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A Broken Shield

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Summary: Not all signs are true.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Lord of the Rings > Buffy-CenteredThethuthinnangFR711,8776154,0521 Jan 131 Jan 13Yes
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lord of the Rings belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and J.R.R. Tolkien.

There is a memory of her that he carries in his heart.

There was a snowfall that day, the City's towers and walls mantled in white. The bells for evendim were not long rung, and under her vault of clouds, with its shifting gloam of stone and lead and smoke that hid the diminishing light, the White City stood beneath the snow-capped peak of Mindolluin like a maiden stood beneath her bridal veil.

The air was cold but not bitter, the frost not sharp but softly clinging. Seven days until mettare, that final day of the year, the last dawn and the last dusk of 2996 by Mardil's Reckoning, and winter was in the City of Kings, a white cloak on her shoulders as she awaited the end of one year and the beginning of the next.

At three-and-ten, he was a boy with a youth's height and a youth's weight, awkward with arms and legs that had suddenly becoming longer without his knowing. He was years away from matching his brother in size or strength, more so for his brother had not finished his own growing, though all said that he was the image of him at the same age. Yet he was taller than the other boys of his age, larger of body and more expanded of mind, as common of those of his lineage, and he'd found, to his own wonder, that he could now look some men in the eye.

His hair had been recently cut, from a child's length to a man's shorter fringe, and as a man he remembers that first winter of shorter hair, when the falling snow was motes of ice on the unfamiliar skin of his neck. The surcoat he wore was new, as was his belt, and his cloak of heavy blue. His boots were too big for him, made with room for his feet to grow.

He was watching her as she sang.

She sang in a tongue that he did not know and had never before heard. A harsh and rough-cut language, yet she sang so merrily, and there seemed to be such good cheer in her voice. Twenty-two years from then, he still does not know what tongue that was, and perhaps he never will.

The falling snow made stars in her hair. No woodland leathers now, her Elf-cut ranging gear, but a long white gown in the style of a lady of Rohan, with a belt of gold and a grey cloak. There were many such gowns in the White City that following spring, long after she had gone. But just then, there was only her, whom some men had taken to calling a shieldmaiden. They'd had many names for her then, but this was the one he'd most liked, the only one that seemed to fit.

The place was the courtyard of the White Tree, at the very point of the spur of rock that extended out over the city, where his heart shook to see her standing on the icy rock. She was standing there, singing her foreign song, her back to him, and though her song was merry, there was something sad in the sight of her there, something mournful. No warrior or Ranger now, but only a woman bereft.

He remembers how she stopped singing, how she turned her head and looked at him. And smiled, a smile he'd never seen before then and, he would learn, that he would never see again.

“Faramir,” she said, in that way she had of saying his name, all their names, that unusual lilt. “Merry—”

Here, his memory betrays him. Like a cloth worn too often, there is a part that has frayed. What was the word she used? How did she say it? He cannot remember. He cannot recall the word exactly as she said it, only what he remembered of it later. There was something Sindarin in it, he thought. Was it criss, or was it crist? Was it a cut, or a sword? Perhaps critha, but reaping what? Amath, a shield? Or matha, to feel? A cut in a shield, or the touch of a sword?

He remembers asking her, “What is that word?”

The face she made then. An ebbing tide in her eyes, a person disappearing into someone else. There was a moment, the slightest of moments between breaths, where she did not seem quite real, as if some truth had gone out of her, as if she was as insubstantial as the snow. The boy knew only a profound confusion. The man sees that face in his dreams.

“No matter,” she said, and he knew by ear that this was a phrase that she learned elsewhere, that it did not come naturally to her lips.

She turned again, to look out over the City, and in the snow, against a sky as soft and softly lit as a single niphredil petal, both the boy and the man thought and will always think that there is no other like her, that nothing else in this world can approach her, Elf or Man, and surely even niphredil dared not bloom at her coming.

When she looked at him again, she wore the smile she always wore when she spoke to him, and she was as mortal as he. “Here, Faramir. Take this.”

She came to him, stepping lightly over the low wall that separated the courtyard from the air, and she held her hand out to him.

