These characters (with the New Line Cinema. This story has been written purely for pleasure and no profit has or will me made from it.
Knowledge is power.- Francis Bacon
With very grateful thanks to Raksha who wrote part of this chapter
Knowledge is power.- Francis Bacon
With very grateful thanks to Raksha who wrote part of this chapter
Tasariel’s eyes twinkled. “The entire village would scoff at me should I voice so wild a tale!” she exclaimed. “And what use is a healer who has forfeited the respect of her people? No, that would never do! Go now, Master Morrandir, and break your fast with your son. You both need feeding up. No more working in the fields for either of you!”
“Thank you, mistress,” Aragorn said gratefully. He hardly dared believe their good fortune that the healer would not betray them.
“You can thank me by continuing to appreciate my cooking,” smiled Tasariel. “Away with you now before your son eats it all! I will tell my husband you will not be working in the fields again.”
“Beleg shall be angry,” Aragorn said wryly, “I have broken my promise to him.”
“We will see about that!” Tasariel said grimly. She marched out of the hut. Aragorn meekly followed at her heels.
Faramir hastened to Aragorn’s side. ”What happened?” he enquired anxiously in a low tone. “Did she see the scar?”
Aragorn shook his head. “No, but she knows who we are.”
The colour momentarily drained from Faramir’s face as he contemplated half of Gondor learning of his disgrace. “So be it,” he said simply.” I was going to tell them myself. The farm labour was would have killed you, had you kept on toiling in the hot sun. We had better gather our belongings and leave before the entire village learns the truth.”
Aragorn laid a restraining hand on Faramir’s arm. “I do not think she will tell anyone, ion nîn. She is a sensible woman and fears ridicule from her neighbours should she relate such an outlandish seeming tale. Also, she is a healer, and as such, accustomed to keeping secrets. I believe we can trust the good lady.”
“It is always better to believe than to mistrust; when one has the opportunity,” Faramir replied rather wearily. ”I like Mistress Tasariel.”
“Come and eat your breakfast!” called the lady in question, who had been engrossed in conversation with her husband.
“Now my wife tells me that neither of you are fit to work in my field!” snorted Beleg. ”Small loss that might be, but I need every pair of hands I can get, however slow they are!”
Just then, Borlach appeared, with a brisk step and a friendly face. "Beleg, I would have you release Morrandir and Falborn from the oaths they swore; I am more than satisfied of their recompense."
"Satisfied?" Beleg scowled at the headman. "'Twere my crops that Falborn ruined. Easy for you to tell me to forgive the debt; it isn't your back that will break at the effort to make up for the losses!"
"Come now, Beleg", Borlach replied. "These men came as strangers, but have more than proved their worth as friends; or are a few sheaves worth the lives of Vanreth and her babe, whom we would have buried alive if not for Master Morrandir here?"
Beleg was unmoved. "Nay. It's my decision; and I say they work until the harvest, work until they drop if that's what it takes."
"Work until he drops?" came Faramir's voice, cool and deadly calm, very like that of Denethor as he prepared to castigate some recreant. "Is that how you would treat your--"
"Enough, son of my heart," Aragorn cut him off in Quenya. "They must decide it themselves."
"Beleg, stop being such an ass!"
"Borlach, I won't be a donkey for them!"
"BELEG!" It was Tasariel who snapped her husband's name, and now stood between him and the headman, fists on her hips. "You're not a donkey, but you're acting like an ox. There can surely be some other way. I saw with my own eyes how weary they are; half starved, and in Falborn's case, sickened by a foul wound. What if it had been our own grandchild who had been bitten and left for dead like poor Gwinhir, our daughter in law too?"
"Hmmhh." Beleg scowled again, but his face relaxed slightly.
"No one has worked as hard as you this season, Beleg;” Borlach declared with a softer voice. "I shall speak to all our people. If I can persuade all able-bodied men and women to work additional hours on your crop, so that your portion will be ready for the harvest, will you release our visitors from their oath?"
Beleg continued to scowl. Aragorn wondered what the Great Council of the Reunited Kingdom would think at the sight of Elessar Telcontar standing meekly by while a village healer and two country yeomen decided the duties of King and Steward.
Finally, Beleg snorted again. "Very well, then, if only to content my good wife. I release Morrandir and Falborn from their oaths to me." The farmer began to walk away with Borlach, both farmers talking loudly of the value of their wives.
"Beleg reminds me of Samwise Gamgee,” Faramir whispered to Aragorn; "Only Sam was far more wise."
Borlach turned suddenly and called out, "Please stay on as our honoured guests, until the celebration on the night of the full moon, that you may share in the fruits of the harvest."
“We will and gladly,” Aragorn replied. Much as he missed Arwen, he was enjoying this rare furlough from the duties of kingship and the chance to again enjoy Faramir’s companionship.
Tasariel served the two friends a hearty breakfast of bacon, boiled eggs and mushrooms with thick crusty bread and golden pats of butter. The meal ended with fresh pears and steaming mugs of tea.
