Today was to be Boromir's formal presentation, and so of course he had to look his best. Privately, I thought it was rather silly – he was only a month old, and "looking his best" consisted mostly of bathing him and dressing him in an elaborately embroidered gown. Additionally, it was not as if most of the people attending would even be able to see Boromir – only the most important lords and ladies would be near enough to the dias to recognize him as a baby, and not just a bundle of fabric.
More irritating to me was the fact that the ceremony was scheduled for a time when Boromir was usually fast asleep. He was a very light sleeper, and would certainly not be able to sleep through all the noise and excitement, which meant that he would be returned to me a very unhappy baby.
But of course I had no say in the matter, so I dutifully prepared him for his first court function. Unlike many other infants, Boromir liked water, and did not wail and squirm when I bathed him; in fact, he often cried when I took him out of the small tub. So I frequently just let him lie in the water, holding him steady as he kicked his legs and waved his arms happily, making funny little baby noises that always reminded me of a baby duck's quacking.
Finally I lifted him out and was relieved when he did not show signs of protesting. He seemed in a peaceful mood as I wrapped him in a drying cloth, watching me with wide eyes. As ever, the front of my gown was soaked, but it did not matter. It was not as if I had any place to be, other than the nursery.
I heard Lord Imrahil's cheerful voice come floating into Boromir's room. "How fares my young nephew? I am bid to see if he is ready for his important day."
I did not turn when he walked in, as I was in the middle of trying to catch a small waving arm so that I could slide it into a sleeve. "He will be ready shortly, my lord – I've just to comb down his hair, once this is on."
Lord Imrahil came to watch my progress, and I was grateful I had Boromir to claim my attention, for the Prince looked very dashing in his formal attire and the blue velvet and brocade were a striking complement to his black hair. Lord Denethor intimidated me greatly, and sometimes ruffled my pride when he acted as if he did not quite believe I was capable of tending his son, but Lord Imrahil – truth be told, Lord Imrahil made me uncomfortably aware that I was female. I was sure part of it was also the fact that he was Prince of Dol Amroth, the Lord of my own city, and therefore more impressive to me in particular. I was not the only woman to ever be affected by his wide smile or confident demeanor, but knowing that did not keep me from being irritated at my reaction. I was not some feather-headed girl who giggled at every handsome man who walked by, and I had scolded myself more than once for finding myself on the verge of acting like a fourteen-year-old girl whenever Prince Imrahil was about.
I managed to get all over Boromir's limbs into the gown, and moved on to the comparatively easy task of combing his wet hair. "He looks quite the tiny little lord, does he not?" Lord Imrahil grinned, reaching out and catching one of Boromir's waving hands.
"He does indeed," I agreed, smiling fondly at Boromir as I drew the comb through his dark, fine hair. "And I suppose he had better get used to such functions."
Prince Imrahil laughed, nodding. "This is only the first in an endless line," he said, then eyed me in a strange way, and I strove not to blush at his scrutiny. "Shall I take him to Finduilas, while you prepare yourself?"
I gave him a startled glance. "My lord?"
He raised an eyebrow at my surprise. "Well, I am sure you are not wearing a wet gown to the ceremony, and I assume it would be easier for you, if you do not have to worry about the baby while you are….." he trailed off, looked at me more closely. "Have you not been told that you are to attend?"
My jaw dropped. "Me?" I tried not to stammer, and only the knowledge of who I was speaking to kept me from panicking. "No-one said…I didn't .." I took a deep breath, gathered what was left of my composure and went on. "I've nothing at all suitable, my lord."
Lord Imrahil looked puzzled, and faintly reproving, I thought. "Surely you knew that you would be required to accompany Boromir to such affairs, and brought a formal gown with you?"
"I did," I admitted, "but…it is not finished. I had planned….I did not know I would need something so soon, and I have not had much time for sewing." The gown in question was still half in pieces in a trunk and we simply had not had time to put it together before I left home. I had been lucky that Mother even allowed me to cut down one of her more elaborate gowns, jealously as she guarded her wardrobe. I was certainly not going to tell him that, though. I did not think someone of Lord Imrahil's station would understand the need for economy.
