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A Time to Reap
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Like Wheat that springs up Green

These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

Chapter Sixteen – Like Wheat that springs up Green

When our hearts are saddened, grieving or in pain,
By Your touch You call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springs up green. John. M.C. Crum.

Comfort those who suffer,
watching late in pain;
those who plan some evil
from their sin restrain. - Sabine Baring-Gould

With grateful thanks to Raksha for all her help with this chapter.


Aragorn knew not for how long he sat there, cradling Faramir’s lifeless body and weeping. Memories overwhelmed him. He recalled his first meeting with Faramir, when his Steward had opened his eyes and looked upon him, his gaze so full of love and trust, and hailed him as King, He recalled breaking down Faramir’s fear and reserve, and the many good times that had resulted, replete with convivial companionship. Memories of the darker times assailed him as well: how he had fought to save Faramir’s life, how the Steward had more than repaid the debt. Faramir had always trusted him. Yet Aragorn had shamefully doubted and betrayed that trust.

Whatever would Arwen say when she heard the dreadful tidings? He ached to feel her loving touch, and her comforting presence beside him. He realised now that she had suggested this pilgrimage so that he and Faramir might be reconciled. Instead, their journey had led to the Steward’s death. He could hardly bear to look upon the limp body; the keen eyes now closed forever, and the blue tinged lips, which had so recently laughed. Faramir had been the most loyal and loving friend that any man could ever desire. He had been truly blessed to know such a man.

Roheryn neighed impatiently and jolted Aragorn out of his anguished reverie. Realising he could not remain here indefinitely, he moved Faramir into an easier position for lifting, turning him sideways.

It was then that Aragorn noticed the small red mark between Faramir’s shoulder blades. Surely he would have observed the blemish had it been there earlier? It stood out lividly against the Steward’s pallid skin. The mark looked like some sort of insect bite, though it was too large to have been inflicted by one of the countless midges that plagued the riverbank. Somehow, it seemed oddly familiar. Aragorn tried to gather his thoughts as he struggled to recall where he had seen such an abrasion in the past.

Then Aragorn remembered: He had seen a similar mark most recently on Frodo's neck, the terrible legacy of Ungoliant's spawn! And when he guested in Thranduil's halls, after delivering Gollum into the Silvan lord's custody, he had seen other such marks on the bodies of Mirkwood Elves. Could it be that Faramir had suffered a spider bite rather that failure of the heart?

New hope flared within him. Carefully, he laid Faramir flat on the ground and bent over him, pressing his ear against his friend’s chest and waiting. After what seemed an eternity, but could not have been longer than one, or at the most two minutes, he was rewarded with a faint heartbeat.

Faramir was not dead! Perhaps Shelob's young still lingered and had migrated from the sunless caves of Cirith Ungol, to strike at Faramir and paralyse him. Again, Aragorn waited, this time counting .He found that Faramir’s heart was beating once about every hundred seconds. He knew that the slowed heart rate was an effect of this kind of spider bite, which sent the victim into a deathlike trance for several hours.

Weeping again, this time for joy mingled with relief, Aragorn gathered up Faramir’s discarded items of clothing. Then he carried his Steward to the top of the incline, and there laid him on a patch of scythed grass, where there was no cover for any evil creatures to lurk. He debated what he should do next and decided the best thing would be to take his friend and find a safe campsite where they could await Faramir's recovery. He put on his own tunic, and then with some difficulty eased Faramir's shirt and tunic over his head. Next, he pulled the socks and boots onto Faramir's lower legs under the breeches that his friend already wore, checking first to assure that no spiders, however small, hid in the footwear. He could spare no hands to carry loose garments. The tunic and shirt hung loosely from the thin body. The task accomplished, he whistled to Roheryn to come to him.

“Easy, now, I am taking you to where we will be safer until you wake up,” he told Faramir, wondering why he was talking to an unconscious man who probably could not hear him, much less answer.

Although a dead weight, Faramir was alarmingly light for a tall man. Aragorn soon had him across his stallion’s back, where he mounted behind him and held him tightly around the waist with one arm. He wished he had some idea of what kind of a spider it might be; for the effects of the creatures’ bites varied greatly once the paralysis wore off.

