Summary: They walked in each other's shadow, and only after their meeting, they can be free. Éowyn and the Witch-king – let each of them tell you their story... Written for Teitho: Devil's Advocate
Disclaimer: Just Retelling Reuel's Tales
Shadows and Memories
Who am I?
There are moments when I feel I'm close to grasping the memory, floating at the edge of my mind like a... like... Oh, I know there are such things – light and frail and... alive. But I am not alive. I can't remember their name. When I try to imagine, only the pictures of dark shadows come to me, circling around me like vultures above a carcass. But I am not dead. I walk in the grey world between death and life – a cold shadow of fear. Yes, that's what I am. The mightiest of the Úlairi. A Nazgûl. What – but not who.
Who am I? – I ask the darkness. You are the Witch-king... it answers. It whispers. It rustles – like the scales of a snake on the hard stone. Witch-king... Might and glory. The ruler of Angmar. The Captain of vast armies awaiting my command. Fear me and despair, for I am your doom! Neither dead nor alive, but death walks at my heels like my slave, a dog feeding on the blood spilled by its master. I laugh at the face of death, for it has no might over me. Me and my ring. Do you feel the cold fingers of fear grasping your heart when you hear my voice? When my blade sinks into your flesh, do you feel the warmth of life leaving your body? Look at me in that moment, for in the realm of shadows between life and death, you can see me as I really am, unveiled and glorious. Do you fear death? I am yours... I am...
Who am I? There is a quiet voice of doubt in my mind. You are a slave... it says. A slave of the ring that gave you immortality. Look at yourself and see its price... No, I can't look at myself. There is no mirror that can show my picture. I am a shadow in the world of shadows, and there is one will that is above mine – His. The Master of the One Ring calls, and I must obey. That is the price.
"What I offer you is power, my friend. Power greater than the king of Númenor has. You will be the master of death itself. Power and immortality – that's what I offer you, because I see the greatness in you. To none else I would make that offer."
"What do you want for it, Annatar?"
"Nothing..." the fair stranger smiled. "Just your friendship and appreciation of my craft. The rings are my masterpieces and are very precious to me. I would like to see them put to a good use in capable hands."
"Is it truly like you say?"
"Ah, who knows..." he laughed. "I haven't tried them yet. I'm just an artist – I don't want power. If it doesn't work, will it do any harm? You can return it to me if you want, or keep it as a memory of me."
"Then... I accept."
Who am I?
There are only shadows. I'm lost. I want to go home... But I can't remember where it is. How did I get into this grey country? It is so cold here...
Who am I? Somehow I know that to leave this place, I must remember. I try – I reach for the memories when I feel them fluttering near, I reach hastily – and grasp only dust and shadows. So quick they are, so elusive – like foals grazing on the new grass... foals...
"No, you can't ride Snowflake! You are too small for that!"
The little girl pouted. "And you are acting like a big brother again!"
"I am your big brother!"
"But I am big too! I will ride to battle like Father! He will allow me to ride Snowflake when he returns!"
A shade of sadness flickered in the boy's eyes. "Oh sister... He won't return. You know that..."
"I don't believe that. He will return!" But the girl's voice revealed uncertainty. "Tell me he will..." A plea.
He could not lie, not even to her. "He is dead, sister... You have heard the messenger..."
The girl was quiet for a moment, fighting tears. But then, instead of weeping, her pretty features hardened. "I will avenge him! I will ride to battle, and kill those nasty orcs!" She looked at him earnestly. "I need a horse."
He felt a shiver going down his spine under her determined gaze. So frail... so strong... He shook his head slowly. "You can't ride Snowflake..."
"- no, let me finish. You can't ride her now. She will have a foal soon..."
"Yes. And I'm sure it will grow into a strong horse, just like Snowflake. Then he will be yours, and you train him for the saddle, and ride him as much as you want. Would you like that?"
The girl nodded, and smiled slightly, for the first time in that day. "I will name him Windfola..."
