Home » Fiction


This story is rated «R», and carries the warnings «AUs, Violence, Dubious consent, gratuitous use of minor character, weirditity.».
Since you have switched on the adult content filter, this story is hidden. To read this story, you have to switch off the adult content filter. [what's this?]

Remember that whether you have the adult content filter switched on or off, this is always an adults only site.

The Ring (R) Print

Written by Bell Witch

20 June 2009 | 14393 words

Title: The Ring
Author: Bell Witch
Rating/Warnings: R. AUs, Violence, Dubious consent, gratuitous use of minor character, weirditity.
Word Count: 14,385
Disclaimer: None of these people are mine and I’m getting nothing tangible out of it.
Written May-June 2009. Beta by Balrog.

For the 2009 Midsummer Swap.

Request by Helmboy: (Something long and convoluted.) Something perhaps between dimensions or times.

It was time to go through his father’s personal things; long past due, really. Faramir had let the task sit while he was busy with duties that needed to be done in a more timely fashion. Learning how to be steward even as Aragorn learned how to be king, beginning his office as prince of Ithilien, and even more importantly—some might say—learning how to be a husband to Lady Éowyn of Rohan, also known as Dernhelm and Wraithbane. Faramir smiled as he walked down the hall—talk about daunting!

They were learning together, the king and queen as well as the steward-prince and his lady. It was a new world with a new way, different from what the entire kingdom had known. Right now, Faramir needed to concern himself with this one small part of it.

He had not often been in his father’s private rooms, and only twice that he could remember did he stand in front of his personal desk. Once was when he was told he would be joining the Tower Guard when he was eight: the position was supposed to teach him responsibility. The second time was on his sixteenth birthday when he was ordered to join the rangers. He stood a moment, remembering, before going around to sit in the chair so he could begin to go through years of Lord Denethor’s personal correspondence.

The letters were stacked neatly. Some very old ones from his sisters, dead years past. There were a surprising number from Prince Imrahil, who had continued to write after the death of his own sister and simply never stopped despite the lack of any reciprocation on Denethor’s part. There were several letters from Boromir, which Faramir could not bear to read now though he put them aside for later knowing that Boromir wouldn’t mind if he read them. All other correspondences would be burned unread.

Denethor’s personal seal, wax, pens, and an ink bottle that had been a gift from Imrahil were in one side drawer. The last was a surprise and Faramir had to wonder if his uncle knew that Denethor had used his present. How long ago had it been given? Faramir could not remember. Perhaps it was in use only because the last ink bottle had broken, but it was unexpected that his father would be sentimental enough to have kept the gift in the first place.

Parchment and other items he found, as expected, and all in good order. It was not until reaching the lowest drawer on the right-hand side of the desk that Faramir found any clutter. It seemed all of that had found its way here, as the drawer was nearly filled with a jumble of objects. There were no papers to catch a date from, at least none that Faramir could see, though there was a good deal of dust scattered about.

On the top of this was a pair of fine silver candlesticks, extremely tarnished, that bore the traces of a blue-dyed wax still in them. Blue? They had last been used during his mother’s funeral, though Faramir had no way of knowing it. There were several bundles of cloth and leather that revealed themselves to be ladies’ gloves, including riding gloves. Halfway down there was a knotted handkerchief that contained a small object. The knot was difficult to undo and Faramir was careful not to damage the fabric—the embroidery revealed that it had been his mother’s. Finally the little packet came open and the contents carefully observed.

It was a ring; obviously a man’s ring due to the size and design but far more delicately made than most men’s rings—certainly more so than the Ring of the Stewards or his father’s personal signet. It was familiar, this promising bit of gold. Faramir recalled seeing his father wear it sometimes years ago, it being memorable because it was so finely wrought. He remembered that Denethor had worn it often since Boromir had left on his quest but never after the news of his death, when it had obviously been shoved deep into the drawer. What did it mean?

Faramir picked up the ring and traced the design with a finger calloused from using both bow and pen. He felt himself too crude to hold such an elegant thing and went to put it down and continue his survey of the desk but the light caught the gold and made it shine like the sun. His mother had given it to his father as a gift. He didn’t remember it, but he was sure; he simply knew it. No wonder it had been kept so well—and no wonder it had been hidden away. Likely it was a gift given near the time Boromir was born. It held memories of those Faramir had loved in it, perhaps. With great reverence, he picked it up and put it on.

Éowyn found him lying on the floor in front of the desk some hours later. Faramir had not returned to their rooms to prepare for dinner, which was unlike him. She had no qualms about looking at his schedule, and figured out where he was and what he was doing.

“Faramir!” she ran to her husband, called him and touched his shoulder, but he would not wake. Within minutes, the guards she called were there and the king was on his way.

They found no trace of injury, save a bruise from falling onto the floor, and there were no obvious signs of illness. Faramir was carried carefully back to his rooms, changed into a night robe and put into bed, all without him stirring.

“If he does not wake by morning, I will wish to have a healer see him.” It was just a fact that Éowyn informed the king of. He understood.

“The head of the Houses, Éowyn. My personal word.” Aragorn’s eyes met Éowyn’s light blue ones and held them for a moment. More than the word of the king, but the word of the man and the friend, he promised.

Faramir woke in his bed with a slight headache and an immense desire to know how he’d come to be there. Hadn’t he just been…? He’d just been… He was…

Where was Éowyn, anyway? He rose and dressed, having had to go to a second clothes press because his first one had been full of his wife’s things. That must have happened recently—since yesterday—or had he forgotten that too?

Food would help and it felt about mid-day. That would explain why Éowyn was not with him, but raised far more questions. Why had he been asleep in the middle of the day? He should have been wakened had the dawn not done its work. Certainly the king would have something to say about his steward’s absence for the morning meetings.

The presence of several Rohirrim in the halls made Faramir wonder even more.

“Why was I not told that the king of Rohan would be here?” he wondered as he saw a man he knew to be one of Éomer’s personal guard. “Or am I mistaken?”

He was not. When he arrived at the merethrond, obviously late for daymeal, he discovered that his place at Aragorn’s left hand was the only empty one. Éomer King was next to his sister while a small delegation of Rohirrim was also at the table. He crossed the open hall as swiftly as he could to take his chair.

“My pardon. I have no excuse.” Most at the table smiled back, even if his brother-in-law’s expression did seem a bit odd.

“As long as you are here now, husband,” Éowyn said with a smile as she leaned over to kiss his cheek. The gesture was unexpected in public yet most welcome.

“I did give you leave this morning while Éomer King and I discussed some particular details on the purchase of horses. It’s a pleasant surprise that you weren’t there.” Aragorn smiled widely and Arwen laughed aloud at the wording, which sounded quite rude but was in truth teasing. All present knew of Faramir’s dedication to duty. “You’ll be trapped with me for the afternoon council meeting, if it makes you feel better.”

“And you’re mine this evening, brother-in-law,” Éomer said with another odd smile. Such good humour must just seem strange having seen the man look stern for so long.

“As long as my day is planned for me, then,” Faramir joked, “would someone consider passing me some food to get me through it?”

The response was an overwhelming number of plates and dishes presented at the same time, accompanied by laughter all around.

“Ahhhh,” Éomer breathed a note of comfort as he slumped down into his chair in a singularly un-regal fashion. Faramir couldn’t help but smile to see his usually stern, stiff brother-in-law so relaxed. Supper was over and they were in Éomer’s rooms, a meeting that Faramir could not remember making. Then again, he’d felt somewhat lost at the council meeting as well. He must have read the wrong papers in preparation, which was as unlike him as that grin was unlike Éomer—practically disturbing, in fact.

“I think I know what you mean,” Faramir said, taking a seat in a far more dignified fashion.

“Well, I know how to get rid of this tension.”

Faramir snorted. “I’d appreciate it if you shared your knowledge with me. It has been the strangest day and I could stand to relax.”

Éomer’s look made Faramir wonder what it was he was missing.


“Faramir,” Éomer said.

“What?” repeated Faramir.

The Rohir made a noise not unlike his horse and unfolded himself from the chair. Crossing the room, he sat next to Faramir; more closely than he needed to, especially for a couch that size. When Faramir tried to inch away, Éomer held his arm.

“Where are you going?”

“Well, you are a bit close, do you not think?” Faramir definitely did not like that look. Éomer must be having an odd day as well because this was not the self-possessed man he knew Rohan’s king to be. He looked wild, a bit mad, and hungry. “Perhaps it’s me. I’m not feeling terribly well and perhaps I should go back to…”

Éomer pulled him closer, with no time to protest before he brought his mouth down on Faramir’s. He registered the heat of the kiss and the feel of beard before shoving himself backward and away.

