19. Passion's Ghosts
The sky was churning. Off to the west, heavy grey clouds sluggishly meandered in the wind, like sheep being herded across the hills. Swaths of almost black mingled with menacing dark yellow light.
Éowyn stared out the window. Fréalas made a disapproving noise as she crossed the room to stand behind her. "What horrible weather for your wedding day!" She shook her head in disbelief at the menacing view.
"It looks quite as though the ocean and sky have traded homes!" Éowyn said as she turned, smiling as she brushed her hair out of her eyes, as it was being blown around even in the confines of the room. "Oh Fréalas, you know I love thunderstorms. What could be more wonderful?"
Fréalas threw up her hands. "But for the rest of us," she looked accusingly at her friend, "we prefer not to attend such grand events looking like sodden field mice."
At the anguished expression on Fréalas' face, Éowyn laughed out loud. "Fréa, you seem to think that I asked for this weather!" Throwing her arms around her friend, Éowyn warmly embraced her companion. "It will be a splendid occasion, whether under sunny skies or in pouring rain and howling winds." She stood back, then taking Fréalas' face in her hands, she kissed her on the cheek. "But now you must not look so morose or Faramir, who spends too much time in serious thought already, will become even more anxious about this day."
Fréalas had to laugh at this truism. "Yea verily, dear one, it has been a surprise to me that it is a man of the mind who spirited away your heart. Come, you need to get ready. But before you do, I wish to give you your gift.”
Éowyn looked puzzled. “But Fréalas, I thought we had agreed that your standing with Éomer at my side was gift enough! What is this about a present?”
Fréalas took Éowyn by the hand away from the window to her bed, where they both sat down. “Open your hand.” Éowyn did, her palm open on her friend’s skirt.
“Should I close my eyes, too, like when we were children?” Éowyn asked, her voice full of amusement.
“No, we needn’t get ritualistic about this. You will have enough of that later today.” Fréalas placed a small round disc into her friend’s hand. “After five centuries, it is time for this stone to return to its home, and belong to the last Steward and his wife from Rohan. I hope when you look on it you will think fondly of the two of us, of our years growing up together in Edoras, of summers near the Mering Stream, and even of that stranger in the woods that I met years ago. How could I possibly have guessed that the dishevelled man who I faced with my child’s bow would end up being so integrally involved in your life, and now be King over all!”
Éowyn took Fréalas’ hand and clasped it in hers atop the disc, tears welling in her eyes. “Dear Fréa, this is the most wonderful gift I could have besides your friendship, which I treasure with all my heart.” She sniffed, then smiled. “There have been truly dark days in our past, but the joy that I feel now almost overpowers me.” Éowyn opened their hands to look at the stone for a moment, then held Fréalas fiercely to her again. “Do not think that because I will no longer be living in Rohan that you will never see me again! I couldn’t bear it, and I am sure that Faramir will understand when I return to Edoras to see Éomer and you on a frequent basis.” She nuzzled her head in her friend’s unruly red hair. “I am so happy,” she said softly. “I wish such joy for you as well.”
Fréalas felt a tear roll down her cheek as she replied, “Thank you.”
The wedding was a joyous one, followed by dancing and music through the evening. The most threatening part of the storm had passed, but, as Fréalas had feared, the wind and rain continued through the day, though the weather could not dampen the spirits of those in Edoras for the ceremonies. Friends and family of the couple stood by and their hearts were made glad by this joining, though there was knit together with the joviality a respectful solemnity, marking the keenly felt absence of many souls beloved to Faramir and Éowyn. The two newlyweds, both orphans now, were still able to feel a profound happiness in their union, and the gratitude for their new life together and for those who had travelled to be with them could be seen in the radiance of their faces, the warrior princess of Rohan and the recently crowned Prince of Ithilien.
There were celebrations indeed! Éowyn in particular seemed to light up the room as she joined Master Meriadoc Holcwine in a rousing rendition of a hobbit drinking-song, and even Faramir had to laugh to see his new wife singing lustily with a group of hobbits from Buckland who had journeyed down with Merry for the wedding. The golden-haired bride had been especially thankful that Meriadoc and his entourage had made the several weeks trip, as he had been insistent on attending from the time the invitations had been sent. She had laughed aloud at the written reply that had made its way from the hobbit lands down to Rohan, waving the paper at Éomer. “Master Merry is coming!” she exclaimed, delight shining in her eyes. “And he says that he will bring several others, and they will stay for a fortnight at least, but he doesn’t wish to be an unwelcome guest.” She put the letter back in front of her face and read, “I shall be true to my words to Dernhelm during that long ride. If you will not come here for me to treat you to a pint, I will bring a pint to you. Or several kegs, more like, to add to your wedding celebrations. Faithfully and honourably yours, Merry.”
