This story is rated «NC-17», and carries the warnings «Sex, polyamory, angst, politics, economics. Lots of economics! It's long - over 30,000 words.».
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08 June 2007 | 33215 words
Title: The Prince of Ithilien
Pairings: Faramir/Éowyn, Faramir/Aragorn
Warnings: Sex, polyamory, angst, politics, economics. Lots of economics!
Word count: 30,000+
Disclaimer: this is a work of fanfiction
Summary: A story in the plot arc begun in The Song of the Steward and the King. Third year of the fourth era: Faramir is struggling to balance his roles as Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien. Political demands of the present and ghosts from the past come into conflict with the desires of Faramir’s heart. Major roles for Aragorn, Éowyn, Arwen, Legolas, and Imrahil, with very cute guest appearances by Elboron and Eldarion.
And all that was in the Theme they have, for their own good, the right to use – rightly, without pride or wantonness, but with reverence. If the smallest child of a woodman feels the cold of winter, the proudest tree is not wronged, if it is bidden to surrender its flesh to warm the child with fire. – The Peoples of Middle Earth, p. 413
Legolas…also brought south Elves out of Greenwood, and they dwelt in Ithilien, and it became once again the fairest country in all the westlands. – ROTK, p. 399
The Prince’s Helm
March 19, year 3 of the Fourth Age
A man named Anmuin sat before Faramir in his office, calling himself the Lord of Laegtalad in North Ithilien, and Faramir supposed he had that right. His great-grandfathers had held lands north of Cair Andros off an on for the last few troubled centuries, though more recently his family had been reasonably content managing farmlands in exile in Anorien. Now he presented himself to Faramir as the representative of a collection of restored towns and villages that were, as yet, little more than way stations for foresters on their way in or out of the hills.
“Prince Faramir,” he said, his eyes earnest and determined, “lumber is what North Ithilien has, and lumber is much in demand both in Rohan and to the South. Minas Tirith hobbles us in restoring prosperity to Ithilien with its restrictions on trade, and it baffles me why the King will not let us harvest enough wood to meet the needs of our own people. Does he not want Ithilien to flourish again?”
“Hardly, Lord Anmuin,” Faramir answered and paused, waiting to see what the next question would be. He was fairly sure this was not the question the man had come here to ask.
Anmuin flashed Faramir a slightly resentful look. “Well, if we are to flourish, let us fell the trees and hew the wood.” He gave Faramir a long look and finally said, “Will you not help Ithilien seek prosperity?”
“Am I not doing so now? What more would you have me do?” Faramir asked mildly.
“Stand up for your charge,” Anmuin said, with an edge to his voice. “The King is too much like an Elf to see that these forests are anything more than a temple to the glory of nature. What we need is felled timber, productively used, not pleasure gardens!”
Faramir nodded, offering Anmuin the chance to continue, though he objected to the man’s words. He was always eager to hear more about “the Elf problem,” as it was coming to be known on the wagging tongues of Ithilien. It was a problem that Faramir charged himself with solving.
Anmuin leaned forward, placing his forearms on the edge of the desk. “If we were free to trade directly with the South, instead of accounting for every twig and branch to Minas Tirith, and expand the local production of forest products for sale…”
“Freely trading timber is out of the question for now,” Faramir interrupted him. “Given the smuggling problem we had last year, your request cannot be in earnest. It is precisely the trade of raw lumber to the South that we want to restrict.”
“It is our power that he means to restrict! Why do you permit it?” Anmuin burst out, throwing his hands up in the air. “Your father would never have been content to simply be…” he caught himself and his lip twitched.
Faramir stared coldly and Anmuin paled. Faramir was not as upset by this man’s words as he was concerned that a petty lord would so readily speak to him this way. Anmuin was little more than a greedy man with pride and ambition that did not match the reality of his station and Faramir was tempted to retort harshly, but that he had heard echoes of such words from others. Perhaps, Faramir thought, it was time to think seriously about these accusations, and to decide how to counteract them before any real damage was done to his authority.
