5. Lothiriel's Journal 4
Lothíriel rubbed the soft cake between her fingers sprinkling the yellow crumbs over the pebbles, a little away from the edge of the pond. The birds would soon be attracted back down when they realised something was on offer, and the place she had chosen would afford her a good view.
Smiling to herself, she settled back down amongst the cushions. With her thirst quenched she looked forward to reading the rest of her journal. Such a strange winter it had been. Exciting because a new life had been planned for her, but anxious also because – however much she wanted it – meeting and marrying a stranger held many worries.
Entry for 3rd December 3019
‘We are now into winter and the time passes slowly. My thoughts are often in Rohan and I wonder what I will be doing one year from now. Will my new husband wish for my company when he rides his domain, my advice when he ponders the affairs of government? Or maybe I must spend my time among the women, gossiping about unimportant things. How naïve of me to think that just because he is a handsome hero, a respected king, he will make me a fine loving husband. Sometimes I think it would have been better to find a common man who would love and cherish me, but, as I think it, I know it will never be and is not my destiny. For good or ill, I am a princess, born to be a queen.’
Lothíriel stared at the page. Had she really written that melodramatic stuff? It really must have been a boring winter. At least it had been until Aunt Ivriniel arrived. That event gave them all some amusement…
“What have you got there, Lothíriel? It looks well thumbed.” Anniel looked up from her tatting as her charge let out a stifled giggle.
Lothíriel cast a covert glance in her companion’s direction, her finger keeping the place in the large tome. “You must know what it is, Anniel. Aunt Ivriniel gave it to me when I turned sixteen.”
“Oh, that old book. I haven’t seen it since. What made you bring it out now?”
“Where else would I turn when I want to know about marriage?” Lothíriel grinned as Anniel’s face showed interest at the mention of marriage. “Aunt Ivriniel said that in her early years she consulted it daily.”
“Does it tell you about marriage, then? I would have thought the old prude would have scrubbed anything like that out before she gave it to you.”
“No, there is a bit. I’ll read it if you like,” Lothíriel offered, keeping her face straight.
“Go on then. It will keep me more amused that this piece of tatting. The pattern has gone wrong somewhere and its going to take me ages to put it right.”
Lothíriel sympathised, for she hated tatting, seeing it as an old woman’s occupation. Not that Anniel was that old… anyway she took a deep breath and tried to make her voice neutral so she would not giggle. “It’s under the heading – The Marriage Bed.”
“Is it?” Anniel’s eyes glistened.
Lothíriel nodded, “There’s not much but I’ll read it.” She enunciated slowly so Anniel would catch every word. “A virtuous wife should be acquiescent to the wishes of her husband without behaving in any way forward or immodest. Neither should she show overt pleasure.”
Anniel’s eyebrows rose in astonishment but when Lothíriel said nothing else she tipped the tatting impatiently from her lap and joined her at the small table, making a grab for the book. “Who wrote that rubbish? Oh, Belecthor, I might have guessed. The Gondorian maiden’s guide to proper deportment,” she read the title from the spine. “You adhere to what he tells you in there and you’ll probably stay a maiden. Men like a bit of encouragement and reaction.” Pursing her lips she started to flick through the pages. “Is there anything else?”
Lothíriel nodded. “I’ll find it,” she said, retrieving the book from Anniel. “It’s right at the back. There’s not much about that side of marriage but plenty about being subservient to your husband and never disagreeing with him.” Anniel made one of her humph noises, which Lothíriel ignored. “Ah, here it is— As a wife you will remain dignified at all times and personal gratification is not to be expected or sought after.” Lothíriel closed the book – there was nothing else anyway – and waited for the reaction. With any luck Anniel would fall right into her little trap. And she did!
“Of all the… the best thing you can do with that book, my girl, is to bury it at sea.”
“I’m happy to do that, Anniel but it means you are going to have to enlighten me on all the details I need to know. For instance, what sort of encouragement is a woman expected to give? And I want to know exactly what happens when…”
“You don’t need to know yet. You haven’t even met him.”
“I don’t see why that should stop you from telling me all about it.”
“No,” Anniel agreed frowning slightly, “but it will be easier to explain after you’ve spent some time in his company.”
“Why will it? What difference will that make to me understanding anything?” And why was Anniel hesitating. She had always seemed too ready to tell her anything until now, just when Lothíriel really wanted to know.
A deep sigh came from her beleaguered companion, as she stooped to pick up her tatting from where it had fallen to the floor. “Because when you meet him, and more importantly when he kisses you, you are likely to experience certain …sensations…which we can discuss and …
“Oh, is he likely to kiss me?” Lothíriel exclaimed, brightening considerably.
