1. Fallen Night
Aragorn went first to him, having been called to the Houses for the want of healing hands, and looked onto his face and could not leave but went to his beside and knelt there, putting his hand gently upon his hot brow, above the burnt and oozing flesh where there had once been an eye.
And Eomer seeing that he was sorrowful and weary said: “First you must rest, surely, and at the least eat a little?”
“Nay, time runs most short for him and I must not leave for it should cost his life. All speed is needed,” Aragorn answered. “Here I must put forth all such power and skill as is given to me. Would that Elrond were here, for he is the eldest of all our race and has greater power. But fetch his sons, for they may aid me so I may go to others when I have done all I may for him.”
Then he called to Ioreth and requested athelas from where ever it could be found and when she was gone, Aragorn bade the other women to make water hot. Then he took Faramir’s hand in his, it being mercifully spared from the flames, and kept the other hand upon the sick man’s brow. It was drenched with sweat; but Faramir did not move or make any sign, and seemed hardly to breathe, those breaths he did draw being the shallow rasping gasps of a dying man.
“He is nearly spent,” said Aragorn turning to Gandalf. “But this comes not from the wounds, terrible though they are. The burns shall need delicate caring, yes, but they alone shall not claim his life; nor will the dart. See! that is healing. Had he been smitten by some dart of the Nazgul, as you thought, he would have died that night. This hurt was given by some Southron arrow, I would guess. Who drew it forth? Was it kept?”
“I drew it forth,” said Imrahil, “and staunched the wound. But I did not keep the arrow, for we had much to do. It was, as I remember, just such a dart as the Southrons use. Yet I believed that it came from the Shadows above, for else his fever and sickness were not to be understood, before he took the burns; since the wound was not deep or vital. How then do you read the matter?”
“Weariness, grief for his father’s mood, wounds nearly beyond bearing, now, pain and over all the Black Breath,” said Aragorn. “He is a man of staunch will, for already he had come close under the Shadow before ever he rode to battle on the out-walls. Slowly the dark must have crept on him, even as he fought and strove to hold his outpost. And to have suffered these burns and yet remain...Would that I could have been here sooner!”
The herb-master came and had not what they sought but left quickly to join the search for the herb that had so long been forgotten by all those except old folk. And Aragorn stayed kneeling beside Faramir, and held a hand upon his brow. And those that watched felt that some great struggle was going on. For Aragorn’s face grew grey with weariness; and ever and anon he called the name of Faramir, but each time more faintly to their hearing as if Aragorn himself was removed from them, and walked afar in some dark vale, calling for the one that was lost.
The voice that called to him was but a whisper delivered by a wind he could not hear. He was alone in the dark, unseeing, lost, and though he stumbled ever forward toward that beckoning voice he could not find his way. His eyes were gone, that he knew, for the feathery whispers had spoken to him of his injuries, of his father’s madness, of Gondor’s doom and when he had not despaired, had clung to a hope that should have long been dead, the whispers turned to shrieks, the howls and piercing cries of angry wildcats closing in upon their prey.
He had stumbled, fallen, but pulled himself onward, away from them, with all the strength not yet drained from his weary body. They would not have him, these cruel creatures of their faceless enemy’s devising, for he knew it was so, these beasts, these whispers, were Sauron’s devices, tortures from one who both tempted and tormented, and he would have to crush the last breath from Faramir’s body before Faramir would be claimed by he who brought only pain and despair to all those he touched.
It was then, dragging himself onward to where he did not know, that he heard the first whisper, his name called out, quiet and strong, piercing the howling that pursued him, clear as the pale light that had lingered in his long ago dream, shadowed but true as all else fell to darkness. He found his feet again, staggered up and stumbled onward, toward the voice calling him, trying to follow it. The pain nearly felled him, one, twice; the third wave wringing a cry from his lips and bringing him to his knees.
He shivered, feeling himself being dragged away by the cold, by the howls, and strained to hear the voice calling to him; it grew softer and softer against the choking darkness until he was unsure if it had ever been real, as he fought a dying fight against the demons sent to enslave him. He would not let hope die, would not succumb willingly to the darkness, but he had not the strength remaining to keep death at bay much longer. The battle had raged fierce too long and even the most skilled of Captains could lose a fight for want of reinforcements.
