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Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 21: Moonrise

by Lialathuveril

Chapter XX: Moonrise

His lips pressed gently but insistently against hers and she felt his hand slide around her waist. Lothiriel let him do as he pleased. After all she had been encouraging him all evening with just this end in mind. Emboldened by her passivity he pulled her closer and with his other hand stroked across her hair.

“You’re just so beautiful,” he whispered before claiming her lips in another gentle kiss. His chest was soft and warm under her hands and he smelt of soap and the sweet white wine they had shared earlier on.

Lothiriel closed her eyes and waited for something to happen. Nothing did. Her breath didn’t grow shorter, her pulse didn’t quicken and she felt completely steady on her feet. In fact she felt no different than she had a moment ago before he started kissing her.

This one’s the last of the lot, her thoughts drifted off, what am I going to do next?

His hand moved down to the small of her back and Lothiriel decided she’d had enough. With a sigh she pushed against his chest and he broke off at once.

“Forgive me, princess,” he exclaimed and dropped to one knee in front of her, “I got carried away by my feelings!”

Did you? Lothiriel waved his apologies away and motioned for him to get up again.

“You’re already forgiven Lord Tarlang, but please leave me now. I need some fresh air.”

“As my lady commands,” he replied and with a last lingering kiss of her hand excused himself. The young man was an excellent dancer and had entertained her with a host of amusing stories.

Lothiriel watched him go with a heavy heart and turned to thread her way deeper into the gardens. These she knew from childhood and she could have found her way even without the colourful little lanterns set at intervals along the gravel paths. In the daytime the gardens were a riot of colour, but Lothiriel preferred them after dark when the night blossoming flowers opened their blooms and released their heady scent.

It wasn’t late yet and there were other people strolling along the paths enjoying the cool night breezes. From the open windows of the great hall strands of music drifted through the air and she could hear many voices. Over on the other side were the water gardens, the favourite haunt of Amrothos and his friends, and she would be quite welcome to join them. In the past she had always found them amusing, but tonight she wasn’t in the mood. Ever since she’d gotten back from Emyn Arnen their games had seemed rather childish to her.

Lothiriel was overcome with the sudden longing to be on her own. Fortunately she knew just the place to go. Making her way with impatient strides across the gardens Lothiriel soon reached the broad stone wall encircling it. In one corner a flight of narrow steps led up onto the walkway along the top of it, which offered a sweeping view of the harbour of Dol Amroth.

It was a busy port and many torches were burning on the quay while the loading and unloading of ships went on late into the night. During the war Lothiriel had come here often to watch for the ships of the corsairs and to ponder her thoughts. Tonight she was just in time to see the full moon rise behind the Hills of Tarnost, casting its pale light over the whitewashed houses of the town.

Full moon again. The thought came unbidden into her mind as she leaned against the balustrade. Was it really only a month ago she had stolen her way into the Queen’s Garden in Minas Tirith? So much had happened since, she felt years distant from that former carefree self.

On her return to Dol Amroth her father had forgiven her the moment she ran into his arms, much to the disgust of Elphir, who had expected a sharp reprimand at her behaviour. Lothiriel had taken up her old duties again and had thought she could simply slip into her old life, but like a gown she had grown out of and that didn’t quite fit her anymore, it chafed in unexpected places. Everything had remained the way it was before she left, it was only herself who had changed.

Then there were her suitors. Lothiriel sighed. Prince Imrahil had indeed chosen the traditional half a dozen from the many applicants to her hand. Oh, they were all decent men of good family, yet Lothiriel somehow found them sadly lacking.

Determined to be a good and obedient daughter, she had made an effort to get to know them better, but was secretly disappointed. Not a single one of them challenged her in the least. As for their kissing…

Lothiriel sighed again. She had now experienced the sum total of eleven kisses and only a single one of them was memorable. Unfortunately it was exactly the wrong one.

Unconsciously she touched her lips, now completely healed. It wasn’t fair! How could a simple kiss destroy her peace of mind like that? No doubt Éomer had forgotten all about her by now or else was congratulating himself for his lucky escape from her clutches.

I should have slapped him when I had the chance, Lothiriel thought and balled her hands into fists. Instead she had been a complete coward and had run home, like a child falling over and seeking shelter in her father’s arms. She was angry with Éomer, but even more she was angry with herself.

