2. Final Shadow of Sauron (part 2)
Faramir finally awoke not long after sunset. With a soft voice and kind words, the King welcomed back to the land of the living. When the Steward’s eyes finally focused and he saw who was sitting near him, he sighed heavily.
“Ai, Valar,” he exclaimed in a whisper, looking to the heavens, “once again, I lie idle in the presence of the King.”
“You slept for nearly a day,” Elessar told him, “your company has been quite worried.”
Faramir blinked, pushing himself up against the headboard. “Eowyn was there,” he said dreamily, “I remember her voice. And… Master Beregond?”
“And Bergil,” the King confirmed with a nod.
“It would seem,” said Faramir, “that I have made something of a spectacle of myself. The Palantir?”
“Back in its place in the Tower. It is safe.”
Faramir looked away, his gaze coming to the window beyond Elessar’s shoulder. Stars were once again in the sky and he looked at them as if studying some far-off ghost. “My Lord, I have failed you. The Anor Stone bewitched me. I had not the will to stop it.”
“That was not what I perceived, Lord Steward,” Elessar replied, “true, it took you in the beginning, but you mastered it before the end.”
“T’was not my mastery. T’was the calling of others.”
Once again, Elessar dropped his kingly guise and it was once more Aragorn that spoke. “My friend, I would like to counsel you in this,” he said, “and for that, I would know what you saw in the Anor Stone.”
Faramir pondered this for a long moment but finally managed to untangle his memory enough to speak. “It spoke to me,” he said, “in the voice of my father. The voice was somewhere between the living and the dead, as some cursed soul wandering the land. It was real and yet a dream, some half-remembered mongrel of sleeping and waking.
“‘See?’ it said. ‘He calls for me! Do not take him from me!’ And I wished to go to him, for the voice was desperate with anguish. ‘Come to me, my beloved son. I would right the wrongs I have made against you,’ it said, and hands reached for me, ensconced in flame. I could do naught but go.”
“You saw once again your father’s death?” Aragorn asked.
“Yes,” Faramir answered, “but more, I saw his love. I was but a young boy when I saw it last.”
“My father died when I was a boy,” said Aragorn, “I know well the absence of a father’s love. I understand how it can call. But, pray, what called you back?”
“Eowyn,” Faramir sighed, “she called with a love that equaled my father’s. And I recalled her golden hair. Her light cut through the darkness and flame and led me back. I remembered what it was that I gazed into and resolved to turn its gaze.
“‘Send me not away!’ it cried. ‘I will hinder your gaze! It will be a battle!’ I told it that I would fight back and fight I did, finally turning its gaze.
“Eastward I turned to look, and there saw a sight most strange. Hands built a structure, crude and monstrous. It rose from rubble most foul. Figures passed my gaze. Orcs they were, horrifying fast and efficient as if pushed by some force that frightened even them. And then it entered my mind from places unknown that it was through the eye of the Ithil Stone I saw.”
“Mordor,” Aragorn breathed, “something moves?”
“I know not with certainty,” said Faramir, “it is not known where Sauron kept the Ithil Stone. Perhaps it is some unknown nest of foul beings that remains. But more, there was someone else watching. Angered he was to be seen and surprised by it. As soon as we noticed each other in the stones, he shrouded his face and masked himself with a strange cloud of mist. I tried to push through it to see him, but I was met with an attack.
“‘Who dares to look upon me?’ he cried. I did not answer and he struck again. I could not see and so could not defend myself. It was not long ere I was forced to flee, beaten and defeated. I returned to myself and the darkness took me. My lord, someone else masters the Seeing Stones.”
“This is most curious and alarming,” said Aragorn, “who would have such an ability?”
“I know not,” said Faramir, “and more curious, who in Mordor would have such a will? I know in my heart that the Enemy no longer lives. But certainly, no mere Orc could master the Ithil Stone.”
“This troubles me,” said Aragorn, “a will moves to match that of one who could move the Anor Stone to see other things. He uses trickery and hides to attack his foe rather than face him openly.”
“I could not see him,” said Faramir, sadly, frustrated, “I could not force him to show himself. I failed in this.”
Aragorn saw that Faramir’s mood was downcast. In a show of both friendship and confidence, he put a hand on the Steward’s shoulder. “You bring us more information than we had,” he said, “we know now that something moves yet in the east, even if we know not what it is. But, beyond that, you proved your will; you turned the Anor Stone eastward.”
“It means nothing. My father did the same.”
