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For Lady Branwyn for her birthday.
Rest and Recovery
Not long after Geldir returned to the camp Baerdion came to wake them all up with directions that all were to move into the hayloft of the barn, as already a light rain had begun, and indications were it would grow worse before it was finished. No one demurred at this change to their orders, although there were a few groans given by those who’d been injured as they found how stiff they now felt. Halbarad saw that Orominion was wrapped in a blanket rather than his cloak, and wondered just what he’d been up to this time.
They awoke to the greying of morning to find that there was a full downpour out in the farmyard, and all were grateful not to necessarily have to do anything today. About midmorning the rain lightened some, but the gap was filled with a thunderstorm, and all who were not set to the washing detail huddled near the upper opening into the haymow to watch, all happy they weren’t out getting further soaked.
Finwë stood at the back door of the barn, which looked west, looked up as best he could to the door into the haymow and commenting, “I pity anyone who must be out in that weather. At least we have good reason to stay where we are for the duration of the storm.”
Those upstairs indicated their agreement.
One of the lightning strikes had downed a tree close by the road just as Lady Ivorwen, accompanied by her younger son Sedras and four others, were riding by it, and Ivorwen’s mare was so startled she threw the woman and took off southward. Two of those with them headed out after the horse, but she’d thrown a shoe during her flight and was not fit to ride further. But neither was Lady Ivorwen in any state to ride herself once they returned with the poor mare, for she’d taken quite a tumble and it was feared she might have broken an arm and possibly her shoulder.
“We must find shelter!” Sedras exclaimed.
One of the others pointed. “Lifewater Farm is not a league distant. We can possibly claim shelter there. They will not turn away someone injured upon the Road.”
“Not if the injured one is a woman, at least,” agreed Sedras. “Let us hurry to get my mother out of the wet before she can take a chill. She is game enough, but not young any longer by anyone’s standards.”
With her arm immobilized to the best of their abilities, Sedras took his mother up before him, and they rode on, leading the lady’s horse, hoping no further disasters could come upon them before they reached Lifewater Farm.
They found the lane to the farm at last and turned into it, glad that the thunderstorm had moved eastward, although the heavier rain that followed it had drenched them, managing to penetrate even Lady Ivorwen’s riding cloak; and with her dress underneath wet and bedraggled from her fall, she was shivering in her son’s embrace. “It should be but moments now ere we are given shelter, Mama,” Sedras assured her as they passed under the elms, through which the heavy rain was penetrating far more easily than might be expected. “Hold on, and we will arrive.”
When they reached the dooryard at last, one of their companions slipped from his horse and knocked upon the door. A slight girl, apparently a maid of all work, answered the knock, a look of exasperation on her face. “More people to disturb the household?” she asked, looking beyond the Man at the door to those who were helping Lady Ivorwen to dismount. “A lady, alone amongst you? Is she hurt? Oh, do bring her in, and I’ll see the Master and Mistress and let them know that it’s raining even more visitors! Wait here, please.”
With that she disappeared into a nearby room to make her report.
“Get more towels, then, girl, for this lady. She must be soaked to the skin. How many are with her? Five Men? Let those in the patrol know, please, and get the towels, and perhaps a blanket as well. Oh, but when it rains it does pour!”
A woman emerged from the room, clearly the Mistress of the farm, her step purposeful. “I am Andradë of Lifewater Farm. I am told that there is a lady in distress here? Do let me see, please. Please forgive my husband, but he is but newly returned last evening from Staddle and has much to see to elsewhere about the farm. We had some trouble two nights ago, you see, although all came out well enough. Mistress, may I see you? Ah, but you must be wet through! What led you to travel along the Road on a day like today? It’s not fit weather for Man or beast! Bring her into the great room by the fire so that she might warm herself. You have horses? Londo! Take these Men around so that they might stable their horses. Bring them back in by way of the kitchen, will you? Now, off with you.”
“Even more visitors?” one of the others commented quietly to Sedras. “How many visitors do they have, I wonder?”
Sedras could only shrug as he set his mother upon her feet and helped her after their hostess.
The situation that led them to need shelter was explained as toweling and blankets were brought and Ivorwen was seated by the fire, a warm cup of tea pressed into her hand. “I was doing well enough until a bolt of lightning struck closely enough to frighten my Rohel,” she explained. “Then I was rolling across the road, and I fear I am covered with mud from one end to the other.”
