Steward and the Queen, The: 7. A Messenger From The King

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7. A Messenger From The King

Three days later a second messenger arrived from the King with dispatches and letters and was received by the Queen in her presence chamber with the Lord Steward of Gondor at her side. Sunlight fell through the north facing windows and reflected off the gold leaf on the walls filling the room with warm radiance. The Queen sat beneath a canopy sewn thick with sea pearls, a jeweled Tree glittering on the wall behind her.

The messenger was Belen, the youngest of Hurin and Laebeth's four sons. He reported the army had fallen back to North Ithilien and was encamped at the field of Cormallen but the Ringbearers had been taken to the stronghold on Cair Andros where they were being tended by King Elessar and Mithrandir. Their condition was said to be grave.

Though Sauron was fallen the army's work was not yet done. His Orcs and allies among the Men of South and East remained to be dealt with. The army needed food, healers and medicines for the wounded, and more Men if they were to be had.

Faramir and Arwen exchanged a smile. "I think we can oblige my husband." she said.

"Indeed we can." her Steward agreed. "Men and food we have in abundance, more than enough to feed and reinforce the army. I will see to it."

"Thank you, my Lord Steward." she turned to the messenger with a twinkle in her eye. "Now, Master Belen, your father is waiting to greet you and we will test his patience no longer." the youth hesitated, uncertain if this was dismissal. "Go!" Arwen made scatting motions with her hands and Belen had to suppress a grin as he made his bow and departed.

The Queen withdrew to her still unfurnished privy chamber to sit in a window and read her letter, it proved a business-like document. After a typically dry, Ranger-like account of the march and battle which she suspected - correctly - told but half the tale, Aragorn wrote what little he and Gandalf had been able to read concerning the Ring quest from Frodo's mind and Sam's and explained why Belen had called both 'Ringbearer'. It seemed after they had crossed into Mordor - far from any aid - Sam, believing Frodo dead, had taken the Ring and the quest upon himself. Discovering his mistake he had rescued his master and returned the Ring to him - the last being the more incredible feat. But Arwen was not entirely surprised, she had after all known Bilbo for many years.

Only at the very end of the letter did a touch of lover-like ardor break through: 'Alone it seems but half a victory and I cannot take full joy in it.' Aragorn wrote. 'If you can be spared my Love I would have you join me here at Cormallen so my happiness may be complete.'

She both smiled and sighed as she wrote her answer: 'I would I could come, my Beloved, as these last ten days have been as an Age to me without you. But, alas, I am engaged in learning to be a Queen and must not play the truant. There is much to be done here if the City is to be ready to welcome and crown her King -- and I have yet to see trace or sign that any Man or Woman in it does not heartily desire his return!'

There was a letter for Eowyn among the dispatches, Faramir had it sent to her at the Houses of Healing by a servant's hand. She felt unreasonably disappointed that he had not come himself. But of course he was very busy now that he had taken up his duties, she reminded herself, too busy to dance attendance on sick girls. Yet still her unruly heart sank - would he now have no time for her at all?

"Aren't you going to read your letter, m'Lady?" one of her nurses prompted gently. "Surely it can be only good news."

Eowyn felt her face heat. "Of course!" she broke the seal, it was from Eomer and contained not only assurances of his own safety and Merry's and their other friends and kin, but a glowing account of King Elessar's valor and an invitation for her to join him at Cormallen. 'For it is your victory too, Sister, had Angmar still led the armies of the Enemy things might have fallen out far differently. Please come - I am eager to see you.'

She remembered the pale, sickly creature Eomer had bade farewell just ten days earlier and smiled ruefully. Poor Brother, no doubt he had been worrying about her - and at a time when he already had far too many, heavier things to worry about. Well, her answering letter should reassure him but she would not go to Cormallen. She had disobeyed her King, betrayed her people's trust, and made a total fool of herself over a Man who not only didn't want her but was contracted to another. She didn't know if she'd ever have the courage to face anybody outside of this House again, least of all the Lord Aragorn!

Perhaps if Faramir had been going too...he was so understanding, so strong, perhaps with him at her side she might have found the courage. But of course he couldn't possibly leave Minas Tirith. She wished he'd come see her - she missed their talks.

