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Another Man's Son: 4. prequel chapter IV: spies and secrets

I know neither Rohirric nor Sindarin. This is probably painfully obvious. I don't care just now; it's a plot point. So ignore brackets and just read it for the plot, eh? ;)

"Papa," Lothiriel said. "Please?"

Imrahil sighed. "Lothiriel, you are impossible," he said. "Fine. Come with me. But you're going to be bored."

"No I'm not," Lothiriel said joyfully, clapping her hands together.

He made his way over to the Houses of Healing with his cheerfully chattering shadow. "You're going to have to be quiet," he said. "You realize that?"

"Yes," she said. "I know. I've been here before."

He looked at her and she subsided. "I think the quiet ought to start now so that I can see that you're serious," he said.

She nodded, pressing her lips together earnestly. He looked away so she wouldn't see his smile. He indulged her too much, he was sure, but his three sons had not prepared him for the devastating power of a little girl's pout. And she had her mother's political acumen. The girl was an unstoppable force. He felt obliged to spend a great deal of time with her simply to ensure that she learned to use her powers for good rather than for evil.

He spoke to the doorkeeper, and was led to the place where Faramir was being treated for a sprained wrist. Boromir was there, and Lothiriel let out a squeak and ran to embrace him. "Lothiriel!" Boromir exclaimed, wrapping his arms around her and lifting her up. "You're huge," he said, regarding her with surprise. She giggled.

"She's going to be taller than her mother," Imrahil said. "Probably before I manage to get her home again."

"Oof," Boromir said, putting her down. "I think you weigh more than Faramir."

"I'm not a little girl anymore," she said primly. "Father lets me come along with him to all kinds of places."

"I noticed," Faramir said. "Do I not get a kiss?"

"Of course you do," Lothiriel said, coming over and carefully leaning over to kiss his cheek. "But I don't want to get in the way."

"That would be a first," Imrahil said quietly, rolling his eyes.

It proved difficult for Lothiriel to keep herself restrained in her excitement to see her cousins, but she managed somehow, vibrating with repressed chatter. She was a good girl, really. But her discretion could not be relied upon, and the sons of the Steward had things to tell him that a cheerful little girl should not repeat. He could not send her away, not when she had been so good, but she could not stay.

"I know someone who might appreciate Lothiriel's particular brand of company," Boromir said. "Give me a moment." He slipped out of the room, and came back shortly. He held his hand out to Lothiriel. "You are going to hold a meeting now," he said. "I am giving you an assignment. Are you up to it?"

"I'm up to anything you can give me," Lothiriel said, looking determined.

"There was a company of Rohirrim in this battle," Boromir said. "Their King, Theoden, sent them at the Steward's request. They fought very well, their captain especially. He was injured and is recovering in a room nearby. I have not heard of this captain before but was very impressed with his performance. Your mission, Lothiriel, is to go to him and engage him in conversation. I want you to find out who he is, how old he is, where he is from, and in the end I want you to tell me why, out of all the captains in the Riddermark, King Theoden would choose to send us that one. Can you do that?"

"Of course," Lothiriel said.

"Ah," Boromir said, holding up one finger. "But I don't want him to know that I have sent you to find out these things. He cannot know that you are a spy."

Lothiriel's eyes widened a bit. "A spy," she said. "Yes, that would make me a spy."

"Yes," Boromir said. "I don't want him to know I am curious about him. Can you still do this?"

"Yes," she said, nodding decisively. "I can do this."

"Good," Boromir said. "It's important, Lothiriel."

Imrahil smiled gratefully at Boromir as he led the girl from the room.

Consciousness returning brought with it a heavy dose of pain. Eomer groaned a fervent, very crude curse in Rohirric, and opened his eyes. He was on his back with his knees bent, propped up. Blood loss. Yes, he'd lost blood. He felt wretched.

"Does it hurt terribly, Captain?" The voice was soft and concerned, but sounded like a little girl. He blinked, astonished, and turned his head very carefully.

It was a little girl. Dark hair framed her earnest, heart-shaped little face, her eyes large and grey and politely concerned. "Yes," he said, blinking and trying to remember where he was. "Where am I?"

