Disclaimer These lovely characters belong to JRR Tolkien. I borrow them only for a while and will give them back whole and unharmed.

The Dragon's Egg

Faramir, the ten year old, second son of the Steward of Gondor, sat propped up against the pillows and gazed out of the tower windows across the Bay to the harbour. He loved this room; loved its wide, low windows, loved its colourful tapestries that brightened the walls with images of beautiful landscapes, knights on proud steeds and ships sailing over blue crystal oceans to adventures on the far horizons. The room was always bright and cheerful and warm; a fire in the hearth even on the sunniest day. He was never bored here; in this room his imagination could take flight and he would fly with eagles, swim with dolphins or rescue fair maidens from the lair of an evil dragon. In this room he was safe, cocooned. But most of all he loved the view; he could stare for hours at the ocean, watching the sun sparkling and flashing on the waves as it travelled its path across the sky, while seagulls wheeled and squawked their melancholy tales; could follow the track of the moon until it dipped beyond the horizon. He loved the sea in all its moods, and while others feared the storms that roiled the waves, he liked nothing better than to stand at the open window with the gale lashing salt spray into his face, watching the waves break against the harbour, sending walls of water high into the air.

Today was his birthday and he was ill in bed, the latest victim of a chickenpox epidemic that was making its way through the nurseries of Dol Amroth. He felt a fraud, he didn't feel poorly and now that the worst of the itching had passed he was able to enjoy the novelty of being the centre of attention. He never had time to feel lonely, every few minutes an aunt or a cousin would visit, bringing him treats or a picture book to look at and sometimes they would stay to play a game or read a story. When he got uncomfortable the healer would come and bathe him and together they would count the spots as she applied a soothing lotion; there had been no new spots today, so the final tally was fifty three- hardly a record , his youngest cousin had had nearly sixty spots just on her face!

Now he awaited the return of a special visitor; his brother Boromir was due to arrive on the evening tide. The brothers were spending a last summer together at the home of their uncle, before Boromir went off to begin his training as a Ranger Cadet. He had spent the last month at sea on one of Prince Imrahil's trading ships and had promised to bring Faramir a special birthday gift. So Faramir waited, trying to be patient as the sun began its slow descent into the western horizon, painting spectacular colours onto the thin high clouds of the evening sky. He drifted off to sleep dreaming of treasure and glory.

When Faramir he awoke the room was alight with candles and lanterns and the soft shimmering dance of firelight, a warm night time breeze fluttered the drapes and carried in the smell of the sea. Standing in the light of the fire stood Boromir, still in cloak and boots, his hair stiff with the salt of the sea. The brothers embraced and Boromir cast a concerned eye over his sibling, noting the pallor and the healing spots.

"Back to bed, little brother or I will have the Healers after my hide for disturbing your recovery!"

"I'm better, really I am, no new spots today...please...I've been waiting for you all day. Tell me of your adventures."

"Snuggle down then and I will tell you a story, and if you are very good I will show you the treasure I have brought for you."

Boromir kicked off his boots and placed a shiny wooden box on the bedside table. Removing his cloak, he settled himself against the head-board, pulled his brother to his side and began his story:

'There was once a young soldier who set out on a great journey by ship to see new lands and to learn about the world; he was excited to be off on his travels, his only sadness was that in going he was leaving behind his little brother who was ill in bed with a high fever.

For many weeks the ship travelled up and down the coast, through storms and flat seas, calling at exotic ports along the way. In every port the soldier looked for a special treasure to take home to his brother, but though he saw many wonderful things he never found the perfect gift. With only a week to go before he was to return home he was beginning to despair; the little port at which the ship was moored offered little promise.

Having perused the local bazaar to no avail the soldier took a walk along the beach away from the city. He was about to turn back when he saw the flicker of a campfire in the distance; he approached cautiously, not sure of what he would find. An old man, dressed in worn grey robes sat cross- legged in the sand, his hair and beard were long and silvered with age and his face showed the ravages of many years. He invited the soldier to warm himself by the fire and as they shared a meal from the stew pot the soldier told the old man of his quest to find a gift for his brother. The old man, who was a wizard, looked on the soldier with a fierce and penetrating gaze, and making a quick decision on the strength of his assessment decided to offer his help.

