3. An interesting journey
Ered Nimrais - September 3020
“I don’t think it’s worth dismounting, Lothíriel. There is certainly not room for us all to do so and I expect we will be stopping for some light repast before we enter the tunnel.”
I nodded to Elphir in a rather abstracted way as I smoothed my dress, arranged my hair and shook out the lace at my wrists. After I had made sure I looked as neat and presentable as I could, I fixed my eyes on my betrothed who still conversed with my father and King Elessar. Laughter drifted back to me. Rohan’s king certainly sounded different from my last meeting and I found myself studying him unashamedly. Something I had not done before. He wore his golden hair loose, not braided like most of his men and it differed in colour, being of a darker hue. He stood taller than his kinsmen, maybe slightly taller than my father and more heavily built, not fat though. I remembered that from dancing with him. The brief times my hand had touched him I had felt solid muscle. Suddenly he turned towards me, said something to my father and they both walked back to where we were quietly waiting. Rather than full armour, he wore a long hauberk mostly covered by a dark red tunic embroidered in gold around the collar and hem. His green cloak was held around his neck by a large ornate clasp and pushed back from his shoulders to hang down behind him. Leather gauntlets were tucked under one arm. He walked with a long easy stride and, as he got nearer I realised for the first time that Éomer of Rohan, besides being striking, was a very attractive man.
I got ready to dismount but my father’s voice stopped me, “No, don’t get down, Lothíriel. We will be resting half a league up the track.”
I nodded and stilled my mare but my brothers seemed to melt from the sides of me and by the time the Lord of the Mark stood by my horse’s neck, I was alone.
I removed my glove and held out slim fingers and drooping lace just as his large hand reached for mine. “My lady, good morning,” His lips were firm and warm on my knuckles and his voice deeper than I remembered but his hand was as rough and as gentle as before. As he raised his head our eyes met and I saw his were a darker blue than Éowyn’s, but they both had the same bold stare. No one could doubt they were brother and sister. I wondered if he felt as uncomfortable as I did. He certainly did not show it but gave the impression of being totally assured and at ease with himself and the situation. He flashed me a charming smile and almost absentmindedly ran his hand down my mare’s neck before scratching her under her forelock. He must have hit the right spot because she quivered in pleasure and nudged into him. “We have prepared some refreshment on a plateau just outside the entrance to the tunnel,” he informed me as he affectionately petted my shameless horse. “You can rest there for a short while, Princess, but we will need to press on if we are to reach Edoras before dark.”
I nodded and gathered up my reins, “I am ready to continue the journey, my lord.”
“Good, we will get going then.” A bow to me, a quick greeting to my brothers, a final pat for Zante, and he and my father returned to their horses. The cavalcade started out again, with the Rohan guard leading the way and King Éomer riding with King Elessar and my father. The three of them were deep in conversation but we rode in silence, my brothers sensing I did not want to talk, although I could feel their eyes on me – wondering what I was thinking, no doubt. It is true that my thoughts were many, but I now speculated on what impression I had made on my husband-to-be. He would have beheld a very ordinary young woman, of average height and with the silky black hair, the grey eyes and the fair skin common in Belfalas. True, my lashes were long and thick and my eyebrows finely arched but the sun had given my exposed skin a light golden hue and encouraged a fine sprinkling of freckles across the top of my cheeks. At least my nose was straight and not too big. I considered my lips for a moment: they were probably too full to be attractive. I had never lacked admirers, but that meant nothing: as a princess I could count on many. But what this foreign king thought of me, I had no idea. As to what I thought of him – too early to say, but I had certainly gained a more favourable impression than from my first meetings at his sister’s wedding. These deliberations were pushed aside as the track widened out into a large stony plateau. A group of men were busy laying out some food and drink on a few flat rocks and an awning had been erected between some stunted trees. Confusion reigned for a moment with so many arriving in quite a small space. Grooms rushed to hold the horses and some of the Rohan guard had already dismounted to welcome Gondorian soldiers they must have met in the Ring-war. Amrothos jumped down from his horse ready to assist me but just before I put my hand on his shoulder and dropped to the ground I had time to notice a tall young man hurrying towards Aerin.
“My lady, this way if you please.” At the sound of a strange voice I turned from searching the crowd where I had hoped to witness the meeting of two lovers, and perceived a thin man rising from a bow. Not a warrior but dressed more as a retainer. “Some refreshment has been prepared for you,” he informed me, a bony white hand waving me towards the awning.”