"Minas Tirith," the girl said. "In the Houses of Healing."

He stared at her, trying to bring himself back to the present. Noise, battle, horse-- he closed his eyes a moment, remembering his horse's death-scream-- pain, yes, he had been injured. He didn't remember very much of the trip back. It had taken hours. Boromir hadn't stopped talking to him. He had grown so weary. The healers had hurt him worse than the initial blade had. He recalled them making grim exclamations over him. He opened his eyes and looked down at his arm, strapped firmly across his chest. He wiggled the fingers. It hurt.

So he was in Minas Tirith. What was this little girl doing here? "Do you work here?" he asked.

"No," she said, with a look that suggested he might be an idiot. "I am visiting." But she helped him to sit up partway, propping him up with pillows, so that he could drink the water the healers had left.

"Oh," he said, holding the cup in his distressingly weak good hand. She reminded him of Eowyn suddenly, as she had been when he had last spent any amount of time with her. Five years ago now. He smiled to think of her, the determined little girl she was then, jealous of his newly-minted warrior status. "Are you here to visit me?"

"Yes," she said. "I hear that you fought bravely."

"From whom do you hear this?" he asked, regarding her with amusement. She seemed disconcerted.

"I have my sources," she said mysteriously, with an air of satisfaction. "So who are you, Captain?"

"Who am I?" He suppressed a smile, and looked at her appraisingly. "If I tell you who I am, will you tell me who you are?"

"Certainly," she said.

"I am Eomer son of Eomund, Captain of the Second Company of the Westmark under the Second Marshal, Theodred."

She nodded, narrowing her eyes. "Theodred," she said. "Is that the son of King Theoden?"

He began to nod and realized it was an exceedingly poor idea to move his head any amount. "Yes," he said, grimacing. "Yes, he is. He leads the Muster of the Westfold."

She nodded, obviously attempting to draw some kind of conclusion. "Are you close to him?" she asked.

"You said you would tell me who you were," Eomer reminded her. "I won't play the game if you aren't."

"Oh," she said, "of course. I was simply wondering. I am Lothiriel, daughter of Imrahil, the Prince of Dol Amroth. My father had business to attend to, so I have come here to occupy myself in seeing to the comfort of our wounded heroes."

Eomer laughed at her grave formality. "Very kind of you," he said. "Dol Amroth. I am honored."

She remained grave, watching him. "So you have come to Gondor's aid with the Second Company of the Westmark?"

"No," he said. "No, they could not be spared. The West of our country is under threat of raids by hillmen at the moment. I came with a different company, from the Eastmark instead, because action in Gondor directly protects the Eastmark and they could better spare men for its long-range defense."

Lothiriel nodded, contemplative. "So these are not your men."

"Well," Eomer said. "They are for now. And I knew many of them before, although I had not served with them." She raised an eyebrow at him. "They served under my father," he said. "My father was the Third Marshal, and the Lord of the Eastfold. So these men know me."

"If you are from the Eastmark, why do you serve in the Westmark?" she asked. "Why do you not serve near your home?"

She was more inquisitive than most children. She had some purpose, he could tell. Eowyn was ever thus when she was trying to get at something. He wondered who had put her up to it. He couldn't imagine why the Prince of Dol Amroth would care. "After my parents died I left the East, as I was too young to take my father's place," he said. "My stepfather lived in Edoras. When I took arms I was trained by my cousin, and went to serve with him. He serves in the West because that pleases the King, and I went with him as his aide. I may return to the East when that suits the King. My home is with my cousin."

"Your cousin?" she asked.

"Theodred," he answered. "The Second Marshal."

"You are the king's nephew?" She looked suddenly very interested.

"Yes," he said. "Theoden's sister's son. The King is my step-father."

"Ah," she said, looking very pleased.

"Why does that please you?" he asked, a little suspicious.

"I was curious," she said. "I was wondering who you were, more than your name. Now I know who you are because I know who your family is."

He narrowed his eyes. "Then who are you?" he asked.

"I already told you that," she said.

