Dinner that night in the Swan Palace went smoothly; too smoothly for Ivriniel. Never before had she even dreamed of betraying her family's trust in her. Then again, she knew Finduilas would never do such drastic and foolish actions without good reason. And what reason was that? Oh, yes, she was madly in love with a man of common birth. Lord Agoron, or Master Agoron as he was born as, had been knighted by Prince Angelimir in the year 2966 – eight years ago. Being knighted had only given him the title 'Sir' Agoron, but after entering the royal service as a knight, he trained himself up to become quite the worthy seaman during the time Prince Adrahil had been Admiral of the Fleet. That is when it all began; two years ago, their father, Adrahil had withdrawn from service, and the next worthy man to be Admiral in the eyes of Adrahil was Agoron. Finduilas had made his acquaintance at court when their grandfather served him the papers and title of Admiral of the Swan Fleet. Along with the station, he was granted the title 'Lord of Dol Amroth', a spacious townhouse and a pension. Agoron had nothing and nobody else but his skills as a sailor to thank for his elevation.
Ivriniel twisted her fork in the salad on her plate, wondering how high Lord Agoron would end up. Finduilas was a princess, and if she were to wed him, his title would soar from 'Lord' to 'Prince' after a half hour ceremony. Such a thought irritated Ivriniel. She did not hate the man, but she just did not see him worthy of such a title. Her ancestors had worked tirelessly in all matters to uphold the title as Prince, and what had Agoron done? Prove himself a worthy sailor and capable commander. Majority of the soldiers in Belfalas were capable of achieving such tasks. Why should he be treated any different from them?
"Father," Ivriniel said hesitantly.
Adrahil looked down the table. "Yes, Daughter?"
"When Imrahil is knighted, does that mean he will automatically become Admiral of the Swan Fleet?" she asked, moving her gaze towards her young brother. Imrahil shifted in his chair, a frown on his face.
"Princes of Dol Amroth are not automatically entitled to such a position," Adrahil replied. "If Imrahil wants to be Admiral, he will have to prove himself."
"I do not wish to be Admiral... yet," Imrahil said, adding to the conversation. "Lord Agoron is a worthy Admiral, and my closest friend; I would never wish for that title and honour to be taken from him, unless he gives it up willingly, without pressure to do so."
"Spoken like a true heir," Adrahil said, smiling fondly at his only son. "I am surprised you have become so close a friend with Lord Agoron, for he is quite a few years older than you."
"I see him as the brother I never had," Imrahil replied. "I could never have asked for a more trustworthy friend."
Finduilas was glowing from all the compliments Agoron was receiving from her family. She must think this to be a good sign, Ivriniel thought, the corner of her mouth twitching.
"He is a good Admiral," Adrahil continued. "Better than I ever was."
"Nonsense!" Ivriniel protested. "How could anyone do better than you?"
Adrahil chuckled. "My daughter, it may come to shock you that I am not able to excel in everything. I enjoyed being Admiral, but I found it hard to bond with the men under my command. Lord Agoron does a marvellous job at doing so. There is a very large list of men wishing to join Agoron's ship; word has spread of his thoughtfulness and ability to communicate with them on a common level."
"Perhaps that may be so because he was born a commoner," Ivriniel said, trying not to sound too nasty for Finduilas' sake.
"We were all commoners at one stage," he father said, swirling the wine in his goblet. "So do not be too quick to judge those below us."
The wind howled through the window in her antechamber; Ivriniel closed the shutters and pulled the floor-length curtains across. It was turning out to be a crispy cool night, making Ivriniel dread going along with Finduilas' plan. She had bathed after dinner and now sat on the rug in front of the fireplace, combing her long hair. She had dismissed her servants for the evening, telling them to make it home before the nightly weather become too cold. She poured herself some wine – it seemed to help her unwind. The liquid in her glass sparkled in the reflection of the flames of the fireplace. She kept her eyes on the liquid, wondering if she stared hard enough she would be able to see the outcome of tonight's events. She was not a seer, though some believed the gift ran in her family from the ancient Elven blood that coursed through her veins. Her grandfather certainly believed they had the gift, claiming to have had dreams that came to. Until she had a dream that came true, she would continue to believe it only to be in tales.
