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Estel (R) Print

Written by Bell Witch

19 December 2009 | 3094 words

Title: Estel
Author: Bell Witch
Rating/Warnings: Dark/AU, violence, R-sexual content
Word Count: 2887
Disclaimer: None of these people are mine and I’m getting nothing tangible out of it.
Author’s Notes: For the 2009 Midwinter, written Nov-Dec 2009. Beta by Minx.

Written for the 2009 Midwinter Swap.

Request by Tal: The War of the Ring is over, peace reigns in Middle Earth, and everyone is settling down under the rule of the new High King of Arnor: Lord Sauron. Five years after the fall of Minas Tirith, now known as the Black City, Faramir is living in a nightmare. Acting as Steward to Sauron is a despicable duty. Seeing his friends and people suffer is breaking his heart. In fact, he would have committed a suicide attack on his King long ago if it weren’t for one stubborn vision, of one half-broken man with black hair and gray eyes, imprisoned deep within the dungeons of Minas Tirith… and still holding in his spirit the power to turn around fate. Dark!fic, angst, torture and pain (emotional, physical, and sexual). No need to “solve” the Sauron situation, only to create the feeling of a cruel, inescapable reality, and Faramir’s resolution to survive it for the sake of that one shred of hope. Bonus points if you make me cry.

Faramir sat in the Steward’s chair at the foot of the throne, uncomfortably warm in the black robes of state in the summer heat. They were his father’s robes and did not fit, Lord Denethor having been enough taller than his younger son for the size difference to be obvious now, especially with Faramir forbidden to wear armour under them as his father always did—even to the day of his death. It was a while yet until dark, but court had been in session since mid-morning and that was more than eight hours past. Faramir was not allowed food or drink during court and on days like this even a small cup of water like most other humans were allowed seemed as glorious and elusive as Aman to him. He was wilting and trying not to show it.

As uncomfortable as the situation was, it was still better than the shorter days in court, the times when he wore white robes that were light and beautiful and made him shine like a precious ray of light in the darkness of the now-black Hall of Kings. He never knew if the High King was pleased with him or not when he was ordered into those robes for the day. In summer they were finest silk and in winter rare fur, made to fit him perfectly. All the court watched him closely on those days, as they didn’t know what would happen any more than he did. Faramir might be praised for something, with the High King of Gondor and Arnor announcing this to all. If not praise, then displeasure, and to whom he might be given was a source of great speculation.

Anyone—anyone—could have the steward for their own when the mood was on the king. Some lords, unused to their titles and duties would use him as their own steward for the time. He could set business affairs in order quickly, and aid in daily running of estates. To how many had he taught rudimentary methods of keeping a manor? Others would have him wait on them as a servant, work in the barn or the fields. He could be stripped, beaten, humiliated, even used as a concubine for the day or two of his sentence.

Not all were brutal even in that. The ones who tried to be gentle could be worse than the orcs who didn’t care. If a man tried not to hurt him, that was one thing, but to try and make him feel pleasure sometimes threatened to break Faramir’s mind in two. When it worked, when it broke through the loneliness and made him forget himself for a while, self-disgust would entwine itself around his heart and squeeze until the ache became unbearable. As soon as he could, he would bathe and scrub himself raw, despite knowing that the king would see and smile.

The king. Sauron. Five years since it had happened and Faramir still found it impossible to believe at times. He would wake and it would seem a nightmare; then he would see that he had woken in his father’s chambers and remember.

Better to be dead as Boromir was, slain in battle on Amon Hen. He imagined it so clearly—taking his sword and charging at Sauron, most likely dying before he came close. It would be worth it, so worth it… he could join his family in the peace of death and leave the Shadows of Middle-earth behind. No tears for Faramir, because he wanted to go.

He could not. Not while Aragorn lived.

Somewhere in the dungeons, always in the dark, the true king was hidden away. At first he had been brought up and beaten before the people, humiliated, all for the entertainment of Sauron. His orcs, the remaining Nazgûl, and the Men of Harad and the east watched and howled, while Faramir had to stand silent and not let any feelings show while the few people of old Gondor could weep openly and release their pain.

To see him now, Aragorn was as far gone as Éomer, King of Rohan. He, too, lived in the dungeons. He was mindless it seemed, though physically healthy, and used as a toy regularly. Nothing fazed him, save the mention of his long-dead sister. Mention Éowyn and even the sturdiest Uruk-hai was in danger from the Rohir.

