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A Time to Reap
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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17
You are mine, O child: I am your Father

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

Do you be afraid, for I have redeemed you.

I have called you by your name: you are mine.

You are mine, O child: I am your Father,

And I love you with a perfect love. – Kevin Mayhew based on Isaiah 43

With grateful thanks to Raksha for all her help.


~~~



One of the angry farmers viciously lashed out at Faramir, brandishing a cudgel.

“Leave him alone!” Aragorn protested fiercely, throwing himself in front of his Steward.

“The pair of you deserve a good thrashing for what you’ve done to my crops!” retorted another of the men, who appeared to be the oldest and their leader. “Don’t you know that the King’s edicts protect crops from the likes of you? You are a disgrace trampling over an honest man’s livelihood, and your friend is offending public decency!”

The two women in the group tittered and came forward, as if eager for a closer look.

“The wretch should be ashamed of himself, letting our womenfolk see him thus!” raged the farmer’s leader, ignoring the fact that the ladies seemed interested rather than outraged at the spectacle in their midst. “Who are you?” he demanded.

Aragorn thoughts raced. They were in a great deal of trouble, but at least these country-folk had no idea of who they were. He dared not reveal their true identities, especially for Faramir’s sake. The Steward had been publicly reviled as a suspected traitor not so long ago and no doubt malicious tongues were still wagging. The perception of Faramir as a drunken, destructive sot could further damage his reputation. As if that were not enough of a problem, Faramir was keenly conscious of the dignity of his position as Steward and Prince. The public knowledge that he had been caught running naked through a cornfield would shame him beyond measure. “I am Morrandir and this is my son, Falborn,“ he replied. “My son is ill and needs my care. I rode after him because his fever has temporarily addled his wits and he ran away from me.”

“Drunk, more like!” the irate farmer snorted. “You both shall be placed in the pillories and taught the lesson you richly deserve! Do you know how long it takes to grow a good crop such as this? The rain only just came in time to save it and now it is trampled!”

“A good idea!” exclaimed one of the woman, “Put him in the pillory as he is and let us get a good look at him!”

“Well spoken!” said the farmer, moving forward to grab hold of Faramir.

“No one touches my son!” Aragorn said fiercely, throwing a protecting arm around the helpless Faramir and positioning himself in front of him. “He needs rest and care. It could kill him to punish him as you suggest!” He swiftly debated possible tactics. These men would have fought in the War, but would be no match for him as a warrior even in a fistfight. Still, they had strength of numbers. But he had Roheryn, a trained warhorse who answered to him alone, and would menace, or trample, anyone who threatened him.

The notion of attacking the angered farmers or allowing Roheryn to hurt them was abhorrent to Aragorn, though. These people were his subjects, their lives under his protection. He had no right to risk harming them when they sought only to protect their livelihood, and insist on the upholding of his own laws. Yet he could not permit them to harm Faramir, whatever the cost to himself.

The men had stopped in their tracks, obviously impressed by the authority in his voice, for Aragorn had used the voice of Chieftain and King. He knew that his stance would only delay them for a moment, until the more hot-headed farmers decided to challenge that authority. Now was the time to placate, give the temper of these gathered men a release other than himself, and most importantly, Faramir.

“I will work to repair your crops and help you harvest them as soon as my son has recovered sufficiently for me to leave him unattended,” Aragorn announced with a sudden flash of inspiration. “You have my word that we will not try to evade our debt to you. And we shall pay for the damage.” He reached into the purse on his belt and from it offered a handful of coins to the enraged man.

The farmers muttered amongst themselves, unsure of what to make of this offer.

Aragorn pulled the blanket more tightly around Faramir and tried to comfort him. The younger man still moaned between retches and attempts to claw at his face and neck. He was a pitiful sight to behold.

“Maybe he is ill?” said the other woman, a small lady of mature years. “He looks fevered rather than drunk to me. It would me wise to accept the offer.”

“Very well,” said the oldest farmer at last, either moved by the obvious misery of the pair or placated by the by the coins and the woman’s words. “ We are short of men since the war, and I’ve just lost two of my strongest fellows. They dropped dead suddenly while they were working, so we'd welcome more hands along with the coin. Be certain, though that if you fail to honour your bargain I’ll have you reported to the King in the Citadel! Where do you come from, though?”

