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In Aragorn's Safekeeping
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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26
Reunions

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 J for beta reading this chapter for me!

Words in italics are elvish and individual words are translated at the end of the chapter.

Author Note: I am sorry for the extreme length of this chapter - not that most of my chapters aren’t long! I know that many of you read this online (I always print my stories out to read them so I don’t mind long chapters) and so I do apologize, though I cannot promise to make any of the next chapters shorter.


~~~

“It cannot be done, my Lord King. We have neither the wagons necessary for such a task or enough uninjured men to carry them from here,” Prince Imrahil’s voice was firm and his gaze was steady as he looked at Aragorn.

Blowing out a frustrated breath, Aragorn nodded sharply. “I know you are right, Imrahil, but to leave our dead in this place…” he shook his head, running his hand through his hair. Setting his jaw, he glanced at Éomer to see understanding in his weary brown eyes. “We must use what wagons we do have to move the wounded out of this choking air as soon as we possibly can.” Aragorn glanced up at the sky. “We will not get far tonight, perhaps to where we camped last evening. Tomorrow we will head for Ithilien, though some men will be left behind to tend to our dead. I will not dishonor their sacrifice,” he said, his voice like steel. Éomer and Imrahil nodded and murmured their agreement.

“I’ve sent some of my men out to start rounding up the horses,” Éomer informed him. “Our horses will not have wandered far, though I don’t know about yours.”

“Good. As soon as you have a couple available, I want to send messengers to Minas Tirith. We desperately need more healers and supplies.” Aragorn looked around. “Alvist, go and see if you can find any of the Ranger scouts. Two if you can find them, I do not want to send them alone.”

“Yes, my lord.” Aragorn watched him run off, briefly wondering where Thomas and Pippin were. He turned back to Imrahil.

“Have you seen any of the captains of the companies?”

“Just the ones from the first, fourth, seventh, and ninth and I sent them to start organizing what men they had to help the wounded. Many of my Swan Knights have healing skills and those I found, I also have set to that task.”

Something in Imrahil’s voice made Aragorn look at him closely. “What of your sons, Imrahil?” he asked gently.

Imrahil gazed at him steadily. “Elphir is directing my men, Erchirion… I have not seen for many hours. And yours?”

Aragorn shook his head. “I know not.” He glanced at Éomer as the horse-lord cursed loudly. “Yes,” he agreed and then turned his mind back to the task at hand. “We must get word to the men who are already helping the wounded to take them to a central location and from there we can move them back to where we camped.”

“It’ll be better if our healers can work from one place instead of scattered all over,” Éomer commented. “I’ll make sure that Sigebréoht knows,” he said, calling over one of his men and speaking to him quietly.

“Halbarad, Hinluin, see if you can find Elladan and Elrohir and send them there,” Aragorn pointed to an area north of where they were standing and towards the site of their last camp. “Explain what we are planning.” The Rangers nodded and hurried off in opposite directions. Aragorn glanced at Laegrist briefly, but skipped over him to a small group of Gondorians that had gathered near and were watching him with weary, hopeful eyes. “Did you hear what I said to my Rangers?” he asked in a commanding voice. They all nodded. “Then you go and do the same, look for healers and then help the wounded to that area.”

“Yes, my Lord King,” they bowed and scurried off.

Aragorn turned back to Éomer and Imrahil.

--------

Thomas looked up with a sigh and stared blankly out into the distance. Glancing down at Hinhael’s body, he wondered what he should do. He didn’t want him buried or burned with everyone else like they had done on the Pelennor. This was his friend’s brother and he should be treated differently. Besides, Hinhael and Pendem, whom he knew had to be close by, were Aragorn’s Rangers and were special to him. Thomas suddenly realized that Aragorn was now, in fact, the King… assuming he was still alive. He knew he needed to find Aragorn and the others, but he couldn’t just leave Hinhael either. Thomas knew he would never be able to find him again in all of the bodies that littered the hillside.

The sound of voices made Thomas look to his left and he saw three Gondorian soldiers approaching. They were spread out and were looking intently at the bodies that covered the ground, occasionally crouching down and checking a pulse. One of them looked up and caught his eye and with a quiet word to the others he hurried forward and knelt down beside Thomas. “Where are you injured?” he asked, looking Thomas up and down.

“I’m not,” Thomas croaked harshly, his throat burning.

“You’re not?” the man asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Not really,” Thomas whispered, finding it much easier on his throat when he did so.

The man reached for Thomas’s cloak to unfasten it, but Thomas batted his hand away with a scowl and did it himself.

“You’re not too injured,” the man said with a smirk that changed to a scowl of his own when he saw the extensive black and blue marks already covering Thomas’s throat. “I take that back,” he murmured. “How did that happen?”

“Orc,” he replied, miming how the orc had grabbed him around his throat.

“How did you survive?”

Thomas shrugged, “I passed out and then I woke up,” he whispered as the other men joined them.

“Well, we need to get you to the place where they’re tending the wounded.”

“Only if we take Hinhael,” he whispered, gesturing to the body.

“You know he’s dead.” Thomas heard the hesitant note in the man’s voice.

“Yes, I know, but…” Thomas looked about for his waterskin, but remembered that he had no water left and sighed before continuing in a whisper. “He’s the brother of my good friend and I can’t leave him alone out here. He’s also a Ranger and important to my… father. I just… I just.” Thomas saw the looks the men exchanged and stopped speaking.

“He’s one of the Rangers from the North, isn’t he?” one of the men asked. Thomas nodded.

“What’s your name and who’s your father?” the first man asked.

“My name is Thomas and my father is Aragorn. Though, I guess people are calling him something else now.” He saw the men’s eyes widen. “He’s not really my father, I’m just his ward but he said that that’s sort of like being a father and…,” Thomas rambled on until the man interrupted him.

“It matters not, Lord Thomas,” the man responded, bowing his head. “However, I still don’t think we can take your friend. Perhaps you could take his cloak pin and his ring?” he suggested gently. “It’s more than most will ever have of their loved ones.”

Thomas bowed his head briefly and then looked up with a weary sigh. “You’re right,” he whispered. He gently removed the items from Hinhael and tucked them away in his tunic. He swayed slightly as he stood, his head was pounding and his stomach nauseous, but he fought desperately to keep it under control. After taking several deep breaths, Thomas looked around to see if he could spot Aragorn.

“Come, Lord Thomas,” the man grasped Thomas’s elbow, “the healers are this way.”

Thomas wiggled his arm free. “No, they’ll be busy with the men with serious wounds and I need to find Aragorn, he’ll be worried about me.”

The man looked at him with concern for a moment and then nodded. “All right, my lord, however I believe Inthenin should accompany you,” he said, indicating one of the men.

“That’s probably a good idea. Do you have any idea where Aragorn might be?”

“The last I heard, the King and the other lords were speaking together in an area between the two hills.”

“Thanks for your help.” Thomas turned and started off, pausing once when he came across a grey cloaked figure lying on the ground. He carefully crouched down and removed Pendem’s star brooch and added it to the other things he had before he walked on, Inthenin walking closely beside him.

-----------

“The eagles are back,” Halbarad said, nudging Aragorn in the back.

Shading his eyes, Aragorn saw that Gandalf was riding on one eagle, while the other two… carried hobbits. “He found them,” he whispered with surprise and awe, his eyes glistening as he glanced back at Halbarad. Seeing where they were going to land, Aragorn took off at a dead run, arriving in time to gently take Frodo from the eagle’s talons. Halbarad took Sam. Aragorn thought Frodo was dead, but then he felt the slight rise and fall of the hobbit’s chest. Tears filled his eyes as he looked him over. He wore nothing but Sam’s cloak, tied with a bit of rope. Frodo was filthy and over the dirt encrusted skin was a layer of grey ash. Frodo’s whole neck was a deep, raw wound and what Aragorn could see of his arms and legs were covered with cuts and deep gouges. And that was just what was visible. He froze, his eyes fixed on Frodo’s right hand. The third finger was missing and was still slowly bleeding. “Oh, Valar, no,” he whispered and tears trickled down his face. Suddenly conscious of a hand on his shoulder, Aragorn looked into Gandalf’s understanding tear-filled eyes.

“It cost him much, my friend,” the wizard said quietly.

“Gollum?” Aragorn asked, frowning. Who else could have done it?

“I assume so, but we should tend them now and speak later. They are both much in need of your skill.”

“Yes, of course.” Aragorn shook his head, wiping his cheeks with his shoulder and looked at Sam to find he was in almost the same condition as Frodo. The hobbit also looked extremely thin and Aragorn knew without asking that Sam had given most of his food to Frodo. Not that Frodo looked a whole lot better. Sam was covered with the same types of cuts and gouges and also had a large wicked looking wound on his head. “Halbarad, do you know where my tent is? We did not use it last night, but if we can get it, I would like to use it for these two.”

“I’ll find it, Aragorn.” Halbarad gently transferred Sam into Gandalf’s arms and took off as Aragorn and Gandalf started walking towards the healing area.

“Hinluin, run ahead and start a fire on the far side of the healing area and get some water boiling. Alvist, you go and find Elladan or Elrohir and tell them I need any healing supplies they have and why I need them. Laegrist,” Aragorn looked at him for a long moment. “I know you are supposed to guard me, but I need you to go and tell Prince Imrahil or Éomer King what is happening and where I will be.”

Laegrist hesitated only a moment, “Yes, my Lord King,” he gave him a half smile. “I’ll try and be back before Halbarad returns.”

Aragorn nodded absently, his focus already back on the hobbit in his arms.

By the time they reached Hinluin, the young Ranger had water boiling and had scrounged up a couple of blankets which he had neatly laid out near the fire. He was smoothing them out with a somewhat worried expression on his face which he wiped off when he saw Aragorn looking at him questioningly. Comprehension and compassion filled Aragorn’s eyes as he looked at Hinluin. As he knelt and gently laid Frodo down, he said quietly. “It is early yet, Hinluin, and it is a huge battlefield. Would you like to go and look for him?”

“My place is with you,” Hinluin replied, returning Aragorn’s gaze steadily.

