4. Getting To Know Each Other
“Did you sleep well, Eowyn?” he asked. A safe question, far safer than the things he really wanted to say.
She laughed, a delightful sound like chiming bells. “Like one dead! Half of yesterday and all of the night. It must be the mountain air. And you?”
“Very well, thank you.” In fact he had lain awake till dawn thinking of her, but he felt none the worse for it. He glanced toward the northeasterm horizon. “Do you see anything?”
“No, of course not.” She shivered, then seemed angry with herself for doing so. “Oh what is the point of staring northward? They can’t possibly be there yet.”
“I doubt if they’ve even left Ithilien.” Faramir agreed. “You are right, there can be nothing to see.”
“Yet I am not ready to return to my bed.” said Eowyn.
“Nor I,” he smiled, “perhaps I could show you the Citadel?”
She smiled back. “Why not.”
He took her first into the Hall of the Kings. She stood in its cool white radiance and shivered. “It’s cold.”
“Yes,” he looked round, remembering his own first sight of the hall as a boy. “it is.”
“High and stern and remote - like him.” she added with a note of bitterness. “Too high for likes of me.”
Faramir didn’t need to ask who she meant. “Elessar is a Man like any other,” he said quietly, “save for the burden of his royalty - which sets him apart from other Men and Women without his willing or desiring it.”
She bit her lip, then looked up at him with unshed tears sparkling in her eyes. “I am unfair. He was more than kind to me, to my uncle and to our people. He can’t help being what he is.”
“The Kings of the Kings of Men are more than Man, that is their glory - and their tragedy.” Faramir agreed quietly.
“I am glad he has Queen Arwen.” Eowyn said as quietly. “She is a fit consort for him - as I am not.”
Faramir was wise enough to say nothing, but he agreed. Elessar was too old and lordly and grim to make a fit mate for one so young and fresh and fair. Faramir admitted wryly to himself that he too was glad of the Queen - and for reasons that perhaps did him little credit.
The new Queen of Gondor was at that moment on her knees pulling weeds in her privy garden.
“Good morning, my Lady.” she looked up to see Idril in a light orange gown, accompanied as usual by two of her maids, standing in the open gallery beneath the terrace.
“Don’t tell me Queens in Gondor don’t weed their own gardens.” Arwen warned.
“I wasn’t going to.” Idril replied primly but with a twinkle. “As it happens gardening is a regarded as a very proper and ladylike accomplishment - even for a Queen. Though personally I have small taste for it.”
“Good.” Arwen was a little relieved, at least she wouldn’t be outraging her new subjects if she engaged in her favorite pastime. “Idril, what are those rooms there behind you?”
The Woman turned to look at the row of wide windows opening onto the gallery. “Those are the Queen’s summer apartments.”
“My what?” Arwen asked blankly.
“Summer apartments.” Idril repeated. “Summers can be very hot in Gondor, even here at the foot of the mountains, and so it is customary for those who can afford it to have a second set of rooms on the ground floor for use in the warm season.” she indicated the windows directly behind her; “That’s your privy chamber, and that window belongs to a small antechamber, and those three at the end are your summer bedroom.”
“I see. And what are those,” Arwen indicated the windows on the eastern side of the garden, “the King’s summer apartments?”
“No that’s the bathing suite for the royal apartments. The King’s chambers are on the other side, opening onto the courtyard.”
“Oh.” said Arwen. “Well we won’t be needing these ground floor rooms for some months at least. We’ll see to the decoration of the upper apartments first.”
“As you wish, my Lady.”
Arwen got to her feet, brushing the earth from her skirt. “Is it going to be ’my Lady’ for the rest of our lives, cousin?
Idril smiled a little shyly. “Not if you do not wish it, Arwen.”
She smiled back. “Much better. I am not accustomed to such formality - especially not from my kin.”
“This is the Steward’s House.” said Faramir.
Eowyn looked curiously at the foursquare building of white stone decorated with arcaded windows and fretted carvings. “This is your home?”
But he shook his head. “I was born and lived my first few years here but I have no memory of it. I was but three when I fell ill and was sent to the villa. Mother was sick too but she would not go to Dol Amroth - though Father begged her to - nor even to the villa. I think she knew she was beyond help and was determined not to waste a single moment of the time she had left away from him.”
“She must have loved him very much.”
“She did, and he her. He would never have survived her death had she not left him two sons to remember her by.” Faramir looked up at the house. The windows were curtained and stared like blind eyes. “But he could not bear to dwell alone in the house they had shared. He took Boromir to live in the old royal apartments in the White Tower. And when Idril and I came we were given rooms nearby.”
“Do you remember her at all?” Eowyn asked gently.
“She had golden hair,” Faramir said slowly, “that’s where Boromir and I get our fair coloring. I remember her as thin and pale but she used to sing as she went around the house. And she could make my father laugh, even towards the end, as no one else ever could. Not even Boromir.”
“My mother was a singer too,” Eowyn said. “not of the great lays and war songs, but of nonsense rhymes and riddle songs she made up herself.” a sudden irritation clouded her face. “The scops claim she died of grief after my father fell but that’s not true. His death took her hard, yes, but she wanted to go on living for Eomer and me. It was the fever that killed her, she would never have willingly left us.”
