29. Funeral Games in Minas Tirith
The sun rose hot and clear on the day of the tournament to be held to honor King Théoden. The entire populace of Minas Tirith, and most of all the knightly participants, had hoped for more temperate weather, but bright sunshine flooded the playing field that had been set up near the city gates. Even the canopy that shaded the royal enclosure offered little in the way of relief from the midday heat.
Lothíriel found her place in the stands immediately behind Arwen and Aragorn. The queen turned around to greet her friend her cheeks flushed with excitement. With her bright eyes and silky fall of black hair, Arwen looked indeed to be the loveliest woman in all of Arda.
Their honored guests from Imladris and Lothlórien were seated, fair and bright, on both sides of the king and queen. Lothíriel nodded to Elrond, Galadriel, and Glorfindel greeting them in flawless High Elvish.
Lord Celeborn stood and took her hand, helping her maneuver into her place behind him next to Éowyn, as she spoke to him courteously in her native Sindarin, exaggerating her coastal accent slightly, which he had somewhat nostalgically revealed to her in Lorien reminded him of his years in the Belfalas area. She released a deep sigh. The sight of the silver-haired elf-lord's sculpted cheek bones and finely arched brows reminded her of Elladan, which made her think of her apprehension about Éomer, who had already left the house before she had awakened.
Arwen turned and took Lothíriel's hand pulling her down a bit closer, as though she sensed Lothíriel's anxiety, and said, "The colors of Dol Amroth suit you well. I knew that was the right dress to choose. Does not she look lovely, Estel?"
Aragorn was less covert in his concern for her emotional state. He stood and leaned toward her after Lothíriel had taken her seat. He squeezed her hand and gave her a light, brotherly kiss on the forehead, "You look very beautiful this morning."
"Thank you both," Lothíriel said. "I got little rest last night."
Arwen reached to stroke the top of her hand. "Arguing or making love?" she asked, with warm sympathy but a knowing glint in her eyes.
"Both," Lothíriel answered.
"If had been only one or the other, I would be more worried about the two of you. Were you as foolish as Lothíriel when you were a young woman?" Aragorn asked Arwen.
"No. I can't say that I was," Arwen responded. "But this is hardly the place to discuss that."
Lothíriel ignored their remarks. She wanted to leave the king and queen to their argument that promised to take their attention away from her, but she felt compelled to comment upon her personal situation again. "He came back to my room drunk."
"Did he?" Aragorn asked, more of statement than a question. He added unnecessarily, "He left the banquet hall drunk as well." Lothíriel did not hold back a chagrined laugh at the memory of Éomer's late return to her room.
"He wasn't the only one who had more than enough to drink last night," Arwen commented with a glance at her partner.
Lothíriel was not sure how Éomer made it intact from the Merethrond to the Dol Amroth townhouse. No doubt with a great deal of assistance from his loyal guards. Although he had kissed her good night as she left the great hall, promising to follow, she had more than half-expected that he would end up sleeping somewhere else.
She had gone to bed and tried to sleep--a complete impossibility. When the downstairs door opened she heard him stumble and swear. The sounds resembled those that Amrothos had made but a short while earlier, except this time the cursing was in Rohirric, rather than the elegant Elvish of the upper classes of Dol Amroth. She had rolled over to her side and pulled the sheets up under her chin determined to feign sleeping. After a few more audible lurches on the staircase, then again in the upper hallway, the door to her room opened.
"Silly bitch," he swore under his breath. She flinched at his words. "Do not think you can pretend you are sleeping; I am not yet that far gone."
"Stinking drunk," she answered, unable to keep her relief out of her voice.
Éomer stumbled against the bedstead, rubbing his thigh, and looking at her appealingly with whipped-puppy-dog eyes. "Ow!"
Lothíriel jumped out of bed and pushed him down into a sitting position on its edge. "Let me help you with those," she said, beginning to pull his boots off while shaking her head like an irate, scolding wife.
"What this?" He clumsily fingered the gossamer-fine fabric of her summer nightgown. "Were you planning on going somewhere tonight, my lady?"
"Silly. It is a sleeping gown, Éomer."
"Usually don't wear such a thing."
"Well, how was I to know if you were coming home to me, or planned to stay all night, making an even bigger fool of yourself, saying more embarrassing things to Arwen about her being the fairest lady that ever lived and other such hyperbolic nonsense."
"Whoa, girl! Don't get carried away with yourself. As I recall, you are the villain of this piece." He grabbed her under the arms and lifted her to straddle his lap, pushing her gown up to her waist. "I only told the queen she was pretty and..."
"You said a good deal more than that."
"...I am not the one who slept with her brother." He laughed, though a flicker of pain crossed his face.
"Nor were you tempted. He is really not your type." She wished she had swallowed the words before she had spoken them but, as usual, too late.
"What is my type? Are you my type, you over-bred fine lady?" he asked, with a lopsided, inebriated grin. Éomer leaned forward and kissed her softly at first, increasing the pressure until his tongue pressed through her lips. He shifted a little sliding her body back away from him and reached to down to touch her, stroking gently. She responded with a surprised vocalization, more of an inelegant squeak. He laughed softly, pleased. Releasing her lips he kissed her on each eyelid. Lothíriel felt the panic that had gripped her tightly in the chest for the entire day and evening slowly begin to recede.
