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Benison  by annmarwalk

“’Twas my lady’s sewing basket, mam.” The housekeeper, normally quite forthright, offered the gift almost shyly. “I was just a housemaid, then, and bid to clear out her things from the study. There was no lady of her family to give it to, and it felt wrong to keep it for myself, though the Chamberlain said I could, so I just tucked it away in a storeroom. I never imagined…” She paused to consider her words carefully. “The way Lord Denethor loved her so, and the boys being so young, the idea of another Lady here just seemed so far away. When I didn’t see as that you’d brought your own sewing kit, I thought, perhaps, you might want it…”

Eowyn accepted the gift thankfully. She had not thought to bring her own workbasket; in truth, needlework had been the farthest thing from her mind for many months. But now, with peace, and some degree of leisure, and a husband (and hopefully, soon, a child), the possibility of quiet evenings by the fire and stitchery on her lap held an almost magical appeal.

Dismissing the housekeeper with a smile, Eowyn settled herself on the windowseat and examined the basket. It was woven of sea-grass, green and gold fronds now faded, but still strong and supple. As she opened it, breathing in the faint scents of lavender and rose, Eowyn paused for a moment to consider: both she and Faramir had been very young when they lost their mothers. What did they know of these women, really, other than family tales and traditions and second-hand memories?

The treasures inside the basket provided a glimpse of she who seemed, though many years gone, to be lingering just beyond reach. A soft leather needle-case held gold and silver needles and cunningly crafted sewing scissors, impeccably sharp and purposeful as any blade. A small ivory-inlaid box held a treasure trove: silken floss, gleaming like sunlight on water; dozens of skeins of linen floss in unimagined colors; a collection of intricately carved ivory thimbles. At the very bottom of the basket lay a bundle of soft fabric. When Eowyn lifted it out to examine the delicate embroidery, a small book fell onto her lap.

It appeared at first to be a sketchbook, but flipping through the pages, Eowyn found much more than drawings; it was a daybook, providing an unexpected glimpse into another woman’s life. In small neat handwriting she found humorous songs and riddles to entertain children; lists of medicinal herbs and their uses (“Ioreth says: fennel-seed tea for indigestion”); gardening notes (“Flowers to attract hummingbirds”); recipes for apricot brandy and lavender-rose potpourri and spiced almonds.

There was also poetry, written in a powerful masculine hand, of such passion that Eowyn blushed as she read. Those pages were marked with ribbons, and in one spot a dried gillyflower, its once-vivid scarlet color now faded, softened by the years.

Loveliest of all were the drawings: swans in flight, a spray of cherry blossoms just beginning to bloom, a smiling boy playing with a small happy dog. A sleeping infant, dark silken hair curled softly against his cheek, his lovely mouth curving just so – Eowyn too had seen that hair, that cheek, that beloved mouth curved in peaceful dreams.

Another woman had lived and loved and built a home here, and across the years it seemed as though Eowyn felt the brush of Finduilas’s lips on her forehead: a caress, a blessing.

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