|Celandine's Chronicle (celandineb) wrote in cels_fic_haven,|
@ 2007-08-08 14:30:00
|Entry tags:||lotr fic stewards|
LotR fic: Leavetakings [Denethor/Finduilas, adult]
Pairing: Denethor/Finduilas; also Adrahil, Boromir, Faramir, Imrahil
Warnings: angst, character death
Summary: How do you say goodbye? Finduilas of Dol Amroth must make some difficult decisions.
A Summer Evening
Urimë 2986 (1)
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.
A scant month later, she lay in the bed she had shared with Denethor for many years, and knew she would never again leave it.
"Bring the boys," she told her husband.
"Surely you do not want them to see you like this," he protested.
"I promised that I would bid them farewell. I am dying, my heart. I must redeem that promise now, or die an oathbreaker."
Even now, he winced at her blunt use of the word. I know, my love, you would still deny it if you could, but you cannot do so any longer.
He sent a servant to bring them, unwilling himself to leave her side. Even the duties of the Steward he ignored, the only time she could remember that he had ever done so.
Boromir and Faramir stood close together by her head, fear and the beginnings of grief in their young faces. Boromir was trying to be strong, she could see that, and she respected his efforts, saying simply, "I love you, Boromir. Grow into a good man, and always remember that your mother's love is with you."
He nodded, brushing at his eyes angrily, then bent to kiss her and ran from the room, leaving Faramir behind. The little boy climbed onto the bed to hug her. He said nothing, but the tears ran down his cheeks as she kissed him and whispered, "Farewell, Faramir my son. I love you forever." He clung to her until a nod from Denethor brought the nurse Rhîwen to carry him away.
Now they were alone again, she and Denethor. The healers had all withdrawn from the room, leaving a last draught of syrup of poppy to ease her passing when she should be ready. They had come near to a quarrel on that, as near as either dared. Denethor had not wished to let her leave a moment sooner than he must, and it had taken much effort on Finduilas's part to convince him that waiting would simply prolong her pain unendurably, overwhelming all else. Now only one task remained to her.
"I must persuade you of one thing yet, dearest," she said through lips as dry and cold as the expression on her husband's face.
"What is that?"
"To let me go willingly, and in love."
Denethor shook his head. "How can I? Without you, all will be darkness. You are my joy, my light - there is nothing else, save duty to my land."
"There are our sons," she reminded him. "If you love me, you must not ignore them in their grief - you must show your love to them as well."
"How can I bring happiness or even ease to them, when I shall have none myself?"
Finduilas could tell that he was asking this not idly, but truly could see no way to do as she wished. She cast about desperately for some answer, and could think of none.
"I do not know," she said at last. But you must promise me to try - or my life will end in torment, to think that our sons will be abandoned to grief, when I am no longer here to bring comfort, and indeed am the cause of it. You are grown, you have lost your mother and father already, and have endured it, but they are young. If ever you have loved me, promise me this now."
Denethor met her eyes for only an instant, then looking away, he gave a single sharp nod. "For your sake, I will try; but I do not know if I can succeed."
Relief washed through her and she pressed her face to his shoulder. "That is all I ask, love."
Outside the winter sun dropped to the horizon, red light brightening the southerly windows, as Denethor reluctantly gave his wife the cup that would end her pain. Wasted as she was, he still saw the lovely girl who had caught his heart. With her passing the mesh of that soft cage did not disappear, but rather turned to bonds of iron.
She drank, then set the cup aside and nestled to him, her eyes fixed on the window and darkness approaching there. Denethor held her frail body and felt her breathing become more and more shallow. Just as the evening star appeared, she turned to give him a final kiss.
"Farewell, my heart. I will look for you beyond the borders of the world," she murmured.
Outside the door, the healers waiting heard their lord give a great cry.