8. Council of war
Council of warMove not unless you see an advantage, use not your troops unless there is something to be gained, fight not unless the position is critical. No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen, no captain should fight a battle simply out of pique.
(Eärnil II: Waging war)
With a satisfied sigh Lothiriel pushed the tray away and leant back against the cushions of her bed. As usual her father had been right. After a bath and a hot meal she did feel a whole lot better.
"So are you feeling human again?" Amrothos was sitting on the side of her bed and regarded her with an amused smile.
She grinned back. "Marginally more so."
"That was quite an adventure you had today."
Lothiriel nodded in silent agreement. She had given him a brief recapitulation of events while she had her meal and had also told him about the scene in their father's study.
Amrothos shook his head in wonder. "I still can't believe he actually got rid of Aunt Ivriniel without having to resort to violence."
Lothiriel gave a reminiscent smile. "Do you know, it was almost worth drowning just to see the masterful way in which Éomer handled her."
Her eyes fell on the dress Princess Ivriniel had put out ready for her and she grinned to herself, wondering in what dark recesses of her wardrobe her aunt had found it. No doubt she considered the sombre grey a fittingly penitent colour for her wayward niece. In a way it was a shame that Éomer wasn't here to share the joke. A truly dangerous man that, but nevertheless it had been fun to cross blades with him. Life would be rather dull with him gone.
"Éomer?" her brother interrupted her musings, "You seem to be on pretty good terms with the King of Rohan all of a sudden."
Lothiriel bent forward to stroke Anca who had curled up at her feet. The great deerhound had been forced to have a bath, too, and no longer looked like the bedraggled creature that had shared their island. Just like her mistress, Lothiriel thought ironically.
"I suppose so," she answered, "He turned out to be quite nice really."
"Quite nice?" he gave her a curious look, "That's not the impression I got last night. In fact he looked very much annoyed when you got back in from that stroll in the garden."
She felt herself blushing. "That was my fault. I did say some rather ill-considered things."
"Like what?" asked the most curious of her three brothers.
"Well…" she hesitated, but Amrothos was the nearest to her in age of her siblings and had always been her confidant, "I said that I preferred petting horses to actually riding them."
He laughed out loud. "And to think you've been riding every day ever since you got that beautiful mare given to you! That was bound to annoy him."
When she didn't reply apart from a short nod he gave her penetrating look. "There is something more, isn't there? Out with it!"
Lothiriel traced the embroidered patterns on her robe. "I also happened to mention that discrete arrangements on the side are quite common here in Gondor…"
Amrothos had picked up her cup of cider and had just helped himself to a mouthful, but at her last words he choked violently.
"What?" he spluttered, "Lothiriel, tell me you're joking. You didn't say that to the King of Rohan, surely."
"I know!" She hung her head, "I still don't know what got into me, I just panicked. It was the only thing I could think of that would disgust him so much that he would give up his plan of marrying me."
"You are mad!" said her brother full of conviction, "King Éomer is famous for his temper and you go and bait him like that. I'm surprised he didn't strangle you there and then."
She laughed. "Nonsense! As if he'd ever hurt me." Then she remembered the way he had threatened her with a good hiding, but dismissed that again straightaway. After all he hadn't so much as touched her.
"Besides," she pointed out, "when engaged in a fight you should use all possible means to win. It's no use entering into a battle with defeat already on your mind."
He groaned and hid his head in his hands. "Father should never have let you read all those books on warfare. Let me tell you, little sister, one of these days they are going to lead you into serious trouble."
This dire prediction did not impress her much. "I have it on good authority that I will make an able field commander one day," she laughed.
Her brother was still shaking his head. "So what did King Éomer say when he eventually found out about your little plan, as I presume he did?"
She shrugged. "Well, he did get slightly annoyed, but since he was really in no position to complain, it soon blew over."
Amrothos leaned forward. "What do you mean, he was in no position to complain?"
She found herself suddenly reluctant to explain the King of Rohan's motives in seeking her hand. "Well, he did have his own reasons why he wanted to marry me," she replied vaguely.
Her brother knew her rather too well. "What kind of reasons?"
"Come on, Lothiriel," he said when she didn't elaborate any further, "you can't just leave it at that or I'll die of curiosity."
"Oh, if you have to know," she replied grudgingly, "He needs my dowry to feed his people."
"What?" The amusement was wiped from her brother's face, "All he wants is your dowry?"
"Not all," she retorted swiftly, only to blush furiously.
Fortunately her brother was much too annoyed to notice her sudden discomfiture. "How dare he come here with such a mercenary plan in mind!" he exclaimed.
