69. A Magic Dwells in Each Beginning
Éomer and his guard escorted us for half a day's ride, then they turned back to Edoras.
We would be much faster on our way to Minas Tirith than we had been coming to Edoras as the funeral escort of Théoden. I guessed we would need about twelve days, as we were travelling with a much smaller entourage and just a few carriages.
On the third day we had left the Dwimorberg behind us and were in the middle of the Eastfold. The woods on the foothills of the Ered Nimrais were already changing colour. Summer was over. For a moment I halted Mimi. By now I felt completely safe on her back. Although I still controlled her mainly by speaking to her in Sindarin, I was by now well able to control her paces with the reins and the nudges of my legs against her sides. But I really preferred talking to her. She was my friend. It's nicer to talk to your friend than to kick a friend. Even if that friend is a horse.
From my vantage point, I could see the glittering floods of the Anduin as a faint silver ribbon some thirty miles to the north. The fertile plains of the Eastfold had turned to gold, and the soft September breeze whispered among the grasses and the fields of barley, wheat and corn that surrounded the village nestling in a low dell just a few miles away from us. In the blue sky above us eagles were wheeling, searching for prey.
In Rohan wilderness and civilization blended together harmoniously. I think that was what I loved most about my new home. You had the freedom of wide plains and wild mountains, but there were also sheltered villages and towns, farms with fields and orchards, well-maintained roads that made you feel safe and at home.
Tomorrow we would reach Mering Stream and the borderline. I sighed. Then I rubbed the sleeve of my shirt across my forehead. It was still warm, and now, at noon, after riding five hours, I was hot and sweaty. Mithril felt good and solid between my legs. She snorted softly, as if to ask why we were stopping here when the others were riding on. I patted her neck, but was reluctant to go on. I wanted to fix my image of Rohan in my mind, so that I would not forget my new home during the long months of fall and winter in Gondor. Also, every mile added to the distance between Éomer and me seemed to increase a sensation of gnawing pain in my heart. I had never missed someone like that before. There was a constant lump in my throat, a heavy weight in my stomach, an ache in my very bones. When had that happened? How had it happened?
How does love grow?
Mimi neighed softly and shook her head. I turned around and noticed Arwen riding towards us. Arwen enjoyed the journey. Getting away from the place where she had had to bid her father farewell was good for her. Although she was still pale and quiet, her grief had subsided a little. "Aragorn is worried," Arwen called out to me. "Is something wrong?"
I shook my head and told Mimi to get going. When I was riding along next to Arwen, I explained, "I just want to make sure that I remember what Rohan looks like. And... I don't really want to leave. I know it's better that way, and I am really looking forward to spending the winter with your brothers, but still..."
Arwen shuddered in mock horror, then she grinned at me impishly. "I would not be looking forward to having Elladan and Elrohir as teachers; they are not nearly as patient as my Ada."
I smiled back at her. When she talked about her father, her eyes darkened; but it was good to know that she could talk about him. "What can't be cured, must be endured..." I replied. "And I guess I don't need patient teachers. I need to learn a lot, and quickly."
"They will make sure of that," Arwen promised. "Race me?"
"You'll lose. Mearas are faster than Elvish horses."
The Queen of Gondor raised a delicately slanted black eyebrow at me. "Are you willing to bet on that?"
"Okay-let's do it. On the count of three."
Together we called out the numbers, "One, two, and THREE!"
"Celeg! Fast!" I screamed at Mithril and ducked low against her neck. Mithril's muscles bunched together and off we were, racing along the road. The rush of speed made my heart race; the wind drove tears to my eyes. Out of the corners of my eyes I saw a grey blur coming closer. Damn, Elvish horses are fast!
"Celeg, celeg! MITHRIL!" I shouted, crouching lower against Mithril's back to offer less resistance to the air. Mithril sped up. She was as swift as a storm wind, a silver arrow released from the bow. But Arwen kept up. Could it be possible?
Suddenly Arwen was level with me.
"CELEG!" I cried again, and with another immense burst of speed, Mithril was away.
