1. Dilemma Unmasked
Following the Call of Duty
"But Faramir did not go, for now being healed he took upon him his authority and the Stewardship, although it was only for a little while, and his duty was to prepare for one who should replace him." —The Return of the King
Staring at the stack of papers in front of him, Faramir had never felt more inclined to be Captain of the Ithilien Rangers, with no papers to deal with but his orders. Hurin of the Keys had done an excellent job of holding the City while he was in the Houses of Healing, but he had had neither the authority nor the inclination to attend to all the affairs at hand. And they were many. The war had caused more damage than merely to lives, and if they were to crown a new king, that entailed more than fetching the crown from Rath Dinen.
"My lord?" Hurin was slightly uncomfortable at the overwhelmed look on his Steward's face. "Have I erred in any duty?"
Faramir looked up. "No, you have done well. It is I who am likely to err, for though I might have expected such tasks, I will admit to not being fully prepared to face them. There is so much, so much to be done."
"Do not worry, lord, it is not all your responsibility," said Hurin smilingly. "You are only required to delegate. It is our duty, the duty of your Council, to deal with each problem."
"Of course," said Faramir smiling, "but most of the Council is in Cormallen."
"I am still here, lord," said Hurin, "and so are several lords who were wounded in the battle, but, like yourself, are now healed. We await your orders only."
Faramir took a deep breath. "Then, Lord Hurin, my first order is that you advise me on how best to deal with all these papers."
So Hurin took his place by his lord's side, and throughout the day they moved papers back and forth, discussing their priority, and signing those that needed immediate attention. Most of these were relating to organizing groups to begin cleaning and repairing the main road and its surrounding buildings, which had been much abused by the traffic of soldiers and the raining of enemy missiles.
"I want everything to be clean and shining when the King returns to the City," said Faramir. "I place my trust in you to give the right orders to the right men so that this can be accomplished."
When Hurin did not directly answer him, Faramir raised his eyes from the papers to look at him. Not understanding the discomfort in his gaze, Faramir asked:
"It is a great task, but one that I believe you are capable of. Is there anything that I am forgetting?"
"No, lord," said Hurin slowly. "I do not doubt that we can do what you require."
"Then what is your hesitation?"
Hurin twisted his hands. "My lord, I myself am completely at your service, and will do as you wish without question, but there are many others who may grumble, may think that you do this not of your free will."
"Preparing the City for the King, my lord."
Faramir's voice had a touch of chilliness: "Please explain more fully, Lord Hurin."
"They do not think that you are required to give up the Stewardship, or that you should."
"Deny the return of the King? Is that what they think I should do?" The amazement in Faramir's voice was tempered with just a hint of contempt at such an idea.
But Hurin was in great distress, and he did not know how to answer this. Faramir's mien softened, and he said: "I do not doubt your loyalty, Lord Hurin. If you would be so kind, I would have you assemble all the lords of the City that are present, and I shall speak to them on this and other matters."
As he waited for the council to be assembled, Faramir signed another pile of papers that he and Hurin had approved. The simple act of seeing his signature next to the Steward's seal was distracting him, as his eye did double takes, his brain automatically telling him that he was signing in the wrong place. It should be Denethor's hand there, or at the very least Boromir's. The world had gone wrong in so many ways. In his simple and wholehearted joy, he had not thought that perhaps there might be people who would disagree with his decision. Aragorn was the rightful king, what more was there to say? Not wanting to make a judgment before hearing the arguments, though, he forced his mind to attend to his papers.
Papers being a relatively mundane subject, his active mind began sifting through his recent memories, which naturally brought the White Lady to his mind. Eowyn. He had seen her last on the day he took the Stewardship, with eyes regarding him in warm friendship. It had been a difficult day for him, but he had been resolved on the purpose, and with the support of her and of his people, it had gone over well. She had become such a support to him in these past days, and now he wished she could be here at this meeting. Just her presence might soothe his troubled thoughts.
The bell rang for the hour, and as if on cue, the door opened and in walked Lord Turthorion of Dor-En-Ernil, followed by Gilidhor, who lived where the Lefnui flows from the White Mountains, and then by Hirestel of the Pelennor and Celingon of Anorien, and several others who lived in the City. Faramir set aside his papers and sat up straight as they took their places at the grand table of the Council.
