Author: Linda Hoyland
Title: Messin' about on the River
Theme: One Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Elements: Beneath the willows
Author's Notes: Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
With thanks to Deandra.
Summary: Aragorn has a surprise for Faramir
Word Count: 1,070
Aragorn was not usually prone to feeling envy, but there was one small matter in which he slightly envied Faramir, his Steward and friend.
Faramir's birthday was in early May, when nature was at her most beautiful and Yavanna's abundance was evident in every tree and flower.
The trees were still bare for Aragorn's March birthday and the only flowers were the brave snowdrops and crocus that dared to emerge at that time of year. Even in Rivendell's sheltered climate, the birthday picnics he had longed for as a boy had been out of the question.
Aragorn reminded himself that despite the benevolent climate of Faramir's birthday month, the Steward had fared even worse for celebrating his birthday when he was a child, as his mother's death and father's coldness had cast long shadows.
Now, as Gondor's esteemed Steward, Faramir had enjoyed a lavish birthday celebration in Ithilien with Éowyn, his children and his Uncle Imrahil. His closest friends were invited too. Aragorn and Arwen had been the first to receive an invitation.
The day afterwards, Faramir returned to the City with the King and Queen, ready to resume his duties there.
A few days later, Aragorn entered the study where the King and Steward usually worked together, looking unusually cheerful for one who loved the outdoors and anticipated the day ahead to be spent poring over documents. "I have a birthday surprise for you, mellon nîn," he announced, clapping Faramir on the shoulder.
"A surprise? But my birthday is over now and you and Lady Arwen have already given me a fine gift."
"I could not bring this surprise to your celebration. Will you ride with me to the river this afternoon, ion nîn?"
"We are going swimming?" Faramir's face lit up.
"Maybe," Aragorn replied enigmatically. "You shall see." He refused to say a word more on the subject.
As soon as the noonday meal was over, the two friends set out, urging their horses to a gallop. Given their heads, the steeds almost flew across the fields, their manes flying in the wind.
They quickly reached the Anduin and tethered their horses to a branch of one of the willows that lined the riverbank. The horses were soon contentedly cropping the lush grass.
Expecting to go swimming, Faramir look around for a secluded spot in which to undress. It was then he espied the small boat moored beneath the trees. "A fair boat indeed!" he exclaimed. "There must be a fisherman nearby, though. We shall have to go further down the river to swim."
Aragorn shook his head and laughed. "There are no fishermen around, mellon nîn. The boat is yours! It is my surprise birthday gift to you."
Faramir hugged the King delightedly. "It is perfect, ada! We can go fishing and I can take Éowyn and the children for river picnics. We can explore parts of the riverbank that are impossible to reach on horseback."
"That is what I thought, when I had it made for you," said Aragorn, clearly delighted at the enthusiastic reaction of the one he loved as his own son. "Now, let us try it out."
The two scrambled aboard the boat, which was provisioned with a set of oars. To Faramir's surprise, there was also a large picnic hamper and a flagon of wine stowed beneath the seats. "You think of everything, ada!" he exclaimed.
"That was Arwen's suggestion," Aragorn replied. "She sent a servant out with the provisions this morning and told me she did not expect my return until sundown."
"Your lady is most generous," said Faramir.
"She considers you a dear friend," said Aragorn. He grinned. "Not to mention that she appreciates you accompanying me for some fresh air and exercise. My beloved says I am like a bear with a sore head if I spend too long indoors!"
"You could take your lady and children for a picnic too," said Faramir. He took up an oar.
"Thank you. They would like that. I know Arwen misses the Bruinen." He took up an oar too and the friends began to row.
"I should miss the Anduin if I had to live away from it," said Faramir. He trailed his oar in the water as they rowed away from the bank. "Ah, this brings back so many memories."
"Good ones, I hope?"
"Very good. When I was a lad, Boromir and I used to visit our uncle every summer. Those were the happiest times I recall from my childhood. Boromir and I would take a boat out and catch fish. We were so proud if the cooks deemed our catch worthy to serve at the evening meal. Fine though the fare at my uncle's table was, the fish we caught always tasted better to us boys!"
"Food one catches oneself always tastes best," Aragorn agreed.
The two lapsed into companionable silence as they rowed along the river. They stopped frequently to explore nooks and crannies along the banks. Aragorn was pleased to discover several healing herbs that were in short supply while Faramir delighted in the many species of birds they saw nesting along the banks. A family of ducklings swam alongside the boat and Faramir opened the hamper and took out some titbits to feed the little family.
The friends trailed their hands in the water when they became too warm and then Faramir launched into an old Númenorean sea-song in Adûnaic that he had learned from his Uncle as a boy. It was catchy tune, which Aragorn soon picked up and the two sang it together in harmony.
The exertions of rowing soon gave both friends a hearty appetite. The contents of the hamper did not disappoint. There was a selection of meats and several different cheeses, crusty bread and pickles. This hearty fare was followed by Faramir's favourite honey cakes and a selection of fruits imported from Harad.
The meal was washed down with a fine wine brewed from grapes grown in Ithilien.
"This has been a perfect afternoon!" said Faramir. "Thank you ada!"
"I wanted to give you a special birthday celebration, ion nîn," said Aragorn. "This makes up, too, for the lack of picnics on my own day of birth! To be serious, though, how much harder my task as King would be without your support and friendship." He raised his glass in a toast. "Happy birthday, Faramir, and may you have many more!"