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Physician, heal thyself - The Bible, Luke 4:23
With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra
Physician, heal thyself - The Bible, Luke 4:23
With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra
“How may I be of service, my lord? “ Master Aedred enquired.
“It took you a long time to come!” Aragorn said grumpily.
“I was in the midst of amputating the leg of an unfortunate man who was injured when some masonry fell on him,” Aedred replied. ”Master Tarostar would have attended you, but as you specified you wished to see me rather than any available healer, I assumed the matter could not be too urgent. What ails you, my lord?”
“I am covered in itching lumps that drive me to distraction, and I have had a fever since yesterday,” Aragorn replied testily.
“Why did you not send for me yesterday then?” Aedred asked.
“Because my husband knows more about healing than any other man in Gondor, and failed to take my advice!” Arwen said sweetly.
“You are a brave man indeed, or a rash one!” said Aedred. ”I should not dare fail to follow my good lady’s wishes!” He took Aragorn’s pulse as he spoke, then felt his forehead and frowned. “I shall need to examine you thoroughly, my lord,” he said. ”If you would just unlace your nightshirt?”
The King glared at him, then gestured to a spot on his neck. “There is no need,” he said curtly.” The swellings are all like this.”
“I need to see how many there are, as well as checking your lungs are sound,” Aedred said firmly. ”Now if you please, my lord? You have nought to fear. I am a most experienced healer.”
“As am I! “ Aragorn retorted.
Arwen moved to the bedside and started to unlace her husband’s nightshirt. ”I can do that!” he protested.
“I thought it would be easier as your hands are so moist from your fever,” she replied calmly.
“I would be alone with Master Aedred!” Aragorn snapped.
Shrugging slightly and exchanging a faint smile with the healer, Arwen gestured to Faramir. Together they left the room.
Aragorn miserably and reluctantly pulled down his nightshirt, revealing the unsightly patches that disfigured his body. Secretly, he feared that this was some permanent disfigurement. Though he always disrobed in his dressing room, he hated to think of his mortal body being made even more imperfect in comparison to his beautiful, flawless wife.
“I am certain there are more now than there were but an hour ago!” Aragorn exclaimed in alarm.
“Hmm,” was Aedred’s only reply as he began to examine Aragorn’s skin.
“Argh, your hands are freezing!” Aragorn exclaimed. “Can you not warm them before touching me?”
“Usually that is only necessary with a child, or the very frail,” the healer replied placidly, pressing his ear to the King’s chest.
“Your beard is making me itch worse!” Aragorn grumbled. “ Can you not simply tell me what is wrong with me?”
“My examination will not take long if you remain quiet and still, my lord, as you well know,” said Aedred pointedly. “I assume you have spots all over your body?”
“Yes, but. I forbid you to see the others! They all look just like these.” Aragorn clutched the sheet determinedly around his waist.
”Rest easy, my lord, that will not be necessary. Hmm…”
“What do you mean, hmm?” Aragorn demanded, a hint of alarm creeping into his voice.
“I would have thought a healer of your experience would know that you had the chickenpox. You obviously have caught it from your son. I heard the young Prince suffered from it recently.”
“I cannot have such a childish ailment!” Aragorn protested. ”I am a warrior, not an infant!”
“Well, you do indeed have it,” said Aedred. “I am certain you know it can be serious in older folk, but since you are as strong as a horse and show no signs of lung fever, you have nothing to worry about. Obviously, you never had it as a child. You can replace your nightshirt now.”
“I was raised amongst Elves from the age of two,” Aragorn told him, swiftly and thankfully pulling his nightshirt back over his upper body. “When I did meet children, Elrond always ensured they were healthy. I have tended the children of my people suffering from various childhood maladies, though.”
“If they lived in airy dwellings, and you were only there a short time, you no doubt managed to avoid them. You have had much to endure recently, which weakens the body’s defences. Then you are a loving father, too. I assume you spent long hours tending your son?”
Aragorn nodded. ”Now you have told me what ails me, what can you do to cure me?” he demanded.
“Treat yourself as you treated you son. There is absolutely nothing I, nor even a healer such as yourself, can do about chickenpox, as I thought you well knew! I will call your lady back so she can hear my advice.” He went to the door and called to Arwen.
“I thought, maybe, since I last dwelled in Gondor that some manner of easing the itching might have been discovered,” said Aragorn, again writhing as if under attack from an army of fleas. ”My remedies and healing worked on my son, but they seem useless on me!”
“You hands confer special powers, my love,” said Arwen joining them at the bedside, and taking her husband’s hand. “Yet what can be done to ease my husband, Master Aedred?”
“Tepid baths and willow bark tea will reduce the fever and headaches, plenty of rest and fluids will help him too, my lady. You, my lord, can apply whatever salve you find most soothing to the sores, and above all do not scratch them! Oatmeal baths might benefit you and soothe the itching. I assure you, my lady, your husband will be fully healed in two or three weeks or so. Until then, he must be kept resting and in isolation, unless visitors have had chickenpox already. It cannot be caught twice.”
“Two or three weeks!” Aragorn protested. "I am the King, I cannot rest for two weeks!”
“Many people need three,” said the healer. “I would imagine, since the blood of Númenor runs true in your veins, that you should be better in two. You also have the good fortune in having others to care for you. Many adult victims have no one.”
