Initiation


by Jennet Jourdemayne



Immediately following the coronation, there was one more piece of symbolic business that needed attending to.


King Elessar entered the Court of Kings with its throne, the seat of Gondor. Following

him came the most important nobles of the Court: Faramir, Steward of Gondor, Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, Lord Hurin, Warden of the Keys, and other dignitaries: Gandalf, King Eomer and his sister, the Lady Eowyn, Legolas, Gimli, and finally, the Hobbits.


The door was left open, and as many of the other celebrants as could manage crowded into the Great Hall to witness this historic moment. Those who could not enter watched and waited outside.


The King approached the dais, accompanied by Lord Faramir. The Steward stopped to the right of the throne, in front of the Steward’s Seat. King Elessar continued forward and mounted the steps that led to the platform upon which rested the Throne of the King of Gondor, standing empty for almost a thousand years. At the top he turned, faced the gathered crowd, then with no more ceremony, sat upon the throne.


Inside the Court, a cheer went up, echoed by a great clamor from the throng outside.


Gondor had its king again.




It seemed a silly bit of symbolism to Aragorn, but he understood the importance of symbols. It was no hardship for him to follow these arcane customs, and it further cemented his position as Gondor’s ruler, so he went along with it. And, he had to confess, sitting on the throne and looking down at the gathering, it was a kind of reaffirmation that he had really succeeded–he had done what he’d set out to do.


Now the real work began, and after inviting the gathered dignitaries to the Hall of Feasts for a celebratory banquet, and dismissing the crowd, Aragorn descended the platform. Faramir had stepped down from the dais and was talking with Eomer and Eowyn.


“My Lord Faramir,” Aragorn called.


Faramir turned to him. “My Liege,” he bowed his head.


“A word, if I may.”


“Of course, sire.” He glanced back at Eowyn and nodded to her with a smile before moving to him. Aragorn had seen them standing together earlier and wondered if that had been coincidence. Now, given the looks the two had just exchanged, it appeared to be anything but. Eowyn’s recovery after her ordeal had seemed remarkable, and Aragorn now wondered how much of that recovery was thanks to Faramir.


But that was a question for another time. Right now there were more pressing concerns.


Aragorn stepped off the dais and met his steward, a man he had actually spoken to only once before. “I am sorry we did not have the chance to talk before the ceremony,” he began, “or I would have told you my mind. I hope I have not put you in an unpleasant position.”


Faramir gazed at him, wary and assessing. “Unpleasant, no,” he said, seeming to carefully gauge his words. “Surprising, yes. It is an honor I looked not for.”


“An honor?” Aragorn asked quietly. “Or a burden?”


Faramir allowed himself the ghost of a smile. “A little of both, I should think. To be Steward of Gondor was nothing I ever dreamed of for myself. To serve the King, however, that is a dream long held by all of Gondor. If I can best serve my King as Steward, then I am content.”


Aragorn had to laugh to himself. He’d never wanted to be king, and yet he took up the responsibility because it was necessary. Faramir had never wanted to be Steward, and yet he would willingly serve because he was serving his king. The irony of it was thick.


“What was your dream, then?” he asked. “For yourself, I mean.”


Faramir smiled and looked away, a wistful expression on his face. “Beyond simply surviving the war?” His smile faded and he looked back at his king. “I had desired, once the King was come, to remove to Ithilien and see it restored to its former beauty. To wash away the horror and the stench of evil. To nurture the land and watch it grow. To see it peopled again. To see it thrive.”


He spoke with such passion that Aragorn could see, in his mind’s eye, the fair land of Ithilien under Faramir’s stewardship, growing and thriving, becoming the garden it had been in ages past. “That is an admirable dream,” he replied. “Perhaps we will find a way for you to do just that.”


Faramir frowned at him, confused. In truth, Aragorn wasn’t quite sure what was on his mind, either. But Faramir’s dream had stirred something in him, something he knew he wanted to pursue.


