lindahoyland (lindahoyland) wrote,
lindahoyland
lindahoyland

Shadows of Memory - Teitho Winner


Shadows of Memory by Linda Hoyland


Rating: PG13

Summary: Injured and believing himself in great danger, Aragorn seeks
to flee for his life. Escape, however proves impossible.

The characters are the property of the Tolkien estate. No profit has
been, nor will be made from this story.



There was pain everywhere. Thorongil had no idea where he was. Hands
were prodding him and removing his clothing. He tried vainly to
struggle, only to encounter strong hands that restrained him. He felt
violently sick and started to retch. The hands supported him while
someone held a basin. Then the darkness swallowed him again.

Thorongil's bandage swathed head throbbed painfully.. He tried to
take stock of his surroundings. He realised he was lying on a strange
bed, larger and softer than his own. Home in Imladris? No, he heard
no familiar Elven voices, nor smelled the long-missed fragrances of
herbs and flowers scattered throughout the Last Homely House. How
had he come to be here? The last thing he remembered was setting out
to dine with Steward Ecthelion. The Captain slowly opened his eyes.
To his surprise, he beheld the last person he would have expected to
see standing at his bedside: Denethor, Ecthelion's heir. "What
happened?" Thorongil whispered through parched lips. It was a
struggle to speak. The words came out slurred, as if he were drunk.

"You had an accident and have hit your head," said Denethor. "Would
you like a drink?"

"Please."

Denethor supported his head and held the glass to his lips. "Easy,
Aragorn, sip it slowly," he advised.

Thorongil nearly choked on the water. He was so shocked that his
control lapsed, surprise and horror showing on his face.

"I know you dislike being helped, but you will soon be well again,
mellon nîn, easy now," the Steward's heir soothed.

Thorongil groaned, sighed and settled back against the pillows.
Denethor had discovered his true name! What else did Ecthelion's son
know? And how had he fallen into Denethor's power so helplessly?

"Sleep now," said Denethor, kissing him lightly on the brow. Before
Thorongil could do more than wonder at such an action, he fell back
asleep.

**

Some hours later Thorongil opened his eyes again. He gingerly sat
upright, trying to ignore his aching, spinning head. Denethor lay
asleep on the far side of the bed, nearest the door. Thorongil tried
to make sense of what had happened.

He must have been attacked. It took no great leap of reasoning to
ascertain the most likely culprit. Denethor had distrusted and
disliked him from the start. Denethor never ceased to question
Thorongil's origins, sometimes casually, sometimes directly, and
sometimes subtly, trying to catch Thorongil in an untruth. Now it
appeared that the Steward's heir had finally ferreted out his true
name. How? Could he have blurted out his true name when reduced to
semi-consciousness by his injuries? Yet, it would be most strange
for Denethor to attack him. The heir to the Stewardship was a cold
and proud man, but he was also neither a brute nor a traitor.
Thorongil could scarcely believe that Denethor would have resorted to
such measures to learn his rival's identity. Could Denethor's
jealousy and suspicion have driven him mad, mad enough to have
arranged the attack that had left Thorongil with a head injury, and,
he painfully realized, a cracked rib or two together with a great
many bruises. That too was unlikely. Denethor was a particularly
strong-minded man, master of himself as well as of others.

The hostility of the Steward's heir had always saddened Thorongil.
They were so well matched that almost could they have been brothers.
Denethor was unusual for a lord of Gondor in these latter days, for
in Ecthelion's tall son, as in Thorongil, the blood of Númenor ran
true. The Steward's heir was gifted with foresight and shrewd
intelligence; and he thirsted for lore even more than did Thorongil,
who loved the old tales and histories. The heir of Isildur could
surmise that Denethor's love for Gondor had made him determined to
cling to the right to rule it - at all costs. Not that Thorongil
would be such a fool as to try to claim the throne.


Aragorn had dreamed often of reclaiming the throne of his fathers.
It would be a deed almost worthy of Elendil to reunite the North and
South Kingdoms, so long divided to their mutual detriment. And
Aragorn had often wondered whether Elrond's fair daughter would look
more upon him more favourably if he wore the Gondor's winged crown.
But, he would not make such a claim at the price of harming the land
that they loved. He was all too aware that the tumult that would
arise from his asserting his rightful claim would serve none save
Sauron. Even the revelation of Thorongil's true name and lineage
could provoke another kin-strife! The old Steward was growing frail
and loved Thorongil as his own son. It would break the old man's
heart to be forced to choose between his son and the Captain he loved
as dearly. And if that strife spread, dividing his own officers
from their families, and lords from Anorien to Belfalas quarrelled
over the coming of the King, battle and war could erupt, sapping the
strength that the realm so desperately needed to battle its true
Enemy.

