Format: short story
Genre: drama,h/c, mystery,angst
Characters:Aragorn, Arwen, Faramir, Éowyn, Elladan, Elrohir, OMCS
Creators notes: I am indebted to this article for information about Aragorn's illness.https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-labrynthitis-and-vestibular-neuritis-1191935
I have very occasionally heard of people suffering from it, but for artistic licence assume it is even rarer in M-e.
A very big thank you to all my LJ friends for all their help and support with this story which I struggled with. Especial thanks to just_jenniand keiliss.
Summary: A sea voyage proves a nightmare for Aragorn
Aragorn cursed inwardly. This dammed sea voyage! It had seemed such a good idea to travel from Pelagir to the Grey Havens to escape the summer heat in the city. A comfortable large ship meant that Arwen and Eldarion could accompany him as well as Faramir and Éowyn and their children and niece. Minas Tirith was left in Imrahil's capable hands.
What he had not bargained for, though was this cursed sea sickness! He had been on many sea journeys before, but never been seasick. This time, though, almost from the moment he had stepped on board, he had been troubled by a spinning head and nausea despite the sea being as calm as the Anduin on a summer's day.
“My love, the Captain has organised a special dinner for us tonight,” Arwen's voice interrupted his brooding.
“Stop mumbling, I can't hear you,” Aragorn replied.
“The Captain wishes us to dine with him,” Arwen repeated.
“Give him my apologies,” Aragorn said curtly.
“Does the sea sickness still trouble you, my love?”
“It will pass,” Aragorn said curtly. “Leave me to rest.”
“I will see you later, my love.”
Aragorn sighed as she left the cabin. He should not have been so abrupt with her, but he felt so unwell. And that dammed Captain! The fellow always seemed so cheerful! He buried his spinning head in his pillow.
The Queen walked across the deck lost in thought. She almost collided with Faramir.
“My apologies, my lady.”
“You are not to blame, Faramir. In truth, I was so deep in thought I did not look where I was going.” She paused for a moment. “I will speak frankly, my friend, I am worried about Estel.”
“So am I.”
“You have noticed then?”
“I know he is suffering from sea sickness, but he is not himself at all,” said the Queen. “My heart is sorely troubled. Would you speak to him, Faramir? Maybe something troubles him he fears to burden me with that he might speak to you about? He is shielding his thoughts from me.”
“I will try, my lady, but I have scarce seen him since we came aboard.”
The Queen sighed. “Neither have I. He is always asleep when we are together. I had hoped we could spend this voyage enjoying each others company and that of our friends and seeing the sights together.”
“Éowyn and I wished that too. I will go to him now.”
“Thank you, my friend.”
Rather apprehensively, Faramir made his way to Aragorn's cabin. He did not fear the King, but Aragorn had a sharp tongue when he was in one of his rare ill moods.
The Steward tapped on the cabin door.
“Go away!” snapped Aragorn.
Faramir ignored him and went inside.
Aragorn was lying on his bunk, his head buried in a pillow. He did not look up at Faramir. “I told you to away,” he barked. “Can you not see I am trying to rest?”
“I am not leaving until you tell me what is wrong.”
“Are you blind and deaf, man? I have sea sickness like some green recruit!”
Faramir sat down on the bunk beside him. “It is more than that and you know it. Once you tell me, I will leave you in peace, but not until then.”
“I command you to leave. I am your King!”
“And will you have my head if I do not?” Faramir said mildly. He stretched out his legs to make himself more comfortable. A long silence ensued.
Aragorn finally spoke. “Truth to tell, Faramir, I am afraid. Never in my long life have I felt like this before. Every time I move my head spins round, the thought of eating fills me with nausea. Everything feels out of place and far away and all for an ailment most often suffered by children. I never had it as a child or a young man. It is not usual for it to suddenly strike a man in his prime. My hearing is failing too and I keep losing my balance. What if I am growing old and frail? As I have the blood of Númenor I should have many healthy years left.”
“Perhaps we should make anchor at the nearest harbour so you could consult a healer?” Faramir suggested. “Or maybe Éowyn could help?”
“Am I not a healer, the most renowned amongst men?” Aragorn snapped. “And what healer can cure old age?”
Faramir nodded sadly. Aragorn suddenly gripped his hand. “How can I tell my lady I am already failing?” he cried, desperation in his voice. “What if she regrets her choice to wed me?”
Faramir gripped Aragorn's hand tightly and squeezed it. “I see it in her eyes how much the Queen loves you. She would never wish she had not wed you.” He fell silent for a few moments. “Maybe you would feel a little better if you took a turn about the deck?”
Aragorn groaned but reluctantly agreed to Faramir's suggestion. The Steward helped him wash his face and put on a fresh tunic.
The deck was large and the two older children were playing a game watched over by their nanny. Éowyn, her baby on her lap, was watching the clouds overhead. Arwen was having an animated discussion with the Captain, who was pointing out landmarks on the shore as they sailed by.
