Faramir was on his way to the garden when a woman's voice raised in anger arrested his steps. "Who commands in this City?"
"I do not rightly know," he heard the Warden of the Houses answer, "such things are not my care. There's the new Queen of course; and a marshal over the Riders of Rohan; and the Lord Hurin commands the Men of Gondor. But the Lord Faramir is by right Steward of the City.
The voices were coming from a half open door just a pace or so down the passage, quietly Faramir slipped inside. A golden haired girl in a fleecy white gown, her left arm set in a sling stood facing the Warden, her pale face flushed with anger and her blue eyes snapping fire. "Where can I find him?"
"In this house, Lady. But he was sorely hurt - I do not know -"
The girl impatiently waved away the Warden's excuses. "I want to see him!"
"He is here at your command, Lady, though he is also a prisoner of the healers." Faramir said quietly.
All turned at the sound of his voice. The Warden and the Women attending the Lady did him a courtesy but she stood straight though it seemed to him the flush on her cheeks deepened a little.
"I am Faramir of Gondor." he said, bowing to her. "What is it you wish? If it lies in my power, I will do it."
Now she did make him a stiff little courtesy, then said with fierce emphasis; "I would have you command this Warden to let me go!" He studied her gravely and was deeply troubled by what he saw. The Lady seemed somewhat discomfited by his steady regard. She swallowed and continued in a more moderate tone. "Please - do not misunderstand me. It is not lack of care that grieves me. No house could be fairer, nor attendants more kind. But I cannot lie idle - useless and caged!"
"I have not yet taken up my authority in the city." he answered. "But even if I had, I should listen to the counsel of the Warden and not cross his will in matters of healing, unless for great need."
"I do not desire healing." she answered him bitterly. "I wish to ride to war, like my brother Eomer - or better, like Theoden the King!"
So this was the Lady of Rohan. "But Theoden King is dead!" Faramir protested.
"Yes," she answered even more bitterly, "and now has both honor and peace."
Faramir looked at her and was chilled by what he saw looking back beneath the pride. The despair he had feared to see in his King and in Beregond he saw now all to clearly in the face of a young and lovely girl. How had she come to this? What had happened to her to make her turn her back on life and seek death?
"Such honor may yet come to us all, willing or unwilling." he said quietly. "And you will be better prepared to face it if you do as the Healers bid. You and I must endure the hours of waiting with what patience we can."
She heard the reproof he could not quite keep from his voice but instead of flaring up in anger, as he half expected, she softened, like a bitter frost yielding to the first warm breaths of spring. Tears started in her eyes and one rolled glittering down her cheek. "But the Healers would have me lie abed seven more days, " she pleaded in a small, sad voice. "and my window does not look eastward."
Faramir smiled, heart filled with pity and yet reassured. Even this helpless, childlike grief was better than the icy pride and despair he had seen earlier. "I'm sure that can be arranged." he glanced at the Warden who nodded. "If you will consent to stay in this House and take your rest, Lady, I will give you the freedom of the Citadel. From the pinnacle you may look east where all our hopes have gone. And there you will find me, also looking eastward. We have more in common than you think, Lady, you and I have both passed under the wings of the Shadow, and the same hand drew us back."
She seemed to stiffen again - the frost was not quite melted yet. "Not me, my Lord. The Shadow lies on me still. But I thank you for this at least, that I need not keep to my chamber and may walk abroad by the grace of the Steward of the City." She made him another courtesy, and recognizing this as a dismissal he bowed and left her.
Forgetting his original intention of visiting the gardens Faramir walked slowly back to his chamber and sat there for a long time deep in thought.
Queen Undomiel of Gondor stood in the smoke blackened stone shell of what had once been the City's splendid hall. "I wish you could have seen it before my Lady," the Man with her said sadly, "it was beautiful."
"It will be beautiful again." she told him firmly. "There are still fine craftsmen and stonemasons in this City, I have no doubt they will be able to match - or surpass - the works of their fathers."
But the Man shook his head sadly. "Nothing in Gondor is as it was, the West fails and we cannot stop it."
"The King will stop it." said Idril. "You will see, Master Maeglin, Gondor will regain her glory now that she has returned to her true allegiance."
The Man brightened a little. "I hope so, my Lady."
"Who would name a child for a traitor?" Arwen asked after they had left the City Master and begun the long climb upward to the Citadel.
Idril chuckled. "One who liked the sound of the name and cared little for the histories of the Elder Days, which after all were a very long time ago as we Men account it."
"Elves too." said Arwen.
Trailed by Idril's four maids in waiting, without whom she seemed unable to stir a step, they made their way up the levels of the City until they reached the Sixth Circle. Arwen stopped before the gate of the Houses of Healing. She had deliberately avoided seeing Eowyn until now, but they would have to face each other someday - and the Warden could not tell her the things she needed to know about the girl. "I will call upon the Lady of Rohan," she decided. "she should be well enough to receive visitors."
"Then I will pay a visit to my brother." said Idril.
Eowyn's room had been changed. Her new chamber was upon the second floor of the house. Arwen knocked and a grey clad nurse let her in. The Lady of Rohan was standing at an open window looking eastward, the fresh air fluttering her hair and gown.
"It is the Queen to see you, my Lady." said the Woman.
Eowyn turned. First she went pale then hot, painful color flooded her face from throat to hairline. She collected herself and made Arwen a courtesy.
