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89
The Salt of the Earth

Title – The Salt of the Earth
Author: Linda Hoyland
Characters/Pairing: Faramir, Aragorn, Arwen
Rating: G
Warnings: None
Book/Source: LOTR book-verse
Disclaimer – Middle-earth belongs to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

In loving memory MJM

Faramir smiled his thanks to the serving maid who placed a steaming bowl of soup in front of him. He was spending the night in his apartments in the City after a day spent negotiating with a trade delegation from Khand. As was their custom, the King and Queen had invited him to dine with them.

The Steward sniffed the aroma wafting from the dish appreciatively then picked up the elaborate silver saltshaker and sprinkled a little in his soup. He then swallowed a mouthful and smiled.

"Do you like it, Faramir?" Arwen enquired.

"I have acquired quite a taste for mushroom soup after Merry and Pippin convinced me of its merits," the Steward replied.

"I meant the saltshaker, not the soup," said the Queen. "I know well that you enjoy anything made from the recipes sent by our Hobbit friends."

"It is very fine workmanship," said Faramir studying the saltshaker more closely, albeit with little enthusiasm, which he reserved for the soup.

"It was a gift from the envoy from Khand," said Aragorn. "A little too elaborate for my taste, as I sense it is for yours, but I felt we should at least use it once at a private gathering such as this, so I can truthfully tell the envoy his gift is appreciated. We all know how they value salt in Khand. When I was there in my younger days, they used it as their currency."

"Some Men have strange customs," said Arwen. She picked up the saltshaker and studied it closely. "This figure represents one of their gods and the salt comes out of his mouth!"

"I will never forget the saltshakers we had in the nursery when I was a child," said Faramir, a faraway expression on his face. "How I loved them!"

"You loved a saltshaker?" Aragorn could not contain the surprise in his voice. Faramir had confided many things about his childhood , he found strange but this was one of the most surprising yet.

Faramir finished the last of his soup and put down his spoon. "When Boromir and I were children," he began, "we usually ate our meals in the nursery at a long table that doubled for our lessons. Boromir liked a lot of salt on his food, as did I, but I was too small to reach across the table. This led to some unseemly scuffles over passing the salt. At Mettarë, when Uncle Imrahil came to visit, he announced he had brought us saltshakers as gifts; one each, so that we would no longer fight. Boromir and I were most disappointed, but our sorrow gave way to delight when we unwrapped our gifts."

"It still seems an unsuitable gift for children," Arwen observed. "I could not imagine giving Eldarion a saltshaker!"

"These were special ones," Faramir explained. "They were made out of polished wood to resemble soldiers, Citadel Guards to be exact; their painted uniforms perfect copies of the ones worn by real soldiers. Uncle Imrahil gave us a solemn lecture that we must respect them, as our soldiers are the salt of the earth. Boromir and I loved them. We gave them names and even took them to bed with us."

Aragorn grinned broadly. "Your beds must have been full of salt!"

Faramir laughed. "That did indeed happen and we were made to do extra lessons as a punishment. Our nanny, though, bought some ordinary saltshakers from the market to use at table. She told us we could play with the others, so long as we did not damage them, and they were put to their proper use when our Uncle came to visit. The paint became rather worn, but he assumed it was from constantly shaking them."

"Do you still have them?" Arwen enquired.

"I think so," said Faramir. "I will see if I can find them before I re-join Éowyn at Emyn Arnen tomorrow."

"Perhaps we could have them on the table when we next dine together," said Arwen. "I should like to see them."

"So should I," said Aragorn, a gleam of interest in his eye. Those wooden soldiers should march again. They say old soldiers never die."

"Nor do men ever cease to be boys at heart!" Arwen laughed.

A/N This story is based on fond memories of a salt and pepper in the shape of two wooden soldiers set my Mother bought me when I was a small child. loved the red and black uniforms and bearskins of the soldiers who guard the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

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