They were suprised to see their lord so grave in aspect and manner, but he was, after all, a son of Denethor. His soft grey eyes were hard and keen as he looked at each of them in turn. Nobles of Gondor, men of high birth and position, loyal and renowned, they had no prospect of what was going through the head of Faramir.
When Hurin last of all had sat down, and all were turned towards Faramir, he called the meeting to order.
Standing, he began to speak.
"Lords of Gondor, it was not my original purpose to hold a Council, being busy with many matters, but I received some news that was both urgent and important, so I have called you together today."
Deciding that the best strategy would be for the lords themselves to broach the subject, he began on a different tangent than his purpose.
"My lords," he said, in a calmer tone than matched the tone of his mind, "there is only a short time before the feasting in Cormallen will end, and the King shall come to claim his throne. In those weeks, I hope to have everything prepared and ready for him: the City cleaned, a feast prepared, and the ravages of war dealt with. I readily admit that I cannot do all of this myself, and as Steward of the Realm, ask that your lordships aid me in this goal as far as you are able. Unless, of course, you have some suggestions or objections that you would like to present to me."
There had been slight shifting when he mentioned the king, but overall the lords had looked him in the eye, and he saw no deceit in them. Faramir took his seat. They glanced at each other, and then Lord Turthorion stood, and after bowing respectfully, spoke his piece:
"Lord Faramir, you know that we are all loyal to you and to Gondor, and therefore have its best interests in mind. In light of that loyalty, we would inquire as to the reason for accepting this man as King."
"He is the rightful Heir, Lord Turthorion," responded Faramir coolly. "Do you doubt his claim?"
"No, my lord," said Turthorion, "I do not doubt that he is the Heir of Isildur, as he claims, but such does not immediately grant him the throne of Gondor."
"Perhaps you would care to elaborate, lord," said Faramir, waving his hand in the very move that Denethor had used when being civil to a member whose motion was not pleasing to him. Hurin smiled to himself on seeing it.
Turthorion spoke humbly, but forcefully, and Faramir was impressed by his skill in speaking.
"My lord, I am sure you are aware of our long history, of the agreement between Isildur and Meneldil, son of Anarion. It was made clear then that Arnor would be ruled by the heirs of Isildur, but that Isildur would leave the rule of Gondor to the heirs of Anarion, though he could have claimed both. Such a claim was further solidified when the direct line of Anarion failed, and Arvedui, heir of Isildur and King of Arnor, claimed the throne of Gondor. That ancient agreement between Isildur and Meneldil was brought up, and Arvedui's claim denied. Even though the line of Anarion is completely ended, why should we now break such tradition, and allow the heir of Isildur to march in to take what is not lawfully his?"
Faramir was tapping his quill pen on the table, and glaring at it most intimidatingly, not trusting humself to meet the man's gaze calmly. Lord Turthorion bowed as he finished his speech, and sat down again. Faramir looked at all the lords again—they seemed to be allied in this belief—and then spoke again, though he did not rise.
"If I understand you correctly," he said in a measured steady tone, "you object to crowning Lord Aragorn as king because he is not the direct heir of Anarion, and you think that perhaps I was not aware of this fact, and was under the impression that to deny him the throne would be treason."
"That is one reason, lord," admitted Turthorion, though obviously leaving much unsaid for the moment. Faramir ignored that, and spoke directly and firmly to the spoken matter:
"It might have escaped your notice, lords, but I am the Steward of Gondor, and cannot be forced into anything. Even were he the long lost heir of Earnil himself, he could not force me to give up the rule of Gondor; I am lawfully the Ruling Steward until I renounce the position. It is true that to do otherwise in such a situation would be easily labeled treasonous in all other respects, but legally it would not be so. However, though I may not have given it as much attention as your lordships obviously have, I am familiar with the precedent, and am prepared to do what my forefathers did not do, and reckon Aragorn the heir of Anarion through Elendil. Does that satisfy you?"
Turthorion stood up again. "While I and my comrades are very relieved to hear of your decision being made of your own free will, that was only a minor point of objection. We, like all loyal Gondorians, wished for the return of the king in our younger days, but obviously did not think on it as a reasonable possibility. We have been under the rule of the Stewards for so long that it seemed until recently impossible for such an heir to be found. But, as loyal Gondorians, we are somewhat hesitant to declare our allegiance to an utter stranger, when such a man as your lordship, of high and noble birth, and long a valiant servant of Gondor, is holding the position already. I know for a fact that many of the people, also, seem to think a king somewhat superfluous, not to be dishonorable."
