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Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. - Proverbs 16;18 – The Bible
With grateful thanks to Raksha
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. - Proverbs 16;18 – The Bible
With grateful thanks to Raksha
The harvest neared completion. Only a handful of villagers still worked in the fields to finish the reaping. Most of the men were busy carrying the sheaves into the barn in order to store them safely. Aragorn and Faramir had offered to help, but Borlach and Tasariel would not hear of it. The women and children could talk of little save the festivities to be held on the morrow, and who would be the chosen king and queen of the harvest.
Since they had handed over their own raiment to be cleaned the previous afternoon, Aragorn and Faramir had suffered the indignity of wearing clothing that was not only borrowed, but also ill fitting. They counted the hours until the next morning when Tasariel had promised their own clothes would be washed, dried and returned to them. The country folk struggled to suppress their mirth at the sight presented by the two outlanders' awkwardness. Worst than that; every time Aragorn and Faramir moved, they feared their belts would not be able to hold up their baggy breeches.
When Aragorn made his way to breakfast on the day before the harvest celebration, the numerous folds of cloth slipped from his belt, forcing the disguised King to hastily grab his borrowed breeches before the entire village was treated to a view of his drawers. Faramir, following a few steps behind, hurriedly tightened his own belt.
Thoron laughed rudely, enjoying the two men's discomfiture. “Just look at the fools!” he chortled. “Whoever saw such a sight?”
“Watch your tongue, Thoron!” Tasariel cautioned. “Remember, what soiled these men’s clothes was the blood of the foul spider that might well have killed many of our folk!”
The other villagers nodded their agreement. Thoron fell silent but did not apologise. Scowling, he rose from the table and strode off to the fields.
Aragorn and Faramir went back to the edge of the forest where they had left their horses. They took the villagers’ gifts of juicy apples and carrots for their faithful steeds.
After brushing Zachus and Roheryn they made their way back to the centre of the village where they found the women and older children sitting in a circle on the ground. Each had a lapful of ears of wheat that they carefully plaited, one at a time. “We are making decorations and corn dollies for the celebrations tomorrow,” explained Tasariel. “We make small dollies to adorn the doors of our homes and two great ones, which are filled with grain on which we ask Yavanna’s blessing. The king and queen bury one, while the other is kept in a place of honour until the spring sowing.”
“It is a charming custom,” said Aragorn. “We celebrate it in the North too where I was raised. May we assist you? My son and I would rather not sit here idle.”
“Gladly,” smiled Tasariel. She took some long stemmed ears in her hand and deftly demonstrated how to plait them then twist them into a circle or heart shape. “Watch out for the hearts,” she cautioned, “some of the young folk try to take them before the feast as favours for their sweethearts. When the decoration is finished, you tie a ribbon upon it, thus.”
Aragorn and Faramir set to making the decorations with a will. Both proved adept at the task, being blessed with nimble fingers. The morning passed in a most enjoyable, albeit novel, fashion for King and Steward.
It was almost time for the midday meal when a young man came running from the fields crying, “Mistress Tasariel, come quickly! There has been an accident. Thoron is hurt!”
“No! My poor boy!” cried one of the matrons, her tired face losing colour. The three young girls who had sat beside her began to cry.
“What has happened?” Tasariel enquired, getting awkwardly to her feet.
The young man paused for a moment to catch his breath, and then panted, ”Thoron was cutting the corn and tripped and fell on his scythe! When we lifted him off it, the wound started gushing blood like he was a slaughtered pig!”
Aragorn leapt to his feet.
“Go on ahead, Master Morrandir,” said Tasariel. “You can run more swiftly than I. I will fetch some bandages and follow you. Gilrath, your daughters need you here. Master Morrandir and I will care for your boy and bring him back here to you.”
Aragorn sped off in the direction indicated by the young man, clutching frantically at his borrowed breeches to keep them from falling down about his knees as he ran. Thoron’s field was at the far side of the village. He heard screams as he approached; then saw Thoron lying on the ground on a pile of freshly cut grain. At first glance, the patch of ground seemed to be covered with scarlet poppies, but when he drew closer, Aragorn saw that it was blood that surrounded the young man. Two other farmers attended Thoron, trying vainly to staunch a gaping wound in his leg with their shirts.
