Minas Tirith: February 2976
It was late in the month when Ivriniel and her family arrived in the City of Kings for the wedding of Finduilas and Lord Denethor. The journey had been painstakingly slow. The tide proved to be unreliable for three days, and then a change of wind caused the current to shift their ship off course. When they finally reached the mouths of the Anduin River, they were forced to stay in the port of Pelargir for five days due to a severe thunderstorm followed by days of a nonstop heavy downpour of rain. The delays came to Ivriniel as a sign from the Valar. She believed they were sending them a message that the wedding should not go ahead.
"This wedding should not ensue," Ivriniel whispered to Imrahil as she sat in the carriage that was being pulled towards Minas Tirith; Imrahil rode beside it.
"I think it is a little too late for protests now, Sister," Imrahil replied. "The wedding is set for the sixteenth of March; next month."
"It is not right," she persisted. "Finduilas is not the right woman for Lord Denethor."
"How do you know that?" Imrahil asked warily. "You have hardly spoken to him."
"That is exactly my point. Finduilas is a family woman; she holds all of us close to her heart. Has Lord Denethor tried making conversation to any of us? Even though it is not necessary, the gesture would have been nice."
Imrahil chuckled. "Lord Denethor is a man of very few words. I am sure he found it difficult enough writing to Finduilas, a woman he hardly knows."
"I cannot imagine what is going through her mind right now," Ivriniel murmured. "I would hate to be in her position."
"As would I," Imrahil replied quietly. "But there is little we can do now. We have argued, conspired, and pleaded; we lost our cause of fight and now we must watch and endure our sister's wedding."
Ivriniel sighed heavily and slumped back in her chair. She picked up her journal that was resting next to her. Lately, she had been writing down her dreams as records. She never wanted to forget a single one in case any would come to pass. She kissed the cover of the journal, hoping that all her fretting was over nothing. It was all she seemed to do on a daily basis nowadays. During her short pregnancy, her mind started preparing itself for the skills of raising a child. And one of those skills was fretting over the child's wellbeing. Perhaps those skills had not yet left her, she thought hazily, staring out the carriage window. Losing a husband and a child had damaged her beyond repair, and now after dreaming of her sister's death it rattled her. What if she sees the chamber she saw in her dream when she arrives in the citadel; what would she do?
The carriage came to a halt and a trumpet was blown from the wall above. She peered up and saw the first circle wall of Minas Tirith. It was so high, made of black stone. She heard a man shout for a password, which was required at every gate in Minas Tirith. Such precaution, Ivriniel thought, rather worried. They never used passwords at the gates in Dol Amroth. Were her people too carefree? Were the lands far more dangerous than she was led to believe? This small act of security made Ivriniel despise her sister's marriage all the more. She knew her sister very well, and Finduilas would tire of saying passwords rather quickly.
The carriage rolled forward through the Great Gates of Minas Tirith. Soldiers standing in salute passed by, and then the scenery showed a large courtyard with many people bustling about to get a good view of the visitors. They were not to travel to the citadel straight away. Apparently, according to her father Steward Ecthelion had arranged for the people to show their welcome and praise to the bride of the future Steward of Gondor. The carriage door swung open and the steps were lowered. Ivriniel was helped down by her brother, and still holding his hand, they made their way over to where Finduilas was standing with their father. Their mother was not able to make the journey, being too ill to travel.
The courtyard pavement had flower petals strewn all over, with an odd leaf every now and then. A small group of children approached them, the tallest a girl - leading the way. The children bowed and the tall girl offered Finduilas a wreath of flowers.
"We welcome you to our city, Princess Finduilas of Dol Amroth," the girl said, curtsying. "We hope you will find your life among us rewarding and prosperous."
A boy with ginger hair stepped up and bowed. "We pray that you bring good fortune from the sea."
Two little girls - who seemed barely able to walk - came into view holding a basket each. They threw petals at Finduilas' feet and were helped back into line by their fellow companions.
