Drinking, Demons and Deviltry

By Yunadax and Sonia

A/N – The lyrics used through this story are from "The Ghost of VainGlory" sung by Mark Seymour and written by Mark and B Palmer. For overseas readers, the word "pissed" throughout this story is used in the Australian context - meaning totally and completely drunk. This one shot fic should be considered AU as we borrowed the drinking game from ROTK and adapted it.

Disclaimer: All are owned by the estate of JRR Tolkien and/or New Line Pictures et al. Borrowed with respect and used for strictly non-commercial entertainment purposes only.

Rating - PG 13

"And what exactly would be the point of it?"

"The last one standing wins."

Legolas took a hearty swig from his stein and wondered how he had just managed to get himself into a drinking contest with Gimli of all people. Then again, what else was there?

Aragorn and Arwen had disappeared some time ago for their own private celebration and none of the local maidens of Gondor had turned the Elf's head this evening. Although Eomer didn't look short of company right now. A blonde and a brunette? Really. If he had been so inclined Legolas would have taken great delight in stealing one or both of the ladies from Eomer.

But tonight, all he needed was a full stein and a chance to forget. If that meant having to drink a dwarf into oblivion then so be it.

"That's one!" Two empty steins hit the table and the comrades tried desperately to remember that a drinking contest was a serious bit of business. Their battlefield catch cries had taken on a whole new drunken dimension.

"Do you want to make that three or four?" Faramir asked casually as he caught wind of their challenge.

"Are you trying to imply that a Gondorian Captain, could out drink a dwarf?" Gimli was incredulous, but motioned for Faramir to join them all the same.

"Finish that ale you have, and we shall start from two," he added as more of the ale was brought to the table.

Rounds two, three and four followed in rapid succession, their little duel now attracting quite a crowd. Eomer, had been secretly watching the action, shielded from view by the attentions of the blonde, the brunette and now another blonde.

Eomer thought that if anyone could out drink anyone else, it would be he who stood the victor. The pride of the men of Rohan was at stake. He moved towards the table, his swagger suggesting he'd already had plenty to drink and was far beyond the point anyone would dare call reason.

"Gentlemen, would you be adverse to another challenger? " Eomer was showing as much poise and posture as a pissed horse lord could muster. The small collective exchanged glances, all noting the slight stagger of the warrior who stood above them and judging him to be as pissed as they were, if not more so.

" We would be honoured." Legolas managed, keeping his two feet firmly planted on the floor beneath the table to keep from capsizing. Eomer eased himself onto a stool and called for the next round, only to have Eowyn bring the tankards to the table.

" A drinking game?" she asked, her desire to join them obvious from her tone.

" Aye, but not one for the lassies" Gimli muttered beneath his breath, covering his speech with a loud burp.

" Do you think a woman could not stand as an equal in this? " Eowyn spluttered, disappointment written across her features - yet again. They wouldn't let her fight, they wouldn't let her ride, and now they wouldn't let her drink!

" It is not that at all, my lady, " Legolas spoke as eloquently as he could with four ales under his belt

"We would spare you from the pain of the morning that all here present are most likely to feel"

" Pain? Do you think I do not know pain? Which particular type of pain would you like to discuss? The pain of wearing a corset? The pains of seeing those you love die on the field of battle? Why were it then that I slew the WitchKing? I, a woman, who is supposed to be sheltered, and protected, stood my ground and slew the bastard!" she shouted, her anger rising with each word.

Such fame and riches she's got in spades
She's like no other behind the shades
Her bloodshot eyes in the midday sun
All the savage doses of mindless fun

Legions gather as her command
She speaks a language they can understand

The inn grew quiet; all inside startled at the outburst from the shield maiden. All had known of her valour, dignity and courage but none had realised how trapped she felt waiting on the men all the time.

Eowyn turned in disgust, if the men wanted pain, she would give them pain.

Her mind turned over several possibilities as she made her way back to the bar, depositing the now empty tray on the high wooden mantle and slipping out of the inn altogether. Yes, they would feel pain.

"Well, that didn't go as planned" Gimli muttered as the four downed the ales Eowyn had brought over for them.

"Aye, I think you have offended the lady, she was quite taken with you for a time!" Legolas grinned, nodding to the barmaid to bring yet another round.