She was not exaggerating, and Mistress Andradë, offering her a dampened thick cloth with which to wipe her face, indicated she would have her sons bring in the copper tub and set it before the kitchen fire so she could bathe. “Although I doubt I have aught you could wear other than an older nightdress and dressing gown, Mistress Ivorwen. But hopefully that could help you until we can see your own clothing cleaned. Now, let me take your cloak. We can let it dry in the kitchen and see whether it can be brushed clean or must needs be laundered.”
But as she reached to take her guest’s cloak, Ivorwen cringed with intense pain, barely suppressing a cry. Startled, the Mistress of Lifewater Farm drew back, pulling the filthy cloak to her, shocked to see she’d exposed a roughly wrapped sling and bandage about the older woman’s shoulder and upper arm.
“It is where I landed when I fell from my horse,” Ivorwen sought to reassure her hostess, clutching against the pain of her shoulder.
“Perhaps the young healer should see her,” suggested Adiella.
But her mother was shaking her head. “Your father and brothers tell me he was himself injured whilst fighting those who sought to attack us, and they don’t wish him to rise from his cot as yet. They’ll barely allow him to see to those who lie with him, whose lives he saved with his healer’s knife and needle.”
Ivorwen and her younger son exchanged shocked looks. “Young healer?” breathed Sedras.
Ivorwen’s face had begun to show a hopeful look. “Could it be?” She turned quickly, ignoring the additional pain caused by the movement. “You have other guests? Are they a party of young Rangers?”
“You know of such people, there where you dwell?” asked the mother.
“Certainly, for they are our own, as we are theirs,” answered the older woman.
“You are of the people of the Rangers?” Andradë sounded as if the idea threatened her credulity.
Ivorwen gave a brief and almost bitter laugh. “Did you think that the Rangers came of no families, had no people of their own?” she asked. “We live mostly far east, north and south of you along the mountains, or in the hidden places north of Dead Man’s Dike; but we are indeed a people in our own right, one that has dwelt within what is now Eriador for all of this Age of the Sun and more. My son here and I, along with our companions, were visiting a site that is of reverence for us, and I chose to return home by coming south along the Greenway to take the Road from Bree to the Mountains of Mist back to our own lands that I might see more of Eriador than I have seen in the past two decades. Who might have guessed that this storm should rise out of the Sea to drench us in this way and leave us subject to your hospitality? To come and find that our young people are also caught here by the storm, and to learn that they apparently fought to destroy a threat to you and your farm—that is a blessing none of us expected.”
“Then you know these young Men?” asked the farmer’s wife.
“Most of them, although perhaps not all of them, or not as yet. Our villages are by needs small and hidden, for we are often attacked by orcs and by enemy Men from both north and south. Some of our more distant villages few of us visit save at great need. Tell me—does this young healer of whom you have spoken dress in Elven style?”
Adiella brightened. “Is it then indeed Elven fashion, to have such long hair with the forelocks braided, and the strangely cut clothing? Oh, it is lovely enough, I think, but still strange to us.”
Ivorwen again shared a quick glance with her son. “Yes, it is the fashion known in Rivendell, from the home of Elrond Half-elven. There this one young Man has dwelt, we are told, for most of his life, his father having been well known to Lord Elrond’s sons and they feeling that they owed it to the memory of the Man to take in his widow and child after he was slain by orcs.”
“And Elves would teach this child of Men healing?” Andradë asked.
Sedras and his mother both nodded. “So they have done,” he agreed, “since before the end of the Second Age, should the Man demonstrate he has a gift for it.”
It was clearly a new thought for both Andradë and Adiella to ponder upon.
At that moment others could be heard coming forward through the house. “I doubt as there’s more correction needed, what with one of your’n tossing the young rascal into the pigpen and my two and Hob’s boy throwing him into the soft land by the lake,” a Man could be heard saying. “But from what my wife and daughter tell, there’s a good chance as he’s no clothes to wear today, what with all that was brought to the wash house last eve. And with this rain, most like none of it will be dry before tomorrow.”
