Story Downloaded from Open Scrolls Archive (https://www.openscrolls.net)

Title: I can only manage One (#2279)
Author: LadyBluejay
Chapters: 13

Archive: Tolkien
Category: Lord of the Rings
Description: Éomer and Lothíriel? Love match or arranged, we shall never know. This is my third scenario: with a very reluctant Lothíriel. Will our Horselord win her over?
Published: 04 Oct 2005
Updated: 28 Dec 2005
Warnings:
Type: Romance
Characters: Eomer; Lothiriel


Chapter 1 - Chapter 1

‘I can only manage One’, is the third of my little scenarios about Éomer and Lothíriel’s first meeting and the reason they married. The first two were from Éomer’s point of view, one love match and one arranged. This one had to be from Lothíriel’s side. She is a very different young lady from my others; no sword wielding princess here. However, if you manage to stay with the story I think you will find she has hidden depths. Hope you enjoy, there is quite a lot of canon in this one for those who like it.



Thanks as always to my friend Eirwen for the punctuation. Not my strong point!

LBJ


Chapter 1

Dol Amroth. March 3019


She could not believe they were doing this to her. It was just not possible. Lothíriel stared at her father and brothers, willing one of them to change their minds. Right up to this moment she had thought one of them would relent. That they would realise just what they were asking of her. She cast her eyes over the ranks of soldiers, over the Swan Knights expertly controlling their impatient horses; no, of course it was far too late. However unprepared she was for this; they were all going to go.

Her father was giving some final instructions to his steward and to the chief scribe. They were nodding in agreement at whatever he was saying. He finished his conversation and then he turned to her, resting one of his strong hands on her shoulder. She was conscious of its weight. “You will be fine, Lorí. Heclan and Gerwin know all there is to know about the running of Dol Amroth.” He smiled gently and tucked a stray black hair back behind his daughter’s ear. “But you are my daughter, if there are any decisions to be made, then it will have to be you who will have to make them. There is no one else.”

Make decisions? Why suddenly did he expect her to make decisions? A shaft of apprehension ran through her How could she make decisions about the running of Dol Amroth and Belfalas when the only decision she had ever made; ever been allowed to make, was whether to use a red silk or perhaps a purple in the new cushion she was embroidering. Or even better; what plant to place where in her garden. Or the really big decision of each day: should her dress be blue or green? The panic, or was it anger, rapidly threatened to rise but with acquired skill she pushed it once more beneath the surface. She had no choice, however unprepared she was, she could not make a fuss now with so much at stake. Her father was right; there was no one else. At least no one else of royal blood. Whatever her father felt about women having any say in ‘country running’ or politics he would not leave other than a family member in charge for more than a few days. Every Knight and soldier in Dol Amroth was going, including her three brothers. None wanted to be left behind. Oh, she had listened to the arguments; they had been raging for days. But the outcome was always the same. All of her brothers wanted to fight for Gondor; the last stand against the Dark Lord.

“Lorí,” her father carried on, “you know that this has to be. It is no use us pretending otherwise. If the White City falls: then we all fall. Dol Amroth would be no refuge, however many I left to defend it. If we fail, they will come here next. You know what you have to do if that happens?”

“Yes, Father. I have to get Alphros away,” she said dutifully, cringing inwardly at the words, her mouth dry with fear.

“You take him north. He will be the only Prince of Gondor left alive. Tinas will lead you through the caves and you follow the coast.” He held his daughters eyes. They both knew that what he was asking of her was well nigh impossible but neither were going to say it. Hope needed to be kept alive. That a twenty year old slip of a girl, without any training, either with arms or living in the wilds, could lead a mother and her twenty month old son over countless leagues of rough inhospitable terrain to seek safety with the Elves? It was laughable; but nobody was laughing.

Prince Imrahil hugged his daughter one last time and moved to where his eldest son, Elphir was saying his goodbyes: kissing his wife, Merilan and then reaching down to pick up and hug his young son. Imrahil took his grandson from Elphir’s reluctant arms and cuddled him against his chest before giving his mother a kiss on the cheek and putting the young child into her waiting embrace.

Erchirion and Amrothos kissed their sister quickly as if knowing long goodbyes were going to upset her more. She thought her brothers looked incredibly handsome, their armour and blue cloaks adorned with the emblems of Dol Amroth; Ship and Silver Swan. Amroth went towards his horse and then turned again, “We will be back, Lorí. I promise.” She nodded, unable to say anything.

The trumpets sounded and Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, his three sons, his company of Swan Knights, mounted on grey horses, and seven hundred men at arms marched proudly to war.

Lothíriel and Merilan climbed onto the battlements and stood with Alphros between them, watching until the blue and silver column disappeared behind a low hill.

The woman and the girl turned to each other after they were out of sight, both fighting back the tears. They would not, could not, show their fear. Both were Princesses of Gondor: one by marriage, the other by birth. To give in to terror was not an option. The castle was full of frightened women: wives and daughters of Knights and men with only a few retired soldiers to guard them. It was necessary to show that there was indeed hope, lest all resorted to panic and dread.

Merilan touched the younger woman on the arm, “I am going to take Alphros for a nap, we were up so early. I will see you at lunch?”

“Yes,” Lothíriel bent down and kissed her young nephew. He was yawning and starting to grizzle. “I am going to the beach for a walk and then I will spend some time with Gerwin, although no doubt he will not really need me.” She took one last look along the East Road before heading to the steps that led down to the castle gate. With a quick word to the guard, she headed to their private beach. She wanted to think.

She was angry she decided, angry that she had been given no preparation for this. Her father and brothers all thought that a woman should only concern herself with domestic things. All the occasions that she had tried to take an interest in the running of Belfalas, it was a waste of time. They had pushed her away. She was a high-born lady and as such was expected to be content with her embroidery, her books, her garden and the pictures she made from shells. It would be amusing if it were not so serious. The Princess reached the beach and walked to the water’s edge. Forgetting her fear for a moment and with a sudden sense of freedom and not without a certain amount of deliberate rebellion, she kicked off her shoes, lifted her skirts and paddled in the surf. When had they stopped her doing this? When she was about fourteen, she remembered. That was about the same time that they made her ride sideways on a horse. She refused to call it by its given name. Sideways was an awkward word and it was an awkward way to ride a horse, she thought defiantly. She liked riding but it would never be the same as, when a child, she used to gallop her pony bareback through the surf. Then there was the swimming, she used to love it, but now she had to hide behind the rocks, wear the most ridiculous of outfits and arrange for a least two maids to guard her. As for learning to use any weapons? What a stupid thought, Lothíriel! She had asked and asked but why would a Princess need to use a bow, leave alone a sword? Well now they know why! Carry Alphros to safety through the caves indeed. Armed with an embroidery needle perhaps! She shuddered; facing the caves would be the worse thing: she hated enclosed spaces, especially dark enclosed spaces ever since Amroth had locked her in a cupboard and then forgotten her. Thinking of her brother made her forget her anger for a moment. If they would all come back she would do anything. Anyway, she reluctantly conceded, even if she was skilled with a sword what use would she be against the hordes that would pursue them? No, if Minas Tirith fell then they were all as good as dead and might as well accept it. Not that that would stop her trying of course. Her anger dissipated, she headed back to the Castle.

Lothíriel hurried across the courtyard towards the entrance to the working part of the Castle to be met by the housekeeper, Ketill. The woman bowed her head to the young Princess.

“Did you wish to talk to me, Ketill?”

“Yes, Princess. It is about the dining arrangements now there are so few.”

“I suppose there are. What are you suggesting?”

That we use the small hall, Princess. It will be cosier. And I need to know where you and Princess Merilan wish to take your meals.

“Yes of course you do.” Lothíriel thought for a moment. Her first decision. “Princess Merilan and I will use the garden or our private dining room for breakfast and lunch as the weather permits but we will take our dinner in the hall. Alphros will be in bed and the others need to know that things are carrying on as near normal as possible.” She smiled, “You are right: we will use the small hall.”

The housekeeper acknowledged this with a pleased nod of her head and Lothíriel felt she had said the right thing. The head scribe Gerwin next, she thought.

Belfalas was run from a large room opposite her father’s study. There were about six scribes; some concerned with the shipping and some with the farming and fruit production. The surrounding countryside was extremely fertile. Gerwin oversaw them all.

“Ah, Princess.” She thought he looked pleased to see her although it was difficult to really say. “I did not wish to bother your father but we have been offered a large quantity of salted fish from along the coast. Far more than we would normally need, with the war I do not know if we should buy it.”

Salted fish? She knew nothing about salted fish. “Is it good quality, Gerwin?”

“Oh yes, Princess. The very best.”

“Does it keep and travel well?”

“It does indeed, Princess. It is good for many weeks.”

“Then in that case, Gerwin, I think we should buy it. We have to assume that we will win this war.” If they did not it would not matter anyway. She smiled at the man. “Even if we do win, I imagine that the land around Minas Tirith will be devastated, they will need help with supplies. Buy the fish and anything else you can. In fact send word out to all our farms to make as much cheese and bottle as much fruit and vegetables as they are able.”

“Yes, Princess,” a look of respect crossed his usually expressionless face. “An excellent idea.”

--------------------------------


She had never been so busy; she was glad: it took away the fear. All were busy, the women doing things their men would normally do. It meant they were able to push the terror away, not to think of what would happen it they did not win. At least they managed quite well until the darkness came. It flowed from the east, blotting out the sun and bringing despair. The women of the Castle huddled together in fright; five days of unmitigated horror made worse by rumours of a ghostly army crossing the land from the Ringlo Vale to Pelargir; routing all in their path. Some said the Heir of Elendil was at their head but Lothíriel gave no credence to the rumour: thinking it a device of the enemy.

It was early on the 15th March that they felt some lightness in the air. The Princess ran to the battlements and breathed in the fresh sea breeze which was coming with the dawn. The darkness was at last receding.

It was three days later that there was a call from the watchtower, three days that all had spent in trepidation.

“A fast barque,” the lookout called. “She carries an ensign: the White Tree of Gondor,” he shouted excitedly.

Lothíriel and Merilan hugged each other in their relief. The whole castle was cheering. It seemed ages before the ship rounded the harbour wall. The Princess was waiting impatiently on the quayside. She could see Earen, one of their Knights, standing on the deck. He looked to have a gash down the side of his face and his arm was in a sling. She saw that there were a few dozen more men, all appeared to have some kind of injury with some being supported by others. She turned to Heclan who was standing by her side. “Call for wains to take them to the Castle.” The man nodded and moved to do as he was bid.

Earen was first to disembark, he was dirty and dishevelled and he limped down the gangway, bowing to her as he reached the quayside. “I bring news and messages, Princess.” He was carrying a role of parchment, Lothíriel glanced down at it. “And a list of the dead,” he grimaced.

She hardly dared ask, “My father? My brothers?” The man smiled reassuringly, “All lived when I left, Princess. But it was a bloody battle with much loss of life. Thankfully Rohan came in our hour of need. It seems also that if we are victorious in the final battle then Gondor will have a new King.”

“It is not over?”

Earen shook his head, “A force marches to the Black Gates. Your father and brothers amongst them. They are seeking out Sauron in his lair.”

Lothíriel turned cold. “Why are they doing that?”

He shook his head, “I am not sure, it is some kind of diversion. But I am not party that information.”

She nodded, “I must go and tell Merilan that Elphir is safe. For the moment anyway,” she added.

“What about the list of the dead, Princess? There are many more in the Houses of Healing. Some are badly injured. I am afraid that here will be more bad news yet.”

Lothíriel swallowed, this was beyond her. “Let me have the list. I will tell those who need to know.” She reluctantly took the parchment from the man’s outstretched hand, her own was shaking. “You must rest and bathe now, but please will you and your wife join Princess Merilan and myself for dinner tonight. I would know all that has happened.”

Merilan was waiting at the Castle gates. So was every other woman in Dol Amroth; all wanting yet not wanting to hear the worst. Lothíriel whispered in her sister-in-law’s ear and watched the relief spread over her face. “Merilan, I have to give everyone else the news,” she indicated the parchment in her hand.

The older girl clasped her arm, “I will stand with you. Alphros is with my maid.”

They used her father’s study. Looking down the list together, the Princesses had to fight back the tears as they read the names. “Shall we start at the top with the Knights?” Merilan asked.

“No,” Lothíriel shook her head. “We start at the bottom with a kitchen maid’s son. The Ladies are trained to wait.”

It was the worst thing she had ever been asked to do. It was not the complete list Earen had explained: only those whom they definitely knew had been killed on the Pelennor. There would be more.

Dinner was not a cheerful meal; many could not face the hall. Lothíriel, however sad she felt, was eager for news of the battle and her family’s part in it. By the time she went to her bed names and events were flashing through her mind: Gandalf and Hobbits, the Rohirrim arriving at dawn with horns blowing, Théoden King dying on the field, the Lady Éowyn slaying the Witch King of Angmar, Éomer of Rohan taking up his King’s Standard and his meeting in the middle of the battle with Aragorn the heir of Elendil, who had indeed led the Dead Army to war. It went on until her head was spinning.

The next week was grim with the Castle full of grieving women and others wondering when their turn would come. On March 25th something happened they could not explain: a silence came on the land and the air was still. Watchers on the battlements saw a great cloud arise in the east and all held their breath.

Three days later another ship arrived. It was over. Sauron was defeated and her father and brothers had survived. King Elessar was to be crowned and musicians were invited to the City. Rejoicing was tinged with sadness for all those lost. As Lothíriel had thought, food and supplies were needed: evidently there were about four thousand men of Rohan alive. They had ridden to Gondor with nothing but their weapons. She ordered ships to the Harlond; taking musicians for the celebrations and the crowning but also vast stores of fish, cheese, corn, fruit and spare linen. The ships would bring back their wounded.

It was about a month later when her brother Elphir came home.

Lothíriel watched with pleasure the meeting between her brother and his wife. Elphir clasped his wife and young son to him in an embrace she thought would crush them. Suddenly realising that husband and wife may wish to be alone, she took her young nephew from her brother’s arms. “Why do not I take him for a walk on the beach and then give him his supper. I will see you at dinner, Brother.” She grinned when they both gave her a grateful look.

At dinner they spoke, not surprisingly, about everything that had happened. All the details being filled in: the reason for the journey to the Black Gates, how her uncle Denethor died, how the new King healed her cousin Faramir, Éowyn and Merry and very much more. They talked late into the night.

The next morning Lothíriel was eating breakfast when Elphir came down.

“Sleep well, Brother?” she grinned.

“Too well,” he laughed. “It’s good to be home.”

“I’ll go over the shipping schedules with you after breakfast,” she said smiling.

“Oh, do not worry,” he said with his distracted air. “I will talk to Gerwin.”

“I wish to, Elphir,” Lothíriel stated firmly. She could feel the anger starting to rise. She just knew this would happen.

“I am back now Lorí,” he said disregarding her tone completely. “You do not have to bother yourself with those sorts of things any more. I thought your garden looked neglected.”

The Princess rose from her chair, she knew that if she remained she would say something better left unsaid. Were all men so insufferable as her brothers? “Excuse me,” she said stiffly. “I will go and collect some shells.”

It was nice on the beach; she had not had much time over the previous weeks. Lothíriel resolutely kicked of her shoes and paddled in the clear water. She decided that it was the only act of defiance allowed to her. Shield Maidens of Rohan rode to war and she collected shells. Not that she wanted to ride to war but that was surely not the point. Anyway she was probably too short to be a Shield Maiden and she would bet that they didn’t ride sideways! What was the use? Nothing would ever change: she was a princess and therefore condemned to a life of boredom.

By the evening her anger had turned into her usual resigned acceptance. She loved them and she was just glad they were all safe. Life would be dull but her family would be home. She managed to greet Elphir with a smile at dinner.

“When is father coming home?” she asked amiably.

“Not till the autumn sometime.”

“Why ever not?” She asked, the disappointment showing.

“Well, he is staying in Minas Tirith to give Aragorn a hand. He is a magnificent man and leader but he is new to being a King. He looks to Faramir’s and our father’s advice, not knowing much about the running of Gondor,” her brother explained.

“Oh, I see.” She supposed that was understandable. “And that will take until the autumn, will it?”

“No, but rumour has it that Aragorn will be getting married. To the daughter of Elrond of Rivendell no less. We will have an elf for a Queen,” he added laughing, seeing her surprise. “Anyway there will be great celebrations. Amroth and Erchi will stay for that. Then they are all going to Rohan.”

“Whatever for?” she asked surprised. She had been looking forward to seeing them all.

Well, we have all made a firm friendship with Éomer, the new King of Rohan. I have told you about him. He will be returning to Minas Tirith to escort King Théoden’s coffin back to Edoras and father and our brothers are going with him. Faramir will be going as well; it seems he has fallen for Éowyn of Rohan,” he clarified.

“Éowyn of Witch King fame?” She could not imagine Faramir falling for a warrior maiden.

“Yes, it looks as if a betrothal will be announced.”

She mulled over this development for a while. Her brother’s voice jolted her from her reverie.

“Lorí, father thought you may like to visit the City, meet the King and attend his wedding.” She was aware of a conspiratorial glance pass between her brother and his wife. “He also thought you may wish to accompany them on the visit to Edoras.”

“I would like to meet the new King, of course,” she replied hesitantly, “but Elphir, why should father think that I would wish to accompany a funeral cortege?”

She was sure Elphir had an odd look on his face, but it passed before he answered her.

“Oh, he thought you may like to see a bit more of Arda. You have never travelled far,” he said nonchalantly. He carried on eating trying to show her it was of no real importance.

She thought for a moment. She would like to of course, knowing that she would be back in the same tedious routine as before now that her brother was home. In fact it would probably be worse having tasted a little freedom. Even though it had been such a grim time, now that her family were safe, she had to admit that she had enjoyed her moment of power. If her father and brothers were not coming home for a while; then of course she would like to see them. Travelling to Rohan however was fraught with worry. Whatever would the strong women of that country think of a mollycoddled and over protected Gondorian Princess? Then there were the weeks in the saddle to be endured; made worse by that stupid and uncomfortable riding position. Also there was the camping. How did one keep clean and deal with other things? She tried to imagine her father allowing her to bathe in a stream. She could not.

The Princess replied at last, “I imagine it will take quite a time and it will be the height of summer. It may not be pleasant in the heat. When is the King’s wedding, Elphir?”

“I understand that they are aiming for midsummer’s day. The party from Rivendell are due to arrive just before.”

“Oh, good,” she exclaimed. “That means I can go the wedding and be back for Alphros’s birthday on July 15th.” She did not wish to miss her little nephew’s second birthday. He loved playing games. “I will not go to Rohan.” She had definitely decided.

Elphir opened his mouth and looked aghast. “But you will miss Éomer,” her brother blurted out. “He intends to come back to the City on July 18th.”

Lothíriel was surprised by his vehemence. He had stopped eating which always signalled something was wrong. “Well, it would be nice to meet him I suppose, since Rohan have done so much for us and you all are friends. But no matter,” she said after another moment’s thought, “if his sister and Faramir are to marry I will meet them all then.” She still could not quite believe the news about her cousin.

“That may be ages, Lorí,” Elphir tried to hide a flash of annoyance. “It would be much better this summer.”

Of all her brothers Elphir had never been very good at hiding things even though he was the eldest. His sister searched his face suspiciously.

“What are you trying to say, Elphir? You may as well enlighten me. There is obviously more to this than me travelling for my education.” She put down her fork, folded her arms and waited. Merilan refused to meet her eyes.

He sighed, “I suppose I had better tell you.” He knew he should have explained properly in the first place. Now she would be angry.

“It would be a good idea,” his sister replied neutrally. She was starting to have a very good idea of what was coming next.

“Éomer is young and unmarried. He will be looking for a wife now he is King.” He shrugged his shoulders. “It makes good sense.” He braced himself for the storm that would follow.

Lothíriel tried to keep a straight face but could not and burst out laughing. It was not the reaction her brother was expecting. “You think it makes good sense?” She asked when she had stopped chuckling. “And how pray, do you intend to get him interested in me? From what I understand he is eight foot tall, eats Orcs for breakfast and his sister fought and killed the Witch King of Angmar. I am sure I am well qualified to be the Queen of Rohan. Perhaps I could lead a charge of Shield Maidens brandishing my trowel!” she said scathingly. “Riding sideways!” the Princess grumbled irritably as an afterthought.

“Lorí, he is not eight foot tall. He is quite tall, yes.”

“And I am quite short. He will probably not notice I am around and trip over me!”

“That is ridiculous! You are not that short and he is not that tall,” he replied exasperated.

“But he does eat Orcs for breakfast? And,” she carried on giving him no time to answer, “If I understand all that I have heard from our men then he took down a whole company of Southrons single handed!”

Elphir raised his eyebrows skywards. “That is naught but an exaggeration. He was leading an éored of the Rohirrim. However if you mean that he is a great warrior, then I agree he is but…”

“And you think I am just the right match for such a warrior then?” She interrupted him.

“I do not know. But if you meet him we will find out!” Elphir looked pleased with himself: considering that he had scored a point.

“I will meet him at his sister’s wedding,” she shot back triumphantly.

Her brother clamped his lips together; it helped him to keep his temper. His father had charged him with this mission and would not be pleased if he failed. He controlled himself with difficulty wondering if he could order her to go. Persuasion would be better. She was normally quite compliant but this last year she had occasionally dug her heels in. “Even if you do not take the trip to Edoras, if you stay in the City until after the 18th, Lorí, then you would meet him earlier,” he stated calmly.

“Maybe I should, just to prove to you how ludicrous the notion is. However, it is your son’s birthday and since our father and our brothers will not be there, then I will make sure I attend.”

Her brother tried a different tack. “There will only be so many that our father will consider for you. Do you not want to get married, Lorí?”

Of course she did. She wanted babies and her brother probably knew it: seeing her with Alphros. However she had never foreseen herself wed to one as she imagined the King of Rohan to be. Or living in a country far from home for that matter. A refined Gondorian noble was more to her taste she thought. Skilled with a sword; but not an out and out warrior.

“You probably know that I do, but from what I have heard of the King of Rohan I cannot believe that we would suit.” She smiled sweetly at her brother trying to appease him, “I really cannot believe he will be interested in me but I promise that when I do meet him I will be polite.”

“Lorí,” Merilan spoke for the first time. “Alphros is only going to be two. He will not really understand his birthday. If you come home a few days later we can have the main celebration then.” Her husband smirked jubilantly; his wife was ever the diplomat.

“Oh, very well” his sister sighed. She realised they would not give up. “The sooner I meet him the sooner we can forget about this.” Once she met him they would realise how unsuitable the match was. She would bet the King of Rohan would laugh at the idea. She had heard that he rode the biggest and most bad tempered horse in the land, just the thought of riding next to him on her small palfrey made her giggle. The Princess was sure that her father would have to look elsewhere. But it would be nice to go to the City, she decided. Last time she was there she had danced every evening with a variety of her brothers’ friends and acquaintances. She had fond memories of her waist being squeezed; a little too tightly perhaps. Hopefully there were enough left alive to provide interest.

“Anyway,” she grinned, “if I go to the White City, I may meet someone else. There is no one in Dol Amroth.!”


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Unfortunately she never met Éomer or any other possible suitor because a week before she was due to leave, Alphros and his mother went down with a virulent fever. Closely followed by half the castle. The child would bear no one but his mother or his aunt near him and, since Merilan was too ill to nurse him, then the task fell to Lothíriel. Just when they thought it was over, the Princess became ill herself and all thoughts of the visit were pushed aside.

Messages were sent to her father and Elphir admitted defeat.

The rest of July passed in a haze: she had worn herself out with the nursing and then the fever laid her really low. She spent the month of August doing very little. It was exceedingly hot and the mid part of each day was spent indoors. She rode in the cool of the morning and took Alphros for a walk in the late afternoon. It was a gentle, safe, boring life she decided. In the second week of September her father and brothers came home. They had ridden from Edoras to Minas Tirith and then loaded their horses on a ship for the rest of the journey.

At last the Castle sprang to life. The presence of Imrahil and all three of his sons could not be ignored. The ship arrived early in the morning and that night a feast was held to welcome the Princes home. It was a happy and sad event with so many missing but it could have been so much worse. Although her brothers often drove her mad Lothíriel was relieved to have them all back safely. The next day her father spent catching up on things and Amroth and Erchi wanted to check on their hunting dogs and horses, so it was early evening when the family sat down together for supper in their private dining room.

The two younger Princes were in high spirits: for however much they had enjoyed their stay in the City and the visit to Edoras; they were pleased to be home. The Princesses asked many questions about the new King and Queen but Lothíriel most wanted to know about her cousin Faramir. She had always been very fond of him and was eager to hear about his betrothal.

“I cannot understand him falling for a warrior maiden,” Lothíriel remarked.

“She is very beautiful with long blonde hair. Quite different from the ladies of Gondor,” her brother Amroth answered.

Her father looked up from his conversation with Elphir, “I think that Éowyn was only a warrior because of circumstances. She was brought up by her brother and Rohan has been in constant danger for the whole of her life. The women of the Mark needed to be able to defend themselves I understand that she has no intention of picking up a sword ever again.”

Erchirion, who had been sinking a large quantity of wine, started to guffaw. “Perhaps Lorí will take over from her when she’s Queen of Rohan. Maybe we should have let her learn to wield a sword after all.” He dug his sister in the ribs suggestively.”

“Ouch!” Lothíriel slapped him on his arm. “I am extremely unlikely to be Queen of Rohan, Erchi. I imagine that there are very many ladies in the Mark much more suitable than me.”

A deathly hush fell on those around the table and Lothíriel realised that her father was glaring at his middle son. She looked between her father and her brothers. “Is there something you are not telling me?”

Imrahil had the grace to look slightly embarrassed. “Lorí my dear, I have not had chance to speak to you. To prepare you,” he glared at Erchi again. “I was going to speak to you privately tomorrow.”

“Oh Elphir has already told me your plans,” his daughter laughed. “I will meet the King of Rohan at Faramir’s wedding but do not expect too much. I cannot believe he will be interested in me or I in him.”

Erchi spluttered into his wine and Amroth concentrated avidly on cutting up a piece of meat. Lothíriel sensed the tension, “What is it? You had better tell me,” she looked at her brothers and then at her father.

Imrahil coughed, “Lorí, Éomer and I have come to an agreement. I have promised you to him in marriage. I did not intend for you to find out like this.”

The Princess felt a jolt in her stomach and a trembling through her body. “You cannot be serious Father?” She knew that her marriage would most likely be arranged but never for one moment had she imagined her father would do this without first consulting her. To a man she had never met!

“I am serious, Lorí. He is a good man and will make you an excellent husband.”

“An excellent husband!” she shrieked. “He is a huge ugly warrior who will frighten me to death. What are you thinking of?”

At this Amroth intervened. “Lorí he is certainly not ugly. The ladies of Gondor find him most attractive. In fact they hardly leave him alone,” he added slightly peeved.

“Oh, so he is a womaniser? Obviously an ideal husband,” she hissed sarcastically.

“He is not a womaniser,” Amroth replied firmly. “At least no more than the rest of us,” he elaborated with his customary honesty.

“Well if he has all these ladies running after him why should he be interested in me? I am not suitable to be Queen of Rohan. I cannot ride a horse properly and the women of the Mark will laugh at me.” She was biting her lip with anxiety. “What did you tell him about me? You must have made something up.”

“We had quite a conversation,” Amroth smiled remembering. “I told him you were sweet and gentle, liked playing with children and gardening.”

“Oh and what did he say to that? Fell about laughing I suppose,” she remarked angrily jabbing her fork into the table.

Amroth gave her an amused grin, “Actually, Lorí, a wistful look came over his face and he said ‘how delightfully refreshing’.”

“Mind you he was drunk at the time,” Erchi could not contain himself.

“Drunk!” Lothíriel stood up and spoke with venom to them all. “I thought you loved me but you are sending me to live far away. You have all connived in this and you are marrying me to a drunken womaniser who rides a monster and eats Orcs for breakfast…”

“Lothíriel sit down!” Her father had lost patience with his daughter and his sons. “I do not know what you have heard but it is certainly not the truth. Éomer is a fine young man who will be a first-rate King and a good friend to Gondor. I have promised you to him; as is my right. Your official betrothal will take place at his sister’s wedding in March and your marriage has been arranged for September in Edoras. I hoped you would have had the chance to meet him but it was not to be, so you will have to trust me in this.”

His daughter sat stock still, unable to utter a word. Imrahil’s features softened, “Lorí, not only do I admire him very much but he and your brothers have become great friends. That must count for something.”

“That is no recommendation: they are great friends with Pascon but you would not have me marry him,” she retorted icily. Pascon was a sea captain of dubious reputation who had been unable to keep his eyes from her since she was sixteen.

“That is not the same at all and you know it. I will hear no more!” Her father was getting angry now. “I have decided and King Elessar is extremely happy with the match. There is no more to be said. Éomer will be writing to you and I expect you to pen a polite and suitable reply.”

The Princess swallowed and pushed down the response she felt like making. “Excuse me, Father I am not hungry and I need some air.”

Lothíriel stalked from the room with as much dignity as she could muster, knowing that if she stayed she would say something she would regret later.

There was silence around the table for a moment before Amroth turned to his brother Erchi. “Why could you not keep your mouth shut? No wonder she is upset, having it sprung on her like that.”

“Well I doubt she will be upset when she meets him,” Erchi laughed, “judging by every other woman’s reaction.”

“That is six months away. She will imagine all sorts of things.”

“Amroth,” Merilan spoke quietly, “the men came back with such tales about the fierce Rohirrim: their huge horses and their war cries. Lorí did not like the thought of their big bushy beards either.”

“But Éomer has only got a small neat beard,” Amroth replied slightly puzzled.

“But your sister does not know that. Why do you not go and speak to her on your own? If she believes anyone then it will be you.”

“Yes, do that, Amroth.” His father had regained his temper and was now feeling rather remorseful. He knew exactly what was likely to be most troubling to his daughter.

“All right, I will. And make no mistake: I will tell her the truth.”


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Lothíriel knew she was more hurt than angry. She was hurt when Elphir had come home and said nothing about the way she had coped in his and her father’s absence. She was hurt when her father had returned, patted her head, said well done and nothing more. Now she was really hurt. In fact she had an awful feeling she was going to find it very hard to forgive her father and possibly Amroth as well. Elphir had at least tried to persuade her to meet Éomer and as for Erchi: well he was never serious about anything. But Amroth, how could he connive in this? She pushed the thought of her brother aside and considered her father’s actions: were they unusual? It was true he had control over her life and had exercised it fully in the past, thus the way she was supposed to conduct herself. That a Princess of Gondor would behave other that with total decorum was not even considered. However, although he had certainly controlled her behaviour these last years, the thought that he would arrange her marriage in this way, not considering her feelings at all, had never entered her head. Yes she was hurt, more than hurt actually.

The Princess realised she had reached the rocks at the end of the beach, the sun would be going down soon and the water was already starting to take on a rosy glow. The first flush of real anger at her whole situation swept through her and she violently kicked off one of her pretty shoes. It went flying into the surf and disappeared. Damn! That was stupid, she cursed herself. They were her favourites and she had spent a considerable time embroidering a pair of swans onto the blue satin. She sat down on a convenient rock and took off her other shoe. Lifting her skirts to her knees she started kicking the water with her feet; it was cool and pleasant and should have been soothing. But it wasn’t. How could they?

“Lorí.” Amroth was coming towards her. “I knew I would find you here.”

“Well you have found me. Now go away.”

“I had to come and explain, Lorí.”

“There is nothing to explain. I have never had any control over my own life so why should I expect any now?” Her anger had evaporated and she knew she was in danger of crying. Something she definitely did not want to do.

Brother and sister sat in silence for a moment, Amroth trying to think of a way of discussing the situation sensibly. He realised his sister had bare feet and was glad his father could not see. “Where’s your other shoe, Lorí?”

