Merry grinned at her from over where he stood by the smith, who was giving his little sword a last check. Éowyn had insisted it be done, though the hobbit had assured her it would be fine. For him to leave for battle at my urging, and never come back…I will do all I can to make him safe.
She turned and left him to it, wending her way through the camp that was just beginning to rise. She found Éomer just outside his tent, breaking his fast with some kind of stew. She went to walk past; he had a certain harmony with the setting, a consonance with his surroundings that she was loath to break. Yet he insisted she sit and share it with him, so share she did. “These will be dark times ahead, sister,” he muttered as they ate, “Dark times indeed. Will you be strong enough for them, do you think?”
She regarded him rather haughtily from the corner of her eye. “Women are as capable of leadership as men, thank you.”
He smiled slightly. “And what evidence have you for that?”
“Several ruling queens of Númenor, to name one example.”
Éomer shook his head ruefully. “A good point and well made.” He paused for a few minutes, looking into the flames, weak in the waxing light of day. “Did you think about it?” he asked quietly after a minute.
Éowyn thought she knew what he was getting at. “Think about what?”
“Getting married. Those things.”
Éowyn sighed. “Yes, I thought about it. Has everyone not thought about it? I do not feel disposed toward it now, however.”
“He left last night.” It wasn’t a question.
“He…made his intention clear.”
Éomer reached out and took her hand gently. “He is but one man, sister,” he said seriously, “There will be another man. Another man who will treat you well and make a good husband, and give you home and hearth and a babe in cradle. There will be another man.”
Éowyn disentangled her hand from his. “Will there? Truly? If the war goes ill, will I have the time to think of finding a man to love? If I am to take up the mantle of my forefathers and defend our people as I must, I should be focused solely on my task.” She looked deep into the flames, frowning, and said decisively, “A leader should think only of their people, all their life, until they die and are consumed by the earth and the flies and the maggots.”
Éomer sighed heavily. “And where has Éowyn disappeared to, this morning?” he said, slightly annoyed, “She has certainly left a maudlin imposter in her place.”
Éowyn glared at him, and he glared back. She stood in a swirl of skirts. “You should be glad,” she sniffed, “If you die, you’ll make tasty food for the maggots.”
He chuckled quietly as she walked away.