Summary – When a wild beast
invades Ithilien, Aragorn tries to help Faramir and Éowyn with
Disclaimer – Tolkien invented
these wonderful characters. I have just borrowed them for pleasure and
not to make money.
beautiful foals, this is just too much!” Éowyn buried her head in
her hands; she was on the verge on tears. “It is bad enough to lose
lambs, but such is nature and all creatures must eat to survive, but
not my horses! What will this creature take next? A hound, a cat, one
of our children?” She shuddered. “It grows ever bolder. I have never
known the like!”
best Rangers are tracking the beast even as we speak,” said Faramir.
He drew his wife close, attempting to comfort her.
have tracked it for days now, but to no avail. They follow its trail
as far as the trees and then it seems to vanish into thin air.”
will join them this afternoon.”
shall I.” Unnoticed by the Prince and Princess of Ithilien, the King
had entered the room with his silent, catlike tread.
lord!” Faramir and Éowyn rose to their feet to greet Aragorn.
am sorry to catch you unawares, but as I am on my way to visit the Elven
Colony, I could not pass so near to Emyn Arnen without greeting you.
It seems I have just come in time to lend my tracking skills to hunt
down this creature.”
you are on your way to visit Legolas,” Faramir protested.
will send a message that I shall be delayed.”
Éowyn rose to her feet. “I had best
go and tend the surviving foals. What manner of creature can devour
one, leave another for dead, and injure four others? One of them is
so terrified; she will not let me near her. Even Faramir, who has such
a way with horses, could not approach her.”
have some experience of tending horses; if you would permit me to assist?”
course, my lord.” Éowyn sounded sceptical. Aragorn was a great healer
of Men, but horses were a very different matter. He was the King, though,
and she could not deny him.
Aragorn carefully examined what had
been a lovely grey foal that was now disfigured by hideous deep scratches
across her flanks. She shied away from him and neighed in terror He
sang softly in Elvish until she came closer to him. He rubbed her nose
and offered her a juicy apple. Only when she was calm, did he apply
a healing salve to her wounds. ”With time and care she should recover,”
he told Éowyn. “Now let me see the other injured foals.”
do you think the beast is?” asked Faramir quietly, as he calmed a
wolf or bear caused these injures,” said Aragorn. ”I wager it is
some sort of large cat. That is no doubt why it is proving so elusive,
but we should be able to track its footprints.”
Faramir glanced at the stable cat that
was slumbering curled in the hay, almost invisible, so well did its
tawny coat blend with its surroundings. Cats were indeed masters of
stealth and camouflage. “That would explain much,” he said. “But
there are few records of any such creatures in Ithilien. Still, much
has changed since records were last kept in my great-grandsire’s time.”
one is more frightened than hurt,” said Aragorn as he examined the
black foal. “He just has a few scratches.”
black horses are especially precious,” said Éowyn. The Dark Lord
depleted the herds of the Mark of too many of these beauties. My beautiful
horses were thriving so well before this monster, or monsters came!”
they will thrive again, my lady,” said Aragorn. Looking thoughtful,
he began to rub salve on the black foal’s wounds.
The King insisted that no special provision
be made for him; therefore, the noonday meal comprised simple but tasty
fare. The Princess of Ithilien was proud of her kitchens and the good
food that the home farms produced.
After the meal, Aragorn and Faramir
changed into Ranger clothing and sharpened their weapons. Deciding that
horses or further members of the party would only hinder their progress,
they set out on foot.
Faramir led the King to the paddock
where the injured foals had been found. The grass yielded few clues;
only flattened blades and bloodstains, around which a few flies buzzed
in defiance of the autumn chill. Aragorn espied a muddy patch where
the ground had been torn up by flaying hooves. He stooped to examine
it more closely. “Look!” he said. “There and there are hooves,
but see that print, as large as a man’s foot almost? That is creature
we are seeking.”
Faramir looked but could discern only
hoof prints and indistinguishable marks. Aragorn looked around until
he espied some flattened grass near where the paddock bordered on an
area of forest. Still following, what to Faramir seemed invisible tracks,
they walked briskly amongst the trees for some considerable time until
the track petered out into a wilder area, where a rippling stream
fed the dense undergrowth beneath mighty oaks and slender birches.
are still clearing paths through the woods,” said Faramir. “As yet,
though, this part is almost untouched.”
will follow the stream,” said Aragorn. “See, there is a print. All
animals need to drink, so I would wager our quarry’s lair is not far
For the first time Faramir clearly
beheld a large paw print, the size of a man’s hand in the soft earth
beside the water. He followed the King deeper into the forest. The undergrowth
was so dense here that the men had to cut their way through with their
Aragorn suddenly halted and sniffed
the air. “We are close,” he whispered to Faramir. The two stealthily
moved forward, not speaking again lest they disturb their prey.
There was a sudden rustle in the treetops
followed by a thud and a loud cry. A great cat had leapt from the trees
on to Aragorn’s back and was ferociously clawing him.