“Have I not always come to your aid, dear brother, when such dire straits seek to swallow you?”
There was not a sound in all of Arda, nor likely one in all that lay beyond Middle Earth, that was sweeter to his ears, tormented as they were by the raging howls, nor that had the strength to rally his spirits more and he fought to find his feet again even as strong, familiar arms lifted him and he was lifted, pulled staggering onward. Their direction changed, that Faramir could discern, but not the need for haste which Faramir had felt before as he fled the reaches of their enemy.
“Come, little brother, hurry. We, neither of us, have time to linger. My time here must be short; yours is running out and, though for myself I should wish you with me, I would not have you take leave of life yet, nor have you claimed by the shadows, as this path would lead you to their keeping. I cannot lead you back to life, nor guide you to an easy death as I would if no option but that or torment lay before you, but I may deliver you to one who may if we are quick.”
“Brother...” Faramir murmured, staggering forward as a wounded soldier would, supported by his comrade seeking shelter, seeking safety for a few breathless moments. The pain grew more swiftly that the sound of that beacon of hope, his name, dimly, but growing closer, Boromir led him true but, then, he always had, had he not?
Fire raced down Faramir’s side and across his face with each step and nightmarish visions began to burn through the darkness until he would have welcomed its returned. His father, proud and fierce, standing over him with that terrible black light of madness in his otherwise dead eyes; the heat of the flames had roused him, the pain of the fire as it found his flesh waking him and his finding his father’s eyes as he began to scream, half out of his mind from pain and fever. The flurry of movement and the sudden unexpected pain brought from pulled from the fire, landing on the side of his body that burned still, too close from the flames, the crackling sound of splintering wood that fell across his face, burning, blinding, as it seared his flesh and the pain and noise that continued after the sudden snap of darkness before everything circled down and fell away into quiet and cold before the whispers began.
“No, brother, no,” Boromir’s voice and touch was gentle as it had never been quite so in life, that hint of soldier’s roughness stripped away in that moment as it had not been in longer than Faramir’s memory stretched. “Later, it must be later for we have little time. The one who may aid you is searching but I know not how long he shall be able to continue for it is costing him great strength. And the time I have is not endless but I could not stand idly by and see you...”
All the while they kept moving, staggering onward into the darkness, or so Faramir saw it and knew, with a sharp clear knowledge, that it was all he would ever see again as the pain of his injuries seeped slowly back into being the closer they came to that calling voice. “What, brother? What now have you done? How came you to be here with me?”
And Faramir could not see his smile, but he knew it still, sloppy, careless and tilted to one side with all the ease of a man who knew he was right and be damned what any other should tell him. “I told you once, little brother, that should you have need of me not father nor even the Valar themselves should hinder me and I would come to you. To that I hold as always I have.”
“Boromir...” Faramir breathed, the thought beyond comprehension but Boromir laughed and urged him ever onward.
“We are close, brother. I know there is pain now and I cannot promise you it will end nor can I promise you aught, but that there shall be one to aid you and that he is all we have ever wished for, for Gondor.”
And Faramir felt his brother come to a halt, and he stopped there with him. The voice was close now, so close Faramir thought he should only have to call out an answer to be found but he remained silent for Boromir’s hands rested tender and loving on either side of his face.
“And one more thing I may gift you, before I must leave you. Open your eyes, little brother, let yourself see,” Boromir commanded.
Faramir obeyed, as he always did his Captain’s orders, and saw Boromir’s smiling face before him, as peaceful as it had been when Faramir had glimpsed it within the Elven craft bound for the sea; his face was suffused with joy no mortal man could know and about his face and golden hair shone the same pale light that had accompanied the boat as she bore her silent sleeper past the realms of mortal men out into the great unchartered sea, crowning now his brother in all its quiet glory.
