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One Title: Your Story

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Song of Hope


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Rating T

I borrowed these characters from Tolkien to enter this contest, not to make money.

Summary - Aragorn fights for Faramir’s life after a chance discovery has dire consequences.





“This reminds me of my Ranger days,” said Aragorn as he reached up to pluck another rosy apple from the tree.

Éowyn looked puzzled.” I thought you spent your time fighting Orcs and guarding the Shire?”

“I did, but every man, woman and child helped with the apple harvest in the Ranger villages,” said the King. “Always we had to watch our backs, though.” He looked around him and smiled contentedly. Éowyn’s apple trees were laden with ripe fruit and her household, together with her guests were lending a hand with the harvest. Eldarion and Elboron were picking up windfalls while Arwen helped pack the fruit neatly into wooden boxes.

“Faramir will be so sorry that he wasn’t here this afternoon,” said Éowyn. “He was so eager to inspect the work at Minas Ithil. He is hoping that the rebuilding might start in the spring.”

“He was not to know that my meeting was cancelled and that we were coming today,” said Aragorn. “I hope our early arrival did not inconvenience you?”

Indeed not,” said Éowyn. “The guest chamber is always ready.” She laughed. “And you are working hard for your keep!”

Just then, a dishevelled guardsman rushed into the orchard. “Lady Éowyn!” he cried. “Come quickly. Lord Faramir has been taken ill!”

Éowyn paled but quickly collected herself. “What happened?” she asked.

“I don’t know, my lady. They are bringing him indoors now.”

“Ada is home?” asked Elboron excitedly.

“Yes, dear one, but he is not feeling well,” Éowyn replied. “You will see him later when he is rested.”

Aragorn had hastened to Éowyn’s side. “Has he been wounded?” he asked.

“I don’t think so, sire. He just collapsed and we could not rouse him.”

Aragorn ran towards the house followed by Éowyn, who was somewhat hampered by her heavy skirts.

The housekeeper stood in the doorway wringing her hands. “I told them to take Lord Faramir to the downstairs guest chamber,” she said. “Captain Beregond is with him.”

Faramir lay motionless on the bed, his face as white as Éowyn’s favourite gown. Aragorn laid a hand on his brow. It felt cold and clammy. “What happened?” he demanded of Beregond, who hovered at the bedside.

“We found a casket in a ruined building. Lord Faramir opened it. Within were several daggers of rich and ancient design. Lord Faramir picked one up and it melted clean away in his hand leaving only the hilt. Lord Faramir gave a cry and fell into a deep swoon from which we could not rouse him.”

“Was he wearing gloves?” Aragorn enquired.

“No, my lord; the day was warm.”

“Did anyone else touch the daggers?”

“One of the recruits did, sire. He felt faint and cold but recovered within a few minutes once we took him out into the sunlight. He has returned with Lord Faramir.”

“I will speak to him later. Do you have the hilt?”

“No, sire. We threw the accursed object back into the chest fearing some dark magic!”

“What ails my husband?” Éowyn asked impatiently, fear in her eyes. She had gripped Faramir’s cold hand with one of her own. With her other hand she stroked his face. “Is it..?”

Aragorn looked grave. “I cannot be certain until I have examined him properly, but I fear it is the Black Breath!”

“I thought the Dark Lord’s powers died with him?” Beregond remarked.

“Mostly they did,” said Aragorn. “Faramir, though, fell victim to the Black Breath when Sauron’s power was at its strongest. I believe touching an enemy weapon has caused a relapse in him. It would have little effect on your young colleague as he has not been exposed to it before.”

“No!” Éowyn looked as if she were about to burst into tears.

“I need athelas and hot water,” Aragorn said firmly. “Could you get some for me, please? Do you have athelas in the herb garden? If not, there is some in my pack. ”

Éowyn hurried away to do his bidding.

“Beregond, will you help me undress Lord Faramir and put him to bed, please?”

“Yes, my lord.”

They swiftly undressed Faramir and clad him in his night attire. Aragorn was relieved that Faramir had no wounds on him or unusual marks of any kind. He was still troubled, though. For a man to have experienced a relapse after having suffered so badly from the Black Breath in the past was a serious matter. Faramir’s symptoms now were far more typical of the condition than the fever he had suffered when Aragorn first met him, but this worried the King. Fever showed that the sufferer was fighting the affliction. Granted, Merry had survived two brushes with the deadly condition, but Hobbits were far more resilient to dark magic than the strongest of Men.

