08 October 2010 | 13139 words
Title: A Conversation about Fathers
Series: An AU of the Desperate Hours AU
Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to Tolkien.
Warnings: AU. Allusion to past spanking.
Beta: None. Written as a response to a Father’s Day challenge.
Author’s note: This is an AU of the Desperate Hours AU, the AU in which all of my other stories take place. It is an alternative take on events in two stories I am working on, Beginnings & Endings and Desperation’s Gift, which both take place in the same continuity as the Tales of the Wizard’s Apprentice. This story references events which take place in Beginnings & Endings and Desperation’s Gift, so I must apologize that those stories are not yet complete, although the first chapters of B&E may be available. This story is set in the fall of Third Age year 3020, after Beginnings & Endings, and as an alternative version of Desperation’s Gift. The continuity of events will be different in Desperation’s Gift, as Legolas arrives back to Emyn Arnen in time to tell Faramir something before Faramir can bring a situation to Aragorn’s attention.
A Conversation about Fathers: Father’s Day Challenge Response
It was a beautiful early fall day in Gondor. The air, ripe with the scents of the season, swirled up the levels of the city and into the open windows of the castle at the top of Minas Tirith. The King of Gondor once again paused in his revision of the day’s correspondence to glance tenderly at his wife. Arwen the Queen was seated at the spare desk in her husband’s large study, reviewing reports on the placement of orphan children as apprentices to various tradesmen in Gondor. She was also several months pregnant, to her husband’s joy and relief. His well-loved wife was an elf, and elves, by nature, reproduced but seldom.
Sensing his gaze, Arwen looked up, and gave her husband a frustrated smile. The King had already stopped his work twice that afternoon to suggest his wife might want a nap. “Estel,” Arwen scolded gently, “Elladan and I are convinced all goes well with this pregnancy. Stop looking at me as if I might break.”
Aragorn grinned in apology, seizing on a bright idea to convince Arwen an afternoon nap was in order. “I know, and I am trying to be calm, my love. I am just excited, and a little nervous, for I did not think to be a father so soon.”
The King’s eldest foster-brother, Elrohir the elven warrior, snorted as he entered the room. “I knew we forgot to mention something, Estel. You see, when a man loves a woman very, very, much…”
Aragorn chuckled as his wife threw an apple from the bowl of fruit on the desk at her brother, forcing the annoying twin to catch it rather than continue his sarcastic lecture on babies and other dangers of sex.
“Why are you here, pest?” The King asked, more amused than annoyed. He was quite fond of his wife’s twin brothers, despite their eternal joy in tormenting him as older brothers are wont to do to their younger siblings. Aragorn was pleased to have them once again in residence, especially considering Arwen’s delicate condition.
Elrohir’s handsome face turned serious. “I heard from the guards that Faramir and Éowyn are returning from Emyn Arnen this afternoon. They are more than a month early returning, and this visit is not planned. Is aught awry?”
Arwen as well turned in concerned interest to her husband. Aragorn sighed, explaining. “I know not. Faramir sent the message with the relay this morning, telling me that they would arrive early this evening, but giving no other details.”
“Traveling so near dark, in company with his lady, what with orcs and outlaws still about?” Elrohir shook his head in disapproval.
It was Arwen who sought to calm her brother. “The road between here and Ithlien is well-traveled, and they will be with the evening messenger relay, and probably also some of the guards of the White Company. It would be unusual indeed for orcs or outlaws to attack so many armed warriors.” The Queen paused to smile in amusement, “‘Roh, you must recall that Éowyn is more like an elleth than a human woman when it comes to riding and fighting. For all she prefers healing to swordplay these days, she still trains with the White Company and her husband, most mornings.”
Elrohir raised his hands, signaling defeat. “I will be glad to see them as well, Sister, I just worry at this unseemly haste from Estel’s Steward, who is normally the most unflappable of humans.”
“I am concerned as well,” Aragorn put in, “but we’ll know soon enough. Arwen, are you certain…”
“Yes, yes,” the Queen gave in gracefully. “If we are to be entertaining our dear friends this evening, I shall nap, that I might have energy. As the woman, should I not properly claim the role of the nag in our relationship?” The Queen then complained, smiling slightly.
“Never fret, my love.” Aragorn commented with a rueful grin. “Last year when I was wounded by that assassin’s arrow, you were a consummate nag.”
Arwen but laughed and kissed her husband farewell, collecting her lady-in-waiting, Ynithe, who had been embroidering in a seat by the window, and smiling at the antics of the royal family.
After bidding his sister sweet sleep, Elrohir turned to glare at his younger brother. “And you were a consummate idiot, Estel.” He reproved. “You’ve been wounded enough times to know that pushing a recovery only leads to later setbacks. Just because you are working at a desk, rather than in the forests of the north, doesn’t make that any less true.”
“I know.” Aragorn apologized. “I shaped up after I popped the stiches out the first time, did I not?”
Elrohir’s brotherly glare lessened slightly, as he acknowledged. “You did. But only because Arwen reminded you of your promise to set a good example for Faramir. That, and Ada ‘s glare.” The elf added with a sad smile. Their father Lord Elrond had sailed earlier that year for the West with the other ringbearers, leaving his children feeling at times somewhat bereft.
Aragorn gave his oldest brother a sympathetic look. “I miss Ada, as well. It will be nice to have Faramir and Éowyn back, Minas Tirith without them is decidedly less joyous.”
Elrohir snorted. “You mean you have much less free time with your Steward off seeing to his duties in Ithilien, despite sending the poor newly-wed Faramir two satchels of paperwork a day.”
Aragorn confessed. “To my shame, that is not untrue. However, it’s also true that Faramir is Arwen’s partner in any number of these social projects – the orphan apprentice program, the entry of women into some of the guilds, etc. I would rather have my Steward here to make sure my wife doesn’t overdo.” The King explained.
Elrohir nodded in understanding, taking a seat at the opposite side of Aragorn’s desk. “And Éowyn is Arwen’s favorite lady-in-waiting, excepting perhaps Ynithe.”
“And that.” His younger brother agreed. “We both miss their companionship. That desk Arwen worked at today is normally for Faramir’s use. He comes here to ask me a question, and just stays for several hours, seized by an idea, or to inspire me to work through something I’d be inclined to put off. The bowl of fruit is there to tempt his appetite. And Éowyn is not only a good companion for Arwen, but the only one with the – well, let’s call it natural authority, to demand that my wife rest if she seems tired.”
Elrohir laughed merrily, very much a fan of Faramir’s fierce young wife, but also very blunt. “Let’s call it what it is – even Arwen listens when Éowyn loses her temper.”
“Faramir listens as well.” The King said in satisfaction. “And I know they’ve needed this time alone, to begin setting up household and administration in Ithilien. But it would be opportune, in many ways, to have them return to Minas Tirith now, instead of in the winter.”
“Just ask.” His brother advised.
“I may.” The King considered, “but I don’t want to force him to leave Ithilien early. His only friends who survived the war are in the White Company, and when he is here, it is too easy for me to draw him into the problems that should be the King’s to resolve, rather than my Steward’s.”
Elrohir nodded in understanding, but added “I wouldn’t worry too much, Estel. I think Faramir is coming to view our family here as his own, and Éowyn is as close to Arwen as a sister, despite their different personalities. I think Faramir would be honored to be asked to stay, to help keep things here on an even keel until after Arwen delivers.”
“But he would not feel free to say no.” Aragorn pointed out, eyes troubled.
“No.” Elrohir agreed, with sympathy for his youngest brother. “It is not an easy thing, friendship, even when one is a King. Perhaps especially when one is a King.”
The silver horns of Gondor sounded at dusk, in the melody that welcomed the Steward home to Minas Tirith. The King and Queen, and her brothers, were waiting for them in the Castle courtyard. The group that entered was indeed as Arwen had envisioned. The three men of the messenger relay, four members of the White Company, and the Prince and Lady of Ithilien, both dressed practically for the road, and both carrying swords, though the lady did not carry a bow, as did the rest of the company.
Aragorn had been somewhat worried by the message Faramir had sent. Normally, his Steward was loquacious and eloquent. But Faramir’s missive that morn had been simple. “Something has come to light,” Faramir had hastily penned to the bottom of a previously written letter about the plans for an Ithilien Council and regent, “I need to discuss it with you. Éowyn and I will arrive with the evening relay.” Aragorn became more worried as he saw his Steward’s face. Faramir was sorely troubled, though he no doubt seemed calm to those who did not know him well.
