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Book Learning  by Branwyn

So very beautiful, Faramir thought.  She is so very beautiful.  Her gleaming hair of gold, the ivory curve of her hips and shoulders, the dark pink tips of her breasts....

“Here is another deed to be signed, my lord.”

With a nod of thanks, the steward took the scroll and sat at the long table.  He loosened the red silk tape and unrolled the parchment.  “In the presence of these witnesses do I, Barahil son of Baran, give unto Duinhir of Dol Amroth title to these five acres of land in return for ten marks of gold and a good and seaworthy boat.”

Faramir stared at page and read the first sentence again.  “In the presence of these witnesses do I, Barahil son of Baran, give unto Duinhir of Dol Amroth title to these five acres of land in return for ten marks of gold and a good and seaworthy boat.”

The salty taste of her skin, skin as soft as a newly-opened leaf....

Already he had forgotten the words he had just read.  It has been more than a month since we were married; am I doomed to distraction for the rest of my life?  He forced his eyes to follow the curly script across the page.  “The boundaries of this property are marked by a row of white stones.”  He stared at the last two words and thought of Éowyn’s white breasts rising and falling with each shallow breath she took, her eyes half-closed and her lips half-parted....

Faramir put a hand to his forehead and pretended to study the deed.  Her lips half-parted.... Yet she rarely makes a sound. And when she does, I cannot tell if the cries are from pleasure or pain. 

“My lord, are you feeling quite well?”  The court clerk looked closely at his face.

“No...I mean, yes.” 

“We have been working since early morning, my lord; perhaps you need a breath of fresh air.”

Promising to return in the afternoon, Faramir left the archives of the King’s Court.  The streets were crowded with soldiers and craftsmen hurrying to their meal.  Before heading toward their house in the Citadel, he stopped at a small bakery to buy some honey cakes for Éowyn. 

He had teased her about her great liking for honey; perhaps he was wed to a bear and not a woman?  Looking up from her weaving, she had asked him, “Have you never heard tell of the berserkers, warriors who were half bear and half man?  Maddened by the lust of battle, they grew claws as sharp as swords and heavy fur that turned aside arrows.  Brave men threw down their spears and fled before their onslaught.”  Éowyn had brandished the long weft-beater like a sword as she spoke.  “And, indeed, it is said that the berserkers did like honey, being bears and also men.  But you need not worry, min leofa husband—it has been many years since a berserker was born in the House of Eorl.”  Then with a slight smile, she had turned back to her work at the loom.  Laughing, he had leaned down to kiss the top of her head; how he loved this strong and clever woman and he wanted nothing more than to make her happy.

Yet despite her smiling looks during the day, when she lay in his arms at night, he caught glimpses of disquiet on her face.  Well she knew how to hide her feelings, for she had had years of practice while Wormtongue had spied on her, trying to snare her in his traps.  Faramir could see that she was ill at ease; though often, when they were done with their sport, she would lay her head on his breast and say that she was well content with her husband.  Undeserved praise, Faramir thought, I fear I am less than skillful in bed.

He hurried with long strides toward the seventh gate.  In front of him, a young man and a maiden stopped by the fountain.  They stood, hands clasped, laughing as the wind blew the spray upon them.  Red ribbons fluttered as the maiden’s long, black hair billowed and streamed behind her. 

Faramir had never courted the women of the City, never bought them bright ribbons or walked hand in hand.  How could he treat with them honestly when he was of higher rank?  He could not wed them as equals, and it would have been ill done to bed them for his passing pleasure.  The woman alone bore the risk of harm in that venture.  To his shame, he had once stumbled after a tavern maid into the darkness of the stables.  Later, he could recall little about their lovemaking, only the smell of brandy on her breath and then the joy of his release.  This, the paltry sum of his fleshly knowledge.  But for most of his life, he had lived as a soldier in the field, far from any womenfolk.  After a day spent scrambling over the broken countryside, soaked by rain and in constant peril, he had wanted nothing more than to sleep.  That he slept alone had been the least of his concerns, and in due course, his weary body would see to its own needs.  

Thirty-six years of age, a scholar and captain of rangers, and on their wedding night, he had been as green as a newly-cut stave of wood.  He had dreaded that the first coupling would hurt her.  She was so unbearably small and soft, and he was nearly twice her weight.  Though he had ached with longing at the sight of her nakedness, he had forced himself to move slowly--listening to the sound of her breath, watching her flushed face, aware of the slightest shifting of the body underneath him. 

Yet he knew little of this art, and from Éowyn’s wary glances, he deemed that something was amiss.  What was he doing wrong?  And who could advise him in this private matter?  He longed for the calm counsel of Imrahil, but his uncle had already taken ship to Dol Amroth.  After the wedding, his surviving friends had returned to the East, where the armies of Gondor still hunted for the remnants of the foe.  Though some of his rangers talked knowingly of women, he could scarcely reveal his ignorance to them.  In the libraries of Minas Tirith, he had learned the abstract lore of numbers, the patterns of the stars, and the healing secrets of herbs; yet his studies had not included this, the most arcane of subjects.

