Title: The Tradition
Summary: Long after the passing of the 4th age of Middle-earth, in the kingdom of Gondor the descendants of Aragorn and Arwen are maintaining an ancient tradition celebrated and remembered on the first day of each New Year, March 25th.
Authors Note: Hello everyone! I'm not sure if anyone out there remembers me or not, but I've been around since early '02 writing varieties of Frodo-angst. I've been pretty busy lately and hadn't had time to write, but I sat down a few days ago and started this. After seeing ROTK, and rereading a part in ROTK, I'd been thinking about doing something like this. I don't want to say what it's about, because that would spoil it. :) I had a hard time categorizing this story, because it's not set during LOTR, and it's not exactly "General" nor is it "Drama".
I'll just say that, what mainly inspired me to write it is seeing how often it is, in history, that things are forgotten (as Galadriel says in the prologue). I wanted to examine how traditions/history would be carried on in Middle-earth. But again, if I say too much I'll ruin it.
Anyway, *waves to FrodoHealers* hello to all of my favorite writers and fellow Frodo-angst lovers! I've been trying to keep up as best I can with your fics which are, as always, wonderful to read.
Disclaimer: I don't own this, I only own the personalities of my Original Characters (not the names). I don't make any money from writing this, I'm just having fun with Middle-earth, and I hope you'll enjoy reading it.
A young boy stood glancing down a long corridor that housed all of Gondor's most precious ceremonial decorations and garb. It was late in the year 3312 of the 5th age of Middle-earth, and 7,581 years after the reunion of the kingdom of Gondor with the house of Isildur.
Donned in fine garb the boy, no more than seven summers of age, was dark haired and tall for his years, after the manner of his fathers.
"Father!" called the child, "have we not servants for this sort of task?" he looked to the king, confusion evident on his face.
"Eärnil," Arantar placed two hands on the boy's slim shoulders and looked into the keen, inquisitive eyes of his son, "This is a tradition of our house, and you are of an age now to participate. My father taught it to me, and his father to him, on back to first king of the 4th age. Now I shall teach it to you." The man smiled down gently at his child, whose eyes had become saucers at the mention of the great king Aragorn, his ancestor.
"What is it for, father? I don't understand why we've come here to celebrate anything. It's so musty and dark!" he said in exasperation.
Arantar couldn't help but smile at his son's questions, "Come, Eärnil, and you shall see."
The storage rooms of Minas Tirith were many and great. Everything was organized in crates and cells according to the nature of the event, and its placement in the year. At last father and son came to a small room at the back of the building, and Arantar removed a chain from his neck, which held a small key with an ornately carved end.
Eärnil looked on with great interest as his father opened a thick stone door to reveal a small, musty room bereft of light. The child took several steps back involuntarily; he didn't want to find out what might be lurking within the dark corners of that queer little space.
Arantar removed a lamp from its hanger at the front of the room, lit it, and stepped inside, illuminating the room to reveal a low platform at the far end of the space, upon which sat a box carved of stone and set with jewels and Mithril.
Inlaid pictures made of precious stones graced the top and sides of the box, chased by a flowing script written in an elegant hand that the boy could not read; and so Eärnil took special notice of the beautiful murals: amethyst mountains diminished into a great sapphire river that dissolved into rolling peridot hills with lush emerald valleys, there was an amber mountain spitting ruby flames and bits of obsidian ash. On the far side of the box was an Elven ship with masts of spun gold, silver sails, and a hull of diamonds nestled in a blue beryl sea.
Arantar placed the lamp on a nearby shelf, and motioned for Eärnil to come closer, and he moved to open the box.
"Oh! What's inside, father? Is it treasure?" Eärnil asked excitedly.
Arantar chuckled at his son's eagerness, "Indeed it is, Eärnil, quite a treasure. Patience, my lad—it will be rewarded."
The box was lined with Mithril that was etched with an interweaving pattern of leaves and flowers. There was a partition down the middle of it.
With the lid removed Arantar, with infinite care, removed a faded and worn garment, through which the lantern light shone clearly in many places.
