The Rose in Bloom
3. Speaking out of Turn
Faramir escorted Éowyn back to her chambers in the Houses of Healing, and kissed her hand on the doorstep. Perhaps it was mere seeming, but a light shone about her and the rose crown as it had once when they were on the city walls. "Fairest of ladies, I bid you good night."
"Faramir..." she began but saw Ioreth coming down the hall with a candle in hand. "Until tomorrow, my beloved lord."
He bowed and she shut the door.
"My Lord Faramir," Ioreth greeted.
"I know the hour is late, my lord, but if you are not weary, I wish to have a word alone with you." She lowered her voice. "It is about the Lady Éowyn."
Thinking perhaps some wound still troubled his lady, Faramir said, "Of course." They walked silently across the courtyard to the bench on the walls where he and Éowyn had so often come. "My lord, I am speaking out of turn and against all custom, but you are a lord wise and noble, and Éowyn a lady fair and valiant. My heart will not let me keep silence. Lord Faramir, were a man to strike his wife so that she bled, and hung the marks of his deed as a banner, would you hold him in honor?"
"Of course not!" Faramir exclaimed, then suddenly thought of the marriage linens he had seen all through his youth. In his thirty-seven years, he had never considered that with the blood must come pain. The monthly custom of women was not an injury, it was part of what it was to be a woman, and somehow he had assumed that it was so with marriage linen. That it was the mark of a violent deed left him cold with horror.
"I am a healer," Ioreth continued. "It is my duty and delight to bind up that which is hurt. But that such a hurt should even be is a thing of shame and sorrow to me. I could not let your marriage begin with pain and fear and sorrow. Not for a custom that began as a shameful lie."
"What mean you?"
"The custom of the marriage linen began hundreds of years ago. A lord whose lady had died took another wife before the time of mourning was fulfilled, a woman of low reputation. The day after the wedding, he ordered the linen hung from a window in defiance of wagging tongues as proof of his lady's honor."
"Then it was a wise act, done to vindicate his lady."
"They had a strong, healthy babe six months later. But as he was a great lord, others followed the custom until every woman hung a stained linen from her window. Often it was marked with kine's blood, for the people of Gondor were yet gentle and wise. But in the last hundred years or so, we healers have seen actual injury from the consummation of marriage. Can you believe it? Injury! Injury on the night that should be blessed above all others!"
"But mistress," Faramir interrupted, struck by sudden hope. "Is it possible to thus love a maiden and not cause harm?" Another voice in his mind asked, 'Is it possible I am speaking these words with old Ioreth?'
Ioreth almost wept in relief. "Yes, my lord! I can tell you how, if you will pardon my boldness and hear the words of a meddlesome old wife."
"I would not harm Éowyn for all the world," Faramir mused. "I will hear you."
Ioreth looked out over the Pelannor. "If you would have neither pain nor sorrow on your wedding night, you must above all be patient. She will fear you..."
"I have never given her cause to fear!"
"I doubt you not, my lord," Ioreth soothed. "But she shall be a maiden alone with a great and mighty lord. She shall feel more vulnerable than at any other time in her life."
"You forget of whom we speak. This is the valiant White Lady who slew the Witch King."
"Her shield-arm was broken, my lord, but she foresaw harm from that fell wraith and wielded her sword with might. You are the husband of her choosing, and for you she shall cast aside every shield and weapon of both heart and mind. Thus disarmed and disrobed, she shall feel vulnerable. You are not a man that a maid need fear, but you must go slowly if you wish to not afright her. Let her hands be the first to touch a button or a lace. Let her be the first to approach the bed. And when it is time to consummate the marriage, do not take her virginity, but let her offer it to you freely."
Faramir felt his breath quicken at the thought. He had not dared, in the lone hours of the night, to dwell upon such a scene. But now Ioreth's counsel shaped his thoughts, and he was filled with both delight and longing.
Ioreth blessed whichever Valar was smiling on her tonight. Long had she wrestled with her own heart, wondering what words she should say, if she should say aught at all. Fair Finduilas had died before she could see this day and counsel Lord Faramir. Whatever words Lord Denethor may have spoken would have been stern at best, if not harmful. And worse still, Éowyn's poor mother had also died young. Ioreth considered herself too low to take the place of mother for either of them, but she could not let this wrong that had harmed so many blight the joy of lord and lady. Lord Faramir had hearkened to her thus far, to her joy, but her words now must be even more delicate. "Even though she come to you willingly, even though you be gentle, there may yet be pain if you are hasty. This is where lesser men fail the test, for they yield to their own desires to the harm of their brides. You must be patient! You cannot make a flower bloom by pulling back the petals. Let the rose bloom when it will. You cannot give her bliss by force."
"Tell her you do not wish to harm her, and ask her to forewarn you if you cause her discomfort. If your first attempt causes pain, halt."
Faramir almost laughed and thought 'That is easier said than done.'
"If she wishes, take your pleasure on her thigh, but do not make another attempt until the next day. Continue thus until she feels no pain. Within a fortnight, you will both find bliss."
Faramir sighed. "I would not be otherwise. I thank you for your counsel, Mistress Ioreth. You have shown great courage this night. Great indeed must be your love for the Lady Éowyn."
Ioreth curtsied low. "For both the Lady and her lord!" Then she left him, and he sat upon the wall, deep in thought late into the night.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.