7. Chapter 7
Dol Amroth Summer 3012
The gallop had been wonderful, and as soon as her feet touched the ground, Lothíriel flung her arms around Whitewing’s warm neck. “Oh, I enjoyed that.” The mare disdained to reply, merely shaking her head and half dragging her rider towards the stable. Lothíriel laughed. “Oh, all right, we will go and get your breakfast.”
Sergion dismounted from Thunderer, handing him over to his groom, but Lothíriel waved hers away. She wanted to see to Whitewing herself and led the mare into her stall to remove bridle and saddle. With a whicker of pleasure Whitewing plunged her head into the open feedbag. Grinning at the sound of the horse’s contented chomping, Lothíriel removed the saddlecloth and grabbed a handful of straw to rub her down. Halfway through one flank she felt eyes upon her and knew Sergion was watching her. Nothing surprising in that – they had all been watching her since she had returned, but not one word of reproach from any of them. Her atrocious conduct ignored in the joy of having her home.
Saying nothing, she continued the long smooth strokes, trying to put off the inevitable questions. The whole ride they had talked commonplaces and pleasantries, but she was under no illusion that Sergion’s offer of an escort for a long fast gallop had been aimed at putting her at her ease and getting her to talk. She could just imagine her father suggesting it, too. Not that she blamed him, as so far she had found it difficult to say much at all. They knew where she had been – Elphir had found the cave – burnt wood still warm – but they wanted to know more about Seron, and so far she had been unable to share her experiences. Worse though, they wanted to know exactly why she had run away. Twice, when her father had cuddled her close, she had wanted to tell him. But deep down she still felt ashamed that Umar desired her. She’d almost told Amroth when he’d walked with her to check on Mista, but somehow the moment had passed and they had just discussed the miracle of Larca finding her. Taking a deep breath, she looked up to see Sergion smiling at her.
“As much as I like to see you riding Whitewing, you are going to need a more challenging mount very soon, Lothíriel.”
“I love her, Sergion, and I am really grateful you did not sell her,” she said, knowing that having the horse around must constantly bring back memories of his wife, who had also loved to gallop on the beach. “But you are right, and Father promised he would look for something really special …” She stopped. Firstly because the mention of a new horse brought Seron’s words to mind – ‘the horse will look after you.’ Did he mean Whitewing or another? Whitewing was a kindly horse, but she didn’t strike one as noble or brave, and besides, she wasn’t really hers. But secondly, with her recent very un-princesslike behavior, punishment seemed more likely than the present of a new horse.
“Your father is not angry with you, Lothíriel. He is worried and confused.”
Lothíriel felt the blood rush to her cheeks. Trust Sergion to know what she was thinking. Her guess had been correct: get her on her own and then pounce. Feeling cornered with nowhere to run she dropped her eyes, stirring the straw with the toe of her boot.
“We are all confused, and think there is something you are not telling us. Your father hoped you would confide in him. But if you can’t tell your father, Lothíriel, can you tell me? In the past I have been honored with your confidences.” Sergion smiled, twinkling grey eyes at her. “Remember the time you poured soap into the fountain, who did you come running to then?”
“That’s not fair,” she blurted out. “And you know I didn’t realize the water from the fountain fed grandfather’s carp pond. I would never…”
A large hand landed on her shoulder. “I know you wouldn’t. Just as I know who put you up to such a trick, even though you refused to say. You have always kept your own counsel, but this is not the same, Lothíriel. Your father needs to know why you behaved so outrageously and put yourself in such danger. Surely you can’t really believe he would promise you to that man. Send you to live in a remote country when you are not yet fourteen! Do you trust him so little that you had to run away?”
Silence, except for her own breathing. It competed with Whitewing’s pleasurable munching to fill the stall with sound. Lothíriel couldn’t raise her eyes and dug her teeth into her lip until it hurt. Releasing the flesh, she ran her tongue around her lips, and deliberately swallowed before speaking. “It’s Umar I don’t trust. He is evil. I don’t want anything to do with him. I don’t want us to have anything to do with him. Father mustn’t believe one word he says.”
Sergion sighed. “I admit I can’t take to the man. But we have no reason to think he wouldn’t keep his word if we made a treaty. And although it upset you, and we would never agree to it, through the ages treaties have been strengthened by marriage ties. And it may seem strange to us, but they do wed very young girls in Harad.”
“Not girls of nine!” she retorted angrily, glaring up at him. “Even there, surely they don’t do that.”
“No…,” he said frowning, “but Umar made no such suggestion. He said their customs allowed marriage at twelve. Far too young for us, I know, but they have different ways…” Her expression must have alerted him that something more lay behind her outburst than simple dislike because he paused, hooked his finger under her chin and lifted her face to his. Kind eyes studied her, “What is it, Lothíriel? What’s this all about?”
