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IX. Heart of the Storm (Faramir)
A terrible keening sounded high above him and then shrilled louder and louder, descending. He dared not look up, besieged as they were by fire-bearing Haradrim, Orcs and others of the Enemy’s forces, but he knew the cry of the Nazgûl. Men he had known all his life screamed and died all around him while he struggled to hold the center. His own heart beat madly, nearly loud enough to drown out the screams. The Black Captain’s shriek filled the sky as Faramir strove to raise his sword in a last defiance.
And Faramir awoke, his heart pounding with the force of the memory. He could hear the howl of the autumn wind, fiercely striking the heavy glass windows. It took a few moments to understand that ten years had passed since the retreat. He now lay in his own bed in the Steward’s Residence in the Citadel, far from the Pelennor. The War was done; the Enemy defeated.
A fair head rose from the tangle of coverlets. Éowyn gave him a quick look, then placed a warm hand on his racing heart. “The retreat again?” She asked briskly, before stepping from their bed to rekindle the lamp. She too had endured such nightmares.
“Aye,” Faramir whispered. He pulled on a bed-robe, cursing as his arm caught briefly in one of the sleeves. He walked swiftly from the bedchamber, out in the hall past the surprised guards, and down to first his son’s room, then the chamber his little daughter shared with her nursemaid. Elboron and Míriel both slept soundly, undisturbed by the crying wind or indeed any evil at all. Faramir breathed easy once more. Returning to his bed, he took Eowyn into his arms, kissing her brow in gratitude and love. A last look out the window showed no black wings crossing the full moon. The City was safe.
You did not prevail, thing of Darkness, Faramir silently bespoke the lord of the Nazgûl. I defied you; and she killed you. The White City still stands, fairer and stronger than before! And our children live unafraid. The men you slew did not die for nothing.
He sank down into the pillows, thinking that he would reply to Pippin’s letter on the morrow. And then he would look in on the widows and orphans of the men lost under his command. Even the Steward of Gondor could not raise again the brave soldiers slain in the darkness. Sleep in peace, he bid them, his heart quiet but saddened.
Faramir held his wife close and drifted into slumber. Outside, beyond window and wall, the unforgiving wind wailed. In the bedchamber, the lamp shed a gentle glow, as its light chased shadows across the sleepers’ faces.
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