Son of Gondor
“You are Thorongil.”
Aragorn looked up from his desk. Faramir, his Steward, was standing at the door to his study, his face a blank mask but his eyes flashing with too many emotions for Aragorn to catch them all. Surprise he saw. And anger. But there were other things there, too, things Aragorn didn’t want to examine too closely.
Rather than answer his Steward’s claim, he waited to see if Faramir would elaborate, as was his wont.
He wasn’t disappointed this time, either. “Something I overheard between yourself and Lord Hurin yesterday started me to thinking, so I did some investigating. I hadn’t made the connection before. But you were Thorongil. Weren’t you.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes,” Aragorn agreed.
There was a long silence as the two men gazed at each other.
“Why did you not tell me?” Faramir asked.
“I told you I served under your grandather,” Aragorn answered.
“Served under is one thing,” Faramir insisted, “served as his most trusted advisor is quite another.” A frown crossed his face. “Did my father know?”
“About you. Not about Thorongil, I know he knew him. But did he know who Thorongil was?”
“He suspected, I think. I never told him, nor did I ever do anything to indicate I was Isildur’s heir. But your father always had far sight. I think he knew.”
“But why not say something?”
“The time was not right,” Aragorn replied.
“Not right for what?”
“For the heir of Elendil to claim the throne. For me to become a king. I was not ready. Gondor was not ready.”
“So instead you disappeared, leaving Gondor to suffer years of more pain and loss and misfortune.”
“Gondor would have suffered those things anyway,” Aragorn said. As long as they were getting into this, they might as well have it all out. “I could not help Gondor, not then. If I had tried, I would have failed. Everything happens in its time, Faramir. Whether we can see that or not. There was still much I needed to learn, much I needed to know. I sometimes feel barely adequate to rule Gondor now, after all my years and all my experience. If I’d revealed myself to your father, or to Ecthelion, I’d have forced them into acting. To either declare me King, or else to deny me and prevent me from ever attaining the throne. I might not have wanted the crown then, but I did not want to see that road closed to me, either. In any case, I was unprepared to take the throne at that time, and I certainly had no wish to take it away from those who had guarded it so valiantly over the years.”
“Yet you had no such compunction claiming it from me,” Faramir commented archly.
Aragorn scowled at him. “My hand was forced. In order to accomplish the things I needed to do to defeat the Dark Lord, I had to take up my birthright.
“If I’d really wanted to take Gondor away from you, do you think I’d have let you keep your title?”
The men stared at each other for a long moment. Finally Faramir looked away. “What else haven’t you told me?”
Aragorn tried unsuccessfully to smother a laugh. “That is a very broad question.”
“You know what I am asking,” Faramir snapped. “What else should I know about you and about your dealings with Gondor in earlier times?”
Aragorn saw that his Steward was serious. “I did not withhold the information because I did not trust you, Faramir,” he said quietly. “Nor because I did not deem you worthy of the knowledge. Rather, I did not tell you because I did not think it mattered. Thorongil was a long time ago, before you were born. And he was never a serious threat to your father’s Stewardship, despite what the gossips of the time might have said. When I saw how things were with him, saw Ecthelion turning to me when he should have been turning to his son.... That’s when I left. I never wanted to be Denethor’s competition, nor his enemy. I had a great deal of respect for your father in those days. When I knew him, he was wise and far-seeing, and still had the compassion he later lost.”
“And later?” Faramir asked.
“I never entered Gondor again, not until I came there from the Paths of the Dead,” Aragorn answered.
“I meant my father,” Faramir said.
“I never saw your father again, either,” Aragorn affirmed. “What I knew of him was what was reported to me. When I left Gondor he was not yet Steward. He had a beautiful wife whom he loved, and an infant son he doted upon. He was shrewd and clear-thinking, proud and strong. A true leader of men. We did not agree on some subjects, but to my mind, those disagreements were nothing to do with the personal. They were such as any two commanders might have regarding tactics or political philosophy.
“Your father saw Thorongil as a threat to his position. I never was one, but I preferred to leave Gondor than risk an open dispute between us. Nor would I come between Ecthelion and his son.”
Faramir gazed at him, his wary expression somewhat softened. “You knew my mother?”
Aragorn nodded the affirmative. “Not well, but socially. She was beautiful, with a beautiful spirit. I was saddened when I learned of her death. Sadder still when I heard what her dying had done to Denethor. He never fully recovered from it, I think.”
“He blamed me,” Faramir said softly.
Aragorn frowned. “I’m sorry?”
“For her death. He blamed me. She never regained her health after I was born, or so I’ve been led to believe.”
Aragorn contemplated his Steward. The weeks since Denethor’s death had been busy ones, and Faramir had stepped into the role of Steward admirably, ably assisting Aragorn as he learned his new responsibilities as Gondor’s king. As the days turned into weeks, Aragorn had seen a strength and a fair intelligence in Faramir that had confirmed his earlier impressions about the younger man. And yet the ghost of Denethor still hung heavily over his son. It sometimes seemed to Aragorn that Faramir intentionally held himself back, as if he still expected to see his father coming around the corner and expressing his disapproval. Aragorn had few memories of his own father, who had been killed when he was quite small. And his memories of his foster father were almost entirely good; though Elrond had been stern and at times unyielding, he had never doubted the elf lord’s love and support. He wondered sometimes what it would have been like, growing up with that kind of disapproval and marveled that Faramir had turned out as well as he had.
