Steward and the King, The
1. Prolog, The Council of Elrond
Summary: What if Boromir didn't receive the dream-summons and so stayed in Minas Tirith and Faramir went north instead? Rated PG for grim battle stuff in later chapters. Boromir, Faramir, Denethor, Aragorn, Thorongil, the Steward's Oath, politics of Gondor.
Author's note: This is a commentary AU. We're told that Faramir dreamed the prophecy several times and Boromir only once, which leads to the question: Those who first sent the dream to Faramir clearly intended the younger brother to seek the meaning. What if he had?
Minor note: some things happen the same or differently that are not directly related to the exchange of brothers: travel times and battle dates will be close to as happens in the original, tweaked as convenient, and when, for example, I had a choice to follow canon rigidly or thematically regarding Aragorn I chose the later, so our first sight of Aragorn would be in Strider clothes. This is a bookverse AU -- except for part of "The Road South" where I have them walk part of the time in sunlight, which is filmverse.
This is a Ring War story, but I write tersely and make many jumps in the timeline when I haven't introduced changes, such as started at the Council of Elrond. My intended audience is readers well familiar with the Ring War trilogy. Because of the nature of this "what-if", in my first chapter I'm quoting and paraphrasing extensively from "The Council of Elrond", then intermittently (and possibly unconsciously) for the rest of the story. Standard disclaimers: these aren't my characters, I'm just borrowing them for a while. For various help & comments, many thanks Anglachel, AfterEver, Azalais, Dee, Ellen, Nath, Shadow975, and Steve. I didn't always follow your suggestions, but they all helped.
Julie Watkins - email@example.com
Boromir stood on the ramparts of the Citadel, looking down on the outer circles of Minas Tirith, the White City of Gondor. Scattered stalls were occupied in the market, few children ran there, and the women walking their household duties wore somber colors. A handful of farmers worked in the Pelennor. Companies of armsmen patrolled or drilled. Further north a mist was rising from Anduin, clouding the horizon.
"Why do you look north?" Denethor's voice said from behind him. "Our enemy is east."
"Faramir has been too long gone, father. I wonder where he is."
"He should be here," the Steward answered impatiently. "Fool's errand."
Boromir kept his gaze as it was to hide how his jaw set. He had heard this judgement too many times. It was no fool's errand when a prophecy promised help Gondor so desperately needed.
"We shall fight this battle without him, and small loss," Denethor continued. "Come down now; we have reports coming from Ithilien."
Reluctantly and deeply troubled, Boromir followed his father inside. Do you really mean that, father? You are angered, still, at our disobedience. Threat of war had sent his brother northward. Attack would soon come.
Faramir scanned the hall, and his breath caught in sudden recognition of a childhood memory. This was the Hall of Fire, the Hall of Tales, though Mithrandir had not named its home as Imladris. Here the Eldar gathered to tell stories of the Blessed Realm and to sing songs of Valinor. Long ago he pleaded with his secret teacher to tell him of elves. He had thought the answering tale had been a description from ages past. He paused again to drink in the wonder. Bright fires were burning on either side, between carven pillars. The figures that walked there were fair faced and graceful. Golden firelight played on their hair and garments, reflecting in their bright, ageless eyes.
Among them he saw someone, not an elf, who he recognized, and Faramir smiled. The wizard was speaking with another who must have been a man, to judge from his travel worn clothes, yet his bearing seemed almost elvish and Faramir saw that both of them were at home in this fair place. As he watched, the man took his leave, and passed out of the room through a door near to where Faramir stood. As he walked by he felt his dream echo, and his eyes turned to follow him. It took him a moment to remember his original intention.
"Greetings, Mithrandir," he said when he approached. "Your words did not give this house justice."
"Well met, Faramir," Gandalf answered, but he was troubled. "Curiosity did not bring you here from Minas Tirith."
Faramir's face turned serious as well. "No. I was sent here by a dream. Lord Elrond said I should tell it to the Council tomorrow." He was surprised Mithrandir only nodded and didn't ask questions. "If you had come to visit the city archives this year instead of last, I would have come to you to ask." It would displease Father that you were on the other side of my journey. Mithrandir was having a silence, Faramir decided. He did that, Faramir had long ago decided, when he was reluctant to give council, but wanted to see what a person would do. He picked another question to ask. "Who was the man speaking to you? I do not think that I know him, but it seems to me that I should."
"He is Aragorn. You will meet him tomorrow."
Chapter One: The Council of Elrond
Gandalf motioned Aragorn to him as he moved to take his seat. "Take note of the man from the South," he whispered. "He has noticed you." Aragorn nodded.
It was the morning of the Council. Many were the paths and reasons that brought the several counselors to Elrond's house: Gandalf, the wizard; the man, Aragorn; two hobbits: Frodo who brought a ring of power, and his uncle Bilbo, who had found that ring in the roots of the Misty Mountains, nearly eighty years before; two elves from the east and west: Legolas, with a message from Mirkwood, and Galdor on errand from the Grey Havens; the dwarves Gloin and his son Gimli from east of the mountains, who had come to ask a private question but were invited to discuss matters far wider. They assembled on the porch with Elrond and other elves of his household.
When Faramir entered he took a chair close by Aragorn, the strange man he had seen the night before. Their eyes met briefly, but Aragorn said no word.
All listened as the various travelers, under the direction of Elrond, spoke their news -- of strange events east and west and south. Then Elrond recounted the history of the making of the One Ring, the ring Frodo had brought to Imladris, and of the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron and how Gil-galad and Elendil formed the Last Alliance of elves and men to fight against him.
