Fanfic II Eowyn Chronicles

Chapter 15 Pride and Prejudice

There are some things that it does well to remember about my husband. He is not a vain man, but he can be prideful. Not about his titles, his house, or his appearance, or his many fine attributes, but about his work. When he sets himself a task, he goes to great pains to do it well. Also, while he is very generous to the faults of others (how well I know!) he can be very unforgiving of his own perceived imperfections.

When the ring bearer, Frodo, threw the one ring into the fires of Mount Doom and Sauron was defeated, everyone found time to rejoice. All except my husband, that is, who fretted over designing an appropriate protocol for handing over the rod of the Steward's office to Aragorn, who would soon be crowned. That there was no existing protocol was a scandal in the Gondorian extreme. They had a ceremony for every contingency, seemingly. But not for this, so my husband took it upon himself. But it had to be expressed perfectly. And it had to show King Aragorn the proper respect. And it had to signify that he, Faramir, direct descendent of Mardil, the first ruling Steward, was full willing to give up his office as the emblem of rule and honor it had been for over 1000 years.

In truth, my husband had not the vain ambition to assume rule as his right, as - say, my brother, the newly crowned King of Rohan. Faramir's very nature was intent more on assuming responsibility rather than authority. He was raised as the second son whose purpose was to support the steward and his heirs. Alas, his world was turned upside down.

But I was not to worry.

"We will be fine, Eowyn, truly, you must not worry for us. I own fleets in Dol Amroth in my own name, inherited from my mother, and holdings there as well. And ancestral holdings in Emyn Arnen under the House of Hurin. These properties are not attached to the Steward's Office. Only the Steward's apartments here will be forfeit, and the Steward's tithe."

Thank the Valar for that! I could not wait to abandon these moldy trappings. Actually I had no idea my husband held such wealth. The only things of value he seemed to amass were stacks and shelves of books, and trunks and cases of scrolls and maps. I was not worried in the first place and said so. He tried to believe me, but I could see he thought I was placating him. All I wanted, in truth, was a cozy hearth and a nice big stable facing south. My dear brother had promised me a belated wedding gift of my own choice of two dozen of Rohan's finest from his own stables, (with open breeding rights thereafter) as soon as we had a place to house them.

My husband paced the length of the room, carefully trying to stretch out his halting gait into an even stride. It would not do to limp when surrendering the white rod of the Steward to the King. I imagined the rod meeting a variety of untimely ends, all at my own hands.

I knew this was madness, but I ventured forth.

"Fara, are you sure the King will not need a Steward, after all? Many kings before Mardil had one assisting them. Would it not be wise to ask Aragorn what he intends?"

" "Elessar", my dear wife, you must remember to call him by the new name he has chosen."

" "Elessar", then. Will you not simply ask him what he means to do?"

Apparently this kind of plain speaking would not be respectful. I changed the subject, admitting defeat.

"How well your stride is improving, husband! I can see no limp at all."

"And you, dear wife. It is good to see your hands on the harp again, and hear your lovely playing. It brings strength to both your arms." He was kind to be so encouraging, but I was frustrated with slow progress. Though I could at least tend to our precious son now without assistance, it would be months yet before I could write again, or play anything but a slow ballad, or stitch a neat wound, but I hoped that skill would not be required for awhile. I sighed and flexed my fingers. Faramir sat beside me and began massaging my sword arm from shoulder to fingertips. The recurring chill was persistent, but his loving ministrations more so. His eyes looked so tired, I thought, but he had many tasks still ahead this day. He intended to hand over Minas Tirith to KIng Elessar, as best as he could restore it, in the few days remaining.

Elessar. Aragorn. Strider. Thorongil. Heir of Isildur. Estel. Who was this man? Who could trust a man who was invested with so many names? I did not suspect he would be an outright tyrant, but had misgivings. Or call them fears. My Fara had passed much of his life until now under the disapproving judgment of his father. I could not bear to watch him uphold his dignity or squander his allegiance where it was not appreciated and respected. I would not give him up to another Denethor willingly.

But what did we know of Aragorn? He had Gandalf's endorsement, that was most promising. He was a valorous warrior and had allies in many halls: Men, Dwarves, Elves, even Hobbits. His betrothed was rumored to be an elven princess, but I could not begin to guess how that signified. He had healed many thought beyond hope, including Fara and myself. This surely proved his goodness, but the power I felt from his voice calling me back still dwelled somewhere in my mind and was unsettling. The first time I was compelled by a power outside myself, it was Grima. But, I kept reminding myself, Aragorn only used his power to keep me from slipping away. I glanced at Elboron stirring fitfully. The thought that he came so close to being an orphan sent a pang to my heart. I was haunted by a recurring dream of wandering the dark labyrinth below Minas Tirith trying to find where I had hid my baby.

"What are your thoughts, my beloved?"

"I was thinking about orphans, husband."

He was dismayed. Another responsibility he had yet to address properly.

"I have sent some guards to gather them up, but they hide from them, or else they lie and say they have families to go to, or wail and kick so piteously that the guards let them go again."

"Children need to be gently coaxed, Fara. Will you not let me try something?"

His eyebrows shot up. The idea of an experiment always intrigued him.

"What will you do?"

"Call off your guards for a time. I will attempt to catch flies with honey."

We soon parted, for we had many tasks that day, Although I had seen less of my husband since we had left the houses of healing, we spent much more time together than in his days as Captain of the Rangers, and for that I was thankful.

I arranged Elboron in a Rhorric sling, which I had Finduin fashion out of a piece of an old cloak, wrapped from shoulder to hip. The movement of my walking soon lulled him to sleep. This arrangement turned heads and lowered eyebrows on the street, but I was usually disapproved of for something here, and strode on. My first task was a request from my husband, and I was happy to relieve him of one burden, at least. Fara gave me a list of books to find in the library and bring to the houses of healing for some of the Rangers still recuperating. I soon found the volumes and decided to bring a few more, in anticipation of pleasing someone bored or in need of distraction.

I entered one of the rooms where I thought to find Anborn, but was taken by surprise. I stopped abruptly hoping to back out the door without being noticed by the man gazing out the window.

"Lady Eowyn, how good of you to visit, I did not know if you would come."

In truth, I probably would not have come, even if I knew he was here, which I did not. I had no idea he why he thought I might, except that I had taken it upon myself to go among those in the houses an hour or so a day, seeing what was needed, and many there knew I made the rounds.

"Nyliss, you are looking well," I lied. He was skin stretched over bone. But he thought I had come deliberately, and now I would have to play this out. I had no gift for dissembling, but charged forward.

