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A Light in Midwinter  by Mirkwoodmaiden

Fourth Age (SR 1425), Ithilien

Faramir sat in the garden of his keep in the newly restored Ithilien enjoying a few moments of peace puffing on his pipe filled with Longbottom Leaf, a gift from Merry and Pippin.  He puffed as he reflected upon the first time he smoked a pipe.  It was in the Houses of Healing in the last days of the Ring War when both he and Merry were healing and recovering themselves.  The first thing Merry did upon being called to speak to Faramir was pull out a pipe and start puffing and then offered up a pipe to the young Steward.  Faramir shook his head and chuckled, thinking of the curious and unabashed ways of hobbits.

“I warrant you, Pippin, we are going to have send more leaf. Our Faramir has certainly developed a taste for it!”

Faramir looked towards the gate and there stood the two hobbits he held most dear, “Merry! Pippin!”  he jumped up to embrace the two halfings. “When did you get in?  You weren’t expected until next week at the earliest.”

“Well, we decided to get ahead of the weather and come a couple days early,” Pippin said, “You know to be useful and all.” He said, all blue-eyed earnestness.

Faramir looked askance at his stout-hearted but rather work-shy little friend, “You mean Sam wanted you two for a project and you decided it was time to make yourself scarce.”

Merry laughed, “Faramir knows you too well Pip!”

“You as well, my dear Master Brandybuck!” Faramir laughed and hugged the two hobbits again. “You are of course most welcome at any time and for as long as you wish!  How are Sam and Rosie!  Little Elanor and Frodo-lad!”

Merry replied, “All are well.  Elanor is a little jewel and Frodo-lad is a little terror!  I think it is the Took influence on him!” He ended with a twinkle in his eye awaiting the aggrieved Took to his side to react.  He did not have to wait long.

“Hey!  It just means Frodo-lad has spirit!  Of the very best kind.” Pippin affirmed with a nod of his head shaking his light brown curls.

Faramir laughed again, “Most assuredly Master Took.  Most assuredly.  Come let us see what we can find in the kitchens for it is well past lunch and I am sure you are both hungry.”

At the mention of food Pippin perked up.  His love of leaf and food knew no other competition. “Lead on my Lord Prince.  We go where you guide!”  he dropped a quick little bow.

Faramir laughed, hobbits were irrepressible.  “To the kitchens!”

~*~*~*~*~*~

In the kitchens there was already a great deal of bustle and activity as preparations were underway for the evening meal and the addition of the lord of the house and two hobbits known for their appetites did at first slightly wrong foot Déorhild, the cook.  But as with all good field commanders she rallied quickly.  Wiping her hands on her aprons, she dropped a perfunctory curtsey, “What may I do for you, my lord?” she asked crisply as this was her domain within his lands. Faramir inclined his head and placed a respectful hand on heart. “Forgive me, Good Déorhild,” he started for it was a wise man who tread lightly in a woman’s domain.  “I do realise that we are interrupting you but my companions have only just arrived and if you could be so kind as to provide a light repast for them.  It would be most greatly appreciated.” Faramir smiled.

Déorhild eyed first her lord and then the two hobbits, “A light repast you say?” she echoed in a voice dripping with irony.  “I remember….” she said.  The two words laced with the memory of these two.  She held the stormy look for a beat or two and then a smile broke across her face. “Aye, I think I can rustle up a morsel or two!  Hang about over near that table in the corner there and I will see what I can find.  Ale, too? I imagine.”

Both Merry and Pippin chimed in unison, “Yes, Please!” Déorhild laughed a hearty laugh. 

Faramir again, inclined his head, hand on heart, said kindly “Thank you! Good Déorhild.”

Déorhild looked at the kind, dear man who was her lord, “For you my lord, anything.”

The “light” repast consisted of a large meat pie, a couple of roast chicken, roasted potatoes and parsnips, bubble and squeak and many apple tartlets and all washed down with a fine dark ale.  Faramir partook of the ale but not having the appetite of a hobbit left that portion of the small feast to Merry and Pippin. Going about her business of preparing the evening meal, Déorhild looked over on occasion shaking her head and looking at her kitchen maid, Eóhild, she murmured, “where do they put it all?” the kitchen maid shook her head, bewildered, “But they are dear little things though.”  She spoke with affection for much of their visits to Ithilien were spent in the kitchens.  “Aye! That they are.” Déorhild agreed, returning the task of rolling out a crust for another pie to be consumed voraciously at evening.

At length the three looked up at a familiar voice, “So this is where you had gotten yourselves to.” Faramir looked up to into the amused pale blue eyes of his beloved Èowyn.  “I asked Eirik where you had gotten yourself to and he mentioned that the two hobbits arrived.  So naturally I assumed the kitchens are where I might find you!”

“A very good guess, my lady,” Faramir stood to give her a brief kiss tasting of the fine ale he had been drinking, “As ever you are as wise as you are beautiful.”

“Flatterer! You seek to assuage me with idle words.” She added mischievously.

“Is it working?” Faramir teased.

“What do you think?” Èowyn said patting her stomach.  “Ow!” suddenly the child inside her womb kicked.

Faramir was immediately concerned and reached down to gently smooth her child-swollen stomach, “Are you well?” His voice colored with anxiety, “Did you sleep well?  Maybe you should go and lie down some more.”

“I am fine, my love,” Èowyn quickly countered.  She turned to Merry and Pippin, “You see my dear friends, my great prince has turned into a mother hen.”  Both Merry and Pippin also looked a little concerned. “Not you two as well.  Stop this nonsense and give me a welcome hug.” 

Both immediately complied, “It is so wonderful to see you, my lady” Merry proclaimed, “All is indeed well…” he added in a worried voice.

“Yes, Merry!  All is well!” Èowyn stated with all the motherly authority she could muster. 