“I’m going back to my rooms now.” But before he could move to rise from the couch Éomer was on him and there was nowhere to retreat. “Éomer, I do not know what you think you are doing, but stop it right now!”

Despite the clenched teeth, Faramir’s statement was perfectly clear. Éomer only smiled.

“I didn’t know you wanted to play.” A large hand cupped Faramir’s cheek and fingers trailed down his masculine jaw, causing a less-than-manly flinch. “No matter, we end up relaxed in the end.”

He could not avoid the second kiss, no more desired than the first. Trying to push the heavy, warm body off of him merely resulted in having his wrists taken and held even as his mouth was taken. It was too hot, too hard, and completely unwanted. It was not like Éowyn’s kiss. Éowyn—her brother was doing this! The thought nearly made him ill and Faramir bucked up wildly in his desperation to escape. The result was a deep groan in Éomer’s throat and the feeling of his tongue trying to enter Faramir’s mouth, which he pressed tightly closed. He waited until Éomer needed to breathe before wrenching his right arm free and rabbit-punching his brother-in-law in the face. King of Rohan be cursed—he was not acting like a king at all.

“Ouch, Faramir, that was a little too much,” Éomer griped, putting one hand to his nose. No, not bleeding.

“Get off of me!” He had the leverage now, and twisted, dumping the larger man to the floor. “This stops at once: I am leaving and we can forget this ever happened.”

Faramir rose carefully from the couch, avoiding stepping on Éomer while watching him closely.

“Faramir?” Éomer asked plaintively.


The grin returned and Éomer surged up from the floor, bolted forward, and threw Faramir over his shoulder. Despite several solid thumps on his back the big man did not release his burden until he could throw the struggling figure on his bed. He was on Faramir before any knees could find his groin.

“Get mmmmph!” Éomer’s eyes were closed. Faramir knew this because his own were wide open and panicked. His mouth was being ravished and he could barely breathe. He closed his eyes and went limp, remaining so with difficulty. He bore the assault as best he could, even when he felt the hardness of the body above him pushing, grinding… A hand moved up between his legs and he nearly lost control at the too-intimate touch. He managed to keep still until… Yes, an easing of grip, Éomer’s balance off because of the hand grasping at Faramir’s manhood.

More explosively than on the couch, Faramir burst upward and shoved. It was farther to fall and Éomer teetered on the edge of the bed before tipping over and thudding heavily on the floor. Faramir was halfway across the room by then, and had the door open before Éomer had worked out what happened.

“Not a game, and no means no,” Faramir said quickly, before shutting the door solidly behind him and striding quickly down the corridor. He needed a steaming hot bath right now.

Faramir did not go directly back to the rooms he shared with his wife. Éowyn would know immediately that something was wrong and how could he tell her about what her brother had tried to do? He just walked, keeping an ear out in case anyone from Rohan was looking for him, and tried to organize his thoughts.

When his nodded greeting to a pair of citadel guards resulted in their stopping him, he was beyond surprised. They would not obey Éomer King, would they?

“What are you doing here, Lord Faramir?” one of the guards asked. The voice was polite, firm, and worried.

“I was returning from supper,” he said. “Taking a walk through the corridors before returning to my rooms.”

The guards looked at each other strangely, then each took a solid grip on one of Faramir’s arms.

“What are you doing?” He had more right to ask about them than they did of him. Save the king’s personal rooms and those of guests, he had the right to be anywhere in the citadel he desired. And weren’t the corridors much less crowded than they had been not even an hour ago?

“You need to go to your room, Lord Faramir. It’s not safe for you.” They led him through the hallways, but not toward his rooms. When he tried to break away, they held tighter to his arms.

“What is happening here? My rooms are not in this direction.”

“Quiet, Lord Faramir.” The guards appeared worried at his outburst, looking about to see if anyone was coming, if anyone had heard. “You’ll be punished if anyone finds you’ve been out on your own.”

The guards seemed worried enough that he thought they might be punished for it too. Why? And why were they going this way? There was nothing down these stairs except the dungeons. Since when had King Elessar ordered the top of these stairs guarded? When Faramir began to hear noises—noises that prisoners would make—he stopped cold on the stairs.

“I am not moving until you tell me why we are here. And you will release me now, or do you no longer obey direct orders from your steward?”

The guards did not let go. Their eyes grew wide and one swiftly put a hand over Faramir’s mouth.

“Do you want to get yourself killed?” There was more fear than anger in the guard’s face and voice and Faramir shook his head with a bit of difficulty. The hand was removed. “Say nothing more.”

There seemed to be a ‘please’ on the end of that, surprising Faramir so much that he moved forward when pulled. There were more guards at the bottom of the stairs and the dungeons were definitely in use. Soft groans came from many of the rooms they passed, along with occasional crying. The gaoler with the keys was just approaching them when crazed wailing filled the air, punctuated by heavy thuds on a wooden door. Everyone froze for a moment before continuing as they had been; except Faramir.

It was horrible, the shrieks of pure misery that seemed frighteningly loud and came from every direction reminded Faramir of nothing so much as the call of the fell beasts, only so much the worse for coming from a human throat. It was a human, wasn’t it? There was something in the voice, under the madness, but Faramir could not identify it. He was trying not to panic at the sound and thus was surprised when he was pulled ahead and shoved through the last doorway in the corridor. The cell door slammed and locked behind him before he could bring himself to action. It was the turn of the key that unfroze Faramir’s tongue. He turned swiftly and called after the retreating forms.

“What is that?” he called out, and again more loudly as the forms retreated. “Why am I here? What is going on?”

There was no answer except loud bangs and insane gibbering, which continued long into the night.

The cell contained a cot with a blanket, a small table with one chair, a few old books, and a covered slop bucket. A candleholder that held a small taper, but only at the gaoler’s discretion. Even in the middle of the day there was not enough light to read. Apparently good behaviour earned candles that remained after meals and lasted fifteen to twenty minutes longer than it took to eat. Faramir didn’t learn that until his second day there: it took time to learn things.

Sometimes it was easy. The time of day and quality of food told Faramir that his meals were literally scraps from Lord Denethor’s table. His father was alive and still the Lord Steward—no wonder the guard had panicked so badly when Faramir claimed that title!

He was taken to exercise every day. He had lost that privilege for two days due to his ‘escape’ but when he regained it the answers came faster. He shared his exercise time with two others—Pippin and Merry. The seemed very surprised when he was glad to see them and almost shocked when he tried to speak to them companionably. They didn’t really know him—he was merely Boromir’s brother, Denethor’s son, and another prisoner. Pippin gave him the benefit of the doubt and was willing to answer questions the second time they met. Faramir had been in the dungeons nearly four days before he found out why.

“My father has the Ring.” Faramir’s face had gone completely pale and Pippin actually seemed worried. How could Faramir not have known this?

Over the next two exercise periods, the hobbits learned that the Faramir they were now speaking to was not the one they knew. Well, he was rather cleaner than before, and stronger in body and will. This Faramir didn’t know what had happened to the other. In his world, the Ring had been destroyed. Not so here.

The law stated that any strangers in Gondor needed to be brought before the Steward or put to death. The Ringbearer and companion had thus been sent to Minas Tirith. Faramir had to close his eyes upon hearing that, knowing that all of this was his own fault, in a way.

Lord Denethor had meant to put the Ring away in the vaults, despite protests from both hobbits. He could not resist looking upon this object, this thing that had brought on the quest that took the Boromir’s life. In so looking, he was lost.

It would be used, and Boromir would be avenged. Samwise Gamgee had died almost immediately, trying to return the Ring to his master. Frodo had been dragged, nearly unconscious, to a cell in the dungeons. They had to move him to the farthest cell, and he spent a good deal of time tied down so that he couldn’t hurt himself. When he wasn’t kept bound or sedated, Frodo screamed himself raw and pounded on his door for hours at a time, clawing at it until he bled. Without the Ring he was in pain. It needed to be destroyed. Why did no one listen?

They were all taken, Aragorn being kept in a cell alone and never allowed to see anyone else. Pippin and Merry were together, as were Legolas and Gimli. The Dwarf had fought so hard before being taken and had been beaten so badly that he couldn’t think quite right anymore and mutely followed Legolas about. He did growl quietly in the presence of Denethor, so something of Gimli did remain. Mithrandir’s whereabouts were unknown. Perhaps he had gone back to the Elves for aid, but no one knew: it was something to hope for.

