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A Time to Reap
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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20
Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go

These Characters are the property of the Estate of J. R. R Tolkien and New Line Cinema. This story has been written for pleasure and no profit has or will be made from it.

With grateful thanks to Raksha.


Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go - Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase. The Bible – Proverbs 13.11

The first product of self-knowledge is humility - Flannery O’Connor


~~~

As the stars winked and danced in cloudless clarity far above them, Aragorn and Faramir slept the sound sleep of untroubled conscience. After another day of resting and Aragorn’s treatments, Faramir was almost recovered from the effects of the spider’s venom.

They awoke soon after sunrise and quickly breakfasted on a rather unappetising meal of porridge.

At the far side of the field adjoining their campsite, several men had already begun to work the furrows of corn.

“We had better join them,” said Aragorn as he helped Faramir fill their water bottles. ”We will just take our packs and our weapons with us. Our horses and camping equipment should be safe enough here, while we work.”

“Are you certain that this course of action is wise?” Faramir queried. “Could we not simply pay for the crops we ruined?”

“I gave my word,” the King replied. “In truth, I am quite looking forward to the new experience.”

The two friends crossed the field trying to appear more confident than they felt. All eyes were upon them as Aragorn spoke. “My son is now well on the road to recovery, so we have come to help you harvest your crops as I said we would.”

“So you have decided to turn up at last!” the farmer replied sceptically. “About time too! Half the morning has gone. You City-folk seem to think the day begins at noon. My name is Beleg and these are my sons Pelendur and Galador.”

Aragorn and Faramir inclined their heads and greeted the two young men courteously, introducing themselves as Morrandir and Falborn. ”What would you have us do to aid you?” Aragorn asked. He placed his pack and his sword at the edge of the field and slung his water bottle over his shoulder.

“You can help me with the reaping and clearing up all the damage you caused,” Beleg replied, “Your son can tie up the sheaves since you say his health is frail.” He handed Aragorn a sickle.

Aragorn eyed the sickle doubtfully. He would have discreetly asked Faramir what he should do with the thing, but his friend was already listening intently to Galador's instruction.

The King tried making a few swipes with the sickle, slicing the wheat with what he assumed was a proper cutting motion.

“No, you dolt; hold it like this with both hands!” Beleg exclaimed, showing him what to do. “It isn’t a sword!”

The King’s cheeks burned. How he yearned to put this impudent fellow in his place by revealing his true rank. But he could not let Faramir be shamed by revealing their true identities. If it were to be known that the Steward of Gondor had run naked through a cornfield, apparently drunk and damaging the livelihood of honest farmers, Faramir’s reputation would be ruined. Aragorn bit back a sharp retort. Taking up the sickle again as Beleg had shown him; he tried again to cut the wheat.

“No, no!” the farmer groaned, “You don’t cut wheat like you cut grass! You work around the field, not from side to side! Why must the Valar inflict such trials upon me as to take two of my best men and send me the likes of you in their place!”

Aragorn reminded himself that to the farmer, he was no more than an inexperienced farm hand. In his long life, he had veiled his true self many times to take orders, and even harsh words from lesser men. This was no worse than helping to sweep out Butterbur's stables when he was short of coin: even if the beer was unlikely to be as good as even the Prancing Pony's cheapest stock.

Under Beleg’s watchful eye, Aragorn gradually improved the performance of his task: Lift, bend and cut, lift bend and cut. The wheat was then left to be gathered and bound into sheaves. After a few hours, the King’s arms, back and shoulders throbbed painfully with the unaccustomed strain imposed by these particular exertions. Aragorn was thankful that Faramir was not reaping as he dreaded the damage this work could cause to his Steward's already weakened back.

The morning wore on and grew no cooler. As the sun rose higher the heat became well nigh unbearable. Aragorn took frequent draughts of water and shed his outer tunic, working only in his thin shirt and breeches. The farmer and his sons had soon shed both tunics and shirts to reveal bronzed, weather-beaten skin and gnarled muscles.

