Format: short story
Genre: angst,h/c, friendship
Summary: Aragorn and Faramir are haunted by the past.
Faramir rubbed his eyes and tried to stifle a yawn.
“Did you not sleep well last night, my friend?” Aragorn asked.
Faramir nodded. “No matter, though, I shall finish this report.” The Steward dipped his quill into the ink and resumed writing.
“The report can wait,” said Aragorn. He put down his own quill. The two often worked together in Aragorn's study, both because they enjoyed each other's company and also to easily be able to discuss their work. “Would you like me to prepare you a tincture of Valerian to help you sleep tonight?”
“Thank you,” said Faramir. “That might help.”
“Does something trouble you, ion nîn?” asked Aragorn. He tended to address Faramir thus when he was concerned about him.”You have a haunted look about you.”
Faramir put down his own quill. “It is just that I was playing chess with Ambassador Tahir a few evenings ago, as is our custom when the thought came to me of how many men of Harad I have killed with sword and bow. They were our enemies seeking to destroy us, but I wondered how many might have been good men like Tahir.”
“Tahir might well be thinking the same thing after your chess games or when we dine together,” said Aragorn. “A soldier's lot is a hard one. The deed cannot be undone when we slay an enemy.”
“I killed only to protect my City and my homeland, yet still it haunts me,” said Faramir.”I tried to judge fairly if I found any wanderers in Ithilien and let many I deemed innocent go despite my father's decree or sent them to him to pronounce judgement.”
“You helped save us with your sound judgement in letting Frodo and Sam go on their way with the Ring.” The King squeezed Faramir's shoulder. “It was an act that took great courage as you brought your father's wrath down on yourself.”
“Did I always act fairly and wisely though?” Faramir mused.
“That question often robs me of sleep too,” said Aragorn.
“I must have slain far more than you over my long life. Orcs I give no thought to, but for every man I slew, I wished it could have been otherwise. I used to tell my men it was a good battle if it ended with few casualties on either side.”
“Legolas told me that you tried to persuade the men amongst the enemy to flee and save their lives at the Battle of the Hornberg,” said Faramir.
“I did, but alas they did not listen,” said the King. “I would much rather heal than kill, but in battle, you kill or be killed. Only once did the red mist of battle fury come upon me when a Haradrim Captain slew my kinsman. In that moment, I would gladly have wiped the Haradrim from the face of Arda, even though I knew even then that there were good men amongst them. I always tried never to kill an innocent but do not know if I succeeded. All of us had little choice but to fight against Sauron's evil or it would have destroyed everything good that we hold dear. Each soldier pays a heavy price,though. I used to warn my men each death would sear their souls and it was when it did not they would have cause to worry. I hope with all my heart my son will never have to lift a sword in anger.”
“As do I ,” said Faramir.
“Now we must build rather than destroy and heal rather than kill,” said Aragorn.
Both men lapsed into silence lost in dark thoughts of the past. The very air in the room felt heavy. At last Aragorn said, “I fear we will get little work done today. We need fresh air and exercise. Would you care to spar with me?”
“I would,” said Faramir. “I enjoy using a sword for swordplay rather than killing.”
The two fetched their swords, donned leather armour and went out on to the practise ground. It was deserted and rather muddy after a recent heavy shower. It had stopped raining but the sky was still grey and overcast.
They drew their swords. “On guard!” cried Aragorn.
They began sparring engaging in what in different circumstances would have been a deadly dance of thrust, lunge and parry. Aragorn was vastly more experienced, but Faramir was an excellent swordsman too and neither dropped their guard for an instant. Soon both men were lost in the intensity of the match and sweat trickled down their faces.
Faramir took a step backwards to parry a stroke from Aragorn and the heel of his boot caught in the mud and he went flying. The King was caught off balance as his blade missed Faramir's steel and he too stumbled and tumbled over backwards.
For a moment he lay there winded then caught sight of Faramir scrambling to his feet, the Steward's face and clothing covered in mud. The Steward strode forward and held out a hand to Aragorn. “Are you hurt?” he asked.
“No, just slightly winded. And you?”
“But just look at you!”
“And at you!”
The two burst out laughing simultaneously at the unsightly spectacle they presented. They laughed until tears rolled down their cheeks.
“We had better bathe before our wives catch us looking like this,” said Aragorn when his mirth finally subsided.
As they walked back across the Court of the Fountain, the sun came out from behind a cloud. The white stone sparkled in the sunlight the tower of Ecthelion glistening like a column of pearl and silver, the royal banner fluttering high above in the breeze. Beneath their feet, the white marble pavements gleamed.
“The City lo0ks most fair today,” said Faramir. “She was well worth fighting to preserve.”
As they passed the White Tree, they lingered beside it as was their custom. A robin flew out of the tree. Aragorn moved nearer to it and beheld a robin's nest filled with a cluster of eggs. He turned to Faramir and smiled. “Look a robin's nest! In the North that portends good fortune. I shall order the Guards to ensure neither man nor beast disturb it.”
“The robins have chosen a good place to nest as the tree is guarded night and day,” said Faramir. “I look forward to seeing the chicks hatch.”
The two made their way back inside. On the topmost branch of the White Tree, the robin sang.