Dedication: This is for Eärengil. Meldis nîn.
Roses of Imloth
It was a bright summer’s day, with the sky as blue as can be and the sun warm and sweet. It was her birthday. She stood leaning against the white wall of the embrasure and looked at the white walls and many grey roofs of the six circles of the city below her, trying to hide a smile.
Her sons had given her a song at the breakfast table and then proudly presented what they deemed the best kind of present they could give their mother. The song had been loud and cheerful, rather than melodic. The presents had been a dagger from Boromir and a something that looked like a wooden cauliflower from Faramir: a rose carved out of poplar wood by the young artist himself.
Her husband however, had given her only a stiff peck on her cheek and wished her well, more politely than cordially. But his unhappy gaze had told her more clearly than any words just how uncomfortably caught up he still was – and perhaps always would be – in the tangled web of courtly manners and keeping up appearances for the power plays of politics.
The poor man!
He knew that she knew just how different they were, how different their upbringing had been. For her – making it easy to cheerfully show her feelings. For him – just as deeply ingraining the habit of carefully hiding his every emotion. And still he struggled to show her what she knew every minute of her married life, whether he said it or not: that he loved her with all his hidden heart and all his stubborn head.
When she heard steps, she turned around.
There he was again, her beloved Denethor. His shoulders uncomfortably hunched, a scowl on his face, his arms hidden behind his back. He walked towards her as if he was moving against a heavy wind. And maybe he was: a wind blowing into his face from a stern and loveless upbringing that had prepared him for duty and hardship, but not for life, and certainly not for love.
Then he was in front of her.
As always, she longed to stroke the noble, clear-cut lines of his face until that that shadow would finally leave his gaze. But it never did. So she contented herself with a soft smile.
“A beautiful day, my dear husband, isn’t it?”
His eyes brightened and the mere hint of a smile played around his wide, thin lips. “Not as beautiful as you are,” he hesitated, swallowed. “My love.”
Touched by this unexpected overture, she blinked away a tear.
“I have something for you,” he continued brusquely, his arms still behind his back. Without warning, he took a last step towards her and revealed what it was that he had been hiding behind his back by virtually shoving it into her face. For a moment she had to grab wildly not to let this unexpected gift fall to the ground.
Then, her nose suddenly buried in a wealth of silky blooms, she could only gasp with pleasure. Hundreds of sleek, cool blossoms seemed to caress her cheeks. A cloud of delicious fragrance went straight to her head: the tart and elegant, yet summery sweet scent of roses of Imloth, the most precious flower in all of Gondor, and her most beloved.
“Oh, thank you, my dear,” she breathed, her nose and mouth filled with the delightful perfume of rose blossoms.
“I know you love them,” he replied gruffly. Now, relieved of his precious burden, he was back to his customary stiff and awkward posture.
Finduilas smiled at her husband tenderly. Carefully she bent down and propped the rosebush against the embrasure. Then she stepped forward, once again crossing the distance towards the man who was hidden behind the Steward. She reached for his hands. As she felt the grateful pressure answering her touch, and after ascertaining that there was no one around to watch them in this unusual public display of intimacy, she pressed her body against him and tilted up her head, to reach for his lips.
As always, there was a moment of hesitation on his part – of fear? of disbelief? But then his lips were on his, silky and tart as the roses of Imloth.
And she could only think that this, this was the most precious gift she could ever want for a birthday. This deep, almost desperate love of this deep and wonderful man.
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