Boromir smiled at him, mindless of the tears that tracked down his cheeks, “I would not have your last vision be as it was and now the darkness shall not haunt you, as it may have, in your waking hours. See light. See love and be happy, my brother. You do me so proud, Gondor proud, and I know you shall serve her well, better than I should have. And remember that you have my love, my dearest brother, you have always had my love and it shall forever be so. I am with you, beyond whatever lies ahead I am with you.”
Boromir’s smiled turned bittersweet and his lips brushed away the tears that tumbled down Faramir’s cheeks in farewell. “Now, go to him, he awaits you and shall guide you where I may not.”
“Brother...” Faramir found he had not the words to speak nor, seeing Boromir’s gentle smile, that his brother had any need of hearing them for they were known to him already as were all his heart’s secrets, as it had always been. “To whom do you leave me?”
Boromir laughed, his face joyful and fading into the light that lingered: “The King, dear brother and I know you shall serve him better than any other may! Farewell!”
“Boromir! My brother, farewell!” Faramir called and the light of Gondor’s favourite son faded into memory. Faramir took one step, as if to go after him, and halted. “A trail it shall be, to suffer the years without you, but always will I bear you in my heart.”
He turned and was found. A tall man stood before him, his face gave and weary but his eyes smiling; a green stone shone upon his breast and the winged crown of Gondor’s Kings glistened as new upon his brow. Faramir drew a deep breath and felt the pain he had carried with him ease as his king extended his hand and Faramir reached to grasp it...
“It is kingsfoil, Sir,” Bergil said, calling Aragorn back from where he had been wandering; “but not fresh, I fear. It must have been culled two weeks ago at least. I hope it will serve, Sir?” Then looking at Faramir he burst into tears.
But Aragorn smiled. “It will serve,” he said. “It will serve, indeed, and the worst is now over but there will be much healing yet. Has my brother come?”
“Here, Aragorn,” Elladan said, stepping forth. “Call him back and I shall stay and do what I may for him while you go to the others but it shall be no sight for young eyes, when he wakens.”
“Come, Bergil,” Beregond told his son, stepping forward and drawing the lad from the room. “We shall wait outside and leave room for them to help the Captain.”
They left and Aragorn looked back to his patient, still and silent on the bed, waiting to be called home. He had felt them drawing closer and wished not to intrude if avoidable, the sons of Gondor could afford the moment, he would see Faramir whole despite it and he felt the beloved presence step back, away. Then taking two leaves, he laid them on his hands and breathed on them, and then he crushed them and straight-way a living freshness filled the room, as if the air itself awake and tingled, sparkling with joy, hiding the smell of seared human flesh and desperate pain. And then he cast the leaves into the bowls of steaming water that were brought to him, and at once all hearts were lightened. For the fragrance that came to each was like a memory of dewy mornings of unshadowed sun in some land of which the fair world in Spring and itself but a fleeting memory. But Aragorn stood up as one refreshed, and his eyes smiled as he held a bowl before Faramir’s twisted, dreaming face.
Faramir stirred, and gave a low quiet moan, the pain breaking and building like ocean waves and his eyes were unable to search for the one he sought so his hand reached out and was taken and held within two as calloused as his own and the world suddenly felt less disorienting; and knowledge and love kindled in his voice as he spoke slurred and softly, “Mmmy Loo-oord, y-ou calle-d mmme, I c-come. W-wh-at d-do-es the k-k-king c-com-mand.”
“Walk no more in shadows, but awake!” said Aragorn. “You are hurt and weary but we shall care for you. Rest now; I leave you in hands I trust even more than my own. This is my brother,” and Elladan’s hand touched Faramir’s cooling forehead, feeling his shock and pain, letting him feel his presence, “he will care for you and I shall return to you when I may. Rest now, I wish you ready when I return for I must go to others who need me.”
Faramir’s reply was a low sickly moan, the pain and the shock finally claiming him. Elladan meant over him and spoke quiet words in Elvish to him as his hands moved swiftly, always touching, always reminding Faramir he was there, lifting Faramir’s head to spoon a sedative past his lips before he began treating the burns; the worst were past feeling and would bring him no pain but the others...Aragorn left the chamber with Gandalf but Imrahil stayed behind and so too did Elladan, for Faramir still needed the healing the son of Elrond could bring and, as for the Prince of Dol Amroth, he remained so his sister’s son should not be with only strangers in this, his newly darkened world.
