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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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Everything went well with Tawahir and Anmuin. The guild had drawn up an acceptable charter and Faramir now was free to back up his offer to the guild with his seal. He had arranged with Doronil that Anmuin be sent in while Tawahir was still there.

“What good timing, Lord Anmuin. I have just completed the first step in our plan to bring woodcraft back to Ithilien,” Faramir smiled at Anmuin conspiratorially and introduced him to the Guild master. He then explained to Anmuin, “In order to bring prosperity to our land, I am prepared to offer all the lords of North Ithilien a chance to draw up one contract this year that will exceed the harvesting quota.”

Understanding dawned in Anmuin’s eyes. “It is a good start, Prince Faramir,” Anmuin conceded.

“Would you like to be the first to make a contract with the guild?” Faramir asked. “I summoned you here, knowing that the guild master was coming to meet with me. Since you were the first to express interest in increasing local woodcraft production, I thought I should offer you the first opportunity.”

As Anmuin spoke with Tawahir about drawing up a contract immediately, Faramir sighed, regretting how easy it had been to deceive Anmuin. What will Anmuin think of me when he hears of the far more lucrative contracts his rivals will negotiate? Faramir wondered. Will he indeed respect me more, or will I have made him my enemy?

After the meeting, Faramir found himself at loose ends, not sure which of his problems to tackle next. He wandered the halls, not paying particular attention to where he was going, until he found himself in front of a familiar door. He smiled grimly, thinking of what forces might have drawn him to this particular place. He pushed on the door, but it was locked. He considered leaving, but something in him wanted to go inside, to face the ghost that had been haunting him since he had returned to the city. He went to the guard at the end of the hallway and asked that the door be opened for him.

When Faramir walked into his father’s small private study, he drew in a sharp breath. “By the blood of Carcharoth1!” he exclaimed quietly to himself. “How is it that they left it this way?”

The room, and everything in it, was covered in four years of dust.

Faramir went to find a maid and instructed that the room be tidied up immediately. Now that he had finally found the courage to enter, he was going to take care of what should have been done long ago. After he ate supper, Faramir returned to the room, which was now reasonably clean. He lit a lamp and began to sort through what little remained of his father’s life.

The room was sparsely furnished and sparely decorated. A wonderfully fanciful map of Gondor, complete with sea monsters off the coast of Belfalas, adorned one wall. On the other wall was a replica of a Númenorian tapestry depicting Fëanor making the Silmarils from the light of the Two Trees. On the floor was a very worn Haradric carpet. Though the room was familiar enough, none of these things particularly spoke to Faramir of who his father had been.

Books and scrolls were neatly stacked on shelves and in alcoves. Faramir glanced through them to see what they were, but for the most part they were things that should be sent to the archives. Only two books did Faramir take to keep for himself: a volume of political philosophy from Silmarien’s The Discourses, and an old, pocket-sized version of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin, which Faramir vaguely recalled might have been a present his mother had given his father.

The desk contained dry ink wells and cracked quills. An abacus. Faramir searched the single desk drawer. All he found were a few pebbles. He bowed his head into his hands. Perhaps the man I am searching for never existed, Faramir thought, perhaps he was always a phantasm. After a while, Faramir raised his head and picked up one of the pebbles, smoothing it with his thumb.

Suddenly, Faramir had a clear memory of walking with his father somewhere outside of the city, Denethor stooping to pick up a pebble and casually putting it in his pocket. Faramir recalled asking his father about the pebble and being rebuffed, probably for asking too many questions. Faramir looked again at the pebble in his hand, turning it over again and again with his thumb. His mind was empty of thoughts, but he sought to feel something, some connection to his father through this object they both had held in their hands. Slowly, he began to feel a vague longing, sadness, determination, but these feelings were as much his own as they might have been his father’s.

Faramir heard a noise and looked up. He had left the door open and saw Aragorn coming down the hallway. Normally, the sight would have filled his heart with joy, but today Faramir’s heart froze with doubt, and he began to consider the possibility that the last few years had been an illusion. The thought that their love might turn bitter pierced him to his core. A week earlier, this thought would have never entered his mind, but now that he had opened the door to grief, there seemed no end to the sorrows awaiting him.

Aragorn stood now in the doorway, and Faramir was too upset to even greet him. The two men just looked at each other for a few moments.

“The guard said you were here,” Aragorn finally said. “I was surprised. Are you…you do not look well.”

“You came looking for me, as you did last night?” Faramir asked.

