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PLACES IN THE HEART
My new king had just given me the world. ‘Twas not the same gift as he had given me twice before, in saving my life, and then not only confirming my Stewardship but also adding the rank of Prince. This time, he gave me the world as a long roll of parchment, on which the map of Middle-earth was inscribed.
“Think of it, Faramir;” he exclaimed. “This is the first map of my reign, and the first to be made of a world free of Sauron. At least the first to be made by my order.”
“A brave new world, indeed, Sire” I replied, spreading the scroll out on the table. How long had it been since I had looked upon a map with wonder instead of disquiet? I thought back to my childhood, sitting on my grandsire’s knee while his hands marked paths of adventure on old shipping maps.
“Scouts among my Dúnedain, your Rangers, the Rohirrim, and the peoples of Erebor sent reports to the map-makers here in Minas Tirith,” Aragorn continued. “It is not as elaborate a map as I hope they will give us next year, but it does show the new borders, the changes in Gondor and Mordor, and all that is now known of Middle-earth.”
The King leaned back and, regarding me, asked: “Is it not remarkable? Where would you most like to travel, Faramir?”
I placed my finger on the small tower that symbolized Minas Tirith. From there, I let my finger wander over the routes approaching and leaving the White City: West to Edoras and Éowyn; East to my beloved, hard-fought Ithilien and farther into Mordor itself on the perilous path of the hobbits who had saved us all, North where Boromir had gone in search of what our dream had foretold.
The bearer of the Sword That Was Broken smiled when he saw my finger follow the black line north on the parchment. He tapped a point marked as a settlement, in the Misty Mountains, southwest of Angmar. “Look, Faramir; here is Imladris, so long my home, where I first met your brother and our Fellowship began. And here, farther west, lie the remnants of Annúminas.”
“Elendil’s city still remains? I asked. “I thought it had fallen into utter ruin.” Of course, Elendil’s heir had walked out of a dream to save my city and my life. Marvels sprang up from ancient lore and history flowered into heroes! I was fortunate indeed to live in this time of legends made flesh.
My king’s smile turned wistful, then hopeful. “Annúminas does lie mostly ruined, but parts of the walls and four of her towers yet stand. She can be rebuilt, Faramir! And she shall be, for I intend to see the city restored, though it may take many years. I hope you will stand with me in Annúminas one day. Should you like that, think you, to walk in the footsteps of Elendil?”
He meant to be kind. Aragorn already knew me well, and understood my love of history and lore. A polite reply jumped to my lips, but something within me stilled it.
My finger trembled beneath the tower-mark denoting Annúminas on the map, then, as if it had a will of its own, traveled back southward. I was assailed by the power of this new Age aborning, the Age when roads long perilous would open, to carry new knowledge and trade and prosperity across the map of Middle-earth from all directions. And yet, and yet; my heart followed my finger down the map to another ruined city. I remembered the broken stones of Osgiliath, stones covered with blood and torn flesh beneath the shadows of the Nazgul wheeling on their dread steeds above us, how my own voice sounding feeble in comparison to their terrible cries as I called out orders. Osgiliath, once the jewel of Gondor, its King’s seat, had been a ruin for many times my lifetime. Now its ancient wounds were torn open, befouled by Mordor-filth and stained by the blood of Gondor’s bravest sons.
“My lord...” I said softly; as I struggled to connect the two directions in which my thoughts pulled me.
“Yes, Faramir? The king asked. His brow furrowed slightly, a sign of puzzlement at my hesitation.
“My lord, you are King of two lands,” I said, more clearly, in the voice I had used often to counsel Boromir. “King of two lands that must someday become one. You are king of North and South.”
“I know.” His voice held gentle amusement. My father would have voiced more disdain at my presumption.
“A certain balance would be desirable, Sire. What is given and done to the North-kingdom should also be given and done to the South-kingdom.” I drew my head up to regard my king respectfully but directly. “Though it may not be possible to do all things at once, in what was Arnor and what is still Gondor, I deem that if Annúminas shall be restored, Osgiliath should also be rebuilt.”
Surprise flared briefly in the King’s eyes. His face closed a little, watching me. “Speak on, Faramir,” he said. I sensed some tension within him, but he was at least attentive. He knew that I wished to say more.
I took a breath. The vision behind my eyes, the routes that crossed the map, my memories of the battle in Osgiliath, came suddenly together. “I seek justice for both lands of what shall be your Reunited Kingdom, my lord. But as the Steward of Gondor, I must ask first for the needs of Osgiliath. My lord, Osgiliath can be renewed! Minas Tirith should remain your city, but let us rebuild the Citadel of the Stars! I would see markets, embassies, colleges built within her walls, where once battles were so bitterly waged. I would see the Elves and Dwarves teach their lore before they sail West or fade. I would see the sons of the men who died in Osgiliath come there to learn alongside the sons of the Southrons and Easterlings who slew them. I would see Osgiliath become a beacon to all kingdoms, a place of light and beauty, a citadel of peace. Let the Citadel of the Stars rise again alongside the City of Elendil in the North…”
I stopped, aware that I was now standing up with my hand raised. Besides, I had surely said all that was in my heart. Had I overstepped my bounds, presumed to make demands on a King instead of counsel him? I did not regret my words; but wondered if I should have waited until I had proved my worth for a longer time before saying them. I smoothed my face and waited.
Aragorn smiled then, his aspect warming me as the sun warms the forest at dawn. “Your counsel is wise, Faramir,” he declared. “My thoughts sought the same path, but yours flew faster this day. I see much of your grandfather Ecthelion in you, my friend; and the best of your father.”
I smiled back, for once having nothing to say.
“It is a bold plan, but one that I think can be begun,” Aragorn continued, leaning forward to study the map once more. “I still intend to show you Annúminas restored; Faramir; and I ask that you speak in its halls as well as in the risen halls of Osgiliath, among other wise teachers.”
“Oh, gladly, Sire!” I replied, not thinking before speaking. To become a lore-master, to teach in such ancient cities made new, was a joyful prospect. I considered the map once again; and thought of the old, closed roads opening and ruined cities rising, history flowing gracefully into the future, and my own fate as counselor and friend to this greatest of kings. “You shall surely be among those teachers, Aragorn,” I added, daring the use of his name. “For you have taught us all of the power of hope.”
Thanks are due Linda Hoyland, for editorial encouragement; and Tanaqui for beta assistance. A slightly different, less polished version of this story was originally posted in the Henneth-Annun email list for the 2011 Back to Middle-earth Challenge.
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