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111
The Steward's Blessing

Title: The Steward's Blessing.

Author Name: Linda Hoyland

Prompt: Spring Garden picture prompt

http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=5373&picture=garden-in-spring

Summary: Faramir receives a special gift for his garden.

Rating: G

Warnings: None

Beta: Deandra

Author's Notes: This story was inspired by an idea of Shirebound's and also refers to ideas suggested by Engarian and Suzil. Written for B2ME14

Faramir walked slowly through past the clumps of daffodils, humming softly to himself. There were times he still felt amazed that the freedom to walk in this fair garden in days of peace was not some fantastical dream from which he would awaken to face another long day of fighting Gondor's enemies. He smiled at the screech of one of his prized peacocks in the distance, the beautiful birds being a gift from one of those then enemies, Tahir of Harad, now a close friend and Ambassador at Aragorn's court.

Ever since he was a boy and had heard the stories of his ancestor, Húrin of Emyn Arnen, he had dreamed of living here and making a garden. Never though, had he dreamed that his garden would be planted by Elves and become a favourite place for his King and Queen to visit.

A thrush flew up in a nearby tree and began to sing. Faramir paused to listen. Doubtless, the bird was busy building a nest with his mate. Faramir smiled and thought of the nest here he had created for himself, his fair Éowyn and their little ones. The birds were more than welcome to a corner of their garden in which to build a home. The Steward loved the spring here, filled as it was with birdsong and fair blossoms.

First the shy snowdrops appeared, then the colourful crocus and now his favourite spring flowers; the golden daffodils. For a few years after the war, spring had been a bittersweet time for him as it was in spring that Sauron had launched his final offensive and Faramir had almost died, as indeed had a third of his men. It was one fateful spring day that his father had chosen a shameful end and almost taken Faramir with him in the fire.

Yet it was in spring too that Aragorn had recalled him to life, he had met his lady, and Sauron had been vanquished forever. He smiled again. There was so much he had to be thankful for.

He started when he felt a hand on his shoulder and spun round to behold his friend and King.

"Never did I think to catch a former Ranger so off guard!" said the King. "I did not mean to startle you. You must have been very deep in thought."

"I was thinking that I first met you at this this time of year," said Faramir. "The daffodils did not bloom until after the enemy's defeat, though. But I have not greeted you properly, my friend." The two men embraced then Faramir said. "I was not expecting you until later. I fear you caught me unprepared."

"I trust my arrival is not inconvenient?" said Aragorn.

Faramir shook his head. "Not if you do not mind waiting for the cook to finish preparing a meal for you and your lady."

"I rode on ahead as Roheryn needed a good gallop," said the King. "He has been cooped up far too long, as have I. Arwen and the children are following at a more sedate pace in the carriage. She told me to ride on lest Roheryn bolt, he was straining at the reins so hard! Éowyn has given him the run of a large paddock for the duration of our visit with our own horses to keep him company."

"She caters for her equine guests as carefully as her human ones!" Faramir grinned.

"I would not be unhappy to share the paddock with my faithful steed as the grass would make a far softer bed than many I knew in my Ranger days," said Aragorn. "My lady might not be too happy though! But I digress; I had a letter from Master Samwise a few days ago. He enclosed in it a message and a gift for you. "Aragorn reached inside his tunic and drew out a crumpled parchment and an envelope, the latter which he handed to Faramir.

"This is Sam's message," said Aragorn, reading from the parchment. "'Tell Faramir that I believe the Lady would like a measure of her gift to grow in his garden, so I'm sending him the first fruit from our new party tree. I'm sure he'll look after it right.'"

The Steward swiftly broke the seal on the envelope and reverently lifted out what looked like a small nut with a silver shell.

"It is a mallorn seed," said Aragorn. "Should it take root and flourish in your garden, it will be the only one in Gondor."

"I am deeply honoured," said Faramir. "But why send such a precious seed to me and not to you?"

"I believe Sam has a soft spot for you, Faramir," said Aragorn. "Not only that, though, but I am certain he believes the tree would be far happier here in Ithilien with you than in the City. I have the White Tree in Minas Tirith. This mallorn could become a cherished heirloom for you and your line."

"I shall plant it this very afternoon," said Faramir. "I should like you and Éowyn to assist me, and Lady Arwen too, if she agrees."

"Gladly," said Aragorn. "Little, though do I know of tree husbandry."

"I believe the King's blessing is worth more than green fingers," said Faramir.

000

As soon as the noonday meal was concluded, Faramir carefully selected a spot in which to plant the precious seed. The place he chose was beside some flourishing daffodils, sheltered but sunny and well watered.

All his family, as well as the King and Queen, were present when he placed the nut in the moist earth. "May Yavanna bless this seed!" he said as he covered it.

Éowyn, followed by Aragorn and Arwen, added their voices in calling for Yavanna's blessing. They helped Faramir bury the seed deep. Their hands looked like those of farm labourers rather than royalty by the time the silver nut was planted to Faramir's satisfaction.

"I hope the seed will thrive here," said Faramir. "It would be a great honour to have a mallorn in Ithilien."

"How could it not flourish under your loving care?" said Éowyn.

0000

Spring turned to summer, then summer to autumn. Every day when Faramir was at home, he carefully tended the seed and watched eagerly for signs that it was growing. It seemed, though, that his efforts were vain as the seed failed to germinate and no green shoots forced their way through the earth. He would look around his garden and see plants from many lands. Éowyn had coaxed some Simbelmynë from the Mark to thrive, roses bloomed from cuttings sent from the Shire; Tahir and Lady Adiva had given him exotic tulips and lotus flowers to grace his garden while Legolas had brought saplings from the Greenwood, which were growing into fine trees.