Arwen squeezed her husband’s hand, and whispered softly in his ear. “All will be well. Whatever the matter is, we can help them to resolve it.” Aragorn nodded gratefully to his wife, before turning to scrutinize the Ithilien party again.
The King had been concerned that perhaps his stubborn friend and the feisty Éowyn had argued, but Faramir’s tender smile to his wife, and Éowyn’s answering grin, as well as her permitting him to offer her assistance in dismounting, quickly put paid to that particular worry.
Faramir then moved to kneel to his King, but Aragorn quickly embraced him before he could, squeezing the younger man tightly and pounding him on the back. Pulling his Steward away to look him over more closely, Aragorn smiled despite his worry. Though troubled this eve, Faramir looked better rested and fed than he had since Aragorn had first met him.
“I should have had you married years ago,” the King teased his friend, “for I see Éowyn has finally succeeded where we have all tried and failed – you have gained a stone at least since you left, and all of it muscle.”
Faramir laughed. “My King,” he greeted more formally, “I have been out and about everyday in the woods, it is good for the appetite, if poor help to you in administering the Kingdom.”
Éowyn had greeted the Queen with a sisterly embrace. Her greeting for the King was respectful, and she smiled, though she seemed a bit annoyed. “I wouldn’t go that far, husband.” The White Lady criticized, “For you are up ‘til late in the evening, every other day, dealing with the messages the King sends.”
Aragorn sighed. “I think it is time again to hire more help.”
Faramir’s gray eyes, so like the King’s, danced merrily. “Arwen and I have a suggestion…”
The King groaned. “Let me guess. Another clever wife or widow of one of our Gondorian soldiers, well trained in reading and writing.”
Elladan laughed delightedly, greeting Éowyn, one of his favorite pupils in the healing arts. “Just give in, Estel.” The younger of Elrond’s twin sons advised. “Your council will not like having a woman work as one of the King’s secretaries, but they have a poor track record indeed of opposing both Arwen and Faramir.”
“As do we all,” murmured Elrohir with humor, also embracing Estel’s Steward, who had quickly become one of his favorite humans, despite their at times violent disagreements over the proper fate of all orcs. Faramir preferred to leave the beings alone, if they weren’t attacking the humans of Gondor, or planning to do so. Elrohir thought a complete genocide was the more appropriate solution.
Aragorn, guessing the context of his oldest brother’s comment, cast Elrohir a quelling look. The King was in no mood to hear that disagreement rehashed this evening. Aloud, the King invited, “Let’s adjourn to dinner – we’ve been waiting it for you.”
“Not the whole court?” The Steward asked, slightly appalled.
“Nay, Faramir.” The Queen soothed. “In deference to the Harvest celebrations this week, we are dining privately tonight, and hosting a banquet and dance tomorrow. Perhaps you and Éowyn may stay and join us.”
Faramir looked conflicted. “Perhaps, my Lady. May I give you my answer tomorrow?”
“Of course, dear one.” Arwen replied, looking to her husband in concern. It was very odd for Faramir to deny such a request from the Queen, as he had come to regard his friend’s wife as an honorary older sister. Aragorn comforted himself that it had been a year and more since Faramir had outright protested joining the small group of the King’s immediate family and friends from the Ring War at a dinner. It was part of the ongoing dance between the Steward and the King’s family. Faramir felt he should maintain his independence, for political reasons, and out of a desire not to invite himself into their company. Aragorn, Arwen, and their family and friends of the fellowship desired to make it clear to Faramir that, so far as they were concerned, Boromir’s brother would always be a welcome addition to their family gatherings, even had he not become the King’s valued advisor and friend. Being ordered to stay with Aragorn’s family in the Royal wing for a month, recovering from new and old injuries and exhaustion over a year ago, had mostly broken Faramir of the worst of that reticence. It had also brought the most formal of their friends into the habit of calling the King and Queen by name in private, much to their relief. Éowyn, from a less formal society than Gondor, and quickly becoming Arwen’s closest female confidant, had made Faramir even more likely to accept personal invitations from the royal couple.
The small group, comprising just the King, Queen, Prince, Lady, and the Elrondion twins, retired to the King’s private dining room. “Where is Master Gimli?” Faramir inquired, noting the dwarf’s unaccustomed absence.
“Fetching more aid from his home.” The King noted, adding dryly, “In his ongoing battle with the stone mason’s guild, Gimli determined he cannot possibly make do without more dwarves to tell the masons they are all idiots on a daily basis.”
Faramir and Éowyn both laughed. “I like Gimli.” Éowyn commented, blue eyes glinting in merriment. “One always knows where one stands with him, unlike some of your councilors, Aragorn. Why, once this past summer Lord Tarsten complimented me on my work at the House of Healing. I later hear from one of Faramir’s friends in the city that the same Lord was saying I only volunteer there out of grief because my lord cannot get me with child!”
Faramir shook his head, looping an arm around his wife’s shoulders in support. “Éowyn, I told you. Tarsten is one of those you must simply ignore. He is an angry, bitter man,” Faramir explained, meeting Aragorn’s eyes as both remembered Tarsten’s peripheral involvement in a plot to assassinate the Steward the previous winter, “and he would not like you, even were you a conventional lady of Gondor, merely for your crime of being my wife.”
“He can rot.” Éowyn said fiercely. “As if it is any of his business when we have children, anyway.”
Elladan, agreeing, put in “You’re one of the best healers I’ve ever trained, Éowyn. I think you would make a fine mother, but the House of Healing is blessed to have you. Perhaps you will tell me more of the hospital you and Faramir are having commissioned in Ithilien?”
“I’d hardly call it a hospital,” Faramir commented mildly.
“It will be when we are finished, though.” Éowyn said enthusiastically, describing her future plans to expand the small healing establishment the two had already built near the manor in Emyn Arnen. Faramir approved of his wife’s new career, but was slightly overwhelmed by the scale of her plans. Aragorn had no sympathy for him on this count, as it was Faramir who so often drew Arwen into the Steward’s somewhat radical social engineering projects. Aragorn did make a note to remind his twin brothers not to enact any retribution against Lord Tarsten for insulting Éowyn, or at least nothing that could be traced back to them. The King could tell they were contemplating something of that sort, by the barely noticeable flicking of fingers and subtle nods flashing between the twins. Faramir looked to the King and sighed. The Steward, too, found the twins’ poor tolerance of Gondorian politics a trial, at times, as good of friends as he had become with them both.
Arwen, forewarned of her favorite couple’s return to the city, had asked the cooks to prepare a number of their favorite dishes, including several from Dol Amroth and Rohan.
Aragorn, needling his Steward, made a point of offering Faramir a Rohirric specialty containing both deer heart and sheep intestines, which he knew the younger man could not abide. Flashing the King a mild glare promising retribution, the Steward gracefully served himself a portion large enough to please his wife, and asked if the King and Queen had any recent news of Éomer, King of Rohan, his wife’s brother.
“Éomer King is planning to visit again next spring.” The Queen commented with a smile. “Incidentally, at the same time as your cousin Lothiriel.”
Éowyn laughed merrily. “No coincidence that, Arwen. Both have written me of their plans. If you are minded to do my brother and cousin-in-law a favor, you might fail to mention Éomer’s travel plans to Uncle Imrahil. He is most disconcerted at the thought of a daughter marrying so far away as Rohan, though he is very fond of Éomer.”
Faramir, having cleverly distracted his wife, and subtly drawn the attention of Wreck and Ruin, the King’s Rohirric hounds, quickly shared his uneaten portion of the Rohirric delicacy. Arwen saw, but, lacking her husband’s wicked sense of humor, did not call Éowyn’s attention to the subterfuge.
Aragorn, considering the implications of a match between Dol Amroth and Rohan, added absently, “Imrahil seemed most impressed by Éomer during the Ring War. I think it is perhaps that common feeling amonst fathers, that no man is ever good enough for his daughter.”
Arwen smiled enigmatically. “It is fortunate for you, husband, that we will have a boy come summer, rather than a girl, that you need not yet contemplate parting with a daughter to marriage.”
Aragorn, near overcome, looked at his wife in pleased amazement. “You are certain?” He asked with an incredulous smile.
