59. An Earthly Paradise
We talked about what was proper and what was inappropriate behaviour. What was indecent and what wasn't – where I came from and here. I think Éomer was relieved to hear that there were a number of things I considered indecent. But in the end we decided to stretch the Lady Míriël's view a little in the direction of that other world.
We slept in each other's arms that night. We did not sleep with each other. We did not make love. We did not even do any serious snogging. Well, perhaps a little. But for the most part, we simply held on to each other. All through the hot summer's night.
It was the first time in my life that I slept that way, simply being held in a loving embrace, until the sun rose in beautiful pastel, kissing us awake ever so softly.
When we were ready to go, I mounted Mithril to ride on my own again.
Riding on one horse was not really appropriate.
And it made Éomer very apparently indecent.
When we entered Minas Tirith, we took the horses to the stables ourselves, brushed them, cleaned their hooves, watered them, fed them, fussed over them. Yes, I think we were reluctant to face the others.
Finally there was no excuse left to stay in the stables save the hayloft, and that would not be appropriate at all…
Éomer gave me a wry smile. "I think we should go up to the Citadel now," he said.
"You are right," I replied, but I did not move. "It's only that it's so embarrassing."
"Fools in love, huh?" He held his hand out to me.
I gaped at him. "You will hold me, where everyone can see it? Proper or not?"
He nodded. "Proper or not."
"I love you," I said on an impulse. He drew me against his chest, holding me tightly, and he kissed me, only lips, stroking, seeking.
How about that hayloft?
"Let's go," Éomer said, drawing back from me, "before I lose my nerve."
I found that I could muster a grin. "Fools in love, right?"
He squeezed my hand.
Hand in hand we left the stables. Hand in hand we walked up to the seventh circle of the city. A white pavilion had been set up on the Embrasure, with a long dinner table under it, and a few groups of comfortable chairs and low tables. With a pounding heart I realized that about everyone was there. I felt my cheeks grow hot. I did not need a mirror to know that for once my cheeks were not only hot, but they were flaming in a bright red colour.
Éomer kept holding my hand. He could not ask me yet. But he would make it very clear to the world at large that he would not let me go, no matter what my background. Somehow the events of the last few days had brought out a very possessive streak of his personality. His strong, warm grip gave me the strength to go on.
Arwen was playing chess with her father. Lady Míriël was talking with Éowyn and Faramir was sitting with them, but I don't think he listened to a word they were saying. He seemed to be absolutely enraptured by Éowyn. Aragorn was discussing something with the hobbits and Legolas was sitting on the wall of the Embrasure, looking across the Fields of the Pelennor, lost in thought. Gimli was sitting cross-legged on the ground in the shade of the wall, a tankard of beer sitting next to him.
The Lady Galadriel was lounging on a blanket near the fountain, with the Lord Celeborn keeping her company. And back on earth, the activity they were engaged in, well, I would have called it "snogging".
Then we were at the pavilion.
Éowyn jumped up and hurried towards me and embraced me. "I'm so sorry, Lothy, I had no idea he would be such an idiot." She glared at her brother.
"I probably should have told him sooner…"
"And you should not have gone and told him that story all alone," Míriël added.
I hung my head, my cheeks flushed. "Sorcha said that, too."
"Sorcha sounds like a sensible person. Now, Lothíriel, are you quite through with your running away and any other theatrics?" Míriël looked at me sternly.
"My lady, please." That was Gandalf who had appeared out of thin air for all that I could see.
"One should not be so strict with young people who are madly in love."
"I am not being strict. However, I was awfully worried." With that Míriël embraced me, too. "Lothy, you stupid girl, why didn't you tell me all of that? I could have helped you!"
I shrugged. "I don't really know. I guess I was too frightened that you might not understand…"
"Oh, my… we are not quite that narrow-minded, thank you. We can accept that there are countries – worlds – where customs differ from ours," Míriël told me.
"Except my brother," Éowyn muttered, only to be hushed by Faramir.
"Your brother has apologized to me and I have accepted his apology," I said in a hopefully firm voice. Éomer drew me closer against him, pointedly ignoring Lady Míriël's raised eyebrows and asked politely, "Could we have something cool to drink? We have come directly to our well-earned scolding. That should be worth a least a glass of lemonade."
"I think I can even grant you a glass of white wine, if you want one, Éomer," Aragorn offered, walking towards us with the hobbits in tow.
