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22 April 2004 | 36281 words
Series: THE RITUAL
Title: A Tradition and a Misunderstanding (Part 1/9)
Author: Valkyrie (email)
Pairings: Aragorn/Faramir, Aragorn/Arwen (implied)
Archive: yes, but let me know where
Warnings: m/m relationship
Summary: Aragorn learns about an ancient tradition concerning the King and the Steward of Gondor and in his eagerness to avoid it, he almost commits a grave mistake.
Authors’ note: this is AU. Some things are loyal to Tolkien’s story; I have changed some events and invented all the rest. If you like to read things canon, this is not a story for you.
Feedback: kind words will be welcome and constructive criticism as well.
Disclaimer: The characters are property of J.R.R. Tolkien. I have not and will not receive any money for this story. It is free for all to read.
Beta Reader original version: Minx
Beta Reader revised version: Chris
What would I have done without you guys? All remaining mistakes are mine.
PART ONE – A Tradition and a Misunderstanding
“Enter,” said the King in a regal voice. He was sitting on one of the beautifully carved armchairs situated on either side of the great glass doors that opened onto the balcony of his room. The balcony had a wonderful view of the White City and the grand glass doors let Ithil’s light bathe the chambers in nights such as this. The King’s chambers were spacious and not as luxuriously furnished as one would think; the room contained a four-poster bed, the carving on which matched the armchairs. In front of the fireplace, situated in the wall facing the bed, lay a pile of furs. It seemed Ranger habits were hard to break for the king had ordered the furs to use them on cold winter nights, when he was sitting by the fire. A bookcase full of Númenórean history and Gondor lore occupied one wall and beside it a door led to the King’s bathroom and wardrobes.
A bare footed young man walked into the chamber. He looked at everything but the King, his nervousness very apparent. The King had to admit the man was a beauty on his own. His skin was creamy white and his figure slim with a gracefulness that reminded him of the Elves—he had that serene demeanour about him. His hair was a strange mixture of blond, light brown and auburn and the King knew it was silky to the touch. He was dressed in the ceremonial robes used for this occasion. A white ankle length loincloth beneath deep blue robes that were tied with a belt the same material as the thin silver-colour bands encasing his wrists. The belt and wristbands were made of the finest mithril weave. It was an attire that enhanced the beauty of its owner. The man kept walking until he stood in front of the King trying his best not to show his unsettled state.
“Here I am, my King, for you to make the claim.” The man proceeded to kneel in front of the King, bowing his head, his sight always trained on the floor. “I vow to serve you until the day I die, protect you with my own life and I offer myself to seal my allegiance.”
“Do you come of your free will and agree to be subjected to the trial of the Ritual?” The King asked, following the lines of the Ritual to the letter.
“I come willingly. I was not coerced to fulfil my duty. I submit to this trial.”
“I accept your offer.”
These words signalled that the final part of the Ritual would begin.
One week before
“WHAT? This is insane! What kind of tradition is that?” Aragorn got up almost knocking over his chair. He could not believe his ears. The advisor had to be wrong.
“My King, this tradition follows from the days of Númenor. It ensures the complete loyalty of the Steward…,” said the advisor from his place at one of the windows in the Council Room. Right now, it was comforting to be as far away from the upset King as possible.
“It’s the wrong way to ensure allegiance,” said Aragorn, interrupting him. “Valar! It is way beyond madness. Loyalty is not bought or bound. Loyalty is earned by one’s acts; it is freely given. Anyway, why must it be in such a way? As King I will revoke this mad tradition.” Aragorn began pacing around the room.
“My King, it is not wise to do so. The Council knows of this tradition, and carrying the Ritual to its end will assure them that the Steward of the Realm will be a loyal one, prepared to replace the King himself if it were necessary,” said the advisor in earnest.
Aragorn rolled his eyes at what he thought pure lunacy. “But Galen, are you hearing what you are saying? How could this ensure the loyalty of the Steward? From my point of view, this would prove just the opposite. How can be trusted a Steward who is so ready to do this deed?” Aragorn was getting desperate at this point. Why was he discussing this matter still?
