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20 June 2009 | 14046 words
Warnings: AU, slash, dark themes, dubious content, non-consensual content, character death (not main pairing)
Written for the 2009 Midsummer Swap.
Request by Bell Witch: Prefer human partners. Possible evil!Aragorn story. Or Aragorn pressuring Faramir into doing his will. Do not like evil Arwen or Éowyn for the sake of getting guys together. Faramir outside the usual realms (not in Minas Tirith or Ithilien). Perhaps in Dol Amroth, or as a POW in Harad or something. Always amused with Faramir/Éomer. No happy incest.
E-nivë Minui – The First Face
The treetops of the forest huddled and whispered in a language Faramir wished he understood. No birds chirped in the branches, no squirrels scampered along trunks; only the occasional rodent rustled through the fallen leaves. The forest, like a nervous beast, held still except for the small tremors under its skin.
With the faintest crackle, two bushes admitted a man onto the forest trail. Faramir’s hand jerked to his sword, but he curbed the reflex. It was Damrod.
The ranger walked over and stopped with his mouth against Faramir’s ear.
“Human by the stream,” he breathed. “Going stag.”
Faramir tilted his head to answer. “Southron?”
“Nay. Black hair, unbraided. Fair skin. Brown leathers and a gray wool cloak. No rings, no brooch, no insignia.”
Faramir felt his lips twitch at the detailed report. “Did he brush his teeth this morning?”
“Should I double back and check?”
“Maybe later.” The Captain of the Rangers sobered. “Weapons?”
“A pipe in his belt, if it counts.”
It meant little, and both knew it. There were dozens of places to hide a weapon on one’s body.
Damrod nodded up the forest trail. “It’s getting late. We should rabbit back to Annie.”
Oh, that sounded tempting, but something in the ranger’s voice made Faramir hold him back. “Is there something you’re not telling me, Sergeant?”
Damrod fidgeted in obvious reluctance. “He seemed… wounded.”
“Define wounded,” said Faramir.
“Limping. Like a Southron catamite with a big –”
“– up his arse.”
“I get it, Sergeant.” Faramir frowned at the darkening canopy of leaves. “Blood?”
“Not on the ground, not on his clothes. Not our business.”
“It is if he’s from Gondor.”
“If he’s from Gondor, he should know better than –”
A screech, like the grating of steel claws on steel armor, scythed through the forest. For a moment, everything stood still – the rodents, the leaves, Faramir’s heart – then chaos erupted.
Something heavy tackled Faramir to the ground and pinned him there, pressing his cheek into leaves and twigs. The smell of damp earth filled his nostrils. Wild animals scrambled past him, surging away from the stream and deeper into the woods.
“What was that?” came Damrod’s whisper from above.
“Nazgûl –” Faramir choked out – “Let up!”
The heavy body peeled off of him and rolled to the side. “But they never come here!”
“Maybe they’re lost.” Faramir pushed up to a crouch and checked his bowstring. “Care to give them directions?”
A second screech answered him. A huge shadow swept over the treetops. Damrod’s face was pale as he likewise primed his bow. Faramir understood. Haradrim were one thing, a human people; the Nazgûl were something else altogether.
“Back to base?” Damrod whispered.
“Yes. No, wait –” Faramir bit back a curse – “The man by the stream.”
“Captain, we have to warn Anborn!”
“Shhh! We will. We’ll take the man with us.”
“It’s against the –”
They went. It was a nerve-racking crawl, with obstacles underfoot and danger above, and Faramir’s right arm trembled with the stress of holding his bow half-drawn. Three hundred feet to the river. His fingertips sweated in his three-fingered archer glove. Two hundred feet. A hundred.
Two screeches intertwined on the winds, answered by a human cry.
Faramir glanced left and met Damrod’s stare.
They broke into a run.
Trees streaked on either side, but straight ahead was a gap where sunset glinted off water. Faramir skidded to a halt just behind the tree-line and drew back all 60 pounds of his bow.
Sprawled back on the muddy riverbank was the black-haired stranger. One hand supported his weight, while the other protected his head as a winged beast, foul as a cross between bird and snake, swooped down with a scream.
Faramir brought up his bow. Fletching to cheek, sight along shaft, tip lined with target – Faramir loosed, and the winged mount veered and banked away.
“Damrod, cover me!”
Faramir rushed out onto the bank. The stranger was already scrambling to his feet, but he was moving awkwardly. Faramir wrapped an arm around his waist and half-helped, half-hauled him into the shelter of the trees. Damrod’s arrow whistled past his ear. Behind him, a frustrated shriek reached into the forest path, where its maker could not follow.
Damrod aimed his bow skyward. “They’re circling above!”
“Save your arrows,” said Faramir. “We need to lose them.”
The three stood in a moment of silence, interrupted only by their heavy breaths.
“I’ll run decoy,” Damrod said. “Rendezvous at Annie’s.”
Faramir looked into his eyes, and the full meaning of the plan reverberated between them. Faramir could imagine the futile argument: I’ll go instead – You’re needed as Captain – We’ll hole up for the night – They’ll be searching on foot – We can fight – Aye, and I can reach Valinor.
“All right,” Faramir said softly. “I Melain berio le,1 my friend.”
Damrod snorted. “May the line bury you lay too,” he said and took off.
In a heartbeat, he was beyond the trees and out of reach of the arrow that Faramir considered sending after him. The winged beasts of the Nazgûl trumpeted a hunting call.
The stranger shifted in Faramir’s hold, calling him back to the here and now. A new sense of urgency filled Faramir.
“Can you walk?” he said.
The stranger nodded. His black curls were a scraggly mess, but his gray eyes were clear, and his expression was composed, almost regal, for someone who’d almost been torn limb from limb.
“I owe you my life,” he said quietly.
“Not if we end up as wraith-food.” Faramir pulled a strip of bandaging cloth from his backpack. “I’m sorry, I have to –”
“I understand.” Again, that calm confidence that called nobility to mind.
Faramir dipped his head before tying the cloth over the stranger’s eyes. He cinched it off at the back of his head. The black hair was matted with mud, or perhaps more?
“Are you hurt?”
“Just my leg,” said the stranger. “It will keep.”
Once more Faramir looped his arm around the stranger’s waist. Though any delay grated on his nerves, he headed south-east first, backtracked west almost to the stream, and only then set out north-east to Annie, or Henneth Annûn, as it was officially known. Secrecy was the best defense of the Rangers’ Headquarters, and one could never be too careful.
The journey was hard. Blindfolded and limping, the stranger often stumbled, and Faramir had to brace him tight against himself to keep him from falling. They moved like a three-legged ogre with a limp. At least the forest had regained its peace, and Faramir’s nerves unwound little by little, except for a gnawing dread at the back of his mind for Damrod.
Suddenly the man tripped and crashed to the ground, pulling Faramir on top of him. Faramir rolled off with a muttered curse.
“I’m sorry,” the stranger said as he sat up, massaging his knee.
“No, I’m sorry. I should have seen that root.” Faramir looked up, where only a pale sickle of a moon floated in the sky, belying the name of Ithilien. “This cursed darkness…”
“Really? I haven’t noticed.”
Even in the dim light, Faramir could see the wry smile on the man’s lips, beneath the blindfold.
“Come on, Master – er…”
“Aragorn,” the man supplied.
Faramir helped him to his feet and took on his weight again. “Master Aragorn. Courage. There’s warm stew ahead. We’ll be just in time for breakfast.”
The smile widened. “For that, I would walk all the way to Mordor. And it’s simply Aragorn, please.”
“Aragorn.” Faramir flashed him a smile, though it was wasted on the blindfold. “I’m Captain Faramir, of the Ithilien Rangers. And before you accuse me of false promises, I can only vouch for the water in the stew. Anything else is better left unidentified.”
Aragorn inclined his head. “I consider myself warned, Captain.”
Damrod returned that evening, trudging into the main cavern with a great show of fatigue, and Faramir felt the remaining tension drain from his body. He intercepted the ranger at the central campfire.
“Good to have you back,” he said in a voice that stuck around lumps of emotion. “How did it go?”
Damrod stretched out his hands over the flames. “It ran, actually. Then it walked, then it plodded, then crawled. Or did you mean the Nazgûl? They were flying, I’ll remind you.”
Faramir pinched the bridge of his nose. “And?”
“They kept flying until they got bored. Then they flew away east, and may they crash into the Mountains of Shadow.”
“May it be,” Faramir said fervently. He clapped the ranger on the back, and Damrod lurched forward with a groan.
“I’m bushed,” he said miserably.
Faramir plucked a twig and two leaves from his disheveled hair. “So I see.”
“There’s not a muscle in my body that’s not burning.”
“I’m sure I can think of few.”
“My feet are chafed to the bone.”
“Feet are overrated, really.”
Damrod sniffed. “It hurts when I –”
“Sergeant,” Faramir cut him off, “you’re not even on the roster for guard duty tonight.”
“Oh.” Damrod straightened up and looked around. “What’s for dinner?”
Faramir gave him a commiserating pat. “Stew.”
He left the mock-pouting ranger to his meal and sought out Aragorn. The man was not by his assigned bedroll at the back of the cave. Faramir followed the entrance tunnel, leaving more and more of the torchlight behind, until the Window of Sunset loomed before him. Aragorn stood framed in its mouth.
