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My Birthday Mathoms  by Mirkwoodmaiden

The Shire (TA 2990, 1890 SA)

Merry woke up to the gentle jostling of his mother’s favorite pony, Rosebud.  He looked up at his mum and said, “How much longer till we get to Tuckborough, mum.  I’m hungry.”

Esmeralda looked down at the curly mop hair of her son and ruffled it a bit, “It won’t be long now, my little love.  But,” she rustled around her skirts with her hand not encumbered by rein or little hobbit, “I brought you this for the trip,” She handed him a linen tied parcel.  Merry’s eyes lit up as he untied the linen which revealed a berry seedcake, a specialty of Poppy, their cook back in Buckland. “Thanks Mum,” he mumbled through half the cake that had already found its way into his mouth.

Esmeralda laughed and said, “You are welcome! My little muffin!” and kissed the top of his mop-top.  After finishing the seed cake Merry dozed again only to be roused for a second time by his mum.  Merry rubbed his bleary eyes and saw they had arrived at Great Smials.  He looked around and saw the town surroundings of Tuckborough with its low-slung buildings lining nice wide streets.  Underneath it all were the many tunnels of The Took’s ancestral home, Great Smials.  He dismounted from the pony with help from his Mum and immediately looked around at the lay of the land.

The Tooks and Brandybucks were related through his mum.   He did not quite know all the details, but he did not need to know that to know that Great Smials was always great fun to visit; he went exploring all the tunnels that he was not supposed, but to his way of thinking folks need to learn and how better than by a bit of exploring, usually on his own because his aunt and uncle only had girls.  And they were no fun.  Always fussing about this and that and complaining about getting dirty.  But this visit things might change.  His aunt Eglantine had once again called the families together as she was going to give birth and Eglantine was family and Esmeralda always came when family called, whether for good fortune or bad.

Apparently, some test had been performed over Eglantine and everyone said it was going to be a boy.  In Eglantine’s last letter he remembered his Mum reading the letter to his Da that the ring had swung back and forth, clearly the sign for a boy.  His Da said “Merry my lad! What do you think of that! You’re going to have a cousin!  A young lad apparently!”

Merry remembered being very excited.  “You think it is true?”

Esmeralda stating matter-of-factly, “Well Muffin!  The Ring test is very nearly never wrong!”

So from that day to this Merry had been very excited.

Uncle Paladin was there at the door to Great Smials, “Welcome, Welcome!  Wonderful to see you three again.  Eglantine would be here to greet you as well, but she is a tad busy at the moment!” He clapped Merry on the back and stated jovially, “ Merry, my lad!  Looking forward to meet your new little cousin!”

“Am I? “  Merry nodded enthusiastically.

Esmeralda looked a little disappointed, “Has she--?’  She had been hoping to help her cousin with the birthing.

Paladin held up a one hand, “Nope, no.  She is only just starting, at least that is what Primrose said.  But I don’t rightly know the details…”  He looked at Saradoc with a look that said “And I don’t want to know!”  Saradoc returned a look that said, “I quite agree.”

Merry noted this male communication and thought that if his Da and his uncle did not want to know then he did not, either.

Esmeralda broke into all this male conversation, with good hobbit sense.  “Rightly so.  Men folk have no business with the birthing” At this she covered Merry’s ears, as she said, “Only in the making!” Her eyes twinkling.  Merry heard the words nonetheless, but still had no idea what they were talking about.  “Right!” Esmeralda proclaimed, “Enough of this foolishness!  Longo!  Bring our travel chests in and set them up in our usual rooms,” She looked to Paladin for confirmation.  He held his hands up, “Yes, Yes, by all means.”  He looked at Saradoc, again in silent communication, “Do I have a choice?”  Saradoc’s face reflected quiet amusement at the commandeering tenor of his wife’s voice as he shook his head.  Esmeralda, in full command mode now, was directing the servants as to what needed to be done and was completely ignoring the two gentlehobbits.  Saradoc said under his voice, “She’s your sister…did you really think you were in charge here?”

Paladin chuckled lightly, “I had thought so but clearly that is not the case.”  He looked down at Merry, “Merry-my lad!  It is nearly teatime!  This could take some time so we had best fortify ourselves for the wait.” 

