The White Tree
2. A Sign of Hope
Some of the dialogue is taken directly from Tolkien's "The Return of the King"
A Sign of Hope
Aragorn was engaged in a similar task in his own study, trying to concentrate on his work rather than the disquiet he felt that his Steward would not even take breakfast with him and the Hobbits.
However was he supposed to work with the man, if he showed such unease in his company? It was very obvious he had only left because Aragorn had arrived.
He could have ordered him to stay, but he would never gain the man's confidence if he abused his authority with him, as he suspected Denethor had done.
Denethor! He felt haunted by the man, as if he dogged his footsteps. Even this chair that he was forced to use at the moment had been the former Steward's.It was the most uncomfortable piece of furniture he had ever encountered, no wonder the man had been so ill tempered!
He remembered questioning Prince Imrahil concerning Faramir's past and his relationship with his father the day after he had saved Faramir's life.
The Prince told him that his nephew had been a competent and respected captain, well liked by his men; at ease with most he met and content enough, despite his father's obvious preference for Boromir. Events during the last weeks though, had pushed the young man to the very brink, which was hardly surprising.
Succumbing to the Black Breath followed by almost being burned alive by his own father would have surely driven a lesser man over the brink into madness. Aragorn strongly suspected that Faramir's legacy from his ordeal was a fear of authority figures such as himself.
Aragorn sighed, realising it might take months or even years before his Steward was truly at ease with him.He forced the matter from his mind as he tried to concentrate on his work.
Plans for rebuilding Minas Tirith, treaties with Harad, trade delegations, amendments to obscure laws and troop deployments. The workload seemed endless, seeing that he was expected to make a decision on each matter within a few days.
A single piece of parchment caught his eye amongst all the stacks of official documents. He picked it up and read, 'Meet me tonight in the courtyard, Gandalf.'
Aragorn smiled; amused that the Wizard was as enigmatic as ever! He would gladly meet him though, for any excuse to escape from these claustrophobic apartments was welcome.
Gandalf offered no explanation when they met at dusk. He merely greeted him and told him to saddle Roheryn as he had something to show him.
They rode out, Aragorn astride Roheryn, obediently following Shadowfax until they reached the foot of Mount Mindolluin, where Gandalf indicated they should dismount and leave the horses.
"Follow me!" said Gandalf, "There is a path here known only to the Kings of old."
"Why have you brought me here?" Aragorn queried, "It is always pleasant to ride out with you but what is it that you wish to show me?"
Gandalf's only answer an enigmatic smile.
Dawn was breaking as the two climbed up the steep path until they came to a high field below the snowline.
"Let us bide here a while," said Gandalf and they stood side by side, with Aragorn glad for a chance to catch his breath. Below them they could see Minas Tirith, gleaming in the morning sunlight and the Vale of Anduin. Mordor, no longer clothed in shadow was now clearly visible; and, on the far horizon, lay the sea.
And Gandalf said; "This is your realm, and the heart of the greater realm that shall be. For the time comes of the Dominion of Men, and the Elder kindred shall fade or depart. I shall go soon. The burden must lie now upon you and upon your kindred."
"I know it well, dear friend," said Aragorn sadly, as this reminder only emphasised his loneliness; "but I would still have your counsel." Gandalf could at times be infuriating, but how he would miss him!" But I shall die for I am a mortal man. And who then shall govern Gondor and look to this City as their Queen, if my desire is not granted? The tree in the Court of the Fountain is still withered and barren When shall I see a sign that it will ever be otherwise?"
At the moment his life felt as barren as the withered tree, alone in the stone prison of Minas Tirith with no prospect of a wife, a child or a friend to keep him company.
He felt like weeping at the emptiness of his life, for what was wealth and power without love? And how could he bear the heavy burden of Kingship with none beside him to lighten his load? Why had Gandalf brought him here? He knew what was required of him and would do it, without needing a Wizard to remind him! He blinked away a tear, not wanting to show any weakness in front of his mentor.
"Turn your face from the green world, and look where all seems barren and cold!" said Gandalf.