Suddenly I grew aware of my surroundings again.
We had passed the company. We had won!
I slowed Mithril down, allowing her to change her paces smoothly and slowly. Finally we were down to an easy walk. Mithril was breathing heavily and her coat was wet with sweat. But she snorted happily, turning her head as if to see why it was taking Arwen and her grey steed such a long time to catch up with us. When Arwen reached us, her cheeks were red from the exercise, her eyes were bright, and she was smiling happily. "I have to admit, Mearas are faster than Elvish horses," she told me admiringly. "Mithril is a miracle."
"You were not so bad yourself," I commented. "For a moment or two I thought you'd get me. I think Mithril likes racing."
Arwen looked my horse up and down. "Yes, she sure looks very proud of herself. And look, she's not even gasping! And only a little sweaty!"
Indeed, Mithril was walking along the road as if nothing had happened. I stroked her still slightly damp neck, promising her all kinds of treats when we made camp tonight.
"We'd better wait for the company," I said when I straightened up. "We are about three miles ahead of them... with no guards."
Arwen made a face. "Aragorn acts as if I was a frail princess. It's not as if cannot fight."
I shrugged. "But I cannot fight, and there's really no need to risk our lives in peacetime. I don't want to entice any idiot robbers or muggers into giving me another couple of scars. I am quite content with the collection I've got already."
Arwen sighed, but she halted her horse. The grey mare with the name of Hithlain nickered inquiringly, but did as she was bid. Mithril simply lowered her neck, starting to graze at the side of the road. Half an hour later the company reached us. Aragorn scolded Arwen, Míri reprimanded me. Arwen put up an eloquent defence, which put a look of despair on Aragorn's face. I meekly accepted Míri's rebuke. She was right: it had been a dangerous stunt and certainly not appropriate behaviour for the Queen of Gondor and the future Queen of Rohan.
But I had thoroughly enjoyed myself-and for the time being I did not even feel miserable anymore at leaving Rohan, so our little escapade had been well worth the scolding.
We did not even need twelve days to reach Minas Tirith. We passed the Forannest in the afternoon of the eleventh day on the road. The white walls of Minas Tirith gleamed in the evening sun as we rode across the lifeless and desolate fields of the Pelennor on the eleventh of September.
This time I would stay in the guest quarters of the royal palace. As we passed by the white villa on the sixth circle of the city, I felt a small pang of regret at the happy times I had spent there with my friends from the fellowship. Those were the days...
Lord Húrin of the Keyes was happy to welcome back the King and Steward. Leaving the country for weeks such a short time after claiming the throne had been risky. But Aragorn had been lucky. Nothing had happened... apart from a minor squabble between the ambassadors of Harondor and Khand about the choice of mansions for the embassy and a skirmish between the guard of Ithilien and a troop of orcs close to the Morgul Pass. One warrior was killed, two were wounded. No orc had survived. Business as usual.
When I finally entered Míri's and Ada's apartments after seeing to Mimi, I was assaulted by a screaming and yelling horde.
The horde turned out to be Mel and Númendil, with a laughing Elphir following a little slower behind them.
Ada had been absolutely correct. The boys did want an older sister. I don't understand their reasoning. Perhaps they thought I would be less strict with them than Míri - as if I would ever get a chance... Perhaps they wanted to practice knightly behaviour. That is what Elphir told me, anyway. Elphir had to excuse himself for the evening, because he was on duty tonight, which I thought was a little mean, as he had been on duty throughout our trip to Rohan and back as captain of the guard. But he took that in stride. I think he enjoys the responsibility. He will come to Dol Amroth at the beginning of November with the King and the Queen when they finish the royal progress. And he hopes that it will be possible for him to come and visit us at Dol Amroth around mid-winter. I'd like that, I think. I would like to get to know my older brother. Up until now I have barely talked to him. And although he is always very friendly and charming towards me, I feel a little apprehensive about him. After all, the dead Lothíriel was his twin sister.
So the little ones huggled me, and Mel insisted on sitting on my lap in the living room when they were treated to a full account of our stay in Rohan.