"That would be wonderful," Éomer said gratefully and I nodded. We moved to the long dinner table. Arwen and Elrond only raised their hands in a quick gesture of greeting, and then returned to their game. But I think Arwen winked at me.
Frodo was walking beside me. He tilted his head back and grinned at me, his blue eyes blazing. "Then you did go to that woman at Tarnost, Sorcha? The one whose husband died in the war?"
I nodded. "Yes, I did. Thank you for remembering about the letter."
Frodo smiled. "I'm glad I did. You look really happy now. Then you will stay here? Forever?"
"Yes," I replied and my heart filled with the joy that I always felt at the thought of this Middle-earth, of my Middle-earth. "Forever. This is my home now."
"I don't think I will be able to stay," Frodo whispered suddenly, his eyes darkening as if a curtain had been drawn away to reveal a never-ending darkness. "You know that, too, don't you? Gandalf told us, about you, and the books in your world. You know how it will really end, do you?"
Was he asking me if he would be saved?
I let go of Éomer's hand and drew Frodo off to the side. His eyes were searching my face for an answer, torn between hope and pain. "Arwen, did she…" I trailed off, not sure if it had already happened, or if I indeed remembered correctly. Those memories were so hazy that I almost could not recall them anymore.
But Frodo nodded. "Yes, she offered that…" I saw that it was difficult for him to go on.
What should I tell him? Was there a chance for him to stay here and heal, even though in the books he had gone to Aman?
"You have been invited," I said finally. "But whether you want to go, whether you have to go, you will have to decide that for yourself. For now, I would say, give yourself time. Look, I am no doctor, I mean, I am no healer, but there are such conditions as yours in my world, too. The victims of crimes, soldiers who have fought in wars, survivors of natural catastrophes, sometimes they can never forget their experiences, and they are haunted by what they saw or what they did for many years. Sometimes forever. However, some of them heal. That much I know. But such healing takes time. Don't be so hard on yourself."
The hobbit sighed deeply. "Thank you. I think I will go for a walk now."
As he turned away, I heard him murmur my words under his breath. "What they did…"
I suddenly realized what haunted the hobbit most of all. In the end, his strength had not been enough. He had failed. Or at least that was how he thought of what had happened. In his eyes, he had failed and now everyone treated him like a hero, although he himself did not feel like a hero at all. And apart from that, he was probably still suffering from after-effects of the ring and its power… probably like being on a really awful, habit forming drug and then go cold turkey. I shuddered.
Éomer had waited for me. I smiled at him, grateful for the warmth and the light in his dark eyes. However dark Éomer's eyes were, they held no trace of this abyssal darkness I had seen in Frodo's bright blue eyes. I leaned against Éomer's side, seeking shelter against the cold shadows of war and evil that were so slow in passing from this world.
Servants arrived, bearing trays with pitchers of white wine and long stemmed, hand blown glasses. When everyone was served, including Legolas, who had left his high perch to join us with a grumbling Gimli in tow, Éomer raised his glass in a toast. Everyone looked at him expectantly. He only looked at me and smiled his special smile, the one that belongs only to me.
"To fools!" he said loud and clearly. There were more than a few grins and chuckles, but they raised their glasses to us.
And finally, finally everything was as it should be. It was summer and the sun was shining.
The wine tasted like tart like lemons, with just enough vanilla to feel like silk on the tongue. It was peace and joy and good. Éomer knew everything about me, and in due time I would know everything about Éomer.
It was simply, utterly perfect.
When dinner was about to be served, Elladan and Elrohir appeared with a slightly reluctant Haldir between them. Arwen finally managed to win her match against her father. The Lady Galadriel and the Lord Celeborn stopped doing whatever they had been doing on that blanket near the fountain and joined the rest of us at the table. The last to arrive was Lord Imrahil who gave his wife a nod, favoured me with a quick embrace, and then sat down next to Aragorn, talking to the King in a low voice.
When the first course – slices of yellow melons with thin curls of smoked ham – was served, Éomer was regaling the twins, Gimli and the hobbits with the story of how he had found me at Sorcha's, sitting in the mud with little Solas. Arwen listened with her mouth slightly open. She looked very sweet, all misty eyed at the thought of a child of her own. I grinned at Éomer. I did not mind. Solas was sweet, and how could she have known that the King of Rohan was about to pay us a visit.
"And then she said 'grubby grub' and ran away to chase the chickens," he ended.
