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A Lady High and Valiant

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King Elessar had come into the City with the Captains of the West following him, and the banner of the Kings floated from the topmost tower of the Citadel. As the King had passed the gates, Éomer of Rohan had embraced Éowyn his sister as she waited there, and even in the joy of that reunion they wept together a little for Théoden King of Rohan. And Éomer kissed his sister and saw that though she wept, yet it was but the weeping of grief for one who had been as a father to them, and though her shield-arm lay still in a linen sling, her face showed a woman hale and full of hope.

'Scarce could I hope to see you so, when I looked upon you last in the Houses of Healing, before the Army departed for the East, and when you would not come to the Field of Cormallen I feared that you sickened yet. Now is my joy complete.'

'Much did I lament I might not be in that last Riding, said the Lady. 'But let us not speak of that now. For we must go to the Citadel, where a great feast has been prepared to mark the return of the King, and to honour the Ringbearer and his companion and all the Army of the West that return in triumph from the Black Land, and all shall rejoice together.'

And they went up to the feast and were merry as all through the City, and they did not forget the fallen, but honoured them in joy.

The next morning, the Lady Éowyn came early to her brother where he was lodged in great honour in a house in the Citadel, and where she too had now removed from the Houses of Healing, and they sat upon a terrace that looked north to the road to their own lands of Rohan and felt the soft breeze that seemed to come to out of that land to Gondor, laden with the scent of the grasslands in spring.

'I am glad to find you thus alone,' said Éowyn, 'for I have tidings that I wished to impart away from the ears of others, to my brother and to the Lord of the Mark.'

Then Éomer smiled and said, 'I fear you are behindhand, Éowyn, for the Lord Faramir has already come to me this morn. Nay, you must forgive him, for he believed that you yourself had already spoken of this matter to me yesternight.'

'And what did Lord Faramir say to you?'

'News to gladden my heart yet further even in this time: that you and he have plighted your troth and wish to be wed. Is this so?'

The Lady Éowyn answered, 'It is so.'

'I would say nothing,' said Éomer, 'against the merits of the Lord Faramir, or Prince of Ithilien as the King has made him; he is a noble prince who has shown great prowess and courage in the wars against the Enemy, and yet he is wise and gentle, too.  Surely you could find no better husband. And yet - My sister, do you truly desire to be his wife? For it is not so long that I thought perhaps you would have another as a husband, or none at all.'

'I know what you mean,' said Éowyn. 'You thought I loved the King Elessar. And you were right, for I did love him and I do yet. But I love him now as his men do, as you do, as one who is valiant and great and worthy of all love and honour, and not as I did then in despair, as a hope of escape, whether to Gondor or to death.'

Éomer was silent for a moment, and when he spoke his voice was heavy. 'So the Lord Aragorn himself said, when he tended you in the Houses of Healing. Éowyn, my sister, forgive me that I did not see before what your love and duty for King Théoden made you conceal. Had I but known, I should not have waited to destroy Gríma Wormtongue, whatever the penalty.'

'It is forgiven. These were the deeds of the Shadow; let that darkness not cloud the new day. You were ever a true brother to me.'

'Then if your heart is given to Lord Faramir, I shall call him brother also. And yet - before it is more widely known I too had something I thought of too great an import to speak of in the midst of merriment. I thought it on the long road to the Black Gate, and afterwards on the Field of Cormallen, and despite what you have said to me I shall say it now, so that when you choose it may be between two gifts, both well deserved, and not because even now you see no other way.'

'What would say?'

'That I had thought to offer you the captaincy of an Éored, that of Grimbold, who fell upon the Pelennor. For you have shown yourself both wise in rule and doughty in battle as any great lord of Rohan, a warrior who has earned renown. None of my lords would gainsay it, nay they would welcome the Lady of Rohan among them. A Marshal of the Riddermark I cannot yet make you, for the deserts of men who have served long must be heard, but in time it should be yours if you wished it. If you still seek glory in battle, there will be much work to do and honour to be found in the years to come.'

Then Éowyn looked to the north and she was silent for a long moment. 'You do me great honour,' she said at last. 'I do not deny that if you had made such an offer but two months ago I should have fallen on my knees and wept in thanks for it, nay had you but made me the least of your Riders. But now I have been to war and seen both its glory and its terror, and though the terror is heavy indeed, so is the glory very great.

'I no longer desire death in battle. For the Shadow is past and I see that though such death is a noble end, yet to live long and wisely in pursuit of peace is also to be honoured. I shall wed the Lord Faramir and be glad, and we shall dwell in Ithilien and heal the wounds made by the Enemy upon that land. But if war should come again to Ithilien, then brother I shall remember your words!'

 'Then let us celebrate your wedding, whenever you should wish.'

 'Let a year pass, in memory of Théoden. For as a father he was to me.'

'As a father he would take joy in your happiness.'

'He would,' said Éowyn, 'for he was ever the kindest of kinsmen to us. Thus I must weep a while yet.'

'Soon,' said King Éomer, 'I shall return to Rohan to make all ready to bring King Théoden to his long home. Will you come with me for that time? A new tapestry must be woven for the Golden Hall, of the Ride of the Rohirrim led by Théoden, Thengel's son, and a second to show the Lady of the Shield-Arm who defended her King from the foulest of foes, and won a great victory.'

And Éowyn said, 'I could dream of no higher honour in Meduseld. But do me this honour, also. That when you wed and your daughter is born and grown to womanhood, do not protect her with a prison. Let her, too, seek the glory that she will whether it be the bliss of marriage or of battle, or of learning as they say some of the elven women do. Let her not wish to seek for death, because her life is good.'