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The Princess and the King

Chapter 4: Chapter 4

by JMac

Chapter 4

The first thing Lothiriel realized was that
Meduseld was a man's castle. Except for the woman
sent up to tend to her bath and bring her some
clothing, Lothiriel had seen only men since she had
stepped within the Great Hall.

And what a hall it was! Stretching the entire
length of the castle with an enormous fireplace and
almost unbelievably high ceilings. The wood of
which everything in the castle seemed to be made,
was ornately carved and inlaid with gold. Long
tapestries of intricate designs hung from the
ceilings depicting stories that Lothiriel had never
before heard. And horses. Horses seemed to be
everywhere, in the designs on the walls, carved
into the high gates that surrounded the city, on
the tapestries. Lothiriel wondered if they thought
more of horses than they did of people.

After what Lothiriel decided had to rank as one of
the best baths of her life, she slipped on the gown
the Rohirrim woman had left behind on the bed. It
clung to her frame tighter and hung down lower on
her chest than she was used to wearing. It seemed
extravagant compared to the traveling clothes she'd
worn since leaving home. And from the glimpses of
the women she had seen as they had ridden into
Edoras, Lothiriel knew this was not the typical
attire of the Rohirrim women.

Lothiriel pulled open the doors to the wardrobe.
It was filled with a handful of other gowns, all at
least as revealing if not more so than the gown she
had already put on. Lothiriel sighed wishing not
for the first time that her sister was with her.
Erchirion knew far more about clothing and
etiquette than she did.

As much as she would have liked she knew she could
not hide away in her guest room all evening.
Taking a deep breath, Lothiriel left the room and
walked purposefully down the hallway. The Great
Hall was deserted. She stepped out the heavy front
doors of the castle. Beside the doors stood two
guards.

Lothiriel smiled at them. "Where is King Eomer?"

"He has gone to dine, my lady." One of the guards
said. Lothiriel tried her best not to blush as she
felt the guard's gaze sweep down the length of her
body.

"Could you point me in the right direction?"

The guard hesitated a moment before pointing out a
building a little ways down the path.

"Thank you."

Lothiriel walked down the path that lead to the
building and opened the door. With one glance,
Lothiriel realized this was not a formal dining
area but the mess hall for the troops. Her father
had often eaten with his men, but it was an
unspoken rule that it was no place for women.
Lothiriel was debating whether or not she should
leave when all talking in the mess hall stopped.

* * *

Eomer had been so preoccupied by worries of his own
that he had gone to eat in the mess hall without
giving it a second thought. In the past few weeks
he had come to rely on the easy camaraderie of his
men to drown out the sound of his own thoughts.
But unexpectedly, the room fell silent. That in
itself was unusual enough to jar Eomer out of his
daydreams. He glanced around the room and his eyes
fell on Lothiriel. For a fleeting second, her long
dark hair flowing loose around her shoulders
brought Arwen Evenstar to his mind.

However, Lothiriel lacked the almost unnerving
grace of Arwen. She was standing uncertainly at
the edge of the room. From the expression on her
face, Eomer expected her to bolt like a frightened
horse at any moment.

Determined not to let that happen, Eomer quickly
crossed the room. The sight of her, nearly took
his breath away. This could not be the same girl
he had mistaken for a boy the night before. There
was nothing at all boyish about her now. The dress
she wore accentuated every curve.

"I -- I did not realize that you dined with your
men. I did not mean to intrude," Lothiriel said.

"You aren't intruding." Eomer sighed, mentally
kicking himself for being such a poor host. Theoden
would never had made such a mistake. "I am the one
who is at fault," Eomer said. "I have grown
accustomed to dining with my men, as there are no
ladies in the house. I have been inexcusably rude.
We shall retire to the formal dining room."

"No," Lothiriel grabbed his arm. "No, don't
change your habits for me. I get all the formal
dining I can stand back at home. This would be a
welcome change."

Eomer smiled. "We would be honored."

Eomer escorted her to the buffet style food line.
The men in line stood back to let her pass. Eomer
waited for her to get her food but Lothiriel did
not move.

She shook her head. "I will not cut in line. They
have worked hard today. I will not keep them from
their meal."

Eomer was surprised at her request. He gave the
men a small nod and they resumed moving down the
food line, albeit very very quickly.

After Lothiriel got a plate of food, Eomer lead her
to the table. Eomer pulled out the bench and she
sat down beside him. They both ate their food in
silence. Indeed, the entire room was filled with
only the sounds of forks hitting plates.

"I am ruining everyone's evening," Lothiriel
whispered. "This was not my intention."

Eomer's eyes met a few of his men and he silently
urged them to speak. Slowly the men began talking
amongst themselves though not quite as loud and
boisterous as when Lothiriel first arrived in the
dining hall.

"Had I known I would cause such trouble, I would
have stayed in my room," Lothiriel said.