“I am.” Arwen Undomiel affirmed. “Such knowledge is oft granted to elven mothers. He will be a fine boy, with gray eyes like his father’s.”
“Congratulations.” Faramir offered the royal couple with a smile, as Éowyn joyfully embraced the Queen. “I am so happy for you both. You will make wonderful parents.” He and Éowyn had not previously heard the news, although the Queen had informed her husband of her pregnancy earlier that morning, and Elladan and she had suspected for several weeks.
“And,” Elrohir added with a cynical smile, “relieve the Steward of Gondor from any possibility of still being in the succession.”
Faramir looked uncertain. One of the few matters of state that he and the King had ended up arguing on opposite sides of had been Aragorn’s attempt to have the Steward confirmed as the heir of Gondor and Arnor, should the King die with no heirs of his body. The matter had come up before the campaign against the Easterlings immediately following the Steward’s marriage, provoked by the assassination attempt on Aragorn earlier that year.
Aragorn, though he still felt a bit miffed at having lost that gambit, nonetheless offered his troubled Steward a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, Faramir. I know your concern is merely that Isildur’s heirs remain as Kings of Gondor and Arnor, rather than a rejection of me personally, or a selfish attempt to avoid having the King’s guard follow you everywhere outside the citadel grounds as assiduously as they do myself and Arwen.”
“I will be your regent when you travel, my King.” Faramir offered gently, “and, though I hope it does not come to pass, your son’s regent, should you die ‘ere he comes of age. But I do not want to officially be your heir or your son’s, for I am not of your line, and Gondor has had enough of ruling Stewards in the past, I think.”
“I would choose differently,” Aragorn mused. “One heir, as much as I joyfully anticipate his birth,” the King shared a smile with his wife, “is not enough to make me feel sanguine about the succession.”
Elrohir, having prompted this argument in the first place, again tested his baby brother’s patience by adding, “and one would think, since Estel is the King, that his will would win the day. But no, the Council agrees with the Steward,”
“Brother.” Aragorn called Elrohir to a halt, raising a hand for silence. “Faramir and I have had this discussion, as I have with the council. At this point, I am healthy, my wife is expecting, and there is no need for the King to overrule council and valued advisers.”
Faramir hid a wince. Aragorn was not repeating again that he reserved the right to do so in the future, but that was his implication. Faramir did not like to imagine Gondor without Aragorn, who had come to save the land in its darkest hour, and had since then become one of the Steward’s closest friends. Nor did Faramir like contemplating another honor which he felt should have been his brother’s.
The King, recognizing this glum train of thought, asked Faramir a distracting question about where one might buy toys for a male child. Aragorn thought his Steward might know, as Faramir viewed Boromir’s mistress’s son Tavan as a foster-nephew. Faramir smiled gratefully, reflecting that though he would miss Boromir all his life, Aragorn had become like a second older brother to him.
Éowyn joined her friend the Queen in laughing at the misconceptions of fathers, who believed that babies should be gripping wooden swords ‘ere they could hold rattles.
Elladan, meanwhile, silently reprimanded his twin, commenting in the twins’ secret language of gestures that Faramir was worried enough over something without Elrohir’s teasing him. Elrohir defended himself, explaining that he had hoped to needle the Steward enough to cause Faramir to share his concern with the group. Elladan rolled his eyes, arguing that whatever the issue was, it was obviously delicate enough that Faramir first wanted Estel’s opinion, which they should respect. Elrohir reluctantly agreed to stop agitating Faramir.
Faramir, though he thanked Arwen kindly for arranging the menu, barely touched any of the spicy Dol Amroth dishes which were normally his favorites. The Queen looked to Éowyn, who shook her head silently. The King, this time attempting to cause trouble for the White Lady, offered her a dish of river shrimp in a remarkably hot tomato based sauce. Éowyn, more blunt than her husband, simply said no thank you, to her husband’s amusement. Arwen shook her head at her husband’s odd sense of humor, and again when Aragorn asked that dessert be served early.
Elladan, picking up on the subtext, commented that it was clearly Arwen who would be the disciplinarian of the two parents-to-be.
“Why do you say that, brother?” Aragorn inquired, confused.
“Because when Faramir will not eat, you but offer him sweets.” Elrohir teased. “‘Tis Arwen who puts fruit on his desk, and has the cooks make his favorites.”
Faramir, blushing and wishing, as he often did, that the royal couple and their family did not pay quite so much attention to his eating habits, offered his hostess an apology, “I am sorry, Arwen. I am not particularly hungry this evening.”
“Do not worry, Faramir.” The Queen noted in her musical voice. “I am sure there will be something to tempt you at tomorrow’s feast.”
Faramir gently reminded Arwen he wasn’t sure whether they could stay yet, and Arwen apologized in turn, still certain she could convince him.
The King pointed out, slightly annoyed, “I am not all over indulgence, you know.”
Elladan, realizing he had succeeded in annoying his younger brother with the quip about parenting styles, smiled beatifically as he realized this was a weak point of Estel’s, and began silently planning a campaign with his twin to further agitate the King mercilessly over the next several months.
“Your brothers are just trying to get sent off to hunt orcs again,” Faramir said supportively, meeting Elladan’s eyes and then gesturing subtly to the pregnant Queen, as if to point out that perhaps Arwen’s chief healer should not make such a project of annoying his pregnant sister’s husband. “You will make a fine father, Estel.” His Steward continued, smiling at the King. “You are very good with Tavan, who always asks if we might visit the King, and play with his hounds.”
Reluctantly abandoning this particular campaign of annoying the King, at least while Faramir was about, Elladan added in a conciliatory tone “Well, I suppose a few sweets never hurt anyone.”
Elrohir, also sad to lose out on such a ripe topic for teasing Estel, put in, “And, as Faramir can attest, you are certainly good about drawing other boundaries for the foolish younger humans in your care.”
Faramir blushed, as the King shot his brothers an annoyed glance. “Faramir is much less reckless than the two of you were at his age, or Legolas, for that matter.” The King defended his Steward.
Elrohir and Elladan prepared to protest, before Arwen added, “I wouldn’t, brothers. Between Ada, Legolas, and I, there is not much Estel doesn’t know of your youthful antics.”
Leaning towards Faramir, Aragorn teasingly offered “Remind me to tell you about the twins’ first trek into Mordor sometime, will you?”
Faramir grinned and nodded, as the twins regarded their baby brother with great disfavor.
“Where is Legolas? “ Elladan asked, in an attempt to change the subject. While the twins liked Faramir, they had noticed that he and Estel would gang up on them during these little brotherly disagreements. And it could be dangerous to take vengeance on Faramir, for he could be both patient and subtle in his revenge. Legolas normally traveled with Éowyn and Faramir to and from Ithilien, and was an ally of the twins in their attempts to annoy Estel so much he forgot his Kingly dignity.
“Extending his stay at his father’s Hall in the Greenwood.” Faramir explained. “King Thranduil’s senior advisors and military officers wished Legolas to help in a patrol of the borders, before Legolas and a number of the younger elves left to continue building their sanctuary near Emyn Arnen.”
“And,” The King added in weary good humor, “Those same advisors were not all present in Mirkwood during Legolas’ convalescence from his unauthorized trip into Mordor last year.”
Taking pity on their human friends’ confusion, Arwen explained, “King Thranduil’s advisors helped to raise Legolas, and may wish added time to explain to our favorite elven Prince why venturing into Mordor alone after a small army of Orcs was an unwise decision, no matter that they appeared to have an elleth hostage.”
“Not exactly alone..” the King added, with a mildly censuring glance aimed at his Steward.
At the same time, Faramir protested, “They did have Grace as a captive.”
Elrohir laughed merrily, pointing out, “I told you, Faramir, Estel never cares about such extenuating circumstances…”
Elladan continued “Its all nag, nag, nag, it would be a better strategy to return with greater force,”
“It would have been,” Faramir agreed, looking apologetically toward the King. “I shall do better in the future, Aragorn.” Éowyn grasped her husband’s hand fiercely. She had been terribly worried after Faramir and Legolas had disappeared into Mordor not long before their wedding, and then relieved that both Princes had survived the experience. Still, Éowyn knew the nightmare of having killed so many orcs to arrange Legolas and the elleth Grace’s escape still lingered with her husband.