“My King, you must understand that, of course, the act in itself is not enough. Just as the hands of the King can heal, only the King will be able to verify the transparency of the Steward.” The advisor was one step away from losing his patience and pull at his hair.
“What do you mean?” The voice of the King faltered with doubt and the advisor saw his opportunity.
“Just as your healing hands are proof of your legitimacy as King, in the same way only the King can prove the veracity of the Steward. It is an act bound by power we will never understand from a time lost in the ages. As far as we are concerned, the Ritual was created to protect the King’s lineage, though we do not know what happened to compel the men of that age to do something that radical. We only know that there were once a King and a Steward bound to do this Ritual and it was sealed with magic in order to ensure that each one of their descendants would do the same.” The advisor looked at the King’s face and felt confident for the first time since this conversation started that the King would go through with this.
“And what of the King’s feelings? Does that not count at all? What will happen if the King refuses? What will happen if the King does not want to do this under any circumstances? What of the Steward? For he is more affected by this.” Deep inside he knew that Galen’s reasoning would crush every argument of his.
“The King’s refusal would prove the Steward an impostor and a traitor of the realm. Treason is punished by death… and I’m afraid it would involve too many laws to revoke,” the advisor added stopping Aragorn with a gesture of his hand when he saw that he intended to rebut this new bit of information. “Besides, there is the fact that the Ritual will kill the traitor with a painful death. The death sentence is a relief in itself.”
“How? But… are you telling me that if the Steward is proven unfit this… Ritual will kill him? That is preposterous! What if the Ritual deems a good man unfit and kills him? I am confused. How is this decided? By the King or by the Ritual?”
“Sire, the King decides. His judgment will be aided by the Ritual, which it is impossible to deceive for it tests the Steward’s very soul. Another factor to take into account is those who occupy high ranks in the realm and who expect tradition to be followed, even more now that the King has returned. Sudden and unexpected changes would prove dangerous for the stability of the realm at this moment.”
Aragorn felt cornered. He had Arwen to consider as well. What would she think of this? As a ruler he had to put his realm first and above himself. That was a King’s fate. Right now, he wished he could be a mere man. Suddenly, he felt very tired; days of endless battle had not wearied him as much as these news.
“Does Faramir know of this?” His voice sounded defeated.
“Yes, my King, he knows his duty. As his father before him.”
“Valar, Galen! That was an image you could have avoided to put in my mind,” said Aragorn imagining his own father and Denethor in this situation. He sat at the Council table once more and pondered over the situation, not saying anything for a few minutes. In the end, he made a decision, “I will postpone the crowning ceremony.”
“But, my King… everything is ready for the ceremony to take place within three days and…”
“I will not change my mind about this! Faramir is still in the halls of healing and in no condition to attend this Ritual so soon. I will not have him relapse. Don’t you have any consideration for one who has already given so much for this realm? If I do this, it will be under my conditions or I will throw caution to the winds. I will not harm Faramir, tradition or not.” Aragorn gave his advisor one of his most regal scowls, one that would be the envy of his foster father, the Lord of Imladris.
“Very well. I will arrange for everything to take place within a week with regard to Faramir’s recovery. You are right, my King, you must forgive us. We were hasty not to think about such an important matter. And… you must consider something else,” the advisor stepped closer to the King sitting at the table. “The Steward is not allowed to lie with a man before the Ritual, not even the King himself. The power at work guarantees this is so. A fault would lead to fatal consequences deeming the Steward unfit.”
Aragorn felt his eyes widen in shock, this was another factor to add to his list of wrongs in this mess. This implied Faramir was untouched by men if the young one was truthful to this insane tradition. This complicated things even more, indeed. “I will talk with Faramir.”
“My King, there is anoth—”
“Galen,” said Aragorn stopping his advisor from relating more of what he considered pure madness. “I will talk with Faramir before I make any decision. You may leave.”
“But, Sire, this—”
“You may leave now, Galen, we will talk later. I need to get use to this idea. First, I will learn what Faramir thinks about all this and then I will talk with you.”
“Very well, my King,” said the advisor and headed to the door.
