22 December 2007 | 5564 words
Title: Seasons of Change
Written for the 2007 Midwinter Swap.
Request by Laurëlóte: Life after the war should be good for Faramir. His brother is alive, he is doing a job he loves, and finally feels like his opinion matters, he has women practically falling at his feet. In fact everyone loves seeing him so happy and cheerful… So why then is he still miserable inside? This should be a coming together story full of desperation and despair but Faramir should find his happiness in the end. I would dearly love to see a Beregond pairing for this, but I will be happy with Aragorn as an alternative if you’re struggling.
The council meeting finally ended late in the afternoon, just in time for the feast held in the envoy’s honour. Aragorn called the meeting to a close, with a sigh of relief, and turned to his steward with a smile, as the weary councillors rose.
“That was excellently done,” he said warmly, “You negotiated the treaty extremely well. And you conveyed it to the councillors most adeptly.”
The younger man stopped in the act of gathering together his papers hurriedly, and seemed about to say something but was interrupted by Boromir.
“Well done, little brother,’ Boromir said warmly, clasping his shoulder, “I always knew the art of diplomacy was better left to you.”
“It was nothing. Elessar and you did negotiate just so on the horses from Rohan,” Faramir said quietly, continuing to gather the papers.
“Yes, but to pick on their interest in the river trade route was very insightful of you. None of us noticed that,” Aragorn told him, “That gave us some additional leeway.”
Faramir gave him a slightly doubtful look but nodded nevertheless. Aragorn gave him a reassuring smile in return. After all, the Steward had managed to negotiate the new treaties with the Khandrim envoy, a man the other councillors had declared difficult.
Faramir chewed absently at his lower lip as he followed his king and brother out of the room. After the discussions with the envoy had finished, he had found himself assailed with worries on whether he had done his task correctly, and whether the council would approve. The council had approved unanimously, and he was still feeling a little surprised. He sometimes still expected objections and snide retorts each time he spoke in a council meeting.
The feast was to be held in the great hall of the citadel, followed by a dance. Aragorn nodded in agreement as Boromir said rather loudly that he thought he had never seen the great hall in the citadel look so bright and inviting. Faramir had personally overseen the preparations, for this was the first large diplomatic gathering that the citadel would host. The large windows that ran along either wall had been opened, offering a view of bright blue skies marked with wisps of white cloud. Large tubs filled with late summer flowers stood by some of the windows, great splashes colour against the dull grey stone of the walls. Artistically shaped candleholders from Khand made of metal and woven were placed around the hall, to be lit later in the evening.
“It is all very nicely done,” Boromir said approvingly, “All those fine young ladies shall like dancing here.” Faramir smiled slightly in response but said nothing.
The feast proceeded much as all other feasts did and both Aragorn and Boromir were pleased to note that the normally reticent young Steward danced with some of the young ladies, as was expected of him. The dance to precede the feast had been Boromir’s idea. He often encouraged the hosting of such social occasions. Aragorn was quite sure that by now the younger man would have realised that he did so in order to encourage Faramir in furthering his attentions towards the young ladies invited on such occasions.
Faramir went through the few dances politely, listening patiently to his partners talk of the upcoming autumn festival, a new play and various other harmless topics. He was still largely unused to spending much time with female company such as this. At most events that their father had hosted, it had been Boromir that these young women had flocked around. His brother would manage to charm them enough to keep them happy.
He danced and ate and listened quietly to the conversations around him. There was talk of the harvest festival again, of new plays performed by a troupe from Dol Amroth, of the strange new fruits that the traders from Harad or the new plants that the elves of Mirkwood had plated in the lower levels, of other feasts, betrothals, weddings, and much else.
He left as the feast neared an end, as soon as he could do so. He made his way through the guests, nodding politely, trying to avoid getting into longer conversations. He felt too tired, having been up later than usual the last fortnight, in preparation for the treaty meetings. As he rounded a large column, he caught a snatch of conversation between his brother and the mother of one of the older councillors, a charming old lady.
“And where is your brother? I caught a glance of him earlier. He does look fine,” she said, “He looked unwell still the last I saw him, but now I see he is eating better and looks much less weary. And Lamedon’s granddaughter was smiling very nicely at him! That boy looks fine indeed now. “
“Doesn’t he?” Boromir said cheerfully.
