6. Chapter 6
By dawn there was no word and I could no longer conceal my concerns. I went first to Faramir’s room, but there was no sign of him. I spied Tamir sitting in a darkened alcove and it was clear that he shared my concern. Lord Faramir had dismissed him after the coronation ceremony and had instructed him to rejoin his company as his services would no longer be required; unable to enjoy the celebrations with his colleagues and worried about his Lord’s health, he had crept back into the Citadel at night fall He had been quietly searching the Citadel and the town but had had no more luck than the guard. He had questioned the gate guards and was assured that Lord Faramir had not passed through the city gate; he had also been to the stable and checked that the Steward’s horse had not been taken.
I sent Tamir with a message to the King and requested that he meet me at the Steward’s office. The office was a mess; it looked as though the large desk had been cleared of documents with a sweep of a hand. On the desk were just three objects: the Steward’s White Rod of Office, the official desk seal, and a letter, crudely addressed to the King. As I moved around the desk, I nearly tripped over a stuffed saddle bag that had been left on the floor. I didn’t have to wait long; I soon heard the sound of many footsteps in the hallway. I drew the King aside and explained quickly what had happened; he ordered an immediate and thorough search of the Citadel. He and Gandalf questioned all those who might offer some insight into the situation: the Warden, Hurin, the Chamberlain, Tamir, and finally myself. Putting together the various testimonies was like fitting together a puzzle, each new piece of information adding to the image until a clear picture emerged, a picture of distress, debility and emotional collapse. The urgency of finding him was spurred by a fear for his safety.
It was late in the afternoon when Legolas sent word that he had news and that he required the assistance of Gimli’s axe in the Steward’s private quarters. In error we went first to Faramir’s room but found it empty. We eventually found him outside a heavy, metal-studded, oak door that was resisting all efforts to break it open. Three heavy blows from the Dwarf’s axe shattered the lock and the door swung open to reveal a plain and sparsely furnished room. The shutters were closed and little light filtered in to brighten the gloom; the air was oppressive and foul. I pushed open the shutters to let in both light and fresh air as one of the party kindled a lantern. Faramir lay on a bare mattress, legs tangled in a heavy woollen cloak; he tossed and ranted in a high fever, the bed sullied and the back of his shirt stained with blood and foul-smelling corruption. Aragorn took one look and lifted him as though he were a child and without a word carried him to his own chamber. I picked up a small framed picture of a young, beautiful lady that had fallen to the ground; I thought just to place it back on the shelf but a sudden instinct stopped me and I carried it up to the King’s chamber.
I sat by his side for many hours as the King and the healers attended him. The shoulder wound proved to be a deep abscess below the scar on his shoulder. It had obviously been festering for many days or even weeks; the infection had spread from the wound and was poisoning his system; the abscess had further damaged the blood supply and nerves to the arm. They opened and cleaned the wound and packed it as best they could with healing herbs and dressings. As I helped to bathe him, it became clear how ravaged his body had become. He was thin and wasted to the point of emaciation; his muscles wasted away until rib and hip bones protruded against unpadded skin. All the time we tended him, he thrashed and muttered, lost in the depths of delirium. We sponged his skin with cool water and cold compresses but nothing seemed to ease the fever. As a last resort, the King sent two rangers up into the high hills to collect ice to pack around his body. This seemed to work; his temperature fell slightly and he ceased ranting, only to slip away into deep unconsciousness, unrousable to touch or pain.
The companions took it in turns to sit with me as I maintained my vigil; for two days and nights I nursed him, talking and calling to him, trying to give him something to hold on to. The King tried to extend his healing touch, as he had done once before, but now he found only darkness. I looked into his eyes and saw defeat and grief, and I feared then that Faramir was lost, and for the first time my hope flickered and I felt an icy fist grip my heart.
It was not in our power to bring him back; that decision now rested with Faramir himself; wherever in shadow he now wandered, only he could pull himself back from the brink and take a chance on life.