“And you bested your father’s will.”
“That was not my father.”
Aragorn shook his head, agreeing with Faramir’s assertion. “No, t’was not. But I have since looked into the Palantir as well and parleyed with what is there, locked inside. And I say to you that it was that part of your father’s will that remained after Sauron stole it from him, twisted by the Stone. It calls for you still. And you resisted it in order to remain. You have proven that the blood of Numenor does indeed run clear in you.”
“Perhaps,” said Faramir with a sigh, “but I say that that grief is too raw, too course to face again. Never will I look into the Anor Stone again and I pray you do not ask me to.”
Aragorn nodded in understanding. “It shall be so. But know that I have the utmost confidence in you.”
“That brings me comfort, my king.”
“Then I am glad. Now, on to other things less sensitive, but perhaps just as daunting.” He held up the scroll that Faramir had left him. “Please explain this. How does it pertain to the problem of overzealous petitioning? I have read it several times and it seems to me to be an historical record of a legal ruling, but by my eyes, I cannot understand it past the words themselves. Westron it may be, but more legal than I can decipher.”
Faramir smiled, a bit of a glint in his eye, now. “It speaks to precedence, my lord,” he said, “when Mardil Voronwë, my ancestor and the first Ruling Steward, took office, he found himself similarly inundated by frivolous requests. The times were chaotic and the sudden absence of a king made it necessary to enact a great amount of restructuring. Steward Mardil had not the time to deal with all the requests made to the House of Anarion, so he went to the Council of Lords for a ruling. It was then decided that one house was not responsible for the contracts of another, even if it was the house in power at the time.”
“So Mardil was absolved of responsibility to the king’s contracts,” mused Aragorn, “that I understand. But the requests coming to me now are those from the time of the kings. How does this ruling free me of them?”
“Of old, the kings of Gondor were of the line of Anarion. You are descended from Isildur. Though they were brothers, they eventually established two separate lines, separate houses, in Gondor and Arnor. Further, you have established your own house, Telcontar, a new house.”
Faramir finished his explanation and Aragorn looked at him with no small amount of skepticism, cocking an eyebrow. The Steward responded by raising both of his own, grin widening. It was infectious and soon Aragorn was grinning as well, allowing a chuckle to come.
“Ai, Faramir!” he exclaimed. “This is simplicity! Never would I have thought of such a solution.”
“Indeed, for you did not know of it, my lord. The scroll was buried in the Archives with nearly two fingers of dust upon it.”
“However did you know of it?”
“Mithrandir was ever a source of magnificent history. He was there when the ruling was made.”
Their conversation continued amicably for some time and Aragorn saw that some great weight had seemingly been lifted from Faramir’s shoulders. The talk turned to any number of things, most of them of an unofficial nature, and for the first time they spoke purely as friends. From then on, there was a new understanding between the Steward and the King. The hour grew quite late as they spoke and soon Faramir’s concentration began to slip. The younger man clearly required more sleep.
“I should leave you to rest,” Aragorn finally said, rising from his seat, “I may be the King, but I fear the stubborn authority of your betrothed should I exhaust you further.”
“As I do,” Faramir agreed, “I, for one, would not dare to tangle with such a maiden.”
“It may be unavoidable for you, in the end,” said Aragorn, “you are marrying her in two weeks’ time.”
“I really must speak with the healers about this terrible burning upon the skin of my ears,” a voice came to them from the door. There stood the lady Eowyn, clad in a dress of blue and whimsical of face. “My King Elessar, do you seek to bother my beloved and disallow him his needed rest?”
“Nay, Lady Eowyn,” Aragorn said, “I was only just now bidding Lord Faramir dreams more pleasant than those of yesternight.”
“You have made your bidding known, then,” she said, “my lord needs rest. And clearly, he needs it now.”
Aragorn smiled kindly. “You two are well-matched,” he said, then turned back to Faramir. “Good night, Lord Steward. I am glad you are well. Do not think I underestimate when I say that I would be lost without your guidance, adrift in matters of this fair country that I could not comprehend.”
“Ever in your service, my king,” Faramir answered.
“Good night, Lady Eowyn,” Aragorn said on his way out.
“Good night, my lord,” she answered. Once the king was gone, she went over to Faramir. The Steward shuffled aside a small ways and she sat next to him on his bed, unwinding her hair. “Whether from Rohan or Gondor or the scattered chiefdoms of the North, men all have one common trait; they will not properly rest when rest is needed most.”