Aragorn paused for a moment to wipe his sweaty brow. He took a swig from his water bottle.

“You look hot,” said Beleg. “Why don’t you take your shirt off?”

“It is not the custom where I dwell,” Aragorn replied. “We never remove our shirts in public.”

“Fancy City ways don’t apply here,” Beleg snorted. “Take it off, and never mind your fine airs and graces. This is not Minas Tirith! What have you to hide?”

Aragorn shuddered inwardly, wishing the farmer would leave him alone. Even if he were inclined to remove his shirt, he dared not reveal the mark on his shoulder. They would all know that it was a cattle brand, rather than a slave mark borne by some former captives of Corsairs or Haradrim. He did not dare to even loosen the laces of his shirt, lest the scar be visible.

Pelendur joined them, obviously having overheard the conversation. “His son is just like him!” he chucked, gesturing towards Faramir. “It seems that they live very differently in the City!” The young man was obviously a veteran of many battles, his upper body being disfigured by a variety of long healed scars.

“Go and work in the shade, Morrandir!” Beleg said more kindly. “Even I feel the heat today.” The sweat plastered the farmer's grey hair to his forehead, and trickled in rivulets down his broad, bare chest. These yeomen of Lossarnach seemed more akin to the Rohirrim than to men of Númenorean lineage. They had shorter, stockier bodies, and more florid colouring, than the remaining sons of Westernesse.

After another hour or so passed, two women came into the field, one bearing a basket and the other carrying a tray with mugs of ale.

Beleg called a halt to the morning’s labour and the men convened in a shady corner of the field. “My wife, Tasariel, and daughter in law Emerwen,” Beleg said by way of introduction, while the mugs were handed round and the provisions in the basket shared out amongst the workers. The women had brought oven-fresh bread, cheese, cold meat and apples, a hearty repast for all the workers.

“These are our new hands, Morrandir and his son Falborn,” Beleg told his wife.

Aragorn and Faramir politely inclined their heads. Aragorn recognised Tasariel as one of the women he had seen the other night.

“So, I see you have returned, Master Morrandir, with your son,” Tasariel exclaimed, her dark eyes twinkling. “I hardly recognised him with his clothes on! A handsome young fellow, even when fully covered!"

Faramir blushed scarlet. Aragorn patted his shoulder reassuringly while Tasariel whispered in her daughter in law’s ear. Both women then studied them intently and giggled.

“I would know you were father and son without being told!” Emerwen exclaimed.

”You are even more alike than Beleg and my lads here,” Tasariel added.

Faramir flushed again, this time with pleasure. Nothing pleased him more that to be told he resembled the King, who had indeed become as a father to him.

“They speak very differently from one another, though,” said Galador somewhat suspiciously.

“That is because I was born in the North and spent many years there, while my son was born in Minas Tirith,” Aragorn answered truthfully between mouthfuls of the thick, crusty bread. He had not realized how hungry he was until the food was actually put before him. The strong goat's cheese was as tasty as he remembered from his travels through Gondor as Thorongil.

“What is it like in the North?” Emerwen asked, settling herself rather awkwardly on the grass. From the shape of her swollen belly, it was plain to Aragorn that she was about six months gone with child. Unlike the women of the City, no one seemed inclined to make allowances for her condition, nor did she seem in the least concerned by the company of three bare-chested men, only one of whom was her husband.

“It is beautiful; rugged in places and very lush and green in others, and the air is cooler than down here.” Aragorn told her.

“That sounds wonderful!” Emerwen exclaimed, stretching out languidly. Aragorn and Faramir did their best to avert their eyes, since the crumpled linen shift that was apparently her only garment, revealed far more of her ample curves than it concealed. The young woman was comely, dark-eyed with tanned cheeks and a freckled, pretty face, but could offer no temptation to the faithful husbands of the Evenstar and the White Lady.

“We cannot grow as many crops as you can plant here and the winters are much more severe. It is often so cold that the lakes and rivers freeze over.” Aragorn continued. “I should like to take my son there and teach him to skate one day.”

