by Jennet Jourdemayne
Aragorn, King of Gondor, stood on the steps of his Hall and bade farewell to Eomer, King of Rohan. The new King of the Mark was returning to his lands, to set them right after the ravages of war, and to take up the crown of his uncle, Theoden, who now rested with the old Kings of Gondor in the Silent Street.
At his side went his sister, the Lady Eowyn, now healed of her injuries and, in fact, seemingly healed in spirit as well, the shadow that had long been on her having been banished during her time in the care of Minas Tirith’s Healers.
Among those who were gathered in the Citadel to see the Rohirrim off was Faramir, Steward of Gondor who, it seemed, only had eyes for the fair princess of Rohan. As Aragorn looked at Eowyn, who was in turn gazing at Faramir, her eyes sparkling and her cheeks pink, he wondered again just how much Eowyn’s seemingly miraculous recovery could be attributed to the attentions of Gondor’s Steward.
He glanced again at Faramir, and then at Eomer, who had also seen the wordless exchange between the two of them. He caught Aragorn’s glance and frowned, his expression making it clear that if there was any “understanding” between his sister and the Steward, he had yet to hear about it.
But that was a conversation Eomer would need to have with Eowyn himself. For his own part, Aragorn would see what he could find out from Faramir about his relationship with Eowyn. Personally, he could think of few men better for Rohan’s princess than Gondor’s Steward, but unfortunately, among the leaders of Men, the personal was only one small consideration. And without the approval of the King of the Mark, this union, however desirable, would be impossible.
“I bid you due speed and a safe journey home, Eomer,” Aragorn said. “Gondor is ever grateful for the friendship of the people of the Mark. As am I.”
Eomer nodded. “And Rohan is happy to have our allegiance strengthened once more. Long may Elessar reign in peace in his realm.”
Aragorn returned the nod of thanks formally, as was required. Then he laughed and descended the three steps to Eomer, clasping his shoulder. “Take care, brother,” he said. “And return to us when you can.” He leaned close. “I will speak with Faramir,” he whispered.
Eomer gave a brief nod before stepping away. “Many thanks,” he said, and Aragorn read many meanings in his eyes. He turned and raised his arm to usher his sister before him.
Eowyn gave a curtsey to Aragorn, then her gaze slid once more to Faramir, and she smiled and lowered her eyes before turning away and accompanying her brother and the Marshalls out of the Citadel Gate. As was appropriate, Aragorn and his people stood and watched until the travelers had departed.
Once the last Rider was through the gate, Aragorn took a deep breath and turned to his Steward. Faramir was still gazing at the gate through which they had departed.
“Gondor has a good friend in Rohan,” he commented.
“Indeed, my Liege,” Faramir nodded, his eyes never leaving the gate.
“Eomer is a fine man; he shall make a worthy king.”
Faramir said nothing.
“And perhaps he shall make a good brother-in-law as well?” Aragorn ventured.
Faramir started and turned toward the King. “I...I’m sorry?” he frowned.
“Though you should have made your intentions known to him,” Aragorn said, moving to the walls and bringing the younger man with him, there to look over the city and await the party when they emerged from the city gate. “Not only is he the King, he is also her brother and thus her authority. He must grant his permission before she can wed.”
Faramir didn’t say anything, though his mouth opened in shock.
“Or did I misread?” Aragorn finished.
Faramir found his tongue. “No,” he managed. “No, you did not misread. That is, I don’t think so.”
Now it was Aragorn’s turn to frown. “You are not sure? Were there no promises made between you?”
Faramir flushed. “On the contrary. I asked her to marry me.”
“What said she?”
“She said yes.”
Faramir shrugged, his eyes focused on the field below them. “We were....” He sighed. “We met, as I’m sure you know, when we were both recovering in the Houses of Healing. I think I fell in love with her almost instantly,” he said softly. “She... She grew to love me, I believe. At least she said she did.”
“But you doubt her?” Aragorn asked.
Faramir took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “When I am with her, I have no doubts at all. But now that she is gone....” He sighed. “I believe she meant it when she said it. But.... But she was alone then. Alone and injured in a strange land. I showed her some kindness. I would like to believe it is not just gratitude, that she really does she feel for me the way she said she did. But she is going home now, to her land, her people. She will be surrounded by the familiar again, the comfortable. And I will be far away.
