1. A Suitable Arrangement
My father tells me that the man of Gondor is coming soon to Harondor -- he whom we call Salar-e-bahadur, the Brave Captain. He is renowned among his own people as a leader of men and a bold warrior, but my people, too, have seen his quality in the relatively short time we have known him, and honor him highly. Our alliance with Gondor is almost a year old now, but the Steward's son has only been among us a handful of times. Yet now he comes once more to consult with the head of our clan, my father. Father is glad that fate brings about another meeting with his friend, Boromir of Gondor.
I am pleased at his coming, as well -- for my father's sake as well as my own. It is a welcome distraction to have visitors of any kind, even if they only come to discuss policy and military campaigns. My father has agreed to let me be present at the meeting to serve food and drink, and to listen to the men converse. Such contact with outsiders is usually forbidden, but I have been granted this freedom whenever the Captain is among us. Many women my age are not even allowed out of their tents, remaining secluded from all men but their fathers and brothers; if they must go out, they are veiled and silent in the presence of men who are not members of the immediate family. My father is at ease with the man of Gondor and trusts him as a brother; he is accepted among us as a kinsman. This makes it possible for me to have more interaction with him than would normally be allowed. Even so, my contact with him as an unmarried woman must be limited, for honor's sake; I will have speech with no one as I remain safe and separate behind my veil in the midst of so many men. I relish the opportunity to be present, to be allowed such freedom! My father values me as an advisor as well as a daughter, allowing me to hear all that is discussed; though my counsel is given only to him and in private, it is no less respected than a man's. I will listen well so that I may advise my father when he requests it.
Boromir of Gondor is an honorable man. It is obvious he does not fully understand our customs with regard to women, but he is nonetheless courteous and respectful of our ways when he is among us. He does not try to speak with me and is careful not to let his hand touch mine when I serve him wine. He is curious, of course, but he does not stare. No doubt he wonders -- as any man would -- whether I am ugly or beautiful behind my veil. It amuses me to think of his curiosity, but it also frightens me a little that I feel an urge to show my face to him. Such thoughts and actions are not appropriate, especially for an unmarried woman. It would bring great dishonor upon my father if I were to act so brazenly. What is it about this brave captain that makes me even think of doing such a thing? Perhaps it is only my girlish desire to answer his curiosity and prove that I am indeed beautiful, though no man but my father has ever seen my beauty. But this is not fitting, so I will remain content with being silently amused at his glance, present but invisible under my coverings.
I am of an age now to be married, but as yet, my father has made no arrangement, nor has anyone offered a suitable dowry fee to encourage his attention. There have been offers from time to time, but my father has not taken them seriously -- for which I am grateful! I fear what might come to me in a marriage with a man who is not of my own choosing. Not that my choice has any bearing on the matter, since it is our custom for parents to make such marriage arrangements for their daughters. I believe I will be content to obey my father when the time comes, for I trust him and respect his wisdom. But I still dread a union over which I have no control. Love is a luxury that few woman can expect in an arranged marriage, but there should be respect, at least, and kindness; love can can grow from that, sometimes. There should not be fear, never that. I am thankful that Father understands this, and is willing to take into account my feelings on the matter. Not every young woman is allowed the freedom he grants me! I have heard tales of daughters who beg to remain unwed for the rest of their lives, rather than be forced into a marriage which frightens them and fills them with despair. Yet I hope it will not be this way for me. My father wants only the best for me, and I believe he might even be willing to let me have a say when it comes time to make a suitable arrangement. I pray it will be so!
If I had a say in the matter, my choice for a husband would be someone like the courteous and respectful Salar-e-bahadur. That would indeed be a suitable arrangement! A woman could easily learn to love such a man, and would have little to fear from one so considerate and well-spoken. Does he have a wife already, I wonder? Is he promised to someone? I wish I could ask him, but I cannot. It is not fitting. I can only wonder silently as he nods his thanks for a cup of wine, and keep my own curiosity and desire from showing in my eyes, the only part of me left unveiled.
Author's note: "Salar-e-bahadur" means brave captain.