Éowyn, the White Lady of Rohan, paced the length of her cold chamber; fear clenching her heart in a fist of ice. Ever faster, she paced her hands slick with sweat, traveling restlessly to her side seeking a blade that was not there.
Her breath rasped harshly from her lungs as she struggled for control, but all she felt was growing panic. How she longed to lash out, to rail against the bars of the cage swiftly closing in about her.
"You would do wise to speak me fair, Éowyn, Éomund-daughter." Wormtongue's words again hissed through her mind.
"Speak you fair? Snake! Get thee from my sight and take your poisonous tongue with you!" she had cried, spitting on him full in the face.
Gríma Wormtongue's eyes narrowed dangerously at that and for the first time Éowyn felt true fear as he raised a pale hand to his cheek to wipe away the spittle. "That was ill done, Lady. Be not so spiteful, I warn you. Your brother will not come to your aid for he is locked in irons and held in your uncle's deepest dungeon."
"For treason! He is a rebel and a traitor to the king and to the Mark. He gainsaid your uncle's commands."
"Nay, never—you lie!"
"Does it matter?" Gríma laughed a chilling sound. "Théoden King believes it sooth for I tell him it is so. Because the king believes, none dare gainsay; and so it is truth."
"My Uncle will never agree to this!"
Wormtongue's laughter sounded once again, harsh and grating. "Will he not? I think so. With his son and heir dead and newly buried, his sister-son revealed for the rebel he is; Théoden King needs sorely to rejoice in something—anything, as do all the good folk of the Mark; what better than to rejoice in a wedding?"
Éowyn shivered with revulsion. "Say whatever you will, worm, you shall never have me. Sooner would I fall on my own blade than suffer your touch."
Gríma reached out to caress her cheek. When she jerked her head away, cruel fingers gripped her jaw, bruising flesh as he forced her eyes to his. "No blade of steel shall pierce such tender flesh, on that you may count."
Wormtongue's head snapped back as Éowyn's hand connected with his face in a ringing slap. Turning, she fled the length of the corridor gaining the tenuous safety of her ever-shrinking bower, where she paced the floor and waited for the guards to come for her, for come they would, as all now did Wormtongue's bidding—in the name of Théoden King.
"My Lady, the King requires your presence."
Éowyn froze, "So, it comes." she mused bitterly. Squaring her shoulders, she turned to face the guard and was surprised to see Háma, Captain of the Guard himself, sent to fetch her.
"My Lady, make haste. Go now to the king strangers approach and with them Gandalf Greyhame. I must go to meet them."
"Gandalf," Éowyn gasped, a spark of hope igniting in her breast.
"Aye, and with him the strangest trio ever seen in the Mark, but I may say no more for I must hasten back to my post at the doors."
Éowyn nodded and sped for the hall. Théoden sat bowed on his throne, seemingly unaware of his surroundings, only a handful of guards in attendance.
"Uncle?" Éowyn knelt at the old man's side, gently raising him to sit straighter in his chair. Slowly the king turned his head, a dim smile touching his lips and he patted her hand.
"Éowyn, it is good that you come. I have news for you that should gladden your heart. I have found for you at last a husband, a man worthy of my sister-daughter."
Éowyn froze, catching Wormtongue out of the corner of her eye as he entered the hall to take his customary seat at the feet of his liege lord. "We will speak on this later, Uncle. Right now we must welcome our guests." Smoothly she rose to her feet, taking her place behind the king's chair.
At the far end of the hall, the doors were flung wide and four figures stood silhouetted briefly in the grey light of day. They were hidden again as the doors swung shut. Éowyn found herself holding her breath until the strangers were within range of the fire pit. As they came into the light, her jaw nearly dropped in amazement. Only by the strongest force of will did she maintain her aura of cool detachment.
Gandalf Greyhame was known to her, but he seemed somehow changed since she had last seen him long months past. He still walked, bent with age, swathed in grey raiment, but a light now shone about him. It was then she realized his hair and beard had gone completely white. Now what could turn a wizard's hair pure white? She suppressed a shiver and preferred not to know.
As the wizard passed into the light, Éowyn could not prevent the gasp that slipped from her. He was leaning on the arm of a tall stranger. Never before had she seen one such as this. An ancient memory of her father's, fathers sprang to life and now glided down the hall on silent feet. Tall he was and willowy as a reed though well knit. Long hair fell in a fall of gold, braided back at the temples to reveal ears delicately pointed. His face was unearthly fair, so much so that it all but pained her to look upon him and though while seemingly young, his eyes held knowledge, wisdom, and a weight of years belied by his youthful mien.
Beside him walked a squat bearded figure garbed in leather armor and to the wizard's right paced a man, tall and weathered, but with a noble bearing and stern demeanor. Grimly silent, Éowyn, daughter of Éomund, sister-daughter of Théoden King stood as a sentinel as events unfolded in that hall that would change the course of her life for all time.
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