I hated being forced to attend banquets as a child, and I didn't care much for them as an adult, especially considering Boromir was as unwilling to attend as I was.
However, there was no way we could avoid making an appearance at this one. It was being given in honour of the seventh wedding anniversary of Lord Denethor and his Lady, and I suspected that Lord Denethor might have plans to formally announce Lady Finduilas' delicate state as well.
Resigned to a dull evening, I dressed us both: Boromir in a new tunic of silver and black, which he complained itched abominably. Likely it did; I could still smell the acrid dye in the fabric, but I was not consulted as to Boromir's wardrobe. I myself had a gown of midnight blue, also trimmed in silver. The gown was new, and I wondered if Lady Finduilas had coaxed Lord Denethor into gifting me with such a luxury, or if Lord Denethor thought I had not the taste to pick a suitable dress on my own. I was not inclined to care much either way; I had not had a wholly new gown in years.
"Will you wear the swans?" Boromir wanted to know, scratching his neck as watched me pin up my hair. Habitually, I wore only a plain silver-and-coral ring, a gift from my father. Other ornamentation was rather needless, for a woman in my position. But my mother had sent me a necklace and bracelet, small silver swans alternating with beads of black pearls, insisting that I would need such things for formal occasions. She was right, if for no other reason than the bracelet kept Boromir still. He would sit quietly next to me, hooking and unhooking the clasp or spinning the beads round and round.
"If you like," I told him, fastening the last braid in place. "Would you like to bring them to me?" And he tore off into my room in search of the small driftwood box that held my small treasures.
Though the food was marvelous -- there was even fresh shellfish--the banquet was just as tedious as I had feared, with long-winded speeches from various lords and endless toasts. Boromir behaved perfectly, other than the occasional scratching, and I saw his father beaming proudly at his son's manners when Prince Imrahil made mention of it. I felt rather self-satisfied, as I had taught him those manners, and I flushed in surprise when Lord Imrahil caught my eye and gave an approving nod.
After the meal, there was music and dancing. I had hoped we would be allowed to leave once we had finished eating, but alas, it was not to be. This irritated me; Boromir was getting fidgety, which meant that in a short amount of time, he would become quite cranky and intractable. But Lord Denethor indicated we should stay, so stay we did.
Fortunately, we were allowed to walk the hall, so I took Boromir's hand and we wandered at our leisure. This activity calmed his restlessness, as did being able to talk after having been quiet for so long. I had slipped some candied fruits and the beloved sugared almonds in the reticule I carried, in case they were needed as a distraction. But when I offered one to Boromir, he frowned up at me. "You said I could not have sweets after my dinner," he reminded me, suspicious.
I laughed involuntarily. "I did say so," I nodded, "but this is a party, and parties are different. I would not offer you a treat, if you were not allowed to have it, Boromir."
He hesitated only a moment longer, then took the apricot I held out. "Did Mag make these?" he wanted to know as he nibbled.
"She may well have," I said, having no idea. "You should ask her, the next time you visit the kitchens."
"Are you going to dance?" He changed subjects abruptly, watching those who were currently dancing with wide eyes.
"No, little one," I replied, smiling, "I am happy to pass the evening with you." I could not keep from thinking that Boromir's company was preferable to any young lord's; those men were full of false flattery, and I did not like such artifice.
"I'll sit and be still if you want to dance," he went on, coming to a stop as he caught sight of his uncle dancing with a woman I did not know. "Father does not like to dance with anyone but Mother, but I am sure Uncle would dance with you."
I could not repress a laugh at that notion. "I am fine, Boromir," I assured him. "Come, there are other children over there. Would you like to meet them?"
He agreed, and we began to wind our way through the crowd, toward the corner of the room where several other nurses sat with their charges.
