3. The Houses of Healing
A/N: Now here is where this starts to take a different turn. Nothing too major really, but still different. Once again, I lift some lines straight from the book.
Chapter 3: The Houses of Healing
March 15, 3019
The Houses of Healing
The hands of the king are the hands of the healer
The thought rang in Ioreth’s head as she looked wanly on the faces of the sick she tended. It seemed vain to be clinging on to hope especially during these dark days.
“But still there may be a king!” a proud voice within her said. Sighing, Ioreth looked towards Lord Faramir, who was lying very still in his fever. Mithrandir was gone, for some reason, she did not know.
“Why must those so young fall into the Shadow?” she thought as she wept. For it wasn’t just Faramir who lay near death; in two other rooms were Lady Éowyn and Meriadoc, both of them falling deeper and deeper into a dark chill shadow. These three seemed to be without hope of healing. In other parts of the houses, very many were wounded.
Just then, a commotion began in the hallway. Beregond and Pippin walked into the room after a while.
“Sorry about that,” Pippin said apologetically as he pulled up a stool.
“Is there no hope for they who are ill?” Beregond wondered aloud.
Pippin had to blink back tears as he remembered his cousin Merry. “If only Strider would come! He’d know what to do, and so would Gandalf. And how are we going to tell Faramir about his father, if he ever wakes that is?” he thought, burying his face in his hands.
“I’ve watched by Lady Éowyn’s bed, and there is naught to be said, no sign of her dreaming,” Elfhelm said as he walked into the room. “I don’t think King Éomer knows that she still lives,”
Suddenly, shouts and footsteps could be heard in the halls. Elfhelm and Pippin hurried out to see Aragorn, Gandalf, Éomer and Imrahil coming towards the door.
“Strider! Now if it isn’t a surprise!” Pippin cried as he ran to meet the ranger.
Aragorn laughed at this. “I am well my friend, but there is no time for traveler’s tales. There is much work to be done,” he said as he entered. Ioreth and Beregond stood up upon seeing him.
“Do you have in store within this House the herbs of healing?” Aragorn asked Ioreth.
Ioreth sighed. “Not enough for all who may need them, I’m afraid. I do not know what may aid the sick at this moment,” she said.
“Have you athelas? Or perhaps you may know it as kingsfoil?” Aragorn asked.
“Oh that! Well, we did have some of it here a few weeks ago, but where it has gotten to, not even the herb-master knows! I did not know it had any virtue save to sweeten a foul air or drive away a headache,” Ioreth said.
“Now dame, if you wish to be of help, run as quick as you can and get me some kingsfoil. Surely there must be a leaf in the City!” Aragorn said.
“And if not, Shadowfax and I will show her the meaning of haste and we will go to Lossarnarch to find it,” Gandalf said.
Ioreth quickly ran out of the room just as Aragorn bade some other women to make water hot. The old woman hurried through the halls of the Houses, searching medicine cabinets and baskets. On her way, she met Bergil.
“Ioreth, can anything be done?” Bergil asked pleadingly.
“Yes child. Aid me in search of kingsfoil. Now run quickly!” Ioreth said urgently. Bergil quickly scampered off as Ioreth continued her search.
Bergil ran out quickly into the street, tears streaming down his face. In his flight, he accidentally bumped into a man.
“What do you look for, child?” the man asked in a strange voice. Bergil looked up to see that the man was really one of the Rohirrim, in fact, he was no other than Éothain, one of the Riders in Éomer’s éored. He seemed to be carrying something in his arms.
“Good sir, do you know where I can find herbs?” Bergil asked cautiously.
“I know not where in the City you can find them,” Éothain answered. Suddenly, the bundle in his arms stirred.
“Child, I know. Here, take this pouch,” another voice said. Bergil realized that the Rider held an old man wrapped in a gray rag. Bergil stood on tiptoe to try to get a better look at the old man.
“Sir, I shall need one kind of herb only. It is called kingsfoil,” Bergil said shakily. The old man smiled at him and opened a brown pouch. He held out a folded cloth.
