I discussed it with Raksha, who came to my rescue and sugested I take the story in what eventually became a very new and different direct direction.
Here are a few key scenes in their original form for interested readers.It is dreadfully sweet and sentimental which fitted in badly with the dark mood I had by then established.
Remember,this is a draft,so there will be various errors and typos. Breaks are indicated by 0000.
Aragorn bore the pain stoically all the while feeling more bewildered at Faramir’s strange behaviour. This was his Faramir, the loyal friend and Steward he loved as a brother, who was trying to tend him as gently as he could. Yet why was he addressing him so formally now and why had he joined in the rebel lords’ cruel mistreatment of him? He realised he was lying on a comfortable albeit makeshift bed, dressed in clean clothing and not parched for the first time in weeks.
Bewildered he wondered if it were some sort of trick to make him sign the marriage contract then he noticed that his ring was back on his finger and the Elessar pinned to his shirt. Fragments of memory from when he was drifting in and out of consciousness flittered through his brain. Faramir had been weeping and telling him how he loved him and wanted to restore him to his wife and son.
There, my lord, are you more comfortable? Would you like another drink? “ Faramir asked after applying the salve to his ears. He tucked the covers round his chin and started to move away.
“Wait, please, must know!” Aragorn feebly reached out with his hand, trying to touch Faramir’s head and sense his thoughts.
Faramir gulped; he had not dared to hope that he would ever again share the thought bond with his King but was eager to do so, albeit this would surely be for the last time.
He lay down beside Aragorn so that their heads could easily touch, only to find their carven Numenorean noses got in the way. He could not help but smile at the memory of the first time that had happened and there was an answering hint of a smile in Aragorn’s pain filled eyes.
Helping the King to a sitting position propped against his pillows, Faramir pressed his forehead against his King’s.
It surprised him how quickly the bond was re –established as almost immediately his mind was filled with images of Aragorn’s ordeal.
From what he had witnessed and the cruel marks on the King’s tortured body, he had some idea of how much his friend had suffered, but only now could he envisage the true horror that Aragorn had endured, the pain, the imprisonment, the humiliation the hunger, thirst and loneliness that he had endured and worse the anguish and despair he had felt when Faramir had apparently betrayed him.
For his part, Aragorn now experienced his Steward’s grief for his supposed loss, the risks he had taken, his fears for Aragorn's life and most of all his horror and remorse for what he had done to his King and friend.
The thought bond renewed each knew that the other’s love was as strong as ever. Aragorn wondered however he could have doubted his Steward’s loyalty despite all appearances to the contrary while Faramir again learned that Aragorn loved unconditionally and only pain and shock had caused him to temporarily break the thought bond.
They were both weeping now, their heads against each other’s shoulders, with a mixture of relief at having shared the burden and the horrors that each other had endured.
Once the initial surge of emotion passed, Faramir felt increasingly alarmed for his King as never before had he seen him in such despair. He could sense how much he was missing Arwen but it went far deeper than that as he sensed an inner brokenness, which he could only hope, she would be able to mend.
“Arwen and my son?” Aragorn choked.
“They are both safe. Damrod has taken them into hiding together with Eowyn and Elestelle,” Faramir reassured him.
Aragorn sighed with relief and seemed to settle more.
Reluctantly he freed Aragorn’s head from against his shoulder and laid him gently down on the pillow.
“Please stay with me!” Aragorn begged.
I am just going to make you a drink,” Faramir replied, worried that Aragorn was losing too many precious fluids by weeping so.
He quickly brewed the tea and mixed up the herbs Aragorn needed, including a liberal helping of poppy juice, as he knew now exactly how much pain he was in.
Supporting his head, he helped him swallow the mixture.
“Elbeth?” Aragorn questioned.
“She is safe, fast asleep the other side of you.” Faramir told him, helping him turn his head so that he could see her blanket shrouded form.
“You saved me?” Aragorn whispered, “ They will not come back?”
“No, Sire, we are safe here. The snow has blocked the way through the forest and few know of this cave.” Faramir tucked the blankets round the King trying to make him more comfortable and made to move away.
“Please, Aragorn not Sire, stay please stay, so cold!” Aragorn whimpered.
At a loss what to do, as he could not even clasp his hand, being so swollen and painful; Faramir threw more logs on the fire and then settled himself beside the King, until the poppy juice took effect and he drifted into a merciful sleep.
The Steward then peeled off his shirt and took what was left of the water to wash the detritus of the King’s wounds from his body. He dared not risk any infection for himself as it seemed both Aragorn and Elbeth were likely to rely on him for some time to come.
