"I am happy for you Faramir, son of Denethor."
The young Captain of Gondor, now Steward of the White City, turned as the King approached him with a warm smile. Their eyes locked upon a female dressed all in white, laughing joyously as she danced with her people.
"You have chosen well," Aragorn nodded.
"Aye," Faramir agreed with a broad grin on his handsome features. "I still wonder at my good fortune. It seems a dream to me."
"Then it is a good dream." The King smiled wistfully as he remembered his own beloved. "Go now. Dance with your White Lady."
Faramir bowed and departed towards Éowyn with a spring in his step. She spotted him through the crowd and reached out to grasp his hand. As he spun her around in his arms, he finally felt a happiness that he had long been lacking.
"My Lord, the horses are ready."
Faramir started out of his reverie and nodded at his old friend and guard. He then proceeded to strap on his belt and don his cloak of dark blue velvet. A bang of the door caught his attention and he raised his head in time to see his betrothed fly into the room as if carried by the wind, hair and dress flowing about her.
"Your horse has been readied," she stated while her eyes questioned.
"I am to leave for Osgiliath," he answered coolly. "Trouble has begun to stir among the people there."
"Cannot the King aid them?" she asked, puzzled.
"He is more than three days ride from the city and this cannot wait," Faramir explained as he shook his head. "I must go in his stead."
"And you leave your bride so willingly?" she murmured, her gaze never faltering.
"No, not willingly. Yet I fear that my presence will do nothing to ease your loneliness, my Lady."
He met her eyes for one instant, gray against gray, searching desperately for something that he could not find in the end.
"Your eyes show clearly what your heart desires, Éowyn," he said with the weary tone of one who has already accepted defeat, "and it does not lie in Faramir, Captain of Gondor."
With that, he disappeared from the room, sweeping his cloak behind him. She rushed to the window to catch a last glimpse as he galloped down the streets and out of her sight. She fell limply onto the bench, running a slender finger over its intricate carvings.
"I fear that you will find no answers there, my Lady," a rich female voice said.
Éowyn looked up and saw the Queen above her with a soft smile on her lips. She began a hasty bow but a gentle hand halted her.
"Must there be formalities between old friends?"
They settled on the bench, raven hair against blonde, crimson cloth against pure white. Their physical contrasts were startling yet their eyes told a different story.
"I understand the young Captain has left for Osgiliath," Arwen said, breaking the silence. "Is that why you sit so despairingly?"
Éowyn looked startled and felt as if the other were peering into her very soul. Her gaze wavered and she took a shaky breath.
"Yes…" she whispered. "And no. I do not understand him! He expects something from me yet I know not what he seeks."
"Do you know nothing of his love for you?" Her question puzzled Éowyn further. "Can you not see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice? He would raze an entire city to the ground at your command, steal the sun from the sky if he knew it would be able to warm your heart."
At these quiet words, Éowyn could not help the tears from spilling.
"Then why has he gone? Why has he left me to wander these cold white halls alone?" She let out a sigh of frustration. "I have so many questions, I feel as if even eternity cannot provide all the answers."
"There is time, Éowyn," Arwen replied, squeezing her hand in a gesture of comfort. "Perhaps you need first to understand yourself. What does your heart hold?"
Éowyn furrowed her brow and waited but her companion would say no more.
"I take my leave," the Queen finally announced with a reassuring smile.
Then she was gone and Éowyn was again left to her own thoughts. After a few moments of pondering to no avail, she decided that fresh air might do her good and proceeded to stroll through the winding city streets. The people sensed Éowyn's turmoil and took care not to disturb her, yet they could not help looking upon her with curiosity and concern. Every man, woman, and child held a growing affection for their new Lady for in the first instant they saw her, they had sensed her compassion and strength.
After what seemed like hours, Éowyn found herself returning to the tower, stepping towards a secluded garden she had heard belonged to the Queen. It appeared rumors were true as she discovered the Elf tending to the flowers there. It was as if every stem and branch stood taller and reached farther under her touch. Éowyn would have been content to watch in the shadows if Arwen hadn't sensed her presence immediately.
"We meet again," the Queen said without turning. "Have you more answers or more questions?"
She turned around with the hint of a smile yet Éowyn could detect no trace of mockery in her old eyes.
"Neither," she sighed, finding herself seated on yet another bench. "I seem to be going in circles, quite literally."
Arwen said nothing, attention returning to her garden. Éowyn fell silent for a few moments, seemingly lost in thought. Suddenly she asked a question and from where it sprang she did not know.
"When did you first know of your love for King Aragorn?"
Arwen glanced up yet wore no expression of surprise. She walked to Éowyn and sat with her.
"When I first laid eyes upon him," she said and her words held no trace of doubt.
"How did you know?" Éowyn asked, her childish curiosity getting the better of her.