But why was Denethor being so kind to him now, hovering at
Thorongil's bedside, calling him friend and bestowing a kiss? Could
Denethor feel guilt for having had him beaten? He could sooner have
imagined the son of Ecthelion turning cartwheels in the Court of the
Fountain stark naked, than caring for his hated rival! So how had
Thorongil come to be here, in the bedchamber of Ecthelion's son's
room, sharing his very bed? It was the custom to share with a friend
or relative, in Gondor, especially in winter, to stave off the cold,
but Thorongil was the last man on earth that Denethor would choose
for a companion. And where was Finduilas, Denethor's beloved lady? He
could only surmise that her husband had given her leave to visit her
kindred at Dol Amroth. Finduilas' deep long for the sea seemed almost
to consume her at times. Thorongil feared it was damaging her health.
Denethor hated to be parted from his wife, which meant her visits to
the sea were few and far between.

The room was odd too. Thorongil could have sworn that this vast
chamber with the enormous bed, which could easily accommodate five
Elves, belonged to the Steward rather than to his heir. Maybe he was
mistaken? He had only been in Ecthelion's bedchamber once before,
when the Steward, bedridden with a light sickness, had summoned his
favourite Captain for the discussion of a forthcoming campaign. The
tapestries looked familiar. The light was too dim to clearly discern
the images woven into the cloth, yet they seemed very like the
tapestries that had covered the walls of his bedchamber in Imladris!
Thorongil realised he needed to use the privy. He could only hope
that the oddly over-attentive Denethor would not awaken and insist on
taking him there! Strange, the man even looked different.
Denethor's eyes had held more warmth than usual and in repose; the
stern carven features were somehow gentler.

Somehow, Thorongil managed to get out of bed without disturbing his
unwanted sleeping companion. Clutching the edge of the bed to keep
his balance, he made his way round to its foot, where two robes lay
folded. He sat down for a moment and pulled one on.

Once he had closed the chamber door behind him, Thorongil saw with
surprise that the corridor was far more brightly lit than usual.
Unremembered carpets covered the stone floor. At least the servant's
privy and bathing chamber was where he remembered it, a few doors
away from the main bedroom. He recalled trying to wash the grime from
his hands and face ere a meeting with the Old Steward, but then there
had only been a simple pitcher of cold water and a bowl, not the good
quality soap and thick towels that were there now. He splashed water
on his face, wishing fervently that his head did not hurt so much. At
least the room was no longer spinning.

Thorongil reached a decision. It was not safe for him to remain in
Gondor any longer. He must seek out Ecthelion and ask for his help to
return to Rohan. Thorongil knew not how long Denethor's benevolent
mood would last, but if he made it clear he was planning to leave, he
would probably be safe. Given this strange mood of Denethor's, the
Steward's Heir would probably send him off in a well-appointed wain
with his favourite cloak wrapped around Thorongil's shoulders!

But where was Ecthelion? He must be sleeping in the second main
bedchamber. Thorongil was more familiar with the sitting room between
them as well as the Steward's private dining room, where his patron
had often invited him for a meal. To disturb the Steward at this time
of night would be unwise. Yet he was confident of Ecthelion's
affection and support. Surely the old man would understand his plight
and help him?

He knocked loudly on the bedchamber door. There was no reply.

"May I be of assistance, sire?" A guard appeared, seemingly out of
nowhere. To Thorongil's bewilderment, the fellow dipped his head as
if in obeisance. Even stranger, the guard's uniform was embroidered
with the Royal Insignia, an emblem unused for hundreds of years in
the South-kingdom!

"I wish to speak to the Steward. Where is he?" Thorongil enquired. To
his relief, he no longer sounded as if he were drunk.

"He is sleeping yonder tonight," the man replied, gesturing towards
the chamber that Thorongil had recently vacated.

Just then, Denethor appeared, clutching a robe over his nightshirt.
An anxious frown furrowed his brow, which relaxed when Denethor
espied his captive.

He gripped Thorongil's arm firmly, yet surprisingly gently, and
shepherded him back to his room. "You alarmed me by wandering off
like that," Denethor chided gently. "Please tell me if you want to go
out again. Come on, let us return to bed."

His escape attempt foiled, Thorongil slumped dejectedly on the bed.
His best plan was to appear meek and say as little as possible until
he regained his strength. Denethor helped him remove his robe and
pulled the covers over him, tucking them under his chin. Thorongil
began to wonder if they had both fallen under a spell. What else
could suddenly cause Denethor to cosset him like a devoted nursemaid
or even a mother? He prayed that Denethor would not bring him
spiced milk and sing him a lullaby; things were strange enough
already.

"Why did I not think of it before?" Denethor said suddenly, going to
the door and calling to the guard to summon a servant to fetch hot
water.

Thorongil had no idea what he was talking about until the Steward's
son started rummaging in a bag, which appeared to contain healing
supplies. To Thorongil's consternation, Denethor selected two dried
athelas leaves from amongst the herbs.

"This eases your heart when you inhale it," said Denethor smiling.
Just then, the servant tapped on the door. Denethor went to take the
bowl of water from her "You will need to crumble the leaves in the
water, as you alone have the power," he told his captive.

