So very beautiful, Faramir thought. She is so very beautiful. Her gleaming hair of gold, the ivory curve of her hips and shoulders, the dark pink tips of her breasts...

"Here is another deed to be signed, my lord."

With a nod of thanks, the steward took the scroll and sat at the long table. He loosened the red silk tape and unrolled the parchment. "In the presence of these witnesses do I, Barahil son of Baran, give unto Duinhir of Dol Amroth title to these five acres of land in return for ten marks of gold and a good and seaworthy boat."

Faramir stared at page and read the first sentence again. "In the presence of these witnesses do I, Barahil son of Baran, give unto Duinhir of Dol Amroth title to these five acres of land in return for ten marks of gold and a good and seaworthy boat."

The salty taste of her skin, skin as soft as a newly-opened leaf...

Already he had forgotten the words he had just read. It has been over two months since we were married; am I doomed to distraction for the rest of my life? He forced his eyes to follow the curly script across the page. "The boundaries of this property are marked by a row of white stones." He stared at the last two words and thought of Éowyn's white breasts rising and falling with each shallow breath she took, her eyes half-closed and her lips half-parted...

Faramir put a hand to his forehead and pretended to study the deed. Her lips half-parted... Yet she rarely makes a sound. And when she does, I cannot tell if the cries are from pleasure or pain.

"My lord, are you feeling quite well?" The court clerk looked closely at his face.

"No...I mean, yes."

"We have been working since early morning, my lord; perhaps you need a breath of fresh air."

Promising to return in the afternoon, Faramir left the archives of the King's Court. The streets were crowded with soldiers and craftsmen hurrying to their midday meal. Before heading toward their house in the Citadel, he stopped at a small bakery to buy some honey cakes for Éowyn.

He had teased her about her great liking for honey; perhaps he was wed to a bear and not a woman? Looking up from her weaving, she had asked him, "Have you never heard tell of the berserkers, warriors who were half bear and half man? Maddened by the lust of battle, they grew claws as sharp as swords and heavy fur that turned aside arrows. Brave men threw down their spears and fled before their onslaught." Éowyn had brandished the long weft-beater like a sword as she spoke. "And, indeed, it is said that the berserkers did like honey, being bears and also men. But you need not worry, min leofa husband—it has been many years since a berserker was born in the House of Eorl." Then with a slight smile, she had turned back to her work at the loom. Laughing, he had leaned down to kiss the top of her head; how he loved this strong and clever woman and he wanted nothing more than to make her happy.

Yet despite her smiling looks during the day, when she lay in his arms at night, he caught glimpses of disquiet on her face. Well she knew how to hide her feelings, for she had had years of practice while Wormtongue had spied on her, trying to snare her in his traps. Faramir could see that she was ill at ease; though often, when they were done with their sport, she would lay her head on his breast and say that she was well content with her husband. Undeserved praise, Faramir thought, I fear I am less than skillful in bed.

He hurried with long strides toward the seventh gate. In front of him, a young man and a maiden stopped by the fountain. They stood, hands clasped, laughing as the wind blew the spray upon them. Red ribbons fluttered as the maiden's long, black hair billowed and streamed behind her.

Faramir had never courted the women of the City, never bought them bright ribbons or walked hand in hand. How could he treat with them honestly when he was of higher rank? He could not wed them as equals, and it would have been ill done to bed them for his passing pleasure. The woman alone bore the risk of harm in that venture. To his shame, he had once stumbled after a tavern maid into the darkness of the stables. Later, he could recall little about their lovemaking, only the smell of brandy on her breath and then the joy of his release. This, the paltry sum of his fleshly knowledge. But for most of his life, he had lived as a soldier in the field, far from any womenfolk. After a day spent scrambling over the broken countryside, soaked by rain and in constant peril, he had wanted nothing more than to sleep. That he slept alone had been the least of his concerns, and in due course, his weary body would see to its own needs.

Thirty-six years of age, a scholar and captain of rangers, and on their wedding night, he had been as green as a newly-cut stave of wood. He had dreaded that the first coupling would hurt her. She was so unbearably small and soft, and he was nearly twice her weight. Though he had ached with longing at the sight of her nakedness, he had forced himself to move slowly--listening to the sound of her breath, watching her flushed face, aware of the slightest shifting of the body underneath him.

Yet he knew little of this art, and from Éowyn's wary glances, he deemed that something was amiss. What was he doing wrong? And who could advise him in this private matter? He longed for the calm counsel of Imrahil, but his uncle had already taken ship to Dol Amroth. After the wedding, his surviving friends had returned to the East, where the armies of Gondor still hunted for the remnants of the foe. Though some of his rangers talked knowingly of women, he could scarcely reveal his ignorance to them. In the libraries of Minas Tirith, he had learned the abstract lore of numbers, the patterns of the stars, and the healing secrets of herbs; yet his studies had not included this, the most arcane of subjects.

Books of healing! Faramir stopped suddenly.

"Pardon, my lord!" a farmer sputtered as his basket of turnips slammed into Faramir's back.

"No, the fault is mine," Faramir said as he helped the man pick up his wares. Then he strode through the winding streets and half ran up the marble steps of the library. He raised a hand in greeting as he passed the cluttered table where the head loremaster sat. Old Eradan looked up with a vague smile, then went back to squinting at the scroll in his hands. Farther down the corridor, Faramir knelt on the floor beside a wall of shelves. Here were kept the precious texts about healing.

Where is it? Faramir muttered as he pulled another volume from the bottom shelf. At last, he lifted out a book and carried it to a nearby table. Incised on the tattered leather binding was the title "Treatises on the Art of Healing."

Years ago, his cousin Eldahil had discovered this book, during one of his rare forays into the library. He had shared the secret with Faramir and Boromir and several other lads; they had huddled around the well-worn book, whispering and studying the illustrations with rapt attention, until Master Eradan had chased them away.

Faramir turned through pages and pages of brightly-colored innards, crimson hearts and purple spleens, until he reached the chapter about "The Secret Parts." Across the yellowed parchment, naked men and women shamelessly caressed and intertwined. Giant members sprang like overgrown mushrooms between the men's legs. All women had smiling, rosy faces and long, wavy hair; their huge breasts were as round as melons above their smooth bellies. What in Middle-Earth are they doing? Faramir wondered as he stared at one of the drawings.

At each sound of a footstep, he looked over his shoulder. These touches, these stances, these...seemed most immodest. He stretched out his legs under the table and shifted in the oak chair. His young wife would blush with shame if he even suggested doing that. Or, worse yet, that. Perhaps the text of the treatise would be more helpful than the illustrations.

The healer's advice was written in a tiny, almost unreadable hand. "Once manhood is reached, this is a natural need, no different than the need to eat or sleep, and just as the body craves food and rest, it must find release for these urges." Faramir skimmed farther down the page. "Because the woman is composed of cold humors, she desires to be warmed by the flesh of her bedmate. Yet since the woman is by nature modest and shy, her husband must know how to kindle her desire. Place your hand gently but firmly on her..." Faramir leaned closer to the page and squinted; the words were badly smudged.

"Did you find what you needed, my lord?" The ancient voice was as dry as parchment.

Faramir sat up with a start, quickly closing the book.

With a raised eyebrow, the head loremaster read the bindings. "Treatises on the Art of Healing by Envinyatar of Emyn Galen."

Faramir decided that this aged man was not so near-sighted as he seemed.

"A most popular book, my lord," Old Eradan said with a slight cough, "with scholars both young and old."

Faramir felt his face turn red, even while he fought the urge to laugh. As soon as the loremaster had walked away, the steward opened the book and resumed his studies.

To be continued...