“Floating towards Umbar I imagine.” She gave sniff.

“I doubt it,” he laughed. “The tide is on its way in.” Amroth looked around the rocks and found the errant shoe caught in a crevice. He managed to retrieve it without getting too wet himself. “Come on we will have to sit higher up the beach. I do need to talk to you.”

She sighed heavily and rose from her rocky seat. “I doubt much will help, Amroth, but I suppose I must listen.”

They sat down again on the dry rocks above the tide line, the Princess sinking her head in her hands. “Lorí,” Amroth started hesitantly, “I really feel you will like Éomer.”

“Really!”

“Yes, really,” her brother smiled. “You could do a lot worse. He is young, attractive to women and although he is indeed a warrior, he will be nothing but gentle with you. He brought up his sister after they were orphaned and is very protective of her.” Seeing that Lothíriel was making no response he tried to lighten the atmosphere, “Honestly he is not eight feet tall and does not have a big bushy beard.”

“None of that is the point, Amroth. Do you not understand?”

“No, I do not. What is the point then?

His sister looked at him unbelievingly. “That you and my father feel you have the right to marry me off to someone I have never met without even consulting me!”

“Father does have the right, Lorí.”

“I know he does. But I never thought he would invoke it. That is the point. That is what hurts so much,” she said sadly.

Amroth knew he would have to explain, “There is more to this than father exercising his rights, Lorí.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we have defeated Sauron but other evil will arise. Not in our lifetime perhaps, but maybe in that of our children or our grandchildren. We only managed to win this time because Rohan and Gondor stood together. Aragorn, Éomer and our father have forged a friendship that will endure for their lifetimes, but who knows after? When we were at Edoras Gandalf and Elrond gave their advice. We have to listen: they are leaving Middle Earth and will be unable to help us in the future. They are totally in favour of this match, for along with the union between Faramir and Éowyn it will ensure that the ruling houses of Gondor and Rohan are forever linked and friendship will endure. Maybe they will be linked further by the marriage of the various offspring. That is certainly hoped for.”

Lothíriel shifted uncomfortably on her hard seat, “I see, so I have to sacrifice myself for the good of Gondor. Is that it?”

“Lorí, many have paid a heavy price. The people of Rohan have suffered much. It is another reason for the match. We are having to send them a great deal of aid to make sure all survive the winter and it makes it easier if it is part of a marriage contract. Do not be too hard on father, he did wish you to meet Éomer first.”

“I cannot understand, even after all you have told me, why Éomer would think I would make a suitable Queen of Rohan.” She was drawing circles in the sand with her toe: trying to make sense of all that she had heard.

Amroth took hold of her hand, “He was very impressed with your efficiency. It was obvious from the speed the supply ships arrived that you had realised that provisions would be needed. Also you had the forethought to send the spare clothes and linen. He was very grateful on behalf of his Riders. He asked Elphir to pass on his thanks, did he not do so?”

She shook her head, “No it must have slipped his mind.” A thought wafted through her head: even if her father and brothers had not appreciated her efforts then the King of Rohan had.

“Well it was certainly appreciated,” her brother confirmed. “The Rohirrim had nothing but what they stood up in and most of that was torn and bloodied. The citizens gave what they could but it would not have been enough. We of course always keep a great deal in the City and shared it around but even Aragorn had nothing. There was some ceremonial stuff but Faramir had to divide Boromir’s wardrobe between him and Éomer. Aragorn had all with Gondorian devices on and Éomer the rest.” Amroth grinned, “You see, Lori, he is not that huge if he could wear our cousin Boromir’s clothes.”

“I would rather that Boromir was here to wear them himself,” she replied sadly.

“So do I, but as I said, Lorí. Many have made sacrifices in this, and a great many the ultimate sacrifice.”

“I think this war has changed you, Amroth. You have grown up.”

“You will find that it has changed a lot of us,” her brother smiled.

“Yes, you are right. And now I must be prepared to do my bit, I suppose,” she sighed. “Marry for the security of Gondor. But Rohan is such a long way away,” she said suddenly, remembering another worry.

“It won’t be for long,” Amroth laughed. “By the time you wed, the road under the Dimholt will be open. Aragorn checked it out when we were in Rohan. It is free of ghosts now but there are some rock falls to clear to make it safe. Éomer has to concentrate on rebuilding the ravished villages. But that will be next. Rohan will soon be only four days ride away.”

She shuddered as she thought of travelling under a mountain but it would be better than weeks on horseback. She supposed that she could bear the marriage, being a Queen was bound to have certain advantages. She smiled to herself, she could not imagine the ladies in Rohan having to wear those annoying beaded lace caps that married women in Gondor had to put up with. That was certainly an advantage. What about the other side of marriage though? But then after all she did want babies. It would probably not be so bad. She would most likely have a big bedchamber to herself and only see her husband when he wanted to do…well whatever men did to produce babies. She had a fair idea of what went on but was not entirely sure of the details. It was something her father and brothers seemed determined to keep from her. Anyway once she was carrying a child she would be left alone.

“Alright Amroth, I will bear it with good grace. I imagine I will not see much of him anyway. Being an arranged royal marriage gives it some advantage, separate apartments and all that.”

Separate apartments? What was she thinking of? Amroth tried to envisage the King of Rohan, having married his delightfully desirable little sister, being content to sleep apart from her and visit perhaps once a week. He failed dismally. He had always been perfectly sure that Éomer would find Lothíriel totally captivating. He had good reason to believe that her elfin features, her huge green/grey eyes with their long black lashes, her slender but well proportioned figure would be very much to the young King’s taste. He knew his friend was very partial to the dark haired beauties of Gondor, just as they were partial to him. In fact, he mused over pleasant memories for a moment, in the days following the defeat of Sauron they were very accommodating to all the returning heroes. He wondered how to relate these facts without causing her more anxiety. He failed dismally in that as well.

“Lorí, royal couples do not always sleep apart. Merilan sleeps in the same bed as our brother.”

“Yes,” she replied absently, “but not at first. It was only when they got to know each and fell in love that they started sharing.”

“Rohan is not like Gondor, Lorí.”

“I know its not….” she stopped suddenly. “Amroth what are you trying to say?”

“Um….well,” he hesitated but there was nothing for it. “Meduseld is not that big. I do not think the royal apartments have more than one bedchamber. They do not see the need and….they do have very cold winters,” he finished lamely.”

Her eyes widened with indignation, “Are you telling me that I am expected to spend the whole of every night in a bed with a man I have never met?”

“You will have met him by the time you are his wife, Lorí,” her brother answered somewhat logically.

Amroth scrambled out of the way as she picked up her wet shoe and hurled it at him. “Go away! Just go away!”


TBC


Chapter 2 - Chapter 2

Hi everyone, and thanks to all who reviewed my story. I am glad that you like my Lothíriel. It’s quite challenge writing about a feminine sort of girl, for me anyway! I am afraid you will not meet Éomer for a short while as I wish to develop our Princess’s character a little more yet.

LBJ


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Chapter 2

Lothíriel was right: she did find it hard to forgive her father. In spite of what Amroth had explained to her and even though she understood the reasons for the match, she was upset. She could not understand why the decision could not have waited until she met him at Faramir’s wedding. Now it seemed she would meet him an hour or so before her betrothal ceremony. She would have to stand up in the Great Hall of Merethrond next to a total stranger. Was it any wonder she was upset she asked herself?

The promised letter arrived from Edoras a few weeks after her father’s return. She had to confess that it was a very nice letter. Éomer apologised for the fact they had not met. He needn’t have done so: after all it was not his fault, was it? He assured her they would talk at his sister’s wedding and he would do his best to make her happy. What more could he say? He probably felt as bad about it as she and was now regretting the whole thing. If he was as popular with the ladies as Amroth had intimated then whatever was he going to think of her? He could surely have had the choice of many. She just hoped he was good at hiding his disappointment. It took her a while to pen her reply. Whatever could she say? In the end she remained very neutral and said that she would be honoured to be Queen of Rohan and was looking forward to meeting him. Afterwards she was grouchy about the whole thing and guessed her family were becoming a little fed up with her. Serve them right!

Luckily something cheered her up: an invitation came from the new King and Queen of Gondor. Would the whole family like to join them for Yuletide in the City? It was not surprising, as Elphir had not met Queen Arwen and the two Princesses of Gondor had not even met their King. Erchi volunteered to stay behind. Her father was astonished as usually he relished the delights of the City. But Lothíriel knew exactly why: she had caught him in a slightly compromising situation with one of the young war widows. She would keep it to herself, of course, as it would be useful to have something on Erchi especially when he became too annoying and bossy. Lothíriel quite liked the pretty young woman and she was of noble birth. She wondered if her brother was serious about the lady as after all her father may not object too much now that the succession was assured and Merilan was with child again. Elphir had married for duty but at least they had met and agreed to the match, liking the look of one another straight away. Hardly surprising, she thought, for, although he could be infuriating like all her brothers, Elphir was very attractive. It was probably only herself who would be stuck in a loveless marriage. Oh, what was the point in thinking about it? She might as well just forget it for a while and enjoy the visit to the City.

The journey to the White City was not too arduous, as it was a mild winter and she was a good sailor. She had not visited the Minas Tirith for a couple of years and was amazed at the change. The burial mounds were not an improvement but the courts were far less formal and now full of life. A spark of annoyance flashed through her at her first sight of the new Queen: she was not wearing one of those stupid caps! She did not even have her hair up. Lothíriel did not blame her, as perhaps being a queen and an elf let her get away with it. Unlike herself, she thought irritably. For even though her own official betrothal had not been announced, she was spoken for and thus her father insisted that she had to wear her long hair braided around her head in the Gondorian tradition. She hated it. It would be bound to itch in the summer as you could not wash it so often with all the trouble it took to replait the braids. That aside, she liked the King and Queen very much. They met in an ante room for a private reception before the feast started. King Elessar went out of his way to be kind to her: thanking her for the quick arrival of stores after the war and explaining again the importance of her marriage. The Queen just grinned and whispered that she was sure she would be the envy of many ladies. Maybe she would, but it was most galling that everyone had met her future husband except herself. Lothíriel had not been expecting the Queen to be so beautiful and felt quite plain beside her. Her self confidence took another knock when they filed into the hall for dinner and she looked down onto a sea of dark haired beauties. How had she forgotten the loveliness and sophistication of the ladies of the City? She was envious of those who were unattached and could still wear their hair down. She felt a frump. It was not long before she was aware of glances aimed in her direction: some were friendly but many seemed to be hostile.

Amroth must have noticed because he whispered, “I doubt you are popular with all, Lorí. There were quite a few who hoped they might have been Queen of Rohan!”

She started to feel quite uncomfortable after the meal as the guests mingled in conversation. Firstly everyone expressed surprise that she had never met her future husband. How could her father do this to her? And then it became obvious from the many remarks that she had got it quite wrong. The King of Rohan was definitely considered a handsome desirable man and quite a catch. Far from pleasing her it caused her more anguish and anxiety. Whatever would a man who could have had his pick of all these beauties here, leave alone those in his own country, want with her? What must her brothers have said about her and would he be able cover up what were bound to be feelings of mortification? What could she do? She decided that her cousin Faramir would be the best one to give her more information. She knew she could trust him to tell her the truth and they had always got on. There was no chance the first night once the dancing started. She was not short of partners, probably because she was a princess, but she was a little peeved to discover that none took the slightest liberty. It must be the silly hair style she decided. It was totally unbecoming. If she could not attract the young men around her then what chance would she have of pleasing her future husband? It was all most worrying. She found with more than a little relief however that, although the hall was full handsome young men, she did not think she was in danger of falling for any of them. She had been a bit concerned about that: it would be awful to find yourself in love with someone and betrothed to another. Was the King of Rohan likely to be in love with someone else she wondered?

The next morning she sought out her cousin in his study.

“Lorí, come and sit down.” Faramir walked towards her, kissing her on the cheek and leading her to a chair. “We did not have much chance to talk last night. Would you like some wine?” He indicated the carafe on his desk.

“Yes, please, I would.” Her father would have a fit if he thought she was drinking wine in the morning. She was only ever allowed one cup anyway, as wine tended to loosen her tongue. Lothíriel studied her cousin for a moment as he poured a generous measure of rich red liquid into a silver goblet. She had thought last night that he looked much happier than last time she saw him. This morning she was sure. Although he was even older than Elphir she had always thought him a handsome man, but now his usually stern face and cool grey eyes both bore a much softer look. It must be his betrothal to Éowyn of Rohan she decided, and also, she hardly dare admit to herself, the fact that his father no longer held sway over him. Her uncle Denethor had always alarmed her. She absently picked up one of Faramir’s quill pens and began systematically digging it into the top of the desk. Why was everyone happy but her? She took a gulp of wine wondering how to bring up the subject. Her cousin’s voice startled her from her reverie.

“Now you have totally destroyed that quill, Lorí, would you like another or are you going to tell me what is wrong?” Faramir was leaning back in is chair watching her with an amused but not unkind grin on his face. She took another large gulp of wine.

“Can you tell me about the King of Rohan, Faramir?”

The grin left her cousins face to be replaced by one of sympathy as he realised her anxiety, “What do you want to know, Lorí? Surely your brothers have talked about him.”

“They have, of course, although at first I did not believe them. I thought he would be an ugly great warrior with a big bushy beard. That is the impression our men gave me when they returned.”

Faramir’s smile resurfaced, “Lorí, I think he probably did look huge on a warhorse with both him and Firefoot wearing armour. And yes, I imagine that during the march to the Black Gates he did not bother to trim his beard. But I promise you that by the time he entered the City with Aragorn it was neat and tidy. And I do not think anyone would call him ugly, quite the opposite in fact.”

“That’s the trouble.” Lothiriel had given up returning her goblet to the desk each time she took a gulp. She was now clutching it in both hands and taking little sips.

“I’ve lost you. Are you not pleased?”

She shook her head, “It was last night when I listened to all that was said about him. I know now that he is not eight foot tall and all that.” She stood up, still clutching her goblet and paced around the room. “I am not such a fool, Faramir, that I have not picked up on how popular he is with the ladies. They are all so beautiful. I had forgotten how much since my last visit.” She sighed heavily staring out of the window and then turned back to look her cousin in the eye. “He could have had his pick of many; whatever is he going to think of me?”

Faramir stood up reaching for the carafe as he did so, a soft smile playing around his lips. “Lorí, have you looked in the mirror lately?”

The mirror? Well of course she had but all she saw when she did look were those horrible braids wrapped around her head. She passed her goblet to Faramir who grinned and filled it up.

“Well, have you?” he asked raising an eyebrow.

“What do you mean? I look everyday and see me,” she replied slightly confused.

“Lorí, you always were a very pretty child and you have turned into a beautiful young woman.”

“Oh, I do not think you are right there, Faramir,” she said straight away. “Not one of the young men I danced with last night did anything they shouldn’t.”

“I beg your pardon,” her cousin could not hide his shock. “What ever do you mean about not doing anything they shouldn’t, Lorí?”

“Oh, you know,” she said waving her hand airily and taking another gulp of wine. “Nothing too naughty, just a little squeeze around the waist or a slight brush of the hand on one’s bare shoulder. Last time I was here, when I was eighteen, I really enjoyed it. But last night it was so boring. This awful hairstyle cannot help,” she finished indignantly.

To her surprise Faramir burst out laughing. “Lorí, I promise you it has nothing to do with the hairstyle. In fact it shows off your features to perfection,” he added still chuckling. “My dear girl you are promised to the Lord of the Mark: they all know Éomer; none would dare take the slightest liberty.”

“Oh, I see,” she said slowly. A shiver of anticipation ran through her, closely followed by the customary flash of anger that all knew him except herself. “Well, all that aside I cannot understand why he would agree to wed me when we had not even met. I know all the very sensible reasons of course but it still seems very strange. Why did it not all wait until your wedding?”

“It’s a little difficult to explain.” He paused, not sure what to say. “But I will try,” he said seeing her expectant look.

“It was when we were at Edoras. We all, that is Éomer, Aragorn, Gandalf, Elrond, your father of course and me,” he grimaced to himself at his part in this. Éowyn had taken a long time to forgive him, “well, we sat talking into the early hours one night. Galadriel and Celeborn were there as well but they did not join in the discussion,” he said remembering. “Anyway, we were discussing the future of Gondor and Rohan and everyone agreed the closer we made the ties the better. I think Aragorn must have joked that they could not be any closer than if Éomer married the Princess of Dol Amroth. Your father admitted that he had already thought about it and had hoped you would have made the journey to Edoras or at least come to the City. I totally expected Éomer to dismiss the idea out of hand but strangely he did not. Elrond and Gandalf gave their support to the reasoning behind it and Gandalf assured Éomer that you would make an excellent Queen and would be a beautiful and loving wife and mother.”

“Gandalf?” She opened her mouth in bewilderment. “I have not seen him since I was about fifteen.” She remembered it well as it was not long after they had made her ride sideways. He had been very sympathetic. In fact thinking about it now he had said something very strange but for the life of her she could not think what it was.

“Well, you must have made an impression.” He chuckled softly, almost to himself, “After all he is a wizard, so he should have been able to see how you would turn out.”

“But even so Éomer just agreed to this?”

“He did, there and then. In the morning he and his advisors sat with myself, your father and Aragorn and thrashed out the details.”

“You mean how many bags of wheat and barrels of fish?”

Faramir walked over to where she was standing looking out of the window and put his arm around her. “It is no good us denying that that sort of thing did not come into it, Lorí, but it probably would whoever you married. You are a Princess of the Realm. The prospect of having the royal blood of Gondor on the throne of Rohan has certainly made it easier to persuade certain nobles to release the vast amount of aid that the Mark requires. However, I tend to think that Éomer had heard quite a bit about you from your brothers. He must have liked what he was told and it also got the Council of Rohan off his back. The word ‘heir’ never seemed to be far away. Also by agreeing to this match it took away the pressure of being targeted by the seemingly increasing number of ‘hopefuls’,” he laughed.

Lothiriel looked up at his kind face, “But I am not really suitable to be the wife of the King of Rohan, Faramir. I am not tall and strong like a Shield Maiden and I cannot even use a sword.” All her anguish came through in her words.

Her cousin hugged her to him, “Lorí, I am absolutely convinced that Éomer’s first requirement in a wife is not her ability with a sword.” Seeing that she was not persuaded he sought for inspiration. “Tell me,” he said gently, “who would you have said was Gondor’s greatest warrior? In your lifetime,” he clarified.

“Boromir, of course,” she replied without hesitation.

“And what sort of ladies do you think would catch his eye?”

“I… I have no idea. I have never thought about it except to wonder why he did not marry.”

“He did not marry because he and our father could never agree on the subject. No one was ever good enough for him,” he remarked rather ruefully. “But that is not the point,” he carried on. “His taste was for pretty gentle females, even petite. He certainly was not interested in meeting them on the training ground. I guess Éomer is much the same. I will go as far as to say that I have observed that he definitely prefers the more delicate varieties.” Faramir watched her closely hoping that had not upset her, but she grinned at him. Having three brothers she tended to accept a man’s reasonable interest in women as normal.

“So he is like Boromir, is he?”

Faramir considered for a moment, “He is a warrior as was Boromir and is physically powerful of course. But there is something else in Éomer, an intangible personal power, I suppose.” Faramir looked away from her from her for a moment as though there was something he did not want her to see. “But no, Lorí, Éomer is not really like Boromir at all,” he sighed sadly.

“In what way?” she asked with interest sensing some nuance of intrigue.

“It is not very easy to say. But I can tell you one big difference,” he said grinning suddenly to lighten the atmosphere, “Boromir would never have trusted Gandalf’s recommendation for a wife or anything else for that matter.”

“I wonder why he did,” she mused to herself. “So you are sure that Éomer will be happy with a not very tall, rather dainty wife?” she asked looking up at her cousin again.

“I am sure. Perhaps the tougher they are the gentler they like their ladies,” he sought to reassure her.

“What about you though? You are marrying a Shield Maiden.”

“But I, Lorí am a very reluctant warrior.”

“Well I hope you do not have to fight again,” she said seriously “Tell me Faramir,” she asked, scanning his grey eyes with an obvious question on her pretty face. “What is she like, your Éowyn?”

A misty look came into her cousins eyes. “She is tall and slim and blonde of course. Outspoken, brave and loyal,” he finished with a flourish.

“The opposite of me then?”

“Now there I do not agree,” he laughed. “You are certainly not blonde,” he joked, smoothing her jet black hair. “Nor as tall as Éowyn, I concur, but you are slim. I am sure you are loyal and I understand that you were quite brave when you were left in Dol Amroth during the war. I also think that with another cup of wine you would be quite outspoken,” he said kissing her on the cheek, his eyes gleaming with laughter. “Actually, Lorí, unless I am very much mistaken both Éomer and Rohan will be good for you. As Queen of Rohan, I imagine you will be a lot less restricted than as a Princess of Gondor.”

“Well, I hope I do not have to wear one of those stupid caps!”

“I am sure you won’t.” He laughed at some sudden hidden thought. “To be honest, Lorí, I am not sure I will be able to persuade Éowyn to wear one.”

The princess squeezed his hand, “I am glad you are so happy cousin, and I look forward to meeting her.” She stopped suddenly her hand going to her face. “It’s going to be so embarrassing meeting Éomer for the first time. Especially with everyone around.”

“Lorí, do not worry. I have a feeling it will be fine.”


TBC


Chapter 3 - Chapter 3

Hi, here’s chapter 3. Thanks to all my reviewers. I am glad you are picking up on hairstyles: more to come on that!
Hope you enjoy.
LBJ



Chapter 3

Lothíriel left her cousin and made her way along the marble corridor, her steps irresolute and slow. She was deep in thought. Almost unintentionally she headed towards the exit that led to the Place of the Fountain. Once out in the December air she shivered. She had no cloak and a fresh wind whipped across the large open space. The Princess made her way to the wall, hugging herself to keep in her heat. Climbing up on a convenient flower trough she gazed searchingly out over the Pelennor, trying to imagine what it had been like when the City had been under siege. The horror of looking out on hordes and hordes of the Dark Lord’s forces and hearing the cries of the foul beings assaulting the gates. What fear there must have been in that short moment between the Witch King finally breaking down the gates and the sound of the mighty horns of Rohan blowing. Bringing hope. She stared for a moment at the burial mounds skirting the river. She sighed to herself; it was no good, there was only one thing to do. Only one decision to make: if she was going to be Queen of Rohan then she would have to do the job to the best of her ability, even if her best was not very good. Reaching the decision she felt better, it seemed accepting her fate brought relief.

The Princess returned to the warmth of the Citadel and once inside walked quickly towards the large libraries. Her small feet tip tapping on the hard floors. Reaching the large ornate wooden door she heaved it open as quietly as she could and peeked inside. Good, Fenor the librarian was in his lair.

The man smiled, “Princess, it is good to see you again. What can I do for you?”

“Oh, I did not think you would remember me,” she said surprised, “It is nearly three years since my last visit.”

“I am sure I would have but I happened to see you arrive with your father. I imagine you still read as much as you did.”

“Quite a lot. I am looking for some books now. I hope you have what I want.” She cast her eyes towards the packed shelves. The library and archives in Minas Tirith were vast. The largest in Middle Earth.

“What is your taste now, Princess?”

Well, I was hoping you have something on the Kingdom of Rohan: customs, history, things like that.” She looked expectantly into his eyes. She needed a favour.

“Oh, of course.” His face broke into a grin, “I understand you are to be congratulated as you will be the next Queen of Rohan.”

“Yes, but I do not know much about the country. I never thought I would need to know,” she said almost to herself. “Do you have anything? Anything written in the language of Gondor, I mean.”

“Anything we have will be written in our own language, Princess. The people of Rohan have not converted their tongue to the written word. They pass their history by word and song.”

“Oh dear, is there nothing much then?” She was disappointed.

“Do not worry, over the ages certain scholars have written the history down. We have quite a bit.” He signalled to a young apprentice to fetch a set of wooden steps. The boy carried them to a corner of the room.

“The books you need are on a high shelf I am afraid. Not many wish to read them.” Fenor ascended the steps and looked through the books on the top shelf. He eventually returned down, very cautiously, carrying three quite weighty volumes.

“Fenor,” the Princess asked in her most winning way. “I will never read all these during my visit. I will be back again in March for Lord Faramir’s wedding. Could I please borrow them until then?”

“I don’t know, Princess. It is not normal practice,” the man pursed his lips not quite knowing what to do. But she was a Princess.

“I will be very careful. I promise. My father will vouch for them,” she told him with sudden inspiration.

“Very well. In that case I am sure it will be alright. But please make sure you do not forget and leave them in Dol Amroth.”

The books were heavy and Lothíriel debated with herself whether to take them straight back to her room or continue with her next task: to find the King. She would see him at supper of course but she really wanted to talk to him in private, without her family around. She would go now. Once she had made up her mind to do something then she always liked to get it done straight away. She imagined that King Elessar would be using her uncle’s old study as it had very commanding views. The room looked right out over the Pelennor, towards Ithilien, from one window and down past the Harlond from the other. In truth she was a little nervous about knocking on his door but luckily as she turned the corner into the corridor that led to his den she saw him standing outside talking to his steward. A Royal Guard blocked her way but as she spoke to give her name Aragorn looked up.

“Lothíriel my dear! Are you looking for me?”

She managed a slight bobbing curtsey made difficult by the heavy books, “I am my Lord. I have something to ask you.”

“Well, you had better come in before you drop those. Whatever are they?” he asked grinning. “They look a bit like hard work to me.”

She followed him into the room, gratefully putting the books down on a convenient table.
“They are on the history and customs of Rohan, my Lord. I know nothing about the Mark and thought that I ought to make an attempt to find out a little about the country I am supposed to Queen over.”

Aragorn raised an eyebrow, catching something in her tone. “You are not happy about it?”

“I have accepted it, my Lord. I understand the sense of it but….it was sprung on me somewhat.”

The King observed her thoughtfully, his probing grey eyes missing nothing.

“Anyway,” she carried on; “I will try and be a good Queen. The people of Rohan deserve my best efforts. I came to ask, my Lord if you could arrange for a letter to be delivered to King Éomer? When you next send a messenger of course,” she added quickly.

I would be delighted, my dear,” he smiled warmly, “but I am not quite sure when it will be. It is mid winter and the road is often closed by snow. But it will definitely get there some time soon, I imagine, as the winter does not appear to be that hard.”

“It is not that urgent but I wish to ask King Éomer if it is possible to send someone to help me learn a bit of Rohirric. I think it would be better if I did. I thought he could bring someone when they travel for his sister’s wedding and they could return with me in September. I am sure my father will agree.”

“I am sure he will. It is a very sensible idea and no doubt Éomer will think so as well. Actually Lothíriel we have some stable lads from Rohan working in the City,” he paused a smile growing on his face. “But no, on second thoughts it would not be a good idea for the future Queen of the Mark to learn Rohirric from stable boys,” he grinned.

“Perhaps not,” she laughed, pleased that her King was so normal and approachable. She wondered if Rohan’s King was just as easy to talk to. “Hopefully someone in Edoras will not mind teaching me,” she said seriously. “With luck there will be a scribe or some other who will relish spending the summer in Dol Amroth.”

Aragorn allowed himself a gleam of amusement at her naivety: he doubted anyone Éomer picked for the job would have much choice. The young King of Rohan was more than comfortable with his own authority. “I imagine Éomer will have no trouble finding someone suitable,” he assured her in his best diplomatic manner.

“Good. Then I will go and write now,” she said decisively, wanting to do it before she changed her mind. It was difficult to write to a man one had never met.

“Lothíriel,” Aragorn asked kindly, his keen perception sensing some anxiety, “is this upsetting you very much?”

The Princess stared at him for a moment. His eyes held hers and she found it was impossible to lie to him. “I am happier than I was - since I had a talk with Faramir this morning,” she explained. “But I find it very disconcerting that everyone has met my future husband except myself.”

“Yes…. that must be disturbing,” he mused aloud. “I am sorry - we never thought of that,” sounding surprised that they had not considered it.

“My Lord, I would not have expected you to,” she said quickly not wanting to offend her King. “I blame my father.” It was out before she could stop it.

“Ah….” There was a pause as Aragorn considered her words. “Lothíriel,” he said after a moment, “I do not as yet have a daughter, but if I did, I would wish to ensure that when I am no longer here, she was wed to a man who I completely trusted.”

“And my father completely trusts him?”

Aragorn nodded his head, “As do I.”

“Oh I see.” She shrugged with an obvious air of acceptance, “Well, my Lord I have decided to be as good a wife and Queen as I possibly can. Hence the books,” she laughed. “So I had better get started.” She dropped a small curtsey and made for the door, picking up the books on her way.

Aragorn opened the door for her and as she passed through he put his hand on her shoulder, detaining her for a moment. “Lorí,” he whispered quietly, using her pet name for the first time and planting a soft kiss on the top of her head, “your father loves you.”

The Princess gave a slight affirmative nod before heading quickly off down the corridor.


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Lothíriel spent a large proportion of the winter months curled up in a chair in one of the large window embrasures of the Castle. Some of the time she spent gazing out of the window at the sea, wondering how much she would miss it. The rest she spent reading about the Mark. The history was fascinating and some of the customs were strange. She was glad that she had had the forethought to borrow the books: at least certain things would not come as such a shock. She wondered if her father knew what embarrassment she would have to endure. Thinking of it though, it would probably embarrass him more than her. Good.

About a month before they were due to leave for Faramir’s wedding a letter came from Edoras. Éomer welcomed her willingness to try and familiarize herself with Rohirric and had chosen someone to teach her. A young man, the son of a scribe, who had insisted on riding to war. He had been badly injured and would not fight again but was up to the journey and would welcome the time spent in Dol Amroth. The letter told her little about its writer and she did speculate if Éomer had written it - and the previous one - himself or if they had been penned by a scribe. Questioning her brothers however she found out that not only were the Lords of Rohan fluent in Westron, many could write in the Language of Gondor. At least that was something, she thought, not being able to imagine a culture with no written language. Lothíriel wondered if she would be expected to sing; singing seemed to be very important to the Rohirrim according to the books. Luckily she was considered to have quite a sweet voice.

The last few weeks seemed to fly by and it was not long before the Princess was overseeing the packing of her trunk. She had two new dresses; one for the welcome feast and one for the wedding itself. The one she was going to wear at the wedding was a soft blue- green which reminded her of the sea and picked up the colour in her eyes. The other was in Dol Amroth blue edged with silver swans. It was beautiful and had been altered from one of her mother’s. Very suitable for her betrothal ceremony she decided. Especially one that’s only function was to link the White Tree of Gondor, the White Horse of Rohan and the Swanship of Dol Amroth in one well planned manoeuvre . But in spite of that she was pleased with them and would have been even more pleased if she could have worn her hair down in the soft curls she used to like. Luckily she had found nothing about compulsory hairstyles in the books on Rohan.


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The party from Dol Amroth arrived to find the City heaving. Not only had people arrived from the surrounding countryside but a large contingent from Rohan was camping outside the gates. Lothíriel was intrigued by her first sight of the tall fair-haired men. Most did have big bushy beards, although Amroth again assured her that Éomer did not. The royal party from Edoras were not due to arrive until the next day when the welcome feast would be held and her betrothal confirmed. There were also a great many entertainers attracted to the celebrations and amongst the jugglers, snake charmers and fire-eaters, their carriage took them past a cage which held a huge lion. Her father told her that the trainer was from Harad, the first in the City for many years. The Princes had brought their horses but Lothíriel did not wish to risk King Éomer asking her to ride with him. She knew she would feel a fool on her small palfrey and Merilan was not allowed to ride in her condition anyway.