The lady smirked a little, “Well, I suppose the Stewardship clearly suits him, after all! There were some worries there!”
“There were never any worries there, my lady!” Boromir said sharply.
Faramir worried his lower lip as he stood there for a while before walking away quietly.
Aragorn looked around for the Steward, frowning. The feast had come to an end, and he had been hoping to pull Faramir along for a cup of wine in his chambers. He had looked tired and the king had hoped to sit with him awhile and speak of something light such as perhaps elvish poetry. Elrond had sent him some new volumes for the archives.
Upon asking around, he was told the younger man had left moments ago. Sighing, he decided to leave the poetry to another day, and went back to his guests.
Faramir stood on the terrace outside his chambers and stared out at the darkening sky. The lamps on the streets were being put out in the lower levels. He watched as the flickering lines of yellow vanished steadily in a line, winding all the way up the citadel. The little lights in the houses stayed open and strains of animated voices and soft lilting music wafted up from the lower circles, as though in echo to the voices and music that still lingered in the great hall. As he stood there, watching the city below and seeking the fresh, crisp air of the autumn nights, he found his thoughts wandering back to Boromir’s conversation with the elderly lady, and frowned.
He should look fine, should he not?
The king, for so long feared to be no more than a myth, had returned to the land, his brother Boromir, briefly feared as lost, was well and captain general as he had always desired. He himself was the Steward of the realm. He advised the king, and the captain general and his suggestions were appreciated and no longer scoffed at. Men who had once lost no opportunity to snub him in his father’s hearing now spoke to him politely and almost respectfully in front of the king and his brother. Young women who once spoke to him only so they could get him to introduce them to his brother now even danced with him, and asked after his day.
Prior to Elessar’s coronation, Boromir had declared that he would rather remain Captain general, and pass on the administrative duties of the Steward to his brother. When that was initially mooted to him, Faramir had protested. All his life he had been brought up knowing that Boromir would be Steward after their father, and he would remain little more than a captain or a councillor. Besides surely the council would not approve. His protests though went unheeded, and Aragorn and Boromir had had their say. He had been handed the white rod, and suddenly found himself presiding councils that he was more used to explaining himself in front of.
When he had heard Boromir say the Stewardship suited him, he had initially wanted to protest. While it was true he found himself revelling in his new tasks, he could not help but feel that Boromir would have handled this far better and far more efficiently, trained as he had been in all these tasks. Faramir had spent his first few months as Steward just trying to find his way through the rigours of his work, for his father had rarely involved him in his work. For weeks, he had pored over papers and books, learning and relearning his tasks, almost solely, trying to take some of the burden of rulership off Elessar’s shoulders. While Boromir had tried to help, he’d had his own affairs to tend to. Troops and armouries needed to be reinstituted, and so his brother had often been away for days at an end often, visiting troops in far corners, inspecting armouries and land defences.
There had been a lot of work, apart from the day to day tasks, due to the war. Large parts of the city needed reconstructing, the farmlands outside the city needed to be restored, damaged as they had been by the war, countless treaties needed to be drawn up with their neighbouring lands, the homeless and displaced had to be seen to, the treasury examined, taxes and levies restructured, revenues to be found to take care of all the expenditure required.
It had taken a few months for matters to settle, days of struggling to cope with the volumes of paperwork, of visiting those affected, overseeing the work personally, and countless arguments with the council on where to allocate the treasury revenues.
It had taken long, far longer than it would have his father or even his brother although he had now finally begun to feel he was fulfilling his duties as Steward.
And so, he should indeed look fine. He should be happy much as everyone else in the city was, looking forward to the harvest feasts, and the midwinter celebrations. He grasped the stone parapet on the terrace, tightening his fingers around the rough stone, feeling it abrade his palms.
He should be happy and overjoyed. He was not. He had everything he needed, and yet there was something lacking. It had taken him many days to realise it but he often found himself heavy of heart and mind, especially at the end of each day, after he had finished his work. He often had headaches at night and his sleep was light and often disturbed.
