It had been nearly a week since Sanorë had arrived in Minas Tirith , and she was settling in nicely, she supposed. Her things were all unpacked and put away neatly in the small, comfortable room she was sharing with her cousin Ioreth.
She had gotten somewhat used to the noise of the city, something there hadn’t been too much of in Osgiliath. And, of course, if Sanorë ever saw something new, Ioreth was always on hand to instruct her.
Sanorë could hear the now-common, “Here in the city…” ringing in her ears almost constantly.
Sanorë was always awakened every morning by Ioreth bouncing out of bed, grinning and babbling as usual. This morning, however, it was her tall, grave uncle Belegnor who came striding in while it was yet dark outside.
“Sanorë,” her uncle said, gently shaking her. “Are you awake?”
“Unnng..” Sanorë answered groggily, unable to open her eyes. Her eyelids felt like they had weights on them, and her head spun. She didn’t know why.
“Good,” her uncle said. “Today you start at the Houses of Healing, dear. You will go with Ioreth, just as soon as you dress and eat your breakfast.”
Sanorë was suddenly, unpleasantly, awake. She had been dreading this day since the first time her father mentioned it.
“Must I?” she groaned into the pillow.
Her uncle evidently took the muffled statement to be agreement, for he patted her once on the back and exited the room. Sanorë heard his heavy footfalls receding down the hallway as she unwillingly got to her feet.
Looking remorsefully at the cushy bed, she selected a rather plain brown dress from her half of the closet, and pulled it on after slipping out of her nightgown. She ran a hand quickly through her brown mop of curls and put her feet into her shoes.
After washing her face and eyes, Sanorë declared herself ready.. or as ready as she was likely to get, she amended.
She made her way to the tiny kitchen where Ioreth was already at work preparing the morning meal.
“Mornin’, Ioreth,” Sanorë said, as cheerfully as she could manage. She’d never been a morning person.
“Good morn to you, Sanorë,” Ioreth said happily, the early hour having no effect on her sunny disposition at all. “Hungry?”
“No, not much,” Sanorë said. How can she possibly be wanting food at this hour?
“Well, it’ll do you good to eat, I daresay! Here in the city, it’s a long walk to get anywhere, and it’s always a long day at the House of Healing. You’ll be dead on your feet in no time without breakfast!” Ioreth declared, plunking a plateful of eggs and bacon in front of Sanorë, who had never cared for eggs, or bacon.
Sanorë began to eat dutifully as Ioreth tucked into her own plate with enthusiasm.
“Fada scohn on,” Ioreth said around a large bite.
Sanorë was lost. “Sorry, didn’t catch it.”
Ioreth swallowed with effort. “Father has gone on. Said the Steward will be having much need of him today, and for us to be careful walking, and to pay attention to the warden.” Ioreth grinned. “He always says the same things.”
Sanorë nodded, pushing away her plate. She finally decided that she just wasn’t designed to eat eggs. They were repulsive.
Ioreth, unfazed by the apparently disgusting nature of scrambled eggs, declared, “I’m full! Are you ready to go, Sanorë?”
Sanorë nodded, feeling more frightened of the unknown by the second. She began thinking. This ‘warden’ whoever he was, was most likely to be a man in his prime, possessed of a horrible temper, and extreme impatience for any ignorance and stupidity.
And doubtless the dark, forbidding House of Healing would be stocked with patient upon patient, all screaming with pain and on the verge of death.
Sanorë shuddered. Yes. It would be exactly that way. She was sure of it.
She mutely followed Ioreth out the front door, and into the street.
The walk was long and boring. Ioreth had been right about breakfast. Sanorë’s stomach was growling loudly. She might need to reconsider shunning Ioreth’s scrambled eggs in the future.
Sanorë kept watch for the depressing House of her imagination, but to her surprise, nothing of the sort appeared. It was, therefore, a complete shock to her when Ioreth looped her solid arm through Sanorë’s slender one and tugged her toward a tall flight of stairs that led to a large, cheerful, stone building.
Sanorë liked the look of it immediately. There were finely-tended flower gardens surrounding it, and there were large curtained windows to shed light indoors.
Sanorë thought that if she were to be sick, she would want to come here. The gardens would be nice to walk in, and the windows would let in breezes and fresh air.
Ioreth pulled her inside after opening the heavy wooden doors, and Sanorë liked the inside just as well as the outside.
There were rows of beds, but only a few ailing individuals, who were, surprisingly, not screaming in pain, but appeared to be sleeping peacefully. The unused beds were made up neatly with crisp white bed linens, and there was a vase of fresh flowers on each bedside table.
Ioreth silently led the way through the House until they came to a small, dusty-looking door in the back. She swung it open and said, “Come on in, Sanorë, and take a look around!”
Sanorë stepped in obligingly, feeling slightly intimidated by the sight of the shelves stocked to capacity with all varieties of healing herbs and roots, and cloth for bandages. But it was, indeed, a better place than she expected. That only left the…
“Warden?” she heard Ioreth call loudly. “I’m here with my cousin!”
“Aye?” a voice answered with equal volume. “Excellent, child, excellent!”
