These Characters are the property of the Estate of J. R. R Tolkien and New Line Cinema. This story has been written for pleasure and no profit has or will be made from it.
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
The next morning Faramir went to the King's study shortly after breakfast. He hummed quietly to himself, happy to once again in the familiar routine of working with Aragorn.
He found his duties highly satisfying, for what could be more fulfilling than working for a man he loved and respected, and for the good of his beloved Gondor?
The study was far more homely than it had been in Denethor's time. Aragorn had finally replaced the furniture with some of a graceful Elven design, while the walls were now covered in bright tapestries and a cheerful log fire burned in the grate.
It was the first day of December and a storm was raging outside the cosy room. The country folk were saying that it would be a hard winter, for the berries were especially abundant, while geese had been seen flying north.
Aragorn was seated behind his desk frowning over a document he had just received from the Warden of the Houses of Healing.
When Faramir entered, he rose and greeted him warmly. "Did you sleep well after the feast?" he enquired.
"Quite well, thank you, the nightmares are less frequent now," Faramir replied, "The banquet was a wonderful idea of yours and Eowyn and I are overwhelmed by Eomer's priceless gift to our daughter! It is so good to be in amity with him again. We will miss him when he returns home tomorrow. Is he taking Alis with him? I am certain my cousin would welcome her!"
Aragorn shook his head sadly. "I far not, for I have just received a message to say that she has been stricken with a fever, as have several other people who travelled from the outlying villages to the execution. It is thought she will recover but she will not be well enough to travel for some time."
"Poor woman, she suffered enough at that monster's hands!" Faramir exclaimed, "Do you want me to work on the trade negotiations with the Harad this morning?"
"That will do later," Aragorn replied, "I should like to massage your arm again this morning, if I may? Can you use it more easily now?"
Faramir nodded and settled himself comfortably on the couch. He pulled off his shirt and tunic and flexed his arm. "It is still a little stiff but every day it feels easier, " he told Aragorn.
"Already the muscle looks less wasted," Aragorn said, noting with approval that Faramir was gaining weight again and no longer resembled a walking skeleton
Faramir closed his eyes sighed contentedly while the long sensitive fingers began to work their magic on his arm. He had shed all his former self-consciousness and appeared as relaxed as a snoozing cat even when Aragorn felt his ribs and checked his heartbeat, which was strong and steady.
It seemed to Aragorn that Faramir's bodily hurts were finally healed. He began to massage his Steward's neck and shoulders, not that it was strictly necessary, yet he knew he enjoyed it and after all the trauma of the past few weeks, both the bonding and healing conferred by the Elven treatment would benefit him. "You will not need any more hawthorn berries now, your heart has regained its former strength," the King said.
Sadly, he noted that the once raven hair was now streaked with silver as a direct consequence of his recent ordeal.
"Good!" Faramir replied vehemently, "They tasted vile, however much you tried to disguise the taste with honey!" He finally opened his eyes and looked at his friend
"Why do you look so sad, Aragorn?" he asked. "You tell me that I am healing well and as you know how much I enjoy this Elven treatment!"
"I broke my vow that none should ever harm you again by ordering your arrest and never once have you even chided me! I almost lost you through my folly! I fear the mental scars that you and I bear will take a longer while to heal than even the terrible hurts you bore!" Aragorn's grey eyes were moist." I should have thrown myself in front of you when Eomer attacked. He would never have harmed me!"
"But his men would most likely have killed you!" Faramir replied," No, Aragorn, If you had not arrested me, Eomer's men would have cut us both down where we stood. You thought only to keep me safe. That I am not yet beyond the circles of the world is because of you. We still have each other and the love we share will heal us both .The nightmares grow less by the day. I shall never forget your loyalty and friendship to me; you never gave up even when I pushed you away. Then you gave me the wonderful gift of the Thought Bond!"
"And you forgave me even after my folly caused you such pain. I fear my own Council have not forgiven me so easily, for what happened to their favourite son. It will take them a long time." Aragorn replied.
"They will forget in time and you must finally shed this burden of guilt, my friend, "Faramir replied firmly, "Many have served the Ruling Stewards all their lives and will grumble at any excuse. They dislike change I fear, even if it is for the better! Many never expected the return of the King!"
"Especially not a wild ranger from the north!" Aragorn chuckled," I will try, mellon nin and I will change the law to better protect my Stewards!"