For now, Aragorn decided, he just needed to get away in case the spider or more like it were in the vicinity. He had to avoid being attacked himself at all costs, as who would care for Faramir if he were also laid low? Once his friend had recovered, there would be time enough to wipe the vile monster off the face of Arda.

With Zachus following obediently behind, he rode: clutching Faramir in his arms until they were well away from the riverbank. Eventually they reached the edge of a forest, which opened out into ripening fields of corn.

Aragorn laid Faramir carefully down on a hastily unpacked bedroll. After assuring himself that his friend still lived, Aragorn quickly made a fire for warmth and protection from further predators.

Once the fire was blazing, he placed Faramir in what he hoped was a comfortable position. Aragorn settled down beside him to keep vigil. He constantly reassured the stricken man; rubbing his back and chafing his hands, all the while talking or singing softly to him in Elvish.

Strangely, it seemed to Aragorn that it was of the utmost importance to assure Faramir that the venom would eventually wear off. It was almost as it as if he had experienced the same thing himself. Yet he had not tended spider bite victims other than Frodo, only seen them in the healing rooms at King Thranduil’s palace. They were Elves too, with superior strength, stamina and recuperative powers.

The King still feared for his friend's life. Faramir was still frail from his recent ordeals, while his heart had been so badly damaged less than a year before, that any wound could place a terrible strain upon it. If only he had cared for his friend as he should and not been blinded by his pride and sense of betrayal! He knew of many effective treatments for the Steward’s ills and had wilfully denied them to him. Aragorn wondered sadly if he had ever truly appreciated Faramir as he ought.

This was the man to whom he owed his throne, his beloved wife and son, even his very life. Faramir had never asked for anything, but had offered his love and loyalty without condition. Now he was reaping a bitter harvest. Aragorn now sat still; telling the younger man over and over just how much Faramir was loved and valued by his King.

The hours passed until the sun started to sink lower on the western horizon. Still Faramir lay there, devoid of any sign of life. Aragorn pulled his friend’s tunic and shirt aside to reassure himself that Faramir’s heart was still beating.

To his dismay, the Steward’s chest was now black and blue as a result of Aragorn's misguided attempts to revive him. Anxiously, Aragorn felt the ribs for any damage, fearing he may have inadvertently cracked or broken them. Mercifully, they were intact, though Faramir would have some very painful bruises, when and if he regained consciousness. Why was this poor man doomed to suffer so? He could still detect where Faramir's ribs had mended only the year before. Aragorn pressed his ear again to Faramir’s chest. He nearly wept with relief when he heard a faint heartbeat, now detectable about every ninety seconds. Rummaging in his pack, he selected a pot of comfrey and arnica salve and rubbed a liberal amount on the bruises, hoping they would ease the worse of the discomfort before his friend came round.

How foolish of one of the most highly trained healers on Middle- earth to have mistaken a spider bite for failure of the heart! Aragorn had only added to poor Faramir’s woes by his futile attempts to revive him. It was just as well his Steward had such a generous nature. He knew though, once Éowyn found out, he would get the scolding he richly deserved for leaving her husband black and blue.

As he worked, he told Faramir exactly what he was doing. Their situation seemed so very familiar to him and he wondered why. Then a sudden flash of insight struck him. He knew all too well what Faramir was feeling! Faramir had confessed to drugging him to rescue him from Dervorin's cellar, but had never revealed exactly what substance he had used, and seemed reluctant to discuss it. Since their reconciliation, Aragorn had not pressed the matter, sensing it was painful for the Steward to even speak of the terrible events.

The hours of immobility had been amongst the most terrifying of Aragorn’s life. He had been dragged along in a sack, unable to move or speak, and certain, during his brief flashes of awareness, that he would soon be buried alive. He realised now that Faramir must have used spider venom and feared to tell him. He was suddenly glad that he had experienced its effects; it would make him better able to help his friend.

