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A Man Apart

These characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate.This story has been written for pleasure and no profit has been or will be made from it.

The White Tree

A Story for Midsummer

The idea for this story came from the fact that Aragorn was uncertain that Arwen would come, as he says to Gandalf "And who then shall govern Gondor and look to this City as their Queen, if my desire is not granted? "

A Man apart


~~~



He feared now that Arwen would not come. Her father must have persuaded her to change her mind. The sacrifice would be just too great to be separated from her family until the ending of the world and maybe for all eternity.

Aragorn sighed deeply, as he tried to get comfortable in the huge bed in the centre of his gloomy stone walled chamber, which could easily accommodate six people.

Several weeks had passed since his coronation, and there was still no word from his beloved. He had cherished high hopes to begin with for had she not sent a message with her brothers together with the banner she had made for him? Knowing her faith in him had given him heart when he took the fearsome Paths of the Dead.

Rivendell was a long way away, and news took time to travel, but always he had felt there would be a sign if his hopes were about to be fulfilled. So far there was none.

The Council had already questioned him about taking a wife, for as the last of his line, if he were to die without an heir; Gondor would be left forever without a King.

He supposed he could marry some lady of noble blood, lie with her until a child was conceived and from then on live separate lives, but how could he endure such a loveless union or ask such a thing of any woman?

Arranged marriages were common enough amongst the nobility but he could not bring himself to engage in the intimacies of marriage without love. Arwen was the only woman he had ever been in love with.

He had loved her now for almost seventy years and could not imagine marrying any other, so great was their bond. She was his soul mate, his inspiration and the driving force behind his decision to take up his inheritance.

Deep in his heart, he believed she would keep her pledge, yet still he feared the influence of her father who had always emphasised the shortness and bitterness of mortal life.

Yet from his own experiences, he knew the shortness only made one cherish each moment more. He knew also that there was more than memory beyond the circles of Arda. When badly wounded, he had travelled beyond them briefly and knew now all his lost loved ones would be there when his time came to depart. It was something to embrace when the right time came, rather than to fear.

It would be different for Arwen though, as neither in this life or the next, while the world endured, would she see her kindred again if she chose mortality.

Aragorn sighed and tried to push such gloomy thoughts from his mind. He was King now and ought to be happy, but in reality, he felt trapped, despondent and alone.

He still grieved for the fallen and the horrors of the war lay heavily upon him. Life as a Ranger had been brutally hard, but at least he had not been enclosed in walls of stone and could see the stars twinkling overhead.

His new, but already close friend, Éomer and his foster brothers had departed to Rohan a week after his coronation and how he missed them.

If Elladan and Elrohir had still been here, he could at least have asked them to share this vast room with him and keep him company,or even Éomer.They could have spent their time discussing the burdens of kingship when sleep was slow to come.

How different it would be were Arwen at his side!

At least Gandalf and the Hobbits were still in Minas Tirith for the time being, as he had asked them to stay awhile, although Gandalf alone knew the true reason, for were his hopes fulfilled, he would like his friends to be present at his marriage.

They at least treated him as a human being rather than a terrifying figure out of legend unlike most of his new subjects, who were so in awe of him that normal conversation was impossible.

Only Merry and Pippin made cheerful companions. Frodo and Sam were still recovering from their ordeal in Mordor and his relationship with Gandalf was undergoing a change from that of master and pupil into something more equal, which neither yet were quite certain of.

He still grieved deeply for Halbarad, his kinsman and close companion. Had he lived, he would have liked to appoint him as his Northern Steward, to hold Arnor for him, while at the same time spending time with him when their duties permitted.

Then there was his Steward here in Gondor, Faramir son of Denethor. He found the man an enigma and was troubled by him.

He could have sworn he had seen love and respect in the grey eyes, so like his own, yet Faramir shunned his company and seemed to go to great lengths to avoid him.

He instinctively liked the man, sensing a kindred spirit in him and would have greatly welcomed his friendship. It seemed however, that either Faramir resented him or was terrified of him; most likely the latter, though he had tried very hard to put him at his ease.

