Tell me where fore is Melusine of old?
Lying dead and cold?
Nay, you'll find her hidden among streams,
in valleys, in ponds,
in hills, in dreams.
She'll come to her people, knowing and wise,
Her descendants of voices, visions and lies,
And now tell me of Melusida,
Where lies she?
Among her people, amongst their dreams.
She lies dead and old?
Nay, she walks among the living,
Her skin pale and gold.
Listen to rivers, listen to streams,
Therein lies Melusida,
The Lady of the Lake.
The Woman of Water.
The Daughter of Dreams.
It is a strange thing. I lie in this boat, knowing that I am me, but not knowing who that person really is. I know this is a boat and this is what people do when they die, but I am not certain how I know that or why I lie in a boat. I know that while I slept my mother came to me, all the woman of our household came to my side and they drowned me. Forcing me under the water, the broken horn clasped in my hand and the mirror kept tightly by my side. I was under the water, the rush filling my ears and the cool blueness making my eyes sting. But I kept my eyes open till I grew use to the coldness.
I knew I saw Her, her pale hands and her hair snaking like dark water weed, she lifted me up into the boat. My Goddess-Mother pulled herself above the boat and looked down upon me, the clothes I wore drenched to my skin.
"Neither immortal nor mortal, human, elf or witch. I give you life, my daughter." she lowered her head and gave me a kiss to my forehead. I felt a warmth running through my core, reaching into my fingertips, the soreness of my chest disappearing.
"Why am I not dead?" I asked.
She gave a loud, ringing laugh and softly touched my cheek. She smiled and then slipped back into the water and I felt my eyes drift close again.
"Captain!" I heard someone call, but I felt too warm and content to open my eyes. I knew hands came upon my boat and begin to pull me to shore. I gave something of a groan, half desiring for them to let me go and continue onwards to the sea.
"By Valar, she is alive!"
"How is that possible? She's as pale as death."
I cautiously opened my eyes. The river banks were different, less lusher and greener, but then Lothlórien had always been different. Lothlórien…I mused, I knew that place well. I looked up to the men pulling the boat into shore. They wore dark greenish cloaks, most of their clothing made up of dark wool, apart from the leather garments. I seem to find all parts of their clothing fascinating, as though I had never seen it before. They had swords at their sides and quivers on their backs. The man with dark hair caught me looking at him.
"What is your name?" he asked, but I was too weary for names.
I heard the crunch of stones of the river bank and another man came towards us, I heard his boots on the ground and then his face hovered above my own. His light grey eyes travelled over my form, until they rested on the horn and a look of horror filled his eyes.
"Where did you get this?" he asked.
I had no words for that, I could not remember. He tried to take it from my hands, but I clung on tighter to it. If I had it, I must have it for some reason and he was not going to be the one to take it. The young man's eyes grew somewhat desperate.
"Please, that is my brother's."
My eyes shot upwards towards his face, taking in his appearance. Light reddish, golden hair, a small, neat beard and grey eyes. There was something familiar in his face, but staring up at him was making me feel sick. I shut my eyes. I felt his hand encircle the horn again, but what little strength I had I put in holding the horn tightly to my chest. It was too much for me though, he wrenched it from my fingers. I had no energy for long, eloquent pleas. I began to cry and the man kneeled beside me.
"Please tell me where you got this, who gave it to you?"
"I don't know." I managed to say.
"I know this horn; it belonged to my brother, Boromir. Did he know of you?"
"Give it back to me." I beg, tears hurting my eyes. But the man clasps it tightly to his chest.
"Tell me what you know of him." he says.
"I know not of Boromir–" But a blinding flash of light fills my eyes and head and I see him. I see Boromir. He stands tall on the hill, wielding his sword against the enemy. "He is dead." I find myself saying, though I hardly know whether it is true or not. I open my eyes, seeing the river and the soldiers gathered.
"How did you come by this?" the man asks.
"I…I don't remember."
