Title: The Duty of a Prince
Summary: Faramir faces his first challenge as Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien.
Note: Written for the "Summer in Ithilien" challenge over at the LJ community faramirfics.
Disclaimer: Faramir, etc. are not mine.
Faramir settled himself tiredly at his desk, sighing as he propped his arms on the desk and rested his face against his palms. The week's council meetings had been long, though that was not uncommon; but the matter that was being debated was causing him great distress. He told himself that the bitterness of the debate was wearing at his mind. But in moments of complete honesty, he admitted to himself that his own uncertainty was the cause of his internal turmoil.
For Faramir did not know where he stood in one of the greatest questions facing Gondor at the beginning of the Fourth Age: what to do with all the soldiers?
So many had died, but many more had lived. And now the King of the Reunited Kingdom had the largest standing army that Gondor had seen for hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years. Much of the nobility did not feel entirely comfortable with the possibility of the Elessar enforcing his point of view rather strongly – say, with five thousand heavily-armed infantry – though many others, hot for further conquest, pointed out that Gondor still had many enemies in Middle-Earth.
There would certainly be a reduction in the number of soldiers, for Gondor's treasuries simply could not support an army of the current size. Yet how many soldiers to retain? And how many to recruit?
Such questions were not troubling Faramir, however. Detailed studies would determine what the final strength of Gondor's standing army would be, and in the end no councillor could change whatever the king's final decision was. No, the question that troubled Faramir was the ultimate fate of the retired veterans, the maimed, and the soldiers who were being released early from duty. While reducing the numbers in the army, these men swelled the civilian population. Having spent their entire adult lives in military service, they had no skills with which to make a living. Gondor would have to provide for these brave veterans.
That was the question that Faramir could not answer. For the King desired to give them lands in Ithilien, lands that they could cultivate, with advice and aid from Gondor. Thus, former soldiers would continue serving Gondor, albeit in a different manner, for now they would provide food for the population, rather than protection. And it was this matter that had kept the council meetings so long and bitter that week.
Some applauded the King's generosity in granting lands to soldiers as a reward for their many years of service. How better thank the soldiers than by giving them a part of the country they had bled to protect? Furthermore, the land of Ithilien was rich and devoid of inhabitants, for it was late summer, only been a few short months since the death of Sauron, and no one had yet settled east of the Anduin.
Others vehemently protested the idea of the King giving land to soldiers, claiming that no one but the lord of a fief had the right to grant land in that fief. They foresaw a time when such an action would be used as a precedent for the King to seize the lands of any political enemy and give them to his followers. Even if the Elessar swore he would never seize estates, there could be no guarantee that his descendents would act the same as him.
Still others, those whose families had once held lands in Ithilien, claimed that Ithilien should go to those who had dwelled there; that the exiles should return and claim their ancestral lands, and that to give those lands to men not from Ithilien was to destroy their proud heritage.
Faramir had been conspicuously silent about the matter thus far, but the King had asked him to share his opinion at tomorrow's council meeting, and he would have to take a stand. He wished he could just push the whole problem away for a few months, but the question had to be answered, and soon. For it would be several months until the great movement of soldiers and their families to Ithilien could be entirely organised, and if everything was not entirely planned by the end of winter, the soldiers would not have time to plant and harvest their crops, and Gondor would be forced to support a massive standing army for another year.
He was torn in so many directions and agreed with so many differing opinions that he felt ready to burst. He himself had spent the majority of his military career in Ithilien, and knew firsthand the intense love of the Rangers for their homeland – either ancestral or adopted. Part of him felt uneasy picturing an infantryman cutting down trees and ploughing his way through once pristine wilderness. Rangers would know how to respect Ithilien and how to find the right balance between agriculture and nature.
Yet there were several in the Ithilien company whose families were not from Ithilien, and they grew to love the land just as much as their native counterparts. Could not an infantryman love Ithilien as well? Besides, Gondor had a duty to her soldiers, and Faramir firmly believed that all citizens should show gratitude to those who had sacrificed so much to bring about the current peace. That thought swelled Faramir's pride, not as a Ranger, but as a soldier, who was now fortunate enough to be in a position that allowed him to help his brothers-in-arms. Yes, Ithilien must accept these soldiers, and give them a home, and transform them into men of Ithilien as well.
