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The Acceptable Sacrifice
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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8
8: Wakening Hope

8

When he could, Aragorn would come to them as they were preparing to sleep, and Frodo found he could use the power of the stone his friend wore to ease the pain and fears and keep them from overwhelming him. With his sleep eased, he found it easier to stomach his food, and he finally began to put on a bit of flesh again--not much, but enough to make things much easier.

He soon was beginning to move through the tents of the healers, first following Aragorn and then by himself, seeing Men who’d lost limbs, who were recovering from stomach wounds, whose broken bones were finally knitting, who’d been partially paralyzed by what they’d experienced. Some were still in terrible pain, but all smiled as they saw him come, even those who’d been worst wounded. He felt drawn to them, although he couldn’t say precisely why; and he would often sit with this one or that, speaking with them, discussing families, wives, children, their homes, their plans for the future. His obvious interest in them would loosen their tongues, and many confided their fears that they wouldn’t be able to contribute to the family or the needs of their people any more once they were returned.

He would go from the healer’s tents to wherever Gimli was, and would speak with the Dwarf of what could be done for one who’d lost a leg or the use of his legs; after a few days the Dwarf began to accompany him to see for himself what the ones Frodo had seen were like, discussed what they’d done before, what they’d need to do now to continue in their old lives; what they’d need to start new lives now.

One who had been recovering from a head wound and who’d managed against all hope to recover completely due to the King’s healing gift had been a wheelwright. He soon began to follow the odd pair of Pherian and Dwarf about the tents, and as the two would discuss how those unable to walk might be able to know some level of independence again he began to join their discussions. Chairs with wheels of some kind could assist, he suggested; but they must be light and strong, and how the wheels might be attached was a question. One of those who’d lost both legs but not the use of his hands had been a weaver of baskets and chairs; and he found himself suggesting the making of chairs of cane fitted with cushions, then instead of setting them on legs placing them over a small carriage base and attaching light axles and wheels.

Having an idea, the Dwarf went among the carters who brought supplies to the camp, and found one who was a cartwright; he found himself now involved in the discussions; and then a blacksmith was brought in.

Before those in the camp were deemed ready to move a first attempt at a chair had been completed. Legolas had also found himself involved in the project; he found stands of cane and willow trees which could be used to construct the basket chair. He and a woodworker who’d been involved in repairing some of the wagons began working with the wheelwright, the cartwright, and the basket weaver; soon they had the framework for the chair completed, a small cart base to which to affix it, and two different sizes of wheels to attach. Between them Gimli and the smith prepared a proper axle for one set of large wheels and a second pair of smaller wheels on casters for the second set. The basket weaver used the framework of the chair as a basis and soon had the chair itself constructed, and was considering how this could be anchored to the light cart base. Then at last the thin cart wheels, each bound in a long strip of iron, were being set into place on the axle at the back of the chair while those on casters were being fixed to the front end....

Several of the craftsmen who attended on the army watched the first attempt to use this contrivance, and a saddler, seeing the discomfort of the basket weaver, suggested lining the basket with thin leather cushions to reinforce it and keep the cane from uncomfortably jabbing the one using it. In two days’ time he had his addition to the project in place.

Aragorn and Prince Imrahil had been in conferences for much of the last few days with representatives of the various fiefdoms about their willingness to accept a new King and how they would support the claims of the Lord Aragorn; and how they would assist in the needs of the capitol over the next two years as the fields of the Pelennor began to recover from the damage of the battle. Having a moment of freedom as one of these prolonged discussions finished, the two of them decided to walk through the camp to stretch their legs, and found themselves facing an exultant soldier who’d been paralyzed from the waist down moving his chair through the camp, followed by a train of craftsmen, Gimli, Legolas, and Frodo, all obviously excited at how this contrivance might be improved upon to aid still more.

Aragorn found his attention drawn to the Hobbit, whose face was still pale, yet whose eyes now sparkled with accomplishment and delight. His eyes were drawn to Elladan, who was watching the experiment with great interest, and he beckoned him over. “What brought this about?” the Man asked.

“You know that Frodo had begun following you among the healing soldiers.” At Aragorn’s nod, he continued, “He began to speak with some about what they needed to be able to resume their former employments, and then involved Gimli in the discussions. The Dwarf brought in more, and one of those who was injured had been one who wove great baskets and furniture. This is the product of the discussions and the cooperation of all those who took part in the project. As you can see, this allows the one seated in the chair to again move himself about the place. The basket weaver and the cart- and wheelwrights are now discussing beginning a business to create more of these chairs for those who’ve been injured and can no longer walk.”

