Login

Lost Password?

Create New Account

Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 17: Lothiriel has an idea

by Lialathuveril

Chapter XVI: Lothiriel has an idea

The horn blast echoing up from the valley threw the bandits into complete disarray. They had last heard that particular sound at the battle of the Pelennor Fields when the Rohirrim had snatched certain victory right out of their grasp and had brought death and destruction upon them. The men started shouting wildly at each other and a few even raced for the woods. Mashrak and Razmir were both barking orders, but to little effect.

As they were distracted by the uproar around them, Lothiriel could feel the grip of the men holding her weaken. This might well be my only chance she thought. Mustering all her strength in one desperate attempt she managed to break free of them and started running. There were so many men between her and freedom she did not even try to reach the path leading down towards Emyn Arnen, for she would surely have been caught again. Instead she raced for the pool that was lying serenely glinting in the sun.

Her pursuers were hot on her heels, but they stopped at the edge of the water unsure what to do next and perhaps unwilling to get their feet wet. Lothiriel was long past such considerations and splashed right in until the water reached up to her waist. Then she kicked off her boots and turned round.

By now Mashrak and his brother had managed to restore some semblance of order to their band and the commotion had attracted their attention.

“What is going on here?” Razmir demanded and cursed savagely when he spotted her in the pool. “Who let her get away? I’ll have his hide!”

His brother now stepped up to him, Éowyn being forced to follow behind. “We haven’t got time for this,” he said, “let’s just take the horselover wench and leave.”

“No!” Razmir protested furiously, “No woman kicks me like that and gets away with it.”

“Shoot her then.” Mashrak suggested coldly and Lothiriel got ready to dive into the water, but Razmir knocked down the arm of the archer taking aim.

“No,” he commanded, “She’s mine! I will have her if it’s the last thing I ever do!”

Lothiriel had caught her breath by now and decided to put the second part of her partly formed plan into action. “Hey Razmir!” she shouted at the top of her voice, “if you’re so keen to have me, why don’t you come and get me? Are you afraid of getting wet?”

Involuntarily some of the Southrons snickered. She met Éowyn’s eyes for a moment then and the look on her friend’s face asked quite clearly whether she was sure she knew what she was doing.

In fact Lothiriel felt as if for the first time since she had waken up from that disastrous sleep she was in control of her fate again. A strange exhilaration swept through her and for a moment she felt almost drunk with her newfound confidence.

When she saw the stunned look on Razmir’s face turn to blind fury she laughed out loud. Clearly no woman had ever dared to use that tone with him. “You will pay for this!” he hissed, “I will punish you in every conceivable way until you will rue the day you were born and will beg me for release.”

“You’ve said that before, but first you will have to catch me,” she taunted him, “come on! You could do with a bath!”

It was too much for Razmir. With a violent curse he unbuckled his sword and thrust it into his brother’s hands, then he waded into the water. Lothiriel gave him her most enticing smile, the one that had already created considerable havoc amongst her brothers’ friends back in Dol Amroth, but it did not reach her eyes.

Razmir was unexpectedly reminded of a story his mother used to tell him when they were small children. She had hailed from the southern coast and his father had beaten her for putting silly ideas into his son’s head, yet the tale had somehow remained with him. She had told him of a mysterious and alluring people of merfolk who lived in the ocean and at full moon came out to take mortal men as lovers for one night.

Looking at the woman standing there before him, he half expected her to suddenly sport a fishtail. She had taken another step back and the water was now lapping against her breasts, but at the same time she held out her arms invitingly.

“Come and claim me,” she crooned. For a moment he wondered what it would be like to have such a woman give her love freely, but then he firmly squashed the thought. Beautiful women like her were there to be used by men like him. She was simply irresistible. He felt his desire rise within him and decided to take her then and there in the water and damn the consequences.

“Meet your master,” he growled and grabbed her for a rough kiss. She wound her sinuous arms about his neck and gave him a beatific smile.

