The Rohan Pride Trilogy
Part Three: Terms
The doom of Middle-earth is to be decided, and Gúthwyn's own fate is tangled up with it. Reunited with her people, her thoughts now turn to the children, and she would know what has befallen them—even if her life is the cost of such knowledge.
About the Trilogy:
I have decided to do what Tolkien did with his books. The Fellowship of the Ring had two books within the text, as did The Two Towers and The Return of the King. The only change I have made is the first part in my trilogy: Alone. That was divided into three books, the first book explaining how Gúthwyn got to where The Fellowship of the Ring started. Terms will be divided into two books.
About Chapter Twenty:
As always, I'm using a crazy blend of movie and book canon, and it may at times get confusing. IMPORTANT: I am not having Aragorn marry Arwen at his coronation, like he did in the movie. I will be going by book canon in this regard. Please bear with me. Let me know if anything is uncanonical, implausible, etc.
Light. It was there, piercing through the darkness… She was puzzled. All had been black, and Haldor had been there, and the maggots, and Borogor had died. She shivered in despair, but the light did not go away. It remained, prodding gently at her eyelids. What was happening? Had her spirit fled its body, and traveled to the halls above? Stirring, she tried to see around her, yet she could not open her eyes.
"Gúthwyn?" A voice, hesitant, though sounding strangely hopeful, echoed in her ears. She attempted to answer, but all that came out was a muffled groan. Confusion wreaked havoc upon her. Was her hailer a messenger of the Valar, sent to welcome her into the heavens? Had she left Middle-earth, her people, Hammel and Haiweth?
At the thought of the children, she moaned. A golden haze appeared above her, thick and blurry. She reached out for it, but could not even move her arms. Was this death? To be trapped in a paralysis for all eternity?
"Gúthwyn, please, wake up."
Something was growing into focus in front of her eyes. The yellow shimmer was hair, she thought, and trembled. An Elf? Haldor?
"No…" she choked out weakly. The action made her cough; it hurt so much that she nearly cried out. And then she became aware of aches and pains spreading over her entire body, sharp and acute like needles sticking out of her.
"Gúthwyn, it is I, Éowyn."
Now the light was more persistent. Her eyes watered at its touch, and she forced them to open more. Éowyn was there. Had they both died? Had they both fallen at the battle? No, not the battle. She had gone to Mordor, and the Nazgûl…
"No," she said again, lifting her hand as a shield against the painful light. It only rose about three inches before she lost her strength and had to lower it.
Two hands were placed on her shoulders. Éowyn was close to her, and she could make out some of the features on her sister's face. She smiled faintly. "Éowyn…"
"Thank the Valar!" her sister whispered. Gúthwyn's vision cleared to see the broad grin above her, the sparkling eyes and the beaming expression.
"Where am I?" she asked, trying to sit up. A sharp pain in her ribs stopped her, and she could not move without gasping.
"You are in the Houses of Healing," Éowyn replied; "in Gondor."
"I must be dreaming…" Gúthwyn murmured, staring all around her in awe. The room she was in was bigger than her own at Meduseld, carven entirely out of stone. Yet it was an open, wholesome space, with a large window that looked out upon a garden. Aside from her bed, which had been made with fresh linen sheets, the only other furniture in the room was a wooden chair, two tables, and a tall lamp. Tapestries had been hung on the walls, and assorted plants were on many of the surfaces.
"No, sister, you are not dreaming," Éowyn said, delighting in Gúthwyn's wonder. "You are awake!"
She must have been alive, for how else could she have felt the pain in her ribs? "What happened?" Gúthwyn asked, pressing her hands over them and trying to take deep breaths as Borogor had instructed her long ago. She twitched her feet, and felt that one of them had been wrapped in bandages. "Where is everyone? What is the date? How did I get here?"
Éowyn stood up and went to the nightstand. She took a pitcher of water from the table. Filling a cup with the cool liquid, she held it out to Gúthwyn. "Drink this first," she said. "You have had little to drink, and next to nothing to eat."
Gúthwyn obliged, swallowing a little of the water and trying to settle herself more comfortably. She winced with each movement.
"Today is the twenty-fifth of May," Éowyn began, sitting down in the chair. "You have been asleep for two months."
"Two months?" Gúthwyn gasped in shock. Now, more than ever, she was lost. Had Sauron not imprisoned her in one of his dungeons? Had Middle-earth not been on the brink of destruction?
"Aye," Éowyn replied, tugging at the cloak that she wore around her shoulders. Gúthwyn noticed that it was a fine blue, made of dyes that were rare and extremely valuable. There were silver stars embroidered upon it.
"Where did you get that?" she asked, but Éowyn hushed her.
"I will tell you in due time," was her mysterious response. "Now, sister, need I inform you that I have never been so frantic in my entire life than when I learned that you had gone to Mordor."
Gúthwyn bowed her head. "I am sorry," she muttered. "I did not wish to bring you any grief."
