11. Let not the sun go down upon your wrath
Let not the sun go down upon your wrath – Ephesians 4. 26b – The Bible
I have found you an argument; I am not obliged to find you an understanding.- Samuel Johnson
Aragorn was snoring softly in a dreamless slumber when a knocking on the bedroom door awakened him.
"What is it?" he called sleepily.
"The Queen, sire," a servant's voice replied.
"Has some ill befallen her?" Aragorn sprang out of bed and snatched up his robe. He pulled it on over his night attire and opened the door. A sorry sight met his incredulous gaze when he beheld his wife dressed in men's garments and her lovely features streaked with mud. Two stony- faced guards flanked the Queen.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded. "Unhand my lady at once! Are you hurt, vanimelda?"
"I am not hurt," Arwen said bleakly.
"We discovered my lady trying to kill the dragon," said one of the guards. "We thought it best that we escort her safely home to you."
"What of the dragon?" Aragorn asked.
"He is unhurt and made no attempt to harm the Queen," said the second guard. He stared miserably at his boots, as did his fellow.
"How could you, Arwen?" Aragorn demanded. "Súlion is our guest and under my protection."
"You are bespelled, you and Faramir both!" cried the Queen. "I did what I had to save you and our children. Alas, that I failed!"
"Go to your room," Aragorn said coldly. "I will decide how to deal with you in the morning. I will have one of your ladies sent to you. A guard will remain outside at all times."
The two guards marched Arwen away down the corridor. The King watched until they disappeared from sight. He then summoned a servant and gave his orders.
"What has happened, mellon nîn?" Faramir asked his friend as the King turned back into the chamber and firmly closed the door behind him. "Surely the Queen did not attack Súlion?"
"I fear she tried to." Aragorn sat down heavily on the bed. "Why should she behave like this? What am I to do? By rights she should be in the dungeons for disobeying my orders, but she is my lady! I cannot treat my beloved thus!"
Faramir sat down beside his lord and thought for a few moments.
"Why not sent the Queen to visit Éowyn until she realises that Súlion means no harm?" he suggested. "I am sure Éowyn would be glad of her company as her time draws near for our child to be born. As I must remain here in the City, it will ease my heart to know the Queen was with my lady."
"As ever you are wise, my friend!" Aragorn clapped Faramir on the shoulder. "Alas, that it should come to this!"
"I doubt my lady will be very happy with me either," said Faramir. "She considers our dragon akin to a Fell Beast! You should try to rest now. Maybe matters will seem better in the morning."
King and Steward settled down to rest again, but this time sleep was slow to come to them.
Aragorn and Arwen glared at each other across the breakfast table.
"You would send me away?" Arwen exclaimed.
"Unless you give me your word not to attempt to harm Súlion again."
"How could I do that? That creature of darkness must be destroyed!"
"Súlion is no more a creature of darkness than you or I! I think it best you spend some time in Ithilien with Éowyn."
"You would take my children from me, and Farawyn not yet weaned?"
Aragorn put his glass down so heavily that the apple juice splattered across the tablecloth. "Am I not only in league with the powers of darkness, but also planning to take our children from you, my lady?"
"My father warned me that to marry you would bring me nothing but sorrow!" Arwen retorted. "I should have listened to him! My brothers will be ill pleased at the way you are using me."
Aragorn clenched his fists on the sides of the chair. "If you have finished your breakfast, my lady, I suggest that you go and make ready for the journey," he said coldly. "You will be happier away from me if you so regret our marriage! You may take both our children with you. Farawyn needs you and I would have Eldarion out of the City while there is still danger of unrest. You will be kept discreetly under close guard and you are not to communicate with anyone save myself. I would not have you send for your brothers to plot against our guest."
Arwen swept from the table and left the room without another word or glance at her husband.
Aragorn buried his face in his hands. He had loved Arwen from the first moment he had beheld her and saved himself body and soul throughout the long years of waiting. Now she was lost to him again. He yearned to call her back, but knew not what to say. How could he pacify her? The only thing that would assuage her wrath would be the death of the dragon and he could not slay a friendly beast who was his guest. It seemed there was nothing for it but to send Arwen away.
