Choices

by Linaewen

What is to be done?

Strange folk my men and I have met here in the woods of Ithilien this day, unexpected travellers on a secret errand. Out of Imladris they come, and they leave me with a difficult decision to make. I am commanded by my father that all whom I find in this land without the leave of the Lord of Gondor are to be slain. Yet I hesitate; am I to slay two such little ones, who seem so harmless, so courteous? Still, it is the law, and my father's command...

Courteous they are, though they will not speak of their errand; Mablung and Damrod confirm their courtesy, at least, for they had long speech with the strangers, while the battle with the Southrons raged. And they know something, something that touches me closely, I deem...

I have a choice before me, now: I can slay them according to the law, or I can set aside my father's command and let them pass, these two travellers... three, if one takes into account that strange skulking creature, whom they claim is their guide. Travellers from the North, they claim to be... spies, perhaps? Not likely, not these two... And yet, they will not state their business. Do they serve the Dark Tower, or the White? Neither, was their answer, but that will not do; not in these doubtful days.

They spoke of him whom I sorely miss: my brother! They have seen him, been with him, befriended him! They knew his gear, knew of the dream, of his quest... Alas, my brother! If only...

No, now is not the time for regrets; rather, it is a time for decisions. A difficult decision, to be sure! What must I do with these travellers, who are now my guests for a time? My father will be displeased if I disobey his command...

This Halfling, now, the one called Frodo... he does not deny that he is the one named in the dream. It was at his coming that Isildur's Bane should waken. Yet he refuses to speak of it, what it might mean to Gondor, to my brother... to me. What concerns my brother concerns me, yet this small one keeps these matters hidden from me; he says his errand is such that he cannot reveal it, and assures me my brother knew full well what that errand was, and supported him. But he will not reveal what Isildur's Bane might be. I must know this, if I am to decide...

He says he must keep it hidden, because it does not belong to him; rather, it belongs to the leader of their company, this Aragorn. He claims this man to be the heir of Elendil and Isildur, and that is why this thing -- whatever it is -- belongs to him, by right. The heir of Isildur, alive! I cannot conceive of it!

A surprise -- nay! a shock it was to hear that this Aragorn is not only heir to the empty throne, but that he carries the Sword of Elendil as well! "Great tidings!" said my men; "The sword of Elendil comes to Minas Tirith!" Great tidings, indeed... or is it? He has not come, not yet; and as I told this Halfling, such a claim would have to be proved. And it must be proved, even though Frodo claims my brother is satisfied...

I cannot deny that this news has moved me; I do not know what to think! A King returning, with a sword out of legend? The Sword of Elendil would indeed be a help beyond hope in our great need... if such a thing could in truth return out of the shadows of the past...

And yet... it would change everything! What would my father say to this news, I wonder? I do not know what to think...

I cannot choose; I need to know more. If the dream speaks truly, then Doom is near at hand at the revealing of Isildur's Bane. What is this thing? More than a simple Orc-arrow, surely! Isildur was a mighty warrior, who fought the Dark Lord face to face, and brought about his downfall. Could it be some sort of heirloom of power and peril, which Isildur used against the Dark One, but himself felt its bite in the end? A mighty weapon of some kind, perhaps, that could give advantage in battle, if properly used? Now that would be news indeed to bring to my father! A chance encounter in the forest, and suddenly, in our hands, the weapon we need to defeat the Enemy and save our people!

But what would a Halfling be doing with such a weapon? I do not understand this! Why can I not decide what to do, I who am usually so resolute, and bold to act? Why this indecision? Doom is at hand; does it follow in the footsteps of this small one? If danger may come to my City because of what this Halfling carries, then should I not now slay him, and prevent this evil? Or should I take him before my father, ere he be allowed to continue on his way?

I cannot allow them to continue their journey, not if there is a chance of danger to Gondor; that I know, at least. At all costs, my people and my City must be protected; that is why such a command has been given. Yet I can no more slay these two, then I could slay a child who had wandered onto the battlefield! But... they know something... I must know what it is!

Alas for my brother! How I miss him! If only he were here, instead of me; he might know better what to do. But he is not here, and the choice is mine. Alas that he went on that errand! I should have been chosen, I put myself forward... I should have been given the errand, but Father refused me in the end.

"Your place is with your people, Boromir," Father had said, despite my arguments; "You are the heir and the Captain-General; I need you here, in Gondor. I cannot allow you to be wasted on a journey that may lead nowhere. You cannot leave your people. Your brother will go... it is his errand, his dream."

And so Faramir left me, and went away, and I have not seen him since...

And now I receive word of him, at last! He found his answers, but I am left with more questions. How can I choose? He is satisfied with the claim of this King out of the wild... but I know him not! What need has Gondor of a King now, who knows nothing of our need, of our long struggle?

And yet, Faramir is wise, he is a reader of men. His support of this supposed King and the errand of this small one should not be lightly set aside...

It comes back to this: what is to be done with these two Halflings, who have an errand they hide from me? An errand involving a mighty weapon that could mean the Doom of Minas Tirith...or, her saving? Could it be used against Sauron, I wonder? Why do they not speak plainly? Do they fear me? There is no need to fear me, I am a true man...

Ah, Faramir, my brother! Would it all be different if you were here in my place, and I there, in yours? What would you do now, if you were here? How would you decide concerning these two small ones? I wonder... you would choose mercy, I think, for you are always loath to kill unnecessarily; a fine quality in a man, but hard to sustain in these dark days. Would you set aside the law, and allow them to continue their journey? I wish I knew more of their errand; if I were there where you are, would I support this errand, as they claim you do? Will it help us here in Gondor, or will it be our doom?

I fear cannot allow this. I must choose for Gondor, for the White City; mercy is not an option if my people are in danger. The Halfling must tell me of his errand; he must speak of Isildur's Bane. When I know more of what this thing is that he carries, then I will decide.

Then I will make my choice...

-----------------------------------

Much of what is written here comes from TTT, specifically the chapters "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit" and "The Window on the West." With a few significant changes...

I have been wondering, of late, about the possibility that things might have gone differently -- better, even -- if Faramir had been allowed to follow his dream -- if he had gone on the Quest instead of Boromir. But would it have been better, in the end?

Better, perhaps, because Faramir might not have fallen to the Ring as, Boromir did; better, because he might have understood better the history behind Aragorn's claim, and accepted it; better, because he knew Gandalf well, and might have trusted him to lead them well -- all of which would have made for different dynamics within the Company.

I find myself wondering: what might Boromir have been doing if Faramir had gone in his stead? He would most likely have been at the forefront of the battle in Gondor, fulfilling his duties as Captain General. Is it not conceivable that he might then have been at Henneth Annun, leading the skirmish against the Haradrim marching to join Sauron's army? And if he had met Frodo, Sam, and Gollum in Ithilien, instead of Faramir, might things have turned out differently?

How might the Quest have fared if Frodo had met Boromir, and not Faramir, that day in Ithilien?

Just wondering...