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Rounding a corner in the orchard, Faramir was surprised to see his son. Elboron, who sat beneath one of the flowering trees, seemed likewise astonished, and jumped to his feet.

"Hello, sir;" the boy stammered, as if he were a child caught at some mischief instead of an esquire on Midsummer leave. Faramir's eyes caught the flitter of something held tightly in Elboron's hands, now behind the boy's back.

"What is that you have there, son?" Faramir asked mildly. The boy tried to assume his usual cheerful mien, but could not quell a blush on his smooth cheeks. What was the lad up to?

Elboron struggled with his own fears for a moment, then manfully stuck out his chin and the hand that held a rolled parchment. "I bought it in the New Market in Osgiliath," he explained; "From a soldier who brought it back from Rhun."

Faramir took and unrolled the parchment. After perusing it for a minute, he could not help but smile over a faint twinge of sorrow. His little lad was indeed becoming a young man. It seemed like only yesterday that he had had to punish Elboron when the boy had put a frog down the back of his cousin's gown. Now, it seemed, Elboron was drawn to pursue very different sorts of pleasure.
Faramir gazed briefly at the colorful figures on the scroll, wondering idly if the Rhnim actually conducted such sport from a trapeze as in one of the pictures, or if the drawings were exaggerations. He chided himself. Elboron must learn that desire and its consequences could take a man beyond the bounds of games, without being made to fear the entanglements of love.

"You are not angered, sir?" Elboron was still young enough to have his voice rise at the most inopportune of times.

"Elboron, you are nearly fifteen years; and wise for your age," Faramir answered. "And you bear arms, as an esquire of the White Company. You are old enough to not only have curiosity about these matters, but to seek further knowledge. Far better that you should seek knowledge in books and parchments then in actual experience, for which, I deem you are still too young, though not for much longer." He gave his son a long, considering look. Elboron was a handsome boy, tall and broad-shouldered, with a pleasing face framed by a wealth of fair hair. Women would like him even were he not heir to Ithilien and the Stewardship of Gondor.

Elboron shifted his feet awkwardly, but his gaze was clear. "I have had no experience of women, or even girls, yet, sir." he said quietly.

Faramir smiled at his son. "There will be plenty of time for it, my lad. I know that you are good-hearted, and would never use a lass, or a lady, meanly, merely to gratify lust."

"Oh, no sir!" Elboron seemed horrified at the very thought. Good! "But, you are right; I was curious."
"I ask only that you keep the scroll away from the eyes of those who are unready for it," Faramir declared. "Chiefly your sisters, and of course your younger cousins, and the King's children."

"Certainly, Father."

Faramir turned to leave, believing that the lad sought privacy.

"Father?" Elboron blushed again. Did he still have questions about the acts of bodily congress between men and women? Faramir had done his best to explain all that to his heir a few years ago, but doubtless time and growth had only broadened Elboron's curiosity.

"Yes, my son?"

"You can read and write the tongue of Rhn," Elboron replied, his brow furrowing slightly. "Well enough to draft treaties for the King. I-I can read only a few words of this text, and would know more. Could you go over some of the passages with me?"

Well, it would certainly make for more interesting practice of his skill, Faramir thought. His usual employment of the Eastern languages was limited to diplomacy and trade.

Faramir remembered the day when he and Boromir and their cousin Eldahil had found a certain chapter in a certain book of healing in the Library of Minas Tirith, and had clustered around the old tome, poring over the drawings and detailed text until the librarian had chased them from the chamber for distracting serious scholars. Though times and tides of war change, some things are constant, Faramir said to himself. It was not the first time that his children had spurred him to make that observation.

He sat down on the ground beneath the one of the larger trees, savoring the soft, sweet smell of the cherry blossoms. Elboron followed suit, and carefully spread out the scroll before them.

Faramir studied the graceful letters beneath the cavorting figures of brightly colored men and women and creatures for a few moments, and began: "The text is written in Varasi, the common language of some of the Eastern lands, as Westron is to us and our allies. I know that you speak Varasi fairly well; but you were not taught the alphabet, which differs from Tengwar. Yet there is not that much writing here, merely a phrase or two beneath each of the drawings. This one says, 'Behold, students of love, the way of the bee and the flower'"



Author's Notes: The allusion to Faramir and Boromir's research into a book of healing at the library of Minas Tirith with their cousin Eldahil is taken from Book Learning (which can be found at by Branwyn (who created the character of Eldahil), and is used here with her permission.

As far as I know, Tolkien never revealed the languages or alphabets of the people of Rhn or Khand. I have invented a lingua franca for at least some parts of Eastern Middle-earth, and called it Varasi, inspired by the Variags, and by the Farsi language in our own recorded history.


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