The Rose in Bloom
4. Enjoying the Journey
Their first night on the Road, Éomer insisted that Faramir share the king's pavilion, and hinted that Lothíriel would be more comfortable if she were in Éowyn's tent. Éowyn agreed as graciously as she could, though in her heart she swore vengeance on her brother for the frustrations of this day.
Two nights later, she finally thought of a fitting revenge on Éomer, one that might also give her opportunity to be alone with Faramir. As they retired for the night, Éowyn said to Lothíriel, "He fancies you, you know."
"No, my brother. He thinks you both fair and wise."
Lothíriel laughed aloud at that. "Why say you so?"
Éowyn shrugged. "He is my brother and I know him well. He is a warlike man and a hunter like our fathers. On a journey such as this he is wont to range the hills far ahead of the wains. I can think of nothing that would keep him here every waking moment save your presence."
"Well, that explains the fair perhaps. But wise?"
"He deferred to you tonight, did he not, asking which campsite you preferred?"
"I thought it more a matter of courtesy than of wisdom."
"As you like then. But I tell you, his deference goes beyond mere courtesy."
Lothíriel seemed thoughtful after that, and Éowyn smiled as she fell asleep.
The next morning, Éowyn rose with the Sun, but Lothíriel slept late. Éowyn was dressed and a maid was braiding her hair when the princess of Dol Amroth finally awoke with a start. "Éowyn! Why did you not rouse me sooner? The whole company is awake and readying for the Road."
"Far be it for me to disturb the weary," Éowyn answered. "You did not sleep over late. We shan't be delayed much."
"But what will your brother... and Faramir and everyone think!"
Éowyn laughed as the maid finished with her hair. "I shall tell the cook that we wish only for bread and fruit to break our fast. We may be hungry by the nooning, but we won't delay the camp, if that is what you wish."
"It is indeed! Thank you, Éowyn!"
Éowyn left the pavilion and was walking toward the cook fire when Faramir and Éomer rode up. "Where is Lothíriel?" Faramir wondered. "Is she ill?"
"No, I kept her awake long into the night," Éowyn answered, telling herself it probably was not a lie. It was Éowyn's fault Lothíriel did not sleep well. "She will be joining us soon, but she wishes to not delay the journey. I have yet to see our grooms. Would you tell them we are ready for our steeds?"
"Of course," Faramir answered and he and Éomer trotted off.
The ladies had finished their bread when Faramir and Éomer arrived with the horses. "The grooms were preparing the wains," Éomer explained, "and as you did not want to delay the camp, we saddled your mares ourselves."
Faramir helped Éowyn to mount, and Éomer offered Lothíriel his hand. She blushed as she took it and climbed into the saddle. "I thank you, Éomer Eadig. It is no small kindness to be so cared for by a king."
Éomer looked at her curiously and answered, "It is my pleasure, fair lady."
Faramir lay abed, staring unseeing at the pavilion's roof. The moon rode high in the heavens, but inside all was silhouette.
"She is fair," Éomer said.
"She is indeed!"
"How old is she?"
Coming out of his reverie, Faramir turned to the form of Éomer. "You know your sister's age."
"No, I meant Lothíriel."
Faramir chuckled. "She came of age last year. She is twenty and six years old. Why do you ask?"
"Only a year older than Éowyn? In dignity and wit she seems much older."
"She is but a lass. I remember her when she was a new-born babe." He stopped, suddenly aware of how he echoed Galenriel. "Though she has grown to beauty and wisdom. But surpassing the White Lady? I think not."
He fell silent again, and Faramir was almost asleep when Éomer said "I never thought to be King. Theodred was Theoden's heir, and I loved him as dearly as a brother. I was content to be a Marshal of the Mark and one day serve Theodred as my king. This honor has only come to me through great loss."
Faramir was wide awake now. "I was thus as well. Boromir the Brave was the one who would be Steward, and I would be his hand of strength, his councilor at need, and his beloved brother. Never did I desire to be Steward, and my inheritance has come at too high a cost for me to find great joy in it."
"Aye," Éomer agreed, "and yet Éowyn lived against all hope. We have both found some joy, Faramir."
He laughed. "More than some! But not in my position as Steward."
"I did not feel joy at being a king, until she named me thus."
"Nay," he laughed. "Lothíriel. Today, when I helped her to mount, she thanked me as a king who waited on a lady."
"All of Rohan named you king."
"And Aragorn himself recognized your rule."
"And renewed with you the Oath of Eorl."
"And never did you feel joy at being king until she named you thus?"
Éomer sighed, sounding for all the world like a heart-sick lass. "Aye."
Despite himself, Faramir laughed. "This is grave, indeed! Perhaps Éowyn should gift to you the rose-crown."
Éomer threw a boot at him and said no more.
On their fifth day from Minas Tirith, a great storm with thunder and rain swept upon them two hours before sunset. Éomer commanded the pavilions be set up then and there. His great stallion pawed and pranced beneath him as the wind tossed his mane, but Éomer's gaze was on Lothíriel. The wind sent her hair swirling and streaming about her face, and her eyes were bright as she reveled in the power of the storm. "You are fair," Éomer said suddenly. "Fair and strong as a yearling filly racing the wild North wind."