"Solas is a cute little thing," I commented. "She looks like an angel, but she's a trickster at heart." Then I sighed. "I only hope that her mother will manage to keep their house."
"Why shouldn't she?" Arwen asked me, bewildered.
"Her husband died in the war, and it's difficult for a woman in Gondor or Rohan to earn her living on her own. Sorcha does a bit of mending and dressmaking on the side, but I have no idea how far this will get her," I explained, feeling vaguely embarrassed that I suddenly found myself knowing more about the life of Gondor's common people than Gondor's queen.
"There should be some money coming to her from the company of her husband," Faramir said. "I will have someone looking into that matter."
"That would be wonderful." I smiled at the young steward. Éowyn was glowing with happiness beside him. As I was probably glowing just as much in the vicinity of Éomer, I won't make any snide comments. They tend to turn around and bite me in the…
"What have you three been up to today," Elrond asked his sons and the marchwarden of Lórien conversationally.
They did not answer right away, but looked at one another in turn as if trying to figure out who should do the talking. As Elrond was beginning to frown, I was beginning to wonder what exactly they had been up to.
"Nothing," Elladan finally said. His brother nodded, looking just a little too relieved. Haldir tried to look in a direction of the table where no elf was sitting. Galadriel smiled enigmatically. The Lady of the Golden Wood had a very human way of always knowing everything, including the gossip.
"Oh, Ada, let them be, whatever they have been doing, it can't have been dangerous. Let them have fun for once. In three days we have to leave anyway, and I know they will have scouting detail again," Arwen pleaded with her father. Elrond raised a delicately slanted dark eyebrow at his daughter, and his eyes sparkled like silver stars. "How could I resist such a charming plea?" he asked, but he glared at his sons nonetheless. Elladan and Elrohir on the other side of the table blushed prettily, right up to the tips of their pointy ears. Whatever it was that they had been doing, had probably been at least dangerous.
The second course was fish in a spicy sauce with white rice, touched off with cilantro leaves. The white wine complemented this dish marvellously. Gradually I felt completely relaxed with the amiable conversation and easy atmosphere of the evening.
King and Queen, lords and ladies, elves, wizard, dwarf – names I knew from tales and legends and from great deeds of epic proportions; and for the most part, the best friends I had ever had in my life. Awe and respect may have their part in friendship, but there's more. Funny things, like a burned bed, or sad things, like shared tears at a friend's death, a thousand touches, looks and whispers and many long evenings of sitting around a campfire in the wilderness: those are the many facets that add up to the kaleidoscope of friendship.
Thank you, I thought with all my heart. Thank you.
I leaned against Éomer, like him ignoring Lady Míriël's raised eyebrows, and sipped my white wine. Once again I wished that I could take, or at least paint, a picture of this evening: friends of all the free races of Middle-earth gathered at a table on a bright summer's evening, to eat, to drink, to talk, and never to meet again.
I knew that I would not see Elrond again, or the Lady Galadriel, and I did not think that I would see Frodo again, either, or Gandalf. One of the few dates that I remembered clearly from the books even today, was the year 3021. In two years they would sail for Aman, the Blessed, the western paradise.
I tried to memorize their faces, so that I would be able to recall how they had looked and talked and smiled on this lovely summer evening, in the years to come.
I wanted to remember them. All of them.
Running away like that had somehow made it clear to me once more how easy it is to lose what and whom we hold dear. The men and women, the elves, hobbits and the dwarf, as they were gathered around this table, I held them dear.
I did not want to forget them.
There was a bittersweet ache in my heart. There was the happiness of my turmoil resolved into love and hope, but there was also the knowledge of the transience of this life and its friendships. Elrond smiled softly at his daughter, his eyes warm with her happiness and filled with pride at his son-in-law. Galadriel snuggled up against Celeborn much the same way as I leaned against Éomer. But I knew that she would go, whereas he would remain in Middle-earth for some time yet. Frodo had returned from his walk, seemingly at peace - for the time being at least. The hobbits were exchanging bad jokes with Gimli while Legolas looked on with a faint smile. Faramir raised Éowyn's hand to his lips only to visibly wilt under the Lady Míriël's censorious look.
What paradise could be had in Arda, here it was. Here and now. Tonight.
An earthly paradise.
My heart filled with this strange kind of happiness that is almost painful.
I tilted my head up and smiled at Éomer. He looked down at me, his eyes dark with happy amber flecks dancing around his pupils.
