Update (February 2013):
First, this is EXTREMELY AU. I don't think Éowyn would actually do what I have her do, at least not after the War and after marrying Faramir, but such is writing and such is mischaracterising Tolkien's characters when you're a seventeen-year-old girl writing fanfiction late at night in order to distract herself from both her grief over her dead friend and another bout of her own angsty impulses. (It worked. I'm still here.) All I know that this fic is disturbing – not in an erotic, slashy, gory, or otherwise libellous manner; should be safe for those of you who care about what you read – and far too angsty.
And yes, this is long-winded and overladen with adjectives and out of character for Éowyn (forgive me, Mr Tolkien, for committing a cardinal sin) and the dialogue is stilted and the whole thing is just downright AWFUL, but I am leaving it up here as a testament not only to how much I have grown as a writer, but to how far I have come as a person. That said, enjoy… or not.
X X X X X X X X X X X X X
Faramir did not remember screaming that night.
He could only recall the blood – there had been too much blood, too many crimson stains on the ivory sheets that adorned their wedding bed – that had greeted him upon his arrival home. He had gone to Minas Tirith that day to meet with King Elessar without issue or circumstance other than the usual business of managing the kingdom – a thing to which Éowyn had become accustomed. Nothing, it seemed that morning, had been unusual, much less worrisome.
Upon his arrival at Emyn Arnen late that night, Faramir entered the main hall of the house as quietly as possible, though the house itself creaked in the harsh winds of late October that had always plagued Ithilien that time of year. The door slammed shut behind him, and, as quickly as possible, Faramir hastened to his bedchamber, where he hoped Éowyn would be sleeping.
He opened the door to their chamber slowly, careful not to disturb Éowyn, who had not been feeling well of late; not but three weeks previously, she had confided in him that she was to bear his child. Ever since, her eyes, once bright in her face, became dimmed, almost afraid of what was to come. She did not sleep – or at least did not sleep very well – and had taken to standing on the balcony of their chamber, clutching the railing with weak hands as the sun set, hoping for, yet somehow fearing, something she desperately hoped might never come to pass. But he would not think of Éowyn's pain, he told himself. She is fine, he said to himself, giving the door a final push open.
He gasped in horror – he could not find the voice to scream – at the sight before him. Éowyn had not been sleeping, or, if she had, she was not now and, he feared, might never sleep again. Standing before the door leading to the balcony, she stood facing him with one hand supporting her weight against the threshold, the other grasping the hilt of a sword that had been thrust into her stomach.
"Éowyn…" he began, trying desperately to fathom the sight before him. "Éowyn, my love…"
"It is done," she whispered, letting the sword fall from her quaking hands to the cold stone of the chamber. For a moment she stood silently at the foot of the bed, then turned and ran. The heavy wooden door of the hall thudded from the force of her fleeing rage – but he, the blood rushed to his head and his head spun so fast that he could not think, could not move, could not understand what he had seen…
"Go to her, my lord!" he heard a servant call.
Faramir did not need any more prompting; he chased after Éowyn like an animal on the hunt: ravenous, he would have thought, but now he had no time to think, but instead, if he could have thought of focusing, would have focused on Éowyn, sprinting as best as she could out the door into the bleak night. He found her in the gloom of the forest, kneeling on the ground in the clearing by their favourite waterfall, where they had once danced, sung, spoke of their troubles… and now they spoke for her. And his words… his words, he thought, seemed lost in that void that she had feared, loathed, even. He wanted to hold her, surely, but her head was bowed and her body, weakening by the minute, slipped from its form and she lay silently on the muddy, dying grass. He ran to her.
"Éowyn, we can heal you, we can stop the bleeding…" he tried desperately.
"Aye, you could, but did you not know the blade was poisoned?" she replied. Her voice was cold and strained, yet so weak when it was, he could recall, so bitterly laced with hatred of late.
"Then there is naught I can do for you?"
"Nay," she whispered, "but you could hold me."