He then escorted them into the library where other gentlehobbits milled about smoking pipes and downing half pints of ale.  Clearly, Merry concluded, waiting was a man’s job in this whole birthing business.  And it seemed that waiting involved tea and cake.  All seemed right with the world.  He could wait until his little cousin was ready to be presented to the world if tea and cakes were involved.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

After a considerable amount of said tea and cakes had been consumed, Primrose came into the study and announced that Uncle Paladin was indeed and finally father to a small but perfect baby son.  Much cheering, glad-handing and backslapping occurred for much of the next half an hour.  Paladin the proud father had produced a son and heir.  To Merry’s eye he looked happy and just a little terrified at the same moment.  He mentioned as much to his Da and his Da, who was just a little tipsy said, “Merry, my lad.  I was the same way with you!”  Merry looked a little non-plussed, as only an eight-year-old could be when presented with such an idea.  His Da looked at him and said, “Y’know, the little lad is going to need a lot of looking after if he is anything like his Da when he was a lad.  He gadded about hither and thither getting into all sorts of scrapes.  The little lad is going to need to someone to show him the ropes, you see.  And Well, as his older cousin, Merry, my lad I think that job falls to you.  To help him out and get him out of trouble, you see!”

Merry took it all it in and was just itching to meet his new cousin.  Primrose had said the menfolk could see the little one “as soon as the mother was ‘settled’” whatever that meant.  He never thought of his Aunt Eglantine as “unsettled” she always seemed very calm and collected.  He shook his head at “woman-talk.” Soon after the confusing words had been uttered it was deemed time to go and meet his new cousin. 

Merry walked into his aunt and uncle’s bedchamber and sitting up in bed was his aunt looking really tired and really happy all at the same time.  Next to the bed in the little crib, he finally got to see his new little cousin, Merry  exclaimed, “he is so small…!” he reached in a finger in to the crib to touch the baby and blue eyes met blue eyes.  Merry was enthralled, as the tiny hand tried to squeeze his finger.  Merry spoke to his new cousin, “My lad,” calling the little one what everyone else called him, “I’m going to show you everything!  The whole world!  The things and places we will see!  We shall have the most fun!”  He felt a hand on his shoulder and he looked up to see his Uncle Paladin at his side.

“Well, if that is the case, then he should have a name befitting then shouldn’t he?  To prepare him!”  He looked at Eglantine, “what say we name him Peregrin.  It means “traveler in strange countries!  He is after all, a Took!”  Eglantine smiled and thought for a beat, “Tis quite grand and fitting for his role in the world but for every day wear, we shall call him, Pippin!  Does it suit, Merry-lad?’

Merry was as honoured as any eight-year-old would be, being asked such a question. He nodded, “Pippin is a fine name as any could be.  Auntie.”  He looked at the new little lad and said, “Do you like your name, Pippin?  Will it do?”  Pippin blew a spit bubble and gurgled and everyone laughed.  It would do.

4, Fourth Age, Ithilien


Èowyn stood at the balcony connected to their bedchamber here in Ithilien looking out over the countryside that was ridding itself of the taint of Mordor. It had taken awhile but now the result of love and hard work were showing.  She looked down and could see that her lord and husband was just returning from Minas Tirith having met with the King.  She watched as Faramir gave over the reins of his horse to a waiting attendant and would be home soon.  As both Steward of Gondor and Prince of Ithilien it was a full life for Faramir, but a good one. And it was about to get better.  Not only did they have their work here in Ithilien; it was a land becoming more beautiful every day, but she had news.  On his birthday.  As she waited for him to join her in their bedchamber she mused on their life here in Ithilien.

Many settlers from Minas Tirith had taken up the King’s call to come and resettle this land and make it lush and productive and happy again.  Many were young people trying to find their way; many young couples just starting out in life together, or some older, trying to leave their sorrow in the White City, perhaps a loved one lost in the Ring War.  Or an injury taken and they now looking for a new way to live and perhaps even thrive in a new land.  Hope was in abundance at what could be achieved.  The King had returned and brought hope with him. 

She thought of Aragorn and what he meant to her life, to her. Not just as King, but as healer.  Healer of Middle Earth, the hope restored.  But personally, how he touched her life.  He found her in Edoras drowning in a sea of hopelessness and regret.  He pulled her back spiritually from the Shadows and provided the lifeline needed for her to find her heart.  And she did.  She found Faramir, he was her heart, her life.   And she was his.  In the last days of the Ring War, they had met in the Houses of Healing, both saved from Shadow by the healing hands of the King.  Faramir reached out with his loving, gentle heart and guided her ever so slowly through her own doubts about herself and her life.  Before him, she was lost; awash in doubt and despair and then, like light breaking across the sky at dawn she could see through the doubts that were weighing on her soul and finally accept him.

