Cover Art by the Dragongirl.
Second Movement - Crannog / Castle Menzies by Dougie MacLean, from Perthshire Amber.
I. Faramir rose early, for there was still much to do within and without the walls of Minas Tirith. There was no time for a garden in Ithilien when rubble still lined the streets and many of the people of Gondor left without their homes were flocking to the White City. So Faramir rose early, or else there would be no time to train in mind and body, and no time to speak with Eowyn.
Eowyn was kept busy with the duties of a healer, for even as a novice healer, with the most basic of training, she was needed among the people of Gondor. There were many who still bore injuries that plagued them.
When the sun had just begun to kiss the horizon and birds could be heard singing along with the bakers who had begun to rise in the lower city, the two of them would rise. There were few words between them as they prepared, still fighting back weariness, but there was a quiet companionship that Faramir cherished.
As they walked down to the training fields, emptier than they had been now than ever before in Faramir’s memory, Faramir could not help but marvel at the calmness of it all. In a short span of time, the rest of the city would rise to their daily tasks, and the air would be filled with the clamor of masonry and metal-smithing, and many other crafts besides, as the people of the city worked to rebuild what they had lost.
Upon reaching the training fields, they were greeted by pleased cries from the members of the guard who had reached it before them, “Good morrow to you, Lord Dernhelm, Lord Faramir!”
For here, Eowyn was no more the shield maiden, the role that she had left behind for healing, but the warrior Dernhelm. All among those training knew who Lord Dernhelm was, but there was a certain freedom given to one who had fought with such glory. It would be a pity to lose so valiant a warrior, even in times of peace. Faramir smiled to see them great Dernhelm with such enthusiasm. There were not so many with the cascading fair curls of Rohan among the ranks of Gondor yet, but Faramir saw a chance in the future where their people would be far more mingled than they were.
Faramir was well loved here as well, among these men who had grown up training with both of the Steward’s Sons. It still baffled Faramir how they turned to listen so readily when the order was not from Boromir, when it was not the favored son who remained. There had been great celebration among the guard at Faramir’s retention of the rank of Steward, and Faramir had been truly surprised.
Their time until the morning bells were spent in almost meditative exchanges of blows, requiring little thought but great concentration. Faramir’s mind wandered during this time to the problems that would be brought before the King, and to what problems would not be brought before the King despite their urgency. The peace of the moment was their future, but only a veneer of the present.
At the tolling of the morning bells, Eowyn and Faramir left the training fields and the men of the guard behind, following the same path for a time to their quarters and the robes they would need for their days: Eowyn’s simple healer’s robes and Faramir’s robes of rank. Faramir sometimes envied the simplicity of what she was required to wear.
Before they parted ways, they held each other in a brief embrace. As Eowyn pulled away, her golden hair mingling for just a moment with Faramir’s fine jet strands, she said, “Could I ask you to have a quiet word with the King for me?”
Faramir gave her a questioning look, “What for?”
Eowyn sighed in harsh frustration, “There is no organization among the healers. I would understand my own differences. I am not of this land, and I am not fully trained. But the healers from Dol Amroth use one word, and the healers from Min-Rimmon another, and none are the same as the terms of Minas Tirith, and yet none can agree on one. And yet, if it were only the words that they disagreed on, it would not be so frustrating. But it is also the methods and tools. It makes it nigh impossible to properly train new healers unless they only follow one experienced healer, and then the pattern will only continue. There is such bickering and wasting of time that I would think I was surrounded by ones who had not yet reached their seventh year instead of their seventieth.”
Faramir paused to think, nodding in sympathy, for the description was remarkably apt for many of the noble houses of Gondor who now returned to attempt to curry favor from King Elessar. Finally, Faramir replied, with slow thoughtful tones, “Perhaps over a dinner? Something small and private. I know that Elessar would listen to your concerns.”
She snorted, “That would be best, small and private. I can’t speak for the healers as a whole because there is no whole to speak for, and even if there was, I am not even fully trained.”
Faramir reassured her that her concerns would be brought up, and there would be a dinner arranged. Faramir thought that it would be best to drop a word with Lothiriel about the need for a dinner, for the youngest Princess of Dol Amroth had become an invaluable part of Queen Arwen’s entourage, fulfilling the same role of native guide and experienced manager of men for the Queen that Faramir filled for the King.
