"I would not take this thing, if it lay by the highway. Not were Minas Tirith falling in ruin and I alone could save her, so, using the weapon of the Dark Lord for her good and my glory."
Faramir to Frodo, quoted from The Window to the West; The Two Towers; Book IV by J.R.R. Tolkien
Minas Tirith, 27th March 3019, Third Age
"Some more tea, my lady?"
For a moment Éowyn hesitated. She would have liked to finish her breakfast with a second mug of the fruity brew as she always had done during the past week, but as they wanted to visit the Riders' camp down on the Pelennor, she did not think drinking more than absolutely necessary a clever idea. Using the chamberpot was laborious enough, but using the camp latrine, one-handed and with the voluminous garment she was wearing, would be impossible without assistance. And no way did she want to face such an embarrassing ordeal.
Putting down her mug, she shook her head. "You know I like the tea, my lord, but we will be down there for hours, and... I had better not drink too much."
There was the familiar twitch of his left eyebrow, but when the Steward answered his face and voice did not show any disconcertment. "We still have about an hour until Elfhelm will collect us, and anyway I am sure he will not mind having to wait for a moment."
Invitingly, he raised the tea-pot, and Éowyn could not help a grin. So even a prissy Gondorean could be practical and down to earth! But then he was a warrior, a Ranger, acquainted with the often more than nasty facts of life and warfare in the wilds... And had he not made clear that he accepted her as an equal? Raising the newly filled cup to her lips, she wished she could hide the blush that all of a sudden rose to her cheeks. How could it be that a simple clasp of arms made her so stupidly happy? And yet, what gladdened her on the one hand put a serious problem before her on the other: That dagger, precious beyond imagination, given to her for what they both had imagined to be their last stand. She put down her mug reluctantly. She was not sure how to phrase it without insulting the Steward, but as life was going on, she felt obliged to give back what she supposed to have been given under the impression that their world would end. Already the day before she had told the healers to untie it from the splints of her arm, and now she pulled the sheathed dagger from the cloth that supported her arm and put it on the table in front of him.
"I would like to thank you for lending me this and also that wonderful mantle. I..." Her voice petered out at the sight of his face turning stony, an impenetrable mask, his eyes hard and expressionless.
"What gave you the impression I lent those things to you?"
Angered by his reaction and her own ineptitude, she squared her shoulders. "When you gave these things to me, things that no doubt are heirlooms of your House, we expected there would be no future. That has changed."
"And because that has changed, the spirit with which these things were given has changed, too? Do you really think I might regret..." He stopped abruptly as if realising how much emotion had stolen into his voice. When he continued after a moment, he sounded controlled again but still unnaturally cold. "Very well, my lady. If you expect me to take back my gifts, why don't you take back yours?"
"Mine?" Éowyn stared at him, flabbergasted.
Thin-lipped, he nodded. "I told you, I deemed your deeds on the battlefield crucial for the outcome of the battle as it bereaved the Enemy of his most important captain. And I am convinced that thus you helped our troops to endure until the forces brought up the Anduin arrived. You saved many lives, and probably mine, too. Do you want to make these things undone?"
Men and their pride! How could an evidentially intelligent man come up with such an idiotic comparison? She suppressed the urge to snarl, and schooling her features into likewise coolness instead, she took up the challenge. "I'm afraid, my lord, I am not able to see any logic and plausibility in your argument. I certainly remember you telling me to take the dagger as an acknowledgement of my valour..."
"And now you think me so fickle as to take it back?" He was leaning forward, his composure again broken, his eyes blazing. It took her some effort to fight the urge to roll her eyes. That much for the cool and composed Gondorean. Though certainly anger made him look quite formidable. She raised an eyebrow. "My lord Steward, why don't you lie down on the ground and throw a tantrum like a three-year-old? For certainly you are willing to listen as much as a toddler."
His eyes widened at her blunt rebuke, and swiftly she reached out and laid her hand on his clenched fist. "My lord, please do not misunderstand me, and do not insinuate attitudes that are far from me. I do not wish to rebuke or insult you, quite the contrary, I hold you in high regard. I admit I had been prepared to dislike you, but as I have come to know you, I have overcome my prejudices."
He made no attempt to pull his hand back, though his face had gone back to that inscrutable expression she had seen more than once with him. If only his gaze would not be so intense! She swallowed, finding it difficult not to lower her eyes, but breathing deeply through her nose several times, she regained her composure. No way would she yield! And at least he was truly listening now.
