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Hearts of Men  by Aelaer

Thank you for the reviews! They brighten my day ^^

Chapter 2: Healer's Hands

June 4, afternoon

After luncheon Balandor led Bregon to a small, but comfortable parlor. There Bregon had been prompted to discuss his history: his childhood, early adulthood, and his days during the War. The lord, it seemed to Bregon, had tried to identify with him and make him more comfortable by relating his own tale: he had inherited this house and his estate at the age of twenty, but unlike other young men of that age, had not squandered it away but managed to earn money during the difficult times before the fall of the Dark Lord. Despite being a few months away from thirty years he was not yet married, though the cobbler would not have been surprised if he had had more than one woman try and catch his attention.

This attempt to identify with him, however, only made Bregon more suspicious. Before he could figure out anything meaningful within the lord's back story, Balandor moved the conversation once more to the other man.

"Do you know Sindarin?"

"Of course, my lord," Bregon replied, keeping himself from bristling in anger. "I, like all children born and raised in Minas Tirith, learned the tongue."

"That is well," said Balandor. "Did you learn to read and write?" he asked with a raised brow.

"Well, the basics," he answered, the lord's gaze making him feel like a fool. "In Westron, at the least. I read better than I write."

"Then you shall be taught to write and read both languages fluently," was Balandor's only comment. "All my servants who have wished to learn have been taught."

"Is that my fate, then, for your kindness?" he asked suspiciously. "Bound to servitude?"

Balandor only shook his head sadly. Bregon noticed that his infuriatingly perfect sandy hair didn't seem to go one hair astray with the action, an observation that made him even more annoyed. Caught up in his irritation, he nearly missed the lord's next words. "You are free to leave whenever you wish, my good man. I do this for your own betterment only; I seek nothing from you that you do not wish to do. Now come, I shall introduce you to your tutor, a dear friend of my family who resides here within the City. For our best interests, you shall not know his name, nor he yours." Bregon snorted softly at the comment, but his former annoyance turned swiftly into intrigue and he stood up and made to follow him.

The shorter man suddenly stopped at the parlor door and turned to the other. "This may sound like an odd request, but I would ask one thing of you if you wish to continue coming here." A small surge of what could only be described as an oddly placed triumph burst through Bregon. He knew that the other man wanted something out of him! Before he could remark on this, Balandor continued, "I would ask that you do not trim your beard for a while." With that he opened the door and left the parlor. Bregon blinked and, realizing that his jaw was hanging open, closed it and quickly followed the other man. Despite its complete oddity, he saw no harm in following that request.

The cobbler was led to a room that turned out to be an office with a small collection of books— more books, Bregon realized, than he had ever seen in one place. Paper was expensive and he knew few people who owned more than a couple books. Beyond the books there was also a desk with two chairs; at the desk, the man suddenly realized, an elderly man sat.

"Master Tutor," said Balandor in greeting. The old man stood and smiled at the young lord before glancing at Bregon expressionlessly. He said nothing as Balandor explained the extent of Bregon's knowledge to him, and only nodded in acknowledgement at the end of his speech.

"Very well, then," the tutor said to the lord, "I will see what I can do." Balandor nodded and, with a reassuring look in Bregon's direction, left the room, closing the door behind him. "Come, Master Pupil, sit down." Bregon, with one last glance at the door, took the chair on the other side of the desk to face the old man.

"You know Sindarin, then," the tutor began, surprising him by speaking in the grey tongue.

"Yes, so I told Lord Balandor," Bregon answered in the same tongue, a slight frown forming upon his features. The tutor saw the annoyance and only sniggered.

"I doubt you use it in everyday business," he stated frankly, once more in the language. "Not many do now, not even among the lords. We shall commence this lesson and all lessons henceforth in Sindarin until you can recite the old tales in this tongue in your sleep."

Bregon, to his even greater annoyance, found that he did not understand one of the words the tutor had spoken, even though its meaning was quickly apparent at the end of the sentence. He did not mention this, however, and only nodded.

