These Characters are the property of the Estate of J. R. R Tolkien and New Line Cinema. This story has been written for pleasure and no profit has or will be made from it.
With grateful thanks to Raksha for her help.
Confession is good for the soul - Scottish Proverb
Sei heil - entsündigt und entsühnt! (Be whole, absolved and atoned!) – Parsifal - Wagner.
With grateful thanks to Raksha for her help.
Confession is good for the soul - Scottish Proverb
Sei heil - entsündigt und entsühnt! (Be whole, absolved and atoned!) – Parsifal - Wagner.
Faramir swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “The night I branded you, the rebels had boasted of their intention to humiliate you further, and then torture you to death on the very next day. Hanna had been goading the men; insisting that they had let you off too easily. She spoke of some especially cruel measures, and convinced the brutes to subject you to them. I feared that you would give in to your tormentors and sign their wretched paper, only to suffer a terrible, demeaning death." Faramir shuddered and paused, remembering Hanna's gleeful laughter as she urged the rebels to castrate Aragorn before killing him. They would have done it, curse them!
He pulled himself together, and continued in a near whisper: "I could not allow such a thing to come to pass. I tried and tried, but could think of no way to take you to safety. So I went to the cellar believing the only thing I could do for you was to spare you further torture by giving you a quick and painless death. I planned to later take our wives and children to safety in Rohan, and then die either by Éomer’s hand, or my own to atone for my crime.” The Steward’s voice was now scarcely audible. He paused to wipe his brow with the back of his hand.
“How did you come to use spider venom instead?” Aragorn asked calmly.
“I had it concealed inside my tunic. I had asked Tarostar to give me something that would swiftly end my life if my deception were uncovered. I was afraid that I might reveal the whereabouts of the Queen and your son under torture. The healer refused to give me what I asked for, but suggested I use the venom. He told me that Legolas had brought it, thinking it would make a useful weapon to render enemies senseless without killing them.”
“It would be most effective,” Aragorn remarked. “So you remembered you had the venom and…?
“I could not kill you without a kiss of farewell.” Faramir swallowed hard again, finding it torment to speak of those dreadful moments. “Your brow was burning and I realised you were running a fever caused by your infected wounds. I knew how they feared the epidemic in the City, and decided it offered a slim chance to rescue you. Again, I hardened my heart. I asked Elbeth to bring me an onion from the kitchens. She did, and I rubbed it into in your face to make your eyes and nose water to feign the fever symptoms. Finally I dipped a needle in the venom and pricked you with it! ” The Steward buried his face in his hands. “So now you know the full degree of my crimes, sire. Not only did I torture you, but I also poisoned you, and raised a weapon against you with the intent of taking your life!” Faramir was shaking now, so great was his distress.
Aragorn sat regarding him for a moment. So much that had puzzled him was now clear. He gently took Faramir’s hands in his own and bestowed a tender paternal kiss on the younger man's brow, a gesture more eloquent in its warmth than any words.
“You are not angry?” Faramir sounded both relieved and bewildered.
“No indeed, rather I marvel at your cleverness. I only wish you could have told me what you planned.”
”I was afraid if I let my guise slip I could not don it again,” Faramir said miserably. “I was weak.”
“Not weak, but very honourable! I am so very sorry for the way I treated you. I was cold and cruel, and bitterly I now regret it.”
“I merited your wrath,” Faramir said without rancour. “I became a traitor when I raised my hand against you and caused you grievous hurts. I well deserved your wrath even though it broke my heart to lose your love and trust.“
“Have I not sometimes had to hurt you in order to heal you?” Aragorn’s voice was slightly unsteady. “Only last night I had to cut you. I caused you great agony when I treated your hurts last year.”
“You were not trying to kill me, though!” Faramir protested.
“You forget that I raised my sword to your breast, but a few months past,” Aragorn replied sadly.
“My life was rightly forfeit to you,” said Faramir. “I expected death that morning, and had in readiness bid my beloved Éowyn farewell.
“You lost my trust, but never my love, though I was too angry to show it,” the King replied. “You could no more forfeit my love than Eldarion could. Can you ever forgive me for my harshness? I sought only to test your loyalty, but I wronged you most grievously, dear friend.”
“There is nothing to forgive,” Faramir replied. “My natural father would most likely have had me executed without hesitation. You laid not a finger upon me. You were hurt and bewildered at my cruel actions, but all that matters is we are in harmony again! Be at peace, it is already forgotten,” Faramir said, finally looking Aragorn straight in the eye. He clasped the King’s hand, and then sank back exhausted on the bedroll.
”You are indeed the most priceless jewel I have found in Gondor! Now drink this, it will ease you, and you are in sore need of fluids,” Aragorn said, reverting to his healer’s manner before emotion could overcome him. He held the cup to his Steward’s lips. It contained some of the tea the Hobbits favoured, with which they kept the King well supplied. Faramir needed little urging to drain the refreshing brew. Only then did Aragorn mix some herbs.
