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3
Declaring Oneself: Part 1

Dol Amroth: October 2974

Autumn

Just before the ninth hour, Ivriniel walked down to the front courtyard. Her velvet, blue cloak flapped in the wind that gusted through the open corridor that looked out at the harbour. The day was not as beautiful as she had hoped; clouds were forming on the horizon, promising an afternoon shower or storm. Ivriniel grimaced as she walked on, hoping that the weather would not ruin her day with Lord Losdir. She had been looking forward to this day all morning. She had woken up just after dawn, bathed, and spent most of her time sitting in front of the mirror, making sure she looked her best. She wore her hair down; Finduilas said that she looked prettiest with her hair down. Not that Finduilas could complain her sister always looked beautiful.

Losdir was waiting patiently at the front gates, just as he had promised the previous evening. Ivriniel could not refrain herself from smiling broadly as she approached him.

"My lady," he said, bowing. He was not wearing his uniform, but a plain tunic and leather vest, coloured in shades of green and brown.

"Lord Losdir," she replied politely, feeling her heart starting to beat faster.

He gently lifted her hand to his lips, kissing her knuckles. "I have something for you." He led her away from the guards at the gates, down the lane that led to the royal stables.

"What is it?" she asked, quite eager to know what kind of gift he had for her.

Losdir smiled and pulled her over into a groove in the high, stone wall. "I do not know if this is proper for a man of my station to give a gift to a lady of your rank."

"You are a lord of Gondor," Ivriniel replied calmly. "Lords of Gondor have given me gifts before."

He gave a self-depicting smile. "Nevertheless, I have never met such a high-ranking woman before. You are quite special."

Ivriniel blushed. "Please, there is no need to such compliments."

Losdir nodded. "Forgive me." He pulled out a small piece of cloth. "I may be a lord of Gondor, but my family is of little fortune since we live so remotely. I-I... cannot afford such... expensive ornaments." He handed her the cloth. "I made this for you during my patrol."

Ivriniel accepted the cloth; she felt something wrapped inside of it. "Thank you." She un-wrapped the cloth and saw he had made her a bracelet of dried lavender and meadow grass. Nobody had ever given her such an intimate token. It was beautiful; made from the heart. "Lord Losdir, this is the most thoughtful gift someone has ever given me," she said, feeling tears swelling in her eyes. "I-I feel so grateful to know you. You are not like other lords I have met. They seek personal gain from my friendship - power, and authority. You seek none of that... or you are very good at hiding it!"

Losdir laughed at her last remark. "Princess, I would never hide anything from you. Your assessment of me is correct I do not seek personal gain or power from your friendship. To me, you are nothing more than a lovely and beautiful woman who honours me with her company."

Ivriniel smiled and wiped her eyes, feeling her heart warm towards him. "You must forgive me; I do not know why I am acting like this."

Losdir wiped a tear away from her cheek. "It is okay to show your feelings freely. If you do not do such a thing, then how can you be yourself?"

Ivriniel raised herself onto her toes and kissed his cheek. "I thank you again for this token." She stepped back and carefully placed the bracelet around her wrist. "I am afraid I am going to end up breaking it by accident; it is so delicate."

Losdir chuckled. "My lady, if such a thing happens; I can easily make you another one."

"No!" she said rather loudly. "I-I like this one. I shall be very careful with it." He smiled and offered his arm; she gladly accepted and headed back away from the stables, down towards the city. The wind was picking up, causing Ivriniel to wrap her cloak around her tightly. "I wish it were not so windy today."

"Perhaps we could continue this tour another day?" he suggested.

"Oh, no," Ivriniel said, "I will be fine, honestly."

"Is there somewhere less windy we can go?" he asked.

Ivriniel stopped walking and bit her bottom lip; she looked around, trying to find a place suitable. "The city hall is not far from here, and it is connected to the city library; have you been to either?"

Losdir shook his head. "No, my lady; I did not know that Dol Amroth had a city hall."

Ivriniel smiled and started walking once more. "It is used for many functions city conferences, a place to hold important functions; for example, last year the Steward of Gondor visited, and we held a feast and ball at the city hall since it is able to hold more people than the great hall in the palace."

"So it is similar to a mess hall?" he asked.

"Yes, in some ways. However, I believe you could fit almost three mess halls into the city hall; it is quite large," she answered. "Do you have similar buildings in Pinnath Gelin?"

