The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. No profit has been nor will be made from it
wo du mich wiederfinden kannst!
(You know where
you can find me again!) Parsifal Act 2. – Wagner.
With grateful thanks to Raksha and Deandra.
"We will be outside if you need us," Tarostar huffed.
"I shall stay with my husband," Arwen told Zafirah in the same queenly tones.
"And I shall not leave my King," Faramir said equally firmly.
"Very well," said the darwisa. "But do not interfere. First I must see the dagger that caused the wound."
Fortunately Tarostar had brought it to the sickroom, in an attempt to diagnose what the poison might be from one of Elrond's books that Arwen had produced.
Zafirah took the blade and sniffed it. "It is indeed Akuiniama!" she said. "When was he stabbed?"
"It was about three hours before noon," said Arwen.
"Time grows short," declared the darwisa, glancing at Aragorn's motionless form. "I need hot water, then strong tea, red wine, vinegar, and charcoal to make a potion."
Arwen looked doubtful, but summoned a servant to fetch what was needed.
The darwisa rummaged in her basket and took out several packets and jars, together with a selection of sharp knives and some goblets and bowls.
Faramir called Aragorn's name, desperately trying to rouse him. The King made no reply and hardly seemed to breathe.
The servant brought in a bowl of steaming water and placed it on a table by the bed. Arwen told her to wait outside. Zafirah approached the bed holding a sharp knife and a piece of what looked like bark in her hand. "Bare the wound!" she demanded.
Faramir and Arwen lifted the King, unlaced his nightshirt and slid it from his shoulders, a process made difficult by the stiffness of Aragorn's limbs. They unfastened the bloodstained bandage that covered the wound.
After washing her hands, Zafirah studied the wound critically. "At least it has been opened, though not sufficiently," she said. To Arwen and Faramir's bewilderment, she circled the bed thrice, chanting in some strange tongue, then threw her arms in the air and gave a loud cry. Taking the knife, she widened the gash and inserted the bark into the wound. Aragorn remained motionless, but gave a low moan at what must have been an excruciatingly painful procedure.
The darwisa spread the bottles of ingredients she had ordered on a table, and mixed a little of each, together with some herbs she produced from a pouch she had brought. She divided the mixture between a small bowl and a large goblet. Taking the bowl to the bedside, she removed the bark from the wound and poured the mixture into the wound, before replacing the bark and demanding a clean bandage. Faramir and Arwen could only watch and hope she knew what she was doing.
Zafirah then fetched the cup. "He needs to drink this medicine," she explained. "It is the antidote to the poison."
Arwen instantly began trying to rouse her husband. As a healer's daughter, she knew he must be conscious to drink or the mixture would choke him. "Estel, beloved!" she cried. "Please awaken and drink what may heal you!"
But Aragorn did not stir.
Faramir tried coaxing his lord and calling his name with no better result. Zafirah strode back to the bedside and slapped the King's face. Arwen bit back a protest. Aragorn remained silent, far away from them all. "I was told you were stronger than other Men, Elessar!" Zafirah goaded the unconscious King. "Come; awaken and show me the strength of the Men of the West!"
Faramir could have wept both at seeing his lord so ill-used. It seemed all his efforts to save his King had been in vain. Then he remembered that when he had lain close to death, Aragorn had reached him by placing a hand on his brow. Faramir himself bore high Númenorean lineage, as well as Elven blood. So did the Queen, though she held the greater share of high blood. Queen and Steward also shared a deep mental bond with the King. Maybe they could somehow reach Aragorn together? Faramir turned to Arwen and spoke softly of his idea, praying that it would bring their lord back to them.
"There is something we wish to try, unique to our people," Faramir told Zafirah, who was now shaking Aragorn. "We must concentrate."
Zafirah shrugged. "He must drink or die!" she said simply.
Arwen and Faramir each laid hands on Aragorn's brow. Focussing all their strength of spirit upon the man they both loved, Queen and Steward silently pleaded with him to awaken. With every minute that passed, their task seemed more hopeless. Finally, Aragorn blinked and opened one eye a fraction.
