and so it goes

and so it goes

This is where it ends:

Warm flames on melted skin, the waters lapping at her pyre. The sky is clear and the sun bright, brighter than anyone has ever seen. The ocean's soft green-blue water begins to climb the wooden walls that support her and she welcomes the seaweed that crawls along her neck and her nose. She will be soft ash in the mid-morning breeze, mixing with the dirt to be trodden on for centuries.

-X-

This is where it began:

A warrior queen, born between night and day. She possesses a strange grace, a dignity that will surround her even when drenched in dirt, even when breaking, even when broken. What an ocean to quench her fire, what a flood to finally drown her spirit in its current.

The child struggles against the pull of this world. She utters a battlecry, refuses to be held or even touched. She is not meant for this place, this place of light and darkness. And with her birth a deep sadness; she lies in her dead mother's grip, unaware that her first embrace lies in the arms of an empty cadaver.

-X-

Eowyn sits tall and proud, fighting silently through her tears. Her hand burns; her skin is raw and her knuckles bleed; all the color drips off of her face and stains the floor. She does not speak as her uncle uncurls her fingers, although every millimeter of movement shoots unbearable pain through her whole body. She makes no sound as he snaps each joint back in place, even as spot flickers before her and blocks her vision.

"You're so brave," her nurse praises, soothing back her hair. "What a little warrior."

-X-

"And then...and then..." The young woman with raven hair trailed off, eyes glassy. She brought her fingers to her rosy cheeks, giggling. "And then he kissed me!" Her friends fell into appreciative fits of squeals and laughter. Eowyn winced, the sound grating on her ears. "He's so perfect," the girl, Aemei, crooned. "I'm just glad I'm not you, Eowyn."

She arches a cool eyebrow, eyes glued to the book on her lap. "Is that so?" She asks, disinterested.

"Yes," Aemei confirms, bringing her hands back into her lap. "After all, he's your brother, so you can't ever be with him."

She laughs proudly at that, finally glancing upward. "I'm not too disappointed," she asserts. "He isn't anything special."

Aemei looks taken aback, unabashedly scrutinizing the girl with golden hair. "Nothing special?" She cries, cheeks flaring. "How can you say that? He's handsome and brave and kind and strong -- "

"Yes," Eowyn agrees, "Just like every other hero you've ever dreamed of."

-X-

Men pass through Rohan as stones in a quarry; Eowyn remembers not their names or their faces. Her uncle scolds; her nurse worries; Eomer chucks her on the shoulder and teases, "Too good for that one, too?"

Aimei and her friends tell her she's a snob. "What are you waiting for?" They ask.

In her dreams she can see fire and hears the clash of sword upon shield. "I'm not waiting," she says.

-X-

This is where she breaks:

Grima's hands are cold on her shoulder and she shivers in the heat of anger. The castle is empty. Her uncle sleeps on his throne and sometimes she so tired that she lets Grima stand close and whisper the terrible truth into her ears. "You're all alone, Eowyn," he murmurs, lips on her ear.

"I've always been a unsociable child," she replies tersely, pulling away from him in disgust. Her pale hand is sharp against his dark one; sometimes she fears that she may become invisible. "One might say that I enjoy solitude."

"We both know that's not true," Grima laughs, stepping closer and closer until she's against the wall and his breath is cold on her cheeks. "You need me, Eowyn, to keep you company. I can help you, if you let me."

She stiffens, pushing him away. Her hands sting where they touch his clothes. "I would rather suffer," she hisses, and tells herself that the tears are from the pain in her fingers.

-X-

This is where she falls in love:

He is beautiful in a ragged way, and she suddenly understands the way that Aimei's cheeks darkened and her hands trembled when Eomer looked her way. Her uncle thinks that she loves the hero, but he's wrong -- she loves that he is not a hero; just a damaged, ill-groomed, mentally unstable man who needs someone, anyone, to tell him that he doesn't have to be the king because she likes Aragorn just fine.

There is a pendant on his breast; she wonders what would happen if she ripped it from his neck and hurled it at the floor.

-X-

And then the fire dies.

She is defeated by a flame so hot she cannot withstand the waves rolling over her skin. It is black and white and all-encompassing and she feels no pride in her victory. She sleeps in purgatory, watching her life slide by, and she realizes it doesn't matter what happens: she may die and she may live and either way, what difference will it make? There is only death in front and behind her -- she's become comfortable in its shadow.

She can feel Aragorn beckoning her back but she decides to ignore him. He has his Elf and doesn't need her, anyway.

What an ocean, death.

-X-

"I heard you calling. That's why I came."

"It took you a long time."

"At first I didn't recognize your voice. And then I wanted to punish you."

"For what?"

"For wishing me happiness, when all that I wanted was to take your sorrow."

-X-

And this is where she is whole again:

A fiery queen, born between night and day. She possesses her mother's grace, a dignity that will surround her even when drenched in dirt, even when breaking, even when broken. What an ocean to quench her fire, what a flood to finally drown her spirit in its current.

Eowyn cradles her child in her arms, the softest joy sending her lips into the brightest smile.