He smiled at his steward. “But in the meantime, I hope I may trouble you for some information.”


“If I can, my Liege.” Faramir bowed his head.


Aragorn’s smile tightened. He hoped Faramir wouldn’t always be so formal with him but let it pass because they were still mostly strangers to each other. “Let’s start with the basics. Do...does the king have a private space here?”


Faramir looked a little surprised at that. “The King’s Residence is–“


”I know of the King’s Residence. I meant here in the Court. A study, or...?”


“Oh! Yes. Actually, there are two. The first is back there.” He pointed behind the dais to the side. “It had been serving as the Steward’s office, but I had it made ready for you. If there’s anything you need, you only have to ask.”


“And the other?”


Faramir swallowed. “High in the White Tower is a room. I have never been there; all but the Steward were forbidden to enter, and I have not ventured there since. It is where he kept the Palantir.”


‘I know of that room,” Aragorn nodded. “As the King is in possession of the Palantir of Orthanc, I imagine I shall use that place for the same thing.” Though with hopefully better results, he thought, but did not say.


“And as for the King’s Residence,” he prompted.


“It is the private space for the Royal Family.” Faramir explained. Aragorn didn’t think now was the time to tell him that he’d been to the Steward’s apartments in the King’s Residence often. Faramir was continuing. “The actual apartments of the King have, as I’m sure you can imagine, fallen into somewhat poor repair over the centuries. The Stewards have had apartments in the front of the residence, and those have been occupied all along. We have made a start at restoring the King’s apartments, but unfortunately, they’re not yet habitable. So for the time being, you will stay in the Steward’s apartments and–“


”Where will you stay?” Aragorn interrupted him.


“What?”


“If I am in the Steward’s apartments, where will you stay? I will not turn you out of your house.”


Faramir flushed and looked down. “I had not actually thought of it as mine, for all I lived there my entire life. But the Steward’s apartments are of a goodly size. There are a number of chambers therein, and I have taken the liberty of having Denethor’s chambers prepared for you, as they are the largest among them. I hope they will be sufficient. They are somewhat lacking in... That is, they are rather austere, but we can have them decorated to your liking.”


Aragorn noticed that Faramir referred to his father as Denethor, rather than ‘my father’. “And you?” he asked.


“I intended to relinquish the Steward’s residence, but I have not yet done so, having been concerned with more pressing matters these past weeks. But I will remove to–“


“No,” Aragorn interrupted again. “I will not put you out of your home,” he repeated. “Unless you would rather not share it with me. I promise I am not too difficult a houseguest,” he completed, teasing.


The joke seemed to evade Faramir. “It is not that,” he said. “I just assumed....”


Aragorn took a deep breath. This was going to be more difficult than he’d anticipated. He wondered what he could do to earn Faramir’s friendship rather than simply his loyalty as a subject. “You had assumed that you would no longer be Steward,” he completed. “That is no longer the case, and as Steward, you have the right to the Steward’s residence. But what of the other apartments?” He remembered that there were other apartments within the Residence, used by the Steward’s heir, other senior officials, etc.


“My Liege?” Faramir frowned.


“I...understand there are other apartments within the Residence. Are they habitable? Perhaps I could stay in one of those until the King’s apartments are ready.”


“Unfortunately, most of them are in no better shape than the King’s apartments,” Faramir answered, “as they’ve also been unoccupied for generations. Except for....” He swallowed and looked away, then forced his gaze back. “Except for the apartments of the Steward’s heir. These were occupied by my brother and they’re.... That is, they haven’t been.... I haven’t....” He took a deep breath. “But I can–“


“No,” Aragorn interrupted. No one had gone through the dead man’s effects and disposed of them. No one had taken that final step. “That is not necessary. You may deal with that in your own time. In the meantime, I am sure Denethor’s chambers will be sufficient to my needs. That is, if you don’t mind sharing your home. For you shall stay in your home; I will not put you out.”


