After Faramir finished studying the "Treatises on the Art of Healing," he returned to his work in the archive. He dutifully tried to turn his mind to quitclaims and deeds and life interests in land, yet ever his thoughts strayed to the painted images in the text and he saw again the smiling women with their huge breasts and smooth bellies. And then, as surely as an arrow to its mark, his thoughts flew next to Éowyn as she lay with him at night, her white breasts half hidden by the golden cascade of her hair. And then he would clench his fists, pressing his fingernails into his palms, until the pain drove away these errant thoughts.
The city bell had long since struck the seventh hour after noon when he signed the last scroll and pressed his signet ring into the blob of red wax. In what seemed like an agony of slowness, pen, ink and parchment were carefully put away, then Faramir thanked the clerk of the court and wished him good night. With hurried steps, he left the archive and took the street that rose toward the Citadel.
"Lord Faramir, this is good fortune indeed." Hurin the Tall stepped into his path. "We need your counsel on the matter of the arrow slits. The work cannot go forward until it is settled." After listening to his tale, Faramir offered to meet with the stonemasons in the morning. No sooner had he bid Lord Hurin farewell, then two friends stopped to greet him and ask after Éowyn. Next, a merchant from Dol Amroth, new to Minas Tirith, asked him the way to the guest house. By the time Faramir reached the sixth circle, his stride had lengthened until he was half-running toward the Steward's house.
Whenever her duties and the weather allowed, Éowyn sat in the open courtyard and often he would find her there, embroidering a shirt or studying the household account books, but today the marble benches were empty. After a few words to the aged porter, Faramir slipped in the main door and started across the great hall.
"I will speak with Lady Éowyn about the silver spoons," a voice droned from the front of the hall. The seneschal stood talking with the housekeeper and the cook. Faramir darted into the side aisle, keeping to the shadows and taking cover behind the stone columns. From long practice in the woods of Ithilien, he could walk almost silently at need, even on a floor of polished marble. Only a few short steps and he would reach the chambers he shared with Éowyn.
"And what about the matter of the turnips?" the cook asked in a sharp voice.
None of them had turned to look his way, and it seemed that he might yet escape unseen. He stole out a side door and into the hallway that led to the back of the house.
Faramir passed the weaving room, where a maidservant worked alone, her dark head bent close to the threads; the bench before Éowyn's loom was empty. He had not stopped to think that she might not be in the house. What if she were away, gone to the stables or to visit a friend? She might not return for hours. All day he had yearned for the touch of her skin, and to wait any longer would be a sore trial.
When he reached the door to their sitting room, he was relieved to hear a woman's voice singing with tuneless cheer in the language of Rohan. Éowyn's back was turned to him as she leaned over the small table, arranging forks and knives. "The river ran red with the blood of our foes" she sang as she worked. In the haven of their own rooms, she had unbound her hair so that waves of pale gold flowed down to her waist. She swung about at the sound of his footsteps and hurried across the floor to meet him. With the basket of honey cakes still clutched in his hand, Faramir drew her into an awkward embrace.
"The hours were long without you, my husband," she said, resting her head on his shoulder and laying a hand over his heart. How he loved to hear her speak! Her Sindarin was flawless as befitted the daughter of kings, yet the cadence and rhythm of the words echoed the language of her people. He prayed that she would never lose this northern manner of speech.
"You were never far from my thoughts," Faramir replied, and this was not untrue. He untangled his arms from her long hair and flowing sleeves and held out the basket. "I bring honey cakes for the fairest of berserkers."
With a small cry of joy, his wife took the gift. "Berserker you call me? I may not share these, man of Gondor." She set the basket on the small table. Faramir was surprised to see cutlery and plates set out; by custom, the steward and his lady took the evening meal with the rest of the household. "I thought it would be pleasant to eat alone in our chambers tonight," Éowyn told him.