"What?" said Thorongil horrified at the discovery of this
unquestionable proof that he was the heir of Elendil. Denethor must
not have been as senseless as Thorongil had believed him to be when
he had treated the Steward's heir for a nasty slash from an
Easterling blade after their usual Healer had been killed. He had
hazarded the use of the herb when the life of the Steward's heir had
hung in the balance. Later, Thorongil had mused upon the irony; that
he had saved the life that stood between him and the throne of his
sires. But Thorongil could not have deprived either his kindly
patron of an only son, nor Gondor of a great lord and Captain who was
his own comrade-in-arms. Only the servants of Sauron would stoop
so low! It seemed, though, that his decision had cost him dear.

Denethor now regarded him with what appeared to be genuine
bewilderment. He had no idea the man could act so well! "The air in
this room is not especially stale," Thorongil said lamely. "Why do we
need athelas?"

"You have never hesitated to use it for others, so why not for
yourself?" said Denethor, holding the bowl in one hand and offering
him the leaves with the other.

Thorongil had no choice but to take them and drop them in the bowl in
the same fashion he had seen the elderly serving women freshen the
rooms.

Denethor was looking increasingly puzzled. The keen grey eyes looked
slightly hurt too. Those eyes troubled Thorongil. They seemed somehow
to have changed. He almost had a look of Lady Finduilas about him. It
was said that Men grew to resemble their wives, a saying Thorongil
had always thought foolish, but maybe it was true after all?

"Does your head still ache?" Denethor enquired.

"Yes," Thorongil replied tersely.

Denethor poured two drops from a vial into a glass of water and held
it to Thorongil's lips. "Drink this!" he commanded.

"You are trying to poison me!" Thorongil accused, his composure
faltering.
Denethor took a small sip from the glass. "It does not taste that
bad," he said, "Come on, it will make you feel better!"

Thorongil was compelled to drink, though still fearful the draught
was some nefarious potion, designed to weaken him and addle his wits,
rather than the simple pain relieving draught he craved. His eyes
soon grew heavy and he could not fight the urge to sleep, desire his
desire to remain watchful.

"Why am I here?" Thorongil asked.

"The ladies suggested we should keep one another company," Denethor
explained, as if talking to a child.

Obviously it was some peace making scheme of the Lady Finduilas that
they should share a room while she was away from the City. The gentle
lady was ever seeking to make peace between her husband and Captain
Thorongil. There were some disputes that even the Steward's wife
could not heal, and this, alas, was one of them.


But Denethor had said ladies, not lady! Had Denethor carried him
into some den of loose women while he was unconscious, to trump up
some lie to be told to Ecthelion? There were pleasant and still
comely women in several taverns that they had frequented who had
certainly made it clear they would welcome more intimate relations
than good coin paid for refreshment. Thorongil felt his head pound;
it was all so confusing!

Thorongil rubbed circles into his temples, wishing that he could just
make this nightmarish day end forever. Perhaps Finduilas' older
sister, who had recently visited her, had suggested that Denethor
seek the company of a trusted man at night on those occasions when
Finduilas was feeling ill? Thorongil had met the Lady Ivriniel,
older daughter of Adrahil; and found her to be a good-hearted woman
inclined to jesting. Could Denethor have lured Ivriniel into a
sinister plot on the pretext of a mere jest?

He did not know! He should know! Thorongil could not hold back a
moan of frustration.


"Easy now, rest," Denethor had climbed into bed beside him and had
laid a hand upon his shoulder. Thorongil wanted to recoil from such a
false and patronising gesture, especially when his unwanted companion
started to gently rub his back. Yet the touch seemed genuinely
comforting, like that of a comrade or brother, such as Halbarad or
Elladan or Elrohir. Most curious, though, was the difference in
Denethor's very hands. When Thorongil had last dined with the Steward
and his son, he had idly observed that both father and son shared
short, stubby, though strong, fingers. Denethor's hands now seemed
long and slender. Stranger still, Denethor was using an Elven
technique that Thorongil often recalled the Master Elrond using to
ease him as a child. However did Denethor know that? With that
unsettling thought, he drifted into a dreamless drug induced sleep.

When Thorongil awoke again, his head still throbbed. He was still in
the vast luxurious bed and wanted nothing more than to bury his
aching head in the soft pillow. He wondered if Denethor were still
there.

Blearily, he opened one eye and stared in amazement. Denethor was
getting dressed. He had already donned his breeches, but his lean
body, so like in build to Thorongil's own, was bared to the waist. He
was standing with his left side facing Thorongil as he raised his
arms to don a shirt. That was the side, which had been slashed by an
Easterling blade only a few months ago. Such an injury would leave a
deep and painful scar unless the victim had access to treatments
unknown outside the Elven Realms. Gondor had had no contact with
Elves for generations. Yet Denethor bore no trace of a scar.

Thorongil let out a sharp intake of breath. He must be losing his
wits!

