Siege of Minas Tirith, The: 19. The Houses of Healing

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19. The Houses of Healing

The Warden found an unoccupied corner in what was normally a private chamber for the Lord Faramir and called over old Ioreth, who'd served the healers as long as anybody could remember, to make him comfortable. She bent to examine her new patient and exclaimed; "Why he's soaked in oil!" straightening up to glare indignantly at Beregond. "Yes." he said. She looked at him expectantly for several moments, until it became clear that he wasn't going to say one word more nor offer any kind of explanation. Then she snorted, snapped; "Come, boy." to Bergil and flounced out of the room. Beregond smiled wryly to himself. Ioreth had a good heart but anything you said to her was instantly known to all Minas Tirith - and this was one story the Lord Faramir would definitely not want spread. Beregond agreed; Denethor had been a hard but just ruler, he deserved better than to be remembered as a madman intent on murdering his own son. Ioreth returned with an armful of towels and Bergil, laboring under two tins of hot water, at her heels. "Well don't just sit there," she snapped at Beregond, "help me get these soaked clothes off him!" Obediently he got up to lift and turn Faramir as directed while the muttering nurse stripped away his oil ruined garments, bathed and dressed him in a fresh nighshirt. Though the wounded Man still burned with fever his body was like a dead weight in Beregond's hands. He remembered uneasily how Faramir had roused enough to speak when rescued from his father's pyre, not even an hour ago, yet now all this handling brought no reaction at all. Had Denethor's death somehow snapped his son's link to life as well? Another Man was carried in by servants in the green and grey livery of the Houses followed by one of Beregond's healer sisters. "Baradis." he called, low but carrying. She looked at him, recognized Faramir, glanced quickly back at her patient to see he was being duly tended by a nurse, then came over. "I fear we are losing him." Beregond said, even more quietly. His sister laid a long, white hand on the young lord's brow, shook her head grimly. "You are right, he is going away from us." She spoke forcefully to the sick Man, calling him by name. "Faramir! my Lord Faramir!" Brother and sister both listened, though not with their ears, for a response; for a whisper of thought or faint stirring of the will, but none came. Finally Baradis looked bleakly up at Beregond and shook her head again. "He is past hearing. Many of our wounded are in like case, I fear we will lose them all." "How many?" her brother asked, dreading the answer. "Hundreds." she said flatly. "And we have not the skill to save them." *** The day passed slowly. Beregond sat by Faramir's side watching him sink slowly but inexorably into death. It was all for nothing then, the breaking of his vows and the death of the Porter, Faramir would die in any case - but at least not by his own father's hand. Looking back Beregond couldn't understand what had come over him there in the Fountain Court. It was almost as if some other will had entered into him - though he knew that could not be so. The light of Earendil had sparked something in himself, something quite alien to the unassuming man-at-arms careful to keep his proper place that Beregond had pretended all his life to be. He sighed. As he was pretending now, even to himself. He knew very well why Earendil had spoken to him, just as he knew why Mithrandir had entrusted something as perilous as the Anor-stone to his care. Because he was of the Blood Royal, however diluted by lesser stock, descended from the Morning Star and from Elendil who had brought the Seven Stones from foundered Numenor home to Middle-Earth. And probably the only Man in Gondor, outside of the Steward and his Heir, who knew the lore of the Stones and how to handle one safely. Near sunset the door burst open admitting Bergil. "I was right, there is an empty cot, Bring the Perian in here, my Lord." His father came to his feet in alarm, Peregrin had been wounded? But no, there he was behind Bergil, pale but sound. He was followed in turn by Mithrandir and finally a tall Man shrouded in a hooded grey cloak carrying a second Halfling in his arms. "I'll find a healer." Bergil told the Man as he laid his burden gently down. "No need." he answered crisply, pushing back his hood and unfastening the leaf brooch at his throat. "I am a healer. I'll need water and clean linen, Bergil." "Yes sir." the boy hurried out. "Will he be all right, Strider?" Peregrin pleaded as the Man shed the shabby leathers he wore beneath his cloak and rolled up his sleeves. So this was the Northern Ranger Peregrin had spoken of. "I don't know yet, Pippin." his friend replied gently. "I hope so." Bergil returned with the requested water and linens and the Ranger began to strip off the wounded Halfing's Rohirric armor with Peregrin's help. The wizard stood by, his face clouded with worry. Beregond hated to distress him further but - "Mithrandir?" his head turned. "Faramir is sinking fast, can you do aught for him?" The wizard came over for a closer look then shook his head. "This is beyond any power of mine." he said heavily. Old Ioreth's face crumpled as if fighting back tears. "Oh, if only we were living in the Elder Days instead of now! 