The first night they dined quietly with the King and Queen. Lothíriel had a long talk with Aragorn who told her how King Théoden and Éomer had led the Rohirrim to the aid of Gondor leaving their own land vulnerable to the Orcs from the North, trusting Gandalf’s word that the Ents would protect Rohan and they would have a home to return to. Of course Théoden did not return home. She knew what the King was trying to say to her, but he did not need to: she had already made up her mind to make the best of it. However that did not stop her being extremely nervous and the next day panic set in. Whatever would they talk about? She would have to sit next to a total stranger throughout a long drawn-out feast and then dance with him. It was frightening. During lunch inspiration suddenly struck her. He was a warrior so she would talk about battles. Not just any battle of course, but a sensible comparison between Eorl the Young leading the Rohirrim to the Field of Celebrant and King Théoden leading them to the Pelennor Fields five hundred years later. She had all afternoon to swot up on it as he was not due to arrive for a few hours and she would meet him just before they went into dinner, good.

The Princess headed towards the library, she had to return the books anyway and she could perhaps find something more detailed on the battle of Celebrant. She was pretty well up on the recent battle; her brothers still talked of it at every opportunity. Fenor was in his domain but he seemed to be flapping around.

“My apprentice is ill, Princess and I have to go to my sisters wedding. They took the opportunity to wed with all the entertainers here. I am afraid I will have to lock up early.”

“Oh,” she was disappointed. “I have returned the books, Fenor but I really need some more.” She thought for a moment, “If you found them for me I could read them here and then lock up for you.”

He sighed; it was strange how the sweetest looking women could be the most determined. “Very well, Princess. But you must promise me to lock up properly and return the key to the guardroom.”

She nodded, “I will of course.”

“Well then, what do you wish to read now?”

“I would like details of the battle plan for the Field of Celebrant,” she smiled engagingly.

He looked at her astonished, “Battle plan?”

“Yes, there must be one. Men can never resist it.”

“Oh, there is one alright. It was very important to Gondor. It was modernised not that long ago so if you wish to read it you will be able to.”

“Good.”

She was obviously waiting for him to produce it so he pulled the steps over and climbed a few rungs up. “It is with some books on the wars of Gondor,” he explained passing it to her.

She nodded her thanks and took the book over to the table.

“I will be off then, Princess; the key hanging up by the door. You know where the guardroom is?”

“Yes, please don’t worry. I will lock up.” She buried her head back in the book. The man shook his head disbelievingly and hurried out.

It was more difficult than she thought. Lots about weapons and numbers of men. To be honest there did not seem to be much of a plan at all; the Rohirrim looked to have turned up unexpectedly. Maybe she should see if there was anything from Eorl the Young’s point of view. Leaving the one book open on the table she walked over to the bookcases, gazing up at the top shelves. What she needed would probably be up there. Lothíriel moved the steps over a little. It was difficult to make them steady as the floor was uneven and in the end she gave up. It did not matter if they were a bit wobbly: she was not frightened of heights, only dark enclosed spaces. Damn, why was she so short? The book she needed was just out of reach and she could not move the steps because there was a pillar in the way. There was nothing for it; she was not going to give up now. The Princess climbed onto the top platform of the steps holding onto the pillar. She reached right out and just managed to grab the book she wanted when she heard a noise. It was the door opening and closing again and then she heard solid footsteps on the stone floor. Lothíriel let go of the pillar and without thinking turned quickly around to see who had come in. It was a silly thing to do she acknowledged in that short second between feeling the steps begin to topple and hearing a deep male voice shouting something she did not understand. The only word she recognised was ‘Bema’.

TBC


Chapter 4 - Chapter 4

Well, thanks to all my reviewers – I hope I have contacted you all, your comments are always very welcome.

Now on with Chapter 4. I hope you like my Éomer; I am afraid he does not change much. My takes on Lothíriel are all different; after all we did not know her. But Éomer? We have many clues, proud, confident, brave- he just had to be sexy!

LBJ

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Chapter 4


The Princess and the steps parted company, both going different ways. The feeling of falling only lasted a moment. Lothíriel was aware of her head hitting the pillar, she clutched at it for a moment trying to save herself. It was hopeless and there was nothing but to resign herself to a very painful landing on the hard floor. She heard the steps clatter and bang on the stone. Whatever she had landed on was hard, but it was not the floor. She couldn’t breathe properly. She couldn’t breathe, she realised, because someone was holding her very tightly, and her mouth was full of hair. The hair smelt of pines trees. Juniper actually. An irrational observation, she decided, given her predicament.

“Are you all right?” It was a deep voice, with an unusual accent. Right next to her ear

“Can’t breathe,” she managed to get out. The grip around her chest lessened slightly, allowing her to lift her hand to her mouth and remove the hair. But whoever was holding her did not put her down. Strangely, she felt disinclined to alter the situation. She felt safe. The greater freedom of movement meant that she was now able to focus on the hair. It was a golden colour. She refocused her eyes slightly to the area of her rescuer’s neck and shoulder; a green wool tunic, embellished around the collar with embroidery: an intricate design in red and gold.

“You banged your head on the pillar.”

“These stupid braids saved any damage being done. They cushioned the blow.” Lothíriel suddenly realised that it was her rescuer’s chest she had fallen against. It was certainly very hard and broad and…. her heart stopped as she looked down. Oh no….emblem, fair hair, gold embroidery…This could not be happening.

There was a soft chuckle, “They are certainly not so stupid if they saved you from being hurt.”

“You are not supposed to be here yet,” she said accusingly. It could be no one else

“It’s a good job I was. We arrived much earlier than expected. Mostly due, I might say, to my sister’s desperate desire to reunite with your cousin.”

Éomer shifted her in his arms so that instead of her being held against his chest, almost over his shoulder, he was able to look down on her face. It brought her eyes directly in line with the White Horse on the front of his tunic. He did not seem to have any intention of putting her down.

“Why did you come to the library?” She looked up at his face. No, his beard was definitely not big and bushy, quite nice and neat in fact. His eyes were hazel with green flecks, most unusual, and they were twinkling with suppressed amusement.

“I wanted to talk to you. You were spotted heading this way with pile of books, so it seemed a safe bet I would find you here.” He gave her a mischievous grin, “I was hoping to persuade you that it was not such a bad idea marrying me, but I must admit that I did not expect you to fall into my arms quite so quickly.”

Did he really say that? She must have misheard. The bump on the head must have been worse than she thought. The Princess decided to ignore his words. “You had better put me down,” she said hurriedly, suddenly realising, with a twinge of guilt, that she should not be allowing this; “someone may come in.”

“You are right, they may.” He did not put her down however, but headed towards the door, carrying her as if she weighed no more than a feather. Elphir had carried her to bed one night when she was ill in the summer. But it did not make her feel like this. She should make him put her down. She didn’t. Éomer held her against him with one strong arm and took the key from a hook on the wall. He locked the door. “They won’t come in now.”

She didn’t quite believe he had done that. “You had still better put me down,” she was trying to sound convincing.

“It seems a shame,” he laughed. “I doubt I will be allowed this close again until we are married.” He fixed her with a look, both questioning and pensive. “That is if we are going to be married?”

There, she knew it! One look and he wanted to change his mind. Did he have any idea of the trouble it would cause? Why was he still holding her? She wriggled to get down.

“Now what’s the matter?”

“I told my father, and my brothers, that it was a ridiculous idea. I knew you would not wish to go through with it once you met me. Well, you will have to tell them or they will blame me and…”

“Lothíriel,” he held on to her more tightly. She turned her head away from him; she just knew she was going to cry. It was all too much. “Lothíriel, I have definitely not changed my mind. Your brothers described your attributes to me very explicitly and from where I am looking, they did not exaggerate.”

What! She swung her head back around, her eyes seeking his face, her tears unshed. From his words she was almost expecting to see a leering lecherous grin, but he was looking even more amused.

“Please put me down.” She needed a cool head to deal with this. Having his arms around her was not inducing one.

Éomer put her gently down, holding on to her for a moment to make sure she was steady on her feet. The Princess did wonder if she ought to curtsey but decided that they had gone a little past such formal gestures. Anyway, he was not respecting the conventions; he was not supposed to call her Lothíriel before they had been introduced. She smoothed out her skirts and adjusted the neckline of her dress, it had gone slightly awry. Well really, attributes indeed! She ought to be cross.

“Perhaps, my Lord, you had better make your meaning clear.” He should not smile like that, it was not fair.

“I wanted to talk to you to make sure that you were happy to go through with this.” He ran his fingers through his hair, looking a little unsure of himself. Something, she imagined, that did not happen often. “It was not until my sister berated me, in fact she hardly spoke to me for a week, that I realised what I had done. She was so angry, but I did not feel I could back out then…” He trailed off, unable to say any more.

His sister, why should she be angry? They had never met. “Why does Éowyn not want you to marry me?” she asked, her puzzlement showing.

“Oh, no, you misunderstand me,” he said frowning slightly. “It was the way it was arranged. Of course as soon as she said, I realised.” His frown deepened, “I would never have arranged Éowyn’s marriage in that way, without consulting her at all. I wouldn’t dare,” he shuddered, “neither would Théoden for that matter, and yet I allowed your father to promise you to me. When she pointed it out, I was mortified, but it was too late and I was told that it was quite normal in Gondor, so I pushed my unease aside. It was not until I arrived and talked to your brothers, and they told me how worried you were by the whole thing, that I decided to seek you out and see if we could come to some arrangement.”

“Arrangement?”

He regarded her with a definite serious expression on his handsome features, “Either I convince you that any fears you have are groundless or if I cannot, then we find some way of cancelling tonight’s announcement. I would not have you unhappy.”

Lothíriel thought of the fuss that would be made, she would never be able to hold her head up again. And then there was the aid, all that grain, dried meat and fish, her dowry. “My Lord, I must speak bluntly. To change ones mind now would be well nigh impossible, it is just not done in Gondor.” She shook her head, “It is too late now and I have come to terms with it.” She looked up at him, she was naturally a truthful person but some things were difficult to say, “It is true I was very upset, mostly I admit, over the way it was decided, but I talked to Faramir and King Elessar and they reassured me somewhat.” She gave him a grin, “And now that I have met you and can see that you are not eight foot tall. I am not unhappy.”

She caught the look of relief that flashed across his face. She could not blame him: it must be awful to be struggling to feed his people. Then his face broke into a very attractive smile and he let out a deep chuckle, “In that case I hope I can certainly ease the rest of your fears, first of all I have to tell you,” he was now trying to keep a straight face, she could tell, “that I can only ever manage one.”

“Manage one?” she echoed bemused.

“Orc for breakfast,” he grinned at her, “any more and I suffer with indigestion all day.”

Her brothers, she ground her teeth, he had been talking to her brothers. She could not utter a word.

“What’s more,” he carried on, laughing now, “I assure you that I have no intention of letting my wife lead a charge of Shield Maidens, armed with a trowel or anything else for that matter.”

She would kill them! She glared at him, “You have been talking to my brothers.”

“I have,” he did not look at all remorseful. “I arrived some time ago. After I had bathed and eaten I went looking for you, but I found them. I asked them directly what you thought of the idea. They enjoyed enlightening me.”

“I am sorry.” Whatever must he think of her?

“Don’t be. I probably deserved it.” They had been standing a few yards apart but now Éomer moved towards her and took hold of her hand. “Come on we need to discuss this.” Before she could protest he put his hands around her waist and lifted her up to sit on the table. He went to pull a chair over for himself but spotted the open book by her side. “Is this what you were reading?” He glanced over it for a moment, his face taking on an expression of surprise, “You are interested in battle plans, are you?” he raised an eyebrow, his lips quivering with laughter.

“No, I am not,” she replied rather haughtily, “but I am sure you are.” She suddenly remembered who she was talking to. Her father would skin her alive if he heard her. She took a deep breath to steady her thoughts. “I mean, my Lord, that I did not know I would meet you now. I thought I would have to meet you for the first time in front of many people and then sit through a formal dinner. I thought comparing the battle of Pelennor Fields with the Field of Celebrant, would make for conversation.”

“I suppose it might,” he agreed, “with Amroth or Erchi.” He could not stop the laughter, “But it is not the sort of thing I usually discuss with ladies.”

Her silence must have alerted him to what he had said, “Lothíriel, believe me, I did not mean…”

The Princess started to giggle, he was just so unlike anything she had expected, not stuffy or full of his own importance. “You have not offended me, I know what you meant.”

“Good,” they were both laughing now. “Shall we start again?” He pulled up the chair and sat down the wrong way, wrapping his long legs around it and resting arms and chin on the high back. “I can understand your fears, bethrothed to someone you have never met, with the prospect of living in a country you have never seen, it must have been very troubling.”

“I was troubled,” she admitted. “I was very cross with my father.” She shrugged, “I still am I suppose, but that has nothing to do with you. I have talked with the King and I understand the importance of our marriage.” She stared at him for a moment; he was waiting for her to go on. “Now I have met you, I am not quite so frightened.”

“Frightened, of what?” he asked.

“Well, it is difficult to explain.” Impossible actually, she now decided. She could hardly tell him that she had been more than a little apprehensive that she might have taken an instant dislike to him, but she hadn’t, she definitely hadn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. But she was hardy going to admit that so early on, was she? She improvised, “I was frightened of meeting you, but now I have, so I am not frightened any more, because I have met you.”

“I…. see,” he said slowly. He was clever if he did, she thought. “Lothíriel, why don’t you tell me what is really bothering you?”

Well, she could be truthful about that, “I can only ride sideways. I can’t imagine what they are going to think of me in Rohan.”

“Sideways?” he asked rather puzzled.

“Yes, that is how they make ladies ride in Gondor. They made me when I was about fourteen. It is uncomfortable for long journeys and galloping is not the same. I hate it.” She would have stamped her foot, but remembered she was sitting on the table.

Light dawned, “Yes, I agree with you, it must be awful. But it will not be a problem. You are not frightened of horses are you?”

“No, I am not,” she retorted indignantly. “Well, I am not saying I would wish to ride one of my brothers’ stallions, of course. They are far too big for me. But I like to pet them, they are such sweeties.”

Éomer was amused, if she thought her brothers’ war-horses were ‘sweeties’ there would certainly not be a problem. “It will not take long to convert you back to riding properly, if you have ridden since childhood,” he assured her, “I will pick you out a suitable mare and teach you in a week. Less probably, with the right horse.”

“Oh, thank you.” Her face lit up with a smile, “I am not looking forward to arriving in Edoras riding sideways. I am sure everyone will laugh. And I do not really wish to ride beside you on my small palfrey. But I can bear it, if it will not be for long.”

“I promise it will be the first thing we will do. I am just sorry that you will not be coming for a visit before September, but there is so much to do. Edoras is still full of refugees and Meduseld is suffering from years of predominantly male occupation. I hope to have everything sorted by our marriage.” He gave her one of his very attractive grins, “I intend for us to spend the week before the wedding getting to know one another better and then I aim to spend some time with you afterwards. I know it will not be easy adjusting to a new life and I want to assure you that I will not just leave you to get just on with it.”

The mention of the actual wedding caused her some discomfort; she had been putting that bit out of her mind. Then she remembered what it had felt like with him holding her tightly, a jolt shot through her. It was better to change the subject, “I have been reading about Rohan: the history, the customs. It is quite interesting,” she said conversationally. It took her mind off wedding nights, or did it?

There was a smile lurking around his lips again, “Perhaps it would be a good topic of conversation at dinner tonight,” he suggested.

“Yes, probably better than battle plans.” They were both laughing again.

“Lothíriel,” he was looking serious once more, “if there is anything else bothering you then I would rather discuss it now. I do not wish you to brood on anything over the next six months. I always think any problems are better aired in the open.”

She could not argue with that but how to phrase it. “My Lord,” she began.

“My name is Éomer,” he interrupted her.

“I am not allowed to call you that until we have been introduced,” she said instinctively

“I won’t tell anyone.”

She giggled softly, wishing he wouldn’t look at her quite so intently. It was unnerving. “By rights I should not be alone with you now. It would definitely be frowned upon.”

He quirked an eyebrow, “I imagine they would make me marry you.” It earned him another giggle. “I suppose you are going to tell me that I am only allowed one dance tonight, or is it two? I can never remember the Gondorian protocol.”

“Oh, no,” she informed him sincerely, “when you are betrothed you can have as many as you wish. It is the only time: once you are married then nobody has more than about three.”

“Why ever not?” he looked bemused.

She shrugged her shoulders, “It is not considered fashionable, I suppose. You are supposed to dance with other people’s wives and husbands. I think it’s silly.”

He sent his eyebrows skywards, “I think my thoughts on Gondorian etiquette had better remain private. Now,” he said decisively, “before we get side-tracked you were going to tell me your other worries.”

She hoped he had forgotten, but there was one thing she was curious to know. “It is not a worry exactly, but there is something I find difficult to understand.” She took a deep breath again, “I still cannot imagine why you agreed to marry me before we met. Oh, I know the sense of it, politically, I mean. But it could have waited. It would not really have delayed the aid, only made it more difficult to persuade certain nobles, I imagine. It just seems so strange to me.”

Éomer looked as if he did not wish to answer her, which he didn’t. He sighed, running his fingers through his long hair, “It would help to know, would it?”

She nodded.

“Ahh…”

“But if you really rather not answer,” she interjected hurriedly.

“No,” he sounded adamant. “I wish our marriage to work, and it will not do so if we hide our feelings from one another.” He gave her a half smile, “You are right, the decision could have waited. The aid is important, yes, but it was not totally dependant on our betrothal.” He hesitated a moment before saying firmly, “It was the march to the Black Gates.”

“Black Gates?” she asked confused.

“Yes,” he nodded. “The battles were one thing, ‘Helm’s Deep’, ‘Pelennor’, but the march to the Morannon was something else entirely. The nearer we got, the heavier the stench, the mire and the fear. Some could not make it and had to turn back.”

“I know,” she nodded. “My brothers told me.”

“Well, that option was not open to them, or to me. Or to any other captain of course. We dealt with it, your brothers and me, by talking about the good things. What we were fighting for mostly. I knew Éowyn was going to live and I wanted to be there for her, for Rohan. I wanted to stand with her and watch the herds of horses grazing peacefully on the plains of the Mark. I wanted your brothers to see them. That’s when they told me about you, how sweet and gentle you were and that you were never unkind to anyone. How you liked playing with children and about your pretty garden.” Then,” he shuddered, “they told me what your father had charged you with: carrying Alphros to safety. An impossible task, but you never once showed your fear. They were so proud of you. It reminded me again what we were fighting for: so that women and children would be safe. You sort of represented all that was good in those dark times. Brave without knowing it.

“I was not brave. I was scared,” she said honestly.

“But you did not show it did you? And however impossible the task you would have tried.”

“Merilan and I had a plan,” she said quietly. She had not told anybody this. “We knew we would never really get away, but we would not be taken. We thought to make it through the caves to the high cliffs further along the coast and then if we were pursued, if there was no chance, then we would jump. All three of us together.”

Éomer said nothing, his face said it all.

She smiled to lighten the atmosphere, “Surely that is not why you decided to marry me.”

“No, not exactly. I subtly asked your brothers all about you, talking about pretty ladies pushed away some of the fear. I did want to meet you, especially after the ships arrived with all the stores,” he grinned, “but then to be honest with so much to do and Éowyn harrying me about Faramir, I forgot about you.”

“You did?”

“Yes, more or less, until we were at Edoras. Théoden was buried, Éowyn was betrothed, and I was besieged by every hopeful parent in the Mark. At least that’s what it felt like. The Council was beginning to seriously annoy me and if I had chosen a wife from Rohan, then whoever I chose, I would have upset somebody.”

“There was no one you wished to marry?” There it was out, the question she had wanted to ask.

He shook his head, “I was in love with someone a long time ago, but she married another.” He grinned again, “I see her occasionally; she has four children and is very happy. I have no regrets and she would not have made a suitable Queen. Unlike you.”

“Me?”

He never answered her, just laughed. “A few nights before Aragorn left to escort the hobbits home, we all had a long talk.”

“Faramir told me.”

“Well, the suggestion was made, I have forgotten who by, but anyway it all fell into place. I would upset no one parent in the Mark more than another. The alliance made total sense and I value my friendship with your father and like your family. So here we are.”

“Faramir told me something about Gandalf.”

“You will probably find this difficult to understand, but I have always trusted Gandalf. He has never betrayed my trust and he assured me you were the perfect wife for me and the perfect Queen for Rohan.” He held her eyes for a moment, “Only time will tell if he is right.”

The Princess dropped her eyes and studied her hands which were twisting together in her lap. When she looked up his penetrating gaze was still locked on her face. “I promise I will do my best.”

“I know you will,” he said softly, disentangling himself from the chair and moving towards her. “So we are making a bargain between us, to both do our best?”

She nodded as he moved closer, knowing what he was going to do. She had never really been kissed before and was unprepared for the feelings that seemed to creep into every part of her. Such a little kiss, what ever would it be like when…

“That was nice,” his face was scrunched up with the effort of suppressing his laughter at her embarrassment. “Are we going to pretend we have not met at the reception tonight?”

Lothíriel managed to regain her composure, “I think we had better, I certainly would not like to explain this meeting to my father. We should have left the door open. Anyway, it will be true,” she said wryly, “we have not been introduced.” A bell rang far off, “I must be going,” she said in sudden panic, “my maid will be waiting to dress me.”

“I will go first, do not worry I will make sure all is clear.” He lifted her down from the table, planting a kiss on the top of her head. “I will see you tonight.” He stopped just before he reached the door and turned to speak to her again, “Oh, Lothíriel, by the way, just to make sure that there is no mistake, after we are married if I wish to dance with you all night, then I will.” Chuckling at her expression he unlocked the door, listened for a moment and then he was gone.

TBC


Chapter 5 - Chapter 5

Chapter 5

It was a measure of the importance of the occasion that her father came to escort her to the reception. It was usually left to one of her brothers. He looked her over and a smile appeared on his face.

“You look lovely, Lorí, lovelier than I have ever seen you.” He kissed her on the top of her head. Why did they all do that? It must be because she was so short, she decided. She was quite pleased though: the dress did look lovely and it showed off her figure, in fact it was cut quite low, showing much more of her ‘attributes’ than usual. She could not help taking a secret delight in that, but best of all: the Queen had sent her own personal hair dresser to attend her. It had upset her own maid, of course, but Elda was ancient, she had been maid to her own mother. She was very conservative about hairstyles. Now, although she still had the braids, some had been teased out to produce pretty little soft ringlets around her face. It looked much better.

“Are you very anxious about meeting Éomer?” Imrahil asked sympathetically.

“Not at all,” His daughter replied, as neutrally as she could.

“Oh,” her father was surprised. “I thought you would be quite nervous.”

She shrugged, “I have to meet people all the time. It will be no different.” Let him think it meant nothing to her. She was not going to forgive him yet.

“Lothíriel,” her father sounded quite incredulous, “you are going to marry him, it will certainly be different.”

“It is a political alliance, Father. There is no point in me getting excited or nervous about it.”

Imrahil shook his head in bewilderment, “I was hoping that it may develop into something more than that.”

She smiled, it was not fair really and she knew now, that in spite of how angry she had been at the time, he had done what he thought was for the best. She squeezed her father’s arm and reached up to pop a quick kiss on his cheek. All at once she was conscious of the fact that she being unreasonable and she really wanted to return to their previous close relationship. However she was not able to admit that her first encounter with her future husband had pleased her greatly. “Do not worry; I have heard so much about him and I think we may deal reasonably well together. I will try anyway.”

“Good,” he let out a sigh of relief, “I am sure Éomer will try as well. You must take the opportunity to get to know him whilst he is here.”

Get to know him? She bit back a retort. She knew exactly what it would be like. Éomer was only here for a few days and, most likely, they would be chaperoned for all that time. Her brothers, who had seemingly done everything they could to push them together, would now, she would take a bet, hardly let her out of their sight. If she knew anything about Gondorian propriety then the next time she would be alone with him for more than a few minutes, they would be married. It was totally ridiculous. Oh well, there was nothing she could do about it, she just had to be grateful that they had had a short time to talk to each other. Whatever would her father say if he knew Éomer had carried around in his arms? She giggled to herself: she had definitely enjoyed that.

Now though, truth be told, she was indeed becoming increasingly anxious. It was not the prospect of meeting him again, but the ordeal of everyone watching their meeting. Thank goodness it was a private reception; she supposed it could have been worse.

It seemed no time at all before they were approaching the carved wooden doors to the ante room that the King used to entertain his private guests. A footman opened the doors and father and daughter entered the room. It appeared to Lothíriel that all eyes swung in her direction; she however, only had eyes for her future husband who was standing next to King Elessar, directly opposite the entrance. He somehow looked quite different than he had that afternoon. There had been no doubt that he was a nobleman of course, but that boyish charm, which was so evident then, had now been replaced by an aura of power and authority. It was tangible from across the room and she knew that even if she had not known him, and even though he wore no crown, she would have no trouble believing him a king. It could surely not just be the replacement of the wool tunic by a rich velvet one? All her nerves came back and she almost stumbled as her father led her over to the two Kings. But training kicked in and the Princess dropped into a deep curtsey she hoped would encompass both monarchs. She rose expecting her father to start the introductions but before he could do so Aragorn took her hand and pushed formal protocol aside.

“Imrahil, my friend, I am sure you will not mind if I have the pleasure of introducing your beautiful daughter to Éomer.” The king grinned and before her father could answer turned to the King of Rohan. “Éomer King, I have the pleasure to present Lothíriel, Princess of Dol Amroth and Gondor, Lothíriel I have the honour to introduce, Éomer, King of Rohan, Lord of the Mark.”

The Princess bobbed another curtsey and Éomer reached for her hand, taking it to his lips, “I have been greatly looking forward to this meeting, Princess.” He gave her a broad wink. She nearly gasped out loud, petrified that her father would notice, but luckily Éowyn had taken his attention, appearing from behind Faramir.

“You had better introduce me now, I wish to talk to Lothíriel and reassure her about my brother before she runs out the door in fright.” There was a general outburst of laughter and the tension in the room eased, there were only close friends and family there and all wished to dispense with too much convention now that the formal introduction was over. Éowyn took hold of Lothíriel’s arm and pulled her to the side of the room, thrusting a drink in her hand, “Faramir has told me so much about you that I feel I know you already. She grinned at her brother, “You can talk to her through dinner.” Lothíriel took a large gulp of wine causing the Rohan girl to laugh “You probably needed that, I can think of nothing worse than having to first meet the man you have been promised to, in front of a roomful of people, even if they are family and friends. I was so angry with the way it was arranged.”

“Yes, I know.”

“You do?” Éowyn looked puzzled.
Damn, she was no good at this, but then luckily she remembered something her cousin had said, she had thought it strange at the time. “Yes, Faramir told me.”

“I was cross with him, but I was even crosser with Éomer. I could not believe he would do that. Were you very upset?”

“I was then but I am not now. I am happy to be Queen of Rohan.”

Éowyn cast an appraising look over her, “Faramir says you are repressed, we both think Éomer will be good for you…..”

“Éowyn,” the voice was firm but held a glint of amusement, “Go and talk to your betrothed and leave me to talk to mine.” Éowyn looked as though she was not going to comply but then she wagged her finger at her brother, “Well, don’t bully her and don’t talk about horses,” she ordered.

“She likes horses.”

“How do you know?” Éowyn looked between them.

Before Éomer could think of a reply Lothíriel answered for him. “I imagine one of my brothers must have mentioned it, I understand they told King Éomer all about me.”

“Well done,” he said relieved, after Éowyn had left them. “Are you allowed to drop the King bit now we have been formally introduced?”

“I am, with your permission, and you may call me Lothíriel. Actually, my family call me Lorí. I am sure you can if you wish, after all King Elessar does.” Now that she was talking to him again hers fears vanished. It was probably just when he was talking to the King of Gondor that he had looked so stern.

“Hmm ... It suits you, sweet and dainty.”

“Don’t you mean short and dainty?”

“No, you are not that short.” He chuckled suddenly, that boyish look returning, “Did you really think I was eight foot tall?”

“You would not believe the stories our men came back with: they said you were a giant and rode a monster.”

Éomer laughed out loud, “Firefoot is a monster; he is the greediest horse I have ever come across.”

“You two are getting on then?” Amroth had sneaked up on them; at least that is what his sister thought. “He went looking for you this afternoon, Lorí. I am surprised he did not find you.”

“We were not introduced until this evening,” Éomer stated blandly. “And I might say, Amroth, that having at last been introduced to your sister; I would appreciate a little time to talk to her, alone.”

Amroth poked him in the ribs, “As long as it is only talk then you can have as much time as you like.”

At that moment the dinner gong sounded and, ignoring Amroth, Éomer offered her his arm and led her away. “Are you nervous about standing up with me in front of all those people?”

“Not so much as I would have been if we had not met this afternoon,” she answered truthfully.


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Lothíriel was glad to sit down for a moment, she had been dancing ever since dinner had finished. Faramir and Éowyn were sitting at the table with her, but they were talking quietly and looking deep into each other’s eyes. She did not mind: it gave her chance to think, and to study Éomer He was talking to her father, Aragorn, and an elderly Gondorian noble, whom her father had always respected, and was now one of Aragorn’s chief advisors. She smiled to herself; the King had danced with her and given her permission to call him that, except on formal occasions of course. After all, as he had said to her, she was now betrothed to one of his closest friends. Éomer was looking serious, stern and kingly, and yes, there was no doubt, incredibly handsome. He was listening intently to what was being said. She liked watching him, wanting to find out as much as possible about the man she was going to marry. At least she could not fault his manners and behaviour tonight. They had kept up non-stop conversation through the meal, not surprisingly it was mostly about the difference between Dol Amroth and Rohan. He had held her hand tightly when they had stood up to drink the betrothal cup, and quietly reassured her. They had led the dancing and he kept whispering things to make her laugh. Admittedly, it was rude remarks about the snobbish expressions of some of the nobility of Gondor, but since she agreed with him, it did not matter. He had danced many dances with her, and only a few with others and they were married ladies whom, she realised, were the wives of friends he had made in the war, or of his own Riders. She had noticed a few glances thrown his way from some of Gondor’s beauties, but to be fair, he seemed oblivious of them. She was grateful, being under no illusion: if she was not a princess, her father’s daughter, then she was sure he would not even have noticed her. Tripped over her probably, as she had told Elphir all those months ago. What was fascinating her though, was his ability to change personality depending on whom he was with. He was only a couple of years older than Amroth and younger than Erchi and when they were around he behaved not much differently from them. But looking at him now you would think he was a lot older. Thinking back to the day before in the library, and how he had acted with her, she came to the conclusion that he had a multifaceted personality. It must be the responsibility of being a king at such a young age, she thought, trying to imagine Amroth, or even Erchi, taking on the task of rebuilding a country and feeding its people. He deserved all the help she could give.

The Princess gazed around, the hall was thinning; it must be getting late. A footman arrived with the fruit juice she had asked for; she was too thirsty for wine anyway. Éomer had shown surprise when her father had only allowed her one more cup at the dinner table. He was sitting the other side of her and every time the wine came round automatically put his hand over her goblet. ‘Why does he do that?’ Éomer had whispered. She had whispered back, ‘Because I am liable to say or do something totally outrageous when I drink more than two or three cups.’ He had grinned at her wickedly and, as soon as her father was looking the other way, tipped the contents of his goblet into hers. She had found it difficult to stop laughing. Smiling to herself once more Lothíriel realised that Éomer was leaving the group, she saw him say something to her father and head back in her direction.

“Would you like some air before retiring? Your father does not mind as there will be many others out there.”

