Máleth and I sat in our carriage and kept the shutter open, since it was not as cold as the previous day, as the wind had died down.
The rain did not cease until midmorning. I feared it would continue until we reached Lamedon. The further we travelled, the muddier the South Road became. It seemed that the rain had become heavier further west. At times, the carriages would have to stop while workers placed long planks of wood along the road so the carriage's wheels would not become stuck in the mud. I kept my patience smooth while I watched the Anduin River in the distance.
"I do hope we reach Pelargir before the sun sets," Máleth said worriedly. "I would hate to travel by night in this region."
"I am sure we will not be attacked," I said reassuringly. "Our company is too large to be attacked by a band of orcs."
"What about the Corsairs?"
I hesitated. "The Corsairs are known to attack the port of Pelargir. We will not be staying near the port. The Lord of Pelargir has a house in the centre of the city."
Máleth nodded, still looking outside. I did not blame her. The region around Pelargir had always been a dangerous place to travel through. Corsairs were not the only people that made us worry. There were also bandits and other foul creatures roaming the region around Pelargir on both sides of the Anduin River.
I would be lying if I said I was not frightened. Back in Dol Amroth, I had never heard of any good news coming from Pelargir. There was always something terrible happening, and my father refused to allow any of his children to travel there. I was not looking forward to my visit.
The sun was starting to set and we still had not reached Pelargir. I could sense that the guards riding by my carriage were restless. They kept looking about them and speaking quietly to one another. Carefully, I leaned out of the window and looked ahead. I could not see Denethor anywhere, but I could see Imrahil pointing west as he talked to his men. By the expression on my brother's face, I could tell something was wrong. I leaned back into the carriage, trying to keep calm and patient so I would not worry Máleth.
I felt the carriage come to a halt. The knights riding beside rode ahead. Their actions concerned me. I could not help but feel defenceless now that my guards had left my side. Máleth was still doing her cross-stitch, but I could not focus on anything. I started to clutch the bottom of the seat, feeling very anxious. The guards had not yet returned, and I could hear the men talking loudly. I tried to hear what they were saying, but they were too far away.
My attention was drawn to the other side of the carriage. I could hear soft footsteps running along the road. I started to think that the road had become too muddy and that the workers were being called to lay planks down.
"What is that?" Máleth asked, leaning over to the carriage side to have a better listen.
Confused, I leaned over too. A squeaking noise could be heard from below. It stopped and the carriage wobbled. I held onto the seat.
"Máleth," I hissed. "Go and call for the guards!" Máleth exited the carriage, but she did not move. "Máleth!" I called.
She signalled for me to get to the floor. I obeyed, fearing the worse. The squeaking noise started again, but this time the carriage collapsed to its side. I screamed as I fell backwards onto the carriage's side. I opened my eyes to see the carriage door facing the sky, but the sky disappeared as two dirty looking men appeared, leaning in to grab me. I tried to fight them off, but I was not strong enough. As I was dragged out of the carriage, I heard other women screaming. I managed to get a glimpse of the other carriages – all on their sides with dirty men on top.
"Máleth!" I shouted, scanning the commotion for my handmaiden. I could not see her anywhere. Two very tall men dragged me towards the river. One had his hand over my mouth to stop me from screaming, another had his large arm wrapped around my waist. I started to panic, wondering if anyone was going to ride to my aid. I knew Denethor would not. I had never seen him train with a sword. To this day, I still do not know why he carries it around with him.
The closer I came to the river, the harder it became to walk. It was so muddy that the bottom of my light blue dress was covered with mud. Eventually, my foot became stuck in a muddy hole and I tripped over. One of the men fell on top of me. I gasped as his heavy weight bared down on me. Half my face was in the mud and I found it incredibly hard to breathe. The man managed to get back to his feet, pulling me up onto his shoulder. By then I was gasping for breath. My whole body was in agony.
When I managed to regain my breath, I saw all the carriages had been tipped over. I was also not the only woman being carried away. I saw a few other noble women of the court being dragged through the mud. They were all crying and pleading for mercy. These men were not satisfied with their behaviour. I could feel tears starting to swell in my own eyes. I tried to fight them back, but I could not.
"Quit ye cryin'!" the man who was carrying me said. "The captain of the ship does not tolerate tears. So ye better stop before he sees ya!"
His words made me cry even more. I vaguely saw the knights of Gondor riding towards us, but fear overwhelmed me that a Corsair was carrying me. The stories I heard as a child about the Corsairs of Umbar terrified me. The men treated the women poorly, giving them no rights. They fought with little mercy and raided cities, burning as they went.
"Finduilas!" I lifted my head, hearing my brother call my name.
"Imrahil!" I called back, seeing him riding towards me with Swan Knights.
"Finduilas, Imrahil?" the Corsair said, placing me back on my feet. He gave me a sly smile. "I know who you are – Princess of Dol Amroth." He lifted me back onto his shoulder and started to run towards the ship.
It did little difference, my brother and his knights were on horseback, and reached us before the Corsair got even close to the water's edge. As the knights circled us, the Corsair dropped me to the ground. I tried to stand up, but my head gave me too much pain. I lied down, closing my eyes.
"Finduilas," a soft voice said. I slowly fluttered my eyes open to see Imrahil sitting by my side.
"Where am I?" I asked, looking around.
"You are in the House of Pelargir," Imrahil replied, stroking my cheek. "You are safe now."
I sat up, allowing my brother to assist me. "How did I get here? What happened? Where is Denethor?"
"Drink this medicine," Imrahil said. "It will soothe any pain you have."
I accepted the small goblet and drank the vile tasting liquid.
"You passed out," Imrahil said, starting to answer my questions. "When the Corsair dropped you, you hit your head on a small rock. It was hidden under the grass."