Pippin couldn’t say when Faramir had first been thrown in the dungeon—he’d already been here when the rest of the Fellowship arrived. It wasn’t difficult to guess what had happened. Even though he had sent his father the Ring, Lord Denethor was not grateful. He considered Faramir a threat and removed him. At least he’d been kept alive.

“But what can we do?” Faramir had asked at last, earning him confused looks from Pippin and Merry.

“What do you mean what can we do?” Merry returned snidely. He rarely spoke to Faramir and when he did it wasn’t polite. It wasn’t so much following orders and sending Frodo and Sam to the steward that angered him, it was the effect that it had had on his cousin Frodo. He could not forgive Faramir for that, even though Pippin continually reminded him that Faramir hadn’t known what would happen.

“We need to do something. The Ring must be destroyed.” Was there really a need to state the obvious? “The guards are not fully under the Ring’s power, they are merely afraid. We could give them hope that if the Ring would be destroyed there will be a king again.”

And they did try. They spoke to the guards, those who would listen, and learned that it was fear of Denethor and the Ring that kept them in line. Imprisoning his own son had been a mistake, for Faramir was well-loved and known to be loyal to his father; had he not proven it often enough? If Faramir was willing to take on the quest that his brother had died for, then many of the guards would aid him. Thus plans were made, no one knowing that the Lord Steward had a plan of his own.

“Come out of your cell, Lord Faramir.” It was the second time the guard had asked; it was not one of the usual guards and it wasn’t time to go for exercise or to be given a bath. There was no point in balking; he offered his arms for the manacles, very surprised when they chained his legs as well. They took him up the stairs, the last in a long line of prisoners.

The took him to a room and allowed him to clean himself—not merely a bath, but he was shaved and given clean clothing as well. His own clothing. He was told to behave and he would not need to be chained, would he give his word?

“On my honour.” He was allowed to walk out to the courtyard on his own, with his four guards merely ‘an escort’.

Faramir hadn’t seen the sun in weeks, and his eyes burned at the brightness even though the day was slightly overcast. He adjusted to the light and saw all the Fellowship standing in the front of the crowd. He stood to one side and on the other was Aragorn; filthy, chained, and starved. His clothing was in ruins and he bore many bruises. Faramir knew there would be whip marks on his back and feared that even worse things had been done to the man he knew as king. He was not king here, as the announcement of the arrival of the Lord Steward reminded everyone present.

Denethor wore his heavy black robe open, revealing polished armour beneath. His hair, which Faramir had known as grey, was only half grey and the rest black. He looked younger than Faramir could recall seeing him and his voice filled the courtyard.

“The time has come to reveal a great truth to the people of Gondor,” Denethor proclaimed. “Long have we waited, long has my family held this land and kept it safe and prosperous, even against the coming of the great Enemy! All this time we have worked and given of ourselves freely, devoting our lives to our home and her people.

“As we see the light, as the end of the war is in sight and it appears that we will be victorious, only now do we receive a visit from a man who claims to be the heir of Isildur.” He nodded, and Aragorn was dragged up the stairs so that the crowd could see him better. “This man was not here to fight for you when you needed him. Though yes, there is still fighting to be done.”

Denethor walked closer to Aragorn, who was held as well as chained.

“Why has he waited? Is this self-proclaimed king a coward?” The steward stood straight, looking clean and strong next to Aragorn’s bent form. “Perhaps he is, perhaps not, but he did not come because he was told that it was not yet time for him to take the throne.

“Not yet time? Who told him thus? The wizard Mithrandir, who comes when it suits him to offer advice, to read in the library, and to disappear until the next time he wants something from us! Also it came from Elrond of Imladris, who sends us no aid in any form, all the while his people escape to safety over the sea.” Denethor’s scowl was nearly a tactile thing. “The man who follows such creatures, such advice, now comes here demanding to be crowned king. What say you to this, people of Gondor?”

The cries of ‘nay’, ‘never’, ‘he is not our king’ and a thousand others rose up from the crowd. Faramir knew that Aragorn had not demanded to be king, had not even announced himself by that name, but the people would only hear what their lord wanted them to hear.

“Gondor has no king! Gondor needs no king!” The steward held the White Rod in the air, triumphant, as the people took up the call. Gondor needs no king! Gondor needs no king!

As Denethor had known, the people soon began to call for Aragorn’s death, which had already been prepared for. He held up an arm for silence.

“The House of Húrin has served you long and well, and it will continue to serve, even in this.” He held out his hand to Faramir. “Come.”

What could he do but step forward and stand next to his father?

“My son Faramir, who shall rule as Steward after I am gone, has spent all his life—even as his brother gave his own life—to aid this land and protect her people. He will perform for you now this service, possibly the greatest he could do, and so end these claims to kingship. Gondor will not be divided in these trying times, and your House of Stewards will serve you as we always have!”

The people must have cheered, but Faramir did not hear it. He was trapped in time, hearing over and over ‘he will perform for you now this service’. He could not do it, would never raise his hand against his king—his rightful king. Faramir stared at his father, who stared back. His voice did not carry—his words were for Faramir alone.

“You will kill him, my son. He would take Gondor and throw her into confusion when we need unity.”

Twice now had he heard the words ‘my son’ spoken by Denethor just for him. Only in Faramir’s dreams did such things happen and he wanted so much to hear the words again.

“But, father, he is the heir of Isildur.” A simple fact, stated quietly, should not make his father so angry.

“He is no one. You will kill him here and now and take your place as my heir.” The voice softened, and Denethor’s face grew gentle. “It is where you belong, my son. Come, do this for Gondor’s sake and stand next to me as is just and right.”

Faramir looked at his father, who was everything he ever wanted his father to be. He glanced at Aragorn, someone he really didn’t know all that well. In fact, he didn’t know the Aragorn of this world at all. What if he wasn’t an honourable man? How could he take this stranger’s side over that of his lord father, who now spoke to him words he had waited for all his life, whose eyes were so kind, who gave him honour where so many people could see it?

Back and forth, until his head swam. Faramir could feel the sting of tears beginning to form and tried to will them away. The dirty stranger who hadn’t aided Gondor when she was desperate, or the man who had worked so hard all of his life, risked the lives of his sons and lost one, so that this land would remain strong?

Since he was a child, it was all he’d ever dreamed, a powerful embrace with a strong shoulder to lean his head upon. Faramir held tightly, his eyes closed.

“I love you, father.”

“I love you, my son.”

Faramir’s eyes opened and his hand moved swiftly, up to the chain, which he broke with a solid yank. The Ring was in his hand, and needed to get to Frodo’s. Aragorn’s life must be saved, and so many other things done. It was time to move…

Back into the arms of the guards, who had rushed forward, despite shaking at the strength of Denethor’s wrath. As tightly as they held, Faramir gripped the Ring harder. The watchers were murmuring, and someone screamed. There was more shouting, making Faramir nearly deaf. He could not hear what his father was yelling, even though they were so close together. There were two more guards, these with spears. Faramir was shoved forward into pain.

Lady Éowyn, Princess of Ithilien, quietly closed the door to her husband’s room in the Houses of Healing. She had been with him all the time while the master healer had examined him, remaining when he asked the king in to give advice. Now they both emerged to give the news to the small group gathered, limited to the very few who truly needed to know.

“He is merely sleeping, according to the healer,” Éowyn said, nodding towards Aragorn. “This has been confirmed.”

“I can find no reason, and there is no sign of the Black Breath upon him,” the king agreed.

“He’s been dreaming—he was dreaming last night. It appears to be a healthy sleep and is dangerous only because he will not wake.” It did not make sense and Éowyn was more worried than Aragorn; but she could not make a personal examination and so had to rely on the opinions of others. They were trustworthy, but she felt that something must be wrong. How could such an unnatural sleep be healthy?

“There is no need to worry for now. They will be giving him water slowly as he sleeps and watch for any sign of waking.”

It was not enough for Éowyn, who set her jaw and prepared to return to Faramir’s side even as everyone else was leaving. Queen Arwen took her hand a brief moment, meeting the young woman’s eyes—_if you have need of me, I am here for you_.

Éowyn nodded, and opened the door again. Her hand went to the pouch at her belt that now held the strange gold ring, one she had never before seen her husband wear.

