The poem belongs to Tolkien, not me! Oh, I know I never write disclaimers, but come on, could anyone take me for the Professor?
Out of doubt, out of dark, to the day's rising
he rode singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
Hope he rekindled, and in hope ended;
over death, over dread, over doom lifted
out of loss, out of life, unto long glory.
It would not be until weeks afterwards that I learned fully what the words of the song meant; meanwhile, I just stood with my eyes closed, listening to mournful, grave voices of the Riders who sang it, riding around the new barrow.
I felt tears trickle slowly down my face and wiped them hastily with my hand; the whole ceremony had not moved me as greatly as this song, the song of finality that completely sealed the fate of the late King of Rohan. I wondered at this, for the song was not a lament as I understood the word; even not knowing the speech of the Rohirrim, I could feel that it did not speak of losses, but of the undying glory of the man now lying under the green of the grass and the white of the little starry flowers; of the glory of all who fell so that we could now begin our hesitant, but joyful way to happiness.
I cast a glance around, taking in the expressions of the rest. I was not the only one to weep; apparently, there was not a person whose eyes were dry. I knew they were not really mourning the King; those who stood before their tear-filled eyes were sons, fathers, and brothers fallen on battlefields; wives and mothers left to guard their houses until they also perished; little children killed or crippled by the war…
I looked down, to the dark spots that were left by my tears falling onto my bosom. I no longer attempted to stem their flow; I did not have anyone to grieve for, but my heart was aching so bitterly that the pain could not be kept inside.
Éowyn stood pressed close to her brother, and her whole slim frame shook with sobs. She had tried very hard to keep her composure, but when the last patch of turf covered the great mound, she took a step forward, looking as if she was in a trance. Éomer caught her arm; she turned to him with a heartbreaking expression on her lovely face, and next moment, she buried her face in his chest, weeping uncontrollably.
Tears were streaming down my beloved's face, too; oh, how I longed to be nearer to him at that moment, to hold him tight and offer him my own shoulder for support; for I felt a thousand times wiser and calmer than I had felt several months before, and I longed to share my newfound strength and calmness with the man who so unexpectedly became almost everything to me. But that was only to be desired; we were not officially trothplighted yet, and to all I was just the daughter of the Prince of Dol Amroth who had suddenly expressed a wish to accompany her father. I sighed and resumed my contemplation of the crowd.
Arwen was standing slightly behind her husband, head bowed, an expression of serenity and sadness on her features. She was very pale; I noticed her hand reaching for Aragorn's and clasping it tightly, and he clasped hers in return in a gesture of loving reassurance. Poor fair Elf-woman, I was certain that the thoughts which occupied her mind were those of the fate to befall her husband; did she picture this same ceremony honouring his passing, and herself standing in front of his burial mound, bowed with grief? That was to happen years and years from the present day, but did they not say that the flow of time was different with Elves? What if to her their happy days together would be but a fleeting moment, to have which she chose to be parted from her entire family?
Aragorn seemed deep in thought, faint tear tracks on his cheeks too. I felt yet another pang of ache; we all tended to see the man as someone unbreakable, always strong and proud, and yet he had known a lot of loneliness, heartache, and even despair. His had probably been the longest and the hardest way of them all.
I pressed my brow to Faramir's arm, and he promptly put it around my waist, pulling me closer. I heard him give a shuddering sigh as he kissed the top of my head and then rested his cheek against my hair. I felt him breathe in and out heavily as he struggled to hold back his tears, but all the efforts were futile. All the hurt and the grief came back to him, made tenfold by the grave beauty of the ceremony which his brother and father had been denied. I was standing very still. Here was one who needed me, more even than Éomer, for Éomer had his sister at his side, both for getting support and for giving some, the latter, to my mind, being just as effective in coping with one's grief.
So I wrapped both arms around Faramir, yet again striving to show him, with my entire being, how truly we were family, and how much I wanted to lessen his pain. I did not care for appearances or protocol or anyone's opinion; whom did it hurt if the Steward of Gondor got this crumb of comfort publicly? Besides, I had learned by then that such lapses were easily overlooked in this country. That relieved me a lot.
When the funeral was over, we stood there awkwardly for some time, and then the gathering slowly turned to go back to the Golden Hall. Faramir loosened his hold on me a bit, not letting go of me, though. I glanced up into his face, and he gave me a tremulous smile amid his tears.
"I love you, little cousin," he whispered, stooping to kiss my brow.
I wanted to say something, but at that moment the four Halflings appeared, three of them comforting my poor friend Merry, who looked absolutely crushed under his grief. Faramir eyed him thoughtfully for a moment, and them gathered him in his arms, picking him up. Merry threw his small arms around my cousin's neck, sobbing bitterly into his chest as Faramir whispered soothingly into his ear, carrying him away with an apologetic glance at me.
I was left with the three hobbits. Together, we stood silent for a while, and then Pippin sighed and said, "Let us go," and started to walk forward.
I put my hands on Frodo and Sam's shoulders, and we followed him.
Three years later, in Rohan
"Oh no, he is doing that again!" Éowyn moaned miserably, putting her hand to her eyes, but taking it away with a jerk immediately, to resume her anxious watch over her family.
They all, including Éomer, were in the back yard, with a two-year-old Elboron seated on an old horse and squeaking with joy, while we watched them from a small terrace, away from anybody's eyes.
Éowyn was deathly pale, and her eyes never left the lively group.
"For goodness' sake, Éowyn, be reasonable," I laughed. "I guess Faramir never tires of teasing you. The shieldmaiden of Rohan is scared to death by the sight of her son on horseback! The poor creature was probably born on the same day as Éomer, it has long forgotten how to rear up!"