Faramir watched him from behind as the man admired Annie’s waterfall. He was resting against the tunnel’s wall so as to favor his right leg. Faramir had checked it for injuries that morning, when they’d reached Headquarters. There were no marks or bruises, and Aragorn insisted he was fine, but Faramir saw him wince and bite his lip as he was probing the knee. Muscle or bone damage, then. He applied a salve that soothed and warmed, and bandaged the leg.
Now, though, he found his stare wandering upwards from the injured limb. There was something elegant, almost feline, in the way Aragorn molded his body against the wall, his hip angled out to meet it just so. He was surveying the waterfall with a tilted head, and the moonlight that shone through the water-curtain danced on the skin of his neck.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” said Aragorn.
Faramir jumped back, guilt stirring in his heart, and something else stirring somewhere lower.
“Aye.” He cast about for something to say. “The romantics in our Company compare it to the silver hair of an elven maiden.”
“Oh? And what do the cynics say?”
Faramir grinned. “That the Anduin is taking a leak.”
A chuckle floated back from the tall man. Aragorn detached himself from the wall and turned. Gray eyes twinkled in the faint light. “And which are you?”
“I –” Faramir discovered that saliva could stick in one’s throat as effectively as sawdust. He cleared his throat. “I haven’t decided yet.”
“Well, you are young,” said Aragorn, stalking towards him. “You have much to learn about love and lust, and all the sweet and bitter between them.”
He stopped before Faramir, so close that Faramir felt the heat from his own body break against Aragorn and roll back over him. The trapped air between them seemed to hum.
In one fluid motion, Aragorn sidestepped and walked back into the cave. “Goodnight, Captain,” he said over his shoulder.
“Goodnight,” Faramir said once he’d recovered. Which was a long time after Aragorn had left.
He slept fitfully that night, tossing in dreams that twisted between pleasure and pain. Only after midnight did he drop off into solid sleep.
And woke at the sound of a scream.
Not the sound of a fell beast, but a human scream that died in a gurgle. Faramir leapt up from his bedroll and snatched his sword. With two long strides he shoved through the leather curtain of his private alcove.
The main cavern seethed with chaos. His rangers were stumbling about, armed haphazardly, some naked, some in nightclothes, screaming and fighting. A body was tossed over the campfire, and the air reeked of burning hair. Despite the pandemonium, the cave was eerily hushed. And gliding through the confusion, calm and dark and deadly, were the nine Nazgûl.
Faramir swung his sword over his head. “To me! Rangers, to me! For Gondor!”
“For Gondor!” the cry echoed here and there.
But moving towards him through the battleground were two Nazgûl with drawn swords.
“Gondor!” Faramir cried again – though in his mind he roared, “Father! Boromir!” – and he launched himself at the nearest Ringwraith.
He felt like he’d run full-tilt into a web of sticky, slimy fear. Faramir gritted his teeth and bore down with his sword. His blade met the Nazgûl’s weapon with absolute silence, though the recoil sent jolts of pain up his arms. He suddenly understood the eerie hush in the cave. A chill shivered down his spine.
Faramir caught a black movement in the corner of his eye, and dived left. The second Nazgûl’s blade scythed over his head. He stumbled to his feet and roared another battle cry. It came out weak and distorted. He parried a stab to his chest, wheeled into the Nazgûl’s sword-space, and rammed the pommel of his sword into the wraith’s chest. The dark creature staggered back. Faramir brought his sword around, switching his feet, and caught the Nazgûl on the back of his pauldron. The Ringwraith, out of balance, crashed down with a scream.
Too late, Faramir realized this maneuver left him open to the Nazgûl on his right. A blade swung into his exposed back. Faramir was hurled forward to sprawl on the stone floor, where he lay breathless and dazed. Surely that blow should have cut him in half? Unless it landed with the flat of the blade, and why would the Nazgûl…
He realized he was staring into brown eyes, wide-open and glazed. Black curls spilled over a pale cheek, and a hand with softly curled fingers lay beside the open mouth, like a boy in his sleep. Damrod.
A pair of metal boots came between him and his sergeant. Before Faramir could as much as blink, one of them lifted, then smashed down.
Faramir woke up slowly, feeling groggy and stiff and sea-sick. His eyelids were glued shut. His throat was clogged with the stench of decay, which came from whatever his right cheek pressed against: something coarse, like burlap. He was lying face-down. His entire world was rearing and plunging, rearing and plunging, like a galleon tossed on high seas. Wind shrieked in his ears and lashed at his face. The upper deck of a Corsair’s ship?
Faramir pried his eyes open despite the painful glue. And wished he hadn’t. He was lying face-down, aye, but not on a ship. Rather, he was sprawled over the neck of a Nazgûl’s fell beast, which was rising and dipping in its flight. The creature’s left wing stretched out in front of Faramir, and shortly beyond its clawed tip, the sheep face of a mountain streaked by. Between mountain and beast, Faramir glimpsed the bleak ground a long, long way down.
The sight made his stomach lurch. He made a grab for the nearest spike on the beast’s neck – was brought up short – his arms weren’t moving – the strain made his wrists burn. Finally he realized that his arms were circling the animal’s neck and tied together on its underside. If he slipped, at least he would not fall all the way down to the ground. No, he would dangle under the fell beast until they reached their destination, hanging by his wrists hundreds of feet in the air, swaying and flailing in the wind –
He threw up all over the fell beast’s neck.
A heavy cuff to the back of his head informed him he was not alone. Faramir looked sideways and saw a tall Nazgûl riding the base of the beast’s neck. Sitting upright. In a saddle. No wonder he wasn’t throwing up.
“Where are you taking me?” he shouted. “What do you want?”
The wind snatched the words from his lips and swept them away.
With a twist of his upper body, Faramir managed to whip his head to the other side. There the forests of Ithilien rushed below them, and they stirred in Faramir a longing that squeezed the breath out of his chest.
But vying with that longing was a dark fear. If they were flying with the Mountains of Shadow on the left and Ithilien on the right, then they were headed south from Henneth Annûn. South, for Minas Morgul, from whence no Man of Gondor returned.
It wasn’t night, it couldn’t have been night, though it was dark with clouds and ash, when they reached the Tower of Black Magic. Despite the dark, Faramir could see the fortress clearly. It was huge. Its walls glowed with a green light, ethereal, almost beautiful, like the reflection of moonlight in the tresses of a mermaid.
But the closer they flew, the better Faramir saw through that illusion. The light did not reflect off Minas Morgul; it came from within. And it was ethereal, yes, but not heavenly. Rather, it was the translucent glow of a wraith. Not the vivid green of a mermaid’s hair, but the sickly, pale green of flesh that was left underwater to bloat.
The winged beast flew over the sheer outer walls, circled the shimmering tower, then glided down to the enormous courtyard at its base. It reared and threw out its wings, which caught the wind with a clap like thunder. The entire world shuddered as the beast struck the flagstones. It bowed its neck, and Faramir, still tied to it, was plunged face-down towards the ground. He was stopped five feet above it. His stomach gave a final indignant lurch.
He sensed more than saw the Nazgûl alight behind him. There was a flash of metal, and his arms, pulled around the beast’s neck for so long, suddenly dangled free. Faramir gnashed his teeth against the stabs of returning circulation.
A steel-gloved hand gripped his forearm and yanked him off the winged mount, then dragged him aside. His legs barely held his weight. Faramir watched, numb, as the beast’s claws dug into the flagstones. Its haunches flexed, and with a great leap it took to the sky. A wave of stench washed over him.
Another fell beast landed in the courtyard to unload its master, and another. Faramir scanned the procession for other prisoners, but too soon, his own captor steered him into the tower. The Nazgûl didn’t bother to tie him. What for? Barefoot, half-clothed, and unarmed, Faramir was no match for the Ringwraiths. Nor could he ever hope to escape Minas Morgul.
If he could reach the battlements and jump off, though… Maybe thwart whatever plans the enemy had for him…
The Nazgûl’s hand closed on his, and twisted his arm behind his back, pushing him onward. Faramir gave up the wild scheme. It wasn’t in him to end it like that, anyway.
He lost sense of time and depth and direction as they marched along narrow corridors, whose walls shone with that same sickly light. The grip on his twisted arm was firm but redundant, since Faramir didn’t resist. He would only look like a four-year-old throwing a tantrum. Better keep his dignity.
“Where are we going?” he said.
“Why did you bring me here?”
And after a flight of stairs, “What does your Master want?”
He didn’t expect a reply, but the sound of his own voice relieved the eerie silence of the fortress. But then, there was one question he did want answered:
Damrod’s wide, empty eyes – Valar, why Damrod?
“… My men, did any… Did you take any others?” He fidgeted against the hold on his arm and swallowed his pride. “Please?”
The Nazgûl stopped, and Faramir turned to him as much as he could. But all the wraith did was gesture open a heavy metal door. Faramir was turned to face the dark opening, and with a shove to his back, he staggered inside.
The heavy door boomed close behind his back.
The room was dark. Not gloomy, not dim, not shadowy. Dark. Chock-full of solid blackness that coated Faramir and pushed on his eyeballs and crawled up his nostrils and welled in his throat. He felt penned in by dark walls. He felt lost in a void. He felt completely alone. He felt surrounded by a thousand vile things.
