lindahoyland (lindahoyland) wrote,
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The Sword in the Tree- Chapter Nine

The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.” – Tolkien



Disclaimer - These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra.

“Éomer King!” The cries of the woman’s agitated voice combined with a frantic banging on the door rudely awakened both kings from slumber.

“Come in!” called Éomer. “Whatever is the matter?” He leapt to his feet, only a moment quicker than Aragorn.

“My lord,we fear for the Queen’s life!” the woman, whom they now realized was Hild, replied.

“What ails her?” asked Éomer. The colour drained from his usually ruddy complexion.

“She lacks the strength to bring the babe into the world, my lord. I came to ask you if we should try to save the child rather than lose both of them.”

“I want you to save my wife! We can have other children.” Éomer’s tone caused the midwife to take several steps backward.

“My lord, you do not understand these women’s matters,” Hild replied. “It is not that simple.”

“Tell me exactly what ails her!” Aragorn said urgently. He placed a restraining hand on his friend’s shoulder. When Hild still hesitated, he added. “You can tell me everything, I am a healer. Is the babe in the wrong position, or does something else ail Lady Lothiriel?” Even as he spoke, his heart sank. His experience of childbirth was mostly limited to studying Master Elrond’s manuscripts.

“The child’s head is where it should be and the mother has wide hips and the opening of the womb is dilated,” Hild explained, her unease at discussing such matters with a man showing in her uneasy gestures. “Lothiriel Queen is exhausted, though and lacks the strength needed to bring her child safely into the world.”

Aragorn’s countenance brightened considerably. “Take me to her, I believe I can help her,” he said.

“Give her women a few moments to prepare her, my lord,” Hild replied, her expression reflecting what she thought of a man entering a birthing chamber.

“Give them a few moments,” Aragorn cautioned Éomer when his friend made to follow at once. “We also need to summon a servant to sit with Faramir.” He glanced towards the bed. Faramir remained in a drugged sleep and had not stirred during the commotion.

Éomer summoned a servant while Aragorn hastily collected what he thought he might need. The two men hurried to Lothiriel’s chamber and waited impatiently by the door. After a few moments, Hild opened it to admit them.

A pitiful sight met their eyes. Lothiriel lay on the bed covered by a sheet. Her beautiful hair lay lank and sweat-stained on the pillow while her features contorted in agony. Beside her, stood Alis, clasping her mistress’ hand and weeping quietly. The two midwives stood grim- faced at the foot of the bed.

“Lothiriel, my love!” Éomer exclaimed in horror. He hastened to his wife’s bedside and grasped Lothiriel’s other hand.

“I am sorry,” Lothiriel whispered. “I tried.. I could not..” She broke off as another contraction seized her and feebly clutched at her husband’s and Alis’ hands.

Aragorn approached the bedside. If anything, Lothiriel looked more wretched than ever. “Have no fear, my lady,” he told her gently.



“Can you help her?” pleaded Éomer.

The midwives glared suspiciously and hovered beside Aragorn.

“I want everyone to leave,” Aragorn ordered. ”Excepting Alis, who shall stay as a chaperone and assist me,” he added to reassure the young Queen. “The methods I use to heal require intense concentration and there is need of haste.”

“This is most improper, my lord!” Ivorwen protested.

“There is naught to fear,” said Aragorn. “I shall observe the strictest propriety.”

“I trust you Aragorn,” Éomer said simply, bending to kiss his wife’s pale cheek. “Lothiriel, beloved, you have nothing to be sorry for. Take heart, Aragorn will help you. I love you my dearest wife!” With that, he turned and shepherded the protesting midwives from the room.

“Easy, my lady,” Aragorn said reassuringly. “I will leave your ladies to deliver your child. I am here only to see what ails your spirit.”

“I am so tired,” Lothiriel whispered. Her breath came in ragged gasps.

Aragorn held his hands a few inches above her swollen belly. To his relief and joy, he could sense the child’s life force was still waxing strong. He then knelt beside the bed and took Lothiriel’s hand in one of his and placed the other on her forehead. It was not difficult to connect with her spirit as the blood of Númenor ran almost as true in the young Queen of Rohan as it did in Faramir. A ghost of a smile hovered for a brief instant in his eyes at just how alike these cousins were; both possessed the same nobility and devotion to duty with the same sensitivity and danger of fading.