Éowyn waved her apologies away. "I know why you did that, and to me it was a worthy cause."
"The children," Gúthwyn said then, trying once more to sit up. "Where are they? Are they all right? Did they make it back to Gondor?"
"They are fine," Éowyn assured her. "Hammel and Haiweth are safe and in the city."
All the breath left her then, and Gúthwyn could hardly speak for relief. She sank back down onto the pillows, tears of joy pricking at her eyes. "When can I see them?" she at last managed.
"Soon," Éowyn promised sincerely. "There are some things I need to tell you beforehand, however."
Something in her tone hinted at an underlying sadness, and Gúthwyn frowned. "Where are Théoden and Éomer?" she asked.
"Éomer is currently holding council with King Elessar, exchanging vows of allegiance with him."
"What?" Gúthwyn blinked several times, unsure of whether she had heard her sister correctly. "King Elessar? And would it not be our uncle's duty to sign treaties?"
"King Elessar is the Lord Aragorn," Éowyn explained, and Gúthwyn's eyes widened in astonishment.
"How did he—" she began, but Éowyn hushed her.
"Please, Gúthwyn, let me tell you what happened at the battle first. We were separated, so you did not see some things."
Nodding in assent, though itching with curiosity, Gúthwyn leaned back onto her pillows.
"Do you recall when the Nazgûl came onto the field?" Éowyn asked her, her eyes darkening and her face seeming paler than it normally was.
"Yes," Gúthwyn replied. "I steered Heorot away from the Black Rider, so I did not even see the damage it did."
Éowyn heaved a long sigh, her face mournful. "Then you did not see when the Nazgûl—the Witch-king—took Snowmane and threw him to the ground, pinning Uncle beneath him."
Gúthwyn's eyes widened in horror. "Is he all right?" she demanded anxiously.
Now a strange expression was about Éowyn, and Gúthwyn noticed that one of her sister's arms was whiter than the other, lying limply on her lap. "I stood between the Nazgûl and Théoden," Éowyn said, "and defended the king. I slew the carrion beast, and then the Witch-king broke my shield-arm. He grabbed me by the throat, and a great despair came over me. But for Meriadoc the Halfling, I would have perished. He came up behind the Black Rider and stabbed him in the knee, causing him to crumble to the ground."
As she listened to the tale, Gúthwyn's eyes grew rounder, until she thought they would pop out of her head in wonder. But Éowyn had not finished. "I drove my sword through where his face should have been, and he perished. I nearly fainted, though I managed to go over to Théoden. Gúthwyn… our uncle is dead."
There was a long, heavy silence. "Oh," Gúthwyn at last said numbly. Now more than ever she rued listening to Haldor. Because of him, she had not cherished Théoden the way she should have; and now he was gone, never to know the extent of how much she loved him. Grief fell upon her then, and she bowed her head.
A quiet moment passed. Then Éowyn began her story again. "Éomer is now the king of Rohan," she said, and Gúthwyn looked up. "Théoden lies in the Tower of Ecthelion, and when you are fit to walk you may see him."
"Soon?" Gúthwyn asked immediately.
Éowyn hesitated. "Perhaps," she answered, and continued. "After the battle, many were brought into the Houses of Healing. Merry and I were but two of them. For a long time, it seemed, I lay in a strange land of dark dreams. Yet then someone called me, and I awoke to see Aragorn. He had healed me, and brought me back from the shadows."
Gúthwyn looked at her sister, wondering if her unrequited love for the Ranger remained undiminished. Éowyn guessed her silent question, and shook her head. "No longer does my heart belong to him," she said. "Though I will be forever grateful to him for saving my life, and bringing hope to our people. And I was not the only one he tended to: Many owe the healing of their injuries to Lord Aragorn, for he came into the Houses of Healing at night and labored for many hours."
She had known that Aragorn was a skilled healer, as he had grown up in Rivendell and doubtless learned Elvish remedies from those around him. Now, she reminded herself to thank him later for the work he had done on her sister, when before she would have berated him for enduring her affections without a word against them.
"Éomer stayed by my side," Éowyn said then, "and on a time I asked him where you were. He was unaware that you had even been at the battlefield, and left to find you."
A twinge of guilt came over Gúthwyn as she thought of all the distress that she must have caused her brother.
"As he later told me, Gandalf found him and gave him your things. They had been left in Shadowfax's empty stall." As she spoke, Éowyn motioned to the nightstand, and Gúthwyn saw that her pack and sword were on it. Here her sister paused, and asked, "How did he permit you to ride him?"
"I think he took pity on me," Gúthwyn said slowly, not altogether sure herself. "I do not fully know. Yet he bore me to Mordor, and when I gave the password to open the Gates he entered the Black Land."
"Hammel told me that he saw you not too far from the Morannon," Éowyn said, inviting her to elaborate.
