The Hidden Days of Healing


 The Hidden Days of Healing

       Warning - This story is rated PG13 and not suitable for young children.

The characters are the propery of the Tolkien estate.No profit has, nor will be made from this story.

‘The hands of the King are hands of healing, dear friends,’ he(Gandalf) said. ‘But you went to the very brink of death ere he recalled you, putting forth all his power, - The Field of Cormallen- ROTK

After the Battle

March 25th 3019 T.A

Sauron’s hosts charged towards the men of the West, who though greatly outnumbered, were determined to fight bravely to the last.

Aragorn swung Anduril while the Orcs pressed round him, stabbing furiously with their spears, each eager to fell Isildur’s heir, who had the audacity to challenge their master.

At least, his death in battle would be quick, unlike that of the Ring Bearer and his loyal companion, who even as they fought were being cruelly tortured at the hands of these vile creatures. He shuddered at the memory of Sauron’s servant gloating over their anguish at the sight of Frodo’s clothing.

There had never been more than a fool’s hope, but now even that was gone. He could only hope Arwen and her father would flee over the sea before the enemy could reach them. The Elves had that hope of sailing to the West.Men had no hope left, unless it be beyond the circles of the world.

He had failed, and would fall at Sauron’s hand as his forefathers had fallen before him. Orc spears jabbed in his side. He was hardly aware of the pain in the bitter knowledge that Middle earth was doomed to darkness.

A rush of wings came towards them and the Orcs fell back in disarray. The Great Eagles had come to the aid of the Men of the West, but even they, could only delay the inevitable.

Then came a rumble. At first low like thunder: it grew louder causing the frightened horses to neigh in panic. Mount Doom suddenly exploded, spewing forth lava and clouds of dust into the already foul air. The Nazgul’s ear piercing screams rent the air as their fell beasts were swept to their destruction.

Barad Dur toppled and the host of Orcs, Trolls, and Uruk Hai fled in terror from the field leaving only their human allies to continue the battle.

The Captains of the West bowed their heads and cried out in joy. “The Bearer has succeeded in his task, the ring is destroyed!”

“What of Frodo and Sam?” Aragorn called to Gandalf who rode alongside him.

“If they still live, I will save them,” the Wizard pledged. “I leave Shadowfax in your care!” He dismounted and ran towards the Eagles, the largest of which hovered, as if waiting for him.

To the amazement of all, save Aragorn and the sons of Elrond, he climbed upon an Eagle’s back and soared from their sight.

***

The Easterlings continued to fight. However, Aragorn’s mind was not on the battle, though he continued to fight bravely. His only thoughts were of Frodo and Sam and if they could possibly have survived.

He hardly dared hope after seeing the tokens that the Mouth of Sauron had taunted them with. Yet, at least one must have somehow reached Mount Doom and cast the ring into the fire.

The Eagles were finally returning. Gandalf sat astride one and two others followed, each bearing a small figure in its talons.

 Aragorn turned to the sons of Elrond. “Lead the armies in my stead, “ he commanded. “I must see how the Halflings fare.”

Legolas and Gimli followed close behind insisting, “We are coming with you.”

Aragorn did not argue. He felt he would have need of his companions before the day was done if only to grieve together for their fallen friends.

***

The Eagles flew towards the rear of the field where some tents had been set up to tend the wounded.

 The Gondorian healers looked up in amazement when the birds landed and gently lowered their burdens on to the ground. Then with a rush of giant wings, they were gone.

By the time Aragorn arrived and had dismounted, Gandalf was kneeling beside Frodo and Sam looking grave.

The Hobbits lay limp, unmoving, and barely recognisable under a thick coating of dust from the exploding volcano.

“Do they yet live?” Aragorn asked anxiously.

“Yes, but barely,” the Wizard sighed.” If ever your skills were needed, my friend, it is now.”

“Alas, why did I not think to bring the sons of Elrond? Their skill is far greater than mine!” Aragorn lamented as he knelt beside the Hobbits.

“You underestimate the hidden power within you, my friend,” Gandalf reassured him.

Aragorn checked both Hobbits for a pulse. To his joy, he could detect a flicker of life within each. Now he was faced with a dreadful dilemma which to try to save first. If only he were not so weary! Of the two, Sam’s pulse was stronger and he would have the better chance of survival, whereas Frodo seemed on the very verge of death.

He raised Frodo’s head on to his lap and took his right hand, realising with a shock that it was raw, with all the skin rubbed away from the palm. The left hand was in an even worst condition, dripping blood from a missing finger. He was far beyond the reach of feeling pain in either mangled hand, so Aragorn grasped the right hand firmly while involuntarily flinching at its condition. He cradled him in his arms calling softly “Frodo, Frodo, awake!”

One of the Gondorian healers came forward. “My Lord Aragorn, there is no need for you to tend the injured. We have skilled healers here.”

“These are my friends and I will tend them,” Aragorn said in a tone, which made the man blanch. “ If you wish to be of assistance, bring me some athelas and hot water, otherwise be gone!”

The man scurried off. Aragorn continued to call Frodo as he willed his own strength into the dying Hobbit.

 Legolas, Gimli, and Gandalf stood by hardly daring to breathe.

Aragorn grew pale as he waged an inner struggle to call Frodo back and find some buried spark that still had strength to fight.

Legolas and Gimli silently moved to kneel supportively either side their friend while Gandalf watched over Sam.

The healer returned a few minutes later with a bowl of steaming water and some athelas leaves. Aragorn breathed on them, crushed two, and cast them into the water, while Legolas held the bowl under Frodo’s face and waited.

The Hobbit slowly opened pain filled eyes and looked into Aragorn’s face. The man’s eyes were filled with tears. “Strider?” he croaked” So thirsty!”

Gimli produced a water bottle and Aragorn held it to Frodo’s lips. After he had weakly swallowed a few mouthfuls, the Hobbit started to choke and gasp from the effects of the volcanic fumes. Aragorn continued to hold him, supporting the frail body.

“Leave me, save Sam!” Frodo gasped.

 Aragorn looked at him and soothed, “I shall tend to Sam, have no fear!”

Legolas took the Hobbit as he lapsed back into oblivion. He wrapped a makeshift bandage round the bleeding finger then covered him with a blanket and remained there with him, sitting on the ground, supporting him to ease his breathing.

A messenger approached from the battlefield.” My lords, the Southerons are launching another assault! They refuse to give in easily.”

Gandalf rose to his feet. “I will return to the field. The Hobbits need the healing hands of the King. What is your will, my lord?”

 “Offer to parley and give mercy to those who surrender and bid them return to their own lands and trouble us no more. Those who still fight, pursue them until they are overthrown,” Aragorn commanded.

Gandalf hurried off as Aragorn lifted Sam and propped him against his shoulder. The gardener’s hands were if anything even rawer than Frodo’s .His head was bleeding from a gash on his brow.

Gimli brought a fresh bowl of steaming water and Aragorn breathed on two athelas leaves then crushed them and cast them into the bowl. He then took the Hobbit’s hand.

“Sam!” he called “Awake my friend, the shadow is past!”

Sam’s breathing grew deeper while Aragorn grew pale. His friends feared for his well since he willed his own life force into Sam.

After what seemed like eternity to the watchers, Sam opened his eyes “ Strider! I told Mister Frodo we’d see you again. Where is he?” he croaked, the words barely audible through his parched lips.

“He is safe here beside you.” Aragorn said gently. ”Come, drink a little water!”

Gimli held the water bottle and Sam drank greedily.

“Not too much at once,” cautioned Aragorn ”You have gone too long without water. Sip it slowly!”

Sam struggled to sit up but fell back weakly against Aragorn’s shoulder, moaning with pain. The man, guessing what he wanted, turned him so he could see Frodo.

Sam’s eyes widened.

“You do not look much better yourself.” Aragorn said gently.” Come, I will tend your wounds.”

Gimli looked anxious.” You are weary, my friend” he said to Aragorn. ”Could not the healers tend them, now you have called them back?”

“They saved us all. I owe them this at least, to bring what healing my power can provide.” His tone permitted no argument. “ However, I would be grateful for your assistance my friends.” he added in a gentler tone.” I will bind Sam’s wounds first since he is awake. I will try to ease his pain as best I may.

He picked up Sam, while Legolas brought Frodo to an empty tent, which contained several pallets to lie the wounded on. They carefully laid the Hobbits down.

Legolas propped up Frodo’s head to help him breathe then covered him with a blanket while Gimli hurried off to find towels, bandages, salves, and more hot water.

Aragorn gently started to undo Sam’s cloak.

“It’s not fitting you should wait on me, Mister Strider,” Sam protested.

“It would be a great honour if you would permit me to tend you, Master Samwise,” Aragorn replied, sounding rather emotional

Sam nodded weakly. Aragorn gave him more sips of water while waiting for Gimli to return.

Legolas, after seeing Frodo was comfortable, moved across to assist.

“We will bathe you and tend your wounds, then you can rest,” Aragorn told Sam. Helped by Legolas, he gently removed the many layers of Sam’s typical Hobbit clothing. He then carefully washed and dried his hands.

The Hobbit was caked in dust and ash from head to toe and much thinner than when they had last seen him. His hands, feet, and knees were red and raw, his arms and legs scratched and bruised, but apart from the gash on his head, there did not appear to be any serious injuries.

Aragorn felt his limbs and ribs. Once satisfied there was no serious damage, he covered him with a blanket while they bathed him under it. What worried him the most, once the grime was washed off, were the obvious signs of dehydration.

Sam lay there quietly, a look of obvious discomfort in his eyes at their ministrations. He kept trying to speak but coughed and choked from the fumes still in his lungs. 

Aragorn bathed his hurts and applied salves and bandages. Sam flinched as the raw skin was touched.

“It will soon be over now, ”Aragorn soothed, giving him another drink of water “The pain will ease.”

“Thank you,” Sam murmured ”Help Mister Frodo, his poor hand. That Gollum! So very tired!”

Gimli had left the tent. He returned a few minutes later, triumphantly clutching two shirts of finest linen.

“I’ve borrowed these off the men for the Hobbits,” he announced. “I thought they’d need something to wear.”

“You’ve gentle hands for one of the big folk.” Sam murmured when Aragorn secured bandages round his injured head. The Hobbit smiled sleepily, as Aragorn gently eased the shirt over his head, pulling it down until it reached almost to his toes, before laying him carefully back on the pallet.

“Gimli, keep giving him water and maybe a little broth,” Aragorn instructed, “I fear he has suffered severe deprivation of food and drink. Legolas, assist me with Frodo!”

“Gladly” agreed the Elf. They moved to where Frodo lay. They lifted him and removed his cloak. Much to their horror and surprise, underneath it, he wore filthy Orc gear, a tunic and breeches made of the skin of some fell beast.

Aragorn’s face was grim as he wondered how his friend had come by such garments. When he and Legolas tried to remove them, Frodo regained consciousness and started to struggle. “No, No!” he whimpered, “Don’t hurt me, no more, please!”

“I will not harm you,” Aragorn soothed.

“You can’t have it’s mine!” Frodo screamed, putting his hand to his neck. “Get back! No more, no more!”

Aragorn caught his wrists gently but firmly. He looked him straight in the eye but Frodo’s gaze held no recognition. He continued to struggle weakly.

“Alas!” said Legolas. ”We must tend his wounds, but how can we do so without causing him great distress? The fever is upon him.”

Aragorn laid a hand on Frodo’s brow and murmured something in a language even Legolas did not understand. Frodo sighed and then went limp.

Aragorn wasted no time in pulling the filthy tunic over Frodo’s head while Legolas removed the rough breeches. The Hobbit wore no other clothing and the rough material had badly chafed his delicate skin. Both man and Elf gasped in horror at the injuries now revealed.

A great wheal lay across Frodo’s side, while at his neck a strange swelling suggested some sort of bite. His entire body was covered with bruises, scratches, and worst of all Orc claw marks.

“How he has suffered! A marvel that one so small could endure so much!” Aragorn exclaimed in a choked tone. He remembered tending Frodo after they escaped from Moria. He had been was painfully thin then, but now little remained of him, save skin and bone with every rib and joint clearly visible.

He wondered briefly, if he had he done the right thing to revive him to face so much suffering. Pushing such thoughts aside, he turned to Legolas. Together, they bathed their friend in water, in which athelas leaves had been crushed. Aragorn gently felt Frodo’s ribs and limbs for any fractures. He seemed so frail, he almost feared to touch him, however carefully. He gently applied salve to the many hurts.

“I think some of these injuries are a week or two old,” he told Legolas “They were unable to heal because of lack of nourishment and these coarse garments he wore.”

“Shall I throw these away?” asked Legolas, eying the Orc garments with great distaste.

“No,” Aragorn answered, “He destroyed the One Ring wearing such rags. We must see they are cleaned and kept with honour.”

Legolas shook his head at the strange ways of humans but said nothing. He covered Frodo with a soft blanket and then held out the injured hand for Aragorn to clean and bandage.

“A strange wound, this,” the man remarked, “It looks as if the finger were bitten off. Maybe by Gollum? He has sharp teeth, as I remember to my cost.”

The injuries finally tended, Legolas lifted Frodo while Aragorn dressed him in a shirt, which hung loosely from his wasted body once smoothed down.

Aragorn sighed. “I am weary. Now I fear I must rest.”

“Shall I assist you to your tent, mellon nin?” asked Legolas.

“No, I will stay here with the Hobbits.” Aragorn said. He stretched himself out on one of the spare pallets. “They may require more tending when they wake.”

“I wonder where Master Peregrin is?” mused Gimli “The worst of the battle is over .I would have thought he would have sought out his kinsmen by now. My heart fears for him.”

“Why not seek him out then?” Aragorn suggested. “I shall be here with Frodo and Sam.”

 Gimli rose to his feet. “That, I will do,” he said, Master Elf, will you come with me? Your keen eyes are needed here!”

“I too am anxious for our friend,” replied Legolas, though by his glance towards Aragorn, it was uncertain to which friend he was referring.

“Go and find Pippin and bring him back here to his kinsfolk.” Aragorn said, “I can both rest and care for our friends while you are gone. Ask someone to bring some broth for the Hobbits”

He settled himself on a pallet, positioned between Frodo and Sam, resisting the urge to close his eyes and give way to the weariness that threatened to overwhelm him. He gave Sam more sips of water and waited for Frodo to regain consciousness, all the while wondering just what tortures and hardships his small friend had endured.

Placing a hand on his brow, he noticed to his dismay that Frodo’s fever was rising. He was still puzzled by the mark on his neck. Sam must have noticed his scrutiny for he murmured, “Giant spider- couldn’t protect him -shouldn’t have left him!”

“It is not your fault, Sam.” Aragorn soothed, realising with dismay that Frodo had been bitten by Sauron’s famed ‘cat’ He pulled Frodo’s shirt aside to reveal the small white mark left a few months ago by the Morgul blade. Was it imagination, or did it still feel cold compared to the surrounding skin? Such wounds were said to never heal. He feared greatly for Frodo, especially now yet another creature of the enemy had wounded him.

Frodo must have felt the gentle touch for his eyes flickered open. Aragorn tried to get him to take some water. He drank it, but there was no sign of recognition, only fear in the pain filled eyes.

A servant then arrived with some nourishing broth for the Hobbits. Sam, despite much spluttering and coughing, managed to swallow the small quantities Aragorn spooned in his mouth. However, Frodo spat it out as if it were some vile Orc brew.