There was a soft knock on the door; it creaked open and Finduilas appeared, wearing a dark, velvet blue cloak over her ivory silk dress. Her sister looked beautiful; wavy, dark hair falling below her bosom, a simple pearl necklace with matching earrings that complimented her eyes. Finduilas had always been the more beautiful sister.
"It is still too early," Ivriniel said, sipping her wine.
"It is past the ninth hour," Finduilas replied, gently closing the door. "We can leave soon."
"Father would still be awake, as would Mother," Ivriniel said, pouring her sister a glass of wine. "Sit, I wish to talk before we leave."
Finduilas knelt down next Ivriniel and accepted the wine. "Thank you."
"I should have said this earlier," Ivriniel started. "I would like to clarify some rules for tonight." She waited for her sister to protest, but Finduilas bowed her head, holding her tongue. "You are, under no circumstances to behave dishonourably with Lord Agoron. You shall not go anywhere without me, for if we are to be caught by the guards, or Valar forbid, by thieves or other unruly people, we shall be caught together. I am your older sister, Finduilas; it is my duty to keep you safe."
"I understand," Finduilas said, watching the flames of the fire dance between the thick logs. "Where does Lord Losdir live?"
"At the lodgings for the knights," Ivriniel replied. "It is down that laneway at the front gates of the palace."
"I know," Finduilas replied. "Agoron's townhouse is further down, close to the docking harbour for the navy."
"That is not too far a walk," Ivriniel said, contemplating how long a journey.
"Ten minutes at the most," Finduilas confirmed. "I can walk there on my own."
Ivriniel shot her sister a glare. "Were you not listing just before? I will accompany you."
Finduilas frowned. "I have done this before without being kidnapped or robbed."
Ivriniel sighed deeply. "Not every night is the same, Finduilas. Different people roam the streets every night. You cannot possibly go anywhere on your own. Besides, why does Lord Agoron not meet you at least half way?"
"I-I..." Finduilas stammered.
Ivriniel's eyes widened. "He does not know you are coming."
"Well... no," Finduilas admitted. "We have not spoken in a while, as you know."
"Father will be speaking to him shortly," Ivriniel confirmed.
"Can we please leave soon?" her sister pleaded. "I am anxious to be in his arms once more."
Ivriniel refrained herself from rolling her eyes; she did not want to upset her sister. "Very well, let me put on my cloak."
The corridors of the Swan Palace were cool in the nightly breeze. Both sisters had their cloaks wrapped tightly around their bodies as they moved swiftly down to one of the back courtyards. Finduilas led the way, and soon Ivriniel found herself in a courtyard filled with flowers, small trees, and herbs. It was their mother's favourite garden; she tended to it on many occasions, even having a spiral stair installed so she could access it from her apartment one level up. Ivriniel slowly lifted her eyes, focusing on the room that the stairs led into. She frowned; there was a dim light seeping out of the high windows, the curtains gently flapping in the breeze. Her parents were still awake, most likely talking by the fireplace, or sharing an intimate moment. Finduilas grabbed her sister's hand and yanked her to the gate that led down a narrow pathway to a viewing platform overlooking the ocean. The wind became stronger as they came into view of the sea; the waves violently crashed against the high seawall, birds soared above them, seeking shelter from the cold night ahead. Her attention was drawn to her sister, watching her climb over the railing that overlooked shrubs and other wild fauna. Ivriniel did not like the look of this. Reluctantly, she followed her sister's actions and soon found herself making her way through coarse terrain. Mercifully, after a rather long walk, it came to an end when she saw a wall that divided the wildlife from a pathway. They helped each other over; Ivriniel recognised where they were.
"We are near the knight's lodgings," she said, looking around to see if anybody noticed their rather unusual entrance.
Finduilas nodded happily. "Indeed. We ventured around the front courtyard through the bushes."
"That is quite clever," Ivriniel replied, folding her arms. "How did you figure that pathway out?"
"Sometimes I go down to the viewing platform to watch the sun set. One afternoon, I noticed the bushland below and wondered if anyone had thought that area would be used as a means to hide in preparations of an assassination, or robbery." Finduilas shrugged her shoulders. "It then came to me I could use the bushland to form my own escape to see Agoron."
"How clever of you," Ivriniel said briskly. "I hope you have not told anyone about it."
Her sister shook her head. "Never; you are the first and only one to know about it."
Ivriniel nodded. "Good; keep it that way. Now, lead the way to Lord Agoron's home."
