Isildur lay awake in his chamber, staring at the carved roof above. He heard the faint sounds of his father talking from down the corridor, mingled with the occasional rustle of bedclothes from his brother Anárion's room across the hallway. His heart had been heavy all evening, thinking of the words of his grandfather Amandil:
"Though the Two Trees be lost, still some shadow of their beauty remains on this earth. For it is told by the Eldar that Telperion was so dear to the Elves that Yavanna herself made for them a tree in its image, Galathilion of Tirion. Celeborn the Tree of Tol Eressëa is a scion of Galathilion, and thence Nimloth the Fair came to Númenor in the days of Elros Tar-Minyatur as a gift from the Eldar. Now Nimloth alone remains to us, for the Eldar no longer bless Númenor with their ships and the way west is ever closed to us."
Amandil had called Elendil, Isildur and Anárion to the hall that evening, having just received a coded message from a courtier in Armenelos. Though the Faithful were banished from the Court, Amandil received occasional messages from some nobles still sympathetic to the Faithful, keeping him informed of Sauron's schemes in advance. Many times fugitives from Sauron had escaped by ship to Middle Earth thanks to a warning from Amandil, choosing a life of exile in the Númenorean settlements to capture at the hands of the King's Men.
The message warned that the White Tree was in peril; Sauron was petitioning Ar-Pharazôn to cut down the Tree, already weakened by years of neglect. Pharazôn was wary about destroying the Tree utterly, for Tar-Palantir had prophecied that the Line of Kings was linked to the fate of the Tree, but he hated it nevertheless as a symbol of the Eldar and of Valinor. Amandil had watched with regret for years as the Tree was neglected, but he never thought the King reckless enough to knowingly doom the line of Kings. Tar-Palantir prophecied truly; not even Pharazôn could deny it, who otherwise hated his uncle, and that the King even considered harming the tree worried Amandil.
"The influence of Sauron over the King, growing for years, must be great indeed for the King to risk the survival of his line," warned Amandil. "These are dark days we come to, my son." Elendil and Amandil talked late into the night, and Isildur sat silent throughout, his heart heavy with concern over the fate of the Tree and the future of the Faithful.
Isildur had only seen the tree once, long ago, before the coming of Sauron to the Isle of Númenor. It was in the spring of his twenty-fifth year, when his grandfather Amandil took him to the Court of the King in Armenelos to be presented before Ar-Pharazôn. In those days Amandil and Pharazôn remained close, as they had been in their youth before Sauron came between them. Isildur remembered the day well - he was given an expensive new set of clothes by Elendil so he would be presentable before the King; finely worked and more opulent than he was used to. His neck chafed at the memory.
It was a warm day, more fit for summer than spring, and Armenelos seemed stifling without the sea breeze of Rómenna. Isildur melted in his formal clothes, the heavy material of his jerkin adhering to his chest, while a thin patina of sweat lined his brow.
Ar-Pharazôn was receiving a delegation from the Hyarnustar, leaving Isildur and Amandil to wait in an antechamber adjoining the Court of the King. Amandil's attention was quickly snared by his chamberlain, bringing a series of scrolls for the Lord of Andúnië to examine.
Isildur studied his grandfather, as he had not done since childhood, noticing as if for the first time the gentle creases around the mouth and eyes, the once-black hair now steely with flecks of gray. The grandfather of his childhood had shrunk; no longer the larger-than-life figure that drove Elendil to distraction by encouraging Isildur's wilder boyhood fancies. Amandil was now friend and confidante, though still commanding great respect and awe from Isildur, whose adult eyes noted the masterly way that Amandil handled both the rule of Andunie and the intrigues of the Council of the Sceptre.
A slight breeze stirred the air, the gust of cold cutting through the swelter of the room. It carried a fragrance with it, sweet, but with hints of spice; refreshing without being cloying. Isildur stood and walked out of the antechamber into the passageway beyond. The passage opened into a circular courtyard, fenced by high walls and ringed by a white stone colonnade save for two places; the passage entrance, and opposite the tall House of the King of Númenor. A banner emblazoned with the star of Eärendil hung limp from the rooftop. In the centre of the courtyard a fountain murmured into a pool, the gentle ripples lapping softly against the stone.
By the fountain grew the source of the smell; a Tree, tall and shapely, with slender branches bursting with rich greenery. The bark of the Tree was the white of the moon, seeming somewhat translucent, almost like living alabaster. Deep green fruits, still small, dotted the branches; their flesh encased in a waxy skin glistening with hints of silver. The remnant of winter flowers still clung to isolated branches; pure white blooms set into the foliage - like stars against a green sky. As Isildur watched, white petals drifted down from one flower to float idly on the pool.
Mail-clad guards lined the courtyard, wearing tall helms and long cloaks over deep blue tabards adorned with the Star of Eärendil. They carried long spears and Isildur saw they controlled the approach to the Tree and the House of the King. The nearest guards turned towards Isildur, their spears crossing to bar access to the courtyard.
"Halt!" challenged one guard. "It is not permitted to approach the Tree without the leave of the King. Speak your name and your business in the Court!"
"I am Isildur, son of Elendil, son of Amandil Lord of Andúnië," said Isildur. "I am to be presented to the King today, as I have reached my full age. I apologise for the intrusion - I smelt a sweet scent as I was waiting and I followed it here."