He had not noticed it initially, busy as he was in trying to find his way through his duties. The summer months after the coronation flew away in a rush of betrothals, farewells, dances, gatherings, feasts, and he had much to do. As autumn came, things settled, and suddenly Faramir had time upon his hands, and fewer volumes of paperwork to wade through, and far too much time to think and remember. As the weeks passed, he settled into a routine centred around his work, for the reconstruction needs were immediate but in time much of his work began to reduce, as the rebuilding progressed steadily. The councils too began to reduce as the lords had to return to their own lands, and met no more than twice or thrice a month.
He found himself remembering his fellow soldiers in Ithilien often, and fought to stifle his thoughts of them. Recollecting his old troop only brought back sorrowful memories of their last stand on the Anduin. He fought too to stifle thoughts of his father. Their last conversation had been full of bitterness, regret and anger on both sides. And while he had been told of the manner of his father’s passing, it hurt him to think that in all these years, his father had only shown him love and affection when he had been unable to witness it.
It hurt to think of these, yet there was little else he could do but think. Apart from his duties he had little else to do. He had few friends here, with Boromir away most of the time. And while Elessar and he were getting to know each other well, he would never think of imposing himself on the older man merely to divert his mind.
He was unused to loneliness, he had realised. It felt a strange realization. As a child he had grown up alone, once Boromir had left for his training, for there was no company to be had in the citadel, with their father ever engrossed in his work. When he had gone forth for my military training, he had finally met other lads his age, but their duration together had been too short to make them more than acquaintances. He should have been used to loneliness, he thought, but his years in Ithilien appeared to have spoilt him. He found himself often harking back to those days, simple as they were when all he did was to patrol the land till one’s feet gave way, and then return to the nearest shelter to eat and rest, with none but the fellow rangers for company.
The day after the feast, he woke with the sun as had been his practice the past few months. He had always been a light sleeper, prone to dreams. Since the war there had only been more unpleasantness to colour his dreams, and made his sleep more fitful.
Opening his eyes he stared at the lightening sky visible through the drapes, then up at the grey ceiling, before finally sitting up. He pushed away his bedclothes, and swung his feet off the bed. The floor felt cold to his bare feet. Rising, he walked out of his room to the terrace outside, trying to decide what to do. He would ordinarily have used this time to get some work done. He glanced through his paperwork frowning. He had redrafted the treaty with Khand the previous night, and reworked the structuring of the levies on the riverine trade. The reconstruction work in the lower levels had been completed a month ago, so he would not need to visit those. Or perhaps he could visit and see how the structures were faring. He glanced out of the window. Winter would be here soon; already the morning sun appeared dulled. Perhaps he could just go out for a ride, while the weather still held. It had been a while since he had ridden out merely for pleasure.
He readied himself and then walked through the citadel to the stables. It would have been nice to have some company, he thought, but there would be no one else awake at this hour.
He rode long and hard, down the spiralling levels out of the city gates and through the plains outside the city. The skies were clear and the air was crisp with the fragrances of the fall harvest. He slowed the horse to a steady canter, glancing around him at the green and yellow fields, and the orchards in the distance. He found himself reminded suddenly of the Pelennor as it had been after the war, scarred by the signs of battle, a desolate sight from the towers of the city, and spurred his horse on, trying to shut out his memories. He rode on instinct, letting the horse pick its way through the rough trails, trying to think of nothing but the fresh, crisp air and the gentle morning light and the fragrance of the autumn harvest.
When he finally slowed down, he realised with dismay that he had neared the ruins of the bridge to Osgiliath.
He brought the horse to a stop and stayed there awhile, unable to move. He had not been this way in a while, and even when he did, rarely lingered. This stretch of riverbank held nothing but painful memories for him. He felt a shiver run through his body, and fought to keep his hands from trembling, as his breath seemed to catch. The crisp air now seemed heavy as he fought to breathe.
Unable to keep his hands from shaking, he slid off the horse, his limbs heavy with despair and lassitude. This was where he had last fought with his rangers… they had met the Haradrim troops as they had ridden across the river, the air still heavy and oppressive as it had been when the Nazgûl had attacked them earlier. He walked forward on unsteady legs, his ears ringing now, as the memories returned unbidden. There were cries around him and the air had filled with the stench of blood and despair. Silver and red glinted against black and green garb as weapons swung through the air, cutting and wounding.
