Disclaimer: Faramir, etc. are not mine.
For Calliope, my cider-glugging Muse, because it is apple cider season.
I have never met a man in my whole life who drinks as much apple cider as my Faramir. When we were first married, I was shocked to learn that he rarely, if ever, drank ale or any other alcoholic beverage. Sometimes I felt so foolish for having a glass of cordial or brandy while he drank down apple cider like a fiend. No matter what season, he always drinks cider, since Gondor always produces such a surplus of the drink that the supply lasts the year round.
When I learned this, I tried hard to drink cider with him. After a month of drinking naught but that same beverage over and over, I couldn't even look at a goblet of cider without recoiling. He asked me then why I had been drinking so much cider lately, and I told him that I was doing it for him. He looked at me like I was half-crazed.
Only Faramir could be so wonderfully oblivious.
I went happily back to my ale then, and he kept even more happily to his cider. Whenever at formal occasions, however, he drank wine, though I could tell that he would much prefer to drink apple cider. But Faramir is far too considerate to ask for anything but what he is offered, even if what is offered is not to his taste. I, however, am not.
We took a month-long trip to Rohan once, so that he could settle a trading dispute between Rohan and Lebennin, but it coincided with his birthday, a fact which he seemed to have forgotten when he accepted the task. I, however, did not. I knew that Faramir would be able to drink naught but ale, being too polite to request his beloved cider. And I decided that for his birthday I would ensure that he was able to drink all the apple cider in Rohan if he so desired.
Upon our arrival, my brother Eomer threw a grand feast in our honour, and according to custom we were served ale. When the pint of ale was placed before me, I gave my sweetest smile and requested a pint of apple cider in its place. Both Eomer and Faramir turned and stared at me, though for very different reasons. I do believe that my brother's jaw did even hang open then. I can hardly blame him – never in my life (at least in his presence) had I requested cider in place of ale. Faramir looked at me again like I was half-crazed, most likely for the fact that I hadn't touched apple cider since my month-long binge.
A pint of apple cider was brought to me, in the same flagons as those used for the ale. I took a sip (trying my utmost to pretend that I was enjoying it), and then placed it on the table beside Faramir's ale-flagon. When my brother's attention was distracted momentarily, I picked up Faramir's ale, drank a sip, and then placed it on my other side, so that it would appear as though my flagon of cider was in actuality Faramir's flagon of ale. He was not paying attention when he picked up my cider and took a sip, but as soon as the cider entered his mouth he tilted his head to look at me in puzzlement. I toasted him with my ale, smiling, and he smiled back in understanding, and laughed merrily at the subterfuge.
My lord was most grateful indeed.
The rest of the month we passed thusly, while my brother learned to take my newfound love for cider for granted. And at each meal, Faramir and I performed the swap of our flagons, and delighted in the shared secret. All went flawlessly until the last night of our visit, when another magnificent feast was held.
The ale that night was of a particularly strong brew, so much so that even I coughed more than once at its potency. The spices in the cider were heavy, I told my brother when he asked. He smiled, and took my pint of ale in his hand for a taste. I reached out my hand to stop him, but he took a large swig of it before I could stop him.
I doubt either of us will ever forget how red his face turned then. It struck me as hilarious at the time, and I found myself laughing hysterically at it. I glanced over at Faramir, and saw that he was laughing just as hard as I was, if not harder. Eomer just looked confused (and red), and Lothiriel sat beside him, smiling blankly in her puzzlement, and glancing every so often at her husband, suspecting him of a part in the confusion.
It took a few minutes for the two of us to calm down. When we had finally done so, my brother asked me why I did not mention that I had been served ale instead of cider. Neither Faramir nor I quite knew how to respond, but thankfully Lothiriel did. "They switched flagons, Eomer," she said simply, turning to him, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. My brother continued to look blankly at us.
"It is on my account," Faramir said, blushing furiously. "I do not care much for ale, but I did not wish to be impolite."
