75. Healing and Anger and Healing Again
Healing and Anger and Healing Again
Early the next day there came a pull at the bell, and Liana opened the door to find the King himself and his brothers were there with Gilfileg, Eregiel, Hardorn, the Lord Glorfindel, and the Queen and her child. She allowed them into the day room and hurried to knock at the door to the chamber where Master and Mistress slept to tell them.
The master did not appear surprised with the coming, or, after a moment's reflection, with the choice of the early hour for the visit. "I suppose," he said slowly, "it is his way of balancing what is happening outside the walls, then." He pulled on his threadbare robe, at which Elise gave a sigh of embarrassment, and went out to greet the guests of his house, asking Liana to boil water in the kettle which had been the Midsummer gift he'd learned after the letters were read had been sent as a Midsummer's gift by Master Sam and Mistress Rose, along with a teapot and large tin of the tea he blended. "Set water to boil in the kettle, then bring it with the pot and the tin and mugs, and we will enjoy the Lord Sam's blending."
The Queen caught Elise's discomfort regarding the robe and laughed. She beckoned the smaller woman forward and whispered in her ear. "You are certain it will work?" asked Elise.
"It is the only thing that will. It must resemble it as it was when new as much as possible, although I doubt even new ones will allow me to find an end for his old riding leathers. There are too many memories tied to them." The women laughed at the vagaries of menfolk, and their husbands looked to them, then ignored them as they shared the understanding of the need for that which was familiar and comfortable in a world too given to throwing troubling changes at its inhabitants.
Elise went up to waken and summon the apprentices downstairs. All came down somewhat discomforted, uncertain what the King's presence presaged. However, as they saw him smiling at them, they drew courage and stood together, then bowed as one to their liege.
"I will leave here and go to the Houses of Healing and then the First Circle, where I will meet with the others held there in the Children's House and those who have returned to their families, who have been summoned there just ere noon. But too many of you, even if Varondil did nothing to you, have been too deeply hurt by what you have come to know through him. Physical love of this sort is not meant for children, and with good reason. It brings together body and spirit in a manner intended to be awakened only when the mind is mature and able to understand fully how special the sharing is, how the one with whom the sharing is done is the one who helps complete the other. Otherwise love becomes merely an appetite to be quenched, one that can become an overwhelming passion in and of itself, perpetuating the cycle of abuse you have already seen.
"We will attempt to relieve the guilt and shame as well as we can, along with the compulsion to seek out physical intimacy divorced from love. We cannot restore innocence, however--only hopefully help you find the hope to find at the right time the one with whom your love is intended to be shared."
The cook entered, surprised to find the entire household awake so early, then to realize the identity of those who had come to the house. The King and Queen offered her courteous greeting, and admitted they would gladly share a dawn meal with those here; but they asked first that water be set to boil in quantity, and that basins of the boiling water be readied to be brought out to them when called for as they dealt with each apprentice.
Suddenly the King straightened as if listening, and sighed. Realizing what this must mean, Ruvemir turned to the cook and bade her hurry with the water, pour the water in the kettle in a basin and set it also boiling anew for the tea if necessary. Again brothers and wife came to the King's comfort, and the youths watched in confusion. It was some minutes ere the King looked to the face of the Queen, murmuring, "They were rapid and sure. The suffering was minimal." The cook came out with the first requested basin, and Elrohir again drew out leaves from a packet he carried, rolled them between his hands, breathed on them, then dropped them with a healing invocation into the water and held it before the King. The room was filled with the odor of rushing streams and green hills, and all watched as their Lord breathed deeply and the tension flowed from his form, although the solemnity remained. He and the Lady Arwen held one another's hands, looked to one another's eyes. Finally he murmured, "It is well. Let us continue."
They started with the youngest, each called to either King or one of the sons of Elrond, the Queen and Lord Glorfindel moving from pair to pair, adding to their easing. Ruvemir and Elise went with Liana into the kitchens to speak with her and the cook about what was occurring and why, and the two women both found themselves looking back out to the outer rooms with more compassion. Gilfileg would come in and indicate they were ready for a basin of water, and the cook would pour water into one of those gifted to the Master and Mistress by Celebgil's family for him to carry out to one of the three directing the healing. The cook set her breakfast cooking, grateful that Liana had been competent at setting the stove burning, for she'd been up early to start the baking of the bread set to raise the evening before.
The King called for Ruvemir and another basin, making the sculptor sit before him as had the three apprentices he'd dealt with, then offering his special easing of the tension and frustration the mannikin had dealt with since he'd gone south. The sculptor was amazed to realize just how tense he'd become, how much tightness had come into his body and spirit. The relaxation was amazing, and he found himself wondering if he was going to fall asleep where he sat.