"Awfully sure of yourself aren't you?" he asked, his voice a dangerous growl, while his eyes crinkled around the edges threatening another big grin. "Or perhaps still hopeful?"
"Dreadfully, desperately hopeful," she said.
He stood up, lifting her effortlessly and throwing her into the middle of the bed before he collapsed across her body, eliciting a startled squeal.
"Shhh. Sorry. Careful. You'll wake up your 'da." His voice slurred again, as though the move to a prone position had addled him. Then in a clearer voice he asked, "How hopeful? How desperate?"
"As much as you want me to be."
"Oh, my love, I want you to be very, very desperate," he said, his crooked smile looking simultaneously wicked and boyish to her. "Do you want me little one? How much do you want me?" He gave her no opportunity to answer, only taunting, teasing, touching, with lips, fingers, tongue-interspersed with more questions to which he wanted no answers. "Did your elf-lord know how much you like this?" "Or this?" "Or how wild this can make you?" He finally entered her with long, slow movements, intended to torment as much as to fulfill. She had nearly forgotten his skill and endurance, had almost begun to think of those as Elven traits alone. In the end she forgot everything outside of the taste, the scent, the feel of him, until he cried out at his undoing. He rolled off of her and pulled her up against him, holding on much too tightly for comfort.
"It is not enough, what I asked you to give me of yourself. I lied. I want everything," he said.
"Éomer, I . . . "
"S'all right. Go to sleep now. Didn't mean to say that. I'm drunk, sweetheart. People stupidly tell the truth when they are drunk. Tell nice-sounding lies when they're sober."
He finally loosened his grip on her and she was able to fall asleep. When she woke up in the morning, he was gone.
Éowyn's strong voice jolted Lothíriel from her rumination.
"I hope the archery and the sword work on foot is held before the events with the horses. The sun is much too hot for the horses right now."
"Do not worry, Éowyn. Your brother insisted," Aragorn answered. "Although it caused Legolas some anxiety."
"What? Lothíriel asked. "Legolas was worried about the archery?"
"Apparently, some prevaricating Lórien archers got to him with their alcohol-fed bragging last night," Glorfindel said, chuckling like a boy, breathtaking in the dazzling sun, golden hair resplendent against a dark red tunic of Elvish cut.
She saw for the first time the resemblance to the legendary elf-lord that the peredhil brothers had seen in Éomer. It lay not in the similar bright hair, height, strong build, or martial manner, but the openness of temperament and playful sense of humor. Neither the darkness of the Eastfold under the shadow of the Enemy nor the treachery of Grima Wormtongue in the Meduseld had taken it from Éomer. And Glorfindel had kept that lightness as well despite the fall of Gondolin, the fiery Balrog, and loss of his House and family. By the grace of the Valar, if I am granted another chance, I will do what I can to insure that Éomer never loses that warmth due to further careless stupidity on my part.
"With all respect, Lord Glorfindel, there are at least a half a dozen of my archers who will make Legolas work for his prize," said Celeborn, with a laugh. "And I saw the Lord Steward of Gondor and some of his Ithilien Rangers practicing. Shooting at a stationary target in plain view is child's play for them compared to aiming at a flickering movement through thick woods under the shadow of Mordor."
Éowyn nudged a sharp elbow into Lothíriel's ribs and mimed fanning herself in appreciation of the obvious charms of the golden and silver-haired elf-lords. Lothíriel grinned in agreement.
"Ah, but it is elven eyesight that will be a distinct advantage at the end," Aragorn said.
Gimli said, his gruff voice well heard along the entire row of seated dignitaries, "I beg your pardon, my lords, but Legolas will take them all barring malfunction of equipment. His nerves are evident only in the anticipation. In the moment he will have none."
"I think you are right, Gimli," said Aragorn, "but it will not be a rout."
"Humpf," grunted Gimli, earning him a smile from everyone within earshot.
Lothíriel twisted and squirmed in her seat, aware of her fidgety impatience but unable to control it, constantly looking down the field toward the entrance to the enclosed area. Éowyn heaved a hearty, irritated-sounding sigh and whispered into her ear.
"It is a beautiful day. We are here to honor my uncle and enjoy ourselves. I am not in the mood for your foolery. Is there something you would tell me?"
"Shhh. Not here. Not now. But thank you for your ever gracious concern."
"I have not seen Éomer drink so much in months. And now you sit here behaving like a skittish horse that is ready to bolt. Something is up."
"I cannot speak about it now, Éowyn."
"Then settle down and watch games. Here they come now. Oh, my, who is that dark-haired elf?"
There was more than one elf with black or dark brown hair, but Lothíriel did not need to ask of whom she spoke. Both young women studied a broad-shouldered, tall elf, with powerfully expressive features in the Noldorin mold. Clad in a shirt of fine and intricately linked mail that Lothíriel was certain must be fashioned wholly of mithril, so brightly did it glitter in the sun, he held a red-plumed headpiece of ancient design under his arm. He turned to speak to Elrohir and a broad smile sharply illuminated his theretofore-serious face.
