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A/N: Again many, many thanks and hugs to Ellynn, my wonderful word wrangler who patiently works through my meanings! ((hugs))
Ch. 2 – Morning tidings
One month later…
A noise from outside had awoken Faramir; he looked around with sleep bleary eyes. Eowyn was still asleep. He looked at her as she lay by his side, the laugh lines evident even in her sleep. Twenty years on and she was still just as beautiful as the day he first saw her coming to make entreaty to him in the Houses of Healing in the last days of the Ring War. Perhaps even more so for hers was a restless and troubled soul in those days. He moved his arm to pull back the coverlet and his shoulder twinged. A brief grimace and the pain quickly passed.
An old arrowshot from what they said was a poisoned Haradrim bow from before battle commenced properly at the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, when they had foolishly tried to take the river and Osgiliath. He thought of that folly and everything that lead up to it, but the regret that had once been ever present had long since subsided. He had forgiven his father within his heart years ago. Still, the healers said the older he became, the more the old wound would bother him on occasion. He rolled his shoulder a little to loosen the muscles and the pain subsided.
He slipped his feet into an old pair of leather slippers, smiling as he did so. Eowyn was constantly after him to have a new pair made, but he always sidestepped the issue. These were comfortable, broken in, he saw no reason to replace them. He shrugged into his robe, taking care not to tweak his shoulder again and walked to the balcony of their bedchamber. He checked below to see what had made the noise but all was in stillness. Whatever it was had gone. It was no matter it was good to be up to see the sunrise, the morning air was fresh with just a slight nip in it as autumn was in full colour in Ithilien. Beyond the trees of the garden of Ithilien House he could see the settlement turned city of Emyn Arnen. He had been given the Princedom of Ithilien by his friend and King, Aragorn, with the charge to bring it alive again. Nature and settlement living in harmony. It had been hard work, but Faramir was ever impressed with those who took up the King’s challenge to build a new world. Together they were making it work. It was very satisfying.
He felt arms circle his waist and a scent of lavender and rose permeate his senses. He smiled. “I thought you were still asleep.”
“I was. But I woke up and saw you silhouetted against the morning light and I couldn’t resist,” Eowyn spoke into his shoulder. “Come Sunday it will be twenty years.”
Faramir turned around in her arms and looked into the blue eyes that had captured his heart those twenty years ago, first with pity and then with the marvel of her indomitable spirit. “Has it been that long? You are as beautiful as the day I first saw you, my heart.”
Eowyn looked into the gentle blue eyes that had seen through the mist of regret and doubt and straight into her soul, rescuing her from herself. “Did I ever tell you that I love you…”
Faramir shrugged his non-injured shoulder. “You may have mentioned it once or twice!” he smiled, looking into her eyes.
“Is your shoulder bothering you again?” Eowyn said, a furrow of concern creasing her forehead.
“It is nothing. It will pass.”
Eowyn gave him an incredulous look.
“Really, it is fine!” He started to kiss her neck. “Let’s go back to bed, the day hasn’t even started yet,” Faramir said looking into her eyes and smiling mischievously.
“Mhmmm!” Eowyn said dreamily as he led her back to bed. “This discussion isn’t over…” Her voice trailed off into giggling….
Later in the morning, Eowyn was getting out of their large private marble bathtub next to their bedchamber and wrapping herself in a bath sheet when Faramir leaned up against the entrance to the bathing area, smiling. Eowyn laughed, “No you don’t. We have people expecting us and we must begin the day!”
“All right. If you insist.” Faramir was still smiling as she walked by.
“Shoo! I have to get dressed,” Eowyn said as she pulled the bell pull for Gallthiel to attend her.
“See you downstairs for breakfast then?”
“Yes! Now shoo!” Éowyn laughed to herself as she watched Faramir leave. She finished drying and then shrugged into her dressing gown contemplating a hearty breakfast, then groaned as she realized that she had to meet with the head cook to finalize the menu for the anniversary dinner, always a protracted affair. “So much for a leisurely breakfast.” She sighed.
