The Rohan Pride Trilogy
The War of the Ring is over, and it is time for Gúthwyn to return home with the children. Yet things are not as they used to be, and many changes are in store for her, whether she would welcome them or not.
This is the only disclaimer you will see in Recovery. I do not, in any way, shape, or form, own any part of Tolkien's brainchild. I am not making any money from this. The characters I do claim are the non-canon characters—especially Gúthwyn. Every character I put in the story has a name that comes from The Lord of the Rings UK website (besides Gúthwyn), except for the rare occasion when I look up a name in a book called The Fourteen Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth. This was where Gúthwyn, 'one who delights in battle', came from. Also, I have a very limited knowledge of fighting, whether it involves 'street smarts', swords, knives, bows, or axes, and I do not claim to be an expert on any of them.
About the Epilogue:
I have decided to do what Tolkien did with his books. The Fellowship of the Ring had two books within the text, as did The Two Towers and The Return of the King. The only change I have made is the first part in my Trilogy: Alone. That was divided into three books, the first book explaining how Gúthwyn got to where The Fellowship of the Ring started. Recovery will be divided into two books.
About Chapter One:
The upcoming events are based off of what I have learned from the appendices and various sources concerning the aftermath of the War of the Ring. I wish more was known, but unfortunately, it is not—thus, I have had to do much guesswork and fill in my own beliefs about what happened. Please bear with me.
It was morning in the White City of Gondor. The sun had risen over the streets where hundreds of people were milling about, bartering for various items in the marketplace. Life was good for them: The King had returned, noble Elessar who recalled the spirit of the Elves; the Shadow of the East had been lifted, and most of his servants scattered harmlessly; the weather was perfect, with no clouds in the sky to obscure its gorgeous blue color.
In the midst of all this, Gúthwyn of Rohan rushed through the streets, her booted feet skimming hastily over the cobblestones, a frequent grimace of pain crossing her features. She had gotten up early that morning to walk around the city, mistakenly assuming that she could remember her way from when her champion Tun had shown her, and thinking that her injuries had recovered sufficiently. Now she was relatively lost, in considerable agony, and about to be late to her meeting with Éowyn—and her future husband.
True to her word, Éowyn had kept his identity a secret. Gúthwyn had already begged for the name today, saying that since it was her birthday—June thirteenth—she was entitled to know, but her sister would have none of it. She had heard naught from the gossip of the local townspeople, as she had only just recovered from her injuries enough to walk around for a lengthy stretch of time.
It was then that she came to the joining of two roads, and was relieved to see that she recognized them. The one to her right was the main street, crowded with people and taking an easier, gradual route to the Houses of Healing, which was where she was headed. The other was steeper and darker, as towering stone buildings on either side of the path blocked out the sunlight, but quicker. She could either go left or right.
Left, she decided, and hurried down the alley. As much as she would have loved to mingle with the people, she did not want to give Éowyn's future husband a bad impression.
Along the way, Gúthwyn busied herself with thoughts of who he might be. A man of Minas Tirith, clearly, for Éowyn had expressly told her not to ask any of the civilians. Who, then, had captured her sister's heart so suddenly, so unexpectedly? Try as she might, she could not come up with a single name. Her heart was fluttering in anticipation as she ascended the levels of the city.
At last she came to the top, and had to pause for a moment to catch her breath. Her ribs were aching painfully, and she tried to massage them, but her touch only made things worse. Sighing ruefully, she smoothed out the grey dress she was wearing, and made her way across the lawn, keeping her eye out for Hammel or Haiweth. The two children were nowhere in sight; they must have been occupying themselves elsewhere. She did not worry for them, as Hammel had an extraordinarily good sense of direction and could find his way back from anywhere in the city. Much unlike herself.
When Gúthwyn arrived at the Houses of Healing, she did not see her sister. Deciding to look in the courtyard, where there were many gardens that Éowyn was fond of walking around, she hastily went towards it. As she did so, she saw Legolas strolling down the hall. He must have been visiting Frodo: the Ringbearer had taken up residence in the Houses.
"Greetings," he said, nodding at her. She returned the gesture awkwardly, trying to remind herself that he was not Haldor. "Where are you going?" he inquired.
"To the gardens," Gúthwyn replied, gesturing. Through one of the open windows, she caught a glimpse of golden hair beneath a fine young tree. And was that a man? "I am meeting Éowyn's future husband."
"Then I shall not keep them waiting," Legolas said, and stood aside to let her pass. She did so, stepping out onto the green lawn and moving towards the tree. Éowyn was chatting animatedly to the man, whose face she could not see: His back was to her.
Impatient to meet this man, Gúthwyn quickened her stride. Éowyn's eyes moved over the shoulder of her companion, and widened in delight. "Gúthwyn!" she cried, beaming. "Faramir, here she is!" The name did not even have time to register in Gúthwyn's mind before the man had stood up and turned around, displaying a face that she had seen in her worst nightmares.
