Eowyn's despair - Part Four - The Illness
Trembling slightly, Eowyn turned. It was a maid of Arwen's, with short brown hair and a puzzled expression
"My lady? Is anything the matter?"
"N-no" stammered Eowyn, putting a hand to her forehead. "I'm fine..."
The maid was obviously not convinced. "Shall I call somebody?"
But Eowyn did not hear her, because blackness suddenly dropped over her vision and she collapsed.
The maid screamed, and the guards at the foot of the steps whirled round.
"Get the King-"
"The Lady Eowyn-"
Faramir was just coming back along the Citadel, where he had been strolling along, when he saw Eowyn.
She was slumped forwards at the top of the stone steps in front of the great wooden doors. His heart thumped painfully as he saw her slender form sprawled on the ground, her long golden hair hiding her face.
"Eowyn!" gasped Faramir, running as fast as he could to her.
Aragorn came out of the Hall just as Faramir was stumbling up the steps. Looking concerned, the King pushed back a lock of hair to reveal her side turned face. She was pale, her eyes closed and her lips slightly parted.
"What happened?" breathed Faramir.
Aragorn did not answer, but taking Eowyn's slender form in strong arms, he gently held her off the ground and turned her so that she was the right way up. Her head lolled.
Aragorn did not waste time, but picked her up in his arms. She weighed hardly anything at all as her hurried down the steps with her. "Inform the Warden of the Houses of Healing that Lady Eowyn is coming," he ordered to the guards. "Go!"
"My lord" said Faramir, gazing, stricken at Eowyn's white face, "what is it?"
"I hope it is not what I fear it to be" said Aragorn grimly.
Faramir was bursting with questions, but he could tell it was not the time to ask, so he walked briskly at the side of Aragorn. He felt hot tears in his eyes at the thought of Eowyn dying...
The Houses of Healing was just on the level below the Citadel, so they had not far to walk. It was a pleasant, beautiful house, right at the side of the cliff that the City was built on, and it had lovely gardens at the front overlooking the plains of Gondor.
But neither Aragorn nor Faramir took any notice of this, as they hurried through the large wooden doors.
The Warden walked up to them. "Lady Eowyn" he said, after bowing to Aragorn and Faramir. Faramir knew the Warden well, after spending some time in these Houses only a short while ago. "I released her from my care quite recently" continued the Warden, frowning. "What ails her?"
"I shall tell you when Eowyn is resting," replied Aragorn curtly.
The Warden showed them a bed in a small room with a large, arched window. Aragorn gently lowered Eowyn onto the bed, and ordered the Warden to bring plenty of furs. As the Healer left the room, Aragorn touched Eowyn's face and hands.
"Cold" he said grimly. "As I feared."
"My lord" said Faramir slightly impatiently, "won't you tell me what is wrong with her?" Unconsciously, his hand reached over and gripped Eowyn's limp one.
Aragorn sank into a chair by Eowyn's bedside, and so did Faramir, still holding Eowyn's icy hand.
The Warden came in with the warm furs, and Aragorn arranged them over Eowyn, tucking them tightly around her. "I shall call for you again presently" he said, and the Warden bowed and left the room.
Aragorn waited until he was gone, and then spoke.
"What Eowyn has is a sickness."
Faramir drew in a breath sharply. "A sickness?"
"Yes" said Aragorn heavily. "I recognise it. It comes, no one knows how, to a certain person, and afflicts them If they are healthy and happy, the person can shake it off without ever knowing that it was there, but it preys on sorrow and hatred, and so I guess it found Eowyn, the White Lady, whose heart is cold."
"And...what will happen to her?" asked Faramir, dreading the answer.
Aragorn's answer was weary. "The person will collapse, as Eowyn has, and then they will slowly succumb to the illness, and then-die."
Faramir lowered his head to his hands.
"That is not all," said Aragorn. "This sickness spreads like wildfire through towns and cities. Many will already be afflicted with it. I can heal them, with the help of athelas, but the person must be strong, and fight against it, and be willing to live."
There was a long silence.
Aragorn stood up. "I must tell the Warden immediately" he declared. "We must fetch all who have this illness; and the sixth and seventh levels will have to be cut off from the rest of the city, otherwise the whole of it will be affected. Come! We must be strong, brother."
And he hurried away; but Faramir's mind was numb as he gazed upon the beautiful face of Eowyn.
A few days later, all of the beds in the Houses of Healing were full of the still, cold patients, and Aragorn was hurrying to each one with his bowl of athelas, healing, and whispering into their ears words of encouragement, and each seemed to recover a while later, and be ushered immediately to the comfort of their own homes, where they would be mostly out of danger. Aragorn's face was drawn and pale and he had not had much sleep at all since the disease took hold; and Arwen, confined to the house, waited each night for him, worried by the toll the worry was taking on Aragorn. For people had died, being either very young or very old; they simply succumbed to the illness silently, no change coming over their still faces. The entire sixth and seventh levels were quarantined from the lower city.
But most worryingly of all, for Faramir, was Eowyn. She lay still and pale, no change coming over her, and her skin was cold to the touch. Faramir kept a constant vigil by her bedside, for he was coming to realise some of his true feelings for this shieldmaiden.
Aragorn tended to her regularly, crushing the sweet-fragranced plants between his fingers, but he became more and more concerned when she appeared to make no sign of recovery, and his face was more troubled each time he left her room. He encouraged Faramir to talk to her, to drag her away from the darkness of the sicknesses, and Faramir cradled her limp form in his arms, washed her face, brushed her hair and kissed her brow, but no change came over her.
Night had fallen on Minas Tirith.
Arwen was joyful. Her over-protective husband had at last let her outside, and she was standing by the White Tree, singing, her clear voice rising and falling, the sweet melody carried on the air over the city; and all who heard it were glad.
For the illness was gone! Almost as quickly as it had come, it had fled in the night. Minas Tirith was celebrating with joy and relief; those who lived on the quarantined levels threw flowers down on the street below them. Arwen was happy, now that there was no danger of Aragorn catching the illness, over-tired and stressed had he been.
But one person was still unconscious and cold.
The White Lady of Rohan.