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Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 23: Misgivings

by Lialathuveril

Chapter XXII: Misgivings

“My Lady?” The housekeeper was watching her questioningly.

Lothiriel came to with a start and coloured. She had been woolgathering again!

“I’m sorry, Hareth. What were you saying?”

Fortunately the housekeeper was a down to earth woman not much given to wondering about her mistress’s strange mood.

“The dried fish,” Hareth repeated herself, “I was saying we’ve nearly run out of dried fish as well as wheat flour for baking bread and also bacon.”

Lothiriel nodded. “I have to go down to the harbour this morning anyway to collect the latest shipment of wine from Linhir. I can get the rest at the same time. Anything else?”

It was amazing what amount of food was consumed in the castle every day, but Hareth was a diligent housekeeper and they worked together well. However, it was a bit of a nuisance to have to go down to the town, half the day would be gone before she could get back. Then she brightened up. Maybe Éomer would like to come along. He had never been to the sea before, so he should find the harbour quite interesting. They could have a look at the market as well and perhaps go for a stroll along the beach.

“My Lady?” Hareth was looking at her enquiringly again.

Lothiriel gave herself a mental shake. Her thoughts had wandered off again. What was the matter with her? She sighed. Of course she knew only too well what or rather who was the matter with her. The King of Rohan had proven a powerful distraction on her mind all morning. Nevertheless she had to carry on with her duties, for the castle did not run itself. Even her father had discovered that during her absence.

“I was just thinking what else I have to get,” she lied shamelessly and Hareth nodded in understanding. They went on to discuss the evening meal, but Lothiriel had difficulties concentrating on the matters at hand.

Contemplating what Éomer had said and done in the kitchen courtyard the day before was so much more pleasurable than thinking of dried fish and wheat flour. Especially what he had done

Lothiriel was still slightly baffled why his kisses had such a different effect on her than those of the rest of her suitors. She had always thought a kiss was a kiss, but apparently it wasn’t so. Something told her as well that he would not look kindly on her experimenting any further. Not that she wanted to anyway. She had lost track of her count at some stage and had the distinct impression she might as well give it up now.

She had spent the whole evening in a kind of daze, not daring to look at him for fear of betraying her feelings to everybody. Fortunately her father had monopolized his attention all through dinner, reminiscing about the war and enquiring about the progress of rebuilding in Rohan. Amrothos had watched her closely, but had for once kept his own council, for which she had been grateful.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Enter,” she called and of her father’s pages came in and bowed to her.

“My lady, Prince Imrahil requests your presence in his study.”

Her heart skipped a beat. There was only one reason for her father to wish to see her at this time of the morning. Éomer must have spoken to him, just as he had said he would. In Gondor it was the father’s prerogative to choose which suitors were allowed to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage, even if the choice was ultimately hers. All her other suitors had in fact applied to Imrahil first before approaching her.

Lothiriel collected her thoughts with some difficulty. “Please tell my father I will be along as soon as possible,” she told the page and he ran off again.

“Can you manage the rest on your own?” she asked Hareth who nodded placidly.

As the other woman took her leave, Lothiriel realized she didn’t have the faintest idea what they had discussed during the last half hour. Little did the King of Rohan know what a detrimental effect he had on the running of the household of Dol Amroth, she thought with a rueful smile.

Lothiriel took a quick detour through her rooms to check her appearance in the big mirror there. While she was dressed for riding in simple black trousers she had also put on a pretty embroidered linen blouse that accented the green colour of her eyes. After all her father liked to see her dressed as befitted her station.

She was humming to herself as she made her way along the corridors to Prince Imrahil’s study and felt like skipping along like she had done as a little girl. It didn’t seem possible that she had been feeling so low and miserable no more than a day ago. To think that it had all been just one huge misunderstanding! She did not know what she would have done if he hadn’t come for her and had taken her in his arms like he had.

It had been a feeling like a ship finally coming into harbour, like reaching dry land after many days at sea. In a way this should have been a frightening thought, for she knew she would never feel entirely whole again without him by her side. Lothiriel wasn’t sure if she wanted anybody to have that kind of power over her, but at the moment she was simply too happy to worry about that.

