A Man's a Man
3. Sleep on the problem
She must have known the reason why he was stalking back and forth about the room like a warg in a cage, of course she did! And it did not make any difference, no, not with her.
“Get into bed, Estel, and rest.”
He clung to his line of thinking. About six weeks. Maybe a little more. Possibly a little less, he could not know. Ten at the very outside.
Oh, one could always hope for a sudden, unexpected reprieve, of course. There was always hope, right up until hope’s dying moment. But hope would desert those who trusted vainly to hope alone. Chance could be benevolent, but it could also be pitilessly harsh; and it could be harsher yet, yes, indeed
No, one must make oneself sufficient for when chance turned traitor.
Aragorn thought: Yes…he…
The fourth bell was heard in the distance. Faramir turned over and sighed heavily. Then after a moment’s fumbling he said:
“Oh these damn sheets, don’t they ever stay put? look at this! Four times I’ve blown my nose on this- thinking it was a handkerchief. They make this bed tomorrow, I’ll tell them they should use nails.” He sighed again. “Four hours. I hate it when I can’t get to sleep. Always the same, I just lie awake worrying. Worrying about the fact that I can’t get to sleep. Working out how much time I’ve got left, how many hours I can just squeeze in provided I get to sleep within the next five minutes. That keeps me awake for another hour.”
“Try relaxing morrre,” Éowyn said from beside him, her voice thick with half-sleep, “an’ let ye whole body go limp.”
“I did let my whole body go limp, I fell out of bed, as you’ll recall. I haven’t been back to sleep since.”
“Because you keep ðinking too much. That’s your problem. Give your mind a rest, and then you might drift off; just let your mind go completely blank.”
“It’s the night guard’s fault, anyway. I don’t understand the practice, myself. I mean, I know that they are abroad at night, but they must realise that if all is well then the vast majority of people do not need to be woken up to hear that it is. If all was not well then perhaps we need to be told, but if nothing happens, can they not let us sleep and tell us in the morning?”
“Are you going to go on like this all night?”
“What’s that? Did you hear that?”
“That strange hooting sound.”
“Well it’s probably Halafinde across the plaza.”
Faramir rolled over to the other side of the bed. Then Éowyn heard a faint thud, and her husband say:
“What’s this doing in here?”
“What’s this jar of dried peas doing under the bed?”
“How should I know what it’s doing? I can’t even see it.”
“Mmm. That’s woken me up even more now. Given me something else to worry about. Why is nothing ever simple in life?”
“Will you go to sleep.”
“Mysteries of Arda. Time and space. Life and death. Legolas Greenleaf and Gimli son of Gloin. Time. When you think about it, nothing ever exists, in fact. I was working it out in the study when I was waiting for Theoán to finish polishing the inkwell on the inside as well as the out. The future doesn’t exist, because it hasn’t happened yet. The past doesn’t exist, because it’s already over. And the present doesn’t exist, because as soon as you start to think about it, it’s already become the past. Which doesn’t exist any more. Like that moment just then, when I said that. That’s already in the past. Gone forever. And so is that. When I said gone forever. And so is that- when I just said: and so is that- that’s gone forever now as well!”
Éowyn sighed deeply.
“And so is that. When I just said: That’s gone forever now as well, that’s gone forever now as well.”
“Will… you... shut… up, for Bema’s sake, Faramir! Jabbering on all wildly like a rabid parrot! ‘Twould be quite wonderful, would it not, if we could both lie back and get some sleep!”
Then she said:
“Ah, well. There it is. Now I’m wide awake, thank you my lord, you’ve finally managed it. Mayhap I shall do some needlework, perhaps that will send me off.”
She got out of bed, and in time found her way to the lamp, that, when lit, flickered in the window, and looking out, the King could not help thinking that it looked like a signal.
“I come, my lady, I come,” he said, lying beside his wife and pulling the sheet over the two of them.
Arwen moved near to him, laying her arm over his shoulder, as was her habit.
“Do not break your heart yet, melleth nin,” she whispered in his ear, before giving him a somewhat caustic-tasting kiss.
“Have you been drinking?”
“Do not think that you are the only one to have had a trying day,” she said in tones that were very deliberately even for now.
“So. At last the antics of our children drive the Lady Evenstar to brandy, turpentine and furniture polish.” He sighed, and drew her closer. “Why didn’t you call me to join you?”