"I thought you might like something to read, to pass the time." I held back the promised volumes and offered him a choice of the others. He made his selection with exaggerated care, discussing the merits of each volume. So, a man of some education. I looked around and noticed no small gifts or tidbits of the type left by family or friends who visit, all the while marveling that he was actually talking to me, and seemed somewhat at ease.

"Can I get you something?"

"Just water, please, I am able to move a little now, and the lung is finally clearing, but getting out of bed still tires me.' I handed him a cup.

"Did you know that Elessar healed me? My lung was opened up and full of infection."

"Yes, it is also due to him that Faramir and I are alive today."

He peered at Elboron, nestled into my side.

"Is this the Steward's heir then?"

I could not tell his meaning. Was he joking? After all, he was the only one alive beside my husband who knew for certain who the father of this baby was. Then a mischievous smirk stretched his face, pulling at his scar, and I could tell he was.

"Yes, this is the infamous babe who has everyone in Gondor counting backward on their fingers." I was well aware of the rumors concerning my deceit, or wantonness. There were many versions, even one in which I was the toy of Denethor shared with his sons. My comment earned an outright wheezing laugh.

"Gondorians love a scandal, my lady, the higher the better. And what is the name of this little boy?"

"He is named for the memory of his uncle, Elboron."

He was silent for so long I thought he would not speak again. Then he ventured:

" My lady, everyone praises your valor - The Witch King! "

I tried to be as kind as I could, but this was a subject I was loathe to pursue.

"Nyliss, mine was a deed of but a few hours, whereas, you have served the White Guard bravely for , what, six, seven years?"

"I have served Gondor seven years, my lady, but I transferred from the White Guard last year when ... when Boromir left."

"You should know that he died well, protecting the very hobbits that later destroyed the ring. You should be very proud of him."

"Thank you my lady. I have heard other rumors, but I know you would only tell me the truth."

Yes, the truth, though I was pretending to be here on purpose.

"Nyliss, you must come to visit us when you are well. Faramir thinks there may be some of your things among Boromir's. He has everything carefully stored."

"It is very kind of you to offer this. I will come when I may."

"Good, well, I have other books to deliver, but I will return one day soon."

"Soon, my lady."

Then the other books were delivered, and I was again in the streets. Well, done, Eowyn, I mused, you have another friend in the city. Soon you will have enough friends to hold a party and share a squab. I wondered what Faramir would think about my inviting Nyliss without his leave.

Chapter 16 Hobbits and Honey Cakes

My next visit was to the Foundling Houses. The Warden, Selianth, was a plump white-haired elderly woman of regal stature. She was resentful of my intrusion into what was clearly her own realm.

"You may try to coax them here, Lady Eowyn, but, you must understand, coming here is for them the final admission that they are abandoned, and many resist our efforts." She clearly thought me meddlesome and impractical. She was intrigued by the baby sling, however.

"Take it off, let me see how it is folded and attached. " She gave it her scrutiny, and handed it back, giving Elboron a little chuck under the chin.

"The Steward's Son?"

Why was everyone so doubtful!

Tracking down the hobbits was not the task of a ranger, I just followed the smell of food. I had heard that they favored an alehouse on the third level which had boasted savory roasted fowl, crusty breads and fine cheeses. Many taverns were operating minimally, the war had taken it's toll everywhere. But here was a place intact, with bread and ale and cheese at least. I entered and tried to get my bearings. The first and last time I had been in an alehouse I was about thirteen or so, and still following my brother and cousin anywhere I could persuade them to take me for an adventure, disguised as a young boy. But that time we were found out, and I was watched more closely thereafter. My uncle had been very indulgent with me, but I was coming to an age where my virtue was to be considered.

So, my experience with alehouses being somewhat lacking, I felt some misgivings upon entering. I engaged the server. Yes, the hobbits were accorded a small room to themselves in the rear, an obvious honor. I informed him that I was expected, a blatant falsehood, and pressed on. As I strode down the aisle, I heard whispers: "The White Lady", "The Sword Mistress", "No, not her, she is not so tall." I entered the room through an archway, there being no door upon which to knock.

The Ring Bearer, Frodo, was still recuperating in guarded apartments in the citadel, tended closely by Gandalf himself. The other three were eating a hearty lunch and quaffing ale with great relish. They rose as one and bowed gallantly. They had all met Faramir before, of course, Samwise with Frodo in Ithilien, and Merry and Pippin when they arrived here with Gandalf, and a few times thereafter. But this was our first meeting. I introduced myself, and they gave each other sideways glances as if to say, the joke was on me. They had already guessed my identity. I knew it reflected poorly to introduce oneself and ask for a favor straight away, but I did just that. I spoke plainly of my purpose, but they gave no direct response but to invite me to sit and join them in their meal with such gleeful anticipation that there was no manner of polite refusal. When had I last eaten? They approved of my hearty appetite, and turned their attention to the contents of my sling. The babe delighted them.

"Is that not Faramir's very expression?" Merry said. Samwise remarked on his clear blue eyes, and Pippin was content to make babbling noises. Of the many strange encounters I have had since leaving my home, this was the most delightful. They had been through so many monstrous trials and yet remained full of life and good cheer. I have heard hobbits described as a peaked eared race the size of children with hairy feet and big appetites. And thought their appetites are indeed formidable, they gave me the impression that I was peering through the wrong end of a spyglass at the best of our race. The finest of our qualities, but on smaller frames.

Just when I began to despair that their avoidance of discussing my request was a polite refusal, Sam allowed casually that there were a few tales he knew well enough to tell. Merry and Pippin mused that their adventures with Treebeard might be worked up into something entertaining. They chatted on amiably. It was so refreshing to have company neither in disdain for my earlier reputation nor in wary awe of my recent deeds. (Though I think that Merry had a little crush on me.) We parted fast friends, with arrangements made. I was off to the bakery next, then home.

Word on the street travels quickly among children who survive by their wits. At the courtyard before the Foundling Houses, there would be honey cakes and hobbits with tales of their adventures, on the eve of the coronation of King Elessar. The next day turned out a fine success. The children were mesmerized by the hobbits, who were as wonderful storytellers as you might imagine. The children lingered for honey cakes stuffed with currants and nuts, and stayed to rest on clean cots "just for a little while" set up under the porches. Without the threat of coercion, many stayed, and most of those who left in the morning brought back their more wary older siblings. The hobbits were gone by then, (though promised to return!) but there were more honey cakes, milk and fruit. That night of the tales, however, the warden allotted a little time to give me grudging thanks, then she was busy tending the small ailments of her new wards - cuts and scrapes and lice infestations, and runny noses. I did notice, however, that all four of her assistants wore a Rhorric sling, with a babe in each one.

