35. Lothíriel – What’s in a Name (Part 2)
A/N: According to the notes about the family of Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth as they are presented in "The History of Middle-earth", the "real" Lothíriel was the youngest daughter of the Prince and not Elphir's twin sister. The change from youngest daughter to twin sister was necessary to accommodate the younger brothers that I wanted to have in my story to make it easier for "my" Lothy to fit into the family.
35. Lothíriel – What's in a Name (Part 2)
The guard remained right in front of the door, standing stiff and still as guards do but watching me out of the corners of his eyes.
Then the door opened and he quickly bent over in a deep bow.
I bowed, too. When I straightened up again, I found myself face to face with a middle-aged woman. She was tall and slender as all of the people of Belfalas seem to be and she wore a gown of a heavy dark blue fabric that touched the floor with its seam. Her hair was black and gathered at the nape of her neck in a silvery net. Her forehead was high and clear, but a deep widow's peak gave her face an impish impression that made her look years younger than her actual age – of forty-nine as I learned later. But for now she did not smile and her grey eyes were dark with worry.
"A message," she said her voice almost toneless. "You have a message from my lord?"
"Yes, my lady. My name is Lothíriel," I hesitated. Had she widened her eyes at hearing my name? Had her already white cheeks paled even more? Or had I imagined that only? I was not sure and so I continued, "I was sent with a summons to the Prince Imrahil."
"A summons? By whom? And where?" the lady asked impatiently. "I think it's best we sit down and you tell me the whole story. Thanks, Anmir, that will be all. Please tell Enho to send us some refreshments."
The guard, dismissed, bowed again and left the room.
The lady turned to me. "Please, tell me – what are the news from Tarnost? I am eager to hear any news of my lord and to receive his message. It has been weeks since the last messeage arrived."
"The message is this," I said inclining my head in a polite gesture. Then I offered her the thick envelope sealed in blue. A sigh escaped the lady's lips. It was obvious that she loved her lord very much and worried about him greatly. Her hands trembled as she clutched the message.
She led the way to the windows and gestured me to one of the armchairs. She slumped down in another chair, still holding the envelope tightly.
"Please… Lothíriël, tell me, what message was it that took you to Tarnost?"
"I was sent by Gandalf the wizard. War is at hand and your husband and the armies of the south-western provinces are needed in Minas Tirith. I bore the summons to Tarnost that asked them to make for Minas Tirith at once and be there on the fourteenth at the latest."
"But that is today!" the lady gasped.
"It is believed that the Enemy will attack soon, perhaps even today or tomorrow. Every man is needed at Minas Tirith," I replied. "I wish I could give you better news."
"No," she said. "No, it… we expected it. In fact, we – that is – my husband – he expected to ride into battle much earlier this year. But when there was no message from the steward, from the Lord Denethor, I… hoped against hope… But how do you come to be here, now, with this letter?"
I shrugged. "I am not a warrior and I was wounded in February. The wounds are not yet healed. And I am neither wise in the art of warfare nor skilful in the ways of healing… so Prince Imrahil asked if I would take a message to his family. To you. There was nothing else I could do to help. I was glad to be of a little assistance."
"Wounded? Are you alright now? Should I send for our healer?" the lady asked in a concerned voice, although I could see that she was fingering the seal impatiently.
"No, I am fine, my lady. I guess you will want to be alone to read the message." I paused. "Should I wait outside for a bit? Or perhaps, if you have a room for me, if I may stay for the night…"
"If I have a room for you! Stay for the night!" the lady interrupted me, her eyes blazing. "What do you take me for? The times may be evil indeed when no man can be spared to carry a message from Tarnost to Dol Amroth, but they are not yet that evil that a young woman would be sent away from this house in the middle of the night – that is, if you want to stay – or do you have family nearby who are waiting for you?"
She looked at me inquiringly.
Suddenly I felt a lump in my throat. I had to wait a moment before I was sure that my voice was firm. "I have no family, my lady. And with the war at hand… to be honest, I don't have anywhere to go."