Faramir found himself grinning at the prospect.

“What is skating?” Beleg asked.

“It is a method of travelling across frozen water,” Aragorn struggled to find the right words to explain.

“Foolishness! You would fall in and drown!” Pelendur scoffed before biting loudly into an apple.

“Not if the ice is thick enough to bear your weight,” Aragorn replied. “We wear special boots with blades on them, which allows us to glide across the ice." His audience merely looked either sceptical or bewildered.

“Eat up quickly, we need to get back to work if the wheat is to be gathered in time for the harvest celebrations!” Beleg ordered.

They ate in silence for a few moments, Aragorn grateful not to have to try to explain further an activity, which he realised, must seem beyond reason to these people.

“How are you faring?” he quietly asked Faramir.

“Well enough. Binding the sheaves is somewhat tedious, but not especially hard labour, unlike what you are doing,” the Steward replied.

“What happened to the men you lost?” Aragorn enquired of Beleg.

“They were working over there by the river,” the farmer gestured towards it. “They were hale and strong when they ate their midday meal, but only an hour or so later we found them dead. Their hearts must have just stopped beating in the hot sun. 'Twas a grievous blow indeed. If the harvest is not brought in time, we go hungry.”

“You could always send to Minas Tirith for help,” said Faramir. ”The King would not let you starve.”

“I’ve heard the King is a good man,” said Beleg. “But what would he want to do with the likes of us?”

“You are his people,” said Aragorn trying to keep his features devoid of expression. “And the King cares for all the folk of his lands.”

“You've met the King?” Tasariel enquired.

“I have met him, as has my son,” Aragorn said solemnly.

“So what is he like?” the woman pressed.

“Tall, dark haired, and skilled with the sword, though he prefers words to warfare. He tries to rule his people justly,” Aragorn answered gravely.

“But is he handsome?” Emerwen asked.

“You would have to ask the Queen her opinion of such matters.” Aragorn was finding this conversation even harder than trying to explain ice-skating. He looked desperately at Faramir.

The Steward was trying to suppress his laughter and almost choked on the apple he was chewing. Aragorn slapped him on the back.

“I can just imagine what the King must be doing now,” declared Emmerwen. “He must be sitting on his golden throne relaxing on purple cushions, while his servants stand on either side fanning him to keep him cool; so he won’t get all hot and sweaty and spoil his royal robes!”

“I doubt he ever feels hot or sweaty,” said Pelendur. “The King probably bathes in a vast tub of cool water whenever he wants and has beautiful serving maids to scrub his back and provide for his every need!” He licked his lips as he spoke. “We should be so lucky after a long day's work!”

“Pelendur!” his young wife chided.

“The King would never behave in such a fashion!” said Aragorn indignantly.

Faramir buried his face in his hands, unable to contain his mirth any longer.

“How would you know?” Pelendur demanded.

“I um, know a serving maid at the Citadel and she has never been asked to scrub the King’s back,” Aragorn said firmly.

“The King and Queen uphold the highest standards of dignity and fidelity,” Faramir announced primly, blushing now that the full implications of Pelendur’s words had sunk in.

“Back to work now!” Beleg ordered. “Anyone would think you were born of the King's house yourselves, the way you sit around doing nothing!”

“The King works very hard!” Faramir protested indignantly, rising to his feet. “He has to rule two realms and care for all his people!”

“That sounds easy compared with harvesting!” Beleg retorted.

By now, Aragorn was so stiff and sore that he could hardly totter to his feet. “I think it may well be!” he said grimly.

They laboured hard all afternoon, taking only a further short break for refreshments, then continued working until the sun sank low on the horizon in a flaming red ball.

Just as Aragorn felt his back was breaking from being bent almost double and his arms would surely refuse to obey him any longer, Beleg finally called a halt for the night.