Back at the citadel, I arrived to find my husband reading quietly by the fire. He peered into the sling from which Elboron peered out, mirroring his lopsided grin and arched eyebrows. A cold supper was laid out and we ate companionably, sharing our events of the day. The King would be crowned tomorrow, Faramir summed up his final efforts to organize the event. I told him about the success of the party at the Foundling Houses.

"Splendid, Eowyn! " he smiled when I told him how it came to be that more children were off the streets and safe in the warden's care.

"It was the hobbits, husband, they came again to our rescue", I laughed, adding that I supposed that visits to the Foundling Houses would now be included in my rounds. I hoped that the Houses would be only a stopping off place for many of the children now there.

"It may be that some have relatives yet alive elsewhere who would claim them, and we must look into this. Also there are other families bereft at this time who might welcome another child at their hearth." Fara agreed. Then he rose and told me that he had done with preparations, and would not waste the evening fretting. He invited me to sit by the fire and we continued our conversation.

I retold my encounter with Nyliss the day before in the Houses of Healing. Fara's weary eyes focused intently on me as I recalled the meeting. He was pleased I had "found" Nyliss, and had invited him to our apartments. He admonished me for worrying about speaking on behalf of both of us.

"I honor your judgment, dear wife, equal to my own. You must never trouble yourself to think otherwise." Then he became lost in speculation for awhile.

"He is from Anfalas, as I recall. When you may, go to the Cracked Cauldron. It is on the second tier. There is an Anfalan cook there named Sobak. See if he will make one of his hot spiced stews, to bring to Nyliss. The familiar flavors may tempt his appetite. As soon as time permits, I will think how best to engage Nyliss in other aspects of his recovery."

I talked further about the hobbits, and their tales. I related how gentle and soft-spoken Samwise was with the children. How the antics of Merry and Pippin brought smiles and laughs to small faces creased with worry and want.

"Husband, what do you know of the Ents and the Battle of Isengard?"

"Merry and Pippin have told me their part in it."

"What do you suppose became of the Ent-wives?"

"Where they not lost a long time before?" he murmured, his mind drifting elsewhere.

It was not the last time I would wonder what became of them.

Chapter 17 Rod and Scepter

For what he thought would be the first and last time, my Faramir dressed for the office of the Steward. The black wool tunic and leggings were free of adornment, and leeched what little color there was from his pale somber face. The dress armor was silver chased in gold, bearing the emblem of the white tree and seven stars. The open robe was black, lined in sable. He turned to me and asked assistance with his vambraces. These I had not seen. They were neither the plain brown leather of his ranger garb, nor the black vambraces with the white tree in silver, which the Steward's house wore for dress. These were lustrous black leather, worked with a raised likeness of twin ravens with crossed tails. He answered my curious glance.

"A gift from my brother when I assumed Captaincy of the Rangers. As boys we were called the Two Ravens. Do you know the tale?" I shook my head.

"Well, the ravens were inseparable, and ever in a great deal of mischief. But they always came to each other's aid. " I nodded, seeing how he would honor the memory of his brother this day.

As he waited before the gate upon the arrival of the King, my husband stood proud and erect, his face perfectly dispassionate. Only I knew he anticipated himself to be soon relieved of a great burden. Then Elessar arrived, resplendent in his raiment, received with great cheering . The Steward made his formal welcome, surrendering the rod of his office. Elessar passed it back, vowing it would belong to Faramir's house until the end of both their houses. Nothing in my husbands bearing or countenance betrayed him, but I could tell that he was stricken. He took back the rod and bowed in obeisance, then proceeded smoothly with the passing of the crown, which Elessar asked the Ring Bearer, Frodo to pass to Gandalf who placed it on his head. This gesture all sensed the rightness thereof, and thus the King was crowned, and handed his scepter.

There was such rejoicing that day! The elven princess Arwen arrived and was reunited with her betrothed, King Elessar. The great Elrond and members of his court escorted the Lady Arwen. I beheld in awe, such grace and beauty as is the race of elves. There is a serenity and timelessness there, and another deep quality which defies naming.

An occasion saturated with such sentiment and elation overwhelms memory, and I can recall it only in fragments. I did watch my beloved Fara carefully. There was something of relief in his eyes: the prophecy to which he had thus far dedicated his life had been fulfilled. His smiles and laughs were careful echoes of those who approached him. But there was something in him not himself. At one point my brother came near, and I begged him to walk some small way with me, sensing that my husband would not receive his taunting well this day. I had barely gotten over the great relief of Eomer's safe return from the battle at the Black Gates. I had vowed to view his victorious arrival as a new beginning, but it seemed as though he had renewed his intent on showing Faramir scorn and contempt disguised as banter. It turned out my brother had another purpose entirely. He inquired after the Lady Lothiriel. Did I know her? What was her lineage? Was she yet betrothed? Could I arrange an introduction? I have never seen my brother look tentative about anything, and this new attitude made him seem so piteous that I sought to dispel it immediately. I drew him toward the lady and made formal introduction.

When he learned that Lady Lothiriel was daughter to Prince Imrahil, and cousin to his own brother-in-law, his eyes widened. He was never one with the shrewdness to hide his reaction. The Lady offered him her charming laugh and her arm and I left them to their fate. When I found Faramir again, he had engaged his customary acumen in the observation of the guests, and what their conversations and countenances might reveal. I offered him my arm and he took it in his and squeezed my hand softly.

As for the new King, both my eyes and my husband's strayed to him often. I knew Fara was studying him too, with new information to factor. How he talked, and who he talked with, where he stood, when he placed his hand on another hand or a shoulder, when he gave an easy smile, when he listened gravely, how much attention he gave to his betrothed.

Presently the Hobbits were before us inquiring about our health and our son, and the Houses of Foundlings. Frodo was with them, buoyed up, I think, by their merriment. Soon my husband was smiling again, engaged by their frivolity.

Chapter 18 Brothers in Law

The next morning I arose cross and slightly ill. There were so many toasts that I had drunk a little too much wine, which is certainly not my habit. Elboron was fretful, having been left too long yesterday without his mother's comfort, and Faramir was already gone.

My brother called, and came quickly to the point. He wished to ask that Faramir speak to Prince Imrahil on his behalf. He wanted permission to begin courtship with Lady Lothiriel, if it be her will.

"Faramir is not here. Why don't you just ask the Prince yourself, I snapped. I do not think a king has need of a go-between."

"It is more seemly, as I am related to Faramir through you, and he is a close relative of the Prince and of the Lady. I think it would show respect if I were to observe Gondorian custom in this matter. Do you think Faramir will refuse?"

That my brother was suddenly interested in protocol was touching indeed.

"You have not made yourself overly welcoming to my husband."