Denethor must have heard him, for he hastened to the bedside, tucking
in his shirt as he did so. "How do you fare, mellon nîn?" he
enquired.

If Thorongil had not known him better, he could have sworn the
concern in the man's voice was genuine. "Much better, apart from a
slight headache," he lied, not wanting to betray his weakness.

Denethor frowned. "I dressed in here rather than the dressing room,
as I thought you might awaken once the poppy juice wore off," he
said. "Would you like some tea? I have sent for some. The Healer will
be here to see you soon. I hope he will give you something for the
pain. He only left one dose of poppy syrup with me, alas."

Thorongil nodded in pretended compliance. He wished he had not when
the dizziness from the day before return.

Denethor squeezed his shoulder, obviously in pretended
sympathy. "Easy now, the Healers said it would take a day or two for
you to feel yourself again," he said.

A servant tapped on the door and Denethor went to open it. Thorongil
seized the opportunity to try to get out of bed, but failed dismally.
As soon as he tried to put his feet on the floor, he started to feel
decidedly queasy and he found himself suffering the indignity of
being escorted to the privy by Ecthelion's son.

He felt much better, though when he returned and felt able to sample
one of the steaming mugs of tea. Denethor tucked him up in bed again
and held the cup to his lips. Suddenly fearing it might be drugged,
he tried to think of some excuse. "I am not thirsty after all," he
said lamely.

"Come, you need to drink," said Denethor. "See, it is not drugged."
He took a swig from the mug, before offering it again to Thorongil.

However could the man read him so clearly? Denethor was noted for his
perception, but this was uncanny! Thorongil drank. He was in truth,
very thirsty, and the tea was reviving.

No sooner had he finished it than another knock came at the door.
This time, Denethor opened it to admit a stocky, fair-haired man clad
in Healer's robes. Denethor regaled the man in great dealer about his
captive's symptoms.

"Tell me how you feel, my lord and spare no detail!" the Healer said.
He had a strong Rohirric accent, which surprised Thorongil. He
thought he knew all the Healers in the Houses at least by sight, and
they were all Gondorians. And why did the man call him `my lord'
rather than `Captain'? He was a lord only amongst his own people in
the North.

"My head aches and I have experienced nausea and dizziness,"
Thorongil replied in perfect Rohirric, hoping to maybe establish a
rapport with the man. Denethor had little time for Healers, so this
man was most likely what he appeared to be.

"That is usual after a head injury," said the Healer, unwrapping the
bandages and probing the wound on his head in a very professional
fashion. "Hmm, you are doing well; the wound is clean and should soon
heal, and you seem perfectly lucid. I think you could get up later,
if you do not over exert yourself. I will give you something for your
headache."

"I should like to consult Master Beren about my injuries," said
Thorongil. Beren was a good friend, an elderly Healer who was
interested to learn whatever Northern herb lore Captain Thorongil was
willing to impart. If he could but get a message to him, maybe his
friend could help him escape.

"You will not escape my attentions so easily, by asking for a Healer
who does not exist!" the Healer said, laughing ruefully. "Little
wonder that Master Oropher preferred to set a broken leg this morning
and left me to attend upon you!"
"But Master Beren is real, you must know him!" Thorongil protested.

"I have never heard of him either," added Denethor in perfect
Rohirric.

Thorongil's spirits sank further as his bewilderment increased.
Wherever had the Steward's son learned to speak the language of the
Mark so well? He had obviously understood every word of Thorongil's
conversation with the Healer.

"It is not unusual to be a little confused after suffering a head
injury, my lord," said the Healer. "Maybe you mean Bereg?"

"Yes," said Thorongil quickly.

"Everyone confuses similar names at times, my lord," the Healer said
cheerfully, winding a clean bandage around Thorongil's head. "You are
fortunate, your thick Númenorean skull has saved you from serious
injury this time, but you need to rest."

"I will see that he does," said Denethor. "I have cancelled all my
engagements today, so that I can remain at his side. I am greatly
relieved the cut is healing well."

Thorongil suppressed the urge to glare. Had this arrogant man not
even the decency to allow him to have his wounds treated in private?
At least his head had stopped spinning now.

"Do your ribs still pain you?" enquired the Healer.

"No," Thorongil replied tersely, determined not to allow this Healer
to examine him further in Denethor's presence.

"Very, well, I will wait until tomorrow before examining them
again, "said the Healer, as if humouring him. "I will mix you some
willow bark tea to ease the pain without making you sleepy. I will
leave some poppy juice for later. You know the correct dosage." He
mixed up the herb and handed the cup to Thorongil.

"It tastes vile!" Thorongil spluttered.

"You always say that!" the Healer commented placidly. "Healers make
the most complaining patients!"

Thorongil could have sworn he had never seen the man before today,
but all the Healers would now know he was one himself. After he had
treated Denethor's severe injury successfully, Ecthelion had made his
gratitude widely known. One of his colleagues must have told him more
about his patient. Or was the man truly a Healer from the Houses at
all, given that he did not know Beren?

