1. The Finding
This northern ranger went straight to his bed, even though I could not find him. She knew where he was without needing to ask, among the dozens, no – hundreds of injured men. The Healers had no time to distinguish; Steward's son or not, he rested on a truckle bed on the floor. I barely recognised him, but she knew. Under the soot, and smoke and grime-soaked oil, she knew my Lord Faramir.
Oh my poor bairn! What did he do to you? I confess, I cried out to see him so… so damaged. She spun around with a hiss, a regular she-cat.
"You were the amah."
Not question, but statement. I nodded.
"We have much to do."
She tried to gather him into her arms, but he cried aloud; so scorched he was, all one side and the other... black blood stained his chest and shoulder, laced with fresh red seeping through to stain his thin shirt.
"Madam, wait – we need porters," I said.
I put out my hand to touch her arm; I thought she would near have had my hand away – her blade was so quick. An elf-blade, curved, silver-bright, but stained now to the hilt, even to her elbow with orcish gore.
She stared at me, and I stared back – if I could face down Lord Denethor's wrath – I could face down this one! At least that's what I thought then. Now? Hindsight is a wonderful thing – now I would not have dared come between them – and if I say so myself, then things might have gone a different path.
I saw Mauwen's son, "Come – we need some muscle here! Come – now!"
He shambled over to us – a simple boy, but docile and strong.
"You leave the Steward laying in the muck, boy?"
"The Steward… " his eyes were round as saucepan lids.
"Lord Denethor is dead. Get another back. We must move his son – immediately!"
I'm at my best when commanding men; give them a firm, decisive lead and they will fall in and follow…
All this time she knelt at his head. Her hand shook as she smoothed the hair back from his face. Her fingers left a streak of white skin showing beneath the grime – and it was so white. I had to look twice to see if his chest still rose. I knelt at his side in time to hear her whisper.
"Don't leave me! Don't you go!"
She said it in the Sindar tongue of course. Other things I didn't catch she spoke of also. I held my peace; we all need a few secret skills, something to gain a little advantage from if need be. My Lady Finduilas knew some elvish phrases; we spoke it together almost as a game, a few private commands and replies between us, so to speak. People forget it was not only those of noble birth who fled Numenor. There were those who sailed the ships, cooked the food – aye, and like as not, cleaned the privies – we too can trace back our ancient lineage, now tainted and marred by lesser lines 'tis true, but – I know my blood. We too once called ourselves elf-friends with every right.
As we crouched in silence, Lord Faramir slipped further away, out of consciousness and nearer the beyond. Two hefty lads arrived, even as Mauwen herself fussed into view.
"Such a thing," she lamented, "To leave our lord so…"
"We move him now" the Northerner announced. Again - no question, just a statement. "He needs air. His lungs are filled with smoke. Bring pillows to raise him. We must find a room with wide windows – away from this… stench."
I hadn't really brought it to mind until then, I was used to such. But rooms and corridors filled with injured soldiers? At best they've pissed themselves, at worst - well, spilled guts from belly-wounds are an offensive smell like no other. Sulphur lamps were lit to mask the reek of death, and in trying to hide it with the odour of rotten eggs and dried lavender… the place was a cacophony of smells... and sounds. Lamentable groans and screams came from the surgeon's rooms. I remember thinking, I must fetch some of my own stock of poppy-juice for him; they obviously were running short.
"His room. Can we not use his room?" she said.
"Too far, Madam – for the time it might take a Healer to run to the Houses and back, we could lose him."
She cocked her head at "we", but I cared not. I'd smacked his bottom when he was a mischievous little boy – and before that I'd birthed his poor brother and slapped him so he'd take that first breath. Mind you, that one had scarcely needed a clout; he'd come out roaring like he owned the place!
"The student's library," I remembered, "In the tower room, down beyond the healer's hall. Its windows are wide and face away from the Pelennor.
She had a way with her it must be said. I didn't question, I went – and our sorry procession trailed after.
The main room wasn't all that big, but there was a fire-place, and several tables and chairs. She swept the first table over with barely so much as a flick of the wrist. 'She's strong this one', I thought, 'and she means business.'
"You…" she pointed at the lads, "…I want a bed brought up. Hot water, cloths, kindling for the fire, a kettle, fresh bandages… "
Mauwen made the mistake of interrupting her.
"I should be doing this down… "
I never saw the knife 'till its blood- blackened blade flashed to Mauwen's throat.
"…stairs" the startled woman finished weakly.
"Madam and I will tend my Lord…" This time the ranger tolerated my hand on her arm. "Go fetch what we need. Away!"
The round-eyed boys milled like sheep; Mauwen gurgled something unheard and dropped a curtsey – I'm not sure who to, but I fancy it was as much for me as anything. About time too.
They left and she proceeded to break up chairs for kindling. She was very handy at it to – strong arms and wrists. I peeled back his sodden blanket and wiped a corner over his face. He radiated heat, as if the fire still burnt under his skin.
"How does he?"
She didn't halt from smashing chairs; better that than breaking foolish necks I suppose. I hesitated, which gave her pause.
"Not good, Madam…"
"I am not 'Madam'!"
She turned to break another chair, but not before I'd seen the tears trickle down her face.
"You may call me Ranger, but I am not …" Crash - the chair splintered, "…your Madam!" She picked the frame up, wrenching it apart. "Or 'Lady', or any such… ". The shattered chair was thrown into the fireplace. "Just… Ranger!"
I'd thought her skin-darkened by the sun, but then I realised how pale she was as the tears washed the battle-grime from her cheek... near as pale as he.
"Everyone has a name Ma… Ranger…" I said gently.
She paused to take a great breath then; before she stared me straight in the eye. After a moment she said quietly.
"My name is… Loss."
I nodded slowly in acknowledgement; there are those who don't realise the power given in telling your true name, but I do.
Just then, he coughed hard, a great wracking, heaving sound. His breathing had been rasping and shallow when we found him, now I clearly saw why; black spittle trickled from the corner of his mouth, his lungs were tainted. She rushed to his side, lifting his shoulders, gathering him into her arms. He just flopped like a raggedy-doll – oh my poor bairn!
"We must clear his lungs. Steam – he needs to breathe the vapour to dislodge the ash and smoke."
Even as his head lolled, a glob of black drool escaped his lips to dribble onto her shoulder. She ignored it.
"Help me?" she whispered.
She did not have to ask twice; I know devotion when I see it.
"Hold him fast!" I said, and strode away to find what kept them from bringing what we needed.
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.