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Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 19: Lothiriel’s sins catch up with her

by Lialathuveril

Chapter XVIII: Lothiriel’s sins catch up with her

She could hear his steps receding. Lothiriel leant back against the door and slowly slid down to the floor.

What have I done? The thought milled around and around in her mind. She felt as if she didn’t know herself anymore. The only thing she did know with absolute certainty was that she would sooner die than have to face Éomer again. Why couldn’t the earth open up and swallow her!

What had gotten into her? After his first gentle kiss they had hovered on the brink and she could have drawn back. Her upbringing as a princess had shouted at her to draw back at once, but after the events of the day propriety hadn’t seemed so important anymore. Somewhere inside her a barrier had broken and she had just let her emotions take control of her. Lothiriel blushed furiously at the memory of how she had slid her arms around him and had surrendered into his embrace. She had the sinking feeling that he could have asked anything of her that moment and she would have complied. What was infinitely worse was that she would have done so gladly. It had felt so gloriously right!

She caught sight of her reflection in Faramir’s mirror. Her shift was half undone, her face still flushed and her lips had started to bleed again. Somehow she could still feel the sensation of his hands brushing across her skin. Lothiriel drew up her knees and leant her head against them, but no tears would come.

There was a word for women like her and it was not one used in polite company. What would he think of her? That she lifted her skirts at every passing male? She was no better than all those women who had thrown themselves at him in Minas Tirith!

He must think I tried to trap him into marrying me, she thought bleakly, why else would I wear nothing but the thinnest of shifts underneath my cloak and drop that at the first opportunity?

No wonder he had pushed her away from him and had looked so appalled. His disgusted words still rang in her ears.

A fierce longing to be back in Dol Amroth swept through her. All she wanted to do was to go home and throw herself into her father’s arms, no matter that he would be absolutely horrified at her behaviour and would probably marry her off at once if he ever heard about it!

Lothiriel froze as there was another knock on the door, then she recognized Melian’s voice. There was no way she could face anybody else at the moment and so she kept absolutely still. After a while she heard her sister-in-law go back to bed and breathed a sigh of relief.

What an ending to a horrendous day! Lothiriel thought, feeling completely exhausted. Slowly she dragged herself up and stumbled over to the bed. If she was lucky it would all turn out to be a bad dream.

***


Lothiriel woke up the next morning with an aching head and an aching heart. Her eyes felt as if somebody had rubbed sand into them and her arms were bruised all over. She sat up with a wince and surveyed her room. The sun was shining brightly, too brightly, and through the open window she could hear birds singing cheerfully. Éomer’s green cloak lay crumpled on the floor by the door.

It hadn’t been a bad dream then. Lothiriel sagged back against her cushions and closed her eyes again. She did not want to get up and hoped sleep would claim her again so she could just forget about her troubles.

Of course the opposite was the case. The firmer she shut her eyes the more her thoughts kept returning to her unfortunate encounter with Éomer the night before. She still wasn’t sure how it had turned into such an unmitigated disaster. He had been so nice and understanding, had taken her seriously instead of sweeping away her concerns as her brothers so often did. He had even revealed some of his own troubled past, painful though this must have been for him. When she had cried in his arms she had felt sheltered and comforted.

That had been a mistake of course, and not behaviour appropriate to a Gondorian princess. The mere fact that she was alone with a man in the stables at such a late hour would give rise to censure by people like her brother Elphir. Lothiriel had never paid much heed to her eldest brother’s opinions and her father had always trusted her implicitly, but she knew that the amount of freedom she enjoyed was unusual and considered excessive by many. Her aunt Ivriniel had always prophesied it would lead her into trouble one day and now it looked like she had been proven right.

Lothiriel sighed. She supposed she must have led Éomer on somehow, quite without intending to, why else would he have kissed her like that? She knew her experience with men was rather limited, but then how was she supposed to gain any? Oh, she had been kissed by some of Amrothos’ friends in the past – four times altogether to be precise – but although that had been quite pleasant it had not prepared her for the sensations that had swept through her last night.

