“He is just so perfect! I think he has Éowyn’s eyes,” Faramir said for about the hundredth time. “My own son will become Steward after me!”
“Not for a very long time, I hope. I like the Steward I have now,” Aragorn said dryly. He stretched out his long legs and shifted to a more comfortable position. The two men had been banished on a hunting trip by Arwen, as soon as Faramir had been told the joyful news and glimpsed the new baby. The midwife had declared that Éowyn was exhausted and needed to rest.
Aragorn and Faramir had dined on stewed rabbit and then caught another for the pot. Their hunting completed, King and Steward relaxed sprawled on the grass in a sunny glade in Ithilien watching the swallows dart to and fro overhead. The summer air was perfumed with wild roses. Nearby, Roheryn and Zachus grazed contentedly on the lush grass, their riders having removed their tack.
“I must give Éowyn a special gift to thank her for the child she has given me,” Faramir said thoughtfully. “A mithril pendant of the emblems of the Houses of Eorl and Húrin might please her.” He suddenly became grave. “I should like a gift for Elestelle too. I should never wish her to think she is any less dear to me than the baby. I shall love them both equally. I shall never neglect her, or Elbeth.”
“I know you never would, mellon nîn,” said Aragorn. “I should love to have a daughter next.” For a moment he felt melancholy that his friend had two children already. Much as he and Arwen desired another child, they still only had Eldarion. He forced himself to cast such thoughts aside and share his friend’s joy.
The two men fell into companionable silence contemplating their hopes and dreams for the future.
The afternoon grew warmer. The two friends shed their outer tunics; there were none save the birds to see them informally attired. Aragorn grew sleepy and was soon snoring softly, his head resting on a bank of moss.
Faramir smiled indulgently at his friend. He was determined to stay awake. Despite his happiness, a feeling of growing unease was pricking at the edges of his consciousness. He berated himself for his foolishness. The sun became hotter, while the chirruping of the grasshoppers sounded almost like a lullaby. Faramir’s eyelids grew heavy. He had had little sleep the night before.
Aragorn was awakened by a loud cry. He leapt to his feet, instinctively reaching for his sword. He turned in the direction of the cry and beheld Faramir struggling to free himself from the thorny branches of a rose bush.
“I nodded off and fell into the bush,” Faramir said sheepishly. “I had forgotten it was behind me.”
Aragorn regarded him with a mixture of sympathy and amusement. “A rose bush is not a good place to sleep!” he remarked extending his hand.
“I had forgotten it was behind me,” said Faramir taking the proffered hand and trying to get up. “Ouch!”
“I had better cut you free.” Aragorn grimaced in sympathy. He raised Andúril and hacked at the bush. Faramir rather gingerly freed himself, wincing in pain as the sharp thorns tore his shirt and dug into his back.
“You are hurt! Let me see!” Aragorn ordered.
Faramir ruefully presented his bloodied back to for his friend’s inspection.
Aragorn carefully removed the twigs and leaves, which were sticking to his Steward’s back. Faramir’s white shirt was now speckled with blood. ”You have been badly scratched,” he commented wincing in sympathy.
“It feels like it!” Faramir said wryly.
“I have brought my healing supplies,” said Aragorn. “Arwen insisted that I bring them. She always fears some ill will befall us, for some strange reason!”
“Ladies do tend to fret, Éowyn is just as bad” said Faramir. “Still, your wife has been proved right.” He laughed inwardly that his feelings of unease had foreboded such a ridiculous accident.
Aragorn fetched his satchel from the far site of the clearing and rummaged in it. “Your wife is correct. There is not a scratch on me!” he said a trifle smugly. “You had better take your shirt off so that I can tend your injuries.”
Faramir cautiously removed his shirt and propped himself on his elbows. Aragorn carefully removed the remaining thorns embedded in Faramir’s upper back, and cleaned the scratches with water from his flask before applying some calendula salve. Faramir sighed contentedly as the stinging eased. “It could have been far worse,” he said “If the scratches had been over my face, I would never have heard the last of it from Éowyn, especially as next week there is the reception with the Ambassadors from Dale to attend.” Rising to his feet, he pulled his shirt back over his head. “Thank you, mellon nîn!” He hugged his friend gratefully.
By now the sun was starting to sink. “I think we should return home in time for the cook to prepare rabbit pie for supper,” said the King.
Faramir was thoughtfully studying the branches that Aragorn had lopped from the rose bush. “I think I will take the blossoms home for the ladies. It would be a pity to leave them here to wilt. They smell so sweet. Éowyn loves roses.”
“As does Arwen. I will cut them while you load our saddle the horses. You have had enough of rose bushes for one day!” said Aragorn. He set to work with a will, choosing the finest blooms for his beloved wife and good friend.
A few minutes later the two men were riding slowly homewards. Faramir noticed that Aragorn was holding Roheryn’s reins rather awkwardly. His eyes moved to his friend’s hands, one of which was marked with blood. “You have hurt yourself!” Faramir exclaimed in concern.
“It is only a scratch, no real harm is done” said Aragorn. “Alas, though, it seems that Arwen is quite correct in that I seem unable to avoid mishaps!”
Faramir grinned. “As ever, your lady speaks the truth!” The smile froze on his lips as a sudden feeling of dread assailed him. He heard an almost forgotten voice from long ago, as clearly as if the speaker were standing beside him. “Ride home to your lady with all speed, ion nîn. She has need of you and the King’s healing hands!”
“What is the matter?” Aragorn enquired seeing the frozen, far away look on Faramir’s face.
“My mother just spoke to me,” said Faramir. “Éowyn needs us to return at once!”
Aragorn did not hesitate. Faramir was farsighted and given to visions. ”Then let us make haste!” he said, urging Roheryn to a gallop.