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The Spirit of Gondor
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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2
This monstrous apparition

These Characters are the property of the Estate of J. R. R Tolkien and New Line Cinema. This story has been written for pleasure and no profit has or will be made from it

How ill this taper burns! Ha! Who comes here?
I think it is the weakness of mine eyes
That shapes this monstrous apparition.

William Shakespeare Julius Caesar, act 4, sc. 3, l.


~~~

“If you just leave your clothes in the bedroom, I will send a maid in a few minutes to take them to be washed at once, ” said the housekeeper. “We have filled the bath for you, my lord, I hope it is to your satisfaction.”

“I am sure it will be, Mistress Elwen, thank you. I am sorry to put you to so much trouble.” Faramir smiled apologetically at the woman. “ I do not know what came over Elestelle to eat half a pot of honey when no one was looking, she is usually so good!”

“It’s no trouble, Lord Faramir,” Elwen replied. ”When my children were little, they were much like Lady Elestelle, unable to resist anything sweet. No one can have eyes in the back of their head! Many a gown I had to wash unexpectedly. My youngest once ate an enormous cake meant for the six of us and then kept us up all night, suffering from a severe bellyache! The sooner you are in that hot bath and your clothes are in the wash the better, my lord!”

She bustled from the room. Faramir smiled ruefully. He had known Elwen since he was a small boy and she had assisted his nanny in the nursery.

The Queen had summoned Éowyn before breakfast, leaving him with his Elestelle. The Steward and his lady always took care that at least one of them should spend time at the beginning and end of the day with their child. Her nanny’s back turned, the toddler had helped herself to the honey. Faramir had been holding his little daughter when she had regurgitated it all over the clothes he wore for council meetings. The Housekeeper said the garments must be washed at once if the fine wool and embroidered velvet were not to be ruined.

Faramir hastened to pull off his tunic and breeches. The Steward found that Elestelle’s breakfast had soaked through to his undergarments, so quickly divested himself of those too. He folded the soiled clothing neatly in the laundry basket for the maid to collect. Wrapping himself in a towel, he padded into the bathing chamber and climbed into the steaming bath.

Faramir sighed contentedly, stretching out his long limbs in the blissfully warm water. After so many years as a Ranger, living in the wilds, he still found a hot bath was an experience to savour.

Reaching for the soap and flannel, he began to bathe himself, thoroughly soaping his body, before washing his hair.

He would have lingered longer until the water started to cool, but as Steward of Gondor, he had his duties to attend to. He was due to attend a Council Meeting before preparing for the annual festival to honour the dead. There would be a candlelit procession around the citadel as soon as darkness fell, which would be led by Éowyn and himself.

It was a sombre occasion for Faramir. He had so many to remember; his mother, Boromir and his poor crazed father, as well as the comrades who had fallen in battle as he fought alongside them.

The occasion was also deeply comforting. The candles formed a moving river of light and warmth. Aragorn would read a blessing for the dead and remind the assembled people that more than memories lay beyond the circles of the world.

After singing traditional songs of Gondor, the people would disperse to their homes and eat a meal of celebration with those they loved the most. It was believed that tonight the worlds of the living and the dead were very close and the departed loved ones would be present in spirit. Ghost stories would be told and there would be games for the children.

Faramir and Éowyn were planning to share the meal with the King and Queen and Elbeth; Eldarion and Elestelle being as yet too young to attend.

Reluctantly, Faramir climbed gracefully from the bath and selected a thick towel from the heap that been left there for him. He wound one around his waist. He threw another towel across his broad shoulders and began to dry his lean muscular body, patting away the rivulets of moisture that ran down his firm contours.

He was not a vain man and was always surprised when his wife told him just how handsome she found him and how even the sight of him approaching her,made her heart beat faster.

Faramir rubbed his hair vigorously, shaking himself like a dog to remove as much excess moisture as possible.

He was just about to go into his dressing room, when he heard voices approaching the bedroom, which he needed to cross to reach it.

Thinking it was the maids belatedly coming to collect his soiled clothes, he waited. The voices came nearer and entered the bedroom. Then he realised the speakers were his wife, Elbeth and Queen Arwen and her ladies! The bathing chamber had only a thin wall adjoining the bedroom. Though he had no wish to eavesdrop, he could clearly hear every word.

Faramir retreated further into the bathing chamber, wrapping the towels more securely around himself. He sincerely hoped that the Queen was only there to brush her hair before the luncheon he knew she was sharing with Éowyn. Then he heard the wardrobe door being thrown open.

“I cannot decide whether I should wear my green gown with the gold embroidery or the blue and silver one,” Éowyn’s familiar tones stated.

“I think the blue one is better suited for the summer,” Arwen’s melodic voice replied. “Why not wear your russet gown tonight?”

“I fear it might clash with the orange you are wearing. I would like Elbeth to wear her orange dress too, if you have no objections?”

