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The Siege (PG-13) Print

Written by Minx

04 April 2004 | 8091 words

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Part 2

They had heard the horns sound out, and then there was an exclamation of surprise from everyone as a white flag went up in the Haradrim camp. Aragorn had stared back in amazement at his captains and wondered what could have happened.

The explanation came soon enough when two riders left the Haradrim lines and rode towards the wary Gondorian camp. With their hands held out to show they were unarmed, they dismounted and handed a scroll to the captain who met them. The message was dispatched at once to Aragorn’s tent.

A coup in Harad had ensured a change of power. The new ruler of Harad had never favoured the war. He had wanted peace. And knowing that Gondor shared that desire, he had promptly put a halt to hostilities from his end, hoping Gondor’s king would do the same.

Gondor’s king was only too happy to oblige. Hasty treaties had been prepared, pored over quickly yet carefully, and signed and then the armies began to withdraw. It had neared the end of day when they had received news of the impeding attack of the Corsairs on the city. It had left them utterly dismayed. Celebrations turned to wary contemplation at the thought of the small force left behind.

A part of the force was despatched ahead to provide immediate relief, the rest of the army following as logistical constraints allowed. Aragorn and Prince Imrahil rode at the head themselves, both worried and anxious as to the fate of the city, and of Faramir. The swiftest horses had been pulled out and they had set off immediately.

“Atleast Faramir is there. Thank the Valar for the traditions of the city that dictate the Steward staying behind should the king ride to war,” Imrahil said heavily.

Aragorn could not keep the tenseness resulting from the situation out of his face. Faramir! He hoped he was all right.

“I wonder how they fare?” he said worriedly.

“Faramir will handle it well, Aragorn. You need have no worry on that count.”

“I am sure he will. But I worry about the strength of the defence we left behind. There are so few men,” Aragorn replied, “and Faramir is not in his best health. I do not want him to exert himself, or worse still get hurt,” he gulped at the thought of his beloved lover being injured.

Imrahil did not reply. He too was worried for his nephew.

“He wanted to ride alongside me,” Aragorn said unhappily.

“We could not have had that,” Imrahil pointed out.

“No… but… it was his ardent desire. He was greatly disappointed by my decision. It saddened me to see him so unhappy.”

He still remembered how quiet Faramir had been at his departure. Their night of passion had given him strength, just by the mere fact that it had been Faramir he had held in his arms. He hoped Faramir too had derived a similar strength. He knew the younger man had worried for him, and suddenly he understood how his Steward had felt at the thought of being so far away while his lover was in the thick of danger. He felt the frustration build up inside him, and he urged his horse on.

Imrahil replied after a pause, “He wished to fight by your side. He considers it his duty to ensure he is near you so he can keep you safe.”

Aragorn gave the Prince of Dol Amroth a look of consternation at that, “Keep me safe? I had been wielding a sword for many years already when he was still an infant! I do not need anyone to keep me safe.”

Imrahil smiled at the testy response, knowing that the anger was directed more at his choice of words than at his nephew, “Like all your captains, he too feels it is necessary to defend your life,” he explained, “And perhaps there are other reasons for his disappointment.”

“Such as?”

Imrahil paused uncomfortably, “I am not sure. But I spoke to him before I left and his words left much unsaid.”

“I think he wishes to prove his courage to you,” he said after some thought.

“What?” Aragorn could not understand exactly what the prince wished to imply. Faramir was one of the bravest people he had known.

“Yes,” Imrahil stated decidedly, “He wishes to prove his worth to you.”

“But why?” Aragorn exclaimed, “I am well aware of his worth, his courage.”

“He is afraid you may think him incapable in the art of warfare.”

“But I don’t!”

“I do not say you do,” Imrahil sighed, “Perhaps deep down inside, he wishes to convince himself of the fact that he is a worthy man. He has been told too often by too many people that he is more a thinker and dreamer and less a soldier.”