"Come, sister, how could I? Has had proved himself to be without honor. Were you not wed to Lord Boromir? No sooner had his own brother gone off on a quest, Faramir seduced you away from him. You cannot be blamed, of course. You were but lately an innocent maiden. I would have challenged him when I learned of it, but by then ... it would not be right to leave your child without a father."

I began to see how Faramir felt. My brother was an ass.

"Brother, you speak in ignorance. That was not the way of it. You do us both great injustice to think so, but I can say no more."

Eomer was confounded, both by my vehemence, and in his purpose. He had come to ask for a favor, and expected me to smooth the way. Moreover, we were as wroth with each other as I could ever remember. He did not see how he could be in error. I did not see how I could convince him otherwise, without exposing Lord Boromir's part in this. As was the habit of our youth, we fell to shouting, then glaring at each other until we could not bear it, and came together in an embrace.

"I will speak to my husband of your purpose, though I can not speak for him. But you must think better of him and give him the respect he merits, for my sake. Come after the supper hour, and you will find us here."

"I will try for your sake, sister." We both turned to Elboron now, whose fretfulness, upon hearing our raised voices, had grown to wailing. Eomer felt badly for his part in making his nephew cry, and stayed until he was satisfied the child was again content.

After sharing supper, during which Fara would not be drawn out much about his day or work, I told him of Eomer's request. He gave no sign of his intended reply, but nodded quietly and sat by the fire arranging a roster of petitions and cases to be placed before the King's court. Presently, my brother arrived. He hailed me as beloved sister, then stood before Faramir, proud and commanding, greeting him as brother, as if it had always been so. My husband's tone was carefully neutral. He never raised his voice, only his eyes, which met Eomer's evenly.

"Now you call me brother, when it suits your purpose. It is not the meaning of the word "brother" I have known. It is clear you think little of your sister's choice of husband, but choose she did."

"Will you speak for me, yes or no?"

"As you think I am without honor, what would my endorsement gain you?"

"It is evident that Prince Imrahil yet regards you with honor, and his sons, and the Lady Lothiriel."

"They are my kin." He drew a deep breath, but went on as softly as before.

"Eomer King, I will tell you this much. The Lady Eowyn and I are foresworn to withhold certain circumstances regarding how we came together. You may choose to trust that I have behaved honorably with regard to your sister or no. But I cannot speak on your behalf unless you choose to trust me, for that would give my kin the false notion that we shared mutual respect. There would be no honor in that."

Eomer was parried into a corner, a situation of which he had little familiarity.

After some time, in which many emotions passed over his open face, he spoke with measured sincerity.

"Lord Faramir, my sister's judgment is rarely in error, in matters of honor or otherwise. As she has chosen to be your wife and mother of your child, I will accept you as brother."

Fara opened his arms without hesitation.

"I will speak to Prince Imrahil tomorrow before the council opens at noon," he concluded, and my brother withdrew.

Chapter 19 A Little Garden

Barely had I time to feel the overwhelming relief that Eomer and Fara had come to an understanding, than my beloved rose and faced me, as though he must now make use of some momentum which caught him up. He inquired if the prescribed time of our lying apart was over. It had been eight weeks and more since Elboron's birth, and I nodded somewhat embarrassed. I began to wonder anxiously a week ago when he would approach me. Since we left the Houses of Healing we had resumed the Gondorian practice of separate sleeping chambers. He now asked if I would come to him when Elboron was settled with Tarynth and Finduin in my chamber, and I said I would.

As I entered, he paced the room in agitation, still fully clothed for the Steward's office. A sick fear gripped my heart. This was not the welcome of an ardent husband.

"Eowyn, please sit." I tried a tentative smile, but it only seemed to fuel his unease.

"Eowyn, I should have told you..." He paused, trying for a new beginning.

"When ... when we come together you will see that I am not the same." He looked helpless to continue, so again I tried to ease his mind and guess his meaning.

"Husband, we both were wounded in battle. There will be scars, in that there is no shame." I could see from the pain in his eyes I was only making matters worse.

"No, Eowyn, there is something else. Something worse!" My heart twisted, all the while my mind arguing that whatever it was, it would not matter. It would not matter! I reached out and held his hands in mine.

"Tell me."

He told me what happened the morning of the battle of the Pellenor, when he was brought up to the Citadel, gravely wounded. Denethor had despaired, had a pyre built in Rath Dinen, and had his son placed upon it, intending to burn them both. When Pippin realized that my husband yet lived, he went for Gandalf's aid. Meanwhile Beregond, a guard stationed at the door, drew his sword to prevent Denethor's guards from igniting the pyre, but too late. Two guards were slain, and Gandalf arrived from directing the defense of the siege of Minas Tirith, only just in time to pull my beloved husband off the pyre. Denethor remained steadfast and surrendered himself to the flames, to his own despair.

"There are burns, dear wife. Burns on my leg and thigh. On my side. You will see them."

"I will not look! I care not!"

He looked at me with kind patience, as if I had missed the point.

"No, Eowyn, you must look. You must see me as I am now. You must see why I was so willing, nay, so determined to surrender the white rod. You must see why I do not want this office, this city, this life." He looked so desperate, so fraught with misery, and then, a little wistful.

"A little garden across the Anduin. In Ithilien. Walking the woodland paths together. That is what I hoped for. I thought I saw it."

His voice followed his mind's wandering. He recalled his father's disapproval from the time of his mother's death. Boromir, at ten, could hide his grief, but the five year old Faramir was inconsolable. Denethor's expectations of his growing sons were of stoicism, unquestioning loyalty and focused purpose in the defense of Gondor. Boromir met those expectations but Faramir could not. When Gandalf arrived in Minas Tirith, he found a willing pupil in the Steward's younger son, who thirsted for the knowledge of history, language and lore. Faramir was developing far sight and needed guidance to interpret his growing gift. Denethor, plagued by his own visions, thought it best to deny that aspect of Faramir altogether. He grew ever more jealous of Faramir's high regard for Gandalf, and the wizard's mutual regard. He saw Faramir's allegiance to the wizard as disloyalty. Ultimately, as treason.

My husbands voice betrayed no bitterness now, only regret. No, he had no regrets for his own choices, only his father's. His father likely thought him beyond hope of recovery when he built the pyre. But when he had sent him to take back Osgilliath? That was spite. He vowed he would make his peace with his father's memory. Yet from the other side of the river, seated in a different chair, wearing other garb, perhaps it would have been easier...

His talk ran out. I now took him at his word. I asked him to show me what he had hid from me. I looked steadily, wondering to myself how he had disguised such pain. The burned areas were not as large as I feared, but the scarring damage was permanent. I told him I saw how he was now. And now, as he was, he must come to me.