“Easy, now, you will wake up in a few hours and then I will take you home to Éowyn,” Aragorn told the totally unresponsive Faramir. He settled beside him again and continued to talk to him. He also chafed his hands and feet and gently massaged his friend’s chest to improve the blood flow. The hours passed, and still he kept a lonely vigil at Faramir’s side. Gradually, Aragorn discerned a stronger and more frequent heartbeat while some slight colour returned to Faramir’s ashen features.

The sun vanished beneath the horizon. As Eärendil’s star rose overhead, Faramir’s heartbeat quickened. Aragorn dared hope the worse was over.

The night brought a chill to the air. Aragorn wrapped Faramir in both their blankets and folded his cloak under the Steward’s head as a pillow. Faramir appeared to sleep naturally now; his chest rose and fell beneath the blankets while his skin had almost regained its normal hue. Only his failure to awaken when Aragorn called his name, betrayed that he was still unconscious.

Companioned only by an insensible man for company in the near silence of the open countryside, Aragorn’s eyelids grew heavy. He struggled to keep awake, trying to concentrate on the sounds that broke the stillness: an owl hooting, the rustle of the breeze through the enshrouding forest and a stream running over a rocky bed. He felt so weary. The shock of Faramir's apparent death combined with the day’s exertions had taken their toll on his own, still weakened body.


The King awoke with a start. For a moment he lay back, feeling confused. The fire had burned low, but the moon brightly illuminated the forest clearing. Cursing himself for his weakness in falling asleep, Aragorn’s first thought was to see how Faramir fared. But the Steward had vanished, leaving his blankets scattered where he had been lying.

All drowsiness forgotten, Aragorn leapt to his feet in alarm. From what little he knew of spider bites, they left their victims disorientated and even dazed. Faramir would be in no fit state to wander around alone.

To his dismay, he swiftly espied several of Faramir’s garments strewn around the clearing; a boot, a sock, and more ominously, his breeches, formed a trail leading into the field. Trampled grain clearly showed in which direction Faramir had wandered.

Pausing only to snatch up a blanket, Aragorn leapt on to Roheryn’s back and urged the stallion into the cornfield at full gallop. Intent only on following the trail of the trampled ears of wheat and scattered clothing, he failed to notice how much more of the crop he was destroying. All that mattered was to find his Steward before Faramir came to further harm.

He could now see Faramir in the middle of the field. He stood stark naked, frantically scratching and rubbing his skin against the ears of ripened corn. Aragorn urged Roheryn foreword. Faramir would be ashamed if he remembered what had happened. Aragorn had to take Faramir back to their campsite and get him dressed before anyone saw him in this sorry state.

To his dismay, Aragorn suddenly heard shouting and saw torches approaching from the distance. He galloped towards his Steward, urging Roheryn to run like the wind. Faramir must have seen him approaching but paid him no heed. As soon as the great horse neared Faramir, Aragorn brought Roheryn to a halt and leapt from his back, the blanket in his hand. He raced towards Faramir and threw the blanket around the confused man's shoulders.

The Steward turned a bewildered and terrified gaze towards him. “They are crawling all over me!” he cried, trying to break free from Aragorn’s restraining grasp.

“You can tell me later, “Aragorn said firmly. “First you must cover yourself and come back to the fire with me.”

“My shame must no longer be hidden!” Faramir exclaimed. “I cannot wash away my guilt! They are in my tainted blood! They crawl over me to make me reveal my deeds!” He tried to pull off the blanket, but Aragorn was too quick for him and secured it from behind, pinioning his arms by his sides.

Faramir thrashed wildly, kicking and struggling. Suddenly he stopped, stood still, and announced, ”I feel sick!”

He had just begun to violently retch when a group of several men and women arrived on the scene. Some carried lanterns, while others were armed with tools of the harvest. They seemed to all be sturdy yeomen, with worn, suspicious faces. In truth, those faces were quite angry.

Aragorn wished fervently that he had had time to snatch up Andúril before coming after Faramir.

The men advanced upon them, their pitchforks and scythes raised and gleaming in the bright moonlight.


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