“Eowyn, you should not speak so to the King,” said Faramir, “it is highly improper. And though he may mind it not, there are others who would find great offense.”
She reached over and put a hand to his cheek, silencing him gently. He melted into her touch, shoulders sagging as he relaxed. “A wise point, beloved, but there are no others present. And if it caused you to rest, I would speak thus to Eru himself.”
“Then I feel pity for Illuvatar,” he said, putting his hand over hers, “for though He most certainly has foreseen your stubbornness, I doubt that even He has the will to face it.”
Eowyn leaned over and hushed him with a kiss. The Steward sighed in joy afterward and sat looking upon her.
“The Palantir led me last night,” he said after a moment, “and it was naught but you for which I returned. The Warden of the Houses of Healing may say that I finally healed you. But I say to you, t’was you that finally healed me.”
King Elessar permitted Faramir to rise the next day seeing that he was once again sound of mind and had never been fully unsound of body. Beregond brought to both his lord and his lady his plan to include Léowine’s men in the White Company and Eowyn was well pleased and Faramir agreed to it. They needed only Eomer-king’s leave and the Rohirrim Féolaf was riding to see to it.
Early in the afternoon, Faramir and Eowyn were once again called to different tasks. The Steward was called to council with Beregond, Léowine, and the King in preparation for the arrival of Eowyn’s brother from Edoras. The Lady, meanwhile, went to the Houses of Healing searching for the Madame Ioreth.
The houses were quiet this day and the healers had but a few charges. Yet still, somehow, Ioreth proved to be quite elusive. Eowyn wandered the houses for a time and it seemed to her reminiscent of days past when she had been disallowed to leave; they had been maddening, but not entirely without joy, she recalled. She had just finished wandering the gardens, the very spot where she had first met Faramir, when she heard from within a loud crash followed hard upon by a yelp and a curse. A strange fog billowed from the hallway and it was quickly followed by Ioreth, fanning the air with a kerchief as she came. She looked to be quite harried and the bottom edges of her dress let loose traces of the same billowing fog from the hallway.
“Ai, Elbereth!” she exclaimed, a sour look upon her face, “how many times must those children be told not to play marbles in the halls? They’re going to be the death of me yet, I daresay.”
“Madame Ioreth,” Eowyn greeted, “westu hal.”
Ioreth spun around to face Eowyn with a gasp, one hand upon her breast in surprise. Quickly, she dropped into a courtesy. “My lady!” she exclaimed. “Forgive me. I was startled. And more than a little preoccupied, right enough.”
“So I see,” said Eowyn, casting a gaze past Ioreth and toward the rapidly dissipating fog still coming from the hall. “But the Warden told me that it was a quiet day in these halls.”
“Oh, it may seem quiet today, my lady, but t’is period of cleaning, everything being moved back and forth and so on. So, I says to the Warden, ‘we should organize our supplies whiles we’re at it.’ And he tells me to see to it. But I only have a day for it, so here I am running hither and yon with all manner of things in tow, and now here they are all over the floor and mixed and, by my eyes, smoke comes from the mess! I almost fear to try to clean it! Bless me! Oh, but here I am blathering on when I have heard naught of the Lord Steward since yesterday. How fares Lord Faramir?”
“He is well, Madame,” Eowyn answered, “he meets with the King even now. T’was naught but exhaustion that took him.”
“Oh, thank the Valar! I said just yesterday it’d be more than passing tragic if he were to fall ill now, so close to your wedding, my lady. If he shows up in my care now because he works too hard, Lord or no, I shall give him an earful, I will. And you can tell him so.”
Eowyn laughed and took Ioreth by the arm. Together, they walked the garden. “I shall, Madame. And it will be enough to send him to bed ere the sun sets, lest you talk his ears into a box. But pray, stay your tongue a moment for I have a matter official to speak with you about.”
“Aye, my lady? Pray, speak.”
“The organization of Minas Estel and Ithilien is taking shape. Beregond, my betrothed’s captain, is pulling together the White Company and to me Faramir has left matters more domestic in nature. The Houses of Healing in Minas Estel will need to be staffed and I would like you to be its Matron.”
“Me, my lady? But, I am but a nurse.”
“But well-gifted with caring and wisdom. A healer needs equal parts skill and maternal instinct and I can think of none better for the position. And I would have you choose your own staff.”
“Well, I don’t know how I can turn down an offer such as that. When the Houses of Healing are built in Minas Estel, I shall come.”
