The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been or will be made from this story.
For he that is least among you all, the same shall be great. The Bible -Luke 9-48
With grateful thanks to Virtuella.
Our people would be honoured if you were to tour our town,” said the reeve as Aragorn and Faramir emerged from the school in Belfalas.
“We should enjoy that,” Aragorn said politely.
“Tonight there will be a banquet in your honour,” the reeve continued. “Our fishermen have supplied the best of their catch. We have many varieties of sea fish as well as crab and lobster for your lordships to enjoy.”
Aragorn smiled. He was especially partial to seafood. “Your words make us hungry!” he said. “My wife will be sorry that she missed such delights.”
“Éowyn is still suspicious of seafood!” Faramir whispered as soon as the two men were alone. “I, too, am looking forward to the banquet. I wish our ladies were beside us, though.”
“So do I, but our children need them more at present,” said Aragorn. “Eldarion is running everywhere at present. Arwen fears his nurse could not catch up with him in time if there were any danger.”
“I wonder how many new words Elestelle will have learned while we are away?” Faramir mused rather wistfully.
“No doubt she will greet you with a nursery song sung in Quenya!” Aragorn teased.
“She is only not quite three yet, but I think she is exceptionally gifted,” Faramir replied. “Of course, I am not impartial!”
“She is clever and advanced for her age,” Aragorn responded. “I wonder what Arwen and Eldarion are doing as we speak?”
“Éowyn will be playing in the garden with Elestelle and Elbeth, I imagine,” said Faramir, as they followed the reeve to their lodging.
King and Steward, together with their guards and the leading townsfolk processed along winding roads. Many people came out to greet them, some appeared simply curious, while others gaped open-mouthed. Aragorn and Faramir surmised that many of the country folk had little idea of who they were. A few older men, obviously veterans of the war, cheered the King and Steward. Aragorn thought he recognised one or two men who had ridden to the Black Gate with him and paused to speak them.
They rounded a bend in the road. Suddenly, a little girl, holding the hand of a youth of about seventeen summers, came forward to offer a posy of flowers to Aragorn. He reined in Roheryn rather sharply to take the blossoms from her. The great horse stumbled as a mighty hoof caught in a pothole. Aragorn kept his seat, but Roheryn’s flaying hooves caught the youth, who fell backwards with a cry, clutching his arm. Aragorn immediately dismounted, telling a guard to keep hold of Roheryn’s bridle.
“Are you hurt, lad?” he asked the boy anxiously.
“My arm!” the youth groaned.
“You need not concern yourself with these peasants, my lord,” said the reeve. He eyed the boy with obvious distaste.
Aragorn was already kneeling in the dust beside the young man and feeling the injured arm. “I fear your arm is broken,” the King pronounced.
“I will see a healer is summoned, my lord,” said the reeve looking aghast at Aragorn. “The banquet awaits us, my lord.”
“I am a healer,” said Aragorn in a tone that brokered no argument. “I feel responsible for this lad’s accident, and must endeavour to put things right as best I may. Where do you live, lad?” he asked the boy.
The youth cried out with pain.
“We dwell in the cottages yonder with our mother,” said the little girl, finding her voice. She pointed across a field to where a row of small cottages stood. “Mardil is my brother.”
“We will take Mardil home then,” said Aragorn. Faramir dismounted and helped Aragorn to gently lift the youth and set him astride Roheryn. The reeve raised his eyebrows in horror at the King and Steward’s actions.
I fear the feast will have to wait until I have tended this young man,” he told the reeve. “I would be grateful if you would ride ahead and tell the guests that we shall be delayed.”
“And you shall ride with me,” said Faramir to the little girl. “My horse is called Iavas. What is your name?”
“I’m Finnraen,” said the little girl. She looked fearfully at her brother. “Is Mardil going to die? My daddy died.”
“The King will heal your brother,” said Faramir confidently, lifting the child onto his mare and mounting behind her.
The riders soon reached Mardil’s dwelling. At the sound of the approaching horsemen, a thin, shabbily dressed woman came outside. She cried out in dismay when Aragorn and a guard lifted her whey-faced son down from his horse and carefully carried him within. “What has happened?” she cried as Aragorn laid the boy down on the bed. Faramir followed close behind with the little girl while the guards waited outside.
“Your son has broken his arm, Mistress,” said Aragorn, dismissing the guard to wait outside.
“The nice men brought us home after the horse kicked Mardil,” Finnraen added.
“Who are you, master?” asked the woman, hugging her little girl tightly.
“A healer,” Aragorn answered simply. “Can you set water to boil, please?”
The natural authority in Aragorn’s tone made her do as she was bidden without question.
