Author’s Note: one reviewer has expressed surprise that I would not only make Buffy speak ‘Buffy’ but that Tolkien’s characters don’t—that they’re speaking ‘Tolkien’ instead of modern English. Apparently, this is a novel idea. To which I say, if I’m the first person to clue in that those characters would actually use the same language patterns that their creator gave them in the ‘bible’, then it’s a sad, sad world.
The Gift of Death, Chapter 29
The mood of the people of Minas Tirith was not light after the departure of the Host, as those going to battle Sauron were called. Citizens of the White City scurried about as if a shadow were upon them at all times, even as they rebuilt their walls and lives. With Denethor dead and Boromir off to war, rule of the city fell to Faramir and, to her utter shock, Dawn.
“You will be their Lady once you are wed to Boromir,” Faramir explained to her the third time someone asked her for permission to do something. “It is not unusual to take up the reins of control before the marriage occurs, if there be need.” They were sitting in the garden of the houses of healing with Eowyn and Merry, all four of them recuperating from their shadow sickness at differing paces. Faramir was nearly to full strength once more, and Dawn was rallying as well, but Eowyn was still wan and far too thin, her hair lying dull and lifeless on her narrowing shoulders.
“But… I have no idea what I’m doing!” she wailed, and burst into tears. It had not taken long for the hormone fairy to visit Dawn, and it had been followed on swift wings by its sister, the patron saint of morning-sickness, as well. Consequently, she was somewhat more erratic (and green) than usual. “What if I do something wr-wrong?”
He pulled her into a comforting embrace and rubbed his hand in soothing circles over her back while Merry held her hand and made sympathetic noises. “It will be of no consequence if you make an error, Dawn,” he told her, looking over her head at Eowyn, pleading for help.
Eowyn smiled faintly and took one of Dawn’s hands. “I will guide you, if you will let me,” she said. “Ever have I been reared to rule, though now it seems unlikely that rearing will be put to use. But I will teach you what you need to know.” For the first time since leaving her sickbed, the shield-maid’s eyes held the faintest gleam of life.
Faramir was glad to see it. As the days passed and the four of them spent more time together, he had become both increasingly fond of and anxious about Eowyn. He was convinced the reason she healed so much more slowly was because she did not care if she lived or not. Indeed, sometimes she seemed almost saddened she had not perished upon the field. There were moments that such depths of sorrow and guilt could be read in her eyes that Faramir felt he could cry on her behalf.
Ailing as she was, she looked much like a drowned rat with her sallow skin, lank hair, and increasingly bony frame. Why, then, did his chest ache in a suspiciously central region whenever he looked at her? It is foolishness, he admonished himself, and madness. She has lost her uncle, and her heart belongs to Aragorn, if Dawn tells me true.
He sighed and glanced over at her again. However, it was not Eowyn who caught his eye, but Merry. The Hobbit was grinning broadly at him and Faramir got a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach which only deepened when Merry opened his mouth.
“I say, Eowyn, weren’t you saying before how you’d like to take a walk along the wall and look out at the river?” Eowyn frowned at Merry’s sudden change of subject and he hastened to continue. “Because Faramir was just telling me earlier how he wished to do the same.” As matchmaking techniques went, it was one of the more transparent ones, and Faramir sat on his hands to keep from burying his face in them.
“Merry…” Dawn began, about to tell him to shut up and stop embarrassing her almost-brother-in-law, but a gentle hand on her arm halted her.
“He is right, I would like to see the river,” Eowyn said quietly, and offered a smile to Faramir as she stood.
He fairly leapt to his feet, and took the hand she offered, tucking it snugly in the crook of his arm. He led her away, shortening his stride to match hers, and Dawn called after them.
“Hey, Faramir, see if you can piss her off a little. Her being so quiet and nice is starting to scare me… where’s the woman who screamed her head off in Edoras because Aragorn wanted to take the Paths of the Dead?”
