I did not say anything but lay very still, trying to get reacquainted with my body and my mind. I felt strangely removed from reality, from my body, from my memories.
After Éowyn asked me if I had loved Boromir, she did not make any further comment or ask any question. She simply remained sitting at my bedside, keeping me silent company while I cried with the grief of my first coherent memories of Amon Hen and the awful days of captivity. When I had cried myself out, she disappeared for a moment only to return with a cup of hot herbal tea, probably some kind of tranquilizer. I guess that I had needed it. Anyway, I fell asleep at once and there had not been any dreams at all.
Now I was wide awake. My head felt reasonably clear. The fever had not returned.
But I hurt. My wrists and my ankles hurt. My whole body felt terribly bruised and sore. Apparently I had still been under the effect of some painkiller when I woke the first time, but now it had worn off. Especially my thighs and my hips hurt as if I had been pounded with a great hammer. I closed my eyes as a wave of sickness swept over me. Memories of dark shapes closing in on me, of claws ripping at me, of a heavy weight on my body assailed me.
It's over, I thought desperately. It's over and I am alive and they are dead, every single one of them.
Éowyn had told me that I had not been raped. I had been beaten up and violated, but I had kept my honour. The Rohirrim had been in time. But with the pain I felt now and the nightmarish memories that lingered in my mind, the distinction between violation and penetration escaped me. I closed my eyes again but could not stifle a low moan.
"My lady, are you alright? Do you feel any pain?" a soft voice asked me and a tender, warm hand was placed on my forehead.
I opened my eyes again. The girl had risen from her chair and was leaning over me, her expression worried. I cleared my throat. That hurt, too. When I spoke, my voice was hoarse.
"I'm alright. But I feel horrible. Like so much pounded meat." I tried to grin at her, but I don't think I was very successful, judging from her expression of pity and horror. She obviously had been told exactly what had happened to me.
"If you think you will be alright for a while, I will get you a soothing draught that will take away the pain and something to eat," the girl said.
"Sure, no problem," I croaked. She cast me a dubious look but hurried out of the room.
I tried to sit up, but I felt weak like a kitten. I barely managed to draw myself up against the headboard into a half-lying, half-sitting position. I looked around the room. Everything was as it had been when I woke for the first time. The light that came through the window was perhaps a bit brighter. I thought that it might be in the middle of the afternoon, but I could not be sure of that.
Then someone knocked on the door of my room.
"Yes?" I called out. My voice was painfully husky and shaking.
The door opened slowly to admit a stooped figure. It was an old man in white robes with long white hair and a flowing white and silver beard. He straightened up and looked at me with piercing blue eyes. In his right hand he held a wooden staff carved of a pale wood that gleamed whitely.
My heart skipped a beat and my assorted aches were instantly forgotten.
"Gandalf?" I whispered. My heart started to race and an unbelievable feeling of joy rose up inside of me. "Gandalf?"
The old wizard smiled at me. "Yes, I am Gandalf again, for a little while."
He walked towards my bed, his keen eyes never leaving me. He looked me up and down in intense scrutiny. An expression of sorrow and regret passed over his face. He has changed, I thought. He is not as unreadable anymore. Strange.
The wizard sat down on the chair next to my bed.
"Lothíriel," he said, as if to confirm that I still was the girl he had known in his previous – life? Incarnation?
"Yes," I said. I am Lothíriel. Though I am not the same as I was. I knew this was true. Too much had happened since the wizard had fallen into that chasm in Moria.
Before Moria, perhaps even before Amon Hen, I would probably have asked if what I had done was right, if I had been able to change things, if things could have been differently…
But now I could not find any question to ask the wizard.
I was so tired.
"I will answer your questions nevertheless," Gandalf said. "Or at least some of them. I am here. I am the White Wizard. Had you tried to change things at Moria, I would not have been able to become the power I need to be. And you did change things, important things. Boromir frightened Frodo; that is true. But he did not try to take the ring from him."
"He did not?" I asked, incredulous.
Gandalf took my hand, squeezing it gently. His hand was warm and rough, callused from handling swords and staffs, even though he had only just been sent back to Middle-earth.
"No, he did not. He was losing his mind. You noticed that. But he kept his honour, and he kept his soul."
"Why couldn't he have survived then?" I asked, tears burning in my eyes again. "If he did not fall for the ring, then why did he have to die?"
