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Leaving home; Coming Home  by Mirkwoodmaiden

TA 3020  At Edoras

“Did you pack your new wool dresses?

“Yes. And my extra cloak and my new leggings.”  Eowyn looked at her brother in exasperation, newly crowned as King of Rohan, crowned after the death of their beloved uncle Theoden on the Fields of Pelennor, who had been properly mourned and interred, but now her brother was acting more like an overprotective mother hen than a brother or a king.

She watched as Eomer peered into her trunk distractedly to see if all was in order.  She saw worry written across his brow beyond the fall of blondish hair partially bound in a leather thong. There was something he was trying to say; something he felt he needed to say.  She walked over to the trunk sitting at the foot of her bed, reached and took both of his hands in hers, looking into blue eyes filled with anxiety and regret.  “It is well.  I am all packed.”

“What about the figurines carved for us by father.  You would not want to be without those.”  

She thought of the delicately carved wooden horses her father had made for them both when they were children.  They were the last gifts from her father who was killed in an orc raid later that same year; Eowyn had been only seven.  She did love those figurines.  One was of a horse rearing up and the other was a horse at full gallop.  She smiled at the beautiful memory of childhood and yes she had safely packed them for the journey to Gondor.   

She looked into her brother's eyes, “I am ready,” she said referring to more than her trunks.  She waited for him to find the words he felt he needed to say.

Eomer stared for a few long moments and then unburdened his heart in a rush of emotion, so unusual for him.  Eomer was quick with his sword and quick with his temper, but softer words did not always flow unimpeded. “I just want you to be happy.  You have had so little in your life.  I should have been there for you.  More than I was.  I should have seen.  I should have known.  But I just did not.  And when I saw you on the battlefield bloodied and still, thinking you dead, it rent my soul and I was filled with sorrow and regret.  I should have been there for you.  Can you forgive me?” Tormented blue eyes looked at Eowyn.

Still holding his hands Eowyn declared, “My beloved brother, have you been carrying this in your heart all this time?" She smiled, "Be at ease.  There is nothing to forgive.  You did not see, no one did.  I would not let them.”  She looked at Eomer, always so strong, so confident, always so much emotion just below the surface.  She loved the man he was.  “I am well.  I go to Gondor and into Ithilien in peace and happiness. And with a heart full of love and no regret.”

“I sorrow to lose you.  If it were to anyone other than Faramir, I do not think I could have accepted it.  He is a fine and honorable man.  Worthy of my sister,” Eomer's eyes shining with tears of pride that remained unshed.

Eowyn smiled and kissed her brother’s forehead, “Then be happy for me and I hope to be happy for you in future days yet unseen.  Think not of the past.  I do not.  It is time to look to the future, to the days to come.  I hope to see you happy as well, my brother.”

Eomer looked into her eyes and saw the truth of what she was saying.  Joy lit his heart to see this happiness where before too often there had been only duty and regret, “My future is here, to bring peace and good life to our people.  All else will be as it may.  I look for nothing else.”

Teasing gently, “You may not look but that does not mean you will not find.” Eowyn said, laughing, “Oh brother!  I would have you as happy as I!”

Eomer harrumphed, “You are merry and it is good to see.  All else is foolishness.”

“Pardon, My king,” Fastred, a young rider appeared at the doorway to Eowyn’s bower, head bowed, fist on heart awaiting his King’s word.

“Speak,” said Eomer King, not unkindly.

“My King, is the Lady Eowyn ready to depart? Lord Gamling has sent me to inquire.”

Eowyn moved to close her last trunk. “Aye, Fastred.  The Lady Eowyn is ready to depart!”  she looked at Eomer and smiled, “Come, let us go!”

Eomer returned the smile and motioned to Fastred, “You heard the Lady! Gather that trunk up and let us go!” 

The young rider scrambled to carry out the trunk. 

Eowyn took one last look around the bower she had called hers for most of her life, since she and Eomer had come to live here in Edoras after their father had died in an Orc attack.  There had been happy times and many sad ones.  Still it was home.  Eomer reached out his hand and finally his smile had reached his eyes when he said, “Come, it is time.”  Eowyn took his hand in hers and together they stepped over the threshold and followed Fastred, down the hall to begin the journey to a new life.

Ch.2 - Gems for Mama

Faramir stood at the foot of the stairs waiting impatiently for Éowyn to come down.  They were to begin the journey to Gondor and he was anxious to be off.  He knew that she loved him.  He was convinced of that.  He felt that he could almost see into her heart but old doubts still tried to worm their way into his mind.  A lifetime of doubt and caution did not just go away overnight.  He still bore the scars of his upbringing.  Of never being quite good enough; always doubted and suspected.  He would rise above it, he fervently told himself, he would.  He looked up and all else fled his mind, in a simple white woolen dress, her hair loosely pulled back to allow that beautiful flow of reddish-blond locks to stray casually over her shoulders, Éowyn was a vision of loveliness.  Was there a more beautiful woman in the world?  He could not imagine it.  It was impossible.

“Close your mouth, something might fly in.”

Faramir looked to his side.  Éomer stood with a knowing smirk on his face.  The look in his eyes though told a different story.  He was happy.  Faramir looked at him and smiled, “Yes well, if your sister wasn’t so inestimably beautiful,” He turned to Éowyn, “You are so beautiful.” 

Éowyn tried to parry the remark with her normal banter, but she was caught up in the earnest, loving look in Faramir's blue eyes and found herself tongue-tied.  She just stared then stammered, “So are you.” She colored just a little at having said something that silly.

Éomer took a second to revel in the delight of seeing them so happy and proceeded to distract the two lovebirds by teasing them in a way only a brother could, “Shall I tether both your horses to mine so you can simply look at each other on the journey to Gondor.”

Éowyn blushed in earnest this time but quickly recovered herself and quick as a flash slapped Éomer upside the head, “That will not be necessary, brother dear!  We actually want to get there and your sense of direction isn’t always the best.  I am remembering a certain set of caves that you swore you knew your way around in and we went around for nearly two hours until by sheer luck we found our way out.”

Faramir laughed.  Éomer looked at him while rubbing the back of his head, “You still sure you want to marry this harpy!  Tis not too late.”

Faramir laughed, “I am quite sure.  But what is this I hear about caves?”

Éowyn laughed, “Well, we were children at the time, before we came to live at Edoras.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

Years earlier….

Éowyn stood up and grabbed Eówara, her rag doll, by her arm and tried to brush off her little dress, but to no avail.  She had been sitting by the stream bank digging up some beautiful little stones that had caught her eye.  She had given her nurse the slip once again. Guthhild would be searching for her to drag her off to practice her needlework but Éowyn simply needed to be outside under the sun and amid the fresh air.  She could not stand to be inside where there was so much gloom and bad feelings.  It had not always been so, but since Papa had gone away so much had changed.  She needed to be outside where she could breathe.  She looked down at the state of her dress and frowned.  Mud and dirt on the rim of her skirt and by reaching around she could feel the damp mud on her backside as well.  She shrugged her shoulders and picked up the pretty rocks she had collected and placed them in the small leather pouch on her belt.  She would show them to Éomer later.   

She walked along the stream just listening the burble of the water and the chirping of the birds.  She meandered, taking her time to look at wildflowers that caught her interest along the bank.  She heard the snap of a twig behind her and she turned around.  Éomer was walking down to the stream with a smirky smile on his face, “Did you escape Guthhild again?”

Éowyn replied, “Yes!  She was going to drag me off to do more needlework!  But never mind that!  I’ve got something to show you!”  She shoved Eówara under her arm and reached into her pouch. “Look what I found!”  she showed Éomer the rocks she had dug up.  She looked at them and they weren’t as pretty as when she first dug them up except for one gold colored one.  “Oh Poo!  They were much prettier when I put them in my pouch!”

Éomer heard the disappointment in his little sister’s voice and to cheer her up he said, “Never mind, I think they are still very nice. Especially this one.” He picked up the gold-coloured rock, “I can show you where you can find more of ones like this.”

Éowyn, fretting just a little, bit her lower lip and then said, “Can you? If you can that would be really nice.  I thought maybe I could give them to Mama to cheer her up a little.”

Éomer smiled at his sister, “I think she would really like that.” Rewarded with a smile from his seven-year-old sister Éomer indeed hoped she would like it.  Their mother was slipping away from them, he could feel it, but maybe it would make her happy he thought with as much hope as a twelve-year old boy could muster.  “Come on, it is this way.”

They walked along the stream a little further and then Éomer began to veer away from it and closer to the mountainside.  Éowyn saw a small opening in the mountain face, “Is this it?” she asked her brother excitedly.

Éomer nodded.  They approached the small cave and entered.  Much to Éowyn’s amazement only the entrance was small, as soon as they entered the cave it opened up into an array of tunnels going in different directions.  “So many tunnels, which way do we go to find some of those pretty rocks for Mama?” Éowyn asked looking at Éomer. 

Her brother said decisively, “This way,” starting down a path to the left, “I was here last month…” Éowyn blithely followed, knowing that her brother would not deliberately mislead her.  They walked for a little way and turned into another tunnel.  It was getting a little cooler as it seemed that the tunnel was headed downwards.

Éowyn asked because she was starting to feel cold, “Are we there yet?” Éomer paused and looked around.  His face took on a pensive and unsure look.  “Brother, are we there yet?  Éomer was silent as he looked around.  Éowyn started to worry, “Éomer, are we lost?” she asked as she started to chew her bottom lip.

Éomer looked at her, “Well, we are not lost,” he said hesitantly, hating the fact that his little sister was starting to look nervously around her, “I'm just not quite sure where we are at the moment.”

“Isn’t that the same as being lost?”

Éomer opened his mouth and then shut it, “Yeah, I guess it is.”  He saw the worried look in his little sister’s eyes and felt really bad, “I’m sorry, Éowyn.”  He fell silent. He heard inside his mind the last words that his father said to him after he had been brought back severely injured from an Orc attack.  He said that Éomer was to protect Éowyn always, for she was his only sister.  That she was dependent upon him.  He brought her here in an effort to cheer her up.  To help her find some of those pretty stones to cheer their mother.  And now they were lost. “I really thought I knew the way.” 

Éowyn looked at her brother, “It’s okay.  Well maybe we can find it together.  And still find some stones.”

Éomer sighed, “Yeah. Hopefully.  Let’s go back in this direction.”  They walked back and tried to retrace their steps.  As they were walking Éomer noticed that there were some steps that could not have been made by either of them for the prints in the dirt were too large for either of their feet.  Éomer swallowed his worry and doubled his awareness recalling he only had one boot dagger on him.  He heard Éowyn exclaim and his heart dropped to the pit of his stomach.  He turned the corner and saw Éowyn looking at a protuberance in the wall, “Look Brother, the same golden rock as I found by the stream!”

Éomer looked and sure enough the protruding rock looked to be the same color as the rock that Éowyn had found at the stream.  He looked at his sister, she looked so hopeful.  His heart sank; he had no idea how to dislocate the stone from the cave wall.  Also he was more than a bit concerned about the footprints he had just seen.  He looked at the stone in the wall from one side and then the other, his forehead crinkled in thought.  He removed his dagger from his boot and began to chip away at the surrounding wall.  It was hard going, much more difficult than he thought it would be and with each sound he thought the owner of those footprints might happen upon them but thankfully that did not happen.  Éomer looked his dagger and it was not pretty, in fact it was a sight not to be seen, nicked in several places.  Eventually though, the gold chip of a stone fell into his hand.  He turned triumphantly to Éowyn to hand it to her.  He saw her prone form clutching Eówara; she had fallen asleep.  Éomer sighed but then smiled, “Éowyn,” he said, gently, “Éowyn wake up!  I’ve got your stone.”

Éowyn awoke bleary-eyed, and then realised where she was, “Did you get it?” she asked excitedly.

Éomer dropped it in her hand triumphantly, Éowyn looked at it.  She thought it was a bit small for all that work but looking at her dust-covered brother, she decided in a rare display of tact that it was a comment best left unsaid, “It is beautiful, Éomer!  Mama will love it!”

“I do surely hope so!” Éomer avowed with much emotion but with less hope.  “Now,” he said looking around and clapping his hands to shake off what excess dust that could be shifted by such means, “We just need to get out of here!”  He sighed and looked around him.  “Well, I suppose we could continue with trying to retrace our steps.” He looked at Éowyn who was clutching the stone in one hand and Eówara in the other. “Stow the stone away in your pouch to make sure we don’t lose it.”  Éowyn quickly put it in her little leather pouch and then rubbed her nose creating a grimy little streak across her face.  Éomer took her hand and then said, “Onwards!” with more cheer than he actually felt.

They wandered for the better part of an hour until they felt a bit of airflow gently blow past them.  Éomer exclaimed, “Air!  We shall follow from where that came!”  He followed as best he could, pausing occasionally to figure out which direction and only made a few missteps and finally they once again saw the light of day. 

Late afternoon light filtered through the trees as the two children hurried back to the hall.  They entered through the back gate because it was the quickest and easiest way to enter without being seen by Guthhild and was also the shortest path to their mother’s bedchamber.  They stole past a few servants and waited across the hallway as the healer left their mother’s bedchamber.  At waiting a few seconds they slipped into their mother’s chambers.  Théodwyn lay propped up upon pillows looking outside with a lost look on her face.  Éomer immediately felt tongue tied upon looking at his mother, feeling that she was slipping further and further from this world but Éowyn felt no such emotion.  She buoyantly shouted, “Mama!  Look what we brought for you!”

Théodwyn started a little and then turned her eyes upon her daughter.  A little light filled her eyes as she beheld Éowyn and a wan smile lit her face.  In a soft voice she said, “What did you bring me, little one.” Éowyn ran to her mother’s bedside and unceremoniously sat Eówara on her little cloth face and began to empty the contents from her leather pouch.  “I found all of these by the stream and thought they were so pretty that I would bring them to you.”  Théodwyn looked at the dusty stream pebbles as if they were priceless jewels that had been poured into her lap.  Éowyn looked at them, “Well, they did look much nicer when I first found them.” Théodwyn smoothed back the stray blond hair that found its way out her daughter’s plait and gently said, “They are beautiful, my little one.  Because you brought them for me.”  Éowyn smiled.  “Oh wait!  One last one!  We went into a cave near the stream and found this for you!  Éomer dug it out of the wall.  Just for you. Gold.”

Théodwyn looked down and in Éowyn’s hand was a little slab of pyrite.  She looked at Éomer, who was bashfully looking at his shoe, she asked in that quiet voice that was only a shadow of its former self, “Éomer, Did you dig this out of the wall for me?”

“Yes, Mama.” He said a small voice, “Éowyn wanted to give it to you.  So I helped.”

Théodwyn held her hand weakly for Éomer to grasp, which he did immediately, “Oh Thank you, my sweet son.  I will treasure it and all these precious gems always.”  She caressed the side of his face as Éomer smiled, unshed tears filling his eyes.

Guthhild appeared at the door, “Éowyn! Come away this instant and let your mother rest.  And where have you been all this while?”

Théodwyn looked up and spoke in an unexpectantly sharp voice, “Guthhild! My children are welcome anytime they should want to be with me!  And as to where they were.  They were ‘exploring’,” She looked conspiratorially at both Éowyn and Éomer, “And they were kind enough to bring me presents.”

Guthhild opened and closed her mouth, swallowing what she was going to say, “Yes, my lady. Beg Pardon.” She dropped a small bow and said, “I shall await the little mistress in the hall.”

“Thank you, Guthhild. That will be all.”

“She is a bit of an old dragon, isn’t she,” Théodwyn laughed gently and then coughed which caused Éomer to get a drink of water for her at the bedside pitcher and then handed it to her.

“Thank you, my son.”  Théodwyn took a small drink and then set the goblet aside.  “But my children, I am in truth a little tired.  But thank you so much for my all treasures.” She grasped the little slab of pyrite to her heart.

“Yes, Mama.” Éomer said, “Come on, Éowyn. We should go.”

“Ok,” Éowyn leaned over and kissed her mother’s cheek, “Love you, Mama.”

“I love you, my dears.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Éowyn fingered a necklace at her breast as she ended her story.  Faramir noticed that it was a little slab of pyrite and he realised she always wore it and he had never really noticed before.

“Is that the stone that you gave her?”  Faramir asked.

Éowyn nodded, “Yes.  Not long after that Mama had some of the stones made into jewelry.  This pendant and earrings, a ring and a bracelet.  I remember the master jeweler being a bit put out when first he saw what he was being asked to work with.  Then he realized who he was making them for.”

“A seven-year old girl with a winsome smile and big blue eyes.” Faramir said placing his arms around Éowyn and a loving smile on his face.

Éowyn giggled and looked into Faramir’s wide light blue eyes, “Something like that.  Mama wore them with pride and when she passed away they came to Éomer and I.”

“That is wonderful that you have such a keepsake.”  Faramir said.

 “It is,” Éowyn said thoughtfully, a plan beginning to form in her mind. But she said nothing for moment.  “Well, we best be off.  And we shouldn’t have any troubles getting there if we are not having to follow Éomer’s directions.” Éowyn raised her eyebrows looking at Éomer.

“I did find the way out.” Éomer said defending himself.

“Sheer luck, Brother mine!” Éowyn laughed as she made her quick way to her horse.

“Brat!” Éomer proclaimed as he gained his horse’s seat.

Faramir watch brother and sister and for a moment felt a pain in his heart as he remembered his own brother.  He then thought what Boromir would say at his brother having such maudlin thoughts, he smiled and then mounted his own horse on the road to Gondor.

 

Ch. 3 --  Home to Minas Tirith

The six days journey to Gondor was uneventful and taken at a leisurely pace. Uneventful was something that welcomed by the entire entourage because there were still a few pockets of trouble here and there, mostly in Ithilien but it was still deemed wise to not let down their guard completely. The land between Rohan and Gondor was beautiful and in times of peace the forests and streams and open plains could be enjoyed for what they were.  Time was often spent for midday meals to be taken under the canopy of the fir trees that glistened in the Autumn sunlight and sleeping under the stars when it was deemed still warm enough to do so.  It was a lovely interlude of relaxed peace for Faramir and Éowyn.  He was going to have his work cut out for him going into Ithilien as sworn prince of that land, holding the title given him by Aragorn, but the time would be made far easier having Éowyn at his side, helping him in the work ahead.  She filled his heart with love and hope.  Boromir’s voice sounded in his head, “Does she know you snore?” He chuckled to himself.  He looked at Éowyn talking with her brother, Éomer. 

He thought upon the newly crowned King of Rohan.  He had not really known him before the Ring War.  He knew of him of course, but he had not known him.  But war throws people together in unexpected ways.  In the Houses of Healing he found Éowyn.  And he was slowly coming to realise he had also found a brother in Éomer.  No one would ever take Boromir’s place in his heart.  They had been through so much together.  Quite often it was the two of them against the world or at least their father.  Countless times of abuse or neglect on the part of their father lead to countless conversations between the two brothers.  Boromir sometimes would just sit and listen to Faramir try to work out what he was thinking or feeling.  Other times Boromir would encourage him to take a direction that Denethor had discouraged.  Boromir was very good at listening though people who only knew him as Captain-General of the Guard or as Denethor’s heir would never have suspected that quality to be one of his strengths.  Only Boromir knew the pain in Faramir’s heart when Denethor doled out another punishment or scathing judgment upon his second son.  As he grew older and came of age Faramir became loved by those under his command and to the common people of the White City, known for his wise judgment and empathy, but this only seemed to inexplicably strengthen his father’s criticism of him.  Éomer could never take Boromir’s place but Faramir was coming to realise that Éomer had qualities of his own that he could appreciate.  He was loyal and loved his sister great deal and was very protective of her.  That alone won Faramir’s respect and growing affection.

“Almost there,” Éowyn said breaking into his thoughts.  Faramir looked up as they had just crested a hill  and in the middle distance amid the swaying winter wheat of the Pelennor Fields stood the White City, his city.  His heart always swelled with pride when he gazed on the White Tower of Ecthelion.  He looked down on the Fields of Pelennor.  Six months removed from the battle and the land was recovering.  It was good to see.  Repairs were being made to the walls and as he understood Gimli was to speak to his fellow dwarfs about remodeling and renovating the city.  It was to be a time of good change as opposed to change wrought at the edge of blade and axe.

“It is will be good to be home.” Faramir stated.  It was the truth.  But what was also true was he was not sure who he was coming home to.  It was a most odd feeling.  His father had died under the most tragic circumstances.  Circumstances that he could still not completely accept as true though he had seen them in his mind’s eye.  His beloved brother was also dead in other circumstances that were very difficult to reconcile with the brother he had known and loved.  Aragorn, a man he had come to have great respect for, was crowned king of the reunited kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor, rightly so and to the great joy of all the kingdom.  Aragorn was placing a great deal of responsibility on Faramir’s shoulders.  He wanted so much to be worthy of this honor and responsibility.  He felt a great weight to live up this expectation. 

He looked in the direction of the Great Gate, repaired after the assault upon it by Grond, the massive battering ram of Mordor, and saw a guard of six riding out to meet them.  They were flying not only the king’s standard of the tree and seven stars, but also a flag that at first he did not recognize.  Only when the guard of six came closer and he saw that the one carrying the unknown standard was Beregond.  It was the standard of Ithilien.

Beregond closed the gap and then slowed to a stop.  Éomer’s entourage followed suit.  Beregond placed his hand upon his heart and then bowed his head before looking Éomer in the eye, “Éomer King, we are honored that you are among us once again!”  

Éomer placed his fist on his heart, “We are honored that you receive us.”

Beregond intoned, “Faramir, Prince of Ithilien.  The King is honored you have returned to us.” He then bowed his head, hand on heart.

Faramir bowed his head, “The honor is mine. Captain.”

Formalities done Beregond’s face broke into a huge smile.  “My lords, it is so good to see you back again and for such a happy occasion.” At this he rode up to Éowyn, reaching for her hand not holding the reins and kissing it, “My Lady Éowyn it so wonderful to see you!  Such beauty shines amid such scruffiness!”

Éowyn laughed as she allowed her hand to be kissed, “Flatterer!  It is so good to see you again as well!”

Beregond laughed as Faramir eyed him with mirth in his eyes, “Watch who you are sweet talking, Captain!”

“Several pardons, My prince. My lady’s beauty caused my forgetfulness!  Come let us ride!  The King is anxious to greet you all.”  And with that the guard of six wheeled their horses around and rode a quick pace to the Great Gate.  Rohirrim horses had no problem catching up their pace and soon out stripped them and a friendly competition ensued.  Quality horseflesh and Éomer King, born to ride gain the gate first and entered through it in a flash and flurry, pulling his horse up evenly by the reins and waiting for the others to enter a few seconds later.

Beregond entered through the Great Gate riding up to Éomer, “As ever you are the finest horseman I have ever known!”  Éomer dipped his head in response.

Éowyn chimed in pulling her mount to a halt, “Please! Do not say anymore or my brother will not be able to fit into his helmet.  They will have to be remade at great cost to the Mark.”

Beregond laughed, “Alas my lady, I had not reckoned the consequences of my words!”

Éomer retorted, “Keep it up, Sister dear and I may remember a few things that Faramir simply has to know before wedding bliss takes place!”

Éowyn stuck her tongue out at her brother, in a very unladylike fashion.

Éomer laughed a hearty laugh and turned his horse to begin the ascent through the tiers to the Citadel. 

As the joined party climbed up the cobbled streets of white stone through each tier, Faramir noticed with great satisfaction that life in Minas Tirith was returning to normal as much as was possible.  There were still repairs and construction going on and still some rubble on the lower levels to be seen but the bakers and the crafters, the fletchers and bowyers were getting on with their work and bringing their crafts to the once again bustling markets on the lower levels. Stall owners barking their wares and women bantering and bargaining for the best price for items ranging far from ribbons for their daughters’ hair to rugs to be placed in their best rooms for visiting. Children pestering parents for spice candies and honey buns.  Life was continuing.  He was filled with a sense of pride in the resilience of the people of Minas Tirith. 

As they progressed through the tiers there were cheers and pleasant acknowledgements of who it was that rode among them. Éowyn rode next to Faramir for a good portion of the way up.  “It is you they are waving to.”

Faramir had never felt comfortable with such adulation.  He never felt quite worthy of it and when presented with it en masse as he was today he did his best simply ride through it, not knowing quite how to act.  But today he looked at Éowyn riding at his side.  “They love you,” she said.

“But they don’t really know me,” Faramir stated with the doubt built of a lifetime showing in his eyes.

“I think they do,” Éowyn countered, “More than you realise.”

Faramir looked at her and in her eyes he saw love and belief.  He then looked in the eyes of a few of the people that lined the streets pausing as the entourage went past.  They looked back smiling and he saw the same love and belief in their eyes as well.  He was staggered to see it.  He never really had the courage to look before. Not among the common people.  Among those of his command yes, but they were soldiers, trained to follow orders and respect their officers.  Among commoners he had never had the courage to look, feeling unworthy somehow.  Now he looked and he found respect.  He tenuously nodded to those who met his eye and he was rewarded with more smiles and nods and cheers.  It was an unsuspected affirmation that he was unsure how to handle.  He looked at Éowyn again and she had unshed tears of happiness in her eyes, “They love you…and so do I.”

They eventually entered the Citadel on the seventh level and Éomer seeing Aragorn standing on the steps awaiting their arrival dismounted his horse.  Fastred, his attendant Rider immediately dismounted and took the reins from his liege.  He looked to Éowyn’s mount as she quickly dismounted handing the young Rider her reins as well, nodding her thanks.

Éomer bent his head in thanks, “See that they are well tended, Fastred.”

“At once, my King,” Fastred put his fist to his heart and bowed.

