Nerves; that is what Ivriniel felt as she woke the next morning remembering the events of the previous night. Had she really snuck out of the palace with Finduilas? Did she truly declare her love for Losdir in the small confinement of his room? Ivriniel groaned into her pillow, wishing that she still had a few more hours to sleep. Her chambermaid entered, humming happily as she set the small fireplace alight. Ivriniel slipped out of bed and placed on her slippers and robe. "Will you fetch me a jug of hot water please, Nan?" she asked, walking over to the wardrobe. Being the eldest, Ivriniel had many gowns of silk, damask, and satin. Most had been passed down through the generations, being modified, trimmed, and hemmed. She chose to wear a gown of green satin, hoping it would please Losdir to see her wearing the colours of his people. She undressed reluctantly, hating the cool mornings of late autumn and winter. Her wardrobe had no heating, save for a small window that looked towards the south; and sunlight barely ever seeped through it.
Nan entered moments later carrying a large jug of heated water. She placed it on the small round table before helping her mistress tighten her corset. Nan then poured the hot water into the basin and handed Ivriniel a cloth to use.
"Thank you, Nan," Ivriniel said, placing the cloth into the basin to absorb some of the water. She hated washing during cold mornings. Even if the water were hot, it would leave a cool residue of water on her skin, making the tiny hairs on her skin stick up in protest. "Nan, after you have helped me lace up my gown, will you go to my father's study and inform him that I wish to speak to him shortly."
"Yes, my lady," Nan replied, bowing her head in respect.
After her chambermaid had left a short while later, Ivriniel walked back into her chamber and sat at the dressing table, staring at herself in the mirror. It was rumoured that her family were descendants of elves, but her nose and cheeks had light sprinkles of freckles. Surely elves did not have freckles! Perhaps the blood of the elves was running low in her veins now, and more traits of man were beginning to appear. Her eyes were plain – sea-grey. There was nothing special or beautiful about them in Ivriniel's opinion. Next to Finduilas, she was very plain. Her little sister could wear peasants clothing and still outshine every woman around her. She was not jealousy Finduilas; she did not envy the rather large amount of male attention her sister received at court. The only male attention she had ever truly enjoyed was Losdir's. Her heart warmed at the thought of his name. She knew her father would accept such a union, or better yet, hoped that he would.
After eating a light breakfast of assorted fruits and cheese, Ivriniel made her way to her father's study. It was eight-thirty in the morning; she had half an hour to make her case to her father before Losdir would appear. Part of her believed that her father would not accept such a union; he always believed that his eldest daughter would make a fine marriage to a man with a steady income and a handful of lands. Losdir was a Lord by right of birth, but he was the younger son of a Lord; Ivriniel did not even know if Losdir owned any lands in Pinnath Gelin.
She arrived at the wooden door of her father's study. She felt her heartbeat start to quicken; she had never felt so nervous in all her life. Then again, nothing had ever made her this nervous before. She knocked loudly and her father's clerk, Angoldir opened the door for her. She gave her father a curtsy. "Father."
Adrahil looked up from the papers on his desk; he frowned. "You may leave us, Angoldir." Adrahil stood up and walked over to the cabinet that held his liquor. "I suppose I should brace myself."
Ivriniel frowned, a fear seeping into her mind; had someone told him about her reasons for coming? "Whatever do you speak of, Father?"
Adrahil poured himself some brandy. "Dearest, you curtsied when you entered. Neither you or your sister does that unless you have something important to say, or you are in need to discuss a matter that makes either of you nervous."
Ivriniel let out a long breath of relief. "It is a matter of both importance and one that makes me nervous."
It was Adrahil's turn to let out a long breath. "I should sit in my chair by the fireplace then, for it is the only place that manages to relax and soothe me after serious and head thumping discussions."
"Please, Father you are not making this easy for me," she said, taking a seat across from him. "For me, this news I have brings joy and happiness. But I am afraid you may not be very... impressed with my choice."
Adrahil fixed his stare on his daughter for several moments. "Go on," he finally said.
Ivriniel took a deep breath before continuing: "I wish to marry and I have found someone I am willing to share the rest of my life with."
Adrahil took a swig of his brandy, finishing it. "I was expecting something far worse. Then again, I was and still am not planned on letting my eldest go."
