Lord of the Rings

The Houses of Healing

Merry's eyes were clouded by tears and weariness as he followed the warriors bearing Eowyn and Theoden into Minas Tirith. He fell behind, though, and became lost in the winding lanes of the city, where he was finally found by Pippin.

"Thank goodness I have found you!" exclaimed Pippin. "They whouldn't have let you walk at all. So many dreadful things have happened in the City, Merry, that one poor hobbit coming in from the battle is easily overlooked.

"It's not always a misfortune being overlooked," said Merry, "but I can't speak of it now. Help me, Pippin! It's all going dark again, and my arm is so cold." Pippin sent for help, and Gandalf came to help bear Merry to the Houses of Healing.

Faramir, Eowyn, and Merry were all laid in beds in the Houses of Healing. They were stricken with a malady known as the Black Shadow, and would not be roused despite the skill of the doctors. "Would that there were kings in Gondor," said Ioreth, a woman tending them said, "It is said that the hands of the king are the hands of a healer."

"Men may long remember your words, Ioreth," said Gandalf, and left in haste.

As the sun went down, Imrahil and Eomer came to the Houses of Healing, learning that Faramir lay within. There they were greeted by Gandalf, and a man wrapped in a heavy cloak.

The man turned out to be Aragorn. He had earlier refused to enter the city, unwilling to claim kingship until all was settled, but came at Gandalf's behest. "For the present let me be known only as a Captain of the Dunedain, and Prince Imrahil will rule until Faramir awakes."

After examining the patients inside, Aragorn asked Ioreth if they had any athelas, or kingsfoil as it was often known. The herb-master said they had none, that it had no healing virtue, though some old folk used it to treat headaches.

"Then in the name of the king, go and find some old man of less lore and more wisdom who keeps some din his house!" said Gandalf.

Beregond's son Bergil was running errands for the Healers and was able to find a few wilted leaves of kingsfoil. "I hope it will serve, sir?" he asked. Then looking at Faramir he burst into tears.

"The worst is now over," said Aragorn, smiling. "Stay, and be comforted."

Aragorn crushed two leaves and cast them into a bowl of steaming water. At the smell of the sweet fragrance, Faramir stirred. Looking up at Aragorn with knowledge and love, he said "My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?"

"Walk no more in the shadows, but awake!" said Aragorn. "I must tend to others. Rest a while."

As Aragorn left the room to tend to Eowyn, Ioreth exclaimed, "King! Did you hear that? The hands of a healer, I said." And soon the rumor ran throughout the city that the king was come again, bringing healing.

After rousing Eowyn in a similar manner, Aragorn turned to Merry. When he awoke, he immediately asked for food, and perhaps a pipe. "Master Meriadoc," said Aragorn, "if you think I haved passed through fire and war to bring you pipeweed, you are mistaken. For now I need sleep."

Before Aragorn and Gandalf left, they spoke to the Warden of the Houses of Healing about Eowyn and Faramir. "Eowyn will wish to depart, but do not permit her to do so. As for Faramir, he must know of his father's death, but do not let him learn the full tale of Denethor's madness until he is quite healed."

Aragorn wished to return to the encampment outside the Gate to eat and sleep, but a crowd was already gathered to see him. Men came and begged him to heal their kinsmen who were wounded or lay under the Black Shadow.

Aragorn went out through the streets, and he and the Sons of Elrond labored far into the night tending to the sick and wounded. And word went thorugh the City: "The King is come again indeed."

In the morning, though, the banner of Dol Amroth floated from the Tower, and men looked up and wondered if the coming of the King had been but a dream.

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