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Hope in midwinter

B2MeM Challenge Aspects of Aragorn1- Aragorn; ;Emotions- Love; Injuries and other ailments- Concussion. Rangers of the North - Eriador. Song Lyrics- Echoes and silence, patience and grace, all of these moments, I'll never replace. Botany - holly. All Ocs all the time- Housekeeper

Format: short story

Genre: angst, hurt comfort

Rating: PG13

Warnings: mention of torture and injuries

Characters: Aragorn, Elrond, OMC

Pairings: none

Summary: Gilavir is fading and Aragorn fights for his life. A Sequel to "Blood in the Snow."

These characters all belong to the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien. This story was written for pleasure and not for financial gain.

"Is he any better?" Aragorn asked as he entered Gilavir's chamber.

Elrond shook his head sadly. "I fear not. His mind is sorely troubled. I have done all I can for him, but nothing seems to help. I had hoped the concussion he suffered might have removed the memory of the torment the Orcs inflicted upon him, but sadly not." He fell silent. Aragorn wondered if he were thinking of his wife, who had suffered a similar ordeal. Elrond had been unable to heal Celebrian and she was now in the Undying Lands. There was no such refuge for Gilavir.

"I will stay with him now," said Aragorn. "He knows me, maybe that will help."

"You must be weary, you sat with him all last night," said Elrond. "Where is Halbarad? Could he not stay with Gilavir for a while?"

"I sent him back to the Angle. Someone needs to be in charge there or the Orcs will overrun all of Eriador! I have asked him too to send word to Gilavir's mother and sisters. He is my responsibility as the Chieftain. Alas, the Orcs took him from right under my nose!"

"Hardly that, Estel. Do not blame yourself." Elrond rose to his feet. "Call me if you need me. I will be within my chambers."

Aragorn took the chair that his foster father had vacated and sat sadly studying Gilavir, who tossed restlessly in an uneasy sleep. A few days ago when he had regained consciousness, opened his eyes and smiled at Arwen, who had come to visit him. Aragorn had hoped the young man might recover, but despite his care and Master Elrond's , he was growing weaker and either could, or would not, swallow the nourishing broths prepared for him. It seemed that the horrors left in his mind by the torture he had suffered at the hands of the Orcs, was preventing his body from healing.

Aragorn pulled back the covers. Gilavir's bruises had turned a livid purple. His wounds, inflicted by lash and knife, had been cleaned and stitched and did not appear to be festering. Aragorn covered the young man again and looked around the room. Everything that could be had been done to ensure Gilavir's comfort. He lay beneath soft linen sheets and a down quilt, while soft goose pillows were under his head. A cheerful fire burned in the grate, and the room was decorated with holly branches to mark the winter solstice.

Gilavir moaned and stirred, his bruised fingers clawing restlessly at the covers. Impulsively, Aragorn took one of the young man's hands between his own. Gilavir's eyes flickered open. "I am here, Gilavir," he said gently. "You are safe now in Master Elrond's house."

"Cruel leering faces," Gilavir muttered. "Only pain, nothing else left. My mother and sisters, tell them farewell."

"You will recover," Aragorn said reassuringly.

"Too much pain inside." Gilavir closed his eyes again and turned his head away.

Aragorn's heart was breaking. This lad had trusted him and been in his care when the Orcs captured him. He wondered desperately how he might help the young Ranger who was fading before his eyes. He wondered if athelas might help. Gilavir did not have the Black Breath, but athelas raised the spirits of all who inhaled the vapours. There was a large jug of water by the bedside. Aragorn poured some into a metal bowl and put it on the fire to heat. When it was ready, he threw more logs on the fire so it blazed up merrily.

He pulled back Gilavir's covers, and began to unwrap the bandages that covered the young man. He murmured soothing words and draped a towel across the lad's hips to protect his dignity.

"Leave me be!" Gilavir groaned, turning his face to the wall.

"I have an idea that might help you," said Aragorn.

"You waste your time, lord., but as you will." Gilavir moaned softly at the effort of speaking.

In the depths of winter, fresh athelas was hard to come by, but Aragorn had a supply of dried leaves in his pouch. He took two, breathed on them, and cast them into the water.

He held the bowl in front of Gilavir's face so that the young Ranger might inhale the steam, and then very gently started to bathe the young man's numerous bruises and abrasions with the mixture.

"What are you doing?" Gilavir muttered.

"Washing away all traces of the Orcs' foulness," said Aragorn. "Breathe the steam as deeply as you can."

Aragorn immediately felt his heart lightened as the refreshing vapours filled his lungs. It seemed to have no effect on Gilavir, though, but Aragorn persisted and bathed the lad from head to toe with the mixture. He replaced the bandages and covered Gilavir again, but kept on bathing the young man's face and neck. The water grew cold, so Aragorn heated more and cast two more leaves into the bowl.

Gradually, Gilavir started to breathe more deeply and his tense body relaxed. Aragorn only then ceased his ministrations. He sat down by the bedside and gripped Gilavir's hands in his own. He started to softly sing the hymn to Elbereth.

At last Gilavir spoke. "Why are you taking all this trouble over me?"

"Out of love," Aragorn said simply. "I would not lose you. Then what of your mother and sisters, or that maiden you danced with at midsummer? Inzilwen was her name, was it not? Would you have them weep for your loss?"

"I am already lost," said Gilavir. "What those creatures did to me and what they planned to do with me. Afterwards they were going to eat me!"

"But they did not," said Aragorn. "We reached you in time. You are sore wounded, but you can heal. You are a Man, not an Elf, so the memories of your torment will be gradually blunted by time."

"I can never be what I was before."

"None will love you any the less. We simply want you with us."

Tears started to pour down Gilavir's face. Aragorn gently took the wounded young man in his arms and wordlessly wiped them away. A few tears leaked from his own eyes. They remained thus in silence for some considerable time.

Master Elrond opened the door to the chamber. His eyes met Aragorn's in mutual understanding. He smiled and closed the door quietly.

At last, Gilavir's weeping ceased. "I am hungry," he said, his amazement obvious in his voice.

"Good," said Aragorn. "I will ask the housekeeper to bring you something to eat."

He carefully propped the pillows behind Gilavir then went to the door and asked for a nourishing broth to be brought.

Gilavir's eyes were now exploring his surroundings. "The holly is most fair," he said.

"The winter solstice is tonight," said Aragorn. "The darkness will soon give way to the light."

The housekeeper knocked on the door and bustled within, carrying a tray. She was not an Elf, but a widow of one of the Rangers, a hale woman of middle years.

"Aye, but it's good to see you awake and hungry, lad!" she cried. "I've kept some of my best chicken broth on the hob for you, hoping you might want it and here's some of Master Elrond's rosehip tea to go with it. It tastes good, though I say so myself! Now eat it all up, lad and you'll soon be as good as new!"

"Thank you, mistress, I will."

The housekeeper set the tray on the bedside table, gave Gilavir an encouraging smile then bustled away again.

Aragorn took up a spoon and began to feed the young man. Gilavir's newfound eagerness to eat reminded him of a baby bird.

Gilavir drained the bowl then looked at Aragorn apologetically. "I fear I am causing a great deal of trouble," he said.

"There is no greater joy for a healer than to see his patient on the mend," said Aragorn. "And though I would not for all the world, have any of my men brought low, it is the moments of echoes and silence, patience and grace, that you truly get to know a man. Such moments cannot be replaced."

"I will recover and fight at your side again," said Gilavir.

"I know you will," said Aragorn. "My heart is filled with gladness. Hope, like the holly, is evergreen."


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