Author's notes: And so we come to the end......

Thanks to: Everybody who took the time to read and those who reviewed. It's been said before, but you do make it all worthwhile!

And Gwynnyd, mk, Lyllyn, Rachel and Blue Iris from Henneth Annun for advice on Aragorn's battle scenes. Any inaccuracies are solely the fault of the authors.

And especially to Raksha the Demon, who started just reading, then reviewed, then beta-ed and finally became my CO-AUTHOR on this story. Take a bow Raks – you are a star and forever appreciated this side of the pond!!!!



Chapter Fifteen - Restoration

"Saruman!" Aragorn shouted, "Come down and face justice!"

The wizard's laughter drifted down to them.

"Aragorn!" Gimli shouted as the door at the bottom of the tower opened, pouring out a river of huge Uruk-hai upon them.

"Baruk khazad!" roared the dwarf, leaping forward faster than anyone that broad and dense had a right to move. "Khazad ai-menu!" He swung his double-bladed battle axe across the first Uruk's midsection in a sweeping arc that also lopped off the second Uruk's arm.

The King unsheathed Anduril, and followed the dwarf to engage their enemy. He heard Legolas call his name in warning, and turned to avoid an arrow that whisked past his ear. He looked toward the tower, and then swerved quickly to avoid the upraised axe of an Uruk who had suddenly penetrated his guard. He quickly brought Anduril up to counter; then used his left hand to pull out his knife and stab the attacker hard and fast in his armpit. The Uruk shrieked, and then fell to Anduril's death-stroke.

Glancing behind him, Aragorn saw Legolas, no longer in need of concealment, standing on a rock, loosing his arrows toward the tower.

"I have them, Aragorn!" Legolas called, "Heed the ones on the ground!"

Aragorn was forced to concentrate on the fight as three Uruk-hai confronted him with bloodlust in their eyes. He smiled grimly and raised Anduril once more, then whirled into a dance of death. The Uruks fell, and others took their place.

It was a brutal fight. Aragorn remembered standing back-to-back with the dwarf at Helm's Deep in a living sea of blood-hungry Uruk-hai. At least here, the number of Orcs was far smaller, less than one hundred from what he could tell. At some point in the fight he became aware of Legolas joining them; and several Tower Guards fought their way through to line up behind them.

"How goes it, Legolas?" he managed to mutter.

"Saruman has fallen," Legolas informed him between lethal flashes of his white knives.

"And Faramir?" Aragorn asked.

Legolas smiled dryly. "Still alive, last I looked. I killed the Uruks on the balcony to clear his way. That is six more for me today, Master Dwarf!"

"Hah!" answered Gimli. "I have just taken my eighth, Master Elf!"

"But Saruman should count for at least five Uruks, my little friend" replied Legolas.

"Nay, son of root and twig, each life counts just once!" countered the dwarf.

"That is not what you said on the Pelennor, after I slew the Mumak and all aboard it!" replied the elf. "That makes seven!" he warbled as he shot another Uruk between the eyes.

The King of Arnor and Gondor sighed, and paused to wipe his sweat-streaked brow. These two comrades really behaved like children when one took them into battle, he observed, but thankfully very strong and deadly children. He thought of his own twin daughters, not even a year old, and could not help but smile fondly, certain that his beautiful little girls would never squabble so noisily over the toys they would have one day. And they would never, ever have to kill Orcs, never, ever have to fight for their lives on a dusty, blood-soaked battlefield, Aragorn vowed as he dodged the blood spurting from the neck of the Uruk that Gimli had just decapitated.

The respite was over; as an Uruk with particularly large teeth demanded Aragorn's full attention. He nearly lost his knife in the Uruk's kneecap when the Orc tried to flee, and had to cut the leg half off with Anduril in order to retrieve it. The knife was a gift from Celeborn; which both Aragorn and Arwen treasured.

