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Basically, it's a compressed, talky version of the stuff that I was thinking through with my Lothíriel fic all those years ago. This isn't that, I just got to thinking about it when I came across a random reference, and considering where my Lothíriel might have gotten all those seditious ideas from. :)

title: princes of the city
fanverse: canon, more or less

The Lady Ivriniel did not like the King. She did not pretend otherwise—to anything but grudging acknowledgment of his accomplishments, and would have considered it a deplorable weakness of character to let anyone think she approved of this upstart from the North. She only just refrained from muttering usurper under her breath every time his names were mentioned, and that—her kin suspected—sprang more from consideration for her sister-son than actual civility.

She said as much to her brother. “I would not trouble Faramir. He is delicate, you know.”

“He is nothing of the kind,” said the Prince of Dol Amroth. “He witnessed—”

“I am sure he was quite overset, after everything.” One careless gesture of her hand managed to encompass the entire battle of the Pelennor, the Steward’s madness and death, the management of the City and the overthrow of the Dark Lord. “He nearly died.”

“And he lives because the king healed him.

Lady Ivriniel pressed her lips together. “We are all grateful, I am sure—as we would be to any healer who saved a kinsman’s life. It happens quite often, after all. Such a demanding profession it must be!”

“No other healer could have saved his life, Ivriniel.”

“Perhaps so.” She snipped vengefully at a bush she was pruning. They were alone together in Finduilas’ gardens, carefully maintained in the years after her death. During the Steward’s first, most profound grief, it had been Ivriniel who took command of her sister’s garden and her sister’s sons, occupying all their minds with the care of the flowers and herbs that Finduilas had loved. Denethor had been grateful—he never again entered the gardens, but it pleased him, in his way, to know that they were as his wife had left them. Ivriniel had many greater duties in Minas Tirith, but she never neglected the gardens.

Right now, she knelt on the ground, her dark plait wound about her head, and her face and hands smeared with dirt. Prince Imrahil stood tall and straight beside her, his fine linen tunic spotless, and felt somehow less dignified than his sister. It was, he suspected, the fate of all younger brothers.

“Perhaps,” she said again. “They say he is a very great healer. It is a pity, then, that he should waste his abilities on governance, then—is it not?”

“He has a rightful claim, Ivriniel, and—”

“Bah! One rejected a thousand years ago,” said Ivriniel. “And the heirs of Isildur haven’t had a realm to call their own since Arvedui’s time. If our poor father could see us kneeling to a vagabond foreigner …” She clucked over the rosemary.

“Father would be considerably more distressed to see his daughter accused of treason,” Imrahil said bluntly. “Though perhaps not so much as Faramir would be to do the accusing.”

Ivriniel dropped her scissors. Without bothering to recover them, she lifted her head, pale eyes fixed on his face. “Treason! Nonsense. How much of the queen’s wine did you drink last night?”

“None,” said Imrahil. His mouth was set in grim lines. “Have a care, sister. Do you think anyone who doubted the legitimacy of Denethor’s rule as you have doubted Elessar’s would have found a comfortable home in the City? It would not have been tolerated for an instant, and he was not King.”

“As good as,” she muttered, turning back towards to the rosemary.

He seized her shoulder, more in anxiety than exasperation. “This is not a time for family loyalties to cloud your judgment. Yes, Denethor was as high and mighty as any king in any other land, but—he would have told you himself—not in Gondor. Whatever else he may have thought or done, Denethor would never have laid claim to all the rights and dignities of a King of Gondor. And he had nine hundred years of unquestioned authority behind him. Elessar is the first heir of Isildur to ever rule in Gondor, and aspires to more than the Húrinionath ever did. Do you not understand? Denethor did not have to care who he antagonized. Elessar’s position is very different.”

Ivriniel’s grey eyes widened a little, then narrowed in thought. Imrahil released his hold on her, took a breath.

“If your resentment, Ivriniel, planted any seeds in the minds of those who might actually turn against the King—well. We would hate to hear your name bandied about by such men.”

“I do not expect I would care for it myself,” Ivriniel said. She gathered up her scissors and studied the rosemary. “So you think it will happen?”

Imrahil blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“You would not be here, telling me to hold my tongue—and you eight years my junior!—if you did not have more serious fears. You think there will be a plot against the King’s life? That I might be named in it? Or take part in it?”

“Yes—yes—and no,” he said. “I did not question your character, Ivriniel, only your common sense.”

She sniffed. “You are hardly one to be speaking of that.—When?”

“Not now,” he said, more soberly. “Not this year, or next, with the last terrors and triumphs of the war still fresh in our memories, and easily called to mind. But it will happen. Perhaps there will be poor harvests—or a new, unpopular war—or a quarrel between a Dúnadan of Gondor and one of the North. Who knows? There is always something.”

