Healing the Healer


Healing the Healer

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

In loving memory

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra

Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place. – Susan Sonntag

Aragorn and Arwen lay sleeping peacefully, entwined in each other’s arms. Life was sweet. The kingdom was secure; their friends were all happy and in good health, while their beloved little son delighted them more each day.

A sudden knock on their door disturbed their peaceful slumbers.

“My lord, my lady, Prince Eldarion is unwell!” cried the voice of Eldarion’s nurse. The young prince had been moved to his own chambers recently, as his liking for awakening early had left his parents severely deprived of much needed sleep. His nursemaid slept in the same room with him. She had been given strict orders to come to the King and Queen at once, should Eldarion have need of them.

Aragorn was out of bed in an instant, pulling a robe over his nightshirt and securing the sash around his waist. He was already opening the door, while Arwen was still collecting her wits. Despite her superior Elven senses, long years as a Ranger had made Aragorn quicker to react. “What is wrong with him? Speak!” Aragorn asked somewhat sharply, opening the door to reveal the anxious nurse, clutching a miserable looking Eldarion.

“He feels hot, my lord, and is fretful. I think he has a fever!” the woman replied. ”I am sorry to disturb you, sire.”

“You acted rightly. My concern for my son caused me to speak sharply to you. I apologise.” The King managed to smile faintly at the woman. She dipped her head. Although she had worked in the King’s Household since Eldarion was born, Aragorn’s humility and good manners never ceased to amaze her.

“What ails him, Míriel? Give him to me!” Arwen had joined her husband and reached out to take her child. She cradled him lovingly in her arms.

“He slept as usual after you put him to bed, my lady,” Míriel explained. ”Then he woke up crying a few minutes ago. I picked him up and he felt hot, and did not seem his usual lively self at all.”

Eldarion promptly vomited all over his mother.

“We will care for him now,” said Aragorn. “Will you have warm water brought to our chambers, please?”

“Whatever is wrong with our son?” Arwen's composure faltered as soon as the nursemaid left the chamber. Tears welled up in her eyes.

“Let me look at him while you change your nightgown,” Aragorn suggested, taking the child from her. Eldarion was burning hot to the touch. It was all too apparent that the heir to the House of Telcontar had developed a fever. Aragorn examined him carefully, but could find no cause for it. He could only assume it was a spring chill. As soon as the water arrived, Aragorn steeped athelas in it and bathed his young son.

The royal couple spent the rest of the night trying to ease their fretful child. Aragorn’s healing skills and Arwen’s loving touch soon soothed the young child a little, but he continued feverish and listless throughout the next day, refusing to eat and crying if his parents left his side.

Aragorn cancelled his duties for the day and sent a message to Faramir in Emyn Arnen, asking him to return at once to Minas Tirith. Meanwhile, a distraught Arwen paced the chamber with their son in her arms.

“Try not to worry too much, beloved,” Aragorn advised. “All human children have fevers occasionally. Eldarion has been fortunate so far. I do not think he is seriously ill. He breathes easily and his heartbeat is strong.”

“He is so little, though, Estel; I cannot bear to see him suffering!” Arwen replied. “I would gladly be ill in his stead!”

“I know you would, as would I,” said the King. ”We can only try our best to ease him. If only I knew what was making him unwell!”

“My poor little one, he is shivering now. A moment ago he was so hot!” Arwen fretted.

“Give him to me,” said the King. ”I can keep him warm.” He loosened his shirt and tunic and placed his son under them next to his heart, where he held him until he became over hot again.

By the next morning the mystery of Eldarion’s illness was solved. Aragorn bathed his little son again and found the small body covered in large red blisters. Arwen looked aghast and burst into tears.

“We can rest easier now, my love,” Aragorn soothed her. ”I know what ails Eldarion. He has chickenpox, a common ailment in young mortal children, from which they soon recover. It is rarely serious, just itchy and unpleasant.”

Within a few days Eldarion was almost his usual lively self again. The main task of his devoted parents was to keep him from scratching and away from other children until he ceased to be infectious. Life soon returned to normal within the royal household.


Three weeks later, Aragorn awoke in the middle of the night feeling too hot. Deciding it was the spring weather, which as a Northerner, he still found difficult to accustom himself to, he threw off the blankets without disturbing Arwen, and went back to sleep. At daybreak, he arose and washed and dressed as usual. His head ached and the room seemed unbearably stuffy.

