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46
How the Mighty are Fallen

How the Mighty are Fallen

The characters are the property of the Tolkien estate. No profit has been, nor will be made from this story.

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Virtuella.


~~~

Faramir had long since concluded that although you could make a Ranger into a King, the Ranger was still always present lurking somewhere in the background ready any day to manifest himself.

Today was one of those days. Bad weather had confined the King within doors for several days and he was restless as a lively horse chomping at the bit.

Aragorn had undoubtedly tried to work, but was now almost driving Faramir to distraction with his restless pacing to look out of the window every few minutes.

"Our horses could do with some exercise now that the rain has stopped," Faramir suggested, finally putting his lord out of his misery. "We can finish the paperwork later."

"There is nothing I would like better," Aragorn said wistfully. "I really should finish reading this report from the Dwarfs on the amount of stone we are projected to need over the next ten years, though."

"You have read all of one page in an hour!" Faramir pointed out. "Come, you will settle better to finish it after a breath of fresh air. We can work this evening instead."

"Very well, my friend," Aragorn conceded, his expression similar to that of a man who has just been released from lengthy imprisonment. "Arwen says I am like a bear with a sore head when I am confined indoors. To think that I wandered alone in the wild in all weathers, but now I am King, people raise their eyebrows if I get my feet wet. Wearing a crown does not make me into a frail hothouse flower!"

"Not if your lady thinks you resemble a bear!" laughed the Steward. "We must make certain you do not truly turn into one!"

Within the hour, King and Steward were riding across the Pelennor in the pleasant October sunshine. A chilly breeze blew, though, snatching many of the remaining orange and gold leaves from their branches. Behind the King and Steward rode two unhappy looking guards, who ardently wished that their charges spent breezy autumn afternoons indoors.

Roheryn was in a skittish mood, unlike Faramir's placid gelding, Zachus, who plodded patiently behind the great stallion.

"Is that carthorse asleep?" Aragorn teased his Steward, though in truth he was fond of the gentle horse.

"I think he prefers his warm stable where he can doze," Faramir said ruefully. "I suspect we might have frost tonight."

Aragorn sniffed the air. "I have always found autumn a beautiful season," he said. "But now I no longer face the prospect of sleeping under a hedge in the snow, I can appreciate it even more. The air smells so fresh at this time of year."

"Boromir was born in October," Faramir said somewhat pensively. "I remember when we were children, how we used to try to catch a falling leaf. Not that we ever succeeded!"

"I will race you to that tree," said Aragorn, anxious that Faramir should not brood over the brother he still missed. He gestured towards a great oak about a league ahead. "That should wake up your sleepy horse!" Thus saying, he allowed Roheryn his head and set off at a gallop.

Unknown to the carefree riders, a cart had traversed the fields earlier that day and become stuck when the axle had snapped. The ground had churned up and was slippery at the accident's site. Now, the broken piece of wood lay buried in the mud.

Aragorn tried to rein in Roheryn to avoid the patch of churned up ground, but too late. Racing at full speed, the stallion was unable to slow down quickly enough. His hooves caught the partially submerged axle and he stumbled to an abrupt halt, sending the King flying over his head.

Faramir could only watch in horror as his friend fell to the ground in a crumbled heap. The Steward immediately bought his gelding to a halt before they reached the dangerous patch of ground. Swiftly dismounting, he raced to his friend's side.

Aragorn lay sprawled on the ground beside the splintered wood. Blood poured from a wound in his head.

"Aragorn no!" Oblivious to the mud, Faramir knelt on the ground and clasped Aragorn's hand. He could feel a strong pulse, so the King was still alive, but it appeared that he could be badly injured as he neither moved nor opened his eyes.

"Lord Faramir?" called one of the Guards who had finally caught up with them.

"Ride back quickly and fetch the Warden from the Houses of Healing or a senior healer and tell the servants to prepare the King's room!" Faramir said urgently.

"Would you like me to stay with him, so you can return to the Citadel?" asked the second Guard, looking aghast at his Steward kneeling in the mud.

"No, I will stay with the King. Go now and hurry!"

Once the men had gone, Faramir unfastened his cloak and used it to drape around Aragorn. "Wake up," he pleaded, tearing a strip from his shirt and bandaging the wound on Aragorn's head.

The King opened his eyes and groaned. "My head, my back! What happened?"

