My marriage to Denethor was now so much more enjoyable. A week later, I found myself heading down to the stable with Denethor at my side.
"Why are we going to the stables?" I asked, trying to keep up with his quick pace.
"How else do you propose that we travel to Osgiliath?" Denethor replied.
"We are going to Osgiliath?" I asked, stunned that I was allowed to leave Minas Tirith.
"Yes we are," he replied, taking my hand so I would not fall too far behind. I was excited to be venturing out to Osgiliath. It was really a lovely place. There was always something to see and watch in Osgiliath. Public performances were always available to watch, markets were constantly opening to sell products from all over Middle-earth. In fact, Osgiliath was the largest trading route in Gondor. Because it was on the Anduin River, ships carrying cargo were able to sail in and out of port from the sea, or from far up north. This is also why I was keen to go to Osgiliath – I wanted to be near flowing water again. Even if it was just a river – a river flowed into the sea.
I soon discovered that we had a large escort of guards coming with us. I was bitterly disappointed by their presence. I do not know why we needed such a large group. I hardly believed that Mordor would attack Denethor and me as we crossed the plains between Minas Tirith and Osgiliath. Nevertheless, I hid my disappointment.
As we rode along, I listened to the guards speak to one another.
"I highly doubt that Mordor would attack Osgiliath. It is far too risky," one guard said, throwing his arms in the air.
"True, but the enemy has been known to do drastic things in drastic times," another said.
"Still – attacking the city of Osgiliath? They would have to be quite desperate."
"Actually, it would be a good idea." I froze, hearing my own voice. I could not believe I had just spoken those words. I turned towards Denethor who was glaring at me curiously.
"May I ask why you think that... wife?" Denethor asked.
"Well," I started, taking a deep breath. "If Mordor attacks Osgiliath and manages to overrun the city, forcing all Gondorian forces to flee, then it will be Mordor who controls the main crossing between the east and west banks of the Anduin. By having this crossing, all sorts of enemy forces could cross freely."
"My lady," one guard said, stunned, "I have to say, for a noble woman, your war tactics are very good."
A few of the guards chuckled, trying to hide their amusement, but I merely smiled politely. "I thought it would be obvious that they would want the main crossing over the Anduin."
I saw Denethor shake his head. "The enemy will never be able to claim Osgiliath. We have some of the best soldiers in all of Middle-earth. Our army is a force the enemy does not want to meet on a large scale."
I shared a smile with the guards riding behind me. I knew my husband was right – as always. But who knows what the enemy was capable of. Mount Doom had erupted, enemy legions were now moving along the Anduin River, and were able to cross by boat in southern Ithilien to launch an attack on Lamedon.
We rode into Osgiliath; all the people walking around the streets, looking at the market stalls and talking with the sailors, overwhelmed me. It was nice to see the city flourish and the Anduin River sparkling dark shades blue. I had such a strong urge to jump into the river. I had missed swimming ever since I left Dol Amroth. Swimming was something I used to do on a day-to-day basis. My favourite swimming spot was just off the large Island of Tolfalas. Of course, it took a few hours to sail there, but it was worth the wait. The Gondorian scouts had set up a small town to cater their needs, and you could anchor your ship in their little port while you took a smaller boat out to the deeper waters to swim.
"Finduilas," Denethor said, leading me over to a small group of men. "This is Lord Toven of Linhir. He is a friend of your brother's."
I stood, frozen on the spot, gazing at the handsome man I had met only a few years earlier. He was about my sister's age, making him only a few years older than me. Everything about him showed his Numenorean ancestry. He reminded me of the sailors back in Dol Amroth. "My lord," I said, bowing my head. I really did not want to look back up at him, afraid that I was blushing. How foolish of me; I had never felt this way during our first acquaintance.
"Lord Toven has news of your brother," Denethor continued.
My thoughts of desire left my mind immediately and were replaced with concern. "How is he?"
"He is very well," Toven replied. Valar! His voice was as pure as before. "His campaign against the Corsairs proved worthy. As they fled, Imrahil was able to seize one of their ships and found it crowded with slaves."
"Slaves? From where?" Denethor asked, concerned.
Toven sighed. "I believe some are from the western lands of Gondor. But some of the people are too traumatized to tell us where their homeland is."
