Enough with the angst.
Okay…maybe a little more angst… :)
Either way, let's have some resolution, shall we? My new beta reader is unfortunately out of town, so please forgive any mistakes.
The Stone and the Steward—Chapter 7
It took hours to soothe Éowyn's tears and worries, and in the end, the entire story was told to her. Only then did she begin to understand all that Faramir was suffering. He told her everything: about the nightmares; the voices; the ghost of his father; the incident with the palantir. All things considered, she took the news better than he expected. Though she was understandably quite upset, she counseled and comforted him with steadfast calmness. Her newfound desire to be a Healer extended far beyond healing physical wounds.
"Why does my father haunt me, Éowyn?" he asked, looking at her with pleading eyes. "Do you think it is all in my head?" His voice was raw and fatigued. Quiet and defeated.
"Part of it, yes," she said after a moment of thought. "But I also know that this incident is making you think about some things that, while not pleasant, must be dealt with." Taking his hands into her own, she kissed his brow languidly. "You are not mad, Faramir. You have heard these words both from your wife and King, two people who love and know you well. Will you not believe us?"
"Perhaps I am not mad, but the fact still remains that this has grown dangerous. Something must be done." Faramir placed his aching head in his hands. "I'm going to dream again, Éowyn. I'm going to dream, and something terrible is going to happen."
"Nonsense. Do you honestly think your father would harm you?"
Faramir did not answer.
"Despite all of these things you have told me tonight, I do not think he wishes you harm," she continued, running her fingers through his damp hair. "I believe Denethor is trying to tell you something—or warn you—and I think you should listen to what he is saying."
Faramir let a slow, defeated sigh ease from his chest. "How do I let this go, Éowyn? What must I do?"
She considered the question in silence for a few long moments before responding. "Do you remember when I first came to you in the Houses of Healing?"
"Not in the slightest."
"Very funny. When I came to you, I complained because I did not want to lie in sloth and wait. I did not want to heal. I did not even want to live, for as you know, I thought I would certainly die in battle. Fate spared me, and but for you, it would have spared me in vain. I needed to heal, or I would not last. You made me see that."
Éowyn placed a gentle hand on his cheek and turned his face towards her. His grey eyes met her steady gaze hesitantly. She continued in a soft but firm voice. "As I did in the Houses of Healing, you have to let these hurts inside of you heal if you ever want to find peace or happiness. You have to allow the time for that healing. To fully recover, you have to face these lies you have allowed yourself to believe. The only way to fight lies is with truth. Know the truth. Understand it. Speak it. Then peace will come."
Outside, the dying thunderstorm gave a final quake of thunder and faded silently into the mist.
"So, dear brother, I see you have decided to say goodbye to your sister before you abandon her again in a foreign country. How very thoughtful."
"I find that you are less troublesome here," Éomer said by way of greeting. The early morning sun shone brightly from the sitting room window, causing his teasing eyes to sparkle at his sister fondly.
Éowyn laughed, but her smile did not reach her somnolent eyes. Placing a marker in her journal, she gestured for her brother to sit with her. Éomer's smile melted as he did so. "Forgive me, but I just noticed how pale you are. Is everything all right?"
Glancing wearily at her brother, Éowyn said, "I admit I am a little tired. Faramir and I were up for most of the night."
Éomer lifted an eyebrow.
"We were talking," she said pointedly. "And that reminds me. I wanted to thank you. Faramir told me that you spoke with him yesterday, and that your words were very kind. Sometimes I think, dear brother, that you might actually approve of my choice for a husband."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Éomer muttered and quickly changed the subject. "When last we spoke, you were quite concerned for your husband. Do you worry, still?"
Éowyn sighed resignedly. "I can honestly say that for the first time since we arrived in Minas Tirith, I am not anxious for him. Faramir is stronger than you realize, but even if he was not, we are to leave the City later this afternoon. I must admit, I do not wish to visit here anytime in the near future. We are so much happier in our own home. Oh, you must forgive me. I am being quite rude. Can I offer you some refreshment?"