Pippin looked relieved, “That’s all right then!” and a smile broke across his face.  “Rosie asked us to say that she hopes you are well and that she is sorry she won’t be able to attend as she is about to foal as well.”

Èowyn laughed, “Well I’m not sure she would have put it in quite the same way but I am glad to hear it!”

Èowyn sat, and as she was very far gone with child, this was not an easy task.  She rather plopped down on the bench nearest Faramir, who resisted commenting upon his lady’s lack of grace, owning to earlier ventured observations that were met with a less than positive response.  As she reached for the pitcher of ale Déorhild appeared at her side, “Begging your pardon my lady.  Midwife says you are not to drink ale in the last month before birth.”

“Pish!” was the dignified replied of the Princess of Ithilien. 

Faramir laughed, “Now, my good sirs, that is my gentle ladywife!”  Èowyn slipped him a look that should have chastened Faramir but he soldiered on to his possible doom because sometimes men never learn.  He was in far too good a mood to pay heed. “Good Déorhild, what else did midwife say?”

Déorhild looked askance at her lord, censoring out, given her knowledge of her own birthing experiences, what she was certain he would be uninterested in. “Well My lord, she did mention certain fortifying mixtures that were to be added to wine or brewed into a tea.”

“There you are my love.  That doesn’t sound so bad.” Faramir stated looking at Èowyn and smiling.

The look on Èowyn’s face was not one any sane man should have ignored but seemingly Faramir had forgotten much the warning signs of danger he learned from having Denethor as a father.  Èowyn looked sweetly at Déorhild, which set off alarm bells in the older woman’s mind. “Good Déorhild, could you bring me a cup of wine prepared as midwife has suggested, please.”

“At once, My lady!” the older woman agreed and scurried off, out of dodge.

“Well done, my love.  I’m sure it will be delicious and good for you.” Faramir offered helpfully, blithely missing the look in Èowyn’s eyes.

Déorhild returned quickly with said concoction and handed it to her lady. Èowyn took the cup and inclined her head, “Thank you, Déorhild.” The older woman bowed and escaped to the safety of the chopping table where meat was to be dismembered.

Èowyn turned to her husband, eyes flashing, “You think it is delicious…. Then you drink it!” at that she upturned the content of the cup over Faramir’s head and stormed off. 

Faramir sat there for a few seconds while Merry and Pippin were stunned into silence.  He licked his lips and nodded “well it is at least quite tasty.  Bit of an aftertaste though.”  He turned to the two hobbits. “Let this be a lesson to you.  Women with child are dangerous creatures.”  He turned to call for a cleaning cloth but found Déorhild standing a few feet away with said cloth already in hand.

“Thank you, Déorhild,” He inclined his head. Wiping his face he looked at the older woman.  “You knew what she was about to do didn’t you?”

“Aye, My Lord,”

“And you let it happen.”

Déorhild looked at him as would an older sister, “You are a good man, my lord.  Among the best I would reckon, but every so often when you bait the bear, you just sometimes need to be bit.” She bowed slightly and resumed her duties.

Faramir looked back at Merry and Pippin as he dried off as best he could.  He said one word, pregnant with all kinds of meaning, “Life.” And reached for the innocent pitcher of ale that had started the whole episode. 

Pippin broke his stunned silence, “Shouldn’t you go after her?  She seemed rather upset.”

Faramir looked his small friend, “Sometimes you need to fight your battles and sometimes you just need to let things lie.  It is at times like this when I need to remember that my ladywife is the one who killed the WitchKing.  She is a force to be reckoned with.”  He looked at Merry, who suddenly look stricken, “Along with my present company.  Come let us drink to remember, to forget and to enjoy each others’ company.  For we do sit in each other company here in this fair country.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

A little later that day.

Standing at the open door to their chambers, Faramir watched as Èowyn viciously ran a brush through her own hair.  He never loved her more than he did in that moment.  Energy, beauty, fire, passion she was all those things and kindness of heart, well most of the time as his wine-soaked shirt bore witness to the contrary.  She was his and was bearing his child.  He could not even begin recount how grateful he was to the Valar for bringing Èowyn into his life. 

He walked into the chamber, “You’ll have no hair if you keep on like this!” he said gently. Èowyn turned on him about to bite out a retort, but when she spun around she saw he was holding his vest and was only wearing his wine stained shirt.  She was immediately contrite, a sheepish chuckle escaping, “Oh my love, your shirt!” she said getting up to come to him.  “I am so sorry,” touching the damp cloth.

“Now you are sorry, but the she-beast who assaulted me isn’t, I’m sure.” Faramir gently teased, love evident in his eyes and gently teasing voice. 

“You were baiting me, you deserved it.” Èowyn said with laughter in her voice.

Faramir have a half laugh, “That is exactly what Déorhild said.”

“Did she now?  Well she is a wise woman.”

“mm-hmm, Very wise.” Faramir bent to kiss her,

Èowyn reveled in the light kiss.  “I don’t know what came over me.”

“I do.  My little Shrew beast.” He bent in for another kiss.

“Careful. that’s what got us in this position in the first place!”

Faramir looked down at her swelling stomach, smoothing his hand over it.  “You my little lad, are a great causer of trouble!” 

“Or lass.  Either way I agree.  Did Merry and Pippin get settled?”

“Yes, And you put them off their drink for a whole ten minutes.”

Èowyn laughed, “That long?  Goodness they must have been shocked indeed.  Now let’s get you out of that wet shirt.”

“Careful.  That’s what got us here in the first place.” Faramir declared, love living in his eyes.

Èowyn laughed.

Faramir closed the door and nothing else was heard from the Lord and Lady of Ithilien for the rest of the afternoon.

~*~*~*~*~

 





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