1. Illness is the night-side of life
Illness is the night-side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use only the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place. – Susan Sonntag
Aragorn and Arwen lay sleeping peacefully, entwined in each other's arms. Life was sweet. The kingdom was secure; their friends were all happy and in good health, while their beloved little son delighted them more each day.
A sudden knock on their door disturbed their peaceful slumbers.
"My lord, my lady, Prince Eldarion is unwell!" cried the voice of Eldarion's nurse. The young prince had been moved to his own chambers recently, as his liking for awakening early had left his parents severely deprived of much needed sleep. His nursemaid slept in the same room with him. She had been given strict orders to come to the King and Queen at once, should Eldarion have need of them.
Aragorn was out of bed in an instant, pulling a robe over his nightshirt and securing the sash around his waist. He was already opening the door, while Arwen was still collecting her wits. Despite her superior Elven senses, long years as a Ranger had made Aragorn quicker to react. "What is wrong with him? Speak!" Aragorn asked somewhat sharply, opening the door to reveal the anxious nurse, clutching a miserable looking Eldarion.
"He feels hot, my lord, and is fretful. I think he has a fever!" the woman replied. "I am sorry to disturb you, sire."
"You acted rightly. My concern for my son caused me to speak sharply to you. I apologise." The King managed to smile faintly at the woman. She dipped her head. Although she had worked in the King'sl Household since Eldarion was born, Aragorn's humility and good manners never ceased to amaze her.
"What ails him, Míriel? Give him to me!" Arwen had joined her husband and reached out to take her child. She cradled him lovingly in her arms.
"He slept as usual after you put him to bed, my lady," Míriel explained. "Then he woke up crying a few minutes ago. I picked him up and he felt hot, and did not seem his usual lively self at all."
Eldarion promptly vomited all over his mother.
"We will care for him now," said Aragorn. "Will you have warm water brought to our chambers, please?"
"Whatever is wrong with our son?" Arwen's composure faltered as soon as the nursemaid left the chamber. Tears welled up in her eyes.
"Let me look at him while you change your nightgown," Aragorn suggested, taking the child from her. Eldarion was burning hot to the touch. It was all too apparent that the heir to the House of Telcontar had developed a fever. Aragorn examined him carefully, but could find no cause for it. He could only assume it was a spring chill. As soon as the water arrived, Aragorn steeped athelas in it and bathed his young son.
The royal couple spent the rest of the night trying to ease their fretful child. Aragorn's healing skills and Arwen's loving touch soon soothed the young child a little, but he continued feverish and listless throughout the next day, refusing to eat and crying if his parents left his side.
Aragorn cancelled his duties for the day and sent a message to Faramir in EmynArnen, asking him to return at once to Minas Tirith. Meanwhile, a distraught Arwen paced the chamber with their son in her arms.
"Try not to worry too much, beloved," Aragorn advised. "All human children have fevers occasionally. Eldarion has been fortunate so far. I do not think he is seriously ill. He breathes easily and his heartbeat is strong."
"He is so little, though, Estel; I cannot bear to see him suffering!" Arwen replied. "I would gladly be ill in his stead!"
"I know you would, as would I," said the King. "We can only try our best to ease him. If only I knew what was making him unwell!"
"My poor little one, he is shivering now. A moment ago he was so hot!" Arwen fretted.
"Give him to me," said the King. "I can keep him warm." He loosened his shirt and tunic and placed his son under them next to his heart, where he held him until he became over hot again.
By the next morning the mystery of Eldarion's illness was solved. Aragorn bathed his little son again and found the small body covered in large red blisters. Arwen looked aghast and burst into tears.
"We can rest easier now, my love," Aragorn soothed her. "I know what ails Eldarion. He has chickenpox, a common ailment in young mortal children, from which they soon recover. It is rarely serious, just itchy and unpleasant."
Within a few days Eldarion was almost his usual lively self again. The main task of his devoted parents was to keep him from scratching and away from other children until he ceased to be infectious. Life soon returned to normal within the royal household.
Three weeks later, Aragorn awoke in the middle of the night feeling too hot. Deciding it was the spring weather, which as a Northerner, he still found difficult to accustom himself to, he threw off the blankets without disturbing Arwen, and went back to sleep. At daybreak, he arose and washed and dressed as usual. His head ached and the room seemed unbearably stuffy.
"Are you well, beloved? You have hardly touched your breakfast!" Arwen enquired anxiously.
"I am just not very hungry," Aragorn replied, pushing the food to the side of his plate and wishing he did not feel so nauseated. "It is just the weather. I wish it were not so warm."
"Warm?" Arwen asked incredulously. "It is cold today, I think. Eldarion needed an extra blanket last night. Are you certain you are quite well."
"I am late for the Council Meeting," Aragorn said abruptly, evading her question. He hurried from the room before she could press the matter further.
Aragorn wondered if the Council Chamber had somehow miraculously moved, as the walk seemed especially long that morning. He felt exhausted by the time he arrived. He quickly sank down in his seat after opening the meeting. He struggled to concentrate on a debate whether or not trade tariffs to Harad should be increased.
Faramir, sitting beside him, looked on in concern when his lord repeatedly mopped his brow and kept closing his eyes. "Are you well, sire?" he whispered, so softly that only Aragorn could hear.
"I am well!" Aragorn bellowed angrily, making the councillors jump.
"My lord?" Faramir laid a placating hand on Aragorn's arm. Much to his alarm he felt the flesh burning hot beneath the fabric of the King's tunic.
Before Aragorn could react, the Steward had risen from his chair to address the Council. "The King is indisposed. The meeting is concluded for today. You are dismissed!"
"How dare you!" Aragorn demanded as soon as the others had left.
"I can see you are not well. As your Steward, it is my duty to protect my King, and more importantly, as your friend I care about your well-being," Faramir said, unperturbed by Aragorn's wrath. "It is no good trying to deceive me, you ought to be in bed, and I am taking you to your room now!"
Aragorn opened his mouth to argue but found he lacked the strength. He slumped dejectedly in his seat.
"Come, mellon nîn, can you walk?" Faramir said gently.
"I can if you take my arm," Aragorn replied, conceding defeat.
Even though he leaned heavily on Faramir's arm, it took the King twice the usual time to walk to the royal apartments. Faramir knew better than to suggest that they summon guards to carry their lord on a litter.
Arwen was alarmed to see her husband back from his meeting so soon and leaning heavily on Faramir's arm. "You are ill, Estel!" she exclaimed, as together with Faramir, she helped him to the bedchamber. "You have a fever. I will send for a healer at once."
"No, I forbid it!" Aragorn said sharply. "Am I not a healer trained by your own father? I know more than anyone from the Houses of Healing. I have caught a chill, nothing more. If you mix me some willow bark tea, I will soon recover."
"I will do as you wish," said the Queen. "I wish you would permit me to summon Master Aedred from the Houses, though. Your symptoms remind me of Eldarion's."
"That is impossible; he had a childhood illness!" the King retorted. "I will be well once I have rested."
"You should see the healer," Arwen persisted.
"He would know nothing I do not know already!" Aragorn snapped. "I tell you I just need rest, and the tea I asked you for!"
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.