II. Eowyn arrived in Arwen’s chambers long before the King and the Steward were done with their duties for the day and could return to simply being Aragorn and Faramir, though all their duties would still linger about them. Lothiriel’s messenger had found her in a lull between patients bearing word of a dinner between the house of the King and the Steward to her. She had smiled to see that Faramir had worked so quickly to bring her request to effect.
Eowyn was not surprised to see Lothiriel sitting by the Queen’s side when she entered the chambers, feeling for just a moment too simply dressed in the healer’s robes she had not taken the time to change from as they were not covered in any bodily fluids even after a busy day, which was a clear sign that the city was recovering. However, both Arwen and Lothiriel smiled at her, and Eowyn relaxed.
She joined them when Arwen beckoned her to come and sit. Arwen’s voice was soothing and melodic, like nothing that Eowyn had experienced in the lands of Men before everything, “Faramir dropped word with Lothiriel that you wished to place a word with Elessar about something to do with the state of healers, and I find myself curious.”
Eowyn smiled at Arwen and nodded, “It is more the state of the organization of healers, or lack of organization of healers, than the healers themselves.”
Lothiriel snorted, but did not interrupt otherwise, and Eowyn glanced at her, curious, but continued, “There is no ability to agree among them, and no clear structure.”
Arwen looked puzzled and asked, “Do they not just consult among themselves when they do not agree?”
Eowyn laughed then before she could reply, “There are too many of them. There is little agreement among healers of the different lands of Gondor, let alone the healers from further lands, those of my own people, or the Dunedain of the North, come to follow their King. There are those coming from even further afield as well, now that things have begun to settle.”
Lothiriel cut in then, as she poured cider for the three of them from a pitcher just brought from the cellars, “So you need someone to organize all the mess more than you need more healers.”
Eowyn nodded firmly, swirling the cider without drinking it for the time being, she replied, “Yes. Someone to keep them organized so they are not constantly trying to do each other’s jobs, and also an organization to train new healers, something less haphazard than what I’ve been experiencing.”
At last Arwen spoke again, voice thoughtful and slow, “A school of sorts. That is what it sounds like you need. Though that would not help in some ways with the organization, it would at least be a step to close the confusion.”
She looked to Lothiriel then, and said, “Gondor seems to have schools for some skills, especially for children.”
Lothiriel nodded, “Though perhaps a different word would be in order, for as you said, schools are sometimes thought of as for children, which for all their behavior, is not thought of as appropriate by the leaders among the healers.”
Eowyn snorted in laughter, remembering that before she had taken up the position as Arwen’s right hand, Lothiriel had worked beside the healers in Dol Amroth and Minas Tirith during the war. Lothiriel placed a hand on Eowyn’s shoulder and said, “Do not worry cousin, we will find a solution for this, for you’ve brought something important forward. I am sure that the King will agree.”
III. The seat where Faramir sat in the throne room had long been filled by Steward upon Steward in their long line. Enclosed in robes that Denethor had once worn the likeness of, and that Faramir had always thought would be Boromir’s fate, Faramir was thankful that at least, at last, the throne at whose right side he sat was filled. Even there, in the heart of the city, the destruction of the siege of Minas Tirith was evident.
The King had declared that as the destroyed windows and wrecked doors of the hall were of no impediment to complaints being heard, they were low priority. Faramir half suspected that Aragorn just wanted the air in the hall to be fresher than it would have been if the hall had been in its original state.
For all the King Elessar had taken on his mantle with dignity and apparent skill, from the shadows of his wake, Faramir could see his struggle between being the simple Ranger, Aragorn, a traveller who generally slept in the outdoors and who knew more of the Elves than Men, and being King Elessar, the hope and healing of the kingdoms of Men. It fell to Faramir to know that the lords of Anfalas and Lebennin, though both loyal and generally well mannered, could not be trusted to work out their own differences if left to resolve a conflict between the two of them, due to some old disagreement. Faramir had not payed as much attention to the petty disagreements of the different regions as might have been useful, but in childhood, it had not seemed useful.