Aragorn nodded and started to work on Frodo, stripping off the cloak he wore. He hissed sharply as he rolled the hobbit halfway over and exposed a huge seeping wound on his neck and whip marks on his back and legs. Gandalf, Hinluin, and Alvist, who had arrived with various healing supplies, all gasped as well, and exchanged looks of horror. Frodo began mumbling incoherently and fighting off unseen hands. Aragorn sat back on his heels and looked back and forth between the two unconscious hobbits. Now that he could see all of their injuries, he made a decision. “Gandalf, I am going to push them into a deep healing sleep. Their bodies have been pushed almost beyond endurance; truly, I do not know how they have survived.”

“Hobbits have an incredible inner strength, Aragorn.”

“Yes, I know, but…” Aragorn raised a hand and let it drop in a helpless gesture. “After I push them into sleep, we will tend to their injuries.” Aragorn placed his hand on Frodo’s brow and reached out for his spirit. He was startled by the utter terror and surprised by the guilt he found there and Aragorn worked long to soothe and quiet Frodo. Finally, feeling that Frodo was settled enough, he pushed him into a deep, healing sleep. He sat back with a weary sigh.

“That took you a long time,” Gandalf said sharply.

“It did,” Aragorn acknowledged. “There was so much terror and… other things upsetting him that I needed to soothe him before I could send him to sleep.” Aragorn gently brushed back the hair from Frodo’s face. “It is not very healing or restful otherwise.” Gandalf nodded and Aragorn turned to Sam. He found Sam much easier to deal with. There was fear, but mostly worry for Frodo and Aragorn was able to reassure him and send him soundly to sleep.

Halbarad rode up, leading Roheryn, Baldor and several other horses, with Shadowfax following close behind. “The tent is being set up, Aragorn.”

Aragorn nodded and glanced down at the hobbits. “I would rather clean and tend to their wounds there,” he said glancing at Gandalf. “It will be out of the wind and this dust. Hinluin, can you carry that pot of hot water on a horse without spilling any of it? It is too precious to waste.”

Hinluin’s eyes widened and he nodded. “Yes, my lord.”

“Good. Are any of those horses yours?” Hinluin shook his head. “Take any of them except Baldor, he can be a little jumpy at the best of times.”

Hinluin nodded and grabbed one of the horses. Alvist wrapped cloth around the handle of the pot and handed it up to him. Aragorn and Gandalf mounted their horses and Alvist gently wrapped Frodo and Sam in the blankets and handed the hobbits up to them. “Halbarad, I want at least one hundred guardsmen out with us as soon as possible. It is too isolated out there and it will be awhile before they start moving the wounded.”

“I’ve already done that, Aragorn. Speaking of guards…”

“I sent him to tell Éomer and Imrahil what I was doing. Do not blame him, Halbarad, there was no one else available.”

Halbarad nodded and they set off.

------------

Thomas stopped and looked ahead in dismay. “Is something wrong, Lord Thomas?” Inthenin asked.

“Aragorn is not there, only Prince Imrahil and Éomer King are there,” he whispered. Frowning and wondering where Aragorn could be, where any of his friends could be, he walked doggedly forward, still swaying slightly.

“Thomas!” Éomer’s voice boomed loudly as he approached and Thomas shuddered at the pain it caused, rubbing his forehead. He smiled though, as Éomer grabbed his right arm in a warrior’s handshake and clasped his left shoulder hard.

“Hello, Éomer,” he croaked out as best he could, not wanting to whisper. “My Lord Prince,” he said glancing at Imrahil, who stood slightly off to the side.

“Thomas, what’s wrong with you?” Éomer’s eyes narrowed as he looked Thomas over and Imrahil moved closer, looking Thomas up and down.

“An orc grabbed me,” he whispered, throwing his cloak open and showing them his throat. They both drew in sharp breaths.

“Have you had anything done for that?” Imrahil asked, his sharp grey eyes giving him a piercing look as he gently lifted Thomas’s chin for a closer look.

Thomas started to shake his head, but stopped immediately. “No. He,” he gestured to Inthenin, “and some other men wanted me to, but I wanted to see Aragorn - I knew he’d be worried. And now he’s not even here,” he said with frustration.

“Does your head hurt? Are you nauseous?”

“Yes, my lord,” Thomas looked at Imrahil and frowned.

“Were you unconscious?”

“For awhile, but I don’t know how long it was. When I awoke the battle had moved past me.”

“You need to see a healer, Thomas,” Éomer said, looking at him, his brown eyes intent and serious.

“I will, but I want to see Aragorn first.”

“He’s tending to Frodo and Sam right now,” Éomer responded.

Thomas gaped at him, dumbfounded. Blinking back tears he looked off into the distance for a moment. He turned back to Éomer and Imrahil. “They… they’re here? They’re alive?”

“Yes, so while my lord King is busy with them, you have time to seek healing for yourself, my lord,” Imrahil said.

Thomas grimaced and Éomer put a suddenly gentle hand on his shoulder. “I know you want to see Aragorn, but this is the second time in less than a month you have injured your head. You need to get it looked at.” He grinned, “I don’t want you to forget who I am.”

“As if I could!” Thomas smiled. “Are Elladan or Elrohir around?”

“I believe they are with the other healers.” Imrahil pointed to the healing area.

“I’ll find one of them.” Thomas glanced at Inthenin. “I’ll be fine, now. Thank you.”

“Yes, thank you.” Imrahil nodded at the soldier who bowed and walked away. “I will have one of my Swan Knights accompany you, Lord Thomas. Ladreníl!” he called out, his eyes never leaving Thomas.

Thomas opened his eyes to protest, but shut it, somehow knowing that arguing with Imrahil would be as ineffective as arguing with Aragorn. Probably less so judging from the way the prince was watching him. He gave Imrahil a small smile, “Yes, my Lord Prince, that’s probably a good idea,” he whispered. “I don’t… “ he started to cough, gasping at the pain.

Éomer put his arm around Thomas to steady him. “Here.” Éomer handed him a waterskin and Thomas gratefully accepted it.

“Thanks,” he whispered when he could finally speak again. Thomas tried to hand the waterskin back to Éomer, but the horse-lord shook his head.

“Keep it, Thomas. The men are collecting more.” He nodded to his right and Thomas could see that many of the Rohirrim were piling up waterskins they had obviously taken from the dead. He was both relieved and saddened as he looked back at Éomer who gave him a grim smile. “We need the water, Thomas, there is none to be had out here.”

“I know.”

“Lord Thomas, Ladreníl is ready to accompany you to the healers now,” Imrahil said and Thomas noticed the emphasis on the word accompany. As if he had a choice, he thought wryly.

“All right,” Thomas gave Éomer and Imrahil a wan smile as he walked off with the Swan Knight in tow.

Arriving at the healer’s area, Thomas looked around with sorrow, the sights and sounds once again overwhelming him. He realized he had forgotten to ask Éomer about Legolas, Gimli, or Pippin. Well, it was too late for that, he thought with an inward sigh.

“My lord, may I ask why you are waiting?” Ladreníl looked at him questioningly.

“I’m looking for Lord Elladan or Lord Elrohir,” Thomas whispered, his voice sounding raspy now, even when he whispered.

“The elf-lords?”

“Yes, they are rather tall and have long, dark hair.”

Ladreníl nodded and joined him in scanning the area. “There, my lord,” he pointed out one of the elves.

Thomas and Ladreníl made their way through the injured men lying on the ground. Weaving around when possible, stepping over when it was not. One of the healers approached to see if they needed help and Thomas let Ladreníl explain. Thomas watched the elf closely as he approached, but had no idea which twin it was. As if sensing eyes on him, the elf looked up and met Thomas’s gaze briefly before returning to his patient. He waited patiently for the elf-lord to finish and stand.

“Thomas, how do you fare?”

“Not well. Lord Elrohir?” he croaked and the elf nodded absently as his fingers were already gently running over Thomas’s throat as Thomas had unfastened the cloak immediately.

“An orc?” Elrohir asked.

“Yes,” he said, dropping back to a whisper. “And, I was unconscious for awhile, I have a headache, and I’m nauseous.” Thomas felt no need to hide these things from Elrohir, he trusted him as much as he trusted Aragorn.

Elrohir ran his hands through Thomas’s hair, stopping when the young man hissed in pain. The elf turned Thomas around and gently parted the hair on the back of his head and sighed softly. “I have seen worse on you,” he commented, “yet this will need stitches.” Thomas’s hand flew up to his head, but Elrohir gently pushed it away. “It is not too deep, Thomas.”

“I thought I was unconscious because of the orc cutting off my air, but this…” Thomas frowned.

“How long were you out?” Elrohir frowned in concern.

Thomas shrugged. “I don’t know, but it was quite awhile because when I woke up I was behind the lines of the enemy.”

Elrohir’s eyebrows went up. “Then it was a combination of both. I would venture to say that the orc thought you were dead and dropped you. You need Elladan’s care for your throat, though I can stitch your wound.” He looked around and suddenly let out a whistle that, to Thomas, sounded exactly like a bird. Elrohir turned back to Thomas and made him sit down. Ladreníl sat down nearby and Elrohir looked at him questioningly.

“Prince Imrahil sent me along to make sure Lord Thomas arrived safely, my lord.”

Elrohir nodded and began gently cleaning the wound, causing Thomas to flinch. Elladan arrived then and crouched down beside them, his sharp eyes focusing on Thomas’s throat. He turned to his brother and they spoke rapidly in elvish for several minutes. Finally, Elladan turned to Thomas, saying, “Remove your cloak and I will do what I can.” Once it was removed, Elladan gently ran his fingers all around Thomas’s neck and head, lingering in several places, as he sang softly. When he was finished, Elladan gave him a small smile. “It will still be sore for a few days, Thomas. There are many wounded,” he glanced around, his eyes filled with sorrow and weariness, “and I must give what I can to them as well. However, with what I have been able to do, you will have no lasting damage.”

“Thank you, Lord Elladan,” Thomas whispered, his voice a little less hoarse and he noticed his head had stopped hurting and he was no longer nauseous. Elladan patted his shoulder and moved off, while Elrohir finished stitching up the wound on his head.