“Are you well, beloved? You have hardly touched your breakfast!” Arwen enquired anxiously.

“I am just not very hungry,” Aragorn replied, pushing the food to the side of his plate and wishing he did not feel so nauseated. ”It is just the weather. I wish it were not so warm.”

”Warm?” Arwen asked incredulously. “It is cold today, I think. Eldarion needed an extra blanket last night. Are you certain you are quite well.”

“I am late for the Council Meeting,” Aragorn said abruptly, evading her question. He hurried from the room before she could press the matter further.

Aragorn wondered if the Council Chamber had somehow miraculously moved, as the walk seemed especially long that morning. He felt exhausted by the time he arrived. He quickly sank down in his seat after opening the meeting. He struggled to concentrate on a debate whether or not trade tariffs to Harad should be increased.

Faramir, sitting beside him, looked on in concern when his lord repeatedly mopped his brow and kept closing his eyes. “Are you well, sire?” he whispered, so softly that only Aragorn could hear.

“I am well!” Aragorn bellowed angrily, making the councillors jump.

“My lord?” Faramir laid a placating hand on Aragorn’s arm. Much to his alarm he felt the flesh burning hot beneath the fabric of the King’s tunic.

Before Aragorn could react, the Steward had risen from his chair to address the Council. “The King is indisposed. The meeting is concluded for today. You are dismissed!”

“How dare you!” Aragorn demanded as soon as the others had left.

“I can see you are not well. As your Steward, it is my duty to protect my King, and more importantly, as your friend I care about your well-being,” Faramir said, unperturbed by Aragorn’s wrath. “It is no good trying to deceive me, you ought to be in bed, and I am taking you to your room now!”

Aragorn opened his mouth to argue but found he lacked the strength. He slumped dejectedly in his seat.

“Come, mellon nîn, can you walk?” Faramir said gently.

“I can if you take my arm,” Aragorn replied, conceding defeat.

Even though he leaned heavily on Faramir’s arm, it took the King twice the usual time to walk to the royal apartments. Faramir knew better than to suggest that they summon guards to carry their lord on a litter.

Arwen was alarmed to see her husband back from his meeting so soon and leaning heavily on Faramir’s arm. “You are ill, Estel!” she exclaimed, as together with Faramir, she helped him to the bedchamber. “You have a fever. I will send for a healer at once.”

“No, I forbid it!” Aragorn said sharply. “Am I not a healer trained by your own father? I know more than anyone from the Houses of Healing. I have caught a chill, nothing more. If you mix me some willow bark tea, I will soon recover.”

“I will do as you wish,” said the Queen. “I wish you would permit me to summon Master Aedred from the Houses, though. Your symptoms remind me of Eldarion’s.”

“That is impossible; he had a childhood illness!” the King retorted. “I will be well once I have rested.”

“You should see the healer,” Arwen persisted.

“He would know nothing I do not know already!” Aragorn snapped. “I tell you I just need rest, and the tea I asked you for!”

Chapter Two

Out, dammed spot! out, I say! – Macbeth – Shakespeare Act 1

“I am concerned only with your good, Estel,” Arwen said somewhat sharply.

“I know, vanimelda, but there is no cause to trouble Master Aedred,” the King said more gently. He slumped dejectedly on the bed and fumbled to unlace his boots. Tactfully, Faramir assisted him to remove them before helping him to unlace his shirt and tunic.

Unprompted, Arwen brought some warm water and bathed her husband’s sweat- soaked face and neck

Faramir then helped his lord finish disrobing and change into his nightshirt, knowing that for a proud and fiercely independent man such as the King, asking a servant to help him perform such tasks would be deeply humiliating.

Arwen mixed the willow bark tea and held the cup to her husband’s lips.

“This tastes dreadful!” Aragorn exclaimed, pulling a face. "I am not drinking it!”

“I made the potion to Ada’s exact recipe,” Arwen informed him. “You said yourself you needed this to make you well, so drink!”

“It always tastes nasty when you give it to me too,” Faramir commented. “You told me that willow bark is a naturally bitter substance.”

Aragorn said nothing for a moment then asked, ”Could you put some honey it for me please, Arwen.”