When winter came, he was starting to feel quite despondent, but he continued to hope that when spring came with its abundance of new life that the mallorn would begin to sprout and grow.

Spring arrived and the daffodils bloomed in profusion while the almond trees put forth their snowy and delicate pink blossoms, but the mallorn seed showed no sign of life.

Faramir's winter despondency returned in full force. He had never considered growing a mallorn tree in his garden, but Sam's gift had made him realise just how much he would like to own one of these elven trees. Not only that, but he felt he had let down the Hobbit gardener who had entrusted the precious nut to his care. It saddened him that he had no news of the tree to tell Sam when he wrote to him.

He had told Legolas about the mallorn nut and the Elf had been much moved by the prospect of a mallorn tree in Ithilien. Sometimes at sunset, the Steward had espied the Elf or one of his companions singing softly to the seed.

It seemed that all their efforts had been in vain, though as nothing sprouted from the ground.

One especially beautiful spring day when all looked fresh and new, the young leaves virtually glowed, while the birds were almost singing their hearts out with sheer exhilaration, Faramir came again to see if the seed had spouted. Surely, on such a day as this, anything that lived must burst forth with new life and growth. He knelt down beside the place where he had planted the seed. There was neither leaf nor shoot. The earth remained barren where he had so lovingly planted the seed.

Faramir could have wept. He knew one tree counted but little in the great scheme of things, but a mallorn would represent far more than just a tree. It would be a living symbol of the future that he and Aragorn were working for; a symbol of a land where the Elves were revered once more before they all sailed forever from these shores.

The sunbeams that had seemed so joyous before, now only appeared mock him. He closed his eyes for a moment. He then felt the strangest sensation, as if he were somehow part of a vast invisible harmony, like the great music of creation.

He opened his eyes again. Much to his surprise, he beheld a tall woman standing before him. She was barefoot and clothed in a gown of soft green. The sunbeams seemed to dance in her glorious golden hair. She was the fairest woman that Faramir had ever beheld. Her presence filled him with awe. He made to rise, but she gestured to him to remain where he was.

"You are sad, Faramir," she said in a sweet musical voice. "Are not you and this fair garden richly blessed?"

Faramir laughed ruefully. "My life is most richly blessed, as is my garden. All things grow and flourish here," he said. "All save the tree that I most desire. Yet how can a man expect to grow a mallorn?"

"If any man can, it is you, Faramir of Gondor," said the lady.

"I know not," said Faramir. "I believe the King would meet with more success."

"You, too, Faramir, are one of the Faithful," said the lady.

"I have held fast to what I value," said Faramir. "The King led me forth from the darkness and the Powers have heaped rewards upon me. Maybe I have reached too high and I should be content with growing flowers here for my lady."

The woman smiled. "Your humility does you credit, Faramir. You set your children a good example. Do not underestimate your strengths, though."

"How do you know so much about me, my lady?" asked Faramir. "I do not recall telling you my name."

"I know many things, especially about those who serve me faithfully," said the lady. She waved an elegant hand over the place where the mallorn seed was planted, then bent and lightly kissed Faramir's brow. Her touch was like nothing the Steward had ever felt before. It was both searing and tender at the same time. His eyes grew heavy and he knew no more.

000

"Faramir!"

Faramir opened his eyes at the urgent summons and found Aragorn kneeling beside him. An expression of concern was on the King's face.

"Aragorn? I did not expect to see you here. And where is the lady?"

"I had a compelling feeling that I should come here today, while Arwen sensed something of note was about to happen. I feared you might be unwell. Which lady?"

"She was the fairest woman I have ere beheld, with tresses like the sun and eyes like stars."

"You had better not let Éowyn hear you speak so highly of another lady! Can you stand?" Aragorn held out his hand and helped Faramir to his feet.

"This was a woman to revere, not to woo," said Faramir firmly. "She reminded me somewhat of Lady Galadriel or your lady. She was dressed all in green."

"I glimpsed such a lady standing beside the brook when I arrived," said Aragorn. "She smiled at me and then vanished between the trees. I wondered if she were but a trick of the light, as I only glimpsed her for an instant out of the corner of mine eye."

Faramir brushed leaves and grass from his tunic and breeches then looked around. "Behold!" he cried in wonder.

A beautiful young sapling had leaped up in the spot where the mallorn nut was planted: it had silver bark and long leaves.

Faramir stared at the young tree in amazement. "There was nothing there earlier this morning!" he cried. "I was lamenting that the mallorn had failed to thrive when the lady appeared. She waved her hand over it then she kissed me on the brow. I remember nothing more until you roused me."

Aragorn reached out and reverently touched the sapling with his fingertips. It seemed to be tingling with life and energy. "I believe Lady Yavanna herself appeared to you," he said, his tone filled with wonder. "This is a fair young mallorn. Well I recall their beauty from the season I spent in Lothlórien. Come April, it will be covered in golden blossoms. I believe that Lady Yavanna must take an especial interest in you, my friend."

"I have beheld her in visions, but never did I dare to hope that she would appear before me," said Faramir.

"When I used the athelas to call you forth from the darkness the scent was like a spring morning in Arda unmarred might be," said Aragorn. "I believe that fragrance is of Yavanna's realm of new life and growth. She has chosen you to help rebuild this land."

Faramir's grey eyes sparkled. "What greater blessing could there be?" he exclaimed. "I must strive to prove worthy of such honour."

Aragorn clapped him on the shoulder affectionately. "I think your mallorn tree proves that Lady Yavanna has already found you more than worthy," he said. "I believe that she smiles upon you and your garden."

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