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8
Deep Remorse

Dol Amroth: March 2975

Spring

Fifteen glorious days, Ivriniel had been married to Losdir. Every new day was better than the last. Losdir had finally moved into her apartments, but was giving his own separate three room apartment two doors down the corridor. It was wonderful. Losdir continued his duties as a swan knight, but, as an elevation into the family, he was given status as an assistant captain, to Captain Alagosson. Besides their duties Ivriniel herself, being an assistant to her mother while she was ill they spent many hours together, cooped up in her apartments. Occasionally they would venture out to the shoreline, or even to the markets. But for now, they were quite content to be left alone to their haziness of pleasure behind closed doors. It was expected for them to isolate themselves as newly wedded couples did so nobody paid much attention to their long absences. Time pressed on and the wedding guests slowly departed, leaving notes and gifts of goodwill and well wishes. Among those to depart was Losdir's family. Ivriniel barely spoke to both men, for they always seemed 'unavailable' whenever she desired an audience with them. They were giving apartments in the guest wing of the palace, but servant gossip spread to Nan Ivriniel's most trusted servant and soon Ivriniel discovered that the men hardly spent the nights in the palace.

"Is it not odd," Ivriniel said, only days after their wedding. They were dinning in her antechamber, allowing the cool breeze of the evening flow the curtains up in the air, and then allowing them to fall gracefully to the floor, "Your father and brother have been noted to spend the nights away from the palace. Do they have lodgings elsewhere in the city?"

"My father is curious about starting up a... a private trade with some of the merchants along the port," Losdir replied, choosing his words carefully. "It is nothing... illegal. Your grandfather knows about it well enough. Winter is a hard time for the people in Pinnath Gelin. The snow is heavy and the livestock are constantly raided and tormented by bears, wolves, and other wild animals. Food sometimes becomes scarce. My father wishes only to help his people without seeking help personally from a higher lord."

Ivriniel nodded. "Still, why do they not sleep in the palace?"

Losdir shrugged. "That, I cannot answer. My father and brother keep mostly to themselves. Still, they will be leaving in a week's time and out of your concern."

Ivriniel did not raise up his family as a topic any more after that conversation. Perhaps she was being overly cautious. She liked his father, Lord Hirluin. But he was so young. Not so young, but he had married when he was only fifteen. Not that it was a rare age for people to be wedded, but it usually happened among the more common people. Lord Hirluin was only nineteen when Losdir was born. Nineteen! Ivriniel could hardly believe it, and his wife had been younger! She could not even imagine being wedded, bedded, and a mother at that age. The whole prospect of carrying a child in her womb and then giving birth frightened her. Nevertheless, she did want a child.

Now, Ivriniel stood by Losdir's side in the front palace courtyard. It was time for Lord Hirluin and his son, Maindir to depart for Pinnath Gelin. Losdir was handling the departure rather well. She knew they were not close, but her new husband did not show the slightest hint of sadness.

"Farewell," Lord Hirluin said, embracing his youngest son. "You shall be missed, but I do hope that you and your lovely new wife will be able to travel to Anfalas for your brother's wedding."

"We shall see," Losdir replied, smiling uneasily. "My lady wife and I have many duties here in the city. You must send word when the wedding date has finally been set."

His father nodded, turning to Ivriniel. "Have a safe journey," she said as he kissed her hand. "I look forward to our next meeting."

"Hopefully it will be in the near future," Lord Hirluin replied. "Farewell."

Father and son left the front courtyard. Losdir stood there for several moments, watching them leave. Was it her imagination, or did Losdir seem troubled? She grabbed his hand and squeezed it; he turned to face her and offered her a forced smile. "Shall we?" he asked, leading the way back into the foyer of the palace.

"I do not wish to retire to our chambers," she said, halting them both. "Would you like to go out today? How about we take a ride in the countryside that surrounds the city?"

Losdir hesitated; he forced another smile. "If that is what you want, my dear."

Ivriniel knew he was making himself accept the proposal, but she knew it would do him good. "Yes, I want to go riding."

Losdir nodded his body tense. "I shall change my garments. I will meet you in the stables shortly."

Shortly - it turned into an hour, for Losdir decided to delay their plans by striking up a conversation with Imrahil. Ivriniel felt agitated. Yes, she knew there was something wrong, and it was personal. But she was his wife now. When he finally entered the stables he was met by his wife with an intense glare.