After killing ten or eleven more Uruk-hai, Aragorn was able to pause again. His sword-arm was tiring faster than expected. Thankfully, the flood of Orcs had ceased to flow in his direction, enabling him to take a moment to look above the immediate danger and gauge what was happening elsewhere in the fray. His first perception was that the wind was rising, as there appeared to be an enormous amount of dust swirling around both the battlefield and the tower. He soon realized from the smell that it was smoke, not dust, wafting out from the tower.

"The tower is burning!" he shouted.

Both his companions managed to glance at the structure.

"Where is Faramir?" Aragorn asked the elf again.

Legolas furrowed his brow, as he pulled one knife from the neck of a dying Uruk. "I know he did not fall. I believe he left the balcony and returned inside the fortress. He must still be in there. Fear not, Aragorn, Faramir is strong of heart; we will find him after we prevail."

"Master Elf, my count is now thirteen!" interrupted Gimli. "How fare you?"

"Twelve, friend Dwarf! I will pass you yet!"

Aragorn snorted. He had to get to the tower! Although they could not yet see flames, it was obvious from the amount of smoke billowing from the balcony, that the tower was afire. And as far as they knew Faramir was still inside it. Aragorn stopped himself from racing to the tower. He could not forsake the battlefield to save his friend, he had to remain and fight on for Gondor. He turned his attention back to the fight, hoping that Faramir could hold on for a little longer. There were just four more Uruk-hai ringing himself and Gimli. The Flame of the West burned through the dust-filled air, and then there were three.

"Legolas," he said. "Can you see the battlefield behind us? I am hard pressed with all the dust."

Three Uruks left; a light slash under Aragorn's right arm slowed him only barely, and Gimli's axe struck an onrushing Uruk at the same time as Anduril. The last two fell to the steel-bladed spears of the Guards; and no more Uruk-hai came forth.

The elf stretched gracefully, wiping his knives on the hem of his cloak, then peered back down the valley. Gimli stood beside him, leaning on his axe and breathing heavily.

"It would appear that the White Lady has won the day, Aragorn," Legolas said. "See, here she comes. And my tale is told at fourteen today! Alas, there were not enough of them for a finer score! How stand our people?"

Aragorn smiled and did a quick head count as he carefully cleaned the knife and Anduril, then sheathed both blades. All but two of his Guards still stood, and the two downed men were moving; guarded by their comrades. The Healers' wagons awaited, beyond the battlefield, as soon as he could verify that the battle was indeed over. The dust was clearing. "I think the day is indeed ours, my friends."

"Ours?" sputtered Gimli, "With only fourteen fallen to my axe? At least a score of craven Orcs have fled the field before the elf or I could gain a clear advantage! 'Tis not fair! What kind of base, mealy-mouthed, strain of monsters does the White Hand brew nowadays?"

As Gimli and Legolas continued their discussion of tied scores and the mettle of various Orc strains, Aragorn saw that Eowyn, her son Elboron, and Captain Anborn, approached him on horseback.

"Lady Eowyn," Aragorn greeted her. "What news?"

The Lady of Rohan and Ithilien was pale, but her eyes were fierce and bright. She climbed stiffly down from Daisy's back as her companions also dismounted.

"The Uruk-hai are routed, lord; with more than half of them slain," she responded. "The Guardsmen and Rangers fought with great courage and are a credit to Gondor."

"Losses?" Aragorn asked.

Anborn cleared his throat. "The Healers are still tallying, my lord. But I believe that we kept our losses to a minimum."

"And you, son of Faramir?" Aragorn switched his attention to the young man who sat before him. "How went your first battle?"

Elboron smiled faintly, his cheek and knuckles bloodied, but his head held high. "I survived. And you, my lord?"

The King returned the boy's smile. "A few scratches and aches, nothing of note. Thank you for the enquiry." What a stalwart young man Elboron had become! The boy had inherited his uncle's broad frame and excellent sword- arm, and his father's tenacity. Elboron, although not naturally as talented, also showed signs of becoming an archer as skilled as Faramir, according to his instructors. How would he ever manage to make his own son a fighter good enough to survive a battle, much less win one? Eldarion tended to trip over his own sword during practice. He would have to take the boy in hand after Eldarion returned from Rohan.