He sank to his knees on the ground, remembering the cries of pain and fear that had assailed him just before a sudden sharp pain had hit his shoulder. The dart had struck him deep. He had felt it enter flesh, felt the warm trickle of blood down his chest, as his bow had fallen from nerveless fingers, and his legs had given way, even as his horse had bolted in fear from the shock. He remembered falling, his mind at the edge of a blackness that had ever been present, and then his head had struck the ground and the blackness had taken over, pulling him in, causing him to wander as though lost for seemingly days on end until the king had finally arrived.
And when he had woken it had been the news that he had lost a third of his men, and that his father had passed and nearly taken him.
Tears trickled down his cheeks, as he knelt there. He wept long for his men and his father. The sun was high when he finally rose and walked slowly back to his horse.
Aragorn glanced around the breakfast table, surprised by Faramir’s absence. The younger man was a notoriously early riser, and Aragorn had often known him to start working before the morning meal. He had often hurried in with ink stains on his fingers and clothes.
Faramir was late for the morning council as well, that day. He hurried in with his papers and parchments. Aragorn frowned as he took in the weary features. He had hoped that the Steward’s workload would have reduced by now since much of the war-related efforts would have been taken care of by now. He should speak to Boromir, he decided.
It was some days before he sought Faramir out to talk to the younger man.
Faramir leaned against the window and stared out. Supper had just finished in the great hall. He had slipped out as early as he possibly could, tired by the constant hum of conversation. He heard footsteps down the passageway and instinctively inched closer to the wall.
“Faramir,” the king’s voice was soft, and almost soothing against the brash sounds of conversation that filtered out of the citadel hall.
“Sire,” he whispered softly, not moving from where he leaned against the wall. The stone felt cool against his aching forehead.
“Faramir?” the king’s voice sounded concerned, “Are you all right? What ails you?”
He turned with effort, and tried to smile as he replied, “It is naught. I am merely tired.”
“I will need to tire you a while more then,” Aragorn said smiling back, “I know it is late and you would retire by now but would you come to my study awhile? Boromir and I wish to speak to you of something.”
“Of course, milord,” Faramir replied, a little surprised. Aragorn usually encouraged him to retire earlier, and rarely asked for councils after supper.
The king’s study was large and comfortable, with a small fire always lit to keep the stone room warm. Faramir never tired of comparing it to the cold, harshness of his father’s study. He stood by the window, with a cup of warmed wine, as they waited for Boromir to join them. Sipping slowly, he watched the king walk around, stoking the fire, silently admiring the older man’s tall, firm frame, and the gracefulness of his movements.
Boromir entered, in a flurry of movement then. Faramir felt himself tensing, wondering what needed to be discussed, that could not wait for the morrow.
Aragorn smiled at him suddenly. Leaning forward he placed his hand on Faramir’s knee and gave him a reassuring look.
“There is something we thought to ask of you,” he said quietly, “Understand that you are not compelled to do as asked, but I can think of none other I could ask this of.”
Faramir stared at him a little worriedly, wondering where all this talk led. An unbidden thought sprang to his mind. Perhaps it was the stewardship. Perhaps they had realised he should not have the stewardship. He stared at the pattern of the rug beneath his feet.
“You can return to Ithilien,” Boromir said cheerfully, “Just like you’ve always said you’d like to.”
“I-Ithilien?” he asked softly, his face falling. He had expected this but that did not lessen the hurt he felt. He had been tried and found wanting. He would miss the Stewardship, but it would be for the good of Gondor that the duty go to one who was better at it.
“Yes,” Aragorn replied and then frowned as he noticed Faramr’s expression, “Is everything all right?”
“I thought you would be happy,” Boromir said a little sharply.
“I- I am,” Faramir said softly, surprised by Boromir’s tone. But then, he had failed hadn’t he.
Boromir let out an audible sigh, and then spoke in a gentler tone, “I know it may sound hard to handle both your duties and Steward here as well as your new duties in Ithilien, but I know you can do it, and you will not need to be in Ithilien all the time surely?”