“It angers you that they should say otherwise.” Faramir observed.
“It makes her sound weak.” Eowyn answered. “And she was strong, very strong.” then her chin quivered. “She would be ashamed of me, and my father too.”
“No.” Faramir said firmly. “No more than I am ashamed of my father. His spirit was twisted awry by the Dark Lord against which no strength can prevail. And yours was blighted by the power of Saurman through his creature.”
“Wormtongue.” she said bitterly. There was a silence between them, then her expression changed. “He loved me.” she said slowly in a tone of discovery. “It was not just lust. He turned traitor for my sake.”
“That is no excuse.”
“No.” she agreed. “But having known the pain of love unreturned I can pity him now instead of hate.” she looked seriously up at Faramir. “I could never have loved Grima. But had he not been a traitor I could have been kind.”
“Had he been a better Man he would have accepted what he could have from you willingly and not sought for more.” he answered quietly.
The Queen’s robing room had a wall of cupboards made of the hard black lebethron wood and inlaid with colorful patterns and scenes in semi-precious stones. A great gilt framed mirror hung on an adjoining wall, reflecting Arwen‘s maid as she sat stitching on a silk kirtle in the window.
“You will need a dressing table, a chair, a couch, and of course carpets and hangings.” said Idril.
Arwen nodded agreement and led the way out of the robing room to open the door to the Queen’s closet. “I want another couch in here,” she said, “and one or two small tables, no more.” then she turned survey the gallery.
The floor was patterned with black and white marble; the walls and vaulted ceiling were carved of the ubiquitous white stone, and benches of the same faced the three deep window embrasures. “And we must brighten this up a bit.” Arwen said. “Cushions on the benches and pictures on the walls.”
It was Idril’s turn to nod. “You haven’t seen the King’s paintings yet.”
The door to the House of the King’s Paintings opened onto a small, bare windowless vestibule lit by two lamps, one over each of the inner doors. Idril rang a bell standing on a center table and after a moment a grey haired Man in a creased and dusty robe emerged from one of the dark doorways to blink at them in gentle surprise.
“Good morning, Aluin.” Idril said in an unusually loud voice. “The Queen and I have come to chose pictures for her chambers.”
“Queen?” the old Man echoed a little blankly staring at Arwen, then he collected himself and bowed. “Forgive me, your Grace, I hadn’t heard the Returned King was wed.”
“I am not offended.” Arwen assured him.
He blinked at her.
“A little louder,” Idril advised softly, “Aluin is somewhat deaf.”
“I am not offended!” Arwen repeated, obediently raising her voice. And was rewarded by a smile as sweet and dazzling as a child’s.
Aluin took down the lamp over the door opposite the entrance and led them into an echoing vastness. Small windows set high admitted enough light to show the walls were hung thick from eye-level to ceiling with paintings of various sizes and shapes with still more propped up on the rows of racks that turned the floor into a maze of narrow aisles.
They threaded their way into the labyrinth surrounded by a globe of yellow light from Aluin’s lamp. The majority of the paintings seemed to be on allegorical or historical themes unknown to Arwen. There were also a few landscapes and a great many portraits. Suddenly the lamplight fell upon a face she knew.
“Yes,” Aluin agreed, “that’s the Princess Firiel. Her father, King Ondoher, had this painted to remember her by before she went North to marry the King of Arthedain.”
“Arvedui.” Arwen said. “It’s a good likeness.”
Idril looked at her thoughtfully. “Of course, you would have known her.”
“Very well. She lived at Rivendell after the war.” Arwen looked long at the pictured face, then said. “I will take this one.”
Aluin, the Queen will have Firiel’s portrait for her chambers.” Idril repeated loudly to the old Man and he fished a scrap of white cloth from his sleeve and tucked it into the picture’s frame.
Some minutes passed before another painting caught Arwen’s eye, this time for its rich colors and harmonious composition. “What is this?”
“The coronation of Queen Istarnie.” Idril answered. “She was the wife of Earnil I and the fist Queen of Gondor to be crowned. You see King Falastur died childless and though Earnil was the next in blood there were others almost as near the throne. By ill fortune Earnil was at sea when Falastur died, but Istarnie took the crown from the dead King’s hands and ruled in her husband’s name until he returned. Earnil gave her her crown in gratitude and set a throne for her beside his own under the Dome of the Stars. And she was his regent when he was away at sea, and regent for their son as well. Succeeding Queens kept crown and throne but none were entrusted with such power as Istarnie. And after the time of Minardil it was the Steward who governed in the King‘s absence, not the Queen.”
Arwen nodded. “I will have this one too.” then she glanced ruefully at Idril. “I feel so ignorant. I know almost nothing of Gondor’s history and ways which is unfitting in a Queen.”
“I know some good histories, better than the official annals.” the other Woman offered. “And there is a fine book of our manners and customs written by a Man of Rhovanion for the instruction of his countrymen back in the days when our peoples were allies. I will send for them if you like.”
“Please do!” Arwen said gratefully. Reading them would be a good way to fill her wakeful nights.
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.