12. The Lady of Gondor
The wedding of Finduilas and Denethor, recounted by Gondor's historians, is said to have been magnificent, rivaled only by one at the end of the Age. The attendees included the courts of Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth and the lords of the lesser holdings. Absent though were the lords of Rohan and any of the Eldar or Dúnedain from the North since it was the winter season and the high passes were closed and travel was treacherous and unpredictable. Snow gently fell that day as the lady was led out by her brother onto the plaza before the White Tree. She was beautiful in a pale blue dress embroidered with the swans of her house, trailing a silver cloak, the train picked out in adamant with the Tree of Gondor. As her brother handed her to Denethor, she smiled shyly at her groom. He was dressed in the full uniform of his station and stood solemnly next to his father. Only a very few remarked the absence of the Steward's younger son. The vows were spoken in the high Elvish tongue of Numenor and it is said the lady trembled as she spoke and leaned heavily on her husband's arm. Lord Thorongil, Commander of the City Guards, and his squire stood near the front of the crush. This dedicated bachelor's dark handsomeness caught sly looks from many of the ladies of the Court. The vows completed, the couple and invited guests returned to the palace. The common citizens of the city when off to their own parties, while the gentry's gala lasted well into the evening.
'A December wedding was not a good choice if one was required to wed before the White Tree,' Thorongil mused, 'Midsummer would be a better day.' He waited as the crowd pushed inside out of the bitter north wind. The commander moved down the line, congratulated the couple, and stood amicably with Ecthelion and the Prince. Duty done, he sought a quiet corner to watch the crowd, enjoy dinner, and keep wide-eyed Quillion out of trouble.
The food was plentiful, the sparkling wines flowed liberally, and later, music encouraged the sated guests to dance. Thorongil helped the voracious Quillion removed the spiny shell of a crab and watched amused as the tasty morsel disappeared down the boy's gullet in two bites as if swallowed by a gull. When he looked up, the bride was standing at his side. Thorongil was struck by her loveliness. The awkward girl he knew was gone and in her stead stood a sophisticated woman. He quickly got to his feet and bowed.
"Has anyone told you are the most beautiful woman in the room?" he asked.
"Most everyone, but you are the first who has spoken it that I'll believe." She held out her hand. "I've come to ask you to dance with me, Commander." She seemed almost to fear he would refuse, but he gallantly took her hand and led her to the floor. The musicians began a slow sinuously spinning dance popular for ages with Men and Elves. They began with the classic three spin steps, her hands resting lightly on his shoulders. Half into the set, she laughed a shadow of her old laughter. "I knew you would dance excellently. You have a grace not many in this room could match."
"That compliment is gracious, but most fighting men are good dancers." He smiled at her. "And I was expected to be competent at it as at all things when I was growing up, my lady." He whirled her away from him in time to the viols and pipes.
"Finduilas, remember?" she quietly pointed out.
"In public, my dear, you must now always be 'my lady'." Their hands clasped above their heads, the candlelight glittered in the gems in her hair. He smiled down at her upturned face. "Or 'Your Grace' if you prefer."
"So formal. Shall you still be my friend? I've not seen much of you since I arrived in the city. I had hoped we could still be friends. I cherish your company but you hide from me, Thorongil." He knew it had to be said and done with, or they would lose the friendship they had.
"I pride myself on being an honorable man. I should not have allowed Fallon to come to Dol Amroth," he answered plainly.
"He should not have come," she agreed, "but you kept your promise to a lady. That, sir, was honorable. The lady was the one who was unwise and must deal with any dishonorable deed." She turned into his arms in the movements of the dance. "So, Commander, so I still have your friendship, which I've abused most dishonorably?" Her tone was teasing but he saw the unshed tears in her eyes.
"There is not need to speak of that any more. I am and always will be your friend. And, also," he said, with a warm smile, "I am the Lady of Gondor's champion by right of being Commander of the City Guards. I am at your command." She really laughed then, delighted, the sound carrying across the floor and bringing smiles to more than a few of the dancers. Thorongil looked at her seriously as the music ended. "Finduilas, I hope you grow happy in your marriage."
"It's my duty," she said and smiled sadly, stepping away from him. "Remember our conversation so long ago?"
"I hope you may grow to love your husband." She raised a hand and touched his lips as if to quiet him.
"Care for. Never love. I shall always love Fallon," shewhispered. She reluctantly let go of his hand. "Thank you for what you did. I will cherish that time always." The new wife of the Steward's heir glided gracefully back across the room to where her father-in-law stood talking with her brother. Ecthelion smiled at her with real affection and folded his arm around the girl. Thorongil went back to his corner table, declining several dance partners along the way. He collected a half-sick, overfed Quillion, and shortly after, left the hall. He did not feel the questioning, jealous eyes of Denethor follow him from the place.
Thorongil and Quillion rode down through the celebrating streets and past The Laughing Dwarf, where festivities were raucously spilling into the street. More than one familiar patron called out to them to stop and raise a glass. However, the commander did not rein in until they reached his office. He sent Quillion on to the stables with their horses and tiredly walked down the portico to bid goodnight to Fallon. When Thorongil opened the office door, that night was the first he found his captain drunk on duty.
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