Siege of Minas Tirith, The
19. The Houses of Healing
normally a private chamber for the Lord Faramir and
called over old Ioreth, who'd served the healers as
long as anybody could remember, to make him
She bent to examine her new patient and exclaimed;
"Why he's soaked in oil!" straightening up to glare
indignantly at Beregond.
"Yes." he said.
She looked at him expectantly for several moments,
until it became clear that he wasn't going to say one
word more nor offer any kind of explanation. Then she
snorted, snapped; "Come, boy." to Bergil and flounced
out of the room.
Beregond smiled wryly to himself. Ioreth had a good
heart but anything you said to her was instantly known
to all Minas Tirith - and this was one story the Lord
Faramir would definitely not want spread. Beregond
agreed; Denethor had been a hard but just ruler, he
deserved better than to be remembered as a madman
intent on murdering his own son.
Ioreth returned with an armful of towels and
Bergil, laboring under two tins of hot water, at her
heels. "Well don't just sit there," she snapped at
Beregond, "help me get these soaked clothes off him!"
Obediently he got up to lift and turn Faramir as
directed while the muttering nurse stripped away his
oil ruined garments, bathed and dressed him in a fresh
Though the wounded Man still burned with fever his
body was like a dead weight in Beregond's hands. He
remembered uneasily how Faramir had roused enough to
speak when rescued from his father's pyre, not even an
hour ago, yet now all this handling brought no
reaction at all. Had Denethor's death somehow snapped
his son's link to life as well?
Another Man was carried in by servants in the green
and grey livery of the Houses followed by one of
Beregond's healer sisters.
"Baradis." he called, low but carrying.
She looked at him, recognized Faramir, glanced
quickly back at her patient to see he was being duly
tended by a nurse, then came over.
"I fear we are losing him." Beregond said, even
His sister laid a long, white hand on the young
lord's brow, shook her head grimly. "You are right, he
is going away from us." She spoke forcefully to the
sick Man, calling him by name. "Faramir! my Lord
Brother and sister both listened, though not with
their ears, for a response; for a whisper of thought
or faint stirring of the will, but none came.
Finally Baradis looked bleakly up at Beregond and
shook her head again. "He is past hearing. Many of our
wounded are in like case, I fear we will lose them
"How many?" her brother asked, dreading the answer.
"Hundreds." she said flatly. "And we have not the
skill to save them."
The day passed slowly. Beregond sat by Faramir's
side watching him sink slowly but inexorably into
death. It was all for nothing then, the breaking of
his vows and the death of the Porter, Faramir would
die in any case - but at least not by his own father's
Looking back Beregond couldn't understand what had
come over him there in the Fountain Court. It was
almost as if some other will had entered into him -
though he knew that could not be so. The light of
Earendil had sparked something in himself, something
quite alien to the unassuming man-at-arms careful to
keep his proper place that Beregond had pretended all
his life to be.
He sighed. As he was pretending now, even to
himself. He knew very well why Earendil had spoken to
him, just as he knew why Mithrandir had entrusted
something as perilous as the Anor-stone to his care.
Because he was of the Blood Royal, however diluted by
lesser stock, descended from the Morning Star and from
Elendil who had brought the Seven Stones from
foundered Numenor home to Middle-Earth. And probably
the only Man in Gondor, outside of the Steward and his
Heir, who knew the lore of the Stones and how to
handle one safely.
Near sunset the door burst open admitting Bergil.
"I was right, there is an empty cot, Bring the Perian
in here, my Lord."
His father came to his feet in alarm, Peregrin had
been wounded? But no, there he was behind Bergil, pale
but sound. He was followed in turn by Mithrandir and
finally a tall Man shrouded in a hooded grey cloak
carrying a second Halfling in his arms.
"I'll find a healer." Bergil told the Man as he
laid his burden gently down.
"No need." he answered crisply, pushing back his
hood and unfastening the leaf brooch at his throat. "I
am a healer. I'll need water and clean linen, Bergil."
"Yes sir." the boy hurried out.
"Will he be all right, Strider?" Peregrin pleaded
as the Man shed the shabby leathers he wore beneath
his cloak and rolled up his sleeves.
So this was the Northern Ranger Peregrin had spoken
of. "I don't know yet, Pippin." his friend replied
gently. "I hope so."
Bergil returned with the requested water and linens
and the Ranger began to strip off the wounded
Halfing's Rohirric armor with Peregrin's help. The
wizard stood by, his face clouded with worry.
Beregond hated to distress him further but -
"Mithrandir?" his head turned. "Faramir is sinking
fast, can you do aught for him?"
The wizard came over for a closer look then shook
his head. "This is beyond any power of mine." he said
Old Ioreth's face crumpled as if fighting back
tears. "Oh, if only we were living in the Elder Days
instead of now! 'The hands of the King are the hands
of a healer' the old books say. If we had a King he
could save the Lord Faramir!"
Mithrandir stared at her. Then his face lit up in
sudden hope and he laughed aloud. "Men may long
remember your words, my good Ioreth! Haven't you
heard? The King has returned!" he turned to the
Beregond recognized the name of Isildur's elusive
heir and stared at the Man as he joined them by
Faramir's bed. He had the High Numenorean look, with
his elegant bones and deepset eyes, and Beregond's own
blood told him this was indeed Isildur's Heir,
descended like himself from Elendil the Faithful and
the Kings of Numenor. Though it seemed his line had
faired no better than Anarion's over the long years.
The King took Faramir's hand in his and laid the
other upon the sick Man's brow. He stood so for a
moment, then shook his head. "He is nearly spent,
would that I could have been here sooner! Ioreth, do
you keep athelas in this House?"