Faramir knew, though he’d seen Aragorn but little, that his true king hid strength deep inside even as Faramir did. Faramir held himself against the day that Sauron went to the north on a rare visit to Arnor. As steward, he was left in charge while the king was away, kept so cowed that he would do nothing to earn Sauron’s displeasure while he was gone. He and Aragorn, they both waited: Faramir simply had to hide it better.

Hide it he did, showing his most docile manner as much as he could, though a bit of spark would shine through at times. Well, he was the reminder of what the land used to be and he would not give in entirely, even if it meant being punished now and then.

Tonight he was not thinking of holding his head up as the pride of the west. No, he was trying to remain awake after the long day. Court had ended and Faramir nearly sagged in relief—a cool bath and perhaps some bread and fruit. Even stale bread and fruit a bit past its prime would refresh him after the long day. It was not to be.

He was called to the king’s rooms to be secretary, with no time to do anything, not even to change. Sauron needed very little in the way of food or sleep, so keeping Faramir from comfort could have been an oversight. Faramir knew it wasn’t. He was meant to fail tonight; he was sure of it. Three hours on his feet, writing. His post was standing because Sauron liked to pace. How could the steward sit if the king stood? So he stood, wrote, and tried not to make any errors.

At last it was done, and he’d not fainted nor fallen. A brief look at his work and the being that was Sauron quirked an eyebrow at him.

“Well done, little Man. Retire now.” The handsome, frightening face smiled. “Your white robes tomorrow.”

Eru, help me.

Eru, help me.

The sun is hot and I know my skin is burning. They let me remove my shirt as all the other men have done and I’ve been given water, but it’s not enough. A hot summer day working in the fields is not as bad as some things, but after yesterday I know I need to rest in a cool place and more water than I’ve had—and some food.

I do not think I displeased the king, rather he was determined that I be punished. My owner for the day is one of the new lords, a Man of Harad who now holds a fairly large estate. My morning was spent with other workers picking green beans, of all things, in the kitchen garden. It’s not hard, exactly, but bending over the plants strains the back after a while. There were quite a few of us but it was a large kitchen garden—it’s a good-sized estate. Lunch was very small, so as not to make me ill, then out into the fields to aid in weeding. My hands are blistered under the gloves they gave me, but it won’t be too long until work is done for the day.

Ordinary work.

Evening brings a little more water and another small meal. There will be a larger meal later, though I don’t know if I’ll be joining the rest of the workers or not. They’re drawing a bath for me because I stink, and I know what that means.

They watch. Most of them have not seen a man with such fair skin as mine and so I am a novelty. Though it’s embarrassing, it does allow them to see just how red my shoulders are and someone brings an ointment for them—it soothes and cools and I don’t care who looks at me or how they look once it’s on. I get more to drink after, and a robe. They’re washing my clothing, which will be returned in the morning. I’m led to a small room in the house where I’m told to lie down and rest. I think I’ll sleep before I have my head on the pillow.

It’s growing dark when a serving woman arrives to wake me. She brings a pitcher of water and says she’ll be back with a tray of food later. I only have a moment to wait and wonder why she isn’t going to bring it now.

The master of the estate is not much shorter than I am, and he speaks little though enough for me to know what he wants. I’ve had worse; he isn’t brutal. It’s a release for him and nothing else, making me feel as much an instrument as one of the rakes in the field. He leaves in silence after stating he might be back first thing in the morning.

That always makes for a restful night. At least the woman arrives with food soon after, and I’m cool and rested enough to eat and drink all I want. The master uses me again in the morning. I’ll be a little sore for the return ride to Minas Tirith, but not so bad. And I get breakfast before I leave. I count myself lucky.

Back in the city, Sauron gave his steward no quarter. Back into the dark robes and the Hall of Kings for the day at court. It was not so long as two days ago, but long enough with the sunburn and aching backside to take its toll. Thus the king decided that his steward should join him at supper.

The food was partly rich, the rest raw for the Uruk-hai, and it was enough to turn all but the strongest stomachs. Sauron spoke to Faramir of how lonely it must be to live without any friends, anyone he knew. Faramir could say nothing, merely nod in return and try to keep his tongue when Sauron—again—spoke of the fall of Boromir. As glad as Faramir was that his brother did not have to suffer Gondor’s fate, he was forever in torment with how his brother died.

