Lisswyn gave a contented sigh and shifted her position just a bit. She still believed she'd be fine riding the rest of the journey on Dancer, but it was hard to argue with Eomer's insistence that she spend at least part of every afternoon riding with him on Firefoot when she kept falling asleep every time she did so.
Then again, any excuse to rest against him, his arms securely around her, was hard to argue with.
"Awake, my love? Was your nap restful?"
Eomer's voice rumbled in her ear, and she smiled as she looked up at him. "I did. I dreamed we were back in Meduseld, after the baby is born, and I was rocking him."
"A boy child, was it?"
"Yes," she said firmly.
He laughed softly, and shifted to rest his hand on her belly. "That certain, are you?"
She nodded. "It would be simpler, so why not hope for that?"
His smile faded. "I've told you before that you will not overbear in an attempt to have a male heir. Although we've never had a ruling queen, the Mark has always been more open to such things than Gondor."
"I know. But a boy would just be simpler, so that's what I'm hoping for," she said stubbornly.
He laughed again, and rubbed his cheek against her hair. "Very well. A boy it is. Unless she's not," he added mischievously.
Lisswyn moved her hand so it rested on his, and they fell into a comfortable silence. They'd followed the pattern of her riding with Eomer in the afternoons for the past three days and were now within two or three days of their destination, and although she was looking forward to being there, to being off the road, spending so much time with Eomer had been an unexpected delight.
As too, was her continued lack of the morning illness. Mylla made a special tea for her each morning which she insisted would help prevent the sickness. Whether it was particularly effective for her, or whether she was just fortunate among women, Lisswyn didn't know. She only hoped the situation continued at least until they were safely back in Edoras.
Around her, she could hear the cheerful talk of people who were reaching the end of their journey, though she knew her condition was also contributing to the pleasant mood. By the time they'd made an official announcement the day after Mylla's diagnosis, most of their people had figured it out – due in no small part, Lisswyn thought, to Ceolwyn, who'd apparently guessed almost immediately.
And if anyone on the journey had been less than joyful about the news, being around Brynwyn would have cured them immediately. At the very least, her sister was as excited about the baby as Eomer and Lisswyn were, telling everyone repeatedly that she was going to be an aunt.
As the days went by with no ill effects from the journey, Eomer had relaxed as well, his mood happier than he'd been in weeks. He was still having the nightmares about Eowyn, but they were coming much less frequently, and seemed much less intense.
Lisswyn turned a bit to rub her cheek against Eomer's armor, more content than she could recall being in years. Thinking again about the day she'd give birth to the next king – or, very well, queen – of the Mark, she didn't notice at first one of the scouts who rode at the front of the group riding back toward them.
"Sire, a group of riders are visible from the top of the next hill."
Eomer tensed, but nodded in response. "It's most likely an escort sent by King Elessar. Lord Eothain has been notified? "
"Yes, sire. He's directing the guard to a more defensive position."
Lisswyn sat up a little straighter. "Regardless of who it is, we'd be better served by being on two mounts."
His mind obviously on the riders, he still looked at her in mock disappointment. "I can't think why," he grumbled, "but very well." Motioning to Eoden to bring her mare over, he pulled Firefoot to a halt, dismounted, and lifted her down and then onto Dancer.
As he remounted Firefoot, she saw him loosen his sword. In response to her look, he said softly, "Just in case it's not an escort."
Lisswyn nodded and swallowed against the fear of an attack. Surely nothing like that would occur so close to Minas Tirith?
As they rode to the top of the hill, Eowyn joined them, her posture clearly one of excitement rather than apprehension, and Lisswyn knew she was hoping not only for an escort, but also, perhaps, a private message from Faramir.
From this vantage, they could indeed see the riders even though the standard they bore was not yet distinct. Lisswyn saw Eomer relax, though, when they noted that while moving quickly, the speed of the group was not unduly rushed.
Even so, part of Eomer's guard had moved forward while the remaining riders circled tight around the women and carts.
They watched while the horsemen grew closer, Eomer apparently choosing to wait where they had a better view rather than going to meet them.
As the riders came close enough to identify, Lisswyn caught her breath in excitement and started to turn toward Eowyn, only to hear her sister-in-law give a delighted cry.
"Eomer! It's Faramir! It's his standard!" Tears of joy glinted in the other woman's eyes, even as she wore the widest smile Lisswyn had ever seen. Without waiting for a response from Eomer, she nudged her mount and started down the hill.