Aragorn was relieved when Galen left him alone. His thoughts wandered and they were full of young Faramir.
Galen stood in the hallway and stared at the closed door. The King had to perform the Ritual no matter what, if not the Steward would die. Why hadn’t he mentioned that in the first place? It would have ended all the King’s objections. Well, the King would learn about this when he would talk with Faramir and besides, the King had to learn about the Ritual before attending it, he would have to read the Book.
“What do you think about this?” Aragorn was sitting on his bed, elbows on his knees and a concerned look on his face.
Arwen got up from where she sat at the window and walked to Aragorn. She brushed her hand through his head in a soothing gesture. “Don’t worry, my love, all will be well. As you told me, you could do no less. Your decision was the right one. Don’t fret about this matter.”
“Fret you say? That is certainly a way to put it… But… what if…” Aragorn broke off.
Arwen smiled, anticipating what her husband meant to say. “What if you start to feel something for him? Or… do you feel for him already?” Her smile grew sweeter on her lips.
“Valar, my love, I can keep nothing from you! And I do not have an answer for that question,” he said looking into her beautiful eyes. “I felt something I could not explain when I drew him back from death but never thought of him in that way. Now, confronted with what I would have to do, I do not know what I feel for him anymore. I am confused and I would be unfaithful if…”
“It should not be so for you. It will not be so for me. I am sure of our love. The heart of Man is not as the heart of Elves. Man’s life is so short, you love with passion, and you take love in every way it presents itself. And it is good. Though I am of Elven heritage, I am now mortal as well. I understand this as well as I understand what being a ruler entails. A King’s realm always comes first.”
Aragorn buried his face in Arwen’s robes, “You are understanding and wise, my Queen. Your words soothe me.” He closed his eyes relishing in the closeness with his dearest friend and beloved.
Two days had passed since Aragorn had found out about the Ritual, two days of meetings, paperwork and bureaucracy. He wanted to speak to Faramir since then but something would always come up. If it was not the Council then it was the constant stream of guests arriving for the crowning. Now, he headed for the houses of healing at last. The bright side of all this was that Faramir would be much better at this point.
“My King,” said Varan, the warden healer, bowing respectfully, “what can I do for you?”
Aragorn nodded by way of greeting. “I want to see the Steward. How is he?”
“He is feeling better. He has recovered well though he must not strain his shoulder too much.”
“I will see him now. Please, see that no one disturbs us while we talk,” said Aragorn taking his leave to face Faramir. He had not seen the young man since he pulled him from death. Then, he was surprised when Faramir recognized him, now he wondered about the fact that maybe the King and the Steward were connected somehow, even before this Ritual.
He entered Faramir’s room and noticed that he was sleeping. Sitting in the chair beside the bed, he watched Faramir in his slumber. He believed Faramir was a man of brave and gentle spirit. Now, due to this Ritual, he started to see Faramir in another light though he did not want to do it. He knew Faramir had a troubled mind. He knew for he had been able to touch Faramir’s spirit when he drew him back from death. Faramir had suffered much, he could tell that from the long conversations with Boromir during their quest. Boromir had been always protective of his brother and he had worried about the fact that Faramir would receive all the weight of their father’s attention during his absence. The brothers had a strong bond and he could only guess how Faramir might have felt when he learned about his brother’s death.
Yes, Faramir had suffered much. He possessed a deep sadness and who knows what kind of trauma would have been left by the fact that his own father tried to murder him, burning him alive while vulnerable, when he should have been protected even more.
However, he had to admit this vulnerability brought out all the protectiveness in him. Faramir was very handsome and his own reluctance toward the Ritual did not rest in the fact of Faramir being a man, for he had lain with other men in the past. His reluctance lay in the fact that he loved Arwen and didn’t want to hurt her in any way.
He was not free to give himself to another or to take another and besides, he didn’t know what Faramir thought about all this either. For all he knew, Faramir could be terrified of doing this Ritual. And the last thing he wanted to do was force himself on this man who had endured enough already.
His reverie was interrupted when Faramir opened his eyes and stared directly at him.