"You are no trouble. Forgive me," Eomer said. "I
have not been King for long. And there are certain
things that will not occur to me. Is there
anything else I have overlooked?"

Instantly Lothiriel replied. "Clothes."

Eomer frowned. "Clothes? I was told that clothes
were brought to you?"

"Yes, they were. Very nice clothes," Lothiriel
said. "The women of Rohan do not dress like this
every day do they?"

Eomer smiled, taking the opportunity to glance down
at her dress. "No, it's a pity they do not."

"If I had to dress in such a fashion every day, I
would have left home many years before now,"
Lothiriel said.

Eomer leaned back and laughed. "You sound like my
sister! Since you insist, I will see that more
clothes are brought to you."

"Thank you," Lothiriel said.

Eomer could hear the relief in her voice and he
wondered what other manner of gowns were left in
her room. He regretted that he would not see them
on her.

"You said you had not been king for long? I hope
it was not tragedy that brought you the crown,"
Lothiriel said.

"I'm afraid it was," Eomer said. "Theoden was our
last King. His son Theodred died in battle. And
Theoden fell not long after."

"You must miss them."

Eomer nodded. "They were the only family besides
my sister that I had left."

"No doubt you would rather have them back than be
King."

Eomer's eyes rose to meet hers. Since he had
become King, a lot of people had made a lot of
comments about his rise to the throne. Most were
well-wishes from his own people and how they knew
he would do his uncle proud. The rest were pats on
the back as if he did something grand to become
King. All he had done was live.

Lothiriel was the first to mention his position for
what it was. A loss. He had lost much to be King.
And he would give it back without hesitation to see
them both alive again.

"You are right about that." Eomer sighed.

"Do they lay within the mounds we passed before we
entered the gates?"

Eomer nodded. "All the Kings of Rohan lay within
those mounds. One day I shall lay there as well, I
suppose." The thought was a novelty to him. And
he shook his head in sad amazement.

Lothiriel eyed him up and down. "You have at least
a few more years yet before you should be thinking
about that."

"Maybe. As long as I don't run into anymore
Princesses like you." Eomer winked at her.

"You should have named yourself right away,"
Lothiriel said with a shrug.

"But I had no weapon in my hand," Eomer said.

"I couldn't tell. All I saw was someone moving
towards me."

"And one look at me sent you running?" Eomer
teased. "Thanks a lot."

"It was dark." Lothiriel smiled, clearly enjoying
their banter.

"And now that you've seen me in daylight?" Eomer
asked with a smirk.

"I thought about running but I didn't think it
would be polite," Lothiriel said, very seriously.

She pushed the bench away from the table and stood.
Eomer laughed and followed her out of the mess
hall.

* * *

The wind was blowing hard as they walked up the
road back to Meduseld. Lothiriel had not felt in
such high spirits in weeks. She could hardly keep
a smile from her lips. Her father was alive. Just
knowing he was all right, lifted a great weight
from her shoulders. And after the somewhat shaky
beginning to the evening, she had enjoyed dining in
the mess hall. It was relaxed in a way that Dol
Amroth had never been. They had made it to the
steps of Meduseld when a guard approached Eomer.

Lothiriel listened to their short exchange in
Rohirric not understanding a word of it. But from
Eomer's tone, she could gather that it was
something unusual.

Eomer turned back to her and ran an impatient hand
through his hair. "Two children have arrived at
the gates, but are reluctant to come in," Eomer
explained.

"Children? What are they doing out alone?" she
asked.

"I don't know," Eomer said. "Excuse me, Princess."
He started off down the path at a quick rate.

"My I join you?" Lothiriel asked, rushing to keep
up. She did not especially look forward to
spending the rest of the evening alone in her guest
room and seeing more of Edoras even under cover of
darkness sounded appealing.

"If you wish." Eomer waited for her to catch up.

They walked down the steep path that lead through
the city. It wound passed wooden buildings of
varying sizes. Obviously related to the upkeep of
Meduseld. Further down the path, were the houses.
They were small and quaint. It was dark enough
that Lothiriel could easily see through the windows
of the homes. Families sitting around dinner
tables, or gathered around fires. It looked cozy.
Comfortable.

As they approached the front gates, a guard met
them. "What's the trouble?" Eomer asked in common
tongue. Lothiriel knew this was on her behalf and
she smiled at him gratefully.

"Two children. They knocked at the gates but
whenever we opened them to let them in they backed
off. Whenever we get too close they dash a few
steps away." The guard threw his hands up in the
air, frustrated. "I have tried everything."

"Let me see them," Eomer said.

"Go right ahead," the guard said.

Eomer walked out the gates and called to them. "I
am King Eomer, you are welcome here."

Hiding in the shadows, Lothiriel could just make
out the two small children. At the sound of his
voice they disappeared into the darkness.

"No, wait. Don't run off!" Eomer yelled. He
turned back to the guard and sighed. "Why do they
do that? Didn't you tell them we just want to help
them?"