She nodded, and he guided her through the remaining dancers until they reached the side doors, leading to the Place of the Fountain. It was a warm spring night and many people were strolling around the perimeter wall, looking out over the Pelennor. Lothíriel found herself in the same place she had stood after her talk with Faramir and she climbed onto the same flower trough. This time though, her betrothed was holding her hand. They were not saying much but the silence was companionable, the Princess happy in the stillness. She imagined Éomer was thinking some of the same thoughts she herself had mulled over back in December. She peered over the wall, far below her she could see the glow of campfires from the wedding guests lodged outside the city. The noise from the revelry, in the streets below, was wafting its way up to their lofty position.

“Too many torches here to see the stars,” he suddenly said.

“I like to sit outside the castle at home and look up; it is very dark with the torches on the walls shining inwards. Sometimes there are so many stars it looks like the sky is full of jewels.”

“We have an expression in Rohan, it more or less translates as, ‘the jewelled sky’, you can lie on your back in the tall grass at night and see nothing but stars.”

“You do that often?”

“I used to, when we were out on patrols and spent night after night in the open on the hard ground. My life has changed somewhat, no time for things like that.”

The Princess touched his arm, “I am sure you will get chance again when you have your country back to rights.”

“I hope so.”

She hesitated, but then he had been frank with her, “I stood here after my talk with Faramir; it is where I decided to write to you about learning Rohirric. I went straight to the library and borrowed some books on Rohan. Before that I had been pretending it was not going to happen.”

Éomer put his hands around her waist and lifted her down; he looked straight into her eyes. “Did it bother you that much?”

“At first, but I thought about it out here, of all that had happened. I decided that I had to do my best for your people because they had sacrificed so much.”

“Lothíriel, Lorí,” he smiled. “It is why I was happy to agree to our marriage, you are a princess, brought up to do your duty for your country. Rohan’s needs come first with me; it is no good me marrying someone who does not understand that.”

“I know, and we made our bargain.”

He chuckled, “I would kiss you again if I did not suspect that one of your brothers is probably hiding behind the fountain.”


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She did not see him the next morning: he had gone for a gallop with her brothers and then there were to be meetings all day. It was the only real chance for him to get together with her father and Aragorn. The next day was the wedding and then two days later he would be returning to Rohan. She knew he could not spare any more time, did not wish to spare more time, until all his people were housed and the new crops sown. She spent time with Éowyn instead. The two girls decided they would stroll down to the gates, browsing through the dozens and dozens of market stalls that lined the road between the first and the forth levels. Faramir organised two guards, dressed in the livery of the City, they blended in with the others stationed on every bend in the road and did not cause so much attention as those from Dol Amroth or Rohan would have done. However, even though they dressed quite plainly, anonymity was not easy, as Éowyn was recognised by many people. She had, after all, killed the Witch King and was now marrying Gondor’s favourite son. There was such goodwill towards her that it became difficult for her to pay for anything and eventually Lothíriel purchased any little trinket that she wanted. But it was a pleasant way to spend the day and they decided to skip lunch in the Citadel and instead purchased pasties and sweetmeats from the various food stalls around the lower square. Jugglers and acrobats were performing and the two girls sat on one of the stone benches and enjoyed the entertainment. Lothíriel was disappointed to discover that the next lion show would not be for a couple of hours. She wanted to see it, even though she felt quite sorry for the lion: he looked bored and sad. Hardly surprising really, she thought, stuck in a cage for most of his life. She also wanted to see the fire-eaters, that performance however, would look better in the dark.

“Ask Éomer to bring you down,” Éowyn suggested. There is no dancing tonight with the hall being prepared for the wedding.”

Lothíriel was not sure if she was quite comfortable enough with her betrothed to actually ask him to take her but luckily she did not have to as he suggested it himself during dinner. The evening meal was a quiet affair as the kitchens were busy preparing for the wedding feast. The Princess did not mind, she enjoyed the relaxation of formality that Aragorn encouraged when family and friends ate together. Elphir and Merilan were intending to spend the evening with friends and so was her father, so she was pleased when Éomer suggested going out into the City.

“I need some fresh air Lorí; do you think one of your brothers would come as chaperone if we walked down to see the entertainment? It would save taking a guard.”

“Oh, Erchi might,” her face lit up with pleasure. “I imagine Amroth has his own agenda. I was gathering up the courage to ask you. I want to see the lion and the fire –eaters, she confided.

“Lorí, I don’t bite,” he shook his head, laughing softly, “and I like doing normal things.”

Erchi was happy to go, saying that he would probably have a clearer head in the morning than if he spent the evening in the mess with friends. Faramir declined to come, knowing his and Éowyn’s presence would cause more fuss. However he insisted that they took a couple of guards.

“You do not know who is out there, Éomer. The City is open to all. We are responsible for your safety when you are here.”

Éomer vehemently protested: having someone dogging his footsteps was something he always found particularly annoying. In the end a compromise was reached, the guards would shadow them, just keep them in sight.

By the time they reached the square it was already dark. The journey down from the Citadel and been slow, but fun, as on every corner there was some kind of entertainment, be it a juggler or flute player, a dancing bear or a mummers tableaux. What with stopping to watch and with the added hindrance of pushing through the resultant gathered crowd, the fire - eaters had just started to perform when they reached the makeshift arena. To the princess’s delight, hot coals had been laid out for fire walking and she was eager to get closer for as good a view as possible but barriers had been put up, about waist high, and the crowd was thick around them. However Éomer, like his sister, was easily recognisable and some of the spectators good-naturedly let them through. Which was a good job, Lothíriel decided, otherwise she would have to have sat on Erchi’s shoulders. Not that it would have been allowed of course, most undignified!

The show was very spectacular; there was no other illumination except from the entertainers’ braziers and the fire wands. Lothíriel really enjoyed it and guessed that the two men probably did, although would not admit to it, of course. The entertainers using their burning batons to create pathways and patterns of fire against the night sky had been quite impressive. There was a lull for the coals to be removed and then the torches and lamps around the arena were lit. Soon the whole square was bathed with light. Being of an enterprising nature Erchi had organised one of the guards to fetch a couple of tankards of ale from a nearby tavern. Éomer shared his with Lothíriel, much to Erchi’s disgust. “Don’t let her have too much; you never know what she will do.”

His sister hotly protested, “Really Erchi, I am not a child. A few mouthfuls of ale are not going to do me any harm.”

“No, it’s the harm you may do to others that is worrying.” He turned to Éomer, “Last time she had too much to drink she took a spear down from the wall of the dining room and challenged Amroth.”

“Well, he was being particularly annoying.”

Brother and sister rocked with laughter as Éomer put on a show of mock fear. “I bet they did not tell you about that,” Erchi grinned. “You had better watch what you say.”

A hush fell on the crowd as the lion was brought out; the beast roared and harassed its trainer all the way to the small podium. It certainly looked fierce but Lothíriel wondered if its show of bad temper was part of the act or brought on by its confinement. Anyway she was very interested, remembering being fascinated as a child when one had entertained in the courtyard at Dol Amroth. Then, she was not allowed so close and had been made to watch the act from a balcony. This time the lion did not seem to be very cooperative and it took a lot of persuasion by the trainer just to get it to jump up onto the podium. Once there it consented to do some of the tricks expected of it but all the time it was lunging and trying to swipe the trainer with a very large velvety paw. Lothíriel could see its claws. They were huge. The man from Harad, had a large net in one hand and a sort of spear in the other, he was using the spear to control the beast. The lion however was taking great pleasure in trying to knock it from his hand, each swing of its front leg being accompanied by a ferocious roar.

Éomer leaned down and whispered in her ear, “I don’t think that beast is terribly happy.”

Lothíriel was just about to answer him when there was a horrified gasp from those around her, the startled reaction increasing in volume as it travelled around the arena. Looking back towards the centre of the ring the Princess froze in horror: for crawling confidently and purposefully towards lion and trainer, oblivious of any danger, was a baby. The child, who looked to be about ten or eleven months old, was displaying one of those knowing grins, one that every parent would recognise: ‘I am not supposed to be doing this.’ The gasp of the crowd alerted the man to some happening and he glanced around spotting the child instantly. Not surprisingly it unnerved him and he took his attention from his charge for one brief moment: it was all the beast needed and the spear was knocked from his hand, the force sending the weapon way over the other side of the arena. The angry animal, sensing its time had come, jumped from the podium and with what appeared to be deliberate precision and enjoyment, swiped the man across his head, its long claws raking down the side of his face. The trainer went down and he did not get up. He lay inert.

Many things happened at once: Éomer and Erchi both took knives from their boots, they were not carrying swords. The child sat up on his bottom and looked inquisitively at the now loose and uncontrolled animal. There was a scuffle somewhere on Lothíriel’s right and a woman started keening, that totally unique sound that a woman makes when one of her offspring is in danger. The trainer’s assistant, who looked to be not much more than a boy, moved toward the scene carrying a stick and another net. He picked up the discarded spear but stopped some distance away looking as if he was unable to decide what to do. The lion, growling deep in his throat, looked from man to child, also undecided.

The Princess had never been trained to handle weapons but she was the daughter and sister of warriors and instinctively knew that if the huge beast attacked such a small child, then a knife or even two, however well thrown, would be unlikely to stop it before it had inflicted fatal injuries on the tiny body. Spears were needed. The only spears, other than that of the trainer’s, were in the hands of the guards, their own, and those posted around the square. Also, only the guards were allowed swords inside the City, so no spectators were likely to be armed. She knew that her brother was deadly accurate with a spear; in fact he was deadly accurate with any weapon, and she had absolutely no doubt that Éomer was as well. Unfortunately the guards were separated from the two expert warriors by rows of panicking people. Time was needed, she instantly realised, for the guards to react themselves or to pass their weapons over. Unnoticed, with all eyes riveted to the central point, Lothíriel pushed her way through the narrow gap separating the hurdles which formed the barrier and walked quickly and calmly towards awful tableaux.

“Lorí, no!” But it was too late, she was out of reach. She heard her brother’s voice as if it was far away. In fact something strange had happened to her ears, she was aware of a rushing sound and the noise of the crowd seemed to slow and elongate; the voices around her having no meaning. Her limbs felt heavy but she forced herself to continue with her mission. The lion must have sensed her coming because he raised his head and stared at her before opening his mouth and letting out a horrifying roar. The child started crying. She jumped slightly. The child was between her and the beast and the man was lying on the ground a few yards beyond the lion. The young lad, who was clutching spear and net, remained immobile, rooted to the spot, and anyway he was the other side of the beast from the warriors and the child. Lothíriel had no idea how to calm a lion but decided to treat it as she did her brother’s warhorses: assume that they did not wish to hurt one and they probably would not. They of course had been trained to kill, this animal, she imagined, had been born with the knowledge. She smiled at it, remembering from somewhere that facial expressions were important when dealing with animals. It roared again. She was only a few feet from the crying child and could now smell a putrid stench coming from the beast’s open mouth. Its eyes and teeth were both yellow, almost the same colour as each other she decided irreverently. The lion fixed her with a malevolent stare and then shook his massive head, his dark brown matted mane quivering and sending forth more rancid odours. It then started swaying its massive body from side to side. The Princess realised at once that this was not a good sign; the friendly smile had not worked. She dropped her eyes concentrating now on retrieving the small boy before the animal pounced. The image of that tiny body being shaken like a child’s rag doll was strong in her mind, stronger than any urge to flee.

Remaining totally confident that, somewhere behind her, preparations for rescue would be taking place, Lothíriel whispered soothingly, “Come on sweetheart, come with me.”

She picked up the sobbing child and hugged him to her breast; she covered his head with her arms and then backed away a few steps. The lion did not move but eyed her balefully and the Princess, deciding that she and the child would have more chance if her back was presented to any attack, turned and walked steadily back the way she had come, shielding the child as best she could. She could not see much in front of her, as she kept her head down and anyway the lights spoiled her vision, but she was aware of figures moving inside the barrier. She was a third of the way across the open space when she heard heavy pads accelerating towards her but at that very moment there was a rush of wind as first one spear and then another whistled their way past about a foot from her head.

She was grabbed and pulled towards the barrier. Her brother was shouting at her. “Lothíriel are you mad. Have you lost all reason?”

“Shush Erchi, you will frighten the child,” his sister answered quietly.

Her brother’s tirade was halted for a moment at the child’s mother threw herself at her son and the Princess. The woman was hysterical in her relief and thanks. As soon as Lothíriel was free of her burden, Erchi started on her again.

“Have you any idea what could have happened? If the beast had attacked you straight away you would have been mauled before we could reach you. Whatever processed you?” Her brother was so angry, he was shaking.

“The lion could have killed the baby with one pat of his paw. I do not see there was any alternative than to give you time to arm yourselves,” the Princess said defiantly. “And where is Éomer?” she asked suddenly. Turning around she saw him checking the animal to make sure it was dead. Satisfied he looked across to brother and sister.

“Erchi, don’t let her look,” he immediately called out.

But it was too late, seeing the huge animal lying prone on the ground with two spears protruding from its chest and a pool of dark blood, her head swam and the bile rose in her throat. The Princess clutched her brother for support and by the time Éomer reached them she was trembling uncontrollably.

“You should have got her straight out of here,” Éomer snapped at the Prince.

“He was too busy shouting at me,” Lothíriel managed to stammer.

Without waiting to discuss the matter, or listen for any answer, Éomer scooped her up into his arms and headed towards the barrier. “See to things here, Erchi. I am going to find some brandy.”

The Prince opened his mouth to protest, firstly at the irregularity of Éomer carrying his sister through the crowded square and secondly at the brandy. Realising however, that the King of Rohan was unlikely to respond to his objections, he closed it again and resigned himself to dealing with the after effects of such a dramatic incident.

Lothíriel found herself held against that hard chest for the second time in two days. Once again the feeling that washed over her was one of comfort and safety and her trembling started to ease. The crowd parted for Éomer and he headed across the square to the nearest tavern where luckily tables had been set outside the door for patrons to drink and enjoy the entertainments on offer. Most of the tables were empty, not surprisingly with so much excitement around the arena; the host was standing by the door.

“Brandy!” Éomer ordered, sitting Lothíriel down in the nearest chair. The man’s eyes were nearly popping out of his head. He knew something strange had been going on: the noise of the crowd and everyone rushing to look. But the Lord of the Mark carrying a Lady to his establishment was even stranger. “Brandy, quickly,” Éomer repeated. “And make it your best.”

“Yes, Lord,” said the man coming to his senses and touching his forelock. He rushed off to appear a few moments later with a small jug and two pewter cups.

Éomer poured some of the spirit into one of the cups and passed it to the Princess. “Drink this Lorí; it will make you feel better.”

“I don’t like brandy,” she protested weakly. She was still shaking slightly.

“Drink it.”

Lothíriel took a small mouthful and managed to get it down without too much choking and spluttering.

“Have some more.” He smiled, pouring himself out a generous measure, “It will not be so bad this time.”

“Are you angry with me?” she asked, taking another sip. He was right it was not so bad this time. She pulled a face but swallowed it without choking.

“No, I am not angry with you, although I do not want any more frights like that one. Why did you do that?”

“Because of the baby,” she answered surprised.

“Oh, I know that, Lori, but what was your reasoning?”

“It could have attacked the child straight away, I thought I would act as a diversion until you and Erchi managed to grab spears. I knew the knives were unlikely to stop it.”

“You are right; if it had pounced it would have inflicted terrible damage, even if we had thrown the knives. But there was no guarantee that we would find a spear in time.”

The Princess shrugged, she was feeling better. “You would have done something, I am sure.”

“Your confidence is gratifying,” he responded rather wryly.

The conversation came to a halt as Erchi joined them. He made no comment about the impropriety of his sister sitting outside a common tavern. He needed a brandy himself.

“Is it sorted?” Éomer asked once another cup was brought. Lothíriel sat quiet, not wishing to provoke her brother’s wrath. But he had calmed down.

“The trainer will live by the looks of it, but he will be badly scarred. The child belongs to one of the stallholders. They thought he was asleep on a blanket at the back of their booth and they just popped over to watch the show. He must have crawled through everyone’s legs and under the barrier.”

“Babies do that,” his sister confirmed.

“Why did the assistant not do anything?” Éomer wanted clarification on that point. It had annoyed him as the young man had hold of a spear.

Erchi grimaced, “He did not know what to do. The trainer had only hired him for the performance as his regular assistant was sleeping off a heavy drinking session.” He took a gulp of his brandy. “I will be making recommendations that in future a few rules are adhered to for this sort of thing. It is not going to happen again,” he added forcefully. The Prince suddenly reached for his sister, hugging her to him for a moment. He grinned at Éomer, “I told you that you never know what she will do next. It must have been that ale.”

Éomer caught Lothíriel’s eye and winked cheekily, “It just shows that Shield Maidens
come in all sizes.”


Tbc


It is great that so many of you are enjoying my stories. I am taking the liberty of plugging my first piece of ‘Original Fiction’. It called ‘My Cousin the King’ A historical romance with a beautiful, brave, but hopefully realistic heroine. It would be really useful to get some feedback so if you are interested in giving me an opinion copy the link to your browser (Ch. 3 is up) or e-mail me and I will send you the complete thing. Thanks LBJ.
http://www.fictionpress.com/read.php?storyid=2035866


Chapter 6 - Chapter 6

Chapter 6

The tears were running down her face. She could not stop them. Lothiriel pulled her horse to a halt and turned around in her saddle for one last look. She knew that once they entered the woods the Castle would disappear from view.

Amroth eased his mount up alongside her, “Lori, do not upset yourself. It is not as if you will not ever come home for a visit. It is only a four day ride now. And anyway, I have come to believe that you are quite happy to be going to Rohan.”

“That does not stop me missing the place I have lived all my life, Amroth. I may be happy about going to Rohan but that does not mean that I am not a little apprehensive. You, after all, know what to expect. I do not.”

“I know it is not easy, but at least you and Éomer got on well.” He grinned at her. “I always knew you would of course.”

“It must be wonderful to always be so right,” she retorted sarcastically. But he was right. They had got on well, especially after the lion incident. She appreciated that her betrothed did not rant and rave at her like her father. True, like Erchi, her father had soon calmed down. He had even told her that he was proud of her, but he did fuss. Éomer did not fuss. Everybody else fussed and the next day the whole episode had been the talk of the court. She was just thankful that the wedding had taken place that afternoon. The wonderful spectacle gave everyone something else to think about.

The Princess kicked her horse forward and wiped the tears from her eyes. She was on her way now so there was no point in crying about it. She must try and enjoy the journey and at least they did not have to camp. She was relieved that her father knew enough of the local nobility to ensure beds and baths for the ladies of the party. Some of the Knights had brought their wives, and what with Alphros and her new nephew, Elphin, and a nurse, quite a few beds would have to be found. No maid though. Elda was retiring so she was sharing Merilan’s girl until they reached Dunharrow. It was there that she would meet her new maid from Rohan. New maid, new husband, new life. Lothíriel started trying to name the things around her in Rohirric. A new language as well to contend with. She had found that it was not an easy one and difficult to learn even with the help of young Eldric. Practising it passed the rest of the day.

The next morning she was yawning, managing to ride her horse by instinct. Elphin had cried a great deal of the night. He had been travelling tied in a sling across his mother’s chest and must have enjoyed the motion of the horse since he slept peacefully for most of the day. By the time everyone was ready for bed, not surprisingly, he had wanted to be awake. Lothíriel had taken more than her turn with him, walking around and around singing lullabies. At least it kept him quiet and she did not mind. Truthfully, she loved having his small little body snuggled up to hers. She loved the softness, the warmth and the smell of him. Thinking of babies led on to thinking of marriage and Éomer, which naturally led on to wedding nights. Well, at least she was not so ignorant now. She knew a great deal and certainly, she giggled, the effect a woman could have on a man. She had tried it out and it had definitely worked. She wondered if she would have the chance to try it out on Éomer, before their wedding night, that is. Not that the thought of her wedding night did not make her nervous, but at least she now knew what to expect. As the date of the wedding crept nearer she had been speculating if they intended to keep her in total ignorance of the finer details. She spent some time plucking up courage to ask Merilan all about it, even though relating it to her brother would be embarrassing, when the Lord and Lady of Lamedon had arrived. Thank goodness they did, she chuckled, although she was sure that her father still did not think so.

She thought back to that day when the guests had ridden into the courtyard. Lord Angbor was an old and respected friend of her father’s but she had never met his wife. Her first thought was that she looked stern and formidable and that she would not make the most entertaining of supper companions. Not a pleasing prospect when it was going to be a private occasion. Things had changed though. Her father’s steward, Heclan, was indisposed which left a young footman in charge of the wine. Lothíriel giggled to herself, remembering. Lady Elnid had been talking to Merilan for most of the evening, about babies. A subject on which, it seemed, she was a great authority. Not surprising since she had had so many. Her father was deep in conversation with Angbor and had forgotten that the footman did not know of the rules pertaining to his daughter’s wine consumption. Every time the young man came around with the jug her goblet was filled. Her brothers did not notice as they were arguing together about the best way to track a deer. For the moment she was forgotten. She had started thinking about Éomer and Rohan and did not realise, at first, that she was being addressed.

“Lothíriel, my dear. We are ignoring you. Once I start talking about babies I cannot stop.”

The Princess started. Maybe she would have to revise her opinion of the lady. She could not be that bad if she liked babies.

“And talking of babies, are you looking forward to your marriage and being Queen of Rohan?”

It was one of those strange pauses in the conversation. One when all go quiet together. All except herself.

“I am quite looking forward to being a Queen, I suppose. But as for marriage itself, then I have no idea. Nobody will tell me anything so I am quite ignorant of all but the basics. Therefore I do not know whether I will enjoy it or not.” The silence grew deeper for a moment and she did not notice her father’s face starting to go red. “In fact,” she carried on, “I am not even allowed to watch the stallions covering the mares in case I learn something.” She was not allowed, but she had. It was a couple of years ago when she had discovered that there was a good vantage point from one of the guest bedrooms in the east wing. But they did not know that.

“Lothíriel!” Her father was puce.

“No, no, Imrahil!” Elnid waved him quiet with her hand. “Are you telling me, child that no one has thought to enlighten you with regard to your approaching nuptials?”

“I asked my maid but she told me to close my eyes and hang on to the sheets. Very tightly. I cannot believe that that is all there is to it.” She answered without thinking.

“Probably never done it in her life.” Erchi was the first to break into laughter. Amroth could not control himself so pretended he had dropped something under the table. Elphir looked stunned. Merilan embarrassed. Lord Angbor was chuckling into his napkin and her father was dumbstruck for a moment but soon recovered.

“Elnid, I must apologise for my daughter. I fear wine does not agree with her.” He had noticed the two red spots on his daughter’s cheeks.

“Nonsense. There is nothing to apologise for. I asked a question and I received a truthful reply. You cannot chastise her for that. In fact I think you are all to blame, not her. Marrying her off to a man, such as I understand the King of Rohan to be, with no preparation. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.” She looked around the table and announced in a very commanding voice, “Since Lothíriel has no mother then I will take charge of her education concerning this matter.”

The Princess opened her mouth to protest. However much she wanted to find out certain things she could not imagine discussing them with such a matriarch. But Lady Elnid had not finished. “Do not look so worried child; I will not be instructing you myself. I have a very sensible daughter- in- law. A charming lovely girl. She is madly in love with my eldest son, something I find difficult to comprehend,” she interjected frowning slightly, “however, that aside, she is just the person to talk to you. I am sure you will get on. In fact,” her face broke into a smile, “you will love my little granddaughter, just three months old.” She turned to the Prince, “What I suggest, Imrahil, is that Lothíriel comes for a short visit. She can travel back with us, stay a week and return well before you need to leave for Rohan. One of you had better come as well,” she was looking at Amroth and Erchi, “to escort your sister home.”

For once her father looked flustered. “Elnid, I thank you, but there is no need.”

“There is every need. She cannot enter marriage totally unprepared.”

“No, I agree. We have been lax.” Imrahil gazed around the table his eyes stopping on Merilan. “She can talk to Merilan.”

“No, father. I do not think that is a good idea.” Elphir looked quite distraught.

“I agree,” Lady Elnid stated with certainty. “It is much too close to home. She will feel much less inhibited talking to Jana.”

Imrahil sighed. “Very well. Lothíriel will probably enjoy a change of scene. It will help pass the time to the wedding.” He looked toward his two youngest sons. “You can go Amroth, but don’t let her drink the wine.”

“Humph…” Lady Elnid looked a bit doubtful. “I suppose he will do. But I warn you, young man,” she wagged her finger at the youngest Prince of Dol Amroth, “keep away from my daughters.”

Lothíriel grinned to herself: Amroth had definitely tried to keep away from the daughters. In fact he had tried very hard. They however, had had other ideas and as long as their mother was not about, pursued him relentlessly. Watching him trying to avoid them had afforded her and Jana endless amusement. Jana was great fun and they got on from the start. Her having such a sweet little baby girl broke the ice and led to intimate conversations. As her mother in law had said, Jana was in love with her husband. She was totally enjoying marriage to a man who on the surface appeared quite dour but, as one got to know him, the deep twinkle in his eyes became apparent and he revealed a witty and dry sense of humour. He was indulgent of his wife’s sense of fun and did not bother to question the reason for the princess’s visit. He was happy to leave them plenty of time to talk. Lothíriel thought back to the day she had been told of the effect a woman could have on a man’s anatomy, just by being close to him. She had been totally surprised and she had been even more surprised by finding out that kissing was not restricted to the lips. That evening she had sat at dinner looking around at the men of the household thinking about what she had learnt. She could not imagine doing any of those things with any of them. Probably a good job, she decided. As for Éomer? Well, she had not seen him for months so it was a little difficult to tell how she felt about it, but the thought was surprisingly intriguing. One thing she did know however - she wanted to find out if she could excite a man by dancing with him. Lady Elnid’s daughters inveigled their mother into arranging dancing most nights, much to Amroth’s chagrin. But at least it gave her the chance to experiment. It was easy to pick a victim; the youngest son of the house appeared to be smitten with her. She could hardly fail to observe that he turned pink and stuttered and stammered every time they conversed. Amroth had noticed and teased her about it. Of course Lady Elnid had noticed as well. She did not miss much. After the tables were cleared she whispered in her ear, “Let my youngest son have one dance. It will make his night.” The Lady of Lamedon was quite direct. Lothíriel had found it a refreshing change and, by then, had become quite fond of her hostess.

The young man was about the same age as herself. He was tall and quite good looking, but, she realised, that compared with Éomer he came across as little more than a boy. Halfway through the dance, after some very stilted conversation which caused her partner’s face to go redder and redder she pretended to stumble and fell against him. She knew it was very naughty of her, but after all she needed all the knowledge she could obtain and she would bet Éomer would not be so embarrassed.

Lothíriel came out of her reverie to realise that they had reached their night’s accommodation in the Morthond Vale. Tomorrow they would meet up with him. Right now her back was aching from hours of riding sideways and all she wanted was a long hot bath.


-------------------------------------------------------

Lothíriel knew that Éomer and his guard would be waiting for them not far from the entrance to the Dimholt. She had been trying to forget that part of the journey, being terrified she would disgrace herself by showing her fear in front of her future husband. She was giving herself a good talking to - after all the way was likely to be lit by torches - when she realised that riders were trotting down the road towards them. Her heart leapt to her mouth as she saw the King of Rohan at the front of the group. He did look magnificent. It was the first time she had seen him on horseback surrounded by his Royal Guard, all green and gold with spears glinting in the noonday sun. Firefoot was huge, she noticed at once and she hoped he would ride next to her father. After greeting her he did just that, thank goodness, up as far as the area chosen for lunch. Watching him deep in conversation she was struck once again by how kingly he looked. This induced more nerves, but when they stopped and he came to lift her down from her horse, it all changed.

“What’s her name Lorí?” he asked kissing her on the cheek. Well it was better than the top of her head, and she supposed her father was watching.

“Fudge”

“Fudge?” He raised his eyebrows. Obviously not the kind of thing they called a horse in Rohan. “Oh, I suppose for her colour?” She was a palomino.

“No. It was the politest thing I thought when I was made to ride sideways,” she explained with a lopsided grin.

“It’s not the mares fault,” he laughed, “and in spite of what you think, like you, she is not that small.”

“She is when compared to Firefoot. And I am short when compared with you.”

“But not against many of the ladies of Gondor, and anyway you pass the test.”

“What test?” she asked puzzled.

“I will not have to pick you up to kiss you!”

Lothíriel had to stifle her laughter and Éomer put on a decidedly innocent face when her father glanced over to them. Well, at least it seemed as though he wanted to kiss her. She wondered when he would actually get the chance. Hopefully quite soon, she mused. And wouldn’t it have been awful if he had met her and shown no interest in doing so at all. She was pretty sure he was reasonably happy with his choice of wife. Pushing pleasant thoughts aside she voiced her main worry.

“I will still look silly riding next to you and I am sure your people will be appalled that I ride sideways.”

“It won’t be for long. I have picked you out a mare that I am sure you will love.”

“Oh, what is she like?” she asked excitedly.

“Wait and see,” he replied enjoying her enthusiasm. “Now we must eat. Your brothers are looking daggers at me.”

“Oh, they are always starving. Do not be deceived. They ate a huge breakfast.”

The Rohirrim had prepared a meal - hot soup, with bread, cheese and fruit, but Lothíriel found she could not eat much. Knowing that the entrance to the Dimholt was within sight was affecting her appetite. Éomer was explaining that on the other side of the mountain the entrance was by way of a ravine that became narrower and narrower until it was completely enclosed, but from this side there was just a large cave like entrance in the mountainside. It looked awful. What it would be like when they got closer she dare not think. She was terrified already.

The makeshift camp was packed up and Éomer brought Fudge and Firefoot over to where she was standing. “I hoped you would ride next to me now, Lorí. It will not really look that silly,” he laughed. “I want to be near you when you first enter Rohan.”

She nodded her head, but was unable to say anything. She felt sick.

Éomer was looking at her with a concerned expression. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. I am fine.”

“No, you are not. What is it?”

She shook her head. How could he tell? She thought she was managing to hide it well.

“Tell me!”

Éowyn was right. He was a bully. “You will think me such a coward.”

“Lorí, after what I witnessed I am very unlikely ever to think you a coward. Now tell me.”

“I am frightened to go under the mountain,” she said hesitantly. “When I was a child Amroth locked me in a dark cupboard. He went out riding and forgot me and it was ages before anyone found me. I have been petrified of dark enclosed places ever since. Do not worry. I will do it, of course.” She spoke confidently to reassure him.

Éomer said nothing immediately but called to one of his guards and handed Fudge’s reins to the man, speaking a few words in Rohirric.

Without explaining his intentions he lifted her up and sat her on Firefoot, and then sprang lightly into the saddle himself. “Before we get to the entrance close your eyes and bury your head in me. You will not be aware of where you are and it will make it easier.”

“Lothíriel!” her father sounded askance when he saw them. “You cannot ride like that.”

“Your daughter is afraid of the dark tunnel.” Éomer answered for her.

“Oh yes. I had forgotten.” The Prince considered for a brief moment. “Well, she will have to ride with Amroth.”

Lothíriel opened her mouth to make a sharp retort. It really was ridiculous. He had insisted on her marrying the man and now with the wedding only a week away was concerned that they were sharing a horse. She did not get chance to answer however.

“Since Amroth is the cause of the problem I will not give him the pleasure.” Without waiting for a reply or any further protest, Éomer squeezed Firefoot into life and headed up the mountain.

She did not dare look back at her father’s face.

“Close your eyes,” he told her softly. As she did as she was bid she felt his cloak being wrapped around her. “You won’t even know when you are in the tunnel.”

Under the cloak she felt warm and safe. She laid her head against his chest and slid her arms around his waist to stop herself from slipping. Well that was what she told herself. She soon realised why her father has been reluctant to condone this. It was an extremely intimate position as she was virtually sitting between his legs. She could feel the steady beat of his heart, the solid muscles under her hands and could smell the lovely maleness of him. That is when a wicked thought came into her head and she wriggled even closer.

“Lorí,” he whispered, “If you continue to do that, I will no longer be able to control my response to you and I do not wish to insult you.”

