15. The Prince of Ithilien
Much later that afternoon, Lothíriel slipped out of the assembly to oversee preparations for the banquet to be held that evening at the nearby Dol Amroth family townhouse. By the time she left the Great Hall, numerous commendations, honors, and promotions already had been distributed among the throng of Grey Company, Ithilien Rangers, Swan Knights, Rohirrim Riders, City Guard, and Tower Guard, to the accompaniment of repeated generous cheers and applause. The rowdy Rohirrim, high-spirited Swan Knights, and tight-knit Ithilien Rangers were nearly as enthusiastic in response to honors accorded complete strangers as they were to accolades given their own most beloved companions.
Although overly long and repetitious by nature, the assembly had been emotionally compelling. It was hard for her to leave, but Lothíriel had work to do. She stopped at the middle doorway to look back toward the front of the hall.
Faramir spoke again on a point of order concerning the continuation of the meeting. At that moment, he looked scarcely a day older than her youngest brother and cast in that same mold of entrancing Elvish beauty. There was no hesitation in his voice or mien and, if one knew nothing of his history, one would assume that he had spent his life in preparation to serve as Steward to the heir of Elendil, King of Gondor. Her father and Aragorn appeared relaxed and well rested, while Éomer, although he sat still and attentive, seemed to exude energy and restlessness.
She turned to open the door, when it swung open before her. She found herself inches away from Elladan's cool grey eyes. His cheeks flushed, as he quickly looked beyond her. "My apologies, milady," he said in a smooth low voice, moving aside to let her pass and bowing in the exaggerated manner of the most obsequious of Gondorian lords.
Lothíriel graced him with an elegant nod and polite smile, while softly whispering, "Damn you and your arrogance, Elladan." She quickly slid by him, not lifting her eyes to see the effect of her words.
In the early evening, Éomer sauntered into the well-equipped kitchen, grinning from ear to ear. It buzzed with purposeful commotion, a scene of well-orchestrated chaos. Lighter and airier perhaps, and much smaller, it nonetheless reminded him in many ways of the kitchen of the Golden Hall of Edoras before a feast. He immediately spotted her. Lothíriel darted back and forth between one post and another, an oversized, starched white apron covering her elegant gown.
After arranging an exotic variety of meat-stuffed green peppers on large platters, she clapped her hands when the last of them was complete and squealed with pleasure.
"They are perfect. I told you they would be," she said to a tall, dark-haired, full-figured woman.
Catching sight of Éomer, she rushed across the room to grab his arm and drag him into the center. "Éomer, this is Cook. She arrived from the castle in Dol Amroth this week to help us. No cook in Minas Tirith equals her."
"This is King Éomer of Rohan, Cook. I told you about him," she said conspiratorially. "Is everything ready for the sauce? I will do it now." She shot him an affectionate smile. "Just one more thing, Éomer, and then I can leave."
She poured the makings for a white sauce, including creamy cheese and crushed nuts, along with other ingredients, into a large but shallow pan over a low flame. Her face flushed from the heat. A fine tendril of damp hair escaped from her kerchief and plastered itself to her cheek.
Cook dropped a short curtsey and smiled up at Éomer. "There is no need for her to finish that, sire, but our princess always insists on claiming the final glory for herself."
Éomer waited for the objection that he assumed would follow.
"That is absolutely untrue. I tell everyone how wonderful you are. I just told Éomer, did I not?" Lothíriel said with an injured huff. "May I have the cinnamon, please?"
"Careful, princess," Cook answered. "Just a touch."
"Your definition of 'just a touch' and mine differ," Lothíriel said. "I want to be able to taste it."
"You don't want to overpower the flavor of the nuts," Cook insisted.
"Will you please step back away from the stove? I barely have room to stir. Who discovered this recipe anyway?" Lothíriel said, with a playful moue.
"Whatever you say, your ladyship," Cook replied, eyes merry, winking at Éomer.