"We have a mess hall," he said, "but it is solely used for my father's men to dine in."

"I am sure you have been to Dol Amroth's mess hall," she said, smiling.

He chuckled. "Most certainly! I believe it to be illegal for a Knight of Dol Amroth to not venture to the mess hall at last three times a week."

Ivriniel laughed. "Where else have you been in Dol Amroth?"

"The port, obviously," he started, "and to several of the taverns, and the training grounds."

"Have you ever been to the city gardens?" she asked keenly.

"I cannot say that I have," he replied. "I did not know Dol Amroth had a city garden."

Ivriniel smiled broadly. "It was built only five generations ago, by my great-great grandfather. He had a love of flora. It was built in the western side of the city, facing the ocean. Would you like to venture there?"

"As long as you will not be uncomfortable," he replied, looking a bit anxious. "Is the weather still bothering you?"

Ivriniel shook her head, causing a few strands of her hair to fall over her face. "No," she answered, tucking the strands behind her ears. "I will be fine, honestly."

"Very well then," he said, smiling. "Your ladyship will have to lead the way."

She grinned. "It is not hard to miss; the garden is not surrounded by any high walls. It is completely open to the public eye."

"It must be very popular," he remarked.

"Oh, it is," she said. "Through the years, my ancestors have added their own touch to the garden. My grandfather added a large fountain in the centre, with a large maple tree shadowing it. The tree's leaves have changed to a breathtaking auburn colour now that it is autumn."

"Does your father have plans for his own touch?" Losdir asked curiously.

"My father does not have a great fondness for gardens, but my mother does," Ivriniel replied. "Father asked her what she would like to have added to the city gardens."

"What does she wish to have added?"

"A pond," she replied simply. "She wants a pond added with fish and reeds growing out of it. She also wishes for stone benches to be placed around it so people may use it as a place of serenity."

"It would be a place of serenity," Losdir remarked. "Have plans been made for the construction to start?"

Ivriniel shook her head. "No; my father's touch may only be added once he has come into reign."

Losdir nodded, but said nothing.

"Have you heard from your own father and family?" she asked.

"I have," he replied. "My father has recently written to me, asking of my progress here as a knight. I have replied, informing him that this change in my life has been for the best. I love it here in Dol Amroth, everything seems more..." He inhaled deeply. "It is more... fresh and life comes in a renewed form."

They had reached the front entrance to the garden; Ivriniel stopped walking and turned to face him. "That is so beautiful. I had no idea you felt that way about my family's city."

Losdir smiled warmly. "You are a very fortunate woman to have been born and raised here."

"It has been an honour," she admitted. "I feel so gratified to have been born into my family." She turned towards the gardens. "Well, here we are."

Losdir lifted his gaze from her towards the landscape before him - variations of trees, flowers, rosary bushes, and marble-carved statues. "It is nothing to how I had imagined it."

Ivriniel grinned. "Come." She offered him her hand. "It is even more breathtaking when you are walking through the paths."

Several other people were roaming through the gardens; a few children were hiding behind the bushes, playing games from their youth. Butterflies circled the flowerbeds, while bees buzzed from flower to flower. The trees towered over them, offering shade from the sun's rays Losdir imagined the place to be exceedingly popular in the summer season.

"The fountain is just over here," Ivriniel said, leading him towards the centre of the garden. They passed numerous statues of swans, sea creatures, and men dress in arms, before they came into view of a large, white fountain spurting out water down to the lower basins. Losdir espied a young couple, hand in hand by the maple tree, the man clearly whispering sweet nothings into his lady's ear.

"It is quite a popular place for couples," Ivriniel said, also noticing the young couple. "Sometimes even wedding ceremonies are held here."

"Truly?" he said, turning his gaze back to Ivriniel. "Any royal ceremonies?"

"Actually, yes," she replied happily. "My parents were bonded here; there is a stone courtyard just over there." Ivriniel pointed west. "It is just under that oak tree."

"I thought your father did not have a fondness for gardens," he asked.

Ivriniel laughed. "But mother does, remember. She insisted on being wedded in a garden. My grandfather was a little hesitant with having a royal wedding in a public place, but she got her way in the end."

"Do you share your mother's interest in garden life?" he asked.

