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17
The curse is come upon me

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott. - Tennyson

Disclaimer - 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 Virtuella and Raksha

"I had to return," Arwen said in a bleak remote tone. "I believe Farawyn is dying."

"No!" Aragorn cried. Only then did he notice that the limp bundle that the nursemaid carried was his daughter. He snatched the child from the woman's arms and gently shook her, urgently calling her name. Farawyn did not stir.

"What happened?" Aragorn demanded, his healer's instinct taking over as he began to examine the child. "She cannot be dying! Healthy children do not die for no reason!"

"Some curse has come upon us!" the nursemaid muttered darkly.

"When did she fall ill?" Aragorn asked in a tone that demanded an answer. "And what of Eldarion?"

"The day before yesterday when those other spawn of Morgoth arrived," Arwen answered. "Eldarion is well. I left him with Éowyn and his nurse."

"Why did you not bring her home at once?" the King demanded.

"I simply thought at first that she had eaten something that disagreed with her," said Arwen. "I was concerned, though, that she would not even take my milk, but hoped that after sleeping her stomach would have settled. I thought she was sleeping peacefully, but when I tried to rouse her this morning I could not. My poor baby!" Arwen burst into tears.

Aragorn went to the door and demanded some hot water from a servant. He also sent for Faramir, hoping his friend's calm manner and wisdom might prove helpful. He attempted vainly to comfort Arwen, all the while also trying to discover what ailed his daughter. Her pulse was steady, but weak, and she was deathly pale. She showed no signs of fever, though, or of any known disease.

"What did she do the day she was taken ill?" Aragorn asked.

"Éowyn desired to plant onions and rhubarb. The children all wanted to help," said Arwen, trying to collect herself. "After a short time, though, she felt unwell as her time is very near and I went inside to help her to bed. Elbeth came too. The little ones stayed outside with their nurses."

"Who else was there?" Aragorn enquired. His heart sank that there appeared to be no reliable witnesses. A pity Elbeth had not stayed outside, as Faramir's niece was a clever observant girl who desired to become a healer.

"Quite a lot of people," said the nursemaid. "After Lady Éowyn went inside some of the villagers came to help Lady Éowyn's workers. Their children came too to earn coins for running errands."

"Were there any strangers amongst them?"

"I don't know," said the nursemaid. "I swear I didn't let Lady Farawyn out of my sight, I didn't! The Queen lets her play with other children!"

"What is wrong with our baby?" Arwen sobbed.

"I cannot be sure, yet," said Aragorn. "Maybe something has poisoned her? I am certain that athelas should help restore her to health."

"It is the dragons!" Arwen cried. "Their evil breath is killing my baby!" Her legs suddenly failed her and she sank down upon the nearest chair.

"If the dragons were to blame, we would all be seriously ill," Aragorn said. "The only new cases in the Houses of Healing since the dragon arrived are the usual accidents and fevers. Master Tarostar's report today mentioned two children with broken bones, and another with lung fever, a woman with a difficult labour, and a man who injured himself falling from his horse when drunk!"

Just then the servant entered with a large jug of steaming water, closely followed by Faramir. The Steward paled when he saw Farawyn, for the child was almost as dear to him as his own, but he quickly digested Aragorn's brief explanation.

"Shall I see if I can find the darwisa?" Faramir suggested, mentioning the healer from Harad who had saved Aragorn's life a few years before. "She knows a great deal about rare poisons."

"Thank you, ion nîn, Hurry, I fear time is of the essence," said Aragorn. He crumbled athelas leaves in a bowl of water and started to bathe Farawyn with the mixture, all the while calling her name. The little girl did not move or stir.

Faramir hurried first to the residence of the Harad Ambassador and his wife, who were good friends of his and the King and Queen. The tidings of Farawyn's illness distressed them both greatly.

"The poor esteemed Lady Arwen!" cried the Ambassador.

"Is there any way in which we might be able honoured to help our honoured friend?" asked Adiva, his wife.

"I wondered if you could help me find the darwisa again?" said Faramir. "Her skills saved my lord's life, so I thought she might be able to help Farawyn."

"Alas!" cried Adiva, wringing her hands. "She has vanished. Last month I desired to consult her concerning my health, but my servants could find no trace of her. Rumour has it that she has returned to Harad."

"Is there another here such as she?" Faramir asked urgently.

Adiva sadly shook her head. "Our people who dwell in your great land now prefer the ways of your healers, not least because it costs them less coin. In the end, it was esteemed Lady Arwen who helped with my problem. Alas, that I cannot help, anything I gladly would do for my friend, but this I am not able! Good folk like they should forever dwell in the shade of an oasis."

"I know that you would, my friend," said Faramir. "I must return now to the King and Queen."

"Let me know of any way in which we might help esteemed Lady Arwen," said Tapir.

"Tell me when I might visit her," Adiva added. "I have missed her and your honoured lady. I hope your lady's fair blossom flourishes within her?"

"I will and my lady is well," said Faramir as he took his leave. The desolation on the faces of the Ambassador and his wife mirrored his own. Lady Adiva was a close friend of the Queen's and her youngest daughter a playmate of Farawyn's.

The rain continued to fall and a chill wind blew around Faramir's face as he returned to the Citadel. Heavy hearted, Faramir prepared to give Aragorn the bad news. As he strode through the King's gardens, Súlion appeared and flew alongside him.

"Where is everyone?" demanded the dragon. "You have not been to talk to me today!"

