14. The Steward and the Princess
Traditionally Imrahil had avoided Minas Tirith as much as possible during the months of May through September, only agreeing to come when Denethor, as the Ruling Steward, had insisted that such a trip was of the utmost importance to Gondor.
On the few occasions when Lothíriel had been in Minas Tirith in the summer, the City had been unforgettably unpleasant. It had been hot, but if one opened the windows to allow air to circulate, noxious sulfuric fumes made it unpleasant and difficult to breathe. The horizon, frequently clouded with dust, smoke, and haze, reminded one inescapably of how close the City was to Mordor, to Orodruin. Now, however, everything had changed. The late morning sky on that May day was deep blue and clear. Fresh air circulated throughout the townhouse, a light wind lifting the curtains.
The coronation celebrations were far from finished. Singing, shouting and dancing citizens and visitors, amid showers of bright confetti and ribbons, already filled the City streets. The steadily increasing pace of merrymaking on the lower levels echoed throughout the Dol Amroth family's house. Lothíriel forgot for a moment the problems she would have to solve throughout the course of the day. It was a beautiful day, warm without being muggy, and on the sixth level of the City there was that wonderful fresh breeze.
When Imrahil and Lothíriel entered the family dining room only two places remained: one beside Éomer and the other where Imrahil usually sat at the head of the table. Lothíriel slid into the chair next to Éomer. He immediately reached beneath the table to place his hand on her thigh. She covered his hand with her own and then turned to her father.
"Papa, I think I know what kind of dinner I would like for this evening. You said there would be about 50 guests, and that it should be ready after the assembly ends, did you not?" Lothíriel said almost as though she were talking to herself. "I believe I can organize everything now so that I can observe most of the proceedings today."
"Yes, dear," he answered. "You are the authority on these matters. I trust your judgment completely." Turning to Éomer, Imrahil continued cheerfully, "I hope you realize that you will be taking away one of my greatest assets. I hope you employ her to your advantage. She has used her interest in politics and diplomacy with considerable flair as the mistress of this city house."
"I have been blessed with competence and intelligence in all of my children. Each of my sons qualified as a Swan Knight at an early age. When most girls were doing nothing useful beyond the occasional harp lesson, Lothíriel was maintaining an ancient crumbling fortress as a respectable seat of government and a comfortable home."
"Oh, she is very nearly perfect," Erchirion smirked. "Father forgot to say that she sails rather well—unfortunately not much use for that in Edoras. Moreover, though she cannot lift a sword, she is not a half-bad archer. Her only true faults are complete lack of respect for her elders, a taste for liquor and fast horses, and, most recently, a softness for hard-living men."
"Papa, you exaggerate," Lothíriel said, smoothly ignoring her brother. "The castle in Dol Amroth may be old, but it always been well maintained." She turned and smiled at Éomer. "I am a quick learner though. I do not doubt I will be of use to you in Edoras."
Meanwhile, Lothíriel had pulled her chair back from the table. Standing up she said, "Please excuse me, I need to speak with Irilde and to Cook. Éomer, if you need to leave before I return, please come and find me. I will be in the kitchen. Erchirion will gladly show you the way."
After Lothiriel left the room, Melliel turned to Erchirion and scolded, "I have spent time with your sister in Minas Tirith, off and on for years, since we both were children, and I have never seen her drink more than a glass of light wine."
Erchirion laughed, clearly pleased with himself, "You, however, Melliel, were not present at the festivities in Cormallen. The dignity of Dol Amroth was limping there."
Imrahil laughed as well and, addressing himself to Melliel, added, "Young lady, if you intend to spend much time around my children, you will quickly learn to disregard fully half of what Erchirion says and that the prevarications of Amrothos are far worse. They are all, however, good-natured in bad times as well as good."
A couple of hours later, Éomer and Imrahil entered the great hall of the Merethrond together, clearly at ease in one another's company, chatting in an animated and companionable manner. The small contingent composed of Rohirrim and Swan Knights who had followed them into the hall scattered to greet comrades and friends. Imrahil looked younger and more relaxed than he had during the entire post-war period. Éomer appeared to be in an extraordinarily ebullient mood, even for that exuberant young man.
Spotting Elrohir and Legolas standing together near the doorway; Éomer came up to them with a wide smile, laying a heavily muscled arm around Elrohir's shoulders and then reaching out to grab Legolas by the forearm. An acceptance of the Rohirrim custom of touching in greeting and the liberal distribution of demonstrative hugs, although initially strange to both of the twins, came easily to them now. It reminded Elrohir greatly of the endless cheek kissing common among those hailing from the Belfalas peninsula.
