The Sword in the Tree

Tree and Flower Awards, Work in Progress, Third Place
2013 Tree and Flower Awards Nominee

  The Sword in the Tree


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


With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra


Aragorn shifted uneasily in his chair, and sighed so heavily that he dislodged several documents from the pile in front of him. Faramir, who was sitting opposite, picked up the parchments, and gave his King a sympathetic glance, before turning his attention back to his own stack of official documents. Working together made the tasks easier and the time pass more pleasantly, but the two former Rangers still found it hard to be confined indoors on such a sunny autumn day. "Why must there be twenty different laws on grain tariffs?" Aragorn groaned, stretching out his long legs and trying to get more comfortable. 

"The amount of laws concerning grain date back to Mardil's time when there was a poor harvest and rationing was being considered," Faramir explained placidly. "You could always simplify them."

 " I will," the King replied grimly. "I shall…" A knock on the door interrupted him. "Enter!" he called. 

A somewhat out of breath young lieutenant, Menedil, entered the room, clutching a sealed parchment. "I beg pardon for disturbing you, my lords," he said." I have here an urgent message from the King of Rohan, which has just been delivered by one of his Riders."

Aragorn smiled at the lad as he took the message from him. The young soldier gave a quick bow before saluting and taking his leave. 

"I hope all is well with my cousin." Faramir looked on anxiously as Aragorn opened the seal. "I do wish her father could be with her, as he planned, while she prepares to give birth."

 " It was most unfortunate he tripped over that wooden horse and broke his ankle at Eldarion's official first birthday celebration," Aragorn remarked. "Never did I imagine seeing your dignified Uncle sprawled across the nursery floor!" 

"Poor Uncle, to think he rode through the Ring War unscathed, only to fall victim to a toy pony!" said Faramir. "I hope the accident will not leave him lamed. And he is justly famed as a fine horseman!" 

"It was a clean break, which I set myself, so within a few weeks it should be completely healed," Aragorn reassured his friend. "Imrahil just needs to rest it." He turned his attention to the letter and read silently for a few moments. 

"Is everything well?" Faramir interrupted, no longer able contain his concern. 

Aragorn finally stopped reading and placed the letter on the table. "All seems to be going as it should, or so the midwives tell Éomer. However, he wishes me to be there for the birth of his heir, saying he would be greatly pleased to have his friend and brother at his side, together with Éowyn. I have no idea why he has requested my presence. I know little of childbirth and Lothíriel has the support of a Gondorian midwife, as well as Alis, who was her maid from before her marriage. Remember, Éomer took her to join Lothíriel, when he returned home last spring? She is hardly alone, while Éomer is surrounded by his friends and advisers." 

"I expect Éomer recalls how you saved Elestelle's life when she was born," Faramir said thoughtfully. "Every man needs a friend and brother at his side when his wife is giving birth, be they king or peasant. I fear Éowyn cannot travel. Has Éomer forgotten that Elestelle is not yet fully weaned? She is much troubled by her teething too and needs her mother." 

Just then, Arwen entered the room, accompanied by Eldarion who was just learning to walk. The toddler clung to his mother's gown for support as well as holding tightly to her hand. 

"Ada!" Eldarion gurgled happily.

 Aragorn hastened to scoop his son up in his arms when the child made a dive for a stack of papers on the floor. 

"Watch out for the ink!" Faramir cautioned. "You should keep your study more tidy while your son is into everything!" 

"As your daughter will be very soon!" Aragorn retorted.

 Faramir simply looked smug; for he was far more inclined to neatness than his lord and certain, he would never leave papers on the floor. 

"It will not be long before she can reach your desk." It was Aragorn's turn now to look smug. 

"I heard there was news from Rohan and wondered how Éomer and Lothíriel fared," Arwen said, interrupting the two men, whom she knew could exchange banter for hours if left undisturbed. "Also to remind you, Estel, that you promised to eat the midday meal with me and Eldarion. I came myself, as unlike a servant, you cannot fob me off with excuses!" 

" I need some papers in my study, if you would excuse me, Aragorn, my lady?" Faramir said, tactfully leaving the royal couple alone. 

"I will see you after luncheon, mellon nîn," Aragorn replied, smiling at his ever-considerate Steward. 

"What news of Éomer?" the Queen asked, as soon as Faramir closed the door. 

"He and Lothíriel are well, however Éomer wants me to be there to support him when his heir is born," Aragorn told her. He invited Éowyn too, but Faramir says Elestelle cannot be left."

 "And so you should, Estel. Éomer supported you when you had need of a friend," said Arwen, hastily putting Aragorn's quill out of Eldarion's reach. "Why do you look so gloomy? You would enjoy visiting Rohan." 

" I would very much like to see Éomer," Aragorn admitted, "I hate to leave you again so soon, though, vanimelda." 

"We will spend all winter together when I know full well you will complain that the walls feel like a prison to you, my wild Ranger!" said Arwen. "As Éomer's friend, and King of Gondor and Arnor it is your duty to go, Estel. Also, it will do you good, you have been so much better of late, and I would ensure that your cure is complete! Take Faramir with you in Éowyn's place, he is after all, cousin to Lothíriel. He will bear you company on the journey. The land is at peace and Imrahil and I will keep watch over it until you return. The Prince's ankle may be broken but there is nothing wrong with his wits!" 

"I should cherish Faramir's company," Aragorn said rather wistfully, "But what of Lothíriel's brothers? Should not one of them go in Faramir's stead?" 

Arwen gave the closest approximation of a snort that a daughter of Elrond would permit. "I think not; Elphir is needed to govern in his father's stead;Amrothos' wife is herself expecting a child any day, while Erchirion has only to be in the same room as Lothíriel and they quarrel. Lothíriel and Faramir are far more kindred in spirit. She needs those around her she finds soothing so near to her delivery."

Aragorn shook his head in bewilderment, giving Eldarion an opportunity to snatch at his hair. "No, ion nîn!" he said firmly. "Ada's hair is not a plaything! How do you know all this, Arwen? I thought Amrothos' child was not due yet for months and that Lothíriel liked Erchirion?" 

"It as well men do not bear children, or you would forget when it was time to give birth!" Arwen teased. "Believe me; women notice the tensions within a family. Erchirion loves his sister, but he treats her like a child, though there are but four years between them, which annoys her greatly. Lothíriel will prefer to see Faramir by far! Éowyn and Elestelle can stay with me while Faramir is away. You should be back in good time for Elestelle's birthday celebrations." 

Aragorn handed Eldarion back to his wife, disentangling another handful of hair from the toddler's fingers as he did so." I am truly blessed to have a wife like you!" he said kissing her tenderly. "If we take only a small contingent with us, the journey to Rohan should take but a few days. There is no need to make a state visit." 

"That is a wise plan," said Arwen, taking his arm with her free hand. "Now let us eat." 


 "How would you like to pay a visit to Éomer and Lothíriel?" Aragorn asked his Steward once they were back in his office following the midday meal. "Arwen thinks you would more suitably represent Lothíriel's family than Erchirion, the only one of her brothers free to travel at present. Apart from that, I would value your company, mellon nîn. The Queen can rule here in my stead with Imrahil." 

"I should love to come." Faramir beamed. "I only wish Éowyn could accompany us, but I do understand that our daughter cannot be left."

 "We will manage a longer visit of state in the future," said Aragorn. "When we travel slowly with wagons, our ladies and children can come with us." He grinned. "It seems we are getting another chance to escape the City, sooner than we thought!" 

"You must take Guards this time, though," Faramir cautioned. "It is too dangerous for you to go to Rohan without proper protection. Dunlendings still prey on unwary travellers." 

"I am hardly a helpless maiden accompanied by a mere boy unversed in arms!" Aragorn grumbled. "We are two of the most hardened warriors alive!" 

"I will not risk having you captured or injured again," Faramir said firmly. "We are taking at least twenty men each. I will have some of my White Company captained by Beregond, while you should bring a hand-picked selection of the Tower Guard." 

"Very well, mother hen!" Aragorn conceded reluctantly, albeit touched by his Steward's protectiveness. "You had better pack, for we leave tomorrow at first light. Remember we are travelling light." 


 "I wish Éomer had told me sooner that he wished me to visit him," Aragorn fretted. He sat in the nursery, dandling Eldarion on his knee. 

Arwen watched father and son happily from her seat by the window. "He is as most men," the Queen said sagely, though with a hint of mischief in her eyes. 

"What do you mean?" Aragorn swooped to catch his son who had slid from his grasp and almost collided with a cupboard. The little boy toddled round swiftly, albeit unsteadily.

 "Men enjoy getting their wives with child; boast they are to become fathers as a swelling belly proves their virility, but when the time of delivery draws near, it strikes them all of a sudden that childbirth is a perilous thing!" 

"My love, I never thought of your pregnancy in so churlish a way!" Aragorn protested. 

"I said most men, "Arwen replied. " You are my Estel! I decided not to tell you when I chose to conceive a child for fear you would be too worried about my safety." 

"I feared for you from the first moment you told me, even though I badly wanted to be a father," Aragorn admitted. "Still, I hope you will tell me if you would like Eldarion to have a brother or sister. I should like to know when we were creating new life to partake in the awe of it!" 

"I will, if you promise not to fret about me," answered Arwen, coming to join her husband and son on the couch. 

"How could I not worry about you, beloved?" said Aragorn. "You endure all the pain and hardship while I enjoy all the pleasure!" 

"It was worth it all from the moment I saw you, my precious child," Arwen replied, ruffling Eldarion's dark hair as he wriggled in his father's arms. "As soon as he is fully weaned, I want a sister or brother for him. A love such as ours should be fruitful! I am so happy that Éomer and Lothíriel will soon know the joy of children for themselves, though no babe on earth could be as beautiful as ours! I foresee a fine son for them."

 " I think the child will be a girl," said Aragorn. 

"I am certain he will be a boy," Arwen replied. "You have already proved to Éomer you can father a fine son, so there is no need to be engaged in a competition with him!" 

Aragorn had the grace to look slightly sheepish. He allowed Eldarion down on the rug, where the little boybegan to play with the horse that had led to Imrahil's mishap. "I was thinking of Faramir," he said. "It might distress him if he were the only one without a son." 

"Men!" Arwen exclaimed in mock despair. "Faramir adores Elestelle, as you well know. It is Éowyn who yearns for a boy, Faramir is well content with his daughter." 

"I should like a daughter too," mused Aragorn. "A beautiful little girl, just like her mother!" 

"I want her to look like her father!" Arwen playfully contradicted. She went to a cupboard at the far side of the room and started pulling out armfuls of baby clothes. 

"What are you doing?" her husband enquired. 

"Looking out some clothes for the new baby," Arwen replied. "We have far too many. You can take some of these gowns for him." 

"I thought you had already embroidered a shawl for her", Aragorn teased. 

"I have but you can never have too many gowns," She thrust a pile of baby clothes into his arms. "I told the nurse to sort out all those that we never used together with two dozen new napkins." Arwen added them to the pile of clothing already in Aragorn's arms, with the result he was unable to see over the top of the mountain of baby clothes. 

"There is no need, vanimelda!" Aragorn protested, diving to stop his son being smothered in a heap of falling napkins. "They have baby clothes aplenty in Rohan. Then Éomer's loyal subjects will want to bring gifts for his heir." 

"I thought you spent years in Rohan. Have you forgotten?" Arwen queried. 

"Forgotten what?"

 "That they consider it unlucky to give gifts to an unborn child lest anything should go wrong, or even for the parents to hoard more than a few basic items," Arwen told him a trifle smugly. 

"I had forgotten; but remember, I was a soldier not a nursemaid!" Aragorn defended himself. 

"You are forgiven. I will call for a servant to pack them before you drop anything else!" the Queen replied. 

"We mean to travel light," Aragorn groaned. Alas, his protests were doomed to be in vain!

Beat all your feathers as flat down as pancakes. - Thomas Middleton (1580–1627) - The Roaring Girl. Act i. Sc. 1...

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

With grateful thanks to Raksha

Éomer watched anxiously as Lothíriel waddled to the couch. She rubbed her back and grimaced. "Are you well, my love?" he enquired. "Shall I send for a healer or the midwives?"

She smiled at him reassuringly. "It is nothing, just another twinge in my back like I have been getting for some weeks now."

When Lothíriel sat down, Éomer fussed around her, putting a cushion at her back and a shawl around her shoulders. How he had grown to love this gentle lady who had become his Queen! Never had he expected that he would find true love in his marriage.

As a young man, Éomer's heart had quickened at the sight of the many lovely women at his uncle's court, but there had been no time for romance. He had been far too concerned with fighting the bands of Orcs that threatened their lands as well as thwarting the Worm who wanted to ravage his sister.

Once the War was over and he became King, he knew that he needed an heir and started to look for a suitable wife, seeking the same qualities that he would in a horse: a woman who moved well, had good teeth, and was fair to look upon.

He assumed he would choose from amongst the womenfolk of his Marshalls or Captains. Many of them had daughters or sisters with good childbearing hips. There was a problem, though. Once he chose one, the others would most likely be gravely offended, or so Éowyn warned him!

Then at the feast Aragorn held to welcome him back to Minas Tirith after the war, he had been seated next to a quiet dark haired beauty. He soon learned that she was Lothíriel, daughter of Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth and cousin to his sister's then bridegroom to be, Faramir.

He had danced with the lady and made polite conversation. He then forgot all about her, until a letter arrived from Imrahil suggesting her as a suitable match. It seemed a good idea; he needed a wife, was not in love with any other lady, and the alliance would further strengthen the ties between himself and Gondor. After consulting with Aragorn and being assured that the lady herself had no objections, the arrangements for the marriage went ahead much to the sorrow of every unmarried lady in the Riddermark.

