The Marriage of the White Lady: A Lord of the Rings Fan-Fiction Story

   

     It is one of those damp and foggy days, with sporadic rain pattering on the city of Minas Tirith. A poor time to have a wedding celebration, in my humble estimation. But here I am in one of the chambers of the royal palace, being adorned in all sorts of bridal finery by a bevy of giddy, chattering maidservants. And I hate it. My skin feels scratchy, and I yearn for the feel of armor against me, to lock myself up tight inside of it and hide myself from the world. I have worn the warrior’s garb only once, and yet I feel that part of me has gone into it and part of it has remained behind within me.

    Now I am to be married to a man who knows what it is to charge into the barbed tips of a thousand arrows, driven on by a senseless heroism that cannot be quelled. A man whose quiet nature often keeps his deepest thoughts a secret. A man who I can call with all sincerity one of my dearest friend. That’s saying quite a lot, considering the assortment of new friends I made just a year ago. And these were not just random acquaintances. These were blood-brethren. Soul-savers. Keepers of a code that rescued our world from the edge of night. And yet, even so, I wonder what marriage to this man will entail and fear being restrained by anyone, like these bridal garments are restraining my ability to breathe.

    While I muse upon my unalterable course, a messenger approaches. One of my ladies begins to deride him for interrupting their efforts to prepare me for the wedding.

    “But there is a visitor I believe the Princess Eowyn would be most anxious to see,” he insists. He doesn’t have to say any more.

    “Merry!” I squeal, flinging a burgundy robe over my underdress, and running out of the room, despite my ladies’ protestations. I have been waiting so long to see my hobbit friend again. It seems like forever since we last saw each other at the great coronation feast before he headed back on the return journey to his country Shire. And even longer since we rode together in the headlong charge of the Rohirrim at Pelannor Fields.

    When we were both unhorsed that day, I was sure we would never live to see the night. But wounded though we were, we still took on the Witch King, me, a mere maiden along with a tiny hobbit whose life had been spent tilling the soil! But by sheer luck, or some force greater, we killed the beast that no man could slay.

    My wartime memories give way to happier thoughts as I see my friend standing in the corridor, his green traveling cloak draped across his back, his bundle of gear still slung over his shoulder. His small eyes light up as he sees me.

    “My lady!”

    “Merry!” I lean down and press him tight against me. We are past the point of formalities. “It’s so good, so very, very good to see you! Where are Pippin and Sam?”

    “Pip got himself intercepted by Lord Faramir at the gate, being a knight of Gondor and all,” he explains. “Sam wanted to come, truly he did, but his Rosie’s well on her way to having twins and…..”

    “You be sure to tell Sam that he has all my best wishes, and I expect to be meeting the little ones one of these days. Until then…”  I take Merry by the hand and genially drag him into the nearest chamber. Then we sit down and start talking. It is fast, silly talk. And the kind of glistening laughter that could easily melt into tears of joy for the living and sorrow for the dead. Old battle scares heal ever so slowly.

    When the emotional excitement finally winds down, my hobbit friend gazes at me oddly.

    “Lady Eowyn…I mean, Princess…how you have changed.”

    “Changed?” I repeat, standing up and swooshing my petticoats. “Did you expect I would be wed in armor? Or is it the fact that my brother Eomer is now the King of Rohan and I am princess, heir apparent?”

    “It’s not that; it’s you. You’re all burnt up inside.”

    I stop short at Merry’s simple summary of the inner turmoil that I have been trying so hard to suppress. In truth, my heart has felt like a dying ember, my body like a broken clay vessel. Sometimes at night, I lay shivering for hours after being roused from sleep by fearful dreams. In my nightmares, I feel myself being thrown from a war horse and hear the bones in my arm split under my weight. Once again, I am searching desperately for Merry. I am thrusting my weapon into the head of the beast. My uncle is dying in my arms. And then comes Aragorn. The magical touch of his hand on my forehead, his noble voice murmuring the words of life.

    “Don’t worry about me, little friend,” I reassure Merry. “It is nothing that cannot be remedied with time.”

    “I know your marriage is King Aragorn’s wish and that the alliance would aid Rohan greatly. But…are you pleased to be marrying my Lord Faramir?” he inquires.

    “Why wouldn’t I be pleased?”

    “Perhaps because…because…” he begins to explain.

    I am saved from Merry’s words of truth by the arrival of another messenger. This time, one from the inner court, bearing the Tree of Gondor on his livery.

    “Her Majesty Arwen, Queen of Gondor, requests the presence of Princess Eowyn, White Lady and Shield Maiden of Rohan, at the Royal Chamber,” he trumpets.

    Arwen? What could she possibly want with me now? Of course, I knew she would be attending the wedding with King Aragorn this evening. After all, he was the one who had summoned me from Rohan, insisted that the marriage take place at the Royal Palace, and kept me shut up in these comfortable yet confining quarters for the past three days to get ready for the supreme event of my life that I’m having difficulty getting enthused about. But why did she want me now, before I was even finished with my preparations?

***

        I see Arwen seated on one of the two great thrones of Gondor, the one set aside for queen and consort. She is, by any estimation, most regal and beautiful to behold. There is an enchantment that seems to hover over her. I have only spoken to her once before, on the day Aragorn was crowned, and that was a brief formal encounter, surrounded by crowds. I have never had a conversation with her alone.

