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My Birthday Mathoms  by Mirkwoodmaiden

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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