I wondered why there were always children at these affairs. The children did not enjoy themselves much, and I saw my own boredom reflected in several of the other women's faces. I assumed it was merely another way for the lords to show how grand they were by displaying their offspring. I did not understand what this accomplished, for without fail, as the evening wore on, at least one child would throw a tantrum and have to be removed, which could not reflect well on the child's father. And none of the children could be taken to bed until Boromir had departed. It all seemed pointless to me.
We had nearly reached the corner when a young man stepped directly in our path. He was not familiar to me; I supposed he was some minor lord's son or perhaps a country relation. He was overly dressed, even for such a formal gathering; his clothing was a slightly too-yellow shade of green, his hair was more artfully arranged than my own, he wore too many rings, and too much scent. He executed a graceful bow, flashing a wide smile. I disliked him immediately - I knew this type well, and was on my guard.
"Your pardon, my lord," I said with a polite half-curtsey, and made to walk around him.
He moved to block our way, and I could not help but be annoyed. "My lady," he said in a smooth courtier's voice, "Surely you can spare a moment for conversation?"
I glanced down at Boromir, who was holding on to me with one hand, and toying with the swans at my wrist with the other. "As you can see, my lord," I replied, fixing a pleasant expression on my face, "I am otherwise occupied. But thank you for your kind attention."
"You are from Dol Amroth," he said, as if he had worked out a difficult puzzle. "I have always been fond that accent --although perhaps I should have guessed from your necklace." His eyes lingered at my neckline for a bit longer than necessary, and I counted swiftly to ten in my head.
I should have counted to fifty, for then I would have missed his next words. "I have heard tell that women from Dol Amroth are as tempestuous as the sea," he said, and I could tell by the way his smile widened that he thought himself charming. "But I have never had chance to discover the truth, til this evening."
This was blatant fabrication - women from Dol Amroth are often considered cold and heartless as the sea, and apparently it is great sport for young nobles to attempt to melt such a woman. I had been the target of many such nobles, all of whom were unsuccessful in cozening me. I suspected that someone had put me forth as a challenge to this stranger.
"What is your name?" Boromir suddenly burst out. "It is polite to introduce yourself."
From the imperious tone of his voice, I knew that Boromir was irritated that he was being ignored. I opened my mouth to chide him gently, but the haughty young man spoke first.
"Hold your tongue, boy," he said lazily, as if he were brushing away an insect that buzzed around his head. "Children should not speak until spoken to."
Boromir looked shocked, for I never spoke to him in such a dismissive tone, but I barely noticed as anger flared within me. "Speak that way to my child again," I snapped, drawing Boromir closer to me, "and you will find out exactly how tempestuous this woman of Dol Amroth is."
A sly, approving light came into the young man's eyes, which did nothing to soothe my temper. "Ah, so the rumours are true!" he chuckled. "So tell me your name, fair lady. I think we have much in common."
I never failed to be surprised by the arrogance of these young lords. They seemed to think that women, particularly women in service, would throw their skirts over their heads at the smallest bit of attention. If a woman claimed disinterest, they assumed she was playing a game, and persisted in their suit. This one was a fool as well as arrogant, if he did not have the sense to realize whose child was in my care. If he could not tell from the designs on Boromir's surcoat, then I was certainly not going to educate him.
"As I have said, my lord," I repeated coldly, "I am otherwise occupied. And now I bid you good evening." I made to lead Boromir away, but yet again, the infuriating young man placed himself in front of us. I glanced around the room, searching for a Citadel guard, but they were all too far away to summon discreetly. I did not want to shout and bring wrath of the Steward and his son down on my head for spoiling the festivities.
"Surely there is someone else who can tend to the child," he said coaxingly, touching my hand. I jerked away, glaring, but he had spotted the women and children in the corner. Several of them were watching us with great interest.
"Send him over there, and spend a moment in more mature company." So saying, he placed both his hands on Boromir's shoulders, and made as if to direct the boy that way.
Fury overwhelmed common sense, and without a thought as to the consequences, I slapped him with all my strength.
