It was a pleasant summer night in Minas Tirith. The White Tree looked glorious, illumined by the light from the stars above. Its leaves danced softly as the wind passed through them. The King and the Steward of Gondor sat side by side in a bench in the Court of the Fountain. They were no longer in the summer of their life, and they both knew it. For few years now the Steward had let his heir taken more and more parts of this duty. He was still hale, of course, such was the privilege granted to his line. Yet he knew that he did not have to wait long now to rejoin his lady, who passed away twelve years back. He had thought that it was wise to let his heir exercised the authority that soon would pass to him. But it was not only his son that he felt he had to prepare. The King, who had passed the tale of eight score years, was still hale. His strength was not what it used to be, yet they knew that he, in whom the truest blood of Numenor was to be found in that age, would most likely still have another score years, if not more.
And that means that he would have to rule with another steward at his side. The Steward had seen how with the passing years, the King had felt the loss of his friends and lieges more and more keenly. In the first forty years of King Elessar's reign, most of the lords of the fiefs who were present in his coronation had become old and died. They who marched bravely under his lead to the Black Gate had one by one left to answer a higher summon. Yet the King had not dwelled in grief. For those years were the time of rebuilding and healing. Many things had occupied their hearts and minds: the rebuilding of the first circle of the City, the restoration of Ithilien, the renewing of relation and trade with Dale, Erebor, and even Harad, battles with the Easterlings and rebels in Umbar, and the re-establishment of Annuminas in Arnor.
In the last forty years, Gondor and Arnor had enjoyed peace and relative prosperity. The King and Steward were most overjoyed to see the peace which they had not dared to dream of in their shadowed youth. Yet they felt personal losses, hitherto blunted by the pressing demands of duty, more sorely in those peaceful years. The Steward found himself almost the last of his generation in the Council of Gondor. The King, of course, was the last of his generation in the entire Reunited Kingdom. They had found consolation and understanding in each other, as they felt left behind by their friends. Imrahil, Eomer King, and even the hobbits had gone before them. And in a little time now, the King would have to lose his Steward, the last of the Council of Gondor who had accepted his claim to the winged crown. The Steward was not one to esteem himself higher than his worth, yet he was afraid that his passing would deal a blow to the King. For these eighty years of labouring together had brought them close, perhaps as dear as brothers, or even as father and son.
In the recent months, the Steward had not only prepared his heir to the stewardship. He also began to let some younger people take his other roles in relation with the King. He wanted his King to feel as little loss as possible at the demise of his Steward. The King had his Queen and family, yet he believed that one needs friends outside one's family circle. He was grateful that the King would still have the company of Legolas and Gimli, but they did not reside in Minas Tirith. So he had persuaded the King to invite two of the younger captains to join their last trip to Henneth Annun – their annual effort to relive their days as rangers. He encouraged his grandson Barahir to converse more often with the King, particularly on the lore of the Elder Days. The King understood the Steward's intention. He was touched by this thoughtfulness, yet at the same time he was agitated by the fact that prompted this thoughtfulness, and by their helplessness to change this fact.
"Faramir," said the King, suddenly breaking their silence. There was a sigh before he continued, "could you not stay for a while longer?"
The Steward was leaving for his home in Ithilien in the morrow, yet they both knew that the King did not refer to this present leaving. He turned to look at the King, and in his eyes there was the light of knowledge and love that had never dimmed since the first time he beheld his King.
"My lord, you know I could not," he spoke softly, "and would not." The King's wish warmed his heart, and his inability to fulfil it saddened him.
"But if you wish it, Aragorn, when I sense that my time was close, I would come hither for the last time. I have given it much thought, and I would like to spend my last days in this city."
The King smiled grimly. "I do wish it."
They returned to their silence. After a while, they walked back to their residences.
Two months later, the Steward Faramir, first Prince of Ithilien, returned to Minas Tirith. He would not leave it again as a living man. He came to preside over the annual great assembly of the Council of Gondor. In the last three years, he had let his eldest son preside over the assembly while he sat and observed. But that year he said that he had to preside. The assembly lasted for a month, and afterward the Steward stayed for another two months, before he bade farewell to his children and grandchildren, his beloved City, and his King. The King reigned for another eight and thirty years after the Steward's passing.
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.