1. Below the Balcony
'Did I not tell you to fetch another cloth? This man has a leg wound that needs care.'
The nurse ducked her head, her ebony eyes wide. 'The stores are empty,' she said. 'All of the Houses are filled.' It had been a week since the Pelennor, but the wounded were still coming in.
The woman who had spoken first clenched her teeth—her fearful eyes had never left her patient, but now they turned to her clothes. She tugged off her skirt and tunic without delay as the sweating man mumbled, half-awake, in a foggy world away from war.
'Give me a knife, any knife,' the woman muttered. 'Mine are all lent out.' The nurse grabbed for her belt knife and handed it to her superior, now only in petticoats. The healer hacked at the rough cloth, her brow stitched in worry. When she had a sufficient dressing, she dipped it in the bowl of spirit next to her feet, scrubbing the dirt away with anxious but very steady hands. The cloth was then dipped into a bucket of boiling water, brought by her nurse from a fire in the corner of the room.
'It is too late to repair with silk or catgut,' murmured the woman, washing the gash gently with the water, glad that the man was now unconscious. 'If I clean it, it should heal itself. The wound does not go deep, only far.'
The nurse nodded. Though convinced the healer would soon order her to another infirm—or the sheer madness of the entry room—she could not move yet. Her eyes were riveted to the soldier's gruesome leg, to the kneeling woman, and her ears heard not the sound of their breathing. Long moments passed until the soldier sighed in sleep, his anxious visage relaxing, and at this his caregivers allowed themselves a smile. The woman stood, her sooty legs revealed.
'Come,' she ordered, 'let us see if we can bring well-deserved repose to another hero.'
A trembling arm stayed her as she left. 'Look,' the nurse whispered, 'look. Look to the wall below us. Methinks it is the Lord Steward.'
'And the lady of Rohan, by whose sword the Witch-king fell!'
'How he speaks to her! And how she looks to him, as though he had an answer to a pressing question. Do you see they notice no one else?'
At that both tongues were curbed, for what passed after needed no words.
The great victory of Gondor had given the boy courage at last to speak, and where he walked before alone and in sorrow he now walked in pride and peace. He believed the girl beside him to be brighter than the sun, a daughter of the moon, and a thousand other things would he say with the Darkness behind him and his fingers twined in her fair hair, and his ears full of her laughter. As he kissed her cheek he breathed her richness, and looked away for just a moment to behold two figures, high on the walls of Minas Tirith, not unlike those of him and his lover. The vision gave him faith in his imitation.
In this time of rejoicing he did not feel guilty to return again to his garden, which was not more than a clay pot full of earth and leaves. While the sun did not rise all hope of life had faded, but now he would make it anew. Slowly the old man packed the soil, gently, leaving the dirt loose so his flowers could breathe, and when he poured the water once more, for the first time in too long, he smiled.
'I would see you grow again,' he confided, and almost he fancied he saw a tendril poke its head out, as though to test this new beginning.
Out of his window was another new beginning, and when he looked away at last he saw: a couple on the high walls of Minas Tirith, knowing naught but the sun and the air and the sky and the feel of their bodies together, never to be parted, as long as flowers could bloom in the gardens of Middle-earth.
The children were thrilled to learn that once again they were allowed out-of-doors, and scattered in the sunlight laughing, dancing, tagging each other and running off with mischievous eyes. Following, the giggling babe snug in her arms, was their mother; she shrieked with long-forgotten delight as her husband joined her little ones in their games.
'Look at you,' she murmured. 'Will you always long to play with your older brothers, or sympathize with your younger sister? Methinks it shall be both.'
Her youngest child gurgled, spreading his legs out to grin in assent.
'Soon you will learn to carve wood and forge metal,' his mother continued, letting weariness show in her eyes a little. 'Or perhaps not. Perhaps Gondor has no further need of swords. I would that it were so.'
Squirming in her arms, her youngest child patted her lips roughly and planted a circle of drool on her cheek. He stood up in her palms and leaned over her collarbone, gazing back at the city. Only he saw it, though he could not yet comprehend: the man with his head tilted, deferring to a woman he loved; the laugh of the woman; the realization in her eyes; and the blissful embrace, so careless and careful at the same time, the first of their many romances together.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.