The righteous are bold as a lion
The wicked flee when no man pursueth; but the righteous are bold as a lion. _ Proverbs 28.1 – The Bible.
With grateful thanks to Raksha and Virtuella. Disclaimer: These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
"If he dies," the dragon continued. "I demand the lives of those who killed him."
"Under the laws of our land, their lives are forfeit," said Aragorn, vastly relieved the creature appeared to be reasonable. "Let us hope, though, that he recovers. Now, will you permit us to tend your hurts, Tin Lee?"
"They are not paining me," said the dragon dismissively.
"They could become infected, Ten Lie," Faramir explained, gently stroking the creature's nose.
"My name is T'ien Li," the dragon retorted huffily. "How many times do I have to tell you how to pronounce it?"
"We mean no insult, but your language is strange to our tongues, and might take us some time to master," Aragorn said apologetically. "What if I were to give you a name in our speech in the meantime?"
"I already have a name," sniffed the dragon. "It has served me well through three generations of Men."
"The King has many names," said Faramir. "It seems unfair that such a noble being as you should have but one!"
"Maybe a new name would be acceptable if it were agreeable to my ears," said the dragon.
"I will call you Súlion, son of the wind." Aragorn pronounced.
"Hmm," said the dragon thoughtfully. "Yes, that is a fine name. It is acceptable."
Aragorn laid out the healing supplies on a sheet upon the ground, took up a knife and cleansed it in the flames the soldiers had kindled, then allowed it to cool. He walked along the length of the dragon, inspecting the arrows. Smaug had been felled by an arrow, so Bilbo had told him, but this dragon seemed to have taken little harm, being protected by a naturally thick hide. Assuming that a dragon's organs lay in close to the same places, as did the organs of men and horses, then it could be surmised that the arrows had missed Sulion's vital organs. Aragorn tried to remember the little that Elrond had told him of the anatomical studies of fallen dragons during the War of Wrath.
"You must keep very still," said Aragorn, approaching the dragon, knife in hand.
"Who is the other one carrying nasty pins?" the dragon asked.
"He is Master Aedred, a highly skilled healer," said Aragorn.
"He is not skilled in good manners," said the dragon. "Where I come from it is considered very rude not to introduce yourself."
Aragorn beckoned to Aedred to come forward. Looking terrified, the healer inclined his head slightly and said. "Greetings, Lord Dragon. I am the chief assistant to the Warden of the Houses of Healing."
"Hmmn, I am as pleased to meet you as you are to meet me," said Súlion.
"Master Aedred is here to help me remove the arrows," said Aragorn.
Súlion eyed the knives doubtfully. "That looks very sharp," he remarked. "
"It is, and a sharp knife causes less pain than a blunt one," said Aragorn. "I promise I will work swiftly to extract the arrows."
Faramir gently stroked the creature's nose and murmured comforting words as the King prepared to wield the blade. Aedred hung back, wishing to observe Aragorn remove the first of the barbs.
"Ow, ouch!" exclaimed the dragon indignantly.
"That is the first one out," said Aragorn. "It is not a deep wound. I think we will remove them all first, then stitch the wounds closed."
"I do not like this at all," the dragon protested, showing his teeth. "It hurts less to leave them there."
"If the barbs poisoned you, who would care for your rider?" asked Faramir. "How would he return home without you to bear him thither?"
Sulion paused for a long moment then said, "I suppose you should continue," in a small voice.
"You deal with the ones in his rump," Aragorn directed Aedred, thinking the healer would be more comfortable away from the creature's fangs.
"Ow, ouch, oh!" the dragon cried loudly as each further arrow was extracted.
"Your rider was much braver than you," said Aragorn sternly as Sulion roared almost in his ear. "Your wounds are but slight flesh wounds."
"Ouch!" cried Sulion as Aedred removed another arrow from his rump.
Some of the soldiers, who by now had overcome their fear, started to titter. Aragorn glared at them. "Maybe you will not laugh so loudly if I ever have to remove an arrow from one of you?" he enquired coldly.
