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In Aragorn's Safekeeping
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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22
Despair

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the recognizable characters; I am only borrowing them for fun for a little while. They belong to J.R.R. Tolkien.

Many thanks to my Beta Readers – J. and Marsha

Italics are used to indicate conversations in elvish and individual elvish words are translated at the end of the chapter.


~~~

“Rebecca!” Thomas screamed as he saw her crumple to the ground. He tried desperately to reach her, but several orcs blocked his way. In a daze he killed them as time seemed to slow to a crawl and then nothing stood in his path to get to his beloved. Thomas fell, weeping, to his knees beside Rebecca, dropping his sword as he did so. Suddenly he was jerked to his feet and his sword was thrust back into his hands as a harsh voice snarled,

“Do you want to join her?”

Thomas looked up into the furious blue-grey eyes of Halbarad. “Fight, boy. I won’t lose both of you this day.” Halbarad roughly spun him around and away from Rebecca. “Focus on the enemy, Thomas,” he hissed, finally releasing him with a small shove.

Tears streaming down his cheeks, Thomas tried to follow Halbarad’s instructions, but nothing mattered anymore and he fought recklessly and with little thought for his own safety. He was vaguely aware that the Ranger was shadowing him and often pulled him out of danger or killed an orc that was able to get too close because of the tears that were blurring his vision.

-------

Aragorn and Éomer met late in the afternoon as the chaos of the battle continued around them. Rangers and Rohirrim surrounded them, giving them a brief respite from the storm. They took full advantage of their brief meeting to catch their breaths. Éomer’s brown eyes burned fiercely with battle lust, but Aragorn could see some pain lurking there as well. “Aragorn, my brother,” Éomer cried, reaching down from his horse and clasping Aragorn’s forearm. “Though the hosts of Mordor separated us, we meet again as you foretold.”

“I could not let you fight alone, Éomer,” Aragorn replied, wiping sweat and dirt from his face with his forearm. “The tide has turned in our favor,” he noted, glancing around the battlefield.

“Yes, but many lives will yet be lost before our victory is complete.”

Aragorn saw something flash across Éomer’s face before an almost stoic look replaced it – nothing like the cocky warrior he had been at Helm’s Deep. “What has happened?”

Éomer blinked and turned his gaze down at Aragorn. “Théoden and Éowyn are dead,” he said flatly.

“Dead?” Aragorn looked at him in shock and confusion. “What… why was Éowyn here? You let her come?”

“No!” Éomer said harshly, “She rode in secret. This isn’t the time to speak of it,” he shook his head angrily.

“I am sorry, Éomer,” Aragorn paused, knowing his words to be inadequate.

“And what of Rebecca? Is she well?”

“She is with Halbarad.” Aragorn started to turn to where he had last seen them, but was interrupted by the arrival of five Swan Knights. The man in front was Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, Aragorn realized as he studied him with narrowed eyes. The prince had changed little in the forty some years since he had last seen the man, Imrahil had been in his twenties at the time. His tall slender frame had filled out some and his dark hair had a few wisps of silver. Imrahil carried a slightly elvish air about him that spoke of his family’s distant elven ancestor and that was evident in the piercing grey gaze he cast at Aragorn as he approached. The Swan Knights were all attired in the dark blue and white of Dol Amroth, though the Prince’s swan-ship emblem and cloak edge were silver instead of white. Though, both were currently spattered with blood. He also wore a simple silver circlet on his helm. Imrahil quickly dismounted throwing his reins to one of his men who were facing outwards keeping wary eyes on the battle.

“Prince Imrahil,” Aragorn nodded once in greeting and a slight twitch of amusement tugged at his lips as he could see Imrahil desperately searching his memory trying to put a name with a face he obviously had a vague memory of.

“Forgive me, my lord, I am afraid you have the advantage of me.” Imrahil bowed slightly, glancing up at Éomer and giving him a brief nod.

“I am Aragorn son of Arathorn,” he replied, offering no other explanation.

Imrahil’s eyes flashed to the star on Aragorn’s brow and beyond him to the banner Halbarad still carried and Aragorn could see understanding beginning to fill those keen eyes. “How? We heard your line had died out,” he whispered. Suddenly he was on his knees. “My lord king,” he said in a voice full of joy and hope.

“Stand up, my lord prince,” Aragorn commanded, “I am not yet your king. We have an enemy to defeat before that may happen.”

Imrahil arose saying firmly, “You are my king, crowned or not, my Lord Aragorn and I am yours to command as you will.” He bowed deeply.

Aragorn nodded once, “Thank you, Imrahil.”

“I feel I should know you, my lord… Captain Thorongil?” Imrahil said hesitantly with a slightly furrowed brow, a spark of recognition appearing in his eyes.

“Yes, my lord prince that is indeed how you have known me in the past and why I look familiar to you.” Aragorn’s eyes strayed from the prince to the battlefield noting that several more of the mumakil had been brought down and that the black and white clad city guardsman were steadily pushing back the Southrons while Éomer’s green and white Rohirrim were battling the Haradrim. Imrahil’s Swan Knights and the forces Aragorn had brought from southern Gondor were scattered around the Pelennor engaging orcs and various units of the enemy. “But we should speak of such things later, my lord,” he glanced back to Imrahil who nodded. “We still have much to do here before this day is ended.” Aragorn patted Éomer’s knee as he turned to go. “Be well.” Éomer only nodded as he spurred Firefoot away.

Imrahil bowed again before mounting his great grey war stallion and riding off. Aragorn returned to his Rangers and waded back into the battle.

-------

Thomas didn’t know when he had started fighting men instead of orcs. He later learned they were Easterlings, not that he cared. As long as there was something for him to take his anger out on, he didn’t really care who or what they were. Moving, he had to keep moving and jabbing and thrusting and blocking and ducking and slicing things open. It was all a blur. Thomas didn’t even feel his exhaustion, just a raw aching pain where his heart used to be. At some point he became aware that Legolas and Gimli were fighting alongside him and he was in some strange way comforted by their presence.

“Where is Rebecca?” Legolas asked during a very brief lull in the battle.

Thomas noticed the elf’s voice sounded strained, which, he thought in passing, was rather strange for an elf. But Thomas couldn’t answer his question either, he just looked at him and whatever Legolas read in his face caused the elf’s eyes to darken and his expression to become even fiercer than his usual battle demeanor. He heard Gimli give a great dwarvish battle cry and start swinging his large axe almost recklessly against the Easterlings who fell back under the fury of the dwarf.

Halbarad always had Thomas within a sword length as they fought together with Gimli and Legolas. Other Rangers and many of the Gondorians had also joined in this part of the battle against this particular force of the enemy. The Easterlings, in their bold scarlet uniforms, were fierce fighters from near the Sea of Rhun, but eventually they had been pushed back to the Rammas Echor and had all been destroyed. Thomas stood leaning on his sword, his chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath. Gazing around the Pelennor he saw that except for a few scattered pockets of fighting the battle was over.

The Pelennor was littered with thousands and thousands of bodies – men, orcs, and horses. Blood ran everywhere and pooled on top of the churned up ground, there was simply too much for the earth to absorb. Thomas was suddenly reminded of newsreels and footage he had seen during World War II, only those had been in black and white and here it was in vivid color and in full stereo sound. The screams of the wounded would have been overwhelming had Thomas not been so exhausted or if he had not seen and heard so many horrific things that he was able to tune it out to some extent. Glancing down at himself he realized he was once again covered with the blood of orcs and men. He didn’t think any of it was his own, though he knew he might not be able to tell until later.

“I have to go and get her…” Thomas’s voice cracked as he stared blankly in front of him.

“Yes,” Legolas said softly and Gimli nodded.

Halbarad looked at Thomas and glanced up at Aragorn’s banner he bore before nodding.

Thomas looked around wildly, “Where? Where were we, Halbarad?” he cried. “It’s… “

“I know where we were,” Halbarad’s voice carried a slight edge.

Legolas laid a hand on Thomas’s shoulder and he calmed somewhat, though he still shifted restlessly from side to side.

“Alvist,” Halbarad called and the Ranger hurried over. “Take this to Lord Aragorn,” he handed him the banner.

“All right, Lord Halbarad,” Alvist swiftly walked away towards Minas Tirith which was several miles distant from where they were standing.

Halbarad then rapidly led the others in the opposite direction to search for Rebecca.

-------

The main gates of Minas Tirith were a smoking, shattered ruin. The huge steel and iron wrought gates had never before been breached and yet somehow Sauron’s minions had found a way to break them down and enter the city. Small fires burned here and there around the front of the gate sending up thin columns of dark smoke. In Minas Tirith itself many larger fires burned unchecked sending smoke and ashes hundreds of feet into the air.

