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Tales of the Telcontars (PG-13) Print

Written by Susana

19 September 2011 | 56124 words | Work in Progress

A/N: This series is mostly one-shots or two-shots from Eldarion’s point of view, or the point of view of Faramir’s children, set later in the same Desperate Hours AU as the rest of my stories.

Archivist’s note: Beth has drawn a picture to accompany this story.

Eldarion and the Spirits

“Fairy tales don’t tell children dragons exist, children already know dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children dragons can be killed.”
GK Chesterton

Eldarion was a brave boy. He knew it was so because his adar, Aragorn, called Elessar Telcontar, told him he was. His Ada told Eldarion how brave he was when the young Prince smiled through his fright as they walked through their city of Minas Tirith, despite the crowds pressed around them. Aragorn called his son brave as well when Eldarion did not run from the large hounds, Wreck and Ruin, which were his father’s gift from Éomer King of Rohan.

His naneth, Arwen the Queen, also said he was brave, although the way she said “brave,” it did not always sound like a good thing. Naneth said he was brave when he climbed the white tree in the court yard so high up that Faramir had to help him figure out how to get down. She called him brave when Eldarion offered to protect Naneth from her angry seamstress with his wooden sword. She called her son brave when he told Faramir and Éowyn they should have another child for him to play with. Eldarion rather thought Naneth had been proud of him that day.

Eldarion knew he was brave, but when night fell in Minas Tirith, he felt very afraid. Sometimes spirits walked through the old halls of his home in the citadel, and these spirits were not always happy. His nurse did not see the spirits, and thought he was only raising a fuss to get his way. Eldarion thought that accusation unfair, as he hardly ever behaved so. Faramir had warned him it was not the best tactic for “successfully achieving his objectives.” Adar, Naneth, Faramir and Éowyn all agreed that it was best to face one’s fears. So Eldarion had decided tonight he would follow the spirits, and see where they went, because if he knew where they slept during the day, he might be less afraid.

He had not told Naneth or Adar of the spirits, because Nurse told him they were not real, and that his parents would only think him a naughty boy. Besides, Eldarion had a plan.

So, when a weeping lady ghost appeared in his room that night, surrounded by guard ghosts, and walked out his door, Eldarion followed, as quietly as he could. He followed the the spirits into one of the secret passageways that his Adar told him riddled their city, and out the other end where it emerged in the garden of the Houses of Healing, on the sixth level of Minas Tirith. The lady spirit was now distraught, kneeling in the courtyard and keening. The guard ghosts looked sad too, but one of them touched the lady’s shoulder, and spoke to her softly. The lady nodded stiffly, as if she was made out of wood, and slowly arose to her feet, and walked toward the Houses of Healing. All but two of her guards followed, and those two bent as if picking up a heavy object, and then walked as if carrying something back through the tunnel.

Eldarion could not decide whom to follow. He was just determining to follow the guards, as he was more likely to be caught by some well-meaning but probably not sympathetic adult in the House, when a familiar and much-loved voice commented.

“They were very clear tonight, were they not?”

“Fara!” The young prince exclaimed, surprised but happy to see his Father’s Steward. “You can see them too? Nurse told me I made them up!”

Faramir smiled sadly, white teeth flashing in the darkness, and offered Eldarion a biscuit, and a sip of tea from his flask, explaining “Nay, ‘Darion. They are real enough, but few can see them. The lady was the wife of a young Prince also named Faramir, who was badly hurt in a long-ago battle. That Faramir was your many-times great grandmother Firiel’s youngest brother. He died of his wounds, and his men brought his body back to his wife. She never married again, for her grief was too great. She was a dutiful healer despite her grief, and saved many men the night her husband died, who would otherwise have perished of their injuries.”

“Oh.” Eldarion commented thoughtfully. “I thought they were trying to scare me, and meant to follow them, to see where they go.”

“They come and go by some will of their own, dear Prince.” Faramir related. “This is the anniversary of that long-ago battle where the lady’s Prince fell, so she comes and goes always on this night, but also on some others. These spirits have no physical place where they rest, and most will not even see you. They only act out a moment of great emotional importance during their lives, and fade again.”

“Most shall not see me? Then some do?” Eldarion commented, munching on another biscuit.

Faramir’s face darkened. “Aye, some do. If any seek to talk to you or grab you, call out for your Adar and Naneth. I do not believe a spirit could harm you, but they should not behave so familiarly with one still living.”

“Wouldn’t such behavior be cowardly, though?” Eldarion asked, accepting another sip of tea.

“Nay, dear one. I do not know everything of ghosts, and ones that behave in such an untoward fashion should be brought to the attention of the King, immediately. He has dominion here over the living and the dead, and has the power to tell them to return from whence they came.” Faramir met his young friend’s eyes. “Promise me you will call out, should you be so approached by one of the spirits. I assure you should be doing your Adar a favor, in the unlikely event that you should be addressed by a spirit.”

“I promise.” Eldarion agreed solemnly. “Why are you out here so late this night, Fara?”

“I have … a standing engagement, so to speak, with your dead ancestor’s Steward’s ghost. His name was Pelendur. He seems to confuse me with the poor dead Prince Faramir who was the husband of the weeping lady spirit. Every year on this night since I was younger than you are now, Pelendur’s spirit would come to me, wherever I was in the city, and give me a message intended for that Prince.” Faramir explained, taking off his dark cloak to wrap it around Eldarion.

Eldarion considered that as he accepted the cloak. “Should we go get Ada?” He asked.

“I do not think it needful. I have seen this spirit every year of my life, even in the wilds of Ithilien, and he has never offered me harm.” Faramir answered. “Would you wait here with me, and see, or shall I take you back to your chamber?

“I shall stay, Fara. If you are here, I can bear being scared.” Eldarion answered, taking his protector’s hand as a tall, lordly ghost appeared, dressed as Faramir sometimes did for formal council meetings and great feasts, only somehow even more splendidly.

“Prince Faramir!” The lordly ghost scolded, “Why did you follow your father and brother? Now Gondor’s throne shall be empty, oh why did you not stay!”

Faramir squeezed Eldarion’s hand. “Peace, Lord Pelendur.” He soothed the ghost, in much the same voice that he had used to explain to Eldarion how he might safely climb down the white tree. “It is many ages past that sad night when your Princes died. I am not your Prince, but the current Steward. Now a King of Ondoher’s line again rules in Gondor, and all is at peace. Do you be at peace as well.”

The ghost looked somewhat startled for a moment, then seemed to notice Eldarion. The young Prince bravely resisted the urge to shrink against Faramir’s side, and met the ghost’s stare. Thinking what his Adar and Naneth would say to such a troubled spirit, Eldarion summoned his courage and spoke. “I am sorry for your loss, Lord Steward. You did your job well, and now should rest.”

The ghost seemed to pause to consider this. “You are not my poor ill-fated Prince.” The ghost concluded at length, his attention turning back to the current Steward. Faramir pulled Eldarion behind him, feeling he was probably being excessively cautious. But this Faramir had never managed, before, to get through to Pelendur’s ghost that he was not that long-dead prince. The spirit had always accused Faramir of lying when Faramir tried to explain he was Pelendur’s descendant, not the King Ondoher’s younger son. Faramir did not know what might happen next.

“Do not be afraid for your little brother.” The ghost said. “I mean no harm to any of King Ondoher’s descendants. I need not linger here, anymore, I think. I thank you both for your kindness and honesty this night.”

“You are welcome.” Eldarion replied back, having been drilled in basic courtesy as soon as he could speak. Faramir seemed almost in shock, so Eldarion squeezed his friend’s hand back, to give him strength, as the spirit disappeared in front of them.

Faramir shook his head, murmuring “well, that was unexpected.” The Steward’s attention turned back to the little Prince, and his expression softened. “I think it was good you followed the weeping lady tonight, Prince Eldarion. Perhaps Lord Pelendur can rest in peace now, and not walk Minas Tirith in the night.”

Eldarion grinned, pleased. Praise from Faramir was not rare, but it always made him feel good.

“Come, little one. We should get you back to your room ‘ere you are reported as missing, and the guard sent out.” Faramir instructed, offering the small boy his hand.

“Too late.” The deep, gravelly voice of Captain Magordan, commander of the King’s Guard, commented levelly. “I noticed Prince Eldarion vanishing into one of the passage ways, and decided to follow.” The Captain explained. Kneeling down to speak to Eldarion, Magordan appealed “Please, my Prince, if you have cause in the future to follow anyone whom you believe might be a threat to you, take an adult with you, eh?”

Eldarion winced, for this was a Rule, and he had not thought he was breaking any, since Nurse said the ghosts only existed in his own mind.

Fortunately, Faramir rescued him, modifying Magordan’s request. “The good Captain means that you should do so even if the threat may not exist, Eldarion.”

“Aye,” the Captain agreed, watchful eyes on the shadows as he accompanied the two Princes back to the citadel. “Ask Prince Faramir to accompany you, my Prince, as the Lord Steward is obviously quite accustomed to addressing that which may not exist.”

Faramir winced internally. Magordan was a good man, but he had a subtle and twisted sense of humor. The Steward of Gondor was wearily certain that he would be subjected to a string of ghost-themed jokes and pranks from the King’s Guards in the near future. Faramir considered protesting that he hadn’t even known Eldarion could see the spirits, let alone that the youngster could successfully escape his minders to follow them. Faramir kept silent, because he wasn’t sure those truths would assuage the Captain’s ire at seeing the crown prince confronted by a possible threat the former ranger could not see or hear, and therefore could not defend Eldarion from.

“I will.” Eldarion promised, hoping he would not get in any further trouble for this night’s adventure. He had only meant to learn where the ghosts came from, that he might not be so frightened of them in the future. Seeking to change the subject, one of the tactics he had learned from Faramir for evading dangerous conversations, the young Prince asked. “Could you see the spirits too, Captain Magordan?”

“I could not, your highness.” The Captain explained, with a brief considering look over the child’s head at Faramir. “I heard the lady’s sobs faintly, and some few words spoken by the last ghost.”

Faramir hid another wince. Eldarion had been impressed enough by the ghostly pageantry that he had not noticed the discrepancies in the ghost’s manner of address, but Magordan, who knew Aragorn’s lineage as well as any of the Dunedain who had followed the King from the north, might well have questions.

The party passed several other of the King’s guards, who seemed surprised to see the young Prince up at this late hour. None were alarmed, since the child seemed in good spirits and was accompanied by the Steward and Captain Magordan.

As the group approached the royal wing, a door flew open to reveal the King and his foster-brothers, all looking quite upset. “Eldarion!” Aragorn greeted his heir with relief. “Where on Arda did you disappear to? “

Eldarion, intimidated to see his normally calm Adar so flustered, looked to Faramir in mute appeal rather than answer. The Steward sighed, but valiantly attempted, “It is a long story, Aragorn. All is well, might it not wail ‘til morrow?”

Arwen, hearing her son’s voice, appeared in her dressing gown, sleep-tousled hair carelessly pulled back. “I think that may be best, Estel.” The Queen endorsed. “Come, ion-nin, let us get you back to bed.” She commanded softly.

Eldarion, recognizing a rescue when one came his way, quickly turned to follow his mother. His father stopped him on the way, and picked him up for a hug and quick kiss to his cheek.

“You smell of those caramel biscuits Faramir favors.” The King noted, sighing in resignation. “Arwen, make sure he cleans his teeth again before you lay him down.”

The Queen, accepting the nocturnal wanderings of her offspring more philosophically now that she knew he had not been unaccompanied, nodded and smiled.

Aragorn waved his Steward and the Captain of his guard to the sitting room, followed by the twins. “Would either of you care to explain?” The King asked, voice dangerously quiet.

Magordan told the King briefly how he had observed Eldarion disappearing into a tunnel, and had followed. “It was strange, Aragorn.” The Captain explained, addressing the King by name, as he had once been one of Aragorn’s mentors amongst the northern Rangers, and knew the King well. “Eldarion was following something, I could tell, but I couldn’t see anything, nor hear anything except the faint sounds of a woman crying. Faramir explained that he could see these spirits as well.”

Aragorn looked to his Steward in surprise. “My city is infested with ghosts, and I don’t find out until my son, barely past toddling, chooses to follow them one night?”

Faramir, looking slightly embarrassed, apologized. “I’m sorry, Estel. I would have mentioned it, but most people can’t see or hear them, and I … I learned not to bring it up at an early age. Having people treat you as if you are not quite sane becomes wearying, after awhile.”

Sympathetic to the subtext of his younger friend’s answer, Aragorn squeezed the Steward’s shoulder in support. “I imagine it does. Do either of you know how Eldarion got out of our rooms without anyone noticing in the first place?”

Magordan shook his head darkly, as Faramir coughed. “Ah, the window ledge between your rooms and your brothers’ library is rather wide, my King.”

Elladan’s eyes widened, and Elrohir shook his head. “Wide if you are a bird.” The older twin commented in asperity.

“When I was a child, I used a similar ledge between the nursery and my father’s sitting room to get about after hours.” Faramir explained.

“I’ve said it before, my Steward, and I’ll probably say it again. You must have been a terrifying child.” The King commented, running a hand tiredly through his hair. “Alright, so tomorrow I need to make it clear to my heir that he is not to leave our rooms by himself late at night, even if he is not doing so through the door.”

“It might be well to tell him he may wake you if he sees ghosts, Aragorn.” Faramir commented. “He did not think they were real, so he did not think he was in any danger. In truth, I do not think he was in danger from the spirits. Normally, they pass on about their business without taking note of the living.”

“That one certainly noted you.” Magordan observed, eye-balling the Steward keenly, as he explained to the King. “After Eldarion met up with Faramir, another ghost approached them, thinking our Faramir was Firiel’s younger brother who died in the battle against the wainriders.”

“A perhaps understandable mistake, as there are certain similarities.” Elrohir commented dryly, as Faramir rolled his eyes.

“The spirit of Lord Steward Pelendur has been unusually restless,” Faramir explained, “In our past conversations, he has told me he doubted the wisdom of his decision to deny Firiel’s claim to Gondor’s throne, fearing it brought the dark on more strongly. I had hoped after the Ring War to assure him that all was well, but this was the first year he listened. And ‘twas to Eldarion, not I.”

“I had read that spirits can see everything, and speak only the truth.” Captain Magordan put forth, still studying Faramir.

“Some spirits.” The Steward said carefully.

“No, that’s essentially the case with most ghosts.” Elladan disagreed, giving Faramir an odd look, for usually the Steward knew his facts backward and forward, however esoteric the subject. “Ghosts generally do not lie, and can see truths hidden from those living. However, the truth they see is not necessarily something that can be understood.”

Faramir shrugged and then tried to hide a yawn. “Perhaps you are right, Elladan. Its been years since I studied the matter, and that particular ghost has said any number of odd things to me over the years.” Turning to Aragorn, the Steward asked. “It is late, my King, and I am promised to meet with the representatives from Harad tomorrow. I will need my wits about me. May I be excused?”

Aragorn granted his permission, but added firmly “We will talk more of these spirits, and soon, Faramir.”

“Aye, Estel.” His Steward agreed, courteously bidding the company good night.

After his Steward had left, the King turned to his Captain of the Guards. “What troubles you still, old friend?” Aragorn asked.

“I am not troubled so much as confused.” Magordan clarified. “ I did not hear every word that was said, but from what I could tell, the Lord Pelendur’s ghost seemed convinced that Eldarion and Faramir were brothers, and both descendants of Ondoher.”

Aragorn raised an eyebrow, surprised. “Well, Eldarion certainly views Faramir as an older brother, at times. Perhaps that is why.” Noticing his twin brothers’ unspoken dialogue, Aragorn sighed in frustration. “What is it?”

“What is what, Estel?” Elrohir asked.

“What are you two saying to one another in twin twitter?” Their younger brother clarified, observing as always the twins’ annoyance at his name for their “secret language” of silent gestures with a certain satisfaction.

Elladan shook his head. “We are just agreeing that it is odd, Estel. We are wondering how it could be possible that Faramir be a descendant of your ancestor Ondoher, and we do not see how, as all of Ondoher’s descendants amongst the Dunedain saving you yourself have passed on, and he left none in Gondor.”

Aragorn sighed. “It is odd indeed. I will keep a careful eye on both of my young seers of ghosts, and shall question Faramir more closely when he is more relaxed.”

“You mean you shall get him drunk.” Elrohir criticized.

“Only if he isn’t forthcoming when he is sober.” The King defended. The twins laughed, and exited, fingers still flying at one another as they considered the night’s revelations.

Magordan chuckled, begging the King’s leave to depart after the twins, then turning back as a last thought occurred to him. “You know, Aragorn,” the King’s old mentor commented “I think that you deserve your son, and Faramir as well.”

The King raised a brow in surprise. “I am happy with them both, nocturnal wanderings after spirits aside, but I am not sure what you mean.”

“I knew you before you were fully grown.” The Guard Captain explained, “And you, as well, were a terrifying child.”

The King laughed as he bid his retainer good night, and considered how best to deal with his terrifying child, and the grown child of his old friend Finduilas.

Summary: What did Eldarion think of gaining a 33 year old brother? What did Theodwyn think of gaining a 3 year old uncle?

One Day

As long as I could remember, I had been required by my tutors to call my friend Fara “my Lord Steward,” or “my Prince,” in public. I chose to call him my Prince, because that way there were two human princes in Minas Tirith. Also, that way, his title was like unto mine, and I could pretend we were brothers. His wife, my friend Éowyn, I had to call “my Lady,” because she refused to be called Princess. Their daughter, my playmate, Theodwyn (Thea) the baby who had just started walking, I had to call Lady Theodwyn. Éowyn and Naneth agreed it is a very long title for someone who has only just stopped chewing on my toys.

Then Fara was hurt very badly, and Ada had to go get him. Ada and Naneth and Éowyn were all very worried. I held Thea when she cried, and told her everything would be fine, even though I knew I might be lying. Fara is a soldier, and sometimes soldiers die serving their King. I desperately hoped he would arrive home safe.

Then Legolas – or Prince Legolas, as my tutor insists he be called – came rushing into the family suite in the middle of evening play time, and told us that Fara had been hurt, but that Uncle ‘Dan said he would be ok. Uncle ‘Dan is always right about that, so we all felt much better. Éowyn got to go with Legolas to meet Fara and Ada. I didn’t think it was fair that they would not let me go too. I can ride a horse just fine if someone holds me.

Legolas also told us that Fara is my Ada’s son. My Naneth said, “Yes, we know, Legolas.” Legolas’ mouth dropped open, and he looked up at the ceiling, then told Éowyn, “I am going to give your husband a lecture he will never forget, once he is well, dear friend.” Éowyn laughed in relief, and said she thought such would be well-deserved.

One day during the next week, I awoke, was bathed and dressed by my Naneth, and joined her and the full court for breakfast as I often do. Adar was there, to my joy, as he had arrived late last night. I have a vague memory of him coming to greet me, dusty from the road. But he came in the middle of the night, and I had thought it only a good a dream. Éowyn and Fara were not there, but Ada promised I could see them directly after breakfast, and we did.

Fara looked very pale and tired, but he smiled when he saw us. Ada says Fara must stay in bed and not move anywhere for several days. But he let Éowyn put Thea up in the bed beside Fara. Thea and I both had to be very gentle, but we were allowed to hug Fara, and sit with him. Fara told us a story about his mother, how she had needed a baby so desperately that she had asked my Ada to give her one. Then Fara’s mother cast a spell so that Ada would forget, so he would not miss the child that he could not know was his.

I am a clever boy. I know that is so because everyone says so. So I asked Fara, “does that mean that my Ada is your Ada, now that the spell is broken?” Fara said that it does. My Ada picked me up and told me that I have been known as his son for longer, so that even though Fara is much older and knows lots of things, I must help teach Fara how to be a good son to our Ada. That made sense to me, so I told Fara it is mostly easy. Fara always works hard at his Steward lessons all of the time, which is the part of being Ada’s son I like the least. I also told Fara that he must learn to listen to healers better, or Ada will get angry with him.

Ada laughed and Fara looked more pale. Ada decided that Fara had had enough company for one day, and chased us all out except Éowyn, who always gets to stay.

That one day, my tutor’s requirements for formal address changed, though he seemed rather put out by it. Now, it is appropriate for me to call Fara simply “brother,” in public or private. Though I need no longer use them in address, now I must know all of Fara’s titles and much about his lands, because he is not only my father’s close political ally but our kin. I may call Éowyn “sister,” and Thea “niece.” My tutor hopes I will be able to call the baby my sister Éowyn carries my nephew. I hope so too. I love Thea but another boy to play with would be nice. I wondered if Thea would be mad about having to call me uncle, since I am not so much older than she, but Thea does not mind. She calls ‘Dan and ‘Roh “Uncle” now too, and tells our tutor that “uncle” means a fun person to play with who is family but not your parents. Thea is still little.

Éowyn doesn’t mind being called sister, although she is so much older than I am. She calls me “little brother,” as does Fara, sometimes. But he has a harder time with it, and normally just calls me ‘Darion, or even “my Prince.” Ada says we must be patient with him, that this is a difficult adjustment for my brother even though he loves us. I think I need to talk to Fara though, because he is making Ada sad by always calling him “my King.” Ada doesn’t want to be a King with his family; it is enough he must be one for the rest of Gondor.

Thea calls Naneth and Ada by daernaneth and daeradar, as they have taught her. I asked my Naneth if she minds being a Daernaneth already, since she looks so young. She smiled and told me that she loves it, like she loves being a naneth. My Ada pretended to be offended, and asked me why I did not tell him he looks young. I told him he looks very old and venerable, then I had to run away because otherwise he would have caught me and tickled me. Since I moved so fast, he instead caught Fara, who was teaching Thea her letters, and tickled him, asking Fara where his younger son had come up with the idea of calling him “old and venerable.” Of course Fara had told me it would be funny days ago. I told Ada so, and asked Fara for the biscuit I had been promised for calling Ada that.

Ada, still tickling Fara, teased “For shame, Fara, bribing your younger brother to insult your father! That is no way to be a role model. Eldarion, you shall have your biscuit tomorrow, now come and help me tickle your brother. Here, Thea, like this.” And Fara laughed helplessly, even though I know he could have escaped.

Uncle ‘Dan and my sister Éowyn, returning from the houses of healing, were startled. “Estel,” Uncle ‘Dan called to my father, “Must you knock over the furniture as you play with the other children? I had hoped you would outgrow that.”

Ada grinned, and explained. “I had to knock over the chair, ‘else Faramir would have escaped.”

“Ah.” Uncle ‘Dan accepted that logic much more easily than my nurse ever does. “Here, Faramir, let me show you where Estel is ticklish…” Uncle ‘Dan offered, grabbing Ada in a headlock.

Fara escaped to go greet Éowyn. He also slipped me the promised biscuit that night, even though Ada had said no, plus I got another from Ada the next day. ‘Twas that night I realized everything would be ok, and that it doesn’t matter so much what we call each-other.

Little Things

Faramir gave his the King- his father, strange thought, that – an odd look. “You’re upset because you don’t know which foods I liked as a toddler?”

Aragorn waved a hand, struggling for words. “Not that, specifically, but all of those little things. When you first walked,”

“No one knows.” Faramir noted, “but it was probably in the Houses of Healing.”

“When you first talked,” The King continued.

“Aloud? I was two, or three. I forget which. But it was because Uncle Imrahil made me.” Faramir answered.

Aragorn nodded, thinking he could probably get that story from Imrahil, or Amrothos. “The point is, dear one, I don’t know these things about you, that I know about Eldarion. The little things that a father should know about his son.”

“Well, my favorite toy soldier is definitely the troubadour.” Faramir told him with a straight face, adding to the pile of petitions he felt the King needed to go through personally.

“Faramir, I’m trying to be serious,” Aragorn lectured lightly, fighting a smile, “and I saw you sneak that into my pile,” the King pulled up the scroll, scanned it, and then sighed and put it back down, “and I will deal with it, but I’d like to know these little bits of your history. For instance, I don’t know even know the first time you kissed a girl.” Aragorn complained.

Faramir blinked. “Well, it wasn’t a girl, and it was a really, really long story.”

It was Aragorn’s turn to blink. “And you see, I didn’t know that.”

Faramir added blandly, “Dev was involved.”

Aragorn sighed, not sure whether he was more resigned, amused or intrigued. “Of course he was.”

A moment of silence passed.

“I’m never going to hear that story, am I?” The King said to his son in gentle resignation.

Faramir gave him a half smile, getting up to peruse another pile of files flagged for the King’s attention. “No, probably not.”

As Faramir leaned over to grab a law book from a stack on the floor, Aragorn rolled his eyes, and smacked his older son’s slender backside firmly.

“Ow. What was that for?” Faramir asked, confused. Or at least pretending to be confused.

“Successfully distracting me from learning more about you.” The King scolded. “We’re going to be late for council. This discussion isn’t over.”

Faramir shook his head, smiling a little. “If you weren’t so easily distracted…”

“Watch it.” Aragorn scolded with a light laugh, thinking how much Faramir sounded like Erestor. “Someone has to deal with the weaver guild’s new objection to the alpaca issue. Keep being difficult, and it might be you.”

Title: Likely Lads
Series: Desperate Hours AU: Tales of the Telcontars
Author: Susana
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: PG-13
Warning: AU: Spanking. One oblique mention of a soldier with a fondness for underage kids.
Disclaimer: All characters and everything else belong to Tolkien, this is just written for fun.
Summary: Academy cadets Eldarion and Elboron can’t get in trouble just for following orders, right?
Beta: None.

Author’s note: This is set much later in the DH AU, when Eldarion and his nephew Elboron are cadets at the academy. Thanks go to FC, whose comment sparked the idea for this story.

Likely Lads

“When your father and my father told us that we need to learn to obey like any other cadet, I don’t think they had a forced march to dig ditches at Osgiliath in mind.” Elboron muttered quietly, not wanting the Sergeant with the gimlet eye to mark them again. He’d had enough of running laps during the column’s infrequent rest breaks. Elboron, at nearly thirteen, was a slender youth with reddish hair and his mother’s blue eyes.

Eldarion’s reply was the sardonic half-grin he’d learned from his brother Faramir, and his whisper was only loud enough for his nephew to hear. “Oh, I know, El. But, this particular honorable Captain is a sadist, and I’m relatively sure that this is going to be his last command for a while. At least, anywhere near Minas Tirith.” The heir to the throne grinned savagely as he lent his nephew a steadying hand when Elboron’s stride would have faltered. At just sixteen, the only son of Elessar Telcontar and his wife Arwen was a sturdy youth, gray eyed and dark haired like his parents.

Elboron sighed. He was by nature a more cautious lad than his uncle the Crown Prince, but Eldarion was right. This particular Captain was a near disaster as a trainer of soldiers. He had no particular place at the academy, but it seemed to be an instance of him having been promoted out of harm’s way by his superiors.

“Ada is going to be furious, ‘Darion.” Elboron pointed out softly.

“Fara is no problem.” Eldarion disagreed, with the special confidence of a younger brother who has had his elder brother wrapped ‘round his little finger since the day of his birth, approximately 35 years after Faramir’s.

Elboron sighed. His father’s difficult past and nightmares were not topics that his parents tended to discuss with their children, but Elboron was pretty sure that his and Eldarion’s following the questionably legal orders of a border-line abusive superior officer wasn’t going to go over well with the Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien. Normally, Elboron would agree with his uncle Eldarion that his Ada was more inclined to look leniently upon the heir to Gondor and Arnor and the heir to Ithilien and the Stewardship risking possible harm to take a stand on a matter of principle, in comparison with Daerada Aragorn. But Elboron’s Ada had certain issues upon which he was very firm, and one of them was requiring his children to report on, rather than engage with, people in authority whom they perceived to be abusive.

“Be calm, Elboron.” His uncle soothed. “Ada and Fara cannot be too upset with us, later. We’re only obeying orders.”

Elboron stifled a nervous laugh. He desperately hoped Eldarion was right, but, with the certainty that came from being Finduilas’ grandson, he really didn’t think so.

The day had started out in a promising manner. It was the end of Eldarion’s fourth year and Elboron’s first at the academy, and all of the cadets were assisting in the preparation for Frodo Baggins day by planting new trees in the gardens of the first level of Minas Tirith. Prince Eldarion and Lord Elboron both enjoyed the academy, where they were treated mostly like any other cadets. Both had come well-prepared by their family, arms masters, and tutors for the physical and academic rigors of the academy, though both found it difficult to accede to the commands of their superior officers when they seemed less than the best way to get things done.

During a recent family dinner, Elboron had joined Eldarion in complaining about the need for those cadets who finished last on the obstacle course to have to run successive laps before beginning the course again, since this put them more behind their peers. Both of their fathers had exchanged amused looks, and had explained that developing greater endurance would, in time, help those struggling cadets. Eldarion had been prepared to let this instance of fatherly conspiracy go, but Elboron, truly Faramir’s son, had stubbornly persisted.

“I understand that, Ada, Daerada, but Captain Orchaldur takes such punishments to an extreme. The other captains also make slower cadets run additional laps, but Captain Orchaldur mocks them during their penalty run, and makes them run again until dusk. They are too tired to do well in their classes the next day.” Elboron explained.

“Hmm.” Faramir pondered. “Many officers believe that insulting youngsters motivates them, my son, or at least makes them immune to taunts later thrown by enemies of Gondor. Still, what you describe is perhaps excessive. I will discuss it with the Senior Captain in charge of cadets’ physical training, as soon as I have a chance.”

Aragorn, who was of the position that all of the Gondorian soldiers did not run enough, snorted. “Not tomorrow you won’t, ion-nin. Tomorrow you are promised to take your naneth and your wife to Imloth Melui to collect flowers for the Frodo Baggins Day celebration.”

“I thought it was your turn this year.” Faramir protested mildly, perceptive gray eyes trained on his father.

Aragorn smirked at his oldest son. “It is, but alas, the demands of Kingship. Elladan and Elrohir arrive tomorrow, as well as the architects from Annuminas. I must be here to review their plans.”

“Or you think I need a pleasant ride in the countryside. Its interesting that you’ve somehow evaded every trip to Imloth Melui since that one year we found out you were allergic to the pollen of those little blue flowers.” Faramir observed acutely.

“Or that.” The King agreed equably. “I’ll give your uncles and Master Gimli your greetings.”

“Gimli will be here?” Asked Aragorn’s younger daughter Gilwen with delight. All of the royal brood were fond of Gimli, with his penchant for telling interesting stories, not to mention the clever, dwarf-made toys he never failed to bring.

“He’s here every year for Frodo Day.” Eldarion pointed out gently. “But this year you are old enough to go with Nana and Éowyn to collect flowers.”

“I’d rather be planting trees with the cadets.” Faramir’s oldest daughter Theodwyn said with a laugh, “but Imloth Melui is beautiful, Gilwen. And it will be pleasant to get out of the city. I am happy that so many visit for Frodo Day, but it does make things crowded.”

Faramir met his wife’s eyes across the table, and both looked with sympathy upon their oldest child. Thea was the most like a young Éowyn out of all of their brood, though she more closely resembled Faramir’s aunt Ivriniel in appearance. This daughter of theirs was never happier than when riding a horse across the hills of Emyn Arnen at a full gallop, or further developing her sword skills with her mother or uncle Elrohir.

“Thea,” the Prince of Ithilien offered gently “If you would like, I see no reason why you cannot wear armor and sword, as your mother does, when we travel on the ‘morrow.”

Legolas, eyes sparkling with mischief, commented “After all, if the Prince of Ithilien is not surrounded by beautiful blond bodyguards, he does not know what to do with himself.”

“Beautiful blond bodyguards like you, uncle Las?” Thea asked sweetly, causing the rest of the table to break out in merriment, and Legolas to raise his glass in salute.

Aragorn, chuckling with the rest, added “No offense intended, Éowyn, Thea, but I believe Legolas is the most fair of all of Fara’s swordsmen.”

“I’m offended.” The Prince of Eryn Lasgalen protested mildly. “Doesn’t anyone care about that?”

“The twins shall return soon enough.” Faramir pointed out to his good friend and neighbor, “and then it shall be the three of you, picking on Estel and I again.”

“Not often.” Legolas pointed out, more serious now. “Your army’s scouts continue to report heightened orc activity along the border with what was once Mordor. Their numbers are dwindling, but those orcs who still persist in their old ways are no less pernicious. I believe the twins will be out at every possible opportunity, engaging in their second-favorite past-time.”

Knowing that his twin uncles’ most favorite leisure time activity while in Minas Tirith was baiting “our dear baby brother, the King,” Eldarion chuckled, and added, “Faramir, I must say I am glad that your sense of humor is not quite as strange as Elladan’s or Elrohir’s.”

Faramir quirked a grin at his own little brother, eyes gleaming in the way that suggested the new target was their father. “You are quite welcome, of course, ‘Darion, but I think it is more that our Adar was so much more annoying as a child than either you or I.”

“Thanks.” Aragorn said dryly. “And since you are in that mood, dear Faramir, I do not mind telling you that I am doubling the guard accompanying you and our ladies to Imloth Melui.”

“Good.” Faramir surprised his father by quickly agreeing. “Arwen, Éowyn and even Thea are as good as another guard each, but I don’t like to take any chances so near the anniversary of the Ring War, not with the reports of orc raids, and the younger girls along on the trip as well.”

The King chuckled. “I am relieved, Faramir. It would have been quite a shock to me, at my advanced age, to learn you were gaining an appreciation for your own safety at last. I am glad to know your concern is only for our ladies.”

“You’ve not had cause to complain of my exploits in years, Ada.” Faramir protested.

Eldarion grinned broadly. “That may be true enough, Fara, but I’m also not sure I ever thanked you for disappearing for six months back when I was a small child. After that, Ada’s threshold for “terrible things my children do to scare me” got a lot higher.”

Aragorn frowned at that memory, as Faramir gave his younger brother a mild glare, and scolded “That incident was over a decade ago, Eldarion. Be glad I don’t make as much of your mistakes.”

Shaking his head over his oldest son’s disastrous last mission as a spy, the King said firmly to his son and grandson. “We got off-topic, Eldarion, Elboron, but I do you want you to promise me you will both obey the orders you are given at the academy. You are Princes”

“‘Darion’s a Prince.” Elboron corrected. “I am but a Lord, because Mother didn’t want to be a Princess.”

The King shook his head at his only grandson’s propensity, inherited from oldest son, of making meaningless corrections during lectures. “Elboron, I do hope you are not such a stickler for details with your instructors.”

‘Darion interrupted, “He is not as bad as he was, Ada. What were you saying, about our responsibility as scions of your house?”

Faramir hid a grin. His younger brother was nearly as protective of Elboron as Boromir had once been of him, though fortunately, circumstances had not called upon Eldarion to be as fierce in his role.

Aragorn, more amused than offended at being managed by his offspring, at least on this minor point, sighed and continued “It is most important that the men you will someday lead see now, while you are young, that you respect the chain of command. If I hear that either of you are on report for failing to follow orders again, even if they are stupid orders, we will have an in-depth discussion about the matter. Is that understood?”

Eldarion and Elboron nodded, knowing what that meant, while Faramir objected, “Ada, honestly, I know you think I am too lenient on everyone in my charge, from my wife to my cats, but I am capable of disciplining my own son, if there is need.”

