Silken Peril by Linda Hoyland
Prompt - Faramir is poisoned by something meant to hurt Aragorn (food, drink, hidden needle, cloth soaked in something...) and Aragorn uses his power to heal him.
All recognisable characters are Tolkien's, not mine. I make no money from writing this.
Summary- A helpful gesture has dire consequences.
"I miss Arwen and the children already," sighed Aragorn. "However do you endure so long away from Éowyn and your little ones when your work keeps you here, mellon nîn?" He stretched out his long legs and leaned back against the cushions on the couch. After sharing a hearty supper with Faramir, the two men were enjoying a leisurely glass of wine in the solar.
Faramir sipped his drink thoughtfully. "Of course I miss them, but I have grown accustomed to often having to be apart from them. I cannot neglect my duties and neither can Éowyn. She would never be happy to live in the City all the time and it makes me happy to know that she is content."
"Your words are wise," said Aragorn. He sipped from his own glass of wine. "Arwen needs to spend time amongst the trees and blossoms in the countryside now spring is here. Her good health and spirits depend on it and I desire her happiness above all else."
"We will both join our ladies in a few days," said Faramir. "Until then, there are plenty of tasks to occupy us. I suggest now supper is over that we begin to sort through the birthday gifts you received."
Aragorn groaned. "Must it be tonight? There are so many!"
"All the more reason we should decide which ones to keep and which ones can be given to the poor without offending the givers. Your secretaries have already written letters of thanks. If we delay any longer you will have wedding anniversary gifts to sort through as well in another few weeks!"
"Very well, I see your point." Aragorn gave a resigned sigh. "It will make the task easier with you here." He called for the servants, who at his command, carried in six chests stuffed to the brim, which they placed before the King. He thanked them then dismissed them, telling them not to return until he called. They bowed low and took their leave.
"I will keep the gifts from young children," said Aragorn, poring over a selection of assorted parchments adorned with portraits, which mostly bore little resemblance to their subject and laboriously written poems. "They put so much love and care into their work. They can be stored in the archives."
"What of these?" asked Faramir, rummaging through an assortment of knitted socks, most of which were several sizes too small for the King.
"They can be given to the poor."
"And this?" Faramir held up an elaborate tunic made of embroidered orange velvet with a shining silver silken trim and a black edging."
"Ah, the colours of Rhûn," said Aragorn.
Faramir sighed. "The Easterlings are becoming a threat again. They come through Mordor to harass Ithilien, attacking my people and stealing their flocks."
"I intend to tell the Ambassador when I dine with him next week that such a state of affairs cannot continue or we shall be forced to retaliate," said Aragorn. "I suppose this tunic is a gift from Ambassador Khulan. It is the custom in Rhûn to give gifts of clothing."
"You could wear it at the dinner as a token of good will," said Faramir.
Aragorn took the tunic from Faramir and held it up. He regarded it doubtfully. "Would I not look foolish in such a gaudy garment? If only more of the ambassadors were like Tahir! He would never be offended by what I did or did not wear."
"The Men of Rhûn will no doubt be dressed in these colours. Perhaps you would have a better chance of settling the dispute peacefully if you wore it?"
"Hmm." Aragorn held the tunic against his body and went over to a looking glass. "If only Arwen were here; she would tell me if I looked foolish or not."
"What if I were to try it on?" Faramir suggested. "We are of similar build and colouring. If I look well enough in it, you most likely would too."
"An excellent idea! There is a matching shirt too." Aragorn retrieved a silvery silken shirt from the trunk where Faramir had found the tunic.
Faramir pulled off the tunic and shirt he was wearing. Aragorn handed him the orange and silver garments.
"They are magnificent clothes," said Faramir. "They must have cost a great deal to produce." He pulled them over his head. "Ouch! The tailor must have left a pin in the seam," he exclaimed. Then he gave a loud cry and fell to the floor, writhing in agony.
"Faramir!" Full of concern, Aragorn knelt on the floor beside his friend.
"It burns, it burns!" Faramir screamed.
Aragorn grabbed an ornamental dagger from amongst the heap of gifts and sliced through the orange and silver garments. Only then could he see that the Steward's upper body was covered in scarlet welts emanating from a point on his shoulder where a small needle was embedded.
"Have a care!" Faramir gasped between moans as Aragorn made to pick up the remains of the garments.
Aragorn kicked the fabric aside with one booted foot. It seemed that Faramir had been poisoned. Whether the poison was all on the needle or also on the cloth, he had no idea.
