TITLE: A Lasting Peace
AUTHOR: Sue
EMAIL: PG-13; angst, torture in later chapters
DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story are the property of the estate of JRR Tolkien, with the exception of my own characters. I am making no money from their use.

SUMMARY: A Chieftain of Harad is the first of his people to seek peace with Gondor after the defeat of Sauron, but his desires are hindered by his son, a renegade warlord determined to see that such an agreement never takes place. Faramir torture, angst in later chapters.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was first posted on the Scriptorium forum at the message boards at beginning in September, 2004. I owe great thanks to the many posters there offered a great deal of great suggestions, including Raksha, Cressida, FaithfulPoet, Frelga, MeaningofHaste, Tuima, ShWulff, elanordh and Shieldmaiden of Rohan. I would also like to thank my sister Sarah for her help with this fic-thanks, Sis!

This turned out to be a very long story-just a warning! There will be Faramir angst and torture starting about halfway through.

Feedback and comments are greatly appreciated!

Sue :)

A LASTING PEACE

The aged white walls of Minas Tirith glowed pinkish gold in the early morning sunlight, the banners of its highest towers fluttering gently above the city's seven levels as its citizens began their initial stirrings in the streets below.

Some, accustomed now to the air of peace that had come to the kingdom now that the Dark Lord Sauron had been defeated for over a year, grumbled at the prospect of having to be about when the day was yet so young, and squinted with sleepy eyes at the brightening summer sunshine in drowsy irritation.

Yet there were others to whom every quiet morning such as this one was a miracle for which to be profoundly thankful, and it was one such heart that now stood by the wall near the stables on the upper level, drinking in the warmth of the newborn day with a wide and grateful smile.

Faramir drew a deep breath as he looked out over the wide expanse of the Pelennor Fields spreading before him, allowing the air to slowly leave his body in a marveling sigh.

"I'll never tire of this," he thought to himself, his blue eyes drinking in the gleaming white walls and fertile fields of his home below, his long reddish-gold hair waving slightly in the wandering morning breeze. A smile once more graced his handsome face as he leaned upon the wall on his elbows and folded his hands, his head lying back just a little so that the warm sunlight spilled over his face.

He then closed his eyes and drew another deep breath, enjoying the fragrances of the wildflowers and growing things that rode upon the wind. Having grown up with his beloved older brother Boromir playing among those fields, and later studying their plants and crops endlessly, Faramir felt as if he could name every scent now carried to him.

Opening his eyes, the young man looked down upon the people now bustling about in the levels below him, the smile remaining on his lips. What a wonder this ordinary morning seemed to him, as had every ordinary morning seemed since the destruction of the Dark Lord and the end of the War.

It had not been so long ago, he mused as his gaze lifted to the mountains lying in the east, that Minas Tirith lay beneath the great Shadow, the morning sun hidden behind a dark unmoving cloud whose darkness threatened all of Middle-earth. Not so long ago, the Pelennor drank of the blood of scores of heroic men, of Gondor and its neighboring kingdom Rohan as they battled the mighty armies of Sauron. Once the now-tranquil fields shuddered under the merciless advance of countless Orcs, bloodthirsty Haradrim and vicious Easterlings. Once, it had seemed impossible that a morning such as this one would ever come to Minas Tirith again.

Faramir's expression turned somber as he thought of that time. He had grown up under the War, witnessed the finest of Gondor's sons, including Boromir, and their uncle Prince Imrahil of the southern fiefdom of Belfalas, drawn into its insatiable demand for men. He had seen his father, the Steward Denethor, hardened and embittered before his time beneath its crushing weight. He himself had been compelled to put aside the books and music he loved to become a soldier and leader of men, had been fired in the crucible of blood and death-dealing and suffering, driving back the forces of Mordor for what seemed like years without end.

And it had all been for this, he thought, as he observed the men and women of the city calmly going about their business beneath the broad blue morning sky, their children laughing and running beside them. Peace had finally come to Gondor, a peace so many had suffered and died for.

Idly, Faramir fingered the silver ring he wore upon his right hand, his fingertips lightly tracing over the intricately carved band and the large faceted ruby set at its center. It was the Ring of the Stewards, worn by his ancestors down to his father. Since he could remember, this Ring had decorated the hand of Denethor, destined to one day sit upon Boromir's finger as Steward and caretaker of the realm.

Sadness then stole over Faramir's heart. That day had never come, for Boromir had been lost during the Quest to destroy the Ring of Power, and their father had perished by his own hand, overtaken by grief and madness in the midst of Mordor's siege on the city. Now Faramir wore the ring, serving as Steward to King Elessar, whose return to the throne of Gondor had signaled the beginning of this new era of peace.

The melancholy lifted from Faramir's spirit as he studied the ring, turning it little so that its gem winked and danced in the sunlight. He had never expected or desired to be Steward, never begrudged Boromir his role as heir. All he had ever wanted was the knowledge that he had done all in his power to make certain that Gondor and its people would be safe. As a soldier, he had satisfied that need as far as he was able. And now...