“Estel…” Arwen stroked her husband’s forehead, “Estel…”
“I said it before. Do not break your heart yet. This…” she spread her hands- there was so much she knew she might say, whole worlds she could draw to mind, in which Ellë’s trouble was such a little speck, and yet, she could say none of it, she could not conjure it, not here, not now, not safe in their bed; “this is, is nothing, Estel, nothing- are there not far worse things that might have befallen her?” would he not, after all, be happy to see Elensil there lying against her pillows with a bleary smile with a little golden-headed bundle cradled in her arms, would that not be all he could have desired for his daughter? Could he have forgotten, so soon, that same face creased with worry, in this very room, at daybreak (one year, four months, eight days, nineteen hours and seven minutes ago): “Ada… Nanna… it’s Anna… she’s gone… I’m sorry… I was sleeping… I’m so sorry!” “Estel! This is nothing!”
Her husband stared at her for an agonising eternity. Then he said:
“I know what it is you would say- and yes, I know that, I do. Do not think I have forgotten.”
“Then you must agree…”
“Aye, I agree. But what of it? Maybe this is not the worst that could become of our daughter, but one can hardly find peace just yet.”
“Do you not trust Elboron, then?” Arwen cried, “for if you will not, trust in your own Lady Evenstar, and I shall tell you: he loves our daughter, is bound to her, truly, as she is to him- and that you cannot doubt, can you?”
“I doubt it not, I doubt it not. Indeed, I doubt him not; I do not suspect any lack of love, nor good intention. All I can say is, that there can be a world of difference between what men mean to do and what men might do.”
“Think you that there are no honest men, husband?”
“A man’s a man, my lady,” he replied. “What more can I say?”
She knew what it was he meant, or at least what he thought he did. A man’s a man. Well, she knew that. She had known that long before Estel. (“Ada?” “Yes, tinu?” “Why do the smelly visitors have broken ears?”)*
“Every six seconds!” Elrohir was almost visibly quivering with outrage. “Thinking of- of copulating, every six seconds. Is that not disgusting? Arwen!”
She had said:
“What of their women?”
“You may well ask what of their women! Do you want to find out for yourself, where that leaves their women? Do you really?”
And she had. Oh, she could not argue with her brother still (though how did he discover that, anyway?), all she could think in reply was what she knew now. If mortal women didn’t think so much of begetting, then it could be due in no little amount to being so busy in such matters as finding the correct man to beget upon them- the careful baiting of the trap, the hunt, finally the steady, tentative pursuit; the painstaking building of her nest, the hours of guarding to keep every stick and feather just so… and then the children- by Elbereth, the children!- really, with all that to concern her, what did a few minutes of begetting matter?
Elrohir, you didn’t understand. You never will. Men think of their continuing the species every six seconds- but their women are thinking of it all the time…
A footstep on the floor above-
“What’s that?” Aragorn sat up on his elbow and looked at the ceiling. “That’s not her, ill again, is it?”
“No. That is ‘Míriel. ‘Míriel and Elenwë’s bed is above us,”
“Well, what’s she doing?”
“I do not know. Opening the window?”
“She shall start climbing out of it a’nights one of these days, mark me. Else have someone climbing in through it!”
“Well, I doubt it will matter very much, Estel, when there is a shallow-sleeping and inquisitive eight-year old sharing the bed and the two of us in the room below; I very much doubt anything untoward is going to happen.”
“Well, mayhap that much, yes. We have that to be grateful for. Did you see her this morning? ‘Míriel? All painted up like an Urak-hai?”
“Two Ungoliants that had crashed into a snowdrift, yes, I heard you tell her as much.”
“And all the time it’s her sister, her lovely selfless virtuous sister, slowly collapsing on the table- oh by Manwë we’ve been fools.”
“Don’t speak so, Estel,”
“Oh, I won’t condemn her. I didn’t foresee this. Neither did you.”
“It happens from time to time, Estel. Remember Ethien? The parlour maid?”
“I think so. Small girl. Chipped front tooth. Left maybe two years back.”
“She did indeed. She was with child, abandoned by a soldier,”
“Really? Why do you know?”
“Ah, the Lady Evenstar knows.”
“Well- well I know that Elphir’s younger daughter was two months gone when she was wedded.”
“’Tis true. It must be.”
“I’m not shocked that you say it. I’m shocked that you should be so naïve as to think it was a well-kept secret.”
