Lady of Silences

'Tis not often the gulls fly so far inland, and their cries in my ears bring with them a sharp pang amidst the other, duller aches. I lift my face to the sky to watch their dark shapes wheeling, and fancy for a moment I can hear the crash of the waves and smell the salt of the sea.

'What are they, mama?'

I look down at my small son, his face raised upwards too, dark eyes squinting at the sky. How sad, I think, that he does not know their cry. I already loved it well at his age.

'Seagulls, little one! I think they have come from my home to see us.' He smiles, and together we watch them dive around the white banner at the top of the tower. Then they disappear behind the stony mountain, flying free towards the sunset. His face darkens in disappointment.

'You shall hear them again when we go home in the summer,' I promise, and take his hand. 'I know a song about them,' I offer, and his quick smile returns.

'Hearken to the story of a bird
That loved to fly and to be heard
A seagull soaring up on high
'Free as the wind!' was his cry.
Seagull, sing your song to me
Sing of the rolling, rolling sea.

But the wind blew hard and he's adrift
And cast upon a stony cliff.
He's lost his way and it's not fair -
The fallen prince of the air.
Seagull, sing your song to me
Sing of the rolling, rolling sea.

How will this lonely bird reach home,
Safe to his nest, if he's alone?
He hears on the wind a sweet lullaby,
His princess flying by.
Seagull, sing your song to me
Sing of the rolling, rolling sea.

And now with jaunty, happy cries
Quick as a flash as one they dive
Soaring and dancing with the waves
Feeling the wind and spray...'

Well before the end he knows the refrain and joins in with me.

'Seagull, sing your song to me
Sing - '


Our song stops abruptly. I turn to face my lord.

''Tis good to hear you sing again, my lady,' he says softly. 'You have been too quiet of late.'

He has his hand set upon the shoulder of our other son, who looks most eager to speak of their day in the city together.

A good father, I think, that his son admires and respects him so.

My small son has moved close to my side and rested his head against me. I place my right hand upon his hair. His father casts an appraising eye over him, nods, and then looks at me. I draw my left arm closer to me - did his gaze linger there for a moment, or was it just my fancy?

'The seagulls came to greet us, did they not?' I look down at my little one, smooth his hair, and he gives his assent. 'And we greeted them in return.'

My lord, I think, is smiling now. 'I would hear more of it, but - ' He pats the older one's shoulder. 'The day is nearly spent and I still have much unfinished business. This evening, I hope.' And he gives a slight bow and departs.

My older son is by now ready to burst.

'Come!' I say warmly, 'tell your brother and me all you have seen!'

With his customary rough affection, my strong son reaches out to grasp my arm - and I cannot stop the exclamation that slips out, soft and short but clear as the cry of a lost gull. He pulls away from me sharply.

'You grow so quickly!' I say, trying to cover my lapse with a laugh. 'You no longer know your own strength!'

His face reddens, and then he shoots me a look of bitter accusation.

'If you did not make him angry, he would not have to hurt you,' he whispers, then turns and runs away into the house. I hurry after him, but the door to his chamber is closed, and no amount of coaxing or cajoling will bring him forth.

He will still not come down by the time the family is to meet for the evening meal. My little one sits silently and toys with a piece of cutlery as we wait for his father to arrive.

At last our quiet is broken by his steady footfall. I rise to greet him. From the set of his mouth he is plainly very fatigued - and no wonder, for his duties are so many and their burden is so great. His eye falls about the room, he notices the absence, and the frown deepens on his face. He looks at me sharply, and I hold out my hands. I have tried my best - I beg you - I always try my best, I wish to say, but all I can do is clasp my hands together. He turns to my other one.

'Leave us,' he says, and my small son slides from his chair and flees the room.

He paces slowly towards me, coming to a halt close behind me and resting his hands upon my shoulders. His breath is uneven upon the back of my neck.

'I believe, my lady,' he says at last, his voice too soft and measured, 'that I demand very little of you.'


'But the smooth running of this house is, I would say, your duty. Yet too often I find myself distracted by such disorder. Is this fair of you, do you think, Finduilas?'

Once I might have replied, offered an explanation, but such a way with words my husband has! What would seem as I said it to be reason would only, with his assistance, serve to prove my fault further. I lower my head.

'Is this fair, Finduilas?' His hands upon my shoulders are trembling as their grip tightens just a little.

I shake my head. And indeed he speaks the truth, for if it is not my duty to keep the peace in our home, then whose? My duty to my lord - aye, and to Gondor, for he is its lord too, and bears a heavy burden which I should lessen, not increase.

He pushes me away from him, and then he quits the room. I hear his voice raise briefly in the hallway, his footsteps departing - and then a door slams and all goes quiet. I sink down into my chair and shut my eyes.

I long for the sea, I long for the sand, to be far from the stone and the darkness mounting. So much - too much - depends on us, and I would give all I am for it. 'Tis I alone to whom he turns at night, 'tis I alone who sees and soothes his tears. I would do this well, as well as I am able, but I fear I have not strength enough to bear him and that which consumes him.

My sons, then, my sons - I am here for my sons - to love them, to... protect them...


I open my eyes.

'Little one..!' I stretch out my hand to him and he comes to me, his face so solemn that despite all I nearly laugh. And then I catch sight of it - mistaking it at first in the half-light for shadow - already darkening on his cheek, which till now has only ever been perfectly pale. I brush my finger against it gently, but he pulls away.

'How did you - ' I begin, but the words choke in my throat. We stare at each other - too silent, too knowing - and then he clambers onto me. Wearily, I help him up and, still with no word spoken, he sighs and settles heavily in my arms. Later he sleeps without wanting a song from me.

As I prepare the draught to make me sleep, I fancy I can hear again the keening of the gulls. I would sleep quiet tonight. I would sleep quiet every night hereafter.

A/N: This piece was written and is posted with a certain amount of trepidation, and I forced it on many readers beforehand. Many, many thanks, then, to Alawa, Anglachel, Dwimordene, Isabeau, and Soledad for reading, commenting and hand-holding.

I'm not sure whether it is successful, but that is certainly the fault of the writer.

The song is adapted from the translation of what I believe is a French folk song that I found online (I couldn't find any provenance for it, only words). Thank you to the Philosopher at Large for helping to get my version of it to work.

Altariel, August 2002