Arwen fumbled with the silver clasp on her cloak, then suddenly glanced up instinctively to see her husband watching her.
“Yes?” she asked curiously.
Aragorn shook his head. “Evenstar” he said softly. “My heart weeps for you.”
Arwen looked down at the floor of their chamber, a lump constricting in her throat painfully. “Oh Estel” she breathed. “It is hard, k-knowing that I’ll… I’ll never see him again…”
A helpless sob shook her and Aragorn wrapped his arms tightly around her. “It’ll be all right,” he murmured. “Shh.”
Arwen pulled away and wiped her tearstained cheeks with the hem of her cloak. “I’m ready,” she announced. Saying goodbye to her dear father was probably going to be the most painful thing that had ever happened in her long life, but at least it wasn’t quite here yet.
“Estel” she said matter-of-factly, “I’ve been meaning to ask you for a long time. Who is the fair woman who is a guest in this house?”
Aragorn smiled. “Ah” he said, “she is Eowyn, daughter of Eomund, and also niece of the late King Theodon of Rohan.”
“It seems” said Arwen, as they began to make their way outside, “that she is touched by some frost. Can she not ever smile?”
Aragorn was puzzled. “She was of joyful heart for a time, after her recovery in the Houses of Healing. But what bitterness holds shadow over her now, I can not say.”
But he did have a feeling he knew what it might be; although he kept his face and mind closed and did not speak again until they emerged into the sunshine.
Eowyn of Rohan stood silent, watching the guests of King Elessar converse upon the sunny Citadel, as they awaited him and his wife, Arwen.
Eowyn had loved Aragorn. But his heart was already given to the Lady Arwen Undomiel of Rivendell. And so Eowyn hated this Elf with a passion. Eowyn could have had glory. She could have had renown. She could have treasured the love of the King. But that future was gone.
Suddenly she was conscious of a small figure running across the well-kept lawns of the Citadel towards her and she knelt down to embrace the hobbit.
“Farewell Meriadoc” she said, as they broke apart. She blinked back tears. She and Merry had shared fear of battle together, vanquished the Witch-King together, and now, in all probability she would never see him again.
“Must you leave?” she added hopefully, unwilling to see the last of him.
“Yes. The Shire awaits my return” he replied. War had affected Merry. When he had first come to Edoras, Eowyn had seen that he was happy and lighthearted but now he was sadder, more serious. But yet he always had a ready smile.
Eowyn hugged him tightly again.
“Are you not returning to Edoras?” he asked. “King Eomer is.”
At the mention of her brother, Eowyn felt a profound ache of sadness in her chest. What with him and the hobbits leaving Minas Tirith, she would have no friends. She would not return to Edoras, not yet anyway; she was trying to put off the bleak and lonely future of a shieldmaiden for as long as she could. No, she would not go back to Rohan for the present time, even if there were no one left to talk to here. She was not going to go anywhere near the King and Queen; there was always the slight chance of Eowyn’s temper mastering her and strangling Arwen.
Her biggest fear was if Aragorn came to talk to her. What would she say? How would she tell him of the sorrow smothering her heart, ever since she had seen him embracing Arwen, so passionately and so unexpectedly?
Well, of course, she wouldn’t say any of those terrible things. He had his long sought-after happiness. And Eowyn would not take that away from him. Not for the world.
But if she couldn’t talk to him…there was always Faramir. He had been quite nice to her recently. He would make a good friend in her solitude.
And there was a strange thing…why was there a little unknown feeling deep inside her as she thought that?
Shaking these troublesome thoughts from her head, she leaned forward to kiss Merry on the forehead.
“Farewell, Meriadoc” she said again. “May we meet again.”
“My fair lady” he replied, bowing low.
Then he was gone, his large hobbit feet patting across the grass as he joined Frodo, Sam, and Pippin.
Eowyn glanced towards the great doors, and felt a surge of hatred as she spotted Arwen’s dark head. She was clothed in a velvet blue-grey dress with silver-ish sleeves reaching almost to the ground. Over all was a heavy velvet purple cloak, fastened with an elaborate silver brooch.
Eowyn self-consciously smoothed down her own gown. It was pale pink silk with embroidered flowers and over it a heavy dark-rose velvet cloak. Her loose hair was crowned with a golden circlet, studded with tiny pink sparkling gems. Eowyn had never worn pink before. This colour was for princesses, not a wild shieldmaiden! But Faramir, whom she had met that morning, had assured her that she looked absolutely stunning.
Now Arwen was mounting her horse, a beautiful grey with a fiery nature, called Asfolath. Silently, Eowyn willed her to fall off, the Queen to make a fool of herself in front of all her guests. But no; Arwen was completely at ease on her mount, and she looked great too.