“I think this is what you need. Go quickly!” the old man said, pressing the cloth into Bergil’s hand. The boy opened the cloth, and found six leaves of athelas.
“Thank you! Where do you go to, o brave Rider of Rohan?” Bergil said.
“I was aiding this old man to return to his house,” Éothain answered. “Now make haste! And if you should meet King Éomer of the Mark, please tell him I shall join him shortly,”
Bergil nodded as he ran up the road to the Houses of Healing. Though he was weary, his purpose and his now rekindled hope gave him strength. He quickly ran up to Faramir’s room, where now only Aragorn, Gandalf, Ioreth, Beregond and Imrahil remained with the sick man. Aragorn looked weary as if he’d been in a dark vale seeking, calling for Faramir.
“It is kingsfoil, sir. It must have been culled at least two weeks ago. I hope it will serve, Sir?” he said breathlessly as he gave the leaves to Aragorn. As young Bergil looked at Faramir, he burst into tears.
Aragorn laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder and he smiled. “It will serve. Stay and be comforted!”
Aragorn bruised two leaves and cast them into steaming water. And all who were there thought that a certain heaviness had passed away, and that the air grew light and fresh. Soon Faramir stirred and he opened his eyes and he smiled, for he knew that it was the King who’d called him.
“My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?” Faramir said softly.
“Walk no more in the shadows, but awake! Rest now, and take some food, and be ready when I return,” Aragorn said.
“I will, lord. For who would lie idle when the king has returned?” Faramir said. As Aragorn left with Gandalf, those who remained could not contain their joy.
“King? The hands of the king are the hands of a healer!” Ioreth exclaimed joyfully. Word spread like wildfire that the king had indeed returned and was among them, and hope arose again in the City.
In the next room, Éomer sat by his sister’s bed, gazing at her face as he pondered over and over again all the days of their past life together. He knew it was a number of things that drove her to despair. The memory of the care and dread they shared during the days of Grima’s stay in Edoras made him shudder.
Aragorn and Gandalf entered in quietly. “She has taken a grievous blow. Yes, her shield-arm will mend, but she may not have the strength to live,” Aragorn said.
“Could it have been avoided? Could she have not faced the Black Captain? Why did she come to this pass?” Éomer said bitterly.
“My friend, you had horses, and deeds of arms. But she, born in the body of a maid, had a spirit and courage at least the match of yours. Yet while you rode in the fields, she was doomed to watch one who she loved as a father fall into a dishonored dotage even as she tended him,” Gandalf said.
Éomer paused and fell silent. Aragorn said, “I saw also what you saw, my friend. Few things are there bitterer to the hearts of men than to see a lady’s love that cannot be returned. Yet I say to you, she loves you more truly than me, for you she loves and knows, but in me only a dream, a thought of glory and renown.”
“I have maybe the power to heal her in body, but what she will awake to, I do not know. If she awakes to despair, then she will die, by her own hand or through some other dreadful thing. Yet healing may come that I cannot bring. Alas! For her deeds have set her among the queens of renown,” Aragorn continued.
He bent and kissed her on the brow and called her name softly. Aragorn bruised two more leaves of athelas and cast them into steaming water. He laved her brow with it, and her right arm, which had gone cold. The sweet scent of athelas stole through the room and it seemed as if the air was fresh and new again, as if it had never been breathed before by any living thing.
“Awake, Éowyn, Lady of Rohan!” Aragorn called. “The shadow is gone, and your enemy has passed away!”
Éomer took his sister’s right hand and felt it warm. “Call her!” Aragorn said as he stepped away.
“Éowyn! Éowyn!” Éomer called, and tears ran down his cheeks. But his sister opened her eyes and looked upon him.
“Éomer! How long have I been dreaming? The dark voices said you were dead, but I see now it is not so,” she said.
“Not long, my sister,” Éomer said joyfully.