“If he’s got anything about him he will,” Anniel mumbled almost to herself but then looked up, her face betraying amusement. “Lothíriel, since he’s agreed to marry you and with him being … how shall we say …not a stranger to women, then if he’s got any sense he will try and woo you. He would be a fool to keep you at arm’s length until your wedding night.” A shake of her head preceded the next comment. “Although from the look of that self-satisfied smirk on your face, I doubt he’s going to have to do much wooing. I just hope you aren’t disappointed when you meet him.”
“I don’t know why you think I will be disappointed,” Lothíriel said feeling slightly belligerent at Anniel’s lack of warmth towards her betrothal. “I know you don’t want me to go to Rohan but you have to admit it’s better than marrying some stuffy old lord with thinning hair and gout.”
“Now you are just being silly.” Anniel retorted. “There’s no reason to suppose that your father would have married you to an old man. There are plenty of young nobles in Gondor who are loyal to the new regime and one would surely have made you a fine husband. Why you are so set on this Horselord, I really can’t fathom.”
Lothíriel gasped. “You saw his likeness, Anniel. There is no comparison.”
“I saw a picture of a fierce warrior on a snorting, stomping horse. Just what you saw, I am beginning to wonder.”
What had she seen? The figure who had haunted her daydreams brought to life? Anniel would never understand that, “I saw…”
The door opened with a bang. Anniel dropped her tatting again, muttering an unladylike curse under her breath and Lothíriel paused in mid sentence, her eyes fixed on Amrothos as he stormed into the room.
“You’ll never believe it, Loti,” he blurted out, diving to the side as the heavy door hit the stop with a judder and swung back, narrowly missing his head, “That old dragon of an aunt of ours is heading this way.
Lothíriel turned sharply around to the window as if already fearing her aunt might be spying on her, “Are you sure, Amrothos? She said she’d never set foot in Dol Amroth again after that drunken oaf, Brandir, stumbled into her room by mistake.”
“Oh yes, I’m sure. The lookout spotted her. No one else travels with oxen pulling their carriage and an army of foot-soldiers. But I don’t know why she made such a fuss, anyway. It was poor Brandir that suffered. It took him ages to recover from the sight of her in that flannel nightcap. He nearly called off his wedding thinking his intended might end up sleeping in one.
“Never mind that,” Lothíriel waved her hand dismissively. “Why do you think she’s come?”
Anniel erupted in a guffaw of laughter. “She must have heard about your betrothal.” It’s the only thing likely to get her here again. She will want to give you advice.”
“Anniel,” Lothíriel cried, horrified, “you don’t really think so, do you?”
Entry for 16th January 3019
‘I dread tomorrow. My Aunt has made it clear she wishes to talk to me regarding my marriage. I can get no support from my family; in fact it affords them great amusement. My father says she has every right to talk to me, being my nearest female relative. Because of that I felt no sympathy when I overheard her berating him for betrothing me to an uncouth warrior without consulting her. Since she has never met the King of Rohan I feel she has no right to comment. The conversation at dinner could have been considered strained, especially after Amrothos and Erchirion told her that it was a good job I had not started to ride side-saddle as she ordered me to do last time she visited. Anniel said it would be best to let her have her say and get it over with so we can be left in peace, but it is me who has to listen.’
Even now, months later, Lothíriel shuddered when she thought of that talk with her aunt. True, some parts had amused her, but at the time she had just wanted the floor to open up and swallow her.
Finally cornered, Lothíriel sat down as her Aunt purposefully shut the door.
Tapping her way across the room, her ebony cane giving much needed support, Ivriniel headed towards her victim. “Really Lothíriel, I am most surprised. I find it extremely rude that your father rode for Minas Tirith before I had even left my room this morning.”
Her many chins wobbled with indignation and Lothíriel found herself fascinated by the large mole that adorned the uppermost one. It quivered with every movement of her Aunt’s small mouth. The two hairs that protruded from the centre of the blemish reminded her of an insect’s antennae – waving in different directions at once. Drawing her eyes resolutely away she eventually managed to answer her aunt, who was now looming over her much as mantis sizing up a cricket.
“He must have been summoned by King Elessar,” she replied, her tone evasive. Although why she should be loyal when she suspected her father had seized any opportunity to get as far away from his sister as possible, mystified her. “The king relies on him, you know.”
“I’m not surprised he needs your father’s advice.” Ivriniel sniffed. “How it can be expected that this Captain of the North, a man who from all accounts spent most of his life in the wilds, would be suitable to take the throne of Gondor. I can’t…”
“Because it’s rightfully his,” Lothíriel interrupted, half rising from her chair, “and he spent his early years in Imladris. Even you cannot object to that.” Damn, she chastised herself, sinking back down again, provoked into being rude already and the interview just started. But luckily her aunt was still annoyed with her brother.