Faramir’s ranger training fast overcame
his horror. He reached for his bow and swiftly nocked an arrow. The
King lay face forward on the ground, the giant cat atop him, the two
a tangle of fur and flesh. To shoot the beast carried a grave risk of
also shooting the King. Faramir shot several arrows into the trees in
Sensing danger, the beast panicked
and fled. Faramir noticed that it bore an ugly festering wound on its
flank, which would explain why it had been seeking easy pickings amongst
Faramir ran to the King’s side and
dropped to his knees. Aragorn’s cloak and upper garments were torn
to shreds, exposing his back, which resembled a raw and bloody steak.
Faramir felt sick.
Aragorn groaned. Faramir swallowed
hard and lifted him, turning him over, and cradling him in his arms.
He pulled off his cloak and pressed it against the King’s back to
staunch the copious bleeding.
He pressed the cloak harder against
the wounds. There was so much blood! It seemed to take an age for the
flow to abate, but gradually his efforts succeeded.
Aragorn groaned again and opened his
pack - healing supplies.”
Faramir looked around him and espied
the pack a little way away; it had been torn open and the contents scattered.
Now the initial shock was wearing off, the realisation struck him hard
that the King’s survival lay in his hands and his alone. After what
seemed like an eternity, the bleeding slowed. Faramir dared to gently
put Aragorn down upon his side. He got to his feet and began to gather
up the healing supplies. All the while, he remained alert lest the beast
return. To his dismay, very little was usable apart from the knives
and a metal cup. Most of the bandages were scattered and soiled and
the pots of salves shattered to smithereens, including what he recognised
as the precious vials of pain relieving poppy juice. He collected anything
that looked as if it might be usable and hastened back to Aragorn’s
side. The King’s face was ashen and his grey eyes filled with pain.
He smiled wanly when Faramir knelt beside him again.
Faramir showed him the pots of salve.
Aragorn weakly shook his head at the first one.
rashes,” he muttered.
“That is no use then. And this one?”
“For bruises. That pot- Scratches-
might help a little. You need -clean wounds.” He groaned again and
closed his eyes.
Faramir half dragged,
half-carried Aragorn to the bank of the stream. He filled the cup with
water and held it to the King’s lips, all the while wondering what
he could use to tend the wounds with. He realised he did have adequate
cloths. He unlaced his shirt and tunic and pulled both over his head;
then replaced his tunic and carefully cut up his shirt with one of Aragorn’s
knives. At least the garment was fairly clean having been donned fresh
from the laundry that morning.
He would have liked to boil the water,
but had nothing with him in which to heat it, At least it looked clean,
for the steam rippled constantly over a bed of gravel. He cupped his
hands and sipped the water. It tasted sweet and pure.
“I shall try to cleanse your wounds,
sire, I fear it might pain you,” he warned Aragorn.
“Do it,” Aragorn muttered through
Faramir washed his hands in the steam
then took a deep breath and peeled away what remained of Aragorn’s
shirt and tunic. Now the bleeding had slowed, he could see that Aragorn’s
back and shoulders were covered in deep ugly gashes. He had seen men’s
backs bloodied from a flogging, but these wounds went far deeper than
those a lash could inflict.
He began to bathe the gashes as gently
as he could. Even so, Aragorn groaned at every touch of the cloth. The
wounds started to bleed anew, but mercifully, the blood flow was sluggish
this time. Faramir staunched it with more cloth from his shirt.
As soon as the wounds were clean and
the bleeding had ceased, Faramir again washed his hands and applied
some of the salve. He supported Aragorn against his shoulder and carefully
bandaged the injuries with the few bandages he had salvaged from Aragorn’s
pack and from what remained of his shirt.
He turned Aragorn over on his side
again. The King’s face was even paler and drenched with sweat, while
his breath came in short pained gasps. Faramir supported his
lord’s head and gave him more water to drink. His thirst sated, Aragorn
closed his eyes. A little colour returned to his cheeks and
his breathing became more even.
Faramir turned his attention to the
gravity of the situation that faced him. Aragorn needed help from a
trained healer and quickly. Éowyn was well versed in the healing arts
and would know what to do, but how could he get the King to her? If
he left Aragorn here to go for help, he would be able to return within
an hour or two. Yet how could he leave a badly injured man alone with
that monstrous cat abroad and hungry for his blood? Aragorn was not
just any man either; he was Faramir’s liege lord, and not only that,
but the man to whom he owed the life that his father would have snatched
from him. He could not leave him. He would somehow have to carry him
to safety. Faramir’s spirit quailed for a moment. He was a tall strong
man, but the King was even taller. He would be a heavy load to bear,
but bear him he must. They could not remain here in the depths of the
forest. If only he could have shot the beast while he had the chance,
he might then have dared leave Aragorn to summon help! Faramir shook
himself. It was no good dwelling on what might have been.