After the Ring War was won and proper mourning in the way of her people was performed for her beloved uncle Theoden, who had lost his life in the battle of good and evil, on the Fields of Pelennor, Èowyn returned to Faramir and at last they were able to begin their lives together.  The work of restoring Ithilien was hard but worthy and she felt alive with purpose.  She paused for a moment in her musings, and thought she wanted nothing left to chance, so she pulled the attendant cord.  Within minutes an attendant arrived. 

“My Lady,” Waerith stated with bowed head, “what is your need?” she looked up.

Èowyn smiled, “Waerith, I see that my lord has just returned.  Can you please bid him to come our chambers directly, if you please.”

“At once, my lady!”  Hand on heart she bowed and was off on her errand.

The smile on Èowyn’s face grew wider in anticipation as she walked back to the balcony and waited, letting the afternoon sun warm her face.  She hummed to herself a tune that her nurse used to hum when she and Èomer were growing up in Edoras.

As she was humming she felt arms circle her waist, “So beautiful, and so many talents you have, My Lady!”

“Sh-sh!  My husband has just come home and can come in any second….”

“Silly man to leave such a jewel as you alone!”  And Faramir began kissing her neck from behind.

Èowyn almost purred, “Continue along that vein and we may never get to the news I have to tell you.  Although it is the cause of the news I have to tell you….”

Faramir stopped and she could hear the deep intake of breath as she could almost feel him thinking about what it was she had to say.

Èowyn turned around in his arms and saw incredulous joy and doubt chase each other across Faramir’s brow.

“Èowyn….what are you trying to tell me?” Faramir asked, daring not to hope.

Èowyn’s smile grew wide, “Yes, I am with child.”

The doubt left Faramir’s face replaced with nothing but joy.  She watched as his gentle blue eyes started to tear up and he picked her up and swung her around and then soulfully kiss her as tears spilled down his cheeks. 

As they hugged, Èowyn whispered, “Happy Birthday.”

 

"A new life among the Green Leaves…"

Mirkwood a few years after 1050 TA

Thranduil looked around the new Halls. They would become home but they were not just yet.  He guided his horse along the hidden borders of these halls.  Soaring beauty in stone.  Underground and protected.  He sighed, how he hated having to retreat further north. Their palace amid the trees had been a work of art. But over the last ten years something had been happening in the southern forest. Something sinister that he could feel within his very soul was wrong. He feared that he knew what it was; he had felt this presence before and it was not something he was ready to face.  So a decision had been made in great reluctance to move his people northward, past the Forest River.  It had taken time to locate a new spot as a home for his people but at last it had been found. Upon seeing a mountain in the northern edge of the forest he was struck by a memory.  In his mind's eye he saw his long ago home of Menegroth in Doriath.  A lifetime ago, in a different world, in a different place one he never thought he would see again. But looking at this mountain he saw  the same home.  Underground. Every fiber of his being said this could be, this would be their new stronghold.  For the last ten years the process of hollowing out the mountain and the creating a new life that hearkened after old had been underway.  There had been no real timescale.  It would be finished when it was finished and then they would move.

All that changed when Lasgalen came to him last spring with news that set joy alight within Thranduil's heart.  She was with child again.  Thranduil, after many years of merely existing, came alive again.  It had been thought that Lasgalen was long past her child-bearing years.  Sadron, their youngest, had been born five hundred years ago.  Celebren four hundred years before that. It was not unheard of to bear a child so late, but it was unusual.  Suddenly Thranduil wanted emphasis placed on the living areas of the halls under the mountain.  Everything else could be worked on afterwards.  He wanted his newest child to be born as far away as possible from the evil that now resided in the South Wood. 

He approved of what he saw when he looked around this new stronghold. His eldest son, Celebren had been placed in charge of building their new home.  He had a talent for this kind of engineering and bringing to fruition large projects such as this.  Thranduil marveled at the ability that he never had. "Celebren, ion nin!  This is magnificent!" He looked at his son with pride in his eyes.

Celebren, a confident and accomplished elf in his own right, looked at his father with wide eyes of green, full of appreciation for what his father had just said.  Thranduil was not effusive in his praise, so for him to say this meant the world to Celebren. "Hannon Le, Adar.  It is kind of you to say!"