The odor of the athelas was different this time, combining the scent of the stand of larches with the slightly sweet odor given off by the marble dust produced when he worked the marble of Casistir and another scent, one reminiscent of----
The King looked at him closely. "Sam? You now find Sam Gamgee and his pipe soothing? I knew that in some way we were brothers of the heart, you and I, but had not looked to that!" The King's hands were on his, and Ruvemir looked up into the King's eyes, then felt a similar thrill through his body to that he and Elise had shared the day they wed, and saw that the King this time shared it with him, saw his eyes dilate and his mouth open just the slightest bit, his awareness focused on something slightly beyond....
At last Aragorn looked once again down on Ruvemir, consideration in his eyes, a smile lighting his countenance. "The act of healing," he said, slowly and softly, "tends to tie healer and the one healed to one another in a unique way. Very rarely, however, does it offer back as it has done just now. Mistress Rosie suggested that you yourself are gifted as a healer of the heart, and I believe she is right. Certainly these--" he indicated the youths in the room "--have known an easing of their hearts which has made the offering of the gifts of healing Elrohir, Elladan and I can give easier to administer, more easily accepted. But just now--I have felt an easing, a surety that the one thing I desire more than almost all others will happen--at the appointed time. I thank you, my small brother." And he rose and bowed deeply, while Ruvemir found himself flushing as strongly as ever did Samwise Gamgee.
The cook had the dawn meal finished now, and all sat down to eat, the table drawn out to its fullest extent, all the extra leaves inserted. A merry meal it was, going swiftly from the solemnity of the Standing silence to stories shared, jokes essayed, riddles asked and guessed. Gilmirion seemed to sit amazed for a time, then began telling stories of what he and his brothers used to do to their sister, and her small vengeances on them. Then the King began telling of the travails of traveling with Hobbits, the learning of their small quirks, the jokes they would play on one another to ease the tension and to bring laughter at times when things grew grim; yet they could still display their remarkable ability at the right time to simply do what needed to be done with no need for direction, their ability to sense when comforting was needed, whether through the offering a cup of tea or simply someone's hand to hold when all seemed to be overwhelming.
"It was so much beyond their experience, to be walking through the wilds like that, no comfortable beds or chairs or mugs of ale, many days when we dared not light a fire so they could not even drink the tea that Samwise had brought with him for their comfort, much less have a warm meal. Yet they kept at it, day after day, tightening their belts, seeking out edible plants and roots as we came upon them, spying out the small beauties which were offered us for the easing of our hearts as we traveled." And he looked up, caught the eyes of Gilmirion, and smiled, receiving back the shy smile of the apprentice.
Armanthol watched with wonder. Elrohir had called for him just after the King called Ruvemir, and Elladan had called first Elise and then Liana, and so all the residents of the house had been granted easing that day. Armanthol was not certain exactly what had occurred, but he now felt certain that this was indeed where he was intended to be, what he was intended to be doing. He was not certain yet why or quite how, but knew that all was well with and for him, and he felt grateful. He'd felt similarly the preceding day when the grief for his father had been eased, when he'd found himself able to weep and then let it go. He found himself catching the eye of the sculptor, and sharing a smile with him.
At last the meal was done, and still the King and Queen and the two Elves and three Dúnedain lingered for a time, finally going out onto the balcony where the King and Gilfileg lit their pipes and they spoke with Ruvemir for a time, sharing mugs of light ale, while the Queen sat examining the work of Mistress Elise and speaking with her and Liana and Cook, and after a time looking at the work the apprentices were doing. Elise held small Melian and Angara, one on each knee, as the Queen spoke to each youth, praising the work they'd done, discussing the small triumphs. By the time Lord and Lady finally were ready to leave, all the apprentices in the house were in the Queen's thrall.
Lindorn had peeked out at the King with his lit pipe in his hand and asked, "What is that he has?"
"It is dried leaves of sweet galenas, what they call in the Northern Lands pipeweed. Many in the North smoke it, although our father felt it was not the healthiest of habits. But it soothes him, and does not appear to cause him any harm, although some there are we have seen are open to its worst effects and ought not to smoke it at all. It is good to see him feel free just to be, for a short time, at least, a Man among other Men, speaking of wives and children and work with no reason for concern for entire realms at a time."
As the King's party readied to leave, he turned to Ruvemir and Elise once more. "Will you agree to come tonight to the feast in the Citadel?"
Ruvemir and Elise exchanged glances, then smiled. "We will do so, Lord, at your request."
"Good. It will begin at the tenth hour. Until tonight, then." He turned to Armanthol. "As your articles of indenture require you to be in attendance on your master, we expect you to attend, also. You will find there are such compensations to the rules that surround you. A good day to all of you." Bowing, King, Queen, Elven brothers, and the two of his kin who went with him turned and made their way toward the Houses of Healing.
