5. Under the Mistletoe
In a corner, Elbeth sat wondering why did grown ups have to spoil parties with silly things like dancing.
Éowyn caught sight of the child's expression and whispered in Faramir's ear. "That child's expression could turn the milk sour! She reminds me very much of myself at her age. I hated watching dancing!"
"No one would guess, as you excel at it, my love," Faramir said gallantly.
Éowyn smiled at him. "The mistletoe looks quite fair," she commented. "You did well to obtain it."
"It was Aragorn's doing," Faramir conceded, though he basked in her praise. "I think it is causing considerable speculation about what it is for."
Éowyn glanced towards the archway, from which the mistletoe was prominently hanging and glimpsed Lord Húrin of the Keys and his Lady, together with Prince Amrothos of Dol Amroth and his wife. They were pointing at it and regarding it with considerable curiosity.
"We only use mistletoe as a remedy here. They will not know the traditions of the North," Faramir explained.
"I hope they do not think it a foolish idea," Éowyn fretted.
The musicians laid down their instruments as the dance ended, heralding a brief pause to enable couples to change dancing partners or simply get their breath back.
Aragorn and Arwen walked over to where Elbeth was sitting and Arwen joined her. The King solemnly approached the small girl. He bowed politely and asked; "My Lady Elbeth, will you do me the great honour of granting me this dance?"
Elbeth hesitated, unsure of how to respond until Arwen moved closer and whispered something in her ear.
Giggling, the child accepted Aragorn's outstretched hand. "Yes, my lord, you may!" she replied, preening as she was led out to dance by the King.
The musicians struck up a merry tune and soon the dancers were swirling across the floor again. Elbeth was a naturally gifted dancer and Aragorn matched his steps in consideration to her youth and inexperience. Her young face was flushed with excitement and pure happiness.
"That should silence the gossips who would shun her for being born out of wedlock and will make Elbeth's night, for she adores Aragorn!" Faramir whispered in Éowyn 's ear as they whirled past on the dance floor.
"I'm so glad she has a happy home with us now," Éowyn replied, snuggling closer in her husband's arms.
When the dance ended, Aragorn again addressed the gathering: "Before we go into supper, I wish to explain the significance of the mistletoe hanging here. In the North it is the custom for people to kiss their loved ones under the mistletoe as a sign of friendship and goodwill for the year ahead. I have decided to observe this charming custom here tonight, at Lady Éowyn's suggestion."
He moved to stand under the largest bunch of Gudrun's mistletoe, now twined with scarlet ribbons and hanging over the doorway. Arwen joined him and he kissed her tenderly, followed by Faramir and a somewhat reluctant Elbeth, who appeared to regard the whole procedure as being akin to taking some nasty tasting medicine.
Faramir followed the King's example with Éowyn and with Elbeth, then somewhat to his surprise; his very sedate Uncle Imrahil approached and kissed him on the brow.
"Your mother would be so proud of you today, nephew," the Prince Of Dol Amroth said. "To see you at the King's side, happily married and honoured by all, is what my dear sister would have dreamed of!"
Rather hesitantly, the rest of the guests moved forward and followed the example of their King and Steward by kissing their loved ones under the mistletoe.
A Herald then announced that supper was served; broth made with venison, followed by traditional Yuletide dishes of roast goose and plum pudding with sugarplums for the guests to nibble. A special Yule drink, ale mixed with apples and sugar, was served with the meal. Legolas and Gimli appeared just in time to begin the feast, with trains of Elves and Dwarves whose faces all brightened at the sight of the sumptuously laden tables.
Elbeth, seated between the King and Faramir behaved beautifully, even leaving without complaint when Éowyn said it was her bedtime and retired with Arwen.
Aragorn and Faramir followed their ladies with their eyes, wishing that they could follow them in person and seek their beds. However, they were obliged to linger for another hour of dancing. They politely pleaded fatigue to ward off the attentions of the many giddy young ladies who craved the honour of having danced either with the King or his Steward. Legolas kindly stepped up to the chore in their place.
