“How Éowyn will scold!” Faramir groaned. “We should never have volunteered to replenish her larder.”
“I can just imagine Arwen saying I thought I married a Ranger, said to be the greatest hunter and tracker of the Age,” Aragorn replied glumly. He leaned heavily on his bow. ”These woods around Emyn Arnen are said to be full of deer. Where have they all gone?”
“They must be hiding well,” said Faramir, pacing the ground in frustration.
A sudden movement caught Aragorn’s eye. ”Look, over there by the stream!” he whispered.
Faramir turned his head just in time to see a large stag disappearing between the trees. Swiftly he drew his bow, but it was too late; the animal had vanished.
“Come on, let us give chase,” cried Aragorn. “I will catch that stag if it is the last thing I do!” Swift as a deer himself, he sped off in the direction of his quarry. Faramir followed, wondering not for the first time, why a man twice his age could usually outrun him.
The two hunters pursued their prey until they came to a fork in the path. Uncertain which way the stag had gone, Aragorn took the right turning while Faramir took the left.
The Steward was certain he was on the right track, as several times he caught a brief glimpse of the elusive deer. A sudden movement ahead of him in the undergrowth made him pause in his tracks. Smiling with grim satisfaction, Faramir nocked an arrow. They would dine well tonight and Éowyn would be impressed that he had supplied their table so well. He could see the stag clearly ahead of him. He fired, only for the animal to veer sharply to the right and disappear through the trees.
“Argh!” the shout of pain was no wounded deer.
A sudden feeling of cold dread seized the Steward. He plunged into the undergrowth in the direction of the cries. There was no sign of the stag, but under a great oak was Aragorn. The King was staggering in pain, an arrow protruding from his shoulder. As Faramir approached, Aragorn sank to his knees, his face white with shock.
“No! Whatever have I done?” the Steward cried racing towards his friend and sinking down beside him, supporting him with strong arms and taking the weight of the arrow. “I have shot my King! I am so sorry, mellon nîn! I mistook you for the stag we were pursuing!”
“You shot me!” Aragorn’s tone was both accusing and disbelieving.
“Much rather would I have shot myself through the heart than wounded you!” Faramir sounded near tears. “The stag veered aside just as I loosed the arrow.”
“I know it was an accident,” said Aragorn in a more conciliatory tone though he was grimacing with pain. “Not that I think I resemble a stag! The path goes round in a circle, which we did not know. This arrow will have to come out, fortunately my healing supplies are in my pack, if you would assist me?”
Very carefully, so as not to push the arrow in any deeper, Faramir eased the pack from Aragorn’s shoulders. He quickly found the familiar and well-worn satchel containing the King’s healing supplies. ”What should I do now?” he asked Aragorn, though he suspected all too well what gruesome task he would need to perform.
“You need to make a fire first,” said Aragorn. “Fortunately we have plenty of water here.” He looked far less pale now, much to Faramir’s relief.
“I had better cut away the shaft before I do anything else,” said Faramir, taking his hunting knife from his belt. ”Brace yourself, this will hurt!” He grasped the shaft. To his amazement the arrow fell to the ground. For a moment, he stared at Aragorn in horror, convinced that he had done him a further grievous injury.
“What the…?” Aragorn was pulling aside his torn tunic and shirt to reveal his shoulder disfigured by nothing worst than a flesh wound, little deeper than a severe graze.
“But the arrow struck you!” Faramir said haltingly, hardly daring to believe that Aragorn was not badly hurt.
“It hit me hard and gave me a shock, but must have just caught in my clothing while the tip grazed my shoulder,” said the King. He reached for his healing supplies to grab a cloth to staunch the bleeding with. ”I will clean and bind it, however it is only a slight hurt”
Faramir was already kindling a fire and filling a pan with water to boil. He helped Aragorn remove his tunic and shirt while the water boiled. “I fear you will be black and blue tomorrow,” he said ruefully.
“It will not be for the first time,” said Aragorn. He dabbed at his shoulder. The bleeding was already abating. He cleaned the wound and applied some salve, then bandaged it with Faramir’s help. “At least we have a good excuse why we did not catch anything,” he said as Faramir helped him ease his arms into his bloodied tunic and shirt again.
“Our wives will never let us go hunting again!” Faramir said sadly. “I do not know whether your lady or mine will be the angrier with me!”
“We will persuade them to let us go again ere long,” said Aragorn. ”Arwen claims I drive her to distraction if I am confined within doors for too long!” He placed a comforting hand on Faramir’s shoulder. ”Remember, mellon, nîn you are human. No one could have guessed the stag would bolt in front of me. Accidents can happen to anyone and no real harm is done.”