When she reached the door to Prince Imrahil’s rooms she paused for a moment to regain her usual calm demeanour. Her father would not appreciate her acting like a giddy girl. Then she took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

The study of the Princes of Dol Amroth was a large room with a breathtaking view over the Bay of Belfalas. The floor was covered with rich carpets and bookshelves lined the walls, housing an impressive collection of books, second only to the great library in Minas Tirith. Over on one side was the huge oak table where the council meetings took place once a week.

It had always amazed Lothiriel that her father could get any work done, for she herself would have spent all her time watching the changing colours of the ocean. He was sitting behind his desk and she suddenly felt uneasy when she saw the reserved expression on his face. She had expected him to be pleased at the turn of events, as it was well known how highly he thought of the King of Rohan, yet this did not seem to be the case.

Then all further thoughts fled her mind when she spotted Éomer. The King of Rohan was standing at the window overlooking the ocean and had turned round at her entrance. Now he crossed the room to greet her and his smile was like having something deliciously warm and soft wrapped round her.

“Princess Lothiriel…” his kiss on her hand was the very faintest touch, yet it sent shivers down her spine. How come she had never noticed before what a beautiful velvety voice he had?

Lothiriel was very much aware of her father watching them and suddenly felt shy. She lowered her gaze and dropped a demure curtsy. “King Éomer…”

Somehow she felt like a child having been caught out while misbehaving when they turned to face her father. How many times had she stood here awaiting Prince Imrahil’s judgement? Usually it had been Amrothos by her side, trying to talk them out of trouble with his clever words. It had seldom worked.

Prince Imrahil was tapping his fingers on the beautifully polished surface of his desk.

“Daughter, Éomer says he has spoken to you already. I suppose you know why I have called you?”

Lothiriel nodded cautiously.

“I have to admit to being very much surprised at receiving this application for your hand. Why didn’t you mention anything before?”

Lothiriel felt at a loss. She knew with absolute certainty that her father would not appreciate hearing about that scene in Faramir’s stables. Fortunately Éomer threw himself into the breech.

“It’s my fault, I’m afraid,” he said, “I never got a chance to talk to Princess Lothiriel before she left Emyn Arnen.”

Lothiriel grasped at this excuse. “I felt it would not be proper.”

Imrahil gave her a faintly ironic look. “It’s rather unusual to see you so concerned with propriety, daughter. From what you told me I gathered you had met someone entirely unsuitable in Ithilien and now this turns out to be the King of Rohan?”

She coloured and Éomer gave her an amused look.

“Unsuitable?” he murmured in her ear, but aloud he said, “I’m afraid, Imrahil, your daughter has very high standards. Fortunately I was finally able to convince her of my … suitability.”

Lothiriel was glad he didn’t explain just how exactly he had convinced her. She was rather afraid her father might be able to read it on her face, though.

Imrahil was watching the interplay between them with a frown. “Daughter, this is very sudden. Have you thought well about the decision you are about to take?”

Lothiriel nodded firmly. “I have.”

“Rohan is far away and you are a stranger to its language and customs, have you considered that?”

Éomer’s arrival had been so sudden, she hadn’t really thought about that much. It was true his country was several weeks’ travel from Dol Amroth and the language sounded foreign to her ears, yet she liked the Rohirrim she had met so far. Also she had never been afraid of a challenge.

“Languages can be learnt and I’m sure Éomer would help me find my way in Rohan.”

Éomer nodded. “In fact I was going to suggest I send someone to instruct you in our customs. I already have someone in mind, a bard.” He seemed to have given it some thought already.

“That’s all very well,” Imrahil conceded, “but have you considered how far away you will be from your family?”

“I will have Éomer.”

The King of Rohan gave her a warm smile. “You will.”

Imrahil frowned. “Without intending any offence to you, Éomer, let me be blunt. Lothiriel, are you sure this is not just an impulse and you’re letting your feelings run away with you?”