Faramir watched as Aragon and Arwen stepped forward. He quickly dismounted and Eirik had come forward having dismounted his own horse to collect the reins of his Prince’s mount, “Thank you, Eirik.  Please see that Brandion is properly seen to.”

“At once, My Prince!” Eirik nodded, hand on heart.  He looked at Fastred, “Come let me show you the way to the stables!”

Fastred nodded his relieved thanks and the two made their way through the back pathways of the Citadel to the stables along with the luggage and the rest of the entourage. 

As Aragorn reached the bottom step Éomer stepped forward and dropped to a knee.  Aragorn said with a full heart, “Rise my friend, we need not stand on ceremony on such a joyous occasion as this!”

Éomer rose and immediately found himself embraced by Aragorn.  The younger man exclaimed,“So good it is to see you again, My Liege, on this most happy of occasions.”

Aragorn looked at Faramir and stepped forward to embrace the younger man and then said, “My friend, I cannot tell you how happy I am for you.”

Faramir paused, at a loss for words briefly, “Thank you, my King!” he recovered himself a little more, “She is more than I deserve.”

Aragorn grew sober, “No my friend,” Faramir heard in amazement as he was named friend once again by this great and good man, “You deserve all good things.  Never forget that.”

Faramir nodded and resisted the temptation to cast his eyes downward.  “You must listen to my husband, you know.  He gets very cranky if he is not heeded.” Arwen spoke in her most lyrical and calming voice sensing that the young steward was in need of a little equilibrium. 

Faramir did indeed feel somewhat better and smiled at the dark-haired beauty in front of him.  “I shall indeed try to heed his words!”

“See that you do!” Arwen averred.

Éowyn bent a low curtsy as Arwen neared.  “Rise my lady Éowyn!”  She held out her slender and graceful hands to the Rohirrim lady, “Between us there shall be no ceremony!  We shall be sisters after a fashion.  You must always remember that!”  Arwen was unused to the pomp of court life such as it was in Minas Tirith society.  It bore little resemblance to life in either Lothlorien or Imladris and she looked escape its bounds whenever possible.   What little she knew of the White Lady of Rohan she already felt she was a kindred soul and she wished for friendship with Éowyn. 

Éowyn quickly rose and grasped both hands of the Queen, “Yes, My Queen.  I wish that as well.” Éowyn spoke both fervently and earnestly.  She had had very little time or patience for court life at Meduseld and that had indeed set her apart from court life though few would openly have said so as she was the beloved niece of the king.  She indeed welcomed Arwen’s overtures of earnest friendship.

Arwen spoke in a conspiratorial whisper, “Come let us leave the men to their talk.  We shall retreat to my solar where we may truly relax.”

Éowyn nodded with great enthusiasm, “Let’s!”

Faramir watched them scamper off leaving the menfolk to their “talk.”

Éomer next to him murmured, shaking his head, “No good can come of this!”

Faramir watch them go and said, “Well as long as they are happy.”

Aragorn and Éomer shared a look and Éomer shook his head just wondering what mischief his sister would invite this time.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A/N:   A tiny bit of a cliffhanger.  Not my usual style but I’ve been reading Lindelea’s wonderful work and I think cliffhangers are starting to rub off on me.  😊)

A/N: This was originally written as one chapter but I felt it was a bit too long for one so I split it into two.  :-)  I hope you enjoy!


Ch. 4 - A Friendship Takes Root

Arwen led Éowyn up a wide winding set of stairs to enter into a spacious circular room that seemed to be made of air and glass. White arches rose above her that turned from a white marble to marble arches of filigreed scrollwork on glass panes to sheer panes of glass that could opened to allow the breezes to flow.  The afternoon sun filtered into the room warming it very comfortably in spite of the autumnal air taking on a bit of a chill.  Éowyn walked to a window and saw that there was a breathtaking view of the city to be had from this vantage point.  The light airy architecture overwhelmed her Rohan-bred senses.  She grew up amid rooms of wood and great fireplaces, wall hangings to help keep in the warmth.

"This was the King's house. The stewards did not live here and very rarely came in any event accept apparently to make customary tests of its sturdiness."  Arwen said.  Éowyn looked at the Queen quizzically.  Arwen laughed softly, "I am not certain of what that quite means either, but that is what Faramir was telling us.  Apparently, the place was to be kept in some sort of readiness should the King return." 

"Readiness?" Éowyn stated.

Arwen nodded, "I think it became more ceremonial than anything, because I can tell you the state this place was in....  But with much cleaning it is now as it was possibly meant to be so long ago.  I chose this room for my solar." Éowyn looked around the room.  It was indeed spacious and yet cozy as well.  There were couches up against the wall covered with fluffy large red crimson pillows a large fireplace and on a table was a large vase of flowers and papers and wicker baskets. In the center was another two divan sofas at corners with a small table covered with rich silk in the empty square angle and on top was placed a decanter of red wine and two glasses.  "It most reminds me of Imladris." Arwen said sounding a little wistful.

Éowyn looked at her, slightly inquisitive, Arwen looked at her and smiled a little smile. "I would be telling an untruth if I said I did not miss Imladris and my brothers and my adar," A look of pain passed through Arwen's fair features only to disappear as fast as it came.

Éowyn saw this but decided it was too early in their friendship to delve into that private pain so she chose the safer route of inquiry, "You have brothers?  How many?"

Arwen smiled and said, "Two.  They are twins.  Elladan and Elrohir.  They have chosen to stay in Imladris."

"Twins!" Éowyn exclaimed, "I have only the one and I find him quite a handful at times!"

Arwen laughed merrily, the shadow from her features gone, "Growing up they were quite a handful.” She paused, “In fact they still are." She finished chuckling.  

Éowyn laughed and found herself beginning to relax around this ethereal beauty for she was discovering that Arwen had not only beauty of face, but a beauty of spirit and a way of putting another at their ease.  "Éomer has always been a handful ever since we were children but he has a heart of gold.  He truly does, but he tries to hide it under gruffness.  He would give someone in need the shirt off his back and then pretend like it was something anyone would do."

Arwen, "Men.  Why do they do that sort of thing."  She motioned toward the two overstuffed divans in the middle of the room.  Éowyn sat down, making herself comfortable.  

"Wine?" Arwen asked as she reached for the decanter and one of the deep wine glasses in faceted crystal.

"Yes, Thank you.  I would love one." Éowyn responded eagerly.  She took the offered wine glass and curled her legs along the emerald velvet of the divan cushion.

Arwen pour the deep red wine into another crystal glass and settled on the opposite divan upholstered with scarlet red plush velvet.  “You say that Éomer has a heart of gold?”

Éowyn replied, “Oh yes.  Though he would deny it.”  Arwen looked at her with a mischievous Elven twinkle in her azure blue eyes, “My Queen, What are you thinking?” Éowyn inquired returning the mischievous look.

Arwen picked up her wine goblet and looked at Éowyn, “It is Arwen.” She stated emphatically.

Éowyn smiled, her heart warming even more to the ethereal lady, “Very well, Arwen…What are you thinking?” she repeated, looking at Arwen pointedly.

Arwen paused with the wine goblet just at her lips before she spoke, “All men of a generous heart must be in need of a wife.” She looked at Éowyn and then took a drink of the fine Dorwinian vintage that she asked Aragorn to specially order for her.

Éowyn had an ear-splitting grin on her face and said, “I do quite agree!”  She took a sip of the vintage, and savoured the particularly fine taste “this is wonderful.”

Arwen said, “Yes it is, It is a particular favorite of my adar.” Again Éowyn noticed that shadow of pain that flitted through the azure blue of her eyes.

Éowyn felt pity for that unknown pain and quick fell back into her own habit of deflecting away from it that had served her for so long, living with her own pain for many years, before she had found love with Faramir.  “So, was there a particular lady you had in mind?”

Arwen locked eyes briefly with her new friend.  She knew that Éowyn had seen her pain though she tried to hide the flashes of it and yet she did not ask.  She tacitly set it aside respecting Arwen’s privacy.  Within that brief moment of shared understanding a bond portending true friendship was formed.  She smiled, “As a matter of fact.  I do.  We have many guests who have already arrived for your wedding and they will all be at dinner tonight in the Great Hall.  I want to see if you come to the same conclusion as I have, if so then we shall point our course accordingly.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

That evening….

The Great Hall was festively attired, for Aragorn Elessar was declaring that the marriage of his faithful Steward and proclaimed Prince of Ithilien, Faramir, son of Denethor and Finduilas, and Éowyn, daughter of Éomund and Théodwyn and sister to Éomer, King of the Mark, was to be celebrated as a grand state occasion preceded in eminence by only the Coronation and his own wedding in which he took Arwen Undomiel, Evenstar to her people as his beloved wife.  Pomp and circumstance was served as it needed to be, privately Aragorn could not have been happier that two such good deserving people found each other and would make each other whole.  It did his heart great good to see such happiness.

Arwen entered the hall and made straight for Aragorn who was near the dais.  “Estel! It is all coming together very nicely do you not think?”

Aragorn looked at his beloved, took her hand and brought it to his lips, “I think it looks wonderful, my love.  You have done a fantastic thing here.”

Arwen traced a little bow and he still held her hand, “I thank you, My lord. But I need to make a few finishing touches.”  She held some cards in her hands and stepped up to the dais to place them.

Aragorn watched as she flitted about the chairs placing cards at each place, “Place cards? Isn’t that a bit formal?”

Arwen looked at him, “Shush!  ‘Tis a very formal occasion.”

Aragorn stepped up onto the dais and picked up the first card he came to “Prince Imrahil,” he set it down where it had been placed. 

“Princess Neneth” He surveyed the place cards, picking up some and not others, all family and high nobles, “Faramir, Éowyn, Me, you, Éomer, Lothiriel, Princess of Dol Amroth—.” At this Arwen slapped his hand lightly.

“That is enough of that!  You go off and do something kingly—” Arwen said playfully, the look on her face closely resembling her mischievous brothers. 

Alarm bells went off in Aragorn’s head.  He knew that look, though it usually resided on either Elladan or Elrohir’s face, but Arwen was indeed their sister, sometimes more than others.  This was most definitely one of those times.  “Arwen…. What are you planning?”

Arwen said not-quite-innocently, “Never you mind.”  She looked pointedly at him, “And do not touch the cards!”

Aragorn also knew that look.  It was the exact look Elrond used to give him when he was ten and thinking of sneaking another spice cake before dinner.  Aragorn hated to admit it, but even after all that he had been though in his some-odd ninety years on Arda he was still a little bit intimidated by that look.  Deciding that discretion was indeed the better part of valour, he dropped a little bow to his Elven wife and said knowingly, “I shall go off and ‘do something kingly’ as per my Queen’s instructions.”

He kissed her lightly on the forehead and Arwen said, “You see that you do!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ch. 5 - Treasures of the Heart Unearthed

Faramir stood in his father’s study, a place familiar and yet unfamiliar to him.  Familiar because it was here in which countless rebukes of his seemingly enumerable faults were delivered.  He looked at the desk at which he had stood listening to the litany of his faults any number of times.  Unhappy memories.  Unfamiliar because this was no longer his father’s study. It was now his as the Steward of Gondor, though now under Aragorn, King of the Reunited Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor.  He had come into this room with a purpose but the aura of the room, all the memories crowding in around him stopped him cold.  Closing his eyes, taking in a deep breath, he managed to push aside those memories for the moment.  He had come to retrieve something.  He went over to a bureau of drawers and started to look through them.  He found various bits.  Blank parchment, bottles of ink, the detritus of a mind that was all business.  Then in the third drawer he found it.  An ornate box of carved wood and on the top an intricated painted scene of a lady on a swing laughing.  It was so out-of-place in this austere place of work.  Faramir carefully extracted the box from the drawer placed it on top of the bureau and carefully closed the drawer, quietly so as not to attract any attention.  He slipped out of his father’s study and stole away quietly to his own chambers where he could be alone.

Once in his own chambers he closed the door and sat on the edge of his four-poster bed.  He sat the carved box on the rich dark velvet coverlet and gently opened it.  Inside was a ruby ring set in gold with intertwining leaves circling the single gem.  Another sapphire ring set in what he always perhaps whimsically thought of as mithril, maybe it was only silver; he did not know.  A brooch of carnelian with a silhouette of a lady carved into it.  He had always assumed it was his mother, for this was her box of jewels kept in his father’s study after she had gone away.  He picked up a necklace and held it to the light.  It was a large single opal set in a gold setting. The light from the window igniting the specks of light within making the light dance across the densely translucent surface of the gem.  Each piece held a memory.  Some bittersweet as he, at only five-years old could remember his mother wearing some of these pieces.  He brushed away a few stray tears as he continued to look at the pieces.  Other bits of jewelry evoked memories only connected to the times he would steal into this room after his father departed for the day and look at the treasures within as a reminder of something that belong to his mother though he did not quite remember her wearing them. 

At the time he did not understand why his father kept the jewels in his study and not in his bedchamber or the vault.  Now having seen a little of Denethor’s heart, his emotions; he realised that his father had wanted something of his beloved Finduilas near him at all times.  These jewels through tragic inheritance were now his and he planned to give them all to Éowyn.  Their beauty reflecting the beauty of his beloved.  He searched for a pair of earrings, ones he most definitely remembered his mother wearing.  He smiled as he thought of Éowyn wearing these. He closed the box and brushed away a last tear and started to Éowyn’s chamber with the precious treasure in his hand.

Éowyn was sitting at her dressing table waiting for her maid to return with a repaired strand of pearls and matching earrings she had wanted to wear when she heard a knock at her open door.  “Come in…”  She wondered why someone would knock on an open door.  Faramir stood at the entrance of the door, looking a little sheepish. 

“I waited for Waerith to depart.  I wanted us to be alone.” Faramir stated as he walked into her chamber.

“My lord!  We will have to wait for the wedding night.” Éowyn teased.  To her amazement Faramir coloured just slightly.  Éowyn took pity on her beloved, he looked a little nervous.  “We will be alone for a little while, Waerith has just gone to get the clasp on a set of necklace and earrings I wished to wear replaced.”

“Oh,” Faramir looked a little disappointed, “Well, if that is the case then. Well, that’s all right.” He turned to leave.

Éowyn placed a hand on his arm to stay him, “My love, what is it that you wished to say?”

Faramir looked at her, his earnest light blue eyes searching hers. “I just thought that maybe.” He stopped and seemingly reorganized what he was going to say.  “My father had in his keeping certain things.”  He paused.

At the mention of Faramir’s father, the Lord Denethor, Éowyn had work hard to keep her emotions from showing on her face.  She truly disliked very few people in this world but Denethor was most certainly one of them.  She would never understand how he could have mistreated Faramir as he did and any thought of the man immediately darkened her eye.  But right now that wave of emotion would not help whatever it was that Faramir was trying to tell her.

“And as he,” Faramir paused and then continued, “As he has died.  Those certain things have now come to me.”  Éowyn waited patiently for him to begin again, “My mother’s jewels.  I wish to give them all to you.  If you will have them.”  Faramir opened his hand to reveal to Éowyn a pair of beautiful emerald drop earrings.  A casting of gold leaves and an emerald set in gold. 

Éowyn gasped.  She had never seen anything so delicate and so finely crafted. But they could have been river stones and she would have loved them because of what they clearly meant to Faramir.

Faramir watched her face and asked tentatively, “Do you like them? She had others if you don’t like these.” a somewhat worried look on his face. 

Éowyn turned to him, eyes brimming with tears and kissed him soundly.  “They could be river stones and I would love them because of who they belonged to and that you honor me with their gifting.

Éowyn hugged him and Faramir’s heart sang with joy.  “Let me see them on you.  I always remember her wearing these.” He said smiling a tremulous smile.

Éowyn placed them in her ears and Faramir could not believe how beautiful and perfect they looked on her.  Then he noticed that she was wearing a blue gown, “but they don’t match.  Mama had a pair of sapphire ones as well, I will go and get those.”

“Pish!” Éowyn said fervently, “I will wear these!  Anyone says anything, they will get the backside of my hand.”

Faramir laughed and spun her around, “that is my lady of fire!”  He proceeded to fervently kiss his soon-to-be wife full of spark and life.

“My lady!” Waerith exclaimed as she entered the room, shocked at the display of affection, “This is not seemly.”

Both Faramir and Éowyn started to laugh.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Arwen met Éowyn as they were going to the reception room in which the family and close friends gathered before the grand entrance into the Great Hall was to be made. There were chair and divans to relax upon and groaning tables filled with enough food to make even a hobbit happy. She held out both hands in greeting to Éowyn and Éowyn grasped them warmly.  Immediately Arwen noticed the beautiful emerald earrings dangling from Éowyn’s ears.  Her hair had been purposefully upswept to show them off. 

“They are beautiful,” Arwen said.

Éowyn smiled, and with happy tears lining her eyes, she stated, “Faramir gave them to me before we came down.  They belonged to his mother.”

Arwen, knowing a little of the history of Faramir’s family as told by Aragorn, mouthed an awed “Oh” , “Then they are very special indeed.”

Éowyn agreed, “Yes they are,” She looked thoughtful and then asked, “Arwen, can you give me the name of a good jeweler here in the city.  There is something I want to have reset before the wedding.”

“Yes, of course.  I will instruct my attendant to take you there tomorrow morning, if you like?” Arwen stated.

“Thank you so much!  Yes! That will be ideal.”  Éowyn bit her lip as she thought about what she had planned and prayed it could be done in time.  Arwen looked at her pointedly.

“I will show you before anybody else, but for now I just want to keep it secret.”

Arwen nodded her understanding and mercurially switched subjects, “Now to business,” she whispered.  She surveyed the room and saw her chosen quarry.  “Mingle, talk to others.  See if you select the same lady.”

Éowyn took on her mission with an intense curiosity.  She obtained a goblet from an attendant and began mingling.  She surveyed the gathered family and higher nobles who would be entering with Aragorn and Arwen.  She saw a few younger women, all very pretty but she was unsure if any would be suitable for her brother, who could be a handful.  She saw a table laden with food and gravitated over to it.  She took a small pearlescent plate purposed for the selection of cakes and tartlets and small pies and thought that Merry and Pippin would have found themselves quite at home just sitting at the table and eating.  She smiled to herself thinking of the dear little hobbits.  She saw a plate next to her piled high enough to make even Merry or Pippin proud.  The owner of the plate appeared as she added another tartlet.  Éowyn looked up into a pair of laughing blue eyes.  “I know.  I know.  But I eat when I get nervous and gatherings like this sort always make me nervous.” The blue eyes belonged a gamine face and petite figure who truthfully did not look like she would eat one quarter of what she had put on her plate.

Éowyn laughed wishing to put the girl at her ease. “I’m not terribly used to this sort pomp myself, though I guess I should be.” Her eye unintentionally fell upon the plate again as the girl added a mushroom tartlet.

“I know,” the girl said genially, “My mother wonders where do I put it all.  She says I must have a hollow leg.  And that ladies should not eat quite so much! To which I say ‘Pish!’ then she looks at me in a shocked fashion!”  Éowyn’s intuition flared.  She looked at the girl a little more intently.  The girl colored a little, dropped her head a little, “I am sorry my lady, my mother says I should not use such language.”

Éowyn laughed, beginning to warm to the girl, “Oh that is quite all right.  I have used such colorful language myself, much the consternation of many a nurse and governess.  Other words just aren’t up to expressing certain emotions!”

The girl looked at her with new eyes, “Quite right!  I do not believe I know you.  Lothiriel, Princess of Dol Amroth.” She bowed slightly.

“You’re Faramir’s young cousin!”

“Yes!  And you are—” She stopped, “You’re Éowyn.  Faramir’s betrothed.”

“Yes!  I have heard much of you and your brothers and how much Faramir loved visiting you on the coast at Dol Amroth.”

“None of the naughty bits are true, I assure!” though the twinkle in Lothiriel’s eyes told a different story.   

Éowyn laughed.  The laughter traveled and fell upon Faramir’s ear.  He looked across and saw Éowyn laugh with his cousin Lothiriel.  A more beautiful sight he could not wish for. He simply had to be by her side at this moment.  He looked to his uncle, Prince Imrahil and Éomer, “Excuse I see trouble brewing and somebody must stop it at once.”  Prince Imrahil, at first was alarmed but then saw where Faramir was headed and understood immediately and smiled.

Faramir replaced his empty wine goblet and retrieved another one from an attendant’s tray, nodding his thanks as he made his way across the room.  “I see you have made each other’s acquaintance,” he began jovially, “And should I be worried about anything being said by either of you!”

“Always, cousin, always!” Lothiriel laughed.  She looked at Éowyn, “Faramir was my favourite cousin!  He never minded have a small girl tagging after him when he and my brothers would go off someplace.”

Faramir laughed, “Well it was easier than trying to get you to stay put.” He said teasingly.  Éowyn loved seeing Faramir at his ease bantering with his cousin.  It warmed her heart to know that family other than Boromir saw his worth.

Prince Imrahil walked across the room to join his nephew for he had yet to meet his betrothed, at least not formally.  Éomer accompanied him.

“Nephew!  You have yet to introduce me to your lovely betrothed.” Prince Imrahil said.

Faramir nodded his acquiescence, “Uncle, might I present Éowyn, daughter of Éomund and sister to Éomer.”

Imrahil took Éowyn’s hand and kissed it as she bowed a low curtsy. “It is an honor to meet you my dear.” He said, looking into Éowyn’s eyes for a few searching seconds, “So happy Faramir has found one who clearly sees the fine man that he is.” He ended approvingly.  Éowyn blushed.  Éomer stood amazed.  First that his sister of the two left feet could have performed such a low curtsy and the fact that anyone could make his unflappable sister blush.

“The honor is entirely mine, my lord.”  Éowyn, faced shining with happiness talking with another who clearly valued Faramir’s worth.

Faramir then turned to Éomer saying, “My lord king, might I present my cousin, Lothiriel, Princess of Dol Amroth.  Lothiriel, Éomer, King of the Mark and brother to Éowyn.”  Éomer awkwardly took Lothiriel’s hand and bent to kiss it, as Lothiriel performed a low curtsy.

Meeting Lothiriel’s eyes Éomer was stuck by the blueness of her eyes and yet by something else as well, a fire and spirit he had not expected to see in one so gently bred.  He paused and stumbled over his words, “It is an honour to meet someone so fair.”  He coloured as the unfamiliar words and emotions tumbled within and without. 

Lothiriel rose from her curtsey and upon hearing the stumbled words, she looked into eyes of blue that were suddenly unsure but beyond that she saw a well of kindness and loyalty and goodness of spirit that quite took her by surprise.  She replied with the expected phrase, “the honour is entirely mine,” but said with a kind of wonder at what she beheld.

Éowyn stood amazed.  First that her confident and self-assured brother, who had been no stranger to female company would stumble over his words and secondly that someone could make her normally unflappable brother blush.  She glanced at over at Arwen from across the room.  She was at Aragorn’s side as they were speaking to some minister she had been introduced to earlier.  Éowyn motioned slightly to Lothiriel.  Arwen nodded, smiling. Éowyn sent a smile back.  This was going to be a most interesting week for reasons previously unrealized. 

A/N:  The next three chapters were originally one, but I decided it was too long!  So you three for the price of one!  Enjoy!  And Stay Safe.


Ch. 6 – A Wine-Coloured Dress

The steward of ceremonies came in to bid all to dinner.  Aragorn and Arwen made ready to enter first, then Éomer, and the others by the order set by precedent long established at formal occasions such as this.  They entered at the back of the Great Hall and proceeded to the dais amid cheers from those of the citizenry that were invited.

At the dais everyone sat according to their place cards. It was then when Éowyn noticed where Éomer had been placed, right next to Lothíriel.  She caught Arwen's eye, smiling.  Arwen returned a bright smile of her own.  Aragorn caught this silent yet joyful communication and it all clicked into place.  He looked to his left and then remembered the conversation before dinner with Arwen as he realised that Éomer and Lothíriel were seated next to each other.  He glanced pointedly at his elven wife who in all innocence said "Estel, hand me that flagon of wine.  It is time for you to make the toast."

Aragorn murmured a suspicious “MmHmm!” and his ethereal wife actually mouthed, “Shush,” as she was filling his goblet, she who was most definitely in the midst of a plan of some sort but she was also right.  It was time for the toast.  Aragorn stood, which caught the attention of the gathered.  The sound of many chairs and benches scraping back from tables resounded throughout the hall.

“We are here gathered to acknowledge the advent of great joy.  Great joy for us all but especially great joy for two young people.  Faramir, son of Denethor, my Steward and newly named Prince of Ithilien and, Éowyn, the White Lady of Rohan, and sister to our brother Éomer, King of the Mark and dearest ally.”  Aragorn gestured toward Éomer, who raised his goblet and bowed his head in acknowledgement.   

“But on a more personal note,” Aragorn continued, “My heart is filled with boundless joy that these two good people have found each other and can make each other whole and happy and for that do I say raise your goblets!”  All eyes were on Faramir and Éowyn.  Faramir did manage a small smile though he did look as if he wanted crawl under the table to avoid scrutiny, even of a positive kind.  Thankfully, he reflected, he was not expected to respond, at least not yet.  That particular nightmare of attention-garnering would be saved for the wedding day.

Aragorn smiled empathetically, he knew how much Faramir hated notoriety.  Éowyn noted that her husband-to-be was redder than the tablecloth that adored the high table.  She smiled at Aragorn with a knowing look.  She nodded and mouthed a “Thank you from us both” to her sovereign and friend.  Aragorn returned the gesture and resumed sitting and the feast began in earnest.

On the other side of the table a different sort of tension was developing.  Éomer sat trying to make conversation with Arwen as was proper.  But all he could hear was the conversation that was happening to his left.  Lothíriel, to whom he just been introduced was speaking to Beregond on her left.  He was acutely aware of her presence, which made no sense to him.  He had only just met her earlier this evening.  Her laugh, the scent of lavender and rose.  He was completely distracted.  Arwen said something which he did not catch, though he had seemingly been looking in her direction.  “Éomer, --”.  His name cut through the distraction, “what did he say,” she asked.