Just then, Éowyn bustled in with a handful of freshly gathered athelas from her herb garden. She was closely followed by the housekeeper bearing a bowl of steaming water.

“It is indeed the Black Breath, I fear, my lady,” said Aragorn. “Be of good cheer, though, the athelas should swiftly revive him”.

Thus saying, he took two leaves and breathed on them, then crumbled them and cast them into the bowl of water. At once, a living freshness filled the room.

Aragorn placed one hand on Faramir’s brow and with the other clasped the Steward’s right hand. He was overwhelmed by a sensation of coldness and despair and anticipated a struggle to revive the unconscious man. Much to his surprise, Faramir almost immediately opened his eyes. He looked somewhat dazed. “I had such dark dreams,” he said, “they have left me sore weary.” With that, he closed his eyes again and fell asleep.

Éowyn gave a deep sigh of relief. “Thank you, my lord,” she said. “With rest my husband should swiftly recover.”

Aragorn studied the sleeping man. Faramir was still too pale for his liking but he was breathing deeply and his pulse was much stronger. “I will stay with him for a while,” he said.

“There is no need, sire,” said Éowyn. “I will stay by my husband. You should re-join your lady and your son in the orchard. It is too fine a day to be indoors. Maybe you would reassure Elboron that is father will soon be recovered?”

“Very well, but call me at once if you need me. I will speak to the boy who was affected first, though.” With a final glance at the sleeping Steward Aragorn asked a servant to send the recruit to him.

Aragorn interviewed the lad in Faramir's study. He was a lanky young fellow with a pleasant open countenance, which was currently clouded by an anxious frown.

“What is your name?” he asked.

“Turgon, my lord, “the boy replied, shuffling his feet nervously. I was named for my grandsire. I serve in the White Company under Captain Beregond.”

“Sit down, Turgon, there is nothing to fear. I believe you were there when Lord Faramir was taken ill. Did you touch the daggers too?”

“I'm sorry, sire, I didn't mean any harm.”

“I am certain you did not. I would just like to know exactly what befell.”

“We were clearing away some rubble in the corner of a ruined building, sire, and found an old chest beneath it with strange emblems carved upon the lid. One of the men called for Lord Faramir, thinking he ought to know. He came at once and opened the chest, which wasn't locked. Inside were three large daggers with curved blades, which gleamed strangely. The hilts were ornate and set with many gems. Lord Faramir exclaimed that they must me of great antiquity. He reached out to take one and I did the same, I don't know why, sire, I only planned to look, but it seemed to compel me.”

Aragorn smiled grimly. “A trap set by the Enemy.”

“I felt a shudder go through me and I felt sick and faint and overwhelmed by despair. It were as if my parents had died, my sweetheart left me for another, my comrades were all slain, and Gondor was overrun by enemies all at the same time! Lord Faramir gave a cry and swooned almost at the same moment. One of my fellows led me outside into the sunlight. I was very cold, but then I felt better, as if nothing had happened, but poor Lord Faramir was unconscious. I was so afraid, sire.” The boy coloured and shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“Far braver men than you quail at such dark magic, Turgon, even the greatest of the Age. Were you in Minas Tirith during the siege?”

“No, sire. I was but a small child then and went to Lossarnach with my mother and sisters when Lord Denethor ordered the evacuation.”

“Which hand did you touch the dagger with, Turgon?”

“My left, sire, I favour that hand.”

“Give me your hand, please”

Turgon held out his left hand. Aragorn took it in his own. It was warm and unblemished.

“It seems you have had a lucky escape, Turgon. However, if your hand feels cold, or you feel sad or have dark dreams these next few days, come to me. I can treat you with athelas.”

“Thank you, sire. Will the athelas help Lord Faramir, sire?”

“He is already much better.” Aragorn smiled at the boy. “Now let us go outside and gather apples. The sunlight and fresh air will be good for you.”

000

“I had hoped that Faramir would join us for dinner, but he said he wished to rest,” said Éowyn.

“He is missing a delicious meal,” said the Queen as she tasted the soup made with tomatoes freshly picked from Éowyn’s kitchen garden.

“I will see how Faramir fares before we retire for the night,” said Aragorn.

The conversation turned to the subject of the apple harvest as the meal progressed. Éowyn’s cook had surpassed herself with a selection of three different apple desserts.