The day of ceremony, however, he had started to have reservations. The maiden from Dol Amroth looked so fragile and slender compared to his own countrywomen. She seemed as highly strung as a nervous filly facing her first mating. Matters had gone from bad to worse when the conversation had turned to night attire and Imrahil had asked whether he preferred linen or silk nightshirts. Éomer had replied, "neither", as he preferred to sleep in his skin when it was warm enough.

The Prince had been deeply shocked and warned his gently reared brought up daughter would be horrified should her bridegroom dispense with night attire. Éomer was forced to borrow such a garment from a highly amused Aragorn. His friend told him that wearing such was indeed the custom of Gondor. Still, the marriage contract was signed and Éomer had no wish to offend his powerful allies from the South. He was duly hand fasted to his nervous bride. The borrowed nightshirt had its uses as Lothíriel laughed when her bridegroom tripped in the overlong garment when he approached the bridal bed. He had laughed with her and rejoiced she seemed more at ease with him.

Éomer had tried hard to be a gentle and considerate husband and found his bride pleasant and dutiful during the first weeks of their marriage. Soon afterwards, though, he had received Éowyn's ill- fated letter and rushed off to Gondor, leaving Lothíriel and his Marshals in charge of his realm during the cursed fight and weeks of convalescence in Minas Tirith that had followed.

Éomer had feared two things more above all others during that time of enforced idleness: that he would not be able to ever ride again and, worse still, that he would not be able to sire an heir to the Mark. Then, as the weeks had passed, Éomer had realised he missed Lothíriel more and more. He had thought long of her gentle voice, her shy smile, her dignity and her grace.

When he had finally been returned home, she had run to meet him; her lovely eyes alight with joy. After that, their union had been enjoyable and enthusiastic rather than merely dutiful and not long afterwards Lothíriel had announced that the longed for heir was on the way.

Éomer soon realised, though, that he was terrified of losing her and her presence beside him meant far more than a son, however much desired.

He had written to his sister for advice. Éowyn had replied promptly, expressing regret that she could not leave Faramir while his spirits were so low following his then estrangement from Aragorn. Éowyn had suggested that Lothíriel needed experienced and trusted women surrounding her. She had recommended Dame Ivorwen, a skilled midwife from the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith. Old Hild, who had helped deliver him and Éowyn in Aldburg when she was but a young lass, would assist her.

Éomer had also brought Alis, Lothíriel's maid from before her marriage back with him when he had last visited Gondor, hoping it would help Lothíriel to have a familiar face at her side.

Still, Éomer fretted. Finally, he had penned a missive to Aragorn begging him to come. He trusted his brother King above all others and felt with him nearby, surely all would be well. He had been a fool not to write to him weeks ago, but had never guessed he would feel the way he did as the time for the birth drew closer. He wanted everything to be just right for Lothíriel when she gave him his heir.


"I have put you together in one of the guest chambers," said Éomer, drawing the two friends aside when it grew late. "I thought you would prefer to be away from the men in case you are still troubled by nightmares."

"Thank you, that is very thoughtful," said Aragorn, though he felt it would have been unlikely that either he or Faramir would be troubled in the large, well-lit hall. Still, he valued his privacy, as did his Steward.

"Lothíriel is tired, so we will leave you now," said Éomer, "I bid you good night, my brothers." Thus saying, he embraced Aragorn and Faramir in the Rohirric fashion by clasping their forearms. Lothíriel kissed her cousin on the brow and clasped Aragorn's hand before retiring to bed with her husband.

"Come, my lords, I will show you to your chamber," said a serving maid. She led the two men to a small chamber leading off from the great hall. Several candles illuminated the room, which was dominated by a bed, decorated with elaborate carvings of horses. There was also a washstand, on which stood two bowls of steaming water, and a chest, on top of which lay Aragorn and Faramir's packs. There was a large fireplace, but no fire was laid in the hearth.

"We don't usually light bedchamber fires until November; save in the Queen's bower," the girl explained," Éomer King said you were to tell me if you wanted one."

Aragorn and Faramir looked at each other. Both shook their heads, neither wishing to appear less hardy than their hosts.

The girl bobbed a curtsey and took her leave.

Aragorn and Faramir began to prepare for bed, rummaging in their packs for their night attire.

"Lothíriel looks sad," said Faramir, splashing water on his face.

"I expect she misses her family and is nervous about the birth," said Aragorn. "I only wish we could have brought our wives to visit her. I believe ladies need each other at such a time. Like Arwen and your lady, she suffers from having no close kinswoman at her side."

"Motherhood should make her contented," Faramir mused. "Éowyn is never happier than when she is with Elestelle." He dried his face and walked over to the bed, where he had placed his nightshirt and began to undress. "It is so cold in here!" Faramir exclaimed, as the air touched his skin. "I am used to it when camping out, but after the warmth of the great hall, it comes as something of a shock!"

"Sleep in your clothes then," Aragorn suggested. "I shall and I am hardier than you. Rohan is chilly in October. Just look at you, you are already covered in goose bumps; put your shirt back on before you catch a chill!"

"That is not fair!" Faramir protested though he hastily re-donned his recently discarded clothing. "You are more than twice my age, yet you never seem to feel the cold!"

"That is because I am a hardy northerner, not a soft southerner like you," Aragorn said smugly.

Faramir's only reply was to throw a pillow at him.

Aragorn caught it then laughingly threw it back, thinking absurd though a pillow fight was for two men of their age and status, their exertions would soon warm his Steward up. He still fretted over Faramir's health after the Steward's recent misadventure with one of Shelob's kin.

Faramir ducked nimbly, only for the pillow to catch the corner of the washstand and burst, showering them both in a cloud of goose feathers.

"We had better send for the serving maid," Aragorn said ruefully. "We can ask for a fire at the same time."

"Éomer will never let us hear the last of it if he gets to hear about it," Faramir groaned. "How the servants will laugh. They will think us both soft and childish!"

"Well, we can try clearing them up if you prefer," Aragorn replied. When Faramir nodded his agreement, he picked up the younger man's nightshirt, tied up the sleeves and neck, and started to stuff it with the feathers. Faramir helped him crawling round on his hands and knees and scooping up handfuls of feathers. They got up his nose and he started to sneeze, sending them flying again.

"I have never seen so many feathers in one pillow." Faramir finally managed to speak between sneezes.

"Rohan is famous for its goose quilts and pillows," Aragorn explained. "Éomer sent some to Arwen and I for a wedding gift. I can still remember how much we laughed we got into bed and sank into all the feathers." Faramir was sneezing again too much to comment. "Let me do that, or your sneezing will rouse the household! It would not surprise me if our wives can hear it in Minas Tirith!"

"They probably hear your snoring too in a few minutes!" Faramir retorted, blowing his nose.

"If any of the silver trumpets break, we could always ask you to blow your nose instead!" Aragorn teased, pushing great handfuls of feathers into the nightshirt.

"Why you…" Faramir sputtered. He sat on the bed and started to take off his boots, his expression suggesting that he might be thinking of throwing one at his lord.

"Peace, ion nîn, I was but jesting," Aragorn soothed. "That will have to do." He climbed into bed and pulled the covers round himself.

"You still have your boots on. Whatever will Arwen say if she finds out?" Faramir chided.

"I wager you will be wearing yours in a few minutes too," Aragorn said enigmatically.

"Whatever for?" Faramir asked, climbing into bed. "I want to sleep, not go for a walk." He stretched out his long legs only to find that his feet extended several inches over the edge.

"The Rohirrim are shorter than we are," said Aragorn. "So why would they need long beds? I remember it well from my time here serving King Thengel, but I never said anything, as why should a special bed need to be made just for me? The answer to the problem is simply to sleep in your boots."

Sighing, Faramir climbed out of bed again and pulled on his boots again. "Next time, Éomer needs some company, Éowyn can come here instead!" he grumbled. "I wish we could stay with our guards in the main hall." he sighed, thinking enviously of the warm fire they were all huddled around.

"So do I, but it would insult Éomer if we appeared less than pleased with the room he has given us. But where, save in Rohan, could you experience such fine mead and such nice feather quilts?" Aragorn replied.

"Or be so cold!" Faramir retorted.

"I am warm now under all these feathers," Aragorn replied with a yawn. "Just pretend we are camping out of doors."

"You are always warm," Faramir replied. " I wonder how Éowyn survived here; she always has cold feet. Even in summer in Minas Tirith."

"Bed socks," Aragorn mumbled, already half- asleep. "Everyone wears them here."

Faramir was about to enquire how Aragorn was so certain but the King was already snoring loudly. Sighing, the Steward decided that he could at least try to get warm before waking him. He settled down beside the one who had become both father and brother to him, burying his ears in the thick goose down pillows, and deciding they had their uses after all. Unfortunately, Aragorn's snoring was very loud and his nose was still tingling from his earlier sneezing. The sensation grew worse and the Steward gave a loud sneeze followed by another and another.

"Your sneezing is keeping me awake!" grumbled a suddenly wide- awake Aragorn.

"So is your snoring!" Faramir retorted. "It is a marvel that your lady is not deafened by it!"

"Remember, if were sleeping in the Hall, you would have to contend with a good many snoring Rohirrim. Arwen never complains about my snoring," Aragorn informed him. "Neither does she sneeze!"

"What never?" Faramir found this somewhat hard to believe.

"Well hardly ever," Aragorn conceded. "You have feathers in your hair. Maybe they are making you sneeze."

"Where?" Faramir enquired, sitting up abruptly.

"Let me get them or you will only sneeze again," Aragorn said in his most fatherly manner, retrieving the offending objects swiftly and stuffing them in his pocket. "Try to sleep now. The Rohirrim rise at dawn, so we must take our rest while we may. "

"I know, Éowyn is always up with the lark even after three years of marriage," said Faramir thinking it would be pleasant if she lingered at his side after dawn. The bed always felt so cold and empty without her. He lay back against the pillows again and this time, exhausted by both the sneezing and the journey, fell asleep. If Aragorn snored again that night, Faramir was oblivious to the cacophony.

Chapter Three - To allot to every man his due.

Justice is the constant and perpetual will to allot to every man his due.

Domitus Ulpian (100 AD - 228 AD)

A loud knock awakened the sleepers just before dawn.

“Come in!” Aragorn called sleepily.

The young serving maid who had shown them to their room the night before entered, followed by a lad carrying a basket of firewood. “Your pardon my lords, but Éomer King said that you must have a fire,” she said, her pleasant face flushed with embarrassment. “Éomer King was most annoyed when he found out I hadn’t made one up for you.”

“Do not worry, you are here now,” the King said soothingly. He then pretended to fall asleep again. The pretence last only moments before he did indeed fall into a light slumber. He woke up again and beheld the fire burning merrily in the grate. He threw aside his share of the quilt, pulled off his outer tunic and kicked off his boots, which woke Faramir,

“It’s hot,” Faramir murmured sleepily without opening his eyes. “I hope I am not developing a fever.”

“They have lit a fire for us,” said Aragorn. “I am warm too. Just take off your tunic and throw the quilt aside.”

Faramir yawned. He threw off the quilt, and then promptly fell asleep again before he could shed his tunic.

When it was time for the two friends to rise, the room was pleasantly warm enough for them to wash and change into fresh clothing before breakfast.

“What shall we do about the feathers?” asked Faramir, eying his stuffed nightshirt doubtfully.

“Just leave them,” Aragorn advised. “The servants no doubt will think it is some strange custom of Gondor.

“They will think us like children who need stuffed toys to comfort them while they sleep!” Faramir fretted.

“No matter,” said Aragorn. “No doubt speculating why two warriors stuff a nightshirt with feathers will entertain the kitchen maids for many a dreary winter’s night!”

Breakfast was served in a small chamber, which had become Lothíriel’s solar since her marriage. The King and Queen of Rohan greeted their guests warmly with enquiries about how they had slept to which Aragorn and Faramir informed them that they had spent a comfortable night and were well pleased with the chamber they had been allocated.

During the meal, Aragorn often found his gaze straying to Lothíriel. He regarded her with a keen healer’s eye. She looked tired, but that was usual for a woman about to give birth. There was something in her eyes, though, that troubled Aragorn, a sad haunted look, which with a slight shudder, he realised reminded him of Finduilas. The two women, aunt and niece, were so alike they could have been sisters; both were tall and slender, with dark hair and blue-grey eyes. But why should Lothíriel appear so sad? Éomer obviously doted on her and she on him. No shadow from the East threatened Lothiriel as it had Finduilas. Éomer’s letters had been filled with accounts of how his people had taken her to their hearts and how well she fulfilled her part as queen. Perhaps she feared the impending birth, or was worried she might disappoint Éomer if she bore him a daughter instead of the son he longed for. That was the most likely explanation. Aragorn wished though, that she did not remind him so much of Finduilas.

After breakfast was over, Lothíriel excused herself saying that she expected a visit from her midwives that morning. Éomer had important duties and was not at liberty to entertain his guests. He invited Aragorn and Faramir to witness his weekly audience with his people.

“I would take you to see my herds, my friends,” he said apologetically. “Folk often come great distances to see me, though, and I cannot let them down.”

“Of course your duties must come first,” Aragorn reassured him. “Faramir and I will be interested to see how you settle disputes in the Mark.”

Éomer took his place on the great gilded chair in the Golden Hall. Beside him sat Aragorn and Faramir.

The Hall was crowded with people all of whom desired to speak to their king. Many folk had brought some of their harvest produce as a gift for their king and queen. One old woman had brought a charm that she requested be hung over Lothíriel ‘s bed to aid her delivery , while other women had brought  enough raspberry tea to supply the needs of a dozen pregnant ladies! Éomer received all the gifts with a word of thanks and a warm smile.

Then those seeking justice had their say. Most of the complaints followed a similar pattern, a dispute with a neighbour over land, a stolen horse, or a plea to be excused paying the grain levy after a bad harvest.

