by Camilla Sandman
Disclaimer: Never mine. Tolkien brought us all his wonderful characters. I merely play with them for a brief while.
Frost lay over the lands of Ithilien, clinging to trees and fading grass. The sun had fallen and darkness now clad the stars, silver-glinting as they chased twillight into night. As it rose, even the moon seemed cold, as if touched by frost even in the sky. The embrace of silence was only broken now and then by a soft paw in the grass or a flutter of wings by a tree. Shadows chased each other in the forests, almost dancing among the roots, never tripping.
Most slept in a night such as this, dreaming perhaps of the warmth of summer gone or the gentle cloak of mild spring winds to come. Dreaming of that which had been or that which had come as the now went ever on in the early winternight of Ithilien.
But the moon did not give the only light of the night and in the distance, a weak light flickered from a window. Not all slept.
Éowyn of Rohan did not. Awake, she looked out on the night, clutching the flickering candle. Her feet were naked and cold on the floor and her gown thin, but she did return to the warmth of her bed and her husband.
Faramir slept quietly, but what he dreamed of, Éowyn could not say. His face was peaceful, no lines drawn in pain or memories relived. She knew he did not always rest as easy as this. Their marriage was still young, but more than once she had seen shadows pass over his face in sleep. She had not asked and he had not told, but understanding still lingered between them unspoken. She knew the shadows that crept out in dreams and haunted. One of them had woken her this night.
She remembered the King, terrible and glorious, a wraith of daylight, a shadow even the sun could not chase. She remembered the smell of death embracing her as intimately as any lover, clinging to everything. She remembered the fear, the fear that had for a moment owned her soul. And in her dream, it did so still. In her dream, desperation did not conquer her fear. She died.
The flame flickered and died, leaving only the slimmer of moonlight to light for her. The shadows of the room seemed to lenghten and stretch out, almost coming alive. The darkest shadow of them all had long since departed, but the memory lingered and tainted. Shadows could not merely be shadows as long as she remembered...
His foul breath, reeking of carrion lacing around her, seeping into her as warmth left her. The terrible, terrible voice that commanded its desire. And fear as a worm in her heart, eating and devouring. A shadow in her mind arose and she gave in, for one fleeting moment. For one moment, he was King and she was of shadows.
She jolted out of the memory with a shudder. He was dead; she had killed him. But a part of her he owned, a part of her that was still shadow. Not all could be healed for not everything was a wound. No herbs cured a memory.
Faramir knew. She had seen it in his gaze even at their first meaning, understanding and pity and perhaps even then the first glimmer of love even then. Perhaps Aragorn had known also, but she had only ever seen in him what she desired to see. A light for all her shadows, a King reforged from the stories of old. And when he had offered pity, she had fled it, fled a a duty Théoden King had laid upon her, fled to death where no pity might touch her.
But it had not been death that had touched her, though the Witch-King of Angmar was no living being. He was the spectre of death, not death itself. Before him she had fallen and then stood firm. She had lived and her stand had owned her songs and renown. She had lived for all she had sought death.
And from fire and darkness, so had Faramir.
Faramir was no king. But there was light within him nevertheless, even as he slept now, dark lashes against his weathered cheeks. As she watched him, he shifted slightly, a foot slipping out of the covers to the chill of the room. She regarded him for a moment, then slipped quietly over to the bed and adjusted the covers. Unable to resist, she let a finger slip across his cheek.
A hand slipped around her arm, warm against her colder skin.
"Why are you not sleeping?" Faramir murmured, his voice husky in the dark.
"I dreamt of shadows long gone."
"Come back to bed," he whispered to her. "You have slain your foe and the shadow fall no more. You are healed. Come back to me, Lady of Ithilien."
"How does one heal a memory, my Lord?"
He pushed himself up to look at her, hair unkempt and eyes still foggy with sleep. When he reached out she sank down to meet his warmth, his beard scratching her cheek as he kissed her. She could feel his heartbeat under her palm, steadfast and sure.
"And winter is no wound, yet it is death healed when spring comes," he said softly against her lips. "You will be healed, for that strength that is bound within you faltered not when even courage had deserted all living men. He did not claim you and his memory is just a shadow."
She closed her eyes and felt his forehead touch her own, their breaths mingling.
"Come back to me," he repeated and only then did she hear the hint of fear in his voice and knew his own memories would sometimes haunt his dreams. Fire and shadows and a father's love tainted. He had been second to Boromir. And in the dark of night, perhaps he also feared being second to Aragorn.
"I did not leave you," she replied and slipped under the covers to meet his embrace.
You shall be my light, she thought, and all I shall be yours. A memory is not a wound a herb may heal, but its power may come undone. And I do love you, Faramir of Gondor.
And then she did not think for a while, lost in light and warmth and love and the touch of life. Finally, they both slept, dreamless and quietly as the night became dawn and morning in Ithilien.
And with the rising sun, the frost turned to morning dew.