Gandalf sighed. "In the end, he would not have been strong enough. He realized that himself when he ran away from Frodo at Amon Hen."
"But I managed to… fight off the lure of the ring!" I said defiantly.
Gandalf nodded thoughtfully. "That is true. And I have wondered at that myself. But Glorfindel taught you how to shield your mind and he bestowed upon you a kind of Elvish blessing that is rarely given to anyone. However, what is even more important is, I think, that the enemy does not realize the power of women or the little folk, the Hobbits. He does not think that there can ever be anything to fear from such weak beings as women or Halflings. He fears warriors and kings. It is his flaw, and our only chance."
I swallowed down my tears. In my heart I knew that Gandalf was right. But although I knew that I should rejoice at the thought that Boromir had in fact been able to defy the ring in that deciding moment, the knowledge that this had not, and could not, have changed the outcome of the subsequent events weighed heavily on my heart.
"That is alright, Lothíriel. I understand your grief. But someday, perhaps, the knowledge will comfort you when you look back. When the pain of the loss is not as new and as acute as it is now." Gandalf smiled at me, a smile that was full of understanding and compassion.
"But to the matters at hand," he continued, his voice brisk.
I looked at him and suddenly I felt apprehensive, my thoughts racing. Matters at hand? That could only mean the Battle at Helm's Deep.
The wizard raised his eyebrows at me. "Indeed it does; and the battles to come. But you have been badly injured and you will be weak for some time yet. Therefore your part in the journeys of the members of the fellowship is almost over. In a few days Aragorn will return to Edoras. When he sets out again, he shall take you with him. Because there is one thing I would ask of you yet. I want you to go to Dol Amroth, where Prince Imrahil dwells. I have a message for the Prince; and in these evil times no warrior can be spared to bear my message hence. Boromir's father, the steward of Gondor, has neglected to muster an army in the defence of Gondor. Prince Imrahil has to come to Minas Tirith on his own, unbidden, with every man he can spare.
He has to be there at the fourteenth of March at the latest. At the moment the Prince dwells in Tarnost; he has already gathered an army to defend his own lands, for he is one who still sees clearly and farther than most; he knows that war is almost upon us. But there has been no news from Minas Tirith and no call to arms has come – so now Imrahil tarries and doubt is in his mind. He must not doubt. The King is on his way to Minas Tirith. Prince Imrahil has to cast aside all doubt and fear. He has to be in Minas Tirith without fail, ready for war."
He paused, and then gave me a stern look. "You, however, will not go to Minas Tirith. When it can be helped, a war is not a place for women. Stay at Tarnost, or perhaps you can be escorted to Dol Amroth to stay there with Prince Imrahil's family until… until the fate of this world is decided."
I stared at Gandalf, completely bewildered and not a little shocked. I recalled reading about Prince Imrahil. He had led many hundred warriors to the Battle of the Pelennor. He and his men had played an important part in the defence of Minas Tirith. And I should be responsible for calling him to battle?
Then I recalled how far the Stone of Erech was from Edoras, and Tarnost – if I remembered correctly that was a fortress at the northern edge of the hills of Tarnost – was at least another one hundred and fifty miles to the east. How should I get there in time? Especially if the Prince's army had to be in Minas Tirith on the fourteenth?
"You will have to ride. I will choose your mount myself and tell the horse your name. It will have to be one of the Mearas. King Théoden will not like that, but at the moment there is nothing he would refuse me," Gandalf told me, his expression grim.
I just stared at him. Then I gulped nervously. "I have never ridden a horse in my life."
Gandalf sighed and shook his head. "Then it will definitely have to be one of the Mearas. – Don't worry, Lothíriel, the horses of Oromë never let any rider fall from their backs they have agreed to carry. And there simply is no warrior we can spare. If there was, you can be sure I would not dream of sending you."
Thank you for that vote of confidence, I thought. That is really most reassuring, especially out of the mouth of a wizard. And there was something – a flicker in the depths of his eyes, as if there was something he did not tell me…
Gandalf raised his bushy eyebrows at me. "This was not intended to belittle you, my dear girl. I know your pain and I know your grief. For that reason I would have preferred to grant you a real respite from the struggles and turmoil of this war. But alas! It cannot be. I remind you, it was you who has chosen this world as your own, and all its toil. And now you have to stick it out, I'm afraid."
