Of the Sun and Stars
"Such wonders, the stars," Éowyn muttered, then thought herself hasty. What an odd thing to say! He would most definitely think of her as childish. Yet, as she snuck a glance at the Steward who sat beside her, she only found him to be looking at her, his lips curved into a smile that softened his already gentle, fair face. She crossed her arm over the other, pulling on the bandage, nervous all of a sudden. Why she was nervous, the answer eluded her, for it was rare that she'd be nervous in front of any man… save only one.
"How so?" asked Faramir, his tone ever polite and attentive.
She looked up at the sky, her vision slightly obscured by the leaves of the tree that hung above them. "Forever they shed light upon those lands momentarily forgotten by the sun. Don't they feel envious, that it needs a multitude of them to create just a mere shadow of the day?"
Faramir lifted his eyes to the eve that shrouded them like a cloak. "I've always thought it is the sun that should be envious of the stars," he spoke.
The wind whistled, its breeze bringing upon her comfort and serenity. Éowyn looked at him, and found him thoughtful. "How so?"
"Songs," he said, tearing his eyes off the skies to look at her once more. "Folklores. Rare it is that these tales of men and of elves are about the beauty, the strength of the sun. They sing more of these little stars. They sing more about evening, when all is silent and still, and all looks upon the heavens to see wisdom in these gentle lights."
"Ah, but it is during the night that the coward creep upon the brave and the noble to slay them in their sleep. The stars will do nothing, for what can their gentle lights do? Shadows still lurk upon corners, and this lingering darkness they cannot chase away."
Faramir regarded her with a nod. "If it is a man's time to die, then it will come, be it through another's hand or the passing of the years. Death can come on swift foot or slow tide, but come it will regardless of the sun or the stars."
She smiled at him. "Are you not bred among warriors of Gondor, my lord? You seem… forgive my brazenness, but you, sir, do not at all speak like a soldier."
He gave a short chuckle. "If I should choose to take thy lady's words as insult, then I could. But I do not choose it, because I foresee that your words bestow more than what they seem."
"I did not know I was in the company of a seer!" she said.
"You are not," he answered, eyes bright in his gaze. "But I will answer the question of the lady. My brother and I, we were bred among warriors of Gondor. I seem to wake everyday to the horn that cried for nothing but pain and death. I sleep in blood, and I wake in blood. Such are the lives of soldiers in our land. I share that fate, and so does every man regardless of honor or distinction."
"Then indeed the fates of Rohan and Gondor are intertwined," said Éowyn, looking away, her eyes enigmatically pulled towards the east. "Though I am the daughter of kings, and my days shrouded in beauty and splendor as a princess should be, I choose to sleep and wake in blood also." She looked down at her hands, white as the sling that covered her arm. "I do not swoon at the sight of blood, be it from a man or beast, and I delight at it if it comes from an enemy. Blood has been spilled in these hands, my lord, for I am not afraid."
"These hands," said Faramir, grasping her hands tenderly with his until his shadowed skin mingled with her own, "are of a shieldmaiden, whose courage and spirit are now known to all. No one in all the lands of men will look upon you and say you are a woman fair only. Nay, lady; they would say that you are a woman fair and brave."
She stared at their hands entwined, and felt the roughness of his palm against her own. The warmth of his skin on her ailing hand she found soothing. Éowyn raised her eyes to his gentle face, and saw only that he spoke of truths. It brought her joy that he held her in such a high esteem. "And when they look upon you," said she, "what do they say?"
Faramir released her hands, and in the cradle of the evening her hands felt alone, and cold. "They will say, there goes the captain, whose men trudge to battle while he lies upon cloth and care."
She heard more than just the words; she heard the bitterness engraved in each. She knew that bitterness; she understood it, for that was what also haunted her in both wakefulness and sleep. Éowyn laid a hand on his back, in an act of both gentleness and soothing. "Nay, lord," she spoke softly, truthfully. "They will say, there goes the captain, who must lay on cloth and care so he may one day justly rule upon us all."
"I am no king, my lady," said he.
"But you are the Steward of Gondor, its Captain!" she insisted. "And the people looks upon you the same way they look upon the stars above us. With admiration, with respect, and love. Nothing else."
"Ah, Éowyn," Faramir said, taking her hand and bringing it to his lips. He bestowed upon it the gentlest touch of his mouth. "Your words bring me comfort, do you know? You may speak of the things I have no knowledge of, and yet hearing your voice will bring me bliss."
She tried to look stern, but his words stirred deeply, madly, her heart. "Ah, but you, lord, are making this conversation into a child's game. I do not desire to be laughed at, and though I know my voice isn't a siren's song I know that no one's ever laughed at it before."
"And no one will ever dare to, lest they desire death from the Witch-King's slayer, the fulfiller of prophecies!"
"You laugh at me still," said Éowyn, withdrawing her hand.
"Nay, lady Éowyn, I have not the courage, or the strength."
She thought he looked troubled and tired all of a sudden, his face drawn with lines of pain and poison, and partly she felt answerable for it. "Forgive me, Lord Faramir," she said, in a low voice filled with guilt and sorrow, "if I am robbing thee of time to heal thyself."
"Not, my lady," he answered, with still another curve of his lips. "Truth be told, time with you makes my healing the more swift. And, if the lady would allow it, I have but one request."
"If it lies in my power, then I will do it," she recited from memory the words he had said to her. He remembered it, and smiled at it. Éowyn found herself returning the gesture.
"At long last I behold the sun!" he said. "Forgive my brazenness, but I would ask you not to frown and be filled with sorrow anymore. I find my strength return to me easier when you smile at me, Éowyn."
"And who am I not to grant such a request from my host fair and kind?" she asked. "If thee is telling the truth, then I will do it. I pray that life should run upon thy veins anew for it is my wish to see thee in battle."
Faramir frowned, the change in his face sudden and drastic. "But Éowyn—"
"Not in the battle for Middle-Earth, my lord," she answered with a short laugh. "A battle with the Witch-King's slayer, the fulfiller of prophecies."
"Dare I say," he spoke with humor and ease, "that the daughter of kings is asking a mere steward of the city for a match, a duel?"
"I have never seen thee in battle, handling a sword, and I know it must be quite a sight," she said. "I know more than what is necessary about war and battles, and therefore I deem it fair to say that no one in our lands can surpass thee in skill. I wish…" Éowyn faltered, knowing it was a mockery of herself to say the following. But then… "I wish to learn from thee."
"Then you would be my apprentice?"
Her proud head drooped a little. "If my lord will allow it."
"Then," he answered finally, "I will not."
Surprise quickly rose to her lips, but he lifted a gentle hand to quell her queries. "I will never allow it," he said, "for a mere apprentice you shall never be." Faramir dared, and succeeded, in running a finger over her cheek. "Such a title would never fit you, woman of great valor. If strength returns swiftly and the end of our time lies beyond us, then I will teach you, only because you will it, and only because I desire to see you and spend more time with you still."
"You drive a hard bargain, Captain of Gondor," said Éowyn, but her eyes were laughing and her heart glad.
And she beheld him, gentle as the stars, strong as the sun. "And it was worth it, White Lady of Rohan."
Author's Notes: Please be kind, this is my first LOTR story. Reviews are more than welcomed. If there are some matters to be corrected, then do not hesitate to tell me. I love getting constructive criticism ;)