"Nonsense!  I say it because it is true!  It will make your Naneth very happy! And maybe she will stop getting after me about this move."  Lasgalen had been against the move from the start.  She loved her palace amid the trees and was loath to leave it.  He knew that she understood why they had to go, and she understood why Thranduil wanted leave before the baby was born but he also knew she loved her home, and it was going to be a wrench to leave it. And the idea of living underground had not sat with her terribly well.  "You have found a way to make the inside almost as if it was outside.  Tis a marvel!"

Celebren was again stunned by the praise. "Hannon Le, Adar!"

Thranduil looked at his son.  They were so very different.  Thranduil was all fire and ice.  He could blister someone with a few fiery words or freeze out someone out with a look.  Celebren was more scholarly and a much more measured personality.  It took a good deal rouse his fire but when it was roused, he was a formidable warrior.  Thranduil did not always remember to appreciate his quiet son's strengths.  But he had to admit Celebren had done some fantastic work within the mountain and its environs.  "Come, it is time to return home.  Soon though we will be ready to return for good."

~*~*~*~*~*~

Lasgalen was almost to term. Conceived in Spring the child would be born in Spring.  She was sitting on an extended flet just outside her suite of rooms shared with Thranduil trying to soak what warmth the early spring had to give her.  She was sitting in the only way that was still comfortable for her given that she was eleven months with child.  She rubbed her hand over her large tummy.  “You listen here my little prince,” she said with mock sternness, “You are going to stop this moving around when I am trying to sleep!”

“Do you really think he will listen, if indeed he is a ‘he’?” Her friend and resident healer, Meren said incredulously.

Lasgalen remained in the half-sitting, half laying posture and said, “I thought it was worth a try! Nothing else seems to work! And yes, he is a boy.  A girl wouldn’t give me this much trouble!”  Meren chuckled in a commiserating fashion.  She pulled up her chair and began to feel Lasgalen’s stomach.  Lasgalen just eyed her and said, “I look forward to the day when my stomach is not treated like a free petting zone!  Hands at the ready ‘Let’s pet the pregnant stomach.’”

Meren stated matter-of-factly, “Now you know that’s not true! Thranduil won’t let anyone within ten feet of you.”

“Yes, well.  I feel like that!”

Meren ignored the grumblings of her friend of many centuries, “Baby does seem to be positioned just as he-,” She paused, “Now you’ve got me doing it!”

Lasgalen laughed, “My work here is finished!”

Meren gave her the gimlet eye and continued with the examination, “The BABY,” she said pointedly, “seems to be getting into the correct position.”

“Good! And you can stop rubbing the free petting space now!” Meren gave her an exasperated look.  “I’m sorry, Meren.  I am just a little on edge. Thranduil is due back from inspecting our new home and if he likes the progress we are then starting the move.  I know it is what he wants, and it is a drain on him to be so close to the South Wood these days, but I love these woods.”

“Then tell him.”  Meren insisted.

“I can’t.  This means so much to him.”

“All right.” Meren sighed, “but try to relax, this is not doing the baby any favours!”

~*~*~*~*~*~

The Royal family left within a few days of Thranduil’s return.  Meren had told Thranduil that the sooner they could get Lasgalen to their new home and settled before the babe was due the better it would be for both mother and child.  They would be taking a slightly less direct route than they would be normally because Lasgalen was unable to sit a horse safely.  She would be pulled in a well cushioned cart over the flattest ground. Down to the Old Forest Road and east to trace the edge of the forest to the newly hollowed out halls.  Three days into the journey as they were skirting the Forest rim, Thranduil was once again riding next to the cart carrying the precious cargo of his wife and third child.  He was having misgivings about moving Lasgalen.  Perhaps they should have moved sooner so that the journey would have been less taxing on his wife.  He regretted that lapse of judgment on his part.  But his drive to see his wife and young child safe from the corrupting influence what was happening in the South forest blotted out all other concerns.  Now he could only pray to the Valar that they have mercy on his wife for his faulty decision making.  Within his soul he beseeched Estë to ease Lasgalen’s weariness.

“What thoughts trouble you, my husband?”

Thranduil started from his ponderings at the sound of Lasgalen’s lyrical voice tinged with the very weariness that gave him pause. Her green eyes shone with the light of stars that had ever mesmerized him, yet he could see around her eyes a tiredness she tried to hide. 

“Oh Las!  I have done this to you!  You should be safe and not trundling through the countryside because of my misgivings and musings!”

