Faramir watched Eowyn’s retreating back a moment then flicked his eyes towards the King – the question evident in his face, though unasked. It seemed foolish, yet the doubts that had played at the edges of his mind until now burst forth fully formed. Eoywn’s heart had turned to Aragorn in the war. She had almost died to prove herself to him. Now she had sought his hand openly – and had lifted it to her lips in an act of devotion far removed from the mere formality toward kings.
He swallowed, his throat suddenly dry, and cast his eyes to the ground. Perhaps things were not as he had understood them to be with the Elvish maiden, and Aragorn was free? And there was no-one more beautiful than his White Lady, he thought with a pang, watching her walk gracefully away from the noise and merrymaking in the hall.
Eowyn had chosen him by agreeing to wear his ring… it was true, she had done so. But never yet had she said she loved him. She had seemed happy, though: confident and free of the feelings that had bound her to Aragorn. Now he was not so sure.
“My lord Steward!” Faramir started, realising that Aragorn was standing beside him. “Your mind is far away,” said the king. “That’s the third time I’ve spoken to you.”
“Forgive me,” Faramir replied. “I was … my mind was elsewhere.”
“Well, perhaps I can relieve your mind a little,” said the king with a little smile. “Do not doubt your betrothed,” he said after a pause. “Her heart is yours, or she would never wear your ring. She would see it as a dishonourable action.”
Faramir was silent. Aragorn looked away, gesturing in the direction that Eowyn had walked. “She is a daughter of kings,” said quietly. “Not only is she proud, with a will as strong as steel, but her promise is sacred to her. You, who have seen into her mind, should know this. And” – he looked squarely at Faramir – “I may be monarch of Gondor, but I am not king of Eowyn. There is only one man who can claim that title.”
Faramir’s colour rose slightly. “Forgive me,” he said again. “I would have cast no blame if she had turned to you. As the newly restored king over all this land it is only natural that you should win people’s devotion. You have won victories in battle, with healing and with wisdom. As for Eowyn…” his voice caught in his throat. “It seems impossible to me that a man could see her and not love her.”
The king smiled. “It has been a long road for her,” he said gently. “But have no fear. What may have begun as an understanding between you – a feeling of some kind of destiny through your shared thoughts and experiences – has blossomed with each passing day into a love she will not relinquish while she lives. Perhaps I have helped complete the fruitfulness of that tree,” he added with a smile, “by telling her that you had a hand in saving her from the darkness.”
“I? That is not possible,” said Faramir, puzzled. “We were both near death in the Houses of Healing after the battle. It was you who healed us both and brought us back.”
“Her memory of that time is dim,” Aragorn agreed, “but mine is clear. As I stood by your bedside in the house, you called to her as she wavered on the brink of death, and she answered you – much to the anger of the evil one. I believe she was only able to defy him until I called her because you had first commanded her to wait.” He rubbed a finger thoughtfully across his chin. "Perhaps it is only her spirit that would answer you in this way, but I think not. I believe that, somehow, you have inherited the healing gift I also possess. I am not sure why this is so – in mortal kind it is gifted only to those descended from Luthien. This must lie somewhere in your lineage. Gandalf was right about the strength that lay on your house.”
Faramir looked at his companion, troubled. “If you are right, it is a heavy burden and responsibility to bear. I have no understanding about how to use such a gift.”
“No, but I have learned over many years how to master this – and been taught well by Elrond of Imladris,” Aragorn answered. “Elrond will travel here in the months to come, and I will see that he aids you in this task. In the meantime,” he continued in a lighter tone, “my guests must be thinking I have deserted them. Come, shall we not return to the feast?”
It was morning, soft and bright, the clouds moving slowly across a light blue sky. Walking back up the winding streets from Halbarad’s grave Eowyn was deep in thought. Eomer, it was clear, was smitten with Imrahil’s daughter – it was quite sweet to see him all at sea in Lothiriel’s presence, like a little boy unused to water being asked to dive in and swim.
