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Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 11: An interesting morning for Éowyn

by Lialathuveril

Chapter X: An interesting morning for Éowyn

The chance to talk to Lothiriel presented itself the very next day. Éomer and Faramir had decided to do some sparring and left the breakfast table early while Melian retired to her room after listlessly picking at her porridge, so only Lothiriel and Éowyn were left at the end of the meal.

“Would you like to have a look around the gardens?” Éowyn asked casually and Lothiriel assented readily.

The formal gardens of the old house had gone completely wild during the time the place was uninhabited and were only slowly being returned to some semblance of order, but the kitchen garden, being of more immediate use, had had more effort put into it. It was situated in a sunny spot behind the main house and was enclosed by a low brick wall and divided into neatly kept beds of herbs and vegetables. All along one wall was a burgeoning row of flowers filling the air with their scent. It was here they settled down on a wooden bench beneath an old pear tree that provided some welcome shade.

Éowyn had noticed the princess watching her covertly while she showed her round and now lifted an eyebrow in enquiry.

“I’m sorry if I keep staring,” Lothiriel apologized shyly, “but I find it difficult to reconcile you with being the slayer of the Witch King of Angmar.”

Having encountered this particular reaction many times before Éowyn smiled wryly. “What did you expect?” she asked, “some kind of fierce northern warrior woman wielding a mace? Éomer in skirts?”

Lothiriel had to laugh at the image this brought to mind. “I suppose so. I should have known you weren’t like that. Faramir has always had excellent taste in women,” she added artlessly and then blushed hotly when she realized what she’d said, “Princess Éowyn,” she stammered, “I didn’t mean to imply that he…”

Éowyn took pity on her. “Don’t worry. I’ll take that as a compliment,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes, “and please call me Éowyn. When people greet me as ‘Princess’ I always turn round to see whom they address.”

The Princess of Dol Amroth had a lovely smile, Éowyn noted, and her eyes were indeed an unusual green color and not the more common gray. Earlier on, when they had entered the garden, Éowyn had picked up a basket of gardening tools and now she pointed to one of the vegetable beds. “You won’t mind if I do some work while we chat, will you?” she asked.

“Of course not,” Lothiriel replied, but she did look a bit startled at the idea of a princess doing her own gardening. She soon made an offer of help, though, which was gratefully accepted, and a little while later the two women could be seen companionably pulling weeds.

“In Dol Amroth, all I ever get to do is to cut flowers for the dinner table,” Lothiriel said, “this is much more fun.” They shared a grin.

“Just be careful not to pull out my lettuces by mistake,” Éowyn directed and then laughed, “Listen to me giving orders! Considering I’ve only just exchanged my sword for a trowel three months ago!”

Lothiriel gave her a curious glance. “So it is true you have given up sword fighting?” she sounded slightly disappointed.

“Oh, I still practice every now and again, but I have decided to leave the killing to the men, it’s such a grim business. I would rather concern myself with growing things.” She surveyed her garden with pride. “Some people are already calling this the Year of Plenty with all the warm weather we have had.”

She cut off some twine to bind up pea shots. “So what of yourself?” she asked innocently, “My brother has told me you are quite an accomplished archer.”

Lothiriel looked up warily. “He has?”

Éowyn grinned. “Éomer keeps no secrets from me. He recounted the story of how you won your mare and also told me about your argument after.”

When the princess looked acutely embarrassed Éowyn added curiously, “He never divulged, though, what exactly you said to him, only that it was unforgivable.”

“It was,” Lothiriel acknowledged with a blush, “I accused him of not keeping his word.”

Éowyn raised her eyebrows. “That is a serious accusation to level at the King of the Mark,” she said dryly and Lothiriel hung her head, “I’m surprised you lived to tell the tale. It is lucky Éomer doesn’t attack women.”

“It is,” the princess agreed after an infinitesimal pause and bent to pull out some more weeds.

“Well, I hope you get to keep Nightwind,” Éowyn remarked, “is it true you have to look after her yourself?”