“My love!  While I will not deny that this is not the most comfortable of times for me, I will also say,” she looked at him pointedly but with laughter in her eyes, “And you are not to remind me of this in future times.”

Thranduil placed his reins-free hand over his heart, “Never my heart!” he vowed.  His eyes twinkling with mischief.

Lasgalen flashed him a look that said his words lacked a certain credulity, “Nevertheless,” here her voice regained the more serious tenor. “I too have felt a certain growing sadness within the woods near our home and that you were right to move us northward.”

Thranduil was saddened, “Oh my love! I never wanted you to feel that.  I regret that it should have come to that!”

“Husband!  I am not made of glass.  I will not break because I have knowledge of sadness in this world!”

Thranduil marveled at the indomitable spirit of this beautiful elf who was his wife these many centuries though he could never understand why she ever chose him.  “I know.” He said weakly.  “It’s just that…” his voice trailed; the words of protection and caring unspoken.

Lasgalen looked him with eyes of compassion, as if she knew what he could not say. “I know.”

~*~*~*~*~*~

It was another two days before they reached the northern mountains where Thranduil’s new halls were still under construction.  Lasgalen was napping as best she could when a song entered her heart.  A joyful song of welcome spread through her soul.  She opened her eyes and looked around to see the new green leaves in the trees swaying gently with a breeze that was blowing through them.  A forgotten joy was re-awakened.  The lessening of joy in her palace among the trees had happened so gradually that she had not noticed until she entered this northern portion of the forest and realized how quiet her soul had been.  The song of welcome was calling to her and her spirit responded with gladness.  She felt more alive than she had in many a year.  She felt a kick within her stomach.  Apparently, her yet unborn prince felt the same way.  She looked at Thranduil who quickly steered his horse closer to the cart seeing that she had awoken.  Lasgalen then said two words, “We’re home!” 

A look of gladness stole across Thranduil’s face, “Yes.  We are.” He looked about him at the swaying trees and said a quiet thank you to the spirits of the trees for welcoming them home. “Now then, we are almost to our halls and we can get you settled in.”  They rode a few measures further and they came what looked like a dense cluster of trees but as they rode to the cluster it seemed as if they were able to ride through the trees.  Within a minute of entering, the trees gave way to a courtyard that was bustling with activity.  Lasgalen looked around her and saw soaring stone archways comingling with the branches of the trees to create an effect of a stone forest mingling with the forest of trees.  It was a thing of beauty.  

The cart came to a halt and Lasgalen had to admit she was glad for it.  No amount of cushions could shield her from all bumps and jars of the week long journey.  Thranduil was immediately at her side as she dismounted from the cart.  Meren was on the other side and they were both fussing like two mother hens.  She accepted help climbing down but once her slippered feet touched ground, she slapped both sets of hands away.  “I am merely in the last month of child bearing!  I’m not an invalid!” she snapped.

“You can keep telling them, Naneth but neither will listen!”  She looked up and saw her eldest son Celebren walking up the stairs from what could only be the main hall, his silver hair glinting as he entered the sunlight.

“Celebren, mellion nin!” She reached out both hands to clasp his.  Celebren pulled her hands to kiss them both and then bent to kiss Lasgalen on the cheek.  She looked all around and then at him. “This is beautiful beyond words, mellion nin!”

Celebren, though he was a fully grown elf blushed at his mother’s praise.  “Everything was done with you in mind.  Come and see!”  He guided her into the main hall.

Thranduil and Meren were left standing at the entrance. “Well, that’s us done then!  Not even a second thought.” Meren said with both amusement and exasperation. 

Thranduil nodded sagely, “I learned long ago.  When that tone is taken.  It is time to step aside and let her have her own head!”

Meren laughed.  “True enough!  Horse comparison aside that is!”

Thranduil looked a little abashed, “I’d appreciate it if you did not mention that particular bit to her!”

Meren stated,  “Your secret is safe with me, My King!”

Thranduil stated, “Hannon le! My lady Healer!”  He looked to Guildor, his attendant of long years, “Guildor, Can you begin sorting out our rooms.  The Queen’s suites first. If you could.”

“At once My King!” he bowed with his hand on his heart.

He turned back to Meren, “My Lady, if you would care to inspect your healing rooms!”  Thranduil gallantly offered his arm to escort the lady to her newly appointed workspace.