“I thought we might have cider made from last year’s harvest to end the meal,” said Éowyn.

Just then, a loud cry came from the downstairs bedchamber. Éowyn and Aragorn leapt to their feet as a servant ran into the dining room calling, “My lord, my lady, Lord Faramir has lost his wits!”

Aragorn ran with the speed of a deer to the chamber that housed the Steward. Éowyn followed as best she could. A grim sight met his eyes. Beregond and a servant were trying to wrest a knife from Faramir. The front of the Steward’s nightshirt was covered in blood.

“Give me the knife, Faramir.” Aragorn said firmly.

“Once my worthless heart ceases to beat!” cried Faramir.

“Whatever do you mean, my Steward?” said Aragorn.

“I should not be your Steward, my brother alone was worthy. Thus said my lord father.” Faramir regarded the King bleakly. “Why did you wrest me back from the shadow to face a life of torment?”

“Please, my husband, cease this madness”, said Éowyn.

“I am not the husband you desired. How can I compare with the King? You wed me only because he was betrothed to another!” Faramir brushed aside those attempting to restrain him and raised the blade aiming at his heart.

“Faramir, no!” Éowyn cried.

“Your King commands you to give him the weapon.” Aragorn spoke in a tone more often heard in commanding troops or calling an unruly council to order. Still Faramir hesitated.

“My lord, I am sorry, I cannot.”

“Look over there!” While Faramir was momentarily distracted Aragorn lunged and grabbed the knife from his hand.

Faramir glared at Aragorn and looked longingly at the blade. “Again you thwart, me, Elessar!” he cried. “I curse you!”

Éowyn paled. “No, Faramir. To speak thus is treason!”

Aragorn gave no reaction to the outburst. “Sit down, Faramir,” he said calmly. “You are not well.”

“No! My life must end now.”

Aragorn reached out and gripped Faramir’s arm. The Steward collapsed on the floor with a cry. The King cushioned his fall and sank to his knees, supporting the semiconscious man.

Éowyn knelt beside them, her eyes full of fear.

Aragorn turned to face the crowd of curious servants who had gathered. ”One of you bring me hot water,” he said“, the rest of you return to your duties. Lord Faramir is not himself. Captain Beregond, take the knife and stow it away safely.”

The servants scuttled away,

“What’s happening to him?” asked Éowyn.

Aragorn took Faramir’s hand, which was again deathly cold and felt his brow. Faramir’s teeth were chattering and he stared blankly ahead of him.

“I fear this is another effect of the Black Breath,” said Aragorn. “I have seen it take men this way before, driving out all that is good and hopeful from their hearts and filling them with despair. I should never have left him!”

“Nor should I”, said Éowyn. “But tell me, my lord, will he recover?” Her eyes were wide with fear. She laid a loving hand on her husband’s arm, but he recoiled from her touch.

“I will use every art known to me to ensure that he does.” Aragorn said firmly. “First we must get him warm and I must tend his wounds. Do you have any furs?”

“I have fur cloaks in my wardrobe,” Éowyn replied. ”Shall I fetch them from my chamber?”

“Please do, my lady.”

Éowyn hurried away. Aragorn looked up and became aware that Beregond hovered in the doorway.

“Have you stowed the knife away safely?” Aragorn asked the Captain.

“Yes, my lord.”

“Close the door then and help me lift Lord Faramir on to the bed please.”

Together the two men accomplished their task. Aragorn then bade Beregond make up the fire. He pulled the blankets up to the Steward’s waist and removed the blood-spattered nightshirt. Faramir struggled feebly and seemed deaf to the soothing words of reassurance he offered. As he had expected, he found several shallow cuts across Faramir’s chest. Aragorn had seen this before, men driven to despair who sought to take their own lives usually made a few tentative cuts before achieving their lethal purpose. He shuddered. Gondor had come too close to losing her Steward that night. He pressed his ear against Faramir’s chest and found that his heart beat far too slowly while his skin felt like ice. He placed a hand on Faramir’s forehead, seeking to connect with his mind, but it was like trying to swim beneath dark and clouded waters full of ice, which he could not break.

A servant knocked on the door. Beregond took the bowl of steaming water that she brought and placed in on the table beside Faramir’s bed. Aragorn crumbled some athelas leaves into the water.

“Take deep breaths of the steam,” he instructed his Steward.

