04 April 2004 | 8091 words
Disclaimer: Tolkien’s, not mine.
Summary: – A/F PG13
Post LOTR - When Gondor goes to war against Harad, Faramir has to stay back to rule in Aragorn's stead. But things do not go as planned as Umbar takes advantage of the situation and attacks Minas Tirith.
Rated for mild violence and implied AF slash
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Part 1 Now- Faramir rubbed his aching temples with his gloved hand as he watched a company of soldiers reinforce the barricades on the gates leading to the second level of the city. He clenched his fists in frustration knowing that the men were working as swiftly as they could. Yet, they had little time. The troops of Umbar were approaching and Minas Tirith had to have its depleted defences in place before they could reach it. It was a small force but then the defence was a small one too, the bulk of Gondor’s forces and her captains away at the borders to deal with the Haradrim army. He tried to quell the worry the despair rising up his gut and threatening to choke him at the thought of all those he loved away at war, while he had remained back here, once again, to see to the governance of the land and also because he was still healing from injuries. He wondered how they were faring. Aragorn was leading those troops and Faramir was immensely worried for him. The ache in his ribs from the fall he had sustained some weeks prior had returned with a vengeance, as had the dull throb in his shoulders and back, from the strenuous sword fighting practise he had indulged in, in the last few days, as soon as news of an impeding attack by Umbar had reached them. The fall had kept him from practise earlier and the sudden resumption of activity had not gone down well with his healing muscles. He was exhausted, having had little sleep in the last few days. They had had to work hard to secure the defensive mechanism of the city, and to send away the women and children to the hills. They had been lucky to have some warning atleast of the impeding act for the Corsairs had sailed up the river till Harlond. But even with warning there was little they could do but defend. Going on an offensive was impossible given their numbers. They had signed peace treaties with Umbar and so the sudden attack was a shock to those left behind. But then, Faramir considered, they had signed for peace with Harad too. With the Corsair sails in view, they had had no choice but to barricade the city and declare a state of siege. It was particularly painful as the memories of the last siege the city had faced were still a little fresh in everyone’s minds. Faramir could not forget easily the despair and dread that had hung so heavily over the City when he had ridden in from Ithilien then. Then, as now, preparations had been frantic. And the people had been worried. He could not forget how his father had succumbed to that despair, and taken his own life. He scrunched his eyes trying to shut out that particular agonising memory. It was good thing he thought tiredly, that the queen as well as his wife were both away in Rohan, away from all these hostilities that seemed to have suddenly descended upon Gondor. His thoughts returned to Aragorn, the other source of worry that had kept him awake even before Umbar had struck. He was very worried for his king and lover. He wondered how they were faring for no messengers had reached them in the last couple of days. The last they had heard both sides were marching on Harad road, ready to engage in battle. They had just about managed to send out a courier with news of the impeding attack towards Harad Road. But, he would have covered barely half the distance to the meeting ground of the two armies, Faramir knew. Aragorn and he should have been side by side, he thought, allowing the bitterness to take over. Because of the positions they held, they were forced apart. But he knew now why it had been so important he stay back. It was because of situations like this. He felt the despair descend again, unsure whether he could actually hold the city. The events of the last few weeks had left him morose and he had worried a great deal over his abilities as a soldier, or as he saw it, his lack of them. The cacophony of sounds brought him back to reality. It took him and the others around him barely a fraction of a second to realise that the Rammas that surrounded the city had been breached, and the Corsairs were now pouring in towards their city.