He settled down again beside Aragorn and once satisfied the fever had not returned, settled down to rest but sleep was slow to come .He felt complete again, now the thought bond was re-established. He wondered that as it had formed again so easily that maybe it had never been completely severed. But the pain and despair he had sensed in his friend’s soul horrified him as Aragorn had endured torments beyond his worse nightmares and he wondered if even he were strong enough to recover.
For one who even found the huge apartments in the Citadel claustrophobic, whatever must it have been like to spend weeks chained in a dark cellar deprived of adequate food and water and constantly tortured? He wished Arwen were here to console her husband with her Elven strength and wisdom.
Aragorn cried out in his sleep, restless despite the liberal dose of poppy juice he had been given. Faramir could do little but smooth his hair and murmur Elvish words of comfort. When the King finally slept, exhaustion overcame him.
He woke again well after dawn, sweating under the mountain of covers he had piled over Aragorn. After checking his temperature, he carefully tucked them round his friend again after taking the topmost one to throw over the sleeping Elbeth who had been rationed to a single blanket the night before.
The King opened his eyes and stared wildly around him making Faramir fear for a moment that he was feverish again. He then focused his eyes on his Steward and looked at him questioningly.
Faramir knelt beside his friend and smiled reassuringly.
“It is true then, not a dream?” Aragorn asked hesitantly.
Faramir looked at him in bewilderment as he struggled to sit up. In an instant he was at his side, helping him and placing pillows to support his back.
“Easy!” he cautioned, “ You need to get your strength back!”
Aragorn grabbed Faramir’s wrist with his bandaged hand, “Please tell me it is true that I am free!” he begged.
“It is.” Faramir reassured him. “As soon as you are well enough I will take you to your wife and son and Eowyn can tend your wounds properly.”
“Is it daylight?” Aragorn asked.
“Yes, it is several hours past dawn.” Faramir told him.
“I want to see the sky again! “ Aragorn said suddenly.
“And so you shall as soon as you are well,” Faramir soothed, “Now drink this hot tea, it will do you good!”
“I want to see the sky now!” Aragorn fretted, “ I was in the dark so long!” He tried to struggle to his feet but immediately fell back amongst his nest of blankets. ”Faramir, please help me I cannot endure this darkness any more!”
“I will light more candles, Sire.” Faramir was becoming increasingly alarmed fearing the damage that agitation could do to his friend’s already very fragile health. He felt the King’s forehead for fever but there was none.
“Please, Mellon nin, let me see the sky again!” Aragorn pleaded. “I feel so trapped in here!”
Faramir realised there was only one way to calm his King as obviously his fear of enclosed spaces was troubling him.
“I will have to carry you then,” he said, his eyes full of compassion. “Put your arms round my neck and hold on!”
He peeled back several of the blankets, wrapping those that remained round Aragorn’s skeletal frame and bodily lifted him. Once such an act would have been almost impossible but he had done it several times over the last days.
He staggered to the cave entrance, his precious burden in his arms.
The sun was now high in the sky, which was a clear frosty blue. What remained of the snow sparkled in the winter sunlight.
Aragorn gazed up at the sky, his expression rapt. Tears started to slowly trickle down his haggard cheeks. “I never thought to see the sky or breathe the sweet air again!” he choked.
Faramir felt his back would break soon but felt compelled to linger a moment or two longer. “Look there is Roheryn!” he said as the stallion whinnied and trotted towards his master. “And Elbeth is over there, playing snowballs!”
The little girl then caught sight of them and joyfully ran towards the cave.
“Strider, you are better!” she exclaimed, “But why are you crying?”
“Look at the sky!” was all Aragorn could choke,” I can breathe again!”
“Elbeth, can you help me support his legs!” Faramir asked her urgently, fearing he would drop Aragorn any moment.
She did as she was told just as Roheryn nuzzled his master ecstatically. Faramir waited for him to caress the velvety nose before gently saying, “ I fear I cannot hold you any longer and you will take a chill if we stay here.”
He turned and carried Aragorn back inside with Elbeth helping as best she could. They could still hear Roheryn whinnying when they reached the inner cave.
“You go back to play now,” Faramir told Elbeth, when Aragorn was laid back on his bedroll. “I need to give the King a wash and change his clothes.”
“Very well!” She lingered to kiss Aragorn saying, “There I’ve kissed you better, you can stop crying now!” before running out into the sunlight again.
“Thank you, Mellon nin,” Aragorn whispered. “Sorry so much trouble. I feared I would die in the darkness!”