Aragorn nodded. He put his hand to his mouth and pulled on his lip; he was thinking.

Faramir looked again at the pebble in his hand. “Do you know why my father picked up pebbles?”

Aragorn looked confused. “He picked up pebbles?”

“Yes, I think it was a habit of his to pick up pebbles when he was outside the city. Maybe he collected them. But I guess you did not know that,” Faramir said sadly.

Aragorn shrugged slightly. “Or I do not remember.”

“Why would you?” Faramir asked, frowning at the pebble. “You did not know him well, did you?”

Aragorn shifted uncomfortably, leaning against the doorframe. “I knew him well,” he said softly.

Faramir tossed his head backward, shaking the hair away from his face. “Oh,” he said, his heart pounding. “You have spoken of him to me so little.”

Aragorn looked at the floor. “I thought you did not want me to speak of him.” Aragorn looked again at Faramir, piercing him with his eyes. “Do you wish me to speak of him now?”

Faramir met his look steadily. “I do.”

Aragorn took a step into the room and began to close the door behind him, but changed his mind and left it ajar. There was no other chair but the one Faramir sat on, so Aragorn leaned against the window sill. He crossed his arms in front of him and looked at Faramir with a mixture of concern and caution. Again, there was a long silence as the two men looked at each other, both completely still but for the motion of Faramir turning the pebble in his hand. Finally, Faramir took in a deep breath and let it out with a shaky sigh.

“I do not know where to begin,” Aragorn said.

“What was he like when he was my age?” Faramir asked, slowly leaning back in the chair. His body felt tightly coiled but calm, like he were waiting in ambush.

For a while, Aragorn’s thoughts seemed elsewhere, but eventually he looked at Faramir and answered slowly, “masterful. Arrogant. Brilliant. Cold.” Aragorn’s eyes narrowed as he thought back. “And he bore a lot of pain.”

“Physical pain?” Faramir asked.

Aragorn shook his head. “No. Well, that, too, but that is not what I had in mind.”

“How did he bear it? How did you know he was in pain?”

Aragorn looked at Faramir, concern again showing in his eyes. “Anyone with an open heart could see that fear and pain were behind his coldness, his seeming lack of regard for others. Most people assumed that it was his arrogance that made him treat others this way, but they did not understand that his arrogance was necessary, that it made him strong enough to face what he had to face. It was his fear and pain that weakened him and led him astray.”

Faramir nodded and, hoping to avoid his father’s mistakes, uttered a silent prayer to Nienna, the Vala who weeps for others: bring strength to my spirit and turn my sorrow to wisdom. “What grieved him? Do you know?” Faramir asked.

Aragorn hung his head for a moment and looked up again. “I think you can guess. Anyone who wanted to could have seen. Denethor…” Aragorn sighed, and had trouble meeting Faramir’s gaze. “He wished that his father had loved him more, or at least understood him better. He worried over the future of Gondor. He feared losing the love of your mother…”

Faramir’s heart thumped in his chest at the realization that Aragorn must have known his mother, too. He shook his head to clear his confusion, but Aragorn misread this as a signal that he should stop.

“I am sorry,” Aragorn said, closing his eyes. “I do not want to hurt you. I will say no more.”

“I do not fear what you have to say, Aragorn,” Faramir said firmly. “Were you close to my parents?”

Aragorn opened his eyes again and hesitated. “Yes.”

Faramir raised his eyebrows in surprise. “You were friends?”

“Your mother called me friend.”

“And what did my father call you?”

“Captain Thorongil.”

Faramir smiled a little. “So you were not friends with my father.”

Aragorn sighed again, uncrossing and re-crossing his arms. “Your father had few friends, but I was one of them, though he would not have called me so.”

A sickening curiosity had been nagging at Faramir, a question forming in his mind that both attracted and repulsed him. He looked at Aragorn, whose refusal to meet his gaze demanded that the question be asked. “Did you love Denethor?”

Aragorn’s attention snapped back to Faramir, who felt a morbid delight at the dismay on Aragorn’s face. A line from The Tale of the Children of Húrin recalled itself to him: a man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a short-cut to meet it. Everything – I will know everything, Faramir thought. Aragorn told me that he has shared himself with other men. Let the truth slay me. The time has come.

“Did I love him?” Aragorn asked incredulously.

Faramir nodded, and waited.

“We were not lovers, if that is what you are asking.”

