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4
Out of the mouths of babes

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

Out of the mouths of Babes –Psalm 8.2

With thanks to Virtuella


~~~



Much to their relief, Aragorn and Faramir were cordially received in Belfalas, at least by its leading citizens. They arrived just before sunset and were warmly greeted by the town dignitaries who had turned out in force to welcome them, as had a handful the common folk.

They were served a delicious meal of freshly caught local fish after which they gladly retired after a day of travelling in the heat. The next morning they rose early and attended a meeting with the reeve and the local landowners at which taxes, trade tariffs and the progress made since the Ring War were discussed. Aragorn and Faramir were satisfied that all appeared to be in good order.

“You are invited to visit our school this afternoon, my lords,” said the reeve, as the meeting concluded. ”We are immensely proud of our children’s progress there. We are even able to employ two teachers, one for the older children and one for the younger. They have been eagerly preparing for your visit. This evening we have a State Banquet in your honour where you will be able to sample the diverse variety of seafood that our fishermen catch.”

“We will look forward to it,” Aragorn said politely.

“I will visit the older children,” Faramir said to Aragorn once the reeve had left. “I think I can endure badly recited Quenya poetry better than you can!”

“Surely it will not be that bad?” Aragorn replied. “I will enjoy meeting the children.”

“Wait and see,” was all that Faramir would say.

After a hearty meal and many long and tedious speeches from the leading townsfolk welcoming their honoured guests, Aragorn and Faramir felt almost too full to move. A nap would have been most welcome, but duty demanded that they visit the school. After loosening their belts and taking a short walk in the bracing sea air, they made their way towards the school.

Aragorn was taken to a schoolroom full of young children. All had been scrubbed until they almost glowed and were wearing their best clothes. He overheard the schoolmistress exhorting them to be ‘very good indeed’ just before he entered. The teacher beamed with pride as she introduced her young charges, who greeted their King very respectfully with bows and curtseys. Their expressions, though, suggested they were unimpressed by their illustrious visitor.

“Let us show our Lord King just how much we have learned,” said the schoolmistress.

A girl, who looked to be the oldest pupil in the class, rose to her feet and recited a short poem in perfect but expressionless Quenya.

Aragorn thanked her politely all the while thinking he would tell Faramir that the young children also learned to bore visitors with badly recited poetry!

A freckle- faced boy then recited all the Kings of Gondor and the dates of their reigns, followed by a tiny girl who listed all the Stewards, after which a boy with light brown hair recited the battles fought during the recent war. Another, slightly older, girl listed all the heroes of the war and their great deeds.

Aragorn tried hard to look interested, his face wearing an expression learned during long and tedious Council meetings. The difference here was that he loved children, and was determined not to hurt their feelings. He desperately tried to stifle a yawn.

“You must be very proud of the children, mistress, they know their lessons well,” the King said hastily before another child could start reciting a long list of names and dates.

“We are greatly honoured to have you visit us, my Lord King,” beamed the teacher. “The children know their geography well too and are looking forward to telling you all the rivers and cities of Gondor.”

Aragorn suppressed a groan and braced himself for another very tedious recitation. The children looked just as bored as he was. They were extremely good, though, and sat still, albeit with blank expressions. Only one little girl, who appeared to be the youngest in the class, was fidgeting and playing with her scarlet ribbon adorned dark pigtails.

“You’re not a King!” the little girl said suddenly.

A collective gasp echoed around the room. The teacher looked as if she might faint and feared to be executed any moment.

“Why do you think that? “ Aragorn asked the child mildly.

“Because you look like everyone else, and you don’t wear a crown,” said the child in a tone of utter conviction. “Everyone knows that kings wear crowns!”

Aragorn burst out laughing. “Do you have a father?” he asked the child when his mirth had subsided.

“Yes,” said the little girl.

“What does your adar do for a living?”

“He is a fisherman,” said the child proudly. “He catches lots of fish.”

“So does your adar bring his fishing nets home with him and carry them around at all times?” asked Aragorn.

“Of course not, that would be silly!” the little girl said scornfully. “He leaves his nets in his boat when he is not catching fish!”

“Just like I leave my crown at home when I am not having to carry out my official duties,” Aragorn smiled.

The child nodded sagely. “So what did your adar do?”

“He was the Chieftain of the Northern Kingdom, but he died when I was only two years old, and my mother and I went to live with the Elves. I have an idea. How would you like me to tell you a story about when I was young and the kind of lessons I had to learn?”

“Yes!” chorused the children enthusiastically.

“You had to learn lessons too?” asked the sceptical little girl.

Soon Aragorn was seated happily on the floor with several small children, including the little girl, perched on his lap, and the rest clustered around him listening intently to the King’s account of learning history from the great Glorfindel and the healing arts from Master Elrond, son of Eärendil the Mariner. He told them too of his life as a Ranger and some light hearted tales of the Hobbits. He was just about to start telling them about the Ents, thinking that trees that spoke and moved would appeal to the young, when Faramir entered the room.

After enduring an hour of Quenya poetry, the Steward had come in search of his lord. Faramir was amazed to hear joyful childish laughter coming from the room. The children and their teacher were so engrossed in the King’s stories that they did not even notice him come in.

“I think it is time for me to leave,” said Aragorn, catching sight of Faramir by the door.

The children groaned loudly.

“I promise I will visit your school again next time I come to visit your town,” said Aragorn. “Maybe I can bring my little boy to meet you all.”

King and Steward returned to their lodging in good spirits. It seemed that the visit to Belfalas was going well.

TBC

A/N. This is an expanded version of a story written for the AA list prompt “Laugh”

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