5. Chapter 5
It was a measure of the importance of the occasion that her father came to escort her to the reception. It was usually left to one of her brothers. He looked her over and a smile appeared on his face.
"You look lovely, Lorí, lovelier than I have ever seen you." He kissed her on the top of her head. Why did they all do that? It must be because she was so short, she decided. She was quite pleased though: the dress did look lovely and it showed off her figure, in fact it was cut quite low, showing much more of her 'attributes' than usual. She could not help taking a secret delight in that, but best of all: the Queen had sent her own personal hair dresser to attend her. It had upset her own maid, of course, but Elda was ancient, she had been maid to her own mother. She was very conservative about hairstyles. Now, although she still had the braids, some had been teased out to produce pretty little soft ringlets around her face. It looked much better.
"Are you very anxious about meeting Éomer?" Imrahil asked sympathetically.
"Not at all," His daughter replied, as neutrally as she could.
"Oh," her father was surprised. "I thought you would be quite nervous."
She shrugged, "I have to meet people all the time. It will be no different." Let him think it meant nothing to her. She was not going to forgive him yet.
"Lothíriel," her father sounded quite incredulous, "you are going to marry him, it will certainly be different."
"It is a political alliance, Father. There is no point in me getting excited or nervous about it."
Imrahil shook his head in bewilderment, "I was hoping that it may develop into something more than that."
She smiled, it was not fair really and she knew now, that in spite of how angry she had been at the time, he had done what he thought was for the best. She squeezed her father's arm and reached up to pop a quick kiss on his cheek. All at once she was conscious of the fact that she being unreasonable and she really wanted to return to their previous close relationship. However she was not able to admit that her first encounter with her future husband had pleased her greatly. "Do not worry; I have heard so much about him and I think we may deal reasonably well together. I will try anyway."
"Good," he let out a sigh of relief, "I am sure Éomer will try as well. You must take the opportunity to get to know him whilst he is here."
Get to know him? She bit back a retort. She knew exactly what it would be like. Éomer was only here for a few days and, most likely, they would be chaperoned for all that time. Her brothers, who had seemingly done everything they could to push them together, would now, she would take a bet, hardly let her out of their sight. If she knew anything about Gondorian propriety then the next time she would be alone with him for more than a few minutes, they would be married. It was totally ridiculous. Oh well, there was nothing she could do about it, she just had to be grateful that they had had a short time to talk to each other. Whatever would her father say if he knew Éomer had carried around in his arms? She giggled to herself: she had definitely enjoyed that.
Now though, truth be told, she was indeed becoming increasingly anxious. It was not the prospect of meeting him again, but the ordeal of everyone watching their meeting. Thank goodness it was a private reception; she supposed it could have been worse.
It seemed no time at all before they were approaching the carved wooden doors to the ante room that the King used to entertain his private guests. A footman opened the doors and father and daughter entered the room. It appeared to Lothíriel that all eyes swung in her direction; she however, only had eyes for her future husband who was standing next to King Elessar, directly opposite the entrance. He somehow looked quite different than he had that afternoon. There had been no doubt that he was a nobleman of course, but that boyish charm, which was so evident then, had now been replaced by an aura of power and authority. It was tangible from across the room and she knew that even if she had not known him, and even though he wore no crown, she would have no trouble believing him a king. It could surely not just be the replacement of the wool tunic by a rich velvet one? All her nerves came back and she almost stumbled as her father led her over to the two Kings. But training kicked in and the Princess dropped into a deep curtsey she hoped would encompass both monarchs. She rose expecting her father to start the introductions but before he could do so Aragorn took her hand and pushed formal protocol aside.
"Imrahil, my friend, I am sure you will not mind if I have the pleasure of introducing your beautiful daughter to Éomer." The king grinned and before her father could answer turned to the King of Rohan. "Éomer King, I have the pleasure to present Lothíriel, Princess of Dol Amroth and Gondor, Lothíriel I have the honour to introduce, Éomer, King of Rohan, Lord of the Mark."
