Awaken Unto Light by Vicki Turner|
Summary: Theomir, son of Faramir and Eowyn, has fallen gravely ill and though now on the mend, something is still very wrong. Will Eldarion be able to help his best friend when everyone else failed?
Sometimes, late at night, when the stars are veiled, carefree sleep refuses to comfort me and my room echoes with distressing silence, I abandon the white stone palace and at the herb scented House of Healing watch him sleep – if constant moaning and delirious yelling with eyes semi-closed counts as sleep. Sometimes I watch him merely exist. With his eyes wide open yet glazed with fever, I fervently watch the rise fall of my best friend’s chest, convinced each breath might be his last. At his age, Crippling disease is usually deadly. I know very few adults who’ve contracted disease. None who’ve survived it. These weeks I have spent many hours imagining his funeral, forced to witness the flowing tears of his mother, the piercing pain of his father, the confusion of his young five-year old brother, and inexpressible sorrow of his twin sister.
When his father, the Lord Steward, left his son’s bedside to request conversation with me, I feared the worst. How greatly relieved I was to learn Theomir was awake and aware.
But, behold! Here I stand at the threshold of his room, afraid to enter. Although the midday sun glistens off the white stoned citadel, night still reigns in here. A depressing grey clocks the air. The few flickering hour candles have all but burnt their operas. The stillness of the bed causes to me to wonder if I have been cruelly deceived and my best friend in fact passed beyond the circles of this world.
Kneeling besides the bed, Theomir’s fair-haired mother strokes her son’s hand. I see her tears, but if shed with sorrow or relief, I cannot tell. Eowyn heard my approach and quickly glides to the door way and I am enveloped by her desperate embrace.
“Eldarion! I am glad you are here,” Her whispered greeting is saturated with distress.
“My Lady, Lord Faramir said Theomir awoke, but has he regressed? Is he…?” I fear whatever words may come next.
“Nay, He is awake.” Eowyn assures, but where is her joy? She pauses, momentarily overcome with emotion, before explaining, “But he won’t talk. I know he hears me, but he won’t respond. Not to me, not to Father, not to little Elboron, not even to his sister!” Her voiced hitched after this pronouncement. “Eldarion, Eldarion, please go to him. You are his dearest friend, perhaps… I do not wish my son for my son to be alive, but dead to the world. Why? Why will he not speak to me?”
“Sh…My Lady, sh… I am no healer. Perhaps you’d be better calling my father. He was trained as a healer in his youth.”
“King Elessar came and left an hour ago.”
My brows furrow. “My father could not help?”
“No. Theomir’s silence is not a physical malady. Aragorn believes Theomir should be improving more rapidly but he is not. I’ve tried and tried reach through to my son but I cannot!” She paused and her hand drifts toward her protruding stomach. “I would stay, but I must go eat for the baby. Send word if anything, anything at all, changes.”
She kisses my check and leaves me alone outside the room. I am still afraid to enter, the room’s darkness is magnified, despair resounds from each corner, and every fiber of my being desires to flee down the corridor in denial. I step across the threshold nevertheless.
Gently sitting on the end of his cot, I spend several silent moments staring at shadow of my friend. Theomir was the most insane, boisterous, and fun-loving hooligan I have known throughout my eighteen years of existence. Mother jokes Theomir corrupts me, but Father laughs and maintains I need to be corrupted or I’ll end up a pompous Prince like Uncle Legolas. I see nothing corrupting about Theomir now.
Theomir avoids looking at me. His eyes seem glued to the wall. I had hoped, for whatever reason, he would speak first, but I am forced to try conversation. But what do you say to your best friend who almost died? ‘Greetings? Glad you’re not dead? Why aren’t you speaking to your family and me?’ What in the world is wrong with you, Theomir? Do you not care for the sanity of your mother? The health of your stressed father? Why won’t you let us help? If you died, I would have mourned greatly, but I would know how to handle that situation. I don’t know what to do now. You vex me so!’
None of that seems proper, but I would say it. I would say that and more if I were not certain his family already said it. I must reach Theomir in a different way.
“Remember, Theo, when we were eight, and I lost my Father’s horse. I was too afraid to tell anyone else, but I told you?”
I stand and walk over to one of the candle operas. “Or remember, when we were thirteen and we visited your Uncle Imharil in Dol Amoth? We thought it would be fun in the middle of the night to commandeer a small raft, but ended up captured by Cosairs. I remember that dark, putrid and rotten cell they threw us into.” I pick up an extra candle and hold it over the failing flame. “I developed some wild scheme to escape and even though our chances were slim, you trusted me.” I replace the dying hour candle with mine, and the newly lit wax burns brightly. “We escaped.”
