Fairer Than Ivory, Silver, or Pearls
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Snowdrops and Bluebells: 11. Chapter Eleven
Faramir’s great shout rings out as trumpets and flutes, viols and voices raised in song echo him immediately. I feel my heart swell with pride as I look at the man I love from where I stand between Elfhelm the Marshal and the other knights of the Mark. “What a glorious day this is,” I say, more to myself than anyone else, but Elfhelm somehow hears me and grins.
“A glorious day indeed, my lady! You shall tell your children and grandchildren of it, the day you saw King Elessar crowned by the hands of Gandalf! Rejoice greatly that we all have lived to see this come to pass!”
You shall tell your children and grandchildren of it . . . I realize how right he is, for I will have children now, and I shall be able to gather them round my hearth and speak of Aragorn looking like one of the sea-kings of old, full of wisdom and light and beauty past all bearing; of Gandalf the White seeming to be one of the Valar come to earth; and of their uncle Eomer shining like a golden god. But I will also speak of their father, as noble and splendid as the King himself, and of the four curly-headed hobbits that I keep stretching up on my toes to see clearly. All four have an honoured place at the King’s side; but as busy as they are with the ceremony, Merry still twists around, looking for me. He picks my face out of the crowd and flashes me both a brilliant smile and a quick wink. I smile as well, filled with eagerness to talk with my dear friend at last, for we have had no time to ourselves since the armies have returned.
I manage not to squirm too much until the ceremony ends, and then the King and Gandalf lead the masses up through the City’s levels as they go to the Citadel. The press of bodies, and the overwhelming scent of flower petals crushed underfoot, makes me sway dizzily, but I somehow work my way to Faramir’s side and catch his sleeve.
“Eowyn!” He slips a protective arm about my waist and kisses me swiftly. “Was not the crowning magnificent?”
“Indeed it was, but I have a more important question to ask, my dear Faramir.”
“And that would be?” He cocks an eyebrow in amusement.
I nod towards the four hobbits wedged between Aragorn and Gandalf. “Forgive me for being hopelessly impatient, but I must see Merry, and I know you are equally anxious to speak to Frodo and Sam—though maybe not Pippin, after he threatened to steal me away!”
Faramir grins. “And should I be jealous?”
I laugh and wrinkle my nose. “Only if you fail to treat me as well as you ought! But shall we be able to meet privately with all of them soon?”
“I daresay I can arrange something once we reach the Citadel. Wait by the fountain in the Court of the White Tree, and I shall pry our beloved band of hobbits out of the King’s clutches.”
“Thank you,” I murmur gratefully as we continue to walk upwards.
The great crowd reaches the Citadel sooner than I expected. As most push their way into the throne room, I work my way over to the fountain outside. I sit down and idly draw my hand through the cool water, watching the ripples and wondering how long I must wait to see my friends. I lose track of time as I enjoy the feel of the water against my skin, letting the sun’s warmth lull me into a kind of wakeful dreaminess.
My head snaps up at Merry’s joyful shout. He sprints across the courtyard and flings himself against me, making me rock back towards the water. Somehow I keep my balance and hug him in return, laughing at his impetuosity. “Is this any way for a knight of the Mark and the King’s squire to behave, Meriadoc Brandybuck?” I try to sound stern, but fail completely, for I am laughing too hard.
He reaches up and pulls my head down so he can kiss my cheek, and then hops up onto the fountain’s side beside me. “It’s the way this knight behaves when he’s too happy for words, my lady,” he replies with a wide smile. “So you are marrying Faramir? When is the wedding? Soon, I hope!”
Before I can answer him, a sharp cry from the courtyard’s other end interrupts us.
“Over here, Pippin!” Merry motions to the figure in Gondor’s black and silver livery, and he too races to me with scant concern for dignity. Merry climbs to his feet as his cousin reaches us, and makes me a formal bow.
“Lady Eowyn, may I present my cousin, Peregrin Took, of Tuckborough, and heir to the Thain of the Shire. Pippin, this is my dear friend and comrade, the Lady Eowyn of Rohan.”
I look down in surprise as Peregrin bows to me in turn and then gazes up at me with frank eagerness. I did not think it possible for any other creature in the whole of Middle-earth to be saucier than Merry, but now I see how wrong I was. Pippin is thinner than Merry, and is practically jumping with nervous energy. His green eyes sparkle with a level of mischief that must have made his family quail, and his brown curls appear to have not confronted a comb for some time.
I curtsey to him. “It is a pleasure to meet you at last, Master Peregrin.”
