5. The Pieces are Moving
Minas Tirith, Spring 3010 TA
Denethor clapped his hand gently around the weed, pulling until it came up, roots and all. It was a small flowerbed, hardly more than a patch of soil, but Denethor had tended it himself for many years now. He enjoyed gardening, and all the planning and preparation that went with it. It is a wonder that a man can make something from nothing with naught but his own hands and a bit of earth.
"My lord, if I could have a word."
Denethor stiffened at the sound of Faramir's voice, surprised. "Faramir. To what do I owe this pleasure?" His tone was perfunctory, but not any different from his usual manner of greeting.
"I sent you a message this morning. About meeting with Vorondir?"
Denethor ignored the question and asked one of his own. "How long has it been since you returned from Ithilien?"
"Two days, Sire. I met with you as soon as I . . . "
Denethor did not let Faramir finish. "And what have you been doing with your time these past two days?"
"I have been in the Archives. Reading."
"About things that interest me."
Denethor thought there was a flippant note in Faramir's voice, and this irritated him. "Oh? Things that interest you? Things such as that wizard friend of yours tells you, I suppose."
In the past, Faramir would have answered defensively, or shrugged and looked away. But now he simply fixed Denethor with a steady gaze, his eyes narrowed, his stance challenging. In fact, it was Denethor who was forced to look away.
To cover his discomfiture, Denethor waved Faramir over to the flowerbed, motioning him to pick up the trowel that lay on the ground.
Faramir hesitated at first, and then squatted opposite Denethor, digging up an unfortunate weed. They continued in this manner for a while, both weeding a part of the flowerbed, not speaking, but content in their own fashion. After a time, Faramir twirled the trowel absently in his hands, and the light glinted off the metal in an odd way, making Denethor look up.
"We have . . . we have not done this together in a long time." Faramir's voice trailed off, and Denethor was suddenly reminded me of a time long ago, when he would be out in the gardens with his sons, with Finduilas. An odd tightness came into his chest, and Denethor swallowed hard, trying to fight the memory.
"So what were you reading in the Archives?"
Faramir let out a breath, seeming slightly vexed, and gave Denethor a cold look. "If you must know, I was reading about archery."
"Archery?" Denethor could not hide his surprise. It was rare for Faramir to take an interest in martial pursuits when he was not afield. Denethor wondered at this, and Faramir must have noticed, because the look of slight annoyance on his face disappeared, replaced by eagerness. "Yes. And not just about archery, but about bows, and swords and other things. Ancient bows made from things other than wood. In Nùmenor, they made bows from a new sort of metal."
"Metal? Like steel?"
"Yes, but lighter than what we use to make our blades with. An alloy of some sort, more flexible than steel. And it does not rust in water."
This intrigued Denethor. "Is this some metal that is known to us? Something that could be made in Gondor?" It struck him that the metal could be used for things other than bows or other weapons. For tools, or perhaps maybe in building?
"I do not know if we have it. Perhaps we can make something similar. But I suspect it is as most things from Nùmenor. Lost to us, except in ancient books." Faramir paused, thinking.
Denethor nodded, letting his mind wander for a moment, pondering on what else had been lost to them. A tree, a king, a throne. And love and peace and everything.
He shook off the thoughts, thinking it pointless to wallow in pity for himself or for Gondor. "What was it you wished to speak to me about? About Vorondir?"
Faramir shook his head. "Later. It will wait." He seemed happy for some reason, and this made Denethor oddly content and he did not wish to spoil it in any way. "Very well. Come see me on the morrow, at six bells, and we will discuss the matter."
The next morning, Denethor flipped idly through the pages of the City's latest tax rolls, Faramir standing before him. The tax reports were extremely detailed, and extremely tedious. Vorondir is particularly good with tedious details.
Vorondir was the City's quartermaster, responsible for all the monies and stores in Minas Tirith. Once a month, he sent the Steward a ponderous report on the City's finances. That was why he had been surprised when Faramir asked to join Vorondir on his rounds. Denethor did not think either of his sons would willingly spend their scarce free time with Vorondir.
He considered Faramir for a moment, thinking. "Why do you wish to see or speak with Vorondir?"
