Written for ChickLovesLOTR for her birthday, and for Jay for sharing a vision. Thanks to RiverOtter for the beta.
What is it? Frodo asked.
“I am being invoked,” Aragorn said, his head cocked, hearing a voice in his heart calling him. “Will you come with me?”
Where is it you will go?
Aragorn flashed a smile at his friend. “Gondor! Come, small brother!”
They stood on the fields of the Pelennor, there where land had been granted for the burial of those who had fought in the defense of Minas Tirith. There they found other spirits rising to stand witness to the procession that even now issued out of the gates of the city of the Tower of Guard, led by a tall beardless figure who wore the Elendilmir upon his brow.
It is not the same circlet you wore, Frodo commented.
No, it is not. This is the original, the one worn by Elendil himself when he died, and that was lost with the body of Isildur. We found it, Gimli and I, as we searched through the tower of Orthanc, in a hidden storeroom wrought by Saruman.
He did not take it with him when he fled into the wilderness, then?
The former King of Gondor and Arnor Reunited gave an ironic smile. Oh, that he did not. Apparently when his staff was broken he lost control of many of the magics he had previously wielded, and he could not open that closet again.
Then how was it you were able to open it, then?
I wore the Elessar stone, which is a stone of renewal, after all; by focusing my attention on the door with Gimli by my side, the magic was renewed and became one that Gimli could invoke. It appears that the spell originally set upon this door had been based upon Dwarven magics.
Frodo nodded as he watched the procession approach. And this is your son?
Even so. And that one to his left is his son, my beloved grandson Valandil. How he has grown!
Worthy Men they prove, tall brother.
The procession came closer, and it could be seen that the participants carried plants in their hands, some in pots and others with bound roots. They walked to the furthest plot, over which were raised statues of a great lord of the realm, a fisherman, and an artisan. Those who fought from the southern fiefdoms, commented Aragorn as respect was offered to those who were buried there.
Some of those who’d taken part in the procession, dressed in the livery of Dol Amroth, Lossarnach, Lebennin, the Falas, and the other lands from south of the capital came forward with plants from their regions, and now knelt to see them planted over the mass grave in honor of the sailors and knights, men-at-arms and fisherfolk, merchants and husbandmen who had come to protect the White City from Mordor’s assaults. Then they came closer to the city where those clad in the greens, golds, and browns of Rohan came forward to plant slips of symblemüne upon the tumulus raised over the bodies of their own who’d died here. Then, closer still to the city gates, there was the plot in which were buried those who’d died from the White City itself, as well as those who’d come from the garrison in Osgiliath, from the Rangers of Ithilien, and from Anórien and Cair Andros.
The last plot to be honored was small, and upon it stood a single statue. Now those who came forward alongside the King and Queen were clad in grey and silver with a circle of seven stars upon their breasts, a single silver star holding closed their cloaks upon the left shoulder. With them walked forward a few Hobbits, although none either Frodo or his companion recognized. Over the small gravesite stood a single statue of a tall Man with a sword in his hand and a long bow upon his shoulder. Then there appeared a spirit before the statue, on whom the statue was obviously based.
Aragorn smiled. My cousin Halbarad--brother to Halladan and Hardorn, and my closest friend during my years as Chieftain of the Dúnedain of Eriador, one of my other closer-than-brothers. He looked to the statue. One of Ruvemir’s apprentices, Owain, learned his skills as one capable of reproducing the features of those who are no longer present, and he wrought the memorial for me, as he did the figures there before the gates.
On the north side of the gate stood a tall statue of Lord Denethor, the last Ruling Steward of Gondor, girded as a warrior with a great sword at his belt, and bearing the Rod of the Stewards in his hand, with Peregrin Took garbed as a Guard of the Citadel beside him. On the south side of the gates stood Boromir, the former Warden of the White City, his head raised proudly, sword and shield in hand, and beside him Meriadoc Brandybuck with his sword from the Barrow-downs raised in guard. Frodo fair gleamed with surprise. You would have Merry and Pippin remembered here? he asked.
