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9
Do you not fear this wild and furious woman?

Fürchtest du nicht das wild wütende Weib? (Do you not fear this wild and furious woman?) – Siegfried – Wagner.

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

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Virtuella


~~~

Arwen was pacing her sitting room when Aragorn entered with Eldarion. The Queen took one look at her child and enfolded him a close embrace. "Elbereth be praised that you are safe, ion nîn!" she exclaimed. "Has that evil monster hurt you?"

"Ada took me to see the dragon and he was very nice," said Eldarion. "Please let me go, naneth, I can hardly breathe!"

Arwen relaxed her grip only a fraction. She turned to Aragorn and demanded furiously." How could you, Estel? Our baby could have been killed!"

"I'm not a baby!" Eldarion protested.

"Eldarion was in no danger, vanimelda," Aragorn said calmly. "It was necessary to take him to visit the dragon in order to calm the people."

"You would sacrifice your only son to a monster to placate your subjects?" Arwen demanded furiously.

"Eldarion was in no more danger than when I introduced him to my horse," said Aragorn. "Eldarion, go to your nurse now and ask her to give you something to eat. I am proud of how well you behaved today. You served our people well. You can have an extra slice of cake with your supper."

"Will there be honey cake?" Eldarion asked. "Oh naneth, how I wish you'd met my new friend, T'ien Li. He is enormous, as big as a house and he has wings like a butterfly's and …"

"Go, now, ion nîn," Aragorn said firmly, observing how Arwen's expression grew darker with each new revelation from her son's lips. "I will try to come and tell you a bedtime story later."

"Can it be about dragons, please?" Eldarion asked innocently as his father hustled him through the door leading to the nursery.

"And now my son is corrupted into believing that the dragons of Morgoth are his friends!" Arwen raged.

"But Sulion is friendly," Aragorn insisted. "He was not a servant of Shadow."

"The dragons were born to Darkness and cannot change! If any dragons were free from evil, would I have not heard during my long years of living?" snapped Arwen. "Will you next insist that we dine with Orcs? Maybe you consider them suitable playmates for our daughter?"

"Arwen, do not be foolish!" said Aragorn, his patience wearing thin. "Of course I would not let Orcs anywhere near our daughter any more than I would expose our son to harm!"

"Yet you take my son to see a dragon!" she retorted. "It is you who are foolish, not I!"

"Súlion is of a race of dragons that Morgoth never bent to his will," Aragorn explained. "He is tame and friendly and would not hurt a child."

"But a dragon could devour a child in one gulp, however tame it claims to be!" Arwen insisted.

Aragorn suddenly drew Andúril, which was still girded at his side. "I could kill you with this sword," he said.

"But you would not," Arwen said calmly, not so much as taking a step backward.

"And why would I not? The blade is keen and has dealt death to many! I could destroy you and our children as swiftly as any dragon!"

"But you would not," Arwen insisted. "Enough of this foolish talk. Put your sword away before you do yourself some mischief! You will not distract me!"

"But why would I not harm you?" the King insisted.

"Because you are my Estel, a good and honourable man. It is not in your nature to kill women and children."

"Quite so," said Aragorn sheathing the sword. "I could kill with this weapon, but I choose not to because it is not my nature, any more than it is in Sulion's nature to kill innocent children. Do you not understand? Sooner would I run this blade through my heart than willingly endanger my son."

Arwen glared at her husband. "You can talk all you wish, but you will never convince me that this beast is other than evil!" she said. "What does Faramir have to say of the creature's return?"

"He considers it his friend, who protected him from the cold in the cave" said Aragorn. "I have left him with Sulion now, further proof that I believe the dragon to be perfectly tame, as I would no more put Faramir in danger than a child of my body."

"Alas, you are all dragon-spelled!" Arwen exclaimed. "Well, until you see sense, you will sleep in your own room and dine at your own table! Send for Faramir if you desire company. Or perhaps you would prefer to sleep alongside the dragon since you have lost your wits? I would not have a madman snoring beside me, nor will I have you filling the children's heads with this nonsense!" With that, she swept from the room.

Aragorn groaned inwardly. He had expected her wrath, but not to be banished to the grim chamber that had once been Denethor's felt a harsh punishment indeed! He sometimes chose to sleep there but never had he expected Arwen to banish him from her chamber! Sadly he doffed his royal robes and regalia and sent for a servant to bring him some much-delayed luncheon and light a fire in his room.

Aragorn spent the remainder of the afternoon immersed in affairs of state. Just before sunset, he donned his cloak and walked to the Houses of Healing to see how his patient fared.

Aedred was sitting by Fu Nung's bedside when Aragorn entered. "How is he?" the King enquired.

"There is no change," said the healer. "We have done all we can, but he still seems to be suffering a great deal of pain and distress."

"It cannot help that he understands nothing that we say," Aragorn observed, walking over to the sick man's bedside and taking his hand.

"T'ien Li? T'ien Li!" Fu Nung muttered feverishly.

"He is well." Aragorn hoped his tone of voice would convey his meaning, but doubted that he had succeeded as the man continued to repeat his dragon's name. It took all Aragorn's considerable skills to coax him to swallow a much-needed drink.