------------

“I really need athelas,” Aragorn said, sitting back with a weary sigh and running his fingers through his hair. He looked between Frodo and Sam, whom he and Gandalf had finally gotten cleaned of all the dirt and ash and the wounds now stood out clearly on their small pale bodies.

“Would there be some in Ithilien?” Gandalf asked. “I can take Shadowfax and try to find some.”

“I will go,” Alvist offered.

“Shadowfax is faster,” Aragorn said. “There should be athelas in Ithilien, there was years ago,” he said thoughtfully. He looked at Gandalf, “Would Shadowfax suffer another to ride with you? I would send Alvist with you, two pairs of eyes are better than one and it grows late.”

“He will do it if I ask him,” Gandalf replied, rising and taking his cloak. “I will return as soon as I may.” He ducked out of the tent, followed closely by Alvist as Aragorn turned back to the hobbits.

Aragorn worked steadily on stitching Frodo’s wounds, helped frequently by Halbarad and Hinluin, who made sure there was always water available. He had been working for quite some time after Gandalf left when a disturbance at the entrance of the tent caught his attention. The voices were low at first and then became louder as one of the Citadel Guardsmen who was on sentry duty outside his tent became agitated.

“You can’t go in there. This is the King’s tent and he is not to be disturbed!” Aragorn couldn’t hear what the other person or other people said, but it did not sit well with the sentry. “I don’t believe that!”

“Halbarad, go and see what the problem is and send whoever it is away,” Aragorn said with irritation. “And tell the guard to keep his voice down.”

Halbarad nodded and went to the tent flap, pushing it open. When he did not say anything, Aragorn looked up to see what was wrong and saw him standing there with a grin on his face, beckoning someone into the tent. It startled Aragorn to see Thomas walk into the tent, though why it surprised him, he really did not know. Maybe because he had assumed Thomas was either too badly wounded to walk, or because he had died on the battlefield. “Thomas!” he exclaimed with surprise and joy. He rose to his feet and quickly crossed to him, embracing him firmly. “You are alive and unwounded.”

“Basically unwounded,” Thomas whispered as he returned Aragorn’s embrace. Aragorn pulled back and grabbed him by both shoulders, looking at him closely. “What happened? Where are you hurt?” he asked sharply.

Thomas grimaced slightly as he pulled open his cloak once again, “I’m really all right, Aragorn,” he whispered. “Elladan and Elrohir fixed my neck and stitched my head and I’m doing fine now.”

Aragorn’s eyes narrowed as he took in the bruising on Thomas’s neck. “Where are the stitches?” he asked. Thomas turned and showed him where Elrohir had cut out part of his hair and stitched up the wound. “Why is this not bandaged? It should have salve and a bandage on it,” he said softly as Thomas turned back around.

“They are running low on supplies and there are men who are hurt far, far worse than me,” Thomas replied.

Aragorn nodded and turned back to the hobbits. “Indeed there are,” he said with a voice laced with sorrow. “Come, sit and tell me what happened while I work on Frodo and Sam.”

“Oh, Frodo… Sam,” Thomas whispered as he got his first glimpse of the hobbits. “Will they live, Aragorn?”

“I-I do not know yet. Gandalf and Alvist have gone to find athelas and that will help, and I can take care of their physical wounds. But their spirits were so weary and withdrawn from me when I sent them to sleep and that is what frightens me the most.”

Thomas sat down at the head of the two hobbits and gently touched their heads as Aragorn returned to stitching their wounds. “Can I help you?”

“No, not right now. What I really need is Hinluin to return with some water, but it is hard to come by.” Aragorn glanced at Thomas as he saw him stiffen slightly. “What is the matter, Thomas?”

“Hinhael is dead, Aragorn, and…” Thomas took a deep breath. “And now I’ll have to tell Hinluin and give him his things.”

“What things?” Aragorn paused and looked sharply at Thomas and Halbarad walked over to see what Thomas had.

Thomas reached in his tunic and took out Hinhael’s ring and star brooch. “I wanted to bring his body, but the soldiers who found me said it wouldn’t be a good idea and they suggested I take these and that it was more than most people would ever have.” Thomas wiped his eyes. “He gave me a message for his wife and Hinluin.”

“You were with him when he died?” Halbarad asked, crouching down beside Thomas and putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Yes, but I couldn’t do anything for him except… except wipe his face off and hold his hand and then the eagles came and he died,” he stared at the ground.

Aragorn and Halbarad glanced at each other. “To not be alone when you die is a gift, Thomas,” Aragorn said softly. “Hinluin will, of course, be greatly grieved, but to hear his brother was not alone will comfort him, and to have these small tokens will as well.”

Thomas sighed and nodded, reaching into his tunic and pulling out the other star brooch. “I had seen Pendem fall earlier and-and since I had Hinhael’s, I thought maybe someone would like his, too.” Aragorn closed his eyes in pain at the loss of another of his Rangers.

“I will give it to his son,” Halbarad said quietly, taking it from Thomas. “Do you want me to tell Hinluin?”

“No,” Thomas shook his head, “I will do it when he returns.” Silenced descended on the tent as Aragorn resumed working on Frodo and Sam, and Thomas quietly watched him, lost in his own thoughts. “Aragorn,” he suddenly asked, “Where are Legolas and Gimli? And do you know anything about Pippin?”

Aragorn glanced briefly at Thomas before continuing to stitch Sam’s leg, “Legolas and Gimli are well and are searching for Pippin. They know the general area where he was fighting, but you know how difficult that can be,” he said grimly.

“Damn,” Thomas swore under his breath, even as he nodded at Aragorn’s comment. “Should I go and help them?”

“No, you need to rest. You were badly injured and even though I know Elladan did what he could for you; you are still in pain, are you not?” Aragorn looked at him intently and Thomas nodded. “I thought so.”

The tent flap opened and Hinluin walked in, carefully carrying a pot of hot water. His face lit up with a grin when he saw Thomas. “Thomas! You’re all right!” He set the water down near Aragorn and turned to Thomas. “I was worried about you.”

Thomas slowly stood, “I’m fine, Hinluin,” he croaked out in his raspy voice. At Hinluin’s frown, he showed him his throat. “Elladan healed it and I’ll be fine.” Thomas paused uncertainly, not knowing how to tell Hinluin about his brother. He took a deep breath, glancing at Aragorn before looking back at Hinluin and started in hesitantly. “Hinluin, I… when, after this happened,” he gestured to his throat, “I… um… found Hinhael.” Hinluin’s eyes darkened and his face paled. “He was still alive… and he told me to tell his wife that he loved her… and that… you’re a good Ranger,” Thomas paused briefly, “I-I brought you these.” He held out the ring and the brooch.

Hinluin took them automatically, without even looking at them, clutching them tightly as he stared blankly at Thomas. Finally, he gave an inarticulate cry and bolted out of the tent.

Thomas moved to follow him, but Halbarad put a restraining hand on his shoulder. “Leave him be for now, Thomas.”

“He will return when he is ready to talk with you,” Aragorn said, glancing up at him with an expression of deep sorrow on his face. “He is all alone now,” he added.

“He has no parents?”

“His father was killed by orcs when he was nineteen and his mother died about a year later. He’s been with his brother and the Rangers since.”

Thomas shook his head in dismay as he settled back down by the hobbits. Quiet fell over the tent once again as Aragorn and Halbarad continued working on Frodo and Sam. Thomas watched them absently, his eyes sliding closed as exhaustion caught up with him. He jerked awake with a start and he rubbed at his eyes. “Do you need me to get you water or do anything, Aragorn?”

“No, not yet.”

A stirring at the tent door had Aragorn muttering under his breath and the three of them looked up to see Legolas striding into the tent cradling an unconscious Pippin in his arms. The hobbit was covered in black blood and Aragorn had to look closely to see that he was even breathing. Springing to his feet, Aragorn crossed to Legolas. “What happened?” he asked, gesturing for Legolas to set Pippin down on the bedroll Halbarad was already shaking out.

“He killed a troll that was going after Beregond and the foul thing fell on him.” Aragorn, Halbarad, and Thomas stared at him in disbelief. Legolas nodded. “Gimli found him, his foot was all that was sticking out from underneath the troll. When we lifted it off, Pippin’s sword had pierced the troll’s heart. Beregond is injured as well, but will recover.”

“Where is Gimli?” Thomas whispered, his concerned eyes never leaving Pippin.

“He is coming, I ran ahead with Pippin. He has a broken wrist and broken ribs, Aragorn.”

If Aragorn heard, he gave no sign, so intent was he on his examination. He carefully felt all around Pippin’s neck and head, frowning at the sticky lump he felt on the back of the hobbit’s head. Checking each shoulder and arm, he found that the right wrist was broken in two places and that his right shoulder was dislocated. Aragorn closely examined Pippin’s legs, but found them to be sound, except for being as badly bruised as the rest of his body. Last, Aragorn moved to Pippin’s ribs and gingerly felt them. At least two were broken on each side of his body and those greatly concerned him. “Thomas,” he said, straightening up, “I need more water. Go and see what you can find and heat it for me.” Thomas nodded and left the tent. “Legolas, who removed his mail?”

“Gimli and I did. He was having trouble breathing and there was blood in his mouth and he seems to have swallowed some of it. We did not know what to do, so we took it off to relieve some of the pressure and it seemed to help. He threw up a lot of this black blood.” Legolas looked at Aragorn uncertainly, as if unsure that they had done the right thing. It was a state Aragorn had never seen the elf in before and he reached out and gently touched his shoulder.

“You did well, mellon-nín,” he murmured. Aragorn glanced at Halbarad, “Will you finish stitching up Sam?” Halbarad nodded and moved to the hobbit while Aragorn turned back to Legolas. “I need some kind of wood for splints for his wrist.” Legolas quickly left the tent and Aragorn took what cool water remained and began cleaning the black blood off of Pippin.