“The women will have prepared an evening meal for us in the village and you are welcome to come,” he told Aragorn and Faramir, though his sour expression indicated that he did not think they had earned a free repast.

Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase. The Bible – Proverbs 13.11

The first product of self-knowledge is humility - Flannery O’Connor

As the stars winked and danced in cloudless clarity far above them, Aragorn and Faramir slept the sound sleep of untroubled conscience. After another day of resting and Aragorn’s treatments, Faramir was almost recovered from the effects of the spider’s venom.

They awoke soon after sunrise and quickly breakfasted on a rather unappetising meal of porridge.

At the far side of the field adjoining their campsite, several men had already begun to work the furrows of corn.

“We had better join them,” said Aragorn as he helped Faramir fill their water bottles. ”We will just take our packs and our weapons with us. Our horses and camping equipment should be safe enough here, while we work.”

“Are you certain that this course of action is wise?” Faramir queried. “Could we not simply pay for the crops we ruined?”

“I gave my word,” the King replied. “In truth, I am quite looking forward to the new experience.”

The two friends crossed the field trying to appear more confident than they felt. All eyes were upon them as Aragorn spoke. “My son is now well on the road to recovery, so we have come to help you harvest your crops as I said we would.”

“So you have decided to turn up at last!” the farmer replied sceptically. “About time too! Half the morning has gone. You City-folk seem to think the day begins at noon. My name is Beleg and these are my sons Pelendur and Galador.”

Aragorn and Faramir inclined their heads and greeted the two young men courteously, introducing themselves as Morrandir and Falborn. ”What would you have us do to aid you?” Aragorn asked. He placed his pack and his sword at the edge of the field and slung his water bottle over his shoulder.

“You can help me with the reaping and clearing up all the damage you caused,” Beleg replied, “Your son can tie up the sheaves since you say his health is frail.” He handed Aragorn a sickle.

Aragorn eyed the sickle doubtfully. He would have discreetly asked Faramir what he should do with the thing, but his friend was already listening intently to Galador's instruction.

The King tried making a few swipes with the sickle, slicing the wheat with what he assumed was a proper cutting motion.

“No, you dolt; hold it like this with both hands!” Beleg exclaimed, showing him what to do. “It isn’t a sword!”

The King’s cheeks burned. How he yearned to put this impudent fellow in his place by revealing his true rank. But he could not let Faramir be shamed by revealing their true identities. If it were to be known that the Steward of Gondor had run naked through a cornfield, apparently drunk and damaging the livelihood of honest farmers, Faramir’s reputation would be ruined. Aragorn bit back a sharp retort. Taking up the sickle again as Beleg had shown him; he tried again to cut the wheat.

“No, no!” the farmer groaned, “You don’t cut wheat like you cut grass! You work around the field, not from side to side! Why must the Valar inflict such trials upon me as to take two of my best men and send me the likes of you in their place!”

Aragorn reminded himself that to the farmer, he was no more than an inexperienced farm hand. In his long life, he had veiled his true self many times to take orders, and even harsh words from lesser men. This was no worse than helping to sweep out Butterbur's stables when he was short of coin: even if the beer was unlikely to be as good as even the Prancing Pony's cheapest stock.

Under Beleg’s watchful eye, Aragorn gradually improved the performance of his task: Lift, bend and cut, lift bend and cut. The wheat was then left to be gathered and bound into sheaves. After a few hours, the King’s arms, back and shoulders throbbed painfully with the unaccustomed strain imposed by these particular exertions. Aragorn was thankful that Faramir was not reaping as he dreaded the damage this work could cause to his Steward's already weakened back.

The morning wore on and grew no cooler. As the sun rose higher the heat became well nigh unbearable. Aragorn took frequent draughts of water and shed his outer tunic, working only in his thin shirt and breeches. The farmer and his sons had soon shed both tunics and shirts to reveal bronzed, weather-beaten skin and gnarled muscles.

Aragorn paused for a moment to wipe his sweaty brow. He took a swig from his water bottle.