Books of healing!  Faramir stopped suddenly. 

“Pardon, my lord!” a farmer sputtered as his basket of turnips slammed into Faramir’s back. 

“No, the fault is mine,” Faramir said as he helped the man pick up his wares.  Then he strode through the winding streets and half ran up the marble steps of the library.  He raised a hand in greeting as he passed the cluttered table where the head loremaster sat.  Old Eradan looked up with a vague smile, then went back to squinting at the scroll in his hands.  Farther down the corridor, Faramir knelt on the floor beside a wall of shelves.  Here were kept the precious texts about healing.

Where is it?  Faramir muttered as he pulled another volume from the bottom shelf.  At last, he lifted out a book and carried it to a nearby table.  Incised on the tattered leather binding was the title “Treatises on the Art of Healing.” 

Years ago, his cousin Eldahil had discovered this book, during one of his rare forays into the library.  He had shared the secret with Faramir and Boromir and several other lads; they had huddled around the well-worn book, whispering and studying the illustrations with rapt attention, until Master Eradan had chased them away. 

Faramir turned through pages and pages of brightly-colored innards, crimson hearts and purple spleens, until he reached the chapter about “The Secret Parts.”  Across the yellowed parchment, naked men and women shamelessly caressed and intertwined.  Giant members sprang like overgrown mushrooms between the men’s legs.  All the women had smiling, rosy faces and long, wavy hair; their huge breasts were as round as melons above their smooth bellies.  What in Middle-Earth are they doing?  Faramir wondered as he stared at one of the drawings.

At each sound of a footstep, he looked over his shoulder.  These touches, these stances, these...seemed most immodest.  He stretched out his legs under the table and shifted in the oak chair.  His young wife would blush with shame if he even suggested doing that.  Or, worse yet, that.  Perhaps the text of the treatise would be more helpful than the illustrations. 

The healer’s advice was written in a tiny, almost unreadable hand. “Once manhood is reached, this is a natural need, no different than the need to eat or sleep, and just as the body craves food and rest, it must find release for these urges.”  Faramir skimmed farther down the page.  “Because the woman is composed of cold humors, she desires to be warmed by the flesh of her bedmate.  Yet since the woman is by nature modest and shy, her husband must know how to kindle her desire.  Place your hand gently but firmly on her....”  Faramir leaned closer to the page and squinted; the words were badly smudged.

“Did you find what you needed, my lord?” The ancient voice was as dry as parchment.

Faramir sat up with a start, quickly closing the book. 

With a raised eyebrow, the head loremaster read the bindings. “Treatises on the Art of Healing by Envinyatar of Emyn Galen.” 

Faramir decided that this aged man was not so near-sighted as he seemed.

“A most popular book, my lord,” Old Eradan said with a slight cough, “with scholars both young and old.”

Faramir felt his face turn red, even while he fought the urge to laugh.  As soon as the loremaster had walked away, the steward opened the book and resumed his studies.


To be continued....

Note:  In the interest of authenticity *grin*, I did try to learn if there were medieval sex manuals like the “Treatises on the Art of Healing.”  Most medical experts of the late Roman era and early Middle Ages regarded intercourse as a necessary--and even beneficial--bodily function for both men and women. Having frequent and enjoyable sex was seen as good for your health.  However, from what I read, medical advice on specific sexual practices was more prohibitory than explanatory.  Medical books written for the layperson did include some advice about sex along with recommendations for healthful exercise, food, and clothing.  

The embroidered curtains had been drawn aside, and a shaft of sunlight fell across the empty bed.  The coverlets had been straightened, smoothing away the tangle of sheets where they had sweated and coupled the night before.  On the neatly stacked pillows, a white cat dozed, paws outstretched.  Éowyn ran a hand up one of the tall posts, fingers tracing the carved designs.  The winding ivy for wedded love, the many-seeded apple for fertility.  The wood was chipped and darkened with age.  This bed keeps its secrets, like an old and loyal retainer.  She frowned slightly as she reached down to stroke the sleeping cat.  More is the pity.  I could use its wise counsel. 

Éowyn had seen how the stallion rode the mare, and she had cared for wounded men until their hairy nakedness no longer brought a blush to her cheeks.  Still, when she had first lain with her husband, she had known little of the way of a man with a maid. 

The kinswomen who should have given her counsel had long since been laid in the earth, and her own proud manner had set her apart from the women at Edoras.  She had turned away from their lively gossip about the weaponed sex; such churlish talk did not befit a daughter of the House of Eorl.  Later, sleepless in her bower, she had stared at the darkness, trying to piece together the fragments she had overheard.  But what little she learned had left her only more bewildered. 

