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Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 24: Dol Amroth

by Lialathuveril

Chapter XXIII: Dol Amroth

Éomer was doing his best to look fierce. The two wine merchants conferring with Lothiriel gave him another nervous glance while she seemingly ignored him. He could see the tiny smile tugging at the corner of her mouth, though.

“I always take a guard along when I meet the merchants,” she had explained on the way down to the harbour, “they don’t all know me, so this shows them I’m not to be trifled with.”

“What do I have to do?” he had asked, amused at the thought that she was putting his company to good use.

“Just look fierce,” Lothiriel had answered with a wicked smile, “it keeps them honest.”

And so he scowled threateningly at the two men when Lothiriel pointed out that the shipment was two casks short of what was listed on the manifest. It was surprising with what speed the missing casks were miraculously found and he had to fight hard to hide a grin.

“That’s all then,” Lothiriel said when the last wine cask was loaded onto the two carts she had brought with her from the castle. She turned to the two merchants to take her leave.

“It was a pleasure doing business with you, gentlemen.” There was only the faintest hint of irony in her voice.

Their relief was almost comical as they bowed deeply and wished her a good day.

They picked up their horses’ reins and walked further along the quay while the carts rattled away on their way back to the castle.

Lothiriel shook her head. “That should teach them not to try to cheat me. Two casks! Did they really think I would not notice?”

“They probably thought someone so pretty would not be able to count past ten,” Éomer teased her, “I don’t think they will be trying that particular trick with you again.”

She grinned. “No, I don’t think so either. You had them well and truly rattled. Not many Rohirrim ever make it this far and they have a bloodthirsty reputation.”

“Well earned,” he pointed out, “after all we are barbarians.”

“I couldn’t agree more.” Her eyes were brimming over with mischief.

Éomer still couldn’t quite believe that he was here, strolling through the town of Dol Amroth with Lothiriel by his side, being gently teased by her. And she had actually consented to marry him! He still felt slightly stunned by the quick turn of events, but at the moment he was quite content to just enjoy her company.

“Where are we going now?” he asked her.

Lothiriel pointed ahead to where a broad alley opened out onto the quay. “That’s where the grain merchants have their stores. Also it’s market day today, so we can have a look at that as well.”

Dol Amroth was a busy seaport and there were over a dozen ships being loaded and unloaded. Several of them belonged to Prince Imrahil’s merchant fleet trading up and down the coast. Éomer was secretly impressed when the princess seemed to know at a glance where they hailed from and explained what cargoes they carried. His sister had of course told him that Lothiriel had managed the running of her father’s castle for years, but even so this was a new side to her.

The harbour was situated in a naturally defensive location with the castle overlooking it on one side and the broad harbour walls ending in two massive towers. Lothiriel had given him a quick tour and had explained that there was a harbour chain suspended between the towers that could be raised in times of war to deny the enemy entry. It was not surprising that the corsairs had never attempted to take Dol Amroth, concentrating on easier prey instead.

They had spent a long time just standing on the harbour wall overlooking the ocean. In his whole life Éomer had never seen a body of water larger than a small lake and he was still coming to terms with the sheer amount of water. It was beautiful and threatening at the same time. Sailors had to be brave men to dare to sail across this featureless vastness. Then there was the plaintive cry of the sea gulls and the smell of salt and sea, all new to him.

They had reached the alley now and Lothiriel stopped at one of the stalls. The trader had bags full of wheat, rye and oats on display and she ran her hand through the grain critically before starting to bargain. It was evident the merchant knew her well and respected his prince’s daughter, but he still drove a hard bargain. Lothiriel seemed to enjoy it, though, and at the end arranged for the man to deliver the bags of grain to the castle.

“Now all I have to get is the dried fish,” she explained when they finally moved on, “it’s one of the staples of our men’s diet.”

The market was held in the town square and was a revelation. Éomer was astonished at the many different kinds of fish on offer and as for the other things the Gondorians apparently considered edible! He very soon determined not to eat anything with more than four legs, no matter how delicious it was said to be. It had been quite enough to have a dead sea creature in his bath for washing, he wasn’t about to eat them as well.

