-Note- I've never written Aragorn or Eowyn before, so this was treading on new ground...kind of scary. I don't write in first person often anymore, or present tense, though the (original) short stories I used to write were. I feel kind of rusty...:P The transition from past tense in the first two paragraphs to present tense is intentional.
-Disclaimer- I don't own it.
I don't know why I'm doing this; it is raining, my joints are sore, and the warm bath I had had drawn is cooling in my apartments. As I grow older, I give in more to these odd impulses. Perhaps because I know the bath can be refilled, the aching will be gone in a few days, and there are moments that I cannot afford to miss because of a painful knee.
When I was young, I liked to sit under the eaves of the Golden Hall and watch the rain slope off the roof. It was a lonely feeling, and I usually ended up sopping wet, having abandoned thoughts of clean dresses and gone playing in puddles. I'm an old woman now, my hair is snowy white, my eyesight has clouded, and I don't, as a rule, enjoy the rain. Nor do I play in puddles.
And now I find myself in the gardens Faramir's mother planted long ago. I have always felt like a trespasser here, among the unspoiled lilies, roses, and lavender. I do not pretend to have any skill with plants; I am told that Finduilas cared for these herself. I am also told that Finduilas never went into battle. But if she spent her time here, making a place of such beauty, I do not begrudge her. I have learned that there are nobler things than wielding a sword.
Spring came, at last, several weeks ago, and there are no real flowers yet, just fresh, new green. I am wet now; my husband will no doubt chastise me for trying to "catch my death", but I will make an effort to dry out before he sees me. There is a small shed; I take refuge there, under the overhanging roof. I am reminded of my childhood, watching pearly beads of water form a curtain before my eyes, smelling the glorious scent of wet horses, which, I am told, only one of Rohan can love. In Gondor, then, few can share my enthusiasm.
We seldom visit Minas Tirith, my husband and I. We leave the traveling to our children, now. But when I do come, I visit here, and think of the Lady who came before me. She died of melancholy, I've heard, pining for the waves of the sea at Dol Amroth, the smell of salt in the morning air. I have been to that city, also. The sea is wide and perilous in its beauty, and I liken it to the plains of my homeland, but I do not love it more, for all its vastness.
I am suddenly aware that I am not the only one here. A solitary, cloaked figure approaches on the flagstone path, stooping occasionally to examine an herb. It sees me, lifts its hood, and I see that it is the King. I stand, as hastily as I can nowadays, and curtsy, ignoring in vain the ache in my knees.
"My lord," I say.
"Lady Eowyn, there is no need to curtsey here. I believe," he says conspiratorially, joining me, "that we two are the only people disturbing this place at present, and those who care for courtly manners have remained indoors."
I laugh, and sink back to the ground. He does the same, and we watch the rain.
"I feel I should be apologizing," he says, with a wry smile. "I am trespassing on yours and Faramir's grounds. I will confess that I come here often, when you are in Ithilien."
"You are most welcome to come here."
I have always felt awkward around him, but I have been a princess all my life and I know how to keep such things well hidden, though he is surely aware of it my discomfort. I remember I was only a young woman when I saw him, a gallant stranger come to rescue us all, to save me from my lonesome existence. I remember how I clung to him without shame, and I regret that I was not wise enough to understand then. I have grown much since.
"Your joints pain you?" he asks. I should have known it; Aragorn has a way of seeing through people.
"Yes. I do not find respite from it on these damp days, but I take comfort that it will not last forever." He stares at me intently, with those bottomless eyes.
"No, it will not," he agrees. We both know that I am old in the years of my people, that my health is not what it once was, that my years are now close to an end. He has more time; his hair is grayer than it was during the war, his face more lined, but there is life in him yet. It is almost true, what they said when he first came to the city under his right name; he is one of the kings of Númenor, come from over the sea to Middle Earth. He has the long years of his kin.
But now, he is only Aragorn. No small thing to me, who loved him once, but he is not wearing that winged crown or sitting on a thrown or deep in deliberation with my husband. And he is wearing an exceptionally filthy cloak. I cannot help but ask.
"Aragorn...where did you obtain that ratty thing? Why, for Orom's sake, did you pay money for it?"
He obviously has heard this before; he knows right away that I am speaking of his cloak. He pinches it. "It's one of my old ranger cloaks. I am under strict instruction to keep the one I wore on the quest in perfect condition, but I had more than one tucked away elsewhere."
"It's hardly royal garb."
"Lady," he says with all frankness, "you know that 'royal garb' would not last a moment in the wilderness or on the battlefield. And sometimes I feel the need to reminisce. A Ranger has no need for stiff, beaded robes."
I laugh. "Aye, true. Nor does he want them, I expect."
The rain comes more heavily, a sheet of badly made glass. I think of a little girl splashing in the downpour, and echoes of long ago laughter ring in my mind.
"Have you forgiven me?" he asks suddenly. I think for a moment- what is he talking about? Then I realize it.
"For not loving you."
"Aragorn..." I say, biting back exasperation. "How could I not? You are my king. That was years ago!"
The answer seems to disappoint him. Gently, I continue. "That was the simple answer. I am sure you hear replies like that often enough. I love another, with all my heart. I could not be happier having Faramir as my husband."
I pause. "I was a desperate girl, then. I was plagued by duties I had outgrown, by worry for my kingdom and my uncle, by Gríma's advances. I would not have found happiness with you, only brief escape."
I look him in the eye. He understands. I am only sorry he didn't ask this question before, but it is oddly flattering that he should still think of what happened years ago.
"I am glad," he says. I hear the relief in his voice. I know why he finally asks his question; he is far-seeing, Aragorn, but he needs no foresight to know I am failing. I feel it every day, though it shows less, and Faramir is largely unaware of anything unusual. Like a snowball going downhill, I have yet to pick up enough speed, but I am accelerating quickly.
It has crept on my mind in the past years, first a slow shadow, but now it has weight on all of my actions. I do nothing I will regret later, I do everything I will regret not doing when the day is over. Perhaps that is why I am here now, though my health may suffer for it. This will be my last spring, I think, or close to it. This may be my last spring shower.
I have grown much since I last played in the puddles outside my uncle's hall. I like to think that I am wiser, too. Another impulse takes me, and I rise. Aragorn raises an inquisitive eyebrow.
"I am going to find some puddles," I say, and walk through the silver curtain of rainwater, into the garden that lies beyond.
Thank you for reading!
Kudos to all who figured out that the last line was a very weak take at- "...the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise." (Tolkien, JRR, "The Return of the King, p. 347 Ballantine Books) My version doesn't hold a candle up to the original. :)