After a few minutes he went to bid his wife and children farewell. Faramir came with him.
Oblivious to the conflict between their father and mother, Eldarion and Farawyn were excited at the unexpected trip.
"I wish you were coming too, ada," said Eldarion.
"I fear I must stay here as there is much work for me to do," Aragorn replied. "I trust you to take good care of your naneth and sister."
"I will, I'm almost grown up now," Eldarion replied stoutly.
Faramir handed the Queen a letter. "Please could you give this to Éowyn?" he asked. "Tell her how much I love her and miss her and the children. Please greet Elbeth for me too."
"I will," Arwen promised. "I entrust the care of my husband to you, though you be as bespelled as he is. May the Valar protect you both!"
Aragorn embraced his son and kissed Farawyn. Arwen recoiled when he tried to embrace her in farewell and gave him an ice-cold peck upon the cheek to satisfy anyone who might be watching.
Aragorn stood watching as the Queen and his children disappeared from sight. Eldarion turned to wave, but Arwen did not look back.
A week passed. Aragorn sent daily messages to his wife telling her he loved and missed her. Arwen replied with brief messages that she and the children were well. Faramir fared little better where Éowyn was concerned, save that she sent daily missives comparing the dragon to a Fell Beast and implying, were she not so near her time, that she would cheerfully despatch Sulion in the same manner as the Witch King's steed.
Fu Nung's condition remained much the same, which gave Aragorn cause for concern. If the rider were to recover, by now he should be showing some improvement, but there was none. He rarely remained conscious for more than a few moments and his fever did not abate.
Faramir remained constantly at his lord's side, concerned at how much his friend and King was exerting himself, while all the time knowing how much his lord was missing Arwen's presence at his side. Faramir missed Éowyn too, but he was accustomed to frequent separations when his work took him to the city. It was also extremely rare for the King and Queen not to be in harmony, as until now they had rarely engaged in the squabbles that most married couples suffer from time to time.
At least the mood in the City was fairly calm and people were no longer leaving. No doubt it helped that Sulion was out of sight in a secluded corner of the fields. Aragorn was all too aware though that it would take very little to unsettle the populace again. He relied greatly on Faramir's rapport with the folk of Minas Tirith to help maintain calm. Some of the people were still slightly suspicious of their Northern King, whereas Faramir's family had ruled them for almost a thousand years.
The dragon's wounds were healing quickly and had not become infected. The great creature's spirits, though, were desolate as he pined for his wounded rider.
Either Aragorn or Faramir had endeavoured to visit their gigantic guest daily and bear him company for a while. Neither really had the time to do so, but volunteers to converse with a dragon were not easily found, and it seemed cruel to leave the poor beast without any society or diversion. His keen intelligence made him an entertaining companion.
The Council meeting had concluded early as the members seemed less inclined to argue over trifles when a great dragon was on their doorstep. Aragorn and Faramir knew they should either spend the afternoon working on affairs of state, or penning more missives to their absent wives. Both men were restless, though, and they knew the dragon would be in sore need of some company.
It was a beautiful afternoon, unseasonably warm for the time of year when King and Steward rode out of the city. They left the horses with the guards a little way from their destination and walked towards the dragon's field. They found Sulion curled up as tightly as he could, looking sad.
"Hello, Sulion, we have come to spend an hour or so with you," said Aragorn.
"We thought you might be glad of some company," Faramir added.
Sulion opened his eyes and closed them again.
"If you would rather sleep, we will go away again," said Aragorn.
"I miss my rider," Sulion said morosely, not lifting his head.
"We miss our ladies," said Faramir. "My wife is in our home in the country awaiting the birth of our child and the Queen is with her."
"Do you not have many concubines to entertain you in their stead?" enquired the dragon. "I only have one rider!"
"Indeed not!" Aragorn and Faramir replied almost simultaneously. The indignation in their voices roused Sulion to lift his head.
