A/N: Sorry that this is a day late. :( Just wanted to reread it before it got posted. Hope you enjoy and please review!

A Word About the Series: This is the first part of a continuing post-LOTR series named "The Meribor Chronicles". They don't have to be read in order, but as I write more of them, I might reference other stories. It will include both book and movie verse.

Disclaimer: Not mine!

Year Two: Old Friends

FO 27

It was a beautiful day in Ithilien.

The golden woods surrounding the city blushed under the soft evening light and the sweet chirping of birds mixed with the melodious voice of the fair elf sitting on Éowyn's porch. Earlier that afternoon, the elf had told her to listen closely and she would hear the songs of every beast and plant in Middle-Earth. Try as she might, the only thing she could hear besides the birds and the elf was the whispering of the faintest breeze.

"It is no use, my lord. The only creature I hear singing is you," said Éowyn shortly as she sprang to her feet. Normally she would be far more courteous but her nerves had been on edge ever since she had learned that she was pregnant with her sixth child.

"You are not trying," the elf replied calmly.

"Yes I am!" Éowyn snapped. She sounded like a spoiled child, even to her own ears. With a sigh of frustration, she settled back into the chair she had vacated moments earlier and cupped a hand around her swollen belly. As if on cue, a tiny foot slammed into the wall of her stomach. "I do not think my baby is very happy with you," she commented.

"It is not my fault. She is tired of being trapped in a dark cave," the elf said with a shudder.

"He. It is a boy, not a girl." Éowyn pronounced the words with such certainty that the golden-haired elf raised an eyebrow.

"I have never understood why human women claim to know the gender of their child," he admitted.

"It is not a claim, it is a fact," she proclaimed. "What about elves?"

"I would not know. I have never seen a pregnant elf."

Éowyn bit her lip to hide her amusement. "Need I remind you of when Arwen was with child?"

"Valar no," muttered Legolas darkly. "There was a lot of screaming and I left Minas Tirith in worse condition than when I arrived."

Éowyn smiled. She had never been close friends with the elf during the War of the Ring, even though he had hardly left Aragorn's side. She had respected him as a warrior and, truth be told, she had always been a little awed by him. Even as a little girl sitting on her uncle's knee, she had loved the ancient stories about the elves. Meeting one had been exciting and intimidating. Legolas' elf colony now put Éowyn close to others.

"Let us try one more time. I will not sing," Legolas said, rudely breaking into her thoughts.

She groaned loudly but did not protest. Without the elf's voice, the world suddenly seemed less colorful. Éowyn closed her eyes like Legolas had instructed her a thousand times and leaned back against her chair.

"I hear nothing," she said impatiently after a few moments. "Perhaps the songs only present themselves to elves."

"Possibly. Aragorn's brothers tried to teach him." The elf lapsed into silence and she decided not to press.

Éowyn was still not used to hearing the word "brothers" come out of Legolas' mouth in reference to the king of Gondor. She knew that Aragorn had been raised in Rivendell for a time. Still, for all their years of friendship, she knew little of his life among the elves.

The pair lapsed into silence. Éowyn was glad that the elf had stopped by — her house had become lonely and empty with her husband and son still napping, and they probably would continue to for an hour or so. Before Legolas arrived, oddly without Gimli, Éowyn had had the wretchedly quiet afternoon hours to herself; the only thing to do had been tallying the chores that needed to be done. This was their summer house - which she favored over their quarters inside Ithilien - but it had no staff, a fact that Éowyn sometimes despaired at.

Suddenly, steady beat of horse hooves on the soft earth became clear to her and she bolted upright. Éowyn cast a look to her left; Legolas sat quietly in the sun, eyes closed. It seemed as if he did not hear the hoofbeats, but that was impossible. His elven hearing had probably picked up the sound long before Éowyn had heard it.

"You lazy creature," Éowyn teased. "Will you not even tell me who it is?"

Legolas did not move, but the corners of his lips pulled upward. Cursing the idleness of elves — and of one elf in particular — Éowyn slipped inside and made her way up the stairs to the main bedroom. Really it was hers and Faramir's, but lately Ecthelion had taken to sleeping in between his parents. The first day it had happened, no one except Ecthelion had gotten much rest. In the end, Faramir had migrated to a nearby chair that he insisted was comfortable while Éowyn and their son shared the bed.

After heaving herself to the second floor, an endeavor made much harder by the fact that she was pregnant, she gingerly shook her husband awake. "My love, you need to wake up."

"Is it time to eat?" he mumbled.

Éowyn shook her head. "Please arise, we have guests."

"Guests?" Faramir struggled to stand and managed to fall out of his chair. Éowyn sighed as her husband scrambled to his feet.

"You might want to put something nice on," she advised wisely.

"Do we know who it is?" asked Faramir as his wife made her way to the bed.