Aragorn grabbed one of the shirts from the helpers and held it against the wound, pressing firmly with his hands. “Raise his legs!” he instructed the men.
Thoron screamed and thrashed wildly. “It hurts! I am dying!”
“Easy lad, keep still; then all will be well,” Aragorn soothed.
Thoron ignored him. He shook off Aragorn's outstretched hand with a sound that was half a roar, half a groan, while continuing to struggle. Sweat poured down his face and bare chest.
“You must be still!” Aragorn ordered in the tones of a King and Chieftain. His command had the required effect. Thoron ceased screaming and lay still. Aragorn continued to press on the wound until the bleeding was staunched.
“Where is Mistress Tasariel?” Thoron demanded.
“She is coming,” said Aragorn. “I ran on ahead.”
“I have never seen the like,” said one of the men. “You must have winged feet to have come with such speed!”
“I am somewhat quicker as a healer and a warrior than I have been as a farmer,” Aragorn replied. At least this sprint had not entailed five days of running after two young Hobbits seized by Orcs!
Just then Tasariel appeared, breathing heavily.
“Thoron cut his leg on a scythe,” Aragorn explained to her as she knelt on the ground. “I have stopped the bleeding, but he will need stitches. Can you bind it before we return to the village?”
Tasariel nodded as she swiftly examined the wound. “Foolish boy!” she chided. “You have nearly frightened your mother and sisters to death! You should know better than trip over a scythe at your age!” She continued to chatter while she bound the youth’s leg with the bandages she had brought. Thoron seemed reassured by her presence.
While Tasariel bandaged the wound, Aragorn checked Thoron’s pulse. As he had expected, the boy's life-beat thrummed quicker than was usual, but remained strong and steady. It seemed to be safe enough to move the boy. “I will carry Thoron back to the village, if you could go on ahead and boil water to treat his wound,” he said.
“The men can bear him,” Tasariel said firmly. “You need to save your strength, Master Morrandir. Go on ahead and tell his mother and sisters how he is faring. It was hard to persuade them to stay behind. I promised to send word as soon as I knew what had happened. I will stay with the lad.”
Aragorn nodded and swiftly set off back to the village. He found Faramir trying to console Gilrath and her daughters.
“My father is a highly skilled Healer,” Faramir was telling the weeping family, “if anyone can help your Thoron, he can.”
“My son has worked our land that we might eat since his father died,” sobbed Gilrath. “He can be headstrong, but he is a good son who works hard.”
“At least the harvest is gathered in safely,” said one of the other women.
“But will my son live to see the celebrations?” wailed his mother.
“He should see them, though he will not be able to dance,” said Aragorn approaching the group.
Thoron’s mother and sisters screamed when they saw the blood on the King’s hands and arms.
“Thoron has cut his leg, but now the bleeding is staunched, he should be well,” Aragorn reassured them. “Mistress Tasariel and some of the men are bringing him back to the village.
Gilrath, hastened to join her son, wringing her hands as she moved. Needing to spend every moment wisely, the King asked the other women to heat water and light lamps while he prepared the necessary potions and tools from his healing supplies.
A few minutes later the melancholy procession came into view, the litter bearers walking slowly and carefully to keep from jostling the injured boy. Thoron gripped his mother’s hand, while Tasariel tried to calm them both. When the procession halted, the Healer directed them to her hut. She hastily prepared a cot for her patient and Aragorn helped her lay him upon it.
“You can safely leave your son with me,” Tasariel told Gilrath. “It is better you do not watch while I tend his wound.”
“I do trust you, old friend,” said Gilrath, “But Thoron is my boy!”
“Please, Mother, let her be,” Thoron pleased. “I am not a baby any longer!”
Tasariel rolled her eyes as the other woman reluctantly left the hut.
Aragorn cautiously unwrapped Thoron’s leg to examine the wound. The gash cut deep into the boy's skin, just above the knee. The wound still bled, but with much less force than before.