Strengthened by the broth, Sam seemed to want to talk; though a combination of his ordeal, and the foul air of Mordor made the words emerge with difficulty.

“That Gollum creature led us to the spider that stung Mister Frodo,” he said, “ I thought he was dead, so I took the ring. Then the Orcs came and took him away. I couldn’t find him before they hurt him.”

He started to cry. Aragorn gently mopped his tears, and then waited patiently for him to continue. “You showed great courage, Sam. Few would have enough courage to face the Orcs,” he said, hoping to calm the sobbing gardener.

“They took his clothes,” Sam continued at last “Everything, save the Ring, which I had. I only wanted to help, not to steal it. We went to the fire, no food, no water. Mister Frodo faltered on the edge of the fire and claimed the Ring. Then, that Gollum sneaked up, knocked me out, and bit off poor Mister Frodo’s finger. Then he fell in the fire. I couldn’t save his poor hand!” He started to sob again.

“Rest now, Sam, you helped Frodo achieve the quest. Do not reproach yourself.”

Aragorn laid a hand on Sam’s shoulder trying to calm him and gently rubbed his back. He could feel the once plump Hobbit’s bones through the thin shirt. Sam relaxed a little while continuing to cry quietly.

‘Healing would be a long and painful process for these two brave Hobbits.’ Aragorn feared. Not even the powers of his royal ancestors cure a troubled mind. He wondered how best he could help his friends. His thoughts were interrupted by Legolas bursting into the tent

“Gimli has found Pippin!” the Elf exclaimed. “He lives but I fear he is sorely wounded!”

Aragorn sprang to his feet as Gimli entered, carrying what looked like a blood-spattered bundle of rags, apart from the fact that the bundle moaned softly.

“He is the bravest of warriors!” Gimli exclaimed, laying Pippin down at the far side of the tent. “He slew a great troll and I found him beneath its foul carcass. Had it not been for his foot sticking out, we might never have seen him! He was unconscious but came to his wits as I carried him here.”

“Get more hot water, towels and bandages and quickly!”  Aragorn ordered ,hastening to Pippin’s side.

The Hobbit was obviously in great pain and struggling to breathe. His shoulder was twisted at an odd angle, as was one ankle; while his features were caked in the black blood of a troll. The helm, which should have protected his head, was missing, his breastplate was crushed, and digging into his flesh from which red blood could be seen oozing.

Aragorn’s first fear was that the young Hobbit could be paralysed after being crushed in such a manner, but was reassured when Pippin’s limbs started to writhe in agony at the dislocations.

He nodded to Legolas, who understood his intent and moved to hold the Hobbit down on the pallet. Thinking it best to do it quickly, Aragorn swiftly and skilfully twisted the dislocated shoulder and ankle back into position. Pippin regained full consciousness and screamed in anguish between struggling for breath.

“I am sorry, Pippin,” Aragorn said gently, “The pain should ease a little now that is done, though. I wish I had something to give you to ease you more. I fear we have but few supplies here. There was no other way, alas .Now I must tend your other hurts.”

Gimli moved nearer to assist while Legolas went to soothe Sam who was now even more distressed to see another of his friends suffering.

 The Dwarf carefully lifted Pippin, so Aragorn could remove the crushed armour and bloodied clothing beneath. The task seemed endless, as Aragorn feared any sudden or rough movement could further injure Pippin. Although they already had guessed his hurts were severe, both stifled a cry of horror when they were finally revealed.

Pippin’s head bore a cut and had a lump on one side, where he must have hit the ground when he fell, his ribs were so badly crushed that not one appeared intact, while his chest and abdomen were covered in red ugly bruises. A deep gash disfigured his shoulder. Mercifully, that seemed to be the only wound that was bleeding.

Very slowly and gently, Aragorn felt the injuries. Pippin whimpered at each touch, which caused the King almost as much anguish as his small friend. He inwardly cursed himself for allowing the Hobbit to accompany the host to the Black Gate.

“Am I going to die?” Pippin whimpered.

An expression of relief softened Aragorn’s grim features. “Not today, I think! The troll crushed your ribs,” he told Pippin “However, I do not think any have pierced your lungs, nor do I think you are bleeding within, though only time will tell for certain. I shall bathe and bind your ribs and apply cold compresses to ease the bruises and stop any bleeding. Then I shall have to stitch your shoulder. Your head needs bandaging too.”

Gimli brought some warm water and cloths and laid them down by the pallet while Aragorn reached inside his pouch for two athelas leaves. He breathed on them before crushing them and casting them in the water. The scent seemed to calm Pippin and give new strength to those who tended him. Aragorn washed the troll’s blood from the Hobbit’s face revealing several large bruises in so doing. When he started to cleanse the injuries on Pippin’s small body, the Hobbit cried out.

“It hurts so much! Let me be!” The tears trickled down his freshly washed face and he looked at Aragorn with such anguish in his eyes that he was unable to return his gaze for fear of betraying his own emotions.

No one spoke and the silence in the tent was broken only by Sam’s sobbing “Don’t hurt him, Mister Strider, please!” he begged.

Aragorn paused in his ministrations, well aware that even the lightest touch of the cloth on the injured ribs was causing near unbearable pain.

“Can’t you do anything?” Gimli’s words were more a plea than a question.

“Maybe.” the expression on Aragorn’s face was unreadable. He put down the cloth and knelt beside Pippin, stretching his hands out towards the injured ribs. Pippin looked at him with a mixture of fear and pleading not to have his ribs touched again.

“I shall have to clean your wounds, Pippin.” Aragorn said, “They could become infected.”

“I know” Pippin’s breathing seemed to have become even shallower as he whispered. “It just hurts so much.”

“I will try something that might ease you first.” Aragorn told him, spreading his hands over the injured ribs; Pippin flinched in expectation of the pain of being touched but Aragorn’s hands stayed about an inch away from his injuries. The King shut his eyes and chanted something that none of those present could understand.

Pippin hardly dared look, for fear of what next would be done to him. Much to his surprise, he felt a heat emanating from Aragorn’s hands, which permeated his ribs and greatly eased the pain.

Aragorn opened his eyes and Gimli noticed he was breathing heavily as if in pain himself. “Hand me the basin while he is eased a little,” was all that he said. He continued to bathe the shattered ribcage, followed by the bruises then last of all the gashes on Pippin’s shoulder and head.

The Hobbit did not cry out again, not even when Aragorn stitched his shoulder. He only whimpered slightly when the King tended the shattered bones and bound them tightly.

 The effects of whatever power he had used to ease Pippin’s pain lasted until after Aragorn and Gimli applied the compresses and were swathing him in blankets when he started to become distressed again. “It hurts, everything hurts.” he cried, struggling to rise and then fell back against the blankets.

“Has he fainted?” asked Gimli. “It would have been better had that happened before we started to tend his wounds. It would have spared him much pain.”

 Aragorn felt for a pulse and gasped in alarm. “His pulse is weak and he scarcely breathes!” he said, “ I fear his hurts are too much for his brave heart to bear. Alas that I am so weary!”

He hesitated for a few seconds, aware that he could save the Hobbit, but maybe only at the cost of his own life. Gondor would be safe in the capable hands of his Steward, Faramir. He had healed him of the Black Breath and sensed a man of great quality. He would have liked the chance to befriend him. Then there was his beloved Arwen. To have fulfilled all the conditions that her father had imposed before they would be allowed to wed, only to fall at the last moment! Yet, how could he just abandon Pippin to die?

He knelt beside Pippin and took his right hand in his own then called, “Pippin, awake and live, listen to me! Your wounds will heal and you will be well.”

The onlookers saw some colour gradually return to Pippin’s features. Aragorn, however, turned grey as the blood drained from his face.

Gimli rushed to get more athelas but as he returned, Pippin was already opening his eyes.

“What happened?” Pippin asked

“All will be well now, Pippin, rest.” Aragorn soothed. To the horror of his friends, he then collapsed beside the Hobbit.


 TBC

A/N This was my first Tolkien fanfiction story written almost two years ago.Though, I have polished it extensively, I fear it is still far from perfect. In order,it takes place after "First Meeting " and "Facing the Darkness". I started to write Tolkien fanfiction because I wanted to know what happened between the destruction of the Ring and Cormallen.

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate.No profit has been nor will be made from this story.

Catastrophe

Legolas and Gimli hastened anxiously to their friend’s side.

“Has he fainted?” Gimli asked worriedly.

Aragorn’s eyes briefly flickered open. “Care for the Hobbits,” he murmured, so softly that even Legolas’ sharp hearing could only just make out the words. “My friends, I will miss you. Tell Arwen that I loved her and am sorry that I…”

“Do not speak thus, you can tell her yourself when you see her.” Legolas chided gently though he looked alarmed at the implication of the words.

“It is too late, alas!” Aragorn whispered, “ My strength is spent. Faramir shall rule Gondor and…” He closed his eyes and said no more.

“Help me move him on to one of the pallets!” Legolas instructed Gimli. ”We cannot leave him here on the ground.”

The weight of the armour he wore made lifting Aragorn almost impossible, so they half dragged, half carried him to the empty pallet next to Pippin. Sam watched in horror.

Legolas furrowed his brow looking increasingly concerned “His pulse is very weak!” he exclaimed. “Maybe he is wounded? Help me remove his armour. Gimli. He will breathe more easily and we can see then if he is injured.”

It was no easy task to remove the coat of mail, with Aragorn unconscious and unable to help them. To their horror, they discovered that beneath it, instead of the usual quilted jerkin that most warriors wore for protection, Aragorn wore only a thin shirt, which was soaked in blood.

“I am no healer. I will go to fetch help!” Legolas cried, rushing outside the tent.

The battle had now almost ceased and men were starting to bring their injured comrades to the healers. The Elf recognised one of Prince Imrahil’s men leaving a tent.

“Will you fetch the sons of Elrond and Mithrandir?” he asked.” The Lord Aragorn needs to see them urgently.”

“I will go with all haste and find them,” the man replied and leaping astride his horse, he rode off.

Legolas went back inside the tent. Aragorn was lying where they had left him, while Gimli was giving water to the Hobbits.

Legolas moved his friend into a sitting position, trying to ease his laboured breathing ”I have summoned help.” he told the unresponsive Aragorn. “While we wait, we shall tend you as best I can.”

After offering reassuring words to Sam, Gimli came to assist Legolas. Together, they gently removed Aragorn’s shirt, a slow and painful process since his blood had adhered the fabric to his skin. Limp as a rag doll in their arms, he made no protest.

Despite being battle-hardened warriors, Legolas and Gimli were shocked when Aragorn’s injuries were finally revealed. The Orc spears had left great spreading bruises across his upper body and his side bore an ugly looking wound, where a fragment of some spear or arrow had penetrated the mail, and was left embedded in his flesh.

More bruises disfigured his back, while his arms and shoulders were covered with gashes. Some looked like older wounds, which had broken open again.

“However did he manage to stay on his feet in battle and then tend the Hobbits?” Gimli mused.

They laid Aragorn down again upon the pallet. His eyes flickered open, but he looked straight ahead and seemed unaware of their presence. He smiled faintly and murmured ”Mother? Halbarad?”

Fearing he was slipping beyond their reach, Legolas sprinkled cold water on Aragorn’s face then shook him to try to rouse him. He felt puzzled; although Aragorn’s injuries were severe, they did not appear life-threatening .He had seen many at Helm’s Deep who had survived far worse. He slapped his friend’s face and was relieved when Aragorn gave a low moan.

Just then, the sons of Elrond entered the tent, rushed towards the prostrate Aragorn, and began to examine his hurts.

Elladan then laid a hand on his brow while Elrohir took his hand. Their fair Elven faces were grave as they shook their heads in dismay.

“What ails him?” Legolas asked anxiously.

“His life force is ebbing away.” Elrohir said sadly. “Alas, for our foster brother! There is nothing we can do to aid him!”

“I thought you Elves claimed to know the healing arts?” Gimli burst out. “Surely you can tend his wounds and heal him!”

“The wounds are but cracked ribs, bruises and gashes,” said Elladan “It is not they that are taking our foster brother’s life. He is dying because has given too much of his life force away and has but a few hours to live, I fear! His hurts lie beyond our skills.”

“He healed many after the battle of Pellenor Fields and took no hurt from it.” Legolas protested.

“He was not then suffering these hurts.” Elladan said.” One such as he can only give strength when he has it to spare and over these last days, he has had little rest, known much grief, and taken many hurts. No mortal man could endure that.”

“ I believe the healing of Lord Faramir cost him dearly,” said Elrohir,” He was too long without athelas. Had he but rested, he would have taken no harm, but to ride to battle but two days after and then pour out his life energy again has cost him dearly.”

“Why aren’t you at least binding his wounds rather than talking so much?” Gimli protested angrily.

“I fear it would be of little use. It would only cause him more pain,” said Elrohir ‘ It is best to let him be at peace. We will send soft pillows and blankets for him and the little ones.”

Unnoticed until now, they suddenly realised that Gandalf had entered and from his expression realised that he must have heard most of the conversation.

The Wizard hastened to Aragorn’s side. “Alas, my friend, you overestimated your strength and now you pay a terrible price!” he lamented.

Legolas nodded sadly. “He knew the price but chose freely to sacrifice himself,” he said. ”Would that I could have prevented this!”

“Can you not use your powers to help Aragorn?” Gimli pleaded.” His friends need him, especially the Hobbits .All of Middle earth needs him, if the West is to be rebuilt!”

“It is not permitted that I should change the will of the Valar!” Gandalf said sadly.

“That is nor fair!” raged Gimli “He is dying because of his compassion for the Hobbits! Evil should be punished, not good!”

“I know of the law of the Valar,” said Legolas,” But this too cruel!”

“Such love and self sacrifice deserves reward.” Gandalf said sorrowfully, remembering how he had pressed his friend to heal Faramir after the battle of Pellenor fields instead of insisting that he rest. He went to Aragorn’s bedside and laid his hand on the sick man’s brow. ”However, all hope is not lost while he yet lives.”

Aragorn seemed to breathe more easily at the Wizard’s touch. When Gandalf took the injured man’s hand, the limp fingers seemed to tighten round it.

“I cannot change what is to be,” said Gandalf, “Yet it is permitted that I give you my advice. Seek the sweet air of Ithilien, away from the foul reek of Mordor. There, they may yet find healing. As for Aragorn, tend his wounds, stay by his side and pray that the Valar see fit to restore his life force. Now let me see how the Hobbits are! Elrohir and Elladan, go and fetch some supplies and make arrangements for the journey to Ithilien. ”

“Should we not first tell the Captains what has befallen Aragorn?” asked Elrohir.

“Say nothing yet, there is time enough for them to know .Let them still hope, while Hope yet remains. “ Gandalf replied firmly.” If anyone should ask, tell them the King is resting now, before accompanying the Hobbits to Ithilien.”

The twins came and stood before Aragorn and made a gesture of blessing according to their custom. “Farewell, dear brother!” they cried. Tears glistened in their eyes as they left the tent.

“We’ve killed him, haven’t we, Mister Gandalf?” Sam asked when the Wizard approached his bedside. Frodo and Pippin still lay motionless, either unconscious or sleeping.

“He is still alive, Master Samwise.” Gandalf replied. He gently lifted Sam and turned him so that he could see Aragorn’s battered body. The Hobbit started to weep at the pitiable sight.

