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2
The shadow of the Past

The characters are the property of the Tolkien estate


~~~

After the festivities were concluded, Faramir showed the King to what had been Denethor’s apartments. They had been cleaned and prepared for his arrival since the King’s House had been damaged during the War, if indeed Aragorn chose to use it, rather than these spacious rooms.

“I hope you will be comfortable here, my Lord King,” Faramir said, still totally overwhelmed by the majesty of the man.

“I am sure I will,” he replied, and then looked at Faramir anxiously,“I am not evicting you from your home am I?”

Faramir shook his head, “No, my liege, I am content with my old rooms. I never thought of moving here.”

“I would like to see you dwelling in a residence of your choice befitting your status, as soon as possible.” Aragorn said, “I should like to speak to you privately in an hour or so, once I have set aside this armour and regalia, if that is convenient for you?”

“Yes, my Lord King,” Faramir replied, wondering apprehensively whatever the King wished to discuss with him. He thought the ceremonies had gone smoothly but maybe he had done something wrong for which his lord would reproach him?

An hour later,Faramir stood waiting outside the door of the study which had once been his father’s and wishing he were elsewhere as he was never summoned to this room in the past unless he had displeased his lord in some fashion.

He still had frequent nightmares that Denethor had returned from the dead ,and was raging at him for daring to support Aragorn, before threatening him with severe punishment. Then a wave of relief would wash over him when he was fully awake and remembered, that indeed the King had returned.

He badly wanted to create a better impression with the King than he had ever done with his father, for here was a man whom he could truly admire, as well as being one he was certain it would be even more dangerous to anger.

He knocked timidly and Elessar’s voice bade him enter. He was sitting behind the desk that Denethor had used and Faramir fought an irrational urge to flee.

The King even looked rather like his father, as they were as alike as close kin, save that Elessar was taller, had a nobler air about him and his compelling eyes were warm rather than icy.

He was now dressed simply in a plain tunic and breeches unlike the robes, which Denethor always wore. He looked weary now, though not weary as Faramir remembered him from the Houses of Healing.

Yet the resemblance to Denethor was close enough that Faramir shivered slightly as Elessar rose from behind the desk. Faramir knelt before him trying not to tremble.

“My Lord Elessar, I am your most humble servant,” he murmured,“what does the King command?”

“Please rise, Faramir. I wanted to see you to apologise for not warning you in advance that I wished you to remain as my Steward. It was just I never thought you would expect otherwise, but I could see from your reaction you were surprised. Do you wish to be my Steward as I would not force you?”

For his part, Aragorn could have been looking at Denethor, as he had been when he was Faramir’s age, but again the eyes were very different, as Denethor had always had a somewhat haughty air about him, very unlike Faramir’s unassuming shyness.

It was very hard to imagine himself being crowned as King ,had Denethor lived. It was unlikely he would have handed over the rod so easily. He had Faramir to thank for his smooth accession to the throne.

It was ironic that he had fled Gondor when he was certain Denethor had guessed his true identity and was about to endanger his life by announcing it publicly, while his son had been the first to acknowledge him as King on his return despite never having seen him before. The wonder of that moment still sent a shiver down Aragorn’s spine to recall.

“It is my greatest wish to serve you, my lord and you honour me greatly by retaining me as your Steward.”

Aragorn looked relieved but sighed softly, “I am glad to hear that, Faramir, as I need you at my side. I know little of the government of Gondor for when I was here last, I spent my time in the army and know almost nothing of affairs of state. I hope I have not interrupted any other plans you might have had.”

“I was planning on marrying the Lady Eowyn, if King Eomer permitted the match, and making our home in Ithilien. I thought that you would not wish me to remain in the City, my Lord.”

Aragorn looked both pleased and somewhat bewildered as he pondered on Lady Eowyn’s welcome but alarmingly rapid switch of affections from himself to his Steward. Then wondered why ever Faramir should think he needed to leave Minas Tirith.

“Congratulations on your engagement, Faramir, I am delighted that you and the Lady Eowyn have found happiness together!” The King’s pleasure was genuine, despite his reservations about the suddenness of the match, and whether or not the quiet Faramir and fiery Eowyn were well suited. “Naturally you will need somewhere for your country estate, but why should I wish you to leave your home? Would you be happy to divide your time between here and Ithilien if I give you that land and appoint you its Prince? I should like you to dwell within sight of the City. I was going to tell you officially tomorrow but am loath to spring more surprises upon you!”

Faramir gaped open mouthed in astonishment at his King for a moment before drawing himself to task for yet another lapse of etiquette as he gasped, “You plan to make me Prince of Ithilien?” He pinched himself surreptitiously to ensure he was not dreaming.

“Yes, and why ever not? Your family have faithfully served this Realm and held it for me for a very long time. It is but a small consolation for no longer ruling Gondor! Do you accept?”

“ Most gratefully, sire, your kindness and generosity are most gracious and do me great honour. I will be happy to work here in Minas Tirith and spend my leisure time with Lady Eowyn in Ithilien.” Faramir finally remembered the correct etiquette and went down on one knee again.

Aragorn was starting to get quite light- headed from watching all this bobbing around.

“ Good ! I am glad you approve. How is your shoulder and the wounds on your back now?” he asked, changing the subject. “Today must have been very tiring for you as it certainly was for me.”

“I am recovering, sire, thank you for asking.” Faramir’s reply was deliberately vague, for he would not lie outright.

“I should like to see for myself how your wounds are healing, if you would take off your tunic and shirt?”

To his shame, blind panic seized Faramir. He had been asked, or rather ordered, so many times in this very room, by his father to remove his shirt in preparation for a beating, that although he was aware Aragorn meant him no harm, the association was overwhelming.

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