"I'm sure I don't know, m'Lord." She answered, a
little blankly. "I can't say I've ever heard that name
before. But the herb-master will know, he knows all
the old names."
"I mean kingsfoil, as it is called in these later
"Oh that!" said Ioreth with relief. "Well if your
Lordship had named it so first off I could have told
you at once. No, we have none of it, I'm sure. I've
never heard it had any great virtue; still it smells
sweet when bruised, does it not?" she frowned
consideringly. "If sweet is the right word; wholesome
maybe is nearer."
"My Lord." Beregond cut in quickly, as Ioreth
paused for breath. The King looked at him with
quicksilver grey eyes, startling in their piercing
brightness. "My wife keeps a store of athelas for my
sisters who are healers. They have found it good for
drawing poison from wounds and the like."
The King smiled a little. "So it is." he agreed.
"In the right hands."
Beregond swallowed. It had never before occured to
him that his sisters' healing abilities had aught to
do with their ancestry. "Bergil," he said to his son,
watching round eyed, "run home and get some athelas
from your mother."
As the boy left, running, the King gently laid down
Faramir's hand. "Since we must wait I will take a
moment to see how the Lady Eowyn fares. I fear she may
be in almost as bad a case as this." He picked up his
grey cloak and slung it around his shoulders.
"Strider," Peregrin pleaded, "what about Merry?"
The King smiled gently down at him. "Hold his hand
and try to keep him talking, Pippin. And do not fear,
he is none so far gone yet - we have time."
When the King returned a few moments later he was
accompanied by Prince Imrahil and an Elven lady whose
beautiful face gave Beregond the same shock of
recognition as the King's had. He knew that she too
was, somehow, kin. though he couldn't even begin to
"They seemed but black Orc arrows," Imrahil was
saying, "but when he fell into the Dark Sleep we
assumed one must have been a Morgul dart."
The King shook his head. "Had that been so he would
have died last night. No, he must have fallen under
the Shadow long before he rode to battle on the
out-walls. Slowly the Dark must have crept on him as
he defended Ithilien. He is a Man of staunch will, he
resisted it well until grief and wounds sapped his
"The Shadow has hung heavy over the City for far
too long." said the Elven Lady. "I have never seen so
much Black Breath, not even during the worst of the
The King nodded bleak agreement. "This House is
full of it. Would that I could have come sooner!"
He sat on the stool beside Faramir's bed and laid
one hand upon the sick Man's brow and another upon his
folded hands. Then the King said his name softly, but
On the other side of the cot Beregond flinched, the
low voiced call resounding in his mind like a great
shout - far more powerful than his sister's Voice.
Imrahil also winced a little, as if he too had Heard.
The King's lips moved silently as he Called again,
and even his inner Voice sounded more faintly as his
spirit moved away from the world of the living into
the dark spaces where Faramir's wandered.
Bergil ran in clutching a folded cloth. "I have it
- athelas!" he panted to his father. "Mother says it's
not fresh, two weeks old or more, but she hopes it
"It will do very well." the Elven lady told him
taking the cloth from his hand. "Now bring me some of
that hot water if you will." There were six long
leaves inside the cloth. She took two and breathed on
them, then crushed them in her hand.
'Sweet' and even 'wholesome' were far too poor a
word to describe the living freshness that filled the
room, setting the very air tingling and sparkling with
joy. The Lady cast the leaves into the bowl of
steaming water Bergil brought her and the fragrance
"Well now!" said Ioreth to the room at large. "Who
would have believed it? That weed is better than I
thought. No King could ask for better!"
The other wounded Men stirred and exchanged
wondering smiles with their nurses, pain and weariness
forgotten. And across the room the injured Halfling
opened his eyes and breathed in a great gulp.
"Oh my!" he said. "Oh my." then "Here now, Pip,
what are you crying about?"
The King opened his eyes and smiled up at the Lady
as she held the bowl so he and Faramir could breath
the steam, though the weariness did not quite leave
Faramir stirred, slowly his lids rose. He looked at
the King, bending over him, with wonder and with love.
"My Lord, you called me. I come." he whispered weakly.
"What does the King command?"
"That you rest, and take food, and be ready when I
call." he answered. He rose, gently disengaging his
hand from Faramir's grip. "Now I must go to others
that need me, but I will return, my Steward."
Faramir's eyes followed him as he moved away.
"King!" Ioreth had finally realized just who the
shabby looking Ranger was. She dropped back onto her
stool breathless with astonishment but not, of course,
speechless. "Did you hear that? What did I say? The
Hands of a healer, I said. A King again, and right
here in this House. Who'd have thought it?"
"So much for keeping his presence in the City a
secret." muttered Imrahil.
Aragorn crossed the room to where Merry lay, Pippin
sitting cross-legged on the cot at his feet. "Well,
Merry, how are you feeling?"
"Hungry." was the prompt answer. Ranger and Gandalf
"Hobbits!" said the wizard, shaking his head in
"I am sure we can find some supper somewhere for a
Nazgul bane." Aragorn smiled.
"Nazgul." a sudden fear came into Merry's face.
"Eowyn! how is she? Is she all right?"
"I am going to her now." Aragorn assured him
gently. "Try not to worry Merry." he turned to go.
"Gandalf, Arwen, come with me if you will."
Behind them Merry said: "Here now, Pip, what are
you got up as?"
The door closed on Pippin's reply: "I'll have you
know I'm a guard of the Citadel. And you're a fine one
to be talking, where'd you get that fancy armor?"
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