The table was quiet for a moment. This was Faramir’s firm voice, the one he hardly ever used, the one that made even his most bitter rivals on the Council decide to wait for another day to antagonize him. Eldarion, for one, was accustomed to his indulgent and loving older brother, but this was the tone of the Captain who had held Ithilien for a decade longer than anyone had thought might be possible.

Aragorn held up a hand in apology. “Peace, Faramir. I was merely trying to make a point.”

The family and friends of the King breathed a sigh of relief. True confrontations between Aragorn and his oldest son were extremely rare, but always memorable. The best thing to do, in the event of such conflict, was to hide, or, if that was not possible, be sure not to agree with either the King or the Steward, until they had reached some accommodation of their own. It never paid to get drawn in.

“So am I.” Faramir stated quietly, turning to look at his son and younger brother. “Dear ones, pick your battles. If you are ordered to do something which is not dangerous, but merely foolish and time-consuming, it is probably best to obey, as you would someday expect your soldiers to obey you, even though they cannot understand why you ask that a tree be felled, or a bridge destroyed. But if you are ordered to do something which strikes you as dangerous, or wrong, you have my permission, and I think our King’s, to disobey, and bring the matter to his attention. Am I mistaken, Ada?”

Aragorn had reached out with one hand to squeeze the shoulder of his oldest son supportively, before agreeing, “Aye, boys. Though I would hope that none of my officers would give such an order, Faramir is undoubtedly correct on that point.”

Remembering that discussion and the strange undertones at the end, Elboron tried again to get his uncle to reconsider their course of action, as Osgiliath came within sight. “Ah, Eldarion, I think us ending up here should be enough to see Captain Orchaldur posted somewhere unpleasant for a long time, if not the rest of his career. Perhaps we should attract the attention of one of the commanders of Osgiliath who is known to us, and let him deal with the situation from here.”

Eldarion shook his head stubbornly. “No, nephew. I have had quite enough of Captain Orchaldur’s bullying you and the younger boys. Your friends were not doing such a bad job of planting trees today, and it was supposed to be a fun excursion for the cadets, not an excuse for the Captain to take the slowest workers and force-march them to Osgiliath to help dig ditches in case there is flooding.”

Captain Orchaldur had made that statement when the fourth year and first year cadets had been sowing seeds in the same garden, after spending all morning complaining bitterly that all of Gondor was wasting time celebrating a hobbit’s having lost a piece of jewelry, instead of commemorating Gondor’s brave defense of Minas Tirith. Apparently, Orchaldur’s bitterness had resulted in his being ordered by the Captain in charge of the Academy to take a patrol of soldiers who had been written up for poor conduct to Osgiliath, to assist in preparation for the spring rains.

It was an unpleasant and boring task, when the alternative was drinking and celebrating in the city. It would not normally be a dangerous assignment, but the oddly bold behavior of the remaining orcs had caused the Senior Captain to advise Captain Orchaldur to take an additional patrol of soldiers with him to Osgiliath, not to assist with the digging, but to safeguard the soldiers who were so tasked. Orchaldur had declined to take this advice, both boys felt certain it was merely because he did not wish any of the officers to see him having earned this irksome duty.

Some of the younger cadets had been unable to completely stifle their amusement at their little-liked Captain’s comeuppance. Elboron and Eldarion had been blank-faced, for both had learned as young children how and when not to react. It had been a necessary lesson for the Crown Prince of the largest human kingdom, and for the Lord who was third in line for the throne.

Orchaldur had been furious at receiving a thinly-veiled reprimand from his commander in front of the cadets, and nearly incoherent with fury that the the little brats would dare to make fun of him. When Orchaldur attended the academy, back in the days of the Ring War, no one had coddled the cadets. Honestly, planting trees instead of running obstacles! So, to vent his displeasure, Orchaldur had commanded that the slowest two planters of trees from each of the cadet classes would accompany him to Osgiliath, and share in the punishment meted out to the soldiers who had disappointed the standards of Gondor’s army.

Upon hearing this, and seeing Orchadur’s mean gaze focused on the smallest boy in Elboron’s year, and the poor young man with a club foot in Eldarion’s, the Crown Prince had determined that it would be he who was most slow in planting trees. Since he was already ahead of most of his classmates, having assisted his mother and Legolas with gardening for years, Eldarion stopped planting trees by himself entirely, and began assisting his slowest class mates. Upon seeing the Crown Prince’s gambit, Elboron had rolled his eyes and followed suit. Eldarion wasn’t going to Osgiliath alone. Elboron had only one uncle, and he was quite fond of the older boy. The heir to Ithilien meant to still have one uncle at the end of the day, which he might not, if Eldarion’s strained patience snapped in front of Orchaldur.

Elboron did take a moment to point out, when his path crossed ‘Darion’s, that this was not one of the Crown Prince’s better-thought out plans. If, by some chance, Orchaldur and his lieutenant and other officers were dense enough not to realize who they were penalizing with a trip to Osgiliath, the King would be really, really angry. Neither youth was permitted to leave Minas Tirith without a guard, and were normally accompanied by guards even within the city, when they were not at the Academy.

‘Darion had shook his head stubbornly, and replied that his Ada had told them they were to obey orders like any other cadet. If it was permissible for Captain Orchaldur to send any cadet on a forced march to Osgiliath when there were marauding orcs about, it should be just as permissible to send cadet Eldarion.

Seeing this brief conversation, and having observed their earlier assistance of the slower boys in their years, Captain Orchaldur had played directly into Eldarion’s plan, such as it was.

“You two.” The disagreeable Captain had commanded, pointing at the boys. “You look like likely lads- you will accompany my patrol to Osgiliath. But first, you will run the length of this park a dozen times ‘ere your classmates finish. If you fall short, you will run at our first stop on the way.”

Fortunately, Eldarion and Elboron were well-liked, so the other cadets made sure to plant slowly enough that they finished their laps in good time, despite the possibility of Orchaldur’s rage falling on the other cadets as well. The Captain’s face twisted in rage as he realized the cadets were again mocking him, and he ordered that Cadets Darion and Elboron would run during the column’s first stop anyway, for talking while they were supposed to be planting.

“Ok.” Elboron agreed. “This fellow is one plank short of a ship.”

“So you won’t catch the attention of the guards at the gate, as you had threatened earlier?” Eldarion asked with a quick grin. “Help, we’re the princes, save us” would sound pretty foolish, anyway.”

“I won’t.” Elboron conceded. “If anyone ever deserved a tour of the White Mountains in winter, it’s this idiot.”

“Only if he’s lucky.” Eldarion countered. “There’s always the Ettenmoors, and the Wet Wang.”

Elboron stifled a chuckle at the thought of Captain Orchaldur sent off to man a garrison in the troll-infested Ettenmoors, or the Wet Wang marsh full of biting insects.

So, the Prince and the Lord-who-was-not-a-Prince joined a column of soldiers under report, on a forced march to Osgiliath. Policies in place for over a decade had established that a double-time march to Osgiliath was not appropriate for any solider or cadet under the age of twenty, except in times of active war.

Most of the soldiers marching to Osgiliath had been put on report for mild misbehavior, such as slovenly uniforms, or lateness. However, both boys, from their elven and Númenorean heritage, quickly realized that some members of the company really shouldn’t be soldiers of Gondor at all anymore, and tried to gravitate away from those individuals.

“Stay on this side of me, El.” ‘Darion ordered firmly. “That fellow likes your looks a bit too much.”

“Isn’t that kind of thing a court-martial offense?” His nephew Elboron asked, disturbed.

“Only if its proven.” One of the other soldiers, a youth named Dior, said with a grimace. “He’s a good liar, and a clever fiend, and has never actually been caught.”

“Hmm.” Commented ‘Darion, making mental plans to have the foul man transferred into the command of one of the Captains who had enough Númenorean blood to read deceit in a man’s eyes.

“‘Darion, one stupid stand a day, please.” Elboron pleaded, panting and winded as the column finally reached the bank of Osgiliath.

To Elboron’s relief, his uncle nodded, and both boys accepted shovels from the soldiers stationed at Osgiliath who had come out to meet Captain Orchaldur’s company. Eldarion managed to maneuver himself and his nephew so that they were in the same group with Dior and several other soldiers on report for having overslept, or been late to patrol, multiple days in a row, rather than any of the more hardened offenders.

“Hey, Captain.” One of the sergeants called out to Orchaldur. “The river’s already running a bit high from the afternoon’s rain, don’t know if its the best idea to have your lads out there today. Best to have them rest at the barracks this day, and get an early start on the morrow.”

“No, thank you, Sergeant.” Orchaldur replied coldly. “These malingerers shall finish their work today, and we will march back to Minas Tirith tonight. They will learn not to fall short of Gondor’s standards, I’ll warrant.”

The Sergeant politely kept his opinion of the advisability of that course of action to himself, but noting the presence of Eldarion and particularly Elboron, he pointed out, “Captain, they don’t look of age. Cadets and trainees oughtn’t be on one of these details, and especially not ones as small as them. They’re likely to get swept away.”

“Your opinion was not requested nor is it desired, Sergeant.” Captain Orchaldur dismissed, “Perhaps you would like to join us?”

“Nay, sir, Captain sir.” The sergeant denied, making a mental note to mention to the current commander of Osgiliath, Senior Captain Egalmoth, that this Captain was in direct contravention of Crown orders regarding the use of minors in the army.

Unfortunately for the company under Orchaldur’s command, Senior Captain Egalmoth had been called away to deal with an orc attack to the north. In order to get the company away more quickly, Orchaldur had ordered that no guard would be posted, despite the warnings they’d received from the Osgiliath garrison about the presence of orcs nearby. Instead all of the soldiers struggled on in the thick mud, digging an additional spill way for the flood waters which had already arrived.

“If we die.” Elboron threatened after the third time he had to help Eldarion swim out to pull in another soldier who had been sucked under by the treacherous eroding river bank, “I’m coming back to haunt you. And my Ada will haunt you as well, because NOT becoming your Ada’s first heir is a life-long goal of his.”

“You’re making too much of this.” Eldarion argued breathlessly, as he paused to stretch his aching arms, and move around the mud on his forehead. “A little hard work, some dirt, and a bit of swimming never hurt anyone. Why, Alphros would be in stitches if he saw his cousin complaining about such a small bit of swimming.”

“Alphros is insane, and you’re insane, and your Nana and I are the only sane ones in our entire family.” Elboron said firmly, before his gaze was caught by movement on the other bank of the river. “Orcs!” the young Lord cried as loudly as his exhausted lungs could manage, and the other soldiers took up the cry, dropping their shovels and scrambling up the banks for swords and bows.

Eldarion yanked Elboron up before him, practically shoving the younger boy up the bank to where they had left their weapons and armor. “Here,” the Prince directed, “Put your mail on while I cover us.”

Not wanting to waste time, Elboron obeyed, and then held his bow while Eldarion yanked on his mail shirt. Most of the other soldiers hadn’t bothered with armor, and some, including the foul man Eldarion had objected to, were actively fleeing. Captain Orchaldur, to his credit, was not retreating, but he had not expected the orcs. More, he had never commanded a force against such a large and aggressive group of orcs, and seemed incapable of doing anything but yelling curses at the retreating soldiers.

“Idiot.” Eldarion muttered, before grabbing a horn from the lieutenant and blowing the signal for a force under attack. Hearing the answering horns from the garrison was a welcome sound to those soldiers who had stayed, but Orchaldur merely glared at Eldarion, then struck the Prince down. “Did I give an order to signal for help, Cadet?” The Captain bellowed.

“With all due respect, Sir.” Eldarion said angrily, wiping blood away from a new cut on his cheek, “We should deal with the orcs first.”

Orchaldur growled, but his lieutenant had at last snapped out of his shock, and was ordering their bowmen to shoot at the orcs crossing the river as soon as they had the range. The orcs had assembled roughly hewn rafts, and might have drifted downriver to the patrol’s position without having been noticed if it had not been for Elboron’s keen eyes. Elboron and the soldier Dior helped Eldarion to his feet, and the three joined the archers. After an impossibly long but simultaneously short moment in time, the orcs were across the bank, and slipping on the same mud the soldiers had been cursing mere minutes earlier. Then they were in front of the patrol, and Elboron and Eldarion were facing the first real action of their military careers.

Eldarion was doing well enough, as he was tall and strong for his age, and expertly trained. Elboron fared well until he accidentally allowed an orcish blade to meet his full on instead of side-swiping, and lost his own sword to the superior force of his opponent. Dropping to his feet and rolling, the young Lord picked up an abandoned shovel and hacked at the back of his opponent’s knees. The orc fell, screaming, and Eldarion helped his nephew roll the foul creature down the bank, knocking over several of his comrades.

Then the horns of Gondor were calling, and Osgiliath’s garrison was present amongst them, driving the orcs back. One particularly ferocious creature screamed an orcish obscenity, and made to hack at the distracted Crown Prince with an axe. A knife bloomed in the orc’s throat before he could follow through with his swing, and the two boys pushed him down the bank to join his fellows. Eldarion had noted absently that the knife that had saved him bore the arms of Ithilien, but had not processed that information when he was roughly but carefully hefted onto a saddle. Looking up, he saw that his rescuer was his older brother, who looked fierce and strange. Turning his head frantically at Elboron’s yelp, he saw his nephew had been similarly hoisted onto the saddle of Captain Orohael, his brother Faramir’s primary guard.

Registering that his younger brother had no obvious wounds, Faramir handed him off to another royal guard, who blanched as he realized just who had been fighting orcs. Orohael and the guard who held Eldarion in front of him quickly moved to the rear of the action. Eldarion strained to see behind him, as his older brother dismounted and dove into the Anduin after an orc who was trying to take poor Dior with him across the river.

“Ah.” The Crown Prince objected faintly.

“Shut up, your highness.” Orohael growled.

Eldarion started again, “Faramir is, um, swimming.”

Looking behind him, Orohael swore fulsomely, then handed Elboron off to his mother, who was near the gates of Osgiliath with the other healers, preparing to receive the wounded.

“Elboron?” Lady Éowyn asked, confusion giving way to horror. “You’re supposed to be in Minas Tirith, with Eldarion.”

“Hi, Éowyn.” The Crown Prince said with a wince, not sure what else to say.

The Lady of Ithilien’s eyes widened further. “Captain?” She inquired of Orohael.

“I’ve no idea, my Lady.” The second-in-command of the King’s Guards said wearily. “But I think the boys should be safe enough here with you, and your husband seems determined to show he is still every bit as reckless as he was at the end of the Ring War.”

“Go.” Éowyn commanded. “I’ll take care of the boys.”

Oroahel nodded stiffly, and galloped back towards the conflict.

Éowyn called another healer over, and began looking over her brother-by-law as her assistant examined Elboron.

“Scrapes and bruises and a cut on your cheek, my love.” Éowyn said softly to Eldarion. “Otherwise you are fine, if terribly muddy. What on Arda are you two doing here?”

“Ah..” The Crown Prince extemporized.

“Just following orders, Nana.” Elboron put in, having received a similarly clean bill of health.

“I’m sure the whole story will be fascinating.” Éowyn said with a frown, quickly hugging both her son and brother-by-law, as the horns sounded the signal for the garrison to return, and the wounded began to come in.

Before the end of the day, Elboron, Eldarion, and Thea as well had seen all they ever wanted to see of the aftermath of battle. All three had helped Éowyn and the other healers with the wounded. The boys were relieved to see that Dior and several of the other injured soldiers they had spent the day with seemed likely to recover. Faramir, returning with Orohael after a meeting with Captain Egalmoth, directed his son and his brother to follow him.

Looking at his nephew in confusion, Eldarion obeyed. Elboron merely shook his head. He’d warned ‘Darion that this was not a good idea.

The two boys followed Faramir into one of the guest rooms in the Commander’s quarters. To their surprise, Faramir merely directed them to bathe, and then spoke with them quietly and soothingly of his own first experience fighting orcs, encouraging the boys to talk over their own horror and upset at the day’s events. Both felt much better for it, and for Faramir’s deep, musical voice reassuring them that they had done well.

“Aren’t you mad, Ada?” Elboron asked, clean and comfortable in clothing borrowed from the shortest of the royal guards, and happily tucked under one of his father’s arms, while his uncle was tucked under the other.

“That you fought orcs?” Faramir asked. “Not especially. I don’t see as you had any choice, by that point. What do you think I am upset about, ‘Darion, Elboron?”

“That we were in that situation in the first place.” The Crown Prince said quietly. “You told us we shouldn’t obey orders to do dangerous things, and we did. It was my fault, Fara, Elboron didn’t want to go.”

“Really?” The Prince of Ithilen observed, turning to Elboron. “If you thought following then-Captain Orchaldur’s orders was the wrong thing to do, my son, why didn’t you mention that to the guards at any one of the gates, or to any of the dozen or so of Ethiron’s men whom you recognized in between the garden where you were supposed to be, and the road leading to Osgiliath, where you both knew you were not to be without guards?”

“Because I was being stupid.” Elboron said softly.

“Not stupid.” His father disagreed. “But unwise, and reckless. It was not worth risking the lives of my brother and my son, to more firmly put a poor Captain in his place. No matter how small the risk.”

“Its not fair, Fara.” Eldarion objected. “If we had been any other cadets, we wouldn’t be in trouble for following orders.”

Elboron resisted the impulse to kick his uncle. Ada had been calming down before Eldarion attempted to talk them out of trouble.

“That’s a fascinating argument, little brother.” Faramir said softly. “Do not fret, you will have every opportunity to develop that theme, as you and Elboron will both be writing long, in-depth essays on how you could have better handled this situation.”

Eldarion made a face, still not recognizing their danger. “Ada is going to spank me for this, as well. Probably you, too, Fara. For diving into that river.”

His older brother chuckled. “I, little one, am a Senior Captain of Gondor, who made a strategic decision while discharging his duties. Whatever consequences I may face will be between myself and our father. You, on the other hand, are an underage cadet who had no business leaving the city. I’m going to spank you tomorrow morning, and I suspect Ada shall spank you again when we arrive in Minas Tirith.”

Eldarion’s jaw dropped. He could count on one hand the number of times his normally indulgent brother had spanked him. “But we have to ride back to the city tomorrow.” The Crown Prince objected.

“Then perhaps the unpleasant experience of riding a horse on a recently spanked bottom will teach you something.” Faramir commented quietly. “Elboron shall receive the same.”

The younger boy nodded, and cuddled closer to his father. He had known they would be punished, and probably more than once. The day’s events could have seen half of the male line of Telcontars dead, which would have been a disaster of epic proportions. It was more Captain Orchaldur’s fault than his or Eldarion’s, but one word from them to any of the soldiers in the city, or the Osgiliath garrison, could have prevented it. Faramir kissed the top of his son’s head gently.

“Can’t you punish us tonight, Fara?” Eldarion objected. “Its cruel to make us wait until tomorrow.”

“You’re both in shock, brother.” Faramir said gently. “Today has been too long a day for such chastisement. Also, though I am proud of you two for having handled yourselves well in the engagement, I am too angry at nearly having lost you both.”

“If you’re angry, maybe you should wait until we get back to Minas Tirith.” Eldarion offered helpfully.

Elboron rolled his eyes, and then did smack his uncle’s knee. “Stop talking, ‘Darion. You’re only making things worse.”

“Listen to your nephew.” Faramir advised, before chivvying the two boys to join the rest of the garrison for dinner.

The next morning after breakfast, Eldarion and Elboron unhappily followed Faramir back to the guest room they had slept in.

“Since you both know why you are here, we will not belabor the explanations again. Elboron, come here.” Faramir directed, guiding his son over his lap, and baring the boy’s bottom. Eldarion could only watch in distress as his brother, who had always been the most easy-going of his older relations, spanked his nephew’s rear until it was quite red, then finished the chastisement with a dozen or so firm swats with a wooden spoon. Then Faramir helped his sniffling son to rise and straighten his clothing, and embraced him gently. “Sorry, Ada.” Elboron whispered fiercely. “I am so sorry.”

“You are forgiven, child.” Faramir soothed. “Though you are not, as yet, done paying for this excursion.”

Elboron nodded, having known that was the case. “May I be excused, Ada?” He asked hopefully, not wanting to witness Eldarion’s spanking, though he was still rather annoyed with his uncle.

“Yes, if you wish.” Faramir permitted. “Go no further than the hall where your sister waits. The guards have enough assistance saddling the mounts, and your mother is likely not done berating the garrison for the sorry state of the stables.”

Elboron nodded and left, pausing to squeeze his uncle’s hand in support.

“Eldarion?” Faramir queried, confused at his brother’s hesitation.

“Why did you make me witness Elboron’s punishment?” The Crown Prince asked, already near tears, more from the previous day than the past few moments, or even what awaited him.

“Because he got into trouble following you, little brother.” Faramir explained gently. “And though I am proud and grateful for how ably you defended yourself and Elboron, it could have been much worse, for the both of you. Now come, that we may begin to see this matter dealt with.”

“Ada has never spanked me more than once.” Eldarion objected. “How do I know that he would approve of you doing so?”

“Lucky you.” Observed Faramir wryly. “Trust me, Ada will not disapprove.”

Sighing, the heir to the throne loosened his leggings and laid himself down over his older brother’s lap, nodding as Faramir asked if he were ready. Eldarion wasn’t sure one was ever ready for a spanking the likes of the one he’d just seen Elboron get, and he suspected his would be worse.

As soon as the first swat landed, Eldarion knew he had been right. “Fara!” He squawked indignantly, “Elboron only got the spoon at the end!”

Faramir spanked him firmly with the spoon again. “And you are older, and should know better.” His brother pointed out, settling into a steady of rhythm of six swats covering the entirety of his baby brother’s backside. After what seemed to Eldarion an eternity, Faramir put aside the spoon, and continued spanking with just his hand, which by that point was more than enough to bring Eldarion to tears. The Prince didn’t even notice when the spanking stopped, although he gladly accepted the comfort his brother offered, and even managed to chuckle a little at Faramir’s offer to tell him later of the worst ride his brother had ever experienced, after a very stupid duel on the way back from the funeral of Théoden King of Rohan.

Eldarion and Elboron suffered a very uncomfortable ride back to Minas Tirith, despite the several breaks Faramir called for the party to “stretch their legs.” Theodwyn shook her blond head at them, and remarked that they were lucky it had been Faramir, and not Aragorn, who had taken the royal ladies to gather flowers, and been diverted by the reports of orcs, sending his Naneth the Queen and the younger royal ladies back to Minas Tirith. Eldarion met his nephew Elboron’s eyes, and shook his head. He now knew that Elboron had been right; Faramir was not the most lenient of their two Adas. Not when it came to failing to obey an order to disobey dangerous orders.

Lessons with Uncle Elladan

“Have you never thought how danger must surround power as shadow does light?”
-Ursula K. Leguin

“‘You can’t give her that!’ she screamed. ‘It’s not safe!’
‘It’s a sword.’ said the Hogfather. ‘They’re not meant to be safe.’
‘She’s a child!’ shouted Crumley.
‘It’s educational.’
‘What if she cuts herself?’
‘That will be an important lesson.’
- Terry Pratchett

Uncle Elladan was Eldarion’s most favorite tutor. He didn’t treat ‘Darion like a baby, like that first tutor had. Honestly, thinking ‘Darion couldn’t even read or write, when Fara and Nana had taught ‘Darion how to do that ages ago! Nor was Uncle ‘Dan an “overstuffed prig” like ‘Darion’s second tutor had been. That was Uncle Elrohir’s description of ‘Darion’s previous tutor, and ‘Darion thought it quite appropriate. But he knew better than to repeat anything Uncle ‘Roh said when he was upset.

Normally, Eldarion and Thea loved their lessons with Uncle Elladan. Uncle ‘Dan didn’t plan lessons, and would just answer their questions (whatever they asked!). Uncle Elladan was one of their favorite adults. He would also take them on “nature hikes” in the garden, where Eldarion could usually convince Thea to try to eat something gross, which was really neat, in Eldarion’s opinion. Uncle Elladan didn’t overreact to Thea’s “inquisitive, investigative” nature, like most of their other minders did. He just gently guided her to the more edible plants and animals in the garden.

But today neither child was able to enjoy their lessons. Yesterday a bad man had tried to kill Eldarion’s Ada, the King, and then Theodwyn’s Ada, who was ‘Darion’s older half-brother Faramir, Ada’s Steward. Ada and Fara had just been walking around in the city, and the bad man shot arrows at them, and no one knew why. Both Ada and Faramir had been quiet the previous night, and Nana had cried. Éowyn had just looked very fierce, even nearly nine months pregnant.

Eldarion could believe Éowyn had once fought the evil witch-King. He could also believe his mother had been a warrior for a long time before even his Ada was born. Nana wasn’t fierce, but no one went against her when she made up her mind. Ada said it was like fighting the tide. Fara said that Eldarion’s Nana was very wise, and had developed a persistent nature from surviving centuries as Lord Elrond’s only daughter. Eldarion didn’t know what that had to do with anything, but Fara and Nana were almost always on the same side. Ada said that Nana and Éowyn were the only ones who could get Fara to do something when Eldarion’s older brother turned stubborn. Fara said that wasn’t true, that he listened to Aragorn as well. Eldarion’s twin uncles said that Fara was too stubbornly independent for his own good, and that Eldarion’s Nana was a spoiled brat. Eldarion knew not to repeat that, too.

Eldarion and Thea had talked about what they wanted to learn today, and they asked Uncle Elladan to teach them how to stop bad men. Uncle Elladan didn’t say anything for a moment, which was really odd for Uncle ‘Dan.

Recovering from surprise, Uncle ‘Dan asked “‘Darion, Thea, neither of you will have to defend yourselves from anyone for many years. Your Ada and I and ‘Roh will take care of you, and that is only if anyone is “bad” enough to get past the army and our guards. Which is unlikely, children, as those who guard us are well-trained and quite loyal.”

“Ada fight bad man.” Thea disagreed quietly.

“Ada did fight the bad man,’ Thea.” Elladan corrected. “Remember, sentences require transitional verbs, and nouns generally need objects.”

Theodwyn wrinkled her cherubic nose. “Grammar stupid.” she noted in disgust.

‘Darion grinned at his niece despite his worry. “Grammar IS stupid, Thea. I agree.”

Elladan sighed. Grammar had never been his favorite subject as an elfling, either. Just wait til these poor kids got to variant forms of Quenya… he desperately hoped Estel had found them a new tutor by then. He would be very likely to just agree with his pupils that it was an unnecessary thing to have to learn. Perhaps Erestor would be willing to teach them? But that would leave Mel alone in Imladris… Elladan shook his head, returning to his niece’s point. “Your ada put himself in a position where he was able to fight the bad man only because he disobeyed orders and common sense to go running after the bad man, Thea. I love Faramir well, but he should not have done that. It was too dangerous.”

“He got in big trouble with Ada.” ‘Darion observed in wonder. The Crown Prince hadn’t realized that his older brother, whom he idolized, could ever get into trouble with their Ada. Normally Ada and Fara were both telling ‘Darion what to do, even though ‘Darion far preferred to confess his misdeeds to the tolerant Faramir.

Elladan closed his eyes for a moment, thanking the Valar for keeping Faramir from getting scratched by the assassin’s poisoned knife. “And deservedly so. But neither of you are trained warriors yet, as our Faramir has been for several decades. Neither of you are to run after assassins, or any other such thing. It would be very stupid and naughty, as well as dangerous.”

“But what if they come running after us?” Eldarion asked. “What if our guards get lost or hurt? What if we’re alone, or just with Nana? What do we do?”

Elladan smiled fiercely. “If you’re with your Nana, you’re not in bad shape, ‘Darion. As a matter of fact, I might consider hiding behind your Nana if assassins, er, bad men attack. She is a fierce and capable warrior, though she does not usually carry a sword in the city.

“If Daernana not is?” Thea followed up, smoothly tag-teaming her partner-in-crime, her beloved uncle ‘Dari.

Elladan gave his his great-niece a measuring look. Thea’s persistence and ability to follow a logical argument were impressive for her age. Then he corrected absentmindedly “what if Daernana is not there, Thea.” But Elladan’s mind was elsewhere. He had lived over 20 centuries… some of the things he had seen… what could it hurt, to tell them a little of how they might defend themselves? Everyone hoped that they would never be in a position to need to, or at least not until they were well-trained adults, but he could remember the terrible fates of other beloved children, dead with their parents in the burnt out villages the Witch-King’s men had left behind them in Arnor, following the siege of Imladris. Elladan had lived long, and one thing he had learned was that life was too uncertain. And a king was always a target, and no less his sons. And if he taught Eldarion, what harm to teach Thea?”

Elladan sighed again, and conceded. “Alright, you two have a point. You have logically followed your arguments through to their conclusion and defeated your opponent in this debate, me. As you have persuaded me, I shall tell you what you should do. Soon, you will begin to carry knives. Here is how you can find a knife on an opponent if you don’t have one. Then…” Elladan began drawing diagrams, showing them the sensitive spots on the human, elven and orcish body, the places they must aim for if defending against an enemy, the parts of themselves they must defend.

Theodwyn paid careful attention; this was important adult information, information she and ‘Dari had determined that no one else would probably be willing to teach them. Her own Ada and Nana had been their next best choice, but ‘Dari had said Uncle Elladan would be best, and ‘Dari was right again.

Then ‘Dari asked what they should do if they lost their knife, or didn’t have one. So Uncle Elladan had them practice in the classroom, picking up any given object and showing them how it could be used to delay a foe, or disarm them. “Remember,” Elladan solemnly instructed the children, “anything can be a weapon. The name of the game, in your age and position, is to survive long enough for help to come.”

At one point, with a stylus that had been among Faramir’s old childhood school things, Elladan was covering again the principle of aiming for the heart. Eldarion asked what a heart looked like. After Elladan explained the shape, Theodwyn demanded, “How work?”

Uncle Elladan frowned a bit, then said that since they were both curious, he would try to explain. So he drew a picture of the human heart. Then Uncle Elladan explained how blood is pumped from chamber to chamber, and how and why stabbing an assailant in the heart stops that process and ends their life. Thea looked at ‘Dari; he was confused too. Observing this, Uncle Elladan took them on a fieldtrip to see one of the older fountains that used a pump to recirculate water. Using his belt-knife, Elladan picked the lock on a concealing panel to show his pupils the pumping mechanism. Then he poured wine into the water to show them how the pump made the liquid circulate throughout the fountain, and explained that a heart works similarly.

Eldarion, judging by the skeptical look on his face, was unconvinced. “We have a machine inside of us? That’s too odd, Uncle ‘Dan. You’re putting us on. Like when Ada told Thea that cats all must learn to swim, and then they will love to do so.”

Elladan frowned at the memory of that incident. “No, I don’t have Estel’s low sense of humor. Mine is much more refined. I would not mislead you on such an important matter.”

Thea also frowned in memory of that less-than-funny joke of Daerada’s. She didn’t want to be taken for a fool again. But how to have Uncle Elladan prove they really had machines called hearts inside them? Thea didn’t dislike anyone enough to ask Uncle Elladan to cut them open in order to prove they had a heart, even if Uncle Elladan would. One could never tell with Uncle Elladan.

Just then Thea spotted Smaug the cat returning through the garden with a trophy, a dead frog. Thea frowned in thought. Elladan said that all creatures except the littlest ones like bugs had hearts, too. This frog was already dead, because Smaug was planning to eat it. So maybe Elladan could show them if the frog had a heart. That would work.

“See if lie.” Thea said to Darion. Thea then chattered to Smaug for a bit, and the cat reluctantly yielded the frog to her. Thea had her father’s way with creatures of all kinds, at least until they realized she intended to bathe them, or possibly eat them, or put them in Eldarion’s bed in retribution for not being invited to join him in one activity or another (this only happened to slimy creatures; a cat would not be an effective deterrent).

Thea then handed the dead creature to her uncle. “Show.” The toddler ordered.

Elladan obliged her, after first vocally thanking the little frog for the life it had given, and Smaug for her forsaken meal. He then showed the children how one went about dissecting a frog. Both found it fairly abhorrent, and Elladan decided that anatomy was probably a better subject for adolescents than toddlers.

Elladan was exhausted, and he still had reports by healer-trainees to revise, and work to do on the book he was currently co-writing, “Healing Herbs of Gondor.” Not to mention experiments to review from his apprentices in the alchemy guild. So he decided that it was time for the lesson to be over, He concluded the lesson, as always, by having ‘Darion and Thea write an entry in their learning journals, and draw pictures if they wished. Elladan was quite impressed by their retentive memories and artistic skills, although Thea’s determination to convince the rest of the world to eschew grammar rather than learning it herself was a continuing source of frustration for her tutor. Still, the children seemed less worried about “bad men,” so Elladan considered himself to have done well. He still hoped that Estel would find someone better suited to tutoring the children soon, but he was quite sure that Éowyn and Arwen needed the break, until then. Éowyn was still working with the healers when she had the energy, though her due date was approaching.

Then Lady Lindorie and ‘Darion’s Nana came to collect Eldarion and Theodwyn, and it was time to get ready for dinner. Lindorie was helping Nana because Thea’s Nana, Darion’s sister Éowyn, needed extra naps – she was going to have another baby soon. This was sixth day, when Faramir usually took Thea and Éowyn to meet his friends in the city for dinner. Eldarion liked it when Faramir would take him, as well. Faramir’s nephew-who-wasn’t-really-a nephew Tavan was lots of fun to play with, when he was in a good mood. He was almost a teenager, so sometimes he had grown-up stuff to do, and didn’t have time to play with ‘Darion and Thea. Tavan’s mother Nessa was really nice, and she’d always play the harp and sing if ‘Darion asked politely. Hallas and Dev were always nice to ‘Darion as well. Hallas would tell ‘Darion really interesting stories about past Princes of Gondor and Arnor, and Dev would suggest neat games that Ada probably wouldn’t like. But Nessa’s husband Ethiron (who Tavan explained carefully was NOT his Ada), was likely to notice anything really fun before it had a chance to half get started. But this week, Ada had asked Faramir to have his friends come to the citadel, instead. That was an acceptable alternative to Eldarion, although he knew Thea was sad to miss a trip into the city. Maybe he could convince Fara that Thea was old enough for swimming lessons.

The dinner that night was lots of fun, from Eldarion’s perspective. Much more fun than the formal dinners that he and more recently Theodwyn usually attended with the full court on first, third, and fifth days. During those dinners, they had to sit up straight, and eat properly, and not make a mess. Plus they had to behave like miniature adults, and be “discreet.” And there were lots of people watching them, all the time. Most of the people were nice, but Ada still compared it to being an animal in a zoo exhibit. Dinners with just the family were a lot more fun, and dinners with Fara’s friends were even more fun.

And this dinner was great. There was lots of good food, and since Faramir and Éowyn were hosting this dinner, Ada said it was their rules instead of his, that he and Nana were just Fara’s guests. So Eldarion didn’t have to eat all of his vegetables; just give them a tiny taste to make sure he hadn’t suddenly developed a taste for them. ‘Darion assured Fara that he would never develop a taste for carrots. Fara said that was fine, as long as ‘Darion used socially acceptable terminology to describe his dislike. Fara said it wasn’t fair to be so explicit as to dampen the enthusiasm of those who did like carrots, or to upset the cook.

