1. New Seasons
It had been rather hard for Aragorn when Faramir was still alive, and would not or could not think of Aragorn as a friend. They had always admired and liked each other, but that particular friendly warmth was missing, and in later years it had caused a couple strains in their relationship.
And then Elboron had come. He had been much like his father, but more self-sufficient and more proud, and he had looked on the Stewardship as a duty rather than a pleasure. Aragorn had valued his talents, but could not feel anything more for the man, and Elboron would have been quite shocked if he had.
But now Aragorn was feeling very old, and he missed companionship. Halbarad, Eomer, Imrahil, Faramir, Merry, Pippin, Sam: all had gone to their long rest. What was worse, Elboron and Elfwine were also gone, and he was living with the grandsons of men he had once counted as friends. What sort of life was it, if he was to live through many generations of men, and leave his friends behind him?
Well, if he could not find it anywhere else, he would try find it in a man a third his age. Feamirë seemed amiable, and his face reminded Aragorn eerily of Denethor, another Steward he had failed to connect with, especially now as he neared old age by normal men's reckoning. For some strange reason, the House of Hurin still had inexplicable amounts of Numenorean blood, and they still had longer lives than most men. Feamirë looked easily a man of no more than fifty, but he was nearing eighty years of age, and had grandchildren of his own. All in all, Aragorn felt that he would be able to make friends with him, if the man was willing. He had already entertained another of Elboron's offspring, his younger son, Barahir, and found him full of curiosity and vigor. In fact, he had asked for information about Aragorn's past, and was writing a history of it even now.
But then—there was a knock at the door, and in came Feamirë. There was a slight grimness about his face usually, but it was much softened by a smile now, and Aragorn returned it gladly.
"Good afternoon, my Steward."
"Good afternoon, my King."
"Will you not be seated? I must beg for your patience with an old man's whims—or rather, I must not, because I am the king and I so order it—but in any case, I hope you do not find the heat oppressive."
Feamirë was already seated, and he responded to Aragorn's droll tone with a similar comment: "Oh, though my age may not be comparable, my wife could tell you that I am particularly selfish about having warm fires in my room at all times, so I welcome your whim."
Aragorn eyed him kindly but intently. His long life had taught him much about reading men, his heritage not gifting him with natural talent in that area, as it had the House of Hurin, and he could see many things about his new Steward at first glance. He had a slightly worn look about him, which was not surprising about a man who had nine children and scores of grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the way.
But there was also a bit of sadness in his eyes, buried deep, but visible to those looking for it. His father had been drawn to his second son, Barahir, leaving his other children somewhat short on the love end, and this had hurt Feamirë's confidence in his early years, especially since he was the heir and had so much responsibility. There was nothing unlikable about Feamirë, but Barahir had been charismatic, energetic and vigorous, and everything that Elboron was not. But though it had hurt Feamirë, as it would hurt any man, Aragorn could see that he had moved beyond it long ago, which showed to the King a measure of strength that he could admire.
But though his face was Denethor's, and his childhood Faramir's, this son of a Steward had surpassed them both. Having grown to manhood in a time when war had been absent for a full generation, family troubles were not so occupying a matter, since you had the rest of your life to deal with them, and the chances were not likely that you would lose them any time soon. So Feamirë was strong in spirit, and a born diplomat, loving paperwork and order, but also the people around him. Aragorn could not explain how he knew all this, and if he had to describe it, he would say that it had "emanated" from him, but he did not revise his opinion later.
"Am I acceptable?" asked Feamirë with a chuckle. "Not that it matters, for you have already accepted me, but staring for so long requires that you be asked for your thoughts."
"I really cannot decide if you are acceptable," said Aragorn, with that wicked dry humor that often made serious people think him heartless. "I need to ask you a question first: can you play chess?"
"Bring out the board, and I will show you," responded Feamirë, not letting the challenge go without further challenge.
"Spoken like a true son of Ithilien!" said Aragorn triumphantly. "But I would rather wait for better weather before I take you up on that challenge; I simply cannot play chess in the rain, though if you ask me why, I cannot tell you. I would rather that we talk."
"About the weather?"
"Certainly not! I would like to know more about you, and why I have never met you before except in utterly formal settings."
"I have not spent much time in the home of my forefathers," said Feamirë, meaning Emyn Arnen, "but that was not against my will."
"Did you not think that you would be my Steward some day, and that it might be in your good interest to make friends with me?" asked Aragorn rather slyly.
"To tell the truth, I did not think you would be quite this companionable, and so did not think it particularly useful," said Feamirë, laughing. "You are, after all, a living legend."
Aragorn sighed, and seriousness returned to his demeanor. "Unfortunately for me, you are not alone in your thinking. I miss the times where people did not look to me as the king. The prospective king, perhaps, but not like now."
