7. The Celebration
The sweet high tones of clarions announced the assembly on the long lawn of the field of Cormallen as their small group walked toward the dais, where the Lord Aragorn waited for Prince Imrahil and King Éomer to take their places with him as the leaders of the armies of the free peoples of the West.As the two men walked away from Lothíriel to join the returning king, she studied Éomer and thought: The love I have for this man could help build the unsullied future for which we have yearned. My line is old and diluted. But, I can hope to unite Elvish legend of ages past through the legacy of the faithful of Númenor to the young blood of the resilient truehearted Rohirrim. Suddenly the audacity of her own ambition frightened her. Do I attempt to turn my passion and his need into something more than it is or could be?
For the first time since she had arrived in Ithilien, Lothíriel looked at her father searchingly and saw the cost of this victory on his gentle face. Despite his noble Númenórean mien, Imrahil had visibly aged in the past month. His face was strained, stretched thin, and he hid a haunted look beneath his smile. She remembered the night he had led the near suicidal sortie out of the city gates to rescue Faramir, only to nearly lose him again to Denethor's final descent into madness. The Battle of the Pelennor followed and, finally, the march to the Morannon where he again risked not only his life, but also those of his three sons.
Her brothers bore their scars as well, perhaps more deeply concealed. Their characteristic high spirits persisted, but she made out a guarded glitter in their eyes that was not there before. She had seen that look before—of too much horror and bloodshed—in Éomer she realized. She had sensed this darkness was not as new to Éomer as it was to her brothers. Yet, here in the sunlight amid this great assembly held to honor the heroes of this struggle and pay homage to its fallen, she believed that each of them could now begin to heal. She did not try to blink back the tears of recognition that, at long last, the darkness had truly passed. The shadow that she had known throughout her life, tamped down and controllable at times, or sinister and looming as it had been those last days in Minas Tirith before the fall of Sauron, had now ended.
Lothíriel took her place at the front of the assembly along with her brothers, Riders of Rohan, Swan Knights, Northern and Southern Dúnedain, and the Lords Elladan and Elrohir of Imladris. In places of honor stood the stalwart luminous Prince Legolas, the doughty Dwarf Gimli, and the two youngest Periannath, Pippin and Merry, awaiting the foremost among their fellowship, the Ringbearers, to make their appearance. On all sides, the sun reflected harshly from rank upon glittering rank of the armor-clad warriors who had risked all for this victory.
The wearied Lord Aragorn that Lothíriel had observed in the chaotic Houses of Healing the night of the Pelennor had transformed. As King Elessar, he stood before them high and glad of face, kingly, lord of Men, dark-haired with eyes of grey.
"My friend," Aragorn said smiling as he warmly clasped Prince Imrahil. Turning to King Éomer, he caught him in a rougher embrace and with a sudden wide grin, said, "brother." Lothíriel could not resist peeking at Amrothos, who was near to bursting with suppressed amusement. Each instantly understood what the other was thinking. Lothíriel thought, Amrothos thinks of Denethor! He could not have greeted his own sons with such affection. Everything, indeed, has changed and for the better. As Lothíriel turned from her brother, she caught Éomer's eye and knew by the flash of his slight controlled grin at her that he had understood as well.
Aragorn turned solemn, straightened and looked out over the crowd, which hushed instantly, expectant. Then Mithrandir the wise led the Ringbearers, Frodo and Sam, to the front of the assembly, whereupon they were greeted with glad shouts and the clatter of raised swords and spears.
Minstrels sang out in Elvish and in the Common Tongue:Long live the Halflings! Praise them with great praise!
Praise them with great praise, Frodo and Samwise!
"Praise them with great praise," the crowd shouted in response.
Aragorn stepped forward and fell to one knee in homage before Frodo and Sam; the entire assembly followed. Rising, he embraced each of them in turn and led them to take their places on either of side of him on the dais. The clear voices of minstrels rang out with more songs of praise and joy.