Arwen smiled and turned her gaze toward a sight only she could see. When she spoke, her voice sounded distant.
"My life has spanned the Ages yet even I do not fully understand the ways of the heart," she said quietly. "When I saw him, I saw not a man, but a King who would give everything when he loved. I sensed his mortality, yes, but also the wisdom and beauty of the Eldar. It was then that I knew my heart belonged to him."
She turned slowly towards Éowyn as if waking from a dream. The latter had tears in her eyes and felt that she had just been told a sacred truth, one that would shake the heavens if all were to hear it.
"Have you ever regretted leaving your people?"
"Never," Arwen whispered and Éowyn had no more questions.
"My Lady," a guard called, stumbling into the room. "Lord Faramir has fallen ill. You must come quickly."
Éowyn turned from the window as the words pierced through her daydream.
"Impossible!" she gasped, yet followed the guard down the halls. "How can it be? He was perfectly well when he left but three days ago."
Her scattered mind only barely registered that she had been taken to the Houses of Healing. She burst through the doors and saw a lone figure lying on white sheets.
"My Lord," she whispered, falling to her knees at his side.
His skin was so hot that Éowyn almost dropped his hand when she touched it.
"I don't know if it is my place to say-" the guard started, and then faltered.
"Speak!" she commanded, her eyes never leaving Faramir.
"He has not slept and has hardly eaten for weeks," he relayed quietly.
Éowyn glanced at him sharply. "For weeks? Whatever do you mean?"
"Have you not noticed, my Lady?" he asked cautiously. "I have seen him take but a few bites of food at the table during meals and at night, he walks the halls like a ghost, so caught in his thoughts that he does not even detect my presence."
Éowyn did not answer yet the guard saw her lips tighten into a thin line. He was not certain as to why his Captain's demeanor had changed so dramatically over the past weeks but he afforded a silent speculation. He was well beyond his years and no stranger to the matters of love. He had noticed the shadow of grief in the young Captain's eyes every time they fell upon Lady Éowyn, who never seemed to notice anything, for her eyes were always fixated on something unseen by the others around her. He could sense her love for Lord Faramir yet it was hindered by something that always dimmed her bright eyes. But he did not dare to speculate further.
"His spirit is dwindling, Lady Éowyn," another voice spoke.
She looked up in surprise and saw the Queen standing mere inches from her.
"I sense a growing darkness in his heart." Arwen said this not looking at Faramir, but at Éowyn. "It is possible that he never really healed from the injuries he sustained during the War. True, these past months have staved off this darkness until it has become a mere shadow, but his lack of rest and nourishment has spurred it to spread." She closed her eyes. "It is tainting him slowly but surely."
"Can you not call upon the King to help him? He has succeeded once before!" Éowyn exclaimed, unable to temper her frustration or quell her fear.
"Aye, I could, but I fear that Captain Faramir's wounds run too deep even for the King to mend. He needs someone… closer to his heart."
"You mean for me to heal him?" Éowyn asked with uncertainty. Arwen nodded. "But I know nothing of healing!"
"The sick of heart do not need the minds of healers," the Queen advised. "Call him back, Éowyn. If your love is true, he will answer."
Éowyn turned back to Faramir, locked in a silent struggle. Moments passed before she spoke again.
"What if he does not?" she whispered.
There was no answer except for the echoes of her own doubt. The Queen and guard had already left.
That night, Éowyn remained kneeled at her Lord's side, stroking his hair while murmuring his name incessantly until it became a chanting plea. But he would not wake and she finally fell into a restless sleep.
"It is but a shadow and a thought that you love."
Éowyn looked up at the Ranger with teary eyes and, as he uttered these words, his face began to blur. She blinked to rid the tears and gasped when in place of Aragorn, she saw Faramir.
"Why can you not love me?" he pleaded. "Am I so unworthy of your affections?"
She looked into his eyes and saw darkness overtaking them, as if black storm clouds were threatening a calm sea. All the while, she felt his utter despair in waves that constricted her lungs.
"If you do not love me, I will burn into shadow and ash," he continued as flames suddenly engulfed his form. "Please…"
And with this last entreaty, he crumbled though she tried to grasp his wrists. Sobbing, she felt hot ashes sift through her fingers. She began to scream.
Éowyn woke, her throat hoarse and face wet. She stumbled towards the window on shaky limbs and pushed it open with trembling hands. The cold morning air helped her regain her senses but it did nothing to soothe her regret and sorrow. She now knew what lay behind Faramir's riddles and his coldness. He had long sensed what shadow and thought still grasped her heart when even she did not.
