23 September 2012 | 3187 words
Title: The Long Road
Pairings: Aragorn/Arwen, implied Faramir/Aragorn
Warnings: Mild slash, angst, death-themes, major character death.
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me. All written in good fun with no offence intended!
Author’s Note (which will probably be longer than the story…): This story came out of nowhere and I wrote it in a few hours a few days ago. It’s something a little different from what I usually write, and I hope I don’t disappoint too many people with it. I had to sit on it for a few days, and then come back to make edits and corrections, both because I loved it so much when I first wrote it and wanted to distance myself from it and then make is as good as I possibly could, and because it somehow became very dear to me within such a short time, and I wasn’t ready to let it go just yet.
I kind of realise Faramir isn’t really the central character in this as such, I do hope it’s still appropriate to be archived here.
The next story will be of a much lighter note, I promise! Also, all errors (of which there are probably a lot) in the piece relating to dates, time periods, ages (working out Faramir’s somehow became needlessly complicated due to my inability to add up), locations (even though this doesn’t come into it nevertheless all this time I was sure Emyn Arnen lay north of Minas Tirith…seriously), lore etc., are my own.
I’ve no idea if marble is easy to chisel; let us say that the result was passable, if not neat.
Spoiler Warning: The ending of the story has been heavily influenced (read: pretty much directly cribbed) from the ending to the book The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. If you’ve not read the book, and plan to, then I’d advise steering clear of my story! If you’re not bothered, then by all means, go ahead (but I highly recommend that you do read the book; it made me cry, and it’s a quite perfectly beautiful love story between two young men of myth.) The similarities in my story to that of Ms. Miller’s are meant only in (poor) homage, and because the idea itself broke my heart and mended it all at once.
It is said that the ghosts of past kings still walk the ruined hallways of the citadel. It is said, that on a moonless night, if one steals away to the houses of the dead one may see a glimpse of a lone figure, wreathed in shifting silver, sitting on the edge of a particular tomb, waiting. But these are only stories, and no-one has ever proved these tales true.
There is an oddity, however, that lends credence to the notion. The kings and their stewards had their own separate mausoleums; the royal one, grander of course, high-arched and echoing, swept clean of dust, and, in the latter days, of debris and leaf litter as the city fell further into disrepair. The steward’s houses, however, were smaller, mostly forgotten, and the doors were locked, though there were ways to get in if one was relatively agile. But this peculiarity does not concern what lay beyond that padlocked gate; rather, it concerns what did not lie there.
The reign of Aragorn II, named Elessar Telcontar, was long and bountiful, the city of men had never been so grand as it was during his rule; fountains glittered in the squares, mithril gates shone in the sun, opening onto many gardens and countless tree-lined walkways. He sat athrone for well over one hundred years, and for much of that time his steward, chief counsellor and close companion was Faramir I, grandson of the great steward Ecthelion II for whom the White Tower itself is named. Though both men had the blood of Númenor in their veins, Aragorn’s was of the purer lineage, and so he outlived Faramir by almost forty years, and what became of Faramir, once he passed from the world of the living, few now can know for certain.
One would assume, and the old records show, that he would have been buried with all solemn pomp and ceremony in the steward’s crypt, but within those decaying walls no tomb lies inscribed with his name. He lived most of his life in an estate in the hills of Emyn Arnen, but no grave there has ever been found, and so it was generally thought, when anyone cared to look into it, that Faramir’s last resting place was simply unmarked, a final wish granted for reasons never to be known to men.
It is to be assumed Aragorn knew, but when this first became a curiosity, the king was no longer living, and his son, Eldarion I, spoke nought of his father to any common folk. Now he is dead, and his children too, and Faramir left no heirs that anyone knows of.
Why any of this is of any note is due to the mystery of Aragorn’s tomb. He is interred in a great marble sarcophagus in the royal ossuary, his likeness in the milky stone carved atop it, asleep only, not dead. At his feet, on the edge of the coffin, are carved the words:
SON OF ARATHORN II AND GILRAEN
HEIR OF ISILDUR
HIGH KING OF THE REUNITED KINGDOM OF MEN
HERALD OF THE FOURTH AGE
Below that, there is verse and more carvings, but they are of little resonance with someone no man now living remembers beholding with their own eyes. No man knows his voice, or his laugh. And certainly no man remembers Faramir‘s.