You managed to stand up to a bunch of murdering Southrons, so why not to the King of Rohan? Lothiriel leaned her head against the cool stone balustrade. The truth was of course that she hadn’t run from him, she had run from herself.

Only you cannot run from yourself.

It had been Melian who had pointed out this truth in a gentle voice on their first day out of Emyn Arnen and she’d had the whole slow boat trip back to Dol Amroth to brood over it. Because of the rainy weather she had been confined to her cabin most of the time and she had realized almost at once what a fool she had been. At least Elphir had been so stunned by the news of his impending fatherhood that he had left her alone and had spent all of his time fussing over his wife.

Lothiriel’s inborn honesty forced her to admit to herself that the reason why she was so angry with Éomer was not because of what he had done but rather because he had stopped. While this went completely against her upbringing it was nevertheless the truth. What was even more humiliating was the fact that she wanted him to kiss her again. Was it so wrong of her to want to recapture the feelings that had swept through her when he held her in his arms?

Much to her annoyance she had found that she missed him. The King of Rohan could be high-handed and dictatorial, yet he was also amazingly kind and understanding. The keen sense of humour he hid so well behind his stern demeanour had surprised and then charmed her. Life seemed dull and colourless without him. Most of the men she met saw only the Princess of Dol Amroth, whereas Éomer had not been impressed by her title at all, and had treated her as he would any other woman.

Was it just her imagination that he was not completely indifferent to her? After watching her brother Amrothos fall in and out of love for years with the regularity of the sun rising and setting, she knew what value men set on a kiss. But even so…

Sparks had flown that night, but maybe they did every time he kissed a pretty woman. She was only too well aware of the fact that he surely had experienced more than the pitiful eleven kisses that were her own lot.

Lothiriel shook her head. She had been a fool to run and maybe she was a fool now to want him to come and get her. “From now on I’ll protect you. You are safe,” was what he had said that night. Empty words?

Anyway, her hands were bound now. Princesses of Dol Amroth simply did not run off to foreign countries in pursuit of kings. She had already done what little she could think of.

There were soft footsteps on the gravel and for a moment her stomach flipped over, but when she turned round she only saw the familiar tall figure of Prince Imrahil. Quickly suppressing an irrational feeling of disappointment she gave her father a guarded smile. She knew he was worried about her, but there was really no way she could confide in him.

“Lothiriel? Aren’t you cold?” Imrahil stepped up to her and gently put her cloak around her.

While it was true the wind had picked up, the night was still mild and for a moment Lothiriel felt irritated at his fussing. Nevertheless she pulled the cloak around her, for it was Éomer’s and she felt comforted by it.

“I am fine, father, thank you,” she replied and turned to stare out over the harbour again.

“Daughter, your presence has been missed,” he said in a mild voice.

“Has it?”

He nodded, unperturbed by her curt tone. “It has. No less than five of your admirers asked me where you were, so I decided to go in search of you. You are very much sought after.”

She gave an unladylike snort. “I am?”

“Yes indeed, and I’m not surprised either. You look beautiful tonight, the very image of my dear Celerian.”

Lothiriel looked up at him at that, for it was not often that her father spoke of her mother who had died so long ago. Prince Imrahil looked sad and she was tempted to pour out all her troubles to him like she had so often as a child. She was a child no more, though.

“Lothiriel, was troubles you?” he asked her, “Are you angry with me for ordering you back from Ithilien?”

She shook her head. He had explained his reasons for his displeasure and she’d had to concede he was right. It had been a stupid and foolhardy action to insult the King of Rohan the way she had that day in Minas Tirith. Gondor was still beleaguered on all borders by enemies and needed its closest ally to stand by its side. Her thoughtless words could have led to a serious breech, had Éomer been anyone else than the man he was.

“I am not angry, father” she reassured him and they fell silent, watching the activity going on below them.

“I am worried about you, “ Imrahil said at last, “you seem so subdued ever since you‘ve come home.”

“I’m just very busy,” Lothiriel replied evasively.

“I know, but even so…”

The silence hung heavy between them and she felt annoyed at his probing, even though she knew he meant well. What was the matter with all the men in her life?

“Have I failed any of my duties?” she challenged him.

“No,” he conceded, “You run the castle faultlessly, you have been polite and charming to all your suitors, the festivities tonight went without a hitch. And yet it seems to me you aren’t contented.”

“I’m fine, father,” she protested.

