"I wonder if our husbands are enjoying themselves as much as we are?" mused Éowyn. She floated languidly in Lady Adiva's soğukluk beside Arwen and her hostess.
"Estel finds the heat hard to tolerate," said Arwen. "He has been looking forward to swimming in the river with Faramir all week. It is a pity that Tahir would not join them."
"It is forbidden for any not of our tribe to see the ritual markings, esteemed friends," said Adiva.
"Our husbands always bathe in a secluded spot," said Éowyn. "The men of Gondor and Arnor dislike being seen unclothed too."
"Tahir is not a strong swimmer. I doubt he would enjoy it." said Adiva. "There is little water to spare in our homeland. The hamam there rarely has a cool room. This is bliss, honoured friends!" She splashed happily.
"We have Gimli and his fellow Dwarves to thank for installing water pipes in the City," said Arwen. "Since we ladies can hardly swim in the river, we truly appreciate you inviting us to enjoy your soğukluk."
"The pleasure is mine, esteemed friends," said Adiva.
For a few moments, the only sound heard was the splashing of the three friends enjoying a respite from an unusually warm late spring.
"How are your children?" Arwen asked. "Has Elwing- Maysan's cough improved and is Beren - Bahadur enjoying solid food now?"
"The medicine that esteemed Lord Aragorn sent for Elwing has cured her completely," said Adiva. "Beren is fully weaned now. I am hoping my next baby might be a child of the Lord of the Moon and his Lady. Tahir says he would be happy for me to have a moon child for the Lord and Lady."
"What is a moon child?" asked Éowyn.
Before Adiva could answer, her devoted maid Falah appeared. "Would you like sherbet tea, esteemed ladies?" she asked. "I have added cooling mint today."
"Yes, please," the three ladies replied.
Falah picked up the towels that lay folded at the side of the marble pool and wrapped them around each lady as they emerged from its depths. Éowyn, who of the three felt the heat the most, remained seated at the edge of the pool, dangling her feet in the water.
As soon as the ladies were dried, Falah massaged them with fragrant oil made from lavender and tamarind, before slipping gossamer light robes over their heads. Arwen and Adiva settled themselves on cushions set a little way back from the pool and thanked Falah as she gave them glasses of refreshing sherbet tea.
"I have never heard of a child of the moon in all my long years," said Arwen as she sipped her drink.
"You know not the legend even though honoured Lady Éowyn is Princess of the Moon Land?" Adiva asked. "You surprise me, esteemed friends."
"Faramir loves lore and sharing the old tales with me," said Éowyn. "He has never spoken of moon children, though. The story must be unique to your people."
" I will tell you, esteemed friends, " said Adiva. "It is one of the most sacred legends of our tribe. Long, long ago, Badra, the most beautiful of maidens, dwelt in the Land of the Moon. In those days, the Lord of the Moon dwelt alone and had no consort. He only shone half as brightly as the Lord and Lady now shine together. Badra sensed that the Lord of the Moon was lonely and every night when he appeared in the sky, she would dance beneath his silver rays."
"What a fair image that creates in my mind!" Arwen exclaimed. "I used to love to dance beneath Lady Varda's stars."
"How you must miss that, esteemed friend!" Adiva exclaimed.
"When Faramir and Éowyn invite Estel and I to visit them in Ithilien, I can dance beneath the stars again," Arwen replied, smiling at the memory of a most romantic night she had recently spent with Aragorn. "But, please continue your story. What happened to Badra?"
"One day, a young prince of our tribe named Anjum, went riding. He lost his way and for many days, he rode seeking the right path. Eventually, he came to the Moon Land. The Lord of the Moon was just rising in the sky when he arrived and he caught sight of Badra dancing. At once, he was filled with desire for her and vowed to make her his bride. He came to her father's house and offered him many horses and camels in exchange for her hand in marriage. Soon a bargain was struck and Badra's father told her to prepare for her wedding the very next day. Badra had no wish to leave the Moon Land, but she had to obey her father's wishes.
"Poor girl!" said Éowyn. "I would have fought against such a marriage."
"I would most surely die if forced into a union of that nature," said Arwen.
