The Gift of a Gentle Heart
Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings or any of its characters (though I wish I did!); they all belong to Tolkien and, in the case of the movies, Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema. So please don't sue me.
Authors Note: Okay – this is my first LoTR fic so be gentle! It's mainly based on the books but there might be a little bit of mixing between the book and movie canons. Obviously, there are some quotes or paraphrases from the books which also belong to Tolkien and not to me! It's just my take on the expansion of the Faramir/Eowyn relationship. I've got 5 chapters written out of what I imagine will be a 6 or 7 chapter story so I'll try and update once a week depending on how the reviews go! Please R+R and enjoy!
Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart
- Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King -
I: The Steward of Gondor
The sun had barely crept over the walls of the white city yet Faramir, son of Denethor; now steward of Minas Tirith, was already to be found abroad. Despite the warden's many protestations he had risen early to walk in the gardens of his beloved city and take some measure of the damage that had befallen it during the siege. Now, upon the wall of the House of Healing, Faramir could truly see the destruction the siege had wrought.
Though now the brightest sunlight lit the city, cascading off the white walls so that, looking from afar, one might think the city was glowing; Minas Tirith still looked far from its usual glory. The rubble from broken buildings littered the streets, smoke still lingered from the many fires that had ravaged the city and signs of the recent bloodshed that had taken place within the white city's walls were still evident. Though it was what he had been expecting, the new steward was disheartened by the sight; the sight adding yet more shadow to the darkness that still lingered in his mind. He tried to lift his heart with thoughts of coming days, with thoughts of the return of the king and of the white city restored to the glory it had not seen since the fall of Isildur. Yet, even though the Pelannor Fields had been fought and won, he could not find the hope within himself to fully believe in victory. The king who had marched into the city but a few days ago had left it just as quickly, before his new steward had even been fully conscious. Had left to face an enemy greater than even the numbers that had besieged Minas Tirith with but a small band of loyal troops and Rohirrim. Though not usually one for despair, Faramir could not help but think that this was a battle that even Aragorn and Mithrandir could not hope to win.
His musings were broken by the sound of a heated discussion within the hall of the House of Healing. Faint traces of the warden's anguished voice caught his ear along with another, lighter voice. Curiously, he descended from the wall back into the gardens and went to seek the source of the raised voices within such a calm place. He was not long in finding it for, as he walked towards the building, the door burst open. An agitated young woman strode out into the sunlight, her golden hair glinting in the morning's light as she walked and a distressed look upon her face. Closely following her was the warden of the House – a kind, benevolent man with a smiling countenance and who instituted a strict regime of sleep, good food and regular rest for all his patients. Unusually, he too looked agitated and his eyes swept the garden briefly before he spotted Faramir.
Breathing what appeared to Faramir's eyes to be a distinct sigh of relief, the warden hurried over, closely followed by the fair maiden.
"My lord," he spoke hastily, "this is the Lady Éowyn of Rohan who rode with the king. She was sorely hurt and has been placed in my care but she is discontent and wishes to speak with the Steward of the City"
Faramir glanced across from the warden to the woman who stood slightly behind the old man, her face defiant and yet filled with a sorrow that moved his heart to pity. So this was the Shieldmaiden of Rohan who had defeated the Witch-King. Tall and fair, her golden hair streaked with the sun's light, the Lady Éowyn was, to his eyes, beautiful beyond words. And yet he sensed in her countenance unease of spirit; behind her clear blue eyes he could see a shadow lingering that took the fair maiden's colour from her cheeks and the warmth from her heart. On her part, Éowyn returned his gaze with a defiant stare though she relaxed her posture a little and, when she spoke, her voice was gentle and the sound of it lifted some of the weight that had settled upon his heart.
"Please, do not think it is lack of care that grieves me my lord, for nobody could have had better care than I within this House. But I cannot lie idle whilst all around me have gone to war. I cannot sit here, within these walls, caged against my will. I sought death in battle but I find myself still alive and the battle goes on far from here"
Sensing the young woman's agitation, Faramir gestured for the warden to leave so as he might talk to her alone. With a slight bow, the old man hastily departed leaving Faramir and Éowyn alone in the garden.
"What would you have me do, lady?" Faramir asked, "For I too am a prisoner of the healers though I would not wish it so. Whilst my king rides to battle and my city lies in ruins, I also can do nought but sit idle within these walls, for I would not go against the warden's advice and leave before he permits it."
As her eyes settled once again upon his, Faramir felt another stab of pity within him at the sight of grief amidst such beauty. Again he asked her, this time allowing his tone yet more warmth and gentleness than before.
"What would you bid me do, lady? For, if it is within my power, I will do it."
"I would have you command the Warden, and bid him to let me go," she said. And yet, as she spoke, Faramir perceived a change within her demeanour; a faltering within her will that led her question to seem not so much defiant anger but rather a plea. He wondered what sights this fairest of maidens had seen that made her seek death so.
"I am within the Warden's keeping myself," he reiterated, "and have as yet been unable to take control of the city, though my duty would have me there rather than within this House. But I stay, for I would not defy the Warden's counsel in matters of his craft unless it were for some much greater need"
At this, Éowyn appeared to become yet more agitated and he thought, though could not be sure, that he detected slight tears form within her ice blue eyes.
"But I do not desire healing. Nor do I need it," she said. "I wish to ride to war with my brother Éomer; like Théoden the king who died with both honour and peace"
At this, such a soldier's comment from the mouth of such a woman, Faramir did indeed think that his heart would break for the pity of it. Here stood a woman in defiance of life, whom the shadow had touched so deeply that it moved her to seek death rather than live beyond its grasp.
"Lady," he said gently, "even were you fit to undertake such a task, you could not catch up with the lord Aragorn, nor your brother, not even if you had the swiftest of horses. But death in battle, if that is truly what your heart seeks, may yet come to us – willing or no. And you will be better prepared to face it in your own manner if you now do as master Warden commands. You and I, we must both endure this wait with patience as best we can."
At his words a faint tear glided down Éowyn's cheek and she turned her head downwards a little; as if to hide her sorrow from him. Yet despite this her demeanour softened a little and her voice, when she spoke, was a less icy than it had been before. Instead of the warrior she portrayed, she sounded more like she seemed to Faramir's eyes: a maiden, young and sad.
"But the healers would keep me here seven more days. And my window does not look eastward…"
Faramir smiled gently at her concerns and glanced across to the eastern wall of the garden upon which he had been standing earlier.
"Your window does not look eastward? That can be easily rectified lady and in this matter I will command the Warden. If you will stay in this House and accept the Warden's care, then you shall be able to walk in this garden and you can look eastward from the wall to whither all our hopes have gone. For here you will find me also, walking and waiting and also looking to the east. For, Éowyn of Rohan, we are not so different you and I for we have both passed under the wings of Shadow, and the same hand drew us back."
Relief crowded the face of Éowyn and a faint smile crept to her lips at Faramir's words and, for a moment, it seemed to him as if the sunlight had once again come out in the garden of Minas Tirith. But the sunlight faded as she turned her head once more.
"I thank you my lord for it will give my heart some comfort to be able to walk and think within these walls. But Shadow lies upon me still. Look not to me for healing for I make poor company whilst I lie here"
With that she offered him a small curtsy before turning and walking back towards the house. He watched her as she left, her head bowed and her look sorrowful, and decided that even in grief and sadness the lady Éowyn of Rohan was the most beautiful thing he had seen within the realm of Gondor.