Earlier - It had all started at the War Council held a week before the armies were due to march towards Harad. Constant skirmishes had been taking place on the border despite the purported peace between the two nations, and finally Gondor had issued an ultimatum. Harad’s response had seemed to indicate that the only option was war. The political situation there was tense, with two ruling factions fighting for power, the more powerful one being the one behind the recent border troubles. At first they had thought that a show of military strength might act as a deterrent but as matters proceeded it became apparent that a serious conflict could take place if they didn’t make it obvious that they meant business. With that aim in mind, Gondor had called on Rohan’s aid and both armies decided to prepare to the border. “I shall be leading the first company,” Aragorn had declared to the council members. “You?” Faramir had asked confused, echoing the sentiments of everyone else in the room. “Yes,” Aragorn had stated in such a quiet voice that not one of his captains had had the courage to protest. Éomer and Faramir had tried though. “Is that really necessary?” Éomer had asked doubtfully. “Is it really necessary for you to have ridden in at the head of your Riders when we called for your help?” Aragorn asked him coolly. Éomer had shut up after that. Faramir hadn’t however. “What of the affairs of state?” he had asked. “What of them?” “I believe the Steward means to ask who will handle the governance of the land in your absence,” Prince Imrahil supplied. The others around the table nodded. While they felt uncomfortable at the thought of exposing a newly crowned king to the dangers of war, they had expected little else. Kings had a duty towards their people, and Elendil’s heir would hardly be one to shirk his. “Faramir,” Aragorn stated calmly. “What?” the steward had gasped out. “You are the Steward,” Aragorn had pointed out in a tone of long-suffering patience, and with a pointed look at Faramir’s sling. Faramir had fallen off his horse some weeks ago when a rabbit had run across the animal’s path causing it to shy suddenly. The trail had been hilly and full of rocks, and the fall had been particularly nasty, leaving the Steward with bumps on his head, badly bruised ribs, a dislocated shoulder, and muscles strains in his back. He was still recovering, his movements slow and measured and had been unable to wield a sword until two days prior, and then too, he was just about able to hold it and make a few cursory strokes. The healers made him retain a sling for the shoulder tended to be weak due to old battle injuries. The members of the War council had nodded in satisfaction and Aragorn had adroitly shifted the discussion towards that of supplies, ignoring Faramir’s attempts to protest. Faramir had tried unsuccessfully several times to steer the conversation back to the subject of his forced absence from the battle, until Aragorn had finally given him an impatient look and suggested they disperse to see to the various preparations needed before meeting again later in the day. He himself had walked off in another direction, leaving Faramir behind, confused and worried. They had met later that night in Faramir’s chambers, Aragorn having come in search of him. And they had argued over the subject, Faramir pleading madly and Aragorn stubbornly adamant about his decision, professing surprise that Faramir could even question it. “But I wish to ride with you. I never get to ride with you,” Faramir said plaintively Aragorn shrugged, “You know it is not possible. I need you to stay here and look after the land for me. It may take weeks, perhaps even months for us to return. You know Éomer would not have asked Éowyn to fill in his stead otherwise.” “But why me?” Faramir asked almost plaintively. “Who else? You are my Steward. It is *your* duty!” Aragorn retorted. “Anyone! The Queen, the Ruling Council, Húrin, anyone. Let me ride with you this once, I beg of you.” “That is not how it works, and you know the reasons. You are a student of the history of this land, after all! And Arwen is in Rohan remember?” “But I want to be by your side. You are taking Éomer and Uncle Imrahil and Elphir too. Why do you leave me behind?” Faramir knew he was beginning to sound childish but he felt greatly hurt. In the last war, he had missed the final battle at Aragorn’s side because he had been gravely injured. A sudden thought struck him with chilling force, “I know I opposed this war earlier, but then I thought we might have scope of peace. I would come with you!” He had supported a search for a peaceful solution originally, even when the councils had been torn between both options. It was just recently that Ithilien had begun to return to normal, opening up to settlers. War with Harad would push that resettlement process back a great deal, and he was loathe to see that happen. Yet, there was no choice now. The settlers had been evacuated to Minas Tirith now, with just the rangers to hold the fort there. He had to finally support war as an option much as he disliked the idea of his nation once again facing the rigours of battle and its accompanying problems. “I’m not scared of war!” he cried out, still toying with the