“A simple “I do not care for them,” is sufficient, ‘Darion.” Faramir murmured, as Ada rolled his eyes at Fara and said, “Just you wait, Faramir Your next child will be as picky an eater as Eldarion, and then you will have to play tyrannical Ada at the dinner table as well.

“Don’t wish that on Éowyn, meleth-nin.” Nana interposed gently. Fortunately, Éowyn, who often took exception to Ada’s teasing of Fara when she deemed it to have gone too far, was paying complete attention to Elladan, who was describing what he considered his most challenging surgery of all time, a ruptured appendix on the battle field. Éowyn was riveted, but Sion and Hallas both looked a little sick, and even Ethiron looked a tad green.

Fortunately for the other dinner guests, the next course arrived, an absolutely splendid dessert, in Eldarion’s opinion. Ada had argued with the cook Mairen until she had agreed to let Mistress Sion, Hallas’ mother, bake a special cake that Fara used to have as a child in Dol Amroth. Sion was kin to Lord Golasgil of Anfalas, which was near Dol Amroth. Lord Golasgil was also nice, and knew lots of fun stories about ‘Darion’s brother Faramir, when Faramir had been young. He and Dev kept Faramir laughing even after dessert, when ‘Darion went to play with Thea and Tavan. He asked his twin uncles to join them, but Elladan had lost a bet to Elrohir, and had to play a game of chess with him.

At first they played chase, with Tavan chasing both of them, and then Dev helping Thea and ‘Darion chase Tavan. But after ‘Darion knocked over the table with the chess set in the middle of his twin uncles’ game, Nana suggested they find another activity. So they started to build a maze for Smaug the cat with wooden blocks that Faramir had painted to look like different fiefs of Gondor. When Smaug escaped, ‘Darion and Tavan started building really high towers with the blocks for Thea to knock down. Then Dev and Hallas showed Eldarion, Tavan and Thea how to make the stacks of wooden blocks go flying in all directions by setting off the spinning tops Uncle Éomer and Aunt Lothiriel had sent them right beside the blocks, which was really fun. Nessa and Sion were talking to Nana and Éowyn about boring baby stuff, but Eldarion was relatively certain he could talk Nessa into singing once they finished that. She had even brought her harp, and Tavan had his pipe and lute. Eldarion hoped Faramir took Ada’s advice and had his friends over more often; all of Faramir’s friends were fun.

Well, all of Fara’s friends were fun except for Ethiron. And Ethiron was properly Ada’s friend, not Fara’s. Fara “disclaimed any responsibility for Ethiron.” And Ethiron seemed really annoyed with Fara tonight too. He was talking to Faramir by the fire, getting louder and louder when Faramir seemed not to agree. Eldarion could have told Ethiron that getting louder at Faramir didn’t get you anywhere. Dev said that Faramir had been yelled at by the scariest, so you had to talk softly if you wanted Faramir to listen. Eldarion decided to rescue his brother. He got up to go and invite Fara to join their game, picking up his learning journal from the table as an afterthought. He could always use that for a distraction, if Faramir said “in a little bit, ‘Darion,” which he sometimes did when he was having important conversations.

When Eldarion went over to see if Faramir would like to join their game, Ethiron was almost yelling at Faramir. Ada didn’t normally let anyone yell at Fara (except sometimes Éowyn), but Ada was just watching, this time.

“I don’t know what it is going to take to get this through your head,” Ethiron lectured, teeth clenched, to Eldarion’s older brother, who exhibited the polite listening expression that ‘Darion knew meant he was just humoring someone, “but you are NOT just any other loyal soldier of Gondor anymore, Faramir! Not only are you the Steward, and the Prince of an important border territory, but you are the King’s son, your half-brother’s regent if anything should happen to your father! Your heir is not yet two years of age, your next-heir is not yet born, and your brother is not yet four! You have no business chasing after assassins!”

“No one else was in position to catch up with the man, Ethiron.” Faramir replied softly. “I did not want him to have the opportunity to try again.”

Ethiron took a deep breath before continuing to lecture Eldarion’s brother in a mean tone of voice. Eldarion wasn’t sure if he liked Ethiron. Tavan seemed rather undecided on whether he liked Ethiron, and Eldarion figured Tavan would know. Tavan knew lots of things. So did Faramir, but Ethiron wasn’t even listening to him just now. Which was quite rude; Faramir had listened to what Ethiron was saying, after all. Faramir always listened.

Eldarion had actually gone looking for Faramir last night. He’d awoken in the middle of the night from a terrible dream in which bad men had been shooting at Ada and Faramir with arrows, and Faramir had died protecting Ada. Eldarion wanted to find Faramir and make sure he was really whole and alive and fine, with his deep voice that always knew just what to say to make ‘Darion feel better. Ada knew what to say, too, its not that he didn’t, but Faramir could almost read ‘Darion’s mind. Even the fears that Eldarion was scared to give voice to because he thought them too silly or awful, Faramir could guess, and somehow make smaller, and less frightening.

But Nana had still been awake when Eldarion got up to go looking for Fara, working on a tapestry at her loom. Nana had taken one look at Eldarion’s tear-stained face before scooping him up in a hug. It was a nice hug; its not that it wasn’t, but Eldarion had needed to know that Faramir was still fine, that it had just been a nightmare. When he eventually managed to explain that to Nana through sobs, she had nodded determinedly, and picked him up. “I will take you to see Faramir.” Nana promised. And Nana ALWAYS kept her promises. No matter what it cost her, or at least that was what Uncle Elrohir said.

To Eldarion’s surprise, Nana was carrying him to Ada’s study, instead of towards Faramir and Éowyn’s apartment in the royal wing. Answering his unspoken question, Nana said, “Ada had to talk to Faramir about something that happened today, I think they’ve had long enough, though. Its fortunate that Faramir is not in his rooms, for Éowyn is near to term, and I would hate to waken her if that hyperactive babe is finally letting her sleep.

Eldarion had nodded. His future niece or nephew was not an easy baby to carry, like he had been. The babe kicking Éowyn’s tummy hurt Eldarion’s hand when Éowyn let him feel the baby moving around, but Éowyn was tough. She hardly even winced.

Nana held Eldarion balanced on her hip as she approached Ada’s study, turning sideways as she opened the door so that Eldarion couldn’t see in, before entering the rest of the way. Eldarion was surprised by what he saw. Ada was sitting on the settee by the fireplace nearest the window, not doing any of his King work, which wasn’t really that unusual. But Fara was lying on his side on the same settee, half on Ada’s lap, with Ada’s arm around him. Eldaron smiled a little even through his abating tears. Fara hardly ever let Ada hold him. When Eldairon had first learned that Faramir was his brother, he had worried a little that Ada might not have time for him anymore, since Ada and Fara were friends, and now Fara was Ada’s son too. But Faramir almost never joined in any of Ada’s special father-and-son activities with Eldarion, even though first Ada and then Eldaron had invited him.

“Eldarion-my-heart, whatever is the matter?” Ada asked, concerned.

“‘Darion?” Fara asked a split-second later, looking to ‘Darion almost as if he had been almost asleep.

“He had a nightmare about bad men with arrows.” Arwen explained softly, gently settling her son onto his father’s lap. Faramir got up immediately to make space for ‘Darion, despite Aragorn’s murmur of “There is room for both of you.”

To Eldarion’s surprise, Fara winced and then hissed as he sat up, quickly standing then kneeling beside Eldarion. “I am sorry you had an ill dream, my brave little brother.” Faramir reassured him gently.

Eldarion reached out a hand to pat Faramir’s cheek gently, tactile reassurance that Faramir was really, truly there. And fine. Or at least mostly fine. “Did the bad men hurt you?” Eldarion asked his brother. “Is that why it hurts you to sit?”

Ada, holding Eldarion, made a funny choking noise. Fara gave Ada a look, half-embarrassed, half-approbation. It was almost the look that Ada got from Fara when Ada was confessing he hadn’t gotten his King work done, but with a little bit of maybe Fara had stayed up too late doing his Steward work, and then gotten caught falling asleep at the breakfast table.

“Nay, ‘Darion.” Faramir explained soothingly. “The bad man did not hurt me.”

Ada snorted. “You’ve bruises and scrapes from scuffling with that “bad man,” dear one, and you’ll finish your willow-bark tea before you go to sleep.”

“Nag, nag, nag.” Faramir teased their father, to ‘Darion’s delighted surprise. “I’m not feeling any of what he did to me as much as your displeasure, Aragorn.” Faramir continued, obviously a bit unhappy with their father.

“Fara,” said ‘Darion in shock, “Did Ada smack you?” ‘Darion had been smacked the first time just recently, for climbing out of the window in Nana’s solar to get to the garden. He’d promised Ada he wouldn’t climb out of the window in the nursery anymore, and he hadn’t. Eldarion just hadn’t known that Ada meant any high-up window. He’d told Ada that Ada should have been more specific. Ada had asked ‘Darion if he had known that climbing out the window was dangerous. ‘Darion had explained that it was only dangerous if he slipped, and that he’d been very careful not to. Ada had stared at him for a moment, before explaining that ‘Darion couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t ever slip, and that the rule was ‘Darion wasn’t allowed to do things that could be dangerous, whether or not he thought he was skillful enough not to get hurt. ‘Darion had said that was a stupid rule.

Ada had sighed, and told ‘Darion that he’d known grown men to fall from like heights, and get very badly hurt, and that Ada would feel sad forever if something like that happened to ‘Darion. That seemed like what Faramir called a “specious argument” to ‘Darion, but ‘Darion felt bad for worrying his Ada, so he’d apologized anyway. He didn’t promise not to do it again, though. Ada had sighed again, and explained that sorry wasn’t enough for having risked getting badly hurt. Then Ada had explained that ‘Darion was going to receive his first spanking, because ‘Darion had known better and still broken the rules. ‘Darion had protested, but Ada had persisted, and ‘Darion had wound up bare-bottom over Ada’s lap, where Ada had smacked his hand down firmly several times. It had hurt very much, and ‘Darion had cried. But Ada had held him afterwards, and told him that he’d been brave even though he had cried.

But ‘Darion couldn’t believe Ada had smacked Fara. Though Fara did look like he might have been crying. ‘Darion turned to frown at their father, who rolled his eyes.

Fara’s rueful chuckle drew Eldarion’s attention back to his brother. “I, too, must pay for my errors, little brother. And the King…”

“Our father,” ‘Darion interrupted firmly. He and Éowyn were working on getting Faramir to call Ada by the proper term in private.

“Our father,” Faramir amended, “no more approved of my ducking our poor guards to apprehend the assassin, then he approved of you jumping from window ledge to window ledge.”

“Because it was too dangerous and he loves you so much he is scared of you getting hurt.” Eldarion explained sagely, just in case Faramir had not grasped that. Sometimes Faramir missed the simplest things, even though he was really smart. That’s when Ada said that his firstborn took extra looking after. Faramir explained things all the time; ‘Darion was happy to be able to return the favor.

“Oh, is that why?” Faramir asked with gentle humor. “Ada didn’t get much past, “if you ever worry me like that again, I’ll tie you to Magordan.’”

“You don’t want that, Fara.” Eldarion assured his brother. “Magordan is NO FUN when he is in “guard” mode. He’s worse than anybody but Orohael.” Eldarion knew all of his father’s guards, an elite force hand-picked and trained by Magordan and Uncle Elrohir.

“On the bright side for you, little brother, I believe I’ve just made you the royal guards’ favorite Prince.” Faramir said ruefully.

“Hmm.” Aragorn commented with some sympathy, reaching a hand out to stroke Fara’s cheek, where he had a bruise from ducking under Orohael’s fist. “Magordan thinks you should GIVE his guards lessons on evading opponents who are being careful not to hurt you.”

Faramir winced. “If you hadn’t acknowledged me…”

Nana frowned, before pulling Fara gently back up onto the settee. Nana had sat down beside Ada, and Faramir now returned to his previous position, on his side so no weight was on his sore bottom, but this time leaning against Nana’s shoulder, rather than Ada’s. “We’d be in the same place, Faramir.” Nana said gently, stroking her step-son’s hair soothingly. “You were already a secondary target, as Steward. The guards next priority after securing Estel’s safety was already to secure your own.”

Faramir frowned. “No one told me that.”

Ada explained dryly. “We thought it would be easier that way. We forgot that you had trained in hand-to-hand combat with the best Gondor had to offer. Ethiron is kicking himself for not having briefed us better.”

Eldarion squirmed until he was cuddled against Faramir, who leaned down to kiss his head. Ada pulled a blanket down from the built-in shelf by the window, and Nana put it over ‘Darion and Fara.

“I hope Eldarion and I did not interrupt.” Nana said softly. “I had thought you would mostly be done, and he was so upset.”

“Faramir was just blaming himself for things which are not his fault again.” Eldarion’s Ada complained softly.

Faramir snorted. “Minas Tirith is my charge as Steward, is it not? And the assassin aimed at you on the streets of Minas Tirith, did he not?”

“Technically, we were by the dock, not in the city, difficult child.” Ada scolded Faramir. “And secondly, no one can control every mad man with a bow. We’ll get this straightened out, but it was NOT your fault. The policy changes we’ve made, you and I, in these last few years have by and large made our streets much safer.”

“That, and Sauron’s bribes have dried up.” Faramir pointed out, frustrated. Eldarion was glad that Sauron was gone; NO ONE had seemed to like him at all. Not even the orcs.

“None of that changes that I would prefer to have you stay here, tomorrow night.” Ada said gently. “I know you can look after yourself, and the guards are wiser now than they were this morning to your stubborn ways, but you have a very pregnant wife and a little daughter who are not quite so self-sufficient.”

Faramir didn’t respond right away. Eldarion, snuggled against Fara’s chest, couldn’t see his brother’s face, but not replying right away usually meant Faramir was thinking. Personally, Eldarion thought that anybody who got close enough for Thea to fight wouldn’t consider Thea defenseless, but he knew better than to get involved in this argument. Besides, he was pretty sure he was on Ada’s side.

“Why don’t you have your friends come here, instead, Faramir?” Nana asked, still stroking Faramir’s hair. “You could borrow a dining room, or two, if the one in your apartment is too small. Its not like we don’t have plenty of space.”

“I don’t know,” Faramir responded at last, sounding pensive. “I don’t want to take advantage.”

It was Ada’s turn to sigh, and sound frustrated. “You’re not taking advantage; you live here. More, you are not Denethor’s unwanted second son anymore, dear one, who needs to meet his friends away from the Steward’s disapproval. You are MY son, and very much wanted. I want you to feel comfortable, welcome, to bring your friends here for dinner. Indeed, to host whomever, howsoever, you and Éowyn please.”

“You were welcome to do so even as Steward, dear.” Nana scolded Faramir gently. “This is your home as well as our own. Its rooms are at your disposal, always. And for tomorrow at least, I, too, would prefer to keep you and Éowyn and Thea close by.” Nana was on Ada’s side; that settled it. ‘Darion was too.

“Fara?” ‘Darion mumured, growing sleepy again.

“Yes, muindor-laes?” Fara prompted.

“Please have your friends come here. Tavan said he would show me how to play his old set of pipes, but I haven’t had a chance to see him, you’ve been too busy the past month to take me to visit.” ‘Darion pleaded.

“Its only been the past two weeks.” Faramir corrected gently. “But very well. If Éowyn approves, of course.”

“Of course.” Nana said easily. Eldarion could tell Nana thought Éowyn would agree. ‘Darion wasn’t sure; for being so very pregnant, Éowyn was very active. But Éowyn listened to Nana.

And Nana had been right. Éowyn did agree that hosting a small dinner for their friends at the citadel would be an acceptable alternative, and she invited Ada and Nana, as well as Eldarion. And somebody must have invited Ethiron, who was now being mean to Fara even though Fara had already been punished by Ada. Eldarion didn’t approve of that, not at all.

“Moreover, Faramir, if I were your father, I’d have you tied to me in leading-strings!” Ethiron finished, glaring at Faramir now.

Eldarion felt that someone should say something, and Ada didn’t seem ready to interrupt. Eldarion didn’t want to tell anybody that Fara had been smacked, because Fara had asked him not to. It turned out Eldarion didn’t have to say anything; Ethiron’s last statement had been loud enough for Arwen to hear.

“At least MY husband’s son speaks to him.” Nana observed coldly, though normally Nana was quite fond of Ethiron. “Perhaps you should think on that, Ethiron.” Tavan, lifting Thea on his shoulders so that she could be as tall as Hallas and Golasgil, fortunately had not heard. Nessa, too, was distracted with setting her harp up, aided by Sion. Probably Nana had intended that.

Éowyn sighed, placing a hand on her stomach. “Ethiron, the habits of a lifetime cannot be unlearned in half a year, or even a handful of years. I still reach for my sword when the wind blows from Mordor; I am not one who can lecture my husband on failing to know his place.”

Then ‘Darion’s older brother exchanged one of those looks with Éowyn, the ones that Eldarion didn’t understand. Nana had explained to ‘Darion that every married couple had their own language, and that between Faramir and Éowyn, Nana thought that look meant “I love you and I understand you and I forgive you, and no one else will understand either of us, ever, so thank the Valar for you.” Eldarion thought it was probably handy that Fara and Éowyn had shortened all of that to just a look.

“Speaking of places,” Dev said thoughtfully, “are you getting a bit old for fieldwork, captain-of-mine?”

Ethiron gave Dev a pained look, “Do you want my job, Dervorin?”

“Eru, no.” Dev retorted, seeming to Eldarion’s eyes truly reluctant. “I’ve enough to do. Asking for more work was always Fara’s peculiar habit, not mine. But you should have more time to spend with your family, ‘Thiron. I’m not a newly-wed, it might be a good time for me to do some of your traveling.”

“Hmm.” Ethiron murmured thoughtfully, looking over at Tavan, who was showing Thea how to read musical notes. “You may be right. I never seem to say the right thing, with him.”

“The biggest problem is merely that you are not Boromir.” Faramir said kindly, even though Ethiron had been mean to him all night. Faramir was always nice, even to people who were mean to him. Eldarion wasn’t sure he approved. “Tavan never got to see a body nor a grave, and he is not entirely convinced that Boromir isn’t coming back someday, not in his heart of hearts, I am afraid.” Fara explained further, looking very sad now.

“Eh.” Ethiron sighed. “I’ll think on retiring from field-work, but not this year, when the border with Harad is heating up. Now, Eldarion, what is that book you have there?”

Eldarion blinked. He had forgotten all about his learning journal. “I was going to show Fara what I learned today, but its not important.”

“Of course it is important, ‘Darion.” Fara disagreed. “Let’s see.”

‘Darion showed Faramir his drawing and his short essay about what he had learned. Faramir’s eyes widened slightly. “Ah, how very, hmm, detailed. You’re going to be more than ready for the academy, someday. Was Thea at this lesson with you?”

“Of course. She drew the heart.” Eldaroin obligingly showed Faramir Thea’s drawing as well, although he held a hand over her essay. Uncle Elladan hadn’t been happy with it, as Thea was continuing to maintain that proper grammar was a sort-of delusion that the adult world could just get over it if it tried hard enough.

Ethiron, looking over Faramir’s shoulder, choked out, “Aragorn, just who do you have teaching your son?” Eldarion frowned. He had used proper grammar in his essay.

“Which one?” Ada murmured wryly, but he obligingly looked over at Eldarion’s book. Then his eyebrows raised in shock, and he handed the book to Nana, and Thea’s book to Éowyn.

Éowyn appeared merely interested in the mechanical correctness exhibited by her daughter’s drawing of the human heart. Nana, on the other hand, sighed, and said, “Oh, Elladan.” Eldarion winced. When Nana said his name in that disappointed voice, he knew he was in trouble. It was probably a good thing he and Thea had decided to ask Elladan how to fight the bad men; Fara was in enough trouble already with Ada, without getting Nana mad at him too.

Nessa, attention drawn by her husband’s flabbergasted expression, laughed lightly. “Well, at least they waited until after dinner.” Eldarion didn’t think Nessa would sit near Elladan and Éowyn during meals again, at least not on purpose.

Ada sighed, and seemed to be counting to himself. After a bit Ada said, “Elladan, a word?’

Uncle Elladan looked up from his chess game. “Can’t it wait, Estel? We’ve only just recovered from Eldarion’s interruption.”

Elrohir frowned at Ada. “We hardly ever have time to play chess anymore, muindor-laes, since Elladan must take timeout from his duties to tutor your children and Faramir’s.”

Ada smiled thinly. “Actually, I was going to ask Elladan if he’d mind giving up his tutoring work, in order to spend more time on “Healing Herbs of Gondor.” I am eagerly anticipating its release.

Elladan smiled, pleased. “You can read an advance copy, Estel.” He offered. “In fact, I’d appreciate your input.”

“And Aragorn would do anything to avoid reading petitions.” Faramir murmured under his breath.

“But Ada, I don’t want a new tutor.” Eldarion protested. “Uncle Elladan is the best tutor ever; he knows everything, and he explains it really well.”

Uncle Elladan was touched. “Eldarion, I think that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me this century.” He thanked ‘Darion. “But I am really not the best tutor for everyday matters. Perhaps I could return to teach you science lessons?”

Ada coughed. “Perhaps in a few years, ‘Dan. I would hate to deprive the Houses of Healing or the Alchemy Guild of your wise counsel. Didn’t you say, just the other day, that you have so many brillian human apprentices to nurture?”

Elladan smiled, pleased Estel had been paying attention.

“But Ada, who will be our tutor now?” Eldarion said, worried. He hadn’t liked his last two tutors.

“Ah..” Ada paused in thought. Absently, he noticed Hallas distracting Thea by telling her the history of their ancestor Valandil, who had owned a fine brace of hounds, a gift from King Thranduil of the Green Wood, their good friend Legolas’ father. The story was interesting enough that Tavan, who viewed history as a waste of time, appeared drawn in as well.

“Hallas.” Aragorn called. “Are you busy tomorrow afternoon?”

Hallas, surprised, answered, “No, my King. How may I be of service?”

Ada smiled. Nana smiled. Faramir chuckled. Éowyn nodded in approval, though she did not stop Uncle Elrohir from praising Theodwyn and Eldarion for their fine grasp of where it was best to strike a human assailant. This prompted Ada to ask Elrohir to show Faramir the best way to disarm a man with a poisoned knife, and Fara to protest that such a lesson could really wait until tomorrow. Or next year. Or the year after that.

Later that night, while ‘Darion listened to Hallas tell them the story of how he and Fara and Dev and ‘Darion’s twin uncles’ friend Mel had rescued Fara’s many-times great-grandmother Mithrellas from a trap set by Sauron and the evil Witch-King of Angmar, ‘Darion also listened with half an ear to a quiet discussion between Ada and Fara.

“I apologize for essentially stealing your friend from the archives, Fara.” Ada said softly.

Faramir laughed lightly and shrugged. “No harm done, I suspect, Aragorn. Chief Archivist is an important position, and the guild may choose to elect someone other than Hallas, if he stays on as tutor. But I’ve a feeling that Eldarion’s tutor – royal tutor- may be an even more important position.” Faramir then went very still for a moment.

“Vision?” Ada asked in concern.

“Nothing concrete – just flashes. Nothing bad. I think this was a good decision, though, Aragorn, inspired by desperation and horror though it was. Faramir’s lips quirked into another smile. “And I agree that it is probably best to let Elladan go back tot he House of Healing, where drawing anatomically correct pictures of how to inflict life-threatening wounds will not be quite so… hmm, unusual and riveting for his pupils.”

Epilogue: Yule of that Year

“Ada! Look, a knife! Thea, you’ve got one too! Hannon le, Uncle Elladan!” Eldarion caroled enthuisastically. “Wait ‘til I show Tavan and Alphros!”

Faramir, holding baby Elboron, turned to look at his father and said plaintively “Ada…”

Aragorn sighed. “Elladan, a word, if you please,” the King gritted out, grabbing his brother by the shoulder to gently tow him across the chamber.

‘They’re just dissection knives.” Elladan pointed out, surprised to see Estel so upset, and Arwen speechless. He couldn’t remember Arwen ever having been speechless, at least not since she was the smallest of elflings. “for when I return to teach them about animal biology and physiology.” The younger of Eldarion’s twin elven uncles explained.

Elrohir, who hadn’t been invited into this conversation but had come along anyway, as he often did, claiming oldest brother’s prerogative. “They’re more than ready, in my opinion, little brother.”

“You too, Elrohir?” Aragorn asked, sighing. “Look, they’re children. Little children. They aren’t even permitted to cut their own meat at the table. They are far too young for any kind of knife.”

Arwen, putting together one piece and another of her brothers’ past, left the supervision of her son and grandchildren to her grown children, and went to join her husband and brothers.

“Tell him why, Elladan, Elrohir.” She commanded gently. “Aragorn has seen much; but not what you have that makes you fear what you fear.”

Haltingly, and softly, the twins told their brother of whole villages, including children, slain by orcs. Of their fears that that Aragorn’s children might in such danger, someday. Elladan concluded, “We need to teach them how to defend themselves, that they might not be taken when they might defeat danger and live.

Aragorn, now sympathetic, added more gently. “I am sorry, brothers. I did not know. But still, Eldarion and my granddaughter are too young too learn bladed weapons.”

Faramir, joining them, still with Elboron in the crook of one arm, offered a compromise. “Perhaps unarmed combat training? If it was presented as gymnastics and tumbling as well as preparation for learning to fight.” Aragorn, recalling that Faramir, too, had seen burnt out villages, and the children of his fellow rangers fallen amongst the dead, nodded.

“That is a good compromise.” Arwen said, standing on tip toe to kiss her step-son’s brow, and take Elboron from him. “You look hungry, daerion-nin. Let us see if your Nana is ready to feed you again.”

Faramir frowned. “He’s not hungry. He can’t be. He just ate…”

Aragorn chuckled lightly. “Arwen has decided our fate; our children shall start self-defense training, and she wants nothing to more to do with this argument.”

Éowyn, rising to the challenge with the smallest members of the family, offered “Those are very fine knives, little brother, Thea-my-love. After you have finished admiring them, why don’t we place them here on the mantle, where they can be seen and acquired at your need with the assistance of someone taller, but are unlikely to be… lost?” See, here you both have a package from Gimli – let us see if he has sent you another clever toy of his own design! I do hope he has!”

Faramir looked at his wife in approval, once again thinking what a lucky man he was.

Aragorn wondered at the structure of his family such that the Witch King Slayer had become their family diplomat.

Not my Daughter (or Adrahil’s great-granddaughter)

I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.
Harry S. Truman

Gondor and Arnor owed some measure of their peace to their spy service. And Gondor’s spy service had been Faramir’s creative child almost as much as Dervorin’s, back in the long-ago days when they had been the Steward of Gondor’s unwanted second son, and his faithful shadow. Just like any other two lieutenants, save that they left their commanding officers with a few more victories, and a few more white hairs. From the beginning, the southern spy service had been their collaboration. It stayed their collaboration, even though Faramir half-retired from spying when he was promoted to Captain. He became more like 95% retired when he became Steward and Prince, and more like 98% when he also became acknowledged as the King’s son. After the King his father learned of his 2% active involvement with Dev’s network, Faramir thought he might just have to give up sitting, as well as walking about outside his personal chambers unescorted, for the rest of his life. He’d never seen his father so angry, or so over-protective. But the southern spy network still remained a collaboration – Faramir’s ideas and Dev’s, though rarely ever Faramir in the field. Faramir had kept his promise to Aragorn to never go actively spying again, save for a few carefully planned ventures which Aragorn himself had reluctantly approved in advance. But Faramir had a way with people, and Dev always asked his opinion on new recruits, especially those whom Dev had marked for rapid promotion. One summer Dev came to Faramir with an application, and a serious look on his normally laughing face.

“I want this one badly, Faramir. Could even be my replacement, someday. I’d like to have the chance to train this recruit personally, either way, and I’m getting too old and well-known for fieldwork. But it has to be your call. This one has to have your consent.” Dev said.

Faramir knew as soon as he saw the hand-writing, though it was so well-disguised the applicant’s own mother and tutor would not have recognized it. He thought he had probably known even before he saw the writing, as soon as he heard the phrases “want this one badly” and “my replacement.” If he were brutally honest with himself, Faramir would have had to say he had known this was coming for awhile. But he was not ready, would never be ready, to send his youngest daughter out a-spying.

Oh, he could easily see Haleth doing the work, and doing it well. He could also see Haleth the infant, delivered into his arms after Éowyn’s most difficult labor, her gray eyes even then steady, weighing. Haleth at three years of age, a sturdy toddler, already the most quietly determined and persistent of his children, sitting beside her older brother, hour after hour, making friends with a family of otters on the river near Emyn Arnen. Elboron had said Haleth could come only if she didn’t lose her patience, thinking she would last half an afternoon. The otters still recognized his children’s whistles of greeting, and could be counted upon to turn up at Haley’s or El’s call.

Haleth, who reminded him of Adrahil, his insightful grandfather, Gandalf’s former spy. Adrahil who had probably saved Faramir’s life, that summer in Dol Amroth, by convincing him to go to his brother and confess that his frequent injuries were from his armsmasters’ brutal training regimen. Haley, who at 8, had provided the suggestion that solved the problem of that season’s orc incursions. Even Faramir had not thought to send an orc to gather information from other orcs.

Haley, who must have been planning this for years. She was 18 now, but she had been spending part of each year in Annuminas since she was 13, aiding Nessa with her children, and her various tasks as the Lady of the Steward of Arnor. Either way, if Nessa’s husband Ethiron had been aware of Haleth’s plans, and approved them, or unaware, and still had Haley in his household for such lengths of time – it constituted an endorsement of Haleth’s capability to gather information for Gondor, and to do so well. Haleth, who could easily make herself appear and seem as many as ten years older, or as many as six years younger, depending on her mood. Ai, Haleth. Why did his daughter have to want to do something that not only terrified Faramir, but that she was also so well-suited for?

Faramir spent a good hour horrified, wandering the Citadel in such a dark mood that his father stopped him not once but three times to ask what was the matter. With the wisdom of age, Faramir could admit that he had been wrong to go back to his role as a spy. But he had been the King’s Steward, the ruler of a key border princedom with only a toddler to heir, and himself the next heir of the King of Men. He still was the King’s next heir, until Eldarion or one of his sisters got around to producing his first nephew. Haleth, in contrast, was fifth in line for the Princedom, ninth in line for the throne of Gondor and Arnor. And she was not the politician and administrator who kept things running smoothly, whether the King was in Gondor or Arnor. He loved her desperately, but he thought even his father would agree that she could become a spy if that were what she were best suited for and what she desired, were she Aragorn’s fifth grandson, and not his fifth granddaughter.

Faramir wrestled his fears, and eventually decided that much like with Theodwyn, he wasn’t going to deny his youngest daughter the chance to stretch her wings with his support. He was not going to deny his support, just because what she wants to do left him so worried he’d rather face Sauron again, or Denethor in a temper after he had defied the old Steward to aid Mithrandir. Not when Haleth has thought this through calmly, and prepared for it, and done everything right. She’d be the perfect young spy, if she weren’t female, and his little girl. But those things made her perfect as well. She was friendly, and people wanted to confide their secrets in her. She was kind, but practical, a planner. She didn’t forget details or plans or lessons. She knew that the best way to get information was to become liked and trusted by many. And she would be overlooked, by the men who wielded power and influence. Unnoticed, she would gain the confidence and ear of their wives and daughters, cooks and officers, and sooner or later, the man who ruled some foreign land would find himself doing what his wife or squire wanted, because Haleth said so. It happened to Aragorn, Faramir, Éomer and Imrahil all the time.

Faramir’s heart felt as if it had been turned to stone. No spy was ever out of danger. If her influence was discovered, he could lose his Haley in a dark street, or a shadowy dungeon. Lose her under another lass’s name, without ever knowing his second youngest baby’s fate. But he reigned that overprotectiveness in. He’ll be there for her, no matter what. This girl-child wasn’t going to have to run away and hide to test her avocation, as once his wife her mother had done. Not my daughter. No, Haleth would have all the support he’d give the best of his his young spies, the best trainers. If she turned out to be unsuited for the work – which he quite sincerely doubted – she would not be sent to spy, because he would not send, nor let Dev send, anyone who was unsuited for this work. . But if Haleth proved to be one of Adrahil’s heirs in truth, as Faramir had suspected ever since the first time he met her gray-eyed gaze, she would fly fast, and far, and, Valar willing, home safe again, every time. Respected, loved, protected, but not smothered. He would not build a cage for his children to flee. He could be a fool, Faramir freely admitted, but he would not be that kind of a fool. Not Finduilas’ boy. Not Éowyn’s love. Let some other man be that fool, and he would pity that man’s daughter, even as he envied the fool’s peace of mind.

Captain Dervorin of the Silent Service Takes a New Recruit

The new recruit’s heart fluttered anxiously, as the teenager fought to give away no hint of uncertainty. The spymaster of Gondor took very few recruits. You had to be the best of the best, smart and savvy, and even then there was no assurance. The quiet man’s spies had to be able to fight like front-lines-men, track like rangers, ride like Rohirrim, dance and flatter like courtiers, and speak Haradrim and Sindarin (at least) like natives. What to do if all the hard work had been for nothing… become a merchant trader? One could eventually build up one’s own network that way… that was how Gondor’s current spymaster, and his secret patron, had gotten their beginning. But to be able to have these resources at one’s back… to have the benefit of being trained by legends, and of maybe having the chance to teach them something in turn someday…

Dervorin eyed the young person before him. When he finally spoke, his voice was very quiet, free of the laughter the young applicant was more accustomed to, from this man. “Your examination results were perfect. Knowing how well you were educated, that did not surprise me. But your practical exam was nearly flawless. You lost my watchers, and that does not happen. You gathered news that passed even the notice of my most experienced snitches. I’d hire you in a second, if my patron approves. But considering the political ramifications of who you are, I can’t take you without it. I’m sorry.”

“I do approve.” Came the quiet affirmation, in a deep, musical voice. The same voice that had once sung lullabies, and banished night-time monsters, some very real. “But you’ll have to go through the same training all the other recruits do, Haley-love. You know, there are.. “

“No shortcuts at the top.” Eighteen year old Lady Haleth finished at the same time as her father. She had thought he would be furious, but he was calm. As one who has faced his worst fears, and is now quiet, having come to what he feels is the best decision, though it was clear he feared for her still.

Faramir nodded, pride as well as fear in his eyes. “You start tomorrow, and you’ll be home for Yule. Join your old Ada for dinner?”

Haleth nodded, trying a tentative smile. “You’re not angry?” She asked, hardly able to believe her good fortune. Her Ada didn’t rage, but he did not willingly let his children go into danger. She had been completely unsure of how he would take this news, well though she knew him.

Faramir sighed. “I love you for who you are, Haleth-nin. Being angry with you for finding work which suits you seems… foolish. And I try not to be a fool.”

Haleth grinned at her father, pleased there was to be no yelling, no anger. Pleased to be accepted, to be a source of pride, and yet be able to have the chance to become what she was meant to be.

Her father grinned back, but then more sternly admonished. “You’ll listen to Dev and your instructors like any other recruit, Haley-girl. If you get in trouble with them, you’ll be in trouble with me, too. Just like Elboron in his training, and Thea when she rides with the White Company.”