“You are acting like a child, Estel!” scolded the Queen.

“He does usually add honey to my medicines,” said Faramir diplomatically.

“But you are not the greatest healer in Gondor who understands full well that the most bitter herbs are often the most potent!” Arwen said somewhat sarcastically, giving her husband a commanding look.

Grimacing in disgust, Aragorn drained the medicine, then glared at his wife and his Steward.

“Very good, my love,” said Arwen sweetly. You should rest now.”

The King groaned, settled back on his pillows and soon fell into an uneasy sleep.

“I will take my leave, my lady,” said Faramir. ”After luncheon I will return to see how Aragorn fares. Should we not send for a healer as a precaution?”

Arwen shook her head. “Estel is correct that he knows more than any healer in Gondor,” she replied. “They could not aid him with any remedy better than those he knows himself. My father, the greatest Healer that lives, trained him. I have enough of his knowledge to know that my husband is not seriously ill. It is just so unlike him to take a chill!”

“Maybe it is because he has had many troubles and worked so hard in the past year, my lady,” Faramir replied. “He told me when the body is subjected to severe stresses, it is easy to catch minor ailments that a strong man usually avoids.”

“That is what my Adar always said of Men,” Arwen agreed. ”They are so frail compared to Elves. We never suffer from such ills as this.”

As Faramir returned to his own apartments he wondered what it must be like never to suffer the miseries of coughs and colds, sore throats and fevers, many of which had plagued his childhood and still at times laid him low. Sometimes Elves seemed to be very unfairly favoured over humans by the Creator. Yet the thought of living thousands upon thousands of years filled him with horror rather than envy. Life was all the more precious for being finite.

The Steward ordered a meal to be brought to his rooms, but had little appetite, worrying how his friend fared. He had never seen Aragorn brought low by anything like this before. As was his custom when staying in the city, Faramir penned his daily missive to Éowyn telling her how much he loved and missed her and their daughter, and what events had transpired during the day. He concluded the letter with a warning that he would be unlikely to be able to return home the next day as he had hoped.

Faramir spent most of the afternoon dealing with matters of state, a far greater workload than usual since he had to deal with the King’s duties as well as his own.

Consequently, it was early evening before he was able to return to Aragorn’s rooms. The King was still sleeping. Faramir gladly agreed to sit with him, while Arwen spent some time with her son, gave Eldarion his bedtime meal and helped the little boy’s nanny put him to bed, as was her custom.

Aragorn tossed feverishly in his bed muttering to himself. He awoke with a start when Faramir drew his chair nearer the bed. ”Faramir, thank the Valar it is you!” he exclaimed. “I dreamed your father was chasing me from the city with a broom and everyone was laughing!”

“I have strange dreams too when I feel unwell,” Faramir soothed. He took the damp cloth Arwen had left by the bed and bathed Aragorn’s face and neck with cool water. “How do you feel?” the Steward asked.

“Hot, miserable, and my head aches,” Aragorn admitted. ”Spring chills are most unpleasant.”

“They are indeed,” Faramir replied. ”Would you like anything to eat?”

”No, thank you, just a drink,” Aragorn drained the cup of water Faramir poured for him, followed by a second one. ”Will you help me into the next room, so that the servants can change the bedding?” the King then asked his friend.”

“Gladly,” said Faramir, as he helped Aragorn get out of bed. “Come, let me help you don your robe, mellon nîn, you must not become chilled.”

“Stop fussing like a mother hen!” Aragorn said grumpily, but had the sense to do as he was bidden.

An hour or so later, Aragorn was bathed, clad in a clean nightshirt and settled in fresh sheets thanks to the efforts of his wife and his Steward.

“I will take my leave now; it grows late,” said Faramir, bowing and kissing Arwen’s hand, then pressing a loving filial kiss on the King’s brow.

“No! Do not leave me,” pleaded Aragorn. “What if I need to get up? I may need a strong arm to lean upon! What if I fall? Arwen could not lift me.”

“We do have servants,” Arwen reminded him. “There are plenty of sturdy men who could aid you. Faramir looks exhausted.”

“The servants cannot see me like this or escort me to the privy!” Aragorn exclaimed. “I would be shamed!”

“Of course I will stay if you wish,” said the Steward. ”But what of your wife? She will wish to go to bed, and it would be most improper if I remained in the room!”