Sauron had seen that Boromir had been tempted by the Ring and mentioned it constantly. Faramir knew the truth of that, but was certain there was more. His brother died at Amon Hen after trying to take the Ring from Frodo, yes, but… But… What had truly happened? Frodo escaped, obviously, and Boromir stayed and died. How? It was one of those things that Faramir would not know entire truth of and it tormented him. Sauron loved to find these thoughts, these doubts and pains, and use them against his steward.

The fear of fire had been picked out early. Faramir hadn’t known that Sauron knew how his father died or that the king was aware that Faramir had also nearly died that day. He remembered none of it, consciously.

Unconsciously, it was there. Sauron saw and when Faramir spoke one day of being cold, the king decided to indulge his steward in his own special way.

A day spent naked, bound, and close enough to the cook fires to have sparks hit and make tiny scars on his legs cured Faramir of any complaints of cold he would ever have in the future. No one in the kitchen dared to say anything, though working around him had been difficult. They knew even early on to do nothing against the king’s will, however odd it might be. Faramir had closed his eyes and trembled at the heat, hearing his father’s screams in his head.

The dead were the lucky ones, Faramir reflected as he tried to keep his food down. Little Pippin had died defending the Houses of Healing, where he, the Lady Éowyn, and Merry were taken. Lady Éowyn’s death had been horrible; Sauron’s rage at her for killing the Witch-king had him make an example of her. Merry had gone before her, not quite as viciously.

Frodo and Sam had died of thirst in Mordor, which seemed kind to reflect on it. Gandalf was dead, though Faramir didn’t know how it had happened. Gimli had died a few years ago, his savage tongue earning him more and more torture until it killed him at last. Legolas, fading still, no longer remembered that he once had a friend who was a Dwarf.

So many gone, and Faramir was left alone in the middle of the Enemy’s camp to serve as an example. There were a few of the Grey Company left, but they were in the dungeons in Arnor. They’d had dungeons before barracks for soldiers in the north. Faramir hadn’t thought of them in a while, Lord Aragorn’s former companions, but he recalled them now because Sauron spoke of them.

He was going north again, in a few weeks. His steward would be left in charge, as always. This brought dark laughter and scathing remarks about Faramir, as it always did. The steward would act as ordered, being too cowed to think on his own. Should he deviate from orders given, several of the highest level captains had permission to take care of the matter. No crippling or permanent scars, simply a message that could not be ignored.

That had happened once, early on. Faramir’s cousin Lothiriel had been raped in front of him and he could do nothing to aid her. He was fairly sure she’d been given to one of the new lords somewhere, when it was all over, but he didn’t know for certain. He hoped she was dead.

Faramir remembered her, as he remembered all the others, and knew what could happen if he disobeyed the king’s instructions in his absence. It terrified him that the people left that he loved could be tortured if he even misinterpreted what Sauron wanted. His own punishments were horrible, but he was meant to live and suffer. The others, so few, would pay the heaviest price.

So be it.

So be it.

I remember my cousin Lothiriel, her brothers, their father. I recall Éomer of Rohan, who I will use in my plan. One mention of his sister, the long-dead Éowyn, and he’ll be a machine of death like any Sauron has ever made, but with passion.

How can I use him that way, the man would might have been my brother-in-law? I can because I must, and because he could die honourably, fighting, instead of being treated like a mindless whore for the entertainment of the high-ranking soldiers. How many of them will he be able to kill—if it comes to that?

It might not. There are ways to move around that even Sauron does not know. His orcs do not. A swift assault on the dungeons and a quiet escape from there will gain us the citadel. I can get us outside, through the Rath Dinen to the secret path on the mountain. There is food hidden, as well as other supplies, and we can escape while Sauron is away. If we can get through the citadel.

Yes, we might be stopped in the dungeons, but it’s unlikely. The chances for escape from Minas Tirith are so slim that things there are lax, unless someone is being moved. The food will be poisoned before I go, and I can still kill as quietly as I did when I was a ranger. I will save Aragorn and Éomer and, if I can, anyone else I can find who is fit. That’s the problem, that so few would be fit to make the journey. Legolas is not and he must remain behind, painful as it is. With only a few others it is possible to get away from here.

