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This story is rated «NC-17», and carries the warnings «Sex, polyamory, angst, politics, economics. Lots of economics! It's long - over 30,000 words.».
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The Prince of Ithilien (NC-17) Print

Written by Raihon

08 June 2007 | 33215 words

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Captain and King

I have handled this badly, Faramir thought as he walked hastily through the house and out into the garden, gulping down the fresh, misty air. I should have met with Aragorn when I first arrived and explained everything to him from the beginning. This fear of losing myself to him has dug me a nice deep trench which I have now fallen into.

Faramir walked to the wall and looked out over the city and across the Pelennor, and fruitlessly contemplated how to clean up the mess he was making. It dismayed him that both Aragorn’s anger and his own arrogance had invited an unwelcome guest into the room that day. He knew Denethor when he was my age, Faramir thought. They say Thorongil was beloved by my grandfather, so it is likely he knew Denethor well. How is it he has never spoken to me of my father as a young man?

He recalled his father’s bitter sentiments about Captain Thorongil, which he now saw resembled the attitude his father had often had toward him. This connection caused such a strong sense of unease to take hold of Faramir that he immediately stalked away from the wall and drove his thoughts elsewhere, fearing these echoes between present and past would prove an even worse distraction than what he had just fled.

That afternoon, Faramir met with several people who had requested to speak with him in his capacity as Steward, and then went again to his uncle’s house to dine and discuss a potential timber trade.

“So, Prince Faramir, what do you have in mind?” Imrahil asked.

“I have not had enough time to prepare, Uncle. I will have to ask the lords how much they think they can harvest before you and I can work out the specifics, I am afraid,” Faramir said.

Imrahil chuckled and shook his head. “No. Wrong answer. I will have to slap your wrist and make you re-learn your lesson.”

Elphir laughed and Faramir smiled wryly. “Ah, am I again constricting the circulation of power, Uncle?”

Imrahil nodded. “So, back to lesson one. You are not to concern yourself with the details. You are to open possibilities for others to work out the details in a way that favors your realm.”

“I fear to hazard a guess lest my wrist be slapped again. Please, tell me what you suggest.”

Imrahil thought for a moment. “Well, clearly the details will be worked out directly between the timber merchants and the lords. Then the merchants will sell to my people.”

Faramir threw up his hands, “and Númenor will rise again from the sea! Uncle, the King despises the timber merchants. He will never agree – he thinks they are all paid agents of Umbar.”

“Umbar is like a recurring nightmare for the King,” Imrahil muttered. “Surely it will return again, but during the light of day one cannot still fear the terrors of the night. Even I do not hold such a grudge as he does.”

“That is neither here nor there,” Faramir said. “Though the traitors were dealt with last year, it is not unreasonable to mistrust the rest, those who covered their tracks and are allowed to continue trading only because their crimes were not discovered.”

Imrahil shrugged. “It is no matter. The King need not know the details and you need not deal directly with the merchants. It will be good for both of you to let some slack into the reins.”

Faramir was irritated at being scolded but respected Imrahil enough to take what he said seriously. “I thought we were talking about timber. You know the price restrictions will not change this year, Uncle,” he said and smiled.

Imrahil waved a hand dismissively. “Yes, yes. Now, what you need to do in circulating your power involves a sleight of hand. The lords you want beholden to you, and the builders and merchants I want beholden to me, must see themselves as the masters of their fates.”

Faramir smirked. “But it is not so?”

“Not precisely. You must establish the conditions under which their actions will produce a favorable outcome.” Imrahil called for a servant to bring out an abacus. “As long as the amount of timber Dol Amroth needs continues to be greater than the timber harvest Ithilien produces, there will be no danger of the timber merchants smuggling to Umbar. The price in Dol Amroth will be high enough to make the risk of smuggling too unappealing.”

Imrahil did some calculations on the abacus. “Of course, these estimates are very rough.” He pushed the abacus over to Faramir. “We need about three hundred thousand board feet.”

Faramir frowned, trying to put together the variables he would need to estimate what the maximum supply could be. He made some possibly unfounded assumptions about the reduced capacity of the foresters to harvest due to their depleted numbers, and tried to remember what an acre of old forest might yield. Then he worked through the numbers on the abacus and winced. “Ithilien could probably supply twice that.” He checked the numbers again.

“Well, that makes it easier, in a way,” Elphir pointed out. “You just set the new harvesting limit somewhere below the amount that Dol Amroth can use, and you will not see wood floating down Umbar’s way.”

Faramir nodded, still thinking. “Even if we set the limit at one hundred fifty thousand, that would be nearly double what it is now.”