The Healer placed a vial of poppy juice and a packet of herbs on the
table. "I will call again later. Farewell for now, my lord."

"My wife was wondering if you had any ginger root to spare in the
Houses," Denethor said as he showed the Healer to the door. "It
always helps our little one's stomach settle."

Thorongil realised this was his chance. Denethor adored his infant
son, Boromir, and missed no opportunity to boast of him. Taking up
the vial of poppy syrup, he slipped two drops in his jailor's half
finished tea. The potion would not hurt him, but he should sleep
deeply for hours.

A few moments later, when the Healer finally left, Denethor picked up
his mug and took a swig of tea. Grimacing he put the mug down, its
contents still unfinished, much to Thorongil's dismay. Still, maybe
he had consumed enough to make him sleepy.

"The tea is cold and tastes rather strange," Denethor said
grimacing. "I will send for some fresh. Would you like some
breakfast, Aragorn?"

Thorongil flinched at this fresh use of his true name. "I will just
have some toast, please," he replied, still feeling too nauseous to
stomach a full meal. He only hoped his still delicate digestion would
not rebel at the sight and smell of Denethor's favoured morning meal
of ham and eggs.

To his surprise when breakfast arrived, it comprised a large plate of
toast and butter, together with boiled eggs and crusty bread and
honey, the only addition for his companion.

Seeing his look of surprise Denethor said, "I did not wish to order
anything that might cause your nausea to return, my friend. Shall I
assist you to a chair that you can eat more easily, or would you
prefer breakfast in bed?"

"Breakfast in bed, please," said Thorongil desiring to appear as
helpless as possible. To his delight, Denethor yawned; causing him to
dare hope that he had imbibed sufficient of the drug to make him
sleep. He was starting to feel much stronger now the pain killing
herbs had had time to take effect. He nibbled at his coast, but let
Denethor hold the cup for him again, willing to endure that
humiliation, if he could but lull the man into complacency that he
was too weak to attempt to escape.

After he had eaten his fill, an increasingly yawning Denethor brought
Thorongil a damp cloth to lave his hands and face. "Would you like me
to read to you or maybe you would like to play chess?" he suggested.

Thorongil quickly scanned the books in the room, surprised at how
many concerned Elvish lore and the History of the Kings. He requested
an account of the Battle of Unnumbered Tears in Quenya, which he
espied on far corner of the shelf.

Denethor began to read, but when he reached an account of the
strength of the armies and what weapons they bore, his words became
slurred and the book fell on his lap, the reader sound asleep.

Thorongil waited to make certain Denethor was sleeping soundly. In
repose, the man's features looked noble, yet surprisingly gentle,
with an almost childlike innocence. Strange indeed how the man had
changed over these past days!

With the stealth only a Ranger or an Elf can possess, Thorongil slid
from the bed. He had no idea where his own clothes might be, but a
tunic and breeches lay folded on a chair. He silently donned them
over the drawers and nightshirt he was already wearing, together with
some boots. They fit perfectly, almost as if they were made for him,
though of far finer quality than his own clothing. He was startled to
see that the tunic was embroidered with the Stars and Tree of the
Kings. What nefarious scheme could Denethor be planning, that he
would have ordered such things? Maybe Thorongil was to be held up
to public ridicule as a would be king with nothing to back up his
claim? Would Denethor force him to wear the garments to his
execution, as a final humiliation?

He knew it was time for him to leave Gondor, a realisation that had
been growing in his mind for some time. Captain Thorongil was loved
by the people, and most especially by Ecthelion, but the Steward was
growing old and frail. Thorongil needed to be well away from here
before his son inherited the White Rod.

Thorongil cautiously opened the door a few inches. It was fortunately
well oiled. There were two Guards at the far end of the corridor. He
crept along, concealing himself in alcoves. When a flirtatious
maidservant bringing clean laundry distracted the men, he slipped
past unnoticed.

Flattening his body against walls and alcoves whenever he was in
danger of being observed, Thorongil gradually made his way to the
main door and slipped outside. He was somewhat surprised not to have
seen any familiar faces amongst the servants he had glimpsed. Most of
the staff had worked in the Citadel for years. It were as if they had
all been mysteriously replaced overnight. Once, he thought he
recognised a gardener, but the realised he was mistaken when he saw
the man's face. It must have been his father, as this man looked at
least forty years older than the man he knew.

Thorongil walked openly among the passers by once he was outside.
Greatly to his surprise, almost without exception they dipped their
heads or bowed to him as he passed, while others called "Good Day, my
lord!" Captain Thorongil was popular, but such shows of respect were
for a ruler, not a captain!

He was alarmed to see a handful of Southrons in their colourful robes
mingling with the Gondorians. They must be enemy spies, but how
strange that they made no attempt to disguise themselves!

He was so distracted by his musings that he failed to see a now wide-
awake Denethor approaching him together with several guards.

"You must come back to bed, sire, you are not well," said Denethor.

