3. Waiting in the Shadow of Doom
In the days following the departure of the Host, Lothíriel's duties lightened. The Warden released many of the Rohirrim from her care. They were a sturdy breed and even the threat of doom could not keep them down for long. Those freed from their confinement returned to visit their convalescing comrades, bringing gossip and offers of help, which she gladly accepted. And when they came, and strolled among the bedridden, she recalled the kindness of her horse lord to his injured troops in those first days after the assault on the City had been turned back.
He asked me for a memory, Lothíriel thought. But I am the one left with time on my hands to remember. His thoughts cannot be of me, but of his duty and the almost certain doom he faces. If I do not have the remembrance of love, at least now I have known desire, and though it pains me greatly, I have no regrets. No, gratitude. I would not have lived without ever having known this at least.
The days passed slowly in Minas Tirith. Even the most garrulous were hard pressed to produce any but the paltriest scraps of information. With no news at all, even rumors are hard to create. There was much argument in the ward as to the speed with which the host might be traveling and incessant calculations of how many days it might take to reach the gates of Mordor. The earliest day upon which it was surmised that the armies of the West might have reached their goal came and passed without event.
Despite the shadow under which they lived, spring would come. The hardier of the first blossoms were replaced with ones that required more sun in those few, but seemingly endless, days. Faramir, obviously smitten, was often to be found in the garden in the company of the Lady Éowyn.
She is beautiful, of that there is no doubt, Lothíriel thought. But the source of Faramir's attraction to Éowyn was lost on her at first. It was hard for Lothíriel to imagine her as the shield maiden of Edoras who brought down the Lord of the Nazgúl, so self-pitying she could seem at times. Faramir had warned Lothíriel of forbearance, saying Éowyn had told him more of her suffering than he could share with her and that he suspected there were dark things she would not speak of.
Walking into the garden Lothíriel spied them together and sighed audibly. The Perian Merry, stepped into her path, startling her.
"Sorry, milady, I didn't mean to give you a fright," he said agreeably.
Laughing, Lothíriel replied, "Oh, Merry, I did not see you."
"You don't seem pleased to see them together," he nodded in the direction of Éowyn and Faramir.
"Perhaps you are right. My cousin is the best of men and yet she treats him so coldly and seems to ignore his obvious feelings for her."
"Surely, as the Princess of Dol Amroth, men sought after you when you had little interest," Merry said. "Her heart is breaking for another, who will not return her love."
"She told you that?" Lothíriel asked, surprised.
"She is not a lady who keeps much to herself. She is as honest as they come. Reminds me a bit of you in that. But you've had a happier lot in life." This time it was Merry's turn to sigh. Lothíriel blushed. She wondered for the first time if Éowyn's toleration of Faramir's attempts to comfort her could be perceived as kindness on her part.
Lothíriel did feel affection for the White Lady of Rohan. She liked Éowyn for her lack of pretension and ready wit. But Lothíriel's own irritability, throughout the endless wait, caused her at times to want to grab Éowyn by her lovely neck and strangle her for her relentless brooding. Faramir bore it with what seemed to Lothíriel to be heroic patience.
But Éowyn's melancholy did lessen slightly day by day. And there were times when they could and did talk and even laugh companionably for short periods. Lothíriel learned that the Lady of Rohan could be most easily distracted if she told stories of the virtues and foibles of the Rohirrim in her ward or when she made humorous comments on her own behavior.
One day, desperate to break the Lady's gloom, and, as much as she loved them, thoroughly tired of talking of horses, Lothíriel found herself speaking of her own secret obsession.
"There was a Captain of Rohan who came many times to see the injured before the Host departed. I am sure you would know of him. I liked him. I spoke with him, but I do not know his name," Lothíriel ventured.
She had caught Éowyn's attention. Focusing a sharp eye on Lothíriel, she said, "Marshall, probably."
"What?" Lothíriel smiled, mimicking Éowyn's tone, catching Faramir's eye. He slyly smiled back at her. She had grown accustomed to, actually enjoyed, Éowyn's abrupt unpretentious remarks. Éowyn did not deal in courtly mannerisms. Lothíriel did, and could do it well, but preferred not to, especially among friends.