“How about two hundred fifty?” Imrahil asked, smiling.

Faramir smiled back, knowing his dear Uncle had likely deliberately erred on the high side in his initial calculation. “Two hundred. The Lords will see their income rise significantly, but it will not give them too much too soon, or encourage them to be irresponsible in the harvesting.”

Imrahil nodded. “The outcome could be more favorable, but I am pleased at your reasoning, nephew. Just remember what I said about ensuring that power passes through your hands in these transactions.” Faramir leaned forward, attentive. “This is an opportunity for you to reward those who are loyal to you. If you so choose, you can make a decision to allocate the extra harvest based on the size of a lord’s holdings, for example.”

Elphir grinned wickedly. “Or you can do it the Dol Amroth way.”

“Which is?” Faramir asked.

“The circulation of information,” Elphir said. “If you let your favored lords know in advance that an increase will be coming, they can make their deals and present them to you, taking their share of the quota before the others can even contact the merchants.”

Faramir smiled distractedly. “Or, conversely, I could let the lords with whom I am not on good terms make their deal first with the guild. Those lords will be offered freedom from harvesting limits to the extent that the few guild shops have demand. They will jump at the chance, and perhaps I can get something from them in return.”

Imrahil began to chuckle softly. “There’s a good prince.”

Faramir looked Imrahil in the eye, amused and slightly repelled that he was such an apt pupil. “Of course, each lord will be allowed to make only one deal with their surplus, to make the transactions easier to monitor. That will assuage some of the King’s concerns. And then, once those deals have been struck with the guild, suddenly the unexpected option for trade will be made available to the lords who have not already availed themselves of the first agreement. Those who were not privy to the secret of the first opportunity to deal with the guild will find themselves able to make a much larger profit in their deal with the timber merchants. Then next year they can use this profit to invest in a workshop to attract guild members to their town.”

Faramir sighed and suddenly looked discouraged. “I will have to work quickly and speak to the King as soon as possible. I do not know how to get him to agree to this.” Especially as I vowed not to speak to him alone before the Council meeting! he thought ruefully.

“Indeed, he reacted poorly today, not just to the substance of your proposal, but to the very fact of it!” Imrahil said, looking at Faramir with puzzlement.

“It only got worse after you left,” Faramir muttered.

“What does King Elessar want that you can give him?” Elphir asked.

Faramir suppressed a smile. “What the King says he wants is to make Ithilien a symbol of Gondor’s struggle and triumph. But I think what the King really wants is for the Elves to have a place in Ithilien. I think that as long as Elves remain in Middle Earth, he wants at least some of them to make their home in his kingdom.”

“You can give him that, can you not?” asked Imrahil.

Faramir nodded slowly. “I believe I can.”

Faramir awoke the next morning with a terrible headache. He had stayed up far too late with his uncle and cousin and had drunk somewhat too much wine after dinner. He was feeling drained and lonely, missing his wife and child, and suffering from another kind of separation from Aragorn. He wanted to avoid seeing Aragorn while he was in this state, so he had accepted Imrahil’s offer of a spare bed at their house, where he had slept rather poorly.

A pleasant breakfast and a neck rub from a thick-armed maid of his uncle’s house helped him feel better. He set off for the Citadel as soon as he could and sought out Doronil, asking him to go to the guild house and find out if Master Tawahir had an answer for him yet. Doronil was also charged with finding out if Lord Anmuin was in the city for the Council meeting.

A guard informed Faramir that Aragorn was in the receiving room, being greeted by the lords who were arriving to the City in advance of the Council meeting. The room was thick with representatives of the petty nobility and the atmosphere was a little tense, as each were vying for a moment of the King’s time. The men, and a few women, greeted Faramir politely as he worked his way over to Aragorn. When Aragorn saw him, he whispered to Valacar, who then announced, “my Lords, please excuse the King. He will speak to each of you individually later in the day. Please, clear the room, my Lords and ladies, you will be bidden to return after lunch.”

Faramir recognized one of the lords who had recently returned to North Ithilien. Pulling him aside, Faramir said, “Lord Targon, if you would be so kind as to wait outside, I would have a word with you when I am done speaking with the King.”

Targon, a silver-haired man whose sad eyes were enlivened with laugh lines, looked pleased and said he would remain in the anteroom and wait for the prince.

After Valacar cleared out the room and had departed himself, Aragorn shut the door and stood with his back to it, as if to block any potential intruders. “Faramir,” he said, his voice betraying his emotions. “The way you left yesterday…I wondered if I really was not going to see you before the Council meeting.”

Faramir smiled apologetically. “I spoke rashly yesterday. I would like to resolve this now, if possible.”

