The Lord of the... whatever, Book V, Chapter 8:
The Housing Of Heels
A mist was over Otto's eyes as he stumbled through the smoking ruins
of battle, nursing his jaw where Eowynnie had belted him with her heavy
mailed glove. He was too tired and sickened by the battle to even begin
looting the bodies. Giant siege engines and overturned catering trucks lay
burning everywhere, yet he gave them no heed, not even the ones with tuna
sandwiches; he followed the gurney of HeyHoDen like a man in a fevered
Morrie! he repeated to himself. I'm Morrie! Not Otto. Morrie!
What's the alternative? Go back to being a janitor for the rest of my life
when there's an opportunity to become somebody important? I don't
understand how the hell it happened, but it doesn't matter. I'm Morrie!
Not Otto. I've got to learn more about my adventurous new life. Wow, this
city sure looks beat up. I wonder if this is where I live.
The small party passed its way across the field and through the great
Gates of Minas Tirith, which were twisted and crumpled like defective
aluminum cans. Strings of "E" tickets from the ruined ticket booth coiled
across the roadway, and Otto, deep in thought, tripped over them and fell
into an alley. When he righted himself and found his way back to the main
road HeyHoDen's procession was gone. He stumbled his way through the ashen
streets at random, hoping to regain sight of his party, or perhaps a bar
somewhere, or maybe a mailbox with his name on it.
"Morrie!" a voice called out to him.
He turned around. A small figure, like a child but wearing the livery
of Gondor and no pants, came out of a side-street and dashed up to
him. "Morrie!" the figure said again. "Is it really you?"
"Ja," Otto replied, then tried harder to mask his Scandinavian
accent. "Uh, yeah," he attempted again gamely. "Frog in my throat. Sorry.
Uh. Do I know you?"
"Oh, thank Eru!" Pipsqueak continued, unhearing in his anxiety. "I
had hoped I might find you! It's Gandalf! Do you remember Isengard?"
"Oh, ja, ja," Otto blurted out automatically. "Gandalf! Isengard.
Remember all about that, meeting you there. Yes, sir. Isengard! Remember
it just like it was yesterday."
"You do?" Pipsqueak said. "Oh, good! That's good! I was scared I
was the only one who remembered!"
"Nope," Otto said quickly. "Like the back of my hand. Perfect memory.
Uhm. So, how've you been, then, Gandalf? Long time since Isengard. Lot of
water under the bridge."
"Oh, I've got so much to tell you! But you must have been in the
battle. You look terrible!"
"No, I feel fine," Otto replied.
"You look at least a foot taller."
"Uh, no, just new shoes."
"And you've grown a beard."
"Uhm. Accident. Wrong bottle. Rogaine instead of aftershave. That's
"And it looks like somebody belted you with a heavy mail glove."
Otto paused. "Well. Uh. Yeah. Yeah, that did sort of happen," he
Pipsqueak took Otto, soon to be Morrie, by the arm. "I've got to get
you to the Houses of Healing," he said. "There you can rest, and we can
compare notes about Gandalf. But be careful! He's around, you know, and he
has spies everywhere."
"But I thought you-" Morrie began, then stopped himself. He was
beginning to feel somewhat disoriented. He allowed the stranger to guide
him further and further into the City, past small pocket gardens and
numerous aging gift-shops, towards the Houses of Healing. He was
lightheaded from the smoke and confused about the identity of the person
leading him; and someone named Gandalf was around, and had spies
everywhere, which didn't sound too promising as a beginning to a new life.
This Morrie thing, he realized, was going to take a little more effort
than he had thought. Maybe having a quick lie down wasn't such a bad idea
So it was that Morrie lay in the Houses of Healing, with Pipsqueak
keping watch by his side. Gandalf knew this, but not knowing of
Pipsqueak's recovered memory he deemed it unimportant. Other, more urgent
matters were on his mind. "What do you mean, you don't know where Ariellë
is?" he demanded of the nurses. "She was grievously wounded. Near death.
They'd bring her here, right? There isn't another Houses of Healing run by
another Guild or something, is there?"