“This tastes vile!” Faramir spluttered when he tasted the potion.
“It is only willow bark. Drink it up; it will ease pain. I will then treat your hurts as best I can. You need to be fit for your new office in a few days time.”
“New office?” Faramir asked in bewilderment. So much seemed to have happened that he knew little about.
“Yes, I have offered to become a farmhand to help repair the crops while you shall have light duties in the fields,” he said. “We start as soon as you have recovered.”
“You, a farm worker?” Faramir sounded incredulous.
“It seemed reasonable enough to offer, given the damage we had caused,” the King retorted. “The harvesting of corn cannot be so hard. I thought it might be a pleasant way to conclude our time away from the City.”
“It is apparent that you have never worked on a farm!” Faramir said wryly. “And I thought you had tried your hand at everything.”
“I watched the Elves harvest when I was a young boy in Rivendell, and even helped with binding up the sheaves,” Aragorn replied with dignity. “You cannot know much about harvesting either!”
“But I do!” Faramir was unable to restrain his mirth; despite the twinges it caused his pain-wracked body. “Boromir and I were sent each summer to stay with our Uncle Imrahil. It might surprise you, as Imrahil is so mindful of court etiquette, but he loved to help with the harvest on his tenants’ lands, and we were expected to help too. He told us that a wise lord knows how his subjects live and wanted Boromir to be a good Steward. As a result, Boromir and I had to spent several days of our supposed holiday in hard, back-breaking labour.”
Aragorn grimaced but quickly collected himself. “I am accustomed to strenuous activities. I have fought so many battles that I have lost count and tirelessly wandered over the face of Arda!” he declared, trying to seem unperturbed.
”Admirable, of course; but nothing compared with harvesting wheat!” Faramir retorted, already feeling better as the herbal tea took effect. “You will probably be bent double the next day.”
“I must ensure then that I am not,” the King replied smugly. “Would you like some more tea?”
“Yes, please,” Faramir said. He still thirsted, though the thought of food revolted him. He was grateful that Aragorn seemed to have decided against cooking anything on their campfire. The smell would have turned his still delicate feeling stomach. To his relief, he could now hold the cup himself.
“Working on a farm should be a pleasing change,” the King said hopefully. “It will be good to have an excuse not to return to the City for a week or two more, though I long for Arwen and Eldarion. It is bliss to sometimes retreat from the formality of Court. And you and I must make amends for having spent so little time together of late. There are times, I must admit, when I miss my life as a Ranger, wandering freely in mountain and forest. Often I think that if I could only keep my family and friends around me still, I would happily return to the Wild tomorrow! Labouring in the open air will be a joy to one such as I!”
“When the horrors of your captivity fade from your memory, you will cease to yearn for solitary wandering,” Faramir replied. “Until then, if you feel tempted, remember the pains of camping out in the wilds in winter!”
“Wise advice indeed, mellon nîn,” Aragorn conceded. “I promise not to follow the lure of sleeping in trenches and half-frozen caves! I have had days so cold that there were icicles in my beard! Now if you have finished your tea, I will massage your feet.”
“What?” Faramir looked perplexed. “My feet are about the only part of me that does not ache!”
“It is an old Elven remedy that Lord Elrond taught me,” Aragorn explained. “By massaging the soles of the feet, the internal organs can be stimulated. It should help rid your body of the poisons from the spider bite.”
Faramir still looked unconvinced. Truth to tell, he disliked anyone touching his feet.
“I am certain you will benefit from it,” Aragorn coaxed.
Knowing that Aragorn’s strange remedies usually worked, Faramir decided he had better permit Aragorn to try the treatment. He reluctantly stretched out his feet, still too weak to remove his boots unaided.
Aragorn removed Faramir’s boots and stockings and clasped his Steward’s feet firmly in his hands.
Faramir had to repress an urge to laugh at the absurd spectacle. The soles of his feet were very ticklish and he expected to have to beg for mercy once they were touched, but instead of the familiar light touch of the Elven healing touch, Aragorn’s warm fingers pressed down very firmly, and in places surprisingly painfully, especially around the middle of his right foot. “Ouch!” he complained, “That hurts!”
“I am sorry, but your discomfort proves that the treatment is working,” Aragorn replied without easing the pressure he was applying. “There, I have almost finished. The spider venom should linger no more in your body.”
“Would the Ring-bearer have fared better if you had treated him like this at once?” Faramir asked curiously.
“Maybe, though I doubt it,” Aragorn replied, transferring his attention to the top of Faramir’s left foot. “Shelob ‘s venom was unique; since not only was she an ancient creature, but her power was enhanced by the Dark Lord. However, Frodo’s worse wound was that caused by the Morgul blade, compared to which Shelob’s venom counted for little. Now Sauron has fallen, his creatures have no further sorcerous power, only the abilities of animals and monsters of their individual sizes. You will suffer no lasting ill effects, if that is what concerns you. There, you can put your boots back on if you wish.”
