My interpretation of a favourite passage from "The Return of the King" which I wish had been included in the film.
These characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate.The story was written for pleasure not profit.
Seeking the lost
Aragorn was weary beyond measure after the battle and the events that preceded it. He wanted nothing more now, than to retire to his tent and fall into an exhausted sleep. However,the Wizard was making yet further demands upon him.
“The Steward’s son, Lord Faramir lies stricken and close to death within the Houses of Healing,” Gandalf said gravely,”One of the oldest of the women who are tending him there, reminded me the hands of the King are the hands of a healer, so with you alone lies any hope of recovery.”
Aragorn found himself remembering Denethor, long ago before this younger son was born, his bitter enemy and rival, once it was clear that Ecthelion preferred the counsels of Captain Thorongil over those of his own son. Then there was Boromir, a brave warrior but fatally flawed by his pride. He would have most likely challenged his claim to the throne, which needed to succeed if he were ever to win the hand of his beloved Arwen.
“Come!”Gandalf urged, “It would be most expedient if you saved the life of the only one who yet could stand in your way, though I believe he would welcome you. Though, who knows, now that he is Ruling Steward? Faramir is much loved by the people of Gondor, who would repay you with their gratitude if you could save their favourite son.”
Aragorn was sorely tempted to point out to the Wizard that if expediency ruled here, as it so often did for Gandalf, the death of a possible rival would serve as well. Not that he would ever refuse to help any in need if it lay within his power to do so.
“He is a good friend of mine and has been since his youth,” Gandalf explained before Aragorn could reply that he would do what he could, adding as if as further bait, The Hobbit Meriadoc and the Lady Eowyn also lie within stricken by the Black Breath.”
“I will come.” Aragorn said tersely, horrified to learn that those two lay gravely ill and also disliking the attempt to manipulate him. He had come to love the Hobbits dearly and admire their courage and resourcefulness. As for Lady Eowyn, he blamed himself for her current plight, for although he had never encouraged her attentions, maybe if he had found a gentler way of telling her that he could never return her love, she would not have ridden despairingly into battle.
Clad simply in a grey cloak, with no other adornment save the green jewel he wore on his breast,Aragorn went up to the city accompanied by Gandalf, Eomer, and Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, uncle to the stricken Faramir.
He was greeted enthusiastically by the Hobbit, Pippin, who grasped his hand and greeted him warmly, somewhat to the consternation of the very proper Prince Imrahil. The young Hobbit’s warmth heartened him and somewhat restored his flagging energy.
He had intended to try and save those he knew and loved first. However, when the healers took him to see Merry, Lady Eowyn and Faramir, he knew that though all three were gravely ill, there was little time left for Faramir. If any hope were to remain for his survival, he must help him now.
In truth he doubted his ability to save any of them, if only Lord Elrond were here with his centuries of skill in the healing arts!
Overwhelmed by weariness and sorrow, he swayed slightly. Eomer, who was beside him, caught his arm and steadied him, “First you must rest, surely, and at the least eat a little?”
How he loved Eomer at that moment, to be concerned about his welfare, when the life of his only sister hung by a mere thread !He knew then, that somehow he must save those, that only the hands of the King could succour. He would need athelas though if he were to aid them.
A long conversation with the garrulous Ioreth served only to waste precious moments and confirm that she did not know if athelas was to be had in the Houses, hardly surprising as unless in the hands of the King, it was useful only for curing such minor complaints as headaches.
Aragorn shed his cloak and with Eomer’s and Imrahil’s help also his armour .He sensed a long and potentially draining night lay ahead. After telling the women who were there tending to the sick to heat water, he washed his hands and went to Faramir’s bedside.
It seemed that the Steward’s son was much loved. The room was full of people, many of whom were weeping. He would dearly have loved to dismiss them all as healing was hardly a spectator sport .Their presence made his doubts that he could actually help Faramir intensify.
The onlookers watched his every move as if expecting some sort of instant miracle, which if it failed to materialise would leave the butt of their hostility. He dared not ask them to leave though, for if Faramir were to die, at least they would witness that he played no part in the death of his possible rival.
“I know you'll help Lord Faramir,Strider, and then you’ll help Merry too, I know!” Pippin said trustingly. The others, apart from his companions, muttered amongst themselves.
His sharp hearing made out such comments as “Whatever is the city coming to when they send for those northern rangers to tend the sick? He’s no right to be near our Lord Faramir, who does he think he is ?Our best healers cannot help our Lord. Has he come to gloat over our loss as there is nothing he could possibly do to help?” None of it made his task easier.
He unlaced the neck of the young man’s sweat soaked nightshirt to examine his wound. It crossed his mind that the fever wracked man might be more comfortable without the drenched garment. However,with so many women present, removing it would humiliate him; that is if he ever awoke to find out. He pulled aside the bandage covering the injured shoulder to reveal a deep gash in the muscle. He had expected it to be the cause of the fever, yet the wound was clean and already starting to heal.
“I cannot understand it !” said Imrahil,”I tended him myself when I brought him up from the battlefield and did not consider the wound ti be life threatening.”
It was clear to him now, that Faramir could only be suffering from the Black Breath, a deadly condition, the only cure for which was athelas in the right hands..
The Herb Master entered only to confirm what the garrulous Ioreth had already told him, that they did not keep supplies of the herb as it was of so little use.
Gandalf impatiently demanded that they should search until some be found.
Aragorn took the young man’s hand and noted sadly that his pulse was weak and rapid as he struggled to breathe. Dipping a cloth in the freshly heated water, he bathed Faramir’s sweat soaked brow.
