26. Chapter 26
19th March 3020
The clip of a horse’s hooves drew Imrahil to the window, but he stood back, concealed behind the heavy woven curtain. From his vantage point he saw Éomer leading his grey stallion, the horse determinedly nudging at his master’s pockets in an ever hopeful search. Reaching the gate to the inner court, Éomer affectionately pulled at the quiff of unruly hair between Firefoot’s ears, before delving deep in his pocket to find a treat. With the horse’s big teeth contently munching, Éomer handed the reins to his squire, spoke a few words to the young guardsman waiting to accompany Lothíriel, and strode through the gate.
Halfway across to the door, the King of Rohan stopped abruptly. Imrahil knew Lothíriel had come out to meet him, because he saw Éomer’s start and intake of breath, before he bowed. Then his lips moved and his face broke into a smile as he greeted her.
Éomer offered her his arm, and Imrahil looked down on the top of his daughter’s head, which reached as high as the bearded chin. She laughed at something Éomer said, leaning towards him to reply, appearing surprisingly relaxed in such masculine company.
Imrahil moved slightly as Sergion came to stand behind him, looking over his shoulder. No doubt that had Éomer not been so distracted by his companion, he would have been alerted to their scrutiny. But unaware, he and Lothíriel continued talking together as they walked towards the gate.
Sergion sighed, stepping back. “We need to make some ruling on it, Imrahil. I am sure that this afternoon will not be the only time they seek each other’s company.”
No, probably not, he’d seen the look in Éomer’s eyes at the Harlond. And Lothíriel’s come to that, accepting an intimate ride without any quibble. And what he had just seen convinced him the first seeds of a relationship had been sown, but although nothing would please him more, he understood Sergion’s apprehension. However, he thought his friend was overreacting. With a last look, he turned away from the window.
“Sergion, you do not know him like I do. I would trust Éomer with my life, and cannot believe he is about to ravish my daughter whilst helping her choose a horse!”
“I am sure he is not. But, whatever you say, Imrahil, he is a virile young man before he is a king, friend or anything else. I know that Lothíriel appears confident, but I feel she is still fragile and vulnerable.”
“I am sure you are right on that,” Imrahil conceded reluctantly, “but she is vulnerable to all the young lords. And we cannot shelter her forever. For her to recover fully we need to step back.” He sat down, tapping his fingers on the leather top of the desk, still undecided on the wisdom of letting her go off with Éomer, however much he liked him.
“I know you are concerned, and so am I. But my greatest wish is to see her happy and settled with a man who loves her. And I can think of no one I would rather have for her husband than Éomer. If they spend time with one another, it will send out a message. If Éomer is interested in her it will be noticed, and none other will dare go near. Which is a protection in itself!”
“I suppose there is that,” Sergion agreed. “But we must be careful not to push her into something she cannot handle. Amroth may have made himself scarce, but I still think we should have arranged for a woman to accompany her. Going off with only a young soldier and a squire in attendance is just not sensible. A woman would be less easily diverted from her duty.”
“If Lothíriel were to be away for some hours I would agree with you, but I am sure we need not worry too much for a ride within the Rammas Echor. They need to get to know one another, and can hardly do that if some prissy woman is hanging on to every word. And to be fair, Sergion, what woman do we know who could keep up?”
“Well, Calaerdis would have had a fair chance, and she is not prissy. Did you think of asking her?”
Imrahil threw him a sideways look. “Perhaps you would like to suggest it. I can just see her elegant eyebrows arching at the very thought. Calaerdis enjoys her freedoms, and although she likes Lothíriel very much, I doubt she wishes to play nursemaid.”
“Ahh…I see.” Sergion chuckled. “No wonder she is happy with your arrangement.”
Imrahil shrugged. “Running around after someone else is not Calaerdis’ style. She had enough of that in her marriage.”
“Does she think things would alter so much? You were never an overbearing husband.”
“She is not willing to take the risk. It is her choice, not mine.” Imrahil, stood up, keen to put an end to the subject. “The guardsman will have to suffice, for today at least.”
“Very well, but I warn you, Imrahil, the gossips will have plenty to blather about.”