“He is as good a soldier as he is a thinker,” Aragorn declared hotly. He was quite sure he knew whom atleast one of those people might have been. It was not that he did not respect Denethor’s work as Steward of Gondor. He just felt he could have been a little more sensitive where his younger son had been concerned. After all, Faramir had indeed displayed adeptness at both soldiering and learning, just as Denethor himself had done.

Imrahil smiled at him sadly and nodded in agreement.

“And there is nothing wrong in having dreams. We build on our dreams after all. And a thinker is as essential to the land as a soldier,” Aragorn continued, his lips pursed tight. Faramir’s hopes were converting Ithilien back into the wonderful land it had once been.

“But we are at war now. He was frustrated at having to sit back and do nothing in Minas Tirith while the rest of us fight here.”

“He is not doing *nothing*. He is looking after his people,” Aragorn said firmly.

“To him, he is doing nothing. He feels he has let you down by being injured right now.”

“I would have him stay even were he uninjured.”

“Then perhaps it is good he was still ailing. For I think you would have found it harder to make him stay back then. And stay back he need have, because the people needed him. I am sure he understands that but he refuses to see it.”

“Why would he think I could ever think he lacks courage?” Aragorn demanded plaintively after a while, “What have *I* ever said to him that he could think so?”

“’Tis not you, Sire. It is the attitude he has grown up to and the times he grew up in. We valued soldiering greatly for the times were such. He thinks his value as a warrior is not as great as of the other captains.”

“Then he thinks wrong!”

“It will do him good to hear so from your lips, My Lord.”

Aragorn secretly thought there were a lot of things his lips could do that might provide better succour to the young steward, but if Imrahil said this one thing was necessary, he’d willingly do it. And then, he’d indulge in the other plans he had for his lips and Faramir.

If all goes well, a voice in his mind spoke up, unwilling to voice the dread he feared in clearer terms than that.

“Do not fear,” Imrahil said suddenly as though realising the fearful thoughts crossing Aragorn’s mind, “the city will hold. Faramir has defended it before; he will do it again. He shall certainly hold out, atleast until we come.”

They rode hard and fast taking only the briefest possible halts, and announced their arrival in a flurry of trumpets sounding out in the fading light. They would attack their attackers and they were making no secret of the fact.

Upon arrival, at first glance, the city seemed to be in confusion although, to their relief it stood, a little battered but proud and glorious as always. A section of the wall had been breached and tiny skirmishes taking place all over the lower levels. The arrival of their small troop had not gone unnoticed even before the heralds had blown their horns. Umbar had attacked secure in the knowledge that Harad would keep the bulk of Gondor’s force busy for a few weeks yet, and the signs that the army was returning had caused worry. A larger army was not something they were prepared to face. The Corsair camp was starting to disintegrate. Their commander had withdrawn by the time Aragorn’s men had neared the city, and any men he had left behind, having no leader were following their own counsel, some fighting, and some having given up.

It took them some time to figure things out. Aragorn had raced to the citadel as soon as possible, and found the captain of the guard there and received an update from him. They quickly managed to start the process of restoring order, calling for a round up the troops, and informed the captain of the return of peace, and also began the process of clearing up the city. Aragorn asked the captain of the guard to inform Faramir that he had arrived. He assumed that since he was not to be found in the citadel, he must still be elsewhere dealing with the leftover Corsairs. The captain of the guard patiently gave him all the information he required.

Imrahil and he had found out that things were not really as confused as they looked. Faramir had had the evacuation started at the first signs of the attack, so that most of the civilian population not capable of fighting were well on their way to the mountains by now. The defences had been arranged with precision and efficiency using the limited resources to the fullest advantage. The lieutenants, captains and guards all had their orders and they had followed them impeccably, so that the loss was minimal. The city itself was not badly affected save for sections of the first level where some buildings had either collapsed or were near that stage. And Faramir himself had led the defence.

“Where is he?” a worried Aragorn finally demanded after impatiently waiting for almost two hours for the younger man to appear, thereby bringing to his company’s notice the fact that their friend was missing. The enemy had effectively been vanquished now, and all the soldiers were returning to their respective commands. Faramir should have been there with them.

“He was leading from the front,” Aragorn was informed. A quick search among the troops revealed that the young captain was nowhere to be found.