On her wedding night, four noblewomen had unlaced the outer robes and lifted the cloth of gold from her shoulders.  Then they had loosened the ties of the velvet gown and helped her pull its heavy folds over her head, until she stood before the marriage bed wearing naught but her shift.  Queen Arwen herself had unpinned her hair, lifting away the garland of daisies.  Soon a maid no more, Éowyn had thought; dimly, she heard the ladies arguing how best to dry the flowers.  The queen had embraced her and told her firmly that she had no need to worry.  No doubt the elven woman had guessed her unease.

“As fair as a lily,” the ladies murmured as they seated Éowyn on the bed and drew the coverlets up to her waist.  After whispering that all would be well, the queen kissed her on the brow.  Then Éowyn was left to wait for her husband.  Why am I skittish?  There never was wife who was not first maid, she chided herself.  Yet to have her body breached by a man still sounded very strange.  

From the passageway, she heard the heavy tread of booted feet and men’s shouted laughter.  The door swung open, and Faramir darted in, his face as red as beets.  He slammed it shut then quickly shot the bolt.  “At last I have escaped them,” he choked, gasping for breath.  As was the custom in the Mark, her husband had been stripped by his guard of honor until he wore naught but his boots and breeches.  Outside the door, Éomer was bellowing a love song. 

“When my brother is wed in the spring, you will have ample chance for revenge,” Éowyn reassured him.  “Though I doubt you can match that singing.”

With a laugh, Faramir leaned down to kiss her on the top of the head.  The revelers hammered on the door and sang another song before they wandered away, no doubt to find more ale.  Through the high windows, the summer evening was fading to grey.  Faramir lit the lamps, the light flaring between his fingers, and then he swung the tall shutters closed.  She hid a smile as her husband turned away modestly before taking off his clothing.  The muscles of his back and shoulders shifted as he reached to draw off his boots.  He has the body of an archer, she thought.  Lean sinews drawn tight.  She stared at his narrow hips and strong legs as he stepped out of his breeches, but when he turned around, she blushed and lowered her gaze.  At that moment, he seemed to her both dearest friend and stranger; for even in the Houses of Healing, she had never seen him unclothed.

He slid under the coverlets and, taking her hand, gently pressed her fingers.  “Your hands are made of ice!”  He stroked her hair then lightly kissed the side of her face.  In reply, she raised her lips to his, but she could not keep herself from trembling.  A calloused hand stroked her cheek.  “Éowyn, my shining star.  I think this long day has left you weary.” 

Already, the heat of his body warmed the bed like a brazier.  She turned on her side, drawing closer to him.  Shyly, she ran a hand across his shoulder and back.  The soft skin was ridged with scars, some old and smooth, others still jagged.  She could feel the hard courses of muscle underneath.  The bed had become very warm; she wondered if all men threw off the heat of a glowing forge. She did not pull away as he stroked the curves of her breasts, cupping the flesh in his hands.  Then his arms, heavy and warm, slid around her waist and pressed her against him.  She started in surprise when he bent down to nuzzle at her breasts through the shift.  He glanced up at her face--a quick, uncertain look--before he loosened the ties at the neck and slid the cloth from her shoulders.  Her body tightened with yearning as he slowly sucked in turn on each breast.

They kissed again, but this time she pressed herself against him, flesh on warm flesh, and she opened her lips wide as he bent his face to meet hers.  Making a low sound in his throat, he drew back and looked at her.  His eyes were wide, and a sheen of sweat gleamed on his face and shoulders.  His hands fumbled at the ties as he pushed aside her shift, leaving her naked.

“So lovely,” he murmured, as he ran his hands from her shoulders down to her waist.  “I have traveled far, but never in my travels have I seen a sight so lovely.  White like the petals of a woodland flower, as soft as the breast of a dove.  So soft and warm...”  His hands trailed across her belly, until his strong hands came to rest on either side of her hips.  When he gently stroked her thighs, she willingly parted her knees to gain him entry.  For a moment, she was afraid as he covered her with his body and she could not move her chest to breathe, but he quickly shifted his weight onto his arms.  Again he gave her that uncertain glance, and then he slowly sank into her.  He took care to move at a measured pace, yet still she had to stifle a cry when at last he drove in to the hilt. 

Afterwards, spent and sweating, he drew back from her.  His breath still uneven, he rolled onto his side and sat up.  “I fear I was less than gentle,” he murmured.  “Forgive me if I hurt you.  This seems poor payment for the pleasure that you gave me.” 

“I have ridden horses who caused me more pain.  I deem you forget whom you married, man of Gondor, for I have not proven so frail,” Éowyn told him.  She reached up to touch his face in the curtained twilight of the bed.

Leaning over her, he smoothed the sweaty tangle of hair from her brow.  “Frail?  I never thought it, Éowyn of Rohan.”  That night, she had slept close against his breast, encircled by the weight of his arm while the steadfast beat of his heart had lulled her to dreamless rest.