“Since when has the House of Dol Amroth worried about the gossips of Gondor,” Imrahil snorted.
He’d made his way on foot down the winding road before, but never had the distance seemed so short, in spite of modifying his pace to suit the woman beside him. Perhaps because their conversation flowed continually, with laugher erupting as sometimes both started to speak at once. But luckily only Firefoot could hear their words, the two escorts keeping a distance behind. Now though, she asked the most difficult question. Did he like being king? Her wonderful eyes were alight with curiosity, expecting an answer. An honest answer. Éomer hesitated for a moment, admitting the truth to himself: he generally liked it very much.
“I would be lying, Lothíriel, if I said I did not, even though it came by way of so much pain. Had things been different I would have been happy serving under Théodred, but now I am enjoying the responsibility of being the Lord of a land I love. Trading with your father and Elphir to buy food for my people will be rewarding, for the Riddermark has suffered much over the past years. I am hoping to make our lives easier in the future. Although it’s an area where I confess I will need the help of my advisors. Unlike warring, where I am used to making my own decisions and can blame no one if I get it wrong.”
He slanted her a half grin, wondering what she would think. “I do not suppose I will ever be content to sit at home and let others go off to fight.” But she did not look surprised: perhaps having three brothers had prepared her.
“Warrior first, king second?”
“Probably.” He could not deny that. “I am afraid that I have known little else since childhood. During all my life our borders have been under constant threat. I hope that it will change now, although we still have renegades to contend with. But they look more for food. Sheep and cattle make easier prey, so our horses are left alone.”
“Which is why you were happy to bring us so many.”
“It’s a case of needing to trade. We have received a lot of aid, but I do not want that to continue. I could not promise your father all greys until the herds have fully recovered. But being short, he is happy to have any at all. And I am counting on not having to take the whole muster of the Riddermark to war again.” One of the things he’d sworn to himself: only those who wanted to fight would have to do so, but he’d tell her that later. “Not all the horses are as trained as I would wish, but Amroth tells me you are well capable of dealing with an inexperienced mount.”
“I grew up with a pony for a best friend.” She paused, and he thought a memory clouded her eyes, but with a tiny shake of her head, she carried on. “I had a break from horses for a few years, but last winter I spent most of my time riding. I can usually manage the most fractious of animals.”
“I hope we can find you something that will give you pleasure, and not problems. Rather than look at every one, I have asked the Horse-master to use his judgment and pick out some suitable mounts.”
She smiled up at him, eyes clear again. “Thank you. I shall of course listen to his advice.”
They passed out of the gateway, across the square, towards the vast area that had been set aside for their horses. Éomer led her to where about twenty had been tethered near the new trees, close to a large paddock. Some of the other paddocks were still being fenced off, the tap of hammers echoing against the stone of the walls.
Lothíriel looked around in surprise. “You must be expecting hundreds.”
“Éowyn’s marriage will be toasted countless times. Many from the East-mark wanted to come, as well as Riders and their families from Edoras. The host should be here later today.”
Her look of surprise changed to a grin. “Will there be any men left to guard the Mark?”
“Yes, plenty,” he assured her, laughing. “And I will not be missed because Erkenbrand has moved into Edoras until I return. Normally Elfhelm would stand in as he is nearer, but he wished to renew friendships he made here during the war.”
“He’s your Marshal, isn’t he? I remember my father mentioning him,” Lothíriel commented.
“That’s right. He had to deal with all the Rohirrim left in the City, not an easy task.”
“Oh, yes. Amroth told me he thought highly of him.”
Éomer nodded; so did he, and never more so than during the first difficult months of kingship. But their conversation ended as Halcon had spotted them. A grizzled, weather-beaten man, he dipped his head in respect.
“I pulled some out as you asked, lord.”
Éomer introduced him to Lothíriel. “I hope the Princess will find a mount she is happy with.”
Halcon turned his attention to her. “I selected some of the lighter weight ones, Princess, but of course they tend to have a more lively temperament.”
“That will suit me well, Halcon, thank you.” She gave him a lovely smile, but Éomer wondered if the man noticed. He’d never seen him take an interest in anything other than his horses.
