11. Hands of the Healers
It was mercifully withdrawn, voices murmured about ‘high fever’ and ‘not swallowing’, before a second icy wand probed inside him unmercifully, try as he might to clench his muscles and refuse it access. It slid still deeper, angled to brush over the sensitive bud within him; his pelvis jerked uncontrollably and to his shame he felt his cock swell and harden - but it did hurt so… The probe twisted and a liquid feeling of stone-coldness swirled through him as fluid was released from it. They twisted the unforgiving rod again; it thrust against the sweet-spot once more and with an involuntary spasm of his hips he felt himself come, the sensation felt like he was pissing molten metal. He roared - and realised the previous, thinly shouting voice had been his own.
Not yet satisfied - his tormentors, having withdrawn the cold wand, stuffed something stubby and firm up inside him. He squirmed and tried to buck, but he was held too firmly. Another oiled wad followed the first, pressed deeply into place by a single finger. He snarled and thought he’d severe that finger and wear it around his neck as a trophy - if they ever let him go! The thought drifted as he felt warm water poured over his belly, trickling with delicious coolness over his sore balls and running delightfully down between his legs. Another flow of water surged over him as he was washed with soft cloths; he twitched with disgruntled pleasure. The cloths moved down over his hip towards his wounded thigh. He hissed and swore, raging as much as his diminished strength allowed as he tried to struggle up. The hands paused and withdrew. He felt his head held and a cloth laid over his nose and mouth. He struggled to shake it away, but one hand tweaked his swollen balls painfully. His sharp intake of breath made him inhale the pungent fumes from the cloth – and he sank back into uneasy dreams where he could feel himself being touched and washed all over, his wounded thigh tended then tightly bound… but he no longer really cared.
He was roused by the scent of something acrid burning under his nose. He turned his head away, but the sharp smell moved with it; he struggled to wakefulness and with a great effort opened his eyes. Théo tried to focus on the two, no, three pale faces above him, but when they moved he couldn’t follow them. A face came closer, a face he knew, he felt his head lifted as a voice urged him to drink. The cold water felt good on his parched tongue; he wanted more and tried to grab the flask but his arm didn’t seem to move properly. The voice spoke quietly, admonishing him, and he caught the word ‘slowly’. Not wanting to lose the water, he did as he was bid and sipped from the cup held to his lips – this was more than just water, he could taste something else now, metallic perhaps… but not unpleasant. They helped him drain the cup and laid him back. He was in a bed, the blankets tucked tight so he couldn’t move his legs, his head on a pillow… He must be ill. The familiar face returned… Haldir – the face was Haldir… And memory surged back – but it was jumbled, fragmented – Théodred struggled to make sense of it all as Haldir spoke slowly to him.
“…your wounds are infected… the orc’s armour… poison in your veins…”
“You are very sick…”
‘…I know that!’
“…the Healers want to send you to sleep…”
‘…no… no …where’s Boromir?’
“…to help your body heal itself…”
“Borrr –ommm…” Théo could manage no more than a slur.
The faces looked at each other – Haldir nodded to Théo, “He lives.”
“Whh-eee-re… Borrr- ooo…?”
“Near. They have cleaned his wounds and watch over him constantly.”
“Ssssee… him. Wan’ toooo seee…”
“You lieing… so’thing wrong…”
Haldir bent even closer; he looked Théodred squarely in the eyes.
“He sleeps as he did before – with Lord Celeborn’s help. His fea is not entirely returned to his body – we don’t know if it will. First his body must heal, to become strong enough to hold his spirit – so the two can become whole again…”
Théodred held the Marchwarden’s steady gaze. There was an unspoken codicil to his words: ‘…if he becomes whole again’.
Théo struggled to speak, but realised the water had been drugged after all. He felt himself beginning to slip away – for a brief moment he thought he saw in Haldir’s eyes… in Haldir’s eyes that glowed now like molten silver… Boromir’s face, sleeping, lips touched with the slightest smile… then Theo sank back into softly enshrouding, dreamless silence.
Haldir sighed; he straightened up from the bed and looked over at the two Healers.
“He is strong. The medicines we placed inside him will help his body fight the poisons in his blood…”
“How - long?”
“If he survives the next two days, then he should heal.”
Haldir nodded thoughtfully. “He fights his own siege even as his people fight theirs.”
“However, the lord of Gondor…”
Haldir looked up.
“…we don’t know what will happen. We don’t know how strong his fea is, or whether it will remember the way back to its body. Lord Celeborn was rash…”
“Lord Celeborn acted out of compassion! Do not question his motives!”
“My Lord…” the Healer bowed, “I only meant, we have no knowledge of what this may do to an adan – we know little enough of what would happen to ourselves, so seldom has the like ever been attempted – It is not within our memory.”
“Lord Celeborn poured a measure of his own spirit into the lord of Gondor – the man’s fea sleeps in his; it did not leave him entirely, nor was he retrieved from the Gift of Men.”
“Nevertheless my lord, an adan may be changed – we do not know how…”
“First, heal his body. When he wakes, we will deal with… whatever we have to.”
The healers inclined their heads as the Marchwarden left them to their work. They were diligent, they would watch and wait with interest… and hope both men survived. In the meanwhile… they had other injuries to treat.
