DISCLAIMER: All characters, settings, and general story lines are property of the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. Visual images are property of Peter Jackson.
A/N: I took my original story and made some changes and edits to make it better. Thanks to my editors and reviewers of the previous version!
SUMMARY: This is a scene filler to blend the book RETURN OF THE KING and the movie. According to Tolkien, only Aragorn, Eomer, and Prince Imrahil emerged from the Battle of the Pelennor Fields unscathed.
HANDS OF A HEALER by Jessie Syring
Eomer reined in his horse and surveyed the carnage before him. The great expanse of the Pelennor Fields, from the Anduin River and the ruined city of Osgiliath to the great city of Minas Tirith, would be forever stained by the blood of this battle, he thought bitterly. Everywhere he looked lay the wouded and dead---man, horse, the fell creatures of Sauron. Even the huge oliphaunts of the Southron Armies bled out on the plain before Gondor's capital.
There would be time for mourning later.
"Spread out!" His deep voice carried easily to the Riders of Rohan near him. "Find the king. And get the wounded to Minas Tirith."
The Riders quickly spread out, dismounting to search among the dead. The fair-haired lord pulled off his plumed helm and also moved across the fields, pausing to cut the throat of a mortally wounded horse or comfort an unknown soldier as he breathed his last.
Many of the enemy near him had fallen to a single arrow, not sword or spear. The shafts, long and slender with green and gold fletching, bore no semblance to the arrows of Gondor or Rohan. It seemed like an eternity ago he had faced the deadly point of such an arrow, wielded by an archer of unequalled skill.
Eomer turned at the call. Two Riders were pulling at dozens of heavy orc bodies near the corpse of one of the Southron Army's great behemoths. As they did, Eomer caught a glimpse of green cloth and blond hair. He joined the men and helped pull aside the dead orcs.
The Elf had gone down fighting, but the orcs had finally overwelmed him with sheer numbers. Black orc blood, thick and foul-smelling, covered his clothes and the long knife near his right hand. The blade's twin, still clutched tightly, was buried fist-deep in another orc's back. A wicked cut from an orcish sword had laid open Legolas' right arm from wrist to elbow, baring muscle and bone. As Eomer lifted him into a sitting position, he found a second wound, across his back. Legolas' eyes were closed, his skin very pale. But fresh blood still seeped from his wounds and his chest rose and fell, though faintly.
"He still lives," Eomer said in relief. Rising to his feet with Legolas in his arms, he quickly looked around him. "Dengal. Your horse is fastest. You must get him to the House of Healing."
The named rider quickly retrieved his dun-colored mount and swung into the saddle. Eomer easily passed the light Elf to him, settling him in front of Dengal. As the Rider raced toward Minas Tirith, Eomer gazed across the battlefield.
Aragorn, Gondor's reluctant king, would be there somewhere. And the Dwarf, Gimli. Eomer had caught fleeting glimpses of both during the battle. If they lived, they would need to know about their friend.
The eerie greenish glow of the army of the dead caught his eye, forming ranks near a dead oliphaunt. He still did not fully understand what had happened there, but these decaying spectral corpses had appeared as the battle had turned against the Rohirrim. Their attack had been merciless, yet somehow they knew friend from foe. Eomer suspected Aragorn would be there.
He whistled, bringing his gray horse to him. Mounting, he galloped across the Pelennor Fields, slowing as he rounded a dead oliphaunt. Aragorn was there with Gimli at his side. The Dwarf seemed uneasy, clutching his axe tightly, and was speaking as Eomer arrived. Aragorn nodded thoughtfully at Gimli's words, then gazed at the king of the dead.
"I hold your oath fulfilled," Aragorn said. "I release you from your bond. Go. Be at peace."
The dead king's nearly fleshless face split into a ghastly smile and he laughed, a haunting sound. The laugh turned into an unearthly sound like the howl of a wild beast that wailed across the battlefield, and a sudden wind whipped up the already disturbed dust. Then the army vanished.