A young man hovered behind him waiting to take my horse. I nodded a thank you, picked up my skirts and followed my guide, my brothers having disappeared to greet some friends. To my surprise, under the canopy a wooden trestle table had been set with a dozen stools. A young man supplied bowl of water, some soap and a drying cloth and then showed me to a place between King Éomer and my father.
“This is a nice surprise,” I remarked as my betrothed made sure I was comfortably seated before he sat down.
“It is only a simple meal, my lady, but I thought you may have been fatigued from the journey. Your father tells me however that you rested well last night as a guest of Lord Duinhir.”
“Yes, I did. I really appreciated the bath and the chance to wash my hair.”
“That accounts for you looking so pleasing then, I thought you would be somewhat travel worn but you look very much the lovely elegant princess I remember.” He said it with the hint of a genuine smile and the observation caused an infusion of warmth to invade my cheeks, but thankfully at that moment the server offered me a drink. The King of Rohan certainly said what was on his mind, no skirting warily around what he wanted to say.
“There is cider, wine or some blackberry cordial made by the housekeeper at Meduseld, my lady,” the server addressed me in my own language.
“Thank you, I will have the cordial,” I said, smiling at the man as he placed an earthenware mug in front of me and a small pitcher on the table. I did not like to drink spirit in the day, it always made me sleepy. Neither did my future husband by the look of it because after he had poured me some cordial he took some very well watered wine. Luckily the table was small enough that once my brothers and the captains had sat down the conversation became general sparing me anymore intimate conversation that even six months notice did not prepare me for. I needed to get used to having this hulk of a man in such close proximity to me. How I was going to cope with the intimacies of the following night I dared not think.
We enjoyed a light meal of soft bread, goat’s cheese, smoked ham and fruit, but as soon as I finished eating I excused myself with the intention of stretching my legs and finding Aerin. I spotted her sitting on a large rock next to her young man; they had their heads together chuckling over something. Both jumped up as I approached, the young Rohír pulling down his tunic and brushing back his hair with his hand. It struck me, catching Aerin’s eager expression, that it should be her getting married the next day and me in three months time.
“My lady, this is Léod, my betrothed.” Aerin looked so happy and proud that her joy pushed my own worries aside for a moment.
“My lady, Princess,” he greeted me in heavily accented Westron whilst making a very well executed bow.
Léod was a good looking boy, with the blue eyes, long fair hair and neat beard of the Rohírrim. He did not have the sword of a warrior only a long knife on his belt. He wore a plain green tunic with a small sun insignia on his left breast, because he worked in the royal stables, I guessed.
“Léod has had a promotion,” Aerin said with evident excitement. “I will write to my father and tell him. It will make him happier.”
I had managed to persuade Aerin’s father to let her come by promising that I would only allow her to marry if I thought the boy suitable and she happy, so I understood why she was pleased. “Congratulations, Léod. I am sure you will become a stable master.” I said.
“I certainly intend to, my lady,” he replied with a voice full of confidence. “May I thank you for your kindness in bringing Aerin. I will make sure she is happy.” He let his eyes fall on the young woman at his side and his gaze was so full of love and tenderness that it totally reassured me.
“I hope you do,” I replied. “How nice that you could come and meet her. Is it part of your duties?”
“No, my lady, I usually only accompany the king’s party if they are away for a few days but I had the day off to meet Aerin. Éomer King said that if you were kind enough to bring ‘my lady love’ as he put it, then he would have to reciprocate.”
“How good of him,” I replied laughing. More than good really - that the king would take an interest in a stable lad. However I did not have time to dwell on that as I could see that preparations were being made for us to leave, so with a nod to them both I headed towards my horse. As I approached one of young lads supervising the horse lines untied her reins from the long rope that had been hitched between two trees and led her towards me. I thanked him in Rohirric and earned myself a wide grin and a compliment on the condition of my mare considering her age and the length of the journey. I petted her for a moment; she had done well managing the long trek better than I had hoped. I could understand most of what the lad said but even though I had a flair for languages I found it difficult to find all the words I needed. I was just going to ask him for a leg up when I felt someone moving behind me. I waited, thinking one of my brothers approached but the voice was deeper, richer and an unexpected tremor of awareness shot through me.
“May I assist you, my lady?”