“I think I would be more insulted if you did not respond.” She wondered if she had been too bold, but she heard his deep chuckle and felt a kiss on the top of her head. She knew he would not be embarrassed.


Tbc


Chapter 7 - Chapter Seven

Chapter 7

She could tell that she was in the tunnel by the echoing voices around her, but cocooned in her own warm dark place she felt no fear. At least they were becoming acquainted with each other. Which was a good job, she thought. She did not want to marry a stranger. However she had moved away from him slightly. She was not ready to put her thoughts into actions quite yet. Lothíriel heard her father’s voice. He must be somewhere near and she wondered if he would have her off Firefoot the moment they were out. She listened to Éomer explaining that they had cleared a way through the mountain which was wide enough for horses. Hopefully though, he was saying, with a bit more work the road would be open for wagons, allowing trade with the coast. She must have drifted off because his deep voice in her ear made her jump.

“Did I wake you?” he asked, not disguising his amusement.

“It has been a long few days, and I have been up nursing Elphin on more than one occasion,” she excused herself.

“Well, wake up now. We are out and you are in Rohan.”

The Princess pushed herself upright and moved his cloak aside. “Oh, it is beautiful,” was her first reaction. The ravine was narrow but above she could see bright blue sky and white scudding clouds. The whole area was glowing. Silver birch trees, their leaves already showing autumn tints, clung to the rocky sides and lined the way. The sun, slanting through and glinting on the trembling leaves, sent shafts of golden light around them. Small birds flitted from tree to tree and the air was full of twittering song.

“Yes, it is. It used to be grim and dark and no one would venture this far into the mountain. This is something we have definitely gained from the wars.”

“Is the rest of Rohan so beautiful?”

“Parts of it are lovely. But I suppose it depends on what you find beautiful. I love the rolling plains of grass because that is where we run our herds. Others like the mountain vales and the tumbling streams. I admit I have a great feeling for my land. I especially like it in the depths of winter when the snow is crisp and new and the horse’s breath steams in the cold. It is especially beautiful in the moonlight. As long as there is a warm fire to come home to,” he added with a laugh.

Lothíriel was surprised by his eloquence and was enjoying the closeness of the conversation. He was showing no immediate desire to reunite her with Fudge and she glanced around to see if she could locate the mare. Her father was a little way behind but even he was giving no sign that he was anxious to change the situation. She relaxed. Perhaps he had given up.

Éomer must have picked up her thought. “Fudge is right at the back. It’s not far to Dunharrow, so if you are comfortable enough you might as well stay where you are.”

The princess decided that she could not travel in the open with her head on his chest and her arms around his waist. She made herself secure. First she tucked her slim legs against his hard muscular one to support herself and then arranged her skirt to fall gracefully. It was a bit like riding sideways but much more pleasurable. He did not show any objection to her using him as a prop and she had to admit to enjoying the feel of his warm body and hard muscles. He smelt good too. He had obviously recently washed his hair and the scent of juniper was mixing nicely with his own masculine smell. What a long way she had come since she had been so horrified on being told she had to marry him. She wondered what her father was thinking about such lack of decorum could not hide her grin when she spoke to him. “I was expecting my father to remonstrate with me. He looks to have accepted it now.”

There was another of his soft chuckles as he took the reins in one hand so that he could use the other to hold on to her. “He probably knows it a bit late. But what I find difficult to understand,” he carried on, “is why he is so strict with you. So obsessed with propriety. It does not fit with the rest of his personality.”

Lothíriel sighed. “He was not at one time. Not before my mother died. I suppose, until then, he concerned himself with my brother’s behaviour and she with mine. He was distraught when we lost her and did not know how to deal with me. Arien, the wife of one of our knights took me under her wing. She was a lovely lady. She had four children and we played together all the time. One day my two aunts arrived on a visit. They came looking for me and found all five of us swimming naked in a rock pool. They were scandalised and berated my father terribly. It was totally innocent. We were children. But they did not see it that way. I was a princess of Gondor and standards must be maintained, according to them that is. My father was only too happy to hand responsibility to them. They stayed with us until I was sixteen and by that time their rules were entrenched in his mind.”

“We used to swim naked in the rivers all the time,” Éomer mused. “I still do in the summer.”

Lothíriel tried to ignore the unbidden thought that flashed through her mind- next week they would see each other naked! She felt her face flush and hoped he did not notice. It was best to change the subject. “When are Éowyn and Faramir arriving?”

“In a couple of days, with Aragorn and family. I was not sure Arwen would come with Eldarion so young, but I am told that the younger they are the easier they travel.”

“Well, Elphin certainly travels well. He has slept all day and been awake all night,” she grimaced. “I had to answer Alphros’s question for the greater part of the day and help nurse the baby at night.”

“You can catch up on your sleep tonight,” he grinned. “It is not far to Edoras so it will not be an early start.”

Lothíriel was fascinated by her first sight of a Rohan village. Everything looked neat and tidy as the war had not really touched this part of Rohan. Only the Firienfeld had been used as a gathering place.

Halldor, the new Lord of Harrowdale was waiting to greet them with his wife, Eldrid and Lothíriel’s new maid, Frecca. She was a pretty girl with laughing blue eyes and an open face. She had the flaxen hair typical of her race but the princess was pleased to see that she was hardly any taller than herself. Most importantly she spoke fluent Westron. Lothíriel, however, did manage to greet her hosts in Rohirric.

She relaxed in a bath while Frecca sorted out a dress for the evening meal. Her father and brothers and all the ladies had been accommodated in Halldor’s house. It was quite extensive but not big enough for all. Many had to sleep in tents. After seeing the Rohan tents for the first time, Lothíriel thought she may have to review her previous ideas on camping. They looked cosy and luxurious.

She sighed, swishing the water around with her hand. It had been blissful to have Frecca remove her tight braids and wash the travel dust from her hair. She was wondering if she would have the nerve to go through with her plan when Frecca gave her just the impetus she needed. “I am not sure if I will be able to braid your hair in quite the same way, Princess. It looked to be a very complicated arrangement. I think I will need to practice.”

“You will not need to at all, Frecca. I am not going to wear it like that any more. I cannot imagine that there is any lady in Rohan who wears their hair in that stupid way.”

The girl chuckled. “None would have the time to bother with it, Princess. Or see the need.”

“Good. Then we have to find a new style.”

Lothíriel got out of the bath, dried herself and sat down in front of a mirror wrapped in her robe. She played around with her hair for a moment. Enjoying experimenting with various alternatives.

“It might be nice to wear one or two braids, Princess. Most do. As it follows the tradition of the Riders wearing warrior braids.” Frecca came and stood behind her looking critically at her reflection. “You have fine delicate features so you do not want your hair all over your face. We could make a braid with hair from each side and then twine them together at the back. The rest could be softly curled,” she suggested. “We have time to rag it and your hair is not totally straight anyway.”

She sat contentedly when Frecca ragged her hair. This was her second act of rebellion since her betrothal to Éomer. Perhaps he, or the fact that she would be a queen, gave her courage. The first revolt had been over her wedding dress. She had decided what she wanted: a slim fitting dress to make her look taller. Gondorian wedding dresses were usually designed with a tight bodice and waist and a huge skirt consisting of layer upon layer of material. At Éowyn’s wedding however she had observed that Éowyn and indeed none of the other Rohan ladies wore anything remotely like that. She knew that in Rohan, the amount of material needed would be one reason why not. That was not the point. She did not want to look that different. Her black hair set her apart enough and she was determined that her dress would not. She had chosen a slim fitting underskirt in Dol Amroth blue, and had designed a white, gossamer like, semi transparent overdress. It was to be sprinkled with small pearls and embroidered around hem and neck with delicate silver swans. The white over the dark blue would look lovely, she decided. It would soften the vibrant colour. It had just been started when her aunts had arrived on a visit. She had never heard such a fuss. In the end she had refused to speak to them, had been rather rude and stayed in her room throughout supper. The next morning her father had come to try and make peace. For once though, she had really stood up for herself.

“It is my dress, Father. My wedding dress. Surely I can have what I like?”

“They say it is tradition.”

“I will start a new one.” She saw a little twitch on his lips.

“I am not bothered about that, Lothíriel, but they quite rightly point out that you will not be able to curtsey in it.”

“There are not many people I need to curtsey too. And any way,” she pulled out her trump card, “I am getting married in Rohan. The ladies do not curtsey there, they bow.”

“But you are not from Rohan. You are from Gondor.”

She sighed, exasperated with the whole argument. “I cannot believe that King Elessar will worry if I bow or curtsey to him. I have made up my mind, father. I will wear what I like or I will not go!”

Imrahil looked surprised. He was not used to her behaving like this. It must be wedding nerves, he thought. Personally he did not see the problem but his wife’s sisters were dragons. There was nothing for it he would just have to face them. He kissed her on her forehead. “Don’t get upset, Lorí. It is not worth it. I will speak to them.”

She had not heard another word.

“There you are, Princess. You can rest on the bed while it dries.”

Frecca was just putting the finishing touches when there was a knock on the door. She hoped it was one of her brothers. She did not wish to face her father until she sat down for supper. She knew he would be reluctant to make a fuss in public. But it was neither her father nor Erchi or Amroth. It was Éomer.

“Oh, I was not expecting you. Not that I am not pleased, of course,” she added hurriedly.

“I meant what I said. I want to spend as much time with you this week as I can,” he said quite seriously. “I think it is important to know each other as well as possible before we become man and wife.”

She was surprised, but not displeased at his determination but before she could make any remark his face changed to a grin. “You look nice. I like the hair. Just don’t fall against any pillars.”

“I’ll try not to,” she laughed as she took his arm. The first time of many, she realised, that she would be entering a feasting hall of Rohan on the King’s arm. She was more nervous, however, of her father’s reaction than the impression she would make on her soon to be kinsman.

All stood as they entered the hall. Éomer led her to the head of the table. She could feel everyone’s eyes on them and her father’s on her. Her place was, as usual, between her father and Éomer and she sat down, nervous but determined.

Imrahil said nothing until all were engaged in conversation and the noise levels rapidly increasing. “Your hair, Lothíriel. What have you done?”

“I have removed those awful braids.”

“I can see that. But why?” He was speaking quietly but she could tell he was holding his annoyance in check.

“Because I do not like them.”

“It is not a case of whether you like them or not. All noble ladies of Gondor braid their hair to show that they are spoken for. You know that!”

“Oh, I know that father. But I consider it a ridiculous tradition. And we are in Rohan, not Gondor. Anyway everyone knows I am betrothed to Éomer. I know it and he knows it. Wearing braids to show it is totally unnecessary.” She was trying to speak calmly as he would dig his heels in if she was rude.

“I will not have it said that you are not upholding the traditions of your country.” He sounded adamant but she was not going to be put off.

“I will make a promise, Father. If Queen Arwen and Princess Éowyn of Gondor are wearing their hair braided when they arrive, then I will put mine back.”

Imrahil stared at his daughter for a moment, not quite sure of his feelings. He could not make a scene over a hairstyle and it was difficult to force her. He could hardly braid it himself. A good warrior knows when to retreat, was his next thought. A strategic withdrawal was needed. “Very well, Lothíriel. We will leave it until then.”

Lothíriel relaxed and prepared to enjoy the evening. They were all sitting at one large table that ran the length of the hall. It was very crowded as everyone in the household obviously sat down together. She saw that each place was set with goblets and tankards and wondered if the women drank ale. Her tankard was not so big as the men’s and she noticed that most of the other ladies had smaller ones as well. Farther down the table though, they all appeared to be the same. She turned to Éomer.

“Do your womenfolk normally drink ale?”

“Mostly. Although on evenings like this one wine is offered as well. Just tell the server which you want.”

“I think my father has had enough to put up with tonight,” she whispered conspiratively. “I have won on the hair. I do not think he will recover if I drink a tankard of ale.”

“Wait to Éowyn gets here,” he whispered back. “She has always preferred ale so you will have an ally.”

“It does not bother you, ladies drinking ale from tankards?” She asked with interest.

“No,” he looked amused. “They both have the same effect so I cannot see it matters which you drink. Surely it is a matter of preference only. As long as you do not spear me, that is.” He was grinning openly now.

Their conversation ceased as the time came for Éomer to stand and welcome his guests to Rohan. He made the address in Westron and then in Rohirric and although Lothíriel could understand quite a lot she knew it was going to be some time before she could speak her new tongue fluently.

The meal went on for some considerable time and she had to stop herself yawning. All the ladies from Dol Amroth were tired. Travelling tended to have that effect so there was a general agreement to retire early. She was quite happy. Éomer was in deep discussion with Elphir about the trading possibilities now that the old road to the coast would be open. It was not worth staying up.

She was awake early the next morning though and walked outside to get some fresh air before breakfast. The stable area was a hive of activity, with horses being fed and groomed. She found Éomer talking to a man she recognised as Éothain, the captain of his royal guard. Éothain gave her slight bow and turned to leave, “I will leave it with you then, Sire.”

Éomer nodded to him and took her hand to his lips. “Good morning. Did you sleep well?”

Lothíriel thought how relaxed he appeared. He was just wearing a shirt and breeches and looked totally at home with the horses and men around him.

“Yes, I did, thank you. A totally undisturbed night.”

“I am glad for you,” he laughed. “Lorí, it appears that Fudge has a slight injury to her leg. It must have happened in the tunnel. Probably on some loose stones, I would think. It is not serious but you will not be able to ride her today.”

“Oh, are you sure she is alright?” the princess asked worriedly. She might not like riding sideways but she loved her horse.

“A few days rest and she will be fine. Evidently she was a little unnerved, having no rider, and with the strange stallions around her.” Her eyes flew to his face, but he was looking totally innocent. He carried on. “It does give us a problem today. We have spare horses but none of them are used to side-saddle and the track to Edoras is not the easiest. I think you will have to ride with one of your brothers or me.”

She was sure there was a gleam in his eye and she began to wonder if Fudge was that much hurt at all. Her stomach gave a little flip. “I would prefer to ride with you; they would probably let me fall.”

“I think I can promise you that I won’t.”
Neither mentioned the problem with Fudge at breakfast so her father was totally surprised when Éomer lifted her onto Firefoot.

“Fudge is lame, Father.”

“Well, there is no excuse today, Lothíriel. You will have to ride with Amroth. It is not fitting that you ride with Éomer. Whatever will the people think when you get to Edoras.”

“They will think, Father, that their King and their soon to be Queen, are getting on well together. Surely that is a good thing, and also-” she carried on in a tone of voice that made her father think something had happened to change her on the journey from home. Something that he had missed. “I am safer with Éomer than with anyone else on the mountain tracks.”

Imrahil was torn between not letting his daughter get away with downright defiance and a niggling suspicion that she was right. He was not quite sure how to answer her but Éomer stepped in and answered her father in what she thought was a very assertive manner.

“If you do not mind, Imrahil, I think Lothíriel is right. The people will be pleased and will welcome the significance of us arriving on the same horse”.

“Even Éomer can’t do much on a horse Father.” Erchi was his usual joking self, but her father glared at him. Lothíriel however, found it hard not to giggle; after all she was well aware of Éomer’s reputation with the ladies. There had been many who had been more than delighted to tell her. But then she realised that he had gone quite still and that his hands were gripping the reins rather tightly. He was only just holding on to his temper. She was used to her brother, but he did have the habit of annoying others. She put a hand lightly on Éomer’s arm and whispered quietly. “Shall we go?” With a nod to her father and brother he said something in Rohirric to Firefoot, and the big horse headed for the gates.

Imrahil gave a sigh of resignation - he could hardly call after them. He was well aware that things were different in Rohan and it was only a week to the wedding. The Prince gave in and went to find his own mount.

They started down the steep track that led to the Snowbourn. It was not easy and she felt quite insecure perched on his saddle. The feeling did not last long however. .

“You will have to sit against me,” he whispered putting his arm around her and pulling her backward. You can sit more elegantly when we get nearer Edoras.” Lothíriel decided she was not bothered about elegance. The pleasure of having his strong arm around her waist and being pulled so closely to him was driving any thought of correctness from her mind. “You smell lovely” he remarked, after she had stopped her slightly apprehensive fidgeting and settled into a comfortable position. “What is it? I meant to ask you before.”

“Something I make myself from rose petals and the oil from patchouli leaves.”

“Hmm, the roses will grow in a sheltered position but I am not sure about the patchooo…?”

“Patchouli. “It is a tree that will only grow in the southern lands. But it’s all right; the leaves are leathery and will travel from Dol Amroth.”

“Well,” there was one of his soft chuckles, “if I am going to have my mouth full of hair in future then it is better that it smells so nice.”

“Oh, I am sorry,” she realised that the wind coming up the valley was blowing her loose hair back into his face.

“Don’t be sorry.” She was sure his voice was slightly husky. “It is something that I shall enjoy getting used to.”

Damn! The path widened out suddenly allowing Amroth and Erchi to ride up alongside them. Typical of her brothers, she decided, to arrive at such an interesting moment….

It must have been about midday, because Lothíriel was starting to feel hungry, when they came around a bend and the rocks opened out giving her her first view of Edoras.

“We are approaching from the back,” Éomer explained to her. “The gates are around the other side. It is the only opening in the Dike. Tomorrow you can try out your new horse and we can ride out, so you get the best view of the Golden Hall from across the plain.”

As much as she was looking forward to meeting her new mount and riding properly she felt a stab of apprehension. She had watched Frecca mount her horse this morning; leggings under a skirt were not very elegant. Her father would not be pleased. She could just imagine his reaction to seeing his daughter sitting astride a horse with her skirt almost around her waist, leggings or not. Oh, well. It was something else he would have to get used to. She sat up from Éomer and arranged herself as she had done the day before. It must have prompted a thought in her betrothed.

“I assume that you do not wish to ride sideways again, Lorí. What is going to happen to Fudge?”

“Merilan is going to take her on. Her own mare is quite elderly.”

“Well, you have got your wish. The people of the Mark will not ever see you ride sideways,” he laughed.

The Princess sat up straight. A flash of memory searing across her brain, “I have remembered what Gandalf said,”

“Gandalf?”

“Yes. I told you I think. He was very understanding when I grumbled to him about the silly riding position. He sympathised greatly with me. He also said something very strange. I have only just remembered. He said: ‘don’t worry, little princess, you will never have to ride sideways in Rohan.’ I had no idea what he meant then.”

Tbc.


Chapter 8 - Chapter 8

A big thank you to those who reviewed Chapter 7. Time restraints stop me acknowledging you all personally this week. I hope you enjoy. LBJ

Chapter 8


The bed chamber was quite large, and the bed definitely huge. Lothíriel stared at it with some concern - it was nice of him to give it up for her, but it was going to be rather lonely until he actually shared it. But then the very thought of that occurrence was causing her stomach to knot into a tight ball. However much she had learnt over the summer it had not prepared her for the feel of his hard body against hers when they had ridden together. How could she feel like that when she hadn’t seen him for months? She was not expecting the strange feeling of longing than crept unbidden into every part of her. Well, she had been glad he had shown an interest in kissing her, so he would probably be pleased that she was quite interested in … well, more than kissing actually, much more, but kissing would do for a start. Lothíriel put her hand to her mouth in sudden shock – what was she thinking? How could she think like that when it had been made very plain to her for most of her life – that she certainly should not think like that? She spent a few moments trying to make sense of her feelings – surely it was a good thing, surely her future husband would be pleased she felt drawn to him in that way. How were you supposed to think nothing about those things until the day you wed and then, presumably, think about them a great deal? It was silly. Her father and brothers would probably not agree, but whatever they thought, she, Lothíriel, was glad that that was how she felt about Éomer. She was lucky. There was no denying that. She could have been betrothed to a fat ugly man who picked his teeth and stank of garlic. No, her father would not have done that to her. The fact that she had accused said father of promising her to a huge ugly warrior, Lothíriel pushed aside for a moment. Content at this time to bestow gracious thoughts on the Prince of Dol Amroth and believe that he had not entirely been considering the benefit to Gondor but also just a little of the benefit of the alliance to his daughter. This generous thought was interrupted by the arrival of Frecca with her bags.

“We had better get your wedding dress hung up straight away, Princess. I thought you might have sent it with your other things on the wagon.”

“I wanted to keep it with me. Then at least I knew that if I got here safely, then so would the dress. It caused so much fuss to be made I would hate to have lost it.” Lothíriel helped her maid to unpack the beautiful garment from its layers of lawn wrapping, at the same time explaining to her the arguments she had had with her aunts about the design of the dress.

“It is certainly beautiful, Princess, and if you designed it yourself then I can see that the ladies of Rohan are going to be following your lead when it comes to dressing.”

Lothíriel laughed. “Believe me, Frecca; one thing I am looking forward to in Rohan is being a little bit less formal.”

“Yes, we are less formal. But once in a while everyone wants to dress up. Like at Yuletide or the summer solstice. It will be lovely to do so with the war behind us. The last few years, we haven’t bothered much.”

“You are right, it is nice to put on one’s finery occasionally but when you have to do it most of the time it becomes irritating.”

“Well, we have to wear practical clothes nearly all the time. Especially as we are often on horseback”

The Princess was just going to broach the subject of leggings for riding when there was a knock on the door and the housekeeper, Fréowyn, arrived with a tray of tea. Frecca picked up the dress quickly and took it through to the adjoining dressing room, obviously thinking it ought to be kept as a surprise to most.

“Is there anything you need, my Lady? What about a bath?” Fréowyn suggested.

Lothíriel shook her head, “I had one last night so I would just like some hot water for a wash please. We did not travel far today.” She had no idea how easy it was to produce water for numerous baths and was well aware that, unlike her, not all had enjoyed one the night before.

The housekeeper smiled. “I imagine you may wish to rest until supper but perhaps tomorrow I could show you the kitchens and go through all the domestic arrangements. Once King Elessar arrives we shall be so busy and so very crowded.”

“I would like that, thank you.”

Lothíriel was not sure she wanted to rest. She was too elated and interested in her surroundings, but she gave the woman a nod in agreement. She had learnt that it was always best to pretend to concur with senior servants; cordial relations ensured a harmonious existence.

Fréowyn left and the princess picked up her tea and wandered through to see what Frecca was doing. The girl was putting her clothes into one of the large ornately carved wooden wardrobes, along with some of Éomer’s ceremonial tunics. She was glad there was a dressing room, Amroth had been right: there was certainly only one royal bedchamber although there was a sitting room and two smaller bedrooms, intended for children. The whole apartment occupied the south western corner tower of Meduseld and caught the late afternoon sun. Not surprisingly, it was probably in the best position and she could glimpse the stables from at least two windows. She had not been in the stables yet: Éomer had kept her out saying that when she met her new horse there would just be the two of them. He insisted it was not something you did with a huge audience and they would go riding tomorrow. Leggings – she must ask Frecca. At that moment, however, there was another knock on the door. She answered it herself as Frecca was busy. This time it was Éomer.

“You are not resting, then?”

“No, I am not in the least tired. I am too interested in everything.”

“Good.” He looked pleased. “I thought you might like to see around the place, not Fréowyn’s domain,” he hastily added, “but everything else.”

A warm feeling spread through her, for a moment he looked like a little boy wanting to show off his toys. Not a little boy though when he gave her his arm and once again she was conscious of the power of him and the feel of the hard muscles beneath the soft fabric of his tunic.

“I would like that very much.”



-----------------------------------------



Lothíriel realised that she was enjoying herself: immensely. The food had been good. She never ate large portions, as she only had a small frame, but what she had eaten was tasty and well presented. She must ask what the meat had been as it was unfamiliar to her, but whatever it was, cooked in a wine sauce, it was very pleasant. So was the honey syllabub. She had not tried the ale, probably because she was feeling in a benevolent mood towards her father. The poor man was in for another shock when she went riding the next day.

She let her eyes wander around. She and the other nobles of Rohan and Dol Amroth were sitting at the long table that ran down the centre of the hall. Others were sitting at the side tables. There was plenty of space at the moment but it was evident that once the party from Minas Tirith and Ithilien arrived, not to mention other wedding guests, then it would be really crowded. With the meal ended there was a pleasant hum of conversation and a musician was playing on what looked to be a kind of lyre. The ones at home were often made from turtle shells, but this was crafted from leather. It was homely and peaceful, even with the extra guests. A shiver went through her; she knew she was going to be happy.

Éomer’s voice made her jump.

“You were far away. Is everything all right?”

“Yes.” Lothíriel found that she was quite anxious to reassure him, “I very much like what I have seen. You have shown me the hall and the garden and tomorrow Fréowyn will go through all the domestic details. It will naturally take a little while before everything is familiar, but…”she hesitated and then said, “even though I am bound to miss Dol Amroth and I know it will be strange living somewhere else,” she put her hand on his arm, “I am going to love it here.”

Éomer put his hand over hers and let out a satisfied sigh, “We can visit your family often; it is not far at all now.”

“You mean I will have to brave the tunnel again?”

“Well, I enjoyed it.”

She laughed: he really did have a wicked grin.

The servants were moving around clearing the tables; Lothíriel was pleased to see that they did not feel they had to wait until all had left the dining hall as they did in Gondor. She always felt sorry for them, often having to stay up so late and be up so early. She had already noticed that here, although they were polite and respectful, they were not so subservient as at home and more used to saying what they thought. She decided she liked it. She turned to Éomer as her dishes were taken away. “What meat was in that stew?”

“It was goat.”

“Oh, I do not think I have eaten it before. But it was very nice.”

“It will mostly be goat and pork for a while, and not too much of that. We used to run large herds of cattle but they were decimated by Sauron’s forces. It will take a while for them to recover.”

“The goats survived?”

“They are kept on the slopes of the mountains,” he explained. They were much farther from Isengard.”

“Have you no sheep?”

“Some are kept on the Wold, mostly for wool. But we have to be careful as they can ruin the pasture for horses.”


Lothíriel knew that the Wold was far from Edoras. She had learnt a lot during her short time ruling Belfalas and she sat quietly thinking for a moment. Éomer did not interrupt her but waited patiently for her to speak.

“You could farm sheep on the White Mountains if you chose the right breeds. The sheep we have on the coast would be no good to you; we raise them on the salt marshes. But I am sure that the breeds they farm in Morthond and the Ringlo Vale would do just as well on this side of the range. They would feed on the high pastures and not bother the horses. They taste nice and give milk for cheese.”

“Are you sure they would survive here?”

“I think so, but you must ask Elphir. Your horses would be welcome as trade, and horses and sheep could be moved easily by way of the tunnel.”

She laughed when Éomer looked around to locate Elphir as though he was going to ask him straight away.

“Make sure you only buy from flocks where the ewes regularly produce twins.” It was surprising what you picked up when entertaining all those boring dinner guests,” she thought.

Éomer look at her as though he could not quite believe what he was hearing, but then remembered her efficiency with the supplies after the war and a slow smile crossed his face.

Catching his expression she laughed again. “I bet when you first set eyes on me you did not think I knew anything about sheep breeding?”

Eomer sat back in his chair and deliberately fixed his eyes on her. “Lothíriel, I can safely say that when you fell into my arms in the library, sheep breeding was not on my mind. Breeding perhaps,” he murmured almost under his breath.

Blessed with good hearing, Lothíriel stared at him for a moment and then started to laugh quietly. “Luckily for you, Éomer King, in spite of my father and my brother’s best efforts to turn me into one, I am not a prude.”

“Well, now we have established that, perhaps you would walk outside to take the night air. I believe it is a beautiful evening.”

She knew he was challenging her somewhat. But he was wasting his time; as soon as they walked out the door she was sure one of her brothers would decide the hall was too hot.

She was right, they had hardly reached the end of the long table before both Amroth and Erchi decided a walk outside would be pleasant. Éomer said nothing, just raised his eyebrows in a resigned way and led her to one of the benches on the stone platform outside the doors.

“I imagine they will follow us wherever we go so we may as well just sit here.”

“I am afraid they will,” she agreed. “What were you like with Éowyn?”

“Much the same, I suppose,” he grinned. “Although they did manage to sneak off occasionally. There was only me. You have three to watch over you.”

“I cannot imagine why they think I need watching over.”

“No, I agree, you probably don’t,” he laughed. “It is me they are watching.”

Lothíriel thought she had better ignore that one. “When are we going to go riding?”

“If you think you can be up, then at dawn for the first time. There will be hardly anyone about and you will feel less inhibited.”

“I have no problem getting up early.” She decided she would be up in time, even if she had to stay up all night. But luckily his next words made it clear that would not be necessary.

“If you can manage to get dressed without Frecca, I will arrange for a guard to knock on your door with tea. It would be a shame to wake the girl up so early.”

“Of course,” she readily agreed. “I am perfectly capable of organising myself and would not wish to disturb her unnecessarily.” Damn, a thought crossed her mind, she had not asked about leggings. The unease must have shown on her face.

“What’s the matter?”

“I have nothing to wear. I meant to ask Frecca about leggings.”

“Well, she will still be up, but you do not have to worry as there will be some suitable clothes put out for you.”

She gave him a relieved smile; she could not deny it had been worrying her. “I am glad; I am really looking forward to riding properly. I am looking forward to the sense of freedom,” she confided.

-----------------------------


Frecca was waiting for her when she at last reached the bedchamber. It had been a very satisfactory evening, she decided, even though her brothers were a pain. Because of them she had received only a chaste kiss goodnight, although it was on her lips and was better than nothing.

“Frecca, I am going riding at first light, but I need something to wear.”

Frecca pointed to the bed. “There is a riding outfit all ready for you, Princess.”

Lothíriel looked around surprised. “Riding outfit?”

The girl nodded. “Yes, it was made especially for you. When Éomer King came back from Lady Éowyn’s wedding and your betrothal was confirmed, he said you would need one.”

Lothíriel was speechless. Had he really arranged this himself?

Frecca must have realised what she was thinking because she broke into a grin. “I think he asked his sister to take a note of your measurements and she passed them on to Lord Éothain’s wife. She organised it all to be made.”

The Princess picked up what was obviously a tunic. It was made of soft green wool and embroidered much like the cloaks worn by the Lords of Rohan. Folded underneath was a pair of soft doeskin leggings and a linen blouse. There was also a pair of supple leather boots, embossed down the side with a design of running horses. Lothíriel had no doubt they would fit: she and Éowyn had spent almost the whole of one day shopping in Minas Tirith. They had especially enjoying trying on shoes and slippers.

“It’s all so beautiful, and so practical,” she said at last. “I must thank, Éothain’s wife. Hulda, isn’t it?”

“Yes, that right. Most of us just wear leggings under our dresses, but that would not be suitable for the Queen. Lady Éowyn also had an outfit much like this one. Oh,” Frecca remembered something, “you will have to wear your own cloak for this week, Princess. You will receive the royal one at the same time you are given the Queen’s circlet. But the tunic you can wear tomorrow.”

The Princess grinned, sharing her mirth with the maid. “I was wondering how my father would cope if I sat astride a horse with my skirt around my waist.”

Frecca took the clothes and put them on a chair ready for the morning. “What time are you going, Princess?”

“At dawn, but there is no need for you to rise. I will manage perfectly myself.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am. To be honest I enjoy doing things for myself. When I am allowed that is,” she said rather ruefully.”

“Well, Princess, you must say what you want to do yourself and what you want help with. No one here will be offended.”

“Good. I think living in Rohan is going to be quite different from Dol Amroth. And now,” she said decisively, “I think I will retire since it is such an early start in the morning.”

“Will you be alright on your own, Princess?” Frecca asked. “I will willingly stay if you are anxious.”

Lothíriel looked around the bedchamber, noting the rich hangings in green and gold, the carved wooden horses and crests. How many Kings and Queens had used this room she wondered? How many had died in that bed? It did not worry her. “I am used living in an ancient castle, full of dark, dingy corners. I am happy to stay in here on my own. The room has a pleasant feel,” she assured the girl. The fact that some of Éomer’s belongings were very evident, made her feel easier.

