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4
I will lift mine eyes unto the hills

Chapter Four - I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills

These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my
help. - Bible: Psalm 121.1

With grateful thanks to Raksha for all her help with this chapter.


~~~

The next morning, when Arwen knew her husband was safely occupied meeting the Ambassador from Khand, she summoned Faramir to her sitting room. Within moments of receiving the message, he presented himself to his Queen.

“My lady,” the Steward bowed low to greet her.

“Do sit down, Faramir. Would you like some iced apple juice?” Arwen gestured to a chair directly opposite hers.

“Thank you, my lady.” Faramir sat down on the edge of the chair, looking ill at ease.

After sending the servants away, Arwen herself poured two goblets of the refreshing liquid from the ewer laid ready on the table. She handed one to the Steward, and then sat studying him for a few moments while he drank. “How are you feeling, Faramir?” she asked after a short silence. “Do not tell me you are well, for I can plainly see that you are not!”

Faramir sighed deeply. His sad grey eyes tried to evade her gaze while he sought a suitable reply.

“Maybe, a better question would be to ask about how you feel concerning Estel’s treatment of you?” she asked shrewdly.

“The King has been most gracious and merciful to me,” Faramir replied steadfastly.

“You do not resent your exile these past months?” the Queen demanded more forcefully.

“No, my lady. Had my father ruled here, it would have gone very differently for me.”

“Would it?” Arwen asked sharply, putting down her glass.

“Indeed, my lady. I would have been executed as a traitor, whatever the reasons for my actions.”

“Are you a traitor? Can Estel truly trust you?” Arwen asked relentlessly, rising to her feet and towering over the Steward.

“My lady, I was ever true in my heart!” Faramir protested, momentarily forgetting that etiquette demanded that he rise too. “Forgive me, my lady,” he said, jumping up and almost knocking over the glass in his agitation. He stood and met her eyes. ”You have the power to read my thoughts, my lady,” he said. “If you doubt my loyalty, I beg of you to sift my heart .You will find no disloyalty there to my lord! Bitterly do I regret causing him pain, but never was I false in my heart! His welfare, and that of Gondor was and is, ever my chief concern.”

Arwen suddenly smiled and took the Steward’s hands between her own. “I believe you, Faramir,” she said gently. “I just needed to be certain before I ask a favour of you. You are a brave man indeed, to be willing to endure my intrusion in your mind despite the pain it caused you before.”

“I would endure any pain to convince you and the King of my faith!” Faramir said fervently. “Ask of me what you will, my lady!”

Arwen refilled their glasses with the now cool, rather than iced juice. She gestured for Faramir to sit as she settled down on her chair again. “You must have noticed that Estel does not look well,” she confided.

Faramir nodded, fear apparent in his eyes.

“My brothers, the finest healers now on Arda, cannot aid him,” she continued. “But I believe that you can.”

“Alas, I am no healer, my lady as Aragorn, um the King well knows.” Faramir looked bewildered.

“Estel is healed in body, but not in soul,” Arwen explained. ”I believe he needs time away from this stone city to restore his spirits. I have been studying the lore of old and believe he needs to seek the guidance of the One by visiting the Hallow on the Mountain, followed by some time of reflection in the wilderness. I would not have him go alone. I believe you are the best person to accompany him. I know you would guard him with your life.”

“Indeed, I would, my lady, and most gladly, but he would not wish for my company.” Faramir said sadly.

“You are the only one who could go with him. Only those of Elendil’s line may visit the Hallow of the Kings.”

“But I am not of royal lineage, “ Faramir protested. “Were the House of Húrin of Elendil’s Line, I believe my longfathers would have claimed the throne of Gondor centuries ago.”

“Maybe those of your Line are not be heirs of Elendil under the law of Gondor, but you would be counted as such in Númenor,” said Arwen. “Anárion had a daughter who was the ancestress of your House. Your lineage may not be as pure as Estel’s, but your family was ultimately of Kingly origin. I have been studying the history of the Húrinionath.”

“Even if I do bear the blood of Elendil in my veins, the King can hardly stand to have me in his sight!” said Faramir somewhat bitterly. “I would follow him to the farthest reaches of Arda, but he would bid me stay in Ithilien!”

“I believe he needs you at his side in order to heal his soul,” the Queen said. “You are Thought Bonded, therefore you require each other in order to be whole. Estel knew that full well, when he offered you that Gift. It is not the natural order of things that those thus bonded should not be in harmony, enjoying each other’s close companionship. That is the main reason why my brothers have lingered here, so that their Bond with me would remain unbroken while I live.