And as Aragorn went to Eowyn all the Houses, and so soon all of Gondor, whispered of the ranger with the healing hands, their returned king.
“How fares he?” Aragorn asked, pausing outside the door, waiting, in case Gondor’s new Steward was sleeping for he wanted not to disturb the Lord’s rest, should he have found it.
“He will recover, that you knew,” Elladan told him, coming to stand quietly next to him, eyes remaining briefly on the charge left under his care before meeting those of his brother. “He drifts now, chasing shadows of dreams, waking from time to time. He has taken water but no food, I thought it best that be saved for the morrow, it would be too much effort for him now.”
Aragorn nodded, asking softly; “And his eyes?”
Elladan shook his head. “The left is destroyed, there is naught there but twisted flesh that will turn to thick scars. The right is intact but damaged beyond aid; it will remain dark.”
“So he is blind then,” the king sighed, blind, yes, but not dead, and Faramir would know that. “What of the burns?”
“He has lost some feeling in his shoulder and trailing down his side but with effort may maintain the mobility there if it is stiffened. The scarring on his shoulder and down his left side will be bad but that which extends across his chest will heal without permanent reminders or damage, barring unforseen problems, so too will those on his legs,” Elladan said. “I put forth all the skills adar taught and have passed them to those who will care for him in the days we are gone, as I assume we soon will be; it shall speed his healing. He is drugged and still dazed but will be able to speak to you, if you wish it.”
“Does he sleep now? I do not wish to disturb him,” Aragorn asked.
Elladan gave an elegant, if slightly weary, lift of his shoulders, answering: “He drifts and is easily woken as he easily drifts again. Go. Speak with him; I think he should want it.”
And Aragorn did, kneeling beside his bed and resting a hand upon his brow, as he had before. There was slight heat there but it was to be expected, with his wounds and with the healing they took, and it did not hinder his waking though when the new Steward of Gondor tried to open grey eyes in waking they would not or if they did would not see and Aragorn found his hand and held it as the disorientation passed.
“My king,” Faramir breathed, his voice softened and slightly slurred, a dreamlike quality to it brought on by the herbs that chased away the pain caused by the burns.
“Ah, but it is not so yet, I have not taken the throne nor will I until the Dark Lord is no more a threat to our land,” Aragorn told him gently.
“You shall still be my king then, for you have called me back to light when I could not find the way,” Faramir told him. “I was told you would. I thank you.”
“Told, by whom?” Aragorn questioned quietly.
“Why, my brother, my Lord, when I nearly stumbled and could not rise,” Faramir told him, beginning to frown. “I suppose it must seem a fever-dream to you.”
“It does not,” Aragorn assured him, “for I felt some beloved presence near you when I called for you and I thought it to be him.”
“Good,” Faramir breathed. “I would not have it be a fever-dream.”
“No indeed,” Aragorn agreed, marvelling at the quiet strength of this young man so injured before him. A strong ally, this one would be, should the Dark Lord fall and he return. “How have you fared in my absence?”
“Well, I believe, I cannot tell,” Faramir told him. “I have not been able to since I swallowed some bittersweet herb but I do not believe myself to be dying and so I am well.”
Aragorn chuckled, “Well you shall be, for you are most certainly not dying, given time. Now you must rest and heal for I believe I shall leave again soon to face our foe and would have you be ready for when I return.”
“I will, lord,” said Faramir. “For who would lie idle when the king has returned?”
Aragorn smiled at the sincerity in the weary voice, already drifting on the lulling effect of the herb Elladan had fed him. “Those who need rest and healing for a time yet and I do not leave to battle this night, but when I do I should like to know Gondor will be kept safe within your hands while I am gone, Steward of Gondor.”
“Yes, my king,” Faramir answered in a drifting voice, finding his way to dreams even as he continued to speak. “I shall keep her safe for your return.”
“Farewell then for a while,” Aragorn said quietly, and stroked his hand through Faramir’s hair, once, nudging the injured man further into peaceful sleep. “I shall see you again upon my return!”
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.