Hands of the Steward, The
1. Chapter 1
Author's Note: This fic came about because neither of us (Alexis Steele and Red Jacket) particularly liked the fact that Faramir -- or any representative of Gondor's current government -- was not present during the war council that decided to ride out to the Black Gate in ROTK. It later extended into a filler piece as to how and where Aragorn got his clothing as the muster rides out of Minas Tirith. Feedback is appreciated. Enjoy the fic!
The Hands of the Steward
"Certainty of death, small chance of success..." Gimli sucked in a lung full of pipe weed and his bushy beard moved upwards with a smile. "What are we waiting for..."
A cacophony of sound resonated outside the audience chamber, the persistent plea of, "Please, milord, you are not yet fit for leaving the Houses. Please return before you harm yourself further," emanating from the familiar voice of Peregrin Took.
There was no answer to the requests nor did the sound of footsteps echo off the curved white stone walls. Only Pippin's pleas before the doors creaked open, though with none of the gusto or crashing clang of which Aragorn had thrown open Théoden's doors at Helm's Deep.
There Faramir, Steward of Gondor, stood, pausing not even to catch his breath though he looked as though he dearly needed it. Faramir was paler than the marble statues lining the hall. His face appeared grim and determined as if it too were set in stone.
None spoke, not even in greeting, such was their surprise. Faramir's face hardened, steeling himself further, as he entered. His walk was slow, measured and cautious, for he could not afford it to be unsteady. He knew if he faltered he would likely be unable to rise without assistance.
Aragorn broke the stillness of those already attending the makeshift council, his voice cutting through the haphazard tapping of Pippin's feet. He bowed, only a tilt of his head, but acknowledgement none the less. "My Lord Steward."
Greeting given, he moved forward with such swiftness that Faramir did not have time to contemplate how he should go about bowing back. Aragorn was at his side and then supporting Faramir under his shoulder, all too conscious of his wounds for Aragorn had taken the time to tend to them himself while Faramir slept, after all those he could draw from the Shadow's grip had been freed.
He frowned but would not chastise the Steward of the realm, not in front of this audience, though the healer in him dearly wished for the option. He noted all too readily the clamminess of his alabaster skin and the tremors that coursed through his body. Faramir should still be abed.
"I thank you, Lord Aragorn," Faramir began, taking several easy breaths to calm his rapidly beating heart. "But I am curious. Why was I not summoned to this Council? Does the Steward's opinion no longer count when affairs concerning Gondor are discussed? Why did I have to hear it, third hand, from my squire?"
Though Faramir did not see it, Pippin's face blushed near crimson from where he stood behind the Steward. Steeling himself once again, Faramir turned his gaze towards the dwarf. "As for your last comment, Master Dwarf, what you may be willing to risk may differ from what I shall. For it will not be your people, the women and children and wounded of the dwarves, who are consumed by Mordor's Orcs and fires should this venture fail." If any noted the flinch in Faramir's eyes at the thought of such fires, they did not speak of it.
It was then that Aragorn realized which seat Gimli had taken and could have winced. Faramir's lips had all but disappeared into a tight bloodless line. Aragorn's voice sounded stern as it rang through the chamber. "Gimli!"
The dwarf, slightly confused about the sharp rebuke from his friend, discovered his mistake when the Steward addressed him. Though he never raised his voice, Faramir's displeasure was clearly audible. "Lord Gimli, please be so kind as to vacate my father's chair."
Gimli at least had the presence to look sheepish, if it was possible to see underneath his beard, as he rose from the seat the Stewards had maintained for nigh on a thousand years.
Gandalf felt the need to interject himself into the conversation, before any damage could arise. "Faramir, I assure you, no slight was intended in keeping you away from this Council. We merely wished to allow you the chance to rest and heal from your wounds."
"Mithrandir, you know I have valued your advice and support over the years, but never have I allowed myself the luxury of resting while my men are facing certain peril and I shall not start now," Faramir declared.
Looking on the new Steward's pale face, his eyes softened. "Faramir, but yesterday those who love you watched over you and thought that you would be lost to us. Perhaps, for once, your first concern should be for your own well being."
Had it been said by any other living being and had Faramir not heard genuine concern in his old friend's voice, he would have not taken kindly to the words. A very small, very sad smile flickered briefly over his lips. "I thank you for your concern but the needs of my people must come before my own."
Gandalf frowned but said nothing more, knowing the boy could be as mule headed as his father and brother. Aragorn moved to assist Faramir into the black, ornate chair. For the first time the Steward froze and his breathing became raspier. Very slightly, as if hiding weakness, he shook his head.
Aragorn felt sympathy for the younger Ranger but doubted how long his legs would hold him. He leaned closer and murmured for Faramir's ears only, "Faramir you must sit, it is as your healer that I tell you this."
