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A Light in Midwinter  by Mirkwoodmaiden

Éowyn sat in the breakfast nook overlooking a view of the forest near the settlement they were helping to build here in Ithilien.  She sat reveling in a moment of calm.  Calm, an emotion that been an infrequent visitor of late.  She looked at both Arwen and Lothiriel, both good friends, though they were separated by distance more often that she would like.  She knew that she could confide in both and not feel embarrassed or judged.  Relationships that she treasured, as she had not grown up with many of the kind in Edoras.  She was thought strange and unmannerly by the women of the court of Meduseld. 

It was true, she had always been much happier in the company of her brother and cousin, always seeking after a life she could not have.  Faramir had saved her from that life of wanting, a life of regretting who she was and who she could never be.  Now she was embarking on a new life which frankly at times scared her.  At one time she had said to Faramir she feared neither death nor pain, only a cage.  That was a life she understood though it was unattainable.  Life as she faced it now bore much uncertainty and unfamiliarity which is why she valued her friendships with these two women.  She sipped her milky tea and looked at Lothiriel, "Did you ever just ever want just throw things on a whim at Eomer?  I mean, granted he is my brother and just growing up I know he merited having things thrown at him throughout our childhood!  But I mean recently." She dropped her voice lower, "Especially just before giving birth to Elfwine?" Éowyn ended doubtfully.

Lothíriel laughed,  "Oh my yes! There were times I would have gladly run him through with his own sword!"

Éowyn let out the breath that she had not realised she had been holding and flopped back in her chair as best she could given her child-swollen stomach, "Praise the Valar!  I am so happy to hear that.  I have been getting angry with Faramir for seemingly no reason at all, though I would never admit that to him!  Just yesterday I dumped a whole cup of wine on his head!  He just kept insisting that I drink it because the midwife said it would calm my nerves!"

The other two women started laughing.

"And you know what.... It did calm my nerves all right, right after I dumped it his head I felt much better!"

"Well, see.  Listening the midwife produced good fruit," Arwen proclaimed with a mischievous elven glint in her eye, sipping her tea.  She looked at the cup.  "You know this is delicious tea...but it is lacking something."

A knowing look glowed in Lothíriel's eye, "Do you think this would help?" she pulled from her skirts a small silver flask etched with flowing swirls and the delicate curl of a horse's tail.

"My lady Lothíriel, just what might that be?" Éowyn inquired, feigning innocence.

"Just what you might think, my lady Éowyn..." Lothíriel looked up unrepentant, as she began pouring a little of the golden contents from the unstoppered flask into her teacup, "It gets cold in Edoras in winter."

"And sometimes even in summer!" Éowyn said, pushing her teacup forward. "Don't spare the horses!"  Lothíriel laughed as she splashed the dark golden whiskey into Éowyn's cup.

"Neither Imladris or Gondor have very harsh winters," said Arwen, laughing "but that matters very little!  Drop some in!"  After Lothíriel obliged, she swirled her cup around, inhaled deeply and then took a long sip.  Joy spread across her pale and lovely countenance, "That is just what it needed.  My compliments to your master distiller.  He is truly an artist."

Lothíriel nodded as she sipped from her own cup, "Yes he is."

Éowyn tasted her own cup, eyes closed, "Mmmm! Master Holdgar has lost none of his abilities!"

"No, he hasn't." Lothíriel agreed.

"I wonder if we could lure him away to Minas Tirith....," Arwen pondered teasingly, “Surely you wouldn't want to deprive your liege lord!"

"In a heartbeat!" Lothíriel laughed.

Eldarion, who been playing quietly, stopped and came over drawn as he was to his naneth's merry laughing.  He reached for his naneth's white enameled cup.  "Nay, my little love.  That is not for you!" Arwen sang out, picking up the four-year old and kissing his slightly leaf-shaped ears. "Waerith, can you bring us another cup and some water."

"At once, My Queen," Waerith intoned.  She brought forth another cup and the required water.

"Thank you, Waerith!" Arwen spoke in her most musical voice, her elven ways enchanting Éowyn's ladies maid.

"You are very welcome, My Queen."

Arwen was holding Eldarion with one arm and serving up a little water and whiskey into the cup with the other arm.  Éowyn wondered if she would ever be that agile and graceful, child in one arm and doing whatever else with the other.  She was graceful and balanced swinging a sword and shield, honed over years of practice, but had never sought much knowledge in what were called the womanly arts.  She laughed, though, as Eldarion sipped the watered-down whiskey then laughed delightedly. 