Faramir walked down to the private family breakfast area when a flutter of color, blond hair and half-tied ribbons came running at him. “Papa! Papa! Uncle Eomer has brought new horses! One for me and one for Elboron!” His daughter Finduílas was so excited she was beside her with joy. She was fourteen and horses were truly her only love.
“What’s that you say, Las?”
“It is true.”
Faramir looked up and saw his brother-in-law striding towards them. Faramir hugged the younger man who was not just a brother-in-law but more a brother of the heart.
“You spoil them so!” Faramir proclaimed.
“To quote my ladywife, pish! The horses were foaled two years ago. It is time they had riders. And I can think of no better home for them, no better owner than ‘Las, here.” He ruffled the hair of his tow-headed niece.
Finduílas was dancing with excitement. “Can I go Papa! Can I go and see my new horse!”
Faramir laughed. There was no help for it. Finduílas would not sit still until she had made her horse’s acquaintance. “Yes! Yes! You may go and see your new horse!”
Finduílas squealed as only a fourteen-year-old girl could squeal, stood on tip-toes, kissed her father on the cheek and ran out the door to the stables.
Faramir simply chuckled as he watched his daughter run in delight, shaking his head.
“I see our present has been well received?” Lothíriel walked up and hugged Faramir to say hello.
“And the first clue was Las squealing in joy, I suppose?” Faramir quipped.
“That might have been the giveaway!” Lothíriel laughed as they continued towards the private family breakfast area. “So good it is to see you, cousin.”
Faramir kissed her on the cheek. “And you as well.”
“Is Eowyn coming down soon?”
“She will be down soon. Did you just arrive?”
“Last night, you had already gone up and we didn’t see a need to bother you,” Eomer answered. “Finduílas saw us arriving with two horses that were clearly not pack animals and the secret was out.”
Faramir laughed. “Yes, after that sighting there would have been no peace until she met her horse. I am surprised she got any sleep at all.”
They entered the breakfast nook and found the place already overrun with hobbits and their families.
Second Breakfast had officially commenced.
“Faramir!” Pippin called out as he saw the Prince of Ithilien walk into the Breakfasting Suite. “As ever you lay out the finest breakfast table in all of Gondor.”
Faramir watched as the loveable Took overfilled his plate with the fine and fat breakfast sausages that were provided from pig farmers across the Anduin and nearer to Minas Tirith. He shook his head in amazement and walked forward to get a plate and start serving himself from the sumptuous sideboard.
“Glad our table is sufficient for the Thain of the Shire,” Faramir spoke over his shoulder looking affectionately at the middle aged Took seating both himself and his groaning plate next to Diamond, his lovely wife.
"It will do quite pleasantly!" Pippin chirped.
Faramir sat across from his dear hobbit friend and looked at him. "I will tell cook!"
"Oh, don't worry about that. I already have. I popped down there early to compliment her fine First Breakfast and to remind her about Second Breakfast!"
Merry chimed in, "Pippin! You haven't!"
"Oh, don't worry so much, Merry! I was quite charming!"
"I don't believe you sometimes, Pip!"
Faramir just sat and watched the two go back and forth affectionately bickering. If he closed his eyes, their voices could take him back twenty years to two young hobbits trying to survive and find their way through the fire that engulfed Middle-earth instead of the Master of Buckland and Peregrin I, Thain of the Shire. Their voices were the same, but when Faramir looked closer, he saw worry lines that creased Pippin's brow as the responsibilities of the Thain had settled upon the irrepressible Took. He knew from letters written by Merry and Sam that it had not all been smooth sailing at Great Smials, and while Pippin was still all smiles and cheery disposition, he had had problems that needed solving in his first years as Thain. But Faramir knew the resilience that lay beneath the cheery exterior of the little Took and if anyone could weather the trouble it would be Pippin.
“Eat up! If I know our dear little friends, there won’t be a morsel left if we dally over our plates overly long.”