It was late afternoon in the Rhunish Embassy, and the three sons of Agharan were gathered in Ifram's quarters on the third floor of the house. Shefti was seated on the broad sill of the window that looked down at the house of the Healer Eldamir and his wife's family and the house of the sculptor to the left, while Moritum watched the last of Ifram's preparations for the coming feast. Ifram examined the effect of the belt scarf he'd chosen, decided the color wasn't what he wanted, then chose a different one and tied it about his waist. "You are determined to stay behind again, then?" he asked the younger brother, watching his reflection in the mirror.
"I told you the last time I do not enjoy feasts. Too many people, too many agendas, too many intrigues and secret thoughts hinted at behind eyes."
"Plus," Moritum smiled as he settled his headscarf properly and tied it with its golden cord, "then you could not keep an eye on the enchanting creature in the house on the end."
Shefti turned on him with protest while Ifram laughed. "Face it, younger Brother, the lady Liana has your interest sparked. I must say she is a lovely one, and since Ivarnon of the Bedui has dissolved the marriage she is now open to courting, you know. There is no need to merely content yourself to watching her always from the windows of this place."
"She never gives me any attention," Shefti sighed.
"Nonsense--she watches each time you go in and out. Her window is almost opposite yours, and in the evening I see her at it, looking to yours."
Ifram sighed. "Why is it at home we would have to bring a winnowing fan when we sought you out to drive away the beauties, yet here you have not the courage to go out and speak with the one who has caught your attention?"
"It is different this time--she is no flirtatious girl, but a woman and a mother, one who has been married before."
"Yes, to Ivarnon of the Bedui. She must be ready now for a real Man this time."
"He got a child upon her--he was Man enough, it seems."
"But not Man enough to accept the child he received."
Shefti shrugged. "I suppose you have the right of it."
"You still should come."
"I will keep the house here--who knows--perhaps someone will come with another trade offer while you are at the feast."
"Nonsense--the ones with trade offers will be at the feast."
"Go on, the both of you, and enjoy the evening."
Ifram shook his head. "You know not what you miss. The food last time was superb, and there was the singing afterwards. The Lord King Elessar is truly gifted, almost as are the Elves themselves."
"It is tempting--but, no. To be there with the folk of the Bedui would be more than I could take."
"There is that," Moritum muttered as he caught up his light cloak from where he'd laid it earlier on Ifram's bed.
Shefti rose and came forward to offer a final straightening of his older brother's headscarf, gave both a close examination. "You both look fine. I will see you when you come back."
The feast was indeed wonderful. The Ghan and Moritum this time sat by the side of King and Queen, with the ambassadors just beyond them, Ifram finding himself seated by Peveset and Rustovrid by the Shkatha of Rhun. Again Ruvemir sat beside Ifram, for which the young ambassador was happy, while Lord Gilfileg sat beside Rustovrid. Learning that Gilfileg was high in the lineage of the Sea Kings had impressed the Haradrim mightily, and tonight he spoke at length with him about Eriador and the northern kingdom of Arnor. Abduleram and his folk from the Bedui were not far down the table from Moritum, seated between Prince Imrahil and Lord Eregiel. There were more of the high Lords of Gondor at this feast than had been at the last one Ifram had spent seated by the sculptor, and fewer of the guild masters and their wives, although there were still a goodly number. Elise sat near the Queen on the inner part of the table, where she cared for Melian. Melian had slept through most of the meal, but seemed content to spend most of her time with either Elise or in the arms of her uncles or those of the Dwarf Gimli, who apparently doted on her.
After the meal again there was a time of talk, and Ifram found himself much at his brother's side introducing him to this lord or that guild master, quietly reviewing trade agreements between interviews or anticipating bargaining tactics likely to be used with the one approaching now. They watched the dancing, and even joined in it a few times.
Abduleram and his closest folk were behaving well, and were discussing the produce of their olive groves with a Lord with holdings in Anfalas who had much in the way of salted fish to trade. Ivarnon was not taking part in the discussions, however. Of course, he was not yet a holder of property, for his father still lived and ruled his own lands and family. Instead he sat and nursed his goblet of wine. Except, had they watched him more closely, they might have noted he was not truly nursing his drink, but was actually drinking pretty steadily, if slowly. When the servers passed, he managed to surreptitiously have it refilled, and only Ivarnon himself realized that he was becoming quite drunk, although he did not truly care.
Ivarnon was still smarting from the happenings of the day previous, and still working at being angered as an alternative to facing the fear engendered by the threat he was under observation by Moritum, Abduleram, and agents from Gondor. He'd believed that Abdurin would one day become the Shkatha and would restore the glory of Rhun. Of course, there had not been any true glory for Rhun for many hundreds of years, certainly not since Sauron became its overlord. What its former glory had been truly like none could say. But the words had made Ivarnon swell with pride for several years, and he had convinced himself that Abdurin would be the one to establish Rhun's predominance in Middle Earth, and that the King of Gondor himself would bow down to him and would recognize Rhun's greatness. Instead, Moritum had offered alliance to Gondor and all groveled at the feet of the King Elessar with his strange grey eyes and his grim face and his long, straight sword.
