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 Post subject: Reunion
PostPosted: Fri 24 Jun , 2005 12:22 pm 
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Location: snake-hunting
This RP is the conclusion of a Tolkien-inspired fanfiction-story Lady_of_Rohan and I have been writing these past four months, and which in turn in based on some of our RPs at the other site. The story is told in an exchange of letters between Éowyn and Faramir, all of which can be found here: http://www.anke.edoras-art.de/anke_fanfiction_letters.html, together with additional information and some images ;).

To make the last "chapter" special and to allow for more interaction, we decided to rp it. There's also a thread about the letters, which can serve as an aside to this one: http://www.board77.net/viewtopic.php?t=1335

Alright, first post coming up ... :)


Last edited by Khorazîr on Tue 13 Jun , 2006 6:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri 24 Jun , 2005 12:27 pm 
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Location: snake-hunting
(Nárië 24th, Fourth Age 11)

The sun had not yet risen, but in the east, over the shadowy ridges of the Ephel Dúath the sky was already tinged with gentle colours. Mist lay like a soft blanket over the meadows, so that the trees seemed like dark islands, afloat in a white sea. The air was fresh and fragrant, smelling of hay, and fruits, and flowers, and herbs, and forest – typical for Ithilien at this time of the year, Faramir thought, drawing a deep breath.

He had sorely missed this smell during the past months. He had missed the sight of the forested hills of Emyn Arnen now mounting before him, clad in all kinds of green, rich and warm in places where oaks and beeches, chestnuts and walnut-trees grew, dark and glistening elsewhere from the various evergreens, a softer dark from the many coniferous trees, pines and cedars, or silvery, mostly along the lower slopes where there were groves of olive-trees. He had missed the sounds of the forest. He had missed riding a horse, and the company of his rangers who were now riding about him, silent and watchful most of the time, lest some evil should now befall their lord and captain who they had not been able to protect back in Nénimë. Now, when he was only a few leagues away from home.

Home. That thought made his heart beat faster. For as beautiful as Ithilien was, and as delightful the company of the rangers, there was something Faramir had missed even more. Or someone, rather. He had not seen his beloved wife and his children for almost four months now, ever since he had been abducted by the Umbarian Marek Al-Jahmîr, one of his long-time enemies, in late Nénimë and had been held captive at an old fortress on the island of Tolfalas. His sojourn there had been dark and painful, but worse than anything his captors had done to him had been the fact he had been parted from his family. He had not witnessed the first four months in the lives of his little twins Meridadoc and Peregrin, born only a few days before he had been captured. Nor had he attended the second birthday of his eldest son Elboron. And Éowyn ... Éowyn he had missed even more than the boys. What she had endured during the time he had been away he did not want to imagine. Although they had managed to correspond regularly (without his captors' knowledge), he was sure there were many things she had not put into her letters so as not to worry him.

In a desperate message written shortly before they had caught him he had promised her to come back to her, somehow. There had been times during his captivity when the keeping of that promise had been extremely difficult. More than once his life had been in grave peril. Yet the promise had strengthened his will so that he had managed to survive whatever hardship his captors had devised for him, and without it, he had no doubt, he would not have maintained his sanity.

Now the line of apple-trees they had been riding along ended, and the Emyn Arnen became fully visible. Faramir reined his horse and gazed at the hills. His home, Dol Arandur, the Steward‘s Hill as it had been named by the locals, was still hidden behind a wooded shoulder. Soon they would enter the forest and follow the winding road that climbed through the woodlands and over a rocky heathland smelling of thyme and rosemary. And thence Dol Arandur with its white buildings and the large terraced gardens would be fully visible. There were still some hours to ride, Faramir knew, and if it had been up to him he would have galopped all the way.

He must have urged on his horse more vigorously than he had intended, for it snorted and set off again at a trott. Faramir drew a sharp breath as pain shot through his right shoulder. It had only recently been dislocated and was not fully healed. He was still carrying his arm in a sling. And it was not the only injury he bore. During the past months he had been shot at, severly poisoned, and wounded by swords and daggers. The recent two weeks he had mostly spent on the wild coasts of southern Tolfalas, trying to elude Al-Jahmîr‘s henchmen, and battling wet, cold weather, and lack of food and sleep. He was amazed he was still able to keep on his feet, or in the saddle.

"Captain, how about a short rest?" the voice of Mablung interrupted his musings. Even though in fact Mablung was the captain of the rangers now, he and the men still referred to Faramir with this title, and he appreciated it. It seemed less formal than being called 'lord' or 'prince', and more fitting in this close-knit company. He turned to the other and with a slight shake of his head and a faint smile replied, "That would mean delay, Mablung."

The ranger gave him a sceptical, quite concerned glance. "If you fall from your horse because you are utterly spent the delay will be even longer," he objected. "We have ridden for two hours now, and even though you try to conceal it from us, it's plain to see that you are in pain. And weary, too. You should have spent the night on that ship before setting out on the ride."

"I simply want to return home," Faramir said whistfully, glancing towards the hills again. "Éowyn does not know I am safe, and I do not want to cause her any more fear and uncertainty. She was forced to endure far too much of those lately."

"Most likely the lady is still asleep, so don't you worry, captain," Iorlas, Mablung's lieutenant, added soothingly. "And imagine what trouble we'd be in if we delivered you all spent and likely to swoon any moment. She'd think we hadn't looked after you well."

Despite his anxiety, Faramir had to laugh softly at these words. "When I see her I am likely to swoon anyway, rested or not. But alright, since the entire company appears to be set against me," he sighed, "I shall yield."

"We can rest over there, underneath that giant chestnut where the road forks and begins to climb into the forest," Iorlas suggested, pointing. "There is even a small well there. The locals say it has healing powers, and for sure it does have a strange taste, like metal."

At the mention of the water Faramir felt a shiver run down his spine. It brought up extremely unpleasant memories of his captivity. To prevent him from escaping, Al-Jahmîr had caused his water to be poisoned. As long as he drank from it regularly, every few hours, the poison showed no effects. But if he ceased to, the result was pain of ever increasing intensity, finally causing death after hours of agony. Twice Faramir had experienced the full force of the poison, once during an escape attempt, and the second time when the Umbarian had decided to kill him and cancelled his water-rations. This second poisoning had almost cost him his life, and there was a chance it had done permanent damage to his body. The memory of the pain still lingered, too.

He must have paled, because when he glanced to Mablung again he saw that the other was watching him concernedly. He slightly shook his head. "I am alright, Mablung," he said quietly. "I was just reminded of the little device Al-Jahmîr used to keep me from running away."

"Young Iorlas' mouth runs quicker than his brains at times," the ranger remarked. "He should have remembered the poisoned water, and done some thinking before he babbled on about his mysterious well."

"I do not blame him," Faramir replied. "I wish I could forget about it so easily, too."

Mablung gave him a pitiful glance, then he made a gesture of utter comtempt. "He is such a coward, that thrice-cursed Umbarian!" he hissed. "But then he knew that guards and locks would not keep you for long. So he had to poison you, the slug. Even to catch you he had to resort to venomed darts, because an outright attack we would have foiled."

"A broken leg would have done the job, too," Faramir replied. "But of course this would not have had all the little side-effects Al-Jahmîr cherished. But let us talk about something else." Upon this he set his horse in motion again. The other rangers had already reached the tree and were dismounting.

"Perhaps, if you will, captain," said Mablung as they approached the chestnut, "you could continue your tale of how you were rescued in the end. I think you left off when you were trying to reach that ship. The one that looked like it was hailing from Pelargir, I mean. Was it a trap, or was it really one of Lord Falastur's vessels?"


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PostPosted: Fri 24 Jun , 2005 3:31 pm 
A maiden young and sad
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The lady at Dol Arandur was not asleep. In fact, Éowyn had slept little this past night, her worries and fears forbidding her to rest. The pre-dawn light found her folded up on the cushioned windowseat in the master bedroom, her feet tucked up under her, a blanket wrapped around her. The window faced east, toward the sunrise, toward other memories. She rested her head against the wall, its coolness soothing to her heated skin. For the past hour, or longer, she wasn’t sure, she had sat here, gazing out the window at the trees and hills in their coats of semi-darkness but seeing none of them. Her mind was far from the scene before her.

Yesterday evening after supper, the letter she had sent to Faramir on the 21st had returned, unopened, unanswered. Aiglos had never returned without a reply, and surely the buzzard had previously had difficult searches. How many times had Faramir written saying he was amazed at how the bird had managed to find him after he had moved from place to place? Yet this time the bird had not brought good news.

The sight of her letter had been like a physical blow. The strain and wear of the past four months had steadily diminished what strength the birth of her sons had not used, and this new horror was another stroke chipping away at her reserves. She remembered the numbness that had set in, and the coldness. As she had written that letter a feeling of unease had weighed on her, and now it had been confirmed. She had barely managed to stay on her feet, and as T úrin helped her to a chair and called for Teherin, she had wondered if this was finally the end of the long ordeal. The others had tried to convince her that this was not a bad omen, but she could not find it in her to believe them.

Elboron had come up to her then, squeezing between and around the legs of the others. Éowyn knew he realized something was wrong, but his two-year-old innocence could not understand it yet. She had scooped him up in arms and kissed his forehead gently, noting again how much he looked like his father. Then, she rested her cheek on his soft, dark hair and let tears that she had held back for so many weeks come. They had begun quietly at first, then grew until she shook. Over the past four months she had tried her best to hide her feelings to give a show of strength around others, letting herself come undone in private, but now she did not care about that show. She had reached her breaking point.

Now, she closed her eyes against the memory of yesterday evening, feeling more tears prick against her eyelids. How could there be more? She had not looked in a mirror yet this morning, but her eyes showed the evidence of her despair. The skin around them was pink, puffy, and tender. Her face was pale and drawn, both from her emotion and from the lack of sleep. Teherin had given her something to help her sleep, and it had helped for a few short hours in the early part of the night, but she feared her anxiety had trumped the healer’s skills.

But now, in the pre-dawn, she felt her weariness catching up to her. Of course it would come in the morning, when it was time to think about preparing for the day, instead of during the dark hours of the night when the world rested. Part of her wanted to find dreamless sleep and stay there, not wanting to know what new tragedies this day would bring. There had been no word from the King, good or bad, about what his ships had found on the coast. They had gone in search of Faramir now that he had managed to escape the Umbarian’s deadly snare. Whether or not Aiglos’s returned letter had anything to do with success or failure, this would all end soon. The white tree had set out on the trail of the silver snake.

“My lady?”

The soft question pulled Éowyn out of her thoughts. She opened her eyes and stirred slightly.

“My lady, surely you have not spent the entire night there?”

“No, R ían,” Éowyn answered quietly, “I have not been here long.”

The small, dark-haired woman crossed the room, her candle illuminating the other’s wearied features. “You should be resting,” she said firmly. “This seat is not a bed.”

“Do you chide the Queen like this?” Éowyn asked as a weak smile tugging at her lips.

“I would if she chose to spend her nights next to cold windows instead of in her warm bed,” R ían answered. She was indeed one of the queen’s own ladies-in-waiting, though for a time she was serving in Dol Arandur on the queen’s wishes. Arwen had sent her after news reached the city that Éowyn’s own maidservant and one of the guards had been indicted on charges of treason and espionage. She had not been there long, only a few weeks, but already she had proved that she could fill the emptiness that had been left. The children liked her, and Éowyn found that she too was at ease around her.