“My Lord, I’m sorry I let my tongue escape me, but…”
“Lord Anmuin, you are most correct about my duties to Ithilien. I will formulate a proposal to ease the burden on our people and I will speak to the King before next week’s Great Council.”
Anmuin looked surprised. “Well, thank you, my Lord. I will look forward to hearing what the King has to say.”
Faramir nodded and rose, gesturing toward the door. “Please summon representatives from the towns and from the other houses of North Ithilien to come here in three week’s time and we will discuss what is to be done.”
Anmuin looked a little flustered and displeased that he was being displaced from his role as arbiter, but smiled politely. “Ah, it may be difficult to arrange for all the lords to be present, but I will try to do as you ask, Prince Faramir.”
Faramir regarded him closely. He is hiding something, Faramir thought. Perhaps there are factions among the lords that he wishes to exclude?
After Anmuin left, Faramir put his feet up on the desk and leaned the chair onto its back legs. Am I content to take orders from Minas Tirith, as Anmuin suspects? he mused. Am I, as the rumors suggest, little more than the lapdog of the King? He smiled grimly at that thought, because he was favored by the King and everyone knew it, though very few even suspected the extent of their mutual affection. I am more than the King’s beloved, he thought, more than a pet or a puppet, certainly, but perhaps I do not yet really know what more I am. I spoke of we – the King and I – restricting trade and Anmuin spoke of our – his and my – power, he mused. Where do my interests lie?
He stood up to pace around the sunny room, growing increasingly agitated as he searched for an answer to this question. Éowyn entered and watched him for a moment, leaning against the doorframe for support, for she was very pregnant.
“You are pacing, and that means your discussion did not go well,” she said. “Would you like to speak with me about what is troubling you?”
Faramir smiled and walked over to her, kissing her quickly on the brow and then on the belly. “Excellent idea. You may help me see this problem more clearly and as Warden of the Land, I will need your approval for its solution, in any case. Have you a few minutes?”
She nodded. “I am to receive the herbalist for my lesson shortly, so I hope your thoughts are not tangled in too big a knot.”
Faramir sighed. “Alas, this is a rather large knot, but I would welcome your help untangling it.”
She moved to a sunny window seat and folded her hands in her lap. “Where do you want to begin?”
He summarized the conversation he had with Anmuin and explained that he was having trouble sorting out where the interests of Gondor departed from the interests of Ithilien. “The duties of stewardship are familiar to me and I would like to think I perform them adequately. But there are those in Ithilien who think little of my performance as Prince. I need to reduce the friction between myself and the hereditary lords of Ithilien, but the course of action is not clear to me.”
“Most of these towns are managing themselves now,” Éowyn stated. “The lands are held in trust under your name and most of the towns are governing themselves through elders the people themselves have chosen. Why should it be in either your interest or in the interest of the towns to capitulate to the petty nobility?” she asked.
“It is true that the nobles have little power other than their family name, which may or may not be remembered by the townsfolk. However, it does strengthen their claim that the archives have documented their rights as descendents of deed-holders in Ithilien. So far the King has not suggested, nor have I considered, contesting their claims, and so they have returned.”
Éowyn held up a finger. “So, there’s one possible course of action. Contest their claims.”
Faramir continued to pace in front of her. “Ah, but here are the problems with divesting the lords of their land. First, it is not customary and would be legally complicated, and second, it is unjust to the lords of Ithilien to apply one rule to them and another, far more advantageous rule, to all the other fiefdoms.”
“Indeed,” Éowyn concurred.
“Furthermore, there is some good to be gained from allowing these families to grow their meager coffers and rebuild their power over those they seek to make dependent on them.”
“What honor is there in that?” Éowyn asked, genuinely surprised. “Where is the good in bringing these hardy townsfolk and foresters back under the thumb of their hereditary lords?”
Faramir rubbed his hand across the stubble on his face and thought about how best to argue in favor of Gondor’s economic and political foundations. He could see how Éowyn might find their traditions restrictive and unfair compared to those she was raised with, but Faramir believed in it more than just for reasons of tradition. He thought of an answer he knew would convince Éowyn. “Imagine a terrible storm came and ruined the town. Or an illness decimated the population. Without wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, who is going to act to alleviate the suffering? In such situations, it is only natural to think of one’s own family first, but the role of the noble is to prepare for such events and act in the interest of the greater good when dire need arrives.”