"Aye," Gúthwyn answered, frowning as she tried to remember what had happened afterwards. "I put him and Haiweth on Shadowfax, and gave them instruction to find you, Éomer, or Théoden when they reached the White City. After they had left, one of the Nazgûl came." She shivered, recalling the horror that had fallen over her. "He took me by the throat…" From there, it was a rush of confused memories, dark and terrifying, bringing with them a smell of decay and filth, and the brief sensation of chains around her wrists…
"Gúthwyn?" Éowyn asked quietly, and she shook herself out of her thoughts to glance at her sister.
"Sorry," she replied, blinking. "I do not know what happened next, and I am at a loss as to how I got here."
Éowyn looked at her sympathetically. "I am afraid I cannot tell you much," she replied. "While Éomer was searching, the children arrived at the Gates. Hammel told him of what you had done."
Once again, Gúthwyn apologized. "I am sorry," she said fervently. "If I could have departed with lesser grief, I would have done so."
"It was a grim day, sister." Éowyn's voice was subdued, as if she could still feel the anguish of that time. "When Éomer brought the news back to me, I did not want to accept it. But I saw the children for myself, and knew that it was true."
"Were they well-behaved?" Gúthwyn could not help but ask.
"I do not believe I have ever seen more disciplined, quiet children in my life," Éowyn said, a touch of sadness on her face. "Indeed, the youngest did not speak, and Hammel did all the talking for her."
"Is Haiweth all right now?" Gúthwyn wanted to know, concerned for the girl.
Éowyn was silent for a moment. At last she said, "I think that, once she sees you awake, she will be fine. She is frightened of this place, with its large stone walls, and when you were brought back here as if dead she cried for several days."
"May I see her?" Worry came over Gúthwyn as she thought of Haiweth's fear. She wanted to hold the child in her arms and assure her that everything was fine, that they were all safe, that she was not going anywhere.
"The two of them are with Tun now," Éowyn said. "I promise, when I have finished explaining I will retrieve them for you."
Only somewhat content at her sister's words, Gúthwyn nodded. "So Tun is not injured?" she asked, relieved that her champion had not perished.
"His leg was wounded badly," Éowyn told her, "and he did not go to the Black Gate because of it. Yet now he has recovered, and is far more concerned about you than himself, I deem."
She blushed. "It seems I have caused many people unwarranted anxiety," she muttered, slightly abashed.
"Anxiety, to say the least." Éowyn smiled grimly. "Between me, Éomer, Tun, and the children, you have not spent a moment alone. The Hobbits, Gimli, Aragorn, and Legolas have also all inquired after your well being."
"Legolas?" Gúthwyn echoed in puzzlement, wondering why on earth the Elf had visited her, and trembling a little as she imagined him watching her while she was sleeping.
"Yes," her sister confirmed. "He was the one who found you. But once more, we are getting ahead of ourselves."
"Then please," Gúthwyn said, "hasten the tale, for I fear I shall faint of curiosity."
"Then do not interrupt me so often," Éowyn smiled. "Less than a day after the battle, the captains held a council, and decided to march on the Black Land so that they might keep his attention away from the Ringbearer."
Gúthwyn barely had time to wonder how her sister knew of Frodo before she continued. "The next morning, they left Gondor. Unfortunately, I was bound to my bed, and could not go. A week later, they had arrived at the Morannon, and there fought against Sauron's forces. They were overwhelmed, and would have fallen, had Frodo not completed his task and destroyed the One Ring."
A wave of shock crashed over her. Gúthwyn could scarcely believe that what she was hearing was true. "What of Sauron? Is he gone, then?"
"Yes!" Éowyn exclaimed, a broad grin spreading across her face. "It was the twenty-fifth of March, two months ago, and hereafter it shall be known as the New Year in the Gondorian calendar."
Gúthwyn sat in astonishment, marveling at all that had come to pass while she had been asleep. And then feelings of shame came over her as she remembered trying to steal the Ring from Frodo. She would have to apologize to him as soon as possible, even if he did not know what her purpose had been when she had accompanied the Fellowship. But for now, she was glad that he had finished his mission, and rid the lands of evil. She could hardly begin to imagine what things would be like without Sauron's shadow hanging upon them all like a thundercloud.
"When the battle was over," Éowyn said then, "Legolas saw your body beneath an Orc's. He said that he thought one of the Nazgûl had been carrying you, for he had seen something fall from the sky when a Black Rider was attacked by an eagle."
"Carrying me?" Gúthwyn asked, narrowing her eyes in confusion and trying to think of why that would be. The last thing she recalled of her stay in the Black Land was a cold gauntlet stroking her cheek; then, she must have fainted.
"I do not know why," Éowyn admitted. "But you are lucky that it was so, for Legolas found you as a result."
Her cheeks turned a faint red. Gúthwyn did not like the idea of Legolas seeing her so weak—he had a distinct talent for doing so, matched only by Haldor and Borogor.
"W-What did I look like?" she asked cautiously, not sure if she wanted to hear the answer.