What was wrong with that? But Lothiriel didn’t voice the thought. She knew her father was very much in favour of deciding with your mind rather than with your heart. Then she remembered something he had said during their talk that night not long ago.

“Father, you said you wanted me to marry a good and honourable man. Surely Éomer is just that?”

“Of course he is,” Imrahil sighed and got up to pace the room.

“You know I have no objections on those grounds. Nobody knows his worth better than me, after all I planted my banner next to him at the battle before the Black Gate. That is not why I’m reluctant to agree to this match.”

“You said you wanted to see me happy.” Lothiriel felt bewildered at her father’s attitude.

“I said I did not want you to just marry some great lord, but Éomer is a great lord.”

At this Éomer decided to put in his oar as well.

“Actually you might find that life in the Mark is more informal than here. I think it will suit Lothiriel.”

“That might well be,” Imrahil agreed, “after all I saw this for myself when I visited Edoras for your uncle Théoden’s funeral, but Lothiriel would still be Queen of Rohan. That is a grave responsibility.”

Queen of Rohan? She was of course aware that Éomer was a king, but she hadn’t really given it much thought that she was taking on a country as well as a man.

“I agree,” Éomer replied, “but I think your daughter would make a very good queen. The people of the Riddermark expect their rulers to be plain-dealing and direct. I’m sure they would come to love her.”

“I’m no judge of that. My objection is just that it is not the life Lothiriel is used to. She was brought up to marry a Gondorian lord. She has no idea what it means to become the queen of a foreign and distant country. There is more to being Queen of Rohan than merely looking ornamental.”

Lothiriel stared at her father. Was that what he thought of her? That she spent all her day ‘looking ornamental’? She could feel a slow anger beginning to burn inside her and took a deep breath to calm herself. Getting annoyed would earn her nothing but a flat refusal, that much she knew from past experience.

Éomer slowly shook his head. “I think you underestimate your daughter. Surely it’s up to her to decide what she wants to do with her life.”

Exactly.

“I’m just trying to look after her,” Imrahil averred, “As you’ve told me yourself, Rohan is still under threat from the Dunlendings in the West and orc bands are still hiding in the Emyn Muil. Here in Dol Amroth she is safe.”

“Are you saying I could not protect her?” There was a distinct threat in the King of Rohan’s voice.

Her father held out a hand in a pacifying gesture. “Éomer, you know how highly I value your friendship. That’s not what I’m saying and after all I have seen you fight, but you cannot be by her side all the time, can you? What if you have to fulfil your oaths to Gondor? I pray it will never happen, but what if you should fall in battle?”

Éomer looked stubborn. “Imrahil, I know I’m not invulnerable, nobody is, although I promise to do my best to stay alive. But then none of us know what the future holds in store for us. How do you know staying in Dol Amroth will always be safe for her?”

They had obviously covered this ground before and Lothiriel decided to let her opinion be known as well. Enough was enough. She absolutely did not like to be discussed as if she wasn’t there.

“Have the two of you ever considered that I might not want to be kept safe and secure above all else and that I might be able to look after myself?” she asked acerbically.

This earned her a stern look from Prince Imrahil. “Lothiriel, I’m your father, it is my duty to look after your welfare.”

“I’m not a child anymore,” she replied with some heat, “While in Ithilien I killed a man, one of the Southrons who attacked us. I did not enjoy it, but if I had to I would do it again. Can’t you trust my judgement?”

Imrahil looked shocked. “You never mentioned anything of this!”

“I didn’t want to worry you,” she explained more gently, “Father, I absolutely know it is the right thing for me to do to marry Éomer. You might try to hinder us, but you will not stop us.”

Imrahil looked at her in some shock at her outspoken words while Éomer gave her a smile of surprised approval. She moderated her tone.

“Father, you have told me many times that mother was by no means the best match grandfather had selected for you, isn’t this true?”

“Yes, that’s true.”

“Yet you knew when you first met her that you wanted to marry her?”

Imrahil’s face softened. “Yes I did.”

“Can’t you see it’s the same for me? Please trust me,” Lothiriel pleaded.

