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The Sword in the Tree
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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6
My father promised me a sword

Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater,

ich fänd' es in höchster Not (My father promised me a sword, I would find it in greatest need.) - Wagner – Die Walküre.

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 Raksha and Deandra

A woman ran frantically for the shelter of the hall, her long golden braids flapping at her back. She stumbled in her haste, tripping over a root and falling headlong. A warg pounced upon her almost instantly. The beast let out a series of short growls as it straddled her, raked her flailing arm, and pawed her shoulder.

Aragorn snatched the knife from his belt and threw it, aiming for the creature's throat. Enraged, the warg abandoned its prey and charged towards him. He swerved nimbly and the creature impaled itself on Éomer's outstretched sword.

The golden-haired woman lay moaning in a crumpled heap on the ground, blood gushing from a wound in her arm. Aragorn sprinted towards her and half dragged, half carried her towards the hall. Signi opened the door a few inches to let them in.

"I need cloths!" he cried.

Signi grabbed a shift that had been airing by the fire and handed it to him. Aragorn pressed it hard against the injured woman's wound. As soon as the bleeding had slowed, he told the other women to keep the cloth in place to staunch the blood flow. "I will return," he told them. "Keep the doors barred."

Aragorn dashed out again and threw himself back into the fray. They were slowly gaining the upper hand now. Fierce though the wargs were, they were no match for the greatest warriors of the age. Éomer's men and Aragorn's guards were also trained and skilled fighters. The village men, alerted by the commotion, were running back from the fields and bravely fighting the beasts with whatever weapons they could find. Several of the men had kindled a fire and some were using flaming brands to ward off the attackers. One of the villagers threw a pitchfork at a large beast. It delivered only a glancing blow to the warg's side. Enraged, the creature tried to fight off its attacker, only to find the fire between it and the man. It veered sideways towards the hall, its vast bulk easily splintering the doorway.

Faramir, who was wiping his sword after dispatching another beast, espied the warg entering the hall out of the corner of his eye. He raced after the creature, horrified at the prospect of it attacking the women and children inside.

Aragorn instinctively turned; and saw Faramir disappear inside what was left of the door of the hall. Before he could follow, two wargs crept forward to menace him from either side. Cursing, Aragorn focussed on the beasts at hand. Faramir would have to handle the large warg by himself.

Faramir found himself in a scene of chaos as the warg stalked the frightened women and screaming children. They had wedged themselves in behind three rows of large barrels stacked high against the far side of the hall. Some of the children clutched a chicken or goose; one girl held a small dog, and a small boy cradled a kitten in his arms; the animals' sounds of alarm served only to draw the warg closer. The barrels stymied the warg, but the monster continued to sniff, its grunts turning to sharp growls. Then it began to claw and push at the barrels. At any moment, the barrels would start to fall, leaving the villagers defenceless.

"Keep down!" shouted Faramir. He rushed at the beast and plunged his sword into its side, aiming for the heart. At the last moment, it swerved aside and charged at him, taking his aim off balance. The sword embedded itself in the beast's thick hide near the shoulder.

Faramir pulled at his weapon trying to dislodge it, but the sword was now wedged deep in the creature's flesh. He leapt aside to escape the enraged beast.

Just then, the kitten escaped from the small boy's arms and padded towards the tree in the centre of the hall. Its mother had taken refuge on one of the highest branches and mewed piteously at her heedless offspring.

Signi's child pulled free from his mother's grasp and toddled after the kitten. Signi screamed and made to follow him, but the other women held her back.

"Let me go!" she cried.

"You will only be slain and the bairn within you as well," said one old woman.

Faramir ran and grabbed the child. He knew he could not hope to outpace the beast. It was wounded, but that hardly served to slow it down. He thrust the little boy up in the branches of the tree beside the cat. "Stay there!" he ordered.

"Want Mama!" the child protested. He had already lost interest in the kitten, which had scurried into some hiding place deep in the shadows.

The warg was now charging straight at Faramir. He still had his dagger, but there was no hope of killing other than a mortally wounded warg with such a puny weapon. Its claws ripped at his clothing and he could smell its foul breath in his face.

He scrambled up the tree beside the child. But the creature snarled and began to scramble at the trunk, its claws finding purchase in the bark. What hope, what to do now? Faramir knew not if wargs could climb, but this one was certainly trying and he could not reach his sword.

He pushed the child further back amongst the branches. The little boy began to scream for his mother. Faramir's hand brushed against the sword, which was embedded in the trunk. How could he retrieve the blade when greater men had failed? Yet, if ever a man needed a sword, he did now!

He grasped the sword firmly with both hands and took a deep breath. "Valar grant me power!" he prayed inwardly.

Aragorn rushed into the hall just in time to see Faramir draw the sword from the tree trunk. The mysterious sword slid into the Steward's hands as effortlessly as if he had drawn it from his own scabbard.

Aragorn had no time to ponder this marvel as Faramir was fighting desperately for his life. The warg was clawing at him viciously. The Steward stabbed wildly at it with his new sword.

Just as the King reached his friend, Faramir managed to deal the deathblow and the creature crumpled lifeless at the foot of the mighty ash.

"Faramir, you drew forth the sword!" Aragorn exclaimed in wonder. "It was obviously destined for you."