The men fell silent. Aragorn removed the final arrow and threw it on the ground with a furious gesture. Sulion's glossy scales were torn and blood spattered and although none of the wounds were life threatening, they must be causing the poor dragon considerable pain. Since it had been men of Gondor who had shot the dragon out of fear, the responsibility for the dragon's wounds lay on the King's shoulders. Aragorn did not sigh; not wanting to alarm his patient; but his heart was heavy. Maybe if he had but sent messages, the creature and his rider would have passed through his borders unharmed.
He threaded a needle and began to stitch Sulion's wounds as gently as he could, though the hide was difficult to penetrate. Apart from the occasional whimper, the dragon now bore his ministrations patiently.
Aragorn became increasingly aware of a steady stream of people scurrying through the city gates. He paused in his task and went across to speak to them He approached a family with a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, two small boys and a baby girl and said, "There is no need for you to leave. The dragon is tame. See, the Steward is even stroking the creature's nose!"
"It might be safe for warriors," said the man doubtfully.
"We are not risking the children, though," said his wife, pulling along her eldest son who looked more interested in the dragon than scared by it.
"I've heard they like eating young maidens best," said the man in a confidential tone, glancing anxiously at his offspring.
"This dragon only likes cows," Aragorn said firmly. "The King and the Steward assure you that it is quite safe to remain in Minas Tirith."
"It is alright for them," said the woman, obviously not recognising him in the healer's plain garb. "Their children will be locked away safe somewhere well out of the monster's reach. I would wager that the King would not let his only son within a mile of this fiend!"
"If people have any sense, they'll all get out of here, before the monster devours all our little ones!" said the man interrupting. "Come, wife, we must not idle and chatter here!"
"The King bids you stay here!" said Aragorn.
"Does he?" snorted the man. "He would have to lock us in the city prison before we would stay near that thing! Don't I know you from somewhere?" He peered curiously at Aragorn for a moment.
"The King's a good man, he would not imprison us," said the woman. "He has children of his own." With that the family hurried away.
Aragorn hastened back to Súlion just as Aedred was securing the last few stitches in his hide. He quickly told Faramir of his conversation with the family.
"Maybe I should try speaking to them?" Faramir suggested. "They would recognise me in my robes of office. I could order them to stay and you could issue an official decree."
"We cannot confine everyone to their homes indefinitely," said Aragorn. "Issuing edicts would only increase my people's fears."
"Why do they think I want to eat their children?" Súlion asked indignantly. "They are all bone and not at all tasty!"
"They have heard stories of dragons that eat people," Aragorn replied. "Such as Smaug the great firedrake. Have your kind never eaten manflesh, when very hungry, perhaps? "
"Of course not! We are far too civilised," the dragon retorted. "The common firedrakes from my homeland will sometimes eat human flesh in times of famine, but only those who have starved or fallen in battle. They tell me that humans do not taste nearly as nice as cows or deer, or even sheep!"
"I think I have an idea," said Aragorn suddenly. "Could you say a little longer with Súlion, please, mellon nîn? And, Aedred, could you wipe the blood off him, please?"
"Master Tarostar expects me back at the Houses soon," Aedred began, but then subsided realising that the Warden's authority was as nothing compared to the King's.
"You will be perfectly safe," Aragorn reassured him. "I would not leave you here otherwise."
He strode off at great speed towards where Roheryn had been left at a far enough distance from the dragon as not to agitate the horse. The stallion was the bravest of his kind, but Aragorn was loth to make him spend any length of time in the proximity of so feared a creature. Roheryn was quietly grazing, whereas, Iavas was pawing the ground. Aragorn decided it would be kinder to take the mare instead. She needed no urging to gallop swiftly to the Citadel. As soon as he reached the stables, Aragorn handed her to a groom and ordered her to be cared for and his second best horse, Hasufel, saddled. The groom gaped at his bedraggled appearance open mouthed and Aragorn wondered if were it not for the horse if anyone would recognise him here either!
