Written for Raksha the Demon, for her birthday. Beta by RiverOtter.
Faramir examined the illustration in the ancient codex that described the disappearance of King Eärnur. It showed the King, pulling on his gauntlets, standing beneath the White Tree, which was in full bloom in the picture. The artist had been a good one, capturing the Man’s preoccupied expression very well. The pictured King reminded him of his father, but even more it reminded him of his brother, that look of calculation and stubborn determination. When Boromir wore such an expression it usually betokened he was planning his next campaign. And did not the turn of the mouth indicate a tendency toward truculence in spite of the obvious nobility the man wore as easily as he did his mantle and armor?
At least he would not be expected to rule the country, he thought as he turned his attention to the tree. He didn’t realize that now his own expression was softening, a slight, wistful smile lifting the corners of his mouth. The tree was in full bloom, and clearly was the very Tree he knew so well--that arch, there, was still there in the skeleton of it he knew so well. And that gap--yes, that gap also was as familiar as the face of his father!
To see a living White Tree growing before the Citadel, there in the court of the fountain--ah, how wonderful that would be. But as his imagination filled in the scene, it was a different face to the King, more slender, more mobile, more thoughtful. A face that could smile as easily as it could appear stern; eyes that could laugh....
The King pictured did not laugh often enough, Faramir opined. Perhaps it was because he had faced too many enemies in his life, and had not thought of gentler pursuits. It was said he’d never thought of marriage to a woman, being wedded instead to the nation of Gondor.
“He went so far from Minas Tirith,” he said softly to himself. “He traveled to the remnants of Arnor to assist the King there, only Arvedui was already lost when he arrived. And he faced the Witch-king twice, once there, and once here. But it was not by his own strength that Angmar was defeated there....”
He felt sorry for Eärnur. He’d been a great warrior by all accounts, but had felt it was all up to him, to destroy all enemies himself--and so he was betrayed in the end by his own hubris, not knowing when it was better to retreat from a challenge. “I only hope Boromir does not follow that path, too,” he murmured. “He, too, is married to Gondor, and feels he must do all himself.”
He worried so for his brother. Boromir did not take enough time for himself, to smile at the ladies and listen to his men, to walk along the river and admire the beauty of Minas Tirith from a distance with the glory of Mindolluin behind it, to listen to the running of water and the sough of the wind in the trees. He rode, but did not glory in the beauty and grace of his horse; he walked, but ever with a destination and purpose in mind; he laughed, but seldom for mere heart’s ease.
“I will serve Boromir one day as his adviser,” he said. “Chief counselor to the Lord Steward, and that is enough for me. But still I would see the White Tree growing and blooming in the courts of the King, and know the King’s friendship, and see the City and the Nation renewed, and know that both Boromir and I served him well.”
Startled, the young man dropped his book into his lap as he turned to face his father. “I was studying the campaigns of Eärnur,” he explained, then felt chagrined, as if he were offering excuses. “The White Tree--I would see it bloom again--one day, at least.”
“You would deny your brother his heritage of Lordship?”
“No, Father--not that! But to see the King return....”
But his father’s scowl was now deeply etched onto his face. “Daydreams!” he repeated dismissively. “We of the House of Húrin have served the land well enough, don’t you think? And there remains no heir to Anárion who is closer to the royal line than we.”
“Perhaps not in the south,” Faramir began. “But did not Arvedui leave an heir of his body?”
“It is said his son perished with him, there in the Bay of Forochel, when the ice closed around their ship.”
“But there is mention here of one named Aranarth, with whom Eärnur spoke before returning southward. Had not the Kings of Arnor taken the royal Ar as part of their names since the days of King Malvegil? Is it not possible that an heir to Elendil hides among the Lost?”
“And if there is? What kind of heir might one find in a land where there are not enough folk left to name a kingdom, where those who carry what blood remains from Númenor must ever hide in the shadows? What would such a one know of the responsibilities of rule, or how to deal with allies and enemies? I have spoken with the traders who deal with what little remains in the northern lands--east of the Misty Mountains there are a few small lands, petty rulers who are each jealous and watchful toward their neighbors--makers of toys and musical instruments, folk whose pride is in the ringing of bells and the crafting of boats to travel the Long Lake and the River Running. As for the western lands--beyond Dunland there is little enough. Not even Rhudaur holds much in the way of people, while the ancient road northward is almost empty, with few villages and fewer who would dare to settle the lands. Until one comes to the Breelands there is next to nothing, and even there the folk cluster together, I am told, wary of strangers for all their support of trade.
“Nay, from the north come but legends of Elves and Dwarves and other strange creatures, and little of any worth. Look not to the north for any King, my son. Those of the Lost who have come to us always leave again, and will not speak willingly of their life there. Tell me--if they had a King living amidst them, would they come here to serve, do you think?”
Denethor sighed. “And such was our last King,” he said, his lip slightly curled as he looked to the volume held by his son, “a man who worried so that he was found wanting when his terrified horse fled the field from the presence of the Witch-king that he accepted the challenge uttered by that one after he’d taken Minas Morgul, going thoughtlessly to his death, his personal honor meaning more to him than his responsibilities toward his land and people! One who left no heir to take up the Winged Crown after him. I believe Gondor has been better served by her Stewards than by her Kings! Valacar and his son tearing apart the land, Ondoher seeking to unite the realms once more by marrying his daughter to Arvedui, then plotting to marry a grandson of one realm to the granddaughter of the other....
“Can you not see, Faramir, how such schemes nearly destroyed our land?”
Faramir did not know how to answer, for had not the Stewards also made miscalculations at times? How near Cirion had come to costing Gondor its freedom on the Field of Celebrant, after all. And Pelendur had done ill, he’d always felt, in denying the claim of Fíriel and her husband as joint rulers to Gondor, preparing for the day when Arvedui would be King of Arnor, reuniting the ancient realms in their persons.
“Perhaps you are right, Father,” he said, and he could hear the hollowness of his own words.
“Of course I am right!” sniffed Denethor. “And where is your brother?”
“Down in the practice grounds in the Sixth Circle, practicing his swordsmanship,” Faramir said.
“Perhaps you should join him,” his father suggested. “Gondor will be well served when he is Steward after me.”
“I would hope so,” Faramir said, rising to place the volume back on the shelf.
But as he left the Citadel with his practice gear, he thought once more of how much his brother reminded him of Eärnur, with his trust in his own sword arm often greater than his trust in his men to work well together. And he prayed that Boromir would not continue to follow in the path set down by Gondor’s last king....