"So I ordered cider for Faramir and we have been switching flagons every night since our first arrival," I explained. To be perfectly honest, I couldn't help but smile broadly. It all seemed so ridiculous then, to go through so much trouble on account of apple cider. It still seems ridiculous now.
We all laughed merrily, my brother included (though his face was still red), and heartily enjoyed the rest of the evening, and parted the next morn. But after only a week had passed since our return to Emyn Arnen, three kegs of apple cider arrived at our threshold, sent anonymously to Faramir. The next week, three more arrived, and the week after – we both concluded that Eomer must have been sending us the apple cider.
"It is a test," said Faramir. "He wishes to see if we can drink all of this cider."
"Then drink it we shall," I replied.
I began to drink apple cider with Faramir then. Every week, three more kegs of cider would arrive, and every week we would drink them. It became a constant challenge, a wordless battle that had to be won for our honour. We would not allow our reputation to be lowered. Every keg had to be drunk, by us, before the time when the next shipment of cider was sent.
No mention was ever made of the contest in our correspondences with Eomer. When next I saw him it was here in Ithilien, soon after the anniversary of the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Lord Aragorn and Lord Eomer visited us here, instead of us traveling to see them, as was usual. Faramir and I had long awaited this meeting with my brother, to show that we had won our strange competition.
Eomer arrived, smiling in a knowing way, as though he thought he had the best of us. He should have known better. That night, at dinner, both Faramir and I toasted our guests with apple cider, but did not serve it to them, for the cider was for us to drink and us alone.
"You are not sharing the cider," said he, while the King looked on, oblivious to our game.
"It was sent to us, Eomer," I said, "quite inexplicably." I smiled at Faramir, trying hard to not laugh.
"That is most unusual," Aragorn said, ignorant. "You have no idea who sent you the cider?"
"None whatever," Faramir said. "But it is most agreeable." He sipped deliberately from the goblet. I smothered a laugh, and merely nodded my agreement. Truly, the cider was good, but I was hardly paying attention at the time.
My brother smiled mischievously. "You must have difficulty drinking three kegs every week. That is a great deal of cider."
"Not at all," I replied. "We both enjoy it." And indeed, over the past weeks I had drank more apple cider than ever, attempting to get the best of my brother, and yet instead of shrinking from it I found myself craving cider. It was then that I began to understand then my husband's love for the drink.
"I cannot believe that you drink three kegs of cider every week. Surely some of your courtiers or servants must help you," Eomer said.
Aragorn watched us carefully, and then he spoke. "Nay, Eomer, I think that they speak truth."
"I'd wager fifty gold pieces that you did not drink all of that cider," Eomer said to Faramir.
My husband grinned. "Strike on it," he said, as they joined hands. "Tomorrow, I give you full permission to personally search every single cellar and hall in the whole of Emyn Arnen, searching for many weeks' buildup of apple cider."
"Do not doubt that I will!" Eomer responded. He was so confident in his wager that I had to laugh. There was no hope of victory for him, for we had drunk every last drop of the cider.
The next morning, my brother was up early, searching every cellar and hall, just as Faramir had said. We saw naught of him until lunchtime, when a very discouraged Eomer entered our private dining room, and took his seat between Faramir and Aragorn. I smiled graciously at him. "Have you yet concluded your search?" I asked sweetly of him.
"There is not one drop of cider in the entirety of this citadel, save for one keg," he muttered.
"Did we not tell you so, Eomer?" I asked. I heard a slight snicker come from my left side, and just barely caught a glimpse of Aragorn smothering a laugh. Faramir, too, was smiling.
"You must have put it somewhere," he grumbled. "It must be hidden."
"Come, come, Eomer, be fair. There is no more cider," Aragorn said. "Faramir and Eowyn drank all of it."
"And I am fifty gold pieces the richer for it," Faramir added.
Eomer laughed then. "How did you ever manage to drink that much cider? It was a ridiculous sum – I was so certain there was no way you would ever be able to drink it."
I laughed as well. "You obviously do not know how much Faramir and I love apple cider. Please, do keep sending it."
"Oh, bother," he exclaimed. "Next time I send five kegs!"