Eowyn ducked her head, a blush suffusing her pale cheeks. Faramir bit the inside of his cheek to keep a smile off his face, and led her away.
3 weeks later
Still with no word from the Host, morale in Minas Tirith had sunk to a new low. The four Shadow patients had begun taking long daily walks along with wall, staring outward for any hint of the return of their loved ones, and gradually were healing good as new. Dawn was eating enough for two and crying enough for seven, but at least she was just as likely to cry over good things as bad.
“You look so pretty!” she bawled at Eowyn one morning when the shield-maiden appeared for breakfast wearing one of her old gowns, for she had finally put on enough weight to keep it from slipping off her shoulders.
“Thank you, dear friend,” Eowyn replied briskly. “Now, do stop blubbering lest you put Merry off his food.” Along with a few pounds, it would seem Eowyn had also regained most of her former businesslike outlook on life, and would brook no silliness in her presence.
Fortunately, it was exactly what Dawn needed, and never failed to shut her up when she got started, to Faramir’s great relief. He just was not equipped to deal with weepy, expectant females, and not for the first time wished he’d been able to join the Host on their journey to Mordor. Surely risking death was preferable to listening to Eowyn scare Dawn speechless with tales of bizarre things happening during pregnancy?
“—and her ankles swelled so large she could never again take a bath, for her feet would not stay underwater, but would fly upwards so suddenly her head would submerge. She almost drowned four times!”
“—her stretch marks were so pronounced, ‘twas like claw-marks across her belly. Her husband thought she’d been attacked by orcs!”
“—the child was a month early, and still more than a stone in weight! A miracle she wasn’t split asunder, though it was over a month before she could sit upright again… her husband began chasing other women before the year was out.”
“Oh, really!” Merry snapped one early-spring day.
“Indeed,” Faramir agreed fervently, but his relief was to be short-lived.
“You said you would tell us the tale of the watery-mole child, and instead you blather on about these silly tales.” For Merry had developed quite a morbid interest in Eowyn’s grim accounts of childbirthing. His favourite was of the woman who had carried her babe for several years, and when she was finally delivered of it, found it was made not of flesh, but of stone!
Faramir gripped fistfuls of his hair and groaned, wondering if he actually gave in to the urge and ripped it out, would it impress upon these three how deeply he did not want to speak of such things? Opening his eyes, he found them watching him with varying expressions. Dawn blinked rapidly, Merry merely looked impatient, and Eowyn was smiling at him.
“Come, then, let us walk,” she said, and held out her hand to him. Merry made as if to join them, but Dawn grabbed the Hobbit and held him tightly against her.
“I’ll tell you about the watery-mole,” she told him, and he gave Faramir and Eowyn a last shrewd glance before settling into the half-circle of Dawn’s arm for the tale.
And so she did, and he was properly amazed and mystified by such an occurrence. He had scarcely finished his exclamations over it when everything seemed to… warp, somehow. The air thickened, and became hard to breathe; the light streaming around them took on a greyish tinge, and all sound ceased. Then the ground beneath them gave a mighty shudder, as if sighing in relief. For an endless, breathless moment Dawn and Merry stared at each other, and then turned as one toward the east. In the far, far distance a column of pure black streaked up over the mountains, and then as suddenly as it had begun, everything went back to normal.
“What in the blue hell was that?” Dawn demanded. Merry was incapable of speech, however, and just motioned toward where Eowyn and Faramir had disappeared around the bend. They stood and dashed after their friends, coming to a screeching half (in Dawn’s case literally, because Merry slammed into her back when she stopped so suddenly) at the sight that met them.
A fresh wind had come to stir the still air, and Eowyn’s hair was blowing wildly about like a golden cloud. And in the middle of it, oblivious to everything else but each other, she was kissing Faramir like her life depended on it.