“Our feelings.... Those days were...intense. We were waiting, unsure if the next day would even dawn, and if it did, what it would bring. It is very easy to fall in love under those circumstances. Easier still to cling to the comfort nearest. And it was all very...sudden. I do not know if her feelings will change, once we are apart.”
“Will yours?” Aragorn asked.
“No,” Faramir answered directly, determination strong in his voice.
“Then why do you assume hers will? Unless you do not trust in her love for you.”
“I do trust her,” Faramir insisted. “But she--” He took a deep breath, glanced at Aragorn, then looked away again. “She loved another. One who could not return her love.”
Aragorn felt ice run down his spine. “Faramir, I–“
”I know you did not love her,” Faramir interrupted. “So does she. But when you would not love her, she wished for death.”
“And now she wishes for life,” Aragorn added. “Faramir, listen to me.” He took hold of his Steward’s shoulder and turned him toward him. “When I went to her, in the houses of healing, she was...it was not just physical, her ailments. I could cure her of the Black Breath, I could heal her body, but her spirit was so damaged, I feared she would never be whole again. Her despair began long before she met me, even before her uncle grew old before his time and she had to tend to him. She loved me because she saw me as a way out, an escape from the misery her life had become. It was not me she loved, truly, but what I stood for.
“I awakened her, there in the Houses of Healing, but still she despaired. We rode not knowing if she would recover, or if we should return to find yet another casualty of Sauron’s poison. I do not exaggerate when I say I feared for her life.
“Instead, we returned to find her not only healed in body, but healed in spirit as well. Now, some of that could have been the parting of the clouds of darkness that had hung over this land for far too long. But even that joy could not account for the bloom in her cheek, nor the sparkle in her eyes. The brightness I saw in her whenever she looked at you.”
Faramir blinked at him, as if unbelieving. “I–“
”Believe that she is true,” Aragorn went on. “And believe that her love is real. Ultimately, a few weeks, or even a few months, is a mere pittance. True love can withstand far greater tests of time.” He smiled. “Trust me on this.”
Faramir smiled as well. Aragorn had told him about Arwen, how he had loved her for many long years, and how now he eagerly waited to hear word of her coming to Minas Tirith.
“It’s just that I–“ Faramir began, then stopped, his gaze fixed on the Pelennor below. Aragorn turned toward the walls and saw the Rohirrim heading across the Pelennor toward the Rammas gate.
They watched in silence for several minutes, until the travelers rode out of sight.
Faramir sighed and turned around, leaning against the wall. “I know I should have spoken to her brother but I... I suppose it was myself I did not trust. He strikes me as a stubborn man; if he had said no, I do not think there would be anything that could persuade him otherwise.”
“He is stubborn,” Aragorn agreed, “but he also loves his sister. He would not deny her something which gives her such joy. None were happier than he was to see her whole and well upon our return.”
“But if she marries me, she must leave him,” Faramir said. “She must leave her people and join with those of a stranger in a foreign land.”
Aragorn laughed. “You make it sound like Gondor lies beyond the sea!”
“Laugh if you will, but there are great differences between our peoples,” Faramir insisted.
“And even greater similarities,” Aragorn countered. “There has always been frequent traffic between our lands and, now that our alliance has been renewed, there will be even more so.
“Besides which, your marriage would only strengthen that alliance. I would not wish you, either of you, to wed simply for political expedience, but the honest truth is I can think of few matches more advantageous for both our peoples. Eomer will realize this also.”
“But would that be sufficient reason to offer up his beloved sister to a stranger?”
“To a total stranger, perhaps not,” Aragorn admitted. “But to Gondor’s Steward, the right hand of the King? I think he should be pleased to have made so fine a match for his sister.”
Faramir sighed and raked a hand through his hair. “All of which is rather beside the point, as I did not speak with him.” He glanced at the King. “And I dare say it is not the sort of request one should make in a letter.”
Aragorn smiled. “Perhaps not,” he agreed. “Though if it makes you feel any better, it did not appear that Eowyn had said anything to her brother about it, either.”
“I am not sure that that’s a comfort,” Faramir said.
“But he will return, when all is made ready to bring Theoden home. You will have your chance then.”
“I do not know if his uncle’s funeral is the best time to speak to him about my marrying his sister.”
