Steward and the King, The
5. Questions on the River
The hobbits switched in the boats, so Faramir often had Frodo in his boat and they would speak elvish, discussing the poem that was in Faramir’s book, and other history.
Gimli stayed always with Legolas and there was joking about that. They would say ‘the Elf’ or ‘the Dwarf’ rather than use each other’s names. “Why not?” Legolas answered Pippin’s inquiry. “Is there another Dwarf in our company?”
After a few days on the river, Faramir asked Aragorn his intentions, and volunteered to lead the company East, for he was familiar with Ithilien. But Aragorn felt this responsibility had come to him at Gandalf’s death. He saw much of himself in Faramir’s words about Eowyn, and he did not want to turn Faramir away from his promise to return. Nor could he let himself fail at this test: did he want the crown and the promise it gave him so much he would let the quest fail? No. Though he would lose Arwen, yet he would save his world and all that lived there. “I intended to return with you to Minas Tirith. But Frodo and Sam cannot go East alone, and there is the creature Gollum to contend with. He has been following us. He is a dangerous footpad and I have experience of him.”
“There are still days yet before our paths part. He will be easier dealt with when we are at full strength.”
“Indeed. I had hoped we had lost him in Lorien. He is tenacious. I will not willingly leave off guarding the ringbearer, particularly as long as Gollum is free, alive and a threat. And you must go first to Rohan and warn King Theoden against Saruman’s treachery.”
“You could better give that warning, for you have fought with them while I have not.”
“You have proof enough.”
“Yours is better. And, in Ithilien, Men of Gondor yet patrol, I hope, and they would hinder you -- a stranger -- if they find you, for you are not acknowledged. I could ask their aid if need be and not be questioned.”
“But Gondor was driven from that land in June, before you left.”
“In the months since Boromir may have regained our outposts.”
“Unlikely,” he answered, and waved aside Faramir’s objection. “Orc or Ranger, I shall take care not to be seen.” Then he would speak no more. That night, Faramir saw Aragorn speaking softly to Gimli, and he fell into a troubled sleep.
Between one heartbeat and the next the vision sounded within his mind as the single strike of a great silver bell; its echoes rang as thunder in the mountains of his home.
In Imladris it dwells ...
Faramir sat up, casting his cloak aside. The boats were beached, and the company slept. Pippin had the watch. He saw Faramir moving and was hopeful he was volunteering to over, but Faramir went to Aragorn and woke him. “I dreamed, Lord.”
“Faramir -- ”
“Gandalf is fallen. Still the Blessed Lands sent me the dream! Saruman changes nothing!”
“Frodo must go to Mordor.”
“Yes. That is his task, not yours. You are for my City. If you refuse, I and the rest will die.”
“What power do you think I have?”
“That is not shown to me.”
Aragon stared a long moment. Faramir met his eyes, unflinching, no doubt in his posture. “Go,” Aragorn at last ordered. “Go back to sleep.”
Faramir did not move. Eventually it was Aragorn who broke eye contact, and moved to stand. If Faramir would not leave him, he would leave Faramir.
Faramir grabbed his wrist and held him in place.
“You must go west, or the City will fall. That is the meaning of my dream. Gondor calls to you, but you are tempted to another path.”
“I am one man, Faramir.”
“You are King. Do not look at me as if I am an enemy. I cannot say how it might be that you will save us, I know only it is true.” His voice did not falter. “I will take the ringbearer to the mountain. I will not fail you. You will not fail me. Whatever the cost we gladly pay and those we guard shall live.” Still, Aragorn would not yield.
Faramir firmed the grip on his wrist. His eyes were cold. “What command have you been sent, that you would call my message false?”
Aragorn’s eventual answer was a whisper. He had ruled his life by signs, both dark and hopeful. Now, against all logic, Faramir told another sign that echoed his own desire. “My dreams ... are only in the day. What I want -- my lady. No fear on the land. In sleep I am lost in blood and nothingness.”
Faramir opened his hand and drew it back. “In my dreams, Lord, there is the sea. And the light is golden, and it fills me. You deny your heart. The call of the crown is true. Lord, I beg you, go west. Let me lead the party east.”
Can there be light beyond this darkness? Aragorn asked himself. Gandalf is lost, yet the same task remains. I have less power, Faramir has none, except a heart that begged the West for safety of his people. Death? He saw Gandalf fall again. Death for us all? The cost of victory will be hard indeed, for Faramir, for me. But others may live. Sauron is powerful. The power of the West is not infinite, the strength they send is through living, willing tools. Faramir, seeing the darkness deepen, must have prayed to be so used, as did I. What choice do I have?
“Peace, Faramir. If you beg it, if the Valar command it, I will go to your city ... with what little help I may give. This doom you put on me will be the breaking of my heart.”
=== end chapter ===
Author’s note: from FotR:
‘It would indeed be a betrayal, if we all left him,’ said Aragorn. ‘But if he goes east, then all need not go with him; nor do I think that all should. That venture is desperate: as much so for eight as for three or two, or one alone. If you would let me choose, then I should appoint three companions: Sam, who could not bear it otherwise; and Gimli; and myself. Boromir will return to his own city, where his father and his people need him; and with him the others should go, or at least Meriadoc and Peregrin, if Legolas is not willing to leave us.’
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