(Well, since everyone seemed to like my "Points of Precedence" fic so much, and in re-watching the EE of ROTK, I noticed there's a heck of a lot more left out regarding Faramir than remotely acceptable, so I decided to do another round of Chibi-Kaz's Version of What's Missing! I've had to adjust some time frames. I do refer to "Points of Precedence" here, so it would be good if you've read that. Nothing is owned by me except that dancing pink Mumak identifying storyline holes…..)

Before the Storm

The gardens had become stunted by the perpetual gloom, but even that small bit of growing green soothed his heart. Faramir son of Denethor, the twenty-seventh Steward of Gondor, stood in the small open-air atrium, his gaze turned ever eastward. Yesterday, the assembled hosts of the West marched out from Minas Tirith, intent on drawing the hordes of evil in Mordor onto themselves, in order to ease the secret passage of two small Hobbits. Faramir had done his best by his King, ordering the supplies and companies for the march, providing his King with the very best raiment the Citadel could provide. Little did King Aragorn know he wore Boromir's own spare chainmail, and Faramir's leather dress surcote, along with the very best gloves and belts that could be found, and a cloak reclaimed from Denethor's wardrobe. The household of the King had fallen into such disrepair that few usable accoutrements remained. Though their fate remained uncertain, Faramir already compiled a rough list of items to repair or resupply to the King's House.

The uncertainty of the future plagued the Steward. He meant to honor his promise to his King, and comport himself with hope in his heart that the West would succeed, and that somehow one little Hobbit might win passage through the Black Land and destroy the Ring of Power. And the part of him that did cling to hope ran rampant with optimism at times, planning the reconstruction of the City and the restoration of Gondor. The rest of him worried constantly, worried that the King would fall, that Frodo would fail, that he himself would be left to spend the last days desperately and hopelessly defending the shattered remnants of Gondor. Not for his own life he worried, but for the people, the history, the beauty that would perish before Sauron's malice.

He shifted and raised his right arm to lean against a pillar. He still held his left arm bound close against his body, the shoulder yet tender from the orcish arrow that had pierced him. The other wound in his right side ached as he raised that arm, but he ignored the pain, trying to take some small comfort from the wind and the open vista before him. His eyes were inexorably drawn to the dark menacing clouds reaching out from Mordor, and he firmly suppressed a shiver at the thought of his King and countrymen riding into that danger.

Just as he thought to concede that the outdoors did no better for his mood than indoors, a sudden movement to his right caught his attention. In a window nearby appeared a woman. Her very presence struck Faramir more sharply than any arrow of any foe. It seemed to him that she shone with the brightness of the missing sun. Light formed the gold of her hair and the whiteness of her face. He straightened in surprise, dropping his arm. That small movement must have caught her attention, for she turned suddenly to look at him.

Her face shone as pale and cold as marble. Her expression seemed both bold and serious, pride and despair and defiance warring in her countenance. Despite himself he stiffened a little at her chill regard, but the pleasure of seeing one so beautiful filled him, and he could not keep back a tiny smile, fleeting though it was.

She made no acknowledgement of his gaze or his smile, her face as still as the grave. Then, as if dismissing him, she turned back to the East, to stare after the hosts and towards the face of evil.

Faramir admired not only her beauty, but also her defiance, and her somber bravery, facing unafraid that which many would ignore and hide from. He guessed that she must be Rohirrim; the gold of her hair proclaimed she was no daughter of Numenor. Could it be that a Shieldmaiden of Rohan rode once more?

Eowyn could not rest. She would lay her body down, and close her eyes, and even sleep a time, but rest with all its attendant restoration eluded her. She had bidden farewell to her brother, only after he had convinced her to stay in this towering white city, so strange and foreign. Carefully Eowyn had avoided Aragorn, already hailed as King of Gondor. She had ridden to death and glory, but found neither, only waking to find the one before whom she had so humiliated herself had become her savior. Even Eomer's thankful tears had not softened the hard and bitter knot within her breast.

Her brother did not know of Theoden-King's charge to her to keep the people of Rohan safe. Eomer did not realize that by hiding her face and riding to war, Eowyn had defied the will of her King. Eomer did not understand that she had abandoned their people. He did not see the black despair that filled her even now, despair that she would return to Edoras and resume her place as cupbearer and housekeeper, never to stand free and earn respect for her own. Despair over the moment when she finally dared to reach out to another person, to let that person see her true self, that person rebuffed her and refused her, and left her to her chains.

