-1Disclaimer: I only borrow Tolkien's world…I return all when I'm done playing.
A/N - Please note that I have TWO SEPARATE series! They are NOT connected in any way! This story falls under the Undying Friendship Series which includes these stories in chronological order: (1) Never, In All My Days (2) Instruction In Youth (3) Preparations (4) Hold To Hope and Not Give Into Fear (5) I Am Of The House Of Eorl (6) Birthday Celebrations (7) Catching A Steward Off His Guard (8) Never Again (9) Where Once My Enemy Stood (10) Offering Nothing More Than Tears (11) Never Alone (12) Memories In Wood (13) Every Year On The First Day Of March
Catching a Steward Off His Guard
by Nieriel Raina
The air was beginning to warm and the birds were beginning their northward migration. As the sun climbed above the horizon and shone down on the White City, it began to teem with life. In the Citadel, servants were in a flurry of movement, and nobles likewise prepared for the grand feast in honor of Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, who was visiting Minas Tirith as he always did in the spring. The banquet was always a grand affair and all the lords and ladies of the court and those of nearby Ithilien customarily received invitations to the festive event. Most gladly accepted the invitation to attend and the Steward of Gondor and his family were no exception.
Upon their arrival, Faramir and Eowyn were delighted to see his uncle once again, for it had been almost a year since they had last laid eyes upon Imrahil. Faramir was eager to show off how much their children had grown and changed since they had last seen the prince of Dol Amroth in Rohan, for the birth of Eomer and Lothiriel's second child. Imrahil had taken quickly to young Elboron, the Steward's eight year old son, ten months ago and simply picked up with the boy where they had left off. The youngster was charming and outgoing, much like his deceased uncle Boromir, but the child was also a deep thinker like his father.
The youngest, newly turned three year old Kaila, was exactly what Imrahil expected her mother had been like at that age. Shy and bold, fiery and meek, warm and cold all in the same little package. Like the winds on the plains of Rohan, her moods shifted unexpectedly. Age would give her wisdom to temper her moods as it had Eowyn, at least Imrahil hoped. The family spent a large part of the afternoon together, talking and sharing their experiences of the last year. As night began to descend and time for the banquet approached, the children were whisked off for their baths, with promises to spend many days doing fun and exciting things.
Assured that Eowyn would join him shortly, Faramir made his way to the great hall, where the men routinely met and discussed matters of state before the feast began. As he arrived in lavishly decorated room, the Steward's eyes quickly found the King and he made his way over to speak with him.
Aragorn smiled as his steward joined him, reaching out to clasp the man's arm. "It is good to see you again, my friend! It has been awhile. How do things fare in Ithilien?" The King asked.
"It is good to see you as well, my King. Ithilien fares well, though I am sorry Legolas is unable to join us." Faramir spoke thoughtfully and Aragorn immediately sensed that something was amiss, for the Lord of Asca Nen usually attended these feasts.
"Did you see him, Faramir? He has turned down my last two invitations to visit. It is not like him to stay away so long." The King's voice showed his concern for his absent friend.
"Aye, I saw him only a week ago. He brought his regrets personally, and asked that I speak them to you. He looked well, but something was not quite right. When I questioned him about it, he simply shrugged it off, saying there was some problems with the new area they are restoring. Some of the trees are not responding or some such thing. I still cannot read him as well as you can, so I know not if he was being completely truthful or hiding behind an excuse." Faramir had learned early on that the elf could be less than honest when it came to his own well being. Legolas never actually lied, just conveniently withheld information.
Aragorn nodded his head, understanding exactly what the steward meant. "He can hide his true feelings quite well when he wants to, the deceitful elf." Both men chuckled softly and the King continued. "I will miss his presence here, though I am sure he happily forgoes the dancing! Legolas must surely be relieved to miss the opportunity to socialize with the ladies who line up for his favor. They will be greatly disappointed that our handsome elf will not be in attendance. Though I cannot say I blame him after my birthday celebration last spring. Did you not catch him sneaking off?"
The steward nodded, smiling. "Indeed I did. I found him quietly climbing over a balcony rail, with the intention of never returning after…how did he put it? Ah, yes, …after that pesky dwarf allowed the situation to escalate into an 'incident'."
Aragorn smiled he remembered that fateful evening. "Undeniably an evening we will never forget! Legolas would have given anything, I am sure to have been able to disappear into the garden undetected."