Gimli was about to protest when Gandalf’s words silenced him. “Remember this, Samwise, whatever happens. It was Sauron and his minions who caused him these cruel hurts and not you!”

Gandalf gave Sam a drink and laid him down again. He then sat waiting until the Hobbit fell into an uneasy sleep, before moving to Frodo’s bedside, where he stood looking grave.

Legolas Began to bathe Aragorn’s face. When he felt the skin burning beneath his touch, he cried out.” Alas, he has a fever, he is getting worse! Should we not call a skilled healer from amongst the Gondorians?”

To his surprise, Gandalf smiled.

“That is good news, my friends,” he said.” His body is obviously starting to fight against his hurts. He needs the care only his friends can give, since not even the most skilled healer, can change the will of the Valar.  I will send a wagon with swift horses and a trusty driver to take you to Ithilien as soon as his wounds are bound. I must stay here for now, so I leave his fate and that of Middle earth in your hands, Legolas son of Thanduril and Gimli son of Gloin! I trust you not to fail! We will meet again ere many days have passed.”

He glided from the tent leaving Legolas and Gimli staring after him.

Gimli sighed and shook his head.” Why do Wizards always leave when you need them?” he complained. “Come Master Elf, we had best tend our friend as best we can.”

They finished undressing Aragorn, finding a deep gash below his right knee, many more bruises, and several broken toes to add to his other injuries. They carefully bathed him and wrapped him in a blanket.

Legolas realised what he must do next and was not looking forward to it. A servant had brought the supplies they needed, so there was no reason to delay further.

Legolas knelt beside his friend. his delicate Elvish fingers carefully probing the flesh in Aragorn’s side where the fragment of arrowhead was embedded; hoping he could remove it with his hands. However, the task was hopeless.

The skin looked red, was inflamed, and felt hot to the touch. Infection was already setting in and there was no time to lose. Legolas had removed arrows before, they had always been a shaft to get hold of. This was different, especially as Aragorn had not been wearing a silk shirt, which would have prevented the arrow tearing the flesh.

After telling Gimli to stay beside Aragorn, he took the sharpest of his knives and went outside to where some of the men had a campfire burning. Plunging the knife deep in the flame, he waited until it glowed white hot, then stood for a few moments allowing it cool.

He went back inside to where the Dwarf already had Aragorn pinioned to the bedroll, the blanket pulled back to reveal the wound.

Legolas had hoped his friend would be unconscious for the painful procedure but Aragorn’s eyes were open and he was looking straight at him. “I am sorry mellon nin,” he murmured.

“ It must be done, just do it quickly!” the King whispered.

Taking a deep breath and forcing himself to hold his hand steady, Legolas cut into the flesh and prised the sharp fragment from his friend’s side, steeling himself against the agony he knew Aragorn must be feeling.

The King bit his lip but was unable to hold back a scream of pain as the knife sliced though his bruised flesh.

The procedure mercifully took only a few moments for the arrowhead was not embedded too deeply. It felt like an eternity.

Gimli staunched the bleeding while Legolas cleaned the wound with a herbal tincture and bound a pad of soft cloth against it. Aragorn made no further sound. His eyes flickered as if he were fighting to remain conscious.

“It is not an Orc weapon,” said Legolas with relief as he examined the fragment. “I think it was part of a Southeron arrow and they are not poisoned.”

The friends next cleaned and bound the gashes. The one across Aragorn’s left shoulder was deepest. Legolas decided against trying to stitch it, as it appeared to be several days old and was already healing, as was the gash on his leg, though both started to bleed again, when they were cleansed. The other wounds, once cleaned, appeared merely superficial, much to their relief.

Then, deciding that the treatment Aragorn had used for Pippin would benefit him too, they applied cold compresses to his bruised chest, back and side.

Gimli lifted Aragorn while Legolas firmly bound his ribs. They then wrapped him in one of the soft blankets that the sons of Elrond had sent and placed a pillow under his head.

Gimli patted his Aragorn’s hand and felt encouraged when the slender fingers pressed his own. His placed both his hands over the man’s, chafing them and trying to will his strength into him, wishing he had the power to do so.

Frodo groaned from the other side of the tent and Legolas hastened to his side. He screamed, “You can’t have it, let me go!”

Legolas tried to calm the delirious Hobbit as he thrashed weakly on the pallet. Wondering if the supplies they had been brought contained anything to reduce a fever, he asked Gimli to fetch the pack.

Once the Dwarf let go of Aragorn’s hands, the man’s breathing became more ragged and what little colour he had drained from his face.

Preoccupied with giving Frodo a drink to reduce his fever, it took Legolas and Gimli a few moments to realise what was happening.

Abandoning Frodo, they raced to Aragorn’s bedside. He gave a loud choking gasp. Then he stopped breathing.

Legolas raised his head and shoulders and shook Aragorn vigorously while Gimli threw cold water on his face. As that produced no response, the Elf forced his own breath into his friend and vigorously rubbed his chest.

After a few moments, they were rewarded by a spluttering breath.

Legolas sank to his knees on the floor and grabbed Aragorn’s hand while Gimli almost wept with relief.

“That must have been what Gandalf meant,” the Dwarf said.” We must keep hold of his hand, but how, as we have to tend the Hobbits too? How I wish, I had spent as much time learning the arts of healing as the arts of war!”

“I could help.” Sam’s voice surprised them. They realised he must have been awakened by the commotion and seen all that happened.

“If you move me near him, I can hold his hand,” the gardener said, his voice still cracked from the effects of prolonged dehydration.” Then you can look after Mister Frodo and Master Pippin too.”

Legolas and Gimli exchanged uneasy glances as they pondered the offer.

“That would help,” Legolas said.” Thank you, Sam”

“It’s too dangerous!” Gimli protested, “You haven’t enough strength to spare, Master Hobbit!”

“You do not have Aragorn’s powers, neither do I, nor does Sam for that matter. “ Legolas reasoned. We have suffered no ill effects from clasping Aragorn’s hand, so there is no reason that Sam would do so either.”

“I want to help.” Sam insisted.

“But you injured your hands in the Black Land. It would cause you pain.” Gimli said, torn between the desire to save Aragorn yet wanting to spare Sam pain.

“It doesn’t hurt now, well not much, since Mister Strider bandaged it.” Sam said. “And I’m sure he is hurting more than I am!”

Just then, Frodo groaned more loudly and started thrashing his limbs in a fevered delirium. His foot caught Pippin’s bruised side rousing him back to consciousness.

“Merry, where are you? It hurts so much. Help me! I can’t breathe! Strider!” he whimpered.

Gimli hesitated no longer. Lifting Sam, he carried him over to the empty pallet next to Aragorn’s. Looking very apprehensive, the Dwarf moved the King’s and the Hobbit’s hands together until the small fingers curled round the large ones.

Legolas slowly let go of Aragorn’s other hand, fearful that once he did that he would stop breathing again. Much to his relief, Aragorn continued to take laboured breaths.

Meanwhile, Gimli was trying to hold Frodo down and coax him to swallow some water. Frodo kept screaming, “It’s mine, Gollum, no!” while Pippin continued to cry out for both Merry and Aragorn.

Weak and exhausted, Frodo collapsed back into unconsciousness.

Pippin had now spotted Aragorn lying on the pallet opposite.

“What happened?” he whispered.

“He was badly wounded in the battle. We did not realise it until he fainted.” Gimli explained , casting a warning glance to Legolas and Sam, not to burden Pippin with the knowledge that Aragorn might well have sacrificed his life to save him.

Pippin looked distressed enough by what they did tell him. ”No!” he cried. ” Merry, Lady Éowyn and Faramir all badly hurt. And Lord Denethor, Boromir and King Théoden King are all dead. We’ve lost so many of our friends!”

He started to sob, flinching with pain from his injured ribs.

Legolas rummaged through the supplies they had been sent and found some willow bark to ease pain and fever. He mixed them in water for Pippin and Frodo, wishing fervently that he had Aragorn’s skills. He gave the Hobbits the same amount as one would a human child, hoping that was correct.

Carefully, he lifted Pippin’s head and raised the cup to the young Hobbit’s lips. Pippin grimaced at the bitter taste but swallowed obediently. Frodo’s drink, he left until he woke again, though from his condition, he wondered if he ever would.

A servant called to them from outside the tent. Gimli went to answer the summons.

“My lords, everything is prepared for you and the sick Halflings to travel to Ithilien.” the servant said. ”Mithrandir also commanded that the Lord Aragorn’s horse be brought for when he is not travelling inside the wagon to tend the Halflings. We have prepared the roomiest wagon with the swiftest horses. A skilled driver will take you. Mithrandir has told him not to disturb the Ring bearers on any account.”

The wagon had been brought almost to the flap of the tent much to Gimli’s relief. He went back inside to tell Legolas to prepare for the journey.

They were relieved it was growing dark so they could smuggle Aragorn into the wagon without the rest of the camp noticing.

While the driver was harnessing the horses, Legolas and Gimli carried Aragorn inside and Gimli stayed with him leaving Legolas to carry the Hobbits.

The Elf brought Sam out first and said to him in a low voice. “I want you to promise me something, Sam. Please do not tell Pippin that Aragorn collapsed while tending him. He would not wish Pippin to carry any guilt should he…”His voice trailed off.

“ I won’t tell but you’re an Elf, Mister Legolas .You surely know how to save Mister Strider don’t you?” Sam replied.

Legolas turned away unable to face the trusting look in Sam’s eyes. “Thank you Sam,” he said with a wan smile “Now I shall lay you beside him so that you can hold his hand again. Rub it too if you have the strength. We will do all we can to save him.”

The Elf settled Sam in the wagon alongside Aragorn and once certain that Sam was clasping the stricken man’s hand took Gimli with him to collect Frodo and Pippin.

They laid Pippin the other side of Aragorn cushioning them both with plenty of pillows to prevent further damage to their injured ribs.

Frodo they placed the other side, where Sam could see him and settled themselves for what boded to be an arduous journey.

TBC

These characters are the property of the Tolkien estate.No profit has been,nor will be made from this story.

Journey to Ithilien.

Legolas called to the driver that they were ready to leave. The wagon slowly moved off westwards towards Ithilien.

Pippin cried out pitifully as the movement jolted his ribs. Aragorn made no sound to voice his distress. However, he twisted his fingers more tightly around Sam’s. The gardener grimaced at the pressure on his raw palm but made no sound of protest.

“Why didn’t Gandalf return to bid us farewell?” Gimli asked in a tone, which suggested he felt the Wizard, was very thoughtless not to do so.

“I think he dared not,” Legolas answered sadly.

“Dared not?” The Dwarf sounded incredulous.

“I believe he feared if he saw his friends again in such distress, he would be tempted to break the rules of his order and intervene.” Legolas explained.

“And so he should!” Gimli retorted, “The best of Middle- earth lie here suffering; in need of aid far beyond our skills!”

“Peace, Gimli!” Legolas cautioned, fearful he would upset the Hobbits. “You underestimate the skill the Elves,” he added, with a confidence he did not feel. How he wished he had spent more time learning from the healers at his father’s Court instead of concentrating solely on the arts of war. He had been trained to tend minor injuries; but had paid little heed, preferring to leave the care of the wounded, to those skilled in healing.

While Gimli bathed the feverish Frodo’s face, Legolas started to rub Aragorn’s feet, hoping it would rouse him. The King, however, seemed unaware of his presence.

He looked up and saw Pippin watching him with a worried expression.

“What truly ails him, Legolas?” he asked, struggling painfully to breathe. “I too, was wounded in the battle. Yet, I don’t see such fear in your eyes. I know Strider is of far greater value than I, yet it seems more even than that that which troubles you.”

Gimli hastened to reassure him. “Never say that again, Pippin!” he chided. “We are especially worried about Aragorn because Middle- earth’s fate still rests upon his shoulders. Sauron is defeated but the people are leaderless. We are tending him best we can and hoping he sense our need for him and be heartened by it.”

Legolas listened uncomfortably, then hastened to change the subject; fearful of the direction the conversation was taking. He propped another pillow under Pippin’s head to ease his breathing and remarked. “You need fresh compresses on your bruises, Pippin,” he said. “They will no longer be cold enough to reduce the swellings.”

Pippin groaned when the blankets were drawn back from his battered body and the now warm cloths removed.

Gimli dipped them in a tub of cold water and wrung them out then handed them to Legolas who in turn laid them across Pippin’s tender flesh. The cold seared his bruised skin and he started to shiver violently.

Legolas wished he had a healer’s eye to deduce whether the bruises were improving. He was only thankful that Sam was unable to see the extent of Pippin’s injuries with Aragorn lying between them. As for poor Frodo, he was too feverish, to be aware of anything. Not for the first time, he feared that Mithrandir had overestimated their skills.

Gimli caught his eye “You’re doing it exactly as Aragorn did, Master Elf,” he commented reassuringly “For once, I don’t think a Dwarf could do better!”

Legolas smiled faintly.

“I’ll hold Strider’s hand too, then,”  Pippin volunteered. “I want to help. He’s always been so kind to us. Help me, Gimli!” He stretched out a small and shaky hand as he spoke.

The Dwarf took it and guided it to the man’s but this time there was no response to both the Hobbit’s and Dwarf’s dismay.

“We had better change Aragorn’s compresses too.” he said, at a loss what to do next, “I suppose that is what he would do himself.”

Gimli pulled the blanket off the wounded man and sighed. If the bruises had looked bad before, now they appeared far worse, great spreading patches of red, blue, and purple, concentrated on his left side and now spreading across his entire body leaving only a few patches of uninjured flesh visible. The stark whiteness of the bandages where they were not stained with blood, only served to make the injuries look worse.

Now that he beheld his friend and protector’s injuries for the first time, Pippin gulped and fought back a wave of nausea. He was reminded of an incident from his childhood, which had haunted his dreams for twenty years or more

The young Pippin had been put to bed early one winter evening. Suddenly, he had been awakened by the sound of loud voices outside his room. He was used to the Thain, his father having visitors; however, these particular voices sounded agitated, quite unlike those of the usual guests who came to eat and discuss the affairs of the Shire. He had crept out of bed and down the hallway to the living room. The door was slightly open and he had peered inside.

There on the couch, lay Hobbiton’s miller, partly divested of his clothing and surrounded by the local healer, the Thain, and several servants laden with towels, bandages and bowls of hot water.

He could see that the Miller’s body was covered in bruises and cuts. He overheard the healer saying something about him being beaten up and his father vowing that the ruffians would be caught.

Just then Pippin’s sister, Pearl, had noticed him standing in the doorway and had hustled him back to bed. He remembered asking her who had hurt the Miller and her terse reply “Some of the big people.”

“If the King returned, wouldn’t he protect us and keep the big people out of the Shire?” he had asked.

 “We’ve not had a king in over a thousand years nor are ever likely to again. It’s just an old saying. We Shire folk have to protect ourselves,” she had replied, as she shepherded him back into his room and firmly shut the door.

Pippin’s sheltered existence had been shaken by the experience. He could not understand why anyone should want to hurt anyone else. However, as no one had ever mentioned it again in his hearing, he soon pushed the memory to the back of his mind where apart from the occasional nightmare in the years that followed, it had stayed until now.

Maybe he would tell Strider, if he recovered, when he recovered, he corrected himself feeling very near to tears. He had never realised the big folk could bruise as badly as Hobbits.