Stirring, Eowyn finally abandoned her attempt to rest and rose, careless of the fine white gown provided to her. She looked about her room, indifferent to the things provided to her by the Houses, the clothes and combs and finery due a woman of her station, sister to a King. Finally, she approached the window, staring out into the East and the foul skies over Mordor.

A movement in the corner of her eye caused her to turn. She saw a man standing in the atrium near the Houses looking back at her, almost shadowed by the building. Eowyn froze, unused to such unabashed examination. He seemed tall, taller even than Eomer, but not as broad as her brother, though without the almost starved appearance that so characterized Lord Aragorn. His hair appeared short, no longer than his shoulders, but thick, and a russet color darker than that of her own people, yet lighter than most she'd seen in this southern city. She judged him a soldier, like her left behind by the hosts because of injury. She noticed a bandage crossing his chest. From his worn leather trews and his carelessly unlaced gambeson, she assumed he was a simple fellow, perhaps a minor officer, but certainly no one of great stature, since he carried himself so informally. She could see he had a handsome face, though she ignored the eager expression, unwilling to initiate contact with any person. She turned back to the East, uninterested in other people, though she felt his eyes upon her a bit longer. Then someone approached him, calling him away, and she felt relieved of the burden of his regard.

Tomorrow, she decided, staring out at the blackness that approached. Tomorrow she would try to garner some strength, and find some way to put to use this time of enforced waiting.

Faramir set down his pen when he realized that all he'd scribed in the last hour were fragments of elvish poems and several tiny drawings of the Black Gate, Henneth Annun, and Minas Tirith. Woolgathering, that was what he was doing. Now that a second day passed since the hosts rode out, he found it even more difficult to concentrate. Torn between hope with the attendant need for industry and the knowledge of the precariousness of their situation, Faramir chafed at the restrictions of the Houses of Healing. He should have ridden out, he told himself. Simply bandaged himself tight and mounted up, healer's stitches be damned.

Rising, he wandered to his window, but was met with a view of the sixth circle of the city. Dissatisfied, he left his room to make for the outer atrium again. There he could sit and stare towards Mordor, where all his thoughts were bent.

And perhaps, he reminded himself quietly, he may get another glimpse of the fair lady who watched the East as he did.

He gained the open air and leaned against the column a moment, but surreptitious glances could not determine if the lady was in her room. He did find it a bit odd that no one had brought her to his attention, or the reverse, since he was the ranking noble in the city. Chiding himself for such arrogance, he deliberately turned his back on the window. He knew he distracted himself with thoughts of the lady, a more pleasing subject than Mordor and the probable dark fate of all. It was ungentlemanly of him to develop such an interest in a lady.

Just as Faramir scolded himself to behave better, a commotion from the Houses drew his attention. He turned to find a glorious vision striding towards him. The Lady of Rohan, dressed all in white, approached, a healer hovering nervously beside her.

"My lord!" stuttered the healer. "This is Lady Eowyn of Rohan, sister to their King." The healer appeared terrified at having to conduct a proper introduction. Healers had no need of social niceties. "Lady, this is Lord Faramir, Steward of Gondor."

Faramir could not suppress a slight wince. He hated the title, only too aware he neither deserved nor wanted the rank. Still, he bowed formally to the Lady. He saw she bore her left arm in a sling, and slight bruising below her eyes told him she too neither healed nor rested easily.

"My lady," he acknowledged softly as he bowed.

Eowyn had demanded freedom of the Warden of the Houses and been flatly refused. According to the healers, she must abide in the Houses another week at least, and her arm would be kept in a bandage for nearly two months. Eowyn had haughtily informed the man that she doubted very much they had two months altogether left to live, and stormed out of the office.

She managed to accost another healer, demanding to know who ruled in Minas Tirith. Eowyn could not remember the name of the Lord of Gondor; that the man was of an age with Theoden-King was all she knew. The healer told her the lord Denethor had died, and the new Lord of Gondor was now Lord Faramir, and that he resided in the Houses for healing as well. Eowyn accordingly demanded to speak with him. Perhaps this Lord Faramir could order her freedom.

In truth, she knew not what, nor whither she fled. She could not ride out to join the armies; they marched now fully two days away. She could not return alone to Edoras. The ride held many dangers, and she feared her people's condemnation for her disobedience to Theoden-King. But she must do something; she could not sit in idleness waiting for the end of all things.

