Author's Note: many thanks to Illwynd for bringing to my attention David Finnamore's wonderful tune "Ithilien," which inspired this, and to Cressida for the title and beta reading.

A Song for Ithilien

Faramir, the Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien, was thoroughly enjoying a staring match with a most unlikely creature.

A small red squirrel was looking at him from the undergrowth with a clearly disapproving eye. It did not seem particularly scared, though. Faramir stretched out a hand, and at some point the squirrel's curiosity got the better of it. The little creature came closer, sniffed at the man's fingers, and cautiously accepted a gift of about a quarter of a small honey-and-nut cake.

Having finished the small snack, the squirrel took a thorough sniff of Faramir's hand again, but, much to its (and the Steward's) regret, the little bit of cake was all that could be offered. The animal looked hopefully up at the man again, and Faramir had to chuckle at the change of attitude.

'Sorry, friend,' he said, smiling, 'but that was all I could offer to you today. Perhaps we should arrange another meeting.'

The Steward patted the little head with its pointy ears, a tuft of soft fur on the tip of each, and got to his feet. The squirrel looked at him for another moment, and then suddenly shot off to the nearest tree.

Faramir proceeded at a leisurely pace, knowing not where he was headed. He had been looking forward to spending this day with his wife, but that was not to happen. Éowyn had returned from the White City right after luncheon, looking so exhausted that he had decided to keep all the questions for a later time and quickly arranged for a bath and a bed for her. Which left him to himself for the rest of the day…

It was getting hot. The edge of the wood looked especially inviting, with its cool shade and the fresh smell of pines, which prevailed in this part of Ithilien too. Although he was wearing only a thin shirt, collar unlaced, he was starting to long for some shelter from the afternoon sun.

The trees closed around him, muffling any outside sound and turning the sun's glare into a gentle, mysterious light. A soft smile on his face, Faramir proceeded deeper into the wood, surrounded by the gentle rustle of the leaves and the twitter of the birds. He was pleased to discover that his Ranger's skills were still as sharp as they used to be: he could easily name every bird that he could hear, or tell a gust of wind in the leaves from the agitation caused by a pair of wings.

All of a sudden, his ears registered quite an unexpected sound, and for an instant, he was puzzled, for it most definitely was not one that belonged to the wood—so puzzled that it took him some time to realize that it was music he heard.

A flute, he thought as he walked toward the sound, and how well played! It did not take him long to see that he had guessed correctly, for there, on a fallen tree trunk, back to him, sat an Elf playing that same instrument.

The musician was so absorbed that he did not even hear Faramir approach. The Steward came nearer, discovering that it was none other than his good friend Legolas.

The Elf had his eyes closed, but his eyelids trembled slightly as he was playing. The long fingers fluttered effortlessly over the flute, producing a truly enchanting tune. Faramir stood still, not wanting to change anything in the picture before his eyes. All he could think was that both the music and the musician fitted with the surroundings perfectly. Somehow, the tune managed to speak of every little leaf in the wind, every ray of the sun penetrating the thick crowns, every hidden brook… It was also peaceful; it spoke of love and devotion, but Faramir failed to hear any violence in it, and that suddenly filled him with joy.

The final notes of the tune fluttered out of the slender instrument. Legolas lowered the flute and slowly, almost reluctantly opened his eyes, meeting Faramir's gaze.

'That was a truly beautiful piece, my friend,' Faramir said with a smile, after inclining his head in greeting. 'Never have I heard music that would make its way to my heart this quickly.'

Legolas did not return his smile. He looked down onto the flute in his hands, and Faramir could swear he could see something akin to disbelief in the Elf's eyes.

'What is this tune?' the Steward asked, sitting down onto the trunk beside Legolas. 'Is it something you have brought here from your land in the North? For I have never heard anyone in Gondor play anything like it…and I daresay I know many a tune myself!'

Legolas shook his head. 'No, my friend Faramir, it was not born in my father's realm…but here, in this land of yours. I…just heard it in my head and played it.'

Suddenly, he looked straight into Faramir's face, and the man was stunned to see a faint gleam of tears in his eyes.

'Faramir,' the Elf said quietly, 'this is the first time in long, long years that I have made a tune. But here, in this land…'

He broke off, shaking his head as if in disbelief.

Faramir touched Legolas's shoulder in a comforting gesture. 'I have never heard of such wonders, but I can well believe it about Ithilien. Few indeed are left untouched by its charm; it gives inspiration to poets as well as strength to its defenders. I know it, for I have tried both jobs,' he said and smiled.

At last, Legolas returned the smile, though it did not truly reach his eyes. 'There is something that bothers me, Faramir.'

'So tell me about it,' Faramir said. 'I am but a mortal, and shall not probably give you the answers you seek…but I shall listen.'

Legolas gave a soft chuckle. 'Do not speak so unfavourably of yourself, Faramir. You know the answers to questions which would leave many an Elf puzzled.'

Faramir laughed. 'Well, I am pleased that you think so, Master Elf.'

'Faramir…how is it that a land so distant from my home is now settled so firmly in my heart? It speaks to me, and my heart responds: with music, craft and words. Ever since I set my foot in Ithilien, it has been so. It feels truly like a place where I belong, although my love for the now fair Eryn Lasgalen is not diminished by it. It is sometimes…disconcerting.'

'It is the same with me,' Faramir replied softly, 'for I, too, have two homes. The proud city of Minas Tirith and the fair Ithilien are equally loved by me…and by many. Perhaps 'tis not the place that matters, but what one brings to it. You bear this land true love, and it is a grateful land – it pays you tenfold. I am certain that the Elves who have seen many a home could explain it better…but I am a mere mortal Man, and not an Elf.'

This made Legolas chuckle again. 'You speak with as much reason as ever, Faramir…and you shame me, for surely an Elf should understand these things better. I regret bothering you with this.'

Faramir said with a smile, 'I shall readily forgive you, Legolas, of you only let me listen to your beautiful tune again.'

The Elf smiled, this time genuinely, and held the flute to his lips. The enchanting notes stirred the wood again, mingling with its quiet beauty and adding even more life to it.

Long he played, and long Faramir sat beside him, taken with the music through which Ithilien itself spoke of peace and love, and no more of war.

When it ceased, they got to their feet, not saying a word. Together, they walked out of the wood.

'Master Elf,' Faramir said as they neared the house, 'I do have one suggestion concerning that tune.'

'Oh?' Legolas raised an eyebrow.

Faramir grinned broadly at him. 'I think you could use a harp there along with the flute. I even have one that could serve well.'

The Elf nodded with a smile. 'Indeed, Lord Faramir, that has crossed my mind as well! Perhaps we could bring it to your wife's attention and ask her judgement on it.'

'That sounds very good indeed.'

'Only I am not sure our friend Gimli would appreciate it.'

'Who knows, my friend, who knows…'