“You still have a few hours before the little ones will want their breakfast,” R ían continued, more gently this time. “And you will feel better too if you rest again.”

Éowyn shook her head. “Why are you always right?” she asked.

“I am not always,” the other replied with a smile. “This time I was lucky. Come on, “ she said, tugging on the blanket, “back to bed.”

Sighing, Éowyn unfolded herself, stood, and returned to her bed while Rian closed the curtains. “I know why I was awake,” she said, “but why were you?”

“Last night your brother asked me to check on you occasionally after he left. Apparently, he didn’t trust you enough to believe you were really asleep.”

“And he was right,” Éowyn confessed. “But—“

“But now you are really going to go to sleep,” R ían cut her off. “As well you should. I know how much Elboron is looking forward to showing you the frogs in the garden again today, and I doubt he would appreciate it if you were half-asleep when he did.”

“He never tires of it,” Éowyn replied.

“Indeed, so do not disappoint him.”

“I will not,” Éowyn said softly even as the sleep that had eluded her for most of the night finally arrived.

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Ithilien, the garden of Gondor now desolate kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness.

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PostPosted: Fri 24 Jun , 2005 4:07 pm 
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"It was indeed one of Falastur's," Faramir answered as, with the help of a ranger holding his horse, he carefully dismounted. He walked over to the tree and lowered himself to the ground, resting his back against the rough bark. The high flowering grass was still wet with dew and cobwebs glinted here and there between the plants. Mablung and some of the others sat down next to him, while the piquets watched the surroundings. "And what is more, the Lord of Pelargir was on board personally," he continued. "Or so I found out later. Because that night I did not reach the ship. Al-Jahmîr's men had somehow found out where I had been hiding, and they waylayed me ere I could reach the vessel."

"How?" Dírhael, one of the youngsters of the company asked excitedly.

"Apparently they had also recognised the ship, and concluded that sooner or later I would try and reach it. So when the vessel anchored for the night, they hid in the vicinity. I had expected something of the kind, thus I was very careful when I approached the ship. Yet I had to try and shorten the distance I had to swim out still as much as possible because I did not feel strong enough to battle the waves and strong currents for long – not to mention the sharks. My mistake was that I had underestimated their numbers, and their watchfulness. One of their sentinels spotted me, and the chase was up. It was a dark night which made climbing along the rocky cliffs dangerous. Moreover the lower rocks were slippery because it was low tide, and they were covered with sea-weed. To make a long tale short, soon I was surrounded, and a well-aimed sling-shot dislocated my shoulder and sent me falling down a low cliff. Then they only had to pick me up and drag me back to their own ship."

"They must have been furious about you having caused them so much inconvenience," Mablung commented. "After having entertained them for about two weeks. It's a marvel they did not kill you on the spot."

"They were under strict orders from Al-Jahmîr to try and catch me alive. But yes, it must have been difficult for them to stay their hands when finally they caught me again."

"What did the slug say when he saw you?" Iorlas asked.

"For a long time he said nothing, just watched me," Faramir said, remembering Al-Jahmîr's expression when they had brought him aboard the corsair-ship the Umbarian had chosen for his escape vessel. "I was completely exhausted, and barely able to keep on my legs in front of him, despite the fact that two men were holding me. And since the shoulder had not been set, it hurt terribly. Al-Jahmîr obviously relished seeing me that spent and in pain."

Various favourable and highly inventive descriptions of the Umbarian and his descent issued from the rangers upon this statement. "He walked around me as if I was a very precious object, then he told the two men holding me to step back. I swayed and sank onto the deck where he stood towering over me.

'Enjoyed your little holiday on land, Lord Faramir?' he asked mischievously. Then his voice changed and became hard and cold. 'You did not seriously believe you could flee from this island without us catching you again, did you?'

'Us?' I replied. 'I did not see you out there with your men, Al-Jahmîr, enduring storm and rain and cold. You sat comfortably on your ship, ready to depart the moment danger approached. Not once in this entire affair have you dirtied your own hands, you coward!'

'I can change this right now,' he hissed, and with a swift movement stooped and pointed a dagger at my throat. 'I should have done this months ago.'

'So why did you delay? And why kill me now? Because it is so convenient that I am wounded and weary and unarmed, is it not?' I returned fiercely. 'Running no risk of getting hurt, are you? And all this with your men looking on. How embarrassing!'

I felt the pressure on the blade increase, and for a moment I thought he would stab me, but instead he removed the dagger and dealt me a blow to the temple that made me lose consciousness. I woke again in the same dark cabin I had been confined to after we had left Barad Gwaelin. My shoulder had not been treated, perhaps to ensure that I would not attempt to escape by leaping overboard again. I spent the day in considerable pain. They had provided me with food and drink, yet I dared not touch the water, fearing Al-Jahmîr had changed his mind about killing me and had poisoned it again. From the movements of the ship I concluded that we had left the bay and were sailing on the open sea now, most likely bound for Umbar. In the evening Al-Jahmîr had me brought to him.

'You may be interested in hearing that your friend Falastur is pursuing us,' he told me. 'So hope he is not going to attempt anything rash and stupid, or else he can watch you die. And I can assure you it will not be a pleasant sight.'

'Do you really think you will manage to get out of this, Marek?' I asked. 'Falastur hates me – and after you escaped from his prison he hates you even more. If he is pursuing us 'tis not for my sake, I can assure you, but to catch you and see to it you are being punished for your crimes. As well as satisfying his own desire for revenge. You have caused him quite a lot of inconvenience and embarrassment lately, and he is not a man to forget. It would be better for you to simply set me free and then run for it. And run swiftly.'

As on cue the captain of the ship entered and informed Al-Jahmîr that the Pelargirian ship had again gained on us. I was returned to my cabin, waiting anxiously for tidings. Obviously the corsair managed to elude Falastur's ship during the night, because the next day the hunt was still continuing. Then, around noon, suddenly the door to my cabin burst open and three of Al-Jahmîr's men rushed in. Two roughly bound my hands behind my back, which aggravated the injured shoulder even more. Then they dragged me on deck.

The wind was fresh, a stiff breeze from the west, and the ship was rocking on strong waves. To my surprise the southern tip of Tolfalas was still in sight, and not even far away. Apparently the ships had played hide and seek along the rocky coastline for the past day and half – a feat of impressive seamanship on both sides. Falastur's vessel was running parallel to us, in bow-range. It now flew the blue and golden banner of Pelargir. I could see archers positioned in the rigging, ready to pour a rain of deadly arrows on the other ship, and to set its sails on fire. Yet the corsairs and Al-Jahmîr's men were ready, too, and they outnumbered the crew of the smaller ship at least two to one. On the raised quarterdeck there stood Falastur, his expression grim. When he recognised me he stirred, though, as if the fact I was still alive surprised him. You can imagine that the thought of him undertaking the negotiations for my life did not exactly encourage me.

Al-Jahmîr had me brought to him on the quarterdeck. The stress of the past days was plain to see in his grey, weary, features, yet there was a deadly glint in his eyes when he beheld me. He pointed over to the other ship. 'Your fellow councilman demanded to see you. Here he is, Falastur,' he then called over to the Lord of Pelargir. 'And mostly undamaged, too. So withdraw your archers and remove your ship, or he will be slain.'

Falastur studied me for a moment. 'You know I do not care if he survives this or not,' he replied coldly. 'In fact, I would prefer if he did not. So kill him, if you have to. It is you I want, Al-Jahmîr, and with or without him you cannot run any further.'

Al-Jahmîr laughed. Indicating his men, he said, 'Have you by any chance compared the numbers of our crews? Your ship will make a beautiful prize. And you a more valuable and less troublesome hostage than him, perhaps.'

Falastur smiled thinly. 'I would not count on either. Kindly take a look over there. Or did you seriously believe I had come alone?'

Al-Jahmîr spun round to whither Falastur was pointing. There three more ships were approaching. Two looked like merchant vessels, rather slow and plump. The third however was a small, swift fregate, usually employed for accompanying konvoys and protecting them against pirates. Al-Jahmîr gazed at them for a moment, his anxiety plain to see, then he relaxed.

'Nice trick, Falastur, but unfortunately it did not work. These are but traders, and they will be glad to stay out of this.'

'Only traders, Al-Jahmîr?' Falastur asked sweetly. He was obviously enjoying himself. 'Ah, but you will consider their colours, will you not?'

For in that moment on all three ships flags were released: blue and silver on the fregate and the second of the merchant-ships, and black and silver on the foremost vessel. The banners caught in the breeze and their emblems became plain to see, the silver threads catching the sunlight. There was the swanship of Dol-Amroth, and the white tree, the crown and the seven stars of King Elessar himself."


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PostPosted: Fri 24 Jun , 2005 7:43 pm 
A maiden young and sad
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Dawn’s light was stronger now as a plump, brown and white cat slinked into the master bedroom and crouched at the foot of the bed for a few moments, considering how much effort it would take to leap up onto it. Soon she made her jump and tiptoed up the covers. She sat at the head of the bed and after a moment’s consideration, mewed plaintively. When two more cries brought no response, she shifted her position so she could flick her tail over the sleeping woman’s face.

Éowyn flinched and rolled away. The cat followed, jumping onto the exposed shoulder and kneading her paws into it. “All right, Berúthiel,” Éowyn groaned, “I’m awake.” The cat mewed again and returned to the mattress. “Why do you insist on waking me up?” Éowyn asked, rubbing the cat’s ears with her hand. “You know the kitchen feeds you, not me.” She yawned and stretched gently. She had not slept long, a little more than an hour, but it had been a sound sleep and she felt somewhat refreshed now.

Standing, she stretched again, feeling some soreness from her cramped position in the windowseat. Stifling a yawn, she crossed the room to the nursery to check on her infants. Both were still asleep, but it would not be long before they were stirring and wanting to eat. She tucked the edge of Peregrin’s blanket back under him and moved Meriadoc’s arm so he would not wake up from a cramp. “Good morning, my darlings,” Éowyn whispered before giving each a light kiss.

She returned to her room and began changing out of her nightclothes. The night-gown she shed with ease, but she paused when she came to the long linen shirt she wore under it. It was one that Faramir had often worn to bed. She had taken to wearing it under her own nightclothes after the kidnapping, its scent and feel bringing some comfort. She had worn others like it, but once her husband’s scent faded, she exchanged it for a different one. The shirt she wore now was the last of these.

Lifting the cloth to her face, she breathed in. Last night his scent had been faint, and as she had feared, this morning it was gone entirely. Another reminder of Faramir, gone. She brushed back the tears that formed and traded the shirt for her dressing gown. Maybe, as she told herself every morning, maybe he would be coming home soon and she would have him next to her skin again at night instead of a piece of cloth.

She sat in silence for several minutes on the edge of the bed, alone with her thoughts. Berúthiel had wandered off, either back to the kitchen for another snack or to wake someone else up and demand attention. Éowyn walked over to the window and pushed back the curtains with one hand. The outdoors was already stirring. She could hear birds chirping in the nearby trees and in the distance she faintly saw several deer meandering back into the trees. Then she opened the window and let in the fresh breeze. The air was already warm, and it was likely that this day would be another hot one.