Faramir sighed, his eyes roaming over the glistening white walls and towers of the city and the rolling green fields beyond its walls. Now the duties of the Steward were his, and he had accepted the title without fear, knowing that he could only do his best. His first year in the role had not been easy, assisting Aragorn in dealing with the endless demands of rebuilding the kingdom and trying to persuade the Council of noblemen and elders to agree with each other. But the rewards were undeniable, for he had seen his home begin to rise anew from the ashes of war.

'They have left this to me,' he thought as he looked over the sunlit streets and contented people moving about below him, oblivious to his gaze. The peace they had struggled and suffered to gain lay newborn in his hands, his and the King's. Faramir knew well how fragile this new peace was, as vulnerable as a helpless babe; they were still contending with bands of Orcs who prowled the borders, and renegade bands of Haradrim and Easterlings, allies of Sauron who were not willing to surrender. Much work remained to be done, and it was possible they may yet face difficulties scarce able to be imagined now.

Faramir thought of all this, and gazed solemnly upon the city and lands he had loved since childhood. Peace had been a cherished notion to him since he could remember; he had known so little of it all his life, and he knew well that the people of Gondor were even less acquainted with its blessings. Now that it had at last graced their kingdom, he was determined to savor every precious moment of it, recalling every day the valor and sacrifice that had made it possible. The keen yearning he had carried in his soul had been answered, and now Faramir felt a fierce resolve swell through his heart, to do all in his power as Steward to safeguard this peace, in the memory of those he had loved and lost. He could think of no better way to honor the legacy bequeathed to him.

The sound of light footsteps behind him stirred Faramir from his reveries, and he turned with a smile, knowing who he would see crossing the sun-drenched courtyard behind him.

Approaching him was a beautiful woman some years his junior, clad in a gray-green riding gown. Her long golden hair flowed behind her, secured only by a loose braid about her temples, and a lighthearted gleam was in her eye as she returned his smile.

"I see you have arisen with the sun again, my Lord," she said as she drew near. "After all this time, you still follow your soldier's ways."

She entered his open arms, and he swept her into a warm embrace. "I trust the Lady Eowyn will forgive me," he replied before imparting her with a kiss. "The anticipation of introducing you to the place we shall build our home today was such that I could not lie abed another minute."

His wife laughed a little as she returned his embrace. "I could scarcely sleep for the excitement, myself," she admitted, giving him one more quick kiss before looking out over the wide plains. "Show me again where it will be."

Faramir put one arm around her, and with the hand of the other pointed towards the greenest patch of forest across the great river Anduin far in the distance. "It lies amongst the most beautiful hills in Ithilien, just below that towering peak," he explained. "They are called Emyn Arnen. Legolas and Gimli are probably there right now, arguing over the best place to build the house."

Eowyn laughed again and squeezed him once before stepping away. "Then we had best go meet them before there is another war, this time between Elf and Dwarf," she declared, gathering her thick skirts and walking towards the stables. "It was most gracious of them to offer the assistance of themselves and their people in this task, but I fear the keen competition between them may result in bloodshed before the first hammer falls."

"Alas, it is probably too late to prevent that from happening," sighed Faramir with a grin as he followed her. "Doubtless that warm breeze we feel has been born from the heat of their discussion."

They had reached the barn now, where two horses stood saddled and prepared to ride. Eowyn checked the leather straps securing a large closed basket to her mount and pursed her lips. "Then it is well the kitchen staff and I packed such a large amount of food for today," she noted. "I am sure they will have both worked up a large appetite by the time we get there."

She paused and relaxed a little, smiling over at her husband. "I truly cannot wait to see it, Faramir. Minas Tirith is grand, but I do long for a home away from stone city walls."

He climbed upon his steed with practiced grace. "I take no offense at that, my love," he assured her, looking at her as he picked up the reins of the bridle. "Your home in Rohan lay in wild, open spaces, so I would not expect your heart to be satisfied in a City, however magnificent. Ithilien is not Rohan, I will admit, but it is my hope that you will come to love it for its own manner of beauty."

She had long since settled herself in her saddle, with the easy skill of a child of Rohan's horse lords. As she tossed her long hair away from her face, she smiled at him once more, her gray eyes aglow.

"Where you are is my home," she proclaimed softly.

He returned her smile, the deep affection in his expression echoing the sentiment.

She smiled at him a moment longer, then glanced back over the wall across the Pelennor. "Just below that tall peak, you said? Within that large patch of green?" she asked with a small nod.

Faramir turned his head to ascertain where she was looking. "Correct, my Lady," he affirmed, turning back to her with an amused expression, as if he knew exactly what she was going to say next.

Eowyn's smile grew wider. "Then come," she said in a merry voice. "I shall race you!"

With these words, she spurred her horse out of the stable and went quickly galloping through the street to the gate leading into the lower levels of the city.

Determined not to be outdone, Faramir urged his mount quickly after her, his heart soaring with excitement and joy as he rode after his wife. In the dark times of the War, had he ever dared to think that one day he would know such happiness, sharing a bright summer morning with a woman he loved more than life itself, riding out to his beloved Ithilien to see the place where he would share the rest of his life with her?

As he hurried to catch her, all thoughts of future concerns flew away; for Faramir, there was only this brilliant summer morning, and his beautiful wife, and the humble thanksgiving for these blessings flowing through his soul, coupled with the profound desire that this peace won by himself and his people might last forever.

That desire would be tested soon enough.