Faramir shrugged. "Vorondir knows what happens in every circle, how much grain was harvested, how taxes are paid, how much gold was bought and sold at the markets. I wish to know of these things."
"To what end? It is for Vorondir to know such things, and he does well enough on his own. His reports are . . ."
Faramir interrupted him. "But the City is our charge as well, as are its people. It is right that we should take an interest. The people do not take their plaints to Vorondir, after all."
Denethor leaned back in his chair, considering this. He steepled his fingers, tapping his forefingers together lightly, while fixing Faramir with a steady gaze. "You wish to be Steward?"
Faramir met his gaze evenly, neither surprised nor cowed by the question. "No. I have never wished for what is not mine by right."
Denethor could not help but think that Faramir's words were an accusation of sorts. Are you so infected with the wizard's poison, Faramir? Does he tell you that I seek the throne instead of the black chair?
"It is not seemly, Faramir, that you should concern yourself with tasks involving the City's treasury. You are a captain of Gondor, and you should learn to conduct yourself as one!"
Faramir was calm, but Denethor could see a slight flush on anger on his face. "With all due respect, my lord, I am a captain, but I am also a lord and prince, and I would conduct myself as one. As a lord of the City."
"A lord of the City concerns himself with statecraft, with giving sage advice in council, with understanding and using power. He does not concern himself with . . ."
"Those who have no power?" Faramir's voice was still soft, the even tone belying the sharpness of his words. "We are princes only to the wealthy and powerful then? We should do naught to spread our grace among the poor, among those who need it the most?"
"Faramir! Enough!" Denethor was indignant, but also severely upset at himself for losing his composure around Faramir. "You forget your place, Captain."
Faramir dropped his gaze, and seemed contrite. "I apologize, my lord, for my impertinence."
Denethor said nothing, merely keeping his gaze on Faramir, still fuming. Faramir began to speak, but Denethor held up a hand to stop him, not wishing to hear more words. Then he waved the hand at Faramir, dismissing him. He did not bother to watch as Faramir left the room.
A deafening silence filled the room around Denethor and he wondered at what had passed between himself and his son. Is this the doom of our house, that fathers and sons must always be at odds? As I was with my father, and as he was with his before him?
Denethor absently shuffled the sheaf of papers before him, wondering how to begin. He had asked Faramir to meet with him, and now Faramir sat in a chair before him, and if the younger man felt any anxiety over their previous disagreement, or curiosity about this meeting, he did not show it.
Denethor kept his tone "Thank you for seeing me, Faramir. I know you are preparing to leave for Ithilien, so I will not take much of your time."
Faramir nodded, and smiled politely, waiting for Denethor to continue.
"You were concerned about the plight of the poor. Do you think there is great want in the City."
There was no immediate response. Then Faramir shrugged. "In truth, I cannot say that I know there is want. But I suspect there may be. It was a hard winter. I wished only to know if there was aught we needed to do."
You set at naught what I do for the people of the City then? The thought made Denethor bitter, but he controlled himself, and focused on the matter at hand.
"I think it is time you learned how to care for your own people." Denethor held out the sheaf of papers, and Faramir leaned over to take them, now openly curious.
Denethor watched as Faramir examined the papers, slightly amused at Faramir's surprise.
"Do you know what that is, Faramir?"
"Yes, it is . . . it is a deed of property. You are giving me your lands?"
"Not all of my lands, only what would be yours by right. The property was left to me by my mother, part of her dower. Most of the land is here and in Anorien, although there are a few farms in Lossarnach as well."
Faramir seemed perplexed. "Why are you giving me this now? Surely there is no hurry to . . ."
"You are interested in knowing how Gondor is managed, how we care for our people. What better way then for you to have your own lands to manage, your own people to care for?"
Faramir was quiet, watching his father intently. "I am surprised, my lord. I had not expected this . . ." His voice trailed off, and Denethor allowed himself a brief moment of satisfaction.
You expected me to punish, not reward. But your compassion should not be punished, for it is your mother's gift to you. "Whatever you may think of me, Faramir, it is not always my intent to punish you. If there is something you need to learn, I would have you learn it properly."
Faramir nodded and rose to take his leave. "I thank you then. It is . . . a generous thing."
"Use it wisely, for I would expect nothing less from you . . . lord and a prince."
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.