All around us, there was silence. I could feel the eyes of many people on me, though fortunately the hall was large enough and filled with enough guests that only those in our immediate area had witnessed what I had done.
"Ooooooh," Boromir breathed in awe, his hand tugging at my skirts, "you hit him."
The young lord was pressing his hand to his cheek, staring at me incredulously. "You do not know what you have done," he ground out through clenched teeth. "I will have you out on the streets by morning. "
I gave a sharp, hard laugh. "You may try," I told him, still shaking in anger, "but make no mistake, you are the one swimming in deep waters. This boy's father will be less than pleased to discover that you laid hands on his son, and he will not disagree with my actions." I hoped fervently that this was true -- it was entirely possible that the Lord Denethor would dismiss me for striking a young noble, no matter how ignorant the man was.
The young man took a menacing step toward me and I stepped in front of Boromir protectively. "I think you underestimate my patron," he hissed. "I will not be so insulted. I hope your pride will keep you warm, when you are sleeping in a first-circle gutter."
"Uncle!" Boromir's piping voice shook with relief, and I had a moment to feel guilty for worrying him so.
A steadying hand was laid on my shoulder, and I felt a stab of vindictive triumph at Prince Imrahil's casual voice. "How does my favourite nephew this evening?"
If I had not still been in the grip of my rage, I would have laughed at the young man's expression. He was clearly tracing Gondorian bloodlines in his head, and coming up with only one answer as to whose son he had been treating with such disrespect.
In the space of a heartbeat, his demeanor went from vicious and threatening to utterly horrified. "Prince…..Prince Imrahil," he stuttered, and I was peripherally aware that Lord Imrahil had picked up Boromir, "It is a pleasure ..to meet you. I am.. I --"
"Yes, you are known to me, Turos," Lord Imrahil said, in exactly the same manner the younger man had spoken to Boromir earlier. "You are here with Lord Forlong, are you not?"
"Yes…yes, my lord, I am." The mark of my hand stood out on Turos' pale face like a brand. "He was kind enough --"
"My lord, may I assist you?" A breathless guard, one of Lord Imrahil's own, had just arrived, his face as pale as Turos'. Two more followed hard on his heels, and all three looked petrified, as if they had been caught sleeping on watch.
"Take this boy to Lord Furlong," the prince said, his tone like ice, even as he fondly ruffled Boromir's hair, "and stay with him until I arrive. I am certain that the Steward and the Lord Denethor will wish to speak to him before the night is ended."
The guards bowed, and Turos tried to stammer out some polite farewell as two of them escorted him away.
"My lord, my deepest apologies," the remaining guard was saying. He was not much older than me, and his face was crimson with shame. "We did not have a clear view -- it looked only as if the lady was speaking with the lord -- we could see nothing untoward until she--"
"I understand," Prince Imrahil nodded, grinning at Boromir, who was examining his uncle's sash of office. "But in the future, I expect you to keep a closer eye on this lady, and remember that where she is, there my nephew is also. Now, if you will inform the Lords Ecthelion and Denethor that I wish to speak with them privately in a few moments?"
"Yes, my lord," the guard said, bowed deeply. Then, to my surprise, he bowed to me. "I am sorry, my lady -- I was remiss in my duty, and I am sorry if my lapse caused you and the Lord Boromir any pain. "
I had no idea what to say, but I was expected to say something. I could not say it was of no matter, but I could not bring myself to berate this man, either. "Thank you for your apology," I said after some consideration, and, as the prince began speaking to his man again, I saw that the women in the corner were chattering animatedly amongst themselves. The incident would be spread the length and breadth Gondor in a week's time, if I was any judge.
I was trying to think of some way to put a stop to the gossip, and it was a moment before I heard someone was speaking my name. Startled, I realized it was Prince Imrahil. Of course he knows your name, I scolded myself. After all, he is the person who engaged you, when Lady Finduilas requested you as a nurse. "Are you unharmed?" Lord Imrahil was saying.
