Five Senses

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A Fairy Tale, Middle-Earth style

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Gondor the Beloved


In the Name of Love



The Pelennor fields had witnessed many fateful events in the last years of the Third Age. It was on those fair and fertile lands that the Black Captain, the terror from Angmar, descended like a falling black cloud. There it was that a great number of brave men of Gondor and Rohan fell during the Siege. But the fair fields have also witnessed happier events. It was not the plains in the Riddermark, but the Pelennor, that saw Théoden King of the Mark riding like Oromë the Great and clove through his enemies like a fire-bolt. There it was that a prophecy of old proved true: the Black Captain perished, slain by the hands of no man. And on a bright day after the fall of the Enemy of all free peoples of Middle-earth, the Pelennor witnessed another great event. For it was there that Aragorn son of Arathorn, Heir of Elendil, declared his claim to the crown of Gondor.

Near the north-eastern side of Rammas Echor a pavilion was erected for the lords of Gondor to meet the Lord Aragorn and listen to his claim. The Steward Faramir came from Minas Tirith and with him were Imrahil the Prince of Dol Amroth, and Húrin the Warden of the Keys. Many of the Council of Gondor were absent; Gondor had the victory but it was dearly bought. Forlong Lord of Lossarnach fell in the battle there, as was Hirluin Lord of Pinnath Gelin. Their heirs had been summoned to Minas Tirith but had not reached the City. Hador Lord of Lebennin fell and Tuor his son was wounded in the battle in Morannon. He was then still under the healers’ care in Cormallen, and so was Dervorin of Ringlo Vale. Duinhir Lord of Morthond was unscathed but he was too deep in mourning over his slain sons to attend any council.

Aragorn rode from Cormallen with no companion but Mithrandir. Angbor Lord of Lamedon, who was a member of the Council of Gondor, rode with them. Aragorn declared his claim firmly but not arrogantly. The lore of earlier days told how Elendil’s majesty was not tainted with pride, and it was said in later days that in this particular virtue as in many others, Aragorn of all his descendants resembled him the most.

“I am Aragorn, son of Arathorn, the heir of Isildur, his descendant through an unbroken line of father to son; and the heir of Anárion through the line of Fíriel daughter of Ondoher. Long have I desired to return to Gondor. Now is the time, and I am come as the King.”

Faramir was the one who gave the reply, for the Steward was the head of the Council of Gondor. “The Council of Gondor has listened and will consider the claim justly. After the other lords of Gondor came to the City, the Council will meet and give our answer.”

“I shall wait for your answer,” said Aragorn.

Faramir spoke again, “The Council of Gondor would like to speak of some matters with the one who is come to be our King. Would my lord Aragorn be willing to listen to us, who represent the Council?”

“I am willing.”

They all sat on stone chairs that were brought from the City to the pavilion. Faramir began his speech. “Aside from his claim to the throne of Gondor, the Heir of Isildur is the King of Arnor. Now that the Enemy has been overthrown – bless the brave Halflings – I believe you and the Dúnedain of the North are eager to rebuild your realm in the North. I do not presume to know much about Arnor, but at least I know that much rebuilding is needed there if the kingdom is to be established again, much more than what Gondor needs.

“But the greater need of Arnor does not diminish the importance of rebuilding in Gondor. Perhaps it is too early to think of the scouring of Minas Ithil, but surely we can now turn our long-held hope of rebuilding Osgiliath into a certain plan? My heart rejoices when I think that the ancient Citadel may one day be restored to its former glory, tall and beautiful with its dome reaching to the stars. We also need to make plans about Umbar. Now that the Enemy is no longer there to support the Corsairs, Gondor shall rightfully regain it. And what of Ithilien, the garden of Gondor, now so desolate? Surely we can begin the cleansing and planting there?”

