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Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 12: Éowyn's plan

by Lialathuveril

Chapter XI: Éowyn’s plan

Lothiriel was watching her reflection in the mirror. It was probably an heirloom of Faramir’s family, old yet hardly tarnished and sported an ornate gilded frame. Éowyn had lent it to her for the occasion and had admonished her to wear her nicest dress. Lothiriel had been a bit puzzled as to why a simple get-together with a few neighbouring families involving a shared meal and some dancing merited such preparations, but she had come to like her cousin’s wife and had acquiesced to her wishes.

So here she stood in the gown her father had given her for her last birthday, surveying herself critically as she turned round slowly. It was made from shimmering, midnight blue Dol Amroth silk, its only adornment a row of tiny pearls along the hem, with trumpet sleeves and a long sweeping skirt that flared out at the waist. Meeting Queen Arwen, who would have looked regal and beautiful in a dress made of sackcloth, had taught her that it did not matter what you wore but rather how you did so, yet it certainly helped to have a pretty gown.

Lothiriel had grown so used to wearing trousers all the time, it seemed strange to have soft fabric brushing against her legs and rustling softly with every step she took. The top of the dress was hugging her figure tightly, baring rather more skin than she was used to and she had to fight the urge to grab the corsage and pull it up higher. She had briefly considered wearing a shawl with it, but had decided against it, for some reason feeling daring tonight.

Behind her, the door opened and Melian entered the room. “Oh Lothiriel,” she exclaimed and clapped her hands together, “you look beautiful!”

“Thank you,” Lothiriel replied, flushing with pleasure, and embraced her sister-in-law impulsively. Melian had offered to dress her hair for her as she had very clever hands and a talent for it. Now Lothiriel fetched a chair and sat down in front of the mirror while Melian started to brush out her hair.

Lothiriel hadn’t seen much of her sister-in-law lately as she had been kept very busy, but as she watched Melian in the mirror, she was suddenly struck by the other woman’s pallor and a hint of dark circles under her eyes.

“Melian,” she began hesitantly, “are you feeling well?”

Melian looked startled. “What makes you ask so?”

“You look tired,” Lothiriel pointed out, “and come to think of it, you seem to have lost your appetite lately.”

Melian blushed slightly. “I have been feeling slightly sick the last few days,” she admitted.

“Sick?” Lothiriel asked worriedly, “Have you seen a healer?”

Melian blushed even more. “I don’t need to. It’s entirely natural…”

Lothiriel stared at her for a moment, then she jumped up and whooped in a most unladylike manner, “Melian! Don’t tell me you’re pregnant!”

When Melian only nodded shyly, Lothiriel embraced her warmly. She knew how long her brother and sister-in-law had been hoping for a baby. “I am going to be an aunt!” she exclaimed happily and started to dance about the room. Then she suddenly stopped. “Does Elphir know?”

Melian shook her head. “I wasn’t quite sure when we left Minas Tirith, although I suspected it, but now I’m certain.”

“Should you be standing up?” Lothiriel enquired solicitously and Melian couldn’t help laughing.

“Don’t fuss! It’s early days yet.”

“Father is going to be so pleased,” Lothiriel mused, sitting down on her chair again.

“Don’t write to him yet,” Melian begged, “you are the first I have told, although I believe Lady Éowyn suspects.”

“Of course I won’t,” Lothiriel promised and lost herself in thoughts on the pleasures of becoming an aunt while her sister-in-law busied herself with her hair.

When she looked up again it was to see the face of a stranger in her mirror. Melian had wound her long raven tresses into a sort of crown around her head, adorning it with dozens of small pearls. Her neck felt strangely exposed without the familiar weight of a braid hanging down and somehow the new hairdo accentuated her cheekbones. Green eyes looked back at her warily and when she met Melian’s eyes in the mirror the other woman looked faintly amused for some reason.

“Thank you,” Lothiriel said slowly, “I look just like a princess. Father would be pleased to see me like this.”

The informal atmosphere here in Emyn Arnen had almost made her forget that first and foremost she was still Lothiriel, Princess of Dol Amroth. She had an unspoken agreement with her father, who allowed her much freedom to follow what Elphir called her hoydenish ways, as long as she kept the castle running smoothly and appeared like this in the evenings and when guests were present. But in the end her course in life would still be decided by the simple fact that she was Prince Imrahil’s daughter, no matter what she thought about it.

For a moment she was almost tempted to undo all of Melian’s careful work, but then she sighed. Éowyn had asked her to look her best, although it was a mystery to her why a few neighbours should be so important.

“Let’s go downstairs,” was all she said.

***


Faramir was puzzled. ”Where has our mirror gone?” he asked in some bewilderment as his wife entered their bedroom.

“What do you need a mirror for?” Éowyn asked airily, “You look as handsome as ever.”

