By Kielle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: All characters are Tolkien's, but the plot twist is 100% mine. Uniquely for me, this story was handwritten then dictated. Call it an experiment.
Explanation: I never really believed that a woman could pine away for anything, so to make it work better I decided to throw in something a little darker... Plus hey, the world needs more Denethor! I don't want to paint him soft, I love the bitter ol' cuss just the way he is, but whoever said he didn't truly love Finduilas...?
Shameless Self-Promotion: Ask to archive, feedback is adored, and incidentally you can find my other Tolkien stuff at http://www.subreality.com/ring12.htm :)
Warning: Not dirty in any way, but not really for the kiddies either.
Nobody pines away for the sea.
Elves pine for the sea, of course, but one does not die of longing no matter what the romantic ballads may say. My wife was a true daughter of Dol Amroth, but a drop of elven blood does not an elf make.
Nobody pines away for the sea.
But if a sweet fiction is kinder than truth, then let it be told and retold until it becomes truth. Because cold hard truths are all I have left, and I'd gladly welcome a gentle one -- born in whispered tales though it may be -- before the dark end.
She loved the Tower, my Finduilas. On a clear day, she once told me, the wind from the Anduin was almost as fresh and clean as a sea breeze. Sometimes it even bore a trace of salt and a distant clamor of gulls. She would stand on the highest parapet with the wind in her eyes, her long dark hair whipping unbound behind her. If she'd looked down, she would have seen all seven rings of my White City laid out like gifts at a queen's feet.
But she never looked down. Only out, and away, to the west and the distant sea.
She missed her home, and her brothers, and the cold salt air of Dol Amroth. But back then she was no frail flower. Before our first son was born, every day right up until she was confined to the Houses for the birth, she mounted every step in the Tower of Ecthelion to feel the wind in her hair. Perhaps this is why Boromir is so very much like her. His tempers, and his smile, and his clear merry laughter...
Our second son, however, was not easy on my dear wife. I admit that sometimes, in dark moments, I recalled the old wives' tales of parasitic changelings who drained away their mothers' strength from within the womb. There were times when I sat by her bedside amid bowls of untouched soup and patted her pale cold hand and allowed myself to wish that this child would fail.
I do not consider myself to be a cruel and heartless man -- though doubtless there are those who would say this and more! -- but I would rather have seen a bloom in my wife's cheeks once more. And our firstborn son needed her.
I will forever regret what came next. When Finduilas regained enough strength to rise and sit beside her chamber window, I cajoled her into letting my men bear her to the Tower she loved so dearly. She was not yet well enough to climb to the highest parapet, but surely the wind would be just as refreshing at the midlevels once the storage chambers were unlocked and the long-shuttered windows were flung open.
At first she resisted my suggestions, but she could never say no to our boy. The Tower was stocked with mysterious trophies and forgotten treasures; Boromir had long been begging to be allowed to explore those dusty rooms. In the end his mother gave in to his pleas and let herself be borne therein.
Nothing came of this then. My second son was born safely, and although my wife's health was never quite the same again, still she was in no danger of leaving my side any time soon. Pining? Of course not. There was no reason. She doted on the boys, and I (when I had time) doted on her.
Then, when Faramir was in his fifth year, my Finduilas discovered that she was carrying our third child.
As before she soon grew gray and weary, and as before (though more readily) she set up residence in the Tower where the river breeze eased her troubles. And this time there were two small boys to explore -- two sets of inquisitive eyes and two pairs of curious hands seeking lost trinkets in dusty chests...
I know now who stumbled across it first. In hindsight, it was almost pre-ordained. Even at that tender age, Faramir bore signs of his mother's elvish blood and my own Numenorean gifts, and both made him a target for whatever malevolence hovered about that wretched thing. I doubt he touched it or even looked upon it, but he must have wandered close enough to leave a deep black mark upon his spirit.
Thereafter our younger son was wracked with nightmares for nights on end, unable to rest unless the shutters were locked and lanterns set to banish even the slightest shadow. I did not know that Finduilas (despite her condition) had taken to sitting up late at the child's bedside. Nor was I told that when the boy did sleep, he rose and fled without waking, clawing blindly at the door, striking his own mother when she restrained him in her arms.