'The hands of the King are the hands of a healer' the old books say. If we had a King he could save the Lord Faramir!" Mithrandir stared at her. Then his face lit up in sudden hope and he laughed aloud. "Men may long remember your words, my good Ioreth! Haven't you heard? The King has returned!" he turned to the Ranger. "Aragorn?" Beregond recognized the name of Isildur's elusive heir and stared at the Man as he joined them by Faramir's bed. He had the High Numenorean look, with his elegant bones and deepset eyes, and Beregond's own blood told him this was indeed Isildur's Heir, descended like himself from Elendil the Faithful and the Kings of Numenor. Though it seemed his line had faired no better than Anarion's over the long years. The King took Faramir's hand in his and laid the other upon the sick Man's brow. He stood so for a moment, then shook his head. "He is nearly spent, would that I could have been here sooner! Ioreth, do you keep athelas in this House?" "I'm sure I don't know, m'Lord." She answered, a little blankly. "I can't say I've ever heard that name before. But the herb-master will know, he knows all the old names." "I mean kingsfoil, as it is called in these later days." "Oh that!" said Ioreth with relief. "Well if your Lordship had named it so first off I could have told you at once. No, we have none of it, I'm sure. I've never heard it had any great virtue; still it smells sweet when bruised, does it not?" she frowned consideringly. "If sweet is the right word; wholesome maybe is nearer." "My Lord." Beregond cut in quickly, as Ioreth paused for breath. The King looked at him with quicksilver grey eyes, startling in their piercing brightness. "My wife keeps a store of athelas for my sisters who are healers. They have found it good for drawing poison from wounds and the like." The King smiled a little. "So it is." he agreed. "In the right hands." Beregond swallowed. It had never before occured to him that his sisters' healing abilities had aught to do with their ancestry. "Bergil," he said to his son, watching round eyed, "run home and get some athelas from your mother." As the boy left, running, the King gently laid down Faramir's hand. "Since we must wait I will take a moment to see how the Lady Eowyn fares. I fear she may be in almost as bad a case as this." He picked up his grey cloak and slung it around his shoulders. "Strider," Peregrin pleaded, "what about Merry?" The King smiled gently down at him. "Hold his hand and try to keep him talking, Pippin. And do not fear, he is none so far gone yet - we have time." *** When the King returned a few moments later he was accompanied by Prince Imrahil and an Elven lady whose beautiful face gave Beregond the same shock of recognition as the King's had. He knew that she too was, somehow, kin. though he couldn't even begin to imagine how. "They seemed but black Orc arrows," Imrahil was saying, "but when he fell into the Dark Sleep we assumed one must have been a Morgul dart." The King shook his head. "Had that been so he would have died last night. No, he must have fallen under the Shadow long before he rode to battle on the out-walls. Slowly the Dark must have crept on him as he defended Ithilien. He is a Man of staunch will, he resisted it well until grief and wounds sapped his strength. "The Shadow has hung heavy over the City for far too long." said the Elven Lady. "I have never seen so much Black Breath, not even during the worst of the Witch Wars." The King nodded bleak agreement. "This House is full of it. Would that I could have come sooner!" He sat on the stool beside Faramir's bed and laid one hand upon the sick Man's brow and another upon his folded hands. Then the King said his name softly, but with command. On the other side of the cot Beregond flinched, the low voiced call resounding in his mind like a great shout - far more powerful than his sister's Voice. Imrahil also winced a little, as if he too had Heard. The King's lips moved silently as he Called again, and even his inner Voice sounded more faintly as his spirit moved away from the world of the living into the dark spaces where Faramir's wandered. Bergil ran in clutching a folded cloth. "I have it - athelas!" he panted to his father. "Mother says it's not fresh, two weeks old or more, but she hopes it will serve." "It will do very well." the Elven lady told him taking the cloth from his hand. "Now bring me some of that hot water if you will." There were six long leaves inside the cloth. She took two and breathed on them, then crushed them in her hand. 'Sweet' and even 'wholesome' were far too poor a word to describe the living freshness that filled the room, setting the very air tingling and sparkling with joy. The Lady cast the leaves into the bowl of steaming water Bergil brought her and the fragrance grew stronger. "Well now!" said Ioreth to the room at large. "Who would have believed it? That weed is better than I thought. No King could ask for better!" The other wounded Men stirred and exchanged wondering smiles with their nurses, pain and weariness forgotten. And across the room the injured Halfling opened his eyes and breathed in a great gulp. "Oh my!" he said. "Oh my." then "Here now, Pip, what are you crying about?" The King opened his eyes and smiled up at the Lady as she held the bowl so he and Faramir could breath the steam, though the weariness did not quite leave his face. Faramir stirred, slowly his lids rose. He looked at the King, bending over him, with wonder and with love. "My Lord, you called me. I come." he whispered weakly. "What does the King command?" "That you rest, and take food, and be ready when I call." he answered. He rose, gently disengaging his hand from Faramir's grip. "Now I must go to others that need me, but I will return, my Steward." Faramir's eyes followed him as he moved away. "King!" Ioreth had finally realized just who the shabby looking Ranger was. She dropped back onto her stool breathless with astonishment but not, of course, speechless. "Did you hear that? What did I say? The Hands of a healer, I said. A King again, and right here in this House. Who'd have thought it?" "So much for keeping his presence in the City a secret." muttered Imrahil. **** Aragorn crossed the room to where Merry lay, Pippin sitting cross-legged on the cot at his feet. "Well, Merry, how are you feeling?" "Hungry." was the prompt answer. Ranger and Gandalf both laughed "Hobbits!" said the wizard, shaking his head in rueful amusement. "I am sure we can find some supper somewhere for a Nazgul bane." Aragorn smiled. "Nazgul." a sudden fear came into Merry's face. "Eowyn! how is she? Is she all right?" "I am going to her now." Aragorn assured him gently. "Try not to worry Merry." he turned to go. "Gandalf, Arwen, come with me if you will." Behind them Merry said: "Here now, Pip, what are you got up as?" The door closed on Pippin's reply: "I'll have you know I'm a guard of the Citadel. And you're a fine one to be talking, where'd you get that fancy armor?"

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.

Story Information

Author: Morwen Tindomerel

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 08/18/04

Original Post: 01/21/04

Go to Siege of Minas Tirith, The overview

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