The Deepest Pain – Linda Hoyland.
Aragorn receives his first battle wound.
These characters are J.R. R Tolkien’s. I make no money from this story.
Her eyes were like twin stars and her hair darker than a raven’s wing while her lips- . Aragorn closed his eyes for a moment. The pain of longing for a maiden so far above him was almost too much to endure. A loud curse startled him out of his reverie.
“My horse has gone lame,” said Finrod, the oldest of the group of Rangers. He uttered another curse as he dismounted from the saddle.
“The hoof looks inflamed.” Halbarad, who had been riding beside him had also dismounted and was already examining the horse’s feet. “He can go no further today.” He looked expectantly towards Aragorn.
The young Chieftain sighed. “We are expected in the village tonight, but we have no option but to make camp for the night here.”
“I like it not,” said Halbarad. “There are Orcs in these parts and our families will be waiting for us.”
“I like it not either,” said Aragorn. “We can hardly leave Finrod and his horse here alone, though, and travelling with a lame horse once night falls is too dangerous. It leaves us wide open to attack. We will resume our journey at first light tomorrow.” Aragorn dismounted in the forest clearing and tethered his horse to a tree. “Halbarad, you and I will gather firewood while the rest of you make camp. Keep a close watch.”
As soon as the two men were out of earshot of the others Halbarad said “I am sorry if I spoke out of turn.”
“You care only for our safety,” said Aragorn. “I hope I have made the right decision. Even after a year of being Chieftain, it is still difficult at times.”
Halbarad nodded. “Sometimes, like tonight, you can only choose the least bad option.” He stooped to pick up a branch. “Let us hope there are no Orcs lurking in the forest.”
“The moon will be almost full.” Aragorn closed his eyes for a moment and imagined himself walking hand in hand with Arwen through the gardens at Rivendell. They stopped and gazed up at the silver orb. His hand moved round her waist and she nestled closer to him. Their lips met in a lingering kiss. They tasted of honey or maybe fine, sweet wine.”
“Aragorn!” Halbarad’s voice jolted him back into the present. “Um, what did you say?”
“You were far away,” said Halbarad. “Now you are blushing. Were you thinking perhaps of some lady?”
Aragorn said nothing. He felt his face grow even hotter.
“I knew it!” said Halbarad. “Thinking of fair maidens gathers no firewood, though.”
“I am sorry.” Aragorn collected himself and resumed gathering fallen branches.
Aragorn took the first watch of the night. Once darkness fell, it had grown chilly and he pulled his cloak more closely around himself. The sounds of the night reassured him, the wind in the branches and small animals, wood mice and voles scuttled around in the undergrowth. He wondered what it would be like if Arwen were beside him. Would she be afraid? He would reassure her that he would protect her. She would huddle close to him and rest her head against his shoulder. He would feel her warm breath against his cheek. Maybe he could kiss her? His body ached with longing. An owl hooted in a nearby tree and brought him back to the present. Suddenly, the owl squawked then everything fell silent. Aragorn tensed. He drew his sword and wondered whether or not to wake the others. He was loth to disturb their rest for what was most likely a false alarm. Then his keen eyes picked out shapes moving in the dim light.
He cried out “Orcs, Ambush!” He heard the twang of a bowstring and ducked. It was too late. He felt something hit his shoulder followed by a sharp, searing pain. He fell to his knees, his sword dropping from his hand.
The camp sprang to life. Aragorn could hear shouts. Someone cried “The Chieftain’s been injured!”
Hands reached out. He managed to say “Orcs! Leave me and save yourselves!”
He was ignored as the hands dragged him into to the shelter of nearby undergrowth. He feebly tried to protest, but his rescuer took no notice.
He recognised Halbarad’s voice. “Stay hidden!” his kinsman commanded.
Aragorn could only listen to the sounds of battle around him. Through his haze of pain, they sounded far away. Was he dying? Would he never know the pleasure of Arwen’s embraces? He had not expected dying to hurt so much. After what seemed an age, the sounds died down. Then hands reached out and pulled him from his hiding place. Aragorn groaned.
“Easy now,” said Halbarad. “We need to move you into the light.”
“My men? The Orcs?”
“You are the only one with a serious wound. The others are all well apart from a few minor cuts and bruises. We have slain all the Orcs.”
“Good.” Aragorn closed his eyes. It took a great effort to speak as the pain blurred his thoughts.
“Are you ready? We need to lift you nearer the fire?” Halbarad said.
Aragorn nodded weakly. He raised his head and realised that his kinsman was with Beren, a burly young Ranger from their village. The two men lifted him and began to carry him into the clearing near the fire. He groaned loudly. They gently laid him down on a makeshift bed made from their cloaks.
Beren then knelt beside him and examined the arrow. “I do not have a detailed knowledge of healing,” he said. “I do know, though, that this arrow needs to be removed at once.”
“Would it not be better to take him to Rivendell?” said Halbarad.
“Orc arrows are filthy, we cannot leave it in him that long,” said Beren. “That was how my father died, not of the wound, but the infection it caused.”
“Who can remove the arrow then?” asked Halbarad. “The Chieftain is the only experienced healer amongst us.”
Finrod rose from where he had been sitting by the fire and came over to them. “I have taken an arrow out of my horse,” he said gesturing to where his lame mount was tethered. It did not improve his temper but he is still here and has carried me faithfully until he went lame today.”