“Yes. Thank you, my lord King.” I expected him to cup his hands or perhaps grasp my lower leg to lift me up, but he did neither. Before I could realise his intention those large hands had clasped me around the waist and he lifted me up, holding me for the time it took me to find the stirrup, as if I weighed no more than a speck of swansdown. It was not an unpleasant sensation - being at the mercy of his strength and feeling the warmth of those hands through my dress - but no man in Gondor would ever have done such a thing. Once in the saddle I stared at him stupidly for a moment probably expecting some kind of apology, but his eyes held a definite challenge and I knew immediately that this man would beg pardon of no one. I retreated into politeness: remarking on the efficiency of the organisation for our meal as I set my skirts in order.
He laughed, responding lightly to my platitudes, “A few packhorses were all it took,” he said dismissing my thanks. I hardly recognised the man I had met in Minas Tirith - a different King of Rohan here. The sombre expression had disappeared. It must have been a good harvest I mused as he started checking over my horse. Surely there was no need but I guessed it was natural for a Horselord to do so “Now,” he said when he had satisfied himself, “we need to get going. We enter that ravine.” He pointed to where the track left the plateau between some rocks. “The sides get higher and higher and then you are in the tunnel. My men have lit some torches and a few of them will lead the way. Aragorn and I will follow them, perhaps you would like to ride behind us with your father and your brothers can come after you. It is stony and dark, but perfectly safe.”
“Thank you, I will be fine. We have caves at home. I doubt Aerin will be bothered either, she is remarkably adventurous.”
He glanced towards my maid, who had mounted her own horse and now waited a little way down the line. “She must be to come so far, but Léod is a good lad. He will look after her.”
With the slightest of bows he went to his own horse taking the reins from the lad holding him and swinging easily into the saddle. My father, who was already mounted, moved his gray gelding to my side and we followed the two kings up the mountain. The ravine we entered narrowed considerably as we went deeper but I noticed it remained wide enough to take a wagon. The sides were quite sheer and came almost together at the top. Without much warning, other than my betrothed looking back and suggesting we keep close, they joined completely and we were in the tunnel. I shivered. Not because I felt cold or because I was frightened but because I knew that once I came out the other side of this mountain I would be in Rohan, and Gondor would never again be my home.
“Are you alright, my dear?” my father asked, his soft voice echoing against the hard walls.
The air smelt musty and damp and when the glow from the torches swept across jagged walls I could see the glisten of trickling water. But I played in caves as a child so they did not bother me, “Yes, I am fine, Father. There is quite enough light from the torches to see. I imagine it is very different than when our king came through the first time.”
“It is very different,” a voice came from in front of me. “We only had two torches and even Gimli did not like it. It took a great deal of persuasion to get the horses through but they are not bothered now.”
I swallowed. My king had passed through here with only faith and hope to guide him; I should surely share that faith that good would come of my own journey, for my country if not for me. But it was not as though service to Gondor had required me to wed some corpulent old man with greying hair, rotten teeth and smelly breath. There must be many worse fates than marrying Éomer of Rohan, now I knew that he actually smiled.
“Before Aragorn, no man had entered the Dimholt since Baldor, son of Brego.” I could already easily tell my future husband’s voice as apart from the different accent; it was as rich and luxurious as thick brown velvet. “Aragorn found his remains and we have buried him properly. The ghostly army has gone and once we have passed safely a few times the people of Harrowdale will lose their fear. I am hoping to use the passage for trade.”
“We need to talk about that,” my father said. “If we open the old trading route then we will need guesthouses. Camping is not so good in the winter.”
“No, we cannot expect those who live in the soft south to have the resilience of the Rohírrim.” Éomer laughed, his merriment circling around us again and again until it finally faded away.
“I suppose your cold climate is why you have to mimic bears and sport all that hair,” my father retaliated, surprising me with his unusual flippancy.
“I don’t think Lothíriel will be able to grow a beard,” Elphir quipped from behind me.
“I am not sure I will be able to bear the disappointment,” Éomer shot back, surprising me even more and starting off a giggle.
The laughter certainly shooed away any remaining ghosts, but after that, conversation became limited as we concentrated on guiding our mounts thorough the long dark passage. In fact nobody conversed much until we entered a vast chamber. The air chilled even further and I could not see the walls. The cavern we entered so enormous that the light of the torches almost completely vanished is the huge space. I shivered involuntary just as Éomer said, “This is where Baldor was found.”
