6. Nurturing Hope
Éomer was still anxiously kneeling beside Aragorn at daybreak. To his great relief, he saw the colour was now returning to his face and he was breathing as well as anyone with cracked ribs could be expected to. He pulled the blankets down and saw the bandage round his side was stained again, though not as badly as the previous night.
"He should sleep a while yet with the potion I gave him," he told Legolas "Let us change his bandages now before he awakes. Last night was unpleasant for both of us."
The Elf nodded agreement and went to fetch the healing supplies and heat some water.
They first tended the leg wound, which appeared almost healed and then turned Aragorn over on to his uninjured side. Éomer shook his head in dismay at the amount of bruises, which covered the man's back and chest. "This looks more like a beating than a battle!" he murmured, applying a salve to Aragorn's back.
"Sauron's minions wanted to hurt him as much as they could before killing him," Legolas replied as he applied salve to the damaged ribs. "Yet, cruel though it is to see him hurt thus, at least none tried to deal him a fatal blow before the ring was destroyed."
"As you say, it turned out for the best, thought it grieves me to see his hurts," said Éomer. "No warrior of Rohan would fight with such dishonour as Sauron's armies!"
"Nor would an Elf!" Legolas replied. They gently laid Aragorn on his back and unwrapped the dressings on his upper body.
Once bathed, they decided the cuts on his arms were sufficiently healed only to need salves. The gash on his shoulder still looked deep and painful enough for a further dressing, however.
They were most worried by the still oozing wound on his side, though they hoped once the poisons were drained from it, that it would heal. Aragorn twitched and moaned in his sleep as they cleaned and dressed it.
"I think he is mending," said Legolas heaving a sigh of relief echoed by Éomer. "No doubt he will want to get up tomorrow! I wish we could tie him to his bed!"
"We must make certain that he does not overtax himself again," Éomer said grimly. "I had better try to find him some clothes before he wakes up."
Leaving Legolas to finish the bandaging, Éomer went to his saddlebags and rummaged inside until he found a spare pair of his breeches and drawers.
"Let us dress him now," he said "Allow him some dignity when he awakes as he cares about such matters! He told me that after many years of solitude he is uncomfortable unclothed in public."
Legolas grinned at the concerns of humans while he helped Éomer to ease the clothing over Aragorn's feet. Together they slowly eased the garments past the bandaged leg wound and pulled them up over his hips. They were rather too wide but given the amount of bandages around his waist, that was no bad thing.
Vastly relieved Aragorn had not woken during their ministrations; Éomer and Legolas replaced the blankets. Éomer sat down, wiping the sweat from his brow.
"I'm glad that is over," he said." Even though I had sedated him well, I feared he would wake up and not be at all happy! Who would be a healer?"
"They make the worse patients!" Legolas said wryly, washing his hands as he spoke. "He seems well on the way to recovery now, though. I doubt we will need to do this again. I will fetch you a drink while you sit with him."
"Thank you, then you must rest. Surely even Elves grow weary sometimes," Éomer replied. "I can keep watch now I'm awake."
"We are much stronger than you Edain," the Elf replied, "Yet, I will sleep a little while, there will be much to do this day."
Éomer sat sipping his drink and studying Aragorn's sleeping face, the high cheekbones, and dark hair looked striking even in slumber. There was no doubt of Aragorn's ancestry. Éomer had heard the old tales and even once seen the statues of the ancient kings from over the sea. He decided Aragorn now looked more like the man he had first met on the plains of Rohan, though it would doubtless be some time before he fully regained his strength. Yet, now he was certain he would live and his heart was gladdened at the thought.
Tearing himself away from the King's side, he walked across to where the Hobbits were lying and noticed one of them, 'Frodo', he thought, was lying with his eyes open.
"Do you want a drink?" he asked.
Frodo nodded weakly and swallowed the water greedily when Éomer held the cup to his lips.
"Sleep now, you need rest," Éomer advised him once the cup was drained.
"I'm not tired," Frodo whispered wearily.
Eomer did not believe him but let him be. He looked at his companion, 'Sam', if he remembered the name rightly,' as these Shire folk had strange names,' who was snoring loudly. He smiled, thankful that at least one of them was resting.
When he reached Pippin's bedside a small and surprised voice whispered "Éomer! Is it really you, or am I dreaming?"
Éomer smiled and knelt beside the Hobbit." Yes, I'm here, Gandalf sent me to see how you were."