“I was not in Gondor when she died,” he said. “I do not know. What does Imrahil say about it?”
Faramir looked away again. “We do not discuss it.”
“Perhaps you should.”
Faramir looked back at Aragorn with surprise.
“It is your father who refused to publicly remember his dead wife. I do not believe your uncle feels the same way. If you spoke to him about it, I am sure he could tell you about those times.”
Faramir appeared to consider this, then something changed in his eyes and his expression softened, the smallest of smiles tugging at the corners of his mouth. “And you knew Boromir, as a babe?”
Aragorn laughed. “Saw, more like. He was scarcely walking when I saw him last before I left. I remember it was some official event or other. And Denethor and Finduilas came in with Boromir between them, and he was walking–I suppose you could call it that–more like running, really, with that charge-ahead way children who have just learned to walk often have. His parents were so proud of him, and Ecthelion just beamed.” He smiled at the memory.
Faramir smiled with him, no doubt imagining the scene. “He was the future of Gondor.” Then the smile faded.
It sometimes surprised Aragorn how one man, several months dead, could still be so very present. In many ways, Boromir’s memory was even stronger in the city than Denethor’s. “And now that future is yours,” he said softly.
Faramir looked at him with a frown. “Mine, my liege? Yours, surely. You are the future of Gondor now.”
“Ours then,” Aragorn amended. “Faramir, it was not lightly that I retained you as Steward. I did not do it out of sympathy, nor out of loyalty to your dead brother. You are a man of Gondor, far more than I am. You know her cities and her provinces, you understand her people. More than that, you love them. And they love you.
“Things in Gondor changed in the forty years since Thorongil. I changed and so did Gondor. And I was never a part of society here, not like the Steward and his family. I was always an outsider, and I always will be. No matter how long I reign, I will still and always be Dunedain. Of the North. No true Gondorian. I know this. But you. You are Gondor’s son, her brightest light. The blood of Numenor runs strong in you, and the blood of the Steward cannot be denied. You are as shrewd and far-seeing as your father, as strong and valorous as your brother, and as wise and compassionate as your grandfather. You are a true son of Gondor, Faramir, and I know the King would be a lesser ruler without the Steward at his side.”
Faramir had cast his eyes down, as he always did whenever Aragorn paid him a compliment. As if he could not credit the approval. Or else as if he wished to deny it. Aragorn wondered how long it would take his Steward to realize his own worth.
“I can tell you about Thorongil,” he went on. “If you wish to know. I can tell you what I remember. But it has no bearing on now, it has no bearing on today. I am no longer Thorongil. And you are not Denethor.”
That brought Faramir’s head up, as he knew it would. The intensity in his Steward’s upturned eyes was a bit unnerving. As if his soul were open but so fathomless as to be truly unknowable. Faramir’s eyes held the depth of the sea.
He nodded, the smallest of movements. “I would still like to hear of it. You say it has no bearing on today, and yet I would disagree with you. Everything in our past influences our present. I am not Denethor. But I am his son. And I would seek to understand him better, seek to know him through someone who knew him in a time before he lost that great part of himself and closeted the rest of himself away. I seek to understand him so that I can better understand myself.” If anything, the intensity in Faramir’s eyes grew. “I would not make his mistakes.”
“You will not,” Aragorn answered quietly.
They stared at each other, the atmosphere so heavily charged it was very nearly stifling. Then Faramir blinked and the intensity lessened. Aragorn took a deep breath as things returned to normal.
“We have promised ourselves the chance to talk,” he said, smiling at his Steward. “We should find the time. I would tell you of those days. And of my days with Boromir.”
Faramir’s expression lightened, a glow of hope in his eyes. “I would like that,” he said.
“So would I.” He sighed. “But just now I have this stack of reports to get through before tomorrow’s meeting with the Council.” He sighed and slumped back in his chair. “I look at all this mindless paperwork and needless protocol and I begin to understand Denethor’s surliness. It is enough to make the most patient of men irritable.”
Faramir chuckled. “And my father was never the most patient of men. Here.” He held out his hand. “Let me have half. We can go through them together and get them out of the way in half the time.” Then his expression froze and he dropped his hand. “Unless my Liege would rather I not–“ There it was again, Faramir’s withdrawl lest he incur someone’s disapproval.
”On the contrary,” Aragorn shook his head, peeling the top half of the reports off the stack and holding them out to his Steward. “I welcome your assistance. Maybe you can make some sense out of them.”
“I’ll do my best,” Faramir answered.
Aragorn gazed at his Steward. “I do not doubt it.”
He indicated the chair opposite and Faramir sat. And together, the Steward and the King took care of the rule of Gondor.
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