“He will still be expected to offer a sincere apology for the insult given,” another voice said, one Sedras knew well. “Our young Men are expected to behave well toward those we might be among, and what he said and tried to do is not tolerated amongst us. I will tell you this—had he tried such a thing with one of our young women he would most likely be walking bowlegged for at least a fortnight, and her brothers or other kinsmen would have done more than pitch him into a marsh.”
Neither Sedras nor Ivorwen was surprised to see Malvegern and Baerdion entering the room along with the Master of Lifewater Farm. The two Rangers, on the other hand, were immobilized by the sight of their Steward’s mother and brother sitting in front of the fire in the great room of the farmhouse. “Lady!” exclaimed Malvegern, finally stepping forward. “What are you doing here, of all places within Eriador?”
“We might ask the same of you, Malvegern,” Ivorwen said, setting her cup down and pulling the blanket with which she was wrapped more closely around her. “This was not the route we’d expected your patrol to take, here this far west along the Road.”
“We had an unexpected need to visit Bree,” Malvegern explained. “Baerdion stayed behind so as to see some young Breelanders we found wandering out in the wild returned to their people, and so we were camped east of here awaiting his return when we realized that enemies were closing in upon this farm.” He turned to face Sedras. “They included Men from Dunland and a party of great orcs such as we’ve not seen before, particularly large and muscular, and carrying swords unlike what we have ever seen such creatures use. Baerdion has them out with our goods. We’d intended to show them to Halbaleg and the Council. Perhaps Gandalf could identify them, if we can find out where he is. After all, he has traveled much further afield than any of ours.”
“Gandalf? You mean that wandering conjure-man?” demanded Carf.
“He does not live a settled life, no,” agreed Sedras, “but he is more than a mere vagabond, and has seen much of Middle Earth. He has never offered advice to us that ever steered us into error. He has given us great reason to honor his wisdom and experience.”
The farmer was eyeing Ivorwen. “We’d not known Rangers had womenfolk, although if we’d thought on it we’d have realized it must be so. It appears as the storm caught you unawares and has done you a mischief. We would have aided you simply because you needed it, but we do so more gladly considering the good your young Men have done us. I doubt I’d have returned to find my farm and family still standing, hadn’t it been for them. Well, I’ll go out and bring in the tub, for you’ll be needing to clean the mud off you and out of your hair. Then I’ll have Londo bring me something your one young Man can wear for the nonce.” With that he left, followed at a nod from Malvegern by Baerdion.
The cots holding Peredhrion and the four Southrons had been carried into the barn and settled into the stall where the riding horses usually were housed, the stall having been carefully forked out and clean straw strewn thickly over its floor. They were well fed, and orders were given that as soon as the weather cleared Berevrion and Huor were to go out hunting with the farmer’s sons to add to the food available with all these newcomers here on Lifewater Farm.
Lightning flashed, thunder roared and grumbled across the land, and now and then they’d hear cracks as trees somewhere south of the farm were struck. At last the storm rolled off eastward, and again the rain grew heavier. All groaned at this, even though most were glad to know they were well out of it.
Then Baerdion was into the barn, bawling loudly that all that could were to come into the house once more. New guests had arrived, and it was needful that the trainees come to give them honor. They had half of an hour by a Dwarf-wrought clock to make themselves presentable.
Baerdion was accompanied by the farmer, who carried a pair of farmer’s trews in his hands as well as a work tunic. “I was told by my lads that they gave one of these young Men a dressing down for having been forward with their sister. I have a feeling the one they—talked with--deserved some correction, but not to the point they took it, perhaps. My Londo says the one they threw into the swamp was about his width around the waist, so he’s kindly allowed me to bring some of his clothes so the fellow shouldn’t needs go naked until his own clothes are clean and dry, which won’t be before nightfall, if then. If he’ll return them after, I’ll be grateful.”
Baerdion took them and after taking a look around, shook his head and threw the garments toward Orominion with his blankets. “You had best express your gratitude for this courtesy, Orominion,” he said, and followed the farmer back into the house.
“Well, you do look a sight!” commented Finwë as Orominion came out of the tent where their goods were kept, dressed now in farmers’ garb. The trews were too short by several inches, and the baggy smocked shirt was not at all flattering to one of Orominion’s build. “Seeking to take a kiss from the farmer’s daughter was not one of your better decisions, my friend.”