Éomer blinked and then owned up to his own admission of, “I do beg pardon, my lady Arwen.  What did who say?”

Arwen paused and smiled, “It is of no great import.  I do believe it is time that we switch.” She signaled for a light bell to tinkle.  It was Arwen as Queen and hostess of the proceeding who controlled the direction of conversation at least at the onset. 

Éomer nodded his head in affirmation and turned to his left to be met by blue eyes that took his breath away.  “My lady,” he managed to stumble, “would you have some wine?”

Lothíriel had been speaking with Beregond, recently named Captain of the White Guard who were to accompany Faramir into Ithilien; she had known him for some time.  When she heard the tinkle of the bell to turn she met eyes so deeply blue gazing at her with such intensity she barely heard the proffer of wine, “Yes, please” she nearly whispered.  She watched as strong, manly hands poured the wine into her goblet.  She thought the hands shook a bit but she chalked it up to imagination.  That was until the decanter holder bumped the rim of the overly full goblet and Éomer tried to steady the goblet with his other hand and inadvertently spilled about half of the wine onto the bodice of Lothíriel’s dress.  Horrified, Éomer stumbled, “Oh My lady.  I am so very sorry.  Can you forgive me?  Attendant! Please come and see to the lady!”

Lothíriel was a little taken aback at first, but then she saw the mortified look in Éomer’s eyes her immediate reaction was to put him at his ease.  She could feel his deep embarrassment and sought only to allay it.  She looked down at her dress which fortuitously was a deep red colour.  She could feel the spilled wine was soaking through a portion of her bodice and that the dress was most likely ruined but when she saw the mortified look in Éomer’s eyes none of that mattered.  The only thing that mattered was to ease his embarrassment.  Someone came forward with a cloth, “My lady, do you wish to retire and change your dress.”

Éomer sat there looking like a scolded puppy, “My lady, perhaps you should.” He tried to sound confident and self-assured, yet his eyes told a different story.

Lothíriel’s heart went out to him as she said, “Pish! It was a drop!  I will not melt,” she took the proffered cloth from the attendant’s hand and pressed it against her dress, “And as you can see it complements the colour of my dress!”  She looked into Éomer’s worried and embarrassed eyes. “It will be fine!” she declared spiritedly and she gave him a warm, compassionate smile.  Éomer looked into her eyes and beyond their beauty he saw kindness and empathy. He was enthralled and fascinated by what he saw there and the word “Pish” kept echoing around in his mind.  The only other woman of his acquaintance to use such language was his sister.   A thought began tugging at his consciousness that Lothíriel indeed was unlike any woman he had ever known. 

Aragorn had been watching this whole display unfold.  He really had no idea what was going on, but he heard her avowal and realised that she wanted no fuss over this accident, “You heard the lady, she will be fine.”  The attendant bowed to his king and hand on heart he took his leave.  All sat down again and Éowyn cast Arwen a look that said, “I approve!”  Arwen had a smile on her face and nodded.

Lothíriel settled into her seat and kept the stained cloth she had taken from the attendant either surreptitiously pressed against her side or in one hand that she kept under the tablecloth. She reached for her wine glass which now only held half its former contents.  As she was looking into her goblet pondering its contents and feeling the other half seeping into the fabric of her dress, she heard a low, manly voice rumble, “Do you trust me?” She looked to her right and Éomer was holding the same decanter offering to fill her goblet once again.

Playfulness evident in her eyes she challenged him, “Go on. I have three brothers.  I live for danger!”  Éomer’s laughter rang out across the hall as he, this time, successfully refilled her goblet.  Later, after dinner was over and the family and friends were retiring to the family apartments, Éomer pulled Lothíriel’s chair out as she departed. She rewarded him with a smile.  He looked down at the chair and saw a carefully folded napkin and saw a hint of red.  He picked it up off the seat of the chair where it had been laid.  It was stained with what smelled like red wine.  He realised it must have been the cloth that Lothíriel had taken from the attendant.  It still felt damp from the wine.  Just a drop she had said.  Éomer watched as she walked with Éowyn and Arwen to the private family apartments.  Her kindness had salved the embarrassment he had felt and she sat eating dinner in a wet dress because…he did not know the answer to that question.  But he really wanted find out.

Ch. 7 – Honors bestowed

The next morning at breakfast Arwen gave Éowyn the name of her favorite jeweler on the third ring of the City.  Faramir immediately chimed in as he was layering marmalade on a slab of buttered wheat toast, “What is this?  An errand?  Shall I join you?”  

Éowyn had to think quickly because the nature of the shopping trip would not do to have Faramir accompany her.  “It is to be an errand to look wedding finery, nothing more.  Then I shall back before you know it!” 

“Well then, if it is to be a quick excursion it will a good excuse to stretch my legs,” Faramir said, not taking the hint.  Éowyn cast a quick look at Arwen, silently communicating the need for help.

Arwen acted quickly, “Nonsense!  You would be bored.  It is an outing that we had talked of earlier.  Women shopping together.  There would be nothing for you to do.”  She looked at Aragorn who had been drinking coffee, munching on toast, minding his own business while looking over some letters when she caught his eye.  Aragorn inwardly sighed.  The women were planning something, what he did not know and wise man that he was he knew he did not need to know.

“My lord Steward, remember we were going to go over the dispatches from Ithilien this morning.” Aragorn stated as he ate the last piece of toast and swallowed the last of his coffee and proceeded to get up from the table giving Arwen a pointed look.  Arwen returned the look with a smile signaling all the mischievous inscrutability of the Elves he grew up with.

“That is right, I remember now.  Ah well, my love.  It looks like I will not be able to accompany you after all.”  Faramir sighed swallowing the last of his coffee and retaining the marmalade-laden slab of toast for the journey to Aragorn’s study.  He bent to give her a coffee-flavored kiss and followed his Lord.

Éowyn exhaled, “That was close!” She looked at Arwen, “Thank you.”

Arwen smiled, “Not a problem.  Now what is this errand that we are now going on.”

Éowyn sighed, “You need to keep this secret!”

“Not a word!”  Arwen avowed.

They talked.  Éowyn had wanted to venture out onto the street just the two of them but it was not something that Arwen was going to allow.  “You are in my City now and I want assure that you are safe.  Besides if we are attended it will raise no suspicions.  If we are unattended it will raise eyebrows.”  She then summoned Dolthriel, a tall willowy girl who had a very self-assured way about her to attend them.  “Besides Dolthriel is the sole of discretion, are you not Dolthriel?”

“Aye my lady.  I follow your lead in all things,” the maiden answered quickly and affectionately and with an intelligent light in her hazel eyes.

Éowyn sighed and then nodded her acceptance of this course and they finished their breakfast at a clipped pace ready to be off on the errand.

As they left the confines of the Citadel and the King’s House Éowyn patted her pouch to make sure she had what she needed.  Thus assured they set forth. The cobbled streets of the upper levels of the White City had sustained less damaged in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and she could see the austere grandeur of the city.  Though she had not been born to living in cities of stone, Meduseld, grandest hall in all of Rohan, was built in beautiful shades of wood light and dark, she could see why Faramir held this city to be most beautiful.  It had a certain strength to it, the houses, the streets and its people all bespoke a certain resilience.  They might bend but they would never break.  Éowyn admired that. 

Walking down the tiers Arwen and Éowyn fell into easy conversation, speaking of weddings and preparations and such.  Éowyn began, “I have never seen Éomer so flustered as he was last night when speaking with Lothíriel.  When he spilled that wine on her I could tell how mortified he was.”

Arwen nodded her agreement, “I can tell you that when we held conversation at table last night I doubt he heard a word I said, so busy was he trying to listen to what Lothíriel and Beregond were laughing about.  I thought to put him out his misery so I switched the conversation earlier than I would normally!”

Éowyn laughed, “It was a mercy, but that only lead to the wine incident.  I have to say I really am warming to Lothíriel.  Not many, if any would have acted the way she did after Éomer splashed her with wine.  It was more than a drop I can tell you.  I saw it happen.”

Arwen nodded, “I had met her a few times and I saw her spirit.  And I also saw the kinds of gadflies who were trying to get her attentions.”  Arwen rolled her eyes, “They were, in my estimations, completely unworthy.”  Dolthriel chuckled a little.

Arwen looked at her lady-in-waiting walking just behind them, “Aye, Dolthriel.  Was it not so?”

“Aye, my lady.  They were “interesting” if I may venture so!”

“Quite right!” The Queen of Gondor confirmed.

“Thankfully for Éomer that was so.” Éowyn stated.  Arwen just smiled.  She looked up and saw that they were at the jeweler’s shopfront. 

“Here we are.” Dolthriel stepped forward to open the front door setting off tiny chimes to inform those inside of their arrival.

A voice sounded from behind some partitioning that separated the back of the shop from the carved wooden counter in front, “Telion!  There is someone at the counter!” a few minutes passed, “Telion!  Where is that boy!”  A little man appeared from around the partitioning wall, at first looking a little flustered at the interruption, bellowing, “Where is that boy!”  He stopped short when he looked up to see Arwen, the Queen, gently glowing, at least to his dazzled eyes.  He immediately dropped to a knee.  “My Queen!  I do beg pardon for such a greeting!”  Arwen went to him and brought him from his knee.

“There is no pardon to give, Master Taethion,” Arwen proclaimed, her voice melodic, “We have come upon you without announcement, it is mine to apologize.”

“No, No My Queen—

At this the boy Telion burst into the shop proclaiming, “Master Taethion!  I was unable to get the jug of Oxtail Soup you asked for,” he started to unload the food stuffs from a satchel he was carrying, “but I was able to get the four meat pies from The Three Casks, he tried to charge me for five but—” the boy stopped short when he realised they were not alone and just who their company was.  Telion’s mouth hung open as he gazed on the radiance of the Queen of Gondor.  “My Q-Queen!” the boy stumbled through the words as he dropped to a knee. 

Arwen went to the boy and brought him up from his knee was well.  “It is time, My Lady Éowyn, to explain what is your request.”  She looked at Master Taethion, “May I present, Éowyn, Sister to the King of the Mark and the betrothed to Lord Faramir,” she looked at Éowyn, “Taethion, Master Jeweler.”

Éowyn bowed her head to the Master Jeweler.  She turned to the boy, who had snatched his cap off his  head in respect, “And you are?” Telion’s eyes went wide.  Nobody of the Quality had ever asked his name before.  Telion gulped and said in a near whisper, “Telion, my lady.  Apprentice to Master Taethion.”

Éowyn smiled kindly, “You are training to become a jeweler?”

“Aye, My lady.” Emboldened by her kindness, he spoke again, “I want to make beautiful things.  To erase the ugliness that had come before.”

Éowyn paused at that comment and really looked at the boy.  She saw within his eyes pain and memory. Well she could understand that look, “Did you fight?” she asked with a voice full of intense memory. 

The boy looked back at her seeing in her eyes the same pain and memory, he shrugged, “Did what I could.  Ran arrows and water.  Defended myself at need.  Got this when I came too close to the fighting.”  He lifted his thick sandy-colored hair to reveal a scar that ran down the side of his face that had healed unevenly. “My mum stitched it as best she could.”

Éowyn became thoughtful, realizing that not everyone who was injured had had access to the King’s healing as she had.  Arwen said, “You received this in the service to Gondor and to the Light?”

“Aye, My Queen.” 

“Then it is we who honor you.” Arwen bowed her head; Éowyn and Dolthriel followed suit.  Telion, who was totally overwhelmed that the Quality should be even acknowledging him, just stood there grasping at his hat.  Éowyn looked him in the eye once more sharing a bond that only those who had endured the fighting could share.  “Study well and you will see success.” 

“Thank you, my lady.” Telion nodded again. 

Éowyn smiled and then pulled the river stone bracelet from her pouch.  “These stones, while they are only river stones to the eye are precious in my family.”  She told the jeweler and his apprentice the story of the river stones from when she and Éomer were only children.  “So you see.  I want the best two of these stones to be made into two rings to be placed on Lord Faramir’s finger and on my own at our wedding ceremony in five days’ time.  And the rest to stay as part of this bracelet.  Can you do this in time.”

Master Taethion reverently took the bracelet from Éowyn’s hand.  He cast a trained eye upon the piece, “I do believe so, My lady.  And thank you for entrusting us with this charge.  We would consider it an honour for us to perform this service for you.”

“I and the Lady Éowyn thank you, but nevertheless you must allow me to compensate your time.” Arwen said lyrically at least to their ears.  She withdrew a small pouch of gold and laid it on the carved wooden counter. “This is to be a gift to you and we cannot receive it back.”

“Thank you, my Queen.” Master Taethion bowed with his hand on his heart, he then redirected his gaze to Éowyn, “Which stones should I use, My lady?”

Éowyn stated, “That I will leave to your expert eye, Master Taethion.”

“It shall be done, My Lady.  And many happy wishes to you and the Lord Faramir, a very good man I might say.  A very good man indeed.  So happy am I for you both!”

At that pronouncement Éowyn smiled a tearful and happy smile, “Yes, he is Master Taethion, Yes he is. Thank you.”  Measurements were conducted and discussed and soon Arwen and Éowyn departed.

Master Taethion watched from the storefront as they made their way back to the Citadel on the seventh level.

“Pure Goodness those two, Telion,” he said, referring to Arwen and Éowyn, “Pure Goodness.”

Telion looked after the two women and their servant, thinking about the brief bond he had shared with the Lady of Rohan, “Aye, Master Taethion, Aye indeed.” 

~*~*~*~*~*~

Ch. 8 – A Revealing Morning’s Ride

Lothíriel awoke that morning feeling restless.  She got up and after mulling over her morning tea brought by her attendant she had decided to skip breakfast.  What she really needed was to get out into the sunlight and ride.  She had been in the City for three weeks and she really needed to feel soil between her feet.  At Dol Amroth she practically lived outside by the seaside or out with her brothers, much to her mother’s chagrin.  It was Neneth’s mission to train her to be a proper lady of the court but Lothíriel had grown up around her brothers and had been indulged by her father.  At twenty-one she was used to a freer life than had been her mother because the Ring War had disrupted the social fabric of Gondorian society.  For centuries life had been proscribed but war disrupts the order of things.  She had never come out in society.  And she did not want to.  To be suffocated by society was a fate she dreaded.  To marry and gad about in the upper echelons of Minas Tirith was death itself.  She looked at her ruined dress laying over a chair near her dressing table.  And she thought of intense blue eyes and a low rumbling voice.  Her only thought had been to ease the pain of his embarrassment.  After the “wine incident” they had eased into a kind of teasing like she shared with her brothers, but it was somehow different.  She shook her head.  She simply had to get out into the open air where she could think clearly again.   She rang for Eliariel.  When her attendant had arrived she declared, “I am going riding!”

“But my lady your father said you were not to ride without one of your brothers as escort!” Eliariel protested.

“Pish!  I am going!  I must feel the wind in my hair!  I have been too long with the City!  Help me to dress!”

Eliariel sighed deeply.  When in this mood there was no guiding her lady.  She helped her to dress.  Lothíriel looked at her attendant.  “Away with the long face!  You will come to no trouble!  I will not let that happen!”  Eliariel knew that Lothíriel would be true to her word.  She would defend her ladies-maid to all comers. She was loyal and soft-hearted, a very good mistress.  But A Elbereth she could be headstrong.

Soon Lothíriel was in the saddle and guiding Windemere down the tiers out onto the Fields of Pelennor. Once out onto the fields amid the winter wheat she gave Windermere her head and the gallop was glorious, but she did pull in the reins after a few minutes.  But it did feel so good to be out in the autumn sun.  She held Windermere to a trot as she looked past Minas Tirith to the mountains beyond.  It was truly a beautiful sight.  After about half an hour, Lothíriel conceded it was probably time to go back and reluctantly made for the Great Gate.

Riding up the tiers Lothíriel felt freer than she had since coming to Minas Tirith.  She rode into the stables and dismounted Windermere.  One of the grooms offered to tend to her horse but Lothíriel declined.  She wanted to spend more time with Windermere.  She took her horse to her stall and began to uncinch the saddle.  When she stood back up and began to heft the saddle and walk it quickly to where it was to be stored she bumped into something and then heard an “ooff” and heard someone fall.  She placed the saddle on a near bench.  She turned around and saw Éomer sprawled on the ground.  It was her turn to be embarrassed.  She felt her face flush to what she could only assume was the color of the wine from last night. “Oh my Lord, are you all right.”  She rushed to pick him up and started to absentmindedly brush him off. 

 

“I think we should at least know each other a little better before you start to brush me off there,” came the amused low and manly voice.  Lothíriel looked where her hand was.  It was placed on his rear and brushing it off with energy.  Lothíriel turned even more red.  Éomer’s smile changed from one of mocking amusement to one of chagrin and empathy.  “Oh my Lady, I am heartily sorry for teasing you especially when you were so kind to me last night.”  The timber of his voice both soothed her and made her very aware of him all at the same time.  “Am I forgiven?”

If he would just continue talking to her in that low rumble of a voice she would forgive him just about anything.  Lothíriel looked into those blue eyes and had trouble even holding onto a clear thought.  She blinked and managed an answer, “Well I suppose we are now even.  You spilled wine on me and I knocked you over with my saddle.”

Again that hearty laugh sounded and Lothíriel began to relax and even laugh herself.  “Well we have made quite the impression upon one another,” Éomer stated, merriment dancing in his eyes.  Lothíriel tried to stop laughing, “We have at that!”

Éomer picked up the offending saddle and began to move to where the saddles were stored.  “Let me do that.” Lothíriel moved to take the saddle from his hands.

“Nay, consider it recompense for one ruined dress!”  Éomer countered.  He placed the saddle on the pegs set into the wall for it and returned.  He looked at Lothíriel.  He seemed hesitant, biting his lower lip before he spoke.  His eyes sheepishly cast down before he looked back up at her.  He began tenuously, “For it was ruined, was it not?” 

Lothíriel’s heart was in her mouth as he looked at her through brown and blond eyelashes.  “How—"

“How did I know?  You left the cloth behind sitting on your chair.  It was still slightly damp and stained red.”  Lothíriel simply stared, mesmerized by intense yet gentle blue eyes asking ‘Why’?”

“You sat through dinner in a wet dress.  Can I ask why?” Éomer inquired gently yet intensely.  He was standing three feet away, a respectful distance, but his gaze made her feel as if he was standing very close.  Part of her wanted to flee this scrutiny for she truly did not have an answer for him.

But Lothíriel never ran from a fight or a challenge.  With three affectionate but older brothers she learned to stand her ground.  This challenge was no different.   She sought the refuge of honesty, “I don’t know.  That look in your eyes.  I couldn’t stand to see you embarrassed.” She looked straight into his eyes, almost daring him to mock her reason, to tease her as her brothers would.

Éomer held her gaze and saw such fight, such courage to meet a moment that clearly unsettled her.  He could see that her spirit was gentle-hearted and yet indomitable.  He had truly never met a woman who met life head-on as this woman did.  He found her amazing.  She had endured so he would not be further embarrassed. 

Faramir entered the stables.  He and Éomer were going to go for a tour around the city and the outer walls.  Éomer had earlier expressed an interest in how the rebuilding and repairs were coming along and they had decided to make a quick turn before lunch.  “Éomer, there you are—” he stopped short as he realised not only what Éomer in the stables but also his younger cousin, Lothíriel.  They were not speaking.  They were simply staring at each other.  Lothíriel was the first to notice another’s presence. 

“Cousin!  How lovely to see you!” as she stepped forward to greet Faramir, giving him a kiss on the cheek.

“And I you, cousin!” Faramir smiled at Lothíriel.  He looked at Éomer, who still looked a little stunned.  Faramir eyed his soon-to-be brother-in-law curiously, comprehension planting a slow-growing seed in his mind.  “Brother?  Are you ready for our ride?”

Éomer looked at Faramir with a far-away look, “Aye, we are.”  Faramir left off remarking upon the use of the word “we” because clearly Éomer’s mind was completely distracted.

Lothíriel stated, “Well then, I shall take my leave of you two.” She bowed her head and left them to it.  She still needed to groom Windermere but she would wait until they left for their ride.  She needed to place a little space between her and those intense blue eyes that she was unaware were following her.

Faramir stated, “Shall we ride, Brother?”  He received no response and looked to what had captured Éomer’s rapt attention.  Lothíriel walking from them.  He looked back at Éomer and raise both brows.  “We ride?”

Éomer snapped his attention back, “Aye!”

Faramir hid a smile.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Chapter 9 – Brothers at Heart

The walls of Minas Tirith rose above the winter wheat that blew across the Fields of Pelennor at an uneven height due to good portions of the wall having been damaged by the catapults used by the forces of Mordor.  Repair work continued but some portions were being held in wait for the dwarfs of Erebor to rebuild as a service to honour Aragorn as the restored King of Gondor.  Faramir looked from the walls to the fields beyond.  The ruts made by the siege engines were healing.  Life is its varied form was returning all across the field save one spot where the Witch King fell.  Upon that spot no grass would grow.  It was a spot of barren dirt surrounded by growth.  Faramir’s face grew somber when he thought back to the fact that Eowyn had, along with Merry, killed the Witch King.  They had both been enveloped by the Black Breath and he knew how the shadow had harrowed his soul.  He knew what the Black Breath had shown him, it had been his dearest desire perverted into his worst nightmare.  He had not had the courage to ask what the Black Breath had shown Eowyn. 

“My Lord Faramir,” Éomer’s voice interrupted his tortured musings.

Faramir looked at Éomer, the last vestiges of tormented memory leaving his eyes as he spoke, “We are soon to be brothers.  If you would allow, I would have no such formalities between us, Brother.”  He finished with a question mark on that last word.

Éomer looked upon this man who had won his sister’s heart and brought light into her eyes.  He had already a great deal of respect for this man; but his words now kindled brotherly affection as well.  “Aye.  –Brother.”  Faramir felt gratitude in his heart as he acknowledged this acceptance.  But it did not seem that Éomer was quite finished.  Faramir felt as if the younger man was building up to saying something else. Éomer started hesitantly, “I asked to come out to view the rebuilding because first, I am interested in how goes the restoration, but also to have some time away from the others.” 

Fear inexplicably flared within Faramir’s heart. He closed his eyes, belatedly realizing that he had assumed too much in thinking Éomer would consider him his brother.  He silently berated himself and prepared for condemnation and denial, the habits of a lifetime spent never being good enough, never meeting with the approval of the one whom he never seemed to please. “What is it that you wished to say,” he found himself saying in that calm, controlled voice that had always awaited rejection in times past.  He steeled himself against what always and inevitably lead to pain.

Éomer ventured forward not noticing the change in demeanor of this man he had come to respect greatly.  He continued haltingly, “My sister has not had a lot of happiness in her life.  Our father died from injuries from an orc attack and our mother, I guess through grief, followed him a little over a year after that.  Well, you know a little about that now.” Éomer said, referring to the story of the amulet that Eowyn always wore. “She was only eight when we went to live in Edoras. Uncle Theoden was more than kind, more a father to both of us than an uncle, but going from the relative freedom of our holding to court life was not easy.  I was starting to train as a Rider but Eowyn had no such outlet, I realise now, looking back.” Faramir sat his horse listening and waiting for the condemnation to fall.  He had started to grasp his reins tighter and the waiting was becoming harder and harder to bear.  “Forgive me,” Éomer interrupted himself, “I do not express myself as well as I could.  I am not made for such talk.” 

Faramir turned saddened and resigned eyes upon Éomer, “It is okay, please say what you are here to say,” again in that calm, controlled voice.  He steeled himself again, waiting for the fateful words he knew were coming.  This had all been too good to be true.  His father was right.  He was not worthy of regard or love.

Éomer continued in his own fumbling way, not noticing the tension that was building within his friend. “Well, Court life was not easy for Eowyn, as you have noticed she is not given to concern herself with the fripperies and fantasies that consumes most ladies of the court.  And she was thought odd by the other ladies because of it.  She devoted herself to tending our uncle, becoming his companion…What I am trying to say in obviously the most roundabout way,” Faramir closed his eyes and bowed his head, telling himself that he could withstand the rejection of Éowyn.  He could be alone. That he would survive. Éomer continued, “Is that I want to thank you for giving Éowyn her smile back. There is now hope in her heart because of you.  I thank you and as her brother, who loves her more than life.  I am very happy about this union.”

Faramir sat his horse only through years of endless training.  His heart was pounding in his ears and he could barely hear beyond that sound.  Éowyn loved him. She had not sent Éomer out here to tell Faramir there was to be no wedding.  He slowly loosened the death grip he had on the reins as they stood near the place where the Witch King had been killed. She loved him. 

Éomer sat looking curiously at his friend and soon-to-be brother slowly realizing that Faramir was, at the very least, distracted.  “Brother, did you hear me?”

Brother, Faramir hear that word and it went straight to his soul.  He replied, looking straight ahead as he tried desperately hard to bring his bewildered emotions under control, “Yes, my brother,” Faramir stopped over the word letting it penetrate through the anxiety and doubt of the past few minutes, “I heard you.”  Faramir turned to look Éomer straight in the eyes, “And allow me to say, she has been my salvation.  And I swear to you this day I will never allow her to be unhappy ever again.  I will move heaven and earth for her.”

Éomer nodded to him placing his fist on his heart, “Now then,” he began in a determined voice, “before one of us break down into tears, songs or love poetry, I suggest we go and inspect the outer east battlements!”

Faramir gave a short sharp laugh, “Yes, lets!” He touched Brandion’s flanks to set off in a trot, though his spirit was soaring.   They arrived at the outer east battlements and repairs were on going.  White stone quarried from white cliffs near Dol Amroth was being brought in. 

