Taking a Chance
These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien and New Line Cinema with the exception of Caranthir who appears by kind permission of Evendim. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain
Faramir felt a great sense of relief as Aedred's words permeated his semi conscious brain. It would soon be over now, a far swifter and more honourable death than the one he was destined for. Why did Aragorn not hand him over? He could not bear to see his King harmed because of his acts.
He tried to say, "I am here and submit to your justice." but the words emerged as an incoherent squeak.
"Aragorn Arathornsson, surrender him!" Aefred menaced, advancing towards the bed.
Aragorn stood defiantly in front of Faramir, defending him with his sword. "You must kill me to reach him!" he told them. "I surrender him to no man as he is in my charge and I am the King of this Realm!"
Imrahil stood beside him. "No one touches my nephew!" he told the Rohirrim. "He has suffered far too much already!"
"Suffered from the scratches he received when he struck down our Lord?" Eothain sniffed, "Not nearly as much as Eomer King!"
Aragorn took a calculated risk. Still holding Anduril in one hand, with the other, he pulled back the bedcovers as far as decency allowed, exposing Faramir's battered body to the gaze of the Rohirrim.
He deplored displaying his Steward's injuries like this but it seemed better than shedding more blood as he could now hear the clamour of his own Guards approaching.
"There, behold the man! All this has been done to him since he was arrested!" he said fiercely.
Drifting in and out of consciousness Faramir awaited the fatal blow, with a mixture of relief and mortification at being uncovered in front of so many.
Eomer's men gasped and immediately sheathed their weapons, muttering amongst themselves as they backed away.
"You have had him tortured almost to death!" Aelfred said, aghast. "That is not our way. We do not like the way you dispense justice, Aragorn Arathornsson!"
"He deserved a swift and honourable death by the sword!" Eothain added. "Our King would have wished that!"
Aragorn heaved an inward sigh of relief. The men of Rohan were fierce but not cruel by nature and as he had hoped were deeply shocked by Faramir's injuries.
"He has been punished enough." Aelfred said, as one by one the Rohirrim slunk from the room straight into the custody of Aragorn's Guards, who had were now just outside the open door, awaiting their orders.
"As will you be for attacking my guards!" Aragorn said under his breath as covered Faramir again. "I am sorry my friend." he murmured not for the first time that day. Faramir had already sunk back into unconsciousness.
Aragorn went to the door as more soldiers arrived and frightened servants started to emerge from the surrounding rooms and alcoves now the danger was over. The prone bodies of the two Guards who had been stationed outside the room were sprawled over the threshold.
The King knelt beside them, observing that much to his relief they were still breathing. One appeared to have merely been knocked out, while the other was bleeding from a deep cut to the sword arm.
Aragorn swiftly staunched the bleeding and ordered one of the men to fetch a healer. Another was despatched to fetch workmen to mend the door.
Once the two injured Guards were placed on stretchers and carried to the Houses of Healing, Aragorn tried to piece together what had happened from the servants and Royal Guards.
It seemed that the most hotheaded of Eomer's men had left the barracks where they were being confined, while their Guards were occupied having their midday meal. When Aragorn had sent Eothain back to them they had learned where Faramir was and after a further report about Eomer's scull fracture reached their ears, they had waited for a chance to avenge their King and unaware how badly Faramir was injured decided to storm his room. The few Guards that stood in their way had been taken by surprise and easily overpowered.
The King gave orders that they were to be escorted towards the Border ere nightfall and forbidden to ever again set foot in Gondor. He then ordered a through search to ensure there were no more intruders and that all the injured had been found. He then placed six heavily armed men outside the door while a locksmith and a carpenter repaired the damage.
Returning to Faramir's bedside Aragorn again tried to ease his friend's pain and strengthen his heart. Faramir moaned and cried out constantly but seemed unaware of his surroundings and oblivious to the soft words of comfort and apology the King spoke to him although he obediently drank another cup of the herbal tea the King mixed for him.
Eventually he fell into an uneasy sleep and Aragorn settled down to rest beside him. Scarcely had he settled back against the pillows when a loud knock came on the newly mended door.
Imrahil went to answer it.
"Master Caranthir requests the presence of his Majesty King Elessar, "the servant announced, "He and Master Aedred are most concerned about King Eomer of Rohan!"
Aragorn swiftly got up and pulled on his boots wondering how much more could go amiss this day and praying that Valar would at least spare his wife and the child she was bringing into the world. He had dared hope that Eomer would recover as he had seemed to be improving when he left him but as for Faramir, he was very seriously ill indeed. How could he bear it if he lost everyone he loved on this one dreadful day?
Hastening to where his other injured friend lay, Aragorn was filled with dread. If Eomer died, not only would he lose a treasured friend, but also it would most likely mean a bloody war between former close friends and allies, so close that even civil war within Gondor was one dreadful possibility, especially if Faramir were to die too as there were still many who only supported the King because Faramir himself would never have agreed to be used as a figurehead against him. Then there had been many marriages between citizens of Gondor and Rohan since the Ring War, which would lead to divided loyalties within every part of society
Eomer was still lying exactly as Aragorn had left him a few hours ago, but whereas before he had been breathing fairly well, now his lips had bluish tinge and he was fighting for every breath.
Caranthir was examining his patient and barely looked up as the King entered but an agitated looking Aedred exclaimed, "It grieves me to trouble you when I know you are weary, my Lord, but a few moments ago Eomer King tried to cough in his sleep and then started to fight for breath!"
Caranthir stood aside as Aragorn approached his friend's bedside.
