4. Loss of Hope
Loss of Hope
Warning - Sensitive readers may find this chapter distressing
"Put down your weapons! I come in peace!" a familiar voice answered. Éomer, King of Rohan, his mane of blonde hair blowing in the breeze, galloped up alongside them on Firefoot, his magnificent stallion.
Legolas and Gimli sighed with relief and lowered their weapons,
Leaping from his horse and seeing the astonishment on their faces, he hastily explained his errand." Gandalf bade me come," he told them "He wishes for tidings of how you fare. He bade me to send the driver of your wagon on to Minas Tirith to tell the City of our victory and fetch my sister, the Lady Éowyn and the Hobbit, Meriadoc to join us here, once they be recovered sufficiently in health."
Legolas still looked baffled. "A worthy errand, my lord," he replied, "Yet, it surprises me that Mithrandir should send a king to deliver it?"
Eomer's expression darkened. "I realised the Lord Aragorn was gone without bidding me farewell." he replied. "When I pressed the Wizard hard for tidings, he told me he was sore wounded. I was anxious to know how my brother in arms fared and came here with all haste."
He then caught sight of the blanket-shrouded form that Gimli knelt beside. He rushed towards them and pulled the cover from around Aragorn's head.
For a moment, he gazed at the pale features of the King of Gondor and Arnor. He then threw himself down on the ground beside him, and clasped the still form in his arms. "No!" he cried, "This cannot be, my brother in arms, the saviour of my sister, my friend! You cannot leave us now!" he wept, looking on Aragorn's pain and fever-ravaged features in dismay.
Legolas and Gimli stepped back alarmed at the sheer force of his grief.
How did this happen?" Éomer asked. " I know he did not fall in battle. I saw him afterwards and he seemed unscathed."
Leaving Gimli to explain, Legolas began to carry the Hobbits one by one further into to the shelter of the trees
"He pushed himself too hard, or so Gandalf and the sons of Elrond tell us now," the Dwarf explained. "Within the space of two weeks, he fought three battles, looked in that accursed stone of wizardry, rode the fearsome paths of the dead and healed countless victims of the Black Breath. He then gave all his strength to the little ones here, despite being sore wounded and weary. His noble heart could take no more. The Wizard bade us bring him here. I fear, though, it is only to bury him!" His tone showed the bitterness and anguish he felt.
"Then let him rest forever here in this meadow, as a King out of legend so that no man knows whether he will return or not!" cried Eomer his noble features stricken with grief.
Legolas returned at that moment. "We cannot give up hope while he yet lives." he insisted," Let us send the driver back now, and then place Aragorn beside the Hobbits while we make camp. Maybe the trees will bring him comforting words. We must pitch the tents and dig pits for cooking and latrines."
"I will gladly aid you as best I can," said Éomer.
They carried Aragorn and gently laid him down alongside Sam and Pippin, who reached out and grasped the man's hands again. Pippin hardly seemed to know what he was doing by now, his fever was so high. However, when he stretched out his hand he seemed calmed when it met Aragorn's larger one, although he murmured "Merry!" as he clasped it.
With Éomer's help, the camp was quickly prepared and the three returned to tending the sick.
Leaving Gimli to coax water and then broth down the Hobbits, Legolas and Eomer turned their attention to Aragorn. They moved him a few feet away from the others, better to attend to him. When the blankets were pulled back, the King of Rohan gasped at the sight of the bruised and battered body of his friend and fellow king.
"Let us heat water and bathe him. Maybe it will ease him?" he suggested while Legolas started unwrapping the bandages.
To the Elf's keen eye, Aragorn's wounds seemed unchanged, apart from the wound in his side, which was hard and swollen and felt hot to the touch, compared with his otherwise cold and clammy flesh.
"I can see this wound needs draining, but I lack the skills to do it," Éomer said despondently. "One slip of the knife could damage some vital organ."
I too, lack the skills needed." Legolas replied, shaking his head." Maybe, it would be possible, if he were not so weak, but it was difficult enough, to get the arrow out without cutting too deep."
They bathed Aragorn in silence. He lay pale, still and unmoving beneath their ministrations. It seemed more like laying out the dead than bathing the living. Only the slight rise and fall of his laboured breathing, gave any indication that he yet lived.
Éomer desperately chafed Aragorn's hands and feet. He even shook him gently but all in vain, as he did not stir. "Keep on fighting, do not let go, dear friend!" he pleaded. Aragorn gave no sign of having heard him.
Overhead, the sun shone brightly as if mocking their dark forebodings of the death of a King. Two ravens sat perched on the highest tree, dark silhouettes against the blue sky Suddenly they flew down scattering the songbirds, which scattered and flew away in fear. The ravens circled overhead and then returned to their perch as if waiting expectantly for something.
Eomer looked up at them and cursed, "Fly home ye ravens!" he cried, "Your fallen master at Orthanc will gloat at misery but I would not have you do so!" His proud head was bowed with grief and his eyes were filled with tears.
Legolas went back to the Hobbits, wishing to give Éomer some privacy to vent his grief..
"Who is that man?" Sam asked.
"Eomer, King of Rohan, the Lord of the Mark," the Elf answered.
"A real king!" Sam gasped.
"Yes, and when Pippin's fever breaks he will tell you that Merry is sworn to his service," Legolas told him." Much has happened, while you and Frodo were in Mordor."
This all seemed too much for Sam to digest so he changed the subject. "How is Mister Strider getting on?" he asked.
Legolas looked away unable to meet his hopeful gaze. "Not well, I fear." he replied. "The fever no longer consumes him. Yet, instead of recovering, now he lies still and cold as death."