“Have the injured been brought up from the first level?” the king asked trying to keep his voice steady.

They were still being brought up but Faramir was not among them.

Aragorn found himself racing to the lower levels in Imrahil at his heels. They separated to search through the winding streets. It was dark but given that the clean up work had started and that the injured were still being moved, the torches in the streets shone bright. Aragorn wandered through the fallen stonework; stopping every now and then to offer words of comfort to the injured soldiers he came across. Most had already been moved but a few were still around waiting, for the houses of healing were on the sixth level and it would take the volunteers time to traverse back and forth.

He finally came across a small alleyway, not far from the gates to the second level. It was darkened and the access was almost blocked by a huge stone column that had dislodged from one of the houses. Aragorn grabbed a torch from one of the holders on the street, and entered the narrow path, carefully climbing over the barricade, watching out for any loose stones or shingle that could cause him to slip.

He found Faramir, unconscious and bleeding from various injuries, unmoving on the paved stones of a tiny alleyway, the lifeless body of a corsair lying limply across his lower body, and the debris of a section of the wall surrounding him. Large chunks of stone and masonry lay all around. The black tunic had turned grey from the dust that had settled over him, and even his face seemed a strange ashen hue, though Aragorn was unable to tell whether that too was stone dust or whether his friend was so pale.

Placing the torch between two stones, Aragorn scooped up his injured Steward carefully in his arms, alarmed to note the complete lack of movement. He hugged him tight to his chest, and walked back towards the street. The fallen column stood in his way and he was fearful of jolting Faramir. Seeing a horseman riding up to the second level, he hurriedly hailed him, and carefully handed Faramir’s prone body to him, noting the look of dismay that crossed the young soldier’s face when he realised it was his captain and steward who was lying unconscious in his arms. Crossing over Aragorn took him in his own arms, and when the soldier offered his horse, gratefully accepted.

It was nearly dawn when Faramir had been settled into a room in the houses of healing. He had been cleaned and tended to, and now lay on a cot, still unconscious. His clothes had been replaced by a thin white sleeping robe that simply made him seem more ashen. Aragorn had had to see to other matters, but he kept looking for anyone from the houses to tell him news of Faramir. All he had learnt as yet was that the younger man was badly bruised all over. His shoulder, back and rib injuries had all been aggravated a great deal, and he had additional bruises and cuts on his head and arms and legs. The head injury seemed to have knocked him out.

Imrahil and Aragorn fretted and worried all day, spending much time in his room in between the numerous duties that they found they now had. When Aragorn had stopped by to sit with him a while, he had been struck by how gaunt and pale the Steward looked. A closer scrutiny revealed lines where none had been before, exhaustion and something else that Aragorn could not place at first. Then he realised he was seeing in the slumped muscles and the tense lines the same despair he had noticed when he had first come across Faramir. He had healed him then, pulling him out of the shadows left from fighting long days under the influence of the black breath. He sucked a noisy breath in, wondering what had caused such worry to appear on Faramir’s visage.

He could hear the faint roar of noises in the background. It was just a meaningless jumbled up roar, the individual noises refusing to separate in his head. He wondered at it briefly, just as he wondered at the immense sluggishness that seemed to have descended over him. He could barely process his thoughts. Then slowly, the roar seemed to recede as awareness floated in. His memories returned first, the sounds of battle coming blasting into his ears, there were people shouting, stone and dust falling, arrows and swords swishing, the resonance of weaponry. And then everything came together in a loud unbearable combination. He could see the debris falling around him; he could hear his men fighting resolutely and calling out to encourage each other. He should help them, he should be there by them, he thought to himself. Not lying here, wherever he was. They needed him, Aragorn had reminded him of that. He had to move.

Slowly he commanded his limbs to move, his eyes still shut, his teeth gritting purposefully, he shifted his leg, and promptly groaned as the pain shot through him. It brought greater awareness in him, however, and he found himself opening his eyes slowly. The noises returned; a low hum of conversation fell into his ears. Perhaps, his men were nearby. He heard soft words and found himself blinking back tears behind his half-closed eyelids as the voice reminded him of Aragorn.