“The King gave me that precious Gift, and yet I could not use it to aid him,” Faramir said sorrowfully. “Maybe it was wasted on me, as my father always said it would be!”

Arwen leaned across and again gripped Faramir’s hand. “Indeed no, mellon nín!” she exclaimed. “Quite the contrary! You have already used the Thought Bond. With further use and practise, you will learn how to use it even better. Remember, Estel has had over seventy years to hone his mental skills. It was quite remarkable that he reached you as he did, after so few months of communicating by thought alone.”

Faramir flushed with pleasure at such praise.

“After you have made your pilgrimage, I would like Estel to ride out into the countryside and travel as a Ranger again for a time, far from the strictures of court life. Alone in the wilds, you will have to depend on each other again. When one has to hunt for one’s food, and constantly search for water, there is little time to brood! As a former Ranger yourself, you will make the ideal companion for him!”

“I will try to be,” Faramir promised, still looking doubtful. “I still do not think he would wish for such a trip in my company!”

“I will persuade him of its importance,” said the Queen. “He cannot plead his duties as excuse not to go. As you well know, after this afternoon’s meeting, the Council will not be held again for several weeks when the remade Council will meet for the first time. Your uncle and I can deal with the daily responsibilities of running the country; both your staff and Estel's have eased the process along the lines you both requested. So he has no reason to refuse my suggestion. You can leave either tomorrow or the day after. You have a good horse with you, have you not?”

“Yes, my lady. Zachus is a fine mount, though not much to look upon.”

Arwen smiled, remembering how invaluable the supposed carthorse had been in rescuing her husband.

“One final thing, Faramir, as yet, I would rather Estel did not know of this conversation. It would be wise to feign some reluctance when he asks you to accompany you.”

“Yes, my lady,” Faramir replied, wondering how many more deceptions the Queen would demand of him for Aragorn’s good. But the shaft had already flown from the bow on that matter. At least, this time, the deception was a mild one and would aid in Aragorn's healing, rather than cause any injury.

The Queen rose to her feet. So too, did Faramir, flinching slightly as he moved.

Arwen wondered if she should insist the Steward see a healer before departing. She decided it perhaps it would be better to leave Faramir as he was. She had trodden on Faramir's pride enough for one day, and he was strong enough to walk and ride, which was all that would be required of him.

“May the Stars light your way! ” Arwen again grasped Faramir’s hand as she blessed him.

Taking leave of the troubled Steward, the Queen returned to the nursery where she had left Eldarion in his nursemaid's charge. It had been a gamble to first tell Faramir of her plan, but now there could be no turning back. Already she wondered however she could persuade her husband to go.

She knew she would miss him greatly and worry about his safety. However, she was wise enough to know that this might be the only way that the vigorous man she married could be restored to her.

How could she sit idly by, watching her Estel fade as his confidence ebbed and his suspicions rose with each long day and restless night? The accursed traitors had not only weakened his bond with Faramir, but had sucked out Estel's ability to trust both himself and his people.

She thought sadly of her mother, now healed and happy in Elvenhome, but forever lost to her. Of late, Arwen's troubled thoughts had focussed more and more on Celebrian's suffering, raising her own unvoiced fears. She knew only too well that a damaged body could be healed far more easily than a tortured mind. To send Aragorn into the wilds with only Faramir to companion him would incur a certain risk. Yet to do nothing, would surely expose her beloved husband to even greater peril.

***

Aragorn paced the living room relentlessly. He then strode over to the window and leaned out, for perhaps the twelfth time that day. He gazed morosely towards the mountains, their peaks rising above the haze shrouded City. Having spent most of his life in the North, he found the heat in Minas Tirith well nigh unbearable, but never more so than at present.

Arwen, much better able to endure extremes of temperature, sat calmly fanning her baby son. “What do you seek?” she enquired.

“To see if there be any sign of rain; but there is none.”

”The rain will surely come soon.”

“I cannot even go and swim in the river, lest any man see me as I am now!” Aragorn complained, then sighed. “These walls are crushing me!”

Arwen realised he was giving her the perfect opportunity to put her plan into action.

The King paced the room again, then, frustrated; pounded the table with his fist, causing a pearl-inlaid silver vase to wobble precariously. Arwen grabbed the vase and steadied it. The vase, now filled with fresh flowers, was a family heirloom, made in Menegroth for the wedding of Celeborn and Galadriel, and later passed lovingly to their daughter, and finally to their grand-daughter. She took a deep breath. “I have read that when the Kings of old were troubled, they would go to the Hallows in the mountains and seek the blessing of the One,” said Arwen. “Why do you not take Faramir to the place where our new Tree was born, and seek peace together?”