I nodded, placing the goblet on the bedside table. "I remember feeling pain in my head before blacking out."
"I carried you on my horse to Pelargir..."
"The women!" I said, cutting Imrahil off. "Did you save the other women?"
"Yes," Imrahil replied. "Everyone is accounted for." He paused. "Before we were attacked, Denethor and several guards rode ahead to make sure that Lord Corinir of Pelargir was prepared for our arrival."
"My husband was not present for the attack?"
My brother shook his head. "He has been so worried about you. He has hardly left your side after the physician allowed him to see you."
"Where is he now?" I asked, scanning the room.
"Talking with Lord Corinir. We are trying to figure out how the Corsairs knew where we were."
"It was rather suspicious," I replied. "Perhaps someone told them?"
"Perhaps," he replied. "Anything is possible these days." He stood up. "I shall go and inform Denethor that you are finally awake."
After Imrahil left, I sat back on the soft pillows. Images of the Corsair who carried me continued to stream my mind. The whole event was something that I would never forget. Trying to take my mind of those wicked men, I picked up the mirror off the bedside table and observed my face. All the mud was gone and my hair was silky again. Someone must have bathed me really well to get all that mud and grime out of my hair. I was thankful though, and I planned on finding out who washed me.
I was amazed to see no scratches on my face or neck. However, I failed to believe that I could have survived without a signal injury. I threw the blankets back and searched my legs for any scratches or bruises. Still, nothing. However, when I lifted my chemise up, I saw my stomach was bruised. It was shades of green and purple, covering the left side of my abdomen. I sighed, lowering my chemise and pulling the blankets back. Until that bruise had gone, I refused to allow Denethor to see me unclothed. I felt my cheeks starting to burn, thinking of how embarrassing it would be for him to see my stomach like that.
The chamber door opened and Denethor appeared looking very relieved. "Finduilas," he said, walking over and sitting next to me. He ran his fingers along the side of my face, and then pulled me close for a kiss. "Are you alright? How are you feeling? Do you need me to get the physician again?"
I smiled, shaking my head. "No, I am quite fine. Just exhausted still."
"We will not be leaving until you have fully recovered."
"What about Voronda?" I asked.
"If it puts your mind at ease, I decided to send one of the royal physicians ahead. He will take good care of her."
I embraced Denethor. "Thank you. That means a lot, and I am sure Tatiel will be grateful."
"She will be. But you must forgive me, I have to leave. There is a council happening in the hall."
"Very well," I replied. "I believe I might rest some more."
Denethor gave me one quick kiss on the cheek before leaving me alone. It felt good to be alone. After being through such a large ordeal, all I wanted to do was curl up in bed, hug a pillow, and fall asleep. So I did just that, except I found myself crying instead of sleeping. I cried in fear of what would have happened if my brother did not reach me in time. What would have happened if I ended up on board a Corsair ship? Such a thought gave made me shiver. I knew this would never have happened if I remained in Dol Amroth. As I had said before, my father would never allow me within a day's ride of Pelargir, and Dol Amroth was a strong fort. Back in Dol Amroth, I was safe from evil.
I started to resent being married. It was not Denethor, no. It was the fact that I was out in the open where I could see all these evil and bad tidings happen. I vowed never to travel from Minas Tirith after this trip. I would go to Osgiliath, but no further than that.
I managed to fall asleep, waking the next morning to see Denethor by my side. I smiled faintly, placing my hand on his shoulder. He stirred, rolling over. I knew it would wake him up, for he was a light sleeper.
"How are you feeling?" he asked, sitting up.
"I am fine," I lied. I could feel my bruised stomach aching as I sat up. I was mentally preparing myself for a few days of pain.
"That is good to know," Denethor said. "Will it be possible for you to start travelling again tomorrow morning?"
I nodded. "Certainly. I am eager to leave again."
"Wonderful, I shall make arrangements to leave after breakfast."
"What would you rather be if you were not the heir to the Steward's throne?" I asked, wondering if I could see a marriage of peace and serenity with Denethor in Dol Amroth. I knew it would not happen, but I liked to dream.
"Whatever are you talking about?" he asked, confused.
"Well, would you give up your title for a more peaceful life?"
"Never," Denethor said. "I am proud of bearing such a title, and I always will be. Unfortunately, Finduilas, the life you speak of will never exist. Evil has spread too far and has prevented it from ever happening."
"But, don't you ever imagine of what life could be without the worries of war and the enemy?"
Denethor sighed. "I did once. But these days, the enemy has clouded that thought. I would rather not speak of it now. I cannot get my hopes up for something that will never be."
"I understand," I mumbled, watching my husband leave the chamber. Sometimes I just wished that he would see the lighter side of things. He always speaks of the future, but he really does not know what the future holds.
Back then, I really hoped to live to see my dream come true. If not a life of peace in Dol Amroth, then perhaps a life of peace and serenity in Minas Tirith.
I looked up and saw Máleth at the doorway. "Oh! Máleth! You are alright!"
"That I am, my lady," she replied, smiling. "I managed to hide until it was all over. Though, I was absolutely terrified for your health when I saw Imrahil carrying you unconscious."
"Just a small bump on the head, I assure you."
"Thank the Valar for that!"
I grinned, happy to see my handmaiden was well. "I suppose I should start getting dressed."
"Your trunk is still intact. The workmen have fixed the carriages also."
"Wonderful," I replied, getting out of bed. "I would hate to ride on horseback for the rest of the way."
"Yes, my lady," she said, throwing my blue mantle over my shoulders. "I have a gown ready for you."
I smiled as I started to brush my hair. I pondered on the journey to Linhir, knowing it was many leagues away. Before we left, there was talk of camping overnight between Pelargir and Linhir, but if I had a say in the matter, we would continue through the night, stopping only if we absolutely had to.