Nonetheless, King Elessar had the sort of mien that caused people to want to believe in him and follow him. Faramir was certainly not the least among those a bit swept up by that wish, especially after Aragorn’s healing during the war. Faramir could see more Aragorn now though, his weaknesses and strengths, and Faramir knew that when it came to understanding how to run a kingdom, Aragorn was still uncertain.
The afternoon’s petitions wore on and on. They were the usual stream, filled with requests for seed or need for more planters or hunters. There were many who had lost their homes in the wars, and many more who had once been enslaved by the forces of the Dark Lord who had taken up the King’s offer of mercy and had no home. Slowly though, Faramir watched them falling into place, going to repopulate regions that the many long years of war had left in need of tenders. It would be many years yet though until there were no long people in and around the White City who had been displaced by the war and had not chosen to resettle there.
When the evening bells tolled, signaling the end of the time for petitions, Faramir could see the weariness on the King’s face, and Faramir remembered that there were many years weighing down on Aragorn’s shoulders and many deaths. As they walked the long public halls towards where they would at last convene with more pleasant company, Faramir spoke softly to Aragorn, “You do not have to deal with each of these passing problems directly. You can delegate someone to be in charge of them. It is not the same as a band of Rangers, even a large one, my King. There is just too much for any one, or even two or three, people to run all the parts.”
Aragorn looked at Faramir questioningly and replied, “But how will I assure that all the refugees, especially those who once through fear and force of the Enemy fought against us, receive fair treatment.”
Faramir sighed. It was a worthy desire that Aragorn had, but Faramir knew that he could stretch himself so thin that he was not able to give what they deserved to anyone if he continued as he had been. Faramir replied, “You delegate carefully my King, and you do not assign one person alone to a task. I can help you decide on good choices for various tasks. There are many generals who have little to do, men who served well to my father, and who are not mired in the politics of the noble lines the same way that the lords of the land are. They might be some of the best choices to look among.”
Aragorn nodded thoughtfully, and at last they crossed the threshold into the private section of the palace. Aragorn slumped almost immediately, but Faramir at last straightened, placing the heavy outer robes of the Steward’s uniform of office on the stand made specifically for the heavy robes that both of them had to wear at times. Faramir smiled, reminding Aragorn, “There will be fine company for all of us for dinner. It is just the four of us and Lothiriel, so family, and no one will stand on the ceremony of court.”
That drew a smile at last from the King, but it was a tired one.
IV. When Faramir and Aragorn entered the dining room, Arwen and Eowyn were deep in conversation, and it was Lothiriel who noticed their arrival first. She smiled and called out, “Cousin! My Lord! We have been waiting on you. Our dinner should be arriving momentarily.”
She offered them cider, which both of them gladly accepted as they took their places about the comfortable, round table with padded seats. Momentarily, Arwen and Eowyn joined them at the table, but Faramir could tell that Aragorn was curious what they had been discussing so earnestly. Faramir at least knew what the gist of what Eowyn wanted to bring to the King’s attention.
A page of the tower guard brought in a simple dinner for them, and then, they were left in the most privacy one could get in the palace without resorting to secret chambers or passages. For a while the five of them dined in relative silence, which Faramir appreciated, though the conversations among them were fascinating when they presented themselves.
As they began to finish their meals, Aragorn looked at Eowyn curiously and asked, “So what was it that you wanted to discuss with me?”
Eowyn smiled, clearly uncertain, but replied, “I wanted to meet with you about the current state of the healers in this city and kingdom. It is not so much a petition for the healers, though it would be valuable to them even if they might object to it, but instead it is a petition for the people being affected by this particular issue.”
Aragorn looked at her, nodding for her to reach her point. She glanced over at Lothiriel and then Arwen who both nodded to her, and then she continued, “With the influx of healers from the rest of Gondor and even further, there has been growing conflict in style and methods between the different upper level healers. They will argue over the naming of medicines and herbs and the methods to care for any given illness or injury.”
She paused and looked to Lothiriel, trying to remember what they had discussed was relevant to cover in this case. Lothiriel smiled at her and picked up where she had left off, “Basically, from what I gather of what Eowyn has told us, the healers themselves are talented and when working alone are good at what they do, but working in a group without organization and standardization is making them less effective.”
