11. Chapter 11
I was under strict instructions from Lord Elrond to ease myself back into the saddle gently, to begin by riding for an hour at a time until I had built up my endurance and stamina. I thought he was being over cautious. I was again allocated the docile horse that had been my mount when we arrived home from Dol Amroth. I had offered Tamir leave of absence to spend some time with his family but he had declined and requested permission to accompany me. I was touched by his loyalty and rather relieved not have to rely on a stranger to assist me with the more personal of the tasks that I could no longer accomplish unaided.
As the procession set off, we rode side by side towards the rear of the mounted section, just ahead of the baggage wagons. I set off in great spirits; after an hour I was beginning to tire, although I would not admit it even to myself. After two hours the tension of trying to appear composed was beginning to take its toll. I could feel the sweat running down my spine and my left hand held the reigns so tightly that I couldn’t release the grip. I wasn’t aware of Lord Elrond moving back through the procession until he was at my side. He didn’t have to say anything; his expression spoke volumes. He signalled the procession to halt and dismounted; he pried my fingers from the reigns and, giving them to Tamir, helped me down from the saddle. My legs buckled and refused to support my weight and I would have fallen to the ground if he hadn’t supported me. As he settled me in one of the wagons, he subjected me to a stern and forceful lecture on following instructions and looking after my health. He gave me a foul tasting concoction and the next few hours passed in a blur.
When I came to myself, night had fallen and I was still lying in the wagon. I tried to sit up and failed miserably Every muscle in my body screamed in protest; I felt as though I had been kicked and rolled beneath my horse. My groans brought Tamir to my aid. He helped me up and handed me a platter of food and a flagon of ale. He seemed rather subdued, and it took me a while to find out that he had received a rather severe dressing down from Lord Elrond for allowing me to over tax my strength on the first day of our journey. I was ashamed that I had put him in such an impossible position, and I apologised and promised to behave in future; this earned me a wry grin.
When I had finished eating, he helped me to my feet and I began a slow and unsteady walk around the encampment to try to ease some of the aches from my protesting muscles. I soon found my way to the pavilions set up for the Royal Party. I stood just beyond the limit of the firelight and watched them all laughing and relaxing; the Hobbits huddled together with Legolas and Gimli and to one side the Elves reclined gracefully in the shelter of the trees, talking softly amongst themselves.
I desperately wanted to be a part of the companionship that they all seemed to share but something held me back and I turned to leave, regretting that I had ever thought to come on this journey.
The King and Lord Elrond stood before me and they made a formidable posse. I tried to hold their gaze but as both were experts in intimidation I soon looked down, chastened. They took pity on me and taking one arm each led me to a small tent set aside for my use. Their lecture was mercifully short and administered with compassion, but the King made it clear that they would not allow me to endanger my health. After laying down the law, the King left, leaving Lord Elrond to offer his assistance and healing skills; I submitted to his ministrations and he massaged away the worst of the pain, his skilled hands working their magic on my abused muscles.
From that day, I acquired an Elven escort whenever I rode; sometimes it was Lord Elrond or one of his sons and sometimes Legolas. It was impossible to deceive the perceptive gaze of the Elves; they noticed the first signs of fatigue and never let me push my limits. As the journey progressed, I was able to spend longer periods riding until by the end of the first week I was able to spend half a day at a time in the saddle.
As we travelled, I got to know my companions better and I soon lost the sense of alienation that I had felt at the outset of our journey. My days passed in a routine; I would ride during the morning until we stopped for the noon-tide meal and during the afternoon I would ride in the wagon. Even when riding in the wagon, I was able to socialise. Sometimes Frodo or Pippin would sit with me on the wagon, their small ponies making it awkward for them to ride and talk to those on bigger mounts.
My ‘good’ behaviour seemed to meet the approval of my self-appointed keepers and they relaxed their vigilance, although I have no doubt that they monitored me from a distance. I was enjoying the freedom of being on horse-back again, and as my confidence grew, I became more relaxed in the saddle. The weakness in my arm did not hinder me much as I rode, although mounting still posed difficulties as I had to adjust to relying on my left hand for strength and control. Although my physical strength was improving, I admit that I was dog-tired, collapsing into my bed-roll at the end of each day, exhausted.
One morning I woke feeling groggy and disorientated; I had slept badly, my sleep disturbed by vague and distressing visions that remained just beyond recollection. I could tell by Tamir’s worried expression that my dreams had not been quiet. I managed to gulp down a mug of hot, sweet tea but could not face breakfast; just the smell of the food invited waves of nausea. I felt on edge, all of my senses heightened to the point that invoked a vague nightmarish quality to my perceptions. I decided not to risk riding and when the caravan moved off for the day, I was safely ensconced in the wagon, propped against cushions for comfort and sheltered from the harsh light of the sun by a canopy strung over willow struts. I closed my eyes to cut out the jarring images of movement, and feigned sleep to avoid unwanted enquiries about my health; actual sleep I shunned, aware of the visions that still pressed closely just beyond my consciousness.
