2. Of Banners and Standards
The morning the Host gathered on the Pelennor, I left the Houses of Healing and walked along the ramparts until I could find a more open view of the fields. It was quite dark when I first slipped out. I had slight hope of seeing much, but I could not stay away. The wall was crowded with many others: women, children, the elderly. Where did they all come from? It was rumored that there were few left in the city. I had not the opportunity to see for myself, as I had not left the grounds of the Houses of Healing in days. Doubtless many had returned over the past two days.
At first we saw only dots of torchlight here and there. Then as the sky began to lighten I saw what I had hoped to see. The first light revealed the bold standard of Rohan with its valiant white horse on a field of green, a golden-rayed sun in the corner. How brave and daring it seemed to me, like those soldiers I had grown to love. My horse lord must have been somewhere near that banner. Silent tears, one, two, and yet another, trickled down my cheeks.
As the sky grew brighter I recognized our own dear banner of the silver swan-prowed ship upon blue. Was that Ada mounted next to it? The horses of the Swan Knights were much alike and the armor of my brothers is a good deal like that of Ada. Surely it was Ada. Finally, there was light enough that I could distinguish an elongated sable banner I had not seen before. It held the white tree of Gondor surrounded by glittering stars and above all of it the winged crown. I had been told it had been raised on the ships, which brought the king to the City, but I had witnessed none of that. At that sight, all my years of training in princely comportment and self-control were for naught. I nearly strangled trying to control myself and finally sobbed aloud like a child. Sorrow and joy, fear and hope all mingled with the momentous awareness that I was looking upon a sight I had truly never dared dream of seeing: the legendary standard of Elendil.
At last I could make out the entire host of the Lords of Gondor and their allies. So small they appeared on that vast expanse. So few mounted and so many on foot.
I watched them as they slowly moved out. I bawled, wiping my eyes and my nose on my nurse's apron like a heartbroken peasant girl. Thank Eru, no one here knows me, I thought. Just then a warm arm clutched me around the waist and a familiar voice said, 'Come along, little one, let us go back now.' I looked down to see dear, unflappable Ioreth, whose head barely reached my shoulder, offering me a clean handkerchief. Little one, indeed! My sobs turned into a hiccupping laugh as I looked down into her hopeful face.
'Did you see the standard of the king, princess?' I could only nod. Never at a loss for words, Ioreth, went on, 'What I have seen these past few days, Elves, Halfings, a Wizard and a Dwarf and now the return of the king. It gives me hope we will see these men return and with them a brighter tomorrow. Your father and brothers are with them, aren't they, dear? How proud and frightened you must be.'
Walking back toward the houses of healing, Lothíriel looked up to find that the flag of the Lord of Dol Amroth had been removed from the parapet and the white flags of the Steward of Gondor flew as they had throughout her life. Then Ada had departed with the Host as he planned and relinquished the stewardship to Faramir, which meant that my cousin must be greatly improved. I was grateful for that. Although I would be strong, I did not want to be left wholly alone in these days. Depleted as Gondor is and threatened, there is some hope if its governorship can still be shared among such worthy caretakers.
Back in her Rohirric ward, Lothíriel felt much calmer, as she tried to assimilate the events of the morning. The extremes of her hope and fear had subsided. She had arrived a little late and quickly began to serve breakfast to her patients. Finding them awake and much subdued, she was uncertain as to whether she should leave them to their thoughts, or to try to raise their spirits. She knew, from how badly they had behaved yesterday—lying and conniving to be declared fit—that they were loath to be left behind. She wondered if they would find it worse or better to know the details of the departure of their countrymen. Her horse lord would not be here today to give them courage. She finally decided to tell those with whom she could converse what little she knew.
She did not speak of how pitifully small the force of 7,000 warriors had looked on the Fields of Pelennor or how fully half of the Riders of Rohan had walked rather than rode. Most asked if she had seen the man who would be king of Gondor. Some asked of King Éomer of Rohan. She made it clear that, although she was too far away to identify anyone with precision, she believed her father the Prince of Dol Amroth had ridden at one side of the returned king of Gondor, with the Rohirric king on his other side, and next to him had been the silver Elven flag of Imladris, which she believed was carried by the sons of Elrond. She described the flags and banners she had recognized, with emphasis on the sable banner with the emblem of Elendil. They were not as conversant with the legends and history of Gondor as she was, but were rapt with her explanation.
Too late she realized that, in her eagerness to provide details, she had inadvertently revealed information about herself that was of avid interest. Many questions followed about her father, the answers to which were greeted with knowing, smiling nods.
"So, the Lady was raised in the household of a warrior prince and knows what it is to see her father and brothers ride off to battle?" a doughty gray-haired Rohír asked with a smile. "'Tis no wonder you are so brave and plucky amidst all this blood and gore." She understood that she had been paid a heartfelt compliment, although she felt it largely undeserved, for never had she been so close to war or its consequences. Later she perceived that, although she could not understand a word, this information was being eagerly passed around the ward.
"What are they saying?" Lothíriel asked.
"They say that Éomer King speaks highly of your father. They say your father is a fearless warrior. That Dol Amroth is an important ally for Rohan." He did not report that many said if their king wanted this dark-haired Southern princess they approved.
Almost universally her gaze met with smiles more affectionate than before. But disturbingly, there had been some mischievous rolling of eyes and chuckling as well.
Breakfast was finished and Lothíriel prepared the men to receive their usual morning visit from the chief healer. She could not begin to understand their reaction to learning that she was the princess of Dol Amroth. It was apparently a welcome, but humorous, bit of knowledge to these men. Was it funny that she was serving here? Was it laughable that she had an illustrious parentage? She was beginning to become irritated with their sudden curious interest in her when the Warden of the Houses of Healing arrived, with Ioreth in tow.