"Such is the custom, esteemed friends, as I told you concerning my own marriage," said Adiva. "Anjum was a fine man, young and fair to the eye. Had she not been forced to leave the Moon Land, Badra would have considered him a good match. She asked her father's leave to spend the night before her wedding dancing beneath the moon's silver rays. Her father granted her wish. She danced for the Lord of the Moon, poured out her heart to him, and told him she did not wish to leave him.
He was filled with love for her and replied, 'Have no fear, beloved. Wherever you dwell, I shall still watch over you in the night sky and one day we shall be together again. Now dance for me once more and I will give you a precious gift.'
Badra danced again and the moon's rays shone down upon her. It was then a miracle happened and she conceived a child."
"A great marvel indeed," said Arwen. "Was Anjum not angry though?"
"Badra's son was born nine moons to the day after she danced with the Lord of the moon," Adiva replied. "She named him, Tahu. Anjum believed the boy to be his son and was well pleased with him, for never was a fairer child born in all the land. His eyes shone brightly and within their depths, you could see the moon, his true sire. As soon as he was weaned, though, Badra sickened and died."
"This is such a sad tale," said Éowyn.
"Ah, but it is not over yet, esteemed friend," Adiva replied. "Badra died at sunset, so they could not bury her until sunrise the next day. Anjum was overcome by grief at the loss of his wife and decreed that her body be left in the walled garden where he used to walk with her each evening. When his servants came to take the body to be buried the next day, it had disappeared without trace. That night Lady Moon rose in the sky for the first time. The Lord of the Moon had found his bride and they are united still. They share the task of giving their gentle light to the earth. Monthly they are united and shine together. When the moon is dark, they have retired to their celestial chamber to rest."
"A strange and wondrous tale," said Arwen. "What became of the child?"
"Tahu thrived and grew tall and strong," said Adiva. "When he grew up he became a mighty warrior, but he was ever ready to show mercy to his foes. He was loved by all and lived to a ripe age. He had many wives and concubines, and from his line is our illustrious Kha Khan descended, as too are Tahir and I and all of our tribe."
"Your tribe is blessed indeed," said Éowyn.
"That was not the only blessing bestowed upon us," said Adiva. "The Lady of the Moon watched over her son from the sky and was sad that there was only one such child. She spoke with her husband and told him that it would not grieve her if he gave moon children to some of her son's descendants."
"How could that be?" asked Arwen.
"After a woman has given her husband several children, she may ask him if the Lord of the Moon might sire her next child. He will raise the child as his own, but its true sire with be the Moon Lord. These children have a special destiny and are allowed to choose their own paths.. A man child might become a great scholar or a warrior, while a maid child might be a healer or a priestess, if she so chooses. I have spoken with my esteemed husband and he says I might ask this favour of the Moon Lord, but I would now ask your help."
"Our help?" Éowyn raised her eyebrows a little.
"Your help especially, esteemed friend, and the gracious Lord Faramir's."
Éowyn's eyebrows almost touched the top of her head.
"A moon child would be especially blessed if it were conceived in the Moon Land," said Adiva. "I wondered if I might perform the ritual in your Ithilien."
"What is this ritual?" Éowyn asked.
"I must do as Badra did and dance before the Lord of the Moon when he is alone in the sky. Lore states that I should perform the dance on the day after I have bathed to cleanse myself after my moon cycle. That month, Tahir will shun my bed until three days pass after the ritual. I have counted and next month the Lord of the Moon should be in the sky at the right time."
"Faramir and I would be very happy for you to come to Ithilien," said Éowyn.
"May you always walk in shade, esteemed friend!" Adiva beamed with delight. "I have another favour to ask of you, esteemed friends. Tradition states that women alone may attend the moon dance. Farah will, of course, accompany me, but tradition demands that a wife seeking to have a moon child must be accompanied by ladies of exemplary virtue who can attest that the child truly belongs to the Moon Lord and not some miscreant lover! My honoured husband knows I would never betray him, but there might be evil tongues that would wag."
"We would be happy to accompany you," said Arwen. "Estel will be happy for me to take the children to Emyn Arnen for some country air and for me to come to your ritual."
"I will come too," said Éowyn. "I doubt I will be leaving Faramir and the children for any longer than when I come here to visit you."
"How blessed I am to know you, esteemed friends," cried Adiva. "You are certain you do not mind being part of a ritual in honour of the Moon Lord?"