Eärnil scrunched up his small face in confusion and disgust, "What is it? It looks foul!" he struggled to peer over the lid of the box. He thought, surely father would not have me come here just for this?
"Do you know the story, Eärnil, of how Gondor came to be reunited? Of how the Shadow was vanquished from Middle-earth forever?" Arantar asked his son.
"Of course, father! Mother began telling me the tales before I could walk." Said the boy, his tone almost indignant that his father would suspect him of not knowing the great story, "Aragorn, son of Arathorn—my great, great, great, great…" he paused, scratching his head, "Great grandfather, stood against the armies of the Black Gate with a host of men from our city, our own Minas Tirith!" his eyes shone with joy and pride.
"Ahh, you are correct, my little prince. But I'll wager there's a part of the story you may not be as familiar with, though I know you've heard it."
Eärnil cocked his head to the side, thinking, "There were haf-ings." He stated with a grin, "four of them, whatever they are. I can't recall their names just now… but what does this have to do with why we're here?"
"The new year is coming soon, is it not?" the king questioned.
"Indeed, in less than two months. How I love the feasts!" exclaimed the boy.
"But do you know why we celebrate the New Year, my child?" Arantar asked.
"Because the New Year means feasting, sky lights*, and staying up past time for bed!" Eärnil replied in turn.
"Indeed, but none of that would have been possible were it not for two very important people." The king became serious now, "Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, shirefolk—hobbits, halflings and periannath they call them. They are about the height of a boy of eight summers-- a little taller than you perhaps-- with dark curly hair on their heads and on top of their feet, and ears pointed like the elves."
The boy's eyes grew wide then, "You mean they're real? Haf-ings are real? My nanny told me of them once, but she said they were mischievous demons from children's stories and that I shouldn't believe in them."
"Halflings are real, or were, at one time. King Aragorn issued an edict that no man should be permitted to enter their lands, which lie far away West from here. No man of Gondor has laid eyes upon it for many count of years…" The king paused in thought before continuing on, "You have heard tell of the One Ring, forged by Sauron in Mordor, in the 2nd age of this world." Arantar waited from a nod from Eärnil before he continued, "the hobbits Samwise and Frodo are responsible for the destruction of the ring and, therefore, are quite an important component of Gondor's history, which you will, in time, learn in full.
Arantar removed a thick, aged-looking book with a red cover, and gently replaced the ancient garment. He then put the lid on the stone box and turned to his son, "Perhaps before I show you these things, it would be better for you to hear their tale in it's full telling."
"A story?" Eärnil asked, his eyes shining with excitement, "With haf-ings and elves and all! Are hobbits magical like elves? Is it a true tale, father?"
"It's a very true tale, Eärnil, and indeed all manner of races will pass through this story. Not just hobbits and elves, but men and dwarves as well… and others who were not friends of Gondor." He lowered his voice at that last utterance, "This is a copy of the Red Book of Westmarch, brought here by Peregrine Took, one of the halflings in the tale, on his last venture to our realm. Here he yet sleeps with his companion Meriadoc Brandybuck, in honor and glory befitting someone with such courage and spirit." with that Arantar opened the book.
Eagerly the young lad settled himself on the floor of the little room, and listened with great interest as his father began telling the story of the "Lord of the Rings", as recorded by Frodo Baggins at the end of the 3rd age.
They did not finish the tale that day and, indeed, after several hours the lamp grew dim, it's wick burning short, and the Arantar and Eärnil retired to their quarters in the place. The story was continued again at bedtime, and this carried on for several weeks. Each night the king would read his son a portion of the Red Book, until his Eärnil was taken by sleep, off to the land of dreams where the great battles and heroic deeds of the tale were relived in his little head.
With each passing day as the great tale unfolded before him, young Eärnil grew increasingly eager to revisit the small chest at the back of the storage halls. When that day finally came, he could barely contain his enthusiasm as his father guided them once more to the musty little room.