She did not say anything, just wiped angrily at her cheeks.
"Éowyn!" I exclaimed in alarm. "Are you all right?"
She shook her head sorrowfully.
"I am sorry, Thíri," she said. "I… I know I have been acting strange these days."
"I rather thought you would be proud to see your son riding," I remarked.
"You wait until my brother does the same with Elfwine," she barked angrily.
I allowed myself a contented smile; my own son was a mere baby, not seven months old, and the dreaded moment seemed ages away.
The aforesaid little prince yawned and turned his head away from my breast, showing that his lunch was over. I handed him to Éowyn and straightened up my dress.
"Well, that is it," I announced. "You can give him back to me now."
"No, please let me hold him a little longer," she pleaded. I noticed that she was weeping again, but did not say anything, presuming that it was because she missed the time when her son could be cradled and protected in her arms like mine…
After a while, she spoke.
"Did you know that some ladies of Gondor sent their children to be raised by a wet-nurse for several years?" she asked.
"Of course," I smiled. "That is why I am so happy here in Rohan. I could not imagine being parted from my baby."
"Neither could I," she said fiercely. "I suppose I gave them all a terrible shock when I announced that I was going to feed my son myself and keep him in my household. But then, Arwen is prepared to do the same, or so I heard. Family ties are very important for Elves, as they do not usually have many children."
"Well, that will shut the gossips' mouths," I concluded cheerfully. "When is the Queen to have her child?"
Éowyn shrugged. "I do not rightly know. In fact, no one does, because in the case of an Elf mother and a human father that is a complicated issue."
"I do feel for her, then. For both of them. The last days are the most difficult to bear, when you await it every minute… All right, what is it, Éowyn?"
She was in tears yet again, cradling Elfwine to her bosom and pressing her free hand to her eyes.
I called for the nurse and gave her the baby, and then gently took Éowyn's hands in mine.
"You can tell me, you know it."
She sobbed a couple of times, then sniffled angrily.
"Oh, Thíri, I am so mad at myself. Everything, just every single trifle is enough to reduce me to tears!"
A great feeling of relief flooded me.
"Éowyn," I said, moving to the floor at her feet, "are you with child again?"
She bit her lip and nodded, smiling hesitantly.
"I am a fool, am I not?" she whispered. "How did you guess?"
I laughed, hugging her. "I was exactly the same in my first months with Elfwine. Éomer was beside himself with worry! Oh, my dear, but this is wonderful! Does Faramir know?"
"No," she shook her head. "I do not know how I should tell him that. He is sure to fret until the delivery! He did with Elboron."
"Now that he has Elboron, it may all be different," I pointed out.
"He worries that he might lavish all his love on the second child, thus leaving Elboron out…" she sighed. "Foolish, do you not think?"
We looked towards the men again. Apparently, Éomer succeeded in making the poor animal change to a light trot instead of walk, and little Elboron was ecstatic. Both our husbands looked foolishly happy, the expressions on their faces matching the child's.
"What do they think they are doing!" Éowyn cried, jumping to her feet. "Faramir! I am going to kill that man."
That announced, she rushed out to the yard.
I pictured my son in Elboron's place and shuddered. Maybe there was some reason in Éowyn's words…
I watched the scene that followed with a smile. Éowyn snatched the boy into her arms and gave Faramir a glance that could kill indeed, along with some words that made him raise his hands in mock surrender. Éomer tried to reason with her, but, upon receiving another deathly stare, preferred to retreat to me.
"Sometimes I think that she overdoes it a bit," he said with unmasked irritation, watching his sister gesture angrily at Faramir. "What has got into her, Lothi? She is not herself. Worrying about that child so… oh my goodness, has she not seen how Faramir was holding his hands ready to catch the little one should anything happen?"
"She is all right, Éomer," I laughed. "She is just expecting another baby. You do remember how strange my acts were when I was carrying our son?"
He shuddered and held me close. "Ugh! Promise you will never be like that again. The people might demand another Queen. Wait… oh, good. Those two seem to have made it up."
Below us, Faramir was embracing both his wife and his son, saying something into Éowyn's ear and laughing quietly. She started laughing too and rested her brow on his shoulder.
"She has told him," we both said at the same time and laughed.
I crept out after dinner, out into the warm windy night, and sat on the terrace again. I pulled the silver circlet off my head, shaking it and sighing in relief as my hair flew loose on the wind.
"Thíri! Oh, there you are," said Faramir, emerging from the darkness. "Éomer asked me to find you."
"And where is my husband?"
Faramir laughed softly. "Trying to put Elboron to bed, and I pity the man. But then, he wanted it."
"He really loves your son," I said. "Sometimes I think he feels more at ease with him than with his own son. I would not say I am concerned, though, for Elfwine is just a baby, and they have all the time they need to know each other better. They say that not all fathers become such until their children begin to talk…"
He looked at me with an unreadable expression, then laughed softly and pulled me to himself.
"You have become such a wise lady, Thíri. Sometimes much wiser than my wife," he sighed comically.
I laughed. "Do not forget that she is with child… besides, I am a queen, Faramir, and she just a princess."
"Shall we come inside?" he suggested after a while.
I shook my head. "No, cousin, I want to be alone for a bit. I shall be fine. Goodnight, Faramir."
"Goodnight, Thíri," he said, putting his hands on my shoulders and kissing me on the cheek.
When he was gone, I stood alone, staring towards the invisible plains before me, breathing in the warm dusty smell of the grasses.
My journey was also complete.
I am home.
Well, that is the end. I am glad that this story brought pleasure to so many of you. It was great reading your kind remarks and knowing that I managed to make someone think, and analyse, and simply feel what I felt. Thank you again, and may your own inspiration match the one you gave me!