Once through the chamber the way narrowed again but at last I became aware of a gleam of light ahead which quickly increased until we passed out into a deep glen, its high rocky sides lined with fir trees. We were in Rohan and I looked around to see how Aerin had fared on the dark journey. She rode between Léod and another older man and looked full of laughter. I imagined she was only too pleased to have left Gondor behind and already looked forward to embracing her new life. We rode on, passing a single tall stone which looked like a finger pointing, and then out from the trees and through two lines of dark stones of varying size that were placed each side of the track until we emerged onto an upland field divided in two by the lines of marching stones. As the column spread out Éomer held back his horse for my father and I to catch up.
Rohan – September 3020
“Welcome to the Riddermark, my lady.” He turned to me as I came alongside him and King Elessar dropped back with my father so that I rode next to my betrothed. I supposed we needed to have some conversation before becoming man and wife but I was understandably nervous of how we would deal together. “This is the Firienfield and the natural amphitheatre behind us is called Hold of Dunharrow. There is a large cave that the original inhabitants used as a feast hall long ago, it is so big it could shelter three thousand riders,” he explained, pointing with one leather covered hand, “but until now no one fancied going near the Haunted Mountain. When Théoden called for the muster, the six thousand riders that answered, assembled in the valley,” “You will see where when we get to the cliff edge. Farther away, where the foot of the mountain reaches out across the plain, is Edoras
“It is amazing scenery,” I remarked as I looked around. The mountain loomed behind me but ahead, it looked as if we were going to leap over the cliff into space, landing on the plain below.
“I think so,” Éomer replied. “We have mountains, fierce streams, forests and the endless plains of grass. All are beautiful but it is the grass that makes us what we are. It is there we run our herds of horses.”
“And sheep and goats in the mountains,” I remarked. I could hear the sheep and we had eaten goat’s cheese.
“But everyone has them. They do not make us unique.”
“They are necessary however.”
One eyebrow raised in mock amusement, “Trust a practical Gondorian to think of that.”
I laughed. “I am not really practical and I prefer horses to any other animal.” I suddenly remembered Éowyn’s remark about him wanting me as a wife because I could ride. I had to stifle my laughter because I did not want to have to explain that one. I looked back at him to find that he was watching me intently.
“You ride well. Éowyn told me you did.” That remark nearly caused me to laugh out loud but he carried on, “Your mare is well bred and has lovely points but if you do not mind me saying, my lady, she is a bit…”
“Long in the tooth,” I helped him out.
“Yes. That’s exactly what I meant. Has the journey not been too much for her?”
“I have not ridden her all the way. We brought spare horses.” I hesitated, knowing that how he reacted may well set my feelings for him. “She belonged to my mother, but my mother was not brought up to ride from childhood like me. She was never that keen. She loved Zante but did not ride her much, so as soon as I grew big enough to manage her I sort of took her over. It is natural to love one’s horse but because she belonged to my mother she is very dear to me.” As if to prove the how I felt I lent forward and pulled at her soft black-tipped ears, “I brought her with me hoping that there is sufficient grass in Rohan for her to live out her retirement and that I may see her occasionally, but if not then my father will take her back to Dol Amroth.”
I sat back up and searched his face for some clue as to what he was going to say. For all I knew horses that were of no use may not be tolerated. I had intended asking Éowyn about it but with everything else it had gone out of my mind until I arrived back in Dol Amroth. However he showed no surprise or looked at all bothered. In fact his lips were curved into a very attractive soft smile and I had the impression that I had pleased him, but when someone is a stranger it is difficult to read their expressions. “I am sure we can spare some grass for the Queen’s much loved mare,” he replied. “She can graze outside the gates of Edoras during the day with a few other old faithfuls. At night they are brought into a stockade just inside the gates. There is shelter there for the winter months, but since she is from a southern land it may be better to house her in the royal stables during inclement weather. You can see her every day if you wish.”
“Oh, thank you,” I smiled back very relieved.
“Actually it is very fortuitous that you are in need of another horse as it will allow me the pleasure of choosing one for you.”
“Thank you, my lord. I shall look forward to it.” I said genuinely pleased. “My father advised me not to take another and leave it to you.”
“Very sensible of him,” he grinned affably, and I realised, looking extremely handsome as he did so.