Finally, a war-hardened, grey-bearded bard of Rohan took up his battle harp and began a Rohirric lament, nobly pathetic and heroic, in honor of all the fallen and their own Théoden King. The bard did not accompany his deep sonorous chanting with any melody, but with a profoundly moving growling bass harmony laden with all the sadness of mortal men. After the bard completed his chant, Éomer rose to his feet, nodded to the old harpist to play for him as he chanted a translation of the lament into the Common Tongue.Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow.
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning?
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?
His voice was pure and deep. Lothíriel looked up at him. He was magnificent. His manner was free of pretension and he was utterly unembarrassed at his own tears. I will love this man and stand by him forever, Lothíriel thought. By all the Valar, I hope that we do not take on more than we can handle. His people have suffered so much. He is young, I am younger, and he was not raised to be their king. There was a moment of silence and then a gigantic roar went up from the Rohirrim warriors. Amrothos leaned close to Lothíriel, sensing her need for reassurance, and whispered to her, "They adore him, for he has served Rohan valiantly and risked banishment and imprisonment to stand up to Grima's treachery in defense of their king." For the moment, Lothíriel took comfort from her brother's words and linked her arm with his.
After more songs of sorrow, praise and jubilation, Aragorn stood; the vast assembly rose to its feet; and he led them into the pavilions to a sumptuous banquet, where they ate and drank for the rest of the day. Lothíriel sat between her father and her oldest brother, but this was no formal dinner of the sort held in the great hall of Minas Tirith or even the castle of Dol Amroth. There was much moving about and visiting among all of those seated near them. Several times Éomer came to sit on one side or the other of her, as Elphir or her father moved about to speak to others.
Her father seemed more relaxed than he had earlier that day and for the first time she had the opportunity to speak with King Elessar. She had told him of the recovery of Faramir and of Éowyn, what she knew of the repair efforts on the first levels of Minas Tirith and of her work with her much loved Rohirrim in the Houses of Healing.
Lothíriel delighted in the kind and gentle manner of this handsome new King of Gondor and spoke with him in complete candor.
"You surely have learned some Rohirric then?" Aragorn asked her.
"Yes. Like the words for ale, mead, and beer. All things in short supply in the Houses of Healing," Lothíriel laughed. "And several words for horse," she added, "eoh, hengest, hors, and mearh are a few that I remember."
"Among all of those valiant young warriors no one thought to teach a beautiful young woman any gentler words?" he teased her, laughing lightly.
"You mean like words of love. Oh, no, the Rohirrim soldiers are most respectful to me and Éomer speaks perfect Elvish, with a charming accent," Lothíriel said. Then flushing a furious red, she continued, "I have no talent whatsoever for dissembling."
"That is a characteristic that will serve you well, if you become attached to Éomer. The Rohirrim value straightforwardness," Aragorn answered seriously. "The last Gondorian consort of a king in Rohan had little of that and scant respect for its people or customs either."
"Yes, you speak of his grandmother, Morwen of Lossarmach. I know something of that history. But, Éomer has not raised the topic with me," she answered.
"Speaking of love in Elvish was more urgent, perhaps," Aragorn said smiling. "But I do not doubt he has considered it."
"He has had the opportunity to observe my interest in his countryman and their affection for me," Lothíriel answered. "Perhaps that reassured him."
"Perhaps you are right. I have observed that, although he is willing to take risks, they are calculated. The loyalty he receives from his men has been earned," Aragorn added thoughtfully.From a distance, Imrahil watched Lothíriel speaking with Aragorn with interest. He thought, she is a fit consort for any king--beautiful and the highest-ranking woman in Gondor. She is but a girl and yet appears as self-assured with this great man as she is when she speaks with her brothers. However, like all of us, she deserves a respite. Circumstances have forced her into tasks beyond her years in this past period.
Later in the evening Prince Imrahil was speaking with a Gondorian noble in a somewhat isolated corner. Éomer followed him and lingered nearby waiting to catch him alone.
Éomer finally was able to approach Imrahil. "My lord," he asked earnestly, "may I speak with you about Lothíriel?"