A cry from one of her babies brought her back to the nursery. “Ah, good morning, my little halfling,” she said in her native tongue, lifting Meriadoc and his blanket with him. “Did you sleep well?” Her son grinned and cooed, waving his tiny fist. Éowyn settled in the nearby rocking chair and talked to him for several minutes. When Peregrin woke, she brought him over and let them nurse. It had been challenging, figuring out how to nurse two babies at once. It had not come as naturally as it had with Elboron, and this frustration combined with the anxiety of Faramir’s disappearance had not made things easier. But they had managed, and now her sons were nursing contentedly and gaining weight rapidly.

About an hour later, with her twin sons fed, burped, and left with Rían, Éowyn dressed and went to see if her eldest was awake yet. He usually did not rise as early as the twins did, which was a blessing. The three of them could become quite rowdy when together. Peaking into his room, she saw him sitting up in his bed, playing with his Horsey. He scrambled out of bed and ran to her as she walked in. She lifted him up and gave him his good-morning hug and kiss. “What were you doing?” she asked him.

“Racing Horsey,” he answered, pointing to the rumpled sheets the toy.

“Did he win?”

His answer contained some words she recognized, but he added in plenty of unintelligible sounds and half-words. Elboron was still far from the eloquent speaker that his father was, but he was learning new words quickly and how to use them correctly. And what words he couldn’t say yet he could at least understand. From what he was saying now, Éowyn guessed that his steed was indeed winning the race.

“How would you like to find some breakfast?” she asked. He nodded quickly. “All right, put your toys away and make your bed, then we’ll go find some.” She put him down and let him work. His toys found their place back in the box along the wall. For him, making his bed consisted of throwing the top blanket over the rest of the sheets, which was enough for now.

“We go to frogs?” he asked while his mother helped him dress.

“Yes,” Éowyn answered, “we are going to go see the frogs today. Probably soon after breakfast too, before it gets hot.” She made a face that made him giggle. As she watched him, she could not help but think, Oh, Elboron, your father should be here. He would love to visit the frogs with you.

Suddenly Elboron said, “Mami cry,” as he pointed to a tear she had not brushed away quickly enough.

“Yes, Mami is crying,” Éowyn replied gently.

Her son’s face clouded over as he asked, “Why?”

How many ways there were to answer that question, Éowyn thought. “Because your Dadi is not here to see the frogs with us.” She added, “Do you remember your Dadi?” and from her kneeling position in front of him, she felt the familiar sting in her heart as she saw his eyes fill with uncertainty. “Let me tell you about him,” she said. She went on to talk about how Faramir looked (that he was tall and had the same dark hair), how he liked to go out in the garden too, how he used to take Elboron for rides on his horse, and always how much he loved his little boy. What Éowyn considered one of the most painful moments of this trial had happened just after one of these talks. Túrin and Khorazîr had walked in the room, and Elboron had pointed at the Southron, then looked back at her and asked, “Dadi?” She had barely managed to leave the room before weeping uncontrollably. Even Éomer had not been able to console her then.

“My son thinks a bloody Southron is his father,” she had sobbed. “How can you tell me ‘It’s all-right’?” At that moment, she knew Al-Jahmir had won a small victory, and the memory haunted her still.

“Mami?” Elboron’s questioning word brought her back from her thoughts, and she kissed his hand as he reached out to touch her face.

“Come on,” she said, her voice quivering slightly, “let’s go find some breakfast.”

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Ithilien, the garden of Gondor now desolate kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness.

Sweet home Indiana
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PostPosted: Sat 25 Jun , 2005 7:23 pm 
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A cheer went up from the rangers. Faramir saw two men exchange a few coins. Apparently they had had a bet going on concerning the manner of his rescue, or the persons involved.

“I wish I had been there to witness Al-Jahmîr’s expression,” an older ranger named Edrahil said, smiling mischievously.

“I bet it was worth spending money on,” Iorlas added excitedly.

“It was priceless,” Faramir said, “and repaid me for some of the hardship this man has caused me. He had already sported an expression of utter bewilderment two weeks previous, when I had left him standing at the railing like a complete fool and leaped overboard. But now, to see how his haughty confidence was shattered, and changed to confusion and then to fear ... It was ... well ... good.”

“What happened then?” Dírhael pressed, all giddy with excitement. “Did the King’s men sink the ship? Was there a big battle? And what happened to the Umbarian? I hope he was left to the sharks! Where there sharks?”

“Not so swift,” Faramir said, laughing. “All in good time. Yes, there were sharks. I am still amazed they did not attack me when I had swum back to the coast after my escape. Perhaps the sea had been too rough that day. But now they were there, and their sleek, dark forms could be seen moving to and fro where the ship cast a shadow on the water. This sight did not exactly encourage me, as you can imagine. But of course I had quite other worries. As soon as the three ships had revealed their true identity – and thus their purpose –, and Al-Jahmîr had recovered slightly from the shock, he reacted with surprising swift- and coldbloodedness. His ship with her skilled and experienced crew was able to sail very fast, faster than the two merchant-vessels. The fregate however looked like a swift sailer, and Falastur’s ship had already proven difficult to shake off. He knew he would not manage to escape, at least not the Pelagirian vessel which was closest to us. What he and the captain of the corsair-ship did then was as daring as it was desperate – at least it seemed that way to me, as someone not very versed in the art of naval warfare.

Making use of the fact that they had the weathergage, and had successfully taken the wind out of the smaller ship’s sails, the corsair-ship turned and headed directly towards the other in an attempt to ram it with its massive hull and sharp keel. Also, using a small catapult mounted on deck they shot oil-soaked, burning missiles into sails and rigging of the Pelagirian ship to cripple her further and to prevent her from pursuing us. Soon parts of her were on fire, and a number of seamen and soldiers had to forgo their posts to try and quench the flames. Passing the smaller vessel by at a very short distance, several of the corsairs leaped across and attacked soldiers and crew, trying to take the ship as a prize indeed and perchance to capture Falastur. I would have liked to change ship as well this way, but I was again held by two men, and moreover, with my injured shoulder and my general state of exhaustion I would not have come very far.

Our ship had bit hit by burning arrows, too, and some of the corsairs had been wounded or slain by the darts, so we did not get away as quickly as Al-Jahmîr had hoped. The three pursuing ships had gained on us, especially the fregate. When we had completely passed the Pelagirian ship we sped on, the fire overhead having been extinguished. But still the fregate shortened the distance. Looking back towards her, I thought that for a brief moment I had spotted the King – and Imrahil next to him – standing in the bow, gazing over to us. Then I felt a stab in my shoulder. The guards had pulled me about roughly to face Al-Jahmîr.

‘Your friend Falastur behaved very foolishly,’ he said. ‘How unfortunate for you that you high lords of Gondor are all at strife with each other. Otherwise you might be free now.’

I laughed grimly. ‘You would not have set me free. Not alive, at least. And what will you do now? Eventually they are going to catch you, and you know that.’

‘It does not look so black now, does it?’ he returned, indicating the other ship. The distance had hardly lessened, which was discouraging. ‘Pray that they do not gain on us. The further they stay away from us, the longer you are going to live.’

‘And then what?’ I asked. ‘Do you want to drag me all over Middle-Earth with you as you are trying to elude them? For they will not cease to hunt you, however long it may take.’

He glanced at me, an evil light in his eyes. ‘That may be. But they will hunt me regardless if you are still with me or not. The thing is, the longer you are my prisoner and the longer I can keep you away from home with your life in perpetual danger, the more painful the ordeal will be for your wife and yourself. Imagine, to be parted from her for years, always hoping to return one day ... and her, waiting for you to come home with no security you are still alive, her strength and youth and beauty fading away because most of it is being spent worrying about you. And think of your children, who you will not see as they grow up, and who eventually will forget you. And perhaps, when time has passed and your wife deems the bed too cold at night, she will invite someone else to share it with her, and after a while the boys will call him father.’

‘‘Tis not going to happen that way!’ I said fiercely, struggling against men’s grip until the pain became too great.

‘How do you know?’ Al-Jahmîr inquired evilly. ‘You think you will escape? You have tried already, and failed every time. There is only one way of escape for you, and you dare not take that route because then you would lose everything you hold dear, and cause her even greater pain than she is suffering now. I have told you before: it is your sentimental love that makes you weak.’

‘Without my “sentimental love” I would not be standing here anymore,’ I returned. I was furious about his taunting, and desperate. ‘And are you calling me a coward? You, the greatest coward I have ever encountered! Come on, let us settle the matter now! Give me a sword, and we will end it here and now!’

He laughed. ‘You have lost your mind! You cannot even move that arm of yours,’ he said, clapping my shoulder so that the pain would have conveyed me to the ground but for the guards holding me.

‘I have got another,’ I whinced. ‘Or are you afraid of fighting me, when I cannot use my sword-arm and barely keep on my legs? Say on! Your men have overheard the entire exchange. Imagine what they would think if you declined the challenge.’

There was a trace of uncertainty in his eyes as he studied me. ‘You challenge me to a duel?’ he said doubtfully. ‘Now? In your state? That would be your end! Even if you managed to kill me, my men would slay you.’

‘So be it! Better than having to endure your company a moment longer!’

‘I will not fight you in this condition. There is no honour in it!’ he stated.

‘And what do you know of honour, Marek? You do not fight me because you are afraid you might lose!’

‘I am not afraid of you, bloody tark!’

‘Give me a sword, then, coward!’

He looked around him, where all hands that could be spared had gathered, and back at me. Then, with a curse, he withdrew the scimitar from one of the guards standing by and tossed it towards me. Drawing his own weapon, he nodded to the guards about me to untie my hands and to step back, which they did. Slowly I bent down and picked up the sword, and as soon as I had straightened up again he attacked.”


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Éowyn sat at the dining room table, resting her chin in her hands. Elboron had finished his breakfast in an adjoining room and was now playing under Rían’s watchful eye elsewhere in the house. His mother now waited for the kitchen to finish preparing breakfast for the rest of the household. Already a cut loaf of freshly-baked bread sat on the table, flanked by butter and jams. Nearby, several small bowls of strawberries glistened still from being washed, and a pot of breakfast tea waited next to several tea cups. Someone had gone out and cut several wildflowers and arranged them in a vase as a centerpiece. The scents drifting in from the kitchen promised more delights to fill the table.

The sound of footsteps in the corridor drew her attention. She looked up into her brother’s concerned face. Silently, he pulled a chair closer and sat to study her face for a few moments. “How are you feeling?” he asked, brushing a few loose strands of hair from her face.

“Better,” she confessed. “The shock has eased a bit. But…” Her voice trailed off as she shook her head slightly. “I am afraid to find out what this all means,” she finished.

“You have not given up hope thus far,” he replied, “and I do not believe this should give you cause. Perhaps this will turn out better than your fears make it to be.”

“Perhaps,” she agreed, tracing the wood-grain of the mahogany table with one finger.

“Now let me see that smile of yours,” he said, cupping her chin in his calloused hand. “You look much prettier wearing that than the gloomy look I have seen too much of these past months.”

Éowyn replied, her voice wistful, “I have not had much to smile about recently.”

