5. Rumours (part 1)
During the first 18 months of his life, I had, by and large, been Boromir's sole companion. He was a friendly baby, rattling cheerful nonsense at everyone from the lowest scullery maid to his grandfather, the Lord Ecthelion. He loved attention, and it did not seem to bother him that he spent his days surrounded by adults.
It bothered me, however. If Boromir had had a sibling, I would not have given it a moment's thought. But it seemed unnatural, somehow, for him to have no contact at all with other children . When I hesitantly suggested to Lady Finduilas that perhaps Boromir would enjoy playmates of his own age, she agreed straightaway. "I had been thinking that very thing," she smiled, "for I had been remembering my own childhood, and how I enjoyed playing with my older sister."
It was arranged that some nannies would bring their charges to visit and play with Boromir. It was all very carefully organized, of course - invitations were extended to the children according to their father's rank, highest to lowest. If a lord was currently out of favour with Lord Ecthelion or Lord Denethor, his child would not be granted the privilege of such a visit. I did not like this; it would have been better for Boromir to see the same children all the time, but I understood that this would only lead to charges of favoritism being thrown at Lord Denethor and the Steward.
I was aware that I was somewhat of a mystery to the other women who cared for noble children. I was scarcely seen outside the walls of the Citadel -- when I took Boromir outside, we went to his mother's garden, or to the garden of the Houses, or sometimes strolled the parapets. We never ventured into the City. And, though I had heard no gossip about myself, I knew enough to know that it likely existed. So I had no idea as to how I might get along with the other women.
At first, it appeared that my worries were unfounded. All the women asked the same questions, and I gave the same answers: Yes, it is a great privilege to be in Lord Denethor's service. No, I am not related to Lady Finduilas. Yes, it is a very nice household, yes, I am well treated, no, Boromir is not a troublesome child. I smiled and made chit-chat about the weather and the state of the City dutifully -- though truth be told, I was very bad at doing so. I had never been one for small talk, and I was not about to say anything even vaguely political. I liked my position, and my charge, a great deal, and did not want to lose either because of a careless remark. A handful of the other nannies were friendly and did not push me toward conversation I would rather not have. These women were far outnumbered by those who seemed almost offended that I showed no interest in sharing gossip. I began to dread the visits, for I never knew which sort the visiting nanny would be.
Boromir, however, was thrilled to discover that there were other little people like him, who enjoyed the same type of games he did. He would run and greet the new arrival -- always a boy -- with bubbling delight, then he would herd the other boy toward whatever toys lay scattered on the ground. Even the children who were somewhat shy soon relaxed and became animated. I was not surprised at his willingness to make friends - I was more surprised at the fact that he shared his things as well as he did. The nursery was always a wreck when his companion of the day finally went home.
Today was no different, as far as Boromir was concerned. Lord Pelinlas' son, Culas,had come to play, and the boys were happily involved in the wooden éored which had been a first-year gift from the King of Rohan.
I was rather unhappily involved in a conversation with Culas' nanny, a prettily snub-nosed woman called Olleth. She was perhaps five years older than me, but she reminded me of my mother, for she twittered on and on, mostly about clothing, men, and making a good match. Fortunately, she did not seem to require any response from me other than the occasional "That sounds lovely" or "And what did he say next?" She also did not keep a very close eye on Culas, who was inclined to put everything he touched into his mouth, including Boromir's hand. More than once, I went to make certain that he had not gnawed one of the horses into splinters, yet Olleth seemed unconcerned.
I had heard the bell signaling eleven o' clock, and groaned inwardly. Another hour of this woman -- I was not sure I could stand it. At least she had not asked the same dreary questions -- she had been too busy telling me about herself and her numerous suitors and how valuable she was to Lord Pelinlas' household.
"But enough about me," Olleth said out of the blue, turning in her seat to study me, "you have barely said one word! Come, tell me about yourself."
"There is not much to tell," I said truthfully. "I am sure that you have heard my short history by now." This was said perhaps a bit too tartly, as Olleth's eyes widened for just a moment.
