A week had passed since Voronda had arrived in Minas Tirith. I was glad to see that she was settled into a nice routine. I was put in charge of her education, and I made sure that she excelled in all the areas that she studied. Voronda's favourite class was music. She loved playing the harp, and had begged me to allow the instrument to be moved to her chamber.
"Do you play other instruments?" I asked as I watched her play with her dolls.
"I can play the flute," Voronda replied, "but I have never had time to practise with other instruments."
I nodded. "Well, I believe you play beautifully with the harp!"
Voronda looked up at me and smiled brightly. "Thank you!"
"What about your other classes?" I asked. "Do you enjoy them?"
Voronda shrugged. "I like art and calligraphy, but I do not enjoy history."
"Why not history?" I asked.
"Because, it is boring and everything I have studied is sad," she replied.
"Not all of our history is sad," I argued.
"All of the important parts are sad," Voronda said. "The big war against the Dark Lord and his destruction, and then the Line of Kings ending. It is all sad."
I grimaced - she did have a point. "Well, the quicker you study history, the quicker the class will end."
"But I do not like reading the big books," Voronda complained. "I would rather play with my dollies."
I chuckled. "Whatever are you talking about?"
"The big books!" Voronda repeated, stretching her arms apart. "The really big books in the library with lots of pages of endless writing."
I nodded. "Oh, those books. Yes, well they can be rather boring."
"Mhm," Voronda replied. "But my tutor tells me that I am doing well in my calligraphy. He says that I will be able to write a proper letter soon without any mistakes!"
"Wonderful," I said. "And who shall you write to?"
"Umm," Voronda replied. "I suppose I could write to my papa."
"I am sure he would like to hear from you," I said.
"Do you think my papa is missing me?" Voronda asked.
"He should be," I answered. I really did not know what was going through the mind of Voronda's father, but the child needed a positive environment to live in, especially now that her mother had died.
"Auntie Finduilas," Voronda said, grabbing my attention once more.
"I made a friend yesterday," she said. "His name is Baranion, and he is training to be a Knight of Gondor."
"How old is he?" I queried.
"My age," Voronda replied. "He is taller than me, though."
"Where did you meet him?" I asked.
"On the sixth level," she answered. "One of my tutors decided to take me down into the city and learn the culture of Gondor first hand. We met up with another tutor who was with his students. Baranion was among them."
"Is he the son of a Lord?" I asked.
Voronda shrugged. "I do not know. We did not talk about our families. Instead, we talked about puppies and other cute animals that were in the street. Did you know you can buy baby chickens?"
"Yes," I laughed.
"Can I have one?" Voronda asked shyly.
"Where would you put it?" I asked. "It cannot roam around the citadel."
"I know that," Voronda said, folding her arms. "You say silly things sometimes, auntie Finduilas!"
"Then where would your baby chicken live?" I asked, resisting the urge to laugh, as she seemed very serious on the matter.
"The cooks in the royal kitchens have a back courtyard where their chickens live," Voronda replied. "My baby chicken could live with them."
I nodded. "That sounds possible to do."
"I know," Voronda replied. "Otherwise I would not have said it."
I chuckled. "Well, how about we go down to the kitchens and ask the cooks if it is all right?"
Voronda stood up excitedly. "Yay!"
I tried to keep up with Voronda as she skipped down to the kitchens. I could not run very fast, and walking at a reasonable pace made me feel exhausted. Finally, we arrived at the kitchens to find only one cook.
"Excuse me," I said.
The elderly woman turned to look at me and curtsied. "My lady," she said, "what may I do for you?"
I gestured for Voronda to stand in front of me. "Lady Voronda would like to ask you something."
Voronda looked up at me doubtfully, but after nodding to her, she took a deep breath. "I would like to buy a baby chicken at the markets, but it cannot live in the citadel. Could I please let my baby chicken live with your chickens?"
The cook laughed. "I see no harm in that! My chickens have chicks of their own, so yours will have some playmates."
Voronda grinned. "Playmates would be good."
The cook laughed again. "Quite a bright child you are. When shall I expect your chick?"
Voronda looked up at me. "This afternoon," I answered. "We are going down to the markets now."
Voronda was so thrilled with the idea of owning her own pet, that she would not stop talking about it all the way to the markets.
"It needs to have a name," Voronda demanded. "What names do people give chickens?"
"I honestly do not know," I replied. "Perhaps chickens do not have names."
"They must have names," Voronda insisted. "At least my chicken will have a name."
"Very well," I said.
"And it has to be a girl chicken," she continued, "and fluffy!"
I laughed. "You have very high expectations for this chick!"
"Of course!" Voronda exclaimed. "If it is going to be my chicken, then it will be a royal chicken."
"A royal chicken," I repeated, chuckling.
"Yes," Voronda declared. "It shall be the only royal chicken in all of Gondor!"
I grinned, wondering how Voronda came up with that idea. Just as we reached the beginning of the sixth level, a man stopped us and handed me two letters.
"They are from Dol Amroth," the man replied.
I nodded. "Thank you."
"More letters?" Voronda inquired.
I gave Voronda an odd look.
"You always are getting letters these days," she continued. "Why?"
"I... they are from my family," I replied. "See, this letter has the Royal Seal of Dol Amroth."
"Is it from your papa then?" she asked.
"Possibly," I replied. "Or my brother or sister." I looked at the seal of the second letter and saw it was from Agoron. I felt my heart starting to beat faster. I had replied to him the day I received his letter, telling him I would be glad to see him after my child was born. Now, I wanted nothing more than to rip open his letter and see what he had to say.