"Well," Éowyn began, sighing, "your ribs were broken."
Gúthwyn glanced down, noting the bandages that had been wrapped around her. They were so thick that they were visible even beneath her nightgown. A groan escaped her. "Are they almost healed?" she asked, already tired of her bed. "I shall go mad if I have to stay here long."
"I think that in a week or two you will be able to move about," Éowyn guessed. "Though only if the Warden of these Houses allows it."
A noise of impatience escaped Gúthwyn. "What of my ankle?" she inquired, rotating it around a little and feeling a shoot of pain race up her leg.
"Broken as well," Éowyn replied. "I am surprised that your injuries were not worse. But…" She looked awkward. "I heard of the wounds on your back."
Gúthwyn stiffened slightly. "D-Did Éomer…?"
Éowyn withdrew from the folds of her robe a small piece of paper. "Legolas drew this," she said, her throat sounding constricted. "It was what your wounds looked like."
Confused, Gúthwyn took it, and the next second had cried out in horror. For the very same symbol that Haldor had shot an arrow into so long ago, and the image of the toy he had carven Hammel, was sketched on the paper. She trembled violently. Tears came to her eyes as she realized that she had been carrying Haldor's warning along with her all this time, never noticing it. Yet he had known that she would have seen it one day… "Th-This was on my back?" she choked out, flinging it away from her and pressing a shaking hand over her mouth.
Nodding solemnly, Éowyn said, "Gúthwyn… Éomer told me all that… all that Haldor did to you."
For a moment, Gúthwyn did not dare to breathe. In trepidation she glanced at Éowyn, wondering if her sister was ashamed of her.
Yet Éowyn's eyes were not mocking, and she slipped off of the chair to kneel beside Gúthwyn. Taking her hand, she whispered, "I wanted to tell you that if there is anything, anything you want to talk about, I will listen. I may not be with you for long, but if there are some things you feel you cannot speak about with Éomer, I will always be there for you. Do you understand?"
"I…" Gúthwyn could hardly speak. Something had seemed off about her sister's speech, but she brushed away the nagging concerns. Words could not describe how grateful she was that her sister had not turned her away in disgust. She smiled, trying to blink away the tears in her eyes, and said, "Thank you so much."
Éowyn squeezed her hand comfortingly. "You are most welcome," she replied. Standing up, she asked, "Would you like to see the children now?"
"Yes!" Gúthwyn exclaimed, hastily wiping away all traces of her sadness. She picked up Legolas' drawing and stuffed it into a drawer, determined to forget about both him and Haldor for the time being.
Éowyn left the room, and a few endless moments later Gúthwyn saw Haiweth's face peering around the door.
"Haiweth," Gúthwyn murmured, and that was all the little girl needed. With a cry of delight, Haiweth raced over to the bed and leapt on top of it, smothering Gúthwyn beneath her wriggling form.
Wincing as her ribs were jolted, Gúthwyn nevertheless smiled in pure happiness as she hugged the girl tightly to her. Hammel came into the room then, his appearance far more subdued than that of his sister's.
"Hammel," she said, beaming. Haiweth settled down onto her lap, giggling with unrestrained joy.
Hammel approached her, a smile on his face. He did not say anything, but climbed carefully onto the bed and sat next to her, far more aware of her injuries than Haiweth was. "How are you?" he inquired.
"Absolutely wonderful," Gúthwyn declared, wrapping an arm around him and holding him tightly. His expression did not change, though she knew that he was pleased.
Determined not to be left out, Haiweth exclaimed, "Me too!"
Gúthwyn took the girl into her other arm, feeling a deep sense of contentment come over her as Haiweth rested her head on her shoulder. "You need a haircut," she murmured into a mass of locks.
"Dîrbenn tried to give her one while you were gone," Hammel said quietly. "She would not let him."
Absent-mindedly stroking Haiweth's hair, Gúthwyn looked at the boy. "You miss him, do you not?" she asked gently.
"He was kind to us," Hammel replied, and did not elaborate. Gúthwyn sighed softly, wondering where the man was now. Like as not, he had perished in the battle before the Black Gate.
"You were nicer," Haiweth said, her voice carrying the firmness of a six-year-old who knows, without a doubt, that they are right. "He did not know how to make the monsters go away."
Sometime during their second year at Mordor, Haiweth had begun having nightmares of monsters chasing her. They did not occur often, usually only once or twice a month, but it was near impossible to convince her to go to sleep afterwards.
Gúthwyn kissed the top of Haiweth's head. "I am sure he tried," she responded. "And now you are safe, with no one to hurt you."
"We have been walking around the city," Hammel commented. "It is large."
"Everything looks the same!" Haiweth complained, pouting.
"Who has been watching you?" Gúthwyn inquired.
Hammel glanced at her. "Your friend, Tun," he replied. She thought she saw something flicker in his eyes.
Haiweth raised her head. "Tun," she repeated.
Smiling, Gúthwyn said, "He is a wonderful man."