But what did she want? While pondering this slightly disturbing question, she returned to Faramir and looked down upon his face. Suddenly all the swirling thoughts in her mind molded into one answer, as strong and sure as her blade. She wanted nothing more than to be loved. Faramir had already given Éowyn her heart's desire yet she had remained too blind, too foolish to see. All the glory and valor of the world could not amount to the wondrous feeling that came to her now as she reflected upon his devotion. He loved her in ways Aragorn would not... could not. If she had been truly honest with herself, she would have seen her love for the King for what it was: a childish infatuation borne from years of loneliness. Finally, she saw Faramir not as a second choice, but as a new beginning.
"My Lord," she whispered softly yet surely. "Faramir, my love."
And as his eyes fluttered open, she began sobbing her relief and exhaustion.
"My Lady," he said hoarsely. "Why do you cry?"
"Because you have returned to me," she answered with a bright smile through the tears.
Without warning, he became distant, his eyes turning to frost.
"I would fare better if I had not," he said dully, turning his head away.
"But my Lord," Éowyn began, startled by the change.
"Leave me." His voice was devoid of feeling. "I wish to be alone."
She opened her mouth to protest but then thought against it. Though she wished to melt the ice in his veins, she would not do so by angering him. Perhaps he will better receive me after he has fully recovered, she thought while wiping her tears. Even so, she was ready to fling herself upon him if his stubbornness remained unyielding. She stood up and hurried out of the House, her mouth set in a determined line. As she closed the door from the outside, she dwelled upon a single thought. A shieldmaiden of Rohan does not give up so easily.
Faramir had almost become a fool in his love for her. The day they married, he had convinced himself that it was he who owned her whole heart. Yet as days faded into weeks, the sweet delusion slowly dissipated. Éowyn was still clinging, albeit unconsciously, to an old dream – a dream in which a dark Ranger swept her from her feet and made her a Queen. As he came to realize this, he felt as if he were locking her in the cage she so dreaded. But he could not let her go. And so he lay in his sick bed, wondering how love could become such a selfish, ugly thing.
"He has woken?" a voice more stated than asked.
Éowyn felt the familiar presence of the Queen. She knew the answer needed not be spoken aloud so she continued to stare off into the distance across Pelennor. The breeze on the balcony was chilly yet it cooled her frustration, for which she was grateful; she always felt her temper childish before the calm, collected Elf.
"I understand now," Éowyn spoke at last. "I only hope that I am not too late."
Then, she could be calm no more, spinning around with fire in her eyes.
"He would not even listen to me!" she cried. "And I cannot bear it."
"He will be unyielding at first, yes," Arwen said. "The sons of Denethor are known for their stubbornness. But it is not too late." Her voice was warm and reassuring. "His love for you has only grown stronger despite his despair. You must rekindle his hope that you return this love."
"I will," Éowyn promised, more to herself than to the Queen. "I must."
Éowyn returned to the House of Healing in two days time, unable to wait any longer. It was up to her to dispel both their torment. She burst through the door and located Faramir at the window, his back to her.
"My Lord," she said softly, reaching his side and touching his shoulder.
He flinched yet did not turn or speak. In desperation, she grasped both his shoulders and forced him to confront her.
"What do you wish of me Éowyn?" he asked wearily.
Without another word, she swiftly brought their lips together and the sensation was almost too sweet. Actions indeed spoke louder than words as Faramir brought his hand to the small of her back and deepened the kiss. At that moment, her carefully constructed plan crumbled; she could not think, only feel her world becoming more rich and intoxicated. Then everything shattered when he pulled away sharply and retreated against the wall.
"Why must you play with my heart, Éowyn?" he asked with quiet despair. "Are you satisfied now that you know you wield it solely as your own?"
His bitterness brought fresh tears to her eyes.
"Yes," she admitted shamelessly, "but only because it brings me a happiness that I have not known until now. What must I say and do to make you believe that you have mine?"
Hope flickered in his dark eyes and battled with his doubts.
"Did you not feel it in our kiss?" she asked desperately. "My heart lies in your hands alone!" Her voice then died down to a gentle murmur. "I've caused you pain, my Lord, perhaps more than I could ever imagine. Let me make it right."
When he still would not speak, she rested one hand on his cheek and the other on his chest. His eyelids fluttered and closed at the touch. She looked with wonder at his face as she saw him for the first time with an open heart. She was finally rid of the shadow that had veiled him from her. With long slender fingers, she began a light exploration of his face starting at his brow, which was as noble as any king's. She traced his dark arching eyebrows, then one high cheekbone. Her eyes fell upon impossibly long lashes, which she knew would raise to reveal eyes as devastating as the sea before a storm. Finally her fingers found his lips, reveling in their softness. As if her touches wiped away the remaining stains of doubt and despair, his eyes opened, filled with tenderness and love.
"Have you found anything to your liking, my Lady?" he asked with a trace of mirth in his voice.
She began to laugh and weep as she leapt into his arms. "Everything."
And as he spun her around in his arms, all of Minas Tirith shined under the light of their happiness.