“I know, Ada.” Haleth agreed with a nod. She didn’t intend to get into trouble; or at least not to get caught.

Dev looked at his new recruit with ill-concealed glee; there was nothing he’d like better than to work with a younger version of Faramir again. Faramir sighed again and made a face at his old friend, and Dev assumed a more sympathetic, serious expression. It didn’t take much effort, even if he hadn’t been a master of disguise. Dev’s sympathy for his friend was very real. He didn’t know if he’d ever be able to let his own daughter spy. Bad enough his wife still joined him in the field on the odd occasion, which was the one reason Dev truly did not regret that the time of his retirement from active service was approaching. But his lady could train Haleth better than anyone he knew, except perhaps himself. Or a version of Faramir with fewer scruples. Haleth wasn’t that, but she was at least as creative and observant as her Ada. The Silent Service was lucky to have her.

“Can we tell Nana?” Haleth asked softly, picking up on the silent conversation between her father and his old friend, but not all of the subtext.

Faramir and Dev exchanged a telling look. “Its not procedure, but I think we’d better.” Dev said at last.

Faramir nodded, but cautioned “No one else though, Haley. Not even your brothers or sisters, and especially not Daerada.”

“He’s going to find out eventually.” Haleth commented. “Even if he does buy whatever story you are cooking up to explain where I am for awhile.” Haleth smiled at her father to soften the implied criticism. She would have to think of some way to thank him for his confidence and faith in her; not every father would have said yes.

“Yes, well, let’s make this temporary reprieve last as long as possible.” Her father said with a sigh. “Just because I can take on the King of Men and win doesn’t mean I relish the conflict. Let’s wait until you’re trained and posted, and then let him discover it, and I can offer to go fetch you for him, if he really wants a diplomatic and personal crisis on his hands.”

“That’ll fetch him.” Dev joked gently. “Personally, I’ve always thought he was just jealous Magordan and Lord Elrond didn’t let him train for Ethiron’s job.”

Title: Because I know you
Author: Susana
Series: DH AU
Feedback: Please use the form below.
Rating: PG
Warning: AU
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
Summary: Its taken Aragorn a few years, and Faramir still surprises him, at times, but when push comes to shove, he knows his oldest child.
Beta: None, all mistakes are mine.

A/N: This is set around F.A. 16.

Because I know you

Saddle bags on the bed, and his distracted oldest child scribbling last-minute instructions to his squire and chief-of-staff. Yes, Aragorn was just in time. He waited until his son was done writing to announce his presence.

“I’m coming with you.” Aragorn said, voice kind but firm.

Faramir was surprised, clearly. “How did you even know?” He exclaimed in surprise, and the twisting abyss of sorrow in his eyes hit Aragorn’s heart, hard as a blow.

“I do read my dispatches, ion-nin. And recognize the family names of your old officers and non-commissioned officers, at least the ones who meant so much to you.” Aragorn reprimanded gently, noting Faramir’s eyes widen in speculation as his son took in the nondescript traveling clothes the King wore, and Aragorn’s own saddle bag.

“Where are your guards?” Faramir asked, baffled.

“Hmm.” The King said pensively. “Unawares. They believe I’m in my rooms. Eldarion and Arwen know where we’re going.”

“Adar my King, that is…” Faramir shook his head. The Steward couldn’t approve of the King of Gondor and Arnor going to the far corner of Ithilien, unaccompanied save for his son, and next heir.

“Necessary.” Aragorn said briefly, brooking no disagreement. The village Faramir’s former corporal Mablung hailed from remained isolated, and its inhabitants didn’t easily trust outsiders. One of their villagers had passed word through a merchant of the recent death of Mablung’s grandson. Faramir would go, must go, to see what he could do for the youth’s family. But the hidden villages of Ithilien did not welcome outsiders, and his son would have gone alone. Guards would be unwelcome, Prince though Faramir now was. And Aragorn’s son would not bring further grief and fear to those who had endured so much. But even the most secretive of clans should accept Faramir’s own father, especially dressed as just another ranger.

“I… should still be en route from Dol Amroth.” Faramir marveled. “I came through the tunnels, told no one of my presence.” The implication, Aragorn shouldn’t have known Faramir was in Minas Tirith. Let alone planning a swift solo journey to the far end of Ithilien.

“Close your mouth, ion-nin, you’re catching flies. I knew what you would do because I know you.” Aragorn informed him gently, picking up one of Faramir’s saddle bags. “Come, we’ll take the tunnels, and borrow horses from the messenger post. We can use our ranger badges for that, and for lodging and food on the way.”

Faramir merely nodded, surprised and taken aback to have anyone know him so well, though he was becoming accustomed to having a father who cared for him so much.

“Just because I am a King, does not mean I am not a father.” Aragorn later explained to him gently, as they rode at best speed for the far corner of Ithilien, where Faramir had spent the end of what should have been his childhood. “More, I am your father, as much as I am Eldarion’s or Melyanna’s or Gilwen’s. When it is truly important, Faramir, we’ll support you. We don’t only know you, we love you.”

Faramir, who was not slow, hazarded a guess. “And Éowyn warned you.”

Aragorn shook his head, breathing in the sweet scent of trees and rushing river. “Nay, though she may have done, had I waited for the afternoon’s messages. I saw that the headman of a certain village had passed, and I knew I would have to catch you up.”

“Magordan is going to be furious.” Faramir observed, a bit of a smile in his eyes, a heartening counterpoint to the grief.

“More with me than you, and I’ll deal with him or whoever else. We’re on this trip on my orders, now.” Aragorn offered, expanding, “But the twins will understand. Some things are important.” And knowing your children is one of them, Aragorn was as sure of that, as he was of anything. And Gilraen and Arathorn and Elrond had raised him to know when being a father was more important than being a King.

Title: Star of Hope
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours (set during Desperation’s Gift)
Rating: PG-13
Warning: AU.
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
Beta: None, please forgive the errors.
Summary: Aragorn telling Eldarion about Gil Estel, the Star of Hope, with assistance from his elder twin brothers and his Steward.
A/N: Set during Desperation’s Gift, after Faramir (and Éowyn) are aware that Faramir is Aragorn’s son, but before Aragorn (or anyone else in the royal family) has any idea.

“Beaui’ful.” Commented year and a half old Eldarion, pointing at Gil Estel, the star of hope. The crown prince smiled, delighted by the natural light show in the velvet dark sky above Minas Tirith. Eldarion’s gray eyes shone as brightly as the stars, and his dark, wavy hair was a dramatic contrast to the pale blue velvet that lined his warm woolen cloak. From the outside, the little Prince’s cloak was an exact replica in miniature of his father’s; a rich midnight blue, with the symbols of his house embroidered in white and silver.

Aragorn smiled tenderly at his small son, still in awe that this wonderful child was his own. “It is beautiful.” He agreed, “My edair thought so, too. Your Daerada Arathorn told me about that star when I was a little younger than you, and your Daerada Elrond called me by that star’s name, Estel, for many years.”

Eldarion snuggled happily against his adar. “Story?” He asked winsomely. Eldarion loved his night-time walks with his busy father. Everything smelled good inside the citadel, of green pine and delicious foods. But there were lots of people, and outside in the garden was lovely too, quiet and still. With the new snow on the ground, and the stars in the sky.

Aragorn laughed. “Yes, that star has a story. Would you like to hear it, ion-nin?”

“Story.” Demanded Eldarion. He was an only child and grandchild, as well as a Prince. Needing to ask for something more than once was an unusual occurrence, for the boy.

“What do you say, when you want something, my ‘Darion?” Aragorn prompted gently. He wasn’t going to get into trouble tonight for forgetting to ask that. Arwen had ears everywhere. Besides, their son was by nature kind and charming, but also demanding. Ingraining politeness in their little Prince struck the King as a sound strategy.

Eldarion frowned in thought. What did Ada want, he wondered.

“Edair and nenith are more likely to do as you ask when you say “Please,” Eldarion.” Faramir prompted gently, as he came into view on the garden path, the Lady Éowyn leaning more heavily than usual on his arm.

Aragorn smiled in welcome but shook his head at his two favorite patients, the Prince and Lady of Ithilien, also walking in the garden on this cold night. Still, Faramir was well recovered from the excessive demands he had put on his body defending Ithilien from an aborted invasion. Éowyn, too, had recovered from the difficult start to her first pregnancy. And Aragorn was sympathetic to his most important officer’s wanting to escape the demands of the Great Hall for a few hours. As Éowyn met her King’s eyes in mute appeal, Aragorn nodded. Yes, he would ignore that Éowyn’s healer, mentor, and good friend Elladan had not thought she needed to be about in the cold air. At least for awhile.

Eldarion, too, grinned to see Faramir and Éowyn. “How is baby?” He asked Éowyn. Eldarion found babies fascinating, and was excited that there would soon be another in the royal apartments.

Éowyn made a funny face. “Awake. I don’t think she sleeps.”

“Neither does her father, so she comes by that unfortunate trait honestly.” Aragorn teased, though he was half serious, and knew Faramir would pick up on the gentle chide. Whether the Prince of Ithilien would heed it, Aragorn quite frankly doubted. He was, in fact, planning to slip a sedative into Faramir’s wine tomorrow night, if his Steward and honorary younger brother didn’t appear more rested by tomorrow. Faramir’s exhaustion was understandable, Aragorn knew full well. Between his Steward’s normal duties, the continuing aftermath of the recent invasion of Ithilien (including arguing with his King about the necessity of Faramir’s personally touring his lands again before Yule, and the subsequent fast-paced tour upon Faramir’s having won that argument), and the social press of the Yuletide season for Gondor’s second ranking officer (after the King) and junior Prince (after his uncle, Prince Imrahil), the dark circles under Faramir’s eyes needed no further explanation.

Still, Aragorn also knew well that his Steward’s resilience was remarkable. Faramir was nowhere near the point where being overtired and overburdened would cause him to collapse, or withdraw into himself in grief. Not that Aragorn – or Éowyn or Arwen, for that matter – had any intention of ever letting Faramir, whom they all held so dear, reach such an extreme again. Faramir was, however, at the point where exhaustion and worry would cause him to make little mistakes, the kind few others would even note, but that would upset Aragorn’s perfectionist of a Steward.

Of greater concern to Aragorn was that Faramir had reached the point this past morning where he began making little mistakes in arms practice. Not at a level where Aragorn, or Elrohir, who had been Faramir’s sparring partner, could in good conscience ask the Steward to leave the field. But mistakes that Faramir would not normally make, these days. Errors that had caused Elrohir to leave the Steward with bruises, and scold him sharply. Aragorn wasn’t sure he would have noticed it, had it been anyone else. Elrohir, and Glorfindel and Magordan, for that matter, were of the opinion that leaving a bruise where an enemy could have left a wound taught a valuable lesson. Aragorn did not disagree, per se, but he himself was generally more careful with Faramir, given what he knew of his Steward’s difficult childhood. Elrohir would never have taught a small child with an unblunted blade, let alone left bruises on a child as he did his grown, seasoned pupils. And Faramir seemed to have realized that, as he was not upset by the bruises he received in practice bouts with Elrohir, or no more upset than the mistakes which had resulted in them would merit. But Aragorn did not like that Faramir’s tiredness was causing him pains, even small ones.

Unfortunately for Aragorn, Faramir didn’t think his being tired, if it didn’t detract from his official duties, was any of his King’s business. Aragorn had tried, in one manner and another, to “fix” that, but Faramir, when he wished, could be a very stubborn man. So Aragorn had to approach these matters obliquely. Hence, the teasing, before the sedatives, and the sedatives, before the rare orders. Faramir would obey an order, but Aragorn didn’t like to have to rely on his authority as King in his personal relationship with his young friend. Denethor’s ghost stood between Faramir and any male authority figure save Imrahil. It was at moments like this that Aragorn missed Boromir, keenly. Boromir would have relied heavily on Faramir’s willing help to be a good Steward, but he would have known what to say to Faramir, to get him to take better care of himself. Aragorn had to either appeal to Faramir’s common sense (which was nonexistent, in regard to Faramir’s own health, or at least so far as Aragorn had ever been able to tell); make Faramir feel guilty that he had worried Aragorn (which sometimes worked); trick Faramir into ingesting a sedative (which sometimes worked); or wait until Faramir became so exhausted that Aragorn could and should justifiably call him to account for it. Which neither of them liked. Another alternative, when Imrahil was in residence, was bringing the matter to his attention. But it irked Aragorn to have to do that, though he would, to avoid seeing Faramir worn even just as thin as this.

At this point, Faramir thought Aragorn was worried over nothing, and looked like he wanted to roll his eyes at the King, though he did not. Probably because Faramir was trying to set a good example of proper behavior for Eldarion, and that didn’t include, in Faramir’s world view, offering lese majeste to Aragorn in front of Eldarion. Aragorn was taking advantage of this, by seeing how far he could annoy Faramir before his friend would tease him back. It was an amusing game, in the King’s opinion, even if his inability to get Faramir to listen to him on these matters at times bothered him greatly.

Éowyn did shake her head tolerantly at Aragorn’s needling of her husband, before offering to Eldarion, “Our baby is saying hello now, by kicking. Would you like to feel?” The Lady of Ithilien had taken a seat on a stone bench beside her husband, and Faramir arose chivalrously that Eldarion might sit beside her.

Eldarion nodded eagerly, and Aragorn put him down next to Éowyn. The little boy giggled as he felt the active babe’s movements even over Éowyn’s dress and Faramir’s green cloak, which Éowyn wore.

Faramir shivered ever so minutely, but Aragorn noted it. The King sighed and draped his own cloak around the younger man, ignoring his Steward’s polite protest. For a Númenorean, Faramir felt the cold oddly much. Aragorn disliked thinking of how his dear friend had survived so many winters in scant comfort at Henneth Annûn.

“Arwen is going to gift you with yet another cloak, if you keep borrowing her husband’s.” Éowyn observed in amusement.

“Hmm, and why is that?” Faramir gently teased his lady back.

Aragorn chuckled. Éowyn, well into the second half of her pregnancy, normally felt overly warm. But the air was rather chill on this night before Yule, and Faramir’s cloak had evidently been appropriated by his wife. “It is no matter, tithen-gwathel.” He reassured Éowyn, “I find this weather only pleasantly brisk, after my time in the north.” That, and Aragorn wore his cloak only to set a good example for Eldarion.

“Please, Ada, tell me the story about Gil Estel?” Asked Eldarion, remembering his previous request, and settling down with his dark head resting gently on Éowyn’s rounded stomach. The White Lady wrapped her arm around the little Prince, and turned to her King with a soft smile, a mother’s smile, and one new to her.

Aragorn smiled back to see it, pleased his friends would soon be parents themselves. Putting an arm around Faramir, who stood at his side, the King began, “Long ago, in the first age, the men and elves were very afraid, because Sauron and his master Morgoth had taken over almost all of Middle Earth. They had enslaved almost all of the men and elves who lived there, save those men who became their allies. The people of Middle Earth had all but lost hope.”

“Like Middle Earth before Frodo destroyed the Ring?” Eldarion asked in his piping voice.

“Even worse, or so says your Daerada Celeborn.” Aragorn explained, “all of the free elves and men had fled to a single island, off the coast, and Morgoth and his minions, the orcs and the dragons, held sway over nearly all of Middle Earth.”

Faramir, and Aragorn, half turned at a faint noise in the same instant. This was unfortunate for Faramir, who had been in Elrohir’s line of sight, and now was wearing half of a snowball, having dodged the missile only partially.

“Really?” Aragorn asked the elder of his two elven twin foster brothers with some asperity as he helped Faramir to dust off the cold powder. “Snowballs, Elrohir?”

“‘Twas meant for you, Estel.” Elrohir protested, blushing faintly. “Faramir, wearing your cloak, looks too much like you.”

Aragorn and Faramir exchanged a look, then shrugged. They’d been told that before, but neither particularly saw the resemblance.

“And why, were you throwing a snowball at me?” Aragorn asked with a crooked smile.

“Because you never paid attention in lessons as a child.” Elrohir lectured, “The men and elves were in Lindon, on the coast, at the end of the First Age.”

“No,” Faramir spoke up in support of the King, “They were on the Isle of Balar, in a city called Lindon. Gil-galad’s Kingdom in the Second Age was also called Lindon.”1

Elrohir and Aragorn both paused to the stare at the Steward. They had both been educated by elves who had known elves who had walked Arda at the end of the First Age. Faramir had been educated by humans, so his knowledge of these esoteric facts was always a surprise to Aragorn and his family.

Faramir flushed, and explained, “I was Mithrandir’s research assistant, remember. I once made a mistake about which Lindon a certain scholar had lived in, and was subjected to a rather… pointed, ah, lecture, from the wizard about carelessness. Trust me, it was a point upon which I made sure I was clear, in the future.”

Aragorn chuckled and squeezed Faramir’s shoulder, “Only you, my Steward. Still, I am glad you survived. Mithrandir’s annoyance when he feels someone has made an error which cost him time…”

Elrohir gave Faramir a sympathetic look, “He was not always so irascible, Mithrandir. In fact, when he first came to Middle Earth, he was rather light-hearted in manner, much of the time. More often as he still was, when he sailed, with the littlest ones. But the years weighed on Mithrandir. His task was not an easy one.”

Faramir shook his head, giving them a rueful smile, “It was no matter. He was a kind friend, as well as an irascible researcher. I learned a great deal from him. And spending as much time in the archives as I did, I knew much more difficult taskmasters.” Unspoken was that one of them had been Faramir’s own father, though Denethor was not often found in the archives.

Eldarion, who alone of the group did not grasp the subtext, asked innocently, “What happened next, Ada? To the men and elves, during the First age?”

Aragorn smiled, holding his arms open. Eldarion leaped from beside Éowyn into his father’s warm embrace, and Aragorn continued, “Earendil the mariner, son of an elven Princess and a human hero, sailed all the way to the undying lands, to ask the Valar for help. And the Valar consented. Together with elves from the undying lands, they came to Middle Earth. The host of the Valar fought beside the men and the elves of Middle Earth. After 42 years, longer than our Faramir has been alive, they finally defeated Morgoth. But first, several years before the Host of the Valar arrived, the elves and men of Middle Earth saw Gil Estel, the Star of High Hope, appear in the sky.”

“How did it get there?” Eldarion asked, in awe but still trying to understand how his world worked.

Elrohir, who actually remembered Arathorn telling this story to a very small Aragorn, put in “The Valar asked Earendil to sail the night sky, with a jewel that had belonged to his wife bound to his brow.”

Aragorn smiled in thanks, more familiar now with analyzing the battle strategies used against Morgoth for possible lessons, than explaining the Mariner’s tale, before explaining “Our ancestors saw the star, and knew we had not been forgotten, or forsaken. That hope remained.”

Eldarion smiled in wonder, “Like a promise, a promise in the sky.”

“Very much like.” Elrohir nodded approvingly, “and you and your Ada, and your Naneth and I, are all descendants of Earendil. Even Faramir and Éowyn are, through the Dol Amroth line.”

Elladan, approaching from the warmth of the ball still on-going at the Great Hall of the Citadel, acerbically remarked, “And all of you are toast, if Arwen has to entertain Lord Andasond’s dragon of a wife by herself for much longer.”

Éowyn meekly accepted yet another cloak from her frowning mentor, as Faramir protested with a chuckle, “The Lady of the Stonewain valley isn’t that bad, at least not compared to Nessa’s grandmother, the old dowager Lady of Lossarnach.”

Aragorn stifled a laugh of his own, as he remembered old lady Ioreth well, and knew Faramir’s statement to be quite true.

Eldarion filed away for future reference that it was insulting to refer to an older woman as a dragon, and asked winningly, “Ada, the story isn’t done. Please, why did Daerada Elrond call you Estel?”

Elrohir and Elladan exchanged a look, and then Elladan explained, “We all called your Ada so because he was all of our hope, Eldarion-nin. Our hope that the the twilight of the Third Age was not the end of all the ages of men, that the Fourth Age could dawn with men still free, and not slaves of Sauron.”

“Much was sacrificed, by many brave and wonderful people, so that your Ada could grow up safe, nephew.” Elrohir explained, fighting tears. Unaccountable, after all of these years. But not unnoticed by Eldarion, who held out his arms to be cradled by his Uncle Elrohir. Elrohir found holding Arathorn’s grandson to be a blessing, though he still missed his friend, and many other cousins and friends, and a brother, as well, lost over the years. Fallen, guarding Isildur’s heirs.

Elladan put an arm around his younger brother Estel, and the family that had lost so much shared a moment of respectful silence, in the snow under the stars, the night before Yule. Faramir and Éowyn held hands and stood quietly, witness and welcome, but tactfully outside the circle of grief.

“Does Gil Estel still stand for hope, now that Sauron is gone, and Morg… that other one is gone?” Eldarion asked.

Aragorn pondered that, as he’d never considered it, before. Elladan and Elrohir also had no answer, though Elladan corrected absently, “‘Mor-goth,’ Darion-nin. He was… well, its complicated, but he was Sauron’s master.”

It was Faramir who answered Eldarion’s question, “Gil Estel still stands for hope, tithen ernil. At least,” Faramir smiled gently, “I like to think it does. Only now it is the hope that we, your Ada and Nana and you, and all of us who are your people, can make something of this world that the Ringbearer helped us to win, this world free of Sauron’s malignant power. That we can work together to make Middle Earth in the Fourth Age a place where all beings can grow up free of fear and hunger, and work to pursue their calling.”

“Well-said, Faramir.” Aragorn complimented his Steward with a proud smile, before giving his heir a tender look, “I would agree, ion-nin. Gil Estel is a hope that we can have peace with our neighbors, and not have to march to war against them again.”

The adults are shared a look of worry. The Haradrim were pressuring the southern borders, on and off. And the Easterlings were growing restive again, as well. War would not come this year, but it might well be that Gondor would find itself marching to battle again, ‘ere Eldarion was much older. And Mithrandir had warned them all, before sailing, that he was worried his former colleagues the Blue Wizards might have been up to no good, in the East and the South.

But Eldarion didn’t know anything of that. “Uncle Elladan told me that I could wish on Gil-Estel, and tell Adar Rhiw what I would like to receive as a gift for Yule.” :The little boy explained.

Aragorn, who hadn’t known how Elladan had learned that a soft toy eagle would be the perfect gift for his young son, cast a look of gentle approbation on the younger of his twin foster brothers, before turning back to his heir. “Oh, really, Eldarion.” He replied evenly to his son, “And what did you ask for?”

“I asked for an eagle,” Eldarion chattered ingenuously, “but its not what I most want. I most want a brother, but Uncle Elladan says I may not have one yet, that I am lucky to be getting a friend in Fara’s and Wyn’s baby soon, and that I should not ask Nana about brothers or sisters because it would hurt her feelings.” It was clear that Eldarion was rather hoping that his uncle was wrong, and that Adar Rhiw might bring him a brother, after all.

Aragorn, who remembered having asked Adar Rhiw for a brother his own age or younger, sympathized, but wasn’t sure how to reply. Fortunately, Elrohir had anticipated this gambit, or remembered, perhaps, what he had said to distract a much younger Aragorn, “A brother isn’t the type of gift one can ask for and just receive, my dear nephew. Now, a puppy, or perhaps a kitten…”

Eldarion’s eyes shone, “A puppy or a kitten of my very own?” He asked joyfully.

“Smaug will have kittens before my baby is born, ‘Darion.” Éowyn pointed out kindly, “Let’s you and I speak to your Naneth, and perhaps you can get to know Smaug’s kittens, and maybe take one back to your apartments with you when they are old enough.”

Aragorn mentally resigned himself to Eldarion’s acquisition of one of Smaug’s many kittens, as his disloyal Steward chuckled. “Just remember, Fara-nin, you will have a child of your own soon enough,” Aragorn warned, “and I could breed Wreck or Ruin, and give her a puppy.”

“Only if Éomer does not beat you to it.” Faramir said, his eyes laughing.

“True enough.” Aragorn conceded, as Eldarion asked Faramir, “Fara, what do you hope Adar Rhiw will bring for you?”

“Ahh…” Faramir was struck momentarily speechless, Aragorn noted with amusement. It was quite a feat, though this wasn’t the first time Eldarion had managed it. “I’m not sure, Eldarion.” The Prince of Ithilien answered honestly.

“Uncle Elladan says one should think about these things ahead of time, and let Adar Rhiw know.” Eldarion explained helpfully, turning back to explain to Elrohir again why Eldarion himself would make a very good custodian for a kitten.

“Does your answer indicate that you don’t know how to ask Adar Rhiw to package a long-term peace on your hostile border, or something else, tithen-gwador?” Pressed Aragorn gently, keeping Faramir back as the rest of their party proceeded into the warmth of the Citadel.

Faramir’s gray eyes met Aragorn’s in shared worry, “Mostly the first, iaur gwador.” Faramir tried to shake off his worry, and lighten the mood, “Though I don’t know as I shall be on Adar Rhiw’s good list, as much as I was in your bad graces this year.”

Aragorn chuckled and clapped Faramir gently on the back. “You need have no fear on that count, Faramir-nin. I told you when last we spoke of the matter that I had forgiven you for being excessively assiduous and cursedly reckless in defense of your people, and I know for a fact that Adar Rhiw has not forgotten you.” In fact, Aragorn knew that Arwen had enlisted Nessa’s and Éowyn’s help to commission a lap-harp that was large enough to produce an acceptable sound, but small enough to make the journey back and forth between Ithilien and Minas Tirith easily enough.

“Oh?” Faramir questioned, not quite immune to a child-like curiosity, and even less so to a desire to tease his friend and King in turn, “Are you and Adar-Rhiw on good terms, then?”

Grinning, Aragorn teased back, “Of course, tithen-nin. We edair have a special relationship with Adar Rhiw, after all.”

Faramir looked toward Eldarion, visible through the long windows as he bravely went to rescue his mother from a repetitive courtier. “Your son is wonderfully perceptive and kind for his age, Aragorn mellon nin. You must be very proud.”

“I am, and I love him well.” Aragorn agreed, choosing his words very carefully, “But that does not mean I could not love another, just as well.”

Faramir drew back as if stung, and Aragorn sighed. But he also noted his young friend’s eyes moving fleetingly in Éowyn’s direction, and a tinge of gratitude in Faramir’s eyes as he noted that the White Lady was not present. Twice, Faramir had refused the honor of being adopted into Aragorn’s family, as an adult heir of the King’s and Queen’s, junior to any other heirs of their body, but regent by right after Arwen for any underage sibling who inherited the throne. Once before Eldarion’s birth, and once since. Refused on the grounds that Faramir would not be an usurper, and that the Steward as an heir of the King’s was too much power for any one man. Faramir’s looking to see where Éowyn was told Aragorn that Éowyn had come to disagree with Faramir’s continued refusals. Aragorn couldn’t use that, yet. But it was useful information, in this dance of love and limits that he and Faramir were continuing.

At length, Faramir replied softly, “I thought you had said you would not bring that up, again.”

Aragorn smiled tolerantly, “I didn’t, Faramir. You did. I only meant that I would welcome future children, after Eldarion’s asking Adar Rhiw for a brother.” Aragorn paused as Faramir looked at him disbelievingly, then proposed, “Perhaps, my dear young Steward, you have a guilty conscience, for as my son, I could order to drink something which would ensure sleep tonight. But, as you have taken great pains to point out, you are not my son, so I have not that right.”

Faramir looked away uncomfortably, but did not say again resentfully that Aragorn was not his father and had no right to comment on his sleeping habits, or lack thereof. Aragorn supposed this was progress. At length, Faramir offered, “I’ll take something, tomorrow. If I’m still having trouble sleeping. Sometimes on the eve of Yule I have visions. I wouldn’t want to miss one, if its important.”

Aragorn nodded, aware that this was as good as he was going to get, and pleased to have gotten even that much agreement. Faramir could be difficult, but he would do as he said he would, barring unforeseen developments, like another invasion of Ithilien. Aragorn paused a moment outside, after Faramir had bid him a rather stiff farewell. The King paused to ask Eru and the Valar to protect his son, and his son of the heart. And to hope that the Fourth Age would see their hopes realized, rather than their fears.

1 Additional A/N: Faramir’s explanation about Lindon being a city on the Isle of Balar is not canon. It is something I made up for the DH AU, to explain an arguably inconsistency in canon, where certain elves (including Galadriel and Celeborn) were in Lindon during the end of the First Age, but elsewhere it is stated that Lindon was founded by Gil-Galad in Year 1 of the Second Age.

Title: Yuck
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: Please use the form below.
Rating: PG-13, for somewhat graphic violence in a short skirmish.
Warning: AU
A/N: Set when Arwen is young, probably around T.A. 300, when she is about 90 years old.

Arwen crouched, waiting. Waiting. Now. She flew from concealment, using moves she had practiced thousands of times but never used in earnest, never before.

It was enough. The light in the bandit’s eyes went out, and he collapsed. Arwen pulled her sword free, and looked around.

Elrohir held up his hands, “Well-fought, muinthel-laes. The one you dispatched was the last.”

Adrenaline fading, Arwen looked around more carefully. Their party was intact, unharmed. She turned back to the man she had killed. Second born, but kin and kindred none the less. All the more so, to a child of Elrond Peredhel. A wave of sorrow overtook her, and it was just too much.

“Clean your blade.” Elladan prompted gently from beside her.

Arwen shook her head, and looked to her sword. It was covered in blood and something thicker, more viscous. “Yuck.” Arwen commented, heart-felt. It wasn’t the grossness; it was the fact of the death she had dealt. But the twins seemed to understand.

“It is yuck.” Elladan agreed gently, “Wipe it on the grass, like so.” Arwen did so, feeling clumsy, awkward, sick.

“It will come clean, muinthel-nin.” Belemir comforted, suddenly beside her. “It will be well, I promise. Not now, but soon.” He squeezed her hand. Arwen nodded woodenly.

That night, she put her bedroll beside Belemir’s, and he held her while she cried. But she would love her brothers, all three, forever, for helping her make it through that moment, that afternoon, through til that night, when no one but her own closest brother knew she had wept. Not because she was afraid to show weakness, but because that was what she would have wanted, what she did want. To hold herself together, until then. And the twins and Belemir, Valar bless them, knew that because they knew her, and helped her.

Arwen never met their equal, until Estel. And Estel’s sons, Faramir and Eldarion, who were her sons as well. Both her sons, by bonds of love, though only Eldarion was hers by blood.

Title: Of course it is
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: PG
Warning: AU
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
Summary: Eldarion doesn’t want to be called an elfling, and sometimes even the King of Men can miss the obvious. And sometimes Faramir can be just a little bit sarcastic.
Beta: None.
A/N: Eldarion is about 7 years old , so this is about Fourth Age Year 7 or 8.
So far as I can tell, Arwen and the twins would be 25/32 elven. Counting Aragornas human (although he’s probably about 1% or so elven), Eldarion’s heritage would be about 13/32 elven, or over 1/3 but less than 1/2..

Of course it is, or Eldarion and the Little Elfling Books

“I’m human, and I loved the little elfling books when I was young.” Aragorn explained. “I don’t understand why Eldarion thinks they aren’t relevant to his life. He’s, what, almost a third elven?”

“But he’s not an elfling.” Faramir pointed out quietly. “An elfling grows more slowly. Eldarion at seven years of age knows he is more mature than Thalion and Rian’s daughter Calenwen, who is the same age as he, and more mature than Haldir and Silwen’s son Laeriant, who is a year older. ‘Darion just doesn’t want to be called an elfling, when he isn’t.”

Aragorn sighed and nodded. “I suppose, but I just want to have something else to share with Eldarion. From my own childhood.”

Faramir cocked his head to the side and smiled a little, his ‘I have an idea’ smile. Then he suggested, “Ada, why don’t you just ask Elrohir to write a few new stories about a little human boy, instead of an elfling? The first one could be “Little Lad and the Ghosts,” after the time that Eldarion and I went to talk to the spirits.”2

Aragorn stared at his oldest son in confusion.

Faramir frowned, and then chuckled. “Don’t tell me that you didn’t know that Elrohir is “Golwembel the Elf,” the author of those books?”

“No…” Aragorn answered, startled, “Elrohir, really? Why would you think so, ion-nin?”

Faramir gave his father a loving but disappointed look. “Oh, come on, Ada. Right after you run into a mountain lion and call it a bad kitty, a book entitled “Little Elfling and the Bad Kitty” comes out. Don’t tell me you didn’t catch on, at that point.”

Aragorn, dignified, but obviously considering his son’s suggestion, protested, “Running into a hurt mountain lion is the type of thing that happens to lots of children.”

Faramir, hiding a smile, replied “Of course it is, my King.”

Aragorn glared lightly at his firstborn, “Faramir, if you keep saying ‘my King,’ like what you want to say is, ‘you idiot,’ then we are going to have words.”

Faramir looked away to keep from chuckling, “Oh, look, it is time for council.” He remarked in a light tone of voice.

Aragorn assumed a more Kingly expression, but he managed to tug gently on a lock of Faramir’s red-gold hair, as they took their seats. Faramir’s eyes were laughing, but when he addressed his father during the meeting, his voice held only respect.

2 This refers to Eldarion and the Spirits

Title: Don’t tell him, he doesn’t want to know
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: PG
Warning: AU
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
Summary: Does Faramir want to know that Eldarion isn’t allowed to climb that?
Beta: None.
A/N: Eldarion is about 4 or 5, so this is set in Fourth Age 4 or 5.

Don’t tell him, he doesn’t want to know

It was a beautiful late afternoon in the spring, and it seemed as if every child in Minas Tirith had come to the large, fountain-filled park on the first level of the city. Grinning younglings with high-pitched voices cavorted on the large interconnected wooden tree forts, and played games involving running and chasing and tossing of balls on the sun-drenched lawn. Two of the children, a slender, sturdy lad of four or five, and a slightly younger girl with strawberry blond curls, mandated the presence of several well-armed, well-trained men, although the children themselves otherwise blended in to the happy crowd of their fellows.

Brithadan, the youngest and newest of the Royal Guards of the Reunited Kingdoms, started forward when he saw young Prince Eldarion’s foot nearly slip on a ladder while climbing up to a tree fort.

A hand grabbed Brithadan’s arm, pulling him back. But it was well enough; Prince Eldarion steadied himself, and kept climbing.

“Captain Aragorn’s sons are fine.” Captain Magordan’s deep voice rumbled from beside Brithadan, as the venerable warrior loosened his hold on the younger guardsman’s arm. Now that Magordan had pointed out his presence, Brithadan realized that Prince Faramir, the chaperon of this expedition, was indeed right beside the ladder in question, urging Eldarion on.

“Eldarion is awfully small to be climbing up to that wooden fort unaided.” Brithadan worried. “Should we tell, ah, “Captain Faramir?’” By royal order, the guards referred to members of the royal family when they were abroad in the city on unofficial business by their lesser titles, to avoid attracting attention. The royal guards themselves dressed to blend on these excursions, although it was still fairly clear to an interested observer that these were fighting men, whose first priority was the safety of their charges.