It was Faramir’s turn to choke back the tears.
Aragorn’s wounds were healing slowly but cleanly and the chilblains had not proved as bad as they first feared and he quickly regained the use of his toes and his right hand and they no longer needed to be bandaged, although they were still sore.
The left however was a different matter as one of the broken fingers had set at an odd angle as had the thumb, which rendered the joints useless.
“I am sorry,” Faramir commiserated, as they sat together by the fire that night. It seemed that he was using that word a lot at present.
“It is not your fault, “ Aragorn said wearily,” The fingers will have to be set again once I can get to a healer. They had already knitted badly before you came for me.” He did not voice his fears of permanently losing the use of his hand. He understood now why Eomer had been so upset a few months before when his arm was injured. A king needed to be strong to lead his people in battle when the need arose. But what manner of king was so easily captured and ended up sheltering in a cave with his best friend and a small child?
“How many are still loyal?” he asked.
Faramir shook his head. “I do not know, “he replied, “ Imrahil of course and his men .I only hope he has managed to keep control of the Council. As for the other lords apart from, Lebennin, Lamedon, Lossarnach and Ringlo Vale, I have no idea. They might be waiting to see if Eldarion and Elbeth married or not to see who held the reins of power. The same goes for the army too. Maybe it would have been better if I had not pretended to support the rebels but once Arwen gave me hope that you were still alive, it was the only way we could think of finding you. Arwen is truly remarkable!”
Aragorn managed a faint smile. “I know,” he said,” I miss her so much! Just how did you both come to realise that I was alive?
Faramir checked again to see that Elbeth was still sleeping, as it was no fit story for a child’s ears. “When you did not return that night, I was very worried as I feared you had been taken ill. I ordered a through search but found no trace of you. Then a few days later a body was found in the river dressed in your clothes and bearing your rings. It had been in the water for many days and was bloated and unrecognisable. Then Tarostar told me it had been beaten about the head and face. Everyone thought you had been attacked by robbers with no idea of your identity and thrown in the Anduin. I was broken hearted.”
Aragorn nodded,” I thought when they took my clothes that they planned something like this,” he commented,” I wonder who the poor man was?”
“ I believed the corpse to be yours and informed the Council However I refused to hold the funeral until the fever epidemic had abated as I felt that would be your wish.”
“You were right.” Aragorn gave a faint smile, “You know me well, Mellon nin!”
“The next day I went to tell Arwen the dreadful news and take your clothes and rings for her to identify but on the way I had a suspicion we were being followed so I changed clothes with my Captain and saw he was riding a horse very like Iavas. He and the others acted as a decoy while I made my way to Emyn Arnen. They were never seen again.” He bowed his head for a moment lamenting the loss of live before continuing. “When I told Arwen the news of your death, she refused to believe me and accused me of having no love for you as she said if you truly were dead, the breaking of the thought bond would be tearing both our souls apart. I thought her distraught with grief and showed her your clothing but it only served to strengthen her conviction that you still lived as the drawers the corpse was wearing bore no sign of the White Tree embroidered on the leg!”
“That was my plan, as I hoped Arwen would notice,” said Aragorn, “ How I fought to keep my drawers on! They eventually tore in the struggle, which would have looked suspicious.”
“ I fear I still did not believe her,” Faramir continued, ”Eowyn and I retired to bed and eventually fell asleep. Eowyn had offered to stay with the Queen but she insisted she wished to be alone. Then both Arwen and awoke in the night after having suffered identical nightmares that you were calling to us for help. Then I finally realised that you were alive and it was connected to the strange pains that I had been experiencing too.”
“Pains?” Aragorn asked bewildered.
“Yes, I was having pains which seemed to have no cause but when I saw your wounds I realised I must have felt a little of your pain when they tortured you as my pains were in the exact same places.”
Aragorn gasped at the strength of the bond between himself and his Steward as usually only identical twins were able to feel each others pain thus.
Faramir, not wishing to distress the King, was anxious to continue his story, ”Arwen suggested that I pretend to be hostile to you,” he continued, “It is foreign to my nature to lie, but I knew I had to do if I were ever to find you. It took some time for them to trust me but I eventually received an invitation to a House Party at Lord Lamedon’s Country Villa and hoped you might be hidden somewhere in the area. I knew of this cave from my days in the army and with the help of the healers, brought supplies here in advance. I had to come alone as I feared they would move you before I could find you if I brought troops. I smuggled you out by convincing them that you had the Fever and drugging you with spider venom make you appear dead. I am so very sorry that I hurt you so much. It was unforgivable and I will pay the price when we return to Minas Tirith!”