"Very well, then," said the tutor. "Let us start from the beginning. Lord Balandor said you knew your letters; do you know how to read runes as well?"

"Not as well as letters," he admitted. "Most shops just paint the letters on signs these days."

"Verily I know," the tutor muttered. "Always Mankind trots the simpler road— ah well!" He shook his head as he pulled out a scroll. When he unrolled it, Bregon found the letters written in rows on the top of the paper, and below them were rows of runes. "While in this tongue we call these alphabets Tîw and Cirth, their names in the High Elven tongue, Quenya, are Tengwar and Certar. What you may find interesting is that rather than changing the vowels in plurals as Sindarin does, Quenya usually just adds an 'r' or 'i' at the end of a word, thus making these singular letters and runes tengwa and certa." Bregon said nothing; he did not find this information nearly as interesting as the old man thought it was.

The lesson continued for a couple hours, and throughout the period Bregon's mind wandered from the tutor's detailed speeches to his own thoughts, and often his mind turned to Balandor. He did not trust this lord, no matter how benevolent he made himself out to be. Nonetheless, even though he had great doubt concerning the other's intentions, he found that he had no wish to leave. A part of him was curious to see what this Lord Balandor wanted out of him— this session with the tutor certainly was not free— and the food he had for luncheon was better than anything he had eaten in years.

He did not care about the consequences of his trust. Right now he was enjoying himself too much to mind what the future held for him. Right now he would enjoy his blessings, even though he knew Balandor would demand something out of him sometime soon.

Who knows, maybe he would even willingly comply with his demands.


June 7, afternoon

Despite his position in the kingdom, Aragorn planned to make sure that he always had time to go to the Houses of Healing and, if possible, the other sick-houses in the City at least a couple times a month. The month of May had been busy, but nevertheless he had managed. June looked to be just as demanding as May, but he knew the significance of his presence in the Houses and within his heart he was a healer before a politician.

The Warden of the Houses always greeted the king with pleasure, for ever since his return the Houses had flourished. Elessar always made it a priority for the storage rooms to be well stocked, and when he visited the spirits of both the healers and the sick lifted.

"Good evening, Lord Elfstone," the tall, soft-spoken man said in greeting as Aragorn and his personal guards came. The two men of the Guard kept themselves at a discreet distance as the king greeted the Warden.

"Good evening, Durvel," replied Aragorn with a smile. "How have been these past weeks?"

"Quiet, most thankfully, my lord," he replied. "Both spirits and health have been high in the City, and we only have two new long-term patients. A woman is recovering from surgery and the boy— well, the boy has a case of amnesia and can't remember his name, where he is from, and other such details; it is an unfortunate situation."

Aragorn raised his brow. "Amnesia? How did he come to be here?"

"He was found on the second level three days ago by a fairly wealthy widow. She attempted to tend him herself, but when he did not recover quickly she had him brought here last night. She said he reminded her of her son who died in the War."

"Too many lives were lost and households broken in the fight against the Enemy," muttered the king. "Perhaps I may be of assistance. Is he awake?"

"I believe so; Ioreth should be with him. This way, my lord." Aragorn followed the Warden deeper into the building until they came to a small room. Durvel quietly opened the door and allowed the king inside before following him. Inside the room, sitting up in a bed that made his small frame look even smaller, was a boy about seven or eight years old. His hair was a dark sandy color, a rather unusual color in the dark-haired populace of Minas Tirith. 'Hopefully it would make finding his family somewhat easier,' thought Aragorn. Beside him was an old wise-woman whose grey hair and wrinkled skin betrayed her age, for her eyes still twinkled and her mouth still flew as fast as a young girl's. She looked up and paused for half a moment to see who entered the room, and her eyes sparked in delight to see her liege-lord.

"Lord Elfstone! What a wonderful surprise your lordship decided to come in today. This boy here, now he just came in last night and as I was asking him questions I thought, 'Now this would be something that our king can heal'. And now you have come, just as I believed you should! I'm afraid the poor lad doesn't remember much at all, not even his name, but he did just reveal this morning that he remembered a white building. Now I told him then that is not much help, seeing as the whole city is made of white stone—"

"Indeed so, Mistress Ioreth," interrupted Aragorn, a smile forming across his features. "I might be able to help him, if I may sit down."