Beside Aragorn’s tomb, there is another. His queen, the lady Arwen Undomiel, does not rest here. She did not die when her husband chose to pass on, and she watched her son come to rule and go grey and give up his last breath also. Her descendants still number among the people of Gondor, such as they are, but with blood so diluted with the long passage of time it is now impossible to identify any for certain. Some say she lives yet, and wanders the long roads of the earth alone, garbed in black silks, keeping her own council and looking ever westwards. They say she may be the last of the eldar, and there is indeed no ship that will bear her to her kin, not now. This casket, wrought too of marble, lies where a queen’s would beside her husband, but on the lid there is sculpted no image of the occupant; in fact, it is as flat and plain as it was when first chiselled. At the foot, on the sides, there is no inscription, no name, no date, nothing. And yet, it is certain that the coffin is occupied; the lid is sealed shut quite perfectly. Who then, lies dreaming the life of the earth away beside this once great king?
There is a very old scroll in the city records that tells the beginning of a strange story. It is no more than half a paragraph in an otherwise non-eventful detailing of the rule of Aragorn II; it is poorly scribed and even more badly phrased, and hard to read in places, no doubt some scholar‘s practise sheet. Here, after describing the momentous celebration that was his coronation, and his wedding to the lady Arwen, it goes on to mention, for the first and only time by name, the steward Faramir:
And it was Faramir I, son of Denethor II, that was granted his familial patrimony in the bestowing of the title steward of Gondor, and it was he also that was granted lands in Ithilien and also the wardenship of that land as a princedom. And as steward he aided the king Elessar as was his duty, and in the serving of that duty there was a great friendship that existed between the two men, and it was well known that Faramir was favoured above most.
Though now no-one cares to gossip about centuries-dead folk, at the time of Faramir’s death, a rumour percolated through the city, harmless enough, but one that carried connotations that weighted themselves upon the shoulders of the king forever after; it was to be said that he was never quite the same after his companion passed away, and in the days immediately after Faramir’s death, it was said that Aragorn was inconsolable with not even his wife and queen able to comfort him.
The scroll does not mention Faramir’s death, but one can assume it is what has happened when one reads such lines as:
At this time council was suspended for many weeks, and the king Elessar progressed to the verdancy of Emyn Arnen, where he remained for this period alone.
The rumour, of course, was that he and Faramir were lovers. And no-one now knows the truth, nor cares, save one.
I did not die when my husband chose to pass on. I watched our son come to rule, and grow grey and give up his last breath also. I have walked all the roads of this earth alone, and I no longer look westwards, for I know it will never be my destiny to arrive there. I return, on occasion, to the city where no-one knows me for I miss my husband even after all these lifetimes of men. I go to our rooms, now disused. I walk through the gardens, ivy-encrusted, untended. I dig through the library and find old accounts of our lives. I wipe my palm over dusty portraits long hidden in storerooms. I go to the crypt, and I see a silver ghost, waiting.
It’s him, my husband, my Aragorn, but he doesn’t see me. Even when I overcame my disbelief and unaccountable fear and stepped out of the shadows, when I lowered my cowl, his white eyes saw through me as if I were the apparition. He sits on the edge of the unmarked tomb, and waits away the decades.
It took me a long time to figure it out, all of it. You see, I know where Faramir lies. I know what went on in my husband’s mind when he looked upon him. I know why the ghost of Aragorn still haunts this place. And I hold the answer to it all, but I am afraid. I am afraid of losing him again, my Aragorn. So I make him wait, and I will wait until he has forgotten who he lingers for, and departs this realm at last.
I asked him only once, in a fit of anger, and he lashed out so bitterly at me that I have never heard the like from him before or since. It was three days after Faramir had been found cold in his bed at the age of one hundred and twenty; a good age for men, but not long enough. They were three days during which Aragorn could not be drawn from his bedside, could not be persuaded to pass food nor drink between his lips, nor shift his gaze from the place the man he called closest companion had drawn his last breath. Faramir had been staying in the citadel for a time, upon my husband’s request, and I think Aragorn forever after regretted pulling him from the woodlands he loved so much, especially in his later years.
I was much saddened by Faramir’s death. Nothing may be left of him in earthly records, in scribings or portraits or statues, but I remember him well, and loved him as my friend also. I used to think with a smile, that he and Aragorn were cut from much the same cloth; they were similar in ways my husband and I could never be, separated as we were naturally by gender and by the faint boundaries that will always exist between men and elfkind. Faramir was a good man, tall, handsome in his gentle way; his hair was a wreath of auburn curls that no painting or likeness was ever commissioned to reproduce. He was a lover of knowledge and learning, in possession of a sharp wit which he wielded like a blade fresh from the whetstone when least expected, for on the whole he was a quiet man with a thoughtful demeanour, mistaken often for shyness. He listened, and spoke well when necessary. And above all, he was kind-hearted to a fault. I was grieved by the loss of him, and it pains me now a little to know that he fell so quickly into oblivion, into the mists of the past, forgotten, named only in gossip for something that, in the end, was harmless.