Since their wedding night, the moon had waned and grown full again.  Yet still he warily studied her face, searching for she knew not what, as he stroked her hair and held her close after their coupling.  Did she somehow disappoint him?  Often, she felt left behind, a slow and clumsy partner in this, the oldest dance.  With use, the new sheath will stretch to fit the weapon, and indeed she no longer felt any pain, yet she deemed that her husband still felt the greater pleasure.  Mayhap this was the lot of a wife?  Yet why did he watch her with such ill-disguised concern? 

No doubt the healers could answer her questions.  Dame Ioreth was learned in the secrets of getting children; it was said that even the Warden turned to her for advice.  The old healer was wise and kind-hearted…But her tongue runs faster than one of the Mearas, Éowyn reminded herself.  She would never knowingly do me harm, but I dare not trust in her silence.

During her stay in the Houses, she had seen the Warden reading texts about surgery and herblore.  Mayhap there were books on the getting of children?  She thought of Old Ioreth again.  Books to teach midwives?  Faramir had shown her the great library of Mundberg.  Thousands of books and scrolls—they must hold all the learning of MiddleEarth; surely the answer was there. 

Trailed by her bodyguard, she went to the library.  She had told her maidens that they need not wait on her, but this man had refused to be left behind and now he followed her at a courteous distance.

“My lady, we are honored by this visit,” Master Eradan said with a bow as she and her guardian entered the reading room.  “You just missed meeting your lord husband; he was here this hour past.  And in what way may I help you, my lady?”

“I--I would see the books about healing,” she stammered, adding quickly, “I would learn the uses of the simples of Gondor.  In the gardens of the Houses, I see many strange herbs which do not grow in my land.  Yet I do not wish to trouble the healers with so slight a matter.”  This was not without some truth; for Faramir was trying to teach her the names of the healing herbs.

“Then like your lord husband, you are a master of herblore?”

“No master but merely a student.”  Éowyn gave him what she hoped was a fetching smile.  Well she could wield a sword, but she was poorly trained in the weapons used by women.

“There is no master who was not once a student, my lady,” the loremaster replied with a grave nod, “And both are likewise welcome here.”

Master Eradan led Éowyn to a long table by a window and offered her a chair.  He left and returned with a leather-bound book. 

“I would not keep you from your other duties,” Éowyn told him.  “This task will take some time.”  I beg you go away, she prayed silently.  Now.

“It is no trouble, my lady.”  The loremaster spread open the book.  Tattered pages were covered with tiny script and brightly-painted images. “This is the ‘Treatises on the Art of Healing;’ it is the best place to begin your study of the herbs of Gondor.  The first chapter covers herblore, but the text deals also with other matters of healing.”  He leafed through the book, past pages of blood-red hearts and purple spleens and…was that what she thought it was?

Closing the book, Master Eradan said, “I will leave you to your studies, my lady.  Give my regards to your lord husband.”  His face was as blank as a piece of new parchment, but one of his eyebrows gave a sudden twitch.

After the old loremaster had bowed and walked away, Éowyn opened the well-worn book.  She turned past the chapters about “The Heart,” “The Lungs,” and “The Bowels,” until she found “The Secret Parts.”  She stared at the painted images.  The men bore huge members, worthy of a studhorse, and the smiling women had breasts like great, round cheeses.  Her cheeks reddened to see their shameless stances, but she also wondered what they were doing.  She tried to read the written text, but some of these words were strange to her.  “Yet since the woman is by nature modest and shy,” the book said, “her husband must know how to kindle her desire.  Place your hand gently but firmly on her—

What means that word? Éowyn wondered. Perhaps these were names used only by the healers?  Moving her lips silently, she formed the empty sounds.  This might as well be written in Dwarvish, she thought with a sigh.  I am a poor scholar, so this book must keep its secrets.

As she left the library and walked slowly toward the Citadel, Éowyn told herself, I need the counsel of another wedded woman.

Yet pride kept her from going to Queen Arwen or to the women of Mundberg.  They would think she complained, deem that she found some fault with her husband, when nothing could be farther from the truth!  Éowyn needed a woman of her own people.  Faithful to the House of Eorl, a steadfast wife who would not betray her secrets.  And how much easier to speak of these worries in her own tongue.  A band of noblewomen had traveled with her from Edoras, but the married ones had gone back to their homes soon after the wedding.  Since the end of the War, a few soldiers had returned to Mundberg with fair-haired wives, yet Éowyn scarcely knew these women.  Must she journey to the Mark in search of close counsel? 

Éowyn stopped suddenly.  Freydis Fréawine’s daughter! 

“Forgive me, my lady!” a farmer sputtered as his basket of turnips slammed into her back. 

After she and the bodyguard had helped him pick up his wares, Éowyn turned about and set a fast pace toward the second circle.

