13. Love than death itself more strong
Love is kind, and suffers long
Love is meek, and thinks no wrong,
Love than death itself more strong;
Therefore, give us Love. - Christopher Wordsworth
The dragon was already craning his long neck towards the litter. When Aragorn and Aedred placed their burden gently on the ground, Súlion gave a low moan at the sight of his rider. He immediately started to lick Fu Nung's face with the tip of his long tongue.
Tarostar opened his mouth and protested, "This is most unhygienic!"
Aragorn silenced him with a motion of his hand and beckoned the healers to move away. Faramir moved to stand beside his lord. Together they beheld the painful spectacle of the heartbreak of a beast that apparently shared Man's capacity to love and grieve.
Súlion raised his head a little; "Fung Nu, Fung Nu!" he wailed. There was no answer. The dragon nosed aside the blankets that covered his rider and beheld the man's wounds for the first time. He gave a terrible roar of pain and grief that made the ground beneath Aragorn and Faramir's feet shake. Faramir gripped Aragorn's arm.
Fu Nung's eyes suddenly flickered open. "T'ien Li?" he whispered through parched lips. "T'ien Li!"
The dragon 's only reply was to tenderly nuzzle his rider's face. Fu Nung feebly lifted his uninjured arm to stroke Súlion's nose, then dropped it back exhausted on the pallet.
Aragorn and Faramir looked at each other in awe. Aragorn blinked a tear from his eye. In all his long years as a healer, the power of love to heal when all else had failed never ceased to astound him.
The dragon began to murmur words in a language that only Fu Nung could understand. His rider feebly answered him.
For a few moments the small group stood as if under some spell. Then Aragorn moved forward and deftly pulled the covers back over Fu Nung. "Get him some water and quickly!" he cried .He stepped back again so that Sulion could continue licking his rider's face.
Aedred and Faramir both sprinted back inside the Houses of Healing, Faramir reaching his destination first by a long length and snatching up a pitcher from a startled patient's bedside. Aedred grabbed a glass and the two men hurried back to the gardens.
Faramir filled a glass with water and handed it to his friend. Aragorn again approached the dragon and his rider. Súlion moved aside a little, allowing Aragorn to kneel beside Fu Nung. The King slipped one arm around the Easterling's shoulders to support him, while he held the water to his lips. "Easy now, sip it," he instructed when Fu Nung swallowed so greedily that he threatened to choke. He glanced at Súlion who translated his words into the rider's own tongue.
"I cannot believe it!" said Tarostar, still gazing at the dragon doubtfully.
Fu Nung drained two glasses of water before Aragorn gently lowered him back on to the pallet. He checked the man's pulse and found it was considerably stronger and slower than it had been but a short time before. He then felt the rider's forehead and discovered the fever had broken. Fu Nung's eyes closed again. Aragorn moved away and rejoined Faramir.
Súlion immediately curled his forelegs around the pallet and lifted his wings as a protective shield. "You are not taking him away from me!" the dragon said, daring the bystanders to challenge him.
Aragorn turned and said to the dragon, "Indeed not. We will be nearby if you need us. Gentlemen, let us go back inside."
"You cannot leave the patient with a dragon here on the lawn!" Tarostar protested.
"Why not?" said Aragorn. "Súlion will not deliberately cause any damage."
"But the patient!"
"Is resting comfortably watched over by his best friend," Aragorn replied. "We can do nothing for them save make ourselves as little nuisance as possible." Without a backward glance he led Faramir and the healers back inside.
"Poor Súlion!" Faramir found himself swallowing hard after what he had witnessed. "He is obviously devoted to his rider."
Aragorn smiled. "It is too early to say for certain, but Fu Nung might yet recover. His fever has broken."
"Surely all the more reason to bring him back to bed?" said Tarostar.
"No," said Aragorn in a tone that brokered no argument. "Whether he lives or dies now will depend wholly on his desire to recover. Only the dragon can give him that. He fears us and understands not a word we are saying. Most likely he feared his dragon was either far away or dead. Leave them a while and let us hope he will find the will to overcome his injuries. Even if he should not, it is kindest to let him depart the circles of the world with a friend beside him." Aragorn looked at Faramir as he spoke. His friend had saved his life on several occasions, not through knowledge of the healing arts, but by being at his side. Maybe Súlion could do the same for Fu Nung?
Aragorn led the way back inside and busied himself for the next hour or two helping what patients he could. Several were distressed at the presence of the dragon and needed reassuring, one already seriously ill old man had suffered failure of the heart with fright, and several of the young women healers, and one of the older men were having hysterics. Nothing could be done to save the old man, but the others eventually calmed down. By sunset the dragon's presence seemed almost taken for granted.
Faramir went to visit the more active patients and reassured them by recounting how the King had taken his young son to meet the dragon, because it was such a friendly and trustworthy beast.
As the sun sank over the horizon it started to grow chill. Aragorn called to Faramir and they went outside to tell Súlion that it was time for Fung Nu to come back within doors
The dragon had not moved from the position they had left him in. He lifted his head as the men approached.