“My King! I did not know you would come. I…” Faramir was surprised and started to rise into a sitting position.
“Faramir, calm yourself and lie still. You are not fully recovered yet. You have to rest,” said Aragorn rising from his chair to stop Faramir from straining his healing wounds. He used his most compassionate voice trying not to intimidate Faramir. He wanted the young man to trust him in lieu of what the future might lay ahead of them.
“Thank you, your Majesty, but I’m tired of this bed and the healers fussing over me. I’m quite well, I feel only a mild discomfort,” said the young man with a smile. Faramir was nervous for he had not seen the King since he had saved him from death. Now the King was staring right at him, kindness showing on his face. He was aware the crowning ceremony would be the next day and that he would have to go through the Ritual. The mere thought made his face turn a deep shade of red. Was it because of this that the King was here? His heart started to beat faster and as quickly as his face turned red just as suddenly it turned very pale. His mouth went dry and a little tremor ran down his spine.
Aragorn watched the emotions flicking over Faramir’s face. This man was as an open book to him. If Faramir reacted this way now, he did not want to think about how it would be in the accursed day of the Ritual. He finally decided to clear things up.
“Are you uncomfortable in my presence, Faramir? Please, tell me the truth,” said the King trying to reassure the other man that talking with him would be fine.
“NO!” said Faramir in a rush and started once more to rise from the bed, this time succeeding and getting into a sitting position before the King could stop him.
“Lie still, Faramir. Do not see me as your King right now, see me instead as your friend,” said Aragorn laying a comforting hand on Faramir’s shoulder. The young man was watching him with something akin to apprehension. He would broach the issue right now. He just hoped Faramir would not jump through the roof. “Faramir, I came here not only to see how your health is. I came to talk about you, submitting to the Ritual.”
Faramir’s eyes shut tight at these words. He knew it would come to this. He was too weak to be the Steward of the Realm. The crowning ceremony was the next day and he had not been able to perform his duties for he was still confined to his bed. He felt useless and now the King would tell him he was unfit to be his second in command. The King was surely able to sense his nervousness about the Ritual as well as to see how weak he was. His father was right to try and get rid of him before he dishonoured the Line of Stewards with his weakness. Faramir opened eyes glazed with unshed tears.
Aragorn saw Faramir’s reaction at the mentioning of the Ritual and thought he had been right all along. Faramir did not want the Ritual to be performed and tradition or no he would not do anything to harm Faramir in any way. He would reassure the young man he was not to be obliged to go through the Ritual; that he wouldn’t need to worry about anything for he would revoke this madness. Aragorn did not get to offer his reassurance for Faramir spoke first.
“Forgive me for not being worthy, Sire,” he said, reining in his emotions but, nonetheless, staring at Aragorn with a gaze full of shame and despair.
“What?” Aragorn did not understand. He took Faramir by his shoulders. “Faramir, look at me. Look at me, please,” he repeated when Faramir turned his face away from him.
Faramir obeyed his King and looked at him as if waiting for judgement to fall.
“What do you think you are not worthy of? What should I forgive? I do not understand,” said Aragorn.
“You will not have me as your Steward because I’m weak. I am not worthy of—”
“Stop this nonsense!” Aragorn cut him off before he finished and Faramir shut his eyes tight. “Look at me,” said Aragorn in his most regal voice. Faramir could not do less than obey at once. “You are a brave man, Faramir. You are a beautiful human being, compassionate, worthy of respect and you are a great warrior.”
“But—” Faramir started to protest before the King cut him off again.
“No buts… I don’t want to hear you saying something the like again. I know you might think you are worthless or lacking in skills but I know better. Whatever your father said to you it is not true. I did not come here to shun you. I came to talk about the Ritual and before you say something else hear me out first.” Aragorn loosened his hold on Faramir’s shoulders and was now caressing the other man’s head, keeping away some rebel strands that fell into the young man’s face. He suddenly realized what he was doing and somewhat embarrassed let go of Faramir and sat again on the chair beside the young man’s bed. “Please, make yourself comfortable. You need to rest, my friend.” Faramir meekly obeyed, resting on the bed again facing the King.
