The air of Minas Tirith lay hot and still beneath the summer heat, and the white walls gleamed in the sun. Finduilas smoothed a skein of grey thread between her fingers and contemplated the next stage of her embroidery. When she awoke that morning, her chambers seemed stifling. She had fled with her son and two of her maidens to a shady garden on the sixth level, where at least there was some breeze. A nearby fountain cooled the air to a bearable level.
An ocean in storm was growing on the cloth before her, with a grey-winged seabird skimming low over the waves. Finduilas felt a familiar twinge of homesickness. She closed her eyes and willed herself to believe that the splashing of the fountain and the gentle rustling of the leaves overhead were the sounds of the sea.
The moment passed, and she opened her eyes. Her son’s clear voice brought welcome distraction, as he called to her and waved his arms to demand her attention. Finduilas smiled, her melancholy fading. “I see you, my son,” she called back. While this city held two such dear pledges, her husband and her son, she would never leave it.
The boy laughed as he leaned over the rim of the fountain and dabbled his hands in the water. Ever watchful, her maid Orodwen caught him by the back of his tunic so he could not tumble in. “Come away from the fountain,” Almariel urged. She began to sing an old counting song of Minas Tirith in her sweet soprano. Orodwen joined in, adding harmony in her richer alto.
Seeing her ladies had distracted the child, Finduilas allowed her attention to return to her needle. Silver thread, for the shining gem at the seabird’s throat. White and silver for the rays of light. The work had grown visibly before her son came to her side again. “What is it, my son?” she asked teasingly. He looked at the basket of thread beside her, his eyes attracted by the bright colors.
“Mine!” he proclaimed, grasping a skein of red thread tightly in his small fist.
“That is for your mother’s embroidery, my dear. You must put it back.”
Her son gave a mischievous smile. Laughing triumphantly, he toddled away as fast as his short legs could carry him.
“Boromir!” She called to him in vain. Her son was headstrong when he wanted his own way. Before Finduilas could rise, Almariel hastened in pursuit, her blue eyes determined. “I will catch him, my lady!” Boromir laughed, delighted at the game.
Maiden and boy stopped their chase abruptly at the appearance of a tall figure clad in silver mail. Almariel smoothed down her skirts and bowed a hasty greeting. “Captain Thorongil.”
Thorongil picked up the boy and swung him aloft as Boromir crowed with delight. The warrior’s mail and the metal of his sword-belt caught the sunlight, and Finduilas imagined embroidering his outline in silver thread.
The boy clutched at the tall warrior’s shoulder, then reached down with determination towards the hilt of his sword. “Mine!”
Her maids laughed, but Thorongil remained grave. “I wear this sword in Gondor’s service, young Boromir. When you are a man, you shall have one of your own.”
Finduilas did not know what had caused the rift between Thorongil and her husband, for Denethor would not speak of it; but fame spoke well of him throughout Minas Tirith. As he approached her, carrying the child, Finduilas rose to meet him. “You must not speak so, Boromir,” she chided. “Do not trouble the Captain.”
“It is no trouble,” Thorongil replied courteously. “One day he may be the hope of this city.” His stern face softened as he gazed upon the boy. His look was almost wistful, Finduilas thought. Did he wish for a family of his own? Thorongil knelt and gently kissed Boromir’s forehead before placing him at his mother’s feet.
“He will be a mighty warrior when once he is a man,” Orodwen said with affectionate pride.
“So he may be,” Finduilas said gently, drawing the smiling child closer to her side. “That would please his father. And yet, I would rather see him grow to manhood in a city at peace.”
“For your sake and his, I hope it may be so,” Thorongil said gravely. She could tell he did not believe it likely, and her heart sank. Must her life go by, and her son’s life, in this grim city always at war? Still, he meant it kindly, and she smiled to thank him.
Thorongil’s keen eye fell upon her discarded embroidery, and he studied it for a moment. “Is that not Elwing with the silmaril?”
“Yes, you are right.” Finduilas smiled with pleasure. “And Earendil’s ship still to come.” She indicated a blank space above the waves. “Perhaps it is foolish, but when I see even a pictured ocean, I grow less homesick.”
Thorongil’s gaze rested closely on the picture for a moment, as if he were storing the details for one of his reports. “I think it well, lady.” He rose to his feet.
Almariel drew nearer to them. “Will you rest with us for a moment, Captain?” Almariel asked eagerly. “It is cooler here, by the fountain.”
Finduilas could see Thorongil’s reserve closing about him again like a second coat of mail. “I thank you, maiden, but I have been summoned to council.” He bowed, turned, and went from them along the road that led upward to the gleaming Tower of Ecthelion.
Almariel sighed. “He is so handsome,” she said wistfully. “It is a pity he never smiles.”
Orodwen nodded agreement. “It may be, but he is always so grim—“
“Let us leave the Captain in peace,” Finduilas said gently. “I do not think he has a mind for courtship.” She would be pleased to see the valiant Captain wed in Minas Tirith, but he was gravely courteous to all her ladies and tender to none.
Boromir tugged at her gown. “Yes, my son,” she said with a smile, turning back toward the pleasant area by the fountain. “Shall we play a game? It takes all three of us to keep up with you!”
Finduilas thought again of that day when she heard that Thorongil had left Minas Tirith, at the moment of his greatest triumph. She could not guess where his fate would lead him, but she wished him well: a warrior who could be terrible in battle and yet gentle with a child.