That night as Aragorn visited Frodo in his enclosure, once again open to the starlit sky, he said, “I am told that you are the one who inspired all those who worked together to come up with the wheeled chair.”

Frodo looked surprised. “Inspired, Aragorn? Barely that. I only asked Gimli to come with me to speak with some of those who’d been injured to help them figure out how they might be able to do things again for themselves. It was all their own ideas, you know, with the input of the craftsmen who were involved. I am amazed at how many craftsmen there are among the wounded. Now that several have seen the success of the chair, they’ve begun to speak of how they might reach things above their heads now they can no longer climb up ladders or upon stepping stools, or how they might make more stable pegs to take the place of legs lost. They are very inventive, Aragorn.”

As he left Frodo sleeping and Sam reading a book lent him by one of the soldiers, Aragorn sought out Gandalf, who was relaxing after a long day dealing with the leaders of the enemy wounded who’d been housed in a camp a mile away from the camp of the Western soldiers. Aragorn had been coming to their camp three times a week, working alongside the healers detailed to aid them. At first several of the healers had been resentful to be assigned to work with Haradrim and Easterlings; but as time passed they’d come to look on them simply as folk who themselves had been wounded and needed aid, inspired by the example Aragorn himself showed to them. Many of these were nearly ready to return to their own lands, and Gandalf had taken up the responsibility of discussing logistics of such a move with their officers.

“I’m not certain what is to be done with several of these,” Gandalf sighed. “The officers don’t want to take those who are paralyzed back to Rhun or Harad, for they cannot see that they would be able to do anything productive in their own lands. One officer is simply speaking of dealing mercy deaths to several of his folk.”

Remembering the sight he’d had this day of one happy to be able to move a chair throughout the camp, Aragorn shook his head. “And our folk are receiving hope again,” he said. He described the project of the wheeled chair and how Frodo had enlisted the help of Gimli in trying to solve the needs of the one whose legs were paralyzed and how that had led to the day’s happenings.

Gandalf’s head lifted with interest and his eyes sparkled with delight. “Frodo sparked all this, did he? Bless the Hobbit! His compassion may be his salvation, you know.” Aragorn nodded his agreement. “Quite a contrast to the Haradri, I must say. What is to be done with those seen as useless in their own lands?”

Aragorn exhaled a long breath as he looked off in consideration. “Another meeting of council with the Lords who remain with us,” he said. “I would accept them all, but it will be seen as a betrayal by so many of those from Gondor particularly. I must convince them.” He thought for several moments, then smiled slyly, looking back to catch the Wizard’s gaze. “Well, it appears that Frodo will have to attend this meeting, then. Let those of Gondor begin to realize I will include in my Council all those of sense, North and South.” He added, smiling more broadly, “And it will give Frodo more pause for thought, realizing I take his intelligence seriously.”

*******

Why in Middle Earth has Aragorn brought me here? Frodo asked himself as he looked at the Men already assembled in the square outside the Lord Elessar’s tent. What does he think a mere Hobbit has to tell those who rule this land?

The one who argued laughed. And do you think, Iorhael, that you were named vainly?

Then there was no time to indulge in further internal debate as he who would be King introduced him to the rest and described the affair of the wheeled chair and how Frodo had been the first to recognize that perhaps something could be done to aid those deprived of all use of their legs. Frodo found himself forced to explain how he’d questioned those whose injuries would be lasting on what they felt they needed to resume old professions or begin new ones and to develop a feeling of independence and competence once more, and how then he’d asked Gimli to join them, and the final inclusion of several different craftsmen in the project, and how it had led to the wheeled chair which the preceding day had been wheeled through the camp by one paralyzed from his waist down. He spoke of the plans others had begun to formulate to aid them reach over their heads or to improve wooden limbs, of changes in professions as one who’d been hopeful of becoming a carter now thought to follow his father’s profession as a potter instead, and another who’d been an archer and hunter now thought to become a teacher of children now that he could no longer handle a bow, and how one who’d been a pilot upon the river now thought to exercise his singing talents and work at becoming a bard instead, as he was now blind but his voice was yet intact.