The Princess bobbed another curtsey and Éomer reached for her hand, taking it to his lips, "I have been greatly looking forward to this meeting, Princess." He gave her a broad wink. She nearly gasped out loud, petrified that her father would notice, but luckily Éowyn had taken his attention, appearing from behind Faramir.
"You had better introduce me now, I wish to talk to Lothíriel and reassure her about my brother before she runs out the door in fright." There was a general outburst of laughter and the tension in the room eased, there were only close friends and family there and all wished to dispense with too much convention now that the formal introduction was over. Éowyn took hold of Lothíriel's arm and pulled her to the side of the room, thrusting a drink in her hand, "Faramir has told me so much about you that I feel I know you already. She grinned at her brother, "You can talk to her through dinner." Lothíriel took a large gulp of wine causing the Rohan girl to laugh "You probably needed that, I can think of nothing worse than having to first meet the man you have been promised to, in front of a roomful of people, even if they are family and friends. I was so angry with the way it was arranged."
"Yes, I know."
"You do?" Éowyn looked puzzled.
Damn, she was no good at this, but then luckily she remembered something her cousin had said, she had thought it strange at the time. "Yes, Faramir told me."
"I was cross with him, but I was even crosser with Éomer. I could not believe he would do that. Were you very upset?"
"I was then but I am not now. I am happy to be Queen of Rohan."
Éowyn cast an appraising look over her, "Faramir says you are repressed, we both think Éomer will be good for you….."
"Éowyn," the voice was firm but held a glint of amusement, "Go and talk to your betrothed and leave me to talk to mine." Éowyn looked as though she was not going to comply but then she wagged her finger at her brother, "Well, don't bully her and don't talk about horses," she ordered.
"She likes horses."
"How do you know?" Éowyn looked between them.
Before Éomer could think of a reply Lothíriel answered for him. "I imagine one of my brothers must have mentioned it, I understand they told King Éomer all about me."
"Well done," he said relieved, after Éowyn had left them. "Are you allowed to drop the King bit now we have been formally introduced?"
"I am, with your permission, and you may call me Lothíriel. Actually, my family call me Lorí. I am sure you can if you wish, after all King Elessar does." Now that she was talking to him again hers fears vanished. It was probably just when he was talking to the King of Gondor that he had looked so stern.
"Hmm ... It suits you, sweet and dainty."
"Don't you mean short and dainty?"
"No, you are not that short." He chuckled suddenly, that boyish look returning, "Did you really think I was eight foot tall?"
"You would not believe the stories our men came back with: they said you were a giant and rode a monster."
Éomer laughed out loud, "Firefoot is a monster; he is the greediest horse I have ever come across."
"You two are getting on then?" Amroth had sneaked up on them; at least that is what his sister thought. "He went looking for you this afternoon, Lorí. I am surprised he did not find you."
"We were not introduced until this evening," Éomer stated blandly. "And I might say, Amroth, that having at last been introduced to your sister; I would appreciate a little time to talk to her, alone."
Amroth poked him in the ribs, "As long as it is only talk then you can have as much time as you like."
At that moment the dinner gong sounded and, ignoring Amroth, Éomer offered her his arm and led her away. "Are you nervous about standing up with me in front of all those people?"
"Not so much as I would have been if we had not met this afternoon," she answered truthfully.