“I do trust you, daughter,” he said, “You’re just so young and Rohan is so far away.”

“Mother was twenty-one when she married you,” Lothiriel reminded her father, “the same age as me.”

“Finduilas was not much older than that when she wedded Denethor.” There was old pain in his voice.

Lothiriel felt utterly bewildered. Finduilas? What does my long dead aunt have to do with me marrying Éomer?

Her father was staring into space. “She was so young and gentle, but she withered away in Minas Tirith like a flower deprived of water, always longing for her home by the sea.”

He gave Éomer a piercing look. “In his own way Denethor loved her, yet it was not enough. All her life she was afraid of the Shadow and what would happen to her sons.”

Éomer faced him squarely. “The Shadow has passed and I am not Lord Denethor. I will always cherish your daughter, I promise you.”

Lothiriel took her father’s hands in her own. “And I am nothing like Finduilas, though I might look a lot like her.”

Their eyes met and she saw the shadow of the old memory, slowly fading and giving way to a hesitating consent.

“Trust me?” she said again softly.

Imrahil looked down at her. “Are you sure?”

“I have never been more certain of anything in my life.”

“Very well,” Imrahil said after a long pause, “I will accept Éomer as your suitor.” With a joyous cry Lothiriel embraced him.

“But I want you to think carefully of what you are about to embark on and how it will affect your whole life,” he warned her, “I ask you not to announce your decision until your birthday.”

“My birthday?” Lothiriel felt dismayed. That was still five weeks away, “but I don’t think Éomer can stay until September.”

She turned to face him “Can you?”

“I’m afraid not,” he answered regretfully, “I have already been away from home too long. A week is all I can allow myself in Dol Amroth.”

“Éomer doesn’t have to be there when you announce your decision, he can send a representative” her father reminded her, “Lothiriel, I will not agree otherwise.”

“Very well,” said the King of Rohan.

Lothiriel shot him an annoyed look. “You will not have to endure my suitors for another five weeks, I will.”

Éomer gave her a wink. “Don’t worry, I’ll handle it.” He would? How?

“Just a moment,” Imrahil interrupted them, “I also expect both of you to be polite to the rest of Lothiriel’s suitors, they are my guests. Is that clear?”

Éomer did look distinctly disappointed, but he nodded his head in agreement.

“All right then,” Lothiriel said grudgingly, but to her father she added, “I promise you won’t regret it.”

Imrahil shook his head and gave her another penetrating look. “What I hope is that you won’t regret it.”

Then he turned to Éomer and spoke the traditional words.

“King Éomer, I grant you the right to sue for my daughter’s hand.”

Éomer gave him a deep bow. “Thank you, Prince Imrahil.”

There was silence for a moment before Imrahil turned to his daughter and said in a lighter voice, “At least you won’t be able to complain he isn’t tall enough. Were you going down to the town?”

Lothiriel nodded, glad for the change of subject. “Yes father. I still have to collect that wine. I was thinking maybe Éomer would like to come along and have a look at the harbour.”

“I’m sure he would” This was faintly ironic. “I’ll see you later then.” It was clearly a dismissal.

When they reached the door he called out to them.

“Éomer, one last thing. Anyone who makes my daughter unhappy answers to me, no matter who it is. Is that understood?” There was more than just a hint of steel in his voice.

“That is understood.” Éomer replied gravely.




***



As ever many thanks to Cuthalion for beta reading and also for giving me the idea about Finduilas through her story '...and hear the song of salt and sea'.


Many thanks to HeatherRae, Theladyscribe (By the way, you don't read your messages!), Rohannion and Ozynegra for your reviews! I'm glad you liked the last chapter and I appreciate you taking the time to let me know what you thought of it. After the last chapter I was asked by several readers if it was the end of the story. For a while I was in fact considering letting it end there, but there are still so many questions begging to be answered: what will those suitors of Lothiriel's do when they hear the news? What will she make of Rohan? What colour will her wedding dress be? And finally what will they discuss on their wedding night?

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Chapter name
Misgivings
Created
10 Feb 2006
Last Edited
10 Feb 2006
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