“You can have the bed in Estel’s dressing room,” Arwen suggested. “And fear not, no one could accuse you of unbecoming conduct! It would be impossible to sleep beside Estel while he is like this. I intend to sleep on the chair tonight, fully clothed.”

“Surely you should take the bed, my lady,” Faramir protested.

“No, Faramir, those of my kind require less rest than you do.”

“But you are the Queen and a lady!” Faramir protested.

“Why not take it in turns?” Aragorn said dryly. ”You are making my headache worse!”

King, Queen, and Steward passed an uncomfortable night made easier only by the fact that Aragorn’s fever appeared to be abating slightly. It seemed that Aragorn was right and he had only caught a chill.

The next morning Aragorn still did not feel like eating, but pronounced himself well enough to bathe himself. “I itch,” he pronounced. ”A good wash will ease me.”

“I will send for some breakfast for us both,” said Arwen once her husband had disappeared unsteadily inside the bathing chamber, accepting Faramir’s arm only as far as the door. “What would you like to eat? I think I will have bread, honey and some fruit. Maybe I can coax Estel to eat a little.”

“I will eat the same as you, my lady,” said Faramir.

Arwen had just asked one of the maids to fetch their morning meal when the bathing chamber door opened and a rare sight emerged, Aragorn tottered out, clad only in a towel. His near naked body was covered in enormous red swellings. “Send for Master Aedred!” he demanded.” Just look at me! I am covered in itching lumps!”

“I am sure you have the chickenpox,” said Arwen. ”You said it was nothing to worry about when Eldarion was marked in a similar manner!”

“I cannot have a children’s ailment!” Aragorn retorted, suddenly aware of his wife’s scrutiny and hastily donning his nightshirt. At the best of times he felt he was sadly lacking in perfection compared to the Evenstar. ”There must be some strange malady spreading through the City. Surely Master Aedred will know. Have him summoned here at once! And tell the Warden not to send anyone else, I would not have Dame Ioreth see me thus!”

“It looks like the chickenpox to me,” said Faramir.

“I did not know you were trained in healing arts!” Aragorn retorted, as Faramir helped him climb back into bed. Arwen tried to calm her husband while Faramir despatched a servant to fetch Master Aedred from the Houses of Healing

Aragorn’s itching grew steadily worse. By the time Aedred arrived, he was writhing around as if the bed were full of fleas.

Chapter Three

Physician, heal thyself - The Bible, Luke 4:23

“How may I be of service, my lord? “ Master Aedred enquired.

“It took you a long time to come!” Aragorn said grumpily.

“I was in the midst of amputating the leg of an unfortunate man who was injured when some masonry fell on him,” Aedred replied. ”Master Tarostar would have attended you, but as you specified you wished to see me rather than any available healer, I assumed the matter could not be too urgent. What ails you, my lord?”

“I am covered in itching lumps that drive me to distraction, and I have had a fever since yesterday,” Aragorn replied testily.

“Why did you not send for me yesterday then?” Aedred asked.

“Because my husband knows more about healing than any other man in Gondor, and failed to take my advice!” Arwen said sweetly.

“You are a brave man indeed, or a rash one!” said Aedred. ”I should not dare fail to follow my good lady’s wishes!” He took Aragorn’s pulse as he spoke, then felt his forehead and frowned. “I shall need to examine you thoroughly, my lord,” he said. ”If you would just unlace your nightshirt?”

The King glared at him, then gestured to a spot on his neck. “There is no need,” he said curtly.” The swellings are all like this.”

“I need to see how many there are, as well as checking your lungs are sound,” Aedred said firmly. ”Now if you please, my lord? You have nought to fear. I am a most experienced healer.”

“As am I! “ Aragorn retorted.

Arwen moved to the bedside and started to unlace her husband’s nightshirt. ”I can do that!” he protested.

“I thought it would be easier as your hands are so moist from your fever,” she replied calmly.

“I would be alone with Master Aedred!” Aragorn snapped.

Shrugging slightly and exchanging a faint smile with the healer, Arwen gestured to Faramir. Together they left the room.

Aragorn miserably and reluctantly pulled down his nightshirt, revealing the unsightly patches that disfigured his body. Secretly, he feared that this was some permanent disfigurement. Though he always disrobed in his dressing room, he hated to think of his mortal body being made even more imperfect in comparison to his beautiful, flawless wife.

