3. The Waking
When I woke, the fire had burnt low. There were still shards of broken chairs by the hearth. I remember thinking, 'I must get wood brought up if we're to retain any furniture at all!'
She still sat with him propped against her, though she'd piled pillows to give him some ease as she lent back against the bed-board. I became aware she was watching me over his sleeping head. I started to stir myself.
"Don't trouble yet," she said, "It is not dawn."
I nodded, happy enough to watch him sleep. His breathing was a little easier, still hoarse, but the coughing seemed less. He stirred fitfully in his sleep, frowning with pain.
"Let me make him a draft," I whispered, "we need to get those wounds probed and properly stitched – and it would be better he slept through that."
She nodded. I climbed stiffly from my 'bed'. I'm not so used to sleeping rough these days, life has become too easy for me. I threw the last of the chairs on the fire and prepared to set a pot over it.
"He told me who you are," she said.
"Aye?" I choose not to acknowledge who she meant by 'he'.
"He told me that he recognised you at once," she persisted.
"I thought he would have forgotten me by now." I shrugged and turned to the water, but I was gratified; I've never forgotten him, or ever will.
She snorted her scorn. "He would not forget his friend – especially such a friend" – though she used the elven word – 'meleth', which truly means more than 'friend'.
I turned to hide my smile. It's a word I'm still known by; he had first given that to me as name many years ago… my Captain remembered! I busied myself with herbs and water but she saw my blushes. I was determined not to play the silly maiden.
"You known him of old then?" I asked. I tried to be as casual as I could as I poured hot water for the tea, then refilled the kettle to boil more without turning fully to look at her.
She nodded. "He has often spoken of you. I knew him long before he journeyed south to Gondor. We are old friends."
"Yes," I said.
There're many, unfamiliar with the Fair Folk, would be surprised just how many years hide behind those youthful, elven features. "If you know the Dunadan that well, then I do know of you. We spoke of much, while we were… travelling together. Doubtless... you will have known the last king crowned in Minas Tirith?"
She inclined her head, "I knew of him, but we did not meet."
So – well over a thousand years old this one – I shook my head in wonder – can you doubt that Ar-Pharazon coveted their gift – to age so very, very slowly.
My self, well I'm older than I look, as indeed is he. I am not of the Dunadan's line, far from it, but my fore-bearers were of Numinorean stock and proud of it. They inter-wed with like, that blood, though diluted, is still strong in us. Even if I look in middle years I'm near eighty; not that I encourage such enquiries, it leads to jealousy. I swear I've concocted youthfulness by herbs and potions. Yes, and some of the fools believe me enough to pay good money for them!
She interrupted my reverie.
"He was, is... very… fond of you."
I nodded; it was ever the best I could hope for. He would never truly love me; his heart was given to the Elven Princess, she was his destiny. I knew it from the beginning; that manner of love was not to be a part of what was between us. Ours was a more… practical relationship.
"He was kind to me," I said.
"And you were more than kind to him."
I shrugged. She wanted to know more about us, but wasn't about to ask directly – surprisingly, I felt I wanted to tell her, and it is something I've never told anyone. But where do you begin tales like that?
I prepared the poppy-juice, with hen bane and mandrake; it really needed honey to make it palatable. The kitchens should be stirring and the healers. I would fetch from both what we needed. I reached for the ivory slip on my chatelaine and wrote a few notes. I saw her watch me with a quizzical eye.
"Yes. I can write!" I said sharply "I may not be as he, but I am no unlettered peasant!"
I confess I was harsher than I meant, but there are those 'ladies' at Court who look askance at me for no more reason than, they have inherited wealth and I was once a slave before becoming a bonded servant, and now 'have risen' to live by trade alone. But my line I trace back beyond the time their ancestors scratched a living from dirt and whelped in pig-pens!
She merely smiled, amused at my outburst, but not scornful. "There are those, Melleth, that look askance at me also."
I relaxed; to speak so was foolish of me, but as they say, pride has always been a 'family' failing!
"Your pardon Ma…"
She frowned. "…er, Ranger. Come, let us get him to drink." I said.
In truth, our voices had already woken him. His eyelids fluttered and his gaze came into focus, first on the room and then on her.
"My northstar…" he murmured.
At that a few points clicked home for me to. His brother had been inclined to speak confidences to his old nurse, well – let's not put too fine a point on it – brag of his conquests in the town and rant about his father, was the main run of things. Boromir knew all his secrets were safe with me, even the long standing affection he felt for the Horse-lord's son. My sweet Faramir schooled his mouth far closer, only the direst need would cause him to share his thoughts with any but his brother, but - now and again - and this was the one of whom he'd made hesitant mention. To the extent I knew how much she meant to him, by how he didn't speak of her directly. But Boromir – he knew – so, I would have to be careful what I said. A confidence given to me is a confidence kept forever. But oh, ...the love in his eyes when he looked at her. Her face was all tenderness now as she leaned in to kiss him.
"Ranger…? The draft…?" I made to pass her the cup. He shook his head.
"The wounds need looking at and your shoulder set. Drink!" she said, though her command was gentle.
"In a moment then – first we must speak." He struggled to raise his arm to touch her face, but the pain stopped him.
Honeyed or not, he needed to drink the medicine. I poured some wine into the cup to try and take the bitter taste away.
"Come sweeting," I coaxed, "Drink, you'll have time enough to speak before you sleep, and even more time after!"
His gaze drifted to me; he smiled wanly. "I thought it was you… but I've been drifting in dreams. I felt I'd travelled along way away. Then someone called me back…"
The ranger bit her lip.
"…it was warm and so comfortable where I was, but he called and I had to come. Then the pain… came back…" he faltered.
She held him as tightly as she felt his scorched flesh could bear, as her eyes filled with tears. I fetched more hot tea for them.
"Hush sweeting. Come drink the tea now, but you must have the poppy-draft after."
He nodded, and between us we got him to sip the hot drink. I put more athelas into a bowl of boiling water and set it beside the bed.
He sniffed, "I know that smell. I tasted it on… he looked at her in confusion.
"He breathed healing into you," she said softly.
Whether he knew exactly what had happened I doubted; he had been so near to leaving this world when the Dunadan had bid him stay. It is something I have seen him do before, but that was so many years ago – all my memories flooded back. Now there were tears in my eyes too!
I busied myself fussing over the fire and fresh water while they murmured together. Breakfast, yes, that's what we needed, and a healer. I sniffed and rubbed my face dry with my hand.
"Come Master Faramir," I adopted my sternest voice, "now is time for your medicine."
He almost laughed. "Yes, Mistress," he said softly, then to her, "My amah was always fearfully strict…" She smiled back at me. "… she would beat my brother and I."
"Nonsense," I said, "you only had a clout when you needed it, and it was more often your brother than you!"
"That's because I didn't get caught!"
He dipped his head as the coughing took him again; his whole body was wracked by it, leaving him weak and gasping. This wouldn't do.
While she held him I coaxed the draft past his lips, bitter as it was. It would take some ten to twenty minutes, then the second, stronger anodyne when he was relaxed enough not to struggle against it.
"I'll give you some time together," I said, "I need to fetch clean cloths and supplies."
I briefly pressed my hand to his forehead, still fevered. She pressed her hand to mine.
"I would hear more of you and the Dunadan," she whispered, "be assured, he has never forgotten you."
I nodded quickly and left the room. Closing the door behind me, I leant against the cool stone of the corridor.
'He has never forgotten me – never forgotten me.' You don't know how those words made my heart skip – but, if he was come here at last, could I bear to stay here too? My mind was all confusion as I hurried down the stairs to the healer's kitchen.
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.