“Have you no potion or salve to cure me?” Aragorn pleaded.
“I can offer nothing that you do not already have, my lord,” Aedred replied. “There is little, I fear, I can do to help, sire. Now if you will permit me, I will take my leave. I will return later to see how you fare.”
“Is there any point, since you say you can do nothing?” Aragorn said tartly.
Aedred merely gave a polite bow and left the room.
Exhausted from the encounter, Aragorn slumped back against his pillows despondently.
Arwen plumped up the pillows and smiled. ”Well, that is good news, my love!” she said.
“Good news! How can it be good news that I have chickenpox!”
“Master Aedred said you would be well again within a week or two; such tidings gladden my heart that nothing more serious ails you,” Arwen replied. “Why do you look so dismayed, Estel? You have suffered from far worse than this; hurts that have placed your life in peril.”
“They were the wounds of a warrior sustained in battle. That I should be laid low by such an undignified ailment! The shame of it! None save those closest to me must ever hear that their King was felled by a childish malady!”
“There is so shame in it,” Arwen said mildly. “The people thought no less of Eldarion; so why would they think it a disgrace for you to suffer the same malady?”
“It is not a warrior’s condition!” Aragorn said crossly.
“Very well, I will have it known abroad that you simply have a slight fever,” said Arwen, tucking the covers around her husband more snugly. “Faramir, you can return now!” she called to the Steward who was still in the next room. “I need to go to Eldarion, so I will leave him to sit with you.”
“Must you leave, vanimelda?” Aragorn pleaded.
“Our son has need of me too,” Arwen replied firmly.
Faramir hurried back into the chamber. “Does Master Aedred know what ails you?” he asked anxiously, his features tense and drawn.
“He has caught chickenpox from Eldarion,” said Arwen on her way out of the doorway.
“Praise the Valar it is nothing worse!” Faramir’s features relaxed.
A sudden thought struck Aragorn. “Have you suffered from it, mellon nîn?” he enquired.” I would not have you become ill! I would be lonely too, if I were forced to send you from my side.”
“I had it when I was a small child,” said Faramir. “I caught it from Boromir. I remember it mainly affected my feet, but poor Boromir said it made him itch in his most intimate regions.”
Aragorn’s flush was barely noticeable under the cover of his fever and the increasingly all-pervading rash.
“We did not mind having it too much, though,” the Steward continued. ”It meant we were excused lessons for three weeks to avoid infecting our tutors, which was most enjoyable. Once we were well enough, we were able to play outside in mother’s secluded garden where we were usually forbidden.”
“I cannot spend weeks playing in the garden!” Aragorn replied testily.
“You work too hard; once you feel better, you will enjoy the rest, “ Faramir said cheerfully. “I had better fetch some paperwork to deal with while I sit with you, as I have the country to run while you are indisposed.”
“I want someone to keep me company and talk to me,” Aragorn said mournfully.
“I will just ask my secretary to bring me the papers on my desk. I will still be able to talk to you while I work. Maybe you can help me with the trade negotiations I am working on”
“My head aches,” said the King without enthusiasm.
“My work can wait until later then.” Faramir wetted a cloth in the basin of water by the bedside and gently placed it on Aragorn’s brow. ”There, is that more comfortable?”
“A little,” Aragorn conceded. “I will rest now. Perhaps you would read to me?”
“What would you like me to read?” Faramir enquired. He went over to the shelf of books the King kept in his bedchamber and perused the titles. “The Lay of Lúthien?”
“I know that by heart.”
“The Tragedy of the Children of Húrin”
“That is too sad a story!”
“Tales of the Great Battles, then?”
“The thought of all that clashing steel would make my headache worse!”
“The History of the Stewards of Gondor?” Faramir was becoming desperate.
“Now that would send me to sleep,” Aragorn said dryly.
“It sounds perfect then!” Faramir picked up the book and began to read, hoping that Aragorn would soon fall into a doze. Instead, the King gave a running commentary on the deeds of the Steward’s forefathers. According to Aragorn, Mardil should never have allowed Eärnur to go and challenge the Witch-king; Cirion should not have ceded territory to Rohan permanently, while Pelendur should have awarded the crown to Arvedui; in which case Aragorn would have been able to wed Arwen in his twentieth year.
“You would never have met me at all, were that the case! You would have been in Gondor or Annuminas while I dwelled in Imladris.” said the Queen, coming back into the room unnoticed by both men. “That is your fever talking!” She placed a cool hand on his brow. “It is time you drank some more willow bark tea. I will mix it for you, and sit with you for a while. I am sure Faramir has duties to attend to.”
“I have indeed, my lady,” said Faramir, grateful for the respite. His diplomatic skills were being stretched to their limits.
“Return soon, “ said Aragorn fretfully. “I might have need of you!”
“I will, you have my word.” Faramir made good his escape before the King could command him to stay. He was hungry; his throat felt like parchment, and his own head was beginning to ache.
Much to the relief of both Queen and Steward, Aragorn slept for most of the remainder of the day, waking only to take water and tea made of medicinal herbs.
Now that Aragorn was able to get out of bed unaided, Faramir was able to retire to his own rooms for the night, but overwork and concern for the King made his sleep fitful and much troubled by dreams.