4. Gray Awakening
A/N: Pardon me for the course of events in this chapter. Now as I said, this is not going to break any of the original pairings.
March 16, 3019
The Houses of Healing
The first thing Éowyn of Rohan felt when she awoke was the warmth of the sun on her face, melting away the cobwebs of sleep.
“I must be dead! Or is it a dream?” she thought to herself as she opened her eyes. To her dismay, she realized she was still alive, lying in an unfamiliar room. Her shield arm was bandaged in a sling and she felt terribly weary.
“At last you’ve awakened,” an unfamiliar voice said. Éowyn looked to see an ethereally beautiful woman sitting in a nearby chair. The woman, with hair as black as night and clear gray eyes, seemed to be one of the healers, yet she seemed to also be not one of them, for a different kind of light was on her fair face.
“Who are you?” Éowyn asked as she struggled to sit up.
The dark-haired woman smiled. “I am Arwen Undómiel, daughter of Elrond Halfelven, Lord of Rivendell,” she answered.
Éowyn was confused. “So then you are an elf?” she guessed, seeing that Arwen’s ears were slightly pointed.
“Indeed, you are right, shield-maiden,” Arwen told her.
“Where am I?” Éowyn continued cautiously.
“In the Houses of Healing, in Minas Tirith. Here you must rest abed for several days, till you are fully healed,” Arwen replied.
“Days!” Éowyn gasped. “And what of my brother?”
“Today, the lords, among them your brother, will hold counsel with Gandalf on the days to come. You mustn’t trouble yourself now, only your concern should be on your recovery,” Arwen said.
“What is there to recover for, when all I see before me is darkness?” Éowyn whispered as she lay back on her bed and closed her eyes. Now the truth of Aragorn’s words in Dunharrow dawned on her.
“Were I to go where my heart dwells, far in the North I would now be wandering in the fair valley of Rivendell.”
“How have you come here to Mundburg?” Éowyn asked.
Arwen sighed melancholically. “My father wished to send me West. But at the very last, I turned back and rode over the Misty Mountains. It was a dark night when I met Aragorn at Pelargir,” she said.
“So it was for him we both turned back,” Éowyn said wryly.
“Yet you have long held his heart and he has spurned me!” Éowyn thought as she said this.
“Fear not! He has pulled you back from the Shadow; there is still hope!” Arwen said.
“For those who can see it, that is true but I for one am still wandering in the gray darkness of night.” Éowyn murmured.
elsewhere in the houses, some hours after the lords have finished their council
“So he is gone, dead and burned,” Faramir said to himself softly after Beregond had broken the news of Denethor’s death to him.
“Burned? I only said he was dead!” Beregond said.
Faramir looked up at his friend, his gray eyes glimmering. “I saw it in a dream. Yet I know it isn’t. And I know he tried to take me with him.” Faramir said somberly.
“So now you know,” Beregond whispered.
“He looked into that palantir, did he not?” Faramir pressed on.
“My lord! You mustn’t weary yourself!” Beregond pleaded.
“In my dream, I couldn’t see much, but I could hear my father’s voice. And I felt the heat of the pyre as it burned near.” Faramir said.
“It was at the hour that the Witch-King came to the City that Pippin took me to Rath Dinen, saying that your father had gone mad.” Beregond began. “When we arrived, some servants and the porter tried to stop us. Pippin said it seemed to him that they were also mad with fear. But in my haste, I slew them.”
“Then we found the door to the Steward’s House open, and Denethor looking into…I cannot say it!”
“The palantir, no doubt.” Faramir said.
“I marvel at your courage, my lord. But in any case, we surprised him and he dropped the stone which now seemed made of flames and we tried to restrain him, but we hardly could. After what seemed to be an Age, Mithrandir came in.” Beregond continued.
“And it was at this point that Denethor stopped struggling and a flame died in his eyes, and he wished to go to you. After a while, it seemed to us that the madness had passed, for your father wished to bring you to the Houses of Healing. As Mithrandir and I made ready to lift your bier, a terrible shriek filled the air and all went dark.”
