10. Chapter 10
For the next hour I was examined, manipulated, and assessed. As Tamir helped me to replace my tunic, Lord Elrond questioned me about my recovery. With a silencing glance to Tamir, I described the progress of my recovery in Dol Amroth, omitting only my weakness in the Dining Hall; that humiliation was one subject that I did not want to share. I found it difficult to sustain the Lord’s penetrating gaze; I was sure he guessed all of my secrets but he held his council. After consulting with the warden, Lord Elrond gave me his prognosis, and whilst his verdict was not a surprise, I was distressed to have my previously un-voiced suspicions confirmed; the wound in my shoulder had healed well but the residual damage to nerves and muscles would likely be permanent; I would never regain the full strength in my shoulder or hand. I would never wield sword or bow again, although with exercise I might expect some improvement from my present state. I thanked him for his candour and begged leave to retire, wanting privacy to absorb the revelations of his prognosis, but I was not destined to seek that privacy yet; the King had requested that I attend him as soon as I was free.
Lord Elrond accompanied me up through the city to the Citadel. At the doors of the Great Hall, sentries saluted and stood aside to let us pass. I was expecting to see the King on his throne but it stood empty; I followed Lord Elrond through the Hall and into the ante-room beyond. He bid me wait while he sought the King and informed him that I waited.
I was only too familiar with this room; it was the room my father favoured for private or personal audiences. Many times in the past, I had awaited his judgment for misdeeds or perceived failures. The room was unchanged, a gloomy dismal place with spartan furnishings. I stood and gazed at the familiar pattern of tiles on the floor as tendrils of anxiety began to wend their way into my heart. As the minutes passed I concentrated on the patterns, my mouth so dry that I found it hard to swallow. I rubbed my hand against my tunic to rid it of the sweat on my palm and locked my quaking knees to prevent myself falling in a heap on the floor. I had the strongest urge to turn and flee but before I could act I heard the door behind me open and the sound of soft footfalls. I sensed the King walk across the room to stand before me; I drew myself up tall and saluted, raising my eyes from the floor to the level of his chest. Through the sound of my heartbeat in my ears, I heard him speak my name; I couldn’t answer, all my concentration focussed on standing upright. I struggled to slow my breathing as I felt sweat bead on my lip and forehead and black swirls press at the edge of my vision.
“Estel!” I heard the warning cry coming from behind me, though I hadn’t realised until that moment that there was anyone else in the room. I felt a hand on my shoulder as someone levered me down into a chair and pushed my head down between my knees; a calm, soothing voice urged me to breathe slowly and deeply whilst rubbing slow circles on my back. I tried to raise my head but the hand on my shoulder prevented me from moving. I felt cool fingers on my wrist and then on my throat.
“Have you eaten this morning?” I could sense a note of exasperation in the voice I now recognised as that of Lord Elrond. Still unable to get any words out, I could only shake my head. The Elf Lord sighed, “Estel, look after him while I go and arrange for some refreshments to be brought. You do know that if you terrify all of your councillors to the point of collapse by your mere presence, council meetings will be long and tedious!” I heard him chuckle as he glided from the chamber.
Now that the immediate sense of panic had faded, I felt waves of mortification wash over me. My worst fears had been realised and yet again I had displayed weakness and debility to the one person I was so keen to impress; every one of our encounters so far had seen me prostrate with illness or weakness; how could I hope to achieve his favour or his respect? I closed my eyes and wished to simply disappear.
As the silence lengthened, I sensed the King draw up a chair and seat himself facing me. I opened my eyes and raised them slowly to meet his gaze, expecting to see scorn and derision; what I saw was compassion and understanding, and it confused me.
“Faramir, please! You have nothing to fear from me! Nothing to fear and nothing to prove!” I felt the tension drain out of me and slumped back into the chair as the impact of his words filtered into my consciousness.
“I could never fear you, My Lord. I fear only that I am not worthy and not fit to fulfil the role that fate has lain before me.”
“Please, tell me what troubles you?” He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, hands clasped together. His gaze was troubled as he watched me.
