Disclaimer: The world and characters belong to Tolkien (even though I've rearranged them quite a bit). 

History and Background: (bear with me)

Our story takes place in the Third Age, about the time that the Ring Quest would have started.  However, in this universe, when Isildur refused to destroy the ring, Elrond took matters into his own hands, resulting in no more ring, and also no more Isildur.  The Elves faded and most passed into the west; Imladris and Lorien have long been deserted, although the Lake-men are said to say that there are still Elves left in the Greenwood.

Isildur's nephew, Meneldil, who was the oldest remaining son of his brother Anarion, became King of Gondor.  Isildur's youngest and only remaining son, Valandil, only a child at the time, eventually became King of Arnor, although by rights the kingship of both Arnor and Gondor belonged to him.  The crown of Gondor, however, would continue to remain in the possession of the heirs of Anarion, rather than those of Isildur.

In the year 860 of the Third Age, when Eärendur, then King of Arnor, died, his three sons all made claims of succession and Arnor was split into three parts: Arthedain, Cardolan, and Rhudaur.  The King of Arthedain, Amlaith, was the oldest son and the true heir of Eärendur, and his heirs all bore the title 'Heir of Isildur'.  It was always known that by right the crowns of both Arnor and Gondor belonged to the descendants of this line.

In the year 2050 of the Third Age, Eärnur, last King of Gondor, died without heir in an attack on Gondor by the Haradrim.   Arvedui, then King of Arthedain, attempted to claim the throne as was his right, but the council gave the crown to Eärnur's Steward, known as Mardil Voronwë, of the House of Hurin.  He was the first of the 'Kings of Hurin's Line', who have continued to rule Gondor until the present day.

In the year 2510 of the Third Age, King Cirion of Gondor gifted Eorl of the Northmen with the lands that would become Rohan, for their aid against the enemies of Gondor; the Haradrim, the Corsairs, and the Easterlings, as well as the Orcs that still bred in the shadows of Mordor, either not knowing or not caring that their master had long since ceased to exist.

More recently, though,  relations between Gondor and Rohan began to sour.  A series of squabbles over minor issues turned to disaster when Thengel King of Rohan, in council at Minas Tirith, drew his sword in angers over an perceived insult in the words of Ecthelion, King of Gondor.  The exact details of what happened next differ depend on which side you ask, but what is known is that Ecthelion fell by Thengel's hand; and Thengel died by the order of Denethor, Ecthelion's only son and now King of Gondor.

Now, in this year, 3021 of the Third Age, the sons of Gondor and Rohan have grown up living with war.  Border skirmishes have escalated these past few years into another full-blown war; one that neither Rohan nor Gondor can afford.  Rohan is the smaller and weaker of the two; Gondor must consider the enemies to the south, always waiting for a chance to strike.  The North-Kingdoms, Rhuduar, Cardolan, and Arthedain, have refused to have anything to do with what they see as an unjust war – on both sides.  The King of Arthedain, one Aragorn, son of Arathorn, speaks for all the North-Kingdoms, and has long tried to forge peace between Rohan and Gondor – to no avail.

If you're still with me, thank you for your patience.  Now, onto the story:

At least the Rohirrim fed their prisoners well, Faramir thought, although he didn't think much of their medical care.  His leg was sure to scar - assuming it didn't end up infected, victim to the surgeon's saw.

That was the least of his worries, though.  He wondered idly if they were planning on using him as a bargaining chip - good luck to them if they were.  Son of Denethor or not, there was a good reason that he'd been stuck attempting to herd Gondor's greenest recruits, farmboys from Lossanarch, towards the enemy.  It is not your fault.  His brother's voice rang clear in his head.  You provide him with an easy target, when you speak your mind like that, and you look too much like Mother.

True enough words; in all his years he had not yet learnt to mind his tongue around his father; especially when he knew he was right.  And now he had to turn his thoughts to the war; Denethor might discount the Rohirrim as savages, but whoever had led the army Faramir had faced had revealed a rather startling grasp of battle-tactics, as well as another, even more worrying, development.

For years they had been trying to convince the Dunlendings to join with Gondor.  Ever-stubborn, the Wild Men had preferred to continue their harassment of the Rohirric forces their own way; ambush and sabotage.  But Faramir had seen Dunlendings at the battle, fighting along side Rohirrim as if they were brothers!  To manage that - to bribe or manipulate the Dunlendings to follow them and, almost as difficult, to convince the ordinary Rohirrim to fight with them - somebody was being very clever indeed.