Led to the very garden she could see from her window, she was surprised to be presented to a relatively young man, appearing only a few years her senior. Her surprise grew when she recognized him as the same disheveled officer who'd stared so boldly yesterday. But he was not so disheveled now. He wore a rich surcote over a dark shirt. It was embroidered heavily with silver thread. The cut was common to Gondor, but all the more recognizable as the garments of one of rank by the expensive fabric, no matter how simply designed. He still wore a sling on his left arm, the same as she, and she saw in him the same weary frustration that filled her heart. When the healer swiftly introduced them and fled, Eowyn noted the expression on the soldier's face. Clearly, he did not relish his rank.

She nodded acknowledgement of his bow, and said, "My lord, I hope that you might grant me a favor."

His expression showed his polite interest. "How might I assist you, my lady?" His voice struck her as both deeper and softer than she had expected.

"With employment, my lord. The healers would hold me here a sevenday yet. I cannot sit idle for so long." Eowyn held her head high.

"My lady, I too am held captive." She thought she saw a slight smile cross his lips, a hint of intended humor. "We must endure the waiting as best we can, though I confess, I find it a hardship as well."

Eowyn felt her hard determination falter in the face of his friendliness. "You can think of no employment for me?"

Lord Faramir shook his head. "Save for conversation, my lady. Would you talk with me awhiles?"

Eowyn sighed to herself. In her heart, she knew that the injured must take time to heal. She had hoped – but at least here was one who knew the pain of waiting as well as she.

"I will, my lord, though I know not what you might find entertaining in the conversation of a rough shieldmaiden such as myself."

His phantom smile crossed his face again. "Tell me about your land and your life. I had never thought to meet a beautiful and deadly Shieldmaiden of Rohan."

Eowyn paused, surprised. He said that with eager interest, almost delight. Could it be this man of cultured and ancient Gondor actually approved of her, where her own people did not? As she spoke with him, she swiftly revised her opinion formed the day before. Clearly, Lord Faramir was not a rough and simple soldier. He was educated and kind, and she sensed a sly humor and an honesty that she found comforting.

Faramir listened to the Lady Eowyn's description of Edoras and her childhood in the Golden Hall with rapt attention. His admiration of her only increased as he encouraged her to speak of her home and the things she loved. Her pleasure in the subject lent animation to her face. Before long, he had her speaking of life in the Mark in detail.

She described riding through the plains, and the view of Edoras rising from the waves of yellow grass. Faramir sighed, transported by her descriptions and her enthusiasm.

Misconstruing the sigh, she asked, "Are you wearied, my lord? Or do I bore you?"

"Oh, no, my lady! I am merely longing to ride the plains of the Mark myself, so well do you draw them with your words."

Her eyes narrowed. "Do not tease, my lord."

"I would not. I know something of love for one's homeland." Again, he could not help the irony in the statement, and to his relief, he saw she recognized it for what it was.

"Do you too ride over Gondor and view the White City with love?" The Lady asked.

He indicated the view of the river, and the lands beyond. "There, beyond the river Anduin is the province of Ithilien. The whole of my career has been spent in her defense. Every glade, every tree, is dear to me. And still, when I ride west from there, my heart soars at the sight of Minas Tirith rising before me."

To his gratification, Lady Eowyn's eyes met his, and she nodded in agreement. But then a shadow crossed her face, and she said, "Yet for all that pride, one may not find happiness within."

Concerned, Faramir watched her face. Did she know of his tumultuous relationship with his father? He knew a certain amount was public knowledge, for he'd often clashed with Denethor in council, but for it to be known in Rohan? But no, her thoughts were on her own past, memories swarming in her eyes that he could not decipher.

"True, my lady," he said softly, watching her face. "For all the pride, there is often a price."

Her gaze rose to meet his, and an understanding passed between them. Lady Eowyn began to speak again, but kept to general subjects. They were so alike, Faramir thought. Soon, the lady began to press Faramir for tales of Gondor, and he found himself relating much of Gondor's history as the day waned towards night.