"There," Lothíriel said, with self-satisfied approval, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand. "Éomer, did anything interesting happen after I left?" Before he could open his mouth, Lothíriel quickly turned away.
"Cook, let me make up just one set to see how they will look and then I will let you finish. I should hurry upstairs if people are beginning to arrive." She poured the thick, creamy sauce over a platter of stuffed peppers and scattered glowing, ruby-red pomegranate berries over the top.
"Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful," Cook said approvingly. "An elegant dish fit for a king."
"Fit for two kings, I hope," Lothíriel laughed. "Have you ever had pomegranates?" she said smiling up at Éomer flirtatiously and placing a single berry in his mouth. "These came into the port yesterday from the deep south."
She held her open hand in front of his mouth saying, "Do not swallow the seed."
Éomer kissed the palm of hand, touching it surreptitiously with his tongue as he deposited the seed there. "No, I have not," he answered, still grinning, thoroughly entertained by her antics. "They certainly are pretty."
"You still did not tell me yet if I missed anything," she said.
"You have not given me an opening," Éomer answered solemnly. "Unfortunately, you missed the part you would have most wanted to witness."
"Well, are you going to tell me?" she chided, untying her apron and leaning closer almost touching him.
"Aragorn confirmed Faramir as Steward, of course, but he also named him Prince of Ithilien and ceded him lands in the hills of Emyn Arnen. So, he is now a Prince of Gondor, co-equal to your father in rank and degree of sovereignty, and Lord of Emyn Arnen as well," he said.
"Yes. Yes," she squealed, grabbing Éomer's upper arms. Éomer gave a huge laugh, pretending to flinch and cover his ears. She threw her arms around his waist and squeezed him. At the sounds of her shrieks, the entire complex operation in the kitchen slowed to a near stop as everyone turned to watch the two with interest.
"Tell them. Tell them," she begged. "Listen, everyone," she said, "King Éomer has news for us."
Éomer repeated his announcement and the entire kitchen staff burst into whistles and cheers. At that moment, Erchirion poked his head around the door, breaking into laughter at the scene. He appeared to Éomer to be only slightly less wound up than Lothíriel.
"I presume you told them," Erchirion said, addressing Éomer. "Nearly everyone in this room has known Faramir and Boromir since they were babies. Faramir is much loved and admired by this entire household, as you can guess from the reaction to your report."
"Lothíriel," Erchirion continued, turning to his sister. "Papa requests that you and Éomer graciously present yourselves upstairs as soon as possible. He and Aragorn have toasts to propose. This has turned into quite a celebratory event. I hope that you prepared a feast equal to the occasion."
"I made an excellent dinner," Lothíriel said, sticking her tongue out at her brother, but unable to stop smiling or sound in the least offended. "Thank you, everyone," she added as she swept out the door, pulling the kerchief off her hair, throwing it and her apron in a heap on a nearby cabinet. Her dark smooth hair fell loose. Éomer felt a rush of heat for her. Enchantress.
However, Lothíriel would not be distracted from her joy for her cousin. "Well, Éomer, does that make Faramir a suitable match for your little sister?" Lothíriel asked, clinging to his arm, still beaming with irrepressible pleasure.
"Lothíriel, you well know my high opinion of your cousin, and, more importantly, that of my sister. In the letter that you delivered to me at Cormallen, Éowyn informed me in the strongest terms that Faramir was an admirable match, even if he were to have nothing after the war but a common soldier's pension," Éomer laughed.
"She was right," Lothíriel said firmly, "But I am so happy that Aragorn appreciates his worth as well."
"Aragorn is a wise man, Lothíriel," Éomer said, suddenly serious. "Faramir is uniquely capable and loyal. He is well loved, supported by many who may not yet share his unwavering loyalty to your new king. Generosity comes naturally to Aragorn, but he also understands that to deal with Faramir in less than the most magnanimous manner would be to his peril."
"That is absolutely clear to me, now that you mention it. But that is no reason for me not to happy for Faramir's sake, for my own sake," Lothíriel said.