It isn’t fair, she thought resentfully, Éomer has no business to kiss me like that. Then she cringed inwardly as she remembered his words when he had realized just how little she wore underneath that cloak of his.

A soft knock on the door interrupted her unhappy thoughts and for a moment Lothiriel considered simply acting as if she was still fast asleep. Then she squared her shoulders. It was no use; she would have to face the world again, no matter how little she relished the thought.

“Come in,” she called, expecting one of the maids, but it was Melian who entered the room.

Her sister-in-law was carrying a small tray with a mug of tea and some food on it. “Good morning,” she said brightly, “although I have to say, the morning is nearly gone.”

“It is?” asked Lothiriel and sat up straighter in bed as Melian deposited the tray on her lap.

Her sister-in-law nodded and sat down on the edge of the bed. “It’s nearly noon, but Éowyn said to let you have a lay-in.”

Lothiriel was inspecting the contents of the tray with little enthusiasm. She wasn’t feeling hungry, but when she noticed Melian watching her anxiously she picked up a roll and started nibbling it.

“Thank you for fetching my breakfast,” she said, doing her best to sound her normal self.

Melian wasn’t fooled. “How are you feeling after yesterday’s terrifying ordeal?” she asked full of worry.

For a moment Lothiriel thought that her encounter with Éomer had already made the rounds and felt her heart sinking, then she realized that Melian meant their capture by the Southrons.

“Oh that,” she said weakly, “a few aches and pains, but not too bad considering.”

When Melian continued to frown, Lothiriel turned her attention back to her tray and started buttering her roll.

“Breakfast in bed, how nice,” she said in a cheerful tone that sounded false even in her own ears, “it’s a long time since I was last spoilt like this.”

She noticed a small earthenware jar and opened it, thinking it would contain honey. Instead a pungent smell, strangely familiar, filled the room.

“I nearly forgot,” Melian exclaimed, “King Éomer gave this to me before he left. He said you’d know how to use it.”

“Éomer has left for Rohan?” Lothiriel felt stunned. She recognized the ointment he had used on her bruises in Minas Tirith, of course, but all she could think of was how disgusted he had to be to leave in this precipitate manner.

“Rohan?” Melian stared at her, “Why should he leave for Rohan? No, they have discovered where the bandits have their lair and are going to surprise them. He and Faramir rode out with their men at first light.”

“Oh,“ Lothiriel felt rather stupid, “I see. Was there a message with it?”

“No,” her sister-in-law replied slowly, “Only what I’ve already told you. I didn’t sleep well and was up early, making myself a cup of tea in the kitchen. King Éomer asked after you and I mentioned your bruises. He didn’t have much time, they were in a hurry.”

Lothiriel turned the jar round in her hands. “I see,” she said again, although she didn’t really see anything at all.

They were interrupted by a loud knock on the door that nearly made Lothiriel spill her tea. It was one of the maids and she was very much out of breath.

“Lady Éowyn sends me,” she gasped, “she asks for you to join her in the courtyard. The guards have spotted a company of riders. They are flying the swan banner of Dol Amroth.”

The two women exchanged a look, then Lothiriel pushed the tray aside and jumped out of bed. It was much too early for it to be their escort back to Minas Tirith. Something must have happened back home, Lothiriel thought, Father?

By the time Melian had helped her to dress and they had joined Éowyn on the steps outside the house the riders had already arrived and were dismounting.

“Elphir!” Lothiriel exclaimed in surprise when she spotted her eldest brother bowing to the Princess of Ithilien.

“Sister,” he nodded coldly before giving his wife a chaste kiss on the cheek and a slightly warmer greeting.

“Has something happened in Dol Amroth?” Lothiriel asked anxiously, “Is father all right?”

“Prince Imrahil is in excellent health as far as I know,” he said in his usual pompous style before suddenly taking a closer look at her.

“You look terrible! What has happened to your face, sister?” he asked, noticing her bruised lips, “did you fall off that horse of yours? I always knew you would not be able to control it!”

Lothiriel felt very much offended. “I did not fall off Nightwind!” she exclaimed, “If you want to know, Éowyn and me were attacked by Southrons yesterday.”