The sun had been set for several hours before Aragorn sat back with a weary sigh, running his eyes over Pippin’s badly bruised body. The wrist bones were set and splinted, shoulder pushed back in place and heavily bandaged, ribs were wrapped, his deep head wound cleaned and stitched. The hobbit had awoken briefly, but Aragorn had pushed him into a healing sleep. Looking around the tent, he saw that Thomas and Gimli were sound asleep, curled up next to Frodo and Sam, as if they were trying to protect them. Legolas and Gandalf were sitting nearby, talking quietly as they watched over the athelas that Aragorn had left steeping by the two hobbits. Taking up more of the fragrant leaves, Aragorn breathed on them before crushing them and placing them in a bowl. Pouring hot water on the leaves, he inhaled the steam himself for a moment, letting it refresh and strengthen him, before moving the bowl near Pippin’s face. He watched as the lines on the hobbit’s face eased and after a moment, Aragorn set the bowl down near the hobbit. He carefully got to his feet, stretching his tired back and sore muscles and after a glance at Legolas and Gandalf, he ducked out through the tent flap.

Aragorn looked around the camp and it appeared that most, if not all, of the wounded had been moved. The camp echoed with the sounds of the injured men and he cringed inside at their pain. Poking his head back inside the tent he spoke quietly. “I am going to go and help with the wounded men for a little while,” he informed Legolas and Gandalf.

“We will watch over the little ones,” Gandalf replied, looking at Aragorn intently. “Are you sure you should not be resting, Aragorn?”

Aragorn shook his head. “My people are hurting, Gandalf, and I can ease their pain.” He came back into the tent and took up the athelas leaves, leaving a handful behind for the hobbits and went back out of the tent. Aragorn looked sternly at the Citadel Guardsmen who had sentry duty at the door of his tent. “Do not let anyone in there unless he is one of my Rangers, or Prince Imrahil, Éomer King, Lord Elladan, Lord Elrohir, or one of the four who are in there now.” The guards nodded. Aragorn turned and strode off through the camp with Halbarad at his side, Laegrist and Alvist following close behind. As he moved among the injured men, he looked them over carefully, stopping at those who appeared to be the most severely injured and most in need of his attention. He sent Alvist off to get some hot water from one of the central fires and he labored through the night healing his men.

--------

Rebecca paced restlessly in her room as she waited for the Warden to come and remove her stitches. The thought of having them out made her both excited and extremely nervous. She was not at home where she knew it would be done with no pain, and neither Aragorn, nor his brothers were here to remove them. She knew they would do it well and with little or no pain. Rebecca sighed in frustration and fingered the cords on her sling. There had still been no word from Aragorn, though she knew it really was too soon. Little more than twenty-four hours had passed and it would be tonight at the earliest before they heard anything. She forced herself to sit down and pick up the latest book Faramir had given her and she absently flipped through the pages, though she did not read. There was a quiet knock on the door and Lothrín walked in, carefully carrying a steaming cup.

“Good afternoon, Lady Rebecca,” the aide greeted her.

“What’s that?” Rebecca asked, eyeing the cup suspiciously.

“This is to put you to sleep so the Warden can take the stitches out,” Lothrín answered, handing her the cup. Rebecca sniffed it and recognized it as something Lord Thalion had shown her. With a grimace and, a sense of relief that she would not be awake during the removal of the stitches, she quickly downed the herbal drink.

“Now, come and get out of your shirt and I’ll remove your bandage so you can lie down. That’ll take effect rather quickly.” Rebecca was soon lying on the bed and drifting off to sleep. She awoke several hours later to muted voices in the room and she lifted her head to look around. Lothrín was quickly at her side with Éowyn hovering behind her. Rebecca blinked sleepily up at them as Lothrín asked, “How do you feel, lady?”

Rebecca frowned thoughtfully and stretched her back and right shoulder and then smiled. “I feel wonderful. It doesn’t pull anymore.” She carefully sat up, marveling at the freedom of movement she felt, even though there was still a light bandage covering the wound. As she swung her legs over the edge of the bed, Rebecca became aware of the noise of rushing feet in the hallway. “Did something happen?” she asked, glancing from the door to Éowyn and Lothrín.

Éowyn nodded. “We received messages from Lord Aragorn and my brother a short time ago.” Rebecca’s eyes lit up and Éowyn laid a hand on her shoulder and shook her head. “There was no news about any particular people, Rebecca. I’m sorry. The messages just asked for healers and supplies to be sent to some place in Ithilien.”

Rebecca looked down at the floor and then something Éowyn had said struck her and she looked back up at her. “You heard from Éomer?” she asked. “He’s all right?”

Éowyn shrugged. “I think so, the message was sent to Marshal Elfhelm, so all I know is that he’s alive.”

Rebecca took Éowyn’s hand and squeezed it gently. “If he’s writing messages, I’m sure he’s fine.” Éowyn nodded. “So all the noise I hear is…?”

“They are packing up all the supplies we can spare and almost all of the healers and aides are leaving. Lord Faramir wants them on the way first thing in the morning,” Lothrín explained.

“Are you going?” Rebecca asked.

Lothrín shook her head. “No, Lord Faramir requested that I stay. Though, Alpheth,” she glanced at Éowyn, “will be leaving, Lady Éowyn.”

“It matters not. I can manage just fine on my own, my arm barely causes me any distress,” she replied dismissively.

“Still, Lady Éowyn, I shall attend on you, at my Lord Steward’s request.”

Rebecca bit back a smile at the look on Éowyn’s face. “I think I’d like to go out to the garden,” she announced, slowly standing from the bed. “Maybe Merry is out there.”

“Merry is almost always out there,” Éowyn commented with a worried frown.

“He is so worried for Pippin and with Frodo and Sam destroying the Ring and probably being… dead,” Rebecca whispered, shaking her head. “It’s so hard for him.”

“And for you,” Lothrín said, placing her hand on Rebecca’s arm and patting it gently. “You’re just as worried as Master Merry. The both of you go and find him,” she said, shooing them towards the door.

Nodding, Rebecca walked to the door, glancing at Éowyn in time to see her shoot an irritated glare at Lothrín. She bit her lip to keep herself from laughing. Walking down the hallway and steering clear of the people rushing around with supplies, Rebecca found herself asking Éowyn a question she had been wondering about for some time. “What will you do now that the war is over?”

Éowyn shrugged before looking at her closely and Rebecca felt like she was examining her as if she wasn’t sure whether or not she could trust her. Not that Rebecca particularly blamed her, they didn’t know each other that well, and mere circumstances had thrown them together. Yet, they did have a lot in common and she didn’t think it was that difficult or too personal of a question. Evidently finding what she was looking for, Éowyn slowly answered, “I’ll return to Edoras and eventually I’ll have to marry and have children.” Rebecca could not help but hear the despair and bitterness in her voice.

“Do you have to marry even if you don’t want to?”

Éowyn snorted. “I’m royalty and it’s expected that I shall,” she said, sighing. “Whether I love the man or not is not important.”

“I’m sorry,” Rebecca whispered as they walked into the garden. They paused, searching for Merry and spotted him sitting on a bench under a tree.

“And you, Rebecca, what will you do?”

“I-I’m not totally sure. I guess I’ll live here since Aragorn is going to be the King.” She focused her gaze on the ground, knowing the topic might bother Éowyn. “Other than that, I really don’t know.”

“Will you marry Thomas?” Éowyn asked bluntly.

Rebecca stopped and stared at her for a moment, before shaking her head and walking on. “I don’t even know if Thomas is alive,” she said quietly. “If he is… well, we’ve never actually talked about it. I think Aragorn would make us wait awhile if we did, I’m still pretty young.”

“How old are you?”

“Sixteen… almost seventeen.”

“That’s a little young, I guess, but it’s not unusual for a girl to get married at that age.”

Rebecca shrugged, wishing she could tell her more about who she was and that in her world it was young to get married at that age. Maybe when Aragorn returned she would be able to. “I know it’s not, Éowyn, but Aragorn has made comments that make me think we would have to wait before we could get married. Thomas is young too,” she pointed out. Éowyn just nodded as they reached the bench Merry was sitting on. “Hello, Merry,” Rebecca said, touching him on the shoulder as she passed behind him, circling the bench to sit next to him, with Éowyn following close behind.

“Rebecca, Éowyn,” Merry greeted them with a small nod and troubled eyes. “How do you feel, Rebecca?”

“I’m fine, my back, my side, and my stomach feel wonderful. I’m so glad to be rid of those stitches!”

“You’re fortunate you had Aragorn and his brothers taking care of you,” Éowyn commented. “Most people with that severe of an injury would either be dead or, at the very least, would still be in terrible agony. I saw your back today and you will have very little scarring.”

“I know. Elladan singing over me helped with the scarring, but I also know how lucky – how fortunate I am that they were all there to take care of me.” Rebecca glanced to the east. “I wonder how long it will take for them to come back.”

“I imagine it will be some time since they are asking for healers and supplies. They mean to take care of the wounded there. It’s too great a distance to transport them back here,” Éowyn replied.

Merry shook his head. “Maybe they could just send Pippin back. If he’s still alive,” he added darkly.

Rebecca took his hand and squeezed it gently. “You… we can’t just sit here and do nothing, but worry, Merry. Is there anything else we can do?” Merry shrugged, staring at his feet and Rebecca glanced at Éowyn who shook her head and gave a half shrug with her un-bandaged right shoulder. “Can we leave the Houses of Healing and go for a walk?”

Merry looked up hopefully at that and Éowyn said slowly, “I’m not sure that we can without the warden’s permission.”

“Why not?” Merry and Rebecca said at the same time, and they grinned at each other.

“Because we’re under his care, and you, Lady Rebecca, are the King’s ward and should not be wandering about without an escort, just as I cannot.”

Merry snorted. “I would be her escort, and yours.”

Éowyn looked at him thoughtfully and then smiled. “I believe that would work, except I don’t think that we’ll be able to ask the warden today. He’s busy overseeing the packing of the supplies and things for tomorrow.”

“Could we ask Faramir?” Rebecca asked hopefully.

“I believe he’s arranging for the wagons and horses to haul everything down to the ships that are being used to ferry everything up the river.”

Rebecca sat back with a frustrated sigh. “Well, maybe we can do it tomorrow.”