Faramir shook his head a second time. Aragorn was all too aware that the others were watching them and Legolas, at least, had heard his earlier words. He stressed again, "As a healer, Faramir, I am telling you to sit or I will be escorting you back to the Houses. You can do your people no good if you collapse from yet unhealed wounds."
Faramir drew in a shaky breath that Aragorn took as acceptance. The Steward, at least, did not protest again as Aragorn led him the short distance to the Steward's chair. A shudder ran through him as he took up the seat and, for but a moment, Aragorn thought he appeared very small, nearly fragile, against the stark black.
Blue eyes opened then and the illusion faded. Whatever ghosts still haunted the Steward, and those too Aragorn could see lurking in the blue depths, there was a more quiet strength there than aught else and a burning need to see the best done for his people.
Almost immediately, Pippin took up his place behind the Steward's chair and placed a tiny hand on Faramir's forearm. A smile of relief flashed briefly across Faramir's face as Pippin continued giving his silent support. Without taking his eyes off of the rest of the audience in the chamber, almost subconsciously, Faramir placed his own larger hand over that of this beloved hobbit.
"I will return to the Houses once I know what it is you have been planning. If it is sound, I will support it, but I will not hand over Gondor's army until I know what may be in store for her troops," Faramir explained.
"I would have thought," Éomer put in, his tone anything but neutral, "that the King was fit to decide how to spend his troops?"
"The King has only just arrived," Faramir did not look at Éomer but to Aragorn as he spoke. "I do not doubt his claim nor do I have any thought to challenge it and wish with all my heart that he would be proclaimed to all without delay."
Now he turned his gaze towards the neophyte King of Rohan. "But even if this were so, it has been my sword and bow, Éomer-King, that has served in Gondor's army these past twenty years. I know her, her strengths and her weaknesses, even after taking into account our losses." Faramir's eyes grew sad, but he did not falter. "Since my brother departed I have been leading her and none now living know her better than I, know which troops are fit and best for battle and which must stay behind to guard her should the battle go ill."
"Very well, Faramir, if that is what you wish," Aragorn conceded. "But afterwards you will return to the Houses for proper rest, is that understood?"
"Yes, milord," Faramir answered. He drew in a shaky breath, his face a very pale contrast to the dark chair.
Aragorn frowned before leaning over and murmuring something to Pippin. The Citadel guard moved quickly to do his lord's bidding as Aragorn straightened and the war council recommenced.
While Pippin ran off to do whatever it was Aragorn had whispered to him, the others quickly rehashed the plan they had set forth before the Steward of Gondor. Faramir looked no less bleak to hear it but nodded, in the end.
"It is what is needed," Faramir agreed. "For there is naught else I can think to do that would win us the day, nor do I believe any other could. A slight chance for victory is all that remains but the full force of Gondor's army cannot be committed to this fight, nor, I believe, should that of Rohan's army."
"What would you advise then, Lord Steward?" Gandalf asked.
"There are troops that would be of little use in such a battle as you purpose as it is and besides that what will happen should this venture fail must be considered. Knowing the damage done by Sauron's hoards... The White City may have to be abandoned before long, much as I am loathe to consider it, for many of its defenses have been decimated but there are places yet we can stand and fight. I would rather abandon stone than have the lives of my people utterly spent," Faramir said firmly.
"You doubt then, Lord Steward, the sturdiness of rock and stone?" Gimli questioned, a distinct challenge in his tone.
Faramir smiled and there was a bittersweet quality to it. "Whatever the strength of rock and stone, above all Gondor is her people and I would trade all the splendor of such grand, cold things for the hope that is to be found in the warmth of the living."
Gimli grunted but did not appear to have the words to respond. Faramir turned his attention back to his King and ducked his head just slightly in embarrassment at the pleased smile that lingered about Aragorn's lips.
"Who would you suggest to journey forth on this venture then, Lord Faramir?" Legolas asked, also with a slight smile on his face in regards to the Steward's comments to his friend.
"Though I haven't heard back from all of the companies yet," Faramir began, "the initial reports state that of all the troops, my brother's company has had the most survivors and the least amount of wounded in the siege. The units pulled from Cair Andros and Pelagrir still retain at least half of their numbers. If given a night or two of rest, they will be able to march as well. And..." A strange look glimpsed across the Steward's face for the briefest of moments. As such, only Legolas and Aragorn noticed it. Quietly, Faramir inquired, "In fact, it seems as though the only company in which I've received no information about is my own. What has happened to the Rangers?"
A silence fell upon the chamber. The remaining Fellowship members and Éomer glanced awkwardly back and forth between each other. The pending silence only served to further upset Faramir.