“Faramir,” Aragorn sighed, exasperated, “you can find reasons to put off this conversation forever. Or you can decide that Eowyn is worth whatever risks you must take. It depends on how much you want this.”
Faramir was silent, staring at the ground. “So much so that I cannot bear to think of life without her,” he said softly. He raised his head and Aragorn saw the glitter in his eyes. “We talked at length, during those weeks together, both before the defeat of the darkness and after, when all things seemed possible again. I told her how I longed to make a home in Ithilien, and she shared that dream with me.” He smiled lightly, seeing his own world in his mind’s eye. “We talked about the home we would build there, how we would live. Even how many children we would have.
“Then you came and named me Steward, and I saw our dreams turning to ash. I could not go to Ithilien; I needs must stay with the King. She tried to convince me that it didn’t matter, that wherever we were, we would be happy together. But I so wanted that life for us. And...and I know she does not really care for Minas Tirith; she finds it too stifling. I would not have her pine and fade like my mother.”
Faramir gazed at Aragorn again. “Then you named me Prince of Ithilien, and you commanded me to make my home in Emyn Arnen. And all the dreams were reborn.
“She is worth the waiting and the risk,” he said. “I only hope I am worth it to her.”
Aragorn shook his head, wishing not for the first time that he could banish the self-doubt he saw so often in the younger man. “Eowyn, I have learned, is the most determined of ladies. She will fight for what she believes in. And she believes in you. If she did not, she would not be giving up her sword and her shield. If she did not, she would still be pale and sorrowful, still yearning for death. It is your love that has made her whole. I could not do that for her. Only you. And it is not me she has given her promise to. It is you.
“You must speak with her brother, but do not let your fear dissuade you. Hold fast to her love for you and to her promise. You will be successful in your suit, I assure you.”
Faramir looked at him hopefully. “You would speak on my behalf?”
“If required, I would do so.”
“But I do not think it will be necessary. You are a fine man in your own right, Eomer already knows this about you. And he will learn how much his sister loves you. Above all, he is a practical man. He will see that this match will be good for all concerned. It will be good for Eowyn, it will be good for Rohan, it will be good for Gondor. He will agree.”
“You think so?”
“I know so,” Aragorn affirmed, putting his hand on Faramir’s shoulder.
Faramir allowed himself a smile, but one that turned quickly into a sigh. “Now I feel rather foolish for not talking to him when I had the chance,” he said.
Aragorn laughed. “If you had just come to me, I could have assured you in your suit.”
“It seemed like an unimportant matter to bother the King with,” Faramir said.
Aragorn stared at him, wanting not for the first time to shake some sense into the man. “I had hoped that in a matter of the heart, you would have felt able to come to me as a man, not as the King,” he said quietly.
Faramir stared back, wide-eyed. “I...I am sorry, my.... I am sorry.” He took a deep breath. “Next time, I will know.”
Aragorn quirked an eyebrow. “Next time? You plan to propose to more ladies?”
“No,” Faramir laughed. “I was thinking more of when Eomer returns and I am beside myself with fretting.”
Aragorn chuckled. “You worry too much.”
“So I have been told.”
“Thank you for sharing your worries with me.” He caught and held Faramir’s gaze.
Faramir returned the gaze steadily. “Thank you for hearing them.”
Then the younger man blinked and the intensity lessened. Aragorn sighed. “We’d best go in. Suits of love notwithstanding, there is still much work to do.”
“Of course, my liege,” Faramir nodded and followed his king.
They walked in silence for several moments. Aragorn cast a surreptitious glance at his Steward. There was an intensity to Faramir in everything did, from leading his men in Ithilien, to serving as Steward, and now, apparently, to falling in love. That intensity was both his blessing and his curse. On the one hand, nothing slipped past Faramir’s careful notice. But on the other, it meant he tended to over-think most everything. Falling in love was really most simple, when you got down to it, and it was that simplicity that had seemed to unnerve Faramir, who no doubt had had no time to intellectualize what was happening.
Aragorn smiled to himself. Leave it to Eowyn to find the way through Faramir’s reserve and containment. The beautiful, wild princess of Rohan would probably be the best thing to happen to Faramir. And, he suspected, Faramir was the best thing for Eowyn as well.
“So...” he began, inclining his head toward his Steward. “How many children did you say you wanted?”
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