Lothíriel was glad to sit down for a moment, she had been dancing ever since dinner had finished. Faramir and Éowyn were sitting at the table with her, but they were talking quietly and looking deep into each other's eyes. She did not mind: it gave her chance to think, and to study Éomer He was talking to her father, Aragorn, and an elderly Gondorian noble, whom her father had always respected, and was now one of Aragorn's chief advisors. She smiled to herself; the King had danced with her and given her permission to call him that, except on formal occasions of course. After all, as he had said to her, she was now betrothed to one of his closest friends. Éomer was looking serious, stern and kingly, and yes, there was no doubt, incredibly handsome. He wasand listening intently to what was being said. She liked watching him, wanting to find out as much as possible about the man she was going to marry. At least she could not fault his manners and behaviour tonight. They had kept up non-stop conversation through the meal, not surprisingly it was mostly about the difference between Dol Amroth and Rohan. He had held her hand tightly when they had stood up to drink the betrothal cup, and quietly reassured her. They had led the dancing and he kept whispering things to make her laugh. Admittedly, it was rude remarks about the snobbish expressions of some of the nobility of Gondor, but since she agreed with him, it did not matter. He had danced many dances with her, and only a few with others and they were married ladies whom, she realised, were the wives of friends he had made in the war, or of his own Riders. She had noticed a few glances thrown his way from some of Gondor's beauties, but to be fair, he seemed oblivious of them. She was grateful, being under no illusion: if she was not a princess, her father's daughter, then she was sure he would not even have noticed her. Tripped over her probably, as she had told Elphir all those months ago. What was fascinating her though, was his ability to change personality depending on whom he was with. He was only a couple of years older than Amroth and younger than Erchi and when they were around he behaved not much differently from them. But looking at him now you would think he was a lot older. Thinking back to the day before in the library, and how he had acted with her, she came to the conclusion that he had a multifaceted personality. It must be the responsibility of being a king at such a young age, she thought, trying to imagine Amroth, or even Erchi, taking on the task of rebuilding a country and feeding its people. He deserved all the help she could give.
The Princess gazed around, the hall was thinning; it must be getting late. A footman arrived with the fruit juice she had asked for; she was too thirsty for wine anyway. Éomer had shown surprise when her father had only allowed her one more cup at the dinner table. He was sitting the other side of her and every time the wine came round automatically put his hand over her goblet. 'Why does he do that?' Éomer had whispered. She had whispered back, 'Because I am liable to say or do something totally outrageous when I drink more than two or three cups.' He had grinned at her wickedly and, as soon as her father was looking the other way, tipped the contents of his goblet into hers. She had found it difficult to stop laughing. Smiling to herself once more Lothíriel realised that Éomer was leaving the group, she saw him say something to her father and head back in her direction.
"Would you like some air before retiring? Your father does not mind as there will be many others out there."
She nodded, and he guided her through the remaining dancers until they reached the side doors, leading to the Place of the Fountain. It was a warm spring night and many people were strolling around the perimeter wall, looking out over the Pelennor. Lothíriel found herself in the same place she had stood after her talk with Faramir and she climbed onto the same flower trough. This time though, her betrothed was holding her hand. They were not saying much but the silence was companionable, the Princess happy in the stillness. She imagined Éomer was thinking some of the same thoughts she herself had mulled over back in December. She peered over the wall, far below her she could see the glow of campfires from the wedding guests lodged outside the city. The noise from the revelry, in the streets below, was wafting its way up to their lofty position.
"Too many torches here to see the stars," he suddenly said.
"I like to sit outside the castle at home and look up; it is very dark with the torches on the walls shining inwards. Sometimes there are so many stars it looks like the sky is full of jewels."
"We have an expression in Rohan, it more or less translates as, 'the jewelled sky', you can lie on your back in the tall grass at night and see nothing but stars."
"You do that often?"
"I used to, when we were out on patrols and spent night after night in the open on the hard ground. My life has changed somewhat, no time for things like that."
The Princess touched his arm, "I am sure you will get chance again when you have your country back to rights."
"I hope so."
She hesitated, but then he had been frank with her, "I stood here after my talk with Faramir; it is where I decided to write to you about learning Rohirric. I went straight to the library and borrowed some books on Rohan. Before that I had been pretending it was not going to happen."
Éomer put his hands around her waist and lifted her down; he looked straight into her eyes. "Did it bother you that much?"