“The pleasure is all mine, truly! Merry told me how beautiful you were, and he did not exaggerate. Did you tell Faramir what I wrote in Merry’s letter?”
I laugh at his breathless question. “What a way to start a conversation! Yes, indeed, I told Faramir, and he has exerted himself to please me. So I fear you are out of luck where I am concerned.”
Pippin gives me a look of mock crestfallenness. “A pity—now you’ll never know what a fine husband a hobbit makes, even for one of the Big Folk. May I settle for being another brother?”
“You may indeed.” I kneel down and embrace him; he returns it with enthusiasm, tightening his grip on my waist. Just then, another voice rings out.
“Hands off, Master Peregrin! I told you I am willing to shoot poachers!”
Pippin turns and laughs as Faramir walks towards us, trailed by two other hobbits that hang back, waiting to see what happens next. My betrothed ruffles Pippin’s hair as he playfully wraps an arm around the neck of my erstwhile suitor. “I may owe you my life, my Tookish friend, but that does not mean Eowyn is yours for the taking! Behave, youngling, or it will go hard for you!”
Pippin laughs as he dodges away from Faramir. “Yes, my lord, I understand, but you must know by now it’s second nature for a Took to tease the ones he cares about!”
“Excuses, excuses,” says Faramir airily. He reaches behind him and grasps his two companions by the shoulders, pushing them forward to stand before me. “Here are two more members of the Fellowship you have not met, Eowyn, and they are the bravest of them all. May I present Master Samwise Gamgee, the very best of friends, the most loyal of servants, and the finest of gardeners.”
The sturdy plump hobbit blushes and gives me a clumsy bow as he takes one of my hands. I like him immediately, for his round face has a sweetness and goodness about it that makes me want to cuddle him and protect him against the slings and arrows of the world, despite what he has already endured. There is no guile in his warm brown eyes, only a love and courage that shines out like the light of Earendil itself. He looks up at me and stutters, “I-I’m very pleased to meet you, m’lady, and I’m glad to hear you and Lord Faramir are to be married.”
“Thank you for your felicitations, Master Samwise, and I am honoured to meet you as well. But do not call me ‘my lady’ in the future; we are friends already, so please call me by my name.”
“Very well, m—Eowyn, and I will be Sam to you.”
I turn to Faramir as he gently places the final member of the quartet of hobbits before him. “And this is Frodo Baggins, the Ringbearer and the savior of Middle-earth,” he says with love and respect. I dip down into a deep curtsey and take his hands in mine.
“I am honoured and humbled to meet you, Mister Baggins. I have heard much of you from your cousin.”
“If that’s the case, then you should only believe half of what Merry has told you—and you must call me Frodo too,” he says with a faint smile. I stare down at him, fascinated by what I behold.
He is shorter than Merry or Pippin, as is Sam—I make a mental note to ask Merry about the difference later. His dark-haired beauty would be striking in a man, and is even more startling in a hobbit. I am forcibly struck by a translucence and transparency in his pale skin that belies his surface appearance of health and speaks to the price he has paid in destroying the Ring. But the true witnesses to Frodo’s sufferings are his huge blue eyes, which dominate his fine-boned face. As I peer into their azure depths, I can see the endless pain and heartbreak this small hero will carry with him for the rest of his days. Shaken to the core, I kneel again and ask him earnestly, “How are you faring, Frodo?”
“I am well enough, so do not worry,” he says softly. “But I would rather speak of you wedding Faramir. Have you picked a date?”
“Yes, Eowyn, when is the wedding?” demands Merry. He and Pippin flank me on either side and look at me expectantly.
Faramir says, “Patience! Eowyn and I have not yet set a time to be wed, for she must leave Minas Tirith soon and return to Edoras with King Eomer.”
“You’re leaving?” says Merry in dismay.
“Must you? We hoped to spend more time with both you and Faramir,” adds Frodo.
“And I’ve not had the chance to really charm you, Eowyn,” Pippin says with a grin.
“I am very sorry to go, but I have no choice. Eomer needs my help to bring fresh order to Rohan, and to prepare King Theoden’s funeral. Surely you all understand?”
Merry sighs. “Of course we do, but it seems like you and I do nothing but say goodbye anymore.”
I reach out and pull he and Pippin against me as Faramir wraps his arms around Frodo and Sam. I look up at my beloved and feel the happiness surging through my blood.
“Yes, Merry,” I say, the joy bubbling up in my voice, “but remember, this goodbye is not the end, but only the beginning.”
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