The man glanced up from a young girl, shy in the presence of the King, and Aragorn's face lit up.
"Eomer" he said, embracing the King of Rohan.
"Aragorn" replied Eomer. "You summoned me from Edoras-"
"Eowyn" finished Aragorn. "Her room is this way."
"Tell me," said Eomer, and Aragorn noticed that his friend's hands were trembling "my sister - has there been any change?"
Aragorn shook his head as their footsteps echoed off the walls. "None. Faramir is with her-"
But at that moment a door to their right flew open, and Faramir burst through.
"She's dead!" he cried, tears of grief pouring down his face. He sank to his knees in front of Aragorn, shaking wildly. "I tried everything, but she died. She died. She's dead, Aragorn. It's all my fault!"
The last words tore out of his throat. Faramir's face was twisted in despair and sorrow.
Aragorn hauled him roughly to his feet. "Eowyn?" he demanded.
Faramir shook his head and sobbed bitterly.
Aragorn sprinted for Eowyn's door, followed closely by Eomer.
And there in the bed lay Eowyn, her face cold and pale, her golden hair brushed out around her. Her beauty brought a lump to Eomer's throat as he saw his sister.
Aragorn strode to her side. "She's not breathing" he said shortly, taking a small bowl of athelas from the bedside table. He crushed the leaves between his fingers, and after dipping them in steaming water he held them to her brow. "Call her!" he said to Eomer urgently.
"Eowyn, awake!" cried Eomer hoarsely.
Eowyn was by herself in a barren wasteland. It was cold, and she shivered.
"Eomer" she called helplessly. Where was she?
Oh, it was so cold, and somewhere she could hear the taunting voice of Grìma Wormtongue, and the malicious hiss of the Witch-King...
She could remember something that had been all a blur...someone smoothing her brow, kissing her forehead...but who?
She neither knew nor cared. Bleak darkness was overcoming her, and she felt exhausted, drained. She was slipping into blackness...ah, how easy it would be just to slip into this endless sleep!
And so she did, and she could neither hear, nor see, nor feel, she just knew she was drifting into a black chasm, deeper and deeper...the more she sank the harder she knew it would be to climb back out...but that was all right...she didn't want to...
But wait. What was that? Someone calling her name...
But she could feel the darkness enclosing her heart...she had no more will to live.
A different voice...
"Eowyn, my love, awake!"
And from the depths of nowhere, Eowyn pulled herself from the brink of death.
Eowyn's eyes snapped open.
"Eowyn!" cried Eomer, and he helped her to sit up. "Sister..."
Then she threw herself into his arms, and she sobbed into his shoulder, great heavy sobs that shook her body and her very soul as Eomer stroked her shining hair.
At last her sobs faded away, and she looked around her. There was Aragorn, beaming...and at the door, his eyes awash with tears...
She reached out with a slim hand, and he took it, and they stared deep into each other's eyes.
"What happened?" she whispered.
Eomer wrapped his strong arms around her, and cradled her close, unable to speak. He was still in a state of shock; to be summoned from Edoras to see his sick sister; then, on arrival, to have it broken to him not so subtly that she was dead; and then to witness her miraculous recovery.
But he couldn't help but notice how her eyes kept straying to Faramir.
Faramir had emerged into the garden of the Houses of Healing, and there was Eowyn, leaning on the wall, staring down into the city. She wore her simple white gown, and her golden hair was pulled back into a long plait.
He made his way over the grass between the trees and shrubs, to stand at her side. He looked down at the white streets as well.
"It's beautiful," he said sincerely. And he meant it. The majesty and splendour of the White City always took his breath away, no matter how many times he saw it.
Eowyn looked at him. "Yes, it is" she replied, "but it is hard to live in a city of stone where not much grows."
Faramir fingered a long creeper growing over the side of the wall. "There is some here."
Eowyn did not reply. Instead, she peered down at the people, who were looking up occasionally, as they too loved to see the wonderful height of the Citadel, and several of them spotted Eowyn and waved. She drew back.
"How are you feeling?" asked Faramir.
