As Arundil talked on and on about his father's valor at tournament, Finduilas let her eyes wander the crowd of feasters. Grandmother Eowyn was no where to be seen, nor Grandfather Faramir. She had a few moments, then.
She lay a hand on Arundil's arm and began walking away from the throne dais. "But how did you fare, Arundil? Surely you did not let your father win all the glory?"
"No indeed, my lady. For while my father will not let me ride against the Rohirrim in the spears, I did well in the swords." She noticed the change then in Arundil, and Finduilas knew Grandfather Faramir was near. People stood straighter and spoke differently (if they spoke at all) when the Prince of Ithilien approached them. He was a gentle lord, but high and noble, and the lesser lords of Ithilien were all a bit in awe of him.
"Finduilas!" Grandfather said. "Might I speak aside with you for a moment?"
Arundil bowed and quickly fled, and Finduilas sighed deeply. "What do you wish, Grandfather?"
A smiled played on his lips, as though reading true both Arundil's shyness and Finduilas' displeasure. But he wisely said nothing of it. "Your sister and I have a favor to ask." The feast today was to celebrate Faramir's and Eowyn's first great-grandchild, born six weeks ago to Finduilas's eldest sister Theodwyn.
After Grandfather chased off yet another lord's son, Finduilas was not inclined to be courteous. "What is it you need?"
"Your grandmother is being stubborn again. I can see that she is chilled, but she refuses to retire. Your newborn niece is sleeping in the private audience chamber, and I would have Eowyn go warm herself there. But it is unseemly to leave them both in the care of mere servants, especially today."
Finduilas walked with Faramir to the small chamber. Golden sunlight streamed from the high windows and mingled with the heat of the fire in the hearth. Settling into one of the large leather chairs, she prepared to be bored. She watched the fire for a while, then let her gaze come to rest on the bookshelf. The Kings of Numenor and A Quenya Primer seemed to stare back at her, disdaining her youth. Then she watched Grandmother Eowyn rocking her first great-grandchild, a sleeping baby girl named after the White Lady. With her frail skin and silver hair, Grandmother truly was the White Lady now. It was hard for Finduilas to imagine this bent, revered woman standing in defiance of the dread Witch-King and slaying him with whistling blade. This was the woman who had taught her herb-lore and embroidery, whose gentle hands had comforted her through fever and through fear.
Grandfather returned to the room and placed a blanket on Grandmother's lap. Then kissing her on the brow, he said "When you are ready to join us again, they are missing you at the feast."
"I will come soon, beloved. As soon as little Eowyn is awake again."
He nodded and left, and Finduilas smiled. Lies, lies, and yet they were kind lies. Today was Theodwyn's day, not Grandmother's, and no one would begrudge her absense. And Grandfather wanted her to stay by the fire, and Grandmother knew it and pretended that she was being useful here. So many kind lies! And yet beneath it all, there was love. They may think me young and foolish, but I am wise enough to see that, Finduilas thought. Aloud, she said, "You and Grandfather cherish each other."
Eowyn smiled. "Oh yes, child."
"And yet, 'tis said you rode to glory on the Pelannor Fields out of love for King Elessar." That rumor had puzzled her for years, but only in the boldness of adolescence did she dare to ask.
Eowyn laughed softly, her dim eyes seeing beyond leagues and years. "Do not let the gossips deceive you, child. I rode to glory for love of glory, nothing more nor less. I perceived that glory lived incarnate in the King. If I could not receive glory at his side, then he would bow before my broken body and thus I would receive glory of him, or such were my thoughts in those dark hours."
"And yet you were wedded to Grandfather." Finduilas loved her grandfather dearly, but she could not imagine why Eowyn would choose him over King Elessar. Faramir was kind and gentle and wise and beloved, but glorious was not how anyone would describe him.
Eowyn sighed. "'Tis more than passing strange, my child, that the tale of the Pelannor is a tale of love, set against blood and horror. For as I passed the leagues in fey fantasies, I brooded on Lord Aragorn. When we broke the ranks of Mordor, I drew nigh unto Theoden Ednew, hoping to win glory enough to make the King of Gondor bow. And yet in that hour, when Snowmane fell and crushed both hope and Rider, it was Theoden I loved, and Theoden I honored, and I knew my folly toward Aragorn. I wept then for my king, dearer than father, whose trust I had betrayed to win the heart of one who loved me not. I cared not for glory then; it was an empty, fleeting thing before the Shadow. Only love shone brightly and gave me strength to bear the battle with the Wraith. Only love."
"But what of Grandfather? How did you know it was Faramir you wished to wed?"
She laughed again. "Why do you press me on the wedding?"
Finduilas blushed. Arundil was fair and strong and came from a good house, but she often felt that he spoke more to hear himself than to be heard of her. When Finduilas answered not, Eowyn laughed again. "Very well. I toss my wisdom like a pebble into a pond. Whether it hits the mark or not, I shall never know."