“I can never find peace! “ Aragorn snapped. “Too much has happened. Faramir has changed and so have I. Why speak of Faramir? Only those of the line of Elendil should visit that sacred place!”

”Gandalf walked there with you, so why not your Steward?” Arwen replied. “He too bears the blood of Westernesse in generous measure. His descent through Anárion’s daughter makes him the scion of Kings, and thus permitted to set foot in the Holy Places! Now go and play at being Rangers again with Faramir for awhile, before you drive me to distraction!” the Queen commanded.

Aragorn stopped pacing, surprised at her words. “There is nothing I would like better than walk alone in the wilds. Alas, I no longer have that freedom!” he sighed. "I will breathe some athelas vapour. The herb always lightens my spirits.”

“You have done little else but inhale athelas these past months; yet still your heart is heavy,” Arwen retorted. “You can be spared from the daily responsibilities of kingship while everyone is occupied with the harvest. Faramir's staff and your own have worked together well in the past. And I assure you that after almost five hundred years as the Lady of Rivendell, I am quite capable of hosting the visiting ambassadors and trade delegations. Imrahil has been a diplomat and negotiator for most of his life, and he will stay by my side. It is not as if you would accomplish much work in your present state, for you are too restless! Go and ask Faramir to ascend the mountain with you! You will at least be cooler there!”

“I will go to the Hallow if you think that might aid me,” Aragorn conceded. “However, I would rather make the journey alone; since I was accustomed to solitude for many a long year.”

“You were not King then. You must not go alone lest some further ill befall you, ”Arwen sternly reminded him. "Faramir will guard you well."

“Faramir was working hard when I last looked in on him; he would not wish to stop work to roam in the wilds,” the King declared, trying a different tactic to dissuade Arwen from her purpose.

“Well then, either send Faramir home to Ithilien, which seems unreasonable since he has only just returned to the City, or take him to the Hallow,” Arwen insisted. "It is easy to see that you are trying to avoid him. I have watched you treat Easterlings who once fought against us with more courtesy. And then there are the nightmares."

Aragorn flushed slightly.

“If it troubles you that he is no longer the man he was when you first met; remember that he sacrificed that innocence for you,” Arwen said quietly. “And from what I know of Faramir, he is still wracked with guilt over what he had to do to save you! He deserves your love, not your disapproval!”

“But I do love him,” Aragorn whispered more to himself than to Arwen. “I pardoned him, even though he betrayed me. I know I owe him my life!”

“Maybe that is what troubles you?” Arwen observed shrewdly.

“He had to care for me as if I were a babe in arms,” Aragorn said, not looking at his wife. “Then when he found me... “ His voice trailed away. “No one should have had to see me like that! “ He shuddered at the memory.

“Someone had to care for you, Estel, if not Faramir, would you have preferred little Elbeth to attend you?” Arwen replied. “Do not let your pride destroy your friendship; you have cared for Faramir through as bad or worse.”

“But how can I trust him again after what he did?”

“You are making excuses!” Arwen accused, though the sudden touch of her soft hand on his face, lessened the harshness of her words. “You need to be reconciled with Faramir, if not for your own sake, for the good of Gondor. Only then will your soul heal. Go now, find your Steward, and go out with him into the wilds until you can settle what lies between you! Take him to your heart again as a son!

***

Faramir’s eyes briefly lit up when the King told him they were to leave the next morning before resuming their now habitual haunted expression. “I would be glad to accompany you, my lord,” he replied dutifully before throwing a guilty glance at the heap of documents on his desk. “However, I really cannot leave the paperwork before tomorrow, though. There are the details of the new law concerning trade tariffs to finish, and the treaty with the Easterlings and the restoration of the gate on the third level and …”

“Your King commands you to forget them all for a while!” Aragorn interrupted harshly. ”Imrahil can oversee such routine matters, and you have picked the new clerks on your staff most wisely. I need you to come. The Queen will fret if I go alone.

“I will gladly honour your lady’s wishes,” Faramir replied, not certain if he was glad or sorry that the Queen’s plan had obviously worked. He hardly knew how he should act in the King’s presence any longer.

Faramir turned to glare at the stack of papers, then gathered them up and thrust them into an already overstuffed drawer in his desk.

“Who am I to dispute an order from my King?” he said. “I will accompany you, sire, though I do not know how I will ever catch up with the tasks that await me!”

Aragorn clapped him awkwardly on the shoulder. Faramir flinched as if struck.

The King sighed. The journey would feel endless in this man’s company. Why would Arwen not let him go alone? Faramir was nearly the last one, dwarf, elf, hobbit or man, on Arda that he would choose to accompany him. “We leave at first light tomorrow, Aragorn said gruffly. “You had better go and prepare.”

TBC

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