“That brings me happiness. Now come. Tell me of these halls while I have been away. After all, we must somehow pass the time while that strange fog clears.”
It was nearly a week later that the city was once again gripped in the throes of excitement. The day was clear, the sun bright in the east, and dew still rested upon the grasses of the Pelennor when a voice rang out from the bastion in the Citadel.
“Eomer-king approaches!” it proclaimed. “Comes the King of Rohan!”
Before long, the great gate of the city was surrounded by the denizens of Minas Tirith, voices raised in celebration and welcome. As Steward of the city, it was Faramir’s task to make the official welcome at the gate. With the white rod of the Stewardship in his hand and Eowyn at his side, he went on foot from citadel to gate. And with them went Beregond and Bergil, bearing the colors of the Steward and the King.
However, this was not a greeting that Faramir looked forward to. A great demon of the nerve had seized him. As Eowyn’s only remaining blood kin, Eomer was perhaps overly protective of his sister and Faramir was well aware of the lengths to which the elder Eomunding would go to defend her. Indeed, the two men’s first meeting had not gone well as Eomer had found Eowyn and Faramir in the citadel courtyard engaged in a rather passionate kiss. Eowyn did her best to calm her betrothed as they walked.
“You worry needlessly,” she said to him.
“He does not approve of me,” said Faramir in reply.
“That is untrue. I have set my brother straight in the matter. He will not react so again, with tongue so sharp.”
“Sharp? I believe his exact turn of phrase was unhand my sister, you fork-tongued Gondorian letch. Aside from that, it is not his tongue, but his fist that worries me.”
“T’was hardly a tap.”
“My nose bled daily for a week.”
Eowyn paused long, considering. “The point is conceded. But,” she hastened to add before Faramir could make reply, “as I said, I have settled the matter with him. And as you’ll recall, he was naught but apologetic once he understood the situation, once he found that it was I who began the kiss. And I who continued it.” When Faramir gave her a lop-sided smile, she added still more. “And continued it.”
“And once he remembered that he was King and that it could have made for a rather nasty diplomatic incident,” Faramir appended.
“That too,” Eowyn answered.
“Why do I feel as though I have been saved from the fire only to find myself amongst the Balrogs?”
“Because you worry needlessly.”
They came now to the great gate of Minas Tirith and Faramir ordered it opened. The company of Rohirrim waited beyond with Eomer-king and his standard-bearer in the lead. All were arrayed in the ceremonial riding armor of Edoras, horses upon helm and breast and hauberk. The standard-bearer raised to his lips a horn and from it issued forth a blasting note, long sustained. The crowd at the gate gave a cheer as the Rohirrim entered into the city at last. The company went up the road and Eomer brought his horse to a halt before Faramir and Eowyn. The crowd hushed to hear their words.
“By the Rod of the Steward in my hand, and by the White Tree, the Seven Stars, and the Crown and the Scepter in the name of King Elessar, Minas Tirith welcomes the King of Rohan.” Here, he gave a brief bow.
In turn, Eomer and his standard-bearer dismounted and stood on equal footing with the Steward. “By horse and horn and the great sun above,” proclaimed Eomer with a slight flourish to his voice, “the King of Rohan accepts the welcome of our brothers in arms.”
Another cheer went up from the crowd and Eomer and Faramir took that moment to grasp each others’ arms in friendship. In the din of cries of greeting, Eomer leaned in close to Faramir. “Westu hal, brother,” he said.
The knot that had tied itself into Faramir’s stomach suddenly unraveled and the Steward found himself marveling at the young king’s ability to ease tensions. He smiled back and put a hand on Eomer’s shoulder.
“Mae govannen, brother.”
In that, the first year of the King, the shadow was finally removed from the hearts of all the people in Minas Tirith. In the days that followed, Faramir and Eowyn were wed to much fanfare and joy. From Dol Amroth came the family of Prince Imrahil and from Mirkwood and Erebor came Legolas and Gimli. To the Elven Prince of Mirkwood, Faramir gifted a tract of land north of Cormallen and south of Wetwang marsh. There, a colony was settled by the Elfkind as a place of welcome to those who would not yet sail the Sundering Seas. In return, they pledged their support to Ithilien and Gondor. It seemed to all that the shadows had finally left Middle Earth and that peace was finally come.
But in the heart of the Steward of Gondor, doubt remained. Faramir could not help but believe there was still something remaining to be done. Something moved yet in the east, beyond the walls of Ephel Duath.
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.