As the musicians took a well-deserved respite, Tóswífan guided his dance partner toward the table where there were awaiting glasses of ale, taking two as Fréalas fanned herself, her face flushed from the exertion of vigorous dancing. “Shall we go outside for some air?” he asked, and she nodded in the affirmative.
They made their way down the familiar stone steps of the Golden Hall, passing many other revellers also seeking relief from the warmth of the high-roofed room. They made their way down the main path, Fréalas as always with her head turned toward the stars, admiring their beauty as she beheld them, bands of light that on this now-clear night glittered as though thousands of diamonds had been cast up into the heavens.
Leaning back gratefully into Tóswífan’s arms, Fréalas rested, drinking some of her ale. “They seem happy, do they not?” she asked rhetorically, knowing full well that Éowyn was happier than she had seen her in many years.
Tóswífan responded by trying to tickle her, running his fingers down her belly, her fancy velvet dress now sticking to her with sweat due to her enthusiastic response to the call of violins, drums and flute. Fréalas wriggled away and rounded about, wagging her finger at him, though the glee on her face would have outshone the sun. “None of that, young man, none of that!”
“Young man?” he cocked one eyebrow, then took another sip of ale. “Yes, I suppose I am not yet a dotard.” Snaking out one arm, he grasped Fréalas by the waist and pulled her to him. “Marry me,” he breathed.
Fréalas stood stunned, staring into his eyes, the colour of golden corn kernels, and time seemed to stand still. “Pardon?” she asked.
Tóswífan repeated himself. “Marry me,” he said urgently into her ear. “Share yourself with me… let us make a home where your heart will want to return every day, where I can find solace, where our half-wild, red-haired children will want both to raise sheep and carve stone, where I can find my spirited wife transfixed by the sunset, her feet dangling in the river…”
“Yes,” Fréalas answered. “Yes. And yes. And yes.” Her cup fell to the ground, forgotten, as she clasped her hands around his shoulders. “But I wish to return to the Firien Woods, now that all wrongs have been made aright. There is still so much to tell you…”
“Where else would a carver want to live than near the woods?” He leaned in, and kissed her passionately until they broke apart, gasping for air. “Have me, Fréalas,” Tóswífan said, stroking her hair. "I shall carve a bed for us where all your dreams will be sweet, where I shall awake to your kind face every morning."
"I accept!" she replied, her face filled with joy. “And yet there are others joined this night who need to be celebrated… shall we not return?”
Tóswífan nodded, then pulled Fréalas to him once more, his tongue enthusiastically plundering her awaiting mouth until they pulled apart again.
Breathing heavily, Fréalas tried to make sure her clothes were as straight as possible as she patted down her gown. “This is their night,” she whispered into his ear, as they climbed the steps back into the revelry. Clasping Tóswífan’s hand tightly, she continued, “I will let Éowyn know later, when it is appropriate.” Fréalas looked at him, this man whom she had known for many years, and yet her desire for him burned more fiercely now than it ever had. Stopping abruptly, with a voice husky with emotion, she said, “My love.”
In that moment, Tóswífan knew that whatever befell them, she would be able to fill their lives with grace, and the surety of that made him dizzy. "Let us make our suitable homage to the Prince of Ithilien and his wife from Rohan.” He willed the words to come forth, trying to be as appropriate as he could be, wishing more than anything that he could simply run away down the hill to a copse of willows where he and Fréalas could be alone, to...
“Yes.” Fréalas looked into his hazel eyes. “They will have missed us.” She leaned into him, rubbing noses, feeling as though every pore were aflame with desire. “But there is much to discuss, alone, after the guests have left and we have some quiet.” Moving back, she gave him a knowing smile. “I do not think that the new bride and groom will mind if we slip away for much... conversation."
Tóswífan gave her a mischievous grin. “Well,” he said, “let us do what propriety deems, and then by all means allow me to escort you to your privileged lodging and we shall talk further.”
After a lingering farewell to her brother and then her dear friend Fréalas, who bore a particularly noticeable blush across her face, Éowyn took her new husband by the arm to lead him down the great hall to their bedroom. As some serving-girls began picking up plates and chalices, Éowyn turned and with a wink, said, “That can wait til morning. You have worked hard all day!” Gratefully the attendants sat in a small group, pleased to be off of their feet. “And help yourself to some of that wine and sweets! They dare not go to waste!” Éowyn’s voice floated back to them from the corridor.
“She is a generous one!” a dark-eyed young woman exclaimed, hopping up to partake of some of the party food.
Up in their room, the newly-wedded pair looked at each other almost shyly. “Well, what say you, my beloved?” Éowyn took Faramir’s hand, and guided him to a long plush couch near the window. After they sat, Faramir turned and took Éowyn’s face in his hands and kissed her gently but firmly on the lips.