Well, safety from assassins and true dangers, which apparently did not include tree fort ladders, as Magordan chuckled, and shook his head, “Darion’s older than his Adar was when Aragorn would routinely climb from the balconies of Imladris down to the gardens, or so the Elrondionnath tell me. And Faramir is right there. And Theodwyn is trying it too – see, she slipped, just now, and Faramir caught her. Its fine, Bridan.”

Brithadan didn’t have children of his own, but this was the Crown Prince, the only legitimate heir of the King. “His Adar doesn’t let him, oughtn’t we tell Captain Faramir that Eldarion isn’t permitted to climb that high?”

Magordan snorted. “Don’t tell him; he doesn’t want to know. As it is, everyone involved can pretend they don’t know what the other father figure would say.”

Brithadan blinked, “But, isn’t it dangerous, and isn’t Captain Aragorn the, uh, senior officer?”

Magordan gave his newest elite guardsman a tolerant look, “Climbing that ladder is not particularly dangerous. Other children near Eldarion’s age, who are particularly agile and bold climbers, are also managing the feat. One thing you must learn, Bridan, is that we are not here to stop the Captain and his children from living. They need to figure out things by themselves like any other family, and they won’t thank us for interfering. We’re here for when who they are makes life more dangerous for them. And tree forts, as a general matter, don’t count.”

Brithadan nodded, but thankfully for his nerves Eldarion and Theodwyn soon moved on to a spirited game of “chase me, catch me,” with a herd of other children. There were a few rough moments for the new guardsman when older children would push and shove, accidentally knocking over the heir to the throne and his little niece. But Eldarion and Theodwyn were tough little kids, no sooner were they down then they were up and running again.

Title: Formal Dress
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: please use the form below
Rating: PG-13
Warning: AU
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
Summary: Compromises and customization of formal dress, in the wake of the revelation that Aragorn is Faramir’s son
A/N: This takes place in early Fourth Age Year 5.

It was a cold morning, just after Yule, and Faramir had planned to spend it investigating a new trove of scrolls which had recently arrived from Imladris… but no, his formal winter clothing mostly had the old coat of arms of Ithilien on it, the one that did not denote his status as Aragorn’s son… so the King his father had decided that his eldest son would spend the morning having that oversight mended. Faramir sighed, hoping there would be time later that day to at least start to look at the scrolls.

“Don’t fidget, Faramir.” Aragorn gently teased his Steward and recently revealed elder son.

Faramir looked rather as if he wanted to say something offensive, but he controlled himself well. “I’ll remember this the next time you want to take a morning off to go hunting instead of attending to a kingly duty, Sire.” He said softly, murmuring after, “No offense, Master Tailor.”

Master Tailor Tombaran chuckled, setting another stitch in the side of the fine tunic being modeled on the Prince of Ithlilien.

The King also chuckled, unafraid of Faramir’s vengeance. Well, mostly unafraid.

Eldarion, cuddled in his father’s arms, after having temporarily escaped his tutors, frowned. “Ada, that’s not nice.” He scolded.

Aragorn tickled his younger son and heir, making Eldarion squeal with laughter.

Once fatherly honor was satisfied and Eldarion was breathless, Faramir gave his small ally, his younger half-brother, a kind smile. “I think Ada needs more formal clothing, don’t you, ‘Darion?” Faramir proposed, a teasing light in his gray eyes.

“Now, ionnath-nin,” Aragorn quickly began, but it was too late, for the tailor had spoken as well.

“Actually, Sire,” the tailor Tombaran quickly commented with a carefully hidden smile, “I could use an hour or so of your time to make sure that your new tunics, robes and cloaks fit properly.” Master Tailor Tombaran was too polite to say so, but he had, in fact, requested such a session of the King several times, already, only to be met with polite protestations that the King was too busy.

“Oh, I’m sure Ada will be only too happy to oblige.” Faramir said blithely, smiling blandly at his father’s glower. “After all, I’m sure he wants to set a good example for how a wise and responsible King deals with those honorable and hard-working tradesmen who assist the royal household.”

Eldarion nodded earnestly. Ada talked about responsibility a lot.

Aragorn sighed, but there was a glimmer of humor in his eyes, although he knew he’d lost this skirmish. “I will remember this, Faramir.” He promised.

Faramir merely smiled, continuing to hold still as the tailor Tombaran put the final stitches into his new tunic.

“Finished, your highness.” Tombaran said, looking at his work with some satisfaction. The Prince of Ithilien wore a dark green velvet over-tunic, upon which was blazoned his new personal coat of arms.

The symbol of Faramir’s princedom featured prominently, in the top left corner of a quartered field. Ithilien’s arms were a stylized forested hill in variegated shades of green below a white crescent moon, all set over a thin stripe of blue meant to denote the rivers which flowed through and bordered the princedom.

In the top right quarter, at the insistence of King Elessar Telcontar, was the symbol of the royal house of Gondor and Arnor. The crowned white tree and seven stars now featured on a field of midnight blue rather than black, the color change to do honor to the house of Elrond Half-Elven, the Queen’s father and the King’s foster father. The royal symbol was differenced on Faramir’s arms by the crown being a simple circlet, rather than the winged Crown of Gondor and Arnor.

The smaller, bottom quarters of Faramir’s coat of arms were taken up by the arms of Dol Amroth and Rohan respectively. Dol Amroth’s white, swan prowed ship on a blue background was to show honor to Faramir’s mother and Éowyn’s great-grandmother, who had both been Princesses of Dol Amroth. Rohan’s white horse on a green field was in honor of Éowyn, and her brother the new King of Rohan, Gondor’s closest ally. It was not normally done to add the symbol of one’s wife’s family to one’s coat of arms, but Faramir had not been bothered by that. As Aragorn had modified Gondor’s arms in honor of Arwen’s family, and as he was quite fond of Éowyn and not particularly bothered by such harmless departures from tradition, he had not questioned the inclusion of Rohan’s symbol in Faramir’s own coat of arms. Éomer, who had been consulted, had been both amused and flattered.

Aragorn had taken issue with two features of Faramir’s initial design, one of which had survived royal, fatherly disapprobation and one of which had not.

“A bordure wavy and a bend sinister over the royal tree of Gondor?” Aragorn had noted disapprovingly to Faramir and Éowyn, upon seeing the initial design, “Really, ion-nin, iel-nin? It seems overkill.” Both were heraldric conventions which had, in the past, been used as marks of illegitimacy.

“The bend sinister is the white rod of the Steward’s office.” Faramir pointed out quietly, “An homage to the office I serve, and to the House of my half-brother Boromir.”

Arwen, attracted by the discussion, peered over Aragorn’s shoulder. “Hmm. The flag of the Steward’s house was one of plain white, and the plain white wavy border gives honor to that in a more… aesthetically pleasing way. Perhaps that alone is enough, to make the point you wish to make?” She asked tactfully.

Faramir considered that, and Aragorn remarked testily, “We are willing to simply adopt you, difficult child. That would erase the stain of illegitimacy, or at least has done so in the past.”

Éowyn grinned at her father-by-law the King, rather pleased to have found a way to irritate him after he had partaken of a Rohirric mead cake she had been forbidden from eating due to its high alcohol content, “But then Faramir couldn’t use this as an excuse to make illegitimacy more socially acceptable, Ada Aragorn.” The White Lady teased, placing a soothing hand over the ever-active babe in her womb.

Aragorn spared a moment to remind himself that irritating a pregnant Éowyn never worked out well for him, no matter how amusing it might have been at the time. At the same time he marveled over Faramir’s ability to see opportunities for social engineering in… well, everything. “You’re using my command that you re-design your coat-of-arms to denote that you are my son as an opportunity to shove Gondor’s face in the fact that being my son makes you a bastard.” He said, wanting to make sure that he had that straight.

Faramir smiled pleasantly, and Aragorn remembered that Arwen had warned him against making that a command, several weeks ago. Arwen, too, was remembering that, by the half-annoyed, half-amused looks she was bestowing on all three of him, Faramir, and Éowyn.

“Aye.” Faramir agreed, with the engaging half-grin that Aragorn usually loved, that right now made him want to smack his irritating son’s backside. “Éowyn and I thought that since we have the opportunity, why not make something of it? After all, if the Prince of Ithilien is a bastard, and treated honorably by the King’s own family, it makes illegitimacy less of a stigma for others to bear.” Gondor and Arnor, as lands with a strong strain of Númenorean descent, fortunately had a low rate of childbirth outside marriage. But there were always some, and those children frequently faced prejudice and unfair persecution, sometimes from their own families. And often found it harder, later in life, to get jobs. Many had joined the army, in the previous desperate days, and Aragorn (as Thorongil) and Denethor had fought a stubborn campaign to have illegitimacy cease being a bar to deserved promotions, for those soldiers.

“Very well, Faramir.” Aragorn said, with an unhappy sigh. “You may keep one of either the bordure wavy or the bend sinister. One mark of illegitimacy is sufficient to prove your point; two is mere petulance.”

“The bordure wavy.” Faramir and Éowyn said at the same time, and Aragorn realized that he had been played. His eldest son and daughter-by-law had had no intention of keeping both marks of illegitimacy in their new arms; they had just been trying to make the bordure wavy seem like a good compromise.

Arwen, laughing merrily, had pulled Éowyn aside for a talk, undoubtedly on the subject of how foolish their husbands both were.

Faramir had smiled at Aragorn sheepishly, “Éowyn didn’t like the way the staff looked over the white tree; I didn’t like the connotation of having the office of the Steward so closely related to the King’s house, or superimposed over it. But we thought if we just presented the design with the bordure wavy, you would have objected to that.”

Aragorn had shaken his head, then looped an arm gently but firmly around Faramir’s shoulders, “It is nice to see you teasing me again, ion-nin. And you are perhaps right that I should not have made it an order that you re-design your arms. But I am proud of you, and I want it known that you are my son.” Aragorn paused in thought, and a fitting vengeance occurred to him while Faramir struggled for words, “Ah! But we must make an appointment for a fitting, for you…”

And that fitting had just finished. Aragorn smiled at the effect of the new coat of arms embroidered on Faramir’s tunic, then frowned at the white, wavy border which was quite prominently a part of the design. “I still think the bordure wavy is unnecessary.” The King complained quietly.

Master Tailor Tombaran paused, ready to accept the tunics and cloaks and robes back, to have the coat of arms modified by removing the offending border. That the Prince of Ithilien would include a known symbol of bastardy in his coat of arms, when the King treated him more as a second son who happened to be older than his first son and heir, had caused a minor scandal in Tombaran’s tailor shop. He knew it would cause a greater scandal, in Gondor society.

“I like it.” Eldarion piped up. He didn’t understand particularly much about the white wavy border, but, “It looks good with the moon in Ithilien, and with the waves the swan ship is riding on.”

Faramir chuckled, “Thank you, muindor-laes. Éowyn and I like it, too.”

“Stubborn Faramir,” Aragorn murmured with fond exasperation.

“Nana says that we come by that, um, earnestly?” Eldarion frowned. That wasn’t quite right.

“Honestly.” Faramir corrected kindly, with an amused half-grin. “Arwen says that we come by that honestly, because our Adar is no small bit stubborn, himself.”

Aragorn rolled his eyes as he accepted his fate of being poked and prodded by Master Tailor Tombaran for several hours, “Oh, my wife says so… well, her elder brothers could tell you no end of stories about her own stubbornness, as could I, as a matter of fact.”

Eldarion’s gray eyes and Faramir’s widened in interest, and Aragorn shook his head, chuckling, “Oh, no, the wrath of your mother is not so lightly to be courted.”

Faramir whispered something to Eldarion, as a tray of biscuits and winter-dried apple slices and cheeses arrived from the kitchens. Eldarion whispered back, and then told his father, “Nana said that she’d send biscuits and that I didn’t have to go to lessons today, if I helped Fara convince you to sit for the tailor like a good King, Ada.”

Master Tailor Tombaran hid another smile, and Aragorn had to laugh. “Well, then, in that case, ionnath-nin, both of you should have a biscuit for a job well-done, and I will tell you a story about your mother Arwen, her closest-in-age brother Belemir, their older sister Andreth and her friends, and a fine collection of earthworms. And mud.”

Eldarion snuggled happily next to Faramir, nibbling on his biscuit and listening to the story. He hoped that maybe Nana would play with him in the mud, whenever spring finally came. Thea would play with them too; she liked mud and earthworms. And they could teach his new nephew Elboron not to be scared of mud like some silly girls were. Eldarion nodded firmly. It was a good plan; he was so glad that Faramir was his brother, and had given him a fun niece and nephew to join Eldarion on his adventures. And that Faramir himself was so good at helping Eldarion and Nana to help Ada to be a good King. Before Faramir had started helping, it had been really hard work, sometimes.

Title: Blossoms in the Wind
Series: DH AU
Author: Susana
Feedback: Please use the form below.
Warning: AU Disclaimer: All characters and everything else belong to Tolkien.
Summary: Spring in Ithilien puts some in a reflective mood, but the beauty of the day is not to be missed.
Beta: None. Written quickly when the idea struck, so there may well be mistakes.
A/N: Set in about Fourth Age 43.

Sometimes Éowyn would stop listening to what Faramir said, and just revel in the sound of his voice. Walking beside him in the orchard they had planted together, just a stone’s throw from the home where they had raised their children, Éowyn marveled at how different this was from the life she had pictured for herself as Théodred’s teenage shield-maid. And how fine it was, though she missed her poor cousin still.

Faramir reached out and squeezed her hand as he spoke, and she let his deep, melodious voice wash around her. The sun was setting, turning the thousands of white petals that danced in the early spring breeze to palest pink. It was Éowyn’s favorite time of year, the time of year when she had first met her husband, when the ring had been destroyed, and hope had blossomed at the same time as their new love. The season when they had been married, and the season when she had given birth to their last baby, their long-awaited fifth child and second son.

“And then he said that we should leave the southern-most three fields fallow, for this season…” Faramir paused, and reached out a calloused hand to tuck a wisp of blond hair away from his wife’s face. Éowyn’s wheat-gold tresses were liberally streaked with white. Ithilien’s Rose of Rohan was nearing eighty years of age, and bore but a little Númenorean blood. The day was coming, not this year or the next but perhaps in a dozen years, that Faramir would have to take this walk without her. Already Éowyn felt her age. She did not begrudge it, save that the aches and pains that came with her years made it more difficult to keep up with her loved ones.

“You haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you, oh-surefooted-mare-of-my heart?” Faramir teased, his lips curved into a loving smile. His red-gold hair, only lightly streaked with white, blew in the breeze. His gray eyes were amused, and his face only faintly lined. Faramir, at almost ninety years of age, was only accounted a man of middling years, given his strong Númenorean and elven heritage.

Éowyn’s countenance, though still attractive, clearly showed smile lines, and finer lines around her eyes. But then Éowyn smiled back at her love, and years melted away from her face as she did so. “The southern fields to rest, and winter wheat in the northern most land.” She retorted, pulling her husband into her arms for a kiss. His lips met hers, and the kiss was better than the first ones they had shared, in their earliest springs together. Almost five decades of practice make perfect, or near so.

Faramir’s arms wrapped around his wife as their kiss deepened, and all thoughts of land husbandry left his head. He was just beginning to wonder if they should move, either back to the house, or past the orchard into the sheltering old-growth trees. Some place where no young or not-so-young eyes would be offended or intrigued by the sight of the Prince of Ithilien and his lady in a passionate embrace.

Then they heard an aggrieved cry of “Théodred! That’s not fair!”

The voice’s two parents ceased their kiss, the mood ruined.

“Ecthelion.” Faramir observed with a sigh, shaking his head. He set off at a rapid, though not panicked, pace in the direction of the field used for the practice of archery.

Éowyn grinned at her husband, and kept pace. She wasn’t worried that Faramir couldn’t handle the situation, but she always enjoyed seeing her younger nephew, her lost cousin’s namesake. Even when he was yelling at her younger son. Perhaps because her nephew so much resembled the first Théodred she had known.

The leaves barely fluttered, not even a twig snapped, and Legolas was beside them. At his heels was Cellillien Veasseniel, one of the two warrior ellith that Theodwyn teased were ‘Legolas’s devastatingly attractive bodyguards.’ Legolas had once been wont to tease back that Theodwyn and Éowyn were Faramir’s devastatingly attractive bodyguards. But now Theodwyn lived far away with her own husband, and Éowyn used her blade less frequently.

Legolas’s grey-green eyes, the shade of the soft moss that grew by the hidden pools in Ithilien’s sheltered glens, met Faramir’s and Éowyn’s concerned gaze. Their friend and neighbor assured them, “Elion is fine.”

Faramir paused, “Are you sure? He sounded… aggrieved.” Faramir’s youngest son was the most even-tempered of his offspring, excepting perhaps Haleth the spy-turned-Empress.

Cellillien shook her head with an exasperated smile, and Legolas, who was more and more often these days a bit quiet, explained with a rueful half-smile, “Your Ecthelion fetched the arrow that Theodwyn lost during her first archery lesson, many decades ago.”

Éowyn’s eyes flew to the crook of a tall oak tree that Legolas and Gimli had together schemed to save when the ground was cleared for building the manor house, administrative center, and outbuildings of Emyn Arnen. The arrow which had bisected a high branch for years longer than Ecthelion had been alive was now missing.

“He…” Faramir took a deep breath, “Young, reckless idiot.”

“But a good climber.” Éowyn noted, humor beginning to penetrate the terrified numbness, “He must take after you, my love.”

Faramir glowered as Legolas laughed, and commented, “Aye, my gwador Aragorn will no doubt agree, when I tell him of this.”

Taking a deep breath, Faramir asked, “I take it Elion returned to the ground safely, and Théodred has taken him off to explain why that arrow should best have stayed where it was?”

At that moment, Théodred re-emerged from the trees, an arm around the slender shoulders of the chastened teenager Ecthelion.

Ecthelion blushed to see his parents, “Ah… it was a dare…” He mumbled, guessing that Legolas and Cellillien, who’d also been at the archery field, would have filled their friends and neighbors in on the excitement.

Faramir raised an unimpressed eyebrow.

Éowyn laughed. “Well, if it was a dare, then of course you had to risk your life. If you hadn’t, someone might have called you a coward, and then you would have melted.”

Ecthelion blushed and apologized, “Cousin Théodred already told me how foolish it was. I am sorry.” Giving his mother and father his best puppy dog’s eyes, Ecthelion decided he wasn’t too proud to rub his sore bottom in an attempt to look pathetic and well-enough lessoned that his father wouldn’t feel that Ecthelion needed a second spanking this day. Cousin Théodred’s hand had been firm enough, in Ecthelion’s opinion.

Legolas put a brotherly arm around Faramir, telling Ecthelion with a grin, “Now, Elion, don’t you fret. Your Adar knows all about doing stupid, dangerous things for some nebulous reason such as “honor.’”

Elion dared a small grin, as it was Faramir’s turn to blush and sigh. Éowyn’s silvery laugh floated through the trees on the early-evening breeze.

“It was one duel,” Faramir reprimanded Legolas quietly, “and it was…” Faramir broke off, and then confessed, “Ok, that was rather stupid, in retrospect.”

Éowyn snorted delicately. She’d told her husband it was stupid, at the time. Well, her betrothed. He hadn’t been her husband, yet.

Legolas shook Faramir gently, “Ai, tithen gwador, I was not just thinking of the duel. I was thinking of the afternoon, not so long ago, when you and I nearly came to blows because you would not tell my dear iaur gwador that he was your father, nor accept a loan from him to clear those fields so that your people would not go hungry during the winter. Or when you decided to test whether you were Aragorn’s son by risking your life. Or…”

Legolas could obviously have continued, but Faramir, laughing, admitted, “Allright. I may never have climbed up a tree to retrieve an arrow on a dare, but I, too, made many mistakes. Ecthelion, as Théodred has already dealt with this matter, we will consider it closed.”

Ecthelion brightened, and said softly, “Thanks, Adar.”

“Thank your Uncle Legolas.” Faramir recommended dryly, but his gray-eyed gaze on his youngest son was fond. And when Legolas loosed Faramir, chuckling at Ecthelion’s fervent, “Thank you, Uncle Las!,” Faramir’s arm collecting Ecthelion for a hug was gentle.

Legolas lingered behind as Faramir and Éowyn and the younger men headed towards the house.

“What’s wrong, tithen-las?” Cellillien asked her Prince and friend.

Legolas, startled, immediately replied, “Nothing, Celli.” Wincing, as he was sure that would not go over well with the elleth who was almost like another older sister to him, Legolas offered, “It was just a shock, seeing Ecthelion up that high in the tree.”

Cellillien kicked her Prince, none too gently. While Legolas was yelping and hopping on one foot, she lightly shoved him to the ground. “Try again, Legolas-nin.” Cellillien encouraged.

Legolas, rubbing his shin, made a face, “How do you always know?”

“Not always.” Cellilien countered, pushing back a lock of chestnut hair and dropping to sit beside Legolas. “But I’ve known you a long time. I got to hold you the first day you were born, since I was in your parents’ apartments that day, keeping your sister company. When you were little, Eryntheliel and I dressed you up like a doll yourself. In our games you were the handsome prince who would marry the loveliest of our dollies.”

Legolas chuckled, “I vaguely remember that. Thalion and Thandrin came in, and made you two stop. I don’t think I minded it though, since I recall you both bribed me with biscuits.”

Cellillien grinned back at him, “We did. And also with trips to the stables and the kennels, and out-of-doors. You were our precious elfling, Legolas, and as a little, you were eminently bribeable.” Her smile fading, Cellillien asked, concern for Legolas clear in her voice, “So I can tell that something is eating at you, now. I wish that you would not insist on bearing the burden of whatever-it-is, alone.”

Legolas sighed deeply, “Éowyn is… so many of them are… I won’t have them for much longer, Celli. Not Aragorn or even Arwen. And not Theli, either.” Legolas blinked away tears, “Mortals… they’re all like so many blossoms in the wind.” Legolas waved his hand at the white petals blowing around them, falling to the ground and being trod under foot.

Cellillien swallowed, suddenly wishing that Thalion was here, or even better, Thranduil. She felt a little out of her depth. “Ah..” She said softly, putting an arm around Legolas, and hoping it was enough that she was there, and cared for him, and sorrowed with him, “I am sorry, Legolas. I have come to love them, too. I will miss them, too.”

Legolas laughed lightly, grief and joy mingled, “Thank you, Celli. I…” Legolas trailed off, “We should go join them. These early days of spring, when the blossoms blow, are beautiful. And not to be missed.”

Cellillien let her Prince help her to her feet, and accompanied him. Absently, she picked up the arrow that Ecthelion had retrieved at such peril, and handed it to him when they caught up with the Prince’s party in the orchard.

“What will you do with that, Elion?” Théodred asked, fondness for his cousin overwhelming his earlier furious worry at Ecthelion’s antics.

Ecthelion grinned, resembling in that moment a different Théodred, who was no longer with them. “I’m going to send it to Theodwyn, in Rhun.” He jested.

Faramir, Éowyn, and Théodred all laughed, but Legolas laughed the most merrily of all. He was determined not to waste the days he had left with these friends.

Title: Ecthelion in the Orc’s Den
Series: DH AU
Author: Susana
Feedback: Please use the form below
Warning: AU
Disclaimer: All characters and everything else belong to Tolkien.
Summary: Once upon a time, Ecthelion (Theli) made friends with an orc. Sort of.
Beta: Thanks to Emma and Kaylee for reading this story over, and letting me borrow their Greenwood OC’s, including Linwe, Fileg, and Nestorion. Thanks to Beth for inspiring me to return to this story. Hope you like this story of an elf forming a tentative, temporary friendship of sorts with an orc!

A/N: The main story is set sometime after 1400 T.A. and before the Watchful Peace begins in T.A. 2053, the prologue is set a couple of weeks after Frodo Baggins Day in Fourth Age Year 16. As background, Theli (Ecthelion) is a healer and soldier elf in the service of King Thranduil of the Greenwood. He also appears in, “Cold Watch,” 28501; “It’s not you, it’s me,” 29470; and “Aid from an Unexpected Quarter,” 30570.

Ecthelion in the Orc Den

Prologue, the Long Gallery in the King’s House of Minas Tirith

Faramir’s middle daughter Mithiriel leaned forward, her striking gray-green eyes sparkling with interest, “Uncle Legolas says that you once befriended an orc, cousin Theli. Is that true?” Mithiriel was eleven years old, and fascinated by history, and stories of all kinds.

Eight year old Haleth stopped her game of helping Gilwen to arrange the toy soldiers in Amroth’s army, to listen. Princess Gilwen sighed, but followed her slightly older niece playmate.

Ecthelion, called Theli, adjusted the sling on his arm as he answered, “Yes, that’s true… well, sort’ve true. It wasn’t so much that I befriended an orc, as that I once had a moment of mutual-not-wanting-to-kill-oneanother-for-a-little-while, with an orc.”

Faramir looked up from his chess game with his father, “That’s still an impressive feat of diplomacy, in and of itself. How did it come about, Theli?” he asked, his gray eyes gleaming in a way that made the resemblance between he and Mithiriel quite plain.

Aragorn sighed, and teased, “You are losing, ion-nin, and so you are easily distracted.”

“Not true.” Legolas disagreed with an impish grin, pointing to a trap that Elrohir had recently taught to him and Faramir, which Faramir had properly laid so that it would soon lead to the inevitable capture of Aragorn’s King.

“Ah.” Aragorn commented as he tipped the piece with a chuckle. Gray eyes shining with fatherly pride, he reached out a fond hand to gently squeeze Faramir’s shoulder, “Well-done, ion-nin. Even if I suspect Uncle Elrohir has once again been teaching you tricks from Eldacar’s court at the beginning of the Third Age.”

Faramir smiled shyly back at his father, but Aragorn could tell that he still wanted his elven friend to tell the story of befriending an orc. Faramir had a softness for hopeless causes that bewildered and worried his father, at times. And it seemed likely to Aragorn that his younger granddaughters Mithiriel and Haleth, at the least, had inherited that characteristic.

Elrohir grinned, proud of his pupil, and Elladan rolled his eyes, before leaning forward to eye Theli with concern. “If the sling is uncomfortable, Theli, I can adjust it for you.” As a courtesy to his fellow healer, Elladan did not mention that it was still too soon after the injury to dispense with the sling except during sleep.

Elrohir and Legolas exchanged bewildered glances, before Elrohir remembered, “Ah, yes. The antagonism between the two of you was all an act the last few centuries.” Elrohir gave his twin a lightly reproving glare, still bothered by how Elladan-and Melpomaen- had kept their dangerous trips for Gandalf a secret for so many years.

Elladan gave Elrohir an apologetic look, and Theli disagreed, “It was more… a friendly rivalry, than antagonism, really…”

“Oh, no.” Elladan disagreed cheerfully, “I loathed you for yeni. Since not long after I first came of age, until when you patched me up under fire in Mordor, that first time.”

Conversation stopped. Aragorn coughed uncomfortably, and reprimanded, “Elladan, muindor, one does not generally confess to having previously loathed others, particularly if one is now friends with them.”

“At least not without first consuming copious amounts of alcohol.” Melpomaen joked lightly, giving Theli an apologetic look. Melpomaen had spent the better part of his lifetime apologizing for Elladan’s unwavering bluntness in social situations.

Theli laughed, “It’s all right. I more or less knew that I wasn’t your favorite elf, Elladan, when you took the time to write to my supervisor, Master Healer Nestorion, from Imladris to make sure he knew that you hadn’t seen my abominable handwriting in over a hundred years, and to ask why I had been excused from inventorying and correspondence duties with Imladris’ healers?”

Scandalized, Arwen laughed disbelievingly, “Elladan, you didn’t!”

“Oh, of course I did, muinthel.” Elladan disagreed, still cheerful as he explained, “And anyone would have, in my position. Here I was, trying to make of myself a healer, son of a famous healer, and what young elf does my father always praise? Not me… though to be fair, he frequently told me that he took pride in me, as well. But still, Adar was always, ‘Theli this,’ and ‘Theli that,’ and ‘I’ve never seen any apprentice learn this stitch as fast as Theli did during the War of the Last Alliance, and under fire, too.’”

“Please,” Elrohir begged, “I’ve heard this rant ad nauseam. Do take him up on his offer to adjust your sling, cousin Theli, and so spare me from enduring it again.”

Theli laughed, and accepted, and as Elladan fixed his former comrade’s sling, Legolas asked with interest, “What did Master Nestorion think of that, Theli?”

Theli chuckled again, “Well, Master Healer Nestorion thought that I should have known better, and I ended up with a number of ‘turns’ at inventorying supplies and corresponding about trades of different medicinal herbs with Elladan, which probably punished Elladan at least as much as me.”

“Undoubtedly.” Elladan agreed with a rueful grin, “Your handwriting was truly abominable, though it’s improved somewhat of late.”

Legolas, seated beside Aragorn, leaned forward, intrigued, “Is that why you always ended up inventorying weapons and military supplies, when our Captain was annoyed with you but couldn’t quite prove that you’d done something wrong?”

“I suspect so,” Theli agreed, smiling ruefully, “But you can ask Linwe yourself when we join him and your Adar in Ithilien-en-Edhil, next week.”

Legolas grinned, “I’m more likely to ask them if they know about how you patched Elladan up under fire in Mordor, the first time.”

Gimli rolled his eyes, and took Legolas’ goblet. “No more ale for you, not if you’re taking to blackmailing your friends again, my lad.”

“Aww,” Legolas mock whined, “What’s a little blackmail between friends?”

“A better question,” Faramir joked in turn, “Is what Gimli has to hide that Legolas knows of, that our dear Lord of Aglarond would bestir himself from his pipe.”

Aragorn complained that Faramir always took Legolas’ part, and the twins complained that Faramir only rarely did so, and was usually Aragorn’s confederate.

Meanwhile, Theli’s gaze had gone far away, thinking of a real blackmailer, long, long ago, and his sad fate. Elladan snapped his fingers in front of Theli’s eyes to recall him. Blinking, Theli forced himself back into the conversation, teasing Legolas in kind, “Ai, my prince, that is simply unfair. Particularly as I recall a certain elfling who once asked me for healing supplies, and lessons in how to use them.”

Aragorn smiled, and Gimli chortled, “That would have been when you were secretly befriending humans when you were supposed to be camping with your foster-brother, eh, Legolas?”

Legolas blushed, “Aye, Gimli, it was. But Adar knows all about it, anyway.”

“From Elrohir.” Theli pointed out, “Not from me.”

“To be fair,” Melpomaen pointed out softly, “You and I were both unconscious at the time, Theli. And it was a good thing that Legolas had given his human friends such lessons.”

“Aye,” Theli agreed, with a soft look for his Prince, “You were always one of the most apt of pupils, Las-nin, even though you did not aspire to become a healer proper.”

“You were always a good teacher.” Legolas replied, voice just as fond, and lips quirking into an irreverent grin as he corrected, “Provided that the subjects were healing or soldiery, at least. Beyond that, I had to learn to take what you said with a grain of salt.”

“Something cousin Thranduil’s children undoubtedly had a great deal of practice at.” Elladan pointed out.

Legolas started to take offense, and then realized, “Oh, dear. Did Adar once help you with your history homework, too?”

Elrohir laughed, “Aye, he did. ‘The Noldor left Aman because they were bored, and because they needed more elves to look down on. Also, they’d heard that the forests in Beleriand were much nicer.’”

Elladan continued, doing an impressive job of mimicking Thranduil in the process of simplifying something that he thought the rest of the world made needlessly complicated, “‘Be careful not to become too learned, young Elrondion. Too much learning warps an elf’s mind, and makes him do mad things like go off and make unspeakably lovely and horrific jewelry, just because his half-niece didn’t like him. When frankly, I don’t think she’s ever liked anyone. Except maybe cousin Celeborn, and your naneth.’”

Mithiriel’s mouth dropped in horror, “Cousin Thranduil didn’t really say that, did he?”

“Oh, yes.” Melpomaen assured his young student fondly, “My own Adar Erestor, who was my gwedyr’s main tutor, was less than impressed.” Melpomaen gave the twins a look of fond admonishment, “Adar rather felt that they should have been doing their own research, instead of just asking Aran Thranduil.”

Relieved that the subject of the conversation had moved beyond befriending orcs, Aragorn was about to retire for the evening when Mithiriel shook her lovely red-gold curls, and asked, “So cousin Thranduil shares cousin Theli’s distaste for history, but did he also make friends with yrch?”

“No,” Theli answered, with a smile for Mithiriel, who had been helping him with his own reading, “Our Aran was bemusedly appalled by my explanation of that little adventure, if I recall.”

“He said that he was glad you’d survived, mostly. At least that is what he always says when he tells the story of ‘Ecthelion in the Orc Den,’” Legolas corrected, “And he’s also said that you’re to call him by name, as you are our kin, however distant.”

“Old habits.” Theli said, with a shrug, looking ready to elaborate on how he had once, for a moment, shared a moment with an orc where they mutually did not want to kill one another.

Hoping to forestall that story (his children didn’t need more ideas, nor his grandchildren either) Aragorn interrupted kindly, “It will grow easier, in time. Faramir almost always remembers to refer to me as ‘Adar,’ now, or Aragorn if I’ve vexed him. I am only ‘my King,’ when council is in session, or when he thinks I’m behaving as an absolute idiot.”

Blushing, Faramir began to protest, “Adar, I would never…” then, eyes narrowing, Faramir realized why it might be that his Adar had felt motivated to bring that up, now, as a distraction. In part because he, too, wanted to hear the story of Theli and the orc, and partly because he didn’t like to be out-maneuvered even by his beloved father, Faramir smiled at Theli, and asked, “So, about your treaty with an orc?”

Lips quirking into a smile as Aragorn sighed, Theli recalled his first meeting with Faramir, and how he’d always known that he was in trouble with his friend the King when Thranduil called him “Ecthelion.” Something that was still true even today with his elder cousin the King. Thinking of that, and his attempts to be less of a trial- what he thought of as ‘less-Elladan-like,’ in polite company, Theli offered, “It is not too violent of a story, but if Aragorn would prefer that I not…”

Sighing, and casting a fond if exasperated look in Faramir’s and Mithiriel’s general direction, Aragorn replied, “No, go ahead. At least Arwen and I are here to engage in damage control, if needed.”

“And Gimli and I, and Elrohir and Elladan.” Legolas pointed out, adding, “And Faramir.”

“Hmm.” Aragorn murmured, grinning, “I meant what I said, tithen gwador. Although I should add, ‘And Gimli,’ perhaps.”

As Legolas made a face, and Gimli chuckled merrily, Theli began his tale.

Greenwood, some miles south of the King’s Hall, in the Third Age but before the Watchful Peace, as a storm raged, and an elven patrol engaged in a skirmish with a band of particularly fierce orcs

Lieutenant Ecthelion blinked away rain water as he fired arrow after arrow at the approaching orcs. Theli hated orcs with a passion. Had, ever since he first saw the ruins of a Nandorin village they’d left behind them, when he was still an elfling. The War of the Last Alliance had made him hate orcs more. Oh, he wasn’t fond of Easterlings, or the men of Harad, or any of the Enemy’s other humans. But humans, even those who served the Enemy, had cried for their mothers when they lay wounded and dying on the field. Had most often thanked the Allied healers who came to tend them, before sending them home as prisoners.