I blushed hotly. "I did not want to imply that I did not want to go, or that I have had enough. Well, I have had enough, but that goes for many here, I guess, including many of the fellowship. But there is nothing to be done, I know that very well. The war has not even started yet. There is no choice for any of us but to see this through." I paused. To see this through to whatever end…I hoped I would be alive to see that end. To see that pain and sacrifice had not bee in vain. I wanted to see that. I pressed my lips together firmly. I would see that!
With a much firmer and clearer voice I continued, "I have chosen this world. I have not forgotten what you said about the turmoil of each world, Gandalf! I have chosen this world. And even battered and bruised as I am right now, I don't regret it. And I would not dream of fleeing from the darkness if there was anything left that I could do to help you."
I glared at the wizard.
Every word that I had said was true. Even though I was battered and bruised in the truest sense of the meaning, I did not regret one day or one wound that I had received. The strange sense of belonging that had grown in my heart since the first steps on the road towards Bree was not diminished with the pain and the grief. If anything, I felt more strongly for this world and her struggles.
There was a merry twinkling in the bright blue eyes of the wizard.
I felt a frown grow on my face as I realized that I had been very subtly and deftly manipulated by Gandalf. However changed the wizard might be, he had forgotten none of his old tricks. I smiled at Gandalf, a sudden, overwhelming happiness spreading through me from my head to my toes, because he was back, because he was alive and well and because he had returned to us, just like the stories promised.
"Right," I said. "Aragorn and the Dúnedain come to Edoras –"
I bit my tongue at the sudden gleam in Gandalf's eyes. He had obviously not known about the Grey Company. I swallowed hard. I had to watch my mouth. I realized that the knowledge of things to come that I had was still dangerous.
"Aragorn comes to Edoras in a few days," I continued. "I hope you remember to tell him that I am to accompany him to the Stone of Erech. He will not like that idea. And I really don't like arguing with Aragorn. Okay, provided that you have told Aragorn about my task, I will go to the stables and get on that horse you have promised will carry me faster than any other horse alive… save Shadowfax, of course."
Gandalf snorted at that in an undignified way. I ignored him and went on, "I stay with Aragorn until we reach the Stone. Then I tell the horse to run like hell and make for Tarnost. I tell Prince Imrahil that I have a message for him from Gandalf the White. I tell him to make for Minas Tirith with his army at once and that he has to be there on the fourteenth of March at the latest. He marches away and I remain at Tarnost or make for Dol Amroth. Is that correct?"
Gandalf smiled at me and squeezed my hand again. "Indeed, that is exactly what I want you to do. And I will make sure that Aragorn does not argue with you in this case. May the wind be always at your back, Lothíriel! I hope that we will meet again and that this day should be a day of joy and happiness for all of us."
He rose from the chair in a swift, fluid movement that seemed strangely incongruent with his ancient appearance. Then he cocked his head as if he was listening for something.
"Another visitor for you. I'll be on my way. Remember, the Mearas understand what you say. I always find they react best to Sindarin. Put your lessons to good use. And perhaps take some athelas salve with you."
With that cryptic remark he nodded at me and left. The door closed without a sound behind Gandalf. I stared at the door, feeling completely bewildered.
I would ride as a messenger of war, bearing a summons to take up arms against the forces of Mordor... My hands were suddenly cold and I felt my heart beat quickly with nervousness.
Riding one of the Mearas. I gulped. Horses were so big!
"The horses of Oromë never let any rider fall from their backs they have agreed to carry…"
I could only hope that the wizard had been right. He had been right about most things.
Why should he be mistaken this time? And after all, I did remember that Prince Imrahil had been in time for the Battle of the Pelennor.
Yeah, sure… but there had been nothing in the books about anyone bringing him a message to get his army to Minas Tirith on the fourteenth of March…
Suddenly the door opened again. I expected to see the maid-servant with a tray. Instead I looked at a handsome man. He wore leather trousers and a red shirt, but his tunic was of a deep green fabric. He was probably as tall as Aragorn but more powerfully built if not as heavily muscled as Boromir had been. He had clear cut features that somehow reminded me of Éowyn, although his hair was darker, and his eyes were dark and warm. His eyes!
Suddenly I remembered the eyes. Dark eyes looking down at me, tangled, dark blond hair surrounding that face, strong arms holding me as I cried in pain and horror.