"No, Tun!" Haiweth at last cried, pointing with her finger to the door.
Startled, Gúthwyn looked up and saw her champion standing at the entrance to her room, watching the scene with a broad grin across his face. When their eyes met, he bowed, and made his way towards her.
"My lady," he said, and leaning over Hammel he put his hand on her shoulder and kissed her on the brow. Gúthwyn was slightly surprised at this, but when he straightened and looked at her she saw utmost relief and joy on his face. "I am so glad that you are awake."
"And it pleases me to know that you are alive," she responded earnestly, smiling at him. "How is your leg?"
"It is fine," he said immediately, and sat down in the chair beside the bed. "How are you?" he wanted to know.
"Better," Gúthwyn told him, holding Haiweth tighter and allowing the child to play with her hair.
"It seems that you are determined to make me sick with worry," Tun teased her, though his eyes still contained shadows of his former anxiousness.
Blushing, she apologized. "It was never my intent to make you distressed," she said. "I wish I had not."
"Though now you are back," Tun replied, "and my heart sings to see that you are well."
She smiled at this, and felt her cheeks redden a little more. "Thank you so much for watching Hammel and Haiweth," she said, hugging the two children firmly.
"It was my pleasure," Tun assured her. "When you are well, I will show you around the city like I did them. There are many things to see."
"I look forward to it," Gúthwyn said, sighing a little. "Though I do not know when that will be, thanks to my ribs."
"I will carry you, if needs be," Tun vowed, and she giggled. "For you must see this place. It is amazing."
At that moment, Éowyn's voice sounded from the doorway. "Mind my sister, Tun, for she still is healing, despite what she might say."
Gúthwyn glanced at her sister, and grinned sheepishly. Tun looked similarly abashed as he stood up and made room for Éowyn. "I can assure you that Gúthwyn will come to no harm by me," he said, and bowed to Éomund's youngest daughter. "I will leave you alone now, though I pray you will accept my company later."
"As a matter of fact," Éowyn interjected, stepping further into the room, "will you take Hammel and Haiweth with you? There is something I wish to discuss in private with Gúthwyn."
Gúthwyn knitted her eyebrows in confusion, though Tun nodded and said, "Of course."
Hammel slid off of the bed, patting Gúthwyn's hand one last time before turning to her champion. Haiweth took a little longer, for she was reluctant to leave, but with a small amount of coaxing she was persuaded to join her brother.
"Tun," Gúthwyn said as the three of them were about to leave. Tun looked back at her and paused. "Have you seen Lebryn at all?"
"Yes," Tun replied, and she breathed a sigh of relief. "He came through both battles with hardly a scratch. Cobryn is with him, as well."
"Cobryn?" Gúthwyn echoed in surprise. "I thought he stayed behind."
"He journeyed to Gondor when he learned of the victory," Tun explained, and a mischievous smile crept up his face. "He wishes me to tell you that he will whack you over the head with his new cane the next time he sees you, for all the worry you have caused him."
Gúthwyn laughed. "Tell him that I would very much like to be on the receiving end of his blows, if it means I get to see him soon."
"I will," Tun said, and he and the children left the room.
"What is it that you wish to tell me?" Gúthwyn inquired as Éowyn sat down in the chair. "You have me curious, sister."
Éowyn smiled, once again fiddling with the hem of her cloak. Taking a deep breath, she said, "I have met a man, and I intend to marry him."
She could not have chosen another way to hit Gúthwyn harder. Nearly all the breath left her body, and she gaped at Éowyn in utter shock. The last time she had seen her sister, she had been trying to recover from Aragorn's rejection—now she was betrothed?
"W-Who?" she at last choked out, stumbling over the words.
Éowyn blushed with a giddiness that Gúthwyn had never seen about her. "I will not tell you," she replied, "not until you meet him. For he is a well-known man in the city, and I would have you form your own opinion."
"You are getting married and you will not even give your own sister the satisfaction of knowing his name?" Gúthwyn asked incredulously, hardly able to believe her ears. She felt completely lost and out of the loop. "Does Éomer know who he is?"
"Yes," Éowyn said, grinning. "And he has given his consent, though I desire for you to meet him first. He has some duties that he needs to attend to, so he will not return to the White City for two weeks—until then, you must be patient."
"Éowyn!" Gúthwyn groaned, slightly irritated at her sister. "Will you not just tell me? I am sure he is wonderful, if you are marrying him!" It bothered her to learn that Éowyn was to be wed—and likely leave her—without knowing who her husband would be. She felt as if precious things were slipping by her, and she could not even try to rescue them.
"I promise, Gúthwyn, you will meet him soon," Éowyn told her. "Please, do not ask anyone. I want you to see him without others' thoughts clouding your judgment."
"Why?" Gúthwyn inquired. "Does he have a bad reputation?"
Éowyn laughed, and the sound of it rather annoyed Gúthwyn. "Of course not!" she exclaimed. "I merely want you to make your own decision about whether or not you think he is suitable."