“It should have,” Frecca laughed. “It was cleared out and cleaned before Éomer King came home from the wars, but when we knew you were arriving, Fréowyn insisted every hanging was cleaned again, very thoroughly, and all the bed linen was renewed.”

“That was very kind when there is so much to do in Rohan.” The princess could not hide her pleasure.”

“We have not had a Queen for many years, Princess. All wished to make you welcome.”

“All? There must be some who would prefer to have a Queen from their own land.”

“Yes,” Frecca answered, in what Lothíriel was already recognising as the typical honesty of her race. “But most are pleased we are renewing our friendship with Gondor. Also it is generally felt that if we are to have a foreign Queen, then we deserve no less than a princess.”

“I am sure you do,” she laughed, just hoping they would not be too disappointed with this particular princess.

In bed at last, Lothíriel mulled over the day. She had thought it would have been more difficult than it turned out to be. She recognised that some of the ease she felt was due to Éomer and some to the genuine warmth and welcome from the people. It felt good. And tomorrow would be good as well - because she would meet her new horse.

TBC


Chapter 9 - Chapter 9

Chapter 9

It was still dark when she woke. At least there was no light peeping through the shutters. She had left one candle burning, not because she was afraid of the dark in such a large room, well only a little bit. But because she was unfamiliar with her surroundings and she wanted to make sure she was able to find her way around to dress and wash. Lothíriel jumped down from the bed and reached for her robe. She was just tying it around her when there was a loud bang at the door. It was one of the Doorwards. He was holding a wooden tray on which was an earthenware mug, a square of something that looked like a kind of bread pudding, and a candle in a holder.

“Good morning, My Lady. Éomer King has gone to saddle his horse; he said he would meet you at the entrance to the hall.”

The Princess took the tray from the man’s outstretched hand, thanked him and shut the door. She looked curiously at the items on the tray. Somewhere deep inside her she was starting to chuckle. Never in her twenty–one years could she remember being offered tea, at least that’s what she thought it was, in a thick, rough earthenware mug. She had also never been given anything to eat that could be used as a paperweight, or possibly even a building brick. She had also never thought that doing so would please her so much. She could just imagine Éomer rushing off to the stables and giving orders for her to be woken with a tray of tea. What would be available at this time of the morning? Just this - tea and stodgy food, probably left out for the night watchmen. The guard had brought what they had. He was not afraid to, and did not feel that she was some fancy foreign woman who would get upset. She was not upset. She was definitely very pleased.

Lothíriel tentively took a sip of the tea. It was strong and sweet but not unpleasant. She experimentally broke off a piece of the solid slab of pudding and dipped in her tea before tasting it. She was not really hungry but did not know how long they would be out. It had a pleasant spicy flavour but a couple of mouthfuls were more than adequate. The mug was large and she only managed to drink half of the tea.

The first chinks of light were noticeable through the shutters by the time she was ready. The clothes felt strange. The feel of the doeskin breeches hugging her legs would take some getting used to but she could already feel the benefit of the lack of skirts. Lothíriel almost ran along the corridor towards the hall, pulling her hair back, and fixing it with a plain ribbon as she went: revelling in the freedom of the simple action. The Princess hurried down the length of the hall. She did not wish Éomer to think she took ages to get ready and was relieved to meet him coming up the steps when she emerged onto the terrace.

“Good morning, Lorí,” he greeted her, kissing her on the cheek. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yes I did. Although I was awake before the guard came. But you must have been up even earlier,” she remarked.

“I am used to it. I often go riding first thing. Sometimes it is the only chance I get. You look nice,” he carried on before she could answer.

“It is lovely, and so practical,” she grinned. Thank you for thinking of it.”

“Hmm…well it was Éowyn really. She couldn’t wait to ask me what I thought about you after our first meeting and….” he dried up for the moment.

“And you couldn’t actually tell her?” Remembering his remark of the night before she had difficulty in keeping a straight face.

“No, not really,” he chuckled. “So I said the first thing that came into my head. That I was pleased you were so interested in improving your horsemanship and that you hated riding sideways.”

“What did she say to that?” She asked amused.

“She was a bit irritated,” he confessed. “She muttered something rude about me, and the men of the Riddermark in general. Evidently we think of nothing but horses,” he laughed. “So I told her that I would be spending this week helping you get used to riding astride and it would be a good chance to get to know you better. It was she who realised you probably had no suitable clothing. I cannot claim any credit for it, I am afraid.”

“I will remember to thank her, and Hulda,” she laughed. “It will be nice to see Éowyn again. We got on well.”

“If you feel up to it tomorrow, we can ride out and meet them. They are staying at Aldburg with Elfhelm tonight.”

“I would like that.”

“Then in that case we had better start you practising. Come on.”

Éomer set off at a fast pace, his long legs making light work of the steps. He stopped suddenly. “Sorry, I am so used to running down here.”

“I am going to be forever holding you up,” she said somewhat hesitantly.

“Lorí,” he said taking her arm. “There is going to be adjustments for both of us to make. We have made our bargain, but make no mistake – I want this - I want my life to change. Meduseld has been a man’s world for far too long.”

She nodded and smiled up at him. “You already have dresses in your wardrobe.”

“Good. Come on.”

When they reached the stable yard it was getting properly light. Two members of the royal guard were leading their horses out from one of the stable blocks and Éomer spoke to them. She thought he said something about them waiting at the gate. He turned to her.

“They have to come with us I am afraid. The council is adamant. I can get away with two as long as I am in sight of Edoras. But until the succession is assured, if I go any farther, then I have to take the whole darn lot.”

No wonder he was keen to get married. Lothíriel briefly wondered what would happen if she failed to fulfil everybody’s expectations. It was too awful to think about so it was better to forget it.

“It is a sensible precaution,” she said neutrally.

“I suppose so.” He did not sound convinced and she realised how different life probably was for him since he became king. She also knew though, mostly from her father, what a good job he was doing in fulfilling the role.

“You wait here a moment. Firefoot is already saddled but I will bring your horse out to you. You can get a better look at her out here than you would be able to in the stable.”

Her excitement was beginning to mount. In some ways she would miss Fudge. She was a pretty, sweet natured little thing, but she was not suitable for her new life and Merilan would treasure her.

Lothíriel heard the slow clip clop of an approaching horse and fixed her eyes on the stable entrance. Éomer appeared leading what Lothíriel at first thought, was a normal grey coloured horse. One with dark kind eyes who was already observing her with obvious inquisitiveness. But when they emerged into the full light she caught her breath. The horse before her was pale grey but its mane and tail shone like silver as they picked up the light. Her back and flanks, were sprinkled, yes, sprinkled was the word, with small spots of different shades of grey. The palest ones were silver and shone like her mane and tail. The darkest reminded her of deep pewter. Stardust was the princess’s first thought. It looked just how she had always imagined stardust to be.

“This is Jewel, Lorí. I hope you like her.”

Jewel. It was absolutely perfect. “Éomer, she is beautiful.”

He broke into a grin. “Yes, she is rather.”

He led Jewel right up to her and the Princess ran her hand down her silky neck, allowing the horse to investigate her face with her soft velvety nose. Lothíriel started laughing when Jewel put her head down and nuzzled in the pocket of her tunic. “I saved a piece of apple,” she told Éomer.



“You like her then?” Éomer asked, as Jewel started munching.

Lothiriel now had her arms around the horse’s neck. “Yes, very much. I am not an expert but she seems quite young.”

“She is only six, and has not yet borne a foal,” he confirmed. “So she is lively and fun. But I don’t think she will be too much for you. Jewel has a lovely nature. She has been with me all summer and I have found no real vices.”

The Princess considered the mare for a moment. “She is nearly as tall as Firefoot, but of much lighter build.”

“Yes. I knew you would not want a small mount. She will carry a man, but not of course with armour and weapons. Éomer ran his hand across the horse’s flank. “She was bred at Aldburg from a line that has long provided the horses for the Ladies of the Mark. My mother and Queen Elfhild rode her kin.

“Then I am honoured,” she replied in total sincerity.

“It is your right, Lorí, and I am looking forward to seeing you ride her. Stay here a moment and I will fetch her saddle and bridle.”

Éomer disappeared back into the stable to reappear only moments later carrying the required tack. At the same time a lad led Firefoot out from the opposite block. Jewel gave a little wicker of pleasure.

“I think she’s fallen in love with him,” Éomer laughed. “So she is unlikely to run off.”

“Oh, so will you…?” she looked between the two horses.

“I am not sure. I will have to discuss it with the Horsemaster at Aldburg. They share some common ancestry. But enough of that now, let’s get you in the saddle.”

“It’s beautiful,” Lothíriel ran her hand over the supple intricately tooled leather. It was without doubt a lady’s saddle and was decorated with an attractive design of leaves and flowers.

“It was my mother’s. Éowyn insisted on having a man’s. I arranged for this one to be refurbished for you.” Éomer quickly removed Jewels halter and replaced it with the bridle and then put the saddle on her back, fixing the girth in one fluid movement.

“You make it look so easy.”

“Have you ever looked after your own horse?”
“I used to look after my pony when I was young,” she sighed irritably, “but when my aunts took charge of me they soon put a stop to that. I had to wait on the castle steps for him to be brought round. I have never done anything to Fudge except ride her and feed her titbits. I imagine you like to look after Firefoot yourself? My brothers spend a lot of time with their horses.”

“At one time no one else used to touch him, but that is not always practical now. I still do most of the time but there are occasions when it is just not possible.” He smiled. “It would be a good idea if you learnt to do some things for Jewel.”

“I would like to.”

“Good,” he smiled. “Now, Lorí, as much as I would enjoy lifting you into the saddle I expect you would be happier if you were able to mount her elegantly yourself.”

She was pleased at his understanding. Her brothers, especially Erchirion, had the annoying habit of sweeping her up and depositing her on Fudge’s back without even asking her if she needed help.

“Yes. I would like to be as independent as possible.”

“There are mounting steps over there.” He pointed to the left of the stable door.

Lothíriel took hold of Jewel’s reins and led her over to the steps. She climbed up, took the reins in her left hand, put her foot in the stirrup and swung easily onto her back.

“Well,” said Éomer, “I am impressed.”

“I have been watching and practising,” she laughed.

“Practising?” He asked surprised as he checked the girth and adjusted the stirrup leathers slightly.

“On one of those wooden horse things that my brothers use for battle practice,” she explained. “It soon came back to me, but it was not so easy in a skirt.”

“Oh, I see.” He chuckled with considerable amusement. “The practice paid off though. That gave you no trouble.”

“It’s alright when there is a mounting block,” she said ruefully, “but I will never get on her back if I have to mount from the ground.”

“Most of the time you will be with me. Even if you are not, Lorí, there will be someone with you. I am afraid that, like me, you will not really be able to ride out on your own. But often,” he carried on, “there are rocks or logs you can use. If not, I have been training her to go down on her knees so you can mount. You must only do that on soft ground, of course,” he added firmly.

“Yes, I realise that. I will be careful but it would really please me to manage on my own.”

He nodded and turned to mount Firefoot. “Are you comfortable and ready to go?”

“Yes.”

Jewel moved to follow Firefoot at the lightest squeeze from the princess and they headed out of the stable yard to the roadway that led down to the gates. The two guards were waiting, passing the time with the men at the gate. There were greetings in Rohirric to which Lothíriel managed to reply and then they crossed over the dyke and urged the horses into a canter across the Barrowfield.

“Are you alright?” Éomer asked. “You look fine. I really can find no fault with your seat.”

Lothíriel was laughing. “It is much better than I thought. It is all coming back to me, and it is really just using different parts of my legs.”

“You will need to build up strength in different muscles. You must not overdo it. I do not want you hobbling around Meduseld.”

“I am fine. I love it. Can we gallop?” she asked pleadingly. “She is so smooth and has such a lovely easy action I feel I could do anything.”

Éomer was looking a little dubious. “If you feel confident enough. But you must not let her have her head. Stay in control. She is faster than Firefoot over short distances but do not let her get out in front.”

“I will stay with you. She is so well schooled I am sure I can hold her. I have purposely spent a lot of time riding this summer.”

He gave in. She was looking so expectant and he knew, only too well, the lure of a morning gallop. “Alright then,” he agreed. “Once we cross the Snowbourn we will gallop to that far pointed rock and then we will walk to cool them off. One the way back we will stop and you can try to get back on her.”

She nodded in agreement and Éomer turned to tell the Guards of his plans.

It was wonderful. All those years she had missed galloping bareback along the sand. This was definitely nearly as good, the swishing of the tall grasses replacing the rush of the surf running up the beach.

The reined in when they reached the rock and brought their horses to a walk as the guards caught up. The princess was flushed and her eyes were sparkling with excitement.

“Thank you.” She said to Éomer. “Thank you so much. She is wonderful and so well trained. I love her already.”

“It is a pleasure Lorí,” he said sincerely. “We can hardly have a Queen of the Mark ride anything other than a beautiful horse.” He laughed, “I thought I was going to have to spend all week instructing you, but you have done so well that I shall just be able to enjoy showing you around and just teach you some more voice commands.”

“It is due to your schooling rather than me,” she offered.

“Not entirely. Now let’s dismount and you can get back on using that log over there and then try making her kneel.”

The log was no problem. But getting the right accent for Jewel to respond to ‘down’ in Rohirric, was more difficult. On the third attempt however, with the princess’s small hand pressing lightly on her withers, she was rewarded with Jewel obediently bending her front legs and Lothíriel was able to jump lightly onto her back.

“We will practice every day this week,” Éomer stated. “By the end you will have no trouble.”

By the time they returned to Edoras the street was awake and the stables a hive of activity. The guards went off with their mounts and Éomer jumped from Firefoot’s back. The big horse trotted into the stable totally on his own.

“He wants his breakfast,” Éomer explained laughingly.

“Now Lorí,” he said quietly. “We both know you are perfectly capable of dismounting on your own, but perhaps you would allow me to help you.” He threw her one of his challenging looks.

Since her only answer was for her now cool face to flush again, Éomer signalled to a hovering stable hand to take Jewel and he reached up and lifted her down from the saddle. Holding her far too close and for far too long and kissing her on her lips in the process.

His eyes twinkled with amusement when he noticed her slight embarrassment. “I deserve some reward for my endeavours this morning,” he whispered. “And you smell so nice, even at this early hour,” he added.

Actually she had very much enjoyed it. The trouble was that there were so many people around. Not that anyone took any notice really. After all, what was more natural for a man, king or otherwise, to give a hug and a kiss to the woman he was going to marry in a few days time. In Gondor it would have been scandalous to have done that in public, but they were in Rohan, not Gondor and she could see no one she knew.

“I shall consider it one of the pleasures of riding with you, Éomer King,” she said boldly, following Jewel into the stable before he could answer.

Éomer was still chucking when he introduced her to Díor, the young man who had charge of Firefoot and Jewel.

“Díor will do all the heavy work, but I suggest you always try to rub her down when you have been out riding for pleasure and not duty. If you can manage to groom her a couple of times a week it will help her to bond with you,” he suggested.

Lothíriel nodded and took up a handful of straw to start work on the mare, “Shall I groom her now?”

Éomer was checking her legs. He got up shaking his head. “Just rub her off. We will come back after breakfast and I will spend sometime going over things. You can meet with Fréowyn after that.”

After making sure both horses were happily munching they headed, arm in arm, back to the hall, talking over the events of the morning in amiable companionship.

----------------

Lothíriel was aware of eyes turning towards them as they entered the hall, her father and brothers had already started breakfast and were staring at her with undisguised amazement.

“Should I go and change?” She asked Éomer.

“What for?” He said surprised. “We are going back to the stables straight after breakfast. If you do not wish to, then there is no need to change until supper.” He led her over to a table just inside the door where there was a bowl with jugs of water, soap and drying cloths. “We just need to wash our hands. It is always kept here.”

“Where have you been?” Amroth asked pointedly before she could even say good morning.

“Riding. I met my new horse.”

“Just the two of you?” Erchirion joined in.

Éomer sighed. “No, Erchi, we took some guards. But as you have remarked before – even I am unlikely to do anything on a horse - especially so early in the morning.”

Lothíriel was still giggling when she kissed her father good morning and sat down beside him.

“Lothíriel, you should have changed.”

The Princess helped herself to a piece of bread and reached for the honey pot before she answered him. “There is no point, Father. I am going back down to the stables straight after breakfast.”

“Whatever for?”

“Éomer is going to show me how to groom Jewel properly.”

“Lorí,” he said patiently, “there is no need for you to groom your own horse. They have plenty of stable hands.”

“Yes, there is. It will help me to bond with her. Éomer says so,” she replied sweetly.

“Well,” he said resignedly, “please make sure you change immediately afterwards.”

“What I am wearing is perfectly acceptable until supper time, Father. Acceptable and practical in a land where life revolves around horses,” she said with total assurance. “In fact I will need to commission at least one other outfit. This one will not be enough.”

The Prince was quiet for a moment realising that he would have no control over what she wore once he had returned to Dol Amroth. “I suppose that things like that are different in Rohan. Make sure, however, that you dress appropriately whenever you visit Gondor.”

Lothíriel put her knife down with exaggerated care and turned to look her father in the eye. “Father, it was your wish that I should become Queen of Rohan. When I am, I shall fulfil that role to the best of my ability. I shall adhere to the traditions of the Riddermark and, other than observing the rules of common politeness, then the customs of Gondor will be of no interest to me.”

TBC

This time, not only am I continually grateful to Eirwen for sorting my grammar, but to Madeleine as well. She kindly put me right on the bit relating to riding and horses.


Chapter 10 - Chapter 10

Chapter 10

The bath was lovely and hot. It eased her aching muscles. She knew she had done a little bit too much but riding Jewel was so exhilarating, she could not help it. Perhaps she should not have gone out today as well, but the weather was perfect and a picnic had seemed a marvellous idea. It kept them all out of Fréowyn’s way. She needed the space to prepare for the feast tonight. Yes, she was aching a bit. But the journey to meet Éowyn, Faramir and the rest of the party from Minas Tirith the day before had been tiring, but worth it.

The look on her fathers and brothers faces when she had insisted on going into the stable to fetch her own horse from Díor, was good enough, but their disbelief when she had led out Jewel, taken her to the mounting block and swung herself competently onto her back had been a pleasure to behold. In truth, she had surprised herself, but knew that, however determined she had been not to look a fool in Rohan; it would not have been possible without the wonderful training that Rohirric horses received and the extra attention Éomer had given the mare. Éomer must have spent considerable time with Jewel over the summer, and she was both pleased and grateful for his concern for her feelings. He had laughed, and said that it was just the excuse he needed to get away from his study and spend more time around the stables. He made light of it, but she knew he had put himself to considerable effort.

The ride out towards Aldburg had been magical for her. They had left after breakfast. Éomer and his guard, her three brothers and her father with half a dozen Swan Knights. The plan was to meet Aragorn’s party for lunch; a couple of hours ride away, and then escort them to Edoras. When she had arrived in Edoras she had been excited, if scared, to come along the mountain track from Erech, the one Aragorn had taken with Legolas and Gimli. But she was even more thrilled to be travelling on horseback along the Great West Road, the way Théoden, Éomer and the Rohirrim had ridden to the aid of the White City.

It had been a beautiful day with the sun glinting on the high peaks of the White Mountains, picking out bright white permanent pockets of snow. She wondered if anyone ever walked there, if footsteps intruded on what looked liked, from where she was riding, pristine ground. She was just musing on these poetic thoughts when Amroth pushed his way up to ride beside her.

“I have been watching you, Lorí, and I have to admit that you are doing really well.”

She was pleased, as Amroth was an excellent horseman, the best of her brothers. “You should not be surprised, Amroth. You used to shout at me enough when we were children.”

“Yes, I did,” he grinned, “and I suppose you never forget it.” He looked thoughtful for a moment and then said rather seriously. “Lorí, we should have stood up for you. Against the dragon aunts, I mean.”

“Yes, you should have.” She sighed audibly, “But you were full of your own affairs and father was full of grief. It was just easier to let them have their way. Anyway,” she smiled wickedly, “I shall make up for it now. Ride, and wear what I like. I might even swim naked in the rivers,” she added mischievously.

Amroth looked aghast, he was not sure if she was joking or not. “You have changed, Lorí. I am sure it started when you met Éomer. That lion business surprised me. I thought it was a fluke, but it was not.”

“How have I changed?” she asked with interest.

Amroth considered for a moment. “You stood up for yourself over the summer and became much more outspoken. Even without the wine,” he grinned. “I have noticed even more since we left Dol Amroth behind. And you look different,” he added.

“The hair you mean?”

“No, not entirely,” he smiled, “although it does suit you like that. It’s some sort of confidence thing. I think you have grown up.”

“I remember telling you the same, on the beach that night, when you were trying to persuade me it was a good idea to marry Éomer.”

“Hmm… I remember. You were so angry.” He lifted one eyebrow quizzically, “You are not angry now?”

“I am sure it is obvious that I am not.”

“You have feelings for him?” he asked pointedly.

Lothíriel hesitated; she did not want to go there. Not for herself or for her brother. She did not wish to go there unless those feelings were returned. She was absolutely sure they were not. He was kind and considerate to her, had made it plain the he was pleased with the match and found her attractive Desirable even. But that was all. Deep down she knew it. “We made a bargain, Amroth. Éomer and I made a bargain. To both do our best to make our marriage work and each other happy.”

He looked at her shrewdly, “There are worse ways to start a marriage. But I rather thought you felt more than that.”

“Amroth, he is a very attractive man. I am not immune to that,” she said more sharply than she intended.

She thought that would shut him up but a grin broke over his face. “My, my… you have grown up, little sister.

She had to change the subject. “Never mind about my marriage, Amroth. What about yours?”

“Mine?”

She could hardly restrain her laughter at his expression.

“Yes, yours. You cannot swan around forever. You have to settle down sometime.”

“I do not see why,” he said forcibly. “Luckily for Erchi and me, Elphir has done his duty admirably: producing two sons.”

“Well, if not you, Erchi certainly ought to consider it,” she looked around but none were in earshot, “I thought he might have spoken to father by now.”

“I do not know what you are talking about,” Amroth said loyally.

“Don’t take me for a fool, Amroth. He has looked at no other since he and Anis …” she waved her hand to indicate what she meant.

Amroth sighed, realising it was useless to deny his brother’s liaison. “Anis has a small child.”

“She will have another is they are not careful,” she muttered.

“Lothiriel!” Amroth was looking shocked.

“Oh, for Valar’s sake,” she sighed, totally exasperated. “As you said, Amroth: I have grown up. Anyway,” she carried on, “I do not see it matters. She is a widow of good family. Surely father would not object?”

“No, I don’t suppose he would,” he agreed. “I think Erchi is just scared to take the plunge.”

She grinned and made to lighten the mood. “Out of the four of us, he was the one who always made a fuss about jumping in.”

The conversation ended abruptly as a scout returned to report that King Elessar’s entourage would soon be within sight.

The party from Gondor had stopped on the edge of a small stream by the time they reached them. It was a good place to water themselves and the horses, and a fire had already been lit. Throwing a greeting at Aragorn, Éomer jumped down from Firefoot and swept Éowyn off her feet in an exuberant bear hug.

“Careful, you big lug,” she laughed, “I am in a delicate condition.”

Éomer stared at her and then at Faramir as though he could not quite believe it. His expression of bewilderment started Éowyn giggling. “Honestly, brother, it does happen you know, as I am sure you will find out.”

Éomer laughed, and recovered his manners sufficiently to greet Aragorn and Arwen and properly congratulate Faramir.

Lothiriel was pleased to see Éowyn again. She was also very pleased to have her instincts confirmed – there was not a lace cap in sight, and what’s more – neither woman had their hair braided. Éowyn did have a plait for ease of travelling, but it started below the nape of her neck and reached her waist. The Queen was wearing her long dark hair much like Lothíriel’s own: tied loosely back from her face with a coloured ribbon. Just as she thought!

It was a good chance for the princess to catch up on the news from the City so Lothíriel sat with them both to talk and eat their midday meal. The Queen was going to pass young Eldarion over to a maid to enjoy her food in peace but the Lothíriel was keen to nurse the baby. Evidently he had travelled brilliantly, causing no problems at all. Lothiriel was not surprised, as every time she had met Arwen she had appeared totally tranquil and serene. It was bound to rub off, she reflected.

“You must be experienced with babies,” Arwen remarked, watching her rocking him gently.

“Yes,” she answered, “I will miss my little nephews a lot.”

Arwen smiled, “I imagine it will not be long before you are nursing one of your own.”

Lothiriel did not know what to say. She had no idea if the Queen was just making polite conversation or if, being an Elf, she had some kind of foresight.

Éowyn laughed, and she got up to fetch some more tea, “As I said to my brother, Lorí: it does tend to happen.”

Lothiriel still said nothing, realising suddenly that when she had arrived in Rohan she had been more excited than nervous, but as the wedding was getting closer, all this talk of babies was making her anxious.

“Lothiriel,” Arwen said quietly, “I did not mean to upset you. When you rode up on that lovely horse you looked so different from the previous times I have met you. So much more alive and confident that I felt you were totally happy with the prospect of your new role.”

“I am happy,” she admitted, smiling to reassure the other woman. “Just a little nervous, perhaps.”

“Good,” the Queen grinned. “Nerves are acceptable. Unhappiness is not.”

-----------------------------------------

Lothíriel bit her lip and reached for the jug of hot water to top up the bath. Yes, she was happy but her wedding day was drawing ever closer. She sighed, she ought to get out and start dressing for the feast tonight. Last night, after all the travelling, everyone had just wanted to sit around quietly and talk, but tonight Meduseld would come alive to welcome Gondor’s King and Rohan’s White Lady, even if she was now Princess of Ithilien.
She was just about to get out of the bath when Frecca bustled in, her arms full of clothes.

“Are you alright, my Lady? Do you want some of that salve?” she asked glancing at the red marks evident beneath the water.”

“Not until I go to bed,” the Princess laughed, “it smells awful.”

“Well,” Frecca remarked with her usual frankness, “you had better get rid of those marks before your wedding night.”

“Oh,” Lothíriel looked down at herself slightly embarrassed by the reference, “it’s not that bad really. The hot water makes it look worse. I’ll smear the stuff all over me tonight and tomorrow. I am sure they will have disappeared in time.”

“You had better go easy on the riding then, Princess.”

Lothíriel thought for a moment and decided Frecca was right, although she was not sure what she would tell Éomer. “I have to just go out for a short while for the next two days. I will think of an excuse.”

“You probably won’t have to; the men are saying it is going to rain. Now, Princess, what are you going to wear tonight?” she carried on.

The rest of her belongings had arrived, having been sent weeks earlier by ship and wagon. Lothíriel reached for a cloth and stood up in the bath to dry herself. Wrapping herself in a robe she searched through the dresses. “This blue one will be fine; it has a matching shawl which I can take off. It will probably get hot tonight.”

“What are you going to wear for the crowning ceremony?” Frecca asked.

Lothíriel swallowed, she had been trying not to think about that. Adhere to Rohirric customs she had told her father. She could do with missing this coming one out. She wondered if Frecca would mention anything: it seemed just the sort of thing she would remark on, but nothing was forthcoming. “There is a deep red one with gold embroidery; I thought that would be suitable.” Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea after all, she thought. It might well match her face.

“Oh yes, it is lovely. It’s very suitable. I will make sure all the creases are out.”

The bath and the healing oils had eased her sore muscles somewhat and by the time Éomer arrived to escort her to dinner, the red marks on her legs were much fainter. She had better not risk inflaming them though and, unusually, hoped for rain.

The hall was crowded, giving her some idea what it would be like for the wedding. Everyone was dressed up a little more than they had been and the presence of King Elessar and Queen Arwen naturally made things a little more formal.

Lothíriel ended up between Éomer and Faramir, which pleased her. Her father would not be watching every move. Although, Fastred, the server who normally attended Éomer and his immediate guests, had already got into the habit of slipping her an extra measure when the Lord of Dol Amroth was not looking. Lothíriel thought that probably, like her, he did not see why she should be restricted to two cups of wine when everyone else drank four or five or more. Not that she wanted to drink that much wine really, but it was not the point – if she was allowed three or four, then she would soon get used to the effect, she was sure.

The meal was coming to a close when the conversation turned to the wedding day celebrations. Arwen, who had been married and received her crown in one ceremony looked up and asked, “Why are there two ceremonies in Rohan? The wedding one day and the crowning the day after?”

Lothíriel suddenly felt cold and reached for her goblet. She knew the answer perfectly well after reading all about Rohirric customs. It had been haunting her ever since. She wondered if Éomer would reply but Éowyn stepped in with the typical bluntness she was learning to expect from the women of the Mark.

“The crowning cannot take place until the marriage has been consummated,” she explained with no embarrassment at all. “The King has to confirm this as part of the ceremony.”

Lothíriel looked around at her father. His eyes were wide.

Éowyn’s next words caused a flood of relief to wash over the princess. “At one time the bed sheet had to be produced as evidence, but that died out some time ago. Evidently Morwen of Lossarnach totally refused. She said she would rather go home. Queen Elfhild followed her lead, so nowadays the King’s word is enough.”

Lothíriel took another gulp of wine; the relief was making her light-headed. The words would be in Rohirric anyway. No one spoke for a moment but, right on cue, Erchi started chuckling.

“There you are, Lorí. It’s no good pretending you are asleep or you will not get the crown.”

There were some strangulated noises around as those in the vicinity tried to stifle their laughter but Lothíriel was aware of Éomer tensing beside her and he went to stand. She knew he and Erchi were friends but her brother had behaved quite abominably as he often did when he had had a bit to much to drink. She didn’t see why he should get away with it when she could not. She put her hand on Éomer’s arm and looked across to her brother. Both Amroth and her father immediately noticed the red spots on her cheeks, but as Imrahil opened his mouth to stop her, she smiled sweetly at Erchirion.

“Let me assure you, Erchi, that I have no intention of being asleep on my wedding night. Not when, as I understand it, there is so much pleasure to be had. I am absolutely sure there must be,” she carried on, “otherwise there would not be so much activity between you and a certain lady.”

Her father did not know whether to remonstrate with her, or with his second son who had caused this unladylike utterance but, fortunately for Lothíriel, Éowyn and Arwen burst out laughing and so did Éomer.

It was quite late when the tables were cleared away for some very lively Rohirric dancing. Lothíriel danced for a while but she was very hot and really wanted to go outside. She had just found her shawl when Éomer appeared beside her. “Would you like to come for a walk?” he asked. “It’s so hot in here. I think there will be a thunderstorm later,” he added glancing towards the open door.

She smiled gratefully, “I would love to.

“Just a moment then,” he said with one of his mischievous looks, “wait here”.

She watched, intrigued, as he threaded his way through the crowd to have a word with Éothain. She saw his friend grin, pick up a jug of ale and walk over to a table where other members of Éomer’s guard were sitting. There was a moment’s conversation, some more grins and then Éothain casually wandered towards Amroth and Erchi. The other men he had been talking to, picked up their tankards, and nonchalantly followed their captain.

Éomer headed back in her direction with a satisfied smile on his face.

“What are you up to?” she asked amused. Although it was obvious really as the group of men had surrounded her brothers and were already calling for more ale.

He grinned, “Éothain will take care of Amroth and Erchi, Elphir is in deep discussion with Faramir and your father with Aragorn and Arwen. It’s a good chance to spend some time on our own.”

Lothíriel swallowed. She was not really nervous.

“We are getting married in three days time, Lorí; I think that it’s about time we made some preparation for our wedding night.”

What! He could not think that, after what she had said, she meant….

Her face must have reflected her thoughts because he chuckled softly. “Lorí, I just want to kiss you and talk.”

