Written for Elena Tiriel's birthday. Thanks as always to RiverOtter for the beta.
The King rode alongside his friend and Steward down the great Road, and had to smile as he saw the verdant forest give way to yet another village’s farmlands. He saw fields of grain, a rich vineyard on a south-facing slope where already great bunches of grapes fattened on the vines, and an orchard of peach trees.
At a nod between the two Men they pulled to a halt and alit from their mounts, and approached the orchard together.
The orchardist who came to greet them had a face marred with a great scar from where he’d been caught by an orc’s scimitar in the battle fought before the Black Gate. Once he’d been a Ranger of Ithilien; now he cared for its land in another way. His expression brightened as he recognized his former captain and his King. “My lords! It is an honor! Welcome to the restored village of Dűnsmir! Oh, but my wife will rejoice to offer you some of the fruits we preserved from last year!”
Aragorn was pleased to accept slices of thick bread spread with sweet peach preserves, and ate them as he wandered through the grove of trees with his fellow former Rangers, pleased to hear talk of how the trees and their fruit were protected from the predations of deer and rabbits and the danger of late frosts. He could almost be walking through similar orchards far to the north, near the villages he and his own Rangers had protected for so long, only there the trees would have produced apples and cherries.
He paused, smelling the rich scent of ripening fruit and contented trees, hearing in the distance the singing of one working amongst the vines. He saw, lying between the nearby eaves of the orchard and the slopes of the vineyard, the ruins of an ancient granary. Not far from it the new winepress had been erected.
As was true in Arnor as well, from the land long scarred by the Enemy’s assaults new settlements were rising. And the King rejoiced that the former Ranger so engaged in earnest discourse with the Prince of Ithilien had found it worthwhile to trade his sword and bow for pruning hooks and bushel baskets.
Men and land might be scarred, but it did not stay them from being fruitful once more, he thought as he watched the man’s children come forth to delight in the company at their father’s side.