"Oh, of course!" She stood and curtsied quickly to him and he sat down in her place. "Like I said, my lord, he really doesn't remember much at all, and I reckon it is due to the large knot on the right side of his head—"

"Thank you, Ioreth, you have been an invaluable aid," Durvel cut in, years of developed patience keeping the sarcasm out of his voice. "I don't suppose you could boil a pot of water and find a couple leaves of athelas for Lord Elessar?"

"Of course, of course." She curtsied once more and quickly left the room. The king shot a knowing look in the Warden's direction and then turned his attention to the boy, who was looking at Aragorn with a mixture of wonder and fear.

"You need not be afraid, lad," he said softly with a warm smile. "I will not harm you."

"Are you— are you really the King?" the boy whispered, his tone so soft that Aragorn had to strain his ears to hear it.

"I am."

"I— I remember watching you come into the City with my older brother and sister," he said.

"You have older siblings? Do you remember their names, how old they are, or what they look like?"

"I— I am not sure, sir. I just remembered them right now," he confessed. "I think they have darker hair."

"I see," said Aragorn thoughtfully. "I will see what I can do to be of aid." He gently took one of the boy's hands in his left, and his right hand settled upon his brow. "Relax, young one, and close your eyes. This may feel a little strange, but it will not hurt. If you feel the need to sleep come upon you, do not fight it."

The boy took a deep breath and closed his eyes, and as he felt the child relax, Aragorn closed his own eyes. As the king slowly exhaled, his mind became blank and his thoughts disappeared while his soul searched for the one under his right palm. In another part of his mind he felt the small hand in his left palm reflexively grab his finger, but the grip soon relaxed as the child became used to this new sensation.

As the lad further relaxed, Aragorn delved deeper into his mind. Upon the surface there was little more than confusion and fear, but beyond those he quickly found what he was searching for. Rather than a fabricated world as he often saw in the delirious, what he found himself in now was rather a recent memory, with the world around him appropriate for the height of a child. He was running through the market on the first level, and when his arm came up Aragorn saw that he was holding a package of some sort. He stopped in front of a booth selling various colors of cloth and gave the package to the girl in front of it. "Lunch from Nana!" he heard a young voice echo through his head.

The girl, likely a few years older than the boy, smiled and gladly took the package. "Thank you! Tell Nana that it has been the best day this week; I won't be home until the guards kick us out at this rate!" His head shook up and down eagerly before turning away and running back through the busy market once more. In another part of his mind, Aragorn heard a door open and the shuffling of feet.

His eyes suddenly opened and he lost his connection. He blinked twice to regain his bearings, and Aragorn found himself once more in the Houses of Healing. The boy under his hand was asleep, and at the door were Ioreth and Durvel, a bowl of boiling water and a few leaves in the former's hands.

The king smiled, straightening himself and accepting the bowl and leaves with a small nod. "His memories were not far within him. I believe he will regain most of his memories within the next few days, though he may never remember how he received that knot on his head." He breathed upon the leaves of athelas and crushed them into the bowl, leaving it on the small table near the boy's head. "Perhaps this will help him."

He quickly described the scene in the boy's memory, and the Warden listened carefully. "I will send a runner to find her today. The market does not yet close for a couple hours yet." With that, Durvel bowed slightly and left the room.

Aragorn stood and Ioreth took her place once more beside the boy's side, gently bathing his forehead in the athelas-immersed water. The king smiled at the scene before taking his own leave.

After checking upon the other patients and finding them to be resting peacefully, Aragorn left the Houses, his guards following his lead. He glanced back up at the way that led to the Citadel, and then glanced beyond the sixth gate and the road that led further down into the City. "What say you, Halvagor, Lachamdir, to a short visit to the sick-houses on the third and first level?"