"Not at all," said Arwen. "Estel and I have enjoyed your Moon festivals which we have attended. We believe that you seek like us to honour the Highest Source of Goodness."
Adiva nodded. "That is indeed what we seek, esteemed friend. I am hoping that the Lord and Lady of the Moon will grant me another girl child. Tahir has given me four fair sons, but only one daughter. My Elwing needs a sister to play with."
"I shall arrange your visit with Faramir as soon as I see him," said Éowyn. "It is time for me to return home. Thorongil will be hungry."
Farah emerged from where she had been sitting quietly in the background. "I will help you dress honoured Lady Éowyn."
Arwen rose gracefully to her feet. "We shall look forward to your ritual, my friend."
Faramir was happy to invite Lady Adiva and her youngest children to visit Emyn Arnen, but less pleased at the prospect of his beloved wife and the Queen, not to mention the Ambassador's wife and her maid, venturing out after dark without male protection." We have worked hard to cleanse Ithilien of evil creatures," he said, "who knows, though, what might still linger and prowl after the sun sets? It is not long since Aragorn was attacked by a lynx and there might still be Orcs or wargs to contend with, or evil men as I know all too well."
"I thought we could ride to the woodland clearing where the children enjoy picnics," said Éowyn. "It is not very far from the house and the path is sure underfoot. The moon will light our way. I shall take my sword and Arwen her bow. We can ward off threats as well as any man."
"I shall station some of my Rangers within earshot," said Faramir after thinking for a few moments. "I respect Lady Adiva's faith and desire that no man be present. The men will be unable to see what is taking place and will remain unseen, but they will watch that no evil being goes your way and come to your aid should you need them."
"It is not needful," Éowyn protested.
"I believe it is," Faramir replied, in a tone that reminded Éowyn of a Captain giving orders to his men. She scowled but argued no further.
Adiva and her children arrived a few days later together with Arwen, Eldarion, and Farawyn. Éowyn decided not to tell her about Faramir's Rangers. She knew the men well and fully trusted them to obey their orders and not attempt to watch the ritual: Adiva, though, would lack the trust in them that she enjoyed.
"The Lord of the Moon will be alone in the sky for the first time tonight," said Adiva. "The sky is clear, so I will dance beneath his rays tonight.
Elbeth, Faramir's niece, had been sitting in the solar with the ladies, cuddling her now beloved cat, Laurea. "You are going dancing in the moonlight?" the girl exclaimed. "That sounds fun. May I come too?"
Adiva looked the girl up and down as if trying to decide. "It is a ritual for women," she said at last.
"I am no longer a child," Elbeth replied. "I have had moon cycles for two years now. I am trained in the healing arts and helped to deliver Thorongil."
"The Lord of the Moon gives an especial blessing when young maidens are present," said Adiva. "If your honoured kinswoman permits it , I would welcome your presence."
"Please, Aunt Éowyn!" Elbeth begged, her tone more like that of a pleading child than the young woman she had become.
"Very well," Éowyn replied. "It should be a special experience for you. Remember, though, to be very quiet and show respect for what Lady Adiva believes."
It was a perfect June night when the small party set on horseback along the track Faramir and his men had cleared through the woods. It took only a short time to reach the forest glade.
Adiva and the other ladies dismounted and looked around her, taking deep breaths. The glade was surrounded by oak and birch, and fragrant juniper and pine. A stream, gleaming silver in the soft moonlight rippled through the glade while the air was scented with spring blossoms. Nightingales sang their melodies from the treetops and somewhere in the distance, an owl hooted. "This is a fair place indeed, esteemed friends!" Adiva cried in delight. "Surely, the Lord of the Moon will bless us in such a spot!"
Falah unpacked the saddlebags and brought out a small drum, an instrument that resembled a lute and a kind of flute. "Which instrument would you like me to play. honoured mistress?" she asked.
"The Lord of the Moon likes all instruments," said Adiva. "I am not certain."
"Maybe if Falah plays the melody, we could take up the rhythm?" Arwen suggested. "I could sing for you."
"I can play the lute a little," said Éowyn.
"Please let me play the drum!" begged Elbeth.
"Thank you, esteemed friends, you do me great honour," said Adiva.
Falah took up the flute and began to play a tune, both wild and haunting. Arwen, Éowyn, and Elbeth listened for a few moments then added their accompaniment. Arwen sang a wordless melody in a sweet clear soprano, which weaved around the tune Falah was playing on the flute.
