2. A calm acceptance
Gondor – Summer 3020
I liked Éowyn. She was blunt and brutally honest and the only person of my acquaintance who did not want me to marry her brother, or at least the only one rude enough to say so. Not because she did not return the fondness I now felt for her but because she was fiercely protective of my betrothed. She wanted him to make a love match. Being so happy herself, she wished that same joy for her beloved sibling. I understood exactly how she felt: I would have quite liked to have made a love match myself but no one, not even my brothers, seemed to consider it of any importance. Perhaps that came from my resigned acceptance of the situation. Maybe I should have wept uncontrollably, languished into a decline or lost my temper and stamped my foot. Pride would not allow it. My brothers went on about what a good man he was – honest and true – a great warrior – a trustworthy comrade. All the qualities men found important. Faramir gave me a hug whilst saying that I would cope admirably with the challenges before me and even Queen Arwen looked me over in her enigmatic way and said something about it being an interesting alliance.
And an alliance it was — made plain by the respectful way the High King’s advisors treated me; the way a room in the palace immediately became a workshop to produce my bride clothes; how the rules were broken to allow books on the history of Rohan to be sent to my chambers and that a tutor was engaged to teach me Rohirric. I would be going to Rohan as an emissary of Gondor and I had to be well prepared, representing my country to the best of my ability. The only difference I could see between me and the normal ambassadors – they did not usually sleep in the king’s bed.
It would not be honest of me if I did not say that I thought about that part of it rather a lot. I spent a great deal of time going over the brief acquaintance I had had with my future husband and it was not his face I remembered most: all that remained of that memory were the vibrant blue eyes; the neat close cropped beard and the sombre expression. My memory focused on the low, resonant, attractive voice that remained in my mind. And his hands - they were huge. I had noticed when he had danced with me, holding my delicate manicured fingers in his rough calloused warrior’s one. Although, to be fair to him, he had taken them gently and moved to the music with surprising grace. Many the nights over those six months did I lie in my bed wondering if he would be gentle when roving his hands over my body or if that low rich voice would ever whisper endearments that I would want to hear. How often must I have fallen asleep whilst trying to imagine what it would feel like to lie beneath such a powerful man. I wanted to know more about him and the only person who could really tell me was Éowyn, but the perverse pride that stopped me showing my worry and anxiety, would not let me ask.
I found out quite a bit though, because during those six months before I left for Rohan I spent a lot of time with my soon-to-be sister. Pleased to find a Gondorian lady to ride with her, it delighted her even more to find one who could keep up with her. Together we raced our mounts on the flat land between the city and Emyn Arnen, jumping the ditches and the walls that were being painstakingly rebuilt after the battles. And when she saw my mare could not keep going to the end of the day then she persuaded me to ride one of my cousin’s young horses. She chose a showy bay: slightly nervous and needing a gentle hand, but once I gained his confidence – such fun. He put his heart into the task of keeping up with the Rohirric gelding Éowyn favoured.
“At least they are sending my brother someone who can ride,” she announced one day when we were walking our horses in the cool of the trees near her home.
I glanced across to her; as usual she looked very beautiful. As I had noticed before, the flaxen hair of her race - which she wore twisted into one heavy braid - and her fair skin, contrasted admirably with dark green. This time however, not an embroidered cloak, but an elegantly cut twilled linen riding habit. I could not help smiling at her remark. Typical of Éowyn that she only considered Éomer in this match. She had made it clear many times that she thought me lucky to be marrying him. I usually held my peace and let her talk but sometimes curiosity overcame me. I suppose the nearer we were getting to the event the more anxious I naturally became and the more I wanted to know.
“I expect someone took that into consideration when they chose me to fill the vacancy,” I said, tongue in cheek.
“Did my brother know you could ride?” she asked in all seriousness. “Perhaps that’s why he agreed to the union.”
The laughter escaped from my mouth and she looked at me indignantly, obviously not realising that she had said anything that might be construed as unusual. The thought that a man would choose a wife dependant on her riding ability would only occur to someone like Éowyn. “I don’t know whether he did or not,” I managed to say when my laughter had died down. “There is not much time for conversation in the middle of a Gondorian dance and the rest of his short time here he spent talking strategy with my father and the king.”