"Calm yourself, Éowyn. That is Erestor, chief counselor to Elrond, and surely as old as him or even older-but just wait until you see him up close. He has those Aman-lit eyes like Glorfindel and Galadriel. He is said to have fought alongside the sons of Fëanor in the great historic battles."
"And you traveled in the company of so many beautiful elves for weeks. It is a wonder you were not tempted," whispered Éowyn, before releasing an unladylike guffaw and saying aloud, "But look at Faramir. Your cousin is most comely even in comparison to all of these fair-faced elves."
Aragorn snorted in front of them and Arwen slapped him on the arm. Lothíriel desperately struggled for a way to distract Éowyn. She lowered her voice: "Discounting Faramir, of course, who I agree is handsome, even compared to these elves, which of them do you think is the most attractive? Erestor? Glorfindel?"
"Definitely Erestor. He has such a dangerous, troubled look. I am drawn to the dark, brooding type," Éowyn said, without a second of hesitation. Lothíriel laughed aloud. "So which one do you prefer, Princess? Glorfindel?"
"Shh, Éowyn. Your voice really carries. Elves have unnaturally good hearing."
"Don't be silly. They would know I am only teasing you. Anyway, look at everyone who has gathered on the field of front of the stand. Every elf and man below is looking over the ladies in the stand like they are thinking of buying one."
"That is an important convention of the games. Each of the participants must chose a lady to champion. Faramir will pick you. Then the lady must then give her champion a token of her acceptance. Like a veil or ribbon or scarf to tie onto his lance or helm or his arm. It's an honor to be chosen and a courtesy to accept. Each knight dedicates his performance at the tournament to honor his chosen lady."
"Oh, my, how courtly! What if some truly hideous, orc-like creature asks to be your champion?" Éowyn asked.
Lothíriel grunted and then snapped, "Ai, Éowyn, do you see anyone like that out there today?"
"No actually not. Although there are one or two of my countrymen that I am not overly fond of... Well, I don't have to worry. Faramir will ask me first and do me proud," Éowyn said, lifting her chin and tossing her hair, utterly unaware of how girlish it made her look. "Oh, Lothíriel, look at Elladan now. He's staring at you like he'd like to rip your throat out."
"I see him. He likes drama, I've learned."
"Unlike you," Éowyn scoffed. "It's no wonder the two of you get along so well, or better I should say, put so much energy into choosing not to get along. Oh, here comes Éomer now."
Éomer looked well, Lothíriel observed, especially for someone who ought to have had a terrible headache. He shot her a brief glance before lowering his eyes to where Arwen and Aragorn sat directly in front of her.
Lothíriel concentrated on looking out onto the field beyond. In the first ranks of warriors who had arranged themselves directly in front of the stands, Legolas stood next to Elladan, who was still frowning but tried to arrange his features into a more placid mode when she in glanced their direction. Legolas grinned and gave her a wink, shrugging and nodding his head with an odd jerky movement. The blond archer was apparently trying to communicate something to Lothíriel but she had not the faintest idea of what it might be. He gave up with the useless head twitching and pointed to his chest. Lothíriel still hadn't a clue and pulled her eyebrows together, then raised her shoulders and widened her eyes to signal that she couldn't understand. Elladan looked at Legolas and scowled again.
At that precise moment, Éomer's voice rang out, with the resonance and volume that Lothíriel had come to associate with him giving a speech or greeting his troops. "Queen Arwen, the most beautiful, kind and gracious lady of all assembled here today, will you grant me the honor of acting as your champion in these games?" Lothíriel quickly straightened her shoulders and snapped her jaw shut. Of course, as the only king on the field today, he had to ask Arwen. Thank, Eru, I have Legolas. That was what he was trying to tell me.
Arwen stood and removed a white scarf, worked in silver, from her sleeve and extended it toward the handsome king. "The honor is mine, Éomer King of Rohan. I gladly accept your service." The crowd broke into cheers and Lothíriel tried to smile and clap appropriately, although her attention was drawn to a small commotion among Elladan, Legolas and Elrohir. Legolas, his eyes fixed forward, was muttering something to Elladan, while Elrohir on the other side held Elladan's arm in a tight grip. Elladan wrenched free of Elrohir's hand and stepped forward to replace Éomer, who had bowed to the queen and returned to the ranks of knights.
"Princess Lothíriel, I offer myself as your champion. Will you accept me?" Elladan asked, in a voice that carried throughout the assemblage.
Aragorn swore colorfully under his breath. Arwen, touching his arm, whispered, "Estel, watch your language or you will make yourself a greater spectacle than my foolish brother."
"Never mind," Galadriel said, patting Arwen in the hand. "I have seen so much worse. These are only games. No one is going to try to kill anyone else."
Lothíriel rose to her feet with every ounce of regality that she could summon under the circumstances, extending a bright blue veil toward the now-blushing Elladan, from pique or embarrassment, she had no idea.
"I cannot refuse your offer, Elladan Elronnion."
Many thanks to DarthFingon for corrections on this chapter (and a suggestion for a rewrite of the first paragraph that I just stole outright).
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.