“Well no, not naïve. Perhaps-“
“No, enough. I will not be called a stuffed shirt, or as you might have it, a tavor-hîw . I am not a tavor-hîw You cannot say I am a tavor-hîw **”
“It would seem not, husband.”
“The thing is-“
“The thing is, you are understanding of the many weaknesses of men, and the many obstacles that lie in their path, and the fact that nobody is incorruptible, and that getting caught out is not that that should be used to measure wickedness. Provided, and this is quite a stipulation, that the unfortunate case concerns anybody’s daughter but yours.”
There was a long silence.
At length the queen said:
“I do not think you are singular in this, you realise.”
“No. I do not suppose so.” Aragorn sighed. “I only know one man whose children have never yet manage to vex him. I don’t think they’re ever going to manage it either, not by anything short of kinslaying.”
“You speak as if this man had deprived his children thus.”
“Oh, come now. You must understand me- Adar wasn’t so very different when you were an elfling, was he?”
“Different from whom, Estel?”
“What I meant was… what… I can’t remember now- Who was I talking about?”
“Ada. You were saying how somebody’s very like him. I can’t think who you would be speaking of.”
“My lady, I have remembered, I was speaking of Faramir. Do please humour me, Arwen, and listen.”
“I shall do my very best.”
“What I mean is- you know earlier today he actually apologised to me?”
“You know- everything. That was his actual words. I’m sorry about it all. I mean, really. I mean, Elensil, well, she is but twenty; is she not little more than a child, I mean, really, she is so very young and has seen little even for that- whereas, well, her lover, now he is a man; I do not say he is a wicked man, but a man he is, and I would but wish for Faramir’s sake that he remembers the fact.”
“Except that neither is Elensil quite a child, Estel.”
“She is my child. In any case, she is but a girl. She knows nothing of the world.”
“She will soon be a mother.”
“And what is that supposed to prove?”
“To some, a lot.”
“And to you?”
“Why, she will always be my child.”
“Indeed.” Aragorn stared at the canopy. “At times like this, I do so wish that our children were more like you.”
“How so? I am rather fond of them as they are.”
“And I am fond of them as they are, and thus I do wish that they would stay as they are at any given time a little longer. When you were Elensil’s age, my lady, as I understand it you were indisputably a little child, and all thoughts of lovers blissfully far in the future.”
And it surprised you more than I, did it not, my lady, he added in the privacy of his mind. There is something you are holding back, but I do know it, meleth nin. She has grown up far faster than you ever did, and she has not grown up into an elleth, but a young woman, with all the weaknesses that mortal flesh is heir to.
How could you know your little one had realised she was made of flesh and blood? You never were a mortal maid. There were certain things Celebrian would not have needed to tell you til you were almost fifty, and many warnings you would not have needed, had they crossed your mother’s mind at all.
Fear not, ‘twas not you alone that was lax. Who knew that the latent love of childhood had taken a new turn?
“What was that?”
“What?” Aragorn said, his train of thought suddenly caught.
“That- whooshing noise. Did you not hear it, Estel?”
“I was thinking, lady. I still do not hear everything that you do.”
Another Estel had heard it, though- Aragorn’s gangly, untidy, over-energetic but nevertheless female namesake was awoken from the bed she shared with her sister, in a room across the Citadel plaza.
Lady Estel sat up, then waited a second, til she was sure her twin, Alasse, was still sleeping, before getting out of bed- Alasse had been sleeping lightly of late, as she did when she was wheezing; but tonight, it seemed, she had found a little respite, having been worn out by her fitful nights of late.
The curtain stirred slightly with a breeze that did not cool the heat of the night in the slightest. And there, sticking out of the window-cushion, was an arrow, still quivering slightly, with a roll of paper tied around it.
Estel slipped out of bed and went to the window; she looked out into the dark, at the building opposite, found the right window- and there- with just the slightest shiver, she saw the long, willowy shadow at the window, the shadow of a small longbow just visible at its side. Watching.
She reached out, and took it in her fist; the sensation of it still vibrating in her hand was surprisingly unpleasant, and she was glad of it ceasing when she pulled it out. Seeing the hole it left, she thought about it a moment- then, remembering how she had explained it away last time, picked up a pair of heeled shoes that she had left on the floor earlier, and cast them onto the seat.
She looked up, and saw the shadow turn, and fade back into the room behind.