A short distance from the main gate, Aragorn leaned wearily against a piece of debris as he spoke with Elladan, Elrohir, Éomer, and Imrahil as the battle died down. All of them, except possibly the twins, were completely exhausted, yet still their work was not complete. They needed to see that their wounded were taken care of, and to the housing and feeding of their men as well as to begin discussions of their next move against Sauron. Though they knew that would really have to wait until they could speak with the steward, Denethor. At a strange look in Elladan’s eyes, Aragorn straightened up, turned and saw Alvist approaching with his banner. His eyes widened with horror and fear and he drew in a sharp breath as the Ranger approached.

“Alvist, where is Halbarad? Where is Rebecca?” Aragorn called, his voice taut with worry and fear. He never even felt Elrohir’s hand on his shoulder.

“Lord Halbarad asked me to bring this here, my lord Aragorn,” Alvist said bowing slightly. Aragorn nodded once, partially relieved though his piercing grey eyes never left the Ranger’s. “He, Lord Thomas, Prince Legolas, and Gimli were,” Alvist paused and cleared his throat, “were going back to look for Lady Rebecca,” he finished in a whisper.

“Oh, Valar, no,” Aragorn breathed, somewhere between a prayer and a curse as he closed his eyes in pain. Opening his eyes his gaze fell on Éomer’s grief-stricken face before he spoke to his brothers. “Elladan, Elrohir, will you go and help them search?”

“I will go, muindor nín,” Elladan replied, swiftly darting away across the field.

“I am staying, we still have much to decide,” Elrohir said quietly, his gentle yet firm tone telling Aragorn he would not be swayed.

“Pardon me, my Lord Aragorn, but who is Lady Rebecca?” Imrahil asked hesitantly.

“She is my ward,” Aragorn said, glancing at the prince then away, his eyes glistening.

“It is most unusual to have two shield-maidens in a battle.”

“And we lost them both,” Éomer spat out bitterly.

Imrahil looked at him with an expression of confusion, “Lost them both? Lady Éowyn is not dead, Lord Éomer.”

“What to you mean?” he asked sharply. “I saw her body when Théoden King died. She appeared to be dead.”

“Be that as it may, I saw her as your men were carrying her from the field and I had your men take her to the Houses of Healing. She yet lived when she left the Pelennor. I thought you knew.”

Aragorn scanned the field, but his mortal eyes could see nothing in the grey twilight and black smoke that drifted across the Pelennor. Clenching his jaw and setting aside his grief, he returned to his discussion with the prince and the new King of Rohan.

------

They had almost reached the area where Halbarad thought Rebecca had fallen when Hinluin ran up to Thomas. He didn’t say anything, he just clasped Thomas on the shoulder briefly and walked alongside him scanning the ground around them as the rest were doing.

“We were in this area,” Halbarad suddenly said, pointing in a wide circle around him. The five of them started working their way outwards from that spot, searching for one single girl among the many hundreds of bodies in just that small part of the usually idyllic farmland. Elladan soon joined them and they all anxiously tried to find her before the sun actually set and full dark descended instead of the grey, smoky twilight. Having to continue by torchlight would make it much more difficult. It was Legolas who finally found her.

“Rebecca!” he cried, dropping to his knees beside her and they all scrambled towards him. “She is still alive,” Legolas said with surprise in his voice and a look of amazement. “Her pulse is very faint, but steady.”

Thomas reached for her hand, but Elladan pushed him gently, but firmly back. “Wait, Thomas, let us check her injuries first.”

Thomas ground his teeth in frustration, but sat back on his heels on the blood-soaked ground without a word. He stared at Rebecca’s pale face and watched as Elladan checked her over. Finally he allowed his eyes to move to her injuries and he could feel his face go as white as Rebecca’s. One arrow was lodged in her upper left arm, but it didn’t appear to be in too far so he thought that was a good thing. The other arrow was also on her left side and high up close to her shoulder. Neither of those wounds had bled much. Thomas remembered Legolas or Aragorn or someone saying that sometimes it was best to leave an arrow in the wound until you reached a healer. It kept the blood inside somehow… like a plug. Thomas shook his head, he couldn’t really remember, but it seemed to have worked. He heard Elladan, Halbarad, and Legolas speaking quietly in elvish as they examined those wounds, but Thomas could tell nothing from their expressions. He had to force himself to peer around Elladan’s and Halbarad’s arms and hands to see the damage the sword had caused. The force of the arrows had spun her body some and the blade had done all of its damage on her right side, mostly to her back and side. From the top of her shoulder blade a long jagged gash ran down her back, then around her side and a little way across her stomach. Thomas could see how blood had spilled out of the wound though now, of course, it had subsided. He watched as Elladan peeled back Rebecca’s tattered tunic and lifted her hauberk to look closely at the wound.

“It does not appear that the blade damaged either her kidney or penetrated her intestines, but we need to get her someplace where we can tend to these,” Elladan said. He glanced at Thomas as he and Halbarad applied a makeshift bandage torn from the least blood-stained parts of their shirts and tunics.

“Why? What does that mean?” Thomas asked, looking from one face to another.

“If those are damaged, mellon nín, we cannot save her,” Legolas explained quietly.

“And if they aren’t damaged?” Thomas asked eagerly, a spark of hope suddenly kindled in his heart.

Elladan placed a hand on Thomas’s cheek and looked at him with compassion, “She has lost a lot of blood, young one. The chance of her recovery is small, but it is a chance and Valar willing, she will survive.”

“Aragorn can heal her,” Thomas said with conviction.

Elladan gave Thomas a very small smile and then placed his hands on Rebecca’s face and closed his eyes for a moment. He began singing in elvish and even Thomas could sense the words of strength and healing that were being imparted.

“Gimli and Hinluin have the stretcher ready,” Halbarad said.

Moving slowly, the two elves carefully lifted Rebecca and laid her gently on the stretcher that had been speedily constructed from several spears and the cloaks of dead soldiers. Rebecca did not move or make a sound. The elves, Halbarad, and Thomas carried the stretcher while Hinluin, carrying Rebecca’s bow that they had discovered underneath her body and Gimli walked along both sides to steady her if it became necessary. With Elladan and Legolas singing quietly in elvish, they started walking as quickly as possible over and around the bodies on the long walk up to the city.

------

“Aragorn! Come quickly, you are needed in the Houses of Healing.” Gandalf’s commanding voice pierced the gloom as he arrived in a swirl of white robes.

Standing slowly to his feet, Aragorn looked at his old friend questioningly. “I had determined not to enter the city until Sauron is defeated, Gandalf. There is enough turmoil amongst the people at this time. Denethor shall rule until then.”

“Denethor is dead, and Faramir will join him if you do not come,” Gandalf said impatiently. “He needs the king’s hands to heal him.”

“Dead? How?” Imrahil cried. “And my nephew, Faramir? He was not that badly wounded.”

“I shall tell you on the way,” Gandalf turned and strode back through the gates of Minas Tirith.

With a last searching glance out at the Pelennor, Aragorn flipped up the hood of his cloak to disguise himself as much as possible and followed after the others. “Come, Elrohir I am sure your healing skills will be much needed as well.”

Dodging around fires and debris they swiftly walked up the gradually sloping incline through the first level towards the second gate. Much of the first level had been destroyed both by the siege machines and by the incursion of the orcs and men into the city. Reaching the second gate they passed through it and switched back and now walked north through the city to the third gate. The damage here was less severe, but still considerable. Houses and shops both on the main road and down the side streets had been destroyed and some still burned, there were simply no men available to put them out. They continued the long steady climb up through the city, having to switch directions on each level as none of the gates aligned with each other as a protective measure for the city. They finally reached the sixth level, some six hundred feet above the fields of the Pelennor.

As they walked, Gandalf told them how Denethor had seemingly gone mad and had tried to burn Faramir alive. Pippin with the help of Beregond, a citadel guard, had come for Gandalf and the three of them had managed to save Faramir’s life.

“But Faramir is burning with fever, Aragorn, and his spirit is far gone. I fear only you can reach him. The warden has done all he can and it was one of the assistants, Ioreth, that mentioned in passing, ‘That the hands of a king are the hands of a healer’. Fortunately we happen to have one.”

Aragorn nodded, “I shall do what I can, as will Elrohir. I am sure there are many in need this night.” His voice was stern and remote as he answered.

Gandalf gazed at Aragorn with his keen blue eyes for a moment before he replied, “Yes, there are, Éowyn and Merry especially need your help.”

“Then my sister does still live!” Éomer exclaimed.