All of the color drained from her cheeks as she stared at Faramir, captain of the Ithilien Rangers, the man who had shot Borogor and killed him. He recognized her, as well: His blue eyes widened in shock and horror, and he actually took a step back from her. "Gúthwyn," he breathed, sounding sick.
Éowyn glanced back and forth between the two of them, narrowing her eyes in confusion. "Have you met before?" she inquired.
Memories of Faramir—Éowyn's dear, beloved Faramir—bending the bow back and aiming his arrow at Borogor flooded through Gúthwyn, so that for a moment she could not even speak. She merely gaped at Faramir, thinking of all the agony she had suffered because of him. What is he doing here? she thought wildly.
"Gúthwyn?" Éowyn asked, coming up beside Faramir and placing a tender hand on his arm. It was perhaps the cruelest thing Éowyn ever did to her, though her sister had no idea how it tore at her heart until it felt as if it was in shreds.
Swallowing hard, Gúthwyn whispered, "I am sorry." Her voice grew stronger, and she even managed to give a brief curtsy to Borogor's killer. "I felt faint for a moment. Forgive me."
Faramir nodded at her, though his eyes were still wide with disbelief. Yet he would not say anything, if she did not.
"Are you all right?" Éowyn questioned gently. "Maybe you should not have been walking around this morning."
"I am fine," Gúthwyn insisted, though Éowyn might as well have taken a hammer and beaten her over the head with it. "My lord Faramir, it is a pleasure to meet you." Slipping into the numbing role of a dutiful lady, she gave him a small smile. This has to be some sick, twisted joke, she thought as he bowed.
When he had straightened, she said, "Éowyn did not tell me who you were… She wanted to keep it a secret from me."
"Now, now," Éowyn replied, a wide grin across her face. "I wanted you to meet him without any previous judgment hanging over your head."
Gúthwyn nearly choked at her words. Faramir shifted awkwardly on his feet.
"Shall we walk around the gardens?" Éowyn suggested, seeming oblivious to the fact that her sister's meeting with her future husband was less than happy. To make things worse, she slipped a hand into Faramir's, and the soft smile the two of them shared was almost more than Gúthwyn could stand.
Yet she would tolerate this brief encounter for Éowyn's sake, and watch her sister carefully to see if she truly loved Faramir. If she did—her stomach twisted at the thought—then she would not go against her. If she did not, then Gúthwyn would do everything in her power to turn him away. So she agreed to the idea of a stroll, and soon the three of them were making their way across the courtyard.
"Gúthwyn," Éowyn began as they went, "how has your birthday been so far?"
Faramir winced as he glanced at her, knowing all too well what the answer would be, but Gúthwyn found herself in danger of laughing. She should have realized that, since it was her birthday, something bad was bound to happen. Ever since her capture on the day she turned twelve, all of them had been terrible, for one reason or another.
"Well," she finally said, fiddling with her cloak—Borogor's cloak, and she thought Faramir might have recognized it, by the way he was staring at it—"it has been fine."
"Fine," Éowyn repeated, grinning. Her hand was still in Faramir's, delicately massaging the man's fingers. "You are always 'fine,' sister, even when you are not!"
"Happy birthday," Faramir said quietly, his words cutting into her with the careful precision of a knife.
Gúthwyn shrugged, meeting the Steward's eyes briefly and hastily looking away. "If you wish for elaboration," she told Éowyn, picking a leaf from a small tree and beginning the slow and careful process of ripping it to pieces, "then I will tell you that I spent the day walking around the White City."
"Alone?" Éowyn asked, at the same time Faramir inquired, "What did you think of it?"
"I was alone," Gúthwyn answered, tearing a large strip off of the leaf. "Perhaps not the wisest choice, for I became lost. That is why I was late." She did not respond to Faramir's question, suddenly loathing Gondor and all it stood for.
Éowyn laughed. "Gúthwyn has the worst sense of direction out of anyone I have met," she told Faramir. "We used to doubt if she knew her way around Edoras!"
"Of course I do," Gúthwyn snapped, her voice harsher than she had intended.
There was an awkward pause, until Faramir said, "Éowyn tells me that you traveled with my brother."
Puzzled, Gúthwyn glanced at him, unsure of whom he was speaking. "Your brother?"
Éowyn's brow was knitted. "Boromir," she explained.
Gúthwyn halted in her tracks, stunned at the news. "You were Boromir's brother?" she blurted out in astonishment. Aside from their appearances, which were similar to many of the Gondorians', she never would have guessed; indeed, she could hardly fathom it.
Faramir inclined his head. "Many seem surprised when they learn," he replied. "They have a difficult time equating the courageous war captain with the scholar."
If Boromir's skill lay in killing, then I do not, Gúthwyn thought to herself, but did not dare say it aloud. Éowyn seemed extraordinarily glad today, and she would rather die than ruin her happiness.
"You did not know?" Éowyn now asked in puzzlement, frowning. "Were you not aware that Faramir is the Steward of Gondor?"