"Are you sure you want to walk all that way?" Finduilas asked. "Lord Losdir's lodgings are only several meters away."
Ivriniel shook her head. "No; I am coming with you, now lead the way."
Finduilas rolled her eyes and sighed. "Sometimes I hate you for being so protective."
Ivriniel tucked her arm into her sister's. "It is all for your own wellbeing."
The walk had taken ten minutes, just as Finduilas had said. Ivriniel saw no lights glooming out of Lord Agoron's windows, and it made her suspicious. "He may be sleeping."
"I will wake him," Finduilas said, smiling mischievously. "He would want me to."
"He may not be dressed!" Ivriniel hissed furiously. "Please, Finduilas do not do anything foolish with him!"
Finduilas placed her hand on her heart. "I respect and love my honour and dignity. I would never do anything to ruin either of them, and Agoron knows that. He respects them too."
Ivriniel took a deep breath, nodding with her eyes closed. "Very well, I will come to take you back to the palace in an hour."
"An hour," Finduilas said, seeming disappointed. "That is not long."
Ivriniel raised an eyebrow. "Well, it will be no less than an hour, but I do not know how my time with Losdir shall go."
Finduilas nodded. "I will see you later."
"Behave," she warned her younger sister. She turned and left, wondering if she was going to end up regretting her decision to leave her sister alone with an unwedded man. She has been with him before on her own, she thought. What harm could happen tonight?
The night was becoming colder; the wind was picking up, sprawling leaves across the pathway. Ivriniel hated the dark, for anything or anyone could jump out at you. Dol Amroth was a safe city, but even the safest cities had a band of troublemakers. She pulled her cloak's hood over her head, and quickened her pace. She wondered how Losdir would react to seeing her after their last encounter. She felt bad and regretted her behaviour; she needed to apologies.
The knights lodging came into view; torches were lit at the entrance with guards walking around the small courtyard, talking amongst each other. She approached them, wondering if it would be best to announce herself, or pretend to be a common woman.
"Hail!" one knight said, placing his hand up before him. "State your business here!"
She lowered her head, only revealing a few strands of her dark hair, her face only visible by the dim light of the torches. "I am... Hostiel, I have come on Sir Losdir's request." Oh, she hated lying!
She heard the knights' murmur between them, a few chuckles. "I did not see Losdir as that type of man! Follow me," he said, opening the door.
Ivriniel could not help but smile at her triumph. The knight leading the way placed his hand on her back, and directed her down a narrow hallway. They stopped at a door. She kept her face lowered, staring at the floor; she saw light coming from under the threshold. The knight knocked three times. "Losdir, your service has arrived."
"Thank you," she said quietly to the knight. "I can manage on my own." She lifted her eyes a fraction and saw the knight wink at her before departing back down the hallway.
The door opened. "What service?" Losdir said, his hair ruffled, a confused expression. "Who are you?"
Ivriniel dropped her hood and smiled shyly. "Let me in," she whispered. His face changed to complete surprise, and she swore she caught a hint of delight. She stepped over the threshold and into his small room - a narrow cot, a table, a small chest and coffer, an oil lamp lighting the room, and a high, narrow window.
She sat on the edge of the bed, keeping her cloak tightly wrapped. "I came here to apologies."
Losdir sat on the chest, his elbows resting on his knees. "You could not wait until daybreak?"
She smiled. "I... I felt so guilty from how I treated you today."
"I should never have started such a topic," he said, staring at the wall.
"I would like to resume it," she said boldly. "Will you hear me out?" He nodded, keeping his eyes on the wall before him. "I am not a simple woman, I have flaws, and I have been living so... comfortably in the palace. I suppose I have become arrogant in my ways. When I met you, something drew me to keep seeing you. I have never met a man such as you. The way you talk, the way you speak so kindly to me. I can see it in your eyes that this friendship is not a game; it is not an elevation, nothing more than a true and honest friendship. I thank you for that." She chuckled softly. "Besides my brother, you are the only other man who treats me so." She took a very deep breath. "I-I love you."
His eyes darted towards her, showing complete amazement. "Y-you... you love me?"
She opened her mouth to reply but found it hard to do so. "Yes."
He stood up, taking only a few steps to where she sat; he knelt before her, clasping her hands in his. "Forgive me, but I have fear of this love. You are a princess, and I am nothing more than a lord."