"I am only going to say this once," Ivriniel said, unfolding her arms. "I love you, Losdir. And my love for you will always make me tell you if there was something wrong. So tell me, does your love for me act in the same way with you?"

Losdir sighed heavily. "Forgive me, Ivriniel. You know I am not close to my family, and having them at our wedding was not something I wanted. You must understand that I do not, under any circumstance want to go to my brother's wedding. Never. I put my foot down on that. I love him as a brother, but as a person, I despise him. Maindir and I have never gotten along, and now he has decided it is in his best interest to turn Father against me. Well, not against me, but Father never listens to my council, he never asks to walk and talk with me as he once did. He takes heed to everything Maindir says, and in frustrates me!" Losdir's voice had risen considerably through his rant, causing the horses that stood by to shake their heads and stomp their hooves.

Ivriniel stood there shocked. She had not expected all that to come out of him. "I-I... why did you not tell me this earlier? If you did not want your brother at the wedding, you could have just said no."

Losdir shook his head. "Father would never have travelled all this way without him. Maindir is Father's life support these days. Besides, people would have talked."

Ivriniel rolled her eyes. "I don't care what people say." Losdir walked over and embraced her gently. "Do not keep these emotions from me."

Losdir kissed her hair. "Very well, my love. Now, come; do you still wish to go riding?"

Ivriniel's mood lifted. "Oh, yes; very much so!" She loved riding, yet found very little time to do so. She disliked travelling in winter, preferring to stay indoors by the fireside, sewing, or being of service to her father or grandfather. Spring and autumn were her favourite seasons. They were mixtures of winter and summer, bringing cool nights and warm, sunny days with a cool tinge in the ocean breeze.

Losdir assisted her in mounting her mare, then, after mounting his own steed, they set off out of the stables, down the cobbled lane that led out into the wider streets of the city. It was late midmorning and already the streets of Dol Amroth were buzzing with the daily lives of the common folk. Behind them, rode a couple of guards assigned to accompany them outside the city walls. Gondor was still living in a reasonable, yet tense peace, but the fiefdom of Belfalas had recently been raided by corsairs from the pirate haven of Umbar. These raids usually happened along the coastal region; they set fires to the houses and buildings, stealing horses, livestock, and other food supplies. Children were separated from the mothers; father slaughtered and the woman taken as slaves, or worse. These attacks were few, but growing in numbers. Ivriniel and Losdir were heading inland, but still, it was better to be safe and prepared whilst travelling beyond the city walls.

Despite the tension in the air, it was a beautiful day; the sun was beaming down on their faces, warming their skin, making them feel somewhat secure. To Ivriniel, warmness was to feel secure. Did you ever feel unsafe in the warmth of your bed? Or sitting by the fireside in your chamber, reading or sewing; did you ever feel uneasy? She felt the same way in sunlight.

The newly wedded couple broke their steeds into an easy trot along the stone road leading away from the city. Ivriniel had never been the best horsewoman, but she truly did love riding, even though it was a rare activity for her. They slowed down as they reached the nearest settlement, two miles away from Dol Amroth. It was nothing more than several houses, a stable, a barn, and an inn. The people were working in the fields, breaking in horses, and the children were watering plants and playing with the dogs. Ivriniel found herself curious to see how the people in her family's realm worked. The men and women in the fields looked up from the errands, shading their eyes from the sunlight. Perhaps they were as curious as she was, Ivriniel thought. Neither she nor Finduilas ever ventured beyond the city walls unless it was absolutely necessary to do so. So seeing a princess of the realm would have indeed spiked their curiosity. The children became distracted from their chores or games, and ran up along their horses, waving enthusiastically. Some of their mothers were trying to usher them away, their cheeks blushing with embarrassment. Ivriniel laughed and waved back at the children. She turned to Losdir and grinned.

"They are so precious," she said, touching a little boy's fingertips as he tried to reach her hand. "Children are absolute darlings, are they not?"

"Indeed they are," Losdir answered. "I had no idea you were so fond of children."

She waved goodbye to the children as they passed on away from the settlement. "I am not the most maternal woman in Gondor; I have hardly ever spent time with children. Neither of my siblings have children. And my cousins and other family members live so far away that they are nothing more than distant relatives that are known to have some sort of connection to the princedom family." She sighed. "I have next to no experience."

Losdir nodded and pointed towards a large oak tree in the distance. "Let us retire and sit under that tree."