“Yes, but…”

“Merry?” Aragorn interrupted sharply. “How did he come to be here? Is he badly injured?”

Gandalf sighed wearily. “Evidently he rode with Éowyn. Together they destroyed the Witch-king.”

Aragorn stopped dead in his tracks. “They did what?” He looked at Gandalf in disbelief and then at Éomer who was nodding.

“It’s true, Aragorn,” Éomer said. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about Merry, but so much has happened.” He shrugged.

“It does not matter,” Aragorn said impatiently as they hurried on. “How did they kill the Witch-king?”

“Théoden’s horse threw him and he was trapped beneath it. The Witch-king’s foul beast was evidently going to eat him…” Everyone shuddered. “… and, Éowyn… brave, foolish Éowyn stepped between them. She killed the beast and then faced the Witch-king himself. As he was getting ready to strike, Merry snuck up behind him and stabbed the Witch-king in the back of his knee and Éowyn killed him.”

Aragorn shook his head slowly, astonished at the courage of both Éowyn and Merry.

The Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith was the most advanced place of healing in all of Middle-earth – outside of the elven kingdoms, most notably Rivendell. The Houses were built right next to the wall of the city and consisted of five buildings arranged in a semi-circle around a garden, one of the few gardens in the entire city. The gardens overlooked the Pelennor facing south. The central building was the smallest and contained the administration offices, storage areas for herbs, bandages, bedding materials and all of the miscellaneous supplies. It also housed a large kitchen and dining area. All of the houses were connected by semi-enclosed walkways and the two large buildings on either side of the administration building were for the most seriously wounded or ill patients. Large wards with hundreds of beds were in both of these buildings. There were also several small private and semi-private rooms in both of these two buildings in the corridors closest to the administration building, and hence closer to the healers, for those of the nobility. One of the buildings on the farthest end was used when they needed to isolate patients, though it was currently being used to tend to the wounded, the other was used as a surgery and was being put to full use this night.

It was semi-organized chaos in the Houses of Healing. The courtyard in front of the main entrance in the administration building was swarming with the men who needed stitches or a bone set or other relatively minor injuries. Soldiers who had skill in healing were doing what they could to help the others, but had few of the necessary supplies. Aides from the Houses brought out some supplies, but the number of seriously wounded men inside need to be tended to first. Most of the men sat around the courtyard and as they waited, many had fallen asleep.

Gandalf led Aragorn, Elrohir, Éomer, and Imrahil across the courtyard and into the main entrance. Taking the first corridor on the right, he led them to a closed door with a guard dressed in the black and silver uniform, but without the winged helm, of the citadel guard standing next to it.

“This is Beregond,” Gandalf said. Aragorn gazed at him intently, wondering at the love this guard had for his lord, Faramir, since the penalty for him deserting his post as he had done, even if to save a life, was either death or banishment from the city. Beregond returned Aragorn’s regard steadily before inclining his head briefly. “Éomer, Éowyn is in the next room,” Gandalf said and he hurried off as the wizard opened the door to Faramir’s room.

Aragorn followed Gandalf inside, taking in the room at a glance, noting the woman kneeling on the floor on the far side of the bed wiping Faramir’s forehead with a wet cloth; the man, whom he assumed was a healer, standing at the foot of the bed frowning down at Faramir; and Pippin on the near side of the bed holding Faramir’s hand with a look of concern. Finally, Aragorn looked at Faramir noticing his dark sweat-soaked hair, his pale face, which he realized looked much like Boromir’s only with finer features. His left shoulder was heavily bandaged, but it was the labored breathing and the obvious fever that concerned him the most. The people in the room looked up as the four of them entered the room.

“Strider!” Pippin exclaimed, his face brightening for a brief moment before settling back into a concerned frown.

“Pippin,” Aragorn nodded once as he crossed to the bed throwing back his hood as he did so, exposing the emerald green brooch he wore pinned to his tunic that Lady Galadriel had given him in Lothlórien.

“Warden, this is Lord Aragorn,” Gandalf said by way of introduction. Aragorn studied the man briefly, wondering what he thought of someone coming in and taking over care of his patient, but then quickly dismissed it, he had far too many other things to deal with. “The lady is Ioreth.”

Aragorn nodded, “I need hot water.” As he quickly washed his hands to remove the blood and dirt, he asked Ioreth to bring more water and some athelas leaves. “Pippin, move aside.” The hobbit quickly moved and Aragorn knelt on the floor next to Faramir. Placing his hand on Faramir’s hot, sweaty forehead, Aragorn closed his eyes in concentration, his spirit seeking for Faramir’s as he began calling softly, “Faramir......... Faramir………. Faramir………. Faramir………. Faramir”

It took a long time before Aragorn felt any kind of connection with Faramir and then finally there was a distant spark. He kept calling softly even as his own weariness grew. Aragorn stopped when a young errand boy burst into the room with the athelas. Taking two leaves, Aragorn breathed on them before crushing them and a wholesome sweet fragrance filled the room. Casting the leaves into the bowl of hot water, he moved it near Faramir’s face so that the Steward could breathe in the steam.

After several moments, Faramir’s grey eyes blinked open and he looked upon the face of Aragorn and a smile crept across his face. “My… king calls me. What is your command?”

Aragorn smiled gently, “Rest and recover your strength, Faramir. I shall have much need of you in the days ahead.”

“Yes, my lord king,” he whispered before slipping into an easy, peaceful sleep.

Standing and stretching wearily, Aragorn looked to Gandalf who started towards the door leaving Imrahil and Pippin behind. As they reached the door, Pippin spoke up, his voice filled with anxiety. “Strider, where are Rebecca and Thomas?”

Turning back to look at the hobbit Aragorn replied in a tightly controlled voice, “I am not sure about Rebecca, Pippin. Thomas, Legolas, Gimli, and some others are on the Pelennor looking for her now.”

Pippin let out a large gasp as his eyes widened and then tears started trickling down his face as a tiny sob escaped his lips.

Glancing at Gandalf, Aragorn let out a small sigh and went to Pippin. Crouching down in front of the hobbit he said softly, “I am sorry, Pippin.” He tried to think of some other comforting words to say, but could think of none. He settled for embracing the hobbit briefly before swiftly leaving the room followed by Gandalf and Elrohir.

“That is what weighs so heavily on your heart,” Gandalf said with a deep sigh, his blue eyes reflecting his sorrow.

“Yes.” Aragorn gave his friend a look of anguish which was quickly replaced with his stern kingly mask.

“It is grievous news indeed.”

-------

Stopping before the gates of Minas Tirith, Thomas and the others looked around uncertainly, trying to find Aragorn and Elrohir. Though it was full dark now, Elladan and Legolas could see well and even mortal eyes could see somewhat in the light cast by the numerous fires.

“Where is Aragorn?” Thomas asked, a tone of desperation creeping into his voice. “Rebecca needs him now.”

“Thomas,” Elladan’s voice was gentle, but held a hint of steel that Thomas could not miss. “Estel is not aware of her need or you know he would be here. You also know that as a king he has responsibilities beyond his family and friends and would not have been able to wait here if his duty called him elsewhere.”

“Yes, Lord Elladan, I know,” Thomas sighed deeply in frustration, “I know. Duty always calls people away when you need them the most,” he added, muttering under his breath. Though he realized Legolas heard him when the elf looked at him sharply.

“Hinluin,” Halbarad said, “go ask those Rangers if they know where he is.” The young Ranger sprinted off and returned just as quickly.

“Alvist said that Gandalf came and took him up to the Houses of Healing on the sixth level.”

They set off without a word, weaving carefully through the streets following Elladan’s guidance since he was the only one who had been in Minas Tirith before and knew where the Houses of Healing were located.

-------

Aragorn glanced at Éomer before he started tending to Éowyn. “Éomer,” he began hesitantly, unsure how to speak the words he felt he needed to say before Éowyn awoke. Éomer looked at him with absolute trust in his brown eyes and Aragorn relaxed. “Éomer, I have the skill to call back Éowyn’s spirit, yet I fear that the despair I have sensed in her since first I met her will be difficult for her to overcome. It is not something I can heal. She, with your help, will have to overcome this or her spirit will flee again.”

Éomer stared down at his sister, gently stroking her hand. “Why did she never tell me? I didn’t know of this despair she felt and we were close… or so I thought,” he frowned.

“You were gone much, Éomer,” Gandalf pointed out, “and Éowyn learned early to guard her fears and her thoughts from Théoden and Gríma. Still,” he sighed, “for her sake it would have been better to share her thoughts with you at least.”

“Does she truly love you?” Éomer gazed up at Aragorn.