Ivriniel felt her heart sink. "You say no."
Adrahil chuckled. "Any father would say no to the prospect of their daughter getting married. A daughter is one of the most precious things in a man's life. I love you dearly, Ivriniel." He sat up in his chair and placed his empty glass on the table beside him. "Now let us forget my sorrows! Who is it that you so dearly desire to wed?"
Ivriniel grinned. "Lord Losdir."
Her father's eyes narrowed. "Lord Losdir; he was just recently knighted here."
"Yes, Father," she replied. "He is an amazing young gentleman. I love him and he loves me."
"Those were his words?" he asked, his brow creasing with curiosity.
"Of course!" she said, feeling quite passionate to lay down her case before him. "We declared our love last ni..."
"Last night?" Adrahil said, his brow creasing even more. "Whatever were you doing speaking to Lord Losdir last night?"
"I-I... I met him in secret," she confessed. "It was more early evening than nighttime. We met in one of the back courtyards."
Adrahil eyed his daughter suspiciously, but decided better to let the topic go. "I see. So why is it that you are speaking to me and not him?"
"He is coming to speak to you," she replied quickly. "I told him to come to your study at the ninth hour to ask your permission." She let out a deep breath. "I wanted to come and speak to you on the matter first."
Adrahil sat back in his chair and sighed heavily. "This is not how it should go, Ivriniel. The man should always present the proposal of marriage to the woman's father first."
Ivriniel slightly lowered her head and nodded. "I am sorry for not follow protocol."
"Do not apologies, my dear," Adrahil said his voice soothing. "You seem very passionate about this, and for that I admire. I am happy you have found love, and I believe Lord Losdir is worthy of it. However, I have only met him on rare occasions, but he always acted politely and never caused any sort of scene or fuss. He rarely attends court, though."
"He is not a man of the court," Ivriniel replied. "He is committed to his duty as a swan knight and desires nothing more than to protect the borders of Belfalas."
"He is committed to his duty as a swan knight," Adrahil said, repeating his daughter's words. "Will that not be a problem for you? How will you feel when he is absent for many weeks at a time? Months perhaps? Will you not feel lonely or jealous of his duty that he is solely committed to?"
Ivriniel closed her eyes, thinking deeply. "Father, for the love I have for him, I am willing to accept his duty as a swan knight."
Adrahil slowly nodded. "Nevertheless, I still must have words to him. I love you too, Ivriniel; I have loved you far longer than any other man will. Remember that all I decide is for your best."
Ivriniel stood up and kissed her father on the cheek. "He makes me happy, Father. Remember that." She left her father's study and headed out to the front courtyard, making it just in time to meet Losdir. He bowed politely and kissed her hand. "Father is waiting for you in his study," she said in a faint whisper. "I will wait for you outside in the hallway." Losdir nodded; she sensed no nerves about him. "Are you confident? Do you think we are rushing this? Is this too soon?"
"Hush," Losdir said, caressing her cheek. Ivriniel felt herself melt inside, wanting more of his touch. "Be patient and positive. I love you."
Ivriniel sighed contently. "I love you too." She led him to her father's study door and took a seat outside while Losdir entered. She turned her head and looked out the window that faced the landscape stretching out to the east, towards Minas Tirith. Farmers were working tirelessly on their lands, reaping what they had planted. Her family's country was at peace, though she had a deep feeling it would not last for the many years to come. Further away on the horizon, she saw the faint orange and red glow of Mordor; the lair of the Dark Lord who hid himself behind high, sharp mountains that cut through the sky.
Bringing herself back to reality, Ivriniel turned towards the door in front of her; it opened and Angoldir slipped out into the hallway. He bowed in respect of her presence before hurrying along out of sight. Ivriniel frowned, not liking the idea of Losdir and her father speaking privately. She stood up and walked over to the door's frame, pressing her ear against it.
"... a woman of great dignity," she heard Losdir say boldly. "She holds herself worthy of the title 'Princess of Dol Amroth'."
Ivriniel smiled to herself, enjoying the praise she should not have heard. "Despite all that," Adrahil said, "she is still my daughter; the eldest of my offspring. She may be just a woman, a noble lady among the courtiers of Gondor, but I have loved her from the moment she took her first breath. Being my eldest daughter, I have cherished and spoiled her more than my other two."