“Meet yours,” she whispered in his ears and let herself fall backwards into the water, pulling him with her. He was caught off-balance and tried to save himself by taking a step forward, only to feel the ground falling off sharply. The footing was treacherous and as the water closed over his head he finally realized his mistake. Frenziedly he tried to save himself, but the weight of his heavy metal armour inexorably pulled him down. His superior strength and his skill at arms availed him absolutely nothing; he sank like a stone.

Panicking, he reached out for the woman, but she evaded him easily, moving through the water as one born to it. Her hair was floating around her pale face like black seaweed and she had never looked more beautiful.

Razmir remember the rest of his mother’s tale then. The merfolk had drowned their lovers when dawn broke. This can’t be happening to me! was his last unbelieving thought.

***


Lothiriel resurfaced in the center of the pool and looked towards the shore. Mashrak and his men had stood frozen, but when they saw her reappear on her own they started yelling wildly and pointing at her.

“Where’s Razmir?” Mashrak shouted, “get my brother out of there!”

Several of his men started to wade into the water at his words and Lothiriel dived again. She had done this a hundred times before with her brothers, only then it had been a game, now she was in deadly earnest.

Two of the men went under with a cut-off scream as she pulled their legs out from under them and joined their leader. The rest backed off hastily, spooked by the fate of their comrades.

“What are you doing?” Mashrak raged, “Get back in at once!”

“I’m not going in there again,” exclaimed one of the men, “that’s some sort of water witch.”

Lothiriel smiled triumphantly. Her plan was working out just as she had thought. It was almost too easy.

It was then she suddenly heard furious splashing behind her and before she could even turn round felt something grab her ankle and pull her down.

With what superhuman strength Razmir had clawed his way back to the surface she would never know, but now it gave out and he rapidly sank down again. He seemed determined to take her with him, though, despite her frantic struggles. His grip was like a vice around her ankle and she could feel panic rising within her, threatening to overwhelm her completely.

Her lungs were crying out for air and the light grew dimmer and dimmer until they hit the bottom of the pool, disturbing the soft mud that had accumulated there over the years. Still he would not let go but held on like grim death, even though he was barely conscious.

Lothiriel could feel her vision narrowing and her struggles grew weaker. Unwittingly her thoughts turned to Éomer who was riding to their rescue. He will be annoyed if I die before he can get here. I told him I could not drown.

She cast about for something, anything, to help her escape. Her hand closed on a sharp edged stone lying in the mud and she grabbed it and brought it down on Razmir’s hand again and again with all the strength she had left. In the end his grip loosened and with a last desperate effort she pulled herself free and swam up towards the light.

No breath of air had ever been sweeter than the one she took as she broke the surface of the water and never before had the sky been so blue and the sun so bright. She was gasping for air and had only the single thought to reach the shore before her strength gave out altogether.

It was only when she was once more grabbed by ungentle hands that Lothiriel remembered the Southrons, but she was far too spent to struggle and was deposited in a wet heap at Mashrak’s feet.

“What have you done to my brother?” he asked white with rage and pulled her to her feet. She swayed and would have fallen if he hadn’t held her by the arms. Nevertheless she looked him straight in the eyes, for a strange calm had taken hold of her.

“I killed him,” she stated flatly.

Absolute silence descended on the clearing and it was then that the mighty thunder of hooves was heard and the lookout belatedly turned back to his duty of watching the path leading up from the valley. He paid the ultimate price for his neglect as Firefoot charging into the clearing trampled him.

The King of Rohan riding up was easily the most beautiful sight Lothiriel had ever beheld in her life and in a way also the most terrifying. None dared stand before him. His mouth was set in a grim line, his blue eyes were blazing with fury and the white horsetail on his helmet was flying behind him as he rode straight towards her, cutting down the bandits between them with a fluid and almost absentminded grace.

Beside her Mashrak cursed and drew his sword. “You shall join my brother in the halls of our ancestors and forever be his slave!” he shouted, mad with grief, and lifted his scimitar above his head.

Lothiriel had gone beyond exhaustion. Her mind shouted at her to duck, run, do something, but her body simply refused to move. She watched in paralysed fascination as the sun glinted on the blade beginning its fatal descent towards her.