That thought surprised me but I put it aside as we started on the track that left the Firienfield and zigzagged its way down, clinging to the side of the mountain. The track was steep and rough and needed concentration so conversation ceased but just as we approached the first bend I could not stop an exclamation of surprise, “Oh! What are they?” The lump of stone that sat on the side of the track turned out, on closer inspection, to be a kind of statue and although eroded by weather and time, recognisable as some form of man, squatting cross-legged, with stumpy arms folded over its fat belly.”
Éomer looked up at the figure towering over our heads. “That is the first of the Púkel-men, they line the way down to Harrowdale,” he answered me. “Some are quite recognisable but others have almost reverted back to the stone from which they were sculpted.”
“But who put them there?” I asked intrigued by the size of the stone from which the likeness was carved.
He shrugged his broad shoulders and for a moment before he answered me, his thoughts looked to be far away, “Some long forgotten race that were here in the Dark Years, before the Éothéod was thought of, and even before a ship came to the western shores.” He smiled. “It is good to think how very old this land is. It has survived for a long time.”
“But the people have come and gone.” I reminded him.
“True, but I intend the Rohírrim to be here for the time to come.”
“And I understand you worked hard to ensure that over the past winter, my lord.”
His faced changed and the grim look I had seen before appeared, but it vanished swiftly and he smiled again. “We had a hard time, even with all the aid that came from Gondor. It takes a lot to feed a whole people and so many had lost their homes. But that is behind us now and I shall take steps to make sure it never happens again.”
Our conversation ceased for the time being as my father and brothers wanted to know all about the Púkel-men and discuss who they thought had made them. It took over an hour to reach the bottom of the Stair, as the Rohírrim called it, but then we were on a wide smooth track that sloped gently down the valley of Harrowdale. We made good progress through the open land where the Éoreds had gathered and were soon on the outskirts of the village of Underharrow. The houses were made from a mixture of stone and wood, simple dwellings but neat and tidy. Around the village were small fields that ran up the sides of the dale, all obviously well tended. Éomer explained that this part of the Riddermark remained untouched by war except by way of the number of men they had lost. But that tragedy doubtless common to every part of Rohan and Gondor. Those working in the fields stopped and watched as we rode past, some waving, some just standing. In the village there were smiles and bows, greetings for their king and curious, cautious glances for me. The people were not hostile but they were not that welcoming either.
I remembered what Éowyn had said about many wishing for a Rohírric queen when Éomer mentioned that very fact. We had drawn a little in front of the others so we were able to talk privately again.
“They are a little reticent, my lady. It will take them a little while to become used to the idea that I chose to marry a Gondorian. Some thought the bloodline too diluted by my grandmother but to be honest, all our kinsmen are quite closely related, as are our horses, of course.” He tilted his head to one side as if he had just thought of something, “Perhaps I ought to talk to your father about that as well. It will do us nothing but good if everything is mixed up a bit.”
Stunned to silence for a moment, I could not trust myself to speak. The man had the audacity to compare me with one of my father’s brood mares. Éowyn had wondered why he had agreed to the bond and now I knew – it boded well for the breeding stock! My hands gripped the reins in righteous anger but I managed to control myself and said icily, deliberately ignoring his reference to horses, “Your kinsmen do not wish for this alliance then, my lord.”
I don’t know how I expected him to answer but it was not with a short laugh. “I thought my command of Westron pretty good,” he said lightly. “I have always thought that an alliance was a bond between two countries, between two people it is surely called a marriage.”
“That is true,” I said haughtily, “but I rather thought our marriage cemented an alliance between our countries.”
“Yes, it does,” he agreed, totally ignoring my manner, “but whatever the political considerations are, as far as I or anyone else is concerned, I proposed marriage to you, admittedly via your father, and you accepted.” Ah!...,” he looked as though he had just discovered something unpleasant and his lips set into a firm line. “Am I to understand, Lothíriel, that your father forced you into this for the good of Gondor?”
I shook my head. “No, he did not force me. It was King Elessar who told me of your proposal; I guessed the three of you had cooked it up between you.” I could be just as blunt.
Éomer sighed, dropping his shoulders in irritation. “Friends can be especially annoying sometimes, don’t you think? I imagine you were not actually coerced but felt you could not refuse a request from your king.”
“Something like that,” I admitted, “but I have always known that my choice of husbands would be limited and my father did point out that he had already had two other offers and would most likely be getting more. It helped me with the decision.”
“And I assume you are going to tell me who the two rejected suitors are.” He did not look annoyed but curious. Oh yes, I would enjoy telling him.
