Eomer knelt beside Aragorn and saw the colour was now returning to his face and that he was breathing as well as anyone with cracked ribs could be expected to. He pulled the blankets down and saw the bandage round his side was stained again, though not as badly as the previous night.
"He will sleep a while yet with the drugs I gave him," he told Legolas "Let us change his bandages now before he awakes. Last night was unpleasant for both of us."
The Elf nodded agreement and went to fetch the salves and bandages and heat some water.
They started with the leg wound, which appeared almost healed and then turned Aragorn over on to his uninjured side and unwrapped the damaged ribs. Eomer shook his head in dismay at the amount of bruises, which covered the man's back and chest.
"This looks more like a beating than a battle!" he murmured as he applied a salve to Aragorn's back.
"Sauron's minions wanted to hurt him as much as they could before killing him. "Legolas replied as he applied salve to the damaged ribs." Yet cruel though it is, at least none tried to deal him a fatal blow before the ring was destroyed."
Though still deeply asleep, Aragorn moaned under their ministrations as they tightly bound the damaged ribs.
"As you say, it turned out for the best thought it grieves me to see him thus," said Eomer. "No warrior of Rohan would fight with such dishonour as Sauron's armies!"
"Nor would an Elf!" Legolas replied as they gently laid Aragorn on his back and unwrapped the dressings round his arms and shoulder.
Once bathed, they decided the cuts on his arms were sufficiently healed only to need salves, though the gash on his shoulder still looked deep and painful enough for a further dressing.
They were most worried by the wound on his side but found the matter still oozing from it looked far less evil than before. Aragorn twitched and moaned in his sleep as they cleaned and dressed it but they felt certain that although painful, it was starting to heal.
"I think he is mending," said Legolas heaving a sigh of relief echoed by Eomer. "No doubt he will want to get up tomorrow!"
Leaving Legolas to finish the dressings, Eomer went to his saddlebags and rummaged inside until he found a spare pair of his breeches.
"Let us dress him then," he said "Allow him some dignity when he awakes as he cares about such matters! For myself, I would not be troubled but he told me that after many years of solitude he is uncomfortable unclothed in public."
Legolas grinned at the concerns of humans but without comment helped Eomer to ease the breeches over Aragorn's feet and together they slowly eased them past the bandaged leg wound and pulled them up over his hips.
They were rather too large but given the amount of bandages around his waist, that was no bad thing.
Vastly relieved that, Aragorn had not woken during their ministrations; Eomer and Legolas replaced the blankets. Eomer sat down, wiping the sweat from his brow.
"I'm glad that is over," he said." Even though I had drugged him well, I feared he would wake up and not be at all happy!"
" Healers are the worse patients!" Legolas said wryly, as he washed his hands. "He seems well on the way to recovery now though. I doubt we will need to do this again. I will fetch you a drink while you sit with him."
"Thank you, then you must rest as surely even Elves grow weary sometimes. " Eomer replied." I can keep watch now I'm awake."
"We are much stronger than you Edain." the Elf replied, "Yet I will sleep a little while, as there will be much to do this day."
Eomer sat sipping his drink and studying Aragorn's sleeping face, the high cheekbones, and dark hair striking even in slumber. There was no doubt of his ancestry, as Eomer had heard the old tales and even once seen the statues of the ancient kings from over the sea.
He decided Aragorn now looked far more like the man he had met on the plains of Rohan though it would doubtless be some time before he fully regained his strength. Yet, now he was certain he would live and his heart was gladdened at the thought.
Tearing himself away from the King's side, he walked across to where the Hobbits were lying and noticed one of them, Frodo, he thought, was lying with his eyes open.
"Do you want a drink?" he asked.
Frodo nodded weakly and swallowed the water greedily when Eomer held the cup to his lips.
"Sleep now, you need rest, he advised him once the cup was drained.
"I'm not tired." Frodo whispered wearily.
Eomer did not believe him but let him be. He looked at his companion, Sam, if he remembered the name rightly, as these Shire folk had strange names, who was snoring loudly and smiled, thankful that at least one of them was resting.
When he reached Pippin's bedside a small and surprised voice whispered
"Eomer! Is it really you or am I dreaming?"
Eomer smiled and knelt beside the Hobbit." Yes I'm here, Gandalf sent me to see how you were."
Pippin's face fell as the memories of the last few days came flooding back.
"How is Strider?" he asked, "Gimli said he was badly hurt and I saw how…" His voice trailed off at the hideous memory of the wounds he had seen.