"Och, nay, sir," replied the oldest of the women, "the Houses o'
Healin' are the only healers, sir, and have been for many long years, what
with our having cornered the market on rare herbs an' folklore an' wool
blankets an' whatnot, it's a surety ye'll naught be findin' any caregivers
other than those o' the Houses o' Healin', an' we run all the franchises
an' the little stores what where visitors might be gainin' a foot-plaster
or an aspirin or a Band-Aid for when they might have hurts their tootsies
walkin' all day or fallin' off a ride, for the Houses ha'e done made the
City a warm an' hospitable place for many an Age, an' are one of the few
places in these latter days to consistently show a profit-"
"Spare me your fiscal analysis, Iorritant," Gandalf cut in with a
wave of his arm, "and your horribly-overdone dialect as well. I've already
been through the morgue, and I've inspected the ruins of the House of the
Stewards, and she's not dead in either place. If she's not dead, then
where the hell is she? Last I saw of her, she wasn't exactly fit to go
hang-gliding or deep-sea-oyster collecting. If she's alive, I've got to
find her before she can recover! Uh, so I can help her recover, of
"Och, nae, nae, good Gandalph," Iorritant began again. "For there is
no competition to the Houses o' Healin', like I've sayed. An' there hasn't
been in long centuries, nae, not since there was a King in Gondor, for
they say the King could heal warts an' make penicillin out o' epoxy an'
the like. For The Hands Of A King Are The Hands Of A Healer, the old
legends say, an' everyone believes it because it's all capitalized like
that an' everything-"
At this Gandalf jumped up suddenly. "Men may long remember your
words, Iorritant," he grinned, shaking her hand eagerly and then grabbing
his hat. "The fools. Ha ha ha haaa! Wait right here! I'll be right back.
And keep the loremasters nearby! I want plenty of witnesses handy!"
Aragon sat in his little pup-tent with Eonard, sharing a bottle of
Dunland Slugger's they had found on the field of battle and drinking to
the fallen. "But what I still don't unnerstand," Eonard slurred slightly,
"is why we're out here in th's Eruforsaken pup-tent when you're supposed
to be th' ruler of this whole damn City."
"I deem the time unripe," Aragon said, pronouncing the syllables with
grave emphasis. "It would not be well to enter this City while the
Stewards still reign, for it would divide the City's loyalities in this
its moment of trial. Also the reigning Steward might have me thrown in the
dungeon for a century. When Dr Faramir rules the City in peace, however,
then shall I make my lineage and my Certificate of Authenticity known to
"'S good idea," Eonard agreed, once again taking a draught from the
Aragon nodded and reached for the bottle when an arm clad all in
white reached through the tent-flap and yanked him by the lapels. "Come
on," Gandalf growled in a large stage-whisper. "We've got the
opportunity of a lifetime here!"
Gandalf led Aragon quickly through the darkened streets, with Eonard
stumbling along somewhere behind them. "But you said I should wait until
the Stewards were all out of commission," Aragon whispered. "That I not
divide the people in loyalty during this time of strife and all that."
"You never do what I say anyway," Gandalf whispered back. "Listen!
They've got these idiotic beliefs about the Kings of old, see? The hands
of a King are the hands of a healer and like that. The Stewards haven't
got anything like that, not even aspirin concessions. So all you do is do
some quick healing, and whammo! Minas Tirith is our baked potato!"
"But those beliefs are true," Aragon began. "The cause of healing is
noble. For in the ancient days when our people were beset by the Darkness
and ringworm and foot-fungus in the days of Numenor the great King
Tar-Palindrome went forth and invented ointment and-"
"Look, forget ointment. Forget noble for a minute," Gandalf
interrupted. "Just think healing, okay? One or two quick heals and we'll
be on top of the oyster, whether Ariellë is alive or not."
"Ariellë?" Aragon asked, stumbling in mid-step at the name. "Not the
same Ariellë who-"
"No! That was somebody else! She's nobody," Gandalf sneered. "Look.
Forget it. You just do some Kingly-type healing, okay? Let me take care
of the rest."
