She’s right. The sun has come out now, turning the Royal Gardens into a sparkling, rain-splattered forest. The clouds will probably be blown back in by an uncooperative breeze, but for the moment, I relish being out of my chamber and bask in the late afternoon glow. I make the mistake of looking back towards Arwen and getting blinded by the sun’s reflection on her necklace. And then I realize that it is same necklace Aragorn had worn throughout the long, hard campaigning. That it should hurt my eyes now is too ironic to dwell on.
And I don’t have the time to, because as soon as my eyes readjust, I see Pippin standing in front of me on the terrace. Unlike Merry, he seems to have made quick work of changing into his set of Gondorian armor given to him by Faramir during the war. “Your ladyship…er…I mean, ladyships…or your princess-ship, and majesty, or…however it is,” Pippin stammers impetuously.
Arwen and I laugh in accord, then embrace him in turn. If there’s any part of my upcoming marriage I am enjoying, it is the chance to see old friends again. There are some ancient-looking stone seats outside, covered over with moss in some places and ivy in others, and we sit down on them in a semi-circle to watch as Aragorn and Faramir try their hand at archery below. And for the first time in what feels like an eternity since the days of bloody strife, I see them together.
Both are skilled veterans and match each other just about even with bow and arrow. They laugh together and tease each other, like little boys. I heard about their friendship blossoming back in Rohan, how the king had insisted on having Faramir join him at hunting, fencing, and archery to build up his strength. Over the course of such ventures, the rivalry of their ancestors seemed to have dissolved completely. I think back on all they have suffered, and I am pleased they are able to enjoy an hour of innocent fun.
The final arrows are loosed at the targets. Faramir wins by a slight margin. The two of them go on jesting, Aragorn insisting he had let his opponent win because of his upcoming wedding, and Faramir insisting that he would have given Aragorn the beating he deserved earlier on in the game had the king not been hosting the ceremony.
Aragorn turns towards us on the terrace and waves. I feel my blood turn hot, coursing like lava. Silly reaction. I was sure it would have died away after a year of separation. He is coming towards us now. I can see his strands of unruly hair whip across his rugged, handsome face. I see him looking to Arwen, just as he should, and Arwen smiling like an angel. I bite my lip hard, hoping the pain will shake myself out of my inner misery. He is just below us now.
“Arwen…” he calls, then jabbers something in Elfish at which she laughs. It has been a year since their marriage, and yet they still seem stuck in their own little world. I lower my eyes to my hands and keep clasping and unclasping on my lap. Finally he notices me. I know he has, I can feel his eyes on me.
“Your Majesty.” I stand and curtsy stiffly.
He chuckles and bounds up the flight of stairs separating us. “Oh, my dear Eowyn,” he whispers and grasps both my hands. I feel my face flush.
“If you will excuse me and my knight of Gondor,” Arwen mutters with an indicative glance at Pippin.
“We’re going in so soon?” the hobbit inquires dejectedly.
The queen clears her throat and turns back to me and Aragorn. “I believe you both would like some time to yourselves after so long an absence.”
With that, she gestures to Pippin and they both heads back indoors. I must admit I feel a sense of relief.
“Can you ever forgive me, Eowyn?” Aragorn inquires.
“Yes,” he affirms. “For failing to invite you to the palace before your wedding day?”
“Oh,” I exhale. “That.”
“I would have done so, but I did not wish to interfere with your work in Rohan. Now that your brother is king and you have become the heir apparent, I know your days have become even more rigorous than before.”
“Indeed,” I affirm. “There is much to be done since…since…”
He puts his hand under my chin and gently lifts my gaze to his. “I have heard of your tireless work to make restitution to your people for the ravages of the war, at your own expense. While your brother may rule, you are the queen of their hearts.”
I blush again. “Have you also heard that I now hold a rank in the Rohirrim?”
He looks less surprised than I thought he would be. But of course, he got to know my wild ways long ago.