“Faramir,” the whisper came, soft yet strong. He opened his eyes fully, starting as he did so. Aragorn!

He shut his eyes tight, sure that he was dreaming. Well, he might as well enjoy the dream as well as he could, he decided.

“Faramir, wake up now,” Aragorn coaxed him.

He finally gave up and obeyed. He took a clearer look at the faces of the people around him, recognising the king as well as his uncle. They were both there. Something had happened.

“Wh - where . . . ? what happened? You’re here. You’re here,” he kept repeating as though to convince himself. He tried to reach out a hand to touch Aragorn but the movement sent the ain flaring through him. He gasped at that, his entire body seemed to be ion fire, as the movement awoke various muscles.

“Yes, I’m here,” Aragorn assured him, “by your side.”

A healer came up to help him ease himself into a position hat might hurt the least.

Faramir was still confused. He knew he was hurting, but he could not place the sequence of events properly yet. Then the talk from outside the room filtered in, the smell of smoke and war floated through into the small room, and he remembered.

He remembered falling, he remembered giving up, leaving his men leaderless, and he jerked forward again.

“Faramir,” Aragorn admonished softly, as the healer was taken aback by the sudden movement. A bowl full of brew was knocked out of his hands, and it fell to the floor landing with a loud clatter.

“The city,” Faramir breathed out, unmindful of the little mishap he’s aided in, “The city. I could not keep the city. I promised. I lost it.”

The healer had cleaned the mess on the floor somewhat and now moved out to get a fresh batch of the brew. Aragorn moved to Faramir’s side again, this time carefully taking the dazed Steward in his arms, carefully.

“The city stands,” he said quietly, “you held her for me as you said you would. And the people too.”

Faramir blinked up at him, “It stands?”

He nodded, “You kept your promise. You did your duty.”

“You are really here,” Faramir said in wonderment, his hands running over Aragorn’s face and body, “I hoped. I could not do it anymore. I let you down. Forgive me. I hoped it was you, but – but -,” dismay lined the worn features, “what of the war?”

“it is over,” Aragorn assured him.

Faramir stared back in more confusion.

“All is well now. Sleep now my brave one,” the king soothed as the healer returned with the brew in hand. It was designed to aid in lessening pain and putting the patients to sleep.

The warden had assured Aragorn that Faramir was not seriously injured. He was just tremendously exhausted and in pain from the multiple hurts he had suffered, so it would be better if he were to remain in bed a few days more. Aragorn had nodded.

Faramir had awoken from the herb-induced sleep fully aware of all that had occurred, his mind clearer, and his injuries still hurting. He was also still prone to bouts of confusion. But what worried Aragorn over the next day was the sadness emanating from the weakened body. A bleak despair still seemed to weigh heavily upon the troubled mind, and Aragorn could not understand why.

He at patiently at his Steward’s bedside whenever he could for short intervals all during the day, holding his hand gently, silently coaxing him to speak. Finally the quiet man broke his silence at night, after Aragorn had seen to all his duties.

“Forgive me. You have to do so much, yet you come and sit with me so often,” he said.

“What is there to forgive in that?” Aragorn asked in surprise.

“I cause you too much bother. You have so much work to do. And I cannot even help you. It is all my work you are doing. The responsibilities you gave me, and I have not fulfilled them.”

“You are injured!”

He nodded silently, “I tried to rise, but it pains greatly,” he said, a hint of wetness glinting in his eyes under the light of the lamp nearby.

“You tried to rise?” Aragorn was aghast but not really surprised. He had expected no better, “well, don’t try it again till the healers give their permission. And worry not over the work. It is my duty as much as yours.”

“I should be helping you. I’m always confined here when you need me1”

“No, not always! You were by my side so many times when I needed you.”

“Not times like this!”

“No, you were there in worse times!”

They stared at each other, Faramir’s expression still saddened, and Aragorn’s, full of earnestness.

“I gave up,” Faramir said softly, “Just like I did the last time. I thought there was no hope left. I let them down.”