To make matters worse, the King of Arthedain had responded to Denethor's messengers again.  Faramir hadn't seen the message, but had guessed it's content from his father's rage; Arthedain still maintained that it would deal with neither Gondor nor Rohan unless they wished to meet at the bargaining-table; Cardolan and Rhudaur would follow the lead of Arthedain - Aragorn, son of Arathorn, was ruler of Arnor in all but name now.  No, no help would come from that direction; the North-Kingdoms even sheltered deserters from Gondor's armies, for the Valar's sake.

Gondor was alone, surrounded half by enemies and half by those indifferent to its fate.  Much like Faramir, then.

There was a rustling outside the tent, and argument in the language of the Riddermark, quick and heated.  Soon the flap of the tent lifted, and two Rohirrim entered, obviously high-ranked by their bearing although they still wore battered sets of armour, stained with blood.

"So this is Gondor's princeling?" one said, and it was only by the pitch of her voice that Faramir realised she was, indeed, a woman.  There was no softness to her, and her hair was cut short in a boy's manner.  The other - some relative of hers, by the look of him - just grinned and nodded.

"So it is true then, that the Rohirrim allow their women to fight in battle." he said softly, and was rewarded with a glare from the woman and a snort from her companion.

"You say 'allow', princeling, as if it would make any difference if we attempted to 'disallow' it." he said.  The appellation of 'princeling' which they had decided to bestow upon him was starting to grate; Faramir was probably ten years older than either of them.  "Women of the Riddermark are born with fire in their bellies.  You ought to be careful what you say around them, or they'll eat you up."  He turned back to the woman, changing back to the tongue of the Riddermark  "Seen enough, 'wyn?"

"You were the one who was curious, 'mer" she answered, in the same coarse language, and the two of them ducked back out of the tent, leaving a very bewildered Faramir in their wake.


He slept after a while, learnt how to arrange himself so that the chains that bound him did not cut in quite as much, although it was not a particularly restful sleep.  When someone came, waking him to feed him again, quick and without much care, it was past dusk.  Outside, the camp was moving; he strained his ears to try and work out what was happening.  Packing up, probably.  They would not linger in one place; the Rohirrim had proved time and time again to be harder to pin down than a greased swan, to use an expression his uncle Imrahil was fond of.

He dozed off again, only to wake with a start to find a dark-haired man examining him.  No warrior this one, although he carried a sword.  A  It was not long before his visitors from the morning burst into the tent.  "What are you here for, Gríma?" demanded the man.  The woman said nothing, but kept by the entrance of the tent, hands on the hilt of her sword.  Although Faramir understood Rohirric what he had thought was well enough, of the conversation that followed he had trouble picking out even half.  my prize… our prize, the woman corrected, and then a stream of invective he had no hope of following. Your uncle… will know… duty to the Riddermark… Éomundson… Faramir's heart dropped.  Although he did not know who this Gríma was, Éomund was known, or rather his children were.  Which made 'Mer' Éomer, and sealed Faramir's fate rather effectively.  Faramir had heard grown men claim this mere boy was blessed by the Valar – the Rohirrim themselves called him 'Eadig', the blessed, and those who fought under him fought to the death, and no less.

He also didn't keep prisoners of war.  At the best, Faramir would be given a sword and a challenge – much good it would do him with his leg like this.  At the worst… he shuddered and turned his attention back to the argument. He'd obviously missed something, and he struggled to pick up the threads of the conversation… they will come to us… I will not… Éomer was angry about something, which did not bode well.  this decision… they will not come… agreement was… Gríma seemed to be having little luck pacifying him, either.

"Enough!" Éowyn was still by the entrance to the tent, hadn't moved, hadn't contributed anything to the discussion until now.  But when she spoke, the others were silenced; Faramir looked on, interested.  Her brother looked to her, he realised, trusted her judgement.  Gríma just feared her.  Her voice was clear and strong; easy to understand.  "They will come to us.  Grima, you are named Wormtongue for a reason; make yourself useful.  Tell them…" She eyed Faramir balefully  "Tell them that we dare not move for fear of detection by the forces of Gondor.  Tell them this is the only safe place.  Tell them whatever you must, to get them here."  Gríma nodded, hurrying out.  Éomer held his sister's gaze for a long while, and then, turning back to Faramir, snarled, anger putting a heavy accent on his Westron "You are lucky you are who you are, princeling."

When her brother turned and left, Éowyn smiled at Faramir.  "Not that lucky." she said, also using the common tongue.  "But at least you know, should this bargain fall through, that you may earn yourself a glorious death.  On your feet, sword in hand; that is, assuming 'mer doesn't knock your pretty arse into the dust before he kills you."  She swept out, and Faramir released a breath he didn't know he'd been holding.

So he would not die; not yet.  But all the talk of bargains and visitors worried him; who would want anything from him, if not Gondor? And what  would the Rohirrim stand to gain from it?