He told the soldier of a dragon who lived in a cave, high in the mountain. The dragon had, for many years, been a friend of the wizard. He had offered his protection to the people in the villages who lived in the shadow of the mountain; protecting them from wild beasts and marauding bandits. In thanks for her protection, the people of the villages gave gifts of food and treasure to the dragon. In time the dragon became greedy, demanding and then taking the treasure and no longer making any effort to protect the villages; the people lived in fear of the dragon and in fear of the bandits. They called on the wizard to help them, but the dragon ignored her old friend and continued to hoard and collect her treasure. Finally the wizard lost patience and placed a spell on the dragon...until she gave away treasure of her own free will all her eggs would be sterile, she would lay only jewelled eggs and have no offspring to relieve her loneliness.

The wizard told the soldier that if he could turn the heart of the dragon with kind words and friendship then he would earn the treasure that he so longed to find.

And so the brave and fearless soldier took up the challenge, for he wanted desperately to find a worthy gift for his little brother. At the first light of dawn the soldier climbed up the mountain until he reached the dragon's lair. He sat at the mouth of the cave with his back to the opening, took out a wooden flute and played a tune. He tensed as he felt the dragon's breath stir the hair on the back of his neck but he carried on playing to the end of the tune. When the music stopped the dragon blew out a tongue of flame over the soldier's head and ordered him to leave.

For the next two days the process was repeated. On the fourth day the soldier again climbed the mountain but when he got to the mouth of the cave he sat facing the dragon and left the flute in his pocket. As the dragon approached he asked for a tune but the soldier said he would rather talk and began telling the dragon about his brother far away. All day he talked and at first the dragon was silent but gradually he became accustomed to his visitor and began to tell the soldier his own tale. As night fell the soldier got to his feet, said goodbye and returned to the beach. On the fifth day the soldier took a gift of food for the dragon and they sat at the entrance to the cave and talked and at dusk the soldier again took his leave.

On the sixth day the soldier carried another parcel of food wrapped in his own best, fur-lined cloak. The dragon was waiting for him and led him into the depths of the cave. The cave was filled with gold and jewels and treasure of every description but after a brief glimpse the soldier turned his back on the plunder and handed his gifts to the dragon. They shared the food and the soldier gave the dragon his cloak to use as a warm lining for her nest. As the afternoon waned the soldier rose to take his leave; the dragon rolled one of her stone eggs out of the nest and gave it to him, thanking him for his kindness and his friendship and for reminding him that jewels were no compensation for loneliness. She told him she was going back to the villages to return the treasure to its rightful owners and that she would always remember him for his kindness.

The soldier returned to the beach with his gift, to find the old wizard tending his fire. After telling his story the soldier showed the wizard the dragon's egg, it was the size of a large fist, heavy and cold, its surface rough and pitted to the touch. After the wonderful jewels in the cave it looked like a sorry gift but the wizard gave the soldier a gentle smile and, placing the egg on the sand, he struck it a heavy blow with his staff. The stone sphere broke into two pieces to reveal a hollow interior lined with dazzling, multi-faceted crystals of deepest amethyst. The soldier gasped at the beauty of the jewels, for they shot rainbows of colour into the night sky from the flickering light of the fire. It was truly a wonderful gift!

The wizard explained to the soldier that the owner of the dragon's egg held a special fate and he went on to recount that fate. When he had finished the soldier looked up at the night sky and brushed away a tear; the egg was a gift for his brother and that fate must therefore belong to him..