The Feast drew to a close at last with a cup of mulled wine passed round in traditional Rohirric fashion. All were now eager to return home while the bonfires were still burning to provide additional light and warmth on the way.
Aragorn and Faramir courteously bade their guests goodnight, struggling to suppress their yawns.
"I will bid you good night now," said Faramir, once they were alone. "I think everyone enjoyed celebrating the traditions of the Mark."
"This night brought back many happy memories for me," said Aragorn. "Before we retire to bed, though, there is one last custom we must observe!"
"So Éowyn told me," Faramir replied, glad that he was prepared. They made their way back to their apartments, Faramir pausing for a moment to retrieve a parcel from his study.
When they reached Aragorn's study, the King led his Steward inside. A fire crackled in the grate and candles burned cheerfully in anticipation of their coming. Reaching behind his desk, Aragorn retrieved a carefully wrapped parcel and handed it to Faramir.
"Happy Yule!" he said, "I wanted you to have this gift but it is only thanks to Arwen that I am able to get it for you."
Faramir carefully unwrapped the parcel to reveal a grey cloak of an identical design to the one that his King usually wore. He held it up in the candlelight and to his amazement, the fabric seemed to change colour. He gasped in awe when he realised what it was. "An Elven cloak for me?" he exclaimed in amazement. "I thought Elves only clothed their own people in such raiment?"
"They do, usually," Aragorn agreed. "However, Arwen was given some cloth by her grandmother before she sailed. She knows how much you like my Elven cloak, and seeing you helped Frodo and Sam, we felt that practically makes you one of the Fellowship and that you deserve to be arrayed as they were."
"Thank you so much!" Faramir impulsively threw his arms around the King and they exchanged a warm embrace. He then moved away to hand him a carefully wrapped gift of his own. "I hope you will like this," he said, "Éowyn explained about the custom of exchanging gifts at Yule, so we chose this for you."
Aragorn unwrapped a beautiful silver flask engraved on one side with the King's Arms and on the other the Seal of the Stewards. The seven stars around the White Tree were represented by diamonds. " I shall carry this with me wherever I go," Aragorn exclaimed, hugging his Steward. "Now we had better go to bed, our wives will be waiting for us." He blew out the candles and they made their way towards their rooms, still clutching their gifts under their arms.
When they reached the corridor that branched off to their separate apartments, they paused by the window to say goodnight.
"I shall sleep well, tonight, I think," said Aragorn," I have enjoyed myself today. We had quite an adventure did we not?"
"We did indeed!" Faramir agreed. "One thing puzzles me though; however did you know what Gudrun wanted you to sing?"
"You forget that I spent years in Rohan under the guise of Thorongil," Aragorn smiled. "King Thengel was as fanatical about the old traditions as Gudrun is, and would sing that invocation to Bema every year. He had a voice like a corncrake, but it proved useful to know the chant today. What puzzles me is why ever do women set such store by mistletoe? I often kiss Arwen and show affection to all those I love."
"It is strange indeed," Faramir agreed. "Who needs mistletoe as a reminder to show love and affection?"
"It is a very useful plant for healing but I see little point in hanging it up!" Aragorn agreed," I have lived over ninety years and I still do not understand women! Goodnight, ion nîn." He bestowed a goodnight kiss on Faramir's brow, as was their custom.
"Goodnight, adar nîn, Happy Yule!" Faramir replied, returning the kiss. A warm glow suffused him that Aragorn should refer to him thus.
For a moment, they stood looking out of the window. The moon shone brightly overhead and the bonfires could be seen still blazing brightly over the Pelennor. Tomorrow, the days would start to lengthen once more. The darkness of winter was already giving way to hopes of spring. Gondor was at peace and the future was full of promise. It was indeed a happy Yuletide.
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.