Not the orcs. They had tried to kill healers, just for offering a kindness. So Theli, and the other soldiers and healers, had learned to just kill the orcs.

And these orcs seemed to really want to die. Captain Linwe’s unit had actually been heading back towards the Hall. After all, even as fierce and experienced a Captain as Linwe would not keep his elves afield in this type of storm. This band of orcs could have traveled in peace this night, had they not chosen to attack Linwe’s unit. As the trees lashed back and forth in the wailing wind, Theli drew his sword and yelled in the harsh consonants of Mordor that all of the orcs had been bred of human stock, and were fit only to be snaga, or laborers. It was the one insult that had never failed to infuriate orcs, and make them come after him, in Theli’s experience.

It worked again, and several of the orcs broke rank to rush after him and his fellows. Lieutenant Teliemir and his elves, who were further to the rear and still had the distance for bows to be effective, shot the charging orcs neatly. Then a few were through the arrow fire, and Theli was longing for all of the days when he’d just had to fight orcs during a normal pitch-dark night, without driving rain and hail.

Still, during the occasional flashes of lighting, Theli could tell that the elves were winning the engagement. The orcs broke, and ran. After almost two thousand years, Theli was too seasoned a soldier to relax, but he was also a dedicated healer. He noticed that one of their youngest soldiers was down, and was turning to check on the youngling when a fleeing orc knocked into him.

Cursing himself for his moment of inattention, Theli stepped back. The ground behind him gave way, and he slid down, down into the rushing water of the Enchanted Stream. Which, given the rain, was more of a river today than a stream. As light as Theli’s armor was, it was enough to drag him down, and make swimming difficult. By the time Theli finally pulled himself out of the water, he was so far downstream that he couldn’t hear the call of his fellow soldiers. As the storm got worse, the hail becoming the size of his fist, Theli decided that he had no choice but to seek shelter, and try to make his own way back to the Hall, later.

By the time he found the cave, he’d been stumbling along in the lightning-lit darkness in growing pain for nearly an hour. Walking beside the stream, becoming increasingly concerned that the hail which had left bruises over most of his body would hit his head, and also aware of a long cut he’d taken to his back, somehow through his armor, Theli was in no mood to be picky about his shelter. He just collapsed, and didn’t truly become aware of his surroundings again until a pale, miserable new day dawned, just as full of accursed rain and hail as the previous evening.

That was when he realized he’d been sharing his cave with an orc. A relatively young-looking one, and a snaga rather than a soldier-caste orc, but an orc nonetheless.

Theli stared at the orc, hate and shock equal in his gaze.

The orc stared at Theli, whom she had last seen yelling insults and wielding his blade against the soldier-orcs who had kidnapped her and her fellows from their clan, and taken them as slaves. The orc didn’t hate Theli more than any particular elf just for killing the soldier-orcs she’d been serving, but she hated all elves, as she should. And she wanted to kill him.

Theli very much wanted to kill the orc, too. But when he reached for his sword, he realized that 1) he had somehow lost of all his weapons save the knife in his boot-sheath; 2) he was quite possibly too sore to fight an orc successfully, even this pitiful looking orc; 3) he really just wanted to go back to sleep; and 4) the orc wasn’t armed, either (other than it’s sharp claws and teeth), and it had even stopped growling.

“Fine.” Theli told the orc, “I won’t kill you, and you won’t kill me, at least not until the rain and hail stops. Then we’ll take it from there.”

The orc snarled, and then growled again, and Theli wished, for the first time in his life, that his knowledge of the orcs’ language extended beyond insults. But Theli was nothing if not persistent, so he tried, “Elf… not dead… orc, not dead.” The orc seemed to accept that, as her eyes closed. Theli watched her for another few minutes that seemed like an hour to him, in his pained and weakened state. Then, reflecting that every elf who’d ever gone to the trouble of teaching him a soldier’s trade would be bitterly disappointed in him, he went to sleep, too.

Theli awoke as the pale, paltry light of evening was dimming. Since it was still raining and hailing, the orc was still curled into a miserable ball as far away from Theli as she could be and still stay dry, and he was feeling somewhat better, Theli hastened to build a fire from damp drift wood and fire-starting materials that he carried in his belt pouch. Taking out a collapsible metal cup, Theli crawled stiffly to the stream, filling the cup and soaking himself, and also learning that he’d done something very painful to his left ankle, the previous night.

Boiling the water in his cup, Theli painstakingly washed his hands and his wounds, even though he had to take several more trips back to the stream to gather soap-root and refill the cup. The orc awoke at some point during this lengthy process. It didn’t move, beyond to sit up, and watch Theli, like maybe he’d hit his head.

Theli had to laugh. “I’m not crazy.” He told the orc, “I’m a healer. I’d translate that into orc, but then you might try to eat me like the last orc I told I was a healer, so I’m not going to bother.”

The rain continued, and Theli and the orc watched eachother uneasily for several hours. Then Theli fell asleep again, a bit worried that he hadn’t been able to properly reach the long cut on his back, to treat it. Remembering the last time he’d taken a similar injury, when he’d been an accidental runaway during the War of the Last Alliance, Theli dreamed he was back in Mordor with the army, and that an orc was eating him. It’s hot teeth burned, and Theli awoke, gasping and reaching for his knife.

The orc hissed, and Theli realized that it must have fetched more wood, and built up the fire. He also realized that he was running a fever, which might explain why he felt bad for frightening the orc after it had assured that the fire would not go cold during the night.

“Here,” he said, in his softest, elfling-soothing, talking-his-King-into-taking-medicine voice, “Come over, and I’ll wash that cut on your arm.”

The orc eyed him warily, but maybe it was bored, too, because after an hour or so of Theli coaxing it in Sindarin, and promising not to ‘dead’ it in orc-language, the orc warily approached him.

Theli washed his hands again, and then cleaned a cut on his own leg, making an ouch noise, but showing her how much better it looked than the cut on her arm.

The orc considered that, and then when Theli reached out to clean the wound on her arm, she permitted it. She hissed and then and snarled and growled at the sting of the soaproot, and Theli was afraid that she was going to attack him with her sharp teeth and claws. But she didn’t, she just retreated to her own corner of the cave as soon as Theli had washed out the makeshift antiseptic.

He fell back asleep after that, only to wake to a third dawn of hail and rain. Cursing inventively, Theli tried to find a less uncomfortable position, while still keeping an eye on the cave entrance and the orc. Granted, she was asleep again and seemed disinclined to bother him, but still. With a sigh, Theli gave up. His back hurt too much to lean against the cave wall, and there was no way to lean a shoulder against the stone and still keep an eye on orc and exit.

After a few hours of discomfort punctuated by the increasingly close rush of the stream, the orc awoke, and began rustling around. After awhile, she cautiously approached Theli, showing him first the healing cut on her arm, and then a deeper, suppurating cut on her thigh, that Theli had not seen before.

“Oh,” He commented, some sympathy in his voice, because he was after all a healer, “Yes, I can help you with that. It’s going to hurt worse, though.”

She snarled and hissed, but this time it sounded like assent, not a threat.

“Ok,” Theli said, taking out his cup, “I need you to go get wood for the fire. We have to boil the water, because otherwise it could just make things worse.” The orc looked out at the hail, which if anything now resembled cannon balls rather than an elf’s fist, at least in terms of size.

“Yeah,” Theli observed with sympathy, “But there’s some wood caught in the rising water.” He pointed to it, explaining, “I can make it burn, at least long enough to boil water, but if we don’t boil the water, we might as well not bother.”

The orc looked at the fallen branches, and then back at Theli, and hissed again, before saying something in the guttural language of the orcs.

Theli caught the word for ‘dead,’ but not much else. ‘Dead’ was a popular word, in spoken orc, he reflected. Summoning his ingenuity, and reflecting that he was definitely delirious if he was trying to explain proper healing protocol to an orc, Theli began in orc-language, ‘No fire… means water in hurt make dead. Make dead, like… elf-made orc make human-made orc dead.”

This orc, which probably was a snaga, or a laborer-class orc that the other orcs thought had been bred from humans, growled at that.

Theli shrugged. If the orc didn’t kill him, the fever might. “No fire, water make dead.” He insisted.

The orc hissed, but again, it sounded like assent. Soon enough, the orc had brought wood, and Theli had boiled water to wash her wound.

Carefully taking out the thread and needle that he carried in his belt pouch, Theli began stitching the now-cleaned wound, which had started bleeding profusely. Theli explained as he did so, “this will keep the blood in, and hopefully the infection out. Uh,” switching to orc, Theli tried, “Hurt… make not dead.”

The orc corrected, “Not die… if elf make pain with small knife.”

Bemused, Theli repeated that. Then, mostly for his own amusement, he taught the orc to say, “The Enemy licks his own balls” in Sindarin.

When night fell again, Theli and the orc both stayed nearer to the fire, which the orc kept going out to get wood to feed. The orc also caught a few fish, and shared one with Theli.

When the next day dawned, Theli thought that the hail had finally stopped, but it wasn’t as much of an improvement as Theli had hoped for. He now felt quite hot, and was seeing two orcs, and also a bright, pink, bird. Two orcs was not impossible, but he’d likely already be dead or at least tied up and in more pain, and besides, no bird Theli had ever seen looked like that, so he knew for certain that he was hallucinating.

At one point, as the hallucinatory pink bird flapped around the cave, the orc growled at him, and unraveled part of his tunic, miming sewing. At that point, Theli decided that the orc was right, it would be stupid to die just because he couldn’t reach the wound on his back. So he told the orc to boil water, put the thread and the needle into the water, made the orc wash it’s – or rather, her, he’d decided – hands. Theli threaded the needle for the orc, and explained again how he’d stitched the wound on her leg. Then Theli took off his tunic and undershirt, fought every instinct he had as an elf and a soldier, and turned his back on the orc.

The entire time the orc was washing and then stitching his wound shut, Theli had to fight against the prejudice, against the weak feeling of something terribly wrong. The orc was the most ham-handed ‘healer’ Theli had ever had plunge a needle and thread into him, and that included one of Prince Imrazor’s pirates who’d accidentally cut Theli when a disagreement over a game of dice went wrong. But she managed to wash the wound, and close it. And when Theli woke again, the hail had restarted, but he felt better enough to sit up, and eat some fish. He even felt curious, as well as grateful. So Theli asked the orc, still seated nearby, just on the other side of the fire, “What is your name? I’m Theli.”

As Theli spoke, he patted his chest, identifying himself. They’d done the same charades earlier, patting an object to indicate it, as they exchanged orcish and Sindarin words for fish, cup, and fire. The orc snarled.

Theli paused. It wasn’t the “I’m about to bite you or knife you” snarl, of a few days ago. It still didn’t sound friendly, more assertive. But it wasn’t actively hostile.

He thought for a moment… maybe that sound was her name? So Theli made the snarling noise back at her, and she winced, but nodded.

Theli explained, “That’s called a snarl. He snarled the word, and the orc seemed amused rather than pained. So Theli decided to call her Snarl.

Theli fell back asleep to the sound of the hail falling into the increasingly swollen stream. He hoped that the hail growing smaller in size meant that the storm was finally blowing itself out. He and the orc had spent several minutes discussing how to tell when it would be too dangerous to stay in the cave due to the rising water, which had led to the interesting revelation that the orc seemed to fear running water. Theli found that odd, as she didn’t mind fishing from it. But apparently, orcs, like elves, will do things that they fear in order to stay alive.

He woke up to a strange sound. After a few moments, Theli realized with a shock that the orc was crying, as she held her necklace of black beads in one hand, and rocked gently back and forth. Theli’s eyes widened, and he thought that this must be the strangest moment in the entire strange adventure. He was utterly overwhelmed. Theli didn’t know what to do when ellith cried, let alone female orcs.

After a few more minutes, Theli realized that the orc’s necklace wasn’t made out of black beads… it was made out of black seed pods. Like those he’d seen, long ago with the army, marching through Mordor. And nowhere else. Based on that, and the surety at this point that Snarl was a snaga, Theli figured out that Snarl hadn’t been with the orc his patrol had killed of her own free choice, that she’d been taken from her own people by the fierce orcs they’d been fighting, and been brought all the way here as their slave.

Crawling towards her, Theli took a branch, and began to draw a map in the dirt floor of the cave. He then explained to Snarl, carefully and repetitively, drawing and re-drawing maps on the ground, how she could get home. That time, Theli fell asleep next to Snarl.

During the night, the hail stopped, and Theli moved back to his own side of the fire. He considered leaving, as he didn’t know what would happen to their treaty now that the hail had stopped. But it was still raining heavily, and after the hail the past few days, it was possible that the spiders and wargs that infested the woods would be out hunting. Better, and safer, to wait until morning to leave.

Snarl had also been awakened by the cessation of noise. “Snarl not kill elf before light come.” She said, and Theli believed her. He was soldier enough to know to rest when he could.

The first light of morning came, and with it, the welcome sound of horns, including the King’s. Theli sighed with relief, and pulled himself to his feet, leaving the cave for the still soaking rain with a smile. But then a thought occurred to him, specifically what the King’s patrols were accustomed to doing to any orcs they found.

Theli turned to his erstwhile companion of the past few days, “Theli clan comes.” He warned her, recommending, “Snarl go back to Snarl’s clan-place.”

Snarl nodded, and fled the cave more quickly then Theli would have believed possible, headed in the direction of Mordor.

Just as Snarl was almost out of range, Second Lieutenant Thalion Aerandirion, the King’s foster-son, appeared from the trees. His dark eyes flashed in relief upon seeing Theli, but just as quickly he raised his bow, aiming at the retreating Snarl.

“Stop, ‘Lion!” Theli ordered.

Thalion obeyed, but turned to regard Theli with confused astonishment, “Theli. It’s an orc.” He pointed out, as two full patrols of elves appeared, all seeming relieved to find their missing fellow.

Theli, amidst happy greetings, explained to Thalion (who had to explain letting the orc get away), “She’s a young snaga, not a soldier-caste orc. She wasn’t trying to kill us, she was trying to get out of the way.”

General disbelief followed that statement, but Theli wasn’t really worried about that. Master Healer Nestorion had come with the patrol, and was currently occupied with checking over Theli with, in Theli’s opinion, overly-obsessive and attentive care to detail.

Despite Theli’s protests that he was well enough and that they should proceed back to the Hall, or at least about their other business, Master Nestorion insisted upon immediately taking a better look at the wound on Theli’s back, which he’d discovered in his gentle but thorough initial exam.

Aran Thranduil snorted in amusement, appearing to Theli’s eyes to be glad that Nestorion was bossing around a patient other than the Aran himself. Smiling, Thranduil told his soldiers to strike a temporary camp and build a fire so that Nestorion could examine Theli.

When Theli protested again, Thranduil told him firmly, “Ecthelion, mellon-nin, you will be the healers’ patient ,despite being a healer yourself, until Nestorion is entirely satisfied as to your good health.”

Then Thranduil left Theli in Nestorion’s hands, and turned to reassure his fosterling that Thalion was not a poor soldier for having let the fleeing orc go on the word of a senior officer who was possibly delirious.

Looking both amused and relieved, the Aran’s guard and cousin Lord Fileg informed Theli, “You’re probably better off with Nestorion, you know. Linwe wants a word with you, something about you starting to play healer before the enemies were gone.”

Theli sighed, but submitted to Nestorion’s ministrations with better grace. Captain Linwe was a stern and demanding commander, but he cared for all of the elves under his command. He wouldn’t be too harsh with an elf who was still healing. And besides, Theli could admit to himself that Linwe was right. Oh, the orc might have knocked him into the rushing stream anyway. But Theli had made a mistake, by starting to think like a healer when he should have still been thinking like a soldier. It was an occupational hazard of being Theli, but it was not one that Linwe had a great deal of patience for in his lieutenant.

Nestorion’s hands were infinitely careful, and his voice quietly regretful as he said, “Theli, the stitches in your back have done their job, barely, but I’m going to have take them out, clean the wound again, and re-stitch it. There’s still some infection.”

Theli winced, not looking forward to that much pain, but he agreed, “All right. Really, that was probably inevitable. The orc wouldn’t have even washed her hands before dealing with that cut, if I hadn’t made her.”

“The… orc, tended to your wound? Stitched it shut?” Thranduil asked incredulously, distracted from his conversation with his son.

“She was a young orc.” Theli said defensively. “She didn’t like me at all, at first, either. If she’d been strong enough the first night, she would have killed me.”

“She?” Asked Linwe, with mixed amusement and asperity.

“Snarl was a girl orc. There was just something that was somewhat delicate and feminine, about the way she curved her claws when she ate her fish.” Theli explained, trying and failing to demonstrate with his hand, until Nestorion smacked Theli’s bottom gently for moving whilst Nestorion was trying to treat Theli.

Thranduil shook his head, “Only you, Theli.”

Theli and the other elves went back to the Hall, and not much changed, at first. Theli still killed orc, though perhaps he did not go out of his way, or disobey orders as much, to kill more orc when they were already fleeing, and had not done anything particularly heinous during their last incursion into the Greenwood.

Snarl still killed elves. But she made it back to her home, and became famed amongst her clan for having done so. And she tended to injured orc whom she didn’t actively hate. And they survived. She also became more fierce, because orcs must as they grow, or they will be killed. Her adult name was Strangler. But she was most famous, as a healer. So famous that her clan listened to her, as they received many fine things and privileges from more powerful orc, those closer to their Master Sauron, for Strangler’s having healed the powerful. For Sauron did not often trouble to heal orcs, but Strangler would, if they paid her, or she saw some benefit in it.

And Strangler did not go out of her way to hurt or torture elves. She would if the Master ordered her clan to, or if she was serving a more powerful orc who asked it of her. But her early experience with the strange elf in the cave had left her with a lingering… confusion, in her hatred of elves.

And, some time later, it would matter a great deal that Strangler still had this confusion about elves. But that is another story.

Title: The Four Tutors of Eldarion Telcontar
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: Please use the form below.
Rating: G
Warning: None.
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s

Summary: Eldarion went through four tutors in the first year or so of his educational career, but it really wasn’t his fault.

Beta: None, please excuse any mistakes.

A/N: Set when Eldarion is a young child, just first in lessons, and beginning before he knows that Faramir is his brother, and ending afterward.

Eldarion’s first tutor was a pleasant young man who had been working for his distant cousin Lord Cirdan at the Gray Havens. At only three years of age, most thought Eldarion too young to need a tutor. But Arwen insisted that any child of hers who was capable of reading enough of the title and frontispage of one of “those books” to then ask what the word “ravished” meant, was indeed ready for a tutor, and no one disagreed. The tutor from the Gray Havens believed that young children should learn to express themselves with creativity, and gave Eldarion fingerpaints and chalk. He had not even discovered his charge could read, in the three or so weeks he had Eldarion to student. Aragorn decided that was unacceptable, and a respected tutor from one of Gondor’s lordly families was hired to take over.

That tutor was surprised but impressed by Eldarion’s abilities to read and count, and set to work at improving them, also beginning to teach the toddler the formalities and protocol he would need as a Prince of Gondor and Arnor. Eldarion didn’t particularly like the man, but more for his dourness and the constriction of the heir’s schedule that he represented than for any flaw in his personality. That tutor had been unimpressed by the addition of 14 month old Theodwyn to Eldarion’s lessons, but Thea wanted very much to be wherever ‘Darion was, and the Queen insisted that her dear friend Éowyn’s daughter might stay at the lessons, if she was not disruptive. Theodwyn quickly learned that she must be quiet and pay attention if she wanted to stay near ‘Darion, and surprised the tutor by remembering to call him by his proper title before Eldarion did. That tutor might have lasted for several more years at the least, but that Lady Ynithe, one of Queen Arwen’s ladies-in-waiting, happened to overhear him sneeringly refer to Prince Faramir as “the King’s favored bastard” at a gathering in the city. Ynithe told Arwen, who told Aragorn to find the man another position, after asking her brother Elrohir to have a very frank conversation with Eldarion’s second former tutor.

Eldarion’s third tutor was his Uncle Elladan. That lasted until Eldarion showed his father a drawing he had made in lessons. It was a detailed comparison of the bodies of an orc, a human, an elf, and a dwarf, and where the best places to apply a blade or an arrow would be. That might not have been enough to get Elladan fired, but the drawing Theodwyn had done of the human heart, with the best places to put a dagger, certainly was. Aragorn thanked his older foster-brother for his time, but suggested that it would be best to find another human tutor for the royal brood, for appearances sake. Elladan, who loved his great-niece and nephew but was completely unsure of how to tutor such young children, cheerfully agreed to return as a special sciences tutor when Aragorn’s and Faramir’s brood became older. Much older.

It was a friend of Faramir’s, a young archivist named Hallas, who became Eldarion’s fourth tutor, the one who remained the tutor for all of the royal brood except the youngest, Ecthelion, who was born to Éowyn and Faramir nearly twenty years after Theodwyn. Hallas was particularly suited to teach the histories of both Gondor and Arnor. His father had been one of the Dunedain to follow Aragorn to Minas Tirith in his days as Thorongil, and his mother had been a woman of the city, and a distant cousin of Lord Golasgil of Anfalas. The royal brood had many special assistant tutors, including Uncle Elladan and Lord Erestor. But it was Hallas who, along with their parents, shepherded the educational development of the royal generation who would later help to found the great universities of Gondor and Arnor. Libraries were later named after the gentle, clever, funny man, who had made learning so pleasant for the first Telcontar children.

No, Probably Not

The two princes, winded from the most desperate race of their lives, looked back at the ruins of the city of Minas Ithil as it collapsed behind them.

“Fara?” The younger man gasped.

“Yes, ‘Darion?” The elder whispered.

“I’m never going to complain about you making me run with you in the mornings again.”

“You probably will, but that’s a nice sentiment.”

“We shouldn’t tell Ada.” ‘Darion commented, voice soft but certain.

The elder chuckled lightly. “No, probably not.”

“Do you think he’ll buy that the ghost of Earnur woke us up and asked us to come help him destroy the city?

“No, probably not.”

“Do you think we can get back before anyone else in the camp wakes up?”

The elder brother listened for a moment to the stones of Minas Ithil continuing to crash down, wondered why no one else ever encountered the same problems that he and his brother could run into on a simple camping trip. “No, probably not,” Faramir answered.

Title: Oh good, that worked
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: please use the form below
Rating: PG
Genre: Action
Warning: Desperate Hours AU
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
A/N: Set in 3019, in the fall, in Ithilien, not that far from Minas Morgul (which was once Minas Ithil).

“Oh good, that worked. I wasn’t sure.” Faramir said in relief, as they stepped out into the sunshine, and nothing bad happened to them. Faramir was leaning heavily on Melpomaen, and a beautiful elleth, incongruously dressed in each man’s over tunic, flanked them on either side.

“You weren’t SURE?” Melpomaen asked quietly, careful of his human friend’s headache but passing irritated and heading towards furious. He might have to reevaluate whether or not Faramir, on a bad day, was worse than a combination of Elladan and Elrohir. Melpomaen had previously thought not, but one didn’t just EXPERIMENT with magic. Not when he and Faramir had only been stuck in that trap for about a day. It wasn’t as if another day or two, or even a week, would have made much of a difference.

“No way to find out but to give it a try.” Faramir continued, dropping to the ground with a groan once they had passed the trolls’ camp.

The beautiful elven ladies who had been trapped in the same prison of Sauron’s making since before MELPOMAEN was born, let alone Faramir, seemed a bit less horrified, to Mel’s surprise.

“Oh yes, that one is most certainly of Imrazor’s line.” The first said quietly, of Faramir.

The second elleth’s face contorted briefly in sadness. “Yes.” She agreed.

Mel thought it was curious that forty generations had passed, yet Faramir’s eyes were the same shape as those of Mithrellas. Elladan would be utterly fascinated. Mel devoutly hoped Mithrellas was a patient elleth. Then Mel looked up at the sound of horses and men approaching.

“Troll or rescue party?” Faramir asked without opening his eyes.

“The latter.” Melpomaen replied, relieved. “I can hear Estel berating Dervorin from here.”

“Its really not Dev’s fault.” Faramir said with a faint frown. “If anything, it is Kasim’s, for giving us only partial information on these supposed ‘ghosts’.”

Melpomaen swallowed a glib comeback. “Look hurt and tired.” He advised Faramir helpfully.

“Not a problem. I can manage sick as well.” Faramir assured him.

“Please endeavor not to aim for my feet, if you must throw up again.” Mithrellas gently advised her long-son, offering him a water skin from one of the packs the trolls had confiscated.

“Not a problem.” Faramir assured her. “I’m very sorry about that, by the way.”

“It is of little importance, compared to our freedom.” Mithrellas assured him. “Though I am not sure your friends will agree, they seemed quite wroth with you earlier.”

“They only said those things because they thought we were making you up.” Melpomaen assured. “They’ll be very apologetic now that they know you are real.”

The other elleth looked at the two males in amused disgust. “They thought that you were making us up?” She asked in clarification. “How much did you drink last night?”

“It was a wedding…” Faramir began. “And we had to drink for all of the groomsmen who could not be there. Two hundred minus twenty, that’s… entirely too many.”

Melpomaen’s heart went out to Faramir, but it was time for damage control. “Hello, Estel, Ada.” Melpomaen greeted his family in his best “I know that the twins have done something unspeakably unthinkable, but look how well it turned out!” tone of voice. Melpomaen had had centuries of practice, after all.

Title: Nothing
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: G
Warning: Desperate Hours AU
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
A/N: Set in Third Age 3019, only a few months after the end of the Ring War, when Elrohir is really still just getting to know Estel’s Steward.

Summary: Faramir is leading a patrol, to discourage leaderless orcs from venturing into Gondor, and otherwise make sure all is well in Gondor. Elrohir has accompanied him, and the two are scouting away from camp, early one beautiful morning, when Elrohir notices something, and is distracted.


Faramir flashed the sign for a pause.

Elrohir, who had helped to invent the ranger hand signs, obediently stopped.

Faramir indicated the bank opposite them, and Elrohir smiled to see the large otters, warming themselves on the pebbly shore of the Anduin, as the sun rose above the tree-tops.

Faramir quietly passed Elrohir to take a closer look, not quite as silent as an elf. But nearly so. As quiet as Estel, when Estel had been a young man. And the twins had trained Estel.

Faramir watched the otters, a rare smile playing across his face.

Elrohir studied Faramir, and frowned. Then he forgot himself for a moment, leaning closer to see the Steward better, and stepped on a twig.

One of the otters barked in alarm, and they all slid into the water. Elrohir flushed. Some elf he was.

“What?” Faramir asked Elrohir softly, confused at the King’s foster-brother’s odd behavior.

“Nothing.” Elrohir replied quellingly. And it was. That Faramir looked like Estel from time to time was just one of those funny tricks of inheritance. Faramir’s mother was also a distant descendant of Uncle Elros, through Elendil’s cousin Imrazor. And Faramir’s unknown true father had been Northern Dunedain, perhaps even one of Dirhael’s or Ivorwen’s cousins. Ivorwen herself, Estel’s maternal grandmother, was a distant descendant of Mairenwen, born Almairen, who had been Imrazor’s niece. It was just a trick of the early morning light, that Faramir, smiling, had looked enough like Estel to be his son. A trick of shared elven and Númenorean heritage, and the odd light. That’s all.

Faramir looked at Elrohir in concern for a moment, before turning to continue their scouting foray.

Elrohir hid a sigh. Wonderful. Now he could not help but see his baby brother’s face in the Steward of Gondor’s countenance. Soon he would be acting like Glorfindel or his father, and yelling at Faramir for Estel’s mistakes, and vice versa. Surely, surely, he could avoid turning into “Uncle Grumbles.” If not, Elladan, Melpomaen, Arwen, and Legolas would all tease him mercilessly. Quite possibly Estel, too.

“Oh, the trials of being Elrond’s oldest son,” Elrohir reflected silently to himself. Then he stepped on another twig, which snapped loudly, breaking the morning hush again.

Faramir glared at him, half amused, half incredulous. “Oh yes,” Elrohir thought to himself, wincing as he signed “sorry,” to the Steward, “He’s going to tell Estel, who will tell Legolas, who will tell Elladan, and I will never hear the end of this. Elrohir Elrondion, noisier than a human whilst walking through the forest in the pale morning. Twice. I’ll never hear the end of this. And all because I am distracted by a nothing.”

Title: This isn’t Working
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours (set during Desperation’s Gift, so probably around Fourth Age Year 3 or 4.) A semi-sequel to Little Things
Feedback: Please use the form Below
Rating: PG-13
Warning: AU; aftermath of spanking
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
Beta: None, please forgive the errors.
A/N: Set during Desperation’s Gift, after Aragorn knows that Faramir is his son, but before Faramir is really comfortable with the relationship. Around the same time period as ‘Little Things’, Chapter Three of Tales of the Telcontars. This story is in answer, and in thanks, to everyone who reviewed that chapter, specifically it is my attempt to explain what Faramir was thinking, why he seemed so blase. It turns out that blase is one of Faramir’s defense mechanisms… he has quite an arsenal of them.

Additionally, just FYI, Faramir and Dev were not lovers, they just were and are very close friends. Don’t want to mislead anybody, on that point. Dervorin (Dev) the character is in fact bi-sexual, or so my muse informs me, but he and Faramir were never romantically involved.

This isn’t Working

“This isn’t working.” Dervorin’s concerned voice interrupted Faramir’s light doze, bringing back awareness. Faramir frowned. Dev, here, might mean an emergency, and awakening brought the knowledge that Faramir was distinctly uncomfortable. His backside was still sore and and quite hot, though no longer actively throbbing. Faramir was more troubled by his earlier unresolved musings on power, and love, and trust. And by Dev in his room, staring at his naked, soundly spanked, bottom.

“Hmm, your continuing to sneak into my rooms to bother me even after my marriage? I can’t say that particular habit of yours is working for me either, friend.” Faramir said lightly, yanking the blanket Dev was holding up so that it again covered his lower half.

“No, not that.” Dev disagreed, “Besides, I have a care – I’d only come in unannounced if it were important. As it was, I came in the front entrance properly, saw the King to give him the report we got from Alesseo, and he said that you could probably use a friend. Then I came to your rooms, and saw Éowyn and Thea going out to the gardens. Éowyn said not to wake you, but that I could make myself at home until you awoke.” Dev patted Faramir’s shoulder, then disappeared into the adjoining bathing chamber, followed by the sound of running water.

Faramir raised himself up onto his elbows to peer at the level of the sun through the window. “Hmm. So you waited until my wife had left, and then came in here to talk to me?” He called out to Dev, a little put out. Faramir had only just fallen asleep, maybe twenty minutes ago.

Dev came out with a wet towel, answering, “No, I waited five minutes, to make sure she wasn’t coming back, then I came in, and I was deciding whether or not to wake you, when I noticed you were sleeping on your stomach, which is weird, for you. So I thought that you might have gotten in trouble with your father again, which indeed, you must have.” Dev explained, reaching to lift up the blanket again.

Faramir, still waking up, batted irritably at Dev’s hands holding up his blanket, “Do you mind, Dev?” He scolded, then sighed in relief as his friend put the cold, wet towel across Faramir’s still sore, hot bottom.

“You’re welcome, grumpy. Paddle?” Dev asked with sympathy, dropping the blanket as requested.

“No,” Faramir said with a groan, “that was from just his hand.”

Dev whistled. “Remind me not to get on your Ada the King’s bad list. Ethiron isn’t much better, but he isn’t my father.”

Faramir had known Dev’s father, about whom the less said, the better. Faramir also knew Dev’s uncle, who was a good man. But Lord Tyorvond was too straightforward a thinker to properly understand his nephew, Faramir’s best friend since their childhood days. Ethiron had taken on more of a father’s role in Dervorin’s life than his friend might like to recognize, but Faramir wasn’t going to say so. Instead, he merely commented that, “Aragorn and Ethiron are both a bit like bears with cubs. Only we’re not cubs. Aragorn was better, somewhat, for a time after ‘Darion and then Thea were born. Until,” Faramir waved a hand, to indicate the whole “son of the King” imbroglio.

“I still can’t believe you knew the King was your father for several years, and didn’t tell me.” Dev said, hurt plain in his voice.

Faramir patted the bed beside him, and, when Dev had laid down, explained again softly, “I didn’t tell anyone but Éowyn, Dev. Kasim only knew because he was there, when his grandfather told me.”

Dev sniffed critically. “I still could’ve helped, y’know. I could have found out if it was true, for one thing.”

“That would have been a trick, without tipping Ethiron off, or the Queen’s brothers.” Faramir murmured, “besides, to my mind, it didn’t matter if it was true. Éowyn and I were pretty sure it was true, because I have the same food sensitivity that Aragorn does. I didn’t want anyone to know, because it makes the political situation too messy. I still wish Aragorn had not acknowledged me.” Faramir was personally hoping the baby Éowyn carried was a girl, or at least half-hoping so. He would love to have a son as well as a daughter someday, but he was worried. Any son of his could be a target for an uprising, and that was something Faramir did not want.

“You’re not alone, in this, Fara.” Dev reassured him gently. “Not you or the King. Now that I know, my men and Ethiron’s are keeping watch for those kind of plots. We shouldn’t be taken by surprise. Sauron being gone doesn’t mean that all of the evil in the world passed with him, but we’re not as outmatched, anymore. I think you should relax and enjoy having a father who loves you, instead of pushing him away. He caught you out again, coming back from the city without having taken your guards, didn’t he?”

“Aye.” Faramir confirmed, wincing as much at the memory of Aragorn’s disappointment as at the spanking, though physically, he could only still feel the effects of the latter. “We were to sit for a family portrait, today, Aragorn, Arwen, Eldarion, Éowyn, Thea, Elrohir, Elladan, and I. One for the gallery, and one to be sent to Lord Elrond, in the west, with a friend of Arwen’s family who is preparing to sail. Éowyn forgot to tell me the time, else I would have tried to rearrange our meeting with Captain Alesseo.”

Dev winced. “Éowyn tends to be more forgetful, when she’s pregnant.” He observed.

“Don’t say that around her, please, Dev.” Faramir pleaded. Éowyn felt badly enough for having forgotten to tell him to clear his schedule for the morning, though at least the portrait had worked out. The painter had estimated Faramir’s height from Aragorn’s, and just added him in at the end. Fortunately, Faramir had gone directly to his office upon returning from his meeting with Alesseo, and his squire Herion had frantically told him that the King was looking for him, and that he was wanted in the gardens. Fortunately, the painting session had been salvaged. Faramir would have hated to have had Arwen’s planned gift for her father be ruined, though he still did not know how he felt about being part of Aragorn’s family, or what Lord Elrond would think when he got word, for that matter. Faramir’s wife and daughter had no such doubts, both had adjusted well to being the daughter-by-law and granddaughter of their friends the King and Queen. And Faramir had to hand it to Arwen, she had convinced Thea to wear a pretty dress for all of four hours, without even getting it dirty in the garden, even with Faramir having been several hours late. Arwen was a marvel.

“I won’t, though I don’t think Éowyn would take offense. She’s not like most women.” Dev noted. He and Éowyn generally got along quite well, and Dev viewed her as a sister.

“Please don’t test that theory while she’s pregnant.” Faramir pleaded.

