Almost this story was forgotten shortly before the end...

I read less in English, and so writing in English was mostly to tough.

But finally, this is it, the final chapter... not as I wanted it in the first place, but okay in its own manner.

Thank you to everyone for reading this, and thanks for reviewing in past and future.

Enjoy the final chapter

Spirit

Banners....

Like a river of colors in a sea of white and grey...

It seems as if the new day brought out all the colors that we thought lost long ago.

A whistful smile touched his lips as he bowed his head, half in a defeat that he did not understand fully, half in some sentiment close to wonder at the velocity, with which the city had gone from utter despair to a state of delirious joy. Even now, the hour of noon barely passed, strands of melodies graced the air to kiss stones and banners alike, to laugh in competition to the glorious sun, that not once had suffered the influence of clouds since the darkness fell in the east. Minas Tirith was celebrating still.

The nightmare over, the dream begun...

His hands gripped the cold stone under his fingers, as if he needed to feel reality beneath the waves of joy, as if this hour, that should belong to the first free breaths of life that this city had ever been allowed to take, did have no more fabric in its reality than the hours on the walls of Gondor had, when he felt the abyss opening before him.

But the stone was cold under his fingers and he shivered in the sun. There was no comfort in the strength of Gondor any more, no comfort in stone and marble. His memory allowed him the briefest hints of a warmth under his fingers, the briefest imagination of a hand taking his own, but the wind took up the notion to toy and tear, to sweep it down to the banners of Gondor, to the dancing colors in the eastern wind.

He smiled, more to himself than to anyone else, as he lifted his head to gaze out beyound the walls of the city, where, somewhere behind hills and plains, the king was basked in victory. On Cair Andros, the triumph was complete and the light was untainted, where the heros of the black gate were celebrating in glory.

He did not long to be among them. Glory had never been for Faramir, the Stewart's second son, and he had never yearned for it. And yet..

And yet his heart cried out for the banners and the tents, for the merry mixing of soldiers of Rohan and Gondor, for the place of the old alliances reborn.

For the place, where you are...

The words seemed ridiculous, even in thought. For surely the Lady had gone to where her heart lay, to her brother and their king, for Eomer and Aragorn...

Aragorn...

Soon the banner of Elessar would crown the White City, his banner joining those already flying in the wind, to be the purest and first of them all. And the White Lady...

Do not grasp for things that you are not worthy of...

He flung around, his heart forgetting for the moment, that he would see nothing but the empty office, the table, the wooden chair, bereft of all comfort, forgetting, that he, who once spoke these words, was not here to talk to him.

Still ghosts linger, while the body long moved on...

„My Lord?"

The ghosts of pasts long ago faded, leaving a sunlit room, where the daylight did not reach the farthest corners near the door, where a young page was standing at the moment, brows knitted in unwilling concern at the sight of his Stewart.

„Yes?"His voice was as steady as ever and quickly a smile was back on his face. The routine of aimability and friendlyness chased away the thoughts for a moment, leaving him glad.

„The warden of the Houses of Healing is here to see you", the boy replied, bowing slightly.

Faramir frowned but nodded, an inviting gesture almost automatically waving in the visitor.

„Yes, come please."

Not even knowing that his presence would bring back shadows... and more.

There were a lot of things he would have thought the warden to bring before him. Still, the wounds of the battle of Gondor were deep, and that the Stewart had escaped the foul breath of Mordor did not mean, that others had, too. The Houses still were full of patients, more than one of them still on the brick of death. This he knew, and he had done his best to try and make amends, using much of the city resources to tend to those still maimed from the battles. There was not much more that he could have done in so short a time, that and collecting news from parts of the devastated country to know, just how big the wounds of Gondor were.

But this was not, why the warden of the houses had come and still, he wondered if he would have preferred another reason for the unexpected visit. For the news of Eowyn brought back pain, fear and a hope he would not allow himself to grasp that left him torn, his peace of the morning shattered.

Yet, how could he not listen to the words, that spoke of torment for a lady whom he wished nothing but happiness?

„I will see to it", he replied to the warden's concerns, grave earnesty in his eyes and an unrest, that only showed in his twisting of the silver ring of his office. „As soon as I can."

How different the world has become.....

She marvelled at the White City in colors, at banners in the wind over Minas Tirith, at the warm, eastern wind that stroke her hair in a vain attempt to chase away the bitter frost.

Still I remain, always the same...

And still she was standing on the wall of the city, looking over the endless plains and hills. Sometimes, she watched a rider arrive at the gates of the city, a friendly wind bringing her fragments of the hooves' clattering up to where she was standing and not caring.

The horses are gone...

And so was the urge for freedom, the urge for anything, als days rolled by in an endless row, never changing. She had forgotten to wish, long since forgotten to care.

Rohan? Words in the wind....

She could hear footfalls on the withering steps that usually brought her here, quick steps, heavy boots, as her concience registered by a manner of habit. All the visitor would see, was a white ghost in the wind, or nothing at all, so he would turn and leave her in a peace that wasn't true.

„Eowyn?!"

Something in the voice touched bitter frost, and soft call of warmth brought pain to concience long frozen. She could not find the strength to turn, but her gaze left the plains that no longer called for the wild ride.

„My friend...", she said and meant it, smiling before she even knew she was doing it. „What brings you here at such an hour?"She noticed his breathing, a trifle quicker than his usual calm, his eyes wandering over her anxiously in his careful manner, as if to measure the state of devastation she was in. He obviously had hurried and, briefly, she wondered how he had come to be here.

Do not hurt yourself, mylord. The person you are looking for is long riding with the wind...