Ivriniel grinned - it was quite true, though nowadays she gave some of her gifts to Finduilas. Not to say that Finduilas was ill liked by their father; he always spoke of Finduilas' loveliness and how he was proud to have sired such an elegant and beautiful woman.
Ivriniel heard footsteps approaching and she stepped away from the door and sat back down, looking very innocent. Imrahil appeared, giving his sister one of his lavishing smiles. "Sister," he said, standing before her. "Are you waiting for an audience with Father?"
"Father is currently speaking with Lord Losdir," Ivriniel replied. "If you wish to speak with him, you are going to have to wait."
Imrahil nodded and sat down on the bench beside her. "Has Lord Losdir done something to cause offence? Or is he requesting dismissal from service? I have always believed he would eventually miss his homeland and seek it out once more; I could never leave Dol Amroth or Belfalas to serve another part of Gondor."
"It is neither of those matters," she said quickly. "Lord Losdir is asking Father for permission to marry me."
Imrahil was silent for several long moments. He sat there, staring at his sister with an unreadable expression. "H-he... y-you... what?"
Ivriniel rolled her eyes. "Please, Brother, do not act foolishly stupid." She folded her arms and sat up straight. "When our Father – Valar forbid – dies, and you are made Prince of Dol Amroth, will you respond that way when directed with a surprising and mind-baffling question or request?"
Imrahil, annoyed, stood up, and turned away from her. "There are times when I wished you would not judge my every action." He spun around, his eyes piercing hers. "I am still young, Ivriniel. I have a lot to learn; I admit that! Father is still quite young for a descendant of Numenor, and his health is excellent. For I am still in my youth and I have yet to reach my coming of age ceremony, I should not be looked down upon for my immaturity."
Ivriniel sighed heavily, unfolding her arms. "Brother, please stop looking at me in such a way. I love you and respect you for being Father's heir. But let me tell you something - you are Father's only heir. Never in Gondor has a woman inherited a crown. Finduilas and I can never rule after Father; it is up to you to set a good example and rule mercifully and justly." She stood up and grabbed Imrahil's hands. "Honestly, when I look at you I still see that little boy who used to sit on Father's shoulders and point out all the incoming ships that approached the docks. Do you remember those times? We were so merry and... naive. In some ways, we all are still. Something is going to happen in our time." She let go of Imrahil's hands and clung to her shoulders. "I can feel it."
Imrahil's mood had softened; he may be young, but he had a temper when trifled with. "Sister, let us speak of more pleasant matters. You just told me that Lord Losdir wishes to marry you!"
Ivriniel let go of herself and smiled broadly. "Yes. He loves me and I love him. I do hope that Father will approve."
"If he approves of Agoron marrying Finduilas, then I do not see why you should not wed a man of noble birth."
Ivriniel frowned on a confusing way. "H-has Father consented for Lord Agoron to wed our sister?"
Imrahil nodded enthusiastically. "Indeed he has. He told me so last night while he and I were speaking privately with Grandfather. Are you not happy for them, Ivriniel? Agoron is a wonderful man, and an excellent commander."
"I think you are biased towards him," she replied haughtily. "Lord Agoron is your closest friend and comrade at sea. I perfectly understand why you would agree to the match."
"You do not?" he asked curiously.
Ivriniel sighed heavily. "I appreciate that he makes Finduilas happy, for she deserves to be happy and well-loved. However, I cannot get passed the fact that he is not of noble birth."
"He is a Lord now," Imrahil reminded her. "Our grandfather made him so."
Ivriniel shrugged. "He was not raised a nobleman; he was not given a nobleman's education as a boy; he can read, write, and sail, but what else can he master? Losdir and every other nobleman in the country know twice as much as that and more!"
"Do not judge him from his background," Imrahil said. "Nobody can choose the family they are born into; it is something that will never be in our power to control. All we can do is choose our friends, make our enemies, and live a life with those we love."
Her brother's words made Ivriniel's heart soften to the matter. "I do not hate him, Imrahil. I will accept their marriage, I will enjoy his company, but I will never call him my friend. It is something that my heart will never allow and it pains me."