”My son and I dwell in the City. We are soldiers currently on leave,” Aragorn replied, “We are on a hunting trip together, and our campsite is at the far edge of your field by the woods. My son took ill and wandered off while I was sleeping.” The King deemed it best not to mention the spider for fear of frightening these simple people.

“Do you need help to tend your son?” asked the older woman.

“Thank you, mistress, but I have knowledge of how to teat the fever that ails him,” Aragorn replied courteously.

“Be off with you then until your son is sober,” the farmer snapped, “I expect you to come to work within the next few days, or it will be the worst for you. Get out of my field now, and be careful not cause any more damage!”

Aragorn whistled for Roheryn to follow, the horse having no rein to be led by. He half dragged, half carried Faramir from the scene, struggling with him all the while to keep the blanket decently draped around his friend’s body. He collected up the Steward’s remaining garments as he came across them.

Barely coherent now, Faramir muttered about creatures crawling on his skin. He was obviously delirious. Aragorn dared not examine him until they reached the safety of their campsite and he was certain that Faramir could not escape again.

As soon as they reached the campsite, Aragorn relaxed his iron grip. Faramir slumped down on the ground, flung aside the blanket and promptly started retching again. Aragorn knelt beside him and rubbed his back until the retching ceased. A hand on his friend’s forehead confirmed what he had suspected; the Steward was running a fever. Faramir was drenched in cold sweat, which was most likely the cause of his belief that something was crawling over him.

“Come, get dressed now!” Aragorn coaxed, holding out Faramir’s drawers. “You cannot sit here in nothing but your skin! You will catch cold. Come put your legs in!”

“Evil things, Morgoth-spawn, crawling on me, no, no coverings, t'would bind the creatures to me!” Faramir protested, pushing the garment aside. He lashed out wildly, trying to swat some imagined creature, and caught Aragorn a glancing blow on the cheek.

Aragorn grasped his wrists, seeking desperately for some way of soothing and settling Faramir before either of them met with further misadventures. Abandoning his efforts to make Faramir dress for the time being, he decided to try to ease his fears.

Luckily, he had a pan of water already filled in addition to the contents of their water bottles. Keeping a cautious eye on Faramir, Aragorn placed the pan on the fire to heat and threw more wood into the flames.

“I will wash away whatever it is that troubles you,” he said gently. “Just put this covering over you.” He draped the blanket round the fevered man, thinking this was a somewhat disconcerting experience for them both as Faramir usually hated being less than fully clothed. During his long years as a Healer, he had always tried to respect the patient’s dignity.

Faramir immediately threw the blanket aside and cried out, “I must not hide my disgrace!”

“There is no disgrace, Faramir,” the King said gently. ”Put this round you. You will feel better once you are warmer.”

“No!” Faramir protested, lashing out again. “Who are you? Release me! No more secrets, no more deceit. Look upon me and know my crime. I am an accursed traitor...Spurned by my father...Justly spurned by him I loved as father...I laid violent hands upon my liege lord! I brought shame upon my wife! Thrice a disgrace! I must walk naked and shamed before all the world!”

Aragorn was seriously alarmed by these uncharacteristic ravings from his modest and gentle natured Steward. He moved behind Faramir to re-examine the spider bite. The small circular red mark between Faramir's shoulder blades had now grown to quite alarming proportions and was hot to the touch. The circle now resembled an archery target, having a purplish blue centre and white outer ring, and was the obvious cause of Faramir’s fever and resultant deranged behaviour. The foul wound needed lancing and a poultice application to drain away the poisons.

Faramir started retching again, this time, a painful dry heaving. It was apparent that he had nothing left in his stomach. Aragorn rubbed his back again until Faramir collapsed, exhausted, in a pitiful heap of sprawled limbs. He moaned softly, his suffering painful for Aragorn to behold.

Keeping one eye on the distressed Steward, Aragorn reached for his healing supplies and rummaged through them. He retrieved a small, sharp, knife, which he held in the flame of the fire to cleanse it.

Just at that moment, Faramir looked up again. Aragorn expected him to panic at the sight of the blade. Instead the Steward said quietly. ”I must atone for my crimes, though I should die the hand of him I maimed. But it hurts, everywhere, it hurts!”

“No, Faramir, no,” Aragorn’s heart was breaking at his friend’s pain. ”I need to lance the bite, which will ease you. I just want you to keep still.” Securing Faramir with one hand, Aragorn used the other to swiftly make two small incisions that would drain the bite. Faramir hardly seemed aware of what he was doing, and only flinched slightly. Almost immediately, evil looking pus started to pour from the wound.