He studied me for a moment, and I smoothed down Boromir's hair again, for no reason other than to have something to do with my hands. He gurgled at me, blinking solemnly, and I could not help but smile down at him.
When Prince Imrahil spoke again, there was a hint of annoyance in his voice, though I did not think it was aimed at me. "Well, it is not your fault that you were not told, miss, but it is nothing that cannot be mended." I looked at him, not quite sure if he was making a joke about sewing or not; his grin told me that he was, and I relaxed a bit. "It is not a hard task - Boromir will be laid in a crib near the back of the dias during the opening speech by Lord Ecthelion. When he is finished, you will hand him to me, I will hand him to Finduilas, who will hand him to Denethor. He will also make a speech, and present Boromir to those gathered. I believe they have decided that the guests will be allowed to file past the crib, as if at a reception, so they can see Boromir for themselves. And you will tend to him as needed during the banquet."
I must have looked dismayed, for Prince Imrahil chuckled. "Yes, there will be many speeches this evening – though the food should be excellent."
"When will we be allowed to leave?" I asked, and flushed when Lord Imrahil laughed. I would have to remember to think a little more before I spoke. "What I mean, my lord, is that I do not wish for Boromir to be kept awake til all hours. He is just a baby, and he does not sleep when there is noise. It is not good for an infant to stay awake for so long."
"Ah, yes." He looked thoughtful. "I will ask my sister – doubtless Denethor has not taken that into consideration." I wanted to push the point, but he had changed subjects. "Now, I shall take Boromir, and you do whatever you need to do to prepare."
"But – "
"Time is short," he reminded me, not unkindly. "Do not worry about a suitable gown. It shall be seen to."
And before I could ask what he meant by that, he scooped up Boromir (properly, I noted with approval, just as I had shown him not long ago) and left. Feeling a little stunned, and not half nervous at the idea of attending such an important event, I went to see if I could coax my hair into looking less disheveled.
I was getting nowhere, and starting to fret when a knock came at the nursery door. When I went to see who it was, I discovered two of Lady Finduilas' own maids, one of whom was carrying an armful of clothing, including a gown of pearl-grey. "I am Rodwen, this is Thiad," said the one who had the gown, "and Lord Imrahil sent us to help you. Now we've not much time, so come along! It will not do for you to be late!"
They were brisk and efficient, and said not one word about my lack of formal clothing. Within moments, I was hurried into appropriate underskirts, laced into the gown, my hair was brushed and gathered into a smooth roll at the base of my neck, and I looked a proper member of Lord Denethor's household. "Whose gown is this?" I asked curiously as they walked around me, straightening my skirts here and there. "It is too fine –"
"It is a sample," Thiad said, delicately pulling wisps of my hair forward to frame my face. "Every tailor in Minas Tirith created such things to show their art, when Lady Finduilas first arrived – they all wanted her patronage. You are fortunate there was one to fit you so closely."
"It's bit too long in the arms, slightly too loose in the bodice, and a fraction too short," Rodwen said critically, "but it is nothing that would be noted by any women who is not a lady's maid – " she gave a sudden, wide smile, "- and I daresay there will be none of those at the banquet! There, you are quite ready – I must say that colour suits you -- and you've time to spare as well!"
"Oh yes," Thiad exclaimed, "we are to take your unfinished gown to the seamstress. You will certainly not have time to finish it, not with a baby to care for!"
I tried to protest, but they would have none of it, and I was obliged to give them the unfinished dress, though I was discomfited by the idea of someone performing the task for me. I had always made my own clothing.
"I do not know how to thank you," I said, still a bit in awe at how quickly I'd been transformed, and by Lady Finduilas' own maids, "I could never have managed on my own…"
Thiad was ushering me toward the door as I spoke. "Of course you could not have," she said, but she smiled to take any sting out of her words, "it is what we do, miss."
