16. Not Worth Argument
Written for the August 2010 Nuzgul Challenge, 'Royally Screwed'.
Sometime between the reunion in Fangorn and Pippin's fateful look into the Palantir...
"You are the rightful King of Gondor, whether you will or no." Gandalf exclaimed in irritation.
"So you say," Aragorn replied. "And you will say that authority is not granted Denethor to deny the return of the King. Yet, if I am the heir of Isildur, I am also the heir of Arvedui. And Pelendur's decision applied to Arvedui and all of his descendants. Only the Steward can reverse it. Denethor will not do so."
"Denethor!" the wizard scoffed. "He cares for little beyond the diminished bounds of Gondor. Great though he may be in defending those bounds, that fault is unforgiveable. Your charge is all the lands of the Men of the West, and you have the greater gifts. Denethor is a Steward, no more."
"Your gifts, friend, are greater than any others who now walk these lands. Yet you too are a steward, as you have pointed out."
Mithrandir scowled, misliking having his own words turned on him. "What mean you?"
"Gondor is governed by law. It has been for a thousand years. The law sets a limit on my claims - the Kingship of Arnor is indeed my right, but no more. If the Dunedain of the North assist in a war in which the Enemy is defeated and Gondor made safe, then the Steward's duty is to assist Isildur's heir in rebuilding Arnor. That was part of Pelendur's agreement with Arvedui, though little published. Denethor will follow it to the letter. He has never yet neglected his duties, and will assist me in Arnor even though he detests me. That is, of course, if we are not all slain by the Enemy as we argue."
"Elrond does not recognize that agreement," the Wizard objected. "Nor I. It is unwisdom. The lands of Men are meant to be reunited under the one true King. It shall be either that, or defeat."
Such words, Aragorn had been warned against by folk ranging from the women of the Angle to Glorfindel and Celeborn. But Mithrandir had ever been a faithful friend, so he simply replied "If Denethor has not the right to deny the return of the King, still less have Elrond or you to impose it. I thank you for your loyalty to my House. But unless something unforeseen befalls, so that Gondor is left strong but leaderless, such a reunion will not happen. As for defeat, that seems likely enough. But I do not understand why you say 'all or nothing'. The middle course is yet possible. If Sauron is defeated and I survive to see it, I shall account myself doubly blessed. I may hope for more, but I do not expect it."
Gandalf sighed. The reunion would happen, for Vaire had already woven it. But of course he could not tell anyone this, and moreover must keep it at the very back of his own mind. Further argument was folly, so he lit his pipe and walked away.
A/N: I know Gandalf's famous line "I am also a Steward. Did you not know?" was delivered after this takes place, but that's too good a line for him to have used only once. The 'extra' part of Pelendur's agreement with Arvedui is made-up, but seems reasonable...
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