13. Chapter 13
The city was visible from a distance, and the last few miles across the rolling grasslands of Rohan seemed to pass very slowly. The sunlight glittered on the Golden Hall as it stood proud on its plinth of stone. It seemed that everyone in the city had come out to welcome home the sad cortege. They stood in silent rows to pay their respects to their fallen King.
I saw Eowyn; she stood proudly at the gate, her golden hair glinting in the early evening light, her white gown a brilliant contrast to the midnight blue of her cloak. I’m not sure that she saw me, for as the procession came to a halt, she was immediately swept into the formalities of welcoming her Royal and Elven guests.
When the horses had been handed over to the stable-hands, we were escorted to the great hall where a buffet was laid in honour of the assembled guests. It was an informal occasion; all of the travellers were weary and eager for their beds. I had not been expected and no room had been allocated to me, but with a quiet word to the Chamberlain, my uncle arranged for an extra cot to be put in his room. I excused myself early, and taking a dose of one of Lord Elrond’s potions, I was soon asleep, thankful for a warm, comfortable mattress after two weeks on the trail.
It was mid afternoon when I awoke. Tamir was sitting by the window reading, and when I remonstrated with him for not waking me sooner, he explained that he had strict instructions not to disturb my rest. He offered me a platter of food, and I picked at it while he arranged for hot water to be brought to fill the bath tub. It was bliss to sink into the hot fragrant water and to wash away the dust and grime of the journey. He wouldn’t help me to dress until he had massaged away the worst of the aches and tensions from my back and shoulders and assisted me with the exercises prescribed by Lord Elrond. I had to compliment him on his skills. He had learned his lessons well; when he had finished his ministrations, I did feel much better.
I had to endure endless teasing, especially from the Hobbits, who seemed to take great delight in embarrassing me for my tardy habits. I tried to take their ribbing in good part and was relieved that Eowyn was not there to witness my discomfort; it was very important to me that I didn’t embarrass or shame myself in her eyes. There was so much that I wanted to say to her, so much that I needed to explain. I sat for a while talking with King Elessar and his Queen and we were joined by Lord Eomer. When the Queen excused herself, I found myself facing the scrutiny of the two men who held my destiny in their hands. I laugher nervously when the uncrowned King of Rohan asked me my intentions.
“My wishes are unchanged, my Lord,” I stammered, before pulling myself up straight in my chair and facing him. “It is my dearest wish to take Lady Eowyn as my bride, but I will not allow her to bind herself to me until I have had a chance to talk to her, to let her know what is she agreeing to. You know of what I speak, my Lord; you have seen and heard of the weakness that plagues me. I will not have the one that I love beyond life itself enter into a union blind to that weakness.”
Eomer looked at me with a guarded expression. “I know of what you speak, and it does not blind me. I know you to be a man of honour and integrity; I know you have the trust and favour of the King and that you would love my sister and make her happy. What worries me slightly is that you doubt your own worth!”
“I fear only that I will let her down, that she will be disappointed when she sees the real me…. or that she will turn me down.”
It was King Elessar who spoke next, with teasing laughter in his voice. “She cannot turn you down, or accept you for that matter, if you do not speak to her. For one who is so fearless in conflict, you seem strangely reluctant to engage in this battle! Can it be that you are afraid of the fair maid, my Lord?”
“Fair maid she may be, but she is also a Shield-maiden of Rohan, the Shield-maiden who challenged and defeated the Witch-King. Would you not fear her wrath, My King?”
Eomer chuckled at this description of his sister. “Faramir, in two days time we will complete the ceremonies in honour of King Théoden. It would be fitting to announce your betrothal at the climax of those celebrations, if a betrothal there is to be. Let me know at first light on that morning if you have succeeded in securing my sister’s consent and approval.”
I spent the rest of the day and most of the next getting to know the city and trying to catch a few minutes alone with Eowyn. I could almost believe that there was a conspiracy afoot to keep us apart; every time I caught sight of her, I excused myself from my companions and made my way to her side only to have her called away by some urgent errand or duty. I was acutely conscious that time was passing and that still nothing was settled between us; we had exchanged only the briefest, most impersonal of greetings and that was in the company of many others. Perhaps she was avoiding me! I had to consider the possibility that her feelings had changed and that she no longer wished to continue with our association.