"My lord, let us make things clear." Cursing inwardly, she found her own voice far from casual, but that could not be helped now. She had to finish this, as long as he was willing to listen. "I value all the presents you gave me, for all of them are both useful and splendid. And I realise that they were thought out and given with great care. I would never think about giving back the ironbar or the shoes, though certainly they are masterpieces. Nor would I like to part with the map you gave me. Nay, even the heart's ease I will keep, though I felt slightly bad for depriving a goodwife of her flowerpot. But this dagger and the mantle are different."
How difficult it was to talk under his scrutinizing gaze. She paused for another breath and then continued. "They are heirlooms of your House, and that they shall stay." His hand jerked slightly, and resolutely she grabbed it tight. She would make him listen, even if she had to force him. "I freely admit that the idea of possessing such a weapon went to my head like mead, and it was not only the warmth of that mantle that made my face glow, for never have I worn a cloak as rich as the one you sent for that morning. But there is a future, my lord. We will live. And you will have children who will succeed you. How could I relish the possession of these two things, knowing that I deprive your children of them?"
There was something that had changed in his gaze while she had been talking, and now his fist unclenched under her hand, his fingers clasping her own instead. Encouraged, she continued. "Take those things back, my lord. Not for your own sake, but for that of your children."
He slowly shook his head, but his hand stayed firmly in hers. "No, Éowyn. I want you to have these things, and it would gladden my heart to know you make use of them, though I do not wish for you to be forced to draw the dagger against anyone." A wry smile appeared on his lips and the corners of his eyes crinkled ever so slightly. "But let us make a deal, my lady, if that is your desire: You take dagger and mantle, to use, not to put away in some locked chest, mind you. And if you should want my children to inherit these things, then it should be you from whom they receive these heirlooms."
What could one say against such a proposal? She swallowed, finally averting her eyes. No doubt an intelligent man, and he had outmatched her. With a sigh, she raised her hand. "Very well, my lord. I yield."
Smiling, he stretched out his hand to her, palm up. "Don't feel downcast, my lady. As you said, there is a future now, though we do not know yet what this future may bring. You and I will have to be patient and wait for a little while yet. And I certainly would wait with a lighter heart if I knew that my presents were enjoyed."
Éowyn set her hand in his for the handshake that sealed their bargain, an idea forming in her head. Whatever the future would bring, she would return to the Riddermark, and thus to the herds she had inherited from her mother. One heirloom certainly deserved another, and she would make sure that the best of the Mark would be sent to the Steward of Gondor.
A smile on his face, the Steward rose. "Well, as there still is some time, would you care to climb up onto the ramparts?"
She nodded, stuffing the dagger he held out to her back into the cloth that supported her arm. "There is something I have been thinking about, my lord, and I would like to have a word about it before we meet marshal Elfhelm." She had wanted to talk to the Steward the day before, but unlike the other days he had not turned up in the evening, obviously suffering from a mighty hangover or still sleeping it off. But there was no need to rub that in. "You told me yesterday morning that it would take a fast rider at least two days from the Black Gate to the city, and..."
She stopped, feeling him tense at her side, and when she looked at him she noticed the traces of a blush rising into his cheeks. She shook her head. "My lord, there is no need to feel embarrassed if you don't remember what you said. Given the situation, it is more than understandable that you shared a cup, or more than one with your folk and friends. I..."
"No, my lady. I'm afraid you are misinterpreting my reaction." His voice was even, but he did not look at her, and his blush even seemed to deepen. "I remember everything I said perfectly well, but I would certainly not have said some of it had I not been intoxicated."
She averted her eyes, feeling like having been dumped in cold water. No, she could well imagine that he would not have talked the way he had about his brother and Théodred, Gondorean that he was. Forcing her expression to casualness, she said: "Well, my lord, if what you said embarrasses you, let me assure you that I will regard your words as not having been spoken. Certainly everybody would take the words of an imbibed man with a pinch of salt."
They walked in silence, until suddenly he stopped, searching her eyes with his gaze. "I find it difficult to phrase it, my lady, but I meant every single word I said, and I adhere to it. Nay, somehow I am even thankful that the wine helped me to overcome my inhibitions, for I would never have talked to you about Boromir, despite all my yearning to do so. I needed to talk about him, needed to say what I said to find at least some peace. But I should not have made those remarks, those innuendos about taking you to Ithilien. That must have been utterly embarrassing for you."