----------

Thomas nodded absently at the guard as he ducked into the King’s tent, where Pippin lay sleeping, so that he could bring Gimli some supper. The dwarf and Legolas were taking turns watching over the hobbit, while Thomas was running errands and doing various things for Aragorn. The last couple of days had been a nightmare as the army had moved from the Morannon to the Field of Cormallen in northern Ithilien. Thomas had ridden in one of the wagons with the three hobbits during the move. All of the hobbits had been tightly bundled in bedrolls and blankets against the jarring and lurching that was caused by the movement of the wagon. He had held Pippin, as Aragorn was especially concerned about his broken ribs not being banged around and possibly puncturing a lung.

Cormallen was a beautiful, peaceful place that was situated on the banks of the Anduin River near the island of Cair Andros. It was surrounded by beech and oak trees and Thomas once again appreciated the scents of the herbs that filled the air and the flowers that were starting to come to life as spring approached. Aragorn had had his tent set up slightly apart from the others near the edge of the tree line and had a smaller tent set up behind his, just within the trees for Frodo and Sam. He did not want them disturbed during their recovery.

There was an open area right in front of Aragorn’s tent and then there were the camps for his Rangers, and the first company of the Citadel Guard. They had taken over general sentry duty on the King at Prince Imrahil’s direction, though Aragorn would have none but his Rangers as personal guards. Downriver from the King’s camp were the tents and shelters for the wounded men and then the camps of Prince Imrahil and his Swan Knights, as well as the rest of the Gondorians. Upriver, Éomer camped with his Rohirrim.

Handing Gimli a plate of stew, Thomas whispered, “Has he moved or anything?”

“No, lad, he hasn’t.” Gimli shook his head, glancing down at Pippin’s still form.

Thomas crouched down and brushed a stray curl of Pippin’s hair off of his face. “But Aragorn called him awake this morning and he stirred then.” Thomas frowned. “Do you think this is normal?”

The dwarf shrugged. “I don’t know. But I trust Aragorn.” He returned to eating his stew.

“I am glad to hear that, Gimli,” Aragorn said with a small, weary smile as he entered the tent, followed closely by Halbarad and Hinluin. Gimli chuckled as Aragorn knelt down next to Pippin and began examining the hobbit.

Even as Thomas watched Aragorn with Pippin, he glanced at Hinluin from the corner of his eye. The young Ranger had still not spoken with him since he had told him about his brother and it saddened Thomas. He turned his attention fully back to Aragorn and Pippin as the hobbit began to stir, much to Thomas’s relief.

“Pippin,” Aragorn called softly, stroking the hobbit’s hair and Pippin’s eyelids began to flutter open.

“Strider?” he asked weakly.

“Yes, Pippin, I am here.”

“It hurts, Strider.”

“I know, Pippin, I am sorry,” Aragorn said softly.

“Is-is Merry here?”

“No, not yet,” Aragorn cast a meaningful glance at Thomas, who nodded once.

“Oh. Is-is everyone else all right?” he whispered, squirming on the cot.

“Yes, Pippin, everyone is fine,” Aragorn said soothingly, taking his hand to try and still the hobbit’s movement, not wanting him to further injure his ribs or shoulder. He hesitated for a moment. “In fact, Frodo and Sam are here, too.”

Pippin’s eyes, which had been sliding closed, shot open and he clenched Aragorn’s hand tightly. “They’re alive?” he whispered

“Yes.”

“Can-can I see them?”

“They are resting, Pippin.” Aragorn continued rubbing his hand in a soothing manner.

“All right, Strider,” he murmured, his eyes shutting as he drifted back to sleep.

With a final gentle squeeze of the hobbit’s hand, Aragorn rose gracefully to his feet and moved to the farthest corner of the large tent away from Pippin, motioning Thomas, Gimli, and Halbarad to join him. “We must send for Merry,” he said quietly. “Indeed, I should have sent a message already telling him and Rebecca that we are all alive,” he said, frowning.

“You’ve been busy,” Halbarad pointed out.

“I am aware of that, Cousin, yet it would have only taken a moment and would have relieved what I imagine has been a considerable amount of worry for them.” Aragorn ran his fingers through his hair. “In any case, we can do it now. Thomas, will you write a letter to Faramir from me, asking that Merry be sent here with the next shipment of supplies? I will, of course, sign it. You may write a letter to Merry and Rebecca telling them how we fare. Do not give them too many details about the hobbits, but do let them know they have been injured and are recovering. There is parchment and ink on my table.” Aragorn gestured outside the tent where a table had been set up so that all the space inside the tent could be used for those sleeping here – Aragorn, Thomas, Elladan, Elrohir, Gandalf, and now, Pippin. Though Elladan, Elrohir, and Aragorn had not slept since they had arrived and Thomas had only seen Gandalf a few times when he had brought food to the wizard where he sat keeping watch over Frodo and Sam.

“Aragorn, can Rebecca come with Merry?” Thomas asked in his raspy voice, his mouth curved into a hopeful smile.

Aragorn glanced at Hinluin. “Hinluin, will you wait outside. In fact, go and rest now.” The Ranger hesitated briefly and then nodded. Aragorn watched him go with eyes full of compassion and then turned back to Thomas. “It is not appropriate for Rebecca to be here, Thomas,” he said quietly, his stern, tired eyes never leaving the young man’s.

Thomas blinked rapidly. “Not appropriate?” he asked incredulously. “How can it not be appropriate Aragorn? She traveled with us for months.” He looked at Aragorn in disbelief.

“She did so out of necessity, but there is no longer that need. To be in this camp full of men…” Aragorn shook his head and rubbed his hand over his blood-shot eyes. “Where would she sleep? Certainly not in here.”

“There are women healers and aides coming, aren’t there?” Gimli spoke up.

Aragorn glanced down at the dwarf and nodded.

“She wouldn’t be the only woman here then. Couldn’t she stay with one of them? She’s a healer too,” he added.

“I had forgotten about the women healers,” Aragorn murmured, biting back a smile at Gimli’s obvious affection for Rebecca, though the dwarf would never say it directly. Aragorn turned back to Thomas with a thoughtful look. “As there will be other women here, then it would be all right for her to come. However, there are two conditions. First, she was badly injured and while I believe the stitches should have been removed by now, that is not necessarily true. So, unless the warden releases her from his care, she may not come. Include that in your letter to Faramir.” Thomas nodded. “Second, if she comes, you have to remember what we talked about before regarding a woman’s honor.” Thomas nodded again, though with a slight frown. “You will have a lot of free time now, unlike when we were traveling. I will also speak with Prince Imrahil to see if he thinks that you two need to have a chaperone.”

“A chaperone?” Thomas asked with dismay.

“I am sorry, Thomas, but as my wards, people will be watching you closely, even as they watch me.”

“Things you do will reflect on Aragorn, Thomas,” Halbarad said.

“I understand that, Halbarad,” Thomas snapped, before taking a deep breath and rubbing his throat. “I’m sorry, Halbarad, it’s just so different from my world.”

Aragorn put his hand on Thomas’s shoulder and gazed directly into Thomas’s eyes. “I know it is different, Thomas, and there are going to be many adjustments for you in the next few weeks as we settle into living in Minas Tirith. Some of which you will enjoy and some you will find difficult. This is one that is going to be difficult for you, I know that. Even so, I believe that this is one adjustment that will eventually be worth it for you. At least I think she will be, do you not agree?” He gave Thomas a sly smile and there was a faint twinkle in his tired eyes.

Thomas sighed and then grinned, “Yes, my Lord King, I do believe she is.”

“Then, Lord Thomas go and write the letters,” Aragorn said, pushing him towards the entrance of the tent. Aragorn waited until Thomas had been gone for a few moments before turning to Halbarad and Gimli. “I worry that he and Rebecca will not be able to adapt to living in Minas Tirith. Especially, I think, as my wards. It truly will be so different for them,” he said with a furrowed brow.

Halbarad snorted. “Like it won’t be different for you?”

“I am eighty-eight years old, Cousin. I was raised in an elven home as the son of the lord and with servants and I also spent many years in Minas Tirith in and around the royal court and I have an appreciation and an understanding of what it will be like. I know I will feel fenced in by the stones of the city and the lack of freedom, but it is something that I have known about for years and will deal with it because I must. They have never had to deal with servants or with members of a court and they have no idea what it will be like to suddenly be looked at differently and to be expected to act a certain way, to dress a certain way, to have guards following…”

“Guards?” Halbarad asked.

“Yes, when we return to the city, I will assign them both guards.”

“Why?” Gimli asked.

“Because, Gimli,” Aragorn said with a sigh, “it comes along with being part of my household, people might hurt them to get to me. I have to have guards,” he looked pointedly at Halbarad, “but so do Faramir, Imrahil, and Éomer. I especially do not want Rebecca wandering around Minas Tirith unaccompanied.”

“She wouldn’t have to do that!” Gimli protested, “Legolas or I or… someone would take her where she wanted to go.”

“And just how long do you plan on staying in Minas Tirith, Master Dwarf?” Aragorn asked, looking down at the dwarf with his arms crossed.

Gimli looked down at his feet. “That’s a good question, Aragorn. I’ll be going home soon after we get back, I guess.”

“Not too soon, I hope,” Aragorn said with a small smile. “There are some things I would like you to be a part of with me. Well,” he sighed wearily, “I just hope that Rebecca and Thomas will be able to adjust quickly.”

“They will. Look at how they have adjusted to being here in Middle-earth and all that has happened to them,” Gimli said with a reassuring smile.

“You’ll help them, Aragorn,” Halbarad commented, “they’ll be fine.”

“I hope so,” Aragorn murmured with a thoughtful look in his eye as he headed back outside to continue tending the hundreds of wounded men.

---------

They found Faramir sitting at a table in the dining hall with a small stack of parchments in front of him and a furrowed brow as he studied the parchment he held. Rebecca and Merry exchanged a quick glance as they crossed the large hall and stood in front of his table and waited for him to look up. “Lady Rebecca, Merry,” Faramir said with a smile as he set what he was reading aside and looked at them. “Sit down.”

Rebecca shook her head. “No, thank you. Faramir, Merry and I have a favor to ask you.” Faramir raised an eyebrow in question. “We were wondering if you might be willing to show us around Minas Tirith.” Faramir looked between the two of them with a puzzled expression and started to say something when Merry spoke up.