"Are you sure you should be out?"
He laughed, admiring her stubbornness. He wrapped a strong arm around her shoulders and drew her close. She stiffened momentarily, but then relaxed.
Suddenly a large trumpet blast startled them and they glanced up at the Citadel. And now a large bell was tolling, loudly, throughout the whole city.
"What is that?" said Eowyn, frightened.
"It is the King and Queen," said Faramir, wonderingly. "They wish to make an announcement of some sort. All the citizens will gather on this level to hear what they say."
And sure enough, half and hour later, the level they were on was crowded with the people of Minas Tirith, crowding on the streets, craning their necks to look up towards the city. Eowyn and Faramir were lucky; they could stand in the garden without everyone pushing against them. Even the level below them was crammed with people.
Then suddenly all fell silent; everyone was craning their necks to look up at the very point of the Citadel, where King Elessar and Queen Evenstar stood, Arwen more beautiful than ever in her sea-foam green gown, with her hair coiled on top of her head and a string of emeralds around her neck.
Aragorn began to speak, his words ringing loud and clear over the silent expectant city.
"People of Minas Tirith! The days of dark and sickness in this city are over, and I have joyful news for you: my wife Queen Arwen Undomiel is with child!"
The cheering was immediate and tremendous, as all the people of the city shouted out with hope and joy. They would have a prince, or princess, heirs of the noble King Elessar and his beautiful wife! Hands were shook, hats were thrown into the air and women wiped happy tears from their eyes.
Aragorn and Arwen smiled down at the celebrations, then turned and began to walk back along the Citadel.
Eowyn and Faramir stood at the wall. Faramir's eyes were shining. "Oh, it is wonderful!"
But Eowyn was silent, and she felt hot tears spring in her own eyes.
"Eowyn?" Faramir turned her towards him. "What is it?"
She stared at the ground. "I love him," she said quietly but clearly. "I love him. And he is married and his wife is with child." She sniffed, the tears beginning to fall. "And I shall have to return with Eomer when he goes back to Edoras, and I will be a lonely shieldmaiden for the rest of my life!"
"Eowyn!" said Faramir, and he lifted her chin to look into her eyes. "You do not love Aragorn. You love the shadow of his greatness."
Eowyn's lips trembled.
"And now that future is taken away from you" he continued. "And, Eowyn-I love you. Do you not love me?"
She lifted her chin. "I wish to be loved by another. But I desire no man's pity."
"You desired the love of Lord Aragorn, because he would give you glory and renown, and lift you far above the mean things that crawl on the earth. And when he gave you only understanding and pity, you wished only for a brave death in battle. Once I pitied your sorrow. But were you the blissful Queen of Gondor I would love you still. Eowyn, I ask again: do you not love me?"
And the heart of Eowyn changed, or at last she understood it. She looked at Faramir. "Yes." Her voice was barely a whisper.
Faramir took her slim white hand in his. "Then will you marry me, and dwell in fair Ithilien?"
"I will" she replied. She felt joy flickering in her soul; then it spread through all of her body, and she trembled with bliss. "No longer do I desire to be a queen."
Faramir laughed. "That is good, for I am no king. And I will wed the White Lady, if it be her will, and we will build a house in Ithilien, and dwell there in peace and happiness."
And he took her in his arms and kissed her, not caring that they were in the sight of many, and many did see them, and were glad.
A few days later, Eowyn was walking up the Citadel towards the steps, arm in arm with her brother Eomer. She wore her butter-cream pale gold gown that she had worn at Aragorn's coronation, and her golden hair rippled down her back from underneath a slim circlet of gold. She walked up between the people of Minas Tirith, and quite a few summoned from Edoras, but all of her attention was on Faramir standing on the steps ahead of her.
When she reached the foot of them, Eomer kissed her lightly on the cheek and joined Aragorn and Arwen, and his sister mounted the steps, and put her hand in Faramir's.
And when they were married Faramir slipped his arms around her slim waist and kissed her, and rejoiced in his newly wed wife, and her beauty, and all her love she was giving him, and he returned it.