“If their lords are restored, the people will suffer a loss of independence,” Éowyn said thoughtfully, “but if they don’t make that sacrifice, they would sooner or later suffer displacement, loss of livelihood, and hunger.”
“Exactly. But right now, the nobility themselves are in this situation of privation. They need to be far enough above subsistence themselves if they are to see to the wellbeing of others.”
“So they seek to increase their wealth at a faster rate than others, but the King’s laws are preventing them from doing so.”
Faramir nodded. “We must help the nobility to grow their power in a limited way, one that does not endanger the strategic interests of Gondor as a whole.”
“We?” she asked. “Oh, you mean…” Éowyn glanced out the window toward Minas Tirith.
He turned away and began to pace again. We. It struck him that he saw this as a joint decision of himself and the King, and assumed that Aragorn would agree to whatever he proposed. Indeed, he thought, sometimes it is difficult to remember that we do not share a single mind or a single heart. All the strength he had in him seemed tied in some way to the King, not least of all to the way the bond they shared fortified them both. A vivid memory of the hunger and ecstasy of the last night he had spent with Aragorn a few weeks before intruded into his thoughts and filled him with both longing and dismay.
He stood before Éowyn and the open window and gazed out toward the City. “Am I losing myself?” he asked out loud.
Éowyn took his hand and pressed it to her warm cheek. “Are you?” Her eyes were concerned.
A chill passed through Faramir’s veins and he saw the truth of it. Slowly, he nodded. “Being Steward is simple because I know what is expected of me and because he and I can answer as one for the needs of Gondor.” He laughed wryly. “And it is so easy! A word from either of us and things just seem to fall into place. But when I answer for the needs of Ithilien, I need to speak as Prince, not as Steward. I have yet to learn how wield my strength without him.”
“Or against him,” Éowyn said softly. “Is that even possible? Could you resist him if he opposed an action that you knew would be best for Ithilien?”
“Would that it were not necessary!” Faramir exclaimed in dismay. “Surely the interests of Gondor largely coincide with those of Ithilien?” Faramir looked to Éowyn for hope but her blue eyes were clouded with doubt.
“You need to discover the needs of your people before you can make that judgment,” she chided him gently. “‘It is not just the lords who are unhappy with the restrictions on how they use the land. In nearly every town, orchard and vineyard I visit, people ask me what you will do with the unclaimed and despoiled lands, and if you really intend to make good on the King’s promise to let the Elves ‘take over Ithilien,’ as they say. The Elf problem may put you to the test as Prince.”
Faramir looked again out the window. On the road, workers of the estate came and went: a donkey pulled a cart filled with bags of flour up the long hill, its master walking beside it; two older women dressed in clothes too warm for the weather stood talking by the gate, occasionally addressing their talk to the guard, probably the son of one of them; two boys and a little girl chased each other around the kitchens and storehouses, but Faramir couldn’t recall who their parents were.
He closed his eyes and pictured these good people multiplied and living all over Ithilien. “You are right, of course. These people have lived difficult lives. They lost their land to Mordor and had to survive on the charity of relations across the Anduin or, if they were highly placed enough, they scraped together a living on poor land granted them by the Steward or by lords of other parts of Gondor. They are worth consideration on top of the greater good of Gondor.”
Éowyn smiled at him but her eyes were still troubled. “A head can wear but one helm at a time, husband. Do you think the Prince’s helm ill-fitting?”
Faramir’s brow furrowed and he stared out the window again. “Perhaps.”
Éowyn squeezed his hand and rose. “I will think on this. Let us discuss it later.”
Faramir nodded absently, continuing to gaze across the hills to Mindolluin and the White City. He missed Aragorn keenly, and he wished he did not.
“Faramir,” Éowyn interrupted his thoughts. “You will find your way. All things are within your grasp.”
Faramir gazed at his lovely wife and smiled softly in acknowledgement that his strength came from her, too. “Thank you,” he said, kissing her goodbye.
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