He knew they would be missed when they
did not return by nightfall. Éowyn would send out search parties. No
doubt as soon as they reached the path, they would come across the searchers.
With this new hope kindled in his heart, Faramir filled both their water
bottles and transferred what was left of the healing supplies into his
“We cannot stay here,” he told
Aragorn. “We must make our way back to the house.”
“I know, but how?”
“I will carry you.”
“You cannot bear my weight.”
“I shall try. If the strength
of Númenor lingers in my blood, I can do this.”
me a little time to rest and I can walk. I too, have the strength of
Faramir regarded his lord doubtfully.
It took all his strength at present to speak, let alone walk. “We
cannot delay, sire,” he said. “The sun will soon set and we cannot
tarry here after nightfall.”
“I am ready,” said Aragorn. “If
you could just help me up.”
Faramir gripped both Aragorn’s forearms
and hoisted him to his feet. Aragorn groaned loudly then swooned. He
sagged forward, almost knocking Faramir off his feet. For one dreadful
moment, he feared that Aragorn was dead. “Aragorn, my lord!” he
cried. He placed a hand on Aragorn’s chest and could have wept with
relief when he detected a faint heartbeat.
As a soldier, Faramir had been trained
to lift wounded men to bear them from the battlefield. He eased the
King up on to his feet. Faramir then bent his knees and hoisted Aragorn
across his shoulder. Faramir straightened up, staggering slightly beneath
the weight he bore. Aragorn was as slender as a sapling, but he was
an exceptionally tall man and well muscled. Faramir gritted his teeth
and concentrated on the task at hand; one step at a time, pushing his
way through the undergrowth and between the mighty oaks and birches.
Sweat was soon dripping from his brow
and his back felt as if it would snap in two. To make matters worse,
the wool from his tunic irritated his skin and he itched as if a multitude
of fleas had taken up residence in his clothing. Ignoring the discomfort,
he trudged resolutely onwards. He would happily have traded everything
he owned for a horse at that moment.
Aragorn had regained consciousness
and was groaning. Every step Faramir took was jarring the angry wounds
in his back.
“Stop, put me down!”
“I am sorry; sire, but I must bear
you to safety.” It tore Faramir’s soul to cause his lord pain, but
there was no other choice. The pain in his own limbs increased and he
felt as if his back would snap in two. Aragorn fell silent again apart
from the occasional groan.
The light started to dim. Faramir stumbled
onwards until he caught his foot against a tree root and almost stumbled.
He could go no further tonight. He looked around him for somewhere they
could rest. Fortunately, a mighty oak had fallen nearby, creating a
clearing in the forest.
He laid Aragorn down as gently as he
could beneath one of the great trees, placing him on his side. It was
Faramir’s turn to groan when he straightened up. Ignoring his own
discomfort, he knelt beside Aragorn, who lay unmoving, his eyes closed.
“Faramir?” Aragorn’s grey eyes
“We can go no further tonight. I
will gather wood for a fire to keep the creature, or any other savage
beasts, at bay. Would you like a drink?”
Faramir supported his lord’s head
and held the water bottle to his lips. When Aragorn had drunk his fill,
Faramir gathered branches from the fallen oak and built a fire. Fortunately,
he had his tinderbox to kindle a flame and it was soon blazing merrily.
Now they had some defence against any wild beasts that might be lurking,
Faramir turned his attention to the King. In the firelight, Aragorn’s
face looked haggard as if he were in considerable pain, but at least
the bandages were only a little bloodied.
“What manner of a cat could do this?”
he mused aloud.
“A lynx,” Aragorn replied. “Did
you not see the tufts on its ears?”
“A savage creature indeed,” said
“Only rarely,” said Aragorn. “They
are timid beasts that usually live off rabbits.”
“It had a nasty festering gash on
“Wounded beasts are the most dangerous.”
Aragorn then lapsed into silence. He shifted restlessly.
Faramir settled himself down beside
the King, trying to ignore the throbbing in his back and the itchy wool
against his skin.
“You should try to rest now, sire,”
said Faramir. “I will keep watch.” He sighed and tried to scratch
“Use the salve,” said Aragorn.
“For rashes. You have one!”
Faramir could not repress a smile.
Even as badly injured as he was, Aragorn never forgot that he was a
healer. The Steward rummaged amongst the depleted healing supplies and
took out the little pot. He pulled off his tunic and found he was indeed
covered in red itchy blotches where the wool had chafed his skin. He
smothered them in the soothing cream.
“So cold,” Aragorn muttered.
“You have my tunic,” said Faramir.
He cut the seams open with his dagger and wrapped it around the King
together with his blood-drenched cloak and Aragorn’s torn one. As
he did so, he placed a hand on the King’s forehead. It was drenched
in cold sweat. It seemed that the King was developing a fever.
“Huddle close and you will be warm,”
said Faramir. He stretched out beside the King and drew his head against
his shoulder. He shifted himself into as comfortable a position as he
could for both of them. He feared it would be a long night.