A beautiful, dark voice soothing me like a frightened child.
Éomer. The Third Marshal of the Mark. The future King of Rohan.
I lowered my gaze, feeling heat rise to my cheeks in embarrassment when I realized what a state I must have been in when he found me.
"My lady," he said softly, remaining at the door. "How are you? May I disturb your rest for a bit?" His voice was even more beautiful than I remembered it. I had often read the phrase that a voice sounded "like honeyed mead" and thought this expression more than silly. No voice could sound like that, I thought. Especially not a male voice. But here it was. A dark voice, rough at the edges and yet smooth and warm like eiderdown.
"Of course you may," I said. Blushing even harder, I added. "My lord."
Gods, I had no idea how to address him properly! Or Prince Imrahil either for that matter.
Éomer walked to my bed in three easy, powerful strides. He sat down, shoving the chair back a little. He seemed unsure of what to say.
"Thank you, my lord," I said finally to break the silence. "You saved my life. Thank you."
Then I laughed softly. "'Thank you' seems so inadequate. There is no way I can tell you –"
"There is no need, my lady. I am glad that we were in time to stop those vile beasts –"
"I am glad, too." I shuddered violently. The memories of dark shapes closing in on me once more rose unbidden in my mind. Nausea swept through me. I closed my eyes. I must have made some sound, too.
Suddenly I felt my hands gripped by large, warm hands and held tightly.
I smelt a fragrance of leather mixed with straw and perhaps horse, the smell of warm, living fur lingering and some kind of spicy soap, probably vetiver.
A strange tingling feeling rushed through my body.
My eyes flew open.
Éomer held my hands and watched me with a worried expression on his face.
"My lady, is everything alright?"
I said the first thing that came to my mind, "No, of course not."
Then I added, "But I think it will be alright. Maybe."
"I pray that it shall be so," he said, his gaze full of warmth, his tone comforting. "I am glad to find you much improved before I go."
"Go?" I asked, my thoughts confused again.
"Yes," Éomer replied simply. "The Rohirrim ride to war. The evil minions of Isengard are on their way to attack Rohan. This very evening the Riders of Rohan leave for battle. We ride to Helm's Deep to defend our people and our country. I wanted to see how you are before I go."
"I am fine, my lord. Because of you, I am fine. I'm still a bit bruised, but that will mend soon," I said, my voice trembling slightly, unsure of what to say or do.
"I am happy for that!" Éomer said and smiled at me. "To know that I could save you and that you will be well again shall aid my strength in the battles to come. I bid you farewell now, my lady, and take care! I hope that we will meet again when the war is won and evil is defeated, once and for all."
He let go of my hands and rose to his feet.
"Goodbye, my lady."
"My name is Lothíriel," I said, feeling slightly hypnotized by his dark, dark eyes."May the blessings of the One and the Valar be with you, my Lord!"
He stared back at me. "My name is Éomer."
"Éomer, then." I repeated, looking mesmerized at his face.
"Thank you for your blessing, Lothíriel," Éomer said softly, his voice a sweet, dark caress.
Then he was gone.
When the door opened the next time, it was the maid-servant bearing a large tray.
She begged my pardon for taking such a long time, but it was such a mess in the kitchens what with the men preparing for battle, and everyone running around in a frenzy.
I told her that I didn't mind. She smiled at me, looking relieved. "Were you able to sleep for a bit, my lady? You look already much better! Your cheeks have some colour again, and your eyes are bright!"
I smiled back, my thoughts in a confused tumble. I did not mention my visitors.
"Now you have to eat and then go right back to sleep. Come morning you will feel much better. Perhaps you can even get up for a bit!" the girl chattered on as she helped me to sit up and put the tray across my thighs. "Now, do you think you can manage the spoon? Or should I help?"
I felt weak. But I did not feel quite that weak. I raised my eyebrows at her. But she was quite serious with her offer. I did manage to eat on my own. But it was more of an effort than I had thought possible. My wrists hurt abominably and my right arm ached from my fingers to the shoulder and right up to my neck. I was so weary from the excitement of the afternoon and the strain of eating that I was almost too weary to drink the soothing herbal tea that the girl prepared for me. When I had finished the tea, I fell asleep instantly.
I never knew how the girl removed the tray and helped me to lie down again.
I was far away, lost in soothing dreams.
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.