She felt a lump come to her throat, tears swelled in her eyes. "Say you will not turn me away."
He placed a hand on her cheek. "Hush, do not weep. My feelings for you have not changed. I have loved you from the moment you came to me at the harbour." He smiled. "I believed that nothing would come of it, for you are royalty."
"My mother approves," she said swiftly. "If Mother approves, than my father will approve."
"Are you sure?" he asked, his eyes showing hesitation.
"Yes," she whispered. "Please, say that you love me."
He smiled. "I love you." He placed his hand behind her neck and drew her in for a kiss. It was sweet, yet simple; a first kiss. She gently slid off the cot and into his lap, moulding herself against his body. He cradled her, showering her with kisses. She mentally smiled, now knowing why Finduilas would risk everything to be with Lord Agoron, for she would now do the same for Losdir.
He kissed her nose before straightening. "I must go to your father."
Ivriniel nodded. "I know; he will understand."
He kissed her more deeply - soundly. "If he accepts me, then I promise you that I will make a good husband."
She smiled, staring into his eyes. "Just promise that you will never leave me."
"I would never dream of it," he replied, caressing her cheek. "I knew there was a purpose for me to come to Dol Amroth."
She grinned. "I never thought I would be given the chance to marry for love."
He kissed her once more. "Is it not every woman's dream to be wedded for love?"
She nodded. "Now I know why; it is so wonderful!"
He laughed, holding her close. "I will love you, Ivriniel till the day I die."
They stayed in each other's arms, kissing frequently, talking rarely. It was a feeling of rejuvenation, a new beginning. Ivriniel had told her grandfather of her feelings towards Losdir, surely with his approval and her mother's, her father would approve. If Finduilas was able to wed Lord Agoron, then why could she not wed a man born into nobility?
"I must go," she said, a while later. "It would be bad if the palace discovers that I am missing."
Losdir moaned with disappointment. "I shall see you tomorrow, though."
She nodded happily. "Come to the palace midmorning; Father will be in his study at that hour."
Losdir nodded and helped her to her feet. "I can hardly wait."
She smiled, wrapping her arms around his neck. "I love you."
He kissed her, holding her by the waist, not wanting to let go. "My beautiful princess - my love."
She sighed deeply with content. "Goodnight."
He kissed her one last time, deeply, and passionately. "Sweet dreams, my lady."
She stepped outside and placed her hood on. Refraining herself from running down the hallway, screaming with joy, she clasped her hands and kept her head lowered. Now was not the time to make mistakes. The knights at the front made sure she was safely out, telling her to come back any time. She laughed when they were out of hearing range. Her thoughts of bandits and robbers were out of her mind and she practically skipped down to Lord Agoron's house. A light was now lit in an upper room; she knocked loudly on the front door. She heard voices and footsteps approach. Finduilas appeared - her hair messier from when she had last seen her sister. Ivriniel frowned. Her sister's cloak was hanging over a chair, and she was suspicious of her sister's gown; was it a little crooked and creased?
"Are you ready to leave?" Ivriniel asked, eyeing Agoron in the distance.
Finduilas' face was blushed. "Yes, I suppose so. Let me grab my cloak."
Ivriniel watched as her little sister walked over to the chair and promptly placed her cloak on, gazing at Agoron with a smile on her lips. Agoron bowed to both ladies, before making sure Finduilas was safely out of his house. Once the door was closed behind them, Ivriniel grabbed her sister's wrist. "Why do you look so... scruffy?"
Finduilas giggled, her eyes sparkling with glee. "Nothing inappropriate happened, I promised you that, sister. Now tell me, did you apologies to Lord Losdir."
Ivriniel blushed. "Yes... and much more. I told him I loved him."
Finduilas stopped walking, dumbstruck. "What... truly?"
"He wants to marry me!" Ivriniel said, grabbing her sister's hands and spinning them around. "I am so happy!"
"Hush," Finduilas said, giggling. "Someone will hear us."
"I wish the world could hear that I am in love," Ivriniel said, holding her sister's hand. "Now I know how you feel."
Finduilas smiled warmly. "I am so happy for you; you deserve it."
"He is going to talk to Father tomorrow morning," she continued.
"Then it seems you and I will have our verdicts," her sister said. "Father should have his mind made up if I am allowed to wed Agoron or not."
"Tomorrow then," Ivriniel said, smiling.
Finduilas grinned. "Tomorrow."