The three of them started walking along the line. All the animals were quite big. Although she made no comment on that, more interested in trying to assess their temperament by tickling their ears and scratching their noses. They talked about each one, but Éomer had the distinct feeling that although she appeared to be listening to his and Halcon’s advice, she was making her own decisions. Reaching the end of the line she went back and fondled a few, talking to them quietly. Surprisingly, she seemed to be avoiding the lighter greys; maybe she wanted something different than the war-horses common in Dol Amroth. Although, if he were to choose for her, it would probably be the glossy chestnut-bay, a big gelding with intelligent eyes. But she petted others. Then he noticed that the horse was swishing his tail, watching her, following her movements.
Smiling to himself, he leant forward and whispered in her ear, “Have you seen the bay, he is very handsome?”
“I agree, but I do not wish to let him know that I am interested.”
Now she really had surprised him. But he said nothing, waiting to see what the horse would do.
Lothíriel asked Halcon if four horses could be turned into the paddock, choosing a dark grey, two roans and the bay. They cantered around, tossing theirs heads and nipping at each other, glad to be free. Lothíriel watched them for faults, but all moved with an easy gait.
After a while, she put her hand on his shoulder to steady herself and climbed over the fence. Her fingers only pressed lightly into his flesh, but no branding iron could have marked him more. Once down onto the grass, she concentrated on the horses; he concentrated on trying to show no reaction to the intimate contact.
Three horses scooted to the other side of the paddock; the bay stood its ground. But ignoring the horse, she turned her back and leant on the fence, facing him and Halcon.
Halcon said nothing, his face inscrutable, but Éomer whispered. “He’s still watching you.”
“I hoped he might be. Has he made a move yet?”
“He’s thinking about it.” The horse had his eyes fixed on her, the muscles of his neck quivering.
All three kept perfectly quiet, and a few moments later the bay trotted over and nudged Lothíriel in the back. Still she ignored him, so he pushed his nose under her arm. Laughing, Lothíriel turned around and petted him, the horse nuzzled into her neck. With a grin to her audience, she took hold of his head collar and led him towards the gate.
“Is there a somewhere else I can use?” she asked, indicating the three other horses, which were tossing their heads with excitement.
Halcon directed her to a fenced ring not far away. Lothíriel followed Halcon, absorbed with the horse, and talking to it all the time until she got into the ring. Halcon closed the gate, and seeing her perfectly capable, Éomer kept back. She stood right alongside the bay’s neck rubbing her hand through the black mane. Then she tickled him on his forehead and whispered in his ear. The horse twitched, but he didn’t move, so she put her hand on his withers and whispered again. Down he went, and she sprang on his back.
“Better than some I know,” Halcon muttered.
Éomer laughed at the grudging admiration. “Who has chosen whom?” he called out, as with no saddle or reins she cantered her new horse around in a circle.
Coming to a halt next to them, she slid to the ground. “My saddles should be here. I have three to choose from, all my brothers’ cast-offs, one should suit. I lost my own with my horse.”
Éomer would have asked her more, but a couple of stable hands came over with her tack. After some deliberation Halcon selected a saddle and fitted it to the horse, taking time, making adjustments until he was happy. Lothíriel asked Halcon if the horse had been named, but the old man murmured something almost inaudible, intent on his task. Lothíriel looked up at him for clarification.
Éomer thought for a moment, the name would be difficult to pronounce for her. “It is Bracken in the common tongue,” he said.
“Yes, it suits him. He is the colour of the hills in autumn. I will not change it.”
With the saddle in place, Éomer seized his chance, and lifted her up onto the horse, her hair brushing into his face. Whatever perfume she used, he wouldn’t mind getting used to it….
Lothíriel spent time walking, trotting and cantering Bracken around the ring. Éomer leant against the fence watching her, enjoying the sight of girl and horse getting to know each other. They suited well: both had a long tail of black hair, although Lothíriel had a ribbon tied around hers, and Bracken’s hung straight.