The last remnants of the sunset quickly
dropped below the western horizon and the moon rose, though little of
its silvery light penetrated the dense forest. An owl hooted then swooped
in search of prey. Faramir could only hope that no other, less friendly
predators, were abroad that night. He stretched out his free hand and
threw more branches upon the fire. The movement disturbed Aragorn. “Thirsty,”
Faramir reached for the water bottle
and held it to his lord’s lips.
Aragorn drank deeply then muttered.
“I wish I had a better means to keep
you warm,” Faramir said ruefully. He was starting to feel cold himself
being bereft of shirt, tunic, and cloak. Cold sweat from Aragorn’s
brow dripped on to his bare shoulder.
“Do not leave me!” Aragorn reached
out a shaking hand.
Faramir grasped it, his heart lurching
.The King must be even more gravely ill than he had feared to plead
with him like a frightened child. “I will never leave you, my lord,”
he said firmly.
Aragorn seemed to settle for a little
while then he groaned loudly. “Arwen, alas, Arwen!”
“I will take you too her,” Faramir
“So much pain, so cold - tell Arwen
“There is nothing to be sorry about,
be easy now, my lord.”
“Gave so much- so short a time, alas!”
“You must not abandon hope, sire,”
Faramir said firmly. “Éowyn will tend your wounds and you will soon
be well again.” Despite his words, Faramir’s own spirits sank even
lower. He did not think Aragorn’s wounds were mortal, but he knew
from the bitter experience of losing comrades that the infection that
followed was often more deadly than the wound. He had also seen men
appear to recover then lose the abilty to swallow and die horribly.
The Steward shuddered. Gondor had waited too long for her King to lose
him again after so short a time. Faramir had only known Aragorn for
a few short years, but he had come to care for him deeply. He had loved
his lord since their first meeting when Aragorn had saved Faramir’s
life and the King had come to fill the void left by Boromir and their
father. To think that such a man might die while trying to help Faramir
and his lady protect their herds. It was unthinkable! He tucked the
tattered garments more firmly around his lord and huddled closer.
Aragorn eventually fell into an uneasy
sleep, but Faramir tried to remain alert. Eventually, though, weariness
overcame him and he slept.
Faramir awoke to the joyous sounds
of songbirds greeting the dawn. For an instant, he wondered where he
was. Then he remembered. Aragorn lay still against his shoulder. His
heart lurched. Then the King stirred and opened his eyes. They were
filled with pain and glazed with fever, but he still lived.
Faramir reached for the water bottle,
noting with dismay that there was not much left. As he moved, every
muscle in his body protested. Faramir ignored the agony and held the
water bottle to the King’s lips. When Aragorn had drunk he said, “I
need to stretch my legs for a moment, then we will be on our way.”
“Do not leave me!”
“I will not. You have my word.”
Faramir paced the clearing trying to
ease his stiffness with little success. He returned to Aragorn. After
tending to him as best he could, he eased him to his feet and hoisted
him over his shoulder.
Today the weight seemed twice as heavy.
Even worse, Aragorn made no protest at being carried like a sack of
Faramir started off, concentrating
on one step at a time. His back felt as if it were breaking and so did
The Steward trudged onwards, weary
step after weary step. He dared not stop to rest for fear he would not
be able to get up again. Only an occasional groan from Aragorn assured
him that the King yet lived. His legs started to buckle and he stumbled.
He collapsed exhausted on the ground with the King beside him. Faramir
cradled Aragorn in his arms. He feared now that they might both be fated
to die here in these woods.
The grey eyes flickered open. “Faramir?”
Aragorn feebly reached out a clammy hand.
“You can go no further. Leave me.
Tell Arwen I,” His strength exhausted, Aragorn fell silent.
Faramir swallowed hard. Summoning up
his remaining reserves of strength, he willed himself onwards, this
time half dragging, half carrying Aragorn along with him.
The sun rose higher in the sky and
the woodland started to thin out. He had reached the path. Suddenly,
Faramir heard the sound of approaching hoof beats. He called out as
a rider came into sight. “Stop, we need help!”
The rider halted. Faramir could have
wept with relief. It was Beregond.
“My lord!” Beregond stared at Faramir
and the King in sheer horror. Only then did Faramir realise what they
must look like; dishevelled, covered in blood, and only half clothed.
“Are you injured, my lord?” Beregond
was already drawing off his cloak.
“I am well enough, but the King is
sore hurt. A great cat attacked him. Could you help me get him on to
your horse? Never have I been so glad to see you, friend!”
“And I, you, my lord! Every available
man is out looking for you. My men are close behind. Your lady organised
search parties when you did not return last night.”
Faramir wrapped Aragorn carefully in
the Captain’s cloak.
“You mount my horse and I will lift
the King up,” said Beregond.
Faramir tried to mount but his numbed
limbs failed him miserably. Wordlessly the Captain offered him a hand.