"No," Gúthwyn said, her face paling a little as she connected Borogor's slayer with good Boromir and the mad Denethor, who had leaped to his death off of the seventh level of Minas Tirith. "I thought… I thought you were a Ranger."
"I was," Faramir said, his eyes saying a thousand times more than his words. "But my father called me back to Osgiliath, as the city was about to fall and he needed all of the available men. My brother was gone, and he put me as a captain in his stead."
"Oh." She scattered the remaining pieces of the leaf on the ground, and followed them with her gaze as they were blown about.
"Gúthwyn," Faramir began hesitantly, his voice sending shivers throughout her body. "Were you friends with Boromir?"
She looked at him, and saw that he genuinely cared for his brother. It was possibly the one thing that the two of them had in common. "Yes," she said, folding her arms over her stomach almost without realizing it. Her voice was softer as she added, "He was a wonderful person, and I grieved to learn that he had perished."
"You did not see his fall?" Faramir asked quietly.
"I was having difficulties of my own," she muttered, flinching as she thought of Haldor pinning her arms to his chest so that she was powerless in his grasp. Éowyn glanced at her sympathetically, but neither of them spoke of what had transpired that day.
There was a brief silence, and then Éowyn said, "Gúthwyn, have you seen the children today?"
Faramir's head turned so fast that she thought it might wrench itself from its neck. "I left them in the care of Tun this morning," she answered, the tiniest smile tugging at the corners of her lips as Faramir's eyes widened. He clearly thought that they were her own; she did not doubt, either, that his mind had flown to Borogor.
"I-I did not know you were married," he said unsteadily.
Gúthwyn glanced at him. "I am not married," she replied, a sudden bitterness coming over her. But for Faramir, she would have been Borogor's wife. "Nor do the children have a father. He was killed a long time ago." She allowed him a few seconds of panic to think about what he had done, and then continued. "So was their mother."
He was caught off guard by this. "I… what?"
"The children are not Gúthwyn's," Éowyn told him, and a look of relief passed over Faramir's face. Gúthwyn felt almost guilty for causing him so much worry a few seconds ago, for making him think that he had killed her lover and the children's father. Yet such sentiments quickly dissipated when Éowyn put her arm comfortably around his waist. "Indeed, how old is Hammel?" her sister inquired, turning to Gúthwyn.
"Nine," Gúthwyn answered, in spite of the situation smiling as she thought of the boy. "Haiweth is six."
"Aye, and Gúthwyn is twenty today," Éowyn said.
A flush swept over Faramir's face. "Forgive me," he murmured, and gave a small bow. "I did not mean to—"
"It is fine," Gúthwyn cut him off, not in the mood to hear his apologies. He fell silent.
For a time, no one said a word. They had completed a circle around the gardens, and though Gúthwyn tired quickly of the seemingly endless rows of flowers, Éowyn and Faramir seemed content. Out of the corner of her eye she observed them. On one occasion, Faramir stooped down to pick up a pure white blossom, slipping it deftly behind Éowyn's ear. She giggled, standing on her tiptoes to place a chaste kiss on his cheek.
Gúthwyn looked away quickly, and felt her mood worsen. For the life of her, she could not understand this change in her sister, who had been so determined to ride into death only a few months ago. She had been stern then, even as she smiled—so she was called the White Lady of Rohan. Yet now there was no trace of that former person, of Gúthwyn's sister.
"Tell me, Éowyn," she said at length: "Have you shown Faramir your skill with a blade? I do not doubt you would give him a worthy challenge."
Éowyn laughed, but shook her head. "Alas," she replied, "I no longer desire to go to war, nor to use my sword."
For a moment, Gúthwyn thought she was hearing things. But as her sister smiled, and squeezed Faramir's hand, she saw that Éowyn was serious. Her jaw dropped. "What has happened to you?" she asked in bewilderment, though not unkindly. "Have I missed that much while I was in the Houses of Healing? The Éowyn I know never passed up a chance to show her prowess with a sword."
"The past few months have been full of change," Éowyn agreed, gazing up at Faramir with a sparkle in her eyes. He cupped her chin gently in his hand, seeming to forget that Gúthwyn was there. The long, lingering look that the two of them shared was like a stone dropping onto her heart and crushing it utterly. She was left with no doubt that the two of them were deeply in love with each other. The reasons escaped her, but it was clear to see that the Steward was smitten with Éowyn, and that her sister cared for him equally.
Unbidden, tears welled up in her eyes. She would never have this happiness that Éowyn so righteously enjoyed. To love someone so tenderly, so wholly, and have it returned—that was what she and Borogor had had, what she had foolishly not realized until it was too late. Now, Borogor was dead, his body cold and decaying in the forests of Ithilien, while his killer walked the earth, holding hands with her sister.
"Excuse me," she whispered, and turned away.
As she strode towards the entrance to the Houses, struggling to keep the tears from spilling over, she heard her name being called. Yet she only hastened her steps, ignoring the screaming protests from her ribs and ankle, needing to get as far away from the Steward and her sister as possible. It was not even noon, and already her birthday had been ruined.