He felt himself fall forward, felt sharp pains rip through his chest… Then Faramir hit the stone floor so hard that the wind was knocked from his body and he was left gasping, wide eyes locked on the figure of his father. The armour was gone as were the black robes of state: there was no rage in Lord Denethor’s face, merely concern.

“You need not push him so hard,” the old man stated in a solid voice. “We have both done all that has been required of us.”

Faramir heard his father’s words over the sound of the closing and locking door and took the offered hand to help him rise. This was not the cell in the dungeons, but a room acting as a cell, apparently. It was well furnished and the table held food enough for two people. How he was going to eat after what had just happened he did not know, but his father seemed to expect him to be hungry here and now. He was led to the table and helped to sit, even as he stared. Things were different again, so much so that Faramir did not know what to think. From monster to this… Obviously Denethor did not hold the Ring anymore, if he ever had. Nothing made sense.

“Eat, my son. I dared speak sharply to your brother earlier today, which is what caused them to be so brutal to you.” The dark eyes showed worry, but they also showed a spark of strength. “We cannot be broken.”

That sounded like something his father would say, like something he had said often.

“No, we cannot.” He had been shoved, nothing worse. What did his father think had happened? Had something happened before he arrived? Where had he come from and where was the version of him that belonged here? There had to be one—it was like a story gone terribly wrong, with no better hero than himself simply moved from one part to another with no logic involved. Or from one story to another. Faramir picked at his food, bewildered at what was happening. He had to ask, though he dreaded the answer.

“Why did you speak sharply to Boromir?” Denethor rarely applied severe discipline to his older son, and why would Faramir be punished for it? If they were locked in here, where was Boromir?

“He wishes me to sign documents that I do not wish to sign,” Denethor said, voice harsh. “One of them is the order of execution for Prince Imrahil.”

“What?” No, he couldn’t have heard that right. “Uncle Imrahil—why?”

“Why does he do anything anymore? He’s becoming more paranoid as time goes on, consolidating his power.” Denethor looked Faramir in the eyes. “I do not know how long it will be before he declares himself Steward in my place. I fear my time may be short.”

There was nothing to be said to that. Faramir’s mind was working too slowly, hearing his father’s words and knowing deep down what they meant: his conscious mind did not want to believe it.

“He may even declare himself king. Isildur’s heir is dead and our line descends from that of Anárion, even if it is a matrilineal line.” There was a claim, and Boromir was likely to take it.

“But…” Faramir wanted to say that it wasn’t possible; he couldn’t. Before any more could be said, Denethor froze where he sat. People were approaching; the door was unlocked and guards entered, demanding that Faramir come with them now. He turned to assure that he would be well, gasping at the look on his father’s face.


There was not much time to consider the expression, as the guards quickly fastened shackles on Faramir’s wrists and pulled him along the passageways towards the throne room.

“Father loves me,” Faramir thought. “And he was terrified. I just cannot believe that Boromir would do me harm.”

In minutes, Faramir could see the archway to the throne room and a tall shape in a dark cloak turning. He smiled, recognising the man anywhere. Then his smile fell.

It was not Boromir; at least Faramir’s mind would not let him believe that it was. It looked like him and walked like him, coming closer with each long step. Faramir was glad that he had barely eaten because the approach of the thing that looked like his brother was making him ill. He was trying to back away but could not. The darkness was coming closer—his heart would burst, he would scream, something had to happen because there was no way that Faramir could contend with this creature that looked so familiar and felt so… wrong.

The panic inside made him struggle to turn and run: the guards held him too tightly. They dragged him through the archway.

The nearly-empty throne room was now filled with people, men and women lined the way up toward the throne. No wonder, Faramir was walking about a half-step behind the king. He slowed his pace so that his lord would have a more proper distance in front of him.

So it should have gone, but Aragorn slowed his pace as well so Faramir tried again, then a third time. He looked at the king wondering what was going on. At last they reached the front of the room and Faramir knelt while the king took the stairs up to his throne, then rose expectantly waiting for him to sit so that he might take his own chair.

During this, the room was silent and Aragorn stared, making Faramir wonder if he had come into the hall barefoot or something equally bizarre. Finally, the king sat and his steward followed.

It was a strange court. Just over half of the petitioners bowed to both king and steward alike, which was disturbing. The rest were worse, bowing first to the steward. Petitioners looked to him before Aragorn many times. Faramir became more confused as the hours passed, nearly breathless with relief when they called a recess so that the Lords of Gondor might refresh themselves in the middle of the day. The pace leaving the hall was no less bizarre than entering and Faramir hoped that answers would be forthcoming. They just had to wait until they were alone before he could ask Aragorn why he was being so strange.

When they entered the king’s rooms, Faramir gaped. The royal apartments were very fine, yes, and the queen had many beautiful things from her own lands displayed, but this was beyond opulent. The hangings on the wall were brilliantly done in the best silks; the rugs were thick and rich in colour; the painting on the wall was in a gilded frame and the king had never had a suit of golden armour like he was wearing—the artist must have…

Faramir noticed two things at once. Displayed on a wooden form in the corner was the golden suit of armour. Even more disturbing, the painting was not of Aragorn: it was Faramir himself.

“Sire, why do you have a picture of me in your library?” Faramir turned to see a look of extreme confusion on the other man’s face. “Aragorn?”

“My Lord Steward, are you unwell?” the king returned. He didn’t look concerned, exactly, but there was something there. “Perhaps you should sit before luncheon is served.”

“Of course, Your Majesty, I think perhaps you are right.” Faramir sat carefully on one of the finely-carved wood chairs at the table. He didn’t want to damage anything by accident. “I must not be well.”

Physically, Faramir thought he was fine. It was his head that felt like it had missed something, and his disquiet grew the more solicitous the king became.

“You are being most formal today, Lord Faramir. Should I fetch a healer? Is it one of your headaches?”

“No, it is not. And I am being formal with you because you keep calling me ‘lord this’ and ‘steward that’. I think I should return to my rooms and lie down.”

They were interrupted by a knock on the door, the servants bringing in lunch. Faramir looked at the food and nearly turned green, despite the obvious quality. He thanked the guard and the servants, then turned to Aragorn. The king was staring at him with a frightening intensity that broke off when their eyes met, and Aragorn stared at the floor.

“I will go to my own rooms. Perhaps the queen would like to share this repast with you.”

Aragorn’s head shot up and his eyes blazed for a moment.

“Now you are jesting,” Aragorn replied, though his tone was anything but amused.

“Not at all. Should I wait until the lady is here?” Yes, he felt unwell but not so badly that he would leave the king in such a rude fashion. Something was so wrong that Faramir was unsure if he could wait that long, though he would try. The king had never looked at him with what almost appeared to be hatred before. He had to be mistaken.

“I do not know where she is, my Lord Steward,” the king said. “You’ve made sure of it.”

Faramir stared, mouth open.

“The guards will know.”

“Yes, of course.” Faramir smiled, pleased to have that one small answer to his current problem. He opened the door to call for the guard and found that there was already a pair at the door. “The king and queen will be sharing lunch today, if the queen so desires. I will wait here until she arrives, or else sends a message.”

The guards stared at him even as the king had, and Faramir went back to sit—uncomfortably—in his chair. The aroma of the food made him light-headed and he had to wonder when he had last eaten. He’d taken very little during the dinner with his father, and that had been hours ago. Before that… when had they last fed him in prison? Was that even twelve hours past? Faramir’s eyes closed and his head sagged. He was more tired than hungry and nothing made sense. He was startled from his half-doze when the knock on the door came.

“Enter,” he called, when it seemed that Aragorn would not.

Faramir was again speechless. The queen’s dress was old and dirty, not adequate even for a servant. Two guards held her, one at each arm, and there were chains hanging from shackles at her wrists. Eyes wide, Faramir beckoned the group in. Aragorn was again looking at the floor, though he lifted his eyes slightly to look at Arwen. Despite her dishevelled and dirty state, the queen walked with her head held high and she carried with her a serene aura. She fairly glowed in the dim candlelight, and as soon as he saw this, Faramir could breathe again.

“Remove those,” he ordered the guards, “and do not use them again.”

Aragorn appeared surprised at this announcement, but Arwen did not. She narrowed her eyes at Faramir and studied him until he turned away, unable to face her gaze.

“I’ll go to my rooms now.” He bowed. “Have a good lunch, your majesties.”

He ignored the stares from everyone present as he left, wanting to be alone as soon as possible. Behind him, the shocked guards left the king and queen alone.