“No, no!” Faramir cried. “It sears, it burns!”

Aragorn groaned inwardly .Faramir was obviously deep in the grip of some dark enchantment, which even the athelas seemed to have little power against. The herb had roused him from the deathly slumber, but a darkness lingered in the Steward’s mind, which threated to destroy him body and soul. He dipped a cloth in the athelas mixture and began to cleanse Faramir’s wounds.

“No!” Faramir protested. “This worthless body must be utterly destroyed. Let me follow my father into the fire, which alone can cleanse the foulness!”

“I cannot let you bleed, my friend, or permit your wounds to become infected while you are not yourself,” Aragorn said firmly.

Faramir ceased struggling but seemed to withdraw even further in some dark corner of his tortured mind.

Aragorn tied the bandage, He took Faramir’s icy hands between his own and started to chafe them. Faramir, though, jerked away from his touch as if it burned him.

Éowyn returned carrying an armful of furs. “How is he?” she asked.

“His wounds are slight, but his mind is clouded with darkness,” Aragorn told her. He took the cloaks from her and wrapped them around Faramir, with the fur next to his skin. Instead of snuggling into the warm covers, though, the Steward seemed to recoil from them as he did from their touch.

Beregond threw more logs on the fire and discreetly withdrew.

The King moved to the foot of the bed and studied Faramir’s face. The Steward’s eyes were closed and he had his head turned away from both his lady and his lord. He seemed to be in the grip of some dread waking dream, which was destroying him. Aragorn tried to recall everything Master Elrond had ever taught him concerning the Black Breath. It seemed that a trace of the malady had lingered within Faramir’s spirit, which had been stirred by him touching the bespelled dagger. Aragorn knew he must find a way to reawaken Faramir’s soul to all the goodness and beauty within Arda and within his life. Sunlight and warmth did not seem to be helping the Steward, neither did athelas, the most potent weapon there was against the deadly illness.

Faramir lifted his head a little and spoke. “Go, leave me, Éowyn,” he said. “You never truly loved me, now you will be free. And you, Elessar, I know you pitied me, which is why you offered me friendship, while in your heart you despised me!”

Éowyn began to weep quietly. Aragorn opened his mouth to say something and closed it again knowing it was futile to try to reason with one whose mind was so disturbed. Just as futile as Éowyn’s tears. He knew he must find a way to save Faramir. Maybe a healing chant would help, but would it hold sufficient power?

“Estel?” Arwen’s voice called from outside the door.

“Come in, my love.”

The Queen entered her lovely eyes full of concern. ”How is Faramir?” she asked. “Beregond told me he was not faring well.”

Aragorn nodded sadly. ”I was wondering if a healing chant might aid him,” he said.

Arwen nodded. ”It might, but a healing song would have more power. Did not song create order out of nothingness at the beginning? But first light candles to banish every shadow from the chamber.”

Glad to be given a new sense of purpose, Éowyn bustled from the room in search of candles.

“We will together call upon Estë, “said Arwen. “ I would not have our Steward fall victim to the darkness.”

“His mind is so clouded he might try to flee from the song,” said Aragorn.

“Then we shall lock the door and bid his loyal captain to return lest we need his help,” said the Queen. She called a servant to summon Beregond.

Éowyn lit candles in every corner of the chamber until it resembled the Merethrond on a feast day. Beregond was bidden to stand by the bed and be watchful. Aragorn called for more hot water and steeped several leaves of athelas in it. The herb might not be working for Faramir, but it would raise his own spirits and strengthen his resolve.

Aragorn took Faramir’s hand and began with a simple prayer to Estë, a chant rather than a song. Then Arwen joined in and began to weave a melody.

Éowyn had little time for Elvish music, finding it insipid compared to the hearty songs of her homeland. The songs of the Rohirrim told of the great deeds of their ancestors or the beauty of their horses and the land where they roamed. Such songs fired the blood on a chilly night or made the farmer’s labours easier. Elvish songs seemed to have little purpose other than to sound sweet and while away the hours of the immortal singers. Usually Éowyn struggled to remain awake during them. This song though was different; it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end and every fibre of her being feel more alive. The song was both sweet and painful, sad and joyful, ancient yet new, and all at the same time as the King and Queen’s voices rose and fell in perfect harmony.