“Why Dol Amroth?” Éomer asked.

Faramir replied, “Because it is the highest quality limestone in all of Gondor.  I remember going there when I was young to visit my Aunt and Uncle.  My cousins and I would walk on the beaches and view the white cliffs.  They were huge, massive.” Faramir’s face held the wonder of that memory.  “We would walk up to the sheer cliff face and look straight up.  It would make you dizzy just to do it.  There was another section that was not quite as high where the foolhardy young could walk along these chiseled steps to the top of the cliffs.  Not man made but natural.  It was like a rite of passage to prove you were not afraid of heights.  It was a tight squeeze and we never told anyone what we were doing.  It was time for Amrothos, my youngest cousin to test his mettle and my little cousin, Lothíriel tagged along, not that we knew that at the time.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

3007 T.A.  Dol Amroth

Lothíriel had heard her brothers and her cousin Faramir talking about the white cliffs.  She knew they were planning on scaling the steps again.  They were planning on going right after breakfast and she was going to go with them or at least follow them. 

After breakfast she asked her nurse to go and fetch a new pinafore for her doll because she had gotten it all messy from eating too much jam with her strawberry scone and she wanted her doll to be all clean for when they sat and practiced her needlepoint. Lunethiel, she explained, was a very fussy doll and liked to be clean at all times.  Her nurse gave her a sideways glance but went to go and retrieve the pinafore.  As soon as she left the room Lothíriel flew to the open window and gingerly stepped out and dropped the few feet onto the pathway and she took off running with Lunethiel in tow.  She came to the back path that lead to the cliff beach and spotted the boys already far down the path heading for the cliffs.  She followed them as carefully and quietly as she could because if they spotted her then they would tell her to go back. 

She hid among the various crags along the beach while they just walked along the sandy beach kicking up ocean tide as they headed straight for the cliffs.  A couple of times she had to wait for the tide to wash back out and slip to the next enclave.  She looked down at her shoes, they were getting wet and sandy but that could not be helped, and she bemoaned the fact that she had really worn the wrong kind of shoes for this excursion, but there had not been time to properly change.  While pondering her shoes she saw that the boys had slipped from sight.  Chagrined, Lothíriel decided she needed to quicken her pace just a bit.  So she took a few more chances and could again see the boys, but poor Lunethiel now had wet feet and the rim of her own dress was a little wet.  She stowed Lunethiel inside her pinafore apron so the doll wouldn’t get her feet wet anymore and moved a little more quickly.  She saw that they had arrived at the chiseled steps and were starting to climb, Amrothos going last.  She waited until Amrothos had made it halfway.  She stood at the foot of the chiseled steps and looked up.  She bit her lower lip in pensive thought.  It looked far steeper from this angle than it had from afar.   She screwed her face up in thought and decided that if Amrothos could do it then she could, too.   She began climbing.  At first it seemed easy.  She was even able to look around a little.  The view of the sea was amazing.   Seagulls flew past her calling to each other.  One even looked at her with a quizzical gaze, as if to say, “Odd, little girls aren’t usually attached to cliff faces.”  After about ten minutes she was starting to get tired and still had a ways to go.  It was so steep that she could not rest or sit.  The little steps and paths were too narrow. 

Suddenly a few small rocks and dust fell on her and she shrieked at the unexpected shower and it caused her to slip briefly though she was able to right herself.  From up top she her brother Elphir shout “Thiry!! Whatever are you doing down there!”

“Climbing up!  You did not invite me so I came anyway!”  Lothíriel tried to brazen her way through this ordeal of her own making but she was in truth getting a little scared.

“Thiry!!”  She looked up and saw her cousin Faramir shouting, “you should not have come!”

Lothíriel was starting to agree with him but there was not a lot she could do except to go forward. She had looked down, a mistake in and of itself, and realised with a lightening bolt to her senses that way was simply not an option.  She looked up and saw the anxious looks on her brother and cousins’ faces.  She took a deep breath and willed herself to keep moving forward.  She talked to her doll, “Lunethiel, don’t you panic.  We will get through this!  I will see you safely up top!” 

She shouted back up to the top “I’m OK!” after she scooted along a particularly narrow ledge.

All three brothers, Amrothos having finally reached the top, and Faramir were now leaning over the top watching and shouting encouragement.  Faramir realised that his little cousin was finally near enough the top that the rope he had with him would reach her so he shouted down, “Thiry!  I’m going to throw this rope down.  Tie it around your waist and just continue to climb.  We can’t pull you to safety because the rockface is too craggy, but at least you will have some protection!”

At this point Lothíriel did not even argue that Amrothos did it without a rope because she was more than a little scared by this time and growing more tired as the minutes rolled by.  She shouted, “Yes, please.”  In what she hoped was a strong, sure voice.

Faramir’s worry increased as his indomitable little cousin was starting to sound genuinely scared.  He dropped the rope down.  It reached her and she quickly tied it around her waist in what she hoped was a secure knot and she continued to climb.  She placed one foot as surely as she could along the thin ledge and then the other, “We are getting there, Lunethiel. We are getting there.”  She whispered to her doll periodically. 

The shouts of encouragement from above also rained down on her as well. “You are doing fine, Thiry!”  “Not long now!”

Finally, she crested the top and found herself being pulled up the last few feet and then enveloped in a huge bear hug by three brothers and a cousin.  She was safe. 

When last the hug ended Elphir yelled “What in the name of Eru Iluvatar possessed you to do something like that!!”

“Well,” now that the initial fear of safety had been vanquished, Lothíriel said, “You didn’t invite me and Amrothos said I couldn’t come because climbing wasn’t for girls.  But I came anyways.”

Elphir looked at Amrothos and the younger boy said, “What?  It’s true.”

“No it isn’t.  I can climb, too.” Lothíriel shouted back. 

Elphir looked at Amrothos, “You shouldn’t goad your sister!  Tisn’t right.” He pulled Amrothos aside.

Faramir knelt down to speak with Lothíriel, “You shouldn’t listen to Amrothos when he is goading you.”

“But he was wrong,” Lothíriel looking at her cousin, “I can climb, too!”

“Yes, you can and better than Amrothos!  You know it and   I know it.  It will be our secret.”

She took Lunethiel out of her pinafore to straight up her dress.  Faramir took Lunethiel and held her mouth to his ear. “What’s that?”  He held the doll to his ear again, “Ah I see!”  He looked at Lothíriel and said, “Lunethiel says that you were very brave, but she was scared.  You don’t want to scare her again do you?” handing her back the doll.

Lothíriel said, “No, I suppose that would not be right.” 

Faramir smiled and kissed her on the forehead, “That’s my brave and kind girl.”

Lothíriel looked at Lunethiel saying in private conversation, “I did get us to the top though.  I got us both to safety, but I was little scared, too!”  She confided.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Faramir smiled, “Lothíriel has always been fearless.” 

He looked at Éomer who looked a little starstruck, “She is a wonder, indeed.” as he looked at a new slab of limestone with unseeing eyes.

Faramir looked his friend, comprehension taking full root, “She has a kind heart, but a discerning one.  She knows a good heart when she sees one.  And so do I.” Éomer looked from the slab to his friend in whose eyes he saw a quiet light of approval.  Éomer smiled as they resumed their surveying of the outer wall.

Ch. 10 – The Fire is kindled

Lothíriel waited near the stables and saw the two men ride out and down the tiers from which she had just come.  She watched the disappearing figure of a man she had only just met the night before and yet she felt as if they had known as each other for so much longer.  She walked back into the stables and retrieved the curry brush and began brushing down Windermere. As she absentmindedly stroked her horse's hair in his after-ride currying she thought of intense blue eyes that seemed to look straight through her.  She had read her share of romance stories but no story she ever read spoke to the strange jumble of emotions she was feeling. Confused, excited and a little bit scared of the tumult and strength of her emotions.  She had had her share of suitors, approved by her mother and tolerated by her father.  Some had been nice, others not so much but none, none evoked this response from her.  She had not truly been interested in marriage beyond the fact that it was expected of her.  And in truth she had not looked forward to the prospect.  She saw her parents' marriage and they seemed happy together.  Teasing each other and talking affectionately to each other when they thought no one else was looking. Regardless of the reasons they were placed together they loved each other now.  If she could not have that sort of relationship she did not want any.  But then again that was not the way of things, she mused.  

She worked out a spot of mud with a little firmer brushing of Windermere's shoulder and then smoothed the spot down, "Oh Windermere.  I am so confused." she said to her horse and leaned her head on his neck. Windermere looked at her with his sage brown eyes and nickered softly.  Lothíriel smiled, "I love you, too."  She sighed and finished his brushing down.  She grabbed a carrot from the nearby wooden box and fed Windermere the treat.  She picked up the curry brush and stoked his neck with her hand. "Thank you for the lovely ride, my lad.  I do feel better." Windermere nickered again in response. She smiled as she put away the brush and wandered back to the King's house.  

"Hello my lady!" Lothíriel started, suddenly realizing that she was being called. Beregond laughed softly. "My Lady?"

Lothíriel blinked, "Sorry Captain,  I was miles away."

"So I could see," Beregond teased gently. "Queen Arwen and the Lady Éowyn are having midday meal and then a fitting for wedding finery and are asking you to attend.  I was sent to find you."

Realization fell upon Lothíriel.  She had completely forgotten the noonday plans so distracted she had been. "Thank you! Beregond.  Where is my mind today?  I will go at once."

Beregond traced an overly elaborate bow, "Allow me to accompany you, my lady!"

Lothíriel looked at him affectionately, "Silly man, Yes of course."

~*~*~*~*~*~

Beregond walked Lothíriel into the dining room, bowed low and stated grandly, "The lost Princess of Dol Amroth, my queen has been found." And again he bowed low, his eyes twinkling with mischief.  Lothíriel just looked at him and he winked at her.  Lothíriel suppressed the desire to slap him upside the head only because she thought it might give the Queen and her new found friend the Lady Éowyn the wrong idea about of her character.  

Arwen suppressed a grin as well, saying ever-graciously, "Thank you Captain Beregond. But if I were you I would step away from the 'Lost Princess of Dol Amroth' before you receive a 'slap upside the head.' I believe is how our Periannath from the north would put it."

Lothíriel was mortified that so much had shown on her face, "My Lady,  I would never --.

Arwen held up her hand, "Peace my dear.  Captain Beregond would have deserved it," she finished with an Elven twinkle of mischief in her bluish almost violet coloured eyes.

Beregond started to laugh, "I think you are right, my Queen.  I shall now take my leave of you." He bowed and removed himself from harm's way.

Lothíriel just stood there not quite knowing what to do, "If my mother heard of any of this I would be scolded for a month of Sundays."

Arwen looked quizzically, "Why is that?"

"Because she feels that it isn't ladylike behaviour?" Éowyn answered for Lothíriel with a knowing look in her eye.

Lothíriel at her new friend with a nodding appreciation, “I see you understand, My Lady.”

Éowyn smiled, “Just Éowyn please.  And yes I think I do.  Many a governess told me the very same thing.  I just stopped listening.”  Lothíriel smiled wider and began to relax.  She was truly beginning to feel she was among friends.

Arwen just shook her head, “Once again I am glad I was raised in Imladris and not mortal courts.  So many rules.   Please sit so that we may begin eating.” Arwen gestured to a cushioned chair next to her.  Lothíriel nodded and sat down. “Dolthiriel?” Lothíriel noticed a tall, dark-haired young woman behind Arwen step forward, “Can you please tell Cook that Princess Lothíriel has arrived and we are ready to eat and afterwards please come and join us for meal.”

The dark-haired young woman bowed, hand on heart and said, “At once, My Queen!” and departed upon her errand.

Once seated Lothíriel could not help but ask, “If I may ask, how were you raised, My Queen?”

Arwen smiled, “When in private, such as we are here, please just call me Arwen.  I accept the strange need for titles in public or so Estel tells me of the importance of such things to mortal  ears.  But in private I do not see a need.”

It was Lothíriel’s turn to be quizzical, “Estel?”

Arwen smiled enigmatically, “Aragorn,” looking very elven to Lothíriel’s eyes and even to Éowyn’s.  “That was his name when he was fostered and grew up in Imladris.” 

Lothíriel’s eyes when wide, “So it is all true…” She had often heard the stories of the King’s life up until the Ring War over the past months.  But there was a difference between stories and hearing it firsthand.  Arwen simply smiled and nodded.  “You say there were no governesses, no thousand rules of polite society.”  When she thought of the endless rules that had been drilled into her, “I wish I had grown up in Imladris!” She said with feeling.  Éowyn laughed, “Aye, that would have been nice!”

Arwen laughed, “Life anywhere has its joys and its sadnesses.” Arwen’s voice had slowed over that last word and her tenor had changed.  Just then Éowyn noticed the same shadow as when they first met, crossing Arwen’s elven features and lingering a few seconds longer.

She decided to break the mood by asking Lothíriel, “Why did you sit through dinner in a wet dress?”  Lothíriel blushed at the directness of the question.  Éowyn noticed Arwen’s colour improved and the light returned to her eyes.  Éowyn breathed a sigh of relief.  She did not know what secret trauma caused the sadness to cross Arwen’s fair features but whatever it was, it had hurt her deeply.

Éowyn looked back at Lothíriel who gulped before she tried to explain.  Once again as with Éomer she sought the refuge of honesty,  “I don’t know.  I couldn’t stand to see your brother further embarrassed.  The look in his eyes.  It moved my heart.  So I sat throughout dinner wearing a wet dress.”

Lothíriel sat having bared her soul and wondering what these two strong and admirable women thought of her bizarre admission.  In her mind’s eye she saw intense blue eyes laughing with her.  Blue eyes seemingly peering through her.  She could not stop thinking about him, try through she might, for she was unused to the emotions that were swirling within her. Her thoughts were interrupted by Dolthiriel and servants entering with the midday meal.

Éowyn had been about to respond when the servers entered the dining room.  She held off commenting until the food had been served and Dolthiriel was at the table and seated, all the while observing Lothíriel blush redder and redder.   She liked this girl.  She really did.

“Éomer asked the same thing this morning.” Lothíriel added, “I guess it—“.

Éowyn interrupted the younger woman, “You spoke with Éomer this morning?”

Lothíriel nodded, “I was in the stables brushing down Windermere and I, well, I knocked him over with my saddle!”

The three other ladies started laughing, and Lothíriel joined in.  “I heard an ‘oooff!’ and then I looked from behind the saddle and saw Éomer sprawled on the ground.”  She laughed and realised it felt really good to laugh.  It relieved a little of the tension that had been gathering in her mind.

“What did Éomer say?” Éowyn asked.

“Well, ‘ooof’,” Lothíriel informed them again, Éowyn laughed, she was really liking this girl, ‘then I think something to the effect of that we certain had made an impression of each other.  It was all a little hazy.  But then, And I specifically remember this, he asked why I sat in a wet dress and I gave him the exact same answer I gave you.  I don’t know.”  And the young woman blushed again Éowyn noted with a growing happiness.  She looked at Arwen who had noticed the blushing as well and she smiled.  All seemed to grow on a pace. 

Arwen said, “Well now, after we have eaten it is time to fit wedding finery.  The seamstress awaits."

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Because she was Faramir’s favorite cousin, Lothíriel was to be in the wedding party.  Her measurements had been sent to the seamstress and it was time for the final fittings.  The dresses were cut in the style of Éowyn’s wedding dress.  Arwen’s dress was a deep violet silk and velvet with gold trim and trailing sleeves, it would accent Arwen’s eyes, turning them almost violet and fitting her coloring perfectly.  Lothíriel picked up her dress still on the hanger and thought it was perfect.  It was the same cut as Arwen's though a different colour.  She swished it against herself luxuriating in the heavy teal silk and velvet.  She looked Ganeth, the seamstress, “You are a true artist.  This is beautiful.” 

The older lady coloured slightly, “Your ladyship is most kind!”

“Nonsense, it is beautiful.” Lothíriel quickly walked toward to the next room to slip it on.  “Dolthiriel can you help me!”

“Certainly my lady!” Arwen’s lady in waiting replied.

As Dolthiriel was loosening the ties on the dress she was wearing, Lothíriel was aching to ask what she knew about Éomer but she could not.  She was tongue-tied, which for her was most unusual.  The feeling was still too personal to allow anyone in just yet.  Dolthiriel slipped the new dress over her head and Lothíriel stroked the teal velvet as Dolthiriel cinched the back up to define the shape more.   Lothíriel turned the polished metal mirror and caught her breath.  The dress was beautifully done.  She placed the hand loop connected to the skirt on her wrist and rushed out to show Arwen and Éowyn the dress in all its glory.  She walked out swishing the skirt with a flourish, “Will it do?” she sang out. And stopped in her tracks when met by an intense pair of blue eyes.

Éomer had come in to ask Éowyn something when a voice sang out “Will it do?” he looked toward the voice and saw a vision of such loveliness that he completely forgot why he was there.  Lothíriel stood in an ethereal dress of teal and velvet, flourishing her skirt.  He had never seen a more beautiful vision.  He simply stood gaping. 

“My Lord, I did not know you were here!”  Lothíriel stumbled out.

“My apologies.  I did not mean to startle you.”  Éomer said transfixed.  “You look….very pretty.”

He then heard his sister’s voice, “Éomer.” And realised they were in a room full of people.  He looked around rather sheepishly and noticed Éowyn, Arwen, Dolthiriel and another woman he did not know.  He bowed to them in a rather stilted way and departed. 

Driven by a force she did not understand Lothíriel chased after him.  Once again the anguished and embarrassed look in his eyes cut straight through to her heart.  She simply had to go to him.  She left the dressing room and looked left and right and saw Éomer turning a corner into the near right passage, walking quickly.  “My Lord Éomer, please wait!”

Éomer heard the voice calling to him.  Part of him simply wanted to get away, to be alone with his own thoughts. But he silenced that part quickly enough. He paused by a railing that overlooked the internal courtyard. When Lothíriel caught up to him she stopped running and slowed to a thoughtful pace, almost as if she were approaching a skittish bird that might take flight, which was a severely incongruous image with the man she was approaching; a Rider born and bred and King.  His eyes though, they held gentleness.  If truth be told it was his eyes that held her. 

She smiled, “We do keep meeting in the most bizarre ways.”

“Yes,” came the husky voice, then a plaintive “I do not know why.” He said dipping his head in a slight bow and in that low rumble of a voice that held bewilderment.

“Isn’t it odd.  We only met yesterday and yet I feel as if I have known you for far longer.”

Éomer, not understanding the torrent of emotion coursing through him at her nearness, merely said, “We have only just met.”  He had had experience with women.  He was no innocent, by any description, but this torrent was unlike simple passion.  This, he did not understand.  After one day she could see past all his defenses.  It was unnerving.

“I know that, but I see you and I want to protect. Not me from you, but you from everything else.  Isn’t that odd?”

Éomer looked into her eyes, in them he saw a kind heart but also a fierceness of a mother bear and a courage that would always meet life head on, come what may.  A fire for life.  He was drawn towards that fire.  It would match his own.  “Very odd,” He whispered. He drew close and continued to look into her eyes and true to the nature he saw there, she stood her ground.  Their lips met and the spark was kindled.  

Lothíriel drew back and knew that her life would never be the same.  She saw it in his eyes as well.  “Well, in terms of life changing events, yep, that would do it!  Why didn’t anyone ever tell me kissing would be like that!”

Éomer laughed another booming laugh, “Because it usually isn’t so.”

Lothíriel replied, “Ahhh!”  She looked at him and he took her hands in his, mostly to stop the shaking of his own hands, “What do we do now?” she said.

“Well,” Éomer said, swinging her hands back and forth and then brought them both up to kiss her fingers and stall for time to let him gain control of his emotions again. “You need to go and finish getting that dress fitted," he said as he could see that it was slipping off her shoulders, "And I need to learn to breathe again.” He smiled. Lothíriel smiled back and suddenly realised she had no shoes on.  She ran out of the dressing room in her stocking feet and onto the cold stone floor.   She pulled up her skirt and showed her unshoed feet.  Éomer laughed, “Well we can’t have that.  You’ll catch your death and then where would we be!”  He scooped her up in his arms and carried her back to the dressing room. 

He saw a blondish red head sticking out the doorway and then heard the sound of scurrying as he approached the dressing room.  He walked in carrying her in his arms.  “Anyone looking for a lost princess?” He quipped quickly and set her on her feet.

The room was silent the inhabitants simply looking with varying degrees of wonder or joy.  After Éomer had put Lothíriel down Éowyn walked up to him with a smile on her face.  She peered up to him, “Feeling better?”

Éomer looked at his sister. “Yes.”  A one-word affirmation that conveyed so much more.  Éowyn's smile grew and she leaned up to kiss his cheek and then whispered in his ear “You may not look but that does not mean you will not find.”

Éomer recalled the earlier conversation when she said the same thing.  Éomer smiled, looking at Lothíriel.  She was right.  He had found his heart.

Ch. 11- Admissions of the Heart

Prince Imrahil had been waiting in the interior courtyard waiting for Aragorn and Faramir.  They were going to speak of a few matters of diplomacy presenting themselves concerning Umbar now that Umbar had made overtures of relations beyond that of raiding the coastline near to Dol Amroth.  He smiled mirthlessly.  It seems that after Sauron had been defeated Umbar was far more interested in peace than in trouble.  As he pondered this new reality another new reality seemed to be forming right above his head.  He heard his daughter’s voice from above. He looked up and was about to call to her but the sight above stopped his voice.  He saw Éomer King standing at the railing and then looking toward his daughter’s voice.  He could no longer hear what was being said but the look on Éomer’s face was most intense.  And then something happened that every fatherly instinct shouted out to stop but he somehow managed to restrain himself.  Éomer had just kissed his daughter.   His more rational instincts said that the kiss had been mutual but rationality when it came to his beloved daughter was often in short supply. 

“Well, an interesting turn of events.” A voice interrupted a father’s desire to storm the battlements and demand satisfaction.  Imrahil looked to his side.  Aragorn stood looking up at the unfolding scene, “Very interesting!” he added with surprise.  Imrahil looked up and saw Éomer sweep Lothíriel up in his arms.  He started for the nearest staircase but a soft engaging giggle from above stopped him.  It seems that Lothíriel was in no immediate danger. 

He looked at Aragorn, impotent fatherly fury waging war with his reason, “But they only just met!  Last night at dinner!”

Aragorn looked at Imrahil and said in a knowing voice, “Sometimes one meeting is all that is needed…” His mind cast back to a forest glen somewhere in Imladris, decades before, when he lost his heart to Arwen.

Prince Imrahil stood in that courtyard looking at his king and feeling moments of life rushing past him.  Every fiber of his being wanted to put a stop to what he had just seen.  He wanted to stop time.  He wanted to keep a hold of his little girl just a little longer.  He had rejoiced in the fact that she had seemed uninterested in the suitors that her mother had paraded in front of her.  Much to her mother’s chagrin, Lothíriel seemed unmoved, more interested in her horses, her archery, her charitable works around Dol Amroth than in any marriageable prospects.  He had laughed gently at his wife’s attempts to beguile her daughter.  She was his little girl, the youngest of their children.  He suddenly felt old.  he told himself that maybe perhaps it was only a passing fancy. 

The next morning, however, he knew differently.   After breakfast in the upstairs dining room where family and close friends gathered, once Lothíriel had left with Arwen and Éowyn, Éomer rose from his seat across the table and walked purposefully towards Imrahil.  He stood at his chair and bowed slightly and upon straightening he said, “My Lord Prince, I would speak with you on a matter of great importance to me.  If you would be so kind.”  Éomer nodded again awaiting an answer.  Imrahil knew of what he wished to say, or at least the subject he wished to broach and he wished to the Valar he knew a way to delay but in his heart he knew could not.

“My Lord King, are you at leisure now?”  He stated figuring to get it over with though it weighed heavy on his heart.

“I am,” the younger man stated, intensity flowing from him in waves. 

“Let us step onto the balcony,” Imrahil motioned to the bay doors that stood off to the side.

Once upon the balcony that ran the length of the second floor, Imrahil closed the doors.  Éomer stood with his lips pursed as if unable to decide upon his words.  Strain shown upon his brow and he stood silent.  Imrahil simply waited for the young man to begin. 

At length Éomer started, “I am a man of few words, at least not the ‘pretty ones’ that are required for such a precious task.  I shall speak plainly and then I shall endeavor to follow with more words after the essentials are established.  I love your daughter.” He admitted emphatically.

Imrahil’s eyebrows shot up, “And yet you have only just met.” But his heart heard the word “precious” used.  He looked upon Éomer with new eyes, perhaps he saw the beauty of Lothíriel’s soul.  It was all that Imrahil as a father could hope for his beloved daughter. A man who would value Lothíriel for the gift that she was.

“Yes, I know that.” Éomer stated in clipped terms.  “But in ways that I cannot even explain she is essential to my heart.  I know not the fancy words to dress up what is in my heart but only to say she is kind and fierce at the same time.  She has a fire for life that matches my own.” He ended passionately.

Imrahil was surprised that the younger man could have described Lothíriel's heart so perfectly, and on so short an acquaintance.  He met Éomer’s gaze to take what he hoped could be an honest appreciation of what he saw there.  Éomer held his look with equanimity.  What he saw both pleased and dismayed him.  He saw confusion but genuine emotion.  He saw respect and he saw love.  Éomer, he knew, by reputation, was an honorable warrior and a good leader who inspired love in his men.  He was dismayed, selfishly, because he knew that he had lost his little girl to this good man.  Pursing his lips before speaking Imrahil said, “What is that you are asking of me?  That I could not have guessed already having accidently viewed yesterday at the railing?”