“I do not believe that,” her brother countered. “You have three strong, healthy sons who I know are your pride and joy, and you have the love and support of many friends here to help you through this. Now, where is that smile?”

Éowyn responded with a slight smile that lengthened with a small laugh as she watched Éomer’s look of scrutiny turn to a scowl when her smile did not come soon enough for his liking. “There now,” he said when he was satisfied with her response, “I do not want to see you without it for the rest of the day.”

“I will try,” she said, unsure if she would be able to keep this promise.

A comfortable silence stretched between them, though it was soon broken by a merry whistle and the sound of footsteps in the hall. Soon Túrin, one of Faramir’s closest friends from childhood, and his wife Visilya entered, arm in arm. The pair, and their now nine-month-old son Vorondil, had come to Dol Arandur in mid-Nénimë to help Éowyn prepare for the birth that was calculated to happen in late Súlimë but surprised everyone by occurring in late Nénimë instead. After Faramir’s abduction less than a week later, they decided to stay until the crisis passed, offering further support to the new and grief-stricken mother.

Visilya squeezed Éowyn’s shoulder as she walked past. “You’re looking better today,” she said quietly.

“Thank you,” Éowyn murmured.

Behind the couple trailed Teherin, the healer who possessed extraordinary skills and powers. She had been instrumental in saving Túrin’s life at his wedding when his throat had been slit by a treacherous guest. She had also earned the grateful thanks of Faramir, Éowyn, and others and humbly accepted their gratitude. After Faramir’s abduction, she had been most concerned about Éowyn. Birthing twins had been difficult, and any hopes for a swift recovery were dashed when news came that Faramir was missing.

“Where is Azrahil?” Éowyn asked. The young Umbarian was the healer’s latest charge, and she usually brought him in tow to breakfast.

“He is out seeing to his lion,” Teherin replied. “Last night he was out in the garden late and got into a row with a pair of guards who were teasing her.”

Éowyn sighed. “I will see to it that Beregond has a word with them.”

Since Faramir’s abduction, relations with those from the South had been strained in Ithilien. Complaints from merchants about harassment at the borders and toll stations along the Harad Road had risen, and even familiar errand-riders received less-than-friendly treatment on occasion. Despite having helped save Faramir’s life from poison, and despite the Steward’s help escaping from prison, and carrying a token to show that he was indeed friend not foe, some of the Ithilien and Rohirrim soldiers had problems accepting the fact that the young man was staying at Dol Arandur now. Azrahil’s situation was made even more complicated because he was the half-nephew of Marek Al-Jahmîr, Faramir’s captor. In the honor-bound South, he ranked low in the social order, a half-son of Marek’s half-brother, both born to slave women. As a male in the Al-Jahmîr bloodline, he was counted among the family, but in reality, he was hardly more than another one of their soldiers and assassins.

This had changed when after being assigned to guard Faramir on the island, the Steward had started to say things that forced the young Umbarian to question what honor and family loyalty truly were. In the end, Azrahil had confronted his uncle, which earned him a severe beating and chains in a cell. Faramir, still weak from his nearly-fatal poisoning, had helped with a desperate escape-attempt and managed to free Azrahil and send him on his way to Ithilien, accompanied by the lion-cub Pharzi, a gift to Al-Jahmîr that the Umbarian had put in Azrahil’s charge, himself not considering the lion worthwhile.

So despite having the Steward’s blessing, there were some who distrusted Azrahil and were not afraid to let him know it. There had been several reprimands, and now for the most part, the young man was ignored by most. He had found a friend though in Túrin, who had his own acquaintances with the South. Túrin was especially intrigued by the lion-cub which lived in a special pen out in the garden. He said the cub was a vivid reminder of his time in the South, but not an entirely unpleasant one.

“Do you know if Azrahil is planning to come to breakfast?” Éowyn asked the healer.

“He did not say, but he was not in pleasant spirits when I checked his bandages this morning,” Teherin answered.

“Well then,” Éowyn sighed, “it looks like everybody is here.” She glanced at the empty chair where Faramir would have been this morning. Everybody except one.

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PostPosted: Sun 26 Jun , 2005 9:14 pm 
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“You really took him on lefthanded, captain?” Iorlas exclaimed, obviously impressed. “Hah, but I bet he was no match for you even then, the bloody coward. How did it go? Did you kill him?”

“I think you overestimate my skills as a swordsman,” Faramir replied with a slight smile. “And underestimate his. Before we indeed crossed blades, I had never seen him do any fighting before, so I did not know what to expect. But I knew that in my condition I was no match for him, even should he be only a very mediocre swordsman.”

“Then why did you challenge him at all, and risk getting hurt?” Edrahil, who was known for his caution and thus was often put in charge of the young hotspurs of the company, asked.

“I reckon I wanted to simply try and hurt him,” Faramir said. “His taunts had enraged me, and I had endured his malice for so long already. Moreover I was really desperate. Even though the fregate was pursuing us, it did not catch up visibly. Perhaps I thought involving Al-Jahmîr in a duel would cause some distraction and draw people from their posts. Or perhaps I was simply trying to end my ordeal one way or the other, for I could not see that even with Elessar and Imrahil nearby and likely to catch us eventually, the Umbarian would let me go. I was sure he would find a way to negotiate his freedom and yet kill me or at least keep me his prisoner.”

“Yes, yes, that’s all very interesting, but what about the duel,” Dírhael interrupted, blushing when Mablung gave him a stern glance. He bit his lip, then smiled a little sheepishly and shrugged. “Don’t we all want to know what happened next?”

“Was he really any good with the sword?” Mablung asked.

Faramir nodded as memories of the fight came up. “Better than I had expected. His first blow I parried with sheer luck, and immediately I realised that there was both strength and skill behind it. Fortunately for me my anger and despair had mobilised forces hitherto unkown to me. They even numbed the pain in my shoulder, so that for a while I was able to hold my own against him. For a short while. Then, as my last resources of strength faded, he more and more took over control of the fight and began to play with me. Perhaps had I been able to wield the scimitar with my right hand instead of the left, I would have managed to withstand him longer, but like this, he soon managed to get past my guard and to wound my leg and shoulder – not deeply, but painfully. All the time he also tried to keep me away from the railing, fearing, obviously, that I would attempt to leap overboard, now that my hands were free. And I did consider that option, although the fact that I was bleeding and the thought of the sharks I had seen previously made me hesitate.

Then the inevitable happened: with a vicious blow he rid me of my weapon, and to evade his blade I dove under it and lost my footing. I stumbled and crashed against the railing, and immediately Al-Jahmîr was there, pressing the point of his scimitar against my throat.

‘Get to your feet,’ he hissed, quite breathlessly.

Somehow I pulled myself up so that I could lean against the railing and hold on to it to steady myself. The way he pointed his sword against my neck forced me to look back to our pursuers, and I noticed they had gained on us considerably. I also saw that Elessar was still standing at the bow, watching us intently. Archers were with him, bows at the ready, only waiting for his signal.

Al-Jahmîr’s voice made me look at him again. ‘You lost,’ he stated.

‘Then end it,’ I returned through clenched teeth, still fighting for breath.

He only smiled evilly. ‘I have no intention of doing so.’

He nodded to his men to take hold of me again, lowered the blade – and stumbled backwards with a cry of pain followed by a curse. An arrow had pierced his right arm. What happened next to him I did not see, however, for I had used the brief moment everybody was looking at him to swing myself over the railing.”


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PostPosted: Mon 27 Jun , 2005 4:55 am 
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So how will Captain Sharkbait-er-Faramir be saved? :help: :pray: Hurry, hurry; I'm as impatient as Dirhael!



RAKSHA THE Impatient Demon :cool: , now bugging you on this board!

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PostPosted: Mon 27 Jun , 2005 6:47 am 
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Hi Raksha, great to see you on this board :). There's an aside to the story-thread here http://www.phpbber.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=1335&mforum=board77 where the next storytwists can be discussed ;)


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PostPosted: Mon 27 Jun , 2005 5:12 pm 
A maiden young and sad
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After breakfast, Túrin pulled Éowyn aside. “You were quiet this morning,” he said.

Éowyn sighed. “I had other things on my mind,” she answered.

“I’m sure,” he said. “Yesterday certainly was a shock. You seem to be doing better, though, now that you have had time to let it settle.”

Éowyn shook her head. “The pain is still sharp, and I am still worried about him. My heart refuses to believe he is anything less than alive,” she added quietly, “but it also aches because of all the uncertainty.”

Túrin reached out and clasped her arm gently. “Faramir will return to you, you and the children,” he said firmly. “I cannot believe that anything could keep him from you much longer. When he makes a promise, he intends on seeing it through.”

“I know he wants to come home, he made that clear in his letters, but it’s not as though he can simply walk away from all of this,” she retorted.

“No, it’s not,” Túrin conceded, “but you have to believe that he is making every effort to ‘walk away’ from it.”

“I do,” Éowyn said, “and now all I can do is hope that he returns soon, or wait on word from the King about what his venture found.”

“I do not believe that this will end in tears and heartache for you,” Túrin said. As she smiled weakly in reply, he said, “But now I have to go find Voro. Visilya wants me to take him outside for awhile so she can do whatever it is you ladies do when your husbands and children are not around.”

“She is probably going to get a cup of tea and sit and enjoy a nice, quiet room for a change,” Éowyn said, her smile strengthening.

“Are you hinting that Voro and I are too loud?” he teased.

“Do you have a guilty conscience?”

Túrin laughed. “I don’t think I am going to answer that one!”

“A little later this morning I’m going to take my boys out to the garden, so if you two should happen to want some company, look for us near the ponds most likely,” Éowyn suggested.

“Ah, then do not be too surprised if we join you,” Túrin said. With that, he touched her arm again briefly, then went on his way. Éowyn turned to go back to her quarters when a servant called her.

“Lady Éowyn! Some messages have arrived for you,” the young man said.

Her heart quickened. Perhaps there would be news about Faramir after all! She hurried to the courtyard where one of their errand-riders waited. A shadow of disappointment hovered over her for she had hoped to see one of the king’s messengers instead. The chances that this one carried news of her husband were minimal. “Thank you,” she said, taking the handful of letters and other documents from the rider. “Your horse is hot. Have the stables look after her,” she remarked. “I will have some breakfast sent to your quarters,” she added as the rider turned to leave.

She walked slowly up the steps and back into her home. Looking at the various seals and signatures, she sighed.

Business.

Business.

Business.

She took the letters to Faramir’s office and added them to the growing pile on his desk. Some of the correspondence had been seen to, of course, but with the current situation, only matters of great importance received regular attention. She had read reports and answered queries when she could, but she also knew that if this lasted much longer, things would have to change. Faramir’s organization and planning had successfully managed to keep matters of the fief in general order in his extended absence, but such a system could not be permanent, and Éowyn knew that soon, far sooner than she wanted, she would have to step into a greater position in day-to-day affairs.

Her brief smile had disappeared. She looked at the top letter and sighed again. She recognized the seal and remembered that there were two others she had read earlier. This matter would not wait much longer. Fighting back a nagging voice that told her that her son was waiting on her, she reached for the letter. As she read, she fought another voice that said she was turning into work-obsessed Faramir.

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An exclamation of surprise and excitement issued from some of the rangers. “But ... but what of the sharks?” Dírhael asked, staring at his captain with a mixture of awe and disbelieve. “Wasn’t it very dangerous to jump into the sea? Didn’t they attack you?”