“We know you’re probably busy, but the garden is becoming so small and all we do is sit and worry. We thought it would be good to leave the Houses for awhile.”

“The warden said we could leave for a few hours,” Rebecca said, looking at him somewhat anxiously, knowing that if he wouldn’t take them, they wouldn’t be wouldn’t be able to leave.

Faramir nodded. “I am not so busy that I cannot leave for a few hours. It will keep until my return,” he said, smiling.

“Do you know where Éowyn is?” Merry asked. “We spoke of this yesterday and she may want to come along.”

Faramir’s eyes darkened slightly. “I believe she would rather be alone just now,” he said, grabbing his cloak. Rebecca and Merry exchanged looks at that cryptic comment, but did not respond. “Have either of you seen the Citadel?” They shook their heads. “Of course not,” he said with a wry smile. “Neither of you have been anywhere in this city except here.” Faramir looked closely at Rebecca. “It will be a good place for you to see since you will be living there shortly.”

Rebecca smiled. “I would love to see it then. Is it far away?” she asked as they walked out the door.

Faramir shook his head. “No, it is just the next level up. The seventh level of the city is called the Citadel,” he explained as they started down the street. They walked past what appeared to be homes, though most looked as if they were currently unoccupied. From what Rebecca could see as she looked over walls or through gates, the homes appeared to be made of white stones or brick and the roofs were made of grey slate or tiles. She wondered who lived on this level of the city as most of the homes were quite large. She was going to ask Faramir when he commented, “This is the house where Mithrandir and Pippin stayed when they were in the city.”

Just on the other side of the house was a sloping, curved ramp that led into a tunnel with two guards standing on either side of it. Rebecca had never seen anyone dressed quite like them before. They wore a black uniform with silver trim and a picture of a silver tree across their chest. The silver helms they wore were what made them look so strange though. They had both a cheek guard and a nose guard so you could barely see the guard’s eyes and only a little bit of their chin and mouth. The helm also had wings that swooped up and back and the overall affect of the guards was intimidating, which Rebecca supposed was a good thing. She glanced at Merry and saw that he was also looking at the guards. When she caught his eye, he smiled as he leaned over and whispered, “Pippin has a uniform just like that. He’s a member of the Citadel Guard now.” Rebecca blinked and looked back at the guards, trying to imagine Pippin wearing a uniform like the ones the guards were wearing. Her imagination didn’t stretch quite that far.

Faramir nodded at the guards and the three of them proceeded up the ramp. As they reached the top, Rebecca and Merry both stopped at the sight before them. Directly in front of them was an extensive and beautiful fountain with water flowing over and through rocks in intricate patterns and making a soft, burbling, pleasant sound in the late morning sunshine. Immediately to the left of the fountain was a large, ugly, whitish colored dead tree. Four more guards surrounded the fountain area and as Rebecca looked around, she saw that there were guards stationed at the top of the ramp and all around the outside of the Citadel at small towers spaced evenly along the wall. Behind the fountain was a very tall white tower that reminded Rebecca of pictures she had seen of a certain skyscraper in New York. To the right of the tower was a long, black building that had three or four steps leading up to what appeared to be massive gold doors. Behind the tower she could see another building.

“Shall we go on?” Faramir inquired with just a hint of amusement in his voice.

Rebecca nodded and Faramir led the way to the fountain. “This is the Court of the Fountain and that is the White Tree.” Rebecca could hear the underlying note of sadness in his voice.

“Um, Faramir, that tree is dead,” Merry pointed out.

“Yes, I know. It has been so for over one hundred and fifty years.”

“Why is it being guarded?” Merry gave the Steward a puzzled look.

“Because it came from Númenor and is a symbol of the Kings of Gondor.”

“Númenor,” Rebecca mused quietly. “Aragorn told me a little about that.”

Faramir glanced at the guards and took her elbow and gently drew her out of earshot. “It is probably best if you do not display your lack of knowledge in front of the guards, Lady Rebecca,” he said quietly. “At least until I know what Lord Aragorn intends to tell others about you.”

“In Rohan we told them we were from Rivendell because we wore elvish clothing and our weapons were elvish and no one ever asked us any questions.”

Faramir snorted. “They would not because they do not have a great deal of knowledge about places outside of Rohan. But in Minas Tirith the people are more learned.”

“I have a lot to learn.” Rebecca sighed. “Aragorn did say one of the first things he would do was get me a teacher. I was always asking him questions, like about Númenor.” Merry chuckled softly. “So, what does the tree have to do with Númenor?”

“It is a descendent of the eldest of trees and it was a gift to one of the Kings of Númenor by the elves of Valinor. When Númenor was destroyed, Elendil, one of Lord Aragorn’s ancestors, brought a fruit with him and planted it. It has remained a symbol of the royalty of Gondor since that time, though sometimes the White Tree was in Minas Ithil or in Osgiliath before those cities were destroyed by the enemy. Unfortunately, it does not often bear fruit and when the tree died it was left in place because no one has had the heart to remove it.”

“How sad,” Merry remarked, glancing back over his shoulder. Rebecca looked back as well and as she did so, she noticed a guard was keeping pace with them. He wore a uniform that was slightly different than that of the Citadel Guards. It was black and white and had a much simpler helm.

“Faramir, why is there a guard following us?”

Faramir stopped and glanced back, shrugging. “I always have a guard attend me when I am in the city. Have you not noticed him around the garden?”

Rebecca furrowed her brow in thought. “Yes, now that you mention it, I guess I have seen him. I thought he was one of the patients.”

“Since I was old enough to go around the city on my own, I have had a guard with me, Lady Rebecca. Normally, it is one of the Citadel Guards, but most of those have gone with the Army so one of the city guardsmen has been assigned to me, so that we may have enough men to protect the Citadel. I imagine that most of the Citadel Guards are now protecting our King.” Faramir paused and gave her a thoughtful look.

“Why do you need a guard?” Merry asked with a look of confusion.

“There are always those who would seek to hurt those in positions of power, Merry. Those who are upset by something they think should have been done a different way.” Faramir gave a small shrug. “It is not something I spend a lot of time thinking on, it is just something I have known all my life. However, now that this has come up, I am going to assign a guard to Lady Rebecca.”

Rebecca looked up at him, stunned and started to shake her head. “Yes, Lady Rebecca,” Faramir’s voice suddenly became quite stern. “As Steward of Gondor and because of the charge the King gave me, your welfare and protection is my responsibility. It is something I should have thought of before. Lord Aragorn may assign other guards to you when he returns, but for now, I will assign two guards to you.”

“Two?” Rebecca cried, looking at him in horror. “Why two? I can sort of understand why I have to have a guard,” she almost spat out the word, “but why do I have to have two?”

Faramir looked at her with compassion in his grey eyes, “I will assign two guards, Lady Rebecca so that one will be with you at all times. One will be with you and the other will be off duty.”

“Oh,” Rebecca sighed with relief. “A guard,” she muttered. “Does he have to go with me everywhere?”

“Yes,” Faramir nodded. “He will also stand guard outside your door at night and will trail you as my guard is doing now.” He gestured to the guard behind them. “Evidently it was not like this in your world,” he said quietly.

“No, definitely not. Rich people and the president have guards. They’re like kings,” she explained at Faramir’s and Merry’s looks of confusion.

“Then it is the same,” Merry pointed out.

“No… well, yes, I guess it is,” Rebecca said, frowning. “But it had nothing to do with me. I’m just a girl from a middle class family in a small city and I’m not used to it. It’s so strange,” she muttered.

“You need to get used to the idea of being the ward of the King, Rebecca,” Merry said gently, taking her hand.

“I suppose I must,” she sighed and then smiled. “I’m sure there are some really good things about being King Aragorn’s ward.”

Merry laughed and even Faramir smiled. “Yes, Lady Rebecca, I believe you will discover that there truly are some wonderful things about being a lady of royalty. Now, shall we continue?” At Rebecca and Merry’s nod, Faramir walked on. “Now,” he said, gesturing to the building they were approaching, “this is Merethrond, or the Hall of Feasts. All of the special celebrations and feasts are held here.”

The building was made of black marble, which made a stark contrast to the white Citadel all around it. Rebecca guessed it was three or four stories in height and maybe the length of a football field. Faramir led them up the three steps that ran the length of the building and past pillars that led to tall golden doors that servants, who had suddenly appeared, opened for them. Walking into an enormous room, Rebecca looked around with wide eyes, never expecting to see a place like this in Middle-earth. There were pillars around the outside edges of the room and glancing up she saw that they supported a high domed ceiling. Hanging down from the ceiling were crystal chandeliers that held tall white candles. The walls and ceiling were an off white color and there were alcoves spaced evenly around the room that contained sconces for candles or torches. The alcoves and pillars were decorated with intricate designs and the designs were covered with what looked like, at least to Rebecca, real gold. She somehow doubted that they had some type of fake gold here. At one end of the room, was a raised dais with a long table, while the rest of the tables in the hall were round and held anywhere from eight to sixteen people. Most of these tables covered the room, except for an area that was obviously set aside for dancing and an aisle that led up to the dais. The floor of the hall was black marble and the aisle had a carpet, which was a deep, rich green in color.

“This is beautiful, Faramir,” Rebecca said as she looked around, shaking her head.

“You seem surprised.”

Rebecca quickly looked up at him. “I guess I am, a little bit. I haven’t seen anything even remotely like this since I’ve been in Middle-earth and, except for the fact that there are candles instead of light bulbs, this room could easily be something I would see in my world.” She shook her head again.

“Light bulbs?” Faramir asked.

“It’s how they produce light in their houses, instead of candles,” Merry explained, glancing at Rebecca.

“So you did listen.” She smiled at the hobbit.

“Of course I did.”

Faramir shook his head. “I have so many questions for you, Lady Rebecca, and yet we still have so little time with all the things I must do before the King returns. Perhaps after he is crowned I may have time to speak with you and Thomas.”

“When will he be crowned?”