“You look hot,” said Beleg. “Why don’t you take your shirt off?”

“It is not the custom where I dwell,” Aragorn replied. “We never remove our shirts in public.”

“Fancy City ways don’t apply here,” Beleg snorted. “Take it off, and never mind your fine airs and graces. This is not Minas Tirith! What have you to hide?”

Aragorn shuddered inwardly, wishing the farmer would leave him alone. Even if he were inclined to remove his shirt, he dared not reveal the mark on his shoulder. They would all know that it was a cattle brand, rather than a slave mark borne by some former captives of Corsairs or Haradrim. He did not dare to even loosen the laces of his shirt, lest the scar be visible.

Pelendur joined them, obviously having overheard the conversation. “His son is just like him!” he chucked, gesturing towards Faramir. “It seems that they live very differently in the City!” The young man was obviously a veteran of many battles, his upper body being disfigured by a variety of long healed scars.

“Go and work in the shade, Morrandir!” Beleg said more kindly. “Even I feel the heat today.” The sweat plastered the farmer's grey hair to his forehead, and trickled in rivulets down his broad, bare chest. These yeomen of Lossarnach seemed more akin to the Rohirrim than to men of Númenorean lineage. They had shorter, stockier bodies, and more florid colouring, than the remaining sons of Westernesse.

After another hour or so passed, two women came into the field, one bearing a basket and the other carrying a tray with mugs of ale.

Beleg called a halt to the morning’s labour and the men convened in a shady corner of the field. “My wife, Tasariel, and daughter in law Emerwen,” Beleg said by way of introduction, while the mugs were handed round and the provisions in the basket shared out amongst the workers. The women had brought oven-fresh bread, cheese, cold meat and apples, a hearty repast for all the workers.

“These are our new hands, Morrandir and his son Falborn,” Beleg told his wife.

Aragorn and Faramir politely inclined their heads. Aragorn recognised Tasariel as one of the women he had seen the other night.

“So, I see you have returned, Master Morrandir, with your son,” Tasariel exclaimed, her dark eyes twinkling. “I hardly recognised him with his clothes on! A handsome young fellow, even when fully covered!"

Faramir blushed scarlet. Aragorn patted his shoulder reassuringly while Tasariel whispered in her daughter in law’s ear. Both women then studied them intently and giggled.

“I would know you were father and son without being told!” Emerwen exclaimed.

”You are even more alike than Beleg and my lads here,” Tasariel added.

Faramir flushed again, this time with pleasure. Nothing pleased him more that to be told he resembled the King, who had indeed become as a father to him.

“They speak very differently from one another, though,” said Galador somewhat suspiciously.

“That is because I was born in the North and spent many years there, while my son was born in Minas Tirith,” Aragorn answered truthfully between mouthfuls of the thick, crusty bread. He had not realized how hungry he was until the food was actually put before him. The strong goat's cheese was as tasty as he remembered from his travels through Gondor as Thorongil.

“What is it like in the North?” Emerwen asked, settling herself rather awkwardly on the grass. From the shape of her swollen belly, it was plain to Aragorn that she was about six months gone with child. Unlike the women of the City, no one seemed inclined to make allowances for her condition, nor did she seem in the least concerned by the company of three bare-chested men, only one of whom was her husband.

“It is beautiful; rugged in places and very lush and green in others, and the air is cooler than down here.” Aragorn told her.

“That sounds wonderful!” Emerwen exclaimed, stretching out languidly. Aragorn and Faramir did their best to avert their eyes, since the crumpled linen shift that was apparently her only garment, revealed far more of her ample curves than it concealed. The young woman was comely, dark-eyed with tanned cheeks and a freckled, pretty face, but could offer no temptation to the faithful husbands of the Evenstar and the White Lady.

“We cannot grow as many crops as you can plant here and the winters are much more severe. It is often so cold that the lakes and rivers freeze over.” Aragorn continued. “I should like to take my son there and teach him to skate one day.”

Faramir found himself grinning at the prospect.