"Whose idea was it that you should come and entertain the wounded?" he asked. "That's what I want to know."

She was at a loss for a moment. "My cousin's," she admitted. "They were talking about things I am not allowed to hear."

"Who is your cousin?" he asked.

She regarded him for a moment, her eyes inscrutable. "The Captain-General," she said with some pride.

Eomer risked a very small nod. So this was an extension of Boromir's incessant conversation all the way back. He wondered what it was all about. "Boromir," Eomer said, "is an impressive warrior."

"He said the same of you," she said. Her expression was suddenly frank. "I thought you'd be older."

Eomer laughed. "So did he. I believe he called me an infant when he thought I couldn't hear him. Your cousin's diplomacy is not his strong point."

"An infant," Lothiriel said. She sized him up, arms crossed over her chest. "I wouldn't go that far," she said. "But I would wonder why one so young was chosen for something like this."

"I am sure you would wonder that," Eomer said, "if you knew what 'something like this' referred to."

"I do," she said indignantly, and for a moment the resemblance to Eowyn overwhelmed him. She stood, her eyes flashing in her heart-shaped face, and faced him with her hands on her hips. Eomer bit his lips to keep a straight face. "It is unusual for the Steward to request aid directly from Rohan, and so it seems that the choice of what captain comes would depend on more than military aptitude and convenience."

"You are correct," Eomer said. She was. He wondered how long she had listened to Boromir debating him with her father and Faramir. "Well? What did they say, in the end?"

"What?" She looked at him, her indignation headed off by confusion. "What did who say?"

"Boromir," Eomer said. "And your father, I presume. Did they come up with a reason why I was here instead of someone more senior?"

"They weren't talking about you," she said, a little uncomfortably. "Well. Not much."

"What were they talking about?" he asked.

"I can't tell you," she said. "I am trying to prove to them that I can be trusted with secrets. If I tell you then they'll know I can't be."

"Secrets," Eomer said. "Can I trust you with a secret?"

She looked at him doubtfully, considering it. "Surely then I would be trapped in conflicting loyalties," she said. "Because I cannot betray a secret, but surely my allegiance is to my people, and if you tell me something that they should know, I will not be able to reveal it to them."

"Secrets are dangerous," he agreed. "Very dangerous. But this one won't hurt anyone. We could use it to play a joke."

She narrowed her eyes, meeting his gaze and taking his measure. "I am obligated to collect any information I can," she said, "because information could be helpful to my cause. However, if I cannot then pass that information on to those who can act upon it, I am compromised."

"You are wise," he said. "And here you have answered one of your own questions. Perhaps youth is not an impediment to wisdom, as you have just demonstrated. I may have been chosen to lead this expedition because I too possess wisdom or understanding beyond what my years would suggest."

She favored him with a half-smile. "This is true," she said.

"The secret I was going to tell you is something similar," he said. "I wanted to tell you that you shouldn't judge by appearances."

"That's not a secret," she said, frowning.

"No," he said. "But my illustration of it is. Do you want to hear it? You have to promise not to tell. I will reveal the secret myself, I just haven't decided when."

She looked thoughtful. "You're going to tell later?" she asked. "So it wouldn't matter that I couldn't tell, because they'd find out anyway?"

"Exactly," he said.

She chewed absently on the inside of her lower lip. "It's still dangerous," she said. "You might tell them too late."

"This is true," he said. "But something you seem to be forgetting is that I am supposed to be your ally."

She nodded thoughtfully. "You are," she said. "So you would also be obligated to tell them anything it would hurt them not to know."

"Yes," he said.

She thought a moment longer, fixing her eyes on his face, and finally sighed. "All right," she said, apparently satisfied. "What is this secret you wanted to tell me?"

He smiled. "I know what I look like," he said. "And I know what your people generally think of my people, and that they're generally right."

She frowned at him. "What do you mean by that?" she asked.