"Sunshine!" Voronda exclaimed loudly.
"Excuse me?" I said.
"Sunshine," she repeated. "I could name my chicken that."
I nodded. "That is a pretty name."
"There they are!" she said happily, pointing to a stall that had cages of chicks.
I stood patiently and watched as Voronda peered into every cage. "I don't know what colour I should get," she said, stroking a chick's head.
I chuckled. "Darling, you are not choosing fabric for a new gown. They are chicks."
"Still," she said, looking at me, "colour matters."
I shared a smile with the stall owner, and knowing that Voronda would take her sweet dear time, I decided to open the letter from my family.
It was from Imrahil.
I must congratulate you and Lord Denethor on your wonderful condition. Being with-child is quite remarkable. Father and Ivriniel send their love. In fact, father would have written to you also, but he has been quite busy lately. I am afraid you will not hear much from Ivriniel. She still dresses in mourning, and does not even walk along the beach anymore. I fear for her mental wellbeing. You and Ivriniel were close growing up, and you were both reluctant to be separated when you had to leave from Dol Amroth. Perhaps if you wrote to her she may feel better. I would ask you to visit, but I know how times are dangerous, and Lord Denethor does not seem eager to allow you to see Dol Amroth any time soon.
Some other news has reached my ears. I have been sailing with Lord Agoron these past weeks, and he has told me that you were both in contact with another. At first, I did not believe him, but now I have reason to suspect so. He showed me your signature at the bottom of a letter. Finduilas, why are you writing to him? Surely, you do not want to open an old love wound. I have fears and doubts about this communication. What would happen if Denethor discovered this? Do you know what the punishments are if a wife is unfaithful to their husband? I am not assuming that you would do anything dishonourable with Agoron, but I do know your history with him. In fact, the whole of Dol Amroth knows of your history with Lord Agoron, even Lord Ecthelion does. As a brother, I must warn you to be careful. I know Denethor loves you, as he writes so in his letters to father. But your husband seems to have these times where his personality changes rapidly. Please, please do not do anything foolish. For the sake of privacy, I have not told father or Ivriniel. However, there is a possibility that Lord Ecthelion has already told Denethor. You need to be careful.
I trust Agoron with my life, and I know he would not do anything foolish that concerns you. So once again, heed my words of advice. They may prove useful in the near future.
Hope everything else is well.
With all my love,
Prince of Dol Amroth
I quickly folded up the letter, as I felt like I was committing a crime. I turned around and looked in every direction to see if someone had been watching me. From then on, I started to feel anxious about what I had started. Imrahil was right, though. I had to be very, very careful.
"Auntie Finduilas," Voronda sang.
"Yes darling?" I asked, focusing back on her.
"I have found the perfect baby chicken," she answered happily.
The stall owner opened one of the cages and handed Voronda a small, fluffy yellow chick. The chick chirped away, looking around uneasily.
"It is frightened," Voronda said, holding it in both her hands.
I paid the stall owner, and Voronda and I made our way back up to the Citadel. "Have you thought of a name yet?" I asked.
"Ummm," Voronda said in thought. "I don't think she looks like a Sunshine. I shall call her... Apricot!"
"Apricot," I repeated.
"Yes," Voronda replied, "because I do not like eating Apricots."
I laughed. "That is very clever."
Voronda grinned at me. "Apricot looks so frightened. Do you think she will settle down in her new home?"
"Of course she will," I replied. "The other chickens will take good care of her."
"I hope so," Voronda replied.
Once Apricot was put in with the other chickens, I let Voronda stay there, playing with her new pet, while I sat in the kitchens and read my second letter.
My dear Finduilas,
I shall be very glad to meet you after your child is born. However, after discussing this with your brother, I believe my presence in the citadel will not be warmly welcome. I believe the only way for us to meet is somewhere more private. For that to happen, you will need to tell me where privacy is available in Minas Tirith. If it proves to be far too difficult, then I shall abandon my plans to journey there. The last thing I want is for your life to be at risk. Imrahil has told me that Denethor can be a cold man and that not even Ecthelion thinks highly of him. This new information makes me wonder why your father ever allowed you to wed such a man.
For now, writing is all we can do for each other.
You wrote in your last letter that you were afraid of spies discovering us. Do you have reason to suspect that your husband has men spying on you? Surely, these letters cannot be suspicious. You must receive letters from Dol Amroth all the time. If you wish, I have a servant who can deliver our letters privately. I am sending him to Minas Tirith with this letter and another from your brother. If you wish to reply, my servant will be staying at the 'Old Brew Tavern'. His name is Daechon and you can rely on him. He has been serving me for many years now.
Until I hear from you again,
With my love,
I sat back in the chair, feeling quite relieved. I was glad Agoron had thought ahead and sent a messenger of his own. This would lower the chance of our communication being discovered by someone who should not know.
I did not know anywhere in Minas Tirith that was private. But then again, I had plenty of months to find a good place to meet Agoron.
I opened my eyes, enjoying my memories of the life I had endured. I saw Denethor standing by the window. He did not look at me, for he had not looked at me for many days now. I honestly did not know if he had forgiven me.
"Denethor," I said softly.
He slowly turned around and looked at me affectionately, as if nothing terrible had happened between us. "You are awake," he said.
"You are not angry with me anymore?" I asked.
"Why must you bring... that up?" he said heatedly. "Why must you always bring the past to the present?"
With that, he stormed out of the chamber, leaving me feeling more afraid than ever.