She remembered being tossed, and then being very wet, dragged down by something very powerful, and then something pulling her up. She was suddenly very thirsty, and at the same time she could hardly breathe. Things seemed to be circling all around her, the whole world was spinning out of control, but something kept her from going down like everything else. Then she stopped moving and somehow she was holding onto something. And then a loud crack, and then darkness.
She lay in darkness, how long she could not say, but a long time. Voices seemed to fade in and out. “You lost her.” “She is fine.” “Keep her warm.” “What a loss.” “He’s coming.” Finally a cold white light started to pierce the dark. Not the soft warm light of summers in the country, but the harsh, piercing light of a near-winter sun, reflected off of the gleaming white towers of Minas Tirith.
“Where am I? Is anyone there?”
“You are in the Houses of Healing, in the Seventh Circle of the city of Minas Tirith. And someone is indeed here.”
The voice seemed distorted, somehow, and far off, but she recognized it immediately. “Gandalf,” she said wearily. And she opened her eyes to get a better view of this mysterious man she had only before seen in dark library basements. But she opened them too quick. “Ay, my eyes!”
“The light? Of course, you’re not used to it.” He walked over to the window and pulled the curtains closed. They were made of a thin red fabric, light and breezy, that let much of the light through, but coloured it so that it stopped hurting the eyes of the sick, and the sick and injured from the outlying farms who were not used to the harsh lights of Gondor’s capital.
She could still see the gardens outside, and that was a wonder to her. While the city used to have many beautiful gardens, now in its later years all of the gardens had died off or been replaced by more buildings. The only two gardens left within the city itself were here in the Houses of Healing, and the pavilion of the White Tree near Ecthelion, the White Tower. But the White Tree was old and looked dead, though old legends said life dwelled in it still, and that it would one day re-awaken. This garden, though, was beautiful and alive, even in the fall. For many trees grew tall there that were nowhere else seen in Middle-earth. In ages past the elves had given the men of Gondor many seeds and saplings as symbols of their alliance, and these trees had failed long ago; but here of all places, these houses of healing that desired only to build up and not to destroy, the healing power of the elves had stayed a long time: while the trees themselves had long ago died, their spirits lived on in this hallowed garden, and strengthened their children. It was said that, save Imladris and the Golden Woods, this grove was the only place left in the world with a power to restore the spirit as well as the body.
“So I see you like the garden. It is the first time you have seen it? I see it is.”
“What day is it, Gandalf?”
“That is the second time you have used that name. I suggest you use caution, for it means different things to different people, and to some it is but a curse. As to your question, it is the 18th day of September, by the calendar of the old Kings; you have slept a full four days. But you will be fine, thanks to your father’s wisdom. But you must excuse me, for I have pressing business in the libraries. Lives may depend on the answers I hope to find. Good health, Laramir.”
“But Gan–Mithrandir, my name’s not Laramir, it’s Mellawyn. You know that.”
He chuckled. “There are some things I will leave for your father to explain. But surely you did not expect him to teach Elvish and the art of the pipe to a girl, did you?” And with that he left.
“That was a foolish thing to do, jumping into the river, you know.”
Mellawyn forced herself to look away from the beautiful garden, and saw a stranger standing in the doorway with a tray of food. Or at least she thought him a stranger, some page of the tower, or a knight still in training, for he wore the garb of the Tower: a fine shirt of mail, and slacks made from the best wool, all covered by a grey tunic made from fine linen, on which was embroidered over his left breast in white silk a single white tree. But on closer examination she recognized the brown hair, the proud eyes, the strong shoulders.
“Borlin! Where did you get the clothes?”
“Well, doesn’t that smart! I saved your life, once by thinking of that rope, then again by pulling you out of the river, and bring you all the way to Minas Tirith to these houses of healing, and all you can say is ‘Where’d you get the funny clothes?’ No thank you, no I’m glad to see you, Borlin… “
“But I am glad to see you, and no one will tell me what happened, so I didn’t know to thank you. You said you pulled me out of the river? What happened?”
“Well, you know that. We were all standing down by the river when Farlin went up to get some water and upset the dam somehow. Then somehow–I’m not really sure, it happened so fast, but you all were there–both of them ended up in the river, Papa and your mother, and you dived right in afterwards–that was really silly of you, Mellawyn–so I ran down the river and helped you out. But you swallowed a lot of water, and we had to ride a long ways in all that cold air. The healers said pneumonia, and weren’t sure if you’d ever wake up, what with you having a cough before and all. But it looks like they were wrong. Guessed Mithrandir showed them!”
“Yes, he’s been here for three days now, watching over you day and night, and saying all kinds of strange things in a language I couldn’t understand, nor could the other healers. But whatever he said, it worked.”
“Borlin, I’m a little confused. Back last spring, mama said that Kaäne couldn’t come into Minas Tirith. But here you are, not only in Minas Tirith, but in the tunic of a court page! And I know that if a father is banished, so is his first son, until the Steward lifts it. So how are you allowed in the city?”
Borlin looked sad and was quiet for a long moment before he finally answered, almost like he was talking to himself. “He never told you. He should have, long ago. But I guess I can see why he wouldn’t.” Then he turned to Mellawyn. “Mellawyn, this isn’t my story to tell. I don’t know all the details, only what Kaäne told me. But I can see that your father probably won’t tell you, at least for a long time yet, and now with me and Farlin in the city, people will start to talk. You need to know.
“My father was not banished from the city, he was exiled–self-exiled; he refused to come. It’s a sad story, and a long one. You’re tired, you should be resting, but if you’re sure…” Mellawyn nodded her head anxiously.
“Mellawyn, do you know how we are cousins?”
That seemed a strange one, but easy to answer. “Of course, my mother is your mother’s sister.”
“Yes, yes, but we are cousins again. Denethor is Kaänawe’s brother.”