“See that you do.” The King commented mildly, softening the rebuke with a fond glance directed toward Faramir. “Now, if only we can convince Legolas to be more cautious…”
“I think that’s all of Greenwood’s job, and Thranduil’s.” Elladan observed with good humor.
After dinner, the group withdrew to one of the long galleries off the balcony garden in the King and Queen’s wing. With the soft breeze blowing in, and one of the fires merrily burning, it was a pleasant and very relaxing setting. Éowyn and Elladan returned to plans for Éowyn’s hospital, while Arwen drew Elrohir and Faramir into a discussion of the differences between elven and human child rearing customs. Faramir liked children, and though Elrohir was a warrior, he shared the general elven fondness for children, human and elf. Both twins were excited to be uncles.
The King lit his pipe, glad to have Éowyn and Faramir back with them, despite the shadows in Faramir’s eyes. Faramir waited a half hour or so, then, when he knew from past experience the King would be most relaxed, asked, “Estel, I have something I need to discuss with you, and I’m not sure what should be done about it,” he explained with a apologetic look at Arwen, “so I would prefer to tell you first in private.”
“Of course, Faramir.” The King murmured, putting his pipe aside and gesturing for Faramir to lead the way to his study. “We’ll rejoin you as we may, depending on how long this takes,” the King explained, kissing his wife good-bye, as a complicated look passed between Faramir and Éowyn.
Following Faramir into his study, and noting with bemused concern the younger man’s careful closing of the windows, the King asked “Is this an official matter, my Steward?”
Faramir gave a choked laugh, running a hand through his red-gold hair in an unusual gesture of agitation. “I am not sure, Aragorn. It …it would be a private matter, were I but a private citizen and not Steward of Gondor. As I am, I am not sure what should be done. I…I would like your unofficial opinion first, as a friend and mentor, if you don’t mind.”
“Of course, dear friend.” Aragorn agreed, touched and honored by his independent younger friend’s trust. Turning to a liquor cabinet to pour them both a glass of wine, the King said “I am always willing to advise you, in any matter. I’m sure whatever it is, we can get it sorted.”
Faramir huffed. “I am not so sure, though Éowyn assures me I am over-reacting. First, I must needs offer to resign as your Steward and Prince of Ithlien.”
Hearing this, the King decided that wine would be insufficient, and instead poured them both a glass of Dwarvish brandy, a gift from Gimli.
“What in Eru’s name would cause you to make such an insane offer?” The King commented in exasperation, handing Faramir a glass and bidding him drink. “You know that I am more than pleased with your performance as both Steward and Prince. I cannot think of anything you could do to make me accept your resignation.”
“This is nice.” Faramir murmured absently of the brandy, before turning to meet his King’s gaze solemnly. “I appreciate your confidence, Aragorn, though I must say you looked angry enough to dismiss me after I followed Legolas into Mordor.”
“And if you do anything that foolish again, I’ll not hesitate to blister your arse for you again.” The King noted firmly. “But your occasional disregard for your own life and health aside, there is nothing that you have done in the past, or that I could imagine you doing, that would make me dismiss you, my young friend.” The King thought for a moment longer as his Steward struggled to put his trouble in words. “You are not having problems with your health, are you?” The King asked sharply, not thinking that could be the case, as Faramir appeared healthy. However, it would be a circumstance in which he would accept the younger man’s resignation, at least as Steward.
“Nay, Estel.” Faramri assured, marshaling his thoughts, as the King looked ready, as one of Faramir’s healers, to examine him then and there, to confirm that he was indeed healthy. “No, ‘tis nothing like that. I am not sure how to explain, but I know that I hold both of my offices not only by your grace, but also as a scion of the House of Hurin, and,” Faramir swallowed hard and looked out the window, “It has come to light that I may not, in fact, be Denethor’s son.”
Aragorn leaned back in his chair, eyeing Faramir carefully. The subject of Denethor was always a touchy one, and it would be necessary to proceed with caution, as ridiculous as Aragorn thought this particular idea to be. “Faramir,” the King began gently, “I know that Denethor was, in many ways, a failure to you as a father. We have discussed that, you and I. However, he never suggested, and no one has ever suggested, that you are not in fact the old Steward’s son. ‘Twas your mother’s illness that Denethor foolishly let poison him against you, and it was terribly unjust to you.”
Faramir just shook his head, again having trouble finding the words he needed. The King took another sip of brandy, preparing to wait his friend out. Aragorn knew, with Faramir, that it was when the eloquent youth had the most trouble speaking, that he most needed someone to listen to him. Still, the King’s patience was not endless, and he felt it needful to point out, “If this possibility is what has worried you into an unplanned trip from Ithilien, then I am glad to see you, but, well, ‘twas a wasted trip. You are not usually one to listen to gossips.” Aragorn scolded mildly.
“I am not.” Faramir agreed. “I, well, let me start at the beginning.”
“Generally advisable.” Aragorn drawled encouragingly.
Faramir bit down on a smart comment, as he explained, “I was on patrol in northern Ithilien with part of the White Company, doing a last circuit through the settlements there before winter.”
The King frowned, “I thought you had written me that your last circuits had all been completed in the north, as the snows can come early, some years.”
Faramir paused in astonishment. “I, ah, didn’t think you actually read all my letters.”
“I don’t.” Aragorn admitted, slightly ashamed. “I am better about the ones having to do with the rangers and other military matters. I can’t help it. I am more familiar with those matters than with planting schedules, or trade concerns, or the never-to-be-sufficiently accursed petitions.”
“Hmm.” Farmir murmured thoughtfully.
“If you start disarranging all of your missives so that the military concerns are mixed up in everything else,” the King said dryly, “I will confess to my wife that you are a painter, and have her bother you to do our official portrait.”
“I would never dream of such a devious, manipulative, scheming approach to getting you to read all of your official mail, Sire.” Faramir promised, eyes wide and innocent.
“Of course not,” Aragorn sighed, wishing in passing that Faramir was not so intent on helping him become a well-informed King, even as he was grateful for it. “You were telling me how you came by the ridiculous notion that you are not Denethor’s son.”
Faramir again looked sick. “Aye, well we diverted a patrol to the north because Kasim – one of my younger rangers – his grandfather had taken ill, and we were near enough to make a visit to the inn Kasim’s father runs with only a slight detour. Besides, it can be helpful to reappear in a place after you have said you will not return, and we did discover several smugglers.”
“I’m sure it was a fine decision.” Aragorn agreed soothingly, appreciating again Faramir’s compassion. “How is Kasim’s grandfather?”
Faramir looked more troubled. “He passed away while we were there. I am glad, for Kasim’s sake, that we arrived in time. However, not long after we had arrived, Kasim came down to the common room and asked me to join them.”
“Did you know his grandfather?’ the King asked, curious.
“Nay, or at least not that I recalled. I knew he had served my grandfather Ecthelion. His name was Kasimir.” Faramir explained.
“Kasimir – I believe I remember him from when I, too, served Ecthelion.” Aragorn murmured. “Tall man, with a missing finger on his right hand?”
“Aye, he was.” Faramir confirmed, slightly surprised.
“Kasimir was a faithful and valued retainer of your grandfather’s, Faramir.” Aragorn informed him. “I am sorry to hear of his passing.”
Faramir nodded. “I thought Kasimir might wish to see me for my grandfather’s sake, because I am Ecthelion’s grandson. But it turned out he wanted to see me to tell me that I am not Ecthelion’s grandson – at least, not according to Kasimir.”
Aragorn leaned back, much surprised. “That is quite odd, but Kasimir must have been quite an old man. He was not young, over thirty years ago when I knew him. Perhaps he was just confused?”
Faramir, seeming less agitated now that he had begun his tale, shook his head. “Kasimir did not seem at all confused. When Kasim brought me to his room, he greeted me as Finduilas’ son. I thanked him for his service to my grandfather, and he told me that my being with Kasim that night was a sign, that it meant the time had come to tell me the truth.”
Aragorn noted with some amusement that his Steward was somewhat calmer, having downed half a glass of brandy, and topped off both their glasses. “I wish that statement was ever followed by something light-hearted.” The King said.
Faramir looked to the King in baffled surprise. “Sorry, dear friend.” Aragorn explained with a rueful grin. “I do not mean to belittle your story, but that was almost exactly the same phrase Lord Elrond used before he told me of my heritage. My foster adar said the time had come to tell me the truth – that I was Isildur’s heir, and that I must either exceed in greatness all of my forebears since Elendil, or else doom the Dunedain, and all of Middle Earth, forever.”
