dwimordene_2011 (dwimordene_2011) wrote in tolkien_weekly,

Tree Challenge - One White Tree by Dwimordene

Title: One White Tree
Author: Dwimordene
Summary: Many the fruits, but only one white tree: there shall be no new world. The story of the Númenorean resistance.
Characters: Elendil and the Faithful; Pharazôn and the King’s Men; original characters.
Rating: T
Warnings: ‘Tis the season when Dwim writes genocidal revisionism again. I don’t have access to my Silm copy at the moment, so I’m relying on memory, here.
Disclaimers: See warnings. Broke. Not Tolkien or related to him – thanks for not suing.
One White Tree
Roots: Surface Tension

Dusk falls: at White Rock Island, there is a grey girl, who scrapes the stone in grey light – swift, furtive, filling the little bag hanging hidden round her neck.

Dusk falls: in the narrow alley behind Caulkers Street, a man meets a woman, leans close for a kiss. Heart to heart, hand to hand – clutch, grope, hold – and she leaves with a little bag, disappearing down dim ways.

Dusk falls: the guardsman surveys Rómenna’s harbor.

One sun sets, another ignites.

The harbor explodes.

Elvish mischief, Elendili mischief, some accuse. More pity they, who overlook the roots, and their own sun’s setting…

Roots: Seeds

Seafaring is deep-rooted in them, say the old tales. So they came unto this land, after the world’s breaking.

So likewise they left it – little dinghies for fishermen, barges for tradesmen, and upon a year, the King built ships. Great, white-winged creatures, they disappeared between sea and sky.

Years passed. The King’s Ships would depart laden with men of the sheepfolds, return with lumber, gold, and iron.

And one year, they returned with Men: slighter and darker, Southrons, who disappeared into great houses…  or brothels. Sad tale, of small and curious concern for long… until the slaves built a mill.

Trunk: The stranglevine

Once upon a time, men of the sheep vales went into ships, sailing away to land and life. Now, they pass through gates, into great works, where they toil and pour their lives out into wheels and cogs.

They learn to breathe dust, to eat ash, to see in the dark. And painfully, slowly, they learn to hear words – the groans of the Southrons become language. “Water. Help. Hurt. Ware!

Simple language among simple men, whose lives grow like stranglevines around a tree’s trunk. Their numbers swell with the years: pale, dark – they are all of them poor. Or prisoners.

Branch: Cleavage

These come from the west, from Andúnië and Eldalondë, where the elven trade’s loss struck deepest. Metal-poor, under Erendis’s tree-ban, hunger walks their streets – and riots: Bread, bread!

Rumor holds Andúnië’s lord was not wholly displeased.

Pharazôn is swift – he occupies Andustar, removes the ragged to Rómenna, where the mills swallow villages entire, one after another.

Andúnië protests with one hand, professes loyalty with the other – my birthright only, to rule lands prosperous, in the way of tradition.

Tradition is not all, Pharazôn answers – truthfully.

Hence while some suspect Pharazôn’s king-captive, others wonder whether Westland money is behind burning mills…

Branch: Rage against the machine

Truth, however, is a humbler thing. Dark days, dark ways, whisper some among the Southrons.

In furtive circles, they teach their war against the mills – old and brutal in Harad, and fiercer since God-the-giver became hostage. Our gift to others godly, say the more spirited, and teach guildsmen and houseless peasants that shit has freeing ends: White Rock fertilizer blows nicely.

Who would burn mills, cannot think of life – what life, chained to mills? This, they say, is mercy.

So mercy rises on dying screams. Foremen watch, grey-faced, as soldiers fight for burning buildings – and archers shoot escaping mill-hands down.

Crown: Fire against the flames

Then the king sends his men into mill-rows, White Rock isle, and out into Andustar. They return with captives:  one-time tradesmen, workmen, vagabonds, family of mill-hands, the unruly among Haradrim.