“I do not understand…”
“Faramir, hear me out and don’t interrupt me.” Faramir shut his mouth at once, looking expectantly at the King. “I can’t say I favour the Ritual. I think it is madness and it is unfair to the Steward to keep this tradition.” Faramir’s face was a mix of misery and expectant curiosity. “I want to make it clear that my reluctance has nothing to do with you but with the nature of the Ritual itself. I am new to this. I do not know anything but what The Council told me. I wanted to speak to you to give you the opportunity to have some say in this matter and to assure you that I will support any decision you make. I do not want you unwilling for I care deeply for you and do not want to lose any chance at a future friendship.”
Faramir was stunned. Shocked was too light a word to describe his feelings right now. The King wanted to have his permission to perform the Ritual? This was unheard of, besides, they had no choice now, and it had to be performed. But again, his King was raised with Elven standards. He felt as though a great burden had been lifted from his shoulders. He was not being rejected as he thought at first. His King stated he thought him worthy and considered him a great warrior. Though he still had his doubts, he would ensure from now on to be truthful to his King’s words.
“I will do what is my duty. I’m yours to command,” Faramir said with a little nod of his head.
“No, Faramir. That would not do. You must understand I am not as you would expect a King born in Gondor and taught in Gondor to be. I do not believe in rules that go against what is natural in one’s being. I will not order something, to any person in the realm, that I would not do myself. Therefore, my command would not do in this matter that I consider a grave attempt against someone’s well-being and free will. So, I am asking you to answer me truthfully. What do you think of the Ritual? Would you willingly do this?” Aragorn finished waiting expectantly for the other man’s reply.
Faramir stared at his King for some moments and could not help but feel proud. In front of him was a King worthy of giving one’s life for. He was kind, compassionate and fearless in his beliefs. And he had the honour to serve this King. Nevertheless, he was a little confused by the King’s insistence about his willingness in this matter, for they had no choice. Did not the King know that?
“I’m proud to be under your command. I would give everything for Gondor and my King. Rest assured I would go willingly into this for I was taught it was the utmost honour to be proved worthy of the Stewards’ Line by the King himself. Before I became the Steward I knew it was possible someday this would be required of me.” Faramir finished.
“Tell me what you know about the Ritual,” asked Aragorn.
Faramir complied with a nod. “The Ritual forms a bond between King and Steward where they can communicate at a mental level to ensure the upper hand in battle. The mental link is a basic one to allow basic thoughts to pass through, which is enough to share commands and tactics if it were necessary. Knowledge about this bond is kept secret between the line of Kings and Stewards, not even the Council knows of it. A good guess for this being so, would be tactical reasons. The knowledge of such an advantage would instigate unnecessary attention upon the King and the Steward.” Faramir stopped his explanation for a moment in order to let the King process all this.
“It’s unbelievable. I had no idea the Númenóreans’ power was such. I do not think even the Elves were aware of this fact, either. It calls my attention, too, that this never became known outside of Gondor.” Aragorn looked at Faramir and bade him to continue.
“It is suspected the installation of the Ritual could have been done in the times when some Kings practiced the magic arts. The secrecy of it is guarded by the Council and men of the highest ranks. The power ensures it remains so,” explained the young man.
“And… as for the Ritual itself,” he continued, “You do not have anything to worry about. Once the Steward is chosen by blood or by choice, in case the Steward in the bloodline refuses, the power works in order to guarantee at least a mild attraction to perform the Ritual. You can be sure I will go willingly, my King. I knew what being a Steward entailed and I chose to follow this path as my brother before me. I did not think I was going to ever be the actual steward though, that was an honour reserved for my brother but… father wanted a spare.”
“Did not you have the choice to refuse?”
“I am not one to shy away from my duty, sire. But a potential Steward does have a say in the matter. He has the choice to reject the Steward Line and pass it to whomever may want to replace him or whomever the King deems apt to it. The power at work guarantees no Steward can reveal the secret. We are not able to talk about it except to the King himself, the magic at work ensures it and eligible stewards come only from high ranked people who already know about it.” Faramir looked at the King waiting for what may come.