“Why did Faramir say he was going to his rooms and then leave?” Arwen asked. Aragorn shook his head.

“He said it before, and asked me why I had a painting of him in my room.” The king scowled at the ridiculous portrait. “Faramir has been acting oddly since court this morning. He almost reminds me of Boromir.”

“He did not seem the man I have always before seen, husband,” Arwen said. “I felt It, but I do not think Faramir did. He’s not the same man.”

Aragorn took a deep breath and held his wife closely.

“He let me see you. You’re here, with no guard, in his own rooms.” The voice wavered, but steadied at his next words. “Same man or not, he made a mistake. With you here, he cannot control me.”

Arwen smiled.

“Then you should act as soon as possible.”

Never before in his life had Faramir been so confused. He was nearly to the point of running by the time he reached his rooms and shut himself inside—then gaped.

Everything was foreign, from the furniture to the hanging on the walls—it had been made by Queen Arwen back in Imladris—to the sword on the rack. No, that was familiar, but it didn’t belong here. Why?

By the Valar, it was Andúril.

Faramir nearly panicked, taking a closer look and proving to himself that it was the king’s sword. Just as the clothing in the chests and presses was Aragorn’s—and Arwen’s. They were fine things, not like what he’d seen the queen wearing. He could not change from his fine robe to something simpler, as the king was a larger man than he, so he stripped to shirt and trousers, unable to figure out why the royal couple was rooming here and those other rooms…

A flash of gold peeked out from under his shirt as Faramir paced. What? He pulled out the trinket on its chain and stared.

Andúril was in the corner, and the One Ring was in his hand. He dropped it, hands shaking. The chain would not come undone for the longest time: it seemed like forever before the clasp came free and Faramir looked at the Ring dangling on its chain.

All of the strange things, the wrongness here, was his fault. Would anyone believe him now if he asked for aid in destroying the thing? He’d kept the queen imprisoned, so he much doubted it. But she was free now, and with the king. Of course he would have had some hold over Aragorn. Surely it was more than one person, no matter how dear, but he knew Aragorn would have a plan. He’d have had a plan ready at all times in case Faramir made a mistake, and now he had.

Faramir grabbed a cloak and a knife, knowing he needed to be gone as soon as possible. He’d go by one of the barracks and take some food in a travelling pack and a sword if he could get one easily, for he could not bring himself to take the Flame of the West in his sullied hand. The Ring went in a pouch on his belt and he was gone, moving swiftly toward the kitchens so as to take a more private exit.

Down, down, down through the city, stopping for food but no sword, changing his cloak for a soldier’s garment. There had been several messengers running through the street but he had hidden himself under his hood and around corners. They very well could be searching for him already. There was a messenger in the gatehouse when he came to the outside wall—his time was limited.

Not daring to take a horse, he walked out with a group of farmers and broke away, going along the city wall westward, opposite from where he needed to go. He knew all of the guard postings and would be able to walk away toward the forest once he got away from the main gate. That is, until the warnings went out for him. If they went out for him.

He never knew and was only grateful that he’d made his way to the safety of the wood. He’d have to circle around and get far from the city before he could make his way toward Mordor. He’d heard the stories of the path the hobbits had taken and would use that road as well.

The Ring needed to be destroyed. The thought pulsed in Faramir’s mind with every beat of his heart. He tried to keep his hand away from the pouch, not even wanting to touch it through the cloth, but could not help himself. It was real, it was there! He walked, sometimes ran, and did not stop until the darkness began to fall. Rest. Just a little bit, and some water from the nearby river to fill his waterskin, and he could walk at a slower pace all night. There was no time to waste.

The water was like the finest wine and Faramir’s head spun with its sweetness. If only he could sleep, but he was still too close to the city. He spared himself a moment to wonder if he had the strength to do this himself, knowing that he had to and certain that he could not. But he was not alone. Faramir stood straighter, stronger, and smiled at the little group coming towards him.

“Legolas, Gimli! I have never been so pleased to see anyone in my life.” Sincerity rang from every word. In addition, there were Pippin and Merry, and Éomer, Sam… and Aragorn.

“We’re glad to find you as well,” Gimli said, his voice gruff and not at all friendly. His fist shot out, and Faramir dropped to the ground like a felled tree.

“Cold, I am cold,” Faramir thought as he began to wake. “No, there is a warm throbbing on the side of my head. I was hit. Gimli hit me.”

“He is awake, Aragorn,” Legolas’ familiar voice said. “I was beginning to think he was hit a little bit too hard.”

A harrumphing noise came before the Dwarf spoke. “Not that it would have been a loss.”


“No, Gimli. We need him to talk to us.” This last was Aragorn, and Faramir opened his eyes.

It was dark, but he’d known that already—a few hours until dawn. He was sitting, bound to a tree with his wrists tied behind it; his ankles tied also. They had removed his boots so he could not run. He raised his head and tried to look at everyone. Aragorn’s anger he could understand except this was not the Aragorn he’d spoken to back in the city. This man was harder and more alert, wearing ranger gear and a deep frown. Legolas, Gimli, the hobbits also were all glaring at him. Éomer looked like he had murder on his mind.

“I will talk,” Faramir offered. He was trying to think. This Aragorn, that Aragorn, the other from before… the world had changed again somehow. The other Aragorn would have searched him for the Ring, had this one done so also?

“I knew you would, in the end,” Aragorn said, patting Faramir’s shoulder and smiling in a disturbing fashion.

“A number of things, so we’ll start with the most obvious. What is Boromir’s most loyal captain doing alone, barely dressed and barely armed, out in the forest at night? If this is some kind of trick, then it seems the trick is on you.” It seemed Aragorn would be asking the questions, which only made sense. Though the question itself was confusing.

“Boromir’s captain? I don’t understand.” Boromir was dead, or was he alive here? Faramir didn’t know. “Has he done something?”

He was greeted with such laughter that he would have thought he was captured by orcs if he could not see proof otherwise.

“Has he done something?” Sam stepped forward, allowing Faramir to truly see him for the first time. He was not the stout, reasonable hobbit Faramir knew. He looked thin and hard and his eyes were filled with hate. “Only betrayed the Fellowship, took the Ring and killed Frodo! If you think joking about it is funny then I’ve a mind to teach you otherwise.”

Faramir’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped. A hobbit—Merry—stepped forward quickly and gave him a sharp slap across the face.

“Don’t look so surprised, captain,” he spat. “Except for your brother, no one benefited more than you.”

“Yes, slitting Lord Denethor’s throat must have been quite enjoyable for you, kinslayer.” That was Legolas, who rarely spoke a harsh word about anyone. Éomer nodded in agreement.

“But you’re here with us now, for whatever reason,” Aragorn said. He was watching Faramir closely, evidently intrigued by what he saw. “And you’re going to answer all our questions.”

Faramir was sure he would, whether he wanted to or not. Then he’d have to find out the answers they wanted so he could give them those.

“May I please have some water, Lord Gimli?” Faramir almost begged, hoping he’d got it right this time. It changed depending on who was ‘caring’ for him when he was not being questioned. Just a sip of water would feel so good on his aching throat. He’d screamed until it was past raw but the questions came and the punishments followed when they were dissatisfied. They were always dissatisfied.

He had been stripped down to trousers only and they were filthy with blood and dirt as well as sweat. They were soaking wet from the water they threw over him to make him alert so he was unsure if he’d fouled himself. Considering the pain he’d been in it was very likely. His legs were so weak they could barely hold him up and his feet slipped on the mucky ground. But he had to remain standing, or his wrists tied above him to a branch would take the weight and the ropes were cutting deeply as it was. His shoulders were on fire just from being raised for so long—the lashes across his back were nothing in comparison.

“Water?” Gimli held the cup so that Faramir could see it and turned, shouting. “The lad wants water, do you think I should give it to him?”

Legolas came forward. “I don’t see why not.” He shared a look with the Dwarf and they sought out Aragorn, who nodded.

Before he knew it Faramir was taken down—his shoulders protested badly when they were lowered. His hands were tied in front of him to a lead rope that Gimli held, tugging him along.

“Now, d’you have anything to tell us that isn’t rubbish about not belonging here, that Boromir is dead, and that Aragorn is king? You know, Frodo lives and destroyed the Ring?” Gimli was frighteningly close and the false smile did nothing beyond making Faramir more nervous. The river was right here and it was obvious he’d be going in it—would he ever come out? “Think carefully now.”

With a near-sob Faramir sank to his knees, unable to stand anymore.