"Hear me, beloved!" Arwen said urgently in Quenya. "For the love of me and our son, you must drink this potion to heal you."
"Please, Father of my heart, do not leave me!" Faramir pleaded in the same ancient tongue.
"Will try." Aragorn's voice was a barely audible whisper, but he was awake.
Faramir supported the King while Arwen held the cup. The mixture looked vile, and doubtless tasted the same, but sip by laboured sip, Aragorn somehow managed to swallow it before sinking back on the bed.
Zafirah, who had stood quietly while they were trying to rouse Aragorn, began to stride around the room chanting incantations of some sort.
"He needs to digest it quickly before the venom paralyses his digestion," Arwen said anxiously. "My father would rub the stomachs of poison victims." She pulled Aragorn's nightshirt further down and started gently rubbing clockwise circles with her fingertips across his stomach. When emotion overcame her and her fingers faltered, Faramir took over the task.
Zafirah finally finished her chanting. "The Higher Powers tell me that they smile upon this strong one," she announced. "He should live if he sweats out the venom. The fire needs making up and he should be wrapped in many blankets."
Faramir summoned servants to bring extra blankets, and more wood for the fire. Together with Arwen, he wrapped the King in the two blankets already on the bed. The servants brought four more. Aragorn was soon sweating copiously. He groaned and struggled to move his limbs.
"The treatment is working," the darwisa announced. "Give him plenty of water and more of my medicine in the morning. He should make a full recovery in a few days. I would go now; I have stayed here too long." She snatched up her basket and made for the door.
"Wait!" said Faramir. "If he does indeed recover, you shall be richly rewarded."
"You have nothing that I want. Now let me be!" Zafirah snapped. "You know where you can find me again," she added in a gentler tone.
Loth to restrain her by force, Faramir reluctantly allowed her to leave.
Through the long hours of the night, Faramir and Arwen sat beside the King, mopping his brow and coaxing him to swallow water. When his sweating eased, they bathed him and changed his nightshirt and the bedding.
As dawn broke, Arwen left the room for a few minutes to see how her son fared. Faramir held more water to the King's lips. He was overjoyed when Aragorn opened his eyes and asked weakly: "Faramir, whatever have you done to your face?"
"It is a long story," said Faramir, his voice thick with emotion. Aragorn's hand reached from beneath the blanket and his fingers weakly clasped Faramir's.
Just then, Arwen returned. The sight of her husband moving his hands filled her with joy. She ran to the bedside and embraced him before bursting into tears.
"I had such dark dreams," said Aragorn. "I feared I was dying. Stay with me, vanimelda, ion nín, please. I am tired and so thirsty."
"All is well, my love, rest now," soothed the Queen, lifting a cup of water to her husband's lips. "We will both stay beside you."
Faramir and Arwen both sat on the bed on either side of Aragorn. They each clasped one of his hands, delighting in their slowly strengthening grip, until he drifted into a natural sleep.
It was about three hours before noon when a servant tapped on the door. "Enter!" called Arwen, rising from the bed and smoothing down the dress she had donned the previous morning. Aragorn lay sleeping soundly under the covers, his chest steadily rising and falling. He moved his limbs as he turned in his sleep. He still looked pale, but had lost the ghostly pallor of the night before. On top of the covers, Faramir lay sprawled fast asleep, exhausted from his labours of the previous day. Arwen regarded him fondly. She knew that without Faramir's determination, she would now be a widow.
The servant handed her a packet and withdrew. The Queen opened the packet, and found a lapis lazuli necklace and a note from the merchant whom Aragorn had purchased it from the previous day. Arwen found herself shaking with emotion as she regarded the beautiful blue stones. It could so easily have been her husband's final gift to her. Securing the gems around her neck, she went to find her son. A new day had dawned, and another twenty-four hours lay ahead.
A/N A darwisa is a female shaman from North Africa
The poison is loosely based on Strophanthus hispidus DC. /action/showMetadata?doi10.5555/AL.AP.UPWTA.1398
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I hope to post more of "A Time to Reap" next week.
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