The Man behind the King
"But when Aragorn arose all that beheld him gazed in silence, for it seemed to them that he was revealed to them now for the first time. Tall he seemed and yet in the flower of manhood; and wisdom sat upon his brow, and strength and healing were in his hands, and a light was about him."
Format: short story
Warnings: alcohol consumption
Characters: Aragorn, Faramir
Summary: Faramir discovers an unexpected side to the new King.
With thanks to Raksha
His new King was all that Faramir had hoped for and more. In his dreams, he had long beheld Elendil's heir as tall, noble, and kingly. Today, he was even more, for when Mithrandir placed the crown upon Elessar's noble brow; there was a light surrounding him and a glory beyond his wildest imaginings.
Faramir had glimpsed Aragorn thus when he called him forth from the dark vale. Indeed, he had mistaken his rescuer for one of the Valar! In the waking world, though, he had beheld a weary Ranger and loved the man for himself.
Now when he again beheld Aragorn's kingly glory, he was filled with awe. His heart was overflowing as he cried, "Behold the King!"
In the months that followed, he found Aragorn to be a wise and kindly lord, and every inch of what a King should be. Faramir found his new lord to be friendly, yet he hesitated to become close to his liege lord. Aragorn was most solicitous towards him and enquired frequently about his health, offering him further treatments for his shoulder, which remained stiff and painful at times, though the wound had healed. Faramir always declined. Much as he loved and admired Aragorn, his father had left him somewhat wary of those who held the power of life and death over him. Aragorn was much of an age with his father and at times, when in a stern mood, looked disconcerting like him.
One evening, King and Steward had worked especially hard all day, compiling a complicated treaty with Harad. Queen Arwen was spending the day visiting the many Guilds of City craftsmen and then dining with the heads of the Guilds. She was not expected back until late evening, so the two men worked later than usual.
Only when the sun had set and a servant came to light the candles, did the King and Steward set aside their work.
"Have you any plans for this evening, Faramir?" Aragorn asked.
"No, my lord," Faramir replied. "I thought to do more work on the treaty and draft out an invitation for the Kha Khan of Harad to exchange ambassadors with us."
"That can wait until tomorrow, Faramir. I would not have you spend all your time tied to your desk. We shall escape from the Citadel together, this night."
"Escape, my lord?" Faramir could hardly believe his ears and could not conceal his alarm.
Aragorn laughed. "You remind me of your father when you raise your eyebrows like that, my Lord Steward! No need to look so concerned, I am not planning to escape back to the Northern lands from whence I came."
"That is good to hear, my lord."
"We are both former Rangers, are we not? We need a little freedom every now and then, if we are not to go quite mad cooped up within these walls!"
"But, my lord! It would cause an uproar if we were to simply disappear!"
"This time, we shall take guards with us who will be ordered to be as unobtrusive as possible. In future, though, when they are better used to my ways, I intend to disperse with them. Now, Faramir, will you join me for a drink?"
"Thank you, sire, I would be honoured," said Faramir.
The King strode through the darkening city streets with long confident strides, giving Faramir the answer to a question that had puzzled him these past months, why the Hobbits had often referred to the King as "Strider". The guards struggled manfully, but had trouble keeping up with their King. Faramir, who was nearer to his liege lord's height, managed to keep up without too much difficulty.
The King kept on walking until they reached the fifth circle where he stopped outside a very ordinary looking tavern. A crudely decorated sign read 'The Travellers' Rest.' "We will stop here," he told Faramir. "Gimli speaks highly of the place."
Aragorn ordered the guards to wait outside, ignoring their horrified reaction. He strode within, followed by a somewhat reluctant Faramir.
"Welcome to my inn, my lords. I am Turin son of Turgon," declared a tall, balding man, who was obviously the innkeeper. He swiftly approached them and bowed. "How might I be of service to your lordships? Would you like some refreshment to warm you on this cold night? I have the finest wines from Dorwinion to Lossarnach."
"A glass of Dorwinion, please" said Faramir.
"And a tankard of ale for me, please," said Aragorn. "Do you have Dragon's Breath?"
Faramir stared open mouthed. Labourers and other common folk favoured Dragon's Breath. He had never tasted it, but had heard it was an exceedingly strong and pungent ale.
"And would my lords like anything to eat?" asked the innkeeper.
"A crusty loaf with butter and a hunk of cheese," Aragorn replied. He glanced at Faramir who could only nod dumbly. The King, who could dine off the finest foods in Gondor, wanted to eat the fare favoured by the humblest of his subjects?
Turin showed his guests to a table. It was still early and there was plenty of room. A hush fell over the common room and the other patrons rose and bowed. Aragorn smiled at them and bade them ignore his presence.
"This was a mistake, Faramir," said Aragorn once the innkeeper had scurried off to fulfil their order.
Faramir let out a sign of relief. The King had come to his senses.
"Next time we come out for a drink we must choose a tavern where we will not be recognised and wear our old Ranger clothes as a disguise," said Aragorn.
"But why my lord?"
"We do not wish to ruin anyone else's enjoyment of their drinks by making them constrained in our presence," said Aragorn. "Also only a foolish King pays no heed to what his people are thinking. Over a drink, men talk of their joys and fears and whether or not they are happy with their lot and those who rule over them. "
Faramir nodded, suddenly understanding. The King was far wiser than he had imagined.
The innkeeper brought their drinks together with the food: brown crusty bread with creamy butter and sharp cheese from Lossarnach.
Faramir nibbled the bread. It was much tastier than that served at his table. He sipped his Dorwinion. It was a poor vintage. He grimaced.
"You should have had a tankard of Dragon's Breath," said Aragorn. He took a swallow and linked his lips appreciatively.
"My father always insisted I should drink wine," Faramir replied. "He said ale was common. I would have preferred, though, to drink the same as my men. My father, though, always insisted that wine was supplied and drunk by the officers."
"Neither King nor Steward should ever lose the common touch," said Aragorn. He called to the innkeeper to fetch another pint of Dragon's Breath.
"Now drink up, lad," he said, pushing the foaming tankard towards the Steward. "Let us make the most of our hour of freedom!"
Faramir drank, at first cautiously. To his surprise, the ale tasted good. It was a strong black beer with rich, complex aromas and the flavour of roasted malt.
"Do you like it?" asked Aragorn.
Faramir smiled. "I think I do, sire."
Aragorn grinned at him. "I thought you might once you had tasted it. I was brought up to only drink wine too, but discovered the delights of a good ale when Halbarad took me to 'The Prancing Pony in Bree'. I should like to take you there one day. I discovered "Dragon's Breath" when I was in Gondor before, many years ago. It is one of this land's hidden treasures. Drink up and enjoy!"
Faramir drank his expression thoughtful. This was a side to the King he had not suspected, an unexpected side of the man beneath the crown. Here was a former Ranger desiring to escape the trappings of royalty and enjoy simple pleasures. Behind the King's glory, was a humble man and Faramir loved and admired the King all the more for it.
Written for BTME and now revised and reposted. Faramir and Aragorn do not become close friends until "Shadow and Thought" in my universe.