He cradled her heavy head in his hands in the bitter darkness that had strangled her, robbed her of her life, rendered her silent and cold and heavy on the mud-spattered colours of the autumn's final forest floor. He felt her light, golden life slipping through his fingers, slithering deep into the shadows, twisting and fading as its memory flashed before his eyes, ceaseless, tormenting. Éowyn! – he had to cry – Éowyn, my love, is this what you wanted? Is this… what you were? But you are not a void, not a prisoner to this thing, not now, not ever…
"Did you know it?" she whispered, her weak hand clutching at the leaves littering the barren, rocky earth on which she would pass, of which she would become an incomprehensible, forgotten part. Forgotten, he repeated to himself so as to learn it. Forgotten. She had loathed that word from the beginning of her days, and might still loathe it now, he hoped.
"Know what?" The blood, the poison, the fear, the horror? Or what?
"Life," she breathed, "I once thought it could exist."
"I still do know it, Éowyn," he said, his voice surprisingly steady, though his mind swelled up in a frenzy of emotions. "I have always known the value of life – and that I was never to forsake it, not even in temptation and despair. I did not ask to exist, but I do exist; I would not trade my mind, heart, and life for anything other than what I have been given. I did not create myself, yet I exist, and so I would not take my life by my own volition."
"You speak like one resigned to fate."
"I am only resigned to it because nature would not have it otherwise. Men have survived for centuries in protest to the fact that they will someday die."
We all will die; we all are built to perish. Yet Éowyn lives; she will live, she would live, or she had lived – I know not what! Her life, before his searching eyes, seemed now a small, hardened, unrefined mass of ancient rock suspended miles above black nothingness and forced beneath the same all-encompassing eternity – senseless, he thought, but no, no, she was not senseless, despite tonight, perhaps she had a reason, perhaps a flaw he had not in himself…? I will never know. I must not want to know. But I do, I do!...
The torment of man. Knowledge. Despair – not merely hopelessness – but no, not that, not despair, not hopelessness – there was a word the void itself had devoured centuries in the past, never to be discovered, never to free Éowyn, never to see the light of a day that should never be permitted to come. Was it you who snatched her from her joy? He silently screamed to the stars, his head thrown back, his clammy hands curled tightly around hers, hovering over her as her last shield. Was it you, you damned monster, you loathsome thing unworthy of existence? No form, no shape, no analysis, no justice, no fear, no time! – thou art nothing, art thou not?
He could have thought he heard a reply in the harsh rustling of the wind upon the dry, dead forest: a cold, frozen, "Yes."
"Faramir," Éowyn whispered, her voice strained. "Faramir, you need not stay with me. Death will come soon enough for the both of us."
"For you." The words sounded too harsh on his lips, unwarranted, he thought with a pang of a pity greater than all hatred, greater than all fear and despair and hope, greater than the value of what he knew was once a life, could never be a life again. "Éowyn," he said, choking on his words, "I must know, I must have a reason to believe this madness… why?"
Her silence felt like a fatal blow to his chest. Éowyn! – he wanted to cry - my dearest Éowyn! Is this that dreaded end to which you ultimately came; is this what I have not felt? Must it be this way, in this time? Yet she breathed deeply, her chest struggling to rise slowly with the throbbing ache that now encompassed her frail body; he too thought he could breathe, if only he could hold her for a minute longer, if only he could murder that which murdered her, if only he could know, feel, see, taste the thing that had stolen her – death, clothed in an ornate robe with a sceptre of gold and holes of blackest night for eyes… he could not think of it, did not want to think of it…
"Because," she whispered, her voice recalling him to the present, "I was, at last, too weak."
"That is not so, Éowyn. I wish you would speak as if you are still alive. I wish you would speak of…" the weight on his being stiffened, encompassing him, so that he faltered in thought. "I wish you would speak with me one last time, not for you, if you believe yourself to be beyond that, but for me. I cannot comprehend the thought of losing you, not yet, not ever…"
"Yet we have lost so much already, have we not?"