“I have spoken the truth to you, mad as it is. I even told you of where I was last—it is not my fault that the Ring was no longer in the pouch! I was going to destroy it, I was.” There was no time and he couldn’t breathe enough to talk anyway. Gimli was dragging him now, and stones cut his skin and tore at his trousers. At the river’s edge, a stout foot pushed at him and he rolled, hitting the edge of the bank and falling to the water. “NO! Plea…”

“He stank anyway,” Gimli said, calmly holding the edge of the rope and watching the wild thrashing of a man trying not to drown.

Faramir thought he’d hurt before but he was so wrong. That was nothing compared with the burn in his lungs after swallowing so much water.

He’d been too weak to keep kicking and he could not use his bound arms. When he tried to grab the rope to pull himself closer to the bank the line was shaken. Using his wrists to pull with hurt too badly to do for very long and Éomer, who had taken the lead rope from Gimli, watched with interest as he went down and came up again, until Faramir’s strength failed and he did not emerge.

They’d obviously pulled him out and he remembered vomiting until there was no more water to come up and his gut ached from the exertion.

He was dry now, tied lengthwise on a fallen tree, and shaking with cold. It was warm enough out if you were dressed, but a pair of ruined trousers did not count for much and Faramir knew that the water in his lungs had likely made him ill. Such things often did, after all, and his captors had to know it. Or would they let him die of pneumonia instead of torturing him to death?

Aragorn came over with a small, sharp knife and began asking questions. They were the same—did Boromir ever remove the Ring? Were the guards truly loyal or simply afraid? What were the security arrangements? Who was allowed entry to the city and was every cart searched? As Faramir knew none of these things—he’d told them that before—he could not answer. The cuts Aragorn made were not deep at all but they burned beyond any wounds Faramir had ever had. They were here and there, seemingly random but Aragorn had to know what he was doing. There was barely any blood but it was worse than the whipping he’d been given during the first questioning.

“Please, I don’t know anything,” Faramir moaned weakly. “I do not come from this place.”

He was so tired that he could barely keep his eyes open despite the pain. Except for the near-drowning and Gimli knocking him unconscious, Faramir guessed he’d been awake more than two days straight—it was difficult to tell since he hadn’t slept since he’d been imprisoned by his father and that was three worlds away. Was it three and did it even matter?

“Get up.” It was Éomer who ordered this. Oh, they’d cut him loose and didn’t even know it. Turning, he tried to stand and made it halfway to his feet before collapsing in a heap, his face landing on the tops of Éomer’s muddy boots.

Faramir opened his eyes to see the shine of Aragorn’s boots inches from his eyes. He lay on stone—in the courtyard of Minas Tirith. He looked up to see blue eyes glittering down at him and a mouth quirked up in amusement. When he spoke, the voice was Aragorn’s but the tone reminded Faramir of Lord Denethor.

“If you wanted to kiss my boots, steward, all you had to do was ask.” Aragorn snorted. “Or were you simply embarrassing yourself in public again?”

By the Valar, they were in front of a group of nobles, most of whom were staring at him though a few were looking away as if trying not to see. The white rod had skittered away so he had to crawl a bit to grasp it before rising. He brushed off his robes of office—they were his father’s robes. It was no wonder he had fallen; as Denethor had been several inches taller than his second son, he’d tripped over his own clothing.

“Pardon me, my lord, it shall not happen again,” Faramir said quietly.

“You keep saying that and it keeps not happening. I’m beginning to wonder if you’re a liar or an idiot.”

There was no possible response to that and Faramir stood silently, having no idea what he was supposed to be doing. It was better than being tortured—the pains of that seemed to be gone save a bit of a sore throat—but the situation was nerve-wracking nonetheless.

Finally Aragorn turned and walked into the citadel, Faramir behind him and the nobles trailing. At least Faramir knew what to do in court, though his chair was not at the foot of the throne, making him wonder where he was supposed to go. Apparently with the other nobles, which was fine.

Or not. The petitions were strange, masters of some of the trade guilds wanted to know when the reconstruction in many of the major market areas would begin. Peasants had gone to their lords who now came before their king asking for foodstuffs to tide them over. Their farmlands had been destroyed by the war and were now littered with bodies, or their men had gone to fight and there was no one to plant. The war had been over for three years, was that not enough time to release the extra men who had joined the army?

Faramir grew more and more confused, not understanding what was wrong in this particular reality but knowing that Aragorn was certainly part of it. Did he have the Ring here? He was certainly behaving like a self-centred pig and not like the king he was. At last, Faramir rose, being unable to stand one more sarcastic remark coming from the king’s mouth.

“My lords, please,” he said. “The king seems weary—it may well be the heat—and should rest. Leave your petitions behind and I will read through them and discuss them at such time when his majesty is feeling better.”

The king did not seem weary, but… out of sorts was a polite way to put it. He gave Faramir an almost amused look as he rose and walked through the group of bowing supplicants. He motioned at Faramir to follow him, and the younger man could not help but notice that it seemed the king was calling a dog.

A pair of guards joined them as king and steward walked to the king’s office. They stayed at the door, which closed behind Faramir and left the room ominously silent.


Faramir reeled at the backhanded hit from his king.


Another hit and Faramir backed to the wall. Aragorn advanced, putting one hand around Faramir’s throat.

“What did you think you were doing?” demanded Aragorn in the angriest voice Faramir had ever heard from the man. He pushed forward with his hand, choking off any response. “Did you really think you could get away with that?”

The hand moved enough and Faramir gasped.

“My lord, I don’t understand. The Pelennor is still torn up and people should be back working their land by now. How is it that the repairs to Minas Tirith have not even been started?”

Narrowed eyes burned into Faramir’s.

“And you are questioning this now, when you have followed me without question for three years?” He looked up and down Faramir’s body, assessing him. Whether or not he liked what he saw was hard to say. “You have obeyed my every whim, been my loyal steward, until today.”

There was a look in the king’s eyes that Faramir remembered well: he’d seen the same thing when he looked at his father in the end. The continued pressure on his windpipe was making it difficult to breathe, much less talk or act.

“Who is it?” Aragorn had pushed close, his body pressing Faramir’s into the stone wall and his face terrifyingly close.

“I just…”

“Who? You cannot do this on your own; you do not have the courage.”

Do what? What did Aragorn think he was doing? And it was the king himself who had praised his courage: not this king.

“I think it was your uncle. Yes, Prince Imrahil would have me removed from the throne and you returned as steward.” Aragorn smiled nastily, his grip sliding up to Faramir’s face. “In return for his help, he will be steward after you. Not that you’ll truly hold power, as you cannot control your horse half the time.”

“Sire, no,” Faramir tried to say, but the hand pressed at his mouth and cut him off.

“You disgust me, with your simpering ways and idiotic ideas.” With a shove that made Faramir’s face hurt, Aragorn pushed away. “And now you seek to supplant me. I just want to know if you sought your uncle’s help or he approached you. I do not think you have the backbone to have sought him, but we shall see. Guards!”

Faramir stood with his back against the cold stone wall of the corridor. He was breathing heavily in the half-darkness, completely alone. As soon as he noticed that, he sagged with relief. Aragorn was getting stranger all the time—with each new scene, or story, or whatever it was, the glorious king had gone from imprisoned claimant to the throne to tormentor to some sort of parasitical version of a king. In the back of his head Faramir knew that it had to mean something. Right now, getting out of the hallway to somewhere he could gain information was best.

He ended up in his own office looking at paperwork. The sorts of things that should be here—work requisitions for rebuilding the city among them—were exactly where they were supposed to be. The desk looked like it should; if not exactly as he knew he kept it, but close enough. Faramir gave a deep sigh of relief, leaned back in his chair, and closed his eyes.

When he awoke it was morning and the first rays of sunshine were peeking through the window. It was the figure peeking through the door that caused concern.

“Husband!” Éowyn said, shocked. “Is it really so bad that you have to remain here all night?”

She looked concerned more than angry; still Faramir proceeded with caution.

“I did not mean to sleep here, it simply happened.” That had the benefit of being true. He stood and stretched. “Will you be so kind as to allow me to make it up to you?”

He felt that suitably vague yet placating, though it merely made Éowyn puzzled.

“It was not the king, then?”

“No. I was here alone all night; else I’d have been awakened and come to you.” Would the king not have better things to do than check on Faramir’s office when he wouldn’t usually be there?

Éowyn came forward and embraced Faramir, closing her eyes and shimmying into a comfortable position against his chest.

