There was every reason to despair. His city stood ghostlike, bereft of most of her defenders. The combined forces of Rohan and Gondor and the surviving Dúnedain had marched off into the Enemy’s very maw, led by Mithrandir and the King. His brother and father were dead. He remained, the last Steward of Gondor, in a city that awaited a terrible end.
Faramir did not despair. He had lived and fought without hope for months now. But he had never given up, not even during the terrible darkness of his last mission, not when he was lost within the dark vale from which the King had saved him, not even when his heart had seemed to crack with sorrow at his father’s cold fury. Duty could be a bulwark as well as a burden.
Soon he would leave the Houses of Healing to take up his office. Chances were high that their armies would fall, that the Ring-bearer would fail. Still, he would bide here, and hold the City until the Enemy took it or the King returned to claim it.
He would not despair, but in the past few days, he had become aware of a rising tide of doubt and fear swelling within him at the thought of inescapable death. Life had become sweeter of late, a strange notion, since he had lost those that he had loved the most. He was used to facing death calmly, to inspire the good men under his command. Now, Faramir’s once steady heart rose and fell like a ship on a stormy sea.
He awoke in the mornings with a restless stirring, impatience to get up, to walk in the gardens with his few companions. And when he left their company, or, more usually as it seemed to be, her company, he oft found himself whistling or humming a pleasant song. Boromir would have said that he was suffering from a surfeit of minstrelsy. Then he would see Mordor’s dark, foul-smelling clouds looming over the Ephel Dúath, and clench his fists. All the hope and gladness in the world could be doomed in just a short span of days.
Faramir turned, hearing the familiar sound of wind-rustled cloth. Éowyn came through the stone archway, clad in white, smiling slightly as she beheld him. Sunbeams broke suddenly through the clouds, crowning the pale gold of her hair. A pang of joy pierced his heart so sharply that it hurt. He had never seen anything so beautiful, or so dear.
He knew then that he loved Éowyn. Though they stood on the brink of change, facing eternal darkness or the triumph of light, he loved her. The tumult within him did not subside, yet he was relieved to finally understand it.
He would not tell her of his certainty, not yet. She had only just come to trust in their friendship. But this love that he had found in such fell days was itself an unexpected blessing, whether or not it was shared.
What do you look for, Éowyn?’ said Faramir.
‘Does not the Black Gate lie yonder?’ said she. ‘And must he not now be come thither? It is seven days since he rode away.’
‘Seven days,’ said Faramir. ‘But think not ill of me, if I say to you: they have brought me both a joy and a pain that I never thought to know. Joy to see you; but pain, because now the fear and doubt of this evil time are grown dark indeed. Eowyn, I would not have this world end now, or lose so soon what I have found.’
The Steward and the King, Return of the King