Aragorn shook his head saying softly, “No, Éomer, not really. I am just a shadow and a thought that she loves, a means of escape from the despair, the prison, which her life had become at Edoras. It is you… her kin that she loves and you who must be her strength in this time.”

Éomer gently pushed the hair off of Éowyn’s face and gave Aragorn a weak smile. “As I was not there for her before, I will do my best now,” he promised.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Aragorn laid his hand on Éowyn’s forehead and called for her, much as he had for Faramir. The response was much quicker and Aragorn soon removed his hand and gave Éomer a nod, “Call to her.” As he called his sister’s name, Aragorn took the athelas leaves, breathed on them, crushed them into the bowl of hot water and again the wholesome fragrance filled the small room bringing refreshment to each one there. As Aragorn and Gandalf stepped into the hall, they heard Éomer exclaim, “Éowyn!” before the door closed.

“Merry’s room is across the hall,” Gandalf steered the weary king-to-be in the right direction. Pausing in the doorway, Aragorn looked sadly down at the hobbit who appeared so small and fragile lying in the man sized bed. Pippin had left Faramir’s room and stood waiting impatiently for Merry to be treated. Aragorn touched Pippin’s head briefly before kneeling beside the bed.

“Is his arm broken?” Aragorn looked at Ioreth questioningly as he fingered Merry’s bandaged right arm.

“No, my lord, it’s ice cold… and feels dead to the touch. We didn’t know what to do, so we washed it with hot water and wrapped it and have continued to do that since…”

“Peace,” Aragorn commanded, raising his hand to stop her flow of words. Carefully unwrapping the bandages, he frowned as he felt the deep coldness in Merry’s arm. Quickly breathing on and crushing the athelas leaves, he dipped a cloth into the hot water and started gently bathing Merry’s arm with it. Glancing around for Elrohir, he noticed his brother had disappeared so he asked Gandalf to take over while he called Merry back. “Merry……..… Merry…..…… Merry.” The hobbit opened his bright blue eyes and smiled at Aragorn before his eyes clouded over with what appeared to be confusion, pain, and grief.

“Aragorn,” he whispered. “Am I dreaming? Are you real?”

“I am truly here, Meriadoc,” Aragorn smiled as he gently stroked the hobbit’s hair.

“Then… then the other things that happened were not dreams?”

“With Théoden and the Witch-king?”

Merry nodded, clutching his blanket with his left hand, his eyes pleading with Aragorn to tell him it had only been a dream.

“That was real, Merry,” Aragorn said softly. “I am sorry.”

Merry shuddered and closed his eyes.

Pippin sat down on the edge of the bed and picked up his cousin’s hand. “You’ll be all right, Merry. I’ll help you and take care of you.” While his words were encouraging and his voice was strong, Aragorn caught the worried expression in Pippin’s eyes.

“Thank you, Pip, I know you will,” Merry replied, smiling wanly at his cousin. “Where is everyone else?”

“They are still on the Pelennor,” Aragorn answered for Pippin, shooting the hobbit a quelling glance. Merry did not need to know about Rebecca now. Pippin nodded slightly.

Aragorn got to his feet stretching his tall, lean body. “I will leave you in Pippin’s capable hands, master hobbit. You may eat if you are hungry,” he smiled, “but then you need to rest.” He kissed him lightly on the forehead before leaving.

Stepping into the hallway he glanced at Gandalf. “Where is Elrohir?”

“I sent him to get some food. I imagine the last time you ate was early this morning… or even last night.”

Aragorn shrugged, “I am not really sure,” he admitted. “Though I am sure one of my brothers made me eat something.”

The door to Faramir’s room opened and Imrahil stepped into the hallway and walked towards them, stopping once to let a couple of aides hurry by with basins of hot water and supplies. “How are Éowyn and the hobbit, my lord king?” Imrahil asked with a slight bow.

Staring at him with narrowed eyes, Aragorn finally replied with a sigh, realizing he was not going to be able to stop Imrahil from calling him king. “They are doing well, my lord prince.”

Imrahil smiled slightly. “The aides and healers are already calling you king, my lord for the way you called back Faramir. If you did the same for Éowyn and Merry…” he shrugged in a strangely elegant manner.

Aragorn turned to Gandalf, “Do you think it wise to take up my throne now?”

Furrowing his brow in thought, Gandalf slowly shook his head. “No, I believe you were correct earlier when you said that there was enough turmoil in this city.”

“Then who shall rule?” Imrahil asked. “It is obvious that Faramir cannot.”

“Gandalf,” Aragorn stated firmly.

“I would advise against that, my lord king. Forgive me, Mithrandir, but too many people fear and mistrust you.”

Gandalf nodded, “He is right, Aragorn,” stopping Aragorn’s protests. “It will have to be you, Imrahil. The people know and trust you.”

Imrahil nodded, “Though, of course it will be in name only as I will be deferring to my lord king,” his eyes glinted with amusement as he glanced at Aragorn, “for any decisions.”

“As I will be looking to Gandalf,” Aragorn stated. “It will take all of us, including Éomer, to make any kind of decision. We shall talk with him in the morning to plan our next move.”

“Then I shall take my leave of you, my lord…,” Imrahil paused at the warning look in Aragorn’s eye, but then said it anyway, “king.” He smiled and gave Aragorn a deep bow before walking away.

Aragorn shook his head muttering, “Imrahil always did have a strange sense of humor,” he sighed.

“You need to get used to people calling you that, Aragorn.”

Aragorn turned to stare at Gandalf, “Once we have defeated Sauron, I will worry about such things, old friend.” Gandalf inclined his head in acknowledgement.

Elrohir suddenly appeared holding three mugs by their handles in one hand while balancing bread and chunks of cheese in the other. With a nod of thanks, Aragorn took his food and sank wearily to the floor and proceeded to eat and drink while Elrohir and Gandalf ate theirs standing. He shook his head as he considered once again the advantages of being an elf or a Maia.

A sudden commotion near the main door brought Aragorn scrambling to his feet with his hand on the hilt of his sword and scattering the remains of his supper across the floor. Recognizing the voices he exclaimed “Elladan!” and ran swiftly towards the door followed by Elrohir and Gandalf. If it had not been so serious, Aragorn would have found it highly amusing to see two elves, a Ranger, and an enraged dwarf arguing with the two middle-age women who had stopped them from entering the door to the Houses of Healing. But one glance at Rebecca and her injuries quickly stopped any mirth on his part.

“Cease!” Aragorn said in his most stern and commanding voice. Everyone froze and stared at him. Seeing Elladan about to speak, Aragorn glared at him and the elf stopped. He knew that the easiest way to get what he wanted was to speak respectfully, yet forcefully to the women.

“Ladies, my ward, Lady Rebecca, needs a private room right now. If you do not have the authority to grant that, I need to speak with the Warden immediately.” Aragorn’s words and tone left no room for argument and his stern grey eyes bore into the women without blinking.

“We-we can give you a room, Lord Aragorn. We didn’t know who she was.” Aragorn heard muttered curses coming from Gimli.

“Lead us, then,” Aragorn said curtly, stepping aside and motioning for the woman to precede him. The woman scurried down the corridor glancing back once to make sure they were following.

Aragorn dropped back beside the stretcher as it passed and looked Rebecca over appraisingly, trying not to allow his emotions to interfere with his role as a healer. It was extremely difficult.

“The arrows, Elladan?”

“Her arm is broken, I am unsure about the collarbone, I did not want to move it and start it bleeding.”

“What is under the bandage?”

“An orc blade sliced her open…”
Aragorn saw Halbarad flinch. “…from her shoulder blade down to near her kidney and then around her side and just onto her stomach.”

Aragorn drew in a sharp breath.

“I do not think her kidney was injured, but she lost a lot of blood, Estel. She lay there unattended for a long time before we found her.”

Arriving at the room next to Merry’s they carefully maneuvered the stretcher through the doorway and set it on the floor beside the bed. Glancing around the crowded room, Aragorn’s eyes fell on Thomas’s stricken face and he clasped his shoulder briefly even as he ushered him towards the door. “I need all of you out except for my brothers.” Thomas started to protest, but Legolas grabbed his arm and led him out the door. “Gandalf, will you find Ioreth and tell her I need healing supplies?” Gandalf nodded and hurried off, leaving Aragorn and his brothers to tend to the battered body of Rebecca.

------

Thomas paced. There were seventeen steps between the tree and the wall overlooking the Pelennor; twenty-tree between the wall and the bench; only eleven between the bench and back to the tree. He knew precisely how many steps there were because he had counted them over and over while they waited for word of Rebecca.