Panicked, Thorongil ran around the corner to the Court of the
Fountain, hoping he could disappear into the buildings flanking the
dead tree. To his astonishment, the withered trunk had disappeared
and a living tree stood in its place. The Guards were dressed
differently too. They were bareheaded and their uniforms bore
insignia that he had last seen in portraits of Elendil at Rivendell.

It was all too much for Thorongil. Everything started to spin. . He
heard someone running towards him. Denethor's arms caught him as
everything went black.

Powerless to resist, the semi conscious Thorongil was carried back
inside. This time, he was taken to a different room. This chamber
appeared to belong to a woman. It was tastefully furnished, again
with tapestries oddly similar to the ones her recalled from his
childhood at Rivendell.

Thorongil could only struggle feebly when Denethor and the Healer
undressed him and put him to bed. The Healer mixed a potion, which he
politely, but very firmly insisted that Thorongil swallow. He knew
from the taste it was intended to induce sleep.

Before he succumbed to the drug, he heard Denethor say in an agitated
tone, "How could I have been so careless? I tried not to leave him. I
did not even dress in my dressing room, lest he wake and need me!"

"You were drugged, my lord, I can see that your pupils are dilated.
You did well to awaken when you did," the Healer replied. "He is
obviously very confused. It might be best to restrain him for his own
good."

"I will not have him humiliated. Remember who he is!" Denethor's tone
was sharp.

"Of course, my lord, as you wish."

"Will he recover?" Denethor's tone was now anxious. Thorongil was
surprised; for though Denethor was capable of masking his true
feelings, he had not known the Steward's heir to be so skilled at
deception!

"He should, but it will take time, I fear. Would you like me to stay
with him? He must not be left alone in his current state of mind."

"I will not leave him, but would be grateful for your company, Master
Eomund. I will keep guards stationed outside the room at all times
now."

Thorongil's heart sank still further at these tidings. Denethor and
the Healer sat down on chairs either side of the bed, obviously
prepared to stay there. Bizarrely, Denethor patted his captive's
hand. Thorongil pretended to be asleep. Within moments, he
surrendered to slumber, unable to resist the drugs any longer.


***

When he awoke again, Thorongil's head felt much better. There was no
sign of his jailors. Slowly he sat up and to his great relief his
head did not swim. Darkness had apparently fallen outside, as lamps
dimly lighted the room.

Then he noticed her; a woman was lying in bed beside him! She was
turned away from him, so that he could not see her face. The long
dark hair spread across the pillow suggested that it must be Lady
Finduilas. He was obviously in her chamber. This then, was Denethor's
plan against him. For a man to found abed with the Heir to the
Stewardship's wife was high treason. It meant a certain and extremely
unpleasant death. Finduilas would escape punishment, if it appeared
that he had taken her by force. However had Denethor persuaded his
virtuous wife to agree to so evil a plan?

Thorongil feared his fate was sealed. Ecthelion might well love him
as a son, but even the Steward could not exonerate him from a
situation such as this. He was alone with the lady, in her bed and
wearing nothing but a nightshirt!

He cried out in horror, and the woman awoke with a start. She turned
to face him. It was not Finduilas but Arwen!

"Whatever has Denethor done to shame you like this? Never would I
bring such dishonour upon you, my lady!" Thorongil cried in horror.

Ever since he had glimpsed Arwen walking under the birches at
Rivendell, he would have liked nothing better than to wake up each
day beside her. Not like this, though, without proving himself worthy
of her love and winning her hand in marriage.

"Why should I not lie beside you?" Arwen sounded bewildered. "I am
your wife!"

A guard, having heard Thorongil's cry, knocked on the door. "Is
everything well, my lord, my lady?" he called.

"There is naught to for you to be concerned about, but please would
you summon the Lord Steward here?"

"Yes, my lady. We will despatch a servant while we wait outside here
lest you need us."

"My wife? I beg you, do not jest so cruelly!" Thorongil protested.

"It is no jest! Of course I am your wife. We wed four years ago come
June; and I have borne your child!"

"Child? How can this be?"

"The same way that all couples have children!" Arwen replied. She
slid from the bed. Thorongil realised there was a crib in the room.

Donning a robe over her nightgown, Arwen lit more lamps then lifted a
child from the cradle and climbed back in bed beside him, the child
clasped in her arms. "Look, Estel! "she demanded, "Here is our
child, your son Eldarion!"

"Ada!" gurgled the toddler sleepily. He was a handsome child, with
an Elven beauty in his face and a look of Elladan and Elrohir as
well. Thorongil wanted immediately to reach out to the child, to
take him in his arms, acknowledge him; but he could not remember
being his father.

"See, does he not bear your likeness of you, in his dark hair and
grey eyes?" said Arwen.

"He looks like you," Thorongil said doubtfully. "You have dark hair
and grey eyes too."

Arwen's placid demeanour finally shattered. "How dare you!" she
cried. "You would question my virtue and your own son's birthright? I
know Faramir said you are unwell, but this is too much! This little
one is wiser than you, as he recognises his own father!" She returned
the sleepy child to his crib as she spoke.