“But… what you are saying is the Steward has the choice but the King doesn’t! You have the choice to refuse or accept to be Steward with all the duties that follow. However, the King and his line do not have that choice; an heir to the throne does not have the choice to be or not to be the future King. On the other hand, you say the Steward can be selected by choice. Then, who gets to choose?”
“The King chooses who is fit to be tested by the Ritual. Only once the Ritual proved the future Steward unworthy and the man was punished with death. He would have died anyway, because the power at work would make sure of that. When executed, the man was already dying. The Ritual would not allow an impostor to go unpunished. Once chosen, this man has to be honest and know in his heart that he meets all that it is require of him. It seems this man was not truthful. From there on, no one dared to try to deceive the Ritual. When a Steward is chosen and acknowledged, the Stewards’ Line goes to him and his descendants from then on.” Faramir turned his gaze away from the King’s intense stare and looked out of the window. The sun was radiant outside. Right now, he wanted to be anywhere but here. This was proving to be more difficult with every passing moment, despite all the King had said he couldn’t help to think about his own inadequateness.
Faramir continued his explanation without facing the King, his eyes fixed on the window. “And… What you think about the King not having a choice is not true. The King has the ultimate power, as the Steward is bound to be worthy under death of punishment, the King himself is not tested. Furthermore, the outcome of the Ritual is bound to the character of the King, so a tyrant King would find a Steward of the like for the Ritual would reject one of just and pure feelings. Above all this, the King has the right and the power to cancel the Ritual tradition. It is only that no King has deemed this necessary. On the contrary, the Ritual is seen of the utmost importance where military matters are concerned.
“Then we have nothing more to talk about. I will revoke the tradition for I have the power to do so. You do not have to endure this situation, willing or not. Rest now, Faramir. I can see you are tired.” Aragorn rose from his chair and touched the other’s shoulder in a comforting gesture. He was sure he was making the right decision. Faramir could not even finish his explanation looking into his face. He was sure Faramir was not content with this situation; despite all the reassurances the young man just gave him.
Faramir turned his head hastily to look at his King, eyes wide with surprise; he thought he had heard the wrong thing for sure.
“Sleep and don’t worry about the crowning, I have delayed the ceremony a week. I would not have you attend the Ritual if you were not recovered, but now we do not have to worry about that. The same tradition states that the Ritual gives the King the power to end it and I will do it. Military advantage or not. I will talk to Galen right now and end this for good.” With that, Aragorn left Faramir to his rest.
However, that was impossible for Faramir because his King had just condemned him to a horrid death, he had not heard wrong at all. His King would revoke the Ritual without performing it but the Ritual would still see this as a refusal. It would see him as unworthy and would kill him for it. If Faramir’s emotional state had been normal he would have realized the grave error he was about to commit, but Faramir’s emotional state was not at its best. He curled up into a tight ball and thought that maybe it was better this way. He was weak. No matter what the King said to the contrary. The Ritual would still prove him unworthy due to his weakness. Besides, if he was willing, the King it seemed was not; Aragorn was most reluctant to do this so he would spare him the inconvenience. He wouldn’t tell the King what his refusal would entail. It would be better this way. His King had brought him back from death and his King would give him back to it.
Aragorn strode into Galen’s office, where the advisor was absorbed in the preparations for the crowning ceremony.
“I will revoke the Ritual, Galen. So tell me right now what I must do to end this.” Aragorn was convinced no coercion from Galen’s side would change his mind. Even less now that he knew Faramir had other thoughts about this whole thing, no matter what the young man tried to make him believe.
Galen rose from his chair with an appalled expression on his face. “But… my King,” he started to say.
“Now Galen.” The King’s voice turned dangerously low.
“All right, Sire. Did you talk with Faramir?” This could not be! Galen thought frantically, something must have happened for the King to make this decision.
“Yes, he told me everything there is to know about the Ritual. In the end he told me the King had the power to end the Ritual tradition and I’m making this choice.”
“My King, are you aware of what you are about to do? We all—”
“Galen, I’m warning you.”