I don't understand the boys. But perhaps I don't have to understand them. I guess I can settle for simply being happy at having two younger brothers who love me, and whom I adore, and an older brother, whom I adore and who is a friend to me, even though I have in effect replaced his dead twin.
A maid servant had lit the fire and a joss stick that filled the room with a spicy fragrance of cinnamon and ginger. The little boy on my knees was a warm and heavy weight. Now and again he squirmed with laughter at his father's funny way of telling about our experiences with Rohirric customs. His soft, light brown hair was silky against my cheeks and smelled of honey.
Imrahil looked at us and smiled. His strange pale grey eyes were full of warmth, and I knew that he did not only smile at his youngest son, but that he smiled at me, too.
A sudden, unexpected feeling of warmth flooded me. Political considerations notwithstanding, I had found a family with the Prince of Dol Amroth, his wife and children. A real family. People who belonged to me. People I belonged to. People who genuinely cared for me.
Suddenly I remembered a poem that I had learned by heart to please the mother of my step-father when I was fourteen, and the old lady had to stay in a hospital for a few weeks. It was the poem "Steps", by Herman Hesse. It is a poem about beginnings and endings, about saying farewell and going on. I was never able to recall every verse of the poem after I had recited it for my grandmother. But now I remembered one verse very clearly.
"At life's each call the heart must be prepared
to take its leave and to commence afresh,
courageously and with no hint of grief
submit itself to other, newer ties.
A magic dwells in each beginning and
protecting us it tells us how to live."
"Es muss das Herz bei jedem Lebensrufe
bereit zum Abschied sein und Neubeginne,
um sich in Tapferkeit und ohne Trauern
in and're, neue Bindungen zu geben.
Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne,
der uns beschützt und der uns hilft zu leben."
As I sat there listening to my new Ada, my new little brother cuddled against me, I felt sure that this new beginning of my life was protected by a kind of magic, or perhaps the blessing of the Valar. I had been ready to leave the world I was born in for a world of war and danger. Now I had to be ready to live in this world, in this new age.
But I was glad that I would not have to do it alone.
We stayed in Minas Tirith for three days only, as long as it took to prepare for the journey back to Dol Amroth. Although I have to admit that I did not make it through my goodbyes to Arwen and Aragorn without tears, there were few. The royal progress would take Aragorn and Arwen to Dol Amroth at the beginning of November, so we would see each other again soon.
Travelling with a carriage and the ponies of Mel and Númendil slowed us down on our way back to Dol Amroth. We achieved a speed of a little more than thirty miles a day, which is still pretty fast, but nevertheless we needed a week to get from Minas Tirith to Tarnost. Racing Mithril I had made the same distance within three days... But the weather stayed fine. It was a golden, balmy fall, just as it had been a glorious, hot summer. It was also a lot of fun to travel with the boys. For them the journey was a big adventure. It was also the first time in years their father had the time and the peace to spend his days with the boys. Imrahil and his sons could not be parted: they were riding, fishing, hunting, bathing, eating and sleeping together.
We reached Tarnost on the twenty-first of September - it was a cloudy day, with only a pale sun and a stormy wind that blew the first yellow and orange leaves from the branches of the trees, but it was not really cold and there was no rain, so our journey had been quite pleasant that day. We were welcomed by the Lord of Tarnost, Dorlas, and his lovely wife, Melisande, with a ceremonial goblet of white wine. I enjoyed the wine, because it gave me the courage to talk to Lady Míriël about seeking the aid of the Lady Elaine.
"So you have a... stick in your arm that prevents you from conceiving a child. And it has to be taken out now so that you will be able to conceive in a year's time." Elaine summarized what I had just explained to her. There was a gleam of fascination in her eyes.
I gulped. I was not exactly looking forward to having a knife put to my arm with no anaesthetics at all. "Well, I am not sure how long my body will take to go back to normal. So I thought I might as well get it over with now, just to be sure."
Míri nodded approvingly and patted my tense shoulders to calm me.
"Let me see your arm, please," Elaine said.