He felt a cold, hard hand grip his forearm, and he jerked away with a cry.
The hand tightened around his arm and pulled him back. Faramir groped out in the darkness, and his fingers smashed into a jagged metal plate. Just knowing there was something with him in that blackness, something armored and probably armed, something that he couldn’t see but that could obviously see him, made his every nerve-ending scream.
The hand on his arm stayed firm, while another hand – another creature? the same one? – gripped the front of his nightshirt.
Screw dignity. Faramir twisted and bucked and kicked and cursed. Pain exploded in his toes where his bare foot crushed into armor, but all his writhing did was threaten to dislocate his shoulder. Throughout his struggles, his nightshirt bunched in the creature’s fist until suddenly the material tore and abandoned his body. With that battle lost, Faramir subsided, winded and dizzy. He’d fought like a wild cat.
And that was nothing compared to his struggles when the hand removed his underwear.
The hold on his arm loosened, and Faramir almost regretted the loss of that anchor. The darkness on his naked body felt like a profane touch.
Something cold and hard pushed at his back. Faramir staggered forward. Another push, another lurching step.
Faramir whipped around. “Fight me like a man, damn you!”
The only reply was a soft, cold laugh, which wasn’t anywhere near human.
There was a dull jangle behind him. Once again something gripped his wrists, and a weight pulled down on his arms. When Faramir jerked his hands away, they moved freely, but the tight grip remained on his wrists, and the jangle became a clangor. Chains. He brought his hands together and groped at his wrists. Sturdy manacles, surprisingly lined with something that felt like sheepskin. He wondered what that portended.
The blackness reverberated with a groan and a creak and a clang-clang-clang. Faramir felt the weight of the chains lift up; then his hands were pulled forward, upward, above his head –
He gripped the chains and hauled with all his might, but it only served to lift his own body off the floor. Clang-clang-clang. When he let go, a jolt of pain shot through his wrists and shoulders, which had absorbed his full weight. His feet scrabbled but couldn’t find the floor. Was it a handspan below him? A league? Was it still there?
He panicked. Later, he couldn’t remember how he’d twisted and flailed, or what he’d thought to achieve, but he couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t just hang in that blackness naked and open. When he finally stopped, his shoulders were on fire, sweat trickled down his spine, and his breath came out in hollow gasps.
He took a deep breath and held it in. He was a Húrin. He exhaled. Another deep breath. He was the son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor. Exhale. Inhale. He was the brother of Boromir, the Lion of Minas Tirith. Exhale. Inhale. He was a soldier. A Ranger. Until he knew otherwise, he was still a Captain of men.
One thing he was not: He was not letting the bloody enemy get under his skin so quickly.
Despite this resolution, he jerked when metal-clad arms circled his thighs from behind. He was pulled back against a cold, ridged surface. A chest-plate? Faramir tried to kick backwards from the knees down, but the feeble kick probably hurt his heels more than his captor.
“You are a feisty one,” the ghostly voice rasped behind him. “I would have enjoyed taking you.”
Faramir froze. He didn’t meant… did he? Could he? The Nazgûl did wear armor, did wield a sword – even as Faramir’s mind grappled with the concept, his blood went cold with utter certainty. He didn’t notice the Ringwraith had let go of him until the creature’s head appeared before him, floating in the darkness, translucent and phosphorous-green like everything in this cursed place.
Skulls cannot widen their smiles, but the Ringwraith somehow managed.
“Unfortunately, I am already sated. Enjoy your reprieve, Kû.”2
The wraith turned away, but not before his metal-clad fingers trailed down Faramir’s chest. Faramir forced his body to stay still. His mind, however, was churning.
When they let him down days later – hours later, more likely, but it felt like days – it was all Faramir could do to bite back a scream of agony. His shoulders and wrists, and every muscle and tendon in between, burned like the fires of Orodruin. A Nazgûl supported him with metal-clad hands, but Faramir refused to sag in his hold. He locked his knees and lifted his chin. He even managed to walk outside on his own. Mostly.
The green luminance of the corridor stabbed his eyes like the light of Anor. Faramir blinked madly against tears that would probably be mistaken for weakness. They walked in silence. The Nazgûl made him stop before a door, so similar to the previous one that Faramir feared it led to another dark room and another set of manacles.
It didn’t. When the Nazgûl opened the door, a warm glow spilled out over Faramir, and he shielded his eyes with his arm despite the pain of the movement. A shove at his back, and he stumbled inside. The door thudded shut behind him.
“They have you too,” a soft voice said from within the room. “I’m sorry.”
Faramir backed against the door, squinting. He steeled himself to fight, although he sensed no one in his immediate surroundings, and the voice was vaguely familiar.
“It’s all right,” the quiet voice sounded again. “We’re alone here.”
Faramir exhaled in relief. Slowly his eyes adjusted to the light of the single torch on his right. He scanned the room, a bare cube of dark stones on which ruddy light mated with deep shadows. Aragorn was nowhere to be seen… No, wait. There, in the shadows that welled in the far corner, a human shape was huddled. Bare arms embraced bare folded legs, and from within a mess of black curls, two gray eyes glittered in the torchlight.
The sight of naked Aragorn suddenly reminded Faramir his own state of undress. He half-turned away, unsure if the heat on his face stemmed from embarrassment or the flames of the torch.
He found his voice and made it work. “Do you know where the others are?”
“My Rangers. Did you see what happened?”
From the corner of his eye, he saw the wild curls shake. “Sorry. I was sleeping at the back of the cave. One moment the noise woke me up – the next, I was riding one of those beasts.”
Faramir nodded to cover his cold disappointment. There was something strained and clipped in Aragorn’s voice, he noted, and then he realized he’d forgotten to ask…
“Aragorn, are you all right? Did they hurt you?”
A stifled bark of a sound was his only answer. Faramir thrust aside awkwardness and crossed the room to Aragorn’s side. He kneeled beside him, trying to see in the gloom. Aragorn’s curled-up position made it impossible.
He tried again. “Are you injured?”
Another shake of those curls. But then, quietly, “Define injury.”
Faramir frowned. Strange words, strange behavior… Aside from gesturing with his head, Aragorn hadn’t moved. Was he curled around some gruesome wound? Define injury…
I would have enjoyed taking you, the Nazgûl’s words echoed in his memory. Unfortunately, I am already sated.
“Aragorn? Did they… Did they touch you?”
There was no answer, which was all the answer he needed.
Slowly, ever so slowly, he lifted his hand and lowered it towards Aragorn’s arm. He could hear the other’s breath quicken. When he touched the warm skin, the muscles all but convulsed under his palm. Still, Aragorn didn’t pull away.
“I’m sorry,” Faramir said. He’d never felt so inadequate in his life. “If there’s anything I can do…”
Aragorn looked up, and his eyes shimmered with some untold emotion. “Sit with me?”
Surprised and moved, Faramir nodded. This was probably as close as the proud man could come to confessing his hurt. The awkwardness returned and doubled, but he managed to sit himself next to Aragorn. Aragorn uncurled enough to wrap an arm around him, and Faramir allowed himself to lean against the man. The warm skin against his side and shoulders made Faramir shiver.
“Your shoulders are all tense,” Aragorn whispered against his hair.
Faramir tried and failed to shrug. “It’s nothing.” Nothing compared to what Aragorn must be feeling, at least.
Aragorn shifted; the arm around Faramir drew back, and instead, two warm hands gripped his shoulders.
“You don’t have to – ungh…”
Strong fingers dug into Faramir’s deltoids. Aragorn kneaded his muscles from shoulders to nape, sparking intense pain that quickly mellowed into relief.
“Lie down,” Aragorn said.
“You shouldn’t… I should be the one…”
“I want to. Please.”
Faramir stretched out on the floor, face-down, shivering. This time, Aragorn’s palms splayed over his back, on either side of his spine. The heel of the hands bore down, rotated, eased up, and moved on. Faramir felt his back unwind vertebra by vertebra. Halfway down he already felt like a boneless lump of clay.
“How’s that?” Aragorn said.
“Hmmm.” Or maybe it was “Purrr.”
Aragorn’s hand hooked around his hip and urged him to turn onto his side. Faramir, confused, began to stir.
“Please,” Aragorn whispered in his ear. “Let me hold you? I’m cold.”
Faramir thought to protest – shouldn’t he be the one offering comfort? Shouldn’t he be holding Aragorn? But no, Aragorn had probably been held enough to last him a lifetime. How bad had it been, Faramir wondered, if he avoided even the touch of human arms around him?
He gave in to Aragorn’s gentle tug, so that his back pressed flush against Aragon’s chest. Aragorn’s chin rested on top of his head, and a strong arm wrapped around his chest, cradling him against their joint warmth. Reversed comforting, of sorts. Faramir noticed how carefully their lower bodies did not touch, and wanted to tear every Nazgûl in the tower bone from ghostly bone.
He must have dozed off at some point. When he fluttered back to consciousness, Aragorn’s fingers were drawing butterfly trails over his chest. Faramir tensed but stopped himself from moving. Aragorn’s breath was deep and slow and warm on the back of his head. He was probably dozing as well. The soft movement was probably sleepy reflex.
