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A Time to Reap
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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9
Where streams of living water flow

These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

The King of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his,
and he is mine for ever.

Where streams of living water flow,
my ransomed soul he leadeth,
and where the verdant pastures grow,
with food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
but yet in love He sought me,
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home, rejoicing, brought me.

- Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877),

With grateful thanks to Raksha


~~~

Faramir stumbled slightly but managed to keep his eyes closed. ”Where are you leading me?” he asked, his voice sounding unusually lost and vulnerable.

“I have hold of you, we are almost there,” Aragorn reassured him, gripping his wrist more tightly. “I want to show you the City.”

“If we wanted to look at the City, we could have stayed there!” Faramir replied, now feeling more bemused than ever.

“All will be clear in a moment. You can look now!” Aragorn told his Steward.

Faramir opened his eyes and gasped. Spread out beneath him was the fairest view of the White City that he had ever seen. The August sunshine gilded The Tower of Ecthelion in light, the gleaming white circles of the City spreading out below. The city's splendour made Faramir’s heart leap in wonder, for it was like a vision of Gondolin of old. For a moment he was dumbstruck with awe.

“I thought the view from near Duilin of Morthond’s Hunting Lodge was spectacular, but this is better by far!” Faramir exclaimed, squeezing Aragorn’s fingers in gratitude before releasing the guiding hand.

“If you look to the east you can see Mordor, no longer veiled in darkness. Towards the west is the Vale of Anduin and beyond that the sea,” Aragorn told him, pointing out the places as he spoke. “I thought tomorrow we might follow the river for a while and perhaps swim again if the weather remains warm.”

“Whatever you wish,” Faramir said absently. He was still gazing awestruck at the clear sight of his home, so distant to his eyes yet so beloved to his heart.

“However did you learn of this place? I thought Boromir had shown me all the best places to view our home; yet he never brought me up here!

”I thought one as loyal to Gondor as you would treasure this sight!” Aragorn said quietly.

Faramir tensed slightly at the words and then felt a sudden thrill that Aragorn would speak of him as ‘loyal’ again.

The Steward contemplated his beloved City in silence for a few moments and blinked away a tear. ”Shall we go now?” he asked somewhat abruptly. Faramirwas baffled by Aragorn’s change of mood. He desired to leave while the King remained in a cordial humour.

“I hoped we could stay a while and talk,” Aragorn replied. He had moved away from the edge and now was now sprawled on the grass a few feet away. “Come, sit here beside me!”

Faramir rather reluctantly sat down. “We shared our thoughts last night. It seems we only cause each other pain. I do not understand why you have brought here. I thought you wanted to be alone.”

“I felt you would like to see the view,” Aragorn said simply. “What do you fear, Faramir? I would not harm you.”

Faramir stared at the ground. “You have never harmed me,” he replied somewhat evasively. “I believe I fear myself. Sometimes, I feel I that I have indeed lost my soul, just as you warned me,” he continued almost inaudibly.

“If your soul was lost indeed, your heart would not be so troubled,” the King replied.

“I committed deeds that I did not believe that I was capable of contemplating! I tortured you, killed in cold blood and even contemplated murdering an innocent child! I am shamed now, when you say that I am loyal to Gondor. I hardly know, even, why I acted as I did. Sometimes, I fear it was neither for you, nor even to the land I was born to serve. I know only that I had lost one father to a dreadful fate. I could not bear to lose another one who had become dearer to me by far.”

Aragorn reached out and fleetingly placed a hand on the troubled younger man’s shoulder. ”I hope we can use this time to seek healing,” he said gently. "We saw the pain in each other’s hearts last night. Our bodies have healed but our souls have not. Arwen saw it all too clearly.”

“Your lady has great wisdom,” Faramir replied. He turned his attention back to the view. “Did you discover this place when you served my grandfather as Captain Thorongil?” he asked.

