There was no reason that Éowyn should feel the least discontent. Her house was large and well-appointed, and the beautiful gardens that Legolas Greenleaf had created for her deserved the admiration they received. Faramir, Prince of Ithilien, was a gentle and loving husband to her. And although she had not yet confided her suspicions to anyone, not even to Faramir, she was nearly certain that within seven months she would bear their long-awaited first child.
There was no reason that Éowyn should feel discontent. But discontented she was.
She most keenly felt this discontent on the days on which she and Faramir received nobles from Gondor, or visitors from other parts of Middle-earth, or those who had chosen to settle in the abandoned fields of Ithilien and help rebuild. For after the guests had been greeted and their news heard, after the meal had been served and good wine drunk, she rose and bade the wives come with her to another room. She smiled graciously and listened to their prattle, and tried not to let her boredom show on her face.
It was after one such evening entertaining the wife of the younger son of a Lord of Cardolan that, when she and Faramir at last came to their bedchamber, she threw herself down upon a bench with such a sigh that Faramir could not help but notice.
"You are restless tonight."
"Restless! Rather I am desperate to talk about anything other than embroidery. Lady Bryndis is highly praised for her skill with a needle. Did you know that?"
"I believe Lord Uthien mentioned it once or twice."
"If you heard it only once or twice, you are far luckier than I." She unfastened the silver clasp at her neck and began to unplait her long hair. "I am sure Lord Uthien talked about many more interesting things."
"That he did." And as Éowyn brushed out her hair, Faramir told her what Uthien had discussed with him, and asked her advice on a question or two, which went a long way toward easing her mood, for she knew that Faramir valued her opinion and gave it the full weight he would give the opinion of any man. On matters of state he always consulted her. But still it rankled that the custom of the land forced her to give her advice in private.
"Sometimes I wish I were a man," she grumbled.
Faramir regarded her fondly. "I know. You would sit in the Great Hall and hear every petty grievance and every plea."
"It would be more interesting than trying to find something to say about embroidery."
"I am sure you found the perfect words for Lady Bryndis. It is a great skill of yours. It is said – with much admiration, I should tell you – that you are equally at ease in conversation with all, from the lowest housemaid to the Lady Queen Arwen."
"And both equally bore me to tears!"
"You did not seem bored at our last dinner in Minas Tirith." Which was true, perhaps, but an unfair example to use, because it had been just the four of them, and they had all stayed together in the hall until late. "King Elessar himself –"
"King Elessar himself fought at my side, when he was only the Ranger Aragorn and I was only Éowyn of Rohan," she snapped. "A shieldmaiden may at least die for her King. But the lady wife of a prince is kept in a cage."
"I am grateful that this shieldmaiden did not die," said Faramir, settling himself beside her on the bench and running a hand softly through her hair, which now spread loose and golden across her shoulders. "And you know that talking about embroidery with dull noblewomen serves the King no less than slaying his enemies."
"I know." It was grudgingly said, but the heat had gone from her argument as Faramir stroked her hair, carding it through his fingers, gentling her as she would have gentled a balky mare. Now he kissed her, first on the neck and then on the lips, and willingly she rose when he did, and willingly she took his hand, and together they went to their bed.
Faramir never seemed to tire of tracing the curve of her body, from breast to waist to hip, over the fall of her gown, then over her chemise, and then, finally, as they lay in the bed together, over her skin. His broad hand cupped a breast as he curled around her, his legs tangled in hers, his chin on her shoulder. "You may wish what you wish," he murmured against her neck, "but at these times I am very glad that you are not a man."
She laughed as his beard tickled the sensitive spot under her ear. "I don't see why it must matter. When I was a maid in Edoras, the cook's boy and one of the stablemen seemed just like any courting couple – nay, Faramir, be not shocked!"
His hand, which had begun to travel from her breast toward the spot between her legs, had stilled just above her hip. "I am not shocked at what they might have done," he said – a bit primly, she thought – "but I am surprised that a maid of Edoras would know aught of what happens between men such as those."
"Well, I don't, exactly," she admitted. "I know only that something must. And I confess, I am curious." Impishly she reached out to give his prick a light squeeze; whatever discomfort he might have felt at her words certainly had not affected his male parts, she noticed. "What could they possibly do with two of these and no place to put either?"