That the Ringbearer had become so involved with their folk and their rehabilitation impressed all, and he won even more respect that day, although he didn’t recognize it. That some of those whose cases he’d just related had been sinking themselves into deep depression, feeling themselves useless, until his interest in them caused them to consider alternatives and how they might resume a place in society once again Frodo failed to consider; but his influence was not lost on others who’d feared they’d lose this one or that. More talk of how some with one condition or another might yet find a place in life went on for some time, and Lord Elphir, who served as secretary to the meeting, had a tablet full of alternatives before Aragorn indicated that this was enough in the way of ideas for now, but that he had more considerations to set before them this day.

Gandalf testified to the assertion made to him the preceding day by the officers from Harad and Rhun that they’d not take some of their own wounded back to their lands with them, and the plan by one to simply kill some of his Men, and all were aghast. Frodo went paler than ever, and Aragorn quietly laid his hand on the Hobbit’s shoulder while Sam, who stood beside Frodo’s chair, held Frodo’s left hand.

“I knew they were but barbarians,” growled one of the lords from Lamedon.

“If we can find ways for our own wounded to resume proper lives, why can’t they?” asked a member of Imrahil’s court.

Sam surprised all, including himself, by responding, “Beggin’ your pardons, but has Sauron ever allowed such folk to think for themselves? Seems to me he was all for makin’ all decisions on his own, like, and he didn’t care much for what might happen to those as fought for him, did he? Not as long as they fought and died at his command. What would the likes of him care for what they might have to deal with later? Probably if they couldn’t fight longer that was the orders he’d give his folks--kill ’em so’s they’d not be takin’ up time and thought.

“Well, now as there’s peace, they’re goin’ to have to realize you can’t just kill folks just ’cause they’re in the way, like, same as you lot have done.”

Aragorn had to fight to keep the grin from spreading across his face. Oh, he was so glad that Sam refused to be separated from Frodo--he’d given all of them something to think about, and once again the lords of Gondor were realizing real thought was as likely to come from those who appeared commoners as from those raised to think of themselves as rulers and leaders. He looked sideways at Sam, who’d flushed, but Frodo’s face was openly proud of him. He looked the other way and shared a brief glance with Gandalf, who also was keeping his face carefully schooled.

The decision to allow those from Harad and Rhun who’d been injured to come to the city of Minas Tirith for further healing and assistance in preparing for a life afterwards was agreed upon more swiftly than any had looked for.

*******

Aragorn was checking the wounds on the back of Frodo’s neck. The heart of them was still dark, but the skin was finally forming over them and appeared healthy enough. Elladan and Elrohir were also concerned about the spider bite, but agreed that as long as it didn’t cause undue distress perhaps this was a wound that should remain unprobed. He then checked the wounds on Frodo’s back. Merry, Pippin, and Sam had also had their legs whipped, but only Frodo had been stripped before being struck, and the scars were raised and still ugly looking. Again he laid his hands over them and sang the Invocation, and finally felt the skin and muscles below the scars relax some, heard Frodo’s sigh of relief as a bit more of the tension in his body gave way.

He’d been using some of the power of the Elessar stone he bore as he’d worked over the scars, and now he moved to release that power--only to realize that again Frodo himself was gently touching on the power of it. He paused, examined the Hobbit before him with interest. Was this conscious? He rather thought it was at least partly voluntary. He couldn’t fully appreciate what Frodo was doing with it, but realized at least in part he was shielding himself against the fears, griefs, and despair to which he’d become subject. Aragorn smiled to himself.

“You feel better, mellon nín?” he asked the Hobbit.

“Yes, the tightness where they beat me seems gone.”

“Do the muscles ache there any more?”

“No--they are tingling instead.”

“Have you had any more nightmares?”

Did he detect the slightest signs of guilt? he wondered. Frodo paused, then answered, “They still begin, but I can recognize them as nightmares usually now, and let them go.” He seemed eager to change the subject. “Why did you have me address your Council?”

“You were the one who recognized the need for assistance in allowing folk to find solutions to problems, Frodo, and it was for you to describe how the process began. It’s the first time many of these here have given active thought to the needs of those whose wounds won’t heal completely, and not only did you help those who were wounded begin to consider their options but now you’ve helped their lords to the same process. And I wish to thank you for it.”

“But it was the Men themselves and Gimli who did it all!”

“Would they have begun doing so if you hadn’t led the way in considering what might be done? I doubt it, Frodo. Your interest in the wounded has allowed many of them to begin to realize their lives are not without hope, that they can begin to regain their own self-respect as well as the respect of others.” As Frodo sat up Aragorn smiled into his face. “You were properly named, you know.”

Frodo flushed.

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