"No. The confounded elf might." Éowyn stroked her fingers across Ecthelion's forehead. "Hurry up."

Faramir cast a surprised look at Éowyn, but she was already heading down the stairs. Her temper had only gotten worse the farther along she was with her latest pregnancy. He thought he had gotten used to her moods and shortness when Alasse born, but it seemed he was wrong. With a sigh, Faramir finished changing and followed his wife to the first floor.

Éowyn banged around in the kitchen, throwing random cabinets open with more force then necessary. She noticed Faramir's wince as she slammed a pan down on the table. A pang of guilt flashed through her and disappeared almost immediately. She was tired, irritated, hot, and did not want to spend another moment in the kitchen. But Éowyn was also starving, so she grabbed chicken from the pantry and brought it out to the porch.

The king's banner crested a nearby hill just as Éowyn began digging into the meat with her fingers.

Faramir made a sound like he was choking. "Aragorn is coming here?"

"It seems so," murmured Legolas from where he was seated.

"We received no warning! Nothing is prepared for their arrival." Faramir ran a hand over his face. "Éowyn, will you please wash up?"

Éowyn shook her head stoutly and continued to shove the chicken into her mouth. The king's arrival did not mean that she had to go hungry. In fact, she purposely — and childishly — flashed a large chunk in front of her husband just to spite him.

"Can you use a fork?" asked Faramir patiently.

"It is inside and I have no wish to walk all that way," she replied irritably.

Faramir turned and reentered the house; he emerged a minute or two later with the fork. Éowyn grabbed it and dropped into a chair, wolfing down the last few bites just as the king's party made its way up to her house. Immediately she noticed Aragorn astride a large black warhorse, proud and regal as the kings of old. Arwen rode beside him on a large white stallion that Éowyn had never seen before, their daughter strapped to her mother's back.

The royal couple dismounted as Faramir approached the party, followed by their usual escort. Aragorn gently undid the harness on his wife's back and handed the precious child to her mother before greeting his Steward warmly.

"You should have told us that you were coming," said Faramir. "I would have ridden to Minas Tirith to oversee the council while you were gone."

"Relax, my friend," laughed Aragorn. "The council can oversee itself for one day." Catching sight of Éowyn, he took her hand in his and kissed the back of it. "My lady."

"My king," she replied, now desperately wishing that she had heeded her husband's advice.

"Éowyn, it is good to see you." Arwen embraced her with one arm, Meribor perched on her mother's hip. Éowyn smiled at the young girl. Even at two years of age, the resemblance between the princess and the queen was uncanny. "Meribor, do you remember who this is?"

Popping a thumb in her mouth, the toddler shook her head.

"This is Aunt Éowyn. She is Naneth and Ada's friend."

"Hello, Meribor," said Éowyn. "You look so pretty today. Did your naneth give you that dress?"

The girl looked down at her dress — white with little daisies — and then shook her head. "Ada." Meribor paused for another moment before pulling her thumb out of her mouth and reaching for Éowyn. Surprised and pleased, she hefted the toddler into her arms. Arwen smiled as her daughter sighed contently and leaned against Éowyn's shoulder.

"It looks like you made a friend," the queen commented.

Éowyn smiled. "Is she like this often?"

"Oh, yes. She has the entire staff wrapped around her finger."

Just as Éowyn opened her mouth to reply, she was startled by the unyielding thud of muscle against turf. Legolas had launched himself at Aragorn and now pinned the king underneath him. Éowyn tensed and looked at the royal escort, half-expecting them to be ready to run the elf through with their swords. "Greetings, Dúnadan," said Legolas, his melodious voice soft. Ice-blue eyes stared straight into those of Aragorn, who gazed steadily back.

"Princeling," said the king. With a strange twist of his body, Aragorn flipped the elf prince so that they reversed positions. "We have not done this in a while."

"That is because the ground is not so soft in Minas Tirith."

"You make it sound as if that is my fault," Aragorn commented.

"It is not your fault, nor did I imply that in any way. It was merely an observation."

"And?" questioned Aragorn.

"And what?"

"During the long time we have known each other, I have never known you to simply make an observation."

"One hundred and seven," stated the elf. "We met one hundred and seven years ago."

Éowyn started at the number; she had not realized how long Legolas and Aragorn had known each other. Evidently Faramir was surprised as well, but Arwen simply stared at the two friends with a smile gracing her face.

"Shall we go in?" asked Faramir. "It seems like they will take a while."

Arwen nodded. "Every time they see each other again, it is as if they have been apart for years," she informed them. Just then, Meribor, who for the most part had been silent, yawned loudly. Her breath tickled Éowyn's neck and she squirmed slightly. The child was falling asleep in Éowyn's arms. Her mother said, "Iell nîn, you are tired." To Éowyn and Faramir she elaborated: "Meribor slept very briefly during the trip."

"Poor child," murmured Éowyn. "If you want, I can take her to rest upstairs. Elboron's room is empty."