A fear of failing in her duties and obligations was the overwhelming emotion Aragorn sensed from Lothiriel. The young woman had obediently left her beloved homeland by the sea to marry Éomer. The sea, though, was in her blood and the longing for it haunted her. She was torn between her love for her husband and a deep homesickness. He could sense also that she found childbirth deeply humiliating. Overwhelmed with compassion, he wished he could bring Arwen to her side to help her through this difficult rite of womanhood and teach her to be more at ease with what was happening to her body. She was in sore need of women to support her, who were not in awe of her rank. Conflict between duty and homesickness were destroying Lothiriel’s sensitive spirit and had most likely been draining her life energy for many months.

“You suffer from the sea longing, do you not?” Aragorn said gently. He sat down on the chair beside the bed.

“Yes, my lord, I do.” She paused and took a deep breath as if to summon what little strength she had left. “I beg of you do not tell Éomer how I have failed in my duty to embrace the Riddermark with my heart and soul. I do love him deeply, but I miss my family and my home by the sea very much.”

“You have not failed. No one expects you to leave your homeland forever,” Aragorn replied. “You can visit your family with your child and walk by the seashore again.”

“Not mine… the heir to the Riddermark. Too late...I am so weary,” Lothiriel whimpered, writhing weakly as another contraction tore at her body. “Forget me…save the child.”

“You have my word, my lady; you can bring this child into the world. I believe I can help you. Both the Mark and Gondor need you, Lothiriel. I shall appoint you as the Mark’s ambassador to Gondor, and as such you must often visit your homeland.” Aragorn’s tone was kind, but very firm.

“Thank you, my lord, but I lack sufficient strength,” Lothiriel whispered. ”If only I were stronger!”

“You shall be, my lady!” Aragorn aid firmly. “I can give you my strength!” He rose to his feet and asked Alis to summon a servant to bring a bowl of hot water.

As soon as the water was brought, the King placed it on the bedside table. He then cast two athelas leaves into the steaming water. He inhaled the steam deeply before holding it in front of Lothiriel. At once a living freshness filled the room. Lothiriel began to breathe more deeply.

Aragorn inhaled deeply of the steam. He knelt beside the bed. He again took Lothiriel’s hand and placed his other hand on her brow. ”Reach out to me with your mind and I shall give you the strength you require to bring your babe into the world,” he said. Aragorn took a deep breath then poured out his life energy, willing himself to save the fading Queen. He knew all too well what he was doing was risky, especially as he had already given freely of his healing energies that day. He could not let Lothiriel die and his young friend be left bereft. Neither did he wish to die and leave his own loved ones. He could only try to judge exactly how much of his life force he could share.

Colour slowly returned to Lothiriel’s pale features while Aragorn grew pale and weary.

Lothiriel gave a loud cry as an especially strong contraction seized her.

Aragorn staggered to his feet. ”You shall hold your child in your arms soon,” he told her. “I will leave you in the care of your women now.

Rather unsteadily, he made his way towards the door. Éomer and the midwives were waiting anxiously outside.

“How is she?” Éomer enquired, his handsome features creased with worry.

“I believe all will be well now,” Aragorn told him before turning to the midwives. ”Go and tend your lady,” he told them. “The child will be born very soon. See that it is placed against her skin immediately. She will bond with it and it will give her the desire to live.”

“Yes, my lord,” Hild replied obediently before hastening back to her patient.

“My lord!” Ivorwen protested. “A babe should be swaddled and handed immediately to its wet nurse! That is the way of high born ladies.”

“It is not so in the Mark,” said Éomer.

“A babe needs the touch and scent of its mother and a mother needs her babe,” Aragorn said firmly, thinking of what Arwen had told him of her precious first moments with Eldarion. Given the attitudes of the Gondorian nobility, it was small wonder the population had been in decline so long. He hoped other mothers would follow Arwen’s example. Suddenly he stumbled. Éomer gripped his arm.

“What happened? You look pale and weary,” Éomer asked. “Are you certain all will be well with Lothiriel?”

“She has the strength now to bring the child into the world,” Aragorn replied. “I learned that she suffers from the sea longing and it had been draining her strength. She is a courageous woman who has battled against it in silence for many long months as it crept up upon her and sapped her life energy.”

