Now Lost, Lost to Those From the East, Is Valimar!
By Dolores J. Nurss
Chapter 2, Part 212
Remembrance, Healing...and Something Else
July 17, 1452
Sitting by his injured Uncle, Frodo heard singing and looked up. “Eowyn?” he exclaimed, dumping out the water and putting away his writing-things, forgetting all about whatever he had tried to recall. The woman climbed up the hill, smiling as she sang in a full, glad voice, her stride strong, the wind free in her unbound silver/golden hair. She looked beautiful, in her way–so why did the sight of her hair disturb him with a sense of something not yet woven, skeins and skeins of pending grief?
“Hello, Frodo,” she said. “Where is...ah, there is my patient! Here, Master Cotton, lie down on this cushion, on your stomach, knees bent...just like that. Good.” She pulled up his chemise and worked her fragrant balm into his lower back with expert fingers. “In the future, my good hobbit, lift with your legs, not your back. This matters especially for a portly fellow, whose lower spine...”
“I know it well, Milady. I simply overbalanced on the slope.”
Frodo added, “Any hobbit would have overbalanced trying to lift a rock that big.”
“I see.” Eowyn rolled up her sleeve and used her elbow on a particularly recalcitrant muscle. Frodo noticed four bruises streaking her arm. “Well, I prescribe rest for the remainder of the day.” With a sudden popping-sound and an “Oof!” from Nibs, her elbow drove a vertebra into its proper place. She added, “Bergil shall take over the supervision of the field,” as she let her sleeve back down.
Frodo pointed out, “Your pardon, milady, but isn’t that my job?”
“Ah, but my ‘nephew’ and I must lay claim to you for the afternoon. We have questions for you, in the matters of that field of herbs which you planted for Elenaril; it shall play a roll in our report to Gondor. So, with your leave, we shall convene there after I tend to Master Cotton.”
Then she surprised Nibs by pulling him over her shoulder. “Notice how I keep my back unmoving, straightening my legs as I rise and letting them lift the burden. All who walk on two feet and lack for wings maintain our strongest muscles in our legs. This is precisely how I expect you to lift heavy objects in the future, Master Cotton.”
“I know! I know!”
She went smoothly down the road with Frodo beside her, almost gliding in her effort not to jostle Nibs. The farmer looked so alarmed and flustered, between indignation and the dizzy perspective of tottering on a shoulder so high up off the ground, that Frodo fought hard not to grin.
“Put me down, Milady, please! I can walk.”
“Now now, when I say complete rest, that includes not walking if you can possibly avoid it. Please relax–squirming about and tensing yourself unduly can only do you harm. This shall not take long.” Indeed, in no time at all they reached the Tower House, where Eowyn settled Nibs into his bed and gave him a valerian potion to relax his muscles, then came downstairs to Frodo once again. “He should recover completely by tomorrow, Frodo. For a man I would have insisted upon three day’s bedrest, but I expect that he shall wake you at cock-crow, eager to resume his work.”
“I am glad to hear it–and not just for the sake of the fields. Though I do find it hard to believe just how swiftly I have come to depend on him.”
“Kin surprise us often with the blessings that they carry. Now, let us depart, Frodo, and meet Eldarion...”
But Frodo stopped her at the door. “Milady, it does my heart good to see you yourself again!” She smiled on him and he realized just how blurted that sounded. “Forgive me, but I...I have to admit that, well...I feared that we might not ever call your memories back to you.”
She led the way out, her face turned grave. “Meásse never actually destroyed my memories, as it happened. She merely succeeded in ripping through the covering over which I hid my deepest fear–and that fear, exposed, blotted out almost everything else.” Her voice dropped just a little. “You know that Faramir and I are of different blood, and do not age the same.”
“Yes. I recall Legolas waxing rude on the subject when he wasn’t at his best.”
“The elf aimed for the wrong mark, though he struck close. I have but slight fears for any vanity of face, Frodo. Nay, I dreaded, far more than any other fate on earth, the chance that I might someday sink into dotage, even as my mother-brother seemed to do, by Wormtongue’s evil arts–that I might dwindle to naught save a burden to my beloved.” Stern grew her gaze, off towards the mountains that stood between her and Ithilien. “Now I have tasted my fear to the dregs, and find that I can bear its bitterness.” She smiled again, faintly. “I discovered no shame in depending on the freely-given love of those whom I have served before. Whatever may come, Faramir and I have the strength to face it together. We did not choose ill to wed.”
Frodo thought of his brother, Tom. “Besides, we cannot know all chances in the world. One blow to the head can rob the memories of the young–he might yet fall into your care, rather than the other way around.” Hastily he added, “But I hope it happens to neither of you–many hold onto their wits to the end.”
“May it be so for both of us,” she concurred.
As they walked, Frodo commented, “Forgive me if I ask too impertinent a question, but...”
Eowyn laughed. “Hobbits are well known for their impertinent questions!”
“Well, those bruises on your arm–they looked like finger marks.” Without even thinking his hand stole to his sword.