Faramir could feel his heartbeat quicken as his temper began to appear, but he contained it and merely tapped his pen harder, nearly glaring a hole through it. In a very chill tone, he responded to Turthorion: "I admire your patriotism, lords, but here I think it is misguided. It has long been my opinion that the only thing keeping Gondor from once again returning to its height has been that the ruler has not borne the title or authority of King. By definition a Steward is there only in waiting, and does not the oath include the words "until the king shall come again"? What you would be proposing is not a continuation of the Stewards, but, in effect, making their line the Royal line of Gondor, and granting them all the powers of a monarch."
He stood up at this point, and started to pace a little, using his hands to punctuate each enunciated remark. Hurin felt as if he beheld Denethor once again, in his youth and in the height of his power, and his heart swelled with pride.
"I do not doubt that you believe that you have Gondor's best interests at heart, but such a thing, no matter how good the intentions, is a coup, and not an honorable thing. How could you think that a Hurionnath would stoop to such a level?"
Turthorion indeed looked slightly uncomfortable, and most humble in aspect, but he was firm in his belief. "Lord, these are different times, and all that is old has passed away. We live in a new world, one that does not have to deal with Sauron the Accursed. New traditions will be made, and when we are declaring a new year's beginning and making a new gate for the City, what would be dishonorable about giving the House of Hurin a new title as well? The people, I am certain, would welcome it. This man, Lord Aragorn, is, as I understand, as old as your father was, and certainly fully aware of his background for many years. If he planned to make this claim, would he not, if he was a true servant of Gondor and not just ambitious, have made his dwelling here, so that he would be familiar with its people and its customs? As it is, he has lived far in the North, a ranger in the wild, friendly with elves and halflings and other strange folk. He knows nothing of Gondor. How can he rule it well?"
"He is the rightful king," said Faramir forcefully, slamming his hands down on the back of his chair in his frustration. "He has the hands of the healer, as the prophecies said, even Ioreth could make the connection, and whatever you can say, you cannot deny that fact!"
"I had no wish to make light of his marvelous heritage," said Turthorion, bowing his head, "but neither do I wish for my beloved Gondor to accept this fairy-tale ending only to fall into ruin. He is a good and noble man, that I believe, but this Lord Aragorn has had no training that would prepare him for such a role as the High King of both Gondor and Arnor. The band that he brought from the north, all in ragged grey, is merely thirty, and without armor or organization. How can he hope to manage the thousands of cavalry and fully armed knights that is the army of Gondor? How can he understand the trade routes between Dol Amroth and Anorien, or the various treaties between Pelargir and us? How can he be familiar with the nobles of the land, enough to know how to handle any strife between them?
Yes, he may be blessed with Numenorean blood and power, but so are you my lord! You are beloved of your people, and they will follow you to the death. A king cannot survive if his people rebel under him. At the moment they will accept him, because he brought deliverance from Sauron's army, and healing to their lord. But after the glow has faded, after the happy ending is over, what then, my lord, what then?"
Faramir was now feeling almost furious, breathing heavily, and only with focus keeping himself from saying words in his indignance that he would later regret. Turthorion sighed, and stepped forward towards the Steward's chair. In a softer tone, he said:
"My lord, we do not wish to cause dissension in the City, nor will we attempt to force your hand. Whatever you decide, we shall hold as the decision, and if you choose to step down from the Stewardship in favor of this Lord Aragorn, we shall take him to be our liege-lord. We speak only in our concern for the long-term welfare of this land and its people, and because we would not have you ignorant of our worries."
Faramir finally looked up, and his eyes were alight, but his voice was steady and icily courteous: "Once again, I thank you for your concern, and will give thought to your objections. Now, I must ask you to leave me."
They all rose, bowed low, and then departed, leaving Faramir, overcome with emotion, to sink into the Steward's chair and let his breath out heavily.
This is not AU.
All the lords of Gondor except for Hurin of the Keys are my creations. Their names are Sindarin and, though they are not meant to be particularly fitting, mean:
Turthorion - Son of One who Masters Eagles
Gilidhor - Star of Thoughtfulness
Hirestel - Master of Hope
Celingon - Green Commander
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.