A frown appeared on her lovely face, “He does not know you at all, does he? I cannot imagine why he did it.”
“I think he probably just went along with it.”
She shook her head. “It is most unlike my brother to let someone else arrange things for him.”
I had no answer to that, as I did not know what he was or was not likely to do, but I had got to the stage when I needed to find out something, “I am surprised that he had not already found his own wife, are there no heartbroken ladies in Rohan?”
Éowyn shrugged. “A warrior takes his pleasures when and where he can find them; I don’t think there was anyone special.” She looked at me with a twinkle in her eyes, “Except the inevitable first love with someone entirely unsuitable - in Éomer’s case a buxom young widow with a shocking reputation - but my uncle soon put an end to that.”
“And how did he do that?” I asked much amused.
“He promoted him to captain and made sure he spent most of his time out on patrol.” She grinned. “He gave him some of the Riddermark’s most seasoned and obstinate riders to command. That kept him on his toes: he did not have much time for anything else.”
“Much like my parent’s way of dealing with things then,” I said. “Father sent my first love to man the fort on the Island of Tolfolas and my mother brought me to Minas Tirith for some serious shopping.” Éowyn looked thoughtful for a moment but a faint smile on her lips alerted me to the possibility that she had found herself in a somewhat similar situation. “Well?” I said, inviting comment.
“Oh, Éomer’s methods were much more direct.” She giggled, obviously remembering something funny, “He threw my young suitor into a horse trough. I imagined he would probably have drowned him, had not Théodred thought it prudent to intervene.”
I couldn’t help laughing but to be honest I found it difficult to believe that the King of Rohan would show such emotion. “It’s amazing though, my parents were right. You grow out of it and for me anyway, there has been no one else.”
“There was for me,” she murmured reflectively, “but when I met Faramir I realised the other had been only infatuation and hero worship.” Éowyn smiled softly, a lovely knowing smile that put a glow on her face and a gleam in her eyes and told me more than words ever could of her feelings for my cousin. For a moment she appeared lost in thought but then she said abruptly, “I don’t think there were any others for Éomer though - no one as suitable or as accomplished as you, anyway.”
I raised my eyebrows in mock surprise at one of the few positive things she had said, but she added more.
“The Riddermark is changing,” she carried on. “For many hundreds of years we have been content within our own borders but Éomer realises that we will need to build on the relationship we now enjoy with Gondor. He wants to open the old trade routes, not only to the south of us through the Dimholt but north to Dale. We have to trade. Relying only on that we produce ourselves leaves us vulnerable as the past year has shown. Trade means that there will be many visitors to entertain and a talented hostess who is a gifted linguist and diplomat can make a difference. Perhaps someone pointed out to him that you excel in those sorts of things. It’s the only thing I can think that made him agree to it.”
That boded well for a happy marriage – my future husband thought I would make a good hostess. Éowyn at last realised that she may have let her tongue run away with her because her face turned red and her hand flew up to it with an embarrassed, “Oh!”
“I did not mean that he would not find you attractive, Lothíriel, you are quite lovely but he does not know you and…you are both so very different.”
“In what way, Éowyn?” Perhaps I should not ask, after all, I could do nothing about it now, but a morbid curiosity overcame me after all the detached interest I had tried to show.
“Well…” she began hesitantly,
At least she had to think about it a bit – we couldn’t surely be so incompatible.
“…you are always so controlled. You do not show your feelings at all. My brother is not like that, as the horse trough incident must tell you. It is always obvious when he is happy or sad or downright angry…the whole of Meduseld knows when he is angry,” she added with what sounded like vast experience.
I thought that sounded more like a reason we would get on to me: much better that two would not rant and rave, but I said nothing.
“He finds it hard to cover his emotions; you must have noticed he showed his sombre side at my wedding.”
“He did appear to be rather stern,” I replied in my most neutral voice.
“He’s not like that really. He’s quite fun most of the time. It’s just that we had such hardship over the winter even with the aid and he hated to see our people having to struggle and make do when they should have been enjoying the peace. Luckily it turned out to be a mild winter.”
