Rulers And Rules
When he was thinking it all over, an amusing thought struck him that the fact was truly a sign of peace. One did not sleep too long (at times did not sleep at all) knowing that the day to follow would bring only fresh trouble, and whatever tasks you managed to complete, it did not change anything on the whole.
Now, things were different. Restoring the country, bringing it back to full life was ten times more pleasant when one knew that the efforts would not be in vain, when one went to bed totally exhausted, but happy with the knowledge that the morning would be full of new hopes. And the dreams that came told of light, love, and peace.
Faramir smiled, throwing his head back to feel the warm, even hot, sunrays caress his face. The weather was remarkably good, and it did not add to his desire to work.
"I am most unusually lazy today," he said, screwing up his eyes at the sun.
When he had rushed to the King's study after realizing in horror that it was too late, it was empty. He had frowned at the unlocked door and the absence of guards. The new ruler seemed to be most forgetful about such things. But then, it was his study, Faramir had sighed to himself. Besides, what or who was there to fear? The war was over, and if there were any spies left, where would they take their findings?
Well, there still were places, he had corrected himself, where people might take interest in Gondor. Therefore, he had turned the key in the keyhole and taken it out to return it to the King, alongside with making his apologies to the King for not coming for their usual morning meeting.
However, all he had got from the latter as he entered his chamber was an amused and slightly teasing smile.
"My Lord…my apologies. It was most irresponsible on my part…" he started, and was cut short by Aragorn's hearty laughter.
"So, there is something human about you, my Lord Steward," the King proclaimed solemnly. "All this time, I had been rather intimidated by you, as well as worried about not meeting your expectations. Can you imagine how hard it is to have someone that…perfect around? I must admit that I am much relieved. But a little angry, too."
Faramir shook his head sorrowfully.
"I do not know how that could have happened, my Lord. I had had a late night, of course, but that is true for most of my usual nights, and…"
"You misunderstand me, Faramir," Aragorn laughed. "I meant that I had to get out of my bed while you had all the sleep you wanted! Most irresponsible indeed."
Faramir chuckled softly, shaking his head.
"You should have acted differently, my liege. I believe I have deserved some punishment."
"Oh?" Aragorn raised an eyebrow. "Would you like to write 'I must not sleep too long for my King may feel envious' five hundred times?"
"No indeed!" Faramir exclaimed in pure horror. "Better make me clean all the cobwebs from the Citadel. I do not think I could endure more writing than we already have."
"Faramir?" the King called after him as he prepared to leave.
"I thought we had agreed on using our names when in private?"
"Yes, Aragorn, but I still have not despaired of making a proper King out of you."
Aragorn eyed him thoughtfully.
"You are not the one to despair easily, are you? Even in worse times?" he said softly.
Faramir shook his head, feeling a slight twinge of sadness.
"I am not, Aragorn."
The sun warmed him into a pleasant state of half-wakefulness as he recalled the conversation. He was glad about the turn that his relationship with the new King had taken.
He was very formal with Aragorn when in public, for certain. He held a firm belief that some appearances were important, and shuddered to think of a reaction of certain councillors, should he fancy treating the King with the familiarity that existed between them in private.
He shook himself and rose to his feet from where he had been sitting on the green lawn that surrounded the Fountain and the White Tree.
Faramir reached over to touch the slim sapling, which seemed to tremble with excitement and an eager desire to grow. Faramir smiled self-consciously at his sudden display of tenderness towards a tree; no, not a usual tree, of course, but still…
He sighed and told himself to get back to work. Just as the previous fifteen times, the order did not produce any effect.
"I have become so lazy," he complained to the Tree. "Father would certainly disapprove."
A shadow crossed his face at the words, and he stared down at the rippling water.
How many more people grieved those who had not lived to see the end of the Darkness?
The thought of his father hurt him most, surprisingly. Boromir's death had been a grievous blow, too, but at least he could be comforted with the thought that his brother's death had not been in vain. Apart from that, it had been an honourable death, a soldier's one, and had they not been prepared for it to happen at any time?
The late Steward had died mere days before the war ended, and to his son, that seemed most cruel and unfair. And the death itself, apart from having happened in a horrible manner, was totally unneeded…had helped no one, had served nothing.
"I must not think about this," Faramir whispered, leaning forward to dip his fingers into the clear water. "I must not, or it will drive me…"
He stopped before the last word had a chance to leave his mouth. 'Mad.' That was what he was going to say, but now, the word sounded really ominous for him. He would start every time someone used it, and feel guilty when he saw others embarrassed because of this. He had even succeeded in making his good friend Mithrandir angry by demanding endless confirmations that it was really Sauron who had caused his father's madness, and not something lurking in the family history.
He was brought out of his uneasy thoughts by a loud sigh coming from behind and clearly meant for him to hear. Faramir knew only one person who would attract his attention thus.
He turned around to face Bergil, shuffling his foot on the soft grass.
"You seem determined to ruin this beautiful lawn, Bergil," Faramir observed.
The boy frowned and repeated the movement with his other foot.
Faramir sighed and squatted down before the boy.
"Is anything the matter, Bergil?" he asked, taking the small and not very clean hands in his own.
Bergil echoed his sigh, then looked into Faramir's face with big unhappy eyes.
"Father says we will have to go away from the City," he said quietly. "I wanted to ask you, Captain Faramir… my Lord Steward, that is…"
"You can call me Captain Faramir if you like that better, Bergil," Faramir smiled at him encouragingly. "What was it that you wanted to ask me for?"
