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Of Falcons and Mûmakil

Chapter 3: A meeting on a moonlit night

by Lialathuveril

Chapter II: A meeting on a moonlit night

If there was one thing growing up with three older brothers had taught Lothiriel, it was how to fight opponents bigger and stronger than herself. She acted instinctively without even pausing to think. Her slippers were too soft to do much damage when she stamped on one of her assailant’s feet but an elbow in the ribs produced a satisfying grunt of pain. Unfortunately being wrapped in her long cloak hampered her and the iron grip around her middle did not weaken.

There was one trick, however, which had never failed her yet. She pitched forward and pulled her attacker off balance, thus forcing him to let go with one hand. Then she let herself fall to the ground, dragging him with her and twisting sideways in the air at the same time. She landed on top of him with all her weight and had the satisfaction of hearing him swear violently in a foreign language. A quick kick in the groin was blocked but even so he was forced to let go of her and she managed to scramble out of the way. At this point however her long skirts betrayed her as she stumbled over them while trying to escape and she fell to her knees.

She never got a second chance. With lightning speed her assailant was on top of her again and this time there was no getting away. He grabbed one of her arms and twisted it cruelly behind her back when she continued to struggle and kicked his shin. “Get up!“ he ordered curtly and reinforced his command by pulling her roughly to her feet. Then he pulled off her cloak with a violent jerk. Lothiriel froze as her hair, which had come loose during the fight, spilt over her shoulders in a soft dark wave. She found herself face to face with her attacker and saw his eyes widen in surprise and shock. He let go of her abruptly, nearly causing her to fall again, and jumped back. “What kind of devilry is this?” he exclaimed.

It was not after all some orc chieftain or Southron warrior who had attacked her but one of the riders of the Rohirrim she realized. He had the long blonde hair they all seemed to sport and was dressed in a simple tunic and trousers. Lothiriel had inherited her father’s height and was as tall as most men, but this one was taller still and obviously a seasoned warrior. She had no more than a moment to take in his appearance before he stepped closer again and asked her in a menacing tone “who are you and what are you doing here?”

Lothiriel had had enough. She came from a long line of princes that stretched back over a thousand years and never in her entire life had she been treated as roughly as this. “How dare you manhandle me like this,“ she exclaimed angrily, “if my brothers hear of this they will have you whipped! One step closer and I will call the guards,“ she threatened.

Éomer regarded the woman in front of him in shock. Her eyes were blazing with fury and she was looking downright menacing. How could I have mistaken her for a man and not noticed those soft curves? he wondered in astonishment. It was only because she was so tall and wrapped in that shapeless grey cloak. And then of course you did not expect a noblewoman of Gondor to climb stealthily over walls in the darkness. That she was a noblewoman was obvious from the way she spoke Westron and by the manner of her dress. Caught unexpectedly on the defensive, he stopped himself just in time from apologizing to her.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” he asked again in a more moderate tone.

“That is none of your business,“ she replied sharply, “I am a free woman of Gondor and can go wherever I please.”

Éomer had never yet lost his famed temper with a woman but now he could feel his patience fraying. His shin was still aching from that last kick she had delivered. ”I will make it my business when you try to sneak into the king’s palace,” he replied evenly.

“Oh, so you habitually attack defenceless females who happen to take the air in the gardens?” she asked sarcastically.

“Defenceless females?” he repeated in disbelief. “You are anything but. Whatever possessed you to fight like that! Had I had my sword on me you would be dead now.”

“It is your own fault for pouncing on me like some horrible orc,“ she replied heatedly, “and if I had had my knife on me, it would be you lying dead at my feet now.”

Being the survivor of countless skirmishes and all three major battles of the ring war Éomer rather doubted this but saw no reason to enlighten her. “I did not mean to hurt you,“ he said grudgingly, “but unless you explain yourself to my satisfaction, I will call for the guards. Their captain can be most unpleasant,“ he added as an additional threat.

“What, old Barandun I have known all my life?” she laughed in his face, “very well, call him then and see whose word he would rather take.”

Éomer hesitated. He did not particularly fancy having to explain how he nearly got bested by this infuriating young woman.

She saw his hesitation and interpreted it correctly. “Just let me go and I will accept your apology and not mention our encounter to anyone,“ she offered, throwing back her long black hair and regarding him challengingly.

“Ah but you see, I did not apologize,“ he replied softly, his temper finally getting the better of him. “Very well, we will go and see the captain of the guard immediately,“ he added and took a threatening step towards her.

It was Lothiriel’s turn to hesitate. In her anger she had completely forgotten that she was not really supposed to be here. She did not even want to think of what her brother would say if confronted with her presence in the Queen’s Garden. Being sent back to Dol Amroth in disgrace would be the least of her troubles. Why did she have to have the misfortune of running into this thoroughly unpleasant and ungallant rider from Rohan?

