Author’s Note: Hi, everyone! Here is chapter three! I know it’s a little shorter than the last chapter, but the next will be pretty long, so that should make up for it! Thanks for reading, and super thanks to the reviewers!
* * * *
The next day, some hours after Ioreth and Sanore arrived in the morning, the Warden of the House of Healing emerged from his musty private quarters with directives
“Sanore, my dear!” he called, limping forward and interrupting her and Ioreth’s interrogation of a young woman who was heavy with child. Well.. Ioreth was interrogating. Sanore was listening and trying to learn.
Sanore went to stand by the warden dutifully and waited for him to speak. She didn’t have to wait long.
“Sanore, I have decided to send you to young Lord Faramir this morn instead of Ioreth. You will not learn how to care for the wounded and sick by just watching myself and your cousin, and this will be a fine chance for you to begin learning,” he announced calmly.
Sanore widened her eyes. “But, sir, I have only just arrived. How can you know that I will do it correctly?”
“I hear that you are no stranger to sickness, whatever you may think. Did you not go at times with your mother to aid the wounded men of Osgiliath?”
Sanore looked away from the warden’s piercing gaze. “Aye, I did,” she mumbled. “But I just watched. I wasn’t allowed to do anything of importance.”
“It was enough,” the warden proclaimed. “And what I send you to do today is not difficult. Take this salve,” he handed it to her, “and after you wash his wound again, rub it on thoroughly. Then wrap his arm again with these clean bandages.” He thrust them into her hands.
“That is all?” she asked in a timid voice.
“Aye, that will do for today. If he is in any pain with it, and I doubt he will admit to it if he is, then instruct the cook to give him a cup of tea with a couple of rosemary leaves brewed into it. It will dull the pain.”
Sanore furrowed her brow as she tucked this new bit of information away. “I will try to remember. When must I go?”
The warden smiled at her soothingly. “Directly, child, else the young lord will be making his way to us.”
Sanore nodded once and left without another word. The warden chuckled quietly as she went. “Young things,” he said sentimentally. “More faint-hearted than they used to be, and that is a fact.”
* * * *
Sanore, breathing heavy from the steep climb up the sloped, cobblestone streets of Minas Tirith, at last trod wearily into the gates of the palace where the Steward dwelt with his sons.
A guard, clad in the livery of the White City, stopped her.
“Where are you bound, young one?” he asked, not unkindly.
Sanorë scowled at him. She objected very strongly to being called ‘young one’ by a man who didn’t seem to be much older than herself. She held up the packages the warden had given her, as though they explained everything.
The guard smiled tolerantly. He clearly didn’t comprehend. “Yes?”
“I’m here to see Lord Faramir,” she finally said, after a few seconds of silence.
“Ahh!” the guard said with a grin. “So Lord Faramir has finally gotten a girl, has he? Come along then, I’ll take you to him.”
Sanore was on the verge of protesting the fact that she was in no way romantically connected to the younger son of the Steward, but the guard didn’t seem to notice, as he took off in the direction of the tall, wide, wooden doors.
Sanorë followed him mutely, but when she saw the White Tree, she stopped in her tracks.
“What has happened to it?” she squawked. When her father had brought her to the City before when she was a child, the Tree had been in full bloom, white and beautiful. Now… It was wilted and its leaves were dropping slowly. It looked dry, pitiful, and dead. The white trunk was gnarled and ugly.
The guard came to stand by her. “Nothing that we could prevent,” he said gravely. “Now come.”
Sanore tore her eyes away from the tree and went with the guard, who swung the huge doors open for her.
“This way,” he muttered, heading up a flight of stairs and down a long, empty hallway. There were many doors along the hall, and all of them were closed. Sanorë found herself thinking how much fun it would be to simply explore the place, looking in every room and abandoned trunk.
She stopped when the guard stopped halfway down the corridor. He raised his fist and rapped several times on one of the doors.
A quiet, “Come in!” drifted through the door.
The guard motioned her through the entrance with a smirk on his face.
Sanorë ignored him frostily and swept through the door, clutching her bundles possessively.
The guard retreated back down the hallway, still smirking.
“Lord Faramir?” she asked quietly. The room was rather forbidding, she had to say. There were tall, wide shelves along every wall, and all held numerous books, most of them dusty, heavy volumes that gave Sanorë a headache to simply consider reading through them.
There was a wooden bed, made up neatly, and a writing desk. To provide light and warmth, there were bowls of fire hung where there were no shelves.
Sanorë didn’t like it, and found herself being quite thankful for the small, cheerful room she shared with her cousin.
“Lord Faramir?” she called again, a little louder. “Are you here?”
“Aye, indeed I am,” a voice said from behind her.
She jumped nervously. “Ah, good.” She tried to put a smile on her face. “The warden sent me to have a look at your arm and put a fresh bandage on it.”
