A/N: This story's a bit of a departure for me... I originally wrote it several months ago with the intent of using it in another story I have posted up here, but later decided it was too AU for that. But I had too much fun writing it to ditch it completely, and I hope you enjoy it.
And as usual, I don't own anything, including the little boy with a crush on me who inspired me to write it in the first place. He belongs to a friend of mine. :D
I walked alone down the silent hall of the Citadel of Minas Tirith, the sound of my booted feet echoing loudly as they hit the polished marble floor. One of the household servants had offered to escort me, of course, but I had assured him that I knew the way to the Steward's study. Still, it was a relief when Faramir opened the door that I knocked on, as the doors all looked the same to me.
"'Tis good to see you, Éowyn," he said, smiling warmly as he embraced me. "I am almost finished here; if you could give me a moment…"
"Of course," I said, smiling back as I followed him into the room, leaving the door open behind me. The days were quickly growing warmer, now that spring had finally arrived, and Faramir had offered to take me for a walk around the city before supper. Though my stay in Gondor was much more bearable now that I had my study of the healers' art to occupy myself, the opportunity to escape from the confines of the Houses of Healing was still more than welcome, as was the chance to have Faramir to myself for a little while.
Faramir sat down behind the imposing-looking wooden desk, taking up his quill once more. Not wishing to disturb him, I walked over to the far side of the room, taking the opportunity to look around.
Though the room was cluttered, with stacks of books and documents everywhere, there seemed to be some order to the chaos; the stacks were neatly arranged, and I had no doubt that Faramir had some system to make sense of all of the paperwork. Bookshelves took up an entire wall, and I ran my fingers along the leather spines as I glanced at some of the titles. They mostly seemed to be official records of the daily business of Gondor, reports of military action, and the like. A small wooden table stood in front of the bookshelf, with another stack of books resting on the top, and I idly picked up the first book.
There was something oddly familiar about the well-worn, deep blue leather cover. I traced the silvery runes on the front with my finger, then flipped the book open only to find that I could not read it, as it appeared to be some form of Elvish. I went to close the book, and a single dried flower slipped out and fell to the ground. I quickly knelt down to pick it up, setting the book down beside me. As I picked up the fragile blossom, my eyes widened in recognition. Simblemynë. How could I have forgotten?
I glanced up at the man sitting across the room from me, then back down at the book on the floor. Though the memory had been long buried, along with the thought of many of my happier childhood moments, as I gazed down in wonder at the fragile blossom in my hand, I could suddenly remember as clearly as when it had happened…
I had been only five years old, and my family had traveled to Edoras to visit my uncle and cousin. My father, as the Marshall of the East-Mark, had been summoned to discuss the defenses of the eastern borders of our lands, and a party from Gondor was supposed to attend as well.
The day that they arrived, Mother had agreed that Éomer and I could go outside while we waited, provided we did not get dirty. As the niece and nephew of the King, undoubtedly we would have to be presented before the men of the South at some point, and she wanted us to make a good impression. But Éomer and I quickly forgot her instructions as we got involved in our game. Much to my excitement, Éomer agreed to play at sword-fighting with me, but kept insisting that he was the Rider and I had to be an orc, much to my chagrin.
"Surrender, foul orc of Mordor!" Éomer shouted, trying to look as intimidating as possible while proudly waving the new wooden sword that Father had made for him.
"I'm not an orc!" I insisted, glaring at my brother. "Why do I always have to be the orc?"
Éomer lowered his arm. "Because you can't be a Rider. You're a girl!"
"So?" I asked, crossing my arms. "You're just saying that because I'm littler than you!"
He sighed. "All right. If you can beat me, then next time you can be the Rider."
"Good," I said, brightening up, and trying to glare at him like I imagined an orc would. There was no way I was going to let him beat me this time. Then he swung his sword at me, and the game was on.
That was how Théodred found us. We had both taken several tumbles in the dirt by that point, but neither of us was willing to surrender. When he saw our cousin approaching, Éomer looked up with a grin. "Théo!" he called out. I took the opportunity to throw my entire weight into him, and we both fell to the ground. My brother grunted as the air was knocked out of him, and I jumped back to my feet and pointed my own wooden sword at his chest triumphantly.