"At first, but I thought about it out here, of all that had happened. I decided that I had to do my best for your people because they had sacrificed so much."
"Lothíriel, Lorí," he smiled. "It is why I was happy to agree to our marriage, you are a princess, brought up to do your duty for your country. Rohan's needs come first with me; it is no good me marrying someone who does not understand that."
"I know, and we made our bargain."
He chuckled, "I would kiss you again if I did not suspect that one of your brothers is probably hiding behind the fountain."
She did not see him the next morning: he had gone for a gallop with her brothers and then there were to be meetings all day. It was the only real chance for him to get together with her father and Aragorn. The next day was the wedding and then two days later he would be returning to Rohan. She knew he could not spare any more time, did not wish to spare more time, until all his people were housed and the new crops sown. She spent time with Éowyn instead. The two girls decided they would stroll down to the gates, browsing through the dozens and dozens of market stalls that lined the road between the first and the forth levels. Faramir organised two guards, dressed in the livery of the City, they blended in with the others stationed on every bend in the road and did not cause so much attention as those from Dol Amroth or Rohan would have done. However, even though they dressed quite plainly, anonymity was not easy, as Éowyn was recognised by many people. She had, after all, killed the Witch King and was now marrying Gondor's favourite son. There was such goodwill towards her that it became difficult for her to pay for anything and eventually Lothíriel purchased any little trinket that she wanted. But it was a pleasant way to spend the day and they decided to skip lunch in the Citadel and instead purchased pasties and sweetmeats from the various food stalls around the lower square. Jugglers and acrobats were performing and the two girls sat on one of the stone benches and enjoyed the entertainment. Lothíriel was disappointed to discover that the next lion show would not be for a couple of hours. She wanted to see it, even though she felt quite sorry for the lion: he looked bored and sad. Hardly surprising really, she thought, stuck in a cage for most of his life. She also wanted to see the fire-eaters, that performance however, would look better in the dark.
"Ask Éomer to bring you down," Éowyn suggested. There is no dancing tonight with the hall being prepared for the wedding."
Lothíriel was not sure if she was quite comfortable enough with her betrothed to actually ask him to take her but luckily she did not have to as he suggested it himself during dinner. The evening meal was a quiet affair as the kitchens were busy preparing for the wedding feast. The Princess did not mind, she enjoyed the relaxation of formality that Aragorn encouraged when family and friends ate together. Elphir and Merilan were intending to spend the evening with friends and so was her father, so she was pleased when Éomer suggested going out into the City.
"I need some fresh air Lorí; do you think one of your brothers would come as chaperone if we walked down to see the entertainment? It would save taking a guard."
"Oh, Erchi might," her face lit up with pleasure. "I imagine Amroth has his own agenda. I was gathering up the courage to ask you. I want to see the lion and the fire –eaters, she confided.
"Lorí, I don't bite," he shook his head, laughing softly, "and I like doing normal things."
Erchi was happy to go, saying that he would probably have a clearer head in the morning than if he spent the evening in the mess with friends. Faramir declined to come, knowing his and Éowyn's presence would cause more fuss. However he insisted that they took a couple of guards.
"You do not know who is out there, Éomer. The City is open to all. We are responsible for your safety when you are here."
Éomer vehemently protested: having someone dogging his footsteps was something he always found particularly annoying. In the end a compromise was reached, the guards would shadow them, just keep them in sight.
By the time they reached the square it was already dark. The journey down from the Citadel and been slow, but fun, as on every corner there was some kind of entertainment, be it a juggler or flute player, a dancing bear or a mummers tableaux. What with stopping to watch and with the added hindrance of pushing through the resultant gathered crowd, the fire - eaters had just started to perform when they reached the makeshift arena. To the princess's delight, hot coals had been laid out for fire walking and she was eager to get closer for as good a view as possible but barriers had been put up, about waist high, and the crowd was thick around them. However Éomer, like his sister, was easily recognisable and some of the spectators good-naturedly let them through. Which was a good job, Lothíriel decided, otherwise she would have to have sat on Erchi's shoulders. Not that it would have been allowed of course, most undignified!