“I was worried. We’ve spoken of it and neither of us want this, but how long will it be until his patience is gone?” Feminine arms held tighter. “I’m not worried for me, truly I am not. I fear more that he will make things more difficult on you the longer he has to wait.”

Faramir caught the undercurrents, understood the words; how could he believe that Aragorn would do something like that? He loved his king, the Aragorn of his world, and would give him nearly anything, including his life. That did not include his lady.

“It will not happen, do not worry. We can outwait him—surely Queen Arwen’s charms will make him re-think his priorities.” Please, let there be a Queen Arwen here. Éowyn snorted indelicately.

“What cares has she for our problems? As long as he returns to her, and he always will, then she allows him his little indiscretions. Why should this time be any different?”

There was nothing to say to that and Faramir held tightly for a moment before releasing the embrace. He was strangely comforted by her obvious displeasure at the idea of being with Aragorn. He knew she loved him, and this was more proof.

“We’ll do what we need to do, and I won’t spend another night in my office.” Valar, the king could have gone to her in the night and he’d have been able to do nothing. “Let us go to breakfast and leave this unpleasantness behind us.

Nothing untoward happened all day. Aragorn had not so much as made an inappropriate look at Éowyn and they worked together almost as easily as at home—this not exactly being home. The documents were similar enough that Faramir had time to skim through them while the king was busy and so the day passed smoothly, if not comfortably. It was when they were putting things away and preparing to go clean up before the evening meal that the familiar lines of the story went awry.

“My private rooms after supper, do you think?” the king asked delicately. “I know that you would wait me out but I am far older than you and have vast amounts of patience.”

So here it was.

“Sire, I do not feel that such a liaison would benefit our relationship. In truth, I am a very giving man but some things are not meant to be given.” Like his wife.

“You are wrong, Faramir. This will bring us closer together—it is not like any other relationship I have had.” Aragorn put a hand on Faramir’s shoulder and spoke soft, gentle words. “Do you think that I have not considered my action and how it would affect us?”

“I am sure you have considered, my lord. I have considered also and my answer is no.”

Aragorn’s mouth curled into a little smile and his voice became even more beguiling.

“No? I have no intention of doing anything unpleasant.” The regal face went stony. “Perhaps you should think of Éowyn a little bit more in all of this. I wonder how quickly she would wither and fade if not allowed out—not out of the city nor even out of the citadel. Would you keep your wife in a cage simply because you do not see fit to release your composure—ever?”

Whatever was going on, it was not exactly what Faramir thought. What he did know was that keeping Éowyn trapped like that would kill her.

“I am thinking of Éowyn,” he began, but Aragorn cut him off.

“You are not. You’ve been with others before her; she is not too naïve to think otherwise. Do you think she might be jealous, having hoped at one point to be in your place?” Aragorn laughed when Faramir’s eyes narrowed and became angry. “She was interested in me but married you, so do not fear. You can still be with her; I will not require you every night.”

Not require. Not Éowyn. Betray the queen. He wanted…

Faramir could not think enough to form a reply. He wanted to run, though instinct said attack. The king did not desire his wife, and why should that be such a surprise? Every time he saw the king again, in each progression, he was more perverse—in different ways, but perverted just the same. The nearness of the taller man and the heat radiating off of Aragorn’s body made Faramir slightly nauseated. If he did not do something soon he’d be in a panic.

“I do not know, sire.” He reached for words but they fluttered out of his grasp. “I need more time to think.”

The king’s smile was tight.

“Take all the time you wish for your thoughts, but if you are not in my private rooms within an hour after the end of tonight’s meal, then there will be consequences.”

Faramir was at Aragorn’s door with more than half an hour to spare. His hands were linked together tightly to keep from shaking and he was slightly tipsy from having drunk too much and eaten too little at supper. Well, he figured that slightly drunk might well make this easier to bear.

Éowyn had known the moment she saw him in their chambers and made sure that his clothing was not too tight, simple to remove, and as unattractive as she could make it. They nearly shared a laugh at that, even though the situation was so serious: Éowyn knew as Faramir knew that she would end up dead if Faramir did not comply.

“He has said he would not hurt me,” Faramir reminded his wife as he left her to go to the king.

“Better that he would,” she responded when he was out of earshot. Pain was easy; what Aragorn was likely to do would be far more destructive in the end.

“Enter.” Aragorn smiled and nodded at Faramir. “Lock it behind you.”

Faramir did, then stood uncomfortably until the king waved him over.

“Did the tailors in the city fit this garment to you? They must have been blind—remove it.” Aragorn watched, and waved Faramir on. “The rest as well, though at least that fits better.”

Having appeared unclad many times among the rangers over the years was not like this being stared at. Besides, they would be changing or bathing also instead of watching his every move while standing fully dressed. When he finished with his clothing, Faramir felt oddly cold even though the room was not even cool, as well as terribly vulnerable.

“A fine animal, though I knew you would be,” Aragorn said smugly, making Faramir feel like a horse or a dog up for inspection. “Graceful, like an Elf, though obviously a Man. Even your scars enhance rather than detract.”

Would the king be checking Faramir’s teeth next? His face flamed in embarrassment, wishing he were back in the dungeons and not here, with… Ah, with Aragorn’s hand caressing his back so slowly, all the way down to his flank. The same hand came to tilt Faramir’s head up so that he had to meet the king’s eyes.

“I will not hurt you, Faramir. You are a fine man, and one that I wish to enjoy at length: I would have more from you than simple compliance.” A gentle stroke from ear to jaw made Faramir shiver. “There is no need to be steward tonight. Be a man only, and give control to me so that I can show you things you have never dreamed of.”

Faramir did not intend to do more than he had to, and so removed the king’s clothing as efficiently as he’d remove his armour. The king’s compliments made him blush and seeing Aragorn erect and wanting embarrassed him terribly. He did his best to touch the king as he was told to but sometimes he could not.

Not when the king was touching him too.

They did not feel like Éowyn’s touches, though they were gentle and strong, as hers were. There was something in them that made Faramir’s skin tingle and he lay there on the bed feeling more alive than he could ever recall feeling. He groaned loudly the first time Aragorn’s lips touched him—over the pulse point on his throat. So many new sensations attacked that Faramir could not defend against them, he could fight no more and was forced to surrender.

It was so sweet, not fighting. Nothing hurt at all; the merest drag of a fingertip over his collarbone was sensual and the tip of Aragorn’s tongue on Faramir’s nipple made him gasp ‘don’t stop!’ It was never so strong when Éowyn did that. The kisses deepened and the touches grew ever more intimate, combining at last with the feel of fiery lips ghosting at the tip of Faramir’s manhood.

“Please,” he begged, opening his eyes to plead with Aragorn.

“You truly want this?” the king asked carefully. “I could stop and take my pleasure.”

“NO!” Panic. He hadn’t meant to shout at Aragorn. “You could, I know. It… it doesn’t hurt.”

Aragorn smiled wickedly, licking his lips.

“No, my Faramir, it does not hurt at all.”

The king stopped talking and though there was no pain, Faramir screamed anyway. Deep inside, Aragorn’s spirit started to laugh even as Faramir’s began to cry.

Faramir screamed, arching his back so that he came fully off of the bed.

“Calm down, please. It is only a dream.” The touch was from a woman’s hand, Éowyn’s, if the voice matched it. “Faramir?”

There was the sound of hope floating on the air as long-closed eyes began to flicker and open.

“Éowyn,” he said weakly, smiling. He tilted his head to the side, noting that he was in one of the rooms of the Healing Houses. On the other side of the bed sat Aragorn, obvious relief on his face. Faramir narrowed his eyes and turned back to his wife. “How long have I been here?”

“Four days,” Aragorn answered, much to Faramir’s annoyance. “Éowyn found you on the floor of your father’s private study.”

Ah, yes. That was where he’d been all that time ago. It was more than four days—he’d been in the dungeons longer than that. Aragorn was lying.

Éowyn nodded, though Faramir knew she was forced to agree.

“They said it was a natural sleep, but you would not wake.” She took her husband’s hand and held as though she feared he’d slip away. “Now you have.”

The healers were fetched and Faramir was allowed water, broth, and a little bit of soft food, which he ate in the company of his wife. At first she was able to glare off any who tried to enter the room but she had to give way as day turned to night. Others wished to spend time with Faramir as well, both as steward and friend.