"The King's baby daughter is very ill," Faramir explained. "I fear we will not have time to enjoy your company while we seek a remedy. Maybe if the rain stops, Fu Nung can come out to keep you company, but I fear you will have to be patient."

"Is the boy well?" the dragon enquired.

"Yes, Eldarion is in good health," said Faramir.

"It is unfortunate about the sick one, but she is only a girl child. The King must be happy his boy child is thriving," said Súlion.

"The King loves both his children equally!" Faramir snapped, losing patience with the beast. "Things might be different in your land, but my lord values his daughter as much as his son. Now be off, as it would distress the Queen to find you here!" Without a backward glance at the dragon he hurried back to Aragorn, seething inwardly at the creature's callousness.

Faramir found Aragorn and the chief healers from the Houses of Healing conferring when he went to tell the King and Queen of his lack of success. Unsurprisingly, no one had any better idea than Aragorn as to what ailed Farawyn. One thought poison, another a rare contagion, while a third decreed it must be a judgement of some sort.

"Not upon an innocent child!" Aragorn snapped. "The Valar would not be that cruel. Maybe, I had not always acted as wisely and well as I ought, but my daughter has done nothing wrong!"

"You have permitted creatures of Morgoth to roam throughout the land and our daughter is paying the price!" Arwen snapped.

"The dragon meant no ill!" Aragorn protested.

Unable to endure seeing two people whom he knew loved one another squabbling. Faramir stepped forward and recounted his lack of success with his errand. "I am so sorry I could not find her," he concluded.

"I doubt the darwisa could have helped," Aragorn said wearily. "If it is a poison, she would need to know what it was, and we have no idea."

"I will take over your duties for you until Farawyn is well again," Faramir offered, for once what he believed to be a lie, coming to his lips much more easily that the apparent cruel truth.

"Thank you, mellon nîn," Aragorn's haunted eyes managed a faint smile. "Will you remain in my chambers so you are at hand if I have need of you?"

"Of course," said Faramir. "You or the Queen may call on me at any hour of the day or night. I am at your service." He lingered for a moment, taking in the weeping Queen, his anguished friend, and the silent motionless child. He would give his all to help them, but there was nothing that he could do whatsoever. His eyes met Aragorn's for a moment and the King sadly shook his head. There were affairs of State that needed attending to and Faramir knew he could best help Aragorn by dealing with them. The Steward took his leave.

For many long hours Aragorn laboured, using every art and herb he knew, but all in vain; he could not reach his daughter's wandering spirit to call her back.

Arwen seemed half crazed with grief for her dying child. She alternately wept or regarded Aragorn with silent reproach.

As darkness fell for the second time since Arwen's return, Aragorn pondered Arwen's words. Could allowing dragons to take shelter in his Realm have truly caused his daughter's illness? Aragorn had always known about beings of light created by Eru, and beings of darkness that Morgoth had corrupted to his evil will. Had he disobeyed the Creator's decree by befriending a dragon? Yet that went against everything Aragorn had ever believed. Súlion had committed no evil deeds and therefore was not evil.

Maybe some fault lay with him and not with the dragon? He had blood enough on his hands. Blood he believed to have been shed solely to protect his people from the Enemy. The countless deaths had been necessary to prevent the Dark Lord's triumph, and he lost no sleep over dead Orcs. There had been men too, though, more than he liked to think about. Enemies, yes, but every one had been a son, a brother, or a husband. Aragorn had never raised his sword against women and children, but how many such innocents had died without the protection of their men folk? Surely such explanations were madness, though? He had taken no pleasure in killing, only done what he must. Surely the Higher Powers were not so cruel to demand his innocent baby's life? Maybe some curse was upon his child? He had been cursed many times in his long life, the crazed old man being only the most recent of a long line of ill-wishers as he had told Faramir. But why should a curse affect Farawyn, who had never harmed so much as a fly? Not that he even believed curses held any power over those they were directed at. Such superstitious nonsense was the preserve of old country folk who believed an ill word or look could turn the milk sour!

Aragorn stumbled to his feet and walked over to where his wife sat cradling their daughter and weeping quietly. "She still will not wake," said Arwen.

For about the hundredth time, Aragorn crumbled more athelas into a bowl of steaming water, placed his hand upon Farawyn's brow, and concentrated all his energy in trying to connect with her spirit. His features drained of colour as he tried to pour his strength into the child. Her spirit remained far from him. He groaned aloud. His daughter was dying before his eyes, and he could do nothing! "Try to rest, vanimelda," Aragorn told his wife. "You need to be strong."

"How can I when my poor baby is so ill? If only my brothers were not so far away!" Arwen lamented, glancing down at her uncomfortably swollen breasts. Farawyn was not yet even fully weaned. Nevertheless, she took the limp child and lay down upon the bed with her. Aragorn, having no comfort to offer her, slumped down on a chair and stared into the fire, preparing to keep watch for another long night. He doubted his daughter would survive until the morning, as it was now three days since she had fallen into this deathly sleep and taken neither food nor water. It was most likely only Farawyn's unique lineage that was still keeping her alive.

Aragorn's head drooped. He had not slept for more than a few minutes since Arwen's return. He knew not whether he slept or woke when he heard a voice telling him what he must do

TBC.

A/n. this chapter refers to events in "Dies Irae" also on this site. Some of my friends in the AA group might find events in this chapter familiar.

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