“Hopefully he will be a little happier at his own wedding. Let’s pray it is a good harvest.” I remarked with thinly veiled sarcasm.
“Oh, it looks like it will be,” she replied brightly, missing the satire. “And he writes to tell me that this year’s foals are top class. In fact he sounds to be back to his old self. You will find a great difference in him.”
Well, that was some relief, I thought ironically, but refrained from voicing this as Éowyn could find no fault with her brother. “What other ways are we different?” I had put my reserve aside now: surely my need to know only natural.
“Hmm… you are a peaceful person, content to sit and read. Éomer is always on the go. I wrote and told him how ‘bookish’ you were.”
“And that did not persuade him to break off the betrothal?” I remarked hiding a smile. Éowyn rewarded me with a gasp. In fact she pulled her horse to a stop and stared at me.
“I did not mean that!” she retorted sharply. “Oh, you are funning,” she grinned when she saw my lips twitching “In fact, I am coming to realise that I do not really want the betrothal to be broken. I think you will probably make him a comfortable wife.” She sighed. “I suppose I just hoped for more for him. For you as well of course,” she added quickly.
“Thank you.” It was the first time she had acknowledged that I might not be desperate to marry the King of Rohan.
We rode in silence for a while heading down to a wide shallow stream which wound it way from the hills of Emyn Arnen to eventually join the Anduin. The horses were now cool enough to have a drink. Gratefully they waded out. The summer sun made it hot even under the trees.
Éowyn stayed unusually quiet on the way back, obviously deliberating on something. Content to enjoy the birdsong, I did not feel the need to talk but finally she must have decided to tell me what was on her mind.
“Lothíriel, I think you ought to know that not everybody will want to see you as Queen of the Mark. Some of Eomer’s advisors and most of the council are well pleased of course, but Byrhtwyn has written to me recently and she says that many of the common people would have preferred their king to take a bride from his own land. You might have some difficult times ahead.”
It did not surprise me. Why should it? My marriage looked to be doomed to failure why should the rest of my life be any different.
“There are some who will think it a good idea, of course. And if you and my brother are seen to be happy together then that will help.”
I definitely thought we should discuss something else before I gave in to the temptation to turn my horse and ride as far away from Gondor and Rohan as I possibly could. But of course I did not. I did decide however not to bring up the subject again. I talked myself into believing that Éomer would never have consented to the match if he thought our marriage likely to prove truly disastrous.
Éowyn must have realised she had upset me a little, because she ceased talking. We rode in silence again until I made the effort to appear unconcerned. “It’s cooling down, Éowyn, and Pageant is pleading for another gallop.” I dropped my hands and Pageant immediately responded, leaving her no choice but to follow me and negate the need for any further talk.
The gallops came to a halt soon after that conversation because very shortly Éowyn realised she was carrying a child. For once, my cousin exerted his authority as a husband and the Steward of Gondor: Éowyn could ride, but not gallop. He also forbade the four hundred mile journey to Edoras for my wedding as nothing would persuade him to take the slightest risk with his possible heir. What with Queen Arwen not wishing to travel with a young baby – understandable, especially with Eldarion a crown prince - and my sister-in-law, Melina, about to present my brother Elphir with their second offspring, I was going to be short of female company on my journey to Rohan.
Those circumstances decided me make an effort to find a new handmaiden, one who would be happy to come to Rohan with me and stay for a short while. Nothing would prevail on Moreth to make the journey on horseback and I for one did not want to travel at wagon pace. I also thought that I would like someone from Gondor with me: if what Éowyn said held any truth, then I may need the support. For that reason, I wished find someone I got on with and preferably some one young who would be happy to have some riding lessons. Faramir agreed with the idea and offered to advertise the post for me. The result astonished us – I could have taken a hundred maids to Rohan. The womenfolk of Minas Tirith obviously found the lure of the tall blond riders, irresistible. Faramir’s secretary agreed to whittle down the list to six, but evidently his office was besieged by a horde of girls all claiming that they had been invited to Rohan and just lacked the means to get there. In the end however I found my own maid, or rather she found me.
