8. A Time to Heal
Time to Heal
Aragorn held Sam close, cradling the curly head against his uninjured shoulder and letting him weep until he had no tears left. This time Sam did not attempt to pull away and nestled into the King's arm, accepting what comfort he could offer.
Eventually the curly head drooped with weariness and Aragorn gently eased him down on the pallet. "Sleep now," he said gently.
"I'll try but it's so hard when all I see is ash and fire and Orcs hurting poor Mister Frodo. I never meant to hurt you, Mister Strider, I'm sorry."
Aragorn 's only reply was to tenderly kiss the Hobbit on the brow in blessing.
The King tried to get to his feet but found himself swaying. Éomer and Legolas hastened to his side and supported him back to his own bed.
Gimli went to soothe the other Hobbits.
Aragorn slumped wearily on his pallet still held by his friends.
"Did Sam injure you?" asked Éomer "Let me see!"
"I do not think so," Aragorn replied wearily. However, somewhat to their surprise, he made no protest when Éomer insisted on pulling aside his clothing to check. The bandages appeared unstained much to their relief. He shook his head as Éomer made to undo the bandages. The King of Rohan ignored him and continued unwrapping them.
When the wound was uncovered, it was found to be bleeding slightly, but no great damage appeared to have been caused, though Aragorn already had so many bruises, it was almost impossible to tell if he had acquired more.
Legolas brought water and salves leaving Éomer to bathe it and apply a clean dressing. Aragorn wearily lay back and let himself be tended to.
"Should it be bleeding like that? " Éomer asked anxiously.
Aragorn opened his eyes and looked down at the wound, grimacing with a mixture of pain and degust at his own inability to help himself. "Sam had not enough strength to do any real damage," he said with a sigh. "He just caught it. It looks clean enough."
"You must tell us if it gets worse," Éomer insisted.
Aragorn nodded. "It is not that my wounds that trouble me, my friends, but how to help the Hobbits. I feel that I have failed them. Their bodies are healing but their minds remain deeply troubled. At first, I thought only Frodo was affected but now I see Sam is just as disturbed, maybe because he carried that accursed Ring too. There is only one thing left I could do to try to help them. I do not like doing it, yet wonder if it is the only way left "
"Will it harm you?" Éomer asked suspiciously.
Aragorn shook his head "No, but it imposes my will upon them, which I dislike doing. I have the power to make them fall into a deep healing sleep without dreams. They will wake briefly just to take food and drink but remember nothing."
"That sounds a good idea," Legolas interjected. "Yet, when they awaken, will not everything trouble them the same as before?"
"When I was in hiding from the enemy, I learned many ways to protect myself," Aragorn explained. "One such method, was to cause anyone to forget seeing me over the previous few days. So I could make the Hobbits forget all the events of the past days, and all their pain and distress."
"Then do it for all our sakes!" exclaimed Éomer. Legolas and Gimli nodded their agreement.
"It must be for their sake, not ours," Aragorn insisted.
"It breaks my heart to see them so distressed," said Gimli."You could best help them by letting them sleep."
"What of Pippin?" asked Legolas.
"His body is great pain but not his mind." Aragorn replied." I think Pippin must choose for himself.
The sound of Sam crying suddenly interrupted the conversation. "I will do it now." Aragorn said, suddenly resolved. Éomer helped him to his feet and he slowly and painfully made his way to Sam's bedside. "I know now how I can help you, Sam," he told the troubled Hobbit. "Just close your eyes for a moment!"
Aragorn laid his palm on Sam's forehead while gently brushing his eyelids with his fingertips and murmuring something in Elvish. Immediately, the Hobbit relaxed and within a minute was sound asleep. Aragorn looked down at him for a moment and then kissed him on the brow. "Sleep peacefully, brave Master Samwise!" he murmured.
He then moved across to Frodo's bedside and bade him close his eyes too.
"I see such horrors when I try to sleep!" Frodo protested.
"I promise you that will not happen." Aragorn replied.
Frodo reluctantly complied. Within moments he too was in a deep dreamless sleep.
Aragorn bent and kissed him on the forehead as he whispered," Sleep peacefully my valiant friend!"
He stood for a moment sadly looking down at them and then with Éomer's help made his way to Pippin's bedside. "I have decided to send Frodo and Sam into a healing sleep to ease their distress," he explained." Now, you must choose if you would like that too. Your hurts could heal and you would feel no pain. Or would you rather stay awake?"
"Will you be with me if I stay awake?" Pippin asked.
"Yes, I will," Aragorn replied. "And soon Merry and Gandalf should be here too."
"I would rather not sleep then. I've been unconscious far too long!" Pippin replied without hesitation.
"You will continue to feel a great deal of discomfort, though it should lessen as the days progress," Aragorn warned, flinching as a stab of pain pierced his side and leaning more heavily on Éomer.
"I can see that you are hurting too," Pippin said steadfastly. "You probably hurt as much as I do, yet you bear it without complaint, while I am such a coward!"