She sighed. It irked her, really, to be so abruptly summoned from her bed, just like that, as if at the snapping of fingers! So sharply, so taking it for granted that of course she would rise and attend, how could she do otherwise?
She knew why it was so, of course- angry at being woken by the sound of an arrow because it had frightened her, angry at ‘Míriel because she was unnerved by a girl of seventeen.
Nothing wrong with being angry in the place of being frightened, her mother had always said. Absolutely. But… really.
Because, of course, Andumíriel was her friend. She might even have been a very good friend, it was hard to tell. There had simply been no question about it. Estel had been twelve, and the child who at the time had been the queen’s youngest daughter had been five; and the child sat down on a chair beside her, fixed her with a pair of eyes the colour of dark, polished steel and said:
“Sound report informs me that you and I really ought to be friends.” And that, more or less, had been that. The Steward’s daughter, after all, thereafter had every encouragement to be the friend of King’s daughter. Estel loved her horses, and so did ‘Míriel. Both liked to dance. Both were as fascinated as the other with arms. Both would run about in the hills all day if they could. Seven years there may have been between them, but ‘Míriel had been clever- very clever- and she still was. Too clever. The only thing she did not have worked out yet was that she maybe should not always openly display how clever she was.
It had made no difference when Estel had for so long been so much bigger and stronger. It had made no difference when ‘Míriel had still been declaring that they would talk with boys, when Estel had started thinking that maybe, in fact, she would like to talk with them, a little. It had made no difference when Estel had started saying: “No, I shall not ride to-day; I am not equal to it to-day.” (Never had she thought to say: “You are but a child; you will not understand.”)
But now… Estel’s hand crept to the silver ring on her finger (“Soon, leofost, so soon.”)
She had been caught. Only now did she know it. Soon (“So soon, leofost, so soon”) she would abandon her princess. She had never asked that it matter whether she was there or not. But now it did (had not her mother told her: “It may not be your fault, but it’s your responsibility.”?).
It should not have been. Estel was from the line of some of the wisest of Gondor, but it had not touched her. She had no Anduric, no Quenya, precious little Sindarin. She confused Eryn Lasgellen with Henneth Annun. She forgot to come to ladies’ mornings, and would forget to bring her flowers to the Loëndë procession. Her mother laughed at her; her father laughed at her; her uncle laughed at her; the King laughed at her; the Queen laughed at her; Elboron had swept her up in his arms and cried: “My sister, you are the perfect idiot; I beg you, always be so, for me; always be my dear, dear ass!”
But what would brilliant ‘Míriel do without her faithful idiot at her side? All thought ‘Míriel was invulnerable; but all were wrong. Soon Estel would desert her (so soon, leofost) for a husband.
She did not know what would happen; but she knew that she was needed. She knew it when ‘Míriel appeared with her over-kholled eyes and scarlet-stained mouth; she saw it when ‘Míriel appeared wearing so many jewels and embroidered clothes and things that sparkled that the King of Mirkwood would have thought it undignified to be quite so gaudy.
The King kept quarrelling with ‘Míriel. ‘Míriel was behaving as if she enjoyed it, too. There was something in it all… Estel had wondered, but no- surely the King could see that? Indeed, he was wise enough to see why, too, better than foolish Lady Estel could understand. Yes, he would judge it better than she.
Estel unfurled the paper from around the arrow, and slipped back into bed. Alasse took a deep, laboured breath, and Estel paused- she did not wake.
Estel lit a candle, and read the letter she had received.
She was not surprised, of course; for it was she who had said: “We shall go up the mountain! It shall be fun!”- and it was she who had seen them- she had seen a flash of goldy hair and white muslin in the copse, strode closer, then realised and run back, hoping to Manwë that her blushes did not betray how much she had seen; she had seen the glow about them as they leaned in one another’s arms at the Loëndë ball in Amroth; she had seen Elboron leave the room, the furtive smiles on the ship home-
ai, Valar, if a goose like Estel Hurin had seen so much, what had others who had a bit more brain seen?
-oh she had hoped against hope that it was her imagination, what she saw, what she could hear. This proved that, for the most part, she was right in her first suspicions.
“Ai, Ellë!” she murmured, and laid back on her pillows.
Above her, Prince Faramir sat up in bed.
“Did you here something?”
“What sort of something?”
“Like- it has stopped. Mayhap it was one of the twins sleep-talking.”