“B-both duties?” Faramir aid surprised, “I – I don’t understand.”
“Do let me explain properly Boromir! Faramir, I should like for Ithilien to be restored,” Aragorn said, “And I can think of none better to restore the land and tend to it than you. I desire to appoint you Prince of Ithilien, if you will accept it.”
He heard himself gasp, and stared up at the other two men. He had thought they wanted him to step down from the stewardship.
“Y-you want me to tend to Ithilien?” he said softly.
“Yes,” Aragorn smiled, as he spoke, but then his look turned to one of dismay, as he saw a tear trickle down Faramir’s face.
“Faramir?’ Boromir queried, a little worriedly.
“Why what, child?” Boromir asked puzzled.
“Wh– why… how can you be so – so kind to me and tolerate all my errors even after all I have done? You – you reward me, when I have done nothing to deserve this!”
“Errors?” Aragorn asked, quietly, “What errors do you speak of?”
“I do not deserve this,” Faramir repeated insistently, tears still trickling down his face.
Faramir,” Boromir said softly and walked up to his brother, and placed an arm around the thin shoulders, “What do you speak of?”
“You should be penalising me for my errors. Instead you made me Steward. And now you wish to—”
“What errors?” Aragorn repeated, also moving up towards Faramir. He gently led the younger man over to one of the large chairs near the fire and made him sit.
“All of them,” Faramir said, “My – my men. And – and Father.”
“Whatever do you speak of?” Boromir asked worriedly, alarmed by the tears in his brother’s eyes, “What of your men?”
“I led them to their deaths,” he said softly, “And I led father to his despair.”
“No-,” Boromir said desperately.
“Yes, I knew the sound of the horn had worried him, yet I spoke to him of my dream and showed him the cloven remains.”
“Peregrin told us you lived, and yet he remained sunk in despair, for he feared I think that you would lose to your injuries else to the Dead at Erech. I should have reassured him then, but the sight of the horn had scared me, as had my dreams. You were injured and greatly I feared and Mithrandir’s reassurances that you would heal seemed naught but fanciful. I let him down and in doing so I let you down. How can you forgive me,” he said, tears flowing freely down his cheeks.
“Oh Faramir,” Boromir reached for the younger man, causing him to shy away, “Is that what worries you so?”
“You did what you could,” he said his voice softer than usual, “My injuries were grave yes, and they took long to heal. I wish I had not put you or father through this. But father’s despair is not your fault. I should be held to blame then, for I was the one distracted enough by the ring to lose my horn in so violent a fashion.”
“Father was ailing already. The palantir showed him visions of what could come, and he feared what would befall the city. It was he who sent you off to defend the river… perhaps he should have kept you here to defend the city, and he realised that too late.”
“I could not defend the river,” Faramir said unhappily, “He spoke truly when he said I could not be half as good as you. And you should be Steward, not I.”
Boromir sat next to Faramir. He placed a hand on the younger man’s shoulder. Faramir jerked away. Boromir sighed and pulled the younger man towards him, grasping his arms lightly. Aragorn watched them quietly, noticing the tired slump of the shoulders.
“I asked you to be Steward for I knew you would do far better than I. You were always better at diplomacy and in speech and in juggling revenues and expenditures than I ever could be. And perhaps I was selfish but I did not wish to give up being able to ride with my troops. If I were to spend my days with the councils, just a few minutes would have me running out.”
“You have done very well,” Aragorn said softly, “You were unused to your duties and yet now in so few months you handle them with ease.”
Boromir held the younger man close, letting him cry, the tears soaking into his tunic until finally it seemed Faramir could cry no more. All through he carded his fingers through the long hair holding him close, dimly recollecting their younger days when his brother had sought his closeness for comfort.
Aragorn handed him a cup brimming with a clear draught, and once Faramir had regained his breath and calmed somewhat, he slipped it under his lips, tipping it up gently. Faramir drank without resistance, and then dropped his head onto the broad shoulder, too spent to move, his breath coming in uneven gasps.
They sat there until the draught took effect and Faramir’s breathing evened out. Aragorn helped Boromir carry the younger man to his bed. They divested him of the long, heavy robe, and his pants, and put a thin sleeping robe on, before sitting by his side, both reluctant to leave the younger man alone.