Recognising the soldier's bravery and his disappointment, the wizard took pity on him, he looked deep into the fire and after a long silence he asked the soldier if he would like to know his own destiny. The soldier nodded and listened intently as the wizard foretold his future....the soldier would be a brave and daring warrior who would fight with all his strength to protect his land and his people...he would set forth on a mighty quest, travel through many lands with strangers who, through adversity, would become his friends...and though darkness and doubt would threaten him, in the end he would win renown for his honour and his bravery.

As the soldier made his way back to the harbour to rejoin his ship he pondered on the wizard's words and took them to heart. And so the brave soldier returned from his travels to find his beloved brother much recovered from his fever. Their reunion was joyful, for they had missed each other greatly.

Boromir tousled his brother's hair gently to rouse him, for he was so engrossed in the story that he failed to take the open box that was held out for him. Faramir reached out and lifted the heavy stone from its velvet- lined box, rubbing his thumbs over its rough cold surface. Boromir took back the stone and invited the boy to release the golden ribbon that held the two halves together; as he did so the two halves fell apart to reveal the glittering jewelled interior.

"It's so beautiful!" the boy whispered, as he moved the rock to catch the flickering light from the fire. "Is it really for me?"

"Yes, little one, it is really for you...a special gift for a special brother." Any further words were lost as he was buried under a fierce hug, which threatened to knock the air from his lungs.

"It is a wonderful present," said the younger brother... "It is the second best present I've had today"

"Only the second best!"

"Yes, for your being here is the best present I could have wished for."

When Prince Imrahil entered the chamber later, to find out why his nephew had failed to appear at the supper table, he found the two boys, wrapped together in a tangle of limbs, both fast asleep; identical expressions of contentment lighting their faces.

*****

Faramir, Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien stood on the balcony of his quarters and looked out over the city that he loved. The early evening sunlight painting the walls of the white city with its soft hued tones. Every tower and turret festooned with banners, every bell pealing in honour of the day's celebrations.

At noon, under the shelter of the One Tree, he had awaited the arrival of his bride. At his side his closest friends; friends that only a year ago he would have known only as the characters from myth or legend, and yet now they were not only his friends but his honorary brothers, each of them dear to his heart; King, Elf, Dwarf and Wizard, only the Hobbits were missing, but they had sent their own messages of goodwill.

As the bell struck its final chime he had turned to see the small procession coming towards him. Eomer on her right, Queen Arwen on her left and in the centre his beloved Eowyn, elegant and beautiful, her golden hair swept up from her temples and braided with white flowers, her gown of embroidered brocade, simple in design but stunning in effect. He thought his heart would burst with joy and only the reassuring touch of the King's hand on his arm steadied him and prevented his knees from giving way. And then she was at his side and he clasped her hands as they faced each other and recited the vows that each had prepared for the other. In her eyes he saw his own love and adoration reflected back from the depths of her heart.

He never thought to feel such joy.

The ceremony had been a private affair but the celebrations had not; throughout the city music and feasting had been the order of the day, as the people sought to offer their good wishes to the Steward and his new Bride, for the people loved him dearly.

But now they had closed their door on the festivities and while he waited for his bride Faramir closed the shutters, shrugged off his heavy, brocade tunic and poured two glasses of the King's finest wine, setting them down on the table beside a polished wooden box.

He was suddenly aware of eyes watching him. He turned around to see Eowyn silhouetted in the doorway, dressed in a shift of soft cream satin, her hair loose on her shoulders. As he stepped towards her he raised his hands and she stepped into his arms and as she came to him he saw a myriad of emotions flicker across her face: love, shyness, uncertainty and a hint of apprehension. He chased away her fears with a gentle kiss and led her to the couch. He sat down and pulled her onto his lap, handing her a glass of wine.

"There is much that I would say to you, and yet now words seem inadequate to express my joy, for you have made me so happy and I will spend the rest of my life ensuring that you share in that joy." She relaxed against him and he buried his face in her long fragrant tresses.

"I have a gift for you, but before you can open it I would tell you its story. Will you listen to my tale?" She nodded and sipped at her wine as her husband recounted the story, just as his brother had told it to him twenty years before. He skipped over only one portion of the tale, that part that related to the fate foretold for the keeper of the treasure.