Imrahil was slightly stunned by his shy daughter’s conquest, yet also delighted. He and Eomer had forged a strong bond after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields – the older man admiring the fearless leadership of the younger and his ability to rally the men, while Eomer had responded to Imrahil’s strategic thinking and wise counsel. Only time would tell if Lothiriel would be the means of joining their two families, but – and here Eowyn grinned – the early signs certainly looked promising.
Her mind turned to Faramir. He had been quiet last evening, thinking deeply over some issue he and the king had discussed. She was glad in a way, as her mind had been full of concern for Meren about Beregond’s fate. He would appear before the king this morning, and though Eowyn trusted Aragorn would be just, she was not sure that Meren would understand the judgements he might make. Please, she prayed, let the king temper justice with mercy. Let Beregond not pay for his loyalty with his life.
A bell struck in the seventh circle above her, heralding the sixth hour. Haleth was expecting her to return for lunch but there was still time to visit the Houses of Healing, where she knew Meren was waiting anxiously – all the more so because her love for Beregond was unknown to anyone but Eowyn. Who would consider Meren in bringing news of his fate? Probably no-one.
As she walked under the stone entranceway Eowyn caught sight of Bergil running ahead of her. A decision must have had been made. She quickened her pace. Bergil disappeared around a corner, heading for the sitting room where she and Meren had sat and talked so many times in the days after the fall of Sauron. Eowyn bit her lip and broke into a run.
Nearing the room she heard the sound of sobbing and her heart contracted painfully in her chest. Shaking slightly, she took a deep breath and moved closer to the open door. Inside Meren and Bergil were weeping and hugging each other tightly, and Eowyn felt helpless tears rise in her own eyes as she watched their wordless distress.
The door made a slight noise as she leaned against it, biting her lip. Meren looked up suddenly – and instead of a face haggard with sorrow Eowyn was shocked to see joy: great joy. Meren held out her hands and rushed into Eowyn’s arms, exclaiming amid her tears: “He is forgiven! The king has pardoned Beregond! He has been told he must leave Minas Tirith, but he is to be among the company to serve you and the Lord Faramir in Emyn Arnen, so I know he won’t mind that at all. Oh my lady, I’m so happy I could…”
“Cry?” asked Eowyn mischievously, laughing in her turn. Meren chuckled, wiping her eyes, and Eowyn turned to Bergil. “I’m so glad for you,” she said gently. “These last days must have been very difficult.” He nodded, surreptitiously brushing away a tear – wanting to be thought manly at all costs, she thought fondly.
“I knew the king would do what was right,” said Bergil. “I knew he would not… not do that to my father. Not him. He heals people – and the Lord Faramir trusts him. Does he not, Eowyn?”
“He does indeed,” she replied with a smile. But before Eowyn could say anything further, footsteps sounded outside the room and Beregond appeared in the doorway, smiling broadly – the first time she had seen such a smile in all the weeks she had known him. But of course, she thought, I only met him after that dreadful day in the Hallows when he saved Faramir’s life at the expense of others. What a weight he has had to bear.
Meren, mopping up tears, froze instantly upon seeing Beregond, while Bergil bounded joyfully across the room to greet his father.
“Hurrah for the king!” he cried happily. “We’re all together again. Now we can go and live with the Lord Faramir in Emyn Arnen and you and Meren can get married.” Meren sputtered in shock and turned brick red with embarrassment.
“I – I’ll just go into the garden, then,” she said awkwardly, almost tripping over herself in her haste to leave the room.
“Please don’t go.” Beregond’s few words stopped Meren in her tracks, but she would not look at him. She could not, Eowyn realised, and turned at once to Bergil.
“Come, Master Nuisance,” she said, ushering him towards the door. “Let us take a walk in the garden, you and I, and see how the apples are swelling on the tree.”
“But my lady!” he began to protest, before being overruled by a look from his father. He sighed enormously. “Oh, very well,” he said, with an air of resignation. Eowyn laughed and led him outside – but not before casting a glance back at Meren, standing wide-eyed in the middle of the room, still clutching her handkerchief.