Aragorn shook his head. “No, the first I knew of it was when Mithrandir led me here just over three years ago.”

“When you discovered the White Tree?” Faramir’s eyes were wide with wonder.

“That very day! You remember it too?”

“How could I ever forget? I made such a fool of myself barging into your rooms and accusing you of destroying Gondor’s heritage!”

Aragorn laughed. ”I was delighted to see you show some spirit! It showed just how much you loved this land. I think that was the first day I felt truly happy since I became King. The tree's existence was a sign that my beloved Arwen was coming, also that was the first day our minds touched. I would not lose what I gained then.” His tone became wistful as he stared at the gleaming towers and the sunlit Anduin Vale.

“Nor would I. “ Faramir’s tone was equally wistful. “Can I really see the sea over there?” he asked, changing the subject. The Steward craned his neck for a better look before getting to his feet and moving nearer to the edge.

“It is. Then, to the North, you can see Rauros. And if you look to the South, you see the river making its way to Pelagir.”

“If only my mother could have come up here, maybe she would have not pined so much for the sea!” Faramir said wistfully.

“Your father could not have known of this place. We are standing in a Hallow known only to the Kings of Old,” Aragorn said quietly.

“The Kings? You mean this is the Hallow, where you actually found the White Tree?” Faramir asked in awe. “I have no right to be here! You said I was not allowed to enter this place!” By now, he was utterly bewildered at Aragorn’s abrupt change of mind.

“Cannot the King decide who may or may not come here?” Aragorn replied in a tone both incalculable and remote. Reaching a decision, he then relaxed and smiled at his Steward. ”While I was praying, I had the feeling that you were meant to see this place,” he confided.

“You do me great honour, my lord.” Faramir almost unconsciously dipped his head as a mark of respect.

Aragorn suddenly grasped Faramir’s arm and slowly turned him to face the stony slope behind them. “The sapling stood up there, just below the snowline,” he said. “Would you like to climb up to see the exact spot?”

“Please!” With his deep love of his heritage, Faramir was determined to seize this unique opportunity to actually stand where the seedling of Nimloth had taken root and grown.

“We might have to help each other up the slope,” Aragorn warned, “It is very steep!” Despite his words, he started the incline with the agility of a deer, dislodging stones in his wake. Faramir followed more cautiously, needing a helping hand from his lord where the footing was at its most precarious.

“It was just there; you can still see the disturbed earth where I uprooted it,” the King said once they had finally reached the spot. “I have returned to give thanks, as once did my forefathers in this hallowed place.” He solemnly knelt on the ground and bowed his head before saying; “I give thanks to the One and to the Valar for delivering me from my captivity and restoring me to my family and to my throne.” He hesitated for a moment and then added, “I give thanks too, for the one who delivered me.” He turned and abruptly placed a hand on Faramir’s head, murmuring, “Be thou blessed!”

Faramir fell to his knees, overwhelmed. He reverently touched the soil and then looked upward to where the snow lay unmelted, sparkling in the sunlight. “It seems fitting somehow that it should be found here,” he said at last. “The White Tree, white as the snow. I will remember this day to tell of it to Elestelle. The tale will make a good bedtime story.”

“Maybe we will bring our children when they are old enough to understand,” Aragorn replied.

The Steward had spotted something out of the corner of his eye and started to climb up towards it.

“Faramir whatever are you doing?” Aragorn cried, “You are not a mountain goat!”

“I can hear water,” Faramir called, “Listen!” He climbed higher, disappearing behind a rocky crag.

“I can hear it now!” the King exclaimed and started to climb after him, his curiosity kindled.

“I have found it!” Faramir called joyously, “Look, a mountain stream, it must have nourished the seedling of Nimloth!”

For a moment, Aragorn was taken aback. Surely, he should have made this discovery, not his Steward? Then the voice came to him again in his head. ‘ Beware of pride! This was meant to be, remember to follow your heart!’ it counselled him.

