Voronda and I had formed a lovely relationship. Each day I would spend time with her, introducing her to the people of the court and taking her shopping through the sixth and fifth level of the city. One of the first things I bought her was silk cloth for a dress. She was so excited with the idea, that I allowed her to choose the colour. She chose a light shade of green. I managed to find some matching coloured ribbons for her to wear in her hair. Oh how lovely and long her hair was! Every evening I would brush her hair and braid it into a long plait. In the mornings, her hair was wavy, but Voronda did not like keeping her hair loose, so we tied it up neatly.
I became very attached to Voronda. I felt like a surrogate mother in Tatiel's place. I discovered Voronda had very few friends of her own age back in Lamedon. With that information, I quickly found lords of the court who were willing to allow their daughters to spend time with Voronda. I arranged days where the nursery was full of excited little girls playing with all the toys, and eating little treats made by the cooks of the palace. Occasionally, some of the girls' mothers would come and keep me company. One woman I became good friends with was Lady Andis. She was a woman close in age with me, and her daughter was Laereth.
"Princess Finduilas, Princess Finduilas! Look at this!" Voronda called to me. I was sitting with Andis in the nursery while Voronda and Laereth played together.
"What is it, my sweet?" I asked as Voronda hopped onto my lap.
"This dolly's dress is falling apart," Voronda said, showing me the little blue dress, which had started to come undone at the sleeve.
"Well that is no good," I replied. "How about we go and see the seamstress tomorrow so she can fix it?"
Voronda grinned. "I would like that very much, Princess Finduilas." She hopped off my lap and skipped over to where Laereth was playing.
"She is such a pleasant girl," Andis said, watching the two little girls play. "It is a shame that she has such a dismal future ahead."
I sighed, thinking of Voronda's betrothal. "Do you think there is any way I could stop this betrothal?"
Andis looked at me curiously. "Perhaps when you become the Stewardess of Gondor. However, even then it would be difficult. Very rarely can a betrothal contract be broken."
"There must be some grounds I can find which suggests that Voronda is too young to be betrothed."
"Nay," Andis replied sadly. "Children can be legally betrothed from the moment they are born. I thought you would know of this?"
I nodded. "Yes, I did. But I am hoping that somehow I can stop this betrothal."
"The most common way a betrothal contract can be ended is if the bride or groom dies before the wedding can take place. Of course, you wouldn't do anything that drastic, would you?"
I chuckled. "No, no. I am not that cruel! But I am going to put an end to this contract. I will have to work silently and secretly, but nevertheless, I will do all that I can to accomplish this task."
Andis smiled faintly. "You seem to love Voronda very much to want to do this."
"I do," I replied, gazing at Voronda. "She is the daughter I do not have."
"She is very lucky to have you."
The next day, I took Voronda down to the fifth level to the same seamstress who was making her new dress. The seamstress was an elderly woman by the name of Laimes. She was kind and handed Voronda a small packet of hard candy to eat while she fixed the doll's dress.
"This is so yummy!" Voronda said, sucking on a piece of candy. "Princess Finduilas, would you like a piece?"
"Most certainly," I replied, accepting a long strand of candy. The candy was very similar to the type sold in Dol Amroth. It was berry flavour with a hint of cream. I leaned closer to Voronda, so Laimes could not hear. "Did you say thank you?"
Voronda looked at me with guilt. "Sorry Princess Finduilas, but I think I am forgetting my manners." She stood up and gave Laimes a deep curtsy. "Thank you for the candy, Mistress Laimes."
Laimes chucked at the young girl's formality. "Little one, there is no need to curtsy me. But I thank you for your appreciation." Voronda sat back down, watching Laimes carefully take the dress off the doll.
I stared around the room, thinking of how wonderfully kept it was. Laimes was a war widow, with two sons enlisted as guards on the first level. So the seamstress lived with only her daughter and grandson, who were currently out shopping. Since it was the beginning of spring, the snow had ceased and the clouds parted allowing the sun's warmth to brighten the city. Laimes had the curtains in her room wide open, which gave a wonderful view of Osgiliath in the distance. The ships sailing into Osgiliath from the west fascinated me. I could see they were baring the flag of Dol Amroth, meaning the trades between both cities were still strong.
"Princess Finduilas," Voronda said, tugging at my sleeve. "Mistress Laimes just said that my dress is finished."