When called to eat, Faramir offered his arm, though because she too was injured the lady could not accept it properly, but her small smile of acknowledgement warmed him greatly, and he accounted it a victory. Meals in the Houses were communal, unless the healers restricted one to one's bed, and many survivors of the Pelennor Fields partook of the evening meal there. Both Faramir and Lady Eowyn accepted numerous greetings as they made their way to their seats. Both occasionally pause to exchange a few words with other invalids. Faramir noted the respect with which the Rohirrim men addressed Lady Eowyn.

It was at dinner when they finally laughed together, though weak and bitter laughter it was. Each had only one good hand apiece, and so they shared duties, assisting one another with breaking bread and cutting meat. At the end of the meal, Faramir accompanied the lady to her door.

"Thank you, my lord, for your company. I did not think I would relish companionship, but I find it is good to … have made a friend." Lady Eowyn bestowed a shallow smile upon him.

"My lady, please do not be so formal with your friend. Simply my name will suffice," Faramir insisted.

"Very well, but you must do the same too," she replied.

"As you wish." Faramir bowed, his hand over his heart. "Good night, Eowyn."

"Good night, Faramir." She shut the door behind her, leaving him alone in the hall.

Faramir lingered a moment, staring at the wood that separated them. Never had he expected to meet a woman who so captured his heart. Eowyn of Rohan was beautiful, yes, but beauty alone could only move him, not ensnare him. Eowyn was also brave, and bold, intelligent and honest, true to her own heart in ways he could hardly understand. What he would give to be so free! Faramir had hardly dared to laugh for most of his adult life. This woman carried her head high and bowed only to those most deserving. How he admired her.

Eowyn rose early the next day, though with great weariness. From her window, she could see the thick dark clouds of Mordor, the morning's light nearly smothered behind their black blanket. A maid arrived and assisted Eowyn with her dress and hair. Soon, she found herself again alone and without employment.

But today, she reminded herself that whilst she sat alone in her room, she was not so alone in waiting and in anxiety. She stood and made for the common rooms of the Houses, intending to find Lord Faramir and claim his company once more.

A different maid directed her to the lord's room. As she approached, a very fat man exited the chamber. "It shall be as you direct, my lord," he said through the door, and with a bow, hurried away.

Suddenly shy, Eowyn approached the door. She could see Lord Faramir standing near a small desk, a number of papers scattered over the top, and over the bed. He wore a similar surcote as the day before, and Eowyn could not help but pause and admire the noble figure he made. Though she fancied her heart was hardened, she felt she could still acknowledge that a man was noble, honorable, and handsome.

Finally, she tapped lightly on the doorframe to draw his attention.

"Lady Eowyn!" He bowed, and meeting her eyes, gave another swift smile. She answered with one of her own, emboldened by his clear pleasure in her presence.

"I come to offer my company again, my lord, if you would have it."

"Gladly," he said, his eyes softening. "But did I not beg you to forgo formality, my lady?"

"Faramir, then. But you do address me formally, in spite of my request in turn."

"Alas, I find I cannot ignore courtesy in the presence of a lady." Though his voice was even and polite, Eowyn recognized the subtle jesting by the spark in Faramir's eyes.

"It is most simple. Repeat after me -- Eowyn."

With another half-smile, Faramir obediently repeated, "Eowyn."

"There, you see? I shall ask you again later, and we shall see how well you remember your lessons."

To her great delight, Faramir suddenly laughed. It had a bright sound, and Eowyn marveled at how it transformed his face, lifting aside just for a moment the somber and ironic veil over Faramir's visage. It was an honest laugh, unlike the rueful chuckles they had shared over dinner the night before, commiserating in their mutual inability to handle their meals, one-handed as they both were. Somewhere under the burdens of duty and grief resided a merry young man, Eowyn thought.

She edged further into the room, asking, "What do you do here?" She indicated the papers strewn about.

Faramir sighed, serious again. "What we can. Quite a bit of them are rolls of casualties. Damage reports. Lists of supplies. We were fortunate -- the city was not prepared for a siege." His voice took on a touch of frustration. "My father had all this information, and did nothing! Had the Rohirrim not ridden to our rescue, Minas Tirith would have most certainly fallen." He met her gaze, and the admiration and gratitude she read there made her feel ashamed.

He must have read her disquiet in her face, for he paused, then gently said, "My lady?"

She shook her head, unwilling to discuss her feelings. "It has been three days. Could they not have arrived?" Eowyn asked to change the subject.

