For Linda Hoyland and Dawn Felagund for their birthdays.
Faramir looked at his older cousin Húrin, who had returned from the morning briefing of the Captains, as it was formally called, in the tents of the northern Dúnedain down upon the Pelennor. Although the word that ran through the streets of Minas Tirith was that the King had come again, still Aragorn son of Arathorn refused to accept that title as yet, citing the fact that the war against Mordor and its allies was not yet won, and that Sauron was not yet defeated.
“Yet it will be he who will lead our army to the Black Gate,” the Warden of the Keys stated, “and he will need proper armor. He has a mail shirt given him in Rohan that is serviceable enough, I suppose, but otherwise he could be any mercenary from among the Lost who’d ever sold his sword to Gondor’s lords. And few among the lords of Gondor will take note of his authority in those riding leathers he wears, so worn and stained are they. If we would have him taken seriously, he must be armed as befits the King I deem he is.”
“They are in such bad condition?” asked Faramir.
Húrin gave a wry shrug. “I am certain that at one time they were in keeping with his station as the Lord of the northern Dúnedain. But now—he has worn them for so long that they cannot be adequately cleaned any more. The Master of the Guild of Leather Workers shuddered to look at them, and I have seen more than one of those who take part in the morning briefings turn up his nose at the sight of them.” He leaned forward confidingly and murmured in a lower voice, “I am willing to wager that they are the same he had with him when he served our grandfather ere you were born.”
Faramir’s eyebrows rose in interest before he continued, “What of his boots? His clothing? His weapons?”
“All of those are adequate at this time. The Master of Leather Workers took his boots the other day and had them cleaned, the soles checked and the heels replaced, and was highly impressed by their quality. He says they were obviously new when his company began their journey. The sheath for his sword is very new and is a thing of great beauty and worth. His bow, quiver, daggers, boot knife, and sword are in excellent condition, and have all been well maintained. He sports new clothing that he says were mostly gifts received from various of his hosts along the way, and some of which were brought to him by those he speaks of as his Elven brothers.”
“Can he ride? How is he mounted?”
“He rides very well indeed, and he came riding his own horse brought from the northern lands by those who came to join him in Rohan. It is well suited to him, and is obviously of good bloodlines. The tack is excellent, although perhaps plain to our eyes.”
“He will require a standard under which he might fight.”
Húrin shook his head. “You need not worry for that. Did no one tell you that the first sign we had that the ships we saw arriving did not bear the Corsairs of Umbar was when the Standard of Elendil was unfurled upon the flagship of the fleet that the south wind sped up the river to the Harlond? His close kinsman was his standard bearer, I am told, and took his deathblow upon the battlefield from an Easterling intent on bringing it low. And Lord Aragorn wore what must be the Elendilmir upon his brow as he led his men in their charge upon the foe. Elendil’s diadem, sword, and banner—no one doubted that day that it was Elendil’s heir who had come to succor the city.”
“Then he simply needs armor proper to his station,” Faramir summarized.
“Proper to his station and to his stature,” his older cousin agreed. “We will have to search hard for armor that will fit him, for he is the tallest Man I have ever seen—near to seven feet, I am certain.”
“I wonder what became of the armor that must have been made for him when he served Gondor as Thorongil?” Faramir asked.
Húrin shrugged. “I know not. He did not return to Minas Tirith after the victory in Umbar, having become separated from his men save for his aide. We were told he was sorely wounded, so it is likely that the armor was discarded that he might be properly treated.”
“Not that my father would have sought to see it preserved for him had it been found,” Faramir sighed. “His envy of the respect granted Captain Thorongil was always obvious to me, remembering his expression any time anyone mentioned Thorongil’s name when I was a boy.” He shook his head. “Well, go and search the armories and the mail shed. I suspect that among the armor crafted for past Stewards and Kings you will find at least one set that will fit him.”
It was some hours later that a knock at his door alerted Faramir to the return of his older cousin. The current Steward of Gondor had been able to spend much of the day seated in a chair within his room in the Houses of Healing, and he had only just been helped back into his bed once more, where he’d thought to sleep at least briefly until his supper should be brought to him. “Enter, Húrin,” he called.
The expression on the older Man’s face was uncertain, and Faramir was afraid that it might signal lack of success in his task. However, the Warden of the Keys forestalled Faramir’s disappointment with the comment, “I have managed to find one set of armor that might do, Cousin. However, your father would be most upset should I seek to array his old rival within it.”