“He seemed to like what he was doing, so I am afraid I neglected to look deeper” Boromir said heavily, “I should have noticed, but he has always been quiet and he had become far too adept at hiding what he feels or thinks.”
He ran a hand through Faramir’s hair.
“He has been alone too long, and is unused to speaking to others of his cares, I fear,” Aragorn said, “And perhaps too accustomed to being thought less of.”
“We were close when younger, but as the years grew, so did our duties and I fear I forgot that I need to read him, and that he does not always speak of what he needs to. Our father was generous in finding fault but not in giving praise, especially where Faramir was concerned. My brother is used to doing his duties but he has never expected to be acknowledged for that. I should have realised that he would not know how much he is valued by you or I or anyone else.”
“It is not you alone who should have seen that. He has been lost to his own thoughts too long,” Aragorn said quietly, “I should have realised that too. He was working too hard, hoping I suppose to immerse himself in his duties so much that he would not need to think of what has passed. But you have both suffered greatly, and matters such as these are not easy to lay to rest.”
It was light outside when Faramir woke, from a quiet dreamless sleep. He felt a little tired but a lot lighter than he usually did on waking up. He was in Elessar’s arms, he realised. The king was holding him close, and running his fingers through his hair as he sang softly. It was a song, he knew, an old one and he found himself humming alongside as he stirred.
“You’re awake,” Aragorn said quietly.
He nodded, and made to rise, surprised at how heavy his limbs felt. Hew looked around the room, and realised he was in Boromir’s chambers. Broken memories of the previous night filtered through his sleep clouded mind and he sat up suddenly, pulling out of the king’s arms, his face flooding with colour as he recollected how he had broken down and wept. His breath hitched sharply and he turned away from the king, shame and embarrassment warring inside him.
“You wish you hadn’t spoken to us,” Aragorn said softly from behind him.
“Yet I am glad you did for in our haste to run this kingdom, we forgot that there are still scars that are not visible to all.”
“I should not have burdened you—”
“It was no burden. You were hurt not just in body, but in mind, and we forgot that the mind takes awhile to heal. We forget too that the mind needs healing. Forgive me, I should have realised earlier.”
Faramir flushed and shook his head, still embarrassed.
“You are always kind to me,” he said unhappily, “Even when I am remiss in my duties.”
Aragorn sighed, “I am very fond of you Faramir. But it is not just out of fondness that I reassure you that rarely have you ever been remiss in your duties. And even if you have, it has never been out of intent. Your duties were new to you as were mine to me, and were there any errors, it would have been out of ignorance, and we would have learnt from those. It is all right to make an error. I would have cause to worry should the error be repeated, but you never do that. You are so hard on yourself always!”
He pulled Faramir into his arms very gently much to the younger man’s surpriseand dropped a kiss on his forehead.
“Boromir has gone to the kitchens to ask for some food for you. Stay here and rest awhile. We can talk. I have some new books from Elrond.”
Faramir found himself acquiescing, still in a daze. The king’s hold was comforting and he found himself craving it. Boromir came in with food in a while, hot soup and breads and fruit, and Faramir ate hungrily as the three men talked the two older men reassuring him at length that his duties were in now manner undone. He still had his doubts but he felt far lighter now, the burden of his insecurities lessened somewhat.
“I would be glad to go to Ithilien and help restore it for you,” the younger man said softly, his voice hoarse yet full of hope.
He was sitting with Aragorn in his study the next day, and after their work was over, the king asked quietly, “You thought yesterday that I wished to take the Stewardship away from you?”
“I thought you do not really need a Steward anymore,” Faramir replied softly.
“I would still need you,” Aragorn said, and clasped his shoulder gently, “I spoke truly when I said I was very fond of you.”
Faramir looked up into the grey eyes that had drawn him out of the darkness he had once thought himself lost to, “I have always loved you,” he said simply.
“I am very glad to hear that,” Aragorn said, and pulled the younger man closer, “I must admit I was a little loath to send you to Ithilien. I would have you return here every few days, at least. Would you, dearest?”
“I would,” Faramir said firmly and raising himself kissed the king lightly on his lips.
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