“Your father got up and went to the door. You moaned and called out in your dream while Pippin shrank away in terror. At last, a terrible black flying form hovered outside the doorway, and a tall dark figure dismounted and went towards Denethor, who at this point still stood tall and proud.”
“‘You shall not take me! Fly away to your dark master!’ Denethor cried as he shrank away. “
“The dark Rider laughed, chilling the hearts of all who were present, and threw back its cloak. Where there should’ve been a head and shoulders to hold up the dark garments, there only were an iron crown and two hellish eyes. It was plain that he was none other than the Witch-King of Angmar.”
“’To Mordor I shall take you. Come back!’ the Black Captain said. And he reached out to grab Denethor.”
“But he sprang back calling. ‘Fool! Think you shall take me alive? You have the victory, why trouble me any longer?’”
“‘Foolish dotard! Thou hast been ensnared in your foolishness.’ the wraith said.”
“’See Mithrandir! Your hope is but ignorance! A finger of the Dark Hand is here before you. There is no victory against what has arisen!’ Denethor shouted.”
“’Even now, something might be done. Such words will only make the enemy’s victory certain.’ Mithrandir said.
“’Yes…there is no victory!’ the wraith suddenly said and sprang forward with a shining blade, but Mithrandir stood before him and threw him back with a flash of light. Denethor on the other hand took out a knife.”
“He then said. ‘I know thee Mithrandir. Your hope is to rule in my stead! But I will not be thy tool; a chamberlain to an upstart ranger from the north. I will not bow to one of a line bereft of dignity, even if he were of the line of Isildur. And thou shall not deprive me of my will to rule my own end!’ “.
“But Mithrandir said, ‘There is nothing dishonorable in a Steward who surrenders his charge faithfully. At least you shall not deprive your son of his choice while his death is yet uncertain.’ Your father strode towards you brandishing the knife, but I placed myself between you and him.”
“So Denethor said, ‘So! Thou hast stolen my son’s love, and now even the hearts of my knights! But as I said, thou shall not deprive me of my will to my end! Come hither, if you are not recreant!’ And having said this, he picked up a brand nearby and thrust it on the table piled high with wood and broke the staff of his stewardship. At this point, the Witch-King reached out to him once again and almost took him.”
“”Curse you, thrall of Sauron! And curse you too, Mithrandir, Gray Fool! Death! Death bitter may meet you all!’ Denethor cried as he leaped into the pyre with the palantir on his breast. A spark landed on the Witch-King’s robe and he ran out, shrieking onto his steed and was borne away. Those of us who remained namely Mithrandir, Pippin and myself, turned away and brought you to the Houses of Healing.” Beregond concluded, his voice trembling.
Faramir remained silent for a time. “That is not far from what I saw in my dream.” he finally said.
“My lord, I know I should not have told you!” Beregond exclaimed. “But only one good thing shows here.”
“And what is that?” Faramir asked.
“You are yourself again.” Beregond laughed.
“Good day nephew,” Imrahil greeted as he walked into Faramir’s room.
“Good day uncle,” Faramir greeted politely.
“I know you have some questions. I know that look on your face.” Imrahil said as he sat in a chair. “In three days, Lord Aragorn and Mithrandir will lead an army to march towards Mordor. I will be going with them,” he continued.
“I know I cannot go with you,” Faramir said. He knew that many were wounded, thus accounting for the three day delay.
Imrahil nodded. “Your place is here in the City. Here you must be ready for a last stand if all fails,” he said.
“Where shall I go then, Lord Imrahil?” Beregond asked. He knew that because of his actions in Rath Dinen, he had to leave his post as a guard of the Citadel.
“You shall ride with the soldiers of Gondor in the host. Peregrin the Halfling will be riding with us too,” Imrahil answered.
“He has a valiant spirit. I would not fear for him, if he were not so small. But courage is not determined by strength of arms,” Faramir said.
“For now, do not speak more of war or grief lest you strain yourself, nephew. The days may bring some other need,” Imrahil advised.
March 19, 3019
At dawn, three days after the captains held counsel, the army of the west made ready to march from Minas Tirith. Though fewer men than hoped would be able to ride to war, some five thousands from Gondor assembled on the Pelennor.