He took a deep breath. He needed to remove the needle swiftly before the poison could spread. "You need to remain still, ion nîn," he told Faramir. He looked around for another dagger that was not contaminated with the poison. There was one here with a richly jewelled hilt that the Dwarves from the Blue Mountains had sent as a birthday gift. He had no flame in which to cleanse the blade and no time to kindle one. He held Faramir still with one hand and cut out the poisoned needle with the other. Instead of staunching the wound, he allowed it to bleed, hoping that poison would be at the least diluted.
Faramir cried out repeatedly, which added to Aragorn's fears. Faramir was the most stoic of men and rarely complained, even when seriously wounded. The Steward was shivering. Aragorn pulled off his own tunic and wrapped it around his friend.
Aragorn called for help. A guard appeared almost at once, as did a scared looking serving maid. "Lord Faramir has been injured. I need my healing supplies, and then a healer from the Houses. I also need the Ambassador from Rhûn summoned here at once. And see that no one touches these clothes." He gestured towards the remains of the tunic and shirt.
"Yes, my lord." The guard sped away while the maid cried for further help.
More servants appeared, hearing the commotion. Aragorn sent one for blankets, which he wrapped around the Steward. In the meantime, someone brought his healing supplies. He rummaged in the satchel, wondering what was best to give Faramir. He had no knowledge of the antidote, so deemed the best course of action was to ease the Steward's obvious pain with poppy syrup while he sought for a cure. He knelt beside Faramir again, a cup in his hand and coaxed Faramir to drink, supporting his head with his free hand. The Steward was shaking and groaning so much that it took him some time to drain the potion.
Aragorn gripped his friend's hand while he waited for the poppy to take effect. At last, the Steward's eyes closed and he fell into an uneasy slumber. Even in his sleep, he continued to twitch and shake.
Only then did he feel that it was safe to move Faramir to the nearest bedchamber. He ordered a burly manservant to help him carry The Steward. They carefully laid Faramir on the bed. Aragorn then despatched the servant for hot water and another to gather fresh athelas leaves from the small herb garden he had cultivated in the Citadel.
He put Faramir to bed while he waited. Faramir still shifted uneasily in his sleep and his pulse raced when Aragorn checked it. This poison seemed unlike any other that the King had encountered during his many travels. Most poisons administered by arrows or sharp needles were used by hunters and caused the victim to become paralysed. Faramir's reactions seemed quite the opposite. Snake venoms had various ways of poisoning their victims, but Faramir was not bleeding and his heartbeat, though rapid, was regular enough. Athelas was effective against many poisons, so as soon as he had hot water and the fresh leaves, he made a poultice and applied it to where the needle had pierced Faramir's skin and the angry looking welts which now covered his upper body. The Steward immediately became more settled and seemed to slumber more peacefully.
Aragorn urgently needed to consult Master Elrond's healing books, but he dared not leave Faramir until a healer from the Houses arrived to sit with him. Now he had a few moments to think, he found he was shaking. The poisoned clothing had been destined for him, not for Faramir. If Faramir had not been so eager to help his lord and friend, it would be he who was lying here, fighting for his life just as he had done a few years ago when a crazed woman from Harad had stabbed him with a poisoned dagger. He has only survived the attack thanks to Faramir's determination to find an antidote. While the healers had despaired, Faramir had gone out and sought a cure.
Aragorn buried his face in his hands. How could he bear to lose his brave, loyal friend and wise advisor? Faramir was dear as a son to him. Why had he ever let him don the garments? He should have known the Men of Rhûn were not to be trusted.
A few moments later, Master Aedred, who was the chief assistant to the Warden at the Houses and Aragorn's personal physician, arrived. Aragorn swiftly explained the situation to him. He left Faramir in his care while he went to consult a weighty tome from Master Elrond's library concerning poisons and their antidotes.
He had no sooner begun to seek for answers in the book when a servant announced that the Ambassador from Rhûn had arrived.
"Show him to my study," said Aragorn. He hurried off to interview him.
Ambassador Khulan sat serenely on the chair usually occupied by Faramir when the two worked together. His were hands folded inside his orange and silver robes and his lips set in a smug smile. He reminded Aragorn of a snake about to strike its prey. He rose and bowed deeply when the King entered. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this invitation, Lord Elessar?" he asked before sitting down again.
"Did you send me garments in the colours of your land as a birthday gift?" demanded Aragorn.
"Maybe, but I cannot recall what gift was sent to you, my lord," said Khulan. "It is kind of you to summon me here to thank me, but my servants deal with all such matters."