Soon later they were led to Faramir's chamber. The Doctor lay on his
back in the small stifling room, pierced by the many nightmarish wounds of
the Black Helicopters and a single, conspicuously ordinary knife-wound in
his back. Aragon knelt by the bed while Gandalf stood nearby, making sure
there was a crowd of witnesses just outside the door. "My lord Faramir is
hurt most grievous," the aging Loremaster intoned through false teeth. "He
is suffering from what the Atlanteans once referred to as feagurth, or
mortalius in the Northern dialects, sometimes called spirgrache in
Edoran, or kifo-smyerte in the Russo-Swahili, or ilbloob-looblooblOObb
to the Betelgeusean-"
"What you're saying," Aragon interrupted pointedly, "is that he's
"Uh, well, yes," the Loremaster replied, "not to put too fine a point
on it. Actually, he was already dead when we brought him in this morning."
"Then why," Aragon asked angrily, "have you put him in a bed?"
"Uh. Well." The Loremaster had the decency to look embarassed. "Well,
y'see, his health insurance still had some credits on it, what with him
being a member of the Family of Stewards and all, and, well, we figured
that, what with one thing and another, with all these heating bills to
pay, if we gave him a room for a few days we could charge him for it and-"
"Say no more!" Aragon said, appalled. "Oh, there's going to be some
reorganization when I come into power-"
"Look, forget that," Gandalf cut in, stepping in hastily and rubbing
Aragon's shoulders like a coach readying a prize boxer. "Time for all that
later. Time to heal, okay? Get in there and heal!"
Aragon nodded and went to the bed. For a time all was silent. Aragon
knelt by the body and hummed a quiet mournful tune, just on the edge of
hearing, which brought to those nearby a vision of green fields and gentle
spring breezes and Willie Nelson. Then he put a hand upon Faramir's brow
and whispered, "Doctor Faramir! The King commands. Come back! Come back,
For an hour and yet another the vigil went on. Aragon's voice slowly
grew quieter, and it seemed to those watching that he was wandering in
some faraway country, searching for Faramir, looking under invisible rocks
and draining unseen bogs, and at last whittling a megaphone out of some
unseen wood so that he could shout further. Gradually more and more of the
Healers stopped in the doorway and stood in amaze, chiefly because once
they showed up Gandalf refused to let them leave. Then, just as the
observers were being driven to the end of their patience, Aragon stood. It
seemed to those nearby that he looked as one fatigued by a long struggle,
for his face was grey, and he had a leg cramp. He looked hard upon Dr
Faramir's peaceful and quiet features, and sighed; and finally he looked
to Gandalf and the Loremaster, who anxiously awaited his pronouncement.
"Uh, you're right," Aragon said simply. "He's dead, all right. No
The faces of the Healers were alight with amazement, not to mention
anger, with some sheer frothing annoyance thrown in for good measure.
Among their grumbles and yells could be heard the shrill highly-pitched
rodent trap of a voice which was Iorritant's. "'Cor, what a bloody waste
of time that was," she exploded. "Some 'ealer that one turned out to be!
About as useful as eggplant in a snowstorm, that one. 'E's even worse than
Reaver. Remember ol' Reaver and that amputation 'e did for that case o'
"Shut up! Shut up!" screamed Gandalf, overriding the din. "Okay, bad
example, I admit. But the guy was already dead, okay? Look, let's go to
someone who's just grievously wounded this time."
Eowynn lay silent and unmoving, her eyes gazing up at the ceiling. Her
face was deathly white except for a red mark upon her temple which
strongly resembled the emblem on Morrie's helmet. Eonard stood beside the
bed, distraught both by the emptiness of his sister's eyes and the more
poignant emptiness of his bottle. "She was found on the field near
HeyHoDen," the Loremaster garbled. "Though she was merely hit by some
wayward soldier's helm, she will not awaken. I fear there is some greater
mischief at work. We have been unable to give her aid, largely due to fear
of heightened malpractice premiums."
"Greater evils are at work here," Aragon explained. "For who among
mortals could yank the Black Underwear and not take grievous hurt? And yet
there is more here than this one day's sorrow. Is that not so, Eonard?"