Now he had found where Liana had gone, he found himself thinking of her obsessively. Why had she left him? he asked himself. He was more than Man enough for any woman, he was certain. He was choosing to forget he had cast her out, instead weaving a story in his mind where he had merely reproved her for her evil will in presenting him with a deformed daughter instead of the strong son he believed was his by rights; and in this story she had left him of her own accord, shamed to realize how he'd found out the right of her and yet was inclined to be merciful. Now he had found her, he would seek her out, would bring her to her senses. The small sculptor was deformed--he could keep the girlchild; Ivarnon would claim his wife anew, take her home, get her with child again, with children--twin sons this time, and she would bow before his masculinity, before his mercy, and she would beg for him to love her again as before.
When he left the feasting hall no one noticed--or much cared. He had not become involved in any of the discussions going on around the hall, had shown no interest in the dancing, was not particularly important, and had been rude to the few individuals who had approached him. That he had left escaped the attention of pretty much everyone.
Venedor of Lamedon was a merchant of some note--and he was also experiencing loss of vision as he aged. It had become rather a joke among family and friends. That he had come to the capital just as the King returned from the war in Rhun was propitious, as he was in place to receive an invitation to the feast honoring the end of the war and Ghan Peveset of the Wainriders, allowing him to discuss the types of goods the Ghan's people had that might interest the people of Gondor and the types of goods Venedor handled and would be interested in selling in Mundolië. Venedor excused himself from his talks with the Ghan in order to obtain a couple goblets of wine, but on his way back failed to see the small woman being spoken to by one of those from Harad. Not only did he run into her and manage to knock her to the floor--he also managed to spill both goblets of wine he carried over her as he struggled to keep from falling himself.
Elise was surprised when someone ran into her--the dress she wore was of a golden color that ought, in this company, to have been clearly seen by anyone, or so she had thought. To find herself not only now lying on the floor but now covered in wine was a shock. Almost immediately she was surrounded by aid and concern, and the Lord King Elessar himself was assisting her to her feet and checking to make certain she had taken no permanent harm.
Assured that his daughter's nurse was well enough and even laughing through the wine, Aragorn sought out her husband to escort her home, finding him near the pedestal where still stood the model for the memorial to the four Halflings, deep in a discussion on the nature of honor, Armanthol by his side. Ruvemir, learning his wife had suffered a minor accident and required his attentions, immediately excused himself from the discussion to go and assist her.
Ruvemir recovered the Lord Faramir's mantle which he had worn to the Citadel and gently wrapped it around his wife, after which he accompanied her to take leave of the Queen, who, having regained custody of her daughter from Gimli, was herself making the decision she would withdraw from the party as Melian at this point both needed changing and feeding. The Queen was properly solicitous and assured Elise all was well and she indeed should go home and change, and so the two left with the blessings of their sovereign and his lady wife, accompanied by Armanthol, who was expressing his reluctance to leave.
"Oh," Ruvemir sighed, "I, too, am reluctant, for it had been my hope to be there in case the King is coaxed to sing again. Ririon is enchanted with his voice, and I must say I am as well. Of course, any singing by the Elves is well worth the hearing; but the singing of the King is also well worth the hearing, as it appears to blend much of the best of his mixed heritage, as he is descended both from Men and Elves."
The Guards at the top of the ramp saluted them, as did those at the bottom as they turned toward their home. As they came to the lane that led to their house, however, they could hear raised voices, one of a Man and one of a woman. These spoke not the Common Tongue but the language of Rhun, but it was clear the discussion was not going pleasantly.
Ruvemir broke away from Elise. "Stay here with Armanthol," he cautioned, and he walked forward to find out what was the matter with Liana.
He found her struggling to break the grip on her hand by the one who had been her husband, who was obviously very drunk and belligerent. Ruvemir approached with concern for her and frustration with the one from Rhun. Realizing Liana was in pain from the Man's grip, Ruvemir raised his cane and brought it down on the other's wrist, taking him wholly by surprise. Ivarnon was shocked at the blow and the fact he was involuntarily letting go of Liana's arm, and was pulling his hand to him, clutching at the right wrist with his left hand, staring stupidly at the determined figure facing him.
"You have no right, first, to approach Liana at all as you yourself cast her out of your home when you found yourself angered not to get the son you wanted, denying yourself the child Iluvatar sent you to teach you delight and patience," Ruvemir said. "You have no right at any time to compel a woman against her will, even if your marriage were still valid in the ways of your people. And, as I said yesterday, she is now a dweller within my home; and although she is not my wife, yet she is still under my protection. Now, I strongly suggest you enter the quarters given you while you are a guest of the city, and that you take a very cold bath and sober up somewhat. Liana, I suggest you go in quickly."