Nobody informed me that, night after night, our small son woke sobbing that someone, something was watching him in his dreams...
No, I found out too late. Too late to prevent my Finduilas from setting out alone to the Tower, grim-bent upon smashing whatever had done this to her child.
Perhaps she already suspected what the culprit would be. Perhaps that is why she did not tell me of her decision...perhaps she thought I would value a lifeless heirloom over Faramir's sanity. I must again protest that I am not a heartless man! Blood is blood, and a tainted treasure cannot compare! But perhaps its wily presence was already calling to the splinter of magic in her own soul...
Whatever the reason, however firmly she'd planned to dash the palantir of Minas Anor from the silver heights of the Tower, what happened...happened.
She found it.
She held it.
She looked into it.
And it looked back into her.
A servant found my wife lying in a pool of her own blood, unconscious, her eyes wide and sightless. She'd lost our third child...and far more, though at the time the healers tut-tutted at my frantic concern. She'd be fine, they assured me. She was in shock, and she needed rest, but that was to be expected after such an awful blow.
I began to suspect otherwise when, after three days of pale silence, my wife's first words were to little Faramir:
"You're safe now. He's not watching you anymore."
And she'd smiled, but the smile did not reach her staring eyes, and she'd rolled over to turn her back upon the eastern windows, and when I reached out to touch her shoulder she screamed and screamed and screamed...
For days the healers coddled her with potions and medicines, with herbs and attention. When she was returned to us she rarely spoke again, and never of that terrible day. She consoled herself with our sons' company, but only in rooms with no eastern view, and never again did she set foot outside under the open sky. I rescheduled my duties to join her in our bed every night, hoping to be of some comfort even if only in her dreams, but she clung instead to powerful sedatives and her sleep was dreamless.
She was not with us for long.
When her body was laid to rest in the tombs, I took leave of her grieving family to ascend the Tower myself. I wanted only to seek out and destroy whatever had destroyed my beloved wife. I admit this may have been the worst idea I have ever had, but I was driven by grief, suspicion, and a terrible rage. I think I can be forgiven for that.
Now that I knew what to seek, the palantir was simple to find; when it had fallen from her hand, it had not rolled far. The dust was tracked and scuffed. One area of the stone floor gleamed where the blood had been mopped away by a conscientious servant. Still, I was able to follow a thin track to where the ancient seeing-stone rested in a corner. I knew (or at least suspected) enough to shy my gaze away from the naked glass, but even in the brief glance it seemed to stare back like a great glittering spider's eye...
I hated it. I still don't know what my wife saw in it, what loathsome vision assaulted her soul, but I knew without a doubt that this lump of cold crystal -- valued more for its place in ancient ballads than for any actual lingering usefulness -- had robbed me of my beautiful Finduilas.
I took no chances. Still carefully averting my eyes, I dropped my cloak over the palantir and lifted it in my gloved hands. There was a window before me. Would the heavy glass orb have shattered if I'd dropped it from there? Or should I have climbed to the very summit and cast it forth?
I'll never know.
This, then, is my true secret. That for a moment, just for one mad moment, I wanted to see what Finduilas had seen -- and that I gave in to this impulse.
I tell myself now that my reasons were rooted in vengeance, or perhaps even in mere arrogant self-confidence. However, something deeper and truer whispers that a small twisted part of me wanted to join her. In her living torment or in her death? I do not know. Nor do I care to know. A man is allowed one small moment like that in his life. It will never happen again. I will not allow it--
Ah, but now I make empty vows. I will never love another as I loved her, and in tribute to her memory I have done the impossible: I have brought the rogue seeing-stone to heel like a tame hound. There was, yes, one terrible moment of fire and malice and hate that sank its claws into my bones like a deadwinter wind...but then it passed through and passed away and was gone, and in its wake my will still stood as strong as the walls of my city.
It's mine. I won.
I am not a cruel nor a heartless man. But I am a liar, for I keep telling myself it was worth the price. As dismal months grind into hopeless years, more and more I find that only the palantir speaks the truth.
I keep telling myself that, too.