Spring was slipping into summer, and the days were growing longer. The White Tree was in full leaf and already the first buds had appeared.
Eldarion and his little sister played together in the Court of the Fountain, fondly watched over by their mother, who had taken her embroidery outside. It was early evening, almost bedtime for the children. The Queen enjoyed this time of day when the bustle of the City had ceased and she could hear the birds singing.
The guards moved a discreet distance away, eager to give the royal family some privacy, while still seeing they were protected from harm.
"I climbed a tree in the garden today," Eldarion boasted to his sister.
"Yes, I did. I can climb any tree!"
Eldarion glanced at his mother, who was bent over her embroidery. She frowned at the complex pattern in deep concentration. He then looked at the White Tree. He knew it was a special tree, but it looked sturdy enough to climb and it was the only tree in the courtyard.
"I'll show you!" He jumped over the low fence that surrounded the tree and nimbly shinnied up it, scattering leaves and buds as he went.
"Eldarion!" his mother cried. She sprang to her feet. The needlework fell to the ground.
The boy stared aghast as his father and Uncle Faramir appeared while the guards came running.
"Eldarion can climb trees!" little Farawyn announced proudly.
"Come down at once, Eldarion!" Aragorn ordered.
Eldarion looked at his angry father and down at the ground. It seemed a long way, much further than he had climbed up. He was suddenly scared.
"I can't, adar," he said.
"If you climbed up, you can climb down again, "Aragorn said grimly.
"He will only do more damage if he climbs down," said Faramir. "It would be better if we lifted him."
A guard moved forward, ready to do the King's bidding.
"He is my son, I will lift him down," said Aragorn. He strode over the fence and stretched up strong arms to grasp his son and lifted him down.
"Faramir, would you escort Arwen and Farawyn safely indoors, please," he said. "I need to have a few words with this young man!"
The Steward picked up the Queen's discarded needlework and handed it to her. The three departed without a second glance at the object of Aragorn's wrath.
Eldarion stared miserably at the ground and quaked in his boots at his father's anger.
"Why did you climb the White Tree?" Aragorn demanded as soon as they were alone.
"I wanted to show Farawyn that I could climb a tree," Eldarion muttered.
"There are dozens of trees in the gardens that you could climb, why must you choose the most special tree in all of Gondor?" Aragorn demanded. "Just look at the buds you have knocked off. Every one is precious!"
"It was just there. I'm sorry, sire."
"And so you should be! Do you not know that this tree is directly descended from the one that grew in Númenor and that Isildur risked his life to snatch a fruit to bring to Middle-earth?"
"I thought Isildur was a wicked man, so why should we think so much of his tree?"
"Who told you that?" Aragorn was monetarily distracted from his fury.
"One of the boys I play with. He said that it was all Isildur's fault that his uncle was killed in the war because Isildur kept the Enemy's Ring!"
"No, Eldarion, Isildur was not a bad man, but a good and brave man who did one bad thing. He was one of the greatest of your long fathers."
Eldarion stood lost in thought for a few moments then looked up at the scattered leaves and buds of the tree. "Will I be thought wicked for doing one bad thing, sire?"
"You are not wicked, just young and foolish. You must go to bed an hour earlier all this week and learn the Lay of Isildur by heart. Then we will forget the matter."
"Thank you, sire."
"Now go with the guard and join your mother and sister. I will come and bid you goodnight shortly."
"I am truly sorry, sire."
Aragorn looked at his son's woebegone features and then at the tree. The damage was slight. The next strong breeze would knock off more buds than the boy had done. If anything, the tree looked even better than it had done earlier in the day. Although there was little wind tonight the leaves moved almost as if they were dancing, while the late evening sunrays sparkled between the branches. As he watched, one of the buds unfurled to reveal a perfect white blossom. Maybe it was fanciful to think such a thing, but it were almost as if the tree were happy!
The King reached out and hugged Eldarion. He waved the guard away. "Maybe you will understand why this tree is so special if I tell you how I found it," he said. "Would you like that?
"Oh, yes, ada!" Eldarion smiled wanly.
His usual good temper restored, Aragorn led his son to the seat that Arwen had vacated earlier. He sat down beside his son, his arm around the boy's shoulder, and began to tell the story of how he had followed Mithrandir to the Hallow on the Mountain. Eldarion listened raptly, snuggled against his father in the chill evening air as the sun sank over the White Tree.