"I presume you wish to tell me that you want to marry my daughter," stated Imrahil flatly, impatient. Éomer found himself reddening, but fought his rising irritation at Imrahil's dismissive tone.
"Want to marry her? With all my heart, I do. So, I gather, would half the men of Gondor. More importantly, she has told me that she also desires to be bound to me. I believe that she can be the queen that Rohan needs. She is loved and trusted already by my troops. But aside from all of that, for myself alone, I want you to know that I never have and never could love anyone as I love her," Éomer declared.
Imrahil listened and then replied, "I have told all of my children that I would never hold them to a match based purely on political expediency. I have also promised them I would not object to any reasonable choice of their own based upon love. However, Lothíriel is a girl of scarcely twenty years of age. I cannot agree to her betrothal at this time."
"Sir, I did not come to you expecting a formal agreement here and now, but to admit that I have spoken to her of love and would not hide this from you," Éomer replied softly.
Imrahil's face shadowed with thought, "I appreciate your honesty, but must ask you to have patience. I do not wish to discuss this matter now."
Éomer's eyes narrowed, "So, prince, we will discuss it again later." He turned away from Imrahil with a small, sharp bow. Imrahil apologetically grabbed his arm and clasped his hand firmly as he left.
* * *
After the full moon had risen, the feasting gave way to music and dance. The music of flutes and viols joined that of the harpists and pipers and Lothíriel was immediately swept into the whirl of it. There were so many men and so few ladies. She danced with Swan Knights she had known for years, with her brothers, with her father and many others. Rohirrim who she had met in the Houses of Healing bowed to her with a fierce, untutored grace and led her onto the floor. When their comrades-in-arms saw she was adept at not only the elegant courtly dances of Gondor, but also with the rollicking swift movements of their own lively tunes, every Rider of Rohan wanted to partner the dark-haired Elvish beauty who had captured the heart of their young king.
Lothíriel did not see Éomer when he came upon her from behind and claimed her for a dance. Éomer caught his breath at her look of such apparent pleasure in her surprise. He took her in his arms and whirled her about in the slow graceful movements of a tender courtly melody. "I have always wanted a man who could dance," she grinned.
"You do not lack for competent dance partners," Éomer chuckled. "The Dol Amroth knights seem particularly skilled."
"The people of the coastal regions of Gondor are known for their love of music and dance. Yet, you are the equal of any of them. I find skill without passion rather boring," Lothíriel teased.
"The truth is, Lothíriel, I find being this close to you so provoking, so irresistible, that I am surprised I am not stepping all over your feet. Is that passion enough for now?" Éomer shifted closer, his mouth pausing just a finger's width from her lips and whispered, "I love you and I shall never tire of telling you so, little princess."
She whispered, "I love you," back to him with a tremor in her voice. The power of her physical craving for him combined with her foresight of a shared destiny mesmerized and overwhelmed her. He smiled down at her tenderly. "Do not fear. No matter what the obstacles, I will love you forever and will never, ever let you go."
Lothíriel reached up and brushed the unruly straw-colored hair away from Éomer's eyes with her fingers. Her voice caught as she asked, "What obstacles?"
"It seems your father is not ready to release you yet," he answered softly.
Éomer leaned down and covered her tiny, confused "Oh" by touching his lips to hers, briefly, chastely when the music ended. "Do not worry, Lothíriel, I will fight for you."
Lothíriel approached Imrahil and asked, "Will you dance with me, Papa?"
"Of course I will, my darling girl," he answered, relieved that although he had seen her speaking with Éomer, who he thought had doubtless told her of their discussion, she apparently was not going to pout or complain. His reprieve would not last long.As they moved onto the dance floor Lothíriel looked up at her father, waiting, relentless, to see what he would say to her. He recognized her expression of ardent stubbornness. Imrahil knew that look so well. My children have no fear of me, he thought. I have Denethor to thank for that. I avoided at any cost that I would ever see in my children the silence and apprehension I saw in Faramir and Boromir in their father's presence.
Imrahil finally sighed deeply and spoke, "So, Éomer King tells me he is quite taken with you and that you share his interest."