Éomer stopped short dropping his eyes respectfully.  “My lord I have no explanation for that.” He looked up, eyes filled with concern at what Imrahil would think, “We met on accident.  It was not my intention to dishonor your daughter in any way.  It is why I am speaking to you now.  I wish for your permission to pay court to your daughter.  I wish to do things properly.  To honor her and you.”

“Have you spoken to my daughter about your wishes.  Does she share this desire?”

“Yes, My lord.  I have!”  Éomer stated emphatically, “And yes she does!”

“Indeed.” Imrahil countered, raising his eyebrows again. Éomer opened his mouth and then shut it again, words did not come.  But his eyes told the story.  In his eyes Lothíriel’s father saw the truth of Éomer’s emotions.  He would make a fine and worthy husband. Damn him for taking his daughter away from him.  He quickly silenced that selfish voice that wanted to keep his daughter by his side; that was not the way of things.  He smiled a sad smile, “Be at ease, my Lord. If I had any doubts you have allayed them. It is only mine to give permission but for Lothíriel to give her heart.  And she knows her own heart and mind amply well.”

Éomer genuinely smiled at that, “That she does, my lord.  That she does.”

“But she is still young yet.  Can a father ask for a little time?”

Éomer nodded, fist on heart, looking up he held Imrahil’s eye, “Thank you.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Lothíriel was as nervous as a cat as the three women sat in Arwen’s spacious solar finalizing wedding plans.  Éomer said that he was going to talk to her father about courting her as it was only proper but she had no idea what her father was going to say.  There had been other suitors with the express intent of bidding on her hand.  That phrase had always sat ill with her, as she was a prize philly to be awarded to the best stable.  She had found none the young “stallions” or rather “colts”, to extend the metaphor further, to her liking much to her mother’s chagrin and more to her father’s secret amusement.  But there was a world of difference between those young men and Éomer.

Éowyn looked at Lothíriel, “My dear, you seem a little anxious this morning.”

Lothíriel looked at her new friend and gently chewed her lower lip, “Éomer has gone to speak to my father for permission to court me.”  Éowyn’s eyebrows shot up,  “We know it is too soon for anything other than courtship but I still don’t how my father is going to react.”

Éowyn exchanged glances with Arwen.  The elven Queen of Gondor said, “For some it might be considered rushing, for others not-so-much.” She smiled again in that mystically elven way, “It only took one chance meeting for Estel and I.  We met in a forest glen in Imladris.  One moment and,” Again a look of infinite sadness crossed her face, but she brushed it aside as quickly as she could, “We had to wait, of course.  I was Elfkind and Estel is mortal.” Arwen again paused about to say more but she simply ended, “It was not generally done.”  Whatever hurt had Arwen been given dealt with her marriage but Éowyn knew that some things simply could not be said before time, if ever.

Éowyn took up the tale to deflect away from whatever pain Arwen was trying to conceal.  Everyone had a right to their privacy.  “Faramir and I met in the Houses of Healing.  We had both been seriously injured and both healed by Aragorn.  At the time I was unready to accept anyone’s love.  My life had been shrouded by doubt and regret.  I could not see past my own misery and sorrow to see what was in front of me.  I had gone forth to die in battle.  I could see nothing beyond that.   But Faramir,” Éowyn spoke the name with such love that it almost brought tears to Lothíriel’s, “he saved me,  with kindness and gentleness and more patience than I have ever known before or after, he guided me to a path that lead past the desire to die in battle.”  She smiled ruefully, “And I still could not accept what he was giving so freely.  I would not let him say what was in his heart.”

“Then what happened,” Lothíriel asked quietly.

“She asked me to stay away.  It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but it was what she wanted.”  Faramir said softly as he stood at the doorway, looking at Éowyn with love in his eyes. He walked forward, only having eyes for Éowyn seated at the large table covered with wedding maps and plans. 

Éowyn’s eyes glowed as she smiled at her soon-to-be-husband, holding out her hand to him, “I remember saying,  “The City grows so cold, it never feels warm anymore,”* she said looking into the gentle blue eyes that captured her heart.

“It is only the damp of the first spring rain.  I do not believe this darkness will last,” Faramir murmured only having eyes for Éowyn, “Can you love me? Will not you love me?”* He caressed her cheek.  Moments passed.

“I cannot believe I held out as long as I did,” Éowyn said, “Asking you to stay away.  I was just so lost.”

“Not to worry, I will never lose you again!” Faramir said.

There was a knock on the side panel, which brought them out of the past of their reverie and into the present day.    

A servant trundled in with a tea service. “Tea, my Lady!”

Arwen smiled happily as she had watched two good people being in love, as she walked forward to the tea on the tray. “Faramir, would you stay and share tea with us?”

“No, no. I can’t stay,” Faramir quickly averred, “In fact I was sent on a mission to find Lothíriel.”

“Me?” Lothíriel asked.

“Yes, I sent to say someone waits for you by the railing.”  Faramir informed her with a big smile on his face.

Lothíriel blushed and then sprung up from her chair causing it to fling back violently.  She blushed again and tried to right the chair, Arwen stopped her, “Never mind that.  Just go!” she said, shooing the young girl towards the door, the happiness evident in her voice.

Lothíriel ran to the downstairs railing where they had talked yesterday.  She stopped as she saw Éomer standing at the railing looking over the inner courtyard.  He turned when he heard her approach.  He smiled and said, “I see you are wearing a proper fitting dress this time, and are you wearing shoes?”

Smiling, Lothíriel lifted up her skirts to show soft pink kid leather shoes, “Yes, My lord!  Do they meet with your approval?” she teased as she closed the gap between them.

“Oh my, but yes indeed,” as he caressed her cheek with a battle callused hand, staring deeply into her eyes.  “I have spoken to your father.”

“Yes…and what does he says,” Lothíriel said distractedly as she was staring at his lips thinking how she wanted a repeat of the kiss from the day before.

“He said,” Éomer was distracted by the scent of lavender and rose that he had come to associate with Lothíriel.  “That…” He was staring at her lips very much wanting a repeat of that kiss from the day before. He bent in ever so slightly and Lothíriel leaned in and their lips met in a kiss of promise and affirmation.

The kiss having ended Lothíriel stared into Éomer’s intense blue eyes, “Yep! Definitely a life changing experience!”

Éomer smiled, “Glad to know that you approve!  Because there will be a lot more of those coming.”

Lothíriel’s smile was brighter and more joyful than anything in Éomer’s life before this, “I will then assume that my father was accepting of your intentions.”

“I abased myself and he acquiesced to my intentions.”

“He didn’t accuse you of stealing his little girl?”  Lothíriel teased.

“It was implied in every word, but he did not in particular level that charge.” 

Lothíriel looked in Éomer’s eyes and realised that she had found her life and it was leading her away from Dol Amroth and the sea.  Away from her life as was and onto what will be.

~*~*~*~*~*~

* quote from either film or book

A/N: Hope all are safe and well! ((hugs)) I hope you enjoy this! :-))

Ch. 12 - Promises Fulfilled

The midday sun rose to its zenith filtering down warm autumn sunlight as Master Taethion made his way from the third level to the Citadel and the King’s House on the seventh level of Minas Tirith.  “Keep up, Telion!  We must be quick I do not wish to keep the Lady Éowyn waiting!”

“But how can we keep her waiting if she doesn’t know quite when we are coming? We only told the courier that it would be ready in the afternoon.” Telion asked innocently.

“Stop asking such fool questions,” Master Taethion ignored the common sense of the question.  “She said before the wedding day and that day is tomorrow.  So therefore I don’t want to her wait any longer than she has to!”

Telion opened his mouth, but shut it again, discretion saying that there would be no getting any sense out his master while he was in this mood.   It was true that there has been sleepless nights since the impromptu Royal visit, which could excuse the master’s temperament and Master Taethion had allowed him to work in partnership with him on the commission, rather than telling him what needed to be done.  Taethion had talked with Telion about his own ideas on the work because he had been so favoured by the Lady Éowyn.  He was proud of the work he had had a hand in creating and it was why he had been allowed to come along to deliver the commission to the Lady Éowyn.

They arrived at the gates of the Citadel.  Rarely had Telion ever been this far up on the tiers of the White City.  On the day of Aragorn’s coronation had been the first time and this was the second.  He was awestruck when he saw the new sapling of the white tree planted in the middle of the great courtyard.  It gave him such a sense of hope and of new beginnings.  He looked up from the sapling and saw that Master Taethion had already reached the entrance to the King’s House and Telion had run to join him at the entrance. 

The Tower Guardsman asked Master Taethion his name and business.  “I am Taethion, Master Jeweler.  Here to deliver a commission to the Lady Éowyn for her wedding day.  I am to deliver it to her hand.”

The guardsman looked at Taethion with an air of questioning and crinkled his nose and mouth, appearing to mull over what Taethion had imparted.  He looked Taethion over in a way Telion did not necessarily agree with.  He almost said so when the Guardsman called a squire over, “Dartmir, can you inform the Lady Éowyn that Taethion, the Master Jeweler is here to see her.”  The boy nodded and set about his errand. 

The guardsman motioned for them to wait in the alcove while the squire scurried off to perform his task.  “It should not be too long.  If you would not mind waiting.”  They sat in a little waiting area where a few cushioned chairs were placed. Telion looked around, he gulped and snatched his hat off.  This little waiting area was nicer than his mum’s best sitting room.  He and the master sat.  He tried not to fidget overly much for he felt it was somehow not polite.

After ten minutes or so the Lady Éowyn appeared.  “Master Taethion!  Telion!”  She reached out her hands to both of them, “So lovely it is to see you!  I am so sorry I was delayed,”  her eyes sparkled, “It is done?”

Master Taethion bowed his head smartly, “Aye My lady.  It is done!”

Telion could not help himself, “I helped with the designing my lady!  Master Taethion asked me to help!”  

“And he had some very good ideas, if I do say so.  My Lady!”

Éowyn looked at Telion smiling and he felt bashful all of a sudden.  She was so beautiful.  The Lord Faramir was such a lucky man to be marrying someone so beautiful.  She said looking at them both, “I’m sure that I will find your creations beautiful.”

Telion said, “Aye, my lady.  Anything for you, My lady.”

Taethion smiled at the awestruck lad shaking his head just a little and continued on, “Would you like to see, my lady?”

“Yes, of course.” Taethion made to extract the case from its velvet bag. “Oh, but not here!  Come, let us retire to the Queen’s rooms.  She will want to see them as well.”

As Éowyn lead them towards the Queen’s apartments, Telion could not help but look back at the Guardsman who had doubted the Master, to give him a look that said, “See, we were welcomed,”  but the look fell flat because the Guardsman was no longer taking notice of them. 

They walked through the King’s house and Telion was slacked jawed at the opulence he saw.  Thick rugs on the floor.  Beautiful hangings on the walls.  Carved mahogany furniture.  Soon they went up a staircase and arrived in a room that seemed to be made of glass and windows with a more magnificent view of his city than he could have ever imagined.  He walked to a window and looked out. He could just make out the second level where he and his mum lived.  After asking for some refreshments to be sent up the Lady Éowyn came up next to him.  “It is indeed a breathtaking and beautiful view.” 

“I think I can almost tell where my house is.”

“Where?” she asked curiously.

“You see that pole on the second level almost straight down to the left of the prow.”

“I think so.”

“Right next the line with pink underwear.  That’s our neighbor, she always forgets her laundry on the line!”

 “Telion!  That is not a proper thing to be discussing with her ladyship!”

But Éowyn laughed, “I am unfazed, Master Taethion.  I am made of sterner stuff.”  She walked back the middle table and started clearing a space for the master to display their work.   The tea service was rolled in, “Ah Good!  Nariel, can you tell me if the Queen will arrive shortly?”

“Aye My lady! She said that she would be here directly.”

“Thank you, Nariel.”

“Aye, My lady.  Is there anything you require?”

“No, Nariel.  That will be all, thank you.”

Nariel nodded and as she took her leave she looked at Telion, shyly smiling. Telion stood there a little shocked that she had.  Girls did not usually look at him.  He was usually pretty much invisible.

The Queen and Dolthiriel arrived, “Now then, I hear our commission is done!” she enthused.

“Aye My Queen.” Master Taethion announced, nodding with hand on heart and motioning for Telion to do the same.  Telion quickly complied. He proceeded to extract the leather hinged box from its velvet encasing.  He opened the case.  Éowyn’s eyes fell on a man’s ring.  The stone was oblong and the band that held it was a combination of silver and gold.  Silver on one side and gold on the other wrapping around the stone in tiny sculpted leaves.  On the oblong black stone with carnelian coloured stripes was an intaglio relief of the Rohirrim standard of a horse with a flowing mane carved.  Such deft and fine craftsmanship. 

“May I?” Éowyn asked as she reached to pull it out of the case.

Master Taethion deferred, “They are yours.” Éowyn smiled and pulled the ring from the box.  On one side there was a stylized “F” and on the other, a stylized “É”.  She replaced Faramir’s ring and then examined her own.  The same silver and gold wrapped around a more triangular black stone with a ring of white striping with an intaglio relief of the White tree and stars of Gondor and again an “F” on one side and an “É” on the other.   Arwen picked up the bracelet and noticed that the stones chosen had been replaced by two silver plates with an engraved gold monogram of “F” and “É” on each and it was now joined by a clasp made of two joined hearts.

“This work is exquisite!” Éowyn looked at the pieces with tears in her eyes, “It is all so beautiful beyond words.”

Telion could not contain himself any longer, “Did you notice?  Your ring has the tree of Gondor and the Lord Faramir’s has the Rohirrim horse.  That is to symbolize that you are now part of each other’s world.  Also the gold of Rohan and the silver of Gondor meeting and interweaving to make up the band.  That was my idea.”

The tears spilled down Éowyn’s cheeks as she hugged Telion and then Master Taethion, “Thank you, Thank you, for such thought and care that was put into the crafting.  It is all so beautiful.  I must say thank you in more than just words.  You must allow that.”

“We have already received payment, my lady.”

“Beyond payment,” Éowyn declared.  She paused, “It would be my distinct honour that you should attend the wedding as my guests.”

Master Taethion deferred, “Oh my lady, we could not impose.”

“Nonsense! You will be my guests.  And bring your families.”

Telion immediately asked, “Can I bring my mum?”

“Yes, of course.  Please.  Now I must find a hiding place for this before the Lord Faramir can see it.  It is to be a surprise for him.”  With that she put the two rings in her dress pocket and shut the leather case.  Tea was promptly served and Telion ate his fill of pastry.  Again he caught the eye of the shy maid and began to think that maybe for once in his life he was not invisible.  And what a story he would have to tell his mum when they had their tea.  It was a tale past imagining.  Later as he and Master Taethion were walking down the tiers, Telion was chattering away and Master Taethion simply let him go on.  True happiness the old master surmised was a rare enough thing even in these burgeoning days of new hope that it should be allowed its full expression.  He looked at his young apprentice, he had done very well and it had been a good day indeed.

Ch. 13 – Three Mornings

Faramir walked along a corridor that lead to a very familiar door.  He opened it and there stood the rocking chair that his mother had brought up to this very alcove so she could sit and rock.  She would whisper to him that it was her special place because outside in this little alcove she could almost imagine the winds were those of her seaside home in Dol Amroth.  He remembered she always looked a little wistful when she would whisper that in his ear.  And she would talk of the sea and create in his young mind pictures of the waves and the sand and the wind.  Years later when he did visit Dol Amroth, he saw with his own eyes what she had whispered long ago.  It did not disappoint or maybe her remembered words of love colored what he saw.

“My sweet little one,” Faramir turned around.

“Mama?” Faramir said with wonder in his voice.  She was as beautiful as a five-year old remembered her being.

“Yes, my little one.  Though you are so tall and handsome now.” She stepped forward close enough to place her hand on his heart.  Faramir just stared at her remembering how beautiful and kind she was and yet sad.  “You have grown to be a strong and yet kind man, I can feel it in your heart, I knew it would be so.”

Faramir looked into his mother’s fair blue eyes, “Why did you leave us?” he asked though he wished he had not when he saw the hurt look cross his mother’s eye.

“Oh, my little love, I did not want to.  But my body, it just gave up. It went and my spirit simply had to follow.” She caressed Faramir’s stubbled cheek.

He did not have the heart to chasten her further, not in this small time they were given, “Mama, I have found someone who loves me.”  He said in wonderment and astonishment.

“That is wonderful, my little love.” Finduilas affirmed, “but why do you sound so amazed that someone could love you?”

Faramir just looked at Finduilas not saying anything.  The silence was deafening.

Finduilas looked at her son; a pained expression across her fair features, “He did love you, you know.”

Faramir stood there just looking at his mother and remembering the last moments of his father’s life as he had seen them through the veil of the Black Shadow, “Yes.” That one word just hung there between them. 

Finduilas had tears in her eyes for she somehow knew all the pain that Faramir had experienced at his father's hand that she could not undo.  She brushed his fringe aside and kissed his forehead, “Tell me about her.”

“Her name is Éowyn and we met in the Houses of Healing.  She is strong and brave and fearless and kind.  I love her, Mama.  And she loves me.”

Finduilas had tears in her eyes, “That is so wonderful, my little love!  Be happy!” she kissed him again on the forehead.

Faramir opened his eyes and morning light filtered into his bedchamber. The remembered dream washed over him and his heart felt light.  He thought on his mother and instead of the melancholy and sadness that usually ran attendant upon that thought he felt her smile in his heart. 

Eirik walked in with his morning cup of mulled wine, “Ready to begin the day, My lord?”

Faramir sat up in bed and looked at his squire and said with a jovial heart, “Quite ready, Eirik, quite ready,” He threw the coverlet back and got out of bed. He reached for his mulled wine, walked to his balcony and savoring the first sip, he watched the sunrise.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~


Éowyn woke up and looked around the room, the fire in the fireplace burned low giving off the last of its warmth.  The rich brocade coverlet was slipping off to one side but the stuffed down blanket still covered her feet.  She had a warm expectant feeling and she could not sleep any more.  She murmured, “this is the last night I shall spend alone,” She smiled.  She wanted nothing more than to start sharing her life with Faramir.  They had not had a great deal of time alone, what with the war’s aftermath and all the upheaval that inevitably brought.  She and Eomer had had to return home to bury their uncle and to mourn him.  She thought of her beloved uncle.  She hoped that somehow beyond the veil between this world and the next he could see her and know that she was happy. She could hear his words, “I would see you smile again.” Spoken when she was still so troubled, so full of doubt and regret.  She whispered into the early moments before dawn when it is neither night nor day but the time in between, “Uncle, I am happy.” In her heart she knew that he did indeed hear her.  She felt his smile in her heart.  She reached over to the small table by her bed and felt for the two rings.  Having clasped them in her hand she sat up bed and looked at them.  Master Taethion and Telion had created such beauty her heart ached. It was just coming to dawn.  She threw back the covers slipped her feet into her fur lined slippers.  Throwing the thick robe of velvet and brocade over her shoulders to ward off the morning chill she ran to the balcony to see the sunrise.  The red fading to orange and yellow were mesmerizing. She stood transfixed for many moments and then looked down again at the rings and smiled. It was time to begin the day.  She walked over to the tasseled bell pull to summon Waerith as her eyes fell upon her wedding dress hanging against the wardrobe door.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The morning of the wedding dawned.  It was late autumn and the richness of red, burnt orange and yellow of the trees within the confines of the city gave warm colour to the streets of Minas Tirith.  Natural decoration mingled with the banners that were flying from every level of the city in celebration of the joining of the Lord Faramir, Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien and Éowyn, the White Lady of Rohan, and sister to Éomer, King of the Mark.  Pennons in the sable and silver with the tree and seven stars of Gondor and the green and gold with the white rampant horse of Rohan flew together throughout the city.  Telion looked at the joyful decorations and his heart felt light as he and his mother, Maeves walked up to Taethion’s shop where they were to meet with Taethion and Istrien, his wife before making their way up to the seventh level for the wedding.  Telion opened his leather pouch at his side to make sure that the letter inviting him and Master Taethion and their families, written in the Lady Éowyn’s own hand and sealed in wax with the Steward’s own seal of Gondor, was indeed there.  It was, as it had been the last six times he had checked since leaving their house on the second level.

Leaving home, he ruefully thought, had taken far longer than was usual, his mother fussing and fluttering on about any and all details.  For an older and generally unflappable woman she could still flutter about pretty effectively when given proper distraction.  Apparently being given a special handwritten invitation from the bride in a royal wedding at the last minute qualified as proper distraction. She berated Telion for not giving her more time to repair her best attire.  She needed to look her best.  Finally, Telion had to grab her hands to keep her from talking and fussing. 

“Mum! You look beautiful just as you are!” He smoothed the veil of peach silk and beaded headband covering her hair and strands of beads falling past her face to her shoulder in traditional Gondorian style which also matched her dress and fine lace overwrap, “if you do any more you will outshine the bride!”  He smiled affectionately at his mum.

“Tush, my lad!  Talking such nonsense!  I just want to look my best for you.  I am so proud of you, my son.  To have found such favor.  Your father would indeed be so proud.” Maeves teared up a little.  Telion’s father had lost his life serving as a ranger in Ithilien, part of the Lord Faramir’s company, but Devrion had not wanted that life for his son, knowing that he had an artist’s heart and did not want him exposed the horrors of war.  Devrion was unique in that way.  He saw the qualities that Telion had and did not berate him for qualities his son did not possess.  He told Maeves on more than one occasion that he refused to follow in his father’s footsteps in that regard. Their relationship, she understood, had not been a good one.  But war had come home and Telion ended up serving as best as he could anyway.  Maeves wanted to keep him out of it but he insisted.  She thanked the Valar every day for delivering her son back to her.  There had been some hard times, he had lost friends.  But he was working his way through.  That was why she was so proud of him.  His gentle heart had been bruised by the ugliness of war but it had not been broken.

“Mum,” Telion asked gently, “Are you ready?”

Maeves dried her eyes on her outer wrap and then straightened her shoulders, “Aye, Let us go!  Master Taethion will be beside himself if we are a minute late!”

In actuality they were only a couple of minutes late to Taethion’s shop and Istrien already had a toast with their best wine laid out on the wooden front counter before they ascended to the seventh level. 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ch. 14 - Two Hearts Joined

Éowyn sat sipping her mulled wine and pondering her wedding dress as Waerith combed her almost dry hair in preparation for wedding finery.  “It is a beautiful dress, Waerith, is it not?”

“Very beautiful, my lady.”  Waerith acknowledged.  Éowyn sighed happily.  She felt excited but she also felt a calm steal over her.  This was the day she joined with Faramir.  It was a day like no other.  She heard a tap on the open door and turned to see her brother with the most indescribable look on his face. 

“May I come in?”

“Of course.”

Éomer walked in, “This won’t take but a moment but I wanted to see you before the day really begins and we don’t have any time later on.  Waerith, can you give us a few moments, please.”

“Of course, my liege.” Waerith said bowing with her hand on heart.  Placing the comb on the dresser nearest her, she took her leave.

Éowyn tilted her head looking at her brother.

Éomer took her hands in his drawing up her from the chair in which she sat.  He looked pensive, “I’ve always tried to protect you.  You are my only sister.  My only family." He paused.  "But Faramir is a good and honorable man and you could have no better.”   Tears started to form in intense blues eyes. Éomer looked down and then up again, “But I will miss you.” 

Tears started to gather in Éowyn’s eyes as well. “Oh Brother, I will miss you as well!”

“I had this made for you.” Éomer said and took a small wooden box out his leather pouch and handed it to Éowyn. 

She opened it and nestled within velvet folds was a brooch in the shape of a golden rampant horse inlaid with diamonds on a field of emeralds, “Oh Éomer, this is beautiful!” she hugged him tightly. 

“So, you don’t forget your brother,” said Éomer with gruff affection, while still hugging.

Éowyn pulled away, “As if I could or would ever want to.” She smiled through her tears, “And something tells me you won’t be alone for long."

Again Éomer looked down and looked up, "She is most beautiful." he affirmed.  "Is she not?  That I have found her is most amazing to me.  That she has found her way into my heart so quickly is even more so."

Éowyn smiled at her brother's bemusement. "True, seeing past the scruffiness shows what a good judge of character she is." She gently needled him.

"Scruffy!" Éomer bristled playfully, "Fastred made sure I looked presentable!" he claimed defensively.

"Aye, true, true."  Éowyn laughed, "It was your internal scruffiness I was referring to!"  she quickly put a chair between them and said, "You are a bit of a bear sometimes!" She smiled impishly.

"And you my sister dear, are a harpy.  Does Faramir know this yet?"

"Well," came a voice from the doorway, " he has had me in his life so I'm sure he is already immune to a certain amount of harpy-ness already!"

Lothíriel stood there smiling with Arwen; Dorthiriel and Eliariel were just behind with dresses and wedding bits and pieces.

Éomer immediately straightened from the chair he had been leaning over trying unsuccessfully loom over his sister and then nodded, "Ladies!" he said in that low, rumbling voice that made Lothíriel's knees turn to jelly. "I shall leave you to your "Fluffing." He left the room only having eyes for Lothíriel and almost walked into the doorjamb avoiding it at the last second.  He bowed briefly and exited quickly.

Éowyn shook her head laughing.  She said to Lothíriel, "I feel I must say in my brother's defense that he is not usually a physical disaster just waiting happen. He is actually quite agile and not at all clumsy.  You just seem to bring that out in him!"

Lothíriel blushed, "We seem to have that effect on each other.  And at least my father doesn't want to kill him so I am taking that as approval.  My mother is happy that I am interested in somebody other than my horse." she chuckled.  

Arwen said with a twinkle in her eye, "One wedding at a time."  Lothíriel blushed again. "Right, we best get the bride and then ourselves ready!"

