25. Healing Hands
Suddenly the rocking motion stopped.
Immediately I felt better, sinking back into a deep, dreamless sleep.
After what seemed to me a very long time, the sound of familiar voices woke me.
"And our friends?" that was Aragorn. How did he come to be on my ship? How did I come to be on a ship at all? My eyes flew open. I lay on my back on the ground; there was blue sky above me. A cool damp cloth was placed on my forehead. I was on no ship. Then I heard the movements of some big creatures close by. Orcs, I thought. They have come back to get me and kill me.
I started screaming.
"Lothíriel, Lothíriel, stop, stop, stop! Everything is alright. The orcs are dead, the Rohirrim have killed them, and they won't hurt you ever again!" That was Aragorn's voice, soothing, but commanding.
I fell silent, gasping for air. Every breath seemed to sear my lungs. Groggily I opened my eyes again. It was Aragorn. He was looking down at me, his expression worried. I wildly reached out for him, and he took my hand, holding it tightly in his own hands. My vision was still hazy, but the touch of Aragorn's hands penetrated the fever and chased away the nightmare. Suddenly I felt almost myself again. I was hurting all over. I was too weak to sit up. But I was myself.
"I am alive?" I asked slowly. My voice was a croaking rasp.
"Yes, you are alive." Aragorn smiled at me. "You are badly wounded, but you will live. Everything will be fine."
"Oh," I said, slightly surprised. "Really?"
I blinked at Aragorn. "I thought that I would die. After all, I am not in the story. I knew about the hobbits. But I thought…"
"The hobbits?" Aragorn interrupted his face suddenly strained and white. "Do you know anything about the hobbits?"
For a moment I tried to gather my thoughts. I should not tell what I knew. I remembered that. But no, that was not what Glorfindel had said. He had told me to be careful, and only to tell anything when it was necessary. Necessary… there was something I should remember about Aragorn and the hobbits.
"Hobbits?" A new voice asked from somewhere close by. I had heard that voice before. It was a beautiful voice. A dark, male voice, soothing like dark mead, but rough like a storm wind rushing through the grass.
"Yes," Aragorn answered. "The orcs took them along with Lothíriel. They would be small, only children to your eyes with grey cloaks and no shoes."
"No shoes?" The man sounded dubious. "There was no one else but her, no children or dwarves or gnomes. And we were only just in time to save her. Why ever did you take a woman with you on such a dangerous journey?"
The hobbits… the orcs… The orcs had taken me along with the hobbits. I had been rescued. The Rohirrim!
"Rohirrim!" I blurted out. "Are you Rohirrim?"
Aragorn and the man he had been talking to turned back to me. The man knelt down on my other side and bent over me.
I remembered his dark eyes and the soft waves of his dark blond hair. "Éomer?"
"You remember me?" The man sounded pleased.
"Yes, I think I do. You held me." I swallowed, my throat was painfully dry.
I remembered gentle hands and a soothing voice, a deep, dark voice that chased away my nightmare, a gleaming sword that chased away the dark creatures that had been in that dream.
Then I turned my head to look at Aragon. Aragorn. There was something he should do… somewhere… It was an almost painful effort to think. But suddenly my memory of what had happened and what was supposed to happen returned to me. Aragorn needed to go to Fangorn. He had to be there so he could meet Gandalf.
"The hobbits," I croaked. "I think they escaped. I think they managed to get away before the melee started. I think they made for the woods. You have to go and look for them."
Hope lit Aragorn's tired face. "You think? Please, Lothy, tell me what you know!"
"Go to the forest," I told him. "You have to go to the forest. You have to hurry!"
My head started throbbing again and every bone in my body ached. I closed my eyes and drifted off into a doze. The voices of Aragorn and Éomer came to me only from far away and there seemed to lie great stretches of silence between what they said. The fever had risen again and time had little meaning in my dazed state.
"Éomer, I have to go to the forest of Fangorn. I think the hobbits we are looking for managed to escape before you destroyed the orcs. We need to get to the forest as quickly as possible."
"I may be able to help you to get there swiftly, Aragorn Arathorn's son. But you have not told much about your errand. Will you tell me more so that I may judge what to do?"
"Of course. But I have to be brief in telling, for time is running short. We set out from Imladris…"
What seemed to be a long time later, but in reality was probably only an hour, I heard the sound of voices again. Every fit of coughing jarred my wounds and bruises and the resulting pain – although it did not wake me completely – brought me so close to consciousness that the sound of voices turned from a soothing background noise into words and meaning again.
"Would you take Lothíriel with you to Edoras? She is much too ill to take her with us."
"Of course we will. But she is seriously injured and I think she must have the lung fever as well. I am afraid her chances to survive until we reach Edoras are slim."
See, Aragorn, I told you so. I am not in the story. That means I will die somewhere along the way. And Galadriel said I would die in Middle-earth.