Pleased for the woman she thought of as a sister, Lisswyn turned to see a thoughtful smile on Eomer's face. "The messenger who came most recently from Minas Tirith with letters told me that Faramir – with Aragorn's full support – was scandalizing much of Gondor with his insistence that the wedding reflect traditions of the Mark as well," he said.
Ahead of them, they watched as Eowyn came off her horse and ran to meet Faramir, who lifted her up and swung her around in an embrace.
His smile deepening, Eomer added, "It seems as if one of the Gondorian traditions he did away with was that which insisted the bridegroom await his bride at the city gates and escort her in." He nudged Firefoot, and with Lisswyn following, they began making their way down the hill to where Eowyn, with Faramir's arm around her, was approaching them.
Faramir waited until Eomer had dismounted and helped Lisswyn to the ground before bowing deeply. "My Lord King and Lady Queen of the Riddermark," he said, "Gondor welcomes you and is honored by your presence."
Eomer dipped his head in acknowledgement of the formal greeting, and then moved forward to clasp the other man's forearms. "It is good to see you, Faramir."
"And you." He then turned his focus on Lisswyn. "You are well, my lady?"
Although she'd grown used to that inquiry during the past few days on the trail, the intensity behind the prince's query startled her, and she glanced at Eomer in puzzlement before answering. "I am well, my lord."
He stared at her for another long moment, and then dropped his head in acknowledgement before turning back to Eomer. Lowering his voice, he said softly enough that only the three of them could hear, "King Elessar has been following your journey in the palantir, and became concerned several days ago that perhaps the Queen had fallen ill."
A slow smile spread over Eomer's face. "And that is why he sent you out, to see if we needed assistance?"
Humor glinted in Faramir's eyes as he glanced from Eomer to Eowyn. "That was the official reason." The amusement faded, replaced with puzzlement, and he looked again at Lisswyn. "King Elessar saw you fall. You are certain all is well?"
Before Lisswyn could respond, Eomer reached over and caught her hand. Lifting it to his lips, he brushed a kiss across her knuckles before looking back at Faramir, his smile still in place. "The Queen is carrying my heir."
"Ah." Faramir bowed toward Lisswyn again, his smile now matching Eomer's. "That is good news, indeed, and may explain something Elessar said." His eyes twinkling, his glance took in all three of them. "While concerned, he rather cryptically said that whatever had caused the queen to fall might actually be a cause for rejoicing. He then suggested I and my men ride out to meet you, just in case – something we were more than willing to do, of course, for several reasons." He turned toward Eowyn, his gaze softening.
"And those reasons are not difficult to guess, my friend," Eomer said, amusement coloring his tone.
His fingers now entwined with Eowyn's, Faramir only smiled in response, then became serious again. "How far were you planning to go yet today?"
"We've been going more slowly to give Lisswyn plenty of time to rest. I thought to stop perhaps mid-afternoon."
Faramir nodded and looked back the way he'd come. "There is a likely spot not far from here. If you wish, I'll send my men back to set up camp."
Eomer glanced at her, but before he could ask, Lisswyn said firmly, "I'm feeling fine, and quite up to several more hours this afternoon."
Eomer squeezed her hand in response before turning back to Faramir. "My lady has spoken. We would be grateful for your men's assistance."
Waking from another pleasant dream of rocking her child – a boy child -- in Meduseld, Lisswyn yawned and rolled over, trying to determine how long she'd been asleep. It was dark in the tent, but the area next to her was cool. Eomer had not yet come to bed yet, then, though the sounds of the camp were muted.
As if in response to her thoughts, the flap suddenly opened and Eomer slipped through. Obviously trying to be quiet, he crossed to the pile of furs serving as a bed and began undressing.
"Do not fear disturbing me," she said softly. "I've just awakened."
"Ah." He stopped before removing his leggings. "Can I get you anything? Water? Tea?"
"I'm fine. But you can join me in our bed and tell me of Faramir and the news he brings from Gondor."
He slipped under the light quilt, and gave a soft laugh. "Oh, I can, can I?"
"I can not sleep all the time, Eomer!"
"I know. I'm jesting with you." He nuzzled her hair. "I didn't talk much with Faramir, though. Even at the fire, surrounded by his men and our party, he and Eowyn are rather preoccupied with one another."