Éomer listened patiently to all the grievances and dealt with them as fairly as he could. Aragorn was impressed by his brother king’s wise judgement, as well as his patience in dealing with the most trivial and tedious of problems.

Only once, did Éomer look across to Aragorn, after two men had argued before him over the ownership of a horse for the best part of an hour, neither willing to concede an inch.

Éomer first looked baffled at the whispered words of counsel and then he suddenly smiled. He stood up and said loudly.” I would see this horse.

“It is outside, my lord,” said one of the men, who had told them his name was Carl.

“He stole it!” protested the other claimant, a man called Aelfred,

Éomer left his throne and went outside, followed by the two claimants and his guests.

“Bring the horse here!” Éomer ordered sternly.

Carl untethered a fine looking chestnut and brought it before the King. One of Éomer’s grooms held the filly’s reins.

“I desire you both to walk 50 paces away in opposite directions,” Éomer told the two men. “When you have done so, you must both call the horse when I command you to.”

Looking somewhat bewildered, the two did as they were bidden. Aragorn whispered something to Faramir and both men smiled.

“Call her now!” Éomer commanded.

“ Firemane, come hither!” shouted Carl.

“Sunset, come to me!” called Aelfred.

Éomer nodded to his groom to release the horse, which cantered eagerly towards Aelfred and nuzzled him happily.

“The horse is yours, Aelfred Ericsson,” Éomer pronounced. “As for you Carl Aeredsson, you will repay the value of the stolen horse and give Aelfred a foal from your herds in compensation.”

“He must have had an apple for her!” grumbled Carl.

“I had my hands held wide and they were empty,” said Aelfred, still joyfully stroking his filly’s velvety nose.

Relieved the dispute was finally settled, Éomer returned to his throne where about a dozen petitioners were still waiting to be heard.

The next dispute was a long involved argument about sacks of flour a miller owed to a neighbour in exchange for grazing land for his mule. Aragorn felt his eyelids growing heavy. He leaned back in the comfortable chair provided and his head started to droop forwards. Faramir nudged him sharply in the ribs.

“Eh what?” Aragorn exclaimed in a loud whisper.

“You would have cleared the Hall with your snoring in ere long had I not roused you!” Faramir told him a low voice that no other could hear.

“Would that be such a bad thing?” Aragorn groaned as the two neighbours changed the drift of their argument, one claiming he had given his neighbour an especially large sack to repay his debt, the other countering that it had been full of holes so that little flour was contained in it.

From Éomer’s expression, it was clear that he was sorely tempted to knock the disputants’ heads together, but he remained admirably calm and diplomatic.

Aragorn wished fervently that he could sleep through the tedious argument, though he knew full well Faramir was right not to allow him to inadvertently insult his friend. In Gondor and Arnor, each subject had a right to appeal to the King, but most petty grievances were dealt with by village elders. Especially in Gondor, the people were far more in awe of their rulers and feared to come before them, an attitude encouraged by Denethor and many of his predecessors. Aragorn’s thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the entrance of a man who staggered through the doors and unsteadily made his way towards the dais.

“Leofric Leifersson!” The door warden announced belatedly.

The new comer looked as if he had been in a fight as his face was bruised and bloodied.

“What business do you have with your king, Leofric?” Éomer demanded

 Before the man could answer, he fell senseless to the ground.

“Clear the hall!” Éomer ordered.” My audience for today is over. As for you two,” he added to the pair arguing over flour, “I advise you to buy new flour sacks and have another neighbour fill them for you.”

“My sacks are perfectly good!” grumbled the miller.

“Not another word from either of you!” snapped Éomer. “My decision stands.”

The two neighbours slunk away still arguing.

“Shall I fetch a healer, my lord?” a serving maid enquired.

“Do not trouble yourself, I am trained in the healing arts,” said Aragorn eager to do something useful after the morning’s tedium. “Fetch me a bowl of hot water and some clean bandages.”

“We will put him in a guest chamber once the guards have moved him,” Éomer added.

“Yes, my lords.” The girl hurried away, entirely unperturbed that the visiting High King desired to tend the injured man himself. Aragorn thought wryly about the servants in Gondor who always looked likely to swoon that he would so lower himself.

Two burly guards, members of Éomer’s personal éored carefully carried the unconscious man into a chamber that led off to the side of the Hall and laid him on the bed there. The serving maid soon reappeared with the hot water and bandages. Éomer then bade her take a message to Lothiriel, to tell her they would be a little late for the midday meal.


Aragorn washed his hands and started to clean away the blood from Leofric’s face and to examine his head. “He has a black eye and a badly cut lip,” he pronounced, “I feared he might have serious head injuries but it seems he only suffered a light blow. Help me remove his tunic now, Faramir.”

As Faramir eased the man into a sitting position, Leofric groaned and opened his eyes.

“Where am I?” he murmured.

“You are in the Golden Hall in the presence of your king,” Éomer informed him.” Now lie still while my friend tends your wounds.”

A groan was Leofric’s only reply.

Once the tunic was removed, it did not take a skilled healer to judge that Leofric had been in a fight. Most of his upper body was black and blue, his ribs covered in angry bruises. He groaned again as Aragorn gently felt them.

“You have badly bruised ribs, and at least one is broken,” Aragorn informed him. He started to apply a salve. “It looks as if you have been a fight and suffered the worse of it.”

“You should see Leif, then!” Leofric replied through clenched teeth.

“Who is Leif?” asked Faramir.

“My brother,” said Leofric.

“What brought you here?” asked Éomer. “A fight between brothers has no need for my intervention.”

“It is a long story, Éomer King,” Leofric replied. He groaned again and clutched his head.

“Do not try to talk yet,” Aragorn ordered. “Wait until your wounds are tended. I will mix you some willow bark tea to ease the pain.”

“You are not of the Mark?” Leofric said, suspiciously eying Aragorn and Faramir.

“No, but I am a trained healer,” Aragorn said firmly, finishing wiping the blood off Leofric’s face. “This will need stitching.”

Leofric scowled and muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath. “What about my horse?” he protested.

 “I will ensure that it is cared for in my own stables,” Éomer assured him.

“He doesn’t take kindly to strangers,” said Leofric. “He’s a fine horse.”

“My grooms are the best in the Mark,” Éomer said indignantly. “Your horse is in good hands.”

Aragorn handed his patient a mug of willow bark tea. “Drink this,” he ordered.

“Is your healer trying to poison me?” Leofric spluttered after taking a sip. He would have spat it out had he not been in the presence of his king, who shot him a warning glare.

“It will do you good,” Aragorn replied, completely unperturbed. “Drink it all up!” He studied the man carefully, while he prepared to stitch the gaping cut over his mouth. Leofric looked to be of about middle age, a typical Rohir, sturdily build with a long sandy blonde mop of hair and a shaggy beard, which was streaked with grey.

Leofric continued to scowl but made no further complaint. He stoically endured the stitching, declined the offer of the loan of a clean tunic from one of Éomer’s men, and wriggled impatiently while Aragorn patched up his injuries. Only when Aragorn dried his hands to signal he had finished his ministrations, did Éomer give him leave to speak. “What brings you here today in such dire need?” asked Éomer.

“The people of our village need your help, Éomer King,” Leofric said urgently. “Please help us before the sword in the tree is the doom of us all!”

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


With  many thanks to Raksha for editing.


Der Männer Sippe sass hier im Saal, zur Hochzeit geladen:

ein Fremder trat da herein: ein Greis in blauem Gewand;

tief hing ihm der Hut,der deckt' ihm der Augen eines;

doch des andren Strahl, Angst schuf es allen, traf die Männer  sein mächtiges Dräu'n.

Auf mich blickt' er und blitzte auf jene, als ein Schwert in Händen er schwang;

das stiess er nun in der Esche Stamm, bis zum Heft haftet' es drin:

dem sollte der Stahl geziemen, der aus dem Stamm' es zög'.

Der Männer alle, so kühn sie sich mühten,die Wehr sich keiner gewann;

Gäste kamen und Gäste gingen,  die stärksten zogen am Stahl -keinen Zoll entwich er dem Stamm: dort haftet schweigend das Schwert. – Die Walküre – Wagner- Act 1- scene 3 (abridged)

(The kinsmen sat in the room here, guests at the wedding.

A stranger came in, an old man in a grey cloak;

his hat was pulled down so as to cover one eye.

But the glint of the other made them all afraid,

when the men saw its authority and sternness.

He looked at me and glowered at them

while a sword flashed in his hand.

This he thrust in the tree trunk, it lodged there right up to the hilt.

The blade would belong to anyone who pulled it out of the tree.

All the men, bravely as they tried, failed to win the weapon.

Visitors came and visitors went. The strongest tugged at the hilt,

but it moved not an inch from the tree. )


Éomer shook his head in bewilderment. “Are you sure he has not lost his wits or fallen on his head?” he asked Aragorn. ”Whoever heard of a sword in a tree?”

“He shows no sign of a head injury, said Aragorn. “I have examined him thoroughly. I think we should hear his story. I have a feeling it will not be short in the telling.” He gestured to Leofric to remain on the bed, while he, Éomer and Faramir settled themselves on a nearby bench.

“In our village, Dunby, we have a great hall,” Leofric began.

“I know Dunby well,” said Éomer. “I have ridden through the village many a time. Once when Firefoot cast a shoe, I stopped there to have him shod. The farrier knew his trade well. Oswald, I think he was he called. Dunby is about an hour’s ride away from Edoras on a fast horse,” he added for Aragorn and Faramir’s benefit.

Leofric cleared his throat loudly and Éomer nodded to him to continue his story.

“My grandfather built the hall around a mighty ash tree, whose living branches help to form the roof. Three years ago, my eldest daughter, Signi wed a local farmer. We held her wedding feast in the hall. Everyone from the village came, including my brother Leif and all our kinsfolk. The guests were drinking and enjoying the feast, when suddenly an old man strode into the hall. He was dressed all in grey and his hat hung low over his face. His beard was white as snow and his gaze struck awe into all our hearts. We thought it might even be Lord Bema himself come amongst us. He smiled upon Signi and told her the marriage would be blessed, as indeed it has been. Already she has a fine son. The old man then walked right over to our ash tree, pulled the finest blade anyone of us had ever seen from out his scabbard, lifted that sword high and plunged it deeply into the tree, right up to the hilt.

He then said ‘Whosoever draws this sword from the ash trunk, to him it shall belong. Yet for one man alone is it destined!’ The old man then turned on his heel and departed. Several of us went after him, but he was already galloping away on a wondrous swift horse. We never saw him again.

As headman of my village, I first tried to draw forth the sword; but it refused to budge. Then my brother tried, and the bridegroom, and all the men there. Some of the women tried too, but none could move it.

The sword has strangely not damaged the tree, which at first we feared might wither and die. There are runes of power engraved on the hilt, though we know not what they say. Guests came and went throughout the changing seasons, but still the sword still remains, a silent witness of our failed efforts to draw it forth.”

Aragorn, Faramir and Éomer had sat enthralled throughout Leofric’s narration. Éomer was the first to break the silence that followed.

“A most interesting story, Master Leofric, but how can I be of help? Surely a sword in a tree is not doing your village any harm?”

“Not the sword itself,” Leofric replied, “but many in the village, including my brother, say it mocks their strength that it remains there in the ash trunk. They threaten to cut down the tree to remove the sword and destroy our hall of feasting! I implore your aid, Éomer King, for I believe that the sword was destined for you, the strongest man in our land today.”

Éomer looked thoughtful. “Whether that might be or not, I cannot say,” he replied, glancing at Aragorn.

Aragorn nodded slightly. Inwardly, he considered that the villagers had just not tried hard enough. Most likely, when one had been unable to draw the sword forth, the others had simply believed that the weapon was in some way enchanted and their own self-doubt hindered them from drawing it forth. Elrond had taught him that the mind had a strong effect on the body, a fact of which Men were often unaware.

“I will visit your village as soon as I can,” said Éomer. “Meanwhile, I bid you to stay here and rest until your hurts are healed.”

“You are most gracious, Éomer King,” Leofric replied, “However, I dare not leave my hall unguarded. I must return home at once.”

Faramir looked shocked that Éomer’s people would so easily question their King’s commands.

Aragorn looked on with wry amusement, wondering how Éomer would react.

The young king replied firmly. “I shall send some of my riders to guard your hall, Leofric. I command you to stay here until my healer says you are fit to return home.”

“And who does he think he is to order me around?” Leofric protested. “He isn’t even one of us!”

“He is a famous healer from Gondor, “said Éomer, a twinkle visible in his eye as he glanced at his friend. Leofric, you will obey the command of your king!”

“If you say so, Éomer King,” Leofric conceded reluctantly.

The three friends managed to conceal their mirth until they left the room then they burst out laughing.



Aragorn and Faramir were sleeping soundly that night when a loud knock on their door rudely awakened them. Instinctively, they reached for their swords, fearing some calamity.

Before they could open the door an agitated looking Éomer, wearing only his nightshirt, burst into the room. “Lothiriel’s having the baby!” he exclaimed.

“What now?” Aragorn asked sleepily.

“Yes, she is having contractions!” Éomer replied. “I’ve seen many a mare about to give birth. How can I bear to see my Lothíriel sweating and in pain like they were?Whatever shall I do?”

“You should fetch the midwives,” said Faramir, reaching for his tunic. Both men had been sleeping in their shirts and breeches. “Lothiriel should not be alone.”

“Lothiriel has already sent for them and Alis is with her now,” Éomer replied, “The baby is coming!”

“It could be many hours yet,” Aragorn said calmly. He pulled his tunic over his head.

“But you told me Elestelle’s birth was very quick?” Éomer protested.

“That was highly unusual,” Aragorn assured him. “Arwen was in labour for almost a day and Dame Ioreth told me that sometimes first babies take even longer.”

Éomer blanched.

“Surely the midwives will have told you all these things?” said Faramir .

