These characters belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.
I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son. - The Bible – Hebrews 1.5
With grateful thanks to Raksha
I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son. - The Bible – Hebrews 1.5
With grateful thanks to Raksha
"The scar on your shoulder!" Faramir cried.
"I have told you, ion nîn, it troubles me no longer,” Aragorn said gently. "I have come to regard it as a mark of your deep love and loyalty."
Faramir continued to stare at Aragorn's shoulder as if under some spell. He took a few steps forward and reached out with his hand to touch it. "The brand has gone!" he exclaimed in a tone that suggested he could hardly believe what he was seeing.
"What?" Aragorn looked down at his shoulder. The skin, disfigured for months by the livid brand, was now smooth and unblemished. He stared at it in amazement, tentatively feeling the place where the scar had been raised on his flesh. "It has gone!" he whispered, repeating Faramir's words. A huge grin spread across his face. He caught hold of Faramir and hugged him tightly before spinning him around in a wild dance of jubilation. Tears ran down their faces as they alternately laughed and cried.
Breathless and exhausted, they finally collapsed together on the grass. "How can this be?" asked Faramir once he had caught his breath. "You tried every treatment known to Man or Elf, and nothing removed the scar. How could the wound have healed and when?"
"I do not know," Aragorn replied simply. "I tried to forget about it, and over these last days I succeeded."
Faramir briefly closed his eyes and tried to recall when he had last glimpsed the scar on his King's shoulder. When Faramir had kept his back turned when Aragorn bathed or changed, it had been more than his usual natural reticence and good manners, for every glimpse of the scar had felt like a dagger stabbing his very soul. He had been grateful for the dim light and the fact Aragorn was lying face downwards when he had tended his lord’s aching back muscles. "I think I last saw the scar on the day the spider bit me," Faramir said at last.
"I recall my shoulder itching," said Aragorn. "It stopped paining me the day we swam in the mountain lake, but how the scar itched!"
"Maybe the water had healing properties?" Faramir suggested. "We can soon find out." He unlaced his shirt and pulled it over his head, then studied his skin. The neat scar left by the arrow wound of a few months before was still there unchanged.
"An Elven mud bath will soon heal that blemish," said Aragorn. "I believe my healing is a blessing from the One, bestowed on me when I let go of my pain and pride. How foolish I was to be so blind, when I was truly so blessed!" His voice unsteady, he hugged Faramir again. "Come, we had better have our swim if we wish to see our ladies before nightfall."
Faramir sniffed hard and rubbed his hand across his eyes before removing his breeches and plunging into the refreshingly chill water. Aragorn followed a few minutes later. They splashed around in the water, ducking and diving like exuberant schoolboys, enjoying a respite from the heat of the day.
All too soon it was time to leave the cool water. They dried themselves and changed into clean, dry linens before donning the rest of their clothing
Mounting their horses, they set off towards Minas Tirith with a new lightness in their hearts.
"The King will return in time for the first session of the Council, as will Faramir." Arwen's tone tolerated no argument. Instead of asking Imrahil to sit down she stood, her eyes daring him to challenge her.
"Forgive me, my lady, but I cannot share your certainty," protested the Prince. "Everyone could see the King was far from well. Now he has vanished without trace along with Lord Faramir." Imrahil's anger was obvious as he spoke his nephew's name. "You tell me my lady, the King has not gone to Rivendell to seek healing, so where might he be?"
"He has gone to seek a cure, but there is none now in Imladris," said Arwen. "The One alone can grant Estel peace. I sent Estel forth with Faramir that both might be restored to their former vigour."
"I would have thought that Elessar would have preferred a more suitable companion than my neph....,er, Lord Faramir could have been found to escort the King," said Imrahil. "The Steward's loyalty is still far from certain."
Arwen's eyes flashed with anger. "Never was a man truer to my husband than your nephew, Lord Imrahil!" she said. "He saved Estel's life!"
"He also spoke treason against the King, joined the rebels, and shamefully raised his hand against his liege lord by branding him!"
"Can you not see, Lord Imrahil, that there was only one way for Faramir to have snatched my husband from that nest of traitors?" Arwen demanded angrily. "Had there been a path to his freedom that was both swift and honourable, I am certain you would have taken it, as would many others. But there was no such easy deliverance. Would you prefer that Faramir had defied the traitors and bought himself and your King to a painful death? We should all be grateful that Faramir managed to save not only my beloved husband, but your other nephew's innocent child. I am proud to call Faramir my friend. You should sing his praise, Prince; instead you treat him like Maeglin!"
Imrahil flushed scarlet, stood staring at his boots for a few moments. “I will think on your words, my lady," he said at last. "But if only the King would return!"
"He will," said Arwen. "I foresee that the day is not far off."
Dismissing the Prince of Dol Amroth, Arwen returned to her sitting room where Éowyn balanced Elestelle on her lap. Eldarion was crawling across the rug clutching a toy horse. A bored looking Elbeth was trying without much success to embroider a kerchief, watched by a nursemaid who sat in the corner. The high, large windowed chamber was light and airy in appearance, furnished with fine tapestries and rugs that Arwen had brought with her from Rivendell. A large bowl of pink roses adorned the table, perfuming the room with their fresh sweetness.
"Has Prince Imrahil departed?" asked Éowyn. "If only he did not think so ill of Faramir!" she sighed deeply. "And where is my husband? I thought you said he was making a pilgrimage on the mountain with Aragorn? I agree they needed some time alone together to sort out their differences, but it has been so long. I fear for my husband; he was far from well when I last beheld him!"