Arwen was no less uncomfortable but being very much the elder was able to hide it better. "Greetings Eowyn." she said, speaking as healer rather than Queen. "I am glad to see you feel well enough to leave your bed, but you must be careful not to over try your strength."
Eowyn too was royal and trained to courtesy. "Thank you my Lady, I have already promised the Warden and the Lord Faramir that I will take as much rest as I can bear..." but she got no farther. Her face quivered as she struggled valiantly to command it, failed, and buried it in her hands and wept.
Arwen waved the nurses from the room then went to take the girl in her arms. "There, there, that's better." she crooned. "I've been so worried about you, Eowyn. Cry as much as you like, child, it's exactly what you need."
And cry she did, sobbing out the hurt and heartache borne for far too long alone on Arwen's shoulder. "I am so ashamed." she gasped at last. "So ashamed!"
"There is nothing shameful about falling in love." Arwen answered firmly, adding with a smile. "Especially with Aragorn. Indeed it is a constant surprise to me that every Woman who lays eyes on him does not love him!"
Eowyn made a gurgling noise that might have been tear choked laughter. "To me too." she said, then pulled away and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. "I do not reproach myself for that, Lady." she continued with forlorn dignity. "I sought the Lord Aragorn's love thinking him free to give it. Had I know about you I would have done differently but it is not that that shames me. My uncle -" her voice broke but she kept control of herself by a heroic effort. "My uncle and King left the rule of Rohan in my hands, entrusted me with the safety and honor of our people, and I left them." her face held a sort of despairing bewilderment. "I left them. How could I do that? I must have been mad!"
"I think you may have been a little." Arwen said quietly. "Aragorn and I both saw you were near to breaking that night at Dunharrow. And I know only too well what desperation can drive a Woman to."
Her voice was so strange as she said those last words that Eowyn looked at her in wonder. "Lady?"
Arwen swallowed. "I ran away too, Eowyn, from my father. I let him think I would go with our people to the Havens and oversea to Elvenhome as he wished, and instead came here to Aragorn." her voice shook. "And now I may never see Father again, or know if he forgives me or hates me for lying to him."
"Theoden was not angry with me." Eowyn said hesitantly, reaching out to lay a shy hand over Arwen's. "He even seemed glad of the chance to say farewell. Perhaps - perhaps your father will understand too, my Lady."
"I hope so." Arwen said, and managed a smile. "So here we stand, both of us runaways, and for the sake of the same Man."
"Who has ridden off and left us both." said Eowyn.
Arwen nodded ruefully. "He's always doing that. It is very annoying." and Eowyn actually giggled, Gimli was right, she did have a lovely laugh.
Arwen was encouraged by the change in the girl, but she knew very well she was not responsible for it. The cure had begun before she had entered the room, but who had wrought it?
"I see they have given you a new chamber," she ventured, "was there something wrong with the other?"
It was Eowyn's turn to smile ruefully. "Only that its window looked south rather than east. The Lord Faramir was gracious enough to command the change and to give me the freedom of the Citadel, so that I might at least look eastward after the - the King and my brother."
"That was kind of him." Arwen said and wondered if it could have been Faramir who'd released the tears so long unshed.
"He was very kind, but he is a stern lord as well as gentle - like the Lord Aragorn." Eowyn's chin rose, and so did her color. "I fear he thought me no better than a wayward child."
"Surely not." said Arwen.
"You know the Lady of Rohan do you not, Idril." Faramir asked suddenly, breaking into her description of the rebuilding underway in the lower City.
She raised her eyebrows slightly, obviously her brother hadn't heard a word she'd said. And why this sudden interest in Eowyn of Rohan? "Not really. We have exchanged formal letters and tokens that is all. Boromir knew her from a child of course. She used to tag after him and Theodred, just like her brother, and insisted on doing everything Eomer did."
"I remember him speaking of her." said Faramir. "They tell me she fought in the battle and slew Angmar."
"As no Man could do." Idril agreed. "Yes, she is trained as a shieldmaiden but she rode without leave and in disguise. They have had great troubles in Rohan, as you know, and the Lady Eowyn has had much to bear including the death of Theodred and now of Theoden. But I fear it was love unrequited that drove her to seek death in battle rather than grief for her kin."
Faramir blinked. "Who? and why unrequited? A lady so fair and valiant would be easy to love!"
"No doubt." Idril said mildly, and if she was surprised by the warmth in her brother's voice she hid it well. "But King Elessar was already contracted to another, though poor Eowyn was not to know it until too late."
"Elessar." Faramir repeated slowly, absorbing the idea.
"You have seen him," his sister said, "he has not only the beauty but the power and wisdom of the Kings of Men of old. And he brings hope to us who have had none for all too long. It would be very easy to fall in love with such a Man."
"Yes, I see." Faramir gave her a look of sharp concern. "You have not so fallen yourself, have you, Idril?."
She laughed. "I am rather older than Eowyn, and love another as you well know. But I am a Woman and not blind!" then she sobered. "But I would not have you think Eowyn merely an unbalanced, infatuated girl. This unfortunate love was but the last straw that overset her burdened heart - or so they tell me. Now, Brother, why this interest in the Lady of Rohan?"
"I met her today," he replied, "and saw that she was gravely troubled. I have given her the freedom of the Citadel."
"That should cheer her." Idril said. "We must all do what we can to raise Eowyn's spirits. Without her valor none of us might now be alive."
Faramir nodded, but absently, his thoughts obviously far away. Or perhaps just a passage and a flight of stairs away - with the Lady Eowyn.