“Lord Turgon was one and Forlong’s brother, Darlang, the other.” I answered in my most expressionless and diplomatic voice.
“Gratifying,” he enounced with a sharp expel of breath.
I whipped my head around seeking his eyes. Fool that I was; now I had really offended him. How stupid to be on bad terms before we were even wed. I should have known not to let my emotions get the better of me, but I glimpsed the merest twitch of his lips and surely those blue eyes held a hidden twinkle.
“So…,” he drawled the word out to an extraordinary length, “the choice was between a hog’s pudding, a streak of lard and a rough and ready warrior. Do you expect me to be flattered that you decided to do what your father expected of you and accept my offer, Lothíriel?” He raised one eyebrow and fixed me that amused look. An Éomer trait, I decided.
“Well,” I countered, “I am not very flattered that you were forced into making an offer for me for political gain,” At least he was easier to talk to than I had imagined, and I could tell he had a good sense of humour, perhaps I had wronged him on the bloodlines and all Horselords talked like that. If I had to put up with a marriage of convenience then I suppose it could have been worse. One thing I realised already - warrior he may be, but rough and ready he was not.
Another short laugh, “You know, Lothíriel.” He definitely moving onto personal ground by continuously using my name and I was intrigued as to what would come next. “I would do many things for the Riddermark, but to be forced to marry for purely political reasons is not one of them. Let me tell you that there have only ever been two people who could make me do something I did not want to do. One was my father and the other was not, as you may think, Théoden, but by cousin Théodred, whom I hero-worshipped all through my growing up.”
Not sure I understood what he had meant; he could not possibly have wished to make me an offer, I said hesitatingly, “That’s what Éowyn said, but you did not… do not, know me.”
“Well, I am sure we will remedy that over the coming months…”
The conversation ended abruptly as the guards, who were riding someway in front of us, parted to reveal a good-looking young man with braided hair, riding a beautiful bay stallion. He came straight up and swept an elegant bow to us both.
“My lord King, my lady Princess. Welcome to Harrowdale. May my wife and I offer you some refreshment before you continue to Edoras?”
I smiled, pleased to see a friendly face. I remembered Aelfric from Éowyn’s wedding. The young Rohír had been extremely popular amongst the ladies. But whilst dancing with him one evening he had confessed with a cheeky grin that although he could not deny he enjoyed the attention, a sweetheart waited for him back in Rohan. Obviously the girl he had left behind was now his wife, and I looked forward to meeting her.
Éomer turned to me with a resigned half-smile lurking on his lips, “I imagine you know the Lord of Harrowdale. Aelfric is great-nephew to Erkenbrand from whom I guess he gets his unfailing exuberance.”
“We met at your sister’s wedding, my lord,” I confirmed, extending my hand to Aelfric who had moved his horse to my right side. I did not say that the difference between the demeanours of the two men that evening had been immense. Then I had thought Éomer a lot older, but now I realised I had been mistaken.
“I am sure Princess Lothíriel would like to meet Helwing, but if we do come we must not stay long, Aelfric. And after such a journey I imagine the Princess will wish to retire early.” Éomer addressed his next words to me, “It is only a short way off the track, do you feel up to it, Lothíriel?”
“Yes, my lord, I am fine.” I smiled at Aelfric, “I would be pleased to meet your wife, Lord Aelfric, especially after you spoke to me about her.”
Aelfric grinned shamelessly. “I behaved very rudely, my Lord King, I danced with one woman and talked about another.”
“You have always been extremely rude,” Éomer retorted deadpan.
Aelfric tossed his head in a laugh and wheeled his horse around to ride next to me. “It’s not far, my lady. My house overlooks the village.”
The first of the dwellings of Upbourn come into sight around the next bend. The villagers appeared to be a little friendlier towards me, but perhaps it Aelfric’s presence accounted for it. We turned along a lane which climbed up behind the houses; at the end stood a high stone wall. Large wooden gates were set in the wall but they stood open and we passed through into a spacious cobbled courtyard. Some steps led up to a stone built house. Not large, but of pleasing proportions and at the top of the short flight a fair-haired woman waited for us. A few boys appeared to hold our horses and everyone started to dismount. This time my betrothed lifted me down and took my arm as we headed towards the main door. I had not had time to think on our recent conversation, but whatever the reasons for me being here – marriage or alliance- forced or not – for breeding or hosting - I was here to stay and had to make the best of it.
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.