To be continued…


Several weeks earlier, their paths had crossed in the market square.  Freydis was as tall as her sire, a Rider of great renown; and Éowyn had caught a glimpse of her flaxen hair and had hurried across the square to greet her.  Years before, Éowyn had met this woman during a journey to Aldburg, and now they had embraced like long-lost comrades.  Freydis had asked Éowyn to honor her home with a visit, so they had walked together to an ancient house in the second circle.  There, over wine and cakes, Éowyn had heard the tale of how Fréawine’s daughter had come to live in Mundberg. 

Freydis’ first husband had been a Rider from the Eastmark, but his luck had run out during a night patrol along the Anduin, leaving Freydis a widow with three young children.  Her second husband had caught her eye as he rode into Aldburg, sitting with careless ease on a tall, clean-limbed horse.  “A handsome pair of bays,” Freydis had told Éowyn with a throaty laugh.  “He is one of the errand-riders, and a fine horseman for a man of Gondor.”  Since Freydis’ second marriage, two more children had joined the troop. 

Two husbands and five babes?  She is an old campaigner, Éowyn told herself as she hurried to the second circle.  The charred shells of houses still stood where the Enemy’s missiles had fallen; in the narrow streets, the bodyguard followed close at her heels.  The last of the orcs had long since been hunted from these ruins, but still this was a desolate place.  At Freydis’ house, a great boarhound kept watch.  The beast lifted his black head then rose to his feet and growled warily as they walked under the arch of the doorway.  As was the custom in Gondor, a walled courtyard stood between the house and the street.  Clay pots of flowering lavender and marigolds nestled beside the sun-warmed walls.  Water dripped through the cracked basin of the fountain and trickled in a dark line across the paving stones.  Two boys chattered loudly in the mingled tongues of Gondor and the Mark as they tried to build a dam from mud and sticks.  Their heads nearly touched as they bent over their work; the one was dark-haired and the other flaxen-pale.  So will it be with our children, Éowyn thought, and a longing that was tinged with sadness caught at her heart as she watched them. 

“Good day,” she called out.  “Is your noble mother within?”  She tried not to smile as the boys scrambled to their feet and bowed their heads shyly.  Their arms were plastered to the elbow with mud.

Wilcume, Hlæfdige Hwite.  You honor our house with this visit,” the elder of the two replied with grave courtesy.  “And greetings to you, Captain Haldan, sir,” he said to the bodyguard in the Common Speech.  The boarhound paced and watched them closely, as the younger boy ran to fetch his mother. 

Éowyn was led to the seat of honor, a carved oaken chair.  The long table was crowded with baskets of fresh vegetables, ready to be cleaned and stored in the cellar.  As the two women partook of wine and honey cakes, they spoke of the small doings of their households and the latest news from the Mark.  Through an open window, Éowyn watched the children playing in the courtyard.  The earthworks had been abandoned; now Freydis’ muddy sons were perched on the edge of the fountain, trying to push each other in.  The bodyguard stood among the pots of lavender and pretended to sharpen a throwing knife. 

Freydis followed her glance out the window.  “I pray that your offspring are not as wild as those two.  They are half Eorling, half Gondorian, and half troll.  Enjoy a peaceful household while you may, my lady.  The babes will arrive soon enough.”  Freydis tilted her head to one side and raised an eyebrow.  “Though you have hardly touched that wine, and I deem you look a bit pale.  Perhaps you already have a loaf in the oven, as we used to say in Aldburg.”

Laughing at this frank speech, Éowyn replied, “No, I am not yet with child.”  Her heart felt lighter as she spoke the words; for it seemed a great relief to speak at last of this matter.  Better this forthright questioning than the sidelong glances of the ladies of the court.

“Well, it has been no more than a month since your wedding, for the moon was then just one night past his full.  Indeed, I would be surprised if you had conceived so soon.  You do know to stay away from certain foods?” 

“No, I had not heard it.”  Indeed, Éowyn wondered what else she did not know.

“After your lady mother was gone, who was there to teach you such things?  Pomegranates and figs will cause you to miscarry.  Likewise candied angelica.  Oh, and the chance of making a child is better if the man lies on top.” 

Éowyn nodded, trying to hide her surprise.  The man need not lie on top?

“And after you lie with your husband, put your feet up on a pillow.  That is said to help the seed to run toward the womb, though I know not if it is true.  You can also tell your husband that he has to rub your back and bring you warm spiced wine.”

“That will help with the begetting?”

“No, but I like it and he does not know any better.”

Éowyn pondered these words for a moment; she had much to learn about being a wife.  But now the time seemed ripe to broach the matter of her errand.  “Never did I care if men found me pleasing.  I fled their soft words and hungry eyes.” She tried not to shudder as she thought of Grima Wormtongue.  “And I deemed that the coupling of man and woman was little more than the mounting of a mare.  Yet now that I am wed, I see that I was mistaken.”  In a low voice, she added, “I fear that he must find me sadly lacking, no match for other women he has known.  When we lie in bed, I know not what to do.” 