He was still smiling when she trotted up, obviously pleased. “He is splendid,” she said, and then laughed. “He must be worth many barrels of fish and crates of oranges!”
Éomer moved close, holding on to the bridle. “I will settle for a kiss!” It came out before he even thought, a natural reaction to the beautiful girl looking down at him.
She hesitated, stiffening slightly, and once again he cursed himself for his impatience. But then, unexpectedly, she leant down and brushed her lips lightly across his.
“Will that suffice?”
“I will consider it a down payment,” he answered, grinning as her cheeks blushed pink.
Leading her out of the ring, he whistled and clicked his fingers. Firefoot, who had been cropping grass, showing total disinterest to anything else, trotted up. His lips were covered in green foam and a few wisps still stuck out of his mouth. Éomer pulled at them.
“You’re an untidy fellow. How about setting an example.”
He hoped Firefoot would be on his best behaviour, if he took a dislike to Bracken they were in trouble But the Valar must have been with him, because after a bit of ears-back shoving and the well-timed offer of a carrot from Lothíriel, his equine friend settled enough to allow them to head out towards the river at a comfortable canter.
Had he ever spent a more pleasant afternoon? Doubtful, and it was rather late by the time they wound their way back up the road to the stables outside the Citadel. He left Firefoot there and walked with her to her father’s stable.
Lothíriel led Bracken into his new stall, wanting to rub him down herself. Éomer waved the stable hand away and helped her with the saddle.
“You are happy with him?” he asked when she had nearly finished.
She turned clutching the cloth, lips parted with the effort of her exertion. “Yes, very, thank you.”
His eyes raked over her, she was just so damn lovely. With a will of its own his hand reached out. Éomer ran the back of his finger down her soft cheek, letting it fall off the end of her chin. Her face coloured, a pink blush extending down her neck. A pulse beat just under the flushed skin.
“He is a good horse, Lothíriel, but not our best. I shall give you a horse fit for a queen to ride.”
Her breasts heaved, but she held his eyes. “Bracken is good enough for me, for I am a princess, not a queen.”
“Not yet, maybe.” He breathed the words across the small space separating them.
“Ahem!” Somebody cleared their throat.
Éomer swung around, using his bulk to shield Lothíriel’s red face. Amroth stood in the doorway and an expression of sheer amusement lightened his dark eyes.
With a grin he poked his head around Éomer’s shoulder. “Oh, there you are, Lothíriel. You must have had a good ride, you look very hot.”
Lothíriel however took no notice, probably used to being teased. “What do you want, Amroth?” But her brother’s attention had focused on Bracken.
“Want? Oh…I have been sent to find you. Hisael does not wish to send you off to the feast smelling of horse.”
Lothíriel laughed, and looked up at Éomer. “I had better go, it must be getting late. Thank you for a lovely afternoon and for my wonderful horse.” She slapped the cloth into Amroth’s hand. “You can finish if you like.”
Amroth twirled it around. “I might manage to call your groom.”
She nodded, and with a smile to Éomer, left the stall.
They both watched her retreating figure. “You have a very beautiful sister, Amroth,” said Éomer, sighing.
“Yes. My brothers and I have been protecting her from unsavoury and unsuitable suitors since she was a child,” he replied.
“You would consider me unsuitable?”
The silence hung like a thick cloud, but then Amroth burst out laughing. “Of course not, but it was good to see your face.” Grinning, he ducked out of the way as Éomer went to cuff him. “Seriously,” he carried on, “I think, were you to win Lothíriel’s heart, all the family would be pleased! But if you will take some advice from one who knows a little of these matters, treat my sister gently. And it will be as well to let her know that you value her for more than just her beauty.”
“I have already complemented her on her horsemanship,” Éomer quipped, straight faced. “But you are the expert, Amroth. What do you suggest?”
Still grinning, Amroth ushered him out of the stall. “That you get rid of the smell of the stables. The ladies do not like it.”
Such a wonderful afternoon, but there was not a lot of time before the feast. Hisael had her head buried in the large cupboard, looking through her dresses. Lothíriel sighed, and recommenced rubbing the towel between her toes. She must get on and dry herself and stop thinking about the man and the horse.