“Sea longing?” Éomer looked bewildered. “What is that?”

“It is a condition that runs in Lothiriel’s family because of their Elven lineage. They can fade and die if deprived of the sight of the sea and the hope of seeing it again. Many believe that was the cause of Faramir’s mother’s untimely demise.”

Éomer looked alarmed. “Will this sea longing kill my sweet wife?”

“Not if Lothiriel is able to visit the sea frequently,” Aragorn replied.

“Why did she not tell me?” Éomer said sadly. “I would have told her she could visit her family and walk beside the ocean whenever she wished. I love her; I want her to be happy.”

“She feared you would misunderstand. She was torn between her duty and her love for you and her need to see the sea and hear the sound of the waves.”

“My poor Lothiriel! I had no idea!”

“Only those who carry Elven blood truly understand,” Aragorn told him. “Unless she spoke of it, you would never have realized what ailed her.” He struggled to make himself heard above Lothiriel’s cries from the adjoining room. Éomer visibly flinched.

“Gladly would I bear her pain!” he said.

“I know you would,” Aragorn said gently. “You love your lady. It is a good sign, though that the baby is coming now as it should. We can only wait.”

“You should rest then, my friend.” Éomer turned away from the birthing chamber though he cast many a backward glance as he took Aragorn to rest.

Faramir was still sleeping when Aragorn and Éomer returned. The serving maid rose from the bedside chair as the two kings entered.

“How is he?” Aragorn enquired as they entered.

“Restless, my lord, though he has not awoken,” the girl replied.

“You may go and get some sleep now, Eagyth,” Éomer told her.

Bobbing a curtsey, the girl left the room.

Aragorn slumped wearily on the chair, knowing he dare not rest yet. Every bone in his body seemed to ache and he struggled to keep his eyes open.

Faramir moaned softly in his sleep. The sound immediately snapped Aragorn back to full wakefulness. He grasped Faramir’s hand between his own. “Easy now,” he said gently. “You are safe now, ion nîn.”

Even in sleep, Faramir seemed to sense his presence and was reassured by it, his fingers coiled around Aragorn’s and he settled into a deeper repose.

Éomer was touched at this evidence of the bond between Aragorn and Faramir. He hoped fervently, should a son be born to him this night, that the child would grow up as devoted to his father as was Faramir to the father of his heart.

000

The first light of dawn was creeping through the shutters when Hild’s excited cry came at the door. “My lord, you have a son!”

Éomer sprang to his feet and went to the door, closely followed by Aragorn who by now was almost too exhausted to stand upright.

“My Queen, how is she?” the King of Rohan asked anxiously.

“She is well, my lord, as is your son,” the woman replied. “You may see them in a few minutes, if you wish. I will send a servant to fetch you when we are ready, but I wanted you to hear the good news at once.” She bustled out again her face beaming with joy.

Éomer turned to Aragorn and embraced him. ”Thank you, my friend, for saving them both!” he said fervently, a tear glistening in his eye.

“I am so happy for you, Éomer,” Aragorn replied.

“You must come and see them too,” said Éomer.

“My presence would only make your lady uncomfortable. I am weary now and would rest,” said Aragorn. Now the crisis was over he felt near to collapse.

“I am sorry, I had not realised just how much all this has taken out of you,” Éomer said contritely suddenly remembering just how much Aragorn had endured but a few months past. He helped his friend over to the bed, pulled off Aragorn’s boots, batting aside the older man’s feeble protests, then pulled the covers over him and gently tucked them round him. By the time the servant came to summon him, Aragorn was already snoring.

Pale but smiling, Lothiriel was sitting up in bed clutching a shawl wrapped bundle. Éomer‘s first impression was of a very pink wrinkled face crowned by a fuzz of black hair.

Outside the cock crowed loudly to proclaim the dawn.

The infant started to bawl as if he were hungry. To Éomer’s surprise, Lothiriel unlaced her nightgown and guided the dark fuzzed head to her breast. “I hope you do not mind,” said the Queen. “Hild laid him on my breast after he was born and I did not have the heart then to give over his care to another woman. I have decided I would like to do as the ladies of the Mark and suckle mine own babe.”