“Theomir,” I return and kneel next to his bed and grasp his hand tightly, “You my closest friend. Four sisters I have by blood, but you are my brother by choice. All my life you have trusted me and I, you. Trust me now, brother.”
“I do.” Theomir’s faint whisper just reaches my ears. He still cannot look at me, his gaze glued upon the ceiling.
Silence. A sob. He finally turns to me and I can see how tear threaten to spill down his sickly cheek.
“I am afraid, Eldarion.” My heart breaks at the pain in his voice, a voice I always knew to be strong and carefree. “I am afraid to live.”
I know not how to respond.
“I am a man of action. I do not plan battles; I fight them. I do not conjure political policies; I enact them. I think about my actions, but usually after I have already acted. That is who I am.”
I do not interrupt, in fear he will retreat into silence again.
“That is who I am, Darion! I jump off of galloping horses onto another. I venture
onto flimsy branches twenty feet off the ground just to pick the ripest fruit. I have always been one to run the fastest, ride the hardest, jump the highest, and fight the finest. That is who I was! That is who I was!” Theomir rage swells until his pale face is completely ashen. Suddenly he sobs. “Who I am now?”
“I do not understand.” My friend makes no sense. Why does he doubt his idenity?
“Darion,” Theomir’s voice is nearly inaudible. “I cannot move my legs. I cannot feel them.”
I am stunned. Daredevil Theo, an invalid? There is a reason why they call it the Crippling disease, but I had not thought passed his possible death. Since he had overcome the disease, I had hoped… I rack my mind, searching for any other alternative.
“Perhaps feeling will return in time,” I venture.
“And perhaps it won’t, Eldarion! Moreover, it wouldn’t matter; I can never walk again. The healers said I caught the Crippling disease and you’ve seen those children begging on the lower city streets; their legs twisted unnaturally from the disease, and so are mine. Now, I will be the one people cringe and retreat from. I will be poor soul stuck in chair the rest of my days. Eldarion, I’m nineteen years old; how could Eru let this happen to me? I had my whole life ahead of me. I would have rather died than face this life! ”
“Cease, Theomir!” His sharp words, carelessly flung, wound me deeply, “You say not what you mean.”
“I know what I say and what I mean, Eldarion!” Theomir snaps, but then sighs. “How can go on if I’ve lost everything that I am?”
“You are still the same person and Eru still has purpose for you.” I will not abandon my friend to this despair that engulfs him, “Everything you mentioned earlier is not you; it was what you did.”
Theomir sighed unconvinced, “I am maimed, Eldarion. I am not the same.”
“Listen to me! Understand you are Theomir son of Faramir the Wise, son of Eowyn the Nazgul slayer, heir of the Steward of Gondor, but most importantly, my friend. That has not, nor will ever change.”
“You do not understand. Everything has changed! I can no longer do anything we used to do together.”
I laugh. “Do you think I like you because we hunt together? Do you think our friendship depended on so shallow a thing as the number of Tournaments we compete in as partners?” Nay, we are friends because of the quality of your character and personality. You can find humor in almost any situation. You are loyal to a fault. You patiently listen to my rants after Father forces me to attend court. You boil with anger whenever some flighty maiden cruelly toys with my heart. Above all, you persevere.”
I stand and begin to pace the room. I let my words penetrate the walls of despair my friend has erected and pray the words reach his heart before I continue. “Do you remember last summer when Father sent us as an envoy to Lasgalen? Remember when our horses spooked in high pass? Both injured, we trudged down and out of the snow, but I was so exhausted I begged you to let me lie down and die on the slope. You did not let me. You told me, ‘We made it through the hardest part and I will not let you give up now!’. Theomir, you survived the worst of this sickness and I will not let you give up now.
“Look!” I stride to the window and whip the heavy black curtains open. Sunlight floods the room, washing away the darkness, sweeping away havens of despair in the room’s forbidding corners. “The sun still shines. You are my friend. Eru is still in control and no matter how much shade he allows in this world there is light. This world is not dark and neither is yours.”
I look back at Theomir and I rejoice as a small glimmer of hope invades his eye. Hope now besieges his heart and the walls of despair shall soon topple and give way.
“It will be hard sometimes to see that light,” Theomir voices the last flickering doubt as hopelessness fades.
I smile. “But I am up to that challenge.”
~ Fin ~