"Of course not, my love. I just wanted to be sure you understand," Éomer said. "This is a happy case where politics and personal impulses meet."
"Why do I feel there is another layer of meaning to this conversation?" she said wryly.
"Because of your experience with such matters, princess. One cannot permit one's personal feelings to ride roughshod over political necessities," Éomer said laughing.
"Fine. I deserved that. You refer to my indiscrete little drama at the beginning of the assembly today," she answered. "There are details you should know in regard to that, but we must speak of it later. I do love you so, Éomer. I am fortunate that political expediency suits me well where you are concerned."
"And I am more than fortunate, I am blessed," Éomer answered softly. "Can I stay here with you again tonight?"
"I would not permit you to leave!" she said, clinging to his arm with both hands.
"What are you whispering about back there? Come along, you two." Erchirion called back to them as they neared the dining room.
The formal dining room glittered with dozens of sparkling candles reflecting against elegant glassware. Due to the heat, the large sconces along the walls remained unlit, leaving the room in a soft light, which only enhanced its charm. King Elessar sat in the middle of the main table, with a place reserved on his left for Éomer, while Faramir, as the guest of honor at tonight's feast, sat on his right. Éowyn sat next to her brother's empty seat, earnestly engaged in conversation with Prince Imrahil.
Lothíriel had originally intended to sit between Éomer and her father and place Éowyn next to Faramir, but after returning from the Merethrond and her uncomfortable encounters with Elladan, she decided a shift was in order. It was simpler in her haste to trade places with the Éowyn than reshuffle the seating arrangements of the Elves and Periannath strung along the other side of the table facing them. She had arranged for somewhat cumbersome elevated chairs for the Halflings and did not want to shove those around at the last minute. She definitely did not want to sit looking into Elladan's cold, accusing glare all evening.
She observed that Elladan apparently intended to behave in an appropriately courteous manner. He had turned his considerable magnetism to the task of insuring that Prince Imrahil and Éowyn enjoyed a pleasant dinner. Additionally, Merry sat directly in front of Éowyn now, which Lothíriel hoped would make up for any disappointment she might have felt at being seated so far from Faramir. For herself, Lothíriel was delighted to sit between Mithrandir and her cousin. With wisdom on one side and kindness on the other, I should be able to avoid friction tonight, she mused.
Frodo and Sam sat across from her, which pleased her since she spent far less time in their company than with Pippin and Merry. She had separated Legolas from the twins for a change and placed him next to Frodo, with Gimli on his left.
Oh, dear, Lothíriel thought, perhaps I should have seated Gimli by the twins. I do not want any drinking contests tonight, at least not until we are rid of the most tiresomely conservative of this crowd. I suspect I will not have to worry about such things in Edoras. I have heard that it is less formal and more open. As much as I love this City, I will not miss Minas Tirith polite society. Dol Amroth I will miss. Its courtliness does not extend to such pretentious stuffiness.
Lothíriel slid into her chair, reassured that she was pleased with her handiwork, just as Aragorn rose to his feet, glass in hand. Throughout the hall the most protocol-conscious of the Gondorian nobility vied to be the first to rise to their feet, unwilling to hold their seats while the king stood. Aragorn motioned everyone to sit down refusing to speak until all had done so.
Lothíriel raised her glass with her left hand so she could grasp Faramir's hand with the other. She turned to look at her cousin's youthful handsome face. With his checks flushed, he looked slightly self-conscious but happy. He squeezed her hand and looked down at her with a small grin.
She was overwhelmed with tenderness for Faramir, thinking of how many times she sat at this same table watching him while he endured impassively the implied or express disapproval of his father. Boromir, his jaw clenched defensively at some critical remark or gesture from Denethor, would try to catch Faramir's eye to reassure him. Faramir would avoid eye contact as though he feared the acceptance of any sympathy from his brother, however guarded, would provoke his father further.