The familiar feelings of doubt and anxiety twisted themselves into a tight knot within my chest. Remembering the words of Lord Elrond, I decided to get out of the constrained atmosphere of the Hall and seek peace and tranquillity in the open air. Filling a water bottle and picking up some fruit I made my way down the hill towards the city gate, hoping to find a garden or sheltered spot in which to relax and unwind. I found no garden but just beyond the gate was a small grassy hillock, topped by a flowering gorse bush. I spread my cloak upon the grass, lay down with my hand behind my head, and watched the high sparse clouds drift passed. The sun was pleasantly warm, and lulled by the play of the breeze and the soft haunting music of birdsong, I must have fallen asleep.
I was woken by soft whispered voices close at hand; I listened, without opening my eyes, to ascertain who had found my retreat. It took only a moment to identify that it was Frodo and Sam; I rolled to face them and opened my eyes. They were sitting on a blanket a few feet away with a picnic spread out between them; it took them a minute to realise that I was awake.
“Are you here by chance, or were you sent?” I asked with mock severity. Sam looked abashed but Frodo was not so easily fooled.
“It is all a bit overwhelming, isn’t it?” he said, his voice and expression full of understanding. “We weren’t sent, but you had been missed. If you’d rather be on your own we will understand. The last thing we want to do is intrude.”
“No, my friends, I would welcome your company, and a taste of your picnic. Sometimes, well… I feel a little lost within the crowd!” We ate in companionable silence. With his stomach full, Sam was soon snoring softly in the afternoon sun. Frodo shuffled closer to me and sat on the edge of my cloak.
“Faramir, soon we will have to say goodbye, for we will be leaving to return to our homes. I would like to see you happy before we go! Do not make the mistake that I made. I thought I had all the time in the world. Grab your chance of happiness; it stands right before you!”
“You still have a chance for happiness, Frodo. You are young yet!”
“Young to your eyes maybe, but I am older than you realise. I held the ring for too long; it kept me looking young, but it took away the part of my heart that should have been kept for a bride. I do not know what we go back to, but I fear that I will always be alone.” The look of desolation in his eyes nearly broke my heart; I pulled him to me and embraced him and just for a moment he sagged against me, but then he pulled away. “Don’t let Sam sleep too long,” he said with a sad tight smile, turning and walking back towards the gate. I watched him go, marvelling that one so seemingly frail could have endured so much.
I did not enjoy the feast that night; the hall was full and noisy, tables crammed in to accommodate the guests. The atmosphere was thick with smoke from the brazier in the middle of the hall and from the pipe-weed of both hobbits and dwarf. I was not particularly hungry. Sam’s picnic had blunted the edge of my appetite and the persistent knot in my chest made swallowing difficult. The small amount of food that went from my platter found its way to the hounds who scavenged under the tables. I was seated half way down the Hall; I watched those on the top table laughing and chattering until I could bear it no longer; time had run out, and Eowyn was as far from me now as when I had been at Dol Amroth.
I slipped away from the table and went outside to seek sanctuary in the rapidly falling dusk. I left the Hall by a side doorway, avoiding the sentries who stood guard at the main entrance. The walls of the building offered shelter from the wind that constantly whistled around the summit of the city, but even in this sheltered spot the early evening air was chill and I had not thought to pick up my tunic or cloak. I wrapped my arms around my chest and looked out across the wide open grass-lands. This was such a strangely beautiful landscape, totally different from the lush beauty of Ithilien; the distant snow-capped mountains, their high peaks standing mute guard, were now painted crimson and gold as the last rays of the sun caught their icy pinnacles.
I don’t know how long I watched there; I felt the chill in the air but it did not seem to touch me. I breathed in the moon and stars and let their beauty and tranquillity seep into my heart; I think I came to a point of acceptance then. I let go of dreams, let go of expectations and looked to the stars to find something to fill the void left by hope.
“Faramir?” A voice called out from the shadow of the Hall. I wasn’t sure at first if the voice was real or in my head. I turned to the sound and saw a vision before me, a figure cloaked in midnight, their face lost in shadow. The phantom moved slowly towards me and raised a hand to my cheek; the hairs on the back of my neck prickled and I shivered. I recognised her then and she drew a cloak around my shoulders. I was overwhelmed and clutched her to me so tightly she gasped; I feared that if I let go she would disappear as quickly as she had come.
