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The next morning Ithilien Hall was buzzing with activity. The King and Queen were to arrive to share in the birth of Faramir and Èowyn's child and to celebrate the Winter Solstice in Ithilien. Eirik, the Prince's squire was in the kitchens to retrieve his Lord and Lady's morning cup of warm mulled wine, "Excuse me, My lady..." Eóhild, the kitchen maid turned around at the unusual greeting and upon seeing who was speaking leveled him with a scathing look. "Forgive me, Eóhild, the flow of red-golden hair it was so beautiful, I mistook you for my lady Èowyn."
"Aye, because her ladyship is often seen down here in the kitchens carrying baskets to and fro," Eóhild replied with sarcasm and humour in equal measure. As the Lady was not known for her culinary skills this would be indeed be an unlikely occurrence, "Are you down here with a purpose or just down to cast off idle compliments?"
"Can't I do both?" Eirik replied with an amused glint in his eye.
Eóhild rolled her eyes and then looked beyond Eirik and hid a smile.
A clap around the ear, and then, "You can get what you came for and then be off with you."
Eirik winced, "Morning to you, Déorhild!" He turned around and saw the she-dragon of the kitchens. "Might I say you are looking particular fine this morning as well!"
Déorhild just looked at Eirik and sighed an amused sigh, "You can get the Lord and Lady's drink and then be gone, you daft boy!"
Eirik bowed an elaborate bow, "Aye, My Lady. At once, My Lady." He went over to the warming stove to fill the morning mugs and smiled as he departed.
He hummed as he climbed the steps to his lord's outer chamber. The coming solstice had always been a time of reflection in Minas Tirith before the war. A time to look back, to remember, to forgive, to right wrongs if they could be righted. A time to say good bye. Here in Ithilien that tradition continued but after the Ring War and the hope that had been brought back into the city with the return of the king, it was becoming not only a time to look back but also to look forward to the coming day. To the beginning of the light, so to speak. The King had brought that light. If there was one man that Eirik admired more than his beloved lord, it would be the King Elessar, Aragorn to those who were blessed to know him.
"Lost in thought are we, Eirik?"
Eirik started and looked up and saw Beregond, the captain of the White Guard. "Sorry, Captain. I was just thinking about the Solstice and the coming today of the King. Just about everything that has happened in the last years. I don't know why but it just struck me all of a sudden."
Beregond looked at the young boy who was quickly becoming a man, "I know. 'Tis overwhelming at times, but in a good way." Beregond smiled, "and the Solstice is looming. Always a time of remembrance. You'd better get on, or the wine will cool and we don't want that."
"No, that would not be good!" Eirik smiled. Faramir was not an exacting master but he did like his warm wine to be warm. Eirik inclined his head to the Captain and made his way down the hall to his lord's chambers.
Just before knocking Eirik hear a giggle, he rapped on the door and upon hearing a "Come!" he entered with a big smile on his face. Faramir looked up from cinching a belt over a blue velvet vest embroidered with silver and gold, noting the grin on the face of his squire, "You can just wipe that smile off your face right now." he said with mock seriousness.
Èowyn laughed as she came forward to take her mug from the tray that Eirik was holding, "Scandal! We have been found out. Giggling in our own chambers. Thank you Eirik," she said as she picked up her cup and took a sip of the warmed wine.
"You are welcome, My Lady." Eirik said, dazzled as ever by her beauty and kindness. It was ever thus, with the kitchen maids he was glib but with her ladyship he was a tangle tongue.
Faramir noting the sudden quiet from his normally garrulous squire hid his own smile and came forward for his own mug of mulled wine. Taking pity on the earnest young man who had been his squire for many years he asked, “Is there any word on the King and Queen’s arrival?”
“Oh Aye, My lord. Chief Steward says an outrider has arrived and that the King and Queen should be arriving within the hour!” Eirik finished excitedly.
