We reached Linhir at around five in the morning. I was so relieved to step out of the carriage to stretch and smell the warm ocean breeze. I felt so close to Dol Amroth now. Sadly, my home city was not along the South Road.
The walk to the Lord of Linhir's house was by a pathway that ventured along the Anduin River. I inhaled the smell of salt water and cherished the sound of waves crashing in the distance. Denethor was walking at my side, holding my hand casually. My dear husband had not slept all night and I could see the lack of sleep starting to affect him. In the distance, I saw Lord Tarondor's house. It was situated on the river's edge with a large terrace overlooking the river. I could see the long, blue curtains of the terrace doorway blowing out as if trying to reach the river. The one thing I liked about Lord Tarondor's house was that it was very cool in the summer seasons. Along the coastline, the summer heat would swelter all day, only to continue through the night. Lord Tarondor's house was built to circulate the ocean breeze through the entire house. There were not shutters on the windows, and there was an open courtyard in the centre of the house with a square pool surrounded by a garden.
By the time I walked up the main steps and was greeted by Lord Tarondor and his wife, I wanted to go to bed. I saw that Denethor felt the same way and immediately retired.
"Forgive my husband," I said to Lord Tarondor. "He has not slept all night."
Tarondor nodded. "I understand. I have heard your journey has met some difficult barriers."
I nodded. "Sadly, yes. But do not worry. We are all in good health."
Tarondor kissed the top of my hand. "Then I shall bid you to retire also. Rest as long as need be. My household is expecting your party to have a late morning, so do not rush."
I smiled. "I thank you, my lord."
A servant showed me to my chamber. When I opened the door, I saw that Denethor was already in bed, sleeping. Sighing, I walked over to the dresser, started to untie my hair, and brushed out all the knots. Quietly, I changed into a clean chemise and got into bed.
I woke feeling very refreshed. I could see the sunlight shining through the skylight and a large window. I rolled over and noticed Denethor had already risen. Sitting up, I observed the chamber, but he was not present. I dressed quickly and headed out of my chamber. As I walked through the open corridor, I watched Tarondor's children playing in one of the gardens. Tarondor had a large family, consisting of six children – four boys and two girls. All the children looked so happy as they ran around trying to catch butterflies and other small creatures.
"Princess!" one of the girls called as she waved to me.
I smiled. It was Tarondor's youngest daughter, Angwen. She was such a pretty, young girl, with long raven hair and sea-grey eyes. "Good morning, Lady Angwen."
Angwen hugged my waist. "I have not seen you in such a long time!"
I chuckled, enlightened by her enthusiasm. "I know, is has been a while. Tell me, how are your swimming lessons progressing?"
Angwen's face lit up. "Father has allowed me to swim all on my own now. He said I have finished all my swimming lessons."
"That is wonderful!" I exclaimed. "You must feel very proud of yourself."
"Oh, I am."
I watched Angwen skip back to the garden to continue playing with her siblings. I stood there for a while, watching them laughing and chasing each other. I eventually made my way into the main hall, only to find Tarondor's wife, Lady Duvaimes.
"Lady Finduilas," Duvaimes said, embracing me. "You look as beautiful as ever. How I envy you!"
I smiled. Duvaimes and I had been friends for many years. "Please, you are bias."
"With good reason," she replied. "Come, have you eaten?"
I shook my head. "No, I have only just risen."
Duvaimes gestured me to sit at the dining table. The servants bought out large platters of fruits, freshly baked bread and thin slices of meat.
"So tell me," I started, sipping my wine, "where are our dear husbands?"
"Tarondor is showing Lord Denethor around the port." Duvaimes paused. "Your father, Prince Adrahil, has decided to raise our taxes to cover the expenses of expanding the navy."
"I am sorry to hear that," I replied. "Surely Dol Amroth's taxes have risen also."
Duvaimes shrugged. "It is not my duty to know that. Tarondor only tells me certain information. He was not pleased with this tax raise. The fishermen are becoming frightened of leaving port due to Corsair ships appearing."
I took a deep breath, remembering my last ordeal with the Corsairs. "I am sure Gondor's waters are safe enough to fisherman."
Duvaimes shook her head. "In the last month, we have lost five fishing vessels due to Corsair ships plundering them, and then sinking the boats."
I sighed. "I suppose seafood is becoming sparse now."
Duvaimes nodded. "Sadly, that is the case. We are starting to rely on our trade with Dol Amroth to supply us with seafood. But now that the taxes have risen, trading has become far more expensive."