Ivriniel moved from beside the chair to the window, looking out toward the direction of Minas Tirith. “He didn’t say anything about having to leave last night. I can’t believe it’s something he overlooked.”
Lothíriel shoved her hand under her gown and crossed her fingers, “I expect a messenger arrived after you had retired Aunt, they often ride in late. Your room is on the other side of the palace so you would not have heard anything. And don’t you sleep with cotton wool in your ears?”
Her Aunt turned around sharply, her puce-clad bulk quivering in protest. Lothíriel absently wondered why she chose wear a gown that had been cut so tightly that the laces were already straining over her enormous bosom. One more hazardous movement and …Lothíriel shuddered at the thought of her aunt’s gown splitting right down the front, but then had to bite her lip to stop herself from giggling. That event would compromise the old matriarch’s precious dignity.
“I don’t get a wink of sleep unless I do, not with the racket those gulls make. I never could abide them.”
“It could be counted unfortunate, being brought up in Dol Amroth if you don’t like gulls.” Lothíriel could not resist goading her aunt and anyway if she kept her off the subject of her betrothal for a little while longer, then maybe the dinner gong would sound.
“I do admit it pleased me when my father arranged for me to marry Lord Belgar. Far enough away from the sea, but not too near the mountains. I can’t abide mountains. You never know what the weather is going to be like.”
Lothíriel groaned, the subject had been expertly turned. But she smiled, not being able to resist a pert rejoinder. “A good marriage then, for his land is so flat you can see the weather coming for miles.”
Her aunt drew in a deep breath and sat down on one of the chairs near the table. Lothíriel watched the rather spindly gilded legs with increasing hope. “An excellent marriage, Lothíriel. Belgar knew exactly how to behave in all situations. And he passed his principles onto our son. Your brothers could learn a lot from my Pelilas.”
Lothíriel clamped her mouth shut; the difference between her prissy, staid eldest cousin and her brothers was too great to even warrant comment.
“That’s why I felt it my duty to come here as soon as I heard the news. I have always had my doubts about my brother’s way of dealing with the four of you, but this passes all my worst imaginings.”
The youngest of the four opened her eyes wide wondering whatever her aunt was going to say.
“To agree to his only daughter being offered to a savage in order to prop up the shaking rule of our new so called king, well, it defies belief.”
A savage? Thrown for a moment, Lothíriel tried to gather her thoughts. Had her Aunt made a mistake? Did she think her father had betrothed her to a Harad Prince? But no, they had talked about it the night before.
“I spent the whole journey here wondering how I could get you out of it.” Lothíriel blanched at the thought but her Aunt continued before she could protest. “But then I realised that maybe your sacrifice would be to the greater good of us all.”
Lothíriel stared at her aunt. Sacrifice? “I don’t consider marrying the King of Rohan to be a sacrifice, Aunt Ivriniel. He is a great friend of my father, and will be even closer related to us when Cousin Faramir marries his sister.”
Ivriniel leant on her cane, bent forward in her chair and lowered her voice. “No, of course you don’t, my dear. That is because you have not left Dol Amroth for many years and are unwise in the ways of the world. But men like that do not make good husbands.”
Lothíriel felt herself getting hot, “Men like what, Aunt?”
A deep sigh and her Aunt shook her head. “Pelilas – felt obliged to travel to Minas Tirith to offer allegiance to King Elessar. I tried to talk him out of it but he overruled me.”
Good for him, Lothíriel thought. It must be the first time her cousin had ever gone against his mother. Her mouth quirked as she hid a smile but her aunt carried on, unaware. “He happened to arrive a few days before the funeral cortege left for Rohan. He didn’t mention anything, of course, not until we heard about your betrothal. But then he knew it to be his duty to tell me.”
“Tell you what, Aunt?”
“About the King of Rohan’s behavior.”
“What behavior?” Lothíriel queried. Perhaps he had got drunk. More than likely if he kept company with her brothers.
“Lothíriel, I don’t like to tell you this.” Her Aunt’s voice lowered even more, and she thrust her head forward. Much like a purple-heron, Lothíriel decided, waiting avidly for the imminent pronouncement. It came with controlled vehemence, “But there were so many women after him that the whole court amused itself making bets…”
“Oh, I know that,” Lothíriel interrupted, somewhat relieved that that was all it was. “Amrothos told me. He bet on me and won quite a lot.”
“Lothíriel!” Her Aunt’s voice rose alarmingly. “I don’t think you understand. Some betted on which of the women he had a relationship with would succeed in trapping him into marriage.”
“Well, none did, Aunt, so that shows he’s quite clever.”