Hannon Le, my king.  I would indeed.”  They walked into the main hall in search the healing rooms.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The scream came in the middle of the night.  Thranduil immediately bolted awake, “My Love.  Is it happening?”  Lasgalen was at the side of the bed, panting.  She looked at him with a look that said, “Ya think!” Thranduil shouted for their hall attendant, who came running in to hear what his king had need of. “Eliion, Bring Meren here immediately.  The Queen is in labor!”  The young elf ran quick as a flash to do his king’s bidding. Lasgalen cried out again, still clutching the side of the bed and continued to pant.  Thranduil suggested that she get back into bed, but she shook her head firmly no.   Thranduil was at a loss.  He was used to battle screams but not from his wife.  He was a man of action, but this was beyond him. It was truly an elleth’s province.

Meren and two attendants rushed into the room.  Thranduil had never been so relieved in his long life to see someone.  “Right, my King.  We shall take it from here.”  They started bustling around.  He simply stood where he was until Meren started to usher him to the door.  “She is well in hand, my king.”

“Yes, of course,” he murmured.  

Celebren appeared and Meren, with all the efficiency of a battle commander ordered. “Tis time for you two to depart!”  Celebren said, “Yes, of course.” And started to guide Thranduil away from the bedchamber.  

Sadron met them in the antechamber.  “It has started?” Celebren nodded. 

Guildor had already pour goblets of wine and was handing them around. “It is likely to be a long night.  My lords!  We had better settle in.”

Thranduil sat in a daze and sipped his wine.  Suddenly he spoke.  “Do you think she will be all right?  Do you think the journey was too taxing for her.”  The child was arriving a week earlier than expected.  And his worry that he had managed to bury until now was resurfacing with a vengeance.

“Adar!” Celebren said in his most calming voice, “She will be fine.  She seemed to rally these last weeks.  The journey was long but Naneth will be fine.”

Thranduil could not seem to calm himself.  He had been so anxious over the past weeks about moving his wife and child away from the South Wood that he had let his previous guard down and the pervasive evil that he had been so assiduously blocking from his thoughts started invading his peace of mind and was sowing doubts within his mind and spirit. 

Night turned into the early morning and Thranduil’s worry increased with each hour. He stood on the balcony of the antechamber and then as dawn broke, he heard a faint cry.  It was only a small sound, but the joyous cry pierced the gloom of Thranduil’s thoughts; sunlight was chasing away the mists.  A tired but happy Meren came into announce the birth and even before she finished her sentence Thranduil was bounding past her down the passageway and into their bedchamber.  All despair and doubt fled as he beheld his beloved laying in bed, exhausted but radiant.  Thranduil walked forward in a happy trance to see the bundle in his wife’s arms.  Blue eyes exactly like his gazed up at him, wide with wonder. 

Meren appeared at his side, “Would you like to hold your son?”  Thranduil mutedly nodded and watched as she picked up the baby from his mother and placed the bundle in his arms.  Thranduil simply stared into those innocent blue eyes, so like his own and he felt as if he could take on the world.  “Ion nin, mellion nin!  I will always be here for you!  You will be loved by all who know you.  Ion nin!”

Lasgalen looked at father and son and she smiled, “What shall we name him?”

Thranduil looked down at her and then around him, “We came here so that he would not be born near evil.  He shall be named for this place of green leaves, our new home.  His home.”

“Legolas…” Lasgalen said softly.  “I like it.”

“Legolas, you are home.” Thranduil said softly as he bounced his son gently up and down.  The child blew a spit bubble in apparent approval. Thranduil could see his love reflected in young eyes.  In that moment he knew hope; it had been renewed in his heart as he held in his new son.

Building Sandcastles

Minas Tirith TA 2988

Finduílas entered her husband’s study.  Once again, he had missed evening meal.  His absence bore heavy upon her.  She missed his quiet strength.  Of late she had been feeling adrift once again. Since Faramir’s birth she had endured bouts of Melancholia of varying lengths.  Sometimes she could go long stretches where she felt herself, and took joy in many things.  Other times she felt like everything was a struggle.  When those times came upon her, she had in turn depended more and more on Denethor’s energy to see her through the days.  So this night she came seeking his company, bearing his favorite cranberry orange cake and the special mulled wine she made for him and set aside for when he worked too late.  “Hello, my love.”  Denethor appeared not to hear her engrossed as he was in a missive he held in his hands.  “Hello, my love,” She repeated a little louder and stronger. This time Denethor looked up.

His eye lit up as he repeated, “Hello my love.  I am sorry. I was distracted.”