Liana nodded and hurried to the door. She'd only come out to shake out the mat at the door before her master and mistress returned, and had found Ivarnon, reeking of the fumes of much wine, approaching from the street. He'd called out to her to wait, and stupidly she'd done just that. Oh, if she had only turned and entered in and closed and secured the door then! But, no, she'd stayed to see what he wanted, and in a moment's time he had grabbed her arm and wrist and had begun to pull her down the street, insisting she was yet his wife and should return to him, leaving the damaged child with the deformed man who so resembled it. "I am magnanimous," he'd been declaring against her protests at the moment Master Ruvemir arrived.
Once in, she peered out. Ruvemir was standing quite still, now between Ivarnon and the door, leaning now on his cane. "Will you not seek to recover your honor, sir?" he asked. "It is unbecoming to try to force a woman to compliance at any time."
Perhaps if he had not spoken again all might have been well; but at the hint that Ivarnon had shown less than honorable actions the drunken Man was stung. He'd been forbidden to take with him his sword to the feast, but he had carried his belt knife and several other weapons about his person. "You--you abomination!" Ivarnon hissed between clenched teeth. "You have no right to discuss honor with me!"
"No right to discuss honor?" sighed Ruvemir. "The King himself has laid it upon me to discuss exactly that." He turned his torso to assure himself that Liana was safe, and at that moment Ivarnon reached into his belt and drew a dart and threw it, catching the mannikin in the right side of his ribcage, then pulled out his belt knife and rushed forward. He was felled when an ink bottle struck his head from the house opposite, thrown from a window above.
The surprised guards from the gate and porch of the Rhunish embassy came running, and soon had Ivarnon secured. Shefti was running down from his room and out the door to see to the condition of his neighbor as, with a word to Elise to remain where she was, Armanthol was racing back to the ramp to summon more aid.
Eldamir had been invited to attend the feast, but had begged off, having had more than a full day in the Houses of Healing. The day had been hot, even here in the Sixth Circle of the city, and all he wished was to spend some time this evening with his children and his family--particularly with his wife. When they could hear the raised voices outside he'd begun to rise to see to the matter when he heard the voice of his neighbor and former patient intercede, and he'd relaxed again. He had great faith in the skills of Master Ruvemir to calm others, so he'd resumed his tickling of his youngest son, only to have it interrupted again by the scream of shock by a woman. Immediately the game with his son was forgotten, and barefoot he raced out of his house into the lane.
The guards from the Rhunish embassy stood over a Man sprawled on the roadway, and beyond them a woman wrapped in a short blue cape was starting to kneel over the body of another in a blue shirt. "Ruvemir!" she was crying, almost hysterical with fear. Eldamir came to her side, and she looked at him with shock and supplication. "He threw something at him, and it caught him in the side of his chest!" she said. "Then he fell!"
The housekeeper was racing out now, followed by several of the apprentices, as well as Eldamir's own from his own house. His father-in-law was not there, working late in the Citadel due to the feast being held there, but he knew that he could count on Tergil, his older son, to assist as needed. Eldamir was checking the pulse on the side of the mannikin's throat--it was racing and erratic. He was checking the side, found the dart. He turned to Tergil. "Bring me my bag, as swiftly as possible," he said. Tergil had retrieved it before he could blink. "Now, open it and bring out the packing gauze," Eldamir ordered. Again Tergil complied, having begun to follow the order before it was fully spoken. Gauze in hand, Eldamir removed the dart, lifted the tunic his neighbor wore, and pressed the gauze to it. The lung had been punctured and was in danger of collapse. Ruvemir was conscious, but overwhelmed by the insult done his body, his eyes wide and dilated with the shock he now experienced.
"It is well enough," Eldamir murmured. "We will be lifting you in a moment's time and taking you to the Houses of Healing.
Shefti of Rhun now knelt beside him, begging to know if there was aught he might do. "I heard the noise from my room, looked out to see this one facing Master Ruvemir, saw him throw a dart. I had a new bottle of ink in my hand I was starting to uncap when I simply threw it at him and managed to strike him with it," he said.
Eldamir ignored him as best he could. "He is being overcome with the shock," he said, interrupting the scribe's continued words. "We must get him to the Houses of Healing. I need to see to the other--let you hold this here against the side, and do not release the pressure if you value his life."
Shefti stopped his explanations, nodded his head, put his hand over the gauze and kept the pressure on it as Eldamir turned to the other sprawled Man. He saw the shattered ink bottle, the rising bump on the side of the head. He felt the pulse--knocked out, but no great likelihood of serious injury, the Valar be thanked. "No need to bind him," he said. "But if you can carry him to the Houses of Healing we will put him in one of the secure rooms. The alcohol he has consumed is of more danger to his health, I deem, than the blow to the head." The guards nodded, and as more of their fellows came out, two were detailed to take the place of the two now standing over the fallen Ivarnon while they carried him to the Houses.