"I would try to recall if I were you, Ambassador," said Aragorn. "The garments contained a poisoned needle hidden within the seams and my Steward lies dangerously ill after being pricked by it."
"That proves one of two things, my lord," said Khulan. "Either your servant should not have touched what was meant for his master, or that you are wise to have a subordinate test your clothing before you wear it. In either case, I know nothing of poisoned garments."
Aragorn leapt to his feet. It took all his considerable willpower not to fly at the man and shake the truth out of him. "You forget of whom you are speaking, Ambassador. I toy with no man's life and Lord Faramir is no underling, but one of the highest lords in this land. Tell me, if you value your skin, what manner of poison would be used in a poisoned garment?
"You threaten me, Lord King? The Emperor, may he live forever, would be most displeased to hear of this."
"What the Emperor knows nothing of cannot displease him." Aragorn's glare alone was enough to kill and his tone was like ice. "Let us speak in a theoretical manner. Should a man of Rhûn wish to kill another with poison, what poison would he use and more importantly, what is the antidote? Speak now or know the full force of my wrath!"
Khulan trembled but quickly regained his composure. "The Men of Rhûn have no lethal poisons. The Emperor, may he live a thousand years, has forbidden their use. Our poisons do not kill; instead, those who ingest them die by their own hands within a day, or maybe two, which is far more reasonable do you not think? That is how we execute our criminals. Not that I know about how poisons work, my lord. This is simply what I have heard others say."
Aragorn shouted for the guards. Two burly Citadel Guards appeared at once. "Escort Ambassador Khulan to his residence and see that he remains there under house arrest," he said.
"The Emperor, may he live forever, will hear about this outrage!" fumed Khulan.
"You can be certain of it," said Aragorn. He gestured to the guards to take the Ambassador away.
The King cursed under his breath. He was certain the man was lying and that we was indeed responsible for the poisoned needle. Unfortunately, it was almost certain he was telling the truth about the poison. He vaguely recalled hearing of poisons that drove men to madness during his many travels and Faramir had certainly been in considerable pain. Surely, though, a man who had survived the Black Breath and many other wounds and misfortunes could not succumb to some scheming snake's plot of which he, Aragorn, was the intended victim. He could not, would not, let this happen.
Aragorn leafed through Master Elrond's book. It provided no answers. Sighing, he scribbled a note to Éowyn asking her to return to the City. In it, he simply said that Faramir had been attacked, but gave no further details. He gave it to a messenger to deliver at first light tomorrow. He did not want to risk more tragedy by inciting Éowyn to gallop through the night. He then returned to Faramir's side.
"How is Faramir?" Aragorn asked Aedred.
"He is still sleeping, my lord," said Aedred. "He appears to be slightly feverish."
Aragorn placed a hand on Faramir's brow. Maybe the fever was a sign that his body's natural defences were fighting against the poison. Master Elrond had been fond of telling him how wondrous these natural defences were against anything that invaded the body. Surely, given enough time Faramir could expel the foul poison. Maybe his friend and King could help to give him that time, by subduing his pain with poppy syrup. It was not a plan without risk, for poppy was a strong and dangerous drug, but if Faramir continued to sleep, he could not be driven mad with the pain and seek to take his own life. He would make sure that Faramir did not harm himself and that he drank plenty of water to cleanse his body of the poison whenever he awoke. First, though, he would use more athelas to try to help his injured friend.
Aragorn asked Aedred to fetch boiling water. He pulled back Faramir's covers and removed the poultice. The area around the wound was stained with a noxious yellow matter. It seemed that the athelas was drawing forth at least some of the poison. Aragorn applied a fresh poultice and bandaged it against the wound.
He then washed his hands, asked for more hot water and crumbled two athelas leaves into the bowl of water after breathing on them. He placed the steaming bowl on a table beside Faramir and breathed deeply to inhale the refreshing vapours. If he could connect his own spirit with his friend's, he could help him fight for his life.
Aragorn took Faramir's limp hand in one of his own and placed his other hand on Faramir's brow. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. Almost at once, their spirits connected.
The Rhûn poison was not like the Black Breath, a device of the Enemy, so Faramir's spirit was not wandering. He appeared to be in the very bed in which he actually lay, but impaled upon thorns rather than lying on a soft mattress and blankets. Flames shot from a point on his shoulder.
Aragorn bit back a cry of horror. He knew this was not the real world, but Faramir's pain was all too real.
"Sheath Andúril lest I be tempted to snatch the blade to end my torment!" cried Faramir.
Rather to his surprise, Aragorn realised he had his sword drawn. He quickly placed it in its scabbard.