"When Hobbit babes have that kind of sickness, we undress them and lie them in the sun and let its rays warm their skin. Not that that would help a man, I don't suppose. Poor Mister Strider!" Sam started to cry softly.
"Did any of the babes recover?" Legolas asked curiously.
"Many did." Sam replied. "The healers said the combination of sunlight and fresh air on their skin revived them. Many more survived the aftermath of a fever in the warmer months because we could lie them in the sun."
Without another word, Legolas ran back to where Aragorn was lying, cradled on Eomer's lap. "Come, move him into the sun!" he ordered.
Eomer looked puzzled. Nevertheless, he complied. Together they carried man into the meadow, and they laid him on the soft grass. The spring sunshine was warm and gentle, bathing the field in a soft glow.
Legolas unwrapped the blankets from Aragorn's still form, just leaving one under him and then started to unwind the bandages. The discarded blankets felt as damp and clammy as the man's skin.
"Whatever are you doing?" asked Eomer aghast. "Have you no respect for the dying?"
Gimli ran towards them equally horrified." Have you lost your wits Master Elf? " he raged.
"Sam told me it was an old Hobbit remedy that cured their sick babes. I thought it worth trying." Legolas explained.
"I didn't mean for you to try it out on Strider," Sam wailed aghast. "It seems rather undignified!"
"He's not a babe but a grown man and a King too!" Gimli retorted.
"It is not fitting to leave a King naked in a field!" Eomer raged. "If he is dying, let him join his forefathers with dignity! We Rohirrim thus enjoy the sun while living, but the dead and dying should be covered!"
"Who will know save we?" Legolas replied, undeterred." We have tried all we know and nothing has roused him, he just grows weaker. Maybe the sun will revive him. We will offer him to the Valar as he was born, thus showing that his fate lies in their hands. Maybe they will see fit to spare him, seeing he approaches them in all humility. If not, we will dress him in royal garments and bury him in this fair place."
"Elves!" Gimli snorted." Be sure not to let one near me when I'm dying! I dread to think what Aragorn would say to all this, such a modest man would be mortified!"
"He will never know," Legolas said simply. " I only hope we are doing as Mithrandir wished us." The Elf wandered desolate round the flowery meadow, gathering white and yellow spring blossoms and plaiting them together with laurel branches in a circlet, which he placed on Aragorn's head. He then silently braided the man's hair in Elvish fashion.
Struggling to control his emotions, Gimli moved aside after a few moments." I'd better care for the Hobbits." he choked, walking towards the trees before anyone could see him weeping.
Legolas and Eomer positioned themselves either side of Aragorn, each clasping one of the man's hands, the other poised to ward off any insects that might touch his wounds.
"Let us keep vigil," said Legolas.
"Should we not make one more attempt to revive him?" Eomer said almost pleadingly.
Legolas shook his head. "We have tried all we can and must now accept the will of the Valar," he replied, "Bitter though it may be, who are we to question their designs? "
Eomer clutched Aragorn's limp hand, noting the calloused skin and the countless abrasions, yet it seemed he held the noblest thing on Middle- earth. A tear fell on it unbidden, when he recalled how that same hand had clasped his in comradeship on the battlefield and later recalled his sister to life.
"We should fetch his sword," Eomer said. "He is a mighty warrior. To die with his sword in his hand will ensure he feasts joyfully with his ancestors."
"Not yet, we should wait. We should bring the Elessar to him first," Legolas replied.
Aragorn neither moved nor stirred. Suddenly, Roheryn came and nuzzled him as if to bid his mater farewell. A butterfly landed on his chest and stayed perched over his heart for a few moments, before flying away. The gentle spring breeze blew his dark hair round his face.
His breathing grew shallower. The watchers knew that to be a sign the King would soon depart beyond the circles of the world.
Legolas nodded to Eomer. "It is time to fetch his sword and the Elessar." He rose to his feet.
Gimli, who had been watching while tending to the Hobbits, saw the look on Legolas' face, and came to join him, carrying Sam in his arms.They argued as they came.
"There's no need for you to have to watch this, Sam."
"But I want to, Strider is my friend too. I must say goodbye!"
Legolas returned with Andúril and the Elessar, the sword he placed by Aragorn's hand, and the green stone by his head, and then he resumed his former position, kneeling by his head and clasping the man's hand.
Éomer took off his cloak and looked about to cover his friend with it but the look in Legolas' eyes prevented him. He went to where his horse was tethered and rummaged in the saddlebags.
A few moments later, he returned with a small jar and uncorked the lid. Inside was a sweet smelling oil.
He looked down sorrowfully at Aragorn, whose cruelly wounded body seemed like a scar upon the fair meadow and glared at Legolas for exposing his friend to such indignity.
Then kneeling and bowing his head, he applied a few drops to Aragorn's head, hands feet, and breast. "If you must die, my friend, die as an anointed King!" he said, his voice choked with tears.
Gimli had laid Sam down, he reached out, and together they grasped Aragorn's wrist.
Sam started to cry and soon was joined by the others. The tears of Hobbit, Man, Dwarf and Elf fell on Aragorn's face as they mourned a beloved friend and the noblest man on Middle Earth. They knelt in silent homage to their friend for several moments.
A cloud passed across the face of the sun and the ravens gave a hoarse cry in the gloom.
It is a British superstition that ravens attend the death of a king. The nurse who attended the Duke of Windsor (The former Edward VIII) on his deathbed claimed ravens circled the house and flew off when he died.
My late Mother told me of a baby with TB, who lived nearby, who was taken out in a special glass covered pram when the sun shone. His clothing was pulled aside, to allow the sun to touch his skin through the glass. He died in infancy.
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.