Shaking her head, Freydis smiled and said, “Trust me, my lady, a husband’s needs are very simple, be he Steward or errand-rider.  You are young and fair, and it is plain to see that Lord Faramir is happily bedded.  He has that stunned look, as if a pole axe had struck him in the head.  I deem that your worry is needless, but I will be glad to offer what counsel I may.” 

With the heavy grinding of wheels on stone, a cart rolled down the street, while in the courtyard, the two boys shouted as they splashed their feet in the fountain.  Fréawine’s daughter sat in silent thought; then with a short laugh, she reached into a basket on the table and pulled out a long cucumber.  Grasping the vegetable at its base and holding it aloft, Freydis said, “This looks like…just like what it looks like.  To make a man happy, just grab it at the bottom and –“

Éowyn laughed, even as she felt her face turning red.  Waving the cucumber and a head of cabbage, Freydis taught her the surprising ways that vegetables could cavort in their beds.  Indeed, Éowyn learned that the woman need not lie planted on her back nor need she be as lifeless as a wilted leaf of cabbage.  Éowyn thought that vegetables would never look the same to her.

Then Freydis led her to the small kitchen garden and showed her herbs whose very smell would fill a man with desire.  Sharp-scented branches were cut and put in a basket.  Freydis also told her the names of foodstuffs which, by their very shape or taste, caused lustful urges.  “Though luring men to bed is rarely a struggle,” the good wife added with a laugh.  Giggling like a pair of young maids, they pulled up long carrots and hairy leeks from the garden bed. 

“I deem the steward of Gondor will be surprised tonight.”  Freydis brandished a cucumber like a sword.

“I know not how to thank you,” Éowyn said.  “For you have given me the counsel of a friend.”  She remembered the lonely years at Edoras, when no one had shared her hopes and fears, and she drew the other woman into a quick embrace. 

The shadows were growing long in the courtyard, so she bid Freydis and her sons farewell.  Ignoring the bodyguard’s protests, she carried the precious basket on one hip.  After stopping in the market square to buy certain foodstuffs, Éowyn turned her steps to the seventh circle, hurrying toward her husband and home.

To be continued…

Note:  “Wilcume, Hlæfdige Hwite is Anglo-Saxon for “Welcome, White Lady.”  At least, I hope it is.  Any grammatical errors are mine.

After Faramir finished studying the “Treatises on the Art of Healing,” he returned to his work in the archive.   He dutifully tried to turn his mind to quitclaims and deeds and life interests in land, yet ever his thoughts strayed to the painted images in the text and he saw again the smiling women with their huge breasts and smooth bellies.  And then, as surely as an arrow to its mark, his thoughts flew next to Éowyn as she lay with him at night, her white breasts half hidden by the golden cascade of her hair.   And then he would clench his fists, pressing his fingernails into his palms, until the pain drove away these errant thoughts. 

The city bell had long since struck the seventh hour after noon when he signed the last scroll and pressed his signet ring into the blob of red wax. In what seemed like an agony of slowness, pen, ink and parchment were carefully put away, then Faramir thanked the clerk of the court and wished him good night.  With hurried steps, he left the archive and took the street that rose toward the Citadel.  

“Lord Faramir, this is good fortune indeed.”  Hurin the Tall stepped into his path.  “We need your counsel on the matter of the arrow slits.  The work cannot go forward until it is settled.”    After listening to his tale, Faramir offered to meet with the stonemasons in the morning.  No sooner had he bid Lord Hurin farewell, then two friends stopped to greet him and ask after Éowyn.  Next, a merchant from Dol Amroth, new to Minas Tirith, asked him the way to the guest house.  By the time Faramir reached the sixth circle, his stride had lengthened until he was half-running toward the Steward’s house.

Whenever her duties and the weather allowed, Éowyn sat in the open courtyard and often he would find her there, embroidering a shirt or studying the household account books, but today the marble benches were empty.  After a few words to the aged porter, Faramir slipped in the main door and started across the great hall.

“I will speak with Lady Éowyn about the silver spoons,” a voice droned from the front of the hall.   The seneschal stood talking with the housekeeper and the cook.  Faramir darted into the side aisle, keeping to the shadows and taking cover behind the stone columns. From long practice in the woods of Ithilien, he could walk almost silently at need, even on a floor of polished marble.  Only a few short steps and he would reach the chambers he shared with Éowyn.

“And what about the matter of the turnips?” the cook asked in a sharp voice. 

None of them had turned to look his way, and it seemed that he might yet escape unseen.  He stole out a side door and into the hallway that led to the back of the house. 

Faramir passed the weaving room, where a maidservant worked alone, her dark head bent close to the threads; the bench before Éowyn’s loom was empty.   He had not stopped to think that she might not be in the house.  What if she were away, gone to the stables or to visit a friend?    She might not return for hours.  All day he had yearned for the touch of her skin, and to wait any longer would be a sore trial.