“Resolve this? Which ‘this’?” Aragorn stepped away from the door and placed his hands on Faramir’s arms, pulling him closer. “Are you toying with me?” he asked tensely, and then, “where were you last night?”

Again, Aragorn’s thoughts eluded Faramir’s comprehension and Faramir bristled at the accusation that he was playing games. Faramir scrutinized Aragorn’s face more closely and saw something new there, among the other emotions was…what? Suspicion? Surely not jealousy? Faramir was taken aback at the thought. “How do you know I was not here?”

Aragorn looked away. “Were you?”

“No.” Faramir withheld saying anything more, wondering what unjustified fear Aragorn would confront him with next.

Aragorn’s face flushed a little, then he brought himself under control. “I am sorry. I am behaving foolishly.”

“Yes, you are,” Faramir said, feeling mixed emotions at Aragorn’s strange mood. He wrapped his arms around Aragorn, who held him tightly. “I stayed at the Prince’s last night,” he explained. “We were up late discussing timber trade.”

Aragorn’s arms dropped to his sides so Faramir released him. Aragorn took a step backwards and regarded Faramir evenly. A chill swept over Faramir and he wished to take back the last thing he had said so that he would still find himself in the warmth of Aragorn’s embrace.

“So there is to be a deal between the princes?” Aragorn asked calmly.

“If you permit me to raise the harvest limits, there will be.”

“Have you even asked my permission?”

Faramir pursed his lips. “Yesterday you told me to do as I would, but I do not take those words as final. So I ask you again to give me sovereignty over my own land.”

“I thought we were just speaking of timber harvests,” Aragorn said testily.

“Very well, let us begin with timber. King Elessar, I humbly request that you allow me to determine the timber harvesting limits in Ithilien.” Faramir could not keep the irritation out of his voice.

“How much?”

Faramir blinked in surprise. “How much?”

“Yes,” Aragorn snapped. “By how much will you increase the harvest?”

Faramir turned and strode across the room to a window, hoping to hide that his emotions were careening out of control once again. He suddenly felt exactly as he had felt when, as a young captain, he had been called to his father’s office and asked to report in minute detail on the number and experience of his troops, the routes and frequency of patrols, and on the details of where they encountered the enemy, how many there were, and how they were armed. For the first few years, these sessions had not bothered him because he was young and inexperienced, while his father knew better than anyone how to use the Rangers and what to do with the information about the enemy. But as the years went on, and Denethor’s barrage of questions remained the same, Faramir began to understand that these reports were not just the Steward’s means of keeping tack of Ithilien, but his way of keeping Faramir on a short leash. It was just one motif in a larger tapestry of Denethor’s mistrust and disdain for his younger son.

“Faramir?” Aragorn said sharply.

Faramir leaned heavily against the window casement, feeling light-headed. His father’s ghost was indeed haunting him this week; he had not thought about Denethor this much since his conversation with Gandalf two years earlier, and he had never allowed himself to dwell on such memories in Aragorn’s presence before. Faramir threw open the window and gulped in the fresh air.

“Faramir?” Aragorn asked again, this time more gently. “Are you ill?”

Faramir looked at Aragorn and shook his head. Looking at Aragorn had a calming effect on him, bringing him back to the present. This man’s love did not have to be won; whatever the difficulty was between them now, they would solve it. With some effort, he pulled his thoughts away from his emotional reaction to Aragorn’s questioning, and began to consider it dispassionately. What was it Aragorn was reacting to so poorly?

He kept his eyes on Aragorn’s face and eventually smiled, feeling himself again. “Aragorn, I hope you will forgive me for saying so, but you are still too much the military commander.”

Aragorn shifted his weight onto one leg and crossed his arms. “How so?”

“All Gondor is not a battlefield, and its resources are not troops to be marshaled for your command. In times of peace, you need not be a master tactician directing everything from above; movement will occur of its own accord and will generally work for the good. You still seem to think that you must direct your troops. Instead, perhaps you should let your captains mind their own troops and instead occupy yourself with the master strategy.”

Aragorn smirked and quirked an eyebrow. “And yet you find it hard to abandon the martial metaphor yourself, Captain.”

Faramir shrugged and walked over to Aragorn, his blood warming and his heartbeat increasing its pace; he knew that this man loved him and knew his worth. Slowly, he reached out to touch Aragorn’s face. Aragorn closed his eyes for a moment. “I am no longer a captain,” Faramir said.

“I know,” Aragorn said, moving his head to kiss Faramir’s palm.