Reflex or not, when Aragorn’s fingertips grazed over his nipples, the touch galvanized Faramir. Again he became painfully aware of their nakedness. Of the way Aragorn’s upper body molded itself against his own. Of the weight of the arm that was draped over him. Faramir swallowed hard and breathed deeply, but the air only made the back of his throat tingle. He should not be feeling like this. He had no right to feel like this –
Aragorn’s fingers had skimmed down his sternum, and now dipped into his navel. The touch went straight to Faramir’s loins. His manhood twitched, and he cursed his traitorous body. Pretending to huddle against the cold, he pulled up his knees to cover his arousal. The very last thing Aragorn needed was –
The questing hand glided down his hipbone and brushed against him. Faramir flinched violently as the blood in his body seemed to rush everywhere at once.
“Sorry, I’m – I’m sorry.” He tried to pull away, but the arm across his pelvis pulled him back.
“Shhh… It’s all right.” Aragorn was obviously wide awake. “I want to know… I need to know…”
Aragorn’s hand ghosted up his awakening length. Faramir felt the pulse throb in his neck, his wrists, his loins, so powerful that his skin vibrated all over his body.
“Know what?” he managed to say.
“If I repulse you.”
“What? No!” His voice came out an octave too high. Faramir reined it in, and wished he could rein in other parts of himself. “No, Aragorn, never think that. I –”
“Never is a long time,” Aragorn murmured against the base of his skull. His voice rushed down Faramir’s spine and into his sex.
Faramir dragged in a breath. “What they did to you wasn’t your fault. But we shouldn’t – This isn’t a good idea – Not here, not now –”
Aragorn hushed him again. “We’re alone here. I heard them talking, they won’t come back for another day. And I’ve wanted you since I saw you on the riverbank… So fiery… So beautiful…”
“Faramir…” Aragorn’s hand curled around him. “Let me have this… Let me remember what it should be like…”
Faramir shook his head but said nothing, except for the moan that left his lips when Aragorn’s thumb circled the head of his already-wet manhood.
At Aragorn’s nudge, Faramir lifted himself on his elbow, and Aragorn’s other arm snaked below him to wrap over his chest. Faramir sagged back into the circle of Aragorn’s arms. The warm embrace was soothing; Aragorn’s fingers on his hardness were anything but. The opposite floods of peace and anxiety clashed in his guts, making him queasy. Even that felt strangely pleasant.
Unsure what to do with his own hands, Faramir reached back and carded his fingers through wild curls. He could feel Aragorn’s smile where the man’s cheek pressed against his own. Then Aragorn pumped his shaft, and Faramir’s hand fisted in the rich curls. Aragorn squeezed again. Faramir bucked, though their lower bodies still didn’t touch. The empty air over his buttocks and legs felt eerie. He was breathing fast, torn between wanting more and wanting away.
The hand on his sex disappeared – a reprieve, a torture – and came up to cup his face. The rough pad of a finger brushed over his lips, anointing them. Hesitantly, Faramir probed with the tip of his tongue. He tasted salty. He twisted back to look into Aragorn’s face: High forehead, carved features, gray eyes that were deep and rich like incense smoke. Strong lips… Faramir watched, mesmerized, as Aragorn lifted his hand, and those lips parted around his forefinger. His tongue swirled over the fingertip; a column of clear fluid connected the two, then broke. Aragorn licked his lips.
“I like your taste,” he whispered.
The mere sound of those words shot straight to Faramir’s groin.
He allowed Aragorn to gather him back into his embrace, and this time, when fingers brushed against his lips, he allowed them in. None of his own taste remained, only a trace of smell, but Aragorn’s skin was rugged against his tongue and salty in its own right. It felt good to suckle on his fingers, to swirl them around, to let their tips explore the smooth inside of his cheeks. Faramir was almost disappointed when Aragorn withdrew them.
He leaned his head back against Aragorn and sighed, hugging the arm that encircled his chest from below. Despite their predicament, he was almost relaxed.
Then Aragorn’s other hand, the one which he’d sucked on, traced a cool trail between his buttocks and over his entrance.
Faramir startled then froze. This wasn’t… It must have been some random touch… Just more of the caresses they’d shared…
He felt Aragorn’s finger, slicked with his own saliva, starting to press against his ring of muscle.
Faramir dragged in a shuddering breath and spoke out a shuddering word: “Aragorn?”
“Shhh…” came the warm reply in his ear. “Relax. It’s all right. I got you.”
Faramir shook his head. The feel of Aragorn’s finger worming into him was foreign and uncomfortable, and he tried to tilt his hips away. “Wait – I don’t –”
Aragorn tensed behind him; the finger in his nether pass stopped, and the arm around his chest would have fallen away, had he not been cradling it.
“I do repulse you,” Aragorn said. His dejected voice tore at Faramir’s heart.
“No.” He shook his head again and hugged Aragorn’s arm to his chest. “It’s just –”
“Then let me… just…” Aragorn’s finger resumed its inward inching, warm and thick and callous inside of him.
“Wait… Just let me… Here.”
Aragorn nudged something inside him, and Faramir bucked in pleasure and surprise. Again he could feel Aragorn’s stubbly smile against his cheek.
Faramir’s heart was pounding too hard for him to form words. Just when he reclaimed his breath, Aragorn brushed against that spot once more, and the air again hitched in Faramir’s throat.
Faramir tried to shake off the fog that was muffling his thoughts, but every time he tried to fashion words of reason, Aragorn would touch him there again, and he would lose his voice. And then suddenly it was better: the finger inside him felt less foreign, his insides felt less bloated, his entrance stopped protesting.
“I guess,” Faramir said, and this was hardly the time to admit he had no idea, really.
“That’s it, just breathe…”
Faramir followed that advice for some time, getting used to the feeling, sinking back against Aragorn, trying to melt into his embrace. But he tensed all over again when Aragorn added another saliva-slicked finger.
“Just ride it out,” Aragorn murmured in his ear. “Here, let me help you…”
The arm around his chest uncurled, and Faramir stopped a protest on the brink of his lips. The protest turned into a moan and slipped out when Aragorn took his manhood and set a slow, smooth, sensual pace. Faramir concentrated on that and on the occasional burst of sharp pleasure inside him, and found that he could take the two fingers. Then the three. A strange pressure-like tingle began to build in his guts.
When Aragorn removed his fingers, the emptiness was worse than being full.
It didn’t last long.
He felt Aragorn’s arousal parting his cheeks and nuzzling against his entrance, solid and hot and moist and impossibly large. Faramir’s already strained breath quickened until a hum filled his ears.
“So fiery…” Aragorn whispered behind him. “So beautiful…”
Faramir was grateful that Aragorn’s arm rose again to hug his chest. It gave him something to hold onto as Aragorn began entering him. Sensations barraged his entire body. The insistent burning in his entrance. The tingling in the nubs of his nipples as Aragorn teased them. Sweat. Warmth on his backside, chill on his front. Pleasure from that secret place inside him again. Aragorn moving deeper. A hand on his cock. Aragorn’s body, finally flush against his from head to toes. Aragorn’s forearm against his lips, the smell of his sweat and personal musk, and him licking the salty skin. Movement inside him. He bit down gently on Aragorn’s arm. Movement over and around his cock. Moans, his, Aragorn’s. He bit harder. Movement.
He was surrounded by Aragorn, inside and out, lying in Aragorn’s arms with Aragorn’s cock deep inside him and his own cock thrusting into Aragorn’s hand, and he was drowning, almost suffocating, but his body didn’t mind – it rocked and bucked and plunged in the rolling wave that was Aragorn’s passion, and like a shipwrecked sailor, he clutched Aragorn’s arm and let the sea claim the rest of him.
Aragorn came inside him like a torrent, with a feral roar.
Some moments later, on calmer waves, Faramir’s own release crushed down like a tidal wave, spilling out of him and onto Aragorn’s hand.
In the quiet after the storm, Faramir lay spent in Aragorn’s arms and felt strangely adrift. His heartbeat slowed as the minutes passed. Suddenly Aragorn gave a low chuckle that rumbled down Faramir’s spine.
Faramir half-turned his head back. “What is it?”
“Nothing.” Aragorn pressed a wet kiss against Faramir’s neck. “I just wish I had my pipe.”
Faramir frowned as Aragorn settled into a more comfortable position behind him, but he let himself be spooned. Long service in Gondor’s forces had taught him that sometimes, under stress and shock, people said and did strange things. After what Aragorn had been through, Faramir wasn’t about to judge his behavior.
He hugged Aragorn’s strong arm to his chest, and turned his head slightly, so that his tears wouldn’t fall on Aragorn’s skin.
When two Nazgûl came to take them, each man to a different destination, Aragorn walked alongside his escort tall and regal despite his nakedness. Faramir felt a surge of admiration for the man, and he stared after him until his own escort jerked him away.
He tried to copy Aragorn’s quiet dignity, but he could swear the Nazgûl was leering at the traces of passion on his body, and he couldn’t control the heat in his cheeks. It didn’t help that he felt sore and sticky all over, and especially there.