"You are both very good at what you do," I said with no exaggeration, and they both looked terribly pleased. "Now – where I am to go?"
The ceremony went smoothly, and there was a huge cheer when Lord Denethor presented Boromir to those gathered, and even from a distance, I could see Boromir stirring in displeasure at the noise. I hoped he would not start crying; that would be taken as an ill-omen by many people. But he did not, and I breathed a sigh of relief when Lady Finduilas brought her son back to me. She beamed with pride, and I could tell that she did not really want to return him so quickly, but she could hardly eat and engage in polite conversation as she must if she were cradling a baby in one arm. When she handed him to me, she gave me an approving nod, and I felt slightly less self-conscious about being at a such grand occasion, wearing a very fine borrowed gown.
As predicted by Prince Imrahil, there were many speeches, far too many for my liking, all of them basically the same: praise for the Lord Denethor and his Lady, as well as the Steward, and much referring to Boromir as if he were already a skilled warrior and diplomat. At least the speeches given by Lord Imrahil and Prince Adrahil were heartfelt and unmistakably sincere –as I had seen over the past few weeks, they were both delighted with the new addition to their family.
He had also been right about the food. There were many dishes native to Dol Amroth, in the Lady Finduilas' honour, I supposed – sea bass with spicy rice, poached eels, feather-light pastries stuffed with conchmeat, scallops in some sort of wine sauce. I did not hesitate to fill my plate, for I knew it would be quite a long time before I had the opportunity for such familiar delicacies again, though I ate as carefully as I could, afraid that I might drop something and stain the gown. It was a lovely heavy brocade, with deep blue embroidery round the wrists and neckline, and I wondered if this tailor had been the one who gained Lady Finduilas' custom.
Boromir was well-behaved, content to watch the ceiling, and once or twice, he even seemed to drift off. But then the noise level in the room would rise; his little body would jerk in surprise and I would quickly soothe him, before he could begin to fuss. He blinked any time someone approached his cradle to stare him, and it did not take long before I became highly irritated with all the people who kept insisting on disturbing him. Though we were sitting almost behind Lady Finduilas and Lord Denethor, it felt like every noble in Gondor wandered by to get a glimpse of Boromir. Fortunately, once the meal started in earnest, they left us alone in peace.
I did not pay much attention to what was happening in the hall – I had been to many banquets, and they were all equally dull. The dancing was usually at least amusing to watch, but I hoped we were gone and asleep well before the dancing began. I did catch myself glancing at the Prince a time or two, and sternly reprimanded myself for doing so, turning my attention back to Boromir, patting his stomach gently, hoping to keep him in a pleasant temper.
It could not have been two hours before the lady herself approached and gave her permission to leave. "Thank you, my lady," I said with great relief, a little startled that we would be allowed to depart so quickly. "He does need to sleep."
She picked up Boromir and held him close. She murmured something to him in Sindarin, too low for me to hear, kissed his forehead lingeringly, then reluctantly put him in my waiting arms.
I rocked him to sleep without changing my clothing first, but he was so tired that it was swift work. I hoped that he would eventually learn to sleep more soundly – right now, any voice above a whisper woke him.
I hung the borrowed gown with greatest care, and wistfully admired it for a few moments, wondering what it must be like to wear such a garment every day. Troublesome, I decided. It was very heavy, it laced very tightly, and there was so much material in the skirts that I had nearly tripped more than once. And it was very warm, especially in the crowded heat of the great hall. But it was still a beautiful gown, though I could never hope to own one of its like.
As usual, I was awakened late in the night by a sound from Boromir's room. When I went to investigate, I stopped just short of the doorway, surprised.
Lady Finduilas sat in the rocking chair next to his cradle, holding Boromir, softly singing a ballad I knew well, and next to them sat the Lord Denethor on the little footstool I used. I could not tell if he was watching his wife or his son.
I stood silently, unnoticed, for a few moments, then made my way back to bed. They would call me if they needed me.