"Your people love you, though, even if they look up to you in awe," responded Feamirë, his tone likewise following his King's into seriousness. "But they have never known you as a man."
"You have not either, and yet already you are reassuring me with my problems," said Aragorn with a slight twinkle.
"What can I say? I was born to be Steward," laughed Feamirë. "My mother told me that I once gave advice to my grandfather; luckily he took it in stride, as he always did, but I have always been quickly comfortable with people."
"Good," said Aragorn, smiling. "Before you entered, I had just decided that I would make friends with you, and find that I need not even make an effort. How old were you when your grandfather died?"
"Forty-five. He was the last of that generation, except for you, my lord."
"And a great man," said Aragorn. "It was rather a blow to me when he died, not because we were very close, but because he was the longest lived man of that generation, and I was fifty years older than he was, and still I outlasted him. You cannot imagine how that must feel. Elves cope with mortality because they grow up knowing that they will live through many generations of Men, but I grew up like a normal mortal, so I thought, and had no preparation for this kind of life. A life of loss."
Aragorn paused. "Besides," he added in a lighter tone, "it is not particularly comfortable being looked on as a living legend. I do snore. Not horribly, but I do. Remember that."
Feamirë laughed at this bluntness. "They forget that you were once a Ranger of the North, do they not?"
"Yes, and I used to sneak away from the city to wander in Ithilien for a day or two, though now I cannot manage such a thing. I was not born to court life, unlike my children."
Feamirë looked on him with quiet regard. "I think it was best that way. A king was needed then who could get things done, without the political manipulation so common now, a king who was sincere and focused. Your son will have a different calling, but it does not lessen yours."
"How will I ever let you return to Emyn Arnen?" asked Aragorn. "I want you to stay right here in the City, to encourage me every time I feel low. You are the most comfortable person I have met in many, many years."
"Thank you," said Feamirë with a creaky grin. "But I think it will be best if I take a few breaks, or you might grow spoiled, like my littlest grandson."
"You are probably correct, but a man who saw your great-great-grandfather, and will see your great-grandchildren also, sometimes deserves a little spoiling."
"I know," said Feamirë with a smile, "or else I should be more diplomatic."
"Eight generations!" remarked Aragorn. "Do you know how old that makes me feel? And when I am gone, none will be left who remember the Great Years. History will become legend, and legend will become myth. And some day, a thousand years from now, a storyteller will gather up all the scattered myths and put them together as accurately as he can, and they will be remembered again, if not altogether correctly. Such is the way of the world."
"In the end," said Feamirë, "it is not particularly regrettable. After all, what are more comforting than legends when the wind is chill? The golden glory and the silver tragedy of former years keep our minds alive, and if one could go back and see them as they really were, it would be a disillusionment more painful than curiosity warranted. No, it is best that men become legends; we will always need heroes, to remind us that there are heroic deeds to be done. Men would quickly grow weary of everyday life and duty without the spice of legend. And the legends of our time will become the myths of the next, as the history of our time will become the legends of the next. It is a good circle, I believe."
"'Not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time,'" said Aragorn contemplatively, as if he was quoting someone.
"Who said that?" asked Feamirë. "He was a wise man."
Aragorn grinned, pushing his ever-growing wrinkles up into his eyes in a cheerful way. "I was quoting myself; it is a habit of the old. I could almost think you knew that, and had deliberately planned the compliment, so easy was your speech."
"I am too old for plotting, my lord, however smooth my talk may be," said Feamirë.
"Ahem," said Aragorn, "the privilege of using the 'too old' excuse is mine for now. When you have lived 202 years, then I will let you use it."
"My grandmother was right," said Feamirë, his laugh lines showing deeply, "you are an eccentric old man."
"That is a large step up from 'legendary figure' on the friendship scale, so I may congratulate myself on having won a new comrade as well as a new Steward. I see the sun is still out, so shall we bring out the chess set?"
"Gladly," said Feamirë.
Epilogue: Feamirë was the fifth Steward that King Elessar had worked with, and the third that he had been King over, but the first who was his friend. Eight years later, Elessar went to his long rest at last, the last legendary figure of his time, who had lived many generations of men. And none now can tell if the stories of his life that were compiled by Barahir grandson of Faramir were more than legends. But in the end, would we have it otherwise?
Author's Notes: Feamirë is an invention of mine, but Barahir and Elboron are not. Most people think that Barahir is the eldest of Elboron's, but as it is not directly stated, I imagine things differently. Feamirë is Quenya for Jeweled Spirit...and yes, I know that Quenya is about as absent in normal speech of Gondor as Latin is to English, but I do have my reasons for giving him such a name, most of them having to do with my portrayal of Elboron, which will probably come fully out in a story of mine as yet unwritten.
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.