Faramir grinned, "He was fortunate you were able to talk some sense into the Lady's father. Though if he and Gimli had not started that debate about begetting, he would not have been distracted and the Lady surely would never have been able to sneak up on him as she did. I do not think he will ever ask another Lady to dance."
"Agreed," Aragorn chuckled. "Speaking of sneaking, has she managed to catch you yet?"
"Nay, but she is determined. Ever since she overheard us speaking of the rangers and their abilities to move silently, she has tried to sneak up on me to no avail. I love her dearly, Aragorn, and she has more than earned her reputation with a sword, but light of foot she is not. Growing up in the hall of Meduseld does not give one the skills of a ranger." Faramir laughed and shook his head in amusement, "She continues to try, but I doubt she will ever succeed. She treads almost as loudly as a Mumakil!"
Aragorn grinned, "Sam would insist you call it an Oliphant! But indeed, a ranger caught off guard by a Lady would be a most embarrassing place to find oneself, I imagine." He spoke calmly, but his mind drifted to a dark night years ago in the gardens of Imladris.
He had been deep in thought, his future heavy on his mind. He never heard the light steps behind him or the sound of steel being drawn from a sheath, so lost was he in his contemplations. The words that broke him out of his reverie would ever haunt him.
"What's this? A ranger caught off his guard?"
His brothers had gotten much amusement out of that night…when their efforts had paid off, and Arwen had caught him entirely off guard, sword to his throat in the dark. The King inwardly cringed. It seemed every elf in Imladris found out about that incident, and Arwen had taunted him long for that single occurrence, when she had finally managed to steal upon him unawares. Aragorn was grateful it had never been brought up here in Gondor. Arwen would regret it greatly if she ever told anyone about that night. Surely, she would not say such things about her husband, he thought.
"It is not a situation I would enjoy finding myself in, by any means!" Faramir added with a smile.
Without warning, the steward froze. Aragorn saw the slight panic as his friend's eyes widened and he stood very still. A dagger appeared at the Steward's throat, and a pale arm wrapped around his chest, holding him firmly to whoever was behind him. Aragorn's hand went to Anduril hanging at his side, but stayed its course as a feminine voice spoke.
"What's this? My husband caught off his guard?"
All eyes in the room, it seemed, turned upon the scene unfolding in front of him. Aragorn's eyes scanned behind Faramir and caught sight of Arwen, a smug smile in place on her face. Yes, she would regret this. He would make sure of it.
The dagger was carefully removed from Faramir's neck as Eowyn's arm slowly trailed from her husband's shoulders. She walked silently, tauntingly around him, coming to stand a couple of paces in front of him.
The White Lady stood there sedately and spoke quietly once more. "It would seem I no longer tread as loudly as an Oliphant, love. You may thank Legolas for his patience in teaching me when we get home."
Faramir stood there, staring at his wife, completely unaware his mouth was hanging half way to his chest.
Eowyn had an almost unreadable expression on her face, though the very perceptive caught the slight twitches of her lips in an upwards direction. The White Lady walked demurely over to her husband and reached out a hand. She lifted Faramir's jaw, returning it to its proper place, then kissed him sweetly on the cheek. Turning she walked away and did not once look back for fear of completely losing her composure.
Aragorn and Faramir watched as she walked away, frowns creasing both of their brows. The men glanced at each other, completely thunderstruck; their eyes wandering back to the Lady, who was walking towards the queen.
Arwen met the Lady of Ithilien and politely asked if she would like a breath of fresh air before the feasting began. At Eowyn's pleasant acceptance, they both walked serenely to the closest balcony and through the door.
Sounds of feminine laughter filled the night air as the two women could no longer contain their mirth. Both doubted the Steward of Gondor, not to mention the King, would ever be caught so off guard again.
A/N - Please note that the 'incident' with Legolas and the Lady is from the story Birthday Celebrations.
Also note that while I have pulled from the movie, I have also changed that infamous scene to a time when Aragorn was alone in a garden years before he brought the hobbits from Bree. I LOVE that scene, but cannot accept Arwen's replacing Glorfindel or managing to catch Aragorn off guard in such a situation. It is far more feasible for this to have happened in a setting where Aragorn was relaxed and distracted. Therefore, I consider this bookverse.