Lothíriel pulled her head away, breaking the contact and staring down at the floor. But that wasn’t enough so she closed her eyes, the only way she could get the words out. Even then her voice sounded a monotone to her own ears. “I saw him. That first time he came. Before he came to the palace that night. I went for a ride in the forest and came down onto the beach. I didn’t realize they were camping there. He took one look at me and sent his men after me. Sergion, he wanted to .. he…he wanted to take me to his bed,” she got out at last. “I had to hide in the cave. I was so frightened….” She gulped frantically, a great sob welling up, but before it even left her throat, Sergion had pulled her against him. With the relief of finally telling someone, the tears flowed and Lothíriel buried her head deep into blue wool, powerless to stop them.
Imrahil stood at his window, gazing down into the courtyard, wondering how long it would take his daughter to actually enter the Healing-house. Kicking her feet in the dust, she looked so childish and innocent. A wave of hot anger shot through him: if he ever came face to face with that pervert Umar again, he would tear him into small pieces and throw the bits to the dogs. Hunting a nine-year old child for his pleasure: the man was deranged. As Imrahil watched, his daughter reached up to pick a leaf from the bay-tree that shaded the doorway. She crushed it between her fingers before putting it to her nose. Then, the leaf discarded, her hand dropped to her side. But still she lingered at the entrance, knowing perhaps that once she stepped across the threshold her life would be changed forever. “Go on,” he said aloud, although she could not hear, and did not move. A rap on the door made him draw away from the window, calling the command to enter.
“She told you?” Sergion asked as he closed the door behind him.
“Everything, I think.” Imrahil confirmed. “Once she started she could not stop. Mind you a lot of it sounded very muddled. Evidently she thought him to be some kind of soothsayer. He told her she would never marry Umar, something about the wrong color hair. He said she would marry a king.”
Sergion raised his eyebrows at this. “Don’t fortune-tellers tell one what one wants to hear?”
Imrahil shrugged. “Probably, but I am not sure this Seron is an ordinary mystic. Not from some of the things Lothíriel told me. And the strange way Larca found her; I cannot get my head around that.”
“No, I agree, but we may never find out the truth. Where is Lothíriel now?”
Imrahil looked back out the window; the bay-tree had been abandoned. “Gone to talk to the Master, she wants to train as a healer. That’s another thing her mentor advised, but she had been dreading asking me for permission...however, I have no objection.” A faint smile appeared on Sergion’s face. “You don’t look surprised,” Imrahil said.
Sergion shook his head. “Not really. Lothíriel has always had an empathy with injured creatures; it’s only a whisker away from treating people. What surprises me more is that you have condoned such an unusual step.”
“I see no harm. To be honest, Sergion, I feel it may be a way of keeping her occupied and safe for the time being. She cannot be allowed to roam the countryside alone ever again. Which is something we have to discuss: I want her to have her own guard.”
“You think she is in danger?
Imrahil nodded silently.
“From Umar?” Sergion asked with a frown.
“You heard what he said before he left — by his law she now belongs to him. He expected us to give her up when we found her. I would not have taken much notice if we had not discovered his true character, but it’s obvious he desires Lothíriel, as wife or slave. With the Corsairs becoming increasingly active, I will take no chances with her safety. The bastards kidnap anyone for a price and Umar would well be able to pay. I can’t lock her in the city, Sergion, she will want to ride and swim.” Maybe he was overreacting, but after nearly losing his daughter he would make no excuses to his friend for such anxieties.
But Sergion gripped his arm, supportive as always. “It seems bizarre that he would attempt to kidnap her, but I agree we cannot be complacent. Do you want me to find volunteers; we will need a reliable captain.”
“Yes, I want a first-rate guard. Men I can trust with my daughter.”
“Imrahil, if you are set on this, then I will captain Lothíriel’s guard myself. I will keep her safe.”
“You, my friend. You, who command all my troops, would give that up to look after my daughter?”
“There are others fiercely loyal to their lord, younger men who are looking for promotion and can take my place. But we are talking about a protector for Lothíriel, and I owe my son’s life to her.”
Cool and dark, the ante-chamber provided relief from the bright heat of the day. The clerk looked up, smiling as he recognized her. “Hello, Princess, what can I do for you?” He stretched his thin neck towards her, eyes seeking a burden. “Have you brought an injured creature for us to mend?”
“No, not today, Cullas. I wanted to see the Master.”
Cullas looked surprised but did not question her. “I’ll go and tell him, he’s in his office. We are very quiet, it being summer and with no raids lately.”