“Southrons! Did they touch you?” he sounded concerned and for a moment Lothiriel wondered cynically if he was worried about her welfare or just her unsullied condition.

“They did not, thanks to Éomer and Faramir who rescued us.”

She discarded her previous thought as unworthy. Lothiriel knew her brother loved her; they just had rather different ideas on what was good for her. When she had recounted the previous day’s events, Elphir shook his head slowly.

“I told father no good would come of you learning to swim, but he would not listen,” he remarked sagely.

Lothiriel could only stare at him. She opened her mouth for a sharp retort then closed it again. From long experience she knew nothing could get past her brother’s armour of self-importance.

“That is not the reason for my being here, however, “ he said loftily “I suggest we retire inside for the rest of this discussion.”

It was an order and not a request. Éowyn blinked at his peremptory tone, but she led the way inside the house and enquired civilly if he wished for some refreshment.

Elphir accepted a glass of wine and looked round critically. “Still quite a lot of work to be done,” he remarked and Lothiriel could see Éowyn starting to bristle.

“I’m sure my husband will be pleased to show you round,” she replied coldly, “unfortunately he’s not here at the moment, he’s hunting down bandits with my brother.” Her tone managed to imply that it would behove Elphir well to make himself useful, too.

Elphir didn’t seem to notice. “I know, we met King Éomer and Faramir on the road. They surrounded our camp as if we were enemies!” He sounded outraged.

“You should be glad it wasn’t the Southrons,” Éowyn snapped, but her comment was simply ignored.

“He seemed very much in a hurry,” Elphir said, “I have to say, I’m surprised he left you here all on your own. Still, I am here now, so you needn’t worry.”

This was too much for the slayer of the king of the ringwraiths. “I don’t need your help!” Éowyn stated, her blue eyes blazing angrily, “My husband left half his men behind and I am perfectly capable of looking after things here.”

After seeing what Éowyn could do with an ordinary cheese knife Lothiriel didn’t doubt her for one moment. Elphir had taken a step back at her tone and finally seemed to remember who exactly he was talking to.

“Of course, Lady Éowyn, I don’t doubt it.” He cleared his throat. “Anyway, that’s not why I came.”

“Well why did you come?” Lothiriel asked impatiently when he showed no inclination of going on at once.

He gave her a censuring look. “Because of you, sister,” he said dolefully.

When she looked at him uncomprehendingly he went on in a sombre voice. “I warned you that father would hear of your scandalous behaviour, didn’t I?”

Lothiriel stared at him. There was no way short of owning a palantír that Prince Imrahil could have heard of last night’s unfortunate encounter. Then it dawned on her that Elphir meant her altercation with the King of Rohan in Minas Tirith.

“Oh that!” she exclaimed and her brother frowned at her.

“You don’t seem to take this very seriously, but I assure you father is of a very different opinion. He asked me to deliver this letter to you.”

From an inside pocket of his vest Elphir took a folded parchment and handed it over to her. One look at it sufficed to tell Lothiriel that her day had just gotten a whole deal worse.

It was addressed very formally to ‘Her Royal Highness, Lothiriel, Princess of Dol Amroth’ and to the front was affixed the great seal of state of Dol Amroth with its swan and ship. When she turned it round she noticed with dismay the privy seal of Prince Imrahil on the back plus all her father’s minor seals.

For a long moment she just stared at it before getting up abruptly. “If you’ll excuse me?” she whispered and almost fled the room. Melian made as if to get up and follow her, but was held back by her husband.

“Lothiriel will have to learn to live with the consequences of her behaviour,” she heard him say before the door closed behind her.

Lothiriel’s first impulse had been to seek refuge in the stables, but she changed her mind almost at once. They would be full of Elphir’s men and anyway held too many painful memories for her to ever feel comfortable there again. Instead she headed for the gardens. Éowyn found her there, sitting in the shade of a pear tree, when she came looking for her friend a little later.

“Lothiriel?” she asked worriedly, “what’s the matter?”

Lothiriel looked up and wordlessly handed her the letter. It looked like her sins had finally caught up with her. She was feeling numb. Events during the last couple of days had simply gone from bad to worse: first the Southrons, then Éomer and now her father. This last blow was just proving to be too much for her to take in.