“Could you lend me your tunic, Beregond?”
Faramir asked. “I do not wish to cause alarm appearing before anyone
else like this.”
“Of course, my lord.” Beregond
was wearing leather armour, which he removed together with his tunic.
He replaced the breastplate over his shirt.
Faramir thankfully donned the borrowed
garb. It was even itchier than his own.
With considerable difficultly Beregond
lifted the semi- conscious King on to his horse. The animal snorted
restlessly, uneasy at the scent of blood, but quieted at a word from
Beregond slapped the gelding’s rump.
“I will follow you on foot,” he called, as the horse set off in
the direction of the house.
“Have a care, the beast might still
be on the prowl!” Faramir called after him.
Faramir gripped Aragorn tightly around
his waist and urged the horse into a brisk canter. Roused by the motion,
“Easy, sire,” Faramir soothed.
“You will soon be safe now.”
They had only travelled a short distance
when they came upon two of Beregond’s troop. Faramir commanded one
to ride after the Captain to fetch him. He told the other, who rode
the swifter horse, to go and alert Éowyn that the King was badly injured.
Faramir again urged the borrowed horse
forward. He had always loved horses, but today especially appreciated
that the noble beasts would bear men upon their backs. A distance, which
had seemed on foot had seemed so great, when carrying the King, did
not seem so far at all on horseback.
It was not long before the house came
into sight and he could hear his hounds barking. Éowyn ran out to greet
“Faramir, my love!” she cried,
anxiously regarding his dishevelled and blood splattered form.
“I am well, beloved,” he assured
her. “The King, though, is badly injured, set upon by the great cat
that savaged your foals! Help me get him inside!”
Faramir was almost at once surrounded
by servants and guards. Two burly sergeants lifted Aragorn down from
the horse and carried him within.
“Lie him on his side, his back is
injured,” Faramir called after them.
Éowyn followed, calling out
instructions to the servants. A groom helped Faramir dismount. The Steward
bade him care for the horse then stiffly followed on unsteady legs.
The men carried Aragorn to a spacious
chamber and laid him on the bed. Éowyn had already ordered a fire lit
and her healing supplies were laid out ready. The housekeeper and the
maids bustled hither and thither with hot water and towels.
Éowyn was already unwrapping Beregond’s
cloak from around the King when Faramir entered the room.
Aragorn groaned and opened his eyes
trying to focus on his surroundings. “You are safe now at my home,
sire,” said Faramir, gripping his lord’s hand.
Éowyn frowned as she caught side of
the blood stained makeshift bandages that covered Aragorn’s upper
body. She felt his pulse, then laid a hand on Aragorn’s brow and sighed
deeply. The King moaned softly at the lightest touch.
“We will tend your wounds now and
all will be well,” Faramir soothed.
“You, Faramir are going to have food
and drink, a hot bath, and clean clothes,” Éowyn said firmly. “The
servants have them ready for you.”
“I cannot leave him,” Faramir protested.
“You are half dead on your feet and
in no fit state to be in a sickroom!” said Éowyn. “I need to give
him poppy juice before I attempt to remove these bandages and it takes
a while to take effect. All I plan to do while you bathe, is to examine
him and give him the medicine and plenty of fluids.”
Faramir could see the sense in her
words and made to leave. Éowyn moved across to a table and filled a
glass with water, to which she added several drops of poppy juice. She
supported Aragorn’s head so that he could swallow. After he had drained
the glass, she replaced it on the table and covered the King with a
“Do not leave me!” Aragorn muttered
feverishly and clutched frantically at Faramir’s hand. “Arwen, where
“I will return very soon and I will
send for your lady. You have my word.” Faramir reluctantly freed himself
and made his way to his study, where he scribbled a note to the Queen
telling her that her husband was injured and needed her at his side.
He gave the message to a servant, telling them to despatch a messenger
to the City with all haste.
A steaming bath awaited Faramir in
his bathing chamber. On a tray beside the tub were jugs of wine and
of cordial and glasses, together with a plate of thinly cut bread and
slices of cheese and fruit. Faramir poured himself a drink. He had not
realised just how thirsty he was. He thankfully discarded the itchy
woollen tunic followed by the rest of his stained garments and eased
his aching back and limbs into the soothing warm water.
Faramir had little appetite, but forced
himself to eat while he soaked in the tub. He had succeeded in getting
Aragorn to safety, but he was still desperately worried about his lord.
He finished his ablutions swiftly and donned the clean clothing laid
out for him. It felt good to have linen rather than wool next to his
The bath somewhat eased Faramir’s
many aches and pains and he walked back to the King’s chamber more
easily. Aragorn lay much as he had left him, though his features looked
less haggard now the pain relieving draught was taking effect. Éowyn
had dismissed the hovering servants and was bending over the King, taking
“How is he?” Faramir asked.