A strange whistling sound and then a voice saying “Thomas?” startled him from his thoughts and Thomas pulled his gaze from the ground to find Hinluin walking alongside him and he stopped with a frown. “I have to go, my brother will be worried.” Thomas nodded.

“Lord Aragorn and his brothers are good healers, Thomas, and…” his voice trailed off uncertainly.

“I know,” Thomas whispered.

“If I can, I will come back tomorrow,” Hinluin patted his shoulder and left the garden, following the torch-lit path which also provided dim light to the more distant parts of the garden.

Thomas tried to return to his pacing only to find his way blocked by Gimli. “Come, lad, you need to eat now.”

“I’m not hungry,” Thomas tried to move past him, but the dwarf stepped in his path again.

“How would it look if you faint from hunger the first time you see Rebecca?” Gimli asked gruffly.

Thomas snorted and turned around only to be met by Legolas. “You might not faint, mellon nín, but your body does need to be taken care of,” there was the slightest hesitation, “if you intend to help care for her.”

Nodding reluctantly since he did not feel the least bit hungry, Thomas followed them to a small table where he joined Halbarad. Reaching for a mug, he suddenly became aware of just how filthy he was. “Is there any water so I can clean up a little bit first?” he asked looking at Legolas. Thomas realized that Legolas was wearing clean clothes as was Halbarad, while Gimli had cleaned his armor and had washed as well. “Legolas,” he asked quietly, “how long have we been out here?”

“Over three hours,” he replied in a very gentle voice.

Thomas blinked in surprise, he had no idea it had been that long. “Oh. How-how did you get clean clothes?”

“Some of my men brought our packs,” Halbarad answered. “Yours is here, too,” he pointed towards a corner near the door into the main building.

“Wash you face and hands, lad, you can change after you eat.” Gimli handed him a wet cloth and Thomas scrubbed at the dried blood and dirt on his hands until they were mostly white again. Gimli gave him another cloth for his face. Feeling somewhat clean, Thomas reached for his mug and drained it in one gulp. “I guess I am thirsty,” he muttered. Legolas refilled it, shoving the bread and cheese closer to Thomas at the same time. Sighing he picked the cheese up and started to take a bite when he realized all three were staring at him. “Don’t stare at me, I said I’d eat.”

“We are concerned for you, Thomas,” Legolas chided softly. “Until you spoke with Hinluin a moment ago, you would not respond to any of us for the last three hours.”

Thomas just stared at Legolas for a moment and then hung his head, “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“You have done nothing to be sorry for, but you need to understand our concern.” Thomas nodded and looked up at Legolas his eyes glittering with unshed tears.

“I’m still sorry for causing you additional worry,” he glanced at Gimli and then at Halbarad.

“Eat, Thomas,” Gimli growled.

Thomas ate.

-------

As the door closed behind Gandalf, Aragorn turned back to Rebecca. His brothers had stripped the blankets off the bed throwing them into the corner of the room to be used later and then set Rebecca gingerly on the mattress. “It is going be difficult to keep her comfortable having wounds on both sides of her body like that,” he noted absently. Checking her pulse he found it still faint, but steady as Elladan had mentioned.

“Elrohir, cut the arrow shafts, Elladan and I will hold her still.” Elrohir pulled his knife and while they held Rebecca firmly to the bed to stop any movement, he cut off the shafts, leaving about three inches visible. The door opened and Ioreth entered with her hands full of various supplies.

“Set the supplies on the table,” Aragorn said brusquely.

Elladan walked over and quickly looked at the supplies. “These will do, lady,” he said as he escorted her back to the door. “All we require now is hot water.”

“I will have an aide bring it. Do you not want my help?”

“They do not require your help at this time, Ioreth,” Gandalf said as he shut the door behind her.

Elrohir had sliced open her tunic and now the heavy chain metal hauberk faced them. “She would have been sliced in half without this,” Aragorn murmured. But now the task of pulling it over her head without causing further damage to her was slightly daunting. Rangers did not normally wear armor and so they had very little experience with this. “Gandalf, come hold her legs.” Carefully slipping the hauberk up her stomach until it was bunched around her chest they paused and exchanged worried glances. “The right side first,” Elladan decided, “it will pull on the wound, but it is not stitched yet…” he frowned.

Aragorn nodded and glanced at Elrohir who tightened his hold on Rebecca’s left side. Aragorn lifted her slightly while Elladan pulled her right arm and shoulder through the short-sleeved hauberk. He tried to be both quick and gentle, but Rebecca let out a low moan. They froze and then Elladan said, “That is the first sound she has made.” Nodding, Aragorn took the hauberk from his brother and pulled it over Rebecca’s head before laying her head back on the pillow. Normally this part should be simpler, except the arrow shafts and broken bones would interfere. Elladan held her down firmly while Aragorn and Elrohir exchanged glances. Clenching his jaw, Aragorn moved the hauberk towards the shaft in her shoulder gently sliding the heavy chain mail up and over it with Elrohir’s help. As soon as he touched the arrow in her arm, however, Rebecca cried out in pain. Ignoring her cries, he slipped the hauberk down and off her arm and tossed it to the side. Elrohir cut away her shirt while Elladan began grinding the various herbs they would steep in the hot water to clean the wound.

“We need to prop her on her side until we can remove the arrows,” Aragorn said.

“Should we deal with the arrows first?” Elrohir suggested looking at his twin.

“No,” Elladan shook his head, “Those can wait, she will not die from the arrow wounds.”

Looking around the room, Aragorn grabbed the blankets his brothers had carelessly thrown aside and as Elrohir lifted and turned Rebecca he piled the blankets beneath her shoulders and head. Elrohir gingerly laid her on her left side and they tried to cushion her arm and shoulder. Satisfied when she made no sound, they turned to where Elladan was already removing the bandages. His lips pressed into a thin tight line, Aragorn watched as more and more of the gash was revealed. He picked up a cloth and dipped it into the herb filled hot water that Elladan had prepared and he and Elrohir started carefully washing the wound. Elladan laid his hands near where they were working and started singing and was soon joined by Elrohir. Even Aragorn sang under his breath as he worked, though whether it was for Rebecca’s benefit or his own, he could not say.

When the wound was thoroughly clean, the three of them examined the area around her kidney and stomach intently. “I do not think her kidney or her intestines are damaged, Estel,” Elladan said with a small relieved smile. Aragorn heard Gandalf sigh deeply.

“It appears not.” Aragorn allowed himself a tiny glimmer of hope.

The three healers began the long, arduous task of stitching her up. It took hundreds of tiny stitches both on the inside and the outside of the wound and well over two hours to complete.

“Gandalf, how much athelas do we have?” Aragorn glanced at the wizard.

“Just a few leaves.”

Aragorn frowned and looked at his brothers. “Should we use it on the wound or afterwards to help in her recovery?”

“Athelas is your specialty, muindor nín, but I think she needs the help now,”
Elladan replied.

Nodding, Aragorn crossed to the table and picked up the last few leaves of athelas. He breathed on and crushed the leaves, but this time he put them in a small bowl and crushed them further before adding a small amount of water and mixing it into a thick paste-like substance. Moving back to the bed, he applied the paste to the length of the stitched wound and then the twins neatly and tightly bandaged Rebecca.

The three of them leaned back for a moment and looked at Rebecca for other wounds they might have missed before turning towards the arrows which they knew not to be life-threatening, yet knew would cause her pain based on her earlier reactions.

Gandalf took opportunity of their brief pause to hand them mugs of water. “Thank you,” Aragorn murmured absently, still frowning down at Rebecca as Elladan started looking closely at the arrows.

“It will have to be cut out, Estel,” Elladan said after he carefully probed around the base of the arrow in Rebecca’s shoulder. “It appears to be barbed.”

“Of course it is,”
Aragorn muttered, rising and crossing to the small table of supplies. Pulling his knife he washed it thoroughly in the hot herbal water and then in the sterilizing agent the Houses of Healing had provided. Returning to Rebecca, he knelt down beside her and looked carefully at the arrow as he tried to pinpoint the location of the barbs. Glancing at the others to see if they were ready, Aragorn quickly made two cuts close to the shaft and deep enough to get below the barbed tip of the arrowhead. Rebecca cried out in pain and tried to move away, but Gandalf and Elladan held her in place. Elrohir gently pulled on the arrow to see if Aragorn had loosened it properly. Satisfied, he took a deep breath and slowly and steadily pulled it from her shoulder, ignoring Rebecca’s cries. Once it was out, Elladan packed cloth into the hole to stop the flow of blood. Her cries subsided into whimpers.