“I am certain there are more now than there were but an hour ago!” Aragorn exclaimed in alarm.

“Hmm,” was Aedred’s only reply as he began to examine Aragorn’s skin.

“Argh, your hands are freezing!” Aragorn exclaimed. “Can you not warm them before touching me?”

“Usually that is only necessary with a child, or the very frail,” the healer replied placidly, pressing his ear to the King’s chest.

“Your beard is making me itch worse!” Aragorn grumbled. “ Can you not simply tell me what is wrong with me?”

“My examination will not take long if you remain quiet and still, my lord, as you well know,” said Aedred pointedly. “I assume you have spots all over your body?”

“Yes, but. I forbid you to see the others! They all look just like these.” Aragorn clutched the sheet determinedly around his waist.

”Rest easy, my lord, that will not be necessary. Hmm…”

“What do you mean, hmm?” Aragorn demanded, a hint of alarm creeping into his voice.

“I would have thought a healer of your experience would know that you had the chickenpox. You obviously have caught it from your son. I heard the young Prince suffered from it recently.”

“I cannot have such a childish ailment!” Aragorn protested. ”I am a warrior, not an infant!”

“Well, you do indeed have it,” said Aedred. “I am certain you know it can be serious in older folk, but since you are as strong as a horse and show no signs of lung fever, you have nothing to worry about. Obviously, you never had it as a child. You can replace your nightshirt now.”

“I was raised amongst Elves from the age of two,” Aragorn told him, swiftly and thankfully pulling his nightshirt back over his upper body. “When I did meet children, Elrond always ensured they were healthy. I have tended the children of my people suffering from various childhood maladies, though.”

“If they lived in airy dwellings, and you were only there a short time, you no doubt managed to avoid them. You have had much to endure recently, which weakens the body’s defences. Then you are a loving father, too. I assume you spent long hours tending your son?”

Aragorn nodded. ”Now you have told me what ails me, what can you do to cure me?” he demanded.

“Treat yourself as you treated you son. There is absolutely nothing I, nor even a healer such as yourself, can do about chickenpox, as I thought you well knew! I will call your lady back so she can hear my advice.” He went to the door and called to Arwen.

“I thought, maybe, since I last dwelled in Gondor that some manner of easing the itching might have been discovered,” said Aragorn, again writhing as if under attack from an army of fleas. ”My remedies and healing worked on my son, but they seem useless on me!”

“You hands confer special powers, my love,” said Arwen joining them at the bedside, and taking her husband’s hand. “Yet what can be done to ease my husband, Master Aedred?”

“Tepid baths and willow bark tea will reduce the fever and headaches, plenty of rest and fluids will help him too, my lady. You, my lord, can apply whatever salve you find most soothing to the sores, and above all do not scratch them! Oatmeal baths might benefit you and soothe the itching. I assure you, my lady, your husband will be fully healed in two or three weeks or so. Until then, he must be kept resting and in isolation, unless visitors have had chickenpox already. It cannot be caught twice.”

“Two or three weeks!” Aragorn protested. "I am the King, I cannot rest for two weeks!”

“Many people need three,” said the healer. “I would imagine, since the blood of Númenor runs true in your veins, that you should be better in two. You also have the good fortune in having others to care for you. Many adult victims have no one.”

“Have you no potion or salve to cure me?” Aragorn pleaded.

“I can offer nothing that you do not already have, my lord,” Aedred replied. “There is little, I fear, I can do to help, sire. Now if you will permit me, I will take my leave. I will return later to see how you fare.”

“Is there any point, since you say you can do nothing?” Aragorn said tartly.

Aedred merely gave a polite bow and left the room.

Exhausted from the encounter, Aragorn slumped back against his pillows despondently.

Arwen plumped up the pillows and smiled. ”Well, that is good news, my love!” she said.

“Good news! How can it be good news that I have chickenpox!”

“Master Aedred said you would be well again within a week or two; such tidings gladden my heart that nothing more serious ails you,” Arwen replied. “Why do you look so dismayed, Estel? You have suffered from far worse than this; hurts that have placed your life in peril.”