Halvagor only nodded his head in agreement, but Lachamdir's brow furrowed, his concern obvious. "Captain Galdir shall not be pleased with the short notice, my lord."

"For all intents and purposes, lieutenant, we are still within the Houses of Healing." With that, the king turned and passed through the gate to the fifth level, nodding in acknowledgement to the gate guards who saluted as he passed.

Lachamdir raised an eyebrow in surprise and glanced at his fellow guard, the king's kinsman; he looked completely unperturbed by Elessar's sudden whims. "Has our lord always been as such?" he could not help but ask.

Halvagor's lips may have twitched, but the lieutenant could not tell; the man was always stoic and rather quiet. Most of the Northern Dúnedain he encountered were, now that he thought about it.

As they made their way to the sick-house on the third level, Lachamdir could not help but wonder about the odd mannerisms of his liege-lord. Before the king's return, he was a part of Steward's Guard, and rarely did he see Lord Denethor leave the Citadel. When the steward did have an outing, it was usually to the sixth level only. While he was courteous to the Guard, Denethor spoke little with them, and certainly never became familiar with those who were there for his protection.

Elessar, however, was completely different. He spoke often not only with his two kinsmen who made up the Royal Guard, but the rest of them as well, and on a regular basis. When he wasn't working he would leave the Citadel as often as possible, whether to walk around the City with other members of the Fellowship or to merely visit his people. Already the king had said to Lachamdir that he did not see his people enough. The lieutenant recalled two trips into the lower city since his crowning; Lord Denethor was active when he made two trips in a year.

Both Meluion and Halvagor were unmoved by the king's slight oddities; Meluion had once said that it was "what made Aragorn interesting". Interesting indeed! He was not sure if he would ever get used to it.

Still, he did have to admit to himself that he did not mind it at all. It may even be said that he was beginning to enjoy the king's moments of spontaneity, even though he knew that his captain was doing his best to discourage them.

From what little he knew of Elessar, Lachamdir doubted that Galdir would succeed in it. One characteristic the king was well known for around the Citadel was that he was firmly set in a few of his ways, and his desire to see the citizens would not be something that the Captain of the Royal Guard could ever abolish.

It was, in the end, one of the qualities that made Elessar so beloved of his people.


By the time Aragorn reached the third circle, word had spread before him that he was coming. Crowds were already gathered around the fourth gate, and the guards were having a bit of a difficult time keeping a clear path from the third to the fourth level.

Aragorn had encountered a few people on the fifth level, and more on the fourth, but the number of citizens on the third increased tenfold. The guards, in the end, did manage to clear some sort of path for him, and most of the people were content to step aside and bow their heads in greeting. Some asked for blessings for them and their children, and the more bold ones asked to kiss his hand. The king acquiesced with these requests, and so the time it took to get to the sick-house was long and slow. Nonetheless they reached it, and Lachamdir and Halvagor stood outside of the doors to keep curious onlookers outside while Aragorn checked on those inside.

The sick-house on the third level was a large, two-storey building that, rather than many separate rooms like the Houses of Healing, had two large rooms for the sick split by a hallway on the first floor and smaller rooms for storage, healers, and their wealthier patrons on the second floor. The house was much cleaner than it was the last time he visited; he was glad that the keeper of the sick-house followed up with his advice.

There were more patients here than in the Houses of Healing, though the number was fewer than his first visit to the house last month. He saw a couple people with head wounds sustained from an accident a couple days ago on the second level, a young child with a father who had no spare time to care for her, and other various injuries and illnesses on a variety of people. The king checked upon each patient and spoke to those who were awake. He gave instructions for those who needed different treatments, as well as supplied some herbs when he saw a few of the storeroom's supplies wanting. As the lands became less polluted with evil, he expected that the variety and amount of healing herbs would increase.

It was late afternoon when he finished and there were only a small number of onlookers waiting for him. The lieutenant looked at him expectantly as he exited the building.

"It is becoming late, my lord," said Lachamdir, his dark eyes nervously darting around the area. "We should start heading back to the Citadel."