“Come on, lad,” said Tasariel. “Let’s get your breeches off. You’ve a nasty cut that needs stitching, but no great damage seems to be done.”
Thoron looked at her in horror. “I’m not parting with my breeches in front of you!”
“You’ve nothing I’ve not seen before lad,” said the woman. ”Remember I brought you into the world! In any case, your mother will have to wash and mend your breeches; they're covered in blood. You can always borrow some to wear while she does as Master Morrandir has done. Until then, you will have to make do with a blanket to cover you!”
Thoron glared at her.
“Shall I undress him and clean the cut while you prepare the bandages we need?” Aragorn offered. Tasariel nodded and started tearing a cloth into strips, having used her supplies in the field. Thoron accepted Aragorn’s help grudgingly. He was soon divested of his clothing and wrapped in a blanket. The youth whimpered as the deep gash was thoroughly cleansed. At a nod from Tasariel, the King began the stitching. Thoron cried out, then bit his lip hard and began to moan.
“I do recall that when I brought you into the world, your mother made far less fuss than this commotion of yours, Thoron!” Tasariel recalled. “You were a large baby too, and it was a difficult delivery. I remember thinking that you were likely to be contrary!” She took the needle from Aragorn and continued stitching the gash closed.
“You have been fortunate,” Aragorn told the youth. “There is no damage to the tendons or bones, so your leg should heal completely.”
“How do I know you truly are a healer?” Thoron grumbled.
“You must be your own judge of that,” replied Aragorn, determined not to let this ungrateful brat make him lose his temper. Thoron screamed again as Tasariel continued to stitch. Instinctively, Aragorn held his hand over Thoron’s wound. The boy stopped screaming and stared at him, his eyes wide with fear.
“What power is that?” he asked. “Who or what are you?”
“A healer and a warrior,” said Aragorn simply.
Shocked into silence, Thoron made no further protest as Tasariel finished tending his wound. Aragorn retrieved some poppy juice from his satchel. He mixed a few drops in a cup of water. Usually, a simple gash did not require such powerful medicine, but Aragorn feared that Thoron would keep the entire village awake all night if he were not given the potion to make him sleep.
“We cannot afford poppy here,” said Tasariel. “We have to rely on willow bark to ease our pains as best we may. Drink, Thoron, you are fortunate indeed!”
Thoron snorted rudely. Aragorn strode over to him and lightly brushed his eyelids, sending him into a deep healing sleep. King and village healer sighed with simultaneous relief.
“My calling is dear to me, but patients like that boy try me to the limit!” sighed Tasariel.
“We have complainers in the City too,” Aragorn told her. “At least there, we have supplies of all the healing potions. In future, I will see that you are sent poppy juice and anything else you might require. Now we had better take this young man to his mother.” He bent and scooped up the blanket-clad youth in his arms.
“It grieves me that I have no daughter to follow me,” said Tasariel as they carried Thoron to his mother’s hut. “My mother was the village healer and her mother and her mother too before her. They say the gift runs in our women folk.”
“Your granddaughter will inherit your talents,” said Aragorn with a sudden flash of foresight.
“You think so?” Tasariel sounded pleased. “Emerwen is convinced she carries a boy.”
“I sense a girl-child who will spend a great deal of time with you and learn your skills as she grows up,” said the King.
They reached Gilrath’s hut and settled Thoron on his pallet, assuring his anxious mother that he would be well and telling her to call them if she were worried.
“You see that life in our village is far from dull, Master Morrandir,” said Tasariel with a weary laugh.
“I have found it anything but,” Aragorn told her quite truthfully.
The rest of the day passed peacefully. By the time the sun set, Aragorn and Faramir had become quite adept in the making of corn dollies. Sharing the villagers' excitement, they helped decorate the barn for the morrow. Aragorn checked Thoron, who lay half-asleep, his wound healing, while Faramir practiced his shooting and told tales of life as an Ithilien Ranger to a growing circle of children and youths. After the stars emerged to cloak the night sky, Aragorn and Faramir joined the villagers in singing songs until Ithil rode high in the heavens.