Eowyn had regrouped her thoughts and continued, “So we need some sort of governing body and a way to instruct new healers so that these problems do not continue into the future.”
Before she could continue, Aragorn replied, “So we need some sort of school, and someone in charge who can organize. Is it really that bad?”
Eowyn nodded, and Arwen beamed at her husband. Aragorn sighed and replied, “I do not know how soon I would be able to deal with such a thing. Since we do have skilled and effective healers, they cannot be my top priority.”
Faramir sighed, prodding the King lightly in the shoulder, and reminded him, “You do not need to be the one in charge of everything directly. Delegate. This is the perfect place to practice.”
Faramir looked around the room and momentarily locked eyes with Lothiriel, “Your solution is quite likely right in this room. If Arwen can spare my cousin, Lothiriel is of high enough rank that she is an understandable choice of delegate. She has some experience not only with healing, but with managing the healers of Dol Amroth during the war, and she is not from within the healers so not showing favoritism.”
Lothiriel turned to Arwen, who nodded and said, “Go on.”
Then she turned to Aragorn and said, “If you would allow me, King Elessar, I could attempt to find the common ground between the different factions among the healers and propose a course of study and an organization and naming system that they will all be able to use. I could use Eowyn to assist me, as she is familiar with the problem, but of too low rank within the healers to be seen as a threat of controlling the outcome.”
Faramir saw Aragorn about to object and caught his eye and gave him a look. Aragorn sighed and said, “I can see that you would be a good choice for this. There would need to be collaboration between Rohan and the kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor on this as well. So it will be so, I will appoint Lady Lothiriel of Dol Amroth to create and organization of healers with strict rules and guidelines and a school with the assistance of Lady Eowyn of Ithilien and Rohan.”
He paused then added a bit more lightly, “But I will do that when I am in session in the morning, and for the rest of the evening, let us think of other things than politics.”
They spent the rest of the evening in more jovial conversation, and Faramir and Eowyn walked to their own rooms quite late in the evening, knowing that they would again be up as the sun rose the next morning.
V. It fell to Eowyn to interview healer after healer, identifying what they thought was most important in a system of terminology and in a system of training. Lothiriel worked with the upper level healers attempting to figure out who they saw as the highest authorities and who would be less inclined to cooperate.
It was slow work. Eowyn had known that the healers bickered what seemed like endlessly, but she realized through the interviews that many of them did not even agree with themselves, for they had been taught in bits and pieces by many different healers who had different styles or views.
Mornings as Dernhelm at the training grounds were what kept Eowyn from wanting to strangle the nearest pompous male healer attempting to proclaim that his methods were the best when he was contradicting himself by halfway through the interview.
Eowyn had begun to compose a glossary of terms for herself, matching them to each other, and she figured that it would be a start for a record for training, some of the more reasonable among the healers could perhaps begin to compile lists of all the herbs commonly used and their varying names. When she mentioned this to Lothiriel, the younger woman beamed and said, “Yes, that is perfect. There are some among the younger and also among the more enthusiastic of the healers who would love to have such a list, and it would be useful.”
Eowyn was surprised that within a few hours, Lothiriel had rounded up three young healers and set them to the task. They were to gather samples of herbs from three of the better stocked healing halls in the city, and bring them to various of the older healers to gather what names and uses each of those healers thought that they had. Lothiriel grinned to Eowyn and said, “This is the start though. Your notes were a good idea, and the method can be applied across the board: herbs, treatment styles, different identifications of systems. You should continue your own notes, but I will find other assistants to do the same thing as these ones are for herbs with other difficulties. We can use these notes to base the books that a school must have on.”
Over the next months, their body of notes and outlines grew, and at last, they were able to bring a plan before King Elessar. Eowyn was glad that they had managed to finish their plan during one of Eomer’s many visits to Minas Tirith, for they would need the cooperation of Rohan in this. There was much interchange between the kingdoms, and it would only make sense to expand this standardization of healing to the Riddermark as well.
King Elessar listened to their outline of the situation along with the plan they had devised for the development of a school of healing, and his face shifted from confusion to amazement. He was nodding, and below him, in the Steward’s seat, Faramir looked pleased with their plan as well. Eomer was lagging a step behind the King, less clear on the start of all this, but he too looked like the plan was growing on him.