Orominion’s glare did not faze him, and he was not surprised when it faded rather quickly. “And now I must apologize to the girl and to her brothers, and must thank this Londo that he has loaned me this garb. But what a fool I look!”
“Not as foolish,” Finwë said, “as you must have looked, half naked in that swamp, dressed in but small clothes and your cloak. I would have given much to see that!”
Orominion sighed. “And here I still am with not enough to keep me warm in this storm. Do you have an extra cloak I might wear until mine is dry?”
“No, I don’t, and do not think to try to ‘borrow’ anyone else’s when you are headed into the house with the rest of us to see this unexpected visitor of theirs whose arrival we must honor. Although I cannot imagine an acquaintance of theirs we would be expected to honor, can you?”
Orominion had to agree, and together they reentered the barn where the rest of their fellows were finishing their own toilets. Hair was combed as it had not been since the day they’d swum in the river, and many a spot was scrubbed at before being left as a bad job.
“Are you coming?” Finwë asked Peredhrion where he sat upon his cot in the horse stall while Túrin worked at wrapping cloth about both his ankle and splints to keep it as immobilized as possible while it healed.
Peredhrion stared morosely down at where Túrin was working, and answered, “I shall have to do them honor later. I’ll be going nowhere on this foot today, I fear.”
“Too true,” agreed their quartermaster equably. “Perhaps you might rise tomorrow and hobble about some, but today you ought to remain off of it.”
The Man who’d lost his hand groaned upon the pallet of straw he’d been granted. “You will need to give him some more of the poppy juice,” Peredhrion said. “And I wish to check out the drains on those two whose wounds I closed yesterday, so you might ask that one of the others here remain with you to help move me as needed.”
“Berevrion? Will you stay?” Túrin asked. “I would be most grateful for your aid here.”
It was hard for Halbarad to tell whether or not Berevrion was happy to be asked to remain. Then Nardir, who stood next to him, whispered, “Are you wishing it were you being allowed to stay here?”
“They’d not allow me to stay behind, not with my father serving as acting Steward,” Halbarad answered him back. “Whether others know our leadership or not, I am expected to represent our people.”
Baerdion asked each one who’d been injured if they’d had their wounds examined and redressed that day, and all indicated they had. Assured all were as presentable as could be managed, he led them out of the barn.
“The rain is letting up!” exclaimed Varadorn, shaking back the hood to his cloak and looking upwards.
“Summer has not fled us yet,” agreed Damrod, rubbing at the bandage across his chest where he’d been hit with the back of the sword wielded by one of the raiders. “Hopefully the rest of our journey home will be quiet and sunny.”
“May the Belain hear your words,” Halbarad said, smiling.
“Ow!” Varadorn said as a particularly large raindrop landed directly in his eye.
The others laughed good naturedly. “Put your hood back up,” suggested Orominion.
Varadorn did so, but he smiled to see Orominion dressed in farm clothing with the legs to his trews so short. Orominion shook his head and focused on the back of the young Ranger ahead of him.
They were brought around the front of the house, which surprised them, and led through the front door to the great room, and there they found----
“Daernaneth!” murmured Halbarad. “And Uncle Sedras! And why are they here?”
All were shocked to find their Steward’s mother and younger brother within the room, particularly as Lady Ivorwen wore both a nightdress and a dressing gown that clearly were not her own, her hair, obviously freshly washed, turbaned with toweling. And when four other Men came into the room after them all turned and realized they recognized these as well.
“Papa?” said Hedron to one of Lady Ivorwen’s escort.
The Man smiled down upon him. “I’d not thought to find you in this area, my son. I rejoice to see you looking so well.”
“The Lady Ivorwen should see this young healer of yours,” another said, addressing Malvegern. “She was thrown by her horse during the storm, and we fear she might have broken her shoulder.”
Malvegern and Baerdion briefly exchanged glances. “When the rain has stopped we can take you out to the barn to see him, or perhaps in the morning Túrin will allow him to come into the house. However, he managed to pull the sinews in his foot, and he is in a good deal of pain himself. As much as we could restrain him, we have had his foot and ankle raised all day.”
She was definitely concerned. “Is it a serious injury?”