There was the grating sound of metal on metal as Éomer caught the stroke meant for her on his sword. Mashrak had to jump back hastily to avoid being trampled by Firefoot’s hooves.

She looked up in stunned relief as he halted mere inches from her.

“Get up behind me at once!” Éomer ordered her, taking in her bedraggled appearance in a single glance.

Lothiriel tried to obey, but she could hardly manage to stand up, let alone mount a warhorse unaided. When she just stood there swaying slightly and holding on to his stirrups Éomer swore and then dismounted.

With no more effort than if she had been a child he picked her up and lifted her onto his saddle. He had to sheathe his sword to do so, though, and suddenly she spotted movement behind him.

To her surprise Lothiriel found that she could move after all. “Éomer!” she gasped, “look out!”

In a single movement he spun round and drew his sword again. His eyes narrowed as he recognized Mashrak as the man who had tried to kill her.

“You!” Éomer said with quiet menace in his voice, “This is the last time you will ever threaten me and mine.”

The bandit leader laughed. “Brave words, horselover! We will see how well you fare on foot.”

Before Lothiriel’s horrified eyes the two men squared off against each other, quite oblivious to everything else going on around them.

Éomer had been working out in the blazing sun all morning, he had had a gruelling ride through the forest and a battle at the end of it while Mashrak was rested and had years of experience at this kind of struggle. Within the first few strokes being exchanged even Lothiriel realized the fight was patently unfair.

Mashrak never had a chance. He faced the King of Rohan in his wrath and there were only two men on Middle Earth who might have hoped to hold their own against Éomer that day. He was not one of them.

It was over almost before it had begun. With a sweeping series of backhand blows Éomer drove his opponent back into the water. One moment Mashrak was frantically trying to ward off the shattering blows raining down on him, the next he was staring in disbelief at the blade protruding from his chest.

Éomer pulled his sword free with a violent twist as Mashrak crumbled into the water, joining his brother.

Without pausing to catch his breath Éomer spun back towards Lothiriel, just as the first arrow whizzed past him.

“Quick,” he shouted and climbed onto Firefoot’s saddle behind her, “we’ll have to get back amongst the bandits. The archers won’t shoot if there’s a chance of hitting their own men.”

She was not given the opportunity of questioning the sanity of this plan of action, for he gathered up the reins, spurred his horse and plunged back into the thick of the fighting towards where Faramir and Éowyn were battling back to back.

Lothiriel was past wondering where Éowyn had gotten hold of a sword and just prayed that her strength would hold out and she would not simply topple from Firefoot’s back. To her, the melee seemed utterly confusing and terrifying, yet Éomer seemed to know instinctively how to block his opponents’ blades, being always one step ahead of them. Man and horse moved as one unit and all Lothiriel could do was to try her best not to hinder them.

There was a strange chuckling sound from behind her and with disbelief Lothiriel realized that the King of Rohan was laughing as he fought for their lives. Her brothers had told her tales of the Rohirrim singing as they cut down their foes on the Pelennor Fields and she had dismissed this as fanciful embellishment, but now she was starting to believe them.

The rest of the éored had arrived by now and even her inexperienced eyes could tell that the tide of battle was turning in their favour. The Southrons were desperate men, though, determined to fight to the bitter end. There would be no quarter given by either side.

***


At last it was over. Éomer drew his horse to a halt and surveyed the clearing. A quick glance reassured him that casualties had been surprisingly few; their onslaught had been so sudden and so furious. There were a couple of horses down and plenty of his men were sporting cuts and gashes, yet they seemed to have gotten off lightly. As luck would have it the Southrons had committed the unexpected folly of waiting for them out in the open where his men had the advantage instead of taking refuge in the woods.

Both of the women were alive. Éomer closed his eyes for a moment, relief sweeping through him. They were alive! Riding up he had feared the worst and when he had seen the bandit draw his sword to kill Lothiriel his heart had nearly stopped. He still did not know how Firefoot had managed to get there in time for him to counter that strike, somehow the stallion had sensed his master’s overwhelming need and had grown wings for a moment.