The show was very spectacular; there was no other illumination except from the entertainers' braziers and the fire wands. Lothíriel really enjoyed it and guessed that the two men probably did, although would not admit to it, of course. The entertainers using their burning batons to create pathways and patterns of fire against the night sky had been quite impressive. There was a lull for the coals to be removed and then the torches and lamps around the arena were lit. Soon the whole square was bathed with light. Being of an enterprising nature Erchi had organised one of the guards to fetch a couple of tankards of ale from a nearby tavern. Éomer shared his with Lothíriel, much to Erchi's disgust. "Don't let her have too much; you never know what she will do."
His sister hotly protested, "Really Erchi, I am not a child. A few mouthfuls of ale are not going to do me any harm."
"No, it's the harm you may do to others that is worrying." He turned to Éomer, "Last time she had too much to drink she took a spear down from the wall of the dining room and challenged Amroth."
"Well, he was being particularly annoying."
Brother and sister rocked with laughter as Éomer put on a show of mock fear. "I bet they did not tell you about that," Erchi grinned. "You had better watch what you say."
A hush fell on the crowd as the lion was brought out; the beast roared and harassed its trainer all the way to the small podium. It certainly looked fierce but Lothíriel wondered if its show of bad temper was part of the act or brought on by its confinement. Anyway she was very interested, remembering being fascinated as a child when one had entertained in the courtyard at Dol Amroth. Then, she was not allowed so close and had been made to watch the act from a balcony. This time the lion did not seem to be very cooperative and it took a lot of persuasion by the trainer just to get it to jump up onto the podium. Once there it consented to do some of the tricks expected of it but all the time it was lunging and trying to swipe the trainer with a very large velvety paw. Lothíriel could see its claws. They were huge. The man from Harad, had a large net in one hand and a sort of spear in the other, he was using the spear to control the beast. The lion however was taking great pleasure in trying to knock it from his hand, each swing of its front leg being accompanied by a ferocious roar.
Éomer leaned down and whispered in her ear, "I don't think that beast is terribly happy."
Lothíriel was just about to answer him when there was a horrified gasp from those around her, the startled reaction increasing in volume as it travelled around the arena. Looking back towards the centre of the ring the Princess froze in horror: for crawling confidently and purposefully towards lion and trainer, oblivious of any danger, was a baby. The child, who looked to be about ten or eleven months old, was displaying one of those knowing grins, one that every parent would recognise: 'I am not supposed to be doing this.' The gasp of the crowd alerted the man to some happening and he glanced around spotting the child instantly. Not surprisingly it unnerved him and he took his attention from his charge for one brief moment: it was all the beast needed and the spear was knocked from his hand, the force sending the weapon way over the other side of the arena. The angry animal, sensing its time had come, jumped from the podium and with what appeared to be deliberate precision and enjoyment, swiped the man across his head, its long claws raking down the side of his face. The trainer went down and he did not get up. He lay inert.
Many things happened at once: Éomer and Erchi both took knives from their boots, they were not carrying swords. The child sat up on his bottom and looked inquisitively at the now loose and uncontrolled animal. There was a scuffle somewhere on Lothíriel's right and a woman started keening, that totally unique sound that a woman makes when one of her offspring is in danger. The trainer's assistant, who looked to be not much more than a boy, moved toward the scene carrying a stick and another net. He picked up the discarded spear but stopped some distance away looking as if he was unable to decide what to do. The lion, growling deep in his throat, looked from man to child, also undecided.