"No family at all?" The lady looked at me, and her voice was warm with pity.
"No. There's only me. But that's alright," I said, though at the moment I did not really feel anything like alright. Perhaps because the lady was so very worried and was so obviously in love with her husband… It's kind of hard to see that when you are, well, all alone.
Luckily the door to the hall opened that very moment and an old servant with very white hair entered, carrying a tray with steaming mugs and a plate of small cakes.
Tírithel! I inhaled the fragrance of the coffee-cocoa-mixture gratefully. I was beginning to feel tired from the day's ride and I had the feeling that the Lady Míriël would want to know more about how I had come to be a messenger for Gandalf before the night was over.
"But indeed, would you mind very much, Lothíriël, if I left you for a bit? For you are right, I would like to be alone to read the letter. I will only be across the hall, the second door to the right, in the library. If you need anything…?" The lady asked, accepting my answer to her earlier question for the moment. But only for the moment, I was sure. The Lady Míriël seemed to be just as smart and perceptive as her husband.
"Of course, my lady," I told her, feeling quite proud of myself that I was managing the 'my lady' and 'my lord' thing much better now.
"Thank you," she smiled at me. "If you will excuse me. I will be back as soon as possible."
With a rustle of skirts she was gone.
I picked up my mug of Tírithel and felt gratefully how the warmth of the hot liquid spread through the porcelain into my hands. Ahh… but this was good. After I had taken a few swallows I tried one of the cakes. It was a spice cake, tasting of cinnamon and nutmeg and honey. Pure bliss! I did not like really sweet stuff, but 'Lebkuchen' and spice cakes were another matter.
A short time later the door of the great hall opened again and the white haired servant, probably the Enho the Lady had mentioned, returned. He placed a three-branched candle-stick on the table and lit the candles. Than he set about to light a great log fire in the fireplace. Shortly the hall was filled with the bright light of flickering flames and growing comfortably warm.
When the servant was content that the fire was burning well, he turned to me and indicated another polite bow. "Is there anything else I could get you, my lady?"
"No, thank you, Enho – is that correct?" I replied, my voice a little shaky as I asked his name. I was still feeling strange about servants.
"Yes, I am Enho, my lady. If that is all?" He nodded to me and withdrew with the dignity of a king.
With the hall warm and bright, something hot to drink and something nice to eat, I soon felt relaxed and comfortable. Comfortable enough to wonder about the other Lothíriel.
Perhaps I would meet her later…
But before I could give the matter much more thought, the doors of the hall were thrust open and two boys came running into the hall at break-neck speed. Realizing that they were not alone almost made them topple over one another in surprise. They seemed to be about ten and five years old. The older boy had the black hair of the Lady Míriël but the light eyes of Prince Imrahil. The younger boy had light brown hair and dark grey eyes. Both were slender with their movements graceful when they were not stumbling into one another. There was no doubt in my mind at all about who they were. These had to be two of Prince Imrahil's sons. The likeness was simply too evident for any other explanation.
Getting over their surprise, they bowed to me like perfect little gentlemen.
"We did not know that we have visitors, my lady, or we would never have… so clumsily –" the older boy began.
"I wasn't clumsy," the younger interrupted.
"Shh," his brother hissed. "Remember what father said!"
The younger raised his delicately slanted eyebrows. "Always be polite…" Then he realized that he had said that out loud and blushed. "Excuse me, my lady."
"No problem. My name is Lothíriel, and who are you?" I had to smile. I had never known that boys of that age could be so cute.
Again there was this strange hesitation at my name. Now I was sure that I had not imagined it.
"My name is Númendil," the older boy said and bowed to me.
"I am Meluir," the younger added and the way he said his name made it obvious that he would have preferred another name.
I bit down on my lip not to laugh out loud or to say something like 'how sweet', because that was just what 'meluir' meant in Sindarin: sweet one, or cute one. Oh, parents… what you do to your children with the names you choose. Not for the first time I wondered how my life would have turned out, had my mother called me Anna or Simone or any other ordinary name.