"My apologies, my lady, " but I certainly have no recollection of
wedding you, much less of fathering your child!" Thorongil
protested. "And who is this Faramir?"

"Why your best friend and Steward of course!"

"I have never heard of the man! Ecthelion is Steward here. What trick
is Denethor using you to play?" Thorongil covered his eyes,
wondering what strange, painful dream this could be. He removed his
hands, but Arwen and the child were still there. "Lady, how came you
here," he asked softly, fearing that some horror had addled her wits,
and fearing for Imladris. "Does Master Elrond know you have left the
Elven realms?"

"Do you not recall my father bringing me to claim your hand in
marriage?" Arwen enquired. "We wed with my father's blessing, ere he
sailed to rejoin my mother."

Thorongil swallowed hard. If she spoke the truth, he would never
again see the one who had been as a father to him.

"What year is it?" Arwen asked suddenly.

"Why? Twenty nine eighty, of course,"

It was Arwen's turn to cover her eyes in shock. "No, my love, forty
four years have passed since then."

"It cannot be! This is all some trick!" Thorongil
protested. "Denethor has had me attacked!"

"You fell from your horse when out riding with Faramir," Arwen
explained gently. "I fear the blow you sustained to your head has
caused you to lose your memory."

"No, that cannot be! Denethor has had me beaten and drugged and holds
you under duress!"

"I have never even met Denethor," Arwen said patiently. "There is no
doubt that you fell from Roheryn, the bruises on your body prove it.
Take off your nightshirt and look for yourself!"

"What? Certainly not, it would be most improper!"

"Estel. I am your wife! There is nothing improper. I have already
seen your injuries while you were asleep when I returned from
visiting Éowyn. Let me help you." She reached out to undo the laces
at his neck.

"Thank you, my lady, but I can undress myself!" Blushing scarlet,
Thorongil reluctantly slid the garment from his upper body. He would
truly rather fight a hoard of fully armed Orcs, but it seemed that
there was no alternative than to bare his skin to the Lady of
Imladris.


"Now look carefully," Arwen said. "You have bruises on your left arm
and across your ribs on the left side only. The injury to your head
is on the left too, which is entirely consistent with falling from a
horse." Tenderly, she traced slender fingers across his bare chest.
Thorongil tried hard to suppress the delightful sensations her touch
aroused in him. He wanted to believe she was his wife and such
pleasure was allowed, but it was all too much to comprehend.

Just then a knock on the door interrupted them. "It is Faramir," a
voice called.
"Come in!" Arwen answered, pulling on a robe over her nightgown.
Thorongil was dismayed at the prospect of being caught in such a
compromising situation. He hastily pulled his nightshirt back over
his shoulders.

"Lord Denethor, I understand you might have a grudge against me, but
please release this innocent lady!" Thorongil said with as much
dignity as he could muster.

"He has lost his memory, I fear, Faramir," said Arwen. "He thinks he
is still Captain Thorongil, you are Denethor, and that your
grandfather is Steward here. He believes that you seek to harm him."

Denethor came and at a nod from Arwen sat down on the edge of the
bed. "That would explain much," he said his eyes full of concern and
compassion. "I am not my father, mellon nîn," he said gently. "He
died four years ago next month. You are the King of Gondor and Arnor,
Lady Arwen is your wife and I am your Steward."

"But you must be Denethor?" Thorongil protested. "And yet - now that
I behold you, your eyes seem different and you have a look of the
Lady Finduilas about you. And you were so kind."

"You were ever kind to me," said Faramir. "At our very first meeting
you saved my life before you fought to defeat Sauron. I will fetch
your crown and. Many people witnessed both events. There are
paintings to commemorate them. You found a new White Tree, which you
saw today in the Court of the Fountain. Surely that must be the proof
if nothing else is?"

"Sauron defeated? The Kingship restored? How could I not recall
such things that I have dreamed of, finally coming to pass? Can a son
of Denethor's truly be my friend?" Overwhelmed, Thorongil buried his
face in his hands.

The two men regarded each other in increasing dismay as the situation
sunk in.

"You recall nothing of all we have been through together?" Faramir
asked sadly.

Thorongil shook his head.

"He is as dear as a son to you, much as I believe, you were to his
grandsire. It is not really so strange that you are close," said
Arwen. "Can you not recall all the happy times you have shared with
Eldarion and me?"

Thorongil sadly shook his head. "I have lost over forty years of my
life! " he lamented. "I know no-one, and my wife is a near stranger
to me!"

"You would remember my Uncle Imrahil," said Faramir trying to sound
cheerful. "He has aged, but I am certain you would know him."

"Maybe." Thorongil replied absently. "But how can I be King if I
cannot remember!"

Faramir placed a comforting arm around his shoulders. This time,
Thorongil did not recoil from the contact, recognising the genuine
affection and concern behind the gesture. King and Steward remained
thus in silence.

