Claiming the Throne
Aragorn smiled, and turned his attention to the great Orcs close by him, joining Denethor again in routing them.
At length, it was over. The field was littered with corpses – Men and Orcs and trolls – and a company of the Tower Guard were surrounding a number of Men who had been fighting for Sauron but had given themselves up. The survivors from the Gondorian forces were gathering into companies, their captains and lieutenants counting them, and healers beginning to tend to the more serious wounds.
Next to Aragorn, Denethor was leaning heavily on his sword and looked to be in some pain.
“You should sit, my lord,” Aragorn said. “Rest here and I will find you water.”
Denethor nodded, and allowed Aragorn to take his arm and help him to the ground. Aragorn hurried away to the supply wagons, corralled behind the battlefield, and returned in a short while with a waterskin, some food, bandages and a salve. The Steward did not protest as Aragorn took off his heavy chest-plate and examined the bruising across his torso.
“You were lucky,” he commented, beginning to daub salve on the skin. Denethor grimaced. “Does it hurt?”
“A little,” the Steward said.
“You may have broken a rib, despite the armour,” Aragorn said. “I shall bind it, and you must try not to exert yourself.” Denethor nodded. “The troops need to be removed from this place,” Aragorn continued, wrapping bandage over the bruising.
“Cormallen,” Denethor said, his voice tight with pain. “By Henneth Annûn.”
“I remember.” Aragorn tied off the bandage. “There. Now, my lord, do not move.”
The Steward nodded, and then his eyes went past Aragorn to the sky. Aragorn stood up, and turned, looking the same way.
From the East the three great Eagles were returning, making all haste towards the field. All about men stopped what they were doing to watch. Aragorn glanced at Denethor.
“Go!” the Steward said, and Aragorn went.
He was waiting by the wagons when the Eagles landed, and Legolas and Gimli had appeared to wait by his side. Gandalf, his white robes dirty with soot, jumped off the back of Gwaihir.
“Aragorn!” he cried. “You are needed!”
Aragorn ran to join the wizard. “Are they – Frodo and Sam – are they alive?”
“Barely,” Gandalf said. Above them the air stirred with the gentle flap of giant wings. “Landroval and Meneldor have them safe, and will give them to us.”
The eagles, hearing the wizard’s words, descended and gently deposited the two small bodies into their arms. Looking down at Frodo, Aragorn felt pity and respect well up in his heart. The hobbit was thin, his face drawn and pale, and his right hand was bleeding on to the grey tatters of his Lórien cloak.
“His hand,” Aragorn said, beginning to lead the way to the healer’s tent, “his hand is maimed.”
“More than his hand, I fear,” Gandalf returned. “But let us see what can be done.”
Entering the tent, Aragorn found two empty pallets and they laid the hobbits down gently. One of the healers hurried across to them, and Aragorn looked up from their sides. “Athelas, and water, and bandages. Quickly.”
“Aye, my lord!” the healer said, and disappeared to find the things. Bending over Frodo’s hand, Aragorn probed the injury.
“He has lost a finger. The ring finger. It looks almost as if it has been bitten off.”
Gandalf raised his eyebrows. “That may explain much.”
“He has a fever also,” Aragorn continued, laying a hand on the Ringbearer’s brow. “I fear this was all too much for them both.”
“They did what few could have done,” said Gandalf.
“And I will do in turn what I can for them,” Aragorn said, as the healer returned bearing a bowl of water and a cloth with a few dried leaves of athelas. He bent to his work.
Later, when all that could be done for the hobbits had been done and they lay still in a deep sleep, Aragorn went to find Legolas and Gimli. They were deep in a fierce argument when he reached the pair. “I asked you to watch for him, Gimli!”
“And why me?” the dwarf retorted. “Why not you, Master Elf?”
“Because I was busy with the archers!” Legolas said.
“What’s the matter?” Aragorn asked.
“It’s that Took,” Gimli said, despair on his faces. “He’s not turned up. The last we saw of him he was fighting a great troll.”
Closing his eyes briefly, Aragorn fought back the sorrow. “Then he was fighting a foe too great for him. One of those things was close to slaying the Steward.”
“He lives?” Legolas asked.
“Yes.” Aragorn clasped Gimli’s shoulder. “Gimli, if you can be spared from other tasks, go and search for Pippin. I would not leave him here, not now.”
“Nor would I,” Gimli agreed. “What of the other hobbits? Frodo and Sam?”
Sighing, Aragorn nodded. “They live. For now, I cannot say more. They’re deeply asleep and I guess will remain so for some days. Go and find Pippin, I beg you.” The Dwarf offered a brief smile and hurried off, and Aragorn turned to Legolas. “I know you are not normally a healer, but the hands of another Elf would be most welcome here. Have you seen my brothers?”
Elladan and Elrohir were found tending to wounds, and Aragorn left Legolas with them, and promising to return soon crossed to the corral where the prisoners who had surrendered earlier waited, watching the activity. The captain of the Guardsmen who surrounded the corral was walking around its perimeter, speaking with his men, and Aragorn went straight to him.
“Did these men give themselves up freely, captain?” he asked.