“I doubt that I would sit here with all my limbs intact had they attacked me. Strangely they did not – if indeed there were any,” Faramir answered, quite amused by the young man’s excitement. “The ship had been sailing quite fast, so perhaps they had decided to stay around Falastur’s vessel, and to wait for food there. And really, the sharks were the least of my problems. I hit the water rather unfortunately, injured shoulder first. The pain almost made me lose consciousness, which would have been fatal in that moment. I could not use my arm, and the seawater bit into the wounds Al-Jahmîr had given me, limiting the use of my leg as well. It was hard work reaching the surface again. I somehow managed to get my head above water long enough to take a deep breath, then the weight of my soaked clothes began to pull me under. I struggled to remain afloat, turning on my back, each moment expecting to be hit by an arrow from Al-Jahmîr’s ship (or indeed to be run over by the King's). I could not see where the fregate was, and I did not know if they had indeed seen what I had done and were aware of my plight.”

“You were fortunate that you are such a good swimmer, captain,” Mablung remarked, but Faramir shook his head.

“I lacked the strength for any real swimming. Fact is, had Elessar and Imrahil and the others not reacted as timely as they did, I would have drowned. They reached me in the very nick of time, just when a large wave turned me over and pressed me down, and I did not manage to reach the surface again for I had lost all orientation. Then, suddenly, I felt something strong grab me and pull me up towards the light. There were men in the water, all about me, and also there was the shadow of a boat blocking out the sunlight. That was about the last thing I realised ere finally I lost consciousness.”

“Do you know who saved you?” Mablung asked.

Faramir shrugged carefully. “They were some of the King’s crew. One of his kinsmen, too. And he and Imrahil were waiting in the boat. Apparently Elessar had attempted to jump in himself, but his guards had restrained him – having to use, as Imrahil put it “quite excessive force”. So he and Imrahil remained in the boat they had swiftly lowered from the fregate – which under the command of Erchirion continued to pursue the corsairs so as not to let them gain to much of a head-start.

I woke to find Aragorn bending over me, checking if I was still breathing, and dimly I heard cheers from the men upon his announcement that I was alive. To be honest, I did not feel very alive in that moment. My entire body ached, the shoulder in particular, and I was too weak to raise my head. I managed to open my eyes briefly, and closed them again immediately because the sunlight stung them. Then I felt a shadow fall on me as Elessar bent over me again, touching my shoulder lightly. I must have winced, for he withdrew his hand and rested it on my forehead instead, stroking the hair from my brow. All the time he was talking to me softly and soothingly, but I caught only few words of what he was saying, and did not manage to answer. I was suddenly reminded of how he had saved my life before, back during the war, and for the first time in many days, knowing that I was being looked after well now, I dared to relax. Or rather, I hovered on the verge of consciousness. Imrahil told me later how shocked they had been by my state, and that when they had pulled me out of the water and into the boat he had been convinced I had died. That is why the King's announcement had caused a cheer. Now, after making sure there was still some life in me, Elessar examined my injuries. He found what was wrong with my shoulder and set it.”

Some of the rangers who had had a similar injury grimaced and bestowed pitiful glances upon him. “Ouch! That was a mean thing to do,” Iorlas commented dryly. "When you didn't expect it."

“Better so than at a later point when I was fully conscious,” Faramir returned, although he had slightly paled at the memory of the pain. He glanced up when a ray of sunlight found its way through the foliage and set the dew-drops on the grasses sparkling. “We should set out again,” he said.

“But what of the tale?” Dírhael asked, aghast at the thought that he might not hear the end.

“More importantly, what of your condition?” Mablung inquired, studying his lord with a grave expression. “Do not overdo it, captain.”

“I shall not,” Faramir assured him. “I feel quite rested. Moreover I fear if we remain here much longer these ants will eat me,” he added, brushing some of the insects from his tunic. “And worry not, Dírhael, I will tell you what befell next as we ride,” he said to the young ranger, who looked visibly relieved.

With the help of Mablung, he got to his feet and made his way to the horses. Mounting proved less difficult as it had last time because they found a large moss-grown rock he could step on. The company set in motion again. They passed the well Iorlas had mentioned, a small freshet partly overgrown by weeds, the rocks where it issued from coloured red from the iron and other minerals it contained. Someone had established a stout board on the ground so that people could fetch water more easily.

Beyond the well the road climbed into the forest, here consisting mostly of pines and some ancient firs and cedars, with a few oaks and beeches inbetween. The air smelled of moist earth, mould and resin. Foxgloves leaned here and there, glowing pink when a sunbeam found them. Birds were chirping overhead, but apart from their occasional chatter and the steady clop clop of the horses’ hooves on the soft needle-strewn ground the wood was quiet.

Dírhael rode up to Faramir, eyeing him expectantly. Faramir smiled, and the young man blushed. “It’s so exciting,” he murmured apologetically. “I wish I’d have something that thrilling to tell about. I've never really had such an adventure before.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” Faramir said quietly. “I would rather have stayed home these past four months. There was little “adventure” in my sojourn on Tolfalas, and much hardship and pain and despair.”

“But you were saved in the end,” the ranger said.

“Because I was lucky. Nothing more. And you cannot always count on luck.”

“I think you belittle you own part in your rescue, captain,” Mablung fell in. “Not luck alone saved you, by all accounts, but your own courage and endurance, and your unshaken will to return home. I would not be surprised if soon there were songs about your deeds, and how you defied the thrice-cursed Umbarian again and again.”

“I think Hirgon is already working on a lay,” Iorlas said, turning in the saddle as he was riding in front of Faramir. Hirgon was known as the company’s bard because he had an excellent singing voice and a sheer boundless imagination, and moreover delighted in expressing almost everything that interested or touched him in song. “But he’s going to need more information to compose the last staves. Please, captain, we all want to know what befell next. Did they capture this Al-Jahmîr, and how was he punished? And what had happened to the Pelargirian ship? Did the corsairs really capture it? Ha, bet Falastur didn't like that one! And what did the King say when finally you regained consciousness? And how did you return to Ithilien? Didn’t the King and Prince Imrahil want to accompany you home? Why aren’t they here with us?”


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PostPosted: Tue 28 Jun , 2005 7:08 pm 
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Éowyn had not gotten very far in her work. Instead, she repeatedly found herself distracted by her own thoughts or the view from the westward window. The window was open, and the warm breeze that drifted in carried the scent of lilacs and other flowers. It was also a reminder that she had promised someone she would go see those flowers with him. “I will,” she murmured to herself. “I will as soon as I reply to this.” Steeling her resolve, she lifted the letter and began reading the first lines for the third time.

Soon, her concentration began waning, aided by the sound of someone walking by the open door. She turned in time to catch a glimpse of Azrahil as he sneaked by. Recalling some remarks at breakfast, she called him to come in. Slowly, he came around the corner and stood just inside the doorframe. Apparently, he found something about the floor interesting to watch, for he did not raise his eyes. In fact, his whole demeanor suggested that he did not want to be there as he shifted his weight slightly from one foot to another.

Éowyn studied him for a few moments, considering his mood. She knew he was still annoyed that he was not allowed to go with the King on the voyage south and had heard him mutter that a pair of skirts were disgracing him. “You were not at breakfast,” she finally said in a quiet tone.

“I had other things I was seeing to,” he answered.

She nodded slowly. “How is your lion?” she asked, noticing several tawny hairs on his clothes.

Here he clearly became agitated. “She has a cut on her face,” he said. He looked up, his eyes carrying a fierce glint.

“I heard this morning that she was being teased last night,” Éowyn said. “Is it serious?”

Azrahil hesitated before answering. “It is small,” he said, then added quickly, “but she should not have it at all!”

Éowyn nodded again. “I understand. Do you remember who it was?” As she wrote down the names he gave, she said, “I will make sure that Beregond knows about this. If this should happen again, though I doubt it will, I suggest you leave the punishing to a superior officer rather than giving it out yourself.” She indicated the bruise near his left eye.

He shifted his feet, this time while trying to hide a guilty smirk.

She shook her head slowly. “What are we ever going to do with you,” she said, her voice indicating her amusement. “Go find some breakfast; you must be hungry.”

After he left, she added a few remarks to Beregond and folded the paper. Then, she turned back to the letter and once more attempted to wade her way through it.

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Faramir laughed softly. “I doubt the ride is going to be long enough to satisfy your curiosity,” he said. “So many questions! But I shall try and answer them in brief, so that Hirgon can finish his lay.“

“Perhaps ‘tis best to continue where you left off, captain,” Mablung suggested. “Did you fully regain consciousness at all in that boat, and did you talk to the King? What did he say? It is common knowledge that he has been extremely worried about you. And the Prince Imrahil, too. Rumour says he has had a bad row with Falastur in council one day, when they discussed how to proceed in the matter of your possible replacement.”

“I do not doubt it,” Faramir replied. “They have had severe quarrels before. ‘Tis hard to believe that long ago there were the best of friends. But this, ere you inquire further,” he added towards Iorlas who had pricked up his ears, “is quite another tale. To return to what befell me, it took me a while to recover from the setting of the shoulder. I admit I almost longed to lose consciousness completely. Yet all the time Elessar spoke to me and saw to my other injuries – the cuts from Al-Jahmîr’s sword –, and I thought I should respond somehow, and show him I was more alive than I looked. Nevertheless I do not remember all what happened, so I reckoned I must have passed out briefly. Later I was told my condition had worried them greatly, as they did not know if the fact I did not wake was due to my exhausted state in general, or if there was another, internal injury or even poison at work. That is why they checked the fresh wounds so meticulously, to make sure the Umbarian’s blade had not been treated with some venom.

Things improved for me when someone lifted my head carefully and made me drink what tasted like cold and strongly diluted herbal tea. After I had swallowed some of it, I opened my eyes again, feeling strengthened somehow. Also my throat was less dry. Elessar was still leaning over me, and there were others, too, blocking out the sunlight so that it did not sting my eyes so much. When the King noticed I was looking at him, he smiled broadly, his relief obvious.

‘Welcome home, Lord Faramir,” he greeted me, squeezing my hale shoulder gently, and behind his mirth and joviality I could see the anxiety and worry he must have borne for many weeks decrease until only genuine joy was left. That sight made my heart leap as well.

Feeling someone stroke my forehead, I turned my head to look into my uncle’s smiling face. ‘It is good to have you back, lad,’ he said, quite moved. ‘You have caused us quite some worry of late.’

Automatically I murmured an apology, upon which both of them laughed. ‘At least you have not unlearned your manners among these barbarians,’ Imrahil remarked, his smile turning into a grin. Obviously he was trying to disguise the relief he felt and the fact he was deeply touched with humour. The King seemed to be feeling similarly.

‘Well, enjoy the time we are still afloat on this little boat where you can laze about in the sun, my friend,’ Elessar told me, grinning. ‘As soon as one of the ships has picked us up and we are on our way back to Gondor, I expect you to return to your office and look to your duties. You have had a longer holiday than I usually grant my lords, and now it is time to get some work done which you have neglected these past months. Also we must talk about your plans for quitting your office without my leave. I need not tell you what I think of them, do I?’

