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Farewell,my son, I'm dying....

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story.

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra.

Farewell, my son, I am dying....

This day you’ll reign here in my place – Mussorgsky – Boris Godunov

A/N you can here the music and see this scene from the opera on my LJ http://lindahoyland.livejournal.com/ which should enhance your experience of this chapter.



~~~

“Arwen, vanimelda,” Aragorn said after a few moments silence. “I should like to see our son while I can still embrace him.”

The Queen summoned a servant to fetch the little boy.

“I would see Eldarion one last time, before the poison advances so far that my condition will frighten him. If only he were older! I hope that Faramir will be able to give him the same loving paternal care that your father gave to me.”

Arwen looked as if she were about to burst into tears, when a knock on the door heralded the arrival of Eldarion and his nurse. The Queen bade the woman wait outside. The three-year-old boy ran joyfully into his father’s room and scrambled up on the bed.

“Ada!” he cried “Will you and naneth play with me?”

“Not today, I fear,” said Aragorn. ”I want to tell you a story.”

“I like stories!” Eldarion snuggled against his father’s broad chest, blissfully oblivious of the bandages concealed beneath Aragorn’s robe.

“Once upon a time a little boy lived with his ada and naneth,” Aragorn began. ”His ada wanted to stay with his son until he grew to be a man, but he could not, as the wicked Orcs killed him. The little boy was sad, but he still had his naneth who loved him very much. He found a new father to love and care for him.”

“I know that story!” Eldarion interrupted. ”That was you, Ada, when you were a little boy!”

“It was indeed, ion nîn. Now I might have to go away like my ada in the story, even though I love you so much. You must not be afraid, for you will have your naneth and Uncle Faramir to look after you.”

“I don’t want you to go away, Ada!” Eldarion protested, his lower lip trembling.

“I would never leave you willingly, dearest child of my heart,” Aragorn said solemnly. ”Yet it seems that I must depart. I want you to be very brave, take care of your naneth, and work hard at your lessons when you are old enough, so that you will be a good king. Will you promise me that?”

Eldarion stared at his father, his grey eyes wide and solemn. ”Yes, Ada, I promise, but I don’t want you to go!”

“Neither do I wish it, ion nîn,” Aragorn whispered, holding the child close and kissing him tenderly. ”Go now with your nurse.”

Aragorn’s eyes never left the child as Arwen took him to where his nanny waited outside the door. His heart was breaking. How could he leave his beloved little boy, the apple of his eye? He wanted so much to protect his son and watch over him as he grew into manhood. Now Eldarion was doomed to grow up as he had: without a father. Even the kindest, best of foster-fathers, such as Elrond had been to him and Faramir would be to Eldarion, could not completely fill the gap, or answer all the questions that Eldarion would have. And Arwen; what would befall her, alone in a land filled mostly with Men, far from her remaining kindred? Would she die from sorrow? Then would the Thought Bond he shared with his Steward cause Faramir to fade when it was sundered by his untimely death? Arwen had her brothers, but until his daughter came of age, Faramir had no one else, with whom he could share part of his soul in these latter days, when so few Men possessed the mental abilities of Númenor and the Elves.

Arwen came back into the room, dabbing at her eyes. ”We have had so little time together after waiting so long!” she cried. ”I wanted to bear you many more children.”

“I wanted nothing more than to grow old with you, vanimelda,” Aragorn replied. ”I did not take you from the life of the Eldar and the bliss of the West to leave you so soon. Forgive me!” Arwen reached out to take his hand, but he could not feel her fingers clasped around his own.

Another hour passed, each minute seeming both an eternity and too short. Aragorn drank more tea, this time with his wife needing to hold the cup for him. His feet were starting to tingle too. The poison was spreading. He wished Faramir would hurry. He could only hope that the messenger would have found him at home. “Please, would you sing to me?” he begged his wife. “I should like to hear ‘The Lay of Lúthien’ one last time.

Arwen started to sing the familiar melody, but her usually clear tones were choked with emotion.

There was a sudden knock at the door.

“Who is it?” Aragorn asked.

“It is I, Faramir,” The Steward entered, his noble features creased with anxiety.

Thinking the two men might wish for a few moments alone, Arwen excused herself saying she wished to go to see how Eldarion was faring.

“My friend, you have come!” Aragorn cried. His eyes briefly lit up.

“I met your messenger on the road,” said the Steward. ”I had a feeling something was terribly wrong and had already set out towards the River. The messenger rode on to inform Éowyn, and will then travel to where Legolas dwells. They tell me you were attacked, mellon nîn, with a poisoned dagger!”

“Alas, it is true,” said Aragorn, rising to sit up against the pillows. “I am dying. Today you will reign here in my stead as Karma-kundo, Crown-lieutenant of Gondor until Eldarion comes of age I beg you to care for him, as a father would, and to protect my wife!”

Faramir paled and sat down heavily on the side of the bed. ”No!” he protested. ”This cannot be! You cannot leave us! Gondor needs you, I need you!”

“I hoped that as a true son of Númenor, I could choose the hour of my passing,” said Aragorn quietly. ”Alas, that is not to be and I am struck down in my prime. Gladly would I stay with you, mellon nîn, but I am not granted that choice.”

Aragorn summoned his strength and took Faramir’s hand in his own, though he could barely feel his own fingers. “Please swear to me that you will care for Arwen and Eldarion so I might rest easy. You must be strong and not allow yourself to fade from your grief, for there is no one else who can be so close a shield to my son. My foster-brothers have their own realms, and could not take this office, though they will help you in raising him. The same is true for my kindred in the North. Protect my son from harm, Faramir; and teach him to be a good man and a good king!

“Your lady and Eldarion are as my own kindred!” said Faramir. ”You have my word I will protect them with my life while I yet draw breath! Surely, though, there must be some remedy for this poison?”

“The healers can find none,” Aragorn replied sadly. ”And neither the poison nor an antidote is mentioned in Master Elrond’s books. Already my limbs grow numb. I would beg your assistance to change into my nightshirt and to visit the bathing chamber, for I can no longer walk unaided.”

Faramir did as he was bidden in silence. The Steward seemed lost in thought. “Tell me more of the woman who stabbed you,” he said at last, as he almost carried the King back to bed.

“I would guess she came from Harad,” Aragorn replied. ”She claimed I killed her husband. I can only think it was in the recent border skirmish.”

“Southron poisons are designed to torture, not to kill,” recalled Faramir, a sudden light gleaming in his grey eyes. “Two of my Rangers were captured by a small force of Haradrim during the War. We re-grouped and tracked them, then attacked the camp and found our men. They had been poisoned, and told that they would be given an antidote in return for the location of our refuges. Fortunately, the Southron interrogator survived our assault, and provided the healing potion in return for his own life; and our men lived”.

“The Healers would know of the antidote if this poison were of that kind,” Aragorn said doubtfully.

“The Haradrim developed new poisons constantly during the War,” said Faramir. “I am going to see the ambassador and see if he can tell me about this new one.”

“I should like to think there is yet hope,” said Aragorn. “But surely, there would be some record in the Houses of Healing if this poison had an antidote? This is one problem you cannot solve, son of my heart. Please stay with me for what little time I have left! I would die with those I love best at my side.”

Faramir stood by the bed looking at the anguished features of the man he had come to love as a father, the man who had saved his life. In the short time since he had arrived, Aragorn had grown visibly weaker. It tore Faramir’s heart asunder to leave him thus. “I will return,” he said simply. “You have my word.” Before his resolve could falter, or Aragorn could further plead with him to stay, Faramir bent and kissed his lord on the brow, then hastened from the room.

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