Faramir stood when it was his turn. He spoke of the condition of Gondor, of the raids and assaults that menaced her borders and depopulated her lands. He told of many great houses in Minas Tirith that now stood empty, for the faint of heart had moved south and westward, out of the shadow of Mordor. "The Stewards still serve in the City and hold the Nameless One at bay, protecting the lands beyond. But it seems to us soon there must come a great war that we may not withstand, and we are troubled."
Finally, Faramir told of his dream. "On the eve of a sudden assault a prophecy came to me, and afterwards it came oft again. In the dream a voice from the west cried,
Aragorn's widened and his gaze became a stare. Faramir did not notice the reaction, but continued,
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.'
These words, to me, seemed a sign and a calling. I understood little, nor did Denethor, my father. He said Imladris was the name of a hidden dale, where dwelt Elrond. I wished to heed the dream and go seek this place; but my father was loath to see me go, for the way was long and the roads unknown, and there was battle on our borders. Finally I convinced Boromir, my brother, and he obtained me leave to go.
"I know not for what I have come here, nor how you may help. I hope to find hope for my people, and counsel for the meaning of these words." He bowed deeply to Elrond and returned to his seat.
"Here in Imladris more shall be made clear to you," said Aragorn, speaking for the first time. He stood and cast a sword upon the table that stood before Elrond. The blade was in two pieces. "Here is the Sword that was Broken!"
"This is Aragorn son of Arathorn," Elrond said, "and these are the shards of Narsil, Elendil's sword that broke beneath him when he fell."
Faramir repeated the name softly as he looked at the broken blade. Elrond continued, "Aragorn is descended through many fathers from Isildur Elendil's son."
"Then the ring belongs to you, and not to me at all!" cried Frodo in amazement.
"It does not belong to either of us," said Aragorn, "but it has been ordained that you should hold it for a while."
At Gandalf's asking, Frodo reluctantly took out the ring, and Faramir understood the fearsomeness of it. But he was also troubled that the sword he sought was the King's sword. "The time of the Dark Lord's coming is to be the time of the return of the king?" He spoke as if to himself and out of turn, but all on the porch heard.
Aragorn turned his gaze on him; he seemed surprised. Others looked as well.
Faramir nodded an apology to Elrond and continued. As his words could not be unsaid, they must be explained. "This battle comes more swiftly than I was prepared to discover. In my heart is a great foreboding. It battles the hope called forth by the naming of Elendil." Now he was saying too much. He forced himself to stop speaking his thoughts, but they continued as he looked from one face to the next, looking longest on Elrond and avoiding Aragorn. Anarion, the son of Elendil, was first king of Gondor, but his line had ended and so it was that the Stewards came into power. But it was the southern line that had died. The kingdoms had long since faded from Arnor. I had not looked for a king to come from here. There was a claim, long ago, by Arvedui that was refused, perhaps wrongly ... but our records say his sons were killed in battle. Was there a younger son who survived? Arvedui's rule ended, death in battle. The Witch King would have tried to kill that surviving son, had he known he existed.
The King. Faramir had found the meaning of his dream: he was come through a strange land to find his King, that he might come to Gondor and save her in her desperate hour. But would this man be welcomed?
Yet to avoid plain truth is worse than ignorance. At length he met Aragorn's eyes and spoke firmly. "Ring or no, my Lord, I fear my father will not accept your claim. How can we defeat Sauron if we do not stand united?"
"The return of the king may come," Aragorn said solemnly, "but Sauron first must be defeated. We will be united in that. I do not intend to use the ring."
Faramir almost stood in his surprise. "What weapon can we use, then?" he asked, desperate for the safety of his city. "What army? Should we not call this a Gift, that this great weapon has come to us on the eve of our great need?"
"Say rather it is a sign of doom," Elrond said bitterly. "This weapon cannot be used. The weak could not command it, and any of the Free Peoples strong enough to use it would be corrupted by the ring's evil."
And so, having heard all reports, the Council debated. The ring could not be hidden or sent to the West, so it must be destroyed. But Faramir again asked why the ring could not be used, though he knew few were pleased to hear the question.
"You speak of a time of legends, unknown to me. I have lived my life honorably under the Shadow, battling it. We have lived these many generations, with terror on our borders and have remained true. If we are to fail -- and we are nigh to failure! -- it will be our strength that fails, not our hearts. In this terror we have been forged, strong and faithful. Do not abandon us!"
"Faithful?" Elrond asked, anger hovering behind the courteous voice. "Yet your city dwindles. The generations of men are to me the swift passing of the seasons. I was there when Isildur claimed the Ring. I know what it can do even to the faithful. What would you? Would you pretend to master this evil and perhaps die of age deluded that you had kept the darkness controlled, yet condemn your children? The nine kings whom Sauron gifted with his rings achieved only fleeting 'glory' and no contentment for their handful of years, now they are eternal slaves. For the gain of one golden harvest, would a farmer poison his land? That would be the result of your good intentions."
Faramir could make no answer to the Eldar lord's certainty, and lowered his eyes in shame.
Looking at each in turn, Elrond made his conclusion. "Only in the fires of Orodruin can the ring be destroyed. We must send it there."
So the Council decided, and Frodo took the quest, and Sam, who would not be parted from him. In due course, seven other companions were chosen: Gandalf who had discovered the truth that Bilbo's ring was the One Ring, and so Doom had come at this time, not earlier or later. Aragorn and Faramir also, for Faramir's dream had summoned Aragorn to return to the White City, and their path would be with Frodo's for many miles. Legolas for the elves and Gimli for dwarves, and Merry and Pippin for friendship that would not be denied.
== end chapter ==
Author's note: Reiterating, the poem from the dream is, of course, Tolkien, plus many phrases and sentences around that.
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.