She laid a restraining hand on his arm. "Please, Amrothos, he only did it to get the means to buy food for the Rohirrim to survive the coming winter."
"That's no excuse. I have a good mind to tell father about it," her brother declared and got up to pace the room.
"Actually, father knows all about it."
"What?" he stopped and stared at her in disbelief.
"Indeed he does," Lothiriel nodded, "he's got that ridiculous idea that Éomer and I would be well suited. Absurd, isn't it?"
Slowly Amrothos sat back down on the side of her bed. He looked thoughtful all of a sudden. "Absolutely," he agreed, "after all you hated the idea of having to leave Dol Amroth and move to Rohan."
"A cold and windy country far away from your beloved ocean, you said."
"I've had enough ocean to last me for a while," Lothiriel shuddered, "Actually the Riddermark doesn't sound quite so bad and apparently it's not as cold as I thought."
"The Riddermark?" Her brother asked.
"That's the proper name for Rohan," she explained.
"I see," Amrothos said, "A shame you do not like its king."
Lothiriel was starting to feel a bit irritated with her favourite brother. "I don't dislike him," she tried to clarify her position, "I just don't want to marry him."
"Why not?" she repeated, "I will not have my life decided for me by my father and a man I've known for less than a day. It's a matter of principle."
"Ah, principle!" it was his turn to bend forward and stroke Anca, "of course that is important."
Why did she get the feeling he was hiding a smile? In her opinion his tendency to regard the personal affairs of his family as an ongoing source of amusement was one of his less endearing qualities.
"It's not funny," she snapped.
"Principles never are," he agreed gravely and she glowered at him
"If you're in that mood, brother of mine, I'll have you thrown out my room," she threatened him.
He laughed and held up both hands in surrender. "Very well, I'll stop teasing you. So what happened on your lonely island?"
"Everybody keeps asking that," she answered with considerable irritation, "but nothing happened."
"Nothing? What did you do all day?"
"Nothing!" she exclaimed, "After I finished with drowning we just talked."
"Talked?" Amrothos looked sceptical, "What can you talk about for a whole day, you hardly know the man."
"He told me about the Riddermark, but mostly we talked about matters of strategy," she answered with a sudden grin.
"Strategy?" her brother exclaimed, "Don't tell me you bored him with endless quotes from your books."
"They're not boring," she protested, "In fact he's read most of the same books." Even though he had dared to make fun of her.
"I suppose it is a novel experience for him after meeting the likes of Lady Eilinel all the time," Amrothos observed idly.
"Lady Eilinel!" Lothiriel felt fresh ire rising within her, "Do you know what she said to him when we got back?"
"I have heard," he nodded, "The tale has already made the rounds of the castle. Yet unless I am very much mistaken you invited her for the express purpose of letting her loose on King Éomer."
"That was a mistake," she admitted.
"Well, I didn't know him then," she defended herself, "He deserves better than a wife who would marry a toad as long as it came with a crown."
Amrothos laughed at that description of the lovely Lady Eilinel. "So what kind of wife does your quite nice King of Rohan deserve?"
"He's not my King of Rohan," she protested, "but he should marry someone who can see past the cold mask he wears to the warm-hearted man behind it."
Amrothos leant back against one of the bedposts. "Ah well," he observed, "he will have plenty of opportunity to meet that special woman next spring."
"Why next spring?"
"Have you forgotten the planned celebration of the downfall of Sauron?" her brother asked, "all the unattached ladies of Gondor will be in Minas Tirith for sure."
Lothiriel frowned. She had actually forgotten the festivities planned for the first anniversary of their victory, even though her father had promised her he would take her this time. Many of the ladies of the court were already busy ordering their gowns and if she wasn't careful she might be left with a very limited choice of fabrics. After all it wouldn't do to wear that pink dress again.
"I suppose as King of Rohan he will be there, too?" she asked.
"Oh, I'm sure," her brother nodded, "and like you said there's certain to be somebody there who appreciates his good qualities."
What was the matter with Amrothos today, Lothiriel thought to herself, he seemed to be getting more annoying by the minute.
"You know the court ladies in Minas Tirith," she snapped, "The only qualities they notice are wealth and titles."
"You'll have to admit they're very ornamental, though," he put in.
"That they are," she admitted, "but that's not what he needs."
"So what does he need?" Amrothos asked and put his head to one side. "Someone like you?"
"Oh no!" she exclaimed, "Don't you get any ideas. As I've just told you, I've done my utmost to win my freedom, I do not intend to give it up again."
"You might not have to."
Lothiriel frowned at her brother. What did he mean by that? But before she could frame an answer, her lady-in-waiting came bustling into the room.