TBC


Chapter 11 - Chapter 11

Chapter 11

It was ridiculous, she thought, as he took her arm and they slipped around the edge of the dancers towards the door. From the moment he had met her at Erech she had wanted him to kiss her – now she wanted to run and hide. It probably would not happen anyway, she told herself, as they emerged from the hot hall onto the terrace outside. One of her brothers would realise - and where was he going to kiss her anyway? The stables would be the first place they would look.

Éomer led her down the steps, but instead of continuing down to the stables he turned right, behind the main guesthouse, towards what she thought was the armoury.

“Where are we going?” she could not refrain from asking any longer.

“Down to the wall. I don’t know about you but I feel in need of stretching my legs and breathing some cool air.”

The air was not exactly cool; it was quite warm and heavy. The moon was still giving them some light, and most of the houses had lanterns outside, but there were dark clouds building on the horizon. She thought he was right: it looked like a storm would break sometime that night. It was a good path, although not so smooth and wide as the main one that led from the gates directly up to Meduseld. They soon reached the wall that surrounded Edoras and had arrived at a place where some stone steps led up to the walkway running around the top of the encircling fortification. It enabled the guards to look out over the dyke to the plain beyond. At this particular point there was also a watchtower, reached by a wooden ladder.

There were a few people about: standing outside their houses gossiping, or just sitting taking the air. All greeted them politely and made a few remarks which she thought were about the weather and the problems the coming storm could cause.

“What are they saying?” Lothíriel asked, the Rohirric from the common people being too broad for her to understand properly as yet.

“They were asking about the stables. If there is a possibility of lightning we have to double the guard and have water ready.”

“Oh,” she had not thought, “in case of a lightning strike you mean?”

“Yes, but it has already been done. Edoras, being on this exposed hill, is vulnerable. The thunder storms around the autumn equinox can be quite severe. We cannot risk a fire.”

Lothíriel shuddered: the prospect was too horrible to contemplate.

Éomer took her up the steps and led her towards the watch tower. Guards were patrolling along the walkway and as they neared the tower a man started to climb down the ladder. He was quite old and had one arm missing.

“Éomer King, my Lady. Have you come to watch the sky?” He spoke in Westron, probably in deference to her, Lothíriel thought.

“It’s very hot with all the guests and the dancing, Aldor, “Éomer replied in the same tongue, “I thought Lady Lothíriel would enjoy the view from the watchtower.”

The man raised his eyebrows slightly and a wide grin lit up his wrinkled face. He gave his King a broad wink. “Enjoy the view, eh, Sire. That’s what it’s called is it?”

Lothíriel almost gasped, trying to imagine a Gondorian soldier saying that to her father, let alone to their King. But Éomer just laughed. “Aldor you old rascal. You don’t change.” He turned to her. “The very first patrols I ever made were done in the company of this scoundrel. He taught me a lot.”

Aldor was chuckling, “I could tell you some tales, my Lady. But I will spare his blushes.”

Éomer groaned, “Come on Lorí, don’t take any notice.” He guided her over to the ladder. As they got closer Lothíriel was relieved to see that the rungs were made from wide planks so it would not be too difficult.

“You go first; it’s not too bad really.”

“I’ll be fine,” she said with deliberate confidence. Well, she was confident about climbing the ladder, if nothing else. As she put her foot on the first step Aldor called out.

“If I see any of those fancy Princes, I’ll send them to the other side of the hill.”

Lothíriel suddenly saw the funny side and started giggling. It eased her tension. It was only a kiss after all.

“You do that, Aldor,” Éomer laughed, “but hopefully Éothain has the situation under control.”

The Princess reached the top easily; it was only really like a steep set of stairs. The wooden tower was square, and would possibly hold about a dozen men. It was open all the way around above waist height but she saw flaps that looked like they could be raised if Edoras was under attack, leaving just slits for firing arrows.

Éomer was close behind her and took her hand as soon as he emerged onto the platform.

“Come and look at the view before the moon is completely obscured,” he said leading her to the parapet.

The moon was shining down on the peaks of the mountains, lighting up the pockets of snow, much as the sun had done the day before but this time they were glowing silver instead of white. The black jagged peaks against the moonlit sky and the dark slow moving clouds were mesmeric. A few bright stars still shone through the gaps in the clouds but she could see that would not last long as they were getting thicker. There was a low rumble of thunder in the distance.

Éomer stood behind her and wrapped his arms right around her, letting his chin rest on her head. His warmth enveloped her. The feel of those strong arms, which were clasped across her midriff, made her mind stray away from even that spell binding view. Lothíriel crossed her own arms and put her hands tentively over his, wondering why she felt so shy. They stood in silence for a moment. Surely he could hear her heart beating.

“Last time we stood together looking at the stars, we were looking over the Pelennor,” he reminded her. “I did not dare kiss you in case someone was watching.” He stood up straight, pulled his hands from under hers and ran them up her arms to her shoulders.He gently turned her around to face him.

“Lorí,” he suddenly said, almost accusingly, “you are trembling like a leaf. I am only going to kiss you.”

“I know,” she said immediately. She bit at her lip and tried to look him in the eye, “I mean I know you are only going to kiss me. I meant - I am not trembling. It was just a slight shiver,” she justified herself, trying to sound convincing.

There was an amused chuckle as he wrapped his arms around her again, this time drawing her against his chest. “You can’t be cold now and you are still trembling.”

What did he expect? No one had ever kissed her before. Or held her quite so tightly for that matter. A few days ago she had felt wicked, but now, she just felt scared. “Alright, so I am a little nervous,” she admitted at last. “But that does not mean that I do not wish you to do it.”

Éomer rested his chin on her head for the second time. “That’s why I thought it would be good idea if we spent a little time alone before our wedding night. I don’t want you to be too anxious.”

Her face was buried into the neckline of his tunic but she managed to reply. “I am not really. I was fine at the beginning of the week, when I first arrived. And now I just want the wedding to take place. I will be better then.”

He let her go so he could look at her, letting his hands rest easily on her waist. “Is there anything bothering you? Tell me if there is. We are going to spend our life together. I want it to start out well.”

She definitely wanted it to start out well but she also wanted it be different than when Éowyn got married. Éowyn and Faramir were desperately in love with each other. It could not possibly be the same for her. She hesitated and then said quietly, “I would prefer it if there was just the two of us. I don’t want anyone else around.”

There was a stunned silence for a moment before Éomer replied. “Lorí, I know the bed is quite large, but I was only envisaging sharing it with you.”

Realising what she had said, Lothíriel rushed to explain. For a moment, however, she could hardly talk for laughing, and she buried her face back into his chest. It was the best thing she could have done as it made her feel a lot better. She composed herself at last. “I meant that I don’t want all the women getting me ready. Éowyn hated it. There were two maids, three Ladies in Waiting and me. It was awful. They were all giggling about nightgowns and the suchlike…” All that fuss about a nightgown, she reflected. She had wondered about it then and now that she was more informed she could not imagine how you did all those things wearing a nightgown. She realised, with a flash of guilt, that Éomer was waiting patiently for her to continue. “It took ages and made her even more fretful than she might have been. All she really wanted was to be alone with Faramir, but there was no hope of that in Gondor.” Lothíriel just knew that, in her situation, she would find all that giggling, awful.

“You are saying,” he said, sounding quite relieved, “that you want us to sneak off alone like we have tonight?”

“Yes, I do. I know that’s normal in Rohan, but I was afraid it would be different for us.”

“No, I don’t think so. The last royal marriage was so long ago we can make up our own rules. Tell Frecca and Éowyn your wishes and,” he grinned, “I will work out a plan of campaign to disappear quietly.”

“Thank you,” she said seriously, “and I promise you I will not be stupidly nervous. I do know all about it you know.”

“You do?” The amusement was back in his voice.

She nodded. “I thought no one was going to tell me anything but Elnid, Lord Angbor’s wife, made sure I was fully informed.”

Éomer frowned, creases forming between his eyes. He had met Angbor’s wife, and tried to imagine her instructing Lorí on wedding nights. He could not.

Realising what he was thinking Lothíriel started laughing again. “It wasn’t Lady Elnid who told me,” she said still chuckling, “it was her son’s wife, Jana. She was very explicit.”

“Was she?” He was amused again. “I am not sure if that was a good thing or a bad one.”

Lothíriel was not really sure now either, but on the whole she though perhaps it was. “I think it’s better to be prepared. It might come as a shock otherwise.”

“I suppose it might,” he agreed. “Which brings us back to why we are here. I was going to kiss you.”

This time she wanted him to and as he loosened his grip on her she slipped her arms up around his neck “I haven’t done this before,” she advised him rather unnecessarily, “you will have to show me.”

“Oh, make no mistake about that, Lorí,” he whispered in her ear, “I fully intend to.”

He smiled softly at the trusting face that was now angled towards him and lifted one hand to trace a finger across her bottom lip. “Don’t, worry, Lorí,” he whispered in that husky voice she rather liked, “I have a feeling you will enjoy it.” One hand went around the back of her neck and buried itself in her hair and the other ran down her spine and came to rest on her bottom and as his lips touched hers he pulled her hard against him her lips opened involuntary in response to the intimate gesture, allowing him full access with his tongue.

Nothing, she quickly realised, could have prepared her for the strange feelings in the pit of her stomach, the tingling in her breasts and an unspecified need she had never felt before, somewhere in the very core of her.

When they parted he put his hands on her shoulders and held her away from him for a moment, looking into her eyes. “Did that frighten you?”

She shook her head. “No, she answered rather shakily, “It was the best thing to have done. I feel better now.”

“Good, I thought you might.” He quirked an eyebrow, “So you are happy if I kiss you again?”

More than happy actually, but she just nodded. However, before the second kiss could even begin there was a loud crack which made Lothireil nearly jump into her betrothed arms. It also made every dog in Edoras; join in a furious, raucous barking match.

They looked around, the storm had crept up when they were otherwise engaged and the lightning flash had been relatively close. This was confirmed by the following deafening clash of thunder.

Éomer grabbed her hand, “Come on, the horses. If there is a strike, they will need all the help they can get.”

He almost leapt down the wooden steps and lifted her down from halfway up. Together they ran along the wall to the stone steps leading down to the street. They had just reached the street when there was another crack and the eastern sky was lit up by a bolt of forked lightening. Lothireil shouted, over the following thunder clap. “You go on, I will be alright.”

“No, its not far, come on.” He almost pulled her with him, running through a back ally and a few minutes later emerging on the main way to the stables. Others were running in the same direction.

She knew the stables were jam packed. Some horses were even tethered in the training ring as there were so many visitors. Frightened horses were liable to do anything. They reached the stable yard and all was calm but Lothíriel could hear some panicky whinnying from deep in the stables where Jewel and Fudge were housed. They were about halfway across the yard when Éomer was met by Halcon, the stable master.

“It’s not too bad, Lord” the man reported. “Most of the riders arrived at the first hint of the storm. The warhorses are alright, I am worried about the ones in the open ring. I am just going down there. If they break out it could be dangerous.”

“Order the main gates to be opened,” Éomer advised. “I do not want them careering madly around Edoras. If they do break out guide them down the main street. They are mostly our own and will return by themselves or we can round them up in the morning.

“Fudge?” Lothíriel blurted out. “She will be frightened witless.”

“Oh aye, that little Palomino. She is frightened. Díor is with her,” Halcon sought to reassure her.

There was another crack, this time nearer. “Well done, Halcon, I won’t detain you. Have you got enough men?”

Halcon gestured to the direction of Meduseld. “I’ve sent to rouse everybody. They will be sobering up fast.”

There was another loud bang and Éomer pulled Lothíriel towards the stable which held Jewel and Fudge and the other mares and geldings. When they entered there were already many men there, mostly from Gondor. She could hear the stamping of hoofed feet and some frightened whinnying, but also something else - the low mummer of song -The Rohirric stable lads were singing.

They’re singing,” she said, stating the obvious.

It’s the best way of calming them,” Éomer explained, “Horses seem to like it. They enjoy us singing, around the campfires as well as in battle.

The song was rich and deep, but repetitive and soothing. She imagined that if a warrior tried to sing a lullaby, it would sound much like this.

Some horses were standing quite calmly, a few even pulling wisps of hay from their mangers, but a few others were more than alarmed. When they reached Jewel, she was rolling her eyes and sweating, but did not look in any immediate danger of reacting badly enough to hurt herself. Fudge was opposite her. She was cowering in the far corner of her stall, and the young stable lad, Díor was humming softly to her.

“Talk to her Lorí,” Éomer suggested, “As well as the storm, she is in a strange unfamiliar place. That will not be helping her. Your voice might reassure her,” he added.

Before she could say anything there was a loud hiss and a crack, it sounded almost overhead and it was closely followed by the loudest clap of thunder so far. The little mare shrieked, if horses can shriek, and shying away from the three people at the entrance to the stall tried to climb into the next one.

“Fudge, Fudge, it’s alright it’s nearly over,” Lothíriel crooned. The lads were still harmonising together, producing their low charismatic melody as they tried to keep the animals calm, and the princess joined in, she had quite a powerful voice for one so small and she used it to hum the Rohirric melody to the petrified little mare.

She thought she saw a slight lessening of Fudge’s fright but suddenly there was a loud shout and someone burst through the main door to the stable block.

Éomer turned to remonstrate with whoever had stupidly broken the peace.

It was a Gondorian soldier. He shouted wildly, “Meduseld, Meduseld’s been stuck. The hall is on fire!”

For a short second Éomer did not move he looked to the door and then back at Lothireil. She stared at him for another infinitesimal moment.

“Go, never mind here. Go!” she almost screamed.

Wordlessly he ran headlong for the door.

TBC

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Authors note: Thanks to Maddy for her continued help with the ‘horsey’ scenes and you can blame Eirwen for advising me to leave you in suspense. I also told some of you there were 2 chapters left – it is 2 after this one. LBJ


Chapter 12 - Chapter 12

Chapter 12



The stable emptied. Just the grooms and lads remaining: their priority, as ever, to their charges.

Lothíriel’s heart was beating wildly. She stared for a moment at Fudge; the little mare was huddled in the far corner of the stall trembling violently. There was another thunderclap but this time it was not so vicious. The storm was moving away.

The children! How could she even think of staying here? The princess, with a helpless nod to Díor, picked up her skirts and ran madly for the door. Éothain, Hulda and their two small boys lived in the North East Tower, Fréowyn’s orphaned granddaughter shared the housekeeper’s quarters near the kitchen. Most of the accommodation for guests or those working in Meduseld were in houses nearby but Frecca and one or two other servants lived in the hall.

She ran across the stable yard and out onto the main street, from there she had her first glimpse of what could be a catastrophe. The main part of the hall looked to be untouched but flames were coming from the top of the North East Tower. Alphros! She screamed silently to herself. Her nephew had formed a friendship with Cedric; Éothain’s eldest, and had forsaken his billet with his mother and father for the adventure of sharing with the two young Rohirric lads.

As she neared the steps that led to the hall she could see figures on the main roof, some frantically trying to dampen down the thatch and stamp out any flying sparks whilst others were attacking the flames at the top of the tower. Fortunately there was no shortage of water as a stream gushed from under the stone stairway and ran in an open channel down the side of the main street. The four towers of Meduseld were made of stone, but it would be the tower roof that was burning, she thought: it was made from wooden tiles. She looked back up to the main roof; if only the storm would break the thatch may be saved. As she got nearer the figures on the roof came into focus: there were about a dozen men up there and of course it was easy to pick out Éomer. His mop of blonde hair and his build made him easily identifiable. Then her heart leapt with unaccustomed pride as she recognised Amroth and Erchirion. They must have sobered up fast. Her brothers were annoying and domineering, but they could always be relied on in a crisis.

The steps were covered by chains of men using containers of every sort to transfer water, both inside the tower and up to the roof. The lawn around the hall was packed with people, refugees from the feast as well as townspeople, their mouths agape at what could happen here. Lothíriel desperately searched the crowd for someone who could answer her increasingly urgent questions. She pushed her way towards the stone terrace ducking under arms and squeezing between young and old. When she reached the top she saw that it was Faramir and Elphir who were directing the containment effort, there was no sign of her father or King Elessar. Suddenly, with a certain amount of relief, she saw Éowyn, standing outside the main door. She was looking shocked and white faced.

Guards were holding the people back but when they recognised the princess, she was quickly let through.

“Éowyn, Éowyn,” she called out urgently, “where is Alphros?”

Éowyn looked around to see where the voice was coming from. “Oh Lorí,” she answered in a rather relieved voice, “no one knew where you were. Éomer climbed straight up onto the roof without saying anything. Where have you been?

“The stables, but never mind me. What about Alphros and the other children?

“Oh, they are fine. It was the tower roof that caught. Merilan and Arwen have taken them all down to the guesthouse.”

Lothíriel clutched at the other girl, a stab of relief causing her to falter for a moment. “Where is my father?”

“Inside. He and Aragorn are supervising the salvage of the tapestries, wall hangings and important papers from Éomer’s study. They are not in immediate danger but if the main roof catches…” The White Lady of Rohan could say no more and burst into tears.

That was when the Valar took pity on them, Lothíriel always thought afterwards. There was a ferocious roar and the clouds opened.

Once the rain started it came down in bucketfuls, making the efforts of the men meaningless. The crowd of onlookers dispersed as quickly as it had formed and Éowyn grabbed Lothíriel’s hand.

“Come on there is no point in us staying out here and getting drenched; they will have it under control in a moment.”

The two girls ran together into the hall where various people were milling about, mostly the servers and kitchen staff. The Prince of Dol Amroth was very evident and, as soon as he saw his daughter, made his way towards them

“Not a moment too soon,” he remarked with considerable relief, pointing his chin skywards. “Hopefully it is just the tower roof that has gone.”

“Yes, probably. They will have to put some tenting canvas over it until it can be repaired properly,” Éowyn answered. She sniffed the air, “Although we will have to put up with the smell for a bit. It happened once before when Éomer and I first came to Meduseld. Lothíriel eyed the tapestries that had already been rolled and stacked on one of the large tables. “Your efforts were wasted, Father,” she smiled. “They will all have to be put back.”

“Yes. But luckily we were about to get that one down when we heard the rain.” He pointed to the large hanging which depicted Eorl the Young riding out of the North to the aid of Gondor, and to victory, at the Battle of the Field of Celebrant.

The Princess walked over to the table and unrolled one of the smaller hangings. “They looked fine on the wall,” she mused, “but this one, at least, really needs some repair.”

“Most do,” Éowyn agreed. “But the last few years have been grim. No one felt like it and sewing and embroidery are not my first love,” she admitted.

Imrahil walked over to examine the hanging. “You may have a job for life here, Lorí,”
he grinned, indicating the large pile of decorative pieces.

The stitching is no problem but the most difficult thing will be matching the colours,” his daughter replied, “the dyes are different than those we use at home.”

“There is a very old lady who lives in Edoras who is an expert,” Éowyn joined in. “She was always going on about restoring them, but as I say, the time was not right.”

“It will make a pleasant winter job,” Lothíriel told her.

They were interrupted by Fréowyn and Frecca arriving with huge armfuls of cloths.

“Those boys are going to be soaked through, cold and hungry by the time they have finished tonight,” the housekeeper stated emphatically. “The washing up from the meal is not done yet and I need someone to stoke up the fires and carry water for baths.” She looked pointedly at the Prince of Dol Amroth.

Lothíriel could hardly stop her self from laughing out aloud at the expression on her father’s face. At that moment King Elessar appeared on the other side of the hall, emerging from Éomer’s study. She waited with eager anticipation for the forthright Rohan woman to order the King of Gondor to make up the fire but unfortunately, she thought, he forestalled her.

“Ah, Fréowyn, would you like me to rustle up some help? I imagine you have a lot of fetching and carrying that needs to be done.”

“Yes, my Lord, it you would not mind. It will be a long night.”

It was a long night. But after it was established that the damage had been contained, only the roof tiles had gone and the massive beams supporting them were just blackened, it was fun.

Lothíriel helped Frecca make a huge vat of mulled cider and a large mug was handed out to the tired men when they eventually streamed into the hall after all was safe and watertight. They were all soaking wet and dry cloths were handed out. Everyone crowded around the massive hearth in the centre of the hall, steaming gently. Those who had been on the roof were the last to come in, and Éomer, Éothain, and a few others including her brothers were not only wet but, as they had actually been fighting the fire, black and smelly as well.

There were so many people thronging around Éomer that Lothíriel found it difficult to get anywhere near her betrothed to find out how he was. She was relieved, however, when his superior height gave him the opportunity to look over the top of those clamouring for his attention and wink at her. Since his face was black it looked exceedingly funny. He eventually managed to escape when Fréowyn announced that baths were ready in the guard room for those who had been on the roof, nearest to the fire. The guardroom was near to the kitchens so it saved lugging water around too much. Lothíriel wondered what her brothers would think about communal bathing but as they had no inclination to go out in the deluge again and make for their own quarters, there were no objections. Since their spare clothes were in the main guesthouse, Lothiriel was rewarded by the sight of two princes of Dol Amroth supping soup after their bath wrapped only in bed sheets. No one was fetching clothes until the rain stopped. She was passing round a basket containing hunks of bread to go with the soup and arrived in front of her brothers to offer them some at the same time as Éomer, who of course had been able to avail himself of clean dry clothes. He put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze.

“Are you alright?” he asked. “There was no trouble in the stables after I left?”
Erchi looked up before she could answer. “Oh, so you did end up there. And what were you doing may I ask?”

“Erchi,” Éomer addressed him in a rather exasperated tone, “I was about to offer you some dry clothes but if you continue to behave like a pratt, you can stay wrapped in a sheet.”

Lothiriel handed Éomer a piece of bread to go with the soup he had been given. She was glaring at her brother and was severely tempted to stamp on his bare foot.

“If you must know, Erchi, at that time we were merely checking on the horses.” She wondered why she even bothered to answer him. He was impossible. Not long ago she felt proud of him and now she could hit him.

As thick skinned as ever he could not leave it alone. “I am sure you were not checking on the horses all that time, Lorí.”

“No, we were not,” she snapped at him. “We went for a walk down to the wall.”

“To check on the guards, I suppose,” he smirked.

“Erchi, leave her alone.” Amroth was getting irritable now.

“No,” she said carefully, savouring her answer. She was going to enjoy this. She had only had a very small cup of mulled cider, and there really hadn’t been that much brandy in it, she decided, just enough to let her not care a damn. “We did not go to check the guards at all; we went to practice for our wedding night.”

There was a splutter from Éomer, and some hot soup found its way back into the bowl.

“Practice?” Erchi’s expression would give incredulity a fair start, she thought.

“Yes, practice,” she repeated. “I am sure Éomer does not need any, but I certainly do. Now excuse me, but I must pass this bread around.” She turned on her heel leaving two totally astonished faces behind, and one with laughter all over it.

She had not gone more than half a dozen steps when she bumped into her father. He put a hand on her shoulder.” Is everything alright, Lorí? Your face is red and those two,” he indicated his two younger sons, “are looking decidedly green.”

“They are upset, father because I went for a walk with the man I am going to marry in three days time. No, not three days now, only two,” she corrected herself, it was well after midnight. “I would have thought that even they would think it a good idea if I actually knew what a proper kiss felt like before my wedding night, but apparently not And that’s what we did Father, we kissed. And what’s more I enjoyed it,” she announced in a voice that challenged him to object.

An amused smile swept across her father’s face and he placed his lips gently on her forehead. “Believe me, Lothíriel: I am very glad you did.”


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Arwen’s maid was putting the finishing touches to her hair, the woman certainly had a knack, it looked lovely. Swept up on top of her head and then hanging down her back in long soft curls. Mind you it had taken hours. Most of the day had been taken up with getting ready and her hair always took ages to dry. At least with all the sitting and lying around she shouldn’t be tired tonight. She giggled inwardly; she certainly wouldn’t be falling asleep at an inappropriate moment.

It had been an eventful couple of days and the annoying thing, as far as she was concerned, was that there had been no opportunity to repeat the kiss. The day after the fire was spent clearing the debris and rounding up horses. It rained that evening and yesterday she and Éowyn had gone for a quiet ride, that is if any ride with one of the Rohirrim could be called quiet, even if the Rohirrim concerned was with child. Lothíriel had enjoyed the ride and was extremely relieved that the salve had worked on her legs and there were no more red marks. All the men, including Éomer, had been sent out hunting to get them out of the way. It was probably due to the presence of the three Princes from Dol Amroth that the hunt had been so successful – her brothers were fanatical and extremely skilled. The larder had benefited anyway. They had left before dawn and did not return until after dark and spent the rest of evening telling everyone else of their prowess. She had not seen Éomer today and would not until she joined him in the Hall for the ceremony. That was a bit of Gondor tradition. They were being married according to both. A simple vow in Rohirric was all it took in Rohan normally, but they were also having the Gondorian binding of hands. She would be well and truly married. Far more important, to Rohan, would be the crowning ceremony tomorrow when the people would welcome their new Queen.

“There you are, Princess, I hope you are happy with that.” The maid had finished at last.

“It’s beautiful, Anneal, thank you. It is no wonder Queen Arwen always looks so lovely.” Lothíriel was very pleased. She liked her hair to look nice and piling it up made her look taller. The maid curtsied and with a smile and a nod to Frecca left the room. There was one thing Lothíriel really liked about Rohan and that was that the people did not take offence easily. Frecca had been more than happy to let Anneal do her hair, respecting the Gondorian woman’s skill rather than being jealous of it.

Lothíriel picked up little pot of kohl and a small bush and used just a little to outline her eyes. Her brows were dark enough and they had been plucked into a neat shape. A little rouge and lip colour was all she needed. Not too much, just enough to enhance was what she liked.

As soon as she had finished Frecca brought her dress over. It had turned out well. The main body of the dress was two layers, the flimsy overdress letting through the blue of the silk underneath. The sleeves were long and tight ending in points that projected over the backs of her hands: they were made of the transparent material covered with small pearls as the rest of the dress. There was a swan embroidered on both points of the sleeve, she had worked on them herself knowing she would be in for a lot of hand kissing. The dress would be highly unsuitable for life in Rohan but maybe she would be able to wear it again in Gondor or Dol Amroth, if one of her brothers got married, perhaps. She picked up her silver circlet and necklace – it would be that last time she wore these – the Rohan ones were gold. Lothíriel adjusted the neckline as Frecca was lacing the dress up, it was cut rather low and she smiled to herself, it would give everyone a good view of her ‘attributes’. She might be small in other parts but her bosom was, well not large, but certainly ample in comparison to the rest of her figure.

Frecca finished the last lace, “Well, Princess, if you don’t want me around tonight you know who will be undoing this, don’t you?

“I imagine he’s done it before,” she answered without thinking.

Frecca burst out laughing, “You are under no illusions then, my Lady?

“No, I am not,” Lothíriel grinned, “not with three older brothers. Frecca,” she carried on, “I hope you don’t mind me not wanting anyone else about. I know that is the usual way in Rohan.”

“Yes.” Frecca was quiet for a moment. “You make the vow in front of a witness and he wraps his cloak around you and there you are. If you are lucky he picks you up and carries you well away from everyone else. I was lucky, he was young and strong.”

“Frecca,” Lothíriel was flabbergasted, “are you telling me you have been married?”

The girl nodded. “The day after Helm’s Deep. I was young, but we had loved each other for quite a time and my parents gave permission. With what was going on there was not a lot of point in waiting.” She sighed, “He rode off to Gondor and never came back. Crushed by one of those monsters, I understand. It seems like a dream sometimes.”

“Oh, Frecca,” the Princess instinctively put her arms around her maid. “This must be awful for you, why did you not say?”

Frecca shook her head, “No, I wanted this. I needed something useful to do. Fréowyn is a friend of my mother’s and she arranged it.”

Lothíriel smiled, giving the girl a gentle hug, “I have seen you in the company of one of King Elessar’s soldiers.”

“He came last summer with the Funeral Cortège. He made eyes at me then, but now he wants to make more than eyes,” Frecca smiled back rather wryly.

“And?”

“And nothing. If I was in love with him, I imagine I would gladly go to Gondor. But I am not. It is too soon and I want to stay in Rohan. Now come on, Princess, enough of me it is nearly time. You just need some perfume.”

There was a knock at the door. Lothíriel knew it would be her father. She took a deep breath and checked herself in the long mirror whilst Frecca went to open the door.

Her father smiled as she went towards him. He reached for her hand and took it to his lips. “You look absolutely beautiful, Lorí. Éomer is very lucky.”

Lothíriel could not say anything it had suddenly hit her that this was it. The Prince was silent until they were away from the door and then he stopped.

“Lorí, I want to apologise. I was wrong. I should not have promised you to Éomer without at least discussing it with you. I was just so eager to protect the future. I am sorry.”

She shook her head, “It doesn’t matter any more. I was very angry but at least I now understand your reasoning,” she hesitated, “but thank you for that.”

“I think it has worked out well,” her father smiled, “will work out well, I mean.”

“I hope so. It could have been a lot worse, Father,” she grinned, “he really could have been a huge ugly warrior!”

No, Éomer certainly wasn’t ugly, and she was reminded of that the minute they entered the hall. The royal apartments were at the back and the King of Rohan rose from his seat and turned towards her, somebody must have given him a signal. He was staring at her as if it was the first time he had ever seen her and she could not take her eyes from him. He looked larger than ever. His long golden hair was flowing around his shoulders and he was wearing his crown. He looked confident and dignified in his heavily embroidered ceremonial cloak, which would be wrapped around her as part of the simple Rohirric ceremony. He wouldn’t be carrying her off though, at least not yet. She gave him a nervous half smile and his face broke into a beaming grin. The whole hall rose, her soon to be husband walked towards her, and her father handed her over.

The Princess’s small hand felt lost in his large rough one. He wasn’t exactly squeezing it, but he was holding it very tightly. She wondered if he was afraid she would change her mind and run off down the hall, but then he bent his head slightly and whispered very quietly so there was no chance of anyone else hearing,

“You look so beautiful that for a moment I thought I was dreaming and would wake up wrapped in my bedroll on the hard ground.”

Lothíriel looked up at him; astonished, never imaging he would say anything like that. There was no chance to reply because King Elessar came forward for the Gondorian part of the ceremony. She watched the ribbons being wrapped around their hands in a sort of stupor not quite knowing how she managed to remember the words, luckily there were not many as Aragorn had to do most of the talking. Suddenly they were wed, but she knew she would not feel totally married until they said the words in Rohirric and he wrapped his cloak around her.

Moments later they were looking into each others eyes and she was listening to his rich deep voice, it seemed to vibrate right through her. Then it was her turn, she had practised and practised, it was not an easy language. She could see herself reflected in his irises and the green flecks in them were dancing about. When she had finished, she had managed it perfectly, she thought, he unhurriedly took off his cloak and placed it around her shoulders. He continued to stare into her eyes for a moment and then, with a hand on each edge of the opulent garment he bunched it up until it was tight around her and used it to pull her towards him until he could kiss her. She felt his lips, warm and solid. It was a kiss quite unlike the one of a few nights before, but the meaning was clear and the shivery feeling she already had in her back made its way all the way down to her feet. Her legs decided to via with jelly for wobbliness and she thought the entire hall must be able to hear her heart thumping. He let her go, the guests broke into the traditional clapping and cheering and the feasting began.

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Considering that supplies were still not back to normal in Rohan, the cooks had done a wonderful job. With pork, apples and honey still reasonably plentiful, no one would go hungry. She knew pigs were being roasted down in the city as well, but the main festivity would be tomorrow, when she received her crown. The celebration tonight was more for family and friends, with just the worthies of Rohan present.