"I did my Lord, several times," the guard said.

"Can I try?" Lothiriel asked.

"Why should you be able to do any better?" Eomer
asked.

Lothiriel grinned. "It is dark. You are scary."

Eomer rolled his eyes and smiled. "Thank you for
reminding me."

Lothiriel took the lantern from the guard and
stepped outside the gate. Just a few yards beyond
the gate stood two young girls no older than 5 or
6. They were wide-eyed and trembling.

Lothiriel smiled and took a step towards them, but
they dashed a few steps further away. Setting the
lantern down, Lothiriel knelt down to their level.

"You look like you have come a very long way,"
Lothiriel said. "Did you walk all this way on
your own? If you did you are the two bravest girls
I have ever met."

One of the girls shook her head. "We came on
horses. But people came and they ran away.
Everyone ran away."

"See those lights upon the hill? That is a
beautiful castle and there is a warm bed and food
waiting for you." Lothiriel said. "If you come
inside, we will try to find out where your family
ran away to."

The girls stared at her for a long moment but did
not run away. "You have black hair." One of them
finally said.

Lothiriel nodded. "It is not near as pretty as
your blonde hair. I am from Dol Amroth it's a very
long way from here."

Lothiriel stood and walked over to the girls.
Neither made any move to run. She knelt in front
of them and checked the over. "Are either of you
hurt?"

The girls shook their heads. One of the girls
reached out and touched the lace upon the sleeves
of her dress.

"Will you stay with me in my room tonight?"
Lothiriel asked. "I have an entire closet full of
dresses we can dress you up in."

The girls giggled and nodded. Lothiriel took their
hands and lead them through the gates. As she
passed Eomer, Lothiriel smirked at him
triumphantly.

* * *

When the children were asleep within the covers of
Lothiriel's bed, she left the guest room to find
Eomer. He was pacing the floors of the Great Hall.
Lothiriel sat down in front of the fire.

"I wasn't aware that you have had troubles of your
own," Lothiriel said.

Eomer sat down beside her. "A week before you
arrived some of our horses were murdered. The eye
of Sauron had been etched upon their skins."

"That is why you were at Dunharrow?" Lothiriel
asked.

Eomer nodded. "We followed the tracks to the gate
of the Paths of the Dead."

"And I came out instead."

"I prefer you over them any day," Eomer said with
a grin.

Lothiriel smiled, but it was fleeting. "You think
those same men attacked my guards?"

"I don't know. But if the families of those
children were attacked out on the open plains there
must be more of them camped out somewhere else.
They could not have made it back through Dunharrow
without encountering Elfhelm," Eomer said. "Plus
it would scarcely be enough time for them to travel
that distance, especially if they are only moving
under cover of darkness." Eomer sighed and turned
to her. "I am sorry. I shouldn't trouble you with
this."

"If it is the same men that attacked my guards then
it is already my trouble," Lothiriel said.

"I wish your trip to Rohan had been under happier
circumstances," Eomer said.

"As do I," Lothiriel said. "Though I am still
pleased to be here. Until now, I have never seen
anything but Dol Amroth and even that was
restricted only to those places less than half a
days ride away."

The astonished look on Eomer's face almost made
Lothiriel laugh.

"This is your first time away from home?"

Lothiriel nodded. "My father is a bit on the over-
protective side. Before I left, my sister and I
were taking bets as to how long after he hugged me,
would the yelling begin," Lothiriel said with a
grin.

"No one would dare to raise their voice to a lady
in my presence," Eomer said.

Lothiriel smiled. "Do not worry. I yell back."

"Why doesn't that surprise me." Eomer said through
a yawn.

Seeing him yawn, caused Lothiriel to yawn. They
both smiled. "It has been a long day." Eomer
said.

Lothiriel nodded. They both rose from their seats
and walked down the hall to the sleeping quarters.
They stopped in front of the door to her room.

"If you get any word on the attackers, please let
me know. You do not need to censor information
from me," Lothiriel said. "No matter how grim, I
wish to hear it."

Eomer bowed. "You will be the first to know. Good
night, my lady."

"Goodnight," Lothiriel closed the door to the room
behind her.

After pulling off her gown, she squirmed into bed
between the two girls. Despite the long ride from
Dunharrow or maybe because of it, Lothiriel's mind
was racing. She replayed the events of the day in
her head. When she'd left Dol Amroth she was
certain that all the answers would be found in
Rohan. But so far all she'd found were questions.
Nothing had happened like she had expected. Eomer
was certainly not the King of Rohan she had
envisioned. Though he was fun to tease, Lothiriel
thought with a grin that pushed away all her
worries. There was much to be grateful for, her
father was still alive, there was still hope yet
for her guards, and she was in a warm bed with a
ceiling above her. And for tonight that was
enough.


* * *

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Chapter 4
Created
20 May 2003
Last Edited
20 May 2003
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