"My opinion does not matter!" Gúthwyn protested, growing more frustrated by the minute. "Will you please just tell me?"
Her sister merely smiled, and stood up. "Get some rest," she said. "I will see you tomorrow." Wrapping the cloak—which Gúthwyn now guessed to be her future husband's—around her, she departed from the room, leaving Gúthwyn alone.
Slumping back onto the pillows, Gúthwyn ground her teeth together in aggravation. How could Éowyn have taunted her like that, giving her such drastic news and yet refusing to tell her the most important part? She growled in anger, debating whether to take one of the pillows and throw it across the room.
"Is something wrong, sister?"
Glancing up, Gúthwyn saw to her chagrin that Éomer was standing in the doorway, watching her with a smile on his face. To make things even more embarrassing, both Aragorn and Legolas were behind him. Her face turned bright red as she remembered that Aragorn was now King Elessar. What a fine impression, she thought, to make in front of him!
"By the Valar, Éomer," she said as her brother entered the room. "Pray do not sneak up on me like that!"
He sat down in the chair. "Is something wrong?" he asked again. "You looked positively furious just a minute ago."
"Éowyn will not tell me who she is going to marry!" Gúthwyn exclaimed, gripping her blanket tightly. "She says she does not want me to form a biased opinion of him! Éomer, tell me who he is, or I shall go mad!"
Éomer shifted awkwardly in the chair. "If she does not wish you to know, then I will not," he replied. "You will meet him soon."
Gúthwyn's eyes flashed, and she sent a fierce glare at her brother. "Thank you, Éomer," she said icily.
"My lady, you have much to be thankful for," Aragorn said then, stepping further into the room. "In two weeks, he will return, and you will see him."
Sighing, Gúthwyn said, "I am sorry. You are right." Now she felt ashamed of her immaturity—after all, half a month was not terribly long. Granted, she might very well die of impatience before then, but in the grand scheme of things… "I am sorry, my lord," she apologized again, flushing as Legolas' sympathetic eyes met hers.
"Have the children visited you yet?" Éomer questioned then. "Haiweth would not stop asking if you were awake."
Gúthwyn forgot about Éowyn's nameless love, and a wide smile spread across her face. "Yes," she answered, beaming. "I am so glad that they are safe. Have you been with them much?"
"I have had many duties in the past couple of months," Éomer replied, "so not as often as I would like."
"Ah," Gúthwyn said. "How is life as a king treating you, brother?"
Éomer smiled. "There is much to do," he said, and then he grew serious. "Éowyn told you of Théoden, then?"
"Yes," she replied, looking down at her hands for a moment. "I-I want to see him soon."
"You will have to wait for at least a week," Aragorn said quietly, coming to stand beside her bed. Legolas followed, and she hid her trembling hands beneath the blanket. She noticed that both of them, in addition to her brother, wore far nicer clothing than she had ever seen them in. "Your injuries were severe, and though you have been in bed for two months, you are still in the process of being healed."
Inclining her head, Gúthwyn said, "Thank you, my lord. My sister has informed me that it was you who tended to me."
"Legolas helped, as well," Éomer informed her, and she blinked in surprise.
"Well, th-thank you," she at last said nervously.
"It was the least I could do," Legolas said kindly, and Gúthwyn felt herself flush. He had seen her wounds, seen all of her weaknesses…
"M-My lord," she spoke, addressing Aragorn in order to leave behind the awkward moment. "Did I miss your coronation?"
He nodded. "You did," he said, and her shoulders slumped. "Do not think much of it, for there were others in the Houses of Healing who could not attend."
"What about you, Éomer?" Gúthwyn inquired, turning to her brother. "Have you been crowned, or has the ceremony not yet taken place?"
"I would not dream of doing it without you there," Éomer said. She felt warmth spread from her heart throughout her body. "When we return to Rohan and bury our uncle, then the feast will occur."
"Will Éowyn be with us?" she quickly asked.
"Of course," Éomer assured her. "Do not worry—she is not leaving us yet."
Gúthwyn smiled, though at his words a cold chill doused the warmth that she had felt not seconds ago.
The sun shone over Minas Tirith, illuminating with a red fire the white stone buildings. Many of the people were outside, delighting in the wonderful day. Children played on the Pelennor Fields, which had been cleaned of all the carnage from the battle, and the markets were bustling with activity. The grounds of the seventh level of the city were empty, with the exception of one person.
Gúthwyn leaned against the stone battlements, gazing not across the White City but towards Mordor, towards where she thought the forest of Ithilien lay. Though the late afternoon sun was bright, she had wrapped a cloak tightly around her—Borogor's cloak. Today was the seventh of June. Exactly one year ago, Borogor had fallen to the foliage, his chest pierced with Faramir's arrow.
