1. Do Not Think Me a Dream
When I cannot sleep -- which seems to happen more and more frequently -- I have taken to walking the corridors. Sometimes I visit the kitchens, though not often - there is something eerie about seeing a normally active room so empty and still. Sometimes I visit my lord husband's study. I disturb nothing, of course, but the room holds his presence even when he is not physically there, and that is somehow comforting. I do not know if he realizes that I do this; he has never said anything to me to indicate that he does. He has asked why I leave our chamber in the cold hours of the night to wander the Tower, and I tell him the truth, or a part of it: "Unsettling dreams. It is nothing to worry about, Denethor." He accepts this answer with a frown that is not quite hidden, but he does not press me.
Sometimes, as tonight, I go to the nursery. Even before I reach the nursery, I can smell camphor, and I remember that Faramir has a chest cold. Both the healer and Nanny have assured me it is not serious, but as I enter his room, I can hear his laboured breathing, and wish there was something I could do to ease his discomfort.
One of the padded chairs from the playroom has been moved next to Faramir's bed -- I suspect Nanny dragged it there herself. She is asleep, half-reclined in the chair, her feet propped on the bed, and Faramir is asleep in her lap, head resting on her shoulder. His hair is getting long, and it is starting to curl at the nape of his neck. He is so small. I find it hard to believe that he will ever ride a horse or carry a sword;but he will, one day. He will stand proudly by his brother's side, in counsel and in combat, until the Shadow takes them both.
I start when he coughs shallowly, and Nanny stirs, patting his back. Neither one of them wakes, and I let out a breath of relief. Though I have good reason to know that she does not gossip, there are those in Minas Tirith who whisper that I am touched with madness, and it would look very odd if Nanny awoke and found me standing here watching them.
I am not sure if I am going mad or not. Some days I am as cheerful and bright as I was when I was a girl, and others, it is all I can do to rise from my bed. I long for the clean scent of salt carried in by the breeze. Here, the sulphuric wind that blows from the East chills me to my bones.
I know that I dwell overmuch on these things, but there are times when I do not have the strength to push that longing aside. There are times where I think I shall go mad if I cannot hear the rushing of waves against the shore; there are times when my fear of what lies in the Black Land threatens to consume me. Unsettling dreams do keep me from restful slumber, but what I will never reveal to Denethor is the content of those dreams. He does not need to know that I feel as if I am withering here in his City of stone, where the Darkness oppresses me every moment of every day.
I have seen Nanny watching me with an odd combination of perception and empathy in her eyes, though she never says anything beyond, "Is all well, my lady?" I tell her yes, and she smiles and nods, and I know in my heart that she does not believe me. She is good to my sons, and as deeply attached to them as they are to her, but sometimes, to my shame, I hate her for having so much of them when I have so little. As now, when my Faramir is ill, and she is tending to him even while they are both asleep. I would that I could be with him every moment when he does not feel well, soothe him with warm cinnamon milk and honey, hold him and sing him to sleep as she does. But my role as Steward's lady leaves me barely any time to spend with my boys. Truth be told, even if I had the luxury of time, I am too weary of late to be of any use to the children. Daily I seem to grow weaker, and it takes an effort to simply carry out my normal duties.
Boromir sleeps in a sprawl, bedclothes kicked off, arms and legs thrown about as if he collapsed fighting some enemy. It seems only yesterday that I could cradle him comfortably in my arms, and now when I look at him, I can easily see the shape of the man he will become. He will be broader of shoulder than Faramir will, and likely taller as well. He is already fierce and self-assured, traits that will serve him well if he is to be an effective Steward. And though Faramir is but two years old, he is the only person who can consistently calm Boromir's impatience. This may change, as they grow older, but I do not think it will change much, which is all for the good. Boromir needs someone to temper his hardheadedness.
Faramir coughs again, and this time the fit goes on a bit longer. I hear Nanny's low, sleepy voice, though I cannot make out any words, then there is silence again. I turn back to Boromir, and draw the bedclothes over him, tucking the edges around his relaxed body. I run my hand over his hair -- he sleeps like a rock, I know such a gentle caress will not wake him -- and press a light kiss on his forehead. To my surprise, his eyes flutter open for just an instant, and he smiles at me, murmuring, "Mother." Then he is lost again in slumber, and I wonder if he will think me a dream when he wakes.