He now put to use all the skills he had honed as a Ranger as he stealthily entered his apartments. Just as he had hoped, Arwen was in the nursery with Farawyn while Eldarion was in his schoolroom with his tutor.
Aragorn went to his chamber and scribbled a brief note to Arwen. Swiftly, he doffed the borrowed robe and his bloodied shirt. He splashed cold water from the pitcher on the table on to his hands and face, and then selected a shirt of fine linen from his closet and a similar, but more elaborate set of robes to those he had worn that morning. Finally, he took the Star of Elendil from its casket and secured it upon his brow. Thus regally attired he entered Eldarion's schoolroom where his son was learning Quenya verbs. The boy gasped at his appearance in astonishment, the tutor hardly less so.
"Ada, why are you dressed like that here?" asked Eldarion.
The tutor bowed low. "Sire," he murmured.
"I would like to spend some time with my son this afternoon," said the King. "He can continue his lessons tomorrow. You may spend the afternoon at your leisure. You may leave us now."
"Why, thank you, sire." The tutor paused only to gather up his books leaving the jubilant seven-year-old alone with his father.
"I don't have to do any more lessons today?" Eldarion sounded as if he could hardly believe his good fortune.
"No, ion nîn, because I have a far more important task for you," said Aragorn.
For a moment Eldarion looked crestfallen then he jumped excitedly. "It cannot be worse than Quenya! Ada, is there really a dragon outside? The servants say there is and they are all scared, but naneth won't tell me, and neither will my tutor nor my nanny. I think they are scared. I told them I'd look after naneth and Farawyn until you got home, but they didn't take any notice. Is the dragon going to eat us, ada? "
"No, ion nîn, it is a friendly dragon. Like those in the stories I've told you."
"But you told me they were pretend stories and that real dragons were fierce and cruel, not like my Smaug at all!"
"Well, I was wrong," Aragorn conceded. "Uncle Faramir and I met a friendly dragon when we last went camping."
"You didn't tell me!" Eldarion pouted.
"I thought he was going straight home and did not want to disappoint you," Aragorn said hastily. Truth to tell, he would have loved to tell his son about his adventures, but after Arwen's furious reaction had deemed it wise to wait a while. "Well, the dragon has come back because he and his rider were hurt…"
"And they want you to make them better!" Eldarion interrupted. "Because you are the best healer in all of Middle-earth!" He jumped up and down excitedly.
"Hear me, Eldarion!" Aragorn said sternly, quietening the boy. "The people don't know about nice dragons like you or I and they are all leaving the city. Can you be very brave and come with me to show everyone that this dragon is a nice friendly one so that they will stay in their nice cosy homes?"
"I can meet a real live dragon!" Eldarion shrieked in excitement. "I'll go and tell naneth!"
"No, you can tell her later," Aragorn said hastily. "Come with me now. You must be very quiet as your little sister is having a nap and naneth too."
"Can I take Smaug to show the dragon?" Eldarion enquired, referring to his favourite wooden toy.
"No," Aragorn said firmly.
"Why not?" asked Eldarion.
"Because the story of Smaug is a sad one for dragons to hear. Now come, we will go the secret way that Uncle Faramir and I showed you. I want you to play at being a Ranger and be very quiet indeed. "
Taking his son's hand, Aragorn led him through a warren of little used corridors and passageways, which led directly to the stables. Eldarion bounced with excitement as he walked, but the King's heart was heavy. This gamble had to succeed! The people of Minas Tirith grew ever more terrified and had to be calmed. Otherwise, their king would have to become his people's jailor, ordering stern measures to contain them for their own safety. Aragorn winced at the very thought; he was a King, not a tyrant. Then there was Arwen. Never before had he deceived her thus;and he feared that this subterfuge would wound her deeply. Aragorn would never even have considered taking Eldarion to meet Súlion if he believed even the slightest danger threatened his beloved son, but he feared Arwen would not understand.