The wedding dress had as an underlayer, a simple light creme satin dress with form fitting long sleeves and a scooped neck but the overlay was quite simply the most beautiful thing Éowyn had ever seen.  It fit loosely over the head and was cut in the same fashion as Arwen's violet dress and Lothíriel's teal coloured one. Form fitting sleeves to the elbow and trailing long bell sleeves lined in the same light creme satin.  But the overlay itself was made of pearl and crystal set in a repeating shell pattern. It tied in the back to give it some shape.  It sparkled when the fabric flowed in motion.  Éowyn stood still as Arwen and Lothíriel draped it over her head and when she opened her eyes, she looked like she was wearing a dress made of tiny points of lights.  She turned to Ganeth, the seamstress, who had just arrived with her headdress, "Ganeth, this is the most beautiful dress in the world!  How can I ever thank you!"  

The older lady demurred, "It was my pleasure, my lady.  When I was a young seamstress I was apprenticed to the seamstress who clothed the Lord Faramir's mother.  Ah, but she was a sweet young girl.  'Twas truly a shame that she died so young.  So, I am honoured to be making the wedding dress for the one who is to marry her fine young son.  Treat him well, my lady."

Éowyn eyes misted as she said, "I will, Ganeth, I will."

Ganeth blinked away a tear and then said, "Now for your hair!  Sit please, My lady." she motioned at the straight backed chair near the table in the center of the room and she conferred with Waerith and Dorthriel as Waerith finished combing through Éowyn's hair with a wide-toothed ivory comb. All seemed to agree on free- flowing locks with a little bit of curl.  Most of the top layer of hair was loosely pulled back and pinned.  The delicate headdress, with an unadorned mithril band across the crown of her head with the mithril leaves and pearls falling off to the sides and joining in the back, was placed on her hair and gently secured.  Éowyn's front locks were gently curled and white satin ribbons attached to the mithril band were loosely intertwined in the locks which lay on her shoulders. She wore the earrings that had belonged to Faramir’s mother and her ever present necklace that had belonged her mother. The last piece was the brooch that Éomer had just given her.

They all stepped back and Éowyn looked in the polished silver looking glass. She stared looking at her reflection, “Oh my.” She whispered. She gently swished the dress and a thousand luminescent pinpoints swirled with her. It was a gown that sparkled with every move.  She felt like a being made of light.

“You look absolutely beautiful,” said Arwen.

Éowyn smiled, “And now everyone must get ready!

~*~*~*~*~*~

The Gondorian wedding ceremony had existed basically unchanged since the days of the first Ruling Stewards.  The joining ceremony was guided by the eldest member of the groom’s family, which would have been Prince Imrahil, but as Faramir was Steward of Gondor and the newly named Prince of Ithilien, Imrahil himself suggested that Aragorn perform the role of Chief Celebrant in the uniting of his steward and the White Lady of Rohan, Sister to the King of the Mark. To which Aragorn humbling acceded. 

A wedding amongst two families in Gondor was celebrated in any open space, a garden, a courtyard, some families even ventured into the hills outside the walls to hold the joining amid the winds of Manwë and then to feast with family and friends at home.  When it was a joining of nobility and even more so royalty it was held on the prow of the ship on the seventh level. 

Éomer stood inside the entrance to the King’s House awaiting his sister to walk with her in procession towards the steps of the Great Hall where the ceremony would take place.  First came Arwen, a wreath of holly was set upon her raven hair and she was holding a small sprig of holly leaves and handed Éomer a similar sprig.  The entire wedding party would carry these sprigs of holly leaves as a symbol of the past and the future joining together in the present.  An acknowledgment of the past and a blessing of fertility and hope for the future.  All would carry just a single sprig and they would be placed on the steps before the joining in sort of a communal blessing.

Lothíriel was next to appear wearing the teal dress she wore when they had shared their first kiss.  Her hair was loosely turned up with soft wisps of hair escaping and framing her face. A wreath of holly and berries ringed her golden hair.  At first, Éomer was speechless but then he managed to say, “Are you wearing shoes this time?” in his low rumbling voice.

Lothíriel had an impish grin and raised her dress to show she did indeed have on teal colored slippers, “I had a little more time to dress this time.” 

Éomer’s booming laugh was cut short as he caught sight on Éowyn coming down the staircase.  He was again speechless as he saw his sister shimmer and sparkle as she moved towards him.  “Sister, you catch the lights and make them more brilliant.”

Éowyn coloured at her brother’s unexpectantly eloquent compliment, “Oh dear,” she said somewhat flummoxed, “I have stunned you into eloquence!”

Éomer laughed softly, “I still sometimes see you as you were, dirt stain across your nose and dragging your little doll everywhere hiding from Guthhild!  But you are all grown up now and truly so beautiful.  Faramir is a very, very fortunate man.  Shall we go?”  Éomer offered his elbow and Éowyn placed her hand in the crook of his arm and they stepped out into the bright late morning light to the cheers of people lined along the pavement of the Citadel courtyard.  They followed Arwen and Lothíriel down the short walk to the footsteps of the Great Hall.  Both sides were lined with citizens of Minas Tirith.  They had cheered for Faramir as he walked to the same steps just minutes earlier.  Éowyn had looked on from her window while she waited.  She had heard the crowd cheer and she ran to the window to see.  She saw Faramir and Beregond walk the short distance carrying their own sprigs of holly.  Faramir looked so handsome wearing a small coronet, a white silken brocade surcoat with a wine coloured undertunic.  He never looked more handsome. 

“Come away, my lady! Tis time you are to make your appearance at the stairs!”  Waerith had chided hurriedly.  Éowyn cast one last look at Faramir’s retreating back and smiled, “See you soon, my love!” She turned to her beloved attendant, “I am ready, Waerith!  Let us go forth!”

Waerith had tried to cover the fact that her eyes were filling with tears as she flustered and fluttered about, smoothing non-existent wrinkles on Éowyn’s dress, “Waerith!”  Éowyn had to stop her hands from fluttering about, “Waerith!”  she said again to the normally unflappable attendant that she had known for all of her life, as first her mother’s attendant and then hers.

“Oh, my lady,” the older lady began, “So sorry to be getting so onion-eyed.  But I was just thinking that your lady mother would be so happy and proud this day, my lady!”

Éomer saw the far-away look in his sister’s eyes.  He leaned in and whispered as they walked amid the cheers nudging her from her reverie, “What are you thinking?”

Éowyn smiled and with misty eyes she whispered into Éomer’s ear so she could be heard amid the cheers, “Something Waerith said about how happy and proud Mama would be this day.”

It was Éomer’s turn to be misty-eyed, “So true,” he whispered back, “And Papa, too.” He smiled, and kissed Éowyn on the forehead as they continued walking towards the steps.  

~*~*~*~*~*~

The men waited in a line upon the bottom step.  Aragorn stood on one side of Faramir and Beregond and Imrahil on the other.  They all stood holding their sprigs of holly.  First Faramir saw Éomer and then his eyes fell upon Éowyn.  The sight took his breath away.  She was wearing a dress that seemed to be made of tiny pinpoints of light.  But it was the look in her eyes that lit his heart with joy.   He saw a happy, contented soul, a far cry from when he first looked upon her in the Houses of Healing, where she mourned not dying in battle and then chafed under the restrictions of healing and rest placed upon her by the warden of the House.  She looked upon him with the eyes of love, which he still had to resist the urge to look behind him to see who she was staring at.

Having approached the first step, Éowyn smiled at Éomer and then turned her gaze to Faramir in whose eyes she found abiding love and acceptance. Smiling, Faramir then stepped forward and waited for Éomer to present Éowyn’s hand to him.  Éomer did so with a small bow and then joined in the line standing on the first step.  On Aragorn’s raised hand as Chief Celebrant all turn to face the steps to the Great Hall.  Aragorn began the ascent alone.  Upon reaching the top step he faced a tall fluted silver vase containing a withered white branch on a small square glass table.  The branch symbolized the white tree of Gondor, the hope of Gondor in the returning of the king.  Two lit tapered candles in tall pillared candlestick holders stood on either side of the glass table.  In front of the vase was an unlit round candle on its own small silver dish. He rounded the table and was now facing the gathered many. He bowed reverently and reached to remove the branch which he then handed to Eirik, Faramir’s squire, who carried it away respectfully and he held up his own sprig and then placed it the silver vase.  It was a new dawn; The King had returned. He bowed again and motioned for each member of the wedding party to place their sprigs of holly into the vase, signifying the communal joy of both families in such a joining and that they were now to be considered as one family. Later these sprigs were to be bound together and hung over the entrance to the newlyweds’ bower in a blessing for the future and fertility.

Lastly Éowyn and Faramir were to ascend the steps together to speak their words of bonding to each other and before their families. Éowyn and Faramir ascended to steps hand in hand and then faced each other.  Faramir spoke first, “Éowyn, daughter of Éomund,” he whispered in a voice choked with emotion, Éowyn smiled at him and suddenly Faramir’s nervousness went away, “my love, my heart.  You have come to me as if in a dream to fill my heart that had stood alone, with light and love and acceptance. I stand here in the light of day and know that I love you and that you are my life.”

Éowyn gazed into the gentle eyes of this good man, then said, “Faramir, Son of Denethor.  You have saved me.  You rescued me from a world of regret and sorrow and duty with gentleness, patience and above all with the love in your heart and shown me a world where my heart is free and happy.  I see hope in the world because of you.  I love you and you are my life.” And together they placed their sprigs of holly in the tall silver vase amid with the ones placed there by their families.  Then Éowyn reached for the candle on her side of the vase and Faramir reached for the candle on his side of the vase and together lit the flame of the candle sitting on the silver dish, then returning the candles to their holders.

Aragorn watched the simple ceremony with his heart overflowing in joy for these two good people.  He spoke in a voice filled with emotion and yet strong enough to ring out far into the watching crowd, “These two, Faramir, son of Denethor and Éowyn, daughter of Éomund have avowed their love for each other.” Eirik stepped forward with an ear-to-ear smile, holding the rings that Éowyn had commissioned upon a white satin cushion. “Let these rings symbolize this love and the joining of these two hearts.”  When Faramir looked down at the cushion he noticed immediately that the rings were made from stones from Éowyn’s mother’s treasured bracelet.  He looked at Éowyn, who smiled at him, and he thought of a certain conversation they had had before they set off from Edoras.

Faramir picked up the lady’s ring and noticed it had the tree and silver stars carved into it, “This is beautiful and so are you…” he whispered.  Éowyn coloured slightly.  In a strong, clear voice he said, “By the lighting of the candle and with this ring, we are one.” as he placed it on Éowyn’s third finger.

Éowyn took the man’s ring from the pillow held by Eirik and whispered, “I love you.”  In a strong, clear voice she continued, “By the lighting of the candle and with this ring, we are one,” as she slipped the ring onto Faramir’s third finger.

Aragorn then called out to gathered family, friends and citizenry, “These two, Faramir and Éowyn, are joined in their hearts and in life forever.  Witnessed by all and by Manwë of the Winds, Yavanna of all that grows and the night stars of Varda.  May the Valar forever bless them!”

Faramir looked upon Éowyn, and however undeserving he felt of her love, he knew he would spend his life trying to be worthy of it.  Their lips met and he felt her love in his heart.  It would be enough.

Ch. 15 - Reflections upon the past and present

After the ceremony was over then the wedding celebration became more of a private affair.  The wedding feast took place in the Great Hall of Feasts.   The doors of Merethrond were opened and after bowing and waving to the gathered multitudes Faramir and Éowyn stepped inside the haven of flowers that had been created inside the hall.  Family, friends and honored guests were to gather for a festive meal and to share joy with the joined couple.

As tradition held Faramir and Éowyn stood in the receiving line as the guests started to arrive from the crush outside.  Smiling, Faramir greeted each guest and took in each well-wish with amazement still sitting firmly in his heart.  He gazed at Éowyn between each pause in the greeting line.  And every time she would smile at him and his heart would do a funny flipping feeling before resuming its normal functions.  His hand would reach for hers instinctively and would be clasped lovingly in response.  His heart was soaring.  He found it so hard to believe that his life had changed so dramatically since the ending of the Ring War.  It was much to take in.  Before he found Éowyn in the Houses of Healing, his life was one of duty.  He knew nothing else.  He gave over his whole life in service to Gondor.  It was the only way to make peace with what his life had become. The posting to Ithilien allowed him the chance to make his own decisions, to grow into a person he had learned to respect. It had been a blessing. Because distance between he and his father had become a necessary thing.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Minas Tirith,  3003 TA

The investiture ceremony was as old as anyone could remember.  At seventeen, a soldier of Gondor was considered worthy of full service after his training was completed and his training master deemed that he had surpassed the goals set for advancement into Gondor’s armies.  It was then decided what portion of Gondor’s service the young soldier was best suited for.  As he sat in his brother’s suite of rooms in the Citadel, Faramir thought upon this as he looked at Boromir’s ceremonial sword, the traditional gift from father to son when the son was deemed worthy to serve Gondor and wondered if he would ever attain his own sword.  Boromir had been seventeen, Faramir thought ruefully; those Faramir had first trained with had also been seventeen.  Faramir, this past spring had turned twenty.  His father had told his trainers he did not deem him ready yet and had him passed over three times.  Faramir bore this stoically, he stopped himself, as stoically as a boy impatient to prove himself could bear it.  In response to being passed over each time, he had redoubled his efforts on the training field and in the instruction room.  Not that it had made any difference to his father, Faramir sighed as he replaced his brother’s sword on his wall.  He had been waiting to talk to his brother, but he needed to leave for sword training.  He closed the door when one of the training captains saw him and told him that Master Dorthion needed to see him, Faramir’s heart sank.  He knew what was coming.  He saw the regretful look in the captain’s eye and he smiled ruefully and tried to sound as positive and cheerful as he could saying, “Looks like we will get to continue our sparring sessions, Galdaer!” he bent a small bow and walked to Master Dorthion's office with a heavy heart.

Galdaer looked at the departing young man and gave a deep sigh.  He murmured, “What will be, shall be!”  but in truth it did not seem fair to him as he returned to the training field.  Faramir knocked on the door to the Master’s office.  At the call of “Enter!” his opened it and saw the Master sitting at his desk.  He could tell by the look in his training master’s eyes that he had guessed right.  Dorthion motioned for him to sit.  Faramir complied and Dorthion purses his lips before he began speaking.

“I think you know what I am about to say,” he began regretfully.

Faramir straighten his shoulders even more than they were, “Yes, sir.  I am afraid that I do,” he said in a restrained, respectful voice trying to maintain a neutral countenance.

“It is not my decision, nor do I agree with it in any way.”

“Thank you, sir. I do realise that is the case.”  Faramir remained still, trying to contain his emotions.  Disappointment, anger neither of which Dorthion could be blamed for.  When the old trainer came around from his desk and stood next Faramir and placed a commiserating hand on the young man’s shoulder, Faramir resisted the urge to shrug it off.  Dorthion meant well and he had been placed in an untenable situation by Faramir’s father and therefore was undeserving of churlish behaviour.  He took a deep breath, and said in that patient, carefully schooled calm voice, “Sir, I thank you.  Have I your leave to depart?” not looking at his honored trainer, for fear that he should betray his feelings, which would only lead to more lectures at the desk of his father.

“Yes, Faramir.  You have my leave.”  Dorthion said, his voice heavy with unspoken emotion.  He saw the young man gather up what remained of his dignity and walk out his office slowly in a controlled gait.  As he watched the young man leave, again Dorthion wondered how or why his father could not see what a fine, intelligent young son he had in Faramir.

Faramir stood outside in the training ground.  He needed air to breathe and the training ground was the closest open space where he could breathe.  He tried desperately hard to swallow his disappointment, to squelch his anger.  He would speak with his father.  He had to.  He knew there was little chance of success but he no longer cared.  For three years his father had slighted him with nothing more than a terse word saying he was not yet ready.  When he had marshalled his feelings, sufficiently enough he had thought he walked to the Steward’s office took a deep breath before knocking on the closed door.

“Come!” came a sharp voice from the other side of the door, “Deltrran, have you those reports?” Denethor, son of Ecthelion, spoke in a clipped voice still looking down at a parchment.

“Father, I would speak with you, if I can claim a moment of time away from your duties.”

Denethor froze. And then a sparsely worded phrase, “I do not have times for frivolities, Faramir.” He did not look up from his parchment.

Faramir took another deep breath, “Sir, I beg just a moment of your time.” He stated in as dispassionate a voice he could manage.

Denethor looked up at that, “Sir, I have said ‘No’.”  He leveled a look that bore straight through his second son. Not “Faramir”, not “son”, but “Sir” Faramir noted grimly.

Faramir stood his ground and again took another deep breath and continued as dispassionately as he could manage for his father hated displays of emotions, especially from his “fey” second son. “Why have I been passed over once again?”

Denethor’s head snapped up, “This is not a matter for discussion.” The expected stonewall answer.

Faramir would not relent, though he knew it unwise, he continued to press, come what may, “I need to know.  It is my right to know.”

Denethor looked at his son standing there so resolutely, so politely defying him.  Judging him with those eyes that reminded him so much of h---“Your right?  Your Right?!”  He stood up so quickly that he almost tipped over his chair.  His voice carried with derisive and defensive force.  “I will say what your rights are and when you are ready!  You will be ready when you have proved yourself ready and worthy of my trust!  Which you have not!”

Faramir stood against his father’s tirade but when Denethor made that last accusation, his temper flared against his better judgement. “Trust?  Trust?  When have I betrayed you, when have I broken trust?”

Denethor looked at his second son, and levelled one word, “Mithrandir.”

Faramir looked at his father, eyes wide with the pain of being always being misunderstood, he drew himself up and said softly, “You are wrong.”  With that he performed a perfunctory bow and turned on his heel and departed with as much gathered grace and dignity as he could muster.

He did not hear, nor did he see Denethor’s face crumble from rage to desolation, as he mumbled, “Finduilas, my love, I have failed you again.  He is so like you.  I am so sorry.”

Faramir walked and found himself once again at his brother’s door.  Boromir was home from a recent tour and Faramir thanked the Valar it was so. It was the one place he knew he would find solace and understanding.  He was about to knock when he heard a voice at his side. “What has he done this time?”

“Boromir!  I cannot stay here!”  Faramir looked at his older brother, wild desperation written across his face.

Boromir had not seen his younger brother this upset in a very long time.  Faramir and his father had an uneasy, yet unspoken truce of the unsaid accusation of late.  He opened his door and motioned for his brother to sit and walked over to a table where he had a decanter of wine and goblets that he kept in his chambers for just this purpose.  He handed Faramir his goblet and sat in the other chair and just waited for Faramir to begin.  He did not have to wait long.

Faramir took a sip and swirled the wine in the goblet. “I went to ask him why I was being passed over again this year.”

Boromir drew a deep sigh and then took a drink from his goblet, “And I take it that he tried his usual tack of stonewalling?”

Faramir nodded his head quickly, “Yes and then I said I had a right to know and then he started yelling and,” he paused took another drink and continued, “then he said that he would tell me what my rights were and that I wasn’t ready and that I had not earned his trust,” at that Faramir put his goblet down and rub his hands across both temples, rubbed his faced and rested his chin on both thumbs.  He was quiet for a few moments. 

Boromir set his goblet down on the small carved oak table at the corner of the two chairs and gently prodded his brother, “What did you say?”

Faramir threw himself back in his chair, “I lost my temper, asked him when had I ever broke faith with him?”  He paused, brooding, “he said one word….Mithrandir!” 

Boromir mouthed a simple, “Oh.” Denethor was clearly referring to the close relationship between his younger brother and the grey wizard who occasioned to visit Minas Tirith when Faramir and he were growing up.  Faramir was always more scholarly than Boromir ever was.  He was always interested in learning and Mithrandir always had kind words and affection for the inquisitive child and naturally Faramir gravitated toward the affection shown to him by the old wizard.  But Denethor never favoured the Mithrandir and to Boromir’s mind was always somewhat jealous of the relationship to between the two.  Using it as a pretext however to pass Faramir over was unfair.  “What did you do after that?”

Faramir closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths trying to calm the frustration he felt at being both misunderstood and doubted once again by his father.  He rested his head of the fingertips of one hand, “What could I do?  I told him he was wrong and left.  I could not stay after that.  He doesn’t trust me, brother.”  Faramir’s grew watery with unshed tears, “He never has,” He angrily swiped at a stray tear, “And he never will.” Faramir got up quickly, downed the rest of his wine.  “I cannot stay, brother.” He whispered, “I cannot.”

Boromir looked at his younger brother, “Sit, please.  We can figure this out.”

Faramir looked at his brother through wounded and wary eyes.  He felt heartsick.  But he did return to his chair.  Boromir’s heart ached for the pain and wounded honor he felt emanating from his brother.   “What do you suppose?” Faramir said in a voice full of doubt and resignation, but there was resolve as well, “I won’t apologise for I have done nothing wrong.”

Boromir rubbed his face with both hands and poured more wine into both goblets in an effort to stall for time in as much as anything else while he thought.  He placed Faramir’s goblet on the table and drank from his.  “I could talk to him, get him to change his mind.”  Faramir chaffed under the idea of not being to achieve this on his own, on having to rely on his older brother to further his achievements.  And if any other man had offered, he would have said no.  But he knew that Boromir would only ever be motivated by the desire to help his little brother.  Faramir gave a curt nod of assent.

It was decided that one month later he would be at the investiture ceremony and his father, though with tight lips and a cold look in his eyes was gifting him his own ceremonial sword.  He never knew what Boromir said or did to get his father to agree and he truthfully did not want know.  But he was going to Ithilien to become a Ranger.  Any specialised training he lacked he would get there.  He learned and eventually he would learn to lead them.

~*~*~*~*~*~

“You look miles away, son.” Faramir snapped out of his reverie, “Dorthion!” He turned to Éowyn. “My love, this is Dorthion, my old training master!  Dorthion, this is Éowyn, my beautiful bride!”  Dorthion delighted in seeing the happiness that clearly now resided in Faramir’s eyes. He bowed his head to the red-haired beauty that had clearly captured Faramir’s heart.  He said to Éowyn, “He was one of my best students ever.  Smart. Quick. Eager.”

Faramir coloured a little at the praise, “Perhaps one of your hardest working ones, I will grant you.” Dorthion laughed and then he looked into Éowyn’s eyes and what he saw there clearly met with his approval.  He smiled and turned to Faramir “It does my heart good to see you so happy, my lad. Truly.”

“Thank you, Master Dorthion!  But in truth I do not deserve her.”

Dorthion looked Faramir in the eye and said in all seriousness, “Yes, you do, My lad.  Yes, you do. You always did.” He smiled, “Soon, children!  Really enlivens a house!” he clapped Faramir on the back and moved along into the hall proper.  Faramir whispered to Éowyn, “He should know he had seven of them!” Éowyn laughed. She then saw Master Taethion and Telion with what must be his wife and Telion’s mother.  All looked a little overwhelmed.  She sang out, “Master Taethion! Telion!  You are here!  I am so glad.”  She turned to Faramir, “My love, I wish to present Taethion, Master Jeweler and his apprentice, Telion.  They are the artisans who created our rings.”

Faramir looked duly impressed, “Master Taethion!  Please allow me to compliment you on the craftsmanship of the highest order!” 

Master Taethion blushed a bright red but managed to bow his head and say, “The honor was mine, my lord. To create for you and your lovely and kind lady.” Faramir smiled.

Éowyn said, “And you have brought your wife?” smiling at Istrien.  Taethion immediately recovered himself, “My Lady, My Lord allow me to present my wife, Istrien and Telion’s mother, Maeves.” Both ladies bowed.

Faramir’s ears perked when he heard Maeves named.  He first bowed to Istrien, “It is a great pleasure to meet you Mistress Istrien.” He then turned to Maeves, “Pray pardon Mistress Maeves,” he looked more closely at Telion and he looked pleased and saddened in equal measure. “But were you not Devrion’s wife?”

Maeves looked at Faramir and unbidden tears came to her eyes. “Yes, My lord.”

Faramir looked at Devrion’s wife and said quietly, “He was a good man.  His loss was felt heavily by all of Ithilien’s Rangers.”  Éowyn looked on as Faramir spoke with the grieving woman. Faramir held both Maeves’ hands, “He spoke of you and Telion here,” he looked the slight young man, “always.” Maeves, to her shock and embarrassment burst into tears.  Faramir held her and gently said, “He loved you both so much.  We all felt as if we knew you as well. He talked of you so often.”  He pulled away, “Shh-shh! Dry your eyes.” He pulled a handkerchief from inside his sleeve and gave it to Maeves, and smiling he said, “A wise old man once said to me, ‘I will not say do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.’  They simply mean we have loved,” Faramir added.  He looked at Telion and reached out his hand.  Telion wiped his palm on his tunic, for it had become sweaty and took his lord’s hand.  Faramir smiled and said, “He was so proud of you!  He never stopped talking about how talented you were and how smart.”  Telion beamed at his father’s praise passed on by his father’s captain. Faramir now tried to put the mother and son at their ease, “Éowyn says you help design these rings?”

Telion rallied with the exuberance of youth, “Yes, my lord.  I had the idea for the etchings of the stone faces and did the initial carving.  Master Taethion did the finishing work.”

Faramir looked at his ring and at Éowyn’s again, “Exquisitely done, Telion.  Master Taethion. You are both to be commended.”

“Thank you, my lord.” They both said.  Faramir bowed to them both and lastly looked at Maeves, “So glad I am to have met you at last, Mistress Maeves.” Maeves smiled.  “You have a very talented son.”

“Thank you, my lord.  For all your kind words.” They moved on into the Hall proper.

Faramir turned to explain the circumstances of Devrion’s death to Éowyn when he caught in her eye a most amazing look, “What?” he asked innocently. 

“I love you.” Then she kissed him in a most unseemly fashion for a receiving line. And then they both laughed.