He was led to another room, empty except for a rusty bed-frame with no mattress. The Nazgûl entered the room after him. Faramir whirled to face him and backed away, crouched to strike or fend. I would have enjoyed taking you, the words echoed in his mind. Well, not without a bloody fight.
But the Nazgûl only planted himself before the door and crossed his arms over his chest-plate. His translucent skull shimmered in the hollow of his helmet. His empty eyes pierced Faramir with a stare.
Faramir met the gaze head on, though the wraith’s lack of movement or sound unnerved him. In turn, he could feel the wraith was growing impatient. The senseless tension intensified until Faramir felt fit to burst.
“What?” he finally snapped.
He could have sworn the Ringwraith was raising an eyebrow, which was foolish – the creature had no muscles, let alone skin or hair – but it reflected in the creature’s voice as it said, “Would you like to ride naked?”
Faramir blinked. Ride? What? He shook his head and glimpsed, for the first time, the pile of drab clothes that was laid on the bed. Tension gave way to eagerness as he pounced on the garments.
Strange, how he felt more self-conscious pulling on the black leggings and tunic than he’d felt standing naked and defiant. Strange, also, how much better he felt once he was dressed again, though in truth nothing in his position had changed.
The wraith’s words came back to him. “Ride where?”
But the Nazgûl simply unblocked the door and gestured him out.
He looked for Aragorn everywhere as he was led along, but there was no sign of the man. Gradually, the phosphorous corridors around him became a little familiar. He recognized the gates that opened into the courtyard of Minas Morgul. The thought of seeing the sun again – even smothered by evil fumes – lifted his heart. Faramir rushed out ahead of the Nazgûl and turned his face up.
A sickly moon floated in the foggy skies, and even it seemed to reflect the green flicker of Minas Morgul.
The Nazgûl reached his side in a leisurely pace. “You have nowhere to run, Kû.”
Faramir let his shoulders slump and didn’t bother to explain.
He was made to mount one of those fell beasts again, but at least they didn’t truss him over its neck. Instead he was placed astride the base of the sinuous neck, and the Nazgûl mounted behind him. Faramir tensed. When an armored arm slipped around his waist and tightened, Faramir tried to pry it off. The Nazgûl was immovable.
“Don’t touch me!” Faramir spat.
He tried to twist away, but just then, the fell beast gathered itself and leapt into the air, and he was thrown back against the Nazgûl. They climbed in a tight spiral around the tower, and Faramir stopped fighting the Ringwraith. The constant bank was nauseating; if not for the arm around his waist, he would have pitched sideways to his death.
Minas Morgul fell away quickly, a ghostly island in a black sea. The night was cold and dark. Try as he might, Faramir couldn’t sort the shadows into landmarks. Somewhere out there was Henneth Annûn, Ithilien, Minas Tirith, Father, Boromir…
He reined his thoughts back to duty. Somewhere out there were his soldiers, waiting to be rescued or avenged. Aragorn hadn’t seen others, but perhaps they had been taken elsewhere. Perhaps to the same place where the winged beast was now heading.
They had gained altitude and were flying steadily now, rising and falling with the beat of leather wings. The Ringwraith was still holding his waist, but Faramir conceded that otherwise, without stirrups or reins, he would never survive the journey. As time wore on, his wariness began to dissipate. The Nazgûl didn’t move against him, and the arm on his waist remained implacable and indifferent.
Perhaps, Faramir thought, this Nazgûl wasn’t interested in humans.
He perked up when night paled into dawn, but it was a soot-streaked, bleeding dawn, wounded by the jagged claws of Orodruin. And rising up before them, as if vying with the volcano, was a fortress he’d never seen or heard described, and yet he recognized it at once: Barad-dûr.
Minas Morgul had been terrible in its ghostly splendor, but there had been splendor there nevertheless. Barad-dûr was grotesque. It was a monument of twisted metal, with bulging balconies and protruding turrets, all pointy angles and swollen curves. Every line of the tower reflect the madness of its master. The very sight of it sickened Faramir. At that moment he would have given much to be back in Minas Morgul.
The fell beast kept a respectful distance from the tower. Instead, it touched ground at the base of a long bridge, between two demonic statues that put the flying beast to shame. Curiously, one of the statues was marked with the red eye of Sauron – on its foreleg, in a childish scrawl.
Faramir started to dismount, and a sudden shove finished the work for him. He landed on all fours at the statues’ feet.
The Nazgûl, he suspected, was watching with amusement.
He picked himself up, refusing to betray pain or anger, and waited for his escort to dismount.
They walked onto the bridge, which spanned a gorge of running lava. Hot, fetid updrafts engulfed Faramir like the breath of a huge beast. The narrow walkway was flanked by two rows of figurines: humans and elves and animals, captured in moments of writhing agony. Faramir kept his gaze on his feet until they reached the main gate.
Here the corridors were dark and winding. Ruddy torchlight lapped rusty walls; Faramir felt as if he were walking a tunnel of blood. The sharp scents of metal and lightning hung in the air.
They were passing a branching corridor when Aragorn, ushered by two more Nazgûl, fell into pace beside him. He looked pale and regal in his black clothes. Faramir turned to him with a mixture of worry and relief.
“Are you –” Okay? Faramir almost bit his tongue. Of course Aragorn was not okay, and considering their grim escort, what kind of answer could the man give? “Are you getting the grand tour, also?”
Aragorn’s lips twitched, and Faramir blessed his choice of words. If he could do nothing about their captivity, at least he could cheer up his fellow captive. Hadn’t Aragorn been under his custody when they’d been captured? Didn’t that make him an honorary soldier of Faramir’s?
“You’d think,” Faramir said, panting, halfway up an endless stairway that coiled around a chute, “you’d think they had discovered tackle and riggings by now.”
He was acutely aware of the Nazgûl at his back and of the brutal fall on his right, but the flicker of amusement on Aragorn’s face was worth the risk.
“Or maybe that’s the idea,” he continued. “Execution by stair-climbing. Maybe that’s how the Nazgûl became wraiths in the first place –”
“Careful,” Aragorn murmured. “If you push them too far, they get vicious.”
Faramir fell silent and tried not to think at what price that knowledge had been bought.
At the top of the staircase, double doors of metal towered over them. They were sealed with the red eye of Sauron, this time in a dark, twisted design that seemed to drip blood. Even through the iron barrier, Faramir could sense some great evil lurking beyond.
The doors swung inward with an arid sigh.
There was pure darkness inside – Faramir was beginning to despise dark places – but this blackness put to shame the dark room he’d known in Minas Morgul. That darkness had seemed full of conscious, vile things. This darkness was a conscious, vile thing in and of itself.
Faramir could feel the smug stares of the Nazgûl boring into his back. He swallowed and jerked up his chin. A Captain of the Rangers did not beg mercy from his captors. Certainly not over being locked in a dark room, as if he were a frightened little boy.
But surely it wasn’t too childish, surely it was still all right to want to see his father and brother, just for a little while?
Aragorn’s hand wrapped around his and squeezed. Faramir half-turned to him and hitched on a smile, or maybe a grimace. When the Nazgûl pushed him forward he staggered, but he walked proud and tall into the darkness, hand-in-hand with Aragorn.
They were left there alone.
His hand stayed entangled with Aragorn’s as they waited – for what? And were they truly alone? The sense of presence in the room intensified by the moment until finally, a red glow appeared ahead of them. Faramir squinted at it. The blaze came from a small orb that seemed to hang in midair, swimming with crimson and now orange swirls of light. The fey fire gleamed in the elaborate mithril stand that cradled the orb. As the light grew brighter, Faramir saw the cradle was standing on a large metal altar.
Legends and lessons with Mithrandir rushed through his mind, and he gripped Aragorn’s hand tightly. “A palantír,” he breathed.
Aragorn stirred beside him.
The sense of presence in the darkness hadn’t disappeared. On the contrary. The more the palantír’s glow pushed the darkness back, the more condensed it became. It gathered and breathed along the perimeter of the room, stalking round and round them. But it felt most solid and sinister just across the room, beyond the glowing orb.
Aragorn pulled his hand away, and Faramir, after a reluctant squeeze, let him go. He watched awestruck as Aragorn crossed the room directly to the heart of darkness –
And dropped to his knees.
“My lord father,” Aragorn said. “I bring you a gift worthy of kings. Here is Lord Faramir, son of Denethor the second, to do with as you please.”
The darkness under Faramir’s feet seemed to swallow him like quicksand, but that was just dizziness and nausea. The Darkness in front of Aragorn – Sauron’s Darkness – truly did shift. It reached out and wrapped dark shrouds over Aragorn’s shoulders. A terrible, echoing voice spoke out of it.
“I am pleased, my Durbdugûl.3 Though evidently you have had your own pleasure in this gift.”
The twisted meaning of the twisted words made Faramir’s guts clench.
Aragorn only chuckled. “My lust is an open book before your eyes, my lord father. But I have kept him unharmed.”
Lust – father – unharmed – Each word slammed into Faramir like a battering ram, and he realized he was violently shaking his head.
“No… No, I –” I helped you, I cared for you, I let you – I let you – “I trusted you!”
Aragorn rose to his feet and turned. His lips were twisted in a smile. “Don’t blame me for your mistakes, Húrin. They are yours and yours alone.”