“Well! That gives me my marching orders!” Èowyn proclaimed, as she was still in her dressing gown and robe of dusky blue and silver. She swallowed much of her wine and set the mug down on the chest of drawer nearest her. “Eirik, can you have Waerith come to my chambers to assist me, I must get dressed.”
“At once my, lady!” Eirik inclined his head and flew to duty her bidding.
Faramir as ever was impressed by her ability to down wine in great gulps. When he wondered about this at one time Èowyn gave a half-laugh and said that much of her childhood was spent trailing after Èomer, Theodred and the other riders and she just naturally did what they did. The rest of the court ladies found her “odd” but would never say it out aloud as she was the beloved niece of the king. He put down his own mug and walked over to Èowyn , “Downing wine and flirting with him… you have that boy in thrall.” He said smiling as he encircled her in his arms lightly, looking into her pale blue eyes.
“Pish!” Èowyn stated playfully.
“Well, you definitely have me in thrall.”
Èowyn smiled and leaned up to kiss the gentle man who won her heart and given her a life beyond regret. Navigating around her child-swollen stomach was something of a challenge, but where there was a will; there was a way. Breaking apart, she spoke briskly, “Well now, I must dress and you must start your portion of the day.”
Faramir sighed, “If I must.” He eyed her playfully, “If you are sure…”
“Yes! Now go!”
Faramir met briefly with his steward about the King’s arrival. This was not a state occasion as such so the fuss would be minimal but there were a few things that still needed his attention. Faramir entered the private breakfast nook for the family and smiled as he saw that his two hobbit guests had already tucked in for their first of two breakfasts of the day.
“Well met, my good sirs! The food is to your liking I trust.” Faramir jovially announced eyeing the piles of eggs, bacon, sausages, ham, rolls, toast and grilled tomatoes on both their plates, mugs of coffee steaming.
“Fah—meer! Hullo!” Pippin said with a mouthful of egg and toast. He reached for his coffee took too big a swallow almost choking.
“Pippin! Chew the food first!” Merry said, half aggrieved and half concerned. “Honestly, Faramir I can’t take him anywhere.”
Faramir smiled, “Funny he says the same about you!” Pippin just sat and nodded with an approving and yet mischievous glint in his eye. Faramir laughed and went to the sideboard to help himself to coffee and various food stuffs. He sat and began to partake of breakfast as well.
Pippin, after sufficient swallowing of breakfast this time, inquired, “So never did get a chance to ask last night, how was Èowyn after the wine cup episode?”
“Purring like a kitten.”
“So I’m a kitten now, am I?” Èowyn lightly slapped Faramir up-side the head from behind.
“Hullo, my love, my kind and forgiving one.” Faramir shook his head as the immediate impact of the blow reverberated away, “Didn’t hear you come in.”
“Obviously.” Came the deadpan answer. She piled her plate high and sat down, “Merry, Pippin. How is the breakfast? Good I trust.” Èowyn said brightly as she bit down into a sausage with great gusto.
Both Merry and Pippin replied almost in unison, “Very good, really, really good.” As they watched Èowyn eat with a relish rivaling a hobbit.
Faramir, hurriedly taking a last swig of his coffee and taking another piece of toast as he was getting up, stated, “Well I must see to the last arrangements for Aragorn and Arwen’s arrival.” He took a chance and swooped down to place a kiss on Èowyn ’s cheek,” She murmured something and turned to kiss him as well. “Away with you, you silly man.”
Faramir stuffed the piece of toast in his mouth in lieu of any more words that might escape and land him in more trouble and departed pondering upon the curious behaviour of his wife.
Faramir stood in the garden near the front landing simply absorbing the peace and quiet that this portion of the day was bringing. He needed to get away for a few moments before the responsibilities of the morning once again crowded in demanding his attention. He was about to become a father. He did not really know that meant exactly. His relationship with his own father was fraught with difficulty, misunderstanding and pain. Only at the end did he truly know the depth of his father’s feelings and even that knowledge was bought with much pain and anguish. It was not a model to be followed. He sighed.
