20. Written On Cloth
-The Return Of The King
Aragorn and Faramir sat quietly on a low stone bench in the gardens, enjoying a break from one of the many councils that took up their days. High above, the banner of the White Tree snapped and curled in the wind.
"It still seems strange," Faramir murmured. "That glittering black banner where once was only white, soft and pure as those clouds."
"You lived your whole life under the white banner," Aragorn said. "It would seem strange, I think."
There was a long silence. "It astonishes me, sometimes," Faramir went on at last, "how much in reverence we hold these things." A wry smile graced his lips. "A bit of cloth on a pole, by itself no more meaningful than a piece of paper on which nothing is written, nor shall be." But Aragorn caught bitterness, not humour, in the timbre of Faramir's voice, and thought he knew the cause.
He rose, extending his hand to the Steward. "Come with me," he said.
Faramir took his hand and stood. "As my lord wishes," he said, and Aragorn chuckled softly.
"Your lord wishes you would stop calling him 'lord' and start calling him 'Aragorn'."
Faramir smiled. "I shall endeavour to, Aragorn."
"Good. Now come," and together they started back towards the Citadel.
At last they came to the throne room, and the foot of the stairs. Behind the throne and to one side hung the black and silver banner of the Tree and Stars, smaller than the one that flew from the topmost spire of the Tower; to the other side hung the white standard of the Stewards, gleaming in the light that filtered in from the day outside.
Faramir felt his heart race at the sight of the beloved banner which had for so long been the token of all he fought for, of all his sacrifices.
"My lord," he said softly, his voice breaking. "I thought - when did -"
"This morning," said Aragorn. "I had not intended that when the standard of the Stewards was lowered it would be shut away to gather dust and fade. It has been brought forth and returned to its proper place."
When he turned to Aragorn, Faramir's eyes were bright with unshed tears.
Taking Faramir's hands in his own, Aragorn brought them to his heart. "So much is written on both these cloths," he said, "no less so on the white than on the black. All the sacrifices, all the loss, all are written here. We would not stand here now if not for what is written on this white cloth."
"Written in the blood of Gondor," Faramir murmured, looking again at the gleaming white banner, and he turned his gaze to Aragorn's. "I thank you for it, lord."
"'Fealty with love, valour with honour,'" said Aragorn softly, and with a quick kiss to Faramir's hands he released him, and said, "and friendship with friendship. 'Aragorn,' if you will."
Faramir chuckled. "Indeed, my - " and he caught himself, and finished, "my friend."
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