"No." She saw his eyes widen at her taut answer and smiled. "I was surprised, not embarrassed. I'm a daughter of warriors, a Shieldmaiden, raised in a household of men. I have heard drunken men, lords and commoners alike, utter worse. I know how much you love that land on the other side of the Great River, and I can very well understand that you want to go there. Being able to do so, now that Sauron is defeated, certainly must have raised the idea to share that experience with someone, for how can we truly relish the joy of our hearts if we do not share it?" She shrugged. "Well, and as it was only me present at that moment, you addressed me. There is nothing odd about it. I know you would not have done so had you been sober. And if you think you grew a bit too emotional... My lord, what man would not reach for the pleasures of life, or at least think of them, finding himself having escaped death by a hair's breadth? There is no need to feel embarrassed, for it never occurred to me to take your words as an insult."
She was not sure what it was in his gaze that irritated her, some strange reluctance, as if what she said was not what he wished to hear, but feeling challenged, she raised her chin. "I am of the Riddermark, my lord, and we do not hold bodily needs and pleasures in low esteem."
He nodded silently and they walked on. But as they reached the stairs to the rampart, he asked in composed politeness: "So what did you want to ask me, my lady?"
She felt like kicking him. How could he take some drunken remarks that seriously? No man in the Mark would. She suppressed a sigh. Gondoreans certainly had a way to make their own lives difficult. Aloud she said: "I thought about possible errand riders from the Black Gate, my lord. You said that the distance could be covered by fast riders in two days. But that would mean they had fresh horses, wouldn't it? Well, I wondered, if it might not be a good idea to send some Riders with spare horses to meet them and thus speed their progress."
His face split into a wide grin. "That's what the marshal had thought, too. He sent a contingent of Riders and spare horses as soon as the evening of the twenty-fifth."
For a moment she could do nothing but stare. "So you knew and did not tell me?"
He shook his head. "No, I didn't know. I only learned about it yesterday evening, when one of my men informed me that two of my Rangers had set out as scouts with the marshal's Riders to ensure their safety."
Éowyn was at a loss. Elfhelm certainly expected Riders of the Mark to be sent as couriers from the victorious host at the Morannon, and therefore sending his own men to meet them was reasonable, but to involve Gondorean Rangers plainly overstepped his responsibility. And no matter what he thought about Gondorean nobles in general, she had expected him to think better of the Steward than to ignore him like that, especially after his experience with the murder of that Haradrim sorcerer. Angrily she shook her head. "And the marshal did not discuss his plans with you beforehand?"
The Steward shrugged. "Why, my lady? Marshal Elfhelm is responsible for the Rohirrim, and I have not taken up my office anyway."
"But you say two of your men went with them. Elfhelm certainly had no authority over any Gondoreans." How could he take such an affront so calmly! Perplexed she beheld the typical half-smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
"He did not send them, my lady. He did not even know that they accompanied his men, though I'm happy they did. They would certainly have informed me had they been able to find me fast enough. But my men were at the Causeway Forts when the Rohirrim led by Captain Arnulf passed, and so they offered their service for the good of all."
"Arnulf?" Éowyn snorted. "Well, that was to be expected."
The Steward raised an eyebrow. "What is strange about it? He is the marshal's second in command if I remember correctly."
Éowyn shrugged. "He is. But that certainly is not the only reason he put himself forth for this task." She regretted her rash remark and felt the Steward deserved an explanation. "He's working hard to get Elfhelm's approval. He's sweet on the marshal's youngest daughter. She even gave him the Blessing when the éohere set forth and Elfhelm did not seem too pleased with his daughter's choice."
"Why should the Marshal dislike his daughter blessing a parting warrior?" The expression of surprise turned into the frown of incomprehension, and cursing herself inwardly, Éowyn reached for a more detailed explanation.
"He's a good man and a skilled warrior, but Elfhelm deems his daughter too young to get married. At least that's what he says, but I rather think he is loath to part with his youngest. She always was the apple of his eye. But she has a will of her own, and by blessing Arnulf she put her father in a difficult situation. Should she have got pregnant she will name Arnulf as the child's father. I dare say that does not sit well with Elfhelm."
