…Such acquaintance, despite being outside of the court rules as it was, soon transformed into something special. Captain Perenduin asked Lady Muriel if he could see her again and after a while it turned into meetings nearly every week. The two were keeping it a secret, because Lord Amrodel would not be content if he discovered that his daughter was seeing someone without his approval – which he would hardly give. But why had the Captain not asked for this? Did he like the sense of danger that was in the air during meetings with Muriel? We do not know.
A year passed. It was a quiet April evening – the sky was turning black and the first stars started to appear. Muriel was standing on the city wall, enjoying the fresh air coming from the gardens of Minas Tirith – the flowers were blooming early this year. She was waiting for Perenduin – tonight he was late which gave her a reason to worry. Soon it would be dark and she should already have been at home – her father, however busy he always was with Gondor issues, would surely notice that she was not present for dinner.
Somebody gently touched her shoulder. She turned around and saw Perenduin, smiling at her. Her face was as if lighted by the sun – she smiled back.
“My lady, I am sorry for making you wait. Urgent business delayed me”.
“I am glad you came, Captain.” Muriel blushed a bit – she could not deny that she had been worrying about Perenduin and thinking about him more than was actually necessary if you consider somebody a friend.
“My lady, there is something I need to tell you. It is very important and I hope you will hear me out.”
“You have my attention” she smiled encouragingly.
“Let us walk a bit ahead. I know a place where nobody can distract us.” Muriel looked at Perenduin with suspicion.
“You have nothing to fear, my lady. You are well protected when I am around.”
They walked down the street and Perenduin led her to a small house, which was his very own. He did not invite Muriel inside but asked if they could stay in the garden – the evening was not one to waste. She gladly agreed. While they were walking among the fruit trees and shrubs, Perenduin was keeping silent. He seemed to be nervous. Suddenly he stopped and knelt before Muriel. She did not expect this and looked at him in astonishment.
“My lady… I cannot wait any longer, I must tell you how I feel. Since we met, my life has changed – there was never a day when I was not thinking of you… To see you, to be around you is such a pleasure…” He took Muriel’s hand and kissed it softly, remaining on his knees.
“Captain, this is a bit… unexpected. I did not know…”
“My lady… Muriel, my dear, my one and only! My only wish is to be with you forever. I love you!” Perenduin rose from the knees and embraced Muriel passionately. She gazed into his eyes: admiration, love, hope.
“I love you, too, Perenduin” she whispered, blushing. All her worries about future were forgotten now – there was finally somebody who cared for her and loved her… Such a turn of events she had not imagined, even in her dreams. But what would the future bring? She sighed.
The Captain noticed her uneasiness.
“My lady? Is something troubling you?” He was holding her in his arms. What a delight! She thought.
Muriel made herself smile.
“There is no need to be formal… now. I’d be glad if you called me just by my name – no titles”.
“But then, Muriel, you will have to call me by my name as well,” he said, and winked as if he was just a boy and not a guard of the Citadel.
“I will!” she said, her heart filling with joy. “Perenduin… There is something I need to tell you. I am worrying, you are right.” She looked around as if afraid of something. “You know my father. He will not allow us to be together. This is what makes me sad, when at the same time I am the happiest woman in Gondor”. She smiled, looking into her Captain’s eyes.
Perenduin stroked her hair and kissed her on the forehead. “Muriel, I will do everything I can and much more in order to be with you. I’ve been looking for you for so long! Tomorrow I will see your father.”
* * *
The morning of the next day was chilly and gloomy. The sky was covered with clouds, it would rain any minute. Captain Perenduin arranged an audience with Lord Arsael (since he had some connections within the city, it was granted to him quickly.) But still he had to wait for a couple of hours before he could enter the library of the house of Amrodel. The Captain bowed to Lord Arsael who, in some way, now held the strings of Perenduin’s destiny in his hands.
“My Lord, I thank you for taking time for this conversation. You are of course very busy, so I shall announce the reason of my coming instantly. I was in your house last year and made the acquaintance of your daughter, Lady Muriel. I have been desperately in love with her since then and I am here to ask for her hand in marriage.”
Lord Arsael’s face remained unchanged. Was he surprised or shocked? Nobody could say – this man was not one who showed his emotions.
“So you seek Muriel’s hand? Do you consider yourself good enough for her? Brave you may be, Captain – indeed the stories of your deeds have reached my ears, but how do I know if you are worthy? My daughter is very precious, my only child… It is me who shall decide about her future! My wish is to see her move in the highest circles of Gondor. What could a Captain offer her?”
Perenduin was expecting such an answer, but was nevertheless taken aback by the coldness and arrogance of the speaker. “A Captain can get into high society as well, by his deeds. I am ready to do anything for Lady Muriel.”
Lord Arsael smiled ironically. “Do you think it is her you need to impress? No! You must prove to me you are somebody! I think you should not even try – there is no man now in Gondor who could be a match for my daughter. I’d rather see Muriel alone than give her away to someone of a lower status!”
So she was right. No negotiations were possible with such a stubborn, narrow-minded, proud man. The best way was to retreat. How much Perenduin hated himself at this moment!
“Your answer is clear, my lord. One day, however, you may change your mind.” Perenduin looked at Lord Arsael with a challenge in his eyes. “I shall not take any more of your time. Farewell.”
What shall he tell Muriel? What should they do? Sad thoughts were in the Captain’s mind as he went towards his home.
To be continued…