"Do not worry yourself, my lord," I replied, attempting to tow in my temper, which was still simmering. "I am more worried about Boromir." I looked at the little boy closely. "I am sorry if I frightened you, Boromir."
"That man tried to push me!" Boromir told his uncle indignantly. "Then she hit him hard!"
"Yes, I saw," the prince said. His voice was even enough, but I saw a spark in his eyes that belied his outer calm. "Come with me, if you please."
I followed Lord Imrahil outside, and he led me to an unoccupied corner of the balcony. He set Boromir down, and the boy ran immediately to me, wrapping his arms around my knees. I knelt, so I was eye-level with him, and took his anxious little face in my hands. "Did he hurt you, duckling?" I asked softly.
"No," Boromir shook his head, "he just made me cross. He wasn't very proper, was he?"
"No, he was not," Prince Imrahil agreed, voice tight. "Not proper at all."
"Boromir," I said, not wanting him to hear what I was about to say to his uncle, "will you bring me some flowers from that box over there?"
He grinned and bounded away. I stood, and turned to face the lord of my homeland. "I should not have slapped Lord Turos," I acknowledged, "but he provoked me beyond enduring."
"I happened to see the entire incident," Lord Imrahil told me, "and I will relay it to Denethor."
"There is no need for you to be so involved," I began, not wanting the Lord Denethor to think me afraid to speak to him, but Prince Imrahil's severe glance quelled any protests.
"That young man has been shuffled from household to household," the prince went on, "for improprieties to women both common and noble. And if Furlong or any lord wishes to take issue with your actions, I believe we can prove that you are of higher rank than Turos."
I stared at Prince Imrahil blankly. "I am just a nurse," I pointed out, "surely any lord's son is higher…"
He laughed. "Firstly, you are the 'Governess to Lord Denethor's Children'," he said very dramatically, and I could not help but smile, "which lends some rank to you, were you a milk-maid from Lebennin. Secondly, I happen to have your family's bloodline for ten generations past in my study, and I feel certain that your heritage is, eventually, stronger than Turos'."
I must have been gaping, for Prince Imrahil laughed again, this time rather dryly. "You did not think the Lord Denethor would engage you without thoroughly examining your origins?"
"I -- I never gave it any thought," I said, blushing.
"Well, trust me, Denethor gave it a great deal of thought," Lord Imrahil said, glancing toward Boromir, who was happily digging in the flowerbox, getting his new clothes filthy in the process. "And you need not worry about being reprimanded, if I have anything to say about it."
I let out the breath I hadn't realized I was holding. "Thank you, my lord. I ….I did not know what else to do. The guards were not near enough, and I was afraid he would hurt Boromir."
He studied me curiously. "You speak only of my nephew," he pointed out, "did Turos behave in an unseemly manner toward you?"
"It is of no matter, my lord, " I said, trying to sound nonchalant, "I am a woman full-grown. But Lord Turos spoke rudely to Boromir, and put his hands on him. And that I will not stand for." Residual anger was bubbling within me again, and I forced myself to the appearance of tranquility.
The prince was silent for a long moment. "How often are you bothered by such men?"
My first instinct was to deny that such things happened, but under the Lord of Dol Amroth's sharp gaze, I could not. "Often enough that I have learned to deal with them," I admitted reluctantly, toying with my bracelet. "But many of them do not seem to understand that I truly have no interest." For no reason, I suddenly remembered Prince Imrahil's rather rakish reputation, in his younger days, and I looked down at my feet, embarrassed that he might tell my thoughts from my expression.
"And you have not spoken to my sister or her husband of these troubles?" he asked, appearing to have no inkling of the workings of my improper mind.
"It is nothing with which they should be concerned," I said, uncomfortable. "They do not need to be bothered with such trifles."