"You could shorten it," I suggested, trying valiantly not to grin. "Mel sounds very manly and pretty cool, doesn't it?"
"Not much better," the boy answered, shrugging – of course; in Sindarin 'mell' means 'loving, kind'. And no ruggedly handsome and heroic Mel Gibson in Middle-earth.
"I am used to it by now," he went on, sounding like the epitome of long-suffering patience. "It's because they did not expect to have another child. And Father says I can choose a name for my own, when I grow up."
His face brightened when he thought about that. His older brother wisely kept silent.
Then the younger boy's expression turned into one of curiosity. "Where do you come from? And what are you doing here? And how long will you stay? And…"
"Meluir, you know it is not polite to ask so many questions at once," the amused voice of the Lady Míriël interrupted, who had entered unnoticed.
The small boy hung his head and blushed at this reprimand.
"No, really, it's alright," I said hurriedly. "I don't mind."
That little boy was cute.
"Nevertheless, he has to learn his manners," the lady commented but in a kind voice. I noticed a certain huskiness to her voice and as I looked at her, I realized that she had cried.
"Sit down with us, boys. One spice cake each," she ordered and sat back down in the chair across from me. The boys took a chair on either side of me.
The lady put the letter carefully on the table before us and took a spice cake for herself.
Pointing at the letter she explained to her sons.
"The Lady Lothíriël has brought a letter from your father."
"Where is he? What is happening? When will he come home?" Again it was the younger son who was full of questions, whereas the face of his older brother clouded over with silent worry. I was relieved when their mother answered in a calm and soothing voice.
"Your father is well. He is in Minas Tirith. He bids me to tell you that he loves you very much and that he is looking forward to coming home to us."
Númendil looked at his mother, his small face pale and serious. "Is it the War, Mother? Has the War begun?"
I could hear the capital 'W'. With his ten or eleven years Númendil knew what was happening in the world. Had he been only two or three years older he would be riding to Minas Tirith now, like Gawin, a bright young squire. I shuddered.
His mother looked tired and for a moment her carefully maintained façade vanished, showing her own anxiety. But then she smiled at her sons, projecting reassurance. Nevertheless she answered the question honestly, "Yes. The war has begun. But you father knows how to fight. He will come back."
But her eyes added clearly a qualification to that last sentence. I hope.
When the boys had finished their cakes, Míriël sent them off to wash their hands before dinner. Dinner would be served in the kitchen.
"We have so few people left at the castle that it's a waste of fire wood to have a real dinner. Most of the time we eat in the kitchen these days… all who are left of the household." She smiled at me, a weary, worried smile. "Thank you for giving me the time to read the letter in peace."
"No problem, my lady," I said, feeling my cheeks grow hot – and then hotter, as I realized that 'no problem' was probably not really ladylike.
But the lady did not seem to have noticed anything.
"Would you mind telling me about your journey?" The way she said 'journey' implied that she wanted to know everything.
I realized that I would not mind telling someone about the last months. Actually, I thought, it would feel good to talk to someone about… things. And Lady Míriël – perhaps because she was used to it as a mother of two lively sons (and where was the other Lothíriel?) – put me at ease. She seemed to be soothing and understanding and I thought that she would not be judgmental listening to my story like Éowyn, for example. And although it was not that I had not liked talking with Arwen, or Gily or even the Lady Galadriel, but, well, I was human, and they were not. That made simple talking… difficult.
"But it's a very long story," I said.
"In that case we should go and have dinner before you start. Or are you too tired, and we shall talk tomorrow?" the lady asked.
"No, no, that's alright. I don't have to go anywhere tomorrow, after all, so I can sleep in late, if I may."
"Of course you may." She smiled at me and her smile had a strange, wistful quality.
But before I could ask any nosy questions of my own, the lady rose to her feet and led me down into the large, noisy kitchen.
For all that there were only a handful of old people and young girls left at Castle Dol Amroth, the household was as lively and cheerful as possible in such times. The food was simple but well prepared and fresh. A stew of fish and mussels, and chocolate fudge for dessert.