Éomer did not seem convinced by his sister's dismissal of the subject. "Éowyn, I have known you all your life. Come now—I know when you are distressed."
"I have eyes," he said evenly.
Swallowing with difficultly, she spoke hesitantly. "Something happened last night. Well, I suppose it has been happening for the better part of the week. I cannot share details. Simply put, Faramir has been struggling with something most serious. I didn't even know the extent of it until he shared some things with me last night." She turned towards her brother and smiled. "But I believe much of it was sorted out. We talked things through for much of the night, and I think with my help, he has grasped a few important concepts about guilt and forgiveness."
Éomer eyed her suspiciously. "I suppose your innate feminine qualities had nothing to do with your powers of persuasion?"
"Of course not. I sat him down and screamed at him until, at last, he saw reason and listened."
He laughed heartily at that. "It is as I thought, then. Feminine qualities, indeed. All has been worked out, then?"
"I believe so."
"I am glad, for both your sakes. I must admit that I was not pleased, seeing you both so troubled. And where is your husband now?"
Éowyn smiled sadly. "Paying some last respects."
The Houses of the Steward were in a sad state. It was not surprising that the reconstruction of the City had taken precedence over the ruined burial chamber on Silent Street, for many said it was desecrated beyond repair. The walls were burned and scarred, weak and crumbling. The great dome had collapsed in on the remains of generations upon generations of Stewards. Looking upon the ruin, Faramir smiled faintly. Denethor certainly knew how to make an exit.
The young Steward sat in reverent silence before his father's final resting place, absently thumbing the loose silver ring of the Steward around his forefinger. Many hours had he been there, confronting past hurts and misunderstandings, trying to see truth through lies he had allowed himself believe for far too long.
Faramir gazed at the ruins emptily and spoke quietly but with conviction. "I've misunderstood you, dear father. There are so many things I wish I could have done better when you were alive, but I know now that blaming myself will only repeat mistakes of the past. Your mistakes—and I don't believe you want that for me. I remember one thing above all else; you and I loved one another, despite all our differences.
"Father, I forgive you in my heart for any wrongs you have done, to me or to yourself. I love you and miss you most grievously. Please be at peace."
Morning sunlight broke through the clouds that remained from the previous night's storm, warming Faramir considerably. He felt the deep, biting chill that had settled in his bones quiet. The heaviness left his heart. If he was a not a logical man, Faramir could have sworn he felt his father's hand on his shoulder.
But that was foolishness. His father was at peace. Faramir felt quite certain he would not see or hear from Denethor again.
"It was not my fault," Faramir said quietly when he heard footsteps behind him.
The King appeared next to him. "No," he said, placing a hand upon the burned walls. "No, it wasn't. Denethor made a choice."
Resolutely, Faramir rose to his feet. "And so will I."
"And what will that choice be?" Elessar inquired, placing a brotherly hand on his Steward's shoulder.
Faramir glanced briefly at the ruins of the Houses of the Steward. "What would you say the opposite of despair is?"
"Some might say 'joy' or 'hope,'" the King responded after a thoughtful moment, "but I would say 'peace.'"
Faramir nodded thoughtfully. "Then that is my choice. For my wife. For myself. For my father's memory." Having said this, he turned and bowed low, silently taking leave of his King.
"Farewell, Son of Gondor," King Elessar said as he placed his hand upon Faramir's bowed head. "Be at peace."
The young Steward smiled serenely as he rose. The fragrance of Ithilien danced on the eastern breeze, reminding him that home was calling. In the distance, he could see Éowyn waiting for him at the top of the Citadel. She wore a familiar mantle of deep blue and a gentle smile as she watched him. Turning away from the crumbled ruins, Faramir went to her.
Please let me know what you thought of "The Stone and the Steward." Many heartfelt thanks to the sweet people who have left me reviews. You kept me going. Really.
I should have a new Faramir/Éowyn story coming out soon. Watch my LiveJournal for details and chapters when they are released. www.livejournal.com/users/ladywenham/