He tossed and turned restlessly, strange that it should be so much harder to fall asleep in a feather bed than under a hedge! Not that dealing with endless stacks of paperwork felt any less tiring than tramping through the countryside. He had formed a decided opinion that it was far worse!

Eventually weariness overcame him and he fell into an uneasy sleep. He dreamed of the White Tree lifeless and barren, followed by a nightmare in which he was wandering through a fog trying to find someone, but everyone he met, ran away from him in terror.

****

The next morning, desperate for some fresh air, Aragorn went out early into the gardens He heard voices and saw that Merry and Pippin were sitting on a bench absorbed in an animated conversation with his Steward, Faramir.

They were so engrossed in lively debate that they failed to notice his approach. He stood for a few moments observing them.

Merry and Pippin were obviously well recovered from their ordeal during the Ring War. They talked and laughed, as if they had not a care in the world. Both now moved so easily, only a very well trained eye, like Aragorn’s, would be aware that they were still recovering from their wounds and that Pippin, especially, still suffered some pain at times.

Faramir, although he seemed to be enjoying the conversation, had a haunted air about him and moved his injured shoulder very stiffly.

Not wanting to inadvertently spy upon them, Aragorn came forward.

“Strider!” Merry cried, grasping his arm warmly,“how good to see you!”

“Come and sit down!” said Pippin, taking his other arm and sitting him down between them. “I am not on duty today, so am planning to enjoy myself! We have asked for breakfast to be brought out here, so do join us, please!”

Faramir leapt to his feet and bowed deeply. His reaction to the Hobbits’ behaviour was unreadable. It could have been anything from shocked disapproval to painful envy of their free and easy demeanour with the King.

“Sit down, Faramir, I have told you there is no need to bow except on formal occasions!” The humour in Aragorn’s voice took away the sting from the mild rebuke.

“Permit me to take my leave, sire, if you would excuse me?”

“I thought you were about to have breakfast with the Hobbits?” Aragorn looked hurt.

“I have much work to attend to, my lord.” Faramir replied, gazing fixedly at the ground.

“Very well, I will not detain you,” Aragorn conceded, “How are your wounds today?”

“They are healing well, sire.” Faramir blanched at the mention,” Now if my lord will excuse me?”

Aragorn nodded as Faramir bowed again and left.

“I fear he does not like me.” Aragorn sighed.

Pippin shook his curly head vigorously, ”Oh, no, you are wrong there, he adores you!”

“He worships the very ground you walk on!” Merry added, “He is just very shy.”

“His father was unkind to him so that makes him nervous.” Pippin added sagely.

“He does not seem shy with you two.” Aragorn said wryly.

“We are not the King!” Merry and Pippin chorused in unison.

Aragorn groaned; that seemed to be the root of all his problems.

“Cheer up, Strider!” Merry coaxed, “They are bringing the breakfast!”

“You haven’t asked me if my wounds are healing!” Pippin pouted in mock indignation.

“Because I know they are. If I ask, you will say your shoulder aches, as an excuse for some more Elven massage, which you can have later if you want!” Aragorn replied, his spirits rising, that at least to the Hobbits, he was still the same old Strider.

Pippin had the grace to blush slightly that Aragorn could see through him so easily.

****

From the open window in his room, Faramir could see and hear everything in the gardens below. His heart was breaking as he recalled how he would sit on the same bench with Boromir.

Why could he not be more at ease with the King? He could have been eating breakfast with him now instead of alone in his room? How he envied the Halflings for their free and easy manner with the man he admired so much! He saw one of them hug the King and Aragorn return the gesture, though admittedly it was as easy to show affection to Halflings, as it was to children.

The King was obviously a warm and affectionate man, as he had already demonstrated with Faramir. How he craved a kindly touch from him and yet was almost paralysed with fear when any was offered. Always, he could hear his father’s voice in his head, ‘Hurins do not engage in weak and unseemly shows of emotion, you will bow to me boy!’ That was when he was seven years old and had tried to hug his father on his birthday. The memory of being pushed away still hurt him.

He had no idea how to please the King, which unsettled him greatly. At least with his father, he knew he must bow to him and kiss his ring. Yet, Aragorn had expressly forbidden him to do both those things. He found it hard to remember and supposed his lord must be becoming impatient with such a fool and wondered what the penalty would be. He knew the King had treated him kindly thus far but his patience could not be infinite!

Sighing, he began work on the mountain of documents, which seemed to have materialised overnight.

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