Lothiriel nodded, her eyes kindling with enthusiasm. “It has turned into rather a lot of work, but she’s simply wonderful and it’s definitely worth it.”

“I’m sure it is. Éomer’s horses are known to be the best trained in the whole of the Riddermark, which is saying something.”

Éowyn got up to replenish her tin watering can from a bucket standing nearby and carefully started to water her plants. The rich smell of moist soil filled the air. “I am so busy here I don’t get to ride as much as I used to. My poor Windfola probably misses the Mark.”

Lothiriel looked at her curiously. “And what about yourself, don’t you miss Rohan? After all you are very far from home here.”

Éowyn smiled. “This is my home now,” she pointed out gently, “but yes, I long for the open plains sometimes. This densely wooded country is so different from the grass lands of Rohan where you can see for leagues in all directions.”

“But what about your family, don’t you miss them?”

“I do miss Éomer. He’s the only family I have got left.”

“Your only family?” Lothiriel repeated in a shocked voice, “Don’t you have any other siblings or cousins?”

Éowyn shook her head sadly. “Our parents died when I was only seven years old and we were brought up in Meduseld by our uncle. His son was like a brother to us, but he died in the war.”

Lothiriel looked somber. “I can’t even begin to imagine what that must feel like. I have three older brothers and countless cousins from my mother’s side that descend on Dol Amroth every summer. Sometimes it even gets too much.”

“You are lucky,” Éowyn said with a sigh.

“I know. Something your brother said about your cousin yesterday made me realize just how fortunate I am really.”

Éowyn gave her a thoughtful look and wondered how much Éomer had told the princess about Théodred. She knew her brother still mourned their cousin, to whom he had been very close, although he didn’t like talking about it.

They had turned their attention to the carrot beds by now and were making good progress with the weeding, as the feathery leaves of the carrots were easily distinguishable.

“So Éomer is the last one left of your family.” Lothiriel picked up the conversation again, “I’m surprised he let you marry Faramir and move to far-away Gondor.”

“Oh, he never even tried to talk me out of it, he loves me too much for that. Not that he could have, anyway.”

When Lothiriel looked pensive, Éowyn added, “Éomer is very generous to those he loves, he will always put himself last…”

The princess of Dol Amroth was not really paying attention. “You are lucky you got to choose your own way,” she said, frowning down at the vegetable bed.

“Why do you say so?”

Lothiriel hesitated. “It’s just that sometimes it seems to me that everybody thinks they know what is best for me.”

“Who is everybody then?” Éowyn asked sympathetically.

Lothiriel was attacking a particular weed with more force than was strictly necessary. “My father Prince Imrahil,” she answered after a long pause, “he wants me to return to Dol Amroth for my twenty-first birthday.”

Éowyn looked puzzled. “That seems reasonable enough, to want to celebrate your only daughter’s birthday.”

“That is not the only thing he wants to celebrate,” Lothiriel explained darkly, “you wouldn’t know of course, but it’s another of our stupid family traditions. My mother got engaged on her twenty-first birthday and so did my grandmother and two of my aunts. They never even considered what they let their daughters in for!” she pointed out indignantly.

“So does your father have any particular candidate in mind?” Éowyn asked casually.

“I will get a choice,” Lothiriel answered bitterly, “he has probably got the traditional half a dozen suitors lined up for me by now.” Then she sighed. “Oh, I know my father means well. He wants me to settle down with one of his vassals near Dol Amroth, so I will be safe and well looked after for the rest of my life.”

“And is that what you want?” Éowyn asked her.

“I don’t really know what I want,” Lothiriel replied moodily, aimlessly digging a hole in Éowyn’s vegetable beds with her trowel, “I would be perfectly happy just continuing to look after the castle for my father. But I suppose I will have to consider myself lucky that I get to stay near the sea and near my family.”

A gilded cage, Éowyn was thinking to herself, shivering. And unless I am very much mistaken this princess is no gentle songbird to appreciate its comfort.

“Does Éomer know about this?” Éowyn asked without pausing to think and then bit her lip.