“Of course not, it is after all only a private family party. You should wear the russet, it suits your colouring and Faramir likes it. I just like to try to look nice for Estel.”

“You would still look fair if you wore an old sack, with your Elven beauty!” Éowyn exclaimed. “You will always look young and beautiful while I already have a few grey hairs!”

Faramir felt a pang of sorrow that already his beloved wife was worried about aging.

“I don’t want to wear an orange frock!” Elbeth interrupted. ”I like my pink one better!”

“Pink is a summer colour, orange is nice for autumn,” Éowyn explained. “You need to have some more dresses made before next summer, you are growing so fast!”

Although Faramir could not see her expression, he could just imagine the face his niece would be pulling.

“I hate having dresses made!” Elbeth said grumpily, “You have to stand still for so long and have pins stuck in you!”

“I never get pins stuck in me,” said Éowyn. “You won’t keep still, that is why!”

“I must choose my dress for tonight correctly,” Éowyn fretted, “I so want my husband to be proud of me and not regret marrying an uncouth shieldmaiden from the North!”

It took all of Faramir’s self restraint not to rush into the room there and then and tell his wife that he loved her whatever she wore, but it would be unthinkable to appear before the Queen and her ladies wearing only a towel!

“Why not try on both the green and the russet gowns?” Arwen suggested, “ I will tell you then, which I think suits you the best. Then I should like to try on your green and gold gown to see how the colour looks, before asking my seamstress to make me one in those shades.”

Faramir groaned inwardly. The women might be there for hours once they started trying on gowns. He was starting to feel very trapped. For once, he could understand Aragorn’s dislike of small spaces. He was also starting to get very cold and his arms were covered in gooseflesh. His only consolation was that the door was fastened so the Queen could not walk in to see him wearing so little.

“Thank you, dear friend,” Éowyn said gratefully, “You have such good taste and I value your judgement. I fear all eyes will be on me tonight when I lead the procession and I want to look as fair as the ladies of Gondor.”

Again Faramir, the unwilling eavesdropper, wished he could reassure her that he found her fairer by far. He held his breath, hoping that Arwen might take the gown to her own room to try it on. It was another dire breech of propriety for any man other than her husband to be in the next room when the Queen was undressing.

He heard a bell ringing outside and realised to his horror that he would be late for the council meeting if he did not escape soon.

It went quiet in the room and Faramir wondered if they had decided to go into Éowyn’s boudoir rather than remain in the bedroom. The reason her dresses were in the main bedroom was that the gowns for formal occasions needed a huge wardrobe to store them in.

Very cautiously, he opened the door a fraction of an inch and saw that the women were engrossed in looking in the wardrobe. The sparkling embroidery on some of the gowns fascinated even Elbeth.

Faramir had a sudden idea. As a Ranger, he could move swiftly and silently without being heard. Maybe he could slip past the ladies before they started trying on gowns. This was the best chance he would have to slip away unnoticed. He could call out and alert Éowyn to his plight but it would be so very embarrassing and break every rule of Gondorian etiquette by being seen in the vicinity of the Queen almost naked. Even for a man to be seen without a tunic by a high-ranking lady was considered a grave breach of manners and propriety.

Faramir carefully arranged the towels around himself, so that he was swathed in white from head to foot with only his eyes visible. Carefully, he opened the door again a crack. The women were still occupied with the gowns, their faces in the wardrobe.

Swiftly and silently he tiptoed across the room, willing them not to turn around. Once he reached the sanctuary of his dressing room, he closed the door quietly. Unlike the bathing chamber, the walls were far thicker and sturdier making it impossible to hear what was being said outside. It had been built as part of the original building and was designed as a male refuge from nagging wives and fretful children, though Faramir had always been able to hear Elestelle crying. No architect seemed able to insulate a room from the piercing howls of a crying infant.

“Look there’s a ghost! It’s Sarah, the white lady!” exclaimed Elbeth excitedly.

“I didn’t see anything,” Éowyn replied. You just saw this white gown!”

“No, I didn’t!” Elbeth protested, “I saw a ghost!”

“I sensed no unearthly presence, “ Arwen said placidly. “Maybe you have been listening to too many ghost stories?”

“We saw nothing,” said Arwen’s ladies.

“But I did see the white lady, I did!” Elbeth protested indignantly.

“I know what truly ails you, and making up naughty stories is not the way to be excused from duties you dislike,” Éowyn said crossly. ”Come on, young lady, you are returning to your lessons! I thought it would be a treat for you to help us plan what we would wear, but it seems not!!”

“I am telling the truth!” Elbeth protested.

“What about choosing your gown, Éowyn?” Arwen enquired.

“ I have decided to follow your advice and wear the russet one,” Éowyn replied.” I am weary of trying to decide. I want to visit my horses on the sixth level before it gets dark. You are welcome to borrow my dress. Why not see what Aragorn thinks of the colours?”

The women swept from the room.

Once Faramir was dressed, he cautiously opened the door. Somewhat to his surprise, he found the bedroom deserted. He hurried off to his meeting, thankful to have escaped so easily from his embarrassing predicament.

TBC

~~~

A/N.A big thank you to everyone who has reviewed.

Wishing all my readers a happy Halloween and all Saint’s Day.


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