Faramir pulled out a map of Gondor and spread it before them on the table. "Here is Minas Tirith." His finger traced a pathway to the river. "Osgiliath lies but a few hours march, which they'll go at an even pace, since not all the troops could be mounted. They'd planned to use the enemy's own wooden bridges against them, crossing there. From Osgiliath to the Crossroads is a full day's march, and from there to the Black Gate, perhaps another day and a half, maybe less if they are not harried by forces of the enemy." He spoke to her as one commander to another, with respect for her knowledge and experience of things military. "My lord Aragorn had planned to take things slow, lest they come to the Black Gate tired and unprepared." He paused. "Tomorrow, I believe; they will reach the Gate tomorrow."

Faramir would not insult the Lady Eowyn by hiding or softening the truth. Should all plans fail, the situation would be grim indeed. Her brother, his uncle, and his king, all could fall. The halfling Frodo could be captured, and the Ring reclaimed by Sauron. If the worst came to pass, Minas Tirith would have to be abandoned. Already Faramir had given orders for the captured ships to be readied at the docks, if evacuation became necessary. He would send the population to the port city of Dol Amroth, ruled by his uncle Prince Imrahil, currently commanded by his cousin, he supposed, since Imrahil rode with the King. With the fleet of the pirates of Umbar decimated, the port towns need only be defended on the landward side. He felt that somehow, if Sauron triumphed, the people of Gondor would have some sign of it.

He watched her as he showed her the map. She would nod in understanding, perhaps unconsciously, as he made his points. Women of Gondor, at least those noblewomen and household servants with whom he was familiar, did not recognize or understand matters military so swiftly. He had no doubt that should the whole of the force be mounted, Lady Eowyn could better tell him their speed and capabilities. Faramir had a sudden vision of the lady mounted and armed, commanding troops, and the idea caused such a swelling of admiration in his heart, he could almost wish to see her in battle. There was such honor in her face, and such sorrowful vulnerability in her eyes, he could scarce breathe when she came near.

He had laid the map over several documents with plans for evacuation and escape. He would not share those with her yet. Faramir knew that should the worst occur, he gazed upon the Queen of Rohan, last of the House of Eorl. Some of the plans he had laid out with Lord Hurin of the Keys, the fat and jolly Majordomo of the Citadel, were in regards to the Rohirrim. The Men of Numenor would not forget their brethren in their flight from Sauron.

Still, she was the daughter of kings, he reminded himself, as her shrewd gaze pierced him suddenly.

"Should the battle go ill?" she asked sharply.

"There are plans," he admitted. "I imagine we'll have some warning."

"Warning? Such as?"

He shrugged a little, turning. "A messenger? The skies turning black, lit only by the glow of Mount Doom? Nazgul raining death upon our heads?" When she paled, he quickly apologized. "I am sorry, my lady! I fear my thoughts grow grim indeed when I think of all that may be lost." Faramir forced a smile onto his face, but it was a poor smile. "Come, let us speak of other things. I promised my lord King that I would cling to hope, and I am resolved to keep my promise."

Lady Eowyn acquiesced, and allowed him to lead her to the gardens, where they passed the day discussing many subjects. Faramir told her a dozen tales of elves, and of the Last Alliance, and even taught her some elvish words. She told him the tale of her first colt, of raising it and training it, and some small amount of recent days in the Golden Hall of Edoras. He sensed it was a subject she did not care for, so he didn't press her, though the shadows that darkened her eyes when she spoke of such things worried him.

The fourth day, Eowyn awoke with even greater listlessness than the day before. She had tried, how she had tried, to cling to hope as Faramir said, all the day before as they distracted each other with tales and other nonsense. Yet the moment she opened her eyes, she told herself, it will be today, and naught could shake the feeling of doom that was upon her.

A maid arrived before she even stood, bearing a package. "This comes from Lord Faramir, my lady, with his compliments." Once revealed, the velvet cloak formed its own shadows, silver stars giving depth to the illusion that the wearer wore the very night sky as her mantle. Eowyn regarded the cloak with mixed emotions, aware of not only the implications of the gift, which spoke so clearly of Lord Faramir's admiration, but also of her own sorrow that she could not respond as she suddenly thought he expected. It concerned her as well, for what man would pay court to a lady at such a time?

