A life in the Balance
These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien .This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain. Some lines are taken directly from the book.
With special thanks to J for all her help and kindness.
He was weary beyond measure after the battle and the events that preceded it and wanted nothing more than to retire to his tent and fall into an exhausted sleep but now the Wizard was making yet further demands.
"The Steward's son, Lord Faramir lies stricken and close to death within the Houses of Healing," Gandalf told him," One of the oldest of the women who are tending him, reminded me the hands of the King are the hands of a healer, so with you alone lies any hope of recovery.
He hesitated, thinking of Denethor long ago before this younger son was born, his bitter enemy and rival, once it was clear that Ecthelion preferred the counsels of Captain Thorongil over those of his own son, and then Boromir, a brave warrior but fatally flawed by his pride who would have most likely challenged his claim to the throne, which needed to succeed if he were ever to win the hand of his beloved Arwen.
"Come!" Gandalf urged, "It would be most expedient if you saved the life of the only one who yet could stand in your way, though I believe he would welcome your return, though who knows now that he is ruling Steward? Faramir is much loved by the people of Gondor, who would repay you with their gratitude if you saved at least one of their favourite sons."
Aragorn was sorely tempted to point out to the Wizard that if expediency ruled here, as it so often did for Gandalf, the death of a possible rival would serve as well.
"He is a good friend of mine and has been since his youth," Gandalf explained before Aragorn could reply that he would do what he could,adding as if as further bait, The Hobbit Meriadoc and the Lady Eowyn also lie within stricken by the Black Breath."
"I will come." Aragorn said tersely, disliking the attempt to manipulate him as the Wizard should know he would never deny help to any in need. He had come to love the Hobbits dearly and admire their courage and resourcefulness. As for Lady Eowyn, he blamed himself for her current plight, for although he had never encouraged her attentions, maybe if he had found a gentler way of telling her that he could never return her love, she would not have ridden despairingly into battle.
Aragorn, clad simply in a grey cloak, with no other adornment save the green jewel he wore on his breast, went up to the city accompanied by Gandalf, Eomer and Prince Imrahil.
He was greeted enthusiastically by the Hobbit, Pippin, who grasped his hand and greeted him warmly, somewhat to the consternation of the very proper Prince of Dol Amroth, yet the young Hobbit's warmth heartened him and restored his flagging energy.
He had intended to try and save those he knew and loved first but when the healers took him to see Merry, Lady Eowyn and Faramir, he knew that though all three were gravely ill, there was little time left for Faramir and if any hope were to remain for his survival, he must help him now.
In truth he doubted his ability to save any of them, if only Lord Elrond were here with his centuries of skill in the healing arts!
Overwhelmed by weariness and sorrow, he swayed slightly. Eomer, who was beside him, caught his arm and steadied him.
"First you must rest, surely, and at the least eat a little?"
How he loved Eomer at that moment, to be concerned about his welfare, when the life of his only sister hung by a mere thread. He knew then that somehow he must save those that only the hands of the King could succour. He would need athelas though if he were to aid them.
A long conversation with the garrulous Ioreth served only to waste precious moments and confirm that she did not know if athelas was to be had in the Houses, hardly surprising as unless in the hands of the King, it was useful only for curing such minor complaints as women's headaches.
Aragorn shed his cloak and with Eomer's and Imrahil's help also his armour, as he sensed a long and potentially draining night lay ahead. After telling the women who were there tending to the sick to heat water, he washed his hands and went to Faramir's bedside. It seemed that the Steward's son was much loved, as the room seemed full of people, many of whom were weeping.
He would dearly have loved to dismiss them all as healing was hardly a spectator sport and they made his own doubts that he could actually help Faramir intensify as the spectators watched his every move as if expecting some sort of instant miracle, which if it failed to materialise would leave him a laughing stock. He dared not ask them to leave though, for if Faramir were to die, at least they would witness that he played no part in the death of his possible rival.
"I know you will help Lord Faramir, Strider. He is very nice for one of the big folk and I really like him, then you'll help Merry too, I know!" Pippin said trustingly while the others, apart from his companions muttered amongst themselves. His sharp hearing made out such comments as "Whatever is the city coming to when they send for those Northern rangers to tend the sick? He's no right to be near Lord Faramir, who does he think he is as our best healers cannot help our Lord. Has he come to gloat over our loss as there is nothing he could possibly do to help ?" None of it made his task easier.
He unlaced the neck of the young man's sweat soaked nightshirt to examine the wound he was suffering from. It crossed his mind the fever wracked man might be more comfortable without the drenched garment, but with so many women present, it seemed removing it might humiliate him, if he ever awoke to find out, so he merely pulled aside the bandage covering his shoulder to reveal a deep wound to the muscle. He had expected it to be the cause of the fever, yet the wound was clean and already starting to heal, a matter, which puzzled Imrahil greatly given his nephew's condition as he had tended him when he was brought in from the battlefield.
It was clear that Faramir could only be suffering from the Black Breath, which was a deadly condition with little hope of a cure, unless maybe there was some athelas in this place.
The Herb Master entered only to confirm what the garrulous Ioreth had told him, that they did not keep supplies of the herb as it was of little use.
Gandalf demanded that they should search until some be found.
Aragorn took the young man's hand and noted sadly that his pulse was weak and rapid as he struggled to breathe. Dipping a cloth in the freshly heated water, he bathed Faramir's sweat soaked brow.
Gandalf had told him how Faramir had been sent on a near suicide mission by his father with cruel words that he should have died in Boromir's place his only farewell.When he returned wounded, Denethor had lost his wits and decided to burn himself on a funeral pyre taking his son with him.Only the last minute intervention of Pippin and Gandalf had saved Faramir from being burned alive.
Aragorn suddenly felt overwhelmed with compassion towards this young man whom life had dealt a series of grievous blows. He must have been heartbroken at the loss of his only brother, as from Boromir he had learned they were very close and such grief combined with his father's disdain must have hurt him deeply making him very susceptible to the Black breath when the Nazgul drew near.
Faramir more closely resembled Denethor as Aragorn remembered him in his youth, rather than Boromir. He had the black hair and carven features of those of pure or almost pure, Numenorean lineage. This was the man who if he lived would hold Aragorn's fate in his hands. His supposedly grey eyes were closed and framed by exceptionally long lashes which gave him a very vulnerable look as they served to highlight that for one of his people, he was yet very young. He looked so helpless lying there, another innocent sacrifice in the war ravaging Middle Earth.
"Poor Faramir!" Imrahil lamented, "He always did his duty and fought bravely to defend the country he loved, but he is a man of peace and learning who holds no love for the sword unlike his brother!"
Faramir seemed to be growing weaker by the minute as his laboured breathing slowed. It would take a miracle to save him now.
A/N I felt that I needed to tell my own version of this story as it is important to the sequels I have written.
I was furious that this scene although filmed was never shown as I badly wanted to see it. A still is on my profile page.