    She sees me coming towards her on the long crimson carpet and smiles. I feel a surge of so many emotions I clench my teeth. In the bitter recesses of my soul, I would think she is smiling to mock me with her success and my failure. But I know better than that by looking into her steady eyes, and seeing the sincerity beaming from them.

    I see her stand up from her throne and come forward to meet me, like a friend would do. I turn my gaze down and try to make an awkward curtsy. But she takes my hands in her own and pulls me up straight.

    “What is this?” she whispers, her soft Elfish accent warming my cold veneer. “We have no need for such things here in this place.”

    She looks about the chamber thoughtfully, and her glance settles on what looks like an old fire pit. I know she sees something in her mind’s eye, something dreadful out of the days of battle, when the minions of Sauron descended on the city with claw and teeth, sharpened metal and molten fire. Suddenly I wish more than anything to have the power of the Elves to cut through time with their piercing vision. There is something important that took place in the royal palace that I do not yet know.

    But she has returned to the present now, gesturing for me to sit beside her on one of royal thrones. It is the one belonging to Aragorn. I shake my head, hesitant to accept the honor, feeling suddenly sensitive over proper protocol with regard to the king’s chair.

    “He would want to have you sit here,” Arwen insists. She gazes at me for a moment and then adds, “You hold a part of his heart, and you always will.”

    I am put to shame by her gracious stance. She almost died for love of him, just as I almost did. She was willing to risk leaving this world for the hope of having him, while I was willing to risk it when I realized he could never be mine. She has him now, and could lord it over me, but she doesn’t. Instead, she concedes that there is still a bond between myself and her husband. I bite my lip and take my seat with no further fuss.

    At first, our conversation revolves around slight things, the rain, the blossoms on the trees, the palace, the wedding preparations. Then we begin to speak of the homes we both left behind to come to Gondor. I speak of Rohan, great halls and wide plains, the fine steeds and the fearless riders. She speaks of Rivendell, her Elfin kingdom that has now faded away, gone across the sea to the Gray Havens. Suddenly I realize that she too has lost so much, almost all that she has ever known. I sense a weakness creeping into her voice, a tremor in her hands. Court gossip says she has been ill, and I wonder if the cause is more homesickness than anything else.

    “But you have him, at least,” I whisper, although I know I should not.

    “As long as I do, I can have joy,” she responds, swallowing the lump in her throat. “But what of the time…when he is gone?” Her eyes are glassed over again, seeing far into the future, seeing the corpse of a king prepared for burial. I shudder.

    Suddenly I understand that Elfin immortality will be her greatest torment. In marrying a man, she tied herself to the mortal world, and yet she will linger on long after Aragorn is dead. He may be part of a race with an unusually long life-span, but the end will come for him, sooner or later. And she will be left here alone, among strangers in a strange land.

    She winces and touches her belly, her fingers still trembling slightly. I instinctively place my hand over hers, feeling how cold it is. Then I feel something. A movement, ever so slight. It all becomes clear to me.

    “You are with child?”

    Arwen nods.

    “Have you told Aragorn yet?”

    “I wished to speak with you first,” she states.

    I am taken aback. “Why…why would you seek me out first?”

    She shrugs. “There are some things a woman longs to tell another. But I have no one to confide in here. Aragorn had hoped we might become friends.” She looks at me intently. “I had hoped we might become friends. He speaks of you often, of your courage and strength and kindness. I thought I might confide in you, if anyone.”

    Again, I feel ashamed. I had foolishly assumed her husband was all the companionship she would ever need. But now I realize loneliness takes many forms.

    The queen looks down at her belly again, her gaze penetrating. “This was the child that brought me back,” she whispers. “I saw him in the woods. A beautiful boy with golden hair and eyes as blue as sky. And Aragorn was holding him and smiling.” She inhales deeply. “I could not leave after that, even if there was the slightest chance these things might come to pass.”

    Arwen turns her eyes back to me. “I was not afraid then, but, strange to say, I am afraid now. It is all so new to me. I am afraid…afraid I will fail…”

    Suddenly I am worried myself. She does look terribly pale. I can’t bear to think of Aragorn going through more tragedy, not after everything he has been through already. I try to put on a cheerful front, so as not to frighten her more.

    “You have no cause for apprehension,” I insist. “It’s all more natural than it seems.”

    Her face lights up. “Tell me, tell me what I must know. Everything.”

    So we speak about it. Pregnancy and birthing and everything. Not that I have had first hand experience in any of this, but I try to sound as confident as I can, hoping that my old nurse’s lessons on the facts of life were sound enough to be repeated.

    At the end of my chattering, Arwen smiles contentedly. “You have given me much comfort in knowing what it to come.”

    “And if you want me…I mean, when the time comes…”

    “You shall be the first one I call.” I can tell she is in earnest. But, truth be told, I know hardly anything about how to behave when someone is in labor. Perhaps it is just a friend that she needs, even if that friend is generally ignorant.

    She stands up, looking serene and dignified, transformed from a frightened woman back into a regal monarch. “Will you join me now in the terrace? The rain has let up for some time now, and the King and Lord Faramir are having a contest outside in honor of the coming ceremony.”

    I hesitate. Honestly, I do not feel like seeing either of them, especially at the same time. I dread the emotions of my heart will addle my head. Nevertheless, I feel obliged to accept. This elf-woman is the queen, after all.

***

    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.

    “Princess Eowyn.”

    “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.

    “Forgive you?”

    “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 verse. 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?”

    “I…I…”

    “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 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.”

By Avellina Balestri

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