“Those? One of the perils of my profession, I fear. One cannot specialize in the treatment of the violently insane without an occasional bruise.” Then she saw his hand on the hilt. “Did you think that someone ill-used my recent incapacitation? Nay, I came by my war-wounds far from helplessly, Frodo, though my patient wished otherwise–but thank you for your desire to champion me all the same.”
“Are you finding much work, then, in Seaside–in your specialty?”
“Yes,” she said, and as she turned her head away he saw another bruise in the shadow of her hair, along the line of her jaw. They said no more until they reached the field of herbs, where Eldarion greeted them with a shy smile.
To an observer it looked like nothing more than a slightly odd patch of desert. More attention might have discovered the anomaly: a certain order in the array of what looked like common and rather hostile weeds. But as Frodo walked with them and spoke, he revealed to them the hope locked within the pithy hearts of these secret heroes of the wasteland.
Eowyn asked, “Do you have any simples for drawing poison?”
“Over here. A slice of the moist flesh of this tall and twisting Kaktush will cleanse a wound when applied as a poultice.”
“And have you any to break down poisons in the blood?”
“None that I know of, Milady. You shall have to ask the Herbwife of Bristlescrub about that.”
“I have already, but she gave me no hope.”
Frodo froze. Slowly he asked, “Does this have anything to do with Uncle Nibs?”
“Nay, Frodo,” she said softly. “That poison cleared from your kinsman well and truly. I have another malady in mind.”
Eldarion offered, “The Lady Eowyn and I have discussed this before. We have reason to suspect some poison drives good citizens of Seaside mad.”
“Indeed? On purpose?”
“As to that I know not. Mordor abounds in foul compounds, scattered carelessly about to seep into wells and food, and in dust carried upon the wind; perhaps we need look no further than that. Yet it troubles me that the malady seems to single out the most productive members of the community.”
“Why? Why would anyone do such a thing?”
Eldarion studied a haggard-looking bush that bled a potent resin in golden clumps and clusters, its incense bittersweet beneath the summer heat. “Why? Because a crushed-down village now thrives in ways unheard of in these parts. Envy alone might motivate a saboteur. Or competition in trade–those who prospered by ‘Umbar pottery’ might miss the profits which no longer come their way. Or it could be that some loyalist to the old regime seeks favor of Sauron by punishing those who dare to thrive without him.”
“Seek the favor of that old blowfly? If only they knew what a petty and miserable creature he has become!”
“But they do not know that, Frodo, because many will not believe it. Some cannot overcome old fears and memories, and do not want caught siding with his enemies, should ever he return. Others, fallen from high positions, miss the license that they knew by his command, and long to bring him back.”
“Do they indeed? Well, they can just fetch themselves a pipeful of his favorite flower and join his slaves! I daresay he could make them fancy that they still kept whatever power they desired, while in the real world they would dwindle till they could not menace anyone but themselves. If they must poison someone, let them try it for their own part!”
“Do you really mean that, Frodo? You who have seen the cruelty of his slavery?”
Frodo took a deep breath. “No. I suppose not. Yet it angers me, to hear of anyone wanting to help my tormentor. I would that he would latch onto one of them instead of me–then they could be happy with each other.”
“Nay, Frodo–Sauron could not long be happy with anyone. That unfortunate whose skull we found in the potato-field proves that.”
Changing the subject, Frodo went back to lecturing on horticulture. “You will notice that I do not irrigate here. These plants do not merely thrive on scanty moisture, but the dry conditions also concentrate the potency of their most curative oils. All they seem to ask for is a little disruption of the soil, a plow to wake them up, or in the case of some like this flower over here, a carefully minded fire.”
“Indeed?” Eowyn asked, leaning over to smell it, “It prefers scorched earth?”
“So much so that the seeds will not sprout without burning.”
“Careful, milady–even the flowers here often...” But then he stopped, staring at where her sleeve caught upon the thorn. A thread snapped even as her pricked finger spilled a single drop of blood upon it...
...and Eldarion stumbled, turned, and stared at the hobbit, who had gone grey beneath his tan.
Frodo stared back at the young man, whispering, “I forgot...I should never forget! But I have something I must tell you...something to confess...” And the prince watched him with the eyes of a hunted deer.
“Eowyn, go!” Eldarion husked, not taking his eyes off the hobbit. “Swiftly–please!”
And still Eldarion stood frozen. Frodo felt more than saw his attention, and could hardly bear to hold back the memories till the woman sped away. Finally they exploded from his mind like blood from an arterial wound–again he stood before Vaire with the Web of Life in Hand, again he clenched the fabric, again the snap of thread! He seemed to blink, then once more he saw the horror in the prince’s face. Frodo did not know how long they had stood in each other’s presence, locked mind to mind, saying nothing out loud and everything all the same, but when he did come to himself a startled bird flew from his shoulder at a tiny motion of his head.
“Sir...I mean your highness...I mean...I am sorry–I am soooo sorry!”
Eldarion swallowed, blinked, and then in a faint rasp said, “You did well to disclose all willingly. Come, follow me.” He turned abruptly and headed straight towards the Tower House, with stiff steps and a faraway look.
Frodo groaned, “When am I going to leave off needing healings?”
Eldarion answered, “I summon you not to a healing, Frodo son of Samwise, but to a judgment.” After that Frodo did not dare say a word.