“Aye, my lord,” the captain said, saluting smartly.
“You will not object if I speak to them?” Aragorn said.
“If you can get them to understand you, my lord,” the captain returned. “They don’t seem to speak Westron.”
Aragorn smiled. “That is of no matter. I thank you.” He exchanged bows with the captain and slipped through the ranks of Guardsmen.
The prisoners, all wearing black and red armour and livery with the sigil of the Lidless Eye, looked up warily as Aragorn approached them. They did not rise, but watched him come silently.
Pausing a short distance away from the Men, Aragorn ran over the words of Haradric he knew and spoke. “Who is your captain?”
A man stood up, a nasty gash across his cheek and his long dark hair matted with blood. “I am.”
“I speak on behalf of the Steward of Gondor, to whom you have surrendered,” Aragorn said, speaking slowly. “You are from Harad?”
“Yes.” The Haradric captain nodded. “Almet is my name. I came North with my men five new moons ago.”
“Sauron is cast down,” Aragorn said. “His power is ended, and the old order will be renewed. This you understand?”
“It is not for me to decide whether you should remain in Gondor, or whether you will be permitted to return to Harad,” said Aragorn. “But for now, those of you who are not injured gravely can help the men of Gondor clear the field, and in return you may say the appropriate words over your dead. For the rest, we move south. Do you need healers?”
“Not healers, but medicines,” Almet said. “We have few supplies.”
“I will send someone to you,” Aragorn offered. “Prepare to move soon. We do not linger here. Those who can work should follow me.”
Almet turned to his men and spoke quickly, and after a moment, maybe fifty of them rose and formed an orderly rank. Headed by Almet, and guided by Aragorn, they marched to the nearest working party of Gondorian soldiers clearing the field and piling corpses into pyres. The Haradrim were swiftly divided up and set to work alongside the men who had shortly before been their enemies. Aragorn watched to see that all was in order, and disappeared again back towards the wagons.
Bending to lift an Orc’s feet, a Gondorian Guard at the head, Almet said in broken Westron, “Who – that man, who is he?”
The Guard looked up in surprise, and then glanced towards Aragorn’s retreating back. “Him? They say he’s the king.”
Almet paused in astonishment, and then bent to his work.
For the rest of the day Aragorn and the Elves rode backwards and forwards, tending the injured and sending them south to Cormallen. Riders had already been despatched to Minas Tirith and Cair Andros with news of the victory.
Denethor had insisted on staying at the battlefield, despite Aragorn’s pleas that the Steward take some rest. He sat by the supply wagons and nodded as successive requests were brought and granted, but Elladan remarked to Elrohir that the Steward did not seem to take in very much; rather that he was deep in thought.
The best news came during the afternoon, when Gimli came running across to where Aragorn was splinting a broken leg, waving his axe. “I’ve found him! Slew his troll, he did!”
“Pippin?” said Aragorn, and was on his feet, murmuring an apology to the soldier he was looking after. He followed Gimli back across the field to the troll, who lay dead surrounded by the bodies of Orcs and Men.
“There!” Gimli said, gesturing at a hairy foot sticking out underneath the creature.
Together they lifted the troll and rolled it aside, finding an unconscious, but alive, hobbit underneath. Mercifully Pippin had fallen into an indentation in the ground, and it was this that had saved him. Aragorn lifted him gently, and with Gimli by his side they went back to the wagons.
Pippin, unconscious and battered, was laid next to his cousin Frodo and Aragorn gently checked him for broken bones. Astonishingly, aside from some cracked ribs, the hobbit seemed to be in one piece. The Ranger soothed his bruises with the ointment he had used on Denethor, cleaned and wrapped cuts, and said that Pippin would wake soon feeling sore, but otherwise was fine.
As night fell, the men who remained on the field settled down in groups around fires. The air was filled with the smoke from the funeral pyres and lit with a sickly orange colour.
Denethor’s tent had been set up by the remaining wagons, and the Steward was lying on his cot, staring up at the fabric above his head, when Aragorn entered with a cough.
“Yes?” Denethor sat up with an effort and a grimace.
“How is the pain?” Aragorn asked.
“I have come to report before the camp settles for the night,” Aragorn said, not wanting to press Denethor further on the matter of his injury. “Some two-thirds of the injured are moving south to Cormallen as you ordered, and the rest will go tomorrow by wagon. I would recommend that the men who can march also leave the field tomorrow; there is little more that can be done here.”
“How many men did we lose?” Denethor said.
“Fewer than I expected,” Aragorn admitted, “for which I am glad. Had the destruction of the Ring not come when it did, few would be returning to Minas Tirith. As it is, I judge some one and a half thousands have lost their lives. Two hundred of those are Rohirrim, and they have lost also many horses.”
“Such destruction,” said Denethor. “Yet, as you say, better than we had hoped.” He fell silent for a moment. “And what of the halflings?”
“Still in their sleep,” Aragorn replied. “I pray they may yet awaken.”
“Time will tell,” said Denethor. There was another pause, and then he said, “thank you.”
“My lord,” Aragorn said, and bowed before slipping out of the tent. Denethor lay down again, but he stared still above him and did not close his eyes to sleep.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.