“A little easier I think,” said
Éowyn. “I have removed his boots, but will leave you to put him to
bed once his wounds are tended.” She dipped a cloth in a bowl of warm
water and begun to soak off the bandages. It was a slow and laborious
process as the blood had dried hard. Aragorn groaned and shifted restlessly
on the bed. Faramir knelt beside the bed in front of him. He gripped
both his lord’s hands. Easy, sire,” he soothed, “it will soon
Éowyn bit back a cry of dismay when
the wounds were finally revealed. Aragorn’s back and shoulders resembled
a chunk of raw meat and were crisscrossed with deep angry scratches,
which oozed pus and blood. “This is even worse than what befell my
poor foals!” she exclaimed. Gritting her teeth, she began to clean
the wounds as gently as she could.
Aragorn moaned softly, his features
contorted with pain. He gripped Faramir’s hands tightly.
Éowyn then regarded the wounds critically.
“They are all deep enough to need stitching,” she said. “I think
it is better, though, to leave them open to drain. I dare not close
them, lest I trap poisons within.”
She smothered the wounds in honey and
covered them with clean bandages.
Aragorn never released his grip on
Faramir’s hands. He groaned softly, but did not otherwise cry out.
“There, my lord, all over now,”
Éowyn said at last, relief evident in her tone. Her pale blue gown
was now splattered with blood, giving her a somewhat alarming appearance.
“I must go and change before I frighten the household. I will leave
Faramir to put you to bed.”
“Thank you, my lady,” Aragorn murmured.
He lay back exhausted against the pillows.
Faramir straightened up, grimacing
at the pain in his back and legs.
“Are you well, my love?” Éowyn
enquired. “Maybe the servants should aid the King?”
“I am just a little stiff,” said
A sudden thought struck Éowyn. “We
could find no trace of you in the fields or the surrounding woods,”
she said. “Where was the beast?”
Deep in the uncleared forest. The King
followed its tracks to its lair where it attacked him.”
“You took no horses. However did
you manage to bring the King home?”
“I carried him.”
Éowyn’s jaw gaped. “You carried
him? But how? Such a feat would take several men or a horse.”
“He is my lord,” Faramir said simply.
“To him have I sworn both love and fealty. He once brought us both
forth from the dark vale, so how could I leave him to perish alone
in the dark forest? I carried him hence on my back.”
“You are a remarkable Man, Faramir
of Gondor! I chose well when I married you!” Éowyn planted a tender
kiss on Faramir’s lips, then bustled from the room.
A servant brought fresh water and cloths.
As quickly and gently as he could, Faramir removed the rest of Aragorn’s
blood stained clothing, dressed him in clean linens, and pulled the
bedclothes over him.
Aragorn looked unhappy at needing to
be tended like an infant, but bore the ministrations patiently enough.
He then asked for water, and by the time Éowyn had returned, he had
drifted into an uneasy sleep.
“You should go and rest now, husband,”
said Éowyn. “I will sit with him.”
“I will stay with him until the Queen
gets here,” said Faramir in a determined tone.
“Just as I thought you would, I know
you to be a stubborn man,” said Éowyn. “We will both sit with him
“How will he fare, Éowyn?” There
was fear in Faramir’s voice.”
“Such hurts would have killed a lesser
man,” said Éowyn. “The King, though, is of pure Númenorean descent
and exceptionally strong. He is sore wounded and has a fever, but I
can detect neither broken bones nor hurts within. We can but wait and
“May the Valar protect him!” said
Faramir. He kissed Aragorn lightly on the brow to emphasise the blessing.
“The Queen’s presence should help
him,” said Éowyn. “If she rides a swift horse she should be here
Husband and wife pulled up chairs on
either side of Aragorn’s bed and waited. After a while, Éowyn felt
she should look in at the nursery. Faramir realised that he felt hungry
again. He went to the doorway and called out to a passing servant to
bring him some refreshments.
He had left Aragorn’s side for only
a few moments, but when he returned, he found one of the house cats
curled on top of the covers against Aragorn’s chest, purring loudly.
He immediately made to move the cat, but Aragorn’s eyes flickered
open. “Warm”, he murmured.
Faramir let the cat be. Aragorn sank
back into his poppy induced sleep.
When Éowyn returned she exclaimed
in horror “Whatever is that animal doing here?”
“It sneaked in while I was talking
to one of the servants,” said Faramir. “I was going to remove it,
but its presence seems to soothe the King.”
Éowyn regarded both King and cat with
a critical eye. “He does seem to be resting more easily,” she conceded.
“It can stay for the time being as long as it does not touch his back.”
Husband and wife resumed their stations either side their King’s bed.
The sun was low in the sky, its fading
scarlet rays illuminating the bedchamber, when the barking of the hounds
alerted Faramir and Éowyn to the Queen’s arrival.