After numerous toasts from Aragorn, her father, and Éomer, Lothíriel discretely signaled for the service of dinner to begin. The Periannath were fascinated at the array of dishes: roasted fat capons and piglets; meat and fish in puff pastry; steamed vegetables; fresh greens dressed with oil and vinegar; a rice dish laced with herbs, onions, and mushrooms; fruit and custard tarts; and familiar and exotic fresh fruits cunningly arranged on platters with a variety of cheeses.
Frodo and Sam inquired as to the ingredients and manner of preparation of every item; information that Lothíriel was more than happy to share. Frodo declared that Lothíriel's stuffed pepper dish was the highlight of the banquet, pleasing to the eye and tongue. Sam insisted on knowing the origin and nature of cultivation of its ruby-red berries.
Lothíriel finally leaned over to her cousin and whispered, "Faramir, I am so happy for you today. I just want to grab you and kiss you." She did exactly that and Faramir smiling indulgently, kissed her upon the forehead.
"The two of you resemble one another remarkably," Frodo said, with a gentle smile. "More like brother and sister than cousins."
"Thank you, Frodo. I have been told that hundreds of times, but I never tire of hearing it," Lothíriel replied happily.
"Lothíriel is easily pleased," Faramir added teasingly. "I am the one who should be flattered. I am often asked to broker an introduction to my beautiful cousin. Although less frequently of late, as there are few these days who dare to compete with Éomer for her affection."
Lothíriel controlled a flinch at his comment and glanced at Legolas, surreptitiously trying to catch his eye. Legolas assiduously avoided visual contact, but Lothíriel thought she saw a mischievous twitch playing around the corners of his mouth.
"Few perhaps, but not all," Legolas volunteered mildly. Mithrandir stifled a chuckle.
Lothíriel noticed that Sam and Frodo at first looked puzzled, but then as one glanced down the table at Elladan who spoke earnestly with Imrahil and Éowyn. Lothíriel fleetingly thought of how satisfying it would be to grab Legolas by his beautiful neck and choke him just a little, but she did not give him the satisfaction of even a sideways glance.
Then Gimli let out a loud expressive snort. "We'd all have to be blind not to know who that might be. Only an Elf would be so overconfident and cheeky."
That cracked her careful control. "I refuse to tolerate any nonsense from the two of you tonight," Lothíriel said in a low hiss, glaring at Legolas and Gimli, which gained her no reverential treatment, but, instead, a burst of rowdy laughter from their section of the table. Faramir shot her a sheepish, apologetic look, which she returned with one containing affection and exasperation in equal parts.
Not easily daunted, Lothíriel added, "There will be no drinking games either, at least not until the last stiff-necked Minas Tirith bureaucrat has departed for the night."
Aragorn turned in their direction and, leaning across Faramir, asked, "Is there a problem, princess?"
"Do not arch that handsome eyebrow at me, King Elessar. It is Legolas and Gimli who are determined to cause trouble," Lothíriel said, trying to sound forbidding, but softening into an admiring smile as she met his eyes.
"Gandalf, do you not agree that she will cope rather well in the Golden Hall?" Aragorn asked matter-of-factly.
Mithrandir replied smoothly, "I think Princess Lothíriel's forthrightness will be appreciated there."
"Princess, would you consider making a trip to Lothlórien via Rohan on my behalf?" Aragorn asked. "It would involve going to Rohan with Éomer, Éowyn, and a mixed military contingent, staying a short while, then onto Lothlórien, and returning here by midsummer. I would like a Gondorian lady in the contingent and you, of course, immediately come to mind. Elladan and Elrohir would be along for the entire trip. The first two legs of the journey will be anything but leisurely."
"Are you serious? I can keep up with anyone on a horse. As far as the company goes, I promise I will be absolutely as correct and politic as can be. I would do anything to be able to see Lothlórien. Oh, please send me," Lothíriel pleaded.
"I will speak with your father and Éomer and if they have no objections, we can discuss it further," Aragorn said warmly, yet his eyes questioned her.
"Thank you. Thank you," she gushed, ignoring the implied question with the predictable rashness of youth.