Oh, where to start! He didn’t rush me, just waited for me to find the words. I started with the easy bit, I told him of Lord Elrond’s prognosis for my recovery; I would never again lead my Rangers into combat, never again wield a sword to defend my kin or country, never again draw a bow, and likely never even be able to scribe my own letters! What use could I be as Steward? Even if I could overcome these obstacles, I had forfeited the right to hold office; I had not forgotten that I had resigned my Office and sought permission to retire from my land.
“You were not thinking clearly when you wrote that letter. Indeed, it is barely legible. I would not hold you to it and would gladly destroy it and pretend I had never seen it!”
“Then I would have to write it again!” I got to my feet and paced restlessly, aware of his scrutiny and his concern. I was submerged in memories of the Rammas and of the prisoner whose life I had taken. I did not allow the memories to overpower me and for the first time I spoke of it out loud, not just of the prisoner but of the boy who had died and my feeling of helplessness and despair. Not that I was seeking excuses, for there were none. He listened patiently until my words faded to whispers.
“And what would you have me do, Lord Faramir? Judge you? Punish you? Do you think I had not heard this story already? You should know well enough that there are no secrets amongst troops! What could I do or say that would punish you more severely than you have punished yourself already.” His voice was stern but his eyes held only regret and compassion. “There is no case to judge. The prisoner‘s life was forfeit when he stepped on the soil of Gondor and brought war to our Land. He can have expected only death; if he had submitted to his captivity with humility, he would now be making his way home with his compatriots, defeated but alive; that he is not is a result of his actions….there is no case to answer”
“But how do I face my men with this on my conscience when I cannot face myself? I’ve let them down, betrayed their honour and their sacrifice.”
Our audience was interrupted by Lord Elrond who came to announce that luncheon was served in the Queen’s sitting-room; the King seemed thankful for the interruption. He silenced me with a wave of his hand and led me through to an elegant and peaceful room, where I was introduced to his bride. There are no words that could do justice to describe the Elven Queen; I had heard of her beauty and yet nothing had prepared me for the reality; her presence filled the room with the beauty of a star-lit sky and her gentle manner would have put me at ease had I not been blushing like a pimply-faced youth. I stammered an inarticulate greeting and kissed her hand; she took my discomfort in her stride and before long we were conversing like old friends. The afternoon passed quickly, but soon a messenger came for the King and our little party was broken. It was only as I was taking my leave that the King reminded me of our unfinished business and promised that we would return to it at a later time.
I didn’t see the King again for several days but my days were not idle. I was still under the healers’ care and each day I presented myself, accompanied by Tamir, to the Healers’ chamber where Lord Elrond demonstrated to us both exercises that would strengthen my muscles and help me to regain my strength. I also spent many pleasurable hours with the Hobbits and getting to know Legolas and Gimli. Whilst they were all good company, I felt most at ease with Frodo. He was still recovering from his own ordeal and I found in his quiet manner companionship, comradeship and mutual understanding. We shared many common interests and a love of lore and history; we would talk for hours while Sam pottered around us, providing us both with refreshment whether we wanted it or not. He was very good at ignoring our protest and frequently threatened to report us to the King or Lord Elrond if we did not comply, the humble Hobbit gardener transformed by adversity into a fearless and ruthless guardian.
Eomer and the Riders of Rohan returned to collect the body of their fallen King and a banquet was arranged for the evening to honour their arrival. During the afternoon, Merry brought me a letter from Eowyn and with it a request from Lord Eomer that he attend me in my chamber for a private audience. While Merry went to convey my agreement, I read the letter; it was brief and rather impersonal; she enquired after my health and hoped that I was recovering well. She made no mention of the future, of our future, and I could only conclude that she no longer anticipated that our futures lay together. This saddened me greatly and yet I could not blame her; twice now I had sent her away from me and I could not expect her to subject herself, the proud and fearless White Lady of Rohan, to the possibility of another rejection. And yet, I could not envision my future without her by my side; I needed her love and her strength.
It was in this despondent mood that Eomer found me. We talked for a while of generalities, about my recovery and also about my brother, whom he had known slightly from earlier days. But soon we ran out of small talk and an embarrassed pause ensued, neither of us comfortable to introduce the subject that echoed unspoken between us. I broke first.
