Four weeks later found Faramir seated in the garden area of his apartments, trying to finish a letter to Adir before the evening air lost too much of its mild nature.
As the Steward took one more look over the page of parchment in his hand, a breeze blew past, and he smiled and lifted his face to it, his duty forgotten for the moment. It was most pleasant, despite the touch of autumn in the air. The sun was setting now, and the mountains on the horizon were afire with the last light of the day.
The weather had been warm, and some of that warmth still lingered in the garden, laden with the perfumes of the flowers and plants surrounding him. Fireflies had begun to appear among the greenery, their pale yellow lights blinking and dancing through the leaves.
As he had done often ever since regaining the ability to walk and permission to leave the confines of his bed, Faramir sat and simply gazed at the scene around him. He had lost count of how often he had done this in the past weeks, losing himself in the beauty of his home and his city. He would never tire of it, he decided, never forget when it seemed all of this had passed from his reach forever. He had always loved the City, but after his ordeal, every inch of it had attained a new preciousness for him. He had paid for its safety with his blood and suffering, and since his return had come to believe more firmly than ever before that it had been worth the price.
Overhead, some birds called out as they flew towards the southern skies. Faramir lifted his eyes, smiling as he watched them pass over the lofty turrets of the White Tower. After a few moments of rest, he turned his attention back to his task, determined to see it completed. Hurin of the Keys had been doing an admirable job as Acting Steward during Faramir's convalescence, but there were some matters he desired to handle himself.
His shoulder twinged, and Faramir absently rubbed it, reminding himself that Aragorn would be coming by tonight for his treatment. Ever since his return it had been thus, and the results had been remarkable; most of his scars had faded to nothingness, the worst pain eased away, all due to the King's healing skills. The time had become dear to both of them, for it was during these hours that Faramir learned what was happening in the realm while he recovered.
Of late the sessions had included methods to ease the strain of Faramir's nightmares, methods that had so far proven successful. Aragorn and Legolas both seemed to have an endless knowledge of ways to soothe the mind for slumber, some of them quite ancient. Nightly the chambers had been filled with the calming fragrance of burning incense, the aroma of steeping teas, or the quiet sound of low discussion as Faramir opened his healing soul to his friends. In a short time, the darkest dreams had ceased, and Faramir had great hope that soon the last of the lingering shadows would be driven away.
He sighed and nestled himself more firmly against the thick pillows cushioning him, pulling the knitted shawl about his shoulders a bit more securely before bending over the parchment once more.
"Has the evening air inspired your writing, my love?"
Faramir looked up to see Eowyn coming towards him from the apartments. In her hands was a small tray bearing two cups of steaming liquid.
Upon laying eyes upon his wife, Faramir smiled, and held out his hand. Still, after all this time since his deliverance, he felt a thrill of affection go through his soul at the mere sight of her. Had it always been thus and he did not notice, or was this a newborn result of the time when he thought he would never touch her again? It seemed no matter now; as she set the tray down and he gently took her hand in his, he wished only that the pleasant feeling would never cease.
"It has, but I find your company even more inspiring, my Lady," he replied, kissing her hand. "Writing to Chieftain Adir in his native language is a bit more challenging than I had anticipated, but with you beside me, I feel heartened to make the attempt anew."
Eowyn laughed a little. "If it will enable you to finish your labors and rest, I shall strive to be as muse-like as you please," she said. "The air is turning cool, so I asked the kitchen to send up some hot tea. Aragorn may not chide you for sitting in the evening air if he knows you have warmed yourself properly."
"It is greatly appreciated, my dear," Faramir said with a grin as he picked up the mug of tea, remembering well his King's constant admonitions that Faramir not overtax his still-healing body. It had become something of a good-natured war between them, with Faramir anxious to resume his life and Aragorn warning him not to exert himself too greatly before he was ready.
He sipped the sweet tea slowly, trying not to bear Aragorn any grudge for his concern. True, he was not fully healed, but most of the injuries had mended, and he was well aware of when his reserves of strength were on the wane. He tired easily, and some of the wounds yet pained him, but he believed that every day these matters became slightly less bothersome. He had a duty to perform, and the sooner he was about it - within reason - the easier he would rest when the time came to do so.
As the enervating warmth slowed through him, he gave his wife a nod. "You must tell the kitchen their tea today was excellent," he stated. "Pray sit, my love, and take some rest yourself; you have more than earned it, and soon it will be too dark and cold to enjoy the night."
She gave him a kiss on the cheek, then settled herself in a nearby chair. "I cannot wait to hear of the reaction when Aragorn presents Adir's new negotiation proposal to the Council," she noted as she lifted the cup of tea to her lips. "I am certain it will be a session to be remembered."
Faramir laughed as he glanced at the letter lying near his elbow on the table. "They've know it has been coming for some time, but I imagine old Tuornen will still be entertainingly livid," he said before taking another drink. "He despised having one Haradrim delegation here; I can only imagine how a contingent from five tribes will sound to him."
A chuckle escaped Eowyn's lips. "Well, he has the time to work himself into a good rage, as they won't be arriving until the spring," she noted. "He may even change his mind by then."