“Lady Sanorë, is it?” he said graciously, making relaxed bow. “It is an honor to meet you again. I thank you for coming.”
“Oh, it’s no trouble at all,” she answered, feeling more at ease. “If you’ll just take a seat?” Giving an order somehow made her feel more in control, more collected.
Faramir sat down sideways at his desk obligingly and rolled up his shirt sleeve. Sanorë knelt down beside him and removed the bandage from his arm carefully. She tried to fight down the queasy feeling that bubbled in her stomach at the sight of the horrible gash marring Faramir’s arm. The last thing she wanted was to be sick in front of someone she was trying to cure. It just wouldn’t say much for her future as a healer.
“Rather ugly, isn’t it,” Faramir observed. “Did the warden say whether or not it would scar much?”
“No, he didn’t,” Sanorë answered distractedly, concentrating on the application of the salve. “Does it hurt much?”
“Of course not, it’s just a scratch,” Faramir answered heroically, resisting the urge to flinch.
This annoyed Sanorë. “There’s no need to be so timid about admitting that something hurts. I’m just trying to help you, so there’s no need to put on a front.”
Faramir tried to suppress his irritation. “Don’t you think saying things like that is a little rude?”
“Not necessarily. Does your arm hurt, or does it not?” She wound another length of the linen strip around his arm.
“Yes, it hurts very much. It throbs constantly, and when I move my arm or someone touches me, it feels like it’s being sliced open again,” Faramir snapped.
Sanorë smiled placidly. “Ah. The warden said for me to ask the cook to make you a cup of tea with rosemary leaves if it hurt you very much, else I wouldn’t have asked. He did say that you wouldn’t admit pain easily, and it is as he said. That is an admirable quality.”
“One of few, I assure you,” Faramir said, and Sanorë got the feeling that he wasn’t trying to be modest. That was just what came to mind.
Sanore finished wrapping the arm firmly and tied a tight knot in the linen strip so that it would remain in place. “All done,” she announced, standing up gratefully. The hard stone floor was beginning to be more than a little painful to her knees.
“Thank you,” Faramir said, standing as well and rolling down his sleeve. “It feels much better already.”
Sanorë looked at him suspiciously, but he didn’t see. “That is good,” she said. “The warden will probably want to see you soon, since this is only my second day at the Houses and I don’t know much.”
“No doubt he will,” Faramir sighed tolerantly. “But I dislike going to the Houses, even if I am there so often. Unnecessary trips irritate me further.”
“Accident prone?” Sanore smiled, walking toward the door.
Faramir stayed beside her. “In a manner of speaking, yes, I am. But as you heard Boromir say, the accidents are not usually my fault, which is some comfort, I suppose.”
“Yes,” Sanorë said, lacking anything better to say.
They had walked in silence for a few moments down the long corridor when suddenly a door opened to their left and out stepped Boromir, who was buckling on a sword, and had a shield slung over his back.
He flashed a grin at Faramir and a longer smile at Sanorë. “Greetings, my brother! What fine deed have you done that you are accompanied by such a lady?”
Sanorë was torn between the desire to laugh and the urge to blush. “I-I only came to see to his arm,” she said, with a faint pink tinge to her cheeks.
“Ah, yes,” Boromir said in a more serious tone. “How fares it?”
“Well, I believe, but I am no authority. It has begun to heal.”
“Brother, why the shield and sword?” Faramir interrupted, eyeing him. “I hardly think that the Dark Lord has advanced on us this far.”
Boromir laughed. “No, he has not. The weapons trainer asked me to come to his little group this day so that he could provide an example of warfare to his students. He said that I should be fully armed, because he wanted his demonstration to be realistic.”
Faramir raised an eyebrow. “This I must see. Has the instructor prepared himself for defeat? He is nearly half your size, and his skill pales in comparison to yours.”
“Ah, brother, no smooth talk. The instructor has twenty years of experience to my five.”
The conversation interested Sanorë.
“Aye, Boromir, he is ancient, there can be no denying that. But if you recall, Father made him the instructor of the noblemen’s children only because he could not hold his own on the battlefield.”
Boromir chortled. “Yes, that is true. Care to watch, Faramir? You are invited as well, Sanorë, if you wish to stay.”
Faramir nodded, a devilish grin on his face. “Yes, I must watch. It will be the highlight of my week if you defeat that old man. He boasts far and wide that he can best any man in Gondor. He has succeeded, but only because most men pity him too much to accept his challenge.”
“And you, Sanorë? It would be my pleasure to walk you back to the Houses if you will stay until my obligation is complete,” Boromir said softly.
Faramir held in a sigh. Boromir and the ladies.
“Ah, thank you,” Sanorë replied. “That is kind of you. I will stay.”
Boromir, beaming, led the way outside to the courtyard. Sanorë could already hear the voices of the students that awaited, as well as the coarse shout of the fabled instructor.