I supposed I looked like a fool, standing there with my mouth slightly opened. "Well it is good that my brother was able to rescue them," I said, after finding my tongue.
Denethor and Toven nodded in approval. "If only I could see the day when the Corsairs of Umbar are defeated once and for all," Toven continued.
"Such a thing may still happen," Denethor said. "But if you will excuse Finduilas and I, for we are late on arrival."
Toven bowed. "I understand. My wife is most eager for me to return to Linhir."
His wife; I had forgotten about her. Lady Esgarbes was her name, and she had recently given him a second babe to place in the cradle. I was a fool to become jealous with the fact that that he had a wife. Frustrated with these feelings I should not have had, I took a deep breath and focused my thoughts on my husband.
"What are we late for?" I asked.
"There is a woman I would like you to meet," he said.
Valar! That made me feel no better. The first thought that came to my mind was that Denethor had taken a mistress. Dear Valar! What would I do? But then I thought that Denethor was not the type of man to do such a thing, but men are known to have foolish thoughts, just as women do.
"Who is she? " I asked, hiding my nerves.
"She is a well-known healer in Osgiliath," Denethor said. "Since the medicine the citadel physician gave you for your nightmares has not worked, I thought this healer may have something."
"Denethor, you do not need to go to so much effort for me," I said.
Denethor held my hand tighter and kissed my hair. "You are my wife. Your wellbeing is my concern."
We arrived at a small shop on the eastern side of the river. The front door was open, and I could smell a rich fragrance of herbs coming from inside. Denethor said he would wait outside, so nervously, I entered, wondering who this mysterious woman was.
"Hello?" I said quietly. The shop's walls were lined with shelves containing all sorts of herbs and bottles filled with objects I had never seen before.
"Yes? Who is it?" a female voice said. I turned to the counter and saw an elderly woman come out of a back room. She did not look Gondorian – she was short, with long fair hair pulled back with a traditional Gondorian hood.
"Oh, hello. My name is Finduilas," I started.
The woman observed me for a moment. "You are not from around here, are you?" she said, taking a seat behind the counter.
"I... yes, that is correct," I said. "I am from Dol Amroth."
"A beautiful city," she said, opening a large book in front of her. "Before I came to Osgiliath, I lived in Linhir. I used to travel to Dol Amroth every second week to find certain herbs which only grew around the city."
"Haldalótë!" I exclaimed. "It is a very hard plant to find."
The woman smiled warmly. "It used to take me two whole days to gather the right amount I needed. But come, sit down."
I sat down on the other side of the counter, feeling more at ease now that I had spoken about Dol Amroth.
"My name is Cílhel," she said. "Yes, my name is Elvish. My mother was from Mirkwood. My father lived in the northern town of Dale. I grew up in Dale, and I learned a lot from the Dwarfs."
I nodded. "And what made you come to Gondor?"
"When my father died, my mother left for the Grey Havens. After that, I decided to travel Middle-earth, helping those in need. I have only lived in Gondor for the last seven years."
I nodded again. "So you have chosen immortal life?"
Cílhel shook her head. "I am living a mortal life. I prefer mortality. It makes me feel closer to those I help. But I see Numenorean in you. Your life spam will be vastly beyond your husband, Lord Denethor."
My eyes widened. "How do you know he is my husband?"
Cílhel laughed. "I saw you arrive last year from Dol Amroth. I was at the markets when I saw your ship arrive. You greeted Lord Denethor and Lord Ecthelion, and then news reached Osgiliath of Lord Denethor's marriage. I put the pieces together, my dear."
I slowly nodded. "What else do you know about me?"
Cílhel gazed at me. "You miss your home – the ocean. You long to be in its presence once more. I also sense a type of emptiness in your eyes. Your life is not yet complete, Finduilas."
"I wish to be a mother," I said.
Cílhel nodded. "Is that why you have come to me? Do you wish for a remedy to help you conceive? I have many available."
"Oh," I said, a little surprised. "Well, my husband sent me here to ask for a remedy to cure nightmares."
"You have nightmares?" she asked curiously. "How frequent are they?"
"Almost every night," I replied.
She nodded, still staring at me. "May I ask what your nightmares are about?"
"I am not entirely sure," I said. "I believe I am watching the fall of Gondor. I am on the Anduin River, watching the shadow of Mordor stretch across the plains towards Minas Tirith. I see the enemy marching – there are thousands of them. Then, these nine tall, black figures start to approach me. I try to run, but I cannot. It is awful!"