A sharp intake of breath, and her aunt drew herself up in the chair, her face taking on a hue to match her dress. “I know now I was right to come. I was against that woman being given charge of you in the first place. She has been lax, and too much freedom of thought has been allowed you. I can only hope that it’s not too late for me to give you proper instructions on how to behave in your marriage. You may be going to an uncivilized land, Lothíriel but you will be expected to uphold the values of Gondorian womanhood. Making remarks like that will not be tolerated, even in Rohan.”
“No, sorry Aunt.” Lothíriel thought she had better apologize. It might get her off the hook, and she had gone a bit far. But it had just slipped out. “Don’t worry; I have been studying the book by Belecthor, which you gave me. If I adhere to everything it says in there, then I will make no mistakes.”
“It was the King of Rohan’s behavior that worried me, Lothíriel, but your light acceptance of it has shocked me even more. I concern myself with how you will conduct yourself when you meet him.”
“I shall of course behave with the utmost propriety,” Lothíriel assured her, hoping to cut short the inevitable lecture. “I know exactly what I should do during my betrothal period.” She smiled at her aunt and quoted directly from Belecthor – on becoming engaged, the lady will allow her betrothed a single chaste kiss to seal their union. Knowing the eyes of the world on her, she will pay suitable attention to behaving in a seemly and decorous manner. This is the proper way to gain and keep your lord’s esteem,” she finished, barely able to keep a straight face.
Ivriniel let out what sounded like a sigh of satisfaction, “Keeping your lord’s esteem, that is the very point, Lothíriel. The behavior men enjoy from their …mistresses, they do not expect from their wives. Immodest conduct will embarrass the most liberal of men.”
That was not what Anniel had told her. “Should not wives and mistresses do the same things, Aunt? I always understood that men took mistresses when wives …”
“That is not the case at all!” Her Aunt drew herself together and staggered to her feet. “I see I am going to have to tell you exactly how you must conduct yourself in the marriage bed. Instruct you on how to consummate your union. I hoped to avoid it, but there are times when one’s duty has to override the natural repugnance to talk about difficult things.”
Panicking, Lothíriel looked around for escape, but the way to the door was blocked by a mountain of puce silk. In desperation she pretended nonchalance, “Oh, don’t trouble yourself Aunt. Anniel will tell me all I need to know.”
“That woman!” Ivriniel waved her stick in the general direction of Anniel’s rooms. “What does she know about marriage? Her father had to pay someone to wed her and he soon got himself killed at Osgiliath.
“She’s very kind,” Lothíriel retorted, stung by the insult to her companion. “And her husband would not have deliberately got himself killed.”
“She may be kind, which I doubt, but she has no breeding and has proved unsuitable as a companion. And if your father had not disappeared so soon I would tell him so,” her aunt said almost triumphantly.
“Well, Meren will tell me all I need to know, there’s no need to trouble yourself, Aunt.” Lothíriel countered rising from her chair. I’ll go and tell her you want her to instruct me…”
“Sit down, Lothíriel,” Ivriniel commanded. “She is not at all suitable. Last time I was here I caught her slipping her arm around Elphir when they were crossing the hall. The servants could have seen.”
“They are very happy, Aunt.” Lothíriel instinctively defended her sister-in-law.
“She doesn’t know how to behave, but what can you expect? If your father had not wanted to ensure a safe haven for his fleet in Langstrand, he would never have allowed such a poor match.”
Lothíriel’s mouth opened to protest but she closed it again knowing argument was useless. Then diplomacy took over. “It’s very nice of you to take so much trouble, Aunt Ivriniel. I shall be really pleased to hear your advice on marriage. But I won’t be wed until the end of next summer, so there’s plenty of time.” She got up again, “The gong will be ringing for dinner any moment.”
“No, Lothíriel. However abhorrent this is for both of us, it has to be done now. I am not a young woman and may be taken any day, so we must overcome our natural reluctance to talk about such things. It is my duty and I owe it to your poor dead mother.”
Completely surprised at hearing her mother spoken about with apparent approval by her aunt, Lothíriel sank back down in the seat, prepared to face the inevitable.
The noise of small birds squabbling over the crumbs brought Lothíriel back to the present. No bad thing, as she needed to take a breath before she recalled the awful ending to that conversation. She squirmed on the seat, Sweet Elbereth; she had never thought her aunt would spell it out like that. Still, it had encouraged Anniel and Meren to tell her how she should behave.
To be continued – when we find out exactly what Aunt Ivriniel said.
Author’s note – with grateful thanks to Lia for as well as checking through this story she lent me her very rare copy of Belecthor’s – The Gondorian maiden’s guide to proper deportment.
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.