"I beat you! Now you have to be the orc!" I said gleefully.
"That's not fair! You cheated!" Éomer complained. "And my heart is on the other side."
I quickly shifted the sword. "Did not!"
"Did too! Théo, you saw her cheat, didn't you? She knocked me over when I wasn't looking!" Éomer crossly shoved me aside and stood up, glaring at me.
Théodred grinned. "Forgive me, cousin, but I have to side with 'Wyn this time. If you allow yourself to be distracted in battle, you will be the one to lose." I smiled triumphantly as Éomer scowled. Then I noticed the two dark-haired men standing with him, one of whom did not look like he could be much older than my cousin, while the other looked slightly younger. Éomer and I exchanged guilty looks as we realized that these must be the visitors from Gondor that our mother had spoken of; he ran his fingers through his tangled blond hair, while I made a futile attempt to brush some of the dirt off of my dress.
Théodred turned back to his companions and began speaking to them in Westron; I could understand only a few of the words, as I had not yet become fluent in the tongue, and nudged Éomer. "What's he saying?" I whispered.
"He is explaining what happened," Éomer whispered back, "and now he is telling them who we are… he called us terrors!" He snorted indignantly. The taller of the two laughed, his eyes sparkling. The younger-looking man grinned as well, though his mirth was much more controlled.
Théodred looked down at us and smiled. "I would not have you act any other way, my dear cousins," he said, switching back to Rohirric. "Éomer, Éowyn, this is Lord Boromir and Lord Faramir of Gondor."
Knowing that we were expected to be polite now, Éomer bowed and said in Westron, "It is a pleasure to meet you both, my lords." I gave an awkward curtsy and echoed the greeting, though my words were much more halting than my brother's.
The taller man nodded politely, traces of amusement still on his face. The younger-looking man bowed, then said in a slightly accented but otherwise perfect Rohirric, "The pleasure is ours, my lord and lady." I giggled at being called a lady; ladies were people who were much older than I was and did not play with swords. Éomer elbowed me sharply, and I shot him a quick glare.
"Your mother also bid me to send you two in to clean up for supper," Théodred said. Éomer and I both groaned, and Théodred said in mock sternness, "No arguing, or next time I will ensure that both of you have to be orcs!" My brother and I gave each other horrified looks, then ran off. Impulsively, I turned around and called, "Goodbye!" as I ran, grinning when the younger man raised a hand in farewell before turning back to Théodred.
During supper that night, I learned that the taller man was named Boromir, and the younger man was Faramir. I could not understand much of what was being said, as most of the discussion that they were having with my uncle, my father and the other lords and Marshals of the Mark was in Westron, so I spent my time studying the two of them curiously. I had never seen anyone with hair so dark before, and to me they looked quite similar. Boromir acted much like the men of my people; he spoke boldly and was quick to laugh, and he had the look of a seasoned warrior. Faramir was much quieter, though his smile was kind, but he seemed like no one I had ever met before.
After supper, Théodred took Éomer to the stables so Éomer could look at the horses. His birthday was drawing near, and Father had determined that he was old enough to ride a fully-grown horse instead of just a pony. Much to my disappointment, I was not allowed to go, as I would have to go to bed before Éomer. But my parents did not send me to my room right away, and so I wandered around the hall, wondering if there was a way I could sneak out to the stables anyway without being noticed.
I was startled to turn the corner and see Faramir sitting on a bench with a book in his lap, reading by torchlight. He turned his head, and smiled a little shyly when he saw me. "Good evening, Lady Éowyn," he said in his strangely-accented Rohirric. I covered my mouth with my hand to stifle the laugh that threatened to erupt; I was not used to being addressed so formally. He tilted his head slightly, regarding me, then asked, "Did I startle you?" I shook my head, so he tried again. "Am I not supposed to be here?"
"You can go anywhere you want," I said, still trying not to laugh.
"Then what is so amusing?" he asked, looking a little uncertain.
