The Call of Duty
2. Dilemma Solved
Following the Call of Duty
Faramir did not even allow Hurin by his side the rest of that day, but sat alone in the Council chamber, his mind trying to find some order in all that had happened. When Hurin had voiced hesitation on behalf of the other lords, he had expected perhaps some doubt about the truth of Aragorn's claim, that could be easily laid to rest by the fulfillment of the prophecies. He had not expected Aragorn's ancestry to be upheld, but the righteousness of his claim to be in question.
He had also not entered the room expecting to be so moved by any words said; he was set on his purpose, and felt that no question could shake his loyalty. But now, though perhaps it was the remains of his long illness, he was shaken and disturbed, and knew not what to think. While still holding on to his original intention, he found that as his righteous anger quickly faded, he could not deny the truth of much that the lords had said. Aragorn was a stranger, and Gondor was no simple realm—it had taken Faramir years to come to his understanding of its workings, and he still required Lord Hurin's aid. Faramir was the Steward of the realm, and it was in his oath to protect the welfare and people of Gondor, and, though not explicit, that certainly meant to keep them from rebellion and disaster. What if they were right, and Aragorn was simply unable to keep control, however much Faramir trusted in his trying his utmost? Would Faramir have failed then?
No! his mind screamed, No! It is treason to even think such things! Gondor needs a king, it is not complete without one, however capable the Stewards have been. But oh how his mind ached, for he felt another truth in Turthorion's words, those that had spoken of a "fairy-tale ending". These stabbed Faramir to the heart, for it had been true that he had not yet seen the situation in anything but an idealized view, and had it not been for the lords, he never would have considered such things as their objections. Was he truly just a dreamer, as his father had thought, unable to see reality apart from his ideals? He had ever sought, so he believed, the very best for Gondor, and believed that Aragorn's return was an answer to all his prayers. But was it merely a fanciful dream, that in a few years would be looked back upon as a fantasy? Was he deluded by the enchanting picture of the Return of the King?
Faramir buried his face in his hands, his mind tormented by questions and sudden doubts. And yet, there was another factor. For he remembered vividly a vision that he had had, long ago, of a victorious king riding into Minas Tirith. His dream about the broken Sword had been prophetic, surely he could not doubt the veracity of the other one! And yet, was he merely seeing what Aragorn would claim in the future, not what was proper and right? Aragorn had been victorious, and he would ride into Minas Tirith claiming the kingship, but the dream had not been clear on any details. And, dryly, Faramir questioned the idea of putting a whole country at stake because of a dream. He could not even be sure that it was a prophecy.
It was a pitiful sight, such a normally self-assured and strong man writhing in self-doubt. He felt that he could not trust his own judgment alone, and yet whose council could he seek? Gandalf would advise him to accept Aragorn, but his father would have declared it foolishness, and for all his faults, Faramir was not willing to accept that his father had been always mistaken.
And if he could not resolve his doubt, what then? Would he go with his instinct and resign the care of Gondor to Aragorn, only to perhaps curse himself later for folly and be racked with neverending guilt? Or was he to deny the claim of Aragorn, declaring that he needed to think on the matter more fully, only to shake what trust the people had in the embryonic king, a trust that might not be ever regained if once doubted?
Whatever his final choice, Faramir vowed to himself that he would make no hasty decision, would not say anything final until he himself was fully committed. No matter who urged him, no matter what their counsel, he would not be influenced. For his love of Gondor, he would do his utmost to be detached and unbiased.
Feeling now hot and wearied in mind, he left the Council Hall to walk in the open air of the Citadel. All below him was busy with workers, but here it was peaceful. But the white stone reflected the sun's beams painfully into his eyes, worsening the growing headache. He turned and went to where his heart longed, to the gardens in the Houses of Healing. He spoke to no one, avoided the sight of any, and walked silently in the shade.
Eowyn was not there, and as he had not counted on meeting her, he gave her no thought. The birdsong mocked him, cheerful and unworried, for now on top of his reservations there was fear in his heart. For he had seen the loyalty of his people to him, and it was a mighty thing, as his lords had said. It was true: they would follow him to whatever end, not thinking about the rightness of it. He could do anything, and they would support him. It made him fear himself, fear the powerful force he had become in Gondor, and also fear his own heart. The power was intoxicating, it would overcome his integrity if he did not fight back. The weakest part of him wished quietly that he could remain Steward, keep his people's love and loyalty forever, not give them over to a man who might not appreciate them or be worthy of them. Quiet and intrusive, he for a moment did not realize what thoughts he was entertaining. When it did he was shaken. The realization that he was a human with temptations shocked him and frightened him, and he fought violently to drive such ideas from his head. The effort took the last strength of his newly-healed mind, and he afterwards walked empty of thought.