Faramir's head snapped round at this, causing his already slightly blurry vision to try and desperately keep up with the rapid motion.

" Eowyn, the daughter of Kings, Slayer of the WitchKing, Shield Maiden of ROHAN... was taken with a DWARF?" Faramir gasped in surprise.

Months ago, Eomer told him privately his sister had always gone for the scruffy type - but that was going too far!

"And you see surprised by that, laddie?" Gimli almost purred back, confidently stroking his slightly damp with ale beard.

" I meant no offense. I mean I didn't mean it like.... Oh never mind!" Faramir grumbled, his pride wounded more than he cared to admit. A certain bond had formed between him and Eowyn in the Houses of Healing.

" Well I suppose it could have been worse" Gimli stated " She could have been taken with an elf!"

The dwarf leaned forward in anticipation of the said elf's reply. Bantering with Legolas was amusement enough, but he had yet to bait a slightly inebriated elf! For an instant Legolas didn't react, his sluggish mind trying to keep his body upright as well as comprehending the jesting insult his dwarven companion had just hurled his way.

" An elf, gentlemen, would not be here participating in a drinking game if he had won the heart of such a maiden." Legolas gave off a grace and poise, even more becoming in spite of his pissed state.

The other three turned red at this, fully admitting they were without women currently and sorely feeling it.

"Well since you are so kind as to grace us with YOUR presence, would you care to order the next round, we'll be here until morning the rate its going" Gimli's blush was barely perceptible on his dark complexion.

Legolas signaled again for the barmaid and sat back to gauge the state of his companions – it could have best been summed up by a simple slogan – "there are only two states to be in – Gondor or pissed." They had both well covered.

Eowyn learned many things from Theoden and some more from watching Aragorn command them at the final battle. The biggest of those was men often and did underestimate the most unlikely of opponents and the gentlemen around the table had just made a fatal mistake.

Gandalf sat in a corner, observing the scene and trying to make peace with his own ghosts. He knew his time for the Grey Havens was soon and watching those closest to him begin their own healing journeys gave him hope. He gestured for the Shield Maiden, who had returned to the room, to join him

Covering her hand with his, Gandalf felt her troubled heart reach out to him.

"Yes, Aragorn is a noble man with a good heart and while he would be a good match for you in your eyes, your heart and spirit would suffer through Aragorn yearning for his heart's true calling. " The wizard gently squeezed the feminine fingers callused by the ravages of battle.

Eowyn looked at the table of men whom she had fought alongside. To hear them yell and banter with each other, it was almost as if that final, terrible battle hadn't happened. The sacrifice of her uncle might well have been for nothing.

"The men who accepted your help so readily in the battlefield, they reject you now as they try to make sense of it all?" Reaching out, Gandalf ran a hand down the pale cheek

Eowyn's pale eyes began to fill with tears – for Theodred, Theodren, her parents, for the loss of innocence in their world at Rohan and at the thought someone at least cared enough to show her some compassion and tenderness. Just like the men, she had been brought up to fight but she was not to be included in the times when they slew their ghosts of battle.

That's when she fumbles and falls
The passion stings but she's given everything

Tossed on a storm like a ship at sea
For years she drifted 'til she came to me
Her eyes were dreaming she was looking for
The simple magic she knew before

The drunker the table of men became, the louder they were. Yet in between the off colour jokes and bawdy songs, Faramir kept sneaking gazing towards a corner of the room where two heads – one wheatfields golden, the other a winter white – were bent towards each other.

Faramir thought his glances had gone unacknowledged but when his eyes lingered too long on the delicate shoulders of the Shield Maiden, Gandalf nodded. The Gondorian Steward blushed for the second time in as many hours.

"Now we have healed from our wounds, I may as well not exist. He would rather his drunken gathering than pay attention to someone like me." Eowyn's eyes still held unshed tears.

All she wanted was for someone to hold her and tell her things would be better in this Age of Men. There was that and getting the table of drunken buffoons to suffer in fine style.

"Give me some time and then go to him." Gandalf was smiling. "You might be surprised."

The barmaid began the obstacle like course towards the men with their next round of drinks. Squeezing Eowyn's shoulder, the wizard warrior left the table and moved to intercept the warrior bound tray of ales.