Galen pressed the bridge of his nose. He could not say anything more. He had hopped that at last Faramir’s life would turn out to be happier, but it seemed he was wrong. Maybe the son of Arathorn was not so compassionate as he first thought.
“Wait here, Sire. I will go to the library and retrieve the book.” Galen left his office, his heart heavy with sadness. All the way, he could think of nothing else but how could the king sacrifice Faramir to end a tradition he did not agree with. How it could be possible that the King would take Faramir’s life when he was the one who saved him?
Faramir still lay curled on the bed; tormented by the burden of his thoughts so he did not notice the figure entering his room.
“My lady! W-what…” Faramir stopped in mid sentence, horrified to think about what he almost said. What was he thinking to ask the Lady what she was doing here?
“Faramir, are you unwell?” Arwen could see the young man was in a high state of distress but… was not Aragorn going to talk to him? She thought her husband would have straightened this situation out by now.
“N-no, my Lady. It’s nothing.” He was trying hard to get a grip on emotions but failing miserably. He arranged himself into a sitting position. Arwen rushed to help him. “Lady, please, do not bother yourself with me. I’m well,” he said uncomfortable with Arwen fussing over him.
“Faramir, call me Arwen. And it’s not a bother,” she said adjusting Faramir’s pillows in a comfortable position for him to sit. “Did Aragorn talk to you?” she asked looking at his face for some clue, resting a hand on his shoulder.
Faramir just nodded.
It was clear to her the man was on the verge of a break down.
“What did he say? Faramir? You can talk to me, Aragorn told me about it,” she said at last seeing Faramir was reluctant to confide in her.
“He left… he is going to revoke the Ritual,” said Faramir in a quiet voice, trying to hide his distress. He did not dare to look at Arwen. He feared he would betray all he was feeling right now. She was Elven and Elvenkind were famed in reading emotions very well.
“But… I don’t understand. He said Galen did not let him have any choice. He came to see what you thought about this. How come he’s going to revoke this tradition?”
“The King has the power to do so, it is part of the tradition that the King can end the Ritual forever if he deems it necessary.”
Arwen grew very alarmed, as she saw how Faramir pulled his legs close to his body and rocked back and forth unconsciously. She was sure something grave had happened.
“Faramir,” she called firmly, tightening her grasp on the young man’s shoulder, “Faramir, listen to me. What will happen when the Ritual is revoked?”
Faramir’s answer was to shake his head from side to side. Arwen had her worries confirmed; something bad was going to happen.
“Faramir? Are you faithful to Gondor and her King?” This had a reaction. Faramir looked straight into Arwen’s eyes but still went on with his disturbing rocking movement.
“I would die for them. I ‘will’ die for them,” said Faramir averting his eyes. It was clear Faramir was in a state of shock but Arwen did not give up and his words did not go unnoticed by her either.
“Faramir. As your future Queen, I order you to tell me. What will happen when Aragorn revokes the Ritual?” Arwen was clear she would not be denied. Faramir felt lost. He could do nothing but obey.
“I-if the Ritual is not completed before it is revoked, the power at work takes it as the King’s refusal of the Steward. He would be declared unworthy and… and… Please, my Lady, I want to rest.” Faramir wanted this to end.
“Faramir! But… but that would kill you, you would be declared a traitor! Did you tell him about this? Faramir, did you tell him?”
The young man shook his head in negative and Arwen’s heart skipped a beat.
“Faramir, where is Aragorn right now? Faramir! As your Queen I order you to tell me where the King is right now!” Deep inside she knew there was no time to lose.
“He went to find Galen to revoke the Ritual.” Faramir felt numb, he stared into space. His life had lost meaning. His life was about to end anyway.
Arwen ran through the halls of healing, calling for a healer. When he stepped out of his office she bade him to see to Faramir. She did not stay to explain and went running toward Galen’s office.
All fell into place now. Faramir’s distress and shock. He had just received a death sentence! Valar, she had to hurry and stop Aragorn before it was too late. He would never forgive himself if Faramir died because of him. He would never get over this; his guilt would be too great.
She arrived at Galen’s office and without thinking twice about it stormed into the room.
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