"His bandages need changing," said Aedred. "The one on his shoulder, especially, is soaked through."

"I will assist you," said Aragorn.

Aedred's brows rose slightly. "I should be grateful for your help, sire," he said. "But am I not taking you from dining with your lady at this hour, though?"

"Arwen has other plans tonight," the King said grimly.

Aedred knew better than to comment. Instead he busied himself collecting bandages and salves from the table at the far side of the room. The two men then together approached their patient. The fear in Fu Nung's eyes was pitiful to behold.

"There is no need for him to suffer through this," said Aragorn. He lightly brushed his fingertips across the feverish man's eyelids, sending him at once into a deep sleep.

"That is a useful gift of yours," Aedred remarked.

"I only wish it worked for setting bones and removing arrows," said Aragorn. "Although the patient would sleep, he would still feel pain." Together with Aedred, he undressed Fu Nung and they removed his bandages. The leg wound was not too bad, but the shoulder injury was red and inflamed. They applied a mixture of garlic and vinegar. Aragorn held his hands a few inches above Fu Nung's wounds and concentrated his healing energies. Fu Nung's spirit, wary of the King of those who had hurt him, resisted Aragorn's contact. Aragorn could not tell whether he was helping the Easterling.

Aedred rubbed the patient's hips with goose grease to prevent pressure sores. They then dressed him in a clean nightshirt and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. Aragorn was far from certain that the dragon's rider would recover. It was with a heavy heart that he returned to his rooms.

The large chamber appeared cold and cheerless on the late spring evening. The servants had lit a fire, but it gave off little warmth. Aragorn sighed; maybe it was not the fire to blame. Any room in the citadel without Arwen was cold and cheerless! He sank down in a large armchair by the hearth and buried his head in his hands. Would his beloved wife ever forgive him? Never before had a quarrel gone so far. Usually, they made up within the hour. This time, though, he could not give way to please her. He was bound by his honour and the rules of hospitality to shelter the dragon and his rider.

Aragorn could not blame his wife for her feelings; indeed, before he met Súlion, they had been his own. How could he ever make her understand that this dragon was not a threat but a friend?

A tap on the door interrupted his melancholy thoughts. "Go away!" Aragorn snapped.

"It is I, Faramir," a familiar voice called.

"Come in!" Aragorn's tone brightened considerably.

Faramir entered, a large bundle clasped in his arms. "I will not keep you if you wish to be alone," the Steward said. "I just thought you should have this. It is the Dragon Rider's pack. Súlion dropped it when he reared up. He wants us to take it to his rider. But whatever are you doing here looking so sad? I thought you would be in the living room with your lady and children."

"I would much prefer to be there," Aragorn said glumly. "Arwen, though, has other ideas. I am banished from her side and that of the children until I learn not to consort with dragons! She believes we are both under some evil spell because we do not wish to kill Sulion."

"I fear if Éowyn were in the city, she would doubtlessly react in the same way," said Faramir. "She was adamant Súlion was a Fell Beast, however hard I tried to convince her that he was not. If our ladies would but talk to him and look into his eyes, I am certain they would realise that he is a good and honourable dragon"

"I do not know," said Aragorn. "It was hard enough for me to understand, and I have not been taught to hate and fear dragons for well nigh three thousand years, only a mere ninety seven." He rose to his feet. "But enough of my brooding! Sit down and make yourself comfortable. How are matters in the city? I have just returned from the Houses of Healing and all seemed quiet."

"There are only a handful of folk still determined on leaving," said Faramir. He looked around him, noting that there was only the one chair that Aragorn had just vacated or the bed or hearthrug to sit upon. He opted for the rug and sat down, the bundle still on his lap. "I think that all should be well."

"Did you have any problems getting our dragon to the field?" Aragorn enquired, scorning the armchair in favour of a spot on the rug beside his friend, where he sat cross-legged like a tailor.

"Sulion did not find flying the short distance too onerous," said Faramir. "Worst to deal with was the farmer who owns the land. I had to pay him double the value of the field as well as promise that it would be returned to him once the dragon went home. We made Súlion as comfortable as we could. I had the soldiers dig him a latrine pit as far from the stream as possible and had three fat cows slaughtered for his dinner, which he ate, apart from a leg of each, which your cooks are preparing. He can drink from the stream and there is shelter under the trees should it rain. I also had a fire lit for warmth. I left Lamrung in charge, as I feel he can be trusted and I have sent word for some of my Rangers to come and help guard him, I thought country fellows, not too well versed in old lore, might prove more willing guards for our guest."

"You have done well, ion nîn, said Aragorn, patting his shoulder. "Now I think we should take a look at what that bundle contains."

TBC

~~~

A/n. In Wagner's opera, "Siegfried", the heroine sings the above words to a tune associated earlier with a dragon!


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