"I'm not a lady!" I exclaimed as a giggle finally escaped.
Faramir looked amused as he put his book down. "What are you, then?"
"I'm a Rider!" I said with a huge grin.
"Ah, yes. I can see that; you fought quite valiantly this afternoon, if I recall." I was a little surprised at the sincerity in his eyes; I thought he and the other man had been laughing at me. "What shall I call you then?"
"Éowyn," I said firmly.
"Very well, Éowyn. And please, just call me Faramir." He gave me a friendly smile, and I smiled back. "Would you like to sit down?" I nodded, and climbed up on the bench to sit next to him, swinging my legs a little as I sat.
"Do you think I cheated?" I asked. He looked a little confused, so I said, "Éomer said I cheated when I knocked him down."
Faramir grinned. "'Tis not the most honorable way of winning, I have to admit. But that was rather intelligent of you to try to catch him off-guard. I will tell you a little secret about sparring with older brothers…" he leaned down, and whispered in my ear, "…they might be bigger, but that makes them slower too."
I giggled. "Do you have an older brother too?"
"I do," he said. "Lord Boromir is my brother."
"Does he make you be the orc all the time?" I asked innocently.
Faramir laughed. "No, he does not."
"He is nicer than Éomer then," I decided. "Éomer always makes me be the orc because I'm little. But when I'm bigger, I'm going to kill lots of orcs. He says I can't because I'm a girl, but I'm going to anyway. Have you killed any orcs?"
Faramir's smile at my chattering faded a bit. "Yes, I have," he said softly.
"Are they really as ugly and mean as the stories say?" I asked. Faramir nodded slowly. Even at my young age, I could sense he did not really want to talk about it, and I decided to change the subject. "What are you reading?" I asked, looking over his arm at the unfamiliar characters on the page.
Faramir glanced down at the blue leather-bound book. "This is the story of a man named Beren. He fell in love with the most beautiful Elf-maiden that ever lived, Luthien. But her father did not wish for her to marry him because he was just a mortal man and she was an Elven princess."
"What happened?" I asked, looking up at him with wide eyes.
"Her father told Beren that he could marry her if he was able to get a special jewel from the crown of the Dark Lord. So he went off to find the Dark Lord—his name was Morgoth. But Luthien decided she did not want to stay home and wait for him to come back, and went to go help him."
"I like her," I declared. I had never heard any stories before where the woman involved actually got to do something.
"I thought that you would." Faramir smiled again. "She was very brave, just like you."
I smiled brightly at the compliment. "What happened after that?" I demanded.
"Luthien and Beren disguised themselves as horrible monsters so they could sneak into Morgoth's fortress. And when they got there, Luthien cast a spell that made Morgoth fall asleep, and then Beren took the jewel out of his crown."
My eyes widened. "Did they get away?"
"They did, but a big wolf came and bit off the hand that Beren was holding the jewel in." I gasped in horror, and Faramir smiled reassuringly as he continued, "But after that, Luthien's father did agree to let him marry her."
"What about the jewel? Did they get it back?"
Faramir hesitated. "They did… but the story does not have a very happy ending."
"Why? What happened?" I asked. "Please tell me?"
"They both died," Faramir finally said. "But the legend says that the Valar gave Luthien a choice: she and Beren could both live again, if she chose to give up her immortality, and that is what she chose. If the story is true, they married and lived together in peace."
"That's not so unhappy," I said.
Faramir regarded me solemnly. "I suppose you are right. I never thought of it that way." I smiled.
"There you are, 'Wyn! I was looking everywhere for you!" My father came around the corner, his wavy blond hair gleaming in the torchlight.
"Papa!" I jumped up and hugged his legs, and he responded by picking me up and holding me closely.
"You had your mama worried, Éowyn," he murmured.
"Sorry, Papa," I mumbled, looking down. He kissed my cheek to let me know that it was all right, then turned to Faramir.
"I apologize if my daughter was disturbing you, Lord Faramir," he said, bowing his head. "I know she can be quite talkative."
Faramir smiled at me. "It was no trouble at all, my lord; she was very good company."