The voice of Darkness said, “What of the Window of Sunset?”
Aragorn’s smile sharpened. “Destroyed, my lord.”
“The other Rangers?”
“Slain, by and large. They were insignificant. I saw no reason to take prisoners.”
Faramir’s insides lurched. Damrod, Anborn, Mablung, all his younglings – skilled trackers, loyal men of Gondor, dear friends – insignificant? A hollow roar filled his ears, and his vision narrowed down to the cruel smile on Aragorn’s lips. The same lips that had –
A fist of darkness slammed into Faramir’s chest and broke his forward rush. Only when he fell back, gasping and holding his ribs, did he realize he had lunged at Aragorn. He’d never closed the distance. Aragorn hadn’t even bothered to flinch; the cruel smile still played on his lips.
The Darkness wrapped over Aragorn’s shoulders again. “You have done well, my loyal one.”
“My lord father,” said Aragorn in a thick voice. He seemed to draw himself taller, and his smile became genuine. Some fiery emotion shone in his eyes, which reflected the light of the palantír. “I live to glorify your name.”
Faramir watched, mesmerized, as the Darkness lifted black tendrils to Aragorn’s cheek. Aragorn rolled back his head, leaning into the caress.
“I shall reward you, Durbdugûl,” said the bodiless voice. “But first…”
A blaze of red and orange lit the center of the chamber and died. Faramir turned toward the palantír, blinking away sparks of afterimage. The orb seemed wreathed in flames, but its center had turned a dull gray color, and something was trapped inside it… looking out from it… looking into it from another palantír…
Faramir dived for the alter and leaned over the orb. “Father!” The sight of Denethor’s face, furrowed and sagging, squeezed his heart. “Father!”
“He cannot hear you,” said Aragorn from behind.
Faramir whipped his head back. Aragorn was standing nearby, peering over his shoulder with a curious look.
“He can see you, though,” he added.
Faramir turned back to the palantír. True, his father had braced his palms on either side of the orb, and his face loomed from within in close focus. His lips were moving quickly, forcefully, but no sound emerged. When he stopped speaking, Faramir noticed how those lips trembled.
He reached for the palantír and traced a fingertip over those beloved features, which had never seemed so old. “Where is he?” he said softly.
Surprisingly, Aragorn answered him. “Minas Tirith. He’s been searching for you long and hard through the palantír. Your brother has been doing the same, on horseback.”
Faramir swallowed the lump in his throat. “Boromir?”
He could almost hear Aragorn shrugging. “Somewhere in Ithilien, I wager.”
For a moment, Denethor’s fingers inside the palantír met his own. Faramir cursed the glass – if it were glass – that separated them.
“Why are you showing him to me?” he said finally, though he suspected the mere torture of seeing his father was reason enough.
It was Sauron’s voice that answered this time. “Your seeing him is inconsequential, son of the Steward. It is by far more important that he sees you.”
The truth of those words struck Faramir like lightning. This particular torture worked both ways – how Father must be suffering to see him in Sauron’s hands!
He backed away from the palantír and collided with Aragorn, who gripped him by the shoulders. Faramir wrenched away and slugged Aragorn with all his might and anger. His fist whooshed through empty air. Aragorn had ducked and moved behind him, and now grabbed him by the arm. Faramir tried to pull away, and the next thing he knew, his own momentum was used to whirl him around. He caught himself against the altar with splayed palms.
To his horror, his hands sank right into the metal top. Faramir recoiled but was brought up short – the metal had congealed around his wrists. His desperate tugs only jolted his shoulders and arms.
He looked up, straight into the worried face of his father in the palantír.
“Stop this,” Faramir hissed. “He’s seen enough, he knows you have me. Leave him be!”
The chuckle that answered him was deep and dark, and it scared him all the more that he couldn’t tell from whom it had come.
It was Sauron’s voice that spoke. “I am not holding him, little Húrin. He is watching of his own free will.”
“Then block it! What do you want from him?”
“Wha…” Faramir shook his head. “What?”
He was vaguely aware that Aragorn had circled the altar, and was now watching him over the palantír. His eyes were fixed on his father’s face, and his ears were trained behind him, where the Darkness spoke again.
“I wish to meet your father the Steward,” Sauron was saying. “In Minas Morgul.”
“Minas Morgul? He’ll never go there. You’re insane!”
Lightning-fast, Aragorn reached over the palantír. Faramir saw the blurred motion, but he had no way to avoid it. Pain exploded in his cheekbone. In the palantír, Denethor shouted something – he thought perhaps it was his name.
“Pay respect to Lord Sauron!” Aragorn said.
Before Faramir could say something scathing in return – which was probably his luck – Sauron’s voice sounded again.
“The boy is right to wonder, Durbdugûl. The Steward will not enter Minas Morgul without proper incentive.”
In the palantír, his father was peering this way and that, as if trying to glimpse Faramir’s surroundings. His features were scrunched and sheathed with sweat; he seemed to be exerting great power, but from the look in his eyes, he was striving in vain.
“He will not go,” Faramir said. “His duty is to Gondor. He will not go.”
“Will he not?” Sauron’s voice had become soft as silk. “Did not King Eärnur go to Minas Morgul, to meet his doom at the hands of my Witch-King? Is that not how the great line of Kings had been severed?”
Fear gripped Faramir’s heart, but he tried to push it away. “He will not go. He will not.” If only his father could hear him through the palantír…
“But I have an invitation he cannot refuse,” the Darkness purred. “An insult he cannot ignore. He will go. Show me, my Durbdugûl. And show his father. Show us how you take the little Húrin.”
At that, Faramir began to struggle wildly. The altar was immovable, and the metal around his wrists was solid and tight, and soon slick with his blood. Denethor’s face in the palantír was strained. Faramir tried to butt the orb away with his head, but it was too far. He prayed his father would just leave his room, turn away, close his eyes, anything – anything but watch this ultimate humiliation. For how could he look his lord father in the eyes after that?
His horror must have reflected in his face, for his father’s lips parted and closed over his name.
“Don’t look,” he mouthed into the palantír. “Please, don’t look…”
He bucked at the touch of hands on his back and too late, realized that Aragorn had circled behind him. He tried to kick backwards, with no effect. Trapped as he was between the altar and Aragorn, he had no space to maneuver. The hands on his back lifted; his tunic parted from his back and stuck to his front; the front of the collar dug into his throat, choking him. Three sets of ripping sounds in quick succession, and he was naked from the waist up.
Something cold touched his lower back, and Faramir jerked. The cold touch turned into a stinging pain. Warm, sticky liquid trickled down his spine.
“Careful,” said Aragorn behind him. “Sharp knife. Tender parts.”
Faramir froze for a moment. It was a moment too long. Two swift slashes, and his leggings lay in a heap at his ankles. Aragorn grabbed his left calf, and although Faramir kicked and struggled, he soon found himself extricated from the torn material.
He looked everywhere, everywhere except at the palantír, but he glimpsed it by accident and in it his father’s face, pale and shocked.
Don’t look, he thought fervently. Don’t look.
Cold air fondled his backside. He knew he would soon feel Aragorn’s hands on him, any moment now, and the waiting was worse than anything.
Then Aragorn kicked his legs apart and moved between them, and hands gripped his waist, and it was even worse.
If Aragorn brought his fingers to Faramir’s mouth, Faramir vowed to bite them off.
Before Faramir could register what was happening, pain like nothing he’d ever known exploded into the center of his being. A scream echoed in the chamber. His? His throat ached, so yes, probably.
Inside the palantír, his father was shouting, livid.
The Darkness around them hissed with relish.
Faramir bowed his head.
The pain rammed into him again. And again. It should be getting easier, he thought desperately, surely it must become easier to bear –
But no, every thrust and retreat peeled away another part of his soul. He knew his face was contorted in pain – please, let his father not see this – and he tried not to scream, clamped his jaws until his teeth threatened to chip, but the sounds escaped him anyway.
And more than the rough, tearing thing inside him, more than the blood that oozed down his thighs, more than the hot spray that scorched his guts, it was Aragorn’s grunts of pleasure and final roar of triumph – a roar he recognized too well – that made Faramir feel dirty to the core of his bones.
He slumped against the altar, small and miserable and hurting, and didn’t dare to lift his gaze.
Please, let his father not see this.
Aragorn’s hand tangled in his hair and yanked his head up.
Denethor was gazing at him from within the palantír, his face stricken, his cheeks wet with tears, his lip torn and bloody. But his gaze never wavered. Faramir read in his eyes only love and compassion, and for a selfish moment, he was grateful that his father was with him, even if only by proxy.
“He will go,” said the bodiless voice of Sauron.
And this time, Faramir didn’t argue.
He could hardly stand when Aragorn handed him back to the Nazgûl. Then again, why bother? He had little pride left.
He glanced at the abyss around which the staircase coiled, and wondered. As if in response, the Nazgûl tightened their grip on his arms.
“Thrakul rurne-ishi agh krimpul,”4 said Aragorn, and disappeared back into Sauron’s sanctum.
Whatever the words meant, they prompted the Nazgûl to march Faramir downstairs. He let their grip and gravity do the job; it hurt too much to straighten up, let alone to move his legs. The Ringwraiths took him to an opulent room and made him kneel on a bare patch of floor. One of them produced a rope and tied his hands behind his back. Depleted and despairing, Faramir offered only token resistance.