The Princess of Dol Amroth looked confused. “Your brother? What has he got to do with it?”

“Nothing!” Éowyn improvised quickly, “I was just thinking he is in a similar situation to you, what with his council wanting him to marry as soon as possible.”

Lothiriel nodded. “I have heard about it, in fact it was the talk of Minas Tirith. But at least nobody can force him into marriage.”

“Well his advisors are certainly trying to,” Éowyn replied dryly and Lothiriel had to laugh.

“I can’t see anybody forcing King Éomer to do what he doesn’t want to!”

Éowyn gave her a long look. “Lothiriel,“ she said intently, “just remember nobody can force you either. I have always believed some things are worth fighting for!”

Lothiriel looked surprised at the vehemence in Éowyn’s tone. “Yes, I know,” she said and the two women were silent for a moment, both of them lost in their thoughts. Suddenly Lothiriel looked down with chagrin at the hole she had been digging. “Oh dear, I hope I haven’t damaged your carrot crop!”

“Never mind about that,” Éowyn said with a frown, unwilling to drop the subject. As her brother had found out repeatedly, she could be very persistent if she felt the need to. “So what is going to happen on your birthday?”

Lothiriel sighed again. “My father will expect me to make up my mind as to whom I wish to marry. You know, sometimes it would be easier if he were being unreasonable, if he just promised me without my consent to someone I have never met or if I had to move to a foreign country, away from my family and my people. That I could and would fight, but he is just having my best interest at heart.”

Éowyn was thinking that in her experience cages made from love were the most durable, but aloud she only asked, “Why the rush, though?”

“I think the war made him realize his own mortality and now he wants me settled safely. Anyway, Gondorian weddings are complicated affairs and sometimes the engagement period lasts several years.”

“Years!” Éowyn exclaimed in surprise, “and I thought I had to wait a long time for my wedding to Faramir to take place. Customs are simpler in the Mark!”

“Are they?” Lothiriel asked interested.

“Definitely. There is a tradition in my homeland. You share bread and mead, bed and roof and you are married.”

“That easily?” Lothiriel sounded surprised.

“Well, there might be presents exchanged first,” Éowyn explained, “usually horses or jewellery for the bride, and of course it is slightly more complicated for kings,” she added slyly.

“Yes, I would think so,” Lothiriel replied absentmindedly, “I suppose that explains it.”

“Explains what?” Éowyn asked, mystified by these cryptic remarks.

“Oh, just a story that was making the rounds in Minas Tirith.” Lothiriel suddenly grinned mischievously. “Melian’s maid told me. Apparently one of King Éomer’s more generously built admirers tried to creep into his tent one night to share his bed and roof to become Queen of Rohan. Only the cot collapsed under her weight while she was lying there waiting for him to return and she had to be rescued from the wreckage.”

The two women looked at each other and then suddenly exploded into helpless laughter. Éowyn was wiping tears from her eyes. “I wish I had been there to see Éomer’s face when he came back.”

“I heard he was most put out over the loss of his bed,” Lothiriel added, fighting to keep her composure, “mind you, I don’t know if this truly happened. His cot looked quite sturdy to me, really.”

Éowyn did wonder when and why the Princess of Dol Amroth had been inside her brother’s tent to asses the sturdiness or otherwise of his furniture, but she didn’t voice the thought. Instead she said, “So you see, it isn’t easy for him either.”

“True,” Lothiriel replied and nodded.

“I told him getting married would put an end to all this nonsense,” Éowyn remarked casually while watching the princess closely.

Lothiriel bent down to pull some more weeds, “And what did he say to that idea?”

“He wasn’t best pleased. Apparently he thinks he hasn’t found the right woman yet.”

Lothiriel looked up, her expression guarded, “It does seem a difficult task to find somebody suitably meek and biddable for him.”

“Is that what you think he’s looking for?” Éowyn asked with amusement.

“Without intending any offence … I think your brother will need an extraordinarily patient and understanding wife,” Lothiriel replied with some heat “Why, I have never met a more dictatorial and overbearing man in my entire life!”