“So I noticed.” She set the tray down on a table near his desk and handed him the stylized silver goblet.  Denethor took it and swallowed a large portion of the mulled wine and then set it down on the only empty space on his carved oak desk littered with detritus of responsibility and command. Troop reports, border reports, supply chain issues, the endless missives of varying importance that he sifted through daily.

“Thank you once again.  You are too good to me.” Denethor reached smooth back a strand of hair that had escaped her single braid of reddish blond hair signaling that she was preparing for bed having unwound the intricate set of braids she wore throughout the day in the traditional style worn by married women in Minas Tirith. His hand followed the crook of her arm to encompass of both of Finduílas’ hands, holding them both in his with gentle strength.  Finduílas looked into his grey eyes and felt his energy replenish hers.  He murmured, “Is it that late already?” He had not noticed the passage of hours as he had been engrossed in his work.

“You work too hard.”

Denethor sighed, brought her hands to his mouth to kiss each of them and told her what he would never admit to anyone else, “I know, and I am tired.”  Releasing her he took some more wine and reached for the slice of cake.  After eating a little, he smiled, “Your best ever.”

“You always say that!”

“And it is always true!”

Finduílas smiled and Denethor felt the heaviness of the day lift away.  He gazed into her eyes and the love he saw there lifted the gloom that too often threatened to settle upon his heart.  From the moment he saw her on the sand dunes playing with her nephews he knew she would be at long last the one to chase away his loneliness.  And she had. She was the light in his life.  He could not lose her.  He would be lost without her.  And her light had been dimming more often as he saw the Melancholia setting upon her once again and that was truly scaring him. Looking to distract himself from black thoughts, he gazed into her eyes, “Isn’t a day of special significant coming up?”

“And what would that be?” Finduílas asked playfully.

“Your birthday.”

“Oh, that’s right.  I hadn’t remembered.” She continued in the playful tone.

“Uh-mmm!” Denethor murmured incredulously, “What do you want, my love? Anything and it is yours.” As he placed his arms lightly around her reveling in the lavender and rose scent she loved to wear.

Finduílas bent her head to one side, “I don’t know.” Said in a tone that implied that she did indeed know but was unsure of its receipt.

Denethor pressed a little. “What?” briefly squeezing the hug a little.

She paused a moment putting aside the desire she knew not how to express and was unsure if he could give and decided to slip down a side alley to another long-held wish, “The seaside.”

Denethor stilled just a bit.  In truth affairs of state had been crowding in and around demanding more and more of his time and energy and it showed no sign of abating, rather it seemed the reverse.  But looking into his beloved’s eyes he could see a longing she was trying to hide.  They had not been to Dol Amroth in well over a year, since the summer before.  He knew she was expecting a denial, a claim to responsibilities owed to his duties.  It was no less than the truth but something inside him told him not to deny her in this. “Then we shall go!”

“Oh, my love, do you mean it?”

“Yes,” he said firmly, soothed by the light in her eyes.

~*~*~*~*~*~

Finduílas sat on the sand dunes of her childhood home of Dol Amroth looking out over the sea to the horizon. She breathed deeply of the crisp sea air as the wind whipped through her unbound hair and ruffled her skirts around her ankles.  She was home.  How she missed the seaside.  Growing up she would spend hours on the shore.  As a child she built sandcastles to rival the span and breath of Dol Amroth only in miniature. Later whenever she was troubled, she would sit on the sands and just let the vastness of the sea assuage her distress and help her to arrive at either acceptance or a course of action that would help her solve whatever trouble lay before her.  But then she fell in love with the handsome and enthralling man who visited Dol Amroth as his father's emissary.

This trip to Dol Amroth was her birthday present from her doting husband and it was where she first met him.  She still remembered the first time she saw Denethor.  He was a charismatic man, older and more mature, unlike the young boys she had grown up around.  He knew what he was about and what his worth was.  They had met formally at the dinner celebration thrown to honor his arrival by her father, Adrahil. But it had not been until the next day when they spoke to each other without the stilted formality that colored all state functions.  She had been on this very beach and had been playing with her two young nephews, teaching them the fine art of sandcastle building when she heard the deep rumbling voice that complimented her ability as sandcastle architect.  She had looked up and saw somber grey eyes that were tinged with humour and a slight smile on his face. She straightened up and quickly said, “My Lord Steward, I did not know you were watching,” as she tried to brush off the sand from her skirts, embarrassed to have appeared so disheveled before him hoping this would not reflect badly upon her father as Prince of Dol Amroth.  This was not at all proper attire or in fact behaviour from a young woman of marriageable age she thought having been told that countless times from her mother and various governesses over the years before her coming out. So much court formality bored her to tears though and sometimes she just had escape to the sands to feel their unabated freedom of winds and water spray.