He sighs and his eyes fill with grief, I would sit up and comfort him, but I have no strength to raise myself.
"How did you end up like this?" he gestures to the boat. I feel my lip wobbling; I curse myself for acting like a child, but my helplessness frightens me.
"I don't remember."
I clasp the smooth pale greenness of the boat, my hands curling over the edge.
"Do you have a name?"
I bite my lip again, "I don't…"
"Oh for–" one of the soldier's exclaims, impatient with my forgetfulness, but the Captain hushes him.
"My name is Faramir; you knew something of my brother, Boromir. If you had a name, what would it be?"
I think for a while, gazing upwards at the blue sky overhead. I finally decided upon a name, though I did not know if it was my own.
Faramir nodded and then turned to his men, "Send some ahead to Minas Tirith, but do not tell my father yet of what we know, it would be better if I told him myself. Nyneve will need some rest before we travel. Tell him his youngest son knows something of his oldest."
The dark haired soldier bowed to him and then ran back up the bank, disappearing into the bushes and trees.
"Do you think you can walk?" Faramir asked me.
"No, sir. I am sorry I cannot be of more use."
He shakes his head, "You bring dark tidings with you, but such matters cannot be helped, these are dark times."
"I am sorry about your brother, I know I have brothers." I said.
"You know their names or where they live?"
I regretfully shake my head, "Nay, I just know one was dark and younger than I, and the other fair and older."
"That could be many men in Gondor who fit such a description." he gives me a weak smile and then puts his arm around my shoulder and the other under my legs, he lifts me up from the boat. My head lolls back, it feels far too heavy and the movement makes me feel dizzy. I close my eyes again.
"You cannot remember how you came here?" Faramir asks.
I shake my head, "I just remember the water and Her."
"The Lady of the Rivers." I murmur, thinking of her dark beauty, her eyes once blue then green then grey, like sea water.
"The Lady of the Rivers? Who is that?"
"Melusine." I whisper, drifting slowly to sleep.
When I wake I find myself in a cave, I can see the mouth of it off to the right, the rush of a waterfall as it falls past the opening. When I look downwards to my left the cave stretches ever onwards, disappearing into passageways and rooms almost. I am on a small camp bed, covered with my green cloak. Candles are lit on crates and a rudimentary table, covered in pieces of parchment, presumably letters and maps. Faramir sits opposite me, examining the arrows in his quiver. He glances up at me, puts down the quiver and then brings forward a bowl and cup.
"Are you hungry? Can you eat?"
He gives me the bowl, filled with a warm stew, but I feel my stomach churn when I taste some and I push it away quickly.
"Sorry." I mutter, feeling ashamed that I am wasting good food and doubtless these soldiers miss the comforts of hot food and warm beds.
Faramir gives me a comforting smile, "No matter, I'm sure many would lose their appetite when coming down the river Anduin."
He hands me the cup and then rummages around in a sack, before bringing out an apple. I cautiously take a bite, but I feel it is safer than the rich stew. I take a sip of water and Faramir brings out the horn again, wrapped in brown sacking. I feel a lump forming in my throat and busy myself with the cup of water, not wanting to look at it.
"If you remember anything of my brother, please tell me." I hear the tension in his own voice.
I try to remember, but all I have is the image of his brother with his sword.
"He fought with me, I know that. He fought by my side."
"You know how to fight?"
"Yes, my brother taught me and the Elves."
"I know I say some things that are true, but I cannot remember why they are true or why I say them. I knew your brother and I know that my family put people in boats when they die…so I must have died."
"But you are here."
I nod, "I cannot fathom it."
Faramir frowns and then points to the mirror in my hands, they have covered that also.
"We tried to take that away from you while you slept, but you would not let us."
"It is important. It was a gift."
"The men are frightened of it." Faramir says.
"Men are frightened of many things they do not understand."
His eyebrow raises questioningly at me. I shrug and take another bite of the apple.
"How do you use it?" he says.