“Lothiriel, I would like to see you happy. What is it you want in life?”

What did she want? It was easier to say what she didn’t want. She did not want to be stifled, to be treated like a precious ornament, put away safely in a treasure box most of the time only to be taken out on special occasions.

“I want to be myself,” she answered hesitantly, “not just the Princess of Dol Amroth. I want to see more of Middle Earth than what I have so far. And I want to be trusted for my abilities.”

To herself she added. I want to be loved for myself.

A strand of her hair had come undone and Imrahil tucked it back behind her ears. “You are so much like your mother, she had the same spirit. Maybe I should have brought you up more conventionally like your aunt always recommended, yet I could never deny you anything.”

He sighed. “It’s all my fault. It is difficult for a bird who has known a little freedom to live in a cage again, yet with your many privileges come duties as well.”

“I know!” Lothiriel exclaimed, “And I fulfil my duties, you have said so yourself.”

“You do, but you cannot stay here forever. One day Elphir will move to Dol Amroth and then Melian will take over your duties. You will eventually have to find your own place in life and settle down.”

“I know,” Lothiriel repeated more softly, “But why do I have to marry just now?”

Her father gave her a keen look. “Is it that which troubles you?”

She turned to look back out over the harbour and gave an unhappy nod.

“I want to know you are safe when I am no longer here one day,” her father explained gently, “To know you are cherished.”

“You speak as if you were an old man!”

Imrahil stared into space. “The war has taught me you never know when it’s your turn to go. I do not want to leave it to Elphir to find you a husband.”

“Elphir!” she exclaimed in astonishment.

“He has rather rigid notions of propriety,” Imrahil said and Lothiriel couldn’t help snorting, “The suitors I’ve chosen are all upright and decent men. Surely there is one amongst them you could come to love.”

When Lothiriel didn’t reply he went on. “Love grows out of respect, out of living together and sharing your life. It doesn’t have to be there from the very beginning.”

Lothiriel did not meet his eyes. She found she was too confused about her own feelings to even contemplate explaining them to her father.

“Lothiriel?” he said reasonably, “What about Lord Artamir? He’s a good sensible man, he lives nearby and would be sure to protect you.”

Lord Artamir was a friend of Elphir’s, which was not really a recommendation, yet she had found him quite pleasant. He had a large holding further along the coast, which would mean she would be able to visit her family as often as she wanted. Or as often as he lets me. Once she was his wife he would have the right to tell her what she was allowed to do or not.

“He’s too old,” she said.

“Well, what about Hallas? He seems very much taken with you.”

This was the youngest of her suitors, a friend of her brother Amrothos. He was good fun to be with, yet she had found his jokes wearying after a while.

“Too young,”

Imrahil raised an eyebrow. “Lord Egalmoth of Linhir?”

Lothiriel shuddered. He might be the lord of a large demesne, but kissing him had been like kissing a toad.

“He has no sense of humour.”

“Well, what about Lord Pelendur? He is very well thought of.”

She hesitated. Lord Pelendur had impeccable manners and had amused her with his witty stories. Yet she had found there was something slightly malicious in the way he made fun of his fellow suitors.

“He never stops talking,” she said at last.

“You have very high standards, daughter,” her father said with a frown, “what about Lord Tarlang. He didn’t seem to be able to get enough of your company tonight.”

His kiss had been not unpleasant, and she supposed he would let her do pretty much as she wanted to once they were married. She didn’t think he had it in him to stand up to her.

“Too soft,” she replied.

“Well, that leaves only Belecthor.”

This was a quiet and unassuming man and Lothiriel wasn’t quite sure what to make of him, as he never said much at all. His kiss had been the very faintest brush against her lips and he had watched out nervously for her brothers all the time.

“Too short,” was her verdict.

“Too short?” Imrahil looked at her with a mixture of exasperation and amusement, “daughter of mine, there are not that many men taller than you!”

He seemed at a loss what to say next.

“Lothiriel,” he began hesitantly, “I don’t want you to marry some great lord, I want you to be happy. Did you meet someone in Ithilien? If he is a good and honourable man and truly loves you, I will not stand in your way. I could find a place for him here, even if he is only one of Faramir’s rangers.”

Marry him? Lothiriel remembered the feeling of his hands against her skin, strong warrior hands that were used to dealing death, yet were so gentle and tender with her. She tried to imagine moving to Rohan and sharing the rest of her life with him. When did I start to think of Éomer in terms of marriage?