"This tax raise is not my father's fault," I said. "It is the enemy's doing. If the Dark Lord and all his minions would keep to themselves, none of this would be happening. In fact, I am rather surprised my father needs to expand the navy. Dol Amroth's navy has always consisted of twenty ships."
"The Corsairs are becoming more daring these days," Duvaimes replied sadly. "It is a shame the people are starting to live in fear."
After a lovely breakfast, I decided to help Duvaimes with running her household. She had a small study at the front of the house. It gave a wonderful view of the Anduin River. I was not surprised to find her desk facing the wide window. I knew I would eventually be in my friend's place when I became the Stewardess of Gondor, so I thought a little practise could not hurt.
"Here," Duvaimes said, sitting down in her chair. "You can help me buy checking if last week's figures are properly added."
I sat down on the other side of the desk and picked up a parchment that had numbers all over the page. I was rather overwhelmed by these figures. Duvaimes and her husband's household were quite expensive to maintain.
"How many tutors do your children need?" I asked, scanning the table that showed the expenses of tutors.
"My sons need four different tutors for their lessons, plus a stable master to teach them the basics of horse care. My daughters only need two. Though, Tarondor is wishing for his daughters to have a male education."
"Why does he wish that?" I asked, confused.
Duvaimes sighed. "Because, he believes women should be trained equal to men. Therefore, he does not see a problem with our daughters having a male education."
I shook my head. I could not believe what I was hearing. Women do not need to be equal as men. "I find your husband's theory wrong. Daughters of nobility are given an education of high standards already. I do not see any reason why women should learn how to wield a sword, or learn to hunt."
"It is not just that," Duvaimes said. "He wants all his children to be equal."
I sighed. "Well, they are his children, not mine. I suppose he can decide what is best for them. But I must say, these tutors you have hired are costing a fair bit. Surely there is a tutor who is happy to be given a lower salary?"
"There are," Duvaimes replied, "but Tarondor only wants the best for his children."
I gave up. I was not going to continue debating this conversation. I did not believe that the best tutors available were known by the amount of money they worked for, but instead, for the amount of knowledge they knew, and the way they taught. A professor who taught for half of what Tarondor was paying for one tutor alone tutored my brother, Imrahil.
I continued to scan the page, adding up all the expenses to make sure Duvaimes figures were added correctly. In the end, I discovered that their household was more expensive than Ecthelion's. I wanted to say something, but I supposed it was so expensive because they had a large family. I began to wonder if I would be the mother to several children. After seeing Duvaimes' household figures, I knew it would be expensive, but hectic at the same time. However, the idea of having a large family made me smile. I loved children and I would be more than happy to raise as many of them as possible. It would also make Denethor happy, knowing that he would have many children – hopefully sons who would carry on the Line of Stewards once he had died.
"Duvaimes," I said.
"How long did it take to conceive your first child?"
Duvaimes looked up from her papers. "I believe I was with-child around four months after my marriage."
Her response made my heart sink. "It has been over a year and still no child for Denethor and me."
Duvaimes gave me a sympathetic look. "It will happen. Do not have low spirits because another woman can conceive earlier than you can. I have complete faith in you and Denethor."
I tried to smile reassuringly. I really, really hoped she was correct. "Currently, I feel as if I am failing my husband... and Gondor."
"Do not say that," Duvaimes said sternly. "Ignore what the servants whisper to each other, and what the people of the court think."
"I am rather annoyed that most of the court accompanied Denethor and I on this journey."
Duvaimes nodded. "I have always seen the court of Minas Tirith as nosey. They probably only came to see if they can get an insight into your marriage."
I chuckled. "Most likely. Though, my marriage is not the most... romantic."
Duvaimes laughed. "That I believe. Lord Denethor has never been a man of romance. Though, I do believe he adores you. I can see that in his eyes when he looks at you."
"Sometimes I wish he were more romantic. Like how Tarondor is with you."
Duvaimes blushed. "Tarondor and I married for love. We had loved each other for many, many months. You, however, married politically, and do not forget, all men are different, Finduilas. You can try all you like, but you cannot change who they are."
I nodded. She was right. I could not make Denethor more romantic no matter how long and hard I tried. "Do you know he never kisses me in public?"
Duvaimes laughed again. "Oh Finduilas! Consider yourself lucky. Tarondor tends to kiss me a little bit too much in public. The faces of our guests make me want to hide in my chamber all the time."
I laughed also. "At least our husbands care about us."
Duvaimes nodded. "They do. That is the main thing. Without caring, a marriage would not work."