Stairway to Heaven
Rating - G
Summary - Eldarion accompanies his father on an important mission
Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
With grateful thanks Deandra for editing, Virtuella for further editing and valuable advice and Raksha for suggesting the title.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:
he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel
shall neither slumber nor sleep. – Psalm 121 – The Bible
"I love the stars, ada!" Eldarion exclaimed. "I wish I could stay up every night to see them." The little boy was walking round the Court of the Fountain with his father and gazing up at the stars in awe.
"You would be too tired then to concentrate on your lessons," said Aragorn. He glanced at his son's expression and added. "You would also be too weary to ride your pony or play with your toys."
"Oh." Eldarion looked thoughtful.
"When winter comes and the days grow shorter, we can look at the stars every night," said Aragorn. "Until then we will go out on evenings when you have no lessons the next day."
"Can we look at the stars next week too?" asked Eldarion.
"I am sorry, ion nîn, but next week I must go up the mountain to offer the first fruits to the One."
"Why?" Eldarion asked glumly.
"I am the King and as king, I must show our gratitude to the One. We, the Children of Ilúvatar, are richly blessed."
"I thought Lady Yavanna gave us our food?" Eldarion sounded puzzled.
"She does, ion nîn, but because it is Ilúvatar decreed it so. Our ancestors on the Star Isle used to climb up Mount Meneltarma at the very centre of the Island and there the King would speak the Three Prayers to Ilúvatar in spring, mid- summer and autumn. The King or Queen would also offer fruits to Ilúvatar. "
"That sounds nice, I like fruit!" said Eldarion.
"It is a solemn rite," said Aragorn. "It is very special, though." He paused and stood looking up at the stars for a few moments. "If Naneth agrees, would you like to come with me when I ascend the mountain?" he said.
"Yes please, ada!" Eldarion jumped up and down with delight.
"You will have to promise to be very good and stay silent in the Hallow," Aragorn cautioned.
"I will, I promise. I can be very quiet!"
"Very well, I will ask Naneth if you may come with me. Now it is well past your bed time and we should go back indoors."
"May I say goodnight to Gil-Estel first?"
"You may." Aragorn smiled indulgently while Eldarion gazed upwards and waved a small hand towards the brightest star in the Heavens.
A week later, Eldarion was bouncing in the saddle with excitement when he set out together with his father and Uncle Faramir. He was slightly disappointed that it was not just him and his ada, but Naneth had insisted that Uncle Faramir accompany them in case any mishap should befall them. At least they had left the ever- present guards behind in the City.
The sun shone brightly and a refreshing breeze blew from the mountain as they climbed higher. The three rode in single file due to the narrow nature of the path. Aragorn led the way, Eldarion followed closely behind his father and Faramir brought up the rear.
"Are we going right to the very top?" Eldarion asked.
Aragorn shook his head. "No, ion nîn. That would be too far and the pathway too dangerous. We have promised Naneth that we will be back before nightfall. We are going to just below the snowline where I found the White Tree."
"You brought our tree down the mountain? But it is so big!"
"It was only tiny then," Aragorn explained. "It was about the size of a bush. I have watched it grow into the great tree that it is today. It was a sign from the One that the Line of Kings would flourish."
"A sign?" Eldarion sounded puzzled.
"Like a red sky at night means the next day will be fine, or a ring round the moon means it will be windy," said Faramir.
"You, ion nîn, are the proof that it was a true sign," said Aragorn, turning round to smile fondly at the boy.
They were now riding through the woodland that covered the lower slopes of Mount Mindolluin. Aragorn and Faramir sniffed appreciatively at the fragrant aroma of juniper and pine. Eldarion was fascinated by his surroundings and fell silent apart from occasionally drawing his father's attention to the creatures he spotted – some squirrels and even a deer.
The path gradually grew steeper until the horses struggled to keep their footing. When they approached a stream, Aragorn called out "We will leave the horses here as we have to travel the last part of the journey on foot."
The King leapt from Roheryn and unstrapped a covered basket, which rested on top of the saddlebags. Faramir lifted Eldarion from his pony. The Steward then selected a spot where there was grazing for the horses and tethered them to a mighty fir tree.
"What's in the basket, ada?" asked Eldarion.
"The first fruits for the offering," said Aragorn.
"Is the One going to eat them?" asked the boy.
Aragorn laughed. "No, I expect the birds and other wild creatures will enjoy them. The One has no need of food."
"Why are we taking it then?"
"It is as a token to show that we revere our Creator and are grateful for the harvest we have gathered this year."
Eldarion fell silent, trying to digest this. At length he asked, "May I carry the basket?"
Aragorn smiled. "Of course you may, ion nîn. I warn you that it is heavy, though."
Eldarion flexed his small arms. "I'm very strong!"
"Of course you are, Eldarion, but you must ask either Uncle Faramir or me to carry it if you become weary."
