I woke up the next morning smiling. I was so happy from meeting Agoron last night. Valar, I felt so blessed! Now that Agoron was within walking distance from the citadel, I felt as if my life was complete. I sighed and rolled over. Denethor was looking at me with a face of wonder.
"What?" I asked, trying to hide my smile.
"You seem cheerful this morning," Denethor said.
I sat up and stretched. "I had a wonderful dream. That is all."
"What was it about?" he asked curiously.
I got out of bed and placed my starry blue mantle around my shoulders. "I was dreaming that I was back in Dol Amroth – back by the seaside."
I did not face Denethor to see his reaction. "Do you wish to return to Dol Amroth?" he asked.
I turned around quickly with my face lit up. "Yes I do."
"Well, you cannot," he said, getting out of bed.
His words made my heart break. "W-why?" I stumbled. "Why are you being so cruel?"
Denethor glared at me. "Cruel?" he repeated. "Why can you not see that I am protecting you?"
I crossed my arms. "I want to go back to Dol Amroth. I miss my family and the sea." My voice had trailed off at the last part of my proclamation, but I did not care.
"Your family is here," I heard Denethor say. "Boromir and I are your family now. Do you not love us?"
I gulped and felt tears filling my eyes. "I do love you both. How could you doubt that? But I cannot just forget the people who raised me and spent all their lives with me until I came here. You cannot keep me from my father, brother and sister forever, Denethor."
"I am not keeping them from you," Denethor said quietly. He came over and kissed me lightly. "If you so dearly wish to see them, then write to your father and request him to visit Minas Tirith with your siblings."
"And what about my longing for the sea? I highly doubt that the sea will rise and sweep across the plains of Gondor to Minas Tirith," I said curtly.
Denethor chuckled. "That, my dear, is something you are going to have to learn to live without. You have lived without the sight and smell of the ocean for all these years so far. I cannot see why you could not live without it for the remainder of your years."
Before I could reply, there was a rapid knock at the door. "What?" Denethor commanded with annoyance.
The messenger spoke through the door. "I have come here in great haste to tell you that the Lady Voronda has fallen dangerously ill."
Oh no! I felt energy drain away. Without thinking, I pushed my way past Denethor and out of the chamber, still dressed in my nightclothes. I ran to Voronda's chamber, only to be ushered to the other side of the room.
"Please, my lady," the physician said, "the child has a contagious illness. We cannot risk it spreading."
This time, I let my tears fall down my cheek. "What is wrong with her?" I asked, wiping my tears away.
"We are not certain," the physician replied hastily. "She was complaining of a headache late yesterday afternoon, and then by midnight she was throwing up. We thought it only to be a fever, but now her nurse and tutor have caught the illness and died."
"What?" I whispered. "They are both dead?"
"Yes," the physician answered. "Please, for your sake, you should leave this chamber."
I did not want to go, but I was gently tugged away. Why did this have to be so? All my life in Dol Amroth I was told – If something wonderful happens in a certain part of your life, then another part will quickly fall apart. Perhaps this was what was happening to me. I had Agoron back in my life, and perhaps the Valar found me to be greed, or maybe this was punishment for going behind my husband's back.
"No, NO," I said to myself as I paced in front of Voronda chamber door. "This is not my fault. I have done nothing to cause Voronda's ill health." Maybe her nurse or tutor accidently passed the illness over to her. But where did it come from? It was not common for a deadly illness to be spreading through the citadel. Valar! My thoughts turned to Boromir. "No!" I said to myself again. Boromir had not been in contact with any of the victims. Not even Voronda. Surely he could not catch it.
Hours went by and still, I sat out the front of Voronda's chamber. Nobody went in, and very few people came out. Denethor had come by and asked me to join him for lunch. I could not stomach anything at that point. My thoughts were only of Voronda and her wellbeing. Denethor had also told me that Boromir was in good health, but Ecthelion had caught the illness and now the entire citadel has been vacated to stop the spread of this illness.
While I sat there, another physician came and made sure I was not experiencing any symptoms. Fortunately, I was in good health. My spirits were not kept high, for at five o'clock that afternoon, Voronda had passed away.
I cried. Oh Valar, did I cry! Two guards had to escort me back to my chamber, where I collapsed onto the bed and cried into my pillow. Her death made my heart break. No more was I ever going to be able to hear her cheery little voice, or her serious adult tone. What hurt me the most was that I had not been at her side. She must have felt so alone with all those strangers moving around her. I know she did not like being in the company of strangers for long periods. Nobody had told me if she was able to talk, or if she was unconscious. What were her last thoughts? Was she thinking that I had abandoned her to this illness?
Denethor came into our chamber after dinner had been served. He had told me that he was the only person present at the table since his father was indisposed. My husband comforted me as best as he could. His comfort started as a pat on the shoulder, but that only made me cry harder. Eventually, he had his arms wrapped around me, cradling me for comfort. I continued to cry into his tunic, making it very wet. I did not care. I just wanted my sweet little Voronda back.
"A funeral will be held tomorrow afternoon," Denethor said once I had managed to stop my tears flowing.
I nodded, but said nothing.
"My father will not be able to attend," he continued. "His health is still poor, but the physicians believe he will make it through with his heart still beating."