“We need to get this other arrow out quickly,” Aragorn said, looking at Rebecca in concern. “Then we can go back and stitch that.” His brothers nodded in agreement and they quickly turned to the arrow in her arm.

“Is it lodged in the bone, Elladan?” Elrohir asked as his brother examined the arrow.

Elladan frowned, “I am not certain, it must be because the arm is broken and she reacts so strongly when it is touched.” Even as he said that Rebecca’s whimpering had increased and she was trying to pull away from Elladan. “Estel, I can only assume the arrow is barbed because I cannot check it.”

Frowning at the additional pain it would cause when it may not be necessary, Aragorn picked up his knife once again. He again cut into Rebecca’s arm and tears ran down her cheeks as she cried out. This time Elrohir did not hesitate, he just grabbed the arrow and swiftly pulled it out. Elladan placed clothes on the wound, but once the arrow was removed the pain seemed to quickly subside.

Turning back to the shoulder, they quickly stitched and bandaged it and then did the same for her arm. “We have to set the bone now,” Elrohir reminded them.

“I know,” Aragorn said shortly.

“It is not badly out of place, Elrohir,” Elladan said quietly. “I will do it.” Picking up her arm, he sang softly as he quickly pushed the bones back in place with an audible clicking noise. Elrohir handed him strips of bandages that he tightly wrapped around the splints to keep the bone in place.

Finally finished with her wounds, they took the remaining water and cleaned the blood and the mud off of her before slipping her into clean loose-fitting clothing and propping her up in the bed in what they hoped was a comfortable position for her.

Aragorn felt her pulse and found it to be stronger than it was when she arrived and he gave his brothers and Gandalf a small smile. “I believe she will survive this.”

“Yes, muindor nín,”
Elrohir smiled gently in return.

“I never had any doubt,” Gandalf said with a strange distant look in his eye.

Aragorn looked at him with an eyebrow raised in disbelief, but Gandalf merely smiled.

Only Elladan looked slightly doubtful. “She is still in danger,” he cautioned, “and will need much care in the days ahead.”

“I know, Elladan, but…”
Aragorn raised a hand and let it fall. “I believed she was dead and now I have hope. However, I will be cautious in speaking with the others.”

“That would be wise, especially for Thomas’s sake in case the worst happens. You know that fevers and other complications can arise.”


Aragorn stared at his brother. “I understand, Elladan,” he said with irritation. “I have dealt with injuries such as these many times. ” He looked at Elrohir, “Will you stay with Rebecca tonight?” Elrohir nodded. “Thank you. I am going to speak with the others and then I must get some sleep. I will return early in the morning. Good night.” After a last glance at Rebecca, Aragorn turned on his heel and left the room heading for the garden.

------

Softly drumming his fingers on the edge of the table, Thomas absently listened as Gimli, Legolas, and Halbarad talked, though he had noticed that the Ranger was even quieter than usual. Thomas responded to their questions when necessary though mostly he was thinking about Rebecca and himself. He was wondering again why there were in Middle-earth and if this was the cost Rebecca had to pay; what would his be and when? He also wondered if he would have the strength to go on without her. Somehow he didn’t think so. He depended on her for so much that the thought of her not being as his side was too terrible to even consider. Sighing deeply he looked up hopefully when the door from the building opened and was disappointed, though he tried to hide it, when Pippin came running out.

“Thomas! Legolas! Gimli!” he cried, running to them and stopping at the edge of the table between Gimli and Halbarad.

“Mae govannen, Pippin,” Legolas said with a small smile.

“Master hobbit,” Gimli said gruffly before looking Pippin up and down with a small frown.

“Hello, Pip,” Thomas said quietly.

Pippin looked up at Halbarad, “You look like Aragorn.”

“I’m his cousin, Halbarad.”

“Peregrin Took of the Shire,” he bowed slightly.

Halbarad inclined his head and Pippin turned back to the others. “I-I just found out that you were here and that you found Rebecca,” Pippin’s eyes searched each face eagerly, “Is-is she badly hurt?”

Thomas stared at the table as Legolas answered. “Yes, Pippin, she is. Aragorn and his brothers have been tending to her for close to four hours now.” Pippin slumped onto the bench next to Gimli and laid his head on his crossed arms on the table staring straight ahead. “She’ll be all right,” he muttered.

“How is Merry?” Gimli asked

Pippin glanced up at the dwarf from the corner of his eye, “Good, Aragorn healed him. I think he’ll be up walking around tomorrow.”

Thomas sighed with relief. He couldn’t stand to lose him, too. “I’m so glad,” he whispered.

“Why are you wearing that uniform?” Legolas asked.

Pippin immediately straightened up, “I’m a member of the Citadel Guard,” he said proudly. The others stared him and finally Thomas asked the question on all their minds.

“How did that happen?”

“”I-I swore allegiance to the Steward, Denethor.”

“Why would you do that?” Gimli asked with confusion on his face.

Pippin blushed slightly and looked down, his legs swinging slightly from the tall bench. “I know I’m not much use here because I’m small, but I did it because of what Boromir did for Merry and me. Later I was glad I did, so I could help Faramir. He’s a good man.”

Legolas laughed lightly, “Now Gondor and Rohan both have hobbits in their service.”

“Merry told me…”

“What were you saying about my land?” Éomer’s rough voice suddenly sounded from behind Thomas and they all turned to see him walking across the grass from one of the other buildings.

“We were talking about Merry being in your service,” Legolas replied.

“I see.” Éomer laid a heavy hand on Thomas’s shoulder before sitting down next to him. “How do you fare?”

“About the same as you, I guess,” Thomas replied, dropping his gaze to the table. He missed the quick flash of guilt that crossed Éomer’s face. “I’m sorry about your uncle,” he glanced back up at Éomer.

“He died bravely in battle against an evil foe, Thomas. Théoden King will be greatly honored and long remembered for his deeds this day.” Éomer paused as a shadow of grief filled his eyes. “As will Éowyn.”

“Did she… is she all right?” Thomas asked in a slightly panicked voice.

“Éowyn is going to be well. Aragorn was able to bring her back and she is sleeping peacefully now.”

Thomas sighed. “Good, Lord Éomer, I knew Aragorn could heal her.”

Éomer stared at him, “Since when do you call me lord?”

“Since you became a king,” Thomas shrugged.

“If you continue then I shall be forced to call you ‘boy’.”

Halbarad and Pippin looked at the two in confusion while Gimli and Legolas laughed quietly. After a moment, Thomas gave Éomer a small smile saying, “I will bow to the wishes of a king.”

Éomer grinned as the door opened and Aragorn came striding out, his eyes locking onto Thomas’s. Raising his hand to stop Pippin’s questions before they started, Aragorn slid onto the bench next to Halbarad with a weary sigh. “Move over, Cousin,” he growled, knowing full well the guilt Halbarad carried and trying to put him at ease. The Ranger moved over without a word. “I believe she will recover,” he said quietly, glancing around the table gazing at Thomas last who was trying without success to blink away tears. Éomer whispered something to the young man who nodded and gave him a smile before looking back at Aragorn. Aragorn gazed at Éomer thoughtfully for a moment, but he just returned his look steadily. “Rebecca is still in danger from infections and fever,” he cautioned, “those are always a risk. But her pulse is stronger now and her coloring is better than when you brought her here.”

“What of her arm and collarbone?” Legolas asked.

“The arm is broken, it was… difficult to remove the arrow. The collarbone is fine; though I am sure it will be bruised and very tender. Elladan sang over all of her injuries which will help tremendously.”

“Is she awake?”

“No, Thomas,” Aragorn shook his head. “The earliest I would expect that is tomorrow morning. She did make some noise and movement as we tended to her,” he glanced at Legolas and Éomer and saw understanding in their eyes. “Elrohir is staying with her tonight, but the rest of us,” he looked pointedly at Thomas, “need to go and get some rest.”

Thomas started to protest, “But I…”

“No, Thomas,” Aragorn’s voice was firm, but not unkind. “You need your rest. I know I am exhausted – I was after the battle today and I can see the exhaustion in your eyes. There is nothing you can do here and I need you on your feet tomorrow. Go with Legolas and Gimli and get some sleep. I believe the Rangers set up some tents down on the Pelennor.” He glanced at Halbarad who nodded. “Come back in the morning, but wait and come with Legolas and Gimli because I am sure that I will be gone very early,” he added. Thomas nodded reluctantly and stood to his feet.

“All right, Aragorn. Are you coming, too?”