"We oft did speak of the War."
"Not merely the War, Faramir," said she, trembling, "but it was so much else, so much more that I cannot put to words."
He bit his lip. "The first child."
"Faramir, I… it was my fault."
"These things are beyond our control, Éowyn," he said gently. "You are not to blame."
"I know. That is what frightened me."
"Still, Éowyn, you had no cause to fear losing another child. You did not… have to do this. This child would have lived. You would have lived."
She shook her head weakly. "I have seen too much, known too much, to survive in that manner. I have feared it for too long, Faramir."
"After I lost the babe, I thought so much of so many things I could never recall again and cannot recall in words now. I saw my father dead and festering in his burial shroud, worms on the white of his bones, Death with holes for eyes in his velvet robes standing on my father's grave, simbelmynë in his withered, cracked hand, breathing heavily as if the very action pained him, as if he were forced to breathe, as if he hated to breathe, hated existence, hated what my father had been and had to scorn him with the memory of time. He is what I fear." Éowyn trembled, her body shaking in Faramir's arms. "Faramir, I did not mean for my life to end this way. I did not mean to hate life. I did not mean to forsake the reward I found in you."
"I was – am – not solely your reward. Did you not gain the freedom you desired so ardently?"
"I did – but 'twas not so ardent a longing after the songs had been sung, the duties, repaid, and the peace for which I had longed came undeserved, unwarranted, in a form unbeknownst to any living thing."
"What mean you?"
"I lost. I paid. I died – for that night and all the nights following it."
"Éowyn, but you lived, you found your freedom… you once believed in freedom!"
"I once did. 'Twas not… enough to save me. What was our gain, our reward? Where is the glorious sunrise over the frozen plains of Rohan? Where are the days that had been promised to us the very day we were born? Did it ever exist, somewhere, somehow? I oft thought of it during the War: this reward, this glory, this thing I had not then learned to call 'tomorrow.' I wished to seize it more than I had wished to seize the possibility of the diminutive life I had been offered. I wished… I wished for a tomorrow that could exist solely as my reward, my gain, my dream."
He smiled slightly. "Today is the reward. Tomorrow is the dream."
"I have no tomorrow, have I?" she said with a feeble, mocking laugh, one which Faramir had never dreamt of hearing cross the lips that oft did speak of possibilities unfamiliar to he, himself. "I at least have my reward, in your sense: peace, at last."
His smile faded rather quickly; foolish, he thought, to celebrate her life, but more so for denying its dying breath upon his quaking hand. "No. You have no dream. I wish you did."
"Aye, it is too late for that! I am dying," she whispered, "but do tell them that I have lived. I have, and I doubt that not, though it has been too long and too arduous a task for me to bear with proper reasoning."
Something in him wanted to scream – his every living instinct fought for a cry – but he found that he could not, even if he dared to do so. Her breathing was becoming laboured now, and she fought to keep her gaze fixed upon him, though she was blinded by the pain radiating from her abdomen. "I will, Éowyn," he struggled to say calmly; "I will hear the people say that Éowyn of Rohan fought to the last."
"Let them say that Éowyn of Rohan bargained her freedom for the love of the world from which she promised never to perish."
"Let them say that Éowyn of Rohan was fairer of countenance and wilder in spirit than the Valier. Let them say that Éowyn of Rohan was my love, my life, my world, everything that I was and never will be again. Let them say that Éowyn of Rohan died bravely in the battle she fought for the life she loved and the dream she desired. Let them say that Éowyn of Rohan was – in everything she accomplished in her short life – not the world in and of herself, not solely the world of her husband, but the very spirit of that world. Éowyn, I love you, as I have loved you since our days together in the Houses. I will never think otherwise; it is impossible."
"I love you, Faramir," she said. "Do not leave me, not yet."
His hand clasped hers. "I would not think of leaving."
