Aragorn remained on his guard, as it could still be a trap. But he soon found that it wasn’t. The Easterlings here were rebuilding their lives, and Aragorn recognised the damage done. It had been done by the servants of the enemy. The leader of these men was a tall (for Easterlings) middle aged man. He was no other than Bór’s father, and he too was named after one of the faithful. His name was Borlach.
Borlach greeted Aragorn warmly. “Welcome, Your Majesty. I apologise for you having to see our home like this. I did not expect you to answer the summons so soon. In fact, if you don’t mind me saying, I was doubtful you’d come at all. After all, we were against each other in that war. I thought you might believe this to be a trap.” Borlach stated and finished with a hearty laugh.
Aragorn was looking around examining the damage. “The thought had crossed my mind.” Aragorn replied, picking up an arrow and examining it. It was clearly an orc arrow.
“Why did you come then? If you thought it was a trap, why did you even make the effort?” Borlach asked.
“I decided to gamble the chance.” Aragorn answered flatly, looking closely at the arrow tip in the light. “A chance of peace is worth a risk.” Aragorn took his attention off the arrow. “This arrow tip is covered in a powerful poison. You should dispose of it properly, lest your children try to play with it. Where is the person who was struck by this arrow?”
Borlach looked troubled. “She’s at home. … Dying.” He replied, and went silent.
Aragorn looked at Bór. “My mother, Alma.” Bór replied. “The orcs came and destroyed everything they could. No one was safe. Not women, not children.”
“Orcs aim for destruction. They don’t care for the living. In fact, they despise it.” Aragorn agreed. “Take me to her, and I’ll do what I can. I’m a healer.”
Borlach looked at Aragorn, and it seemed as though he had never heard of such a wonderful possibility. But he obeyed, and led Aragorn to his wife. Aragorn examined her first. “She’s near spent.” He remarked softly, mostly to himself, but also to calm the audience. He knew how easily people were worked up about this kind of thing when they weren’t informed. “She has got some strength left though.” Aragorn raised his voice a little to address the men present. “Not much, but it may be enough to give me time.”
“Is there anyway we can help?” Borlach asked.
“Yes. I’ll need some boiled water. Make sure it’s still hot.” Aragorn answered and Bór rushed off to obey.
“So, my wife might make it?” Borlach asked, anxiously.
“I won’t lead you to false hope, but it is a possibility.” Aragorn replied, opening his one of his travel pouches and taking out 3 leaves which were drying out. He crumpled them in his hand and breathed over them.
“What’s that?” Borlach asked, worried about what Elessar was holding and if it would cause farther harm to his wife.
“It’s called Athelas, but is also known as Kingsfoil. It is a healing herb used by me and my kin for treating poisons of various kinds.” Aragorn looked up. “This will help your wife.” He said, guessing what was on Borlach’s mind. Just then, Bór rushed back in with a small bowl of hot water. “Excellent.” Aragorn remarked taking the bowl and putting the crushed leaves into it. “Well timed.”
The room was filled with a wholesome smell from the leaves, and Bór and his father found themselves relaxing. Aragorn meanwhile had placed one hand over the woman’s forehead, and had taken her hand with his other. His eyes were closed, and he seemed to be in some kind of struggle, which visually took its toll. He was clearly beginning to tire, and Borlach started to become concerned. He loved his wife dearly, but if the King of the West was to come to any harm in his house, there’d surely be trouble. As painful as it was, it was better to lose one life than many.
“My Lord. It pains me to say this, but maybe you should stop. She’s too far gone. Please. Don’t.” Borlach said softly to Aragorn in a choked voice.
But Aragorn couldn’t hear him. Alma was in a deep darkness, and was lost in despair. Aragorn had tapped into this, and was trying to guide her back. “Alma.” Aragorn said suddenly. “Come back to the light.”
The struggle became more tiresome for the Ranger, but he still continued. It wasn’t in him to forfeit a life when healing. Borlach and Bór were both worried now. If Elessar kept this up, he’d surely be exhausted. Borlach grabbed Aragorn suddenly, unable to contain himself any longer. “Stop it!! You’re harming yourself!!” He cried. He had changed his opinion of healers now that he’d seen the cost to themselves.
