June 22, 2976

The sound of a light tap on the door frame drew Imrahil from his musings. When he looked up, he smiled to see his sister standing there. "Fin! There is no need for you to knock to come into the library…"

"I did not wish to startle you, Imri."

The use of the family nickname he had acquired when he was too young to pronounce his name properly made him smile.

"Not at all. You have saved me from my own maudlin thoughts! Please, join me.."

Finduilas entered the library fully, twisting the end of a lock of hair around her fingers as her eyes darted quickly about the room, looking at each of the many small tables in turn.

"I cannot find the book of poetry that mother gave me, and wondered if I might have left it here? I would hate to leave it behind…"

Setting the goblet he held down on the windowsill, he gently took her hands in his, giving them a soft squeeze. "You are moving to Minas Tirith, Finduilas, not the wilds of the north. If it is left behind I will ensure that it is sent to you once it is found."

She smiled a little wistfully. "I know it, brother, and I am grateful." She dropped his hands and turned to look out the window before she gave a small sigh. "The truth is that I cannot seem to settle tonight, and I keep thinking of one more thing that I wish to do before the morning..."

"Fin… If you have doubts about this… If you have changed your mind it is not too late. We can still call off the wedding."

Looking up at him she reached over to take his hand again. "No. No, I do not have any doubts." She smiled. "This is what I want, Imrahil." His quiet scoff made her squeeze his fingers gently. "I know you do not understand why, but it is what must be." With a soft sigh, she turned her attention back to the window. "After all, he is heir to the Steward of Gondor; why would I not want to be his wife?"

He looked at her for a long moment in silence, scanning her face. Catching his expression out of the corner of her eye she looked over at him and laughed. "You worry too much! It is true that he is not who I might have chosen for myself, but... he is a good man, and has shown me a gentleness that is belied by his stern expression."

"But Fin… Do you love him?"

Dropping her head slightly to one side she turned to face him. "Imrahil… you know I have never hoped to have the luxury of marrying for love." Her smile grew gentle and warm. "And I have told you of the sons he will give me, the ones I dreamed of."

Imrahil cleared his throat theatrically and picked up his goblet to take a drink. "I would rather not hear any more of him giving you sons, if you don't mind, Finduilas. Some things a brother doesn't want to think about..."

She laughed merrily, though her cheeks turned pink. "As you wish."

"It is true, I do not understand what you see in him, Fin, or why you would agree to this marriage. He is so much older…" He stopped himself, looking down at the floor for a moment, schooling his features before meeting her eyes again. "But… As long as you are happy then I will be happy for you."

She reached up and kissed his cheek gently. "Then be happy, little brother."

For a long while they stood by the window together in companionable silence, looking out at the sea that stretched out below them and the sun as it slid down the sky to meet it at the horizon.

A bird rose from the beach below, crying as it flew up to soar on the breeze. "I will miss the sound of the gulls..." She sighed and continued more softly. "And of the sea…"

They fell into silence once more, unbroken as the sun completed its descent and the first of the evening stars appeared.

Imrahil finally broke the silence by laughing softly.

"Do you remember the night you climbed to the top of the old tower?"

She grinned. "Which time?"

He looked over at her sharply, and she returned the look with a laugh and a shrug. "It is the best spot in all of Dol Amroth for seeing the stars!"

He laughed and shook his head. "I would have thought that night would have scared you away from it."

"I am made of sterner stuff than that, Imrahil! "

"Yes, but that fall down those crumbling stairs should have been enough to deter anyone from making the climb again." He laughed, "I certainly never went near the place after that night."

She shrugged again, carelessly, then laughed as well. "Do you remember how Dameth scolded me when she saw the blood on my dress as you helped me into my room? I think my ears rang for a week."

Imrahil laughed again. "I think the ears of all in the city rang for a week, at least! I had never seen her angry like that, and never did again. And somehow she blamed me for it, though I did nothing but bring you home!" He looked over at her and winked. "She always did like you best."

Playing along with the old complaint, Finduilas grinned back. "Nay, she liked you best of all, for you were the youngest. How many times did she cover for you when you had played truant from your lessons?"

Imrahil turned from the window and crossed to the narrow bar that held the bottle of wine. Refilling his glass, he looked over at his sister and lifted his eyebrows in an unspoken question. When she nodded, he reached for another goblet, and filled it as well.

"Ah, but I always learned more quickly than you or Ivriniel, so what was a few hours less in the classroom?"

Crossing to join him by the table, she gave his arm a playful swat before accepting the goblet from him. "You have ever been a brat, Imrahil, since the day that you were born."

He laughed and lifted his goblet a few inches in a small salute. "My elder sister taught me well."

She gave a most unladylike snort of laughter before crossing the room to settle in an upholstered chair, tucking one foot under herself and arranging her skirts carefully.

Imrahil sat in its mate on the other side of the empty hearth. He took a drink from his goblet and then chuckled. "Do you think she ever realized that it was Ivriniel who slipped the frogs into her slippers?"

Finduilas nearly choked on the sip of wine she had just taken and then laughed loudly. "Oh, I had forgotten about that! How we laughed when she went to father to complain about how something must be done to curtail the frog population if they had grown so bold."

Imrahil laughed with her. "Even if she had suspected it was one of us playing pranks on her, she would never have accused Ivriniel!"

The rest of the evening was spent in much this same way, reminiscing over stories from their childhood and laughing at shared jokes and adventures. The room had grown quite dark, and the bottle of wine quite empty, before Finduilas remembered that she had come into the room to look for her book.

Once remembered, the siblings made short work of lighting some of the lamps and searching through the room. The slim volume was at last found behind the cushions of the very chair Finduilas had occupied as they spoke, making them both laugh again.

The lamps doused once more, Imrahil offered his arm, and Finduilas took it with a smile. They walked slowly through the halls they had traveled together many times, and she tried to absorb every detail as they went; the rich colours of the tapestries, the details of the carved columns, the simple elegance of the vaulted ceilings.

All too quickly they drew to a stop at the door to Finduilas' chamber. Imrahil looked at her with concern. "Will you be able to sleep now, do you think?"

Nodding, she gave a small smile. "Yes, I think so. Thank you, Imrahil."

Turning, she started to head into her room when he stopped her with a hand on her wrist.

"Whatever happens, Finduilas, remember this; you might be his wife, but you were my sister first. You will always have a home in Dol Amroth, even if it means we face the ire and might of the steward."

Impulsively, she leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. "I love you brother. But I think we can manage to avoid such measures."

"But if you find you are not happy…"

Laughed lightly, she opened the door to her chamber before stepping through. "Stop worrying, Imrahil! All will be well." She turned to look back at him. "Good night."

He smiled fondly. "Sleep well, Fin."

With one final smile, she gently closed the door. Then turned to lean back against it, eyes closed and breath coming in shallow gasps.

She loved her family, so she had no choice but to go through with the wedding if they were not to be disgraced. But the thought of being married to such a solemn man, and of being separated from all that she knew and loved…

She called to her mind the image she had seen several times in her dreams; two boys, both dark-haired and grey-eyed like their father, playing together in a small patch of green grass surrounded by white walls. Their bright laughter echoed off the stone as they ran, and the sound made her heart swell with a fierce love for them both.

For them, she would endure anything.