"I love you," I whispered.
"I love you, too," Éomer whispered back to me. And then he did the unthinkable.
He kissed me.
With everyone watching!
And the Lady Míriël only laughed softly.
When we had finished the last course, a sorbet with passion fruits – the joke was definitely on Arwen who blushed prettily, whereas her father scowled at the grinning men around the table –, Prince Imrahil rose to his feet and touched his silver spoon against his glass.
Within moments he had everyone's attention. He was an imposing figure of a man, tall and lithe as any elf with this long white-blonde hair and his strange, piercing light eyes.
He smiled at everyone. For a moment his gaze lingered on me, and the corners of his lips seemed to be twitching with a smile.
"My wife thought it wise to ask this question in a public place with as many witnesses as possible and enough strong men about to catch her, should she want to run away again. I say this only, dear Lothíriel, so that you know who is to blame for this question to be asked on this occasion. That we would ask this question has been clear between my wife and me for many weeks now. But after certain events –" Here Prince Imrahil favoured the King of Rohan with a very stern look that had Éomer cringe in his seat. "After certain events, both of us thought that we should ask this question as soon as possible." He paused. Then he smiled at me.
"Dear Lothíriel. My wife and I would like to ask you if you would allow us to adopt you as our daughter. And although I will not deny that there are practical reasons involved in this question, as well as a wish to honour our own daughter who never grew up, I ask you to believe me, and Eru and the Valar may bear me witness, that the main reason for us asking you to become a part of our family is simply that we like and love you very much. And my sons have asked me to tell you to say yes, because they are in dire need of a beautiful sister."
For a moment, everyone was silent and staring at Prince Imrahil.
Then the hobbits, Éowyn, and Gimli started cheering, and after another moment everyone else had joined them, clapping and cheering. I simply sat there and stared at Prince Imrahil with my mouth hanging open in a very undignified manner. Finally I closed my mouth. My cheeks were burning and I had no idea what to think or what to say.
They wanted to adopt me!
"Love" was perhaps a little exaggerated. But I knew that the Prince had admired how I had carried the messages during the war. He had also enjoyed talking with me about history and philosophy during our weeks at Cormallen. So I could believe that he liked me. Míriël had always wanted a daughter. I knew that her initial curiosity about me was probably sparked by my name, but our friendship had grown far beyond a sad memory and an unusual name during the last months. I knew that Míri liked me a lot and even loved me, perhaps. I knew that I loved her. She was so exactly the way I had always wanted my own mother to be. I loved the little boys, and I was in awe of Elphir, who is a truly formidable warrior.
Then what about the practical relevance of an adoption?
I knew enough about politics to know that Éowyn had probably approached Míri about the possibility of an adoption. I think that both, Éomer and Aragorn, might have talked to Prince Imrahil. But I also believed in the Prince's honesty. If he said that he and Míri had decided to ask me weeks ago, then this was the truth. Should I turn down an offer of love and honour only because it would aid the man I loved politically? Even though I knew politics were not the only, and probably not even the main, reasons for this offer?
I am sometimes silly. I am sometimes stupid. But my arrogance does not stretch quite that far.
I rose to my feet and my knees were all wobbly. I looked at the smiling face of Prince Imrahil and Lady Míriël, who had risen from her chair and had gone to stand next to her husband. I had to swallow hard. Then I drew a shaky breath. I looked at Imrahil and Míri, and I said, with as firm a voice as I could manage, "With all my heart and all my soul: yes. Yes, I will gladly become your daughter."
And then I did a very earth-like, and not at all dignified and graceful thing. I scrambled out of the bench and ran around the table and I hugged them. And they hugged me. And I cried. And Míri cried. Arwen cried, too. Éowyn smiled broadly. Gimli cried. He's a real sap, that dwarf.
Another round of cheering rose up from all around the table, and then Aragorn raised his glass in a toast to the "Lady Lothíriel of Dol Amroth".
My new name was echoed all around the table, and for the remainder of the evening I sat between Míri and Imrahil. Arwen made me practice calling Imrahil "Ada", which discomfited both of us initially, but an insistent queen and enough wine will make you do the most extraordinary things. He's been 'Ada' to me ever since, and he calls me 'iëll'. But Míri is Míri and always will be.
And that's how a ranger out of Erlangen became the Lady Lothíriel of Dol Amroth.
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.