They entered in much the same fashion as they had the previous time, yet to Eärnil it seemed very different: he felt a certain degree of humility now after having heard the great tale of the objects contained within. Arantar carefully lifted the lid of the chest and lay it down on the pedestal. He carefully removed the old garments then: a coat of Orc-mail, a grimy black cloak, and several bits of body armor made from the hide of some foul beast. All items were very fragile now, and would surely crumble had the king not used great care when handling them.
Eärnil knew without being told that these ancient articles of clothing were none other than those worn by the great Frodo and Samwise during their last stretch of travel through Mordor. The clothes were in fact present at the very destruction of the ring! The thought made Eärnil tingle with excitement. He longed to lightly touch one of the garments, it would be like touching a piece of history, he knew.
Much to the boy's surprise and delight, his father placed the garments down lovingly on the pedestal, and removed a false floor from the small chest. This part, Eärnil had not been expecting at all. He knew of the existence of the sacred garments, but there was more to see? What a wonder!
Arantar lifted from the box a small silk packet, a satchel of what looked like dry earth, a tiny lock of golden hair tied with a faded ribbon, and some nearly unrecognizable dried leaves and flowers. Each item had a story, Eärnil thought, and he was eager to hear them.
The king leaned back casually against the pedestal, untying the silk packet to reveal several sheets of crumbling parchment. "These," he said to his son, "are the last letters sent by Frodo and Sam before they left for the West." He began reading Frodo's letter then:
September 10, 1421 S.R.
King Aragorn and Queen Arwen,
It was kind of you to
inquire after my health in your last letter. I have been well, thank you, and
Sam and Rosie are seeing to all of my business affairs, so I needn't worry
about anything. This summer and harvest has been one of the most beautiful—if
not the most beautiful—and plentiful the Shire has ever seen.
I feel in my heart that this will be the year Bilbo leaves for the Havens; and Elrond's words to me, I have not forgotten, nor the Lady Arwen's gift. My uncle is old, and I am weary, my memories and wounds pain me greater still each passing day. Neither good friends nor domestic duties can cure the ill memories in my mind, mend the tear in my soul, or heal my physical hurts.
I have enclosed a lock of little Elanor's hair with this letter, at Sam's request. "Elanor the Fair," as we have taken to calling her. He said to me, "Mr. Strider'll never believe there's such fair hair on a hobbit lass 'till he sees it for 'imself!" Her skin is porcelain white and her hair fairer than that of a Rohan lass, her features delicate as those of an Elven maiden! I am so happy for my dear Samwise, he has healed the hurts of the Shire, and it has healed his in return.
My portion of the Red Book of Westmarch is completed. The hobbit's part in the War of the Ring will be preserved among us, and told to future generations so that they may remember what was sacrificed and lost to save that which they now enjoy.
Your subject, servant, and friend,
Arantar passed the tiny lock of ribbon-bound hair to Eärnil, and then continued on to read Sam's letter:
August 22, 1482 S.R.
Dear King Strider and Queen Arwen,
How fare things in your house, my lord? At our last meeting (has it
really been forty years ago now?), Minas Tirith was more beautiful than even
those great stories of old tell, and the Tree healthier than any I've ever
tended, not that my skills ought be compared with those of the royal garden
I have some sad news to report. My dear sweet Rose passed on this summer, 'twas on Mid-years Day. I have resigned my position as Mayor, and am currently making preparations to leave the Shire. I have given all I can to it, and it has given me many blessings, including a long life full of health, happiness, and thirteen beautiful children, and to say nothing of my Rosie. I never told Mr. Frodo this, though I think in his heart he knew it to be true: my love for the Shire and all things green and good, and my dear Rosie, were what allowed me to slip back into life in Hobbiton and push back those evil memories from our dark days in Mordor. Now it is those very things that weigh on my world-weary mind, memories of past years and past hurts haunt me ever the fiercer now that my Rose has departed. Last night I dreamt of a white shore by a great water, and the air smelled of salt as it did that day I took Mr. Frodo to the havens. White birds flew high above, they called to me.