"Oh," I started. "Forgive me, I was daydreaming."
Laimes smiled warmly. "No need to worry. I rather enjoy watching the ships sail along the Anduin River. But not to worry, I shall go and get this young lady's dress."
Voronda stood up excitedly. "Do you think it will fit me?"
I chuckled. "Of course it will fit you! Remember, Mistress Laimes took your measurement."
"Of course," Voronda said in thought. "How silly of me to forget."
Laimes appeared moments later carrying Voronda's new dress. I stood up, manoeuvring Voronda to stand in front of me.
"Here, how does this look?" Laimes asked, holding the green dress up.
Voronda gasped. "It is so pretty!"
"That it is," I said, gazing at the dress. I also saw that Laimes had added pearls along the hem and neckline.
"Can I put it on?" Voronda asked hopefully.
"Of course you can!" Laimes replied.
Voronda dressed into her new gown with excitement. She twirled around and felt the pearls that hung from the hem. "The silk is so soft."
I knelt down next to her, feeling the silk's texture. "It is. It will be a very pretty dress for you to wear on special occasions."
Voronda nodded and turned to Laimes. "Thank you, Mistress Laimes. You make the prettiest dresses."
Laimes chuckled. "Not to worry, my dear. Now I must fix this doll's dress. I shan't be too long."
I helped Voronda undress and carefully fold it up and place it into a box. Voronda was in high spirits after receiving her dress, and she kept skipping around the room, singing songs. I had never seen her so happy before. In fact, I had never heard her sing until that day! I wondered if she had sung in her mother's presence. I felt so bad for Tatiel. I knew she wanted nothing more than to be a good mother, but as Denethor had said – all women must obey their husbands and Tatiel was doing just that. I began to wonder if Denethor would act the same if I only bore him a daughter. However, if it came to the well-being of my child, I would disobey my husband's commands if need be. Children were so precious to me.
The next day, Denethor suggested to me that he would take Voronda and me down to the royal stable. I was rather surprised by this act, since he and his father were so focused on the enemy. But, I could not refuse him.
Voronda skipped ahead as we walked down the steps of the Citadel. "I am surprised you have found time for your niece and me, since the enemy is being a constant threat to Gondor."
Denethor sighed. "I have been meaning to spend some time with you both, and you are right. Threats from the enemy are keeping me away from the things I would rather do, like spend time with you."
I smiled. His constant busy schedule had made him feel so guilty toward me. But I kept telling him every evening that I did not expect him to be by my side every day from the moment we married. It is common for lords to be kept away from their families at some point.
"Have you had news from Lord Angbor and your sister?" I asked.
"I have," Denethor replied. "I am afraid Voronda is being sent back to Lamedon next week."
Those words made me feel weak at the knees. I had to learn on the wall for support. "Finduilas," Denethor said, supporting me. "What is wrong?"
I could hear the nerves in his voice, but everything around me seemed so distant. I finally came to my senses and stood up straight, hooking my arm into Denethor's. "Do not send her back. Please, I am begging you."
I heard Denethor sigh sadly. "I am sorry, Finduilas, but she is not our child. We cannot command where she is to live."
"What about your father? Surely he has some say?"
"He does, but he will not do anything to affect the relationship with Lamedon. Lord Angbor is already displeased with my father because Tatiel cannot give him a male heir."
"Voronda is a bright child. I do not see why he has to treat her like she has no feelings."
"Finduilas," Denethor said calmly. "Please. You need not focus on such things. Voronda is not your daughter. I know you have become quite attached to her, but you are not her mother. Tatiel is. I am sorry."
I nodded sadly, accepting the news with great pain. I did not want to hurt Tatiel, but I deeply wanted to adopt Voronda so she could be away from her dreaded life in Lamedon.
We reached the royal stable, and Voronda peered into every stall, trying to count how many white horses there were. Denethor led me over to a stall near the end of the stable, showing me a white pony.
"White is Voronda's favourite colour," Denethor said. "This pony is her parting gift from us."
"What is its name?" I asked.
"Glosroch," Denethor replied.
Voronda skipped over to where we were standing and peered into the stall. "I have counted eight white horses."
"Very good," I replied.
"Voronda, this is Glosroch. She is your new pony," Denethor said gently.