It was at this hour that some one thousand Rohirrim led by Elfhelm returned out of Anórien, where they had gone to remove the threat to the main army.
“Your majesty! The orcs have scattered, many of them turning to Cair Andros. But I fear that some five hundred are dead or at least unfit to ride,” Elfhelm reported as he met Éomer in the midst of the army. Indeed, half of those who’d accompanied Elfhelm were now being brought to the City to be healed or worse, buried.
Éomer was a bit startled at how Elfhelm had addressed him. But he shrugged. “I believe I may have to get used to being addressed as that. Though I do not know for how long that will last,”
“Maybe for many years,” Éothain said. Elfhelm and Éomer exchanged glances. The Rider had seemingly gotten rid of his usual cynical and skeptic manner.
“With the strength of our people and these hardy men of Gondor, led by their lord out of the North and his friends the elves and the dwarf, I do not think victory is impossible.” Éothain explained.
“It may be so. Though I advise that you follow orders strictly and be prudent, if you wish to live to see the victory you hope for.” Éomer said half-sternly.
He sighed as he thought of his sister, lying wounded in the Houses. Éomer knew that now, Éowyn and Éothain did not share the same outlook when it came to the outcome of battle, despite the fact that they’d also been childhood friends. He sighed as he thought of their parting, and Éowyn’s final plea to join the march.
“Do you remember the days when we were all very young, and you and Éowyn had newly arrived at Edoras?” Elfhelm finally asked.
“Those were the days. I remember the day Éowyn was first given a sword to practice with.” Éomer laughed, recalling at first how the girl who was to be a shield-maiden used to be extremely cautious with a blade.
“Or how about the time we accidentally gave overripe apples to the horses?” Elfhelm added, provoking chuckles from the two listeners.
“You know very well that there are some older Riders who can tell on us.” Éothain said.
Éomer nodded. “Enough of that. Elfhelm, you said that only five hundred of your men can ride?” he asked.
The marshal nodded. “Tis a grievous loss, my lord.” he said sadly.
Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf then came to them. After the three Rohirrim had greeted them, Elfhelm told his tale. Aragorn looked grave when the marshal told of how many were fit to ride.
“All told, less than six thousands will go to Mordor. I fear that many will leave once we reach the Cross-Roads. Though the rangers of Ithilien have cleared the way, some trouble may still meet us even there,” he said.
“Do not forget, the other Ringwraiths are still abroad and flying through the air. Though their captain has been vanquished, they can still strike fear in the hearts of these men, willing and able as they are.” Legolas added.
“All is ready now. Here is our last throw, and here either one side or the other will meet its doom.” Gandalf said grimly as he looked out over the army and beyond to the Mountains of Shadow.
As the sun sank below the horizon later that day two figures, one small and another rather tall, could be seen walking in the garden of the Houses of Healing.
“And so you saw him fall?” Faramir asked Merry.
The hobbit sighed. “I did. He never got to sit with me in Meduseld, talking about herb-lore.” Merry looked up at the sky, which was now glowing pink, gold and orange. “I miss him terribly, and Pippin too. I hope Pip comes back alive or meets a good end.”
Suddenly, a tall bush near them rustled, causing the two of them to step back. “What was that?” Merry asked. “A cat perhaps?”
“It is no cat.” Faramir whispered. Suddenly, a figure clad all in white and carrying a sword stepped out from behind the shrubbery
“Lady Éowyn!” Merry cried. The figure turned at the sound of Merry’s greeting.
“Good evening, Master Holdwine. Would you care to introduce me to your companion?” Éowyn asked cautiously as she pushed her golden tresses back from her face.
“He is Lord Faramir, who by right should be the Steward of the City,” Merry said.
Éowyn turned pale. “Good evening, my lord.” she greeted.
“Good evening to you, my lady.” Faramir said cordially. As he looked at her, he saw her sorrow and unrest, and his heart was moved with pity.
“Lord Faramir, I wish to ask a favor of you. I cannot remain here in unrest,” Éowyn said. Merry by this time had gone to another part of the garden.
“What would you have me do, Lady?” Faramir asked. “I am also a prisoner of the healers.”