“Are you going to wear the blue one, Princess?” the maid called out.
Lothíriel put down the towel and stood up. “No, I don’t think so. I shall wear the pearl one.”
“But that is the most beautiful; do you not wish to keep it for the wedding?”
But she had already decided. “No, for I have a feeling that the Lady Éowyn will wear white.”
Hisael’s arm dropped from the rail and she turned, a question on her face. “Why do you think white and not green?”
“Well, Gondor called her the White Lady, and from what I have heard that is how Faramir first saw her, and thinks of her. Calaerdis says she tends to dress simply, and my pearl dress is very sumptuous. I think it will be better worn tonight for the opening feast, and nice for Éowyn’s white dress to stand out amongst all the colours for her marriage ceremony.”
“As your pearl one will tonight,” Hisael said, pulling out the heavy silk dress.
“I don’t imagine there will be anything like it,” Lothíriel agreed. Not delicate, but rich and elegant, her dress was likely to make an impact. But she had to do this, get used to people – men – looking at her. If she intended to take the path laid out before her, she would be on view for the rest of her life.
“You won’t want your hair loose if you are wearing this one.” Hisael hung the dress on the outside of the wardrobe.
No, her hair needed to be lifted. She studied the dress, not white but the colour of thick cream, which suited her colouring better. Except for the border of pearls around the hem, the dress itself was quite plain, although the material would shimmer in the candlelight. Slim fitting, with a short train and the sleeves tight, buttoned to the elbow with pearls. It was the collar that set if off. Padded and studded with more pearls, it stood up around the back of her neck and plunged down in a deep vee that showed off her breasts. Only a short time ago she would never have considered wearing anything so revealing.
Hisael started on her hair and swept it up from her face, twisting it into a knot on top of her head, and brushing out the long wavy tail to hang down her back. When she had finished, Lothíriel fixed the circlet her father had given her when he returned from the war. Around the front of the gold band swam three pearl swans.
A little later there was a tap on the door and Amroth came to escort her. He looked her up and down, and said with his cheeky grin, “I think you will be turning a few heads tonight, little sister, including a certain king’s.”
Lothíriel dug him in the ribs, “And what about you, I doubt you will have any time to spend with me.” Her brother always had a bevy of ladies around him.
Amroth held up his hands laughing. “No, tonight I am all yours. But I bet there will be a few trying to get rid of me.” He bowed elegantly, and held out his arm. “It’s a good job I am not offended that you chose to take Éomer’s advice over your horse, rather than ask me.”
“You could have come with us.”
“What! And have risked the royal wrath? No thank you.”
“Don’t be silly, Amroth. They were his horses; it was natural to go with him. Anyway, I thought you were friends.”
“Oh, we are. Which is why he would probably have hit me had I intruded. And why I told him to make sure of ridding himself of the smell of the stables tonight.”
“I wouldn’t blame him for hitting you if you said that,” Lothíriel retorted. But she couldn’t discomfit her brother, so gave up.
A plethora of colour greeted her; they must have been among the last to enter the Great Hall of Feasts. Calaerdis had been right, and the plain cream next to her brother’s dark blue cut a slice of contrast through the myriad of bright shades. Lothíriel felt as though all eyes were on her, and her steps faltered. But Amroth held onto her tightly and whispered in her ear.
“I am sorry; we should have gone around the back, straight to the dais. But you can do this.”
She looked up at him gratefully, and he winked at her. Then, suddenly, her upbringing must have taken over because confidence returned. Her thumping heart slowed.
As they proceeded down the hall, several young men remembered something they needed to say urgently to her brother. And their way was barred by the flimsiest of excuses. Lothíriel smiled and nodded, making polite remarks, but her eyes were drawn to the end of the hall. Then she saw him. He was standing next to Aragorn on the dais, looking directly towards her. Through the press of people their eyes met, and he smiled. Lothíriel wanted to run towards him, seek safety by his side. He did look like a lion, a beautiful golden lion, and all knew he could be equally as fierce.
Frustratingly, it took an age before she could get there, then right at the bottom of the steps a pale man with a hawk nose engaged them in conversation. But Amroth excused them quickly.