When he reached the door to their sitting room, he was relieved to hear a woman’s voice singing with tuneless cheer in the language of Rohan.  Éowyn’s back was turned to him as she leaned over the small table, arranging forks and knives.   “The river ran red with the blood of our foes” she sang as she worked.  In the haven of their own rooms, she had unbound her hair so that waves of pale gold flowed down to her waist.  She swung about at the sound of his footsteps and hurried across the floor to meet him.  With the basket of honey cakes still clutched in his hand, Faramir drew her into an awkward embrace. 

“The hours were long without you, my husband,” she said, resting her head on his shoulder and laying a hand over his heart.  How he loved to hear her speak! Her Sindarin was flawless as befitted the daughter of kings, yet the cadence and rhythm of the words echoed the language of her people.  He prayed that she would never lose this northern manner of speech.

“You were never far from my thoughts,” Faramir replied, and this was not untrue.   He untangled his arms from her long hair and flowing sleeves and held out the basket.  “I bring honey cakes for the fairest of berserkers.”  

With a small cry of joy, his wife took the gift.  “Berserker you call me?  I may not share these, man of Gondor.”  She set the basket on the small table.  Faramir was surprised to see cutlery and plates set out; by custom, the steward and his lady took the evening meal with the rest of the household.  “I thought it would be pleasant to eat alone in our chambers tonight,” Éowyn told him. 

“Good.  Then I can rid myself of this.”  He unbuckled his swordbelt and stood the weapon against the wall.   Éowyn stepped into the hallway, and he heard her say, “Tell Cook that Lord Faramir has returned.”  

When she came back, he put an arm around her waist and buried his face in the bright softness of her hair.  Éowyn tilted her head back and smiled up at him, her lips slightly parted.  Faramir remembered his studies in the library.  How he longed to put his newfound learning into practice! He knew just what he would start with, that caress in the second page of the chapter.  Now that he could feel her warm flesh through her gown, it was torment to wait any longer.  He wanted nothing more than to unfasten the gown and draw it from her smooth shoulders, unpeeling it slowly from the curves of her waist and hips until the cloth fell in a heap around her ankles and then--  At least let her eat first.  The hour is late, and no doubt she is hungry, he reminded himself, a little ashamed at the strength of his own desire. 

Though he ached to finish what they had started, Faramir drew away and took a seat at the table.  “I see that Morwen still sits at the loom. How goes the tapestry?”  Éowyn and her maidens were weaving a gift for her brother’s wedding.  

Éowyn poured some wine and handed him a cup. “My loom sat idle today for I had business at the library and then I paid a visit to Freydis Freawine’s daughter.  Indeed, Master Eradan said I missed you by but an hour.” 

Faramir tried not to choke on the wine as he swallowed.  “Did you find the books you needed?”

“Yes, Master Eradan helped me,” Éowyn said, blushing.

“There is no shame in asking for help,” Faramir told her. “Indeed, old Eradan knows every book and scroll in that library.” 

He was about to ask what books she was reading when the servants arrived, carrying in heavily-laden trays from the kitchen.   As Éowyn lifted the covers, steam rose from the food and the air was fragrant with the earthen smell of mushrooms, the green bite of onion, and the mineral bitterness of the sea. 

She ladled the leek soup into bowls and then offered him roasted coney and oysters pickled in vinegar.  Wild mushrooms, gathered from the Pelennor fields, glistened in a buttery sauce.  This had been a much-loved dish since the days of his childhood, so he did not tell her to stop until she had spooned a small mountain onto his plate.  An earthenware dish held smoked eel and hard-boiled eggs wrapped in a tender wheat crust.  He also took some of the carrots glazed with honey and the sliced cucumbers drizzled with oil and savory herbs. 

The meal looked and smelled wonderful, yet Faramir could not help but note that all these foods shared a common virtue.  Soldiers were wont to laugh and jest if the company cook served mushrooms or leeks, and even the “Treatises on the Art of Healing” said that eating these vegetables would make a man steadfast in bed.  And, likewise, were the rabbit and oysters widely known for…. 

I read too much into simple chance, Faramir thought, spearing another mushroom with his fork.  Ever my thoughts go astray on this path.   The sitting room opened onto their bedchamber, and from his seat at the table, he looked with longing at the curtained bed and tried to remember every touch and every twining from the “Treatises.”  Faramir wished he had taken notes.

When they had finished their meal, Éowyn called for the servants.  A cool breeze flowed down from the mountain heights so the shutters were drawn and charcoal piled high in the braziers.    The dishes were cleared from the table and replaced by a bowl of daisies.  After thanking the servants for their trouble, Éowyn closed the door to the hallway.  Faramir rejoiced, for at last he was alone with his wife.  