Aragorn turned then, becoming aware of those around him. Gandalf and the Hobbit, Pippin, were moving among the dead. A tired smile crossed Aragorn's face at the sight of Eomer and his other friends, but the expression disappeared quickly as he surveyed the carnage.
"Would that I had arrived sooner," he said sorrowfully. "More would have survived."
"None would have lived had you not arrived when you did," said Eomer, clasping his shoulder.
"That is small comfort."
"I fear I bring ill news. Legolas is gravely wounded---"
"The Elf?" Gimli interrupted, looking around and realizing Legolas wasn't amongst them. "I saw him but a short time ago, after he killed that blasted oliphaunt. Where is he?"
"I sent him to Minas Tirith. To the House of Healing."
"Crazy Elf, going to battle without so much as a shield." Gimli's tone did little to hide his concern. "Well, let's go! We'll never hear the end of it if he's left in the hands of a total stranger." He began trotting toward the city.
Aragorn smiled in spite of himself. Eomer stared into Aragorn's grey eyes and held out the reins of his horse's bridle. "Take Firefoot. He is fast and can carry both of you."
Aragorn clasped the horseman's arms in gratitude. "Thank you, my friend."
He took the reins of Eomer's horse and mounted. Trotting to Gimli, he pulled the heavy Dwarf onto the skirt behind the saddle and settled him quickly. Then they galloped toward the White City.
Eomer felt a gentle touch on his shoulder and turned to see Gandalf. The old man's face looked sadder than he had ever witnessed.
"Lord Eomer. I'm afraid I have grievous news. It's about your uncle, Theoden. And your sister."
Aragorn and Gimli pushed their way through the crowds in the House of Healing, searching for anyone who had seen Legolas. The scene there was absolute chaos. Almost every inch of available space held a body, wounded and bleeding or already beyond aid. The stench of blood and sweat overpowered the more pleasant aroma of healing herbs. Aragorn heard someone call his name and turned to see a tall, muscular rider coming toward them, his face grim. The rider bowed slightly in greeting.
"Lord Eomer sent me with your friend. He's this way."
Dengal led them to a small, poorly lit room off the main hall. Legolas lay face-down on a crude bed, stripped to the waist and motionless. An ugly wound across his back and right shoulder still oozed blood. A man in blood-stained clothing was bending over his right arm, tightening a tourniquet above a wound they couldn't see. Another man stood nearby, holding a bone saw already stained with the blood of men.
"Leave him!" commanded Aragorn, pushing the surgeon away.
"What are you doing?" demanded the surgeon as Aragorn sat on the edge of the bed, loosening the tourniquet. "Get this soldier out of here so I can do my job!" he commanded the other man.
Gimli stepped forward, axe raised slightly. "I would not do that if I were you."
"You're both out of your minds. This Elf will die if I don't cut off that arm."
Aragorn looked at him in horror. "He would more surely die if you did," he snarled angrily. "Gimli, get them out of here!"
"You can't command me---"
"As the king of Gondor, he can command you to do anything and you would be wise to obey," said a new voice from the doorway.
Aragorn flinched---he hadn't wanted that bit of information revealed to all just yet. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw a handsome man who looked a bit younger than himself in the doorway. His full plate armor, blue jerkin, and long brown hair were blood-stained but there was no mistaking his air of authority. The surgeon jerked in surprise, as much from his words as his presence.
"Get out or assist him." The tone left no room for argument.
Aragorn nodded his thanks to the prince of Dol Amroth and turned his attention to Legolas. The Elf had not moved---they had probably drugged him. Aragorn gently lifted his arm and inspected the wound. The weapon that had struck him had laid open Legolas' forearm. The angle of the wound was odd, and Aragorn suspected Legolas had partially deflected the attack with one of his own blades. Undoubtedly, the blow would have severed his arm otherwise. Ugly black liquid oozed from the wound. He then turned his attention to the back wound. While long, it was shallow and sealing with the Elf's natural healing ability. Still, it needed cleaning as well.