"I do not want to die," said Faramir. "I would see my children grow up and I would not leave Éowyn bereft. Neither do I wish to leave you, and the land we both love, but I do not think I can endure this burning pain for much longer."
"Listen carefully, ion nîn," said Aragorn. "You have been poisoned, but your body can fight the poison and expel it. It will take time, though."
"How much time?" asked Faramir.
"The worse should pass in a day or two," said Aragorn.
Faramir groaned. "I know not if I can endure that long."
"I shall do all I can to lessen your pain. You can sleep for most of the time thanks to the poppy syrup."
Faramir gritted his teeth and writhed amidst the thorns, moaning quietly. The flames continued to erupt from his shoulder.
Aragorn's heart went out to his friend. He could not bear seeing him suffer like this. He reached out his hand and plunged it in to the flames, seeking out the wound from which they emanated.
"No!" Faramir cried. "You will burn too!"
Searing heat and pain shot through Aragorn's hand and along the length of his arm. It took all his considerable willpower not to pull away. He told himself sternly that none of this was real and the flames had no power to burn him. Although, he felt that his flesh was burning, his clothing remained untouched. His hand connected with the wound and he struggled to draw out the poison. Then the pain overcame him and everything went black.
Aragorn opened his eyes to meet Master Aedred's concerned gaze. He was lying on the floor beside Faramir's bed. "Athelas!" he murmured.
Master Aedred held the bowl in front of Aragorn's face. The King inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with the healing vapours. His hand still burned through there was no injury to be seen. He wanted to see how Faramir fared, but as yet he lacked the strength even to get up from the floor.
"You should have a care for your own safety, my lord," Aedred scolded. "How can you help Lord Faramir if you make yourself ill? Let me do my job and be of service. What do you want me to do?"
"Just keep on holding the bowl," Aragorn whispered. "Athelas alone can aid me and I alone can use it. I will be well soon." He continued to take deep breaths and gradually felt his strength returning. He dragged himself upright to a sitting position so that he could see Faramir. At least, his friend and Steward seemed no worse. After a few minutes, he noticed that Faramir no longer tossed so restlessly. Accepting Aedred's outstretched hand for support he got to his feet and checked the bandages. They were now heavily stained with evil matter that was oozing from the wound profusely. It seemed that Faramir's body was expelling the poison as he was also sweating heavily.
Aragorn placed a hand on his brow and brushed his fingertips against Faramir's eyelids sending him into a deep healing sleep. "We need to bathe him to keep the fever within limits," he told Aedred.
"Should you not leave that to me while you rest, my lord?" asked the healer.
"I will rest when Faramir is made more comfortable," said Aragorn.
"You will rest as soon as Lord Faramir is bathed," Aedred said sternly.
The King called for a servant to bring more water and together with Aedred, they bathed Faramir with lukewarm water and changed the bedsheets.
He then settled down on a chair at Faramir's bedside and prepared for a long vigil throughout the night.
"You should go to your bed now and rest properly, my lord," Aedred said. "I can keep watch."
"I shall stay here," said Aragorn. "Had Faramir not tried on the poisoned shirt, it would be I who lay there fighting for my life."
"Lord Faramir will need you when he awakens. As your healer, I insist that you rest. "
Aragorn sighed. "You are here as Faramir's healer today, not mine, but to please you, I will rest for an hour or so, but I shall remain here. Faramir should not wake until I rouse him, but you are to alert me if his condition changes in the slightest. Do not try to bring the fever down any further; it is his best chance of overcoming the poison."
"I do have some knowledge of poisons too, my lord," Aedred said tartly. He tucked a blanket around Aragorn.
Aragorn did not expect to sleep, but exhaustion caught up with him almost as soon as he closed his eyes. He had had a busy day crammed with royal duties and had intended to spend a relaxing evening with Faramir doing very little.
He woke up with a start to the sound of birds greeting the dawn. Aedred was sponging Faramir's face. "How is he?" asked Aragorn. "You should not have let me sleep so long."
"You needed the rest." Aedred was not in the least cowed by Aragorn's scolding. "There is no change that I can perceive, my lord. The fever still rages and I have had to change the dressing on his shoulder twice."
"Has he appeared to be in much pain?" Aragorn was already scrambling to his feet.
"He stirs and moans in his sleep, but no worse than most wounded men whom I have tended."
"I shall use more athelas for a fresh poultice then I must wake him," said Aragorn. He called for a servant to bring hot water. He prepared the dressing and then applied it with the healer's assistance. He looked across the bed to Aedred, "Will you leave us, please, for a moment?" he said.