Aragorn looked up, and smiled. “She’ll be alright.” He said gently, and nodded at Alma.
Borlach and Bór turned to see Alma open her eyes. She looked around, as one recovering from a horrific nightmare. “Alma!” Borlach gasped and embraced her. “I thought you were gone!”
“I was lost.” Alma whispered. “But a voice guided me back.”
Borlach turned to Aragorn. “How can I ever thank you enough?” He gasped.
Aragorn shook his head. “Think nothing of it.” Aragorn replied. “It’s not in me to leave a fellow human to die, when I’m capable of helping them.”
“You’re clearly a good man, Elessar.” Borlach replied. “But I’m a man of honour, and I am in your debt.”
“Then answer my questions, and think no more of it, friend.” Aragorn subsided.
“I know that voice.” Alma gasped. “I’ve heard you voice before, sir.” She said looking at Aragorn. “Your eyes!” She gasped in revelation. “You are one of the Edain, faithful to the Eldar and friends to them too! They say the mark of an Elf-friend, is the brightness of their eyes. A certain light to them. And no Elf-friend light was stronger, than that of the Númenoreans!”
Aragorn smiled and nodded. “I see you are well learned.” He remarked. “Yes. I am a descendant of the Númenoreans.”
“And it was you.” Alma said still staring at Aragorn. “It was you who guided me back to the light.”
Aragorn smiled and nodded again. “Right again.”
“Thank you. You are a great man to put aside past differences to save a person who you don’t know.” Alma said, her strength declining.
“I wouldn’t say `great’.” Aragorn remarked frowning.
“Is modesty becoming for a King in your lands?” Borlach asked with a laugh.
Aragorn shook his head as it wasn’t what he had meant. “It’s not that.” Aragorn replied. “There are healers with far more skill than me, and men who are more willing to save others, even if they are enemies. What I’m trying to say is that there are men far greater than me, and that a King should be a servant to his people, not the other way around.”
“We’ll leave it at noble and modest then.” Bór remarked. “You had questions for Father?” Bór asked before Aragorn could argue further.
Aragorn subsided, because they were right. He was modest, but it was just a natural response. He wasn’t trying to be becoming. “Yes.” He said giving up the previous conversation. “But we’ll leave the lady to rest while we speak.”
The men agreed, and so they left Alma to recover in peace. Aragorn walked beside Borlach as the two spoke. Bór left to scout around the settlement. “Well, you had questions which you wanted me to answer.” Borlach said as they walked along.
“Yes. Firstly, why did you want me to come alone?” Aragorn asked.
“I’d heard of your greatness, and hoped you’d be a reasonable person. But I was worried that others wouldn’t be, and might try to sway your choices.” Borlach answered, and Aragorn actually laughed.
“It’s true that there are those who don’t agree with my chosen courses in the city!” Aragorn remarked. “They still worship the last Steward who’s now dead, and disagree with much in the way I run the Kingdom!” Aragorn laughed again.
“It seems you’re beset by enemies on all sides!” Borlach replied. “Next question.”
“I would have asked why you suddenly wanted a union. But I can see the answer in the suffering caused to your people. So I’ll ask this instead; Were your people threatened to join Sauron’s army?” Aragorn asked.
“How did you know of that?!” Borlach demanded.
“Calm down. It was a guess. I’ll take that as a `yes’ though.”
“How did your people manage it?” Borlach asked suddenly, looking at Aragorn. “How did you avoid the enemy demanding your aid?”
“By defying him. He wasn’t about to ask us for help anyway. His downfall came at the hands of Elves and the Edain. We’re the ones he wanted to pay back!” Aragorn found this amusing. He had no fear of the Dark Lord, be it bravery or folly. But it no longer mattered as Sauron was destroyed. “If an enemy was to threaten you again, would you join them?” Aragorn enquired.
“No.” Borlach replied slowly. “Because the Enemy attacked us anyway. They don’t keep their word.”