Shefti was white with shock himself, but knelt, ready to follow orders as they were given. Eldamir knelt once more over the mannikin, felt his pulse. It was becoming more thready. He looked into the other Man's eyes. "We need to take him now. Keep the pressure as steady as you can as I shift him to lift him." Shefti nodded, and carefully Eldamir rolled the sculptor to lift him, then, once he had him lifted in his arms he put his own hand over the gauze and took over the pressure on it. "Go before me and alert them. Tell them punctured lung and shock to the body."
The Rhunim nodded and hurried before him. He nodded at Tergil to bring his bag, and followed after.
The King was laughing at a story told by Moritum of Rhun when suddenly he stopped, his face paling. The young Shkatha was surprised, then saw a look of grave concern on the tall Man's face.
"There is an emergency," the King of Gondor said, his expression distant. "I am sorry, I must go, and at once."
"I will come with you, then," said Moritum, at which the King nodded in distraction. Together they hurried to the door, and others watched after.
A nod from Aragorn as he passed, and Faramir realized he was now in charge. "The King has been summoned away by an urgent need elsewhere," he announced to the party. "Let all continue as before." The musicians continued, and the others turned back to their discussions, and soon most had forgotten the hurried exit of the King of Gondor and his guest from Rhun.
Hardorn turned to accompany the King out of the hall and the Citadel. "Something to do with Ruvemir," the King was saying. "He's been seriously hurt. Eldamir is with him, I think. We must go to the Houses immediately." Hardorn nodded.
A figure was running toward them as they hurried toward the ramp--Armanthol of Umbar. "The Rhunim--he was dragging Liana, was hurting her. Master Ruvemir stopped him, struck him with his cane, told him to go in and take a cold bath. The Rhunim threw something at him, caught him in the chest. Master Ruvemir fell." Nodding, the tall figure of the King ran the rest of the way, pursued by his bodyguard and Moritum of Rhun.
Elise was sitting inside the entrance to the Houses of Healing, her face white, Ioreth kneeling before her, her hands between the elderly healer's. She was surrounded by apprentices, the King noted. Shefti of Rhun stood near, also, as did Tergil, older son to Eldamir. The boy was pale but steady. "Ada has him, my Lord," he said. "Punctured lung, shock."
"Thank you," the King said in passing, letting his hand brush the boy's head as he hurried. A page met him, led him to a treatment room. "Boiling water is being brought now," he said. The King nodded, entered in, still followed by Moritum. They were cutting away the shirt--so much for Miriel's work, he thought, sad for the loss of the garment. But then he was leaning over, taking the cone offered by the healers that was often used to listen to the heart and lungs, setting it near the wound, placing his ear to it. There was the soft sound of air escaping the lung, the indication blood was taking its place. He looked at the site, looked to the face of the healer.
"I think it should be well," Eldamir was saying. "I was with him almost immediately, and I had gauze to put over the wound ere I removed the dart." He produced the dart from his pocket, and the King examined it.
"Not too bad a wound, then," Aragorn commented. "You have kept the pressure steady?"
"As steady as we can. I believe it is the only wound."
The King set his hand over that of Eldamir, indicated he should remove his own hand. He closed his eyes and let his hands see, feel the way of the wound, the breach in the tissues of flesh, muscle, and lung. He began to sing the invocation to Manwë, Elbereth, Estë, and Ulmo, felt the strength of that invocation augmented by the green stone he wore, felt the strength he sought pass into him, through him.
The door opened and the water was brought to him, and he accepted it with a gesture of thanks. Nodding, he let Eldamir again resume the pressure as he took the athelas from the tray, bruised it while still singing the invocation, breathed upon it, cast it in, held it near the still face. He placed one hand on the temple, feeling the pulse, then felt the invocation take him as it would at times. The pulse slowed, began to strengthen. The breathing slowed, steadied, still somewhat shallow, but stronger. He felt the song reach deep into the wound, begin to knit the flesh, the small vessels which had been breached. The bleeding slowed, the seeping of air stopped. He smiled as he felt the awareness begin to return, awed and amazed to find the pain fading already. A slight wound, yet serious--but so swiftly easing. He let his own thankfulness fill the remains of the hymn.
Ruvemir looked up sideways into the grey eyes leaning over him. "It was Liana's former husband. Please, do not call for his death--he was drunk and my words provoked him," he whispered. "Do not give yourself that...."
"Shh, rest now, my friend," the King murmured. "I will see to him soon, but not yet. You must rest and allow the body to heal. There is some blood in the lung--we must watch that you do not take the lung fever again."
There was a small nod from the mannikin, and the King felt the last of the healing virtue soothe him as he drifted into a light sleep. He again let his hands feel deep. "The breach is sealed," he said quietly. "You can let off."