Sometimes I think that in that time, he believed in what he was saying. They say he was a master of lies then, but I'm not sure about that. Maybe he lied even to himself when he convinced me to take that small piece of metal – my doom. I am its slave. But he... I wonder if he is a Master of the One, or its slave also. And what would I wish? I don't know. The memory floats in my mind. Once, he was my friend – or I believed so. Who can say what he believed? Now he is no longer the fair jewel smith with the fiery gaze. But that gaze... that's the only thing that remained – watching, ever searching for his lost Ring. I can feel it too, because my ring is bound to the One – the loss, the dull ache as if a part of me had gone missing. An emptiness that only the power of the Ring can fill. And I will find it! I will bring it back to him. Because he is more, so much more. He is darkness. He is glory. He is my Master and I will follow him to the end, bearing high his banner. I know to whom I am loyal.
It was so close... The Ring. The gratitude of my Master. So close... On Weathertop, you saw me, Halfling! You saw my true face in the shadows. I could feel your little scared heart beating in your chest. I could feel the cold morgul blade slipping into your warm flesh, poisoning, binding you to us. The name of the Western Queen saved you... for now. But you will not escape! You will become one of us, a shadow among shadows. You will see what we do, and serve who we serve. And you will bring the Ring into His hands. Yes, He will have hands again, and the world will be His – and under his command, mine. For I am a king still.
"You are from the line of Elros, my son, do not forget that."
"I never do, father. I feel the blood of kings in my veins. They call me to a great destiny, I know it."
"I am proud of you, my son. If only Manwendil had been the eldest son of Elros, and not Vardamir..."
"It is no use to think about what could be. I will build my own kingdom in Middle-earth, you will see..."
"I wish I could. But I foresee that I will not live to see you again."
"Father! Do not speak so! You will see many more years!"
"Maybe..." the Númenorean lord smiled a little sadly. "Be safe, my son, and may the western wind bear your ship to your destiny."
For a moment I thought I saw my father there, at Weathertop. He came wielding burning torches in both hands, with a battle cry on his lips. I saw those proud features, the kingly eyes of the man I once respected so much. Eyes like stars... "Elendil!" he cried. No, it was not my father. A Dúnadan... I knew the blood of Númenor circled in their veins still. But in this one, it was so strong... There was fire in his eyes just like in his hands. A blade cannot reach me in the shadows, but fire can. Fire exists in both worlds, just like water. Soon I would have what I came for regardless, and so I retreated before the fire of his eyes...
I remember his eyes. A chalice of wine... In the dim light of a cold morning, his eyes reflected in the crimson liquid, like looking at me through a veil of blood. His blood, or mine? I do not know. I just know I will never see him again. There is this eternal greyness around me, dividing me from everything else – from all those in the memories that are so hard to grasp. There are echoes. Cage! Cage! Cage! they call. I run. I try to escape them. But the faster I run, the louder they call. They pursue me. I can't escape! I cover my ears with my hands. Still they call. Cage! No!
"Shall I always be left behind when the Riders depart, to mind the house while they win renown, and find food and beds when they return?"
"A time may come soon, when none will return. Then there will be need of valour without renown, for none shall remember the deeds that are done in the last defence of your homes. Yet the deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised."
"All your words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death."
"What do you fear, lady?"
"A cage. To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire."
I broke the bars! I broke them! Do you hear me, voices of shadow? I was free! If only for a short time, but I was free! I felt the wind in my face and the movement of the strong horse under me. A horse... yes, Windfola was his name... I heard the battle-cry from my lips, and felt the wind drying my tears. There was nothing to live for, nothing to lose anymore. I was free...
So why am I trapped again? Why do I wander this bleak country, lost and alone? I feel it sapping my strength like a hungry leech. Is this death? No great halls of ancestors. No rest, either. If I knew, I would fear it, just like the cage. It is a cage. And it is worse, for I have lost myself. I can't remember who I am...
You, lord... You with the grey eyes like a stormy sky. You who stole my heart and took it into the shadow of the Dead... You have asked me what I fear. I fear the emptiness. Please, take me away from here... I don't long for great deeds anymore. I just want something to live for.