She had been out here all day, standing there quietly and reflecting on all that had changed in the time between now and then. No longer was she a helpless slave in Mordor, forced to endure every one of Haldor's punishments for the sake of the children. She was Gúthwyn, sister of the king of Rohan, with Hammel and Haiweth safely playing in the Houses of Healing. Haldor was dead, his body decaying in the woods of Amon Hen. He could not touch her now.
Yet not all of what had passed was for the better. She had found a love, though it was too late to act upon it. Borogor was gone, long buried by Faramir somewhere in Ithilien. She would never again feel his arms around her, or hear his voice murmur comforting words to her, nor fight unrestrainedly with him in the dark of night, blade and fist alike used in lengthy clashes. Instead, she was with only a poem to capture his memory, and the cloak that she now wore around her. Some of his scent was beginning to wear off.
But even as she bowed her head in misery, a new set of thoughts arose in her. These were neither happy nor sad, but full of insight into the past. Ironically, she had come to realize that if Borogor had not died, she would not have seen her family again. With his death, a catatonic state of numbness had settled over, so that when she had returned to Mordor she had been incapable of making decisions.
As a result, she had made love to Haldor. Even now, it made her sick to think of it. Only brief flashes of that night did she remember—everything had seemed brown to her for some reason. Brown, not gold. Yet it had happened, and Haldor's mocking words the next morning had been true. Self-hatred and loathing had built up within her, just waiting for the right trigger to explode.
That trigger had been Burzum. He had likely shoved Hammel or Haiweth before, but that time she had killed him for it. She could still recall the sight of his fluids on her hands, the wild fury and bloodlust that had filled her during that duel. Burzum had been the captain of the Easterlings, and his death had been reported to the Tower. When he learned of this, Sauron had sent for her.
He had sent for her to give her a mission: To find the One Ring and take it from Frodo, with the promise of the children's freedom if she succeeded. So she had gone, and by luck or coincidence had met Boromir, who had taken her to Rivendell. There, at the Council of Elrond, she had seen Frodo, and convinced the Fellowship to let her accompany them.
But Haldor had followed her. At Amon Hen he had sprung his trap, and revealed her mission to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. When she had slain him, Aragorn had given her an ultimatum: To help them find Merry and Pippin, or be killed. She had chosen the former, and the subsequent chase had led them to Fangorn Forest. Gandalf had come upon them there; he had taken them to Edoras, where she had finally reunited with her family.
And now Hammel and Haiweth were with her, safe and sound. None of this would have happened, had Borogor lived. She would have married him, and happiness would have been hers, but too brief—Haldor would have learned of their marriage, somehow, and made their lives nothing short of hell. A shudder came over her as she imagined all that the Elf could have done, if he was angry enough. He might even have killed the children.
This knowledge brought bitterness to her heart. She felt old, aged far beyond her years with all the sorrow that had been laid upon her. As Aragorn had said, she had much to be thankful for. And she was. In the past week, she had been nearly as happy as she was in Rohan. The children had been with her constantly, along with Tun, Cobryn, Lebryn, and her siblings. She had seen Merry and Pippin a couple of times, and even apologized to Frodo and Sam for what she had tried to do. They had forgiven her readily, and she hoped that in time they might build a cautious friendship.
But on June seventh, she could not help but mourn for the man she loved. As she looked towards the east, she wished more than ever that he was beside her, his arm around her and a sturdy hand holding hers.
"What are you looking at?"
Gúthwyn turned to see Haiweth approaching, walking on her tiptoes to gaze curiously over the battlements. Hammel was not far behind his sister; it seemed to her that he knew very well what her mood was.
"I am looking at all the land," Gúthwyn replied, smiling sadly at the children. "Would you like to see it?"
"Yes!" Haiweth exclaimed eagerly. Gúthwyn picked her up, taking care not to ruin the girl's new dress. She had gotten it this morning, much to her surprise and delight.
Holding Haiweth protectively, she set her down on top of the parapet so that she could gaze across the Pelennor Fields. Hammel came over and rested his arms on the wall. "What were you thinking about?" he asked quietly.
For a moment, Gúthwyn was silent. "Borogor," she eventually answered, a wistful tone in her voice.
"I miss him," Haiweth said morosely, swinging her feet over the edge of the wall. Gúthwyn tightened her grip.
"I miss him, too," she murmured, a lump forming in her throat.
"He loved you," Hammel spoke then, very calmly and matter-of-factly.
Gúthwyn stared at him, but not once did he remove his gaze from the city of Osgiliath. "What makes you say that?" she asked at last, her words a mere whisper.
"I could tell," Hammel replied, sighing. "Whenever he looked at you."
Tears brimmed in Gúthwyn's eyes, so that all of the Pelennor Fields blurred in a fiery haze. "You are right," she choked out. "He did."
Hammel said nothing, but reached a hand up to pat her comfortingly on the back.
Craning her neck to glance up at Gúthwyn, Haiweth asked, "Did you love him, too?"
"Yes," Gúthwyn said, her voice so quiet that she herself could barely hear it. Hammel regarded her for a moment.