He was watching her now with a knowing expression on his face. “Having second thoughts?” he asked in that soft hateful voice of his. Swallowing her anger with great effort, she decided to try another approach and to tell him at least part of the truth.

“I meant no harm. I just wanted to have a look at the king and queen,” she explained grudgingly.

He looked at her in disbelief. “That is a very likely story. Surely you are a noblewoman. It is hardly necessary for you to sneak in secretly through the garden just to have a look at the king.”

“It is, if you have a pompous and stuffy brother like mine,“ she replied bitterly, “who won’t let you come to court because he thinks you are too young.”

Éomer frowned. Her words had the ring of the truth in them. Because of her imperious manner he had taken her for his own age, but taking another look at her he realized she was considerably younger. The girl was quite striking really with her long black hair and those enormous eyes in her delicate face. As he watched her standing there, absently rubbing her aching arm, he felt a first twinge of guilt.

“How old are you, anyway?“ he asked more gently.

“I will be twenty-one and come of age in a couple of months,” she answered, “but my brother still considers me a child.”

“I might have mistaken you for a man, but I certainly would not mistake you for a child,“ he said without pausing to think.

Lothiriel gave him a considering look. Maybe all hope was not lost yet. “Surely it will do no harm to let me have a quick look at the king. I would be eternally grateful to you. “ She gazed at him beseechingly from under her long lashes.

With her father and brothers this unfailingly got her what she wanted, but this rider was made of sterner stuff. Although he wavered visibly he shook his head. “Impossible. Let me accompany you to the gate and I will make sure you get home safely.”

She decided to take recourse to her last resort. With most women this might have been tears, but not so with Lothiriel.

“That won’t be necessary,“ she replied coolly, “I can make my own way home.” And before he realized what she was doing, she took a quick step backwards and climbed onto the garden wall.

“What are you doing?“ he asked in alarm as she swung her legs over onto the other side.

“I am leaving, like you wanted me to,“ she explained innocently.

“You know I did not mean that way. Come back at once,“ he exclaimed and took a step closer, only to stop when she made as if to lower herself onto the stable roof beyond.

“I hope I won’t stumble. It’s a long drop down to those rocks below,“ she observed conversationally.

Éomer gritted his teeth and fought a strong desire to grab her and shake some sense into her. He could not possibly let her go back the way she had come! “Get down from that wall at once,” he ordered her in the voice which commanded instant obedience from his men.

“I will, if you let me have a look at the king.“

“That is blackmail!”

“It is,“ she admitted with a shrug. “My brothers tell me I have a talent for it.”

For a moment he regarded her dumbfounded. She was sitting on the wall, her feet dangling over the other side and smiling down at him. He was not sure whether to be furious or to burst out laughing.

“It is a mystery to me why your brothers did not strangle you at birth,“ he said at last.

She had to grin at that and he found himself grinning back, quite against his better judgment.

“Very well,“ he conceded grudgingly. “You may have a quick glance through the windows. But afterwards,“ he added, “you will come with me to the gates and will let yourself be escorted home.”

Lothiriel hesitated. She had come here intending to meet the king and queen in person, not just to have a look at them through a window. Something told her, though, that this was the best offer she was going to get and that she was lucky at that.

“Do you promise not to tell anybody how I got in?” she asked suspiciously.

“I will, if you promise in your turn to go home quietly,“ he assented.

“Agreed then,“ she nodded slowly and held out a hand to let herself be helped down from the wall. He ignored it completely and instead stepped up, took hold of her waist and swung her down effortlessly. For a long moment blue eyes met green as he looked down at her.

“What is your name?” he asked her softly.

“Lothiriel.”

His eyes widened in surprise. “Lothiriel?” he repeated incredulously, “please don’t tell me you are Lord Elphir’s sister.”

“I am,“ she was forced to admit; not at all liking the way things were going. Obviously this rider knew her brother and probably had second thoughts about handing her over to the guards at once. “You promised,“ she reminded him.

He paid no attention to her words. “So your brother did not want you to come to the celebration tonight?”

“No, he did not.”

He held up his hand when she would have reminded him of his promise again and appeared to be thinking furiously. “And no doubt you wanted to meet the king and queen in person?”

“Yes,“ she conceded slowly.

“In that case, what are we waiting for,“ he said and offered her his arm.

Lothiriel was feeling utterly bewildered by this turn of events. “Are you saying we are going inside?”

“That is what you wanted, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but why are you suddenly giving in?” she asked confused. He hesitated for a moment and a smile tugged at the corners of his lips.

“Let us just say that I owe your brother a favor,“ he answered at last.

This was patently untrue, but at the same time the opportunity was too good to pass up. “Very well,” she said in a measured tone and took the offered arm.

Silently they walked across the grass towards the main part of the garden. Lothiriel could hear people talking and the soft sound of music. The sudden light of torches seemed very bright to eyes adjusted to the moonlight. She stole a quick glance at her companion who seemed deep in thought. Though he was dressed very simply by the standards of Gondor, he had an indefinable air of command about him and she wondered for the first time who he was. Then she bit her lips as another thought occurred to her. Her father was a powerful man and he might not be pleased by this escapade.

