We have a new tapestry, sent by the Weavers’ Guild in honor of my seventieth birthday. I stand before the hanging. My grandson, little Barahir, shrills in excitement and points to the woven figures.
I hardly recognize that tall, scornful woman in the center, who faces the dark thing with the black crown on its head.
In truth, I was frightened. The battle was no glorious song; it was a mess of screams and blood. If I had not been busy cutting down anything and anyone that assailed me, I would surely have been sick. Then a great dark wraith felled my uncle. And I had to fight the one they called the Witch-King.
I will never forget that chill, deadly voice, like the scrape of a sword cutting into bone. I still hear it sometimes, in nightmares. Nor can I forget the smell of its flying beast, worse than the foulest of carrion.
I was foolish and prideful to laugh at the Nazgűl Lord. But the Witch-King declared that no living man could hinder him. It struck me as a great jest, though who should be laughing, I could not have said. I remember my tears more than my laughter. Then there was no time for either, for the winged beast set upon me, and I cut it down, cleaving its head from the rest of its putrid body before it could rend me with beak or claw..
The devil’s mace broke my shield and my arm in one stroke. I would have died in that moment save for Meriadoc’s valiant attack. He stabbed the Witch-King‘s leg, making him shriek. So I knew, even as my strength waned, that the dwimmerlaik could be hurt. And if he could be hurt, he could be killed! I shoved my sword into the black void from where the Witch-King’s eyes gleamed, praying with my last thought that my uncle might yet live, or at least would not fall to the Darkness.
I fell to the dark instead, but was revived ‘ere death took me. Yet I had failed to save my dear uncle, my lord and king.
Sometimes I can still feel that wound, particularly in March, the month that it was given. I wake beside a man who also survived the Shadow‘s deathly touch, and am grateful beyond all words for his presence. Our children cannot understand. I should be glad. For was it not what we wanted, our children to live free of the Shadow‘s taint? Though at the time, the likelihood of ever having children was rather small. We fought to preserve the little that was left to us.
My children’s children will look at this tapestry and think of me. I look at it and see a pretty picture. This shieldmaiden is made of brightly colored threads; she cannot know the terror and pain of that long-gone day.
I am older now. My bones ache when it rains. It grows harder to heft a spear, much less wield a blade. That reckless, desperate girl who slew the Witch-King believed she would not see the next day, much less linger into old age.
My grandson plows into me, throwing his arms around my hips. They say he is like me; I know not. He is very young and impudent.
Would I do it again, older and wiser, more loved and more frail as I am? Would I face that dark wraith if my husband, or my son, or this child, lay helpless in the Witch-King’s path?
Oh yes. With one foot in the grave and with my last breath.