Faramir shook his head. "That would not be a good idea for what if some future Steward was disloyal? May the Valar protect us against that day but I cannot foresee the conduct of my descendents!"
"You prize your House too little!" Aragorn chided, " I shall pass a law. I cannot conceive Elestelle ever plotting a rebellion against me!"
It was Faramir's turn to laugh. "I am certain she loves you already! I am so proud of my beautiful daughter."
He smiled and lapsed into silence broken only by the crackling of the blazing logs and the pattering of the rain outside.
"There, I have done all I can for today. I will treat your arm again tomorrow." Aragorn said at last.
Faramir sighed as he sat upright and donned his shirt and tunic. "What do you want me to do today?" he asked, "I suppose we had better start on the usual paperwork."
" First, I have something for you." Aragorn went over to the table, picked up a book, and handed it to Faramir. "This came from Elrond's library but it was originally brought by Elendil from Numenor. It is a history of the great families of the Kingdom, yours being one of them. I would like you to have it. And also this."
He placed a brooch in Faramir's hand. It was such as was used to fasten a cloak with, exquisitely crafted in mithril and set with precious gems featuring the intertwined crests of the Houses of the King and the Steward.
Faramir gazed at the King wide eyed, "These gifts are for me?" he gasped.
"You deserve them and none would treasure them more, "Aragorn replied, "The brooch was specially designed to symbolise the friendship between us, which I hope will endure for our Houses throughout future generations."
Faramir placed the precious gifts on the table and turned to embrace the King. Their brows touched and they stood for a few moments in a silent communion of shared thoughts, affirming their mutual friendship, before exchanging the traditional kiss on the brow.
The rain ceased and a ray of sunlight suddenly broke through the clouds, illuminating their faces, both so alike with the dark hair and high cheekbones, which characterised those of Numenorean lineage.
Aragorn took a deep breath before impulsively making a suggestion. "I was wondering, now that you are so much recovered, if you would practise sword play with me for a short time? " he asked. "It would help strengthen your arm muscles, though you will need to be careful not to knock your ribs. We must be careful and use lightweight practise blades." He watched Faramir's expression intently awaiting his reaction.
The Steward had said he never wanted to wield a weapon again, yet if he failed to do so, how could he defend himself? These were still dangerous times still with the ever-present threat of rebellions in the South and East.
Faramir hesitated and stared at his boots for a long moment. Then he raised his head and smiled. "Yes, I think I will." he said, "I had better keep my skills honed or my own daughter might beat me one day!"
"Do not forget she is Eowyn's child too, and though she is but two weeks old, Eowyn already calls her 'My little shield maiden '!"
"With two such woman in your family you need to be accomplished!" Aragorn exclaimed, clapping Faramir on the shoulder.
Together King and Steward walked out to the practice yard .The sun shone down on the companions. After the storm, the earth smelt wonderfully fresh and a robin was chirping cheerfully in a nearby tree.
"Look!" said Faramir, "A rainbow!"
Aragorn looked up at the beautiful arc in the sky. Strange that a storm often produced something so beautiful, yet such it was with the storms of life too. It seemed that at last the burden of guilt had been lifted. Arwen was right; love had found a way.
Faramir caught his train of thought. "We have been though our own storm, mellon nin and yet we have emerged from it with our friendship stronger and deeper than before."
"True." Aragorn smiled, "But I still plan to beat you at sword practise!"
Laughing joyfully, they threw themselves into the bout.
A very big thank you to everyone who has reviewed, especially to those loyal readers who have commented on each and every chapter. All your comments have been greatly appreciated, have helped, and encouraged me greatly, causing this story to grow from 69,000 words to around 110,000!
An especial thank you to Laerien, Lily, Raksha, Elenhin, Larner, Stoneage Woman, Patty, Lilian, Ithil-Valon, Quickbeam and Julia for your helpful suggestions and support.
My original draft was very different and it was due to you my readers that events like Eomer's meeting with his niece and Mahrod's execution were described
When I began this story, I was very doubtful that anyone would want to read a long epic about guilt and depression and have been amazed at the interest!
I should love to know what your favourite chapters were and any final thoughts on who was most guilty.
I would be to hear from anyone who has not yet commented but read this far.
The sequel, another long angst laden epic, will be posted soon and I hope you will all try it. Some of you have already guessed what it is about! Faramir will face the greatest challenge of his life when events take a dark and sinister turn for Aragorn.