“Fine, though I think you’re underestimating your wife. And I think we’ve both been underestimating your father and his minions.” Dev said, squeezing Faramir’s shoulder in apology.

“Probably.” Faramir agreed, “In what respect?”

Dev looked at him as if Faramir were a bit slow, this day. “He caught you coming in, did he not?”

Faramir shook his head. “No, but when he asked where I’d been, that they hadn’t been able to locate me, I told him I’d gone for a walk in the city.” Faramir winced at Dev’s softly mumbled curse, but Dev hadn’t been there when Aragorn, nearly frantic, had greeted Faramir, when he arrived several hours late to the painting session. Faramir continued, “I explained that I’d wanted to get Éowyn a present, a surprise for her birthday, which was true- I did that earlier this morning, two new saddles. One made for a mother with small children, another the smallest of saddles, suitable for teaching Thea to ride, in a year or so. Aragorn said that he was not unsympathetic, but truly did not understand why the presence of two guards would have prevented me from running such an errand. Or, if I did not trust the guards’ discretion, the presence of himself and his brothers.” Aragorn had actually called Arwen’s twin brothers Faramir’s uncles, but Faramir really wasn’t sure of that one, yet. Though Theodwyn claimed them happily enough, cheerful little heathen that his daughter was.

“Oh, that whole “Faramir doesn’t like to lie,” thing again.” Dev made a face, “That’s part of what I meant, actually, when I said that this wasn’t working. Having you meet with Captain Alesseo wasn’t so bad, that was mostly under our control, here at the docks of Minas Tirith. And Alesseo, himself, is as good a man as you’ll find. But, Faramir,” here Dev turned to face him, “at some point, one of these times someone with valuable information asks for “Faran the Merchant,” something is going to happen, such that it comes to the attention of your father the King, or almost as bad, Spymaster Ethiron, that you are “Faran the merchant,” and they are going to be livid.” Not to mention, though Faramir and Dev were both aware, that Faramir took his life in his hands on some of these trips. “We can’t keep having you sneak back in to the citadel, not when you get caught, for one thing.” Dev noted, unhappy his friend had been in trouble for that, and that Aragorn thought Faramir merely neglected to take his guards on a whim. Faramir and Aragorn had enough to deal with, what with Faramir’s ingrained distrust of father-figures, and, oh yes, and running two kingdoms.

“I’ve only been “caught” this once.” Faramir clarified, “the other times I’ve had to meet a contact, all went smoothly. When I went out drinking with my cousins, and Aragorn and Uncle Imrahil turned up at the same bar, well, that didn’t really count.” Even Aragorn had agreed with that. The point of the guards was to keep Faramir safe; if three cousins and a new brother-by-law weren’t enough to do that, then two guards wouldn’t make a difference. “Still, I’d prefer not to be “caught” again.” Aragorn had made it quite clear that this was Faramir’s last warning on the guards question; future “mistakes” on his older son’s part would result in a paddling.

“It’s up to you, Fara. He’s your father, and this would be your call anyway.” Dev said thoughtfully, “but it might be best to make a clean breast of this one.” Dev also did not like risking his best friend, King’s son or not, when Faramir had occasional fits of idiotic nobility in the most stupid and inconvenient of places. Umbar, for instance.

“Perhaps I should,” Faramir mused aloud, getting up and pulling on leggings over his sore backside with an uncomfortable hiss, before tugging on a velvet tunic. Not an embroidered one, but it was late enough in the day for the fine fabric to be sufficiently formal without wearing one of his tunics which had been recently modified to reflect the Telcontar coat of arms, as well as Ithilen’s. Faramir and Éowyn had slowly over the past few years modified or replaced his garments and hers reflecting an affiliation to the House of Hurin, though Faramir had been, by law, his brother’s heir. Finduilas had drafted the document, and left it with the Chief Archivist for when Boromir came of age, and Boromir had signed it.

“Tell me if you tell him.” Dev said, also getting up. “Unless you want me to accompany you?” Dev tried to look willing and brave. He was willing; but he did not want to be present in the room when Aragorn, better known as King Elessar Telcontar, learned exactly how involved his beloved newly-found first born son had been in the southern spy network.

“No.” Faramir shook his head, accepting Dev’s help to re-don his boots with a small smile of thanks. “I’m not absolutely sure the time has come to tell him… but I will sound him out about it. How are you coming with getting one of your men into the King’s guards?”

Dev made a face, “Don’t expect it anytime in the next decade. I’m not kidding – Captains Magordan and Orohael want to have known a man for at least twelve years, before they even consider him. Most of the guards were taken from the northern rangers, some are even your kin, on your paternal grandmother’s side.”

Faramir sighed, and nodded. “Well, unless I tell Aragorn and he and Ethiron think differently, we will just have you and Kasim and someone else sweet-faced and kind-hearted go with us when we meet with the contacts who still demand to see Faran. Hopefully we can transition someone else into my role, sooner rather than later.”

Dev quirked his head, “I think there’s an insult in there, Faramir-my-friend. I’ll have you know that I am both sweet-faced and kind-hearted.”

“Hmm.” Faramir said in response, stifling an amused grin, as he teased, “I suppose that you could pass as kind-hearted, with those who don’t know you…” Laughingly dodging his best friend’s answering smack, Faramir departed his rooms for the King’s study, knowing that his wife would not expect him until dinner, since she had left him to sleep.

As he walked through the halls of the Citadel, so different now, then during his father..Denethor’s reign, Faramir pondered his relationship with the King, his father, thinking to himself, “I’m afraid to tell him the things that he wants to know, and ashamed to admit that, even to myself. But the best way to do deal with a lot of my past is to pretend that it didn’t happen, and make sure that the children I love are well cared for, that they never go through anything like I did with my father Denethor, and those he … trusted, to look after me. And to make sure that I am the caring brother for Aragorn’s children, my half-sibs, that Boromir was for me. That is how I deal with it. My lady understands, and does not press me. Éowyn has her own ghosts, though I am glad to say that she knew more love during her childhood, first in her parents’ home, and then in her Uncle’s, than I did here in my father’s, Denethor’s, house.”

“My friend Aragorn, the King, on the other hand, has always pressed me, since the first we met. He has always demanded I have a better care for myself than my father ever required. At first it was like acquiring a slightly more reticent Boromir, but one with a lot more authority over my life (since Aragorn was always my King). Aragorn always has asked to know more of my past, and more of well, everything, about me. And as I grew to know him, and count him a friend, and a brother, there were things I found myself sharing with him, that I had never thought I would tell anyone but Boromir, Dev, or perhaps my cousins. But, being Aragorn’s Steward and “tithen gwador,” there were times when I could -and did – tell the King, “No, you are not my father, and you have no right to press me on this matter.”

“Now, well, that particular excuse has rather come back to haunt me. I deeply regret having ever uttered those words to him, in fact, as Aragorn my father delights in throwing them back in my face. “Oh, well, Faramir, you had said I had no say in this as your King and your gwador, and I was forced to agree with you, however reluctantly. But you implicitly agreed at the time, that were I your father, as we now know I am…” So I, Faramir, formerly of the House of Hurin, now Telcontar, oldest son and second heir of the King, find myself, at the age of nearly 40, accountable to a father who cares very much about me – my health, my well-being, my happiness. I know that he acts so because he is a kind, caring, man, but it is very unsettling and frustrating nonetheless.”

“The more so because I doubt him, not as friend but as a father. Aragorn my friend, my King, I had come to have confidence in, having served him for several eventful years without losing his faith. But Aragorn the father… Denethor did not think much of me. The old Steward gave me many chances, but always, I would disappoint him again, and he would push me away, outside of the circle of his affection. I could not bear that from Aragorn, as I have come to love him dearly. So, I can acknowledge, at least to myself, that I am keeping him at a distance, or trying to, in part to prepare myself from the inevitable pain of his desertion, once he realizes that I am not what he wants in a son.”

“But Aragorn does not seem to understand this, though I can tell, from the way in which he grinds his teeth from time to time when I act as I am accustomed, that he very much thinks he is being patient with me. Arwen has told Éowyn that she thinks we both are being foolish. Éowyn, who is not shy about sharing her opinions, also tells me that our King acts as he does because he loves me as a son, just as much as he loves our dear Eldarion. I cannot see how that could be- Eldarion is lovable, and I know myself to be something of… a cold fish. If my father – if Denethor, who knew me as a young child, as strange a young child as I recall I was – did not love me, then how could Aragorn, who has only known me as a man, come to love me, let alone love me as a son? I suppose that time will tell. But as the King’s Steward, and now his son, I do arguably have a duty to tell him of my continuing to go on trips as one of Dev’s agents. Additionally,” Faramir’s lips quirked in rueful amusement, “I would like to avoid any further trips over my father’s knee, coming back from such excursions.”

Faramir smiled to see the door to the King’s study admitting a pool of light into the dimmer hallway. Entering the open door, Faramir announced his presence by softly calling his father’s name.

Aragorn smiled to see his first-born son and Steward, though he looked a bit startled, as well. “Faramir, I thought that I had given you the rest of the day’s leave.” The King greeted him, quiet joy in his eyes.

“You did, but I… could not sleep, and thought I might join you, if you do not mind.” Faramir explained, with an answering smile.

“Of course I do not mind. You are always welcome. Please, sit… or stand, if you would rather.” The King offered.

Faramir stood. He was not sure how to sound out his father, concerning the spying issue. Then Faramir frowned, “You seem worried, Aragorn. Is aught amiss?”

Aragorn sighed, and handed his son a report from Ethiron, and another from a Captain near their border with Harad. “These came in during the past few hours. Dev filled you in on his news, as well?”

“Aye.” Faramir agreed, eyes widening in unhappy surprise as he read. “It sounds like the Haradrim are testing us. Seeing if we have the stomach for war. But that is just… stupid.”

“I know.” Aragorn agreed, glad for Faramir’s cleverness, that he immediately grasped the nuances it had taken Aragorn several hours to put together, “they are less ready for it than we are, aye. It would be stupid, as it would give Gondor the excuse the Lords of the South have been wanting, to make Harad a client state by force of arms.”

“Which would be short-term smart, long-term idiotic, on our part, at least.” Faramir observed with a sigh, taking a seat beside his father with only the slightest of winces, as he perused the correspondence and maps the King had been looking at in greater detail.

“Hmm.” Aragorn commented, his own sense of humor tickled by Faramir’s frustration with Lord Tarsten of Lebennin, in specific. “That sounds a fair description of any proposal Tarsten comes up with, save for those that are just plain objectionable. I take it that you, too, have a long list of reasons why it would be a bad idea for Gondor to govern Harad?”

“At this point, yes, Aragorn.” Faramir answered, looking up. “It would strain our resources past an acceptable point… do you not agree?” Faramir hesitated in confusion. Aragorn was giving him that look again, the one that simultaneously scared and warmed him. As if Faramir were the most precious thing in the world, to the King.

“I do agree, but it is taking me longer to put my thoughts into writing than I had hoped.” Aragorn replied. “And I had thought to take ‘Darion for a walk, before dinner.”

Faramir smiled, all thought of talking to his father about the role he still played in the spy network having left his mind, once he realized the extent to which Harad was becoming a worry for Aragorn. It just wasn’t the right time to bring that up, but another offer, “Go, Aragorn, play with your son. I can take care of writing a first draft of this.” Faramir urged.

“You are my son too, disobedient yet caring soul that you are, tithen gwador… ion nin.” Aragorn replied, catching himself at the last moment.

Faramir hid a wince. He had know how to be tithen gwador, to the King. Son was a new and terrifying prospect, only a few months old. Faramir replied carefully, “I know. And I am proud to be your son. But I think that Eldarion would be happy for an hour of your time, and I can take care of this. I cannot solve the problem of Harad in general so easily.”

“Thank you, Faramir.” Aragorn said, clapping his older son gently on the back, and leaving him to make sense of the profusion of papers which had grown on the King’s desk during that afternoon. “But come join us, if you tire of this. It can probably wait until tomorrow, if it must. And Eldarion and I would be happy of your company.”

Faramir nodded, though he had no intention of poaching any of the small amount of precious time Eldarion got with his father. But the nod seemed to satisfy Aragorn, though he hesitated. Then he bent to give Faramir’s head a kiss, before leaving the room. Faramir shook his head. He really didn’t know how he felt, about a lot of this.

Title: An alligator for Yule
Series: Tales of the Ithilien Ranger; DH AU
Author: Susana
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: PG-13 to be safe
Warning: AU.
Disclaimer: All characters and everything else recognizable belong to Tolkien.
Beta: None, please excuse the errors. Thanks to Kaylee and Beth for listening to some of the story ideas.
A/N: Faramir has recently been promoted to Captain of the Ithilien Rangers, and Boromir to Captain-General of Gondor. This would be in about T.A. 3009 or 3010.

Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth blinked, and counted to ten. He was not a man accustomed to being shocked. He was the second most powerful man in Gondor, and he had ruled a Princedom while helping to raise four small children, and occasionally also two nephews. He had spent the first thirty some years of his life being trained by his own unique father, Adrahil. Shock was something Imrahil had thought himself practically immune to.

But one of his nephews had shocked him thoroughly, a moment ago. Imrahil stared at Boromir, now the Captain-General of the Armies of Gondor, and repeated, “You would like… an alligator, for Yule?”

“Preferably more than one. Perhaps several mature breeding pairs?” Boromir explained, still serious. Behind him, Captain the Lord Gendarion nodded, as if this was a normal, reasonable request.

From behind his nephew’s right shoulder, Captain the Lord Tavasond added, “Actually, crocodiles might be even better. Could we get several pairs of crocodiles as well?”

Imrahil counted to ten again. This was Boromir, his sunny, jocular nephew, who had taught Imrahil’s own children how to play pranks. But this was also the new Captain-General of Gondor’s armies, and technically, Imrahil’s superior on the field. Boromir, who had always surrounded himself with his friends when engaging in mischief, again surrounded by friends today. But these friends were clever, battle-proven warriors, and more prone to thinking subtly than was Boromir. Boromir, by himself, would tend to favor force over strategy… but Boromir was wise enough to rely on those he trusted to be subtle for him. And Boromir hardly ever trusted awry.

Still, Boromir was his nephew, as well as his Captain-General. And Gendan and Tavas were his children’s ages. Imrahil would ask, should ask. Boromir hadn’t stopped being his nephew just because he’d been promoted to Captain-General, after all. “This isn’t for some prank, is it, my young Captains?” He inquired sternly. “These are dangerous creatures, and not to be trifled with.”

“We are in most deadly earnest, Uncle. The creatures are intended for Gondor’s defense, not an ingenious joke.” Boromir assured him straight-faced, before chuckling. “Although, knowing me as you do, I can understand why you might ask.”

Imrahil relaxed. His nephew was new to his role, but unlike his father Denethor, apparently not offended by an honest question, even one which was arguably an insult from a technical inferior. Then the Prince smiled wryly back at his beloved nephew. “You’ve not done something to give me cause to doubt your maturity as a Captain in years, Brom.” He assured gently, “but alligators and crocodiles?”

“It may not work.” Boromir replied, keeping his voice light. “I’ll let you know how it turns out, if it does. But it is Gondor asking, not just your nephew.”

“Dol Amroth will do its best,” Imrahil promised, already wondering which unfortunate Captain he could task with acquiring the large, dangerous, unpleasant reptiles. Imrahil did not ask for more information, not because he wasn’t curious, but because he understood and respected his nephew’s… the new Captain-General’s, need for operational security. Imrahil also did not ask if Denethor knew of this request. He and his nephews feared that the ruler of Gondor, or someone close to him, was giving information to the enemy. They were careful, all of them, not to share too many “irrelevant details” with the Steward of Gondor. Imrahil supposed they were all proving to be Adrahil’s students. But enough of such matters, “And what would my nephew like for Yule, Boromir?” He jested gently, “a kraken, perhaps?”

“Eru, no.” Boromir denied, grinning. “Perhaps a large quantity of fine ale, or dancing girls, or..”

Hours later, after Imrahil had departed, and several other Lords of Gondor also come and gone from Boromir’s new office in the Citadel, Tavas grinned wearily at his Captain-General and good friend. “None of your other Captains have ever asked you to procure large, man-eating reptiles.” He needled in a friendly manner, knowing that Boromir was as defensive of Faramir as the day was long, and would not appreciate the implication that there was favoritism involved. But the thought of any other Captain of Gondor convincing the Captain-General to go ask Dol Amroth for alligators… well, it was funny, to say the least.

Gendan chuckled, holding up a hand to forestall the argument between his more hot-headed friends. “Faramir always has to be different,” commented the peace-keeper amongst their group, “But wait until you see the marsh he, my cousin, and the other rangers have created, Tavas. Its truly impressive, and alligators and crocodiles will make it even more hazardous to an enemy army, particularly once Radagast and Faramir have had a chance to talk to the great lizards.”

“I’d do the same for any of my captains, if they had a viable plan, no matter how strange.” Boromir chided Tavasond lightly, stretching, “Its not just that I’ve a soft-spot for my baby-brother. Besides, his successes in Ithilien speak for themselves, to anyone who cares to listen.”

Gendan and Tavas nodded, but were otherwise quiet, helping their friend to reorder his maps and notes before departing for a night of drinking and revelry. Nothing needed to be said, between the three friends. Denethor was not listening. Alligators and crocodiles might listen to Faramir, but not his own father.

Title: Perspective
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: PG
Genre: Action
Warning: AU
Summary: Arwen Undomiel may live to see her three thousandth birthday, but someday she will be gone. And who will help her grandchildren to keep a proper perspective on their mistakes, then?
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
A/N: This is set around F.A. 26. For perspective, Eldarion would be about 25 years old. Faramir is about 60.

Arwen the Queen swept her twin grandsons, her baby son Eldarion’s sons, into her arms to comfort them. “There, there, my little loves,” she crooned softly to little Elros and Kader, “Others have made the same mistakes, they are not so great. Soon enough, you will be able to accomplish this task, with no trouble at all.” The twins, thus reassured, rushed off to rejoin their playmates. Soon enough, they were happily playing again with their cousin Ecthelion, Faramir’s youngest son, who was less than three years their elder.

“Soon enough,” thought Arwen, “In only the blinking of an eye. But who will comfort my great-great-grandchildren, when I am gone? Who will grant them the gift of perspective?”

“My grandchildren.” Faramir answered, though Arwen had not spoken aloud. “Or your brothers, for however long they bide. But there is time enough, Naneth Arwen. Boromir gave me the same comfort, though he only had five years more on Middle Earth than I. Do not fret, dear Naneth. Our time as mortals is little, yes, but there is enough.”

Title: A Friend Unlooked For, or “Weren’t you the elf who?”
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: PG-13
Warning: AU
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s

Summary: An eclectic group of mortals and elves gathers to help a friend get past a tough anniversary.

A/N: This story takes place in Third Age Year 3020, the night before the first anniversary of Boromir’s death.

“You are very drunk, my young friend.” Glorfindel observed to the Steward of Gondor.

Faramir blinked at him, not sure whether he should say, ‘The twins and Melpomaen all say that you would know drunk,’ or instead, ‘You were the one who told me that I needed more practice at being drunk.’ Instead, what came out was, “If I’d gone on the Quest in my brother’s place, he would still be alive. I stayed here, where I was useless, save to lead my men to their deaths.”

Glorfindel pulled up a chair, and sat down beside him. “Hmm. You’re a maudlin drunk. We’ll have to work on that. Estel tends towards it, sometimes, and we’ve made great progress with him. Here, drink more, sometimes that helps.” Elrond’s Captain and Estel’s first armsmaster pushed a glass of ale towards Faramir. Faramir squinted at it doubtfully.

“Honestly, Laure.” A frustrated voice commented from just behind Faramir, and the Steward somehow managed to trip over his own two feet whilst still sitting, in an attempt to stand and bow before the Lady of the Wood.

Glorfindel caught him, and Galadriel shook her head, and gentled her tone, “Stay seated, Faramir. This is a kitchen in the middle of the night, not a court. And we are kin, however distant, for Mithrellas is my adopted sons’ aunt, and my own cousin.”

“My Lady,” Faramir toasted her with the ale, only to have Galadriel take it from him with a tired sigh, and a withering look for the amused Glorfindel.

“Will you never grow up, Laurefindil?” The Lady of the Wood teased Imladris’ Captain, “You of all people should know that what Faramir needs now is water and tea, or at the least more of the wine he has been drinking, rather than ale which he has not touched this night.”

Glorfindel’s eyes held both laughter and sympathy as he replied, “I thought the youngling was trying to make himself truly sick, in which case ale and then perhaps brandy are both called for, ‘Tani.”

Galadriel muttered a curse she hadn’t used since Findecano, later called Fingon, threw up on her skirts after losing a drinking contest with a much younger Glorfindel and Turgon, oh, and also a much younger Galadriel, then called Artanis.

Faramir’s eyes widened in surprise. “Surely that is an anatomical impossibility…” He murmured, shocked.

Galadriel’s eyes widened, and Glorfindel laughed merrily. “You can’t curse even in Quenya around Faramir without him picking up some of it,” the Balrog Slayer explained in between chuckles, “It is not quite as bad as cursing around Erestor or Melpomaen or Elrohir, but it’s bad enough.”

“Ah.” Galadriel commented quietly, smiling despite herself, “Well, I shall endeavor to behave in…” the lady paused.

“A manner befitting a lady?” Glorfindel suggested, still laughing.

Galadriel didn’t dignify that with a comment. She was a lady; but to be conventionally lady-like was a limitation she had never accepted.

“A ringbearer?” Faramir suggested quietly, around obedient sips of water, as all of the ringbearers whom he personally knew were paragons, of one manner or another.

“Nay, I am no longer that, thank Eru.” Galadriel declined, at last choosing, “I shall endeavor to behave in such a manner so as not to shock you, little cousin.”

“S’ok.” Faramir offered, feeling the wine even more now that he had stopped drinking it, for some reason. “Boromir said shocking things all of the time. I could curse a blue streak by the time I was eight. Mithrandir was shocked, as I recall.”

Glorfindel and Galadriel exchanged a look of deep amusement. “I’m sure he was, guren.” Glorfindel said softly, then paused, looking to Galadriel for assistance.

“Are you just drunk and stupid tonight Faramir, or do you really feel you were useless to Frodo in Ithilien?” Galadriel asked bluntly.

Glorfindel shook his head, and confided apologetically to Faramir, “Her brothers called her ‘Lady Tact,’ but only because she had little to none.”

Faramir had to laugh, though he answered honestly enough, “I don’t… know. Frodo says it mattered, that our encounter gave him heart, and much needed supplies. Some days, I believe all unfolded as it was meant to be… others,” Faramir shrugged, “I think I should have tied Boromir up, sedated him, and left for Imladris myself. Or just gone after I had the first dream, before the dream came to my brother for my cowardice.”

“Cowardice?!” An irate voice demanded.

Faramir winced, Glorfindel laughed, and Galadriel smiled serenely.

“She only does that because it’s annoying.” Glorfindel commented in an aside to Faramir.

“Well met, Gimli son of Gloin.” Lady Galadriel said calmly, “But lower your voice; Faramir knows he is gathering foolish fears as chaff to throw into the wind. It is a normal thing, on such an anniversary.”

Aragorn came and squeezed his Steward’s shoulder, as Legolas murmured something… calming or inciting… to his friend the dwarf. “Hmmph. My cousin Dain II Ironfoot died at the gates of Erebor, and many dwarves and men laid down their lives beside him, defending Erebor and Dale at the end of the Ring War. You’re no coward, brother of Boromir. And I for one will not take any more such talk from you.” Gimli said sternly.

“Nor would Boromir.” Legolas commented with deceptive lightness, as Faramir watched him warily.

“Is a mercurial and dubious sense of humor a trait all golden haired elves share in common?” Faramir asked plaintively.

Aragorn choked in laughter, as Glorfindel and Legolas looked at one another and shrugged.

“There are more stories about you, Glorfindel.” Legolas commented, a teasing gleam poorly hidden in his eyes, “There’s one about..”

“I knew your father during the War of the Last Alliance, and you when you were just past crawling.” Glorfindel pointed out kindly, but quickly, “I’d drop this line of thought, Thranduilon, but it’s entirely up to you.”

Legolas smiled and desisted, but then temptation got the better of him, and he had to ask, “Weren’t you the elf who dropped an elven Lord from the West into the ocean, in full sight of King Finarfin and the Maia Herald Eonwe?”

A pause of confused silence.

“Legolas,” Faramir essayed tentatively, “I don’t think that Glorfindel was um, there.” Saying the word “dead” about the balrog slayer seemed to be something that Elrond’s family did not do, and Faramir tried to pay attention to these unspoken taboos.

“That was my husband, actually, Legolas.” Galadriel corrected, her eyes weighing the Prince of Eryn Lasgalen carefully, as if she suspected her youngest elven cousin of looking for this story on purpose, despite his innocent expression.

Aragorn didn’t drop his ale, but it was only because he was sitting next to Faramir, and his poor young friend didn’t need any more misery on the night of the anniversary of Boromir’s death. “Daerada Celeborn dropped an elf into a harbor in front of your father?” Aragorn said in shock.

Glorfindel chuckled, putting together one fact and another.

Galadriel poured Faramir another cup of water, and began, “Normally I would not tell this story… it is really Celeborn’s, or perhaps Ingloren’s, or Faronglas’. But tonight… I think it fitting.” Galadriel smiled gently at Faramir, “Though my husband lost his temper that day,”

“Understandably.” Glorfindel interjected with a grin.

“Another friend of mine learned the value of a friend unlooked-for.” Galadriel continued, unruffled, as Faramir absently wondered if dealing with Glorfindel’s interruptions had trained all of Elrond’s family and Erestor for the future existence of the twins.

First Age 545, When the Host of the Valar Arrived at the Isle of Balar

Faenglorien stifled a sigh as the great ships of the Host from the West arrived. Here was hope, real, tangible, at last. Surely with the Maia Eonwe, the great Manwe’s herald, and the Vanyar, and Aran Arafinwe, and the countless elves they had brought from the West, they might defeat Morgoth. It was good that this fleet numbered so many; out of the dozens of elves of Faenglorien’s family who had traveled over the ice, and their many descendants, only five survived. Faenglorien herself, her brother, her husband, her son, and a distant cousin who found them too painful a remembrance of his lost own lost family to spend much time with them at all. Other families of elven exiles had taken similar losses… of all of Aran Arafinwe’s children and grandchildren, only Galadriel and Ereinion survived. And the Sindar of Doriath had suffered staggering losses, as well. Some at the hands of her own kin by marriage, though they had just been following their foolish Lords’ orders.

Since Galadriel had been a talented if challenging adolescent, Faenglorien had been her friend, first her teacher and then her student in the arts of prophecy. And Faenglorien saw only darkness in the coming days. Darkness, and little hope of victory. She feared the West had come too late.

Celeborn, Faenglorien’s lord since his marriage to her lady centuries ago, squared his shoulders, and went to assist other elves and men of Balar with greeting another ship. Faenglorien had little sympathy in her sorrow, but she spared some for Celeborn. He was a great leader amongst his surviving people, had been a great King’s valued officer and nephew, but the arriving Noldor and Vanyar saw him only as a barbarian. Still, he greeted them with a smile on his face, and welcome in his voice. Galadriel, on the other hand, had retired to their home, pleading a sick headache, at her ladies’ insistence. This day would not be improved by Galadriel striking a foolish, loose-tongued would-be savior from the West, and that had nearly happened twice already. In fact, Faenglorien thought Galadriel had been about to help a certain Vanya cousin into the harbor. Even that thought could not wring a smile from her, though she did reflect that Celeborn’s strengths were different from her lady’s, and tended more towards endurance. But they were no less worthy.

Celeborn and Faenglorien and her husband Sinyefal rowed out to the next ship, to help guide it into its assigned place in the harbor for disembarkation. To Faenglorien’s pleased surprise, one of the elves on this ship struck up a conversation of his own free will with Lord Celeborn.

Celeborn seemed pleasantly surprised as well. He gently corrected the curious, pleasant elf’s pronunciation of Sindarin and the language spoken by the Edain, and slowly, Faenglorien realized that this elf was…“Inglaurel!”

Inglaurel, one of Galadriel’s dearest friends and her social escort before they had left Aman, smiled brilliantly. “Faenglorien!” He caroled in relief, coming to embrace her, “You are well, praise the Valar. And…” Inglaurel hesitated as his expression turned worried, “Your Lady Artanis, um, Galadriel, as she is called now? She is well?”

Faenglorien hastened to reassure Inglaurel that Galadriel was well, only suffering from a headache.

Celeborn, who spoke Quenya perfectly well, looked curious.

Inglaurel, coming to the logical assumption that Celeborn must know Galadriel, and the perhaps forgivable assumption that this Sindarin elf probably didn’t understand Quenya, switched into his broken Sindarin, “I am Galadriel’s friend and betrothed.” He explained to Celeborn earnestly.

Celeborn dropped him into the harbor, and Faenglorien felt rather bad for not having explained sooner that Celeborn was Galadriel’s husband, or that Inglaurel had been Galadriel’s escort to a number of family parties, just as a friend. She would reflect later that it was unfortunate that Inglaurel had confused the word for “escort” and the word for “intended bride,” as well as the past and present tense. And that it was also unfortunate that several Noldor lords had said rather loudly in Celeborn’s hearing earlier that morning that Artanis would have been better off marrying that absent-minded weasel of an alchemist, Inglaurel, rather than some barbaric Sindarin princeling. But at the time, Faenglorien couldn’t stop laughing. It helped that Inglaurel was promptly fished out of the harbor by some of Balar’s most talented human blacksmiths, from whom he received a new name, Ingloren, and with whom he struck up a lasting friendship. It also helped that Inglaurel, or Ingloren, as he called himself thereafter, had an excellent sense of humor, and didn’t blame Celeborn in the slightest. In fact, he’d immediately apologized for the misunderstanding, and Celeborn had promptly offered to give Ingloren language lessons. Although Faenglorien was not sure if that had appeased Celeborn’s rather appalled father-by-law.

Third Age Year 3020, Kitchens of the Citadel in Minas Tirith

Legolas had laughed so hard that tears were running down his face. “Oh, just wait ‘til I tell Adar.” The elven prince chuckled. And Glorfindel was laughing so hard he had trouble forming coherent words.

Aragorn and Gimli had been consumed by mirth as well, and even Faramir had cracked a smile.

Galadriel sat in the midst of the laughing males. Smiling gently, she informed Faramir, “Faenglorien had been unsure if she could carry on the fight, before that. Meeting Inglaurel… Ingloren, again, and the, ah,” Galadriel paused.

“Hilarity that ensued?” Offered Faramir, quiet good humor in his eyes.

“Yes, that.” Galadriel agreed with an appreciative smile for the Steward’s gentle wit, “gave her the strength to go on. If you did the same for valiant Frodo, who carried the fate of us all…”

Faramir nodded, “I see, my La… um, cousin Galadriel. And I take your point, both of them.”

Galadriel nodded, adding, like a gentle wind into Faramir’s mind, Faenglorien, if she had not found her strength, would have stayed on the Isle of Balar, and survived the war. As it was, she died to save me, in battle. I know… ?? Galadriel spared a kind look for Glorfindel, who had told her this, ??I know, for a fact, that Faenglorien never regretted her sacrifice. Never regretted riding to war at my side. I am sure your brother would feel much the same, and someday, many decades from now, he can tell you so himself.

Faramir nodded, more at peace than he had been in the week since he realized the date. Aragorn poured his Steward and friend another cup of water, and the night turned to remembrances of times past, and friends still present, and those dearly missed. And a Princess enjoyed one last night amongst her younger family members and friends whom she would soon have to bid farewell, while a Reborn Balrog Slayer quietly reassured an old friend that she would be sailing to a warm welcome home.

Title: Wishes
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: PG
Warning: AU.
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
Summary: Éowyn finds her own children perplexing, and reflects on her own youthful goals.
A/N: The career choice of Éowyn and Faramir’s daughter Haleth is detailed in “The New Recruit,” and in Not My Daughter,. By the time this story takes place, Haleth is done with training and an apprenticeship of sorts, and has been offered a promotion and a commission. Éowyn still isn’t sure about the whole idea, but Haleth is.

Fourth Age Gondor, some time after FO. 34

“Haleth,” Éowyn tried again, “Just because you’ve earned something, because you can have it, doesn’t mean that you must take it. You have other choices.”

Haleth looked carefully at her mother, stirring her tea. “I love you, Nana. But I’m not you. What I planned for, dreamed for, even plotted for when I had to…it is still what I want. I know that I could choose something else, anything else,” Haleth added, stifling a chuckle at her mother’s well-known persistence, “and you and Adar would support me. I appreciate that. I do. But joining the Silent Service, as an officer now rather than just a trainee…it is my choice. It’s always been.”

Éowyn regrouped, “It’s no life. It is…there will be no certainty, my river otter. You will have to be always alert, always on your guard. Please, Haley, reconsider.”

Haleth’s gray gaze was unwavering, “But Nana, it’s the life I want!” She said, sure and soft. She had picked her words carefully; Éowyn was certain.

“Bah.” The white lady said, conceding the point with ill grace, “You are all your father’s children.”

Haleth’s eyes danced. “Not Elion.” She pointed out, “He’s your little healer. And he can’t be subtle to save his life.”

Ecthelion, called Elion, stuck his tongue out at his sister, then laughingly dodged her half-hearted smack. Unsubtle he might be, but ungraceful he was not.

Éowyn smiled at her youngest children, glad to have them both home.

And then Haleth left again, leaving her mother to remember her own wishes, when Éowyn had been so young…

Rohan in T.A. 3018, Meduseld in Edoras

“The wheat harvest was poor in the south.” The cook whispered to her mistress as they pretended to plan the week’s menu’s, “But well enough in the north. If you will, my Lady, I think we should have Lord Cynefrid ‘lose’ some of it on the way to Edoras, and misplace it on a wagon headed south. My…”

A whisper from the door, a faint sensation of cold, a momentary feeling of hopelessness, helplessness…the two women turned their attention in earnest to the menus.

“Gladwine,” Éowyn interrupted, just a bit too loud, “I think tonight’s roast could use garlic. Lots of garlic. It is said to be good for ridding a home of foul ghosts.”

Gladwine hid a satisfied smile, though her eyes remained fearful for her mistress, who taunted the fiend. Gríma, who held their King in thrall.

The whisper faded, a brush of a cloak against a door. Gone, and the kitchen was as it had been. But Éowyn had learned to distrust even the silence, so she waited until late that night.

Late, when those men who were feeding off Gríma’s largesse were drunk and happy, and those men who cursed their inability to aid their King were drunk and depressed. When Gríma himself was occupied, fondling a serving girl. He wanted Éowyn, but he did not yet have the support it would take to force her. He’d tried. They both bore the scars.

But Éowyn still stood against Gríma; carefully, though it did not seem so. Éowyn made herself seem his opposition. She flounced in frustration. Meanwhile, more quietly, she sent those men and women who were not ruined by depression, by Gríma’s dark spell, to Gladwine the cook, and Swidhun the stablemaster. Éowyn watched, she listened, and she marked. It was not easy for her; action rather than reflection was her nature. But being whatever she had to be, whatever she was needed to be, that was also her nature. Éowyn endured.