“Halbarad and I will be along shortly.” He could feel his cousin stiffen beside him. As the others left the garden, Aragorn got to his feet and wandered over to the wall overlooking the Pelennor, filling his pipe as he did so. Lighting the pipe he puffed on it for a few minutes as he leaned against the wall staring out over the field, thankful he could not see the death and destruction, only the few flickering fires scattered here and there. “It is not your fault, Cousin,” he said quietly, glancing sidelong at the Ranger who stood stiffly beside him bracing his hands on the top of the wall.

“Of course it is, my Lord Aragorn.”

Aragorn turned fully to face him while still leaning against the wall, “You have been in enough battles to know that anyone can get hurt or die.” Halbarad nodded once. “Will you tell me what happened?” Halbarad stared at him for a long moment and then out at the Pelennor.

“The blade was meant for me.” Aragorn straightened up and stared at Halbarad in shock. “She shoved me out of the way and then, I think,” he paused in thought, “the arrows hit her, knocking her back into where the orc was with his sword. I did kill it, but we were surrounded and then Thomas was there and I had to help him.” He shrugged helplessly, “I thought she was dead,” he whispered.

Aragorn stepped forward and embraced his cousin fiercely and Halbarad slowly responded and embraced him back.

“I gave you an impossible task, Halbarad,” Aragorn said slowly as he released him.

“What? I failed you!” Halbarad said looking at Aragorn with a mixture of shame and remorse on his face.

Aragorn shook his head, “I should never have given you both my banner and the responsibility of Rebecca. The banner made you a target and hampered your ability to fight.” Halbarad made a noise of protest, but Aragorn held up his hand to stop him. “I should have given the banner to another…”

“It was my right to carry it as your kinsman, Aragorn,” Halbarad hissed angrily.

“Yes,” Aragorn acknowledged. “Then I should have asked another, perhaps Legolas or one of my brothers to take on the responsibility of Rebecca. She had been riding with you, though and I just did not think it through. Forgive me, Cousin.”

“Forgive you?”

“Yes, because now you carry guilt you should not. Although, Halbarad…” Aragorn paused for a very long moment staring at the ground and tapping his now finished pipe in the palm of his hand. “While I am grieved for the pain Rebecca is suffering, I am glad she was with you,” he said quietly, looking at his cousin with glistening eyes. “I cannot bear the thought of losing you.”

“Nor I you, but the cost was high and I’m not sure that…”

Aragorn interrupted him, “Is it because it was a girl that saved your life and is injured? What if Alvist or Caladithil had done it? Would you feel the same?”

“I don’t know… maybe not,” he admitted.

Aragorn chuckled quietly, “I cannot believe I am going to use this story again when I just told it to Thomas less than a fortnight ago. Do you remember when we were very young Rangers with Faelon’s band and we ambushed some orcs in a cave? You saved my life, but got slashed across your thigh with a poisoned sword.”

Halbarad looked thoughtful for a moment and then nodded.

“What did you tell me?”

“That it was my choice to save you and that I would do it again.” Halbarad sighed, glaring at Aragorn. “I hate it when you do that, using my own words against me.”

Aragorn grinned before looking seriously at his cousin. “You have to let it go, Halbarad. I need you too much to have you distracted and plagued by guilt. Rebecca would do it again even if it cost her life. I know her well enough to know that. And, perhaps,” Aragorn looked thoughtful, “this is why she is here.” He clasped Halbarad on the shoulder. “Are you going to be all right?”

“I believe so,” his eyes twinkled slightly, “besides, now I can blame you.”

Aragorn cuffed him lightly on the shoulder, “I need sleep, Cousin, and we have a long walk ahead of us, come.” The two of them began the long walk down to their tents on the Pelennor.

-------

Thomas awoke very early in the morning. He didn’t know if the sun was up yet because it was still fairly dark, but it was always semi-twilight now so it was hard to tell. The Rangers had put him in a tent with Aragorn and his brothers, but he had no idea if they had even come in during the night as he had immediately fallen asleep out of pure exhaustion in spite of his worry for Rebecca. Stretching his arms carefully he almost gasped aloud at the pain and stiffness in his shoulders, arms, and wrists. Slowly moving his legs under his blanket he could feel the stiffness there too, though it was not as intense as his upper body. Still, he needed to get up so he wormed his way out from underneath the blanket trying to move as quietly as possible.

“Thomas?” Aragorn’s rough, sleepy voice broke the stillness of the morning.

“Yes, Aragorn?”

“Where are you going? How do you fare?”

“What? Oh, just out… to walk I guess. I was awake and… Don’t you trust me? I said I would wait for Legolas and Gimli,” Thomas said angrily.

“Peace, Thomas,” Aragorn said with a weary sigh, sitting up and stretching. “It is not yet dawn and truly I just wondered if you were well.”

“I’m sorry, Aragorn,” he said, trying to see him through the gloom of the tent, but seeing only a shadowy figure sitting across from him. “I’m very sore and stiff, but other than that I’m all right.”

“No wounds, no stitches were needed this time?” He had not thought to check him, but assumed that Halbarad had done so.

“Just some little nicks here and there.” Thomas shrugged. “Though, I don’t know how that is possible, I did some pretty stupid things yesterday.”

“So I heard.”

Thomas hung his head, “I’m glad Boromir didn’t see me,” he whispered.

“Boromir would be as proud of you as I am.” Thomas jerked his head up and stared at Aragorn through the light that was beginning to filter in through the canvas tent. “You have done remarkably well and you are still alive when many are not,” Aragorn’s voice was full of sorrow.

“Did-did you lose many of your Rangers?”

“Six, and five more are wounded, though none seriously.”

“I’m sorry, Aragorn, I know you were close to all of them.”

Aragorn nodded. “Yes. I have been at many of their weddings and I know all of their wives and most of their children. The Dúnedain are a small tightly-knit group of people, and I am their Chieftain. We have had to depend on each other for hundreds of years as we have fought against the darkness.” He paused and cleared his throat. “But we are not the only ones who lost men, Éomer lost close to two thousand of his men, dead and wounded. Then there are the Swan Knights, the city guardsmen, and the other men of Gondor. It was a costly battle.” Thomas could now clearly see the sorrow on Aragorn’s face.

“And it’s not over, is it?”

Aragorn shook his head as he replied, “No.”

“What happens now?”

“We will decide later this morning. Right now I am going to find something to eat and go check on Rebecca.” Aragorn stood gracefully to his feet and gazed down at Thomas for a moment as the young man stared at the ground. “You will not sleep any more this morning, will you?” Thomas shook his head. “You may as well come with me, then.” Thomas slowly got to his feet. “You do have to eat first, Thomas,” Aragorn said sternly.

“I’m starving, I didn’t eat much yesterday,” Thomas said as he followed Aragorn out of the tent which was close to the black wall of the city and just west of the gate.

“I heard that, too.”

Thomas snorted. “As busy as you were, you sure heard a lot about me.”

“Halbarad was very concerned,” Aragorn replied heading towards the gate.

“I thought we were going to eat.”

Aragorn glanced at him from the corner of his eye. “They serve better food at the Houses of Healing, unless you would really rather eat dried meat again.” He looked at Thomas questioningly, but the young man quickly shook his head. Aragorn again wrapped his cloak tightly around himself as they climbed through the streets where men were already at work removing bodies and others were pushing carts down and out onto the Pelennor to begin the same task. Reaching the Houses, Aragorn escorted Thomas into the dining hall where they both quickly ate a large bowl of hot porridge and bread before heading to see Rebecca.

Thomas couldn’t believe how good Rebecca looked. Well, at least compared to the last time he had seen her. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, he stared at her as Aragorn talked with Elrohir and the main thing he noticed was that Rebecca’s face had returned to its normal coloring. Except for a few scratches on her face and hands and the bandages that were clearly visible under her shirt, she just appeared to be sleeping normally. He gently slipped his hand under her left one, being careful not to raise her hand more than a fraction off the bed, he didn’t want to cause her any pain. Gently caressing the hand he just watched her for any sign of movement.

“Has she stirred at all?” Aragorn glanced from Rebecca back to Elrohir.

“No, and no sign of a fever either.”

“Do you think I should try and wake her?” Aragorn glanced between Elrohir and Elladan who had silently entered the room, looking unnaturally tired for an elf as he had been helping the healers all night. “So that she can then slip into a natural sleep instead of this unconscious state,” he waved at her still body.

“You could even push her into a healing sleep, Estel, and it would be better,” Elladan pointed out.

Aragorn nodded, slipping into elvish so Thomas would not understand, “I will do so, though I fear we shall not be here long and of course I cannot just leave her in a healing sleep.”

“Are we leaving Minas Tirith?”
Elrohir asked with a look of concern as he glanced at Rebecca.