Éomer bent to kiss her brow. “There is no sight in the whole world fairer than that of my wife nursing our son,” he said.

000

Aragorn finally stirred from a deep slumber late the next morning. Beside him, Faramir groaned and appeared somewhat feverish. Aragorn sighed. He had expected this. Warg teeth and claws were notorious for carrying infections. “Why did you not wake me?” he gently chided his friend.

“You were exhausted and needed your rest,” the Steward replied. “I will do well enough.”

Aragorn allowed himself a small sign of relief. At least Faramir was not delirious. He gave him some water then a draught of poppy juice to ease his pain before quickly seeing to his own needs.

A smiling maidservant brought breakfast. Aragorn found he was hungry while Faramir could only manage to nibble some toast.

Éomer bounded into the chamber a few minutes later, grinning blissfully. “My son is so perfect,” he enthused. "He is dark like Lothiriel with a fine mane of black hair; He has the sweetest little fingers and toes, so pink and tiny! And he already has a good strong grip; he shall surely be a mighty horseman! Lothiriel has changed her mind about a wet nurse too and has decided to suckle him herself.”

Aragorn suppressed a smile. It seemed that instructing the midwives to keep mother and baby together had bonded them as he had hoped.” It gladdens my heart they are faring well,” he replied. "What name will the newest Rider of the Mark bear?"

“Elfwine, son of Éomer," the proud father exclaimed, tossing his mane of golden hair like a stallion. "You must visit them later today. How do you fare, brother?" Éomer finished, turning towardsFaramir.

“My wounds pain me a little, I fear I must remain abed for a while,” said Faramir. “Please tell my cousin how happy I am for her.”

“I must return to Lothiriel now,” said Éomer.” I hope your pain soon eases, brother. I will convey your good wishes to my dear one.”

“I will tend your wounds now,” Aragorn told Faramir as soon as Éomer had left. He sent for a servant to bring hot water and laid out his healing supplies. Another servant built up the fire, so that Faramir would not become chilled once the blankets were removed.

Aragorn took no chances and once Faramir’s nightshirt was removed, swathed him in blankets as he tended the wound. Faramir endured these ministrations stoically while the bandages were soaked off, only groaning when Aragorn gently probed the injury. To the King’s great relief, the infection did not seem too severe. He called for a servant to bring some cabbage leaves from the kitchens with which to make a poultice.

Although, Aragorn was as gentle as possible, by the time his wound was cleaned, the poultice applied and the bandage firmly in place, Faramir was pale and sweating. The poppy juice had taken the worst edge off the pain, but today it did not seem that the Steward would sleep again just yet. Aragorn sat by his bedside trying to make him comfortable and wiping Faramir’s face with a damp cloth then placing one on his aching head. The Steward managed a weak smile of gratitude, but lay there with his eyes closed, trying vainly to get comfortable.

Hating to see the one he loved as a son in pain, Aragorn sought for some means of comforting him. His eye lighted upon the sword, which the Steward had freed from the tree the day before. “Do you know the history of the sword you drew from the tree?” he enquired of Faramir, aiming to distract him.

Faramir weakly shook his head. ”Only that it is a weapon of great age and worth,” he said.” Mithrandir always cherished the blade and he told me that it was called Glamdring.”

“That is but part of the story,” said Aragorn. “The sword is over six thousand years old. It was forged in the ancient realm of Gondolin for the hand of Turgon the Elven King who ruled there. Gandalf told me the story one day while we were seeking Gollum. He was polishing his sword and I was curious about the runes upon the blade.”

“I have not yet studied them,” said Faramir, his eyes widening in astonishment. “The fight was raging too fiercely. Later when I wished to do so, my wounds clouded my wits.”

Aragorn propped a pillow behind Faramir’s back and helped him sit up. He carried Glamdring over to the bed. The blade gleamed brightly. Éomer had cleaned and polished it well.

“See the runes, here on the blade,” said Aragorn. “They read; Turgon had me made, I who hammer my foes. Gandalf found the sword amongst the Trolls treasure hoard when he was on his fabled adventure with Bilbo and the Dwarfs in 2941, just before the Ring was found again by Bilbo. Gandalf realised this sword was of great worth and beauty, but it was not until Elrond saw it that he learned its history. No man knows for certain how it survived the fall of Gondolin, but Elrond liked to think that our ancestors, Tuor and Idril might have taken it with them when they escaped.”