“They were the wounds of a warrior sustained in battle. That I should be laid low by such an undignified ailment! The shame of it! None save those closest to me must ever hear that their King was felled by a childish malady!”

“There is so shame in it,” Arwen said mildly. “The people thought no less of Eldarion; so why would they think it a disgrace for you to suffer the same malady?”

“It is not a warrior’s condition!” Aragorn said crossly.

“Very well, I will have it known abroad that you simply have a slight fever,” said Arwen, tucking the covers around her husband more snugly. “Faramir, you can return now!” she called to the Steward who was still in the next room. “I need to go to Eldarion, so I will leave him to sit with you.”

“Must you leave, vanimelda?” Aragorn pleaded.

“Our son has need of me too,” Arwen replied firmly.

Faramir hurried back into the chamber. “Does Master Aedred know what ails you?” he asked anxiously, his features tense and drawn.

“He has caught chickenpox from Eldarion,” said Arwen on her way out of the doorway.

“Praise the Valar it is nothing worse!” Faramir’s features relaxed.

A sudden thought struck Aragorn. “Have you suffered from it, mellon nîn?” he enquired.” I would not have you become ill! I would be lonely too, if I were forced to send you from my side.”

“I had it when I was a small child,” said Faramir. “I caught it from Boromir. I remember it mainly affected my feet, but poor Boromir said it made him itch in his most intimate regions.”

Aragorn’s flush was barely noticeable under the cover of his fever and the increasingly all-pervading rash.

“We did not mind having it too much, though,” the Steward continued. ”It meant we were excused lessons for three weeks to avoid infecting our tutors, which was most enjoyable. Once we were well enough, we were able to play outside in mother’s secluded garden where we were usually forbidden.”

“I cannot spend weeks playing in the garden!” Aragorn replied testily.

“You work too hard; once you feel better, you will enjoy the rest, “ Faramir said cheerfully. “I had better fetch some paperwork to deal with while I sit with you, as I have the country to run while you are indisposed.”

“I want someone to keep me company and talk to me,” Aragorn said mournfully.

“I will just ask my secretary to bring me the papers on my desk. I will still be able to talk to you while I work. Maybe you can help me with the trade negotiations I am working on”

“My head aches,” said the King without enthusiasm.

“My work can wait until later then.” Faramir wetted a cloth in the basin of water by the bedside and gently placed it on Aragorn’s brow. ”There, is that more comfortable?”

“A little,” Aragorn conceded. “I will rest now. Perhaps you would read to me?”

“What would you like me to read?” Faramir enquired. He went over to the shelf of books the King kept in his bedchamber and perused the titles. “The Lay of Lúthien?”

“I know that by heart.”

“The Tragedy of the Children of Húrin”

“That is too sad a story!”

“Tales of the Great Battles, then?”

“The thought of all that clashing steel would make my headache worse!”

“The History of the Stewards of Gondor?” Faramir was becoming desperate.

“Now that would send me to sleep,” Aragorn said dryly.

“It sounds perfect then!” Faramir picked up the book and began to read, hoping that Aragorn would soon fall into a doze. Instead, the King gave a running commentary on the deeds of the Steward’s forefathers. According to Aragorn, Mardil should never have allowed Eärnur to go and challenge the Witch-king; Cirion should not have ceded territory to Rohan permanently, while Pelendur should have awarded the crown to Arvedui; in which case Aragorn would have been able to wed Arwen in his twentieth year.

“You would never have met me at all, were that the case! You would have been in Gondor or Annuminas while I dwelled in Imladris.” said the Queen, coming back into the room unnoticed by both men. “That is your fever talking!” She placed a cool hand on his brow. “It is time you drank some more willow bark tea. I will mix it for you, and sit with you for a while. I am sure Faramir has duties to attend to.”

“I have indeed, my lady,” said Faramir, grateful for the respite. His diplomatic skills were being stretched to their limits.

“Return soon, “ said Aragorn fretfully. “I might have need of you!”

“I will, you have my word.” Faramir made good his escape before the King could command him to stay. He was hungry; his throat felt like parchment, and his own head was beginning to ache.

Much to the relief of both Queen and Steward, Aragorn slept for most of the remainder of the day, waking only to take water and tea made of medicinal herbs.

Now that Aragorn was able to get out of bed unaided, Faramir was able to retire to his own rooms for the night, but overwork and concern for the King made his sleep fitful and much troubled by dreams.

