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9
Where Destiny Leads

Dol Amroth: August 2975

Winter

Six glorious and peaceful months into her marriage, Ivriniel found herself standing in front of the mirror in her wardrobe, caressing her lower abdomen. She felt warmth inside of her that she had never felt before. She smiled, knowing that new life was growing within her. She had made the announcement only the previous day. Losdir was ecstatic. In their bedchamber, he fell to his knees and kissed her stomach. Their plan of building a house in the countryside was still fresh in their minds; her father and grandfather had consented to the idea, and plans were underway for building to begin in the New Year. Ivriniel was thrilled at the prospect of running her own household. She would be a fair and kind woman to the tenants, making sure that no one went hungry or cold through the winter seasons. She was also excited with the idea of having her own house while she had a child of her own. Being in charge of her own house meant that she could also be in control of her child's future; education, sports, functions everything! She was truly looking forward to the day.

Everything could have been perfect for Ivriniel, if it were not for that thought in the back of her mind that kept telling her that Finduilas was leaving for Minas Tirith in only six months. Finduilas had given in to her stubbornness and forgiven their parents. Still, her little sister was acting cold towards the marriage. Lord Denethor had sent several letters, but they were written in a business form, nothing romantic, no loving promises. Finduilas read the letters, and thought it kind of him to even make the time to write to her. She seemed somewhat relieved that there was some sort of communication between them.

"He will not see me," Finduilas said as she sat with Ivriniel in a back courtyard. "Agoron has been at sea for four months now, keeping the Corsairs at bay."

"Well it is his duty to do so," Ivriniel replied, eating a piece of honey cake.

"He is avoiding me," Finduilas said insistently. "I can tell; he has not written to me."

"Have you written to him?" Ivriniel asked, an eyebrow raised.

"Well... n-no," Finduilas stammered. "I do not even know where to begin if I sat down and wrote him a letter."

"Perhaps he thinks you are avoiding him," Ivriniel suggested. "Or maybe Imrahil or Father has told him to stay away."

"They would never do that!" Finduilas cried. "They know I love him."

"You have to love Lord Denethor now," Ivriniel said, stating the obvious. "He is your future husband, not Lord Agoron."

"Oh, that is easy for you to say," Finduilas scorned. "You married the man you loved; if it were not for Lord Losdir travelling here to become a knight then you would be in my position."

Ivriniel narrowed her eyes. "Finduilas, never, ever say that again. None of this is my fault. I cannot see the future."

Finduilas sighed deeply. "I know; I am sorry. I just... I need someone to blame, and I am tired of blaming Father. I know he arranged this out of the goodness of his heart. I know he is only thinking what is best for me."

"You should feel flattered," Ivriniel said. "Lord Denethor is a hard man to talk to, yet he must have noticed you at my wedding, or else this proposal would never have arisen."

Finduilas groaned in frustration. "I wish I was wearing a sack that day! Then he would have noticed me for all the wrong reasons!"

Ivriniel could not help but laugh at her sister's remark. "Poor sister; I feel for you. But remember, I will be there by your side at your wedding. I shall speak to Losdir before we travel to Minas Tirith. Unfortunately, I will be in my last month of pregnancy when you marry, so I may end up giving birth in the City of Kings."

"Oh," Finduilas said, her curiosity peeking. "Will Father even allow you to travel all that way?"

"I have already spoken to him about it," Ivriniel replied. "He says as long as I travel by ship, I will be safe. I will have the midwives with me in case anything should happen along the journey." Ivriniel frowned. "It would be quite unfortunate if I were to go into labour onboard the ship."

Finduilas laughed. "It would be very uncomfortable, and you would most likely end up being physically sick from all the rocking."

Ivriniel shivered at the thought. Every morning she had been sick, having to stay in bed until midday. She hated it, feeling like she would do anything even die just for the horrible feeling to go away. "Let us not think about it," she finally said. "Who knows, you may end up with-child yourself next year."

Finduilas frowned in thought. "I hope so, and I anticipate it will end up being a boy. I have always wanted to be a mother of many, many children; but the thought of... consummating my marriage with Lord Denethor does not appeal to me at all. I could not do it... he will have to make every move, not I."

Ivriniel wrinkled her nose. "Come; let us not think about such thoughts. You still have six months yet."

"These past six months have gone so fast!" Finduilas exclaimed. "No doubt the six month to come will go just as swiftly." She groaned. "I am not ready to leave Dol Amroth. I can't bear the thought." She looked into Ivriniel's eyes, pleadingly. "How am I going to live in Minas Tirith?"

Ivriniel felt hopeless; there was nothing she could do or say that would make everything seem better. "I am sorry, Finduilas."

"You will come and visit me as often as you can," Finduilas assumed.

Ivriniel nodded. "Of course; Losdir and I will come to Minas Tirith often. Though, I do not know how often Losdir shall be able to visit; his duties now are keeping him very busy."

"But you will still come," Finduilas insisted. "I know Imrahil won't visit often, because he has to stay here and be reared into becoming the next Prince of Dol Amroth; Mother cannot travel in her state." She sighed heavily. "She will not even be able to attend the wedding."

