The End of Dark Days, Part One
April 24th, 2010 (09:44 pm)
Perhaps it was simply because I was older, or perhaps it was only that I was sick with worry, but that trip from Dol Amroth had never seemed so long and arduous. Dínen and Caliniel did not seem to notice, but then they were both young, and had never been so far from home. They chattered excitedly between themselves and with any others in the wain who would join in. I listened with half an ear, and did not interfere; I was too preoccupied with what might have happened to my husband and son. Mag had said they were recovering safely, but that did not mean they had not been badly injured.
I was appalled at the destruction which seemed to stretch for miles in every direction. Farm houses had been destroyed, fields burned and trees felled. Mounds of rubble dotted the landscape right up to the gates of the White City. I was not sure how any of it could be put right again, and it filled me with sadness.
Finally we reached the City proper, and gratefully piled out of the wain with our scant belongings. We had only brought what was absolutely necessary – we were not here to socialize, but to care for our family. "Now I know that you two want to see everything," I said, as the girls stared, wide-eyed, at the hustle and bustle around them, "but I have no intention of letting you wander the City on your own, is that clear? It is too large, and there are too many ways in which you could lose yourself."
"Yes, Mother," from Caliniel; Dínen was momentarily distracted by a laughing group of passing Rohirrim, then she added her assent.
I could not fault her eye, but right now, we needed to make our way to the Houses of Healing. "Stay very close to me," I bade, "I would not lose you amongst this crow – "
I jumped as if pinched; no-one had called me that in years, except in letters. I turned toward the voice, and nearly fell over in surprise. "Mag?"
She had not changed a bit to my eyes. "You came!” she exclaimed delightedly, sweeping me into a hug. "I told them that you'd be here as soon as you could! And these must be your daughters?” she said, turning toward my girls, who were watching curiously.
"Yes, this is Dínen and Caliniel,” I said, flustered by the welcome surprise. “But how could you know we were arriving today?”
"Well, of course I couldn't know," Mag laughed, "with all these people in and out all day long? No, dear, I'm supposed to meet a woman with some kind of fresh seafood– I've yet to see her, though. If she sold it to the House of Silk instead of me …" she broke off, looking at me closely. "Listen to me jabbering on! You poor dears look exhausted! Why don't you come up with me, for a cup of tea and a sit down?"
"We haven't even been to the Houses yet –" I said, trying to gather my thoughts, “but Mag, you are well? I can not believe how the City looks….I did not think it would be this bad!"
"Well, we've been worse off, that's certainly the truth," Mag nodded, waving her hands as if the crumbled stone on the first level was nothing more than a little dust to be swept away. "Things are much better now than they were. I was sure you would be coming, just not at this moment, and yet here you are! Do you have a place to stay?"
I was aware that Dínen and Caliniel were looking at me oddly; I supposed they were not used to seeing me so scattered. "No, we've made no arrangements, but I am sure we'll not be the only family members sleeping on cots in the Houses - I can not thank you enough for sending me word, Mag!" I said, suddenly feeling less weighed down, faced with Mag's cheerful nature. "I was so worried and all we were hearing was how terrible things were, and so many strange rumours…"
"They're doing much better than they were, tis very true," Mag said with a reassuring smile. “We’ll get you up there first thing so you can see for yourself. And don't worry yourself about rumours - you know how people like to talk. But we've had some strange things happen here, oh yes. Elves! And a dwarf! Wizards and a halfling, can you imagine, who went to the Shadow Land and cast down the Dark One with just his servant to help him! Amazing times."
I did not know what Halflings were, but we could not stand here in the middle of the street while I asked Mag all the questions I had. I could ask just one more, though, and so I moved a bit closer to her; I did not want the girls to hear. "What of Faramir, Mag? What on earth did you mean?"
“Faramir?" Mag repeated, and suddenly there was a strange veiled look on her face that I had never seen before. “Well, much better than we'd -- but we'll speak of that later, not here on the street where any gossip or ruffian could hear." That did not put me at my ease one bit, but I knew that she would speak no more of it, and moreover, she was right. "What have you got in that basket, boy?" Mag had spotted a young man holding a sea grass basket, the top of which was moving suspiciously.
That was our signal to go. "All right -- you are still in the Citadel kitchen, are you not? Once I've made certain that Durvain and Hinaur are well-tended, shall I come and see you? If you're not too busy feeding guests and keeping the scullery maids in hand? "
"Are you Mag the cook?" the boy was saying as he tried to hold down the wiggling basketlid. "I was told to put this basket in your hands, and none other's."
Mag let out a whoop. "I'll take it, whatever it is! Nanny, you and your girls go on up to see your husband, and I'll sort something out about a place for you to stay. I've got to get these – " she peeked in the basket – "Turtles! lovely turtles! tended to. Yes, I'll be in the kitchen, where else would I be? You still like scones, I hope?"
"Yes, yes, " I laughed, "and I've never learned to make scones nearly as delicious as yours, Mag. And please don't go to any trouble - if you can not find room for us, we'll find something." Impulsively, I hugged her again, basket of turtles and all, and she chuckled. "I am so pleased to see you! Come now, girls – "
I took Caliniel’s hand, and gave Dínen a gentle nudge with my hip; she tore her eyes away from watching passers-by to start walking again, and we began to make our way up to the sixth level.