She smiled slightly, her faint breath of words like the whisper of a wind. "Faramir… tell me a tale of ages long ago. I should like to... hear one again…"
Faramir sighed, closing his eyes for a brief moment. Éowyn laid in his arms, her head resting on his shoulder, breathing into the soft fibre of his tunic; how much longer would this pain, this unwanted misery, last? And it was not merely his pain that he felt, it was hers. Her breath, pained and ragged on his shoulder, and the blood covering both their cold, dying bodies, would serve as constant reminders of this night, the night Éowyn of Rohan lived in death and Faramir of Gondor died in life.
"Tar-Míriel was a queen of Númenor in the final days of its downfall, though she herself seemed to be a child of the Valar, divine in all aspects. She was a friend of the Faithful. Had she been born in other times, she would have been revered by her people, now corrupted by the dreadful desire for immortality…"
"Faramir…" she moaned, clinging to him.
"And Míriel was beautiful, and never was she fearful to dance upon the marble of the temples of Armenelos… but when the waves came, Míriel's eyes grew wide at the steely grey waves taking her kingdom into the watery abyss advancing on them all. She ran to Meneltarma and there was taken by the waves, and her final breath was spent on proclaiming her love for her land, her people, her life, her love. Míriel is the sea, as I remember it, but you, my lady, you are the world. I love you, Éowyn."
"As I love you, Faramir," she whispered. Not long after, she breathed her last in his arms.
He did not know quite what to do, or quite what to think. Her body still felt warm and heavy in his embrace, as if it were sinking into his own body, dragging them both to the earth. He caught his breath from where he knelt in the murky undergrowth – the faint colour of the winter's first sunrise upon the horizon, spreading faster than the gloom and fog that had spread not ten hours previously, held so much of a promise, or it would have held something there in the wake of a night that could be conquered. It would have. It would have – but there is nothing left to be had! There was nothing left to be had, he thought, save some contrived elegy committed to memory by an elderly scholar, or else the cries of Éowyn's beloved people upon the news of her passing, which would soon fade away and revisit the land in a song, a tale, or some half-forgotten memory of a time in which somewhere, somehow, a great woman had existed as a glaring antithesis to her own pain. Éowyn had lived – could he say otherwise?
His mind raced back to a humid night in July not yet two years past. The stars shone about Éowyn as she stood in this very forest, her grey eyes glimmering with the unchanging intensity of the heavens above her golden head. Her quiet laughter, like the eager trill of a child's flute, seemed to float and rise over the air itself as a song of triumph, a song of incredible innocence. She had been causelessly happy that day. Yet her happiness did have a cause – her own volition, the realisation of her dreams. She had had dreams – once. But once is a lifetime, is it not? Is there no such thing as memory, as an infinite time that was solely a split second of that actual time – is that not a life? Sighing, Faramir closed his eyes, determined not to think, then suddenly opened them. There was something in that darkness, something in his mind that could not be forgotten.
Only five words had a place in his mind: Éowyn, so much was possible! So much was possible! – no, no, so much is possible, if only she will wake from her slumber, if only she will rise and dance again, if only she will trust in her own… whatever it is, it has no name, no time, no accurate concept held by men, no accurate concept anywhere save for a darkening hint of a shadow in my own mind, but I will find it because it is possible for me to find it… Éowyn, so much is possible!
Her tangled hair shone like a crown of gold beneath the fiery sun that had no right to rise that morning, no right to produce its own glory, no right to remove the dreaded darkness that took her budding life, her pride, her will, the thing she had once merrily claimed as a life worth living. "I am," the young, trammelled warrior said through clenched teeth, "never permitting myself to lose anything that I desire." "I am," her shining memory repeated, "forever indebted to thee, Faramir, for saving my life that day in the Houses…". "I am," her youthful voice echoed in the silence of the barren trees, "forever thine, my love, tonight, tomorrow, forever; no time may tell of my love for thee…"
I am. I am. She is. She is.
No. She was.
He closed his eyes, his face buried in his cold, aching hands, hidden from the sunlight. He could not bear to see the sunrise.