Elrohir had noted that Legolas was given to reassuring touching. But, Elrohir thought that his grandfather Celeborn was as well; Sindar or adopted Silvan practice, he wondered. The sober Northern Dúnedain were not given to indiscriminate hugs and kisses. Galadriel, well she was an entity unto herself, unpredictable. She pleased herself. Faramir also frequently sought out close physical contact, despite his otherwise somewhat reticent nature. Elrohir speculated that his mother and uncle certainly must have instilled this habit in him, as it did not seem to fit with anything he had heard of Denethor. Elrohir and Legolas accepted Éomer's expressions of warmth gladly.
As Faramir entered the hall, he approached the three from across the room. Elladan, who had entered the hall a few moments earlier, had also been walking toward Elrohir and Legolas when Éomer had approached them.
Éomer threw back his head and laughed with approval at something Legolas said. Heads turned in the direction of the young king at the sound, attracted by his assurance and charm.
"Good afternoon, Elladan," Éomer said as the Elf lord drew near. The young monarch had turned somber at the sight of him, but grasped Elladan's lower arm and hand with no less affection than he had shown Legolas and Elrohir. Elladan returned his physical greeting with matching good grace, showing no outward change in his serene exterior.
"Suliad, Éomer," Elladan replied, as composed and expressionless as the stone carvings of past kings and heroes that lined the walls of the Merethrond. Éomer hesitated for a moment and, nodding to the small group, turned to walk toward the dais.
Legolas gripped Elladan strongly by the forearm and pulled him closer. He looked at the elder twin's face sympathetically. It was extraordinarily pale, with deep lavender circles under his eyes. Elladan held his full lips in a rigid line.
"My friend, you look as though you had a bad night indeed," Legolas said compassionately.
"Thank you. I am quite well, Legolas," Elladan responded coolly with conscious determination, gently pulling himself free of the Elf's grip and walking to the front of the hall.
Elrohir leaned toward Legolas to whisper, "Don't mind him. He is not talking today. I tried to speak with him earlier and he rebuffed me much less courteously."
"It must have been appalling for him. I would venture he got no sleep whatsoever," Legolas said kindheartedly.
"He truly has only himself to blame," Elrohir replied impatiently.
"You are callous, my friend. I could not have imagined a year ago, the devastating pull Mortals can exert upon one's heart. It is like trying to withstand the charms of an infant. Once they have drawn you into their intimate trap of warmth and swirling emotions, it is well nigh impossible to resist them," Legolas answered.
"I have far less experience than you have with children. Your Greenwood has a reproductive rate that neither Imladris nor Lothlorien share. You must not forget, however, that Elladan has had many years of close relations with Mortals and should be more accustomed to the rewards and pitfalls," Elrohir said.
"Ai, but the princess, like her father and brothers, is hardly an ordinary Mortal. I can scarcely tell the difference between Imrahil's family and you and your siblings. You share well-defined physical similarities, ways of thinking and comporting yourselves," said Legolas.
"Then it is no wonder that Imrahil is called 'the Fair.'" Elrohir chuckled. "Such grace coupled with the sense of humor and magnetic charm of Imrahil's entire family, Faramir included, do exercise a pull on one, as you describe it," Elrohir answered.
Faramir reached them at that moment and said cheerfully, "Elrohir, should I be flattered or insulted? Legolas, good day."
"Not insulted. We were actually discussing my brother and his vulnerability with regard to the charms of a certain member of your family. He is morose and uncomfortable today," Elrohir said.
"Lothíriel?" Faramir asked, shaking his head. "I thought I noticed something between them. Is he infatuated with her?"
"That would be one way of describing it. Poor fellow suffered badly last night," Legolas offered knowingly, arching his eyebrows, looking to Faramir for confirmation that he understood him. "Perhaps someone should speak with Lothíriel."
"Oh," Faramir said uneasily, a bit shyly at first. "Awkward situation. Yes. I intended to speak with her after last night's, umm, experience, but apparently the urgency is greater than I had thought. I am sorry."
Elrohir chuckled dryly, "You have no reason to apologize, my friend. As for Elladan, I was just telling Legolas that he has only himself to blame. I take it Lothíriel's gift, if one might call it that, is not that common among the Edain?"
"Uncommon in general, yes, but not within our family. Someone ought to have thought to instruct Lothíriel more fully in its potential consequences," Faramir said quietly. "I hold myself responsible in part for that failure."
"I pity both Elladan and Lothíriel--not much, but a little," Elrohir said ruefully.
"After last night, I think I envy Éomer far more than I pity anyone," Legolas said blandly.
"Crude, unmannerly Wood-elf," Elrohir said smiling. "You must forgive him his youthful impudence, Faramir. He means no harm or disrespect."