But I was too weak and too dizzy with fever to say anything out loud of what I thought.
"I will try and strengthen her for the time being," Aragorn said. "And I still have some tea made of athelas. Though I have sadly no salve left to help with her other injuries. But at least it will keep down the fever, subdue the cough and relieve her pain. There should be enough of the tea left to get her safely to Edoras. She seems to calm down when you are there, Éomer. If it is not too much to ask, I would ask you to take care of her. She has been a valuable companion on our quest for many reasons. It is difficult to leave her behind, but we have to find the hobbits and if they have really entered Fangorn, they may be already in danger again."
"I will do as you ask, Aragorn Arathorn's son. But don't forget your promise to come back to us and aid us in our battle against the foe in the east," Éomer said in a firm voice.
He has such a beautiful voice, I mused. I wonder if he can sing.
I felt cool hands stroking my head, fingertips softly massaging my temples. A soft, soothing song drifted in the air around me. Aragorn's voice, I thought. Aragorn's hands.
I felt as if the pain and the fever retreated with each verse of his song, but I did not understand the language he used.
Suddenly I found that I could open my eyes. I did so and looked into Aragorn's face. Working his healing magic had strangely calmed and relaxed the ranger's face. He looked younger. His eyes were clear and silvery bright and there seemed to be a star shining from his brow.
From somewhere words came to me and my voice, though it was still weak, was not as hoarse as it had been.
"The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known," I whispered to Aragorn.
For a moment Aragorn's fingers stopped in their soothing motion. Then he took a deep breath and continued.
"Sleep now, Lothíriel," Aragorn said in a low voice after another few minutes of stroking away my pain. "Sleep deeply and peacefully until you wake in Edoras."
My eyelids already drooping, I barely managed to mumble: "Good luck!"
I was asleep before Aragorn could say anything else.
When I woke again, I lay in a bed. A real bed. A large bed, too; it was at least four feet wide. I was covered with several thick, warm blankets covered in white sheets and my head was supported by a thick pillow filled with downs. I felt weak and stiff, but I was not in any real pain. My mind was clear. I could even remember Aragorn's last words, "Sleep deeply and peacefully until you wake in Edoras."
I looked around me.
I was in a small but very clean chamber. The walls were made of white, slightly uneven plaster. The ceiling above me was made of dark wood and was supported by huge beams, which must have been truly ancient trees when they were cut down. The floor was made of wood, too. Huge planks were set so expertly that there were no gaps between the individual planks at all. The floor had been waxed to a smooth glowing shine. In the wall on the left side of my bed was a small window made of round panes of yellow stained glass set in lead frames.
To the right of my bed was a small nightstand with a brass candlestick, a small jug and a cup made of pewter and a leather-bound book with a bookmark inserted in its centre. A chair was next to my bed. It was a simple wooden chair, but it had armrests, and a comfortable cushion was placed on its seat. It looked as if someone had been sitting with me not long ago.
A large chest made of wood set at the right wall of the chamber. It was carved with faintly Celtic designs touched with soft colours, red, green and gold. The door, set in the corner behind the wardrobe seemed to be carved with similar designs.
"Until you wake in Edoras…"
If I was not very much mistaken, that was where I was now.
I was alive and in Edoras.
My heart started pounding heavily as my memories returned to me.
I was alive.
Thank you, dear God!
For a moment I lay completely still and simply enjoyed each breath. Then, involuntarily I began to recite the Lord's Prayer. Back on earth I had never been an especially religious person. Here in Middle-earth I had learned how to pray.
Thank you, dear God that I am still alive!
I am still alive, I thought. But what about Boromir? Is there a paradise somewhere in Eru's heaven, where he is right now? At peace?
With my mind clear and awake, the memory of the last time I had seen Boromir returned to me as well.
I remembered the last thing I had said to Boromir. "Let's go kill some orcs…"
I wished I could have told him "I love you".
I had not loved him, but I had felt so much for him.
I had never even tried to tell him what I had felt for him.
And now I never could.
I felt tears running down my cheeks.
"Lothíriel?" A soft, cool voice with a slight accent, an emphasis on the 'r' in my name, made me start. I raised my head and dashed awkwardly at my eyes.
"What is the matter? Are you in pain? I was so relieved that the fever is gone that I almost forgot about your other injuries."
A tall and very slender woman of about my own age hurried from the door to my bed and looked down at me with a worried expression on her face. She had a high forehead, prominent cheekbones, a thin nose that gave her a slightly haughty look and very piercing dark grey eyes. Her silvery blond hair was drawn back from her face and braided tightly at her neck.
"Éowyn?" I asked without thinking.
She drew back, startled. "How do you know my name? This is the first time you are awake!"
I blinked the tears from my eyes. My voice was still thick with crying and it was hoarse from not speaking for such a long time when I answered, "I don't know. It must have penetrated my dreams at one point. But you are Éowyn, aren't you? Éomer's sister?"