Faramir absently stroked the top of her hand, which rested on the table between them. The steward met his king's glance briefly but meaningfully.
It had been a long day and most of the company had slept little the night before. It looked to be an early evening. Meanwhile, all of the doors on the first floor were left open to allow the ingress of air from the portico and to ease the movement of people in and out of the main dining room. Minstrels and musicians played on the portico at Lothíriel's request, also with the intent of drawing people out of the house and into the open air.
Lothíriel leaned against a balustrade with her back to the city lights talking with Éowyn, Éomer, and Faramir, when Imrahil came to fetch Faramir to talk with Aragorn at the far end of the portico. Lothíriel could not take her eyes off her cousin as he walked toward Aragorn. In a few minutes, she saw that Elladan and Elrohir had joined the king's circle.
She was bursting to speak of what Aragorn had said to her about the possibility of accompanying them to Rohan. She watched Aragorn closely to see if he spoke at any length with Éomer and Imrahil. Now that she was alone with Éomer and Éowyn, she could no longer contain herself.
"I really want to tell you something, but I do not know if I should or not," Lothíriel said.
"Ai, Lothíriel, are you asking us for permission or discretion?" Éowyn asked laughing. "How can we possibly give you either when we have no idea what it is?"
"Well, then perhaps, for once, I should keep my own counsel," Lothíriel answered uncertainly.
"Out with it, love," Éomer said.
"It involves a horse," Lothíriel began. "I do not have a horse."
Éowyn laughed, "Nearly everything in life involves a horse."
"You do not have a horse?" Éomer asked sadly. "How did you come to Minas Tirith with your father?"
"I had a great horse—great in every sense of the word—in size, intelligence, and valor. My brother Amrothos's horse went lame the day before the Battle of Pelennor and I wanted him to have the best. So, I gave him my Bliðefreond. The Swan Knights prefer light greys. He was a dappled grey. My brother returned, but, alas, he did not," Lothíriel said, her voice breaking.
"You gave your horse a Rohirric name?" Éowyn asked intrigued.
Lothíriel answered, with no small amount of pride, "He was of pure Rohirric stock, my Bliðefreond. I called him 'cheerful friend.' He was not one of those large cold-hearted horses but warm-hearted, mischievous. True, he was better with some people than others. He loved me and was fond of Amrothos."
"Ai, he was no horse for a lady. I remember little of the events on the Pelennor. However, I do remember that horse and your brother. He was not cheerful when I saw him, but true to the end," Éomer said respectfully.
"I never had the heart to ask my brother how he fell," Lothíriel said. "Will you tell me what you saw?"
"If you wish," Éomer said gently kissing her hand. "I was alone and sorely pressed, when a knight rushed to my side. I did not know him then, but it was Amrothos. His horse was a magnificent dappled grey, clad in resplendent gear, worthy of a prince's mount. We held off our attackers together until your brother was unhorsed and I again was nearly overcome. I saw that he had lost his helmet and his lance, but he leapt immediately to his feet."
"I will never forget the sight of him. His black hair was pulled back in tight Elven braids. When he stood, he appeared pale and stunned, but drew his sword, as though by reflex. I was pushed farther away from him, as he stood unmoving for what seemed a long time. It struck me how tall and broad of shoulder he was, but that his face was astonishingly young and fair. I was certain he was lost. A man unhorsed does not last long in a battle like that one."
"Meanwhile your stallion wheeled from side to side, rearing up and crashing his legs down again and again, fighting off all who dared approach your brother. Your brave horse became the target of every foul lance and arrow. By the time your horse fell, your brother had recovered his wits and fought like a fell demon until his comrades spotted that he was down and surrounded him."
"It was at that moment that I first saw the black ships. Everything passed quickly then. Shortly thereafter, I spotted the standard of Elendil. It was hours later before I was before learned that your brother lived and that he was Imrahil's son," Éomer finished softly, with a deep sigh. She leaned against his chest as he placed his arms around her shoulders.