Motioning to Aedred, together they unlaced Eomer's nightshirt and slid it down to his waist. While Aedred, assisted by Caranthir unwrapped the bandages at Aragorn's command, the King stood for a moment gathering himself, then crushed a leaf of athelas before placing both hands a few inches above Eomer's damaged chest.
Aragorn chanted something that neither Caranthir nor Aedred could understand and appeared to fall into a trance. The green gem he wore on his breast started to glow as if of its own volition.
Eomer gave a strangled cough as both sides of his chest began to rise and fall. Aragorn then clasped both his hands. Slowly the colour began to return to the King of Rohan's features, as his breathing grew stronger.
Aragorn sat down heavily on the bedside chair as Caranthir hastened to Eomer's side.
"Well I have never seen anything like this before in a lifetime spent as a healer!" he exclaimed. "The collapsed lung is working again after only a few hours, quite remarkable! What powers do you possess my Lord King?" He looked at Aragorn with something approaching reverence.
"I hardly know myself until they are put to the test!" Aragorn said wearily. "Will you replace the bandages, and his nightshirt please? "
After they had done his bidding and he had somewhat recovered, he took Eomer's hand again and placed his other hand lightly on his brow.
"Eomer, my friend, awake!" he commanded.
Eomer coughed again and then opened his eyes.
"Aragorn?" Eomer murmured through dry lips. "Thirsty."
He swallowed the water in the proffered cup and closed his eyes again.
"He sleeps naturally, he will recover now, Aragorn said, his voice trembling slightly with the vast sense of relief he felt. "I think he will sleep now for many hours. Send for me if he shows any signs of nausea," he told the healers. "I must return to the Lord Faramir, call me at once if you have further need of my aid!"
"You should take food and rest first, my Lord," Aedred advised. "After what you did earlier for Lord Faramir, I fear for your own well being!"
Aragorn smiled wryly at his typical Rohirric outspokenness and promised to have some food sent up from the kitchens. Caranthir looked shocked, as in Denethor's day such forwardness would have earned the young man a severe reprimand.
"So old Ioreth was right!" Caranthir mused when Aragorn had left. "The King does indeed have the hands of a healer. I would never have believed it had I not seen it today for myself. I thought she was just exaggerating some Elvish tricks he knew how to use! Maybe there is even hope for poor Lord Faramir!"
An hour or so later, Faramir opened his eyes and the King coaxed him to swallow more water and herbal tea. He sipped it slowly through bruised blue tinged lips, all the while gazing at Aragorn with an expression of sheer anguish in his expressive grey eyes before looking away as Aragorn uncovered him and rubbed more salves on his many injuries.
Aragorn's guilt gnawed at him. How could Faramir ever forgive him for what he had done? Even if he lived, could he ever recover from such an ordeal?
He persuaded Imrahil to rest awhile on the couch, while he continued to tend Faramir.
As darkness fell, another of Aragorn's fears was realised as Faramir became feverish, no doubt on account of having his injuries doused in filthy water as well as being exposed to the general squalor of the prison.
It was a torment for the King to watch as every restless movement increased the Steward's agony.
Aragorn was constantly at his side, bathing his face, neck and limbs with lukewarm water and trying to soothe him as he pleaded with some invisible tormentor for mercy.
As the fever intensified, Faramir cried out again and again. The words were often indistinguishable but now and again they made out, "I am sorry, forgive me, please no!"
Aragorn could only add willow bark to the rosehip, poppy, hawthorn and liquorice herbal brew he was now giving him every few hours and constantly try to reassure him but he seemed oblivious to his presence.
He stared wild-eyed and unseeing at Aragorn, occasionally gripping his proffered hand for comfort while his friend and King fought for his life.
Tonight should have been so very different as he and Faramir should have been sitting here keeping each other company, while they waited for news of how Arwen's labour was progressing. He could just imagine how Faramir would have tried to find some topic of conversation to distract him.
A few hours later Faramir suddenly cried out clearly, " Love me please! Why don't you love me father? I didn't mean to let you down! Please don't hurt me any more!"
Realising Faramir was reliving his childhood, and thinking a slight deception excusable, Aragorn tenderly kissed him on the brow saying, "Of course I love you, my son. Your father loves you very much!"
A faint smile lit up Faramir's features and he sighed and settled a little more easily.
Aragorn bathed his Steward's face again. His words were no lie for he had indeed come to love this young man as a son and appreciate him, as Denethor never had done.
It had grown dark outside and the birthing chamber was now lit by candlelight.
The Queen had been in labour for over eighteen hours now and was growing exhausted though frequent bites of Lembas and sips of miruvor helped to sustain her. Ioreth and Eowyn were both satisfied everything was progressing, as it should.
Arwen gave a loud scream as the contractions became fiercer. They were now so frequent; she hardly had time to recover between them.
"It is almost time!" Ioreth announced as she examined Arwen, " Bring the birthing stool here!"
A very grateful thank you for all your much appreciated reviews and comments. I intended to post sooner to show my appreciation but was unable to.
I was touched to be missed.
Denethor did indeed know via the palantir that Aragorn was coming as you can read in "The return of the King " but he believed Sauron would win the war and the West would fall.
I do not imagine Aragorn being very security conscious and felt the Rohirrim would just push past or knock out the Guards at the doors.
Faramir did indeed love and was loved by, Boromir but I doubt he perceived his brother as an authority figure whom he needed to please.
Faramir is far too ill to really take in much ofwhat is said to him and several of my readers have rightly noticed that his emotional trauma is very deep. As he has only been close to Aragorn for a few months, he still does not really know the King all that well.
However much the characters or my readers might wish it, I fear there will be no quick fixes in this story any more than in "Shadow and Thought"