Perhaps it did, Dawn thought. Eowyn had been so despondent over Aragorn, over the futility of loving him, over her grief for Theoden’s death, over her worry for Eomer and everyone else. Dawn hadn’t been anywhere near as frightened by Eowyn’s horror stories as she’d let on, but she knew they made her friend feel better, that they brought a sense of normalcy and mundanity back into a world gone mad, and so pretended to be properly horrified.
Eowyn needed to be useful, needed to be needed. She’d always been valued for her practicality and sensible nature, but no one had really seen or understood her immense courage and boundless strength. No one, that is, except for Faramir. He’d seen it from the first, had never doubted Eowyn would rally from her despair, had patiently encouraged the woman until she had not only accepted that she was alive, but embraced it. It was natural for her to love Faramir. Probably inevitable.
Dawn grinned, and hugged Merry to her side. “Couldn’t happen to two nicer people,” she whispered into his pointed ear.
He beamed up at her, and patted her belly. “It already did.”
2 weeks after that
“I’m showing!” Dawn shrieked in delight as she and Eowyn ran around getting dressed, for the Host was finally returned from its siege of Mordor and camped but a few miles away from Minas Tirith, near Osgiliath. “Look!” And she pulled the front of her gown tight against her. “Boromir’s gonna be so excited.”
“That, my friend, is the result of too many good meals and not enough exercise,” Eowyn told her with a grin, and ducked to avoid the pillow Dawn swung at her head. “Now stop mauling your gown, else you cause it to wrinkle.”
“You’re just jealous,” Dawn teased, obediently releasing her gown and going to brush her hair before the mirror.
“I do not see how that is possible,” Eowyn replied calmly as she fastened a chain of silver and amber around her slender white neck. “For within a year, it will be likely I find myself in the same condition.”
Dawn spun to face her. “What? Faramir?”
Eowyn smiled, just a hint of her former shyness making an appearance, and nodded. “He has asked me to wed with him.”
“Oh, yay!” Dawn exclaimed, hugging her friend tightly. “Faramir is adorable, and—ooh! We’re gonna be sisters!”
“You do not mind having another?” Eowyn turned Dawn to face away and began lacing up the back of the brunette’s gown.
“It’ll be great to have a second sister,” Dawn assured her. “It’s not like Buffy will spend a lot of time here once this is all over…” her words trailed off as she realized what she was saying, and her eyes met Eowyn’s in the mirror. “She’s not, is she? Where will she and Legolas go? Now that Aragorn’s going to be king, where will Boromir and I go? What about you and Faramir? What’s going to happen to all of us?”
“It is impossible to know, Dawn,” Eowyn replied sadly, taking the other’s hands and squeezing gently. “As it always is, in dark times.”
“But these dark times come swiftly to a close,” said a voice from the door, and the turned to see Boromir standing in the doorway, Faramir just behind and peering over his taller brother’s shoulder.
“Budge over, you great lump,” Faramir said with mock-gruffness, pushing past Boromir to go to Eowyn. “How long do you think they shall stare at each other, dear one?” he asked her, taking her hand and lifting to his lips.
Eowyn did not answer, but surveyed the scene; her friend stood stock-still, blue eyes huge in her face as they roamed over the form of her betrothed, searching for any indication of injury. Dawn’s hand had unconsciously gone to her belly, cupping the nonexistent mound there protectively.
As for Boromir—ah, the look on his face was extraordinary. He was weary, yes, and had a heavy growth of beard on his tanned face, but the bleakness that had been stamped upon his features for so long was gone. In its place resided love, satisfaction, pride, and oh, such hope. Such hope as Eowyn had never seen before, and as Boromir came forward and took Dawn in his arms, she felt release the final hold the Shadow had placed upon her, felt it slip away and fade into the ethers.
Faramir slid his arms around her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder as they watched the reunion of the two lovers. “I find that I no longer fear the morrow,” he murmured into her ear. “For it seems very bright to me.”
She turned to look at him, her eyes glowing, and kissed his cheek. “And to me, beloved.”