Aragorn’s fever had risen and he
had become restless. He alternately sweated and shivered. The cat had
become alarmed and after washing its whiskers thoroughly, had removed
itself to more peaceful surroundings. Éowyn had given Aragorn willow
bark tea, but it seemed to be to no avail. Her patient had become increasingly
exhausted and his breathing became ragged. He now struggled even to
open his eyes. Faramir was sponging his lord’s face and coaxing him
to swallow more water when Arwen glided silently into the room, startling
the Steward and his lady.
“How is he?” Arwen demanded as
she hastened to the bedside and lovingly kissed her husband’s lips.
Aragorn’s eyes flickered open with a mighty effort. “Vanimelda!”
he whispered, a weak smile lighting his pale face.
“My lady, I am so glad that you are
here!” Faramir greeted her.
“Have you brought a healer?” Éowyn
“I brought two assistants from the
Houses of Healing to help with nursing care,” said Arwen. “Estel
has little time for healers who know nothing of Elven arts. There is
nothing any of them could do for him that you have not done already.”
“My skills do not seem to be helping him,” Éowyn said sadly. “His
fever is getting worse.”
“Uncover his wounds that I may see
them!” said Arwen, “ and tell me exactly what happened
“They are a distressing sight,”
“Am I not Elrond’s daughter? I
have seen far worse.”
Faramir and Éowyn exchanged a glance
and nodded. Faramir recounted all that had happened to the Queen.
Éowyn called for hot water then pulled
back the covers and started to soak off the bandages. Aragorn groaned
“Easy, my beloved,” soothed Arwen.
“So ugly for you to see,” Aragorn
“You have been wounded before,”
Arwen said calmly. Even so, she blanched and swallowed hard when the
lacerated flesh was bared to her gaze. She quickly collected herself
and said. “These hurts need treating with athelas.”
“I will send one of my maidservants
to gather some from the herb garden,” said Éowyn.
“Eldarion is with me,” said Arwen.
“The herb will be more potent if he gathers it, young though he is.
For the blood of Luthien runs twofold in his veins. Maybe your maid
would show him where it is?”
“Of course,” Faramir responded
while Éowyn was still shaking her head in bewilderment at such a strange
Arwen studied her husband intently
for a few moments. Then she held her hands a little way above his wounds
and concentrated intently as her hands moved slowly from his neck to
At last, she opened her eyes and pronounced.
“The wounds have gone deep and he has a cracked collar bone and ribs.”
“I examined him thoroughly.” Éowyn
“I do not doubt it. Only an Elven
healer can detect changes in the energy that surrounds all living creatures.
Even I have only fully learned this art since I came to dwell amongst
Men. My father and brothers always tended the sick in Imladris’ healing
rooms and they saw no need for me to practise healing too.”
“Naneth, I have it!” a boyish voice
called from outside the door.
Éowyn swiftly pulled the sheet up
to Aragorn’s chin as Eldarion burst into the room, followed by a dismayed
looking nursemaid. The little boy skidded to a halt beside the bed and
regarded his father with dismay. “Ada!” he cried.
Aragorn opened his eyes and managed
to smile at his son. “It gladdens my heart to see you, ion nîn,”
he said. “Go now and play. You must care for Naneth.” He swallowed;
studying the child’s frightened face, and then added, “Until I am
well.” He closed his eyes again, exhausted.
Arwen took the athelas from the boy
and kissed him. “Thank you, Eldarion. I will use this to made Ada
well again. Now go and have your supper, I will come to you as soon
as I can.”
With a last anxious glance at his father,
Eldarion permitted the nurse to lead him away.
Arwen called for a servant to bring
more hot water and asked that the kitchens keep a constant supply in
readiness. As soon as the water was boiled, she took two leaves of athelas
and bruised them between her palms, murmuring something in the ancient
tongue of her people, as she did so. She cast the leaves into the bowl
of steaming water and at once, a living freshness filled the air, banishing
the stale odours of the sickroom.
Faramir found himself inhaling deeply
and his heart felt strangely lighter. Arwen held the bowl in front of
her husband’s face. Aragorn’s breathing deepened and some of the
tightness left his face. Arwen sang softly, which seemed to ease her
After some little time had elapsed,
she called for more hot water into which she cast two more of the athelas
leaves. She then bade Faramir remove his outer tunic, sit on the side
of the bed, and support the King against his shoulder. She repeatedly
bathed Aragorn’s wounds with the athelas mixture. Arwen continued
to sing as she worked, a sweet haunting melody, which Faramir surmised
to be a prayer of healing to the Valar.
Faramir held the King fast, at first
in a gentle restraint when he flinched at the touch to his wounds. Then
marvel of marvels, he felt Aragorn’s heartbeat strengthen against
his own and saw the tense body gradually relax as the wounds drained
their poisons away, washed clean by the healing athelas.
“We should bandage his back again
now,” said Arwen. If you would assist me, Lady Éowyn? More honey
needs to be used to prevent further infections. And mix him a draught
of poppy juice. Sleep will be his best healer if his body is to recover
from the shock and loss of blood.”