"Good morning, my lady. Ioreth tells me that you watched your father and brothers leave with the troops this morning."
Did she also tell you that I became hysterical? Lothíriel thought with embarrassment.
"The Lord Steward has also inquired of you and asked if he might see you. Ioreth has offered to look after your charges today. You have more than earned a day of freedom."
Ioreth volunteered superfluously, "I think they can suffer an old lady like me for one day, don't you, your ladyship? They know enough of wartime to realize that it is not usual to be nursed by such a pretty fine lady. But, what do I know of Rohan and what they may expect? Their own Lady Éowyn is without a doubt most lovely, even though she is still pale and far from well. In any case, they can do without you today. You need some time to yourself. And Lord Faramir could do with a visit from his kinswoman I would say." The solemn Warden allowed himself a tolerant smile.
"Thank you both very much," Lothíriel replied graciously. "I would like to see my cousin. He has been sleeping every time I have found a moment to look in on him. Is there anything I should do for him?"
"No, my lady, he does quite well. He is reading in his room now; but, if he wishes, he could walk in the garden later. He is expecting you." The Warden bowed in dismissal.
Faramir looked battered and pale, but, surprisingly, not despondent. He dropped his book and came to her, taking her into his arms, favoring slightly his injured shoulder, and stroked her long dark hair. And, finally, he lifted her chin, and looked into her eyes, "My dear little cousin, how good it is to see you."
"I will not let you make me cry again," she said with a quavering smile, willing the tears in her eyes not to spill over. I am always surprised at Faramir's face, his grey clear eyes fringed with heavy dark lashes, his broad white forehead with that wastrel tendril of curling black hair that he can never keep from falling onto it. He is so like and yet so different from my father. Yet he has more of my father in him than my own brothers do. It had often been said that Faramir and I resemble one another most among my father's and his sister's children. In those days when I had time for such vanities, it had pleased me that we were considered the handsomest of the lot. I knew not why, but that thought made me smile and the immediate danger of tears passed.
"I went to the wall alone to look down on the departing host today," Lothíriel said. "It was magnificent and terrible. Something I will never forget. When I saw the banner of Elendil, I squalled like a newborn babe. And in front of a large part of Minas Tirith! I was blowing my nose on my apron. Ada would have been proud indeed," she laughed with chagrin.
"Lothíriel, your father is proud of you. He told me yesterday how proud he was, and in front of kings and mighty lords too," he said teasingly and then continued more seriously, "The king spoke to me of the defense of the City and then Uncle Imrahil asked me to look after you."
"You are truly the Lord Steward of Gondor! What times we live in," she choked out, with a feeble laugh and a stifled sob, for Boromir, not her uncle. But Faramir knew how to make her smile, "Yes, little cousin, today in Minas Tirith you are only outranked by me."
"What am I thinking? Papa and the Warden entrusted me to look after you as well. You should not be standing so long so soon," she answered, leading him back to his chair and sitting at his feet. The Lord Steward of Gondor merited a small carpet even in this modest cell. I wanted to hear more about how Ada, who I thought I might never see again, loved me, was proud of me. I wanted to drink in the affection in my beloved cousin's gentle eyes.
"Did Ada tell you that the Warden here complimented me to him for not fainting or vomiting the night of the Battle of the Pelennor?" I wanted Faramir to laugh with me, to lighten his burdens as well as mine, and he did.
"Indeed, he did and how the wounded Rohirrim have adopted you. They say you are too hardy for a Gondorian noblewoman, that you belong on the plains of Rohan." I sniffed at that, thinking of how they were laughing at me today. Then I remembered how when my horse lord was kissing me I wondered what it would be like to ride across those wide plains with him. My brothers are right, I thought. I am but a silly, spoiled child. Always the youngest, the weakest, among all these men I loved. My mind must have wandered for some time, because Faramir took my chin and lifted my head again and spoke to me.
"Lothíriel, would it be too painful for you to tell me what you saw today? I should have been there. I would have insisted, but the king entrusted the City to me and I gave him my word." Faramir wanted to be cosseted too, but I would not have him turn morose on me.
"Silly Faramir!" I spoke to him as I did to my brothers. He and Boromir had ever been as admired older brothers to me, although less judgmental and more indulgent than my own. "Aside from your duty to Gondor, and the fact that only today the Warden has decided you are well enough to walk in the garden, you were nearly given up for dead little more than three days ago. You are as puissant as those wild Rohirric soldiers under my care. They were in an uproar yesterday afternoon. One of them fell and ripped the stitches out of his wound trying to prove to the Warden that he could stand and walk. But, if you promise to behave, I will tell you everything I saw." I got the laugh I wanted.
The rest of the morning passed swiftly. Lothíriel remembered a great deal more than she had thought she would. Faramir filled in missing details, from reports he had received the day before, and, amazing to them both, from his knowledge of myth and legend of times they had thought long past. He confirmed that Lothíriel's memory was correct, the narrow silver banner was indeed the standard of Imladris. He added that the sons of the Lord Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir, who had ridden out with the Dúnedain Rangers and her father's Swan Knights, surely must have carried it. At his prodding she accounted for the majority of allies who had joined the forces overnight. No one growing up in the house of Imrahil was short of knowledge of Gondor and its politics.
Finally, she suggested he should rest and she would return soon and, if he were not already in the gardens, she would fetch him and take him there. As she was leaving, she stopped in the doorway and asked, "Faramir, can it be that we have lived to witness these wondrous things only to see them pass away forever in an instant?"
"I too am filled with fear and dread, but am not without hope," he answered.
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.