I woke the next morning feeling quite relieved to see that I was not sweating. I felt my forehead and noticed that my fever had died down. Smiling, I got out of bed and stretched. It felt good knowing that I had survived the awful sweat. I moved my hand down to my lower abdomen, wondering if I was possibly with-child. Until I was certain, I would speak of it to nobody.
After I had dressed and eaten, I was led out of the camp and was met by Thorongil.
"Princess," Thorongil bowed. "I am enlightened to see that your health has improved."
"Thank you," I replied, smiling. "I am also glad to see that you have not fallen ill."
"Illness rarely affects me," Thorongil replied, offering his arm.
I accepted it and we both started to walk into Minas Tirith. "You must be one of the rare few of our kind who does not fall ill."
"It is a shame that sickness is the curse of our kind," Thorongil replied. "Yet, in the end, men are nothing more than mortal."
I nodded. "Your words are true."
Thorongil went over to fetch horses, but I politely refused. "Please, if I am possibly with-child, I would hate to miscarry from riding."
"Of course," Thorongil replied. "You must take all caution. Shall I fetch a carriage?"
"No," I said, shaking my head. "I am happy to walk."
"But the Citadel is seven levels!" Thorongil replied.
"Then I shall take my time," I replied. "I am in need of fresh air and some exercise. It will not kill me."
"Well," Thorongil started. "Would you like my company for the walk?"
"Only if you are in no hurry."
Thorongil smiled. "I am in no hurry, my lady. I would be glad to walk with you."
It felt so refreshing to be out of the camp and away from the sweat. "So tell me, Thorongil, where is your home?"
"I come from the north," Thorongil replied.
"What part of the north?" I asked.
"I live all over the north," he said. "My home is not one fixed location."
I slowly nodded. "Do you not feel empty? Having no permanent residence?" I asked.
"I was raised in Imladris," Thorongil answered. "You could say that the House of Lord Elrond has been my home."
"That is a mighty honour to be raised by the elves," I remarked.
Thorongil smiled. "It is an honour still. Lord Elrond is a very generous elf."
"I envy you," I said, sighing. "You seem to have led an interesting life so far. My life, however, is anything but interesting."
"Your marriage does not fulfil your heart?" Thorongil asked.
I shrugged. "I do not know anymore. The man I thought I loved seems to have two different personalities. I am rather nervous about seeing him again."
"Lord Denethor is a gentle man," Thorongil said reassuringly. "I am sure his previous anger was out of worry for your health."
"I guess we will soon find out whether your theory is right," I said. "It would be nice to have the man I love back."
"Everything in good manner shall be well," Thorongil said gently.
"Are you married?" I asked.
Thorongil shook his head. "No. Though, I shall tell only you that there is a lady who owns my heart."
"Is this love you have for her a secret?"
Thorongil sighed. "To some it is, but to others, they know. Her father does not wish for us to marry yet, so I must honour her family's wishes."
"Is she from the north also?"
"Yes," Thorongil replied. "Her family has resided in the north for many generations."
"Then I see your heart truly lies in the north," I said. "May I ask why you have come to Gondor?"
"I feel I am duty bound to this realm," Thorongil replied "My ancestors used to live here."
"Oh," I replied. "Are you of noble blood?"
"Some say," Thorongil replied. "Others say that I am as important as a stableman."
"My, my," I remarked with a hint of enthusiasm. "You are a man of great curiosity. There seems to be a great mystery about you."
Thorongil chuckled. "You have read me well, princess."
"How long have you known Denethor?" I asked curiously.
"A few years," Thorongil replied. "The last time I was here, was about four years ago. I helped Ecthelion's troops drive out the enemy from Lossarnach. It was then that Ecthelion made me captain."
"And my husband has disliked you ever since that day?"
"It seems so," Thorongil replied. "I have done nothing to upset him. But his father, Ecthelion does speak highly of me, maybe he is..."
Thorongil hesitated. "I would hate to use that word. He has nothing to be jealous of."
"If Lord Ecthelion admires you as you seem to claim. Then Denethor has every right to be jealous of you." I sighed. "Denethor is not a man of steel. He prefers books and lore rather than fighting on a battlefield. Ecthelion has only one son, and perhaps he sees you as a second son - the son who does fight on the battlefield."
"That is a possibility," Thorongil replied. "But I have no desire to compete for Ecthelion's love. The Steward will do as he pleases."
"It is not me that you have to convince," I said. "It is Denethor."