Allowing herself the luxury of a smile at what was likely to happen next, Eowyn watched Gandalf take the tray of drinks and serve them to the other men.

"Eomer! Put those women down and get your ale! They are not like horses – you can't control all three of them at once."

"Why should I take advice on love from a dwarf who goes swimming with little hairy women?"

Legolas laughed almost showering Gimli with the ale he consumed seconds before.

Ghosts of a different kind were taunting Faramir – the feelings of victory and adrenaline had gone and his physical wounds had been dealt with. It was his father's cries as the flames and madness consumed him haunting his nights now.

It should have been the pale eyes of a woman warrior that occupied his thoughts but the nightmares were beginning to swallow him and push the pleasant moments in the Houses of Healing away.

At a time when he should have been thinking about a future, any future whether it was at Gondor or Rohan, why were his fathers criticisms and barbs still stinging from beyond the veil?

The levity of the bar and discussions of whether Legolas, Gimli and Eomer should join Pippin and Merry dancing barefoot on the tables were beginning to overwhelm him. Faramir knew he had to be anywhere but there.

Gandalf wove his way through the crowded room to Eowyn. Touching her shoulder, the elderly wizard whispered in the warrior woman's ear. Contralto feminine laughter provided a momentary counterpoint to the drinking songs and bawdy jokes.

"Go to him, he needs you." With a further encouraging squeeze of Eowyn's shoulder Gandalf left the revellers to balance his own emotions. Why were times of joy or healing always preceded by such immense sorrow?

Faramir leaned against the wooden pillar, closing his eyes partially to find respite from his demons and partly to block the sight of Legolas and Gimli trying to copy the light-footed hobbits' dance routine. Eomer was off in his own private universe dancing a jig that involved leaping between the hobbits' table and the one used by his drinking companions. It was not a pretty sight at all.

Taking a final swig of his ale, Faramir set down his stein and began to leave the bar. Getting out of this place might have been his only chance at some peace. Whoever said you could be alone in a crowd was certainly right.

Driven by his demons, Faramir wanted only to leave the inn and never set foot back there again. He didn't even like being in Gondor or its palace that much anymore. Too many memories and ghosts. Boromir. Denethor. Those lost in battle because of his father's rash decision making. The innocents of Gondor.

"Faramir! Wait. Let me walk with you. Please?"

Her eyes were dreaming she was looking for
The simple magic she knew before

Nothing could have stopped him from leaving the inn. Except for a battle scared yet still feminine hand on his shoulder and her voice.

Standing in the doorway both started to speak – one with a request to be left alone and the other just wanting to be heard, and perhaps if she was lucky – held.

Neither knew who should speak first, if they should speak at all. Then it happened.

They turned in time to see Gimli and Legolas pass out in mid flight whilst attempting a particularly complicated spin and heel click combination. Landing heavily on the table, the combined weight of elf and dwarf caused the ancient structure to collapse. At the same time Eomer, began to somersault between the tables, misjudged his landing and fell on top of Legolas and Gimli before lapsing into blessed unconsciousness himself.

Faramir and Eowyn looked at the pile of bodies on the inn floor, turned to look at each other and did the only thing they could.

Laughed.

"So that's what Gandalf did to their drinks," Eowyn giggled.

"What did you say?" Faramir was instantly suspicious, particularly as the wizard was nowhere in sight and his potential co-conspirator was hiding behind her blonde mane, still giggling like a loon.

"Nothing….nothing at all." Taking Faramir's hand, Eowyn led him away from the inn towards a small garden.

The lights from battlefield funeral pyres illuminated Gondor. A muted chorus of horns and drums played in the background. Tonight was the night a kingdom tried to lay its demons to rest.

This wasn't a time for fancy words or grand gestures. Taking Eowyn's hand Faramir raised it to his lips.

Eowyn blushed, running her hand down Faramir's cheek, almost luxuriating in the texture of the stubble against her fingers.

Taking the Shield Maiden into his arms and waiting until Eowyn had curled into his body, Faramir wrapped his cloak around them.

There was a strange kind of peace in the air. An army of souls on their last journey, paused to bless the union of two lost warrior hearts.

They had peace and now hope that love would flourish in the Age of Men.