Steward and the King, The
27. The Road North
It was an odd sight for these lands, but it would become more common in the future. The party that acompanied Eowyn and Pippin were four Rhorrim knights and two northern Rangers. Nine, Pippin thought sadly, if you count Merry in his coffin. We didn’t have ten horses, though. Just poor Bill. Riding made conversation more difficult than walking, Pippin decided. He usually rode with Eowyn or one of the Rangers. Halmin, their guide, had often guarded the Shire borders, so he had an ear for old gossip and old tales. Eowyn often had old tales as well, but not this day.
“You are pensive,” he ventured, late on the silent morning. It was a day, like many on this trip, where there was nothing but endless stone and grass before them.
She did not like where her thoughts had taken her. “I have lost him,” she at last spoke aloud. “Faramir took this same road last year, though in hope, not sorrow. Soon enough we will turn aside for the Shire, seeing never Imladris. It is hard to sort out how much was true.”
“Faramir wanted it to be true.”
She shook her head. I refused to forsake him, … and Meriodoc is dead. It is I who was forsaken.
“Before he saw his death, yes he did,” Pippin insisted. “We all saw it. After -- he wanted what was best for you. I’m sorry the war broke what could have been.”
There was a long silence before she spoke. “I could have died and joined him, but by his last prayers he wished me life.”
“There are many that would mourn your death.”
“Indeed. Myself not the least!”
“Boromir is looking,” Pippin said, after a time, for it seemed her mood had lightened enough for him to satisfy his curiosity.
“I know. He asked.”
Pippin paused, puzzled. “Why is that something to laugh about?”
“ ‘If what I felt for Faramir was love,’ I told his brother, ‘I do not want to forsake him.’ He said he had his brother’s blessing in this, but I don’t have Faramir to ask. I therefore challenged him, and he chided me for my question, for it would be difficult to answer well. Even so, I insisted.”
“What did he say?”
“What he says Faramir would have answered. ‘I know not’.” She shrugged, unconvinced. “He wants me most as friend. Or he thinks that safest to say. He may want me more as wife, but will not risk to lose me entirely.”
She seemed uncertain in her mind. “How did you answer?”
“I didn’t. ‘Marriage’ would be a different matter were it not for the question of children. That’s what Faramir said, in Mordor, wishing for the sun. That I was a temptation -- wife and children -- to turn him from the path he must walk, a wish he must let go. And was he only temptation to me? Someone who could attack Wormtongue who risked only himself? Someone without family vulnerable to revenge if he failed? Ah, Faramir, my love. Now I doubt my own heart.”
“But ... I don’t understand. Why is ‘children’ something to make you close your heart?”
“Would I had been born a man.” She tensed, and clutched her arm more closely across Pippin’s chest. “ ‘Children’ is a reason I disobeyed my King and took Merry to his death,” she confessed, her voice thick, “though I should not say that to his kin. If Theoden would die, I would die with him, I had stood at his side so many years. I did not want the duty that would come if he and Eomer died, it seemed sure to be so, and I lived.”
“You did not want to be Queen?”
“ ‘No queen has ever ruled the Eorlingas,’ is what I told Merry,” she laughed bitterly. “He thought I could be First Queen … But neither of us wanted to speak of that, to think King and Brother dead. But had Igil or Elfhelm stopped me and the worst happened – yes, I would have claimed to rule. But in that dark time, I could not imagine that escape. So I took Merry to his death.”
“I don’t understand.”
“By marriage I would make my husband King, so he must be of the Mark – That was the dread. Even if Faramir had somehow lived and found his way back. He had gone into Mordor, Aragorn told me. If the war had not broken his promise then it would have surely broken mine. For it would have been the elders who would choose our King from among themselves. It would have been my duty not my choice to give our new king children.”
She breathed in deep, pushing aside the visions of prison walls that haunted her. “Too many men have looked my way, seeing only flesh. Wormtongue lusted for it. He would contrive to touch me, any way he could, in a way I could not complain. But even through cloth, he defiled me, and always with his eyes. And when he was sent away it was others that took his place, for Theodred was dead. They did not see me, but the royal blood of my male children.
“Now Eomer can make his own heir, and I am free. But I would be bound again to children, if I marry any man.”
Pippin began to speak, and then thought better of it.
