Hearts In Stone: 1. Hearts In Stone

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1. Hearts In Stone

When I first looked on her and perceived her unhappiness, it seemed to me that I saw a white flower standing straight and proud, shapely as a lily, and yet knew that it was hard, as if wrought by elf-wrights out of steel. Or was it, maybe, a frost that had turned its sap to ice, and so it stood, bitter-sweet, still fair to see, but stricken, soon to fall and die?

Aragorn, Return of the King

Rohan, Ithilien, and the rest of Gondor had mourned the White Lady. This day they had set her body to rest. A cold and cheerless bed for her, thought her husband, pondering the cold and cheerless nights that awaited him in the bed they had shared.   And when the final slab of stone sealed in for eternity the mortal remains of Ithilien's Princess, the Prince's very soul seemed to harden.  He said the proper words to his people and his children, to his weary brother-by-law and the hobbits, to the visiting lords and ladies.  When the rites were done, he turned away from them all.  The Prince strode away; face as smooth as marble, walking proudly as befits the Lord of Ithilien and Steward of Gondor and husband of Éowyn.

For once, he had no more words to say. The song was done.  The fire was gone.   Stone was all that was left. Guards followed him at a distance, and perhaps others; he knew naught nor cared.   They could let him be for now; the feast of honor would not begin for another two hours.  His stomach tightened at the thought of sitting comfortably and eating food so soon after Éowyn had been sealed in her tomb. No wonder his father had been a pale statue during the feast after his mother's funeral.  For the first time in many years, he wished he could ask his father for counsel.   Elboron was more than capable of speaking the words that would have to be said this night, of reassuring their people.  No, the Prince decided; he would not place that burden on his son; it was his to bear.  But how then should he go on, when his heart had been cut out and replaced by stone?

He tightened his hands into fists, pushing his fingernails into skin. The pain was distant, as if someone else felt it. All the talk, all the fair words, of the Witch-King's Slayer, the Princess, the White Lady of Rohan and Ithilien! She was so much more than that! He wanted her back, his maiden, his beloved, his wife, the companion of all their days and nights! But Éowyn was lost, behind the words and beneath the stones. 

Someone called the Prince's name.   He turned round, expecting to see Bergil leading White Guards to reclaim their errant Lord.  Instead, he saw a tall crowned figure, mantled in sable and silver.

"Faramir," Aragorn said insistently.  In closer view, Faramir was gratified by the look on the face of his king. There was no pity in Aragorn's eyes, just sorrow.  He put his arm around Faramir's shoulder with the ease of long friendship. Faramir felt something within him relax, if only slightly. He had yearned for the presence of an older kinsman; knowing that such a wish was futile, since he was eldest of not only his house but that of Dol Amroth.

"Come walk with me, by the trees," Aragorn suggested. Faramir felt his stiff legs move as if of their own will. They passed into the ancient garden behind the Stewards' Residence, through Cirion's arch built into the small, shady grove that had been planted by Finduilas. Éowyn had later added circles of fair white flowers. 

"I remember your grandfather sitting there," Aragorn said, indicating a sturdy chair by the fountain. "And your mother loved this place. One day, she brought little Boromir here, while Ecthelion and I played chess. She played the lute; and your brother stopped fidgeting to hear her; as did, I swear, the very birds."

Aragorn regarded the flowers. "Éowyn brought her own grace here, planting these lilies and the Simbelmynë."

Faramir tried to think of something to say. He could almost see her here, inspecting the flowers, queenly even in a smock and gardener's apron. She would prune the flowers and save the petals to make herbs and perfumes. They had planted an apple tree together which had since generated three others. 

Aragorn smiled ruefully. "When first I saw Éowyn, she was as a lily wrought of steel, or encased in a bitter frost. Hard to tell whether that hardness was blight or battle-armor; I think perhaps both. She commanded respect even when beset by doubt and sorrow.   You could see the strength in her, despite the fragility of her position in those dark times. And you did, Faramir."

"I…remember," he answered. Éowyn had ever been a contradiction; as proud as a Númenorean queen, yet not too proud to sit all night with an ailing servant or sick horse. She would grace a king's table and entertain envoys from far lands, and the next day train horses. She had been achingly beautiful standing at the walls of Minas Tirith wearing a white gown, or astride a fiery mare in old breeches, her eyes bright and fearless. 

"She was not as easy to manage as some maidens, or ladies; was she, Faramir?" Aragorn continued. "I remember her temper; for she was stubborn in her convictions; and would not easily give way."

"Nay," Faramir spoke, memories shining and stinging at the same time. He thought of all the battles, the verbal strikes and counter-strikes; and the nights where they had come together in passionate treaty. Their marriage had been stormy, glorious, and fruitful, but never dull. In truth, that meeting with the young, saddened, and contrary Éowyn in the gardens of the Houses so long ago had spoiled Faramir for the delicate ladies he had been raised to admire.   Oh, Éowyn!

"She told me once," he said, thinking again of those long-gone days in the shadowed City; "That her hands were ungentle. But she was mistaken, Aragorn; or did not realize it at the time. Her hands were always strong, but could be gentle when she chose. They could be so very gentle…" His voice broke. The walls around his spirit melted in a surge of pain so great he feared it would break him. A great cry arose within Faramir, and he stilled it, not wanting to shame himself or Éowyn.

Then Aragorn's arms steadied him, and pulled Faramir into his embrace. Faramir realized, even as he released his own tears, that the lord of the Reunited Kingdom also wept. 

When the storm of sorrow had passed, the King and Prince splashed water from the fountain on their tear-streaked faces.  As they looked on the garden again, walking towards its gate, Aragorn hastened back to the circle of lilies. He plucked one lily, a fair white flower, and affixed it to Faramir's cloak with his friend's brooch. 

"Éowyn would take you to task," Faramir said; "She did not want the flowers plucked before their time." It hurt less than he would have thought to say so.

"I doubt she would begrudge your bearing the flower on this day, Faramir," the King replied.   

"Perhaps you are right. I shall wear it in her honor." Faramir drew himself up, only a little shakily. The air had lightened. His own heart had not, yet it was at least unbound. And since he could feel grief; perhaps, one day, he would again feel hope.

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.

Story Information

Author: Raksha

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 4th Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 12/22/09

Original Post: 12/07/09

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WARNING! Comments may contain spoilers for a chapter or story. Read with caution.

Hearts In Stone

Ygrain - 05 Jan 10 - 4:59 AM

Ch. 1: Hearts In Stone

'Made me cry, this one. Very well written, Raksha.

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