Great deeds – they are not like the minstrels sing. I know that now. There is a terrible shadow over me, and nothing glorious is in it. It veils me in darkness, chokes me with its cold fingers... I am alone. Everyone whom I loved is dead. I don't know how long I can hold on yet. I see him. He has a terrible mace, and black robes are flowing around him although no wind blows here. But I see beneath the robes now. His face is pale and cruel - a mask of decay with empty eyes. He is looking at me...
Failure. We were scattered, stripped of the steeds and clothes. Naked we had to stand before the wrath of the Eye. The Ring was so close... and yet it slipped from our grasp. We were defeated by water, by the power of one of the Three. Failure. I was the one who had to stand before my Master to report it. His anger is terrible, and yet he shows also mercy to those loyal to him. We were given new clothes to walk in the physical world. And new steeds – winged and swift like the voice of a storm. I was a king again, the Captain of armies awaiting my command. To the White City! was the command. Burn and destroy! There will be no tomorrow for Gondor!
I was the messenger of Death, the destroyer. My world was not empty in that moment – it was filled with the shadows of dying, who dwell on the border for a short while before they depart for ever. There were hundreds of them, and I felt the blood seeping into soil, their waning strength like strong wine burning in my veins. I was the king of war, and bane of kings. The king of Rohan lay before me broken, dying. He was mine...
"Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!"
"Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left nakedto the Lidless Eye."
"Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may."
"Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!"
"But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him."
It was she.
I saw her face again.
So frail. So strong. So beautiful.
She stood in the port when my ship arrived to Middle-earth. The wind played with her hair – the sun of noon and ripeness of corn was trapped in them. Her eyes carried a piece of the sky. She was like a statue of marble – delicate and seemingly frail, yet strong like the stone, like the land itself. She did not avert her eyes when I looked at her. She met my sight as proudly as the greatest queens of Numenor, though she was only the daughter of some local lord.
I seized the land. I made her my queen. With her, I always knew who I was. But then... the memories are faded with time, or are those shadows veiling them? The same shadows that I walk in, that envelop me. They came with the ring, with the power – slowly, inconspicuously like a thief in the night, crawling into my mind and blurring the colours of the world. Fréawyn's hair. I could not remember how gold they were. Her face paled in my memories, and I did not look at her anymore. The golden fields lay under snow, and her face bore the marks of time like a land after ploughing. What happened to her then? I don't know... Maybe she left. Maybe she died. I had power and eternal life. That was everything that mattered to me. I forgot...
She stood before me again. Frail like a rose and strong like steel. So desperate. So beautiful. No, it was not her. It was another maiden. But no more did I ask who I am. I tried to kill her, to kill the memory, for it was painful... but at the end, it was she who dealt the killing blow. No living man, but a woman. Éowyn, Éomund's daughter and the picture of Fréawyn, my love. No longer am I bound to the shadow, walking the border between life and death. Death calls me, pulls me away to pay all debts to her. And I do not resist. I follow the departing shadows. I follow the king I wanted to make my prey. What will come next, I don't know. Maybe she will await me there...
The shadow vanishes. I can breathe again. The air smells of spring, clean and fresh like the first blades of grass and melting snow in the mountains.
"Éowyn Éomund's daughter, awake! For your enemy has passed away!"
A voice calls me, promises to lead me home. I recognize the voice. I thought my heart would stir when I would hear it again, but it does not. Maybe the love I felt was a shadow, just like those that enveloped me. Just a shadow and thought... I didn't want to be with him. I wanted to be like him. Will I ever find true love? I do not know. But I follow the voice, for I am tired of shadows, and I want to live. Not for glory or great deeds, but for life itself.
Yes, that is my name. I am Éowyn, lady of Rohan... My brother calls me... Éomer! He is not slain like the shadows told me. He calls me home... I come, brother! I open my eyes, and the shadow of the king of wraiths vanishes forever...
J. R. R. Tolkien: The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 2: The Passing of the Grey Company
J. R. R. Tolkien: The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 6: The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
J. R. R. Tolkien: The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter 8: The Houses of Healing