He turned his attention to the woman sitting in front of him. For some reason she was wet through and he wondered why. The Southrons did not usually drown their prisoners as far as he knew; they preferred far more lingering deaths.

“Are you all right?” he asked and then cursed himself for his inane question. Of course she wasn’t, he could feel her trembling with shock, after all she had just been through a horrifying experience.

“Éomer,” she replied in a small voice, “I think I am going to be sick.”

That spurred him into action and he hastily slid off Firefoot’s back and helped her down. She managed to take a few steps and then fell to her knees and started retching.

He knelt down next to her and gently held back the hair from her face. “Poor sweet,” he said matter-of-factly.

“I’m sorry,” she stammered between bouts of vomiting, “it’s the smell.”

“Don’t worry, it’s entirely understandable.” Many a novice rider had done the same thing after his first battle. He himself was so used to war he did not even notice the charnel house smell anymore, but there were bodies lying around everywhere and his armour was splattered with blood. Soon the first carrion crows would arrive.

Éowyn came up at this point, bringing a wineskin filled with fresh water and offered it to Lothiriel who accepted it gratefully. Faramir was hovering anxiously behind her.

“How are you?” Éomer asked his sister and she gave him a tremulous smile.

“I’m fine brother, thank you. I’m afraid Lothiriel got the worst of it.”

The princess had stopped retching by now and sat back on her heels, her face white and pinched. Éomer took in her dishevelled appearance, her swollen lips and the fact that her shirt was half undone and felt a sudden wave of overpowering fury sweep through him. What have these animals done to her? he raged inwardly. Éomer was glad he had killed the man attacking her, but his death had been far too quick and painless. He had to suppress the savage urge to get up and kick the body of Lothiriel’s attacker.

She noticed the direction of his look, glanced down and blushed furiously. Wet through as her clothes were, not much was left to the imagination.

Éomer got up abruptly and stepped over to where Firefoot was waiting patiently for his master. By old habit he still had his cloak fastened to his saddle, although he did not really need it in this warm climate, unlike in Rohan where the weather could change with startling speed.

He gently wrapped the thick green fabric around her and she gave him a grateful look.

“You look like a drowned rat,” he remarked dryly.

There was a sound of protest from his sister, but it seemed the right thing to say for Lothiriel gave him a weak smile.

“Thank you, I certainly feel like one.”

“Really Éomer,” Éowyn remonstrated, “what a thing to say after what she’s just been through! She nearly died!”

“It’s all right,” Lothiriel said, sounding a lot more like her usual self, “like I’ve told your brother before, I can’t drown.”

Éomer snorted. “Well, you look like you gave it a good try, though. Come on, let’s get you home.”

He helped her to her feet and then unceremoniously picked her up and deposited her on Firefoot’s back. There might still be enemy archers about and he would not feel safe until the women were back at the house. His second-in-command Éothain was well capable of looking after things here.

Soon after they were on their way back down to Emyn Arnen. Éomer wrapped his arms firmly around the princess sitting in front of him and with an exhausted sigh she leaned back against him. It could not have been very comfortable for he was still wearing full armour, yet she did not seem to mind.

When he looked down a little later she had closed her eyes and was fast asleep. Gently he shifted her so she would be more comfortable and she made a small contented sound in her sleep and nestled closer into the shelter of his arms. Éomer felt inexpressibly warmed by the trust he saw in her relaxed features.

He regarded her for a long time as Firefoot carried his precious burden home. For the first time he noticed the very slight sprinkling of freckles across her cheeks and the way her long thick lashes curved delightfully at the tips. His blood still ran cold at the thought of what she had been through today.

I nearly lost her before I even knew I had found her he thought and vowed to keep his lady safe from now on.

Always.

Chapters

Jump to chapter

Chapter name
Lothiriel has an idea
Created
18 Dec 2005
Last Edited
18 Dec 2005
Hits
864
Words
3496