“And what Steward was as tall as our new King is?” asked Faramir.
But Húrin was already shaking his head. “Oh, no Steward of Gondor ever wore this set of armor, or at least not in sight of anyone else. No, it was the set of armor said to have been worn by Meneldil when he was crowned sole King of Gondor by his Uncle Isildur.”
Faramir straightened in surprise. “Meneldil’s armor? But it is said in the annals of the city that he wore that set of armor but the one time, and that it has not been worn since that day! Would not the leather be withered by now?”
“I have checked it. Those who care for the armor oil the leather twice a year, but they say that the leather has always been supple and remained whole, save for that of the gauntlet for the right hand. They suggest that rather than the gauntlets a pair of battle gloves be worn instead, along with vambraces to protect the wrists. They do not know by what means the leather used in most of the armor was processed, but that used in the right gauntlet was not done in the same manner, leading them to believe that the right gauntlet was damaged at one point, perhaps exposed to a fire at some time, and thus the leather needed to be replaced, and that utilised at that time was not of the quality of the original leather used. The leather padding inside the helmet also perished, and was replaced some twelve years ago on your father’s orders.”
Faramir thought on this for some minutes. “It is interesting to know that the armor remains usable to this day,” he commented. “You have the right of it, for indeed my father would not have approved of this armor being worn by anyone, and particularly not by the one he always felt had supplanted him in his own father’s heart. However, he is not now Steward of Gondor—I am. And there is a nicety to the thing to think that the first sole King of Gondor’s armor should be worn now by he who will reunite the two realms under one rule. See to it that it is delivered to Lord Aragorn’s tent as soon as possible so that he might see to any adjustments necessary before the army sets off.”
Aragorn, Halbarad’s two brothers, and the sons of Elrond examined the armor that Lord Húrin had caused to be carried down to Aragorn’s tent. “This is what they would have you wear?” asked Halladan. “It is certainly royal enough in appearance!”
“I know,” said Aragorn. “Denethor would be twisting in his grave in distress should he be aware that his nephew and son had chosen to send this to me to wear in the coming campaign.”
“And why?” Elladan asked. “If they have armor at hand that will fit your height and that is appropriate to your rank as the heir to Isildur, then why should he have denied it to you?”
Aragorn sighed. “To see me wearing the armor in which it is said that Meneldil was invested as King of Gondor by his uncle would have been seen as too great an honor by Denethor.” He examined the arm guards. “So, the gauntlets are seen as unusable, are they? I would prefer to wear gloves in any case—they are less restrictive, in my experience.”
“Let us see it upon you,” Hardorn directed. “I would be assured that it even fits you halfway well before we send words of thanks to the Steward.”
Gandalf arrived by the time they were strapping the grieves onto Aragorn’s legs. “And what is this?” he asked.
“Húrin chose this armor for me to wear as I lead the army to Mordor to engage Sauron’s attention,” Aragorn said. “I almost fit it, I find. Although it must have been that Meneldil was taller than his statues had led me to believe, for this was made for someone taller even than I.”
“And why did he not send down the armor made for you to wear when you served here?” demanded Halladan.
Hardorn gave a snort of derision. “I sincerely doubt that said armor survived more than a few days after word came that Captain Thorongil was giving over his commission,” he said wryly from where he knelt behind his cousin. “You left it where? In the small house you kept in the Fourth Circle?”
“I knew that it should get in my way in the campaign on the harbor of Umbar,” Aragorn agreed. “Can you imagine what would have happened had I tried escaping as I did by diving into the water while wearing that? Can that strap be lowered some, Hardorn? And if this one could be let out perhaps a bit….” He fumbled at his left shoulder.
Hardorn adjusted the strap for the grieve as desired. “Better? Good.” As he rose to his feet he continued to his brother, “If you believe that Denethor would have allowed Captain Thorongil’s armor to be kept against a possible return of said worthy to Gondor’s service, you are much mistaken. It would quickly have been reduced to its component pieces and said pieces would have been relegated to the armories as swiftly as possible. He would do nothing to make your possible return any the easier, my Lord Cousin,” he added to Aragorn.
Gandalf blew out a breath of frustration. “Alas that this is true,” he admitted. “But there is nothing to be done at this time that can make things right between Aragorn and Denethor. Perhaps in Mandos Denethor will learn better.”