 Then wasn’t Strider the long lost King? Yet, surely a king would be invulnerable, not lying beside him badly wounded? Apart from being much taller and not having hairy feet, he wasn’t all that much different from a Hobbit.

He had always thought a king would be powerful, frightening, and invincible, sitting on a golden throne wearing a crown. Not one of those somewhat frightening Rangers! Yet, Strider had been so kind to him and protected him on their travels. Now that was how he imagined a king to be, a protector. Strider was certainly that. He clasped the limp hand more tightly, trying not to cry at his friend’s condition.

Gimli tried to turn Pippin’s head away. “Don’t look, Pippin, it will only upset you! Just keep holding his hand.”

He wanted to obey the Dwarf but couldn’t tear his eyes away. It was bad enough that Boromir had fallen but surely not Strider too?

Legolas placed the last compress on Aragorn’s leg and pulled the blankets around him again, shaking his head when the King started to shiver violently. “I fear the fever grows worse. He is burning then freezing,” he observed sadly.

Gimli grabbed an extra blanket and tucked it round the man. His shivering gradually lessened, though Pippin still thought his hand felt cold and clammy. He rubbed his small fingers across Aragorn’s large palm remembering sadly, how strong the same hand had felt, when he had clasped it in the Houses of Healing That seemed a lifetime ago now, yet how long was it, ten days, eleven?

Tears threatened to choke him, he struggled not cough without success, and the pain tore through him like a knife. If only he could breathe properly!

Gimli was instantly beside him trying to calm his panic. “Easy now, Pippin. The air will soon get better, just stay calm!”

It was too much to bear. He lapsed into a merciful unconsciousness.

Gimli anxiously checked he was still breathing. “How much more can these poor Hobbits endure?” he mused sadly, tucking the blankets more closely round him.

Sam still clung grimly to Aragorn’s hand and tried to think of anything save the plight of his unconscious friends. He had refused to give up hope in Mordor. For a few glad moments, it had seemed that his hope was rewarded, when he had awoken with Strider bending over him and telling him that Frodo lived. Now it seemed those hopes were all in vain after all. The grim and all too real prospect; that Frodo, Pippin, and Strider might all die, was unbearable to him and he tried to distract himself by thinking of the Shire.

It would be spring now, so fresh and green, the blossom would be out, and the birds would be singing as they nested in the woods and gardens. This time last year, he had helped Farmer Cotton plant his potatoes. The farmer’s daughter Rosie had brought him a mug of cider when the work was finished. Their hands had touched briefly, when she had handed it to him. He had looked in her eyes and thought her, the most beautiful lass he had ever seen.

The next day, he had walked with her and her brothers down by the river. He had thought of asking her to dance with him at Mister Pippin’s party the following week, but he had been too shy. Now he wished he had spoken up and told her how beautiful she was.

The wagon came to a juddering halt to allow the driver to rest the horses. Legolas and Gimli got out to stretch their legs and then kindled a fire to cook some stew for themselves and broth for the Hobbits. They also boiled water to mix infusions of willow bark tea to ease their patients’ pain and fever and spooned it down their throats as best they could during their lucid moments.

The next two days stretched out in a seemingly endless nightmare of monotony and pain; made easier only by the fact that each mile they travelled away from Mordor meant fresher, cleaner air.

To Pippin, the journey meant ever increasing pain in his ribs and head as the motion of the wagon jostled them. He slept fitfully and wished only that they could be still and something; anything would ease the pain for the willow bark had little effect. The jolting aggravated his wounds and he soon started to burn with fever

Sam lay mainly wakeful and troubled, watching his friends suffer, but too weak now even to lift his hand unless Legolas or Gimli helped him. However, he kept drinking the water and broth he was offered. Legolas and Gimli dared hope that he, at least, might survive.

Frodo’s fever continued to rage unabated and he cried out constantly as if trying to ward off some unseen enemy.

Aragorn burned with fever but hardly moved at all nor cried out. Legolas and Gimli had to struggle to force him awake sufficiently to swallow water and herbal brews.

Only once did he open his eyes and trying vainly to focus on the faces swimming before him, he whispered.

“How are the Hobbits?”

“They live still.” Legolas said gravely.” How do you fare?”

Aragorn was unconscious again before he could reply.

***

They reached Ithilien by the morning of the third day. The driver halted the wagon in a fair glade. A stream flowed alongside a grassy meadow, surrounded by groves of trees just coming into full leaf.

Legolas stumbled from the wagon, stiff after the long journey and took deep breaths of the sweet air, rejoicing to be in the open again. He stood for a few moments just enjoying being in the fresh air, surrounded by trees and open sky ,before rather reluctantly rejoining Gimli.

The Dwarf was kneeling beside Aragorn and frantically rubbing the man’s hands. “He grows worse,” Gimli said bitterly. “The Wizard’s words of hope were false!”

“Let us carry him outside,” suggested the Elf. “Maybe the sweet air, the fresh grass and birds’ joyous song will revive him .The driver is occupied watering the horses, so now is a good time.”

Gimli grunted but nevertheless helped the Elf to carefully carry Aragorn from the wagon. They laid him behind some trees out of sight of the driver and placed the Hobbits on either side of him.

Sam continued to clutch Aragorn’s large hand in his small one, though it was doubtful the man was aware of his presence.

There was much to carry, tents, blankets, food, weapons, cooking pots and healing supplies.

The wagon was almost empty when suddenly; they heard the thunder of hoof beats in the distance.

Gimli rushed protectively to Aragorn’s side. Legolas grabbed his bow and strung an arrow, anticipating some fleeing rider from the enemy or maybe the vanguard of a fresh attack. The Dwarf brandished his axe, ready to defend his friends with his life if need be.

The driver stayed by the horses, evidently poised to mount one and flee from the approaching danger.

“To think we have come all this way only to be slaughtered now!” groaned Gimli.

“We shall fight and give our lives if need be for Aragorn and the Hobbits,” Legolas replied, poised with his bow.

TBC

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been,nor will be made from this story.

Loss of Hope

Warning - Sensitive readers may find this chapter distressing

“Put down your weapons! I come in peace!” a familiar voice answered. Éomer, King of Rohan, his mane of blonde hair blowing in the breeze, galloped up alongside them on Firefoot, his magnificent stallion.

Legolas and Gimli sighed with relief and lowered their weapons,

Leaping from his horse and seeing the astonishment on their faces, he hastily explained his errand.“ Gandalf bade me come,” he told them “He wishes for tidings of how you fare. He bade me to send the driver of your wagon on to Minas Tirith to tell the City of our victory and fetch my sister, the Lady Éowyn and the Hobbit, Meriadoc to join us here, once they be recovered sufficiently in health.”

Legolas still looked baffled. “A worthy errand, my lord,” he replied, “Yet, it surprises me that Mithrandir should send a king to deliver it?”

Eomer’s expression darkened. “I realised the Lord Aragorn was gone without bidding me farewell.” he replied. “When I pressed the Wizard hard for tidings, he told me he was sore wounded. I was anxious to know how my brother in arms fared and came here with all haste.“

He then caught sight of the blanket-shrouded form that Gimli knelt beside. He rushed towards them and pulled the cover from around Aragorn’s head.

For a moment, he gazed at the pale features of the King of Gondor and Arnor. He then threw himself down on the ground beside him, and clasped the still form in his arms. “No!” he cried, “This cannot be, my brother in arms, the saviour of my sister, my friend! You cannot leave us now!” he wept, looking on Aragorn’s pain and fever-ravaged features in dismay.

Legolas and Gimli stepped back alarmed at the sheer force of his grief.

How did this happen?” Éomer asked. “ I know he did not fall in battle. I saw him afterwards and he seemed unscathed.”

Leaving Gimli to explain, Legolas began to carry the Hobbits one by one further into to the shelter of the trees

“He pushed himself too hard, or so Gandalf and the sons of Elrond tell us now,” the Dwarf explained. “Within the space of two weeks, he fought three battles, looked in that accursed stone of wizardry, rode the fearsome paths of the dead and healed countless victims of the Black Breath. He then gave all his strength to the little ones here, despite being sore wounded and weary. His noble heart could take no more. The Wizard bade us bring him here. I fear, though, it is only to bury him!” His tone showed the bitterness and anguish he felt.

“Then let him rest forever here in this meadow, as a King out of legend so that no man knows whether he will return or not!” cried Eomer his noble features stricken with grief.

Legolas returned at that moment. “We cannot give up hope while he yet lives.” he insisted,” Let us send the driver back now, and then place Aragorn beside the Hobbits while we make camp. Maybe the trees will bring him comforting words. We must pitch the tents and dig pits for cooking and latrines.”

“I will gladly aid you as best I can,” said Éomer.

They carried Aragorn and gently laid him down alongside Sam and Pippin, who reached out and grasped the man’s hands again. Pippin hardly seemed to know what he was doing by now, his fever was so high. However, when he stretched out his hand he seemed calmed when it met Aragorn’s larger one, although he murmured “Merry!” as he clasped it.

With Éomer’s help, the camp was quickly prepared and the three returned to tending the sick.

Leaving Gimli to coax water and then broth down the Hobbits, Legolas and Eomer turned their attention to Aragorn. They moved him a few feet away from the others, better to attend to him. When the blankets were pulled back, the King of Rohan gasped at the sight of the bruised and battered body of his friend and fellow king.

“Let us heat water and bathe him. Maybe it will ease him?” he suggested while Legolas started unwrapping the bandages.

To the Elf’s keen eye, Aragorn’s wounds seemed unchanged, apart from the wound in his side, which was hard and swollen and felt hot to the touch, compared with his otherwise cold and clammy flesh.

“I can see this wound needs draining, but I lack the skills to do it,” Éomer said despondently. ”One slip of the knife could damage some vital organ.”

I too, lack the skills needed.” Legolas replied, shaking his head.” Maybe, it would be possible, if he were not so weak, but it was difficult enough, to get the arrow out without cutting too deep.”

They bathed Aragorn in silence. He lay pale, still and unmoving beneath their ministrations. It seemed more like laying out the dead than bathing the living. Only the slight rise and fall of his laboured breathing, gave any indication that he yet lived.

Éomer desperately chafed Aragorn’s hands and feet. He even shook him gently but all in vain, as he did not stir. “Keep on fighting, do not let go, dear friend!” he pleaded. Aragorn gave no sign of having heard him.

Overhead, the sun shone brightly as if mocking their dark forebodings of the death of a King. Two ravens sat perched on the highest tree, dark silhouettes against the blue sky Suddenly they flew down scattering the songbirds, which scattered and flew away in fear. The ravens circled overhead and then returned to their perch as if waiting expectantly for something.

Eomer looked up at them and cursed, “Fly home ye ravens!” he cried, “Your fallen master at Orthanc will gloat at misery but I would not have you do so!” His proud head was bowed with grief and his eyes were filled with tears.

Legolas went back to the Hobbits, wishing to give Éomer some privacy to vent his grief..

“Who is that man?” Sam asked.

“Eomer, King of Rohan, the Lord of the Mark,” the Elf answered.

“A real king!” Sam gasped.

“Yes, and when Pippin’s fever breaks he will tell you that Merry is sworn to his service,” Legolas told him.” Much has happened, while you and Frodo were in Mordor.”

This all seemed too much for Sam to digest so he changed the subject. “How is Mister Strider getting on?” he asked.

Legolas looked away unable to meet his hopeful gaze. “Not well, I fear.” he replied. “The fever no longer consumes him. Yet, instead of recovering, now he lies still and cold as death.”

“When Hobbit babes have that kind of sickness, we undress them and lie them in the sun and let its rays warm their skin. Not that that would help a man, I don’t suppose. Poor Mister Strider!” Sam started to cry softly.

“Did any of the babes recover?” Legolas asked curiously.

“Many did.” Sam replied. “The healers said the combination of sunlight and fresh air on their skin revived them. Many more survived the aftermath of a fever in the warmer months because we could lie them in the sun.”

Without another word, Legolas ran back to where Aragorn was lying, cradled on Eomer’s lap. “Come, move him into the sun!” he ordered.

Eomer looked puzzled. Nevertheless, he complied. Together they carried man into the meadow, and they laid him on the soft grass. The spring sunshine was warm and gentle, bathing the field in a soft glow.

Legolas unwrapped the blankets from Aragorn’s still form, just leaving one under him and then started to unwind the bandages. The discarded blankets felt as damp and clammy as the man’s skin.

“Whatever are you doing?” asked Eomer aghast. “Have you no respect for the dying?”

Gimli ran towards them equally horrified.” Have you lost your wits Master Elf? “ he raged.

“Sam told me it was an old Hobbit remedy that cured their sick babes. I thought it worth trying.” Legolas explained.

“I didn’t mean for you to try it out on Strider,” Sam wailed aghast. “It seems rather undignified!”

“He’s not a babe but a grown man and a King too!” Gimli retorted.

“It is not fitting to leave a King naked in a field!” Eomer raged. ”If he is dying, let him join his forefathers with dignity! We Rohirrim thus enjoy the sun while living, but the dead and dying should be covered!”

“Who will know save we?” Legolas replied, undeterred.” We have tried all we know and nothing has roused him, he just grows weaker. Maybe the sun will revive him. We will offer him to the Valar as he was born, thus showing that his fate lies in their hands. Maybe they will see fit to spare him, seeing he approaches them in all humility. If not, we will dress him in royal garments and bury him in this fair place.”

“Elves!” Gimli snorted.” Be sure not to let one near me when I’m dying! I dread to think what Aragorn would say to all this, such a modest man would be mortified!”

“He will never know,” Legolas said simply. “ I only hope we are doing as Mithrandir wished us.” The Elf wandered desolate round the flowery meadow, gathering white and yellow spring blossoms and plaiting them together with laurel branches in a circlet, which he placed on Aragorn’s head. He then silently braided the man’s hair in Elvish fashion.

Struggling to control his emotions, Gimli moved aside after a few moments.” I’d better care for the Hobbits.” he choked, walking towards the trees before anyone could see him weeping.

Legolas and Eomer positioned themselves either side of Aragorn, each clasping one of the man’s hands, the other poised to ward off any insects that might touch his wounds.

“Let us keep vigil,” said Legolas.

“Should we not make one more attempt to revive him?” Eomer said almost pleadingly.

Legolas shook his head. “We have tried all we can and must now accept the will of the Valar,” he replied, “Bitter though it may be, who are we to question their designs? “

Eomer clutched Aragorn’s limp hand, noting the calloused skin and the countless abrasions, yet it seemed he held the noblest thing on Middle- earth. A tear fell on it unbidden, when he recalled how that same hand had clasped his in comradeship on the battlefield and later recalled his sister to life.

“We should fetch his sword,” Eomer said. ”He is a mighty warrior. To die with his sword in his hand will ensure he feasts joyfully with his ancestors.”

“Not yet, we should wait. We should bring the Elessar to him first,” Legolas replied.

Aragorn neither moved nor stirred. Suddenly, Roheryn came and nuzzled him as if to bid his mater farewell. A butterfly landed on his chest and stayed perched over his heart for a few moments, before flying away. The gentle spring breeze blew his dark hair round his face.

His breathing grew shallower. The watchers knew that to be a sign the King would soon depart beyond the circles of the world.

Legolas nodded to Eomer. “It is time to fetch his sword and the Elessar.” He rose to his feet.