There is still one task before me, one more quest to complete; I have yet one more promise to keep. I have completed my portion of Mr. Bilbo's Red Book. Mr. Frodo told me when he left that the remaining pages were for my story, and I've gone and filled them all. My tale is not unremarkable, but also not uncommon. I added my portion, in part, to fulfill Mr. Frodo's last request, for it's not the stuff of high tales. I will see to it that Elanor sends a copy of the book to be kept at Minas Tirith, if you so wish it.
Enclosed is a satchel of Longbottom Leaf seeds and a small collection of dried Mallorn leaves and blossoms. I wanted to share with you our most prized variety of pipeweed, as you have shared with us so many things dear to you. The Mallorn leaves are from this past summer, the tree has reached a great height now, and when standing beneath it I'm almost wont to believe that I'm back in Lothlorien with the Elves. How I'd dearly like to see the Elves again.
Your humble servant and friend,
Arantar then handed Eärnil the small satchel of seeds, and a Mallorn leaf and blossom. Each artifact in the small chest has a story of its own; and he now gazed upon them with more reverence than before, and a sense of duty and protectiveness overcame him then: a great desire to preserve and keep alive the memory of the noble deeds at the end of the 3rd age grew within him, and he carried it with him for the rest of his days, and passed it to his heirs.
"According to Gondor's annals, Longbottom seeds were sewn throughout the kingdom soon after this letter was received, and the plants flourished. Even to this day they are the most popular variety of smoking-leaf." Said Arantar with a knowing smile, "In time you may come to know that joy as well."
The young boy stood and reverently placed the artifacts back into their box, and reached to gently touch the Orc garments laid out on the pedestal, "I want everyone to know the story, father," said the child insistently, "They must know and remember the deeds of the brave hobbits Samwise and Frodo, destroyers of Sauron! Protectors of Gondor!" Eärnil became more excited as he spoke, and his keen eyes danced as with fire.
"Yes, my son," the king began, "and that is what the New Year feasting is about. That is why we celebrate, not for the sake of plentiful food and drink, but for the sake of our way of life and life itself, and peaceful times of plenty, and the remembrance of those who came before us and the sacrifices they made so that we may enjoy all we have today."
As his father spoke, Eärnil began to—not just realize—but to understand what March 25th was about, and what it stood for.
"Each year, the artifacts in this chest are displayed for 10 days, starting on March 25th at dawn." Arantar continued, "In a prominent location in the city where all may see, and guarded by day and night. You have seen them before, last year even, but you were then too young to understand." He smiled warmly at the boy before him, "But now you know their story, and may the mean all the more to you for it."* * * * * * * *
For Thousands of years, long after the sacred artifacts had turned to dust, and the deeds and lives of king Arantar and prince Eärnil were remembered only in the history annals of Gondor' "the New Years Tradition" as it had then come to be known, was carried on by each successive generation of rulers.
The Red Book of Westmarch was copied and recopied, and at one time a portion of it was in wide distribution throughout all lands in the realm of Gondor, under the title 'The Lord of the Rings' and was thereafter a favorite history tale of children and adults alike.
The lines between myth and history became blurred; and now it cannot be said how much of the surviving portion of the Red Book is indeed true to what was recorded by Frodo Baggins at the end of the 3rd Age.
Still ages later, when the rule of Gondor at last failed and Minas Tirith's gates were broken, and the World unmade and the last great Song sung, and all inhabitants of Middle-earth passed beyond the circles of the World: a copy of the remaining portions of the Book found its way into the Outer World and there remains, now only a legend and tale in the hearts and minds of those still intrigued by the spirit and courage of it's figures.
Authors Notes: Well I hope you all enjoyed reading this mini-fic. Hopefully the ending wasn't too blasphemous. Please review and let me know what you think, good or bad. I always welcome constructive criticism, but no flames please. :)
1. *sky lights = fireworks
2. The names "Arantar" and "Eärnil" are the names of two ancient kings of Gondor, I used them because I don't know the structure of Tolkien's
languages and thought it better not to make up my own names.