Chapter 20 Private Audience

When I awoke, it was full of new resolve. Tarynth and Finduin brought Bori back to me washed, changed and hungry. While he made himself content, I rehearsed a speech. I dressed with special care and placed our babe in his sling. If Faramir had a vision of a garden in Ithilien, well and good, but there was no reason I could not try to help it forward. I knew he would be with Prince Imrahil this morning, and sent a little wish that all would go well for Eomer. I came across the courtyard of the White Tree to the Palace of the King. Requesting a private audience with King Elessar, I expected to be sent away again until a later time. I only hoped it would not be much later, or I might loose my nerve. Instead, I was ushered into a receiving room. Soon I heard the rasp of a Dwarfish laugh in the distance, and from the same door, out strode the King.

"Hail Elessar King, my Liege-lord and Healer." I bowed and hoped that had sufficed for protocol.

"It pleases me to have in my service a Lady so valorous and loyal. Please come and sit," he replied without pause. It unnerved me to hear that voice, so restrained yet so powerful. The voice that called me back. I could not yet help but feel he had seen too deeply into my mind. At this point Faramir would have raised his eyebrows to signal me to continue. The King achieved as much with a slight sideways tilt of his head.

"My Lord King, I come on a matter concerning my husband." He nodded for me to go on. "I respectfully request that the Lord Faramir be reconsidered for another office. He must not remain in Minas Tirith."

"Why does he not come on his own behalf?" I anticipated this question, and knew I must tread carefully - neither to appear a meddlesome wife nor cast Fara in a bad light.

"I did not ask his leave to speak with you. He will refuse no office you give him, no command, no task. He put great hope in your return. He means to serve Gondor through you faithfully, without question. But it will cost him too dearly to remain here. My Lord King, the very stones of Minas TIrith are haunted with his losses."

He looked very stern and grim, studying my face. I felt so exposed to meet his eyes, yet I must not falter!

"Perhaps a post in Ithilien somewhere. His experience with the land would serve you well as royal surveyor. He could be stationed as captain of rangers in any region - He is highly respected by his men. He has considerable knowledge of land custodianship. Or, you must have need of an ambassador to treaty with the defeated armies. His skills in diplomacy ... "

"Lady Eowyn," He held up his hands before me to ward off further pleading.

" I do not doubt the Steward has myriad skills, or that you could sit before me all day, discussing the merits of each one."

" It will diminish him. To stay here. He ..."

"My dear lady, the reason that the Lord Faramir must remain the Steward of Gondor is that he possesses the very qualities of which you attest. I need him here. For now. But I will heed your concerns and think of another way to address them. You have my word."

There was my answer.

"I thank you Elessar King, for receiving me. I will not presume further on your time." But he was not done. Peering carefully down at me he said,

"The Lord Steward has shown wisdom, indeed, in his choice of wife. A woman who speaks her mind so directly is a rare fortune. Now - you must also give me your word. You must come to me with your own concerns at any time, dear Lady. But if you have any further concerns for your husband, you will persuade him to come to me himself. As he has placed his hope in me he must also place his trust. Our conversation today will remain between us. But no more."

I gave my word. As I rose to go, he smiled, and took my hand, and chided me.

"But you have been remiss in your duty..." What formula had I forgotten, was there a formal leave-taking?

"You have not introduced my newest subject."

I returned his smile.

"May I introduce Lord Elboron, son of Lord Faramir and Lady Eowyn." Bori sucked on two fingers placidly. He seemed not impressed to hold audience with the King.

Brimming over with curiosity about the outcome of Faramir's intercession on my brother's behalf, I went next to the weapons hall where it was my husband's habit to spend this hour in exercise. The one previous time I had seen him engaged with sword was the orc attack on my journey to Gondor, which offered little opportunity to admire his craft.

Many men were sparring in the large ring, but my eyes were drawn to him at once. His skill was such that his movements seemed effortless, and belied the force of his blows. His advantage was as much from studying his opponent's weakness as from relying on his own considerable strength and agility. I could see some stiffness in the damaged shoulder, yet he was holding back not from pain, but to match the challenge of his opponent. He favored the right leg only slightly now. Seeing me at the side of the galley, he brought the match to a swift conclusion, and strode over to me, grinning.

"Have you come bearing a token of your favor to inspire me?"

"Don't be a goose, husband. You can guess my purpose - did Imrahil give consent to courtship?" I demanded impatiently.

"Ah, not yet, but he has agreed to speak with the King of Rohan, to discuss the parameters of a possible courtship. Even by the standards of Gondor, the ritual excess of Dol Amroth can seem convoluted. Your brother must muster what patience he has, or he will be disappointed."

"His patience may well come into question, but he has determination in abundance."

"That he will need, dear wife! But here is the best of it. I was able to speak with Lothiriel briefly, and she is most intent to proceed. My uncle would not deny her any happiness. Only first he must satisfy himself as to Eomer's character."

"Has my brother heard the outcome?"

"I have not seen him, and must go now to the Hall of Kings. Today embassies of Easterlings will petition for pardon. We will open treaty with Harad by week's end. Next week we will begin hearing charges brought against our own people. Eomer King will sit attendance today, and I may have opportunity to speak with him. If not, I will ask him to supper with us." I thanked him and gave him a moment to stroke Elboron's cheek.

Chapter 21 The Garden Plotted

Several discussions later, it was agreed that Eomer King could court the Lady Lothiriel within the presence of one or both of her brothers, and at least one of her handmaidens. It became high entertainment for my husband and I to discuss the daily progress of the courtship. It was good for Fara's attention to be focused away from an otherwise daunting schedule. I will not deny we laughed at their expense, and in our defense I can only say we sincerely wished them success. That there were hot tears and cold sulks only seemed to spur them on. The volumes of bad poetry credited to my brother at this point, which Lothiriel proudly shared with us in secret conference, had my husband and I privately roaring with delight.

But during much of the time now, there was something in him not himself - as though he had put Faramir away for safekeeping and was now the Steward. One evening we sat before the fire playing with Bori and singing rhymes we both remembered or made up on the spot. Then Fara thought he might try a rhyme to a tune, and took up his lute. After awhile, he grew quiet and took my hand between his.

"Eowyn, I would ask of you a favor."

"What will you, husband?"

"Tomorrow there will be a charge spoken against Beregond. I am honor bound to defend him. But it will not be easy to hear his story recounted, for my part. It would give me strength to have you near."

" Of course I will be there if you wish it. But what charge will they name? Did he not save your life?"

"He did. Yet in doing so, he spilled blood in the Hallows, and abandoned his guard post. Each charge in itself is punishable by death, or exile, depending on the circumstances."

"But surely the circumstances merit pardon!"

My beloved smiled at me so lovingly.