I stayed in the cool of my chambers working on my translation one hot afternoon. Some ancient manuscripts written in elvish had been found in the vaults of Dol Amroth, having come to light when we prepared the city for war. We realised that they told of the first coming of men to Belfalas and although difficult, I enjoyed working on them. I had reached a place where the writing had faded and the parchment torn when a knock at the door disturbed me. Frowning, I put down my quill. I did not like to be disturbed but I realised it might be a delivery of soaps, oils and perfumes from the apothecary I favoured. Taking a large supply with me to Rohan seemed a good idea not knowing how easy it would be to obtain them there.
Standing in the corridor outside my door I saw, not only the young delivery boy and the footman who acted as escort through the confusing corridors, but a young woman whom I recognised as one of the daughters of the owner of the shop. She was a pretty, pleasant girl with a host of soft black curls that framed her faced. Always dressed neatly and demurely when I encountered her, today she wore a plain peach summer dress. I had often passed the time of day with her and I smiled as she dropped a curtsey before saying politely,
“My Lady, we have brought your order. I came myself to make sure everything was to your satisfaction.”
The boy staggered under the weight of a large box, whilst the girl carried a much smaller one. I held the door open and beckoned them inside. “Put them down on the table over there, please.” No sooner had the boy done so when the young woman, putting down her own burden, said with some authority.
“Wait outside for me, Girwin, would you.” The young boy left obediently, but I realized that her sharp manner covered her anxiety because she caught the fabric of her dress in her fingers and nervously twisted the material into a knot. I waited with some interest wondering what she wanted to say to me.
“My lady, I would like to speak with you.” She might be nervous but she looked me straight in the eye.
“I guessed that….?”
“Aerin, my Lady.”
“Well, Aerin, what can I do for you?” I had a suspicion I already knew.
She took a deep breath and then it came all in a rush, “I would like to apply for the position of ‘ladies maid’ that you are advertising.”
“That is being handled by Lord Faramir’s office,” I informed her.
“I know, but there are so many and I want the position so badly,” she said, her voice desperate.
I did not think an overpowering desire to serve me led her to seek a private audience, “A young man you met in the war?” I asked.
Aerin nodded, scrabbling in her pocket for something, “He wants me to come. I have a letter.”
That surprised me but she explained before I could question it. “He paid a scribe to write it. He speaks Westron reasonably well, but cannot write it.”
I nodded, waiting for her to go on but she passed me a crumpled letter which had definitely been read more than once. “There is a bit from his mother as well. She will welcome me and move in with her widowed sister, if I go to Rohan.”
I scanned through it. The young man evidently intended that Aerin should become his wife. “What about your own parents, Aerin?”
“That is the trouble. If they agreed I could go with one of the supply wagons, but he works with the horses. He came with King Théoden to war and I got to know him because he came to my father’s shop for liniment for the horses. He came again with King Éomer for his sister’s wedding and in Edoras he works in the royal stables. He wants follow his father and be a stable master. My parents do not understand that in Rohan it is considered to be an esteemed job.”
I walked over to the window to give me sometime to think. I did not want to come between a girl and her parents, but I guessed she could only be a year from her coming of age. When I turned back she still stood in the same position, holding herself very stiff and waiting for my response, “So you would like to come as my maid and then you think your parents would not object?”
“They would not. They would think that an honourable position. Why working as a handmaiden is all right when working with horses is frowned upon, I do not know. But they would listen to you, my Lady.”
“The citizens of Minas Tirith are not used to horses, but no matter. Can you act as a personal maid?”
“Oh yes,” her face lit up. “I have three younger sisters and I do their hair and dress them. I make my own clothes as well. I am good with a needle.”
The idea tempted me: she was a presentable girl and would be good company on the journey and, unlike me, someone who actually wanted to go to Rohan to be married. “If your parents agree, then you would have to start straightaway. My present maid would need to instruct you in your duties. I am here for another two weeks and then I am returning home to Dol Amroth by ship. I shall be there for a month. We will be travelling to Rohan on horseback and you would need to learn to ride well enough to cope with a five day journey.”