Ivriniel waved for the guards to remain a reasonable distance away so she and Losdir could have some privacy. Losdir helped her dismount and led her over to the tree's thick trunk. He laid his cloak down for them to sit on. Ivriniel lent against the trunk and closed her eyes. She listened to the soft rustling sound of the tree's leaves in the cool breeze. She inhaled deeply, enjoying the serenity of life. Losdir had taken a place by her side, his arm wrapped around her shoulders. Ivriniel lowered her head to rest on him. "I love days such as these."

Losdir shuffled in his position, placing his other arm on her cheek. He raised her head and kissed her soundly on the lips. No words were needed to be spoken, for their true feelings for another were sealed in silent harmony. Ivriniel broke the kiss, needing air. She placed her arms around his neck, drawing him in for another kiss. "I could stay like this forever," she whispered, rubbing her nose against his. "I love the countryside. We should build a house out here and live away from the busy streets of Dol Amroth and the constant threat of pirates."

Losdir moaned in agreement, kissing her once more. "Your plans sound tempting, but our duties lie within the city walls." Ivriniel sighed, defeated. She knew he was right. They both had important tasks to perform on the people's behalf. "Perhaps this house of yours can be a dream," Losdir continued. "Let us say; once we have had our first child, we can petition to your Grandfather for a loan to build your dream house. We can have our own tenants, so you will still be able to perform administrative duties, and I will travel the distance from here to Dol Amroth to perform my duties as assistant captain to Captain Alagosson."

Ivriniel looked hopefully into his eyes. "Are you certain?"

"I am," he said softly, caressing her cheek. "I will do anything to see you happy."

Ivriniel smiled. "You make me happy; you always will, Losdir."

...

They ventured back to the city in the early hours of the afternoon. They only returned because they were hungry. They ate in companionable silence in Ivriniel's antechamber. Of course, nothing wonderful can last forever; Nan hurried into the antechamber with another woman close behind. Ivriniel frowned with confusion. That other woman, she recognised, was Finduilas' chambermaid.

"My lady, your sister, Princess Finduilas is in need of you," Nan said, straightening her gown. "She is in her own apartments."

Ivriniel turned to face Losdir; he nodded that she should go quickly. Along the corridor, Ivriniel wanted to ask both ladies what was happening. Rarely did Finduilas seek out her sister's company through another; she always came to Ivriniel's apartments on her own accord. Something had to be wrong. Ivriniel entered Finduilas' antechamber while the two women remained outside. When she entered, she saw that Finduilas had thrown all the cushions from the seats onto the floor. Finduilas was nowhere to be seen, but soft sobbing could be heard from the bedchamber. Frowning with worry, Ivriniel hurried into the bedchamber to find her little sister lying on her bed, face in pillow, her shoulder shaking as she wept.

"Sister," Ivriniel said, her heart beating faster. "What is it?" Her face showed extreme concern. Finduilas never acted like this.

Finduilas lifted her face from the pillow; her eyes were swollen from weeping, her hair was falling out, as her headdress lay askew on her head. "He's sending me away."

Who was sending her away? Ivriniel was profoundly confused. "Sister, explain." She dragged a chair across the room to the bedside, sitting on it.

Finduilas leaned herself up on her elbow, wiping her cheeks. "Father is sending me away to be married!" Fresh tears began falling. "H-h... he... he is ma-marrying me off... t-t-to..." Finduilas flopped back onto the bed, sobbing into the pillow yet again.

"Who?" Ivriniel asked, persistent to find out. "Relax." She ran her hand down her sister's back, offering some comfort.

Finduilas lifted her head. "Lord Denethor. I have to marry Lord Denethor!" The last line Finduilas screamed. "I don't want to marry him! I love Agoron, not him!"

Ivriniel's eyes were wide, her mouth ajar. "When did this occur?"

Finduilas sniffed, wiping her cheeks once more. "This morning while you and Losdir were out riding; Father said he had something important to announce to the court." Finduilas sat up. "He did not even consult me before making the announcement. I had no idea! You should have seen Imrahil's face." Finduilas hiccupped. "Imrahil is refusing to speak to Father now."

"What has Mother to say in the matter?" Ivriniel asked.

"She supports it," Finduilas replied. "She says it's a great marriage. I will become the next Stewardess of Gondor." Finduilas let out a raging sigh. "I don't want to be a stewardess! I want to be me!"