"What are we going to do now?" he wanted to know.
In the midst of her sadness, Gúthwyn smiled. "Well," she said, taking a deep breath, "we are going to go with King Éomer back to Rohan."
"What is it like there?" Haiweth questioned. She had been born in the Riddermark, though had been taken to Mordor when she was two, and could not have remembered any of it.
"The people are wonderful," Gúthwyn said, turning her gaze from the east to the north. "And there are lots of horses, so I will teach you how to ride one."
Haiweth trembled. "I did not like the white horse," she muttered. "He went too fast."
"That was the lord of all horses," Gúthwyn informed her. "Shadowfax. The others will not go so swiftly."
"I would like to go to home," Hammel said, also looking to the north. "I miss it."
"And we will go," Gúthwyn told him, ruffling his hair. "Soon."
She cast one final glance to the east. Borogor lay there with the remains of her past. But to the north was her future, and Hammel and Haiweth. "Come, let us go inside," she said, and turned away from the mountains.
Well, here we are, at the end of the trilogy. I honestly cannot believe it's finished.
Actually, I say "finished," but it's not, in fact, finished. Yes, I have taken the liberty of deciding to drag you through an epilogue. I originally came up with this idea when I decided I wanted to settle the matter of what would end up happening to Gúthwyn after she returned to Rohan, and it was supposed to only be a few chapters. But eventually it grew, and grew, and grew, until it evolved into a full-fledged fanfic, of which I am currently ten chapters into.
And that's not all. Lol, sounds like a cheesy commercial, right? Anyhoo, as some of my friends will recall, I went into a period of doubt while writing a certain part of Alone, because I was suddenly debating between two different endings to the story. One ended happily; the other, the original that I had planned, was not so happy. Both of them have their merits, and I have decided at long last--after wearing everyone's eardrums out with my hemming and hawing--to write both epilogues.
So, in short? You'll be getting an extremely long epilogue from me soon, and then a much shorter "alternate ending." I honestly cannot choose between the two of them, and though it means more reading for you guys, it's my decision and I'm sticking with it. Please feel free to read both of them--you might find you like one more than the other, and that is fine as well.
In both of these epilogues, the situation with Tun will be solved. Gúthwyn's mental health will also be examined closely, especially in the original ending I had planned. Haldor's abuse to her, as has been said before, was far more emotional than it was physical, and signs of this have already showed themselves in her actions and thoughts. Furthermore, there will bea marriage in her future. And yes, the person is different in each epilogue.
Now, I would love to thank everyone who has reviewed and supported this. Thank you guys so much! You're amazing, and I love, love, love getting comments encouraging me to write more. I also welcome questions, though I tend to not answer them until the end of the current fanfiction; yet please leave any concerns in the review section!
In response to some questions that have been asked...
Callie: No, Gúthwyn does not realize that Tun is in love with her. Hehe, it seems kind of obvious, right? Then again, it took her three years with Borogor--to be fair to her, however, she doesn't exactly know anything about love, as Haldor has done enough damage to her that she is afraid of any intimate contact with a man (or an Elf, for that matter). But I can tell you that she will figure out Tun's thoughts soon.
By the way, where have you been? I miss getting reviews from you!
JediPadfoot: I am sorry you think that the Legolas/Haldor situation has got out of hand. Sometimes I do wonder how much is too much. But Gúthwyn has been through severe trauma with Haldor, and she's not going to forget what he's done to her anytime soon. It's only understandable that she confuses the two, as her mind is imbalanced and they do look exactly alike. Sorry if it's a little too often for your tastes! Things will get better, though. I promise. .
GwenevieveGreenleaf: Thank you so much for your constant reviewing! And also, thank you, thank you, thank you for pointing out the stupid error I made with Gandalf's being in Rohan. I honestly can't believe I did that. Major facepalmmage there.
J.C.: Heh, thanks for pointing out the detail about Shadowfax. I actually know next to nothing about horses, which is problematic considering Gúthwyn's from Rohan; but even when you mentioned him being a stallion, not a mare, I didn't understand the difference until a friend pointed it out to me. Lol, I know, beyond dumb.
Andi-Scribbles: Your private message made me smile like crazy. I love Borogor, too; he's definitely one of my favorite characters, which was what made writing his death scene impossible to do! Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I really appreciate it, and I hope you enjoy both of the upcoming epilogues!
NeFarieous: As for what's in story for Gúthwyn... Well, you'll just have to wait and find out, lol. And you are absolutely right that she is physically free, but not really free.
Finally, I'd like to thank toratigergirl11 and Zoë, who don't review but read every single chapter faithfully, in addition to putting up with me talking about it constantly. Thank you! And I know you're bound to be bouncing off the walls at my decision, but don't spoil it if you actually decide to review! Hehe.
To everyone who was read this and/or reviewed, thank you all so much! You're all amazing. I'm looking forward to seeing you in the epilogues!