Aragorn hurried back outside to fetch the satchel of healing supplies he always carried with him. After asking the woman for a cup, he measured out a dose of poppy juice and gave it to Mardil. “I need to cut off your shirt to examine your arm properly,” he told the lad once he had drunk the pain killing draught.
“ Must you? I have no other!” said the boy in dismay.
“I should be able to mend it if you cut carefully, sir,” said his mother.
“That is soon remedied,” said Faramir, going outside and returning almost immediately with his pack. He rummaged inside it and drew out a clean shirt. “This might be somewhat large, mistress, but it should suffice until we can find a better shirt for your son.”
Mardil’s mother fingered the garment in wonder. ”But this is fine linen, fit for a lord!” she exclaimed.
“No matter, so long as it clothes your son,” said Faramir.
Mardil weakly nodded his agreement as Aragorn took up his dagger and cut the shirt from his body. The boy groaned when the King gently felt his arm. “It is a clean break, which should heal well,” the King pronounced. ”It needs setting though, which I fear will not be pleasant. Have you a neighbour who could look after your daughter, mistress?” He threw some crushed bark from his healing supplies into the pot of water boiling on the fire as he spoke.
“My neighbour would mind her,” said the woman.” Go, Finnraen, and stay with Mistress Elwyn until I call you.”
The little girl hesitated, casting a worried look at her brother.
“Do as mother says,” said Mardil firmly. “I will fare well enough with mother and the healer.” He had regained a little colour as the poppy juice took effect.
As soon as the child had gone, Aragorn checked Mardil’s heartbeat. Once satisfied the boy was strong enough for the gruelling procedure, he asked Faramir and the boy’s mother to hold the lad down while he set the broken bone. He worked swiftly and skilfully, but Mardil was left groaning in agony with sweat pouring from his brow. ”Easy now, lad, the worst is over now,” said Aragorn, tucking the blankets around him and starting to rub the back of his neck, using an Elven healing skill.I am only sorry you should have to suffer this.”
“It was an accident and not your fault,” said Mardil. “Will it heal quickly?”
“Do not concern yourself about anything other than getting well,” said Aragorn. He took the pot from the fire and put it on the hearth to cool. Inside was a thick syrup. “I am going to wrap your arm in a cloth and cover it with this paste,” said the King. “It will set hard to allow the bone to knit. When it falls off in about two months, you will be healed.”
“Two months!” said Mardil in dismay. “My family will starve if I cannot work, my lord!”
Faramir reached inside his tunic and withdrew his purse. He took out several coins and handed them to Mardil’s mother. She gazed at them in astonishment. ”I cannot take these! This is more than we earn in a year! You must be lords of great wealth!”
“Take it!” Faramir said calmly. “It is the least we can do. Your son would not lie injured had we not come to this town.”
Mardil groaned again. Aragorn knelt beside the bed holding his hands a few inches over above Mardil’s arm, his features fixed in intense concentration. The boy sighed as the pain eased and closed his eyes. Aragorn then bandaged the arm and coated it with the sticky paste.
Mardil’s mother stared at him with growing recognition. “ You are visiting this town? You have the hands that heal? My lord...you cannot be?” she gasped, sinking to her knees.
“He is the King, mother,” said Mardil sleepily. “His horse shied and kicked my arm when Finnraen gave him some flowers.”
“The King, here in my cottage tending my son?” said Mardil’s mother, turning pale.
“It was my responsibility, mistress,” said Aragorn gravely. “Rise and be at ease. We will take our leave now. If you have need of me before I depart on the morrow, please send me word. I believe your son will heal completely within a few weeks, but if he should not, send word to me and I will see that Mardil is treated in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith. Farewell!” With that he left the cottage, together with Faramir.
“Well, I never!” said Mardil’s mother.” Whoever would have thought the King would care so much for folk like us?”
“We may not be able to depart tomorrow,” said Aragorn when they rode away towards the long overdue feast. ”It matters little, though, so long as I right the wrong I did to that boy!”
“Do not be so hard on yourself,” said Faramir. ”It was hardly your fault that Roheryn shied. You are the most responsible man that I know. You care deeply for your people.”
“I try, Faramir, I try,” said Aragorn gravely. ”What would I not give now for a simple supper by the fire, but again duty calls.” He glanced back over his shoulder to catch a last glimpse of the cottage before riding resolutely towards the feasting hall.
A/N I was inspired by an article I read about the cottonwood tree for Aragorn’s treatment.
I am using artistic licence and assuming the Elves knew of some old world equivalent.
This is a longer version of a ficlet written for the prompt “Responsibility” at the AA Group.