"Thank you, Éomer," Lothíriel said. "Amrothos never told me what happened and I did not want to ask. I did not want him to think I expected an explanation. He simply said, 'I am sorry. I lost him.'"
"I doubt he remembers much," Éomer answered. "I would not remember as much as I did, if it were not for his face and his youth." He laughed softly. "Imrahil and his children do catch one's eye."
"What could you possibly want with a trained warhorse?" Éowyn asked in a skeptical but kindly voice. "Whatever made you choose a horse like that?"
Lothíriel answered, "Youth, arrogance, or perhaps, unbeknownst to me, it was Bliðefreond's destiny to save my brother's life. Also, he was such a joyful horse. He frightened others, but he was mellow with me, most of the time. He had a sense of humor."
"Lothíriel, my love, what a find you are. Many would say that only a Rohír would claim that a horse had a sense of humor," Éomer said, reaching his hand up to caress the fine soft hairs on the back of her neck.
"You are wrong, brother. You should hear Elrond's sons talk about horses," Éowyn teased. "It is another example of that same Elvishness that so entrances you. You don't even recognize it anymore."
"I will find you a horse tomorrow. A funny one, if you prefer, but perhaps a bit smaller, maybe a well-bred mare."
Lothíriel laughed through her tears at the boyish mocking face he made as he looked over her shoulder and rolled his eyes at Éowyn.
"Stallions are much more exciting, although at times a bit dangerous," she said, running her thumb lightly across his lower lip. Éomer waited smiling, apparently curious to see how far she would take her game.
"Truthfully, I would be happy with a pretty mare or gelding, my horse lord. I am no longer so rebellious that the choice of a horse becomes a highly charged political statement for me. But I do love a horse that recognizes a good joke," she answered only half teasing.
"No discussion about which horse we have among those that arrived yesterday who may or may not be comical enough to suit Lothíriel. That could go on for hours," Éowyn said impatiently. "Now I must know: What is your urgent need for your own horse when you have done without for more than two months?"
Lothíriel saw Faramir first as he drew near to them and noted how Éowyn's face brightened at the sight of him.
"What, more talk of horses?" Faramir said smiling at Éowyn.
"Éomer was telling Lothíriel how he saw her horse save her brother's life," Éowyn said.
"A noble, intelligent animal," Faramir said sadly. But his voice became more cheerful as he asked, "Did she also tell you how her father refused to buy him and she used her own coin? That was not a pretty story. Did she tell you what a clown he was and how only she and Amrothos could handle him?"
"Yes, she told us he was funny, but not that she deceived her father to acquire him. And that she rode him from Dol Amroth to Minas Tirith," Éowyn said.
"How was that ride, Lothíriel?" Faramir asked mildly, his eyes sparkling with mirth. Éowyn's gaze was fixed admiringly on his face.
"Exhausting," Lothíriel admitted, with a light, self-deprecating laugh. "Amrothos took turns with me, but, as you can well imagine, not without exacting a price. I received no help in grooming him, although there were Swan Knight esquires who helped me with his heavy tack. The whole affair provided amusement for the troops, Papa not least of all. Not entirely a bad thing, considering the grim circumstances of the trip."
"You seem to frequently find yourself the center of attention, Lothíriel," Éowyn said dryly, but not unkindly.
"The youngest and girl, with three noisy older brothers, and no mother," Faramir said, "it is not surprising she developed methods of compensating. Somehow I cannot imagine that you slipped around the Meduseld unnoticed, Éowyn."
Éomer laughed aloud, "Faramir, you are wrong. Éowyn was a quiet, meek little thing. She barely spoke at all and kept her opinions to herself. It is only since she met you that she has become so aggressive." His sister slapped him hard on the arm, looking up at Faramir warmly.
"Éomer, these women distracted me. I came to tell you that Aragorn wants to speak with you, when you have a moment, about some details of your travel back to Rohan," Faramir said.
"Then I will find you later," Éomer said to Lothíriel. He walked across the room to where Aragorn and Imrahil stood.