Aragorn looked down at the image of the White Tree on the breastplate he wore. “It is to be hoped,” he murmured sadly. “I had hoped that this time we might speak civilly and put the memories of rivalry behind us.” He raised his head and straightened. “And how does it look upon me?” he asked as Elrohir stepped away from adjusting the shoulder piece.
Gandalf gave a slow but fully satisfied smile. “You look every inch the King you were born to be, my friend.”
“It reminds me somewhat of Ada’s armor,” Elladan said.
“Not that he has worn it all that often during our lifetime,” Elrohir added.
“It is surprisingly comfortable,” Aragorn said, lifting an arm. He suddenly drew his sword and took a stance, then smiled as he sheathed Andúril once more. “There is no impedance to my movements,” he reported with satisfaction, twisting first to one side and then the other. “Whoever the armorer was who crafted this, he was truly a master.”
Gandalf’s expression was distant for a moment, and then it changed, appearing rather amused. “You will have to tell him that one day,” he said.
“When we meet one another in Námo’s halls?” Aragorn hazarded, checking to see whether he could easily reach his dagger.
“And where are Legolas and Gimli Gloin’s son?” Elladan asked.
“They are with Merry and Pippin in the gardens of the Houses of Healing,” Gandalf told them. “Merry appears to be recovering swiftly enough, but still finds the memory of the Black Breath lingering at times. He will be lonely when we leave the city.”
Elrohir had gone behind the partition screening his mortal brother’s cot, and returned with a formal mantle of dark grey bordered by silver. “Let us see this arrayed about your shoulders, Estel,” he said. Once it was properly fastened and its folds arranged, all smiled. “Yes. With the Elendilmir upon your brow, you will find none will question your lineage or your right to lead the army.”
“I shall wear Boromir’s vambraces,” Aragorn said. “I promised him that I should lead our people to victory, and I would have his own love for Gondor represented before all.”
Gandalf nodded. “Most appropriate, and I am certain that he approves, my friend. But now we must rest, for the morrow will be very busy as all prepare for the march the day after.”
Aragorn nodded, and reached for the clasp that fastened the breastplate over the underlying silvered mail shirt he wore.
Faramir stood before the hurdle set up in the gap where the gates to the White City no longer stood, watching the approach of the procession that brought Aragorn son of Arathorn to claim the Crown of Gondor. How he had dreamed of this moment when he was a child and a youth—the return of the King, the Crown restored to the lineage of Elendil, the rule of the Sea Kings of old renewed within Middle Earth. “Oh, Father,” he whispered, “if you could only have seen this day, and how all rejoice. I suspect even you would have been moved to rejoice also, in spite of all.”
How tall the coming King was as he strode forward, a full head taller than all save for the three Elves who accompanied him. As for his companions----
Even the four Hobbits appeared veritable princes, he thought. Accompanied by the young new King of Rohan, by a Dwarvish lord and an Elven prince, the regal sons of Elrond Peredhel, the proud figures of his kinsmen from the north, and the shining form of Gandalf the White, Aragorn still was the one who caught the attention of all, whose face was marked with experience, wisdom, and authority. The White Tree shone upon his breast, beneath the green fire of the Elessar stone he also wore. The image he wore showed white blossoms, and suddenly Faramir knew that one day the living tree before the Citadel should do so as well.
Then the King lifted one hand briefly, and Faramir found himself looking upon the vambraces that encircled the Man’s wrists, saw them and recognized them. “Boromir!” he murmured. “Those were Boromir’s!” Tears of relief sprang to Faramir’s eyes. “Yes, you knew him—traveled with him—prepared his body for his last journey, even. I rejoice that you bring this much of him back home this day!”
“He’s a fine one, you will find, little brother,” he seemed to hear murmured privately. “Oh, we’ve had our differences from time to time, but he is a sword brother I was proud to fight alongside. You will truly like him, Faramir. And he will guard our people and our land well. I am glad to be able to commend you to his friendship.”
Yes, a guardian worthy of the realm of Gondor, of Gondor and more! Clad in ancient armor, proven to be willing to spend himself for the safety of all, open to worthy counsel, ready to renew more than just this land….
Faramir smiled tremulously and signaled for those who carried the ancient chest of lebethron to step forward. Yes, he was ready to give his loyalty and his worship to the King Returned.
There are references here to my story "Forging for Protection and Defense," in which it is revealed that the armor worn by Meneldil at his coronation was first crafted within Imladris for Meneldil's grandfather as High King of the West.