As he came to the end of the story he picked up the box and pushed open the catch. He held the stone cupped within his hands and invited her to release the golden ribbon. As she did so the two halves of the stone rolled apart to reveal the shimmering, glittering amethysts. She gasped in surprise at the beauty of the gems and then noticed that resting within the hollow of the stone were two hair-combs, finely wrought of silver and gold; each one decorated with amethyst gems extracted from the heart of the stone by Elven silver-smiths. He picked up the combs and lifting the hair back from her temples he set them in her hair.

He kissed her then, kissed her face, her eyelids and finally he set his lips to hers, soft kisses of adoration deepening to kisses of passion, and she returned his kisses, measure for measure. When she pulled, breathlessly, away from him he almost pouted with disappointment but she took his face between her hands and looked deeply into his eyes.

"You vowed earlier that there would be no secrets between us, and yet already you have held something back from me!" she admonished, teasingly. But before he could utter a denial she silenced him with a kiss. "You have left your tale unfinished, my Lord, what of the fate prophesied by the wizard?"

"Are you sure that that is a tale you want to hear, my love?"

"Is it so terrible then, that you would keep it from me...I thought it only a story to amuse a sick child."

"I thought so once, but who is to say what is truth and what is fable. So many stories of old have come to pass, would you deny the possibility of the truth of my story? I will tell you the fate foretold by the wizard and you must decide on its veracity."

The keeper of the dragon's egg would grow to manhood to be a brave and fearless Knight. It was his destiny to fight to protect his land and his people for many years, to lead his army in a desperate battle, against a dangerous and deadly foe. He would earn the love and respect of his people and his comrades, but his was a lonely fight. Eventually injury and sadness claimed his strength and the Knight could fight no more; shamed, he returned to his home to recover his strength.

From a servant he heard rumour of a beautiful princess held captive in a high tower, and so the brave knight set out to find the tower and free the captive. He battled through many dangers until he came at last to the high tower and when he forced opened the door he found the princess, a vision of beauty so stunning that it took his breath, but before he could carry her from her prison he had to fight off the demons of darkness and despair who held her within their spell.

When at last he carried her out into the sunlight once more she trembled. He looked upon her and he loved her, for she had captured his heart; but her heart was frozen, for in the darkness she had forgotten how to smile or to laugh or to love. The knight would not be disheartened because he knew that she was the one to put an end to his loneliness. He carried her away to his home and each day he would lead her out into beautiful sunlit gardens and sit beside her as the warmth and tranquillity of the surroundings seeped into her soul and eased her sorrow. One day as they sat together the knight was overcome with sadness, because he loved her and he wanted to make her happy, and though he tried to hide it she saw a tear upon his cheek. As she brushed away the tear she felt the last band of ice melt from around her heart and she knew that she loved him, she smiled as he took her in his arms and her sweet laugh echoed through the treetops as he swept her off her feet, for in him she had found her destiny.

Faramir brushed away the tears from her cheeks with gentle kisses. "What say you now, my Princess? Was it just a child's fairy tale?....

"I do not know, my Lord. Did you never ask your brother how he came by the gift or the story?"

"No, I never got the chance...When I was a child I accepted them at face value...a child's fairy tale. And when I remembered them as an adult, my brother was already gone from me. I asked my uncle but he could not help me with information about the origin of the jewel or where Boromir had heard the story...We could always ask the Wizard, but I'm not sure we would get a straight answer!!" he said with a rueful smile.

"No, my Lord, I think some things are best left a mystery....But I do have one question...How did the story end?"

"Now that is a question to which I do have an answer...How do all fairy stories end?" he said. And lifting her into his arms he walked slowly through the door to the bed chamber beyond and placed her gently against the pillows, and, punctuating his sentence with kisses of increasing passion, he finished his story.

"And...they lived....happily ever after...to the end....of their days......"