Into his open hand, she placed a silver wire, attached to a silver pendent.

The pendent had an unusual shape. Two bars, the shorter athwart the longer, affixed to the wire by two rings, one passing through the longer bar. The wire was peculiar, as limber as a chain, but he'd seen such Dwarf-make before. While finely made, it was simple enough, with no more skill in it than there had to be.

“It is good luck,” she told him. “It will keep you safe.”

“But what of you?” he asked.

She took his hand, and closed his fingers over the necklace. Her hands were smaller than his, even then. “I have it long enough.”

The snow was sticking in his hair, cluttering his eyelashes. The back of his exposed neck was cold. “I have nothing to give you in return.”

She smiled then, a happier smile than before, showing her white teeth, but did not answer.

Then she put her hands on his shoulders, and kissed his forehead. A kiss of friendship, all warmth and farewell, her lips on his hair and skin.

He will never speak of this. He will take this with him to his death.

He kept that queer pendent, wearing it under his shirt and beside the skin. He was wearing it when word came with the morning that she had left the City, passing through the Great Gates at morrowdim with no word for the soldiers who called out to her. He was wearing it when the new year came, and his brother still grieved her going, speaking often of finding her again, and he was wearing it when the snow melted and spring came to Gondor and his brother ceased to mention her name. He was wearing it when that year died and bore yet another new year, when he was four-and-ten. He was wearing it at five-and-ten, and he was wearing it at five-and-twenty.

Sleeping or waking, the pendent went with him, carrying her touch, her good luck and a wish for his safety. Through peace, through battle, through the shadow of his brother and through the bitter hostility of his father, he wore her sign. When all things seemed in vain and his spirit was low, he would feel it against his skin and take heart. Though there came days of much trial and strife, it seemed to him that he carried with him a surety, a shield for his hope of better things, and neither sorrow nor despair had much hold over him.

He thought sometimes of the word she had used. Criss or crist or critha, a cut, a sword, or to reap. Maeth, a battle, or meth, an end. Maetha, to fight, or mist, an error. Mith for grey, so perhaps a grey sword. Sindarin for her, whom men called Elf-touched, and had she not come to them with more words of Sindarin than words of Westron? He thought her Elf-kind for years, and then he thought her Half-elven for many more, and so though he tried Adunaic and Rohirric and even Dalish and Rhovanion, he always returned to Sindarin, the language of the Grey Elves. Crist and maetha, to fight with a sword. Criss and amath, cut and shield.

Where was she, how was she, what did she do? Never was there word. She rode into the west and out of the knowing of Men. Or did she use a different name, did she wear a different cloak? Had he heard the name sometime, but not known it to be hers? He thought of this now and then, as the years went by, but he had no answers, only a sign. He had nothing of her but the proof that she had once been, the shield he bore on his breast, and he wore it about his neck and it seemed to him to be the proof of their reunion, whenever that would be. So he waited, and he hoped.

Until the King returned.

Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar King. His liege, his lord, the King of Gondor, whom all his line had awaited since the first Steward. Dark-haired and grey-eyed, the King he first saw standing over him in the Houses of Healing, knowing his King and loving his King in that same moment. Come to save his City, come to rule it, come with the fall of the Enemy, bringing with him peace and a new Age.

Bringing her.

She has not changed. She is as she was when he was a boy. Perhaps her golden hair is longer, but in all else she is as she was. Was there always such gladness in her face? Does he misremember?

How many times had he dreamed her, dreamed her so fiercely that on waking he had reached for her hand? How often had he thought of her, and wondered of her as he waded through a stream, as he walked beneath the woods, as he nocked an arrow to the string, as he looked out from a window of the Citadel, as he ate at table, talking with others? How long had her name been waiting just behind his every breath?

And finally, the chance to say it. At last the moment for him to say her name, twenty-two years later.

Here is her name.

“My Queen,” he says. He places his hands upon his breast, and he can feel the cross through his tunic, a sign and a shield.

Her hand is in the King's, raised high between them. There is a light and a joy in her face that he does not remember.

To this, he bows.

The End

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