The Steward looked simply stupefied now. "I am afraid I can't follow your deliberations, my lady. What has blessing a war-bound warrior to do with getting pregnant?"
Éowyn stared in disbelief. "The Blessing, the Éoredheap Segnung, as we call it in the Mark. Did Boromir not tell you about it?"
He slowly shook his head. "No, my lady, he mentioned nothing of that name, though I understand now that it is more than just a farewell. Perhaps something like the Green Bough of Return, the evergreen branch the women of Númenore fastened to their ships' prows to ensure a safe return home?"
Éowyn nodded. "I have never heard of that tradition, yet it resembles ours in as far as it is something the women do to ensure the men's return. With my people, women are believed to represent the circle of life and death, and as you perhaps know, it is seen as an assurance for the dead's passing into the Halls of our Fathers if they are buried by women."
His brow furrowed. "Boromir told me about that. And about the women singing at the burial."
"They sing the souls over the threshold. Women carry the very soul of the soil that nourishes us. They are one, as without women and land to live on there would be no people. So, if Riders have to face battle far away from home, in a place where there might be no women of their people to put their bodies to rest should they fall, the women bless the warriors beforehand, to make their souls remember where to return homeand so to be led safely over to the otherworld. If ever there is a muster, or an Éored rides into battle, women will take the Riders to their bed the night before, to ensure their souls come home safely should they fall. And if a child is begotten that night, it is seen as Erce's grace, and there are tales that sometimes even a fallen warrior might be reborn in such a child."
For a while the Steward did not answer, and then he slowly shook his head, as if in deep thought. "I don't know why Boromir never mentioned that tradition, but perhaps he simply never noticed. He never fought in the Mark apart from the odd skirmishes with some Hillmen in the Westfold."
He fell back into brooding, and Éowyn let him be, knowing only too well how much his brother's death had affected him. Finally he pointed at the stair and stepped aside to let her climb up. "Well, my lady, if you want to have a view over the Pelennor before Elfhelm comes, we had better hurry." And then all of a sudden, he grinned. "Well, at least I see hope for the loving couple, for as brusque and grumpy the marshal may appear, he seems to be a just enough man to me. And judging from what he has achieved in battle his qualities as a marshal and warrior are beyond any doubt."
Éowyn simply nodded. Apart from the war itself, Elfhelm truly had had his fill of problems and difficulties on the current campaign, her own secret riding with the host not the smallest. But that she would not mention to the Steward. Aloud she said: "I can imagine that it was not an easy task for him either to keep order in the camp after the Eagle's message. Why, everyone felt like drunk with relief." With a wry smile she shrugged. "I have to admit, seeing people's reaction, I was afraid for a moment that it might be a ruse, for it would certainly not have been the first time that a hapless victor was overwhelmed by a cunning foe who used the careless intoxication of his opponent."
The Steward's brow twitched. "Elfhelm did not allow any celebrations before the fate of King Éomer was clear."
Éowyn gulped. So very typical of Elfhelm, loyal and proud to the bone, a Rider through and through. Yet had not she herself felt disappointed and even hurt when the mighty bird had only addressed the Gondoreans, only mentioned their king? Certainly there were others who felt alike. But being a sorehead would not do as it was none of the Steward's faults. In an attempt to make light of the situation she shrugged. "One more reason for the Riders to get the information as fast as possible. I just wonder were Merry is. I had expected him to be suffering from a serious hangover from celebrating with the Riders, but if they did not celebrate then I wonder what keeps him from turning up on his regular visits. He has looked in daily, even after having taken up work as some kind of courier between the lightly injured and the Houses."
"I went to see him last night, my lady."
There was something in his voice that alerted her. Graver than his usual graveness it seemed, and when she looked at him inquiringly, she found grief and regret written in his face. "He mourns, my lady, and he does not see it fit to mix with the people who are celebrating the victory, spoiling their joy."
"My lady, now that Sauron has been destroyed, we might talk freely about things that had to be left unspoken before. Tell me, how much do you know about the Halflings' role in the fight against the Evil Lord?"
Éowyn shrugged. "Not much. I know they were mentioned in the rhyme that led Boromir to search for the hidden valley, and I know that a kinsman of Merry's was involved, and I guess he, or rather what he was about to do, made it necessary to draw the Dark One's eye to the Black Gate. But that are rather things I assume, as Éomer himself knew little more, and he deliberately refused to learn more."