“I know it is not ideal,” Faramir went on, “and we were remiss, letting so many things slide in the–“


Aragorn laughed. “I think you can be forgiven for a thousand years of unoccupation. Time does take its toll, after all.”


“We have had workmen working on it these past weeks, but both labor and materials are in short supply, with so much of the lower levels damaged during the siege.”


Aragorn nodded. “I shall want reports on all of that as well,” he said, “but not today. There is plenty of work for all of us, My Lord Steward; I do not think we shall lack for things to occupy us in the absence of war.”


Faramir smiled at that. “I dare say you are correct, Sire.”


“Come,” Aragorn raised his arm to usher his steward out of the hall. “We are expected at the banquet.”


“My Liege,” Faramir acknowledged with a bow of his head.


“I have no doubt I will have many more questions in the days ahead,” Aragorn said as they left the Great Court. “I shall be relying on you to get me up to speed on everything that is going on in Gondor.”


“I will do my best, sire,” Faramir said, “though I confess, I am still feeling my way through a lot of it. I never expected to be Steward beyond today, and I’ve been far more concerned these past weeks with making sure our citizens had roofs over their heads and food on their tables than with the intricacies of government.”


“I am far more concerned with our people as well. The government of Gondor has endured civil war, famine, and the touch of darkness. I don’t imagine an inexperienced king will faze it.” Aragorn smiled. “But between us, we ought to be able to make some sense of it, don’t you think?”


“Oh, the structure of Gondor’s government is fairly simple,” Faramir went on, warming to his topic. “There is the King. Now, that is. Previously, there was the Ruling Steward. And he has..had counselors, ministers who were, who are the greatest men in Gondor. The Council represents most of the facets of the realm, with Gondor’s military leaders, Minas Tirith’s civic leaders–Lord Hurin and the heads of the guilds and trades, plus representatives from Lebennin, Lossarnach, Dor-en-ernil, and Anorien. As well as Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, who rules Belfalas as his own domain, but also holds loyalty to Gondor.” He glanced at the king. “He is kin, actually,” he said. “My uncle.”


“Yes, I know,” Aragorn nodded. “I had the chance to get to know him when he rode with the Host of the West. He spoke very highly of you.”


Faramir was momentarily speechless, surprised to learn that his uncle had spoken of him. Then he blinked. “Anyway, the Council’s primary responsibility is as advisors to the Steward. Or the King. They have authority over their individual areas, of course, but the ultimate authority and, indeed, the final word is that of the King. However, disagreements with the Council have been known to turn ugly, and it is not unheard of for ill will between the Steward and a particular Counselor to have far-reaching repercussions. Not–“ he hastened to add, “in recent history, fortunately. But in times past, bad blood between the Ruling Steward and his Council made things difficult for all concerned, but most especially for the people of Gondor.”


Aragorn nodded. He knew a little something about bad blood; it was why he had left the service of Ecthelion all those years ago, rather than risk the bad blood between himself and Denethor escalating into a confrontation.


“Minas Tirith’s libraries are quite extensive,” Faramir continued, “and her history has been well documented. I can pull together the most relevant texts you’ll need to learn about Gondor’s history so that–“


”Actually,” Aragorn interrupted, “I am already well-read in Gondor’s history. I spent some time here many years ago.”


Faramir flushed and ducked his head. “My apologies, my Liege. I did not mean to infer–“


”No offense was taken,” Aragorn assured him, “you did not know.” He regarded his steward for a long moment. “There’s a lot we don’t know about each other,” he said. “Perhaps it would behoove us to get to know each other better. Since we’ll be working so closely.”


“Yes, sire, whatever you wish,” Faramir nodded diffidently.


Aragorn gritted his teeth. It was too bad they were heading into a banquet, a state occasion. Because what he really wanted to do was to grab Faramir by the shoulders and shake some sense into him, to make him stop acting so damned subservient. He hadn’t expected this at all.