Gimli, who had been watching while tending to the Hobbits, saw the look on Legolas’ face, and came to join him, carrying Sam in his arms.They argued as they came.

“There’s no need for you to have to watch this, Sam.”

“But I want to, Strider is my friend too. I must say goodbye!”

Legolas returned with Anduril and the Elessar, the sword he placed by Aragorn’s hand, and the green stone by his head, and then he resumed his former position, kneeling by his head and clasping the man’s hand.

Éomer took off his cloak and looked about to cover his friend with it but the look in Legolas’ eyes prevented him. He went to where his horse was tethered and rummaged in the saddlebags.

A few moments later, he returned with a small jar and uncorked the lid. Inside was a sweet smelling oil.

He looked down sorrowfully at Aragorn, whose cruelly wounded body seemed like a scar upon the fair meadow and glared at Legolas for exposing his friend to such indignity.

Then kneeling and bowing his head, he applied a few drops to Aragorn’s head, hands feet, and breast. “If you must die, my friend, die as an anointed King!” he said, his voice choked with tears.

Gimli had laid Sam down, he reached out, and together they grasped Aragorn’s wrist.

Sam started to cry and soon was joined by the others. The tears of Hobbit, Man, Dwarf and Elf fell on Aragorn’s face as they mourned a beloved friend and the noblest man on Middle Earth. They knelt in silent homage to their friend for several moments.

A cloud passed across the face of the sun and the ravens gave a hoarse cry in the gloom.


TBC

A/N

It is a British superstition that ravens attend the death of a king. The nurse who attended the Duke of Windsor (The former Edward VIII) on his deathbed claimed ravens circled the house and flew off when he died.

My late Mother told me of a baby with TB, who lived nearby, who was taken out in a special glass covered pram when the sun shone. His clothing was pulled aside, to allow the sun to touch his skin through the glass. He died in infancy.

The Return of the King

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

With thanks to Raksha and Bodkin for their suggestions, which I decided to use.

Warning - Sensitive readers may find this chapter distressing

Éomer  blinked back his tears and swallowed hard. Then he began to sing in a strong, clear voice.

"Weary the warrior, winnowed by war;

In battle the bravest, in love the most loyal.

Foes could not fell him, so mighty the man!

Yet, he lies stricken, yielding his lifeblood,

Giving himself, the heroes to save.

Where are the Valar, Valinor’s greatest?

Where are they now, when on them we call?"

During the song, Legolas rose to his feet and started to wander round the meadow as if looking for something. He returned a few moments later, clutching a bunch of long leaves in his hand.

“Athelas,” he explained in reply to their questioning looks. ”Aragorn seems to have a special affinity with the plant.”

“It revived him when he was healing Lord Faramir,” said Éomer, a gleam of hope lighting his eyes. “I fear though, it is too late.”

Legolas grumbled the leaves under Aragorn’s nose and waited. Nothing happened. The watchers could no longer even detect the rise and fall of his chest. It seemed as if his life had already flown.

Legolas knelt and took Aragorn’s hand again. The four friends wept bitterly.

The sun slowly remerged from behind the cloud. A sunbeam fell across Aragorn’s face, illuminating his countenance with such beauty and majesty that the watchers gasped in awe. Time seemed to stand still.

Suddenly a Great Eagle flew over their heads and across the meadow .It swooped down upon the ravens, which squawked angrily and then disappeared. It then returned and hovered over Aragorn for a few moments, spreading its giant wings over his prone body. It then flew away, vanishing, as quickly as it had come.

 All at once, the air was alive with birdsong, as every thrush and blackbird seemed to erupt in joyous song. Butterflies danced across the meadow in a cloud of vibrant life and colour.

To their amazement, Aragorn slowly opened his eyes and moaned. He seemed unaware of his surroundings; then focussed on Eomer’s face.

“The light so glorious? Éomer? I am thirsty,” he murmured.

“He lives!” Éomer cried in amazement. He grabbed a cup of water, which Gimli had brought for Sam, and cradling Aragorn’s head in his arms to support him, held it to his lips. “My friend!” Eomer whispered, "I feared I had lost you!”

Aragorn swallowed, sighed, and then closed his eyes again. The colour slowly returned to his face. He appeared now to be in a natural sleep. His breathing appeared almost normal and when Éomer felt his brow, his temperature appeared normal while his pulse felt strong and steady. The wound in his side had burst open and evil looking matter was oozing forth. The surrounding flesh however felt cool when he touched it.

Together with Sam, Éomer was both laughing and crying together, Gimli grinned from ear to ear and Legolas looked ecstatic.

Cautiously, they released Aragorn’s hands. His condition did not change and they gave a collective sigh of relief.

“What happened?” asked Sam.

Legolas shook his head. “I do not know,” he replied, “In all the long years of my life, I have never seen such as this before! May the Valar be praised!”

“Quickly, let us replace the bandages. Then cover him with some fresh blankets!” said Éomer. “I am no healer but I have some experience of wounds such as this from tending my men on the battlefield.  We need to boil water and fetch fresh bandages and salves!”

Relieved to find someone, who appeared to have more knowledge of treating wounds than he did, Legolas did as he was bidden while Gimli carried Sam back to the other Hobbits.

Éomer gently covered Aragorn with his cloak while he waited. He watched the man’s sleeping face. He had only known Aragorn a short time but already he loved him as a brother and revered him not only as a great warrior, but also as the Healer who saved his beloved sister. He gently wiped the dried blood from the gashes on Aragorn’s body and applied salves and bandages with Legolas’ assistance. The wound on Aragorn’s side was the worst of his injuries. However, he decided against trying to stitch it closed, thinking it would be better to let it drain. He washed it with salted water and bandaged it carefully. It appeared that the weapon had chipped a rib and Éomer feared his friend would be in great pain once he awoke.

Aragorn moaned slightly in his sleep but to their great relief did not awaken while they tended him.

“It gladdens my heart that I slew many of the Orcs who inflicted these hurts upon Aragorn.” Éomer said grimly. “I only wish I could have killed them all, before they could get near him!”

There were no clean blankets but the sun had warmed and aired the others. Éomer found a sheet of soft linen, with which they covered Aragorn’s, before replacing the blankets.

“He looks exhausted. I expect he will sleep for many hours,” Éomer said after he was satisfied he had done all he could “Many generations will sing many songs of his great deeds. Let him rest and regain his strength now. Do you have kingly garments for him when he awakes?”

Legolas shook his head. “We left in such haste and secrecy that we came without any raiment for him.”

“I have some spare clothing,” said Éomer "He is taller than I but less broad. Still, loose garments will chafe his wounds less.”

By now, the afternoon was almost over and the sun was starting to go down. They prepared and ate a meal. Afterwards, loath to disturb his slumber, they erected a tent around Aragorn and carried the Hobbits within to sleep beside him.

“I shall stay here too until morning.” Éomer said, “I hope I shall have good tidings to return to Gandalf with.”

“Good tidings of Aragorn, perhaps,” said Legolas ”But still I fear for the Hobbits.”

He looked towards where they lay with Gimli tending them. Sam looked somewhat better but Frodo and Pippin both burned with fever. Pippin was crying constantly in pain.

Éomer changed the bandage on Pippin’s shoulder and spooned water into his mouth but it seemed to do little good. He left Gimli to give Pippin and Frodo more water and turned his attention to Sam, offering him some of the broth they had prepared.

Sam looked at him aghast. “You mustn’t feed me, sir!” he protested.”It wouldn’t be proper at all!”

“And why ever not?” asked Éomer in bewilderment.

“You’re a king,” said Sam “And I’m Mister Frodo’s gardener!”

“But Gandalf told me that Aragorn had been caring for you,” Éomer replied.

“Why yes, but he’s just one of those rangers, isn’t he? He the nicest of the big folk I’ve ever met but it’s not as if he were the King or anything is it?”

Éomer roared with laughter. Then hastily stifled his mirth lest he woke Aragorn.

“Didn’t you know, Sam? “ he said between guffaws, “Aragorn is the King of Gondor and Arnor, the most powerful man in the West. Then, Legolas is a prince!”

“What?” Sam was dumfounded.

“He is joking.” Legolas said hastily, fearful of how Sam would take the news. There would be time enough to tell him when he was recovered, or so he hoped.

“You should be caring for Mister Frodo and Mister Pippin instead of teasing me then.” Sam retorted, momentarily forgetting his awe of Éomer.

Grinning, Éomer handed the bowl of broth to Gimli, meekly obeying Sam’s instructions. Sam was so open mouthed with astonishment that the Dwarf was able to spoon the broth straight in.

It was dark now dark and Sam had fallen asleep almost before Gimli had finished feeding him.

 They decided that the Dwarf should rest first while Legolas sat with the Hobbits and Éomer watched over Aragorn. They lit a single lamp and placed it in the centre of the tent.

The Orcs were surrounding him, pulling him from his horse and dragging him roughly through dark tunnels. Every movement jolted his injuries. However, he would not give them the satisfaction of knowing he was in pain.

They brought him to a circular stone chamber and threw him down on the cold, hard floor. Then he could see it, the Eye, flaming and angry, filled with rage and malice.

“You dared challenge me, Heir of Isildur and now you will pay dearly for your foolish pride!”

The voice was inside his head, though the Orcs heard it too. They approached him and he found himself trying not to cringe like a cornered deer.

Four of the creatures grabbed him and spread-eagled him face upward on the floor as they stripped him of all his garments.

One yanked him upright by his hair while another approached with a cruel whip, the thongs weighted with lead. With it, he beat him across the back and shoulders. Sauron’s laughter rang inside his head, the Dark Lord was greatly enjoying every moment of his pain and humiliation

“Perhaps we should all bow to your majesty?” mocked the Orc with the whip “You say you’re the King, but where are your fine garments and golden crown?”

He closed his eyes unable to bear their leering, mocking looks. They subjected him to every cruelty and indignity imaginable during the endless hours that followed. He had heard many stories of what Orcs did to their captives, but this surpassed any imaginings. It would have been better by far to have fallen in battle than to be subjected to such torment! After what seemed an eternity, an Orc threw some foul smelling brew across his face and shook him by his bruised and bleeding shoulders.

“Wake up you! We’ve another nice surprise!”

Two of the creatures dragged him to his feet and he saw another approaching, carrying a spear. A fourth held his garments in a bundle. He put out his hand trying to grab them to cover himself .However, the Orc poured more of the foul brew over his clothes and then threw them at him.

“Get dressed!” he barked.” We can’t have your majesty catching a cold and spoiling all the fun now!”

He was reaching out for the dripping, foul smelling garments when the Orc with the spear lunged at him and plunged it deep in his side.

This time, he was unable to suppress the scream that welled up inside him.

“Easy now, my friend!” Éomer’s concerned voice roused him from the nightmare.

Confused, he opened his eyes and tried to focus. The Orcs had gone but the pain still throbbed throughout his body.

He felt under the blanket and found that he was naked apart from some bandages. When he touched where the pain was worse, the bandage felt wet. Biting his lip, he tried to suppress a moan.

“Where am I?” he asked faintly. “What happened?” His eyes flashed in sudden fear. “The Orcs?”

He tried to sit up. Éomer restrained him as gently as he could. “You were injured during the battle, Aragorn, “ the King of Rohan said. “The Orcs were overcome and you are safe now in Ithilien.”

“Where are my clothes?” Aragorn asked, still struggling to get up.” I need to...”

“You were badly injured.” Eomer replied, trying to sound soothing.” Let me tend to your needs for now. Later, I will find you some clean clothes. Yours were ruined.”

With a gasp of pain, the King of Gondor sank back on to the pillows and allowed Eomer to bring him the chamber pot. His pain and confusion were too great for him even to feel much embarrassment at his predicament.

“You know more of healing than I,” said Éomer.” If I bring the supplies over here, maybe you could tell me which herbs would ease your pain?”

Before he could move though, Legolas was beside them carrying the chest containing the remedies the sons of Elrond had provided.

“How are you feeling, mellon nin?” he asked Aragorn.

“Sore,” Aragorn replied, suppressing another groan.

“Do you need me to help you tend him?” the Elf asked Éomer.

“Thank you, but I think the Hobbits have need of you,” he replied.

Legolas’ remark brought the memories of the last few days flooding back to Aragorn and his head gradually cleared. He knew now why he had dreamt of being tortured by Orcs, as that was what Sauron had shown him in the palantir, threatening him daring to challenge him. He had been spared such a fate but Frodo had not been so fortunate. The memories came rushing back

Agitated, he again attempted to sit up, exclaiming. “The Hobbits, how are they faring? I must go to them! “

“They all live still and are sleeping. You are not well enough help them,” Legolas said firmly.  I will return to them and leave you with Éomer.”

Éomer looked through the medicines and discovered a supply of poppy juice. “I will give you this to ease your pain,” he told Aragorn.

“No!” Aragorn protested.” One drop of that will make me sleep for hours when I must get up and tend the Hobbits! Give me some willow bark, that will suffice!”

Éomer marvelled that any man could be so selfless. He mixed a drink with a small quantity of willow bark. Then, while Aragorn was not looking, added a drop of poppy juice, thinking that more sleep was the very thing he needed; at least until the injury in his side was healing.

He brought the cup to Aragorn but the King of Gondor and Arnor shook his head. “When I have seen the Hobbits, I will drink it, I must see them while my mind is clear!”

Seeing he was adamant, Éomer first carried the soundly sleeping Sam over to him.

Aragorn laid a hand on his forehead and seemed satisfied.

Legolas then brought Frodo, while Éomer carefully carried Pippin, taking care not to jolt his injured ribs.

This time Aragorn looked troubled when he felt their brows.

“They both have high fevers!” he exclaimed in dismay. He tried to get up but fell back exhausted, and groaning with pain.

Éomer steadied him and eased him back on the pallet. “I beg you, have a care for your own health!” he pleaded.

Aragorn lay gasping with pain for a few moments. He then recovered sufficiently to instruct Legolas. “Bathe them with lukewarm water each hour and give them a pinch of willow bark in a cup of water at the same time.”

“I will, I promise. Now please rest.” the Elf replied.

Éomer retrieved the painkilling potion he had mixed, hoping that it would not be refused this time. He held the cup to Aragorn’s lips and was relieved when he swallowed it without comment. Legolas had brought water and clean bandages together with the herbs.”

I’d better change your bandages now you’re awake.” Éomer said, starting to pull down the blankets.

Aragorn pushed him away with what little strength he had. "No, I can do that as I am a trained healer!” he protested.

Éomer grinned.” I do mean to wash my hands first if that is what troubles you.” he assured him.” And if you’re still not happy we could always ride back to Minas Tirith to see if my sister is sufficiently recovered to tend to you as she usually tends our wounded, or failing her, I could summon old Ioreth!”

“I can do it myself!” Aragorn insisted. He struggled to prop himself up on his elbows, but fell back groaning, as another sharp stab of pain jabbed his side.

Éomer waited, thinking it was easier by far to tend an injured horse. It might try to kick him, but you did not have to worry about the animal’s pride. He was accustomed to tending the men who served under him but the High King of Gondor and Arnor was a different matter entirely.

Defeated, Aragorn ceased to struggle and resigned himself to Éomer’s rough ministrations. Deep down, he knew it would be almost impossible to tie the bandages round himself properly in his current condition, not to mention cleaning the wounds. However, he found the whole situation very uncomfortable to endure.

