Eye of the Beholder by Lbilover

For the 2013 B2MeM challenge 'Beauty' and inspired by the following quote from LOTR, Book 4, Chapter 5, The Window on the West:

‘For myself,' said Faramir, 'I would see the White Tree in flower again in the courts of the kings, and the Silver Crown return, and Minas Tirith in peace: Minas Anor again as of old, full of light, high and fair, beautiful as a queen among other queens: not a mistress of many slaves, nay, not even a kind mistress of willing slaves. War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise.

Frodo imagined that no one who set eyes upon the White City for the first time ever forgot the sight. Certainly he knew that he never would. It was a marvel among marvels, even to one who had wandered the valley of Imladris, climbed the mallorns in the Golden Wood, and crossed the terrible vastness of Mordor.

Both Boromir and Faramir had spoken of their home with pride and love, but also something of melancholy for her lost days of glory. Frodo wondered at that, for at a distance the gleaming white walls appeared smooth and unbroken, the banners on the battlements fluttered proudly in the breeze, and the bright sun glinted on the pinnacle of the Tower of Ecthelion as if it were fashioned of some priceless crystal. Minas Tirith was altogether a brave and wondrous sight.

Only as they drew nearer did the evidence of damage and decay become apparent, like blotches of mold on the velvet petals of a rose. All at once Frodo understood, and his heart was moved by pity - for Boromir, who would never see his home restored to her former glory, and for Faramir, who had lost brother and father to the whispered seduction of the Ring and the deceit of its master.

But even as pity swelled within him, Frodo began to discern dark specks that gradually resolved into the forms of people, working with the tireless determination of a colony of bees whose hive has been damaged. Small but indomitable they appeared as they hauled rubble and hammered nails and swept refuse. From the eldest to the youngest, no hand was idle, and surely, Frodo thought, with such resolve to drive them, the city would again become, as Faramir had put it, 'beautiful as a queen among other queens'.

And yet it seemed to Frodo, as he gazed into the purposeful faces of those working tirelessly to succour her, that however beautiful Minas Tirith became, at that moment she was more beautiful still.