"Our hearts work in mysterious ways," Imrahil agreed. "Your heart for instance is working strangely. I had no idea you fancied Lord Losdir. I knew you would eventually take a husband, have children, and surround yourself with their love. But I always assumed the man you would wed would be of Grandfather's court."
"Losdir is part of Grandfather's court," she replied.
"Ah, but he was not born in Belfalas, and his presence at court has only been in the recent months," Imrahil answered. "He is still a new man of the court; few know who he is."
The door opened, revealing their father. "Imrahil," Adrahil said, nodding at his son. "Is your visit of great urgency?"
Imrahil looked at Ivriniel and smiled. "No, Father; I can wait."
"Good," their father replied, ushering Ivriniel into his study. "This will not take long."
Ivriniel stepped nervously into the room and saw Losdir standing before the large desk that overlooked the room. She smiled at him, and his eyes sparkled with confidence.
"Now," Adrahil said, standing behind his desk. "Ivriniel, I have spoken to Losdir and after much discussions and a little persuasion, I am pleased to announce that I consent."
Ivriniel opened her mouth in gleeful shock. She turned to Losdir and embraced him, wrapping her arms around his neck, feeling him embrace her back. She had her doubts, but she knew her father would agree in the end, for she knew very well that her father wanted nothing more than to see her happy. Remembering where she was and that her father was standing before her with amused eyes, she let go of Losdir and stepped back. "Forgive me."
Adrahil waved his hand at her apology. "There is nothing to forgive, my dearest. You and Losdir shall have some privacy later on, but for now you must go and tell the news to your mother; I still need to have some words to this young man before the morning draws to an end." Ivriniel nodded and smiled at both men. "You may go now; and send your brother in when you leave."
Ivriniel stepped out into the hallway and closed the door. She jumped into Imrahil's inviting arms and laughed with joy. "He consented. He consented. He consented!"
Imrahil laughed with her and spun her around. "Congratulations, Ivriniel!"
She let go of her brother and grinned happily, wiping away her tears of joy. "I must go and tell Mother. Father will see you now."
Ivriniel practically ran down the hallway towards her mother's chamber. When she arrived, she did not wait for her mother's secretary to announce her; she burst into the room, causing her mother's ladies to jump in fright and let out small shrieks. "I am so sorry, I did not mean to alarm anyone," Ivriniel said loudly. "Mother, I have wonderful news!"
Lady Anneth, the calm and patient woman she was, rose from her chair by the large window, placed her embroidery down, and waved her ladies out of the room. Once they were alone, she walked over to her daughter. "Tell me, my daughter, what is so wonderful that it has you bursting into your mother's chamber?"
Ivriniel grabbed her mother's hands and laughed. "Lord Losdir has just asked Father for my hand in marriage! And Father consented!"
Lady Anneth covered her mouth in surprise. "Is it true?"
"Yes, Mother!" Ivriniel said, embracing her mother. "I am so happy!"
Her mother laughed with joy and held her daughter close. "Oh, Ivriniel I could not be happier for you. I had feared that your youth would be wasted before you found a husband." She let go of her daughter and placed her hand on Ivriniel's cheek. "Sweetheart, did I not tell you that Lord Losdir was a fine young man?"
Ivriniel remembered the night when Losdir had dined with her family. She nodded happily. "You were right, Mother; you are always right."
"It is a mother's instinct, nothing more," Lady Anneth replied, smiling. "One day soon, you will be blessed with a child; then you will understand the instincts of a mother."
Ivriniel smiled. "Perhaps not too soon, for Losdir and I must marry first."
Her mother chuckled. "Knowing your father, he will not want to delay the wedding any more than it should. Your father loves a celebration; you shall be married early in the New Year."
"I hope so," Ivriniel said, "for I do not believe I can be patient in this matter for long."
"Patience is a virtue," her mother said warmly. "Everyone knows that." Lady Anneth stepped away from her daughter and rang her bell. Her secretary entered the room and bowed. "Will you fetch Finduilas for me and then send for the palace seamstress to my chambers; I have need of her services." She turned to Ivriniel. "No more hand-me-downs for you, Sweetheart. You shall have a new gown made just for you to wear at your betrothal ceremony."
Ivriniel smiled gratefully. "Thank you, Mother."
"Come," her mother said, gesturing towards her bedchamber, "let us pick out what jewels you shall wear; you must look your best."