1. Sea Longing
Now Faramir is sound asleep, although his breathing is a bit laboured, and I am afraid it will develop into something more than a cold. Boromir will not be back from lessons until the evening meal, and I should see to mending the tunic he tore yesterday, but my thoughts drift ever southward.
I should not complain. This is a good position, a coveted position, and I am deeply grateful to the Lady Finduilas for requesting me to tend to her children. She was under no obligation to do so; we are related only peripherally by a tangle of marriages so convoluted that no-one but a scholar (or my mother) could trace the relation. And yet she insisted that I, and no woman of Minas Tirith, would have the raising of her children.
“She was most emphatic in her letter,” Prince Imrahil told me, and I could not tell him why. Firstly, I was overwhelmed at being summoned for an audience with the Prince and could barely form a sentence, and secondly -- I had never even met the Princess Finduilas. I had no idea how she even knew who I was, much less why she trusted that I would make a good governess.
I asked her one day, when Boromir was a year old or so, what I had done to merit such an honour.
Lady Finduilas smiled. “You were child-tending at a banquet some years ago, and you were so patient and kind to the little ones and managed them so easily that I thought, ‘That is the kind of woman I want to care for my children.’” She laughed softly, and Boromir looked up at the sound, reaching for her. She took him from me, continuing, “But why should I have gotten a woman like you, when I could just as easily get you yourself?” Her smile faded. “And I did not want a woman of Minas Tirith tending my son -- he will be consumed by this City soon enough. I wanted a woman of my own land.”
I did not remember any particular banquet -- my mother was so enamored of her connections to Dol Amroth’s ruling family, no matter how distant, that she dragged us to every banquet we could feasibly attend, and, with five younger siblings, I was always child-tending.
I did not tell the Lady Finduilas that, of course. I merely smiled and said, “Thank you, my Lady. You have done me a great service.”
I am grateful for such a position. “Governess to the Children of the Steward of Gondor” is a very prestigious title, as my mother tells me in every letter she sends. Caring for two children, especially when one of them is Faramir, is much easier than looking after five, and I am not required to cook or clean or sew, beyond light mending. It is not a difficult job, as the sons of the Steward are as well-mannered as a seven-year-old and a two-year-old can be, and they are charming children as well. They get on quite well, most days, and both are warm and affectionate, although they show it differently. Boromir is likely to launch himself in a run at me, nearly knocking me to the ground, while Faramir is more careful and hugs my knees gently. I cannot think of anything else I would rather be doing than watching over these two.
Lately, however, Boromir has taken to asking questions that stir homesickness within me. “Tell me about Dol Amroth,” he demands as only a curious little boy can. “Mother will not tell me anything. Tell me about the ocean. Is it quite large? Is it cold? How big is it? What are the ships like there? Have you ever been attacked by Corsairs?”
I answer his questions, but I am beginning to understand why the Lady Finduilas will not -- she cannot bear to.
Minas Tirith is a wonder to behold, and her people are right to be proud of her. But no matter how marvelous her engineering and architecture, the White City is stone -- hard, cold, unyielding. It seems to have no scent of its own. The most constant smell is that of people, and very little else. When it rains, I can catch a hint of something else, but more often than not, it is an uneasy, sulphurous odor blown out of the east.
At home, the sea is always present, sometimes so much so that the very air seems to cling to one’s skin. The tang of salt brought in by the evening wind, the almost-unpleasant briny whiff of a low tide, the sharp clean aroma of water on water when it rains -- these scents mean home to me. Minas Tirith does not smell like anything, not even the mountain from which it is made.
Here, all you can hear are people; in Dol Amroth, there are the waves against the shoreline. Here there are strategically planted trees and gardens, but nothing does -- or is allowed to-- grow wild, except for children, of course.
Here it is almost impossible to find a quiet spot, outside of one’s own room, for every word, every whisper echoes off of the harsh stone; it is so loud to my ears that for several months after my arrival, I could scarcely sleep.
And Minas Tirith is a tense city, with the Black Land ever present in the minds of her people. There is no such constant dread in Dol Amroth, and there are days when I look at Boromir and Faramir and wish with all my heart that they could grow up in a calmer, more joyful place.
But if this loneliness for home tugs at me, I cannot imagine what it must be like for the Lady Finduilas. She has Elven blood in her line, and I have heard tell that the sea-longing is, for the Elves, a kind of torture. She is the perfect Wife of the Steward; she cannot be faulted in any way for her behaviour, but I can see that, even with two fine sons of whom to be proud, her heart is not wholly in the White City. It makes me ache, to see how she has gradually faded over these seven years. I do not mean in face; her beauty has remained, but her spirit has darkened. And since Faramir’s birth, she seems to be withdrawing further into herself. She does not visit the nursery as often as she ought, for I believe that more time with her children would do her good, but of course I cannot suggest such a thing.
I do not know if anyone else has noticed; it is not the kind of thing one discusses. I would hope that the Lord Denethor has seen that all is not well with his lady wife, but he is the Steward, and often preoccupied with affairs of state. Perhaps I only notice because I feel the same way, if to a lesser degree.
But I am not trapped here as Lady Finduilas is. I am not married to Gondor. I could, if I so desired and cared to pit myself against both the Steward and his Lady, request to be sent home.
I consider this possibility some late nights, when the unfeeling walls of the City press in on me so that I barely have room to draw breath. I would not miss living here. I have no close friend nor lover; there are kitchen and chamber maids with whom I speak in passing, but it is obvious that they are keenly aware of the differences in our stations, and I am uncomfortable with the way they often treat me as a superior.
Men have attempted to pay court, but they are the type who think it will further their political ambitions to associate with me, and the women who have tried to curry my friendship are of the same ilk. I go out of my way to avoid these people, which has earned me a reputation for being cold and haughty, but this does not concern me. I am not here to make a good match or for social advancement, although I am quite certain my mother would faint with horror if she knew that I had no such aspirations.
Yes, I could leave Minas Tirith and I would miss almost nothing about this City except for two small boys. And they are why I will not, for it would break my heart to leave my little ones while they are still young and in need of care, and I do so want to see what kind of men they grow to be. But I could, and that, I think, makes this homesickness bearable.
Finduilas cannot leave. She is the Lady of Gondor now, no longer merely a princess of Dol Amroth, and that cannot be changed. I wish that there was something I could do to help her, let her know that someone understands her melancholy, at least a small portion of it.
But I am merely a servant, and so I must watch, and say nothing, as Finduilas dwindles, growing ever more distant from her life and her children.
I fear that she will soon see the shore.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.