I looked up at my father. "Papa, he told me a story where the girl went out to fight too! She cast a spell on the dark lord and they took a jewel from his crown!"
"Did he? That sounds like a good story." I nodded enthusiastically. "But, my little warrior princess, it is time for you to go to bed."
"But I'm not tired!" I protested, though in truth, I was growing rather sleepy.
"You will be soon enough, 'Wyn." He set me down and added, "Now go bid Lord Faramir goodnight, and then we must go."
I walked over and curtsied. "Good night, my lord," I said politely.
Faramir gave me a boyish grin. "Good night, my lady," he said, picking up my hand and kissing it. I giggled again and ran back to my father, resting my head on his shoulder when he picked me up again and waving to Faramir as my father excused himself and we left.
"It seems that you made a new friend tonight, Éowyn." My father had an amused look on his face as he carried me down the hall.
I nodded sleepily. "I like him, Papa. He's nice and he tells good stories." My father just smiled at me and kissed my forehead again as I drifted off to sleep in his arms.
The party from Gondor left a few days later. I did not see Faramir much during that time, but every time I did, he greeted me with a smile. And I did manage to convince him to tell me a few more stories, including one about another woman named Haleth who had to lead her people after her father and brother died. I liked that one a lot too. Éomer began to tease me mercilessly about the way I followed him around—"like a puppy," he said—but Faramir did not seem to mind. But the day finally arrived when the men of Gondor were preparing to go back home.
The entire court was assembled to bid them farewell, but I hung back by my father, feeling sad. Faramir looked over as he tightened the girth on his saddle, then patted the horse and walked over to kneel down before me, setting down the saddlebag he had slung over his shoulder.
"Why do you look so sad, Éowyn?" he asked gently.
"I'm going to miss you," I said, pouting.
He smiled. "I will miss you too."
"Really?" I asked, surprised.
"Yes, you have been very good company. But I do have to go home now."
"I know." I bit my lip, determined not to cry because that was for babies. Then I spotted a clump of star-shaped white flowers nearby, and ran off and picked one. Then I ran back and handed it to him. "It's simblemynë," I said, stumbling slightly over the long word. "So you won't forget me."
"I will not," he promised, pulling the leather-bound book that he had been reading the night I met him out of his saddlebag and carefully placing the blossom inside. "So I will not lose it," he explained, then kissed my hand again. "Farewell, Lady Éowyn."
"Goodbye," I said softly, then watched silently as he and Boromir bid my uncle and cousin farewell and they rode off.
A laugh from Éomer, who was standing nearby, made me turn. "You got kissed by a boy!" he snickered.
"You've kissed me before," I said, glaring at him again.
"Only on the cheek, and that's different because I'm your brother. And I would not let some girl from Gondor kiss me." He made a face, then added with all the authority a boy of nearly eight summers could possess, "But you have to marry him now, because he kissed you."
"No I don't!" I protested. "And it was just my hand."
"It doesn't matter, and yes you do!"
"No I don't, you… you orc!"
"That is enough, you two," my father said sternly, but I could not help noticing that he and my mother were both laughing as they led us back to Meduseld.
I shook my head slightly, bringing my mind back to the present, though I could not help smiling a bit at the memory of my childish infatuation; the smile grew wider at the fleeting thought of what my pragmatic brother would say if I told him of the foresight he had shown in this matter, then faded as I blinked hard, staring down at the pressed blossom in my hands.
"Éowyn? Are you well?" I felt the warm pressure of his hand on my shoulder, then looked up to see him kneeling down beside me, though the sight was slightly blurred through the tears that I had not even known were in my eyes. He looked down at the flower in my outstretched palm and the book resting beside it on the floor, then his eyes widened in realization.
"I cannot believe you kept this," I finally managed to say. "Have you known all this time?"
"I did not realize it at first," he admitted. "I wondered, from time to time, what became of that smiling little girl; I did not expect to see her again. It took me several days to realize that she was, indeed, the grieving, beautiful maiden whom I walked with in the gardens. But I did not forget her," he said softly, brushing away the single tear that had managed to escape before leaning over and kissing me.