From dark Dunharrow, forth rode Théoden, with six thousand spears, into song and story.
But the oaths that she has taken bind her to hearth and home. She cannot forsake her duty; she cannot escape the gilded cage of her fathers. The days pass; they are dark, and she endures each one as if it were a year. No word comes up from the South. And – under a sky from which, it seems to her, the sun has been stolen never to return – she takes up the sword that was destined for the sinews of another, and slays herself instead.
He follows the dream to Rivendell; takes the road first to Edoras, where they meet; and dies on the Quest, within sight of his home. His companions burn his body.
In the years that follow, she finds that she remembers him on the day when they think of their fallen. She remembers the warmth of his eyes and the kindness of his smile; she thinks how he will never grow old and wither. She holds to herself the memory of him as the first ray of light in the darkness; first herald of the happier days that were to come.
Fair she was; fairer than all the flowers and the maidens of Gondor; lovely and blissful; the Queen of Gondor. Her new people love her for her valour and her honour. Their reign is long and glorious: the King brings healing to the land and the White Tree flowers in the Court of the Fountain.
And ever he stands beside them – faithful and loving, their servant. It is a life long and well-lived. When he dies, all the city grieves; both kingdoms mourn the loss. All speak well of him. Last of his line. Last of the Stewards of Gondor.
The Quest has failed. The Shadow comes to claim them. From the heights of the city they watch the onslaught; watch the darkness draw ever closer. The walls shatter and orcs spew over the ruin. The end will be swift and bloody.
He puts his arms around her; holds her close. “Love,” he says, “my love. How I would have loved you.”
She comes to him and claims the kiss; the last breath before night takes it all. Their lips part, never to meet again in this life.
“You already have,” she tells him, and together they turn to fight.
The Quest has failed. The Shadow devours the land but leaves them living. Their end is slow, the long torment of years. He watches her eyes dim, her skin coarsen, her back bend beneath the burden.
Hope failed them; it left never to return. The sky blackened, the walls fell; all that was green has rotted and all that was lovely is ruined. By sad waters he watches her, and in his heart he keeps the memory of her standing tall and fair and proud upon the walls of the long-gone city of his fathers. And still he cannot despair.