She who my wound
will finally close,
like a hero approaches,
she approaches to heal me!
Die mir die Wunde
ewig schliesse, -
sie naht wie ein Held,
sie naht mir zum Heil! Tristan und Isolde - Wagner
These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
With thanks to Raksha
The sun was low in the sky, its fading scarlet rays illuminating the far wall of the bedchamber, when the barking of the hounds in the yard alerted Faramir and Éowyn to the Queen's arrival.
Aragorn's fever had risen and he had become increasingly restless as he alternately sweated and shivered. Éowyn had given him willow bark tea, but it seemed to be to no avail. The King had become increasingly exhausted and his breathing became laboured. He now struggled even to open his eyes. Faramir was sponging his lord's face and coaxing him to swallow more water when Arwen glided silently into the room, startling the Steward and his lady.
"How is he?" Arwen demanded as she hastened to the bedside and lovingly kissed her husband. Aragorn's eyes flickered open with a mighty effort. "Vanimelda!" he whispered, a weak smile lighting his pale face.
"My lady, I am so glad that you are here!" Faramir greeted her.
"Have you brought a healer?" Éowyn enquired.
"I brought two assistants from the Houses of Healing to help with nursing care if need be," said Arwen. "Estel has little time for healers who know nothing of Elven arts. There is nothing any of them could do for him that you have not done already."
"My skills do not seem to be helping him," Éowyn said sadly. "His fever is getting worse."
"Uncover his wounds that I may see them!" said Arwen, "and tell me exactly what happened."
"They are a distressing sight," Faramir warned.
"Am I not Elrond's daughter? I have seen far worse."
Faramir and Éowyn exchanged a glance and nodded. Faramir recounted all that had happened to the Queen.
Éowyn called for hot water then pulled back the covers and started to soak off the bandages. Aragorn groaned in protest.
"Easy, my beloved," soothed Arwen.
"So ugly for you to see," Aragorn protested.
"You have been wounded before," Arwen said calmly. Even so, she blanched and swallowed hard when the lacerated flesh was bared to her gaze. She quickly collected herself and said. "These hurts need treating with athelas."
"I will send one of my maidservants to gather some from the herb garden," said Éowyn.
"The children are with me," said Arwen. "The herb will be more potent if Eldarion gathers it, young though he is. For the blood of Lúthien runs twofold in his veins. Maybe one of your maids would show him where it is?"
"Of course," Faramir responded while Éowyn was still shaking her head in bewilderment at such a strange request.
Arwen studied her husband intently for a few moments. Then she held her hands a little way above his wounds and concentrated intently as her hands moved slowly from his neck to his waist.
At last she opened her eyes and pronounced. "The wounds have gone deep and he has a cracked collar bone and ribs."
"I examined him thoroughly." Éowyn sounded defensive.
"I do not doubt it. Only an Elven healer can detect changes in the energy that surrounds all living creatures. Even I have only fully learned this art since I came to dwell amongst Men. My father and brothers always tended the sick in Imladris and saw no need for me to practise healing too."
"Naneth, I have it!" a boyish voice called from outside the door.
Éowyn swiftly pulled the sheet up to Aragorn's chin as Eldarion burst into the room, followed by a dismayed looking maid. The boy skidded to a halt beside the bed and regarded his father with dismay. "Ada!" he cried.
Aragorn opened his eyes and managed to smile at his son. "It gladdens my heart to see you, ion nîn," he said. "Take care of Naneth and Farawyn." He swallowed; studying the lad's frightened face, and then added, "Until I am well." He closed his eyes again, exhausted.
Arwen took the athelas from the boy and kissed him. "Thank you, Eldarion. I will use this to make Ada well again. Now go and have your supper with your sister, I will come to you as soon as I can."
With a last anxious glance at his father, Eldarion permitted the servant to lead him away.
Arwen called for more hot water and asked that the kitchens keep a constant supply in readiness. As soon as the water was boiled, she took two leaves of athelas and bruised them between her palms, murmuring something in an ancient tongue as she did so. She cast the leaves into the bowl of steaming water and at once, a living freshness filled the air.
Faramir found himself inhaling deeply and his heart felt strangely lighter. Arwen held the bowl in front of her husband's face. Aragorn's breathing deepened and some of the tightness left his face. Arwen sang softly, which seemed to further ease her husband.
After some little time had elapsed, she called for a fresh bowl of hot water into which she cast two more of the athelas leaves.
"Faramir, take off your tunic and sit on the side of the bed and support Estel against your shoulder, while I treat his wounds," Arwen instructed.
Faramir hesitated for a moment, mindful it was considered highly improper to be less than fully clothed in front of any lady save his wife. He then recalled that such was the Elven custom and that the embroidery on his tunic could cause Aragorn further pain. Without further ado, he pulled the garment over his head.
Arwen began to bathe her husband's wounds with the athelas mixture. She continued to sing as she worked, a sweet haunting melody, which appeared to be a prayer of healing to the Valar.
Faramir held the King fast, at first in a gentle restraint as Aragorn flinched at the touch to his wounds. Then marvel of marvels, he felt Aragorn's heartbeat strengthen against his own and saw the tense body gradually relax as the wounds drained their poisons away, washed clean by the healing athelas.
"We should bandage his back again now," said Arwen. If you would assist me, Éowyn? We need to use more honey to prevent further infections. And mix him a draught of poppy juice. Sleep will be his best healer if his body is to recover from the shock and loss of blood."
Faramir continued to hold and soothe his lord while the two women worked. As soon as they had finished, Arwen and Éowyn gently eased the King down on to the pillows and pulled the covers over him. Faramir tried to assist them, but his stiff and aching arms refused to comply.