I did not talk during dinner but watched the other people of the household and listened.
Everyone had been told about the message and the war. Everyone had someone they loved going to war. Father, uncle, brother, husband, son… In my mind a list of relatives and loved ones unfolded… relatives and loved ones that every one of those gathered in this kitchen tonight could lose to Sauron's cruelty.
They did not talk about that, however. They talked about their daily life and about things that reminded them of their loved ones, stories, memories, funny incidents. But it was there, that knowledge. It was there in what was not said. It was there in the obvious absence of husbands and young men.
I should be grateful that I had no family here that I could lose to Sauron.
And my friends would make it out of it alive.
They had to.
It was in the stories, after all.
After dinner Lady Míriël excused herself for half an hour to tug her sons into their respective beds. I went back to the great hall, curled up in one of the armchairs with a cup of mulled cider and waited. I had not imagined that noble ladies did that. Kissing their kid goodnight, I mean. Perhaps it was the war… but somehow I thought that Lady Míriël had always done these things herself and always would.
Once again, I realized how little I actually knew of the society and culture of Gondor, of the societies and cultures of all of Middle-earth! I was clinging to the memories of a single story, of a myth, a legend – something that was oddly removed from the realities of every day life.
This train of thought made me ponder once again what I had done with my knowledge. The knowledge – it had changed things. But the change was so subtle, barely noticeable. Had it been worth it?
Why is it that all of us feel this need to be… important, to play a meaningful part?
I sighed. If everything turned out alright, I would be content to be nothing, not at all important and only Lothíriel for the rest of my life, I promised to myself. I would never question my presence in this story again. Only, please, Eru, Valar, whatever, make my friends be alright. Let Middle-earth be saved and this ugly, fucking demon in the east be squashed into a pulp!
And concerning the war… I will stay out of it. I have promised. I will do as Gandalf has told me to.
I shuddered at the thought of what havoc a 'subtle' change in a war could wreak. No, I would keep well away from Minas Tirith and leave the fighting and the glory to Éowyn. If only nothing happens to her! If only nothing happens to her!
Suddenly I remembered the warm, dark eyes of her brother. If only nothing happens to him…
The door of the great hall opened and Prince Imrahil's wife entered. Again she settled down in the armchair across the table from me. Then she poured herself a cup of mulled cider and sighed.
"One story a piece," she told me. "I am afraid my sons are quite pampered."
I smiled. No, that had not been my impression. "I rather think your sons are loved."
The lady sighed. "Yes, they are. – But please, tell me… Lothíriel, how it is that a young woman was chosen to carry such dangerous messages in times of war."
I pursed my lips, considering for a moment if it was very impolite to answer a question with a question. In the end I opted for the question.
"My lady, if you don't mind I would like to ask a question of my own first."
She shrugged. "Of course you may. But I cannot promise that I know the answer."
"My name, my lady," I blurted out. "Everyone seems to jump a bit when I speak my name. Why is that?" I had wanted to ask, 'Don't you have a daughter called Lothíriel?' A moment later I was glad that I had not.
She looked at me and smiled a sad smile and her eyes were very dark.
"That is easily explained," she said and her voice was husky. "We are blessed with sons, my husband and I. Our three older sons, Elphir, Erchirion and Amrothos, ride to war with their father; Númendil and Meluir are here with me. But we also had a daughter once, the twin sister of Elphir. It was deemed a sign of luck and divine blessing that our firstborn were twins, born only a year after our marriage, too. We called our daughter Lothíriel and we were very happy. Very young and very happy. But she died. The winter of her first year was very cold and there was sickness. Many children and many old people died that winter."
There were sudden tears in her eyes. She smiled at me through the tears. "Most of the time my daughter is only the memory of a smile that was never smiled, the thought of a dance I was never allowed to see, but… to hear her name after so many years… and to see a young woman… so close to her age, had she lived… I think she would be a few years older than you are, but still… The people of Dol Amroth know about our Lothíriel, of course; and you may not believe it, but fisher folk and sailors are the most romantic people. All of them know that my husband and I wed for love and that the child of our love was our little daughter, sweet little blossom child… asleep in the cold earth these many years… They even tell tales about us…"
She trailed off and then dashed impatiently at her eyes with the backs of her hands. She exhaled deeply and continued in a calm voice, "That is why they have reacted so strangely to your name. Don't worry about it."