"Let me think who else would have known you forty four years ago,"
Arwen said at last. "My brothers, of course."

Thorongil visibly brightened. "My Mother and Halbarad are closest kin
to me," he exclaimed. "If we could send for them, maybe I could be
healed!"

"Alas!" said Arwen sadly. " I fear both are now beyond the circles of
this world."

Thorongil's look of bleak anguish at these tidings was heartrending
to behold. He struggled to compose himself. "How came this Faramir to
be my Steward?" he asked, aiming to distract himself from tidings
that made him want to weep.

"Little Boromir was Denethor's heir; what happened to the lad?"

"Faramir is Denethor's younger son, born in 2983 after you left
Gondor.

Boromir died in the struggle against the Dark Lord," explained Arwen.

"Let him fetch the tokens he said he could produce then!" Aragorn
demanded.

"I wish to see the paintings too."

"You should rest, my love," Arwen protested. "Can it not wait until
the morrow?"

"If I am King, my people will need me to be whole," said
Aragorn. "The sooner I learn the truth, the better."

"I can soon fetch the crown and sceptre," said Faramir. "I have the
keys to the chamber in which they are kept." He immediately left the
room.

Arwen sighed. "Some of the pictures you wish to see are in my sitting
room," she said. "Come!"

Thorongil was forced to accept her supporting arm as she led him
into an adjacent chamber. It was sumptuously furnished with many
paintings and tapestries upon the walls.

"There is our wedding," said Arwen showing him a large painting
depicting her standing beside him smiling joyfully while an equally
joyous Elrond presented Aragorn with ancient sceptre of the Kings of
Arnor. Thorongil eyed it doubtfully. This was what he dreamt of, but
could it have truly happened?

Thorongil next studied the largest one, which showed his old friend,
Gandalf placing the crown of Gondor upon his head. Faramir stood
beside the Istar, holding the Steward's White Rod. Thorongil's eye
was drawn towards the presence of four Hobbits in the painting.

"Hobbits live in the Shire!" he protested. "There are none in
Gondor!"

"It was two Hobbits who destroyed the Enemy's Ring, one of them was
Frodo Baggins, Bilbo's cousin and heir; and the other was his
gardener and friend, Samwise Gamgee." Arwen's voice softened, with a
tone of reverence he had only heard in her voice when she spoke of
Lúthien, Beren and other great heroes of the First Age. "The other
two, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, performed great deeds as
well. No Man could have imagined the path by which you came to the
throne."

For the first time that night, Thorongil felt this might be true.
However devious a plot, Denethor could have devised, the man knew
little of Hobbits. And not even Denethor could have imagined so far-
fetched a story as that of the One Ring destroyed by two hobbits,
even if one of them was kin to the Burglar of Erebor. Thorongil
stared hard at the picture, trying to remember.

At that moment, Faramir returned, staggering under the weight of the
boxes he bore. "Show him the sceptre," said Arwen.

Faramir unlocked a long box and took out the sceptre of Annuminas and
handed it to Aragorn, who studied it intently. This was the sceptre
that Elrond said he would never surrender until he was proved worthy.
Elrond did not lie, neither did his daughter. Then he remembered the
mingled joy and sorrow on Elrond's face when he had brought both the
sceptre and his daughter to Minas Tirith. The painted figure looked
little like him, beaming almost foolishly in a way that Elrond never
could have managed even at his most merry. Thorongil swayed. "I think
I remember," he said. "It is starting to come back to me. Your father
brought you to me the day before we were wed. You rode a grey palfrey
and wore a blue and silver gown."


"I did indeed!" Arwen exclaimed joyfully.


Aragorn stumbled as his head started to swim. "I feel faint," he said.

Arwen and Faramir led Aragorn back to the bedroom and sat him on the
bed. Acting on a sudden impulse, Faramir sent a servant to fetch some
hot water. When it was brought, he rummaged in Aragorn's healing
supplies for the athelas and bade the King crumble some in the bowl.

This time, Aragorn did not try to feign ignorance. He inhaled the
refreshing vapours deeply. Suddenly he looked at Faramir with a light
of love and knowledge kindled in his eyes. "I remember!" he
exclaimed. "When I first met you, you were near death and I revived
you with this. You opened your eyes and hailed me as your king!"

Faramir smiled, though tears glinted in eyes. "That was indeed so,
and it gladdens my heart indeed that you remember!" he said.


Tears trickled down Aragorn's cheeks as returning memories flooded
his brain. He knew it would take time to fully recover but he knew
who he was!" I am Aragorn Elessar Telcontar, King of both Gondor and
Arnor," he whispered.
Laughing and crying together, Arwen and Faramir both embraced him.

Despite his still aching head, Aragorn felt content for the first
time since he had awakened after the accident. He knew enough
Healers' lore to be certain that the rest of his memories would
return. Meanwhile, he had his name, his purpose, his wife and child,
and the best friend that any King, or Man, ever had. It was
enough.


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