“I shall never tire of tasting you,” he said quietly. Looking down, with his long fingers he spread out her right hand. “We have been so busy,” he murmured, “that I do not think you have had a proper look at your wedding band.” Éowyn smiled as she heard the note of pride in his voice.
“You speak the truth, fair one!” Éowyn brought her hand closer to inspect the silver band. It had been a whirlwind day, and while she had taken in her ring with more than a quick glance, appreciating the two stones set in it, truthfully she had not been able to give it a more thorough inspection. They had both agreed to design the bands in secret. This was not a tradition in either of their cultures, but they did observe one of Rohan, and each of them had bestowed a gift from their family to the other. Éowyn’s had come far earlier, for as she said to people later, 'I did not know it at the time, but once I had been clad in the blue cloak of Finduilas, the fate of my heart was sealed.' Faramir had been deeply moved when his betrothed presented him with a circular cloak clasp with a running horse on its face, intricate weavings around its shield shape inlaid with small dark green stones. “My mother had it wrought for my father,” she had said, handing it to Faramir. “There is not much else of his now, and this was his only adornment, aside from his own ring, of course.”
Now Éowyn looked closely at her ring. It was silver, growing wider in the middle where two oval stones nestled against each other, set on the diagonal. One was a milky white colour with flashes of rainbows in the light, and the other a yellow-green.
Éowyn wrapped her arms around her new husband, then smothered his face with kisses. “It is beautiful, my dear heart! And I have not seen such unique stones before… pray, what are they?”
“The one on the left is an opal, representing the stones of Gondor and our white sands to the south which I need to show you one day. The other,” he held her fingers to his lips, then stroked her hand, “is a peridot, to reflect the colour of the grasses of your beloved Rohan. The beauty of both of our lands, now joined, shall forever catch your eye.” He smiled at her and continued, “It is a good thing having such strong relations with the craftsmen of the Dwarves!”
Éowyn laid her head on Faramir’s shoulder. “And now you, my beloved?” She took his hand and held it up, and he turned his band in a slow circle around his finger. His also was of silver with twin braids across the top and bottom. There were also thin vertical lines on its surface. “Tis beautiful,” he murmured. “Did you mean for the patterns to bear a message?”
“Yes indeed.” Éowyn sat up and turned to face him. “The braids are our intertwined hearts and lives, from this day to the end of days. And the lines,” here she smiled even more widely, and almost blushed, “those are for the pages of books, since I know how much you value knowledge and would prefer to spend your days with a tome in your hand rather than a sword.”
Faramir was quiet for a few moments and Éowyn looked at him ardently. “Does it not please you?”
His face showed contentment and joy as he replied, “Yes, my love. It could not be more exquisitely suited for me than is its giver.”
He kissed her tenderly, and she responded with a passion that amazed him in its hunger. After a few moments, he drew away and after taking a deep breath, said in a low voice, “We have waited for this night for many months. Let us be held back from each other no longer.” Faramir stood and gently pulled Éowyn up, and once they were standing, Éowyn leaned into him, embracing his back with her arms. She nuzzled her face in his hair, then his beard, then she took her tongue and began to trace it from his jawbone up to his ear, which she then placed between her teeth, breathing into his sensitive organ.
Faramir let out a shuddering sigh. He had placed his hands at the small of her back but at these unexpected ministrations, he put them on her buttocks and pulled her tightly to him. “Éowyn,” he murmured as she continued to suck gently on his earlobe, “I am tempted to think that while I was in councils, you were visiting our library and studying some of the more - exotic texts that can be found there!”
She drew back and with a look of desire tempered with mischief, began to undo his silk shirt. Faramir’s face bore an expression of bliss, and he closed his eyes to savour every sensation that her fingers would bring. Button by button she opened his chemise, pulling the bottom of it out of his trousers so that she could slide her fingers under the shirt to his abdomen, up across his chest, rubbing her fingers in the curly brown hair that she discovered there. When she grasped a nipple in each hand, Faramir gasped and his eyes flew open.
“My love!” he exclaimed. “What have you been reading?” He looked at her, intrigue in his gaze. “I did not expect a maid, especially a shieldmaiden who had been so distant when first I met her to be so practiced in what brings a man pleasure!”
Éowyn lips turned up in a coy smile. “My dear husband,” she began, “a shieldmaiden I was. Books of the kind of which you speak have not been my reading, though I think now I must go in search of them when we return.” She continued to caress his chest, letting her fingers play across his hardened nibs. “But maid I am not.”
The face of the Prince of Ithilien fell. A rush of expressions flitted across it: disappointment, fury, hurt. He placed his hands on hers, and clasping her fingers to his chest with strong fingers, he looked searchingly into Éowyn’s grey eyes. “Not a maid?” he repeated dully.