Faramir laughed lightly, his eyes merry. "I thank you both for approaching me. You did the right thing. For the sake of the self-respect of my family, as well as that of my cousin," he joked. "Ai, there she is now with Éowyn and Húrin's daughter, coming in through the side door near the dais. Perhaps I can catch her for a few minutes. It is going to be a long day."
Lothíriel, however, had just spotted Elladan near the dais and decided that she must speak with him immediately. "I will find you in a little while," she muttered to her companions.
When she stood before him, Elladan turned away from her without speaking. She touched him on the shoulder to get his attention. He softly shrugged her hand away.
"Elladan, please, I need to speak with you. Just for a moment."
"What do you need now, princess?" he said haughtily.
"I wanted to apologize," she said.
"Apologize? Whatever for? Surely not for walking out on me last night? That was nothing novel. Why would I possibly have expected anything more from you?"
"No, Elladan. I am sorry. I meant about later…"
"Can you possibly wish to discuss your tasteless exhibitionism? Was your intent to wound or titillate, Lothíriel?"
She flinched as though from a slap across the face. "You cannot possibly have thought I did that deliberately."
"Indeed. I seem to recall you gave me quite the supercilious lecture not a month ago regarding the proper and courteous use of sanwe-latya. Now you would have me believe you could be so insensitive unintentionally," Elladan said scornfully.
"You are a swine," she snapped. "If I were a man I would…."
"I doubt that, Lothíriel. There are few in this room that could," he answered with maddening arrogance.
"Éomer might be one of them," she said spitefully. "If he thought that you said that I would do such a thing …. How can you think I would be so vulgar or that I want to hurt you?" she sputtered, before bursting into tears.
"Stop it," Elladan said, putting his arm around her and hustling her into the hallway. "Calm yourself. I am sorry that I spoke to you that way. You are the most infuriating woman I have ever encountered. Kindly tell Éomer to keep his pants on until you speak with someone about this," he said, his voice softening to a slight extent.
Faramir walked up to them, shaking his head at Elladan's last words. "Please excuse us, Elladan," he said firmly, but not unkindly.
"There, there, stop crying, Lothíriel," Faramir said tenderheartedly, pulling her in his arms. "You come from a long line of warrior princes, your father far from the least of them, you can handle this. I wish I could have spared you this unpleasantness, but what is done is done. We only a have a few minutes."
"You felt it too, Faramir?" she asked sadly.
"It was not so bad. I was quite preoccupied myself at the time," he laughed.
"Will I need some kind of lessons? Father, said perhaps Mithrandir can help me," she asked.
Faramir could not control a mild laugh. "Was Imrahil joking?"
"How can I ever know for sure with Papa? I took him seriously. If he was, it was a mean joke," Lothíriel grumbled.
"You need no lessons and surely Mithrandir has other preoccupations. Lothíriel, you must admit the thought of that discussion is humorous. Smile," he said with a naughty grin. "What you need to know is surprisingly simple and, actually, detracts nothing from the encounter. I think enhances it."
"Oh. So tell me, please," she sniffed.
"If you promise not to cry again." Faramir tilted her chin up a little to look into her eyes and said, "Also, do not fret about Elladan. He must be nearly 3,000 years of age. He can handle a little injured vanity and discomfort."
"I promise," Lothíriel said.
"It is simply a process of conscious visualization of separateness. Imagine clearly that you and your lover are completely alone together at that moment, removed from all else, as though on an island or in a cocoon. Untouchable, distant in time and space from everything and everyone else around you," Faramir explained softly.
"That is all?"
"It is enough."
"Who taught you that?"
"It was not Boromir, I assure you!" he laughed. "Sanwe-latya was not among his many gifts. His were much more tangible. He would have asserted more useful. It was your mother. I was an awkward and shy youth, when she first broached the subject, but I trusted her. She was a perceptive and kind woman. I am sorry that you never knew her."
"Faramir, it is no wonder that I love you so. You are the most sympathetic caring cousin anyone could ever have," Lothíriel said.
"You are remarkably easy to love yourself, Lothíriel. You should be aware of that and govern your interactions with others accordingly," he answered gently.
"Are you saying that I have been unkind to Elladan?" she asked.
"I do not know if that is true," he answered honestly. "Just be aware that sometimes one may attract attention to oneself without conscious effort."
"I will try. I trust you, Faramir. Thank you again," she said. "I am afraid I have kept you too long. We should go back into the hall before someone comes searching for you, Lord Steward of Gondor."
 Legolas's comparative youthfulness among Elvenkind in this story is based upon what I find to be convincing arguments in that regard in the articles "Legolas of Mirkwood, Prince Among Equals" by Ellen Brundige and Michael Martinez's "Speaking of Legolas."
 sanwe-latya – transmission of thoughts, exact translation from Quenya is "thought-opening."