Faramir gave the list of foodstuffs and medicines required by the army to his sister, and the task of marshalling the reinforcements to Hurin and Elfhelm of the Mark, while he himself concentrated on finding the necessary cartage and shipping. Idril had been able to give him a rough estimate of the number of carts she would need to carry the supplies the King had requested but the reinforcements would require more, and their number was as yet uncertain. Finally Faramir decided upon sixty, a good round number and hopefully a bit more than they'd need. A constant stream of carts was pouring into the City daily, carrying food and building supplies from Lossarnach, Lebennin and Belfalas, so there was no lack - but there was the problem of payment.

"No impressment." Faramir said firmly. "It is unjust and rightly breeds resentment. An ill start to the King's reign."

"My lord, I agree with you heartily in theory, but there is no money." the Chancery officer replied, a little desperately.

"There is my private purse." said Faramir.

"Forgive my, my Lord, but that too has been sorely depleted these last years. You remember after the fall of Osgilliath you re-armed your Men from your own monies."

"Then borrow it!" Faramir snapped impatiently, "my credit is good."

The Man looked even more apologetic. "No longer, my Lord. You are now responsible for your father's debts and those of the Stewards before you."

Faramir closed his eyes. "Haulage is these Mens' livelihoods, I will not have them cheated. There must be money to pay them somewhere."

The official hesitated a moment then ventured, "Perhaps the King's credit will serve?"

Faramir grimaced. "I know not if he has any. From what I hear the King and his people have lived humbly these many years in hiding. I will ask the Queen."

Undomiel interrupted his rather pained account of Gondor's empty treasury and overdrawn credit crisply, midway through. "The Northern Dunedain are not wealthy by any measure but I have gold enough for this purpose. See if your moneylenders will give credit to Arwen Undomiel, daughter of Elrond Half-Elven and co-heiress to the wealth of the High Kings of the Noldor and Elu Thingol!"

Faramir blinked then smiled. "I think we will find them willing to take a chance on you, my Lady."

The conversation with Faramir caused Arwen to add a postscript to her letter for Aragorn explaining the problem and ending: 'Alas that I am so ignorant in such matters, but I studied to be the mistress of a Ranger holding not a Queen! I trust my husband understands these things better for Faramir and Idril would not be so worried were it not a matter of dire import.'

The Lady Eowyn did receive a visitor that evening, just as the candles were being lit, but it was not the Lord Faramir but the new Queen, and the Warden of the Houses was with her. The two of them asked Eowyn many searching questions about her appetite, her sleeping and her exercise, and seemed well pleased with the answers.

"It seems to me the Lady Eowyn is healed." said Queen Arwen.

"I am!" she agreed emphatically.

The Warden smiled. "Then I release her from my charge. May she never suffer hurt or sickness again." He bowed to Arwen. "I commend the Lady Eowyn to the care of the Queen until her brother returns."

Eowyn looked from one to the other in dismay. "You mean I must leave this House? But where am I to go?"

"You will come to me in the Citadel of course," Arwen answered, "as befits your rank." then she smiled and added in an undertone; "And I can make good use of your help and advice!"

To Eowyn's surprise this proved to be neither a joke nor flattery. The Late Lord Steward it seemed had kept no kind of state. He and his children had lived almost as hermits in their separate sets of rooms surrounded by echoing emptiness.

"After Finduilas' death Denethor closed the hall and dismissed all but our few personal attendants and a handful of cooks, grooms, maids and the like." the Lady Idril, Faramir's foster sister, explained later that evening as she and Arwen sat with Eowyn in her new apartments near the Queen's. "A few of the great officers of state, such as our cousin Hurin, have rooms in the Citadel, cared for by their own servants, and of course there is the Guard but otherwise we are quite alone here."

"Which will not do at all." said the Queen. "When my husband returns he will have with him the King of Rohan and high Lords of Gondor who must be suitably housed and feasted. And then there are the coronation festivities..." she spread her hands. "We must reopen the great kitchens, cleanse and decorate the feast hall and guest apartments, hire servants, appoint officers -"

"There is no end to it." Idril agreed. "And to make it better still, we have no notion how much time we have to it all!"

"Idril knows how to run the small household her father kept." Arwen said. "And I have many long years experience running an Elven household, which is a very different matter from running a mortal one. You on the other hand have been mistress of Meduseld, house of the Kings of the Mark."

Eowyn looked dubious. "Our ways are simpler than those of the Stoniglanders." she said.

"But you are accustomed to managing large groups of Men and Women and seeing they are not only busy but content with their work." Arwen pointed out. "Which is more than either Idril or I can say."