By lunchtime I felt a lot better; my headache had improved, and although my senses were still sensitive, I was able to swallow some fruit and one of Lord Elrond’s more noxious concoctions. I elected to take to the saddle for a while, and though he looked somewhat sceptical, the Elf Lord did not object, although he and my uncle rode close beside me and insisted I take regular drinks from the water skin hooked onto my saddle. My two guardians chatted to each other but I took little notice of their conversation. I forced myself to relax into the saddle and concentrated on the sensations of my surroundings, the warm breeze on my face, the heat of the sun on my back and the fresh smell damp greenery wafting up from the broad river that ran sluggishly beside the trail.
The afternoon passed quickly and when we finally stopped for the day I handed my reins to Tamir and wandered off towards the river to find some shade and to get away from the chaos and bustle that accompanied setting up camp. There were no tall trees but the stunted wiry shrubs of the open grasslands grew a little taller by the water’s edge and I found a relatively cool spot in which to rest.
I was soon joined by my uncle; he sat down close to me but remained quiet, not wanting to intrude on my privacy. I was soon lost in daydream, mesmerised by the sparkle and flash of sunlight on the water. A gust of breeze blew the scent of the campfire towards the river and a startled flock of waterfowl took to the air with a chorus of cackling protest. Time slowed and I recognised the onrush of darkness; I managed to issue a cry of warning, but the flashes of sunlight were flames, the smoke of the campfire the smell of a pyre and the call of the birds the screams of the dying. I clutched desperately to the arm beside me, determined that this time the darkness would not win, and would not over power me. I heard concerned voices but I could not acknowledge them. The visions from my nightmare returned in full horror, for these were waking dreams; I watched my father writhing within the flames as his flesh seared and burned, I heard him call out my name with his last breath and I cried out to him. The vision changed and I saw my brother, dead Orcs at his feet; watched and reeled as I felt the arrows pierce his chest, knocking him to the ground. And all the time I fought to keep the darkness at bay, forcing my breath slowly between clenched jaws until finally the darkness receded and I collapsed, exhausted, into waiting arms.
I awoke to the touch of cool compresses on my face and neck and gentle hands upon my cheek. For one delirious moment I thought it was Eowyn and I called out to her; but I was mistaken, when I opened my eyes it was Arwen who sat at my side. I turned my face into the pillow and slipped back into the blessed oblivion of sleep.
To the gentle but insistent questioning of Lord Elrond, I had to recount everything that had happened from the moment of waking until the darkness had receded, so that he could try to understand what had occurred. He listened intently to my answers and then questioned both Tamir and my uncle; they in their turn gave him not only details of the day’s events but also described what had happened in the Hall at Dol Amroth. With his account given, Tamir beat a hasty retreat, avoiding my eye; my uncle was braver and he stayed despite the filthy looks I threw his way. I turned my attention back to Lord Elrond.
“Am I destined to spend the rest of my days collapsing and wailing like a baby, my Lord?” I couldn’t keep the bitterness or the distress from my voice. “I cannot represent the King at Court if at any moment a dropped plate or a bird’s cry can reduce me to a cowering wreck. I will not put him in the position where he has to apologise to his allies or to his friends for the weakness of his Steward…I would rather go in to exile now!”
“Peace my friend; it will not come to that. Now relax and do not distress yourself.” He levered me back against the pillows and kept his hand upon my forehead and I felt waves of comfort flowing from his fingertips.
“This situation can be managed,” he continued. “Look on today’s episode as a lesson. Today you fought the darkness and you won! In time you will be able to master the darkness, but you must learn to listen to what your body is telling you. In the last few months your body and spirit have been subjected to terrible strain and you will always bear the scars, for they are beyond my power to remove. But you can learn to live with them, learn to manage them so that they no longer threaten your confidence or your sense of control. They can only control you if you let them. Today you were weakened by exhaustion and a slight fever, probably made worse by the heat of the sun. You will always be weakest when you put yourself under stress…if you allow yourself to become overtired or over anxious. You must learn when to say no to unreasonable demands, to delegate when overburdened, to stop putting your own needs so low down in your list of priorities that they get lost.
“You are your own worst enemy, Faramir. You must learn to accept the love and support of those around you; there are many people who would offer you that support if only you would reach out to them. Allowing yourself to be loved is not so hard; it takes courage to open your heart and of all men you do not lack courage. But shutting your heart to others can be a difficult habit to break! Is that a battle you are prepared to face?”
I looked from Lord Elrond to my uncle; in their faces I saw compassion and affection mingled with a touch of exasperation; no doubt they looked on me as a wayward youth in need of a good dose of common sense. I had to smile then; these two men, Elf Lord and Uncle were as dear to me, no dearer to me than my own father had been; he had demanded loyalty and respect and I had loved him, but they offered love and respect without demanding anything in return. I nodded and whispered my thanks, though I am not sure that they realised what I was thanking them for.
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.