Faramir made a choking noise that sounded suspiciously like a laugh. "As for that, my wife, they make use of the nether hole."
He slid his other hand over hers where it rested on his body and moved it back between his legs, over the soft sac, until her fingers rested…
"You are teasing me," she said in disbelief.
"Not at all. It is a quite pleasurable sensation, or so I've heard."
She was tempted, terribly tempted, to ask him how, exactly, he had "heard" this. But more than that, she could feel that it was not just her curiosity that had been awakened; she ached to have his hand continue its journey across her body, to have him caress her the way that he knew she liked, the way that unstrung her and made her gasp in his ear, and too direct a question might embarrass him, might unman him. So instead she only murmured, "Is it?" and pressed her fingers boldly where he had placed them.
He drew his breath in sharply, then exhaled, and when he spoke it was in a tentative, husky voice. "They use oils to ease the way."
The hand on her hip moved to her mound, and questing fingers dipped in; she moaned involuntarily, twisted under his hand, but he had only dipped his fingers into her well and drawn them out again. "As I do not produce the moisture that you do," he whispered, sliding his hand across the place where she touched him, and oh, yes, they were wet, they were dripping, and she took what he had given her and coated her fingers before pressing in again.
Faramir groaned and pushed against her hand, burying his face in her neck. It was an awkward position, with her hand curved between his legs, but she tried to give him what he seemed to crave, sliding her fingers in an imitation of the way that a man slides into a woman. His prick rubbed against her forearm as though of its own volition, hard and red and seeking, and her own sex throbbed with sympathetic yearning.
She shifted her legs so she could gain some contact with his body, and he must have felt it, her fine hairs and the wetness against his leg, because he slid from her fingers and rolled fully on top of her. "You so inflame me, my love," he murmured, and then gasped as she took him in.
Éowyn gasped as well, for it was like a balm, feeling him thrust into the place that had been longing for it. Twice, three times he moved within her, and she began to shake with the urgency that gripped her, the desire that spread through her like a slow-burning fire.
Suddenly he stopped moving, withdrew his body, looked at her with the easy grin she so loved. "Perhaps you would like the same?"
Her mouth went dry. She nodded, and gently he turned her over, so that she was on her hands and knees and he was behind her. It was not an unfamiliar position, but his prick, wet with her juices, thrust against an unfamiliar place; like a warrior storming a castle, it did not take her body's initial reluctance for an answer but battered, battered, until it lay fully within her.
It was not what she had been expecting.
"Is it all right?" he asked her.
"It feels…odd, I suppose."
"That will ease," he said confidently, and began to thrust again.
It did not ease. It was not exactly painful, although neither was it comfortable, but the intensity of pleasure she usually enjoyed was gone. It was as though she were an empty shell, a hollow woman made of stone cunningly worked to seem like flesh, but with no sensation, no feeling. And yet her yearning was still there, trapped within her stone flesh. If she could only have touched herself with her own fingers…but Faramir's weight was on her, and she could only support herself on the bed against his thrusts, and grit her teeth, and wait for him to shudder and collapse, so she could collapse as well.
Thankfully, it did not take long. When Faramir rolled off her back he looked slightly apologetic. "I don't believe you enjoyed that as much as I did."
"No," she admitted.
"So you prefer being a woman, after all," he said, sounding pleased; and before she could say anything he yawned, and pulled the covers over himself, and in minutes he was snoring.
Éowyn herself did not fall asleep for a long time.
The trunks Éowyn had brought with her from Rohan were still in her dressing-room; she might have given up battle, but she would not give up her mail or sword, or the clothes she used for riding a battle-steed. Or other things, she thought, as she carefully set each item to the side. There it was, at the bottom, wrapped in a cloth. She drew it out and smiled to herself.
Éowyn had grown into womanhood without a mother, but there had been plenty of women about the Golden Hall of Meduseld to watch over her. When she had turned twelve, an old midwife had explained that she would soon begin to bleed, and given her cloths and shown her how to bind them about her body when the time came. "And if you get the pain – most get the pain, and it can be powerful fierce, right here," she said, touching her hand to her own waist, "you come to me, child, for I make a brew that will give you relief."