“In that case, I am surprised I have not heard the other answer. They do that.” Éowyn’s needle thumped through the taught fabric. “Oh, I saw an old friend of yours today. Was buying a cauliflower, for he’s never married. Damrod son of Iorod…?”
“Oh yes? Haven’t seen him in years, how is he?”
“Did he… ask how I was?”
“No. Well… not as such.”
“What do you mean, ‘not as such’?”
“Well… he seemed to be under the impression you were dead. In fact, we had quite an augment about it. I said: no, I think you must be getting him mixed up with someone else, but he wouldn’t have it. He says he’s positive, you died four years ago and you’d asked if you could be buried under the floor of the throne room in the White Tower. ‘To get your own back.’ To be honest, I think he’s getting a bit… you know. So in the end to keep the peace I just agreed with him; I said: ‘Now you come to mention it, you’re right, he is dead.’ He went off then, happy as a sandboy.” She put down her sewing. “Do you mind if I put this light out again?”
“You lie too close, Faramir. ‘Tis too warm.”
“I am sorry.”
They shuffled to their respective sides of the bed. A few seconds passed.
“What was that noise?”
“It sounds like somebody drilling a hole in a bucket.”
“Why would anybody be drilling a hole in a bucket? It’s the most pointless thing you could possibly do! It’s just your imagination, will you go to sleep!”
“That’s not my imagination!”
“Thatnoise. There. You can’t tell me you cannot here that.”
“Cannot hear hwat?”
“That noise. Like somebody shaking a bag of seeds around. Listen!” A few- silent- seconds. “’Tis stopped now.”
“ðere shall be ðer sound of somebody being struck across the ear wið a carpet slipper in a moment! If you do not lie back and go to sleep!”
Faramir abated. In time, the sixth bell rang. Then Alasse had a coughing fit.
“If it were serious, Estel would call for help,” Éowyn said, without prompt.
“Indeed.” Faramir peeled away the damp strands of hair that had become stuck to his cheek. “I wish there were some key on your head where you could switch your mind off. Absurd, are the things that one thinks at this hour. I mean, what is a sandboy? Is it like a cabin boy? And what should they be so happy about?” He leaned over his wife’s shoulder. “Are you asleep yet?”
“What do you think?”
“You see? Now you know what it’s like for me when you cannot sleep.”
“Yes. I cannot think what it might be that could be keeping me awake.”
“Ah, ‘tis but one of these things you cannot do anything about.”
“And yet, they say, if you never slept, you would go mad.”
“Well, I expect we will find out very shortly!” Éowyn got out of bed.
“Where are you going?”
“I want to wipe my face.”
“That water is for the morning.”
“It shall still be here in the morning. I shall not use much.”
“Oh very well.”
“And in any case I am sure we may have more.”
“If you say so, my love.”
Éowyn turned away to pour some water from the ewer into the basin.
Faramir gazed at the ceiling, listening to the very cold sound of Éowyn wringing out her facecloth. He said:
“Do you remember the first time we shared a bed together?”
“How could I forget?” Éowyn spoke through her teeth, her face concealed in the cloth.
“That wretched dripping ceiling. That kept us awake for most of the night, if you’ll recall.”
“You kept all the bed to yourself.”
“You did.” Éowyn ran the cloth around her neck. Sleeping diagonally across the bed from corner to corner. I used to think it romantic, in those days, having your right elbow up my nose.”
“Well, why did you not move me?”
“Because I was not sitting upon a Mûmakil at the time! I did contemplate jabbing you in the backside with a cap-pin, but I didn’t want to wake Alphoros where he lay three rooms away. I would not think twice about it today.”
“I don’t remember ever having all the bed.”
“You used to toss and turn all night then, just the same; as if you were rolling a giant sheet of pastry. You pulled all the blankets off me, every night.”
“You used to wind the sheets around you like a caterpillar. I would be lying there freezing, and next to me there would be a full-made mummy snoring its head off.”
“Yes, alright, you’ve made your point. In any case. You once would talk in your sleep.”
“You once would sing in ye sleep.”
“Madam, may we just drop the subject if you please?”
Éowyn sat down on the bed, and slid in, feet first.
“The queen came knocking one night to ask if the cat had its tail stuck in a mangle.”
“I said, may we drop it?”
“You brought it up.”
