8. Full of Surprises
Full of Surprises
B2MeM Challenge SnippetsOfVerse1- In what furnace was thy brain; AspectsOfAragorn1- Captain; Weather1- thundersnow ; RolesAndNamesOfAragorn1- healer
Format: Short story
Genre:hurt/comfort, general, adventure
Characters: Aragorn, OMCS
Summary: Thorongil's men are in for some surprises when they take shelter in a derelict barn.
A/n Some of the OC's also appear in "Voice in the Night", which takes place a few years after this.
It was unnaturally cold even for February in Gondor. Yet the air had an oppressive, heavy feel to it. The men muttered amongst themselves and pulled their cloaks more closely around them to keep warm as they tramped wearily along the track. They were mostly young fellows on their first campaign, unused to the horrors and hardships of war.
Captain Thorongil gazed upwards at the unfriendly sky. "I sense a storm coming," he said. "We will not be able to make the village in time. We must seek shelter where we may."
"I see no storm clouds." Ragnor, the youngest of the company, sounded sceptical. He coughed as the bitter wind caught his breath then grimaced as if in pain.
"A storm will break within the hour," said Thorongil.
"He has an uncanny way of sensing things that we cannot explain." Ulfast, a grizzled veteran of many a campaign, whispered in his young colleague's ear.
Thorongil scanned his surroundings with keen grey eyes. "There is a disused barn yonder that will have to suffice," he said. He turned to face the men. "I know you were thinking of an inn with well- deserved ale and soft beds, as indeed was I, but I fear that must wait for another day. The barn might well have straw and we can make ourselves comfortable for the night."
The men ceased their muttering and marched resolutely after their Captain.
The deserted barn was all too common a sight in these times, standing near to a burned out farmhouse, the Southrons obviously not thinking such a dilapidated building worth the trouble of destroying. The door hung loosely from its hinges, but the structure seemed sound enough.
Several small lights gleamed eerily in the darkness. Some of the younger men backed away in alarm.
Thorongil lit a torch to reveal several striped cats watching them.
"I'll chase them out," Ragnor volunteered.
"No, you won't, lad." Thorongil placed a restraining hand on the young man's shoulder. "Not unless you desire rats for bedfellows!" As if to underline his words, one of the cats suddenly pounced at a shadow in the darkness.
One of the young men gave a muffled cry of horror.
"Come on lads, we make camp for the night here," said Thorongil. "We will be safe enough. Ulfast, I want you to gather firewood. Falastur, you fetch water from the stream, but hurry. The storm is almost upon us. Alcarin, you take the first watch."
Soon a fire was blazing merrily and the men were sitting in a circle round it cooking their rations.
Thorongil, though, had retired with his pack behind some bales of hay. The cats watched him curiously. He re-emerged and called to the men. "I am ready now to tend to those of you who were hurt in the sortie."
"But you're the Captain, sir, not a healer!" Ragnor protested.
"I am both," said Thorongil. "Otherwise why would I be so rash as not to bring a healer with us? You can be first, Ragnor, you took a blow to your side."
"It's nothing, sir. My armour deflected the Southron blade."
"Let me be the judge of that. I intend to bring you all safe to Minas Tirith in one piece."
"You should talk so much, lad," said Ulfast when the young man hesitated. "Speaking means you want to volunteer."
"I'll treat your blisters next, Ulfast," said Thorongil. "I saw you were limping."
"You miss nothing, Captain," said Ulfast. "Did you learn from wizards?"
"Maybe I did," said Thorongil. "Come on now, Ragnor."
Looking apprehensive, Ragnor disappeared behind the bales. He was surprised to find that the Captain had laid out a variety of healing supplies and implements on a cloth upon the ground.
"Your father is a healer is he not?" Thorongil said conversationally while Ragnor started to unfasten his armour.
"How did you know that, sir?"
"You mentioned it round the campfire one night."
"I like to know about my men."
"You have as many supplies as my father!" Ragnor looked wide eyed at the array of healing supplies."
"You did not want to follow your father's trade?"
"A soldier's life is far more exciting than a village healer's. Killing men will take some getting used to, though."
"You should never become too accustomed to it, lad. We fight because we must, not because we enjoy it. The enemy must not be allowed to damage your soul as well as your body. Now take off your shirt, lad, I will not bite you!"
Ragnor reluctantly pulled his shirt over his head to reveal a large spreading bruise on his left side. With surprising gentleness, Thorongil felt it.
"Does it hurt you to breathe or cough?" the Captain asked.
"A little." Ragnor grimaced.
"Your ribs are bruised, but they do not appear to be broken. I know it hurts, but try to breathe as deeply as you can." He took up a pot of salve and started to apply a thick layer to Ragnor's side.
"I see your father taught you your herb lore."
"I was his apprentice for a little, but the healer's life is not for me."
"I learned herb lore from my foster father," said Thorongil. "You should heal well enough, but tell me if you are in pain. You can re-join your fellows now."
"How did you know I was hurt, sir?" Ragnor pulled his shirt back over his head.
"I care for my men and I like to keep an eye on them," Thorongil said. "I saw you grimace after you coughed back there and you were also marching less swiftly than you usually do."
A wide- eyed look of surprise was on Ragnor's face when he re-joined his fellows as result of witnessing this different side to his Captain. He felt ashamed that Thorongil had noticed his weakness, yet so much better after having his hurts tended. His father had often treated his cuts and bruises, but he had a somewhat heavy-handed touch, very unlike the Captain's. He knew Captain Thorongil was special. Ragnor closed his eyes for a moment and imagined himself cutting down a hoard of enemies who threatened his Captain and being rewarded by one of Thorongil's rare smiles.
Thorongil had tended a variety of cuts, bruises, and blisters when the storm broke overhead. He was eating his meal with the men and sharing scraps with the cats with a loud thunderclap startled them.
"Told you the Captain knows weather lore, didn't I, lad?" Ulfast said to Ragnor.
Just then, Alcarin ran inside, his ruddy young face blanched with shock. "It is snowing outside with thunder and lightning too!" he cried. "Never have I seen the like!"
Several of the men rushed outside to see, Thorongil following at a more sedate pace. A flash of lightning illuminated the black clouds from which issued forth a shower of whiteness."
"In what furnace of thy brain, did thou devise this, fiendish Dark Lord?" cried Turgon. He shook his fist at the heavens.
"It is no devilry, just a rare phenomenon of weather," Thorongil said calmly. "I have seen it in the North where I was raised."
"But snow with thunder and lightning? It's not natural!" protested Alcarin.
"It is sleet rather than snow," said Thorongil. "Now come back inside by the fire. There is nought to fear. I will tell you a tale of the lore of old ere we sleep. Ulfast, you take over the watch."
Soon the men had forgotten their fears and were listening engrossed to Thorongil's accounts of great battles of old and ignoring the now increasingly distant rumble of thunder. Even the cats stared at the Captain with their great green eyes, but whether it was because they too were enjoying the tale, or were hoping for further titbits, none could say.