The voice’s owner appeared from around a corner, a aging, stooped man with graying hair and a wrinkled face. He bore the curious and confusing look of one who has vast stores knowledge and little real wisdom.
“Ioreth, dear! It is good to see you again! I have missed you, you know! Dreadfully lonely without you here!” the man rubbed his hands together happily. “And your cousin too!”
Sanorë extended her hand delicately. “It is nice to meet you,” she said quietly. [I}Nicer than I expected, anyway, she thought.
The warden of her imagination was a large, strapping man with evil looks and a fierce temper that he did not control well. That warden hated young people who knew nothing about his chosen occupation and frequently unleashed his temper on them.
The warden that Sanorë was confronted with quite surprised her. He took her hand and gently kissed it. Sanorë smiled.
“Very glad to have you here, indeed,” the warden said hurriedly, beginning to move towards the door. He made an odd scruffling noise when he walked, and Sanorë tracked it down to the unusual gait he used. He appeared to have been wounded once in his left leg as he tended to favor that leg over the right.
Ioreth, taking note of Sanorë’s less than subtle gaze, explained quietly as they walked, “Used to be a soldier, the warden. But then he got mixed up with an enemy a little too big for him and had to quit the army years and years ago. Nobody really knows how it happened, but that’s the story I’ve heard. He’s spent the time since then studying lore and medicine. Doesn’t take so much out of him.”
Sanore said, “Oh.”
The warden led the way to the nearest bed where an old woman was sleeping soundly.
“Had a bit of a fall, she did,” the warden whispered loudly, motioning towards the lady with his forehead. “Took a spill down a flight of stairs and broke her leg. Poor thing. I could’ve used your help with her, Ioreth, that I could.”
Ioreth looked guilty. “I’m terribly sorry I wasn’t back sooner! But Sanorë was just settling in, and father has been working…”
“Not to worry, child,” the warden interrupted. “It’s of no consequence.”
“I still-” Ioreth began, but suddenly, a pair of loud voices filtered in to the Healing House, followed by the appearance of their owners.
A large young man was half-supporting, half-propelling a smaller boy who seemed to be about the age of the first. The smaller one was holding his right arm close to his side, and Sanorë could already see the copious amount of red seeping through his shirt sleeve.
The warden rushed toward them, followed by the two girls, and ushered the boy to a bed and made him lie down. “Lord Faramir!” he scolded. “What have you done to yourself now?”
The warden pulled the remains of the tattered shirt sleeve from the boy’s bleeding arm and clucked his tongue. He scuttled away speedily, calling back, “Begin cleaning the wound, Ioreth!”
Sanorë felt scared. “Wh-where’s he going?”
“Medicine, probably,” the boy managed through a grimace of pain.
Ioreth poured water into a basin that sat on the bedside table and dipped a cloth in the water. She began sponging the gash on the boy’s arm gently, though apparently not gently enough. He gave a tiny moan of pain, and looked deeply ashamed of himself for it.
The cloth was soon saturated with blood, and Ioreth pulled out a second one, which was the last on the table. “More cloths,” she mumbled, handing the rag to Sanorë. “Keep wiping his arm, Sanorë. Gently does it! I’ll be right back.”
Sanorë took the rag mutely and put it in the water, wringing back out just like Ioreth had done. The older young man looked worried. “You’re new here, aren’t you?” he asked.
Sanorë nodded shyly. Inside, she was very near to cursing Ioreth for leaving her with this boy, who would surely bleed to death under her care.
The warden reappeared, clutching a handful of herbs and a cup of some foul-smelling salve. Shuffling Sanorë out of his way, he began applying the ointment to the wound on the boy’s arm.
“So,” he said as he worked. “Tell me how this happened, young Faramir. This is your worst injury yet, I believe.”
The boy grunted in concurrence, but it was the older young man who began to explain. There was sweat beaded on his forehead, and his face was screwed up in concern and worry.
“Faramir and I were just practicing with our new swords and shields that Father had made for us, and I guess I hit him too hard, because he couldn’t hold on to his shield, and when the shield dropped, my sword got his arm,” the young man said, patting Faramir gently on the shoulder. “I’m terribly sorry, Far.”
Faramir tried to smile. “You have said you’re sorry at least twenty times since the beginning of this, my brother, if my mind serves me correctly. I’ll be fine!”
The warden clucked his tongue again. Sanorë supposed it was a habit of his. One he needed to break, she thought.
“Now, Boromir,” the warden said soothingly. “Your brother will be quite alright in a week or so. Don’t keep flogging yourself over an accident. You simply don’t realize your own strength.”
“Aye, an accident! But every accident Faramir has had recently has been the fault of nobody but myself,” Boromir said in a heavy voice. “Take today, for example.”
“Boromir, you know that’s not true. Now, last week, when I tripped and knocked down all the suits of armor, you were nowhere around me. Ow!” Faramir cried, looking down at his arm.
“It is supposed to sting like that,” the warden said.
Sanorë just kept listening, and moved to stand beside Ioreth, who had returned with a stack of clean linen for bandages.