“Faramir would not—”

“Faramir has bound his fortunes with the King, for good or ill,” said Imrahil. “And even today, I do not doubt that there are those who feel the loss of his dignities more than he does himself—who resent that he, who was to be Lord of the City, now bows to a man who never set foot in Gondor until he came to claim it.”

“Well, one could hardly feel it less than Faramir does,” Ivriniel said tartly, and returned to her pruning. “Although I would wager all of Belfalas that Elessar did come here before, under another name.”

Imrahil drew back, startled. “You are thinking of a particular name? Or—”

“Thorongil,” she said. “You were only a boy—you never met him. Did you even hear of him?”

“Of course I heard of Thorongil! The bards sang for months of his raid on Umbar!” For a moment, his voice was boyishly excited. Then, recovering his customary gravity, he said, “Thorongil was Aragorn?”

“I stayed with Finduilas all that year. I spoke to him thirty times if I did once.” Her lips tightened. “I knew King Elessar for Thorongil the moment I saw him. It was he who came to Gondor all those years ago and served Lord Ecthelion. He pretended to be a common sellsword, but anyone with eyes could see that he came of high Númenórean stock. He and Denethor might have been brothers. And Ecthelion loved him, above all others.”

Imrahil gave her a shrewd look. “Even Denethor?”

“Even Denethor,” said Ivriniel. “And nobody knew who Thorongil was, or whence he came—only that he was a Dúnadan beloved of the Steward, and looked like Denethor. Many thought he must be Ecthelion’s son in truth, a bastard honoured above the heir to the Stewardship. Lady Míriel never saw him without looking like she might murder him in his sleep.”

“I can imagine,” said Imrahil. It had been years since Imrahil encountered Denethor’s oldest sister, but he did not suppose that Lady Míriel was less proud and irascible now than he remembered her, or that she had ever been. “No doubt Aragorn—King Elessar—meant only to acquaint himself with his realm, and serve his people before ruling over us.”

Ivriniel shrugged. “No doubt. That did not make it any less unpleasant. Some even suggested that Boromir—well, they said many things. He changed our lives for the worse even then.”

“No doubt it was an awkward situation, but in a few years, Denethor was Lord of Gondor and Thorongil was gone,” said Imrahil. “And it is hardly a change for the worse! We are free from the threat of the Dark Lord, forever, when we would have all been slain or enslaved, and there will never again be such a war against such an enemy. Gondor is about to rise to greatness such as has not been seen for generations of Men—have you not seen it? Elessar shall restore all the glory, and majesty, and prosperity of the realms of Elendil, without diminishing the traditions of our day. Elendil’s steward was a chamberlain of no great birth, but our sister’s son leads the High Council and sits in the hall of the Kings! Do you think it was for nothing that Elessar returned the White Rod to Faramir and confirmed his station forever? From where do you think he means to rule?”

Ivriniel, visibly taken aback—as much by her brother’s enthusiasm as his conviction—said, “Minas Tirith, of course.” She paused to consider. “Well, perhaps he intends to rebuild Osgiliath. It is of no consequence to me.”

“It should be,” said Imrahil. “Have I not said that he intends to restore Elendil’s realm? The King’s heart lies with the North-kingdom, the land of his fathers. It is Annúminas that shall be rebuilt, and the seat of the Kings.”

“Annúminas!” Finally, Ivriniel rose to her feet, as outraged at the prospect of Elessar slighting Gondor as she had been at him claiming it. “There is nothing in Arnor but ruins and ghosts—and halflings, I suppose. Is Gondor to rot when he is done with us?”

Imrahil just looked at her. “Gondor has a Steward.”

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jun. 13th, 2013 11:20 am (UTC)
You know, I always find it rather amusing when, in fics, Denethor/Faramir supporters call Aragorn "usurper". For generations, the Stewards of Gondor ruled the kingdom in the name of a King they didn't believe existed anymore and wouldn't accept if he ever did return. They didn't make a play for the "rights and dignities of a King" (partly because it would not be tolerated it, I would think), but they didn't seem to have any qualms about claiming the authority.
elizabeth_hoot
Jun. 13th, 2013 04:21 pm (UTC)
Glad to amuse, I guess!

Given that the king in question undoubtedly did die and was the last of his house, they were hardly mistaken to think he no longer existed. I do think it's questionable to assume that they wouldn't have accepted a valid heir of Anárion; after all, Pelendur, the one who decided (with his Council) that the heirs of Isildur had no valid claim to the throne of Gondor, promptly did appoint an heir of Anárion. I doubt Mardil went down in history as 'the Faithful' and 'the Good Steward' because he was considered a usurper! Tolkien says in UT that it was the Stewards' right and obligation to rule with the authority of the king in his absence or during an interregnum.

