Steward and the King, The
6. The Parting of the Fellowship
As the Fellowship prepared to separate they saw signs that all directions were fraught with danger. In the last miles before Ramos, Frodo and Sam had ridden in Aragorn's boat. Aragorn had asked if it was still Frodo's decision, to continue to Mordor. Frodo had said 'yes' without hesitation, but he had faltered when Aragorn had asked he accept Faramir rather than him. "I will guide you if you ask it, with Gimli's help. But Faramir has given me good reason, and Ithilien is well known to him. "I know nothing of these lands," Frodo had said at the last. "If you think it best. I know you have spoken much between you." The night had passed uneasily, especially for the hobbits. Sam could not keep from hovering, and Frodo was near rebellion.
It was morning now, and there was no time for further debate. When Aragorn asked Frodo to unsheath Sting, it had glowed dimly. Orcs were near, on the east side of the river. As the others packed and made their farewells Aragorn went briefly to Ammon Hen and saw the coming battle in the west and felt great danger for Rohan. Gollum was still unaccounted for, but Aragorn could not be two places at once and had to trust the truth of Faramir's words. Signs guided both their paths.
Faramir looked west, and his heart ached. Then he felt a stab of fear when he saw an emotion in Aragorn's gaze that he did not think Aragorn meant him to see. No, my King! Do not, in your pity, make of her a gift to me. If you delay to take your crown Gondor will fall, I know it! Mithrandir was as a father to me when my own cared little for my dreaming. His spirit is with me, I will do as he would have. The Valar will guide me, and guide Frodo. Sauron will be defeated and my brother, my people, my lady, we shall all live free of fear. "Will you bring my greeting to my lady, Lord?" he asked firmly. His eyes lowered when he spoke the rest, "And ask her pardon that I was unable to return as promised?"
Aragorn nodded, feeling again the sorrow of losing Gandalf, that Faramir and he would not reenter the city side by side, as they had spoken of the road south from Rivendell. "It will to my joy to finally meet the Lady Eowyn."
"She prays for me." Faramir smiled, and the tension of his shoulders seemed less.
Aragorn smiled broadly in return. "I am sure of it. As Arwen watches me in her thought." They clasped each other's arms in a warrior's salute. "Whatever happens, hold to that as your strength. We hope for a bright future, but if our end is dark, love will light the darkness and be our final comfort."
Merry stared at Sam, and made an angry mutter. "He's too close to Frodo."
"What are you talking about?" Pippin asked.
Merry's anger was at himself. "Gandalf told Sam to take care of Frodo. Rosie told me to take care of Sam. I should have told him earlier."
"Tell him! They're not gone yet."
"You think he'd desert him?"
"No! But Frodo's already in so many knots. If he knew, he'd try to push him away. Maybe push all of them away."
"Hug him and whisper in his ear."
Merry shock his head, glad that he had reason enough for tears that he did not have to hide them. He wanted to be no closer to Mordor but he was upset and shamed he was not considered. "Sam would ask questions."
"If you won't I will," Pippin declared, and marched back toward Frodo and Sam, Merry following after.
Sam looked up when he heard his name called -- confused, as there already had been a round of tearful goodbyes. Frodo turned around. His eyes were dry and his hands were tense, almost fisted.
"Oh," Pippin stammered. He could see Merry was right. Frodo was two seconds from being set off. What fix would they all be in if Frodo got stubborn and sent everyone away? If it came to it, he wouldn't say no to Strider -- only if Strider kept Sam from following. Sam would never forgive him. "Are --Are you sure you have enough food?"
"I can give you some more Lembas," Merry added, sounding relieved.
Sam laughed. "Of course, I'd take all the food if I could." They'd already had this discussion. "With all the rocks we'll be dealing with, with the extra blankets we've taken all we can carry."
"I know. I -- "
"You don't want to say goodbye."
"No I don't," Pippin sniffled.
"Alright then," Frodo said. "One more hug."
They locked arms again, and huddled. "Take care," Merry said as they separated again, two and two.
Gimli would put Sam on his boat, and Faramir would take Frodo. It was a difficult parting. Legolas and Gimli, having formed a strong friendship, were not happy to be separated, but Legolas agreed that five would be too large a party.
Legolas looked at Faramir and pressed his lips together. "Mithrandir," his voice still carried grief to say the name. "Now is our loss most dearly felt. Denethor's son is right, Aragorn must go to Minas Tirith. Yet -- "
"Do not worry for me, elf. I will have my axe ever ready. I will make short work of those mountains. And you know well I have the Lady's gift with me, and we all have her cloaks, so the four peoples still will guard the quest, as Master Elrond wanted. And you will be more help for Aragorn at Edoras. Men, in their blindness, they will pay more heed to one of the 'fair folk' than a dwarf, even if they distrust all."
Faramir and Gimli cast off. Legolas led the younger hobbits into the forest. Aragorn, concerned that orcs might find evidence to report that a party had crossed the river, worked to confuse the marking they would leave behind. The boat landing could not be hidden, so he dragged and shoved the remaining boat along the edge of the and scuffed it so it appeared that one overloaded boat had landed roughly after a short trip rather than three had landed quietly. He also took his knife to the bindings so that if any orcs, or Gollum, tried to use the boat it would quickly break apart. On the other shore, where there should be no report of landing at all, Faramir would send the boats, once empty, back into the water to crash over the falls.
When he finished his work Aragorn looked up to see the two other boats were a good distance away. He waved his hand, and thought Sam might have seen it but all four were stroking hard against the current, and the boats would soon be out of sight behind Tol Elessea. Aragorn stood and turned, slung on his pack, then ran to follow Legolas' trail.
== end chapter ==
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