~*~*~*~*~*~

A/N: Originally this was one chapter but I felt it was a little too long so I split it into 2!  Enjoy! and stay safe! :-)


Ch. 16 - Promises for the Future

With the wedding line finished and all the guests properly greeted and seated it was time for the banquet to begin in earnest.  It was a more relaxed affair than one would assume, for only friends and family and a few honoured guests were invited.  The main state occasions happened earlier in the wedding week culminating in the wedding ceremony, the reception line the only requirement in the otherwise relaxed affair that took place in the afternoon.  Éowyn proclaimed after having greeted the last guest, “And now it is time we eat!” 

Faramir laughed, “You sound like Merry and Pippin!”

“Do I?” Éowyn remarked mischievously, “Well, too much time spent with Merry I suppose!  I do miss them! The dear little ones!”

Faramir smiled, “They do find a way into your heart, don’t they?”

“Aye that they do,” came a voice from behind them.  It was Aragorn. “we shall see them again!  But for right now I think the cooks are glad they are not here.  Not sure we could have laid in enough provisions to satisfy Hobbit stomachs.”  He chuckled lightly.

Faramir laughed as they walked to the high table properly festooned with flowers of varying hues and types.  An archway of small flowers and sprays rose above the high table and floral runners ran along the lengths of all the others.  As he neared the high table he noticed that Éomer and Lothíriel were once again off by themselves pinning up a final floral decoration.  He smiled and turned to Éowyn and said, “Once again they are together.” 

Éowyn, trying feign innocence stated, “I don’t know what you are talking about!”

Faramir rolled his eyes and said, “Indeed!”

Éowyn looked at him, “You hush! I think they are off to a very good start….we are finding ways for them to spend more time together; to help them along; to perpetuate.” she said in a spritely way.

“We?” Faramir said, quizzically.

“Don’t fight it, my lord Steward,” Aragorn said with amused resignation, “The ladies have decided that Éomer must have a wife!”

Arwen quickly declared, “Pish! We have merely nudged them along to the inevitable!”

Aragorn looked at Arwen, “Pish?” He then looked at Éowyn, “My lady, you have had a terrible effect on my gently bred wife!” he stated feigning concern.

Arwen started to laugh, “I think it is a very good effect!” And she linked arms with Éowyn who looked on regally.

Aragorn said to Faramir shaking his head with a rueful chuckle, “This can only lead to trouble!”

Faramir nodded, “Well, my lord.  It is only to be expected.”

“What is to be expected?” Faramir looked to his left and saw Prince Imrahil joining the conversation as he and Princess Neneth met them as they meandered toward the high table. 

Imrahil bowed his head to Aragorn who in turn nodded his head and then said, “We are speaking of the efforts of our wives have been undertaking.” Imrahil looked quizzical, tilting his head.  “Having brought King Éomer and Princess Lothíriel together.” Aragorn said, gesturing to Éomer and Lothíriel near the high table who, after having complete their task, were talking to each other as if nobody else in the whole room existed. 

Imrahil looked at Arwen and Éowyn.  “So you are responsible for the loss of my daughter!” he said in mock seriousness.

Arwen looked unabashed, smiling in her most elven and beguiling way, “Oh come now, my lord prince.  We merely nudged them along.  Surely you can see that they were made for each other.” 

Prince Imrahil tried to resist the elven charm, “All I know is that I’m losing my little girl.”  Arwen just smiled at him, Imrahil was no proof against that, “In truth, she looks very happy and Éomer is among the finest of men, from what his men say. And—”

“And soon we hope to hear wedding bells,” Princess Neneth finished. 

Imrahil quickly inserted, “Now hold on...they have only just met!  Stopping trying to usher my daughter away!”

Princess Neneth looked unrepentant, “A mother can hope!” Imrahil laughed and kissed his wife of many happy years.

Arwen laughed, “Quite right too!”

They finally approached the high table.  Éomer was the first to notice their approach and he quickly bowed to Aragorn as they all stood in front of the high table distracted from sitting by their own conversation.  To Prince Imrahil and Princess Neneth he again inclined his head.  Prince Imrahil returned the nod and Princess Neneth greeted him, “Éomer King, are you soon to be our son-in-law?”

“Mother!” Lothíriel exclaimed. 

Princess Neneth stated innocently, “What?  It was merely an inquiry.”

Éomer looked longingly at Lothíriel, “I would like nothing better.” He said speaking from the heart, “But that is up Lothíriel.”

Lothíriel looked at Éomer wonder written across her face.  She looked into those intense blue eyes, “Truly?” again it was if they were the only two people in the Great Hall.

“Yes, I know it is too soon.  I know we have only just met but I have never felt anything so strongly, nor have felt anything was more right.  But only if you wish it as well.” Éomer said in a rush of emotion.

Lothíriel looked into those intense blue eyes and saw love and commitment.  She saw her life.  She knew she should have felt panicked; she knew she should feel rushed.  But she did not feel either emotion.  She just, at the core of her being, knew that this was right.  “I wish nothing else.  Yes!”  With that Éomer picked her up and spun her around and as their lips met, he heard an “Ahem!”  Realising again where they were, Éomer looked the people who surrounded them.  Emotions of varying shades coloring faces.  The one he focused on was that of Imrahil, Lothíriel’s father, who looked him with myriad emotions chasing themselves across his countenance, sadness and joy chief among them.  Éomer immediately dropped to his knee at Imrahil’s feet, his head bowed and his fist on his heart.  “All course is with your permission and blessing, my lord prince.” 

Imrahil looked at the kneeling man before him.  A selfish sadness pervaded his heart.  He was losing his little girl.  Éomer was a good man.  He knew he had to allow this match.  It was right, but it made him sad.  “Is this what you call a little time, my lord King?”  Éomer looked up at that but there were no words to satisfy the moment. His eyes, though, were a mirror of Imrahil’s.  Both loved Lothíriel, both wanted her happiness.  It seemed an age had passed as the question was left unanswered; but only a few moments indeed had gone.  “Rise my son, for indeed you will be my son.  I wish you every joy.”  Imrahil reached down and pulled Éomer to his feet and joined the hands of Éomer and his daughter, a wistful smile on his face.  “May your union be blest by the Valar.”

“Oh Papa!” Lothíriel whispered and as she hugged him, she said “I love you!” into his ear. They pulled apart and Éomer was eyed by Imrahil with pursed lips and a look of resignation combined with joy for his daughter’s happiness. The younger man stepped forward, inwardly resisting the urge to drop to his knees once again, all the while holding Imrahil’s gaze.  The father looked upon the future son-in-law and said, with his heart in his throat, “You are a good man, Éomer, son of Éomund, King of the Mark.  I know that you will always treasure the precious gem that is my daughter.”

Éomer looked at Prince Imrahil and solemnly promised, “I will, always.”  He reached his hand to Lothíriel who clasped it fervently with both hands.  Éomer brought her hands together with his and kissed them both.  He heard a sniff to his left and he looked to see Éowyn in her wedding finery and tears of happiness running down her cheeks.  She said cheekily, “You may not be looking but that does not mean you will not find.” 

Éomer shook his head then laughed, “You were right, my sister.  For once I will take great pleasure in the fact that you were right.”

Éowyn beamed with a smile that lit up her face.  She picked up the skirts of her beautiful pearlescent dress, “Now at the risk of sounding like our dear absent hobbit friends, it is time to eat!  I am starved!”

Faramir laughed, “Well my dear ladywife, we cannot have that!” he made an elaborate sweeping bow, “Allow me to escort you to the high table!”

~*~*~*~*~*~

Ch. 17 - Two Young Hearts

Telion watched King Éomer's proposal to the Princess transpire in front of him, amazed at the heartfelt emotion and playfulness of the Quality. “They are just like us!” he murmured.  

Master Taethion heard the murmur, “That they are my lad!  That they are.  And the best of them,” he said nodding to those who were ascending to the high table, “Don’t mind letting that show through to all around them.  And there are others who choose to put on airs and pretend they are above us.” He nodded to a group across the way who to Telion’s mind looked a little self-satisfied, “You’ll meet them all in our chosen craft, my lad.” Taethion concluded, sighing.

“How you deal with those, Master Taethion?”  Telion inquired.  He was a rather forthright boy who had been taught that honesty was always the best path, but also had not had the most experience with the Quality as it were.

Master Taethion looked at his apprentice, who had a tendency say what he thought and smiled, “You just do, my lad.” He continued thoughtfully.  “There are times when you have to keep your own counsel, and others when you know you can say something that will better a piece that a client wants.  You’ll learn.” He ended sagely.

Telion did not hear the last portions of Taethion’s advice for he was distracted by a pair of green eyes and pert little nose under a white servant’s cap, stray wisps of red hair escaping from under the cap.  It was the maid from the time when he and Taethion had shown the Queen and the Lady Éowyn their finished commission.  She was serving at table.  He was transfixed.  She was beautiful and he remembered that she had looked at him as well when they were served tea and coffee that day. He recalled her being named Nariel by the Queen.  Taethion followed his apprentice’s gaze when he realised the Telion was no longer listening. He saw the object of his apprentice’s fascination.  A serving maid, he smiled.  She was a pretty young thing, Taethion thought approvingly.  He nudged Istrien and Maeves and pointed with his eyes lest Telion should see and become embarrassed.  Both smiled and Maeves cast an assessing glance at first the girl and then her rapt son.

Nariel was new to waiting at table and was so honoured that she should be waiting at the high table on such an occasion.  Granted this was not the grand state occasion that happened on First night.  It was more relaxed but any opportunity to serve the King and Queen was the highest privilege.  She was carefully performing her duties and was serving the Queen when she happened to look up to see a pair of large hazel eyes raptly staring at her.  She had the presence of mind to straighten up and not drop a platter of food in the Queen’s lap but it was something of an abrupt reaction.  The eyes belonged to the sandy-haired apprentice who accompanied the master jeweler the day before.  She had brought tea and coffee into the Queen’s solar and that was where she saw him.  She had been attracted to the shyness and honesty she saw in his eyes.  It was still there.

“Nariel?” She broke the stare with the sandy haired boy and turn toward the voice.  She gulped, it was the Lord Faramir speaking to her.

“Yes, my lord? I’m so sorry, my lord.” She quickly lowered the platter so that he could serve himself.

“It is fine, Nariel.  Not to worry,” the Lord Faramir said in a kindly voice, “Are you all right?” he eyed her gently.

“Oh yes! My lord. I am sorry.” Nariel colored at his kind inquiry.  She was not supposed to draw attention to herself. Master Attendant Sarthmir would be very displeased if he saw her lapse.  Faramir looked at where she had been staring and saw that her gaze centered on Telion, who was looking rapt, gazing upon Nariel.  He recognized that look immediately for he was sure his face beheld the same wonder whenever he gazed upon Éowyn.  He felt for Telion, clearly a fellow soldier in thrall to a beautiful girl.  He became aware of whispered words of force being spoken behind him.  He grew up knowing the harsh sound of such words and though he could not hear the exact words, he knew their force and effect.  He turned from looking in Telion’s direction to see Nariel in quiet tears and her tray being handed to another serving maid and Sarthmir looming over the girl who then ran off in the direction of the kitchen and Sarthmir smartly moving in another direction.  Out of the corner of his eye he caught movement.  It was Telion walking quickly in the same direction as the serving maid.  He wore a troubled look as he turned back to his plate and saw that Éowyn was indeed being served by a different serving maid.  She looked at him, noticing the troubled look on his face.

“Faramir, my love.  What is wrong?”

Faramir turned back to her, “I hope nothing, my love. But I do need to inquire.  Won’t be a moment.”  He kissed her and then got up to go in search of Sarthmir.  Éowyn sat looking at her husband’s back walking purposefully toward the Master Attendant.

Arwen who had also noticed Faramir excuse himself, looked at Éowyn and mouthed “What was that about?” only because she did not want to talk above the minstrels playing and the general hub-bub of conversation and therefore attract too much attention.

Éowyn shook her head and mouthed in the same fashion, “I do not know,” as she shrugged and reached for her wine goblet looking in the direction her husband had taken.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Telion was shaken to his core to see Nariel return his interested stare and he then watched in horror as she delayed in serving Lord Faramir, who seemed unfazed but yet he saw a tall self-important man motion her over, take her tray from her and hand it to another maid.  He then proceeded to speak to her in words that looked harsh from the crumpled and devastated look on Nariel’s face.  The next thing he knew she retreated hurriedly.  He could not be sure, but he thought she might be crying.  Telion was aghast with the dawning realization that he may have caused that whole scene with his accursed staring at her.  He had to find her to apologise for looking and apparently getting her into trouble.  He looked at his mother and Master Taethion, “Please excuse me!  I have to go!  I’ll be back!” he threw his napkin down on his chair and walked away quickly leaving the two to look at his retreating form in confusion.

Telion walked down a back hall not really knowing where he was going or really what he was doing.  He simply knew he had find her somehow and apologise for staring.  He stopped briefly and he heard the faint sounds of crying just around the corner.  He rounded the corner and saw Nariel slumped against the wall behind some mop buckets sobbing her heart out.  Telion bit his lip, pondering how to proceed, having found her.  He stood there for a few seconds as she abruptly took off her cap to reveal that beautiful red hair. He gasped.  She looked up, “What do you want?” she said miserably.  Telion was a bit stunned by the reaction but he was undeterred. 

“I saw you leave.  You looked upset.  I j-just wanted to say ‘I’m sorry.’”  Telion stammered as he knelt down beside her about a foot away.

“For what?” she said again miserably.

Telion continued, “For staring.  I must have gotten you in trouble.  I am so very sorry.  It’s just you were so beautiful.  I could not seem to help myself.”  He ended feebly.

She sniffed, rubbed her nose, and looked at him incredulously, “You think I’m beautiful?”  Her red-rimmed eyes looked wide and she stared at him.

“Oh my yes!” Telion exclaimed absolutely without guile.

“People say my hair is too red and my eyes are too wide.”

“Oh no, not at all.  I think they are just right.”

Nariel smiled and she saw the earnestness in his hazel eyes.

Telion smiled back.  He ventured gently again, “What did that man in black say to you that made you cry?”

Nariel started to tear up again, Telion took her cap from her hands and dried her tears with it, wiping them as gently as he could.  His jewelers’ hands knew a light touch when touching a fine gem.

“Master Attendant Sarthmir said I was to be relieved from my duties as I brought attention to myself and almost spilled on the Lord Faramir.  And that I should be ashamed and allowed myself to be distracted.  And I might lose my place.  And I need this place!  My father and brother died in the battle to save the City.  I must earn. For it is only just my mother and I.”

“That’s not fair!”  Telion exclaimed, “It was my fault I distracted you.  I should be blamed.  And I am sorry that you lost your father and brother.  The battle was terrible.”

“Did you fight?” She asked tenuously.

“Not really, I ran arrows and water…got too close to an Orc blade and got this.”  He lifted his heavy sandy blonde hair to show her the uneven scar.

“Oh my! Praise the Valar you were not hurt worse.  You must have been very brave!”

At this time he switched to sitting crossed legged on the floor and shrugged, “I did what I had to! And I was very scared.” He confided to her.  His eyes inadvertently coloring a little at the horrors he had seen during the siege. Nariel noticed and her heart soften little more towards him.

Telion looked her and needed to change the subject from the battle upon which he did not want to dwell.  “It was not right that this Master Attendant should yell at you for something that wasn’t your fault.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

Faramir had gone to speak to Sarthmir to see what he had said to the serving maid.  Too often in his childhood had he been blamed for things that were out of his control.  Too often he had had to listen to words of quiet ferocity, when his father chose public moments to discipline or lecture him and he could only stand there and take it.  If he reacted, it went worse for him in private. He had heard that kind of quiet ferocity being leveled at the serving maid and he suspected it was because of the pause in serving him when Telion had met her eye.  He would not have that sort of discipline doled out on his behalf. He simply would not.

He approached the Master Attendant near to the kitchen but in a private enough spot. “Sarthmir, may I speak with you a moment.” He said in a polite but strong voice.

Sarthmir immediately stopped and bowed his head, “Yes of course, My lord.  What is your will?”

“Am I correct?  Did I see you having words with Nariel, the serving maid?”

“Yes, My lord.”

“And what was that about?”

“Nothing that need concern you, My Lord. Especially on such a special day!”

Faramir leveled a look at the Master Attendant, “I am asking, Sarthmir.  Concern me…”

Sarthmir looked a little non-plussed, but obeyed, “She delayed in serving you, she could have spilled.  She became distracted.  She was given this chance and I am afraid she has squandered it, my lord.”

“Has she?” Faramir raised an eyebrow and said somewhat sternly, “I know that she did hesitate.  I asked her about it and she profusely apologised.  No harm was done.” He softened his tone, “Sarthmir, do not think that I do not appreciate all that you have done to make this day special for the Lady Éowyn and myself.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for how special and perfectly run this day has been.  But I do not want the serving maid to be disciplined for a small mistake that was beyond her control.  I do not want this to be reflected upon her in any way.”

“Yes, My Lord.  Did you want her to return to service for this meal?” 

“No, I think not.  Her nerves are probably still a bit shaken from the situation.  Leave it until tomorrow. And we will say no more about it.”

“Very Good, my lord.” Sarthmir bowed and turned to depart, but Faramir’s voice held him.

“Sarthmir!”

“My Lord?”

“Once again, allow me to thank you indeed for a truly wonderful and perfect day.  I have loved it and so has the Lady Éowyn.” He ended softly, “It has been very much appreciated.”

The older man’s eyes did warm at that last compliment, he bowed, “It is my honour to serve you, my lord.” Faramir smiled and departed.  He went looking for Telion and he had a feeling where he might find him, or at least who he was with.  He walked a little further and around a corner he heard muffled conversation.  He was about to announce himself, but as he moved to speak he heard Nariel say that she and her mother had lost her father and brother in the battle to defend the City and that was why she needed this place so badly.  He closed his eyes, so much had been lost in the Ring War.  So many lives disrupted.  They had indeed won but it was up to Aragorn throughout the reunited realms and he in Ithilien, to make this world right again for those who had lost so much.  A responsibility settled upon his shoulders that he would bear gladly to make his people whole again.  He placed a smile upon his face and called “Telion!” as he rounded the corner and saw both of them give a little start like they had been caught at something.  Faramir smiled, “There you are!”  He crouched down.  Telion stared wide-eyed not really knowing what to do.

Nariel started to get up, “My lord, is there something you needed.  I’m sorry I have been delayed.”

Faramir held a hand up, “Stay, please remain sitting, there is nothing I require.” Nariel paused and then sat down again, “I saw what happened between Master Attendant and you.”

“My Lord, it won’t happen again.  I promise—" Nariel tried to explain.

Faramir held up his hand again, “Please, Nariel.  Allow me to finish.” He said gently.

Nariel buttoned her lips and looked shamefaced.  Faramir continued, “I have spoken with Sarthmir and explained that I did not want you disciplined for a small mistake that was beyond your control.  I did not wish it, for I know what it is like to be disciplined for something that was not your fault.” Nariel saw a small shadow of memory cross over his face. She had not been in service long and it shocked her a little to think those of the Quality to have shadowed memories. “So, you will not punished for a small mistake," she heard the Lord Faramir continue, "But if you do feel you are being treated differently you need to get word to Lady Éowyn and she will tell me and we will solve the matter.”  Nariel could not help but noticed that Lord Faramir’s eyes held a great deal of empathy.  She found herself nodding in agreement.  Telion was looking at Faramir with eyes of wonder.  Faramir rose from his crouch and said, “Well, I must be getting back to my own wedding meal or people will talk!” He smiled at them both.  Telion scurried after him.  “My Lord, thank you.  But why?”

Faramir looked at the young man and he saw many of Devrion’s qualities, “For your father.  He would want you to be happy and so do I.” he looked back around the corner, “And I think she might help with that!” Faramir said with a smile on his face. Telion watched him walk away. It would not be the last time they met as a bond was formed between two men that day.

~*~*~*~*~

Ch. 18 - Amid Giggles and Gasps

The day had been joyous; it had filled Éowyn with more happiness than she thought possible, but after the wedding feast had ended she did admit to herself that she was tired.  The family had retired from the Great Hall to their private apartments and she was sitting on a comfortable and overly stuffed settee sipping from a goblet of wine, grateful for this chance for a quiet moment of reflection.  Intense emotion, either happy or sad, was exhausting.  She looked at Faramir talking to her brother standing at the arm of the settee.  Again, delight lit within her.  She still had to remind herself that she was now his wife.  Amazed happiness pervaded.  She thought of her brother. Éomer truly let very few people close to him.  He held most people at arms’ length.  A great leader of men but few knew his heart.  She surmised it was because of early tragedy in their lives, the loss of their parents, and the responsibility that had been thrust upon him at such an early age that caused him to keep his own counsel and rely on very few. She smiled.  The fact that in the amidst of wedding week rush and madness her brother had found Lothíriel and somehow the slip of a girl full of life and fire had found, quite easily if truth be told, a way into his guarded heart.  Éowyn mused that she and Arwen had prodded the relationship a little but what had happened, would have happened even if they had just stood by.  It was clearly inevitable. The two would have found each other.  Faramir looked down at her as Éomer went off in the direction of said girl of life and fire.  He slid onto the settee, and just gazed at her, “did I ever tell you just how beautiful you looked today?”

Éowyn looked at him with a glint in her eye, “No.” she said playfully. Faramir’s reddish-blond eyebrows shot up feigning a shock expression, “Oh no? Well allow me to say, you are the most beautiful bride there has ever been.”  He leaned over and kissed her, lingering a few seconds. 

She smiled and then looked around the room, “Do you think anyone would notice if we left?” she asked a little nervously.

“Perhaps,” Faramir shrugged, “but I don’t think they will ‘say’ anything, even if they all will be thinking quite loudly,” He teased, his eyes sparkling mischievously.

Éowyn blushed.  Faramir looked at her and smiled empathically, “Let’s slip away as quietly as we can.” What Éowyn did not know is that Faramir knew she was a little nervous and he had asked Arwen to let it be known that Éowyn wished to slip away tonight without fuss or fanfare. 

They got up off the settee and meandered with purpose towards the archway that lead to the courtyard.  Éowyn swore she could feel friendly eyes upon them, but as Faramir predicted no sound was made.

Éowyn felt the brisk late autumn wind cool her face as they left the King’s House.  The night air felt refreshing after being inside for so long and amid so many, first at the banquet and then among family in the King’s apartments.  Now it was just Faramir and her walking towards the Citadel.  Her eye fell upon the newly planted White Tree with the four guards still standing attendant.  She was drawn to the tree, struck by all that had happened within the last year, Faramir stood behind her with his arms wrapped around, warming her and shielding her from the cold.  Literally and metaphorically she mused silently.  “All that has happened,” she said aloud. “All that has changed.  All that has been sacrificed.  Do we have a right to be this happy?” she murmured with a little twinge of guilt. 

Faramir had been kissing the top of her head, but when she said that, he stopped, paused and said thoughtfully, “I think how we proceed is important.  We have a responsibility. We have to work to rebuild people’s lives, to help our people heal.  So that the sacrifices that were made will be meaningful ones.  I think we need to live our lives with purpose and meaning because then we honor their sacrifice by building a better world.  Do we deserve to be happy?  I never really thought I deserved happiness and then I met you and you showed me that maybe I did.  So, if we live our lives with purpose, I think maybe we will earn this happiness.”

Éowyn turned in Faramir’s arms and unshed tears brimmed in her blue eyes and she looked into his, loving him so deeply for the man that he was.  She kissed him long as the wind blew through the bare branches of the White Tree. 

As they left the tree’s presence, one of the guard spoke, “Forgive me for the intrusion, my lord, my lady.  But I speak for us all of the Tower Guard when I say we wish you all happiness and may the Valar bless your union.”

Faramir placed his hand on his heart and said, “Thank you, Harthedir.  From my heart I thank you.”  Harthedir smiled, nodded and returned to his vigil.

They entered the Citadel and headed up the staircase to the suites on the second level and Éowyn felt butterflies that were threatening to turn into fell beasts flying around her stomach.   She did not know what to expect as they neared Faramir’s suite of rooms. 

Éowyn stopped at the open door and stared through at it.  She then placed one foot in front of the other and crossed the threshold.  She looked around the suite and one could tell Faramir lived here.  It was well appointed and yet comfortable and very neat.  She looked off to one side and she saw things from her dressing table set up here.  She walked over to the table and picked up her brush.  Faramir said, “I had Waerith place some things of yours in here so it might seem a little more familiar.  I hope you don’t mind.”  He stopped and looked at Éowyn who had her eyes cast down.  He paused, sighed softly and then gently lifted her chin.  He saw a slight bit of panic, trepidation and even a little bit of anger.  He smiled empathetically.  “What is troubling you, my love?”

Éowyn pursed her lips and looked a little peeved.  “I am just upset with myself for feeling this nervous!  I mean I killed the Witch King!  I have faced down many dangers and challenges. Why is this making me nervous?  I don’t like feeling nervous.  It is ridiculous.”

Faramir sighed again and smiled, “Well, those things are radically different from…tonight.  It is generally not considered a danger or a challenge.  Unless you are doing it wrong.” He ended, trying to make Éowyn laugh.  Éowyn pursed her lips again and just looked at him.  “I’m sorry, my love.  I was only teasing, just trying to get you to laugh.” 

Éowyn just looked at him, her worry growing.  She disconsolately dropped on to the settee in the middle of the room, “It is just that--. It is just that--,” She paused then burst out with, “I have no idea.  I have had no one to talk to.  I just don’t know.  I hate not knowing!!” She looked most put out.

Faramir pulled a straight back chair close to the settee and took hold of both of Éowyn’s hands in his to still their nervous motion and said gently, “We can learn together.”

Éowyn looked at him, saying a little desperately, “I had rather hoped that, well that you had, you had…” she looked away and shrugged lieu of finishing that sentence.