Faramir continued to hold his lord
while the two women worked. As soon as they had finished, Arwen and
Éowyn gently eased the King down on to the pillows and pulled the covers
over him. Faramir tried to assist them, but his stiff and aching arms
refused to comply.
“You should rest now,” Éowyn advised
them. “Go and lie on the bed in the adjoining chamber as I assume
you will not leave the King?”
“What of the Queen?” Faramir asked.
“I shall sit beside Estel,” said
Arwen. “My kind needs far less rest than the younger children of Ilúvatar.
Lady Éowyn, you should retire to bed now.” Thus saying, she settled
herself on a chair beside the bed.
“Call for me at once if you need
me,” said Éowyn. She paused only to give Faramir an affectionate
kiss before making her way to her bedchamber.
Faramir noticed as she left the room
how exhausted she looked. The past day had taken a heavy toll upon them
all. He looked again at the still figure upon the bed, studying Aragorn’s
pale still face. He did look less drawn, though and a little colour
had returned to his pale cheeks. He was breathing deeply and did not
seem to be in too much pain, though he looked exhausted after so many
hours of being tended. Faramir gently kissed Aragorn’s forehead then
retired to bed.
The Steward had not expected to be
able to sleep when he lay down upon the narrow bed in the next room.
He pulled off his boots with some difficulty, given how stiff he was,
and lay down, drawing a blanket around him. He knew no more until the
sun streamed through the window the next morning.
For a moment, Faramir wondered where
he was ; then he remembered and got up as quickly as he could, his heart
filled with anxiety as to how the King fared. He was still stiff and
sore, but not as badly as the day before. He hastened into the next
room. Arwen was still sitting in the chair. It was as if she had not
stirred from the night before. Aragorn had not moved either. He lay
so still that Faramir’s heart lurched.
“How is he?” Faramir enquired.
“He is still sleeping,” said Arwen.
“The fever has abated. Would you sit with him for a moment, please,
while I wash my face and change my gown?”
“Of course, my lady.”
Faramir took her place by the bedside.
Aragorn must have sensed his lady’s departure as his eyes flickered
“How do you fare, sire?”
“Well enough, apart from having a
sore back and feeling as weak as a new born kitten! I feel as if I have
not eaten for an age!”
Faramir was overjoyed to hear Aragorn
speak in a near normal tone of voice rather than a pained whisper. There
was more colour today in the King’s face and his eyes were bright
“Shall I fetch your lady, my lord,
and order the cook to prepare some refreshment for you?”
“In a moment. Come here, Faramir,
I have not yet thanked you.”
“For what, my lord? “
“For saving my life.”
“It was I, alas who could not shoot
the beast; while my lady and the Queen tended your wounds,” Faramir
protested. “Had you not offered to help protect our lands, you would
never have been injured.”
“I freely chose to hunt the lynx,”
said Aragorn. “You brought me here safely by carrying me for miles,
a feat worthy of the songs of old. Thank you, my friend.” He held
out his hand.
The Steward clasped his lord’s outstretched
hand. The grip was not as firm as usual, but the hand was no longer
clammy and shaking. Aragorn was on the way to recovery. His heart sang
with joy and gratitude.
Autumn had turned to winter and life
had returned to normal for Aragorn, Faramir, and their families.
Faramir was staying in the City for
a whle to take part in some important trade negotiations. They had concluded
for the day and he had joined the King and Queen in their private sitting
room after partaking of an evening meal with them.
A blazing log fire burned in the hearth
and the room was brightly illuminated with candles. The wind could be
heard moaning outside, but no chill draughts penetrated the cosy room.
Aragorn was sprawled on a chair by the hearth, absently stroking one
of the nursery cats, which had found its way there. His favourite hound
reclined on the hearthrug at his feet. Arwen was in the nursery, telling
Eldarion a bedtime story. Faramir was seated the other side of the fireplace
perusing a message he had received earlier that day.
“A message from your lady?” Aragorn
“Yes, she has good news. I will read
it to you. The horses are all thriving and
Swiftmane foaled last night- a beautiful little filly. The King’s
suggestion that Legolas should hunt the lynx was a good one. He came
several days ago with an Elven hunting party and they managed to kill
the creature. It is a relief not to have to post a guard over the foals
now winter is drawing in. I told the Elves only to kill the rogue lynx
that threatened my foals. If there are more, I
believe Ithilien has food enough for them.” He smiled and folded
the parchment into his tunic pocket. “I hope we never again get a
rogue beast,” he said thoughtfully. “Yet it would gladden my heart
if all manner of animals could thrive in Ithilien now that we are free
from the Shadow.”
“Indeed so,” said Aragorn. “I
would have my realm be a place where creatures of all kinds can flourish
alongside Man, Elf, Hobbit, and Dwarf. We owe much to animals. They
are our companions, they bear us on their backs, and they give us food
and clothing. My kingdom could not prosper without them.”
The two men lapsed into companionable
silence. As if in agreement, the cat purred and the dog gently wagged