Adrahil started clapping, approval spread across his face. Finduilas grinned and placed the wreath atop her head. The crowd of people around them applauded and cheered. The children began singing about the sea, their little hands clasped behind their backs. Ivriniel suspected someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to arrange these children to behave so well. More cheering followed after the song concluded. Lastly, the tallest girl stepped forward again.
"We also pray for you, our Princess of Gondor, to bear an heir to the Steward's Line."
Ivriniel glanced over at Finduilas, who seemed rather nervous now. She knew her sister had begun to worry about having children to Lord Denethor, mainly because she was frightened of the act of conceiving them with him.
The children walked away and were replaced by a smaller group of elderly people. A herald of the city came forward and bowed. "These poor peasants come, desiring a blessing from the princess who has travelled from the sea."
Ivriniel had been expecting this part. For some odd reason perhaps there was a good reason, she did not exactly know the people of Minas Tirith found the princedom family of Dol Amroth lucky. This is why they wanted Finduilas' blessing.
"Why are we so lucky?" Ivriniel whispered to Imrahil.
"It is because our line has survived since the days of kings," he replied softly. "Our line has never been broken, unlike the Line of Kings."
"Do they ask for the steward's blessing?"
Imrahil shook his head. "What would be the sense in that? Their line is not as ancient as ours."
Ivriniel watched as Finduilas placed her hand on each of the elderly foreheads. She was speaking softly that Ivriniel could not comprehend it, but she assumed it was some sort of blessing in Sindarin.
They started their progress up the levels of the city. Through each level, people lined the streets, throwing flowers along the stone road, shouting, and trying to get a glimpse of Finduilas. Ivriniel wanted to have her shutter closed to avoid curious eyes and hearing all the celebration. But her father insisted on her making a public appearance. What good would it be for the people to believe Finduilas' sister was inconsiderate or not appreciative for all their efforts to welcome us, her father had told her. She could not feign mourning, for news of her husband's death was not widely known in Minas Tirith; even her marriage was not common knowledge.
They reached the sixth level that housed the stables. Ivriniel hopped out of her carriage and stretched. She was exhausted from all the travelling, but of course, rest was not yet available to her. First she and her family had to meet the steward and his son.
Ivriniel walked beside Finduilas as they made their way up the causeway into the seventh level. Despite Ivriniel's sorrow ways, she could not help notice the breathtaking image of the citadel courtyard, cleanly kept with emerald green grass, knights in polished armour, and the ancient tree of kings in the centre. Before her, the Tower of Ecthelion raised high into the sky. Ivriniel felt dizzy watching its point; it appeared to sway as the clouds passed by.
"How were our ancestors able to build such a wonder," Ivriniel remarked to Finduilas
Her sister also viewing the Tower shrugged her shoulders. "It is a mystery to us all. Perhaps the steward will have your answer."
"Actually, I would count on Lord Denethor knowing," Imrahil said, walking over to them. "He is a man of lore."
Ivriniel smirked. Her brother had said it in a disapproving way. "Why do you demean his abilities?"
"I would not do such a thing if he would raise a sword in our kingdom's defence," Imrahil replied. "You know I have an interest in politics; it may not be my strongest point yet. But at least I am an able warrior."
"Not every man is the same," Finduilas said, fidgeting her hands.
Ivriniel leant close to Finduilas, whispering into her ear. "He will be nothing like Lord Agoron."
Finduilas sighed heavily. "You are not helping, Sister. Please, do not mention his name again."
The main doors to the throne room opened, revealing a long hall with two thrones at the very end. Steward Ecthelion sat on the smallest throne, made of black marble stationed on a small dais. The biggest throne tarried to the steward's left. It was raised high, accessed by a narrow staircase. The throne was made out of white marble and had a large, golden crown hanging from the ceiling above it. It was the throne of the kings of Gondor, and had not been used in over a thousand years. Ivriniel wondered what it felt like to be the steward, sitting in the shadow of such a wondrous chair.
Greetings were exchanged, and Finduilas was formally introduced to Lord Denethor. Ivriniel saw how hard Finduilas tried to hide her nervousness. She was doing a good job of it, but as her sister, Ivriniel could still see it. Lord Denethor presented himself as polite and kind towards Finduilas. He held her hand briefly, but did not kiss it. Ivriniel found this odd and shared a look with Imrahil.