"I need lots of clean cloths and water," he said softly.
Gimli grabbed handsful of cloth while Imrahil knelt nearby with a basin of water. Aragorn soaked several of the cloths with water, then indicated the prince and the Dwarf should restrain Legolas. Setting his jaw, he carefully began cleaning the grime of the battlefield and the black liquid out of the arm wound. Legolas moaned faintly and tried to pull his arm away. Even unconscious, the strength of the Elf nearly threw off both man and Dwarf. Aragorn spoke to him softly, continuing the work. Soon, bright red blood began to flow freely and for a moment he did nothing to stop it, watching its color as it also cleansed the wound.
"I think I got most of the poison out. That is good," he said, applying pressure at Legolas' elbow to stop the flow of blood.
"Crazy Elf better not die on me," Gimli said, his gruff tone hiding true concern.
Aragorn managed a smile for his bearded friend. "I think he'll be able to tell you his count for this day," he said, similarly cleaning the other wound.
Legolas groaned and began struggling again, mumbling in Elvish. Aragorn put a hand on his back and gently said in Sindarin, "Sedho, Legolas. Nalye harnant." He glanced over his shoulder at Imrahil. "See if you can find a sleeping draught." Be still, Legolas. You are wounded.
The surgeon said, "He should have been out another two hours. At least."
"It takes more than your usual poison to keep an Elf asleep," said Prince Imrahil. He began searching through the surgeon's supplies.
Legolas opened his eyes. Aragorn noted his inability to focus, pupils dilated in drugged confusion and pain. "A-Aragorn?" gasped the Elf. He struggled to roll over, eyes wide in alarm. "Ranc nin ...pedant--- " My arm ...he said---
"Sedo. U-esgeruva ranc," Aragorn assured him, gently restraining him. Peace. He will not amputate the arm.
Imrahil handed a flask to the dark-haired man. "Try this."
Aragorn accepted the flask from him and sniffed at the contents. The foul odor, too much like old boots after a week's march, nearly caused him to choke. Legolas would not soon forgive him for making him drink that foul potion, but stitching the wound would be difficult enough without Legolas struggling. He propped his injured friend up slightly and pressed the flask to his lips.
"Sogo," he commanded. Drink.
Legolas swallowed and gagged at the taste. He tried feebly to push the flask away but Aragorn held him still and made sure he finished the contents. He tossed the flask to one side, holding his friend and watching his face closely. Already, the blue eyes were glazing over and his breathing was easier. He eased Legolas back onto the bed.
Searching among the medical supplies, he found a long needle and sturdy thread already prepared. He shifted his position so he could easily bend over Legolas' arm and looked at Gimli.
"I'll need your help, Gimli. You'll have to hold the wound closed while I sew it shut."
Gimli moved to his side, following Aragorn's instructions. All other occupants of the room were forgotten while the ranger carefully repaired the damaged flesh, first on the forearm and then across the back. A long time passed before Dwarf and Man looked up, their expressions grimly satisfied. Aragorn began bandaging the injured limb while Gimli supported Legolas' arm at wrist and elbow.
The surgeon said, "The wound is too serious. If he lives, I doubt he'll have any use of that arm."
"Elves have a natural gift for healing," said Aragorn, looking at him. "I do not doubt it will be a slow recovery, but he will recover." He finished bandaging both wounds and stood up, swaying with exhaustion. Gimli put out a steadying hand. Aragorn nodded his thanks and looked around the room. "I want him moved to another room. One where he will get sunlight most of the day. He will likely sleep for the next few days without waking. Do not disturb him."
"I'll guarantee that," growled Gimli.
Aragorn nodded his thanks and frowned, seeing blood seeping from under the Dwarf's helm. "See to your own injuries as well, Gimli. I'll be back to check on him. If you feel something is wrong, do not hesitate to send for me."
The surgeon bowed stiffly. "As you will, my lord."