Prince Imrahil snorted. "That sounds as if you are quoting Denethor, miss. I take it he has told you that they do not need to be bothered with such things?"
I flinched, but nodded, even as I wondered how he had guessed so swiftly. I had paraphrased Lord Denethor's words: "Do not bother either me or my wife with any trifles such as difficulties with young men . Your life, outside of caring for our son, is not something that concerns us. And you will not use your position for any gain, personal or material." I had been mildly insulted, for Lord Denethor seemed to be implying that I was so flighty as use my new place to land a husband. I had no such ambitions. And I
did not know if Lady Finduilas agreed with him, for she had not been present at that interview. But when young men began pestering me unasked, I did not dare approach her for advice or help, when Lord Denethor had so strictly forbidden me to do so.
"Mother!" Boromir cried joyfully, and I looked to see him running across the balcony to Lady Finduilas, strewing flowers in his wake. She broke into a wide smile at his approach, and lifted him into her arms.
"You are growing so swiftly, my son!" she laughed, coming over to where Lord Imrahil and I stood. "I do not know how your good nurse has the energy to keep up with you."
I bobbed a curtsey, which Lady Finduilas did not appear to notice, for her attention was on her brother. "Imrahil," she said, "the Steward and my husband are waiting to speak with Lord Furlong until you arrive."
"I wished to make certain that Boromir and this good woman were not distraught," the prince told her, standing. "but as they seem to be well, I will leave them in your care, Finduilas."
Lady Finduilas waited until her brother was gone before she turned to me. "You may retire now," she said, "for it is far past Boromir's bedtime." Boromir groaned his dislike of the idea, but she stilled him with a glance much like the one Lord Imrahil had given me. "And I suspect that you do not wish to return to the hall."
"You suspect correctly, my lady," I said ruefully, taking Boromir from her. He immediately began to run his grimy fingers over my necklace, smearing dirt all over it, my neck, and the front of my dress. I noted that Lady Finduilas had small handprints on her gown, and when I remarked on this, she simply brushed the dirt off, as if she had not even noticed. She seemed paler, as if she had been recently ill. "Are you well, my lady?" I asked cautiously, not wishing to overstep my bounds.
Lady Finduilas smiled, but could not keep the weariness from her face. "I am always tired these days," she confided, placing one hand over her belly. Then, to my surprise, she reached out and touched my cheek. "Do not fear," she said quietly, "you are in no danger of losing your position. I will not allow it, not after you so ferociously defended my son."
I stared after her as she made her way back into the hall, wholly taken aback. I did not have much cause to be in Lady Finduilas' company on a regular basis, and sometimes, I felt as if she was not even aware of my presence in her household or her son's life. I did not take this to heart; it was normal for nobles to take their staff for granted, and I had never expected anything else. But apparently Lady Finduilas did not take me for granted, and I found that both flattering and a bit unnerving.
Despite the assurances from both Lady Finduilas and her brother the prince, as I readied Boromir for bed, I could not help but worry that any moment Lord Denethor would burst into the nursery and demand to know what right I had to go about slapping Lord Forlong's nephew or cousin or whoever Turos was. I had never been chided or reproved directly by the Lord Denethor, and he seemed rather fearsome. I was not eager to face his displeasure.
I did not have to. The Lord Denethor never spoke one word of correction to me about my behaviour, not on that occasion. In fact, neither he nor Lady Finduilas made mention of the incident ever again, though for the next week, Boromir would bring it up, as gleeful as if I had slain an orc. And from the looks I received, I was certain that every wagging tongue in Minas Tirith was talking about me.
The very next day, a footman delivered to me a small box. "From the Lord Denethor, and Lady Finduilas," he said.
"You got a present!" Boromir exclaimed, "open it, open it!"
I did so, and found a small silver brooch in the shape of the White Tree. There was also a note, written in a strong masculine hand, which read, "With thanks for your dedicated service to the House of Hurin.".
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.