The young man started, then gave an apologetic smile. “I am sorry, my lord. Just got lost in my own thoughts. It happens to me quite often, you know. I cannot imagine why I was ever made Captain of the Rangers. What was it you wanted from me?”
Aragorn gave him a long and thoughtful look.
“Are you well?” he asked. “Does your wound bother you?”
Faramir shook his head. “Not in the least, my lord. It has healed amazingly well, even the scar is barely visible by now. I suppose,” he added hesitantly, “that I never thanked you properly for helping me.” Another smile followed.
Aragorn waved his hand impatiently. “Do not ever mention it. I guess the biggest thanks in it all is having you assist me. I cannot imagine struggling with the blasted protocol requirements on my own! To say nothing of the state of the affairs in the country. You came in very handy, my lord Steward!”
Faramir flinched, ever so slightly.
“What is it?” Aragorn looked a bit startled.
“Nothing much, my lord,” he answered firmly, but the King had already noticed the distant look in his suddenly darkened eyes.
“Shall I proceed about the storehouses?” Faramir continued.
“No,” Aragorn said. “Better tell me if I can help you with anything, Faramir.”
“Help me? I do not understand, my lord.”
“Oh, but you do. There is something on your mind, something that makes you very uncomfortable,” with this Aragorn stepped nearer and placed his hand on Faramir’s shoulder, “and it seems to me I know what it is. Pippin says…”
Faramir cut him short. “I think,” he said with a certain degree of coldness, shrugging off the King’s hand, “that I am perfectly capable of dealing with my own affairs, my lord. I would not dream of a monarch occupying himself with such petty things.”
He took a step back from Aragorn and said, “I deem you do not require my further presence, my lord. Can I beg your leave?”
Aragorn dismissed him with a sign, following the tall lean figure with his eyes. “All wrong,” he shook his head sorrowfully. “Handled it all wrong. But I hope she will help…”
The woman laughed, a pure tinkling sound that went to Aragorn’s very heart. He suddenly felt a great wave of happiness enveloping him, that someone after all these horrors could still laugh like that…
He shook himself to the present. “What is it that you have found so amusing, lady?” he enquired.
She shot him a playful look. “Nothing about you, my lord. It just struck me as very odd that I should deal with frustrated men all my life. Is it I who is so adept at bringing people’s troubles to surface? Not a pleasant gift, if you come to think of that.”
Seeing Aragorn frown, she grew graver. “Tell me more,” she demanded.
“Well…” the King wrung his hands helplessly, “if only I knew where to begin… I quite like him. He is a sort of man I enjoy working with, for a start. He is so dreadfully efficient it makes me feel rather…
small,” he grinned at his companion. “But it is a relief to have an assistant like he is, and I never regretted my decision to keep him as the Steward. And I enjoy conversing with him so much! He has a very peculiar sense of humour, and he is so well-read, and nice, and not a hint of jealousy about this whole crowning story… the man is a treasure!”
He stopped to face the woman. “And it pains me to see him so depressed. He would not show it, to anyone. No one seems to notice! He is all smiles with the hobbits, and I am grateful for that, especially in the case of Frodo and Sam. The two were delighted to see their ‘Captain Faramir’ again. It seemed to me they chatted for a whole day. But…” he sighed, turning and proceeding in their walk, “it did them more good than it did him. And then Pippin came and told me he was concerned about Faramir.”
“Why?” the woman asked.
Aragorn eyed her warily. “Do you know how the Lord Denethor died?”
The woman took a deep breath. “Just heard rumours that he had gone mad and took his life, and that he had wanted to take Faramir with him, as well as burn the White City. This last one I find quite hard to believe, but then the rest of it does not sound too credible either. Is it true, my lord?”
Aragorn nodded. “It is. After I helped Faramir return, it was ordered he was not to know of the manner of his father’s death until well enough to bear such a burden, but what surprised me and Gandalf – that is, Mithrandir, - a lot was that he never asked anything! Gandalf finally told him, and said he had seemed unnaturally calm, as if it did not concern him at all.”
“Where does Pippin step in here?”
Aragorn’s eyes saddened. “Pippin tells me he comes to the House of Stewards every day… just to stand there for a while, and then wanders around the City… He never talks to anyone about these visits. I have tried to draw him out, and the last time I did it, it just angered him.”
“Oh yes, that is what he would do,” her eyes lit up with a smile. “All right, my lord,” she consented, “take me to him.”
They stopped at the House of Stewards.
“My lord Faramir?”
Faramir turned abruptly. Aragorn felt a stab of pain at the sight of his dark, haunted eyes. The man he saw before him was nothing like his cheerful and smiling Steward of just a couple of hours before.
Faramir bowed, then gave a forced smile. “What does my lord require?”
“Nothing much,” Aragorn said. “I brought a lady who wishes to see you… and who, I am certain, you will be delighted to see, too.” He stepped aside, revealing a small neat figure.
Faramir gasped in astonishment, then rushed to the woman, snatched her into his arms and whirled round wildly, laughing happily and loudly. “Linwen! What a meeting! Oh, Linwen, could I ever imagine seeing you again!”
Aragorn smiled and left quietly.
“Faramir, do put me down, please,” Linwen breathed. “This is pretty compromising, don’t you think?”
“But… how did you get here? This is the nicest thing that happened to me in… never mind.”