Eowyn nodded thoughtfully. True, there was an art to managing a very large household, especially to coaxing the various departments to work smoothly together. "Where in this City do you find servants for hire?" she asked.

Eowyn's first day in the Citadel began with a visit from the Marshal of the Riddermark. "Uncle Elfhelm!" she cried, and flew across her little reception room to embrace him. He was not in fact her uncle but Theodred's, brother to the long dead Queen Elfhild, but she and Eomer called him uncle just as their foster brother did. She had always been a favorite of his - and she had used that without compunction in her madness. "I am so sorry," she said, "was Eomer very angry?"

He smiled wryly. "Not as angry as he would have been had you succeeded in getting yourself killed, Eowyn."

"I am sorry." she said again. "I have been a fool, and faithless, and thoughtless -" tears started in her eyes. "Uncle, is there any news from home? Is all well there?"

"All is very well. The Orc army we heard of never attacked - it seems Fangorn got them first. Grimhild found your note and Cuthward took command as you ordered."

Eowyn swallowed. "Are they - are they very angry with me?"

"Angry?" Elfhelm looked at her in astonishment. "No! Eowyn there is no Man or Woman in the Mark who does not pity your sorrows and blame themselves for not trying to lighten them before you were driven to this pass." he smiled. "And not one who is not proud of their Lady Nazgul-Bane! You do know you may have won not just the Pelennor Fields but the Black Gate for us as well, don't you?"

"So Eomer wrote. I do not put my deed that high, nor do I think it makes up for the wrong I did." she forced a smile. "But if my people can forgive me my folly then I am glad of it!"

There was much to do, just as Queen Arwen had said, and Eowyn threw herself into the work with a will to silence the trouble of her mind. But sometimes as she carefully washed the dust of centuries from carven stone, or stitched at moth chewed hangings, or spread fresh washed linens to air on a stone paved terrace she would find herself worrying at her trouble, as at an aching tooth, and try to understand its cause.

For indeed there was no reason for her to feel so: The Shadow was lifted, her brother lived and would come home to her, and her people still loved her and forgave her her follies. She had won the kind of undying glory she had always dreamed of - already she had heard three songs to 'The Lady of the Shield Arm' - and she had useful work to do instead of fretting in idleness. So why wasn't she as happy as all around her?

It must be because of the Lord Aragorn - King Elessar as she must learn to call him even in her thoughts. Of course she still loved him, would always love him, and naturally she was grieved that she could never have him. Yes, that must be it, she was sad because she would always be alone.

But she hadn't felt alone in the Houses of Healing, at least not after she'd met Faramir. But now he was always about his King's business and she never saw him. She missed him. She missed her friend and that too was a good reason for sadness.

Faramir didn't learn Eowyn had left the Houses, much less come to live in the Citadel, for some days as he had gone south to Pelargir to hire barges. He brought them upstream to Osgilliath and stayed to see the supplies loaded and on their way before accompanying the carts back to the City.

He found the Queen in her large garden with a number of other Women mending and airing the ancient gold woven tapestries that had adorned Merethrond, the hall of feasting, since the Days of the Kings. He moved towards Undomiel, then he saw Eowyn helping three serving-women fold one of the huge hangings and checked his step. She looked pale, far paler than he would have liked. As if the Shadow that had departed from the world, somehow still touched her. Troubled he continued on to the Queen, but when his report was made and he was free to greet her Eowyn had gone.

Eowyn slowed to a walk then continued to the end of the corridor to lean against the balustrade of the little balcony at its end and let a cool breeze fan her hot cheeks. What was the matter with her? She had been wanting to see Faramir and yet when he walked into the garden instead of going to greet him she had run away. She had missed him, missed their talks, and yet the sight of him made the unhappy feelings inside her bubble up until they almost choked her. She was actually afraid to face him - which made no sense at all!

'He is my friend. My comforter during those terrible days when I wanted to die. We have so much in common; we've both lost a father and brother in this war, and nearly our own lives. Faramir understands me, he thinks me fair...and I love him.' she recoiled from the thought in something like horror. 'No! I love Aragorn! I do, I must -' for if she didn't then it meant she'd thrown away honor and nearly life over a silly, childish infatuation.

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.

Story Information

Author: Morwen Tindomerel

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 12/14/04

Original Post: 10/08/04

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