It was Faramir’s turn to color a little.  It was a most bizarre conversation they were having but he soldiered on, “Ah, well, yes.  I have.” He sighed again.  Éowyn’s eyes took on a slightly tortured look.  “Oh my love, I only meant we can learn each other together.  But if you don’t want to tonight.  We don’t have to…  I don’t want you to do anything you are not comfortable with.” Faramir ended slowly.

Éowyn stated, “This is ridiculous!  I most definitely…want to.” She said turning another level of pink, “I just have no idea how or what!” She ended in exasperation.

Faramir breathed a sigh of relief, “Good, I am glad…that you want to.”  He looked down at Éowyn’s hands and started to gently caress them, “Let’s not think about anything other than being in each other’s company tonight.”  He brought her hands up to his mouth and kissed them both.  He then looked into her eyes and reached forward to smooth a stray tendril of hair escaping her headband and looking into her eyes.  “How does that sound?”

Éowyn was mesmerized by the patience, kindness and gentleness she saw in his eyes.  It was so much akin to when they first met in the Houses of Healing.  She nodded still staring into his eyes, “Yes,” she whispered. He moved from the chair to the settee and Éowyn tried to lay her head on his shoulder, but her headdress kept getting in the way. 

“All right,” Faramir said, “Clearly we have to take this off.  Sit up!”  Éowyn sat up straight and Faramir set to work.  He first looked at it, inspecting it from all sides, “Hmmm,” and “Ahh” were heard in his surveying the lay of the land.  Éowyn chipped in, “I am not quite sure how they did it, but I know many pins were used.”

“Yes….” Faramir acknowledged, thinking.  He continued his surveying, “Well, let’s try this!” and he proceeded to pull the first pin.  And then the second, then the third.  After the fourth pin and fifth pins were removed Faramir remarked, “They REALLY did not want this falling off your head now they did?”  At those words, an image of the pearl headdress hanging off one ear as the ceremony continued along popped into Éowyn’s mind and she started giggling.  “Hold still!” Faramir said urgently, trying desperately hard not to catch the giggles as well, “I think I’ve almost got it!” He pulled the headdress and it started to move…unfortunately though, a previously unseen hairpin started to pull Éowyn’s hair as well.

“Ow!” Éowyn exclaimed as her hair was pulled along with the departing headdress.

Immediately Faramir stopped, concern written across his face, “Sorry!  Are you okay, Éowyn.  So Sorry!”  He heard sobs. “Accursed thing, now I’ve made you cry!” 

There were, indeed, sobs but upon closer inspection Faramir discovered they were not tears of pain or sadness, but of laughter.  Éowyn was laughing so hard, tears were falling.  Faramir started laughing as well but he valiantly fought the tenacious headpiece. “Wait, Wait, I think I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” he tugged a little and again Éowyn’s head jerked a little, “Sorry!”  But he saw where the problem was.  He reached ever so gently to disconnect one strand of hair from a bottom leaf and after that the headpiece pulled free.  He held it up in triumph and shouted, “the dastardly headpiece is vanquished!” 

Éowyn jumped up and kissed him in congratulations.  The kiss grew longer and the forgotten headpiece dropped from Faramir’s hand and he combed his fingers through Éowyn’s now loosened and free flowing hair deepening the kiss.  His other hand was trying to loosen the ties to the outer layer of her dress and not quite managing it.  Éowyn broke the kiss briefly, looked into his eyes and said, “Let me.” She reached behind and pulled the bowstring.  The pearlescent layer flowed, “It is freed,” she smiled into his eyes. Faramir reached down and pulled the overlay over her head and dropped it to the floor where it lay unheeded next to the headdress until morning.  Next the silk dress amid giggles and gasps.  “You are so beautiful…” were the last intelligible words uttered…

~*~*~*~*~*~

Ch. 19 – The Past Need Not be Prologue

Éowyn opened one eye and then the other. Early morning light filtered through and hit the wall opposite in the shape of the randomly opened slits of the winter curtains. She had awoken with her head on the white, soft linen pillow and Faramir’s arm thrown protectively over her. She lay there thinking about yesterday, about last night.  She was overwhelmed with emotion.  Overwhelmed by the fact that this was now to be her life.  She thought about how tenderly Faramir had treated her when they first entered his suite of rooms.  How he had thoughtfully had Waerith place some of her things in his suite so she would feel more comfortable.  How he patiently handled her fears about…last night.  She smiled.  Last night had been…there were no words for it.  She snuggled down and lay quietly waiting for sleep to come back to her.

Faramir had awoken.  His arm was draped over Éowyn’s midsection and she had her back to him snuggled safely in his curved body.  He gazed at the reddish gold of her hair as the sunlight from the slight opening of the curtain lit the beautiful interplay of colors.  She was his.  This beauty was his.  He did not pretend to even know how, and he certainly was not going to ponder as to why the Valar sought to bless him with her.  She was here.  His heart was bursting with gratitude that she should love him.  He thought of yesterday, bewildered by the joy of it.  He thought of last night.  She was so nervous.  He could feel her panic.  His only thought was to give her comfort, to show her patience and love in the same way he had finally won her heart when they were in the Houses of the Healing.  He knew no other way.  He kissed her bared shoulder, and whispered, “I love you.  Thank you for loving me.”

Éowyn’s heart broke at the whispered avowal.  She had never met someone so worthy of love and yet so convinced of the opposite, and it stunned her that he thought he should thank her?  She turned and her heart broke anew.  Faramir looked shocked that she was awake, and she saw a single tear tract on his cheek.  “Did I awake you?  I am sorry I did not mean to.”  He looked a little ashamed and he continued to look at her, timidly searching for her reaction to what she apparently heard.

“I had awoken earlier, and I was lying here thinking.  Do you want to know what I was thinking?”  Faramir just stared, blinking.  Éowyn smiled empathetically, “I was thinking that how happy I am and how wonderful it is that I am married to you.  That I get to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Faramir looked at her and smiled incredulously.  Sitting up in the early morning light before the day had begun, he had yet to construct his defenses to face the day.  This beauty lay in his bed; she was seeing him with his walls down and she still seemed to love him.  It was a revelation.   He leaned over to kiss her almost to convince himself that she was really there.  Their lips met, kindling morning fire...

~*~*~*~*~*~

Later that morning they were both awoken by Eirik trundling in with Faramir’s morning cup of mulled wine and breakfast for two, “Good morning, my lord AND,” He added cheekily, “my lady.  Cook has sent breakfast; she was sure you would be wanting something hearty this morning.”  He had a big smile on his face, “Where do you want me to put it, My Lord.”

Faramir just looked at his squire.  He had several things he could have said to his cheeky squire, but he discarded them reluctantly.  “Just put it all on the table near the balcony,” he said as he gave Eirik a pointed look. 

Eirik’s smile grew larger as he said, “Yes, my lord!” in a chirpy and cheerful fashion.  After setting the tray down on the table he came over nearer to the four-poster bed.  “Will there be anything else, my lord?” Cheeky grin ever present.

“No! Thank you Eirik.  That will be all.” Faramir stated trying to sound stern and only succeeded in sounding both resigned and amused at the same time. Eirik nodded with his hand on his heart and humming happily as he left the suite.  “That boy.  I need to teach him to show proper respect!” he lamented as he swung his legs over the side of the bed to get up.

“That boy worships the ground you walk on!  And you would never do anything to hurt his feelings.” Éowyn stated as she stayed his progress by reaching over and hugging him from behind and placing her chin on his shoulder.

Faramir sighed. Éowyn was right.  He would never do anything to hurt Eirik’s feelings.  Maybe that made him soft but he had known harshness and refused visit that treatment upon one he cared for.  And he did care for Eirik.  He was genuinely a good lad and a very good squire even for all his cheekiness.  He watched as Éowyn scooted herself off the bed and pick up her velvet robe that had been placed on the dressing rack by Waerith when she had made the room ready for her ladyship yesterday.  She was so beautiful from head to toe.  He was enjoying the view immensely and sighed when she wrapped herself up in the velvet robe and walked over to the table where Eirik had laid out the breakfast.  He watched as she casually picked up a piece of toast and slathered it with the thick strawberry jam that Eirik knew that he loved so much. She looked back at him and saw his intense stare and rapidly blushed at his enrapt scrutiny, “What?” she said, suddenly self-conscious.

Faramir got out of bed and quickly wrapped himself in his robe to ward off the chill of the morning and strode towards his wife. “Nothing, can’t a husband admire his beautiful wife,” he said folding her in his arms, handful of toast and jam included.  In fact, just as Éowyn raised her hand to her mouth he stole it and proceeded to take a bite.

Éowyn immediately cried, “Thief!  Hugging your wife as a pretext to stealing her toast!  Shame on you!”

Faramir grin unrepentantly, “It looked good enough to eat and so do you!” and at that he kissed her, which lead another kiss and another.

Sometime later they were sitting at the table finally eating breakfast.  Éowyn looked at Faramir, “I was just wondering something.”

“What’s that?” Faramir was finishing the last of his mulled wine, somewhat cooler than he liked, but there had been distractions earlier that had the unfortunate consequences of allowing his mulled wine to cool down.

“Why did you excuse yourself early on during the Wedding Banquet?”.”

“Ah that,” Faramir looked a little uncomfortable.

“Yes, that.” Éowyn said looking even more curious.

Faramir sighed and paused and then began to speak, “I was questioning Sarthmir about why he was disciplining the serving maid who had been serving at table.”  Éowyn’s brow furrowed, not quite understanding why the intervention had been necessary.  Faramir saw that more explanation was necessary and he was unsure about how much he could talk about his feelings with Éowyn.  He had only ever spoken about such things with Boromir.  Only with him he knew no judgment would come; no questioning of his motives or his “too soft” heart that his father disparaged him for on an almost daily basis while Faramir had remained under his roof before the posting to Ithilien, which had come as a blessing and relief to both he and his father. “I did not like what he was saying.”  Faramir said a more guarded tone than he would have liked to have used, but the habits of a lifetime were hard to change.  He wanted to be more open with Éowyn but he did not know if he could.

Éowyn looked at Faramir.  A change had come over him.  His voice guarded. His words clipped.  He even held his body in a more tense and constrained fashion.  Something inside her, some intuition told her to tread carefully.

“What was wrong with what he was saying?” she asked gently.

Faramir looked at her with inexplicably wounded and guarded eyes…

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Minas Tirith,  2991  TA

It had been a lovely three weeks.  Prince Imrahil and Princess Neneth, Faramir’s uncle and aunt had come to stay and visit with Faramir and Boromir.  Ostensibly the reason for the visit was a council meeting to be held by his father, Denethor.  He had requested the Prince of Dol Amroth attend, but his uncle told Boromir and him that he decided to make it a family trip because he had not seen his nephews in far too long.  So it was that his cousins and his aunt had been including as a part of the traveling party. 

Faramir reveled in the attention paid to him by his uncle, aunt and cousins.  He had been able to show off his ability to shoot his bow, which his master trainer, Dorthion, said he showed great aptitude for even though he was only eight.  His aunt and uncle got to watch him shoot and ride his horse and he and his cousin, Elphir sparred with their practice swords. His aunt and uncle cheered at each pass, each hit.  All the things that his father said he did not have time for because he was very business and could not find the time.  Faramir believed that was true because he made time for Boromir and therefore did not have time for him as well.  But these last few weeks he reveled in the attention that his aunt and uncle gave him because they did not have any duties in Minas Tirith as they were only visiting and so they did have time for him.

But now it was time for them to be leaving.  Everything had been packed upon the horse carts and the final goodbyes were being said. Faramir was standing looking at the proceedings with a doleful look upon his young face.  Prince Imrahil hugged Boromir good-bye and then looked down and saw the sad look upon his eight-year old nephew’s face and his heart went out to him.  Not just because he so reminded him of his beloved sister, Finduílas but also because he was such a dear little child, so talkative and inquisitive.  Imrahil looked up and saw that Denethor was at the top of steps coming to bid them good-bye.  He sighed and crouched down to his nephew, “Cheer up, my lad.  Remember in the summer we can arrange for you and Boromir to come and visit us in Dol Amroth?  Would you like to see the sea?”

Faramir’s face broke out in a sunny smile, “Yes, please.  Uncle!  I would really like that!”

“Well then, it is settled.  We will arrange a time and you both shall visit us by the sea!” Faramir threw his arms around his uncle and his uncle whispered in his ear, “We all love you, Faramir.  Always remember that!”

And when he set him down again Faramir said in a voice unintended to carry far, “I love you, too. Uncle.”

Denethor had been descending the steps when he saw Imrahil hugging Faramir, who was smiling and he overheard the little boy’s avowal of love for his uncle.  He felt a sharp stab in his heart and the show of affection upset him more than he would admit to.  His next words were harsher than he had intended, “My Lord Prince!  Is it not time you were leaving!” The effect was immediate. 

Imrahil stood up and his back was ramrod straight.  “Forgive us.  We have tarried overly long.  Beg pardon. We shall depart post haste.”  He looked down his nephew, who was no longer smiling, and a fretful crinkle of the child’s brow indicated his worry that he had somehow yet again displeased his father.  He smiled and Faramir looked at him with big blue eyes, not wanting to further incur his father’s anger.  Imrahil ruefully mounted his horse and turned toward the archway leading to the sixth level.

“Faramir!” Denethor forcibly whispered as he waved farewell to Finduílas’ brother, “Just what kind of emotional spectacle was that! We of the House of Mardil are to maintain a proper sense of decorum at all times. Disgraceful.” He ended with opprobrium.  He looked down when he did not receive a reply.  He heard a sniffle and a very small voice that said, “I’m sorry, father, that I embarrassed you!” another sniffle and a surreptitious wiping of his eyes with his sleeve. “May I be excused?” he said quietly.

“Yes, you may.”  As a subdued eight-year-old climbed the steps, Boromir just looked at his father.  Words were left unspoken, but his opinion was clear as he departed to catch up with his dejected little brother.  Denethor closed his eyes and briefly allowed shame to flow through his spirit for a few moments before yet again allowing his mask of arrogance and indifference to slip back into place.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Faramir got up quickly and walked to the balcony placing both hands on the bannister to overlook the city.  Why, she asked. Why, indeed.  How could he tell her that when he heard Sarthmir forcibly whispering to the serving maid it took him back to all the times Denethor publicly dressed him down for perceived transgressions.  Hearing the maid’s tearful responses had just ripped his heart out.  He stood remembering it all when he felt two arms circling him from the back.  The scent of lavender and rose mixed with Éowyn’s own essence permeated his senses.  He felt her face pressed against his back.  He willed his spirit to ease.  He would not allow his past to colour his future.  He heard, “I love you.”

Éowyn stood and simply held her husband.  She had no idea why her question had elicited such a pained and emotional reaction.  She did not know if she would ever know. But she knew with every strand in her soul that not only did Faramir have a boundless ability to love but that he had been hurt by much in his life and he needed comfort and approval at that moment. She felt him turn in her arms and look at her with such wonder and at the same time such hunger and such caution in his eyes. She kissed him with the ferocious need to assuage his pain.  She would be his life.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

A/N: It took me a while to figure out whether to continue with this story and where to take it if I did. but I have now decided and here is chapter 20.  Enjoy! :-)


Ch. 20 – A Sense of Purpose

One month later…

Éowyn sat in Arwen’s solar that overlooked the city, sipping a cup of tea.  It had become something of a ritual these mid-morning visits.  She and Arwen seemed to have developed a bond of friendship that Éowyn treasured.  Other than Legolas Arwen was the first Elf she had truly gotten to know in more than just passing.  She did not entirely understand than Arwen was longer essentially an elf but it was not something she sought to delve into either, as when mention of Arwen’s past found its way into casual conversation a shadow would fall across her fair features.  She could see there was pain that Arwen was concealing, but it was not a pain that would bear any kind of witness or bear any comment, at least not from her, so Éowyn would swiftly move past it, deftly switching the conversation.  Her time spent with her uncle as he slipped further into Saruman’s grasp had taught her well how mind the conversation to stir clear of trouble.  Other than those moments Arwen was wonderful company.  Faramir and she were still residing in Minas Tirith.  They would be removing to Ithilien, but many plans had to be made before they could take up residence in Faramir’s newly bequeathed princedom.  Questions ranging from where in Ithilien would they build their home and what kind of settlements were to be established. Who was going to take up the King’s Challenge and follow them into Ithilien to re-build this land of forsaken beauty.  All needed answers and the planning stage had just been embarked upon.

Arwen sat down on the overstuffed settee and tucked her legs under her, Nariel the serving maid handed her a cup of tea. “Thank you, Nariel,”

“You are welcome, My lady.”

“Nariel,” Éowyn eyed her meaningfully.

“Yes, my lady.” Nariel said looking respectfully in her direction.

“How is Telion been keeping these days?”

“Oh my lady,” Nariel blushed, “He is well, He is very good, my lady.  A fine young man, my lady. Oh, but perhaps I should not say.”

Arwen gently glowed when she said kindly, “Nariel, please do not be uneasy. I understand that in many noble houses, servants are actively discouraged from even thinking about the opposite sex.  But I do not understand the reasoning for that rule.  In Imladris servants were not treated as such.  Seen and not heard indeed!  You have lives outside of your work here.  We were ever mindful of that. In Imladris this was our way and such will it be here in my household.  If you have any trouble in this regard you will kindly tell me, and I will see what needs to be attended to.”

Nariel looked at the Queen and she swore to her dying day that she somehow seemed to glow when she spoke kindly. “Aye, my lady,” she spoke in something of a bewildered way, “I will, my lady.”

Éowyn pressed on a little bit because she had grown very fond of Telion in the short space of time they had known each other. “Are you keeping company with him?”

“Aye, my lady,” she admitted, looking at Arwen for tacit permission to continue.  Arwen simply smiled, “He is ever so nice.  So talented.”  She beamed.

Éowyn spied a little silver rose in bloom dangling from a delicate silver chain that Nariel was wearing around her neck.  “Did he make that for you?” she said referring to the necklace. 

Nariel’s hand flew to her neck, fingering the little bloom, “Oh yes, my lady,” She said shyly.  “He said I am his little flower.”

Éowyn smiled, “It is lovely.”

“Thank you, my lady.” Nariel bobbed a little curtsy and said, “I best be going, Cook will wonder what is keeping me! Is there anything else, my lady.” She asked looking at Arwen

“Thank you, Nariel, but No.” Arwen said kindly.  The serving maid curtsied again and left the solar.

Éowyn had a big smile on her face.  Arwen looked up from her tea, “Someone is looking very happy!” she said merrily.

“I admit it!  I’m happy and I am so happy that they are happy as well.  Listen to me!  I sound like a ninny.” She chuckled to herself.  “A year ago, I could not see what could happen, only what was.  And now I am happy.”

“I hope I have had a hand in that!” Éowyn turned around and saw Faramir with a teasing look on his face and a large smile.

Éowyn bound up from the settee, “You’re home!” she ran to give him a kiss.

“Newlyweds…you can take them anywhere!” Arwen heard the voice of her beloved from just behind Faramir.  She got up from the settee and walked over to where Estel was standing and simply looked up him and said silkily, “What are we going to do with them,” as she pulled him down for a sultry welcome home kiss.

A few minutes later, Faramir said as he surfaced for air, “I should go away more often if only to get this welcome.”

“Silly man,” Éowyn murmured, continuing her welcome home kiss. She then looked up into his blue eyes and said “You may have something to do with my current happiness. I suppose.”

Faramir raised an reddish blond eyebrow, “Only something to do with…  Hmm!  Let me see if I can improve upon that,” His kiss deepened until Éowyn felt she was upright only because Faramir was holding her up.

As the kiss ended, Éowyn murmured, “Mmmmhm!  Definitely more than somewhat.” Faramir laughed out loud and continued to improve his standing in her eyes, lips meeting again.

At that point Nariel came back into the solar upon Aragorn’s instructions to Cook to bring wine and a light repast into the solar. “Oh!” she softly exclaimed as she saw the King and Queen and the Lord Steward and his lady all kissing.  “Beg pardon My Lord! I should never have thought to interrupt—”

Immediately Aragorn sought to allay the girl’s discomfiture. “Nariel, is it?”

“Aye, my lord!”

Aragorn smiled his most conciliatory smile, “Thank you for so promptly bring what I asked for.  You may set it on the sideboard over there.”

“Aye, My lord!” Nariel said in an overwhelmed little voice. She set the tray down where Aragorn had requested it be placed.  She turned back to Aragorn with a face burning red from embarrassment and squeaked, cleared her voice and gamely tried again saying, “Will there be anything else, My lord.” Her eyes blinked rapidly.

Aragorn smiled his most congenial smile and said gently, “No, Nariel.  That will be all.  Thank you.”

Nariel bobbed a quick curtsy and beat a hasty retreat.

Waiting a few seconds to make sure the serving maid was out of earshot, Arwen looked back at the door through which Nariel had retreated.  Looking back at the others, she crooned, “The poor dear!  I do feel bad that she was so uncomfortable.” 

Aragorn wrapped his arms around her, “And that is one of the reasons I love you so much.  Your kind heart.”

Éowyn looked at Faramir, teasing intent flashing in her blue eyes, “You wicked man! Causing a scene to embarrass a young girl like that!”

“What can I say? Though you cause the wicked thoughts, my love.”  Faramir put his arms around Éowyn and gave her a quick peck on the lips, “but right now I have discovered that I am hungry.”

“Said in true Hobbit fashion!” declared Aragorn who had now wandered over to the sideboard and poured himself a goblet of wine. 

“Speaking of the north, how was the trip to Cair Andros?” Éowyn asked as she poured herself a goblet of wine and bit into a small chunk of cheese.  She then proceeded to fill a silver plate with the chunk of cheese, a few slices of meat and a slab of dark rye bread that she been pleasantly surprised to find as far south as Gondor.  It was a staple in Rohan.  Aragorn and Faramir had been gone for about a week to see how the rebuilding and restructuring of the northern island in the middle of the Anduin was faring and to see what more was needed.

“Good,” Faramir said as he took a drink from his goblet and was surveying which bunch of grapes he was going to choose.  Having placed his selection along with a thick slab of the rye bread and a hunk of cheese on a plate of silver, he turned back to the settee to sit next to Éowyn.  “The rebuilding is going well.  Though they could use some more men for a few of the upcoming tasks.”  He paused to think, “My lord, what say you to putting out a general appeal, posted throughout the city asking for those with skills in masonry or woodwork to come to Cair Andros.  Pay and a chance of a new life.  We could even offer training should the unskilled wish to take part as well.  Surely that is enough to attract.”

“The idea has much merit.” Aragorn nodded approvingly and they began to speak in earnest about the possibilities and problems of such a plan.

Éowyn watched happily as Faramir and Aragorn discussed this matter.  At long last Faramir was being appreciated and his ideas valued by one whom she knew he respected beyond all others.  It warmed her heart as she thought of the life they were about to embark upon.  There were times she still had remind herself that this was her life now.  After years of duty and regret, wanting a life that could not be hers, she had found herself, and Faramir had been her guide to this new life.  In the Houses of Healing when the light finally broke through the shadows that had surrounded her, she said that she would not only delight in songs of slaying and of battle and that she would learn the ways of healing and of green and growing things. At last the two halves of her life were knit together.  It had created within her such a sense of freedom, of which she rejoiced in. 

She looked at Arwen and smiled, the Elven Queen returned the smile, shaking her head as if say “Boys will be boys” referring to the engrossing conversation of plans being laid and problems discussed.  Éowyn got up from the settee her hand gliding over Faramir’s hand and he instinctively caressed it gently even as he was deep in conversation with Aragorn.  She moved off to the windows that overlooked the city and she sat there sipping from her wine cup reflectively.  The windows were closed and the solar was warmed gently by the weak winter sun.  Arwen stood beside her and as she looked out over the city, she murmured, “It is a breathtaking sight, is it not?”

Still looking out at the panorama, Éowyn sighed, “Yes it is…  But also, it gives me a great sense of responsibility, I want to give back to the people for what they have given me.”

Arwen looked at her new friend and sister-of-a-sort, “And what is that they have given you?”

 Éowyn sighed, “A sense of purpose.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

Later that night when Faramir and Éowyn were in bed, Éowyn commented as she laid her head on Faramir’s chest, contentedly feeling his chest rise and fall, “I was so happy watching you and Aragorn talk about your plan for the re-building of Gondor.”

“If limestone numbers and pairs of hands needed are exciting to you, well you must come to the next council meeting, you will be completely enthralled!”

Éowyn lightly tapped his chest, “That is not what I’m talking about at all!  You silly man!”

Faramir gave a startled and soft, “Ow! Easy my lady, I bruise easy.” A teasing tone in his voice.

Éowyn picked herself up to looked into his eyes, “You bruise easily!  Hardly!  And that was not what I was talking about.”  She settled herself down again into the crook of his shoulder blade where she seemed to fit perfectly.  “It did my heart good to see your ideas listened to and respected.”

“So much needs doing.  So many people have lost so much.” Faramir stated in a voice laden with responsibility.

Éowyn paused and then spoke from the heart, “And we will work to see them healed.”

Faramir was quiet after that statement for moments long enough for Éowyn to raise her head in question.  He just looked into the middle distance. “Faramir?”

He shook from his reverie and looked her again, “Sorry, just every so often I realise just how different things are.”

“But it changed for the better, has it not?”  Éowyn gently inquired as she lay listening to his breathing. Faramir looked upon the reddish blond beauty who was laying her head upon his chest and his heart filled with happiness.  His hand moved to touch Éowyn’s chin with the gentle nudge for her to look up.  He was lost in the blue eyes of this fiery spirit that was in his life and in his bed.  One word uttered, “Yes,” and he bent his head to kiss her, their lips meeting…





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