“Nicer even than meeting the Lady Éowyn?” she teased. “I am flattered.”
“No one can compare to you, Linwen,” Faramir proclaimed. “You hold a special place in my heart, you know it. But what are you doing here?”
“Mostly, looking after my younger son who is in the healers’ care.” Her eyes became sad.
“Oh…” Faramir looked a little abashed. “And…” he stopped, unsure if he should proceed.
Linwen smiled sadly. “My husband was killed in an ambush years ago. I also have another son and a daughter. They are both unhurt, so I suppose I am fortunate, after all… though my younger boy will most probably lose his leg.”
She met Faramir’s eyes and suddenly shook her head. “No, dearest Faramir, do not look so upset. We have all paid for what we have now, have we not? And we knew what the victory would cost us. I still grieve for my husband, and my son’s pain, I will feel tenfold… but if by this someone else’s pain was lessened, I do not regret anything.”
They stood side by side for a while. Then, Linwen said, “But I have been summoned here by the King.”
“The King? But…I do not understand. Why would he send you to me? Did you request it?”
“No. He found me and told me to go and see you. He thought you might need someone you could talk to, really talk.”
Faramir stared at her, perplexed. “What does it matter to him? Why would he care?”
“Because he does care for you, you silly boy. And it grieves him to see you so miserable. And you, as is your wont, would not let anyone near you, or believe people like you and want to help.”
Faramir was silent. Linwen passed a hand over his hair.
“Do you really come here every day?” she asked softly.
He nodded, then said quietly, “I feel I have to. I owe him this.”
“Owe him this?”
“For those last moments we were together. You know how he died, do you not?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
He gave a short and bitter laugh. “I did not want them to tell me, Linwen. I had him before the darkness took me… and it was enough. He told me about the day I was born… and he told me he loved me… I did not want any tale of his madness. I wanted to pretend he was killed in a battle, or an accident, anything… anything but the truth. To think of the torment he had to endure… of that terrible death…” he trailed off.
Linwen wrapped an arm around his waist. “Let us leave this place,” she whispered.
He let her lead him away, a strange apathy taking him. He came to when Linwen pulled him down at the foot of an old tree, making him sit down with his back against the trunk. Faramir slid down and in a moment was lying on the grass, letting his head rest in her lap.
“Are you not too big a boy for that?” Linwen jested.
He smiled, eyes still closed. “I would never do that as a boy, you know it.”
Linwen stroked his hair. “Tell me,” she commanded softly.
Word after word, the whole story poured from him; the long and lonely years of fear and sadness, of misunderstandings, of griefs big and small… Last of all, he mentioned the palantír, his father’s slow descent into darkness, and his own failure to stay that.
“Linwen, I know I could have helped him. I know. But I preferred to shut myself out and wallow in my grief, and he was too far gone or too proud to ask for help. I know nothing can be changed now, but this pain will stay with me forever. And now when anyone calls me ‘my Lord Steward’… it just chills me to the bone. I wonder, Linwen,” he looked up at her with his anguished eyes, “how much of my father there is in me… Do I risk the same fate? Shall I ever distance myself from my loved ones so much there will be no way back?”
Linwen dropped a soft kiss on his brow. “If you wish that only, Faramir. I must say I do fear for you. Can you not see that this is precisely what you are doing now?”
She hugged him tightly, rocking back and forth. “My dear child… I am proud of you, truly. I admire you, and so does everyone in this City. Even in neighbouring kingdoms, I hear,” she added mischievously, drawing a shadow of a smile from him. Then, her voice hardened suddenly. “It is a shame and just base ingratitude to turn them all away, and I thought I had taught you your manners! About your father…” she pressed her cheek to the top of his head, “he finally got a moment to make his amends, and you should be grateful for that. Yes, you should thank all the good in the world for these final minutes with him, because they prove all of us that despair is a sin, a folly, that there is always time to put things right, if only to say farewell.”
All of a sudden, she pushed him away, then grabbed his shoulders none too gently. “I will not allow you to do the same your father did, Faramir. And if you ever again behave in such a silly manner, I… I will do something I never did when you were a child.”
“And what will that be, Mistress Linwen?” He was smiling at her now.
“I will spank you.”
Aragorn heard a hesitant tap at the door. “Enter,” he said, getting to his feet.
He was feeling a bit drowsy, but was back to alertness at the sight of Faramir in the doorway.
“Faramir… I did not expect you so late. What brings you here?”
“Just one thing that I have to do, Aragorn.” The King noted the informality of the address. Meanwhile, Faramir took a few steps closer, paused for an instant, and then, unexpectedly, embraced Aragorn tightly, touching the King’s shoulder with his forehead.
“Thank you,” he whispered.
Aragorn hugged him back, feeling something warm and damp soak into the thin fabric of the tunic. “There is nothing to thank me for, Faramir,” he said.
“Forgive me for being such a fool,” Faramir continued. “If not for Linwen…”
Aragorn laughed quietly. “You do seem in need of a good wife! I will have to see to marrying you off as soon as possible!”
“Please, do,” Faramir finally lifted his tear-stained face from the King’s shoulder and grinned broadly.
He once again stood in the House of Stewards, in the ray of light that had made his way almost to the slab where Denethor’s urn had been placed.
A smile touched his lips as he passed his hand over it.
“I am all right, Father. May you find peace, too. I love you.”
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.