Gandalf sat down heavily on a bench by the wall in the Houses of Healing. Perhaps he could rest for a bit, now that Faramir, and Eowyn, and Merry were out of danger. He was very weary. He leaned back against the wall and closed his eyes, just for a moment…
He was suddenly jolted back to consciousness by someone tugging at his sleeve.
“Mithrandir, Mithrandir.” Gandalf looked about him. How long had he slept? Ioreth, the old gossip who worked in the Houses of Healing, was leaning over him.
“How long have you been sitting here, now?” she asked. Without waiting for a response, she said, “You need to eat, and then off to bed with you.”
Gandalf pulled his sleeve away indignantly. Who was this old woman, to order him around? The dame persisted.
“On your feet then, and follow me.”
“I’m not going anywhere. I need to watch over my friends.”
“Watching, you call it? It looked more like sleeping to me. What you need is to stop being so stubborn. I’ve seen it time and again. Those who sit with the sick take no thought for their own health, and what follows? Soon the Master has twice as many patients as before. Now come along. What you need now is soup and bread and beer.”
Gandalf decided that beer didn’t sound too bad, and the patients did all seem to be resting comfortably since Aragorn had attended to them. He allowed Ioreth to lead him out across the courtyard, into the low building that housed the kitchen.
“Sit!” she said, pointing to a bench beside the long trestle table that ran down the length of the room. Gandalf watched the old dame as she bustled about the kitchen, fetching a small loaf of brown bread, and a large tankard of brown beer.
“Here’s for starters,” she said setting them before the wizard. “In just a moment, I’ll heat up this soup.”
She added kindling to the fire, and began stirring what remained in the great kettle hanging over the hearth. Gandalf sipped his beer as he watched her hustling about.
The beer was surprisingly good. The best beer he’d tasted east of the mountains. He took another long drink.
“Slow down, there! You mustn’t drink all of that on an empty stomach or you’ll drown your wits for sure,” Ioreth chided.
“It’s very good. Where did it come from?”
“I brewed it myself,” the gossip replied with a touch of pride. “You’ll not find better in all Minas Tirith!”
Gandalf looked at the old woman with new respect. He had thought her only a talkative nuisance. He hadn’t realized she possessed such an exceptional talent.
He watched her as she stirred the soup. Her white hair was gathered into a long braid, and covered by a neat kerchief. Her blue eyes sparkled with suppressed merriment. The wrinkles in her face proclaimed that she had laughed often in her life time. He cast a critical eye over her figure. She was plump enough to not be bony, though a triffle scrawny by Hobbit standards. She was actually very attractive for a woman of her age, Gandalf decided as he finished off the beer. When her back was turned to him, he helped himself to more, refilling his mug from the keg behind him.
“It is the best beer I’ve tasted in many a day, brewed by the fairest woman I’ve seen in all Minas Tirith.”
Ioreth snorted. “Well, there’s high praise! As if there were more than a dozen women left in the city. Eat!” she ordered, pushing the bread toward him.
Gandalf tore a piece from the loaf in front of him, for her benefit. As soon as her back was turned again he took another swig of beer, instead of eating it. He was deciding that he really had misjudged the woman. In spite of her prattling tongue, she was wiser than he’d given her credit for. Gandalf took another sip of his beer. It was she, after all, who had brought to mind the old saying which had prompted him to fetch Aragorn: "the hands of a king are the hands of a healer." She was possessed of a keen wit and versed in old lore.
“I ought to get to know her better,” Gandalf decided, taking another long drink of her excellent beer.
“Here, the soup’s hot,” said Ioreth, as she ladled it into a large wooden bowl. She carried the piping hot soup to the table and set it before Gandalf.
“You’ll need a spoon,” she said looking about for one. Before she could fetch it, Gandalf caught her by the hand and pulled her onto his lap.
“You know, Ioreth, I think I misjudged you. You are a wise and talented woman, and…”
Ioreth cut him off with a laugh, “I’m far too wise to believe anything said to me by a man with a beer in his hand, even if he is a wizard!” She stood up and reached for the spoon. She looked directly into his eyes as she turned to hand it to him. Something about her was very familiar…
“You, of all people, ought to know never to judge a book by its cover, Olorin!” She arched an eyebrow and gave Gandalf a wry and knowing smile.
The wizard shook his foggy head. How could she know that that had been his name? Was she…?
She smiled her enigmatic smile. “Someone’s got to look after you, if you won’t look after yourself,” she said, thrusting the spoon in his face. “Now eat your soup!” Gandalf looked circumspectly down at his bowl, and this time he did as he was told. He decided he had better mind his manners. One never knew who might be watching.
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.