When Éomer reached Aragorn, Lothíriel noted with relief that her father greeted Éomer briefly before leaving the other two men alone together. She finally permitted herself to consider what reservations Aragorn might have regarding sending her to Rohan and then onto Lothlórien. She had not the slightest doubt that he was concerned about her relationship, or the lack of one, with Elladan.
When Éomer approached Aragorn, he was leaning against the wall of the terrace, his long legs stretched out before him, lighting his pipe.
"Good, Éomer. I have something I want to discuss with you," he said between puffs, checking the bowl of his pipe to see if the light had taken.
"Could it have something to do with Lothíriel?" Éomer asked with a grin. "She has been dropping broad hints that she had news she was anxious to share that would involve securing a horse for herself."
Aragorn laughed, "That sounds like your betrothed. I mentioned to her earlier that I was thinking of asking her to accompany the party that will go with you and your sister to Rohan and continue on to Lothlórien."
"I am sure that she is more than pleased with that suggestion," Éomer said. "If there is anything written about Lothlórien or Imladris that exists in the libraries of Minas Tirith or Dol Amroth that she has not read, I think that only Mithrandir or Faramir would know where to find it."
"I realize that she is as well informed as anyone. Not just about Elvendom, but the history and affairs of Gondor. That could be useful. However, my thinking is that her presence would show the support of the Lords of Gondor. Her presence is not indispensable, but it would have its uses, more for the sake of Gondor, than for my bride or her family," Aragorn said.
He took a deep breath and continued, "I want to hear your opinions--political, of course; but, actually, I am more interested in any personal concerns you might have relating to the proposal."
"I would like her to come to Rohan in August, but sooner is better, although it would not be for long," Éomer said. He cautiously added, "I presume that the personal matters you speak of have nothing to do with Rohan, but with her continuing on to Lothlórien with the brothers Elrondion."
"Yes," Aragorn said.
"She told me that Elladan tried to make love to her last night," Éomer said.
Aragorn groaned. "I knew something had passed between them, but I did not realize it had gone that far."
"It could not go far on the terrace in front of the Great Hall," Éomer said with a dry chuckle. "She was far from disinterested, but she did turn him away, although not before he had claimed a kiss."
"You seem remarkably unperturbed about it," Aragorn said.
"Why be agitated about it? The fact that Lothíriel allows me to read her thoughts makes me far less anxious that I otherwise might be. I know she loves me and wants to be my queen," Éomer said.
As he studied the calm, serious face of the young king, Aragorn wondered if he should be reassured or troubled by Éomer's composed responses. He thought of his own passionate jealousy as a young man. He recalled a time when he had felt threatened by any rival for Arwen's attention. However, he mused, as he considered his own memories, that he had been much younger than Éomer at that time, in both years and experience. He wondered if Lothíriel was Éomer's first serious love. Based upon his own knowledge of social customs in Rohan, Aragorn thought that, whether she was or not, it was nearly certain that Éomer had a number of romantic dalliances in his past.
"I suppose the ability to link directly with her thoughts could certainly reduce the possibility of misunderstandings," Aragorn said skeptically. "But what of Elladan? How do you feel about his pursuit of her?"
Éomer threw back his head and laughed aloud, "I wish he would find someone else's girl to chase after."
Suddenly serious, he continued, "I'd like to think that I would behave better, but in his position, perhaps I would do the same. The difficulty for me is not Elladan, but Lothíriel. When I asked her father for her hand, I told him that I would not bind her save by her love alone. I mean that. I refuse to limit her opportunities for my own peace of mind or convenience. As you can imagine, I will not soon forget how close I came to losing my sister to despair when she believed that she faced a life constricted by the whims of others."
"You wish then for her to make this trip?" Aragorn asked, still uncertain.
Éomer laughed. "If I ask her not to go for my sake, she will agree. But I fear that to deny her the chance to see Lothlórien would be far more dangerous to our future happiness than the amorous attentions of all the Elves in Arda and Valinor combined."
 Bliðe + freond = cheerful friend
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.