"You look into it."
"For what purpose?"
I look up to his eyes, they seem honest enough, but whether he will believe me is another matter.
"For a young woman, who cannot have seen more than twenty summers, I am surprised you show no fear of it."
"Nineteen, I am nineteen…"
"And you know this how, Nyneve?"
I shrug again, "It is not something to fear if you know how to use it."
"Can you use it now?"
I look down at the ugly brown cloth covering the mirror, I know it to be beautiful, but I recall someone speaking about it, "I am not to use it when I feel weak, she told me that."
"I will not ask who, for your face tells me you do not know."
He gets up from where he was crouching and walks back over to the table, "Once you are rested a little and have a little strength, you are to come with me to Minas Tirith. My father will wish to speak with you."
I feel a shudder of fear run through me when I hear him speak of Minas Tirith and his father, though I know not what and who they are.
"Minas Tirith?" I ask.
He turns back to look at me, "Yes, the capital of Gondor. You know of it?"
I nod, "I know I should not go there, I should not even be in Gondor."
He looks at me strangely, "Why? And do not say you don't know, guess at it."
I open my mouth and then think, why do I fear this land? Why do I fear Minas Tirith?
"The darkness, the Shadow." I reply.
I see his eyes grow fearful.
"Gain your strength and try to remember all that you can, we must go to Minas Tirith soon, my father shall not wait."
He marches out of the cave. I pull my knees up to my chest and rest against the cold stone of the cave. I would rather stay in this cave for ever than see any city, capital or no. I think I could run away. But when I try to get up I stagger and fall back to the bed. A fine idea that would be and where would I run to? I have no idea of where I am or where anything else is. I look over to the maps on the table. I will attempt to walk again tomorrow, if any of these men have a horse I could steal it and…Why am I running? What am I running from? The Shadow…? I will be a threat to Minas Tirith if I stay, but I am too weak to prevent Faramir's insistence that I should come with him. I will try to tell him when I see him again.
"Where is Captain Faramir?" I ask one of the soldiers who comes in for rest. He has dark hair like many of the other soldiers, cut to his shoulders and a small beard like Faramir. He strips himself of his cloak and then pulls the sleeve of his shirt up to reveal a cut on his arm. He pulls out some strips of material from one of the crates and begins to attend to it.
"He will not be back before nightfall, band of orcs." he grunts to me.
"I need to speak with him."
"Don't we all?" mutters the man, I glare at him.
"This is important, I…"
"More important than guarding our land?"
"Your land will not be worth guarding if I remain here."
The soldier gives something of a laugh, "It is barely worth guarding as it is, orcs, the threat of Mordor, I am certain you won't make much difference."
He cleans the wound and then begins to tightly wrap some of the material around the injury.
"If I go to Minas Tirith I will."
He gives another laugh, "You have no say in the matter, Faramir's father is a cold man, he will not care for any maiden's qualms. Besides, we have a few questions that need answering."
"Where are you from? Who is your family? What do you know of the Lord Boromir's death."
The soldier's eyes instantly look up at mine, "Rivendell? A human from Rivendell? I confess many of the men thought you an Elf when they first saw you, but no human lives in Rivendell."
"The King's line sometimes lives in Rivendell."
"Ha!" the soldier snorted, "The King's line is good as dead, whoever the king is, he will not come back for us."
I saw him struggle with the knot, I felt strangely pitying of this man, how can anyone lose such hope? The king must return.
"If you come over here, I can tie that." I said. "I cannot walk."
The man looked as if he would refuse, but then came over, clasping the bandages.
"How tight should I make it?" I asked.
"I'll tell you when it's tight enough."
I pulled the material closer around his arm, pulling it tauter until he nodded and I finished the knot.
"You lose hope for the King?" I asked.
"If he has not returned now, when will he?"
"I know of the King's name, when he was in hiding, he was called Estel. It is Sindarin, it means…"
"Hope. Yes, I know a little Sindarin; I was among the Rangers of the North and lived near Rivendell for a while. But how can you know of…?"