It was not so late when Aragorn came to sit. They had just taken Faramir up for a very short—but necessary—walk and his legs were fine. Back in his bed in the room, Faramir kept his face turned away from his visitor. Aragorn’s confusion grew as he asked if Faramir needed anything, needed help, needed water. Finally…

“What have I done that you turn from me like this?” Aragorn demanded, leaning forward to put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. The hand was roughly slapped away and Faramir turned, eyes blazing and mouth in a snarl.

“What have you not done?” Strong hands reached up, grabbing a fistful of the king’s hair and yanking the man forward before preceding to beat him soundly anywhere he could reach.

“Healer!” Aragorn was yelling for aid while trying to extricate himself without causing Faramir any damage. A fist connected with his eye—he wouldn’t be able to hide that. Faramir was fast and strong, more so than he should be after being asleep for four days. It took the assistance of three healers’ apprentices to subdue Faramir, winding long bandages around his arms and to the frame of the bed so he could not pull too hard and injure himself. All the while, Faramir glared at Aragorn.

Éowyn was called, and Arwen, but no one else. The steward had attacked the king but was there truly a crime committed if Faramir was ill? They did not know for certain that it was an illness, though something had caused Faramir’s strange sleep.

“He was strange,” Arwen said, when they had left Faramir to his peace. “He did not feel like the Faramir we know.”

“He did not act like the Faramir we know,” Aragorn said tartly, still reeling from the beating and from hearing one of his closest friends and dearest subjects call him a dirty bastard.

“No,” Éowyn agreed. “He is not himself, but what has changed?”

The queen frowned. “It is familiar, but I’m not certain how that could be. It reminds me of…” It was something just out of reach, something from the past. How could that be the case, since the few mortals she knew had been encountered later in her life?

“It does remind me of something,” Aragorn said, nodding.

“Well it doesn’t remind me of anything and it’s my husband!” Éowyn almost shouted, slamming her hands on the little table. Her rings made strange metallic clunks against the wood and drew Arwen’s attention.

“Did Faramir give you that Elvish ring?” she asked. Éowyn had it on her thumb. “I do not think I’ve seen you wear it before.”

“I haven’t, except for the past few days.” Éowyn turned the little bit of gold nervously around. “It’s Faramir’s. At least I think so. He was wearing it when I found him on the floor.”

The stares of the king and queen unnerved her, so she removed the piece of jewellery and held it out. Arwen took it, after first looking to Aragorn. It was barely in her hand before she dropped it to the floor.

“Saruman.” She knew the feel of magic well, but she hadn’t expected anything like that here.

“Saruman is dead,” Éowyn said. “How could he have done this?”

Aragorn did not seem to know, but Arwen was thoughtful.

“A spell should dissipate when the caster dies, but this did not.” She looked from the ring to her hand—not burnt—and back again. “But if the spell is in the ring, then it will last until the ring is destroyed.”

“Another one?” Éowyn groaned in disbelief.

“Nowhere near so powerful as the One Ring, I’m sure. It was not magical when it was made or I would have been able to feel it sooner.” Arwen knew the feeling of her grandmother’s magic, the feeling of Nenya, and was sure she’d have known earlier if the ring were that strong.

“So we have to destroy this ring.” Éowyn looked at it, annoyed. “How?”

Aragorn put on a glove and picked up the ring.

“I’ll see if an ordinary forge will take care of it,” he said. Arwen nodded and watched him go.

“What’s the point of a magic ring that makes you sleep? There are faster ways to kill someone.”

“I don’t know.”

Faramir had to eat. When they released his arms and legs from the bed frame the first time he seemed perfectly normal—until they caught him with a surgeon’s knife going through the halls. When they tried to take it away he began yelling that he needed to find Aragorn, needed to take care of Aragorn in a permanent, violent manner. So Éowyn fed him, as he accused the healers of being on the pretender’s side. Very few people were allowed anywhere near Faramir so that his ranting would not be spread.

Ironically it was the drifting rumour that brought old Ioreth to Faramir’s bedside. She believed none of it—certainly little Faramir would not say anything against his lord, be it steward or king.

“It’s not Faramir’s fault,” Éowyn said crossly. “It’s that ring.”

“What ring?” At Ioreth’s age there was little fear of the highborn. Denethor hadn’t phased her and no wraith-killing poppet from Rohan would either.

“Faramir’s ring. It was gold and looked Elvish. Arwen said it was Elvish.” It also didn’t occur to Éowyn not to answer the old lady. She had helped Faramir before.

“Gold ring…” Ioreth though. “Never wore anything like that. His brother did.”

“It wasn’t Boromir’s. I think he found it in his father’s study.”

The old woman’s entire demeanour changed, making her appear much younger.

“The heir’s ring,” she said, nodding. “Old Denethor was young then, and Ecthelion was steward. That ring was a gift for the birth of the heir of Gondor. Well, we thought Boromir was the only heir at the time. Lady Finduilas had it made back home.”

Of course. The fires of Minas Tirith wouldn’t work because the stupid ring had been made somewhere else. Éowyn was completely disgusted with magic and its annoying intricacies—a sword was so much simpler.

“Ioreth, I think I love you,” Éowyn stated, before running out of the room. The ring was now kept locked away but she didn’t need the actual object, just someone to help send it off on its way to destruction. She found Arwen first.

“We can send it downriver immediately. It’s possible that Prince Imrahil would know who made it. As Elven as the design is…” It was likely that the goldsmith was still working.

“Wonderful. I’ll ride to the river now, if you’ll let me.”

Arwen smiled. “That won’t be necessary.”

They didn’t bother waiting for a merchant ship, but sent a small contingent of soldiers immediately on the several hundred mile journey downriver and around Belfalas to Dol Amroth. Prince Imrahil recognised the piece immediately—the same man had made his wedding ring. He threw it into the forge himself.

When Faramir suddenly stopped being sullen and angry, the king, queen, steward’s lady, and old Ioreth all counted time. Aragorn went into the room and, for the first time in days, Faramir greeted him with neither vile language nor abuse. Faramir’s face was red with shame and he could not raise his head no matter how many times Aragorn forgave him.

Éowyn and Arwen were at their charming best and finally managed to convince Faramir that the ring had been magic. Somehow Saruman had done something to it—that part of the story would not likely be known ever. Choosing Denethor as the carrier of the curse also made sense. Only it was not Denethor who finally met Aragorn, son of Arathorn, the heir of Isildur come home. Had that happened, a secret trip to the dungeons and a swift execution would have been the end of that. But Denethor had died and his heir was not cursed into hating the king—until he put the ring on.

“Never in my life will I give anyone the gift of a ring, not ever again.” His daughters would have necklaces or bracelets, but never a ring.

“I agree,” Éowyn said, finally able to hold her husband and be held in return. Arwen nodded, and Aragorn as well.

“You were asleep for four days, Faramir. We know you dreamed in that time.” Aragorn was wondering about that. “Do you think the curse had anything to do with your dreams?”

Faramir’s face was completely neutral.

“I could not say. I dreamed of the city and of people I knew.”

Aragorn shrugged. “At least you had that much comfort.”

“Indeed, your majesty.” He would never speak of it, the comfort that was not. Nor would he speak aloud the fear that somewhere, among his father’s things, was something else with a curse on it, one far more subtle than Saruman’s. That worry was his alone.


NB: Please do not distribute (by any means, including email) or repost this story (including translations) without the author's prior permission. [ more ]

Enjoyed this story? Then be sure to let the author know by posting a comment at http://www.faramirfiction.com/Fiction/the-ring. Positive feedback is what keeps authors writing more stories!

Thank the author

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

  [ what's this? ]

View all recent Thanks

2 Comment(s)

NB: Comments may contain spoilers!

You held me completely spellbound beginning to end. This and Hurinionath are two good examples of why I admire you.

And oh, how that last paragraph has left me thinking…

— Tal    24 June 2009, 17:06    #

That you admire me makes me feel … (I cannot express.) Your story for me was so awesome that I’m floundering here.

Very glad you enjoyed it, as it is a very disjointed story—as it’s supposed to be. I’m glad I managed the ending; was quite worried about it. All the writer’s block, computer problems, and late did not completely destroy my groove. And it’s a rather shallow groove sometimes.

Thank you.

— Bell Witch    24 June 2009, 23:07    #

Subscribe to comments | Get comments by email | View all recent comments


  Rules & Help

All fields except 'Web' are required.
Your email address will NOT be displayed publicly. It will only be sent to the author so she (he) can reply to your comment in private. If you want to keep track of comments on this article, you can subscribe to its comments feed.

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.