He gave a bow. “Thank you my lady wife!” he said with a smile, “and you look absolutely beautiful.” It was nothing but the truth, he thought as she sent him a mocking glance. She was clad entirely in white tonight in one of the flowing dresses she favored, her long blond hair hanging loose to her waist.

Faramir stepped closer and took her gently in his arms. “My white lady,” he murmured and planted a soft kiss on her lips. She gave a contended sigh and slipped her arms around him. At times he still couldn’t quite believe that she had actually consented to marry him and to join him here in Ithilien, leaving her brother and her people behind.

Breaking away reluctantly she looked up at him with a playful smile. “Much as I enjoy this, we are expected by our guests downstairs.”

“A pity,” he replied regretfully and then suddenly remember his earlier question. “So what has happened to the mirror?” he asked again.

“Oh, I’ve lent it to Lothiriel,” Éowyn answered nonchalantly.

Faramir frowned. The mirror was so heavy it took two strong men to lift it and he had been surprised that it had survived the long journey from Minas Tirith at all. “What does my cousin need that mirror for, surely she is perfectly capable of getting herself dressed for a small dinner?” he asked mystified.

“I just wanted to make sure she took extra care,” Éowyn said, still in the same insouciant tone. Faramir did not miss the way she would not quite meet his eyes. Six months of matrimony had taught him a few things about his beautiful wife, amongst other things that she could be extremely difficult to stop once she had set her mind on a certain course of action.

Lately he had spent a lot of his time conferring with his rangers on the whereabouts of the elusive brigands in the Shadow Mountains and now he started to wonder with a certain amount of misgiving if he shouldn’t have paid more attention to his domestic affairs.

“You are up to something, aren’t you?” he asked suspiciously.

“Don’t worry,” she said and stepped back into the embrace of his arms, removing an imaginary speck of dust from his already spotless shirt, “it will all turn out well. Trust me.”

He looked down into her guileless blue eyes. “You know I would trust you with my very life,” he replied seriously, “I’m just not always sure you know what you are doing.”

“I do this time. Kiss me again,” she murmured and lifted her face invitingly. Faramir was too much the seasoned warrior not to recognize an attempt at diversion when he saw one, yet he could not resist her.

“We have to go and greet our guests,” she reminded him after another long moment and he nodded reluctantly.

“I’ll just go and get Éomer,” she said as they reached the head of the stairs, “you go on ahead. Oh, and I’ve invited all our neighbours.”

What did she mean by that last remark? Faramir wondered as he descended the stairs. It belatedly became clear to him when he opened the door to the parlour where their guests had assembled.

***


Éomer was standing by the open window when his sister entered his room. The hot weather was continuing unabated and it was only in the evenings, such as now, that a bit of a breeze would bring relief.

He turned round with a smile. “Come to check up on me sister? Do I pass muster?” he asked her mockingly.

She looked him over critically and decided that he would do, indeed. He looked very handsome in black breeches and a dark green shirt with a sun emblem emblazoned on it in gold thread. His hair, which she had often considered entirely wasted on a man, was gleaming in the light from the window.

“I suppose, you’ll do,” she replied matching his tone. They grinned at each other affectionately.

“I have managed very well to survive on my own in Meduseld for the last six months,” he reminded her, “I have even had the forethought to take a bath.”

“You amaze me,” Éowyn shot back, “or maybe even you noticed the persistent smell of horse following you about.”

He laughed out loud. “Does Faramir know what he has let himself in for?”

“He’s slowly coming to understand, now that it is too late. I have this fierce brother who will make sure he honors his wedding vows.”

“I believe you are quite fierce enough to make sure of that entirely by yourself.”

After this amiable exchange of insults the two linked arms and went downstairs together.

“There is going to be dancing tonight,” Éowyn told her brother with a sideways look.

He gave her a horrified look. “Éowyn, you know what I think of Gondorian court dances!”

“I’m not talking of those stiff Gondorian court affairs, my musicians have been practicing Rohirric dance music.”

“Well in that case,” he said grudgingly, “but I’m warning you, I do not intend to dance with all the dowagers present, no matter what your wishes are.”

“Don’t worry,” Éowyn replied casually, “I’m sure we can find a pleasing partner for you.”

They had reached the bottom of the stairs by now and entered the parlour where the guests had assembled. So it came that Éowyn could appraise first hand the impact the Princess of Dol Amroth had on her brother.

Lothiriel was talking to her sister-in-law when they entered the room, but looked up and threw them a warm smile. Éowyn felt her brother’s steps falter for a moment and had to admit that Lothiriel had done her proud. She looked every inch the princess as she came over and swept them a deep curtsey.

“You look lovely, Princess Lothiriel,” Éomer said and bowed over her hand. Perhaps not the most inventive compliment ever, Éowyn thought critically, but at least spoken with all sincerity.