Cílhel nodded slowly and stood up. "An interesting, yet terrible dream to be having." She walked over to a shelf, which had many books. She slid a large dusty book out and came back to her seat. "These nine figures. I believe I know what they are."
"You do?" I asked. "I thought they were only my imagination."
Cílhel shook her head sadly. "I am afraid not. She showed me a page in the book. On the left page, there were tall, black figures sketched onto the paper. They looked exactly like the black figures in my dream. I looked to the right page and saw their name.
"Nazgul!" I said. I was stunned and scared out of my wits. Those creatures were not even told in campfire stories.
"Yes, Finduilas. Your dream has the Nazgul in them. It concerns me. I have never come across a person who has dreamt of the Nazgul. I find this disturbing. You seem like a pleasant young woman who has much to aspire too." She closed the book and stood up again. "I may have a remedy for you. I rarely make it, for it is only used for the worst nightmares imaginable. The last person I gave this remedy to was a Dunedain Ranger who had consistent nightmares that made him relive his trauma of witnessing his kinsman being brutally tortured by Goblins."
"Why would I be having such horrible dreams?" I asked.
"It is a mystery that not even I know," Cílhel said sadly. "But here is the remedy. Take it half an hour before you retire each night. When you have run out, come back and see me."
"Thank you, Cílhel." I placed the bottle into the pocket of my cloak.
"Now," Cílhel continued, browsing the shelves. "Would you like another remedy to help you conceive?"
"Would it be possible for me to conceive without a remedy?" I asked.
Cílhel turned to me and smiled. "You have been married a year, and so far it has been fruitless?"
"I... yes," I stammered. The way Cílhel said it, made it sound dire.
"Most women who have not conceived within a year of their marriage come to me for a remedy. It does not mean that you are infertile. You may just need some extra help."
I nodded. "Very well. I suppose some extra help will not hurt."
Cílhel handed me another bottle. "You need to take this every morning. If you miss a day, it will not work. It will take a week or two before it will have a positive effect. So be patient."
I nodded again. "Thank you. How much do I owe you?"
Cílhel waved her hand at me. "You are Lord Denethor's wife! You owe me nothing. Just promise me one thing – that you will continue to help those in the Houses of Healing."
I opened my mouth, surprised. How much did this woman know about me? "I will. I enjoy helping others."
Cílhel smiled at me again. "That is always good to know. Lord Denethor could not have married a better woman."
I thanked her again before leaving her shop. I found Denethor a little further down the street browsing through what seemed to be numerous parchments. "Denethor."
"Finduilas, how did it go?" he asked, grabbing my hand.
"Well. She is a lovely lady," I replied. "How do you know her?"
We started to walk back to the stable. "My sister visited her once when she was with child. Tatiel told me all these positive things about Cílhel."
"Well, if this remedy she gave me works, I think I will continue seeing her."
Denethor smiled. "I am glad. She is a very odd woman, is she not?"
I chuckled. "She is very odd. But I think that is because she has travelled so much in her life."
"That could be it."
The ride back to Minas Tirith was refreshing. It was midafternoon and a cool evening breeze started to pick up. I loved the evening breeze. It was always so refreshing and seemed to swish away all the troubles I had. I looked west, sighing. I wondered what my family was currently doing in Dol Amroth. My brother, Imrahil was probably standing out on his balcony, watching the waves of the sea.
My eyes suddenly widened. "Denethor, do you know when my brother will make port at Dol Amroth?" I had just remembered he had sailed to war recently.
Denethor glanced at me sideways. "I have not heard from Imrahil, but I have heard from your father. He has told me that Imrahil should be on his way back to Dol Amroth by now."
I sighed with such relief. "That is wonderful news!"
"Yes it is, Finduilas," Denethor replied warmly. "We have shown the enemy that we are stronger than they first thought. If we keep this up, the enemy will start to think twice about attacking one of our cities."
I looked west again, and then behind me. I saw the red light from behind the mountains of Mordor. I hoped Denethor was right. I hoped Gondor would get a reputation among the enemy as being powerful and strong. If the enemy got the slightest hint that we were weak, or weakening, they would, without a second thought, attack. I just hoped my husband was up to the task of defending his lands.