"Well then, you know the rhyme, and you know about the involvement of a Halfling. The "sword that was broken" is Narsil, which broke when Elendil fought Sauron and killed him with the help of Gil-Galad. It has been reforged and is now named Anduril, the Flame of the West, borne by Aragorn, son of Arathorn, Isildur's heir. So the only thing that is missing is Isildur's bane."
He passed a hand over his eyes, as if sudden tiredness and exhaustion assaulted him. "I should have gone in Boromir's stead, but who could gainsay him when he claimed to go? He found Isildur's bane, and..."
Pressing his lips into an angry line, he shook his head. "I had better explain from the beginning. This is what I learned from Mithrandir: When Sauron had been killed, Isildur cut a ring off the Enemy's hand, claiming it as wergild for his slain father and brother, not knowing that this was a magic ring, a ring of power that held the spirit of the Dark Lord, and thus the ability to enthral everyone who dared to wear it, bending their mind and soul to evil." He sighed, and shook his head. "It probably was for the best that Isildur was killed by orcs only a short time after, for I dare not imagine what would have become of him had the ring finally twisted him."
So that was the answer to the riddle she had turned over in her mind again and again. She solemnly nodded. "I see, my lord. But where do the Halflings come into this story?"
"The ring was lost and not found by the Enemy, and it seemed to have stayed lost for many centuries until it finally came into the hands of a hobbit. I don't know when and how, for Mithrandir would not talk about it and neither would Merry, and I did not see it as my right to press any of them, but obviously a hobbit took it to Rivendel, and there a council decided that the Ring of Power should be destroyed. And the only place it could be destroyed was in the fires of Mount Doom, in Mordor where Sauron had forged it. And thus the hobbit, a kinsman of Merry, set out for Mordor to throw it into the fiery chasm to free Middle-earth from the dread of Evil."
"How come you know about all that? Did Merry tell you yesterday?"
The Steward shook his head. "We spoke about Merry's kinsman, but I had already met them while on patrol in Ithilien. Frodo, who bore the ring, and his gardener Sam, who accompanied him on this hopeless road."
"A gardener?" Surely she had misunderstood him. But the Steward lowered his head affirmatively.
"That he claimed to be, my lady, though to Frodo he certainly was more, a devoted helpmate, friend and loyal guardian, unwavering in his love for his friend and master."
"Then certainly he was blessed by Erce, and his praise will be sung in the lays of the heroes."
For a while they stood in silence, and pondering the Steward's tale, Éowyn in the end shook her head and stated what seemed to her the most incredible of all.
"But how, my lord, could that hobbit bear that ring and not be affected by it? Didn't you say it bent the carrier's mind to evil?"
"I don't know, my lady. It was clear that the Ringbearer suffered greatly, but nevertheless he resisted, and as we see now, succeeded in the end. And that is more than any great warrior of Men and perhaps even of Elves might have achieved. Halflings seem to be special, less interested in glory and power and closer to the earth. Perhaps you are right, and they do have a favoured place in Yavanna's providence. Boromir for all his valour could not resist the call of the Ring."
Éowyn stared. "But that can't be! Merry told me your brother died defending him and Pippin against a host of Uruks. How..."
The Steward nodded. "Yes, my lady. That is right and my only comfort is, that in the end Boromir redeemed himself. But nevertheless he had tried beforehand to take the Ring by force and thus caused the Ringbearer and his friend to flee him."
"And you met them? Carrying that cursed ring? And did not reach for it?" She didn't even try to keep the anguish out of her voice.
"I did feel its call, my lady, but I also felt the treachery it held, the evil it radiated. It did not tempt me then as I saw through it, but nevertheless I doubt that I would have had the strength to resist its luring had I been longer in its vicinity or even been forced to carry it."
She stared into his eyes, solemn pools of grey, eyes of a man that could be trusted. Slowly she nodded. "Then Merry was right to compare you to Gandalf, for certainly there is more wisdom in you than your mortal years could bring forth."
He laughed mirthlessly. "Oh, my father certainly did not call me a wizard's pupil for nothing. But let us consider Merry's sorrow. You yourself have felt the tremor of the earth when we stood on the walls the day Sauron was thrown down. You have seen the cloud rise over Mount Doom. What do you think happened to the two Halflings who stood as close to the fire as to be able to fling the Ring into it?"