All the women of Edoras came to the old midwife. She had herbs for the monthly pain and herbs for other pains, a medicine that would help bring on a child and one (the women whispered) that would keep a child from coming. And she had lengths of smooth wood, cunningly carved; and although Éowyn had never seen an unclothed man, she had seen stallions all her life, and she knew exactly what those wooden sticks were meant to be.
The women called it a widow's comfort, or sometimes a maiden's friend, and it was with no small embarrassment that Éowyn, at sixteen, stammered out that she would like to have one. The midwife looked closely at her, and she blushed.
Then the midwife laughed. "It is better for a girl of your years and station to have a friend of wood than one of flesh," she said.
And so she did, a steadfast friend indeed, until she was wed and put it at the bottom of her trunk. Now she unwrapped it from the length of white linen she had stored it in and regarded it thoughtfully. The polished oak gleamed, straight-grained from the rounded head to the base which was lightly curved to suggest a man's ball sac. It was smaller and more slender than Faramir's prick, but thicker than her fingers. It would serve her purpose.
It was the work of an afternoon to sew a harness. The stables were her province more than Faramir's, and nobody questioned the Lady Éowyn's need for leather straps or a stout needle. It was almost, she reflected, like fashioning something for a horse, like a bridle or a breastplate. Although in this case it was for the rider, not for the mount. So to speak.
When it was finished, she barred the door and slipped from her gown. But even with no one to see, she felt her face flame as she donned her handiwork; what had become of the demure White Lady? She had vanished, replaced by the strange creature in the glass: full breasts, hips wrapped by leather straps, an oaken prick jutting out. Not a woman, not a man, but some odd mixture of the two.
She had contrived the harness for function, but it was not, she thought, ugly. The straps were of finely-tanned leather, a pale brown that was only a shade darker than the down between her legs, a shade lighter than the oak shaft that it carried. Experimentally she pushed into her hand. The base of the shaft pressed against her body in exactly the right place, and she smiled. Her friend still remembered her. It only remained to introduce her friend to her husband.
It was nearly two weeks, however, before she found the courage to do so. Which was foolish beyond imagining; how was it that a woman who had faced Sauron's armies on the fields of Pelennor was not brave enough to wield a man's weapon in her husband's bed? But Faramir would reach for her, and she would think about the straps and the wooden shaft, the pot of oil she had hidden in the cupboard; and just the thought alone made her skin hot, burning under his touch, and she returned his caresses with equal ardor, telling herself that she needed nothing else.
But the truth, she scolded herself in the morning, was that she was not brave enough. Perhaps he would repulse her. Worse yet – perhaps he would laugh at her.
What hardened her resolve was a ship-captain from Dol Amroth, who brought with his trade goods news of the south, of bands of Haradrim roving northward. "The Harad Road has become a lawless place. The People of the Black Serpent do not take their defeat well, and there are tales of…" He looked at Éowyn, then back at Faramir. "But this is not fit for a lady's ear."
"My lady fought them at Pelennor," he said mildly, and bade the man continue. Which, granted, he did. But Éowyn was certain he abridged his accounts for her presumably delicate sensibilities, and his quick glances in her direction every time he mentioned bloodshed or battle made her ache to knock him to the ground. At least he had not brought his wife on this voyage – or, more likely, he had no wife – so there was no-one Éowyn was required to entertain.
"You believe they will press toward Gondor," said Faramir.
"Aye," said the ship-captain.
"So we must stop them at the Poros," said Éowyn, and the man looked at her in surprise, as though it were a marvel unheard of, for a woman to know the map.
"Aye," he finally said again. "Though it will be a harder task than it would have been in years past. The water is low this year, and the crossing has broadened."
Faramir called for the map to be brought to the room, and they spread it out on the table. "Here," said the captain, pointing to a spot some distance below the marked Fords of Poros. "With the proper craft, ordinarily the Poros is navigable nearly to the Fords. But it is now possible to cross just upstream of – no, you can't really see on this map. I can show you on my charts."
"Shall I send a man for them?"
"They do not leave my ship. But if you care to join me aboard, I will indicate the new crossings." Grudgingly he added, "You may even copy that portion of the chart. Only of that one chart, mind."