“I never paid much attention to women’s matters,” Éomer admitted rather sheepishly. “But whatever am I to do? My poor Lothiriel!”

“You just have to go about your normal daily business,” said Aragorn firmly.

“But how can I? Women die in childbirth. My Aunt Elfhild did!”

“Lothiriel is strong and healthy and has two excellent midwives to care for her,” Aragorn replied.

He pulled back the shutters and looked out. The faint light in the Eastern sky suggested that it was almost dawn. It was futile for them to try to get any more rest that night.

“What should I do?” Éomer asked again. He looked suddenly lost and vulnerable.

Aragorn placed a fatherly hand upon his shoulder. “I suggest we all have some breakfast,” he said. “The household will no doubt all be awakened by now. You have a long day ahead of you and need to keep your strength up. Try not to worry, I know it is easier said than done, but you can best help your wife by remaining calm.”

Éomer took a deep breath then resolutely pulled himself together. “You are right, my friends” he said, “ I apologise for disturbing you thus.”

“Every father to be is the same,” Aragorn reassured him, patting his arm. “I was much the same as you when Arwen went into labour.”

Éomer looked uncomfortable, remembering the near tragedy he had caused that day.

“I fainted when Elestelle was born,” Faramir said, eager to draw the subject away from the day of Eldarion’s birth.

“You had better get dressed,” Aragorn suggested.

“I will,” said Éomer. The young King of Rohan hurried from the room almost as swiftly as he had entered.

The two fathers could not resist exchanging rueful grins at the state of the father to be.

“We shall have to think of ways to distract him today,” said Aragorn.

Before Faramir could reply, Éomer had returned, still clad in his night attire. “The women won’t let me back in my chamber to get my clothing!” he announced indignantly. “Am I supposed to walk around like this all day?”

“You see the wisdom now of husbands and wives having their own chambers as we do in Gondor?” Aragorn could not but help sounding a trifle smug.

“It is a little late for that now though,” Faramir, ever the diplomat interjected. “Maybe we could lend you some clothing?”

“I doubt it will fit,” said Éomer doubtfully. “The nightshirt you lent me was far too long.” He then looked down at the nightshirt he was wearing. “Still, it would be better than walking around all day in this!”

Aragorn was already rummaging amongst the possessions he had brought with him, hoping his clothing would fit his much broader brother- king. Fortunately, he always insisted on his travelling clothes being generously cut.

He handed Éomer a bundle of assorted garments from which to choose. Faramir started to search through his own clothing.

Éomer pulled off his nightshirt with scant regard for the chilly morning air and set to work rummaging amongst the garments his friends offered him.

King and Steward struggled to contain their laughter when Éomer was dressed. Faramir’s shirt and tunic stretched tightly across his chest while the sleeves hung limply over his wrists, whereas Aragorn’s breeches were almost indecently tight.

Aragorn was struck by a sudden fit of coughing as he struggled to disguise his mirth.

Stifling his laughter, Faramir had a sudden flash of inspiration and went in search of Beregond, whom he suspected was closer in size to his brother in law. On the way, he bumped into Alis who was hurrying towards Lothiriel’s chamber carrying a jug of steaming water. In his most charming manner, he explained Éomer’s plight. A few minutes later he was rewarded by her returning with an armful of the King of Rohan’s clothing which she handed to him with a smile.

Breakfast at Edoras was usually a hearty affair, in contrast to Minas Tirith where a light breakfast was usually followed by a more substantial midday meal. Éomer, however, had little appetite this morning and picked at his food.

“It is so strange not to have her beside me at breakfast,” he said morosely when Aragorn tried to coax him to eat. “I never thought that I could come to care about someone so much.”

“You will soon have a child to care for too,” Faramir soothed. “It is wonderful being a father!”

“There is no better feeling,” Aragorn agreed.” I waited for seventy years and dreamed about having a child but could never have imagined just how much joy Eldarion has brought me!”

“Elestelle can say ‘ada’ and when she smiles my heart just melts,” Faramir said proudly. “My little girl has the most wonderful smile!”

“My Lothiriel has a smile brighter than the first rays of spring sunshine and a voice sweeter than music!” Éomer said dreamily.

Faramir repressed a strong urge to giggle at such poetic descriptions of a young woman he would always think of as a rather prim little girl in an elaborate frock, ordering her dolls to keep still while she taught them their letters all the while scolding her boisterous brothers and cousins for interrupting her. Faramir had been her favourite as he did not tease her and tweak her pigtails unlike the other boys.

“I can tell that you have fallen in love,” Aragorn said indulgently. “I always thought she was well suited to you!”

Éomer’s eyes widened.” So it was you who suggested the match then and not Prince Imrahil?”

“Imrahil was musing where he might find a husband worthy of his daughter and I suggested you, my brother,” Aragorn replied. “I was quite surprised, though, that the Prince approved of my suggestion. Obviously, he was impressed by Éomer’s valour on the battlefield. I assumed he would want his daughter to marry a man of Gondor. She has many of Faramir’s qualities.”

Faramir glowed.

“Both the good and the bad!” Aragorn added cuffing his Steward playfully. “They are both frustratingly tidy for a start!”

“Unlike you!” Faramir retorted with equal humour while prodding his lord in the ribs.

“Arwen never complains,” Aragorn replied proudly.

Éomer got up and pushed his plate of uneaten food aside. “I had better work on the latest negotiations with the Dunlendings,” he said. “Maybe you would like to stroll around the paddocks and look at our younglings. There are some noble colts and fillies growing up. I asked a favour of Gandalf ere he sailed and he granted it. He brought Shadowfax back here to cover some mares before he took the noble steed to Valinor. The mearh-lord was in fine fettle indeed, for many of our mares foaled his get. You will easily recognise them by their coats' silver sheen and the proud crest of their necks. Not all are pure blooded Mearh, we brought the best half-bloods to him as well as several Mearas. But these beauties are as fair a herd as you will ever see, a few might even pass their sire in speed and spirit.”

“Are you certain you would not prefer us to stay within the Hall today?” Aragorn asked. It worried him that Éomer did not want to show off his precious herd himself.

“There is truly no need,” Éomer replied manfully, though the worry in his eyes told a different story. ”I will see you later.”

King and Steward returned to their room to fetch their cloaks, though both hesitated to leave the hall.

Just before they reached the threshold, a cry came from Lothiriel’s chambers. Both men exchanged a knowing glance, remembering all too well the pain that their own wives endured to bring their precious children into the world.”

“I do not think we should go far,” said Faramir. “Éomer might have need of us.”

“I fear so,” Aragorn replied.

Just then, Éomer rushed towards his wife’s chambers and banged loudly on the door demanding admittance.

“You cannot come in, Éomer King!” Hild’s voice replied.

“I want to see my wife!” Éomer demanded.

“You cannot come in,” the midwife repeated, opening the door a crack and emerging through it. She then stood menacingly in front, arms akimbo.

“Am I not lord of my own house?” Éomer said angrily. “Whatever are you doing to my Queen?”

“My lord, this most unseemly!” Ivorwen protested, joining Hild in the doorway.” A woman in labour must not be disturbed!”

 “Lothiriel!” Éomer shouted, trying to get past the women.


“I am well, my love,” the queen called from within. “It was just a twinge. Why not take Firefoot out for some exercise?”

 “I am not leaving you, my love,” Éomer said fiercely.” I should be here by your side!”

“This is no place for a man!” Ivorwen said firmly. “What do you know of childbirth?”

“I have helped deliver many a foal,” said Éomer, “Surely it cannot be much different?”

“My lord!” Ivorwen exclaimed in horror.

Hild soundly scolded her king. “You must leave here at once, Éomer King. Do not return until after your child is born.”

“I shall stay with my wife!” Éomer said with equal firmness. “I cannot wait outside and hear her crying in pain.”

“ You should have thought of that when you got her with child!”Hild retorted.

“You forget to whom you speak!” Éomer said angrily, trying to push past her.” I am your king!”

“And I remember well the puny naked babe bawling its head off I helped your mother bring into the world!” Hild replied.

Aragorn and Faramir had hovered in the background watching the scene with increasing concern. As a healer, Aragorn knew a woman in labour needed calm and quiet. “We must get Éomer out of there,” he said quietly to Faramir.

The two gripped the protesting Éomer’s arms. “Come, my friend,” said Aragorn. “Let us follow your lady’s suggestion.”

“Keep him out of the way for the next few hours ,” said Hild. “This is no place for men.” She shut the door.

 Aragorn and Faramir firmly shepherded Éomer out of the Golden Hall. Aragorn all the time trying to soothe the agitated young man.

Éomer ceased his furious protesting and suddenly sagged in the King of Gondor’s grip. “Whatever am I going to do?” he whispered. “I love her so much. How can I hear her crying out in pain all day and not be at her side?”

“I have an idea,” said Aragorn.” We will ride out and investigate what Leofric had to tell us. That will surely distract you, my friend!"

Zeig' deiner Schärfe
schneidenden Zahn:
heraus aus der Scheide zu mir! – Wagner – Die Walküre Act 1.Scene 3

(Show your sharpness, cutting edge, come out of your scabbard to me!)

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra


“But how can I leave my lady at a time like this?” Éomer protested.

“Lothiriel said she wanted you to take Firefoot for a ride,” said Faramir. “Believe me, brother, a birthing chamber is no place for a man. We must leave Lothiriel to the care of the midwives.”

“First babies usually take many hours,” said Aragorn. “We will be back long before the birth. It will go easier with Lothiriel if she  does not need to concern herself about you this day.”

Éomer hesitated for a moment then nodded his reluctant consent. “Very well, let us ride to Dunby.”

Aragorn clapped him on the shoulder approvingly. The three men made their way to the stables where, in accordance with the custom of the Mark, they saddled their own horses. Éomer called for three of his guards to accompany them.

“I think you should take more guards with you, Éomer King,” said Éothain, Éomer’s captain. “I have heard rumours that Wargs are abroad. They are hungry and attacking unwary travellers.”

Éomer laughed. “I thank you for your concern, but we are three seasoned warriors, not helpless old women. Three guards will be more than enough for a short journey in daylight.”

The small party set off at a brisk canter.

It was a perfect autumn morning. A hint of frost lingered in the air. The frost- dusted autumn leaves, resplendent in shades of copper and gold, sparkled in the early morning sunlight beneath a clear blue sky.

The men gave the horses their heads and were soon enjoying an invigorating ride across the open countryside dotted here and there with small farms. All too soon, they reached their destination. Dunby was a nondescript village that most travellers would usually pass through without a second glance.

Leofric’s Hall was the most imposing building and easy to spot, especially as two burly Riders from Éomer’s Éored were stationed at the door. They greeted their king and reported that all was quiet and Leif had not caused any trouble when he was told that the King commanded the sword to be guarded.

Aragorn, Faramir and Éomer entered the Hall, followed by the guards and a group of women and children who had observed their arrival with interest, as well as several old men, too ancient to work in the fields.

A flustered looking young woman with a small child clutching at her skirts, and apparently soon to be blessed with another addition to her family appeared from the depths of the building. She was attractive with pleasant features, rosy cheeks and an abundant head of golden hair, which she wore coiled round her head in braids. “If you’re another one trying to draw forth the sword, take your turn and then be off with you!” she said sharply. “I have cows to be milked!” She then noticed the emblem of the House of Eorl on the guard’s uniforms and realised the identity of one of her visitors. She flushed scarlet. ”Your pardon, Éomer King, I did not realise at first it was you. Let me bring you some mead. Be welcome to my hall as an honoured guest!”

Éomer smiled at her reassuringly.

The young woman bustled away and returned a few moments later with a horn filled with mead. “Welcome to my hall, Éomer King,” she said, offering him the horn.

Éomer drank deeply then passed it to Aragorn and Faramir. “Mistress Signi, we are honoured by your welcome,” said Éomer.

“I’m glad you are here, Éomer King,” said Signi warmly after Éomer had given her back the now empty horn and her guest had been properly greeted. “This sword is driving me to distraction with all the men squabbling over it! It was surely put there for you as the most worthy man in Rohan! Come, I will show it to you.”

Éomer, Aragorn and Faramir followed as she let them into the hall. It was unlike any they had seen before for a living great ash tree formed its centre pillar. The living branches entwined with the thatch and continued growing above it. About half way up the trunk, a sword could be seen, embedded up to the hilt. The hall was a fine building, comfortable furnished. At one end, a great fire burnt in the hearth. Tapestries showing horses, adorned the walls and the tables and benches were of carved oak and decorated with carven horses.

“Please draw it forth, Éomer King and put an end to this strife!” said Signi.

Aragorn and Faramir stood back while Éomer approached the tree.

“It just needs a firm grip,” said the King of Rohan. ”Obviously, those who have tried until now were not holding it correctly.” Thus saying, he grasped the hilt with both hands and gave it an almighty tug. Nothing happened. He pulled again with no more success. However hard he pulled, the sword budged not a single inch.

Éomer pulled and tugged until the sweat from the exertion was running down his face. Eventually, he  shook his head and conceded defeat.

“It cannot be meant for me after all,” he said ruefully. “I would not exchange Gúthwinë for another blade, though, so maybe that is why, for I have no need of a sword, fine though this one most surely is!”

“Would it not be rusted after so long in the tree?” asked Faramir.

“The blade is still sharp,” said Éomer. He sucked a bleeding finger, from where the short piece that protruded had caught it during his struggles. “Perhaps it is only destined for the greatest of men to draw forth. “You should try, Aragorn, my friend. You are the greatest warrior of our age!”

Aragorn hesitated for a moment. He had no need of a sword, either, as he would never part with Andúril. This was Rohan, and if he were to draw the blade forth, it could wound the pride of her king. He was certain Éomer must simply not be pulling at the hilt correctly. The sword was high in the tree. Maybe a taller man, such as himself, could get a firmer hold on the hilt. He was loth to humiliate his younger friend in front of his own people. However, the weapon was proving a cause for dissent and needed to be removed from the tree.

