White Lady of Rohan - Chapter 22

Looking out his window in the Houses of Healing, Merry watched Eowyn and Faramir as they stood by the wall of the sixth circle in the blustery north wind. He was glad she had found so good a friend in Minas Tirith - she was a lot happier and she deserved to be.

He wished gloomily that he had such a friend to talk to. There was fun to be had chatting to Beregond's son Bergil, but in the end Bergil was only a boy. And although Merry wasn't much more than a boy in height, he was three times Bergil's age - how could he talk to him in the same way as his comrades in the fellowship? He certainly couldn't discuss his greatest worries: the whereabouts of Frodo and Sam, and the Ring.

The worst thing was that everyone in Minas Tirith seemed to be sitting on their hands and waiting. When were they going to know what had happened to Aragorn and the others? He looked out at the Ephel Duath and wondered, for the hundreth time that day, whether they were still alive and what they were doing.

A sudden movement below caught his eye. Eowyn was running back into the House. That was strange. Merry glanced over at Faramir and saw the stricken look on his face as he called after her, but she didn't slow down or answer.

Something was seriously wrong. What had Faramir said to her? What would make her run from him? Without another thought, Merry tore out of his room and down the corridor, making a beeline for Eowyn's room. His mind was in turmoil, wondering what could be the matter and what he was to say. Busy with these worries, he turned the corner into the eastern wing and collided with Ioreth, who had just reached the landing from the lower floor.

"Ouuffff!" she grunted, patting her stomach in discomfort as Merry rubbed the side of his head. "Both going a little fast, I suspect," she said with a grin. "But I take it we're going to the same place, Master Meriadoc? Come on, off to the Lady Eowyn's room. I'll give that girl a piece of my mind if she's hurt my Lord Faramir."

"Wait!" said Merry. "How do you know Eowyn's the one to blame? You'd best be careful what you say."

"Had I?" Ioreth bristled. "I saw the look on my lord's dear face when she left him. She's broken his heart, you mark my words. And I'm not having any of that." She started down the corridor to Eowyn's room.

Merry followed, wondering how on earth he was to avoid a clash between the two women. "Let me speak to her first," he whispered urgently. "I'll go in and pay a visit, shall I? See how she is and all that. And perhaps I can find out what happened." He took Ioreth by the arm and stopped her only a dozen feet from Eowyn's door. "Please."

Ioreth pursed her lips. "Very well," she said at last. "But I'll be waiting outside."

He nodded and walked to the door, placing his ear close to its heavy timbers. The room was silent. Taking a deep breath, he knocked. There was no answer. Merry stood, uncertain... perhaps he had misread the direction Eowyn was taking and she hadn't returned here? He knocked again, and this time there was a faint answer.

He turned the handle, put on a cheery face and popped his head around the door. "Good morning!" he said. "I was wondering if you'd care to take a stroll out around the battlements." Eowyn was sitting on the bed looking at her hands, her fair hair loose and flowing over one shoulder. She shook her head.

"Eowyn - are you alright?" said Merry hesitantly. The curtain ruffled itself in the breeze and settled again, but she did not speak. He walked over to the bed and pulled himself up to sit beside her on the white coverlet. "Has something happened? Can I help?"

She bit her lip and swallowed. "I am a fool," she said softly. "I never saw it. I knew there was something different about him, but I never understood what it was."

"What didn't you understand?" asked Merry, puzzled.

Eowyn turned to the hobbit and took one of his small, brown hands in her own. "You have shown yourself to be a loyal and brave servant of Rohan," she said. "Would you do one more task for me? It's very important," she said, and her voice caught in her throat.

"Of course," he said instantly. "Just name your request."

"I need you to find Faramir for me," she said. "I left him standing on the outer wall of the sixth circle. He may be there yet. But wherever he is, you must find him and tell him I need to speak to him. And tell him it's urgent," she finished, lowering her head again.

Merry nodded and began to rise, but Eowyn put out a hand to stop him. "Would you tell him I will be waiting under the apple tree? He knows where that is."

"I will," said Merry. He gave her hand a quick squeeze and left the room, shutting the door behind him. He put his hand to his lips before Ioreth could speak, beckoning for her to follow him.

Inside the room Eowyn stood, walked to the mirror next to the window and considered her reflection. How many weeks had she been dreaming about Faramir, meeting him night after night in her sleep, feeling his presence when she was awake and hearing his voice? And yet she had not recognised him in the flesh. How blind she had been.

