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XII. All Shadows' Night (Finduilas)
The first stars of this solstice night peek out between clouds. The wind blows the sour tang of Orodruin’s distant fires. Another Mettarë begins in Minas Tirith. I am weaker than I was last year. I think of my young sons and wonder if I will see them bedecked in their Mettare finery a year from this eve.
Boromir shall wear a silver-trimmed black cloak over his blue tunic; little Faramir will wear a summer-green tunic and a grey cloak. Their father will be the center of all eyes, tall and kingly in Gondor’s black and silver.
Soon my ladies will bring my raiment. We shall proceed to the feast and then the Year’s End ceremony in our holiday best, sparks of colored cloth over pale flesh, torchlight and candles lighting our way under a darkening sky. I struggle now, to hold up my head, for He has come. Not my fair lord, but the other, the Enemy, whose hollow voice haunts my dreams and now my waking hours. He cozens, he taunts, warning me of the futility of this frivolity, that all it will lead to is fire. Fire, He swears, will darken the White City and burn all that I love, some day.
This harrowing began after Thorongil’s departure, shortly before Denethor ascended to the Stewardship. At first, the Shadow showed itself merely as an intruding presence in my dreams, malign but insubstantial, a whisper in the dark. Such whispers have lengthened, deepening into detailed threats, stabbing heart and head with cold terror.
And I stab back hard, with memories of the sea I love: the white walls of the Keep of Dol Amroth, the waves on the Bay, the deeper waters from whence Elendil’s sons came ashore on Middle-earth to further forestall Sauron’s purposes. I set us, myself and my husband and sons, our love and our pride, the Houses of Dol Amroth and Húrin, the Blood of Númenor and the free folk of Gondor, against Him. He cannot take it all. He cannot take us all.
The pain and His hateful presence recede as the sun sinks outside my window. I hear the gulls cry, and I could weep with longing for the sea.
Denethor has asked me many times to return “home” and regain my health. But I will not leave him. Though I love Dol Amroth well, no place is home without Denethor. I will abide here, for better and for worse. I am the Lady of Gondor! No one, no Southron, Easterling, pestilence, nor ancient Enemy, shall drive me craven from my lord’s side.
Beneath the sullen sunset, I draw in my breath and with it the sweet scent of the herbs scattered throughout my chamber. The time when Light and Darkness meet to dance and to battle draws near. I shall wear my gown of silver, with the starred blue cloak that Denethor gave me as a betrothal gift, and the diamond Stewards’ Star on my breast. They have had to tighten and pad the gown; since I have lost some flesh in the last year. Most eyes will overlook the change.
No bracelets, the Star and the circlet of rank will suffice as adornments.
And perhaps, after the Ceremony of Year’s End finishes, and my lord and I are alone at last, he will lovingly pull off the cloak and help me out of gown and shift and I will have strength enough to share my body as well as my heart. Then, souls naked to one another, we can build walls of love strong enough to bar all shadows.
Sauron striving to psychically torment Finduilas is my idea; but I think the LOTR/Appendices canon supports that such a thing could have happened; especially since Denethor became far more lonely and bitter after she died. I also think that the physical climate, i.e. the closeness to the air of Mordor, might have aggravated any physical weakness Finduilas had, and also stressed her Elvish nature. I'm sure she was not the only one to have 'faded' in that place and time due to sorcerous and environmental malaise.
Thank you, Linda Hoyland, for editorial advice/encouragement.
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