“Thank you, my Lord King,” Lothiriel replied with a pleased smile, “you have cleaned up rather well yourself. Don’t tell me you’ve put on a new shirt,” she teased him.

He groaned in mock despair. “Not you as well! My sister has already accused me of smelling of horse and now this. I command no respect anymore.”

“As a last resort a crown might help…but I forgot, it pinches.” Lothiriel answered, her eyes dancing with devilment. She seemed in high spirits tonight.

At that moment Éowyn found herself greeted by a suave voice. “What a pleasure to behold the fair Princess of Ithilien! The flower of Gondorian womanhood, a white lily tonight!”

She turned round with a forced smile. “Lord Dorlas!”

“Indeed, my dear Princess,” the nobleman in question said with a rakish smile and kissed the back of her hand, holding it for just a moment too long and giving it a gentle squeeze, “would you do me the honor of introducing me to your charming companion?”

Éowyn had forgotten just how much she disliked the man, but then she had only herself to blame for inviting him. “Of course,” she said now and introduced him to Lothiriel and her brother.

The Princess of Dol Amroth was watching him with fascinated wonder. Indeed he was quite a sight, easily the most flamboyantly dressed man in the whole room. From his spotlessly polished boots over tightly fitting pantaloons in a delicate shade of mauve to a white shirt thickly encrusted with silver and gold embroidery, there was not a hair out of place. His clothing would have earned him the instant derision of all the men present and the deep admiration of not a few of the ladies.

A sickening wave of perfume preceded him as he took Lothiriel’s hand in his own heavily jeweled fingers and bowed over it. “I’m delighted at such a graceful swan from the far away ocean shores paying a visit to us poor, drab inland birds.”

“Drab?” Lothiriel echoed, looking slightly stunned. Meeting Lord Dorlas for the first time tended to have that kind of effect on most people. His style of clothing and the impact of his personality could be rather overwhelming.

Next to her Éowyn could feel her brother starting to bristle, as the man showed no inclination of letting go of Lothiriel’s hand. Instead he looked deep into the princess’ eyes. “Beholding you, the moon itself would cover her face and weep in envy of your loveliness.”

There was not much one could say in reply to such an outrageous statement. “You are too kind,” was all Lothiriel managed as she gently disengaged her hand. She threw a look full of mute appeal for help at Éowyn, not realizing there was no succor to be expected from that quarter.

Indeed, things were going just according to plan, Éowyn mused as she watched her brother directing another unfriendly glare at Dorlas, who was completely engrossed with monopolizing Lothiriel’s attention.

“Who is this cockerel, anyway?” Éomer asked his sister in an annoyed tone.

“Just one of our neighbours. Faramir insisted I invite them all,” she lied shamelessly.

Her husband came up just then to take his wife in to dinner and Éowyn watched with amusement as Lord Dorlas with practiced ease at once took possession of the princess’ hand and was halfway to the door by the time Éomer looked around for his usual dinner companion.

You have to quicker off the mark than that, brother! She thought as Éomer was forced to offer his arm to Lady Melian instead.

Faramir was watching the whole scene with a frown. “I thought you weren’t going to invite Dorlas again after the impudent way he behaved at his last visit?” he asked her softly as he led her outside.

“Well, he’s one of our closest neighbours, isn’t he, so I thought he deserved another chance,” she replied innocently, “also last time I saw him, I gave him a graphic description of how I killed the Witch King, which worked wonders with his attitude towards me.”

Her husband didn’t look entirely satisfied with this explanation, but he held his peace.

Taking advantage of the warm weather they had set up tables and benches in the courtyard outside with one end kept free for the dancing later on. All their neighbours living within a day’s ride had been invited and with Éomer’s men and Faramir’s rangers the place was full to bursting. The tables were already piled high with food and more was continuously brought out from the kitchen. Over in one corner a fire pit had been set up and two whole pigs were roasting on spits. The occasion being informal, people were already sitting down and helping themselves, chatting animatedly to each other.

Lord Dorlas had installed his companion in a seat at the head table and Éowyn noted with interest that her brother had secured the seats opposite them. As they sat down themselves, Éowyn continued to watch them out of the corner of her eye. Lothiriel was starting to look decidedly uncomfortable and for a moment Éowyn felt a twinge of guilt. She appeased her conscience with the reflection that while Dorlas could be a nuisance he was basically harmless.

But as the meal continued her brother’s countenance darkened ever further and Éowyn began to worry just slightly. Lord Dorlas seemed to be completely oblivious of the hostile looks sent his way by the King of Rohan and she wondered if he was at all aware that his chances of surviving the evening unscathed were sinking rapidly.

Maybe she had gone just a little bit too far?

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Éowyn's plan
Created
13 Nov 2005
Last Edited
13 Nov 2005
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