Faramir gave a shocky laugh. “Well, I suppose that puts my concerns in perspective. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Aragorn said, reaching out to gently squeeze Faramir’s arm. “I know I do not talk that much of my own past, but if there is ever anything you wish to hear, you have but to ask. You have earned that, and more, with your friendship and help to me and Arwen, and my troublesome brothers, these past few years. Now, come, tell me – what “truth” did Kasimir have for you?”
Faramir took a deep breath, and another sip of his brandy, and explained. “Kasimir told me that my Grandfather Ecthelion wanted a second grandson, but that my father would not oblige, due to my mother’s delicate health.”
“That much may be true, that Denethor was reluctant to conceive you.” Aragorn explained gently. “It was entirely due to your mother’s delicate health, as previously, Denethor had wanted many children.”
Faramir shrugged, uncomfortable. “I have made my peace with what my father was and wasn’t, but apparently, despite drugging my Father, they could not get him to cooperate. So my Grandfather went to my mother, and asked her to, ah, conceive a second child anyway.”
Aragorn shook his head. “I don’t know what Kasimir told you, but that does not seem possible to me. Your mother loved your father, and, as much as she dearly wanted another child, I do not believe she would have betrayed her husband. She was an honorable woman, Finduilas. I always thought she must have convinced Denethor, somehow, though he was very angry with her after she became pregnant with you.”
At Faramir’s questioning look, Aragorn explained further. “Yes, I was in Gondor then, and I frequently dined with Ecthelion’s family. Your mother was like another sister to me.”
“Then you know,” Faramir whispered, pausing to drink again, “that my Mother, in addition to being honorable, was driven. She was not a warrior, but she opposed Mordor and Sauron with every fiber of her being. Kasimir said she had a vision, that there would be a better chance of Gondor surviving Sauron’s fall if she had a second son. Can you honestly tell me, Aragorn, having known Finduilas. Can you honestly say that she would not have borne another man’s son, if her husband would not give her one of his own, fearing her vision would come true?”
Aragorn shook his head, very grave, for the first time believing that the good friend and pseudo-younger brother in front of him was probably not his old friend Denethor’s son. “I cannot, Faramir. Finduilas was like you, honorable and just, unless the cost of honor and justice became so high as to be unconscionable.” Looking at his sorrowful young friend in sympathy, the King continued. “But you do resemble your father, but for having your mother’s light hair. Perhaps Finduilas was mistaken.”
Faramir laughed brokenly. “Mother was rarely, if ever, wrong. Maddening, fey, impossible, yes, but hardly ever wrong.”
“Yes,” The King soothed, “But Kasimir did not say Finduilas believed you to be another man’s son, only that Ecthelion did.”
“Nay,” Faramir whispered, “Kasimir said that my Grandfather Ecthelion had bid him keep the secret of how my mother conceived me, so he did, until two nights ago. However, my mother called Kasimir back to see her not long before she died, and bid him tell me the whole sordid tale,” Faramir explained, waving his glass, “but only after the threat of Mordor was ended, and the King returned, for otherwise it wouldn’t matter.”
‘Thanks, Finduilas.” Aragorn murmured, feeling sorry for his old friend the scholar’s second son, for Faramir would have an impressive hangover on the morrow. More, it seemed less and less likely that this story was the ramblings of a confused old man, for a warning like that was exactly the type of instruction Finduilas would have given. It was no wonder she and Gandalf had always got on so well.
“So,” Faramir continued, determined to get the whole story out. “The same week that Ecthelion drugged his son at dinner, and he slept with my mother but didn’t impregnate her – this is so embarrassing, by the way…” Finduilas’ son complained. “No one should ever have to think of their parents having sex, even if their father isn’t their father, you know, its just…just not right.”
Snorting with laughter, the King sympathized. “Aye, I agree. I will keep that in mind when my own child is older. Insult to injury, my poor drunk friend.”
“Yes, I think I am drunk.” Faramir complained wonderingly. “On only two glasses. What is this drink, anyway?”
“Gimli’s dwarvish brandy.” The King toasted the Prince. “He would not begrudge it, considering our topic this night. Finish your story before you pass out, tithen-gwador.” The King commanded.
“Well, later that same week – so that my father would not know I wasn’t his son, if I’m not, I mean. It was one of your Dunedain retainers, Aragorn, I think. At least that’s where I’ve seen his name before.”
Aragorn poured his Steward another glass of brandy. Not bothering to hide his incredulity at Faramir’s increasingly fragmented story, he summarized. “So, Kasimir told you that Ecthelion had convinced Finduilas she must have another son, and if Denethor would not give her one, then one of MY Dunedain would do?”
“Aye,” the inebriated Prince confessed. “My mother was apparently worried as well, she had a vision, Kasimir said. I know mother did have visions, from time to time. Kasimir said she saw that Gondor would more likely fall if she did not have a second son.”
Biting his tongue in amusement at Faramir’s state, for he had never seen the Prince of Ithlien drunk enough to repeat himself, the King realized something. “Finduilas may have been right, Faramir.” The King comforted, startled himself to realize how true it was. “Denethor would not have sent an only son to Imladris, and the fellowship would have failed without Boromir. And Ithilien would have fallen without you to lead your rangers, or so they believe, and I believe as well. More, Frodo has said that your company and kindness lifted his spirits greatly, so it is not inconceivable that Finduilas and Ecthelion were right. Gondor did need a second son of the Steward, even if you are not Denethor’s son in fact.”
Faramir shook his head, feeling very overwhelmed. “Perhaps, but they had no right to drug someone!”
“You’re getting ahead of yourself again.” The King commented. “Or behind – I can’t tell. Ecthelion drugged one of my Dunedain, as well as his son? Ecthelion was wily enough to do so, and I cannot believe one of my men would have agreed to lie with Finduilas, otherwise. Though some of them did not know her well, and might not have recognized her.” Aragorn eyed Faramir, trying to decide if the youth resembled any of his men in particular. However, as upset and flushed as the Prince was, he resembled no one the King could call to mind specifically save Finduilas, when she was angry.
Faramir groaned. “Can we please, please, not talk about my Mother sleeping with other men? Or my father either, for that matter.”
Aragorn bit his lip. Faramir was in no mood to appreciate his irreverent sense of humor. “We’ll do our best, but it is rather the heart of this story.”
Faramir groaned again.
Meanwhile, in the long gallery by the balcony, the troublesome twin sons of Elrond were doing their best to get Éowyn to tell them what had her husband so overset.
“No.” The White Lady said again. “It is Faramir’s private concern, until he chooses to make it otherwise.”
“Then why is he telling Estel?” Elrohir pointed out reasonably. “We are much better at keeping secrets than Estel.”
“When he was five years old…” Arwen murmured in amusement, adding milk to a cup of tea as she wondered at the odd cravings pregnancy had given her. Normally, she could not abide milk.
“Come, Éowyn.” Elladan crooned. “We are your friends, and Faramir’s, as well. Something dire enough as to get Prince Calm so agitated – surely we can do something to help.”
Éowyn shook her head. “It may be nothing. Faramir wants Aragorn’s advice first.”
Making one of the intuitive leaps that characterized Lord Elrond’s children, Elladan’s eyes brightened in certainty. Remembering that he was amongst humans, with their odd conceptions of what was and wasn’t acceptable to say in public, the younger twin got up and closed all of the windows, despite his sister’s murmured protest.
“Arwen,” Elladan said in apology, “I must ask, else I will die of curiosity. If Éowyn says it is something different, or if that mentioning it will upset Faramir, then I will not bring it up to him.”
Looking vaguely ill, the Queen waved a hand for her brother to continue, looking to her friend apologetically. “Éowyn, I am sorry, but…”
Éowyn shook her head. “There is no need to be sorry.” she assured the Queen, turning to ask her mentor, “What is it that you would ask? “
Elladan sat again, facing his student. “Did someone tell Faramir that he is not Denethor’s son?”
Éowyn stilled in astonishment. “I can’t confirm or deny, Elladan.” The Lady of Ithilien said, “But would you please tell me why you would ask that question, in particular?”