As he spoke of his hope for his land Faramir’s mien softened and his eyes shone. He moved his hands spiritedly, perhaps without him realizing it. His enthusiasm commanded their attention even more than his authority as the Steward. Mithrandir and Imrahil did not hide their smile. That was not the first time they listened to Faramir’s vigorous recitation of his hope (though at those darker days it seemed more like a dream). Angbor looked at the young Steward with a renewed curiosity. He had rarely visited the City in recent years, thus he only met Faramir few times before and never conversed much with him.

Faramir paused for a moment. Looking earnestly at Aragorn, he continued, “Should the Council of Gondor accept your claim, my lord Aragorn, you will be the King of both Gondor and Arnor. Should this happy thought come into fulfilment, will you give us your words that you will not neglect the needs of Gondor? I do not accuse you of lacking in your regard of Gondor – how can I, after you delivered her from the siege? Yet it is only natural for every man to hold his land of birth as the most important.”

As Aragorn listened to Faramir’s speech his expressions remained unreadable, save that his eyes too glowed brightly when Faramir spoke of Osgiliath. As Faramir questioned the place Gondor had in his heart, he gave them a smile, which so rarely graced his grim face.

“You have a gift with words, Lord Faramir. Your speech gladdens my heart, for now I can be sure that my claim will be considered justly, and that even if my rightful claim were to be rejected, Gondor would remain in the hands of one who loves her dearly.

“The thought of Osgiliath restored to its former glory makes you rejoice. I, too, have had that dream many times, and my joy at that thought is no less than yours. My forefathers built Osgiliath; is it a wonder that I long to see it restored? You said that one holds the land of one’s birth as the most important: that is true. But I have not spent all my years in Arnor. I was raised in Imladris, the Elven realm of the North. It is only after I came of age that I spent some time in the company of the Dúnedain of the North. Then I travelled far and wide to many lands, spent long years serving many lords, including the Lord of Gondor.”

This revelation surprised Faramir, but he did not interrupt Aragorn’s answer. Imrahil and Húrin exchanged a glance, after which Imrahil nodded.

“I give you my solemn words that I hold Gondor as dear as Arnor, for both are the realms of Elendil, and I have spent many years in each realm, long enough to endear both to me.”

For a moment no one spoke. It was Angbor who broke the silence. “You served Gondor in the disguise of Captain Thorongil,” he said. “I only met you once and I was very young then, but I have not forgotten.”

Aragorn nodded. “I took the name of Thorongil when I served Thengel King and the Lord Ecthelion. It is an honour to be remembered by a valiant man, Lord Angbor.”

He turned to Faramir. “Have I answered my lord Steward’s question?”

“You have, lord, but your answer raises another question,” said Faramir. As he said that Mithrandir’s eyes twinkled, but the wise wizard suppressed his chuckle remarkably well and said nothing. “Captain Thorongil did many great deeds and his praise is still sung in Gondor. But he left in a sudden, at a time when Gondor needed him. Would you give me an answer to give to the Council, for I believe once they know that you were here as Captain Thorongil, they will wonder at your reasons of leaving your realm at the time of need?”

“There were some reasons,” said Aragorn. “But let me just speak of one. At that time the people had begun to give me respect and love more than befitting a Captain. Some even whispered that Thorongil might make a better ruler than Denethor. When that insolent whispers grew louder, I decided it was time to leave. It was not yet the time for me to claim the kingship, and I was loath to see Gondor torn by kinstrife for the second time.”

“I remember that time,” said Angbor. “In Lamedon I heard the same whispers. My father had the highest regard for Thorongil, but he was relieved when he left. He said that with the shadow at hand, kinstrife was the last thing Gondor needed. It was most noble of you to leave, lord.”

“I simply did my duty,” Aragorn replied.

Húrin the Tall, the Warden of the Keys of Minas Tirith, spoke next. “My lord Aragorn, only a few know that you are Captain Thorongil. In the eyes of most people, you are a king from the North. We are both the remnants of the great Númenor, but the North and the South have different traditions, as you know better than I do. Should the people accept your claim, lord, will you be willing to listen to the Council of Gondor, at least in the first years of your reign when you are still adjusting to the ways of Gondor?”