Lothiriel arranged for the rest of her purchases to be delivered to the castle with the grain and they had a look at some more stalls. All along the four sides of the square was a covered arcade where the more prosperous merchants displayed their wares. Dol Amroth was of course famous for its pearls, but there were also amber and furs from the far north and turquoise and silk from the south. One stall sold nothing but colourful spices, most of them completely unknown to Éomer. The gnarled old woman presiding over it had a tiny set of scales to weigh them with.

The princess was well known here as well and he attracted a fair share of curious glances himself. It was funny to think that his blond hair, common as mud in the Riddermark, should seem exotic to these people. He preferred black hair himself, raven black accompanied by laughing green eyes, to be precise. Watching Lothiriel talk to one of the stallholders he was overcome with the sudden longing to undo her thick braid and run his hands through her hair.

Éomer gave himself a mental shake. This was not the right place to indulge in those sorts of thoughts or to remember what it had felt like to kiss her soft lips. It was a good thing she was completely oblivious to what was going through his mind! He watched her examining a piece of jewellery and wondered what exactly made her so different. She was beautiful, of course, but he had met many beautiful women in his life and none of them had woken in him the urge to make her his own and protect her like Lothiriel had. Part of what made her special was her zest for life, her sheer unpredictability and the fact that there never was a dull moment when he was with her. Quite simply, though, she warmed his heart like no other woman ever had.

Éomer had been surprised and touched by her outspoken words this morning. He knew that she loved her father and it was no easy thing for her to stand up to him like she had. What he would have done if Imrahil hadn’t come around in the end he didn’t know, but he had been startled himself by some of the ideas that had flitted through his mind, none of them very honourable.

Lothiriel turned round to ask him something and stopped mid-sentence when she noticed his look.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized, “my thoughts were wandering.”

She coloured slightly and cocked one eyebrow. “Were they?”

***


A little while later they were on their way back and Lothiriel hesitated when they passed the city gate. She supposed they should return to the castle straightaway so she could supervise the unloading of the supplies she had bought. At least that was what a dutiful daughter would have done. She didn’t feel like being a dutiful daughter today!

“Would you like to go for a ride along the beach?” she found herself asking, “It takes slightly longer, but it’s well worth it.”

“I’d love to,” he said and patted Firefoot’s neck, “the horses could do with a run as well.”

There was a small path branching off the main road and leading down towards the sea. It was so narrow they had to ride single-file and was little travelled as there were only some small fishing villages further along the shore. They left the rumbling of the carts on the main road behind them and soon the only sound to be heard was their horses’ hooves striking the hard baked earth.

Lothiriel could feel him watching her back. There would be that look in his eyes that she had surprised several times already this morning. She found the hunger in it slightly unnerving, yet something inside her responded to it eagerly. She found that even more unnerving.

I wonder if he will kiss me again? she thought and decided she rather wanted him to. Somehow she did not think he would need much encouragement. Then she blushed and was glad he could not read her mind. These sorts of thoughts were hardly appropriate to a gently bred Princess of Dol Amroth!

Lately she had listened more attentively when the other woman discussed the young men that they fancied and according to them she had done exactly the wrong thing.

“Always keep them uncertain,” one of them had said, “let them snatch one kiss, but then make them suffer for it, otherwise they won’t respect you.”

Well, she doubted that he felt any uncertainty regarding her feelings for him after her outspoken words this morning. She still did not know where she had found the courage to be so blunt with her father. As for snatching a single kiss, he’d had rather more than that already…

The path opened out when they reached the beach. The tide was out and the sand stretched firm and flat before them, only broken by a few large boulders every now and again. Lothiriel cast a mischievous grin behind her and urged Nightwind into a sudden run.

“Race you!” she shouted while her mare’s hooves showered him with wet sand. He laughed in surprise and set his horse after them. She had the advantage at first for she had a head start and was lighter, but neither Éomer nor Firefoot were going to give in that easily. She did not know what exactly he shouted in the stallion’s ear, but Firefoot put on an extra burst of speed and drew level with them. It was an exhilarating feeling to thunder across the sand side by side and she laughed out loud in delight and urged Nightwind to greater speed.

After a while they slowed down to a walk so their horses would cool down again. Lothiriel leant forward to hug Nightwind’s neck.