And once again Faramir was left alone.
His cramped legs protested the position, but even the thought of standing up made him feel tired. Faramir leaned right past his balance point and collapsed onto his side. The impact sent a lightning bolt through his back and guts, and he spent the next several minutes just breathing through the pain.
But when the physical pain diminished, the memories returned.
The sight of his father’s anguished face.
Aragorn pulling out of him and wringing out a last scream, then clapping him on the shoulder as if for a job well done.
Sauron’s lascivious words that had stripped him of hope: You have done well, my loyal one, my Durbdugûl. Your gift has served its purpose. Now I pass the little Húrin into your hands.
And the eager gleam in Aragorn’s eyes as he kneeled before the Darkness and reveled in its embrace.
Faramir startled when the door opened and Aragorn strolled in, carrying a plate of sweetmeats and a stone jug. He set these on a table off to one side of the room. The room, Faramir noticed for the first time, exuded the distinct character of Barad-dûr. Even the side table was made from a statue of two wargs, locked in battle, who supported a horizontal board on their backs and heads.
With his load put down, Aragorn turned to Faramir and tsked. “On the floor, is it? They are vindictive if nothing else, the Nazgûl. Although their loyalty is beyond question.”
Aragorn walked to his side, and Faramir steeled himself not to flinch – ha, he did have some ember of pride left – as he was hauled up and made to kneel again, this time on lush furs, with the warmth of a hearth licking his back. He was shivering, he realized.
“Beautiful.” Aragorn stepped back and surveyed him. “I love the glow of firelight in your hair, my exotic fox.”
Faramir gathered his last scraps of energy and lifted his chin. “I’m your prisoner. Nothing else. And I will spurn and resist you every second of my life, to my dying day.”
Aragorn gave a sigh that sounded disturbingly content. “Ah, the naiveté of youth. You’ll see, soon enough –”
He was interrupted by the opening of the door. A tall Harad man, with gold-bound hair and an oil-slicked beard, bowed before Aragorn and touched his knuckles to his mouth in obeisance.
“Bring him in,” Aragorn said, “and leave us.”
Faramir watched worriedly as a Southron boy was thrust into the room. The child cringed away from his grown companion and stared at him with wide eyes until the tall man left the room.
Damrod’s words about Southron catamites echoed in Faramir’s mind. He tensed and threw off his exhaustion. He couldn’t do much, but it didn’t matter – he could not just kneel there and watch Aragorn abuse the child. If that traitorous son-of-darkness as much as raised a hand against –
The child turned from the closed door, caught sight of Aragorn, and his face lit. He launched himself across the room and hugged Aragorn around the waist, pressing his face against the taller man’s midriff.
“Durbdugûl!” he called, and an avalanche of harsh, curt words fell from his lips. It must have been Black Speech, but it still sounded like the excited prattle of a child.
Faramir sank back, dumbstruck.
Aragorn tousled the child’s hair. “Speak Common, Maitsu.”
The child looked up. “Not like I Common, Durbdugûl.”
Aragorn chuckled and ushered the boy to the side table. He sat down on one of the throne-like chairs and pulled the boy onto his lap. It was innocent enough – Faramir himself had done so with the visiting children of his Rangers – but right now, even that seemed depraved. Faramir felt trapped in a dream: kneeling naked by the hearth in the middle of Barad-dûr, his hands tied behind him, and watching a Harad-born child chatting with Aragorn. He wished he could wake.
“You can’t join the army if you don’t learn Common,” Aragorn was saying. “Don’t you want to serve Lord Sauron?”
The child, who was already munching on a sweetmeat, nodded his head fervently. He swallowed loudly and said, “Be-will I great tribe chief, Durbdugûl!”
“Yes, but first you need to grow up tall and strong.” Aragorn poured from the stone jug into a goblet. The contents looked like milk. As little Maitsu took the goblet in both hands and drank deeply, Faramir’s stomach gave a loud rumble.
The sound finally attracted the boy’s attention. He studied Faramir with a tilted head. “Who be that?”
Faramir felt his cheeks heat as much as his back as the child looked over his nakedness. He had no idea how to answer.
“That’s my new pet,” Aragorn said without losing a beat.
Faramir leveled a glare at him.
The boy’s eyes, deep brown and framed by long, black lashes, widened in wonder. “Look hair of his, Durbdugûl! What pet-sort he is?”
Aragorn met Faramir’s glare over the child’s head, and his lips curled in a tiny smile. “A lap dog.”
Maitsu paused with his hand halfway to another sweetmeat. “What lap dog is?”
“It’s a dog that laps.” At Maitsu’s confused expression, Aragorn clarified: “Licks.”
“Huh.” The boy nibbled on his new treat. “What lick he?”
Aragorn’s smile sharpened, and its meaning seemed to deepen. “Whatever he’s given.”
His hunger forgotten, Faramir suddenly felt sick. “Stop that,” he hissed at Aragorn.
Maitsu seemed oblivious to any undercurrents. “What, lick-them all?” He grimaced. “Skai!”7
Aragorn threw back his head and laughed in a deep, rich voice. At that moment, he was beautiful: a caring father-figure, a compelling warlord, a regal leader out of legends. The contrast turned Faramir’s stomach.
“Yes, skai,“ said Aragorn. “He is very filthy.”
The heat in Faramir’s cheeks doubled, and he bowed his head. With that he couldn’t argue anymore.
“Can-be giving him sweet?” the innocent voice said.
Faramir looked up sharply. “No. I don’t want any.”
Maitsu giggled. “Speak dog the Common!”
“Yes, he speaks Common,” said Aragorn. “And yes, you may feed him a treat.”
The boy tossed his sweetmeat at Faramir, who tried to dodge. The half-eaten morsel struck him on the shoulder and bounced off onto the fur rugs, leaving a sticky smudge on Faramir’s skin.
“Eat, dog!” said Maitsu. “Good dog, eat!”
“Yes, come on, dog.” The smile still played on Aragorn’s lips. “Eat.”
Faramir kept his eyes trained on Aragorn. “Orodruin take you.”
Maitsu was pulling on Aragorn’s sleeve. “Said you dog lick-them all, Durbdugûl. Want I see!”
“I’m not a dog!”
But Aragorn continued, unfazed. “You’ll see in a moment, Maitsu. He’s a smart dog. He knows what can happen to dogs and children.”
The last word froze Faramir’s blood. Aragorn was still staring at him over the boy’s head, but he wrapped an arm around the boy’s waist, as if in a hug. It could have been a coincidence that his forearm squeezed against the boy’s privates. Faramir doubted it. There was a lazy threat in those eyes.
When Faramir shook his head again, it was not with defiance, but with dismay.
Aragorn’s hips bucked once, forcefully, making Maitsu bounce on his lap. The boy giggled again.
Faramir felt like throwing up.
Still holding Faramir’s stare, Aragorn raised his eyebrows.
“All right,” Faramir choked out. “All right. Just stop. Don’t – Just stop.”
He took a deep breath. It had been terrible, pushing those words past his lips. The actual deed seemed impossible. How could Aragorn threaten a child he seemed to like, and who obviously adored him? How could he threaten him with this? His mind couldn’t grasp the concept, but at the same time, he knew that Aragorn wouldn’t hesitate to carry out his threat.
He closed his eyes for a moment, then leaned forward. The movement stretched his lower back, and a sharp pain shot up his spine. He almost tipped over. He had to spread his knees to maintain balance, and that hurt even worse. He felt exposed and vulnerable and humiliated like he’d never felt before.
But there was Maitsu to think of. A child of his enemies, but a child nonetheless.
Faramir stretched out his neck and managed, just barely, to take the sweet into his mouth and straighten up. The morsel, thick with honey and crushed nuts, tasted like bile in his mouth.
Maitsu was clapping his hands against his thighs with great enthusiasm. “Good dog!” he called again.
“Yes, good dog,” said Aragorn. He lifted Maitsu and set the boy on his feet next to him, then stood up. Faramir, watching his every move with a mixture of hatred and dread, couldn’t miss the bulge in his leggings.
Aragorn crossed the room and leaned on the wall opposite Faramir. There was that feline grace which Faramir had seen back in Henneth Annûn, but now it seemed predatory in a dark, unholy way.
Aragorn calmly unlaced his leggings and freed his erection.
Faramir shot a panicked look at the boy, who had clambered back onto the chair. Maitsu was looking at Aragorn with a puzzled expression.
“What, lick that he?”
Aragorn’s smile was razor-sharp. “Yes, he will.”
Faramir tried to control his quickening breath. “No, I won’t.”
“Someone in this room will,” Aragorn said. “I’m kind enough to leave the decision to you.”
Faramir flicked a gaze at Maitsu, who was following the conversation with naïve curiosity.
“You won’t,” he said to Aragorn. “You can’t. He’s a child! He looks up to you!”
“Yes, he does.” Aragorn reached down and stoke his arching length. “The choice is yours to make him look up at me.”
It was then that Faramir realized, with gut-punching clarity, that no amount of defiance or courage will ever save him from obedience to Aragorn. A despairing whimper burst out of his throat. He knew that Aragorn understood the meaning of the sound.