"It is time to take your rider back to his room," said Aragorn.
"You were not caring from him properly!" Súlion accused them, not making any attempt to move.
"I am sorry," said Aragorn. "We tried our best, but we will try harder."
"I am staying with him," the dragon said obstinately.
"I wish that you could," said Aragorn, "but it is too cold here in the gardens and there is no chamber within the city that could accommodate you."
"Fu Nung could take a chill if he remained outside," said Faramir. "Then all the good you have done him would be undone. Also he would have no privacy when the Healers tended to him. You shall see him again soon."
"Very well," said Súlion, though he sounded far from convinced. Slowly and reluctantly he uncurled himself and stood up.
Aragorn immediately noticed that Fu Nung was a better colour and breathing deeply. He appeared to be in a natural sleep. When the King checked the Easterling's pulse, it was steady and much stronger.
Rather than further upset the dragon, Aragorn and Faramir took up Fu Nung's pallet and prepared to carry him back inside themselves. They left Súlion waiting for them on the lawn watching the litter depart with a woebegone expression.
Aedred and Tarostar were awaiting their patient with hot water and clean bandages. "I have examined him," Aragorn informed them. "He seems a good deal better. I think we should leave him to sleep as soon as possible." Together with Faramir, he gently returned the rider to his bed.
Tarostar immediately took up a wash cloth to cleanse the man's face.
"No," said Aragorn. "Leave the scent of the dragon on him. It might help him rest the easier."
"You will have the patients' hounds come and lick them next!" Tarostar grumbled.
"Most of my kinsfolk would prefer our horses to do so!" Aedred jested as he wound a clean bandage around Fu Nung's shoulder.
Aragorn helped the Rohirric healer ease the rider into a clean nightshirt. Throughout their ministrations, Fu Nung only sighed softly, opened one eye a fraction and then slipped into deeper sleep. Aragorn surmised that the fever had exhausted him. Rest was a better cure than anything known to the healer's art.
"I think he will sleep for some time now," Aragorn told the two healers. "I will come and see how he fares in the morning. If there is any change before then, please send for me, however late the hour."
After taking their leave, Aragorn and Faramir returned to where they had left Súlion. At a safe distance an elderly gardener was starting to clear up the trail of devastation left by the dragon. "Do not replant anything yet as he may need to come back again!" Aragorn called to the man.
"Yes, sire," the man replied in a tone that suggested he regarded dragons as similar vermin to the rats that he was accustomed to keeping at bay.
Faramir told the man that the gardens were looking exceptionally fine and one could hardly see the damage, which somewhat mollified the gardener. When he caught up with Aragorn and Súlion, the two were deep in conversation.
"At last you are starting to learn wisdom, son of Ilúvatar," said the dragon as he hoisted them aboard his back.
Faramir wondered what such a cryptic remark might mean, but was too well mannered to enquire.
Súlion landed near to the King's apartments, on a lawn most often used by the royal children as a space to play. Aragorn wondered ruefully as he alighted whatever Arwen would think of the dragon being only yards from her private garden, which was situated just behind a hedge on the far side of the lawn.
King and Steward bade the dragon farewell and watched as Súlion flew back to his field and a promised beef supper.
Faramir and Aragorn changed out of the old clothes they had been wearing for their visit to the dragon and then shared a simple dinner of beef taken from the same cows that were feeding their guest, followed by a pudding filled with slices of a tangy yellow fruit which was imported from Harad.
After the meal Faramir decided that he ought to catch up with the affairs of state he had neglected that afternoon and went to his study to spend several hours wrestling with the details of a trade agreement with Rhûn.
Deciding he had done all he could for one night, the Steward put the documents away and called for a servant to bring his bedtime drink. The treaty had taken longer than he expected and the hour had grown late. Yawning, Faramir retired to the room he was currently sharing with the King, expecting Aragorn to have already gone to bed. To his surprise there was no sign of his friend. He put the drink to one side and went out to speak to the guard at the end of the corridor. "Have you seen the King?" the Steward enquired.
"Lord Elessar went out in the gardens, sir," the man replied.
"Has he been gone long?" Faramir asked.
"He went out straight after dinner, my lord .I was wondering when he would need his
Faramir received this news with some concern. Aragorn would often go for a brisk stroll outside to clear his head after too long indoors, but they had been out all afternoon, and he was not in the habit of wandering around in the dark for hours at a time. The Steward hurried back to the bedchamber and donned his cloak.
Fearing Aragorn might be in low spirits because of Arwen's absence, Faramir decided to go in search of his lord alone. He walked swiftly through the gardens, almost invisible in the Elven cloak that the King and Queen had gifted him at Mettarë several years ago. Rounding a bend that led to the King and Queen's private gardens, Faramir gasped at the huge shape that loomed out of the darkness. Two enormous blue eyes gleamed at him.
"Hello, Faramir," Súlion said conversationally. "Have you come to join us?"
"Woe she Aragorn Elessar," said a familiar voice.
"Huh? Woe she what?" Faramir asked in bewilderment. It seemed he had found the King, but he was talking gibberish!
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.