I shook my head, now laughing softly as well. ‘I had to give it a try, had I not?’ I said hoarsely.

‘Do not try again,’ he returned with mocked seriousness. ‘And this is an order!’

‘Aye, my liege,’ I conceded. Then I remembered something he had mentioned in passing. ‘We are going home?’ I asked, quite excited of a sudden. The notion that finally I was safe, and that my return to Ithilien was not a wish anymore but would soon become a reality only slowly asserted itself in my consciousness.

He squeezed my shoulder again. ‘If you do not object, we shall. Or at least you and Imrahil shall. I have a score to settle with a certain Umbarian, and as soon as my flagship arrives I will take up pursuit and hopefully soon join Erchirion.’

I nodded slowly as they helped me up into a sitting position, wrapping blankets about me and making my seat in the boat as comfortable as possible. They also handed my a cup containing more of the tea. In the meantime a small sail had been set, and some of the men had begun to row towards one of the merchant vessels that was approaching us. Al-Jahmîr’s ship and the fregate were already small as they headed away from the coast.

While I was sipping my tea, I considered what Elessar had said. The thought of how to deal with the Umbarian I had not heeded for a long time, my entire thought and will bent on trying to escape his clutches. Now I realised that of course Elessar was right, and that he had to be caught and punished. And I also knew that at the moment I lacked the strength to hunt him, and that more importantly my return home had utmost priority, before all else, even if that meant Al-Jahmîr had a realistic chance of escape.

Imrahil seemed to be reading my mind when he asked, ‘Surely you want to see him punished for what he has done to you? And to Éowyn, for even though she tried to display strength and confidence in front of others, this time has been as hard for her as it has been for you.’

Her name dealt me a stab. ‘Éowyn, is she alright?’ I asked anxiously. ‘My last letter must have worried her even more than usual, and if she has sent a reply, I have not received it. We must send a messenger ahead to ease her anxiety.’

‘Calm down, lad,’ Imrahil said soothingly, rubbing my arm. ‘A messenger, unless he be the remarkable buzzard, could hardly make the journey to Ithilien swifter than us. We shall sail directly up Anduin, past Pelargir, and drop you off close to Dol Arandur. In a few days you will be home.’

‘And you will use these days to rest, understood?’ Elessar added. ‘This is another order.’

I nodded obediently, taking another sip of the tea. ‘I have not thanked you yet for all you have done for me,’ I said quietly. ‘Or for Éowyn and the children. The knowledge that they were being looked after well greatly eased my worry, and made my stay more bearable. Well, at least a little.’

Elessar shook his head, his face taking on a grave expression. ‘I wish we could have done more to spare you what you had to endure. And I blame myself that things went so awry, and that we did not manage to react more timely.’

‘There was nothing you could have done, sire,’ I assured him, noticing how this was a matter that really troubled him. Imrahil looked grim and downcast as well. ‘As long as I was under the influence of the poison, even had you managed to free me, I would have perished without the andidote. And even afterwards I doubt you would have gotten me out alive.’

‘We could at least have spared you the ordeal of being hunted all over the island these past two weeks,’ he said bitterly.

‘I was not entirely without help,’ I said, remembering Zinizigûr’s little revenge and Emru’s kindness. ‘There are people I owe much to, and who must be thanked.’

‘And they shall be,’ the King said.

Well, and thus we waited until the merchant ship, the one bearing the King’s colours, picked us up. Meanwhile the other, under the command of Imrahil’s youngest son Amrothos, had aided Falastur against the corsairs, eventually defeating them. The small Pelargirian ship had been considerably damaged by the fire, and Falastur had lost a quarter of his men. He himself was unscathed – well, his body was, but his pride had received a severe blow.”

“The poor man,” Mablung commented sarcastically, and the rangers laughed.

“You seem to dislike our dear Lord of Pelargir,” Faramir said, grinning. “Shame on you, when he has risked so much to capture Al-Jahmîr and to free me.”

“He remains an arrogant asshole,” Mablung returned, shrugging. “What did he say when he saw you were safely aboard the King’s ship?”


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PostPosted: Thu 30 Jun , 2005 3:40 pm 
A maiden young and sad
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Whispers came from behind the doorframe.

“There she is. Do you see her?”

“Yes.”

“Go tell her it’s time to go.”

A ‘no’ accompanied a giggle.

“Yes, go on. Do it. Just go over there and tell her.”

Hearing the whispers, Éowyn turned in her chair to see her brother and her eldest son crouched in the doorway, watching her. Elboron, knowing he had been spotted, laughed again and hid his face in his uncle’s chest. “Oh, too late now. She’s seen you!” Éomer teased.

“Are you two spying on me?” Éowyn questioned, giving each other them a mock stern look. “That’s not a nice thing to do.”

“Spying?” Éomer repeated. He looked at Elboron. “Are we spying on your Mami?”

The little one grinned and said, “Yes,” very shyly.

“No, you weren’t supposed to tell her!” Éomer groaned as he tried to suppress a grin of his own.

“I teach my children to tell the truth,” Éowyn told her brother. “So don’t you try and teach them otherwise.” She lifted Elboron up onto her lap as he came trotting over to see her. “I suppose you want to go out to see the fish and the frogs,” she said, smoothing down his hair. He nodded vigorously.

“We’ve been looking for you, actually,” Éomer said, coming to stand next to her. “You seemed to disappear right after breakfast.”

“An errand rider arrived with messages for me,” she admitted, “and some of them had to be seen to immediately.”

Éomer asked quietly, “Any news of Faramir?” As Éowyn shook her head, he rubbed her shoulder gently. “Do not give up hope,” he said softly.

“It is hard,” she said just as softly. “Every day that passes wears on me more than the previous. If it weren’t for my children,” she said, cupping her son’s face in her hands, “this would be completely unbearable.” After a moment she said, “But I do have an appointment to keep with a certain young man, and I would hate to break it. Do you think your brothers would like to join us?” she asked her son.

Elboron’s face lit up. “Yes, yes!” he squealed.

Éowyn smiled. “All right, then I suppose we should go find them and tell them they can come with us.” She sighed as he wriggled off her lap and ran to the door. “Where does he get his energy?” she asked no one in particular.

Éomer chuckled. “It comes from being little,” he said, wrapping his arm around her shoulders as she stood. “You were like that once.”

She smiled. “Long ago.”

“Not so long.”

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PostPosted: Thu 30 Jun , 2005 5:10 pm 
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“Oh, he was all feigned relief,” Faramir replied, “but otherwise he heeded me little, more interested in overlooking the repairs on his ship. His original plan had been to hunt Al-Jahmîr, but with parts of the sails burnt away he had to forgo this plan. The King told him to return to Pelargir. I do not know if he really did so for soon we left him, heading north along the coast of Tolfalas.

There, only about an hour after we had parted with Falastur, we encountered a swift, large warship running the King’s colours. This was the ship he had been waiting for. Although Erchirion’s fregate was a match for the corsair in speed, when it came to a fight the crew was going to be heavily outnumbered. Thus Elessar wanted to lose no time. He examined me again to make sure I bore no serious injuries that a long rest would not cure, and that I would be able to do without his special healing powers until we reached Dol Arandur, where Teherin could look after me. Then he transferred to the warship. I could tell that he did not leave me gladly, and I would have preferred him to stay, too, but I understood that his presence on board would make a difference to the crew and further motivate them. Moreover, when it came to an exchange with Al-Jahmîr, he would be required to oversee it to try and guarantee that the outcome would be the desired one, and the Umbarian would not manage to escape yet again. Also, he made it very clear that he considered my abduction and my consequent mistreatment not only a assault upon me personally, but upon the Steward of the realm, and thus Gondor itself. He did not display it openly, but I knew that underneath he was burning with anger. I doubt Al-Jahmîr, with all his ingenuity, has foreseen what willfully inviting the King’s wrath will mean for him.”

“I’m amazed to hear you mention these things so evenly,” Mablung remarked, watching Faramir thoughtfully. “You of all people should be burning with wrath and hatred, even more so than the King. Don’t you desire to avenge yourself on Al-Jahmîr, and repay him for what he has done to you, and indirectly to your family as well?”

Faramir was silent for a moment, watching the mane of his horse absently. The question had occured to him, too, and until now he had found no answer to it. “Even if I had a chance to avenge myself,” he at length said reluctantly, “I am not sure I would use it. Do not misunderstand me, I want to see him punished for his crimes. Moreover it must be made certain that he cannot cause any further mischief. But revenge ... It would not change anything that happened, would it?”

“But it would make you feel better, most like,” Iorlas stated boldly.

Faramir gave him a sceptical glance. “Would it? I strongly doubt that. In a way, I think I have already had my revenge. This whole venture has cost him more than he anticipated, and he gained next to nothing. His reputation has been damaged almost beyond repair. And for a proud Southron, this must be harder to bear than physical pain.”

“I haven’t looked at it that way,” Mablung said thoughtfully. “I wonder if the King and the Lord Erchirion have been successful in catching him yet.”

“I am sure they are going to send word as soon as possible,” Faramir said.

“What of the rest of the journey?” Dírhael asked.

“There is not much to tell. During the first day I slept most of the time, and when I was awake I spoke much with Imrahil, telling him of my time on the island, while he informed me of what had passed here. Well, and when we reached Ithilien, and were looking for a small port along Anduin to drop me off, we encountered you. This was a stroke of luck, for Imrahil had been in doubt that we would have found enough horses to mount an escort. Now that he could charge you with accompanying me home, he decided to travel on to Harlond and thence to the City, to inform the Queen of how things had developed so far. He is going to join us in Dol Arandur as soon as he is done in Minas Tirith. Well, and that is about it. The rest you know.”

There was a moment of silence, before Dírhael said, “That was a good tale, captain.”

The rangers laughed, only Mablung shook his head. “You make it sound as if he made it all up just to entertain you, lad. And one last chapter is missing still: the happy ending. What the Lady is going to say ...”

“Aye,” Faramir agreed softly, feeling anxiety stir in him again. He was not sure what to expect, and although he was yearning to see Éowyn and the children again, a small part of him almost feared the reunion. For four months the desire to return home had been his chief motivation, but at times it had been little more than a mere wish, without any real hope of coming true. And now ... Even though he knew he was wrong, he could not quite shake off the notion that he had deserted them, and left them alone during a time of great sorrow and hardship. And they had managed, they had gotten by without him these past months, and most likely things had changed a lot at home. They had lived through a severe crisis, and surely this had brought them closer together. They had changed. And he, was he not different as well now?

You are a bloody fool to think that way, he scolded himself. Of course they want you back! Think of all the letters, and her assurances of how much she misses you. And this was only what she put down on paper. Do not believe for a moment that they do not need you. And of course Elboron will remember you, even though he may not recognise you at first. So stop worrying! All will be well.

“Look, captain,” Iorlas’ voice pulled him out of his contemplations. “It’s not far now anymore.”


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PostPosted: Fri 01 Jul , 2005 6:45 am 
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The company now left the forest and reached a rugged heathland studded with accumulations of white limestone rocks overgrown by hardy bushes and twisted trees, as well as a multitude of different herbs, and flowers that love barren, stony ground. Where the sunlight was already touching the ground, lizards and all sorts of beetles were astir, warming up on the rocks for their daily business. The air smelled of thyme and sage and rosemary, or of bay, juniper and terebinth, when the riders passed a thicket of these plants.