"My lady," Lord Ecthelion said, approaching Ivriniel, "may I offer you my condolences."
Ivriniel curtsied deeply, her head bowed. "I thank you for your thoughtfulness, my lord."
Lord Ecthelion kissed her hand, giving her a warm smile. "You appear to be in superb health, my lady."
"I am well as can be, my lord," she replied.
Lord Ecthelion released her hand and exchanged gracious words with Imrahil for a few moments before making his way back to his throne. "You have embarked on a long and tiresome journey. Prince Adrahil, I must have words with you with my council on the wedding preparations. Perhaps your children should retire to your townhouse."
Adrahil nodded at his children to depart. All three of them respectfully exited the hall. Outside, Finduilas lent on Ivriniel. "That was horrible."
Ivriniel held her hand. "It is over now."
"No," Finduilas said as they walked towards the causeway. "I must marry Lord Denethor next month."
"Do not fret, Sister," Ivriniel replied. "Come, the steward was good to let us retire. You seem exhausted."
Their townhouse was located on the sixth level, not far from the gate leading down to the fifth level. It had been well kept in their long absence; the grass and gardens were well tamed, and the small birdbath was full of fresh water that sparkled in the sunlight. The housekeeper an elderly woman admitted them into the house, having lit all the fires. Ivriniel removed her riding cloak and gloves after feeling the warmth from stepping inside. The foyer had their luggage stored to one corner; Ivriniel had her's carried to her chamber as she followed. She was given a room in the back of the house with a window facing west towards the sea. She unlaced the curtains and drew them apart, airing out the room. Below, she saw the back courtyard of the house. A small child was hanging onto his mother's skirt while she hung linen out to dry, and a cat was sunbaking on the outer wall, while bees buzzed around the flowers. She smelled food being cooked from the kitchen below made her stomach growled with hunger. Fortunately, the noonday bell rang and a tray of cooked food was brought into her room.
She sat down at the table and ate eagerly for the first time in months. It tasted so good; warm bread with melted butter, with cooked meats on the side with sliced tomato. Nan entered with a jug of chilled water and poured her mistress a glass full before beginning to unpack Ivriniel's belongings.
"Could you hang up the gown I shall wear to Finduilas' wedding. I want all the creases taken out of it," she said, observing Nan work.
Nan picked up the velvet black gown her mistress had worn to Imrahil's birthday celebrations. Nan frowned. "You could easily have had a new gown made."
Ivriniel shrugged. "I see no need to. I have no reason to have many gowns. I am content with what I have."
"I am sure Lord Losdir would not have wanted you to wallow in your sorrows."
Ivriniel stopped eating and placed her fork down. "I gave you no permission to speak his name, nor about him."
Nan curtsied. "I am sorry, my lady."
Ivriniel did not reply. Nan may have had a point, but she did not care. This is how Ivriniel wanted to live; it was how she wanted to present herself. She did not want the public eye to think she had forgotten about her husband, nor the love they had shared. Besides, heaps of people wore black and silver in Gondor, so why could she not? She would end up being forever unchanging in the matter.
Days turned into weeks and the day of Finduilas' wedding approached. Her sister had been moved into the palace to make ready, and Ivriniel was not permitted to accompany her. This angered her. How dare the steward and his lore-loving son separate two close sisters before one of them was about to be married? It was not fair!
Ivriniel sat still in the chamber as Nan neatly plaited her hair up, not a strand out of place. Her gown was laced tightly and she placed a silver-knotted belt around her waist that matched the circlet in her hair. After lacing up her shoes, Ivriniel was ready. She was to be escorted up to the citadel by her brother; their father was already up their speaking with the steward and Lord Denethor.
"Are you ready?" Imrahil asked, softly knocking on the door.
"I am," Ivriniel answered, stepping out of her room. "This is still a mistake."
"Are you going to continue making that statement forever?" Imrahil asked teasingly.
Ivriniel shrugged. "Most definitely."
