DISCLAIMER: All things LOTR belong to J.R.R. Tolkien. I'm just attempting to wax lyrical with them.
Well, I'm all apologies for the long delay in this - the last chapter - thanks to everyone who reviewed this story, it's much appreciated!
"But now the stark dignity of entrance-
Still, the profound change has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken"
William Carlos Williams - Spring and All.
Can the days ahead be even more wonderful than this?
I had thought that with the end of the war, with the defeat of Sauron and of Saruman, that no bliss could be greater. I had found the war over, my dreams of glory in battle at once shattered and fulfilled, and a man by my side whose depth and kindness have brought light into places I had given up to shadow.
Yet there is even more joy to be found, it seems.
When we rose this morning, it was not with the harbingers of a silent ride ahead, there were no dreams to trouble us, and if there were dreams, they were of happy times. Faramir woke me gently, an insistent but gentle hand on my shoulder, a warm mouth on my lips, ghosting across them until I sat up, not to answer them, but berate him for teasing me so. Before I answered, that is. Long may the days be before I find myself able to resist returning one of my husband's kisses. And he is happy, so quietly happy that my heart may burst with relief and mutual elation.
I could not stop smiling all through breakfast, every mouthful of lembas and water was followed by a curving of my lips as I looked at Faramir sitting opposite me. Perhaps at another time I would have slapped a hand to my forehead to see myself thus, grinning like a fool over breakfast, but I am inexplicably filled with a need to express my content, horse lords forgive me, I could well be tempted to burst into song.
I think not. That, perhaps, is better left for another day.
Faramir's eyes glittered all morning, stealing quick glances at me that lingered for a second too long on purpose, so that I would catch him watching me and try to conjure something like disapproval at the scrutiny. Try I did, before failing and beaming fit to rival the warm sun that had risen far too quickly for my liking. I would have stayed there all day, basking in the sunlight and Faramir's love, feeling the warmth rise in my chest and colour flush to my throat and cheeks at his glances, those fleeting reminders of what we both feel for each other.
Yet back into the saddle we swing, ready to ride back, back across these plains, back to the realm of Gondor and the glittering turrets of Minas Tirith, and Ithilien fair, the place where we have spent many peaceful and happy days in each others company, and will do so in the future. It was not with too much regret that I swung into my seat. These past days have reinforced my love of riding, not dwindled it, and still my Rohirric soul strains for the wind in my hair, and the ripple of hooves on solid earth. I was content to return, and gazed out over the lit grass and rises of earth, hills and brook. I am glad we left.
Faramir's hand stayed for a long moment on my ankle, circling the limb through the leather of my boot. We stayed like that, both absorbed in the beauty of what surrounded us, memorising the landscape with our eyes. I could still feel the steady movement of his hand outlining the contours of my ankle some hours later, as we rode laughing to the river.
"Well, I think we should be proud of ourselves, Eowyn" he remarked, staring out across the expanse of moving water, much diminished as a result of the warm summer. I looked over at him, perplexed at to what he was referring to, the time in which we had reached the river, or how far we had come in these last days, the honesty and the admissions, the tears of sadness and relief.
"It took us longer to ride out from here than it has to return to this point, has it not?"
Ah, so he was indeed speaking of the literal journey. I smiled my agreement, the constant stream of sound from the running water soothing to my ears. I felt the glow from the ride radiate from my face. Now I can laugh to myself at the image; the shieldmaiden of Rohan, blushing like a new-
I shook myself free from my thoughts and turned to Faramir again.
"What?" the only reply I could muster. Perhaps my husband's gift with words will rub off at some point. Evidently the likelihood of this happening today is not great.
"My bride", he repeated, a warmth in his smile that competed with the sunlight and won.
Again, I blush. One day I will school myself in accepting compliments.
"Faramir", I reached over and touched his arm as it held the reins, "we have not been married long, but long enough for you to call me your wife"
He laughed softly, those clear blue-green eyes narrowing in mirth, reduced to slits of happy colour.
"Yes, I know, Eowyn, but still", he leant over in the saddle and touched a roving strand of my hair, "still I wake up and need to pinch myself to realise that this is real, that you chose to marry me. Thank you, lady"
I laughed this time, but nervously, uncertain. I should be thanking him, for seeing something in, what had I called myself then? A wild shieldmaiden of the North.
"I should thank you, Faramir, for showing me that the Shadow did not hold sway over my life as I thought"
"Ah", he responded, nodding, "then we are even"
We grinned at each other like children who have just gotten away with a prank, and then I set my heels to my steed's side and splashed across the shallowest part of the river, all excitement as Faramir did the same, trying to catch up with me in the pebble coated shallows.
"As I recall, lady", I heard him call not far behind me, "you gave yourself a rather unfair head start in our last race"
I halted in the last few feet of shallows, the water pooling round my horse's hooves. I looked over my shoulder and nodded my acquiescence, a mock attempt at seriousness on my face. I heard Faramir suppress a chuckle at my expression before riding up to me, our horses' heads facing the same way.
"Well then", he continued, "I shall ask them to lay a feast for you when you finally reach Minas Tirith. Of course I will have had my own some hours before"
I giggled at the utter absurdity of this. Minas Tirith lay before us, not half an hour's ride at a moderate pace, and here was my husband talking of hours and my own delayed arrival in the White City. Faramir beamed at my levity, running a careless hand through his windswept hair, dark gold locks pulled back through pale fingers.
"Of course that is ludicrous. But I will still reach the gates before you"
And with a cursory glance at my mildly shocked expression, grinning at my gape, Faramir dug in his heels and fled across the last part of river and onto dry grass, pounding the turf as he raced to the mountain of white towers and walls. I urged my steed into pursuit, caught up in the chase, Faramir racing ahead of me, bent over the neck of his horse in eagerness. Panels of sunlight passed over the grass and us in large scarves of gold. Faramir's voice was carried back by the wind.
"No more shadows, Eowyn!"
Aye, no more. For us, the dark days are long over.
In the distant air I heard the guards call for the gates to be opened, and we drew level with each other, thundering into Minas Tirith together to the call of silver trumpets.