Aragorn decided to apply a poultice to help drain the poisons. He grabbed a few leaves of the plantain that grew around the campsite. Then he tipped out the contents of his pack. To Aragorn's delight, he found a few somewhat wilted cabbage leaves amongst the food supplies they had brought. He chopped and crushed the leaves with the plantain, boiled some water and mixed all together in a poultice. After washing the bite with cold water, he pressed the mixture against Faramir's inflamed skin. Finally, he covered the poulticed wound with a piece of clean bandage. The Steward lay huddled on the blanket, muttering and retching intermittently. Mercifully, he now seemed too worn out to fight any further or try to run away again.

Aragorn heated more water. This time he crumbled a leaf of athelas into the bowl. Gently coaxing Faramir into a sitting position, he began to bathe Faramir with the mixture. The scent seemed to calm the distressed Steward, allowing Aragorn to examine him thoroughly. He was grateful for the bright moonlight, which, combined with the fire, provided sufficient illumination.

Aragorn carefully checked Faramir for any sign of insects crawling or merely present on his body, as well as other bites, but found none. The Steward was soaked in cold sweat and had acquired a variety of small cuts and scratches. Fragments of straw and dirt clung to his body; and his heart raced wildly.

Now Faramir shivered as he looked at Aragorn with a confused expression. The Steward’s skin felt increasingly cold to the touch, increasing the necessity that he be clothed and warmed swiftly.

Faramir allowed himself to be bathed and dried without protest. He sat quietly, while Aragorn applied salve to his cuts and scratches.

But when Aragorn tried again to coax him to don his clothes, Faramir reverted to violent behaviour. He fought to push Aragorn away, struggling and even repeatedly striking the King. Faramir was still utterly convinced that his clothes concealed some crawling creatures, and was determined not to wear the garments.

Aragorn could only hope that his Steward would remember nothing of this time when he eventually regained his senses. Usually it took considerable persuasion to motivate Faramir to shed as much as his shirt to allow his hurts to be tended, rather than needing coaxing to be covered.

At last, Aragorn felt he could delay no longer clothing him, for the Steward was becoming increasingly chilled. He lightly brushed his friend’s eyelids. Faramir immediately went limp, collapsing back on the bedroll. He slept through the power of Aragorn’s will, but continued to moan and shiver violently.

Aragorn finally was able to get Faramir clothed against the cold, pulling drawers, socks, breeches and shirt onto to sick man's sleeping body. He was too exhausted to struggle with the tunic, or tie any laces. Faramir was now clothed decently enough to avoid offending any other country-folk they might encounter.

Aragorn felt his own eyelids grow exceedingly heavy. Unable to stay alert any longer, he spread out his bedroll beside that of Faramir, discarded his outer tunic, and settled down beside him. Although his friend should sleep for hours, Aragorn would take no further chances of Faramir's awakening and getting into further trouble. He untied one of the leather throngs he used to keep his hair out of his eyes, and then bound one end around his own wrist and the other around Faramir’s wrist. He would immediately be alerted should Faramir awaken and struggle to escape.

He drew the shivering man close, trying desperately to warm him with his own body. However, the cold sweat still poured from Faramir’s body and soaked through the King’s shirt. The Steward continued to toss restlessly. Aragorn murmured soothingly to him and guided his head against his shoulder. Faramir sighed, and then finally relaxed, much to his King’s relief. Aragorn hated to see the one he loved as a son in such distress. He knew that Faramir's symptoms were not likely to prove life threatening since he was now receiving proper care, but they were none the less harrowing to behold.

As Faramir grew warmer, Aragorn grew colder and increasingly uncomfortable. Buried memories started to resurface in his mind. He had been cold, so very cold; and warm arms were holding him. Faramir must have held him thus when he had wandered out in the snow. He could recall Arwen’s spirit reaching out to make him choose life, but someone must have warmed him then. That someone had been Faramir, enduring a far more uncomfortable ordeal that he was now experiencing. He owed so much to his loyal and loving friend. Until a few days ago he had done nothing save revile him.

Aragorn knew now that he held the most priceless jewel he had discovered in Gondor. He offered a silent prayer of thanks that Faramir still lived.

“I will somehow make it up to you, ion nîn, whatever it takes,” he murmured, tucking the blankets more snugly around them both, wishing fervently they were thicker and warmer.

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