Faramir stood with Éowyn near the furthest reach of the Citadel wall, arms wrapped around her, enjoying the crisp breeze that rolled down Mindolluin. Her golden hair was so beautiful against the deep blue of his mother's mantle, and the feel of her cheek against his more lovely still. He frowned as he looked down upon the wasteland that was once the Pelennor. In time, it will recover. We have time, now. But that would be long years, and he wondered where the food for the weeks and months immediately ahead would be found. Anórien was similarly trampled. Grain would be dear throughout Gondor for two harvests at the least, and probably poor harvests for several years beyond that.
Éowyn must have felt a change in him, for she turned her head and looked at him questioningly. 'Faramir? What is it, my love?"'
'Nothing,' he quickly said, with a smile. She gave him a disbelieving look. Faramir sighed, knowing better than to dissemble, and gestured with his chin towards the battlefield below. 'Nothing that can be solved for now. I was thinking of harvests. Even in victory, we will suffer for some time.'
Éowyn opened her mouth to speak, then her eyes moved to something beyond him and she stepped away and inclined her head. 'Lord Steward.'
'You are mistaken,' was his father's acerbic reply.
Faramir turned, wondering at Denethor's presence in the Citadel. His father glowered at them both. This was not precisely how Faramir had intended to introduce his beloved to Denethor. But mayhap this will bring you some joy. Denethor had refused to enter the City when he had returned from Anórien a few days past, claiming too many tasks required him to remain in the makeshift garrison just beyond the first circle wall. Faramir did not mind walking up and down the mountain to meet with Denethor and the other captains, for they were burdened and wearied trying to bring order to the aftermath, but knew the true root of his father's reluctance. Faramir bowed respectfully. 'Captain, it is good to see you. How may I be of service?' He looked his father in the eye and smiled, willing his stubborn sire to accept the love and forgiveness he offered.
Denethor's gaze wavered and he started to duck his head, then his eyes fixed on Éowyn. He stepped around Faramir and stared at her, no, at the mantle she wore. 'Where did you get that? Your cloak.'
If the old Steward's demand unsettled her, it did not show. 'From Faramir. He gave…'
'It is not his to give!' Faramir's heart sank, and he cursed his own thoughtlessness. He knew how dear his mother's belongings were to his father.
With a smooth motion, Éowyn slipped the mantle from her shoulders and held it out to Denethor. 'I beg forgiveness then, my lord, and return it to you. I knew not that it belonged to another.'
The two stood for a long moment, looking at each other over the garment in Éowyn's outstretched hand. Denethor slowly took it from her, gathering it into his arms before resting his face in the cloth, hugging it to him. Another long moment passed before he looked up. 'Did you find the swan?' he asked.
Éowyn nodded. 'Yes, near the hem. A bold little swan in the stars.' A tiny hint of a smile came and went on his father's face. 'Whose cloak is this, sir?'
'A little swan's.' Something not quite a smile came back to Denethor's face. 'This was my wedding present to my wife. It was winter and her southern clothes were not enough to ward off the cold.'
Éowyn smiled sweetly. 'It has kept me warm upon these heights. Thank you, and your wife.'
A sharp gust from the mountain made her shiver. Denethor stepped forward and cast the mantle back about her shoulders. 'A poor host am I to allow you to be chilled for another's mistake.' Faramir tried not to exhale too loudly in relief. He knew that tone of voice – his father was intrigued, not angry. Denethor offered his arm to Éowyn and led her to the nearest stone seat. 'Would you hear a tale of a little swan?'
'Yes, my lord, I would.'
Denethor looked at the cloak, an odd expression on his face. 'One cold, dry winter, I returned from Rohan, grieved, for King Thengel had died. I had ridden with several of my household to pay respects to the king. My wife, Finduilas, rode also, for Thengel had joined our hands and she loved him as a father.' Éowyn was sitting forward now, paying rapt attention to Denethor. Faramir edged closer, not wishing to distract his father but eager, too, to hear this story. 'One of the king's daughters, Aldwyn, was with our company, for she was to foster with us in Minas Tirith.'
'That is my aunt!' Éowyn eagerly said, face alight.
'Yes, I know. And also were there Riders with our Guardsmen, as well as the rest of our company. At dusk, we had stopped at a farm to rest for the night. Alas! As night fell, we were attacked by Orcs coming up from the river bottom. I ordered the women to take shelter in the farmhouse while we fought back the invaders.' Denethor cast an exasperated glance at Faramir. 'Disobedience runs in my house, it would seem, as neither my lady wife nor my lady sister, the Archivist, would retreat, and your noble aunt also remained upon the field, standing guard as Finduilas saddled horses for the Guardsmen to use.' Éowyn clapped her hands in delight at hearing of her aunt's daring. 'Enough we were to beat back the attackers, but there were a thousand more in the river bottoms marching east to invade Anórien. Finduilas' steed was one of the mearas, Mistress Gull, and they took the message of the invaders to the garrison at the edge of the Drúadan Forest. While we soldiers harried the Orcs and spread word ahead of their march, the Lady raced through the night to bring word of our need to the garrison. It was in time and Anórien was saved.' Denethor looked out, over the wall, and growled, 'And then she disobeyed me again, and returned to lead the people of Anórien to safety in Minas Tirith, when she had been told to return directly to the City!'
Éowyn giggled. Denethor glared at her, but the shield-maiden simply beamed at him in return. After a few moments, his face softened and he reached out and neatened the collar of the mantle. 'Your aunt was also one in that march, a lieutenant of the Lady, and Finduilas was glad for her company once back to the City. My wife approved of forward young women who could not be daunted, whether by an orc or a lord. No one could ever daunt her.' Denethor stood and helped Éowyn to rise. 'She would approve of you.' He kissed her brow and said, 'It is not his to give, nor even mine, but I think Finduilas would wish for another forward young woman to have this mantle. Welcome, daughter.'
With that, Denethor turned and walked swiftly away, calling over his shoulder, 'My Lord Steward, if I may have a word?' Faramir grinned, gave Éowyn a quick kiss, and strode after his father.