Faramir shrugged. “I know not. It will depend on how long they need to stay in Ithilien with the wounded. It will happen before he enters the city. There are certain ceremonies that must take place, certain things that I must do. There will be a feast held here in his honor.”

Rebecca glanced down at the elvish tunic, leggings, and cloak she was wearing with a slight frown and then at the room around her, wondering what she would do for clothes. Maybe she could ask Lothrín for help.

“I will see if there is a tailor left in the city, someone who would make you a gown in time for the coronation and the feast,” Faramir said with a gentle voice and Rebecca looked up to see understanding in his eyes.

“Thank you, Faramir. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to show up wearing this,” she said with a wan smile.

He nodded before turning and leading them out of the hall. Turning to the right and back behind the tower he led them to another large building, this one was white. It was almost twice as long as Merethrond with windows on each of its two stories. “This is the King’s House,” Faramir said as he stopped in front of what appeared to be a main entrance. Like Merethrond there were pillars and three steps leading up to the doors. Guards were standing on both sides of the two tall, black doors and also at a set of doors further down the building. “This is where you will live, Lady Rebecca.”

Rebecca glanced quickly up at him. “Why are there guards?”

“There are always guards at the King’s House.”

“At an empty building?” Merry asked with surprise, while Rebecca just stared at the building in shock.

“It is not empty, my fa… I live here,” Faramir said in a strangled, sorrowful voice.

Rebecca and Merry glanced at each other and Rebecca was unsure of what to say. “Did Boromir live here too? Or had he moved someplace else?” she finally asked in a low voice.

“Yes, when he was in the city. We were both born here,” he replied, glancing down at her and Merry with an expression that was now shuttered and unreadable.

“Why is it called the King’s House if the Steward lives there?” Merry asked.

Faramir shrugged. “It has always been called that. Besides the royal apartments for the King, there is a part set aside for the Steward, as well as chambers for guests. Then there are dining rooms and other areas for entertaining. Shall we go in?”

Rebecca slowly shook her head. “No, I think I’d rather wait and go with Aragorn.” She wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to go in there with Faramir right now, it seemed to be bringing up sad memories for him.

“All right.” Faramir nodded and led them to a door at the back of the Tower. “This is the Tower of Ecthelion,” he said as a Citadel Guard opened the door for them. “In the Tower Hall is where the King and, most recently, the Stewards hold court. We are coming through the back way,” he explained as he led them along a corridor and past a series of small rooms. “These are used for small meetings or to hold a prisoner or whatever may be needed. The council chamber is here as are offices for the King and the Steward. There are larger, more public rooms right off the hall itself.” Faramir opened a door for Rebecca and Merry and ushered them into the back of the hall behind the dais.

Above her, Rebecca could see the back of a tall white chair while the dais itself was black. Faramir led them around the side of the throne and Rebecca looked curiously around the large throne room. It was gently curved and had pillars that went up to a high domed ceiling. In contrast to Merethrond, the colors here were a stark black and white. The floor was tiled in black and white square stones and the walls were white while the pillars were black. She was starting to see a pattern in the color choices they used in Minas Tirith, Rebecca thought with amusement. Turning, she looked at the dais to see that the King’s throne was quite high; she counted seven steps up to where the ornate looking chair was located. At the bottom of the dais, and slightly to the right of the steps, sat a simple black chair and Rebecca wondered what it was for. “Faramir,” she asked hesitantly, since his expression had become closed since they had left the King’s House, “what is this chair for?” she asked, pointing at the black chair.

“That is the Steward’s chair… my chair, at least for now,” his expression remained unreadable.

“Why do you say that?” Rebecca asked, confused.

“Because we have a King now, I do not know what my Lord King intends to have me do here.”

“Oh,” Rebecca glanced at Merry who shrugged slightly.

“Come along,” Faramir said, “there is one more place I would show you before we must return to the Houses of Healing.” He turned and led them swiftly down the throne room and out the front door of the Tower. Rebecca noted that there were guards both inside and outside of these doors as well. The doors led directly back out into the courtyard and to the Court of the Fountain. Faramir strode past it and Rebecca and Merry were hard pressed to keep up with him. He led them towards the ramp, but went past it on the left. Faramir’s pace was reminding Rebecca of Aragorn when he was upset or bothered by something, but she couldn’t keep up with him and she stopped, out of breath. Merry took a step or two and then came back to her.

“Are you all right, Rebecca?” he asked, worriedly.

“I’m just not used to going quite so fast right now, Merry,” she replied, clutching her right side and grimacing slightly. “I shouldn’t have asked him about Boromir.” She took a deep breath.

“It was more likely thinking about his father.”

Rebecca nodded and straightened up. “He’s coming back,” she said softly.

Faramir looked at her with concern in his eyes. “Lady Rebecca, forgive me,” Faramir said with an apologetic tone. “I should not have gone so quickly, my mind was on other things.”

She gave him a small smile. “I could tell. I’m all right; I’m just not used to going that fast yet, Faramir. But I’m ready now.”

Giving her a searching look, Faramir nodded and they slowly walked on. “This is what we call the keel,” he explained as they walked out on an increasingly narrow part of the courtyard. “It has a sweeping view of the Pelennor and Osgiliath, and you can also see into Anórien and Ithilien, and up the Anduin River.” He pointed out the various places as he named them. They went out to the furthest point where a seat was located and Faramir insisted Rebecca sit down. From here she could see north as well as to the south and east as she had been able to see from the gardens in the Houses of Healing. They had been there for some time when a sweaty, dirt-covered city guardsman approached, carrying a bag.

“My Lord Steward,” he said as he bowed deeply, “I bring messages from King Elessar.” He handed the bag to Faramir. Rebecca’s eyes lit up and she cast a hopeful glance at Merry, but he was watching Faramir.

“Thank you,” Faramir said, nodding in dismissal. He held the bag gingerly with his left hand and opened it carefully, pulling out several sealed pieces of parchment. As he flipped through them he paused and looked at Rebecca with a smile, “This one is for you,” he said, handing her one of the letters.

Rebecca took it eagerly and looked closely at the handwriting, but she didn’t recognize it. Turning it over she stopped at the white wax seal with the strange markings, but then she quickly slid her fingers under the wax and gently opened the letter. She heard Merry ask Faramir ask if there was a letter for him and his negative response and she quickly glanced at the hobbit to see his eyes tear up. “Maybe this is for both of us, Merry,” she said quietly, patting the seat beside her. The hobbit came and sat beside her with a dejected look on his face. Rebecca quickly looked at the bottom of the letter to see who had signed it and took a deep breath when she saw Thomas’s signature. “It’s from Thomas,” she breathed out softly, brushing a sudden tear away with the back of her hand. She went back to the top and started to read, “It is for both of us,” she said looking at Merry with a smile and he leaned over to see it. “I’ll read it aloud.

Dear Rebecca and Merry,

You know by now the battle is over and we won.
Aragorn and I realized today that we did not tell you
that we are all doing well. Legolas, Gimli, and me
are fine and are helping with the wounded. Pippin
was wounded, but Aragorn is taking good care of
him and he should be all right. The best news is
that Frodo and Sam were rescued by the giant
eagles and are recovering. Aragorn has them
in a deep healing sleep right now, but they look
better today than the day of the battle. Oh, Gandalf
is also here and doing well. I hope I can see
both of you soon. And, Rebecca, know that I
miss you terribly and love you very much.

Thomas.”

Dropping the hand that held the letter into her lap, Rebecca turned to Merry to find him quietly weeping. She scooted over closer to him and put her arm around his shoulder and stared out in into the distance for a moment before her tears started falling as well.

---

Looking down at the restlessly moving young city guardsman, Aragorn sighed softly, his shadowed eyes full of sorrow. The wound in the guardsman’s leg had been poisoned and a healer had not reached him in time to counteract it. The actual injury was minor and now it was too late, the poison had spread throughout his body. There had just been too many wounded that first day and Aragorn had already seen several men in the same condition today. He put a cup of herbal tea to the man’s lips and slowly and carefully helped the man drink it, hoping it would take the man’s pain away and send him to sleep. Hopefully, the guardsman would pass beyond the circles of the world without waking. It was all Aragorn could do for him. He stood with a weary sigh, stretching his aching back and running his fingers through his hair.

“It grows late, Aragorn,” Halbarad said.

“I am aware of that,” he said, a little harsher than he intended and he glanced at his cousin, softening his words with a half smile. “There are still many that need my skill, Halbarad.”

Halbarad stepped closer and dropped his voice, “You need to rest. You have not slept in more than two days. The other healers that are tending the wounded have been taking breaks to sleep. You’re giving too much of yourself and – and you may make mistakes,” he finished weakly.

Aragorn gave him a considering look and then raised an eyebrow in question. “May make a mistake? Is that your best argument, Cousin?” he smiled briefly as Halbarad stared at the ground. Aragorn grabbed Halbarad’s shoulder. “However, it is a valid argument and I believe it would be best if l take your suggestion. Besides, I think you need sleep as well.” He glanced around for the closest healer and after speaking with him briefly, strode off towards his small encampment. Before returning to his own tent, however, Aragorn went to the small tent where Frodo and Sam were recovering. Ducking in through the tent flap he glanced at the hobbits before turning his attention to Legolas and Gandalf who were currently watching over Frodo and Sam.

“You are exhausted, mellon nín,” Legolas observed, his blue eyes gazing steadily at Aragorn.

Aragorn nodded once and then knelt by the hobbits. “Yes, I am,” he said in a quiet, weary voice. “As soon as I have checked on Frodo and Sam, I am going to go and rest for a few hours.”

“Take more than a few hours,” Gandalf said. “A messenger came here looking for you. It appears that the boats with the first of the healers and supplies are only a few miles downstream.”

Sighing with relief, Aragorn sat back on his heels and looked at Gandalf with a wan smile. “Good, those men need whatever help and comfort we can give them. I would return as many of them to their families as is possible.” He shook his head. “To win this war and then for so many to be without husbands, fathers, and sons will be a bitter blow and I would soften it if I can.”

“I know, Aragorn,” Gandalf replied, his voice full of compassion. “Now, see to the hobbits and seek your own rest.” Chuckling briefly, Aragorn did as he was told.