To the great chamber and all that were gathered there, after conferring quietly with Eowyn, King Elessar announced, “The combined Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor, along with our brothers and sisters of Rohan, will be establishing a school of healing and a standard of healing through the work of Lady Lothiriel of Dol Amroth and Lady Eowyn of Ithilien and Rohan. We will collaborate with our friends of Rohan in the making of this school, making it open to those from many lands, and in it, we will make the training of healers more accessible and consistent. Therefore, those who travel the lands to heal will in time all know the language of other healers and be able to communicate clearly among themselves and to those who need their aid.”
There was some surprised cheering from among the crowd, including to Eowyn’s surprise from some of the healers who had been at first reluctant to even follow their requests despite knowing that they came indirectly from the King.
Not long after they had left the throne room, Eomer came to join them. He pulled his sister into a tight hug and smiled at Lothiriel, “That was quite a good piece of work that you presented. I had no idea that there was so much dissent among the healers here, though some of ours had said that it was difficult to work with the healers of Gondor. I will support this of course. We have not got the most complete of medicine in Rohan, and learning more from the experience of Gondor will be useful.”
Eowyn was amused to see Eomer and Lothiriel in deep conversation over the details of the matter when Faramir and Aragorn at last arrived. She knew that there would be much work ahead, but she was much less frustrated with the healers she trained with and worked with now that she knew that there was a way forward with less frustration and arguing once it was at last established.
VI. Before the sun had even touched the horizon one morning in the first winter after the return of the King, Faramir and Eowyn were woken by the pounding on the door of a messenger. It was Faramir who opened the door bleary eyed, still wrapped in a robe, hair falling in black loops instead of a tight braid. The messenger gasped out, “All healers are needed in the Halls of Healing immediately, and Lord Steward, the King calls for you to attend on the throne. There has been a great outbreak of illness within and without the city.”
Faramir nodded and said shortly, “We will be there. Do you need water before your next stop?”
The messenger shook his head and replied, “No time.”
He was on his way, and Faramir stood for just a second, watching and worrying. Then Faramir turned to Eowyn who was now also in the entryway, and explained, “We are both summoned to our duties. The healers need all hands, and the King needs me as Steward.”
They took little time to fully prepare themselves, and Eowyn was out the door after throwing on her healer’s robes haphazardly. Faramir was not far behind, cursing the complexity of the Steward’s robes, but not quite willing to forgo them considering some sort of clothing was needed.
King Elessar was surrounded by a rush of messengers when Faramir arrived. The King looked like he had been woken long before he was ready to be, but he was focused and intent. His eyes lit on Faramir almost as soon as the Steward entered the chamber. Faramir could recognize the look of relief on his face even from across the great hall.
When Faramir reached the throne, with the Steward’s seat beside it, the King beckoned to him, and they withdrew momentarily to the alcove behind the throne, meant for just such quick meetings. Aragorn’s face was lined with worry, and he told Faramir, “They will need me among the healers. Arwen and Lothiriel have already made their way to the Houses of Healing to do what they can. The sickness is not something that the healers have a name for yet, but it is spreading quickly. We need to get people out of the city, to get more space, but we do not know how it spreads, so it is not safe for them to go to other population centers.”
The throne room was chill, a clear reminder of the winter weather, and why there was not a simple solution to Aragorn’s dilemma. There would be no sending people into the mountain retreats in this weather. Faramir looked at Aragorn and saw him torn between two paths, the Healer and the King. Faramir told him, “I will manage the evacuation, you go do your duty.”
Faramir took the Steward’s Seat, and King Elessar, with a few words to the guards, set off for the Houses of Healing. Throughout the day, Faramir was inundated with messages of the progress of the healers and their recommendations for halting its spread. Faramir organized troops of the guard to go through each district of the White City, sending those who were unwell to the Houses of Healing in each section of the city, and those who were well to the farmlands that were mostly unused in the outer ring of the city during the winter months. It was not an ideal solution, but the healers seemed to be of one mind that spreading out the people would keep them safer.