“You’re the best, melamin” she said with a glad sigh, “I’ve missed you so much!”

He shot her an amused glance. “I’m not sure I like the sound of that. Just remember what I said yesterday.”

“You’re not getting jealous of a horse, are you?” she mocked him.

“I will if you’re not careful. After all it’s well known I’ve got a terrible temper!”

“Really? I would never have guessed.”

He looked serious all of a sudden. “I have, really. I don’t make any promises I cannot keep, so I won’t promise to never loose my temper with you again, but if I do, you may pour a bucket of cold water over me.”

Lothiriel laughed. “If that’s what you want. If I ever loose my temper you do not have my leave to do the same to me!”

“No matter how tempting it might be?”

“Definitely not,” she shook her head.

They had reached one of the boulders, a large flat slab of rock jutting out of the sand. Éomer dismounted to have a look and after a moment Lothiriel joined him. It was covered in seaweed and mussels and at high tide it would be almost completely submerged in the water. He clambered onto it and then helped her up, even though they both knew she was perfectly able to climb it on her own. From the top they had a sweeping view of the whole coast from the harbour walls of Dol Amroth all the way south.

After a while Éomer jumped down again and reached out a hand to help her, which she accepted gratefully as the footing was rather slippery. He took her by the waist and swung her down and for some reason she ended up caught between the rock and Éomer.

Lothiriel realized three things at that moment. First of all the boulder behind her cut off the view of the town, secondly the beach was deserted except for them and thirdly… the King of Rohan had that look in his eyes again.

“Have I had a reward yet for bringing you Nightwind all the way from Ithilien?” he asked her, but did not wait for an answer.

Éomer wasn’t rushing; he gave her a slow, deliberate and extremely thorough kiss. When they separated at last he put his hand on the nape of her neck and looked down at her, his face mere inches away from hers. His eyes were so blue she could have drowned in them. If I’m not careful I’ll end up melting in a wet puddle at his feet, shot through her mind and she wondered if he could hear the wild beating of her heart.

“It was a very long way…” he murmured and claimed her lips again. Who was she to gainsay him? He filled her senses completely, the slightly rough fabric of his tunic under her fingers, the smell of horse and man, his hand sliding down her back, pressing her against him. There was a hint of barely contained power in his kiss, yet she felt absolutely safe in his arms.

Behind them Nightwind shifted and gave an impatient snort; very reluctantly he let her go.

“We have to get back before we’re missed,” she said breathlessly, “I really shouldn’t be here with you all on my own.” A bit late to think of that now!

He traced the line of her brows with one finger. “No? What would your father do if he found out? Force me to marry you?”

Lothiriel was startled into a laugh. “Quite likely. He would be very much shocked at my behaviour, though.”

Gently she disengaged herself and they remounted and moved their horses into a slow walk again, heading back towards where another narrow path led up to the coast road.

“Your father must love you very much,” Éomer remarked, “He didn’t like to let you go.”

“I know he only wants what’s best for me,” Lothiriel answered, “I just wish he’d have more confidence in me, but apparently he thinks me solely ornamental.” She could not quite keep the bitterness out of her voice.

“I don’t think you’re ornamental.” Éomer stopped abruptly and she raised one of her eyebrows at him.

“That is, you are ornamental, but…“ His voice trailed off and she enjoyed the disconcerted look on his face.

He gave her a sudden grin. “I’m digging my own grave again, aren’t I? What I mean to say is that although you’re very beautiful I don’t think you merely ornamental. Don’t worry, your father will come round in time. We’ll show him.”

“I wish father would just trust my judgement.” He thinks me very beautiful?

“It was rather sudden. He needs time.” Éomer didn’t sound particularly worried.

“We haven’t got much of that,” she reminded him. “Do you really have to leave in a week’s time?” It was embarrassing how wistful she sounded.

“I’m afraid so,” he said regretfully, “It’s a long journey back and although I’ve left capable men in charge of my country I don’t like being away too long.”

It looked like she was already getting a taste of what it meant to marry the King of Rohan, but then that was one of the things that defined him, the care he took of his people. Lothiriel would not have wanted him to be any different.

He seemed to read her mind. “Don’t worry, dear heart, I will think of something.”