"Indeed, yes, lord Arag'n," Eonard replied almost soberly. "For she
was grown disgusted with Edoras, and the foul enchantments o' Wormbreath
were upon her, and her name has been arbitrarily changed every time she's
appeared in a chapter. And being trampled by King HeyHoDen's honor guard
when they were picking up the King's body probably didn't help either."
Aragon nodded, and again knelt by the body. He watched her quietly for
some time, particularly her breasts which held his attention for a great
while. Then, evidently satisfied that she really was breathing, he
muttered a low incantation and drew from his pouch some thin green leaves,
which he broke in his hands and dropped into a bowl of water. A sharp
smell of basil filled the room, tangy and refreshing. Aragon followed it
up with some garlic, fresh tomatoes, dill, finely diced onion and a touch
of ginger. He sent someone for Ricotta cheese and some fettucini. Then he
called softly to Eowynn, saying there would be Italian food and that she
would miss it all if she slept through it. He called her by her many
names: Eowynn, Eowinnie, Eowynifred, Dirthead, Hey You In The Back With
The Eyeliner. He touched her brow and held her hand. He would have given
her a vigorous chest massage if there hadn't been so many people standing
around. Finally in desperation he stood up and slapped her very hard,
several times, whilst screaming her name. Eonard then grabbed his arm and
shot him a glance which looked remarkably sober. He stopped. He nodded.
"It is not right for me to wake her," Aragon wisely observed. "For
her brother should perform that honour. It would only grieve Eowinnie to
wake up to see me: virile, manly, yet unavailable. Nope, nope, no no no;
the Right and Noble course is to leave Eowynn in Eonard's capable
hands!" And just as the assembled witnesses began to howl in protest
Aragon beat a hasty retreat out of the chamber, Gandalf following mere
inches behind him.
Boromir lay groggily, fevered and wounded, and still smelling of
seaweed. "His case is most grave," the Loremaster monotonously droned,
annoyed that he was being given all the exposition. "Between the mumak,
the near-drowning, the coral reef and the barnacles, his case is most
bitter indeed. Not that the king couldn't handle it, of course," he
added, with a vituperative look at Aragon.
"Fear not!" Gandalf said airily. "Piece of cake." Moving closer to
the worried Aragon, he quietly added: "No problem here. You already
resurrected him back in Chapter Two. And do you know how many times he's
been killed already? Hell, this man won't stay dead even if you drive a
spike through his chest. You could electrocute this man with twenty
thousand volts, cut his body into tiny little pieces, soak them in acid
and fling them into mighty Anduin and then invalidate his trademark and
he'd still recover before the ink was dry on the page! Trust me, I've
seen it happen." Aragon nodded once and made for Boromir, and had
scarcely touched his arm before the Great Man of Gondor bellowed:
and immediately convulsed, fell heavily on his face on the floor, and lay
There was a long silence.
"So, uhm... is he cured, then?" Gandalf asked.
"Owww, 'e's not breathin'!" Iorritant began to squall, in a voice
shrill and loud enough to be heard over half of Gondor despite
Gandalf's sudden urgent attempts to shush her. "That Aragon bloke 'as
killed that nice Mr Boromir! Och, now that's as incompetent a job o'
healin' as Oi've ever seen in all me days. And to think that Gandalph
thought 'e could heal people better than us! And wasted our entire
evening! 'Cor, what a pig! It's good work 'e couldn't find Ariellë; an'
he was lookin' for her, mind you. About as adept a healer as hittin'
yourself on the foot with a big rock, I says." This Iorritant said and
much much more besides, and the rumour of Aragon's incompetence and
Gandalf's stupidity was carried through the night as if by
public-relations agents being paid by the word.
Pipsqueak, already nervous, jumped about a foot when Gandalf and
Aragon suddenly thrust open the door and pushed their way in; but thinking
quickly he pretended he was just worried about the sleeping Morrie.
"There's something different about him," the hobbit explained, desperately
trying to avoid Gandalf's eyes. "He's been talking in his sleep, which
isn't Morrie at all; and he's been saying things about brooms and window
cleaner and ordering new mop-heads before the morrow." And as Gandalf and
Aragon turned to the bed he took one last apologetic glance at Morrie,
slipped quickly out the door and ran into the night.