If only the dilemma was that simple. There was more at stake than the future homes of former soldiers – in the council of Gondor, there was always more at stake. This was the first time that others looked to him to be a political leader. He had to decide here, now, what his and his descendents' role would be in the new kingdom. He was now both the Steward of Gondor and the Prince of Ithilien. The two titles had never seemed to clash previously, but now he found himself torn between his duty to his people, and his duty to – well, his people. He was the Steward of Gondor, and in this capacity he was expected to help the King and follow his lead. But as the Prince of Ithilien, his supreme duty was not to the King, but to the people of Ithilien. He could not be disloyal to the King, who had saved both him and his country, but nor could he leave the people of Ithilien without a champion to represent them in the council of Gondor.
Focusing on the basic problem at hand before he frightened himself with the implications of his actions, he began to organise his thoughts. He agreed that soldiers should be given land, if only because there was nothing else to do with them. He always looked to the future, but in this rare instance he believed that to weaken Gondor's economy and stability now was less prudent than to risk problems in the future. Still, Ithilien could not support the vast numbers of soldiers that the King proposed, without turning Ithilien from a land filled with lush trees to a land filled with nothing but crops.
If he allowed the exiled landowners to recover a portion of their property, rather than all of it, there would be enough land to provide for many retiring troops. Thus, the new infantrymen would be supplementing, rather than supplanting, the men of Ithilien, and it would be easier for those familiar with Ithilien to share their love of the land with the newcomers. Such an action would also be far more palatable to those with an ancestral claim to the land, since they would still regain much of their land.
But where else could the soldiers go? Other fiefs would have to provide the land somehow, and how could he ever make the other lords willingly give up their lands? After all, he had no authority over them, and no way to make them change their minds. Even as Steward, he merely supported his King; he did not make any policies or attempt to change the face of Gondorian politics. His responsibility was solely to Ithilien, not to the other fiefs.
With a start, he realised that his responsibility did not lay with Gondor either. His duty was to make decisions for his people – that is, the people of Ithilien. The Gondorian people's representative was the King. Let the King deal with the other fiefs, as the King's duty commands; as for Faramir, he would make decisions for his people, and let the King deal with the ramifications. Of course, he would always think of Gondor as a whole, but it was not his duty to solve all of Gondor's problems. He was only the Steward; he could only help the King. But as the Prince of Ithilien, he was the sole champion of the people of Ithilien. His duty was to Ithilien the moment that Elessar had given him his new title.
He did not always agree with Elessar on every matter, but that was not disloyalty, he realised. Dissent was instead a check on the power of the King, a reminder that others held differing views than his own. None of the other lords always agreed with the King either, and so there was no expectation that he should support Elessar on every issue, even if he was the Steward. He would be lax in his duty to both Ithilien and to the King if he buried his opinions.
Feeling at peace with himself for the first time in days, he began to write notes for his address to the council.
Clad in the green and brown hues of the robes of his office, with King Elessar of the Reunited Kingdom at his left, the Prince of Ithilien stood before the grand council of Gondor to address the lords of the realm.
"There has been much debate as to the future of those soldiers whom Gondor has chosen to release from active service. The King has proposed that Ithilien provide lands upon which these soldiers may make homes and raise crops. I believe that such an action is wise, for it will ensure that these men have a living and that the food supply of Gondor as a whole is secure. Thus, I grant my permission for the King to send former soldiers to Ithilien."
A murmur echoed through the council chamber, as each of the lords recognised that the Prince of Ithilien was indeed more than an extension of the King – for he had stated that the King required permission before he could interfere with matters dealing with one of the fiefs. Faramir, sounding more confident than he felt, looked at Elessar and was relieved to find acceptance, and even approval, in the elder man's face. Strengthened by the expression, he continued his address.
"Aye, Ithilien will welcome former soldiers with open arms, in recognition of the services they have performed in the service of Gondor. But we will not welcome all former soldiers, for it is foolish to assume that one part of Gondor should have to sacrifice land while others make no sacrifice at all. Rather, we hope that our example will inspire other lords to open their fiefs to those who have devoted their lives to Gondor and now look to Gondor to care for them."
Another murmur, this time louder, grew in the council chamber, as lords turned to each other to express pleasure or anger, or a combination of the two. Faramir, his address finished, sat down again beside the King. He turned to him, and said, "I will help you convince them."
Elessar smiled and nodded his head. "You must do what you think is best."
Faramir regarded him soberly, and repeated his words, "I will help you convince them." Then, certain of himself, he smiled in reply.
Note: Inspired by a practice of the Romans, whereby retiring soldiers were granted lands in various provinces, sometimes at the expense of the previous inhabitants of those provinces.