Oh, that remark did not comfort me at all. Did he think Voronda weak for dying? She was only a child!
"My father and I have decided to bury Voronda in the Steward's tombs," he said. "Will you be able to walk the Silent Streets tomorrow?"
I shook my head. "May I be excused from the funeral? I wish to pay my respects in private, away from the court."
"Of course," he said soothingly. "I would have it no other way."
"I wish only for Boromir's comfort tomorrow," I whispered. "Is he still well?"
"Our son is as strong as ever," Denethor said proudly. "He is a good lad."
I managed to get some sleep that night, but my dreams were dark and showed me nothing but Voronda's sad little face. I woke several times through the night with fresh tears staining my pillow. Now that someone so close to me was able to die within the walls of the citadel, it made me more frightened of Minas Tirith and the Land of Shadow across the river. I wanted to be home in my father's arms. I missed him and my brother and sister. I wanted their comfort more than ever.
My life in Minas Tirith was only getting worse.
During the funeral the next morning, I told the guards that I wished the take Boromir for a walk away from the citadel. It interested me that the illness had not spread to the lower levels, but my main thoughts were on Agoron. I know I must have been selfish and stupid to have gone and seen him. I promised to the see him that day, and I needed to get away from the citadel and the funeral service.
Agoron greeted me at Fardaer's front door. "I have heard," he said grimly. "Finduilas, I am so sorry."
I felt tears filling my eyes again. "I cannot stop crying."
Agoron nodded in sympathy. "The pain must be very great. Come, let us sit, and rest."
I switched Boromir to my other side to carry – he was a very heavy boy.
"This must be Boromir," Agoron said and tickled my son under the chin. "He looks like you."
I smiled for the first time in a day. "I think I would have died with grief if the illness had taken Boromir also."
"Do not speak of it," Agoron said quietly, but sternly. "Do not fill your mind with such negative thoughts. It will make your pain pass no easier."
I smiled again - Agoron always made me feel better. I placed Boromir on the couch and put cushions around him to stop him from falling over. "The funeral is today," I said to Agoron, who was sitting next to me. "I could not bear to go."
Agoron nodded again. "That is understandable. From what I have heard, you and Voronda were very close."
I sighed deeply. "We were. I considered her a daughter."
"Her mother has died also?" Agoron queried.
"Then let it ease your pain to know that Voronda is safe in her mother's arms now," he said.
I looked at him in wonder. "Tatiel, her mother, she will be both saddened and relieved to see her daughter again. I feel sorry for both of them. They have had a hard life."
"Their pain has passed now," Agoron said.
I lowered my eyes. "I know you are right, but it will take some time for me to fully recover from my grief."
Agoron pulled me close and kissed me soundly. "I shall pray for Voronda."
I smiled weakly at him. "Thank you for your kindness. You are the most considerate man I have ever met."
Agoron grinned. "You have always been biased."
"It is the truth," I whispered. "I wish I could have been your wife. My life with you would have been far more pleasant."
Agoron placed his finger on my lips. "Hush. Do not speak such words. What is done is done. We all must live with it, including Voronda's death."
Boromir let out a wail – he never liked being ignored. I picked him up and placed him on my lap. "He is a fussy boy."
Agoron chuckled. "He does not like me."
I looked down at Boromir to see him frowning at Agoron. "He frowns at everything," I said. "Do not take it personally. Denethor likes to think that it is out of caution."
Agoron shrugged. "Maybe it is. I think it is time that you should depart. The funeral should not be going on for much longer, and Lord Denethor may send out some men in search of you."
I nodded and stood up. "When can I see you again?"
Agoron hesitated. "That I am not certain of. I must leave port tomorrow morning for Pelargir. There is some business that I must attend to."
"No!" I said in protest. "No, you cannot leave me. Not at this hour!"
"Finduilas," he said gently. "Please, if I could, I would stay here for the rest of my life, just to be close to you. But there are problems arising in the south that need my attention."
I nodded and sniffed. "Very well. I know you are stuck to your duties, as am I."
Agoron kissed my cheek and ruffled Boromir hair. "I will return. I promise."
Agoron left the next morning. I watched his ship leave port from one of the windows in the citadel. I wished so dearly to be with him, sailing towards the sea. But no, my place was here. The illness had now passed and Ecthelion had survived. Sadly, though, he remained bedridden.
I had still not visited Voronda's grave. I told Denethor that I would not pay my respects until I had the courage to do so without crying all over the grave. He took pity on me and allowed my space to mourn. It took me three weeks before I would even go into Voronda's chamber. When I entered, all her belongings had dust starting to settle on them. Personally, I did not want to touch anything and leave it all in remembrance of her. Denethor had told me that Ecthelion wanted the chamber cleaned out for any future children or guests. I found this unfair and cruel. I did not like the idea of another person sleeping in Voronda's bed, or sitting at her window. It was not right.
Bit by bit, I gathered all her books, instruments, toys and clothes, and placed them into a large box that was to be stored away. As I went through her clothes, I smelt each one and folded them gently. I found the dress that the seamstress had made for her when she first came to stay with me. I decided to keep that dress with my belongings, along with the doll that she favoured above all her toys.
Finally, her chamber was emptied and new linen was placed on the bed. I took one last look at the chamber before closing the door, vowing never to enter again.