For a few moments Faramir remained motionless and silent. Then suddenly he groaned and writhed as if in pain. He raised his hands and covered his ears with them. Aragorn, gently but firmly prised them away and grasped one cold hand in his own, all the while never pausing in his song. He gestured to Éowyn to take Faramir's other hand. Beregond remained alert in case it became needful to restrain the Steward.

The song continued; the words telling of the great deeds of the Valar and the beauties of the world they had created out of song. The melodies became ever sweeter and the harmonies more complex. Aragorn's deep resonant bass, mingled perfectly with Arwen’s high sweet soprano.

Faramir's eyes flickered open. For a few moments, his gaze darted wildly around the room before meeting Aragorn's wise and kindly face. His writhing ceased and he breathed deeply of the athelas vapours while he listened to the song as if entranced.

At last, the voices died away, the final notes appearing almost to float in the evening air.

Faramir slowly sat up and studied the anxious faces surrounding him. “What happened?” he asked. “Éowyn? My lord King?”

“What do you remember?” said Aragorn.

“I was in Minas Ithil and we found an ancient chest. There were finely crafted daggers within of skilled and ancient design. I picked one up and was enveloped in a cold dark fog from which I could not escape until I heard the music. It was a foul place indeed without light or hope. But how did I come to be here and where are my clothes?” He belatedly noticed the Queen's presence and pulled the furs more closely about him.

“It is a long story,” said Aragorn. “Suffice to say for now that Beregond brought you home and we sang to lead you back into the light.”

“ I was lost and could not find you, my lord, or Éowyn, the joy of my heart, nor any of the happiness I have known these past years.”

“How do you feel now?” asked Éowyn.

“I am hungry and this room is far too hot!” His features clouded again. “Young Turgon touched the daggers too. How does he fare?”

“I am certain the cook will have some food for you,” said Éowyn. “As for the lad he has been picking apples all afternoon. He escaped lightly.” She looked at her husband and then at the King and Queen and her heart swelled with love and gratitude. Fearing she might burst into tears, she hastened from the room.

“Turgon is well. He has been picking apples all afternoon,” said Aragorn.

“The Valar be praised! That chest and its contents must be destroyed before any more unwary souls can fall victim to the dark magic.”

“A wise decision.”

“Can someone fetch me some clothes so I can get out of bed?” Faramir asked.

“I will go and ask your manservant,” said Beregond.

“I promised Eldarion I would tell him a bedtime story,” said Arwen. “I will leave you with your patient, Estel.” She left the room, closing the door behind her.

“I feel perfectly well,” Faramir protested as Aragorn felt his forehead and checked his heartbeat.” He then noticed the bandages and stared at them in bewilderment. “I do not recall being wounded.”

“You tried to hurt yourself with a knife,” Aragorn said gently. “You suffered a recurrence of the Black Breath and were not yourself.”

Faramir looked horrified. “I had a knife? What did I do and say?”

“You did no harm,” Aragorn said firmly. “The Black Breath destroys all sense of hope and joy. It caused you to talk gibberish.”

“Am I doomed to be mad like my father or plagued with recurrences of the Black Breath?” There was fear in Faramir's voice.

“Indeed not, my friend.” Aragorn shook his head. “You, unlike your father, have fought the dread malady and triumphed. I very much doubt you will ever suffer another relapse. You were enchanted with an ancient evil magic.”

“I must be a weakling as Turgon was unscathed,” Faramir said sadly.

“You are nothing of the sort. The young recruit had never encountered the Black Breath before. I also believe that the Enemy created his vile weapons to afflict the bravest and noblest of heart the worse.”

Faramir sighed then his eyes lit up. “My heart if full of thankfulness that you rescued me again from the darkness.”

“It was my pleasure. I would not be without my friend” Aragorn smiled. “My heart rejoices that I was able to heal you.”

“Never before have I heard so sweet a song,” said Faramir. “Could even Lúthien when she sang before Melkor have weaved such magic?”

Aragorn laughed. ”You had better tell my lady that,” he said. “She is said to be as fair as Luthien so she might well share her gift for music too.”

“You and your lady should sing together more often,” said Faramir.

Éowyn, together with Faramir’s manservant came back into the room, the latter carrying an armful of clothing.

“You can sing the hymn to Yavanna at our harvest celebrations,” said Éowyn.

“We will for there is much to be thankful for,” said Aragorn. His eyes met Éowyn’s and they both looked towards Faramir.


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