"Are you finished with your meal, Princess Lothiriel?" Lady Idril asked solicitously, "Or can I get you something else?"
Lothiriel suppressed a quick surge of irritation. Her lady-in-waiting had been fussing over her ever since she had walked in the door and had insisted she eat her meal in bed like she used to do whenever she was ill as a child.
"No thank you, that was lovely," Lothiriel replied and Lady Idril picked up the tray to give it to one of the pages waiting outside.
"Shall I draw the curtains now?" she asked, but Lothiriel shook her head.
"It's still early," she replied, "and I'm not feeling tired anymore. I think I'll just do some more reading."
This was hardly unusual and her lady-in-waiting nodded and was on her way to leave when there was a knock on the door to the anteroom. Lady Idril went to check and came back a moment later wringing her hands.
"It's that man! He wants to see you, my lady."
Lothiriel and her brother stared at her nonplussed. "What man?"
"That so called King of Rohan."
"Oh Éomer! Why didn't you say so?" Lothiriel gave her a frown. "I'll see him in a minute. Could you please show him into my study?"
With a sniff Lady Idril went to do as she was told, her disapproval visible in every line of her stiff back. Her sense of propriety had been sorely tested by the events of the day.
Lothiriel looked up to see Amrothos watching her intently. "I've just got to give his cloak back to him," she defended herself, "nothing more."
"I can do that for you if you want me to," he offered and Lothiriel again got the impression he was hiding a smile.
She shook her head. "I have something I want to discuss with him anyway," she explained. As it happened, this was the truth, for she had not forgotten about the plight the people of Rohan faced.
Amrothos gave a sudden grin. "As you say, sister. Do you want me to stay?"
"That won't be necessary," she replied airily, "Don't you need to get changed for the evening meal?"
He got up and surprised her by planting a quick kiss on her cheek. "Very well, I'll be off then. But don't forget what your clever books say: it's always a good idea to know what you're fighting for."
Lothiriel was left staring after her brother and heard him exchange a quick word of greeting with Éomer in the anteroom. It looked like Amrothos was in one of his profound moods, she thought. Then she dismissed his cryptic remarks from her mind and jumped out of bed. After all she had more important matters to decide she told herself as she threw open the doors of her wardrobe, unsure what to wear.
In the end she settled on a dress with long tight sleeves that would cover the many scratches on her arms. It was one of her favourite gowns, made from soft linen of an emerald green colour and displaying her figure to perfection. She gave a quick twirl in front of the mirror as she finished lacing up the low-cut bodice and thought how different she looked from last night. Except for the eyes there was nothing she had in common with yesterday's Princess of Dol Amroth.
It was only when she was hurriedly brushing out her hair that she stopped to consider just why she was going to all this trouble to make herself presentable. Her hasty strokes of the brush slowed down as she pondered this question. She was only being polite, Lothiriel decided in the end. After all the man was a friend of her father's, an important ally of Gondor, and now that all the unfortunate misunderstandings had been settled between them it was only civil to treat him like she would any other guest.
Besides it went very much against her grain to let him go back to Rohan thinking of the Princess of Dol Amroth as looking either completely overdressed or half drowned. She smiled at her image in the mirror as she applied a touch of perfume behind her ears. He was so sure of himself, maybe a change of tactics was in order anyway.
When she finally swept into the study next door she was rewarded by a suitably stunned look on his face.
"Princess Lothiriel!" he exclaimed and bowed over her hand to kiss it.
Anca, who had followed behind her mistress, recognized her benefactor and started to bark excitedly and jump around them. From somewhere in his pockets Éomer produced another of his meat sticks and with a grin threw it to her. Ecstatically happy the dog retired to the rug in front of the fireplace to worry at her price.
Her lady-in-waiting had been watching these goings-on with a jaundiced eye and hovered at his side, clearly unwilling to leave her charge alone with this man.
Lothiriel nodded at her. "Thank you Lady Idril, you may leave us now."
"Are you sure, my Lady Princess?" the poor woman fussed, "Will you be all right on your own?"
Lothiriel lifted one eyebrow. "I will be perfectly fine," she replied evenly. After all she had just spent half a day marooned on an island with Éomer completely on her own. What did the woman think he would do to her here in her own rooms?
"Please don't worry, my lady," Éomer threw in soothingly, "I will look after your mistress and make sure no harm comes to her."
Lady Idril still hesitated, obviously not quite ready to tell him that the harm she feared originated from him.
"I have Prince Imrahil's permission to speak to his daughter," Éomer said and she finally capitulated.
"Very well, I will leave you then." With curtsies to both of them, one of them much shallower, she retired.
The quotation at the beginning of the chapter is from Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War'.
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.