"Thank the Valar you are awake!" Faramir exclaimed. "No, mellon nÓn, you must be still until the healer comes," he pleaded when Aragorn tried to sit up. "You have fallen from your horse."

"I am a healer!" Aragorn said tetchily, but nevertheless remained still, knowing the wisdom of his Steward's words. "I hope the healer hurries then. It is cold here!" He groaned again and clutched his head.

Faramir tried to shield Aragorn from the elements as best he could with his own body. The horses, sensing their masters' need, formed a protective shelter against the wind, but the breeze, which had seemed so pleasant earlier, now had a biting coldness as the sun started to sink in the western sky.

Faramir's keen eyes searched the horizon wishing help would come. There was not a soul in sight. It was not a market day and the good citizens of Minas Tirith preferred to stay by their fires on blustery autumn days. He concentrated on trying to keep up Aragorn's spirits, but the King said little apart from repeatedly asking Faramir what had happened, which was more worrying to the Steward than if his lord had remained silent.

Time passed and Faramir began to wonder whether it would indeed be better to risk riding back to the Citadel. He had begun to fear that Aragorn was in more danger of taking harm from lying in a cold damp field than from his injuries.

After what seemed a very long time, but must have been less than an hour, Faramir heard shouts. He looked up and saw a group of riders coming towards them.

Several burly guards escorted Aragorn's healer, Aedred, a man who was as ill at ease on a horse as he was at home in the Houses. His fellow healers often joked that Aedred had only left his native Rohan and chosen to become a healer, so that he could avoid riding a horse. Today he had no option but to do so and was perched precariously atop a pony, looking almost comical amongst the great war horses of the guards.

As soon as he could, the healer dismounted and hastened to where Aragorn was lying. "What happened?" he asked Faramir rather breathlessly.

"We were galloping the horses when the King's horse stumbled and threw him. He hit his head on this broken axle as he fell," the Steward explained. "His back hurts too and he seems confused."

"There is nothing wrong with my tongue!" Aragorn protested. "I can speak perfectly well for myself!"

"Who ever in their right mind goes galloping around on a gigantic beast if they don't have to?" grumbled Aedred as he knelt beside Aragorn. Faramir moved aside, but he took the King's cold hands between his own.

"Is he badly injured?" Faramir demanded of the healer. "His head is bleeding so much!"

"Patience, my lord!" Aedred cautioned, removing the makeshift bandage and carefully examining Aragorn's head and neck before swiftly feeling his limbs. Aragorn groaned. "Hmm."

"What do you mean, hmm?" Faramir asked anxiously. "Is he badly hurt? Should we send for the Queen?"

"Nothing appears to be broken, though I cannot say for certain until I get him back to the Citadel and examine him properly. I do not think, though, he is suffering from anything worse than bruises and a concussion. Where is Queen Arwen, then?"

"She is visiting my wife in Ithilien with Prince Eldarion and due to return on the morrow."

"Unless a full examination uncovers anything worse, I would advise against her travelling at haste though the hours of darkness, especially with a young child," Aedred replied. "Now, we need to get the Lord Elessar to somewhere dry and warm. It is safe to move him. Someone will have to ride with him in front of them."

"Stop talking about me as though I was not here!" Aragorn protested.

The Guards moved forward but Faramir forestalled them. "I will ride with him," he said. "My Zachus is a strong horse and can easily carry two." Rather belatedly, he asked Aragorn "Who would you prefer to ride with, sire?"

"I can ride perfectly well on my own if you help me up," said Aragorn.

"That would not be wise, my lord," said Aedred.

Aragorn grunted, but when Aedred and Faramir, together with two Guards, carefully helped him to his feet, the world began to spin around. "I will ride with the Steward," he said, admitting defeat.

"We will take you to the Houses of Healing, my lord," said Aedred.

"No!" snapped Aragorn. "I want to go home. It will worry my lady too much if she finds me there when I return."

"I think he might fare better in his own rooms," said Faramir "If I recall rightly, he keeps more varied healing supplies there than you have in the Houses even. He has told me that familiar surroundings can aid recovery and I doubt the King would take kindly to confinement within the Houses! I can stay with him in his own rooms until Queen Arwen returns, provided that you, Master Aedred, or one of your assistants would remain too if needed."