“I tell you, the look on your face is not one I will soon forget,” Eowyn said with a hearty laugh, when Meren visited her lodgings later in the day to give her the news.
Meren chuckled good-naturedly. “Well, I can laugh now,” she replied, “but I was never more terrified in my life. I was sure Bergil had made a dreadful mistake – just thinking aloud as children do. It would never … I mean, I would never have dreamed that Beregond…” she coloured and lowered her head with a smile.
“He is a good man, and all the better for waiting to speak to you until his own troubles were dealt with,” said Eowyn. “Faramir and I already have good reason to be thankful for his loyalty and faithfulness, and now it is your turn. But,” – she sat down beside Meren – “should you like to come with him to Emyn Arnen? You have always lived in this city – would not living in the country by the river be a dull life by comparison?”
“Why, it will be no hardship to you – will it, my lady?” Meren asked softly. “Your home will be with the one you love, as will mine, and is not that more important than where that home might be?”
“That is so,” Eowyn replied, giving Meren’s shoulder a light squeeze. Opening her mouth to say more she felt a ripple through her subconscious, and sat up suddenly. Meren looked at her curiously. “My lady?”
Eowyn blinked and cleared her throat. “Do not worry,” she said. “I have … there is someone I must see.” She rose. “Thank you for giving me the good news. You must stay a while and tell Haleth, I’m sure she will be delighted to know. Forgive me.” And with a small smile, she turned and left the room.
She found Faramir where she had known he would be – sitting under their apple tree in the garden of the Houses of Healing. His back was against the trunk, his head tilted upwards to watch the laden branches of the tree playing in the afternoon breeze.
As he heard or felt her approach Faramir lowered his head and held out a hand to draw her to him. Eowyn curled her legs underneath her and raised her free hand to touch his face.
“What is it, my love?” she asked. “Something has been troubling you since yesterday, I have felt it. Will you not tell me?”
Faramir shook his head. “I do not know where to begin,” he said slowly.
“Does it have something to do with your conversation with the king? I saw you talking together.”
Her companion sighed. “He told me – he told me he believes I possess the same gift of healing as his.”
“You? But how?” asked Eowyn. “You are not descended from the same line as Aragorn. How could that be possible?”
Faramir shrugged. “I do not know. Aragorn says that the healing gift springs only from the descendents of Luthien. His is a direct line traced from father to son back to Elros, the grandson of Luthien and founder of Numenor. That is not my line, of that I can be certain – and I cannot trace my family line as far into the distant history as the beginnings of that kingdom. Yet perhaps back there, beyond my knowledge, is a link from a father to a daughter, and she is my link to the same foremother.” He paused a moment. “Then again, perhaps Aragorn is mistaken and my power to call and heal is limited solely to you.”
“Ah, he told you about that,” Eowyn murmured. “Did he tell you that you saved my life that day?” Faramir nodded, but did not speak. She squeezed his hand. “If your power is indeed limited to that one moment, it is still a great gift – and one I will live to be thankful for. If there is to be more, then you will discover it. Why be afraid? You have stood before the hosts of Mordor with an unwavering heart. With this gift you would simply be fighting a different enemy.” She smiled. “How much more joyous the results would be than those of war!”
Faramir looked at Eowyn, her hair shining like spun gold in the sun. “Would you stand beside me as I sought to learn how to heal and make things new?” he asked softly. “Would that be a task you would wish to take upon yourself, shieldmaiden that you are?”
“I am a shieldmaiden no longer – you know that,” she replied. “My heart and my hopes are not what they were, and what better thing could I do than to work beside the one that I love, whatever he chooses to do?”
“So you do love me then?” said Faramir, trying to keep his voice calm as his heart rejoiced. The king had been right, of course. It had been foolish to doubt Eowyn even for a moment.
“Do I love you?” Eowyn repeated with a laugh. “My foolish lover, you who can see into my heart and my mind, what could ever make you think otherwise?”
“It’s just that you’ve never actually said so before,” he replied innocently.
“Well, I can see I’ve got some making up to do,” she responded with a smile, drawing him to her.