The Princess had never been trained to handle weapons but she was the daughter and sister of warriors and instinctively knew that if the huge beast attacked such a small child, then a knife or even two, however well thrown, would be unlikely to stop it before it had inflicted fatal injuries on the tiny body. Spears were needed. The only spears, other than that of the trainer's, were in the hands of the guards, their own, and those posted around the square. Also, only the guards were allowed swords inside the City, so no spectators were likely to be armed. She knew that her brother was deadly accurate with a spear; in fact he was deadly accurate with any weapon, and she had absolutely no doubt that Éomer was as well. Unfortunately the guards were separated from the two expert warriors by rows of panicking people. Time was needed, she instantly realised, for the guards to react themselves or to pass their weapons over. Unnoticed, with all eyes riveted to the central point, Lothíriel pushed her way through the narrow gap separating the hurdles which formed the barrier and walked quickly and calmly towards awful tableaux.
"Lorí, no!" But it was too late, she was out of reach. She heard her brother's voice as if it was far away. In fact something strange had happened to her ears, she was aware of a rushing sound and the noise of the crowd seemed to slow and elongate; the voices around her having no meaning. Her limbs felt heavy but she forced herself to continue with her mission. The lion must have sensed her coming because he raised his head and stared at her before opening his mouth and letting out a horrifying roar. The child started crying. She jumped slightly. The child was between her and the beast and the man was lying on the ground a few yards beyond the lion. The young lad, who was clutching spear and net, remained immobile, rooted to the spot, and anyway he was the other side of the beast from the warriors and the child. Lothíriel had no idea how to calm a lion but decided to treat it as she did her brother's warhorses: assume that they did not wish to hurt one and they probably would not. They of course had been trained to kill, this animal, she imagined, had been born with the knowledge. She smiled at it, remembering from somewhere that facial expressions were important when dealing with animals. It roared again. She was only a few feet from the crying child and could now smell a putrid stench coming from the beast's open mouth. Its eyes and teeth were both yellow, almost the same colour as each other she decided irreverently. The lion fixed her with a malevolent stare and then shook his massive head, his dark brown matted mane quivering and sending forth more rancid odours. It then started swaying its massive body from side to side. The Princess realised at once that this was not a good sign; the friendly smile had not worked. She dropped her eyes concentrating now on retrieving the small boy before the animal pounced. The image of that tiny body being shaken like a child's rag doll was strong in her mind, stronger than any urge to flee.
Remaining totally confident that, somewhere behind her, preparations for rescue would be taking place, Lothíriel whispered soothingly, "Come on sweetheart, come with me."
She picked up the sobbing child and hugged him to her breast; she covered his head with her arms and then backed away a few steps. The lion did not move but eyed her balefully and the Princess, deciding that she and the child would have more chance if her back was presented to any attack, turned and walked steadily back the way she had come, shielding the child as best she could. She could not see much in front of her, as she kept her head down and anyway the lights spoiled her vision, but she was aware of figures moving inside the barrier. She was a third of the way across the open space when she heard heavy pads accelerating towards her but at that very moment there was a rush of wind as first one spear and then another whistled their way past about a foot from her head.
She was grabbed and pulled towards the barrier. Her brother was shouting at her. "Lothíriel are you mad. Have you lost all reason?"
"Shush Erchi, you will frighten the child," his sister answered quietly.
Her brother's tirade was halted for a moment at the child's mother threw herself at her son and the Princess. The woman was hysterical in her relief and thanks. As soon as Lothíriel was free of her burden, Erchi started on her again.
"Have you any idea what could have happened? If the beast had attacked you straight away you would have been mauled before we could reach you. Whatever processed you?" Her brother was so angry, he was shaking.
"The lion could have killed the baby with one pat of his paw. I do not see there was any alternative than to give you time to arm yourselves," the Princess said defiantly. "And where is Éomer?" she asked suddenly. Turning around she saw him checking the animal to make sure it was dead. Satisfied he looked across to brother and sister.
"Erchi, don't let her look," he immediately called out.