"I do," she answered, walking over to a carved statue of a swan. She ran her hand along its smooth neck. "I find nature to be the one place where I can properly think; everything is much clearer when you are not surrounded by the industry. I believe it to be the reason why this garden is so popular."

"It may also explain why the people here are far more relaxed," Losdir added. "Here, in Dol Amroth there is a place of sanctuary, where one can escape the busy life of the city by only having to walk a few steps. I am sure there is no such place in Minas Tirith."

"No, there is not," Ivriniel replied. "Finduilas always tells me that Minis Tirith is nothing more than a cold fortress that was purposely built for defensive reasons - she has a point, for it was built as a stronghold King Anarion."

"I am sure Minas Tirith has its own beauty, as all cities do," Losdir said, walking over to her.

Ivriniel kept her position as he came closer. She felt her heart starting to beat faster, and her cheeks warming. "Then you must take up your case with my sister."

"Perhaps in good time," he replied, staring into her eyes. "I-I..." He sighed. "Forgive me." He stepped back and focused on the swan statue.

"No," Ivriniel said, folding her arms. "What do you wish to say to me?"

He slowly turned his gaze back to her. "I cannot say it would be improper."

"Please," she said, unfolding her arms. "If you are holding back because of rank, then I dismiss it just this once."

Losdir smiled faintly. "You are kind to do that, but... I..."

"What is it," she insisted.

He placed his hand on her cheek, causing her to blush. "I care for you."

Her eyes widened. Cared for her, she repeated in her mind. "I care for you too," she said aloud, resting her hand on his. "I always have."

"But it cannot be," he continued, lowering his hand. "I just need you to know."

Ivriniel frowned. "I do not understand what cannot be?" She did not dare hope that this sudden change of conversation was his attempt of declaring his love for her.

Losdir stepped back from her. "You are a beautiful woman, Lady Ivriniel; it has been more than a pleasure being in your presence. I look forward to seeing you; it is the one main thing I love about Dol Amroth you."

Ivriniel raised her eyebrows. "Y-you mean that?"

He clasped his hand over hers. "I would never say such a thing if I did not mean it."

She took a deep breath. "This is so sudden."

Losdir let go of her hand. "I know, and that is why I must ask for your forgiveness. I wanted to wait longer, hoping that you would return my feelings, but I could not refrain myself any longer."

Did he think I did not love him? She asked herself. Never! "How could you say that?" she said, biting her bottom lip to refrain herself from crying. "Why do you think I spend so much time with you? I have never shown another lord such pleasant company before. This is not something I do on a daily basis."

"Your family would not allow this," he said a little sternly, "and my own family would believe I was only pursuing you for personal gain."

"I would never wed a man who only pursued me for personal gain, and I know very well that you do not," she said firmly.

"There are other lords worthy of your hand than I," he continued, his eyes cast down.

"W-what!" she shouted. "How could you say that to me?"

Her last remark caused Losdir to look her in the eye with complexity. "I am sorry I have brought this topic up. I should have known better."

"When would it have been a better time?" she asked, folding her arms again. "In a month? A year? A decade?"

"Lady Ivriniel," he said, raising his hands to calm her. "Please, I do not wish to upset you."

"You already have," she said sourly. "Why bring up a topic, and then discourage it?"

"I was not thinking," he insisted. "Please, forgive me."

"I forgive you," she said, unfolding her arms and placing them on her hips. "I forgive you, and now I am leaving you." She turned to leave, but he grabbed her by the arm.

"Please," he said desperately, "I do not wish for us to leave on bad terms."

Ivriniel pulled herself from his grip. "When I feel up to it, I shall write to you, and then we shall meet again." She stepped back before turning and hurrying out of the garden, with several people watching her as she went.

Losdir stood there, slightly unsure of what had just happened. He had not intended for any of that to occur. He had made her angry... or upset, he was not sure which one. She was going to write to him, he thought. Should he take that as some sort of positive sign or miracle that she would even speak to him again? He just shook his head, completely bewildered. He would never understand how a woman's mind works. He was, however determined to set things straight. Should he send her flowers as an apology or a poem, perhaps just a letter of sincere apology? Sweet Eru he did not even know what type of flowers she liked; did she even like reading poetry? He let out a deep, annoyed groan and covered his face with his hands. What had he done to deserve this?