That evening he ate his meal alone, and went soon after to his rest, hoping that a restful night's sleep would freshen his wit to solving the conundrum before him.
The next day he awoke feeling rested, but not eager to tackle the problem. He ate breakfast once again alone, and then sent for Lord Hurin. He approached slightly hesitantly, but Faramir did not speak of the Council, and merely went through more piles of papers. It was becoming quickly easier to deal with, and by the end of the session, Hurin felt that his services would no longer be required.
After giving his final orders, and signing the last papers, Faramir saw the worry and concern on Hurin's face, and he dared broach the subject.
"I am sorry, Hurin, for my behavior to you yesterday. You have been a loyal and invaluable friend and helper to me, and I should not have treated you like the others. I do not wish for counsel on the subject that was opened yesterday, but I should be most honored if you would join me for luncheon this afternoon."
"It is I who would be honored," said Hurin, smiling.
"Also," said Faramir, "if you would carry my best wishes to the Lady Eowyn, and ask if she also would join us, I would be grateful. Just a private luncheon between friends."
"I will, lord, and I believe it is a very good idea. Perhaps a little break from duties will help to clear your mind."
"So is my hope also," said Faramir, with a slightly weary smile.
They spoke on light matters during the meal, and though they all appeared in good spirits, each was so intent on appearing normal, that they did not notice that their other companions were also somewhat forced. As he had somewhat expected, the presence of Eowyn gave Faramir great peace of mind, and though he forced himself not to become completely distracted, he let his mind forget for a while his great troubles, and enjoy her company. Though he did not know it, she was grateful for the other troubles of his mind, for he did not notice that she too was out of spirits, and the luncheon ended pleasantly.
Then Faramir went into the throne-room, and, his mind once again burdened with his responsibility, he knelt before the Steward's chair, and laid his cheek on the cool black stone. It was here that his loyalty was greatest, where his heart swelled at the very thought of Gondor, where he knew most clearly his priorities. It had always been Gondor first, family second, self third, and that had not changed. But ever before, the best thing for Gondor had been simple to discern.He wished now more than ever that he knew more. All he knew of this Lord Aragorn was that he was Captain of the Rangers of the North, and in his company rode the sons of Elrond of Rivendell, and that he claimed to be the Heir of Isildur. He had proved that claim in the Houses of Healing, no one doubted that, but Faramir now accepted that perhaps that claim was not in itself enough. He needed more to make a decision: what military and political training, if any, had this Aragorn had? Had he ever been in Gondor before? Why did he not go there at once if he had long been aware of his birthright? Unfortunately, the answer to that last question was clear in Faramir's mind: Denethor and Ecthelion would have dismissed him outright. Was he, then, merely waiting for a Steward that he thought would accept him? Could it possibly be that he knew the weakness of his claim, and hoped that Faramir would not think twice? The blood boiled in Faramir's veins at the very idea that this might be a vast political plot, but whether it was because he would not doubt Aragorn's character, or because he hated himself for possibly being as weak as some people thought him, he could not tell.
Oh, was ever a man placed in such a wretched position as I?
Faramir started stacking the evidence for Aragorn, though, and his mind began to calm. Aragorn was a man with long experience, that was certainly true. He had the support of Elrond of Rivendell, a lord renowned for his wisdom. He was also supported by Gandalf, whom Faramir knew to be trustworthy. He clearly had the powers of the rightful king. He had shown leadership in uniting Lossarnach and Lebennin to come to Gondor's rescue, and had convinced Eomer of Rohan and Imrahil of Dol Amroth, both doughty men, to follow his banner to the Morannon. Furthermore, Faramir had recognized him as the king in his vision, and he felt that he had no reason to doubt the vision, though he had no proof either. All in all, it seemed an easy decision.
But the one fact remained that it was not merely whether Aragorn was by lineage the rightful king, but whether he was right for Gondor. Could he rule this country, was he right for it?
On the other hand, would Elrond and Gandalf support a man unable to bring the crown to honor? Could Faramir be so arrogant as to doubt their judgment? He was only one man, and a very young one at that.
But he was Steward. He was Steward of Gondor, and every soul in that land, every life, was under his protection, was his responsibility. Was he right to trust blindly in others' counsels?
The appeal of Aragorn's claim was obvious: it seemed so right, so fitting, to have a king return again. For over a thousand years the people had looked to the return of the king as the return of plenty, the return of prosperity, the return of peace. It had been the most happy of their hopes. And this man bore the part with surpassing fitness, being tall and kingly in appearance, noble and kindly in manner, a lord of men, and having just helped in the defeat of the greatest enemy of the times. Surely his instincts were correct from the beginning, and he should just accept what was fitting and right, and put aside these worries planted in his mind by other men.
