18. Out of the Depths - Part One
Out of the depths
Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Psalm 88.6- The Bible.
With grateful thanks to Raksha
Faramir could still hardly believe it. Aragorn was dead. How could he have let it happen, that the King should be cut down before his very eyes? Bitterly, he berated himself for trusting Khan Janab and agreeing that they should visit Harad with only a small escort.
They had been riding through a narrow valley with a steep precipice either side when a band ofHaradrim had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, and ambushed them. Faramir had seen a sword slice across Aragorn's chest and the King fall from his horse, not to the ground, but down into the abyss. They had not even had a chance since their assailants outnumbered them five to one and had harried them fiercely. Faramir had refused to lose his men along with his lord, and ordered them to retreat. Their Rohan-bred horses were swifter than those of their assailants and eventually they had managed to evade their pursuers.
Faramir wished he had fallen with his lord, the man who had saved his life and been father, brother, friend and King to him. He knew he must try to live. Gondor needed him, his wife and children needed him; and young Eldarion would need his protection and instruction. Yet Faramir's heart was surely about to break under the weight of his great grief.
It was growing dark and he had finally ordered his men to rest. He would not, could not sleep
"My lord?" Beregond, the Captain of his Escort, interpreted his thoughts. "You have eaten nothing. Will you not take food and rest?"
"I thank you for your concern, friend, but I need some time alone."
"We understand, my lord. We all loved him too."
Beregond melted back into the shadows.
Faramir felt a sudden overwhelming urge to return to where Aragorn had fallen. Maybe to stand at the spot would help him accept the tragedy. The assassins had long since vanished. He ought at least to be able to tell the Queen where her husband had breathed his last. The moon was bright and his horse had rested and grazed sufficiently to bear him again.
"My lord, are you sure this is wise?" Beregond pleaded, as Faramir saddled Iavas.
Faramir was past caring whether or not his actions made sense. "I will return," he said curtly. "Do not attempt to follow me."
The Steward rode until he reached the site of the ambush and then dismounted. He quickly realised how their attackers had managed to remain concealed. The sheer drop at the side of the road was an illusion, for a broad ledge ran several feet below the edge. He stood at the side of the road lost in thought. He wanted to weep, but no tears would come, so deep was his anguish.
Then he heard it, a weak cry like some wounded animal, maybe a kitten. Though what a kitten would be doing here, Faramir had no idea. The cry came again, this time, Faramir realised it was no animal. He lowered himself over the ledge.
He knew that voice, weak and frail though it sounded! Faramir's heart soared with joy.
In the moonlight, he beheld a shadowy form crawling painfully towards him on all fours and groaning softly in agony.
Faramir dropped to his knees beside the King. Aragorn was alive.
"Help me!" Aragorn whispered.
"I am here, I will not leave you," said the Steward. He was no Healer, but he could tell that the King was seriously wounded. Blood covered his clothing and he appeared so weak that he could scarcely summon the strength to speak. Faramir gently cradled the wounded King in his arms.
"You came!" Aragorn whispered. "Tell Arwen and the children I love them. I love you too, ion nîn."
"You shall tell them yourself," Faramir said firmly. "By the love I bear you, I swear that I shall return you to them!"
"Water!" Aragorn whispered more weakly than ever.
Faramir fortunately had his water skin with him. He uncorked it and held it to Aragorn's parched lips and supported his friend while he swallowed.
Aragorn drank deeply then slumped back in his arms.
Faramir lacked training in the arts of healing, but he had helped care for his men and had tended Aragorn before when his King had been sorely hurt and no other help was available. He knew he must first try to discover how badly his friend was injured. He felt Aragorn's pulse, which he was certain should not be so weak and rapid. He then placed a hand on the King's forehead, which felt clammy with fever. "Where are you hurt, mellon nîn?" he enquired.
Aragorn stared at him with a glassy gaze, making a supreme effort to concentrate. "Sword cut across my chest," he murmured. "Managed to staunch it with my cloak – also hit my head and twisted my ankle-can't stand."
The moonlight fortunately provided sufficient illumination for Faramir to see clearly. He gently pulled aside Aragorn's torn clothing to reveal a deep gash across his lord's chest. Even to an inexperienced eye, it was clear that the wound needed to be thoroughly cleansed and then stitched. Faramir had the means to do neither. He gently felt the flesh surrounding it Much to his alarm it was hot to the touch. The wound was becoming infected. "I will go and fetch help," he said.
"No," muttered Aragorn, grabbing hold of his sleeve. "Don't leave me, so cold!"
The Steward realised he could not leave his friend and lord here alone. What if Aragorn fell over the precipice in his confused state of mind? And if Aragorn were to die here, under strange stars, with none at his side to offer comfort, Faramir would never forgive himself. He would somehow have to bear Aragorn to safety.
Suddenly, the moon went behind a cloud, plunging the ledge into darkness. It was too perilous to move without light. One false move could easily plunge them both into the abyss beneath them.
Aragorn's teeth started to chatter. The days in Harad were exceedingly hot, but the nights were cold, especially for a sick and wounded man. Faramir unfastened his light cloak, and drew it around Aragorn. He clasped his wounded lord in his arms. "Fear not," he said, " I will not leave you while I draw breath!"
Aragorn sighed then fell into a feverish doze.
Faramir could do nothing, but wait for the dawn and try to offer what warmth and comfort he could to his injured King.
A faint light was visible in the East. The last few hours had seemed endless for the Steward, cramped on the ledge with his badly injured friend. Aragorn at least still lived. He had woken several times to beg for water, or mutter feverishly while clutching at Faramir's hand, or to feebly lash out at some imagined terror. Within the next hour, it should be light enough to attempt to leave the ledge. But who would give Aragorn the expert care he needed, should they safely rejoin Beregond and his men? Aragorn was their Healer. It had seemed foolish to bring anyone else while they had his great knowledge of the healing arts to guide them. Now, alas, even the King's healing supplies were at the bottom of the cliff. Faramir tried to flex his stiff muscles without disturbing the sleeping King. He knew he must not despair, but hope was fading rapidly.
The Steward's keen hearing suddenly detected the sound of approaching hoof beats. His heart soared. Beregond must have decided to disobey his foolish orders and follow him! He looked up, only to see a scarlet banner decorated with a serpent. The treacherousHaradrim had come to determine that Aragorn was dead. Alas! What fools they had all been! Gondor would lose both her King and her Steward at one fell stroke. He reached for his sword. He could at least die fighting. He would sooner take both Aragorn's life and his own then be put to torment by these murdering cowards!
A/N This is a version of a ficlet written for the AA Group Prompt "Deep" which forms the first part of a new two part story. I decided it was time to return to my angst writing roots for a while
If you enjoy drabbles check out my LJ where I am posting some new ones on the subject of "Food and Drink".
A Tale of Telcontar.
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.