Malvegern was already shaking his head. “We do not believe so. He was able to stand to fight a troop of orcs, ran back here to the back of the farm to see the end of the battle with the raiders, and then stood for several more hours to work on those who were worse injured than himself before the pain overcame him. I have berated him, and he berated me in return for not recognizing that he must do what he can to both protect and help others.”
Her eyes widened, but all she said was, “I see.” She turned as if in question to her son, who shrugged.
“He appears, then, to be his father’s son.”
She replied, “Indeed.”
Finwë asked, “Then you knew his father?”
Her voice was dry as she answered, “And his mother—few better.” She turned back to their hosts. “If you will tell me the story of the assault on your farm?”
The youths, as best they could, sat upon the floor while the story was told, after which Farmer Carf told of his own return from Staddle with the dogs and how they had been attacked by the surviving ruffians and of Baerdion’s return to fight against the six Southerners, then their arrival at the farm itself to learn that this was but a continuation of the battle fought two nights ago.
Ivorwen had been examining the faces of the young Rangers, and at last asked, “Berevrion and Bregorn?”
“Berevrion remained within the barn to assist with those who were wounded. Bregorn—well, he was our only loss, Lady. He lies shrouded in their cool house.”
She sighed. “His mother will grieve.” She searched their faces once more. “We would all grieve for the loss of any one of you. But we can rejoice that all others are likely to return home with no further injuries. And we are all extraordinarily proud of all of you. Even you, Orominion, although I hope that on our journey home you will tell me how it is you are so garbed.”
Orominion flushed bright red and ducked his head, and she gave a last smile. “I believe these should be released back out to where they are staying for the coming night. How long shall it be before we should be able to return home, think you, Malvegern?”
“We will need a wagon to bring our prisoners, and with that we ought to convince Peredhrion as well to remain off of his feet while we go. He will wish to be by them while we travel, for three of them were badly wounded.”
“So he has named himself, Lady.”
Her lip twitched in apparent amusement. She turned to their host. “I will ask you—have you a heavy wagon and draught animals to pull it we might hire so as to carry those who are injured and our goods back to our homes? We would offer you fair recompense, and would return your property within a month and a half, the Powers being willing.”
“Why do you wish to bring the prisoners? Why not execute them and be done with it? They’d have killed us, no questions asked, had your folk not happened to be near, more like than not.”
She nodded her head, indicating his question was a fair one. But it was Malvegern who answered him. “We are accustomed to attacks from Dunland and Rhudaur, as well as from what remains of Angmar. This is the third party of Dunlanders we have direct knowledge of during this patrol alone. We are accustomed to attacks from orcs, or goblins, and trolls. When one lives as close to the Misty Mountains as most of us do, these are to be expected. But this situation is unique—Southrons working in concert with a new breed of orcs using weapons such as we’ve never seen before? The people of Dunland have never cooperated with orcs to our knowledge, and it indicates a new power is rising that has found the means to forge such alliances. We will need to learn what these know so as to discourage such raids in the future. If we could identify who brought together these orcs and these Men we would be in a better state to see an end to such raids permanently.”
Carf gave a nod of appreciation for the Ranger’s logic. “It’s late in the season to be allowing our heavy wagon off, but I think as we could allow it. Let Andradë and me think on it overnight, and we shall discuss terms tomorrow. We certainly don’t want any of these ruffians wandering loose about the area, so it’s better you take them away.
“As for tomorrow, these lads of yours appear likely enough. I know as my two and two of yours are intending to go hunting tomorrow, and that is good, considering how many as there are to feed. I know as my wife has been relieved to receive food such as you and yours had brought with you in return for what we’ve fed you all. But we’re behind on some of our harvesting now. If those as can work will help alongside me and my Men, it will most likely help reduce the cost of hiring our wagon and horses.”
“Done,” Malvegern said.
“Two of these are excellent hunters. They can go with the young hunters, and will allow your sons to direct the hunt as they best know the land here,” Sedras suggested, and again Carf agreed.
“Then we shall send ours back to the barn, with your permission,” Baerdion indicated. At a gesture from him, the young Rangers rose to their feet, and gave bows of respect as they began filing out through the house and around it once more. Halbarad, noting that his grandmother was summoning him, left the line to go to her.