“And I know, the King of the Mark, he is dead. It was not a dream,” Éowyn said.
“He lies now in great honor in the Citadel,” Éomer said.
“And what of his esquire, the Halfing? Éomer, you shall make him a knight of a Riddermark, for he is valiant!”
“He also lies in the Houses. But come now, Lady Éowyn, do not speak of it or of any woe, but rest. It is a great gladness to see a lady so valiant awake to health and hope,” Gandalf said before he left.
But it seemed as if Éowyn did not hear this, for her eyes had also seen Aragorn as he left the chamber and her thoughts were elsewhere. She turned to Éomer again.
“To health maybe, but to hope, I do not know” she said.
Elsewhere in the Houses, Pippin ran towards Merry’s room. When he arrived there, Aragorn and Gandalf were there. But Pippin also saw that his friend was awake.
“Merry!” Pippin called joyfully as he leapt onto the foot of the hobbit’s bed.
“Ouch! Pippin, you’re still alive?” Merry said in surprise.
“Indeed I am, and it has been quite a day. Are you hungry? I can have them bring something up,” Pippin said as he promptly got off.
“Good! I would like a pipe also. No, I can’t. Poor Théoden! I shan’t be able to forget what he said to me before he died,” Merry said.
“Grieve not. He was a great king, strong and of gentle heart and he rode to a last fair morning,” Aragorn said.
“It wasn’t you I heard on the field, Strider. I must’ve been slipping into a dream by the time you came,” Merry said.
“Perhaps that is so. Now I must leave, for now. May the Shire live forever unwithered!” Aragorn said before he left with Gandalf.
When these two had left Merry’s room, they met the sons of Elrond with their sister Arwen in the hallway.
“Brother, there are many at the doors who are praying that you would heal those who are wounded or ill with the Black Shadow,” Elrohir said.
Aragorn sighed. “That is what I foresaw would happen. I need your aid in healing them all,” he said. And so these four went and far into the night they worked. Word spread through the City that the King had truly come into their midst. And the people named him Elfstone because of the green stone he wore and so it was foretold at his birth that he would bear a name chosen by his own people.
It was past midnight when Aragorn went to his tent to rest. Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen returned to the Houses of Healing, where Gandalf was counseling the Warden of the Houses on care of those who were sick. It turned out that Faramir and Éowyn would have to remain in the Houses and still be tended with care for some more days.
“The Lady Éowyn will wish to rise and depart soon. But she should not be permitted to do so for at least ten days,” Gandalf said. “And Faramir must soon learn that his father is dead. But see to it that nobody speaks yet the full tale of his father’s madness until he is healed and can take on duties,”
“And what of the other perian, Meriadoc?” the Warden asked.
“It is likely that he can rise tomorrow even if for a brief while,” Gandalf answered.
“They are a remarkable race. There is more to them than meets the eye” the Warden remarked.
“It may come to pass that we shall ride to war. I advise you remain behind, Arwen,” Elladan said to his sister after Gandalf introduced them to the Warden.
“As a healer, I suppose,” Arwen guessed. “I would be glad to offer that service,”
“There are many who are wounded and cannot ride to battle, if it should come to that. But in any case, your help is very much appreciated,” the Warden said.
“There were so many wounded. Perhaps if we weren’t so delayed, then there would be more who could be fit to ride in the next few days,” Elladan said.
“Or if the Rohirrim weren’t delayed either. I have heard tales of ambushes from the marshals,” Arwen said.
“But of course, nobody can really be blamed. Now is not the time for strife or pointing fingers,” Gandalf pointed out.
“For now, we need to rest. Good night,” Elrohir said as they parted ways for the night. The next day would bring other things
next: waking up, billeting, councils and escapes
A/N: Sorry if this story does not seem to be centered on the Rohirrim at this point. The next few chapters will be centered on Éomer as he goes to battle in Mordor or on Éowyn during her stay in the Houses. With Arwen in the picture, and a very badly weakened army, who knows what can happen to this pair of siblings…..uh-oh!
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