“Oh no, please don’t stop on my account,” Denethor said with regret in his voice. “You looked so happy I did not mean to disturb you.”

Finduílas looked in his eyes and immediately she saw a longing, a sadness that she suspected he usually tried to hide.  She was drawn to that sadness and a powerful desire to make this stern man laugh took hold of her heart.

After that day on the beach Denethor’s visits to Dol Amroth because more frequent.  He used any pretext to visit the princely enclave.  Finduílas grew to love this stern man, who she alone could make laugh.  People did not understand why this child of light and life was drawn to the stern man of office.  She could not explain that with her he was different.  He laughed with her.  They talked.  And he always listened.  He was different from other men.  Denethor loved her, not just for what she could bring to a marriage, not the fact that she was Princess of Dol Amroth. The fact that she was studious and learned, interested in things beyond what a gently bred lady was accustomed to know enchanted him. He took her seriously and she made him laugh.  They were two pieces that fit together. 

Leaving the sea, leaving Dol Amroth had been difficult, more difficult than she imagined it would have been, but Denethor’s home was in Minas Tirith, and he needed her be at his side.  Only she could make him see joy or make him see another side to any argument.  She challenged him intellectually and he seem to revel in that, though few would believe it should she ever reveal that fact.  She looked out at the sea, this place that fed her soul and smiled at the memory when Denethor promised to bring her back to Dol Amroth often when he proposed marriage.  In the early years they did come back many times a year.  Ecthelion, Denethor’s father was still ruling Steward and Denethor was freer to do as he liked.  But the visits over the last few years had lessened.  Ecthelion had passed four years ago just after Faramir’s first birthday. 

So much responsibility had been placed on Denethor’s shoulders, but still behind closed doors he shut out the world and they were a family. He doted on Boromir, as his strong sturdy son.  Faramir, she sighed, that was different story.  Finduílas had had trouble with the birthing of their second son.  Both she and the infant had lingered near death for days after the birth.  She remembered the fear that had lived in her beloved husband’s eyes and the reality that she could be so easily taken from him.  She thought it was that remembered fear that kept him from being close to his second son. 

“Mama, Mama look at my sandcastle!” Her second son’s excited voice broke through her reverie.  He proudly presided over his creation.

“Oh, my beautiful boy, it is wonderful.” She stood up and walked over to inspect the little castle with its big and little turrets and a tiny well-constructed moat.  She knelt to inspect it.  Most impressive when considering it had been constructed by five-year old hands.  Just then a shadow fell across the little castle. 

“So, this is what I find you doing?”

Finduílas sighed a little silent sigh upon hearing the tone in her husband’s voice.  She saw the smile fade from her son’s little face.  She looked up to berate her husband once again, but something stopped her. The look on his face said that for whatever reason he appeared to think better about what he had just said.  Clearly pausing to change tenor Denethor squatted next to their son and smiled as he said gently, “I think it is a very good castle!” 

A beaming smile spread across his son’s face, “Do you really, Papa!  Thank you!”  In his haste to hug his father one of Faramir’s feet kicked down one of the smaller turrets.  Finduílas held her breath hoping that Denethor would not lose his patience and berate his son for his clumsiness.  But by some miracle Denethor just laughed.

“Well now let’s see.  We must re-build our defences or the sand monsters will be able to breech the walls!”

The wrinkle of upset that just begun to furrow itself across Faramir’s brow smoothed away as he said, “That would be terrible!” he said. 

“True.  Let’s re-build it together.” Denethor said with earnest intent.  Faramir’s reddish-blond curls bobbled as he nodded his head with enthusiasm.  Finduílas watched as father and son repaired the little castle, her heart filling with joy.  Denethor looked up and seemed a little stunned when he looked at her.  She mouthed, “I love you.”

Denethor’s grey eyes filled with happiness, “I love you, too.” He mouthed.  He looked down at Faramir, who was busy excavating sand for repairs, with a pained looked of unexpressed love.  His stroked his son’s curls and then set about the repairs needed.  Finduílas watched them together and tears filled her eyes.  Denethor and his second son playing together was the only birthday gift she could not ask for but by some miracle it had been given.





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