“Yes, I wish I had not, now.” Faramir turned his head to see Éowyn lying there on her back; he could make out her eyes shining in the dark. “It’s a strange thing for everyone, I suppose. Watching somebody you know so well by day, when they’re sleeping.”
“I certainly ðought so.”
“Was that ‘thought so’?”
“I am sorry if my speech is not fair enough for you, husband. Perhaps if I were gifted with a little rest I might master a tongue so clearly superior to my own rather better.”
“I’m sorry. In any case, I think your speech very fair.”
“I shall interrogate you in Rohirric when you are not quite awake in the morning and see how you fare.”
“I am sorry. I was an ass to make comment.”
Faramir’s fingers were drumming on the counterpane. To all intents and purposes he seemed oblivious to the fact.
“I wonder what they shall find… I wonder if he still lies on his front with his hands curled underneath him… he seems far to big to do that, now, or at least so one would think… I wonder how it shall be, to have the two of them, in Emyn Anen, with their child.”
“Faramir, what are you talking about?”
“Very well then- Faramir, of what are you talking?”
“Of Elboron. And of Elensil. When they are wedded-“
“I don’t know what makes you think that that shall happen.”
“I do not understand.”
“How can you not understand? I have no doubt that you would call Ellë your daughter at a word, but the matter does not rest with you.”
“You speak of Elessar? Why? You cannot think that he will scorn us? -that is to say- Elessar’s children may be of a mighty lineage, but the choice before them is either to marry below themselves or their great lineage end with them- and for sure, the blood of Eorl’s and Hurin’s and Dol Amroth’s houses are a worthy compromise?”
“Doubtless so, husband, doubtless.”
“’Tis not that of which I speak; but of two matters, and one is of the timing of the matter…”
“Ah.” Faramir said. “Indeed. The war.”
“Aye, my love, the war, and all that rides with it.”
“Do not think I have forgotten.”
“Indeed. But there is more. The men of Gondor, as I am reminded daily, have long memories. Remember the day you offered the people their King, and the people cried out ‘Yea!’?”
“Verily I do.”
“Verily. But ‘tis less than forty years elapsed, and the same king, and, for the most part, the same people. Fair and proud he was then, and wondrous fair his queen; but what think you the people shall cry to see a maiden princess growing big with child? The stakes are too high to coddle his darling and turn a brazen face to the world on her account.”
“Perish the thought he should!- But there must be some course that may be taken!”
“Oh, many. I have been counting them, whilst you tossed and turned. I am sure Elessar has done the same. I shall discover as such tomorrow; and if he has not, I shall visit the Queen, and the King shall find me time for an urgent interview.”
“May I wait in hope that any are happy schemes?”
“To wait is permitted; to hope is sweet.” She sighed. “Do not think I have no pity for our darling half elf; but facts must be faced. Things cannot always be as we plan them; least of all whatever crazed ideas Elensil has had that led her here.”
“You do not think that she meant this to happen!”
“I know not. She was young. She was distraught. She was in love. She felt helpless under a standard by which she felt herself worthless in every way if she did not measure up.”
“I understand that is a potent cauldron of strange acts, my lady.”
“Well, notwithstanding. Do not worry; I shall try not to have her left disowned and abandoned, if that is what you fear.”
“I would wish that she could be secured for ours, Éowyn.”
“Can you promise me that?”
“From influence over Elessar? No,”
“Then I do not know why you ask it of me. Besides, I think it is less a case of influence over Elessar as to write off to the Haranen rebels: ‘Do be decent fellows and calm down for a month or so so that we can have our boy back for the wedding- there’s good chaps’.”
“One can hope, can’t one? Besides which, I distinctly believe that Elessar and I have had an understanding about Elensil for well nigh five years now; and I don’t think that Elboron can object on the grounds of her inchastity if ‘twas he that laid with her; and what is more, such understanding as there was, was taken from their affection for one another, not our politicking.”
“Oh, the understanding goes back further than that,”
“Really? You had words with Arwen?”
“Oh, not I. ‘Twas around the time that Eldarion was conceived; that Elboron sat down beside her and, when she caught him in conversation, declared ‘Oh, for my part I would be glad if you were to have a pretty little babe of your own, my lady. Time does go on so, and really, I do think ‘tis time you got me a sweet little wife.’”
Faramir sat up in bed.
“He never did such a thing!”
“The queen had to explain to me why he was so disappointed with Eldarion; I assure you he did.”
The Steward sighed.