"I won't. I'm going to be a Ranger and Rangers are very strong!"
"Be careful not to spill any of the fruit then." Aragorn handed the laden basket to his son. Eldarion staggered slightly under the weight, but bore it valiantly without complaint.
The path soon became much steeper and Eldarion struggled to keep his footing and hold on to the basket. He kept stopping and putting the basket down. When he picked it up again, he almost stumbled as a shower of stones fell, dislodged by his father who was leading the way.
"Shall I take the first fruits now?" Aragorn suggested. "It is going to get much steeper the higher up we climb."
"I said I'd carry them," Eldarion replied stubbornly.
"Let me help you then," said Faramir. "We will carry the basket between us while your father leads the way. Then we can help one another up the path. Mountains are not easy to climb."
Without any further protest, Eldarion permitted the Steward to take one of the handles of the basket and with it, a great deal of the weight. Aragorn repressed a grin.
The three continued up the path, the terrain demanding that they progressed at a slow pace. They had to stop frequently to catch their breath as the air became colder and windier. As they climbed higher still, Aragorn glanced back to see how his son and Steward were faring and noticed that Eldarion was shivering slightly. He rummaged in his pack and brought out a warm cloak for the boy, which Arwen had had the foresight to pack.
"Why is it so cold, and why does walking make me so tired?" asked the little boy as he snuggled into the thick woollen folds without protest, which was unusual for him.
"It is because we are high up on the mountainside," said Aragorn. "The higher you climb, the colder the air becomes and the steeper it gets the harder we have to work to climb. We will stop here and rest for a few moments."
Eldarion gave a great sigh and relinquished his hold on the basket. Faramir lowered it to the ground and the three sat down upon a flat boulder.
"The snow never melts from high up in the mountains because it is always so cold," Aragorn explained.
Eldarion's eyes lit up. "Snow! Can we play snowballs, ada?"
"Not in a holy place, ion nîn. Also, the snow lies on a steep and treacherous slope. We are not climbing that high. Do not look so crestfallen, it is a special experience to offer thanks to the One, and we will have a wonderful view over the kingdom from the Hallow. You can see for miles around."
"Can we see where King Éomer lives? I want to see the horses!"
"I fear no mortal eye can see that far, ion nîn, but you will be able to look out over much of our kingdom, the kingdom that will one day be yours to rule."
"I don't want to be king," Eldarion said glumly.
Aragorn looked at his son. "Why not, ion nîn? You are my firstborn and heir to the Reunited Kingdom. You will make a fine king one day."
"But that means you have to die first and I don't want you to die, ada!"
Aragorn hugged the child reassuringly. "It should not be for a very long time, Eldarion. You will have grown to be a man. You will not have to rule alone either. You will have advisors to help you like Uncle Faramir helps me, and a wife too."
"I don't like girls!" Eldarion exclaimed in horror. "They hate getting their clothes dirty and play with silly dolls. I don't want to be married. That would be even worse than having to be king!"
"You might change your mind when you are older," Aragorn said mildly. "I did not want to get married when I was a boy either. Not until I met your Naneth did I see the benefits of wedlock!"
"Naneth is the most beautiful lady in the whole wide world," said Eldarion.
"I could not agree more," said Aragorn. "Now shall we continue on our way? I do not want Naneth to send out a search party if we are late returning."
"I'm hungry," said Eldarion. He glanced longingly at the luscious apples, pears, and plums in the basket. "Can I have an apple? You said the One was not going to eat them."
"We cannot eat the special first fruits," Aragorn replied. "There is no need to look so dismayed, ion nîn. I did not travel all those years in the wilds for nought!" He rummaged in his pack and brought forth a loaf of crusty bread, a hunk of cheese, some honey cakes, and three rosy apples, every bit as delicious looking as those in the basket. "Here is our nuncheon," said the King. "There is a stream higher up from which we can drink." He shared out the food equally between them.
Eldarion tucked in with a will. "Mountain climbing makes me hungry!" he said between mouthfuls.
"Food always tastes especially good in the open air," said Faramir. "Strange, is it not, that we have the finest cooks in the land but still prefer simple Ranger fare?"
Aragorn laughed. "I have no answer to that question, my friend."
"Do Rangers eat cakes?" Eldarion asked.
"Not very often, alas," Aragorn replied. "There was a kindly widow woman near Bree who would sometimes give freshly baked cakes to Halbarad and me, if we mended her fence or chopped wood for her, but we did not often go that way."
Eldarion's expression suggested that he was torn between his love of sweet cakes and his desire to become a Ranger.
"Come," said Aragorn. "It is not far to the Hallow now." He picked up the basket of fruit. Eldarion made no protest.
They climbed slowly and steadily upwards until they had almost reached the snowline.
"We are almost at the Hallow," said Aragorn. "Eldarion, I wish you to stay here for a short time with Uncle Faramir. I need a few moments of solitude to sense the presence of the One."