She leaned back in her chair. "How did I know that I would wed him?" She sat silently for a moment. "To answer that, you must know when it was I first loved him. Even in those days of doubt before the return of the King, there were many who gave me glory for my victory on the Pelannor, but the Shadow lay upon me still. Glory was dead, slain with Theoden Ednew, but love too had died beneath the Fell Beast. How I envied my king! For he had glory as great as Eorl the Young, and slept the peaceful sleep of the honorable dead. All the praise and honor given me only deepened the wound of my shame, for I had deserted my place in time of war out of the foolish, wayward imaginings of a girl-child's heart. I was feckless, wishing to ride to battle with a broken arm. But Faramir sees with true eyes, my girl, and reads the hearts of both men and women. What he sees there moves him to kindness and not scorn. Prize such a man, should you ever find one, for I doubt his equal walks this green earth. What he saw in my soul when I first came to him, I know not. He says he did not see my shame, but he spoke the words I needed, for he bid me remain, urging me to prepare to meet my death with honor. Theoden King had bid me stay in the Mark to defend the old and helpless. I could not now return to Rohan, but I could defend the honored, defenseless dead. If the orcs at last o'ercame the city, I would see them pay a dear price before they defiled my lord and kin. In this penance, I thought to restore my honor. I felt as though I foundered in deep water, and herein Lord Faramir the Steward's Son had placed living stone beneath my feet."
"And so I passed my days in the courtyard with him, listening and learning much. For unjustly had he known the sting of shame at the hands of his father, though he was loathe to speak of it. He was far more ready to speak of Boromir, for he had loved his brother greatly and missed him dearly. Gradually the Shadow lifted from my heart, and I felt warm when I was with him. Several days had passed, when we both felt a portent of doom as we stood upon the walls. In my heart, I clung to him then, for the Shadow washed over me and I felt as though a dark tide would sweep me from the living stone to dash me on the depths below. But the tide passed and we were both unscathed and filled with joy. And he kissed me on the brow. It was then that I first knew I loved him, and that he regarded me as well."
"The next day he was called to council, for the eagles had brought tidings of the King triumphant, which thing caused no small stir among the elders. He came not to the courtyard all day, nor the next, nor the next. I went to his chamber, fearing some harm or illness had befallen him, but the healers said he was away or asleep and they would not disturb him. They offered to give him word of my visit, but I forebade them. For what could they say, save that a lonely maiden sought to take him from his duty and his king? I had disregarded duty to my shame. Now I held it higher than all other virtues, or so I told myself.
"And then he took the office of his fathers upon him, and he came not again to the Houses of Healing. Many days had past since last I heard his voice or seen his face, and I understood with sudden clarity that he did not love me. He had forgotten me and forsaken love for glory. I went to my chamber and wept. I wept for Theoden who was dead and for Faramir who was dead to me though he yet lived. And though strange as it may seem, I wept that I had not died defending my fallen king, for once again I was bereft of both honor and love.
"And then one day he came and brought me to stand upon the walls. Doom was upon me again, for if he did not love me I would yield to the tide and to the rocky depths below. He asked me why I did not go to the rejoicings beyond the River and guessed that I went not because I still loved the Lord Aragorn. In this only did Faramir's wisdom fail him, for he was swayed by the words of the Perian Meriadoc to believe I still pined for Lord Aragorn. It was pride that kept me in the city, when I perceived Faramir's unlove for me. For as bitter as that knowledge was, more bitter still would be to kneel before King Elessar in his glory and know nothing but my shame."
"Your grandfather hinted that he loved me, or rather, that I ought to love him." Eowyn smiled. "I thought he courted me out of pity, thinking to save my fading life. I almost turned from him in anger then, but he spake, calling me high and valiant and beautiful above the skill of the Elven-tongue to say. He declared his love for me, saying that even if I were the blissful queen of Gondor that he would love me, and the tide of doubt departed. I knew that he loved me and I would wed him. Not for pity, nor glory, but for love."
"I know not if this is the wisdom you seek, but if you wish to know when a young man is worthy of your love, you may know by this: if you will forsake glory for his love and he likewise will forsake glory for you, and you become tame creatures. For I have become thus, hedged by affection and kindness and respect. In my youth I feared anything like unto a cage, distrusting restraints as wild things do. But now I find the bonds of love a shelter from sorrow and pain. For remember this. Glory falls prey to wrinkles and rheumatism and fading sight, but love does not bear full fruit until the end of life's season."
She stooped then and kissed her sleeping namesake.
Eowyn did not live to see the new year, but passed from the bonds of the world in early spring. King Elessar himself, now gray-maned and wrinkled with age, and Queen Arwen Undomiel whose beauty was unfading came to her funeral in Emyn Arnen, as did the whole court of Minas Tirith. As Finduilas watched the King and Queen bow before her grandmother's bier, she remembered little Eowyn's feast-day and Grandmother Eowyn's tale and wisdom. The White Lady had not forsaken glory for love. She had won both.