Chapter 2: The Bird in the Cage
The King and Queen’s Bedchamber
“Arwen?”, said Aragorn once more, sighing. He had again failed to attract his wife’s attention. He wondered what troubled her, he thought to himself as he look for lately she had seemed so distant. They had been very happy together for the past four years, but now it was almost like an invisible wall was growing between the two of them. It was as if she was keeping something from her. But he had noticed, these past few weeks, that Arwen had shied away from intimacy, for she often went to bed before him and slept facing away from him in their marital bed. And every now and then he found himself thinking of the night he and Eowyn had spent together at Helm’s Deep, the passion, the excitement, the fire. He knew it was wrong to think of it still, but he had meant every word of what he had told her that night. Since then both of them had acted like it had never happened, but all akwardness had passed by now, thankfully. He loved Arwen, of course he did, he was bound to her.
But he loved Eowyn more, wrong as it was. He had taken the choice to marry Arwen, because he had pledged his love for her, but Eowyn, she was………Aragorn mentally gave himself a slap for thinking of such things. Breaking out of his thoughts, he yet again called his wife’s name, and as before she did not respond. For Arwen’s gaze was turned towards the castle window, and she was staring out over the plains of Gondor.
“Mm..”, she said vacantly, turning back to Aragorn, who looked concerned. Taking her hand gently, he spoke to her again.
“What troubles your heart, my Evenstar?”, he enquired. She looked into his face, but as she did this, her sparkling eyes filled with tears.
“Estel……”, she murmured sadly, sitting down on the bed next to him”……….I could not tell you what ails me, for it is most grievous and I know you would not wish to hear it.” At this he drew himself up to his full height and appeared angry.
“Nay, Arwen!”, he shouted, his voice echoing around the stone walls of the chamber and his dark eyes blazed with a fire she had never seen before. “I think I would wish to hear it!”.
“Yet I still cannot tell you”, she replied, a sorrowful look on her face. Aragorn looked taken aback and for a moment they stood stock still, gazing at each other. Then Arwen turned on her heel and exited the room, the swish of her white silk gown clearly heard in the silence. Aragorn shook his head, confused and sank down on the bed, putting his head in his hands. Just then he heard a knock at the door.
“I am not well-disposed for visitors today, so whoever you are, you would do well to come back tomorrow!”, he snapped, glaring at the door. But it then opened and Lord Faramir strode in, regardless of what he had just been told by the King.
“A warm welcome, to be sure, King Elessar”, smiled Faramir, then frowning when he noticed the state Aragorn was in. “Your majesty? I came to tell you that there is a meeting with your advisors this afternoon in the Throne Room, but now I see that you are hardly up to it.”
“Just go”, said Aragorn pleadingly, still not removing his hands from his face. But Faramir did not give up so easily and came over to sit beside him.
“While you are the King, and I your Steward, I am still your friend”, he said calmly, taking Aragorn’s hands and forcefully moving them from his face. Now he could see that the King’s expression was grave and that he was worried about something. “Aragorn, please………..is it the Queen? Have you exchanged ill words with each other?” Aragorn shook his head.
“Nay, Faramir, it is something much worse, for we have fought before”, he said bitterly, getting up and walking over to a window to stare out at the citadel of Minas Tirith. I know she is troubled in some way, but she will not tell me.” Faramir listened silently and appeared to have no reaction. “It is as if for the past few weeks we have been growing distant from each other. I hardly seem to know her anymore!”, shouted Aragorn again, banging his fist down hard on a nearby wooden table. It hurt him, but he bit his lip, having had to cope with much worse pain from injuries while out in the wild as a ranger.
“And what would you do, sire?”, said Faramir wisely, coming over to stand beside his friend. “It is nothing, only a bitter argument. You must have them sometimes, I know Lady Eowyn and I argue, she can certainly work herself into a fury when she wishes to”. He smiled wryly and Aragorn looked up and took his hand a moment. He felt guilty that he felt this way about his friend’s wife.
“You are a good friend, Faramir”, he said, smiling very briefly. “But I fear this is not a straightforward argument. There are other things which have been happening. Arwen and I……it does not seem like it was before. For weeks now, she shies away from any affection I bestow upon her, and we have not……..participated in the act of love for quite a time now.” Faramir nodded.
“I am sure it will be alright, sire”, he said slowly, putting a hand on his friend’s shoulder comfortingly.
“If she would only tell me……..”, sighed Aragorn, then made an effort to look at least businesslike. “Now I must meet with my advisors”, he added briskly, and, opening the door, walked out of the room, followed by his Steward.
Elsewhere, in the house of Lord Faramir
Exasperated, Eowyn threw down her sewing, for she had grown tired of it. “When will the Lord Faramir be coming back?”, she asked the maid who was tidying the room.
“My lady, Lord Faramir sends his utmost apologies but regrets to say that he will not be arriving back from the palace until evening, when the feast takes place.”, the maid answered, not looking up from her work.