"Share his interest?" Lothíriel hissed sarcastically. "Papa, what did you say to Éomer?" she demanded icily, careful to suppress the wild anger she felt growing in her chest.
"I did not say I looked unfavorably on his suit. Éomer is unquestionably a man of honor and trust. He is as capable a field commander as I have seen and has inspired loyalty and confidence in his people. But, he is a young man and has been thrust unexpectedly into the kingship of a devastated, war-ravished country."
Lothíriel realized that her father spoke in complete seriousness and obviously expressed a strongly held opinion on the relationship between her and Éomer. It became clear to her that an immediate betrothal with a short waiting period was not at all in Imrahil's plans, which, although she had not realized it until that exact moment, was exactly what she had been hoping would be the result of this discussion.
"Papa, listen to me. We love one another. He needs me," she nearly sobbed.
"Neither of you are competent to make such assertions. He is a young man; one who has a suffered much for his years, and is starved for beauty and the comfort of a woman's love. You are caught up with an ideal of a handsome, noble warrior," Imrahil said, losing patience.
"You think I know nothing of war and warriors, after those terrible days in Minas Tirith? If you believe that I can still romanticize about such things, then you must think me a fool, indeed," she insisted.
"I should not have left you there alone, with Faramir so ill," Imrahil said sadly.
"Your precious, righteous Faramir was not too sickly to fall in love and no one will try to keep him from the one he has chosen," she answered bitterly.
"It is impossible to have a rational discussion with you, Lothíriel."
"But I love him, Papa. That is all you need to know!" she cried. Imrahil reared up, outraged.
"Love? What do you know of that emotion, Lothíriel? You who are barely twenty years old and brought up sheltered and protected? You and Éomer do not even know one another."
"Do you truly think we are so blind and stupid? I could simply take him as my lover and you would be none the wiser," she spat back at him.
"Neither of you would settle for that. You are both too aware of your obligations," Imrahil insisted, his voice softening.
"You contradict yourself, Papa. You cannot have it both ways," Lothíriel answered, almost regaining some control. But then she felt a surge of pure panic, "Papa, you cannot do this to me. How can you deny me this?" she asked desperately.
They stood staring at one another in the middle of the dance floor. Tears of rage and frustration spilled from Lothíriel eyes. "Papa!" she whispered frantically. Her father took her arm, led her from the dance floor into the darkness on the side, and then took her face in his hands.
"You frighten me, Lothíriel," he said gently. "It is your unbridled, near frenetic, passion that worries me. The two of you are as transparent as glass; everyone sees it. I have seen such attachments before and they did not turn out well." Imrahil signaled for his esquire, miming that he wished a drink.
"Papa, you lived the life you chose and raised us to be independent. Is it not a little late for you to change your practice?" Lothíriel stated, her voice betraying anger and disappointment in equal measure. Imrahil was encouraged that she did not pull away from him.
"I feared I would never see you again and you cannot give me one single day of peace." Imrahil asked, taking the glass his esquire offered and placing it in Lothíriel's hands.
"Thank you kindly, Papa. This should solve my problem," she answered disdainfully downing the small glass in one quick swallow. Imrahil's love of spirits, excessive according to Lothíriel, who could nag him like a wife at times, was a subject of long-standing dispute between them.
Back on more familiar ground, Imrahil shook his head in frustration, "Stay here until you are calmer. We cannot discuss this now. I will send Amrothos to talk to you," Imrahil said, thinking of how Lothíriel favored him of all her brothers.
"That shows astonishing judgment, Papa. Sending Amrothos to lecture me about love," she retorted to Prince Imrahil's retreating back.
* * *
The description of Aragorn "high and glad of face, kingly, lord of Men, dark-haired with eyes of grey" and the song of praise to Frodo and Sam is taken from "Field of Cormallen," Return of the King. The Rohirric lament, "Where now the horse and the rider?" and description "laden with the sadness of mortal men" (used by Legolas to describe the language of the Rohirrim, but I use it to refer to a form of their music) are from The Two Towers, "The King of the Golden Hall."
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.