"The scent you smelt was that of the fruit of the White Tree, Nimloth the Fair" replied the guard. "You are indeed fortunate to smell it, Isildur son of Elendil, for the Tree is capricious and does not bloom every year. I must insist, however, that you return to your waiting room. The Tree is the Tree of Kings and its fate is tied to that of the Line of Kings. None are allowed to approach the tree unguarded, save only those the King permits."
Isildur backed away from the courtyard, his eyes fixed on the beauty of the Tree for as long as possible, until turning he made his way back to the antechamber, where his grandfather had progressed to another of the seemingly countless scrolls. The Tree-scent lingered in the air, and Isildur breathed it deeply, for it blunted the edge of boredom until the King finally rid himself of the Hyarnustar delegation.
Isildur's thoughts returned to the present, a warm smile on his face from the memory. He had not returned to the Court of the King since, for he seldom came to Armenelos; all affairs of Andúnië were the preserve of his father and grandfather. The growing prejudice against the Faithful amongst the royal court meant that Amandil and Elendil came less as the years passed, until with the coming of Sauron the Court of the King was forbidden to the Faithful. The memory of the beauty of Nimloth and its intoxicating smell stayed with Isildur from that day; a tangible link to the past - back to Tar-Aldarion who first received the tree in gift from the Eldar, and beyond to Telperion Eldest of Trees and the splendour of Valinor in the Elder Days.
He stared at the dark ceiling above, the fragrance of the Tree still vivid in memory despite the intervening years, and the words of his grandfather echoed in his mind. Surely the Tree can be saved - for it grows still in the Court of the King. If by the favour of the Valar Nimloth had born fruit despite the years of neglect - or saving that if a cutting could be made - could not the Tree be preserved, the Line of Telperion endure in mortal lands? He dared not say anything earlier, with his father and grandfather present, wary that his thoughts would be considered folly, but did not hope still remain, however dim? The Court of the King was guarded, true, but not by whole companies of soldiers. It lay deep within the palace, and though Sauron had the Tree watched night and day, the court was closed to all, and all entrances to the court were guarded more watchfully than the Tree itself.
Accessing the courtyard itself would be dangerous, especially as the Palace was forbidden to the Faithful. He would have to disguise himself - if he were recognized it would mean disaster for his grandfather - Sauron would finally have the influence he needed to turn Ar-Pharazôn completely against Amandil. The risks were great, but the need to save the Tree eclipsed any risks.
Isildur decided to leave for Armenelos immediately; every day wasted risked the destruction of the tree - and leaving in the night distanced his grandfather from Isildur's actions. "My grandfather will not be brought down by Sauron, not while I still draw breath" he resolved. "Nor will I allow Sauron the victory of eradicating the line of Telperion, the last remnant of the Bliss of the West."
The Faithful had been largely eradicated from the court of Armenelos, but Isildur knew that some in the court had kept their true allegiance secret, outwardly King's Men but sympathetic or even supportive of the faithful. From their meetings with his father and grandfather he knew of several nobles in the court who could be trusted; even the Queen, Tar-Míriel, was rumoured to be secretly of the Faithful. He would ride to Armenelos and find what tidings there were about Nimloth - and, without aid if need be, he would find a way to save the Tree.
He dressed quietly, donning a leather jerkin and breeches and covering himself with a thick woolen mantle, then stepped into the corridor. He crept past his brother Anárion's room, mindful of the slightest sound of alertness from within, and went through to the hall. The embers of the fire smouldered dull red in the hearth, reflecting along the length of Narsil where it hung behind his grandfather's chair. Isildur's gloved fingers closed lovingly over the pommel and he felt the allure of the blade beneath his hands, but he pulled back. His grandfather's sword was a priceless heirloom, wielded by the Lords of Andúnië since the time of Tar-Meneldur, who gave the blade in gift to his nephew Valandil, first Lord of Andúnië, and his grandfather's wrath would be terrible if the blade was lost. Narsil was also far too distinctive a weapon, well known as the blade of the Lord of Andúnië, and Amandil was banished from the Court of the King at Armenelos, as were all the Faithful.
Isildur's gaze lingered on the blade for a few more moments and then he turned and left the hall. In the arms-room he took one of the guard's swords, as using his own risked having it recognized, and securing the scabbard under his cloak he went outside to the stables. Eidal, his mare, whickered as he approached, and Isildur paused, hoping that the other horses would not make noise; he silently thanked the Valar as the peace of night returned. He risked lighting a candle to saddle Eidal, pausing frequently to listen for any movement inside, and, extinguishing the flame, he led Eidal out into the stable yard.
From Rómenna the chief wain-road of Númenor ran westward to Armenelos, but Isildur cut across the grassland to the north of the road; the King's Men maintained outposts along the road, and as the grandson of Amandil he was in danger of betrayal from an idle glance. The house of Amandil was to the north of Rómenna, and here such remnant of the Faithful that could be trusted found refuge from the King's Men. Once over the Ondosto road only grasslands and the occasional village remained until the walls of Armenelos were reached.
The rolling downs to the north slipped by, the almost-spent moonlight gleaming off Eidal's mane as the long grass rustled against her hooves. Ahead a faint torch-glow marked the direction of Armenelos, while to the south the dark line of the road was punctuated by dim watch-fires.
The wind whipped at his cloak and sent his hair streaming behind, and beneath him he felt the heat and power of Eidal as she galloped westward.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.