Théo drifted in darkness; he felt himself rising, but he neither walked nor climbed. Eventually he began to see twilight shades around him, and it seemed as if he walked over the Mark at dusk. No horizons held him; the farthest he could see was to where the greying of the sky met the greying bluish distance of the ground. As he walked nothing seemed nearer or further than it had been before, although he seemed to have been travelling for some time – or was it merely for a few steps?
Abruptly he found himself before the doors of a mighty keep, whose walls he could not distinguish or describe, they simply – were. There were no gaps in the door to see through, but he knew that inside would be warmth and cheer and comfort… the like of which perhaps he’d only dreamt of… From inside he could hear the noise of merry-making: table-drumming as warriors welcomed their kin home; laughter and distant music; the regular stamp of feet that meant dancing. He knew there would be fires and ale, good meat and fine company, stories to tell and songs to sing, harpers and warriors, poets and kings… but somehow he was reluctant to enter the great hall.
He stood a step back from the door. There was something… something he felt he should have done, still had to do... He simply knew he was not quite ready – it was something he needed to stay here, at the door, and think about. Yet wave of welcome and fellowship flowed from the hall, as intangible as warm breeze on a hot summer’s day, surrounding him with comfort – yes, he did want to enter. He found himself smiling at the thought as he lifted his hand to reach, to grasp the great iron ring that would open the door…
He heard his name called, first from within, and then from behind him. He paused, his hand not yet touching the iron ring. He heard his name again, a double echo, one in front and one behind – each voice warm and familiar, a much loved sound that made his own name a caress when the voices called to him. It was the light that made him turn away, a light he felt, first, rather than saw: a brilliant light moving across the featureless plain towards him, as fast as a galloping horse. But if there was a horse he never saw one, just a living silver flame shaped like a man, who vaulted down lightly and ran up the steps of the hall to stand before him. Why was an elf-lord coming – what did he want with him? Théodred shielded his eyes, for the brightness was too clear, too brilliant – even through closed eyes he could see the shape of this being of light imprinted red on the inside of his lids. A soft voice called his name, much closer now; so familiar but he couldn’t quite remember it… The voice said ‘Stay - for me…’
Théodred didn’t realise his hand now rested on the wood of the great door. The timber felt warm and alive under his fingers. His eyes had adjusted a little, and through screwed up lids he tried to face this stranger. Again the voice spoke,
“Theodréd, look at me. Stay. We have many miles to travel yet. Many sights to see, rivers to cross, plains to ride…”
But Théodred felt intolerably weary. ‘…couldn’t we go inside the hall and rest awhile before we start this journey?’ But the silver flame shook its head. The shape inside held out its arms in invitation – and this time Théo thought he knew the voice that spoke his name and took his hand from the living door. Boromir! But… where were they? And why should his Boromir be cloaked in silvery flames that furled and spread about him? Fascinated by the play of light, Théo took a step towards the being who seemed to be Boromir, but he seemed to take a step back – a game! Théodred did not want to play some stupid game; he wanted to hold and to be held, by the strong arms and warm body he knew so well. He took several quick steps and seemed almost able to touch Boromir – for it must be him… wasn’t it? Though the dancing argent remained beyond his reach, finally he could see inside the light. Boromir smiled that dazzling smile that Théo loved and remembered; it always meant that Boromir had got his way. For a second Theo felt peevish ‘…so he thinks he has what he wants, does he? But what about what I want?’ He heard… or felt, the laughter and joy behind the massive door, and he half-turned to go back to the warmth he knew was inside.
“Théo, wait, there is something I have always wanted to say to you, but there never seemed the right time....”
Boromir’s voice seemed just behind him, but it could as easily have been from a thousand leagues away…
“Théodred, stay – for me. I need you, your strength. I want you to come for me. I need…
The soft voice was tinged with sorrow, so it seemed to Théo, as it slowly faded until he barely heard the final words…
“…I love you…”
Theo turned away from the great hall and faced the living flame. ‘…yes, that was the something that he needed to do. He needed to wait for Boromir. He needed to answer him…’ He reached out his hand towards the light and took another step, then another, as the silver being receded away from him. All of a sudden he was at the head of the broad flight of steps - then he was rushing down it and the bright, molten silver that was also Boromir was flying away, out of his reach… no matter how hard he ran to catch him.
He felt a sudden, stabbing pain in his belly. He doubled over in agony…
…and he was in bed, an elven healer staring anxiously down at him. His body convulsed with another spasm of agony. He tried to curl up in a ball, but the tight blankets restricted him. Another spasm racked his belly – he made a huge effort and turned over onto his side – and vomited over the elf’s shoes. The elf 'tutted’ in annoyance, but ignored the mess and wiped the horselord’s face with a cool cloth. He helped him to drink, pure water this time, holding the man up in the crook of his arm. The elf only allowed him a few sips, then propped Théo up on pillows. He felt incredibly weak. Even holding his head up was an effort, but he knew where he was – in the elven encampment in Fangorn. He knew the orc’s spiked armour had poisoned his body - and that now he was going to get better. He had to. Yes – that was it! He had to be well for Boromir’s sake.
They coaxed him to drink a few drops of liquor from a small vial, and then a few more sips of cooling water. His lids drooped as he drifted into a natural sleep – his last thought… he hoped the elf whose shoes he’d ruined was the one who had shoved a finger up his arse – it would serve him right!