A wave of relief swept over Faramir, but he wanted to know more about what had been between his father and Aragorn, and what had driven them apart. “But did you love him, Aragorn? Did he inspire tenderness in you? Did you do things to take care of him, perhaps without his ever knowing? Did you crave his attention and delight in his approval? Did you long for him to…”

“Yes!” Aragorn exclaimed, his voice a little shaky. “Yes, I loved him. He was a great man, and I wanted to be like him. I waited for years without reward for a kind word from him, and yet I waited. He was…” Aragorn smiled, and it struck Faramir as a smile of fondly remembered grief. “I did not always understand him, but I did love him.”

“I loved him, too,” Faramir said quietly, all the tension draining out of him. “And he was worthy of our love. One moment of failure should not erase a lifetime of accomplishment. He should not be remembered as he was at the end.”

“Nay he should not.” Aragorn stood, as if he were going to move closer to Faramir, then sat back down again, gripping the window sill with his hands. “He was a great man, when I knew him.”

Silent tears slowly trickled down Faramir’s cheeks. He just let the tears drip off his jaw, his hands in his lap. It is not fair, he thought petulantly, that Aragorn knew and loved my parents in a way I never could. Aragorn lived an entire lifetime before he ever knew me. We could spend the next forty years talking and there would not be time to learn everything about him.

Aragorn again leaned forward, as if to reach out to him, but his hands still gripped the window sill, and Faramir now wondered about the cause of his restraint.

“Do you want to hear more?” Aragorn asked, his voice strained.

Faramir nodded. His grief was powerfully cleansing, and he felt gratitude to Aragorn. Faramir knew that it was not easy for his lover to see him suffering, but why did he offer no comfort?

“But Denethor was also a fearsome man,” Aragorn continued. “He was brave to the point of foolishness. He could kill all day and sleep well that night. He would not hesitate to lie to dishonest men, and to honest men he would tell only what he wanted them to know. He cared little for tradition, for friends and family, and he was nearly incapable of letting himself feel joy.” Aragorn’s gaze softened. “He was not like you, Faramir.”

Faramir drew in a ragged breath and wiped his cheeks with his hand. “No. And you are not like him.”

Aragorn looked surprised at this, then frowned, searching Faramir’s face.

“Aragorn,” Faramir said, clearing his throat and shifting his weight forward in the chair. “You say you were his friend, yet he only ever spoke of you, when he spoke of you, as his enemy. Some say he was jealous that Ecthelion favored you, but if that was so, why did he not rejoice at your departure? He never disparaged your service to Gondor, which my grandfather is said to have praised so highly. It seemed he hated you only for leaving.”

Aragorn nodded, his eyes dark and unreadable.

Faramir paused, recalling what Gandalf reported that Denethor had said just before he died. “He did not respect you. He would not have accepted you as King. Why? What happened between you that left him so bitter?”

Aragorn’s eyes flashed so fiercely that Faramir felt a brief pang of fear. “I betrayed him.”

“How?” Faramir shot back, disbelieving.

“I would not do his will. I took council from Gandalf and left Gondor when he would have had me stay. I chose a different path than the one he had chosen for me.” Aragorn’s gaze burned into Faramir. “And then I withheld from him the reason for my disobedience.”

“Why?” Faramir asked, his throat closing up around the word.

Aragorn shook his head. “I did not trust him.”

Faramir choked back a sob only to be overtaken by another. The bitterness his father bore towards Thorongil was indeed akin to his father’s attitude toward him at the end, for he and Thorongil gave Denethor the same cause for anger, and for the same reason. What was more, it now seemed to Faramir that his whole adult life had probably been haunted by the ghost of Thorongil, but he had not known it. Could it be that Denethor had never truly seen his own son? The irony and the injustice shook Faramir badly and he buried his head in his hands.

Faramir felt a hand on the back of his head. At last Aragorn sought to comfort him, but the gentle touch brought to him a new realization: loving Aragorn was the ultimate betrayal of his father. He saw now that there was no way he could come to an understanding with Denethor, not even in his heart.

“Faramir, elen nín2,” Aragorn said, softly invoking their affectionate nickname.

Faramir did not look up. “Please,” he said, trying to control his voice. “Please go.”

Aragorn’s hand withdrew and Faramir heard his footsteps recede down the hallway. Once he was gone, Faramir dissolved again into grief.

Notes: Some aspects of the Denethor in this chapter are borrowed with permission from the story Hands of the King by Anglachel.

1 Carcharoth – the Wolf of Angband from The Silmarillion

2 Elen nín – (it sounds a little cheesy in English) my star

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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