And did they not both nearly die protecting Gondor? Aragorn responded. Who better to aid in the protection of the new gates to the city?
The King and Queen and others of the Royal House knelt at the last plot alongside the party from Arnor, planting athelas upon the grave. The spirit of Halbarad came to join those of the Hobbit and the King.
It would appear, gwador nín, that your son keeps alive the memory of those who fought against the Shadow.
Aragorn smiled brilliantly and drew him near. So it is. But we have held this memorial every year on the anniversary of the victory upon the Pelennor since the first year after the fall of Mordor. And at least each seventh year there have come embassies from Rohan and the north to take part in the ceremonies.
Frodo looked over the various plots. I remember them as covered with scarred earth. Now the poppies appear to be everywhere, amidst the other flowers.
Aragorn smiled solemnly. In Rohan, the white blossoms of Evermind cover the resting places of the dead. Here in Gondor it has ever been poppies--so I remember from my time as Thorongil as well as my time as Elessar.
The spirits of two Hobbits drew near them. Merry looked down on those kneeling over the grave in which Halbarad and the others from Arnor had been buried, noting the Hobbits who knelt with them, each with his athelas plant being added to the herbage growing over the place. I do believe that one is my Melody’s son--how he has grown up!
And look, added Pippin. There’s my grandson Frodo, who was to be Thain after my Faramir. So, where is Farry?
Here! noted another spirit who drifted to join with them from that plot. I asked to be buried there, so I must assume that this is the reason why my son is here with these others. Oh, dear--he does appear old now.
I was buried there, too, noted Hamfast Gardner, son to Frodo-lad and grandson to Samwise Gamgee and long-time Master Gardener for the Citadel of Minas Tirith. My gaffer didn’t come with you, then?
I suspect he is looking in on the residents of Bag End, Frodo smiled. The Hill has ever been the home of his heart, even more so than it was for me. He watched as two others as tall as the King himself if not taller came to kneel down on either side of King and Queen, carrying not athelas but white Elven lilies. Even your brothers come, although I can tell the Sea Longing would draw them away if they allowed it.
Aragorn gave a soundless sigh. I cannot imagine they will remain here in Middle Earth that much longer, and particularly not once Valandil is gone, too. So little remains within the Mortal Lands to keep them bound here.
Frodo leaned down to run a weightless finger along the edge of one of the petals of a lily once it was planted. Bilbo loved these so, and so did I, and your gaffer, Hamfast. And particularly after he’d rescued a few of them from your father as a child, Faramir.
Eldarion raised his head, alert.
“What is it, beloved?” asked his wife Loreth.
“Laughter--laughter amongst the athelas and the poppies,” he said. He watched as a white lily his uncle Elladan had just planted bobbed in a breeze nothing else appeared to feel, and a broad smile brightened his formerly solemn visage. “They are here, and are happy.”
Aragorn reached out to brush his son’s dark curls, which were now heavily threaded with silver. That we are, my so beloved son--that we are. We have every reason to be content that we accomplished what we meant to do.
And for a moment all who’d come out of the City for the ceremony of memorial seemed to see a great light gathered over the plot by which their King now rose to stand. Many ascribed it to him, for it often seemed the little of the Elven Light that remained in Middle Earth seemed to gather about Eldarion Telcontar. But for some it was obvious that on this day of remembrance there were many being honored who had come to accept the respect offered.
“There,” murmured Valandil’s young daughter. “Do you see? I am certain it is Daeradar!”
Elladan and Elrohir raised their attention from the flowers, their movements as similar as their looks. And the same smile spread across each fair face as they noted the attention of their lost little brother.
Aragorn drew Frodo and Halbarad, Merry and Pippin to him, smiling down at Faramir Took. Yes, what we did was not done in vain.