"I am so sorry, my lady," I whispered. And I was. I knew from history lessons of another life and another world just how many children died before the age of ten in medieval societies.
Hell, you did not even have to think of history. In the year 2004 on earth every minute a woman died trying to give birth in the developing countries. And most of the time the child did not survive either. Statistical fact. One woman every minute. One child every minute.
But I had been looking forward to meeting the girl – the woman – I was named for. And now, to know that she was dead, that she never grew up, that she never walked and danced and sang… Somehow I felt as if one of the pillars that supported my world had collapsed.
Even as a child I had always felt comforted by the knowledge that somewhere there was another girl with my name, in a world of wizards and bravery. When I had occasion to be brave myself, such occasion as arises during childhood – going to the dentist or sitting a test at school – I always thought of this other Lothíriel. What would she do? How would she act? And she was always brave and smart, the better twin, my imagined sister. And now I knew that she had lived indeed, that she had breathed and laughed and cried. But only for a year. Only for a year.
"Thank you," the Lady Míriël said finally. "But please, now tell me of yourself. How is it that you are all alone and running such dangerous errands in these darkening days?"
Gandalf, I thought. Gandalf, what the hell shall I tell her?
"Well, I come from far away. Actually, not from Arda at all."
"From beyond the seas?"
I paused and thought about this for a moment. "You could say that. Anyway, Gandalf, the wizard, he travelled far and wide gathering information that might help fighting the Enemy. And in my world," Shit. I should never have opened my mouth. "Ahem, where I come from, there is… there exists some lore about Arda, Middle-earth and… the Enemy and… certain things. And I was not happy with my life. I always wanted to go away, to come to Middle-earth. And well, I had just decided that the way my life was going, ahem, that… it was not really my life at all, that I wanted to change my life, and then I met Gandalf. And he offered to take me to Middle-earth. He hoped I could help with the lore of my world. That's how I came to travel with Aragorn and… some others from the Shire to Rivendell and from Rivendell to… Rohan and then no man could be spared to take a message to Prince Imrahil, and so I volunteered. And when your husband asked me to carry another message, well, I had promised Gandalf and Aragorn that I would stay away from the war, so I came here. And that is more or less what happened."
Míriël looked at me with her delicately slanted eyebrows raised in slightly mocking disbelief. That's where Mel gets it from, I thought.
"Do I assume correctly that you are not sure about what you may or may not tell me?" the lady asked me point-blank.
I stared at her for a moment, and then I had to grin in spite of myself and raised my hands in defeat. "You may, my lady. But there are some aspects of my story that I am not really sure of even if I was certain that I might tell them."
Why Gandalf did bring me to Middle-earth, for example. If the difference I made was worth the trouble. After all, Boromir was dead. And they could have found another messenger if they had been forced to. Perhaps some day I would have the chance to ask Gandalf about all of this. And until then I would have to live my life just as I had always lived it, not knowing if my existence meant anything at all.
Just like on earth. No. Not at all like on earth. An unexpected thought struck me. There was one important difference to my life on earth. This life, this world, I had chosen for myself. I was not here by chance. I had chosen to come here.
"There will always be aspects of our lives that remain uncertain," Míriël said, interrupting my musings. "You will know that when you have reached my age."
I smiled at her, feeling suddenly quite at ease – if not absolutely convinced. "I guess you are right. But one thing I am most certain of. I am happy that I am here, in Middle-earth, and I don't want to be anywhere else ever again."
I don't know if it was my name, the will of Eru, chance or only a wizard's meddling that shaped my life.
I still don't know. Probably I will never know until I reach Eru's halls.
But I knew then that I was home and whatever place I would find in Middle-earth, I would be happy and content with it.
I was truly home. I was where I belonged.
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.