"Could you…could you try and…and do something, so that my Father could stay here? He is so said that he has to leave the City…and me too, all my friends live here… They say you are friends with the King…"
Faramir's heart nearly broke as he looked into those eyes full of hope and trust. He liked Bergil, who appeared to be more at ease with him than his father, with all the innocence of his ten years of age. Faramir was unaccustomed to children, being in the company of grown men most of the time, but Bergil had always been there, running errands for the guards, sitting quietly and unobtrusively in some dark corner listening to their tales (Faramir doubted that all of them were suitable for a child's ears), and later he would go out to the City and boast to his friends.
"No, Bergil," he said, putting his hand on the boy's shoulder. "I am afraid that is beyond my powers."
He believed that such was the best way of dealing with the task. He was not good at talking with young boys at all, so he would use the same tone and words that he thought suitable when addressing grown men.
Bergil shrugged off his hand angrily.
"My Father saved your life, and you do not want to help him!" he said with an accusing glare. "He…he loves you so much! Did you know that…that..."
Bergil stopped for a moment, gathering his courage, and then continued in a fierce whisper, "He even cried when he came back from that place where the dead stewards lie, and he said to Mother that he would never forget that man who he killed, to save you!"
There were tears in Bergil's eyes too, and he was trying desperately to stop the shaking of his lower lip. Faramir, sighing, pulled the boy down to sit on the lawn and seated himself at his side, putting an arm around Bergil's thin shoulders.
Fathers were not supposed to cry, that thing he remembered from his own childhood. It had to be a horrible sight to poor Bergil.
"Bergil, I wish I could do something about all this," Faramir said. "But I cannot. Even the King cannot."
"No!" the boy appeared shocked at the thought that the King himself was not omnipotent, as all of his friends believed.
"Of course not," Faramir said. "He cannot go against the law, can he? What he has to do is enforce it."
Bergil blinked at the unfamiliar word.
"He has to make sure that people do not break it," Faramir explained. "To be a good King, he has to be the best of us all, and could he really be the best if he did not care for such things?"
He hoped sincerely that he had managed to convey what he meant. The effort was making him sweat.
Bergil seemed to ponder what he had just heard; then he nodded to himself and asked hesitantly, "Is it true that if you kill someone… there, you will be killed too?"
Faramir winced at the wording.
"Executed, not killed, Bergil. Yes, that is true."
"But then… didn't the King break the law?"
With a smile, Faramir thought that he had just begun to understand his father's impatience better, and jestingly questioned his own preparedness to fatherhood.
"No, Bergil, I should not say so. He just tried to make the law better, by showing that there are things that may want careful thinking before you pass a decision. The people who made our laws could not have thought of everything; most likely, they never had an idea that someone would start a fight in the Hallows meaning well."
"But why couldn't he just let Father go?" Bergil cried. "Father did mean well!"
Faramir considered the option of fleeing, but discarded it. A sudden thought struck him.
"Have you started your swordship lessons yet, Bergil?" he asked.
"Of course," the boy frowned.
"What does the master at arms do when you make a mistake, or come late to your lessons, even when you have a good excuse?"
"He usually makes us clear the grounds after the lesson, or run in circles, or sends us to the kitchens to help there…"
The last words he nearly spat out in disgust.
"And he is your Father's good friend, is that right?" Faramir continued.
The boy nodded, looking very puzzled.
"How, then, would you feel if the master just stroked your head and told you it was all right instead of punishing you, and other boys could see that?"
Bergil blanched visibly.
"I…I…I would have to run away from the City," he breathed in horror. "That would be even worse than if they saw me looking after Lineth!"
Lineth was Bergil's baby sister, and the cause of the boy's constant clashes with his mother.
Faramir suppressed a smile and went on.
"And you say that the King should have let your Father go just because he saved me? But then the people might have thought that he went against the rules," he purposely used the word instead of 'laws', "only because he was the Steward's friend. Do you think your Father would have liked that?"
Bergil shook his head vigorously, looking horrified at the thought.
Faramir smiled now and patted the boy's back.
"Now, can you see that the King had to punish your Father? For it is a punishment, Bergil, to be sent away from a place which you love with all your heart. But the world is big, and he will be needed in other places and for other tasks than war. And I am glad that you and your Father are going to help me in Ithilien. I am truly honoured to have such faithful friends by my side."
The boy went red all over with pleasure, and Faramir was just going to heave a relieved sigh, but suddenly, Bergil frowned again.
"But you will be married," he said accusingly. "You will have a wife."
It took Faramir all his strength not to laugh out loud at the disgust that rang in the boy's voice.
"I assure you, my wife will not come between us, Bergil," he said. "Besides, the Lady Éowyn is not that bad. She is very good with swords, too. You do know that it was she who killed the Captain of the Nazgûl?"
Bergil gave the matter some consideration and seemed to reconcile himself with the thought of a married Captain Faramir.
"What are you smiling at, may I ask?" Aragorn enquired.
"Oh, nothing…" Faramir looked a trifle embarrassed. "Just had a very interesting… one could say, enlightening conversation."
Aragorn stood up from his chair, stretching. It was quite dark in the office; the sky, so beautifully clear and blue earlier in the day, was now clouded over, and the first droplets of rain had already landed on the windowpanes in long thin streaks.
"Let us call it a day, shall we?" Aragorn yawned. "Would you like a goblet of wine with me, Faramir?"
"I think yes," Faramir smiled, arranging the papers into neat piles.
"So what was that conversation about?" Aragorn asked again, sipping his wine, after they had seated themselves on the couch.
Faramir chuckled and recounted the whole story to him.
Aragorn laughed heartily, then turned grave again and put his hand on Faramir's shoulder.
"You should make a fine father, my friend. Especially for a boy. I seem to be better with little girls," he winked.
"We can help each other, then, if need be," Faramir suggested seriously. "I am terrified of little girls."
"Agreed," Aragorn replied with equal solemnity.
As they sat there laughing, a thought struck Faramir, and he smiled into his wine.Sleeping late had more advantages than one could think…