What was she to do now? Before the battle, and even after, Eowyn had assumed that if this man she dreamed of still lived, it was with him that her future lay. Now she had been faced with the reality of the man himself and had run from him. What should she say to Faramir? And what must he think of her?

Mechanically, she picked up her brush and smoothed her hair down in several long, swift strokes. She reached for a strip of gold velvet to tie it back and surveyed her reflection for another moment. Give me the words to say, she whispered to no-one in particular, and walked slowly from the room.

By the time she reached their corner of the garden Faramir was already there, sitting quietly on the ground with his arms folded over his long legs. Eowyn moistened her lips and tentatively moved closer, but before she could speak he looked up. She hesitated - then he held out his hand. She took it gratefully and sat down beside him on the grass.

"I wasn't sure you would come," she said softly. "I'm not even sure now what I should say, but I wanted to try and to tell you what has happened to me, to explain somehow..."

Faramir smiled gently. "Would it help if I said I already knew?" he said.

Eowyn's eyes widened. "How could you know? I have told no-one - not even Eomer. It was not real at first, and then it became so real it frightened me. My dreams, I mean. I have met you there, and I ... I don't understand it."

"I have been dreaming of you since I was nine years old," returned Faramir, and Eowyn caught her breath. "I don't know why, and I don't know how this was possible, but it is so. I recognised you as soon as the Warden brought you out to meet me - and I know you recognised me, after a fashion."

"I did," she admitted, "although I told myself it must be because I had met your brother. And the dream is later with me, much later. Only a matter of weeks old. I have heard your voice and spoken to you, and worried for you. Yet I wasn't even sure you were real." She shook her head at the memory.

"These are strange times," he replied. "The world is about to change forever, for good or ill. Perhaps this gift has been given only to us ... perhaps others have it as well. I do not know. But I know what it has meant to me, and what I told my brother of you."

He looked at Eowyn, who eyes willed him to say more. Let her not shrink from me again, he prayed, and continued: "I told Boromir that this woman of whom I dreamed, and no other, would be... my wife." He paused, and sought her gaze again. She did not look away. Instead her eyes grew soft, and his heart leaped within him.

"I feared you were dead," she said. "I told myself, if he were dead I should know. And after the battle I felt nothing. Heard nothing..."

"But now I am here," he replied gently. "And what do you say?"

Eowyn thought for a moment, seeking for the right words. "In truth, it has come upon me so quickly I am not sure what I should think," she said at last. "Will you give me a little time to grow used to it? It's hard when dreams turn to reality in front of your eyes."

Faramir let out a breath he had unconsciously held, and nodded. "That was precisely what I thought when I first saw you," he said. "Well: we will speak no more of it for the present, then. But will you walk with me?" He smiled. "Our time together this morning was cut rather short, after all."

He rose and helped Eowyn to her feet, drew her arm through his and guided her out of the garden. They strolled up the paved streets of the city together into the seventh circle, and reached the base of the Tower of Ecthelion.

"I'm glad you're still wearing my mother's cloak," said Faramir as they looked out on the city and plains below them. "The wind is getting stronger up here."

Eowyn nodded, then felt a sudden rush of gratitude towards her companion for his care and thoughtfulness. "Thank you," she said, "for understanding." He squeezed her hand in reply. "And for this cloak," she added. "You wouldn't think it was spring in the south with this wintry wind. I - "

But she stopped short. Her breath seemed to die in her throat. Faramir grasped her hand more tightly - he had felt it, too. She glanced up at him and saw that he was looking out eastward, scanning the sky, which was lightening and brightening as though the day was beginning anew.

"There - coming towards us. There. Can you see?" he asked. "Something flies towards Minas Tirith."

"I cannot see... it is not a Nazgul?" she said in alarm, drawing closer to him. He shook his head. "No. I don't know... wait! It's an eagle. But why..."

Faramir left his question unasked as suddenly, the bird approaching began to sing:

Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor,
for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever,
and the Dark Tower is thrown down.

Sing and rejoice, ye people of the tower of Guard,
for your watch hath not been in vain,
and the Black Gate is broken,
and your King hath passed through,
and he is victorious.

Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.
And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed,
and he shall plant it in the high places,
and the City shall be blessed.

Sing all ye people!

Eowyn and Faramir looked at each other, astounded. Cheers and songs of rejoicing were rising from the streets below as people responded to the eagle's cry. Beyond hope, the world was reborn. The Ring was gone and Sauron was defeated for ever. It was a miracle past imagining.

Suddenly, Faramir began to laugh from pure joy. He lifted Eowyn up in his arms, spinning her around in the air.

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