Faramir turned to his left to see the King of the Reunited Realms dropping his own heavily ladened plate right next to him. “Aragorn! I see you have settled in?” he exclaimed happily.
“Yes, quite nicely and Second Breakfast is simply not to be missed when considering the fact that many hobbits were present and feasting.”
Faramir laughed. “So very true, my friend, so very true. They do raise eating to an artform!”
Arwen seating herself laughed merrily. “That they most certainly do!” she said as she sipped from a teacup before biting into a seed and berry cake.
Faramir chuckled as he nodded in shared bemusement at the hobbits’ ability to put away large quantities of food. He looked around the Breakfast Suite. “And did you bring Eldarion and the girls?”
Aragorn gave his friend an aggrieved look. “One does not ‘bring’ a seventeen-year-old anywhere. But he has deigned to grace us with his presence. As to Leithril and Nestriel, I could not have kept them away; they were looking forward to visiting with Las. Eldarion went looking for Elboron early this morning. What those two might get up to I shudder to think.”
Arwen gave an answering shudder and popped the last of the berry cake in her mouth and washed it down with a last swallow of her tea. “I take my leave of you two fine gentlemen. I needs must find the lady of the house!”
Faramir looked at the door to the Breakfasting Suite. “I don’t know what is keeping her…”
“Not to worry. I shall find her.” With that she kissed Aragorn on the cheek and then fluttered off.
Aragorn bit into a marmalade-slathered scone. “She had something to discuss with Éowyn. What, I do not know. I find it a much simpler life if I don’t ask too many questions about my lady wife’s endeavors.” He ended with a knowing look.
Faramir nodded. “Again you speak truly. High-minded wives will be the death of us!”
A female voice chimed in. “Rather it has been the making of you, I should think.” To nobody’s surprise that voice belonged to Estella Brandybuck, the forthright and endearing wife of Merry. “Isn’t that right, Merry?”
Merry, being nobody’s fool, looked up from his plate and gave the perfunctory answer. “Of course, my dear.” And went back to consuming the contents of his overfilled plate without missing a beat.
Diamond Took then added in, “I should think you would agree Pippin!” She paused and received no response. “Pippin?” Pippin looked up a little like a deer caught by a bright light. “Hasn’t it been?” After a pause that presaged trouble due to its length, he rallied with a strong reply.
“Of course it was, my darling poppy!” He gave her a quick kiss and returned his attention to his breakfast plate.
Aragorn raised an eyebrow as a conversation as he remembered more than fifteen years ago at the birth of Faramir's son Elboron.
1424 TA S.R. Ithilien
Aragorn stood and sighed. “Come, good sirs! It is time we are returning. It is our lot to fetch and carry. It is the way of things.”
“Aye, that it is!” Éomer stood and affirmed Aragorn’s words. “Up, Master Holdwine," he said, clapping Merry on the back. "It is time we do our duty. The womenfolk have called us back!” Seeing Merry’s reluctance, Éomer added, “When you take a wife, Master Holdwine, you will discover there is a time for play and there is a time for doing what you must do!” He clapped Merry on the shoulder again and laughed. “There are compensations, you will see. Up, Sir!”
Merry tossed back the last of his pint and stood. Pippin followed suit but murmured, “And this is why I’m never getting married. Fetching and carrying. And no time for a proper pint.”
Aragorn heard and added, “Indeed? And I will remind you of those words on your wedding day.”
"Well, it's not your wedding day, but I'm reminding you now," Aragorn said with a mischievous glint in his eye finishing the story.
"No proper time for a pint!" Diamond said, an incredulous smile spreading across her face as she watched Pippin's reaction.
Pippin sat for a beat or two. And then declared, "Well, I was wrong. There's always time for a pint as long as I get to share it with you, my poppy." And with that, in a smooth motion Pippin grabbed a flower from a center arrangement and on one knee presented Diamond with the small floral offering.
Diamond smiled. "Cheeky little sod," she said as she took the flower and playfully slapped him. "Trying to charm me now!"
Pippin quipped in irrepressible optimism, "Is it working?"