Aragorn, however, shook his head. "I will see the house on the first level before I head back. There is over an hour of daylight left." He said no more as he turned and started his way down to the first level of the City.

The king greeted all he passed by courteously, but this time did not stop for requests as he went down to the sick-house. It was becoming dark and he was to dine with friends later that night and did not wish to be late. He would not, however, neglect the poorest of the healing houses within Minas Tirith.

The house on the first level was near the second gate, and so the trip was notably shorter than the one from the Houses of Healing to the third level. His Guard stood once more at the doors as the king entered the building.

The structure was a little smaller than the one on the third level, but often it was much more crowded. Its design was similar to the other one as well, but the beds were a little smaller and there were several more of them in the rooms. The small rooms upstairs were not used for any patients, but rather for some of the healers who chose to live there as well as for storage. There was no need for single bedrooms for the patients who came here, for if they were that wealthy they would stay at the less crowded sick-house on the third level.

Aragorn was relieved to see that there were fewer patients than when he came the first time. There had been many still recovering from wounds they had received in the War, and there had not been enough beds for everyone there. While it was still crowded, the difference was notable. The king saw that this house, too, was markedly cleaner.

"How may I be of assistance, lord?" asked a young woman as she approached. While she was dressed as one who worked there, Aragorn did not recognize her and it seemed to him that she did not know who he was, either. Other than his fine dress, he bore no items that told of his identity.

"I am here to check upon the condition of your patients. Is the master of this house here?"

The woman appeared confused by his answer, but answered, "I'm afraid the master— my father— is out seeing to a call. I am keeping the house while he is away."

Aragorn only nodded and entered the first large room to see some of the patients for himself. She followed him, her confusion deepening as he looked to every person in the room. It seemed to her that he had some training as a healer, however, and so she merely followed him and answered his questions.

He was speaking with the final patient in the room when suddenly another healer hurried in. "Mistress!" she said, not sparing the well-dressed stranger a glance in her urgency. "The man that came in a few days ago with a rash, he is back and is not well!"

The other woman followed the frantic healer down the corridor, Aragorn not far behind them. In the open doorway supported by his surprised guards was a tall, semi-unconscious man.

"What happened?" Aragorn asked before the woman looking over the house could.

"His steps were slow and wandering as he came here, my lord," said Lachamdir. "We asked his business and he nearly fell on Halvagor." The other guard only nodded in confirmation.

The healer led them to an empty bed in the other large room. The other patients in the room who were awake looked upon the group with open curiosity, but did not interrupt them.

"He has been here before?" the king asked the two women as his guards set the man on the bed.

"Aye, lord," said the master of the house's daughter. "He came here wondering about a rash on his chest that was not going away with ointment. He already had a slight fever then, but he did not wish to stay and only purchased some healing herbs. He was nothing like this."

The man suddenly cried out and lashed out at the other woman who was cooling his brow with a wet rag. She managed to avoid his swinging hand and stepped back as the two guards held him down at his shoulders and wrists. He weakly struggled against them for a moment before he completely lost consciousness.

"Quick, mistress," said Aragorn to the startled woman as she went to cool his brow once more. "Bring me a pot of boiled water." The woman glanced at him and, at a confirming nod from her superior, nodded and left to do as bid. Aragorn, in the meanwhile, sat down beside the man and checked his pulse and felt his forehead. He did not even need to lay his hand on his brow to feel the heat emitting from the sick man. The king gently lifted the shirt from the man's chest and frowned at the bright rash that was spread across it and was already starting to spread to his arms and legs.

"Bless me," whispered the young woman, "it looks as if he has putrid fever."

He nodded. "Do you know his name?"

She seemed startled by the question. "I do not."

"Very well, then." Taking one of the man's hands in his hand and putting the other on his brow, Aragorn breathed in deeply and closed his eyes as he lost contact with reality to try and find the source of the man's illness.

