Fairer Than Ivory, Silver, or Pearls
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Snowdrops and Bluebells: 9. Chapter Nine
Frustrated, I climb to my feet and begin to restlessly pace my chamber. Long has it been since I viewed it as my newest cage, but in this moment the walls are pressing in on me, making me still more tense. After circling around for a few minutes, I stride over the door, throwing it open with more force than is necessary, and calling for a servant. One appears and asks what I need.
“Fresh water, please—this is warm,” I tell her, taken aback at my sharp tone as I thrust the pitcher at her.
“Yes, m’lady,” she said nervously, bobbling up and down. When she brings it back, I thank her curtly, shut the door, and make myself sit once more. I pour and drain most of a cup, take a deep breath, and close my eyes. I must do this, I must, or it will become simply unbearable.
I open my eyes, only to find myself beholding the two wooden boxes on either side of the table. The one I just carried upstairs with my precious set of knives, while the other contains the fine little doll Faramir bought at the fair. On impulse, I lift the lid and draw the doll out, propping her against her box, and then I flip up the hinged lid of the knife box and trace their decorations, feeling their perfection in my very fingertips. I suspect that to most they are a mismatched pair of gifts to offer to the same woman, but somehow they both suit me well, as unlikely as that fact is to me, for one is a warrior’s prize and the other a mother’s. I pick up the doll in my left hand and a dagger in my right, holding them before me side by side. It is as if they have been transformed into the keys that will solve my riddles.
My gaze swims as I stare at them, and a clamor of voices assails me, the various voices of those who have been my companions over the past weeks. Lothiriel’s first: “Mending people’s bodies and minds after battle is harder than taking them apart in the first place.” Faramir’s is next: “I say to you that you are beautiful . . .neither flower nor lady have I seen now in Gondor so lovely, and so sorrowful . . . I almost regret you will not see the opportunity to lead your people and reach the peak of your abilities; that would have been a glorious thing . . . As ever, your wit is as quick as your sword!”
But above all else, I hear Merry, Merry of the wide smile and valiant heart, Merry who loves me without demand or expectation or qualification. “Eowyn, you do know that there’s nothing to fear in marriage, don’t you?” “Promise me that if you stay in Minas Tirith, you’ll give Faramir a chance to completely earn your love, that you won’t lock your heart in a cage and throw away the key.” “You won’t forget your promise to me while I’m gone, will you?”
I shake my head, clearing my sight, and as I do, it is as if I can truly see myself, and those around me, for the first time. The final pieces of the puzzle fall into a pattern I finally can comprehend.
Yes, I feared the claming of my body, but what I always feared most about marriage was that it too was a mere cage, and that all it would give me was the destruction of that which I most valued about myself. How could I expect some man my uncle chose for me to understand me completely, especially since he would be an alliance before he was a husband? To be a wife seemed as much of a foolish game to me as being nothing more but the King of Rohan’s fair niece.
And if I thought being a wife was playing a game, no wonder I so longed at first to play it at the most exalted level of all. Queen of Gondor and of Arnor! Once that vision filled me with excitement, but now I recoil in distaste. What made me think I could do such a thing? Aragorn is splendid, a captain and king at the height of his powers, but even his generosity would not permit his Queen to be both swordswoman and lover, comrade and mother of his heirs. I was a fool to believe he ever would.
I have been a coward too, I think with shame. Such has been my terror of both lust and pity that I nearly have driven away a man whose tangible gifts to me are petty compared to the intangible ones he offers freely and without price. Faramir gives me affection, respect, a kind of friendship I never thought possible between a man and a woman. And while he desires me, it is a desire that has no urge to conquer, but to share in full. He will grant me my own hungers, I realize, and rejoice in them as the mate of his.
And he sees me; sees me clearly and completely, all of me, the strong and the weak, the fierce and the gentle, and loves everything in equal measure. He never hints that I must change, that all my contradictions must vanish before he will have me. Rather, he glories in them, turning them round as a man might twirl a jewel to catch the light of its many facets. This gift is so rare that it is beyond price. I finally perceive that the only thanks I can give him for it is the gift of myself, my mind and heart and body, whole and without reserve.
And Merry, I think, Merry sees me too, all the way through like I was made of glass. That little, charming, devious, earthy hobbit understands me as though we were two halves of the same soul, understands my need for battle and for love. He has pushed me along my appointed path even while I fought him and tried to turn a blind eye to the truth. And the love he gives me is still rarer than Faramir’s, for it is both pure and sensual, innocent and knowing, the sort that grants my heart wings at the same time it melts the ice encasing my flesh. Is there any greater repayment I can give him beyond fulfilling his wish that I allow myself to love Faramir?
I tremble from head to foot as all these thoughts flood my mind and wash me clean, slaying my ghosts and healing my wounds. I push myself up and away from the table, despite my shaking legs, and know that I must find Faramir and tell him of my insight. But then another thought invades, dismaying and horrible. Does he still love me? Or have I waited too long to speak?
A light knock sounds on my door; I turn my head in its direction, wondering who dares to disturb me. “Come in,” I said curtly.
A nervous young page steps into my room; I recognize him as the one who accompanied me on the day of Merry’s departure—Bergil, I think his name is, just recently taken into service. “My lady, the Lord Faramir has sent me to ask if you will not come and speak with him.”
“Where is he?” I say, my heart pounding more than a bit.
“He awaits you upon the walls, my lady. I shall lead you to him.”
I hurry behind Bergil as he takes me to the gardens’ entrance, my face pale and my hands damp. I step over the threshold and see Faramir standing on the wall, his expression thoughtful and his posture questioning. I swallow, uncertain if the moon and stars are still within my grasp or if I have let them slip through my fingers. I do not smile, for the moment is too grave for that, but lift up my head with pride and dignity, because I know his true worth now, and mine as well.
I pace forward slowly, prepared to embrace my fate no matter what it may be.
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