"For your mercy and your good sense alone, dear wife, I would gladly dwell in a land where you pronounced judgment." I knew this was gently making mock. He sometimes chided me for the very reason of being too quick to pass judgment without due consideration. Yet the issue was not what I would decide, but what would the King.

"Will not Merry speak in his defense, and Gandalf?"

"Both will be called, but in the end, the King will pass judgment."

"Do you fear his judgment?"

Fara carefully weighed his answer.

"I do not know. In the past week he has shown much mercy and much strength. But it will not set good precedent if Beregond goes unpunished. He killed two personal guards of the Steward, and broke defense security of the highest order."

"Then, husband, you must persuade the King toward mercy."

I remember that my Uncle Theoden, King of Rohan, once said that strength without mercy made a king a tyrant. But my husband had seen in Elessar strength and mercy both. I remembered King Elessar's promise to me, and wondered when and how his mercy might be shown in that matter. In my chamber I slept uneasily that night, looking for Elboron in my dreams, and dodging heads rolling at my feet.

Beregond stood before the King. His head bowed as he awaited his doom. The Captain of the guard spoke the charges and two remaining personal guards of Denethor testified against him. Then Pippin, and Gandalf, and finally Faramir spoke on his behalf. Since my husband, not conscious at the time, could give no testimony as a witness, he gave instead an endorsement of character. He had known Beregond from childhood. They entered military service on the same day and had been together until the time of Faramir's commission with the Ithilien Rangers. He deemed Beregond a loyal son of Gondor with many recommendations for valor in service, and no prior transgressions.

Then the king stood and said that the charges against Beregond were indeed serious and merited punishment. He said that it was a grave offense for a defender of the realm to leave his post, and to spill the blood of the Steward's Guard. The prescribed penalty for each of these offenses was death, but he would commute the sentence to banishment. Since Beregond's purpose was to save the Lord Faramir's life, Beregond would be exiled to Emyn Arnen, to serve as Captain of the White Company, the Guard of Faramir, Prince of Ithilien.

In one breath, both Beregond and Faramir raised their heads. FIrst to meet the eyes of King Elessar, then each other, then the King again. The King asked my husband to step forward.

"Faramir, son of Denethor, from this day forth I give to you Ithilien as your Princedom. I bid you to dwell in the hills above Emyn Arnen, in sight of the city, and to restore the Garden of Gondor to prosperity. May you and your heirs abide there in honor and in peace, and may Beregond continue to serve you well."

"My King," Faramir replied with great feeling, "For your mercy and your wisdom, may you be ever praised. I pledge this new service to your honor." He did not withhold the joy in his heart, but wore it on his face and all about him. He sought me out with his eyes, then came to share an embrace.

That very evening, my husband, who was now himself and more, began sketching plans for Minas Estel, the Tower of Hope. Fara was very intent on soliciting my contributions. He teased that a great princess must have every comfort and wish she desired. He was anxious that I bring something of my heritage to the dwelling, since "our home should reflect the best of both our people." I noted with pleasure that the plans already contained a very large stable, which was sheltered by the hills, and faced south. I carefully studied the diagram of the palace chambers.

I decided it must now be said.

"Fara, among the Rohirrim, even the high born, there is one sleeping chamber for husband and wife. There is no coming and going, just one room, one bed. That is my wish." He did not look at me or make any quick reply. I held my breath. Then he rubbed out a section of the sketch and raised his eyebrows.

"Then ... your handmaidens, Eowyn, where will they be?" He handed me the stylus, and I quickly drew a line and a few squares.

"Here. See? A few rooms adjoining the other side of my dressing chamber."

He nodded, his lips pressed together, poorly suppressing a smile, his eyes twinkling, "Yes. Yes, a most fine contribution, beloved wife."

Ever our dreams strayed across the Anduin, but a year and more passed before our new dwelling was habitable, and over three before Minas Estel was complete. Though I never felt at home in Minas Tirith, the remaining time we lived there was bearable. The present occupied us with a daunting list of tasks, and the future held such promise. The day of the marriage of Elessar King and Lady Arwen of Rivendell was rapidly approaching. Gondor buzzed with activity. Embassies arrived. Faramir confidently managed an array of dilemmas. Where to house the guests. How the war-depleted stores of Gondor could be made to seem like a feast fit for the wedding of a King and his Elven Queen. How the guests would be seated to respect the honor of all who had lately served with valor in the War of the RIng. How the pageantry of Gondor could be upheld to the satisfaction of a somewhat tradition-bound citizenry, while deferring to the simple tastes of the new King. Each evening Fara came home weary but peaceful and we spent a few quiet hours by the hearth, playing lute and harp, sketching diagrams of Minas Estel and its gardens, playing with Elboron and marveling at his progress as though he were the first child born to man.

I grieved quietly, knowing that soon after the wedding feast, Eomer King would bear Theoden's remains back to Melduseld, for his burial, and I would feel my brother's absence deeply. He was taking on a decidedly morose cast, as his courtship would have to continue by messenger. I doubted that would improve his poetry. But Faramir and I were to accompany Eomer to Rohan and attend the burial rites, and I was anticipated that journey eagerly. Fara and I had been taking short rides onto the Pellenor so that Windfola and I could grow familiar with each other again. Though I returned to the stable each time sore and frustrated with my lack of stamina, it was such a joy to be riding him once more.

Chapter 22 The Queen and the Shadow

Beholding the Lady Arwen for the first time, one forgets to breathe . At King Elessar's coronation, when I met her, I stood nearby and could hear other guests, men and women alike, take in faint gasps of air. I imagined I could see the light right through her, such was her delicate beauty. I felt like a child's rag doll in her presence, made of mismatched scraps, poorly stitched.

My lord husband was a fine looking man of Numenorian ancestry. He was a great hero, and held two high offices. He was comfortable with social discourse, unassuming and kind. He gave one his whole focused attention. Naturally women sought out his company. He was not unaware of this. He could read the hearts of women as well as men. He knew when to be careful. I was growing accustomed to avoiding the thorn of jealousy by remembering the sweet and true bloom of our marriage. Yet as the wedding of the King and his new Queen approached, my husband's office required that he spend much time in conference with Lady Arwen, and with silent wariness, I watched their friendship grow.

While strolling in the gardens of the healing houses one evening, Faramir asked me what I thought of the King's betrothed. Nothing pleases me more than my husband's solicitation of my thoughts and opinions. Yet now I was reluctant.

"She will be Queen of Gondor and is therefore beyond my judgment."

"But, Eowyn, what do you think of her, for my ears only." he teased.

"I think she is very beautiful ..." I ventured.

"Ah, yes, all who have seen her do think so, but do you like her?"

I had no reply. I was forced to consider it. I did not know if I wanted to like her.