“The King is waiting.” he told him in his best haughty manner.
“I didn’t say which king,” Amroth murmured in her ear as they stepped onto the dais.
Lothíriel didn’t bother to answer back, fearful of starting him off again. Éomer had his eyes fixed on her, and the goblet that he was about to drink from failed to connect with his lips. But when she did reach his side there was only time for a few words.
“You look absolutely wonderful, a real sea princess with those pearls.” Éomer murmured as they waited to sit down.
“And you look magnificent,” Wanting to touch him, she moved a bit closer to finger the beautiful embroidery on the sleeve of his tunic. He laughed, deep and mellow, the sound reverberating through her.
“Which is surprising, since I did not have much time to get ready.” His nose twitched and blue eyes gleamed. “I meant to ask you this afternoon, what is the alluring perfume?”
She stepped away quickly, realising that they were on view to the rest of the hall. “Oh, it’s jasmine.”
“Well, it smells better than it tastes.”
“Tastes?” Lothíriel laughed when she realised what he meant. “Not the same one at all. This is very common and grows in our gardens.”
But conversation ended with the ringing of the bell. They sat only a couple of seats apart, but there was no chance to say much with her father one of those between them.
As much as he enjoyed Imrahil’s company, Éomer would have liked to have moved a few seats, he’d had no chance to talk to her during the meal. Now his kinsmen, or rather kinswoman, had taken her attention. Trust Éothain to be the first wanting an introduction, he didn’t miss much. And it looked like she was making friends with Welwyn; the two of them had been talking for ages. Which pleased him, because Welwyn found gatherings like these hard. Although she had stopped trying to hide her scar and wore it, if not with pride, with defiance.
“A pleasant evening, Éomer. The harpers are particularly good.”
Éomer jumped, realising he had been poor company. But Aragorn only looked amused.
“Yes, it was a good idea to come out here. Much better than the stuffy hall.”
Great braziers had been lit and candles placed on small tables all around the courtyard. Music floated on the night air and the lords and ladies of two lands strolled the paths under a canopy of stars, or sat in groups talking and laughing. He noticed Meren and Wilflede deep in conversation, but they had children in common. His eyes went back to Lothíriel, what did she and Welwyn share…
“Finding it difficult to look anywhere else, Éomer?”
“Oh, I am sorry.” Bema! Was it that obvious?
Aragorn reached over and topped up his goblet from the jug between them, his eyes twinkling. “Don’t be, I am happy to see another smitten at first sight.”
His turn to grin. “Once I saw your lovely wife, I understood perfectly.”
“And now I suspect something similar has happened to you.”
Éomer twirled his goblet, looking down into the dark liquid, and sighed. “Hmm… I admit it seems very likely. But I feel I am not seeing the whole person. I have spent much of the day in her company and she appears as a young woman should: happy and carefree. But then I catch a fleeting shadow in her eyes. Faramir hinted at something, but would not say, and a comment from Amroth made me wonder.” He stopped; the flash in Aragorn’s eyes told him he had not been mistaken. “There is a mystery surrounding her, and I guess that you know what it is. Will you not tell me?”
“Nothing that would stand between you, Éomer, I will put your mind at rest on that. It is more …” he paused, glancing over to where Lothíriel and Welwyn were still talking “… that she carries scars. Not visible, like the one that mars Welwyn’s fair face, but deep and hidden. But I don’t think it is for me to tell you, Éomer. I am sure she will do so herself when she is ready. Give her time to learn to trust you.” He paused again, thinking for a moment and then went on, “I will tell you this much, it may help you with her. You know that Dol Amroth was held under siege for a short while after Imrahil left to ride to the aid of Minas Tirith?”
“Yes. I could not understand why, as evidently the force was much too small to storm the city. The actions of the Harad commanders did not make sense. I realize that Lothíriel was there, but surely that was not all?”
“No, not all. But you see, the force was not there to storm the city, but to stop anyone escaping. To stop Lothíriel escaping.”
Éomer frowned, not quite sure if he had picked up on Aragorn’s meaning.