Late that night, she went to Gladwine to complain that there hadn’t been enough garlic. More quietly, she said, “Not Cynefrid.” Éowyn had seen him tonight, seen defeat in his eyes, “Ask Hild instead. Tell her half the surplus is to go to Aldburg in the Eastfold, and half to the Hornburg in Helm’s Deep. If the winter lingers, they will both see refugees.”

Gladwine nodded, and Éowyn paused. The din from the hall had shifted tone. It was time to to go to the hall, to speak loudly and scornfully of the days when Rohan’s men had fought valiantly against more than their wineskins. To show Gríma her face as his enemy, so that he continued to believe that her open disdain was all he had to fear. So that Gríma watched her, and not Gladwine and Hild, not Swidhund and Anhaga.

Éowyn strode toward the great Hall, wishing with all her might that things were different.

Instead all was whispers, and fear. A defeat by poisoning, by a great man’s falling asleep and failing to see his kingdom fall to darkness.

Not while Éowyn was alive. But she had to be careful; cautious; clever. All things she hated. She wanted to be bold and brave.

But Éowyn would be what she had to be, for Rohan to keep functioning. Long past when hope died, Éowyn would endure. But she wished….for a clear enemy, on a field of battle. One she could attack, and if fate was kind, even defeat.

Fourth Age Gondor, some time after FO. 34

Then the walkers had come, with the wizard who had been her husband’s friend, and Éowyn’s uncle was freed. The re-routed wheat fed them in the Hornburg, and Helm’s Deep held again.

After, Éowyn had made her own wish come true through deception. And through the good offices of men like Anhaga and Swidhund, who remembered how she had protected them all during Gríma’s reign. Remembered, and did not bother to mention to Éomer or Théoden-King that the White Lady had not remained in Rohan.

Then Éowyn saw battle, and and found that she longed for peace. But Haleth was different, and her battles would be different. A mother could only hope she would come home safe, every time.

“Don’t worry, Nana.” Elion reassured Éowyn with a gentle squeeze to her hand and a kiss to her cheek, “I packed her extra healing herbs and bandages, and Haley’s careful. She’ll be fine.”

Éowyn hugged him gratefully, and wondered when the youngest of her babies had grown so wise. “You’re becoming so tall, Elion-mine.” Éowyn observed in wonder, “Soon you will be at the academy, and the twins not long after you.” It made Éowyn feel old to think that Eldarion’s sons would soon enter training, though if fate was kind she would have at least twenty years, maybe even forty, before she was called to Mandos’ halls.

Elion straightened, and Éowyn saw for the first time a shade of herself in her youngest son, the cheerful, oft-indulged baby of their family.

“I’m not going to the academy.” Elion said firmly, “I want to keep learning healing from you and Uncle Elladan and Theli. I only have at most a century and a half to spend as a healer, and I don’t want to waste any time falling off of horses and learning to hit things with a glorified stick.”

“Ai, Bema.” Éowyn murmured, shocked. Mustering a smile for her determined, worried son, Éowyn said lightly, “Well, that should liven up our next visit to Minas Tirith,” then added firmly, “you should tell your Adar.”

Elion’s worried eyes decided Éowyn. She would fight for him, in this.

“Do you think Ada will understand?” Elion asked doubtfully. Faramir was a good listener, but at Elion’s age he’d already been several years at the academy, and even in peace time Faramir still spent part of every day with bow or sword.

“I think….” Éowyn paused, “I think he will want you to have choices that he did not have. Do not fear, Elion, we will work something out. We may all need to be patient with eachother, and willing to compromise,” Éowyn added firmly. Compromise wasn’t Elion’s best skill. “But we will figure it out. Do not fret, my dear little healer.”

After Faramir came home, and they had retired to the privacy of their bedchamber, Éowyn complained, “Your youngest daughter is impossible, and your youngest son is going to shock poor Aragorn when next they meet.”

Faramir’s eyes laughed as stole a kiss, “My youngest children, eh? Nothing to do with their mother, who was such a sweet and biddable lass, when she was young.”

Éowyn huffed a laugh as she relaxed against him, “I was what I had to be, until I could learn what I wished to be.”

“They’ll be fine, love.” Faramir reassured her, though she could tell he was worried about Haley and curious about Elion, “And Adar could use a shock. Our twin nephews have been visiting Dol Amroth, plaguing Alphros all this past month. I think Aragorn misses them.” Faramir massaged his wife’s shoulders, relaxing her further, as he added, “Besides, Ada survived me…I’m sure he can handle Elion’s latest notion, too. Whatever it is.”

Title: Like a Pool Loves Fish
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: PG
Warning: AU; quick, mild spanking of young children.
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
Summary: Sometimes a pool of water just needs fish. The young Princes of Rohan and their cousin the Lady Haleth of Ithilien think so, and so did their uncle Rúmil, when he was young.
Beta: None, but thanks to Kaylee for assistance with the characterisation of Rúmil, and for the idea of a rabbit who mustn’t be eaten by a fox, from whence sprang the idea for this story.
A/N: Set in approximately Fourth Age year 12, during a visit of Faramir and Éowyn (with their youngest daughter Haleth), to Rohan. Éomer and Lothiriel’s sons are Elfwine and Théodred.

Rohan, A courtyard of Meduseld, in Edoras, FO. 12

Lothiriel Queen of Rohan, tired from being up most of the night working out how to settle a squabble amongst certain of her husband’s riders, closed her eyes. Maybe, her children would disappear if she wasn’t looking at them anymore, and reappear in a state which did not make her feel like yelling in a manner unbecoming to a fishwife, let alone a lady. She opened her eyes; no, no they were still there, smelling of duckweed. Elfwine and Théodred, covered in mud, and between them their cousin Haleth, who was only soaked and not grimy. Lothiriel sighed, and counted carefully to ten.

Her cousin Faramir, who seemed to handle extremely muddy children having ruined their most exquisite outfits with admirable aplomb, asked calmly, “The pond had no fish; so you have been saving live fish and eels from the barrels we brought from our voyage, which were intended to grace the dinner table. And you have been releasing these creatures, two or three a night, into the garden pond.”

Five year old Prince Elfwine nodded, pleased that someone seemed to be following his explanation. Éomer-King’s oldest son and heir was quite well aware that his mother was extremely displeased. He hoped his uncle might intercede on their behalf.

“Then Snowfeet was eating them, so we had to stop her.” Prince Théodred added in his piping child’s voice. Lothiriel’s younger son was three years old, and did everything his brother did.

“They said we had to stop her.” Haleth distinguished quietly, “I told them that Snowfeet was just being a cat, and cats eat fish, not biscuits.”

“Ah.” Said Faramir to his youngest daughter, “So you are only wet because…”

“Haleth helped me pull Theo out of the pond, after he went in too deep trying to make sure the fish we rescued from Snowfeet wasn’t hurt.” Elfwine explained apologetically, “I shouldn’t have let him. I’m sorry, Nana.”

Lothiriel sighed again, reminding herself that all three children were fine, just muddy, after their morning adventure. “Elfwine, Théodred, I’m really not sure what you were thinking, but you are never to go in the pond again without an adult beside you. Is that understood, my sons?”

Elfwine and Théodred nodded, and Lothiriel opened her arms to hug them, despite the fact that doing so muddied her gown beyond easy repair. Then it was Mistress Hild’s turn to sigh, and try to brush the mud off of Lothiriel’s gown, before giving it up as a bad job.

Éowyn laughed, free and happy. “Here, Lothiriel my sister,” she offered, taking off a gauzy wrap which she had only worn over her dress because it was a gift from Arwen, “We’ll add this as an overskirt, covering most of the mud.”

Haleth smiled, “Its very pretty, Aunt Liriel.”

“Who knows,” Faramir jested in gentle good humor, “You may even start a new fashion.”

Éomer, dressed formally and nodding in response to something his elven friend Lord Rúmil of East Lórien had suggested, stopped short as he saw his children and his youngest niece. “Horselords!” The King exclaimed, “What were the three of you doing swimming…in mud…now?”

“The pond needed fish, Faeder.” Elfwine explained.

“And Snowfeet was bad, and was trying to eat them.” Théodred added.

“Elfwine and Théodred think that they owe the fish protection, because we saved them.” Haleth tried, “and so they felt they had to stop Snowfeet from acting like a normal cat.”

Lothiriel patted her incredulous husband’s arm comfortingly. Squeezing her hand, he paused a few moments before saying, “Elfwine, Théodred, that could have been dangerous. You are not to go in the pond alone; or add fish to it or…”

“Eels.” Haleth helpfully supplied.

“Or eels, or rocks, or anything else, without an adult to supervise you. Is that clear?” Éomer asked sternly.

“Yes, Faeder.” The two boys chorused obediently, gray-blue eyes wide.

“Now.” Éomer shook his head, a slight smile appearing on his face, “I’m really not sure what to do with you three…” Éomer, Lothiriel, and the Prince and Lady of Ithilien were required at this morning’s ceremony honoring the bravery of several young Riders of Rohan.

Rúmil, his eyes twinkling with amusement, offered, “Faronglas can take care of seeing my small cousins bathed and fed and napped, if it meets with their parents’ approval.”

Faronglas shook his head, but his eyes also gleamed with good humor, “As your absence at this event would be a slight, my Lord, whereas mine would not, I could certainly do so, with Mistress Hild’s kind assistance.”

Their parents accepted this suggestion quickly and with gratitude, but Elfwine and Haleth exchanged a worried look. Mistress Hild didn’t think much of children getting muddy and wet when they were supposed to be keeping clean.

“No naps.” Théodred argued, before subsiding at Haleth and Elfwine’s hissed ‘no, Theo’s.’ Théodred frowned. He and his cousins had been fighting a battle against naps this month, and he didn’t understand why today was different.

“We’re already in trouble, nitwit.” Elfwine whispered, as they followed Captain Faronglas and Mistress Hild to the nursery.

“Don’t worry, littles.” Faronglas reassured them with a kind, amused smile. “You’re not the first younglings to decide that a pool just needed fish.”

Mistress Hild snorted. It was something a young Éowyn might have done. Well, not the fish so much as getting her fine clothing muddy.

“Who was, Faron?” Haleth asked, intrigued. “The first youngling to decide that a pond needed fish, I mean?”

Faronglas laughed, “Well, as to the very first, I’m not sure, although one of my Lady Galadriel’s cousins…no, two of them, once ate several of her pet fish at a formal garden party, long ago in the undying lands, long before the sun.”

“Ate them!” Théodred exclaimed, horrified.

Elfwine was equally appalled, “But elves don’t eat live fish….why did they do such a thing?”

Even Haleth was a bit upset, “Elves aren’t cats. Snowfeet was just doing what was natural…but that was mean of poor Lady Galadriel’s cousins.”

Faronglas chuckled again, as he helped the small Princes out of their filthy clothing, and ran them a bath. On the other side of a screen, Hild was running a bath for Haleth, who preferred to dress and undress herself. “Well, they were young and foolish and drunk, and their older brother made them quite, quite sorry that they had eaten Lady Galadriel’s fish. But that was a different story, and you should ask Lord Glorfindel or Lord Ingloren for it, as they were there and I was not. However, I was there when my young Lord Rúmil collected twenty-five bright, silvery minnows from a shade-dappled stream in Caras Galadhon, to keep in a bucket. I did not, however, know that he intended them to grace his Naneth Galadriel’s pool, in her garden.”

Haleth, who knew a little about the importance of Lady Galadriel’s garden from their elven cousins, gasped, “Cousin Rúmil didn’t!”

“Oh,” Faronglas said with a smile as he handed Théodred a wash cloth, “Yes, he most certainly did.”

Approximately Year 3 of the Third Age, Lady Galadriel’s Glade in Lothlorien

Lady Galadriel ran a gentle hand over the surface of the water, allowing her mind to move freely. Soon enough, images took shape. Unrest in a strange, foreign human town, one that looked Eastern. A familiar expression on a face amongst the strangers; and then another, arguing with the first. She frowned in worry, and almost stopped breathing, she so desperately hoped to see more. If their enemy was in the East…and if she could see the faces of those who were his allies…that might be information that could help her protect her people, and their allies.

Then, exotic carpets in a market; fine horses on a field. A small silvery fish amongst the horses….Galadriel blinked. A minnow had no business in a horse field. The fish stopped to nibble at a bubble, and Galadriel realized that the minnow was reflected in the mirror. It was real.

“Now how did you come to be here, small creature?” She asked the minnow rhetorically, as two others joined it. Galadriel was perplexed, as no fish usually swum in the stream which fed her pool.

Then she heard a splash and an elfling’s cry of surprise, and Galadriel raced with the quicksilver speed of a worried mother to the stream which fed her pool. Carefully, she fished out the youngest of her adopted sons.

“Rúmil,” the Lady of the Wood said in resigned, bemused surprise to the thirteen year old elfling.

Rúmil smiled at her sweetly, his wet hair plastered against his forehead, and his hands still clutching the wooden box that normally held his collection of animal figurines. The container was still half-full of water, and quite well-endowed with startled silver minnows.

‘Well,’ the Lady thought to herself, as she wrapped her dripping child in her own overrobe, ‘one mystery solved.’

“You, tithen ion-nin, are up entirely too late.” Galadriel scolded her son gently, “and it most certainly was not your fate to be out of bed tonight, so don’t even venture that excuse.”

“But, Nana Adriel,” the elfling protested aggrievedly, “I had to give you the fish for your pool tonight…foxes are nocturnal!”

Talan of Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel, in Caras Galadhon, minutes later.

Celeborn was reading a book, waiting for his wife to return from her scrying, when he was surprised by having a rather damp Rúmil deposited in his lap.

“Apparently, the rabbit would have been eaten by the fox if there weren’t minnows in my garden pool for the fox to dine on instead.” His wife observed wryly.

Celeborn shook his head, torn between amusement, affection, worry and irritation, “I told you it was just a story, laes-nin, did I not? That it was an imaginary rabbit, and an imaginary fox?” He asked Rúmil intently.

Rúmil started to answer, pale blue eyes wide and innocent, before sneezing. Celeborn sighed, and kissed his young adopted son’s wet head. “Well, let’s get you clean and dry, elfling mine, and then we’ll have a little talk about why it’s against the rules to leave the talan by yourself, especially at night, no matter what woodland creatures are in peril.”

A short time later, Rúmil had been bathed, dried, dressed in a warm, borrowed night shirt, and lightly lectured and smacked by his adoptive Adar. Then he’d had a glass of warm milk, and was now safely and contentedly tucked into bed between his adoptive parents. It touched Celeborn’s heart to see his tiniest elfling smiling in his sleep, despite his sore little bottom.

Rúmil and Galadriel slept undisturbed through the rest of the night, but Celeborn awoke at one point during the night to three blond heads, one silver, one strawberry blond, and one the shade of cornsilk, peering into the room. “Rúmil’s fine here; go back to bed.” He told them, and they did.

Rohan, Royal Nursery in Meduseld, in Edoras, FO. 12, later that same day in the evening.

“And Lady Galadriel didn’t keep the fish, but she let Rúmil and his friends put them back into another stream in Caras Galadhon, so that they could still all be friends together.” Elfwine told his father, “at least that’s what Faronglas said.”

Éomer sat in his sons’ bed, cuddling them both. “Well, Rúmil’s fish were caught from the stream, with permission and the assistance of an adult.” The King of Rohan pointed out.

Théodred’s lip trembled, “Please, can we keep our fish? The ones that Snowfeet didn’t eat?”

“And our eels.” Added Elfwine.

“They’ll have babies.” Pointed out Haleth, “And then you can eat those.”

“Haley!” The two princes exclaimed, horrified.

Haleth thought explaining how, when one presented ideas to grown-ups, one had to always show them what benefits were in the suggestion, for them. But her Adar shook his head, so Haleth subsided.

Éomer chuckled, “Well, in order to accommodate fish, our pond is going to have to be expanded. Cousin Rúmil says that he and Faronglas could show us how it is to be done, if they had helpers…”

As the three children clamored their willingness to assist, Éomer held up a hand for silence, “It is very good of the three of you to volunteer, and I think that it is appropriate for you to help make a new home for the fish that you, ah, liberated. However,” the King’s face grew more stern, “stealing the fish,”

“And eels.” Added Elfwine, to make sure his father understood the full extent of their misdeeds.

“And eels,” Éomer added, trying very hard not to break into laughter at the poorly-hidden amusement on his brother-by-law’s face, “was very naughty. Those fish belonged to the cooks, to make for dinner for everyone, and they had to send out extra hunting parties in order to find more game to replace them.” And oh, had Éomer heard about the mystery of the missing fish, from Lothiriel and Éowyn, who had heard it from Gladwine the head Cook.

“We’re sorry, Faeder.” Elfwine apologized, “Its just that the pond needed fish.”

Éomer sighed, and continued his scold despite his son’s adorable, sad face, framed by chestnut curls. “My dear son, I know, but you can’t just take action without talking to me or your mother, or Hild, or some other adult. It would be like if I just decided to move our herds of horses without telling anybody. It would worry the Riders and the horsekeepers, and cause no end of trouble.”

“And none of the three of you are yet strong enough swimmers that you should have been past the shallowest part of the pond, for any reason.” Faramir added, his gentle gray eyes pinning each of the children intently.

“Are we in trouble, Ada?” Haleth asked breathily.

“Obviously,” muttered Éomer, before continuing in a more fatherly fashion, “For muddying your fine clothing and stealing, all three of you are to go to bed early every day this week. And you’ll help the cooks with their chores, for the rest of the time Haleth is visiting.”

The children nodded solemnly.

Éomer looked to his eldest son, and sighed. Théodred was truly too young to have known better, about the pond, but Elfwine should have been more responsible. Éomer opened his mouth to tell his heir that he’d earned a smacking, and Haleth interrupted, “Its not fair just to smack Elfwine. If you’re going to smack Elfwine, you should smack me, too. But not Theo.”

Elfwine, who didn’t want to be smacked, still appreciated the noble gesture. And he agreed, “Yeah. Theo’s too little.”

“I’m not too little!” Argued Theo, even though he also didn’t want to be smacked.

Faramir’s eyes said, ‘I told you they would say that; they’ve become close, these three,’ and Éomer sighed gruffly.

“Elfwine, Théodred, I will smack you both, but just a little smacking.” Éomer told his sons in a kind but very firm tone, “But if either of you ever do anything so dangerous again, I will spank you soundly, and your Nana may have something to say, as well.”

Wide-eyed, the Princes of Rohan nodded. Hating the task before him, their father gently moved Elfwine aside, and laid Théodred over his lap, lightly smacking the little boy’s bottom though his night shirt a handful of times. Théodred yelped in surprise, but didn’t wail as he had the one other time he’d been spanked, for dashing in front of a horse. Théodred was vaguely aware of his brother saying that he had been brave, and of Haleth getting a similar spanking from Uncle Faramir.

When Éomer gently righted Théodred, and cuddled him for a moment, Théodred had tears in his eyes, but mostly from having disappointed his Faeder, rather than from the mild sting in his bottom.

Then Éomer handed Théodred gently to Faramir, who was reassuring Haleth, but had room to hold Théodred on his lap, too. Haleth took his hand, and Théodred watched unhappily as his Faeder spanked Elfwine, just a little harder than he had Théodred. Elfwine also got three more smacks.

After the children had been comforted and tucked into bed, Elfwine asked worriedly, “Ada, do you still love us? Even though we stole the fish, and were naughty?”

“Of course I do, my beloved sons. I love you both like a pool loves fish.” Éomer answered seriously, stroking his sons’ soft curls again, before bidding them fair dreams.

Title: Rites of Spring (for the Spring Challenge)
Series: Errands for Wizards/DH AU
Author: Susana
Feedback: Please use the form below
Warning: AU
Disclaimer: All characters and everything else belong to Tolkien.
Summary: Eldarion and Theodwyn know its spring in Gondor because…
Beta: None. Written quickly when the idea struck, so there may well be mistakes.
A/N: Set in about Fourth Age year 17.

Rites of Spring

Elessar Telcontar did not govern his Kingdoms only from finely appointed stone rooms in their capitals, and mostly, his heir was glad for it.

Today, however, as the torrential spring rains continued, Eldarion Telcontar would have rather been in Minas Tirith, with his lovely betrothed lady and his mother and sisters. Stifling a sneeze, Eldarion looked with some renewed interest around the Poros Fort he and his father (and their guards and the army company they rode with) had just entered. The fort had only recently been completed, and had seen rather a lot of action, given the brigands active in the Mountains of Shadow across the border, and the smuggling that went on along the route of the Poros river that flowed into the Anduin and from there, into the sea.

However, most intriguing of all to Eldarion was that the fort flew not only the flag of Gondor, and the flag of Ithilien, but also Eldarion’s older brother’s personal standard. He’d be glad to see Faramir, but for the White Company to still be here rather than further north, meant they must have run into trouble.

Aragorn gave his damp offspring a fond look as they dismounted, before addressing the Captain of the regiment, “Ah, Captain Mardil. Your new home is looking well.”

“We’re rather pleased with it, my King. Seeing a lot of action, and holding up well.” The Captain reported proudly, but Eldarion could see he was a bit…worried, or…concerned, over something, as he led them towards the neat stone building.

“Good for you. We’ll be here over the next few days, and I’d love to hear more about it. Captain-General Galdoron and my son your Prince have both been happy with your progress here, and that of your men.” Aragorn praised.

The Captain relaxed slightly, then tensed again when his King asked, “Please ask Prince Faramir to attend on us at his earliest convenience. I would like to see him, and Captain Beregrond as well.”

“Um.” Captain Mardil paused, “Prince Faramir and Captain Beregrond went with some of my men, to assist a small company of traders from Taduin who were attacked in the mountains yesterday.”

Eldarion winced, and Aragorn repressed a sigh, saying resignedly. “In the mountains, over the border. Of course they did. Well, let’s get out of the rain, and then you can brief me on what my son and his company and your men have taken on. Perhaps we should send another company to support them.”

A new, but familiar and much-loved voice commented from a map covered table in the bright dining hall, “Ada said that when you said that I was to tell you, ‘kettle, pot,’ Daerada.” The Lady Theodwyn grinned at them, amusement in her gray eyes and a white sling around her left arm.

Eldarion grinned through his worry at his oldest niece, and Aragorn moved to carefully embrace Theodwyn. “Did he, now? My Adar wished for me more careful children, but I do suppose I deserve the ones I’ve got. What happened to you, guren?”

Theodwyn made a face, and Eldarion found his arms full of clean, muscular blond teenager, who smelled a bit of cleaning herbs. Hugging her back, he asked, “That bad, huh, Thea?”

“That stupid.” Theodwyn countered, “I thought I’d wear my sleeveless mailshirt, since it was so hot yesterday…Ada told me to change, we argued about it, and I said I would. He got busy sorting out some equipment problems, and I forgot. Then I took a slash from a bandit’s sword, when we rode out to cover the traders we could see riding hard for the border.”

Aragorn gently lifted his granddaughter’s chin, “Not a mistake you’ll make again, eh, daeriel-nin?”

Theodwyn shook her head sadly, “No, Daerada. Not again. Bad enough I’m stuck here, but I probably won’t be able to do much for several weeks, so I’ll miss the rest of our patrol, effectively. So far as being in the action is concerned, anyway. Ada said I can still ride with them, though.” Theodwyn added, hoping her grandfather wouldn’t countermand that.

“Hmm.” Aragorn replied thoughtfully, “We’ll see, Thea. And once we’re done here, I’ll take a look at your arm myself, and we’ll see if we can’t cut down on the time until you’re entirely fit again. Unless its paining you, in which case I’ll look at it now.”

Theodwyn shook her head, “Nay, the numbing salve is working. It’s just a twinge – the healer here is good, but he’s not you. I’d be glad to have you look at it, but you can finish with your duties first.”

Eldarion admired Theodwyn’s talent for gaining control over a situation, and turning an order into a request. Aragorn, from the smile he repressed, admired it too. But he just squeezed Thea’s uninjured arm, and turned to discuss men and material with Captain Mardil. Eldarion and Theodwyn mostly listened, asking a question or venturing a comment occasionally, mostly when Aragorn subtly indicated such would be welcome.

When the last light of day was slipping from the sky, three riders came in wearing Faramir’s colors. Theodwyn recognized them, “The youngest, and two transfers from the city guard.” She murmured quietly to Eldarion.

The three reported that the bandits had retreated into the mountains, and that Faramir had found a local who knew the area well, and had taken his companies in pursuit.

Eldarion exchanged a look with Theodwyn, “Your Ada’s in big trouble.” He said under his breath, as Aragorn gently but thoroughly interrogated the messengers, tension obvious in his powerful frame and kind face to those who knew him as well as his son and granddaughter.

“He’s Ada.” Theodwyn countered with a grin, “Would it be spring if he and Daerada weren’t arguing about something?”

Title: Rites of Spring Part II
Series: DH AU
Author: Susana
Feedback: Please use the form below
Warning: AU
Disclaimer: All characters and everything else belong to Tolkien.
Summary: Faramir is back, and it’s stopped raining.
Beta: None. Written quickly when the idea struck, so there may well be mistakes.
A/N: Apparently, there was a part II to this ficlet. Also set in about Fourth Age year 17, a little more than a day after , Rites of Spring.

Rites of Spring Part II

By midnight of the next night, the White Company had returned, successful, with an unharmed but slightly damp Faramir amongst them. Faramir’s horses and men had all been fed, and spaces were found for them as well as the King’s men in the now-crowded Poros Fort. Eldarion had made the sacrifice of sharing his small room with his niece Theodwyn, and sleeping on a cot so that she could have the bed. It was a bit of a sacrifice for Theodwyn as well, as she knew Eldarion would want to rhapsodize about his betrothed, and Thea had a limited tolerance for that sort of thing, even where she was fond of both of the parties involved (which, fortunately, she was, of both her uncle and his intended). Even the King of Men was sharing his room, with his oldest son whom he wanted a chance to question more closely.

“Hmm…and I think it was best, to turn the bandits over to Taduin for justice…” Faramir mumbled quietly, lying on his stomach on the bed in his father’s room, completely naked except for a sheet pulled up just to his waist.

“It was good diplomacy, and politics at the least.” Aragorn replied, thoroughly massaging his eldest son’s tense back and shoulders. “And taking down the names of all of the bandits, and having Kasim and the others draw sketches of them, was a clever precaution. That way, if Captain Mardil’s men arrest the same bandits, they will know to turn them over to Gondor for justice, and can explain why to Taduin.”

“‘S what I thought.” Faramir slurred, exhaustion overcoming his worries of the day. Relaxing under his father’s and healer’s kind ministrations, he murmured, “Feels good, Ada, thanks. Shoulder doesn’t even hurt anymore.”

“Hmm, I thought it might be bothering you, difficult child, what with all the rain.” Aragorn murmured, taking even greater care with Faramir’s left shoulder. “I’m not thrilled that you didn’t mention it to anyone, or that you were out in this. But I’m fair enough to acknowledge that your choices all seem to have been….reasonable, under the circumstances.”

“Pot, kettle.” Faramir murmured, with a wry half-smile. “You would have done the same thing. You would have sent ‘Darion back with the messengers, as I would have Thea if she had been well. But you would have done the same thing.”

“Hmm.” Aragorn murmured thoughtfully, strong hands massaging lower on his son’s back, “Mayhaps I would have. Certainly I would have, before I was King, and in my younger years. But I do not know the Mountains of Shadow as well as you do, nor have I your contacts there. However, even with all of the questions that you answered to my satisfaction, Faramir muin-nin, there was one that somehow didn’t come up.”

Faramir sighed, but didn’t tense. “Yes. I led the attack on the bandit’s camp myself, in our front line. Yes, I know…well, I would suspect, that we will have more than words about that, you and I.”

Aragorn sighed, and brought his hand down once, firmly, on Faramir’s bottom, covered only by the thin sheet.

“Owww, Ada.” Aragorn’s oldest son, a senior Captain of Gondor, the Prince of Ithilien, the Steward of Gondor, one of the most determined and toughest men Aragorn knew, whined like a ten year old.

Aragorn couldn’t stop his own exasperated smile, at the whine. Probably Faramir’s intention. Still, “You know better, ion-nin.” Aragorn scolded.

“I know. I know. Beregrond was displeased as well, and I think Orohael would have snitched, had I not come clean.” Faramir admitted, stretching and making a soft sound of contentment as Aragorn pulled a soft blanket over him.

“Good. That’s what I pay Orohael for, after all.” Aragorn replied lightly, dimming the lights and lying down in the bed beside his eldest child. “We’ll discuss this matter further in the morning,” he reminded Faramir, “for now, ion-muin-nin, sleep.”

“Mmm. ‘Kay. Love you, Ada…sorry worried you.” Faramir mumbled, trailing off as sleep claimed him.

“I love you too, you reckless idiot.” Aragorn replied, rather glad at times that his own Adar wasn’t here to laugh at him, having children just like himself. Though Aragorn would cheerfully have put up with almost anything, if Elrond could have stayed longer, for him, and Arwen, and Eldarion, Melyanna, and Gilwen, and also for Aragorn’s oldest child, the one who had never really been a child, and his children. “You would be so proud, Ada El. Of all of them.” Aragorn murmured to the quiet room.

Faramir’s sleep mumble of, “No cinnamon on my eggs, please,” was the only answer, and so Aragorn smiled, and shook his head bemusedly, and quickly fell into a deep, true sleep. The King of Men had barely been able to catch a cat nap the previous night, so worried had he been, but tonight, his chicks were all safe, and all was well with the world.

Title: A Horrible Mistake
Author: Susana
Series: Desperate Hours
Feedback: Please use the form below
Rating: PG
Warning: AU
Disclaimer: All recognizable elements are Tolkien’s
Summary: Some mistakes are perhaps worth making, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time.
Beta: None
A/N: Set in the fall of 3019. I’ve given Faramir a November birthday, for purposes of the DH AU.

Aragorn was industriously frowning at a petition alleging price-fixing amongst the quarry-owners, when one of his favorite people interrupted his suffering.

“I’ve made a horrible mistake.” Announced Prince Faramir of Ithilien, the King’s Steward and good friend.

Aragorn suppressed an amused smile, as Faramir did not seem truly worried, more…wild-eyed, as when the twins, Legolas, and Gimli had taken him out drinking. “That sounds unlike you, my dear Faramir, but even the best of us make horrible mistakes, at times.” Aragorn said kindly, although a hint of teasing crept into his tone, “pray, tell me what this horrible mistake is, and perhaps together we can set it right.”

Faramir sat down, his gray eyes filled with hope, “Arwen asked me what type of celebration I would like for my birthday. Not thinking, I told her that no celebration was necessary, and that I really had no idea what I might like, as the last time I had an actual birthday party, I was still young enough that my heart’s desire was a pony of my very own.”

To give himself a moment to absorb that without saying anything unkind about Faramir’s father, who had once been his friend, Aragorn asked lightly, “And did you end up with a pony, dear one?” Aragorn didn’t really have to speak again his disgust over Denethor’s piss-poor parenting. That, and his affection for his young friend, were both clear in his eyes.

Faramir smiled gently, grateful for the words unsaid, “Aye. Uncle Imrahil picked her out, from a merchant who’d won her dicing. I named her Moonbright, and she was a loyal and faithful friend for… years, until I was big enough for a horse. Then Moonbright became my cousin Lothiriel’s primary mount.”

Aragorn nodded, thinking that if Moonbright had gone to Lothiriel, who was only a year younger than Faramir, then Denethor must have mounted his son on a horse, for war training no less, when Faramir was a slip of a boy of no more than eight years old. Sheer idiocy. Aragorn also knew that he hadn’t even a snowball’s chance in the fires of Mount Doom of convincing Arwen not to plan a grand party for Faramir’s upcoming birthday. “Well,” Aragorn comforted kindly, “You have gotten yourself into a pickle, Fara dear. I would do nearly anything for you, but I will not stand in the way of my wife preparing a party for one whom she both esteems and loves.”

Faramir leaned back in his chair and groaned, putting his head in his hands. “I won’t be married to ‘til the spring, and the ladies…it’s going to be worse than the Harvest Ball.”

Aragorn chuckled, and poured poor Faramir a cup of mead. “Here, drink. It won’t be so bad. That worry, at least, Arwen will be sympathetic to. We’ll have you signed up for dances with Arwen’s ladies or ‘safe’ friends all night, that and come up with different birthday duties for you, to keep you busy. ‘Twill be alright. Arwen holds Éowyn in high regard, as well, and neither of them want you to have to deal with maids hopeful that our honorable Steward will break off his engagement.”

Faramir sighed, but he did drink his mead, “Maybe I’ll escape to Ithilien,” the overwhelmed Steward planned half-heartedly.

Shaking his head, Aragorn gently commanded, “You’ll not. You haven’t my leave, and I know you wouldn’t hurt your Queen like that, disappearing when she’d gone to the effort of planning a party just for you. Besides,” Aragorn grinned, “We could always have my twin brothers get you really, really drunk first. Then you’d barely even remember it.”

Faramir whimpered, and Aragorn kept teasing, until even Faramir had to laugh at the ridiculousness of his King’s suggestions. By the time Arwen found Faramir to discuss plans for the grand event with him, he was relaxed enough to express an acceptable level of gratitude.

Title: Drip, Drip, Drip
Series: DH AU
Author: Susana
Feedback: Please use the form below
Warning: AU
Disclaimer: All characters and everything else belong to Tolkien.
Summary: An adventure in Ithilien
Beta: None. Written quickly when the idea struck, so there may well be mistakes.
A/N: Set in about F.A. 10.

Drip, drip, drip…

Alphros walked first through the cave, afraid of nothing.

Eldarion walked behind his older brother’s young cousin, over a year his elder, holding the lantern.

Theodwyn walked almost on Eldarion’s heels, jostling him. She wanted to be first.

Elboron came tentatively behind, scared but wanting to keep up with his sister and uncle and cousin.

Later that day, after several wrong turns and a rescue party, the four children lined up in front of Faramir’s desk.

“We were explorers. You can’t stay in the glen where you’re supposed to and be a good explorer.” Alphros explained, not the least intimidated.

Eldarion added, “You got lost in that cave once, looking for Lady Mithrellas.”

Taking a deep breath, Faramir raised an eyebrow at his own children.

“Eldarion was going.” Theodwyn said, and there really was no need for further explanation.

Faramir looked to his wife, and commented quietly, “I think every time Imrahil, Elphir and Aliisa send Alphros to us, something like this happens, and then I feel that I can hear their laughter from Dol Amroth and Minas Tirith.”

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6 Comment(s)

NB: Comments may contain spoilers!

Oh these are wonderful. Eldarion is such an astute child :)

— Maria    14 October 2010, 02:28    #

A very interesting beginning. I look forward to reading more!

— Ria    14 October 2010, 04:05    #

I love these father-son moments, they’re so perfect and heartwarming.

— Anna    20 December 2010, 18:55    #

Just lovely!

— Linda    11 January 2011, 10:58    #

This is so lovely to read! It’s light and bright and makes me smile or chuckle during reading. Very enjoyable, I hope you update soon.


— Aneyrin    2 February 2011, 16:56    #

Cute, cute, cute story.
Thank you for sharing it with us.

— lille mermeid    16 May 2011, 16:50    #

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