The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate.
It is my feeling that Time ripens all things; with Time all things are revealed; Time is the father of truth.- François Rabelais (1494–1553)
A solemn candlelit procession led by Faramir and Éowyn, wound its way through the upper circles of the City. It came to a halt beside the White Tree.
Éowyn glanced directly behind her to see if Elbeth, who was being escorted by young Bergil, was behaving herself. The little girl looked suitably solemn and was holding her candle carefully. Rather to Éowyn's surprise, Elbeth reached for Bergil's hand, as if seeking reassurance. The Princess of Ithilien felt a pang of remorse. Maybe the child was missing her mother and grandmother and pretending to see ghosts as a way of comforting herself? She resolved to talk to Faramir later.
The murmur of low voices ceased when Aragorn, resplendent in full regalia, appeared. Beside him, Arwen was a vision of exquisite beauty, wearing a gown of dark orange with a necklace of pearls round her slender throat. A fur-trimmed cloak was thrown around her shoulders to protect her from the chill night air.
"People of Gondor," Aragorn said in a clear, resonant voice. "We are gathered here tonight to remember the loved ones who await us beyond the circles of the world. Because of them, their lives, their love and their sacrifices, we are able to be here today and celebrate this great feast of the living and the dead. May we never forget to honour those who went before! May we cherish our loved ones while we dwell here in Arda together! The One gave Men the Gift of passing beyond the bounds of Arda. May we cherish our days, as all the sweeter, given that they are numbered. May we be forever filled with hope and love!"
The crowd remained silent for a moment, taking in his words. They broke into a spontaneous cheer before Aragorn led them in singing traditional songs of remembrance.
"The time of mourning is over, let us now celebrate the joy of living, together with our loved ones!" Aragorn declared once the singing had died away. Taking Arwen's hand, he let her inside, Faramir, Éowyn and Elbeth followed.
The Royal dining room had been set with places for five. As the adults entered, they placed their candles on the table and spoke the names of those whom they wished to remember; Gilraen and Halbarad, Finduilas, Boromir and Denethor, Théoden and Théodred, Théodwyn and Éomund. The lights symbolized the presence of those whose names they spoke.
"Do you want to remember anyone, Elbeth?" Éowyn asked gently. "Your mother or your grandmother perhaps?"
Elbeth shook her head.
"We give thanks to the One that we are here with our loved ones tonight!" said Aragorn. The friends and spouses warmly embraced one another.
After the standing silence, the servants brought in a hearty meal of hot vegetable soup, a stew of lamb and vegetables and finally, a special pie made from pumpkins and apples, which was only consumed on this feast day.
The mood progressively became more cheerful as the meal progressed, Faramir had written a poem about the eternal nature of love and read it aloud to the delight of the others
" I look into the eyes,
The eyes of those whom I hold most dear.
I see reflected,
Within the windows the soul:
The love we share.
A bond transcending
Boundaries of life and death. "
Once the meal was over and the table cleared, Aragorn told his friends that he wanted to introduce them to a game popular in the North.
While the ladies retired to give their babies a bedtime feed and settle them to sleep, a large bowl of water was brought into the room and placed on the table. Another servant followed with a pile of clean towels.
"What is that for?" asked Elbeth, voicing the curiosity that her uncle felt too. "Why is the bowl full of apples?"
The ladies returned just as Aragorn explained "It is for a game called 'apple bobbing' that is popular amongst the Northern Dúnedain," Aragorn explained, taking off his outer tunic as he spoke. "The object of the game is to grab an apple with your teeth. Who would like to play?"
"I would," Elbeth said, jumping up and down with excitement. "It looks like fun!"
Faramir hesitated for a moment before saying he would like to try the game too.
"You had better take off your tunic, then, mellon nîn. You are likely to get wet, " Aragorn cautioned. "The Queen will not mind."
"We will watch, " Arwen smiled, whispering something in Éowyn's ear, causing her companion to smile.
The King plunged his head into the bowl and soon came up laughing and spluttering somewhat, without having gained an apple.
"Come on, Elbeth!" he enthused, "This is great fun! I cannot wait for Eldarion and Elestelle to be old enough to take part in the game! Try and grab the stalk with your teeth," he told the little girl when she came to take her turn.
To her surprise and delight, Elbeth captured an apple and was congratulated by the adults.
"Come and dry yourself and sit by the fire to eat it," Éowyn told her.
The women laughed and cheered when Faramir took his turn and after several attempts captured his prize. Aragorn then tried again and this time was successful.
The King dried himself and donned his tunic again. The group settled round the fire.
"It is your bedtime now, Elbeth," Éowyn told her niece.
"Please let her stay for the storytelling to conclude the evening, " Aragorn said in a tone with an unmistakable hint of command.
Éowyn looked somewhat surprised. It was very rare for Aragorn to exercise his authority over any purely domestic matter. She could only surmise that the King wanted to indulge Elbeth tonight. She raised her eyebrows slightly." Just for a short time, then," she conceded.
The lamps were lowered. By the flickering light of a single candle, Aragorn began a chilling tale of his adventures on the Paths of the Dead. They were all so engrossed that they did not see Faramir quietly slip away. "Has anyone else here seen a ghost?" Aragorn asked, once his tale was concluded. He nodded to Arwen almost imperceptibly and looked expectantly at Elbeth.
" I have, I saw Sarah the White Lady," Elbeth said excitedly.
"I have told you not to make up such absurd stories, Elbeth," Éowyn said irately. "You are making me very angry and I will have to punish you with even more extra lessons!"
Just then a cold draught blew through the room as the door opened. A tall figure, clad all in white, glided across the room.
Éowyn gave a stifled scream while Elbeth cried, "It's Sarah, she has come back! I told you I was telling the truth!"
Aragorn rose to his feet and said sternly, "Spectre, I bid you be gone to your rest and trouble us no more!"
The apparition took a step backward, before throwing off the concealing white towels that covered it, to reveal Faramir. He bowed low to the King.
Aragorn laughed and rose to pat Faramir on the back. You played your part well, mellon nîn," he said. "I wanted this to be a feast to remember!"
Faramir then turned to Elbeth." I am sorry if I frightened you earlier," he said. "It was I whom you saw, not a ghost!"
"Elbeth, I am so sorry!" Éowyn came to kneel beside the little girl and placed her arms around her. "I had no idea that your uncle was practicing this surprise for tonight. I should not have doubted your word. Tomorrow, I will take you riding and you can miss your Quenya lessons."
"Thank you, Aunt Éowyn!" Elbeth hugged her aunt back.
Later that night, when they lay beside each other in bed, Faramir told his wife the whole story.
Éowyn burst out laughing and was rendered speechless for several moments. Then she pulled her husband close and kissed him passionately. "You are certainly no ghost but a man of flesh and blood and a hot blooded one at that!" she said when he responded.
Faramir did not reply, preferring to use his lips for something other than words. He returned her kisses with ever growing ardour.
A/N I hope you have enjoyed this Halloween diversion. The ceremonies were loosely inspired by the All Souls Service at my local church.
A very big thank you to everyone who has reviewed. Also thank you to everyone who voted for me in the MC contest. You can see my banners on my LJ or my web site.
I hope to continue "A Time to Reap" within the next few days.