Who o'er the
herd would wish to reign,
Fantastic, fickle, fierce, and
vain!
Vain as the leaf upon the stream,
And fickle as a
changeful dream;
Fantastic as a woman's mood,
And fierce as
Frenzy's fever'd blood.
Thou many-headed monster
1
thing,
Oh who would wish to be thy king! – Sir Walter Scott
(1771–1832)

Disclaimer
- These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This
story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

"Arwen? Love you…ache…on fire!Win the crown…earn the right…wield sceptre. Arwen…worthy…" Thorongil cried.

Ragnor flushed slightly,uncomfortable at being privy to the Captain's yearning for his sweetheart as
well as puzzled as to why Thorongil should speak of crown and sceptre. Many a
young man in flights of romantic fancy would speak of laying crowns at their
lady love's feet, but why a sceptre? He decided that he must concentrate on
practical matters. The bedding was soaked and he needed water to sponge the
Captain down. He peered out of the small window. The moon had risen, but he
could hear the singing of late night revellers making their way home. Hopefully
the innkeeper was still abroad. He opened the door and called, "Is anyone
there?"

The innkeeper replied almost at once, from where he had just reached the top of the stairs to turn in for
the night. "How's the Captain, lad?" he asked. "Can I help you with anything?"

"I'd feared you were already abed," said Ragnor. "His fever is beginning to break and he needs water and
clean sheets."

"I'll bring some," the man replied.

Within a few moments he was back with the water. "Sponge him down first and then I'll help you change the
sheets," he said

"That is kind of you," said Ragnor.

"Nothing is too much troublefor Captain Thorongil," said the man. "His deeds are known far and wide. Gondor
needs more like him. Call me when you are ready."

Ragnor dipped a cloth in the bowl of warm water and started to bathe Thorongil's face and neck.

"Arwen…so fair… Only you…remain alone…line fail…prophecy…we…of Lúthien's blood!" mumbled Thorongil.

Much of what Thorongil was muttering made no sense to Ragnor, but he almost dropped the cloth at the
mention of Lúthien's blood. Why, the line of ancient kings stemmed from Lúthien!
He found himself studying Thorongil intensely while he bathed the sweat from
his body. The Captain was exceptionally tall and strong, despite being slender
as a willow. His hair was dark and his eyes grey. All traits he knew depicted
the ancestry most Men in Gondor had some small part of, but centuries of
intermarriage meant only families such as the Steward's had the blood of
Númenor running true in their veins. Lord Denethor was famed for having it in
large measure, for not only did he have the look, but also the powers of the
mind.

Ragnor suddenly recalled how Captain Thorongil seemed able to sense if there was danger with more than the
experienced soldier's instinct he put it down to. He could read men's hearts
too. He always seemed to know what his men's greatest hopes and fears were and
acted accordingly, therefore bringing out the best in those who served under
him. Then there was the ring. He had never seen one like it before. Maybe it
was some royal heirloom?

Thorongil's grey eyes flickered open. "Could take it now," he cried. "Denethor! Hates me! You are trying to
kill me!" He grabbed Ragnor's arm and stared at him accusingly.

"No, Captain," Ragnor protested. "I am trying to help you."

Thorongil glared at him. "Mine! Rightfully…be king…Arwen my queen…Elrond? Halbarad cares – my people! "
He shifted onto his side, still muttering. "White tree…blossom…no
hiding…son…Arathorn." Then Thorongil wept and began again to call for his
mother.

Ragnor found he was trembling. He was certain now that Thorongil was Gondor's lost king whose coming had been awaited for well nigh a thousand years. What must he do?

Thorongil groaned again reminding Ragnor just how ill he was. The young man shuddered. The fear that
Captain Thorongil might die in his care was bad enough, but the king? He pulled
himself together. A dead king was of no use to anyone any more than a dead
captain was! He tried to recall more of what his father had tried to teach him.
The Captain was sweating heavily. He would need water to replace what was lost.
Ragnor filled a glass of water from the pitcher. With he free hand he supported
Thorongil's head. "Drink this, lord," he said.

Thorongil gulped it down thirstily. "Mother?" he asked.

"She is coming," Ragnor soothed.

"Burning…burning…Arwen!" Thorongil cried.

"Easy, my lord," said Ragnor. "Let me make you more comfortable." He took up the cloth again and continued
sponging the sweat from Thorongil's body. He noticed then that the wound was
oozing vile matter. Surely that was a good sign? He dressed it again with clean
bandages. He continued gently bathing his Captain and coaxed him to take more
water and willow-bark bark tea. Not until Thorongil ceased to rave and fell
into an uneasy sleep did he dare call for the innkeeper to help him to change
the sheets. To Ragnor's great relief, apart from a few groans, Thorongil was
quiet while the innkeeper was in the room.

The feel of the dry, clean linen against his skin seemed to soothe the feverish man and he fell into a
deeper sleep. On the chair beside the bed, Ragnor dozed fitfully. When he next
awoke, sunlight was streaming through the small window.