If Aragorn noticed his bitter tone, he did not say. Suddenly the door opened and Gandalf strode inside. He went to Legolas' bedside and placed a long-fingered hand on his forehead, closing his eyes in concentration and whispering words in a language unknown to those in the room. He nodded, apparently satisfied with the results, and turned to Aragorn.
"Your skills are needed, Aragorn. King Theoden has fallen, and Lady Eowyn is sorely wounded."
"Yes. She dressed as a soldier and rode out with the armies. It was she who slew the Witch King. But now she needs your aid."
"Where is she?"
Aragorn followed the White Wizard out of the room, Prince Imrahil close behind.
Gimli watched them go, then turned to the surgeons. His bushy, copper-colored eyebrows pinched into a single line as he scowled at them.
"Well? You heard your king. Get him moved! But be gentle about it or you'll feel the bite of my axe."
An exhausted Aragorn stood at the edge of the courtyard overlooking Minas Tirith, feeling no fear at the nearly vertical drop of some thousand feet directly beneath him. The night wind held a bite as it ruffled his dark hair. Other than himself and the silent guards at the White Tree, the huge courtyard was empty. In fact, nothing seemed to stir in the city except where flames still showed the effects of the seige.
He was tired. Exhausted like he had never felt in his many years. The journey from the Paths of the Dead, the fight with the Corsairs of Umbar, the battle for Minas Tirith...so much in so short a time with little rest. Yet sleep eluded him.
At Aragorn's urging, Imrahil was still in charge of the city. Word was spreading from the House of Healing that the king had returned to Gondor. Gandalf had concurred with Aragorn that Gondor's nobles might react poorly to the unexpected return of Isildur's heir, and they needed strength and unity for what lay ahead. There would be time for truth later.
His heart wept at the losses. Many Rohirrim had died before the walls of Minas Tirith. Theoden, Rohan's proud king, had fallen giving aid to a kingdom for which he held no fondness. Eowyn, his neice and Eomer's sister, was among the wounded. The brother of the dead Boromir, Faramir, had also fallen, even before the battle, in a nearly suicidal attempt to take back Osgiliath from Sauron's hordes.
Faramir would live, as would Eowyn. Aragorn had personally tended to their wounds. That small victory did little to comfort those grieving in Minas Tirith and the camp of the Rohirrim.
"My lord?" a voice said tentatively. Aragorn turned. A youth of perhaps ten years stood before him, looking around nervously. "Are you the man called Aragorn?"
"Yes, I am he."
"Master Gimli sent me to find you. He bade me tell you the Elf is waking up and---"
Aragorn didn't wait to hear the rest of the message. He raced through the citadel's maze of marbled corridors to the House of Healing. He quickly located Legolas' room. The small chamber was scarcely larger than the bed but moonlight shone through the windows.
"Gimli?" Aragorn paused in the doorway, not seeing the Dwarf.
"Right here, lad." Gimli's voice, along with light, appeared at his elbow. "You'll be needing this."
Nodding his thanks, Aragorn accepted the small candle and stepped quietly into the room. Legolas had turned onto his side, his limbs twitching as his mind slowly returned to consciousness. While Elves naturally slept with their eyes open, his closed eyes indicated he was still in drugged sleep.
"Legolas," he called gently, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Hlaro oma nin a cuino." Hear my voice and awaken.
He repeated the words several times, keeping an almost musical cadence. Legolas stopped moving, then slowly opened his eyes. They slid shut almost immediately. Aragorn gently shook him and called out once more.
"Firya aule," the Elf whispered, his voice barely audible. Shaggy human.
Aragorn smiled. "Well?" Gimli demanded grumpily. "What's he saying?"
Aragorn stroked his beard. "That I look terrible. Are you awake, my friend?" he asked Legolas.
Legolas opened his eyes again. Aragorn could still see pain there but it was diminished and his eyes were clear of the drug. "I can think of many things more pleasant to wake up to than a man and a Dwarf," Legolas said with more strength.