Eowyn watched gloomily Arwen, Aragorn, Elrond, the hobbits and some of the other guests including Legolas and Gimli turned their mounts to descend into the White City. All were leaving for their long journey home, save the King and Queen, of course; they were merely going part of the way with their friends. At least, thought Eowyn, I won’t have to look upon Aragorn’s face for a few days, and wish every moment that I was his Queen…
She was surprised to see that Arwen’s eyes were awash with sparkling tears. Well, of course, she was going to say goodbye to her dear father Lord Elrond soon. She would never see him again, for he was sailing West with all that was left of his kin. Somehow Eowyn found it hard to muster any sympathy for the She-Elf.
The last of the horse’s tails vanished as they broke into a trot to descend the city. Along the streets the citizens would be throwing flowers in front of them, as they had for Faramir and his men when they had set out on a hopeless attempt to re-take Osgiliath; but this time they were thrown with a sort of cheerful farewell to the King’s guests, not sorrow and grieving.
Eowyn sat down by the edge of the pool by the White Tree, and thought for a few minutes; then, overtaken by some wild desire, she leaped up and began to run to the end of the Citadel, a small figure running along the stone, until at last she reached the few steps down and she was a her favourite spot at the very point of the Citadel.
Looking directly down the pointed cliff, she could see the riders beginning to stream out of the huge wooden gates. There was Aragorn, recognisable by his steed, Brego and his black velvet cloak, and there (Eowyn felt jealousy rise up in her) was Arwen on Asfolath, galloping beside her husband, long dark hair streaming out behind her. Eowyn watched as the tiny figures on horseback turned left and galloped across the plains of Gondor. She suddenly felt longing; she wished then she had gone along and delighted in the joy of the ride. But she couldn’t go now. Sighing, she turned back towards the way she’d come.
That night there was feasting and dancing in the pillared Hall, as usual. Eowyn decided that she might as well join in, as tonight she didn’t have to ache with jealousy every time she saw Arwen. So she pulled on the butter cream yellow gown she had worn at the coronation, and also the circlet of bright twisted gold in her hair, and made her way downstairs. But as she sipped her berry wine from a goblet, watching the merry dancing, she began to feel hot and claustrophobic in the crowded Hall, so she went outside. There she leaned on the thick stone wall and gazed down at the right-hand side of the city. Absorbed in its thousand of twinkling little lights and the way the white stone glowed in the milky moonlight, she didn’t realise she was shivering, until someone spoke her name behind her.
She whirled around. Faramir was standing there, a cloak in his hand and a quizzical expression on his handsome face.
“My-my lord!” stuttered Eowyn. “What brings you out here?”
He laughed and raised an eyebrow. “I could ask the same of you, Lady Eowyn” he replied. “Are you cold?” he added, holding out the heavy mantle.
“No” said Eowyn, then became aware that she was shivering violently in the crisp night air. “Well, yes” she admitted, and then they both laughed.
“Here” said Faramir, arranging the mantle around her slim shoulders. “It was my mothers.”
The mantle was a deep midnight-blue, set with tiny silver stars about the he and throat. “It’s beautiful” said Eowyn, feeling its warmth. “Thank you.”
They stood for a moment at the wall, then to Eowyn’s great surprise, Faramir hopped up onto it. “What are you doing? It’s dangerous!”
“The view is better from up here,” he answered, then he extended his strong brown hand to her. After a moment’s hesitation, Eowyn placed her own slender white one in it, and he helped her up on the broad wall.
She instantly felt the wind catch her, whipping her dress and mantle around, and nearly blow her off the wall down into the city below, but Faramir’s strong arm around her shoulders prevented that.
Their hair mingled, light brown and gold in the strong breeze, when Faramir directed Eowyn’s gaze to the stars above and she gasped in wonder.
The stars were like cold glittering diamonds laid out on the richest of midnight-blue velvet, looking for all the world like the mantle she bore.
“It’s amazing” she breathed. “In Rohan I never really looked at the stars. Instead, I would look across the plains that stretch before Edoras, looking at what lay beyond the hills…but-but to what I did not know.”
Hesitantly, she slowly lowered her gaze to his kindly eyes. “It is late, Eowyn of Rohan” he said softly, turning to look at the golden light that spilled from the great doors onto the courtyard. Nimbly, he jumped off the wall, then placing his strong hands around her waist, he effortlessly swung her to the ground.
“Goodnight” he said, kissing her pale-skinned hand, and she stared after him in wonder as he went inside.