Format: short story
Genre: angst, hurt comfort
Warnings: mention of battle and character death
Characters: Aragorn, OMC, Ioreth
Summary: Gilavir reflects on the Grey Company's adventures.
These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
Gilavir felt utterly ashamed. All around him in the Houses of Healing lay sorely wounded men. Some moaned in pain, while others lay in a poppy induced stupor after having arms or legs removed. Others were there, unscathed in body, but gripped with dark dreams from which they could not awaken. The healers shook their heads over these folk and seemed more troubled by them that those grievously wounded in body.
Gilavir had been carried from the field with what he believed to be a broken ankle, which the healer, who examined him, a garrulous old woman, had pronounced to be merely badly twisted. He had a few minor cuts and bruises as well, but felt he had no right to lie beside these sorely wounded men, but his Chieftain had insisted that he be brought here when he was carried from the field.
Gilavir had been delighted to ride South with the Grey Company to aid his Chieftain in the war he was fighting. He had seen marvels he had never dreamed of and sailed in ship for the first time, adventures he would enjoy telling his wife and children about, should he ever return home.
The other sights he had seen, though over the past days were things he could never speak of that would surely haunt him forever. He had thought he knew all there was to know of horror after being taken and tormented by Orcs several years ago, but he had learned there were even worse things that stalked the earth than Orcs. Black Riders on winged beasts that sucked all sense of life and hope from a man, monstrous trolls, and other fell creatures.
The shades of the dead had been the most fearsome of all, though, pale shadows that had followed them from the depths of the mountain. He would have run away, had it not been for his love for, and loyalty towards Aragorn. He had turned around once and one of the shades had appeared to glare at him with soulless gleaming eyes. He had been glad his attention had been forced towards calming his terrified horse, or he most surely would have cried out in terror. The shades had not threatened them, though, but obeyed Aragorn’s will.
He had seen a side of his Chieftain that he had never even dreamed of before. What manner of a man was Aragorn that even the shades of the dead bowed to his will? He thought of the man he knew, the bravest of warriors, but also the gentlest and most skilled of healers, and the best of comrades who enjoyed a song and a story around the campfire like any other man. A change had come over him; he was far grimmer than of old and had developed an aura of power and majesty like some hero from the tales of old.
Gilavir’s thoughts turned to the battlefield. He wished they had not. He had fought in countless skirmishes, but nothing like this. Thousands upon thousands of men and horses fighting against other men, and foul monsters. They had winged beasts and creatures larger than great buildings! Never would he forget the clash of arms, the screams of the wounded and dying and the stench.
He had seen Halbarad fall, cut down by a Southron scimitar. Gilavir closed his eyes, wishing the image would go away, but it did not. Aragorn, alight with such fury, as Gilavir had never yet seen, had swiftly ridden to avenge his kinsman, but it was too late. Halbarad, friend and loyal comrade of many years, would not be returning home with his companions.
Gilavir found he was shaking. The pain in his ankle had grown worse. A passing healer noticed his distress and gave him a potion. He drank it and fell asleep. He dreamed of a great host, sailing in a ship, like unto the one he and his fellows had travelled to Minas Tirith in. It was filled, though with the slain, who gleamed bright as a spring morning. They were led by Halbarad, and landed in great imposing flocks on a distant shore where they became one with a great light.
When he awoke, it was night and the lamps had been lit. The atmosphere in the room had changed. Where before there had been fear and despondency, now there was a palatable sense of hope and excitement. Everyone around him was talking excitedly
“Lord Faramir is awake!” said one of the women who was tending the sick
“I’ll believe that when I see it!” said one of the wounded men. “No one awakens from the Black Shadow!”
“Dame Ioreth says the King has returned!” said the woman.
“That Captain from the North, the King?” said one of her companions.
Gilavir was just about to ask who Lord Faramir was and what all the fuss was about when Aragorn, together with a handful of companions, entered the room. He watched as his Chieftain knelt beside those suffering from the Black Shadow and held a bowl of steaming water in front of their faces.
He recognised the scent; it was athelas, the herb that Aragorn had used to ease his torment after the Orcs had tortured him long ago. He watched as one by one the men opened their eyes and sat up. Aragorn looked sore weary. Gilavir wondered when his lord had last rested.
When the last of the sufferers from the Black Breath were roused, Aragorn made his way over to Gilavir’s bedside.
“How do you fare, my friend?” he asked.
“The healer said all that ailed me was a twisted ankle.” Gilavir flushed scarlet.
“Ankles can be fragile things. Let me see it.”
Gilavir pushed his ankle from beneath the blanket, gritting his teeth at the movement.
Aragorn felt it gently. “It is a bad sprain. You could not have continued fighting on it,” he said.
Gilavir felt a great sense of warmth emanating from Aragorn’s hands and easing his pain.
“The people here are hailing you are the king returned, lord,” Gilavir said.
“There is still a long road ahead, but I am set upon it,” said Aragorn. “The young Steward has hailed me as king, which his father would never have done. If my House ever be established, it shall be the house of Telcontar.”
“Strider in the High Tongue?” Gilavir burst out laughing.
“It would not do to forget where I come from!” Aragorn joined in his laughter. “Now, I fear, I must leave you, my friend. Many others need me. We will meet again soon.” He kissed Gilavir lightly on the brow.
The younger man sat watching him leave. His Chieftain might have attained new heights of greatness, but he was still the same man that Gilavir knew and loved. He would be as good a king as he was a chieftain.