Then she smiled, showing far too many teeth. "Well, yes," she admitted with a laugh that I was sure was affected, "You know how women will talk, when they get together. But I would like to hear more about you - what I've heard is so dull! Surely you have stories to tell of your life in the Citadel, perhaps of a handsome guard?"
"I have been in Minas Tirith not yet two years," I pointed out, using the bland voice I used with my mother when she was being particularly vain, "I have not had much time for handsome men, guards or otherwise." As if I would tell her even if I had such a man.
"What a shame, what a shame," Olleth sighed, "and you so young. Well, I understand, of course -- it is difficult to find time for one's self when one is busy tending to a child." She did not look in Culas' direction, though I did. They were peacefully arranging the horses in a large circle. "Or perhaps someone closer to home has caught your eye?"
Something about her tone made me glance at her sharply. She was wearing a coy smile, and had one eyebrow arched, as if waiting for me to admit something. I repeated her last words in my head, and did not like the possibility at which I arrived.
"I cannot get much closer to home, as you say, than a Citadel guard," I said, needlessly straightening my skirts, "but my little Boromir takes up all of my time." He looked up at the sound of his name, smiling, and I smiled back at him.
"Surely he cannot take up all of your time," Olleth persisted, "why, there must be hours and hours between the time he goes to sleep and the time you finally seek your bed."
She gave me a conspiratorial look when she emphasized the word "your", and I tried to ignore the way her words irked me. But I could not keep myself from saying, "I am not sure I understand you."
Olleth studied me for a moment. "Yes, I can see how that wide-eyed innocence act would be appealing to an older man," she said, almost admiringly, and my stomach clenched in sudden anger. "You should cultivate that, my dear. It will serve you well -- but then, it already has, hasn't it?"
I stared at her in shock, unable to think of a response. She could not possibly mean what I thought she meant.
She laughed again, and she sounded honestly amused. "Oh, come now! How else would you win such a sought-after position? It is not as if you have rank to spare, is it?" I was still gaping like a landed fish, struggling to find words as she went on. "It isn't unusual, you know. Especially with nannies -- we seem to have a special appeal to our lords." Here she almost preened, as if this was something to be proud of. "You must be quite a sly girl to keep that lord's interest. He's handsome enough, but he seems so cold. You do look a bit like Lady Finduilas, though your eyes are rather bluer --perhaps that's how you drew his attention so easi --"
"Get out." I was on my feet, nearly shaking in anger.
"I'm sorry?" Olleth was startled. "What did you say?"
"I said, get out," I repeated, stalking toward the door. "Collect Culas, and leave at once."
"What?" Now Olleth was the one gaping. "But --"
"Get out of this nursery, and do not dare show your face here again, is that clear enough?" I snapped, taking a step toward her, and I admit that it gave me a fierce joy to see her shrink back in her chair. I was struggling to keep my voice down, but from the wide-eyed looks the children were giving me, I had not succeeded. I was too infuriated to be calmed by the knowledge that I might be scaring them. "Culas is welcome back any time he likes, but you are certainly not. Get out now."
"Well -- I --- who do you think you are, to speak to me so?" Olleth stammered as she stood, wisely backing away from me. "You cannot throw me out of ---
"I can and I am," I shot back, clenching my fists in the hope that my hands would stop trembling. "You have insulted me, my lord and lady, and the Steward, and I will have you here no longer. Now I say again -- leave this nursery immediately, or else I will call a guard to remove you."
I had been told by my older brothers that when worked into a rage as I was now, I was rather an intimidating sight, and it seemed that Olleth agreed, for she scurried over to Culas and scooped him into her arms, hugging him protectively to her chest. "No matter how you please Lord Denethor," she snarled as she hurried to leave, "you are much mistaken if you think that the Lord Pelinlas will stand for you threatening me, and his son."
I had not said one word about harming either one of them, and my hold on my temper failed completely. I jerked the door open, and shouted down the corridor, "Guard!" Olleth went white, then red, and a tiny lucid part of my mind, quickly silenced, realized that I was throwing myself into deep waters indeed.
A guard appeared as if out of thin air. "Yes, miss?" he said, and eyeing both of us curiously.