"Your cousin Boromir made an assumption about me when we first met," Eomer said. "When we were planning the ambush, he several times spoke to his brother in Sindarin so that I would not know what he was saying, to privately confer with him." He met and held Lothiriel's gaze for a moment, and smiled a little ruefully. "I speak fluent Sindarin," he continued in that language. "My grandmother was a Gondorian noble and made sure that her children and grandchildren were properly educated. I did not have a chance to tell Boromir, and now he has said a number of things in my presence that he did not want me to hear. Now I do not know how to tell him without embarrassing him."

Lothiriel blinked at him. "Oh my," she said, trying without success to keep the smile from her lips.

"Do you see the lesson there?" Eomer asked.

"Yes," she said.

"I took precautions," Eomer said. "Before I said anything in my own tongue I did not want Boromir to hear, I made sure he didn't understand it. I spoke it and watched him to see if he reacted. He did not. There is a chance he does speak it and was trying to conceal that from me, but it would not be my fault if I then said something impolite that he should not have heard, because he had an opportunity to let me know. He gave me no chance to indicate that I knew what he was saying, and so he proceeded to insult me several times, thinking I would not know. That is not very polite."

"No," she said, a little unhappily. "But he is not mean."

"No," Eomer said. "He is not a mean man. I know that. I would like to like him. Which is why I didn't just laugh at him for assuming I was ignorant. I know he meant nothing by it. But now I don't know how to tell him without embarrassing him."

"I could tell him," Lothiriel said.

"He would still be embarrassed," Eomer pointed out. "And upset with me, for telling you and not him. No, I have to tell him, or no-one. I would simply continue to let it slide but I am worried, especially with a Council coming up, that his assumption could spread and I could end up hearing many things I am not meant to."

Lothiriel regarded him. "But would you not stand to gain by hearing unguarded things?" she asked.

"It would be dishonest," Eomer said. "It would serve Boromir right if I overheard a secret of his, but if his assumption spreads to others, who would believe that Boromir would have been more cautious-- do you understand me? It was not dishonest of me to forbear from correcting Boromir on one occasion, but to sit by while it spreads would be, and that I cannot do. But to confront Boromir publicly would be rude."

She nodded, and laughed. "I want to be there when you tell him," she said, imagining Boromir's face.

"I was thinking of going the cowardly route and just telling Faramir," Eomer said. "Faramir suspects it, I think. He was watching me when they spoke, and I looked at him."

Lothiriel sighed. "You are probably right," she said. "Faramir is not so proud. You know I cannot decide which of my cousins I like better. Boromir is more fun in a way, but Faramir is..."

"Sharper," Eomer said. "I had not expected to like him. He is quiet and thinks too much, and sees far too much. Boromir is more what I am used to. But Faramir understands me better, which I had not expected."

"Faramir understands everything," Lothiriel said. "That's what it is about him."

"He is a wise man," Eomer said. "And no less a great captain of men than Boromir. I would fear to have either of them as an adversary."

Lothiriel smiled. "But I cannot help but think how funny it would be to see Boromir trying frantically to remember what he said in front of you."

"You could help me tell him," Eomer said. "When he comes to get you, we could be speaking in Sindarin in front of him. But you have to promise not to let on that I have told you he didn't know."

Lothiriel grinned wickedly. "I would like that," she said. "I think that would be funny."

"It would be," he said.

She laughed, and drew her feet up into her chair, hugging her knees. "Captain," she said, "I have a secret to tell you, then. Will you promise not to let on that you know?"

"If I can trust you, you can trust me," he said. "What is it?"

"I was supposed to be a spy and find out everything I could about you without you knowing," she said. "But I don't think I like being a spy. I don't mind secrets but I don't want to be a spy."

He laughed. "What were you supposed to find out?" he asked. "I imagine you got most of it. You were awfully inquisitive at the beginning."

"I found out everything I was supposed to," she said proudly. "Except how old you really are," she added, a little downcast. "I was supposed to figure out who you were and where you were from and why your king would send you instead of others, and how old you were. I think I did all right."

Eomer considered nodding thoughtfully, but decided against it. "And who were you going to deliver this report to?" he asked.

"My Captain-General," she answered. "To be honest, Boromir was just trying to make me feel better about not being allowed to listen to the rest of their conversation. He is nice really. He didn't really mean for me to spy on you."