„Eowyn..."He shook his head softly, watching her from a distance that seemed unnatural somehow. To her, he had the air of a ghost appearing in her dreams. „Why do you tarry here, and do not go to the rejoicing in Cormallen beyond Cair Andros, where your brother awaits you?" The softest of frowns entered his face.

She broke contact with his eyes, looking back over the vast plains to the fields she could not see, to a world she seemed to have left.

And yet, part of the world had come to her and was asking for attention. Forced to give her thoughts a form, she felt torn. For each of the reasons she could have said sounded but half of the truth.

"Do you not know?" Evasion, the eldest of weapons. And yet, there was hope that somewhere in his answer there was the solution of her own question.

He took a step closer, still giving her room to breathe. Hardly did she care.

"Two reasons there may be, but which is true, I do not know."

She shook her head, feeling vaguely annoyed and wondered why it mattered. She turned her head to look at him sharply, looking for the answer she had wished to hear in his demeanor, but his calm smile did not betray his thoughts.

"I do not wish to play at riddles. Speak plainer!"

For an instant, his eyes met hers, and he nodded in acknowledgement, leaving her to wonder, whether he had said the 'Very well' she thought to have heared.

"Then if you will have it so, lady, you do not go, because only your brother called you, and to look on the Lord Aragorn, Elendil's heir, in his triumph would now bring you no joy. Or because I do not go, and you desire still to be near me. And maybe for both these reasons, and you yourself cannot choose between them." She closed her eyes at his voice, at his words, as the wind took them up and did not show her the grace to wipe them away. For he was not wrong. He had never been.

Let me go, Faramir. Leave me be...

I do not dare the step you wish me to take...

"Eowyn, do you not love me, or will you not?"

There was a tone in his voice, that bordered on despair, some frantic fear that he failed to hide completely. She doubted, she would have ever heared it, if she had not known him so well. But still she hung in the air, a toy to the wind like the banners were, a ghost, nothing more.

Still, there was a hint of pride, a remnant of the horses' thunder that echoed in the mountains, a last heritage of the proud daughter of Rohan.

"I wished to be loved by another", she admitted softly. "But I desire no man's pity."

From the corner of her eye, she could see a weary smile on his face.

„That I know", he said, almost as if in pain, then fell silent himself and stood next to her, looking out to the plains as she did. And when he spoke, it was softly, tenderly almost, as if admitting a great fault of his to a secret confident.

"You desired to have the love of the Lord Aragorn. Because he was high and puissant, and you wished to have renown and glory and to be lifted far above the mean things that crawl on the earth. And as a great captain may to a young soldier he seemed to you admirable. For so he is, a lord among men, and greatest that now is."

He closed his eyes and passed a weary hand before them, taking a deep breath the reason of which she could not discern. But then, turning back fully to her, his voice gained on strength, his gaze did not falter.

But when he gave you only understanding and pity, then you desired to have nothing, unless a brave death in battle. Look at me, Eowyn!"

And this she did, drawn by the power of his voice alone. His gaze held hers captive, gently took the reigns of the wild horse she felt to be, not hurting, but still insisting, as he continued to speak, as words came to him as easily as they ever had.

"Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart, Eowyn! But I do not offer you my pity. For you are a lady high and valiant and you have yourself won renown that shall not be forgotten; and you are a lady beautiful, I deem, beyond even the words of the Elven-tongue to tell. And I love you. Once I pitied your sorrow. But now, were you sorrowless, without fear or any lack, were you the blissful Queen of Gondor, still I would love you. Eowyn do you not love me?"

Hoofbeats coming from afar...

She trembled at his voice, trembled at the sudden grace of a well reopening, of a power reforging, of the first, tender bloom after bitter frost. Her heart leaped out at him as it would at the illusion called freedom, leaped at the promise of a cage shattered and a ride as free as ever it could be.

When did I lose them?

She basked in the thunder of freedom offered and only slowly realized she was not looking at the endless plains but at his eyes, and still, it did not change what she saw. Only dimly she realized the tone of wonder, that had entered his gaze of determination and care, not even linking this to the storm raging inside her as the cage burst into pieces.

When she spoke, her voice trembled in wonder.

"I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun, and behold! The Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor view with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren."

She laughed at the freedom in her words, laughed with the wind and the ride through a blooming forest.

"No longer do I desire to be a queen."

In stone and marble...

Never free...

And yet the cage has broken...

He took a last step towards her, quickly, as if more governed by instinct then by thought alone, and the smile transformed his face, the freedom reaching him as well.

"That is well", he laughed, relief flooding him as a barrier broke he had not even known of. "For I am not a king. Yet I will wed with the White Lady of Rohan, if it be her will. And if she will, then let us cross the River and in happier days let us dwell in fair Ithilien and there make a garden. All things will grow with joy there, if the White Lady comes."

The promise was already in his eyes, and his heart, ever prisoner of his fear, was leaving captivity unguarded. She smiled at the utter relief in his face, shared his wonder of a gift they had not even known that it existed.

"Then must I leave my own people, man of Gondor? And would you have your proud folk say of you: 'There goes a lord who tamed a wild shieldmaiden of the North! Was there no woman of the race of Numenor to choose?'"

Once she spoke she knew, she was not serious. And once he laughed, shaking his head at her words and nodding with every gesture as he stepped closer, winter turned to spring and blood to life.

"I would."

Unspokenly a question was both raised and answered as the Stewart of Gondor leaned over to kiss the White Lady, in a tumble of joy and unfamiliar freedom, consumed and taken by the revelation of flowers in winter.

And so let me fly, forever

So I'll ever, ever come home