He had been wounded many times, but always; either his foster father, Elrond or his fellow rangers, who were like a close knit family had tended him. He was fond of Éomer but he was ill prepared for him having to carry out such intimate tasks. Then he was the trained Healer, not Éomer who was young enough to be his grandson!

“It had better be you, as that old woman’s tongue would drive my wits from me! Be quick then, so I can see how the Hobbits fare!” he groaned. He shut his eyes and tried to pretend he was elsewhere, as Eomer pulled back the blankets and uncovered him.

Éomer’s keen glance revealed that only the bandages around Aragorn’s side were stained.

The King of Gondor could not have looked unhappier, had Eomer suddenly transformed into the Dark Lord himself, as he turned his head away from the other’s scrutiny.

Given Aragorn’s obvious discomfort Éomer decided just to tend the worst of the wounds now and leave the others until later. He pulled the covers back up over Aragorn’s hips and helped him to a sitting position, propping him up with pillows.

It was hard to discern who was the more relieved now that this much at least was accomplished

“I fear I’m not gentle. Not like you were with my sister,” Éomer said, pulling the bandage away from the oozing wound and starting to wash it clean.

Aragorn blanched with the pain and sweat poured from his face. He cried out as the cloth touched the wound.

“You took an Orc weapon and it chipped the bone and became infected,” Éomer explained, hating the fact he was inflicting more pain on his friend.

His healer’s instincts getting the better of him, Aragorn forced himself to look at the wound. He was reassured the flesh was clean and did not look inflamed.

Trying not very successfully to be gentle, Éomer applied a herbal salve after he got a nod of approval from his reluctant patient.

Aragorn bit his lip when the salve stung the raw skin and brought tears to his eyes. Ashamed of his own weakness, he tried to turn his mind to other matters. “It grieves me about your sister, I never meant to hurt her,” he told Éomer, looking him straight in the eye. “My heart belongs to another lady to whom I have been troth plighted for many years. I am sorry if Lady Éowyn misunderstood friendship for something else. I do love her as a sister, for who could fail to admire a lady of such courage and beauty? I hope she one day finds a man worthy of her love.”

“You have only my gratitude, not my blame. “ Eomer replied, fastening the bandage securely. “You saved her life.”

Aragorn yawned. ”I feel so sleepy, “ he said “Did you…?” Before he could finish the sentence, he was fast asleep.

Éomer tucked the blankets round him and patted his hand rather awkwardly.” Dream of your lady, my friend,” he whispered. “Would that I could find one as fair!”

The King of Rohan sat watching Aragorn for a while, thinking about how much he had come to care for him in the short time that he had known him. Already he loved him as he would a brother.

He had lost so many whom he had loved. He was but a child when his parents died, now both his cousin and uncle were dead too. Were it not for Aragorn, his beloved sister would even now, be lying in state beside King Théoden.

Such melancholy thoughts made him weary and he suppressed a yawn. Legolas came over to where he was sitting. “The hobbits seem a little better,” the Elf said. “How fares Aragorn now?”

“Sleeping but I still fear for him,“ Éomer replied. “Look how pale he is now!”

“I think he must have used his healing touch on the Hobbits again,” Legolas said after a moment’s thought. ”They grow stronger as he grows weaker. I would not have brought them to him had I known, but I thought he was just feeling their brows to test for fever.”

“It is hard to resist his will when he is determined.” Éomer commented. “I realised that when we first met on the plains of the Mark.”

“Were he not of such virtue and had laid hands on the ring, his will would inspire terror in all,” the Elf said thoughtfully. “Yet his virtue is such that, all who know him, come to love him.”

“ I know, I gave him my love when I first laid eyes upon him,” Éomer said sadly, ”I only hope he has chance to show his true worth to all.”

Legolas knelt beside Aragorn and felt his wrist. “His pulse is strong,” he said reassuringly “He will recover I think, given rest and care .The herbs you have given him will make him sleep for many hours.”

He looked at Aragorn who was sleeping peacefully and then at the weary King of Rohan. “Why not rest now?” he suggested, “I will watch all of them. Elves need less sleep than mortals do. I will call you if you are needed, though that poppy juice should make Aragorn sleep for hours. You will need all your wits about you for when he does awaken”

Éomer was going to refuse the Elf’s offer but realised it would be folly to do so. He lay down alongside Aragorn, pulling his cloak around him for warmth. Within moments, had fallen into a deep sleep

When he woke again, it was almost dawn and a glimmer of pale light was coming through the flaps of the tent. Legolas was sitting where he had left him, his keen gaze moving back and forth between the Hobbits and Aragorn.

Seeing that Éomer was awake, the Elf came over to him. “The fever has left the Hobbits,” he said, before Éomer could ask any questions.” I last bathed them an hour ago. It is as we suspected; Aragorn used his healing power.”

Éomer shook his head. “Why must he put himself at such risk?” he asked, more to himself than the Elf.

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

Nurturing Hope

Éomer was still anxiously kneeling beside Aragorn at daybreak. To his great relief, he saw the colour was now returning to his face and 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 should sleep a while yet with the potion 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 healing supplies and heat some water.

They first tended the leg wound, which appeared almost healed and then turned Aragorn over on to his uninjured side. Éomer 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, applying 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 to see him hurt thus, at least none tried to deal him a fatal blow before the ring was destroyed.”

“As you say, it turned out for the best, thought it grieves me to see his hurts,” said Éomer. “No warrior of Rohan would fight with such dishonour as Sauron’s armies!”

“Nor would an Elf!” Legolas replied. They gently laid Aragorn on his back and unwrapped the dressings on his upper body.

Once bathed, they decided the cuts on his arms were sufficiently healed only to need salves. The gash on his shoulder still looked deep and painful enough for a further dressing, however.

They were most worried by the still oozing wound on his side, though they hoped once the poisons were drained from it, that it would heal. Aragorn twitched and moaned in his sleep as they cleaned and dressed it.

 “I think he is mending,” said Legolas heaving a sigh of relief echoed by Éomer. ”No doubt he will want to get up tomorrow! I wish we could tie him to his bed!”

“We must make certain that he does not overtax himself again,” Éomer said grimly. “I had better try to find him some clothes before he wakes up.”

Leaving Legolas to finish the bandaging, Éomer went to his saddlebags and rummaged inside until he found a spare pair of his breeches and drawers.

“Let us dress him now,” he said “Allow him some dignity when he awakes as he cares about such matters! He told me that after many years of solitude he is uncomfortable unclothed in public.”

Legolas grinned at the concerns of humans while he helped Éomer to ease the clothing over Aragorn’s feet. Together they slowly eased the garments past the bandaged leg wound and pulled them up over his hips. They were rather too wide but given the amount of bandages around his waist, that was no bad thing.

Vastly relieved Aragorn had not woken during their ministrations; Éomer and Legolas replaced the blankets. Éomer sat down, wiping the sweat from his brow.

“I’m glad that is over,” he said.” Even though I had sedated him well, I feared he would wake up and not be at all happy! Who would be a healer?”

“They make the worse patients!” Legolas said wryly, washing his hands as he spoke. ”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. Surely even Elves grow weary sometimes,“ Éomer 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, there will be much to do this day.”

Éomer sat sipping his drink and studying Aragorn’s sleeping face, the high cheekbones, and dark hair looked striking even in slumber. There was no doubt of Aragorn’s ancestry. Éomer had heard the old tales and even once seen the statues of the ancient kings from over the sea. He decided Aragorn now looked more like the man he had first 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 Éomer held the cup to his lips.

“Sleep now, you need rest,” Éomer 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. He smiled, thankful that at least one of them was resting.

When he reached Pippin’s bedside a small and surprised voice whispered “Éomer! Is it really you, or am I dreaming?”

Éomer 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.

Éomer smiled. ”He is much better and so are your other friends. Now get some rest.”

“Everything hurts so much, but I’ll try, Éomer, 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.” Éomer replied, patting the young Hobbit’s hand comfortingly. Within a few minutes, Pippin was sound asleep.

When Aragorn awoke again, the 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.

Éomer was immediately at his side. “How do you feel, my friend?” he asked.

“As if my horse sat on me!” Aragorn groaned, struggling 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 Éomer’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 is 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 willow bark tea, grimacing at the bitter taste. “How did you know I was hungry?” he asked.

“You must be as you have not eaten for days,” Éomer replied. “We intend to take the tent down before eating, now that the sun has risen, so would you like to borrow a tunic and shirt to keep you warm?”

Aragorn nodded and immediately wished he had not for the movement made his head spin.

Éomer steadied him. “Easy, friend, you will feel better once you have taken food and drink. “

Aragorn looked down at the blanket, embarrassed at his own weakness.

Éomer left him to fetch some clothing. He selected a loose shirt of a soft material and quickly eased it over Aragorn’s head before he could protest.

“I can dress myself.” Aragorn protested, his voice muffled under the cloth.

“It would hurt you to lift your arms until the pain relief had time to work.” Éomer replied, ignoring him and pulling a tunic over his head.

“ 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 us much cause for worry!”

“It is good to see you looking better, my friend,” smiled Legolas.

“My friends!” Aragorn smiled despite the pain he was in.” Thank you for tending me these past days. How are the Hobbits faring?”

“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.”

A few moments later, Éomer returned with a bowl of stew and a spoon. Legolas and Gimli returned to their charges. Éomer 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, Éomer compromised and steadied Aragorn’s hand while he spooned the stew into his mouth. With each mouthful, it grew easier and soon Éomer 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 his friend.

Éomer knelt beside Aragorn. Taking care not to touch his wounds, he 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 Éomer’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.

Aragorn gradually felt his strength returning aided by the food. After he had seen to his own needs, he reluctantly took Éomer’s advice to rest a little.

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. He tried 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, it felt good to be alive.

His peace was shattered by a piercing scream.

TBC

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate.No profit has been nor will be made from this story.

Chapter Six

Hurting Hobbits

“No, please, don’t hurt me! I want Strider!” The voice was unmistakeably Pippin’s. His cries were then joined by Sam’s and Frodo’s sobbing.

Aragorn struggled to his feet and unsteadily tottered over to where Pippin was lying on his pallet with Legolas, Gimli, and Éomer clustered round him. They were so engrossed in their discussion they did not even notice him approaching.

He was hampered not only by his weakness and broken toes, but also by Eomer’s ill-fitting breeches, which were far too large for him round the waist. He was forced to concentrate as much on keeping them up as on walking. The effect was somewhat comical as they were also too short and left his ankles exposed.

“The wound needs lancing, it is infected.” Legolas said, brandishing a heated knife in front of Pippin.

“No!” Pippin screamed “Ask Strider, please!”

“Perhaps we should, he’d know better what ought to be done. I’m loath to hurt one of the little ones,” said Gimli.

“Aragorn needs to rest. He’s still very ill himself,” Éomer protested.

Legolas nodded to Gimli, “We will have to do it. Help me hold him down !”

Pippin screamed again.

Aragorn reached Pippin just as his legs gave way and he sat heavily on the foot of Pippin’s pallet.

“What is happening?” Aragorn asked. Even in his weakened state, the authority in his voice was unmistakable. They all froze in mid air.

Pippin was the first to break the silence. “Help me, please, Strider, they want to cut me, and I’m scared!”

Aragorn inched closer to the Hobbit. He could see the others had pulled aside Pippin’s blankets. The gash on his shoulder, which he had stitched closed a few days before, had been unbandaged to reveal a swollen and angry looking wound.

“It is badly infected. We need to drain the poisons from it before it makes him feverish again,” said Legolas.

“Now I am awake I will decide what to do,” Aragorn said firmly.

Rather unsteadily, he leaned over and felt Pippin’s forehead. The Hobbit already had a slight fever, probably caused by the wound.

“I fear, this my fault, Pippin,” Aragorn said regretfully.” I should not have closed the wound, it needed to drain.”

“Then you’ll have to cut me?” Pippin asked in terror. He then swallowed hard as Aragorn took his hand and squeezed it gently. “It’s not your fault, you weren’t well either,” he continued bravely.

 “I’ll try my best not to hurt you too much, Pippin.” Aragorn said, trying to sound reassuring. He then turned to the others.

“Bring me several bowls of hot water, towels, bandages and whatever herbs and salves we have,” he said. “Oh, and a small, very sharp knife.”

Pippin gave a low resigned moan and turned his head away.

As a fire was already burning to heat the water, the others quickly returned with what Aragorn has asked for. He carefully washed his hands and then gently felt the wound. Pippin bit his lip but still squeaked in agony.

“I am going to take out the stitches, which I fear will hurt and then apply a herbal poultice,” he gently explained to Pippin. “That should combat the infection before it makes you feel really ill. Will you let me do that?”

Pippin nodded. ”I trust you, Strider.”

Aragorn looked anxiously at his own hands and hoped he could keep them from shaking. He managed to smile reassuringly at Pippin before asking Eomer to sterilise the knife in the fire.

“Who would you like to hold you steady?” Aragorn asked, wanting to give the Hobbit some control over what was being done to him, “You need to keep very still, Pippin as this knife is sharp.”

“Gimli, please,” the Hobbit replied, trying hard to be brave.

The Dwarf immediately moved behind him and held him down by his arms and good shoulder.

Aragorn looked at Pippin’s trusting face with a mixture of sadness and amazement. He felt humbled that the Hobbit trusted him so much. At the same time, he felt sorrowful, fearing he still lacked the strength to do anything to ease the pain he was forced to inflict on him. He wondered if he dared risk using his healing powers. Yesterday had drained him. However, he felt he was sufficiently recovered now not to fear for his life.

He looked straight into Pippin’s eyes and raised his hands above the wound.

Pippin made a mighty effort to reach up and grab his hand. “No!” he cried. “You must not, I would not have you take such risks!”

“I would spare you pain if I can, “ Aragorn said, his gentle eyes full of tears at the small one’s courage.

“Please just tend the wound. I know you will do your best,” Pippin said, his voice quavering slightly, at the thought of what was to come.

To Aragorn’s great relief, Pippin shut his eyes when he picked up the knife. He feared the Hobbit might see his hand tremble. He took a deep breath, ignoring the pain in his ribs; then, quickly, and expertly sliced through the stitches, cutting through forming scar tissue and opening up the wound sufficiently to allow the infection to start draining.

Pippin screamed and Aragorn murmured soothing words, as he battled to control his own emotions.” Easy now, Pippin! The worst is over, no more cutting. These herbs will sting a little at first, though.”

He washed his hands again and then selected some herbs and mixed them into a paste with the boiled water and applied them to Pippin’s shoulder, securing them with a clean bandage, while Gimli still held him still. Pippin squeaked at the stinging sensation and then gave a sigh of relief that the procedure was over when Gimli released his hold.

Aragorn noticed Pippin was shivering. He felt the Hobbit’s forehead again but his fever was still only slight, surely not bad enough to produce such a reaction. “Are you too cold out here in the open?” he asked.

Pippin shook his head. “No, the sun is pleasant. It is these cold cloths!”

Aragorn pulled the blankets covering him further down and discovered Pippin’s belly was covered with cold, wet cloths. It was little wonder the poor Hobbit was shivering.

“You did say he needed cold compresses,” Legolas said rather defensively.

It was no use arguing that it was only meant as temporary measure, since he had not been there to take care of Pippin as he had planned. Aragorn inwardly cursed his own weakness, as he carefully removed the wet cloths and gently laid a soft towel over the bruised belly and left it there for a few moments to absorb the moisture, not wanting to aggravate the bruises by rubbing the towel over them.