Faramir studied the runes on the white and gold sword intently, his eyes shining, then turned his attention to the jewelled hilt.

“It once had an ivory scabbard, but that must either have been lost, or Gandalf chose to take it to Valinor,” said Aragorn. “No matter, I shall gift you a new one, worthy of such a sword. Gandalf must have used some magic to keep its blade bright while it lay buried in the tree. Like Sting, it will glow with blue light should Orcs draw near. I hope, though, there will be little need now for such a power.”

“Why should he choose me to receive such a mighty gift?” Faramir asked, shaking his head slightly in bewilderment. “You are King and knew Mithrandir far better than I. Surely it must be meant for you instead? I have never loved the sword for its sharpness. I go to war only when I must to defend my people.”

“As should any Man of worth. The verse was clear and you alone could draw if from the tree. There is no mistake,” Aragorn said firmly. “Gandalf thought very highly of you. I already have Andúril, a weapon of great worth and history, while Éomer has Gúthwinë, both blades that belonged to our forefathers. Your father’s sword perished with him, while I placed Boromir’s beside him in his funeral boat.”

“That sword belonged to my grandsire,” Faramir said. ”I had a sword befitting my rank, but it was no heirloom.”

Aragorn glanced across the room to where Faramir’s old sword, retrieved by Éomer after the battle with the Wargs, lay sheathed and propped against the wall. It was a good weapon and highly serviceable, but on State occasions it appeared plain beside the swords of the King and the other Lords of Gondor. Aragorn had more than once considered ordering a far finer one to be crafted for his friend. He had discussed it with Arwen who had counselled that such a gift, however kindly meant, might hurt Faramir’s pride.

“I imagine that Gandalf regretted not having given you Glamdring when he was last in your company,” said Aragorn. “Maybe he felt he might have sought counsel from Master Elrond concerning the fate of so ancient a weapon.”

“Would Master Elrond and his sons have not had a far greater right to bear it than I?” asked Faramir.

“Maybe, but they have fine weapons of their own. I am certain they would have agreed with Gandalf’s plan,” said Aragorn. “Perhaps when Gandalf brought Shadowfax to Rohan, he left you the gift due to some foresight, knowing you would have need of it. Wear Glamdring with pride, ion nîn. The sword is well deserved and has found a worthy new master. You have preserved Gondor’s future by saving my life more than once while your friendship and support help me govern Gondor wisely. Your deeds yesterday made you a hero of Rohan as well as Gondor. Gandalf left gifts for all on that visit, for Éomer has many fine horses as result, one of which Éomer has gifted to Arwen, for being only half Mearas, it permitted her to become her mistress.”

“It will be wondrous to bear such a weapon with such a history. Forged in Gondolin for an elven-king...” Faramir said, his voice now growing sleepy as the poppy juice finally took effect.

Aragorn took the sword from his Steward and laid it reverently at the far side of the room. He then tucked the blankets around Faramir and settled himself in the chair by the bedside. Despite struggling to remain awake, the exertions of the past twenty-four hours caught up with him and he fell asleep. His slumber was punctuated by vivid dreams of Gandalf wielding Glamdring in battle. The blade gleamed with a blue light then was drenched with crimson drops of blood.

Aragorn woke with a start. Someone, most likely Éomer had covered him with a blanket while he slept.

The sun streamed through the window, suggesting that he had slept for several hours. His first thoughts were for Faramir. The Steward was still in a deep poppy-induced sleep. Aragorn laid a land upon his friend’s brow and to his great relief the fever had abated. The bandages around Faramir’s side were damp. When Aragorn investigated, he found the poultice had done its work and the poisons were swiftly draining from the wound. Faramir hardly stirred as Aragorn expertly applied a fresh poultice and bandages. He was confident now that Faramir would soon recover and they should be able to return home to their wives within a week or two.

Aragorn walked over to the window and looked out. Everyone he could see was smiling at the good news of the safe arrival of Éomer’s son and heir. Turning away from the window, Aragorn saw the sunlight was glinting on Glamdring’s blade. Aragorn wondered if Gandalf was smiling too, far across the sea in the Undying Lands.

The End
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