Voronda opened her mouth and jumped up and down excitedly. "She is so pretty! Thank you Uncle Denethor!" She embraced her uncle around the legs while Denethor chuckled and smoothed her hair. I opened the stall door, and watched as Denethor helped Voronda feed the pony and teach her how to properly brush a horse. I found it rather wonderful seeing my husband interact with a small child. I started to daydream of Denethor teaching our first child all the basics of horse care.
"Princess Finduilas!" Voronda said cheerfully. "I can take the pony home with me!"
I smiled. "I am glad."
"When will I be leaving?" she asked Denethor.
"Your father is arriving in the Citadel on Tuesday, next week," Denethor replied.
I saw Voronda's expression sadden as she slowly stroked the pony's mane. "Can I go back up to the palace now?"
"Of course you can," Denethor replied, leading her out of the stall.
The walk back to the Citadel felt like it would never end. Voronda walked slowly in front of Denethor and me. She moved as if she was leading a funeral down the street. I really could not bear to see her act so sad. I grabbed Denethor's hand to give me better comfort. As we came around the last bend of the sixth level, we walked past a group of women who were chatting amongst themselves, but loud enough for us to hear.
"That is what I heard," one said, looking alarmed.
"I did not know that the Easterlings were so... clever," another said.
"Well the talk of the first level is that a band of Easterlings were able to enter the city without being noticed as the enemy."
"Valar have mercy on our children if they are able to continue to enter so easily into our city!"
I looked at Denethor, shocked. "Is what they are saying true?"
Denethor nodded. "They were caught in the first level looting one of the armouries."
I was stunned and confused as to why he did not inform me. "When did this happen?"
"Two days ago."
I stopped walking and folded my arms. "Two days ago!" Denethor turned and walked up to me, but I refused to hold his hands. "Why did you not tell me?"
"I did not want you to worry."
I looked around and saw that the group of women had stopped talking and were watching us. I lowered my voice to a harsh whisper. "You are treating me like a child! I am your wife and the future Stewardess of Gondor! If the enemy enters this city, I think I have a right to know!"
Denethor lowered his eyes for a moment. "I am sorry, but... I do not want to see you worry."
"I am allowed to worry," I replied, unfolding my arms. "Come, Voronda is way ahead of us."
That night, Denethor and I did not talk. During dinner, everyone was uneasily silent. Voronda was moping over the table, and Ecthelion was eyeing Denethor and me suspiciously. I was so glad after the table had been cleared and I was able to escort Voronda to the nursery.
"Princess Finduilas," she said as I poured warm water over her in the bath.
"Yes, my sweet," I replied as I started to comb her long, dark hair.
"I do not want to go home."
I sighed and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I am sorry Voronda, but I have no say in whether you stay or go."
"Could you come with me?" she asked hopefully.
"I am afraid I cannot. I have duties here that I must do. Besides, your uncle would never allow me to travel to Lamedon."
"But Uncle Denethor is nice," Voronda continued. "He may let you."
I smiled sadly. "I am sorry, but this is the way it has to be."
Voronda started to cry softly. I was glad she was in the bath and I could easily wash her face once the last tear had fallen. I felt all over the place that evening. Voronda's sorrow was saddening me, my dispute with my husband angered me, and the news of the enemy infiltrating Minas Tirith terrified me. After Voronda was sleeping soundly, I managed to find my way to my chamber. Denethor was already there, and was obviously waiting for me. But all I wanted to do was go back to Dol Amroth and embrace my father and brother.
I walked right past Denethor and into the privy. I leaned against the door, breathing heavily, trying to keep my emotions under control. I did not want to cry in fear that Denethor would hear me. Very slowly, I started to undress and place a fresh nightgown on. I washed my face and untied my hair, brushing every knot out. I knew I would not be able to escape this dreaded fear I had from living in Minas Tirith. But in order to keep my fear under control, I needed Denethor's support.
I placed my deep blue mantle on and left the privy. Denethor was sitting in our bed. He put his book down and I climbed into bed, into his arms - into a safe haven. We silently forgave each other, too exhausted to move out of each other's comfort. Too exhausted to even speak.
I now lay in the exact same bed, but it does not give me the same comfort as it once did. I feel so lonely in this big, cold bed. Just comparing my past to the present makes my cry with grief. I have wanted so badly to have that life with Denethor back. He was a saviour from darkness, my companion during the cold nights. Now, he is nothing more than a stranger is.