Aedred looked doubtful. "I do not know if that is a good idea, my lord," he said. "You could overtax yourself again giving your strength to Lord Faramir."
Aragorn glared at the stubborn healer then his glance softened. He had known Aedred for many years and knew the healer genuinely cared about him. "I give you my word I shall not use my healing powers until you return. I simply desire to spare Faramir's dignity if he awakes screaming with pain."
"Very well, then, my lord. I shall return in a short while."
Aedred left the room, but Aragorn did not hear his retreating footsteps and suspected that the healer was still hovering outside.
The King took a deep breath and looked down at Faramir's sleeping face. He appeared to be in a fairly peaceful slumber and he wished that he did not need to rouse him. It was essential, though that he drink water and be dosed with more poppy juice in order to keep the poison caused pain at bay.
He called the servant to bring more hot water. Aragorn looked around the room to assure himself there was nothing with which Faramir could harm himself. He then took two athelas leaves, breathed on them and crumbled them before casting them into the water. He waited for the living freshness to fill the room before calling to Faramir to awaken and brushing his fingertips against his eyelids once more.
Faramir stirred and opened his eyes, his gaze meeting that of his King. "Ada, again you came for me in the darkness!" he said.
"How do you fare?" asked Aragorn, taking one of Faramir's hands in his own.
"Not too ill, though I have been better," said Faramir. "I am so thirsty."
Aragorn held a glass of water to the Steward's lips. Faramir drank greedily. "How is the pain now?" he asked once Faramir had drunk his fill.
"It burns and stabs still, but it is much easier to bear." Faramir gazed at the King; his eyes alight with love and gratitude. "You took it from me did you not?"
"I tried to."
"You should not risk yourself so for me."
"I would not lose you to the Easterling poison," Aragorn replied. "Éowyn would most surely kill me if I allowed any harm to come to you! She will be here soon. Now, would you like some more water before I give you your medicine and change the dressings?"
"I am so sorry that I permitted you to try on that shirt, ion nîn," Aragorn said as he prepared a fresh poultice. "The poison was intended for me not for you."
"I am glad that you did not don the poisoned garment," Faramir said staunchly. "Gondor has need of her King and I have need of the one who is like a father to me."
"Gondor needs her Steward, as do I," said Aragorn. "Now drink your medicine before I change these dressings."
When Éowyn arrived a few hours later, Faramir was sleeping peacefully. "I believe the worst is over and he will recover," Aragorn told her.
Several weeks later, Aragorn and Faramir were working on official documents together when two messengers delivered a large trunk. They bowed and took their leave.
"I wonder what this can be," Faramir mused.
"I think we can take a short break from deciding on trade tariffs to open it," said Aragorn.
The King opened the chest. It was packed to the brim with rolls of the finest silks in every colour that could be imagined. There was a sheet of parchment on top of the rolls of silk. Aragorn picked it up and began to read. "Esteemed Lord King, please accept these finest silks my land has to offer. Your own tailor can make them into raiment of your choice, so you will know that no foul poisons are concealed within. I would like your esteemed self, your esteemed lady, and your esteemed Steward to enjoy this gift as a small token of contrition for what your esteemed Steward suffered at the miscreant Khulan's hands.
Your humble servant, Ganzorig son of Ganbaatar."
"A gift from our new ambassador," said Faramir.
"I like Ganzorig," said Aragorn. "He is a very different man to Khulan. He speaks plainly."
"Since Khulan left there have been no further attacks on Ithilien," said Faramir. "Maybe he was behind them and not the Emperor?"
"The Emperor appeared genuinely outraged by the attack on you," said Aragorn. "He demanded that Khulan return home at once to face trial. That was the last thing I had expected."
"I am simply glad that the threat of war has been averted," said Faramir. He fingered one of the rolls of silk. "This is fair indeed, as fine as any silk from Harad."
"Most Harad silks have their origins in Rhûn," said Aragorn. "The climate of Harad is too hot for the mulberry which the silkworm lives off. Rhûn sells many of the cocoons to Harad to be woven into silk, but the silk they weave themselves they guard jealously. Unlike the Haradrim, they rarely trade it. We are honoured by this gift."
Faramir eyed a roll of sea-green silk. "Éowyn would look most fair in that colour," he said.
"Then she must have it," said Aragorn. "We will ask our tailors and dressmakers to fashion this silk into fine raiment and wear it to a state banquet to which we will invite Ambassador Ganzorig and his lady. Your full recovery and the improved relations between our two lands deserve a celebration."
A/n Written for the Teitho "Raiment" Challenge where it was placed third.