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Ice

"Then the heart of Éowyn changed, or else at last she understood it." -- "The Steward and the King," The Return of the King

The stone wall seemed almost to cradle her head, as ridiculous as such a thing sounded. Éowyn leaned against the blocks tiredly, closing her eyes, not against the burning vision of fires and smoke belching forth from the east, but against her own desolation, so misplaced now that the darkness had passed. Her hair caught and pulled on minute crags on the wall, but she didn't mind the slight pinpricks of pain; rather, she relished them as tokens of her living, of her ability to feel, because such a short time ago she had longed for exactly the opposite. Even now, she feared she would lose that ability.

When she had first seen Minas Tirith, it had seemed to her cold and hard, its white surfaces gleaming like ice. It was a chill echoed in her own heart. Now she saw, in a moment of bright sunshine, or the fading light of sunset, that the stones could take on a golden hue. And sometimes it had nothing to do with the light at all, but just seeing him imbued the city with colour and warmth. A smile, a word, a soft touch on her back, and the iciness within her was pushed away just a little more, letting warmth and life take hold in her heart, like simbelmynë pushing through the snow.

Now he had gone, though, leaving the Houses of Healing to prepare the city for the arrival of the Captains. He had gone to fulfill his duty. He had gone. And Éowyn lingered, holding tightly to her newfound ability to feel, all the while knowing it was slipping through her fingers. She could do nothing to stop it. Perhaps would not do a thing to stop it.

He came to her once, the Steward, the Lord Faramir, who was her friend and something more that she would not name. She saw in his gentle gaze that he wondered at her staying so long in the Houses of Healing, when all she held most dear celebrated at Cair Andros. And for a brief moment, a flare of brightness almost made her tell him why she stayed, though she barely knew herself. But she balked, and he departed, taking with him a little more of the warmth in her heart.

She did not think he knew the change he had wrought in her. Sometimes she was not certain such a change had actually occurred, but she clung to the sense that it had, that she could find happiness in life, rather than a noble death, and that the sun that shone on everything else would warm her fully in time. It was not easy, when all who knew her at the Houses of Healing (and by now she was well known) expected her to go to her brother and the future king, unable to fathom why she refused to heal. She thought, momentarily, that she saw some inkling of understanding in Faramir's eyes. But he would not speak, and nor would she, and her heart hovered on the verge of thawing while she waited.

Footsteps caused her to lift her head, hair snagging, to watch as the Warden made his way towards her. "The Lord Faramir wishes to see you, Lady."

Éowyn smoothed her dress and felt her heart lighten. Perhaps today she would know her heart fully and allow it to turn from ice to warmth.