For Linda Hoyland for her birthday.
“I wished to thank you, Faramir.”
Faramir turned from the citizen who’d been presenting him with a spray of rosemary to give his attention to the newly made King who walked up through the city by his side. “My Lord?” he asked. “Thank me? For what?”
“For the manner in which you dealt with Sam and Frodo, there in Ithilien. Each has told me of their meeting with you and your men, and has expressed appreciation for the courtesy and aid you offered them. Sam is certain that the extra food that you gave them helped them to survive to achieve their quest, while Frodo was heartened to know that there was someone in this strange land who appeared to understand him and wished him well. He has told me that he felt that somehow you were guarding him as much as your own people.”
Faramir looked ahead to where the two Hobbits whose acquaintance he’d made across the river rode upon ponies at the head of the King’s procession, his expression thoughtful. “I doubt it was more than any other might have done,” he said quietly.
The Lord King Aragorn Elessar gave a snort, and Faramir could barely suppress a laugh at such a mundane sound given by such a lordly Man. “Nonsense, Faramir, my friend. Damrod and Mablung and others who went with us to the Black Gate have told me of your father’s edict that all found wandering without leave in those lands at the very least were to be bound and brought back here for the Steward’s judgment, if not killed outright. You know as well as I that had you done so Mordor would most likely now hold sway over most of Middle Earth and would be swiftly advancing on those few hidden lands where it did not already hold power.”
Faramir gave a reluctant nod of understanding. “I fear that you are all too right, my Lord Elessar,” he answered.
“Why did you decide to trust them?” the King asked, and Faramir sensed that the curiosity was unfeigned.
The Steward of Gondor gave a slight shrug, staring again at the back of the head of Frodo Baggins as the Hobbit turned his steed to go through the gate to the Fifth Circle. “I am not fully certain I can answer that, my Lord, or not precisely explain my reasoning there at first,” he answered slowly. “I must say that those few from Harad we have taken there are capable of similar courtesy, although there is always a significant degree of thinly veiled contempt to be discerned in them. It was very plain that neither Master Frodo nor Master Samwise was speaking freely nor telling us everything of their errand in Gondor’s lands, but I could sense no evil will in either of them. Indeed, I could sense but the greatest of anxiety and concern in the both of them, and a level of terror that Master Frodo held, not fear of me, but of what I might be brought to do. Nor was the terror of what I might to do to him. It intrigued me, but also left me realizing that he must have great and perhaps dread reason to hold such concern. And the horror they both displayed at the news I gave them of having seen Boromir’s body floating in a boat upon the surface of the river reassured me that they truly grieved for his passing and thus had known him indeed. Although I must admit that I sensed a degree of relief in Master Samwise at the news, which told me that they did not necessarily part from my brother in good fellowship.”
The King sighed. “Alas that this was true, although it was perhaps needful that Boromir should seek to take the Ring from Frodo at the end as he did, as I doubt anything else might have stirred Frodo to realize that he was right, and that he must break from the rest of the Fellowship to continue on his journey alone. The Ring was constantly testing our wills at that point, and how much longer I myself might have held out against Its temptations I could not begin to say. At least your brother recognized that It had taken him at the end, and appeared to accept my assurance that he had followed Its will rather than his own.” He paused to accept a spray of daisies offered him by a shy girl whose mother stood behind the child, obviously proud of her daughter’s courage in approaching their new Lord. “Oh, sweet one, I thank you so!” he said, giving the child a smile that won the hearts of both her and her parent. He touched the girl’s head in blessing, and gave a respectful nod of his head to the woman before moving on to approach the gate through which Frodo and Sam had already ridden.
“I was so glad when Master Samwise let it slip just what it was that his Master carried,” Faramir murmured in low tones. “Knowing what it was that I faced and beginning to appreciate just what trial Master Frodo feared I would undergo helped me know that I must aid them upon their way. And I cannot but praise the constancy of purpose the two of them showed.”
His companion nodded, sighing as they again came within sight of the two Hobbits who’d made that dread journey through Sauron’s realm. “As I do also. Princes of the West they are now, for so the Great Eagles have named them, and so we acclaimed them there at Cormallen.” He turned to give Faramir a wide smile. “And to that estate it is unlikely they could have come had you not aided them as you did there in Henneth Annun. And again, I thank you so.”
Faramir was so warmed by that smile and his new Lord’s so obvious approval. But there was now no more time to talk, for the press of citizens wishing to bestow upon them sprays of flowers and greenery was heavy once more. But he knew that he had indeed done the right thing when he’d sped Frodo Baggins upon his way with gifts of food and drink. He wondered briefly what had come of the staves he’d gifted to the two Hobbits, but shrugged and turned to smile down on a sturdy boy, who held out a branch of lebethron with its five-lobed leaves to him, his eyes worshipful. That confirmed in his heart that he’d been led by the Powers indeed to do the right thing, that day in Ithilien.