"In my country, the greater the lord, the more wives and concubines he has to fulfil his every need," the dragon explained. "A king should have at least a hundred to prove himself as a man!"
"One wife suffices for me," said Aragorn. "I have need of no other."
"It is not the custom here," said Faramir. "I would rather concentrate on trying to keep one wife happy!"
"Your customs are strange indeed," said Sulion. "In my land, it is the woman who must make the man happy, not the other way around!"
"Does your rider have many wives?" Faramir enquired.
"No," Sulion answered sullenly "As yet he only has one and she takes him from my side too often as do his children! Is Fu Nung not better yet?"
Aragorn sadly shook his head.
Sulion sighed and curled up again.
"How did you learn to speak the common tongue so well?" Aragorn asked, eager to distract the unhappy creature.
"My first rider often entertained merchants and I learned it from them," Sulion replied. "My kind learns different tongues far more easily than Men do." He lowered his head again.
"Is there anything we could do for you?" Faramir asked. "Would you like another cow to eat, or maybe a sheep? We could perhaps find some deer for you if you would like a change."
"I am not hungry," said the dragon. "I get so dirty after eating. The brook here is not large enough for washing as well as drinking."
"We could see that you were washed each day," said Aragorn, inwardly wondering however he could find anyone who would not be too afraid to wash a dragon. Even with Faramir's help, the task would take more out of his day than he could readily spare.
"Fu Nung used to take me swimming," said Sulion, uncurling a little. His tone of voice reminded both men of when their children wanted some treat. "I was not hurt then, though."
"I think your wounds are sufficiently healed to swim, if it would not pain you to fly," said Aragorn. "We could take you to the river."
"I saw a lovely lake when I flew over the mountains," said Sulion." I should like to swim there." He stretched his vast body.
"I fear that is a Hallow, a place of worship," said the King. "It is only for Men, not dragons."
"That is most unfair!" Sulion complained.
"It is not even for most Men, but only those of Elendil's line," Faramir said, trying to soften the blow. "Only a handful of people even know about it and we would ask you to tell no one what you saw. The river is a good place for swimming. We will take you to a secluded spot that the King and I often visit when the weather is fine."
"We will take you there now," said Aragorn eager to keep up Sulion's spirits.
"Climb on my back then," said the dragon, crouching down so that the two friends could clamber aboard.
"The guards will not be happy at us going off alone," said Faramir.
"You will be safe enough accompanied by me," said Sulion puffing up his chest to make himself look even more enormous.
Aragorn and Faramir noticed a few people looking up and pointing as they flew the mile or so to the Anduin, but their reaction now seemed more of curiosity than panic. Children even waved as they flew past.
A few bathers were splashing around in the water, though it was still quite early in the year for swimming.
They flew past the swimmers and the banks lined with tilled fields until they reached a bend in the river with trees either side. Apart from a few grazing animals, the spot was deserted. Sulion eyed a fleeing goat with interest as they descended. "That goat looks tasty," he remarked.
"I thought you said you were not hungry," Aragorn said dryly. "I have no idea who those goats belong to in order to buy them and you will not enhance your reputation if you go around stealing livestock!"
"Oh, I don't think I am that hungry," Sulion said rather unconvincingly.
They landed behind the trees and Aragorn and Faramir dismounted. "You can bathe here," said Aragorn. "We will wait for you by these willows."
"You are not coming swimming with me?" Sulion sounded taken aback. "But whom shall I play with in the water?"
"We have not brought towels or dry linens with us," said Aragorn.
"I could dry you with my warm breath," said the dragon.
"It is not our custom to be completely unclothed save in our bathing chambers," Faramir added. "It would be especially inappropriate for anyone to see the King unclothed."
"What strange customs you have!" the dragon replied glumly. "My rider and I simply swim together." He brightened "But you said no one would approach you because I was with you! You can come swimming as there is no one to see."
"We will wait here on the bank," Aragorn said firmly.
"We will enjoy watching you," Faramir added.
"You do not like dragons much do you?" Sulion said dejectedly. He slid sadly into the water, his disappointment obvious in every motion of his vast, sinuous body.