"It may be the blow to his head has harmed his mind," Aragon intoned.
He reached over to touch Morrie's brow and said in a commanding voice:
"Moribund Brandybottle. Awake!"
"Ja, ja," Morrie said immediately, opening his eyes easily. "Morrie!
That's me. What d'you need, mister?"
"Ah-HA!" Aragon laughed, turning quickly to the doorway; but there
were no witnesses, as Gandalf could no longer restrain them after the
Boromir incident. With a sigh he returned to Morrie and held up a
hand. "How many fingers?" he asked.
"All of them," Morrie replied cleverly.
"How's your memory? Forget anything? Names? Debts?" Aragon continued.
"Hah! Not me," Morrie happily told the strangers. "Mind like a
steel trap. I remember everything."
Gandalf, who had only been listening with half an ear, suddenly was
all attention. "Everything?" he asked, his expression dark. "You remember
"Ja, ja," Morrie replied happily. "Everything. Perfect. Clear as a
"Including Isengard?" Gandalf demanded.
"Oh, ja!" Morrie grinned. "I was just thinking about Isengard. I
remember the whole thing! Top to bottom. No memory lapse there."
"Ah. Well, that's good to know," Gandalf said airily. He proceeded to
the door. "Guard!" he yelled. "This Halfling has the Plague. Put him in an
isolation tank and allow absolutely no one to speak to him!"
"Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn," Gandalf
groused a moment later in the deserted hallway. "You really botched
that job up. Not even Boromir! My Eru, my dog could resurrect
Boromir. A guy can't keep Boromir from being resurrected. But
you just look at him, and whammo! Fit for burial! You stupid, toadying
imbecile." He opened a chamber door at random and they stepped in.
"I healed the halfling," Aragon pointed out.
"I wish you'd healed him like the others," Gandalf snapped
"I don't understand," Aragon mumbled. "These are the hands of a King.
They should have healed! What went wrong, I wonder? Was it the pressure?
Too many witnesses? Performance anxiety? It's a good thing I don't work in
"I don't know how the hell I'm going to get you installed as King
now. You stupid bastard." Gandalf sat down on the bed and was greeted by a
scream of pain from a soldier with a broken leg. Aragon rolled his eyes in
exasperation and grabbed the man by the lapels with one regal hand.
"You. Get out. We're talking."
"Yes, my Liege," the soldier said, jumping up and walking out
"Absolutely incompetent. Absolutely bloody incompetent," Gandalf went
on, not noticing, angrily concentrating on lighting his pipe. "Now if
you'd tried to heal Ariellë, that might have worked in our favour. But
she's still out there somewhere, damn it, and so we need a new plan."
The match broke in his hands and a burning fragment skittered across the
floor. "New plan. Totally different angle. Like... damn, that was my last
match. Have you got a match?" He looked at Aragon and then strode angrily
out to the hallway. "Hasn't somebody in this Eruforsaken dump got a
fucking match?" he screamed at the top of his lungs; and his voice
echoed and reverberated off the stone walls.
"You've got the Ring of Fire," Aragon reminded him quietly.
"Yeah, but it needs a new flint," Gandalf grumbled. "Okay. Healing
wasn't it. But we've got to get you doing something Kingly, or else you'll
never be accepted by this rabble. Damn it. We need a new plan."
This chapter of this epic work is presented through the courtesy of
O. Sharp <ohh-aaaaaaat-drizzle-dawt-com>.
Copyright © 2001 by the author. All rights reserved. Some variance between this
e-text and the original printed material by Professor Tolkien is inevitable. Using this
as an electronic resource for scholarly or research purposes may lead to a certain
degree of academic embarassment. All agree that the printed version of the text,
available from respectable publishers such as Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine Books,
is to be preferred.
Boromir, Minas Tirith and Gondor
are trademarks of Saul Zaentz and Tolkien Enterprises, who hold all merchandising rights to
Gondor and its subsidiaries.
In today's performance the part of Iorritant was played by Margaret Thatcher.