Aragorn studied the hilt carefully. He could feel some jewels and engravings upon it, but positioned at such an angle, it was impossible to see clearly. He wondered if it might be made from mithril. It was fortunate indeed that these people had no idea just how valuable this sword must be, worth far more than their entire village! There was something oddly familiar about the hilt, but the thought was absurd. He could not have possibly seen it before.

Taking a deep breath, Aragorn grasped the hilt and shifted his weight forward, balancing himself squarely to draw it forth; He tried to twist the sword slightly to free it from its strange scabbard. He pulled at it sharply. The sword refused to budge an inch. Undeterred he tried again.

“Pull, harder!” Éomer advised. “I am certain it moved a little just then!”

“You can do it, mellon nîn!” Faramir encouraged. “Whoever put the sword there could not intend it stay in the tree forever!”

Aragorn pulled and pulled and pulled again. But however hard he tried, the sword would not yield an inch. He stepped back, shaking his head despondently.” I am sorry, but I cannot draw it forth,” he said.

“There must be some wizardry at work here!” said Éomer. He looked worried.” If the sword will not yield to the mightiest who now lives, who then can master it?”

“I know not,” said Aragorn. “I sense no evil within the blade. It will have to await its true master. There is one here, though who has not yet tried to draw it forth.”

Signi, who together with a handful of villagers had been watching asked, “Who, my lords? Every man in the village has tried, even crippled old Gunnar here. Our kinsfolk who dwell in the surrounding villages have all tried in vain to win the weapon.”

“You try now, Faramir,” said Aragorn.

Faramir laughed. ”You are jesting! If you cannot win the sword, how could I draw it forth from the tree? I am not the heir of Elendil!”

“You are a worthy warrior, though,” said Éomer.” I would not have let you wed my sister otherwise! You are, I fear correct, though. How could you free the sword from the tree when Aragorn and I cannot?”

Faramir nodded.” I suggest that we tell the Guards to remain here while we return to Edoras and ask Leofric what he desires to do.”

“I will send Riders to help him rebuild his hall, should he decide to cut down the tree,” said Éomer. ”That would help settle the dispute. It would be a great pity, though, for this is a fine hall.”

“It is my home and where my wedding feast was held,” said Signi. “I do not want it to be destroyed. Why ever did that strange old man choose to interrupt my wedding feast? I shall never forget the kindly twinkle in his eye when he smiled upon me, though.”

“Cutting the tree down would solve nothing as the ownership of the sword would still be open to question,” said Aragorn.

“I could decree that the sword be sold and the proceeds divided between all the villagers,” said Éomer. “It would surely buy them many fine horses.” 

“That would be a fair way to settle the matter, my friend,” said Aragorn. “It grieves me though that we could not help these poor folk by removing the sword causing such contention amongst them. Faramir, are you certain, you will not attempt to draw the sword forth before we leave?”

“I could not succeed where two kings have failed,” the Steward said ruefully.

Éomer bowed courteously to Signi.” I am sorry we could not help you, my lady,” he said. “You may rest assured I will see this matter is settled.”

“I thank you, Éomer King.” Signi bowed low.” May your horses ever run swiftly!”

“Help, help!” Signi and the villagers cried out in terror as a huge Warg charged into the hall, knocking over tables and benches in its wake.

Aragorn, Faramir and Éomer swiftly drew their swords and dispatched the beast.


“What happened? Is it…?”Before Éomer could finish his question, a woman’s voice cried from outside, “There are dozens of them! Help us, my lord!”


“Stay there!” Éomer ordered the woman and children. He rushed outside followed by Aragorn, Faramir and the guards. A dreadful sight greeted their eyes. Wargs were rampaging through the village, trampling crops and flattening fences. A horse lay dead on the ground, several of the foul creatures eagerly devouring the noble animal.

Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater,

ich fänd' es in höchster Not (My father promised me a sword, I would find it in greatest need.) - Wagner – Die Walküre.

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra

A woman ran frantically for the shelter of the hall, her long golden braids flapping at her back. She stumbled in her haste, tripping over a root and falling headlong. A warg pounced upon her almost instantly. The beast let out a series of short growls as it straddled her, raked her flailing arm, and pawed her shoulder.

Aragorn snatched the knife from his belt and threw it, aiming for the creature's throat. Enraged, the warg abandoned its prey and charged towards him. He swerved nimbly and the creature impaled itself on Éomer's outstretched sword.

The golden-haired woman lay moaning in a crumpled heap on the ground, blood gushing from a wound in her arm. Aragorn sprinted towards her and half dragged, half carried her towards the hall. Signi opened the door a few inches to let them in.

"I need cloths!" he cried.

Signi grabbed a shift that had been airing by the fire and handed it to him. Aragorn pressed it hard against the injured woman's wound. As soon as the bleeding had slowed, he told the other women to keep the cloth in place to staunch the blood flow. "I will return," he told them. "Keep the doors barred."

Aragorn dashed out again and threw himself back into the fray. They were slowly gaining the upper hand now. Fierce though the wargs were, they were no match for the greatest warriors of the age. Éomer's men and Aragorn's guards were also trained and skilled fighters. The village men, alerted by the commotion, were running back from the fields and bravely fighting the beasts with whatever weapons they could find. Several of the men had kindled a fire and some were using flaming brands to ward off the attackers. One of the villagers threw a pitchfork at a large beast. It delivered only a glancing blow to the warg's side. Enraged, the creature tried to fight off its attacker, only to find the fire between it and the man. It veered sideways towards the hall, its vast bulk easily splintering the doorway.

Faramir, who was wiping his sword after dispatching another beast, espied the warg entering the hall out of the corner of his eye. He raced after the creature, horrified at the prospect of it attacking the women and children inside.

Aragorn instinctively turned; and saw Faramir disappear inside what was left of the door of the hall. Before he could follow, two wargs crept forward to menace him from either side. Cursing, Aragorn focussed on the beasts at hand. Faramir would have to handle the large warg by himself.

Faramir found himself in a scene of chaos as the warg stalked the frightened women and screaming children. They had wedged themselves in behind three rows of large barrels stacked high against the far side of the hall. Some of the children clutched a chicken or goose; one girl held a small dog, and a small boy cradled a kitten in his arms; the animals' sounds of alarm served only to draw the warg closer. The barrels stymied the warg, but the monster continued to sniff, its grunts turning to sharp growls. Then it began to claw and push at the barrels. At any moment, the barrels would start to fall, leaving the villagers defenceless.

"Keep down!" shouted Faramir. He rushed at the beast and plunged his sword into its side, aiming for the heart. At the last moment, it swerved aside and charged at him, taking his aim off balance. The sword embedded itself in the beast's thick hide near the shoulder.

Faramir pulled at his weapon trying to dislodge it, but the sword was now wedged deep in the creature's flesh. He leapt aside to escape the enraged beast.

Just then, the kitten escaped from the small boy's arms and padded towards the tree in the centre of the hall. Its mother had taken refuge on one of the highest branches and mewed piteously at her heedless offspring.

Signi's child pulled free from his mother's grasp and toddled after the kitten. Signi screamed and made to follow him, but the other women held her back.

"Let me go!" she cried.

"You will only be slain and the bairn within you as well," said one old woman.

Faramir ran and grabbed the child. He knew he could not hope to outpace the beast. It was wounded, but that hardly served to slow it down. He thrust the little boy up in the branches of the tree beside the cat. "Stay there!" he ordered.

"Want Mama!" the child protested. He had already lost interest in the kitten, which had scurried into some hiding place deep in the shadows.

The warg was now charging straight at Faramir. He still had his dagger, but there was no hope of killing other than a mortally wounded warg with such a puny weapon. Its claws ripped at his clothing and he could smell its foul breath in his face.

He scrambled up the tree beside the child. But the creature snarled and began to scramble at the trunk, its claws finding purchase in the bark. What hope, what to do now? Faramir knew not if wargs could climb, but this one was certainly trying and he could not reach his sword.

He pushed the child further back amongst the branches. The little boy began to scream for his mother. Faramir's hand brushed against the sword, which was embedded in the trunk. How could he retrieve the blade when greater men had failed? Yet, if ever a man needed a sword, he did now!

He grasped the sword firmly with both hands and took a deep breath. "Valar grant me power!" he prayed inwardly.

Aragorn rushed into the hall just in time to see Faramir draw the sword from the tree trunk. The mysterious sword slid into the Steward's hands as effortlessly as if he had drawn it from his own scabbard.

Aragorn had no time to ponder this marvel as Faramir was fighting desperately for his life. The warg was clawing at him viciously. The Steward stabbed wildly at it with his new sword.

Just as the King reached his friend, Faramir managed to deal the deathblow and the creature crumpled lifeless at the foot of the mighty ash.

"Faramir, you drew forth the sword!" Aragorn exclaimed in wonder. "It was obviously destined for you."

"Maybe it was because my need was so great?" panted Faramir, fighting for breath after his recent exertions.

"How do…?" Before Aragorn could finish the sentence, Éomer called him and Aragorn plunged back into the fray.

Faramir sank to the ground at the foot of the tree. His clothes were torn and his side throbbed from where the warg's claws had caught him.

Signi hastened to retrieve her screaming son from his perch in the tree. "Thank you, you saved my child," she said.

"It was my pleasure, mistress. I have a little one of my own," Faramir replied.

Signi scurried away as swiftly as her bulk would allow, eager to remove her son from the carnage around him.

Faramir's presence was forgotten as the Eorling women tended to their own wounded and tried to soothe their frightened children. The woman Aragorn had brought in was severely injured and her companions were desperately trying to staunch her wounds.

The Steward pressed his hand to his side and was surprised to feel it sticky with blood. It could not be more than a scratch, though, as the creature had only caught him a glancing blow. He grabbed some of the cloths the women were using as bandages and pressed them against his side. He would inspect the wound closely when they returned to the Golden Hall and he would ask Aragorn for a salve. He pulled his cloak around him to cover his torn garments.

These people were in far greater need of Aragorn's healing skills than he was, but if the King knew he had suffered as much as a scratch, he might allow the bond between might distract him from first tending the wounds of the seriously injured. Faramir knew Aragorn loved him as his own son and feared that love might prove stronger than his Healer's training to treat the most needy first. At least, the battle seemed to be over now. Wishing his head did not swim so much, the Steward found a relatively quiet corner and concentrated on the sword he had won.

Faramir had only handled Andúril on a few rare occasions, but those had taught him the difference between a mundane sword and a blade of high and ancient lineage. The blade bore no sign of rust or tarnish, despite two years or more of being embedded in a tree trunk. Now he could study it closely, there seemed almost something familiar about it. The Steward felt he had seen it before somewhere but could not think where.

The women who were tending to their friend were becoming increasingly agitated. "I can't stop the bleeding!" cried one who appeared to be the village healer.

Faramir called to them, "Fetch Elessar King!"

One of the other women hurried out and returned a few minutes later with Aragorn.

Faramir forced a smile as his friend entered and gestured towards the corner where the stricken woman lay.

An elderly woman began to beat her breast and scream." Friedhild, my baby, she's dying!"

Aragorn immediately took charge. "Silence! Bring me some hot water and whatever healing supplies you have. Friedhild, easy now, I am here to help you."

The village healer pressed Freihild's uninjured hand and with the other hand gestured for her companions to obey Aragorn.

Aragorn's air of authority calmed the women and their shrieks and cries gave way to measured answers to his questions.

Fortunately, the King always carried athelas with him. None was to be found in a remote Rohirric village. He quickly crumbled some in a bowl of hot water and the scent calmed even the frightened children at the far side of the hall. Their screams subsided to whimpers.

Aragorn bathed Friedhild's mangled arm with the mixture, before stitching and bandaging the gaping wounds.

He was just advising her mother to give her plenty to drink and keep her warm and quiet, when Éomer came in carrying an injured farmer. "I counted two dead, both old men who were guarding the horses. They are bringing another badly injured man and there are a half dozen so or more with minor injuries. The village Healer should be able to deal with some of those. None of the horses are harmed."

"Our whole village would have been wiped out, had you and your friends not been here, Éomer King," said Signi, who was now trying to restore some order to the hall by sweeping up the broken crockery.

"You should thank whoever placed the sword in the tree," said Éomer. "That brought us here today. Whoever could have foreseen the warg attack?"

"Who would have thought it that that troublesome weapon could actually be of some use!" Signi exclaimed. "Many times I have almost been ready to curse the old man who brought it here for the amount of strife it has been causing!"

"We still have that problem to settle." Éomer sighed.

"Did I not tell you before?" Aragorn finally looked up from stitching the wounded farmer's leg. "Faramir drew it forth and slew a fierce warg with it."

"Faramir?" Éomer's tone was incredulous. "Perhaps it was destined to heed the call of the man with the greatest need for a weapon?"

"I just remembered the old man carved some strange markings on the doorpost," said Signi. "At least, we assume it was he since they appeared on the same day as the sword. The men were too busy drinking to pay much heed."

Éomer went outside to look at the post, but returned shaking his head. "They are just random markings," he said. "You should take a look, Aragorn: maybe it is not gibberish to you?"

The King secured a bandage on his patient's leg. "I will look once all the wounded are tended."

"The women are caring for the others," said Éomer. "Surely, you can spare a moment now?

"How impatient are the young!" Aragorn said with mock severity. He rose to his feet and went out to join Éomer. "These are ancient runes," he said. "They form a rhyme in Quenya,"

"These carvings mean something?" asked Signi who had joined the men at the door.

"In the common tongue it reads,

Sufficient is the jewel

A man of noble birth,

One doomed to dwell in shadow,

Now honoured for his worth.

I think there is no doubt that the sword has found the owner it was destined for, for those lines can refer to none other save Faramir!"