"You are right," Thorongil said. "I would like to reason with Lord Denethor. I only desire to be his friend and comrade."
"All shall be well," I said.
Thorongil and I entered the Citadel and made our way to Denethor's study. The door was open, but Denethor was not pleased to see my arm in Thorongil's.
"Unhand my wife," Denethor said, walking over to us.
"My apologies," Thorongil said, bowing his head.
"Denethor," I said, folding my arms. "What has gotten into you?"
"Finduilas," Denethor said, trying to act calm. "I am so relieved to see that you are in good health." He kissed my hand, but I felt no warmth in it.
"As am I," I replied. "Lord Thorongil kept watch over me."
Denethor turned his gaze over to Thorongil. "Did he?"
"I made sure the princess was well looked after," Thorongil said.
"Denethor," I said, making his attention turn toward me. "May we speak privately?"
Denethor led me into his study as Thorongil bowed and walked away. Once the door was shut, I let out my emotions. "You are not the man I married!" I said loudly. "Why are you acting so cold?"
Denethor grabbed both my arms, pulling me closer to him. "I am the exact man that you married."
"No," I said, trying to escape his grip. "The man I married wouldn't stop me from helping an innocent woman!"
Denethor released his grip, and stormed to the other side of the room. "Do not speak to me in that tone!"
"I also want to know why Thorongil has the impression that you do not like him," I continued. "Why would you despise a man who is helping your realm? Who is leading your armies?"
"He is not to be trusted!" Denethor shouted. "He is not all that he appears!"
"What proof do you have of these accusations?" I asked.
"I will have proof soon enough," he growled. "And if you would give me a son, Thorongil would not have to lead the armies."
I clenched my stomach. "I am leaving." I turned around and slammed the door behind me. I was so mad I could hardly breathe. I managed to stumble into a courtyard and sit down, still clenching my stomach.
"Finduilas?" I turned around and saw Ecthelion walking into the courtyard. "Are you all right?"
I lowered my head. "I do not know anymore."
Ecthelion sat down next to me. "I heard your argument with Denethor," he continued.
"I am sorry," I said, letting a few tears fall down my face. "I fear I am drifting further away from your son."
"Why?" he asked gently.
"His love has turned to hate," I said. "He... he is not..."
"I know," Ecthelion said. "Denethor is not like other men, is he?"
I shook my head. Ecthelion sighed, standing up. "Do you know why your father and I arranged for you to marry Denethor?"
"N-no," I stuttered, wiping my eyes.
"Because no other woman would have him," Ecthelion said wearily. "He does not appeal to women; he is not interested in them. Your father told me of your kindness and generosity. I thought that perhaps you would bring out a side of my son that I had not yet seen, and you did. In the earlier days of your marriage, Denethor was so happy; he would smile frequently and spend time outside of his study. But now, the burden of producing an heir has weighed him down to the man he was before he married you."
"My lord..." I said.
"Ecthelion," he said. "Please, call me by my name."
"Ecthelion," I said, faintly smiling. "I have reason to suspect that I am with-child."
Ecthelion's face lit up. "Is it possible?"
"Yes," I said, smiling. "My course has not yet come, and the physicians in the camp said that it's possible."
"I pray to the Valar that you are," Ecthelion said. "I pray that if you indeed are, you will give my line a male heir."
"I pray that also," I said. "Could I ask a favour?"
"I have not yet told Denethor of this, but I am concerned for my health still. Could I have my own chamber for the time being?" I asked hopefully.
"You may," Ecthelion said. "I will tell Denethor that you are not feeling fully healed yet, and that you wish for space. Also, I have received a letter from my daughter's husband. He writes informing me that Tatiel has died of the sweat."
I quietly gasped, covering my mouth with my hand. "What of Voronda?"
"She lives," Ecthelion replied. "In fact, I have summoned for my granddaughter. Voronda shall be here in the weeks to come. Perhaps you could practise your mothering skills on her."
I chuckled. "I would be very happy to have her company once more."
"Wonderful," Ecthelion replied. He helped me stand up, and embraced me. "Hush. Everything will turn out all right in the end. I will speak to my son this evening at dinner. You can dine in your chamber if it pleases you."
I nodded. "Yes, it would please me. I feel I must write to my family and ask of their health. Have you heard from them?"
Ecthelion shook his head. "I am afraid not. But you may write to your father on my behalf."
"Thank you, Ecthelion."