It was a full day since the men had left for Mordor. Eowyn sat at her window but there was nothing to see beyond the pale blue sky and the high wall of the seventh circle of Minas Tirith. Above it the White Tower of Ecthelion was topped with the banner of Dol Amroth – a ship fashioned as a white swan floating on blue water.
This was an alien place, and Eowyn felt very alone. Eomer had said goodbye to her the previous morning, and she was aware of how cold she must have seemed. But how would it have helped if she had broken down in tears or clung to him, unwilling to have him leave her? So she had withdrawn instead. Then she had sat by her window and listened as the trumpets sounded and the army marched eastwards.
She would never see him again. And before long, Sauron’s black arm would stretch out again to Minas Tirith, and this time they would be crushed.
Eowyn hung her head, then remembered her promises to Eomer and stood up, tall and straight. No, she would not despair. But her bodily strength was returning, and if she did not get out of this room before long she would not only despair but go completely mad. She called Ioreth to her and asked to see the Warden, immediately.
He came at once – a quiet man of 50 or so, his receding hair almost grey and his eyes gentle and concerned. To her surprise, he told her that his instructions were to ensure she had complete bed rest for another week.
“I cannot accept that,” she said, firmly but not unkindly. “I am used to the open fields of the North; if you shut me in this place the boredom will overpower me. Is there nothing I could do to aid the city in this time of war? Who is in command here?”
“The Lord Hurin commands of the men of Gondor,” the Warden replied, “but the Lord Faramir is the Steward of the city.”
“Why is he not in command if he is the Steward?” she asked.
“He nearly died in the battle – like you, my lady,” he answered. “He is also recovering from his wounds in this House, but I do not know…”
“Why not bring me to him? Then you will know.”
It was quiet in the garden – peaceful and serene. Strange that it should be so, thought Faramir, as he lay under a gnarled, old apple tree that was just beginning to bud. Its tiny, white flowers were curled tightly, waiting a few more days – another week, perhaps – before they began to blossom.
The world was no less broken and dangerous. Sauron still threatened to bring an end to all peoples who opposed him… and that would probably occur sooner rather than later. Faramir told himself he would be ready for it, when it came. Yet for now he felt content, comforted by his quiet surroundings and willing to let things happen as they would.
A voice called his name and he sat up, shielding his eyes from a shaft of sunlight that shone over the wall. And he saw her. Even before the Warden motioned to his right hand and spoke of the Lady Eowyn of Rohan, he saw her. The physical shock made his stomach lurch and his hands tremble. How could this be true? Surely here was his dream come to life, walking towards him in the light of the bright morning, her fair hair lit to a dazzling brilliance by the sun behind her.
Faramir stood up with a suddenness that surprised the Warden, but he did not come towards them. He was breathing heavily and seemed wary – uncertain. “He has been ill,” the Warden thought sympathetically, and politely explained Eowyn’s desire to meet and speak to the Steward. Then he bowed and left.
How sad and troubled she looked, thought Faramir, and this understanding of her need for help calmed his nerves. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that before him stood a woman that he did not know, never mind the number of years he had spent with her in his dreams. He must be careful.
“What can I do for you, my lady?” he asked courteously.
“I cannot stay here,” she blurted out. “I do not complain of the care I have received – nobody could have been more skilled and gentle than the people in this House – but my brother and the men have gone to battle, and I want to play my part.”
“You cannot follow them, if that is what you wish,” he replied. “They are far from here by now, and the lands in between are not safe. Your arm is also broken – what help could you render?” Eowyn lowered her head.
“Believe me,” he said gently, “I understand your frustration at watching your people leave for battle when you are powerless to help. I am the Steward of Minas Tirith, but I also am unable to join the fight to defend my own. To us is left the task of waiting. We have no choice.”
Faramir was right, thought Eowyn, and she knew it. She must sound like a spoiled child by arguing with him. But the restrictions of the healers and her loneliness were more than she could bear, and she did not care if he saw it. She sat down heavily under the tree, her eyes brimming with tears.
“The healers want me to stay in bed for another week,” she said, miserably. “And my window does not look eastward where the armies have gone.”
“Then I will ask the Warden to have you moved to the east wing of the House,” he said, crouching down beside her. “I may not be in command of the city yet, but I think I can convince him of that, at least. And I am sure that if I advise him that you are sufficiently recovered, you need not keep to your bed. Do you think you are well enough?”
Eowyn looked up at him, and something in his eyes made her heart flutter oddly for a moment. Who did Faramir remind her of? It was strange, but he felt familiar, somehow. It must just be an echo of his brother. She dismissed the thought.
“The only thing that ails me, apart from a broken arm, is boredom,” she said with a small smile. “I’m not used to big cities and always keeping indoors. I think if I have to stay shut up in that room for another day, I’ll scream.”
“Well, we must prevent that at all costs,” he grinned. “But how will you relieve your boredom? Would you – ” he paused a moment. “Would you consider walking in the gardens with me, and sitting under my favourite tree here to talk? For I, too, feel somewhat lonely. I lost my brother a few weeks ago, and now my father is dead. There is no-one but me.”
“I was sorry to hear of Boromir,” Eowyn replied, without answering his question. “We heard the news when Mithrandir came to Edoras with the Lord Aragorn. Your brother broke his journey with us on his travels to Imladris.”
“How did he seem to you?” asked Faramir, eagerly. “For I never saw him in life again after he left Minas Tirith. He said farewell to me from the eastern tip of the seventh circle, up there.” He pointed to the jutting embrasure on the uppermost circle of the city, shaped like a large ship with its bow facing east. “I would very much like to know more of where he travelled and what he saw.”
Eowyn looked up at the embrasure, deep in thought, before speaking. “He was not with us long,” she replied eventually. “His errand was urgent. But he seemed a very lordly man and a born soldier. You look like him – a little, at least. Yet you are …” she considered him a moment. “Softer somehow. Definitely more polite. And perhaps wiser, I think.”
“Time will tell,” said Faramir. His hands had begun to tremble again with the effort of keeping calm, so he stood up and folded his arms. “Perhaps you can come again tomorrow, after breakfast, and we can walk in the garden while you tell me why my brother was so impolite.” He smiled with sudden mischief. “I would like to hear it.”
“I will come,” said Eowyn, and started to rise, struggling a little with her skirts and her maimed arm. Faramir moved to her right side and supported her as she stood up. She turned her face to his, meaning to thank him – but her breath caught in her throat as she saw his expression. To her it seemed to hold everything she had hoped to see in the eyes of Aragorn. Why was he looking at her like that?
Flustered and confused – Boromir’s eyes had not been like that, why did Faramir’s gaze affect her so? – she made a hasty farewell and walked quickly, her mind full, back into the House.
Faramir watched Eowyn leave, then stood irresolute for some minutes. Had he said or shown too much? Had he frightened her away? He must be better prepared for tomorrow – if she came – to ensure that she felt more comfortable in his presence. He walked briskly inside and went in search of the Warden.