It was Elrohir who explained. “There are certain ways to tell if one human is or isn’t related to another. Elladan got to know Boromir fairly well in Imladris, before he left on the Quest. When Elladan and I examined Faramir after he rode out to meet Aragorn before our brother’s coronation, ‘Dan and I realized then that he could not be Boromir’s full brother.”
“Of course,” Elladan added, “we did not think much of it at the time- amongst elves, it is not common to have more than one child. Orphaned elflings are rare, but they are always adopted. We thought something similar must be the case with the two sons of the old Steward of Gondor.”
“By the time we realized that Faramir did not know,” Elrohir stated,
“And that it might cause an upset,” Elladan continued,
“We had decided to first see if we could track down his real father amongst the northern Dunedain.” Elrohir said, smiling fiercely, “to inquire why that Ranger left a child to be raised by a man such as…..a man who did not want another son.”
Éowyn nodded carefully, recalling some of what Elladan had taught her about attached and detached earlobes, and certain illnesses running in families. “But why look amongst the Dunedain?” she asked, carefully not thinking the name that Kasimir had given Faramir, for the twins were elves, and could sometimes see such things in a human’s eyes.
Elladan explained “The Dunedain have very specific allergies and sensitivities to certain substances. Faramir shares those allergies.”
Elrohir continued, “And we are very accustomed to treating the Dunedain, from their long-standing allegiance with our house. So we noticed, with Faramir.”
Éowyn nodded carefully. “So you think it is true, then?” She asked.
The dark-haired twins nodded. “There is no question.” Elrohir explained gently, “Your husband is clearly a son of the northern Dunedain, my lady. I am sorry if this causes problems for him, or you, although I cannot see why it should.”
Arwen put an arm around her friend’s shoulder comfortingly. “Éowyn, you cannot think that Estel would deprive Faramir of his offices, merely because of this?”
Éowyn shook her head. “Nay, I did not think so, although from a legal perspective, had Faramir not already surrendered his office and been reconfirmed in it, there should be some question to his continuing as Steward. Faramir, being Faramir, may insist that the matter become public, so that the council can consider whether it wishes to try to convince the King to replace Faramir with one of his distant cousins, perhaps Hurin.”
Elrohir snorted. “Elladan and I investigated this not long after the coronation, when we realized the legal implications of Faramir’s paternity, amongst the humans of Gondor. Hurin’s blood claim to the house of the Steward is non-existent, he is related by marriage only. Ecthelion had no surviving heirs. Denethor claimed Faramir as his son, no matter his other faults as a father. Were we in Rivendell, it would be clear that Faramir inherits Denethor’s title as his foster-son.”
Éowyn smiled at the fierce elf’s defense of her husband. “Unfortunately, humans do things differently.” The Lady explained, making a face. “My brother, in particular, would be upset about this. Bastardry is quite a stigma, amongst humans.”
“Your brother is fine with it.” Elladan reassured. “We told him before the wedding, when he was grousing about you marrying someone with insanity in his family.”
Éowyn, completely shocked, just looked at the twins.
“Éomer gave us his word to keep the secret.” Elrohir explained.
Éowyn took a deep breath. “That’s all well and good, then. My brother may have been upset, but he keeps his word. I suppose we will just have to wait until my husband returns. Hopefully Aragorn can calm him down.”
“Aragorn does not know.” Arwen explained. “The twins told me, but we thought it best not to tell my husband until and unless we found out who among the Dunedain fathered Faramir. Estel can be …protective, of Faramir. We thought it best not to unleash that protectiveness on the Dunedain without knowing which of them deserved his ire.”
Éowyn nodded, smiling at Arwen’s tact. One of the things that Aragorn and Éowyn were in complete agreement on, was that Faramir was too reluctant to fight his own battles with Denethor’s surviving councilors who were still disrespectful towards Faramir. And, by extension, that the new Steward sometimes needed someone else to do it for him. Aragorn and Éowyn essentially took turns, Aragorn snubbing the rude councilors, and Éowyn getting to them through their wives and daughters, as the Slayer of the WitchKing was unaccountably a darling of Gondor’s social scene. Éowyn could imagine Aragorn overreacting upon learning that it had been one of his retainers who had fathered Faramir, and then left him in Denethor’s house.
Elladan got up. “Arwen, I know we had agreed not to Estel. I think, however, now that Faramir has heard of this, they both deserve to know that it is true.”
Arwen nodded reluctantly. “Aye, ‘tis probably for the best. See if you can get Faramir to drink some tea as well, or something calming.” Elladan nodded as he left to join the King and Prince.
“If I know Estel,” Elrohir said, chuckling “He has poor Faramir blind drunk, or halfway there. Another way in which you must help Estel transition from being a commander of men to a father.”
Arwen looked at her oldest brother in annoyance, asking him to open the windows. He did so, but continued chuckling. “Elrohir,” the Queen said quellingly “I am sure Estel would not give liquor to a troubled toddler.”
Éowyn laughed at the image. “Nay,” she agreed “But when your son becomes a teen, you may have to watch out then.”
Elladan knocked softly on the door to Aragorn’s study, entering at Aragorn’s soft call. Looking at the glassy eyed Prince of Ithilien, expounding on the morality of drugging someone such that they could not say “nay,” clearly, Elladan sighed. “I owe Elrohir the next trip to hunt orc, though it was my turn.” He criticized his younger brother.
“I don’t know why you bet with him, ‘Dan.” Aragorn retorted. “He always wins.”
“Was getting poor Faramir drunk really the best way to deal with this matter?” Elladan asked, handing the Prince of Ithlien a glass of water from a pitcher on the sideboard.
“I don’t know.” The King confessed. “I thought it was all a tempest in a teapot, at first. Now I’m not sure. I just kept pouring him drinks because it seemed to calm him.”
Faramir accepted the water from Elladan, and drank as he was bidden.
“Hunh.” The twin commented. “He is more biddable, in this state. Apparently, among humans, bastardry is quite a stigma. Humans are so strange,. Who cares how a child came to be, particularly when the child grows into someone as capable and fascinating as Faramir?”
Aragorn shrugged. “I am more elf than human when it comes to matters like that, I really couldn’t tell you. But how came you to know of what troubles him? I would have thought Éowyn more than your match in keeping a secret.”
Elladan sighed, gesturing towards the conversation nook by the fire. Aragorn brought the brandy, pouring his brother a glass, as Elladan directed a largely limp Faramir to sit beside him on a settee. Aragorn took the armchair, handing his brother the brandy.”
Elladan sipped in appreciation, before frowning. “How much of this has Faramir had?” He asked in mild concern.
“Two or three glasses, why?’” The King asked.
“Because he is of northern Dunedain stock, fool.” Elladan explained. “Elrohir and I realized when the saffron rice made both him and you sick, sometime last year. We already knew he could not be Boromir’s full brother, from the first time we met him.”
“Oh.” The King blinked, also a little drunk. “The first time I had dwarvish brandy, it knocked me on my arse. You know, you were there.”
“Yes.” Elladan criticized. “And Faramir won’t thank you for it in the morning, not on top of this other issue.”
“But that’s just the thing.” Faramir interrupted, having apparently not been too drunk to comprehend. “I may be drunk, but I can still understand what you are saying, and though it horrifies me – no offense, ‘Dan – I could still say no, or leave, if I willed.”
“Let’s see you gain the door on your own two feet, my young friend.” Elladan challenged affectionately, pouring his young human friend another glass of water.
Faramir waved a hand. “That’s not the point, as I don’t want to walk to the door. I’m saying that it was wrong – just wrong- of my grandfather to have drugged that poor man, and wrong of my mother to have let him, and then laid with him, the man not knowing what was going on, and not being able to say no.”
“Oh.” Elladan considered that. “I hadn’t thought they might have drugged your father, but it makes sense. He probably doesn’t even know he fathered you, then.”
“Don’t call him my father.” Faramir objected. “I don’t even know him, nor he me. He bears no responsibility for what happened that night.”
“And neither do you, my Steward.” Aragorn said sternly. “Keep that in mind, whatever comes of this. And to reiterate, just in case you’ve forgotten, you’ll not be replaced as my Steward, or in Ithilien.”
“But, I am not Denethor’s son, I have no right to those positions.” Faramir explained, heart-broken, for he did not want to be replaced. He might feel overworked as Steward at times, but in general, he loved that he was in a position to help Gondor adjust to a more peaceful new future, and loved working so closely with his friend the King.