Éowyn perused the letter and her eyes widened. ”…the most puissant and mighty Prince, Imrahil of Dol Amroth, summons said daughter…does your father always write in such a manner?” She sounded awed and under different circumstances Lothiriel would have smiled. Not today, though.

“He doesn’t,” she said in a small voice. Lothiriel knew that when angered her father went cold and controlled, unlike herself who had inherited her mother’s hot temper, yet in her entire life she had never received a missive like this. She had been reluctant to open it and its content had proven her right. Half the page was just taken up with her father’s full list of titles and the salutation was the most formal one possible for the Prince of Dol Amroth to his daughter.

In fact the whole letter was a highly official document and it could be boiled down to two sentences: I am very much displeased with you. Come home at once.

Éowyn looked at her with a wry smile. “It looks like he’s found out about your little disagreement with Éomer. Your brother’s meddling?”

Lothiriel nodded. “It must be. Elphir told me he would write to father before we left Minas Tirith.”

“I wonder what exactly he wrote to him? Surely it’s not so very terrible?”

“He probably wrote nothing but the truth,” Lothiriel answered drearily. Prince Imrahil had made it very clear what he thought of her attempt to endanger Gondor’s vital alliance with Rohan. She did not even want to consider what he would say if he ever found out about her latest diplomatic disaster involving their closest ally.

“By now all of Dol Amroth will know about my disgrace,” she said dully.

“Why?” Éowyn asked in surprise.

Lothiriel gestured at the letter. “It’s not even in my father’s hand, it was written by a scribe… You will have to look after Nightwind for me.”

Éowyn looked confused by this complete non sequitur. “What do you mean?”

“She’s been hurt and I won’t be able to take her with me. Anyway, your brother has not given his verdict yet, whether I will be allowed to keep her.” That looked increasingly unlikely as well, given her recent behaviour.

“Take her with you…?” Apparently her explanation had not made much sense to Éowyn.

“Back home to Dol Amroth. I will have to leave as soon as possible.”

It suddenly dawned on Lothiriel that an avenue of escape had just opened up before her. Wasn’t this what she had been wishing for last night, to be home and safe? Back with her family in her familiar surroundings, away from all the confusion Éomer seemed to engender in her heart and mind by his very presence. She could be gone before he even returned and need never have to face him again.

“I’ll start packing at once,” she breathed and got up.

“Lothiriel!” Éowyn exclaimed, “Surely there’s no need to be in such a rush. Why don’t you sit down and we’ll talk it over.”

Lothiriel shook her head violently. A talk with Éomer’s perceptive sister was the last thing she wanted. “No,” she said firmly, “you’ve seen what my father has written. I dare not disobey him. Hopefully we’ll be able to leave by tomorrow.”

I will be a dutiful and obedient daughter from now on, Lothiriel thought as she strode back to the house, it has quite obviously been the wrong idea to think that I could be anything else than what has been ordained for me at birth.

The rest of the day passed in a whirlwind of activity and when Lothiriel finally went to bed she was so tired she fell asleep almost before her head touched the pillow. This left her with no time to think at all, which suited her down to the ground.

Melian had protested at the speed of their leaving, but for once Elphir had backed his sister. When they departed early the next morning he noted with approval that his sister had reverted to wearing proper riding skirts as befitted her station and he was very much pleased by her subdued manner. Maybe Lothiriel had finally learnt her lesson.

Éowyn watched them go and felt unaccountably disheartened, but there seemed to be nothing she could say except wish them a safe journey. Her friend was no longer the cheerful girl with the mischievous smile who had arrived two weeks ago and Éowyn wondered if it was all up to their misadventure and Prince Imrahil’s letter. She had the niggling feeling she did not know the whole story, but Lothiriel had made it abundantly clear she did not want to talk about it.

Idly Éowyn asked herself what her brother’s reaction would be when he returned and found the Princess of Dol Amroth gone. It might prove to be interesting.

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Lothiriel’s sins catch up with her
Created
15 Jan 2006
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15 Jan 2006
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