"I do not know her well enough to know. I am glad for her that the long courtship she endured will soon be over. I admire her remarkable patience. I think that perhaps she will be lonely here when all of her kind have departed. And I wonder if she will gaze into a looking glass from time to time, imagining how it will feel to grow old and die. I think for all her beauty, I feel a little sorry for her, Queen to a great King or no. Perhaps I will try to like her."

"That will be well." he reflected.

"And you, Fara, do you like her?"

"Ah, well enough ... though her ears are just a bit too peaked for my taste," he teased coyly, touching my own ears and kissing them one by one.

We walked on in companionable silence for awhile.

"Husband, do you know anything of the Lady Arwen's interests?"

"I am told she likes very much to ride."

And so I tried to feel joy for the bride, the Queen Arwen Undomiel, who now stood at the foot of the throne in the Hall of Kings, on the day of her wedding, and I wished her well. But I clearly saw my shadow self standing in that very same place, one year ago, next to the Lord Boromir. I was moved to pity for that sad shadow creature, so unlike Lady Arwen, who stood there now, so serene, so confident in her own future. Then my mind strayed to what I thought of as my "true" marriage, over eight months later. I contrasted the majesty and spectacle of the wedding now taking place with that one, quiet and small, in my husband's private receiving chamber. And then I saw the great Lord Elrond's luminous face, bearing grief and pride in equal measure. I wished I had someone then - father, brother, uncle, or cousin, to give me into my husband's care with such intense love, even a love torn by profound loss.

Many, many faces - elves, men, dwarves and hobbits alike were now moved to tears. But I know I cried a little for my shadow self before the throne. She imagined then that she would ever see her hearts desire, just out of reach - the very man who now stood at my side. I wanted to go to her and whisper, "Do not worry, only a few hours more. You will make a choice between reason and your heart. It will be the right choice. You will see."

Having pronounced their vows, King Elessar and Queen Arwen turned toward us, and I thought back to the volume of verse Fara passed to me on my journey from Rohan, of The Elf, Luthien Tinuviel, and her beloved hero Beren. The faces of the King and Queen spoke so clearly of love endured through long travails, much like those folk of ages past. All here knew how long ago they were betrothed, and how much they had both endured to gain this moment. If my husband had put that volume in my hands now, I would not have scorned it, but seen it as a token of hope that it was.

Chapter 23 A New Sword, A New Sister

By week's end, I was returning to Edoras. The King of Rohan led the procession, followed by the remains of Theoden King flanked by an honor guard of Rohirrim. The King and Queen of Gondor followed with the King's Guard. Then the Prince of Dol Amroth with his Swan Knights and his sons and daughter. Then came the Prince and Princess of Ithilien, with our White Guard. Frodo and Sam, Pippin and Merry, Legolas and GImli and Gandalf moved freely among their friends, old and new. Bori rode in one of the wains with Tarynth and FInduin, to which I went often. I could not bear to ride in a wain myself, but carrying our son on a horse was imprudent. If the horse stumbled in a hole ... Ai, I could not bear to think of it. More wains carrying grain and other staples rode with us. Though the supplies of Gondor were low, those of Rohan were wiped out by the recent wars. We all hoped for a good spring planting, but that was months away. Still, with careful management, there would be no famine.

A traveling party of that size, with many wains, moved very slowly, and we were seven days traveling before we reached Edoras. The good cheer of the recent wedding lightened the spirits of the travelers. Around the evening campfires, there was much entertainment. The Hobbits told tales and sang songs. The Swan Knights sang in chorus. I had encouraged Fara to bring his lute, and he was persuaded to play one evening, by Lothiriel, who fondly remembered his talent from her childhood. I listened to his beautiful playing, a cascade of harmonies slipping over and around a soothing liquid melody. I watched his fingers glide across the strings When did he stop chewing his nails? They were now well grown in. I was confounded that I had not noticed before.

Later, in the tent we shared, I took one of his hands, remarking on it. His lopsided smile flashed across his face.

"Old habits are for old times, dear wife. So much is now made new. "

"And yet, are not the new times built upon the old?" I mused dreamily.

He hesitated a moment, then sprang to his feet with purpose.

"Yes! That is the very reason for what I mean to give you now. I thought to please you, but then, well, I wondered belatedly if you would not prefer to leave the past alone."

What was he talking about? At times he beat around the bush so much the weasel escaped. He went to some saddle packs of his belongings, and drew something out. He unsheathed a blade and carefully placed it across my lap. I examined it. It was a sword, beautifully re-crafted from the hilt of my old sword. This was elven work! I hesitated to weigh it, expecting the hilt to be as cold as when last I held it. Looking up, I saw anxious anticipation in his eyes. I took the grip and held my breath. There was no shock of ice, rather a warm surge of confidence. I stood and tried it.

"When you ride forth to greet your people. I would not have you as you left, bereft of your sword." He offered, seeing that I was pleased.

"The hilt, it was all that remained ... " he trailed off, careful not to mention the WItch King.

"I thank you, Beloved Husband, this gift speaks to my heart!"

As we came closer to Rohan, the mood of the party turned somber.

As Theoden's kin, Eomer and I were to ride side by side into Edoras escorting the casket of the King. When the time came, Fara kissed my brow and fell behind with the White Guard. Soon the people began appearing in small gatherings at the roadside, then in greater numbers. They were shouting "Hail Eomer King! Hail Eowyn, Shield Arm! Farewell to the Hall of Your Ancestors, Theoden King!" It was the Rhorric tradition to withhold tears. Alas, I had dwelt in the White City too long.

Theoden was mourned in state for three days, and finally laid to rest. Though there was lingering sorrow for the loss of such a great man, who had been father to both Eomer and I since our childhood, we had by now made our peace with his passing to the Great Golden Hall.

The chief riders of all the eoreds then paid formal obeisance to my brother, and gave great respect to Elessar and the other members of the Fellowship. Some fuss was made over my part in the victory of the Pellenor, and I tried to receive the lays and verses of tribute as the honor they were meant to be. What pleased me most was the respect shown to my husband. My brother made several toasts in his honor, and his chiefs greeted Fara as befitted a great hero and Prince.

It was my brother's wish that I spend the next few days helping him manage the order and dispersal of the personal belongings of our uncle. This was not so difficult a task, as Theoden was not a man given to lordly excess. What wealth he had was shared as part of our Hall, and not hoarded as personal effects. But we did go through some of his raiment, his journals, mementos and the like. One thing we did puzzle over was a slim journal not written in his hand. It was neither in Rhorric nor Westron, but I thought I recognized it as Sindarin, which Faramir might be able to read. Eomer suggested I bring it back with me as he had no interest in it. Later my brother bitterly regretted this casual permission, but not for several years.