“Nonsense.” The King objected, fondly but firmly. “You hold both positions by my appointment, and shall continue to do so, the Council be damned. If you wish the matter to become public, and the council raises a fuss, then I’ll abolish the office of Steward and appoint you as my First Advisor, a new position I shall create with roughly the same duties as the Steward.”
Faramir laughed, as Elladan whistled, impressed.
“I love watching you get a handle on what a King can do when there hasn’t been a King for centuries.” Faramir confessed. “I just love seeing Tarsten and Sendar look apoplectic and not be able to do anything about it.”
“I’ll do you one better.” Aragorn said with a grin.” The First Advisor shall automatically inherit rule of the Kingdom if the King’s line dies out, and the King’s Guards shall accompany the First Advisor everywhere, as they do the King, so that I may better keep tabs on exactly what you get up to in the city.”
“Now, now.” Aragorn comforted, eyes twinkling as he patted his distraught friend’s knee. “The guards aren’t that bad.”
“I’m not even worried about that yet.” Faramir explained. “Aragorn, you can’t, you just can’t, make some random Dunedain’s bastard son the second heir to the throne of Gondor and Arnor. You just can’t.”
“I think its a fine idea.” Elladan said supportively. “But we should probably return to the ladies and Elrohir, now that you two are, ah, mostly in agreement as to how this matter is to be handled.”
“Very well.” The King said, rising and offering Faramir a hand up. Half-carrying the younger human, he and Elladan walked back to the long gallery, where Elrohir started laughing upon seeing them, crowing his delight at being the next twin to go hunt orc with the King’s patrols.
Faramir blinked owlishly as the King and Elladan gently deposited him beside his bemused wife, commenting “‘Roh would have gone anyway, ‘Dan, since you must be here for Arwen until after the baby is born. He just likes to get one over on you.”
“Hmm.” commented the younger twin, as Elrohir looked annoyed. “That does put things in perspective. Thank you, Faramir.”
“Estel,” Arwen inquired, somewhat taken aback by Faramir’s state. “You would not give our son, when he is a teenager, liquor to calm him before a difficult conversation, would you?”
The King blinked. “I don’t see why not.”
The entire group burst into laughter, except the Queen, who sighed. “No matter, dear. We’ll discuss it when the time comes.”
“That was the wrong answer, Sire.” Faramir chuckled.
Looking in annoyance at his Steward, the King offered the rest of the group the remaining Dwarvish brandy, which all accepted, save Faramir, who Elladan determined had had sufficient, and the Queen, who believed strong spirits were bad for pregnant women.
“That’s a Rohirric belief, as well.” Éowyn commented in surprise.
“So,” Elrohir interrupted, “Tell me what happened – I must know.”
“Well,” Faramir explained “I’m not sure whether to make the whole sordid tale public or not, but even if I do, Aragorn has promised to keep me in service to him, and as Prince of Ithilien, so I suppose it doesn’t really matter, whether I am called Steward, or some new, made-up title.”
Éowyn looked to the King in respect and surprise. “Very clever, Aragorn.” She complimented, pouring her husband another glass of water. “This daft man was at first concerned that you would banish him, or some such nonsense. I had to point out that we would always be welcome in Dol Amroth, or even Rohan, to calm him.”
Aragorn glared at his honorary younger brother, protesting, “Faramir, that’s utterly ridiculous. Banish you, for events that happened before you were born! What kind of monster do you think I am!”
“Nay,” Faramir attempted to calm his friend, “I was not thinking clearly. Once I calmed down, I realized you would never do such a thing.”
“That’s all very interesting and quite clever indeed of Estel,” Elrohir remarked impatiently.” But what I want to know is, who is Faramir’s father? Elladan and I went and talked to most of the Dunedain who had come with Aragorn to Gondor, those who survived, but we couldn’t agree on a likely candidate.”
“You look too much like your mother.” Elladan complained to the Steward.
“I’m sorry.” Faramir apologized. “Does it really matter, though? “
“Yes, it matters, you daft child.” Aragorn scolded. “I know all of the men who accompanied me to Gondor the first time, and any one of them would be proud to have a son such as you.”
Faramir’s flushed face turned stubborn. “Even if, for political reasons and to preserve Ecthelion’s and Finduilas’ reputations, we decide not to make it public?”
Aragorn sighed. “Faramir, that is your decision to make, though I would prefer as your King to be consulted. But your father, whoever he is, should have a say as well.”
Faramir shook his head. “It was wrong, what my Grandfather and Mother did. And I would want to know, if I had sired a son, even under such circumstances.” Looking to his wife, the Prince clarified, “Which I haven’t. But not every man would want to know. What if he has married, and has other children? I do not want to cause problems for him and his family.”
Éowyn, knowing how difficult her husband could be when he had made his mind up, interjected. “Aragorn, you are about to become a father. Arwen, if you found out that Aragorn had sired a son in his early days, under such circumstances as I told you had been contrived to conceive Faramir, would you be angered?”
Arwen didn’t even pause. “Nay. I know Estel was never unfaithful to me, nor was I to him, through all our long decades of waiting. What happened to the Dunedain man at Finduilas’ hands was not cheating. But, however it came to be, I would want Estel’s son in our family.” Arwen smiled luminously at Faramir, “if it were a son like Faramir, I would be most angered not to know. My son I could command stay to dance tomorrow night with me at the Harvest ball.”
Faramir laughed. “You have won again, Arwen. We shall stay, provided Éowyn has no objection.”
Éowyn smiled in a rather predatory manner. “I love dancing, and I have a few words to stay to the good Lord Tarsten’s lovely new wife.”
Faramir groaned. “Please, please, don’t do anything that..”
“Oh, don’t worry, husband.” Éowyn’s eyes gleamed, “I know exactly what to do.”
Aragorn toasted the slayer of the Witchking, as his two brothers pondered what a lucky man Faramir was.
“So,” said Elrohir, “who was your father, Faramir?”
Faramir eyed the older twin with disfavor, reflecting that Elrohir was an inveterate gossip for all he was the more skilled warrior of the twins.
“I don’t know if he still lives.” Faramir stalled. “I’ve not heard anything of him in many years, but he was a war hero, before I was born.”
Aragorn, eyes sad as he pondered how many of his Dunedain had not lived to see the end of the Ring War, motioned for Faramir to continue.
At the indirect royal command, his Steward sighed reluctantly, but complied. “Kasimir told me that my Mother chose a night of ..that same week I mentioned, my King. There had been a battle, during which a number of Gondor’s finest young Lords had been lost, though Gondor was victorious in the end. This member of the Dunedain was drinking himself into oblivion in the Steward’s great hall, and all of fellow men of the north had left, trusting him to Ecthelion’s care. Ecthelion and Kasimir carried the man to bed, after dosing one of his drinks with the Dol Amroth drug shahel.” Faramir paused to shake his head again at his relatives’ duplicity. Shahel was given only to reluctant or nervous brides and bridegrooms, and it was a misdemeanor punishable by fine to give it to someone without permission.
Aragorn, suddenly putting together the week Denethor had stopped talking to his wife, with the week he had lost several of Denethor’s lieutenants in an orc ambush, and recalling having passed out drinking in the great hall afterwards, felt as if all the air had left the room.
The King started coughing and dropped his glass, which Elrohir caught before it could spill, let alone reach the floor, chiding, “Estel, it is a crime to waste Dwarvish brandy. It may even have been a crime to give so much to Faramir, who barely appreciated it…oh.” The twin concluded abruptly, slapping his younger brother supportively on the back before rising to his feet, and offering “Congratulations, then. Shall I go fetch another bottle?”
Elladan hissed in comprehension, then cursed fluently in Sindarin, causing his sister’s eyebrows to raise in astonishment. Arwen was unsure if she had ever heard the younger twin curse in front of her before.
“No more brandy.” Arwen commanded. “Whatever is the matter, Estel?”
“Finduilas chose Thorongil to father her child.” Aragorn said, strained. “Did she not, Faramir?”
Arwen’s breath caught in her throat as Faramir and Éowyn both nodded.
“Aye, or rather Ecthelion did.” Faramir related, concerned that his friends the King and Queen seemed suddenly so upset. “Kasimir explained that Thorongil looked the most like my Father, and also mumbled something about Ecthelion being determined that Thorongil’s blood come back to Gondor, one way or another, that didn’t make a great deal of sense to me.”