As soon as he had finished eating, Faramir left to tend to the horses. Aragorn still tired, but feeling rather pleasantly replete; accompanied Tasariel to Hareth's hut. The older woman opened the door and beckoned Aragorn and the healer inside.
“How are Vanreth and Gwinhir?” enquired Tasariel.
“They rest peacefully, but I cannot wake them,” Hareth replied.
“I need to rouse them,” said Aragorn. “Then I shall wait outside, lest the presence of a stranger startle them. Vanreth should now recognise you, mistress, although she will no doubt be somewhat confused and nauseous. Call out at once if you need me. I shall be just beyond the door.” He bent over the sleeping mother and child and lightly brushed his hand first across Vanreth’s brow, and then over the soft skin of her child's forehead. “Awake!” he said in a gentle yet firm tone. As the young woman’s eyes flickered open, he slipped outside.
The King waited anxiously outside, pacing the grass. He tried to ignore the sounds of retching and crying that came from within. The soothing tones of the two older women suggested, though, that they were able to calm Vanreth and her child. Eventually, Tasariel put her head round the door and bade him enter.
Vanreth was sitting up in bed looking rather wan, but otherwise well. Aragorn now recognised her as the grey eyed young woman he had noticed the night of their arrival in the village. In her arms she held her son. The infant fussed, crying softly; but his colour had much improved.
“How do you feel?” Aragorn asked Vanreth.
“I feel sick and I ache everywhere,” Vanreth replied. “Worse, whenever I close my eyes, I think I shall be buried alive and I cannot stop trembling. They tell me a spider bit me? All I remember is a dark shape and my child falling beside me! Then some hideous monster tried to drag my Gwinhir away!”
“Your baby was but unconscious. You will need to be patient; for your spirit was wounded as well as your body. It will take more time for your heart to heal,” Aragorn told her truthfully, “However, I can give you some ease now, if you let me.”
“Please do,” she replied, albeit somewhat apprehensively.
Hareth took the fretfully wailing baby from Vanreth's arms.
“Where is my husband?” the young mother asked anxiously.
“I will go and see if he is awake yet,” said Tasariel, leaving the hut as she spoke.
“Easy now, I shall not hurt you,” Aragorn told Vanreth. He gently took her hand.
The young woman looked surprised when Aragorn first pressed his fingertips on her wrists, then massaged her feet. He explained that the pressure would ease her nausea, while the foot massage would help drain the poisons. Next, Aragorn bathed the spider bite in water steeped with athelas. Vanreth began to calm; and sighed contentedly while Aragorn added fresh athelas leaves to the water and repeated the entire treatment for the child. Gwinhir stopped crying; instead he watched the movements of Aragorn’s fingers as if transfixed.
“There is such power in your hands!” Vanreth exclaimed.
“It is a gift I inherited from my forefathers,” Aragorn explained.
“Were they wizards?” she asked.
Aragorn pondered his foremother Melian, a Maia of Estë. Melian was of the same race as Gandalf, and like him had great power. Simple folk might think of her descendants as wizards. “I come from the North,” he said at last; preferring to sidestep questions about wizardly powers. “There are few of my kin left now. It is said that long ago our foremother had magical powers.”
“Well, I hope your son gives you plenty of grandchildren to carry on such wondrous gifts!” said Hareth.
“Falborn already has a daughter, and he and his wife are likely to have many more children,” Aragorn said truthfully.
Just then, Finrod rushed into the hut, Tasariel behind him. The farmer's chastened expression suggested that the healer had been chiding him for his conduct. His features lightened when he beheld his wife and child. He hastened to embrace them both.
“How can I ever thank you, Master Healer!” he exclaimed, finally releasing his wife. He turned to Aragorn and grasped the King’s hand. “You have restored my wife and son to me. I thought I had lost them for ever!”
“You should thank Mistress Hareth and Mistress Tasariel,” Aragorn replied “They have cared devotedly for your family since I discovered that Vanreth and Gwinhir still lived.”
Finrod flushed scarlet. “What brought you to these parts?” he asked, changing the subject.
“My son and I sought to spend some time together away from the City,” Aragorn told him. “Coming from the North, I find the summer heat somewhat oppressive. My wife thought it would benefit my health were I to spend a few days in the countryside with Falborn.”
Finrod shook his head ruefully. "To think that Beleg made you labour over his crops in the heat all day! I shall ask him if I can take over your share; my cousins will help, since we have almost finished our own portions.”
“My thanks, Finrod,” Aragorn said good-humouredly. “I am a soldier and a healer, and therefore not accustomed to working on a farm.”
“The Valar be praised for sending you to us!” Hareth said ardently.
The King finally completed his ministrations to mother and son, advising that they should sit outside in the shade when they felt able, as the fresh air would benefit them. Inclining his head politely to the ladies, he then took his leave.
Aragorn found Faramir waiting outside the hut for him. “Vanreth and her child are both much improved,” he informed his friend. “They should be fully recovered by the morrow.”