I woke at dawn on the third day, stiff and sore; I had fallen asleep in the chair at the bedside, my head resting on the mattress and my hands clasping Faramir’s cold weak fingers. I tried to sit up but was unable to lift my head; during the night a handful of my hair had become tangled in the fingers of Faramir’s left hand, and try as I might I couldn’t extricate myself; his hand was clasped tightly into a fist. It raised the first smile seen in the sickroom for many days as the King came to my rescue. I wouldn’t believe it had happened by accident; at some point in the night he must have wakened sufficiently to know that I was there and I felt shamed that I had failed to notice.
He showed no further sign of rousing as we tended him; I assisted the healer in changing the dressings to his shoulder and was relieved to see that the wound was less inflamed and appeared to show signs of healing. We bathed him and refreshed the linens on the bed and propped him up against pillows so that we could attempt to get medicine and nourishing fluids into him. When he was finally settled, I was told, no ordered, to take myself off to my quarters to sleep and eat, and instructed not to return until supper time; I wanted to protest but one look at the King’s countenance told me that protest would be in vain. Legolas took my arm and escorted me away. I was grateful for his support; I was aching with exhaustion, the stress of the last few days finally catching up with me.
I didn’t return to the sick room that evening; I woke in the first light of dawn and realised with a shock that I had slept the day and night away. I flew from my bed, washed and dressed quickly, and hurried through the darkened corridors of the Citadel to the door of the King’s chambers, apprehension and fear jostling for supremacy in my heart as I quietly entered the room. The King raised his hands in mock surrender when he saw my face; I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of my anger until I was sure how Faramir fared. As I moved closer to the bed, I realised that the King’s eyes weren’t the only ones watching me. Faramir was awake; I saw pain and uncertainty, hope and love flash across his face; he reached out his left hand to me and I moved to his side, tears of relief falling un-bidden as I leant over to kiss his hand. I vaguely heard the King excuse himself as he left to give us some privacy. Our reunion was brief but heartfelt; Faramir slipped in and out of sleep, unable to utter more than a whisper, but words were un-necessary between us; a squeeze of the hand or the briefest touch said all that words could not.
I stayed by his side all day, nursing and caring for him, jealously guarding the precious few minutes when he was awake enough to know my presence. My vigil was interrupted late in the afternoon when the King and my brother arrived. I could tell by the gravity of their expressions that they had come to discuss something of great import. They wanted me to step outside with them but I objected rather forcefully; from the wry grimaces that passed between them, they had obviously expected my reaction. They drew me over to the fireside, and after a moment’s hesitation, it was Eomer who broke the silence. Taking my hand he explained that he could no longer delay his return to Edoras; the knowledge of King Théoden’s fall would spread quickly and the people of Rohan needed him to begin to task of restoring the country and to reassure them with his presence. His request went unspoken but it clambered loudly within my heart.
This then was the dilemma: my brother and my people needed me in Rohan, and with all my heart I wanted not to be parted from Faramir. I sat down heavily and buried my head in my hands, for which ever way I decided, I would be failing in my duty to the other. I was the First Lady of Rohan and I had abandoned my people in despair when I donned armour and rode forth to battle; if I failed them now, it would be a final betrayal. I looked from Eomer to the King; they could not or would not influence my decision.
I heard Faramir whisper my name; when I got to his side, I could see he was distressed. I caressed his face and tried to soothe him, but he caught at my hand and pulled me down until my face was near enough to him that I could feel his breath on my cheek. He told me to go, told me that my people needed me. I wanted to cry out that he needed me too, but he silenced me with his finger. He gestured to the picture of the young woman that lay on the bedside cabinet. I picked it up and went to hand it to him but he would not take it.
“Look after it for me; it is of my mother; I will come to you when I am able and claim you for my own.” I embraced him tightly then, though I felt my heart was breaking; I felt him relax and go limp in my arms and knew that he had lapsed again into sleep.
We rode away at first light to the cheers and good wishes of the people lining the walls of the city. Faramir never got to hear my farewells or to feel the kisses I settled on his lips and brow, kisses sprinkled with my tears; he had wandered back into deep sleep and I would not wake him to witness my distress.
The ride back to Edoras seemed never ending.
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.