“It’s primarily a ceremonial position,” I continue. “And King Eomer still insists that I abstain from wearing armor. But I do oversee their training and make my reviews of them.”
“You deserve the honor more than any man, lady,” he states. “Without you, the Rohirrim, and all of us, would be nothing more than a vague memory.”
“We all did our part,” I respond, “and continue to do so. I don’t know how to thank you for the supplies you have sent to us over the past year.”
Aragorn shrugs. “I only wish I could have sent more. But Gondor, too, is in sore need of rebuilding. The damage to the city is widespread, and the widows and orphans are too numerous to count, as in your own country. Lord Faramir has done much good by them. As the steward, he has overseen their care, as well as assistance for the wounded and maimed.”
“He has told me but little about his work in his letters,” I comment. I realize suddenly how little I know about him in general, in spite of our consistent correspondence. We usually speak about our mutual interests, art and music and the great literary epics. I send him Rohanese poetry, and he sends me back Gondorian verses. Only rarely do we speak about the war, even though that was what first brought us together.
As if conjured up by my own thoughts, I see Lord Faramir headed towards us. He sees me right away and his eyes light up. Aragorn calls down jokingly, “May I kiss the bride early? As a consolation for my desperate loss?”
Faramir turns to me and inquires, “Is the lady willing?”
“Oh, I’ve been put out enough for one day!” Aragorn laughs, then kisses me quickly on the lips. It is over in a flash, and it seems my fantasy is over too. It shakes me awake with the realization that he is not my own and never will be. He never could be. Sustaining the shock of long avoided reality, I feel as if I might cry over my own stupidity in ever expecting anything more. But before I can do so, I feel Aragorn’s healing hands on my face, and he kisses my forehead. There is no cynicism in it, not even a hint of jest. Then he pulls me close to him and whispers, “Oh, my Eowyn, my dear Eowyn. You don’t know what it means to have you back, my sister. My friend.”
I understand now what Arwen tried to tell me inside. He does love me, and he always will. Just not in the same way as I had once hoped.
Faramir and I are alone in the Royal Gardens. It is the first time we have been together since Aragorn’s coronation, and now we must at least try to mentally prepare ourselves for our wedding, set to take place in a few short hours. Somehow we both seem at an unconquerable loss for words, walking along side-by-side, mutually nervous about meeting each other’s gaze.
“I know,” Faramir says suddenly, looking into my soul with his warm brown eyes.
“Know what?” I snap, startled by the connotations.
“I know what it is to love, even though no love is returned.” He sighs deeply. “Or in your case, the same kind of love is not returned.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I struggle, but I know he has the upper hand.
“You and I were brought together by more than our wounds. It was our reason…our reason for charging into the jaws of death, not caring whether we would ever come back. It was the same, Eowyn.”
“In one form or another, I suppose,” I concede. “I went out to aid my people, because I felt that my arm was strong enough to strike for my homeland. You went out to keep hope alive for your people.”
“It was my father who sent me out on that doomed charge. He wished for my death.”
I stop short, stunned by this revelation. I had no idea.
“Even after I was taken back wounded,” he continues, “he covered me with oil, laid me on the fire pit in the royal chamber from which you just came, and…and…if it had not been for little Pippin warning the Wizard Gandalf, my place was in the fire…”
“No more, please,” I rasp. I am unable to process how anyone could be so cruel to him, much less his own father. Faramir is so kind and gentle. So sensitive and intelligent. Now I know what horrors Arwen was seeing in the royal chamber by the fire pit. “What evil could have poisoned King Denethor’s mind?” I think out loud.
“He…he wanted me to be like my brother, Boromir,” he explains haltingly. “I loved Boromir dearly, but we were very different. When he was killed – after trying to take the ring – my father became more obsessed with my faults.”
“Your faults?” I scoff. “It was your brother who nearly plunged us all into darkness by trying to take the power for himself!”