Lothíriel looked down at the piece of blackberry pie that had been put in front of her, she was not sure she could eat it. She dug her spoon in, scooped up a little and put it in her mouth. That bit went down but she knew she could eat no more. She gave up, put her spoon down and gazed around the room. She had the distinct impression that everyone was becoming slightly inebriated, everyone except herself and Éomer. Certainly the noise was getting louder, drowning out the musicians. The wine had been flowing freely but she had kept topping up her goblet from the water jug. Edoras was blessed with clean fresh water that came down from the mountain. Her new husband would probably not stop her from drinking whatever she wished but now that she was allowed to have as much wine, or ale for that matter as she wanted – it didn’t hold quite the same attraction. Anyway, she did not want to say or do anything stupid.

“You are not eating much.”

She jumped, his voice startled her. He had been talking to Arwen for a moment; the Queen was sitting on the other side of him.

She smiled to reassure him, he probably thought she was too nervous to eat but it was not that really. It was the rich food and the excitement.

“I have had plenty, thank you. It was lovely.”

He took her hand, absently playing with her fingers and leaned closer. “Are you happy that you did not back out when I gave you the chance in the library that day?”

“Yes, I am.” She could be completely truthful because she was glad. Very glad. “I like Rohan, the people and …” she broke off, unable to say any more.

Éomer let go her hand and slid his arm around her shoulders. “We will make each other happy, Lorí, I promise.”

She nodded and reached over and put her hand in his other one. She just wanted to go, she wasn’t interested in speeches, dancing or anything else. It was in her nature – when there was something to do she just liked to get on with it.

He must have picked up her thought because he said softly. “Aragorn is not going to say much; if you like we can disappear after the first dance. Judging by the state of everyone already, nobody will notice.”

She smiled gratefully and leant closer against him. “Yes, I would like that. As long as nobody feels they are missing out on anything.”

He shrugged, “It’s our wedding night we can do what we like.”

It was not quite so easy to get away. As well as many others, her brothers, who were never normally interested in dancing with her, were extremely intent on doing so tonight. In the end however Éomer took hold of her hand and said in a very firm voice. “Come on, Lorí, let’s go and get some air for a moment.”

“Don’t say anything, just come,” he whispered to her intriguingly.

She was even more intrigued when once outside he led her around the corner of Meduseld towards the kitchens. “Are you still hungry?” she joked.

“No, we are going to go into our apartments the back way.”

She had no idea how, especially when they passed the door at the back of the south east tower that led to the store rooms and kitchen. The door was wide open; it would be hot down there. She knew there was also a gate into their private garden, but the garden was totally overgrown, except for a small area outside their sitting room. They would not be able to get through. It was a job she was hoping to start, with help, once all the guests had gone home.

They were walking along under the shadow of the wall, just about able to see where they were going from the torches that were lit around the hall at regular intervals. Sounds of laughter and merrymaking were wafting up from the houses below as well as from inside the hall, but they were cocooned on an island of peace.

“Are you alright?” he was holding her arm very tightly.

“Yes, but we are going to be missed if we do not go back into the hall.”

“Don’t worry; Éowyn has been primed as to what we are doing. I told you I would plan a campaign,” he grinned, squeezing her arm.

Lothíriel still had no idea how they were going to get in but she decided to wait and see. He must have arranged something.

They reached the strong fence that surrounded the garden. It was high, reaching above their heads sheltering the lower part of the garden, but it allowed views from the terrace higher up.
Éomer pushed on the gate and to her surprise it opened silently. There was a bigger surprise inside; the path had been hacked clear. Hacked was the word, obviously done in a hurry, but at least you could walk along the narrow stone way that crisscrossed the terraces, somebody had even placed a few torches to light the path.

“Éomer, when did this happen, and why did I not see from the window?” she asked mystified.

“Most of it was done when you were out riding yesterday and the bit nearer to the windows was finished off tonight.” He turned around and shot the bolts home on the heavy door. “Be careful there are probably a few brambles around.”

He took her hand and led her cautiously up the cleared path until they reached the place where it widened out into the small terrace, designed for eating outside when the weather was fine. She had already thought it would make a good place for young children to play in safety. Children! She gulped; the furtive escape from the hall had put the reason for the flight from her mind. She shivered. No; she would not give in to nerves.

“Are you cold?” the amused voice was back.

“This time I am,” she laughed, poking him in the ribs. “It is not very warm and my dress is quite thin.”

“Good, come here then.” He wrapped her in his arms holding her close to his chest. “You won’t be for long” he whispered softly as one hand went up to her hair, “Can we get rid of these pins? I love your hair flowing down your back, all silky and soft.”

Before she could say anything one pin was removed and the creation stated to topple, talk about removing the lynch pin, she thought. “It took ages to produce that today,” she said, a little miffed, as the second disappeared. What was he doing with them?

“And it looked lovely, but not very practical for what I have in mind,” he chuckled softly. The third one came out and she realised he was sticking them in the tree above her head. After he had removed the forth her heavy black hair lost its battle with gravity and the mass of it slithered down over her shoulders. He ran his fingers through the thick tresses pushing it back behind her ears and down her back. His fingers were massaging her scalp. It was a sublime relaxing feeling. “Hmm, it’s lovely, and so luscious and thick,” he whispered close to her ear. When her hair was arranged to his satisfaction he brought his hands back up to cup her face. “Our first proper married kiss, Lorí.”

He stared into her eyes for a few heartbeats before he lowered his lips to her. Teasing her for a moment by running his tongue across her lips, and then nibbling gently at her bottom one before plunging his tongue deep into her expectant mouth.

Somehow, she had been pushed back against the tree, which was a good thing, she thought or she might have toppled backwards when he let her go. Well, at least she might, if his arm was not holding her so tightly. She had not much time to think, however, because the lips that had so recently been pressing against her own were trailing soft kisses down her neck, but not only that, the hand that was not behind her back was moving up from her waist to meet the lips. Lips and hand met in the region of her left breast and caused an involuntary groan to escape her throat and a searing fire somewhere much more intimate.

“I …” His hand was still on her breast, and the thumb of that hand lazily rubbing over her very hardened nipple.

“I… what?” He repeated when she made no move to explain herself.

“I didn’t know… think I would feel quite like this.”

“Like what?” There was that amused tone again, but it was soft and loving.

Lothíriel buried her head in his chest, he had not stopped what he was doing to her breast and it was difficult to think straight. “That all the apprehension I have been feeling would be replaced by so much anticipation,” she said is a muffled voice. He might as well know how she was feeling, although no doubt he could tell.

There was an appreciative chuckle. “I am glad, Lorí. Although I have never had any doubt you would enjoy a little …attention shall we say when the time was right.”

That reminded her; she had wanted to ask him and couldn’t really do so until now, “Éomer, what did you think when I fell into you arms in the library?”

“What I couldn’t tell Éowyn, you mean?”

She nodded; she really did want to know what he first thought of her.

“Well, before I saw your sweet little face properly I was treated to a very pleasing view of your … wonderful breasts”, he said with more than a hint of mirth. “The neckline of your dress really was rather askew,” he paused… “as to what I wanted to do to them… then I think I had better show you – indoors – or that beautiful dress will end up in the mud.” Before she knew it she was whipped off the floor into a very strong pair of arms, “The men of the Riddermark always carry their brides away,” he whispered.


TBC


Chapter 13 - Chapter 13

Chapter 13

‘Do you mean that I am expected to spend the whole of every night in a bed with a man I have never met?’ Lothíriel might have guessed the words would come back to haunt her. He had only been gone three days and she was missing him more then she ever would have thought possible. Cuddling up to the pillow was useless. The pillow was soft and he was hard. Very hard most of the time, actually, at least when they were in bed. Or even when they were in their apartment. Or when she went to talk to him in his study for that matter. But then they had only been married for just over six weeks so it was understandable, she supposed. And quite flattering really. But now it looked as if she would be spending another night on her own, although it was pretty certain he would be back tomorrow. She had to get used to it of course, as there was bound to be plenty of times in the future she would be waiting for him to return. Six weeks ago she was a nervous bride and now, well the words that came to mind she hardly dared to voice even to herself, they were gleaned from overhearing her brother’s conversations. Hussy was one, but worse of all, something that disgusted her then but now seemed most appropriate to the way she felt, most of the time – a female dog in season was the polite way of putting it. She indulged herself by casting her mind back to their wedding night. It had taken hardly anytime for her nerves to disappear. They had gone inside and he had stood behind her unhurriedly unlacing her dress and nuzzling his lips into her neck. When the dress was fully unfastened he had not removed it but just untied the three ribbons holding the back of her shift together and then slipped his hands in between the silk fabric and her skin, reached right around the front until he held one breast in each hand, and then proceeded to rub his palms in a circular motion gently over her nipples. She had been undone from that moment and after he did slip off her dress and put his lips there… Lothíriel shivered with sudden longing. Yes, when he had eventually settled himself above her there were definitely no nerves left, only expectation. Grief, she must stop thinking like this, she could already feel wetness…

“My Lady, do you think this is the correct shade or should we use the darker one?”

Lothíriel jumped, nearly stabbing herself with her needle. Ernhild was holding out two different skeins of wool towards her. There was a distinctly amused expression on her face. She just hoped the woman could not read minds. She could do just about everything else.

“The light has gone,” she managed to get out in a near normal voice. “It would be better if we made the decision tomorrow.”

“Yes,” Hulda agreed, “they will be laying for supper any moment.” She got up and started to collect the skeins of tapestry wool together. “I must go and check on the boys, they are probably outside annoying the guards.”

With that Fréowyn bustled into the hall followed by a kitchen maid. “Supper is nearly ready, my Lady and the guards say there is no sign of them. Shall I carry on?”

“Yes, please Fréowyn. It was not definite they would be back today.”

Ernhild grinned at her Queen, “I am sure Éomer King would have been back if he could, my Lady. Alldrid says he has a smile on his face every morning, even when he is presented with a great pile of parchments.”

That remark caused laughter amongst the group of women and caused their Queen to blush. Really, she thought, they were so outspoken. Not that she minded: it was refreshing. However good she was at embroidery and needlework she had found it a chore in Dol Amroth. Here, where they were making real difference restoring the ancient tapestries and hangings, the job was made even more pleasant by the open conversation of the ladies of Edoras. True, she had had to put up with a few remarks about her small frame, but it didn’t bother her. Her mother was just as slightly built and she had borne three healthy strapping sons. Lothíriel resisted the urge to put her hand on her belly, Frecca said it was silly to even think it, but she knew.

She smiled; it would not hurt to go along with them. “I do admit to missing him,” she said as she stood to pack her things away, “It is very quiet without him around.”

“If you are lonely at night, my Lady, then I am sure Frecca would not mind sleeping with you.”

“Thank you, Eldis. She has offered,” Lothíriel replied politely, “but I think it important that I get used to being on my own. I am sure he is going to be away a great deal over the years.” Anyway, it was just possible he would come back late and he certainly would not be pleased to find Frecca in the bed as well. Two weeks ago, when he had gone up to Dunharrow to see Halldor, he had returned very late. She had been asleep for hours but…

“I doubt you will be on your own for too long anyway, my Lady.” Ernhild was looking at her speculatively.

Lothíriel caught her eyes, questioning, but the woman just bowed her head, smiled knowingly and prepared to leave. She was sure Frecca would not have said anything, especially as Frecca did not believe her anyway. Alright, she could not just go on her instincts and the fact that she felt different, and that her breasts sort of tingled even when Éomer wasn’t around. She knew her courses were not late because of the excitement and her changed life; after all they had never varied by more than a day since she was thirteen, and had irritatingly arrived right on their appointed day one week after the wedding. Now though, over five weeks from then there was no sign. Yes, she knew alright.

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Lothíriel pumped up the pillow for the umpteenth time. She had stayed up as late as she could, talking to Hulda for a while after she had put her boys to bed, but the older woman was tired with two lively lads to look after and needed her rest. Then she had a bath but she still could not sleep. Even though she had spent the morning working in the garden, given advice to the head of the Council regarding some correspondence with Gondor and spent the afternoon working on the hangings. At least she felt useful here; Éomer and his advisors did not hide the fact that they found her knowledge of all things pertaining to Gondor valuable. She had only just discovered how much she really knew. Years attending the most boring of functions had given her more insight into possible trading opportunities than she had realised and the information she provided was welcomed. That’s what she liked about Rohan; they valued women, much more than her homeland anyway. Yes, she was happy here. It had turned out better than she would ever have imagined. She was lucky, she realised that. Lucky that she had such a loving and caring husband as well as one who excited her senses in the way he did. For an arranged marriage it had turned out well. She knew he did not exactly love her; he was pleased they were married, he certainly desired her, men never seemed to have a problem with that, but he did not actually love her. At least not as Faramir loved Éowyn or Aragorn loved Arwen, or even as her father had loved her mother. No, he did not love her, not as she loved him. She had thought about it since he had been gone these three days, thought about it more than once, wondering when it had started. She had decided it must have been the lion incident, when he had picked her up and carried her out of the arena, instinctively knowing what was right for her, when her brother had stood there shouting at her. Yes, that was definitely it. Now she was missing him terribly, and not just the lovemaking, but just him being there next to her. She missed the soft sound of his breathing, the feel of his hair tickling her face, the way his arms would draw her against him if she was restless…oh, it was no good, she was never going to get to sleep. She might as well get up and make a drink. Camomile tea was supposed to help, although she had always thought it tasted disgusting. She was just about to get out of bed when she stopped; perhaps she ought to tell him she loved him. Or would it embarrass him? She could whisper it in an intimate moment, maybe. If she was going to tell him it had better be soon, before they knew for certain that she was with child. She wouldn’t want him to think that she only loved him because he gave her a baby. He knew how much she wanted one. She sighed: arranged marriages were so difficult. If she had not been born a princess she could have married for love. But then she would not have married Éomer and that was an awful thought. Lowering her feet to the floor and finding her slippers Lothíriel looked around for her robe. Éomer’s was hanging by the door. She smiled, she would take that. She wrapped the soft wool around herself snuggling into its generous folds. It smelt of him, assaulting her senses with reminders of his hard muscled body, long limbs and roving practised hands. She giggled to herself, whatever would the dragon aunts think of her now? Lothíriel rolled up the sleeves and picked up the lamp she left burning when he wasn’t there, hopefully she would not trip up as the robe was only calf length on her husband. Perhaps the camomile would taste better if she added some honey, she speculated as she left the room.



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It was a cold night. Éomer thought it might even snow. He wiped his bread around the plate, supping up the last drop of gravy. It had been right to stop; he confirmed his decision to himself. The men were cold and hungry and that was when mistakes were made. Now they just had to decide whether to camp for another night or continue to Edoras, arriving somewhere around midnight. It was again his decision, of course, but he didn’t really wish to force his preferences on his men. No, that was not true: he had never had any problem with that, it was just he knew he would be in for a ribbing if he said he wanted to go home. Rightly so, really, after all the occasions he had bemoaned his lack of opportunity to spend time in the wild enjoying the camaraderie of the campfire. He grinned to himself: it was probably worth the ribbing and a three hour ride to be able to tiptoe into their bedchamber, slide under the covers and wake her up. Last time he had done so it had been delightful and extremely rewarding. On the other hand why should they be surprised, there would certainly be something wrong with his marriage if after only six weeks he preferred to sleep on the cold hard ground rather than in a soft bed with his beautiful young wife wrapped in his arms. And she was beautiful with those fine elfin features and her huge eyes. He was lucky. Very lucky, when he thought who he could have ended up with if the council had had their way, which was why he had jumped at the suggestion when it was made. It had definitely been the right thing to do. After all there was no one he was in love with and he had to marry. It was good for the Riddermark and he had pleased the council. Yes, and it had worked out well. He had wanted her from the moment she fell into his arms, there was just something about that innocent but expectant expression that appealed to him and he had always liked smaller women. Invoked his protective instincts, he supposed. He smiled inwardly; she still had that innocent expression although it was now more fancy than fact. He had enjoyed watching her blossom in other ways too, standing up to her father and brothers. Gondorians did have odd ideas regarding women, did not seem to acknowledge their strengths at all. It was different in the Mark and he knew she appreciated it. His instincts had been right though. Imrahil’s daughter would know how to behave as a queen. The servants were eating out of her hand and as for the council members. He suppressed a chuckle: she knew how to deal with them alright. The first time she had done it he thought it was genuine but the second time she had put on that guiltless face and pretended not to understand the Rohirric, he had realised. If she did not like what was being said or did not agree, then she would keep asking them to repeat it slowly until they gave up. He admired her determination as well; she had put in a lot of work with her riding, before she had arrived and since. She was quite an expert now and had formed a real bond with Jewel. No, it might not be a love match but they could deal very well together, and right now he wanted to head back and….and what? Start by burying his lips in those utterly desirable breasts, if he was honest. He put his plate down, Éothain was coming towards him.

“Everyone’s finished, Lord. Do you wish to ride on or shall we make camp for the night?”

Éomer made a play of looking up at the sky and considering the weather before he answered. “I think we may be in for a snowfall, those clouds look ominous and it’s cold enough. The horses are rested; it may be as well to go back tonight. It might be harder going in the morning.”

Éothain’s lips twitched, “So you are saying we are going on, Lord, are you?”

“I think it might be the right decision, what about you?”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter to me,” Éothain grinned, “I have been married too long.”
Éomer laughed, “I don’t believe that for a moment. Anyway we will go; I really do think it’s going to snow.”

“Good,” Éothain replied, chuckling.

“So you did want to go back?”

“I wanted you to say we were going home. We have a wager on it,” he laughed and turned around to rouse the men and collect his winnings.

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At least he felt vindicated when about an hour from Edoras large snowflakes fell on them. Within twenty minutes or so the horses’ hooves were muffled and they were in a silent world. One of the men started singing and soon the whole guard were giving voice to a Rohirric ballad about Brego driving the enemy from the Wold. It was a good ending to a good few days, checking on the herds and discussing the progress of the foals. It was something he always enjoyed even though he did not have to do it, but the foals were the lifeblood of their land and it was right for the king to take an interest. But now he was certainly glad he would be back soon. He smiled, and allowed himself the luxury of imagining her asleep. Hopefully she would not be wearing a nightgown, although it was cold and she probably thought he was not returning tonight. He would just have to take it off, very slowly. Easing it up over those slim calves smooth thighs and firm buttocks… Bema, if he kept on like this the rest of the ride was going to be damn uncomfortable.

Edoras was in sight when the snow stopped, leaving the landscape covered in a few inches of powdery crystals. It was enough to make everything beautiful but would not impede the normal day to day tasks in the morning, which was good.

“Éothain, don’t sound a horn; we don’t want to wake everyone up. The guards will see us coming in this light.”

“I’ll be glad to get in now my feet are frozen.”

Éomer grinned at him, “At least you have got someone to warm them, think of those who haven’t.”

“I tell you it will have to be a bowl of hot water. If I put these ice blocks on her all I will get is a clout around the ear.”

“Perhaps you have been married too long,” he chuckled. Hmm, hot water sounded good though, hopefully there would be kettleful on the hearth in their chambers. In this weather the fire was always kept going. “Ah, the gates are opening, someone is still awake.”

“If the guards went to sleep in this weather, they would be frozen solid.” Éothain said wryly.

“You must be getting soft. This is only a taste; I bet it will be gone by midday tomorrow. It’s too early for it to hang around.”

“Well, if it’s a taste then I don’t want the rest of the meal,” his Marshall muttered.

They emerged from between the lines of barrows and Éomer and Éothain led the column of men across the dyke and through the gates.

“You still here, Aldor?” Éomer called out to the old man, waiting to give the order to close up again. “You were here when we left.”

“Keeps me out of mischief, Éomer King. That’s if I was young enough to get into mischief,” he added.

“When I look at you I know there is hope for us all,” his king replied jovially. “Is everything all right, nothing I should know about?” If Aldor didn’t know what was going on in Edoras, then no one did.

“All’s fine. Apart from your lady Queen missing you, that is.”

That set Éothain chuckling. “Why do you think we have had to ride half the night in freezing conditions?”

“I don’t have to listen to this.” Éomer urged his horse on, “Come on, Firefoot let’s get you in a warm stable.” He turned back to Aldor, “I told her you were a rascal and you are.”

A few lamps came on as they made their way up to the Royal Stable, but because of the snow many would not know their king had returned until the morning. Nobody made more noise than they needed, life in Edoras started at first light.

The stables were warm, even on a night like this. It had got colder again and the snow clouds had given way to a clear sky and near full moon.

Díor came out rubbing his eyes and yawning. There were always lads on duty, day or night. “Do you want me to see to him, my Lord?”

“I’ll rub him down, Díor. You go and get some feed. As long as he is really dried off tonight, you can brush him in the morning. The saddlecloth will need a good clean as well.” The boy nodded and went to the feed bins.

Éomer took off his cloak and removed Firefoot’s saddle and tack and reached for a felt cloth. However keen he was to see his wife it was a job that could not be neglected or even hurried. Firefoot was damp from snow and sweat and Éomer started with long strokes giving the area under the saddle special attention. It was a job he enjoyed, even at this time of night and he did not skimp on it.

When he was at last satisfied and sure that Firefoot had suffered no hidden injury from his long day, Éomer handed him over to Díor and strolled over to Éothain.

“Have you finished?” he asked his friend.

“Yes, I am coming now.”

Éomer yawned. “Perhaps Alldrid will not realise we are back and I might get a bit of peace in the morning.” His head of council was an early riser and very conscientious.

“Well, I won’t tell him.”

The two men made to leave the stable stopping only to wash the worst of the muck from their hands. The others headed to their various houses but King and Marshall walked together up towards Meduseld. Éomer was waylaid by one of his guards for a moment and when he started up the steps to the Hall Éothain was in conversation with one of the Doorwards. Éomer greeted the man but did not stop, eager now for the privacy of his own chambers.

Éothain waited for him just inside and, instead of turning left to his own quarters, beckoned him into the hall. “Come and see,” he was grinning, “you will have a surprise.”

Éomer stopped some paces from the big hearth in the middle of the hall. Curled up on a settle to the right of the fire, a small figure was fast asleep.

Éothain dropped his hand onto his King’s shoulder, “I will leave you to it then,” he whispered. “Hulda was the same the first few times I had to go out on patrol. It was a while before she could sleep properly with me not there.”

When Éothain had gone, Éomer walked quietly up and stood looking down at his wife. Her features were soft in sleep, her long dark lashes brushing her cheeks and her wonderful black hair totally loose and spread over her shoulders and down over her chest. He realised she was wrapped very tightly in his own robe. It completely covered her except for one little bare foot peeping out.

He felt a sudden rush of emotion warming him to the core and a smile slowly crossed his face. For the first time his initial reaction to her was in his heart and not in his groin. He savoured the sensation for a few seconds, realising that he more than welcomed the new feeling. It completed things. Putting his cloak and gauntlets down on a nearby chair he thought for a moment. If he just picked her up he would wake her: his outer clothing was wet and cold. Silently he unbuckled his sword and that joined his cloak on the chair. Then his outer tunic and after that his long mail shirt, it was a good job he was not wearing full armour. Probably the fact that the king had undressed in the hall would be commented on in the morning, but nobody would take much notice. Once down to his wool shirt and breeches he bent down and retrieved the slipper that had come off and fallen under the settle. He shoved it in his waistband. Éomer carefully slid his arms under his sleeping wife and lifted her up easily against his chest. She murmured a bit but did not wake. Now he had a dilemma, he could not carry a lamp as well. He could see in the hall as there was a lamp burning and the moon was giving some light through the high windows but once he got to the tower vestibule it would be black. Hopefully there would be a bit of light from the fire once he opened the door to their bedchamber. He mused on what to do, not wanting to bump into anything and wake her. Strange that, all the way home he had been thinking about waking her and now… he would have to find the words to tell her how he felt. He wondered if she felt the same and thought perhaps she did. He hoped so anyway. He would certainly have to tell her before they had a child; he wouldn’t want her to think he only loved her because she provided him with an heir. No, he would tell her soon. He left the hall with his burden and stood with his eyes closed for a moment trying to get some night vision before he headed for their rooms. It would have been all right if an empty copper water jug had not been left outside their door. It went clattering on the stone floor. Damn!

She jumped in his arms. “It’s all right,” he whispered, “It’s me. I am back.”

“Éomer?”

“Well, it’s no one else carrying a half naked queen through Meduseld,” he chuckled softly.

“I am not half naked.”

“You are, because my robe is falling off you. And very nice it is too, I might say.”

“It’s so dark I sure you can’t see anything.”

“It was not that dark by the hearth and it fell off when I first picked you up. What were you doing in the hall anyway?”

She hesitated a moment, “I found it difficult to sleep properly without you there so I went to get some camomile tea. I missed you.”

He nuzzled into her neck “I missed you as well. And now that you’re awake I’ll be able to show you how much. No!

“No what?”

“Now you are awake there’s something I must show you first.” Instead of pushing open the door of their bedchamber Éomer headed towards the door that led to the garden. When he got there he struggled with the bolts holding Lothíriel against him with one arm.

“We are going outside? It will be freezing,” she exclaimed incredulously.

“It will only be for a moment. Here, put your slipper on before I open the door.” He took her slipper from his waistband and Lothíriel held out her foot. Éomer fitted the slipper on her bare foot and then he took hold of the robe and tucked it around her as best he could.

“You could put me down.”

“No I couldn’t. Look!” He opened the door and Lothíriel gasped.

“It’s snow.”

“Yes. Have you seen it before?”

“Only from a distance. On the mountains when we visited Lamedon years ago.”

“Well, it will probably be gone tomorrow so we will have a look now.” His boots crunched as walked out onto the terrace, the sky was totally clear now and the snow had frozen. The ice crystals were glistening in the moonlight. When they reached the tree Lothíriel reached out to a branch and took a handful pressing it together between her palms.

“Is this how you make snowballs? I have heard about them.”

“Yes,” he laughed, “but if you want a snowball fight you will have to get some clothes on, or you will freeze.”

“From what I gather there will be plenty of chance during the winter.” Lothíriel dropped the snowball and put her arms around her husband’s neck

“I am sure there will be. Sometimes we are totally snowed in and sometimes there are raging blizzards, but we are used to it. I am afraid you are not.”

“I will manage and it is beautiful now.” She was looking out over the rooftops of Edoras towards the White Mountains. The moon would soon be sinking behind them but at this moment the whole landscape had a magical look: snow topped rocks and white dusted trees contrasting with the long dark shadows thrown onto what looked like a carpet shining diamonds.

It reminds me of the glittering caves of Algarond,” Éomer said softly, “do you think I could ever persuade you to come and see?”

“If you hold me as tightly as you are doing now, I am sure I will not notice the dark.”

“Lorí, if there is something I really enjoy doing, then it is holding you tightly against me.”

Lothíriel giggled and slipped her cold hand into the front of Éomer’s shirt, “Were you really going to put me in bed and let me sleep?”

There was a sharp intake of breath. “Well, I had every intention of doing so, but now you are awake it’s a different matter and it feels if one hand at least needs warming.”

She withdrew her hand and started wriggling her lower body about, clasping her arms tightly around his neck.

“What are you doing?” he asked in his amused voice.

“I am trying to get in a position so that I can kiss you. I would like to do so out here in the snow.” He was pleased because up to now, although she had been totally responsive and enthusiastic, perhaps a lack of confidence in their relationship had stopped her taking much initiative.

“In that case let me help you.” Éomer shifted her in his arms and held her around her waist so that she could wrap her legs around his hips. Their faces were only inches apart.
Moving his arms up and crossing then over her back allowed him to hold her against his chest and their lips to meet. They were already cold but they tasted of honey and the cold lasted only a moment as he plundered her mouth with his warm tongue.

“Is it just a kiss you want?” he whispered huskily when they drew apart. “You know, Lorí there are other things we could do in this interesting position.”

Her eyes widened and he observed her expression with interest as she took in the significance and the possibilities of her legs being wrapped around his hips. She was biting her bottom lip, a sure sign she was working something out. Although, he imagined she could hardly fail to realise, given his rapidly increasing response to her.

“Oh, you would have to hold me up for quite a time. But it’s too cold out here, anyway.”

He chuckled at her rather perplexed expression, “I think we can safely assume I would have no trouble holding you, and we could go inside,” he suggested. The more he thought about it the more the thought excited him. He started to head inside. She was right; it was bloody freezing out here.

She nodded and her face broke into a grin, “But before we do anything else I am going to have to wash you.”

“Wash me?”

Once back in the vestibule, Éomer put his shoulder against the door and managed to slide one bolt across.

“Yes, all over.” She was giggling openly now. “There is a distinct whiff of horse about you and as there is not enough water for a bath you will have to stand in the tub and I will sponge you down.”

“Sponge, as in dead sea creature?” She had brought a few strange things to Meduseld. Some stranger than others.

“It is much the most efficient way of doing it, especially when there is only one kettleful of hot water. And the soap lathers so well.”

Éomer pushed open the door of their bedchamber, it was blessedly warm. The huge log in the hearth was barely half burnt and gave a faint glow to the room. He put his wife down gently on the rug in front of the fire and found a candle which he lit from the log.

He turned back to her putting one hand around to the nape of her neck and lifting her chin with the other looking down into eyes that held a mischievous sparkle. “Now, my sweet little wife, I am not denying I need a good wash and I am not disputing that the sponge is probably the most efficient way of carrying it out I am merely suggesting that you lathering your hands would be a much more exciting way of achieving the desired result.”

Her fingers trailed from their position on his waist to the remaining fastenings on his shirt. “You will need to bring a tub in here, in front of the fire, it’s too cold next door,” she pulled at a fastening.

“Oh, I have every intention of doing so.” He dropped a light kiss on her nose, “I do not intend to be the only one standing in the tub. Now stay there and keep warm. I will fetch everything.” Éomer went to the next door dressing room and looked around for the things he needed: soap, sponge and drying cloths. He threw them in an empty tub and picked it up. He stopped for a moment; it would probably be a good time to tell her, during an intimate moment. He was pretty sure she felt the same but he didn’t want to make a big thing of it. He headed back into the bedchamber.

The tub went on the rug in front of the fire and he picked up the big kettle of hot water from the hearth. Lothíriel picked up another jug. “We will need some cold in there unless we want to burn our feet.” He nodded and she poured half the jug in.

He liked his wife undressing him, loved the way her small delicate hands ran over his body. Enjoyed her undoing his breeches and pulling them down over his hips. It was usually a bit of a relief as by this time he was always feeling a little restricted in that area. It only took a moment to relieve her of his robe and lift her into the tub with him, wrapping his arms around her so that there was no space between them.

“We will compromise,” she whispered. “I will wet you with the sponge and then rub the lather over you with my hands.”

“And I will just rub my hands over you,” he murmured softly. “You must have already had a bath, you smell exquisite.”

“I did earlier this evening, in case you came home.” She started sponging him down with the water and when he was all wet she picked up the bar of soap and started lathering his chest. That was good, but when she reached around him it was even better as her delightful breasts were squashed against him and with his hands cupping her buttocks…. He started chuckling, Bema, at this rate the rest of him was never going to be washed.

“What’s the matter?”

“Perhaps you had better use the sponge for the rest of me.”
“It does seem to be exciting you somewhat.” She gave a giggly laugh, “I think you are right it’s taking rather a long time like this.” She picked up the sponge, loaded it with soap and quickly washed down and rinsed the rest of him, holding the sponge behind her back when she had finished.

She was looking at him with a somewhat straight face, trying not to grin.

“You have forgotten a bit.”

“Have I?” Their faces were only inches apart and her lips were tight together, suppressing her laughter.

“Yes.”

“Well, I was saving the best bit for last.”

“Best bit, eh?” He studied her for a moment enjoying the mirth in her eyes. He was glad he had made the effort to come home. “You, my once innocent little wife, are turning into a proper little minx,” he laughed softly, “but I love you anyway.” He watched her eyes widen in surprise as she took in what he had said. Lothíriel dropped the sponge and put her arms around her husband’s neck, standing on tiptoe so that she could whisper in his ear, “Éomer I …

Fini


Authors note: that’s all from these two but be assured that she is pregnant and she will tell him soon. LBJ
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