“Glad tidings!” exclaimed Faramir. “I had feared that the babe could not survive the sting of so foul a creature. Our horses are faring well too. The villagers gave me so many apples and carrots for them that I could scare carry them all. They are all grateful to you and rightly so.”
Aragorn momentarily bowed his head, overcome with shame. He had merely used his training and inborn skills, yet these simple folk showed far more gratitude than he given Faramir for risking both life and honour to save him. “I have much to learn about gratitude,” he said bleakly.
Tasariel emerged from the hut before Faramir could reply. “Can I tempt you with anything else to eat?” she enquired. “And you have any linens you would like me to wash today?”
“No thank you, Mistress, we are still quite full from breakfast,” the King and Steward replied in near unison. They glanced down at their shirts; sweat streaked and poorly washed in a small amount of cold water, and accepted her second offer
“Go and rest then until the midday meal, Master Morrandir,” said Tasariel. “You still move stiffly. Ask your ‘son’ to apply more of my salve.”
“Very well,” said Aragorn. “However, we cannot laze all day in the sun while everyone else labours hard.”
“You can ease pain with the power of touch alone, can you not?” asked the woman.
“Well then, after the midday meal, maybe you could help me with those of my patients whom I am powerless to ease? “ Tasariel enquired.
“I will gladly help if I can, Mistress,” replied Aragorn.
After a detour to their hut, where Faramir applied a generous amount of Tasariel’s salve to his Lord’s back and shoulders, they collected their laundry, then napped comfortably in the shade of the great oak until midday, when they were again plied with enough food to feed four Hobbits.
That afternoon a young man, who was walking with a limp, shyly approached Aragorn.” You are the healer of whom Mistress Tasariel spoke?” he asked timidly.
“Yes, I am.
“Well, I hurt my foot a few weeks ago, and it will not heal, and pains me greatly. Can you help me?” he asked.
“I will do what I can, “ Aragorn replied.
“I only hope you are a better healer than you are a farm hand!” said Beleg who was passing. “I cannot say I will miss your efforts, I only hope you are of more use to the sick than you are to me.”
Aragorn fetched his healing supplies and laid them out in the hut that had become their temporary home. Soon, a small crowd had gathered. Faramir arranged them in an orderly queue outside. To Aragorn’s great relief, no one seemed to be seriously ill, though many suffered from painful inflammations of the joints, old war wounds, or ulcerated sores that failed to heal properly. Some of the oldest people had pain from frail hearts, but that was the common lot of humanity. Tasariel had skilfully treated them with infusions of hawthorn berries, dandelion root and foxglove.
The King found that the villagers made easy patients, slow to complain and almost apologetic when they did. Aragorn’s greatest concern was the fear that the power in his hands would make them too curious about him. He was amazed how strong his healing powers had become in their return.
By the time the sun was starting to sink into the West, all the villagers’ hurts had been tended and Aragorn was exhausted. Tasariel brought him a drink while she finished help prepare the evening meal. Aragorn retired to the shade of the trees with Faramir.
“You worked wonders this morning!” exclaimed Faramir. ”It is so good to see you restored to your former self, my King!” He wiped away a tear as he spoke.
“A King should help his people,” Aragorn replied, “ I have been negligent and ungrateful far too long, especially towards you.
Faramir simply embraced him. As their heads touched, their thoughts met and they sensed their old harmony was at last fully restored.
They sat together in companionable silence while they waited for their meal, still sensing each other’s thoughts and watching the villagers' children at play.
“We cannot leave without ridding these good people of the menace of the spider,” said Aragorn. ”I cannot bear to think of them being preyed upon any longer by such a creature.”
“If Sam could best Shelob, this creature should be easy prey for two seasoned warriors, if we keep on our guard,” Faramir said thoughtfully.
”We had better not tell the villagers what we intend, lest they try to help us and are injured.” said Aragorn.
“I believe we should confide in Mistress Tasariel,” said Aragorn. “I would not like to risk either of us being buried alive!”
Faramir nodded his agreement.
The next morning, Aragorn and Faramir arose at dawn and enjoyed a hearty breakfast with the villagers. Once the men had departed for the fields, Aragorn sought out Tasariel. “Are any working by the river today?” he enquired.
“Borlach said we should shun the spot after the attack on Vanreth and her child,” the woman replied.
“I have a favour to ask of you, Mistress,” said Aragorn. “If we have not returned by the midday meal, send a party of men to look for us. And if you find us seemingly lifeless, do not bury us.”
“Whatever are you planning to do?” Tasariel asked in horror. “No, my lord, you cannot!”
“My ‘son’ and I are skilled warriors with sharp swords, Mistress,” said Aragorn. ”Would you have this menace trouble your village when we can rid you of it once and for all? We are too large for the creature to drag us to its lair. The worst that the spider could do would be to paralyse us as it did Vanreth and Gwinhir. That is why you must ensure that no one tries to bury us. They will listen to you as their healer. I ask for your word on this, Mistress Tasariel.”
Tasariel hesitated for a long moment and then nodded. “You have my word. May the Valar guide your sword!” she said.