“What is skating?” Beleg asked.

“It is a method of travelling across frozen water,” Aragorn struggled to find the right words to explain.

“Foolishness! You would fall in and drown!” Pelendur scoffed before biting loudly into an apple.

“Not if the ice is thick enough to bear your weight,” Aragorn replied. “We wear special boots with blades on them, which allows us to glide across the ice." His audience merely looked either sceptical or bewildered.

“Eat up quickly, we need to get back to work if the wheat is to be gathered in time for the harvest celebrations!” Beleg ordered.

They ate in silence for a few moments, Aragorn grateful not to have to try to explain further an activity, which he realised, must seem beyond reason to these people.

“How are you faring?” he quietly asked Faramir.

“Well enough. Binding the sheaves is somewhat tedious, but not especially hard labour, unlike what you are doing,” the Steward replied.

“What happened to the men you lost?” Aragorn enquired of Beleg.

“They were working over there by the river,” the farmer gestured towards it. “They were hale and strong when they ate their midday meal, but only an hour or so later we found them dead. Their hearts must have just stopped beating in the hot sun. 'Twas a grievous blow indeed. If the harvest is not brought in time, we go hungry.”

“You could always send to Minas Tirith for help,” said Faramir. ”The King would not let you starve.”

“I’ve heard the King is a good man,” said Beleg. “But what would he want to do with the likes of us?”

“You are his people,” said Aragorn trying to keep his features devoid of expression. “And the King cares for all the folk of his lands.”

“You've met the King?” Tasariel enquired.

“I have met him, as has my son,” Aragorn said solemnly.

“So what is he like?” the woman pressed.

“Tall, dark haired, and skilled with the sword, though he prefers words to warfare. He tries to rule his people justly,” Aragorn answered gravely.

“But is he handsome?” Emerwen asked.

“You would have to ask the Queen her opinion of such matters.” Aragorn was finding this conversation even harder than trying to explain ice-skating. He looked desperately at Faramir.

The Steward was trying to suppress his laughter and almost choked on the apple he was chewing. Aragorn slapped him on the back.

“I can just imagine what the King must be doing now,” declared Emmerwen. “He must be sitting on his golden throne relaxing on purple cushions, while his servants stand on either side fanning him to keep him cool; so he won’t get all hot and sweaty and spoil his royal robes!”

“I doubt he ever feels hot or sweaty,” said Pelendur. “The King probably bathes in a vast tub of cool water whenever he wants and has beautiful serving maids to scrub his back and provide for his every need!” He licked his lips as he spoke. “We should be so lucky after a long day's work!”

“Pelendur!” his young wife chided.

“The King would never behave in such a fashion!” said Aragorn indignantly.

Faramir buried his face in his hands, unable to contain his mirth any longer.

“How would you know?” Pelendur demanded.

“I um, know a serving maid at the Citadel and she has never been asked to scrub the King’s back,” Aragorn said firmly.

“The King and Queen uphold the highest standards of dignity and fidelity,” Faramir announced primly, blushing now that the full implications of Pelendur’s words had sunk in.

“Back to work now!” Beleg ordered. “Anyone would think you were born of the King's house yourselves, the way you sit around doing nothing!”

“The King works very hard!” Faramir protested indignantly, rising to his feet. “He has to rule two realms and care for all his people!”

“That sounds easy compared with harvesting!” Beleg retorted.

By now, Aragorn was so stiff and sore that he could hardly totter to his feet. “I think it may well be!” he said grimly.

They laboured hard all afternoon, taking only a further short break for refreshments, then continued working until the sun sank low on the horizon in a flaming red ball.

Just as Aragorn felt his back was breaking from being bent almost double and his arms would surely refuse to obey him any longer, Beleg finally called a halt for the night.

“The women will have prepared an evening meal for us in the village and you are welcome to come,” he told Aragorn and Faramir, though his sour expression indicated that he did not think they had earned a free repast.

TBC

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