Eomer smiled. "He is much better and so are your other friends. Now get some rest."
" Everything hurts so much, but I'll try, Eomer, um your Majesty" Pippin replied. It was hard to think that now the old King of Rohan was dead. "I miss Merry being with me so much."
"He has already been sent for. You will see him in a few days." Eomer replied, patting the young Hobbit's hand comfortingly and within a few minutes, Pippin was sound asleep.
When Aragorn awoke again, the early morning light filled the tent. He blinked and then shut his eyes again trying to make sense of his surroundings.
He realised he was dressed in an ill-fitting pair of breeches while his upper body was almost completely swathed in bandages. Then he remembered the previous night as the pain stabbed his chest and side.
He moaned softly and opened his eyes.
Eomer was immediately at his side.
"How do you feel, my friend?" he asked.
"As if my horse sat on me!" Aragorn groaned as he struggled to sit up. He realised he was surrounded by pillows, not only under his head but also cushioning his back and either side of his ribs.
He accepted Eomer's outstretched hands and allowed himself to be eased upright while the pillows were placed behind him.
The king of Rohan held a cup to his lips.
"Drink this it will help you feel better."
Aragorn looked doubtful." I do not want to sleep again. I must get up."
" It's only for the pain" Eomer reassured him, feeling rather apprehensive as to how Aragorn would react to having been sedated the night before "Drink it and then I will fetch food and drink to strengthen you."
Aragorn was about to complain about being given the poppy juice earlier, but before he could do so became aware of a delicious smell of cooking coming from outside .He drained the cup of painkilling herbs.
"How did you know I was hungry?" he asked Eomer
"You haven't eaten for days and now you fever has broken it is natural to want food." Eomer replied." We intend to take the tent down before eating now that the sun has risen, so would you like to borrow a tunic to keep warm?"
Aragorn nodded and wished he had not as the movement made his head spin. Eomer steadied him.
"Easy, friend, you will feel better once you have eaten. "
Aragorn looked down at the blanket, embarrassed at his own weakness.
Eomer left him to fetch one of his own tunics and to have a moment's privacy. He selected a loose one of a soft material and quickly eased it over Aragorn's head before he could protest.
"I can dress myself." he protested his voice muffled under the cloth.
"It would hurt you to lift your arms until the pain relief had time to work." Eomer replied, ignoring him and pulling the tunic down.
" I will return soon with your breakfast." he said leaving the aching and embarrassed King sitting propped against the pillows.
Legolas and Gimli, seeing him awake, left the Hobbits and ran over to him.
"I feared you'd never wake! " said Gimli joyfully, patting him on the uninjured shoulder." You gave much cause for worry!"
"It is good to see you looking better, my friend." smiled Legolas.
" I am glad to see you, my friends." Aragorn smiled despite the pain he was in." Thank you for tending me these past days. How are the Hobbits?
"Their fever has broken and they are resting." Legolas answered, anxious not to alarm Aragorn. "We are taking care of them until you get your strength back."
In a few moments, Eomer returned with a bowl of stew and a spoon and Legolas and Gimli returned to their charges.
He lifted a spoonful of broth to Aragorn's lips. He shook his head and tried to take the spoon himself but found his hand was shaking too much.
Knowing it hurt his pride to be fed, Eomer compromised and steadied Aragorn's hand as he spooned the stew into his mouth. With each mouthful, it grew easier and soon Eomer merely had to hold the basin steady.
Aragorn had no idea he was so hungry but once the bowl was empty he felt much stronger.
"Help me get up!" he begged Eomer.
Eomer knelt beside Aragorn and taking care not to touch his wounds, put an arm round him and gradually eased him to his feet.
Aragorn felt everything start to spin round and thought he would fall, but Eomer's sturdy arms supported him and gradually the spinning stopped and he was able to walk slowly and painfully, but at least he was on his feet.
As Legolas and Gimli dismantled the tent, Aragorn gradually felt his strength returning aided by the pain killing herbs and the food. After he had seen to his own needs, he reluctantly took Eomer's advice to rest a little, before looking at the Hobbits who were being cared for by Legolas and Gimli
He found he was glad to return to his pallet and lie back with his eyes closed, enjoying the feel of the gentle sunlight on his face while trying to ignore the now dully throbbing pains in almost every part of his body.
A thrush was singing in a nearby tree and he tried to blot out the pain by concentrating on the song. It was beautiful and at that moment despite everything that had happened, it felt good to be alive.
His peace was shattered by a piercing scream. "No, please don't!"