She clapped her hands together in excitement, and almost jumped up and down, “You cannot imagine how constrained I feel here, I have talked and talked to Léod about his homeland, and I have sat on his horse and long to ride. Women sound to have much more liberty in his country. And the journey would be wonderful. I would repay you with devoted service, my Lady.
I could not say no in the presence of such enthusiasm. “Aerin, if your parents agree, I will take you but you must promise me three months of service when we get there. That will give me time to find a Rohan girl I am happy with and for you to make sure you really want to stay and marry Léod. If you decide you do not or do not like Rohan, then I will arrange for you to return to Gondor.”
“Oh, my Lady, thank you,” Aerin clutched at my hand before remembering her manners and dropping into a curtsey. “I will not want to return and I promise I will make you an excellent maid.”
Aerin certainly showed as much enthusiasm in learning her new role as she did in wishing to get to Rohan. Moreth, after a few sniffs and mutterings about ‘young girls with romantic notions’, put aside her slight jealousy to make sure I would be well served, surprising me by even imparting to her successor her special recipe for whitening lace. The two of them were certainly kept busy as all the bride-clothes, which comprised not only my wedding outfit but many warm woollen dresses, Gondorian riding habits and the more casual tunic styles that Éowyn assured me were suitable for a life in Rohan that centred on horses. All had to be packed to make the three week journey from Minas Tirith to Edoras. I did not want to take everything back to Dol Amroth and then have to send it on to Rohan.
In the third week of August three women, all with contrasting emotions, boarded the great Swanship berthed at the Harland. One half-heartedly looked forward to retirement: one – me - very reluctantly going home knowing that time was running out and very soon I would be preparing to leave it again for Rohan and marriage; the other, Aerin, excited as a young puppy that had just discovered its tail.
I had not been home for some nine months and as the ship left the Anduin behind and headed out towards the open sea, I realised that I now looked forward to seeing the great castellated city that had been my home for most of my life. I could even enjoy standing on the forepeak watching the waves roll underneath the hull, looking out for the porpoises that loved to travel with us: leaping and riding the bow wave or diving under the keel to emerge the other side with what looked like a grin on their shiny grey faces. It felt surprisingly good to be returning, even if it was because the anxieties of the life before me were pushing aside the memories that had clouded my existence for the last few years. I would never forget, and I knew I would not wish to gallop on the sands again, but I wanted to see my home and my family. Not only would it be wonderful to see Alphros again but I had not yet met my new nephew, Elphin. Consequently, when Dol Amroth came into view, rising from the high cliff above the harbour with its turrets reaching almost to the clouds, a wave of happiness surged through me and tears of emotion sprang to my eyes.
My three brothers were at the harbour to meet me, Elphir with Alphros sitting before him on his horse. The little boy struggled down and ran towards the gangplank when he saw me coming down it. I crouched down to his height and chubby arms were flung round my neck, “I’ve missed you, aunt Lothy and I’ve got a new brother!” he exclaimed in his excited high voice.
The month went by too quickly. My books and other possessions that I had left in Dol Amroth were shipped to Minas Tirith to be sent on to Edoras. It was not thought wise to trust loaded wagons to the Dimholt road just yet. I received some unlooked for but probably much needed instruction on marriage from my forthright sister-in-law, which caused me to look at my brother Elphir in a new light, and also a number of sleepless nights thinking about my future husband. A few days before we were due to depart my father arrived home. He did not come alone, King Elessar accompanied him. The travelling party swelled by around fifty but as the royal knights of Gondor had brought tents and provisions, no one, least alone me, bothered the slightest.
Ered Nimrais – September 3020
In the end a party of almost one hundred left the castle one fine September morning, my brothers, Elphir and Amrothos riding at my side. Erchirion had volunteered to stay so that Elphir could take the opportunity to visit Rohan for the first time. My mind struggled with a mixture of emotions as I guided my mare up the steep track to meet the main way to Edhellond. Although coming back had made me realise how much I loved Dol Amroth, I had not felt at ease in my childhood home. The running of Dol Amroth had been in my hands since the death of my mother and my grief had not stopped me doing my duty. When Melina arrived she had left me to it and then devoted herself to her first child. She had only started to take over when Elphir came home from war. A capable woman, of whom I was very fond, but this past month I had felt almost a stranger in my own home. With my father in Minas Tirith almost permanently, and Elphir taking on the duties of ruler, then it was only natural they would order things their way. I would never be comfortable living there again, but even so I had hoped to make my home in the White City, not in Edoras, a place of which I knew very little except that it was ruled by a large fair haired man with a dour countenance.