“How is Lady Eowyn, My Lord?” He smiled at that and took a moment to pause before answering.
“She was well when I left her, though the last few weeks have been filled with much toil and difficulty; Rohan’s people have suffered greatly and there is much to be done! But I think, my Lord Faramir, that you have a more personal interest in my sister’s wellbeing? I believe that you had an understanding? Does that understanding still hold?
“In truth, I do not know. We parted without resolving anything between us and I fear that in telling her to go back to Rohan I may have led her to believe that I no longer wished for our alliance.”
“And do you?”
“It is the dearest wish of my heart to spend the rest of my life making her happy. I love her and I believe that she loved me but I do not know how she feels now.”
“And what if she refuses you? What will you do then?”
“There will be no other for me! If she refuses me, then I will endeavour to do my best to pass from day to day in useful pursuits, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to persuade her to change her mind…we were destined to be together for eternity and if necessary I will spend eternity trying to win her heart.”
“Then I wish you luck; I know my sister well and she can be as stubborn as a mule!”
The judgement of Beregond was due to take place in the Great Hall in the morning. Before retiring for the night, I sought a word with the King and I requested his permission to address the Knights and Rangers before he dealt with the matter of Beregond. I could see he was puzzled by my request and I hoped he wouldn’t ask me my purpose, for I wasn’t sure that he would approve. Fortunately his attention was called away and I escaped further questions by slipping away to my chamber.
At daybreak Tamir helped to dress me in my ceremonial uniform; he strapped on my sword and tucked the dagger into my belt. I smoothed my hand over the embroidery on the black tabard and traced the shape of the white tree with my finger, remembering the pride I had felt the first time I had earned the right to wear it. I broke my fast with some soft bread, although I had no appetite and I had to force it down, but I would not risk Lord Elrond’s wrath by fainting from hunger.
I made my way to the Hall; the tables had been pushed to the side to make room for the ranks of troops and my footfalls echoed within the vast empty space. The doors crashed open, startling me from my quiet introspection, and Hurin led in the ranks of Knights and Rangers; they formed up in neat rows in front of the dais. I saw Beregond off to one side with an escort. He was dressed in full uniform but was unarmed; I gave him what I hoped was a smile of encouragement.
The King sat on the throne, at his side Eomer, Prince Imrahil, Lord Elrond, Legolas, Gimli, Meriadoc and Peregrin. I stood at the base of the dais and when all were ready I turned to the troops. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths and pushed away anxiety…I had to stay focussed.
“Soldiers of Gondor, we are gathered here today to witness a serious and solemn event, but before we proceed to that task, I have requested the opportunity to address you all. I therefore ask your indulgence and ask Beregond’s pardon for prolonging his ordeal. I will be as brief as possible.
“We find ourselves at the beginning of a future no longer overshadowed by the threat of Mordor or the malice of the Dark Lord. We have all grown up under that shadow and have watched the country and the people that we love suffer. That Gondor resisted the evil for so long is a testament to the bravery, honour and sacrifice of the troops who for so long fought to protect their homeland. I am so proud of you all and honoured to have had the privilege of leading you through all of those dark days. I look on your ranks now with relief that you have endured and with great sadness for the faces of brave and honourable comrades who paid for our victory with their lives.
“The King has returned to us and Gondor will go from strength to strength under his leadership. But while we can enjoy the fruits of our newly acquired peace there may come a time in the future when we will be called upon to defend our borders or come to the aid of our neighbours. We must be vigilant and we must be prepared. It is with great sadness and regret that I must tell you that because of my injuries I will never again lead you as your Captain; I will never again wield sword or bow. Before I can offer my service to the King as Captain General of his troops there is a matter that I need to put before you.”
I paused at this point and, turning away from the troops, I requested Peregrin to join me at the base of the dais. “Peregrin Took, you offered your services to my father, would you assist me now?” I could see his confusion and uncertainty but with a glance to the King he nodded his agreement. I asked him to help me remove my sword and dagger; he took them and laid them reverently on the lower step of the dais. I removed my sling and had him help me to remove my embroidered tabard; this he took also and placed it with my weapons. I thanked him and sent him back to his comrades.