“I much prefer the Elven healing massage,” Faramir said wryly.
“And you shall have that once you are less sore,” Aragorn promised. “I need to look at your hurts now.”
“Is it wise to take my shirt off here?” Faramir asked anxiously, looking around him. “What if the farming folk come back? I feel much better now!”
Aragorn chuckled softly, relieved to have the old Faramir back, his usual reserve manifesting once more.
“The farmer is hardly likely to trample his own cornfield and the trees screen us from the other side,” Aragorn reassured him. “You have a dressing on your back which I need to change, or the spider bite might become infected. I will put a blanket beside you, so in the unlikely event of anyone appearing, you can quickly drape in over you.” He placed a pan of water on the fire to heat as he spoke. “I think you will be more comfortable in clean clothes, too, you were sweating heavily last night.” He rummaged in Faramir’s pack and drew out a clean shirt, socks, and drawers for him.
Faramir nodded his head, this time without feeling dizzy as result. “It is just after last night that I do not wish to be thought immodest,” he said, still sounding worried.
“That is the last word I would ever use to describe you!” Aragorn grinned, helping Faramir ease his shirt over his head.
“Why am I black and blue!” the Steward exclaimed, catching sight of his bruised ribs for the first time. ”How could the spider do that to me?”
“I am to blame for the bruising, I fear,” Aragorn said contritely, “I thought you had suffered failure of the heart when I first found you, and tried to revive you. I fear I only added to your misery!”
“A healer of your knowledge and experience did not know the difference?” Faramir said incredulously. “Éowyn will never let you hear the last of it if she finds out!”
“You heart was beating so fast when I left to fetch the athelas; I feared the strain was just too much for it and panicked when I found you seemingly lifeless,” Aragorn said remorsefully. “Please forgive me, ion nîn, I never meant to cause you pain!”
“I know you did not,” Faramir replied sincerely. “Who would have thought that giant spiders lurked in so fair a place as this?”
“I do not think any ribs are broken, but need to make certain now that you are awake.” Aragorn carefully felt the bruised area using an Elven technique, which made the experience nearly painless for Faramir. After ensuring that his friend could cough and take deep breaths without too much discomfort, the King heaved a sigh of relief.
“I will tend the bite now,” he told Faramir, starting to unwrap the bandages.
“What does it look like?” the Steward enquired.
“Yesterday, the wound looked almost like an archery target with rings around it in interesting hues of purple,” Aragorn replied. “Today, it has almost drained, and is just a small red mark with a white centre. It will soon heal of its own accord.”
“It itches now!” Faramir complained.
“That shows it is healing as it should. Do not try to scratch it, though!” Aragorn fought the urge to scratch at his own itching shoulder as he spoke. The brand had recently stopped causing him pain where the flesh was scarred and puckered, but the itching almost drove him mad at times. He forced himself to concentrate on Faramir. He felt the tender area around his friend's belly, causing Faramir to grimace, despite the gentleness of his touch.
“You pulled the muscles in your stomach with retching so much,” Aragorn explained, “also your liver is slightly inflamed by the poison delivered in the bite. I will first bathe the bruises in water in which athelas has been steeped,” he said. “It should ease your pain and invigorate both our spirits at the same time. Fortunately, I still have some leaves with me. I will then give you an infusion of milk thistle and dandelion root to cleanse your blood of the poisons.” He took one of the slender athelas leaves and breathed on it, before crushing it and casting into the now steaming pan. At once, a living freshness filled the air.
Faramir heaved a contented sigh. “I have come to love this scent, ” he said. “I know all is well, and I am safe when I smell it, ever since the first time I met you in the Houses of Healing. I had lost almost everything and could no longer withstand the darkness. Then you came, and gave me back my life. You became a far better lord and father to me than I had could ever have dreamed of! I shall associate the scent with you forever; for a trace of it always lingers on your clothing.”
“The herb speaks differently to all who perceive it,” Aragorn said, smiling at the younger man’s words. “What does it smell like to you?”
“It is fresh and clean like a woodland in early morning with just a hint of the sea combined with healing herbs.” Faramir told him. “A pure and wholesome scent.”
“When I utilise it for you it has the scent of a dewy freshness of a spring morning, again with a hint of the sea, which I believe is present for all those in which the blood of Númenor runs true, “ Aragorn replied.
Faramir hesitated before asking a question that troubled him. “Have my deeds changed the scent of the herb?”
“When I used it a few days ago, the scent seemed darker and heavier, but now it is as it always was, as are you. Apart from having all those bruise, that is!" he added to lighten the mood.