Aragorn reached across and took his hand,” Do not blame yourself, Mellon nin!” he said gently, “I only wish I had trusted you more as in my heart I know you would never betray me!”
“I injured my King and in a very cruel fashion.” Faramir replied, unable to meet the compassionate grey eyes.” I deserve to be punished!”
“When I tended your wounds a few months ago, I caused you great pain at times, should I then be punished?” Aragorn asked.
“Of course not, you did only what was needed to save my life!” Faramir replied.
“As did you to save mine!” Aragorn told him.
Faramir was unconvinced but did not argue further.
“I will make us some tea,” he said, groaning as he rose to his feet at the twinge in his back.
“You are hurt! Let me see!” Aragorn’s voice was full of concern.
“It is nothing, just a pulled muscle!” Faramir felt annoyed with himself for further burdening a sick man by not concealing his pain better.
“Nevertheless, let me see, please!” Even in his weakened condition, the Healer in Aragorn would not be denied.
Faramir sighed and sat down again with his back turned to Aragorn and pulled up his tunic and shirt .It was at least a relief that something had roused Aragorn a little from his dreadful lethargy.
“It is just there!” he said, pointing to the sore place.
He felt Aragorn’s sensitive fingers prodding his back gently but instead of the familiar warmth, his touch was like ice!
Faramir felt the pain ease as Aragorn used the Elven massage technique but his fingers remained cold and devoid of the healing warmth and energy they had processed in the past.
He rolled over to face Aragorn, who was sitting with his head in his hands, blinking back the tears.
“I have lost all my power!” he choked, “What manner of King am I now? For should not the King have the hands of a healer?”
Faramir placed a comforting arm around the thin shoulders. “You suffered a dreadful ordeal,” he soothed, “It will take time for you to heal. It took me many months, remember and I was only imprisoned for a few hours!”
“I do not even know if I still have a throne!” Aragorn lamented, “Maybe that is why my power has left me? They might have usurped the throne by now and then what will I have to offer my wife and son? I was only permitted to marry Arwen on condition that I wore the crown of Gondor!”
“You will regain your throne, Aragorn, “ Faramir said firmly “And even if the very worse befell, though I am certain it will not, you still have Arnor where your subjects are loyal. You have Arwen and your son who care for you far more than the throne of Gondor. And you have my love and loyalty and Eowyn’s too.”
“Whatever would I do without you, Mellon nin?” Aragorn laid his head against Faramir’s shoulder.
Aragorn tried riding along the path and seemed overcome to be seated on his beloved mare once more and out in the open air, but his weakness made him sway alarmingly in the saddle.
Faramir lifted him down again hardly able to endure the look of despair in the usually vibrant grey eyes.
“No matter!” he said trying to sound cheerful, “We can both ride one horse and the other can take Elbeth and what baggage we need.”
“I am a burden to you,” Aragorn said sadly, “You should take Elbeth and leave me here. You can return later with some of Imrahil’s men to fetch me.”
“ I will never leave you nor betray you again!” Faramir said firmly, “We are all leaving here together!”
“You are a true blessing, my little brother!” Aragorn replied, kissing Faramir on the brow while blinking away the tears.
The Steward hated to push his ailing King thus but as well as the danger they were in, given Aragorn’s despairing mood, he felt that he needed to be reunited with Arwen as soon as possible. He very much doubted his aptitude for offering any comfort at all to the King after all the pain he had caused him. Then maybe Eowyn could ease his bodily hurts with her knowledge of healing. He felt so frustrated with his limited skills to help his friend.
“Will you promise me something?” Aragorn, who was sitting on one of the pelts they were forced to leave behind, asked.
“Anything, Mellon nin.” Faramir replied.
“Do not let them take me again, alive!” the King pleaded. “I know we face a perilous journey today.”
Faramir looked at him straight in the eye. “I had my dagger in my hand to kill you but ten days ago!” he replied, “They were planning to torture you to death and I could not let that happen now will I but before we come to that, I would shed my last drop of blood to save you, my King!” Faramir unbuckled his dagger and handed it to him. “Take this, we should each carry our own weapon and you will feel safer with it!” he advised.
“Thank you!” Aragorn choked.
The King fastened the weapon around his waist and Faramir helped him to his feet. They drew each other into a tight embrace knowing that they may not live to see the sun’s setting. The closeness linked their minds, reaffirming their enduring bond of loving friendship.
Blinking away the tears, they slowly made their way out to where Elbeth waited impatiently with the horses.