Chapter Four

But such is life, the silliest proverbs prove to be true, and when a man thinks, now it’s all right, it’s not all right by a long shot. Man proposes, God disposes, and there’s always that last straw to break the camel’s back. - Alfred Döblin (1878–1957)

The next morning when Faramir returned to his friend and lord’s rooms feeling barely refreshed, he found the Queen was laying out the chessmen on the board in the bedroom.

Aragorn's gaze brightened when he beheld Faramir. “Oh, there you are, Faramir; you have been gone a long time!” he said.

“I was just suggesting that a game of chess might amuse Estel,” Arwen explained.

“I do not want to play,” Aragorn protested. “My head aches too much, and I itch everywhere! Faramir, you could play chess with Arwen? I shall watch you both. You should be a fair match for her, though you lack my experience.”

“Very well,” Faramir conceded without a great deal of enthusiasm.

The Steward took his place at the chessboard opposite the Queen somewhat apprehensively. He was a good player, and a fairly even opponent to the King, but the idea of playing someone of Arwen’s age and experience was a trifle daunting. He was not a vain man, but hoped he could at least entertain his lord and not look foolish.

The two sat facing each other, Faramir having drawn lots to start.

“Hurry up,” said Aragorn, scratching at a blister on his face.

“Stop scratching, Estel!” Arwen chided.

Faramir began rather nervously and quickly lost two pawns.

“Be careful or you will lose your knight!” Aragorn cautioned as the Steward made to move another piece. “Watch your queen too! Move the rook into play!”

Faramir did as he was bidden and waited for Arwen to make her move.

“No, use a pawn and protect the king, “Aragorn told his wife. Humouring him, she followed his instructions and promptly lost the piece to the Steward. Faramir, eager to press his advantage, was about to bring his queen into play when Aragorn interrupted. “No, play the knight instead!” he instructed.

Faramir did so and was immediately captured by Arwen’s queen.

Now, much more alert, Aragorn was sitting up in bed watching the game intently.

Arwen moved to attack Faramir’s king. “Take the other knight with the king’s pawn!” Aragorn instructed her. “Then in two moves you will have check.”

“Am I playing this game or are you?” The usually placid Queen finally let her annoyance show.

“You are, my dear,” Aragorn said meekly. ”Now Faramir, move the rook in front of your queen!”

Faramir took a deep breath. “Why do you not play instead? You seem a little better now," the Steward suggested desperately. "We can move the game on to the bed. Alas, I have just remembered that I have a meeting with some trade representatives from Dale."

"Cannot one of your secretaries negotiate the deal in your stead with them?" Aragorn looked far from happy.

"I fear not, capable though my staff are," said Faramir, ignoring a pleading look from the Queen. "If neither King nor Steward attend the meeting, rumours will spread that you must be seriously ill."

"Very well then, but return soon," Aragorn conceded.

As soon as he left the sickroom, Faramir took a deep breath and clenched and unclenched his fists. Patience was a habit both inborn and schooled; he was a patient and mild mannered man, but he had felt like hurling the chessboard across the room. Aragorn was a wonderful healer, but a truly dreadful patient. Truth to tell, the meeting was not due to start for another two hours, but it had served as an excuse to escape the sickroom. He returned to his chambers and busied himself with the neglected paperwork of the past days.

Never before had a meeting seemed so enjoyable to the Steward. The sometimes heated negotiations over tariffs on imported crockery seemed blissfully peaceful after trying to entertain the ailing King. He only concluded the meeting after three hours had passed, and the visitors were starting to stifle their yawns.

Feeling like a schoolboy playing truant, Faramir took a short walk in the gardens before returning to the King's apartments. Arwen came out of the bedroom to meet him, her finger raised to her lips. "The Valar be praised! Estel is sleeping," she said, leading the Steward into the sitting room. "Would you sit with Estel, while I spend some time with Eldarion? I should like to get some fresh air with him before giving him his lunch."

"Of course, my lady," said Faramir, wondering when he would be able to eat his own meal. If he ordered it to be sent to the bedroom, Aragorn would most likely complain that sight of food made him nauseous.

Arwen sighed. "I shall be very glad when Estel is back on his feet," she said. "I fear grown men differ very little from small boys when they are unwell!"