Boromir shook his head and sank into a nearby chair. “No, Faramir, that one was my fault as well. You neglected to tell us what you tripped over. You tripped over a maid, who was, in fact, running away because she burst unannounced into my room while I was dressing, and she was so embarrassed that she could not remain in my presence, or indeed, in my vicinity.”
Faramir raised an eyebrow. “Ah. I wondered why she was looking so shocked.”
“That would be why. Teach her to knock before she enters next time, I say.”
“Seems to be a rather harsh way of getting the message across to the poor thing,” Faramir observed mildly with a devilish grin, jerking as the warden began wrapping his arm.
Boromir swelled in his seat, missing the humor. “I hold that she didn’t mind at all.”
“Lord Boromir!” Ioreth interrupted loudly, in a tone of great outrage. “You watch your language! There are ladies present!”
“So there are,” Boromir admitted grudgingly. “My apologies, then, Ioreth, and…?”
“Sanorë,” Ioreth answered proudly. “My cousin! She’s come from Osgiliath to stay with me.”
Faramir looked interested. “Osgiliath, you say?” He twitched again as the warden tied a knot in the bandage on his arm.
“Aye,” Sanorë answered sadly. “My father is the captain there.”
Boromir nodded his head. “You do favor him somewhat, if I may be so bold.”
Sanorë asked hopefully, “Do you know my father?”
“Indeed I do. He spoke of you to me when last I was there,” Boromir said. “A good man. Good soldier. My father holds him in high esteem, as do I.”
“Now, then,” the warden interrupted. “All done, young Faramir. All done. You be careful with that arm for a couple of weeks, no sword fighting, shooting, lifting, or exertion with it. Understand?”
Faramir nodded reluctantly and stood up shakily. “Thank you, master warden. I am indeed grateful.” He still held his arm close to his side. Sanorë imagined that it must still hurt him terribly.
The warden smiled proudly. “Only doing my job, young one. Now, your bandage will need changing by tomorrow. If Ioreth does not come to you by the afternoon, come back here, and I will change it for you.”
Faramir nodded again, and Boromir stood up. “I will see to him,” he said gravely. “My thanks as well.” He inclined his head to the warden, and then to Ioreth and Sanorë in turn.
He put a brotherly arm around Faramir’s shoulders and began walking with him towards the doors.
After they had gone, the warden returned to checking on his charges, and Ioreth began clearing up the bloodied sheets and cloths. Sanorë poured the dirty water out a window and rinsed the basin.
Ioreth couldn’t stand the silence for long. “Well!” she said in a breezy manner. “You have met the Steward’s sons… What do you think of them?”
“They were the Steward’s sons?” Sanorë asked, furrowing her brows. “I didn’t know that.”
“Aye, they were. Quite different in person than in tale, aren’t they?” Ioreth smiled. “One hears a great deal about their exploits here in the city, but the stories don’t do them justice, I think.”
Sanorë smiled. “I didn’t connect the name Boromir with the tales my father told me of him. Father sings his praises at home. He never gets tired of telling me what a splendid swordsman he is, or what an excellent archer he is becoming. I confess, I tire of the stories.”
Ioreth nodded knowingly. “It is true that the eldest of the two, Boromir, is becoming proficient in the art of war. In fact, it is said that few can match him or best him in a fight.”
“Aye, so I have heard,” Sanorë said irritably. She hoped Ioreth wasn’t about to expound on the glories of the Steward’s heir. She had heard enough of that to last her a lifetime.
“I feel for young Faramir, though,” Ioreth went on. “He is about your age, I believe, or a little older. He will be a force to be reckoned with as well when he reaches adulthood, but now, he is no competition for his brother, who tries to train him to fight as though he were grown. I don’t think Boromir means any harm in it. Anybody can see he loves his brother better than anything, but Boromir, like the warden says, doesn’t know his own strength.”
Sanorë listened mutely.
“And the Steward,” Ioreth went on, “bless him, he can’t seem to tell that Faramir isn’t Boromir’s age, and therefore cannot possibly equal him in deeds.”
“Why is that?” Sanorë asked.
“Oh, who knows?” Ioreth said, tossing her hands into the air. She appeared to be really affected by the topic of discussion. “But it’s a sure fact that most of the time, Faramir hurts himself by trying to keep up with the accomplishments of his brother. But he’s not jealous, no. Loves his brother as much as Boromir loves him. He simply idolizes him.”
Sanorë pursed her lips. “And how old is Boromir?”
“Ah, some five or six years older than yourself, I believe,” answered Ioreth, dumping the dirty sheets and cloths in a large basket. “Now, come along, cousin! The warden will be needing us to help him with his rounds.”
Sanorë followed Ioreth silently away from the bed Faramir had used, glad she had found someone who even remotely knew her, even if he did seem a little intimidating at the outset.
Hi, everyone! I’m so sorry it took me so long to get this written and published! My computer and TORC seem to have an allergic reaction to one another, so it’s been quite a feat. The next chapter is nearly finished, and I hope I can submit it tomorrow. :
Thanks for reading, and especially for reviewing! :