During this time, Lothiriel and I began to nurture a friendship. She was something of a cypher to me, up until this point. I had felt some kinship that we both grew up motherless and sisterless, and felt attached to our brothers. Also I was pleased that she showed so much attention and affection toward Bori. But I worried that her attachment to Eomer was born of frivolous sentiment with slight consideration. They seemed to have little in common but a love of mischief and drama. Also I was apprehensive that one look at our Great Hall - beautiful, but no doubt primitive by the standards of Gondorian comfort and splendor, would send her on her way. But she was very taken by our culture and tradition, not just the novelty of it, but it's very spirit. Everything was of keen interest to her, and she asked many questions. Having grown up cosseted with fine raiment and jewels, the lavish attention of society at the court of Dol Amroth, and several handmaidens, she must have seen that to be the Queen of Rohan, though an advancement in title, would not increase her comfort or security. She confided in me that she was intent to leave behind a life of little substance to begin one of meaning with my brother, and she did not want to enter into it in ignorance, but I must help her to know how to proceed. This I did, and I also confided in her something of my own feeling of inadequacy as the wife of a Prince of Gondor. I felt I was yet seen as Fara's wild shield mistress, lacking in grace and culture.

"Dear Sister!", (she already named me thus!) "You are of two minds - you wish to be the jewel in your husband's crown, yet you have no love or respect for the trappings of court society. You must stop this nonsense! Can you not see he worships you as you are? He has no fondness in his heart for the insincerity, for the gossip and jockeying for power or the petty snubs and alliances of the women at court. I think he would be disappointed in you if you did embrace them."

I took her meaning to my heart, yet I was pleased that she took time and care to help me with suggestions regarding my raiment, my manner of speech, and other small but key formalities. For my part, I gifted her with one of my old saddles, and taught her to ride astride, much to her delight and to the scandal of her father and brothers. I told her what duties she would be honored to perform in the Great Hall and in the towns and villages of the Riddermark. This was before any betrothal was announced, but we knew that Eomer King and the Prince of Dol Amroth had entered into a second level of negotiations. Eomer was eager to press forward but Imrahil felt that the courtship had been too hasty. He would consent to an announcement only if the betrothal was endured one full year. Eomer reluctantly agreed.

And so, the day before we were to return to Minas Tirith, our final dinner was in celebration of the betrothal. That evening, Lothiriel and my brother came to Fara and I begging that we let her stay with us for some part of the year, as it was known that King Eomer would spend some time visiting Minas Tirith discussing further alliance with King Elessar. Lothiriel and Eomer could not bear to be parted for so long as a year! Fara mused that our consent would serve two purposes. We could give joy to those we loved, and when we had to escort Lothi back to Dol Amroth at some later time, he could finally take me to the Bay of Belfalas. With Prince Imrahil's consent, we came back to Minas TIrith with a new and very welcome guest.

Chapter 24 The Garden Sewn

It is a winter pastime in farming holdings to gather sacks of seeds and corms, anticipating the next spring garden. These sacks are hoarded, traded, bartered and gifted as heirlooms. The merits of each plant is weighed and evaluated in planning next year's hopeful bounty. So it was that Fara and I began to look toward Emyn Arnen and plan for our home. We needed so much! Beregond was the one factor already established, a valorous and capable new Captain of the White Guard. But the White Company itself had been all but decimated, and though some few remaining men wished to come across the Anduin with us, others preferred to remain in Minas Tirith as part of the newly formed King's Guard, and rightly so. The Ithilien Rangers, to a man, re-pledged service to their former Captain, and were now retraining in calvary combat, though their former skills would ever be useful in a largely wooded region. Many families had been exiled from Ithilien in former generations when Sauron's reach put their homes in peril. As they began to return over the river, they now pledged us sons to train, in a gesture of establishing allegiance to the new Prince. Nyliss was persuaded by Fara to rejoin the White Guard. His health had fully recovered, as much from the solicitous attention of the Anfalan cook, Sobak, as from his spicy stews. Nyliss strongly hinted that if we were in need of an expert in the kitchen, we should consider such a capable man. And so our head cook was designated. Tarynth and Beregond were soon to be wed, to our delight! Tarynth also applied to be the new Warden of our House of Foundlings. She began training with Selianth, who though her too young to head a house, of course. Soon Tarynth proposed that two of the oldest girls still dwelling in that house, who were willing and capable, come with her as assistants. She also recommended two more girls who were too old to stay in the Houses, but had not been placed elsewhere, to be trained by Finduin as handmaidens. Finduin, for her part, was anticipating being nurse to a great brood of the Prince's House, (so she taunted me) and was happy for the help.

Then a grizzled old stable master Aldor, arrived from Rohan to deliver my brother's belated wedding gift. He took a look around the new stable, declared he had been ready for a change of scenery, and settled in. He said that the sound of the rushing waterfalls soothed his old nerves, but I do not think he had any. It was well that he was well skilled with horse lore and the fine beasts themselves, because I do not think even Fara's diplomacy could have persuaded him to move on.

I was very concerned to establish a sound Houses of Healing, and made a careful search for a new warden. But I did not find one until we brought Lothi back to her father. The new recruit was Delianth, an assistant to the Warden of the Healing Houses of Dol Amroth, and I felt an instant rapport with her. It did much to advance her case that she helped to rid Bori of a stubborn cough with which he arrived. But her fussiness with stitching a wound won me over completely. Moreover, she felt more than ready for the responsibility of her own house.

But I have gotten slightly ahead of myself. In the late spring, when we took Lothi back to Dol Amroth to prepare for her wedding, I finally beheld the Bay of Belfalas. I suppose that it was the very color of my eyes, and Bori's too, but what amazed me was it's vastness.

Fara taught me how to swim, which was very soothing in the cool briny water. Bori, who was himself determined to become a fish, swelled the pride of his great-uncle Imrahil. Apparently it was a family tradition to learn to swim before walking. Bori was an expert crawler and could say my name and his father's after his own fashion, but had yet to walk.

Soon Prince Imrahil had little time for sentiment of any kind. His beaches were invaded by hoards of Rohirrim planting tents and anticipating celebration.

On his wedding day, my beloved brother looked as fine as I had ever seen him. It was no trick of raiment but the joy in his heart. His beloved bride was resplendent. So began a loving and fruitful marriage, one of many in the year or two following the War of the Ring.

At last we departed the wedding feast, stopped at Minas TIrith to take leave of the King and Queen, and collected our new assemblage to cross the river together. We were something of a motley Princedom. Our chief commonalities were optimism, loyalty and a sense of adventure. We arrived at Minas Estel as the sun was setting, and Elboron decided to walk over his new threshold, twelve steps, all by himself.