“Yes,” Eowyn answered, and forced herself not to flinch. Pippin would feel it. “Faramir also spoke of children ... yet that was more a consequence of love than its purpose. But now in Gondor they will want the line of Mardil to continue.”
“Yet Boromir could choose otherwise.”
That made a long silence, for Eowyn could think of no high-born man that did not presume fatherhood for his future, and Boromir had already said such. But “need” and “want” were not the same. “What prompts this speculation?”
“Denethor,” he answered. “I didn’t know him long and I can’t look into someone’s thoughts as some others ... but he did speak often when Strider was gone to challenge Sauron, and I think I can put the thoughts together. Denethor would die rather than surrender, and he’d mean that for his blood. Boromir could debase himself and good riddance, but as Boromir’s blood is also Denethor’s blood, that part of his father’s spirit that remains to walk through his quarters would not be pleased for grandchildren.”
“But the ghost would suffer Boromir to serve?”
“Whether or no, Boromir would do it,” he laughed. “So Denethor had no choice of that. But children raised in the court of an usurper king could not fully choose, could they?”
“I swore my oath to Denethor, not Boromir nor Aragorn,” he said hotly, then relented. “That’s Denethor’s thinking, not mine. And wasn’t my place to tell him he was wrong. Though he was. So I think I know well enough what he’s saying to Boromir.” He sighed in frustration. “I liked him, I don’t know why. I meant my oath, as much as Merry did. But Merry found the Lord with the better heart. No one else understands either, I don’t think, but they keep telling me they’re glad I was there. I cried when he died.”
“You’re right,” she said hesitantly, wondering how much to say. “There was too much celebration of the victory to have much room for grief.”
Pippin snorted at the evasion. “You know, I chose my oath to him; I wasn’t born to it. I was not born in his lands. I might be the only one.”
“As he was a hard man, I think he used that for his advantage. But I believe he also found value of your oath in his heart, as much as he was capable.”
“Yes. For that, I will forgive him much.”
“But he does not forgive Boromir.”
Pippin shrugged. “I think he would say, the treason was too deep. And his son would say the same of him. Boromir is Aragorn’s Steward and he chooses every day, chooses to serve, and every day his honor tells him the right choice -- And if it is you are his child’s mother, have a care of this matter! Have the child know it’s none of his own fault, but a ghost from the past. Or if you stay Faramir’s widow and keep the older brother as kin only and he chooses another, warn them both. I don’t know if he’s looked at it in daylight. Anything to do with his father he’s pushed aside, same as he emptied Denethor’s quarters before making them his own.”
“You are the strangest of matchmakers, Peregrin Took,” Eowyn said at last, and then was silent the rest of the day, considering what he said.
And in the night were dreams. It is not only Boromir that is haunted by ghosts, she thought. Faramir came to Boromir, flesh and blood, when Boromir dreamed the Prophecy; Faramir came also to her dreams, recurring.
Often she dreamt of the Pelennor, and he was as a ghost behind her, thin and pale, for his thoughts were toward her, not himself. Had he already died? Two more days, perhaps, he breathed. “Live,” he begged her, but, in the dream, she cut not black cloth but into metal and that which was once flesh ... and the touch killed her, even as Gandalf killed her killer. She and the Witch King both dropped to the ground.
And in this other war wherein she had died, the Ring was still destroyed and the threat of Sauron with it. With the peace, came burials. Boromir had Faramir’s horn, and his hands were warm as her body was cold, and he lifted her head to put the strap around her neck and the horn under her arm and watched as she and the horn were buried together in Edoras, and he and the people wept.
Songs of the love of Faramir and Eowyn rang hollow in her ears as she awoke to tears and shaking. “Let me live,” she begged the morning, for she never knew the fear was nightmare until she was fully awake. “I do not long to die.”
Blinking the dream away, she slipped out of her bedroll, pulled on her tunic, and left the tent. With her knees drawn up, she sat on the sparse grass facing the sunrise, and watched it brighten. He loved me, for being me. She held to that. It was for love of me and knowing I would grieve, he asked his brother to give comfort. I wish ... She stood abruptly, looking for a morning task to do. She went to the horses. They welcomed her with soft nickering. I wish my love could have been a strength to him, not pain. Then it could be likewise for me.
== end chapter ==
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