“Will I be willing?” asked Aragorn, his tone showed his amazement that such a question was raised. “It is the King’s duty to listen to his Council. And I believe that the Council will be most valuable to the King at all times, not only in the period of adjustment. I have travelled wide and experienced much, but I readily admit that the lords of Gondor, in particular the Steward, currently know more about ruling Gondor than I. I value their counsel highly.”

“So if you become king,” rejoined Húrin, “you will preserve the office of the Steward?”

The reply came instantly and firmly. “I have never thought of doing otherwise.”

The lords of Gondor nodded approvingly, save for the Steward himself.

“As always you speak wisely, lord,” he said. “Now as we are speaking of this matter, I would like to remind my lord that the King is free to choose his own Steward. Pelendur made the Stewardship hereditary, but the King has the authority to give the office to whomever he deems suitable.”

Aragorn stared at Faramir, as if inquiring why the Steward chose to remind him that he was free to release him of his office. They looked at each other for a moment, then as had happened few times before, they came to understand each other.

“If I may ask, Lord Aragorn,” said Imrahil, “should Gondor repeat the answer they gave to Arvedui, what will you do?”

“I have no wish to oppose the choice of the people. Should that happen, I will devote myself to the rebuilding of Arnor. I would like to maintain our tie of kinship, just as Arvedui and Eärnil did.”

Amiable silence ensued, the rare kind of silence that occurred when all parties in a council have spoken their thoughts and were pleased with what they have heard. Aragorn rose and the others followed. They bade farewell and went out of the pavilion.

Mithrandir had curiously remained silent during the whole meeting, but presently he spoke. “Now that you have finished your discourse, my lords, I wish to speak with the Lord Aragorn and the Lord Steward.”

That was rather unusual request, but having known his deeds in the Great War, the captains had learned to trust Mithrandir. So Imrahil and Húrin left for the City and Angbor rode back to Cormallen. Mithrandir walked back to the pavilion; Aragorn and Faramir followed him.

Instead of returning to his chair, he went to a corner, sat on the ground in a most relaxed manner and began to light his pipe.

Aragorn and Faramir waited for him to speak, but he did not seem to be in a hurry to do so.

The two men exchanged glances. “Gandalf,” said Aragorn after some time, “of what matter you wish to speak with us?”

Mithrandir sent beautiful rings of smoke to their direction. “Nothing in particular. I simply give the two of you the chance to speak together. I know you want to, but neither of you want the other lords to think that you are scheming something behind the back of the Council.”

The two men stared at the wizard for a moment, then they all burst into laughter. “O blessed Mithrandir,” said Faramir amidst his laugh, “what will we do without your counsel?”

“Counselling each other,” Mithrandir answered. “Now speak all you need to say to each other and let me enjoy my Longbottom Leaf.”

Aragorn and Faramir moved to the centre of the pavilion. They sat on the ground, leaning their backs on the stone chairs.

“How is your arm and shoulder, Lord Faramir?”

“It is mending well. And what about you, my lord? You appear unscathed, but surely you suffered some wounds?”

“Some harmless wounds,” Aragorn replied. After a short pause he spoke again, “Now may it be my turn to ask questions?”

“You are free to ask anything of me, my lord.”

Faramir said the words plainly, without embellishments, but even a less wise man than Aragorn would have been able to read his sincerity. “Ah,” murmured Aragorn, visibly moved by this answer, “perhaps I too can be as fortunate as Frodo.”

Then he said, “You mentioned that the King is free to choose his own Steward. Should the Council accept my claim, and should I choose another lord as my Steward, what will you do?”

“I will continue to serve you as a Captain of Gondor.”

“And if the King releases you from any duty to Gondor, what will you do?”

A look of horror was in Faramir’s face, but it passed quickly. His composure regained, he gave his reply. “I believe I have not done anything to deserve that chastisement. But the King is a wiser man than me, and if he thinks it is in the best interest of Gondor that I shall leave – perhaps to avert another kinstrife – you know that I am ready to leave.”

“So you also see that there is a potential for kinstrife?”