Pippin's face fell as the memories of the last few days came flooding back. "How is Strider?" he asked. "Gimli said he was badly hurt and I saw how…" His voice trailed off at the hideous memory of the wounds he had seen.
Éomer smiled. "He is much better and so are your other friends. Now get some rest."
"Everything hurts so much, but I'll try, Éomer, um your Majesty" Pippin replied. It was hard to think that now the old King of Rohan was dead. "I miss Merry being with me so much."
"He has already been sent for. You will see him in a few days." Éomer replied, patting the young Hobbit's hand comfortingly. Within a few minutes, Pippin was sound asleep.
When Aragorn awoke again, the morning light filled the tent. He blinked and then shut his eyes again trying to make sense of his surroundings. He realised he was dressed in an ill-fitting pair of breeches, while his upper body was almost completely swathed in bandages. Then he remembered the previous night as the pain stabbed his chest and side. He moaned softly and opened his eyes.
Éomer was immediately at his side. "How do you feel, my friend?" he asked.
"As if my horse sat on me!" Aragorn groaned, struggling to sit up. He realised he was surrounded by pillows, not only under his head but also cushioning his back and either side of his ribs. He accepted Éomer's outstretched hands and allowed himself to be eased upright while the pillows were placed behind him.
The King of Rohan held a cup to his lips. "Drink this it will help you feel better."
Aragorn looked doubtful. "I do not want to sleep again. I must get up."
"It is only for the pain" Eomer reassured him, feeling rather apprehensive as to how Aragorn would react to having been sedated the night before "Drink it and then I will fetch food and drink to strengthen you."
Aragorn was about to complain about being given the poppy juice earlier, but before he could do so, became aware of a delicious smell of cooking coming from outside. He drained the cup of willow bark tea, grimacing at the bitter taste. "How did you know I was hungry?" he asked.
"You must be as you have not eaten for days," Éomer replied. "We intend to take the tent down before eating, now that the sun has risen, so would you like to borrow a tunic and shirt to keep you warm?"
Aragorn nodded and immediately wished he had not for the movement made his head spin.
Éomer steadied him. "Easy, friend, you will feel better once you have taken food and drink. "
Aragorn looked down at the blanket, embarrassed at his own weakness.
Éomer left him to fetch some clothing. He selected a loose shirt of a soft material and quickly eased it over Aragorn's head before he could protest.
"I can dress myself." Aragorn protested, his voice muffled under the cloth.
"It would hurt you to lift your arms until the pain relief had time to work." Éomer replied, ignoring him and pulling a tunic over his head.
" I will return soon with your breakfast." he said, leaving the aching and embarrassed King sitting propped against the pillows.
Legolas and Gimli, seeing him awake, left the Hobbits and ran over to him. "I feared you'd never wake! " said Gimli joyfully, patting him on the uninjured shoulder. "You gave us much cause for worry!"
"It is good to see you looking better, my friend," smiled Legolas.
"My friends!" Aragorn smiled despite the pain he was in." Thank you for tending me these past days. How are the Hobbits faring?"
"Their fever has broken and they are resting." Legolas answered, anxious not to alarm Aragorn. "We are taking care of them until you get your strength back."
A few moments later, Éomer returned with a bowl of stew and a spoon. Legolas and Gimli returned to their charges. Éomer lifted a spoonful of broth to Aragorn's lips. He shook his head and tried to take the spoon himself but found his hand was shaking too much.
Knowing it hurt his pride to be fed, Éomer compromised and steadied Aragorn's hand while he spooned the stew into his mouth. With each mouthful, it grew easier and soon Éomer merely had to hold the basin steady.
Aragorn had no idea he was so hungry but once the bowl was empty he felt much stronger. "Help me get up!" he begged his friend.
Éomer knelt beside Aragorn. Taking care not to touch his wounds, he put an arm round him and gradually eased him to his feet. Aragorn felt everything start to spin round and thought he would fall, but Éomer's sturdy arms supported him and gradually the spinning stopped and he was able to walk slowly and painfully, but at least he was on his feet.
Aragorn gradually felt his strength returning aided by the food. After he had seen to his own needs, he reluctantly took Éomer's advice to rest a little.
He found he was glad to return to his pallet and lie back with his eyes closed, enjoying the feel of the gentle sunlight on his face. He tried to ignore the now dully throbbing pains in almost every part of his body. A thrush was singing in a nearby tree and he tried to blot out the pain by concentrating on the song. It was beautiful and at that moment, it felt good to be alive.
His peace was shattered by a piercing scream.
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.