Although he and Faramir had only just met, the younger son of the Steward was not unknown to him. Boromir had spoken fondly of his little brother, his voice laced with love and pride as he told of his valor and his gentle heart, his wisdom and his skill. And after seeing him in the Houses of Healing, Aragorn went out of his way to discover everything he could about the man who had just become the last Ruling Steward of Gondor. From Gandalf he learned of Faramir’s love of lore and study, and of his far-sightedness and compassion. From Pippin he’d learned of his his courage and his loyalty. From Sam he’d learned of his honor and his nobility. And from Prince Imrahil he’d learned of all of these things as well as the deep regard and love he in which he was held, not only by his family, save for his father (this he’d also learned from Imrahil, though it had been hinted at by Boromir), but also by the men he commanded in Ithilien and the people he dealt with here in the City.


All these things contributed to the picture he’d had in his mind of Faramir, and all these things had confirmed the instinct of his heart, to retain Faramir as his Steward, his second-in-command.


But what Aragorn had not expected was the diffidence and the uncertainty he saw in Faramir, and those lesser traits he laid firmly at Denethor’s feet. It was no surprise to learn how the Steward had doted on his eldest son. But it had been cruel news indeed to learn how different his attitude had been toward his younger son. He’d questioned Gandalf about it long into the night. No one who knew the Steward and knew his sons could understand the older man’s animosity toward a son who had only ever striven to serve his father and serve his realm. But Faramir was not a soldier, not in the way Boromir had been. Although he was a skilled commander and well-loved by his men, he did not relish fighting for fighting’s sake, but instead would fight to protect a cause, or a land, or a people. Perhaps Denethor had considered this a weakness in his son. Aragorn, on the other hand, considered it the height of wisdom, and the more he learned about Faramir, the more he admired him.


Knowing Denethor as he had, and having now met Faramir, Aragorn also wondered whether the former Steward’s animosity was because he saw too much of himself in his youngest boy, too many of the qualities he perceived as weaknesses in himself. The death of his wife had destroyed something vital in Denethor, and from all reports, he cut himself off from the softer part of his nature, on the misguided notion that if one didn’t feel compassion, one also wouldn’t feel pain. Faramir had compassion by the armful and Denethor despised him for it, perhaps fearing that it would cause his son the same pain it had caused him, failing to recognize that his own lack of compassion caused his son far more pain than any external force could have done.


“I wish,” Aragorn began, a little surprised to hear himself speak, “that you could look at me, just once, and not see a king.”


Faramir stopped still, his eyes wide, and stared at him. For a long moment, he said nothing.


“Forgive me,” Aragorn said softly, “that was an inappropriate comment. You can hardly–”


His words seemed to release Faramir from his spell. “No, forgive me,” he replied. “I must seem like a dolt. I am unused to dealing with a king; I am not sure what to say.”


Aragorn chuckled and leaned toward the other man. “Don’t tell anyone,” he said in a low voice, “but I am unused to being a king.”


That made Faramir laugh. “Well then, if you will forgive my gawping like a provincial bumpkin, I will promise not to tell anyone that you have never been a king before.”


“That is a fair bargain,” Aragorn said with a smile and extended his hand.


Faramir glanced down at his hand, then up into his face, and his eyes held so much Aragorn felt like he could study them for a year and still not know ther depths. And then Faramir took his hand, the clasp strong and sure, a handshake of fellowship between the Steward and the King.


When the clasp broke, they continued on to the Hall of Feasts. At the door, Faramir stopped and turned toward Aragorn again. “Are you ready?” he asked.


Aragorn took a deep breath and nodded. It was time to be a king again.


Then Faramir flashed him a knowing smile. “Your secret is safe with me, sire,” he murmured, and with a sly wink, commanded the doors to the hall be opened.


Aragorn couldn’t stop his broad smile as he stepped into the Hall, and the assembled guests rose to their feet to pay homage to their new monarch.


Faramir’s voice rang clearly through the hall. “Behold the King.”

 

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