horrifying thought that Aragorn might think him craven when it came to fighting. After all, the king had seen nothing of his fighting abilities. “I did not think you were,” Aragorn stated calmly, unaware of the turmoil in his Steward’s mind. Faramir felt a sinking feeling in his heart. He was sure of it now. Aragorn probably thought he was incapable of soldiering, based on what he knew of the younger man. Faramir did prefer to indulge in quieter pursuits and when peace had been restored after the war of the ring, he had welcomed a chance to pursue his interests in the arts and reduced his involvement in military matters to the amount necessary. He led his men against Orc attacks and helped maintain Ithilien’s defence but at the same time he had thrown himself whole-heartedly into rebuilding efforts and was often to be found more in the libraries than in the fighting grounds. When he had been younger, that very behaviour of his had been one of his father’s favourite points of verbal ammunition. He had gone on to join the army like his brother and the sons of all the lords of the land, for Gondor was always facing strife. For years he had fought in Ithilien and he had led his rangers in holding it against Sauron’s forces. They had survived the influence of the dark forces under his guidance. His body was even now covered in scars from the various skirmishes and battles he had fought in over all these years. He had led capably and he had led well, in the eyes of the other captains. But his father had never been satisfied with him. And so in Faramir’s own eyes, he had done nothing worthy of comment. He had constantly been told that his elder brother was the capable soldier, and hence the better man, and he had believed it and accepted it. He looked away now in despondency. “You know you have not yet fully recovered from your injuries,” Aragorn was saying. “I seem to make a habit of it,” he muttered remembering the last time he had lain in the houses of healing while his uncle had told him of the armies of the West preparing to march. He remembered how he had yearned to go then too, but had been unable to get up. He had been weak then. Even in battle he had been weak, letting his despair cloud him until he had fallen. It was not until Aragorn had awoken him that he had felt the return of hope in his heart. “I shall be fine in a few days. The sling is not even required anymore,” he had offered, “I want to be with you Aragorn. I want to be near you.” “You are being selfish,” Aragorn had snapped finally. “Selfish?” “What else am I to assume? You have a position in this land. You are my steward; you rule in my stead should I be unable to do so. I can’t imagine you can actually question this ruling. I thought you were well aware that one of us would have to remain back here unless absolutely necessary. It is only expected.” He continued after a pause watching as the words sunk into Faramir’s numbed mind, softening his tone, “Surely you understand. This is not just about you or me. We have our people to care for, Faramir. *Our people*. We cannot let them down. It is imperative one of us remain here. They need us. They need confidence and support and assurance. I know you will provide that in my absence.” Faramir stared back frozen where he stood, the words hitting him deeply. He *had* been selfish. All this while he had been thinking only of how he wanted to be at Aragorn’s side, how he wanted to show the king that he was a warrior too, how he wanted his beloved to see his battle skills and praise him. His face reddened and he gulped unhappily. He felt conflicted, one moment the insecure lover, the other the Steward of a proud and ancient land. Ultimately under Aragorn’s steely gaze, the Steward had to win, and he found himself nodding, and accepting Aragorn’s embrace before they lay down in his bed. For the next two days, everyone had been busy in meetings, debates and preparations. Messengers kept flying in and out of the city, and the streets buzzed with activity as soldiers said their farewells and others ran around getting together supplies. In all that time, Faramir continued to stew over Aragorn’s decision even as he was unable to get a moment alone with him. It was only the night before the departure of the troops that they had met again. Aragorn had grabbed him and subjected him to long, bruising kisses. He had revelled in the nearness, trying to forget that Aragorn would be leaving in a few hours. They had melded into each other and allowed their passion to take over, and had made fast and furious love through most of the night. When they had arisen with the sun, his ribs had felt as though on fire and his back had protested viciously from the previous night’s exertions but all that had receded somewhere far away as a sudden ache had assailed his chest with force. Aragorn had kissed him tenderly and held him in his arms, even worried that he might have been too active for his healing body during the night. He had refuted that, and had quietly and calmly bid the older man farewell, taking care not to let the hurt that refused to leave show. He had solemnly assured him that he would take care of the country and the people for his king, and that they would eagerly await his return.