Éowyn shook her head. "But certainly they must have considered that, my lord. They must have known they walked to their death, sacrificing themselves in the ultimate attempt to overthrow Sauron."
The Steward grimaced. "I am not sure, my lady. Perhaps somewhere in the back of their minds, but I doubt that the idea of a heroic death ever surfaced in their minds. Their hearts are bent to life, Éowyn, not to glory in memories."
She frowned. "But how could Merry then be so valiant as to stab the Dwimmerlaik when horse and men alike had fled unnerved by its terror?"
"Out of loyalty and care, my lady. His courage is nursed by love for the living, and from the day he started in the Shire until now he has faced death and destruction, torture and pain and still that did not suffice to dampen his vigour. But now, my lady, he most probably is the only one of a party of four hobbits to survive, and he wishes he had died in their stead or at least together with them."
His voice was soft when he answered, and yet she felt pierced by his words like by barbed arrows. The only one left... She knew only too well how that heaved a breath. "I still envy Théoden King, who died in glory and will be remembered in honour."
"I know it must sound selfish to you, but I am happy that you did not succeed in that, for now there is a future to face."
A future! She found it difficult not to grimace. "Yes, there certainly is." Seeing the shock in his eyes at the coldness of her voice, she shrugged. "Do not fear, my Lord Steward. I'm of the House of Eorl, and I will face what comes my way. And if you are right about the distance to the Black Gate, which I doubt not, we will know more before the sun sets. But now we should rather think how to stand by the Halfling, for certainly he deserves our care."
He nodded silently, and she was about to start pacing, when suddenly an idea formed in her mind. Swivelling round, she faced the Steward. "My lord, could you please stay here in case Elfhelm arrives early? I need to see Mistress Ioreth."
Why had men always to be so slow on the uptake? "Yes, or rather her cousin. I need some more of those king's mushrooms. And some fresh bread perhaps. Or even better some of those noodles. For Merry," she added, seeing the doubt in his eyes. "The mushrooms will need to soak at least four hours before they can be cooked, so after our visit to the camp we could go to see Merry."
Slowly the Steward shook his head. "Do you really think he would enjoy a meal and forget his grief?"
Impatiently she threw up her hand. "No, certainly not. But for the Halflings food and the sharing of food seems to be much more important than it is for Men. And they are just mad about mushrooms. Don't you remember that soup we shared in your room and how much he enjoyed it? I would like to use a delicious meal as a symbol, a sign that we care, that we understand him and share his grief... And that we want to help him overcome his sorrow and step back into life."
She did not want to think any further, did not want to imagine how he would react when perhaps already in the evening more detailed news would come from the Black Gate. They had to act now, had to make a start, like the cleaning of a wound to prevent festering from setting in. Meeting the Steward's still doubtful gaze, she suddenly noticed how much she had taken it for granted that he would agree with her and participate in her scheme. Angry with herself, she shook her head.
"I know it will not be done with that. You cannot overcome grief with just one action, my lord. Like the healing of a wound or like spring's snowmelt it needs constancy. Constant care and unwavering patience, for as one sunny day does not break the ice, one act of kindness and care might not leave any impact on someone deep in sorrow."
For a split second she thought he would take her hand, but he withdrew the already outstretched hand again, nodding slowly in his grave way. "You are right, Éowyn, forgive my doubt and impatience."
There was something in his voice that made the fine hair on her lower arm stand on end, and when she looked into his eyes she felt at a loss at their expression. Hesitantly she reached out, touching his arm. "My lord...?"
He shook his head and smiled. "It's nothing, my lady. You had better go now and find Ioreth, and let's hope her cousin did not serve us the last mushrooms the other day."
She nodded and made for the house, and only when she slipped into the shade of the ambulatory did she realise that his smile had done nothing to mitigate the deep sorrow in his eyes.
Éoredhead Segnung: (Rohirric(Old English) Blessing of the Riders/warriors
Erce: (Erce, Éorthan módor,) other name for Jörd, the goddess of the earth in northern Mythology. I use her here as an Rohirric equivalent to Yavanna.
Oilairë: a fragrant tree, growing on Númenor. The Green Bough of Return was a branch from it which was placed at the prow of the ships as a symbol of good fortune. By custom, the bough had to be brought by a female, often a close relative of the captain. (from The Mariner's Wife; History of Middle-earth, edited by Ch. Tolkien)