“Sauron’s treachery almost wiped out the Númenoreans. He caused many of them to turn on their kin. The ones who remained faithful to the Eldar. They sacrificed them, under Sauron’s influence to try and bring back a more terrible force than even Sauron. He was even capable of appearing fair to the elves for some time.” Aragorn said with some deep thought.
“How can any force be more terrible than Sauron?” Borlach asked, incredulously.
“He wanted to bring back his master. A being who was once one of the Valar, and helped to create this world from the void. Melkor was his name for some time, but after he took the path of evil and caused unforgivable harm, the elves named him Morgoth. He rebelled against the gods, and caused much suffering which lasted for ages to come. It was HE who created the orcs, and HE who used dragons and balrogs in his dark service. HE who corrupted one of the Valar’s servants and turned them to darkness. Sauron was once a Maia. Spirits of less power than the Valar, but the same origins.” Aragorn explained.
“How can such force be defeated?” Borlach asked.
“By the Valar. Eärendil sailed across the sea to the shores of the Valar to plead for their help. Eärendil became a star in the sky, and the hailed the arrival of the Valar. And the Valar cast Morgoth into the void, where he has remained ever since.” Aragorn answered.
“And which star would that be?” Borlach asked.
“The one that can be seen only at dawn and dusk. A sign of hope for the elves and the Dúnedain. He’s also known as Gil-Estel. Which means star of hope, because after he sailed across the sky, Arda’s salvation arrived. He’s the most beloved star of the elves.”
“I am his descendant.” Aragorn replied looking to the sky. The evening had come, and the sun was beginning to set. Eärendil’s star would soon appear.
“Really?” Borlach asked.
“Yes.” Aragorn replied. “I can trace my bloodline right back to Bregor, the father of Bregolas and Barahir. They were in the First Age of this world. And I know this because records were once kept in a place I used to dwell.” Aragorn held up his hand. “This is a token of my heritage. It is the ring of Barahir, given to him as a token of Finrod’s friendship. Finrod Felagund was the brother of the lady Galadriel, and he was known as the friend of men. It was he who benefited the men’s future. And he died to save Beren, who was later known as Beren Erchamion.”
“You are a fountain of lost knowledge, Elessar!” Borlach remarked. “And whether you will admit it or not, I am still in your debt. You saved my wife’s life. I have answered your questions, true, but you have also answered mine.”
“You have somewhat flattered me, Friend. But if I were to be any kind of lost knowledge source, it would not be a fountain, but merely a puddle. All I have learnt about the history of Arda, I learnt in Imladris, under the tutelage of Lord Elrond.” Aragorn replied.
“I’ve decided that your modesty is very becoming of you.” Borlach laughed. “But I haven’t heard you in any other way”
“That means that your vote counts for nothing.” Aragorn joked. Borlach looked at him for a moment, and then laughed.
At that moment, Bór rushed back into the settlement and over to his father and Aragorn. “I’ve just had reports of people going missing!” He gasped. “It happened with the settlement north of here, when some children went off to explore. They didn’t return, and so their parents went searching for them. The parents didn’t return, and the whole settlement have grown anxious.”
“Where’s this settlement?” Aragorn asked suddenly. He didn’t like the sound of this, as it reminded him of servants of the Enemy.
“North of here, near those mountains.” Bór answered pointing at some mountains in the distance.
“Mountains with caves and crevices I deem. Dark places for Dark creatures.” Aragorn declared bitterly. He turned his head and whistled. Brego trotted over, and Aragorn mounted the horse, bare backed. Brego had just arrived from the stables. “I’m going to investigate.” Aragorn announced.
“But you’re supposed to be our guest!” Borlach argued.
“A Ranger trusts his instincts, as it’s often what gets him through the day. My instincts are telling me that there’s something in those mountains that shouldn’t be. I also believe that I may have already encountered its kind.” Aragorn replied and dug his heels into Brego’s sides.
Brego galloped off out of the settlement, and towards the north. Borlach and Bór rushed to get their own steeds and then followed. They wouldn’t let the King of the West come to any harm if they could help it, because the West may believe it was a trap, and then declare vengeance.
To be continued…