With a sigh of relief Eldamir pulled his hand away, and the gauze was at last lifted. Dipping a cloth into the cooling water, Aragorn gently cleansed the site of the wound, noted it was already showing the development of clean tissue. He then looked down and saw that there were bloody footprints on the floor up to where Eldamir now stood, and several spots of blood showing where he had shifted his position during the time he'd been by the bed.
"Your foot is bleeding," he said. "Sit you in the chair and let me check it."
"I must have stepped in the broken glass," the healer said. "I must have run through it as I carried him here."
Aragorn sighed, asked for the finest tongs, a clean knife with small, sharp blade, dipped another cloth into the athelas water, knelt and began to cleanse the bloodstained foot.
Ivarnon awoke with aching head and great nausea. He was lying on his side on a bed of the sort slept on in Gondor. A light blanket was over him, and a Man stood nearby holding a basin. "Ah, awakening at last," the Man said. "You will need this, I think." Ivarnon was able to raise himself sufficiently to be over it as the nausea finally took over, and he began to retch. Someone else was behind him, supporting him until the bout was finished. Then it began again, and this time some splattered elsewhere before they got him lifted again. Finally all seemed to be at an end, and a glass was being offered to him. "Rinse your mouth with this," the Man was saying. He did so and spat into the basin. The bile began to rise again, but he fought to hold it down, and managed to do so.
The Man was examining the contents of the basin. "Mostly wine. If you'd only eaten more perhaps you would not be as badly off as you are now. Now, we must get you out of the bed so it can be made anew, then you can lie and sleep for a time." They assisted him to rise and brought him to a chair. He realized the one who had supported him was one of the guards from the embassy, and the look the Man gave him was full of disgust and open anger. He could not think what the guard had to be angry about, really.
Others came in and changed the linens, pillow, and blanket on the bed, and finally he was guided back to it once more. He sat on the side of it, leaning over, looking at the clean basin which now lay on the floor between his feet, contemplated the possibility he might need it. His memories were beginning to return, and he wondered if he would do more, once he left these rooms, than to go down to the place where Abdurin had died.
Then the door opened once more, and he looked up into the face of the King Elessar of Gondor. The tall Man's face was set, studiously neutral. He gestured, and the chair was brought near. He sat in it, took Ivarnon's wrist, felt the pulse. His hand went to Ivarnon's temple, felt the pulse there, also; lifted the face so he could look into his eyes. The King examined his eyes, his mouth, gums, hands, nails. He leaned forward to listen to Ivarnon's chest, then his roiling belly. "An infusion of athelas, willowbark, and mint," he said to the other Man, the one who'd offered the basin before. The Man nodded, went to get what was needed. The King's hand felt the bump where he'd been struck. There was some crusting of blood in the hair, and he asked for clean water and cloths to wash it so he could examine the wound. Then a razor was brought so he could shave around the wound to protect it from infection.
"It will need but a single stitch," he told the Man, who'd returned with the draught. The King held the cup while Ivarnon drank, and then the door opened again, and Moritum entered as the other left.
"They have the sculptor settled in a bed, and the healer's son has gone to bring his father clean coverings for his feet," the Shkatha reported.
"Thank you, my Lord Moritum," the King replied.
Moritum looked at Ivarnon glumly as he stood behind the King's shoulder. "I grieve, my Lord Elessar, that we must deal with this one after all. It had been my hope that, with the example of his brother, Abdurin, Davit, and Bordig before him he would at least demonstrate a level of discretion. However...." He let the sentence hang.
"Master Ruvemir has indicated he desires we be lenient still with this one," the King sighed. The door opened again, and the other Man returned with a tray on which lay a basin of steaming water, a green leaf, a needle strung with silk thread, and some clean cloths. The King thanked him, gently rolled the leaf between his fingers and with whispered words committed it to the water, then held the basin before Ivarnon's face. The scent was that of the desert air at dawn, clean and dry. After a moment the King replaced it on the tray, took one of the cloths, and dipping it in the water washed the wound once more, then picked up the needle and thread. He turned to Moritum. "Please hold his hands while I do this," he asked, then rose to stand beside Ivarnon, leaned over him.
In but a moment it was done, and with remarkably little pain. Then, as the other removed the tray, King and Shkatha both looked at him, their faces again going neutral.
At last the King broke the silence. "You are extremely fortunate," he said quietly, "that Ruvemir turned when and as he did, that the dart struck his side and not his heart; that you did not reach him with your drawn knife; that the bottle of ink cast by Lord Shefti hit you and knocked you unconscious when and as it did; that the healer Eldamir was in his house and thus at hand when Ruvemir was struck and his wife cried out. I will tell you this--had my sculptor died, it is very likely that you would even now be sitting in a cell in the Citadel, the prospect of the rope at dawn before you. Do you understand?"