"This tale grows ever stranger," said Éomer, "Why leave a sword for the Steward of Gondor in the Riddermark? Whoever would think of such a thing?"

Chapter Seven

Stiess er für dich sein Schwert in den Stamm (It was for you that he thrust his sword in the trunk)

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


With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra

“These runes are familiar to me. I believe I recognize the hilt of the sword too now I see it clearly,” said Aragorn. “I think the blade is none other than Glamdring. I believe Gandalf must have placed the sword in the tree for Faramir. I had no idea he returned to Rohan after your uncle’s funeral, though, Éomer.”

A sudden light of understanding dawned in Éomer’s eyes. “I did not think he had returned,” he replied. “When I learned he was soon to sail West, I sent a message to him, asking if it were possible to allow Shadowfax to run with the mares for one last time. He had only fathered a few foals and it seemed a pity that his bloodline might be lost from our herds. So many great horses were slain during the war. I received a somewhat cryptic reply about Shadowfax being his own master and that seemed to be the end of the matter. A year later, some of the mares gave birth to foals that resembled Shadowfax, which gave me cause to wonder if Gandalf had granted my request after all.”

“Éowyn puts the mare in a field with whichever stallion she desires to breed from,” said Faramir. He looked around him for somewhere to sit down as his legs felt very unsteady.

“It would be an insult to breed the Mearas. Our finest mares and stallions run together and choose their own mates. We can see from the colour of the foals who their sires were.”

“Gandalf must have returned with Shadowfax then,” said Aragorn.

 “But Gandalf had long since shed his grey robes at the time the stranger placed the sword in the tree, though,” Éomer protested. “He was the White Wizard by then, not the Grey!”

“It would be an easy enough matter to don a grey cloak over his white raiment in order to attract little notice,” said Aragorn. ”He was greatly fond of Faramir and must have desired to give him Glamdring for his own. I doubt he would have need of it in Valinor.”

“But why not leave it with me to give to my brother in law rather than placing it here in a tree?” Éomer sounded bemused.

“Gandalf is a Maia, a servant of the Valar themselves.  No doubt, he knew that if this village were to be saved from the wargs, it needed mighty warriors here. Gandalf could well have placed enchantments on the sword so that none save Faramir should draw it forth and to keep it from rusting.”

Aragorn suddenly realized that Faramir was absent. He looked around, wondering why his friend was not beside him studying the runes for himself. He finally saw the Steward sitting on a bench near to the doorway, apparently deep in thought.

Faramir felt a thrill at the possibility that Gandalf should have left such a fabled sword for him to find. At present, though, all he wanted was to return to the Golden Hall and rest.

 The injured farmer that Aragorn had been caring for still lay in the centre of Signi’s hall, now divested of his clothing and being washed and wrapped in blankets by the village women. Faramir shuddered, not wishing to share his fate. The Rohirrim had few inhibitions and would not understand the Steward’s need for privacy.  The Steward was certain that he had only suffered a minor wound, one that could wait until he reached his chamber in the Golden Hall. It would be much cleaner there too,  and he could don fresh clothes to replace the torn ones he was wearing. Faramir pulled his cloak more tightly around himself and forced a smile as the two kings approached him. He held out the sword for their inspection.

“This is indeed Glamdring,” said Aragorn.

“Mithrandir has honoured me greatly,” said Faramir.

Aragorn walked back to where the wounded farmer lay. Satisfied, the man was being well cared for, he began to gather up his healing supplies.

Faramir heaved a sigh of relief. It seemed he would soon be able to return to Edoras.

“No, no it hurts!” A blood splattered little girl, who was being tended by the village healer, started to cry hysterically.

Aragorn hastened over to where the little girl was being held down by another of the women. She was struggling like a trapped bird trying to escape. “What ails the child?” he asked. “I asked that the seriously injured were to be brought to me.”

“She only has a small cut on her cheek,” the healer answered.” She is frightened of having it cleaned and stitched, that is all.”

“I’m her mother and I’ve told her it is for her own good,” the other woman explained, “Her older brother died from wounds received in a skirmish against the Dunlendings not long since and I think that has made her anxious.”

“Give her to me!” Aragorn scooped up the little girl in his arms and rocked her gently, all the while rubbing the back of her neck in an Elvish calming technique. Her frightened screams soon subsided to whimpers.

“What is your name?” he asked after a few minutes.

“Erlene,” the little girl whispered.

“You are indeed Elven fair,” said Aragorn. “Now will you permit me to tend your cut?”

“It will hurt!” Erlene protested and swiftly changed the subject. “You don’t look like us? Why is your hair black?”

“It is because I come from another land,” Aragorn explained. ”See my hair is like yours, only not so silky, as I am not a little girl.” He guided her hand to feel a lock of his unruly mane and studied the gash on her face while she was preoccupied.

“You are a brave daughter of the Mark,” Aragorn told her, “I shall try hard not to hurt you too much. Your mummy is here and will be proud of her small warrior maid!”

The little girl nodded her golden head after a moment’s thought. Aragorn handed her back to her mother. “Sit here with her on your lap,” he said.

He knelt and bathed the cut with water in which athelas and meadowsweet had been steeped, rather than the salted water that was usually used. Her trust gained, the child sat quietly while Aragorn sewed the cut closed with a fine needle, hardly making a sound. 

Despite his wish to return to Meduseld, Faramir could not begrudge the small girl his King’s aid. No doubt, Elestelle would look much like her in a few years’ time. He could only hope that Aragorn would be at hand to help should she ever have the misfortune to be injured. Éowyn was well versed in the healing arts and highly skilled, but no other had healing power in their hands like Aragorn.

“It should heal without scarring,” Aragorn smilingly pronounced when he had finished. ”You are a very brave girl indeed. Lady Éowyn would praise you highly for your courage!”

“I want to be a shieldmaiden like the White Lady!” Erlene cried. She beamed and slid off her mother’s lap, lifting her small face in wonder.

Aragorn bestowed a kiss of blessing on her brow then went to see how Friedhild was faring. He had given her poppy juice and she was now sleeping soundly.  Satisfied that she was as well as might be expected, he left medicines with the village healer together with instructions to see that she had plenty of boiled water to drink and nourishing broths.

“Will my daughter live?” asked her mother.

“I believe she has a good chance,” said Aragorn. “Whether she will ever be able to use her arm again, I cannot say, though I am hopeful. Send to Edoras for me should her condition cause concern.”

The woman knelt and kissed his hand in gratitude.

“The horses are ready!” Éomer called from the doorway. He sounded anxious to leave.  “I will send some men to guard your village and I shall return soon to see how you are faring.”

“Farewell for a while,” said Aragorn. “I shall return with Éomer King.”

Vastly relieved to be able to leave at last, Faramir tried to stand up, only to find he could hardly stay on his feet, he felt so light headed.  He wondered if he should say something to Aragorn, but decided it was unfair to keep Éomer away from his wife any longer. He had waited this long and could endure a little longer. After all, he had endured far worse wounds in the past.

While Signi , her household, and the grateful villagers milled around them, he was able to surreptitiously support himself by leaning on his new sword and holding on to the furniture until he reached the doorway. Then, by a supreme effort of will, he somehow managed to clamber on to Zachus’ back.

Éomer and Firefoot set the pace. They set off a brisk canter towards Meduseld.

Faramir concentrated all his energy on staying upright in the saddle. For the first league or so, he succeeded, telling himself that he had only to stay upright a little while longer and then he could rest. He felt increasingly dizzy, his spinning head made worse by the swaying motion of his horse. Desperately he tried to cling on, but felt himself sliding from the saddle. Everything went black.

“Faramir!” Some instinct made Aragorn turn around at that moment, just before the Steward rolled to the ground. He wheeled Roheryn around. Followed by Éomer, he hastened to where his friend lay. Aragorn leapt from the saddle and knelt beside Faramir, noting with alarm that the Steward was deathly pale. Anxiously, he felt for a pulse, noting with concern that it was weak and rapid. Pulling aside, Faramir’s cloak, he was horrified to discover the Steward’s side was covered with blood soaked makeshift bandages.

“What has happened to him?” Éomer dismounted and ran towards his brother in law.

“He appears to be sore wounded,” said Aragorn. “I saw him fighting a Warg earlier. It must have clawed him before he could dispatch it. Help me get him on Roheryn, Éomer. I dare not examine him properly here, lest he lose more blood once I touch the bandages.”

Aragorn cradled Faramir in his arms, while Éomer fetched Roheryn from where he was nibbling at the grass by the path. “Why did you not tell me you were hurt?” he murmured to the unresponsive man.

Éomer led Roheryn to his master’s side. “You mount and I will lift him up in the saddle beside you,” he said.

“Be careful,” Aragorn cautioned, loth to relinquish Faramir’s care to another even for a moment, lest his life slip away.

“He is dear to me too,” Éomer replied. “I would not lose him, nor have my sister made a widow so young. Now, give him to me.” He gently took Faramir from Aragorn’s arms.

Aragorn mounted his faithful stallion while Éomer, helped by one of the guards, lifted Faramir up beside him Aragorn secured Faramir in front of him with one arm and with the other held the reins, coaxing Roheryn forward. The great horse bore his extra burden uncomplainingly.

Faramir remained unresponsive, his head lolling limply until Aragorn supported him.

Éomer rode on a little ahead and one of his guards led Zachus.  Faramir had secured the sword he had pulled from the tree to the gelding’s saddle before his collapse.

The short ride back to the Golden Hall felt like an eternity to Aragorn. How badly was Faramir hurt? He had seen all too many victims of warg attacks succumb to their wounds in the past, despite his best attempts to save them. If the cruel claws tore the victim’s guts, or a major blood vessel, their chances of survival were very slim indeed, even if tended by Elrond himself. Then, even if the wound itself were not serious, the risk of infection was very high from the claws of such filthy beasts.

Faramir moaned softly when Roheryn faltered over an exposed root across the path. This sign of life heartened the King and he quickened Roheryn’s pace a little. He called to one of the guards to ride on ahead with instructions to build up the fire in their chamber and see that plenty of hot water and bandages were made ready.

He would do everything he could to save Faramir. Éowyn had gladly sent her husband on this mission with him, believing it would simply be a pleasant visit to her brother. He could not return with her husband’s corpse. Why did the Valar have to be so cruel to threaten to tear Faramir from his side a few short weeks after they had been reconciled and their friendship had grown even stronger? The Golden Hall was now in sight. Soon he would know just how severe Faramir’s wounds were.

Chapter Eight - He jests at scars that never felt a wound. – Shakespeare – Romeo and Juliet


A groom ran to greet them and took hold of Roheryn’s reins. Éomer supported Faramir while Aragorn dismounted. The big stallion stood perfectly still and only tossed his head and neighed when the man led him away, no doubt indignant that he was denied the usual apple that his master gave him.


Together, the two Kings carefully carried Faramir to the chamber he was sharing with Aragorn. Faramir was groaning and appeared to be regaining consciousness.


To Aragorn’s relief, the servants had carried out his instructions. A cheerful fire was burning in the hearth and a stack of clean towels beside the bed. He called to one of the maids to cover the bed with  towels and for another to hurry and fetch hot water.


They gently placed Faramir on the bed. Éomer pulled off the wounded man’s boots, while Aragorn laid out his healing supplies on a table nearby.


Faramir moaned softly and blinked. “Easy, ion nîn, you are safe now,” the King said gently.” I will try to ease your hurts.” He placed a hand on Faramir’s forehead and again checked his pulse. He frowned at the clammy skin and rapid heartbeat. Faramir was now shivering despite the warmth of the room. His breath came in ragged gasps. “Have you any of the tea the Hobbits favour, Éomer?” Aragorn enquired.


“Why yes, plenty. Merry sends us a regular supply from the Shire,” Éomer replied. “Shall I have a servant bring some?”


“Please, and have them bring a jar of honey too.” Aragorn divested Faramir of his cloak, then rather to Éomer’s surprise, covered him with a blanket rather than making any attempt to undress him further. Faramir groaned as he made to move away from the bedside.


“I will return in a moment,” Aragorn soothed. He nodded to Éomer to take his place at the bedside. The King of Rohan took Faramir’s hand. Meanwhile, Aragorn removed his own cloak and outer tunic. He then sat on the edge of the bed and took Faramir in his arms. “He needs calming if possible, before I tend to his wounds,” he said in response to  Éomer ’s questioning gaze.” He is in deep shock. Come on, Faramir, wake up, your King calls you!”


Faramir briefly regarded him with pain- filled eyes. If anything, he looked even paler now than before. Aragorn shuddered inwardly. It would tear his soul asunder to lose this dearest and best of friends who had become like a beloved son to him. They had been through so much together and saved each other’s lives on several occasions. “Do not leave me!” Aragorn pleaded.


“Ada!” Faramir moved his head slightly, settling it against Aragorn’s broad shoulder.


“I am here beside you,” Aragorn reassured him. He placed a hand on Faramir’s brow, willing some of his own strength into the injured man.


Éomer went to the door and took the tea from the servant. Aragorn instructed him to stir a large spoonful of honey into Faramir’s cup and hold it to his brother- in- law’s lips. “Sip this!” he ordered.


Faramir opened his eyes a little wider.


“Drink, it will help you,” Aragorn coaxed, his voice both kindly and commanding,” Stay awake for me now!”


Faramir drank. He found he was dreadfully thirsty. The hot sweet drink warmed him and together with Aragorn’s reassuring presence, he gradually started to feel slightly better. He found himself wondering whatever his father would think that two kings were tending to his scorned younger son. Despite his pain, he laughed. Aragorn looked at him questioningly.

“I was thinking about my father,” he said.


Aragorn still looked puzzled but refrained from questioning him.


Once the drink was finished, Aragorn checked Faramir’s pulse again. “I will tend your wounds now,” he told the injured man, before starting to unwrap the makeshift bandages. It seemed they were serving to keep Faramir’s clothes together as well as staunch his wound. The ruined garments were little better than rags. “I will need to cut these off,” Aragorn warned his Steward.