The man on the bed stirred and opened his eyes. "Where am I?" he asked hoarsely. ''Ragnor? What happened?"

"You were wounded, lord," said Ragnor. "You have had a fever and were delirious all last night." He filled a
glass and held it to Thorongil's lips. "We are at an inn, the "Seven Stars". The rest of the men have returned to the City. They will ask the Steward to
send a healer to you."

The Captain drank then reached beneath the covers. His eyes widened in alarm as his fingers scrabbled at his
chest. " It is gone!" he cried.

Ragnor reached into his pocket and drew out the ring on its chain. "Your ring, lord," he said. "I took it for
safe keeping," he said.

As he handed it back, Thorongil gripped his hand with surprising strength for a sick man. "Why do you
call me lord?" he demanded, unmistakable fear in the keen grey eyes. "What did
I say in my fever? I am your Captain, not your lord."

Ragnor inwardly wrestled with what to say. It was obvious Thorongil wanted his secret kept. He loved his
Captain and would gladly do anything for him. If silence was what he desired,
he should have it. "You spoke nothing but nonsense, Captain," he said firmly. "Anything
you said I have already forgotten."

Thorongil visibly relaxed and squeezed his hand. "Thank you, my friend," he said. "Now does this inn have
anything to eat? I feel weak as a newborn kitten! I need to be recovered before
Master Beren gets here and tries to dose me with some foul tasting concoction
of his!"

Ragnor smiled. It seemed that the Captain was well on the way to recovery. He felt a surge of elation sweep
through him, at the knowledge he had helped Thorongil overcome as fierce an
enemy as any he had wielded a sword against. For the first time since he had
left his home village, he regretted forsaking the healer's calling. Now he
realised, saving lives was more satisfying than taking them.

Many years later

"Grandpa, the King is riding through our village!"

"Is he indeed now?" The old man looked up from the potion for winter coughs he was brewing.

"Can I watch him ride by? I'll catch up with my studies later. I do mean to be as good a healer as you are,
grandpa!"

"Yes, lad, you go and see him."

The boy ran off. Ragnor absently stirred the mixture and stared into the fire. He had never spoken to
anyone of that long ago night at the inn, but it had changed his life. Within a
year, Thorongil had abruptly left Gondor. Ragnor was one of the very few who
suspected why, but he could say nothing when his comrades endlessly speculated
the reason for the Captain's departure. He spent more and more time alone. The
new Captain who replaced Thorongil was a decent enough man, but he lacked his
predecessor's power to inspire his men.

When Ragnor had been wounded, he decided not to return to a life of fighting but instead went back home and
told his father he had changed his mind about becoming a healer. He found now
it gave him far greater satisfaction than soldiering.

He had married his sweetheart and they had had seven children and as many grandchildren and
great-grandchildren. Ragnor was old now, but still keen of mind and eye. He had
led a contented life, but he had never forgotten Thorongil. He had been special
and Ragnor had never admired anyone else quite as he had admired his Captain.

Ragnor had never seen the King, but from what Men said, he was certain that Elessar and Thorongil must be
one and the same. He had heard that the White Tree did indeed bloom again, so
Thorongil's fever dreams had come true. He could hear cheering outside now and
debated whether or not to go outside and see the King ride past. He decided
against it. He would rather remember his Captain as he was, a warm and approachable
man in his prime, not some ageing and distant ruler surrounded by grand lords
and ladies. Thorongil would have forgotten his young lieutenant as soon as he
left Gondor.

His grandson came running back inside.

"Grandpa, the King wants to see you!" the lad cried breathlessly. "I overheard him asking for you."

Ragnor took up his cane and hobbled outside. There, across the street was his Captain. Apart from a few
flecks of grey in the dark hair, Thorongil had not changed at all. Beside him
was the fairest lady that Ragnor had ever beheld.

The King was saying to the village innkeeper. "I knew Ragnor long ago and I recall that he told me he
dwelt in this village. I would see him again if he yet lives."

Ragnor's grandson called out excitedly. "He is my grandsire, lord! He is here."

The King dismounted nimbly from his great stallion and hastened across the street. Before Ragnor could
attempt to bow to him, the King's arms were around him in a warm embrace. "It
is good to see you again, my old friend!" he said. The voice was still
Thorongil's; warm, deep, and with a slight accent. On his finger, he wore the
emerald ring. Still with his arm around Ragnor's shoulders, the King turned to
the lovely woman at his side and said, "Arwen, meet an old friend of mine, Ragnor.
I owe him a great deal for he once saved my life."

Ragnor's old heart swelled with pride. "It was my honour, my lord, my lady," he said. "I would have gladly
given my life for my Captain, um, I mean my King, begging your pardon, my
lord."

"You will always be my lieutenant and I will always be your Captain,
Ragnor," said the King. "We are older and hopefully wiser, but we are still the
same men. We are two of a kind, you and I healers and warriors both. Now let
us share a mug of ale together and talk about old times."

A/n I've added a completely new chapter 2 to "The Healer's Journey.

This is a revised version of a story I wrote for the "Teitho" contest "One Voice."