19. A Knot for Life
They had checked on Lord Faramir first, stroking his feverish brow with mint water to cool him. Then they rubbed sweet-smelling salve into Lady Eowyn’s shattered arm and tied splints onto it, so it would mend well even if she did not awaken. Finally, they came to the halfling, both of them tired and increasingly frightened. Neither woman was willing to voice the thought that their efforts were useless, a feeble struggle to hold back coming disaster. They stared down at the childish figure, at a loss for what they might do for him, as little as that might be.
"Will they survive long enough for the Warden to treat them?" asked Lothiriel. Ioreth felt grateful that she was present, for her skills with herbs were considerable. But were they sufficient to recall this suffering soul to life?
"I do not know," Ioreth said grimly. "I have never seen anything quite like this, my lady . . .and I have seen much. Never before have I been asked to treat those touched by the Black Breath’s poison."
A harsh whisper of breath escaped from the halfling's chest. His lips began to turn blue as his skin seemed to whiten and blanch still more, giving him a ghostly, unreal appearance. Lothiriel sprang to her feet, snatched up a small mirror, and held it before his mouth. After what seemed an eternity, a faint film of mist formed on the mirror’s surface, but even as they saw the evidence he still lived, his wheezing breath began to fill the chamber with a foreboding sound that grated on Ioreth's ears.
Lothiriel looked up from where she sat on the edge of the bed, her eyes panic-stricken. "Meriadoc will not live for much longer! Is there nothing we can do?"
“Let me think for a moment, my lady, I beg you! I have learned so many things over the years, and there must be something we can do for him before it is too late!”
Ioreth dropped her head and dug through the dusty corners of her memory, trying to remember all that her grandmother, and the senior healers whom she had trained with, had taught her. She stared at the floor as a faint memory from long ago struggled to the surface. What was it—one could do something to the sheet of a patient's bed . . . Her head jerked back up as a sudden wild hope surfaced from the depths.
"Tie a knot! A knot, in the corner of his sheet! Hurry!"
"What? I don't understand--" Lothiriel stammered.
"The knot will keep him tied to life, to this world! So my grandmother taught me when I was small!" Ioreth reached down, snatched the bedding up, and pulled the sheet out. With fumbling fingers, she tied a large knot in the corner, leaving it to dangle free.
"It will work, Lady Lothiriel, I know it will! Trust me," Ioreth gasped.
"I believe you. Shall we do the same for Lord Faramir and Lady Eowyn?"
"Yes. You go and tend to it. I shall stay here with this valiant halfling."
Lothiriel hurried off. Ioreth stood next to Merry's bed. Without thinking, she caught up the knot in her hand and twisted it over and over as she silently prayed to the Valar to spare this young one's life.
This is based on a real superstition--one of my clients is a ICU nurse, and she has told me that all the nurses, including her, will tie a knot in a sheet corner if a patient is doing badly.
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.