To her relief, he sounded amused. But his tone was thoughtful, more somber when he continued. "She seems so happy. When I saw the look on her face when we first recognized his standard…"
"Surely you are not surprised by such? Do you not remember how the two of them were with each other when the Gondorians were in Edoras last fall?"
"I remember." He was silent for a long moment. "It's just…"
"For weeks now, when you look at Eowyn, all you see is what the dreams keep showing you, of her lifeless on the Pelennor," she said gently. "But that is not the sum of her life, Eomer."
"I know. Truly, I know. But the dreams have made it difficult to recall that, particularly when I think of her in Gondor."
"Does seeing them together help?"
He was quiet again, for so long she wondered if he'd reply at all. "Perhaps. He loves her very much."
On a sigh, he nuzzled her hair again, and she felt him relax toward sleep.
At dawn three mornings later, Eomer rode by himself through the remains of the Rammas Echor, the old boundary wall around the Pelennor Fields. Arriving just outside the perimeter late the afternoon before, he and Faramir had decided to camp for one more night, allowing for their formal arrival to occur in mid-morning, rather than evening.
Although primarily for political reasons, the decision suited him for personal reasons as well. Bringing Firefoot to a halt, he regarded the plain before him, seeing grass where once had been only mud, death and blood. Slowly, he nudged his horse forward, toward the mounds he could barely make out through the morning mist. Mounds that covered so many of his kinsmen.
Where were Eoden and Andric's father and brothers? He wished he knew, wished he could point out the mound to Eoden. Wished he had some way of honoring them more than with this simple pilgrimage.
And then he saw the flowers. Spring flowers, of a southern variety he was unfamiliar with, were planted around each mound, and something in his heart eased as he understood that the people of Gondor had their own ways of honoring the dead, of not forgetting his people who'd perished so far from home.
Slowly, he made his way to the area of the field that haunted his dreams, before once more bringing Firefoot to a halt. Dismounting, he walked over to where he judged he'd found Eowyn's body, then knelt.
Grass grew here, too, as if determined to obliterate all memory of the Witchking, and he reached out, touched it. Here, his uncle had died in valor, a final, personal defeat over Saruman and Wormtongue. And here his sister, with her terrifying courage, had fulfilled her destiny.
"I do not rest here, Eomer." Her soft words startled him and he spun around, surprised that Firefoot hadn't alerted him that they weren't alone. Eowyn stood there, her hair whipping around in the morning breeze, a distant look in her eyes.
He got to his feet, his voice rough when he responded. "I know. I know that."
She stared down at the ground, and he knew she, too, was remembering. "This was only part of my destiny."
Startled that her words so closely mirrored his thoughts, he gaped at her. She had a slight smile on her face when she spoke again. "It is not difficult to know what you're thinking, but can you not see me standing here now, at peace, about to wed a man who loves me – a good man – and put the memories to rest?"
Words clogged his throat, speech impossible. Instead, he turned, surveyed the field again. Allowed the memory of finding her body to come into his mind once more before deliberately replacing it with images of Aragorn healing her, and then of her with Faramir. Then he turned back to her. "I'm trying. It's just that I will miss you, so very much." Before she could speak, he continued. "But if I must lose you, I can think of no one I'd rather have you with than Faramir."
Now it was she who looked away, and when she turned back to him, tears were in her eyes. She walked over, leaned against him. "I'm going to miss you, too. But such is the way of things. I will know you are in Edoras, with Lisswyn, as you know I am safe with Faramir. And we will see each other as often as possible, will we not?"
"You may depend upon it," he said, his voice husky.
"Faramir has already promised me a trip to the Mark to meet your heir as soon as the roads are passable next winter."
Relief, and gratitude toward his brother-to-be shuddered through him. "Has he?" He wrapped his arms around her, pressed a kiss to her hair. And felt the grief and fear completely go. She was alive. She was loved by a good man, and treasured by two kingdoms. He could ask for nothing more for her.
They stood like that for a few moments longer, and then he said, "Come. We should be returning to the camp. We must prepare for your grand entrance into Minas Tirith."
She nodded, and started to pull away, then stopped, looked up at him. "You'll be fine from now on? With the thought of my being here?"
He glanced around the field again, saw only grass-covered monuments, felt only peace. "I'll be fine," he said.
That night, he dreamed again of the Pelennor, but saw only Eowyn, her face lit in joy as she rode next to Faramir toward the city that waited to greet her with exuberant cheers.