"No!" Meribor's arms tightened around Éowyn. "No rest, Wyn! No rest!"

Arwen sank into an armchair in their sitting room. "You do not have to rest, Merry. Come, let us give Aunt Éowyn a break."

The toddler snuggled deeper against Éowyn. "Wyn."

Éowyn sat down in a chair next to the queen's. "Meribor, how about you stay with your naneth while I go get you a cookie. Does that sound like a good deal?"

After a moment, Meribor consented to be placed back in her mother's grip. Éowyn turned to leave, only to be stopped by Arwen's soft voice. "Éowyn, did Legolas tell you why Gimli is not present today?"

"He said that 'the dwarf is visiting kin in the Lonely Mountain'," replied the Princess of Ithilien.

"It is odd to see them separated, but my heart is glad that Gimli is spending time with his people. I have heard many rants about the foolishness of elves." Arwen tucked her daughter's head under her chin and her lips quirked upward at the memories of the stout creature's tirades.

"Indeed it is," said Éowyn and hurried to the kitchen, for already Faramir had begun to cook for their guests. The king's escort had retired to nearby quarters in the city, with some remaining to guard the royal family. Legolas would surely stay for dinner; it would be polite to feed the guards as well. Although the rest of Éowyn's children were visiting their uncle, there were still many mouths, and despite her earlier meal, Éowyn was ravenous.

"Come to help me?" asked Faramir.

"More to make sure that you do not burn the house down," teased Éowyn. Remembering her bargain with Meribor, she quickly added, "Do we have any cookies?"

"That," pronounced the prince of Eryn Lasgalen, "is the vilest pastime in all of Arda."

Aragorn threw his friend an annoyed look. "It is not. Many respectable people smoke."

"Name one," Legolas challenged.

"Gimli."

"Gimli is a dwarf."

"Is there a point to that statement?"

"Dwarves do not count. Name another."

Faramir rolled his eyes, his belly full of hot food. Sitting next to him was Ecthelion, who had the sleeping Meribor's head in his lap — the two children had a bond that ran as deep as siblings. Éowyn leaned against his shoulder, her own eyes drooping with exhaustion. It was late and she had tried to get her son to bed many times, only to rue the fact that he had napped beforehand. Aragorn was seated on the porch stairs, Arwen in a chair nearby, and Legolas inching slowly away from the king.

"Mithrandir."

Legolas fell back onto his elbows, obviously disappointed. "Yes, he shared that unfortunate habit with you."

"If you dislike it so much, perhaps you should make me stop," said Aragorn, a dare and a taunt.

"Your guards would be on me within seconds if I attacked you outright." Legolas scowled as the king of Gondor released a puff of smoke. "And it is no use trying to steal your pipes or your pipe-weed — you could easily acquire more." The prince turned to glare at Arwen. "You are an elf; are you not going to assist me?"

"I would prefer to remain uninvolved," the queen laughed. "Although that smell really is horrible, Estel."

Éowyn bit back a laugh as Aragorn blew a large smoke-ring, letting it dance in the evening sky before wiping it from the air. "Your wish is my command, meleth nîn," he said and stamped out the glowing embers. Legolas growled but moved closer as Aragorn tucked the pipe away.

The friends lapsed into silence. The sun had faded long ago and now the stars had come out to dance against the dark backdrop of the heavens. Fireflies lit up the dark like tiny flashes of lightning. Éowyn sighed contently and closed her eyes, only to open them quickly when she saw Legolas smirk at his friend.

Aragorn caught the look as well and groaned. "Valar, no…"

"I think it is time for us to hear some stories about our great and noble king. What do you think, Ecthelion?" asked the elf as Aragorn buried his face in his hands.

Éowyn's son nodded eagerly, giving his full attention to the fair being. Arwen smiled as her husband got up and asked, "Is there any ale in the house? If I must listen to Legolas, I would like to be sufficiently drunk."

"Not too drunk, my lord," Arwen warned.

"Not too drunk," agreed Aragorn as Faramir led him inside.

Legolas grinned wickedly. "And now, Ecthelion, I shall tell you how much havoc one small boy can wreck with a handful of pinecones."

Naneth - mother

Ada - dad

meleth nîn - my love

iell nîn - my daughter


End Note: I've tried to keep this as realistic as possible using the DOB and DOD of Aragorn, Arwen, Faramir, Eowyn, etc. This is what I've come up with:

Eowyn's children:

1. Finduilas (FO 9) - 17

2. Elboron (FO 12) - 14

3. Theodred (FO 16) - 10

4. Alasse (FO 21) - 5

5. Ecthelion (FO 22) - 4

6. Frëawine (FO 27) - 0

...

Lothíriel's children:

1. Elfwine (FO 15) - 12

2. Morwen (FO 20) - 6

3. Theodwyn (FO 22) - 4