The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven- Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice.

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

"I ought to be there when you destroy the daggers," said Faramir. Several days had elapsed since Faramir's collapse and the Steward appeared fully restored to his usual good health and spirits.

"I think not. You must stay within doors until the task is accomplished," Aragorn said firmly. "It could harm you to even come within the vicinity of such evil weapons again."

"I shall not let him out of my sight," said Éowyn. "And I will cast the athelas leaves you prepared into hot water if Faramir shows any signs of distress."

"Farewell for a little while, then."

"May the Valar protect you!" said Faramir.

"And you, ion nîn."

Aragorn made his way to the smithy. At his command, everyone was within doors and the usually bustling courtyards were deserted. He was taking no chances and had insisted that Arwen and Eldarion return to the City. It was possible that the destruction the remaining enspelled dagger and the hilts might give off foul and poisonous vapours.

Only a furnace had sufficient heat to melt metal and Faramir and Éowyn's smith had been stoking the fire all morning for the purpose. The King had ordered four young guards who had never been exposed to the Black Breath to bring the sealed chest from Minas Ithil. They now stood patiently waiting outside the forge, their eyes never leaving the plain wooden chest that they guarded.

The King instinctively recoiled from the blazing heat as he entered the smithy. The smith, a burly fellow, his sleeves rolled up to expose massive arms, hardly seemed aware of the temperature. "I have made the furnace as hot as I can, sire", he informed Aragorn.

"Thank you. Now go and take shelter in the stables while I perform my task."

"Are you sure, sire? I could cast a chest into the fire easy enough."

"I am certain that you could, friend, but you are not familiar with the weapons of the enemy and the arts the Dark Lord used."

"I'm very thankful that I'm not, sire. If you are certain I can't help you, I'll be going then."

"You will need your cloak out of doors."

" I suppose I will."

Aragorn waited while the smith took a garment of ancient appearance from a hook behind the door. He then called to the guards to bring the chest inside and dismissed them, ordering them to join the smith in the stables. They hesitated slightly, but obediently departed.

The King studied the wooden chest for a few moments. It looked so ordinary and harmless. Yet his keen senses could detect the lingering presence of some evil therein.

He closed his eyes and spoke prayers against evil that Master Elrond had taught him, invoking Elbereth to protect him from evil enchantments and help him cleanse Arda of this latest peril. Then he took up the chest and prepared to cast it into the flames.

"Stop, sire! Forgive me, but I cannot let you destroy such precious beauty so lightly!"

Aragorn spun around and behind Turgon, but this man looked very different from the pleasant, slightly awkward young fellow of a few days ago. His eyes were alight with menace and his hand was on his sword hilt.

"I thought you had been given leave to visit your family," Aragorn said calmly. "I do not want you exposed to this menace again."

"I heard you planned to destroy the daggers, sire, and I could not let you do it!"

"I must do my duty as you must do yours, Turgon. Leave me now and go to the stables where you will find some of your comrades."

"I do not want to hurt you; sire, but you give me no choice!" Turgon drew his sword from the scabbard and pointed it at the King with a slightly trembling hand. "Give me the precious!" he demanded. "Put down the chest and step away from it or you will taste cold steel!"

"You would dare threaten your King? You speak treason, boy!" Aragorn spoke in his most commanding tone and his eyes flashed with a fire that few could endure. Turgon took a step backwards, somewhat shaken, but did not loosen his grip on his sword.

Aragorn heard soft footsteps approaching. Faramir appeared in the doorway, also with drawn sword. The King sighed inwardly. He could deal with one young fool, but Faramir was a different matter altogether. His Steward was a seasoned warrior who could occasionally beat him in practise bouts and knew every move he might make as well as being able to sense his thoughts.

Both of the younger men were in gave peril, though they did not know it, bespelled as they both were. To touch the daggers again would most surely kill them, but not before they had most likely slaughtered him. And what of Eldarion? The Enemy weapons might had been designed to destroy the heirs of Elendil's house. Aragorn felt nauseous at the threat to his child. He inwardly debated what to do. The guards were out of earshot. If he relinquished the chest even while he summoned help, it would most likely cause the death of the man he loved as his son. Maybe he could somehow distract both men? Maybe….

Faramir stealthily approached, sword in hand. Ignoring the King, he raised his weapon and brought down the hilt on the back of Turgon's head. The lad dropped like a stone, his sword clattering to the ground.