Lothiriel didn’t know what to say. How could she explain the mess she had landed herself in with the King of Rohan? Her father would be so thoroughly appalled at her behaviour that he might well decide to marry her off to the suitor of his choice at once.

“Lothiriel?” Imrahil asked compassionately when she didn’t answer, “Is it someone so completely unsuitable?”

She nodded in mute misery. Unsuitable didn’t even begin to describe it.

Very gently Prince Imrahil took her in his arms and she rested her head against his chest. While she was not a child anymore it was still nice to be comforted by him.

In little more than another month she would have to make her choice. Lothiriel pictured herself standing in the Great Hall of Dol Amroth and defying her father in front of all their people. She could not do it. He was her father and she owed him her love and loyalty. During the war he had been willing to lay down his life for her, she could not pay him back with defiance and disobedience.

One of her aunt Ivriniel’s favourite sayings came to her mind: As you make your bed, so you must lie in it.

***


The moon rose slowly behind the Ephel Dúath, casting a path of molten silver across the waters of the Anduin. Éomer was sitting on a stone parapet in the Queen’s Garden in Minas Tirith and was watching the spectacle, yet he had no eyes for its beauty.

Full moon again. He half expected to see a gray-cloaked figure creep across the stable roof below him. This was the very spot where he had first met the Princess of Dol Amroth a month ago. Éomer smiled ruefully as he remembered the way she had tried to blackmail him into letting her have a peek through the windows. Little had he known then that here was a woman who would so thoroughly disturb his peace of mind.

He had arrived back in Minas Tirith a couple of days ago and had been irresolute what to next ever since. Then this morning a letter had arrived by fast courier from Dol Amroth. He had half expected a sharp reprimand taking him to task for his behaviour towards the princess, yet instead Imrahil had thanked him warmly for rescuing his daughter from the Southrons and for looking after her. Obviously Lothiriel had told her father nothing about their last encounter and had instead heaped lavish praise on him.

He took out the letter now and slowly turned it round in his hands. It was too dark to read it, but then he didn’t need to, he already knew it by heart. Especially it’s ending: my daughter wishes to be remembered to you.

What did she mean by that? Was it just wishful thinking on his part when he thought it sounded like a plea? Or was it no more than a polite phrase? Éomer groaned inwardly. For a moment he had seriously considered riding back to Emyn Arnen to consult his sister. Why couldn’t Lothiriel just write ‘come and get me’!

There was the sound of soft steps behind him and he whirled round, instantly alert. The next moment Éomer relaxed again, for he recognized the tall form of the King of Gondor.

“You move quietly,” he remarked and his friend gave him a grin.

“Once a ranger, always a ranger,” Aragorn said as he leaned against the stone parapet beside him. A companionable silence descended.

“You’re back early from Emyn Arnen,” Aragorn remarked at last, “I hope there is nothing wrong in Rohan?”

“No, not in the least.” In fact Éomer almost wished there had been something, but the Mark was untroubled by orc incursions or raids by the Dunlendings. In short there was nothing to keep him from travelling to Dol Amroth except his own doubts and fears.

Aragorn was watching him thoughtfully. “Nevertheless you seem troubled, my friend. Is there anything I can do?”

Éomer sighed. The King of Gondor was like a brother to him and was known for his good advice.

“It’s Lothiriel…”

“The Princess of Dol Amroth?” Aragorn asked, “You took her to stay with your sister, didn’t you?”

Éomer nodded and gave a short and heavily edited account of their sojourn in Emyn Arnen. “… and then her father ordered her to return to Dol Amroth,” he finished.

His friend was watching him keenly, obviously very much aware of the fact that he had not been given the whole unvarnished truth.

“And now?” Aragorn asked with something that looked suspiciously like a twinkle in his eyes.

“And now I’m not sure what to do.”

The truth was that he was afraid. Afraid of what she might say, afraid she would never want to see him again and would marry one of those suitors of hers. He was almost angry with her for having that kind of power over him.

Aragorn was looking out over the Pelennor Fields spreading below them.

“My friend, you will have to make your own decision, just as you did the day we met on the green plains of Rohan.”

He laid a hand on Éomer’s shoulder. “Trust your heart, just as you did then.”

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Chapter name
Moonrise
Created
28 Jan 2006
Last Edited
28 Jan 2006
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