"Like Father, like son." Arwen stated, with another mischievous grin. 

Éowyn relaxed a little, and not simply because of the slight tot of whiskey that had been added to her tea, but because she was among friends who understood what she was living through and did not pass judgement on her, thinking her strange and ungainly. It was truly a relief to know that she was not going mad with her inexplicable behaviour. She truly loved her life here in Ithilien and Faramir, when he wasn’t giving her “helpful” advice.  She smiled; she had blindsided the poor man of late, thinking of him with wine and herbs poured over his head. She started to chuckle, which soon grew into full laughter, the kind of which one had trouble stopping.  It was infectious and soon all were laughing.  Lothíriel tried to catch her breath and was wiping tears of mirth from her eyes.  She picked up her cup looked into it and proclaimed, “I did not think I put so much into my cup!  But perhaps I did.”

Éowyn, wiping her own tears away, stated, “I do not think you did.  I was just thinking of Faramir as I dumped that wine on him, before I stormed off in a huff, of course.  Dripping wet, and I think he had a small bit of leaf stuck to his nose!  He looked so shocked!  Poor man!”  A few more giggles escaped before she got control of herself and took another large sip of her whiskey-flavoured tea and leaned back in her chair again, her hand rubbing her stomach, “You little sir, had best make an appearance sooner rather than later or your dear father will not have one nerve yet that hasn’t been frayed.”

“Is he really that bad?” Arwen inquired, “Estel was beside himself most days with worry, though he would never admit it now.” She ended with a smile.

“Skittish as a cat!  Any bump, any jolt.  Should I be doing this?  Should I be doing that?  It has stretched my patience!” She paused thoughtful, “Honestly though, I know that he is nervous about being a father.” Her visage clouded, “As if he had such a ‘stirling’ example to follow!”  Éowyn grew serious. “Every time I think of that man, I just see red. How could he not see the goodness in Faramir?  To treat him as he did.” Éowyn’s eye flashed, “It took Faramir so long to understand that he was worthy of love! I do NOT understand!”  Éowyn threw herself back in her chair.

Lothíriel looked at Éowyn with sympathy, “We never could either.  My father would comment on occasion that Denethor would at long last come to see Faramir for who he was. At least I think he hoped he would.  Faramir was such a kind boy.  Whenever he would come and visit Dol Amroth he always had time for a young cousin who absolutely idolized him.” Lothíriel smiled and then frowned, “As much as I remember Denethor was cold with everyone, except Boromir, and sometimes even with him. They say that Denethor loved Finduilas beyond reckoning and that he never got over her death.  That is what they say though I was too young to have much of an impression.”

Éowyn just shook her head and gave in to uncharitable thoughts, maybe that was true, but she was beyond forgiving a man who at best thoughtlessly hurt his small son. A son too young to understand why his father could not even look at him, “Horrible man, I should not speak ill of the dead, but still horrible man!” She paused, “Did you know Boromir at all.”

Lothíriel remembered, “Not as well, he was five years older than Faramir and I did not see him as often.  He was, to a child’s mind, a bit rougher around the edges but not unkind.  But I do remember the bond between them, even then it was strong.”

Éowyn thought of the brother she never had a chance to know, but dearly would have loved to have gotten to know, if only to thank him for loving and protecting Faramir, so she could have the chance to love the person that Faramir became. 

“Do you think it is going to be a boy?” Arwen interrupted her musings for which Éowyn was glad because she was starting to get maudlin.

“I do not know. Some signs point to a girl, others to a boy.  I think Faramir wants a boy, of course. He will not admit to it, but I think it is because he wants a chance to be a far better father than he had.  Terrible man!” Éowyn once again declared, “how could he not see the goodness in his own son until too late?  Faramir says he did in the end, but that is not something he is willing to talk about overly much, not even to me.” Éowyn shuddered. “But enough of this!  We are getting far too serious,” She looked at Lothíriel. “How is little Elfwine?” Genuine interest and a genuine desire to change the subject rivaling each other for primacy in her feelings.

"Well," Lothíriel began, smiling...

The next few hours passed pleasantly and Éowyn listened as Lothíriel regaled them with stories of her little one and four-year-old Eldarion told them stories of his own, in between spice cakes.  Éowyn was able to relax in the company of good friends which is exactly what she had been needing for many days. 


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