Still, she felt the chill of the air in her very bones, and soon practicality won over courtly sensibilities. But she did not seek out Faramir as she did the day before. Her gloom drove her to the very edge of the Houses, standing over the great empty air of a tremendous drop. The city seemed hushed, and she could see no one in the streets below. She watched the sky, resolute and afraid, and did not turn when she heard Faramir's footsteps behind her.

Faramir paused when he first saw Lady Eowyn, framed by the arches of the atrium, her golden hair falling over the nighttime blue of his mother's cloak. The image reminded him so poignantly of his few sad memories of his mother, who died when he was very young, that he almost regretted gifting Eowyn the cloak. But the maid had said the lady's own Rider cloak was beyond repair, and this one he kept readily to hand.

Yet even as he reminded himself that his fancies were foolish, he had to steel himself to interrupt her reverie. She did not turn at first, as she spoke of the chill and silence.

"Tis but the chill of the first spring rain," he responded, seeking to reassure her. And when she turned to meet his gaze, he suddenly realized he spoke the truth. He could not help but smile as he took his carefully guarded hope to heart, and said, "I do not think this darkness will endure."

To his everlasting relief, Lady Eowyn seemed to take strength from his gaze, and almost without realizing, they clasped hands. With that contact, she seemed to melt, and he gladly gathered her to his breast and gave her what warmth and comfort he could, amazed and grateful this remarkable woman would trust him so.

There was a gentle strength and confidence in his face, and Eowyn could not but draw upon it. That this lord, who surely knew better than she what perils they now faced, could smile, and assert that Light would triumph, gave Eowyn such heart, it seemed she drew breath for the first time since the Rohirrim charged the Fields of Pelennor. Almost without thinking, she reached for him even as he reached for her. His fingers wound about hers, and she deliberately moved closer, seeking a comfort she had not sought since she was a young girl. As he embraced her, she breathed deep of his warmth, drawing his hope into her own heart, and she knew without question his unconditional confidence not only in the Light, and his king, but in her as well. It was a gift, like the cloak, of a generous and gentle heart. Surely the world would endure with men like Faramir of Gondor in it.

They held one another, setting aside their fears and facing the future with a calm optimism. Eowyn did not measure the time. The city, even the world, around them seemed to grow even more silent, and Eowyn felt she could almost hear the distant clash of arms where so many men faced their doom.

The darkness of Mordor became oppressive, reaching out across the sky. Then, suddenly, a pressure came to bear on them, and Eowyn felt her chest constrict, as though confined, and she could not breathe. She stiffened, expecting the utter end.

Faramir felt the evil fog of Mordor reach into his soul, and though his eyes were filled with the gold of Lady Eowyn's hair, his vision contained only the Black Gate, and the distant spear of Barad Dur. He longed to be beside his King, his uncle, and all the men of Gondor and Rohan as they faced the ultimate battle. His arms tightened around the lady, to protect her if he could.

He felt the moment all of Arda stilled. It seemed no creature moved, or even breathed, and he could feel Lady Eowyn tense within his arms. Then, it seemed as if a balance shifted, and a hot wind blew across the fields of Pelennor from Mordor, and with it, Time resumed its march. Faramir suddenly felt lightheaded, as if a weight had been removed from him, and his eyes widened as the black clouds of Mordor began to tear apart.

"It is done!" he whispered, and Lady Eowyn moved at last to look up at him. "It is done!" he repeated, stronger. She turned in his arms to face the East, and he felt her gasp as she saw the sunlight begin to break through the darkness. "It is done!" he shouted. "Frodo did it! The Ring is destroyed! Sauron is defeated!"

"Can it be so?" Lady Eowyn asked, her voice sharp with hope.

"It is! I know it is, I can feel the Light returning. Oh, Eowyn, we have won!" He hugged her close, so delighted he forgot all propriety. Releasing her just as quickly, he leaned over the ledge, bellowing to the people of the city. "Arise, children of Numenor! Rejoice, People of the West! Evil is thrown down! The Dark is no more!"

He turned to find the lady staring at him, her mouth open in amazement. With a shout of joy, he grabbed her waist and spun her around and around until her hair streamed behind her like golden water, and she laughed at his foolishness. Below them, the White City at last came to life, people's voices raised in joy and in song.

Halting their romp and steadying Lady Eowyn, he said, "We must hurry to the Citadel! There is much, so much to be done!" Taking her hand again in his, he led her through the Houses of Healing and into the streets.