“Yes, if we do not act wisely. The people hold the Stewards dearly. It may be difficult to win their hearts if there is another person they continually look up to.”

“Unless ...,” said Aragorn, “unless they see that that other person and the King are together.”

Faramir looked at him and slowly nodded.

“Should the Council accept my claim, and should I ask you to remain in your office, will you resent it?”

“I am afraid I do not understand you. Why should I resent it?”

“Most people may see it as being forced to serve someone who deposed you.”

Faramir laughed, and it was not a bitter laugh. “But I am not most people,” he said. “I see it for what it is: a steward surrendering his charge and continue to serve his king. It is a reason for true pride and joy, not resentment.”

“I knew you would see it that way. So it is not because you did not wish to remain as the Steward that you mentioned of the King being free to choose his Steward?”

“My lord, you know it is not.”

Again there was a smile in Aragorn’s grim face. “Yes, I know,” he said gently. “You mentioned that lest anyone thinks that your decision concerning my claim is affected by my promise of the continuation of your office.”

Faramir looked surprised, as one who was not accustomed to being understood so well. “My lord is most thoughtful,” he murmured.

“Do you think you are capable to rule Gondor without the King, Lord Steward?”

Looking straight at Aragorn, Faramir gave his answer. “Aye.”

“The Stewards have proved that for a thousand years, and I believe it is not too presumptuous to say that I will not prove the least of my House.”

“That certainly you are not.” Aragorn paused for a moment, then he continued, “Why, then, did you not straightaway reject my claim? Why should you take the trouble to adjust to a new king?”

“Everyone has his own duty. One may be able to do some parts of another’s duty, but that does not mean that he should start usurping another’s duty and authority. I believe I can rule Gondor well,” said Faramir. “But I can never make the White Tree blossoms. Gondor is meant to have king.”

His face softened and he showed the same expression he had when speaking of Osgiliath. He chanted softly. Soon Aragorn’s voice joined his.

Gondor! Gondor, between the Mountains and the Sea!

West Wind blew there; the light upon the Silver Tree

Fell like bright rain in gardens of the Kings of old.

O proud walls! White towers! O winged crown and throne of gold!

O Gondor, Gondor! Shall Men behold the Silver Tree,

Or West Wind blow again between the Mountains and the Sea?

“You shall.”

They turned to face Mithrandir. He rose and said, “I say to you that Men shall again behold the Silver Tree, and the West Wind is even now blowing, taking the trace of the Shadow away.”

To the Steward and the King to be, his words felt truer than a prophecy, they felt like a blessing.

***

Mithrandir and Aragorn sat side by side in the corner. Aragorn too had his pipe now. Faramir had just left.

“How like Denethor, and how unlike,” said Mithrandir.

Aragorn nodded. “When he questioned me, I was reminded of Denethor. He would have asked me the same shrewd questions. Whatever his faults, Denethor loved Gondor and ever strived to promote her interests. But he would have questioned me in a very different way from what Faramir did. The young man seemed to care little for his own position.”

“Faramir is as selfless as Denethor is proud,” Mithrandir assented. “So do you think this selfless Steward will accept your claim, Aragorn?”

“If someone who loves Gondor as truly as that rejects my claim, then perhaps I am not worthy of Gondor.”

“Ah, but you are worthy of Gondor, and I believe that Faramir will make the Council accept your claim. From what I know of him, in this matter he is alike to his father: they know how to bend their Council to their will. He will accept your claim, though it may cost him some pains, poor lad.”

“What pains will he have to bear?”

“Despite their differences in many matters, he loves his father. He knows that his father would have never accepted your claim. The knowledge that he is going against his father’s wish may weigh his kind heart heavily.”

Aragorn was silent as he pondered this. “Would that my return could have not caused such pains on him!” he said. “I will do what I can to lessen his burdens.”

***

The verse in italic was the one sung by Aragorn when the glimpse of the White Mountains made him reveal his deep affection for Gondor (The Two Towers, Book Three, Chapter Two: The Riders of Rohan).

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