Éowyn can no longer dance as lightly as the lady who now twirls in Faramir's arms. Her legs, though strong enough to ride, hurt when she kicks high and fast . She watches Faramir hungrily, angrily. How dare he still move so well! He has always been a joy to dance with, easily the best in Gondor, gliding or stepping across the floor with the grace of an Elf, better than even the King or Imrahil. Her feet tap the floor. This dance is too fast for Éowyn, but not for Faramir and the slender young woman whose hair, untouched by gray, shines as golden as hers once did.
Éowyn does not betray her unrest. Age creeps up on her; and she refuses to give any sign that its victories, still occasional, pain her. She sits straight-backed in her green and silver gown and smiles coolly. No one must guess that a sudden jealousy of her own daughter has speared the Princess of Ithilien. It is an ugly thing, to resent one's child for being young and fair and dancing with her own father.
Faramir and Cynwen move so quickly and perfectly in the dance.
Mercifully, the dance ends. Partners separate. Eldarion approaches Éowyn's daughter and takes her from Faramir, who returns to Éowyn. His gaze, bright and keen and missing nothing, sweeps over her.
"Have you saved a dance for me?" He asks, as if she still drew all men's eyes. "I hope I have come before Legolas could ask you."
Is he cozening her? She could snap at him, bid him dance with one of Eldarion's pretty young sisters. But she truly does want to dance with Faramir. She would have trod a measure already if she had not come late, feeling weary earlier, to the Hall.
"Is there no other you would choose, my lord?" Éowyn hears herself ask. Her voice sounds thin and querulous to her, and she wishes she could take back the years.
Faramir flicks one of his sword-like glances at her, too fast to interpret. Then he holds out his hand and lifts his chin, a challenge visible on his face.
"There is none who can match you, my lady," Faramir says firmly, brooking no opposition.
He has never lied to her. Éowyn rises and takes her lord's hand. The music swells up, drums strike a stern, proud rhythm beneath the trilling viols. Faramir smiles, the way a man always does in the company of a woman he admires, the way he has for all the years since she accepted his suit. An answering pride flushes her own cheeks. If she is no longer the fairest woman in Ithilien, she is still its Princess, and the Witch-King's Slayer, and she will let no one forget it this night.
They step into the dance. Some heads turn - young Alphor's wife never misses a chance to flirt with Faramir. But Faramir seems not to notice. His eyes rest on Éowyn alone, his strong hands warm about hers. And there is Elfric, Éomer's envoy and Elfhelm's heir, gawking at her in the same foolish way as his father sometimes did, so many long years ago. It pleases her to know that she can yet catch a young man's eye.
Éowyn nods politely at the Rider, then smiles with heartfelt joy into Faramir's bright eyes. The dance is the Knight's Pavane, slower but not tedious, demanding a brisk step. Éowyn feels blood, rather than ice, course through her veins. Faramir will not need to slow his pace on her account. And for now, that is enough.
Author's Note: Cynwen, daughter of Faramir and Éowyn, is my creation; as is Elfric (who is probably Elfhelm's son).