"Filly?" Lothíriel demanded. "A filly! Is that what you see in the ladies of Gondor? A mere creature? A beast of burden? I am of the house of Elendil himself!" Éowyn opened her mouth, but Lothíriel raged, "Or is it bloodlines you are seeking, a breeder of horses and heirs such as yourself?" Faramir tried to speak, but Lothíriel's wrath drowned him out. "Is that what you saw in the King's Hall as the finest of Gondor's woman-flesh surrounded you, eager to join your herd? Brood mares?" Lothíriel kicked her horse sharply, and the mare, already uneasy with the storm, bolted at a run from the camp.
Éomer gave his sister a bewildered look. "What did I say amiss?"
Éowyn burst out laughing, but Faramir gently answered "Nothing and everything. I shall go catch her."
"Nay," Éowyn laughed. "Methinks she shall not desire the company of men tonight. See to the camp. We shall return soon."
Éowyn raced after Lothíriel, but the warm rain overtook her first. Through the downpour, Éowyn finally found Lothíriel's mare tied securely on the edge of a thicket. Éowyn tied her reins to the same tree and called into the underbrush. "Princess Lothíriel! Where are you?" When she heard no answer, she fought her way through the thicket until she saw Lothíriel sitting in the lee of a fallen tree, sheltering from the rain. Great sobs wracked her. The scolding on Éowyn's lips died at once, and she lay a gentle arm around Lothíriel's shoulders.
"What a horrible man!" Lothíriel wept. "I know he is your brother, but..." she sobbed again.
Éowyn was at a loss, and sat in silence until Lothíriel's sobs quieted. Finally, she said "Lothíriel, do you know what my name means?"
The princess looked at her curiously. "I do not."
"Literally, it is 'Joy of a Horse,' but those words as we use them mean much more. To joy in a horse is to joy in strength, in beauty, in might, in life itself. In the Mark, comparing a woman to a filly is a high compliment such as might be used by a suitor or husband. My brother meant no insult. He meant to praise you."
"And now I look the fool."
"No." Then Éowyn chuckled, remembering her brother's dismay. "Well, yes, but I think Éomer will forgive you."
"But Faramir will never let me forget it."
"That is one of the joys of having a brother. We are assured of learning from our mistakes."
Lothíriel hugged Éowyn. "Is this, then, the joy of having a sister? That my tears have no scorn in your eyes, even when I am in folly?"
"I know not. I have no sister, or have had none until now. But if sisterhood is kindness without scorn, then I shall gladly be your sister."
Faramir lay in the dark pavilion listening to the rain. The lightening and thunder were mostly past, but the rain was likely to continue through the night. Both Éowyn and Lothíriel had bolted with neither cloak nor cape, and if they did venture out in this storm, they would be drenched to the skin. His mind wandered to such a scene, Éowyn coming cold and wet to his tent. Faramir leaped to his feet and paced the empty pavilion. Only two days more to the wedding. He could, he must, contain himself two more days. Going to the door he spoke to Éomer, "Standing watch will avail nothing. You will be as wet as them, and it will not bring them home any sooner."
"I should not have let her fly, be she angry or no."
"Lothíriel would not have thanked you for halting her flight."
"If harm befalls her...
"Éowyn is with her. You have naught to fear."
"Do you have so little regard for the woman who will be your wife?"
"Nay. I have so high a regard for her valor and wit that I trust her to weather a rain storm."
"If they have not returned when the rain ceases, I am riding out to find them."
"And I shall ride with you. Come and sleep whilst you can."
"I will not."
"Suit yourself," Faramir answered, but Éomer said "Listen!" Over the whisper of the falling rain, they could both hear the wet sound of muddy hooves. Faramir quickly donned his cloak, fending off his earlier fantasies, and hurried to the ladies' pavilion. Éomer stood just inside the door, arguing with Lothíriel's maid. "I care not to see them, I only wish to know if they are well."
Faramir stepped through the flap and into the tent. The curtain was drawn, dividing the space into two rooms, and the women were nowhere to be seen. "They must be chilled," he said. "Are they ill?"
"Nay!" Lothíriel called, her voice muffled. "Cold but not ill. I shall see you married off in two days time. Less than two days now." She emerged from the back room, bundled in a warm fur pelt. "So go, cousin, and rest at ease." Then turning to Éomer, she gave as much a curtsy as the pelt would allow. "I crave your pardon, Éomer King. I mistook your kindness and returned evil for good."
"I came not to chide you, princess. I cared only for your well-being. If you are safe and well, I shall take my leave of you."
"Take your leave?" she asked, her eyes sparkling. "I hold no sway over you, sire. Come as you will, and go as you wish. But I thank you for your watch in this wet night. Let your heart rest at ease as well."
Speechless, Éomer bowed and left with Faramir.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.