Faramir's mouth twitched, but he agreed to do so, and they rose, but when Éowyn moved to join them, the captain shook his head. "Begging your pardon, my lady, but it's an unlucky thing for a woman to board a ship."
Her face went blank, and she took a deep breath. "Then I bid you good night," she said as calmly as she could, and managed to not throw anything at the wall until she had returned alone to their chambers.
When Faramir finally joined her, she did not look up from her book. "I trust you have obtained a new chart of a small portion of the Fords?"
"The seafarers owe their allegiance to Lord Imrahil and to the King, not to me."
"It is in no one's interest to have the Haradrim at Gondor's gates."
"What he gave me was not much, but it will be useful." She set down her book and raised an eyebrow at him, and he sighed. "In truth, I am amazed that he would even allow me to see his chart. Those river-maps are held as precious by the ship-captains as gold is to the dwarves."
"Then I am pleased you were given the privilege."
He held out a hand, and she allowed herself to be pulled to her feet and into his arms. "If he sees only your beauty and not the intelligence and bravery that I know to be there, it is his own loss. As for me, I have no doubt that you are capable of nearly anything that a man can do."
She knew he was teasing her, but she lifted her chin. "Only nearly?"
Faramir's hands were already unfastening the buttons of her gown. "More than what most men can do, I will swear to it," he murmured, pressing his lips to the white skin of her breasts as the cloth fell away.
We shall see about that, she thought to herself, and she busied her hands with the unfastening of Faramir's trousers as he sucked at her nipples. Soon their garments were in a pile at their feet, and naked and laughing they chased each other onto the bed.
Éowyn pushed at Faramir so he lay on his back, then straddled him. The summer sun was still low in the sky despite the late hour, and it slanted in through the window, illuminating his fond smile. He liked it when she was bold, when she pressed him into the bed and took what she wanted, and so she did just that, grinding down onto his waist, tantalizing his prick by rubbing against it but not allowing it entry to her body.
"You tease me," he groaned. "Can you not feel my desire?"
"What of my desire?" she said archly, and he grasped her hips and rolled them both over.
"I shall endeavor to satisfy my lady." He slid down her body, licking a trail of fire, and her legs parted, seemingly of their own volition, to give his mouth access. The softness of his beard gave way to the insistent pressure of his lips and tongue, and when he slid his fingers into her she moaned and twisted under him. In her life she had been with no man but Faramir, and together they had discovered what gave her pleasure; now he applied those lessons earnestly with mouth and hands, and she gave herself over to him until she cried out with her release.
When she opened her eyes again, Faramir was lying on his side, his head propped on his arm, his eyes hungry and his lips shiny with her juices. "Shall I lie on top of you? Or will you ride me again?"
"Mmm." She stretched like a cat. "I would ride you, if you will only lie back for me," she said, and he did as she bade him. Then she slid to her feet and went to a cupboard, where she retrieved a length of cloth that she used to bind her hair when she wished to work without its distraction.
"I am waiting for you, my lady," he called out from behind her.
"Very well," she said, returning to him with the cloth in hand. But when she laid it over his eyes, he protested: surely she would not deprive him of the sight of her beauty?
"You have seen me enough to know my looks," she reproved him.
"I will never tire of the sight of your face as your pleasure overtakes you," he said, but he allowed her to tie the cloth as a blindfold. And perhaps it excited him, because his prick stood tall and full, and when she deliberately brushed it with her forearm he bit at his lip and moved his hips towards her.
Quickly she retrieved the harness she had sewn, and the oil she had hidden next to it. Her fingers felt thick and clumsy as she arranged the straps, every moment an eternity, and she hoped that Faramir would not ask her what she was doing that kept her so long out of the bed, or worse, decide to lift the blindfold and see for himself. But when she glanced at the bed he was smiling, lazily stroking himself with one hand.
"You cannot wait for me?" she asked when she returned to his side.
"If you will not touch me, I must do for myself."
"That will not do," she said severely, and moved his hands above his head, where he let her hold them as though they were tied by a cord. They played this game often: she would tease him with her hands, trail her hair across his chest and legs, trace patterns on his aroused body with her tongue. She would press her body against his hip or his thigh, and he would writhe and groan with helpless desire until she was ready to slide down onto him and give him relief.