Aragorn, leaning heavily on Faramir's arm, surveyed the happy scene and scowled, his eyes lingering on Arwen and the captain.
“Beware, my lord of jealousy,” said Faramir.
“How can I not be jealous,” said Aragorn bitterly. That young captain is where I should be, at my Queen's side, pointing out the sights to her. He is so happy and carefree. Truth to tell, I envy them all. I know I should not, but even your infant son is enjoying this voyage more than I am! Aargh , take me to the rail, quickly!”
Faramir helped the King to the rail where he started retching violently.
That night once the children were asleep, Faramir took at walk along the deck with Éowyn to watch the sunset. The two were almost alone together apart from the sailors up on the rigging. The Steward then confided in his wife, speaking her tongue in the unlikely event of the sailors overhearing. “I am worried about Aragorn. This malady that ails him seems worse than seasickness. He refuses to consult you but could you help him with your knowledge of the healing arts?”
“I agree he does not seem himself at all. How could I help him, though? His knowledge is far greater than mine.”
“You told me once that healers are often blind to their own maladies.”
Éowyn laughed ruefully. “That is all too true. That is why healers should consult other healers if they are unwell. Who would Aragorn listen to though? He refuses my help and Master Aedred is miles away, and even if he were here, would his advice be heeded?”
Faramir thought for a moment. “He would listen to his foster brothers. They know even more about the healing arts than he does. They could meet us at the Havens. But how do we get a message to them.”
“There is a rowing boat aboard. You could have one of the sailors take a letter to the despatch rider in the nearest town.”
“An excellent idea, my love. I will speak to the Queen and suggest that she write to her brothers .”
Just then, with uncanny timing, the Queen appeared on deck.
“I came to watch the sunset,” she said. Estel and Eldarion are sleeping. I see in your eyes that you have tidings for me.”
Faramir quickly told her what he had learned though he left out Aragorn's fears concerning her.”
“My poor Estel!” she exclaimed. “I will write to my brothers this very night.”
Aragorn remained unwell as the voyage continued, though he tried to be more agreeable to his wife and friends. There was a haunted look in his eyes though, which troubled those who loved him. The days until they reached the Grey Havens seemed endless.
“Land ahoy! Prepare to anchor,” cried a sailor as the Havens came into view.
Faramir looked in wonder at the famed harbour whence the Elves departed from Middle-earth. It looked a desolate spot now with no ships save theirs moored in the harbour. The quayside was not deserted, though as two grey-cloaked figures stood there waiting.
“My brother's!” cried Arwen. “Make ready the gangplank that they may come aboard!”
Elladan and Elrohir hastened aboard the ship and embraced their sister and nephew.
“Where is Estel?” asked Elrohir. “Is he still unwell?”
The Queen's smile faded. “ I fear so. He is in his cabin. He barely eats, is unsteady on his feet and stays secluded unless Faramir or I coax him to take a little air. I fear something far worse than sea sickness ails him.”
“Has he become deaf?” asked Elladan.
“Now that you mention it, he often accuses me of mumbling,” said Arwen.
Faramir, who had been hovering in the background stepped forward. “He told me he feared he was going deaf.”
“I have some idea of what ails him,” said Elladan. “We need to examine him to confirm it, though.”
“He will not be happy,” warned Faramir. “He is like a bear with a sore head these days.”
“I will take you to the cabin,” said Arwen. “It is best you see him alone, I think. He will not confide in me.”
Faramir made to stay behind, but the Queen beckoned him to follow. Queen and Steward hovered outside the closed cabin door. At first, they heard exclamations of welcome, followed by angry shouts and then low murmurs.
Finally, the door opened and Aragorn emerged with one of the twins supporting him either side. All three were beaming. “I am only suffering from an inflammation of the inner ear, “ he announced. “I am not aging. My symptoms were made worse by the motion of the ship.”
“It might take several months for Estel to fully recover,” said Elladan. “He might suffer some slight permanent hearing loss too, but that is unlikely.
“We will mix some potions for him and show him some exercises to improve his balance, which will help,” said Elrohir. “Otherwise only time will heal the condition.”
“Why did I not guess?” asked Aragorn. “I have been so afraid I was aging rapidly thatan ear condition never crossed my mind..”
“My poor Estel!” the Queen kissed him tenderly.
“The Valar be praised it is not serious!” said Faramir.
“It is a rare condition,” Elladan replied. “Obviously Ada forgot to instruct you about it and you have not encountered it in the form it has inflicted you.”
“There is still a small community here,” said Elrohir. “I suggest you abide here for a few days while we begin your treatments. You should feel more balanced on dry land.”
“An excellent suggestion,” said Aragorn. “My son and my friends can explore the Havens while I receive my treatments. The Captain and the crew can have a well-deserved rest too.”
The Queen gazed into her husband's eyes and saw the fear had gone replaced by love and happiness therein. Her Estel had returned and she was content.