“That’s it, good dog. Come to me…”
Faramir kept his eyes screwed shut the entire time he was forced to explore new depths of humiliation and despair. What was it that Aragorn had told him about love and lust, and all the sweet and bitter between them?
Aragorn came deep in his mouth just as tears squeezed out from under his eyelids, and it was bitter indeed.
When Aragorn had wiped himself clean and tucked his limp member back into his leggings, Faramir sank to the floor. He hardly dared to steal a glance at Maitsu.
The boy was watching with wide-eyed fascination, clearly ignorant of what Faramir had sacrificed for him. He turned adoring eyes to the dark leader. “Can-be licking me too?”
Aragorn threw back his head and laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
Faramir wasn’t sure who was the man that finally left Aragorn’s quarters. Faramir of Gondor he was not; neither was he a Captain of Rangers, nor the Steward’s son.
Aragorn had a lot of names for him, and the more he used them, the more they seemed to fit.
He was taken aboard a fell beast again, but this time it was Aragorn who sat behind him. Unlike the Nazgûl, he was everything but indifferent. But his lewd advances hardly registered on Faramir’s shattered pride. He was simply beyond feeling.
The ghostly walls of Minas Morgul rose before them, paler than usual in the light of day. They dismounted in the huge courtyard outside the tower.
“Just in time,” Aragorn said.
Faramir knew what he meant and wished he hadn’t.
Aragorn steered him inside and up some stairs, to a balcony that overlooked the courtyard. From this vantage point, Faramir could see the orcs that milled about the yard. He hardly noticed when Aragorn bound his hands behind his back.
Then he heard a cold, clear clarion call on the wind, and his heart leapt in longing and just as quickly plunged in anguish. For he would have recognized the call of the Horn of Gondor anywhere, and he knew the only two people who would sound it.
Denethor the second, 26th ruling Steward of Gondor, rode upon a black stallion into the courtyard of Minas Morgul. Behind him fanned out a troop of citadel guards; beside him, his squire flew the Tree and Stars high upon the wind.
Faramir watched as his father’s head turned this way and that, searching.
He knew it was pointless, but he had to try. “Father!” he shouted. “Turn back! Your duty is to Gondor! Please, I beg you, go!”
Denethor’s stare snapped to him. His eyes were sunken, and his face was gray and pinched. Yet his shoulders were straight, and he held his head proudly.
Pride, Faramir had learned of late, could be easily broken. But surely not his father’s…
“I come to claim my son!” Denethor bellowed. His eyes lit on Aragorn, and his face twisted in rage. “Face me if you dare, Darkness-spawn!”
From the corner of his eye, Faramir saw Aragorn’s shoulder rise and drop.
“You come to die,” Aragorn called down.
Faramir pressed against the balcony’s rail. “Father, please! Go!”
Slowly, leisurely, Aragorn waved his hand.
The rest happened too quickly to follow.
The orcs fell upon the company like locust on a field. The clangor of swords, the shouts of men, the dying screams of horses all reverberated between the walls of Minas Morgul. Only the Steward remained untouched – unhorsed, but untouched – and cut down his enemies with mighty swipes of his sword.
Sometime during the battle, a single warhorse charged through the gates, bearing a fearsome warrior with his sword raised high. The destrier trampled standing orcs and sprawling bodies; the raised sword flashed as it turned in air and hewed down the monsters left and right.
“Gondor!” rang out the battle cry, in a voice that pierced Faramir’s heart.
“Boromir!” he yelled. “Brother! Get out of here! Take Father and go!”
At the same time, Denethor turned towards the newcomer. “Son, no! I forbid you! Return to the city at once!”
The moment of distraction cost him his sword. The Steward remained weaponless, surrounded by orcs.
Now the battle turned desperate, and the last of the troops fell beneath curved swords and battle-axes. Faramir watched with his heart in his throat. Boromir drove his horse relentlessly against the orcs that ringed their father, but eventually the proud beast collapsed with an agonized shriek. Boromir disappeared under the swarming orcs.
Faramir turned a frantic gaze to Aragorn. “Aragorn… Durbdugûl… Master… Please…”
Aragorn spared him a look and patted him on the head. “Almost done, my fox.”
“Please, I beg you… Take me instead… Let them go…”
A chuckle, the one he’d come to hate so much. “I already have you, little Húrin. There is nothing you can give me in exchange for their lives.”
“Please…” Faramir dropped to his knees and pressed his forehead against Aragorn’s thigh. “Please…”
Aragorn’s hand settled on his head and stroked his hair. “Very well,” he said with a sigh.
Faramir’s heart jerked with equal parts hope and suspicion.
“Spare the young one!” Aragorn called down into the court. “Take him inside.”
Faramir threw himself against the rail and peered out between the balustrades. His stare darted over the massacre, searching, searching…
A group of orcs broke off from the main crowd, carrying the lifeless body of Boromir between them.
Faramir looked at Aragorn pleadingly.
“Dead?” Aragorn called down.
“Knocked out,” came the guttural answer.
The air that had caught in Faramir’s throat burst out as a relieved sob. He staggered up to his feet with the support of the rail. “My father?”
Aragorn shook his head. “He has served his purpose.”
Even as Faramir formed the words, he knew they were futile. He looked down to the courtyard. His father was still standing, helpless yet regal, amidst a ring of leering orcs. But they didn’t strike, they didn’t strike…
Faramir whirled back to Aragorn with hungry hope.
Aragorn nodded his head curtly, once.
The first blow brought the Steward to his knees, hugging his midriff. The second gouged out of him a hoarse cry. The third sent him sprawling to the ground.
Then the blows began to rain in earnest.
Faramir watched in horror. “No,” he whispered, “no, no, no…”
It seemed an eternity later that one of the orcs lifted the Steward’s body over his head, limp and bloody. Amazingly, Denethor stirred. His head lolled to the side, and his eyes, almost lost under swelling bruises, found Faramir’s. They still held only love and compassion.
Suddenly Faramir knew what the orc was about to do.
“Noooooo!” he screamed, or tried to, because at that moment Aragorn wheeled him around and sealed his lips over Faramir’s own in a brutal kiss, and the scream was trapped in the cavern of his mouth, and the forced silence ricocheted down his throat and shredded his soul.
A mighty crack resounded throughout the courtyard, followed by a muffled thud.
Faramir collapsed against Aragorn in gasping sobs.
Gentle fingers carded through his hair. “Shhh. It’s over now, my little fox. Time to go home.” A soft kiss pressed against the top of his head. “You and I will return to Minas Tirith, and you will proclaim me king. It is my birthright, you know. I am the last heir of Isildur. I will reunite Gondor and Arnor and bind them to my father’s will. I shall be king; he shall be the God of my kingdom. Peace and order will come to the world at last.”
Faramir had been shaking his head softly long before Aragorn finished. “It’s over,” he whispered. “Kill me. I don’t care anymore. I cannot care.”
Fingers reached under his chin and tilted his head up. Aragorn was smiling at him with an expression akin to love. “My dear fox. You forget… I now hold your brother.”
The people of Gondor – ignorant, naïve, hungry for miracles – greeted the new king with cheers and festivities. The Tree and Stars, now sporting a winged crown, flew from the Tower of Ecthelion. The streets were strewn with flowers.
Aragorn, wearing a silver fillet, walked hand-in-hand with Faramir up the Lit Tunnel. In the Court of the White Tree, he dismissed the masked guards with a gesture. They stood down, first bewildered, then cowed, and eventually cleared the court. Faramir trailed after Aragorn to the White Tree of Gondor, which stood leafless and dead like Faramir’s heart.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” said Aragorn.
He seated himself on the grass that grew around the tree, pulling Faramir down after him. A light shove to his chest made Faramir lie down under the tree. Through the naked branches, the sky shone bright blue.
He didn’t even flinch when Aragorn undid his leggings and tugged them down, or when his legs were lifted and spread, or when Aragorn loomed over him.
“I want to see you this time.” Aragorn reached for his face and tucked a stray lock of hair behind his ear. “Beautiful.”
The pain of their joining was a pain Faramir knew well by now, and he let his body rock with it, unresisting, unresponsive, uncaring.
Above him, the branches of the White Tree turned black and shriveled, then crumbled to dust and rained upon his upturned face.
A possible follow-up tells this story from Aragorn’s point of view, which is much more dark and cruel. Time will tell if it will ever be written.
See if you can catch the two bluntest homages: one to a poem, the other to a comics character.
1 I Melain berio le: May the Valar keep you (Quenya)
2 Kû: Human (Black Speech)
3 Durbdugûl: Ruling Servant (Black Speech)
4 Thrakul rurne-ishi agh krimpul: Bring him to my room and bind him (Black Speech)
5 Lugbúrz: Barad-dur (Black Speech)
6 Snaga: slave (Black Speech)
7 Skai: gah, an interjection of disgust (Black Speech)
(Note: rurne is an invented word in Black Speech. The rest are true to Tolkien’s recorded corpus, both in vocabulary and grammar.)
NB: Please do not distribute (by any means, including email) or repost this story (including translations) without the author's prior permission. [ more ]
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The following people read the story, enjoyed it, and would like to thank the author: Minx , Rose