Faramir walked down the long, dim corridor, pausing to glance at the many portraits, familiar from years of passing by them. There was Túrin II, a valiant man, and Turgon, who always appeared kindly to Faramir as a boy, and Ecthelion II, whose wisdom showed through the skill of the painter. Often had he wondered what it would have been like to know his grandfather, but he had barely been a year old at the time of his death. He stopped at the portrait of his father and gazed upon the noble face, sighing a little unconsciously.
"There are many who wish for different fates for those they love," came a soft voice a few spaces away.
Faramir looked over, startled, to find an older woman standing nearby, her hair grey with years. Her clothes were rich but simple in design, and her face bore a smile not unmixed with sadness. He remembered her vaguely from the company which had come from Rivendell for Aragorn's wedding. Among the many elves was one woman, aged but not feeble, and he had not had the opportunity to make inquiries as to her reason for being included in the party. Upon further reflection, he could not even name her, as his own steward had handled all of that. "I do not—" Faramir began, then cleared his mind to try again. "It is not that I would wish life to the valiant dead, but rather valor in death to those who displayed it not."
"And yet there was valor in his life, if not at death," she replied. "Remember him for what he accomplished then, not simply the manner of his passing."
Faramir wondered at her knowledge. "Who are you, to know these things?"
She smiled. "I am the Lady Gilraen, and as for knowing such, I must confess to asking many questions of my son. He was most forthcoming, if only to rid himself of me in order to spend more time with his soon-to-be bride!"
Faramir hastily bowed low as recognition dawned on him. "Your pardon, my lady. I did not realize who you were."
"No offense was taken. I am not yet accustomed to being royalty," Gilraen said, a hint of laughter in her words. "It is a new phenomenon."
He laughed a little. "Then you understand my position well! I had never expected to be Steward of Gondor. Each morning as I don the vestments of my office, I feel like a young lad dressing in his father's clothing and pretending to use his tools." He grasped the hem of his tunic, lifting it away from him to eye it with a rueful smile, then dropped it. "But I fear I am remiss in my duties as host! Have you been well-supplied in all your needs, my lady? Is there aught I can do for you?"
"I have been, thank you. Your steward was most thorough in making sure that I was well-cared for. But there is something you might do," she said.
"What is it?" Faramir asked. "It would please me greatly to see it done."
She smiled widely. "Oh, to have such eagerness to please from my son!" Her voice reflected the mirth evident on her face. "Though he is not unwilling to do his mother's bidding; other needs have driven him far from my side for many years. But that is beside the point. I would not have you call me 'my lady' at all times, or I shall be forever wondering who is addressed. For it has been many years since I dwelt amongst the Dúnedain as the wife of their chieftain, and to the elves I have been simply Gilraen."
Faramir looked upon her with growing warmth. "I shall be happy to do so, though I fear I may forget; it has been long since I have addressed any woman otherwise, save my cousin, and she is a good deal younger than I."
Gilraen's face grew thoughtful. "Estel did say you had few relatives, but I had not realized how few. Have you no aunts or grandmothers?"
He shook his head. "My mother had no sisters which survived infancy, and my uncle's wife died not long after my youngest cousin was born." He sighed and looked up at his father's portrait again. "My father's older sister did not survive the birth of her first child, and the younger fell ill with fever several years ago." His eyes rested on her face, a bittersweet smile on his lips. "And I am far too old for living grandparents."
"I sometimes forget how great is the difference between the Dúnedain and the men of Gondor as it pertains to the sum of one's years," she said, glancing up at the portraits once more. "Aragorn's grandmother Ivorwen was still living only a decade ago, and he was twice your age at the time." Her gaze matched his after a moment, serious yet kindly. "Shall we leave this hallway? The portraits are a little stern for my liking on such a merry morning." Faramir offered an arm, but she only laughed. "I am not so old as to need aid in walking just yet!"
Faramir flushed slightly. "Forgive me, my—" He halted his speech at a warning hand from Gilraen.
"I see this will never do," she said with a smile. "You cannot help but speak politely, which says much in your praise. So I will instead ask if you would call me Grandmother. For while I deem it likely that I shall see grandchildren soon, the other Dúnedain women my age have grandchildren already grown. And it seems to me that you have none of your own."
There was a twinkle in her eye as she said her piece, and Faramir could not help but return her smile. "As you wish, Grandmother."
"Excellent. Now, I fear I left my rooms before any news of breakfast, and while I am not a hobbit, to need more than one, I feel the lack of one keenly."
"I believe I can remedy that," Faramir told her, and smiled inwardly when she extended her hand to take his arm. "The morning meal is usually taken in this room," he began as together they turned away from the portraits and towards a sunnier hall.