Gandalf had told him how Faramir had been sent on a near suicide mission by his father with cruel words that he should have died in Boromir’s place his only farewell.
When he had returned wounded, Denethor had lost his wits and decided to burn himself on a funeral pyre together with his younger son. Only the last minute intervention of Pippin and Gandalf had saved Faramir from being burned alive.
Aragorn suddenly felt overwhelmed with compassion towards this young man whom life had dealt a series of such grievous blows. He must have been heartbroken at the loss of his only brother, as from Boromir he had learned they were very close. Such grief combined with his father’s disdain must have hurt him deeply, making him very susceptible to the Black Breath when the Nazgul drew near.
Faramir more closely resembled Denethor as Aragorn remembered him in his youth, rather than Boromir. He had the black hair and carven features of those of pure or almost pure, Numenorean lineage.
This was the man who if he lived would hold Aragorn’s fate in his hands. His supposedly grey eyes were closed and framed by exceptionally long lashes, which gave him a very vulnerable look as they served to highlight that for one of his people, he was yet very young. He looked so helpless lying there, another innocent sacrifice in the war ravaging Middle Earth.
“Poor Faramir!” Imrahil lamented, “He always did his duty and fought bravely to defend the country he loved. Yet, in his heart, he is a man of peace and learning who holds no love for the sword ,unless it be to defend the land he loves!”
Faramir seemed to be growing weaker by the minute as his laboured breathing slowed. It would take a miracle to save him now.
Aragorn suddenly dropped on his knees and knelt by Faramir’s side. He placed one hand on the sweat soaked brow and clasped the other which lay limply on the coverlet in his own, seeking to somehow connect with the dying man.
“Faramir, Faramir!” he called, “Wake up, come to me!”
Faramir made no reply but there was just the slightest pressure on Aragorn’s hand as if some corner of the sick man’s mind responded.
He reached out, using the gift of his Line, seeking the younger man’s spirit with his own. He could sense great weariness and despair, a wounded soul that had endured too much and was now willing to embrace death as a welcome release from his grief and pain.
Aragorn felt as if he were trying to hold a drowning man who was being swept away by the current.
He felt such overwhelming compassion for this unfortunate young man. He used his gift to will own strength into him, an ability Elrond had repeatedly warned him was far to dangerous to use, especially without athelas.
Over and over he called Faramir’s name as he searched for the lost and wounded spirit to bring him back. He was oblivious to all else now, for what had begun, as a less than welcome favour for the wizard had become a highly personal quest. He wanted, nay needed to save this man.
He could sense now that here was a man of quality, a man that Gondor needed and that he would need too if he ever became King. He would value this man’s friendship and desired the opportunity to try and make up to him for all he had lost or been denied.
Aragorn turned grey with weariness,much to the alarm of his companions. He continued to call Faramir, but now his voice was so faint ,it seemed that he too was in some dark vale, calling for one who was lost.
He looked as if he were about to collapse. Eomer placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder to prevent him from falling.
“Strider!” Pippin exclaimed anxiously, ”Are you alright!” Aragorn did not hear he was so locked in the healing trance.
Alarmed, Gandalf shook his protégé,” You must stop this!” he ordered. “You have tried and no man could do more, but to persist, you will risk you own life and you are needed for far greater deeds! Faramir is a worthy man but not so much that you should hazard your own life for him!”
Roused from his trance, Aragorn turned on his mentor, eyes flashing,” I shall do this thing!” he snapped, “And my will not be gainsaid! What I have begun, I will finish!”
Pippin shivered, this was not Strider, the somewhat dour and reticent guide whom he had grown to love but someone altogether different with his newfound air of authority. He would not like to ever feel the man’s wrath directed against himself, as he feared he would be seared by the fire in his eyes.
As if there had been no interruption, Aragorn resumed calling Faramir.
Faramir lost in dark dreams and gripped by the fever, which threatened to consume him, was dimly aware that someone was calling him. He was so weary and heart sore that he lacked the will to respond. He longed for death so that he could be reunited with Boromir; the only person apart from his mother whom he had ever felt truly loved by. They had been inseparable, best friends as well as brothers .Boromir had always protected his little brother, even though he had never delighted in the arts of warfare any more than Boromir had enjoyed books.
He could hear other voices calling now as a sense of peace enveloped him and he felt he was being drawn towards a tunnel in which a bright light seemed to beckon him to the other side.
“You will never be as good as your brother, yet I would have you both beside me!” That was Denethor’s voice, yet what was his father doing here? Was he no longer amongst the living as this surely was somewhere beyond the circles of this world?
“My dear son! You are so precious, too precious to be here yet!” That was his mother’s voice; strange he should remember it so well after thirty years.
“Faramir, go back, you are needed by your King, he is a good man and you can trust him. You will always be with me, little brother though you remain on Arda for a while yet!” That voice belonged to Boromir, Faramir now wanted more than ever to join him, as there was no doubt now that they would be reunited in death.
He heard other voices too, those of his loyal men whom he had led out to die at Osgiliath and seen fall all around him.
Aragorn realised he was losing Faramir as the death rattle was now in his throat. Once or twice he had stopped breathing completely,only to be kept alive by the sheer force of Aragorn’s will .It was becoming harder to keep him alive as he felt his own strength waning.
He would have swooned had he not felt steadying hands on his shoulders, supporting him, Eomer’s no doubt, as he sensed his friend nearby.