Adiva stepped into the centre of the clearing and raised her arms in supplication towards the moon. "Gracious Lord of the Moon, your humble supplicant comes before you tonight begging that I might be found worthy to bear a child for you. Freely I offer myself and freely my lord consents." At the conclusion of her prayer, she unfastened the travelling cloak she was wearing and cast it aside. Beneath it, she wore only a simple linen shift.
Then she began to dance, at first tentatively then with increasing confidence. Her body writhed and swayed in time to the music until she almost seemed to become part of it and of the moonlight itself.
Gone was the sedate matronly Ambassador's wife. In her place was some elemental force of nature as Adiva danced and her friends provided the accompaniment.
Time seemed to stand still as she moved, bathed in the rays of the June moonlight.
She danced until she could dance no more and sank exhausted on soft grass. "I feel the Lord of the Moon has smiled upon me tonight," she said as Falah fetched her cloak and Arwen helped her to her feet.
They rode back to the house in silence, overwhelmed by the power of the ritual. Once Elbeth opened her mouth as if to ask a question, but she said nothing, respecting the silence of her elders.
The moon bathed the group in its silver rays and illuminated the path before them.
Faramir had a meeting to attend in the City the next day and escorted Arwen and her children home. Adiva remained with Éowyn at Emyn Arnen. Two days later, Tahir came to join her. Their reunion was passionate and joyful. They spent a pleasant week together exploring Ithilien.
"Should you have your moon child, you are welcome to have your confinement here," Éowyn said to Adiva as she prepared to depart with her family and Falah.
"That would be a great honour, esteemed friend," said Adiva, embracing Éowyn. "My child would be twice blessed."
"May your wish be granted!" said Éowyn.
Nine months later
"Why not bathe to ease your pains?" Éowyn suggested.
"I will, esteemed friend," said Adiva. "All my labours have been long and painful."
Éowyn and Falah helped Lady Adiva ease her swollen body into the bath. The tub, fed from a nearby spring was another of Gimli's inventions, and Éowyn's pride and joy.
Adiva visibly relaxed. Falah rubbed her mistress's back and sang softly, a tune Éowyn recognised as a hymn to the Lady of the Moon.
Adiva suddenly gave a cry. Éowyn was only just in time to catch the baby as it slid into the warm water. "You have a daughter," she said.
"The Lord and Lady of the Moon be praised!" said Adiva. "It was a miracle indeed as I felt so little pain."
An hour or so later, Adiva was lying on the bed in Éowyn's best guest chamber with the babe suckling contentedly at her breast. "I should like to see my esteemed husband," she said.
"I will call him," said Éowyn. "He is waiting outside."
Tahir entered the room tentatively, an expression of joy mingled with concern on his pleasant face. "How do you fare, my sweet blossom?" he cried.
"I am well, spring of my oasis. The Lord of the Moon has granted me a fair daughter," she said. "I have looked in her eyes; she bears the markings of a true moon child."
"We are most blessed," said Tahir. "I swear by the celestial Lord and Lady to raise her both as my child and theirs." He raised his hands heavenwards and made the symbol of the crescent moon. "Esteemed Lady Éowyn, what is a fitting name in the tongue of Gondor for a daughter of the moon?"
"Ithiliel, Isilme, Isil or Ithilwen are all names pertaining to the moon," said Éowyn. "Faramir and I spoke about them when we were expecting Thorongil, but he proved to be a boy."
"They are fair names indeed," said Tahir, speaking each one aloud slowly. "Which one pleases you best, fair blossom?"
Adiva thoughtfully spoke the names aloud. "Ithiliel is a pretty name," she said at last.
"We shall call her Ithiliel – Badra in honour of both her birthplace and her illustrious foremother," said Tahir. "She will be known as Ithiliel."
Ithiliel gurgled contentedly, as if pleased by her name.
Tahir glanced out of the window. "See the moon has risen. He has come to greet his fair daughter," he said. He kissed Adiva on the brow and she nuzzled against him lovingly.
Éowyn and Falah exchanged a glance and tiptoed from the room together.
The moonlight streamed through the window bathing the occupants of the room in its silver rays, as if seeking to share in their wonderment of the child.