Life however plays tricks, some good some bad, and since I did not really know the hand I had been dealt then my youth, natural interest and curiosity let me enjoy the journey.
Some of my pleasure came from watching Aerin. I had passed her into the hands of my old riding instructor and in the time we spent in Dol Amroth he had turned her into a credible horsewoman. Her cheerful ways and her pretty face made her an object for gallantry to the soldiers who were travelling with us, but although she laughed and joked and let them take turns to lift her onto her mare’s back, her heart belonged firmly in Rohan. I envied her. How different I would feel if I had been going to a man who would welcome me with love in his eyes and a fond embrace. The one letter I had received from my future husband had been stilted and formal, an acknowledgement of an agreement made in the council chambers of Gondor and Rohan and sealed with red wax.
I pushed these thoughts aside ready to enjoy the scenery, which over the next few days changed from the fertile fields of Belfalas to the flower meadows of upper Langstrand until finally we were climbing up the great Morthond Vale heading for our last camp before we were due to meet King Éomer and his escort north of Erech just before the entrance to Dimholt pass.
The sun still retained enough heat to made travelling dusty and tiring work in the day but the coming of autumn brought a chill to the night air. The tents were large and comfortable and the food varied and well cooked. It was fun in the camp: I could not remember the time I had had so much conversation with my father and brothers, but the facilities were limited. There were plenty of solders to see to our comfort but I did not feel it fair to ask for more than a bowl of hot water as all the wood had to be collected and then transported. The prospect of meeting my betrothed in such a dishevelled condition - desperately needing a hair wash and a bath, led me to consider asking my father to stop by a convenient stream with a waterfall. The road had become rough and uneven and wound its way steadily upwards between boulders and sometimes through cuttings in the solid rock that must have been made long ago. However, down to my left the great Blackroot Vale opened out and here and there I could see the glint of water and hear where some stream tumbled over ancient stones.
I tried to think up a convincing argument for leaving the road and dispensing with propriety when the column came to a halt. Looking between my father and King Elessar I could see one of the outriders conversing with a group of men. They were on foot and had no doubt reached the road by a track that could be seen winding its way up from the valley. Far below me I caught a glimpse of the roofs of a number of buildings. I studied the men: they were dressed in greys and brown and all carried long-bows slung over their shoulders. One stood out from the rest: taller and with an air of command. Suddenly my father shouted an exclamation, said something to the king, and both men rode forward to greet the newcomers.
“Who are they?” I enquired of Elphir who rode next to me.
I think it is Duinhir, Lord of Morthond. The one on his left must be his remaining son; he has the look of his brothers. The other two were trampled on the Pelennor,” he informed me, tight lipped. “I imagine he was the one that stayed at home, too young for war.”
“Thank the Valar for that,” I answered. Nobody knew more than me how lucky we were that none of our immediate family had been lost.
We waited while some conversation took place and eventually my father returned, heading for me with a smile on his lips. “Lothíriel, Lord Duinhir received news of us from a village we passed through. He has offered us hospitality for the night and a bath for you and Aerin. We have made good time and as long as you are prepared to rise early in the morning, we will meet Éomer at the appointed hour.”
We made slow progress down the track with the bowman leading the way and it was a full hour before we reached the cluster of buildings, but not quite another hour before I soaked blissfully in a large tub that I had liberally laced with sweet oils. It was a measure of the improvement of one part of my mind these last months that I did not recoil from letting my hair float around me in the scented water, only glad to get it free of dust. I would do well to take my lesson from Elgrin, Duinhir’s wife: only a slight firmness of her mouth and a hardly noticed dullness in her eyes betrayed the fact she had lost her two eldest boys. We were made welcome, and, although the large stone dwelling could not house all the party, everyone so well plied with food and ale that most went merry to their beds.