Faramir sighed. The King exchanged a look with Éomer.


“I will see if there is any news of my lady and then tend Firefoot,” the King of Rohan said tactfully. “I will ask a servant to wait outside who will fetch me should you have need of me further. I hope it goes well with you, brother. Shall I clean this for you?” He gestured towards Glamring.


"Thank you," Faramir whispered.


 Éomer  gently patted Faramir’s shoulder then took up the sword before leaving.


Faramir visibly relaxed once his brother- in- law had left. Much as he liked the younger man, he had not wished him to witness his pain and weakness. “Thank you,” he whispered.


“A good healer respects his patients’ privacy,” said Aragorn trying to hide his anxiety now that he was about to see just how badly Faramir was hurt. The Steward lay quietly as he cut the rags away, flinching when the cloth had stuck to the wounds but making no sound. Every garment was torn from the Warg’s fearsome claws.


Once Faramir’s wound was revealed, Aragorn bit back a cry of dismay. His friend’s body was covered in blood! On closer examination, Aragorn ascertained that Faramir bore many small scrapes, but the damage had been caused when a Warg’s claws had torn into his flesh from shoulder to hip. The wound was still bleeding sluggishly, but it had missed the major organs.


Aragorn swiftly draped a towel across Faramir's hips; to give him some semblance of dignity. He prepared to treat his friend’s hurts. “You have many bruises and scratches and a deep wound, ion nîn,” he said. “I am going to clean and stitch them for you. I fear it will hurt, though I shall be as gentle as I can.”


“I trust you, ada,” Faramir whispered.


Aragorn gently squeezed Faramir’s hand. Going over to the table, he selected meadowsweet and athelas and cast both into one of the bowls of hot water the servants had brought. The scent of the athelas revived his spirits, steeling him for the task ahead. Treating a loved one was difficult for any healer. Aragorn was no exception. He knew, though, that he was by far the best qualified for the task and most importantly, Faramir trusted him. An unfortunate series of events had made such situations all too familiar to them both, to the degree that both now felt entirely at ease with each other.


The athelas brought some more colour back to Faramir’s pallid features and his breathing grew deeper.


Aragorn washed his own hands then began to clean his Steward’s wounds gently but thoroughly. His grim expression lightened when it became obvious that the cut was not as deep as he had feared and neither bones nor major blood vessels were damaged. Warg wounds were no light matter, especially as the creatures often carried infections on their filthy paws, but given the damage the creatures could cause, Faramir had escaped lightly. His collapse must have been caused by a mixture of pain, blood loss and the exertion of trying to ride a horse while injured. A few days of treatments, combined with rest and nourishing food, should suffice to restore Faramir’s health, Aragorn hoped. If only Faramir had disclosed his wound sooner! But questions, and a good talking-to about misplaced stubbornness and stoicism could wait.


Knowing there was no purpose in trying to put on a brave face before his closest friend, Faramir allowed his usual self- control to slip and moaned softly. The pain was excruciating, especially in his shoulder.


Aragorn grimaced in sympathy and held his hand a few inches above the wound, thereby easing Faramir’s pain with his healing abilities.


“Would you like some poppy juice, before I stitch up your hurts?” Aragorn enquired.


“Please,” Faramir whispered. “Alas, you must think me a coward!”


”Never would I think such a thing of you!” Aragorn protested, mixing the portion as he spoke “A coward would be screaming and only a fool would pretend they felt no pain. I fear it would be unwise to wait until the juice took effect, though, the wound needs closing swiftly.”


“Your hands take the pain,” Faramir replied, “But do not overtax yourself, I beg of you!”


Aragorn made no reply; instead he held the cup to Faramir’s lips and supported his head while he drank. He then took up needle and thread and closed the long ugly gash.


Before bandaging the wounds, Aragorn bathed Faramir, washing away the blood and cleansing the variety of smaller cuts and scratches Faramir had sustained in his battle with the ferocious beast.


The poppy juice was by now taking effect and Faramir was very sleepy.” You need honey applied to these wounds to help prevent infection,” the King warned. “It will sting.”


“Um,” Faramir murmured sleepily, followed by “Ow!” as the sugary liquid touched the raw flesh.


“Easy, I am almost finished now,” Aragorn reassured him.


“Feel cold!” Faramir said, as Aragorn finished tying the bandage around his leg.


“You are not in balmy Ithilien now!” Aragorn reminded him. “Far too chill a place to be devoid of clothes and blankets for long.” He rinsed the honey from his hands then rummaged amongst the clothing Faramir had brought with him, emerging triumphantly with some drawers and a nightshirt for his friend to wear.


He helped the sleepy Steward don the garments then pulled the blankets over him. Faramir was soon tucked in and sleeping soundly.


Aragorn selected some healing supplies to place on the bedside table and replaced the rest in his pack. He opened the door and called for a servant to take away the bowls and dirty towels.


Just then, Éomer reappeared looking worried. ”How is Faramir?” he enquired. "I have cleaned and polished his new sword for him." He placed the weapon against the wall as he spoke.


“The wounds were not as bad as I feared, but he suffers pain and great risk of infection still from those filthy Warg claws,” Aragorn replied. “I hope he will soon recover, though, as he has the strong constitution of our people. I have given him poppy juice, so he should sleep for hours.”


“That is good,” Éomer replied rather absently. “There is no sign of our child yet. Lothiriel is still in labour so her ladies tell me.”


“Babies take their time,” Aragorn reassured him. “Eldarion took almost twenty four hours to come into the world.”


“Yet Éowyn’s child came very quickly?”


“Elestelle was premature and your sister’s actions speeded up the labour. Trust me, my friend, and let nature take her course.”


“You are the Healer so I suppose you must know,” was all Éomer could think of to say. “You look weary, my friend,” he exclaimed suddenly noticing Aragorn’s drawn features. “You should rest awhile.”


“I need to keep watch over Faramir,” Aragorn protested.


“I will stay here and alert you if he wakes,” Éomer said firmly. “Now lie down and I will sit here in the chair.”


Too weary to protest and grateful for his young friend’s insistence, Aragorn vacated the chair and after carefully removing his boots, settled down on the bed, pulling a corner of the quilt over himself. He was soon snoring soundly.


Éomer smiled indulgently and settled himself comfortably in the roomy chair. Faramir tossed restlessly for a while, but eventually settled, his head against Aragorn’s broad shoulder. Lack of sleep followed by an eventful day eventually took its toll on Éomer and he felt his eyes grow heavy.

 Chapter Nine- The  Hands of the King

The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.” – Tolkien 

“Éomer King!” The cries of the woman’s agitated voice combined with a frantic banging on the door rudely awakened both kings from slumber.


“Come in!” called Éomer. “Whatever is the matter?”  He leapt to his feet, only a moment quicker than Aragorn.


“My lord we fear for the Queen’s life!” the woman, whom they now realized was Hild, replied.


“What ails her?” asked Éomer. The colour drained from his usually ruddy complexion.


“She lacks the strength to bring the babe into the world, my lord. I came to ask you if we should try to save the child rather than lose both of them.”


“I want you to save my wife! We can have other children.” Éomer’s tone caused the midwife to take several steps backward.


“My lord, you do not understand these women’s matters,” Hild replied. “It is not that simple.”


“Tell me exactly what ails her!” Aragorn said urgently. He placed a restraining hand on his friend’s shoulder. When Hild still hesitated, he added. “You can tell me everything, I am a healer. Is the babe in the wrong position, or does something else ail Lady Lothiriel?” Even as he spoke, his heart sank. His experience of childbirth was mostly limited to studying Master Elrond’s manuscripts.


“The child’s head is where it should be and the mother has wide hips and the opening of the womb is dilated,” Hild explained, her unease at discussing such matters with a man showing in her uneasy gestures. “Lothiriel Queen is exhausted, though and lacks the strength needed to bring her child safely into the world.”


Aragorn’s countenance brightened considerably. “Take me to her, I believe I can help her,” he said.


“Give her women a few moments to prepare her, my lord,” Hild replied, her expression reflecting what she thought of a man entering a birthing chamber.


“Give them a few moments,” Aragorn cautioned Éomer when his friend made to follow at once. “We also need to summon a servant to sit with Faramir.” He glanced towards the bed. Faramir remained in a drugged sleep and had not stirred during the commotion.


 Éomer summoned a servant while Aragorn hastily collected what he thought he might need. The two men hurried to Lothiriel’s chamber and waited impatiently by the door. After a few moments, Hild opened it to admit them.


A pitiful sight met their eyes. Lothiriel lay on the bed covered by a sheet. Her beautiful hair lay lank and sweat-stained on the pillow while her features contorted in agony. Beside her, stood Alis, clasping her mistress’ hand and weeping quietly. The two midwives stood grim- faced at the foot of the bed.


“Lothiriel, my love!” Éomer exclaimed in horror. He hastened to his wife’s bedside and grasped Lothiriel’s other hand.


“I am sorry,” Lothiriel whispered. “I tried.. I could not..” She broke off as another contraction seized her and feebly clutched at her husband’s and Alis’ hands.


Aragorn approached the bedside. If anything, Lothiriel looked more wretched than ever. “Have no fear, my lady,” he told her gently.


“Can you help her?” pleaded Éomer.


The midwives glared suspiciously and hovered beside Aragorn.


“I want everyone to leave,” Aragorn ordered. ”Excepting Alis, who shall stay as a chaperone and assist me,” he added to reassure the young Queen. “The methods I use to heal require intense concentration and there is need of haste.”


“This is most improper, my lord!” Ivorwen protested.


“There is naught to fear,” said Aragorn. “I shall observe the strictest propriety.”


“I trust you Aragorn,” Éomer said simply, bending to kiss his wife’s pale cheek. “Lothiriel, beloved, you have nothing to be sorry for. Take heart, Aragorn will help you. I love you my dearest wife!” With that, he turned and shepherded the protesting midwives from the room.


“Easy, my lady,” Aragorn said reassuringly. “I will leave your ladies to deliver your child. I am here only to see what ails your spirit.”


“I am so tired,” Lothiriel whispered. Her breath came in ragged gasps.


Aragorn held his hands a few inches above her swollen belly. To his relief and joy, he could sense the child’s life force was still waxing strong. He then knelt beside the bed and took Lothiriel’s hand in one of his and placed the other on her forehead. It was not difficult to connect with her spirit as the blood of Númenor ran almost as true in the young Queen of Rohan as it did in Faramir. A ghost of a smile hovered for a brief instant in his eyes at just how alike these cousins were; both possessed the same nobility and devotion to duty with the same sensitivity and danger of fading.


A fear of failing in her duties and obligations was the overwhelming emotion Aragorn sensed from Lothiriel. The young woman had obediently left her beloved homeland by the sea to marry Éomer. The sea, though, was in her blood and the longing for it haunted her. She was torn between her love for her husband and a deep homesickness. He could sense also that she found childbirth deeply humiliating. Overwhelmed with compassion, he wished he could bring Arwen to her side to help her through this difficult rite of womanhood and teach her to be more at ease with what was happening to her body. She was in sore need of women to support her, who were not in awe of her rank. Conflict between duty and homesickness were destroying Lothiriel’s sensitive spirit and had most likely been draining her life energy for many months.


“You suffer from the sea longing, do you not?” Aragorn said gently. He sat down on the chair beside the bed.


“Yes, my lord, I do.” She paused and took a deep breath as if to summon what little strength she had left.  “I beg of you do not tell Éomer how I have failed in my duty to embrace the Riddermark with my heart and soul. I do love him deeply, but I miss my family and my home by the sea very much.”


“You have not failed. No one expects you to leave your homeland forever,” Aragorn replied. “You can visit your family with your child and walk by the seashore again.”


“Not mine… the heir to the Riddermark. Too late...I am so weary,” Lothiriel whimpered, writhing weakly as another contraction tore at her body. “Forget me…save the child.”


“You have my word, my lady; you can bring this child into the world. I believe I can help you. Both the Mark and Gondor need you, Lothiriel. I shall appoint you as the Mark’s ambassador to Gondor, and as such you must often visit your homeland.” Aragorn’s tone was kind, but very firm.


“Thank you, my lord, but I lack sufficient strength,” Lothiriel whispered. ”If only I were stronger!”


“You shall be, my lady!” Aragorn aid firmly. “I can give you my strength!” He rose to his feet and asked Alis to summon a servant to bring a bowl of hot water.


As soon as the water was brought, the King placed it on the bedside table. He then cast two athelas leaves into the steaming water. He inhaled the steam deeply before holding it in front of Lothiriel. At once a living freshness filled the room. Lothiriel began to breathe more deeply.


Aragorn inhaled deeply of the steam.  He knelt beside the bed. He again took Lothiriel’s hand and placed his other hand on her brow. ”Reach out to me with your mind and I shall give you the strength you require to bring your babe into the world,” he said. Aragorn took a deep breath then poured out his life energy, willing himself to save the fading Queen. He knew all too well what he was doing was risky, especially as he had already given freely of his healing energies that day. He could not let Lothiriel die and his young friend be left bereft. Neither did he wish to die and leave his own loved ones. He could only try to judge exactly how much of his life force he could share.


Colour slowly returned to Lothiriel’s pale features while Aragorn grew pale and weary.


Lothiriel gave a loud cry as an especially strong contraction seized her.


Aragorn staggered to his feet. ”You shall hold your child in your arms soon,” he told her. “I will leave you in the care of your women now.


Rather unsteadily, he made his way towards the door. Éomer and the midwives were waiting anxiously outside.


“How is she?” Éomer enquired, his handsome features creased with worry.


“I believe all will be well now,” Aragorn told him before turning to the midwives. ”Go and tend your lady,” he told them. “The child will be born very soon. See that it is placed against her skin immediately. She will bond with it and it will give her the desire to live.”