"Good. Then I can rid myself of this." He unbuckled his swordbelt and stood the weapon against the wall. Éowyn stepped into the hallway, and he heard her say, "Tell Cook that Lord Faramir has returned."
When she came back, he put an arm around her waist and buried his face in the bright softness of her hair. Éowyn tilted her head back and smiled up at him, her lips slightly parted. Faramir remembered his studies in the library. How he longed to put his newfound learning into practice! He knew just what he would start with, that caress in the second page of the chapter. Now that he could feel her warm flesh through her gown, it was torment to wait any longer. He wanted nothing more than to unfasten the gown and draw it from her smooth shoulders, unpeeling it slowly from the curves of her waist and hips until the cloth fell in a heap around her ankles and then-- At least let her eat first. The hour is late, and no doubt she is hungry, he reminded himself, a little ashamed at the strength of his own desire.
Though he ached to finish what they had started, Faramir drew away and took a seat at the table. "I see that Morwen still sits at the loom. How goes the tapestry?" Éowyn and her maidens were weaving a gift for her brother's wedding.
Éowyn poured some wine and handed him a cup. "My loom sat idle today for I had business at the library and then I paid a visit to Freydis Freawine's daughter. Indeed, Master Eradan said I missed you by but an hour."
Faramir tried not to choke on the wine as he swallowed. "Did you find the books you needed?"
"Yes, Master Eradan helped me," Éowyn said, blushing.
"There is no shame in asking for help," Faramir told her. "Indeed, old Eradan knows every book and scroll in that library."
He was about to ask what books she was reading when the servants arrived, carrying in heavily-laden trays from the kitchen. As Éowyn lifted the covers, steam rose from the food and the air was fragrant with the earthen smell of mushrooms, the green bite of onion, and the mineral bitterness of the sea.
She ladled the leek soup into bowls and then offered him roasted coney and oysters pickled in vinegar. Wild mushrooms, gathered from the Pelennor fields, glistened in a buttery sauce. This had been a much-loved dish since the days of his childhood, so he did not tell her to stop until she had spooned a small mountain onto his plate. An earthenware dish held smoked eel and hard-boiled eggs wrapped in a tender wheat crust. He also took some of the carrots glazed with honey and the sliced cucumbers drizzled with oil and savory herbs.
The meal looked and smelled wonderful, yet Faramir could not help but note that all these foods shared a common virtue. Soldiers were wont to laugh and jest if the company cook served mushrooms or leeks, and even the "Treatises on the Art of Healing" said that eating these vegetables would make a man steadfast in bed. And, likewise, were the rabbit and oysters widely known for….
I read too much into simple chance, Faramir thought, spearing another mushroom with his fork. Ever my thoughts go astray on this path. The sitting room opened onto their bedchamber, and from his seat at the table, he looked with longing at the curtained bed and tried to remember every touch and every twining from the "Treatises." Faramir wished he had taken notes.
When they had finished their meal, Éowyn called for the servants. A cool breeze flowed down from the mountain heights so the shutters were drawn and charcoal piled high in the braziers. The dishes were cleared from the table and replaced by a bowl of daisies. After thanking the servants for their trouble, Éowyn closed the door to the hallway. Faramir rejoiced, for at last he was alone with his wife.
She walked to the bedchamber, untying her girdle as she walked. He followed her and sat on edge of the bed. The white cat rose from the pillows and hopped to the floor, in search of a quieter place to sleep. He leaned down to pull off his boots then wiggled his toes with a sigh of relief. At a sudden prickle under his backside, he jumped to his feet. A sprig of southernwood lay on the coverlet. He pressed the grey-green leaves between his fingers and breathed in the sharp scent. Branches garlanded the wooden posts and were scattered across the bed. The country folk knew this herb as "maiden's ruin," but Faramir reminded himself that it was also used to drive away vermin.
"Are there insects in the bed? It is strewn with southernwood. "
"No, I do not believe so," Éowyn replied, looking down as she stepped out of her slippers. No further answer was forthcoming.