Aragorn blinked back the tears in his eyes and grasped Pippin's hand. "Never say you are a coward, Peregrin Took!" he said huskily. "You have displayed valour far beyond your strength and your years! If truth be told, I will be glad of the company of one so valiant, in the days ahead! Now, I will tend your wounds and ease you as best I may."
Pippin looked at him in wide-eyed astonishment.
Aragorn collected himself and asked the others to bring hot water, towels, and salves. "I will see how the poultices are working. I might need to apply some pressure to the wound," he told Pippin, sitting down beside him "Then I will bathe you and look at your other hurts".
Pippin flinched as the poultice was peeled away from his shoulder.
To Aragorn's great relief the wound was already starting to drain. He washed his hands and then applied slight pressure with his thumbs either side of the wound. Pippin hissed in pain but the procedure was over within seconds. Aragorn then gently cleaned the wound and asked Legolas to prepare another poultice for after the Hobbit was bathed.
"My ribs itch!" Pippin complained, when it appeared the strapping was to be left in place.
"I have a salve that would help, but it might pain you if I unwrap them," Aragorn warned.
"I would find that easier to endure than this feeling a thousand ants are running over me!" Pippin replied.
Aragorn grinned at his determination as he unfastened the jar. Gimli supported the Hobbit while Aragorn unwound the bandage. Pippin gasped in horror at his first clear sight of his bruised and battered rib cage.
"You were under a troll! I was most surprised you still lived!" Gimli commented, as Aragorn laid a wet cloth across the damaged ribs to bathe them without causing further injury. He then repeated the process with a towel and applied the salve with his fingertips before rewrapping the ribs with a clean bandage.
"That feels much better!" Pippin sighed once the bathing was completed. "I just wish it didn't hurt in so many places, even my head and my ankle and my good shoulder ache!"
"You dislocated them when the troll fell on you and you banged your head," Aragorn explained." I have a salve that might help." He opened the jar and massaged some of its contents into Pippin's head and ankle before turning his attention to his shoulder. Unlike Sam, Pippin was quite relaxed but looked rather sad. "What troubles you, Pippin?" Aragorn asked.
"I miss having Merry beside me," Pippin replied rather wistfully. "Sometimes it feels lonely."
Aragorn immediately realised what was wrong. He had learned Hobbits were affectionate creatures, Pippin especially so. Impulsively, he sat on the edge of Pippin's pallet and with some difficulty eased the Hobbit to a sitting position, taking care not to dislodge the poultice and then took him in his arms and leaned him against his least injured shoulder. He then arranged the blankets round him to cover all but his head and shoulders.
Pippin sighed contentedly and buried his dark curls against the King's neck .He was soon blissfully relaxed while Aragorn slowly massaged the cream into his shoulder, gently kneading the damaged tissues.
"Am I hurting you?" Pippin asked. "I know how much you were hurt .I saw the others tending you."
"My wounds are healing now." Aragorn said, avoiding a direct lie "Does this cause you pain being as the muscle is damaged?"
Pippin shook his head." No, and the cream smells so nice."
Aragorn continued unhurriedly, using an Elven massage technique and allowing the young Hobbit to find some comfort in his touch.
Pippin did not speak for a few moments and Aragorn wondered if he were falling asleep.
"Why did you do it?" the Hobbit asked suddenly and burst into tears.
"Do what?" Aragorn asked in bewilderment.
"Risk your life to save me." Pippin explained tearfully.
Legolas and Gimli, who were both sitting nearby groaned at the Hobbit's astuteness.
Taken aback, Aragorn paused in his ministrations. He thought for a moment before resuming.
"Why Strider?" Pippin persisted.
Aragorn answered with a question." If you could save Merry, Frodo or Sam but had to take a risk to do so, would you?" he asked.
"Yes of course." Pippin replied without hesitating.
"And why would you?"
"Because they're my friends!" Pippin said in a tone, which suggested he thought the question foolish.
"You have answered your own question." Aragorn said quietly.
"But I'm just a Hobbit and you're the King!" Pippin exclaimed bewildered.
"A King must always be the servant of his people, I would not deserve that title, if I would not gladly sacrifice my life for my friends." Aragorn said emphatically. "And you, Pippin are my friend and I hope you always will consider me yours!"
"I do." Pippin gulped as a tear rolled down his cheek.
Aragorn gently wiped the tear away." I expect you will soon forget all the big folk you met once you return to the Shire and all your friends, not to mention the pretty Hobbit lassies!" he joked, attempting to lighten the mood.
"Indeed I shan't!" Pippin's tone was indignant. "I am a Knight of Gondor!"
"Now the ring is destroyed and Sauron defeated, I will not hold you to your pledge, so you are free to return to the Shire." Aragorn replied.
"I shall, as it's my home, but I belong now to Gondor too and would keep my oath to my King if you will have me." Pippin sounded a trifle apprehensive as he spoke.
"Indeed I will!" It was Aragorn's turn to wipe a tear away, as he massaged Pippin's neck and upper back. The Hobbit nuzzled against his shoulder as contentedly as a kitten before eventually falling asleep.
Aragorn gently laid him down and smiled at the sleeping Hobbit. These days had been hard, yet friendship and loyalty had sustained them.