Ivriniel held Finduilas' hand. "It grieves Mother that she cannot attend. I know she wants to more than anything, but her health is dwindling." Ivriniel hated discussing their mother's health. Part of Ivriniel pretended that nothing was wrong, and one day they will all wake up to the new morning and discover that their mother's dire health was nothing more than a bad memory.

"I hope Lord Denethor continues to write," Finduilas said, changing the topic. "I know I have no feelings towards him, but I do respect him. His office is a hard one, and one day he will be the Steward of Gondor. It must be hard for him." Finduilas frowned, looking out over the courtyard railing, watching the seagulls circle the harbour below. "He writes in his letters that I will be comfortable in Minas Tirith, and that he shall look after me as any good husband would do."

"I am sure he does not desire you to be uncomfortable," Ivriniel said. "This whole arrangement must be hard for him, too. Remember that he does not know you personally either. He is entering this marriage as blindly as you are."

"But he could put a stop to it," Finduilas said, leaning over the table. "He could tell his father that he does not wish to wed a woman he does not know."

"Does he write in his letters that he desires to marry you?" Ivriniel asked curiously.

Finduilas shrugged. "Those are not his exact words; instead he goes on about how he will make a good husband and that I will have everything in his power to give."

Ivriniel nodded. "Maybe he is just being modest. Besides, you are very beautiful, Sister. What man would not want to make you his wife?"

"I still should have worn a sack to your wedding," Finduilas said, folding her arms. "A sack as a dress would have turned him off of me, and Agoron would have laughed, I know he would have."

"I do not want to upset you, but once you become Lord Denethor's wife, you will have to stop thinking about Lord Agoron; you must never mention him again, or write to him. Lord Denethor would never approve."

"He does not even know of my... my past relations with Agoron." Finduilas' eyes widened. "Unless Father told Steward Ecthelion, and then he told Lord Denethor. Men gossip as much as women do."

Ivriniel laughed at her last remark. "True, indeed." Ivriniel stood up. "I must go; Losdir will be leaving soon for his monthly patrol along the coastline."

Finduilas nodded. "Send him my best wishes."

...

Ivriniel embraced Losdir tightly in the front courtyard. She was wrapped tightly in a fur cloak, shielding her from the harsh, winter breeze. "Come back soon," she said, her cheeks pink from the cold air.

Losdir brushed a few strands of hair out of her face and kissed her tenderly. "I will; I promise. But you must promise me to keep our child safe." He placed his hand on her lower abdomen. He kissed her once more. "I love you."

"I love you too," she whispered in reply. Her body was chilled, but it was not only the weather causing her to shiver. Her body was causing a shiver to run up her back, causing herself to shake. She wrapped the cloak ever tightly and walked back into the warmth of the palace. Once inside, she felt her stomach twinge in a sharp pain. She winced, holding her belly. The pain passed as quickly as it came, but Ivriniel felt a wave of concern flow through her.

Little did Ivriniel know that the kiss her husband gave her, that touch on her stomach was the last contact she would ever receive from him. Eight days later, word reached the swan palace. It was terrible news. Angelimir was the first to receive it. In response to the message, he sunk down into his large chair and covered his face with his hands. How was he going to break it to her? He could not do it, he loved his granddaughter too much to see her grief-stricken. He needed to tell his son, tell Adrahil. He would know the best way to inform Ivriniel.

Adrahil walked slowly towards Ivriniel's apartments. His heart was heavy with sorrow. He did not want to be the bearer of bad news, but someone had to tell her. He could have sent Imrahil or Finduilas to inform her, but it would not have been fair on Ivriniel if everyone else knew what had happened before her. He arrived at her door and knocked, letting himself in. The antechamber was warm from the heat of the fireplace. Ivriniel was sitting by its side with Nan keeping her company. Both women were embroidering and speaking softly to another. Ivriniel looked up from her work and smiled, acknowledging her father.

"Ivriniel, I am afraid I have some bad news," Adrahil said, feeling quite anxious.

Ivriniel placed her embroidery aside and frowned. "What is it? Is Mother unwell again? Should I go and sit by her side?" Ivriniel stood up, ready to leave.

Adrahil placed both his hands in front of him to stop Ivriniel from leaving. "No; your mother is just fine."

Ivriniel placed her hands on her hips. "Then what is it?"

"There has been... an incident," Adrahil started, choosing his words carefully. "About three days ago, Captain Alagosson's camp was ambushed by a group of Corsairs that had landed along the coastline to raid and plunder."

Ivriniel frowned. "Is everyone all right? How is Losdir? Do you have news from him?"

Adrahil's heart ached; he truly did not enjoy this. "Captain Alagosson lost a third of his men; Losdir was shot by a distant arrow. He was struck in the chest." Adrahil looked at his daughter through eyes of remorse. "He did not suffer, Ivriniel. His death was instant."

Ivriniel stood there; she did not move. Dead? No, she thought. No, he could not be dead. It was impossible. They were going to build a house in the countryside and raise their children away from the city life. She opened her mouth to speak, but found no words. Nan had stood up and taken a place by her lady's side.

