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Sticks and Stones by Linda Hoyland


The Price of FreedomRating: PG

Summary: Aragorn has a troubling encounter in the market place.

Disclaimer: The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. This story is written purely for entertainment and not to make money.





Sticks and may break my stones bones but words will never hurt me - Traditional


It had been a long and tedious Council Meeting, which left both Aragorn and Faramir feeling somewhat out of sorts. To add to Aragorn’s woes, Arwen was attending a meeting concerning the Minas Tirith orphanage that was expected to last all day.

“Shall we go for a walk?” Faramir suggested. “I feel in need of some fresh air after listening to all those windbags for an entire morning!”

“Fresh air might improve my appetite,” Aragorn conceded.

It was market day and the two men found themselves drawn towards the lively bustle of the marketplace. Since Aragorn had relaxed the restrictions limiting former allies of Sauron settling in Gondor, many Southrons and Easterlings had settled in the City.

Dark skinned men and women dressed in colourful robes mingled with the Gondorians adding a somewhat exotic air to the market. A few people made obvious efforts to avoid the strangers, but on the whole, the newcomers seemed to be tolerated. A few had even set up stalls, which were attracting a fair number of customers. Aragorn espied a merchant, who from his dress appeared to hail from Harad. He was selling colourful dishes decorated in geometric designs. He paused at the stall to purchase one, thinking Eldarion might like the bright colours. He recalled that when he was a little boy how his mother had cleverly tempted him to eat all his vegetables to reveal the picture on the bottom of his favourite dish.

As the merchant was wrapping the bowl, a dishevelled man in torn clothing pushed forward and shouted, “Curse you, Elessar, for allowing the children of Sauron to dwell amongst us! One of those dogs slew my only son! Woe to you and your kindred, woe to Gondor for your pride and folly!”

Some of the crowd murmured agreement, muttering about slain husbands, brothers and sons.
 
Aragorn and Faramir’s guards rushed forward, but the man had already vanished among the throng.
 
“Shall we call for reinforcements and order a thorough search, sire?” asked the Captain of the Guard.
 
Aragorn shook his head. “Have a lookout kept for him, but he carried no weapon. His wits appear addled with grief, poor fellow.”
 
“But, he threatened you, sire,” the Captain protested. “And what of those who agreed with him?”
 
“Arrest him if you can find him, and I will deal with him, but ignore those who shared his sentiments, but cast no curses,” said Aragorn. “If we were to pursue everyone who objected to the presence of our former enemies, the prison would soon be overflowing! So many lost loved ones during the war, that their anger is understandable. Curses have no power over the innocent. If we do not try to befriend our former enemies, they will continue to hate us, and might rise up against us once more, but a grieving father may not understand my reasoning. We need more than swords to maintain a lasting peace. A wise man fears weapons, not words. Actions speak far louder.” He turned back to the stall and purchased another bowl.
 
“He ought to be punished for speaking to you thus,” Faramir said indignantly, though in a low voice. “Maybe he is mad, but cursing the King is surely treason!”
 
“I see treason only in deeds, not empty words,” said Aragorn. “Better that people vent their anger harmlessly in the marketplace, rather than plot against me in dark rooms.”

“The King should always be treated with respect, though,” Faramir insisted.

“Would you have me rule as a tyrant?” Aragorn chided him gently. “Such is the price of freedom that I will sometimes be cursed and derided. I have fought too long for freedom to see it cast so carelessly aside simply to spare my vanity.”

“You do not deserve it, though.” Faramir persisted. Such words must surely be unpleasant for you to suffer.”

Aragorn suddenly laughed. “You should have heard some of the curses heaped upon me in my days as a Ranger and the names I was called. Stick at naught Strider was one of the least offensive!” he chuckled. “But, I am still standing hale and hearty.” He smiled at Faramir then at the crowd. “Come, I have more to fear from the wrath of the cook if we are late for luncheon than from any man here! Would you join me for the meal, my Lord Steward?”

“Gladly, sire.”

The two men made their way to the Royal Apartments
 
Over a hearty repast of roast beef, Aragorn regaled Faramir with tales of some of the indignities that Strider had suffered and by the time the dessert of pears stewed in wine arrived, the incident in the market place seemed of little importance. 
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