Eomer smiled, remembering Theodred and Eowyn on a similar occasion. "Of course," he said. "That is a mark of a good captain-- assigning tasks to those who can perform them, and finding something for everyone. His men love him, you know. For himself. Because he leads them like that."

"He is good," Lothiriel said earnestly. "I love him."

"Then I won't let on that I know you're a spy," Eomer said, and winked at her. "And I will tell you that my father was killed eight years ago. I think I was just your age then. So you should be able to figure out for yourself how old I am."

Her eyes went wide. "I'm eleven," she said. Her eyebrows drew together. "You're nineteen?"

He grinned. "Yes," he said. "But I will be twenty in the spring."

Lothiriel looked at him sadly. "I don't know what I would do if my father died," she said.

"My mother died too," he said. "Two months after my father. He was killed by Orcs. She was sick."

"That's terrible," Lothiriel said, distressed.

"It was," he said. "But it was a long time ago."

"What did you do?" she asked anxiously.

"My uncle took us in," he said. "And his son was very close to us. He is the one I serve with now. He has been good to me. He was the one who thought I should be the one to come here with this company."

"Your uncle," Lothiriel said. "The King." She looked thoughtful, and made a sudden face. "My uncle is the Steward. If my parents died he would have to take me in!"

"You seem upset at the thought," Eomer observed.

"I am!" Lothiriel shook her head. "Ugh, my uncle is a mean old man."

Eomer laughed. "Did you just call the Steward of Gondor a mean old man?"

"Yes," she said. "He is. He's creepy."

Eomer laughed again. "Perhaps you should not say that so loudly."

"Probably not," she said. "It was unwise of me. But he is."

"I wasn't disagreeing," Eomer said mildly. He looked up at the ceiling, looking at the shadows. "Lothiriel. Can you conjugate the complex past tense of {an irregular verb}?"

"Of course," she said primly. "My grammar is excellent."

"Do it for me," Eomer said.

A smile spread slowly across her face, and she complied. "Not bad," he said. "My grandmother taught us a song to remember it."

"Sing me the song," she said.

Faramir stopped in the hallway. They were singing. In Sindarin. About verb conjugations. He turned and backtracked. "Boromir," he said, crooking a finger. He had known it. The way Eomer had looked at him when Boromir had said he was ignorant. Boromir followed him, his brow crinkling, and Faramir led him to the doorway.

"And that's how my grandmother taught me {irregular verb}," Eomer was saying. "But you don't need that, because your grammar is excellent. I'll tell you what still gets me, even now, is that {irregular verb} and {Rohirric verb} have the same stem, and I mix them up."

Lothiriel turned her head and smiled at them. Boromir looked at Faramir, looking faintly ill. "I have told you before, brother," Faramir said, "you jump to conclusions too quickly."

Lothiriel was far too cheerful to see them. "Eomer was telling me about his grandmother," she said happily as they came in. "She was a Gondorian lady, you know."

"You didn't tell me you knew Sindarin," Boromir said, a little hoarsely.

"You didn't ask," Eomer said. "Lothiriel asked. I told her."

"I asked lots of things," Lothiriel said, looking smugly mysterious.

"Lothiriel is the proud possessor of many secrets," Eomer said. "I am apparently a shamefully easy mark."

"I trust she was a pleasant distraction rather than an imposition," Faramir said politely.

"One so well-mannered could never be an imposition," Eomer answered graciously. His face was suddenly wistful. "She reminds me of my sister. It has been comforting to speak with her."

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Last Update: 05 May 10
Stories: 2
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Created By: Casso

Great stories featuring Eomer.

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Story Information

Author: dragonlady7

Status: Beta

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 3rd Age - Ring War

Genre: General

Rating: General

Last Updated: 07/08/04

Original Post: 04/30/04

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Many Guises and Many Names: An on-going collection of stories that feature Aragorn in another guise (primarily but not exclusively as "Thorongil") as well as stories that include significant reflection or recognition. (C) means the story is connected to others an author has written; (SA) just means stand-alone.