In nearly a thousand years (longer than most official dynasties), I think they could easily have usurped the throne had they felt inclined.

(Aragorn is not actually a usurper, of course, with the previous decision re: the heirs of Isildur overruled by a sitting Steward, the support of the people of Gondor, and being a victorious captain in Gondor's wars. But I don't think it's at all unlikely that there would be nobles who would use the--actually existing--legal precedent as justification for their dislike of change and of being ruled by a non-Gondorian.)
(Anonymous)
Jun. 13th, 2013 07:32 pm (UTC)
"Given that the king in question undoubtedly did die and was the last of his house, they were hardly mistaken to think he no longer existed. I do think it's questionable to assume that they wouldn't have accepted a valid heir of Anárion;"

That was sort of my point. The Ruling Stewards ruled in place of the King, "until he shall return". Since the King is undoubtedly dead, he will never return. Since he has no heirs and since another heir of Anarion did not come forward then or for generations afterwards, I don't think it's questionable that the Stewards, claiming that they ruled only in the King's place, after a point in time did so safe in the knowledge that effectively they would rule Gondor till they died. Yes, perhaps they would accept a valid heir of Anarion. But how likely was it that a) there was an heir who had for some reason not appeared for centuries and b) that said heir could actually produce proof of his claim strong enough to convince Stewards who were probably very unwilling to be convinced?


" after all, Pelendur, the one who decided (with his Council) that the heirs of Isildur had no valid claim to the throne of Gondor, promptly did appoint an heir of Anárion... I doubt Mardil went down in history as 'the Faithful' and 'the Good Steward' because he was considered a usurper!"

Pelendur was not a Ruling Steward, Madril was the first of them; neither had not been born and bred expecting to rule Gondor all his life and then pass the office to his son. At the time Pelendur made his decision, the choice was between an heir of Isiuldur and an heir of Anarion. Faramir did not face the same choice; it was either an heir of Isiuldur or keeping the power (even if not the title of king) for himself.


Madril never had to make any definite choice, since the heirs of Isiuldur didn't press their claim again. I see no reason to doubt that he acted from the best of motives in maintaining the status quo (having the line of Stewards rule Gondor indefinitely); he had a kingdom without a king on his hands and an on-going war to fight, it was hardly the time for politicals upheavals. But at some point during the generations of Ruling Stewards, it must have occured to somebody that the authority of the Stewards was based on the (at best) faint hope or (at worst) improbable fiction that a valid heir of Anarion existed somewhere and would one day return. I wonder if this was ever addressed during those centuries.


And I do think it is obvious from Denethor's and Boromir's attitudes that the Ruling Stewards came to regard this situation as permanant and would react very badly to any attempt to challenge it. Their reaction to the thought that Aragorn might press his claim is telling: Aragorn is a stranger to Gondor, he has no power, no kingdom and no army. All they have to do to get rid of him is refuse his claim. Yes, the timing is very bad; they wouldn't want to be dealing with a claimant to the throne (and possible civil strife) with Sauron at their doors, but I always felt their anger had fear at its root. Aragorn has only to voice his claim and they would have been faced with the choice Faramir was eventually faced. And the frailty of the Stewards' right to rule would come into sharp focus: Who is this King in whose place they rule? Are we seriously expecting him (his heir) to return after 25 generations? If they are not prepared to accept Aragorn, whose ancestry as a decendent of Elendil at least is not disputed, who would they accept? After all, an interregnum is a period between one king and the next, not one king and forever.

I am not saying the Stewards were usurpers. But their right to rule was based in a combination of legal technicalities, long-standing tradition and practical expiediency, so their position is not so secure for them to scoff at Aragorn's claim, even granted that it is based partly in an obscure point of Numenorean law and partly in his semi-mystical Ellasar role and his war victories.






elizabeth_hoot
Jun. 14th, 2013 02:33 am (UTC)
I don't think it's questionable that the Stewards, claiming that they ruled only in the King's place, after a point in time did so safe in the knowledge that effectively they would rule Gondor till they died.

Okay? Yes, Mardil--the one who came to power when Eärnur disappeared--must have known that Eärnur wasn't coming back and he would be ruling in his place for the rest of his life. It was his duty to do so and, to go by his epithets, his assumption of power is in fact widely regarded as an act of faithfulness. And that's the only point I can think of where the actions of any Steward might have been considered a usurpation by Gondorians. The others simply inherited his established authority.