“I could not smell athelas while your healing powers had waned,” Faramir confessed as Aragorn dipped a cloth in the bowl and gently bathed his Steward’s bruised ribs. “It frightened me. I think the Queen was distressed too.”
“I suppose that is why you dreamed up that ritual of renewal,” Aragorn said wryly. “Turn round, as I think this might be the best treatment for the spider bite.”
Almost at once, the burning and itching sensation eased from between Faramir’s shoulder blades. He sighed with relief.
“Athelas; the most potent weapon against the forces of darkness,” Aragorn spoke with reverence, taking a final deep breath of the sweet-scented steam and putting the bowl aside. He picked up a towel and gently dried the hurts, Faramir submitted meekly, knowing that the King’s hands alone could heal.
“I shall try to heal your bruises now that I am refreshed,” Aragorn said. “Reach out to me with your mind, as you would hold out your hands for a gift.”
The first time, Faramir had been given this advice, he found it near impossible to follow it, as he had not understood, but now the mental link they shared made it easy for him. Faramir closed his eyes and relaxed. Then he felt the King's healing power sweep over him, seeming to pour warmth and strength into every weary inch of his body, from forehead to feet. Aragorn sat beside Faramir, his own eyes closed, holding his hands a few inches above the bruising. The Steward could feel the pain leaving him, to be replaced by a comforting warm glow. He then felt the same sensation at his back where he had been troubled for months with pain.
Faramir opened his eyes and glanced down at his chest. To his amazement, the bruises were already starting to fade. “That feels so much better!” he sighed gratefully.
“I shall endeavour in future not to cause the injuries I need to heal!” Aragorn replied ruefully. He looked exhausted now after a disturbed night followed by a draining healing session.
“You should rest now.” Faramir reached for his shirt as he spoke.
“I promised you some Elven healing massage. Yes, I am weary, but it should ease us both.”
Faramir took little persuasion as he had greatly missed having this treatment to ease his pain during the past months. He understood now why the Elves, blessed with far fewer ills than mortals, used it for bonding with friends and family from earliest childhood.
He settled himself against Aragorn’s comfortingly broad shoulder, enjoying the feel of the warm fingertips easing away his cares both of mind and body.
Aragorn smiled in satisfaction, convinced now that Faramir had suffered no lasting harm. His bruises were already easing; his heart was strong and steady. A few more treatments would cure his back and the worst of the bite's effects should ease by the morrow.
Aragorn handed Faramir the towel and clean clothing. ”If you give me your drawers, I will wash our linens in the river now,” he said. “You can wash your legs while I do the laundry. Would you like me to help you don your clean shirt first?”
“Thank you,” This time Faramir could lift his arms more easily though he was wondering however he could balance to change his underwear.
Aragorn secured the towel around Faramir’s waist, supporting him while he removed his clothing beneath it. “There, he announced, “I will leave you to finish bathing. Call me if you need help.”
“I feel much stronger now,” Faramir assured him grateful for his tact, especially after his behaviour of the night before “Should the King really do my laundry?” he protested. “You look weary.”
“I was considered very skilled at laundry in my Ranger days; becoming King has in no way diminished my skills, I hope.” Aragorn assured him, grinning. “Just do not tell the washerwomen of the Citadel, lest they think I covet their jobs! I shall rest once my labours are completed.”
Tucking the bundle of dirty clothes under his arm, the King left his Steward to bathe. The cheerful welcome song of Rivendell came into Aragorn's mind; and he merrily sang “Come! Tra-la-la-lally! Come back to the valley! Tra-la-la-lally Fa-la-la-lally-la!"” while washing their socks and linens in the river. He hung the now clean clothing on a tree to dry, convinced that his efforts were as good as any Citadel washerwoman could achieve.
He helped Faramir finish dressing, and then informed his friend he would catch some fish for lunch.
“Let me help you,” Faramir protested, before sinking back down, exhausted.
“You must rest. It is my turn to look after you,” Aragorn said firmly. Fortunately, he soon caught two plump trout. By the time they were baked, Faramir felt able to eat some of the light but nourishing meal.
After Aragorn had washed the dishes, he was finally able to stretch out on the grass beside his friend. “You had better practise calling me ‘Ada’,” he said. “I think we will be able to start work the day after tomorrow and we need to remember we are father and son.” He yawned and promptly fell asleep as weariness finally overcame him.
Faramir spoke the word softly under his breath: Ada, 'Papa' in the Common Speech. It sounded sweet to his ears. Truth to tell, he often thought of the King in such a way. Despite his lingering pain, he felt more content that he had been in a very long time. No father by birth could have cared for him more devotedly that Aragorn had done this day. Their bond was finally restored and Faramir felt happy and secure. He wondered, though whatever had possessed Aragorn to volunteer his services as a farm labourer. He was certain the King would find the work far from easy.