"Very well," Aedred conceded. Together with the two guards, he helped Aragorn mount Faramir's horse. The Steward then climbed up behind him and supported Aragorn so that he was in no risk of falling off a horse again that day.

The small procession made their way back to the City as swiftly as safety would permit. Faramir gave his authority to allow his horse and Aedred's pony to ascend to the seventh level, where two of the guards carried the protesting Aragorn to his room. The King seemed less confused now and even more irate.

The servants had not been idle. The fire had been built up, healing supplies laid out and towels spread across the vast bed in anticipation of their coming.

The Guards placed Aragorn on the bed. Faramir thanked them and bade them go and take refreshment.

"I could have walked!" Aragorn protested grumpily. He tried to sit up rather too quickly only to be overcome with a wave of dizziness and had to lie down again.

The housekeeper regarded his muddy boots on the bed cover with dismay and gestured the valet to come forward and remove them. Aragorn gave the man a thunderous look.

Faramir hastily dismissed the hovering servants.

"Come, sire, we must get you out of those wet clothes," said the healer cheerfully. He started to pull off Aragorn's footwear.

"I can undress myself if you would go away and leave me in peace!" Aragorn snapped. Again he moved too swiftly and was forced to lie down again and endure the indignity of being undressed as if he were a baby. Faramir handed him a blanket, which he clutched to himself like a shield.

"Your hands are cold!" Aragorn protested when the healer examined him. "Ouch! It is obvious that you were trained by trolls rather than Elves!"

"We have not all had your advantages, my lord," Aedred said amiably. "The previous Warden, who was personal healer to Lord Denethor himself, trained me. There appears to be nothing worse than a bump on your head and some bruises on your back. I will mix a salve for you."

"I have better salves of my own on the table over there," Aragorn retorted. "Faramir, fetch the comfrey salve, please, that is good for healing bruises."

"Your thick Nķmenorean skull seems to have saved you from taking serious hurt," Aedred continued. "I must just ask you some questions, sire. What is your name?"

"Elessar, King of Gondor, though you seem to have forgotten that!" the King replied.

"And where are we?"

"In my bedchamber in Minas Tirith, one place I ought to get some peace!"

The healer continued to ignore Aragorn's bad mood while he asked more questions and chattered cheerfully while he applied salves to Aragorn's bruises and the goose egg size lump that had appeared on his head. He then bandaged the cut. Faramir took advantage of his presence to go and change into clean garments, his own being damp and stained with mud.

The Steward returned just as the healer was replacing the pot of salve with Aragorn's other healing supplies. "Do you wish me to stay, my lord?" Aedred enquired.

"No!" Aragorn snapped.

"Is the King in any danger?" the Steward asked.

"I do not think so," answered the healer. "I have uncovered no serious hurts, but he should not be left alone."

"I will remain with him," said Faramir. "I can always send for you again if I feel there is any need. You should take your rest as I am certain you will a lot work waiting for you at the Houses of Healing."

Aedred for a moment looked as if he could happily have embraced Faramir. He swiftly composed his features and bowed. "Thank you, my lords. Lord Faramir, you need to wake the King at least once during the night to make certain he is not confused, but I will mix a draught to relieve pain and help the King sleep."

"I have pain relieving draughts of my own with no doubt taste better than the vile concoctions you brew," said Aragorn. "I recall tasting one when a patient I was helping tend at the Houses refused to swallow it."

"As you wish, my lord," said Aedred. "Be sure to call me again if you have need of me. I bid you a restful night." With that he took his leave.

Aragorn gave a deep sigh as soon as the door closed behind the man. "Maybe I was hard on the fellow, but I cannot abide healers!" he said.

"But you are a healer yourself," said Faramir.

"Maybe I would like them better if they had been trained by Elves," said Aragorn. "These Gondorian healers seem to inflict more pain than they relieve! I hate falling helplessly into their hands."

"Shall I mix you some pain killing herbs?" Faramir enquired.

"Yes, please, but first help me into my night attire. I refuse to lie here wearing only a blanket a moment longer! And perhaps you could sent for some light refreshments?"

Faramir smiled for the first time since the accident. Aragorn was sounding far more like his usual self. He despatched a servant to fetch food and drink for them both and then helped Aragorn ease his nightshirt over his head.