"That is true, my lady," said Faramir. "Tell me, though, do Elves fare any better?"

Arwen laughed. "If anything, they are worse, but unlike Men, they do not succumb to infectious illnesses. I recall when Glorfindel was confined to bed with a severe wound my father was driven to distraction!"

Faramir went into the bedroom and settled on a chair. The King lay in the centre of the vast bed, snoring loudly.

The Steward felt his own eyelids growing heavy after his disturbed night. Faramir shook himself. It would not do to fall asleep. There was a small writing desk in the corner with quill and ink. The Steward decided he might as well prepare some notes concerning the next Council meeting. Taking up the pen, he started to write and was soon engrossed in his task.

"You woke me up! The scratching of the pen is making my head ache!" Aragorn said accusingly, raising his head from the pillow.

"I am sorry, but I do have a kingdom to run in your name while you are unwell!" Faramir retorted, unable to conceal the irritation in his voice. "I will go elsewhere if you prefer!"

"Go then!" Aragorn said crossly. "Maybe I can get some rest without either you or my wife hovering!"

Deeply hurt, Faramir gathered up the papers and left the room. Mindful though of his promise to the Queen, he went no further than the sitting room. He tried to resume his work, but could not concentrate. When Arwen returned, he would tell her to ask one of the healers to assist her in looking after her husband. He would leave the ungrateful Aragorn to his own devices.


The Steward was tempted to ignore the call from the next room. Aragorn had everything he needed at hand and could get out of bed if necessary.

"Faramir! Are you there, mellon nîn? Do not leave me!" Aragorn's voice was pleading. Faramir wavered. A loud crash, followed by a cry, came from the bedroom. Faramir immediately ran back inside. At the doorway, his eyes swept the room, noting a glass lay shattered on the floor.

"I am sorry, mellon nîn. The glass fell when I reached for it. I seem to be causing a good deal of trouble," Aragorn said miserably. His face was now almost completely covered with livid red spots, and he looked on the verge of tears. Faramir felt a sudden surge of compassion for him. It could not be easy for a man like Aragorn Elessar, who had spent most of his life fighting the forces of the Dark Lord to be brought low by a common condition most usually suffered by small children! Nor could it be pleasant for a great healer to be unable to heal himself. Faramir then recalled the times he had been ill and Aragorn had patiently cared for him. He had not been the easiest of invalids to deal with either. Faramir inwardly chided himself for judging a sick man too harshly.

"It is nothing, just a broken glass," said Faramir, making to pick up the pieces.

"I am sorry too for what I said earlier," said Aragorn. "I did not mean my harsh words. I am truly blessed that you and Arwen are willing to stay by my side. It is just so frustrating to be confined thus to bed!"

"I know," said Faramir understandingly, placing a comforting arm around Aragorn's shoulders. "This will pass soon. I should not have lost my temper either. Let me get you some more water. Do you wish for anything to eat?"

"I am not hungry, though I suppose I should try to eat. I would imagine you must be ravenous, given the lateness of the hour," Aragorn replied, squeezing Faramir's hand gratefully with his own spot-covered one.

When the Queen returned she found Faramir devouring a large plate of stew, while Aragorn sipped a mug of tea, and nibbled at a poached egg on toast. If the Queen were surprised at Aragorn's sudden improvement in temper, she did not say.


The days passed slowly, but with each sunrise Aragorn's spots faded and his strength slowly returned. Arwen stayed beside her husband, often with Eldarion, when the little boy could be persuaded to play quietly with his toys. Every moment that he could be spared from his duties, Faramir spent with his lord, telling him how the day's business had gone and asking his opinions.

At last the day arrived when Aragorn's blisters had all healed over.

"You are no longer infectious, sire," pronounced Master Aedred, knowing full well he was not telling the King anything Aragorn did not already know. “You may resume your duties so long as you do not overtax yourself."

"I may have had chickenpox, but I was still King of Gondor these past days,” said Aragorn dryly. "Thank you, Master Aedred. I hope we shall not meet again under these circumstances! I prefer to work beside you."

"Indeed, my lord," said the healer. ”So do I.”

"We healers have by far the easier task," said Aragorn thoughtfully, examining the hands on which the spots were almost faded "Being a patient is far harder.”

The End

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