But it was too late, seeing the huge animal lying prone on the ground with two spears protruding from its chest and a pool of dark blood, her head swam and the bile rose in her throat. The Princess clutched her brother for support and by the time Éomer reached them she was trembling uncontrollably.
"You should have got her straight out of here," Éomer snapped at the Prince.
"He was too busy shouting at me," Lothíriel managed to stammer.
Without waiting to discuss the matter, or listen for any answer, Éomer scooped her up into his arms and headed towards the barrier. "See to things here, Erchi. I am going to find some brandy."
The Prince opened his mouth to protest, firstly at the irregularity of Éomer carrying his sister through the crowded square and secondly at the brandy. Realising however, that the King of Rohan was unlikely to respond to his objections, he closed it again and resigned himself to dealing with the after effects of such a dramatic incident.
Lothíriel found herself held against that hard chest for the second time in two days. Once again the feeling that washed over her was one of comfort and safety and her trembling started to ease. The crowd parted for Éomer and he headed across the square to the nearest tavern where luckily tables had been set outside the door for patrons to drink and enjoy the entertainments on offer. Most of the tables were empty, not surprisingly with so much excitement around the arena; the host was standing by the door.
"Brandy!" Éomer ordered, sitting Lothíriel down in the nearest chair. The man's eyes were nearly popping out of his head. He knew something strange had been going on: the noise of the crowd and everyone rushing to look. But the Lord of the Mark carrying a Lady to his establishment was even stranger. "Brandy, quickly," Éomer repeated. "And make it your best."
"Yes, Lord," said the man coming to his senses and touching his forelock. He rushed off to appear a few moments later with a small jug and two pewter cups.
Éomer poured some of the spirit into one of the cups and passed it to the Princess. "Drink this Lorí; it will make you feel better."
"I don't like brandy," she protested weakly. She was still shaking slightly.
Lothíriel took a small mouthful and managed to get it down without too much choking and spluttering.
"Have some more." He smiled, pouring himself out a generous measure, "It will not be so bad this time."
"Are you angry with me?" she asked, taking another sip. He was right it was not so bad this time. She pulled a face but swallowed it without choking.
"No, I am not angry with you, although I do not want any more frights like that one. Why did you do that?"
"Because of the baby," she answered surprised.
"Oh, I know that, Lori, but what was your reasoning?"
"It could have attacked the child straight away, I thought I would act as a diversion until you and Erchi managed to grab spears. I knew the knives were unlikely to stop it."
"You are right; if it had pounced it would have inflicted terrible damage, even if we had thrown the knives. But there was no guarantee that we would find a spear in time."
The Princess shrugged, she was feeling better. "You would have done something, I am sure."
"Your confidence is gratifying," he responded rather wryly.
The conversation came to a halt as Erchi joined them. He made no comment about the impropriety of his sister sitting outside a common tavern. He needed a brandy himself.
"Is it sorted?" Éomer asked once another cup was brought. Lothíriel sat quiet, not wishing to provoke her brother's wrath. But he had calmed down.
"The trainer will live by the looks of it, but he will be badly scarred. The child belongs to one of the stallholders. They thought he was asleep on a blanket at the back of their booth and they just popped over to watch the show. He must have crawled through everyone's legs and under the barrier."
"Babies do that," his sister confirmed.
"Why did the assistant not do anything?" Éomer wanted clarification on that point. It had annoyed him as the young man had hold of a spear.
Erchi grimaced, "He did not know what to do. The trainer had only hired him for the performance as his regular assistant was sleeping off a heavy drinking session." He took a gulp of his brandy. "I will be making recommendations that in future a few rules are adhered to for this sort of thing. It is not going to happen again," he added forcefully. The Prince suddenly reached for his sister, hugging her to him for a moment. He grinned at Éomer, "I told you that you never know what she will do next. It must have been that ale."
Éomer caught Lothíriel's eye and winked cheekily, "It just shows that Shield Maidens come in all sizes."