“You will?” she could not help sounding doubtful.

“I will,” he said firmly, “before you know it, you will be in Edoras saying your wedding vows.”

She would? It was an agreeable picture, although she felt a flicker of nervousness when her thoughts strayed to what would follow after the wedding vows. Lothiriel couldn’t quite share his optimism, however. I should not have kissed those suitors of mine, she thought, now they will probably hound me mercilessly until my birthday. Although he had said he would ‘handle it’.

“How are we going to get rid of those suitors?” she asked him.

The smile he gave her was plain wicked. “Actually, I have a plan, but I need your help.”

“What do I have to do?” she found herself grinning back at him.

“Just be yourself…”

Lothiriel put her hands on her hips. “And what exactly do you mean by that, my lord King?”

“You will see, my lady Princess.” And that was all he would say.

Lothiriel gave him a fierce scowl, but her heart wasn’t in it. He was so very sure of her it was almost insulting, but then she supposed he had every right to be certain.

They had reached the path to the coast road and stopped for a brief moment to have a last look at the sea. Lothiriel sighed in frustration.

“Things always move so slowly here in Gondor. Afterwards there is the engagement period as well, that usually lasts at least a year.“

“A year?” Éomer exclaimed and turned towards her, “You must be joking! I have to warn you, I’m not going to wait a year to make you my queen.”

“I don’t want to wait either.” The moment the words left her mouth she perceived this was not really something a properly brought up princess would have said.

He grinned in appreciation and gave her a wink. “That’s nice to know. Don’t worry - I’ll handle it, like I said.”

Suddenly he laughed. “Here I’ve been hunted by ambitious fathers all during my stay in Minas Tirith. Trust me to pick the one woman to take to wife whose father isn’t keen to see me marry her.”

She grinned. “I thought you liked a challenge?”

“Oh I do. Anyway, it could be worse.”

“You think so? How?”

“It’s still better than having to kill a dragon and bring back its teeth.” He did not move a muscle as he said this.

“What?” When she stared at him in stupefaction he gave another of his contagious grins.

“I shared a couple of tankards of beer with your brothers last night. It was most instructive.”

She wasn’t sure if she liked the sound of that and wondered what else they might have told him. There were certain of her recent activities that she did not really want him to find out about.

“I have to say I like your younger brothers,” Éomer continued, “Amrothos showed a lot of sense yesterday to make himself scarce so quickly.”

Amrothos sensible? That was certainly a novel thought.

“I’m glad my brothers meet with your approval,” she said sarcastically.

“Well not all of them,” he corrected her, “I still think Elphir has a lot to answer for. The only good thing he ever did was foisting you on me for the journey to Ithilien.”

She chuckled. “You didn’t think so at the time! Anyway, Melian is with child, so Elphir is distracted for the time being.”

“She’s expecting?” He sounded pleased, “I suppose I will have to let him live then.”

“It might make a bad impression to kill the heir of Dol Amroth,” Lothiriel pointed out.

“It might, especially as I want something from Imrahil,” he agreed, “…and I want it rather badly.”

The last was said so softly, she wasn’t sure if she had been supposed to hear it.

“You know,” he added, “for a while this morning I was afraid I might have to abduct you.”

Abduct me? Is he really serious? “You didn’t say that to my father, did you?”

“Of course not. It would be stupid to warn him of my intentions. If he insists on a year’s betrothal I might still have to do so.”

“Anyway, you couldn’t abduct me,” she uttered the words without thinking about them first.

“You don’t know me very well if you don’t think so.” Éomer sounded amused.

“No you couldn’t,” Lothiriel shook her head slowly and looked him straight in the eyes, “It would be an elopement. You can only abduct somebody unwilling.”

Again this was something a properly brought up princess would rather have died than said.

Éomer had that look in his eyes again.

“You tempt me sorely…”

Lothiriel felt a thrilling mixture of nervous anticipation and piercing joy sweep through her entire body; it made her heart race like a galloping horse.

“I know,” she smiled shyly.






***

Thank you to Lady Bluejay for letting me borrow her dead sea creature!

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Chapter name
Dol Amroth
Created
16 Feb 2006
Last Edited
16 Feb 2006
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3712