And yet the words "fairy-tale" echoed through his mind, and he whispered them, and in the great stone room they reverberated and came back a thousand-fold to his ears. Fairy tales were too good to be true, that was why they were called so. It was not wise to trust in them, to let dreams overrule reason.
But why, begged Faramir's mind, why could not this one be true? Why could not everything be well and good and easy?
He rose from where he knelt, and walked out of the room, and passed into the great Memorial Hall of Minas Tirith. There were all the artifacts and heirlooms of the realm held, and he walked by them, seeking for something that might spur his mind to a decision. Was there anything he had missed?
Then, all at once, he saw a great tapestry, a portrayal of the Last Alliance. There were the men and elves, and Elendil the Tall, and King Gil-Galad, and every other figure from legend. He looked up at their faces, woven with great skill by weavers at the beginning of the Third Age. Then he laughed, and looked at a portrait of Isildur and Anarion in their prime, and laughed again.
Here he had found something he had indeed missed. They were living in a fairy-tale, every one of them! That tapestry of the Last Alliance was so grand and inspiring, with its characters seeming larger than life. And so they were. And yet they were real. In the North there were elves, immortal beings with great powers, and they were not merely the stuff of stories, but were real. Sauron, a character of a fairy-tale if ever there was one, had just been destroyed, and his object of power was a magic ring. A magic ring that gave the bearer invisibility! The nature of the situation struck Faramir anew, and he laughed merrily at his thick-headedness at missing it before. Dreams and legends had sprung to life before his eyes without his blinking, and here he was questioning the very answer to all the prophecies, without a rough point in his claim! What part of Aragorn's story could be disbelieved? It was all proved, believed by all who met him, and what was worrying Faramir but mere technicalities about the future? Gandalf, who was a Maia come to Middle-earth, knew more than Faramir could ever hope to know, and was offering Aragorn his support. If anything was more ridiculous than resisting such support, Faramir could not think of it.
There were times in a man's life, he decided, when he must simply have faith. When he must look past his worries, and place blind hope in something, not being sure of the outcome, not having any reason for what he does, but only that he believes it is the right thing to do.
And as if he had found the missing piece to a puzzle, Faramir's mind fell into order. He had always believed in providence, in a power aiding the world beyond the comprehension of mortal thought, and he now felt as if it was working through him.
Everything had been so close to failing, so close that a breath might have blown victory away on the wind. Chance had seemed to manage everything down to the last minute, and every coincidence appeared to his mind. How could one look at such a history as the past months and worry now? It was all well! Through miraculous chance, the White City had been saved, Sauron had been defeated, and the world had been allowed to continue. In the face of such a victory, his worries seemed petty, and his faith grew.
In his heart he felt that if he hesitated now, it would all fall to pieces, and the miracles that had taken place would pale in the face of his doubt, and the great plan that had worked so far would fail in the last step. No, his duty was now clear in his mind. As winter flowed into spring, so would the downfall of Sauron be followed by the Return of the King.
With a mind now decided, a will now firm, and a heart now joyful, Faramir called Hurin to him, and told him to bear his decision to the Council. He banished all fear, and felt once again that he was strong.
The lords did not mention the subject again to him, and as his decision changed not one iota as the final preparations took place, though he often examined it, it was as if that Council had never happened.
Then the day came, and Faramir went to Rath Dinen, and brought forth the crown of the last king. With a heart now just a tiny bit nervous at the last test, he brought it down to the gate as Aragorn rode towards it.
And then, when Aragorn strode forward, Faramir looked into his eyes, and his Numenorean foresight beheld the man to whom he was giving his beloved Gondor. In those eyes his decision was made, and an utter peace filled his heart, and the worries were forever driven away. He had done rightly. Knowing now what to do, Faramir knelt before the man he would give all his loyalty to, and said: "The last Steward of Gondor begs leave to surrender his office."
And though he could not know it, Gandalf and Aragorn knew of what he must have borne in his mind, what he could have done, and were proud of him at that moment, and Aragorn meant it with all of his heart when he responded: "That office is not ended, and it shall be thine and thy heirs' as long as my line shall last. Do now thy office!"
And so Faramir rose and obeyed, and the fairy-tale that had begun ages ago in Cuivienen came full circle, and the Return of the King was achieved. And all rejoiced and were glad.
"Now come the days of the King, and may they be blessed, while the thrones of the Valar endure." —The Return of the King
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