Now- They were beginning to lose ground, he knew. He shouted to his men at regular intervals to keep to him, and he was beginning to lose count of the number of foot soldiers of Umbar he had disposed of. Even as the men of the city tried everything from oil to arrows to keep the enemy at bay, a huge battering ram had brought down sections of the south wall, allowing the Corsairs access into the first level. His arms were covered in small cuts from their swords, and though he wore his armour the words had managed to pierce through the gaps and inflict cuts on various other parts of his body too. His forehead was bleeding from where the hilt of an opponents weapon had struck it, and he could feel the blood trickle down the side of his face. His legs were aching miserably as he struggled to keep his footing on the uneven surface of the alleyway in front of the gate they were defending. The streets of Minas Tirith were never designed to have battles fought in them. The battle continued all morning. It was towards noon when Faramir had moved towards the Southern wall to check on the archers letting loose arrows on another company that was trying to enter, that a soldier from the watch towers on the sixth level came running towards Faramir. “Captain,” the young soldier was almost breathless. Faramir turned, wondering what worse news there could possibly be. “Riders, sir,” the boy informed him, “They have crossed the Anduin and are heading this way. We cannot make out their flags. There is too much smoke on the Pelennor.” There were small fires all over the fields surrounding the city. Faramir pursed his lips, and exchanged a worried glance with his lieutenant. There was little they could do but what they were already doing. Leaving the lieutenant in command at the wall he returned to the breached south wall with a small troop and joined the other men already in skirmishes there. The walls of the city had been considered unassailable, yet in recent times this was the second instance of their being breached. The thought did not help his flagging energy levels any. He wondered how Aragorn might be faring and that made him morose. Harad seemed to mean serious business here. The Valar alone knew what might be happening at the border. He found himself wishing he were at Aragorn’s side. His strength was ebbing away slowly and it was only the thought of his king that made him stay on his feet. With Aragorn at his side, he knew he would have had energy enough just from the other man’s presence near him. And now there was this other troop heading their way. It would reach the city by evening, and they knew not if they were friend or foe. Probably foe, he thought as he took on one of the Corsair foot soldiers, parrying him in the narrow street, scrambling to keep his footing on the broken masonry that littered the ground. The ram had destroyed many of the buildings in this section, and the soldiers from both sides had to not just fight each other but also falling chunks of debris. They would lose the city, he thought desperately. And even if they did not, they had lost enough that when Aragorn received the message he would be forced to divert troops here, thus weakening the campaign against Harad. He had made a promise to Aragorn and he would not be able to keep it because he was so inept. He should have started the barricading process earlier. He should have gone on an offensive first. He should have stopped them at Harlond. He should have known the walls were still weak, still being rebuilt by the dwarven folk, not yet ready to endure another assault. He was craven! He had backed away from entering into a war, preferring instead to let it come to him, in the process putting all his men in danger. He had failed. Black despair clouded his strained mind. He thrust into his opponent once again and received a parry in return that shoved him against the half-collapsed building behind them. He was almost brought to his knees, struggling to catch his breath, and did not notice the large chunk of stonework dislodge from the building and descending upon him and the Corsair until the last moment. Despite their efforts to dodge it, it hit the Corsair on his head sending him sprawling onto Faramir, who in turn received a glancing blow from a second chunk that followed it. He fell heavily to the ground; the enemy soldier sprawled across his legs. Stray pieces of debris continued to rain down upon them. His head and back hurt fiercely and he almost blacked out. He tried to move but the weight of the other man held his tired limbs down. He tried to shout for help, but all that would come out was a strangled whimper. Atleast his lieutenants were still out there to lead the men. But then, all that was there was defeat. He lay there among the stones and dust fat spiralling towards unconsciousness, silently begging Aragorn forgiveness for losing his city, silently begging his men their forgiveness for failing them. In the distance he trumpets blowing, and was immediately reminded of Aragorn. He laughed bitterly at himself. Aragorn was away on Harad Road, and Faramir had failed him. The sound of the trumpet, suspiciously like Aragorn’ s herald, floated in from the distance yet again, as he finally succumbed to the blackness.
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