care for Rohan, for its people and its king." Tears slid down her face as she watched him nod in understanding. He managed another breath, and another…"Hold on Theodred…please…" she begged him…"Your people need you. I need you." A rattling breath shook his body. And then he was still…and silent…
His struggle had ceased, but Eowyn sensed that hers had just begun.