“Thank you”, Eowyn said stiffly and went out, frustrated. As she walked along the stone corridor, however, she paused a moment and stood at one of the great windows, staring out at the White Tower of Ecthelion in the distance; letting the fresh summer breeze wash over her. But it did not bring her serenity, nor peace. For she was angry with Faramir for not being there when he had promised to be. But she was not really angry at him, she was angry at herself. Why did she still think of what had happened all those years ago at Helm’s Deep? She did not know why, it was only that it had been so fierce, so romantic, so special. And Aragorn had told her he loved her. He had called her a Rose of Rohan, a bringer of hope to the people.
She wanted more than anything to be his Rose, his love, but she could not, for he was married to Arwen Undomiel, and she to Faramir. No, she was not really angry at Faramir for not being here. He was as good a husband any woman could wish for, kind and gentle. Sometimes they would argue, but as a rule they had a happy marriage. Well, Faramir was happy, but she was not. She had to be affectionate to her husband, but so hated to be intimate with him. But she was, as it was a wife’s duty to please her husband, even if she did limit it to times when she was less fertile, for she did not wish to have his child.
She just felt so trapped, like a bird in a cage that wishes to be free, but cannot be. She liked Gondor, and the people were pleasant to her, but she still missed the wild plains of Rohan, even after four years. She missed her brother Eomer, Lord of the Mark, but had not seen him for a year. And still she missed Rohan’s former King, her dear uncle, Theoden. Not a day went by when she would not think of him and feel sad. And now she did not even belong to the House of Eorl, but to the House of Telcontar. Yes, she felt caged, caged from the man she desired, caged in marriage to a man she did not love. And there was nothing to be done now. And what made her feel more guilty was that Eowyn liked Arwen, and found her pleasant company when they met during matters of state, which made it the more harder to feel this way. For that was the way of all things. Yet sometimes they could change…..
Waking from her thoughts, Eowyn turned from the window and leaned back against the wall, the cold stone making her shiver. She held up a hand and touched her wedding ring, feeling the curves and intricacy of it. It had been given to her by Faramir on their wedding day, and by all rights was a fine piece of craftsmanship. The thin band was wrought of silver, designed so two strips were twisted together and carved with an Elvish inscription:
“Ten’ mia nim alora a Rohan. Aa’ lva mela na oiocalen.”* She slid the ring slowly off her finger and held it up, reading the loving insciption. It was also set with a stone of palest blue that sparkled when the light caught it. She sighed. It was a beautiful ring, a token of Faramir’s love for her, and should have been so special. Yet it was not. Eowyn mentally scolded herself, and, slipping the ring back on her finger, hurried along the corridor to the large entrance hall of the house, thinking of perhaps taking a walk in the gardens.
She took her midnight-blue starry mantle that Faramir had given her and wrapped it about her. But, as she made for the door, a sudden thought came into her head that perhaps she ought to go to the kitchens and see that the staff were working hard to prepare for tonight’s feast. Yes, she would do that.
Evening, the feast will begin soon
Eowyn heard footsteps behind her and whirled round. There was Faramir, looking tired, yet happy to see her. He bowed to her.
“Good evening, Eowyn”, he said, and she curtseyed to him.
“Good evening, Faramir”, she said quietly, but did not protest when he took her in his arms and kissed her, even though his touch made her heart turn to ice. At last he pulled back and smiled upon his wife.
“You are truly beautiful, my lady. And I apologise profusely for not being able to return home to you earlier”, he said as he gazed upon her. Eowyn gave a forced smile and waved a hand to show it had all been forgotten.
“You had better go and change for the feast”, she said firmly, gesturing to Faramir’s mud-caked boots and windblown hair. He nodded.
“I shall”. After Faramir had gone, Eowyn went into her dressing-chamber and began the task of preparing herself for the feast. She removed her simple white day robe girt with the same silver belt she had always worn. Then she put on her dress for the evening, and the maids came to do her hair. And then she was finished. She looked at herself in the long mirror on the wall, and could not help smiling, as her reflection was one of great beauty. She wore a emerald-green dress of floaty material, which was perfect for a warm summer night. It was tight in the bodice, which was embroidered with gold stars so it glimmered in the light, and its sleeves were long and wide, as she liked them to be. Her golden hair was held back from her face, but its curls fell loosely down her back, which suited her. And around her head was a circlet of silver, studded with sparkling white gems. Eowyn concluded she looked well enough for a feast at which the King and Queen of Gondor would be in attendance.
A few minutes later she met with Faramir again, and, linking arms, they went to the doors and began to exercise their roles as host and hostess, greeting the numerous guests as they came in. At last they were all seated at the big long table, Faramir and Eowyn at the head, all except for the only two guests missing. But a moment later the doorman showed them in. All rose as King Elessar and Queen Arwen entered. You could see that by their slightly strained expressions that all was not well, but the King smiled and bade them all be seated, before they both took their seats on either side of the head of the table. Oddly enough, Aragorn ended up sitting beside Eowyn. She chanced a glance at him and felt her heart turn over. Suddenly a babel of voices broke out among the guests and they all started to have conversations. For a moment there was and akward silence between the two of them, then Aragorn turned towards Eowyn and smiled at her.
“Greetings, my lady”, he said simply, and kissed her hand. The touch of his lips on her skin sent her spine tingling, but she smiled back. “And how is the wife of my Steward?”.
* “For my white lady of Rohan. May our love be evergreen”.