Aragorn’s lip curled and he spat the words. “To the victor go the spoils of war.”
Éomer’s puzzlement turned to horror; he stared at Aragorn in disbelief.
“It has always been so, my friend, beautiful women have ever been but pawns in the games of men.”
“I went where no one else is allowed. We rode right up to the tree.” Alphros let go of Éomer’s hand, and ran headlong at his mother, all excitement and pride.
She made a lovely picture: the pretty woman absorbed in some needlework with the shadows of the leaves dancing across her face. But at the first sound of her son’s eager voice, Meren quickly rose from her seat under the tree and put down whatever she had been working on, smoothing down her dress. She caught Alphros before he had a chance to knock her over, hoisting him into her arms. Her face filled with love, but her voice was firm.
“Have you thanked King Éomer properly?”
“Yes, he did. Very nicely,” Éomer confirmed. In fact he had enjoyed taking the boy out, bright and lively, but well mannered.
“Well, thank you for remembering. He woke up talking about it, but I was not sure you would come.”
“I promised, and would not willingly have let him down.” It was just a pity Lothíriel had not been around. Meren must have picked up on his thought, it sounded as if she was apologising.
“Lothíriel and Calaerdis are not back yet. They went to the market to order flowers, but I expect they saw other things that took their attention.”
He was not having much luck. “They seem to enjoy one another’s company.”
“Yes,” Meren looked a bit embarrassed. “Calaerdis is a very nice person. She is a friend…of all of us.”
Damn! Did she think he would be shocked at Lothíriel consorting with her father’s mistress? “I like Calaerdis very much,” he put in quickly.
Meren smiled her relief. “We all do.” Alphros suddenly saw a cat walking along the top of the wall and struggled to get down from his mother’s arms. She let him go, watching for a moment to make sure he wouldn’t come to any harm trying to scale the wall. The cat looked down with a superior expression, safe for the time being.
“He won’t get very far,” Éomer reassured her.
She shook her head in resignation. “He’s always up to something.”
Éomer grinned. “He’s a boy.” He waited until he was sure Alphros could really get no higher and reluctantly took his leave. “Well, I must go.” He could hardly hang around hoping Lothíriel would be back. And after Aragorn’s announcement the night before, he’d made up his mind not to crowd her, but he still wanted to see her. At least Meren appeared to be on his side.
“Éomer, the family is eating here tonight. Would you like to join us?”
“Thank you. I would have enjoyed that. However, I have already arranged to get together with some of my kinsmen. But are you and Elphir coming on Faramir’s picnic tomorrow?” He knew Lothíriel would be there.
Meren shook her head. “No, Elphir is meeting with Imrahil and Aragorn. Some emissaries from…” she waved her hand generally south … “are due to arrive. Wilflede’s maid is bringing little Bronwyn here, so Wilflede and Elfhelm can go.”
“That is kind of you.” She was a sweet lady; he couldn’t imagine her ever doing anything unkind.
She chuckled softly. “Well, to be honest, I am not keen on long rides. I usually end up on Elphir’s horse.”
He couldn’t fault that. “I agree, a very pleasant way to travel.” Their eyes met in laughter and Éomer bowed. “Perhaps you would tell Amroth and Lothíriel that I will see them in the morning.”
To be continued.
List of Original Character appearing or mentioned in this chapter.
Sergion- Friend of Prince Imrahil’s. Was a Commander of Swan Knights but now the Captain of Lothíriel’s Guard. Injured when an attempt was made to kidnap Lothíriel. Charged with the defense of Dol Amroth during the Ring-war.
.Lady Calaerdis- From Sirith in Lebennin. A rich widow. Mistress to Imrahil.
Princess Meren- Elphir’s wife. Rescued by him from Corsairs to whom she refused to give away the hiding place of her brother’s children in spite of being assaulted.
Hisael - Lothíriel’s maid
Welwyn- Daughter to Erkenbrand and Winfrith. Wounded in the Battle of Helm’s Deep and healed by Aragorn.
Wilflede - Hama’s eldest daughter – Married to Elfhelm
Halcon - Éomer’s Stable-master.
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