Without even pausing to draw breath on this unexpected turn of events, Aragorn cast the chest into the furnace. He grabbed hold of Faramir's arm and pushed him towards the doorway as the wood burst into flames. "Go!" he cried as he started to drag the unconscious Turgon outside.

"No," said Faramir. For a moment, he gazed at the flames and Aragorn feared he might try to jump in to reclaim the chest, but instead he grabbed Turgon's feet and helped the King carry the young man outside. They collapsed on the grass together breathing hard and sweating from the heat.

Still anxious, Aragorn kept a tight grip on Faramir's arm. "Thank you," he said simply. "For a moment I feared…"

"That I too would attack you? The daggers did call to me and I locked Éowyn in the nursery and brought the key away with me. When I saw Turgon threaten you, though, all I could think of was that the father of my heart whom I love was in danger."

"That was what Sauron never understood," said Aragorn. "The power of love."

Within, the furnace hissed and crackled and black smoke and foul odours issued forth. Faramir gave a low cry. Aragorn put his arm around the younger man's shoulders. With his other hand, he felt in his pocket and brought forth an athelas leaf, which he crumbled under Faramir's nose. "Breathe deeply," he said. "The evil is melting away forever now. It makes me wonder if Sauron wove a small part of his essence into these accursed blades as he did in much greater part with the One Ring."

Faramir glanced at Turgon who still lay senseless at their feet. "Alas for Turgon!" he said. "He was a good lad. I liked him well. His family were so proud of him."

"There is no reason they should not continue to be," said Aragorn.

"But he committed treason by threatening you."

"If the dark magic affected him as it did you, the poor young fool was not in his right mind. He should remember nothing," said Aragorn. "If he does remember, I will use what powers I have to remove the memory. It is not something I like to do, but better that than I should have to hang the boy to prevent others raising weapons against me. If he has no recollection, only you and I heard and saw his actions and I think we might forget what happened too. The headache you will have given him will be punishment enough."

"I hope I have done him no permanent damage," said Faramir. "It gladdens my heart you would show him mercy. I dread to think what I might have done, had his actions not brought me back to my senses."

"You would not have harmed me," said Aragorn. "When you were enspelled, you only tried to turn the blade on yourself." He moved across to examine the boy. "His pulse is strong," he said. "I can feel a lump the size of a goose egg on the back of his head. We will fetch the guards and ask them to carry him within doors. We shall tell them that he tripped and fell. Your lady will perhaps help me tend his hurts."

"Éowyn will be ill pleased with me." Faramir paled at the thought.

"I will tell her that you were needed after all. In future, though, Faramir, I expect you to obey my orders in all things!" Aragorn's tone was stern, but his eyes twinkled. "Now stay with Turgon until I return."

Aragorn walked across to the stables and called to the guards to follow him. They looked baffled when they beheld the unconscious boy on the ground.

"He tripped on an uneven cobblestone and banged his head," Aragorn told them. "Would you carry him within doors, please, that Lady Éowyn might tend him?"

"I'll take the lad, he's nowt but a breath of wind," said the smith. He scooped Turgon up in his arms.

"Stay here and see that none enter the forge," said Aragorn. "The chest and its contents should be destroyed by now, but I will take no chances." He took off his cloak and cast it aside. "Our cloaks should remain out of doors to dispel any evil fumes," he said, "and we should bathe as soon as we can."

A flustered looking Mistress Elwen greeted them when they arrived back at the house. "Lady Éowyn is locked in the nursery and I can't find the key!" she announced. "And what is wrong with that young fellow?"

Aragorn and Faramir exchanged glances. Taking pity on his friend, Aragorn whispered "Give me the key and I will release her while you organise the care of our young friend." Aloud he said, "Lord Faramir accidently took the nursery key when he went for a walk earlier. Please could you fetch hot water, a basin, and some towels?"

"Put Turgon on the bed in the downstairs guest chamber," Faramir told the smith. "One of the maids will show you the way. Thank you for your help, friend. You must take some refreshment before you leave."

Aragorn hastened to the nursery and unlocked the door. A furious looking Éowyn burst out of the room. "How dare you!" she cried. "You are sleeping in the guest chamber tonight, husband!" She started when she saw Aragorn. "My apologies," she said. "I thought you were Faramir. I want words with him!"