Faramir felt his stomach tremble and a tender longing seized him. Why is it so hard for me to stay balanced, to find the place between separation and merging? he wondered. He made himself draw back his hand from Aragorn’s lips and steadied himself. “Perhaps we have been so long without one, we have forgotten what a king is. ‘A tall tree has deep roots,’ as the Elves say.”

Aragorn nodded thoughtfully.

“Trust me,” Faramir said softly.

Aragorn looked at him lovingly. “I do,” he said emphatically.

“Will you grant my request?”

Aragorn’s face looked solemn again. “How much will you raise the limit?”

Sadness weighed down Faramir’s chest and he was no longer able to reassure himself that Aragorn knew his worth. He felt bitterly disappointed at how often Aragorn’s suspicions belied his avowals of faith. “Do you really need to know?” he asked in a small voice.

“I want to know.”

Faramir shook his head, feeling disregarded and ineffectual. “Two hundred thousand board feet for this year. It will be lower next year…”

“Two hundred thousand?” The King asked incredulously.

“You said you trusted me. You say that often…” A moment passed, neither looking at the other. Faramir began to feel sullen and resentful. “I cannot wait all morning, my Lord. People are expecting promises from me today so I need to know: will you grant my request?”

Their eyes locked for a moment and Faramir’s palms began to sweat as if he were a child. He had lost himself again, not to love this time, but to pain. Like a physical craving, he strongly desired to be out of Aragorn’s presence, to be away from these situations that tore him in two and bade him dwell on things he would rather forget.

“For this year, I will grant your request. But we still have much to discuss,” Aragorn said, his eyes flashing a double meaning.

“Yes, we do. Thank you for granting my request.” Faramir bowed his head and walked quickly from the room.

Faramir paused before the doorway to the anteroom, regarding Targon before he entered, trying to overcome his downcast mood. Targon’s nephew and grandson had served in the Rangers under Faramir and they were both honest, hard-working men. Targon himself had a dignified bearing and clear eyes, and Faramir sensed he could trust him.

Faramir sat with Targon in the anteroom and after some preliminary pleasantries said, “Lord Anmuin came to speak with me last week about the limits on the timber harvest.”

“He did?” Targon looked alarmed.

“Oh, did you not know? He led me to believe he was representing all the lords of North Ithilien,” Faramir said lightly.

“He did?” Targon said again, more vehemently this time. “That is most interesting. And what did Anmuin say?”

“He said he would gather the lords and town elders to hear my proposal on timber harvesting in two weeks. Has he not told you of the meeting?”

Targon turned red in the face and shook his head. “That man has been making as much trouble as he can for the smaller estates down river. This is only the latest maneuver of his to try and get a leg up on us.”

Faramir nodded, pleased that his intuition about Anmuin had been correct. “Ah, well, that will not do. I appreciate your honesty and would have you know that I will always welcome such information in the future.”

Targon looked up at him hopefully.

“Do you have any acquaintances among the timber merchants?” Faramir asked.

Targon looked shocked. “Of course, we have been trading, within our limit, since we returned last year.”

Faramir glanced around the room to ascertain they were alone. “Find the merchant with the largest capacity and find out what volume of timber he can purchase in a single transaction. Are there others you trust among your peers in the north?”

Targon nodded.

“Let them know that the Prince is looking to find out who his friends are, and those who are true to him will be rewarded. If all goes well, there will be enough of this prize to go around.”

“And to think that I almost stayed in Ithilien for the New Year. Thank you, Prince Faramir.”

“Do not thank me yet. I will speak to you after the Council meeting. In the meantime, pay no attention to rumors you may hear about Lord Anmuin and the Woodcraft Guild. You will be offered every opportunity he is offered.”

Faramir rose and bade farewell to Targon before seeking out Doronil. The page informed him that both Master Tawahir and Lord Anmuin would be attending him after lunch. Faramir smiled as he thought about how to best prime the pump of Anmuin’s greed.

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 https://www.faramirfiction.com/fiction/the-prince-of-ithilien. Positive feedback is what keeps authors writing more stories!

3 Comment(s)

This was an excellent piece. Once I started reading, I could not stop. This story made me think and I could feel Faramir’s confusion about his roles. Interesting take and probably spot on. Also, loved the idea of the bracelet and especially how it tied in at the end. Gave me warm fuzzies.

— Escribej    Monday 11 June 2007, 12:05    #

Very sweet, and having the politicians of Gondor involved with actual politics—what is Arda coming to? Interesting and well done. I now need to go back and read the beginning to this, as it has been too long.

— Bell Witch    Tuesday 12 June 2007, 5:33    #

A wonderful read and very well written: just the story I had been waiting for for so long… I look forward to seeing more from you.

Thank you so much for sharing!

— HU    Thursday 21 June 2007, 17:51    #

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