Eowyn could hardly believe the transformation, not only in the city, but in the man before her. As light began to stream stronger and stronger from the East, the White City at last showed its name, glowing in the sun. People filled the streets and avenues, hugging, dancing, and singing with joy. And Lord Faramir too was transformed, his eyes alight and shining. The somber captain was gone, and in his place was a proud and happy man, with a serenity about him that did not dim his energy. She hurried after him, clinging to his hand, and they ran through the streets like children, greeting the people and sharing in the wonder of freedom from evil.

"Eagles!" Someone from an upper window shouted, pointing east. Faramir paused, the space between two buildings affording them a view. There, silhouetted against the long-missed blue sky, three enormous birds flew towards the City, their massive wings beating the air in long strokes.

"Quickly!" Faramir gasped, pulling Eowyn into a run. They tore through the streets, reaching the ramp to the Seventh Level just as the giant birds descended.

The four ceremonial guards raised their spears, but Faramir cried, "No! Let them land!" For they could see Gandalf mounted on the back of one legendary eagle, and two were burdened with small limp figures. Faramir dropped Eowyn's hand to raise both of his own in greeting. "Mithrandir!" He yelled, hurrying forward. "Say it is true -- that we have won the day!"

"We have indeed," the wizard confirmed. "But at some cost." He dismounted from the bowed eagle lithely, belying his great age. The wizard quickly relieved an eagle of its burden. "The mountain raged, the Dark Tower and Black Gates crumbled. Noble Gwaihir and his kin flew with me into Mordor, and there we found two heroes clinging to the side of a rock." He turned to Faramir, and they saw he held Frodo limp and unconscious in his arms.

"Frodo!" Faramir gasped. He looked, and saw the other eagle's burden. "Samwise!" Quickly, he bowed to the great avian, and took the other hobbit into his own arms.

"Lady," he called to Eowyn, who hovered at some distance from the giant birds. "Run ahead to the Houses! The Master Healer will have to see to these two noble heroes."

Eowyn did as bid, swiftly, as the wizard and Steward followed close on her heels. As soon as they reached the Houses, the healers descended upon them, and set to with much industry to relieve the suffering of the two halflings.

Eowyn, watching from behind Faramir's broad shoulders, murmured, "They are so alike to Meriadoc and Peregrin."

"Indeed," Faramir whispered back. "Master Frodo Ringbearer claims kinship to our two friends."

"And Master Samwise? His esquire?"

One of Faramir's swift smiles crossed his face. "His gardener."

Eowyn gave the Steward a puzzled look, but he would comment no further. Soon, the healers began to disperse, their immediate tasks completed.

"Lack of food and water, weakness from heat and minor burns, but all in one piece -- for the most part," Mithrandir reported with relief. "Frodo sustained the loss of a finger. I wonder…." Shaking his head, the wizard moved on to other subjects. "The King survives, triumphs in fact." Faramir's face lit up at this news. "Few if any were lost. I paused only briefly before departing for Mount Doom with Gwaihir's assistance." The Istar bestowed a twinkling smile on Eowyn. "Your brother lives, and accounted very well of himself, so he boasted."

At his words, Eowyn felt the last knots on her heart loosen. Eomer lived! She exchanged a grin with Faramir, seeing his pleasure in her relief.

"I will stay with Frodo, until he awakens. Aragorn meant to gather the men and make such time returning as they may, with some injured and no mounts."

"I will arrange riders to go out, to spread the word, and send such supplies as may be found," Faramir responded immediately. He made as if to leave but then hesitated. "And Master Samwise?"

Surprising even herself, Eowyn spoke suddenly. "I will sit with Master Samwise, if it shall suit?"

"My thanks, my lady," Faramir replied, and there was such approbation in his fond gaze, Eowyn felt her cheeks heat with a blush. She dared a glance at the wizard, but the Greyhame only raised a brow at her.

"I must go," Faramir continued. "There is much to be done to prepare for the return of the King."


AN: the word 'pen' has been used for 'writing implement' for centuries. The word originates from MiddleEnglish and before that Latin.

AN: Sharp-eyed viewers of the ROTK:EE will notice that it appears that Eowyn is watching Aragorn and the armies riding out when she and Faramir converse, and then embrace, in the Houses of Healing. Well, that's just a wee bit too quick of a courtship, don't you think? I've pushed the scene where they embrace back a bit, working a three-day lag between the army leaving Minas Tirith and the battle at the Black Gate.