“It has not been decided, but I do not see what other choice we can make. I will need both of you later as we discuss this; maybe you can see another path.” Aragorn shook his head with a weary sigh. “But about Rebecca, should I wake her?”

“I believe you should, she has been unconscious for a long time and if we do indeed leave, then I would like to be here when she first awakes to make sure all is well with her,”
Elladan replied and Elrohir nodded in agreement.

Thomas had been so focused on watching and listening to Rebecca breath that he hadn’t even noticed when they had switched to elvish or when they stopped talking. He started when Aragorn laid a gentle hand on his shoulder and he looked up.

“I am going to wake her, Thomas so you need to move back.” Thomas got up and stepped away and Aragorn took his place on the bed. Placing his hand on Rebecca’s forehead he began softly calling for her, his mind searching for her.

-------

Blackness. The absence of all light. Despair filled Rebecca as she looked for a way to escape the darkness that surrounded her. But there was no direction to guide her. No up, down, forward, backward, left, or right. All were meaningless in this void she seemed to be floating in. She wondered how long she had been in this strange black place, why she was there and how much longer she would have to stay. Rebecca just knew it was wrong for her, though she couldn’t quite remember where she had been before. Maybe there never had been something before this, but she recoiled at that thought. No, she knew there was something or somewhere else and she would escape from here eventually. A faint noise caught her attention and she tried to remember what it was and where she had heard it before. It sounded vaguely familiar. There it was again. Someone was saying her name… someone was searching for her. But Rebecca didn’t know how to respond to this familiar voice. It was Aragorn she suddenly realized and Rebecca struggled desperately to find a way to answer his call. The words changed slightly the next time she heard them, “Open your eyes, Rebecca,” Aragorn’s soft yet commanding voice implored. Rebecca couldn’t believe it would be that easy, that the blackness was caused simply because her eyes were closed. Still, nothing else had worked and she trusted Aragorn so she tried to open her eyes. She was amazed to find that her eyelids remained shut and she was gradually becoming aware of intense pain in her body. Focusing on her eyes, she once again tried to open them to no avail. Another voice spoke, “Please, Rebecca, wake up.” It was Thomas and he sounded so worried and scared that Rebecca tried again, fighting against the pain that threatened to overwhelm her. She succeeded in cracking her eyes open halfway and quickly closed them again against the glare. Finally slowly blinking her eyes she brought them into focus on Aragorn who seemed to be sitting on the edge of her… bed? Where was she that she was lying in a bed? She appeared to be in a room somewhere and she glanced around, her gaze falling on Elladan, Elrohir and then lingering on Thomas’s very concerned face before she looked back at Aragorn.

“What…” her dry throat caused Rebecca to cough and she gasped at the intense pain that shot through her back and side. She grabbed Aragorn’s hand and squeezed it hard until the pain eased. Elrohir handed Aragorn a mug of water and then slipped an arm carefully underneath her head to lift it enough so she could drink it with Aragorn’s help.

“Thanks,” she whispered as Elrohir laid her gently back down though she grimaced at the pain. “What happened?”

Aragorn looked at her with concern. “Do you not remember? We are in Minas Tirith…”

Memories came flooding back and Rebecca gasped. “Halbarad? Is he…” she looked at Aragorn pleadingly.

Aragorn smiled and pushed the hair back off her face with a gentle hand. “Halbarad is well, thanks to you, Rebecca.” Thomas and the elves exchanged puzzled glances. Rebecca closed her eyes and sighed with relief. She tried to shift on the bed, but froze at the intense pain that flooded through her and her eyes flew open and locked with Aragorn’s.

“Am-am I going to die?” she whispered. “I hurt…”

“No!” he and Thomas both said at the same time and then Aragorn continued in a soft and gentle voice. “You are not going to die. Though, we were very worried about you yesterday.” Aragorn glanced up at Thomas and his brothers and she followed his gaze to see their concerned looks. Trying to decide how much to tell her at this point, Aragorn decided just to tell her of the actual injuries. “You are in so much pain because you were shot with two arrows, here and here.” He pointed and Rebecca tried to follow with her eyes without moving too much. “The one in your arm broke it as well.” Her eyes widened. “You were also,” Aragorn took a deep breath and swallowed hard, “sliced open by an orc’s sword from here to here.” He drew an imaginary line from her shoulder down to her stomach. Her eyes became even more frightened.

“How did I survive?” she whispered.

“I do not know,” he said honestly his grey eyes sober and thoughtful. “The grace of the Valar, the skill of the elves,” Aragorn glanced at his brothers, “It…”

“The skill of a king,” Elrohir interrupted him.

“All of those things, Lady Rebecca,” Elladan finished for his brother. “Yet you still have much healing to do and your recovery will take time. I think she has had enough for now, Estel. She needs her rest.”

Aragorn nodded. “We must give her something for her pain before I help her sleep.” Elladan turned to the table and began searching through the healing supplies for the herbs he would require and sent Elrohir for hot water.

Thomas hesitantly approached the bed and tapped Aragorn on the shoulder. “Can I sit with her for a minute before she sleeps again?”

“Yes, but Rebecca you are not to talk too much,” he said sternly though his eyes were warm as he looked at her before rising and crossing to his brother.

Sinking down onto the bed, Thomas carefully picked up Rebecca’s hand his eyes never leaving hers. “I was so worried for you, when you fell in the battle I was sure you were dead.” He shook his head unable to get those images from his mind. “I’m sorry that you are in so much pain,” he whispered. “You should have stayed in Lothlórien,” he said with a very small smile.

“I would do it again,” she whispered, glancing at Aragorn.

“Do what?”

“Push Halbarad out of the way.”

“Is that what Aragorn meant?”

“Yes, an orc was coming and…”

“Rebecca,” Aragorn growled, turning and staring at her.

She smiled sheepishly and Aragorn turned back to what he was doing with a sigh.

“You saved his life?” Rebecca gave a small nod. “You seem to be getting good at this sort of thing.” She shrugged and winced at the intense pain that shot through her and left her gasping for breath. Aragorn was quickly at her side and shooing Thomas back.

“What did you do?” She couldn’t answer him and he looked at Thomas.

“She shrugged her shoulders.”

“Rebecca, you need to lie very still for the next several days, at least until the collarbone bruising eases and the stitches start healing somewhat. Elladan has done what he can for you, but he has given much of his strength this past night to the other wounded and it will be several days before he is replenished enough to help you again.” Rebecca nodded and looked past Aragorn to the tall elf not having realized that when he gave to her it took from his own strength. “I want you to drink this, it will help with your pain and then I will help you sleep.”

“Will I go back to that black place?” Rebecca shuddered involuntarily.

“No,” Aragorn said soothingly, “this will be like your normal sleep only it will be deeper and will allow your body to heal more quickly. Do you remember when I pushed you into sleep after Helm’s Deep?” Rebecca nodded slightly. “It will be like that, do not be afraid.” He smiled gently and Elrohir once again helped her sit and she drank the hot, bitter tasting tea. When she was finished, Aragorn placed his hand on her forehead. “Close your eyes, Rebecca.” As she did so, he closed his as well and then carefully pushed her into a deep healing sleep. Opening his eyes, he looked her over once more, kissed her gently on her forehead and then stood looking to his brothers.

“Elladan, Elrohir, I need you to come to the discussion I am having with Gandalf and the others,” Aragorn said before gazing at Thomas thoughtfully. “Thomas, would you like to stay with Rebecca, at least for now?” Thomas’s face brightened. “She will not awake this day, but perhaps you would like to sit with her and maybe you could sleep as well. Pippin and Merry will be around and I am sure Gimli and Legolas will come up later.”

“Yes, sure, of course I will stay with her,” Thomas said eagerly. “What else would I do anyway?”

“Then I will tell the aides that you are here and they will check in on Rebecca occasionally. If anything changes, go and get one of them immediately.” Thomas nodded. “However, I do not want you to stay in here all day, go out and enjoy the gardens… or something.” Aragorn shrugged not really sure what else Thomas could do, but knew it would not be good for him to just sit in here all day. Thomas nodded again, though he really was not listening to the last part of what Aragorn was saying.

With a last glance at Rebecca, Aragorn followed his brothers out the door leaving Thomas sitting on the edge of the bed gently holding her hand.

~~~

Elvish Translations:

Mae Govannen – Well met
Mellon nín – My friend
Muindor nín – my brother


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Reviewers: Many thanks to everyone who is reading this story and especially to those who reviewed. I appreciate the encouragement.

Author’s notes: One of the meanings of the word ‘lifeless’ is: the appearance of being dead. I was very careful in the choice of words I used at the end of the last chapter.


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