"It turned out that he did need to be there when the weapons were destroyed, Éowyn," Aragorn said gravely. "No doubt he will tell you the full story, but the truth must remain within the privacy of your bed chamber. But for now, I need your help to attend a young soldier who has met with an accident. He is in the downstairs guest chamber. Then Faramir and I will need to bathe and change as soon as he is tended."

Éowyn still looked furious, but she followed Aragorn, pausing only to collect her healing supplies.

Mistress Elwen had brought everything that Aragorn had requested. She hovered at the bedside together with a manservant who was removing Turgon's boots under Faramir's supervision. Éowyn glared at her husband for a moment before turning her attention to the injured man on the bed. He groaned when she felt his pulse."

"You may go now," Aragorn told the servants. "Thank you for your help." He washed his hands in the water the housekeeper had brought.

"Turgon, can you hear me?" Aragorn asked as soon as the servants were out of earshot.

Turgon's eyes flickered open and he gave another groan. He struggled to sit up.

"Easy now," said Aragorn.

"I feel sick," said Turgon.

Éowyn rushed forward with the bowl and held it while Aragorn supported the young man.

When he had stopped retching, Turgon lay back, an expression of complete bewilderment on his face. "What happened?" he asked.

"What do you remember?" said Aragorn. He wiped the boy's face.

"I was on my way to see my mother and sister and I suddenly wanted to see those daggers again," he replied. "I've no idea why, the thought of them makes me shudder! Then everything went black and I woke up here. Where am I?"

"You are in Lady Éowyn's guest chamber," said Aragorn. He smiled at the boy reassuringly. "You tripped and fell on the cobblestones by the forge and hit your head."

"I'm sorry, my lords, Lady Éowyn. Oh my head, my back!"

"Drink this," said Éowyn, handing him a glass of water to which she had added a few drops of poppy juice.

"I need to examine you properly and tend your hurts," said Aragorn once Turgon had drained the medicine.

"But you are the King, sire!"

"I was a healer long before I was crowned," said Aragorn. "Come on, let us get you undressed."

"I will fetch him a nightshirt," said Éowyn, tactfully leaving the room.

Turgon made no further protest, but looked thoroughly miserable as Aragorn uncovered a large bruise on his back and another on his leg in addition to the lump on his head. Faramir felt slightly guilty as he handed jars of comfrey and marigold salves. He then thought of what might have happened and pushed the thought aside.

"You will be sore for a day or two, but should quickly recover," Aragorn told the now sleepy lad. "Someone should sit with you tonight because you knocked yourself unconscious."

"Thank you, sire." Turgon's eyes were trusting, friendly and innocent, all trace of his earlier madness destroyed together with the daggers.

"I will leave you to rest," said Aragorn, giving the boy a reassuring pat on the shoulder. He called for a servant to come and sit with his patient, then left the room, followed by Faramir.

Éowyn glared at him when the two men entered the solar.

"I am so sorry, my love," said Faramir.

"So you should be!" Éowyn snapped. "Your bath is ready."

"I think I will pick some flowers for Éowyn before to show her how sorry I am for locking her in," said Faramir after they had bathed and changed into fresh clothing.

"I will come with you," said Aragorn. "I feel in need of some fresh air before bedtime. I plan to leave early tomorrow. I promised Arwen we would dine together."

The two men strolled side by side through Emyn Arnen's peaceful gardens, Faramir gathering a bunch of autumn blooms as he strolled. "The cursed daggers all seem like a bad dream now," he said, gazing around the autumn countryside, now a patchwork of russet and gold gleaming under a red sunset. "Again you have saved us from the Dark Lord's lingering malice."

"You played your part too, ion nîn," Aragorn replied, patting Faramir on the shoulder. "You saved my life today. Then we should not forget the Higher Powers. I called on Elbereth for protection before I cast the bespelled weapons into the flames." He started to sing the hymn to Elbereth, at first softly then with increasing power as Faramir joined in.

"A! Elbereth Gilthoniel! silivren penna mírielo menel aglar elenath!"

The two voices rose and fell in rich harmony as the sun slipped beneath the western horizon. In the clear twilight sky, the stars seemed to shine especially brightly upon the King and Steward.

The end.

A/n. I was certain this story was complete two months ago, but my Muses had other ideas!