"Maybe it was because my need was so great?" panted Faramir, fighting for breath after his recent exertions.

"How do…?" Before Aragorn could finish the sentence, Éomer called him and Aragorn plunged back into the fray.

Faramir sank to the ground at the foot of the tree. His clothes were torn and his side throbbed from where the warg's claws had caught him.

Signi hastened to retrieve her screaming son from his perch in the tree. "Thank you, you saved my child," she said.

"It was my pleasure, mistress. I have a little one of my own," Faramir replied.

Signi scurried away as swiftly as her bulk would allow, eager to remove her son from the carnage around him.

Faramir's presence was forgotten as the Eorling women tended to their own wounded and tried to soothe their frightened children. The woman Aragorn had brought in was severely injured and her companions were desperately trying to staunch her wounds.

The Steward pressed his hand to his side and was surprised to feel it sticky with blood. It could not be more than a scratch, though, as the creature had only caught him a glancing blow. He grabbed some of the cloths the women were using as bandages and pressed them against his side. He would inspect the wound closely when they returned to the Golden Hall and he would ask Aragorn for a salve. He pulled his cloak around him to cover his torn garments.

These people were in far greater need of Aragorn's healing skills than he was, but if the King knew he had suffered as much as a scratch, he might allow the bond between might distract him from first tending the wounds of the seriously injured. Faramir knew Aragorn loved him as his own son and feared that love might prove stronger than his Healer's training to treat the most needy first. At least, the battle seemed to be over now. Wishing his head did not swim so much, the Steward found a relatively quiet corner and concentrated on the sword he had won.

Faramir had only handled Andúril on a few rare occasions, but those had taught him the difference between a mundane sword and a blade of high and ancient lineage. The blade bore no sign of rust or tarnish, despite two years or more of being embedded in a tree trunk. Now he could study it closely, there seemed almost something familiar about it. The Steward felt he had seen it before somewhere but could not think where.

The women who were tending to their friend were becoming increasingly agitated. "I can't stop the bleeding!" cried one who appeared to be the village healer.

Faramir called to them, "Fetch Elessar King!"

One of the other women hurried out and returned a few minutes later with Aragorn.

Faramir forced a smile as his friend entered and gestured towards the corner where the stricken woman lay.

An elderly woman began to beat her breast and scream." Friedhild, my baby, she's dying!"

Aragorn immediately took charge. "Silence! Bring me some hot water and whatever healing supplies you have. Friedhild, easy now, I am here to help you."

The village healer pressed Freihild's uninjured hand and with the other hand gestured for her companions to obey Aragorn.

Aragorn's air of authority calmed the women and their shrieks and cries gave way to measured answers to his questions.

Fortunately, the King always carried athelas with him. None was to be found in a remote Rohirric village. He quickly crumbled some in a bowl of hot water and the scent calmed even the frightened children at the far side of the hall. Their screams subsided to whimpers.

Aragorn bathed Friedhild's mangled arm with the mixture, before stitching and bandaging the gaping wounds.

He was just advising her mother to give her plenty to drink and keep her warm and quiet, when Éomer came in carrying an injured farmer. "I counted two dead, both old men who were guarding the horses. They are bringing another badly injured man and there are a half dozen so or more with minor injuries. The village Healer should be able to deal with some of those. None of the horses are harmed."

"Our whole village would have been wiped out, had you and your friends not been here, Éomer King," said Signi, who was now trying to restore some order to the hall by sweeping up the broken crockery.

"You should thank whoever placed the sword in the tree," said Éomer. "That brought us here today. Whoever could have foreseen the warg attack?"

"Who would have thought it that that troublesome weapon could actually be of some use!" Signi exclaimed. "Many times I have almost been ready to curse the old man who brought it here for the amount of strife it has been causing!"

"We still have that problem to settle." Éomer sighed.

"Did I not tell you before?" Aragorn finally looked up from stitching the wounded farmer's leg. "Faramir drew it forth and slew a fierce warg with it."

"Faramir?" Éomer's tone was incredulous. "Perhaps it was destined to heed the call of the man with the greatest need for a weapon?"

"I just remembered the old man carved some strange markings on the doorpost," said Signi. "At least, we assume it was he since they appeared on the same day as the sword. The men were too busy drinking to pay much heed."

Éomer went outside to look at the post, but returned shaking his head. "They are just random markings," he said. "You should take a look, Aragorn: maybe it is not gibberish to you?"

The King secured a bandage on his patient's leg. "I will look once all the wounded are tended."

"The women are caring for the others," said Éomer. "Surely, you can spare a moment now?

"How impatient are the young!" Aragorn said with mock severity. He rose to his feet and went out to join Éomer. "These are ancient runes," he said. "They form a rhyme in Quenya,"

"These carvings mean something?" asked Signi who had joined the men at the door.

"In the common tongue it reads,

Sufficient is the jewel

A man of noble birth,

One doomed to dwell in shadow,

Now honoured for his worth.

I think there is no doubt that the sword has found the owner it was destined for, for those lines can refer to none other save Faramir!"

"This tale grows ever stranger," said Éomer, "Why leave a sword for the Steward of Gondor in the Riddermark? Whoever would think of such a thing?"

TBC

A/n Finally, I have got round to updating this as I keep getting distracted by other stories! Feel free to nag me when you want to read more.

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