Her answer was a kiss.
Arwen found Éowyn in her beloved herb garden. “I knew I would find you here! Gallthiel said that this was the most likely place you would be after having dealt with menus!”
Éowyn, who had been kneeling over a lemon balm plant harvesting some leaves for a headache tea she was preparing to infuse, looked up guiltily as she sat back on her hips. She smiled ruefully as she rubbed a trickle of sweat from the autumnal mid-morning sun off her brow. “I had to escape the planning of our anniversary dinner. One more trivial menu decision, and I was just going to call the whole thing off!”
Arwen chuckled in a commiserating fashion. “I leave all that to my Master Attendant. He seems to thrive on it. You and I have just never been the most domesticated of wives, have we?” She settled herself on the ground near where Éowyn knelt.
The Princess of Ithilien looked at the Elven Queen of Gondor and snorted. “No! And I think that is exactly why we get along so well.” She placed some more lemon balm leaves in her herb-collecting basket. “I understand the need for it all, I guess, but asking me to care whether the napkins are placed properly or if at a formal dinner whether Lady Grothien should sit near Lady Mudril still causes a pain to throb in my head.”
Arwen looked into the herb basket that lay between them. “Hence the need for a headache tea?”
“Guilty! I left before I could be waylaid further and when I pulled the jar from the herb cupboard it felt suspiciously light. So I came out here to cut a few leaves. Besides, it always relaxes me to be out here! Amid the green and the growing.” She sighed happily. “But I think I have enough. Let us talk more comfortably in my solar.” She got up and dusted herself off. “Tea? Or,” she gave a conspiratorial glance at Arwen, “something a little stronger?”
Arwen gracefully stood up from the ground and gave an answering glance. “Something a little stronger, of course. You know me so well!” She linked arms with Éowyn, laughing just a little.
Stepping up into the solar that overlooked the forested area beyond the town of Emyn Arnen, Arwen exclaimed, “I love this view! In part it reminds me of Imladris.”
“It is beautiful…you know it was built on the solar in the King’s House.”
“If I had, I have forgotten. But so happy to have been an inspiration!” she said dreamily as she stepped out onto the balcony and let the late morning breeze blow through her loose raven black hair. She paused for a few seconds and then went inside and gracefully threw herself down onto a chaise lounge at corners with the one Éowyn was walking towards. The Princess of Ithilien was carrying two wine goblets and handed one to Arwen before she settled on her own chaise.
“I have complete confidence in my staff’s ability to make a success of this family anniversary dinner, but I suppose I will have to peek in to see how the early preparations are going. But after all these years I still am a complete disaster at anything culinary.”
Arwen laughed. “Well, at least you can admit it. Elladan, even after centuries of evidence and supposed practice cannot cook anything truly edible. And he refuses to admit it!”
“Men! Be they Elf or Man, they are still the same stubborn creatures!” Éowyn declared.
Arwen laughed and finished off her wine and rose to refill her goblet, and motioned to ask whether Éowyn wanted some more. In answer Éowyn handed over her goblet.
Having refilled the two goblets, Arwen said as she was handing Éowyn her cup, “There is something I am wanting to ask.”
“Ask, and if it can be done, it shall be done.”
“You know our youngest, Nestriel. She is showing quite a gift and interest in healing and it is coming time when we could consider fostering.”
“Who are you thinking of?” Éowyn queried.
“Me!” Éowyn artlessly blurted. “I would think she could learn all she needs to know from Aragorn,” Éowyn said, referring to Aragorn’s renown reputation as healer.
“While that is true, the knowledge you have acquired is not to be overlooked.” Arwen paused. “I ask for another reason. You know that Nestriel is more quiet than either Eldarion or Leithril.”
“I want her to have some time away. I did it when I was young. Fostering will be good for her and there are no two people I would trust more with one of our children than you and Faramir.”
Éowyn blushed at the compliment then smiled. “We would be honored. And Finduílas will be thrilled. When were you thinking?”
“Not until spring, I think. It is a time for new directions.
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