But how likely was it that a) there was an heir who had for some reason not appeared for centuries and b) that said heir could actually produce proof of his claim strong enough to convince Stewards who were probably very unwilling to be convinced?

It's canon that there weren't any valid heirs, thanks to the effects of the Kinstrife. So...?

Pelendur was not a Ruling Steward, Madril was the first of them; neither had not been born and bred expecting to rule Gondor all his life and then pass the office to his son.

Pelendur ruled between kings, as had become the obligation/right of any Steward, and it was with that authority that he led the Council wrt the heirs of Isildur. He's also the one who made the Stewardship a sort of sub-dynasty. I mentioned him because his tenure came when the Stewardship was gaining power, which culminated in Mardil--he could have tried for an actual usurpation, unwise as that would have been, but that is simply ... not what happened in the Stewards' history. There is no point at which they are seen to have taken power that could be regarded, by Gondorians, as rightfully belonging to someone else.

Madril never had to make any definite choice, since the heirs of Isiuldur didn't press their claim again.

They weren't really in a position to do so, tbh. The kingship in LOTR is a mix of special chosen-ness and actual political concerns and the homeless heir of a line whose claim has been formally and legally rejected could hardly just show up in Minas Tirith and expect to be taken seriously. It doesn't seem like Mardil, good steward that he was, even considered the heirs of Isildur.

But at some point during the generations of Ruling Stewards, it must have occured to somebody that the authority of the Stewards was based on the (at best) faint hope or (at worst) improbable fiction that a valid heir of Anarion existed somewhere and would one day return.

Personally, I can't imagine that Mardil himself didn't realize the ramifications. By the time it got to, idk, Denethor I, it wouldn't even be something to dwell on. Of course they all assumed their line would rule forever. Why not?



Edited at 2013-06-14 02:34 am (UTC)
elizabeth_hoot
Jun. 14th, 2013 02:33 am (UTC)
And I do think it is obvious from Denethor's and Boromir's attitudes that the Ruling Stewards came to regard this situation as permanant and would react very badly to any attempt to challenge it.

Well, yeah? Even Faramir wasn't especially enthusiastic about the idea. But after that long the entire question would be academic. The only controversy up to then was young Boromir thinking they should be kings and Denethor explaining why it would be inappropriate.

My point here is that the Stewards' rise to lordship over Gondor was not merely legal but obligatory--there was no controversy, no precedent to overturn, not even a dramatic change, since the position had gradually become more powerful, and it seems that Mardil was already the power behind the throne. And that would have been the Ruling Stewards' most vulnerable point. A millennium of competent, uninterrupted rule later, their position is virtually ironclad.

Their reaction to the thought that Aragorn might press his claim is telling: Aragorn is a stranger to Gondor, he has no power, no kingdom and no army.

Denethor's reaction is 'even if his identity could be verified, the heirs of Isildur have no rightful claim.' I don't see much that's telling about that; he's simply reiterating Pelendur's decision.

No, he doesn't want to give up the authority his family has held for nine centuries and he mostly doesn't want anything to change, but his fear is not that Aragorn will show up and make a claim. Denethor, with legal precedent on his side, can simply dismiss it. His fear is that Aragorn is winning allies and in league--as Denethor sees it--with Gandalf; he thinks Aragorn means to overthrow him.

Aragorn has only to voice his claim and they would have been faced with the choice Faramir was eventually faced.

But it wasn't even a choice for Faramir, since he'd already accepted Aragorn as the rightful king because of the mystical chosen stuff. Had Aragorn made his claim thirty years before, I don't think Denethor would have felt the slightest hesitation about rejecting it or that he would have suffered any particular consequences from doing so. It'd just be Arvedui and Pelendur all over again, only if Arvedui's position were much weaker and Pelendur's far stronger.

And the frailty of the Stewards' right to rule would come into sharp focus

I honestly doubt we are ever going to agree, since this is literally the exact opposite of how I see things: that the Stewards had every right to rule, that everyone always knew the "interregnum" was forever, that in the eyes of Gondor their position was extremely strong, and that the heirs of Isildur were very much the underdog and this is why Aragorn had to check every possible box to actually become King. A much less powerful Steward had already scoffed at the claims of a much more powerful heir of Isildur, and I don't see any reason to doubt that, in less favourable circumstances, they would do so again.
phyloxena
Jun. 13th, 2013 04:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you for posting this! I missed your Tolkien fanfiction a lot.
elizabeth_hoot
Jun. 13th, 2013 04:21 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! Thank you very much :)
bratfarrar
Jul. 27th, 2013 11:53 pm (UTC)
*sighs happily* I could read an entire novel based off this: Imrahil, politics, no bashing of either Aragorn or the line of stewards....

I love the succinctness of the last line--so much in so few words.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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