She inclined her head so that her hair fell across Faramir's body, a long sweep from his chest down to his thighs. He arched his back, trying to gain more of her, but she pulled away until only the soft ends of her hair lightly brushed the tip of his straining prick. Her own body was aching for the feel of him inside her, but both of them would have to wait.
Instead she bent over him, taking care that he would not yet feel the leather or the wood. She kissed his lips, caressed his shoulders and chest with her fingertips, cradled his hips in her hands. Gently she urged him to turn, first on his side, then onto his stomach, and he obeyed her wordless commands without hesitation.
She knelt beside him on the bed and ran her hands down his back, down past his waist, down to the strong curve of his buttocks, the tops of his thighs. Her thumbs slipped between his legs, and he moved them apart, letting her explore; opening for her, encouraging her.
The pot of oil she had placed on the low table beside the bed. She dipped her fingers into the fragrant oil, then touched Faramir, first tentatively and then with ever greater boldness. She remembered how uncomfortable it had been when he had pushed into her in that manner, and she took care to move her fingers slowly and gently, dripping more oil onto his skin every time she felt resistance, until he was as smooth and wet under her touch as she could feel herself becoming beneath the harness.
With one hand she grasped his hip and pulled him up to his knees, and he reached back to take her slippery hand and place it on his prick. "Can you feel what you do to me, Éowyn, my love? How hard you have made me, how much desire I feel, how much –"
His words ended with a sharp intake of breath. Then, slowly, disbelief in his voice: "Éowyn?"
She smiled, and thrust again. Her prick had entered Faramir easily, and it slid home like a hand into a glove. She rocked against the base of the wooden shaft, feeling it rub at her pleasingly, then pulled Faramir's hips to her. "Yes, my Faramir?" she whispered into his ear, her voice as low and smoky as she could contrive it. She was rewarded with a groan, and he pushed hard into her hand.
"You—my wife, oh, my love, you are—you do—"
That was all. His broken voice gave way entirely, and he gasped, and drove himself back and forth, backwards onto her wooden prick and forwards into her oiled palm, panting as if he could not find enough air in the room to breathe.
Perhaps there was not enough air in the room. It seemed to her that it had become terribly hot; Faramir's back was covered with sweat, and her own body felt flushed and feverish. With the hand that was not on Faramir's prick she grasped her own at its base, grinding it hard against herself as she braced against Faramir's writhing body, and soon she was panting as well, matching him stroke for stroke and breath for breath.
It was Faramir who broke first, his whole body shuddering as with a shout he spent himself into her hand. And that was enough for Éowyn, the feel of him, the sight of him falling sweat-covered and limp onto the bed: I did this to him, she thought, and her own body began to shake with the waves of pleasure until she collapsed next to him.
They lay together for many moments, her arm flung across his waist, her face buried in his neck. Finally he groaned, began to move. When he reached for his blindfold she clutched at his wrist, alarmed. "No, wait a moment, let me—I would that you not see—"
"Éowyn." Gently he brushed her hand aside and moved the cloth from his eyes.
"Please," she whispered, suddenly mortified. Her frantic fingers scrabbled at the straps on her hips, trying to push the thing from her before he turned, before he could see, but he stilled her hands.
"I would see what my wife has wrought, for it has brought me great pleasure."
"It has made a mess of the bed."
"Messes can be cleaned," he said, running a hand down her side to pluck at the leather straps. "Well done, my love."
His frank admiration unsettled her, and she was not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed. Flustered, she said, "You see that I too have some skill with a needle."
"I see that you are a clever woman, who can indeed do anything a man can do."
"Well." She looked down. Her harness looked ridiculous to her now, and quickly she unstrapped it from her body, pushed it aside. "As to that, I think I must admit that there yet is one thing you can do that I cannot. But it is matched by what a woman can do that a man cannot. That I have done."
He raised an eyebrow at her. "You speak in riddles."
She took his hand and placed it over her womb. "That we have done."
He looked puzzled for a moment; then he understood, and he looked at her with wide eyes, awestruck and humble, and she decided she was, truly, content to be a woman, after all.