Faramir lifted one of the bolsters to shake away the herbs. A handful of acorns rolled across the coverlet and rattled to the floor. Are there squirrels in the bed? he wondered, but he decided it wiser not to ask.
When she fumbled to reach the cords that laced the back of her gown, he rose from the bed and came to her aid. As he loosened the ties, his hands strayed to follow the curves of her body. She stirred under his touch, murmuring as he lingered over her breasts. Then the gown fell away and she stepped out of the heavy folds of cloth to stand before him in her linen shift. He wondered anew at her loveliness, her hair gleaming in the firelight, her mouth parted like a half-opened flower. She reached up to clasp her hands behind his neck, drawing him down to meet her in a kiss. He wrapped his arms around her and covered her lips with his own. After a time, they drew apart and he began to fumble with the clasp on his belt.
"Wait, lord husband," Éowyn said. Her face had flushed as pink as a rose. "You helped me with the lacing; let me now return the good deed. You need not move; just stay there." Faramir was somewhat surprised at this unwonted offer but was hardly displeased as his half-naked wife unbuckled his belt then helped him draw the tunic over his head. Her lips grazed his, and then there followed a second kiss, deeper and longer than the first. He wanted nothing more than to strip off his breeches and take her even as they stood there. It was both a torment and a delight to wait as she unfastened the front of his shirt and drew it from his shoulders. Her body brushed lightly against him as she worked. Her shift was of the finest linen and did little to hide the dark tips of her breasts or the full curves of her hips. Now was the time to heed the advice in the second page of the chapter. He tried to remember just what he needed to do. I am to put my hand gently but firmly on her--
He forgot about the "Treatises" as Éowyn unfastened his breeches and slowly worked them down to his ankles. She untied the drawstring to his braies, tugged the cloth from his hips, and then—
He almost fell to his knees, but he prayed she would not stop. Where did she learn to give such pleasure? he wondered to himself, but the only sound he could form was a low groan. Catching at the linen shift, he quickly pulled it over her head and cast it aside. The bed was too great a distance away; they fell together to the floor. As he moved to cover her with his body, she put her hands on his shoulders and gently but firmly guided him onto his back. Full willing, he yielded, scarce daring to wonder what other surprises this night would bring. He choked back a cry as she knelt astride his hips then slowly bore down on him. Cold sweat trickled down his neck and he thought he would die, unable to endure such bliss. Then, with a low cry, she deepened and quickened the pace.
When the coupling was over, when he had caught his breath and his heart had stopped pounding, he raised himself on an elbow. "Éowyn, what text did you read today in the library?"
She lay on her side, curled beside him. "The book was called 'Treatises on Herblore' or some such name. It was bound in green leather." She pushed a sweaty tendril of hair from her face and smiled up at him. "Why do you ask?"
"Perhaps was it called the 'Treatises on the Art of Healing'?"
"Indeed, now that you say it, I recall that was the name." She trailed a warm hand along his hip. "I have little gift for book learning, husband, but I study as best I can."
Faramir laughed. "That text is not easy to read for it is riddled with words used only by the healers, yet I do not doubt that you understand its meaning. It is my good fortune to find such a clever and studious wife. Together, you and I must delve more deeply into these matters of lore."
"Nothing would please me better," Éowyn said, sighing contentedly as he cupped a firm breast in each hand.
"I did not know I had wed a fair scholar," Faramir replied as he leaned over his wife to further pursue their studies.
The story was skillfully beta-read by Raksha the Demon and Annmarwalk. (You can find Raksha's stories on this site and Annmarwalk's work at Stories of Arda.) My thanks to them for sharing their considerable talents! Any remaining mistakes are my own.
Eels, rabbit, oysters, cucumbers, carrots, leeks, and mushrooms were all known as aphrodisiacs during the Middle Ages, and acorns are an ancient symbol of fertility. Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) had the folk names "lad's love" and "maiden's ruin" and was used as both an aphrodisiac and a pest repellent.