Dol Arandur was in full view now, the buildings glowing in the sunlight. Faramir halted his horse for a moment, gazing at the settlement. The place had always been in the possession of the Stewards, but when Sauron’s shadow lengthened and Ithilien became a dangerous place, with evil spreading from Morgul Vale and the city therein, the last inhabitants had fled across Anduin and sought refuge in Minas Tirith or the western fiefs. The small village and the fair houses of Dol Arandur had slowly decayed. From time to time the rangers would camp there, but other than them no one had lived in the Emyn Arnen until after the War, when Ithilien began to slowly be resettled, and Dol Arandur was being rebuilt. For this they had mostly used the old plans, although some modifications and improvements had been introduced as well. And the gardens were mostly new, devised by Legolas and Éowyn, although it had been taken care to preserve as many of the old trees as possible. Also now there was again a small village adjacent to the Steward’s home, and it was growing, for Ithilien had become a popular place to live – some people claimed it was because taxation was less severe than in some of the other fiefs, but Faramir knew this was not the sole reason. People valued the fair clime and fertile soil, as well as – and this was a point that pleased him especially – approving of the way the fief was being governed.

Now as he gazed upon his home, he was again stricken by the beauty of the place, and again he silently thanked Aragorn for granting him Ithilien as his fief. He had loved the land ever since he had first come here as a boy, and later when he had been a young recruit among the rangers this love had deepened. For many years the woods and hills had provided a retreat from the coldness he had often experienced in the Steward’s house in Minas Tirith, and to see them gradually fall under the shadow of Mordor had been a grief to him. Now Ithilien was welcoming him displaying its full glory, or so it seemed to him, and he felt his anxiety lessen and being replaced by elation.

“Hope they’ve prepared a good breakfast for us,” he heard Edrahil murmur to one of his companions.

“Ah, but they don’t know we’re coming,” the other replied. “Oi, captain, how about sending someone ahead to announce our arrival?” he then called to Faramir.

“But that would spoil the surprise, Targil,” Iorlas told the other. “Unless of course he doesn’t mention who we are having with us.”

“I can ride ahead, captain, if you wish,” Dírhael volunteered eagerly. "My horse is still fresh."

“Yeah, but you can’t keep a secret to yourself, lad,” Mablung said. “Let us ride on now. In half an hour we will be there, to there is no need for sending someone ahead.”

“Yes, let us ride on,” Faramir agreed, breakfast being (quite uncharacteristically, he thought with a slight smile) the last thing on his mind right now.

The crossed the heathland and followed the road as it wound down into a wooded valley where the swift narrow stream that ran through the garden and fed the ponds around Dol Arandur leaped merrily over a sequence of small waterfalls, filling the air with a fine mist that hung between the evergreen trees and laced the ferns and mosses on the rocky sides of the vale. A slender bridge had been built over the stream. Behind it the road climbed up again until it found an old wall now overgrown with ivy and wild wine and trailing clematis and honeysuckle. It once had been part of a building, a mill as the old maps and records of the place indicated, yet it had long fallen in ruin. Only one wall and an arch through which the stream issued were still intact. The former had been transformed into the southernmost wall of the gardens. The road then ran alongside the wall or the evergreen hedge that in other places fenced the garden, until finally it reached the village, there joining the main road to Dol Arandur in the village square, and thence leading on to the main gate.

When the company approached the bridge, Faramir thought he suddenly heard a sound different from the gurgling of the river and the music of the birds overhead: someone was singing. As they drew nearer, he saw that some washerwomen were rinsing laundry in the stream, singing a merry tune that went well with the melody of the water. When they noticed the horsemen, however, they ceased and gazed at the company curiously. One of the women shyly raised a hand to salute one of the rangers, who blushed violently. His companions seized the opportunity and teased him mercilessly.

“Good morning, ladies,” Mablung called towards them.

“Good morning, masters rangers,” a resolute-looking woman replied. “What news from abroad?”

“Most excellent news,” Mablung returned, smiling broadly. “The best we have been able to bring in a long time.”

The women exchanged excited glances. “Do you bring tidings of the Lord Faramir?” one asked. “That’d be high time. Yestereve I spoke with my sister-in-law who’s a servant up there, and she told me that apparently the Lady was in great distress last night. She couldn’t say what had happened, but she said she’d heard from someone who’d waited on the Lady and her guests that she’d been weeping and weeping for a long time, always clutching her little boy to her – oh, and what a cute lad that is. We thought that perhaps she had received word about her husband, and we really felt sorry for her. She’s been through so much lately, with the Lord kidnapped and she left with three little children to raise. So do hurry on, if you indeed have good news! She needs these most urgently, the poor thing.”

“But before you leave, can’t you tell us a little of your tidings?” another woman asked sweetly, winking at Mablung.

He shook his head, upon which a look of disappointment stole over her face. “I cannot tell you of my tidings, but I can show them to you.”

With that he moved his horse so that the women could see who had been riding behind him. Faramir, despite still being greatly troubled by what he had just heard, could not help but smile upon seeing their expressions. They stared at him as if he was a ghost that had just formed out of the river-mist. A girl let drop a piece of cloth she had been wringing, and it hit the water with a loud splash. An older woman swayed and had to sit down on a large rock, fanning herself with her hands.

The resolute-looking woman only nodded gravely as she stood with her hands on her hips, studying Faramir intently. “That’s about time!” she stated. “There’s not much left of you, my lord, if you forgive me saying so, but I doubt the Lady will mind. I’ve always held this Southron fare is unhealthy, but don’t you worry, they’ll get you back into shape in no time. Hurry on now, and don’t keep her waiting any longer! If you’re lucky, she’s in the garden right now. I’ve heard she likes to take the children there before it gets too hot.” With that she turned to the girl to scold her about the fallen piece of laundry.

The company took their leave of the women who were now talking agitatedly, and crossed the bridge. Next to the wall Faramir reined his horse again. There was a small gate here, overgrown as well because it was little used. Nevertheless there were two guards positioned nearby. The men had seen the company, but apparently they had not been able to find out what all the excitement down at the water had been about. One of them came forward and opened the gate, after Mablung had knocked a signal on it.

“Greetings, Mablung,” he said when he recognised the ranger. “What did you do to the ladies down there?”

“We shocked them with good tidings.”

“Indeed. How nasty of you. What can I do for you? You know you won’t be able to enter with your horses.”

“There is no need for that, Falborn. Only two or three of my company need to pass, and the rest shall take care of their steeds.”

“What’s that?” Falborn asked somewhat sceptically. “You know that I have to check their identity first, and perchance even wait for word from Beregond to give them clearance. I don’t know all the lads of your company, and you do remember that we’re under strict orders concerning security after all that’s happened recently, don’t you?”

Mablung smiled mysteriously. “I doubt you are going to have any trouble with the identity of one, at least.” With this he signed to Faramir to come forth. In the meantime the Steward had dismounted (again with help), and now he walked towards the gate. Falborn saw him, frowned, looked to Mablung as if expecting some kind of jest (because the rangers were notorious for their pranks), then looked to Faramir again. His face paled, then split into a broad smile.

“What say you, Falborn, may I pass?” Faramir asked, smiling as well.

Falborn only nodded, still too surprised to speak, and waved him through. Mablung dismounted as well. “I shall accompany you, captain,” he said. “Iorlas can lead the company for the rest of the way.”

“Do you fear I will not manage to keep on my legs on my way through the garden?” Faramir inquired after he had taken leave of the rangers, and Falborn had shut the gate again behind them.

Mablung only shrugged. “You should have someone with you,” he said, “to be prepared for all eventualities.”

So they set out along a winding path that climbed up along the inner side of the wall. “Where shall we look first?” the ranger asked after a short while. “Lest we spent hours roaming the gardens when they are up in the house.”

“Let us have a look around the ponds,” Faramir said, his voice betraying the excitement and apprehension he felt.


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PostPosted: Fri 01 Jul , 2005 2:03 pm 
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Éowyn and Rían, each with a twin in one arm, followed Elboron as he led them through the garden. The boy knew the way well, which was no surprise considering he made the journey almost every day. The smooth path wound down through the terraces and toward a shaded corner of the garden where most of the frogs lived in their ponds. They passed under a canopy of cherry tree limbs, no longer in blossom, but now fully-leafed and cool. The breeze drifted through the leaves, carrying with it the various smells of the garden, of flowers, trees, and grass.

Éowyn glanced at Peregrin resting against her shoulder when she heard him coo suddenly. “It’s going to get you,” she teased as a small purple-and-white butterfly floated closer to his face. “Here it comes, here it… Oh, there it goes,” she said as the butterfly flew away. She glanced over at Meriadoc in Rían’s arms and saw that he was busy watching the leaves as they passed overhead. She was pleased that both boys were paying close attention to what was happening. This was something a little different from their usual routine.

“Elboron, do not go too far ahead,” she called, noticing that her son was drifting farther than she wanted.

“He certainly enjoys being out here,” Rían commented.

Éowyn nodded. “I think he would stay out all day and night if we let him. He loves being able to run around and climb on things and hide behind the bushes. I wonder what he’ll think of Minas Tirith when we take him there again. He was too small to remember the last time.”

“The City is much different,” Rían agreed. “But there are still plenty of places for a little boy to run and climb and play.

“Indeed, and if he takes on much like his father when he was younger, we may have to keep him locked up in his room to make sure he stays out of trouble.”

Rían laughed. “Forgive me, my lady, but I cannot see Lord Faramir as much of a troublemaker. It does not seem to be in his nature.”

“Oh, but he was,” Éowyn said. “He, Túrin, Visilya, and another of their friends were partly responsible for burning down an inn when they were younger.”

“No!” Rían gasped.

“Yes,” Éowyn nodded. “It caused quite a stir, so I’m told. Another time before that, when Faramir and Túrin were even younger, they had the idea to breed frogs in the Citadel fountain.”

Rían’s eyes grew wide. “And the Steward Denethor, he did not mind?”

“Oh no, he did not like the idea at all, and once the frogs were discovered, Faramir ended up in a lot of trouble.”

“And even though you know this, you are still going to let your sons play together?” Rían asked.

Éowyn laughed. “Of course! I think their fathers believe that since they gotten into trouble for so many things they will be able to sense when their boys are planning something of their own and stop it before it starts.”

As they rounded the corner of a low wall and came out into the sunlight, they saw Elboron crouching down to pet Berúthiel. The cat sat in the middle of the pathway, and from the curve of her back, it was obvious that she was preparing to spring away it the child became too rough for her taste. “Be gentle with her,” Éowyn called. As Elboron looked back at her, the cat took the opportunity to dash for some nearby bushes. As Elboron’s pleas of “Cat! Cat!” filled the air, the feline disappeared into the bushes’ twisted mess. “Let her be,” Éowyn said, walking up to Elboron. “Maybe she is going to go chase a mouse. Now, where are the frogs?” she asked, taking his hand in hers.

The boy led them down a few stone steps, across a wide, grassy patch lined with neatly-trimmed evergreen trees, down more steps and across one of the small, arched footbridges that spanned the stream that flowed through the garden. They came to another large, grassy area shaded by many birch trees. “Frogs here,” Elboron said, pointing toward the water. Here the biggest ponds lay in two large clover-leaf patterns, joined together where the stems would be. Smooth white and grey stones rimmed the ponds. While there were many other, smaller ponds in the garden, these seemed to be the most frog-infested.