"Yes, indeed I am," she said, sitting down on the chair at my bedside. A shadow passed in her eyes. Something was amiss. Should I know about it? Somehow it was difficult to remember all the things I ought to know.
"But please, tell me, Lothíriel, why you have been crying! If you are in pain, there are soothing draughts which may alleviate your suffering," she added, her voice clear and high.
Another beautiful voice, I thought, suddenly remembering her brother's liquid dark voice.
"No," I said slowly. "I am not in pain. At least not in any physical pain."
She looked at me intently. Then she said hesitantly and perhaps a little bit curious, "But there surely is a reason for your tears, isn't there? Perhaps it will help you if you talk about it."
I sighed. Perhaps it would. Perhaps it wouldn't.
"Now that my mind is clear again, I remember what happened before the orcs took me and dragged me away." I paused, considering what I should tell her of our quest. Perhaps she already knew of it. "Has the leader of our company, Aragorn Arathorn's son, already returned to Edoras? And what day is it, anyway?"
"No, this Aragorn, Éomer spoke of, has not come to Edoras yet. And today is the first of March by common reckoning."
I rubbed my forehead with a shaking hand. The breaking of the fellowship had been on the twenty-sixth of February. Less than a week ago. Aragorn's healing powers were truly impressive.
Finally I decided to be completely honest with Éowyn. If she was anything at all like the woman Tolkien had described, she would probably appreciate straightforwardness on my part.
"I don't know what I may tell you. Our quest was secret and dangerous. We had made camp at Amon Hen when Orcs came upon us. There were four Hobbits with us, Halflings, people of the little folk. We were parted. Aragorn, Legolas - he's an Elf out of Mirkwood -, and Gimli – he's a dwarf of Dale -, were trying to find two of the Hobbits who had walked off on their own. Boromir of Gondor –"
"The steward's son?" Éowyn interrupted, wide-eyed with astonishment.
I nodded. "Yes. Boromir and I went after the other two Hobbits who had run off searching for their friends. They had been captured by Orcs. We fought against the Orcs because we hoped to free the Hobbits. But there were too many Orcs, and they were not simply Orcs, they were Uruk-Hai. In the end, Boromir was killed and the Hobbits and I were carried off by the Orcs." I fell silent.
Then I added in a small voice, "Now that the fever is gone, I remember how Boromir died. That's why I cried."
"But surely, if you know how to fight, you have seen many warriors die?" Éowyn asked. "And he's a hero now, he has returned to the halls of his forebears in glory."
I looked at Éowyn. Back on earth there had been moments when I had thought the same, dreaming of a world with heroes and great deeds, dreaming of myself as a fearless knight…
"I am no warrior," I said in a small voice. "I was with the company, because I have some knowledge that was thought to be of use to the quest. I was taught a little about how to fight so that I would not be a burden for the fellowship. Boromir is the first person I saw die in my life."
"You must have lived in a very sheltered place if that is the case," Éowyn remarked.
"You could say that," I agreed.
"I still don't understand your fretting. You say that Lord Denethor's son died bravely. You should honour his valour and not demean his deeds by crying like a child," her tone was now slightly condescending.
I bit my lip and restrained myself from giving an angry answer.
Éowyn was not likely to understand my view of life and death, formed as it was by the European culture of the twentieth century. The Rohirrim were a people of warriors. Their society was archaic. An honourable death on the battle-field would be preferred to a peaceful death in one's old age here. I knew that.
And Boromir would probably tell me the same, if he still could. He had been unable to resist the lure of the ring. But in dying for the fellowship, he had redeemed himself, he had kept his honour. This would be more important to him than any regrets over the life he would never have now.
He is at peace now, I thought and I knew that it was true. My heart lifted a little at that thought, although I was still filled with grief.
"I miss him," I said finally. "I had no chance to say farewell."
"Did you love him?" Éowyn asked me point-blank.
I stared at her. Were all the Rohirrim so embarrassingly direct?
"No," I said in a low voice, swallowing tears. "But I might have."
Aragorn's healing hands had truly impressive powers. But I had been also exceedingly lucky. The cut across my jaw, my throat and my breast had been quite shallow. It had also narrowly missed my carotid artery.
The other scratches had been shallow, too. My right arm had been badly strained and bruised, but it was probably not broken. Or at least it had been only what they call a "green break", where the bones are not broken completely, but only splintered. The ropes around my wrists and ankles however had cut deeply into my flesh, in places down to the bone. I would never lose those scars for as long as I would live. But I had not been raped or molested or eaten; apparently the Rohirrim had interrupted the orcs before their idea of fun had really started.
What had almost killed me had been the wet clothes. The wet clothes together with the blood-loss had made me an easy victim for pneumonia. Without Aragorn's healing touch and the miracle of athelas, I would have been dead before I reached Edoras.
The fever had broken only in the morning of the first of March.
It would be days yet before I would be up and about again.
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.