Shaken out of his reverie, he turned, for obedience to the Wizard was still second nature to him. Behind him was a stony slope, which stretched to the edge of the snowline .To his surprise; something seemed to be growing there!
A wave of excitement ran through him and he immediately started to climb the slope, his weariness and melancholy forgotten, when the realisation dawned of what it was that was growing there.
At the very edge of the snow a sturdy sapling of about three feet high was growing. Already it had put forth young leaves long and shapely, dark above and silver beneath, and upon its slender crown it bore a small cluster of white flowers.
Then Aragorn cried in awe; "I have found it! Here is a scion of the Eldest of Trees! But how comes it here?"
Gandalf climbed up behind him and looked at it, smiling "Who shall say how it comes here in the appointed hour? " he said, "But this is an ancient hallow and ere the kings failed or the tree withered in the court, a fruit must have been set here, the life within lain sleeping for many years. Here it has lain hidden in the mountain even as the race of Elendil lay hidden in the wastes of the North."
There were tears in Aragorn's eyes again, this time from joy, as he knew this was a sign from the Valar that Arwen would come and his line would flourish and blossom, if this sapling of the White Tree flourished once replanted.
He knelt and gently took hold of the young tree, which came away easily in his hand as it seemed only rooted lightly in the sparse earth.
"Let us take it back to the Citadel!" he said as he carefully prepared to carry it down the mountainside.
Gandalf took out his pipe for the return journey, "I have not seen you smoking recently," he commented.
Aragorn grinned, "I have given it up for Arwen's sake for she dislikes the smell of pipeweed. I dared to believe she would come, after Sauron fell, though my hopes were beginning to fade until today!"
"You will be a henpecked husband, King or no!" Gandalf snorted.
A few hours later, Aragorn entered the Court of the Fountain clutching the precious sapling and immediately gave orders that the old tree was to be dug up and reverently carried to the Rath Dínen.
The Guards looked somewhat taken aback, but obeyed without question, as they had become well schooled in obeying eccentric orders during the final years of Denethor's reign.
Aragorn then knelt on the ground and with his own hands prepared the ground. He carefully planted the sapling, much to the surprise of those watching.
Faramir had been working hard in his study for most of the day. His head now ached and the words on the endless pile of documents had started to swim before his eyes.
Deciding that some fresh air might benefit him, he strolled outside, only to encounter the Guards carrying the White Tree away. He rushed towards them.
"Stop! What are you doing and on whose orders?" he demanded.
"The King bade us dig it up and carry it with honour to the Rath Dinen, my lord." one of the men replied.
Faramir was outraged, though he was careful to conceal his anger from the Guards.
He had dreamed all his life of the return of the King and seeing the White Tree flourish again, but how could such a miracle occur if Aragorn had ordered the revered symbol of Gondor to be removed? The tree was a descendent of a seedling that Isildur himself had brought from Numenor and planted in the Courtyard.
Aragorn might be Isildur's heir but he had no right to uproot Minas Tirith's most enduring symbol, and he, Faramir was going to tell him so, whatever the consequences. How could anyone, especially the King he so admired, trample roughshod over their traditions?
If only he had been there, maybe he could have reasoned with Aragorn and told him how much the tree meant to him and his fellow citizens. Overcome with grief and rage, he went in search of the King.
Worn out after the day's exertions, Aragorn was lying sprawled on the couch in his apartments, when a loud knock disturbed him.
"Who is it?" he called, still unused to letting the servants deal with such matters.
"Lord Faramir, Steward of Gondor and I demand to see you, sire!"
Aragorn's eyebrows rose. Something must have greatly upset his usually mild mannered and reticent Steward to make him use such a tone. He knew Faramir to be a man of honour who would never agree with anything that violated his moral principles, but he was hardly oppressing the poor or ravishing the innocent maidens of Minas Tirith!
A servant appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.
"Shall I tell him, you are resting, my lord?"
"No, show him in, please, and then leave us."
"Very well, sire."
The servant opened the door and showed the outraged Steward in.
"How could you do it? It meant so much to us all! I know you are the King and come from the North,rather than Gondor, but I thought you would at least respect our heritage!"
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.