"If you would take Olleth and Master Culas to their escort?" I said, speaking as evenly as I could. "I am afraid that I have a headache."
"I'm sorry to hear that, miss," the guard said, and though his voice was placid, his eyes were full of questions. "Shall I call for a healer?"
"There is no need," I assured him with a smile that only made him look at me more closely. "I am sure that it will soon depart."
"As you say." The guard inclined his head, then led Olleth away as she shot one murderous glance over her shoulder at me.
I shut the door, being very careful not to slam it as I wanted to, then, without warning, I burst into tears. Surely she could not be right. Surely nannies and laundry girls and stable boys and housemaids and cooks and footmen all over the City were not talking about how I had earned my place as Boromir's nanny on my back, or about how I was keeping my position by entertaining the Lord Denethor with my favours.
Of course they were, I thought bleakly, covering my face with my hands. She was right; I had no rank and no connections. I myself was not sure why Lady Finduilas had engaged me -- what else would total strangers think?
I could not seem to stop weeping, and I did not even know that I was sitting on the floor until Boromir kneeled in my lap and put his plump little arms around my neck. "No, no," he said, anxiously trying to soothe me, "no, no cry. No cry." Naturally that only made me sob harder, and Boromir looked on the verge of wailing.
I managed to get control over myself and hugged him tightly, not wanting to upset him further. "I'm all right," I assured him, though my voice still wobbled, "I'm all right, Boromir."
He did not look as if he believed me, so I gave him a weak smile. He was still not convinced, but his face did ease some. "Hurt?" he asked, looking for my injury. "Kiss better?"
"Kiss better," I nodded, almost breaking down again at his worry. He planted a very wet kiss on my cheek, and snuggled against me, pleased with himself.
It was not until I had put Boromir down for his nap until my anger wore off enough that I understood how big of a fool I had been. If I had been able to hold on to my temper, and continued to smile pleasantly, feigning ignorance, none of this would have happened. But no, I had to fly into a rage and throw that stupid woman out of the nursery -- I had to call a guard to escort her out, and the news of that would soon be all over the Citadel. My lord and lady would certainly want to know what had made me do such a thing, and I would have to tell them. I trembled at the thought -- I did not know who it would be worse to face, Lord Denethor or Lady Finduilas.
There was only one thing for it. I would have to go to Lady Finduilas and confess what I had done before she heard it from anyone else.
Before I could lose my nerve, I sat down and wrote a note to Lady Finduilas' secretary, requesting to speak with my lady. I rang for a page, and jumped when a knock came at the door almost simultaneously. Opening it, I saw a page standing there, and we looked at each other silently for a moment.
"This is for the Lady Finduilas…" I started.
"This is from the Lady Finduilas…" he said at the same time, then he trailed off, chuckling.
I could not even smile at him, so we exchanged notes, and he left with a courteous "Good day, miss."
Lady Finduilas had already heard of the incident, and wished to speak with me tomorrow at this same time. And what was more, she was coming to the nursery, rather than inviting me to her sitting room. My stomach began to ache.
What was I going to say? I could not just blurt out the vile things Olleth had said! What was she going to say? I could be sent home in disgrace -- I thought it quite likely that I would be. No-one wants a tempersome woman raising their child. I did not want to go home; I liked my work, and I loved Boromir dearly, even if I was not fond of Minas Tirith. Oh, what if Lord Denethor was there as well? How would I be able to face both of them?
Boromir was restless, and he shrieked and shrieked when I tried to put him down for the night. Perhaps he sensed my unhappy mood. I was too troubled to fight him, so instead I held him, pacing the floors, hoping he would drift off to sleep.
I wished I had someone to talk to, someone to tell all that had happened today. It would have been a weight off my chest just to put my fears into words, but I had no such --oh. Oh. Yes, I did.
I went weak in relief. We would walk the halls --the guards were used to our night ramblings when Boromir could not sleep; they would think nothing of me taking a new route. We would walk the halls right into the kitchens.
"Come, Boromir," I whispered into his ear. "We are going to see Mag."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.