“I would have you bid the Warden to let me go. I wish to ride to war, not be healed.” Éowyn said, but she felt that she was unsure of her words.
“By tomorrow, it will be too late to go forth, even if you had the strength to do so.” Faramir said, his eyes wandering briefly to the sword Éowyn had with her. “But perhaps, we will all die in battle some other day, if that be our fate. And if that be so, you will be better prepared to face it in your own manner if you do as the Warden commanded,”
Éowyn looked at Faramir, and she saw the grave tenderness in his eyes. Yet she knew that he was one that no Rider of the Mark could outmatch in battle.
“But the healers would have me lie abed for seven days yet. And I wish for tidings in battle, or to look eastward, and that at least is not granted to me,” Éowyn finally said quietly, a tear forming in her eye and she bowed her head slightly, not wishing for Faramir to see her cry.
“Is that what you wish?” Faramir asked gently. It seemed to him that something had softened in the shield-maiden as he looked at her, as if a bitter frost was yielding to Spring.
“That is the least I ask for,” Éowyn said gravely. Faramir smiled at her, though he thought her grief would pierce his heart like a dagger.
“In this matter I can command the Warden, though I have yet to take up my authority in the City. If you will stay in this house in our care, and take your rest, then you shall walk in this garden under the sun, and look east if you will. It would ease my care if you would speak to me or walk at whiles with me,” Faramir said.
Éowyn looked him in the eye again and it seemed she flushed slightly. “You shall be walking here, my lord? I know not how I should ease your care,” she said.
“Lady Éowyn!” a voice called from the door of the House.
Éowyn and Faramir turned to see Arwen walking towards them. “Why do you walk out here?” the elf asked.
“I needed to ask something,” Éowyn said.
Arwen looked at Éowyn, then at Faramir. “I see, Lord Faramir, that you have made the acquaintance of Lady Éowyn of Rohan,” Arwen said.
“I will return inside in a while,” Éowyn said to Arwen. The elf-maiden then departed to speak to Merry across the garden.
“Lady Éowyn, I say to you that you are beautiful. No maiden have I seen till now in Gondor so lovely and so sorrowful. It would lighten my heart if I could see you still while the sun shines ere darkness may fall. For we have both passed underneath the wings of Shadow, and the same hand drew us back,” Faramir said after a while.
“Alas my lord! You are mistaken, for Shadow still lies on me.” Éowyn said. “Yet I thank you that I need not keep to my chamber. I will walk abroad by the grace of the Steward of the City.” After doing him a courtesy, she returned to the house.
Faramir remained for a while alone, and his eye strayed oft to the house rather than the walls. Merry noticed this and went to him.
“So how did your speech together go?” Merry asked.
Faramir looked at him in surprise. “I wish I understood the cause for her sorrow,” he said.
Merry shrugged. “It would take perhaps a good part of the night for me to tell all I can say.”
“It is a fair evening, and the hours are long.” Faramir said.
“I have spoken of her in my previous tale, so it is easy to begin.” Merry began.
And so they talked long under the moonlight. It was almost midnight when at last, Faramir returned to his chamber, and he thought he understood more of Éowyn’s sorrow. Indeed, the Steward had learned much, and he saw more than what Merry could put to words.
The next morning dawned, and all was tranquil at the Houses of Healing. Everyone, from the patients to the healers was asleep. Well, almost everyone that is.
Faramir thought that nobody else would be awake when he went out to the garden. Yet as he reached the end of the path leading to the garden, he saw Éowyn clad all in white, standing on the eastward walls. He called her name and she came down.
After they’d greeted each other, Éowyn asked, “Do you usually wake this early, my lord Steward?”
“I should ask the same about you, my lady.” Faramir said in reply.
Éowyn took a deep breath and smiled at Faramir. Something deep within her told her that the day would not be boring.
next: Éomer at Osgilliath, Morgul Vale.
A/N: I know I cannot resist the urge to write a romance. But I promise that Merry and Arwen will have more active roles, and we will see more of Eowyn and Faramir soon. I might not update too soon because I’ll be starting high school soon, and I have other stories and priorities to see to. Till Chapter 5!
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