He then had to steel himself to examine the Hobbit, as he dreaded discovering some hurt beyond his powers to heal, though the fact Pippin was still alive boded well. Peeling back the towel, he very gently felt the bruised area with his fingertips while watching Pippin’s reaction. “Look at me, Pippin!” he said, “Tell me if I am hurting you?” He kept his eyes fixed on the Hobbit’s face.

Pippin shook his head. “They hurt no worse when you touch them,” he said.” They feel no different than bruises I’ve had when I fell when I was little.”

Aragorn could have wept with relief, as he could detect neither swelling nor other signs of anything sinister. “You had a lucky escape from being crushed under that troll, Pippin,” he said.” I am certain now that nothing inside you is damaged. As I had hoped, these are just ordinary bruises.”

“So I won’t have to have these nasty cold cloths any more?”

Aragorn shook his head and smiled. “The swelling has gone down now, so no more cold wet cloths!” he replied, picking up a jar. “ I shall apply a salve made of marigolds several times a day to help the bruises heal,” he explained, as he carefully applied it with his fingertips.

Pippin grinned happily. “That is much better! I know a pretty Hobbit lass called Marigold!”

Aragorn grinned back at his young friend. “You must be feeling better then if you are thinking of pretty lassies! Now try to rest,” he said. “I will tend your other hurts later. While I rest, I will ask Legolas to make you a herbal drink to combat the infection in your wound. Frodo and Sam need the healing herbs too.” He felt guilty he had not been able to go to them and could only manage to smile what he hoped was a reassuring greeting in their direction. His head was starting to swim again and the pain stabbed his side like a dagger.

“Thank you, Strider. I’m so glad you are feeling better! You are so kind and gentle”

Pippin’s heartfelt gratitude made his own pain seem as nothing.

By the time, the salve was applied and Pippin tucked up in his blankets again, he felt ready to collapse and wondered however; he could manage to walk back to his own bed. Much to his relief and gratitude, Éomer brought his own pallet and placed it by the Hobbits. He was forced to allow the King of Rohan to help him to get to his feet and almost carry him the short distance.

Aragorn rested for a while. Then fortified by another pain killing draught, he determined to tend the Hobbits. He ignored the protestations of his friends, who all said he should get his strength back and leave them to care for Frodo, Sam and Pippin. Aragorn, knowing their lack of expertise in healing was determined to resume caring for them himself.

He asked Éomer to help him to Frodo’s bedside and told the others to fetch hot water, herbs, salves, and clean shirts for the Hobbits.

Frodo was lying still and quiet, as if resting. Yet, his eyes were wide open and dulled with a look of total exhaustion.

“How are you, Frodo?” Aragorn asked, feeling his brow for fever and noting with relief there was none.

“Well enough,” Frodo whispered. “Just very tired and thirsty.”

Aragorn raised a cup of cool water to his lips, which he drained eagerly. “I am going to bathe you and tend your hurts,” he explained, looking anxiously at the Ring bearer, “Then you must rest.”

“I cannot.” said Frodo “Every time I close my eyes I see it, like a great wheel of fire in my mind! Or I see the Orcs tormenting me.” He shivered despite the warm sunlight.

Aragorn, remembering his nightmare vision, felt a keen stab of sympathy. “Would it help you to tell me about it?” he asked quietly.

“I cannot. I feel too ashamed.” Frodo’s voice was barely audible.

“I think I understand.” Aragorn looked him straight in the eye, his gentle eyes full of compassion. “It will eventually pass, Frodo.” he said quietly, “But remember, your friends are here to help you now.” He started to unwind the bandages from round the small hand. The wound caused by the missing finger was healing nicely and he felt encouraged as he applied a herbal salve and a fresh dressing.

He then took a bowl of steaming water from Legolas, who hovered nearby and crushed an athelas leaf in it. “I will bathe you now, this should refresh you.” he told Frodo, pulling back the blankets.

He tried to lift the Hobbit upright in order to remove his shirt, but found he lacked the strength. Inwardly groaning at his weakness, he was about to reluctantly ask for assistance, only to find Éomer was already supporting Frodo upright.

The lash and claw marks which had so disfigured the Hobbit’s small body a few days before were slowly fading and the raw skin was beginning to heal, though, not as quickly as Aragorn had hoped. He started to bathe Frodo and was thankful that this time he made no attempt to struggle; though his expression was one of total misery.

“Am I hurting you? “ Aragorn asked.” I fear I may be a little clumsy.”

Frodo just stared at him and shook his head.

He dried Frodo gently with a soft towel and applied salves to all his hurts including the old Morgul knife wound and the spider bite. These wounds troubled Aragorn the most. Although they appeared healed, both felt cold to the touch. He wondered if they always would. “The athelas should help ease you,” he told Frodo.

“We tried that to no avail.” said Legolas pessimistically.

“It works only in the hands of one.” Aragorn said. Finally, a clean shirt was pulled over Frodo’s head and he was eased down on his pillows again. Aragorn patted his hand ”You will soon be well, Frodo,” he said reassuringly.

“Why are you so kind to me? I do not deserve it!” The bitterness in Frodo’s tone shocked the listeners.

“You and Sam saved Middle- earth; you deserve much more than I, or anyone else can ever give you!” Aragorn said fervently.

“But I failed! I failed miserably!  I kept the ring and it caused Gollum’s death!” Frodo burst out, a tear escaping from his eye as he spoke.

“You must not reproach yourself.” Aragorn told him “You did all and more than any on Arda could be expected to. I could not have carried it as far as you could. As for Gollum, he deserves no tears; I know that creature all too well! Frodo, so many love you, both as a friend and the saviour of Middle- earth!” He gently brushed the tear from Frodo’s cheek as he spoke and smoothed the dark curls back from the Hobbit’s face.

Frodo raised himself up on his elbows and looked Aragorn straight in the eye for the first time since the destruction of the ring. “If you cared for me, even a little, you would drive your sword through my heart!” Frodo said bitterly, then fell back against the pillows, his strength failing after his outburst. “Just care for Sam, that is all I ask.”

“ How can you think so ill of yourself Frodo? You must put such thoughts aside and rest. I will see how else I might help you after I have tended Sam” Aragorn said gently. He tried to hide his alarm from the Hobbit, but lines of worry were etched across his handsome features.

He wondered if he would ever see the old Frodo again whom he had so loved for his cheerfulness and determination. Turning his head away, he buried his face in his hands, and wept.

Éomer, seeing what had happened, brought Aragorn a drink, which he sipped while he composed himself. The others pretended not to notice and busied themselves fetching hot water and salves for Sam.

Sam looked deeply troubled when Aragorn approached his bedside. “Can’t anyone help Mister Frodo?” he asked.

“I am trying, Sam,” Aragorn said wearily.

“And you, Mister Strider, surely you’re not fit to be up and about?” the Hobbit protested.

“I am feeling much better and it is important I tend your wounds and bathe you.” Aragorn replied.

Sam gave Aragorn a look, which if looks could kill, would have felled him on the spot.

“Would you rather Legolas or Gimli tended you then?” Aragorn asked, “They lack experience but they will, if that is what you prefer?”


”I’m a grown Hobbit, it’s not fitting I should be bathed like a baby! It matters not who is doing it! What is wrong with me that I still feel so weak? ?” Sam grumbled while Aragorn knelt beside him and unwrapped the bandage round his head. To his relief, the wound was clean and healing well.

“You went too long without rest, food and water, Sam, but soon you will be strong again.” Aragorn said gently but firmly, bathing Sam’s head and applied a salve and a clean bandage. He gestured to Legolas to assist and together they took off the shirt Sam was wearing, baring the small body.

Sam looked mortified as the covers were pulled back, even though Aragorn was careful to keep him partially covered to respect his modesty. The raw patches of flesh were almost healed and the scratches had faded to faint red marks, much to Aragorn’s relief.

He bathed the Hobbit, working mainly under the blankets to spare his blushes, while at the same time watching him for any signs of pain. His keen senses detected a slight flinching when the washcloth was rubbed over his back.

“Your back hurts.” The words were a statement rather than a question.

“I must have pulled something either when carrying Mister Frodo or when that Gollum knocked me over,” Sam explained reluctantly.

“You carried Frodo?” Aragorn wondered how many more details of the hardships these two had endured would be uncovered.

“You do what you have to.” Sam did not elaborate further as Aragorn patted him dry. The King then arranged Sam’s blankets so that just his back was left uncovered and started to apply a salve, massaging it in with slow circular movements. Sam tensed himself as if for some unpleasant ordeal.

“Does your back pain you greatly?” Aragorn asked.

“No,” was the terse reply.

“The Elves made this salve.” Knowing Sam’s love of elves, he hoped this would please him. “Sam, this treatment would work far better if you were relaxed. What is troubling you?”

“Just having folks fussing round me like this. It’s not decent!” Sam said miserably.

“But Frodo and Pippin are being tended too.” Aragorn said, feeling rather bewildered and wishing his own arms didn’t ache so much. He would at that moment have gladly submitted to the ministrations of Lord Elrond or any of the Elvish healers using the same techniques that Sam was so indignant about.

“Don’t you understand?” Sam’s tone was the sort generally used to address a rather dim witted child. ”Mister Frodo and Mister Pippin are gentle Hobbits. They should be tended, as they have been all their lives. I’m just Mister Frodo’s gardener!”

“You will find things have changed now, Sam.” Aragorn replied smiling, now he knew what troubled Sam. “You are far more than just a gardener as you will discover once you are well!”

Sam said nothing.

Aragorn gently eased the clean shirt over Sam’s head and carefully pulled it down.

“Rest, now while I return to Frodo,” Aragorn ordered.

“I should be tending Frodo,” Sam said miserably. I keep on letting him down. It’s all my fault those Orcs took him and that Gollum hurt his poor hand so!”

“ It is not your fault. ”Aragorn said firmly.” Stop tormenting yourself! You are not well enough to care for Frodo yet.”

“And neither are you!” Sam retorted, trying to sit up.” I almost killed you too, I saw what happened, you almost died saving Mister Pippin!”

“Hush, it was my choice. You must stop blaming yourself!” Aragorn’s tone was a mixture of alarm and sternness “You too risked your life when you went with Frodo all the way to Mordor.”

“Why didn’t you come?” Sam said with a flash of sudden anger. “You are big and strong and could have protected him when I couldn’t! You bound yourself to serve him through life or death!”

“I had a hard choice to make. I could not abandon Merry and Pippin to torture and death,” Aragorn said quietly, trying to restrain his own growing anger.

“Not so hard as walking through the black land with neither food nor water!” Sam retorted his voice growing louder.” Not so hard as going where you felt you’d never return from!”

The others, hearing raised voices, turned to stare at them in silent horror.

“Yours was the hardest part certainly,’ Aragorn conceded, his rising anger mixed with memories of the guilt he had felt ,on the day he was forced to choose which path to follow “But I never thought to return alive from the Black Gate either.”

“You just make excuses. You can’t understand. Now let me see to Mister Frodo!”

Sam struggled to get out of bed. The others moved forward in alarm but Aragorn gestured to them to keep back

Aragorn, his eyes flashing grabbed Sam’s wrists none too gently to restrain him. Sam retaliated by lashing out with his foot catching Aragorn on his injured side.

With a cry of pain, the man released Sam who fell back on the bed sobbing.

TBC

These characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate.No profit has been nor will be made from this story.

A Time to Heal

Aragorn held Sam close, cradling the curly head against his uninjured shoulder and letting him weep until he had no tears left. This time Sam did not attempt to pull away and nestled into the King’s arm, accepting what comfort he could offer.

Eventually the curly head drooped with weariness and Aragorn gently eased him down on the pallet. “Sleep now,” he said gently.

“I’ll try but it’s so hard when all I see is ash and fire and Orcs hurting poor Mister Frodo. I never meant to hurt you, Mister Strider, I’m sorry.”

Aragorn ‘s only reply was to tenderly kiss the Hobbit on the brow in blessing.


The King tried to get to his feet but found himself swaying. Éomer and Legolas hastened to his side and supported him back to his own bed.

Gimli went to soothe the other Hobbits.

Aragorn slumped wearily on his pallet still held by his friends.

“Did Sam injure you?” asked Éomer “Let me see!”

“I do not think so,” Aragorn replied wearily. However, somewhat to their surprise, he made no protest when Éomer insisted on pulling aside his clothing to check. The bandages appeared unstained much to their relief. He shook his head as Éomer made to undo the bandages. The King of Rohan ignored him and continued unwrapping them.

When the wound was uncovered, it was found to be bleeding slightly, but no great damage appeared to have been caused, though Aragorn already had so many bruises, it was almost impossible to tell if he had acquired more.

Legolas brought water and salves leaving Éomer to bathe it and apply a clean dressing. Aragorn wearily lay back and let himself be tended to.

“Should it be bleeding like that? “ Éomer asked anxiously.

Aragorn opened his eyes and looked down at the wound, grimacing with a mixture of pain and degust at his own inability to help himself. “Sam had not enough strength to do any real damage,” he said with a sigh. “He just caught it. It looks clean enough.”

“You must tell us if it gets worse,” Éomer insisted.

Aragorn nodded. “It is not that my wounds that trouble me, my friends, but how to help the Hobbits. I feel that I have failed them. Their bodies are healing but their minds remain deeply troubled. At first, I thought only Frodo was affected but now I see Sam is just as disturbed, maybe because he carried that accursed Ring too. There is only one thing left I could do to try to help them. I do not like doing it, yet wonder if it is the only way left ”

“Will it harm you?” Éomer asked suspiciously.

Aragorn shook his head ”No, but it imposes my will upon them, which I dislike doing. I have the power to make them fall into a deep healing sleep without dreams. They will wake briefly just to take food and drink but remember nothing.”

“That sounds a good idea,” Legolas interjected. “Yet, when they awaken, will not everything trouble them the same as before?”

“When I was in hiding from the enemy, I learned many ways to protect myself,” Aragorn explained. ”One such method, was to cause anyone to forget seeing me over the previous few days. So I could make the Hobbits forget all the events of the past days, and all their pain and distress.”

“Then do it for all our sakes!” exclaimed Éomer. Legolas and Gimli nodded their agreement.

“It must be for their sake, not ours,” Aragorn insisted.

“It breaks my heart to see them so distressed,” said Gimli.”You could best help them by letting them sleep.”

“What of Pippin?” asked Legolas.

“His body is great pain but not his mind.” Aragorn replied.” I think Pippin must choose for himself.

The sound of Sam crying suddenly interrupted the conversation. “I will do it now.” Aragorn said, suddenly resolved. Éomer helped him to his feet and he slowly and painfully made his way to Sam’s bedside. “I know now how I can help you, Sam,” he told the troubled Hobbit. “Just close your eyes for a moment!”

Aragorn laid his palm on Sam’s forehead while gently brushing his eyelids with his fingertips and murmuring something in Elvish. Immediately, the Hobbit relaxed and within a minute was sound asleep. Aragorn looked down at him for a moment and then kissed him on the brow. “Sleep peacefully, brave Master Samwise!” he murmured.

He then moved across to Frodo’s bedside and bade him close his eyes too.

“I see such horrors when I try to sleep!” Frodo protested.

“I promise you that will not happen.” Aragorn replied.