Imrahil nodded and offered his arm to her. "I am going to see Finduilas before she must leave for the Hall of Feasts; do you want to join me?"
She shook her head. "No, I could not bear it."
"I thought you wanted to be by her side beforehand?" he asked curiously.
"If I was with her from the start, I would have been able to cope." She sighed heavily. "But now, I think its best that I stay with Father until the ceremony is over."
Imrahil escorted her to their father who was waiting in the throne room. She stood uneasily by his side as he talked to Ecthelion and Denethor on political matters. Most, she understood. But the military structure of her realm seemed to have eluded her. Instead of listening fully, she paid most of her attention on her sister's to-be-husband. Lord Denethor stood with a proud stance, dressed in a deep blue tunic, silver trimmed. It was a rather nice outfit, but then again it was to be expected for such high nobility to dress elegantly. There was no point on judging the steward's heir on the clothes he wore. She noticed he never, not once, looked in her direction; not even a flicker of the eye. She felt a wave of determination to attract his attention, but then again, if he gave it to her, what would she do with it? Tell him how much he did not deserve her sister; the fact that Finduilas was still in love with another man of lower birth. Ivriniel chuckled from within Lord Denethor would not have appreciated hearing that. Ivriniel knew Finduilas had grown accustomed to the betrothal, so she believed it would do her no good to say something by 'accident' to cancel the wedding. Imrahil was right what is done is done.
Finduilas looked beautiful as Imrahil led her up the long aisle in the Hall of Feasts. Ivriniel stood behind their father, not wanting to grab any attention away from Finduilas' beautiful being. The wedding dress, the decorations, the music, and all the people made Ivriniel remember her own wedding; how happy she had been. Finduilas did not look sad, but not happy either. Her face was unreadable, and that was probably for the best. The last thing Finduilas needed to do at that moment was give off the wrong impression.
Steward Ecthelion led the ceremony, blessing the rings, hearing the vows. Finduilas' voice was so soft Ivriniel could scarcely hear her. Imrahil had his hand tightly gripped on the hilt of his sword, seemingly ready to use it. Ivriniel presumed that the thought of Finduilas sharing a bed with a man he did not appreciate did not appeal to him one bit. Even though he was the youngest of the three, he still was protective of his sisters.
So there it happened, it the Great Hall of Feasts. Ivriniel's beautiful young sister had been bonded by the law into a loveless marriage. It was over, the papers signed, the rings blessed. A celebration would follow, but Ivriniel would not smile, she would not dance, and she would not socialise. This was not a day of celebration for neither her nor Imrahil. And Ivriniel was positively sure that Finduilas did not feel up to celebrating herself. Still, she would have to sit beside her husband, have the first dance with him, and here all the words of congratulations. It was the same at Ivriniel's own wedding, yet everyone had a good reason to be happy. She and Losdir had been in love. What was there between Finduilas and Lord Denethor? A political marriage? What else? Titles, money, new clothes, and a change of residence.
The dream still haunted Ivriniel, and it would until the end of her days. She had records of her dreams; a record she would refuse to show anyone. She would leave her journal in her will to Imrahil; he would be the only one to understand, and she would not want Finduilas worrying over it; she had enough to fret over already.
So what was it all for? What had her life been? She had lost her husband far too soon after their marriage before any of their hopes and dreams could be put to reality; her unborn child was taken from her in one tragic night. She was watching her mother live in physical pain for the ailment she was suffering from, and it was no secret that it would not be long before she too was gone from this life. And now... now Finduilas was to be taken from her. The one support in her heartbroken life; the light in her dark world that kept her going; who sat by her side every day and most of the nights just to make sure she was well taken care of and had the comfort she needed. Was all this misery worth it? Had she done something to deserve it? It was a question that Ivriniel would long seek out until the last of her days.
Thank you to all those who had read this story through. Your support and reviews have been immensely helpful. The next part of this series will be solely based on Imrahil. It will mostly be a romance, but there will be the odd adventure here and there that every knight embarks on. I am not entirely sure on what the rating will be. I still haven't decided how graphic I want to be yet. Also, Thorongil will be making quite the appearance in Imrahil's tale.