For fire has many uses:  they burn many, there in the temple of Mulkhêr, the priests solemnly recounting crimes – of the victim or the family or the village. It matters not. The Haradrim they hang.

Then king and council decree: who lacks land or a trade is for the temple or the mills.

For Pharazôn is called “the Golden”; he’ll lose no gold to “irreligion,” that saps the nation’s wealth.

Sap: The wisdom of rule

And Pharazôn orders Isildur to dwell at Armenelos, burning many Westland prisoners to mark his arrival, declaring: Death to unbelievers.

The blind can read this message: men shun one who speaks like an Andustarman. In fear, folk give up their neighbors, who leave no temple-gifts, who remember the elven-tongue – even only names of flowers at market: Elf-lovers! For you we suffer! And woe to the Southron found alone – merchants are stoned, slaves murdered: Lovers of false rites!

The mills’ numbers swell with new-made prison-slaves; Númenor’s wealth triples.

The scepter saps others, gains strength, lives by its watchword: confusion unto enemies!

Leaf: The rise of the Elendili

In the calculus of kings and councilors, bloodbaths are a dice throw in longer games.

The king is wise, who broke the fellowship among mill-hands; he is crafty, who, in harrowing enemies, hung blame upon tradition’s partisans. He knows the law of division.

The Faithful read Pharazôn’s moves, make finally their own: Elendil puts their bid in Pelargir. Royal hold’s less certain there, where live many Westland exiles, and native folk dislike Pelargir’s royal lieutenant. Royal division he exploits: he sends his second-son and the queen’s trusty agent thither to prepare the way:

Turn us a new leaf in Middle-earth!

Twig: In the rock-land

Exodus becomes strategic – Anárion’s work. Long in shipping, he knows smuggling. In the dead of night, he takes men of proven loyalty, especially desperate Westland guildsmen and armsmen, aboard ships bound for Pelargir. In Gondor, land of quarries, they dig deep, hewing native griefs and exiled hopes into strength enough to rule.

In Númenor, too, things move: Amandil disappears – and some suspect his son. What use, an old man, longing still for friendship with Pharazôn?

For Isildur’s escape, bearing Nimloth’s fruit, signed Andúnië’s war and friendship’s death: better hang for a tree than a twig – they will vie for kingship.

Bark and Leaf: In the underground

Andunië’s line goes to ground, like hares before hunters. Pharazôn is no fool, to think Isildur escaped help-less, that he fled not to family. Royal armsmen beat the ground: warrants plaster walls; raiding parties cull folk from crowds; prisons grow bursting-full.

Underground dwell smugglers, thieves’ rings, and grey men, survivors of the mill-hand purges. Useful folk: Elendil rules neither mill nor land now; he needs coin incoming, needs crew for his corsair-ships. He hires on promise of trade-raid commission.

One day, his wife brings him a pouch of fragrant, curled southern bark – with a leaf, bearing a message: Meet me.

Bark: The messengers

Who would be king does not lightly meet nameless commands, yet who can find Elendil must be gauged. He sends his granddaughter, Aníel, with a trusted man to the spice merchant’s house.

He greets them, hears their complaint concerning cinnamon, and leads them into his warehouse, to two hirelings bundling sticks. “These would speak with you,” he tells them. “Give them what they want.”

“Look what you gave,” Aníel says, holding her bag open.

The girls – one dark, one pale – look. Then they bob a curtsy, and one, of Hyarrostarri stock, says softly, “We would give better – to your master.”

Trunk:  The lieutenants

Aníel would bear the message, but the two insist: ‘tis for Andúnië. So she arranges matters, and three days hence, at a friendly butcher’s, the girls gain an audience – with Elendur.

“Speak swiftly,” he commands.

The Hyarrostarri girl kneels, opening her purse in her lap. Fine powder fills it. The guard swears, pins her swiftly, and the other.

“You wish to die here, too?” Elendur asks.

“Nay,” Hyarrostarri says. “A gift, if you will take it.”

Elendur will, but asks: “What purpose?”