"But I wanted to offer the fruits with you, ada!" Eldarion protested.
"And so you shall, ion nîn, after I have spent some time in silent prayer and contemplation. Then we shall offer the fruits and look at the view together."
Faramir settled himself down on a flat-topped rock and beckoned to Eldarion to join him. The little boy mournfully complied. "Do not look downhearted," he told the child. "It is just something your father needs to do. It is part of being King. He offers prayers on behalf of us all that our land may be blessed. The One heeds his prayers for our land."
"How do we know that?" asked Eldarion.
"Look all around you!" said Faramir. "The weather is fair and the crops grow abundantly. The cows give plenty of milk and the granaries are full. Many new babies have been born since your father renewed the custom of giving thanks to Eru and our land is at peace. You are so fortunate to be growing up in such times. When I was a lad, we lived in fear under the Shadow of the Dark Lord. The harvest was poor, we were forever at war, and few children were born."
Just then, Aragorn reappeared. He was smiling and Eldarion thought that his father was almost glowing, so great was the expression of peace and joy upon his face. Above him, two great eagles hovered over the mountain summit.
"Look!" cried Eldarion. "Two of the Great Eagles. I have not seen one so close before."
"We are blessed that they have honoured us with their presence," said Aragorn. "Remember this day well, ion nîn. Now, come let us offer the first fruits."
"Have you seen the One?" asked Eldarion.
"In the silence and solitude, I can strongly sense that the Creator is all around us," Aragorn replied. "It is a truly wondrous feeling."
Together with Eldarion, he carried the basket around a bend in the path and up a steep slope. They had now reached a plateau covered with blue and white mountain blossoms. Eldarion did not know their names. "Naneth would like these," he exclaimed. "May I pick some for her?"
"I fear they would wither before you could give them too her," said Aragorn. "Maybe you could just pick one to show her. Now let us offer the fruits and be very quiet." He began to unpack the contents of the basket and lay the fruits out on the grass. Eldarion helped him, doing his best to remain silent. Aragorn then knelt and gestured for Eldarion and Faramir to do likewise. "Accept these fruits as a small offering of our gratitude for your many rich blessings upon our land," the King intoned solemnly. The three remained kneeling in silence for some time and Eldarion felt joy welling up within him. This place felt special and he has helping his father carry out an important duty!
Aragorn then rose to his feet and pointed to the steep slope in front of them. "This is where Gandalf and I found the White Tree," he told his son. "See where the snow lies? It was just a little way below there. Now take my hand and Uncle Faramir's and I will show you the view from here. Close your eyes for a moment. We will not let you fall."
Eldarion did as he was bidden and clung to the warm, strong hands of his father and the Steward as they led him across the plateau and around another bend.
"You can look now," said Aragorn.
Eldarion opened his eyes and cried out in amazement. Spread out below was the most wonderful view of Minas Tirith that he had ever seen. The sunshine made the great white tower sparkle, with the shining white circles of the City spreading out below.
"Everything looks so tiny!" Eldarion exclaimed. "And our house by the tower looks no bigger than my toy dragon!"
"That is because we are so high up," Aragorn explained. "Careful, you must not venture any nearer to the edge. You can see clearly from here how the City is carved out of the mountainside by our forefathers. If you look to the east, you can see Mordor, where the Dark Lord used to dwell. Towards the west is the Vale of Anduin and beyond that the sea, where we have been to visit Lord Imrahil."
"I love the sea!" said Eldarion.
"It is in your blood, ion nîn," Aragorn said with a smile. "Elendil and his folk came from the star- shaped isle across the western sea."
"My mother grew up by the sea," said Faramir. "I love to visit it, too."
"Lord Imrahil has invited us to visit him again," said Aragorn. "You can see from here where we will be travelling."
Eldarion leapt with excitement. Aragorn and Faramir gripped his small hands more firmly. The little boy turned his attention back to the view. "Does everywhere I can see belong to you, ada?" he asked.
"I gave Mordor to Sauron's freed slaves, " Aragorn replied, "but yes, that is my kingdom stretched out before you, that will be yours one day, ion nîn."
"It looks so big!" said Eldarion in a small voice.
"I felt quite overwhelmed too when Gandalf first showed me this view," said Aragorn. "As the years have passed, though, it has become a favourite place of mine. It is well worth the long climb up the mountain to see such a view."
"It is my favourite place too!" said Eldarion. "I love mountains!"
"There are still many mountains you have not yet seen," said Aragorn. "You will see many more when you grow older. Now, I think it is time we began the descent. I promised Naneth that we would be back before your bedtime. You do not want to miss your bedtime story."
"I shall tell Naneth a story tonight," said Eldarion proudly. "I shall tell her about how I climbed a mountain and saw the Great Eagles."
A/n. This was written for the Teitho "Mountains" challenge where it was placed first.
Aragorn also visits the Hallow in "The White Tree" and "A Time to Reap".