To those around him he became grey in pallor and his breaths became slower as he fell deeper into his unique healing trance. The mistress of the house did not even note the return of the other healer with the water at first, so mesmerized by the sight she was. Never before had she seen this type of healing; indeed, she had never heard of such a thing. She did note, however, that the two guards did not leave as she expected them to. When she took a closer look at them, she realized that they did not wear the livery of most guards, but rather had on their chests the image of the White Tree with some sort of helm above it. She did not dare break the silence to ask them about it, though.

Suddenly the sick man took a deep breath, and Aragorn opened his eyes. He swayed slightly but waved back one of the guards who went as if to assist him. "I am well." He saw the pot of water and from his pocket drew a small pouch, and from there he took out two leaves.

"Kingsfoil?" the woman asked before she could stop herself.

Aragorn only shot her a small smile before he breathed upon the leaves and crushed them in the water. A wholesome scent filled the area, and to both healers it was a completely new experience; never before had they seen the plant used in such a way so effectively. The king took a clean rag and dipped it into the water and began to bathe the rashes.

"Who are you, lord?" the young woman finally asked. "You are skilled as a healer, but are unlike all other healers I have ever met."

Aragorn said nothing as Lachamdir looked upon the young woman in surprise. He did not realize that there were citizens of Minas Tirith who did not know the livery of the King's Guard.

"The hands of the king are the hands of a healer," said Halvagor. Lachamdir was surprised by the fact that the man had spoken, but his surprise was nothing compared to the shock the two women faced.

"Lord Elfstone!" said the young woman with a deep curtsey. "Forgive me for not greeting you properly; I only arrived in the City recently and did not know you by sight, and my father did not say you were coming today."

"The visit was unplanned," was Aragorn's only response as he finished bathing the angry red skin. He felt the man's forehead once more and was pleased to find that the fever had lowered. He doubted it would break for a few days yet, for it did seem that he had putrid fever, but at the least it would not jump as high again.

Aragorn had his guards wait outside as he checked upon the rest of the patients, and the sun had just set when he exited the building. The king saw easily that Lachamdir was anxious about the hour and was following closer than usual as they made their way back to the Citadel.

"You must calm yourself, lieutenant. Even if there was someone waiting to come and stab me in the dark, I have no doubt that you would see him before he saw me."

Lachamdir thought that was a terrible thing to jest about, and Elessar easily read his thoughts. Rather than saying anything, however, he only lightly chuckled and they continued their way up through the City.


June 10, evening

Bregon did not trust Lord Balandor. He did not trust him at all.

He could not, however, stop visiting him; every day Falasgal came down to his shop to see if he wished to go to the sixth level, and every day Bregon followed him.

The cobbler knew why he kept on agreeing to come with Balandor's servant. Although the slight fear of the consequences if he denied the lord was still there, his true motivation for going was the food and wine he received every time he went. The food every evening was absolutely delicious, and the wine— he could not say enough about the wine!

And, if he were to be quite honest with himself, the sessions with the tutor, which he had every day he went, were interesting. The tutor was finally satisfied with his basic knowledge of letters and that day had him begin copying and reading aloud, in both Westron and Sindarin, passages from some of Balandor's many books. His handwriting he found to be rather atrocious, but the tutor had only said something about more practice.

Interesting lessons aside, it was the bounteous meals that made him eager to return to the sixth level. Even if Balandor was away at some affair or state dinner, Bregon ate just as well as he did in the company of the lord. During these times he would dine with Falasgal, who turned out to be just as good company as he was during their long hikes from the first to the sixth level. Throughout none of these dinners thus far had he eaten with anyone other than the young lord or the manservant; even the nameless tutor disappeared every day after their session. And while the cobbler saw other servants around the household often enough, they did not interact much, if at all, with him.

All, that is, except for Maldes, the head of the household staff. She cared for the house both when Lord Balandor was there and when he was at his estate; she was one of the couple servants who actually lived in the large house permanently, and had so for many long years. She knew well her place in the staff, and was not afraid to scold Falasgal for lounging around and often gave him various tasks to keep him busy.