"They will return when they are fully reconciled and beginning to heal," Arwen said calmly. "Then Imrahil will understand the truth at last."
"I want to see Strider again," said Elbeth. "I'll ask him to pass a law banning embroidery!"
Arwen laughed. "Many ladies would be very sad if he did that."
"You can put your sewing away now," said Éowyn. "It is almost time for the evening meal Go and wash your hands before we eat."
As soon as the little girl had left the room, Arwen wandered over to the window and looked out. Two familiar figures were walking past the fountain. They paused briefly before the White Tree. Arwen could see a marked change in her husband's demeanour even from this distance, for Aragorn Elessar walked with a renewed spring in his step. Her husband was obviously engaged in lively conversation with Faramir and both men were smiling.
"They have returned!" cried Arwen. Pausing only to tell the nursemaid to watch the children, the two women hastened to greet their husbands.
"Estel!" Heedless of her queenly dignity, Arwen ran to greet her beloved.
"Arwen!" Beaming from ear to ear, Aragorn embraced her tightly.
"Éowyn, I never expected that you would be here!" Faramir cried joyfully as he greeted his wife.
"Arwen invited me to stay with her while you were away," Éowyn explained. "It is good to see you again, Faramir. You look so well!"
The two couples made their way back inside the royal apartments arm in arm. When Aragorn reached his chambers, he briefly left his wife's side to speak to Faramir. "Please join us for the evening meal, mellon nîn, and bring Éowyn and the children," he said. "Arwen and I would have tell of our travels."
"Gladly we will," Faramir smiled.
As they made their way to their rooms, Arwen noticed that her husband walked with his old confidence. There was a lively twinkle in his eye and he smiled greetings to passing servants.
"How is Eldarion?" the King asked.
"Growing by the day," said Arwen. "He has his back teeth now and had learned several new words. His nurse is just putting him to bed."
"I can hardly wait to see him," said Aragorn.
"I will leave you to change for dinner," said Arwen when they reached the bedroom.
"Wait, I have something to show you," said the King.
Arwen stared in amazement as her usually reticent husband peeled off his tunic, followed by his shirt. "Look!" he said, "I am healed!"
Joyfully, Arwen studied the unblemished flesh. Her husband's muscular body had lost its skeletal appearance, and filled out his powerful frame once more, while his skin was lightly bronzed from the sun. This was the strong man whom she had wedded, fairer than most Elves! She reached out with slender fingers to caress his shoulder where the brand had once been.
Aragorn quivered with delight at the pleasurable sensations her touch evoked. He drew his wife close and kissed her fiercely.
Arwen responded with equal ardour. Her fears that Eldarion would be their only child evaporated. She nuzzled her cheek against Aragorn's bare chest. "Let us retire early tonight," she suggested.
"As soon as we have eaten. I need to keep up my strength!" Aragorn replied, a lively gleam in his eye. He reluctantly released his wife before he was tempted to abandon all thought of dinner. "Faramir and I must tell you of our adventures too.
"It gladdens my heart to see you reconciled," said Arwen.
"We are indeed," said Aragorn. "All he did, he did for love of me. I am truly blessed to have a friend such as he!"
"You are indeed. You should cherish and nurture such love. Your Steward a treasure beyond price!"
"I know that now. Fool that I was to be so blind! You were wiser by far, vanimelda, and could see what I could not." Aragorn kissed his wife again before retiring into the bathing chamber.
"Strider!" cried Elbeth when the King and Queen entered the dining room.
"It is good to see you again, Elbeth," said the King, stooping to embrace the Faramir's young niece. "I have missed you."
"Are you all better now, Strider?" asked Elbeth. "Even your shoulder?"
"It is indeed," smiled the King.
"I told you kissing it better would work, didn't I, Uncle Faramir? " Elbeth said triumphantly.
Elbeth was allowed to join the adults for dinner, which was a lively affair as the two men related their adventures. Arwen was charmed by the tale of the hidden lake and delighted with the sprigs of dried niphredil that Aragorn had brought her, while Éowyn and Elbeth both held their breath as Faramir spoke of the giant spider. Both ladies expressed regret that they had not witnessed the mock dual with the grasses, while Elbeth wished that she could have joined in the play fighting. The listeners were highly entertained by tales of the villagers and wished that they could have met Faramir and Aragorn's newfound friends, especially Mistress Tasariel.
The next morning, two very contented couples emerged from their chambers to eat a hearty breakfast. Aragorn produced the cheese that Tasariel had given them which both ladies declared to be delicious.
"I have something to show you," Aragorn told Faramir before the two men commenced their labours for the day. "Come, walk with me as far as the White Tree."
King and Steward walked side by side, Faramir with a rather puzzled expression.
"Now look up towards the White Tower," Aragorn ordered.
Faramir did as he was bidden. The Steward could hardly believe his eyes, as there fluttered the banner of the House of Húrin alongside the King's Standard.
"Thank you!" whispered Faramir, blinking away tears. "But why?"
"Our Houses are bound in true friendship; and I would have all of Gondor know this," said Aragorn, his eyes shining with paternal love. "We are as one family."
"It pleased me greatly to pretend that I was your son these past weeks," said Faramir, his voice choked with emotion. All his life he had longed to see his own father look upon him in the proud and loving way Aragorn beheld him now.
"You are my son, the fact I did not beget you makes you none the less so," said Aragorn, embracing him.