---

“It is not up to me, Lady Rebecca,” Faramir said for the third time as they entered the door to the Houses of Healing. “My Lord King made it quite clear in his message,” he held the parchment up, “that the decision is up to the Warden. I have no say in whether or not you accompany Merry to Cormallen.”

Rebecca nodded. “I know what it says, but-but…” she had run out of useful arguments and she just nodded once again. “When will you talk to him?” she asked quietly.

“Right now. The next supply wagons are leaving tomorrow and if you two are going, then there is much that needs to be done this afternoon.” Faramir looked her and Merry over. “Both of you need clothes,” he observed with a small frown. “I don’t know why you haven’t been given anything else to wear.”

“Ioreth tried to, Faramir, but I didn’t want to wear anything different.” Rebecca looked down at her elven made clothes. “These are special to me and…,” she shrugged.

“I doubt if you have anything to fit me,” Merry said with a small laugh.

“We will find something,” Faramir promised as he led them to the Warden’s office. He knocked and at the Warden’s call of ‘enter’ the three of them went in.

“My Lord Steward,” the Warden said, rising from his desk and bowing. “How may I be of service? Is there something wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong, I received a message from King Elessar and he has asked that these two,” Faramir gestured to Merry and Rebecca, “join him at Cormallen.” The Warden looked from Faramir to his two patients with an eyebrow raised in question. “But, he only wants them to come if you feel they are well enough and will release them from your care. I believe he was especially concerned about Lady Rebecca.” Rebecca glared at him and then turned pleading eyes on the Warden.

“Master Merry is certainly well enough to go,” the Warden said immediately before turning his thoughtful gaze on Rebecca. “But Lady Rebecca…”

“Please, my lord, I feel fine with the stitches out and it’s just this broken arm now. I walked for weeks through the wilderness with a broken wrist with Aragorn and the others didn’t I, Merry?” Rebecca turned to the hobbit, who nodded. The Warden looked at her with startled eyes before glancing at Faramir. Rebecca followed his gaze to see Faramir nod once.

“Well, then, I suppose that going to Cormallen will be much easier,” the Warden said slowly. “Will you promise that you will be careful and not rush about and will take what rest you need?”

“Yes, and if you knew Aragorn very well,” Rebecca laughed quietly, “you wouldn’t worry about that. He won’t let me hurt myself.” Merry laughed along with her.

“I am relieved to hear that. Go along with you, then,” the Warden said in dismissal and Rebecca and Merry left the room, followed a few minutes later by Faramir.

He looked down at them for a few moments and then smiled. “I am pleased for you sake, Lady Rebecca. It will be good for both of you to be with your friends again. As I said, we have much to do this afternoon to get you ready to leave. I have a message to deliver to Lady Éowyn and then will need to speak with some people. Go and have lunch and I will come and find you.” Merry and Rebecca nodded and hurried off to the dining room.

The afternoon passed in a blur of activity. Faramir did find a tailor and he came and took measurements of Rebecca and promised to have gowns ready in time for the coronation, whenever that might be. The hard part was choosing styles, since she had never seen the kinds they wore in Minas Tirith; she was only familiar with what she had worn in Lothlórien. Finally, she ended up picking two very simple gowns, one a sky blue color and the other a deep maroon. To take with her to Cormallen, Lothrín loaned her two dresses of her daughter’s, who was about her size and she also found her another pair of leggings and a shirt. From somewhere they found Merry a short pair of pants and a shirt, probably from a young boy. It had also been decided that Lothrín would accompany her.

Rebecca was packing all her clothes into her pack and was looking at her bow and sword with a thoughtful expression, when there was a knock on her door. “Come in,” she called, looking over to see Faramir walking in with two men dressed in the uniform of the Citadel Guard, though both carried their helms. She suppressed a sigh.

“Lady Rebecca,” Faramir bowed slightly and Rebecca nodded. “These are the men that I am assigning to be your personal guards. They will be accompanying you to Cormallen tomorrow, but I wanted you to meet them today.” Rebecca nodded again. “This is Maldathor,” the taller of the two men stepped forward.

“Lady Rebecca,” he said, bowing deeply. “It’s an honor to serve my Lord King Elessar in this way.” He was young, with dark brown hair and deep brown eyes.

“Thank you, Maldathor. I hope I won’t be too much trouble for you.” She smiled and he smiled in return, stepping back next to the other man.

Faramir beckoned the other man forward. He was quite a bit older, with sorrow filled bluish green eyes and black hair, streaked with grey. “This is Gílorn, Lady Rebecca.”

“Lady Rebecca.” The man bowed deeply, but said nothing else before stepping back. Rebecca nodded at him.

“Maldathor will be on duty the rest of the day,” Faramir said, as he dismissed the men. He waited until the door was closed before he continued his grey eyes serious and his voice stern. “I know you have never had guards before so I want to tell you a few things. While they are there to accompany you where and when you want to go somewhere, you need to give heed to their warnings. If they tell you that there is danger, then follow them without question. They are only there to protect you and would willingly lay down their lives for you.”

“Like Halbarad,” Rebecca murmured.

Faramir looked at her sharply, “Did Lord Aragorn put you in his care?” She nodded and he gave her a puzzled, thoughtful look. “And, yet you…” his voice trailed off and he shook his head. “It matters not. Just remember that the guards are not there to inconvenience you, even if seems like it at times.”

“It will be strange, but I’ll get used to it.” She sighed, giving him a half smile.

“After a time, you will not even realize they are there. Are you ready to go?”

“Yes,” Rebecca replied, sitting on the edge of the bed. “Did Éowyn decide to come with us?”

“No, she is going to stay here.” Faramir’s eyes took on a hopeful look before his face became impassive. “I shall take my leave of you, Lady Rebecca and will see you in the morning.” Rebecca watched him go, a small smile on her lips.

------------

Merry and Rebecca sat talking quietly on the bow of the ship as it slowly made its way up the Anduin. It was late in the afternoon and both of their eyes constantly scanned the shore for any sight of the approaching encampment. They knew they had to be drawing close from what they could overhear from the sailors. “There it is,” Merry whispered, straightening up and clutching Rebecca’s arm. Rebecca stood to her feet, grabbing onto one of the railings and saw, in the distance, tents on a field and ships docked on the river. She bit her lip nervously, willing the ship to go faster.

As their ship pulled up to the dock, Rebecca and Merry were waiting at the gangway to disembark. Rebecca carried nothing in her hands, but wore her sword strapped to her side. After careful consideration she had left her bow with Faramir as she could not use it with her broken arm. Maldathor had insisted on carrying her pack, saying that as he was not on duty he would carry it for her, though when he was on duty, he would not be able to. Both her guards and Lothrín waited behind them. “There’s Legolas,” Rebecca said with a small catch in her voice as she spotted the tall elf. “But I don’t see anyone else.”

“They didn’t know for sure that we were coming,” Merry said in a soothing voice, his eyes never leaving the shore.

As soon as the gangway was in place, the two of them rushed down it and towards Legolas. “Legolas!” they both cried in greeting, slowing to a walk as they approached.

“Lady Rebecca, Merry,” he smiled down at them.

“It’s so good to see you, Legolas,” Rebecca whispered as she carefully embraced him.

Legolas kissed her brow tenderly and then pulled back and looked her over with his piercing blue eyes. “I am glad to see you as well. You look much better than the last time I saw you.” He laughed lightly, embracing her once again before releasing her and turning to Merry. He crouched down and looked the hobbit in the eye. “You look well, Master Hobbit!” he said, patting Merry’s shoulder. “Come, there are others who would like to see you, and I am sure that you would like to see them.” Legolas glanced down at Rebecca with a soft smile as they walked towards the encampment.

“How is Pippin?” Merry asked. “And, Frodo and Sam? All the message said was that they had been injured.” His voice shook slightly and his eyes were full of concern.

“I shall let Aragorn explain all of the details to you, Merry,” Legolas said. “I believe they are doing well, but I am not a healer.” He glanced down at the hobbit with an unreadable expression.

“Where is everyone?” Rebecca asked. “I-I thought they would be here.”

“We did not know you were coming today. I thought I would come and check in case you did, but no one knew for sure. I believe that Thomas is sleeping. Aragorn may be meeting with Imrahil and Éomer, Gandalf is watching over Frodo and Sam, so I suppose that means Gimli is with Pippin.” Legolas shrugged gracefully. “It has been a difficult time here for all of us, especially for the mortals.” His voice suddenly lowered, “Lady Rebecca, who are the three people following us? Do the guardsmen bear messages for Aragorn?”

Rebecca sighed deeply. “Lothrín is an aide from the Houses of Healing that is sort of an escort for me, I guess.” Legolas nodded. “The men are guards that Faramir assigned to protect me.” Legolas’s eyebrows rose and he blinked.

“We can protect you,” he stated fiercely.

“I know you can, but he felt that as Aragorn had left him in charge of my safety, he needed to do this. He has guards and since I’m Aragorn’s ward.” Rebecca shrugged helplessly. “I didn’t have a choice, Legolas.”

Legolas shook his head and glanced back at the men. “Aragorn does have guards around his tent now, so I suppose this is normal. It is strange though.” Rebecca nodded.

------

Thomas felt someone prodding his foot and he kicked back at them. “Go away,” he mumbled. The prodding continued and he thought he heard muffled laughter as he rolled over and tried to go back to sleep.

“Wake up,” said a gruff voice, “there’s someone here to see you.”

Thomas sighed, knowing that Gimli was not going to leave him alone. “Can’t he wait until later?”

“I think not, mellon nín, she has traveled far to see you,” Legolas said teasingly.

It took Thomas a moment to process what Legolas had said and then his eyes shot open and he sat up, rubbing his eyes and looking around. His gaze fell on Rebecca, standing near the door of the tent with a small grin on her face and a tender look in her eye. “Rebecca,” he whispered, throwing back his blanket and scrambling to his feet. He crossed the tent and embraced her carefully, mindful of her recent injuries. Pulling back slightly, he gazed into her eyes, absently brushing the hair from her face and pushing it behind her ears and then he kissed her, long and deeply, heedless of whom was watching.

~~~

Elvish Translations:

Mellon nín – my friend


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