Elboron's face darkened. "And my father?" he asked.

"He was in the tower," Legolas informed them. "When Saruman fell, he . . . ."

"Saruman fell?" Eowyn drew in a shocked breath.

Legolas nodded. "Aye, down yonder trench." He indicated the fissure at the bottom of the tower.

"Anborn," Aragorn commanded. "Take as many fit men as you need and go down that hole. I want the wizard's body brought back to Minas Tirith, so there will be no question of his death. Carry the wounded to the Healers' wagons. The rest of you, come with me to the tower. Legolas thinks Faramir is still inside and the smoke and smell of fire worries me."

Anborn turned to remount his horse and obey his King but stopped as his eyes fell on the tower. Red and gold flames could now be seen leaping into the air from a window near the highest turret. But it was not that sight that caused the Ranger Captain to hesitate.

"My lord," he said. "Look."

The group turned to squint where Anborn pointed, each transfixed by the sight they beheld. At first all they were able to make out through the smoke and dust was the outline of the shape. A lone figure was walking very slowly towards them through the haze. As it neared they could see that the figure was that of a man rather than an Orc. Sprawled across the man's arms was the motionless body of a boy.

"Faramir," Legolas said softly, frowning. His keen elven eyes were the first to see their friend and comrade.

The noble Prince of Ithilien was barely recognizable. Faramir's torn, scorched clothing was covered by a faded black cloak. His shirt gaped open where he had ripped the cloth to bandage a wound that still bled from his left thigh. A hole in his legging showed a patch of reddened, blistered skin above the dirtied bandage. Soot and blood streaked his bruised face as well as his neck. Faramir's red-gold hair was filthy, and matted around a head wound. He walked as if each step caused him pain.

But walk he did, slowly.

They stood immobile watching him, frozen in surprise and shock.

Suddenly Faramir stumbled and fell awkwardly to his knees. The body in his arms lurched and the boy's head jerked but Faramir kept hold of him.

Faramir lifted his head gradually and looked towards them. All could see, even at that distance, the desperate need in his red-rimmed eyes.

In an instant they were all rushing towards him. In the next instant, they all rushed towards him.

When they arrived Eowyn and Elboron wanted to embrace Faramir, but they both stopped short for fear of crowding him. Legolas and Gimli also held back. Faramir seemed confused. His tired blue-grey eyes scanned the field, and then came to rest on the King. Aragorn knelt before him, his face contorted in sudden fear. He had discerned the identity of the boy in Faramir's arms.

"Eldarion?" he breathed in disbelief.

Faramir let out a shuddering sigh as he held out his precious charge to the King.

"My Lord," he said, his voice hoarse and gritty. "I am sorry."

Aragorn's heart thundered in his chest. "How did my son come here. . . what has happened. . . ?"

"Saruman held him captive." Faramir answered, pushing the body nearer to Aragorn. "He is alive, but I tried... I cannot...awaken him. I thought you could . . . the hands of the King are the hands of a healer," he quoted gently.

Finally Aragorn reached out, pressed his hand briefly on Faramir's shoulder, then gathered his son into his arms. What had so heavily burdened Faramir's battered frame was a negligible weight for the King. As he hugged Eldarion against him, Aragorn's shoulders began to shake. Legolas moved to lay a supporting hand on his back as the King stood up, then and moved away, still carrying his unconscious son.

Relieved of his responsibility, Faramir began to tremble. He seemed to be falling in on himself; or was the world tipping over again? The sun dazzled his eyes; so that he could make out the forms of other people standing behind the King's retreating form, but could not discern who they were. The sun flashed off the helm of a Guard, he would always recognize the black and silver outfit. So he was not surrounded by Uruk-hai or other Orcs, though; Aragorn had presumably been victorious. He was aware of a terrible thirst, and shivered with a sudden chill. For the first time in his life, Faramir felt old; and knew that he had no reserves of strength left to sustain him.