"Please, I must know," Faramir pleaded.
Gandalf sighed softly and nodded his consent to Aragorn's silent questioning.
"My Lord Steward... Faramir," Aragorn began somewhat awkwardly. "You were the only Ranger to return from the effort to retake Osgiliath."
Faramir stiffened and sucked in a shallow breath. It was several moments -- seemingly a lifetime for those watching the young Steward -- before Faramir spoke. "I had feared as much but I had hoped..."
Faramir trailed off and rubbed a weary hand across his forehead, holding back his grief until there was time to shed it. "There are those of the company who did not ride, that yet remain. I knew our chances of survival were very slim and as such those who wished not to ride did not, nor did those who would leave families behind. One of my commanders, Damrod, was injured before the siege. He has been recovering here in the Houses and is now fully capable of returning to duty. He shall lead the remaining Rangers in my stead."
"Faramir," Aragorn hesitated for a moment, "Your command has just suffered a grievous loss. Perhaps it would be best if the Rangers remain here, in Minas Tirith."
Faramir sighed. "Yes, that is true, but that will mean that some of the Rangers will want to go out now, regardless, to avenge those who were lost."
"All the more reason for them to remain behind," Legolas countered, "Only more death will arise if the soldiers who march forth are shrouded in vengeance."
"You will not find many in Gondor now who wouldn't be seeking some form of vengeance or justice," Faramir stated. He hesitated. "Nor do I think any words bidding them to stay would be heeded. Some will go whether commanded to or not."
"Make it voluntary," Éomer said gruffly. "Those who wish to remain behind may and those seeking vengeance and glory shall ride with us."
All eyes found Rohan's young King who looked distinctly uncomfortable under such attention. Éomer shifted uncomfortably. "The riders of Théodred's éored, those few who survived or escaped, were given the same option though Legolas is right, many who rode for vengeance ride no longer."
Before anyone else could say anything, Pippin returned, carrying a serving tray that had six goblets on it. He handed one to each of the others in the room.
Aragorn removed a packet from his pocket and leaned closer to Faramir. "This will dull the pain and give you a dreamless sleep. It works slowly and is not ideal but my supplies are dwindling. I suspect you shall have half an hour more before you become too drowsy for further discussion and that, my patient, is all I will allow."
Blue eyes rose to meet his and Aragorn found himself surprised by the amount of trust there. "You will be needed, my Steward, when we have ridden. Your people shall need you and you cannot aid them unless you have healed."
Faramir did not appear pleased but he nodded in resignation. The finely crushed powder was added to his wine.
Éomer raised his goblet, he asked, "What shall we toast to?"
The answer came, quietly, from Faramir. "To Sam and Frodo. Never a more stalwart protector and faithful friend have I met than Samwise Gamgee. Never a more courageous heart than that of Frodo Baggins. May they be our shining hope in the darkest hours of despair."
A smile appeared on everyone's faces before they intoned, "To Sam and Frodo."
Faramir drained his glass without pause, aware of his King's eyes upon him all the while. They managed, just, to hammer out the details for those of Gondor's forces that would march. It was a large number, only a small force would be left behind to shield the city and her people. Faramir wanted only to give his people a chance should the battle go ill.
Before aught else could be discussed the Steward succumbed to the power of the medicines. He did so quietly, had Aragorn not been watching him carefully he may not have noticed. Faramir had already been slumped in the Steward's chair, keeping a stiff, proper posture had become simply too taxing, as consciousness fled he settled further and his breathing, tight and controlled, eased.
Aragorn drew the conversation to a halt and refrained from doing a thorough examination of his wounds then and there, instead moving to gather the young Steward into his arms so to move him back to the Houses. Pippin hovered anxiously beside the chair.
"Do not fret, Pippin. I can not thank you enough for watching over Faramir," Aragorn reassured him, grunting as he lifted Faramir. He was heavier than he looked. "Boromir would be proud of you too."
"Really?" the smallest of the halflings asked.
Aragorn reluctantly allowed Legolas to the burden of carrying Faramir back to the houses. The strength of the Elf prince had not been taxed by a seemingly endless night of healing. Legolas lifted the Steward easily, startling Éomer for Legolas appeared more diminutive than the one he carried. Appearances, though, could be deceiving.
Aragorn put a hand on Pippin's shoulder. "You have been a true and wonderful companion to our dear Steward. He'll need all the support he can get."
Pippin smiled then faltered and he squirmed. Aragorn smiled. "Go with him, he is your charge now. Make sure you see that he rests!"
As he and Legolas made their way out of Merethrond, Pippin could be heard snorting before his voice trailed off. "Legolas, do you know if stubbornness is inherent in all Gondorians or..."
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.