“Well that sigh had the weight of the world behind it!” Faramir nearly jumped out of his skin. He turned and found Aragorn standing right behind him. “A Elbereth! When did you get here, My Lord!” he nearly shouted.
Aragorn looked at his Steward with an ear-to-ear grin, “We had only just arrived when I saw you standing out here. And I couldn't resist. Arwen! Come out and bring little Eldarion with you!”
Arwen stepped from behind an outgrowth of tall shrubbery, and smiling and shaking her head almost apologetically and saying, “I tried to stop him. But apparently the King of the Reunited realms of Gondor and Arnor needs to act like a child sometimes.“
“What? I just like to harken back to my Ranger days to see if I can still not be seen if I wish!”
“Well apparently you can!” Faramir stated as his heart slowed the tattoo it had struck up upon Aragorn’s words.
Arwen side-glanced her husband and came forward with little Eldarion in tow. “How are you, Faramir?” She reached out with her free hand to clasp his.
“Well, part from a short, sudden shock to the heart, I am fine!” He looked askance at his King and bent to given Arwen a kiss on the cheek. “And you, My lady?”
"I am quite fine, My Lord Steward!"
"And you, My lord?" Faramir inquired giving Aragorn the gimlet eye.
“Well, very well.” Aragorn replied with a smile in his voice.
"Yes, well..." Faramir finished with amused exasperation. He, then knelt down so he could look at Eldarion eye-to-eye, “And you my young master! How are you?” He said as he tickled the little boy’s stomach, Eldarion let out a squeal of delight. Faramir laughed and hugged the child.
"And Èowyn, she is well?" Arwen inquired.
"As well as can be expected." Arwen raised a quizzical eyebrow at the response and thought to ask Èowyn when she saw her.
Aragorn was not so subtle, "Is she not well?" concern started to cloud his visage.
Faramir quickly added, "No, no. She is well." He gave a pointed look to Aragorn as if to say discussion was desired.
Arwen looked at both of them and shook her head slightly. Men, they were about as subtle as wargs on the hunt especially when they thought they were being subtle. "Well now that Estel has had his fun perhaps we can seek out Èowyn and have a proper greeting!"
They trundled up to the house on foot. Aragorn signaled for Harthedir, his chosen attendant of the Tower Guard, who was even further hidden among the trees, to take the horses to stables and placed little Eldarion on his shoulders for the rest of the journey and was met with another squeal of delight. Faramir saw the two together and admitted to himself he really did want a son. Someone who could fill the void that had been left by Boromir within his heart. He would praise the Valar for whatever gift he and Èowyn were given, but in his heart of hearts he did really want a son.
Èowyn looked down the garden path and saw the four of them climbing up. She was struck by the family picture presented by the royal three and the tableaux of happiness made her tear up. What wrong with her, she wondered. Lately she had been crying at the drop of a hat and it was worrying Faramir to a fairly large degree. She quickly wiped tears away with a trailing sleeve and called out, "So this is where you've gotten yourselves to! Here I am waiting decorously and I find you four traisping about the wood! Really!" she ended playfully.
"It is entirely my fault, my lady Èowyn." Aragorn flipped Eldarion to the ground causing another squeal of delight from his young son who then ran to his Auntie Èowyn to collect another hug, "Auntie E-wyn! Spice Cakes?" Èowyn laughed, held out her hand and said "Well we will see what Déorhild has on hand? Shall we?" She looked up at Arwen, held out her other hand, "So good it is to see you again! It was a good ride?"
Arwen immediately clasped her hand, "Aye it was, not withstanding last minute mischief on Estel's part." They laughed. Arwen looked down at Eldarion, "Off to the Kitchens, shall we? Spice Cakes?" Eldarion nodded enthusiastically and the three went off leaving the menfolk without a second thought.
Aragorn looked at Faramir, "Well, we have clearly been found wanting when compared to a spice cake."
Faramir laughed, "Apparently."
Aragorn clapped him on the shoulder, "So what it is you wished to speak to me about?"
"A cup of Ale first and then there are many things I would ask you!"
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