“Yes, my lord,” Hild replied obediently before hastening back to her patient.


“My lord!” Ivorwen protested. “A babe should be swaddled and handed immediately to its wet nurse! That is the way of high born ladies.”


“It is not so in the Mark,” said Éomer.


“A babe needs the touch and scent of its mother and a mother needs her babe,” Aragorn said firmly, thinking of what Arwen had told him of her precious first moments with Eldarion. Given the attitudes of the Gondorian nobility, it was small wonder the population had been in decline so long. He hoped other mothers would follow Arwen’s example. Suddenly he stumbled. Éomer gripped his arm.


“What happened? You look pale and weary,” Éomer asked. “Are you certain all will be well with Lothiriel?”


“She has the strength now to bring the child into the world,” Aragorn replied. “I learned that she suffers from the sea longing and it had been draining her strength. She is a courageous woman who has battled against it in silence for many long months as it crept up upon her and sapped her life energy.”


“Sea longing?” Éomer looked bewildered. “What is that?”


“It is a condition that runs in Lothiriel’s family because of their Elven lineage. They can fade and die if deprived of the sight of the sea and the hope of seeing it again. Many believe that was the cause of Faramir’s mother’s untimely demise.”


Éomer looked alarmed. “Will this sea longing kill my sweet wife?”


 “Not if Lothiriel is able to visit the sea frequently,” Aragorn replied.


“Why did she not tell me?” Éomer said sadly. “I would have told her she could visit her family and walk beside the ocean whenever she wished. I love her; I want her to be happy.”


“She feared you would misunderstand. She was torn between her duty and her love for you and her need to see the sea and hear the sound of the waves.”


“My poor Lothiriel! I had no idea!”


“Only those who carry Elven blood truly understand,” Aragorn told him. “Unless she spoke of it, you would never have realized what ailed her.” He struggled to make himself heard above Lothiriel’s cries from the adjoining room. Éomer visibly flinched.


“Gladly would I bear her pain!” he said.


“I know you would,” Aragorn said gently. “You love your lady. It is a good sign, though that the baby is coming now as it should. We can only wait.”


“You should rest then, my friend.” Éomer turned away from the birthing chamber though he cast many a backward glance as he took Aragorn to rest.


Faramir was still sleeping when Aragorn and Éomer returned. The serving maid rose from the bedside chair as the two kings entered.


“How is he?” Aragorn enquired as they entered.


“Restless, my lord, though he has not awoken,” the girl replied.


“You may go and get some sleep now, Eagyth,” Éomer told her.


Bobbing a curtsey, the girl left the room.


Aragorn slumped wearily on the chair, knowing he dare not rest yet. Every bone in his body seemed to ache and he struggled to keep his eyes open.


Faramir moaned softly in his sleep. The sound immediately snapped Aragorn back to full wakefulness. He grasped Faramir’s hand between his own. “Easy now,” he said gently. “You are safe now, ion nîn.”


Even in sleep, Faramir seemed to sense his presence and was reassured by it, his fingers coiled around Aragorn’s and he settled into a deeper repose.


Éomer was touched at this evidence of the bond between Aragorn and Faramir. He hoped fervently, should a son be born to him this night, that the child would grow up as devoted to his father as was Faramir to the father of his heart.




The first light of dawn was creeping through the shutters when Hild’s excited cry came at the door. “My lord, you have a son!”


Éomer sprang to his feet and went to the door, closely followed by Aragorn who by now was almost too exhausted to stand upright.


“My Queen, how is she?” the King of Rohan asked anxiously.


“She is well, my lord, as is your son,” the woman replied. “You may see them in a few minutes, if you wish. I will send a servant to fetch you when we are ready, but I wanted you to hear the good news at once.” She bustled out again her face beaming with joy.


Éomer turned to Aragorn and embraced him. ”Thank you, my friend, for saving them both!” he said fervently, a tear glistening in his eye.


“I am so happy for you, Éomer,” Aragorn replied.


“You must come and see them too,” said Éomer.


“My presence would only make your lady uncomfortable. I am weary now and would rest,” said Aragorn. Now the crisis was over he felt near to collapse.


“I am sorry, I had not realised just how much all this has taken out of you,” Éomer said contritely suddenly remembering just how much Aragorn had endured but a few months past. He helped his friend over to the bed, pulled off Aragorn’s boots, batting aside the older man’s feeble protests, then pulled the covers over him and gently tucked them round him. By the time the servant came to summon him, Aragorn was already snoring.


Pale but smiling, Lothiriel was sitting up in bed clutching a shawl wrapped bundle. Éomer‘s first impression was of a very pink wrinkled face crowned by a fuzz of black hair.


Outside the cock crowed loudly to proclaim the dawn. 


The infant started to bawl as if he were hungry. To Éomer’s surprise, Lothiriel unlaced her nightgown and guided the dark fuzzed head to her breast. “I hope you do not mind,” said the Queen. “Hild laid him on my breast after he was born and I did not have the heart then to give over his care to another woman. I have decided I would like to do as the ladies of the Mark and suckle mine own babe.”


Éomer bent to kiss her brow. “There is no sight in the whole world fairer than that of my wife nursing our son,” he said.




Aragorn finally stirred from a deep slumber late the next morning.  Beside him, Faramir groaned and appeared somewhat feverish.  Aragorn sighed. He had expected this. Warg teeth and claws were notorious for carrying infections. “Why did you not wake me?” he gently chided his friend.


“You were exhausted and needed your rest,” the Steward replied. “I will do well enough.”


Aragorn allowed himself a small sign of relief. At least Faramir was not delirious. He gave him some water then a draught of poppy juice to ease his pain before quickly seeing to his own needs.


A smiling maidservant brought breakfast. Aragorn found he was hungry while Faramir could only manage to nibble some toast.


Éomer bounded into the chamber a few minutes later, grinning blissfully. “My son is so perfect,” he enthused.  "He is dark like Lothiriel with a fine mane of black hair; He has the sweetest little fingers and toes, so pink and tiny! And he already has a good strong grip; he shall surely be a mighty horseman!  Lothiriel has changed her mind about a wet nurse too and has decided to suckle him herself.”  


Aragorn suppressed a smile. It seemed that instructing the midwives to keep mother and baby together had bonded them as he had hoped.” It gladdens my heart they are faring well,” he replied. "What name will the newest Rider of the Mark bear?"


“Elfwine, son of Éomer," the proud father exclaimed, tossing his mane of golden hair like a stallion.  "You must visit them later today.  How do you fare, brother?"  Éomer finished, turning towardsFaramir.


“My wounds pain me a little, I fear I must remain abed for a while,” said Faramir. “Please tell my cousin how happy I am for her.”


“I must return to Lothiriel now,” said Éomer.” I hope your pain soon eases, brother. I will convey your good wishes to my dear one.”


“I will tend your wounds now,” Aragorn told Faramir as soon as Éomer had left. He sent for a servant to bring hot water and laid out his healing supplies. Another servant built up the fire, so that Faramir would not become chilled once the blankets were removed.


Aragorn took no chances and once Faramir’s nightshirt was removed, swathed him in blankets as he tended the wound. Faramir endured these ministrations stoically while the bandages were soaked off, only groaning when Aragorn gently probed the injury. To the King’s great relief, the infection did not seem too severe. He called for a servant to bring some cabbage leaves from the kitchens with which to make a poultice.


Although, Aragorn was as gentle as possible, by the time his wound was cleaned, the poultice applied and the bandage firmly in place, Faramir was pale and sweating. The poppy juice had taken the worst edge off the pain, but today it did not seem that the Steward would sleep again just yet. Aragorn sat by his bedside trying to make him comfortable and wiping Faramir’s face with a damp cloth then placing one on his aching head. The Steward managed a weak smile of gratitude, but lay there with his eyes closed, trying vainly to get comfortable. 


Hating to see the one he loved as a son in pain, Aragorn sought for some means of comforting him. His eye lighted upon the sword, which the Steward had freed from the tree the day before. “Do you know the history of the sword you drew from the tree?” he enquired of Faramir, aiming to distract him.


Faramir weakly shook his head. ”Only that it is a weapon of great age and worth,” he said.” Mithrandir always cherished the blade and he told me that it was called Glamdring.”


“That is but part of the story,” said Aragorn. “The sword is over six thousand years old. It was forged in the ancient realm of Gondolin for the hand of Turgon the Elven King who ruled there. Gandalf told me the story one day while we were seeking Gollum. He was polishing his sword and I was curious about the runes upon the blade.”


“I have not yet studied them,” said Faramir, his eyes widening in astonishment. “The fight was raging too fiercely. Later when I wished to do so, my wounds clouded my wits.”


Aragorn propped a pillow behind Faramir’s back and helped him sit up. He carried Glamdring over to the bed. The blade gleamed brightly. Éomer had cleaned and polished it well.


“See the runes, here on the blade,” said Aragorn. “They read; Turgon had me made, I who hammer my foes. Gandalf found the sword amongst the Trolls treasure hoard when he was on his fabled adventure with Bilbo and the Dwarfs in 2941, just before the Ring was found again by Bilbo. Gandalf realised this sword was of great worth and beauty, but it was not until Elrond saw it that he learned its history. No man knows for certain how it survived the fall of Gondolin, but Elrond liked to think that our ancestors, Tuor and Idril might have taken it with them when they escaped.” 


Faramir studied the runes on the white and gold sword intently, his eyes shining, then turned his attention to the jewelled hilt.


“It once had an ivory scabbard, but that must either have been lost, or Gandalf chose to take it to Valinor,” said Aragorn. “No matter, I shall gift you a new one, worthy of such a sword. Gandalf must have used some magic to keep its blade bright while it lay buried in the tree. Like Sting, it will glow with blue light should Orcs draw near. I hope, though, there will be little need now for such a power.”


“Why should he choose me to receive such a mighty gift?” Faramir asked, shaking his head slightly in bewilderment. “You are King and knew Mithrandir far better than I. Surely it must be meant for you instead? I have never loved the sword for its sharpness. I go to war only when I must to defend my people.”


“As should any Man of worth. The verse was clear and you alone could draw if from the tree. There is no mistake,” Aragorn said firmly. “Gandalf thought very highly of you. I already have Andúril, a weapon of great worth and history, while Éomer has Gúthwinë, both blades that belonged to our forefathers. Your father’s sword perished with him, while I placed Boromir’s beside him in his funeral boat.”


“That sword belonged to my grandsire,” Faramir said. ”I had a sword befitting my rank, but it was no heirloom.”


Aragorn glanced across the room to where Faramir’s old sword, retrieved by Éomer after the battle with the Wargs, lay sheathed and propped against the wall. It was a good weapon and highly serviceable, but on State occasions it appeared plain beside the swords of the King and the other Lords of Gondor. Aragorn had more than once considered ordering a far finer one to be crafted for his friend. He had discussed it with Arwen who had counselled that such a gift, however kindly meant, might hurt Faramir’s pride.


“I imagine that Gandalf regretted not having given you Glamdring when he was last in your company,” said Aragorn. “Maybe he felt he might have sought counsel from Master Elrond concerning the fate of so ancient a weapon.”


“Would Master Elrond and his sons have not had a far greater right to bear it than I?” asked Faramir.


“Maybe, but they have fine weapons of their own. I am certain they would have agreed with Gandalf’s plan,” said Aragorn. “Perhaps when Gandalf brought Shadowfax to Rohan, he left you the gift due to some foresight, knowing you would have need of it. Wear Glamdring with pride, ion nîn. The sword is well deserved and has found a worthy new master. You have preserved Gondor’s future by saving my life more than once while your friendship and support help me govern Gondor wisely.  Your deeds yesterday made you a hero of Rohan as well as Gondor. Gandalf left gifts for all on that visit, for Éomer has many fine horses as result, one of which Éomer has gifted to Arwen, for being only half Mearas, it permitted her to become her mistress.”


“It will be wondrous to bear such a weapon with such a history.  Forged in Gondolin for an elven-king...” Faramir said, his voice now growing sleepy as the poppy juice finally took effect.


Aragorn took the sword from his Steward and laid it reverently at the far side of the room. He then tucked the blankets around Faramir and settled himself in the chair by the bedside. Despite struggling to remain awake, the exertions of the past twenty-four hours caught up with him and he fell asleep. His slumber was punctuated by vivid dreams of Gandalf wielding Glamdring in battle. The blade gleamed with a blue light then was drenched with crimson drops of blood.


Aragorn woke with a start. Someone, most likely Éomer had covered him with a blanket while he slept.


The sun streamed through the window, suggesting that he had slept for several hours. His first thoughts were for Faramir. The Steward was still in a deep poppy-induced sleep. Aragorn laid a land upon his friend’s brow and to his great relief the fever had abated. The bandages around Faramir’s side were damp. When Aragorn investigated, he found the poultice had done its work and the poisons were swiftly draining from the wound. Faramir hardly stirred as Aragorn expertly applied a fresh poultice and bandages. He was confident now that Faramir would soon recover and they should be able to return home to their wives within a week or two.


Aragorn walked over to the window and looked out. Everyone he could see was smiling at the good news of the safe arrival of Éomer’s son and heir. Turning away from the window, Aragorn saw the sunlight was glinting on Glamdring’s blade. Aragorn wondered if Gandalf was smiling too, far across the sea in the Undying Lands.


The End



A/n. I wrote this story a few years ago ,but it languished in unfinished draft form on my computer until discussing "Die Walküre" with a friend the other night decided me to look at it again and begin posting it. Parts are inspired by "The Volsung Saga and Die Walküre." It is written in the style of my earlier pieces and events take place shortly after "A Time to Reap". It will enhance enjoyment of this story if you have read "Web of Treason" and "A Time to Reap", but I hope it can be enjoyed on its own. Do feel free to ask questions if puzzled by anything.

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