“You must be the first person to discover its source! How strange that it is not frozen!” Aragorn exclaimed, allowing himself to be caught up in his Steward’s excitement. He patted Faramir’s shoulder, somewhat surprised at just how pleased he now felt on the younger man’s behalf. The King knelt beside the stream and cupped his hands. He scooped up the pure sparkling water, and drank deeply of it. “It tastes fresh and sweet,” he told Faramir. ”Drink, it will refresh you!”

“I am not worthy,” Faramir said doubtfully. "I am no king, nor would I be. My line has been tainted!”

“All the more reason you should drink deeply then,” Aragorn replied.

Faramir hesitated for a moment and then drank. “ How pure and clean it feels!” he exclaimed. ”It reminds me of the water in the Fountain. See how it sparkles in the sunlight!”

“The tree must feel at home in the City then,” Aragorn smiled.

“Like the tree, the spring lay hidden here; even as your people lay hidden in the North!” Faramir exclaimed.

“Shall we follow it to find its source?” Aragorn suggested, now as excited as his Steward.” I think we can climb higher if we help each other again.”

Faramir eagerly concurred.

The path ever more unsteady as King and Steward painstakingly followed the stream uphill, certain its source could not be far off.

The way became almost impassable. In places they were forced to climb over boulders and maintain a precarious foothold on near vertical slopes made slippery by the snow. Aragorn placed his foot on seemingly solid ground only to suddenly stumble and then slide forward on a thick stretch of ice hidden beneath the snow. Faramir caught his king just in time to stop Aragorn from falling.

“I thought I was about to fall over the edge there!” Aragorn exclaimed, gasping for breath. He had been mere inches from tumbling to almost certain death on the rocks below.

“I have you now. I would not let you go!” Faramir reassured him. The Steward’s face was white with fear. “Maybe we should go back?”

“No, not after we have come this far. You may think me fanciful, but I feel I am meant to find the source now,” Aragorn replied, gradually regaining his breath.

Fearful that Aragorn might stumble again, Faramir kept a tight grip on the older man’s arm. When they rounded the next bend, they both stopped in their tracks, astounded at the sight before them. They had reached a small but incredibly beautiful lake concealed between two high rocky ridges. Blue and white mountain blooms were scattered over the lush velvety grass carpeting the banks. The sun sparkled on the clear blue water, reflected from the overhead blue of the near cloudless sky. Awestruck, Aragorn sank to his knees on the verdant shores. Faramir sank down beside him. For a moment, they concentrated on regaining their breath.

Feeling oddly compelled, Aragorn then cupped his hands and drank the water. It tasted fresh and sweet, but unlike the stream, was not icy cold. The King swallowed deeply, feeling some mysterious force was renewing him. He realised the One had directed him to this place. “You should drink too,” he told Faramir.

“Maybe this lake is sacred to your line?” Faramir said doubtfully. “I have never seen anything quite like it before! Perhaps I should not touch it?”

Aragorn smiled at him. “If indeed it is sacred to Isildur’s line, then I may bid you drink!” He splashed his Steward playfully with the water. “There you have touched it, so you may drink!”

Faramir sipped the water. It tasted no different to him that that in the stream.

Aragorn suddenly pulled off his boots and was starting to unlace his tunic. “I feel I must bathe here! I feel the One calling to me!”

“But why? I thought you said I was washing too much! It is too cold up here!” Faramir protested.

“I have bathed in far colder waters in the North,” Aragorn said calmly throwing his tunic to one side and starting to unlace his shirt.

“You know nothing about this lake, it could conceal hidden dangers!” Faramir protested.

“This lake is hallowed, Faramir; nothing here could harm me. Eru has directed my footsteps to this place” Aragorn replied adding his shirt to the discarded tunic.

“You do not even have a towel to dry yourself with!” Faramir pointed out, alarmed at the goose flesh that was already forming on Aragorn’s bare back and arms. He was baffled that after yesterday’s insistence that Faramir grant the King privacy to bathe, Aragorn now seemed untroubled by his presence. Feeling uncomfortable, Faramir started to back away.

TBC

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