“No, Eowyn,” Faramir sighs, shaking his head. “He was as good a man as any could wish for, and died saving Merry and Pippin’s lives. And as for the ring…” He pauses and wipes away the drops of perspiration forming on his brow. “I tried so hard to be what my father wanted. I tried to the point of almost killing the best part of myself. I couldn’t see past what he wanted to do be, so I become hard. Embittered. So desperate to prove myself, I almost went against my own good sense and brought about the undoing of us all. Yes, Eowyn, I almost took the ring, too.”
“Then I suppose it really was too strong for anyone to resist completely,” I respond quietly.
I think of poor brave Frodo, the little hobbit who carried the ring to Mount Doom, wearing himself to the bone by carrying the evil of the world around his neck. And all he could think about was his Shire, and the simple country folk, and the hills and dales of home. Until he could not think of anything, that is, not food nor water nor the breath of life. The pulse and pull had been too strong for even him, the purest of us all, not familiar with the lure of fame or power. He slipped it on his finger before the end, only to be saved by the creature Gollum, corrupted by the ring beyond recognition, who tore it away from him and fell to his doom. And so the ring was destroyed. Now Frodo is off in the Grey Havens with the Elves, a place where the horror of what he has seen may be healed.
“In truth, we all desired to be The Lord of the Rings at one point or another,” I state. “For everyone, it might have fulfilled a desire. And we all have desires, don’t we? If it had fallen into my hands, no doubt I would have been too weak to withstand it. As you say, we are both similar in this, you and I. You would have taken it to make your father love you. There was a time when I would have taken it…” My voice trails off.
“To make Aragorn love you,” he finishes.
I nod. I feel so ashamed, so deeply pained by this realization. There was indeed a time when I would have done anything to make him love me like he loved Arwen.
“And now?” Faramir croaks.
“Now is now, and then is then,” I answer. “I have grown much since then, Faramir.”
“But have you grown…to love me?” he whispers. “You know I would never force you to be my wife, Eowyn. I would rather die than cage your free spirit.”
I approach him slowly, my heart in my throat. “You…you could never…cage me,” I realize out loud. “You would…free me.”
I’m standing just in front of him now, and I reach out and touch his face. I feel the battle scar running down his cheek, the one he got when he was dragged from his horse by the Nazgul. He takes my hand and kisses it.
“I remember when we were in the healing place together,” he whispers. “How you changed the bandages on my chest and spread ointment on my face.”
“No one else was there who was in good enough health or spirits to do it,” I respond. “It was the day of darkness, when the sun hid its face behind the mountain ash. Everyone who had legs to run had run, or arms to fight were out fighting.”
He turned his eyes down. “All the more reason you should not have had me on your mind. But you came to me in the darkness and nursed me and spoke to me kindly, you, with your shattered arm and sorrowed spirit. You are the only person who ever…”
“You forget to mention that you also bandaged my arm and bolstered my spirit with your assurance that the darkness would not last. That some greater power was at work.”
I suddenly realize as I speak how very much we needed each other at that moment, and how very much we need each other now. Arwen has her Aragorn, and Aragorn his Arwen. Now I know I must have my Faramir, and he must have me.
“Eowyn,” he murmurs. “If only I could explain…if only I could put into words…”
I stop him from trying by putting my lips to his. It is the first real kiss we two have shared. It feels so good to be in his arms, so right and fitting. “You have mended my wings,” I whisper in his ear. “All is made new.”
If you have missed the first part of “The Marriage of the White Lady”, click here.
Avellina Balestri (aka Rosaria Marie) is one of the founding members and the Editor-in-Chief of The Fellowship of the King, a literary magazine with a strong Tolkienite influence (which, by the way, is open to submissions). She reads and writes extensively, and eagerly seeks out the deeper spiritual significance of popular fandoms such as The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games. And yes, she does have a soft spot in her heart for classic Disney movies, The Princess Bride, and Merlin 😉 She is also a recording artist, singing traditional folk songs and her own compositions as well as playing the penny whistle and bodhran drum. She draws her inspiration from the Ultimate Love and Source of Creativity, and hopes to share that love and creativity with others.