She guided me to a bench and held a goblet of warm wine to my lips; I was shaking too much to hold the vessel myself. She pulled her cloak over my shoulder, and I rested against her, safe within the circle of her arms. We sat for a while in silence, and then she showed me a large brooch and described to me its history; a family heirloom, a treasure, a betrothal gift, and she held it out to me as a pledge of our future together. And I could not take it. I folded her lovely slender fingers around the jewel and set them back in her lap. She tried to move away then, but I wouldn’t release her, not until I had told her what was in my heart.
Once I started talking, I couldn’t stop. I poured out my heart into the darkness, told her of my love for her, my hopes, my wishes. I told her why I feared to bind her to me, began the sad litany of my life that had led me to the shell I had become. She listened in silence, letting me empty out my sadness against her shoulder, and when I faltered, she soothed and comforted me until I could continue. I looked up into her eyes, expecting to see sadness or disappointment; but what I saw there were deep pools of understanding and love; it made my heart leap and I felt just the faintest stirring, a tiny flicker of hope. And still she held me tightly against her shoulder. When finally I had run out of words and the tears flowed and would not stop, still she held me, safe in the darkness, cocooned in her arms, cherished, loved.
Tamir woke me not long after dawn; I had an appointment to keep, and for a few groggy, sleepy moments, I couldn’t remember how the evening had ended, how I had made my way to bed. I sat up slowly and lowered my legs over the side of the bed and was surprised to find my left hand tightly clutching a round metal brooch. Overwhelming joy flooded through me and I held out my trophy to show to Tamir; he was grinning nearly as widely as me and obviously knew of its significance. He helped me to dress, and while I collected a roll of parchment from my pack, he busied himself removing the clasp from my cloak and replacing it with Eowyn’s gift.
I walked into the Hall to find almost the whole company assembled at breakfast, all except Lord Eomer and the King. I schooled my features to what I hoped was my normal expression, nodded a greeting towards the top table and, after a word to the chamberlain, went in search of my quarry. I found the two Rulers in earnest conversation on the steps before the main entrance to the Hall. They were facing me and I stopped a few feet away from them and waited to catch their attention.
“Ah, Lord Faramir, did you want something?” said the King.
“A moment with Lord Eomer, if it is convenient, Sire!” Both men looked serious, but could not hide the amused sparkle in their eyes. My mouth was suddenly dry, but I took a deep breath.
“Lord Eomer. I, Faramir, Son of Denethor, wish to make a formal request to take Eowyn, Lady of Rohan as my wife.” I pulled the official parchment from inside my sling, handed it to him and saluted.
“And who seconds your proposal?” he said, glancing at the script. The King stepped forward and stood at my side, a hand on my shoulder.
“I, Elessar, King of Gondor, do second the proposal.”
Eomer fixed me with a glance. “And does the Lady consent to this union?” Nervously, I moved my hand up and fingered the clasp at my neck.
“I believe she does, My Lord!” I stuttered. He looked at me intently then, as if trying to decipher my thoughts. His expression softened as his gaze moved from my face to a point over my shoulder. I felt soft gentle fingers entwine themselves with mine and I turned to find my love at my side, and she smiled at me, a smile full of sunshine and love and promise.
“Then, as Lord, I give my consent, and as brother, I give you both my blessing.” He stepped forward and embraced his sister and then he clasped my arm. “I will make the official announcement at the end of the day’s ceremonies.”
I stood in a daze, oblivious to all around me but Eowyn; I felt my heart would burst with joy as I lost myself within her gaze.
“Faramir, if you do not seal the contract in the appropriate fashion, I shall have to show you how it is done!” the King whispered in my ear. I needed no further encouragement; I pulled her to me and kissed her with all of the passion of a heart brimming with love; doubts gone, fears forgotten, future beckoning with the promise of joy
I only pulled away when the sound of clapping and cheering filtered into my consciousness. I turned towards the Hall to find we had a large audience of friends and companions, all smiling and obviously enjoying the spectacle we were making.
I blushed, but Eowyn, with great presence of mind, simply curtsied to the crowd and kissed me again…and again.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.