"How do you feel?" asked Aragorn. He slipped his hand into the Elf's right hand. "Can you grasp my hand?"
Legolas' eyes partially closed in thought. Aragorn watched his face as he felt the long fingers close on his grip, cautiously. He was not surprised that Legolas' face remained emotionless.
"Don't try to tell me that didn't hurt, my friend," he said sternly. "Gimli, find me some clean bandages."
Aragorn began carefully unbandaging the long cut in Legolas' forearm, humming an Elven tune as he did so. He moved the candle closer as the last bandages came away so he could see clearly.
The wound already had a crusty scab over it that looked days old instead of mere hours. Only the edges closest to the cut and the stitches were an angry, irritated red color. Aragorn gently felt the arm for heat and soreness. Twice, Legolas could not contain a hiss as his touch found a very painful spot.
"I have lived with Elves most of my life," Aragorn said, smiling slightly, "and their ability to recover from the most grievous wound still amazes me." Accepting clean bandages from Gimli, he rebound the wound with lighter material than previously. "But you're not going anywhere for a while. Haunto, mellon nin. Arin rato tuluva." Rest, my friend. Morning soon will come.
Legolas mumbled something around an enormous yawn, eyes glazing as natural sleep claimed his exhausted body.
Gimli awoke with a startled snort, jerking awake and banging his head against the wall as he did so. Muffling a curse, he glanced anxiously at the bed to make certain he hadn't woken the Elf. That drew a louder curse. In the dim light of the coming dawn, he could could see the bed covers were tossed back and Legolas was gone.
"Blasted Elf! Where have you run off to now?"
Jumping off the stool, Gimli hurried out of the room. Stumbling around various medical implements and discarded shields that had been pressed into service as litters, he searched the quiet halls and open balconies for any sign of the wounded Elf. Failing, he found an elderly woman he had seen attending the wounded. Her white gown was stained with blood and various mixtures of herbs.
"Legolas! Have you seen him?"
"Who, Master Dwarf?"
"The Elf! He---oh, never mind!" Gimli stomped off, grumbling, " Of course she wouldn't see him---he moves like a cat!"
Certain Legolas was no longer in the House of Healing, Gimli realized there was only one other place he might be. He left the building, jogging as fast as his short legs would carry him, and made his way to the Court of the White Tree on the seventh level. In the predawn light, he saw Legolas. The injured Elf seemed unaware of the Fountain Guards as he stood with his back to the citadel, staring at the White Tree. As Gimli approached, he could hear Legolas singing in his own language, too softly for the words to be clearly heard but undeniably a mournful tune.
"Legolas?" Gimli asked. "Are you all right?"
Legolas stopped singing but didn't look at him. "There is so much grief here," he said quietly, his voice heavy with sorrow.
"Aye. Too many people have died." Legolas didn't answer. Gimli stood beside him silently, hoping for some reaction. When none was forthcoming, he said, "You should be back in bed, resting and healing. Aragorn will have my head for letting you out of my sight."
"Come on, lad. At least sit down before you fall down."
"I wish to remain here."
Gimli stared at him. "And they say Dwarves are stubborn," he grumbled.
Gimli turned and started back toward the citadel proper. He hadn't gone ten paces when he heard Legolas start singing again. The sadness of the song brought a tightness to his own chest and he paused, turning to look at Legolas again and wondering if Legolas was all right. He'd heard tales about Elves dying from sorrow. Was it that? Or perhaps the Elf suffered from wound fever and was out of his head.
Well, there was one person in Minas Tirith who could answer those questions.
Gimli made his way to the residential section of the citadel, his boots clumping loudly on the polished marble floors. He didn't care who heard him as he sought the suite of rooms assigned to Aragorn. Stopping at the heavy wooden door, he pounded loudly with his fist.
"Aragorn! ARAGORN!" he shouted, pounding harder. "Wake up, blast you!"