Orominion lingered, speaking in low tones with Malvegern, who indicated assent to the young Man, then instructed those who’d noticed and had paused in curiosity to get on with them. When the doors closed behind the rest, Orominion stepped forward to address the farmer and his wife. “I wanted to thank the two of you for the loan of the clothes, such as they are. And I—I wished to—apologize—for the insult that I gave to your daughter. I cannot say why I did and said what I did, but I have to admit I deserved what your sons and their friend did to me last night. I know my mother will have words with me for it. Please forgive me my rudeness.”
Carf gave him a searching look before responding, “It’s not us but Adiella you need to apologize to, young sir. But I’m pleased you now recognize as you need to apologize—shows you have more personal honor than we’d given you credit for. Now, get on with you. Adiella’s out in the wash house with her brothers and Milt, who came with me from Staddle so as to meet her and to work with us for at least the harvest and winter—see a different kind of farming than what his dad does in the Breelands, and maybe give her an idea as to what type of Men she might look forward to meeting when we go into Bree next spring. But be warned, she might not accept your apology, and that’s her right, too.”
Orominion looked relieved as he gave a brief bow and quitted the house. Halbarad, knowing him as he now did, could imagine how difficult it had been to admit his fault before Adiella’s parents, and wondered what had inspired him to do so.
Ivorwen, who was gently holding onto her shoulder, watched after him, too, then turned her attention back to her grandson. “You haven’t been injured during this patrol?”
He shook his head. “The worst I’ve known was getting splinters in my hands while we worked in the new village. Peredhrion was very gentle when he removed them.”
“So, he does have the Healing Hands.”
“Yes, he does. Wait until you see Nardir—he could have lost the use of his hand and arm completely. The healer in Iorvas’s patrol barely believed what he saw when he realized how much Nardir has recovered from his wound. I don’t think even Nardir realizes how fast he’s healed. And it’s only because Peredhrion is who he really is, and because his gift was trained by Lord Elrond.”
“Do they respect him?”
“Yes—all of them, even Orominion, Finwë, and Bregorn—at least until he died. He was already dead when we reached the fight.”
She sighed. “May the Doomsman receive him with gentleness. But I have to admit that I rejoice that you have not been seriously hurt, and I pray you return safely to your mother and father. Now, go! The others must not think I care so much of you as my grandson that I would ask special treatment for you.” He let her kiss his cheek, and did the same for her before he bowed his farewells and left, also.
The rain was over, and the westering Sun shone down upon a freshened landscape, with mist rising from the earth and the last clouds swiftly fleeing eastward to the mountains now so far away. He went first to check on the horses in the paddock, and saw they had been more than adequately sheltered by a byre that was open on two sides. A manger was now filled with fresh hay and a trough with grain, and all of the animals appeared in good health except for the mare he realized his grandmother must have been riding. She was limping, and he hoped she’d not been seriously lamed.
His own horse and Carniaxo came to him, pushing their heads through the bars of the fence so he could scratch their ears and murmur his appreciation of them both. At last they turned away to their fellows, and Carniaxo rubbed his muzzle against the mare’s side, pressing her toward the trough, before taking a mouthful for himself and heading across the paddock to a stand of fresh grass.
As he approached the wash house Orominion emerged, a sour expression on his face. “Didn’t it go well?” Halbarad asked, falling into step with his fellow trainee as they returned to the barn together.
“Not particularly. Oh, Adiella has said that she forgives me, but I suspect that, goaded by that Milt, her brothers would throw me back into the lake with my hands tied and a stone bound to me this time if I even look at her sideways. And he said that I look like a Hobbit, with my trews so short upon my legs. He said that all I need is the hair upon my feet!”
Halbarad wanted to laugh at that, but restrained himself as best he could. Instead he ventured, “It took courage to admit your fault and apologize.”
Orominion shrugged. “I suppose.” After a moment he added, “It was harder than fighting the raiders.”
“Did Finwë convince you to apologize?”
The other looked at him with one brow raised. “Finwë? I think not!”
When they entered the barn, Peredhrion and Túrin looked up from where they were bowed together over one of the injured Men. Peredhrion asked, “Well?”
Again Orominion shrugged. “I did my part, at least.”
“If they don’t accept your apology, that is not your fault, Orominion.”
Peredhrion nodded, and Halbarad followed Orominion back to the ladder into the loft. He noted that his companion’s mood had brightened at the recognition he’d received from the one he called the Princeling.
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