Faramir slept in brief bursts in the alcove behind the throne. There was no time for more. Each bout of sleep would be interrupted by another urgent message, or an update of the progress from a captain who needed further orders. King Elessar was progressing around the city, the messengers told Faramir, and in his wake, there was a greater number of people seeming to begin to recover. There were starting to be cases cropping up among the guard though, and Faramir had them on strict watch to go immediately to the Houses of Healing if they began to show symptoms.
People were starting to die though, and Faramir was worried. Faramir was most of all worried that there was no word from Eowyn. Lothiriel had sent many messages as she worked, recommendations and explanations. The guard updated him as to Queen Arwen, who worked with great care to tend to the most sick. But there was no word of Eowyn.
Faramir stopped Lothiriel’s latest messenger, only inwardly cringing a bit at the response of, “Yes my Lord Steward?”
Faramir asked, “Could you ask of Lothiriel that she send word of Eowyn in her next communication?”
The messenger nodded and replied, “I’ll see to it my Lord.”
He was off like a shot, and Faramir sighed, leaning back in the Steward’s Seat in the moment of stillness. The title, like the robes of the position, hanging heavily. It had been a long two days since the outbreak began.
It was only several hours later that another messenger returned with word of Eowyn. She was as well as could be expected with little rest, and she was working in the lower rings of the city, helping in the areas that were too crowded and most likely to break out in panicked violence due to the plague. Faramir understood. Even in the worst of circumstances, the healer and former shield maiden, also the warrior of Rohan, would be able to keep the healers and the ill as safe as possible. It did not mean that Faramir did not continue to worry, but it was good to know at least that Eowyn was well enough.
It took nearly a fortnight for the healers to find a treatment that worked consistently, for this was a new and strange fever, like nothing that they had seen before. It was from among the refugees that had been freed from the power of the Enemy that the answer came, and that was helping to build positive sentiment among the people of the White City towards their refugees.
With treatments of the ill at last properly underway, with a vile tasting concoction that all who had been exposed to the illness were expected to take daily for at least a week, there was at last time for all to rest.
VII. It was the illness that broke the final resistance of the older healers to the idea of a College of Healing. They at last saw that they had indeed performed better when they had listened to each other and taken knowledge from whoever had it. There was still the edge of old bickering, but Lothiriel spotted the moment, and under her advice, the King was able to sweep in and declare the College established.
Eowyn and Lothiriel had much work yet to do as they coordinated who would head the different committees and organizations of the College, and as they found healers best suited to compiling and organizing the knowledge that the different people who had come to the city could bring them.
There was enough time though for Dernhelm to join Faramir in morning trainings, and at last, when the late spring would be bringing the fairest blooms to Ithilien, for the two of them to journey to the home that was now truly theirs.
Beregond had been tending the lands of Ithilien and preparing a home for them there, yet they had not been able to see it in all the time. It was with great fanfare that Faramir and Eowyn were welcomed home. There was singing in the streets of the new town that had sprung up where their seat was to be in Emyn Arnen. There were many of the refugees that had taken the chance to help rebuild Ithilien and in the process build themselves a true home, and Faramir could not help but feel proud of this place.
Beregond welcomed them the most warmly though, “Faramir, my Captain, my friend, welcome home. And Eowyn, we hope that this will be a place that feels most homelike to you in your new land.”
Beregond led them about the hall that was their new home built much in the style of Rohan, for it had been quicker to be ready for the winter’s coming the previous year. He told them, “There is much yet to be built, but there is space enough for all who live here, and the village all around in the hills is doing well. There was only time for a late harvest in the fall, but it was much greater than we expected of it. And we have heard much of the illness that struck Minas Tirith, but we were safe from it here it seems. There are young healers here, and those who want to be, and we will have been preparing to send them to the White City for their proper training.”
Eowyn smiled at Beregond warmly then, “It is good to hear that there is a good reception for that here then. We have had some displeasure from the other parts of the kingdom about sending healers to be trained in Minas Tirith, for it is a long journey for many of them, but the more are trained now, the sooner we will be ready to establish Colleges in more of the cities of Gondor and Rohan and when the time comes Arnor.”
They settled then to more restful pursuits for a time, establishing themselves in their new home, and welcoming visits from the King and Queen, and Lothiriel who still traveled with them, and the Lord of the Mark.