By the time they had eaten and the pain relieving draught had had time to take effect, Aragorn was much restored in health and spirits. "I shall retire early," he said, "for I want to be up and about tomorrow before Arwen returns. She will chide me for being so foolish as to fall from my horse so I would not have her find me lying a bed too!"

The night passed with nor greater disturbance than Aragorn's snoring waking Faramir, more frequently that Faramir waking Aragorn to see that he was suffering no ill effects from his head injury.

"How do you feel?" Faramir asked the King when the early morning sunlight streamed into the room.

"I have a slight headache and am somewhat stiff, but otherwise feel quite well," the King replied. "It is you who look exhausted, my friend!"

"I shall feel better once I have eaten," said Faramir. He smiled; Aragorn's concern for his well-being was proof that the King was his old self again. "Do you want me to send for some refreshments?"

"I would prefer to get up," Aragorn replied. "I need to be up and about before Arwen returns so as not to alarm her."

Aragorn managed to get out of bed without assistance and after he had washed was able to don his breeches. His shirt however defeated him and he conceded that he needed Faramir's help. The bruises on his back were now a lurid shade of purple that matched those that had appeared on his forehead where the bandage did not cover.

"You are black and blue!" Faramir exclaimed. "Shall I send for the healer?"

"He cannot do anything for me that I cannot do myself," said Aragorn. "Arwen will change the bandage for me later. She is certain to insist on seeing the injury."

"Do you want the comfrey salve then?" Faramir asked.

"Yes, please," said Aragorn. He took the jar and rubbed some of the foul looking mixture on his forehead. "Can you rub some on my back, please? I fear I am too stiff to reach myself this morning."

Faramir did as he was bidden and placed the jar on the bedside table. He looked around for something to wipe his hands on before helping Aragorn don his shirt. He reached over for a towel that Aragorn had discarded after leaving the bathing chamber, quickly rubbed his hands clean on it and helped ease Aragorn's linen shirt over his head, followed by his tunic.

Instinctively a tidy man, Faramir then reached for the towel again to place it in the laundry basket, only to catch the jar of salve with it and dislodge it from the table. The jar fell on the floor with a loud crash and shattered. The ointment oozed out on to the floor.

"I am sorry!" Faramir exclaimed.

"Do not worry about it," said Aragorn. "I have plenty more. Just call for a servant to clean the floor."

Eager to get the mess cleaned up, Faramir hurried to the door only to catch his foot in the sticky ointment. He made a vain grab for the table, but fell heavily to the floor.

"Faramir! Are you hurt?" Aragorn cried. His own hurts forgotten, he offered a helping arm to his friend.

Faramir grimaced as he tried to get to his feet. "I think I have twisted my ankle," he said glumly.

0000

The late afternoon sun streamed through the windows of Arwen's sitting room. For once the Queen was not busy with her embroidery. Instead she sat regarding her husband with a quizzical look. …owyn, who had decided to accompany her friend, sat beside the Queen and was similarly observing her own husband. The two men sat beside each other on the couch. Faramir sat with his ankle propped on a footstool. Both men had equally glum expressions.

"Whatever were you thinking, Estel?" said Arwen. "You fell from your horse? An experienced rider like you? Do you need ice to put on that lump on your head?"

"Accidents do happen, vanimelda," said Aragorn. "No thank you."

"And you, Faramir, are even worse," scolded …owyn. "Salves are for putting on wounds, not paddling in! Do you need more ice for your ankle?"

"No, thank you, dear," said Faramir meekly.

"Men!" …owyn snorted as she helped herself to some apple juice from a jug on the table. "We cannot leave them for five minutes ere they get into trouble!"

"Our husbands seem quite incapable of managing without us," Arwen agreed. "We must keep a closer eye upon them in future!"

Aragorn groaned.

"Not that I would want to tame my Ranger, too much though," the Queen conceded, exchanging a loving glance with her husband.

"I am glad to hear that," said Aragorn.

"You will give me grey hairs faster than the children do," said …owyn. "But I like my husband as he is too. At least life is never dull with him!"

The two men dared to relax a little for the first time since their wives and offspring had returned earlier that day.

"What a pair you are!" said Arwen, but she was smiling affectionately.

~~~

A/n. This story originally began life years ago as part of what is now "Shadows of Memory." I revised it last autumn for the Teitho "Falls" contest where it was placed second.


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