I held my bared left arm out to her, pointing out the placement of the implant.
Carefully the healer stroked across the skin of my arm. "Yes, there is something under your skin," she said slowly, with the barest hint of curiosity in her voice. "About an inch in length, I think. It feels like a twig, or a fish bone, very thin. It is not deep. Have you any suggestion how to remove it?"
I looked at my arm and felt sick. "Make a small incision and try to pull it out with tweezers? I think it will be... er... stuck to the," I gulped again, "...to the flesh."
Elaine ran her fingers across my arm again. She nodded to herself. "Yes, I think so, too. It would be the best way and the scar would be small."
Yes... And with the methods of the twenty-first century back on Earth, there would be no scar at all if you don't have a particularly sensitive skin... But right now I felt that I wouldn't complain about a small scar if it was over quickly.
Elaine made me lie down on the table of the surgery and had Míri hold down my arm. She swabbed the skin with alcohol to disinfect it. I tried to relax.
She took up the scalpel from a silver tray her maid-servant held out to her.
I still tried to relax and looked straight at the ceiling of the room, trying to think of... anything... anything at all but my arm and that scalpel.
I tried to relax.
I yelled bloody murder.
I felt a warm flood of blood running across my arm.
Then Elaine reached for the tweezers.
"Yes, I can see it. It's white and pliable," Elaine said calmly. "There! I've got it. Now we'll have to see how closely it is embedded in your flesh."
She tugged at the tweezers.
I screamed in a very undignified way. It was not a terrible pain. But it was rather much more painful than I had expected it to be without having a spot of anaesthetics first to numb my arm.
"Well, I guess I'll have to pull harder," Elaine said. "Brace yourself. This time I'll get it."
I did brace myself.
I am proud to say that I did not scream again.
She got it out this time.
She needed only one stitch to close the cut. The blood was washed off and the wound was bound tightly in a moment.
I felt slightly dizzy when I sat up, and my arm pulsed with red-hot pain. But altogether I had expected it to be worse.
Elaine held out the small silver tray with the Implanon to us. I sighed as I looked down at the small white stick on the tray, lying in a spot of wet blood. With this the last connection to the world of my birth was irrevocably cut. Cut in the truest sense of the meaning.
Míri and Elaine looked at the small white plastic strip in fascination.
"And this does exactly what?" Elaine asked again. Obviously the healer wanted to know more about hormones and how they worked in the human body.
"Would you mind very much if I tried to explain what I know about the medicine of the world where I was born another time? I don't really feel up to it right now," I said plaintively.
Elaine sighed a little; plainly impatient with me, but then she smiled. "No, of course not. I could come and visit you during the winter, and then we could talk about how healing is done where you grew up."
"You would be very welcome," Míri told the formidable healer of Tarnost.
"I did mention that I have only a very faint knowledge of medicine - er - healing, didn't I? I studied law, not medicine," I commented. I did not really think that I would be able to tell Elaine anything really interesting.
But the healer only shrugged and smiled. "Anything new at all is always welcome."
"If you say so," I said dubiously.
Then I retired with Míri to the great hall of Tarnost and a fortifying mug of mulled cider.
I was lucky. The cut did not get infected and the scar that remained was almost invisible. Two days later, when we hit the road again for the last leg of our journey, only a more or less painful blue and green bruise reminded me of where the Implanon had resided for the last twenty months. I have to admit though that I was hoping that my body would take its time getting back to normal, painful monthlies.
We arrived at Dol Amroth late in the evening of the 29th of September.
I knew that I would stay in Dol Amroth for six months, and I have to admit I was glad about it. It was time to stay in one and the same place for a bit. A year of never remaining in any one place for longer than a month simply takes its toll. It would be great to wake up in the morning without this weird feeling of confusion about where I was. I went to bed and fell asleep at once, exhausted from almost a month of riding from Edoras to Dol Amroth, but happy. I was sure that I would wake in the morning with no doubt at all about where I was.
I liked that thought.
I probably fell asleep with a smile on my face.
A/N: The excellent translation of the poem is by Mervyn Savill.