The King stepped down towards me, his face stern and in his eyes a look of recognition. In a voice for my ears only he spoke, “Lord Faramir, this is not necessary. You do not need to do this!”
“Yes, Sire, I do. Please do not stop me now. It is the only way!” He must have seen the determination in my heart; he put a reassuring hand on my shoulder and returned to his throne. I turned back to the ranks.
“The Men of Gondor are known for their honour and bravery; you have never let me down or betrayed the high standards expected of you. It is vital that those who lead you must be above reproach. It is with sadness and humility, therefore, that I have to admit that I have betrayed those standards and failed in my duty to you and to Gondor. I took the life of a prisoner, a prisoner under the protection of Gondor. I allowed grief and despair to overwhelm me and I killed him; we were no longer at war, he was unarmed and my life was not in danger; there was no justification for my action and I can offer no excuses. And so I stand before you now and ask your forgiveness. I cannot and will not presume to take command of troops without being sure that they have respect and confidence in me; I cannot, in all conscience, send loyal and brave men into danger if they mistrust my judgement or my loyalty to them. So now I ask your pardon and I place my future in your hands. I will accept your judgement with humility and respect.”
I knelt then and bowed my head. I heard gasps of concern from behind me but the silence from the troops was absolute and seemed to stretch interminably. At last I heard a soft footfall. Hurin stood before the dais and saluted the King before turning to face the men.
“Soldiers of Gondor, you have heard the word of Faramir, Captain of the Ithilien Rangers. You all know the nature and the character of the man before you; you have served with him in danger and adversity. You have heard his admission and you are asked now to give your judgement before your King and your comrades. I ask you now, do you put your lives and your trust in Faramir, son of Denethor, to honour him as your Captain and your Companion and to follow him to whatever end?”
As one they stepped forward and saluted and then they were chanting my name. I slumped back onto my heels; I couldn’t have got to my feet then if I had wanted to; my knees had turned to jelly. The King and Peregrin were at my side, and supporting me with a hand under each elbow, they helped me to my feet. The noise of cheering was deafening and didn’t abate until the King himself had helped me to replace my tabard and fasten my sword. He lifted his hand to silence the cheering.
“On the day of my coronation, I conferred on Lord Faramir the title of Steward of Gondor; his memory of that day is, I believe, a little hazy. It is my great honour, therefore, to confirm that appointment, and I ask him now to accept the regalia of his office. Lord Faramir has spent his life protecting Gondor and, more specifically, his beloved Ithilien, a place that holds a special place in his heart. For this reason I am afraid that I am going to have to increase the burden of his duties as Steward by appointing him Prince of Ithilien, to make his home there and to supervise its regeneration.” His last few words were drowned out by the renewed outbreak of cheering. He smiled at me then and placed a plain gold circlet on my head. I stood to attention and saluted him, although I couldn’t see his reaction for the silent tears I could no longer contain.
The King remained at the base of the dais, and with a hand on Peregrin’s shoulder for support I climbed the steps to stand beside Eomer and Lord Elrond. Eomer clasped my forearm and bowed his head to me in a gesture of acknowledgement; I felt Lord Elrond’s touch on my shoulder and a seeping of comfort and warmth spread through my chest, as my heart rate slowed to a more normal rate. I was barely conscious of the rest of the proceedings until a renewal of cheering broke into my consciousness and I realised that by the grace of the King, Beregond had received a just and honourable punishment for his desperate actions.
When the soldiers had been dismissed, I sought an audience with the King and asked for his permission to accompany the funeral cortege to Edoras. He didn’t answer immediately and in his expression I could see that he doubted that I was sufficiently recovered to undertake what would be a long and exhausting journey. I didn’t press my case but neither did I stand down, meeting his gaze and returning it with what I hoped he would see as determination. Finally he sighed and agreed, but only on the condition that I followed the guidance and instruction of Lord Elrond with regards to my health. I would have agreed to far greater restrictions; so eager was I to see Eowyn and to settle things that I would have agreed to go bundled up in the baggage wagon!
A/N: According to canon, the judgement of Beregond occurred before Eowyn and Eomer left for Rohan. I have placed it at the return of Eomer for the purposes of my story.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.