“See! See!” Elboron squealed, pointing to a large bullfrog that had splashed into the water.

“Yes, I did,” Éowyn said, smiling at her son’s happiness. “That was a big one! Did you see it?” she asked Peregrin. He seemed to be more interested in watching the sunlight play on the water. They could see other frogs on the small circular islands and still more swimming. Soon the goldfish came to see who the visitors were, followed by the ruby-fish. The twins took more interest in the fish, perhaps because their bright colors were easier to see than the darker frogs. Éowyn glanced over to Rían, who was helping Meriadoc count the multi-colored fish. “We should have brought some bread crumbs,” she said.

“I can go get some,” Rían suggested.

Éowyn nodded. “Yes, do that. The twins will like throwing them in the water, unless they try to eat the crumbs themselves!” Rían handed Meriadoc to his mother, then started back toward the house. Éowyn carefully sat down on the grass with her back against one of the nearby birch trees. Peregrin started squirming in her arms, so she spread out a small blanket she had brought and put him down on the grass. She let Meriadoc sit on the blanket, propped against her side. She talked to each of them for awhile, the twins cooing and gurgling back, then laughed softly when Peregrin amazed himself by rolling over, a trick he was still learning he could do.

“Elboron, come closer,” she called, seeing that her son was wandering toward the further clover-leaf. He started back toward her, stopping every few feet to look at something interesting in the pond. At the sound of grass crinkling behind her, Éowyn looked over her shoulder to see the cat come stalking towards them. “Hello Berúthiel,” she murmured, stroking the cat’s ears once she came close enough. “Don’t think I am going to catch a fish for you,” she said. “I doubt Faramir would like it if you ate one of his favorites.” Soon Elboron spotted the cat and came trotting over, calling, “Cat! Cat!” Berúthiel twisted from under Éowyn’s hand and scampered out of sight. “Come here, my love,” she said, reaching out her arm for Elboron. He sank down on the grass next to her, the disappointment that the cat did not want to see him evident on his face. She stroked his hair gently, then asked, “Are there any new frogs in the pond?” He shook his head. “Well, Rían is getting some bread crumbs so you can feed the fish,” she continued. This immediately made her son forget about the cat. “Or maybe we could feed them your toes,” she teased.

“No!” he squealed, shifting so that he could hide his feet.

“Yes, yes,” Éowyn said. “Fish like Elboron-toes.”

“No, no,” Elboron squealed again.

“Yes, and then we will cut off your fingers, and then your nose!” This time Elboron’s squeals were cut off by a shriek of laughter as he found himself being tickled too. Even the twins joined in with their shy little half-laughs, though there were not sure what the joke was. “I love you so much, little boy,” Éowyn said, stopping the tickling so he could catch his breath, and giving him a kiss on the forehead instead.

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Ithilien, the garden of Gondor now desolate kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness.

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PostPosted: Sun 03 Jul , 2005 5:16 pm 
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The path wound steadily uphill, twisting through ivy-grown oaks and chestnuts and hazel-thickets. Down here the garden was less tended than on the upper terraces closer to the houses where there were orchards and beds of herbs and vegetables and flowers. Soon Faramir found himself breathing hard. Although they walked under the shadow of the trees, the air was already warm, and he began to feel his weariness more than ever now. He also felt Mablung’s worried gaze upon him.

“Perhaps we should rest for a moment, captain?” the ranger suggested. Faramir only shook his head, and Mablung fell silent again.

Leaving a thicket of boxwood that had been cut in the shape of an arch a while ago, although by now this shape had become slightly outgrown, they came upon a narrow strip of grassland behind which a low wall of rough stones grown with lichen and succulent plants mounted. A flight of steps led up to the next terrace. To their left the sound of the stream could be heard as it fell a few feet into a stone basin overgrown with mosses and ferns, and then hurried on through a narrow channel in the grass.

Slowly they ascended the steps. When they had almost reached the next level, Faramir espied a plump cat sitting underneath a rhododendron bush, and spying on a lizard that lay lazily on one of the upper stones of the wall. The cat noticed the men, and mewed as if to welcome them. Smiling, Faramir went towards her. She stretched leisurely, then approached him as well, but stopped before him, looking up to him and mewing again. He laughed, stooped and picked her up, and began to stroke her head and back.

“It almost seems you missed me, Berúthiel,” he said merrily, feeling elated that she had recognised him so easily. “Are you sure you really mean that? For you know that I tend to complain and chase you away when I find you eating my shoes.” Berúthiel only purred contentedly and let him continue to stroke her. “Thank you for protecting the little ones,” he told her gravely. She mewed once more, rubbing her head on his chest, then suddenly struggled to be let down because the lizard had moved slightly, and obviously it was more interesting than Faramir’s return. He released her, and watched her slink off to a place from where she could continue to prowl on the small reptile.

“That’s a smart cat,” Mablung remarked cheerfully as they went on, following the path as it led along the edge of the terrace, over a large flat stone that served as a bridge over the stream, and on towards a small grove of large coniferous trees, with an undergrowth of evergreens and other bushes.

Faramir only nodded, too anxious to pay much attention to what the other was saying. They passed into the shadow of the conifers. On the other side it opened onto a broad lawn studded with birches, between which some of the ponds lay. Faramir felt his feet slow as they walked towards the sunlit meadow. He thought he had heard faint laughter ahead. Mablung walking swifter passed him by, but then slowed as well, and suddenly halted altogether. Turning to Faramir, he glanced at him, his eyes twinkling.

“Captain, I fear you will have to go on without me now,” he said, fighting to maintain a serious expression while in fact almost bursting with excitement and joy. “But I’ve just found some raspberries here, and ... well, it would be a waste not to pick them ...”

“I see no raspberries, Mablung,” Faramir replied, his heart beating very fast now, his throat dry of a sudden. He dared not yet look at what Mablung had descried through the trees.

“Ah, but there are ... now, where did I see them ... must have another look, I guess. So don’t wait for me.”

Stepping to him, Faramir clapped his shoulder. “Thank you, Mablung,” he said quietly, trying to keep his voice steady. He was feeling all giddy, and visibly swayed when the ranger patted his back.

“Good luck, captain. I only wish the bloody Umbarian could be here now to watch,” he said, but Faramir hardly listened to his words as he went to the edge of the grove. Next to a large fir he halted, peering through the low branches. He could see the lawns, the birches casting a maze of gentle swaying shadows on the ground, the ponds in their clover-like pattern glinting in the sunlight. And there, against one of the trees, someone was sitting. Someone with golden hair that gleamed in the sun. He leaned against the rough, resinous bark of the tree to steady himself. There were other, smaller persons, too. One of them now detached itself fromt he group and approached the nearest pond, but then halted and turned to the golden-haired, pointing towards the water and laughing merrily.

Faramir closed his eyes for a moment, simply relishing the sound, but at the same time asking himself again if this could indeed be happening in real, or if it was just another dream, so that when he woke he would see the dolphin-fresko above his head, or the rocky ceiling of a cave. He recalled that he had had a dream before where the situation had been very similar: he had returned to find Éowyn and the children in the garden, but when Elboron had run towards him to greet him, a hidden archer had losed a dart at his father and so slain him.

There was the apprehension, almost fear again he had battled constantly throughout the past days, whenever his thoughts had turned towards home. Not so much because of this dream, but rather because he could not foresee their reaction. For four months he had lived for this moment, his entire will bent on enduring whatever his enemies had done to him long enough to experience what lay immediately before him, and now, when he was only a few steps away from those he loved and cherished above all, and who he had missed more than he could put into words, he felt numbingly afraid.

“Do you need me to push you out of these trees, captain?” Mablung’s voice startled him so much that he broke the small dry branch he had been holding on to. “Come on, they won’t bite you”, the ranger added encouragingly. “Don’t let them wait any longer.”

Faramir nodded slightly, drew a shaky breath, and visibly bracing himself he stepped out from the trees and into the sunlight.


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PostPosted: Sun 03 Jul , 2005 11:31 pm 
A maiden young and sad
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Despite the heat, Éowyn felt a chill run up her spine, as though someone were watching her intently. She looked around, but did not see anything out of the usual. Shaking off the feeling, she turned her attention back to her son. “Yes, Elboron, I see the turtle,” she said. She watched as the small, dark head slipped back under the water and continued swimming. “Do you know how many turtles are in the pond?” she asked. Elboron’s brow furrowed as he thought about the answer, then he shrugged his shoulders and started walking back toward his mother. Eowyn laughed. “I don’t know either. I think we used to have two, but I don‘t see the other one right now.”

Beside her, Meriadoc squealed and waved his arms. She looked down and brushed away an ant that had begun crawling across his leg. Peregrin was still entertaining himself with the edge of the blanket that he had managed to pull over himself. Éowyn plucked away a few blades of grass that had gotten stuck on the cloth. She knew he would attempt to chew on the grass if he had the opportunity, not that Meriadoc was any different. It was getting warm out here, though, and Éowyn felt that they should think about going back inside soon, where it was cooler. She was surprised that Rían was not back yet with the breadcrumbs. Surely it did not take this long to talk the cook into giving up some of her bread!

“Mami, look!”

Éowyn glanced up, expecting to see Elboron pointing at another creature in the ponds. Instead, she followed his pointing finger toward a line of conifers, a line someone was walking out from. Instinctively, she knew Elboron was close enough to her that she could pull him to her if needed. She squinted against the sunlight, trying to descry the form approaching.

“Mami?”

Éowyn ignored Elboron’s question, watching as the figure came closer. Then, she caught her breath sharply. It couldn’t be. “Faramir?” she whispered. She felt the blood rush from her face. He had told her what had happened to him, but to see the effects… His confident stride was gone, replaced with a more hesitant, cautious approach. One arm lay in a sling, how had that happened? He had lost much of his weight; the clothes he wore now hung loosely on him. But as she watched, too stunned to move, she knew in her heart that this truly was her Faramir. And he was home.

“Elboron,” she said on a second attempt, her voice failing her the first time, “that’s your Dadi.”

“Dadi?”

She nodded. “Why don’t you go tell him hello,” she said, her voice faltering on the last word.

Elboron glanced from his mother to the approaching man, hesitated for a moment, then began walking towards him, then broke into his teetering run. Éowyn drew a ragged breath as she watched him go, feeling the tears already welling up in her eyes. She glanced down for a moment to put Meriadoc on his back and give him a corner of the blanket to play with. Then, brushing the first tears from her cheeks, she slowly stood. Was this truly real? Or was it some sort of evil nightmare from which she would wake up screaming? She looked again. No, he had not disappeared in the moment she had looked away. In fact, his features were more discernable now. She saw his gaze intent on the little one coming toward him, but she also noted how haggard and weary he looked. She pressed a hand to her mouth, feeling a sob rise in her throat. She wanted to run to him like Elboron was, and wrap her arms around him and hold him close until long after sunset. But no, she felt rooted, unable to take a step toward where father and son were now meeting.

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Ithilien, the garden of Gondor now desolate kept still a dishevelled dryad loveliness.

Sweet home Indiana
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