She walked to the bedchamber, untying her girdle as she went.  He followed her and sat on edge of the bed.  The white cat rose from the pillows and hopped to the floor, in search of a quieter place to sleep.   Leaning down, he pulled off his boots then wiggled his toes with a sigh of relief.   At a sudden prickle under his backside, he jumped to his feet.  A sprig of southernwood lay on the coverlet.   He pressed the grey-green leaves between his fingers and breathed in the sharp scent.   Branches garlanded the wooden posts and were scattered across the bed.  The country folk knew this herb as “maiden’s ruin,” but Faramir reminded himself that it was also used to drive away vermin. 

“Are there insects in the bed? It is strewn with southernwood. ”  

“No, I do not believe so,” Éowyn replied, looking down as she stepped out of her slippers.  No further answer was forthcoming. 

Faramir lifted one of the bolsters to shake away the herbs.  A handful of acorns rolled across the coverlet and rattled to the floor.  Are there squirrels in the bed? he wondered, but he decided it wiser not to ask. 

When she fumbled to reach the cords that laced the back of her gown, he rose from the bed and came to her aid.  As he loosened the ties, his hands strayed to follow the curves of her body.  She stirred under his touch, murmuring as he lingered over her breasts.  Then the gown fell away and she stepped out of the heavy folds of cloth to stand before him in her linen shift.  He wondered anew at her loveliness, her hair gleaming in the firelight, her mouth parted like a half-opened flower.  She reached up to clasp her hands behind his neck, drawing him down to meet her in a kiss.  He wrapped his arms around her and covered her lips with his own.  After a time, they drew apart and he began to fumble with the clasp on his belt.

“Wait, lord husband,” Éowyn said.  Her face had flushed as pink as a rose. “You helped me with the lacing; let me now return the good deed.  You need not move; just stay there.”  Faramir was somewhat surprised at this unwonted offer but was hardly displeased as his half-naked wife unbuckled his belt then helped him draw the tunic over his head.  Her lips grazed his, and then there followed a second kiss, deeper and longer than the first.  He wanted nothing more than to strip off his breeches and take her even as they stood there.  It was both a torment and a delight to wait as she unfastened the front of his shirt and drew it from his shoulders.  Her body brushed lightly against him as she worked.  Her shift was of the finest linen and did little to hide the dark tips of her breasts or the full curves of her hips.  Now was the time to heed the advice in the second page of the chapter.  He tried to remember just what he needed to do.  I am to put my hand gently but firmly on her--

He forgot about the “Treatises” as Éowyn unfastened his breeches and slowly worked them down to his ankles.  She untied the drawstring to his braies, tugged the cloth from his hips, and then—

He almost fell to his knees, but he prayed she would not stop.  Where did she learn to give such pleasure? he wondered to himself, but the only sound he could form was a low groan.   Catching at the linen shift, he quickly pulled it over her head and cast it aside.  The bed was too great a distance away; they fell together to the floor.   As he moved to cover her with his body, she put her hands on his shoulders and gently but firmly guided him onto his back.  Full willing, he yielded, scarce daring to wonder what other surprises this night would bring. He choked back a cry as she knelt astride his hips then slowly bore down on him.  Cold sweat trickled down his neck and he thought he would die, unable to endure such bliss.  Then, with a low cry, she deepened and quickened the pace. 

When the coupling was over, when he had caught his breath and his heart had stopped pounding, he raised himself on an elbow.  “Éowyn, what text did you read today in the library?”

She lay on her side, curled beside him.  “The book was called ’Treatises on Herblore’ or some such name.  It was bound in green leather.”  She pushed a sweaty tendril of hair from her face and smiled up at him.  “Why do you ask?” 

“Perhaps was it called the ‘Treatises on the Art of Healing’?”

“Indeed, now that you say it, I recall that was the name.”  She trailed a warm hand along his hip. “I have little gift for book learning, husband, but I study as best I can.” 

Faramir laughed.  “That text is not easy to read for it is riddled with words used only by the healers, yet I do not doubt that you understand its meaning.  It is my good fortune to find such a clever and studious wife.  Together, you and I must delve more deeply into these matters of lore.”

“Nothing would please me better,” Éowyn said, sighing contentedly as he cupped a firm breast in each hand.

“I did not know I had wed a fair scholar,” Faramir replied as he leaned over his wife to further pursue their studies.

The End


The story was skillfully beta-read by Raksha the Demon and Annmarwalk.  (You can find their wonderful stories elsewhere on this site.)  My thanks to them for sharing their considerable talents!  Any remaining mistakes are my own.

Eels, rabbit, oysters, cucumbers, carrots, leeks, and mushrooms were all known as aphrodisiacs during the Middle Ages, and acorns are an ancient symbol of fertility.  Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) had the folk names “lad’s love” and “maiden’s ruin” and was used as both an aphrodisiac and a pest repellent.

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