That evening Balandor was at the Citadel for dinner and so Bregon ate with his servant. Falasgal had also been given a good amount of the lord's best wine to drink that night, and the cobbler was all too happy to help finish it up.

They were on their third bottle, Bregon helping himself to most of the drink and with no indications of stopping anytime soon, when Maldes came into the parlor where both of them lounged. She glanced at the bottles in disapproval.

"Going about stealing our lord's stash of wine, are you, Falasgal?" she accused with a raised brow.

"You know as well as I do that he allowed me full access to it," the man replied with a grin.

"Nonetheless you should be slowing down," she said with a pointed glance at the bottles. "The night is still early."

"I have had little to drink myself, my dear Maldes," answered Falasgal. He glanced at Bregon, who looked more relaxed than usual.

The woman followed his glance and studied Bregon, an odd expression appearing upon her face as she did. "You look very familiar, Master Bregon, though I am certain we have not met before you started coming to this house. Have we met before?"

Bregon's face suddenly darkened, and Maldes, rather than waiting for an answer, took that look as a good reason to excuse herself and leave the room. Once she was gone, the servant spoke.

"Your face could curdle milk, Master Bregon."

"You know the reason why!" he ranted, a slight slur in his voice. He grabbed one of the bottles and began to drink it down quickly.

"Slow down, friend!" Falasgal said gently as he took the bottle away. "You already have had much to drink of this strong wine."

"I need it," Bregon spat. "Here I am, still replaced by another identity even when the woman knows not who the other face belongs to! 'Look familiar' indeed! Bah! Why should Elessar be a familiarity when he has been in this City for not even two months?"

"It was just a statement, Bregon," said the servant softly. "She meant no harm."

"I know that," he replied with a wave of his hand. "It does not mean that my hate for Elessar has lessened. He should go back to wherever he came from and leave me at peace. Or, better yet, someone should kill him and—"

"You certainly have had too much to drink," Falasgal interrupted. "Come, I will take you home, but do not speak on the way down to the first level!"

Bregon grumbled under his breath, but pushed himself up and, slightly swaying, followed the other man out of the parlor. He was silent and brooding as they made the long trip down to his home, and Falasgal was content to let the silence sit between them.

When the servant finally returned to his lord's home, Balandor was back from his dinner.

"Bregon left early," he said in greeting.

"Aye, my lord," answered Falasgal. "He started on the drink earlier than usual."

"A problem, to be sure," said Balandor thoughtfully. "Was his tongue as loose as it tends to become?"

"Looser," he replied. "He said things about King Elessar that, if repeated to another, would have him charged for treason."

"No different from the other times."

"Nay, my lord, it was. Never before has he mentioned the death of Elessar bringing him joy."

The young lord raised his brow. "Death of Elessar? Indeed, Falasgal, that is a most treasonous thought. No others heard it?"

"No, my lord." The older man paused in hesitation as if unsure whether to continue, but his lord encouraged him to speak his mind. "Lord Balandor, I am unconcerned with higher politics, but I am concerned if these politics bode ill for you."

Balandor chuckled. "You sound now like Maldes, Falasgal. Do not be concerned."

'After all,' he thought, 'all is going according to plan.'


*My medical knowledge is rather limited, but that is what the internet is for. "Putrid fever" is the old name for typhus, and while there are different types of typhus, their symptoms are very similar and their origins (mostly flea, rat, and lice feces that enter the body) are very similar. The real world also doesn't have athelas or healing hands of a long-lost king, so I did take some liberties there on how much it would help.

*Tolkien did not give us many details on how athelas or Aragorn's healing powers worked, and I do interpret these rather freely.

*Tolkien did not give exact numbers on who learned Sindarin, but my inference of Bregon, a common man, knowing the language comes from the Sindarin spoken by Gondorrim of Minas Tirith in Return of the King and this in the Appendices: "by the time of the War of the Ring the Elven-tongue was known to only a small part of the peoples of Gondor... these dwelt mostly in Minas Tirith... and the land of the tributary princes of Dol Amroth".

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