The three men looked expectantly at Aragorn. The young Chieftain swallowed hard. He had extracted arrows and knew the procedure hurt a great deal. He knew too that he did not wish to die just yet. He gave a reluctant nod. “Do it.”
“Have you healing supplies?” asked Halbarad.
“Only a few.” He paused to take a couple of deep breaths to push back the pain, then continued, “Was going to Rivendell for more.”
Halbarad nodded grimly. There had been all too many in the last few weeks who had needed healing supplies. Not only Rangers wounded in battle, but also those stricken with fevers or victims of accidents.
Beren went over to where Aragorn had placed his pack and brought it to the fireside. Halbarad rummaged inside and brought out some bandages, powdered herbs, a pot of salve and a sharp knife.
Aragorn’s eyes went to the knife and he flinched. “Sharp knife of Master Elrond’s,” he muttered.
“That will suffice,” said Finrod.
“Do it quickly,” said Aragorn.
Halbarad nodded to Beren and together they held him pinioned to the ground.
“He will need something to bite on,” said Finrod. “Otherwise his screams will alert every Orc for miles around to our presence.”
“I do not scream,” said Aragorn though his voice quavered a little.
“You are made of flesh and blood,” said Finrod. “It is no shame.” He unfastened Aragorn’s belt and placed it in the young Chieftain’s mouth.
Aragorn was pale and sweating heavily. Already, the pain in his shoulder was more than he could endure. He dreaded the worse pain that was to come. He bit down on the leather and swallowed hard as Finrod picked up the knife and started to cut away the clothing that covered his shoulder. The knife was so sharp that he hardly felt the cuts to enlarge the arrow wound, but when Finrod started to dig out the barb, great waves of agony tore through his body. He arched and twisted, trying to escape from the cruel blade and the hands that restrained him. Then everything went mercifully black.
When he came to, his shoulder still throbbed painfully. Halbarad was bending over him anxiously while Finrod was bandaging the wound.
“Praise the Valar you are awake!” said Halbarad. “You worried us swooning like that. Do you want a drink?”
Aragorn nodded weakly. He sipped from the water skin Halbarad held to his lips.
“We need to take you to Rivendell,” said Halbarad.
Aragorn shook his head wondering what manner of reception he would get there. He had not been on good terms with Master Elrond since his love for Arwen had become known. “I will be well,” he said. “I have been injured before, though not in battle.” Even as he spoke the words, he wondered why it felt so much worse this time.
“When you were hurt before you had all the lore of Rivendell to help you heal,” said Halbarad, as if sensing his thoughts. “Orc arrows are filthy. We cannot risk the wound becoming infected. We need our Chieftain and would not lose you.”
Halbarad turned to Finrod and Beren. “Help me get him on my horse. We will ride through the night. There is no time to lose.”
The next few hours passed in a blur of pain. Every step the horse took jolted Aragorn’s shoulder and increased his agony. He lost count of time and knew not whether he dozed fitfully or swooned again. Then there were lights and voices. Gentle hands lifted him from the horse and carried him within.
“What has happened to you, Estel?” a familiar voice asked.
Aragorn opened his eyes to find Master Elrond bending over him, a goblet in his hand. “Drink this,” his foster father commanded. “Drink, then rest.”
Aragorn opened his eyes and looked around. He was in his old room at Rivendell. His left shoulder was swathed in bandages and his arm in a sling. The searing pain had subsided to a dull ache. He turned his head and saw his mother sitting on a chair beside the bed. She was engrossed in stitching what looked like one of his shirts. She must have heard him stir as she put down her sewing and stood up.
“How do you fare, Aragorn?” she asked, kissing him tenderly on the brow.
Aragorn thought for a moment before answering. “Much better, the pain is bearable now.”
“Master Elrond thoroughly cleaned and dressed your wound and set the bone. He does not think there will be any lasting damage.”
Aragorn gave a sigh of relief. His eyes then lighted on a large bunch of exquisite blooms in a vase across the room. “You brought me some flowers?”
Gilraen looked troubled. “It was not I, it was Lady Arwen. She sent them with a message that she was sorry you were injured. Doubtless, the lady has a tender heart towards those her father succours. Do not make too much of it.”
Aragorn hastily changed the subject. “I am thirsty.”
“I will fetch you something to drink.” She bustled from the room. As soon as she was gone, the door opened again and Halbarad entered.
Aragorn struggled to sit up. “Thank you, kinsman, you surely saved my life.”
Halbarad smiled and clasped Aragorn’s hand.
“Are the rest of the men safe?”
“I believe so. I told them to go on to the next village where there is a smith to tend Finrod’s horse.” His eyes came to light on the flowers.
“Lady Arwen sent them.”
Halbarad laughed though not unkindly. “So she is the lady you dream about? Do not deny it. You are blushing like a maiden!”
“She is surely Lúthien reborn!”
“Grandmother says that every one of Isildur’s heirs has fallen in love with her. Never fear, you will soon forget her once you meet more women; women who will welcome your suit.”
“I will never forget her!” Aragorn said hotly. “I intend to marry her, and please say nothing of this to anyone, including Grandmother.”
“Peace,” said Halbarad mildly. “You have my word I will say nothing. Alas, the pain of unrequited love is worse than that of any wound.”
Aragorn gazed at the flowers. Maybe they were but a kindly gesture, yet they gave him hope.
A/n. Written for the Teitho “Pain” contest where it was unplaced.
Curated with permission from author