But I spoke to Aragorn in anger. They had taken the body away to be prepared, but even then my husband sat his vigil, eyes like two stones, cheeks scarred by twin trails of saltwater. I entreated him to eat, to drink, to bathe, but he would not. And my temper rose, fuelled by grief I suppose, but I was frustrated at him; I knew he loved Faramir well but it did no good to sit there and rot also. I said that to him, though I had sense enough to phrase it more delicately. He ignored me. And then, I asked him, with words quick and jagged, “Was he your lover?”
I had long suspected, and perhaps it was my own fault for not acting, but there was never real proof, and Aragorn came sweetly enough to our bed every night, and I liked Faramir. The ways of men are yet strange to me, even after all these millennia; a close friendship, closer than most, but friendship all the same. But still, I suspected.
My husband looked at me, then, with so terrible a light in his eyes that I still wish to this very day I had not spoken. He stood and he said in a voice that was the thunder of a winter storm; “Yonder man lies not cold in his grave and you dare ask me such a thing? As my wife I would expect compassion.” And then the cold fury in his gaze melted away completely, his eyes filling with tears again as his expression crumpled and I was compelled to go to him; he fell into my arms completely, limp and helpless, crying like a child who sees spectres in the night. “No,” he said, though I could barely make out the words. “We were not lovers. And now…” He was shaking, and we sank as one to the floor and I held him upon my lap and against my breast. “…and now it’s too late. I’ll never-…I wish-…I wish…” His words diminished, and then he said something so quietly that I could not hear it, and ever after that I alluded not to that moment, and neither did he ever make mention of that confession in all the years leading up to his own death.
So I can tell you that the rumours were just that; silly stories spread by idle tongues left wanting for scandal. But I alone know now that had it been my husband’s choice those stories would be far more than gossip. I kept that knowledge to myself forever after where it burned within me, and I grew to resent him a little, that he would so secretly harbour such feeling for his friend. Had he not a wife, a son, daughters? Had he not enough, without such curious longing?
He was never quite the same, after that. He was my husband, he was Aragorn, the king Elessar, he loved me and he loved his children, but I would catch him sometimes when he was unaware, staring off at nothing, lost in thought, and I knew in those moments what he was thinking about, and it did not sit well within me until the day he died.
I have always thought, horribly, that he chose to hand over his life and breath because for too long it had been a world without Faramir, and now, he might partake of man’s gift and be with him wherever men do go when they die.
But wherever that is, Faramir was not. My husband’s ghost sits on the edge of the unmarked tomb, and he has waited forty years, one hundred, two, three, four; as I have.
Perhaps it is time to let them go.
My husband looks right through me as I step from the shadows. I let fall my cowl, and all I can think about is how stale the air is here, how the dust scrapes beneath my feet. Aragorn is waiting; his hair is white, his eyes twin orbs of moon’s-glow. His lips are moving, he sings to himself but I can hear nothing of the melody. I would give my last breath to hear his voice again but is not for elves to play with mortality. Soft mists of ethereal transparency drape themselves around him, shifting and billowing with unfelt breezes. I grow cold as I approach him, as cold as death.
I kneel. In my hands are hammer and chisel, long abandoned by the stonemasons who once made this hall so great. It takes a long time, for I am unskilled, untested. It takes far longer than I thought, and the sun threatens to dissipate the form of my husband who sits so patiently above me. One more stroke. I blow upon the stone, scattering marble-motes. There, my technique is poor but it is legible.
F A R A M I R
It will be dawn soon, and so I let my tools fall to the ground and make to depart. I look my husband one last time in the face, and he seems so tired, if a ghost can be weary. He has stopped singing now. I leave then, stepping quickly to the doorway, but I cannot stop myself from looking back, peering around the pillar, unseen, unheard.
They are of a height, the same as when they both drew breath, and the ghost-mist that encircles each of them encircles them both also, flowing through them, binding them together. It is so hard to see their faces. They embrace softly, gently, and before the imminent dawn light burns them into nothingness the new figure glances up at me; yes, he sees me!, and I am too startled to duck away. I know that face, I know him. He reaches out a hand to me; kind-hearted to a fault.
Be well, I say to them in silence, be well and go where thou will. The hand lowers, I cannot go with them. And then, they are gone, the golden morning dissipating their forms even as their faces turn to one another; it would seem that Faramir indeed looked upon my husband with equal attachment. I raise my cowl as the sun rises. I will walk the streets of this city where no-one knows me, and I will wander the long roads of this earth alone, and keep my own council.
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Thank the author
The following people read the story, enjoyed it, and would like to thank the author: Nerey Camille