“Yes- I can well believe he did so. Either very romantic or very shrewd. Possibly, ‘twas both.”
“Out of the mouths of babes…”
“Or something like it, indeed… Éowyn!”
“How long has he watched her, then, anyway? You do not think… Éowyn, it sounds as if he marked her as his own long before he could love her, or before she could choose him. Éowyn. Does that not trouble you? He has already rendered her unable to refuse his suit; but when did all this begin?”
“Why, it did not trouble you when you spoke of an ‘understanding’ with Elessar, did it?”
“That is different!”
“I do not think so. In any case, if you seek to shock me by reference to a maid being pursued so, I beg you consider- none could deny- Elensil loves Elboron, for some reason or another, I could not name what, and maybe ‘tis because she feels obliged to; but above all she does; and if he was impatient to secure his contract with her, ‘twas not against her will. Trust me upon this!”
“So am I.”
“Pontificating as usual. You forget what it is you speak.”
“No, ‘tis well. I have but been surprised how good you have been.”
“No mention of Elboron wanting to reconsider her. No mention of ‘doubtful morality’ or ‘low principles’. ‘Twas you how said it- you! ‘A maid so easily induced to consummation is not a worthy wife- when her infatuation with her husband slackens, as all impatient loves do, what then? You said as such to Theoan- you cannot deny it.”
“By this principle Elensil should be publicly shamed.”
“Oh do not make such dramas. You said it for yourself; I understood well enough her danger. She was unlucky.”
“For getting caught?”
“Rather more for having a dangerous love requited. You did not.”
“Was that not what you meant?”
“I do not know, now.”
“Don’t be.” Éowyn laid on her back. “I do not see a public shaming, though. There are grounds enough for a declaration of Moral Insanity.”
“Could they do that?”
“At a word.”
“Could they show her to be mad?”
“Oh yes. Very easily. There are parents who would have had her declared mad even before this; they might have even saved her being deflowered.”
“Quite possibly.” Faramir put his hand over hers, where it lay on top of the blanket. “Elboron will not fail her again.”
“I am sure.”
“Count on it he will not.” She pulled her hand out of his. “Let go, your hand is too warm. Of course he would not cast her aside, if she were offered him. What would he gain by doing so? It is not acquire a more fortunate match.”
“Elessar must let us have her. She will be ours.”
“Provided Elboron returns, I’m sure she shall be.”
“Indeed,” Faramir said. And he said no more, until a soft whistling sound was heard; melodious with mindless joy.
“Ai, ai, ai,” Faramir murmured, “I thought it would not be long before he started.”
“That sparrow at the window. What needs he to rise to early? Be quiet! Soon all his comrades shall be offering their opinion. Yes, yes, I thought so. One of these mornings I shall creep up to his nest with a Shire-horn. A couple of choruses of ‘At the Green Dragon’ and he shall be laughing on the other side of his beak! ‘Tis all absurd. ‘Tis hardly worth coming to bed at all for all the rest I have had. Every night I go to this bed feeling perfectly well, I rise in the morning feeling terrible. ‘Tis but ritual. Like so much else, I suppose. Why do we do it? All of us? All this that we call living; all this ritual that amounts to nothing. What is it for?”
“I don’t know.” Éowyn said. “Try asking that sparrow. He seems happy enough. Why, all he does is eat a few worms and spilled oats. Still finds plenty to sing about, evidently.”
“Yes. I wonder what his secret is. Perhaps it is his food.”
“Rumil tells me you cannot have porridge for your breakfast. They have no milk.”
“I shall have gruel, then.”
“There is also no porridge.”
“Ah. I shall have something else then.”
“Well… I thought I might try some fried worms instead.”
“We can open a new barrel in the morning.”
“Yes. We always seem to.”
* With apologies to Eärengil, who is an Arwen-genius; I’m afraid I’ve not been able to find her to check.
** tavor-hiw: this expression belongs to Aliana, who very kindly leant it to me; for a full explaination, check out her A Proper Course of Action
Also, if the original owner of the Hurin twins (and their brothers) is reading, I hope they don’t mind me borrowing their toys (the truth was I read the story on fanfiction.net and haven’t been able to get onto it since, but it stayed with me), and that I haven’t misused her characters too much.
With thanks to EdorasLass and Eldemir for betaing, and, should she stumble across it, Dreamdeer for putting up with my wittering.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.