Ivriniel stormed up towards the palace, wiping her eyes. Why was she crying? She thought. Was it because she had just been rejected? Had she been rejected? She was not completely sure. She was so longing for his declaration of love, that she did not give him all the time he needed to say those three blissful words. She stopped walking and turned around. Should she go back? She bit her bottom lip and frowned. She could not see Losdir in the distance perhaps he was still in the garden, dumbfounded, she thought. She saw a royal guard walked up the street towards her.

"You there," she said to him, "state your name."

"Agordir," the guard replied, saluting her.

"Well, Sir Agordir," she began, "I need an escort back up to the palace, would you be so kind as to accompany me?"

"It would be my honour," he replied, setting himself two paces behind her and she began walking back up to the palace.

For the rest of the journey, Ivriniel's mind swirled about how she was going to resolve her outburst at Losdir. She really did not mean it, and now, looking back at it, she felt like a damn fool! She stopped out the front of the courtyard gates and turned to Agordir. She pulled out three gold coins from her cloak's pocket and handed them to him. "For your service; please, take them."

Agordir hesitated before reaching out and gently picking up the coins. "I thank you deeply, my lady." He bowed low before returning down the street.

Ivriniel flopped onto the day bed in her antechamber, covering her face with a pillow. She was such a fool, she kept saying to herself. "My life is ruined."

"What did you do now?" Finduilas asked, right after she had sneaked into her sister's apartment.

Ivriniel removed the pillow from her face and frowned deeply. "Nothing to concern your pretty little head with."

Finduilas folded her arms over her chest. "I take it your day with Lord Losdir did not go well?"

"It was going perfect until I opened my mouth at the wrong time and came to the wrong conclusion... or I thought I came to the right conclusion." Ivriniel sat up. "I have no idea what I am talking about."

Finduilas raised an eyebrow. "Did you have an argument?"

Ivriniel nodded sadly. "Unfortunately."

"Do you regret it?" her sister asked. "Would you try and amend things?"

"Of course I would," Ivriniel said, standing up. "Do you have any ideas how I could?"

"Well," Finduilas said, with a sparkle in her eyes. "I know Father wants me to stay away from Lord Agoron, but I cannot! I am going to sneak out tonight and see him. If you desire so much as to make peace with Lord Losdir, you could sneak out also and talk to him."

Ivriniel had her mouth open, dumbstruck. "You are going to sneak out tonight? Finduilas, have you completely lost your senses? Nobody can sneak out of the palace!"

"If you know how to, you can," her sister replied stoutly.

Ivriniel eyed Finduilas suspiciously. "You have already snuck out previously, have you not? Is this why you are so confident?"

Finduilas shrugged. "I will only tell you this I have snuck out to see Lord Agoron before, but it was many months ago. Trust me, sister, you will not regret this."

Ivriniel wanted to slap some sense into her. "If Father and Mother knew..."

"They will never find out!" Finduilas hissed. "Swear on your life that you will speak of it to nobody!"

Ivriniel placed her hands on her head. "Dear sister, I love you exceedingly, but there are times when I just want to throttle you!"

"Hush," Finduilas whispered, waving her hands at her sister. "Do not let anyone hear you. Now, are you going to sneak out with me tonight, or not?"

Ivriniel placed her hands on her hips. "Well, I will no longer be able to sleep tonight knowing what you are going to be doing, so yes, I will accompany you."

Finduilas jumped up and down with excitement. "I have always wanted us to do something like this together."

"Why are you so excited?" Ivriniel asked her. "We are going behind our family's backs; we are betraying their trust. We should be ashamed to even think of sneaking out."

"My dear, sweet sister," Finduilas said, embracing her. "If I did not have you to keep me in check, I would most likely end up the scandal of the family."

"That would never happen," Ivriniel replied. "You are too kind-hearted to be called that."

Finduilas smiled, before becoming serious. "I-I do not seek these... mischievous ways to lose the trust and respect of our family." She hesitated. "I am in love, Ivriniel. If I could, I would move mountains just to see Agoron. Therefore I am willing to take this risk of sneaking out to see him."

Ivriniel's heart warmed to the matter. "I am happy for you, but still a little uneasy about this whole sneaking out business. Nevertheless, I shall accompany you tonight and see Lord Losdir so I may apologise."

Finduilas smiled happily. "I assure you, you will not regret this."

Ivriniel watched as her younger sister left her apartment in high spirits. After, she tilted her head back and sighed; how was she going to pull this off?

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