Dawn had not arrived when I rose to face a day like no other: I was to meet again the man I would wed. Within twenty-four hours I would be a queen and a wife. So I did what any female would have done – I put on womanly armour. This took the form of my most elegant riding dress. Mid-blue, the fabric woven in a linen-satin twill that picked up the light, it was embroidered around the hem with tiny white swanships. The bodice fitted closely with the neck cut into a low vee that showed a ruffle of exquisite lace. The same lace peeked from the end of long narrow sleeves and half covered the dove grey suede gloves that matched the leggings needed under the split skirt. I wore my pearls but dispensed with my customary net, pleasing Aerin by letting her braid some of my thick hair around my head, allowing the rest to hang down my back. My father’s observation that the crespinette made me look like a matron had weighed heavily with me. Resigned, and as ready as I ever could be, after a very early meal we started back up the track to rejoin the road. The chill wind of dawn made me glad of the cloak that I had swathed around me, more to keep the dust from my clothes and hair than anything else but it also served to shield me from my family’s speculation. The narrow track that climbed up the side of the valley made it difficult to talk much but once we were on the road again both my brothers tried to engage me in conversation, but apart from answering them in mono-syllables, I could not participate. I was lost in my own thoughts, which were rapidly becoming of the ridiculous kind: turning my horse around and begging sanctuary from Duinhir, the most rational one, I remember; finding a cave in the Ered Nimrais and living as a hermit, another. Immersed in a world of my own and allowing my mare to pick her own path, I did not realise until he spoke that the person who spurred his horse close to me was my king and not my brother.
“You are nervous, Lothíriel?”
“Oh, Sire, I did not see you there.”
“You were deep in thought.” His voice held a hint of mirth but his eyes were kind.
“Yes,” I agreed, “and you are right. I am nervous.” The gnawing anxiety led me to be more forthcoming than I would normally be, “I can hardy remember what my future husband looks like. The worst thing is that we never really spoke to each other.” I could see no point in being other than honest, always feeling that our king had a very good idea what one was thinking anyway.
“No, I agree it would have been better if Éomer had been able to stay a little longer. He was also very preoccupied with Rohan’s problems when he visited us. Things are better now, Lothíriel. I think you will find a change in him.”
“That’s what Éowyn said,” I agreed. “But I still would have expected him to be a bit more talkative.”
“I think you will find him talkative enough. It is true he does not idle his time away in pointless conversation, but you will find that what he does say is meaningful and he has the ability to cut through the dross and get to the centre of any issue.”
I smiled, and tried to say something positive. “No room for misunderstandings then.”
“No,” Elessar said, this time definitely amused. “I doubt that anyone would ever misunderstand anything Éomer has to say.”
The conversation was cut short because one of the outriders returned down the stony road and headed towards my father who rode with the Captain of the Guard.
“Ah,” said my royal companion, I guess we have made contact. He bowed his head and trotted off to the front of the column.
My mouth dried instantly and I had to grasp the reins firmly to stop my fingers trembling. My father looked back and gave me a reassuring smile.
“Chin up, little sister.” Elphir had come alongside me again. I removed my cloak; it was getting warm now anyway, and smoothed down my hair.
“She will be fine. Won’t you Lothy?”
“Don’t worry, Amrothos, I have no intention of embarrassing anybody” For just one short moment I wanted to scream out against these men who were taking me to a land I had never seen to be wed to man I did not know, but then I regained my composure and faced my obligations. I had been born a princess and was destined to become a queen. My duty lay the other side of a range of high mountains through an underground way made safe by the bravery and faith of my king. I could not let them down, so I kicked my horse to catch up with the front of the column and around a bend in the road came the future.
They were a handsome sight: two dozen flaxen haired men, spears held high, riding on beautifully turned out, clean limbed horses. They were trotting down the track towards us, the green banner blowing out straight and the white horse on it seemingly striding out. The man in front raised his hand and the column came to a halt just in front of our own standard bearers. The King of Rohan let his eyes search over our front ranks and then his intense gaze met mine, there was a moment’s recognition that showed in the almost imperceptible inclination of his head, before he leapt from his horse with a smile on his face and a hand outstretched to greet his two great friends.
To be continued
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.