1. A Summer Evening
The gardens of the palace of the princes of Dol Amroth were warm and fragrant in the late summer twilight. Scents of roses and the pale niphredil mingled in the soft air with a hint of salt from the nearby sea. Legend held that the niphredil had been planted by Mithrellas herself in memory of her homeland of Lothlórien, when her son Galador became the first lord and built the palace.
Finduilas walked slowly along the graveled paths. This place was hers in a way that Minas Tirith could never be, no matter how long she might dwell there. She had grown up here, run shouting through the grass as a child, danced in the great hall as a girl, mourned the death of her mother as a young woman. For all her love for her husband, she could not love his city; its stone walls and streets oppressed her. Soon, though, she would have to leave. She had already lengthened her visit overlong, and Denethor had written twice to press her to return quickly.
A deep voice spoke behind her and she turned, startled.
"Thinking deep thoughts, my sister? You were ever one to choose the evening for your meditations," said Imrahil.
"Only regretting that I cannot divide myself, so that one part could remain here and one return to Denethor as he wishes," answered Finduilas. "I miss him greatly, and yet I dread to leave Dol Amroth."
"You dread to leave? What causes your disquiet?" questioned her brother.
Finduilas moved to a bench and seated herself, gesturing to Imrahil to sit beside her.
"You know that when I arrived I was unwell, though now my health has improved somewhat. But I have spoken with the healers here. They are reluctant to say words of ill-omen, but it is clear that they deem that I will not live long, and that a return to Minas Tirith will shorten my days further. I do not fear death for myself," she lifted her clear grey eyes to Imrahil's face, "but I fear what it may bring to my loved ones. Faramir is so young: how will he understand my passing? And although Boromir may be old enough to comprehend it, still he is likely to be unbelieving as well as grieved. As for Denethor..." she trailed into silence.
"What of Denethor?" said Imrahil gently.
"Denethor will be - enraged, embittered," Finduilas's voice shook. "He loves me deeply, I know, and this news will desolate him, but moreover he cannot bear to be impotent in any matter. Though outwardly he will accept what must be, in his heart he will need to lay blame for my loss. He throws himself into the rule of Gondor too deeply already for my peace of mind, and without my presence he will no doubt continue that course. I fear that he may - not neglect, but disregard our sons, possibly even reproach them for things that are none of their doing, in his distress. If he should turn against them... I have seen how he can act towards someone against whom he bears a grudge. Do you remember Thorongil?"
"Aye, I do. And I recall Denethor's behavior towards him as well. Though I think in part that was due to you, sister," Imrahil said.
"To me? How could that be?"
"Why, surely you knew that Denethor thought you had affection for the man. His ill-will towards Thorongil was, I think, based on that jealousy as much as on his mislike for Thorongil's standing in Ecthelion's eyes," responded Imrahil. "But I see the cause of your distress. Is there aught I can do to help you in this matter?"
Finduilas took her brother's hand. "Only to promise me to watch over my sons, when you can. Denethor loves them, but his love for them is rooted in his love for me; in my absence I truly fear what may happen."
"Of course I will," he pledged.
As they had been speaking, the last of the sun's light had vanished from the sky, and one by one the stars were appearing. Finduilas looked upward through the leaves of the birch trees under which they sat.
"I will miss the stars," she said. "So many nights have I watched as they tread their stately course across the sky."
Imrahil put his arm around her shoulders. "I have an idea, Finduilas. Choose you a star tonight, and one day when you are gone I will point it out to Boromir and Faramir as their mother's own star, so that they may think of you watching over them every night."
"A beautiful thought indeed, Imrahil." She gazed skyward, musing over which she should select.
"I have always favored Helluin, but I think perhaps instead Eärendil must be my choice. Eärendil has always been a sign of hope and a blessing against evil; let his light guide my sons through the darkness of grief." Finduilas sighed. "I suppose we should return inside now. It is past time for Faramir to be in bed, and he will want me to sing to him before he sleeps."
Imrahil rose and put out his two hands for his sister to clasp, helping her to her feet. He tucked her hand into his arm and they walked slowly back to the hall. Just before they reached the wooden doors, Finduilas tugged him to a halt.
"Before we rejoin the others, brother, I beg you not to share this news with any just yet. I will tell our father myself before I depart, and after that you may speak freely, if you choose," she said.
"As you wish. It is yours to decide," he replied, and guided her into the lighted room.
Finduilas looked immediately for her younger son, to take him to his bed for the night. He was sitting on the edge of a group of older children, including his brother Boromir, listening as his grandfather Adrahil told a story of the battle against the Corsairs in Umbar.
"Then Thorongil came against the rebel Captain of the Haven himself, and fought him hand-to-hand," Adrahil was saying as Finduilas approached.
She knelt down beside Faramir and touched his hand.
"It is time for you to go to bed, love," she whispered. "Grandfather can finish the tale for you another time."
Faramir nodded and put out his arms for his mother to carry him.
He must be tired, Finduilas thought. Usually he hates to leave a story unfinished.
He leaned his head against her as she walked up the stairs. The warm trustfulness of his embrace touched her, and her eyes filled with tears at the thought of the little time she might have remaining. She blinked them away resolutely. It will never do to weep before my son tonight. He would only be frightened.
The room that Faramir and Boromir shared here in Dol Amroth adjoined her own; in her childhood it had been the schoolroom where she and Imrahil and their cousins had done their lessons together. Finduilas set Faramir down beside the narrow white beds that had replaced the scarred old table, and told him to begin getting undressed as she went to find his clean nightshirt in the clothes press.
"Mama?" she heard him say from behind her.
"Yes, Faramir, what is it?" she answered.
"Are you leaving soon?"
Finduilas turned quickly at the question. "Why, what makes you say that, love?"
"I heard Grandfather telling cousin Elenna that he would miss you," said Faramir, his face troubled. "Are you leaving us behind?"
She put her arms around him.
"No, Faramir, we are all going to return to your father in Minas Tirith together, perhaps in a week or so. I would not leave without you and Boromir," she said, but to herself she thought, It is a trick of the language, nothing more, that he seems to have somehow picked up on my concerns.... I could not tell him all, even if he were to guess truly. He is far too young, he needs his father. Even though Denethor may not take the news well himself, still it would be ill-done for my sons to know the truth before my husband!
She tucked him firmly into bed. "Now, my son, what would you like to hear me sing? It is late, so only one song tonight."
"I want 'The Last Ship' tonight, Mama," he said.
Finduilas wondered at his choice, but began, "Fíriel looked out at three o'clock: the grey night was going; far away a golden cock clear and shrill was crowing..." (2)
As she came to the last lines, she saw that Faramir's face had relaxed and his breathing was soft and peaceful. She stood carefully, so as not to disturb him, and moved softly to the door.
(1) Urimë is equivalent to August in the calendar of Gondor.
(2) "The Last Ship" is number sixteen of the poems collected in the volume The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and other verses from The Red Book, which can also be found in The Tolkien Reader. According to Tolkien's preface, this poem "must be derived ultimately from Gondor," and so I have taken the liberty of using it here, though the version published may have been altered by Bilbo from that which Finduilas and Faramir would have known.