“Well, he is a king,” Éowyn replied blandly and grinned. This was proving to be a most interesting morning. Now she got up and stretched her cramped limbs. “What about a break?” she asked and Lothiriel nodded gratefully.

They had been working under the blazing sun and were both of them hot and sweaty. Over in one corner of the garden there was a well and now they drew up a bucket of water to drink from.

“I wish we were near the sea and could go swimming now,” Lothiriel said wistfully.

Éowyn cast her a curious look, “You like to swim?”

Lothiriel nodded. “In this kind of weather it’s simply wonderful!” She was watching the bucket of cold water speculatively.

Éowyn shook her head laughingly. “You know what’s going to happen if you upend it over yourself?”

“What is?”

“Some man is bound to come round the corner that very moment!”

Lothiriel nodded in resignation and contended herself with washing her face and arms.

Éomer, who came to get them for lunch soon after did wonder why his appearance sent the two women into gales of laughter. He stood there looking down at them while they were holding onto each other to keep from doubling over. “You could both do with some cleaning up,” he stated in a severe voice, but for some reason this remark only elicited fresh bouts of laughter.

“Would you care to explain the reason for all this levity?” he finally asked exasperated, but his sister only shook her head. “Never mind, brother of mine. So tell me, is my husband still alive?”

“Don’t worry,” Éomer said insouciantly, “we were only using wooden practice swords today. We will progress to real weaponry and full armor later on.”

“You are being careful?” Éowyn was looking worried.

He grinned. “I know you prefer Faramir undamaged. Anyway, he is perfectly capable of taking care of himself.” In fact they would probably both sport a spectacular set of bruises tomorrow. His brother-in-law had proven to be a formidable fighter and they had both enjoyed the rare opportunity to spar without having to hold back.

Now Éomer was looking the two women over critically. “And what have you been up to?”

“Lothiriel has been helping me with my garden,” Éowyn replied mildly.

Éomer frowned. He had noticed the princess looking tired; his sister’s company could be rather exhausting at times. “You haven’t made your guest grub in the dirt with you, have you?”

“It’s called gardening,” Éowyn replied sweetly, “and she volunteered.”

“Did she?” he was looking suspicious.

“I did indeed,” Lothiriel intervened at this point, “although I have to agree that your family seems to be very intent on finding useful work for me to do.”

Éomer laughed. “It does seem to be a bit of a family trait,” he admitted, looking down at her with a warm smile in his eyes.

“More like a family failing,” she replied dryly, “I will have to talk to Faramir. He never mentioned all this hard work in his invitation.”

They all laughed and Éomer linked his arms with them as they walked back to the main house. “I came to ask you if you wanted to train Nightwind in the afternoon, “ he said to Lothiriel and added solicitously, “that is, if you aren’t feeling too tired?”

Her eyes had lit up at his words. “I would love to!” she exclaimed.

“Bring your bow as well,” he commanded, “your shooting from horseback in Minas Tirith was absolutely disgraceful.”

Éowyn looked askance at him at these censuring words, but the princess just nodded unperturbed. “I will.”

***


During the next few days they settled into a pleasant routine. In the mornings Lothiriel would help Éowyn in the garden while the men trained at arms on their own. “Too much distraction otherwise,” Éomer had decreed and Éowyn had secretly wondered who exactly he was afraid would be distracted.

After lunch he would teach the princess how to handle her mare and while he was absolutely merciless in his criticism, his sister also noticed he took very good care not to overtax Lothiriel’s strength, so both of them enjoyed these sessions. Éowyn watched them exchange a high-spirited flow of banter and began to think the two were really made for each other. Even Firefoot appeared to agree and he was more difficult to please than his master.

Yet while they were on excellent terms they obviously still needed a push in the right direction. Fortunately Éowyn had just the thing in mind. She was a firm believer in the adage that the end justified the means.

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An interesting morning for Éowyn
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07 Nov 2005
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07 Nov 2005
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