“Do you know if Thorongil lives?” Éowyn asked the King. “Even in Rohan we heard of his heroism and clever tactics, batting the corsairs and other enemies of Gondor, but neither Faramir nor I could remember hearing anything else of him since then.” The white lady looked around the room, puzzled that the name Thorongil should so startle their companions, for everything she had heard of the man was so good that Faramir need not be ashamed to have had him, rather than Denethor, as a father.
Aragorn set the rescued glass very carefully on the table, pouring out a last round of the dwarvish ale for all present, including a smaller portion for Faramir and a well watered sip for his wife.
“Before I answer your question, Éowyn, I’d like to propose a toast,” the King said. Somewhat to Éowyn’s surprise, Arwen accepted her drink without demur, and Elladan made no protest when his younger brother handed the half-full glass to Faramir.
Aragorn raised his glass, banked anger as well as burgeoning joy in his eyes. “To Finduilas, who made a terrible decision that worked out for the best. To Boromir, who was the best of brothers. And to Faramir, good friend, valued adviser, and my first-born son.”
The King and the elves drank solemnly. Éowyn’s mouth dropped open, and Faramir nearly dropped his drink in shock, but both drank when Aragorn scolded lightly. “Drink, children. It is not everyday a man learns he is a father twice over.”
Moving to sit beside his shocked son, Aragorn explained “Thorongil was the name I used when I was in Gondor serving Ecthelion.” Aragorn paused, shaking his head, “I always rather thought the sly old devil realized I was Isildur’s heir, but he never said either way for certain.”
“I…I did not know.” Faramir murmured. “I am glad, Estel.” His grown son said, “For I could think of no one I would rather have as a father – but you cannot be glad, for this will cause too many problems…”
Aragorn shook his head. “But I am glad, Faramir, my dear son. I could not be otherwise. Surely you know I have come to care for you as a younger brother?”
“Aye,” Faramir agreed, “But the Steward of Gondor is too powerful a figure to also be the King’s son! It is not safe.”
Aragorn waved a dismissive hand. “Please, Faramir. I am sure you would never cooperate with anyone trying to unseat me in your favor. Those who know you will be well aware of it, considering the fit you pitched over even being added to the succession after my heirs.” The King’s eyes glimmered in satisfaction as he realized that would now be entirely possible.
“But what of those who would scheme behind both our backs, thinking to kill you and yours and install me as a puppet ruler?” Faramir worried. “Please, Sire, think this through.”
To Faramir’s chagrin, all of his family members burst into laughter at the thought of him as a puppet ruler.
“Aye,” Elrohir chortled, “that might be a concern. Until the first time such schemers met you, dear nephew, at which point they would realize they needed to go and find someone more biddable.”
Faramir clenched his teeth. “That is exactly the point, Elrohir! We are speaking of people who do not know me.” Turning to the King, Faramir pleaded. “Please, Aragorn, you said this would be my decision whether to acknowledge my father and the truth of this matter. I judge it is too dangerous for you, and for your unborn son my half-brother. Do you go back on your word?”
Aragorn, sobering as he realized his son was truly worried about this, sighed. “Faramir, I have changed my mind before about the appropriate answer to a given circumstance. As I recall, you were glad at the time.”
Faramir blushed, remembering that occasion.
“Surely you want to be acknowledged as mine?” The King asked gently, reaching out to brush a lock of Faramir’s red-gold hair away from his eyes.
“Aye,” the younger man agreed. “But not at risk to you or yours.” Faramir explained. “And risk there is, in my opinion.”
“Oh, Faramir.” Arwen explained, getting up to embrace her beloved friend, now known to be her dear husband’s son. “Please don’t deprive us of the right to have you in our family merely because of such distant fears! I must endure being Queen, and so many other things that I did not wish, because I love Estel and it is his fate, but please, please, do not make me give up having you acknowledged as my child. I could not bear it!”
Arwen Undomiel got her way for the second time that day, as her husband’s son was again, unable to deny her wish.
“I..if that is your wish, Arwen.” Faramir conceded helplessly. “And yours, Sire?” He asked, looking to his father, clearly overwhelmed.
“It is.” Aragorn confirmed. “You are mine, as son as well as Steward. It would be my great sorrow not to be able to claim you as such openly.”
Faramir nodded, accepting an embrace from the King his father, as Arwen turned to hug her daughter-by-law. The twins as well looked to Faramir and Éowyn with a new gleam of possessiveness in their eyes, for they were fond of both light-haired humans.
“I don’t know what to call you now,” Faramir complained lightly to his father. “It seems disrespectful to call you by name, but you frown whenever I call you Sire or King.”
Aragorn smiled, Faramir’s abrupt honesty when inebriated had amused him even before he knew the youth was his son. “You may continue to call me Estel or Aragorn, my son. It would be my honor to have you call me father, but only when, and if, you find yourself ready. I can bear with it if you must call me formally in public, but do so in private, and I’ll be vexed with you.”
Faramir nodded, the swirling emotion of the day and the brandy making him feel sick.
“I think we should get you to bed, child of mine.” The King commented, noting the sudden green tone to his son’s skin. “Elladan, could you mix up a hangover cure for Faramir? I’d prefer he not be indisposed half the day tomorrow, as it is partly my fault he is drunk anyway, and I plan to announce publicly that he is my son at the event tomorrow night.”
Faramir groaned. “Tomorrow, Aragorn?” He asked pitifully. “We have so much to do before then…”
“Don’t fret, it shall get done.” The King consoled, gently pulling his son to his feet, as Éowyn supported Faramir on the other side. Together, King and White Lady assisted the unsteady Prince of Ithilien to the Steward’s quarters on the other side of the citadel.
“I think I shall prevail upon you to accept Arwen’s offer of rooms in the royal wing, husband.” Éowyn murmured. “This walk is entirely too long, and was, even before tonight’s revelations.”
“I am sorry to cause such trouble for you,” Faramir again apologized to the King, “If I had known you were Thorongil, I would not have told you.”
Aragorn laughed in relief. “Then I am glad you did not know.” He scolded. “For I would have found out at some point, and then I would have been wroth with you for keeping a son from me, dear though you were already as my Steward and friend.”
“Would Legolas have recognized the name Thorongil as one of yours?” Éowyn asked as they helped Faramir into bed.
“Aye,” Aragorn answered. “He knew me then, and would have known.”
“It may be lucky indeed that he stayed later at home then.” The white lady noted, “For he would have told Faramir, and Faramir would have been noble and foolish, and you would have had to punish them both again.”
The King shook his head. “Legolas is an elf. I like to think he would not have been so foolish as to keep a child from me, but Faramir can be uncommonly persuasive, when he thinks his loved ones are at risk.”
So it was that the King of Gondor announced at the Harvest Festival two joyous tidings. The first, that his wife the Queen Arwen was pregnant, and would bear him a new son and heir in the coming year. The second, that Faramir, Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien, was in truth the King Elessar’s eldest son by the Lady Finduilas, and would stand as the King’s heir until the birth of the new Prince, and then in the succession following any children of Elessar and Arwen. There was general rejoicing, for the people loved Faramir, and were coming to love the King as well, and all thought it was a fine thing to have the steadfast young Steward in the succession. The public explanation for this extraordinary revelation was that Denethor was unable to have a child with Finduilas (for it was true, even if not the entire truth, for one cannot get a woman with child if one chooses not to). Therefore, Ecthelion had asked Finduilas to have a child by Thorongil. Those who remembered the wily old Steward Ecthelion agreed that it was exactly like something that practical leader might have done.
Aragorn and Arwen were delighted to have two such wonderful grown children. Faramir and Éowyn were mostly delighted. Both loved their new parents, and their baby brother Eldarion, to distraction. Faramir felt, becoming the big brother and protector to ‘Darion, as if Boromir would very much approve. However, Éowyn and particularly Faramir found it difficult to adjust to the new constraints Faramir’s acknowledgment as the son of the King of Gondor and Arnor put on their lives. Faramir in particular made a habit of “forgetting” to let the King’s guards know when he was leaving the citadel, until his father spanked him soundly for it, at which point the Steward largely bowed to the unfortunate necessity. There were other adjustments, as Faramir was unaccustomed to having a father as openly protective and loving as Aragorn. But both father and son were by and large happy to have one another as family, as well as good friends.
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