It was then that Eowyn stepped forward to her husband and knelt beside him. He looked into her distressed face. Her hair was tousled, her face spattered with blood and grime, her blue eyes circled by fatigue - Faramir had never seen a more beautiful sight. He wished she could have stayed out of peril, but when his Lady decided on a course of action, she was as unstoppable as the waves on the shores of Dol Amroth.

"I missed you, my Lady," he murmured. "You are unscathed?"

"Fear not, my dear Lord" she answered quietly while tightly clasping his hand. "I had luck and a good horse, and am quite well."

"And the children?" Faramir asked.

"They are all safe, all well. I left the White Company behind to guard Emyn Arnen. Shh, my Lord, you must rest now."

Faramir smiled as his wife kissed his hand and stroked his hair. His heart swelled with sudden weary need and gratitude for her. Life could be good.

Now he could finally stop fighting. Saruman and Wormtongue were dead, and Eldarion was returned to his father alive, if not completely well. Eowyn was safe; and the battle was over. Aragorn had control of what was left of Saruman's tower. Faramir could let it all go, and, exhausted, he did.

Only Boromir's strong embrace stopped him from falling further into the dirt, unable to keep his head up anymore. He blinked; remembering that Boromir was dead, and looked again. It was not Boromir who held him. The young man in the black and silver of the Guard, was his own firstborn son, shining in the sunlight, when had the lad grown so tall and strong. . .? And he had seen battle! Faramir tried to reach up, to touch his son's now un-helmed blond head. Elboron's face was bleeding from a shallow, jagged cut that stretched from mid-cheekbone down to the jawline; given by a knife or a metal gauntlet by the look of it.

Faramir felt a thrill of overwhelming pride, then a sudden dart of terror more acute than any fear ever inspired by Saruman. It was one matter to know that Elboron wore the black and silver on guard duty behind the City walls and quite another to realise that his precious child had come to Mordor and battled Uruk-hai. His little boy was a young man now, a young man who must fight and who could be killed, as Boromir had been.

"Bron", he gasped, grabbing at the lad's mailed shoulder for reassurance that his son was solid and safe. Valar, was this dread fear what HIS father had felt?

Elboron lowered him gently to the ground as Anborn called for the Healers.

"Rest now, Father, we will get you home" he told him. "The Rangers fought and won. I fought by Anborn's side, Father; and I slew an Orc! Anborn took no wounds, and there were few losses. Bergil survived as well and is eager to see you."

"I missed you too, my love," Eowyn whispered as she leaned over him and held his hand securely in her own.

Faramir heard her words as from a distance, and tried to smile at her. Though the worst of his own and Gondor's battle was now over, he still had so much to do. He needed to tell the King of all that had happened. He needed to see Saruman's body to prove to himself once and for all that the spell that had bound him to the wizard was ended. He needed to take brave Beregond, and all the others who had died, home to Ithilien. He needed to talk to Bergil and Borlas of their father's last moments, give them comfort and whatever help they would accept from him. He needed to see Eldarion restored to the boy he had been. And he needed to talk to Elboron about how to survive in battle, make sure he understood, as well as any very young soldier could, the difference between being courageous and being foolhardy. There was so much he needed to do but he also understood that his duties would have to wait. He was too tired to do anything other than sleep.

At the end of his strength, Faramir could at last welcome oblivion. For he realized that what he needed more than all else now was to go home to heal.


Is Saruman really dead? Is Faramir free of the wizard's enchantment? Will Prince Eldarion ever wake up? Is Eowyn pregnant (again!)? Am I a tease? It's not quite over and all will be revealed in the sequel 'Home to Heal' which we will start on as soon as Faramir, Raksha and I get our breath back! So keep an eye out for it!