"Tuornen?" Faramir shook his head as he drew another swallow from his cup. "Unlikely, I fear. Even the heroic actions of the Haradrim have failed to persuade some here. His followers have dwindled in number, but he is not alone."
Eowyn's expression was thoughtful as she sat, one finger tracing along the rim of cup as she pondered the matter. "At least Eomer is no longer among his allies," she observed. "My brother may never trust all men of Harad, but he will not oppose a treaty with the tribes who assisted us against Karil. They saved your life, and many a Rider, that day, and Eomer will never forget it."
"Yes," remarked Faramir with a slight smile as he gazed out over the City, "it lifted my spirit when he agreed to join us on this matter, for I was pained to be at odds with him. If Eomer's heart could be moved, perhaps there is indeed hope for the others."
He peered out to the horizon, then sighed. "At least I shall have some time to further recover my strength while we are in Dol Amroth; I suspect it is going to be needed."
Despite the solemnity of the subject, Faramir could not help smiling in anticipation at his coming visit to his Uncle's realm. Before leaving for home, Imrahil had requested that Faramir come to Dol Amroth as soon as his health permitted, to finish his recovery there. The warm climate and peaceful surroundings, he pointed out, would doubtless be more healthful for him than the cold autumn air of Minas Tirith. Hurin of the Keys could continue to act as Steward, messengers could keep Faramir appraised of all the doings of the City, Adorhil and the other healers could see to his needs, and he and Eowyn would be welcome to stay as long as they pleased.
Aragorn had needed little persuading, and his consent for the journey had finally been given the day before. Faramir could scarcely bear the waiting. Dol Amroth had been his mother's home, and a beloved haven to him from childhood. He longed to touch its shores and feel its soft sea winds once more, to immerse himself in the tranquil beauty that she had loved so much.
Eowyn, too, appeared to be eagerly awaiting the visit. "I am sure we shall both find renewal at your Uncle's home," she said with a smile as she set down her cup. "Perhaps we may work together to persuade Tuornen. I shall certainly hear no ill word against Adir, as he returned you to me, and I believe our good Councilman knows I am not one to turn from a fight."
Faramir laughed after swallowing the last of his tea. "You clove the neck of a fell-beast, my dear; I am afraid Tuornen's head is much thicker."
Eowyn smiled, as amused as he by the thought.
He set the mug aside and sat back, drawing a long breath as he looked across the fields to the mountains beyond. Night was falling softly now, a few stars beginning to glitter into view in the blue-purple sky above them. In the City below, the warm glow of candles and lanterns could be seen winking in the windows
"But there is time, and I have no desire yet to dwell on such matters," he murmured as he reached over and gently took her hand. "For now, I have new hopes for peace, my City saved from danger, and the hand of my beautiful Lady. I wish for nothing more."
She smiled at him, rose, and joined him, settling quickly into his embrace. In silence they watched the evening draw its velvety cloak over Minas Tirith, the music of the garden surrounding them.
As Faramir gazed over the City, he found his mind wandering back over the last months. At times such as this, he could almost believe that he had only dreamed the horrors of the fortress. This was a mere wishful fancy, he knew; there were other times, too many, when the memories were undeniably compelling in their reality. He would always see the scars, however faint they were, and he doubted the pain would ever completely vanish, despite the skills of his King.
Yet there were happier products of what had occurred as well, he mused as he nestled his head against Eowyn's golden hair. He had achieved all he had suffered for; Gondor was safe, Karil and his Orcs defeated, peace with the tribes of Harad more possible now than before. Surely these benefits would long outlast his own complaints, and prove to be of far greater consequence when the final balance was measured.
Other memories also lingered, far more mystical but no less comforting. The gentle touch of the spirits who had been with him during his darkest hours had never been forgotten; other aspects of his captivity seemed like a dream, but that, he knew, had been real. Even now it seemed he sensed them near, though the feeling was a distant whisper, perhaps merely to let him know that they were yet with him.
In the falling twilight Faramir smiled, remembering how clearly he had perceived the loving presence of his brother and father, and sensed them still at times. It lightened his heart to think that they had been there, lending their comfort as he strove to carry out the office they had left to him. He had fulfilled his role as Steward, safeguarded his land to the last of his strength as his brother and father would have wished, and Faramir could not deny the feeling that they knew of his sacrifice, and were very proud of him.
Darker musings stirred his heart, and he gazed into the sky. In this instance, the burden of duty had been heavy and bitter, enough to nearly take his life. Yet he knew he would accept such a burden again if the need arose, to honor his family's memory and defend all that he loved. He had little doubt the call would come once more, in some form; Gondor's challenges were far from over.
But that was to be considered another day, he reminded himself with a smile as he drew Eowyn closer and beheld her fair face, now clad in moonlight.
At this moment, all was well, and he was at peace.
They sat in each other's arms and watched as the stars filled the sky, Faramir's thoughts dwelling not on the darkness surrounding them now, but on the light of the new day that would surely follow.
Author's Note: Thanks again to all of my readers and reviewers-I hope you've enjoyed this story! I'll likely continue to tweak it, and the final version will eventually be up at www.sen-o-gwend.us.
Thanks so much for reading!