Frodo reluctantly complied. Within moments he too was in a deep dreamless sleep.

Aragorn bent and kissed him on the forehead as he whispered,” Sleep peacefully my valiant friend!”

He stood for a moment sadly looking down at them and then with Éomer’s help made his way to Pippin’s bedside. “I have decided to send Frodo and Sam into a healing sleep to ease their distress,” he explained.” Now, you must choose if you would like that too. Your hurts could heal and you would feel no pain. Or would you rather stay awake?”

“Will you be with me if I stay awake?” Pippin asked.

“Yes, I will,” Aragorn replied. “And soon Merry and Gandalf should be here too.”

“I would rather not sleep then. I’ve been unconscious far too long!” Pippin replied without hesitation.

“You will continue to feel a great deal of discomfort, though it should lessen as the days progress,” Aragorn warned, flinching as a stab of pain pierced his side and leaning more heavily on Éomer.

“I can see that you are hurting too,” Pippin said steadfastly. “You probably hurt as much as I do, yet you bear it without complaint, while I am such a coward!”

Aragorn blinked back the tears in his eyes and grasped Pippin’s hand. “Never say you are a coward, Peregrin Took!” he said huskily. “You have displayed valour far beyond your strength and your years! If truth be told, I will be glad of the company of one so valiant, in the days ahead! Now, I will tend your wounds and ease you as best I may.”

Pippin looked at him in wide-eyed astonishment.

Aragorn collected himself and asked the others to bring hot water, towels, and salves. “I will see how the poultices are working. I might need to apply some pressure to the wound,” he told Pippin, sitting down beside him “Then I will bathe you and look at your other hurts”.

Pippin flinched as the poultice was peeled away from his shoulder.

To Aragorn’s great relief the wound was already starting to drain. He washed his hands and then applied slight pressure with his thumbs either side of the wound. Pippin hissed in pain but the procedure was over within seconds. Aragorn then gently cleaned the wound and asked Legolas to prepare another poultice for after the Hobbit was bathed.

“My ribs itch!” Pippin complained, when it appeared the strapping was to be left in place.

“I have a salve that would help, but it might pain you if I unwrap them,” Aragorn warned.

“I would find that easier to endure than this feeling a thousand ants are running over me!” Pippin replied.

Aragorn grinned at his determination as he unfastened the jar. Gimli supported the Hobbit while Aragorn unwound the bandage. Pippin gasped in horror at his first clear sight of his bruised and battered rib cage.

“You were under a troll! I was most surprised you still lived!” Gimli commented, as Aragorn laid a wet cloth across the damaged ribs to bathe them without causing further injury. He then repeated the process with a towel and applied the salve with his fingertips before rewrapping the ribs with a clean bandage.

“That feels much better!” Pippin sighed once the bathing was completed. “I just wish it didn’t hurt in so many places, even my head and my ankle and my good shoulder ache!”

“You dislocated them when the troll fell on you and you banged your head,” Aragorn explained.” I have a salve that might help.” He opened the jar and massaged some of its contents into Pippin’s head and ankle before turning his attention to his shoulder. Unlike Sam, Pippin was quite relaxed but looked rather sad. “What troubles you, Pippin?” Aragorn asked.

“I miss having Merry beside me,” Pippin replied rather wistfully. “Sometimes it feels lonely.”

Aragorn immediately realised what was wrong. He had learned Hobbits were affectionate creatures, Pippin especially so. Impulsively, he sat on the edge of Pippin’s pallet and with some difficulty eased the Hobbit to a sitting position, taking care not to dislodge the poultice and then took him in his arms and leaned him against his least injured shoulder. He then arranged the blankets round him to cover all but his head and shoulders.

Pippin sighed contentedly and buried his dark curls against the King’s neck .He was soon blissfully relaxed while Aragorn slowly massaged the cream into his shoulder, gently kneading the damaged tissues.

“Am I hurting you?” Pippin asked. “I know how much you were hurt .I saw the others tending you.”

“My wounds are healing now.” Aragorn said, avoiding a direct lie “Does this cause you pain being as the muscle is damaged?”

Pippin shook his head.” No, and the cream smells so nice.”

Aragorn continued unhurriedly, using an Elven massage technique and allowing the young Hobbit to find some comfort in his touch.

Pippin did not speak for a few moments and Aragorn wondered if he were falling asleep.

“Why did you do it?” the Hobbit asked suddenly and burst into tears.

“Do what?” Aragorn asked in bewilderment.

“Risk your life to save me.” Pippin explained tearfully.

 Legolas and Gimli, who were both sitting nearby groaned at the Hobbit’s astuteness.

Taken aback, Aragorn paused in his ministrations. He thought for a moment before resuming.

“Why Strider?” Pippin persisted.

Aragorn answered with a question.” If you could save Merry, Frodo or Sam but had to take a risk to do so, would you?” he asked.

“Yes of course.” Pippin replied without hesitating.

“And why would you?”

“Because they’re my friends!” Pippin said in a tone, which suggested he thought the question foolish.

“You have answered your own question.” Aragorn said quietly.

“But I’m just a Hobbit and you’re the King!” Pippin exclaimed bewildered.

“A King must always be the servant of his people, I would not deserve that title, if I would not gladly sacrifice my life for my friends.” Aragorn said emphatically. “And you, Pippin are my friend and I hope you always will consider me yours!”

“I do.” Pippin gulped as a tear rolled down his cheek.

Aragorn gently wiped the tear away.” I expect you will soon forget all the big folk you met once you return to the Shire and all your friends, not to mention the pretty Hobbit lassies!” he joked, attempting to lighten the mood.

“Indeed I shan’t!” Pippin’s tone was indignant. “I am a Knight of Gondor!”

“Now the ring is destroyed and Sauron defeated, I will not hold you to your pledge, so you are free to return to the Shire.” Aragorn replied.

“I shall, as it’s my home, but I belong now to Gondor too and would keep my oath to my King if you will have me.” Pippin sounded a trifle apprehensive as he spoke.

“Indeed I will!” It was Aragorn’s turn to wipe a tear away, as he massaged Pippin’s neck and upper back. The Hobbit nuzzled against his shoulder as contentedly as a kitten before eventually falling asleep.

Aragorn gently laid him down and smiled at the sleeping Hobbit. These days had been hard, yet friendship and loyalty had sustained them.

TBC 

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate.No profit has been,nor will be made from this story.

Epilogue - Reawakening and Reunion.

Éomer lingered for another night to satisfy himself that Aragorn was truly on the way to recovery. Aragorn had now pieced together the full story of how Gandalf had sent him here with Legolas and Gimli, trusting that the love of his friends would somehow entreat the Valar to spare him He took the Elf and the Dwarf aside and thanked them profusely for their devotion to him and the Hobbits.

They would never be Healers, but the ways of the Valar were unknown to Men, for who would ever have thought, that Hobbits could destroy the Dark Lord’s Ring.

He thanked Éomer too; knowing the events of the past days would seal their fledgling friendship.

 The King of Rohan, then after giving the King of Gondor and Arnor many injunctions not to overtax himself, left just after sunrise, riding with all haste to give Gandalf the good tidings.

The days passed peacefully, Frodo and Sam slept dreamlessly, oblivious of their friends devoted ministrations to their needs and only dimly aware of occasionally half waking to swallow food and water.

After his initial uncertainty, Aragorn now knew he had done the best thing to enable the Hobbits to heal. He too, was able to rest and slowly regain his strength while enjoying the companionship of Legolas, Gimli and Pippin.

 “You haven’t smoked your pipe these last days, Strider,” Pippin commented on the day after Éomer left.

“I will soon be crowned King and must put aside such pastimes,” Aragorn told him gravely, thinking that if his hopes were realised and Arwen were to wed him, renouncing her immortality by so doing, it was the least he could do in return. Elves found the smell of pipeweed most obnoxious.

“Being King, doesn’t sound much fun then, if you can’t do as you wish!” Pippin retorted. “If I were King, I would smoke best Longbottom leaf each day and order ten long breaks daily for meals between my duties. “

Aragorn grinned. “I fear your kingdom would soon run out of food, Master Peregrin, and fall to ruin while you enjoyed yourself, now I shall set a good example!”

Pippin returned the grin. ”I never expected anything else, your majesty, I shall have to reform!”

Aragorn laughed. ”You only need call me that in public!” he said.” And please, Pippin, do not treat me differently when I take the throne. I need someone to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground!”

“We’ll make sure of that!” chorused Pippin, Legolas, and Gimli. The friends laughed together, knowing that such opportunities would be all too few in the days that lay ahead.

Soon afterwards, the Host, headed by Gandalf, returned from Mordor. The Wizard greeted Aragorn with a joyous smile, but no word passed between them about Aragorn’s ordeal. Gandalf merely enquired after the Hobbits and went to greet Pippin and look at Frodo and Sam as they slept on, unaware of his presence.

The sons of Elrond rushed to greet their foster brother with looks of joyful amazement to see him back on his feet, but again no words were spoken as all judged it best that as few as possible should know of how close Middle Earth had come to losing its newly appointed king. The twins also felt guilty that they had not gone with Aragorn and the Hobbits, but Gandalf had been adamant that the Valar alone could decide their fate, making their skills more useful to those remaining with the Host.

Aragorn was still rather pale and moved stiffly, but only those who knew him well would have attributed it to anything other than fatigue. He was now in charge of the company, but Gandalf, Imrahil, and Éomer shared the burdens of State with him while he recovered.

Early the next morning, the first baggage train arrived from Minas Tirith and a small figure jumped from the leading wagon and ran towards Aragorn, who had been seated under the banner of the White Tree debating matters of state with Gandalf and Imrahil.

Both King and Wizard rose to their feet to greet him.

“It’s good to see you again!” exclaimed Merry, as the friends embraced. “But where is Pippin, and Frodo and Sam?” He looked around anxiously.

“They are recovering well,” Aragorn replied.

“What happened to them? Tell me, please!” Merry’s features were pale with anxiety.

Aragorn decided a truthful approach was best. “Frodo and Sam were exhausted, badly dehydrated and starving after their journey through Mordor,” the King replied quietly, keeping his eyes on Merry’s ashen features. “Their bodies are almost healed but not so their minds. They were so tormented by their ordeal, they could find no rest, so I sent them into a healing sleep, in which they will need to remain for several days longer yet.”

 “What about Pippin? Tell me, I beg you!” Merry pleaded, plucking at Aragorn’s sleeve in his anxiety.

Aragorn smiled reassuringly at the anxious Hobbit.“ Pippin was badly injured. Yet, his powers of recuperation amaze me! He slew a cave troll and it fell on him, crushing his ribs badly, but he is already well on the way to recovery. He has missed you, Merry; I will take you to him now.”

Aragorn excused himself to Imrahil and Gandalf, then taking Merry’s hand, led the apprehensive Hobbit to a grove of trees where Pippin was sitting propped up on a pallet.

On one side of him, lay Sam and Frodo, sleeping deeply, while on the other sat Legolas and Gimli engaged in an argument as to whether the wounded would recover faster resting in caves or under trees.

“I fear you cannot embrace him yet, as his ribs are still healing,” Aragorn warned Merry.

Pippin looked up and saw his cousin. “Merry, you’ve come!” he cried.

“Pippin, I’ve missed you so much!” Merry clasped his cousin’s hand and kissed him warmly.

“I’ve missed you too, but Strider has looked after me well,” Pippin replied.

Both cousins then burst into tears as Merry knelt at Pippin’s bedside.

Aragorn beckoned to Legolas and Gimli to leave the Hobbits to their reunion. As the King walked away, he found himself brushing away a tear of his own.

***

April 8th 3019 T.A

“We have made all the preparations for the celebration this afternoon,” Imrahil announced. “The Minstrels are awaiting your orders. Do you wish the tailors to measure the Hobbits while they still sleep?”

“A good idea,” said Gandalf. “We need to be certain the new garments will fit properly.”

“They should wear them for the celebration and not those filthy rags they wore in Mordor!” Aragorn complained.

“It is fitting that all see them as they were when they saved Middle- earth. No other garments could be noble,” the Wizard replied.

“Well, ensure that Frodo has at least soft undergarments to wear,” the King insisted. “It has taken many days of treatment with salves for his skin to heal.”

“I will stay out of sight while you awaken Frodo,” Gandalf said, changing the subject. “It might alarm him to see me as he believes I fell in Moria.”

The tailor bowed deeply and fled when Aragorn approached Frodo’s bedside.

“Why are people suddenly so afraid of me?” he asked Éomer. “I could have been transformed into a Warg from the way they treat me!”

“You have become a king,” Éomer told him ruefully, “I am learning it has its drawbacks, but no doubt we will become accustomed to it.”

“Either that, or I issue a degree forbidding anyone to run away when they see me approaching!”

Both men laughed before Aragorn became serious again as he prepared to awaken the Hobbits. “Will you fetch Merry and Pippin?” he asked Éomer “It should help Frodo to see his cousins are safe and well. It will be best to awaken Sam afterwards. I do not wish him to start worrying about Frodo the instant he wakes up.”

When Éomer had gone, Aragorn knelt by Frodo’s bedside and hesitantly placed a hand on his brow. He knew it was time for the Ring bearer to awaken. His hurts were now healed, and the bandage round his damaged hand, was now more to prevent him being shocked at the sight of the missing finger, rather than to cover an open wound. Yet, he feared he would still awaken to despair. He dreaded seeing the fear in Frodo’s eyes again.

Taking a deep breath, Aragorn lightly brushed Frodo’s eyelids with his fingertips and then took one of the small hands between his own large ones. “Frodo, awake!” he called.

Frodo slowly opened his eyes and met Aragorn’s anxious gaze. “Strider, where am I?” he asked.” What happened?”

“You are safe in Ithilien, Frodo. You and Sam achieved the Quest. The eagles rescued you, ” Aragorn smiled reassuringly at the Hobbit.

“The last thing I can remember is Sam leading me to higher ground when Mount Doom exploded.” Frodo said thoughtfully. He then became agitated.” Sam, where is Sam?”

“He is sleeping in the next bed to you. He will awaken soon.” Aragorn lifted Frodo and turned him so that he could see his friend.

“We’re alive, we made it!” Frodo clutched Aragorn’s fingers, as if to reassure himself that the other were real. “I remember now.”

Aragorn held his breath.

Frodo looked at his bandaged hand. ”Gollum bit off my finger and Sam was upset that had nothing to bind it with, then there was dust and ash everywhere. We thought we’d never see the Shire again! And how we’ve here, we’re alive and safe.” He laughed joyfully.

Aragorn heaved an inward sigh of relief. He patted Frodo on the shoulder and rose to his feet.

Merry came running across the grass and flung his arms around his cousin. Pippin followed more slowly. He had only been able to get out of bed for the first time the previous day.

“Frodo, you’re awake, I’m so happy!” The cousins’ joyful laughter rang round the field .All who heard it, rejoiced.

Aragorn left the cousins to their joyful reunion. How he wished that his young Steward  could be here today. He,too had helped to bring about Sauron's destruction by aiding the Hobbits and resisting the lure of the Ring. Faramir had been invited, but was still too frail to travel. The King knew not what the future might hold, but today was a time for celebration. His own wounds and those of the Hobbits were healing, Middle Earth was saved from Sauron’s evil, and spring had come again, the spring they never thought they would live to see. Truly, they were blessed by the Valar.

The End.

 

 
 
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