Common purpose, the girls contend, but like beetles they bore for the tree’s center: “Bring us to Elendil.”

Branch: The captains

Aníel and Elendur consult, decide: they hold the girls, send word to their grandsire. Better leave enemies no time to plot, and they move to the cellar – in case they must make corpses.

Elendil arrives, brooks no hesitations: “Your message – now.”

Hyarrostarri bows: “You seek men and aid, lord. My captain offers alliance.”

“Who is your captain, to want to ally with the Faithful?” Elendil demands.

Hyarrostarri answers: “One who would see Pharazôn’s downfall and a new peace in Númenor.”

Bold words, but flattery has many costly forms. “Who is your captain?”

Then the Southron girl steps forward: “I am.”

Roots: The Emberines

Some live entirely between hammer and anvil. Children of house-slaves, gat joylessly between two worlds and sold to the mills, are such.
But some learn a little ere sale – mothers teach true religion, give their children true names in their own tongues. The mills and mass murder teach other lessons…

Why burn mills? There’s the world entire: take the barracks, the streets where gilded carriages pass – the temple. The palace.

Free God-the-giver, and all slaves, Southron and Númenorean!

After massacre, the Emberines inherit war and breed new hopes, gathering men of all nations for a land of all free men…

Branch: The high road and the low road

The girl – she takes even a proper Adûnaic name, Azriphel – spins her tale, a tale of another Númenor, backwards as a mirror image. Hyarrostarri listens, eyes shining with a strange light – this is her tale, too, somehow.

Two pauper girls, and how many others – how many men – behind them?

“Enough to find you in every endeavor. Enough to fight our war,” says Azriphel. “It could be yours, too.”

The Elendili have sought power in Númenor, and found it – an audacious, peasant-petty power that would order them into a war of and by the lowly…

That is the step too far.

Branch: The sea and the shore

The sea and the land meet but do not merge.

Though princes use paupers, they will not be one with them. Convenient allies can go only so far down the road together.

So the harbors explode, and the barracks and the gilded carriages fall to fire and steel, while corsairs harry merchants, cut trade, cull royal ships. Old elven seacraft serves Elendil well – so well, Pharazôn will try his luck against Tol Eressëa to suppress it.

Meneltarma rumbles. Birds flee, but land-bound partisans cannot.

The mountain blows. Númenor collapses, and the sea – Azrubel’s sea – rushes in and swallows it whole.

Leaf: The ashes hereafter

The sea swells rack the shores, flooding harbors, drowning towns – in the north, the mills break like matches before the waves.

But in Harad, the old fire takes the survivors: the embers the Emberines guarded are strong still. The mills burn. And this time, no one rebuilds them.

For Elendil’s ships are like leaves on a storm – scattered across the coast, they come to rest in drifts: at Umbar, at Edhellond, at Pelargir, and even ruined Vinyalondë.

The Elendili make landfall – and purge Pharazôn’s partisans. Theirs the banner of tradition:

Neither Pharazôn nor Emberine – there shall be no new world.

A/N: “One white tree”: What brought they from the foundered land/over the sundering sea? /Seven stars and seven stones/ and one white tree. – Gandalf, reciting a line of Dúnedain lore in TTT

I love you, Tolkien. I love you for making Númenor so amenable to the industrial revolution and its failures and hopes. That being said, how on earth did the conservative aristocratic faction manage to reinstate a feudal system after that? That was my question while writing this. Thanks to the TW moderators for the prompts – it wouldn’t be Christmas without tragic drabbles at my house.

And I am sorry if some of this is not quite canonically ordered – I didn’t have my Silm copy to hand while writing this, but I hope I’ve managed not to put anything in there that would immediately betray that fact.
Tags: author: dwimordene, challenge: tree: bark, challenge: tree: crown, challenge: tree: leaf, challenge: tree: sap, challenge: tree: trunk, challenge: tree: twig, character: anarion, character: elendil, character: ocs, character: other canon character
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