"But," Ivriniel said, trying to make sense of the whole situation, "I thought Father was betrothing you to Lord Agoron."

Finduilas' eyes became wet again. "Oh, Agoron; he was there at court during the announcement. You should have seen his reaction. I tried to meet his gaze, but he refused to look at me." Tears were streaming down her cheeks again, but Finduilas paid no heed to them. "He must hate me."

Ivriniel did not know how to think. She was happy her sister was not going to wed Lord Agoron, but sad on her sister's behalf, for Finduilas was not able to marry the man she loved. Then again, her sister being wedded to the heir to the stewardship was a great match. All the noble women in Gondor had been hanging out for a marriage to Lord Denethor. Well, that is what Ivriniel had heard through gossip. Who knew how accurate gossip was? But Finduilas would have to leave Dol Amroth and live in Minas Tirith. That thought did not appeal to Ivriniel at all. "Whose idea was this?"

Finduilas shrugged her shoulders. "Father said it was Steward Ecthelion's idea, but I honestly do not know who to believe." She sniffed again, moved her knees up to her chest, and hugged them. "Ivriniel I do not want to live in Minas Tirith, let alone be married to a man twice my age. Think how horrible it sounds! I could be Lord Denethor's daughter!"

"You could still get out of the marriage." Ivriniel caught her breath in her throat. Had she just said that? Finduilas eyed her curiously. "I mean," she continued, "if the betrothal is not in contract..."

"Oh, it is," Finduilas replied warily. "If it were not, then Father would not have made the public announcement." Her little sister let out a groan of misery. "The wedding is to take place in March next year."

Ivriniel nodded. "Well then, you have a year to become accustomed to the idea."

Finduilas frowned. "Never! I will never allow myself to be known as a Lady of Minas Tirith. I am a Princess of Dol Amroth." She waved her arms around her. "This land, the sea is my home. How dare they choose to remove me from it? I-I cannot bear to even think of leaving the sea behind." Finduilas' eyes filled with horror. "And... and the Dark Land... it is near Minas Tirith; practically across the River."

"You must listen to reason," Ivriniel said, standing from her seat. She placed her hands on Finduilas' shoulders. "Listen." She gently shook her sister. "Whether you like it or not, this marriage will open great prospects to you. But I will miss you." Ivriniel felt a lump grow in her throat. She had to refrain herself from weeping, for Finduilas' sake. "I always imagined you and I would end up being married and living here, together in the palace, raising our children in the same nursery; our husbands becoming great friends and looking out for each other as they face the enemy. But, alas, Father has seen a different path for you. I really do not want you to go, Finduilas. But who dare deny the Steward of Gondor? He has absolute power, you know this."

Finduilas painfully closed her eyes and nodded. "Yes, you are right. I am not going to apologies for my actions. I truly do not want to go, and I will not be speaking to Father until he has apologised for making the announcement before approaching me on the matter."

Ivriniel nodded, fully understanding. "If he pulled that trick on me, I would have behaved just as you have done."

Finduilas held her sister's hand. "You will come with me to Minas Tirith when I have to..." Finduilas could not even finish her sentence. "How could he?" she whispered instead. "Lord Denethor... he is so... unapproachable. And in a year's time he will have to... to touch me in intimate ways. I must bear his children."

Ivriniel gave a deep, remorseful sigh. "I am so sorry, Finduilas. This is not how I imagined your life would turn out to be. If you were happy about the idea, then I would gladly see you leave Dol Amroth, for your sake alone. But not like this. Not Like this." She gave Finduilas a meaningful kiss on the cheek. "I want you to stop weeping; you need to be strong. Despite your aggression to this situation, I want you to make Father proud. Make him proud to have a daughter who can rise to any event."

Finduilas pondered for a moment; she nodded. "I will make him proud; I will make all of you proud. But I will never warm to the idea. Never."

Ivriniel left Finduilas' chamber an hour later, making sure her little sister was sleeping peacefully. She needed rest after that whole performance. Not that Ivriniel blamed her for acting that way. A thought crept into her mind what if she had not met Losdir and instead of Finduilas, her father had offered her instead. A shiver ran through her body. She, like Finduilas could not bear the thought of leaving Dol Amroth behind to be placed into a loveless marriage, in a large city that overlooked an evil land. Poor Finduilas, she thought, slowly making her way back to her apartments. One year... one long and dreadful year of waiting for the inevitable.

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