The only thing that will truly be able to stop us, my only real fear, is the Nazgûl.

Orcs and humans will not know where we are in the citadel as we go through the hidden places, the secret corridors. The wraiths would know and sense us if we passed, and no-one truly knows how they come or go except Sauron himself. Two he has with him, leaving six here. Six…

Only six between us and escape—six to keep the symbol of hope trapped in the darkness. That is not enough to keep me from trying.

The flame of the west shall be released, and perhaps Rohan’s king as well, if it is not required to set him after those who could stop us. But Aragorn alone would be enough. I can help get him to where he needs to be, to the secret hiding places that the Elves still have. His own brothers are out there, I have overheard, and they will raise all of Middle-earth that is good into an army against Sauron. Perhaps even Aman will rise against him, the Valar themselves. All if I can get us away from here.

There is hope.


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The following people read the story, enjoyed it, and would like to thank the author: Laurel

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7 Comment(s)

NB: Comments may contain spoilers!

Normally, I’d be hoping for a sequel, but this is quite perfect as it stands: right on the knife-edge between hope and despair. Your Faramir is strong and cunning, reminiscent of Denethor at his best, and we can only trust that Aragorn is equally unyielding under that “broken” facade in order to make this desperate venture against Sauron succeed. There is, truly, nothing left to lose now.

— ebbingnight    19 December 2009, 21:27    #

Thank you, ebbingnight. I like my Faramir strong, even in adversity. Aragorn is Middle-earth’s only hope, but he still needs someone to get him in place. I really don’t know how it would end, if it came to that. I never intended for it to get that far. Am glad you don’t think it needs more.

— Bell Witch    19 December 2009, 21:44    #

A very powerful, tantalizing piece—the opening with the focus on the clothing and what that means serves as an image for the rest, and the shifting points of view are very well done. The image of hope even in the darkest period is beautifully conveyed.

— ithiliana    20 December 2009, 17:42    #

I really liked this. It is very neatly but powerfully done!

— Minx    27 December 2009, 12:02    #

I finally allowed myself to read the stories (on account of finishing to write my own), and obviously I came to this one first.

Bell, wow! Just what I wanted. It’s stunning. The white/black robes really set the tone for the entire piece – it’s such a powerful concept, both visually and metaphorically. You crafted a truly dark and hopeless world, both through the daily details and the mention of off-screen past atrocities. The use you’ve made of Éomer’s character is brilliant.

Of all LOTR figures, I truly believe that Aragorn and Faramir would be the last to cling to sanity and hope in such darkness – and you got that across masterfully. Thank you!

— Tal    1 January 2010, 23:45    #

Tal—I’m glad you liked it, as it wasn’t really a story, more like a mood piece. I was very worried about it, mostly for that reason. I like having Eomer there, and both helpless and terribly dangerous.
I do think that Faramir and Aragorn would be the holdouts, partly because of their personalities and partly because of what they are to Gondor, especially with everyone else gone. Who were the only two to reject the Ring, even though tempted?

— Bell Witch    2 January 2010, 11:46    #

Galadriel too, but I’m glad she’s not here – though I can’t even explain why I dislike her, and it might change after I re-read the book.

Sorry for dumping such a difficult prompt on your head, dear. But like I told you in private, I’m glad it fell into your capable hands :-) (Gah, what a mixture of metaphors!)

— Tal    3 January 2010, 17:33    #

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About the Author

Bell Witch

Most of my fanfiction is linked through my livejournal Feed link

Finally an update of my profile. I’m behind on linking fics posted here on my LJ, so these are pretty much my LotR fics. The Harry Potter links are on the LJ below a lot of silly quizzes and memes. For sillier results, my online RPG Faramir takes these quizzes also—in character. Most of his results are better than mine. His journal is faramir_hurin, for those so inclined.

I’ve also written a number of segments for the interactive story linked through this site.

I’ve been writing fanfiction for four or five years and I haven’t progressed into writing for many fandoms yet, which may be a blessing for all of those fandoms I’ve not written for. I don’t really count the online RP as fanfiction, though some would. That adds a few fandoms and a new dimension to LotR, as I now play Sauron in his Annatar persona.

As you can see, I am still not skilled at writing author profiles.