Ivarnon nodded shakily.
"He tells me you were drunk, and that his words provoked this violence in you. I would have you tell me what words so cast doubts on your manhood that you must seek to kill him."
"He said that my honor should keep me from trying to compel a woman to follow me against her will." Even as he said it, he realized that these were true words indeed. He turned his head away and closed his eyes.
Moritum gave a sniff of contempt. "Had you entertained any honor, first you would not have carried more in the way of weapons than your belt knife and eating knife and spoon to the feast; second you would never have offered violence to one armed with no more than the staff on which he must lean to walk with comfort." Ivarnon felt himself nodding dumbly in response.
The King sighed. He looked at the Shkatha. "I ask for right to judge this, my brother," he said quietly. Moritum nodded his agreement. "I will spare your life, but you will enter servitude in the North Kingdom for a period of two years. You will labor on the roads now being built and paved. You will receive some pay for your work, which will be granted to you when your period of servitude is ended. You will go north with my kinsman Eregiel when he leaves after our return. Until then, once those here have determined you are well enough to bear it, you will be removed to the cells in the prison of the Citadel until Eregiel goes forth. You will be well treated there, but will not be in any position to offer further violence to any. Do you understand this?"
Ivarnon raised his head, looked into the keen grey eyes. "Yes, Lord Elessar."
The King's examination of him went on for some minutes. At last he gave a small smile. "You have more honor, it appears, than Abdurin had, at least. Perhaps you will find still more within you as you work. So be it, then. This is well with you, Lord Moritum?"
"Yes, although I suspect Abduleram will cast him from the tribe of the Bedui for this. It will be more than he will be able to accept, coming so close on the heels of the treachery of his son and his brother."
"When he is done, he may remain in Arnor, come back here, or return to your people as he pleases. However, for now he remains in custody."
"So be it, then, as you have said."
Ivarnon sighed, found himself saying, "I am sorry to draw you from the feast."
The King looked at him, a hint of approval in his eyes. "It is not the first time I have been called to the Houses of Healing from such a thing. Rest now. I see no signs of serious injury to the brain, no signs of the swelling or bruising. You will recover quickly."
With that the two rulers withdrew, and Ivarnon was left in isolation for the night. His weapons had all been removed. Sighing, he lay down, and after lying there thinking for some time, he fell asleep.
It was familiar, somehow, waking up, propped almost upright in a bed not his own, that same presence beside him. "How do you feel?" the voice asked.
He opened his eyes to find himself as before in the Houses of Healing, the King beside him. The Lord Elessar wore riding leathers, but this time not the worn greens with which he was familiar, but new, rather formal looking leathers dyed a clean blue-grey, embossed and inlaid with the signs of White Tree on the left breast, Seven Stars in a circle on the right. "It appears," he said in a whisper, "that the Queen seeks to replace the old ones.
Aragorn laughed. "Yes, it does appear that way, and that the leather workers she has approached feel the same. But, once again, you have not answered my question. How do you feel?"
"Well enough." He looked to the window. "It is not long after dawn."
"True enough. I must away soon. However, I first stopped to see to your condition, which appears far better than we'd hoped. Let me listen to your chest."
After several moments of listening, first with ear pressed against Ruvemir's chest and then through a tube he'd brought with him, he smiled. "Well enough indeed. There is no sound of gathering fluids or phlegm, although Eldamir will keep you here for at least three days more to assure such does not occur. I fear it will be three days of boredom, breathing fumes and vapors, and drinking a variety of draughts intended to assist your body to expel any remaining blood from your lungs--and I will warn you several of those are most vile."
"Ah, you would warn me, then. Now I will know to hide from them."
"Best not to do that, or Ioreth will find you and will regale you with the doings of each child within the Houses during the time of the pox in great detail as a penance." Ruvemir found himself laughing, and felt the catch in his side where the muscles still felt the pain of his injury. He quieted, then had a thought. "He who was husband to Liana...."
"He is well enough. He is still in the Houses this morning, but will most likely be removed to the prison this afternoon. He has been granted two years servitude in Arnor, and the promise of a new start after. Where that will be I don't know, for Lord Abduleram has expelled him from the Bedui for his foolishness. He may choose to remain there, or perhaps even to return, clanless, to serve Moritum. I find there is a core of honor in his heart which may serve him well."
"I see. Thank you, Lord, for your leniency for my sake."
His King smiled.
"I had some letters the other night, by the way, from the Shire."
"So did I."
"Did Fredegar Bolger write to you, or Ferdibrand Took?"
"No, but so far I've met neither. It is hardly surprising."
"Ferdibrand entrusted Fredegar with a message to me, one which is of interest to you, my Lord Aragorn."
"He said to tell me that the Light in the West grows steadily brighter."
The King's face itself glowed. "Did he? Send him my greetings, and my thanks and blessings."
"I will, my Lord King."
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.