"You should rest now," Éowyn advised them. "Go and lie on the bed in the adjoining chamber. I assume you wish to stay close to Aragorn."
"What about Lady Arwen?" Faramir asked.
"I shall sit beside Estel during the night," said Arwen. "My kind needs far less rest than the younger children of Ilúvatar. But first I will treat the damaged muscles in your back, Faramir. I have seen how stiffly and painfully you are moving."
"My lady!" Faramir protested. "I am well enough."
"You need not worry about propriety," said Arwen. "I know Estel would wish me to ease your hurts. It is not as if it is the first time! And would it not pain my lord, if he had to call upon strangers to tend to his needs?"
Faramir looked again at the still figure upon the bed, studying Aragorn's still face. He did look less drawn, though and a little colour had returned to his pale cheeks. He was breathing deeply too, and did not seem to be in too much pain, though he looked exhausted after so many hours of being tended. Faramir gently kissed Aragorn's forehead and straightened up again with difficulty.
The Steward then looked at his wife, her lovely face shadowed by exhaustion and worry. The past day had taken a heavy toll upon them all. He glanced down at his shirt, which clung limply to him, soaked with Aragorn's sweat and the athelas mixture. "Very well, my lady," he said.
"Goodnight, my love," Éowyn said. She placed a tender kiss upon his lips before settling down on the chair by the bed.
"I will be back soon, and then you can seek your own bed," said Arwen.
Faramir pulled off his sodden shirt and lay face downwards upon the narrow bed in the next room. Arwen's light tread made him unaware that she had followed him inside until he felt the light pressure of her cool fingertips on his aching back. Faramir relaxed despite himself. Within moments he was fast asleep. He knew no more until the sun streamed through the window the next morning.
For a moment, Faramir wondered where he was and why he was wearing only his breeches. The covers were drawn snugly around him. Then he remembered Arwen's ministrations from the night before and his cheeks reddened. He got up as quickly as he could, his heart filled with anxiety as to how the King fared. He was still a little stiff and sore, but not nearly as badly as the day before. Arwen's healing arts had worked their magic. He pulled on a shirt and tunic that he found by the bedside and hastened into the next room. Arwen was still sitting in the chair. It was as if she had not stirred from the night before. Aragorn had not moved either. He lay so still that Faramir's heart lurched.
"How is he?" Faramir enquired.
"He is still sleeping," said Arwen. "The fever has abated. Would you sit with him for a moment, please, while I look in on the children and wash my face and change my gown?"
"Of course, my lady."
"How do you fare this morning, Faramir?"
"My stiffness is much eased, my lady. I thank you."
Faramir took her place by the bedside. Aragorn must have sensed his lady's departure as his eyes flickered open.
"How do you fare, mellon nîn?"
"Well enough, apart from having a sore back and feeling as weak as a new born kitten! I feel as if I have not eaten for an age!"
Faramir was overjoyed to hear Aragorn speak in a near normal tone of voice rather than a pained whisper. There was more colour in the King's face and his eyes were alert.
"Shall I fetch your lady, Aragorn, and order the cook to prepare some refreshment for you?"
"In a moment. Come here, Faramir, I have not yet thanked you."
"For what, ada?"
"For saving my life."
"It was I, alas, who could not shoot the beast while my lady and the Queen tended your wounds," Faramir protested. "Had you not offered to help protect our lands you would never have been injured."
"I freely chose to hunt the lynx," said Aragorn. "You brought me here safely by carrying me for miles, a feat worthy of the songs of old. Thank you, ion nîn." He held out his hand, his eyes were filled with love and gratitude as he smiled at Faramir.
The Steward clasped his lord's outstretched hand. The grip was not as firm as usual, but the hand was no longer clammy and shaking. Aragorn was on the way to recovery. His heart sang with joy and gratitude.
Autumn had turned to winter and life had returned to normal for Aragorn, Faramir, and their families.
Faramir was staying in the City for a few days to take part in some important trade negotiations. They had concluded for the day. As was his custom, he had joined the King and Queen in their private sitting room after partaking of an evening meal with them.
A blazing log fire burned in the hearth and the room was brightly illuminated with candles. The wind could be heard moaning outside, but no chill draughts penetrated the cosy room. Aragorn was sprawled on a chair by the hearth, absently stroking one of the nursery cats, a young ginger tom that often found his way to wherever the King happened to be sitting. Aragorn's favourite hound reclined on the hearthrug at his feet. Arwen was in the nursery, telling Eldarion and Farawyn a bedtime story. Faramir was seated the other side of the fireplace perusing a message he had received earlier that day.
"A message from your lady?" Aragorn enquired.
"Yes, she has good news. I will read it to you. The horses are all thriving and Swiftmane foaled last night- a beautiful little filly. Aragorn's suggestion that Legolas should hunt the lynx was a good one. He came two days ago with an Elven hunting party and they managed to kill the creature. It is a relief not to have to post a guard over the foals now winter is drawing in. I told the Elves only to kill the rogue lynx that threatened my foals. If there are more, I believe Ithilien has food enough for them.
Elestelle sends her Uncle Aragorn a hug while Elbeth exhorts her Strider to get plenty of rest." He smiled and folded the parchment into his tunic pocket. "I hope we never again get a rogue beast," he said thoughtfully. "Yet it would gladden my heart if all creatures could thrive now that we are free from the Shadow."
"Indeed so," said Aragorn. "I would have my realm be a place where creatures of all kinds can flourish alongside Man, Elf, Hobbit, and Dwarf. We owe much to animals. They are our companions, they bear us on their backs, they give us food and clothing. My kingdom could not prosper without them."
The two men lapsed into companionable silence. The dog gently wagged its tail while the cat purred loudly.
A/n This story was written for the Teitho "Animals" challenge where it was placed equal second.