I shrugged, "I do not know, but there you are, you say humans do not come near the Elves, yet you lived there."
"It was only near Rivendell, not in it." he got up and flexed his arm a little, before picking up his bow again.
"Are your family still there?" I asked.
He stopped for a moment and picked up his quiver, "Nay. They are dead, killed by orcs."
"Oh… Hiro hyn hîdh ab 'wanath."
The soldier nodded curtly and gave a grim smile.
"I thank you for your sympathies. I assume you do not know how you know of the King."
"Nay, but if I know of him, that is surely some hope?"
"A girl who has forgotten all, and was found near dead in a funeral boat, tells me to hope?"
"Aye, for what else is there to live for, soldier?"
He shrugs, "My name is Cobryn, and yours?"
"Nyneve…at least, I think it is."
He smiled a little more then, "It must be a strange thing, to lose the very being of the self."
I nodded, "See, I have lost everything, you have only lost hope and I believe that can be found again."
He nodded, "Perhaps you are right, but I am certain your memories will return."
"And the King." I said.
He gave another smile, but it was less reluctant, more at ease. He then walked from the cave, back outside, whether to join the battle or the other men who waited there I knew not. I rested back on the bed and fell asleep again, the shortest conversations exhausted me.
I blearily awoke to the men swiftly packing up what was in the caves. I must have slept through the evening and the night. Cobryn came over to me.
"We have little time to talk, eat and then ready yourself for the journey."
He handed me some bread and another apple, my stomach felt a little more settled this time so I ate hungrily and drank the water near my bed. I still felt a little shaky on my legs, but managed to crawl away from my bed so they could pack it up. Cobryn brought my cloak over and he studied the clasp.
"This is finely made, Elven?" he said.
He wrapped the cloak around my shoulders and as his eyes caught hold of mine, I somehow recognised him. I frowned in puzzlement, I had known his face…it had been younger, softer. My fingers nearly went to his cheek, a desire to smooth away that look of worry, those cares on his brow.
"What is it?" Cobryn asked, but I shook my head.
He helped me up before carrying me from the cave's mouth, where a waterfall fell down into a dazzling pool beneath. The bright sunshine made me squint my eyes against the glare. Outside several armed guards on horses waited, Faramir with them.
"I have a safe path ready for us, Madril you will stand in my stead," he said to one of the soldiers, whose hair was greying, but who bowed respectfully to Faramir. "Lady Nyneve, I hope you will not mind travelling with Cobryn, but we must ride apace."
"I do not mind." I replied.
Cobryn helped me up into the saddle, before swinging himself into it and sitting comfortably behind me. Cobryn rode his horse beside Faramir.
"My Lord, why do you suggest she is a lady?"
"What do you mean?" Faramir asked.
"You called her Lady Nyneve, how do we know she bears such a title?"
"A guess, although her hands do not bear resemblance to those of the ladies of court, her skin elsewhere is pale and soft. The clothes she wears are of a fine material not seen in these lands." Faramir caught my gaze, "And of course, her eyes. Perhaps she has been amongst the elves for her eyes hide many secrets and it seems the dark ages of pasts are within them."
I looked away, feeling something akin to fear and shame. Faramir nudged his horse forward.
"Lord Faramir, I beg you not to take me to Minas Tirith. I know not why I fear such a place, but I am not safe, if I enter the city I will not bring any blessings upon it."
He turned to look at me and I saw several of the men raise their eyebrows at me and smirk somewhat. Faramir's face remained impassive.
"I am afraid I must, my father wishes to speak to you, the death of a son is not an easy thing to bear and he will have many questions for you."
He turned round and ordered his men onward; I gripped tightly onto the saddle of the horse, trying to hide my tears and to remain in the saddle, for we soon were galloping across the land. Whoever Faramir's father was he wanted to see me and soon, though I did not know if I could provide all the answers to his questions.