The door opened, revealing Aragorn. He had hastily thrown on a shirt and grabbed his Elven dagger before answering the summonings. Several other people appeared in the hall, alarmed and bearing weapons. Seeing Gimli, Aragorn glanced at the other faces.
"It's all right," he said. "Go back to bed." Without waiting to see if they obeyed, Aragorn grabbed Gimli by the front of his chain mail shirt and pulled him into the room. "Gimli, this had better be important," he said, rubbing tired eyes and sheathing the dagger. "It's been a very long day."
"Something's wrong with the Elf."
Aragorn spun around. "What?"
"I fell asleep! And when I awoke, he was gone. Now he's standing out by that blasted tree just...singing. Is he sick?"
Aragorn raised his head to look toward the window, although he couldn't see the White Tree from where he stood. "Stay here and get some rest, Gimli. I'll see to Legolas."
Aragorn pulled on his leather jerkin to protect him from the cool air and laced it up. Then he pulled on his boots and left the chamber. He quietly strode through the halls, through the great hall past the throne on its pedestal with the steward's seat at its foot, and out the enormous double doors to the courtyard.
Legolas stood motionless, looking like a pale statue among the white stone. He seemed unaware of the Fountain Guards as he stood with his back to the citadel, staring at the White Tree. Aragorn knew the Elf would have preferred to go right to the tree but suspected the guards wouldn't allow that. As he approached, he could hear Legolas singing in his own language, too softly for the words. The Ranger recognized the melody---the song spoke of renewed hope from despair. Legolas suddenly stopped singing but did not turn.
"Have you come to take me back to my room?" he asked with a sorrow Aragorn had never heard before.
"Only if that is what you wish," Aragorn said.
"I couldn't stay there any longer. I wanted fresh air. And I could hear it crying."
Aragorn stepped up beside the Elf. Legolas wore a rough white shirt he had obviously scrounged from the House of Healing, much too big for his light build. His normally fair skin was paler than normal and he held his injured arm to his chest protectively, cradling the elbow in his left hand. In complete contrast to his otherwise bedraggled appearance, his golden hair was neatly combed and braided, and Aragorn wondered how Legolas had managed that unaided.
"The tree," Legolas said. "Its grief is so strong."
Aragorn looked at Legolas, wondering if he was teasing. He was surprised to see a stray tear slide down Legolas' cheek. "Is that why you were singing?" he asked softly.
"I wished to reassure it. To tell it we have not failed. But they would not let me approach."
They. Legolas had put so much hatred of the Fountain Guards in that one word that Aragorn recoiled slightly. Staring at the bare branches of the ancient wood, he said, "You miss the forests of your home, don't you?"
Legolas nodded. "Even the sight of a lone tree lifts my heart. But I'll not see Mirkwood before this war's end."
Aragorn could hear what he did not say: if they won this war and the Ring was destroyed. He understood Legolas' sorrow and it grieved him. Elves were strangers to death except through violence and all Legolas had seen of late was death and violence. Of those he loved and those he respected. Aragorn studied the tree again and wondered how an Elf could find comfort in this ugly thing, twisted and dying. He felt a twinge of regret as he realized the tree was much like the history of his bloodline---very old and shaped by too much history and corruption.
Legolas placed a hand on his shoulder, drawing his gaze. "Forgive me," he said in his light voice. "I have drawn you into my sorrow when we still face war."
Aragorn clasped his hand over Legolas'. "This battle is far from over. Gandalf has called a council for later today to discuss what we do now."
He put a hand on Legolas' shoulder and led him to the tree, waving off the guards. The guards shifted nervously and watched them---perhaps no one had ever made such a bold move before. Man and Elf stood together, watching the sun rise. As it crested the mountains, they heard a gasp from one of the Fountain Guards. A look of pure joy suddenly lit Legolas' angular features and he stepped back, turning as he did so to look up at the tree.
High above them, a tiny green bud had sprouted on one of the barren branches.
Legolas looked at Aragorn. "Estel na er," he said. There is still hope.