"Princess," Nan said softly, gently grabbing her arm.

"Dead," Ivriniel said, choking on her tears.

Adrahil walked over and embraced his daughter. "I am so sorry, Ivriniel."

Ivriniel burst into a fit of crying. She had her head resting on her father chest, clinging to his back. This could not be happening, she thought. He could not be dead. Impossible. Impossible. She let go of her father and fell to her knees. Adrahil bent down to support her. She was shaking her head, not believing what she had heard. "Tell me this is not true," she said, not to anyone in particular. "No, no, no."

"Shhh," Adrahil said, trying to be of some comfort. "Nan, fetch Finduilas and tell her of the news."

Nan curtsied quickly and left in a hurry. Ivriniel did not get up; she placed her hands on the floor, her shoulders shaking with grief. She felt her father holding her, but she did not register his presence. This was a dream, she thought. A very, very bad dream. She will wake up soon; she knew it. There was no way Losdir was dead. It could not be; he was supposed to live for her, for their unborn child.

Finduilas bustled into her sister's apartments and immediately knelt down beside her sister, embracing her for comfort. "Oh, Sister," she said, tears swelling in her own eyes. "Everything is going to be all right."

Ivriniel looked up into her sister's eyes. "H-h-how can y-you s-say that?" Fresh tears streamed down her face. "Th-there has t-to be a m-mistake."

Finduilas looked over at their father, a questioning look in her eyes. Adrahil solemnly shook his head. "My dear, there is no mistake," he said. "Sweetheart, I must go. I will fetch your mother to come here. Arrangement must now be made."

Finduilas held her sister tightly, placing her head on Ivriniel's shoulder. "Hush," she said soothingly. "Do not stress yourself; for the child's sake."

"M-y child has n-no father now," Ivriniel said, unable to stop herself from weeping.

Finduilas and Nan were able to move Ivriniel to the bedchamber, where as Finduilas had done six months earlier she laid down on the bed with her face in the pillow, weeping. Finduilas herself had tears falling down her cheeks. She had not wish any ill in her sister's marriage. She rubbed her sister's arm while Nan covered her mistress with a blanket. Their mother entered several minutes later and took a seat beside Finduilas. Neither women spoke a word; all they could do was be there for Ivriniel.

As dusk fell, Ivriniel finally sat up, wiping her eyes. She felt sick in the stomach, her appetite lost. She embraced her mother, feeling like a little girl once again, needing her mother's comfort, and calming words. But nothing could keep Ivriniel from thinking of how sudden his death had been. One minute they were happily married, saying goodbye to each other as he set out on a routine patrol; he did these patrols monthly. She cursed the Corsairs; she would never forgive them for what they stole from her. Losdir had been the love of her life; the bright light that always cheered her up. And now, he was gone. Never to see his child, never to see the country house they so longed to build.

She managed to slide off her bed and gloomily walk over to the table where some food was waiting for her. "You must eat for the sake of the child, Ivriniel," her mother said gently, but sternly.

Ivriniel picked up the fork and moved the food about the plate. "I am not hungry, Mother."

Lady Anneth poured some wine into her daughter's goblet. "Then at least drink; you cannot go around with an empty stomach."

Ivriniel wiped her eyes; she could no longer control her tears from spilling. "Why did this have to happen to me?" She placed a hand over her face in grief.

Finduilas who was sitting next to her bent over and gave Ivriniel a meaningful kiss on the cheek. After this tragic news, Finduilas had decided that she would no longer complain about her future marriage. It was not fair now on Ivriniel to hear it. She had other problems to focus on.

Ivriniel sat up straight, wiping her eyes and cheeks with a napkin. She attempted to sip her wine, but her stomach protested. "I am too ill to drink or eat." She sighed heavily. "Please, I just want to sleep; I just want to be alone." Alone. Ivriniel began weeping once more. She truly was alone now. No one to hold her in the nights, to go out riding with, to live a life of happiness. She was widow, and at the beginning of the next year, she would become a mother to a child who will never know who their father was.

Lady Anneth stood, gesturing for Finduilas to do the same. "I will have Nan stay in the antechamber in case you need anything." She walked over to her daughter's side and kissed her hair. "My poor girl. Remember, I love you and so does your father, grandfather and siblings; we all love you. And we will help you get through this."

Ivriniel hiccupped and nodded. She too, rose from her seat. Instead of leaving with her family, she got under the bed sheets, not caring to undress into a nightgown. She felt her energy leaving her, but her heart ached, longing to feel him Losdir by her side, holding her, and whispering that everything would be all right. She shut her eyes tightly, wishing that all of it were a dream, willing for everything to go back to normal once she opened her eyes. Alas! It did not happen. She was still alone in her bed; the sound of the fire crackling in the distance was the only noise she heard. She bit her bottom lip to refrain herself from screaming aloud in anguish. No, no, no.

"Please, come back," she whispered desperately. "Please, Please." She shut her eyes, not wanting to wake from the approaching sleep. If she could, she would follow Losdir to wherever he was now. If only she could.

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