“No you did not. You held out just long enough till we came.”

“But I did not know you were coming! I fell – again. If you had not arrived in time . . .”

“Your lieutenants had everything in control,” Aragorn told him, “They had your orders and they followed them implicitly. And your orders were very apt. You saved the city. You kept your promise.”

“I fell,” Faramir insisted, “I fell! I let them down. I let them down now and I let them down then!

Aragorn needed no explanation of the previous time. He knew Faramir was thinking of the last time he had fought on the Pelennor fields. Denethor had sent Faramir out hurting him with his words, leaving him to think he was fighting a lost cause. And this time, he had fought while physically injured, feeling alone again, and weighed down by a false sense of failure.

“If anyone let them down, it was I. You were injured and I left you alone to take care of things, merely from pride. I wanted to lead the army and I succumbed to that want. But you, you proved more than equal to the task. You overrode my stupidity. You let no one down. You saved the city and you saved my honour.”

“You did not give up. Either this time or the previous time. You were strained to your limits by no fault of yours. You were tired and hurting, both then and now. You are the bravest, most courageous human being. And yet you are compassionate and loving.”

“I’m not brave,” Faramir said in a small voice, the wetness still glistening in the corners of his eyes, “I was so scared. I feared I’d lose everything. I thought there was nothing to return to. And I preferred to fall rather than watch the city fall.”

“You were hit by falling stones, love. It was not your fault. Anyone would lose consciousness. You fought till you fell. If you had truly given up, you would have done so earlier, and without such a fight. You are brave! Never would I have you think otherwise. And you are intelligent, and kind and gentle. I could ask for no better qualities in my Steward and Captain.”

Faramir bit his lip and looked back at Aragorn. He knew those words were heartfelt. Yet the doubts still lingered.

Aragorn could see in the tired face that the doubts still remained. He stroked Faramir’s hand gently. Well, he would simply keep on at him till he was forced to accept them as the entire truth. They had plenty of days ahead of them.

“And you will always have much to return to,” he added solemnly, “All of us love you greatly. Well, some of us more than the others, and I most of all!”

Then he quelled anything Faramir might have had to say in the easiest way he knew of. He leaned forward and captured his lips in a searing kiss.

Aragorn walked briskly away from the throne room. He had had a busy day. The remaining forces had returned, and there had been much information to be exchanged. The civilian population too had begun to return. He had been busy in councils all days long and in briefing sessions with the captains and commanders. Stories had to be exchanged with Éomer and the others, and he could not keep the pleasure out of his voice as he spoke of how Faramir had handled the siege, or the concern when he spoke of his wounded state. Faramir was healing all right, but Aragorn still worried as a matter of course.

He was drained form the events of the day. He hadn’t seen his steward at all and he felt quite tired. He finally reached his destination and pushing the door to Faramir’s chambers in the citadel poked a head in.

The Steward had been moved there earlier in the day, and he now lay buried under a thick coverlet, his face scrunched up in obvious pain as his head pounded incessantly and every tiny injury coating his body flared up in a chorus of aches and pain, when Aragorn entered, and sat down by his side. Reaching a hand out the King gently brushed an errant lock of hair off the younger man’s forehead and stroked his head gently, careful to avoid the inured portions.

Faramir opened his eyes and looking up at him gave him a tiny smile.

“You’re here,” he said sleepily, his tone reflecting a quiet pleasure that hit Aragorn straight in the heart. He shifted slowly, ignoring the tiny stab of pain shooting through his body, and placed his throbbing head on Aragorn’s lap.

“Yes,” Aragorn said continued the slow, rhythmic, stroking motion, before bending down to press a tiny kiss on Faramir’s temple. He could see the obvious signs of relief and relaxation that had crossed the Steward’s face the moment his head had settled in his lap. He knew his very presence gave Faramir comfort, just as Faramir’s very presence slowly helped the tiredness ebb away from his body. He felt his inner strength return, flooding through his body.

“Did you miss me?” he asked softly.

“Yes,” with that, Faramir closed his eyes and let Aragorn’s fingers lull him into a peaceful slumber.


The end

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