The four hobbits sat by the new White Tree. The afternoon sun was bright, the air cleansed by a light breeze drifting down the mountain’s shoulder. The hobbits chattered merrily among themselves.
Faramir prepared to hail them when he heard his own name arise in their conversation.
"You’ve told me about Boromir‘s fall, and I know he was laid to rest in the elven-boat," Frodo said; "But what happened to Captain Faramir’s father, the Steward Denethor?"
Pippin’s usually cheery voice quieted as he answered. Standing inside the White Tower‘s entrance, Faramir clenched his fists. He should be accustomed to the tale by now, and to the exclamations, the comfort, that inevitably followed. Yet the thought of seeing pity in the eyes of Frodo and Samwise suddenly stung him as sharply as an arrow. His brother had attacked the Ringbearer. Their father had succumbed to despair and huddled in this same tower while the City burned and its people needed their Steward, and then…It still hurt to think on it, so he stopped. But if he was tainted by the madness of his brother and father, was he fit to join the company of heroes before him? Was he fit to steward the realm of this new-found White Tree and its new-made King?
"Poor Mr. Pippin, you had a dreadful time of it," Samwise replied. "But you were brave. I’m sure that Boromir would have been proud of you. As for the Lord Denethor…" The hobbit paused, then cupped some soil from the Tree’s bed in his hand. "A tree is more than its roots, you know. A proper tree comes from the right soil, and sunshine and rain, as well as strong roots. And if some nasty blight damages roots that were once good, young trees can be uprooted and planted in new soil, like this ’un here." He poured the dirt from his hand back onto the ground, patted it down, and looked up at the White Tree.
Faramir remembered the weariness on his father’s harsh face when last they spoke. He thought of the forests of Ithilien, the land that was now his princedom. Squaring his shoulders, he strode out to meet his four small friends.
Samwise looked up as Faramir approached, and spoke again: "Quality can’t be hidden, not in trees, nor in men."
"Nor in hobbits, Master Samwise," Faramir answered warmly as he joined them.