"I meant he is probably a Marshall. Captain is a term used in Gondor. What does he look like?"
"He is nearly as tall as Faramir and has a lot of long golden hair, a little darker than yours." At that, both Faramir and Éowyn laughed uproariously—her description fit the majority of the Rohirrim in Minas Tirith. Lothíriel saw the humor in her remarks and was forced to join them. What a fool I am to have started this, she thought. Faramir gives me that infuriating, patronizing smile that I have seen so many times on my brothers' faces. But, at least I have made them laugh.
Undaunted, Lothíriel gave Faramir a peevish look, and ploughed ahead, "I think anyone would judge him extremely handsome. He looks very strong, but is not one of those broad, heavily built men you grow in Rohan. He has an easy boyish smile."
"That eliminates all but a few. Do you have any other clues you can give me?" Éowyn asked.
"He first addressed me in Elvish. I think he sought to taunt me as a fine Lady pretending to work as a nurse."
"That would be my brother," Éowyn said flatly.
"Éowyn, I do not think that he could be your brother," Lothíriel said, blushing, something Éowyn missed, but Faramir did not. "The men obviously look up to him, but he is not formal and they joke and even argue with him—not at all in the way soldiers would interact with their King!"
"Think what you will, Lothíriel, but these are men of the Mark and not of Gondor. The people of Rohan are warm," Éowyn replied stiffly. Faramir caught Lothíriel's eye and he gave her a warning look, knowing she thought Éowyn most cool.
Éowyn continued, "They owe their allegiance to the House of Éorl and obedience to the King as its representative. But they are warriors, not politicians. Many of them have ridden with my brother since he was sixteen years or younger. He is their King, but also their brother-in-arms."
"Éowyn has a point, Lothíriel," Faramir said. "There is the question of circumstance. Rangers under my command treated me differently around a campfire in the wilds of Ithilien than they would have in the halls of Minas Tirith in the guise of the son of the Lord Steward of Gondor. You have observed these men in a situation of informality that you would not witness in the normal course of events."
"So you are saying the man I met was the King of Rohan?" Lothíriel asked with agitation.
"How many Rohirrim of command do you think there are who are young, fair of face, are able to speak Elvish, and would have the audacity to flirt with a Princess of Gondor?" Éowyn asked.
"None of them knew me to be a Princess," Lothíriel insisted.
This time Éowyn grinned and laughed, "There is a saying in the Mark, 'You would know her to be a Lady if you met her slopping the hogs.'" Lothíriel was unsure if this was a compliment or insult, but she suddenly felt unexpectedly cornered.
"I did not say he was flirting with me," Lothíriel protested.
Faramir interjected, "You did not need to say so. As your manner betrays you as a noblewoman, so your blushes tell us that this man has captured your heart. Since I assume that you did nothing to pursue him, he must have done something to catch your attention."
"He asked me for a kiss," Lothíriel blurted out.
"And you granted his request," Faramir stated. "I do not think badly of you, Lothíriel, these are difficult times. But, as you know, your father asked me to look after you and I would hope if there was anything more you would tell me."
"Then it must not have been my brother you encountered after all. He is always discrete when it comes to women. I cannot imagine that he would kiss a young unmarried noblewoman unless he intended the honorable pursuit of her heart," Éowyn quickly added, with a surreptitious and wicked wink at Faramir.
"I have stayed much longer than I should have. I have to go back to the ward." Lothíriel flounced off with an uncharacteristic abruptness worthy of Éowyn herself. Faramir was uncertain if she was angry or embarrassed or both.
The White Lady of Rohan sighed deeply and looked, as was her wont, toward the East with a melancholy gaze, after a few moments she spoke. "Your cousin is a young woman with a generous heart. She dislikes seeing me despondent and exerts great effort, even at her own expense, to distract me. I can easily understand why my brother has fallen in love with her."
"My Lady, your perspicacity surprises me," Faramir answered with a smile.
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.