Éowyn gazed back, confusion and anxiety emanating from her. “But Faramir, I told you that I had loved before, in my youth. Now I carry a precious memory of a brave son of Rohan, slain many years ago. You and I have spoken of that time. I did not mean to distress you.”
“What I feel is far beyond distress,” he said through thin lips. As waves of anger and distrust washed through him, he thought, Another has bedded my Éowyn!
"You are livid that I am not a maid, and yet..." she trailed off as with her strong fingers, she removed her hands from his grasp. He was her beloved, and yet he held his secrets too, and she felt those barbs as keenly as he felt those that she thought she had already pulled out from her past. Everything in her burned with desire, she wanted so to claim Faramir with every pore of her being, and yet Éowyn let go of her husband’s hands, then put her hands to her dress, clenching the fabric for a place to reground herself.
Her fury began to subside, and she continued, “Faramir, my heart’s desire, please hear me out before passing judgement.” Taking his hand, she led him to their bed, and poured him a half a chalice of wine from the table nearby. She proffered it to him, looking at him steadily, trying to gauge what emotions she could see in his eyes, their colour which seemed to her the very essence of twilight itself. His face was still flushed, but his jaw was no longer clenched. “I am now twenty-six years of age. I have seen many dreadful things.” She poured herself some of the wine, then spoke again. “I have faced them all, without fear. Before I met you, before my life and this world itself went through such dramatic changes, I did yearn for a warrior’s death and a barrow, joined in the earth with my kin. But many things have happened since then, and oblivion is no longer my pursuit.”
They lay prone on the bed, Faramir’s shirt still open, Éowyn mirroring his body’s position. She leaned on her elbow, putting her right hand behind her ear.
“I loved another. We were intimates, only on one occasion, and until recently he visited both my dreams and my nightmares.” She sat up and had some of her wine, then turned to face Faramir. “But you do not see me getting beside myself lamenting the fact that my husband, he whose body I wish to claim for my own, has already enjoyed the flesh of another.”
Faramir gravely looked into the eyes of his wife, and found that his skin was burning with a previously unknown sensation of shame, surfacing without his knowledge, and most certainly without his permission.
Though chagrined at being correct about what she had heard, Éowyn felt a gentle wave of smug satisfaction roll through her as Faramir's face changed from scarlet blush to pale pallor and back again.
"Who told you? What? But that was..." The normally eloquent Prince, a master of words and turns of phrases, was spluttering. Éowyn calmly waited, and though still irked, held her tongue to wait and her what Faramir would say once he regained his composure.
Faramir cleared his throat and looked at his bride with a mildly defiant expression. "Dear Éowyn," he began, "it is true that I have lain in bed with a woman before today. Though not proud of it, I visited a particular establishment in Car Gwaloth** and had thought that such knowledge that I learned there would be brought to full fruition when I married." He looked hopefully at Éowyn, and she now saw a bit of melancholy in his visage, but she was unsure what to read into his expression. "I am a man, after all," he continued in a subdued voice. "and I did not have many dalliances. Certainly nothing compared to many others. My brother, for example."
Éowyn took his hand and between the kisses she bestowed on his fingertips, said, "And yet I should not raise an eyebrow, and should indeed be grateful of the few number of interludes that you have had, since I am but a woman." She stopped, then said simply, "You, who are honest and desire even-handed justice for all, are holding me, your delight, your equal," she paused, "to a different standard." Closing her eyes, she kissed the palm of his hand, then gazed at him again. "That is not fair."
Faramir looked at her with incredulity, then understanding, and as she silently watched, Éowyn understood that she could read the emotions that he felt just as mariners could read the ever-changing seas, both a blessing and a responsibility. He had quite simply never considered the inequality of what he believed to be acceptable for men but not for women when it came to matters of body and desire. “The heart of a warrior is not given lightly, my love,” she said, placing his hand to the warm skin of her chest above her heart. “Let us not quarrel any more about what has happened in the past; we belong to each other now.”
A sultry look that Éowyn had seen only rarely came to his eyes as he replied, “Indeed we do, and I think that we should begin to enjoy each other without further delay.” Faramir leaned over and kissed her fervently as Éowyn took him in her arms.
After a few moments she broke away from him, and breathing heavily she purred into his ear, “I think it is time for you to share what skills you learned, and I have no doubt that I will be greatly rewarded.” Faramir’s dark hair hung on his shoulders as he smiled, then ran a finger across her forehead, down her cheek and then down and down…
*Per HoME, Vol. XII, The Peoples of Middle-Earth: "It is said also that in 3020 Éowyn Éomund's daughter wedded Faramir, last Steward of Gondor and first Prince of Ithilien, in the king's house of Rohan.
**read Alon's Faramir-centred story, Closer to Fine, to understand this reference.
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