“Wait a moment,“ she said, stopping in front of the brightly lit doors.

“What is it?” he frowned.

“You don’t have to do this,” she said hesitantly. “I can go in by myself. I don’t want to get you into trouble with your king,” she explained.

He looked amused if anything. “Why should I get into trouble?”

“My father is Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth and he is a personal friend of King Éomer’s.”

“I know,“ he nodded.

“Don’t you understand? He might make trouble for you with your king, he is very influential.”

The rider laughed out loud in genuine amusement. It transformed his rather stern features and made him look much younger.

“I think I have taken worse chances in my life,“ he said with a wry grin, “I am a Marshall of the Riddermark and it can’t be as bad as being surrounded by ten thousand orcs in front of the Black Gate.”

“I suppose not,“ she had to concede.

With an exaggerated bow he held one of the double doors open for her and after giving him a last long look she passed through.

After the cool and relative quiet of the garden the difference was startling. The air was hot from colourful lamps, filled with the scent of opposing perfumes and the noise of so many people talking at once was overwhelming. She was used to the court functions at her father’s palace, but this was altogether on a different scale. There had to be several hundred people mingling below the impersonal gaze of the great statues of ancient kings. She could not help staring at the ornate dresses everybody seemed to wear and the many glittering jewels on display. Suddenly she felt rather drab in her simple green dress and was belatedly aware of the fact that she had not even put her hair back up.

Well, that cannot be helped now, Lothiriel thought as she squared up her shoulders and turned to her companion who was watching her rather shrewdly.

“Would you like me to find your brother instead?” he asked not unkindly.

“Certainly not,“ she replied bravely, “lead on, Marshall of the Riddermark.”

Éomer had to hide a grin. She might be infuriatingly wild, but she certainly had spirit. The first time he had attended one of his friend Aragorn’s gatherings his head had spun from the number of people present.

“Remember they are not as bad as orcs, “ he reminded her and was rewarded by a faint smile. She took his arm again and they slowly moved through the crowd. The courtiers politely made way for him and watched him curiously, probably wondering who the young woman on the King of Rohan’s arm was. He took his time as he was trying to make out Lord Elphir’s party.

In fact they were halfway across the hall before he saw him over on one side. Elphir was talking to another lord and spotted them at precisely the same moment. The look on his face as he saw his sister went a long towards repaying Éomer for being imposed on so rudely earlier on. He very nearly laughed out loud when Elphir went as white as a sheet and his wineglass dropped from nerveless hands.

He looked down at the princess, but she had not detected her brother yet. Instead she was frowning at a couple of richly dressed blonde women who were eyeing her icily. “Why are they looking at me like that?” she whispered.

Éomer recognised them as the daughters of one of the hopeful lords who had paid him a visit earlier on. “I have no idea, “ he replied blandly and she glanced at him suspiciously.

Lord Elphir had recovered his composure by now and was trying to make his way across the hall towards them, but it was very crowded. Éomer skilfully steered Lothiriel the other way towards where the Aragorn and Arwen were talking to some friends. One of the few advantages of being a king was the way people made way for you.

When he reached the small group the King and Queen of Gondor turned towards him with a friendly mien.

“Who is your beautiful companion?” Queen Arwen asked with a kind smile as Lothiriel sank into a deep curtsy.

“Queen Arwen, King Elessar, may I present to you Princess Lothiriel of Dol Amroth?“ Éomer said in a resounding voice. As luck would have it, it was at just that moment that Elphir finally caught up with them, looking extremely flushed from having to struggle after them.

“Welcome to Minas Tirith,” King Elessar said to Lothiriel, raising her from her curtsy and smiling down at her, “it is good to see that the elven blood still runs strong in Imrahil’s line.”

“Welcome, kinswoman, “ Arwen affirmed, embracing her warmly.

Éomer was suddenly struck by the resemblance between them. As they stood there looking into each other’s face and Lothiriel gave a shy smile they could have been mother and daughter.

Then he turned to Lord Elphir, who was watching the scene with his mouth open. “As you see, “ he said maliciously, “I did make Lady Lothiriel’s acquaintance after all. I believe she was late and took a shortcut.”

“Really?” was all Elphir could manage in reply.

“I will leave her in your capable hands now, if you will permit, “Éomer said and then excused himself.

Lothiriel looked up from talking to the queen when he took his leave and watched him go. “Who exactly is he,“ she decided to ask Arwen, although she had a horrible suspicion. The queen regarded her bemusedly. “Child, that is our dear friend Éomer, King of Rohan, didn’t you know?”

He chose that precise moment to glance back at her over the heads of the crowd and gave her a wink.

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Chapter name
A meeting on a moonlit night
Created
14 Sep 2005
Last Edited
14 Sep 2005
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