A few minutes later Lothíriel stood in front of a plain wooden desk. A pile of massive leather-bound tomes nearly hid the man sitting behind it. He poked his head around the obstruction, quill still in hand. Lothíriel bit her lip, he always reminded her of a grey stork – a small head and beaky nose set upon a lanky body.
“Cullas said you wanted to talk to me, Princess.”
Now she felt really nervous. He would not be expecting this. “I want to train as a healer, Master. My father has given me permission. I just need your agreement and he will sort the details with you.” Lothíriel held her breath, so much depended on his answer, as even her father would find it difficult to force him to take her. If he said no then all Seron’s prophecies would be worthless, a mere sham. And she knew she would be extraordinarily disappointed if that proved the case. But Nemir didn’t even look surprised, in fact a slow smile spread over his face. Carefully he returned the quill to its holder and leaned back in his chair, placing his fingers together and surveying her over the top of them. Lothíriel tried not to fidget, returning his gaze boldly. It seemed ages before he answered her.
“I wondered how long it would take before you asked me that.”
Edoras, The Riddermark – Autumn 3012.
Éomer finished rubbing down his horse, admiring the shine he had achieved on the dappled coat. He tickled a soft, velvet nose. “You’ll be comfy here: the Royal Stables are the finest stables in the Mark. Good wheat straw and no draughts. Nothing but the best for you, and I hope you appreciate it.” The horse ignored his homily, eyes fixed on the bowl of oats Éomer had left on the ledge outside the stall. Laughing, Éomer retrieved it and held it out, content to patiently wait while his horse snaffled up the offering. The bowl clanged as teeth and tongue searched out every last grain. “No, there’s no more,” Éomer said, pulling the bowl away before it was snatched from his fingers. “I don’t want you too lively.” The big grey blew through his nostrils in disgust and turned his attention to the manger of fresh hay. Éomer patted his neck. “You’re a greedy one; I’m going to have to watch you.”
“Éomer! They said you’d arrived.”
Éowyn! No one else screeched at him like that! Éomer turned, just in time to catch a glimpse of bright blue eyes and flying blond hair before his sister hurtled into him. “Whoa, Éowyn,” he hugged her to him, dropping a kiss on her head. “I thought you promised that when you reached seventeen you’d act like lady.”
Éowyn giggled. “I do. I am very good at it now. But only in the hall, I’m not going to bother in the stables…Oh, you’ve got him!” Impatiently, she wriggled out of his grasp and pushed him aside – so much for sisterly love. A big grin covering her face, she hung over the door to the stall, studying the occupant. “What have you called him?”
“Firefoot. He’s related to Fireball through their grand-dam, Firefly, but his sire is the Mearas stallion, Wingfoot.”
“Wow! He’s a big one, Éomer. Great bone, and powerful haunches.”
Éomer cast his eyes over his new acquisition, something he couldn’t stop doing. Such a magnificent animal, he thought, with an unusually dark dappled-grey coat and black hocks. Even when his coat lightened with age the black mane and tail would keep him looking good. Firefoot momentarily pulled his head out of the manger; dark, inquisitive eyes scrutinized his audience.
Éowyn pulled a piece of carrot from her pocket and held it out. “Here, make friends with me.” Stretching out his long neck, Firefoot deftly plucked the treat from Éowyn’s outspread hand, a quick crunch and he snuffled against her fingers for more. Chuckling, she scratched him under his chin. “A proud head, and you haven’t had him gelded. I bet he’s a handful.”
Éomer grinned. “We’ve had some run-ins, but I think he knows who is boss now. I like them to have plenty of spirit.”
“Yes,” she said stepping back as Firefoot started to investigate her neckline, “but it might have been better not to have taken on a stallion to train, since you are so committed to the Emnet.”
Éomer didn’t agree. He thought the extra effort involved in keeping on top of a stallion well worth it, as the Riddermark was going to be in need of all the fighting power it could muster, but he didn’t want to tell his sister that. “He will keep me on my toes; stop me getting complacent on the endless patrols. Now, come on, you can get to know him later. I must pay my respects to our uncle.”
Walking along the path from the stables gave them time to talk, and for him to study his sister. Only a few months since he had seen her, but in spite of her exuberant greeting of him, she did look more grown-up. For a start she wore a white dress, whereas in the past dresses had been kept for special occasions. Her hair had changed, too: the plaits had gone. Now, only the front tresses of her long fine hair had been pulled to form a braid down her back, the rest she wore loose. Éowyn looked up, eyes wide and still innocent, smiling at him. Her fair face made him think of Bergit and a shadow passed over him for a moment — they had failed her and her kin. Pray he could always keep Éowyn safe from harm.
“What is it, Éomer? You look really grim.”
He took her arm, pulling it through his and forcing a smile. “Nothing, tell me about uncle. Is he well?”
“Yes, he’s in good health. But mind you, he doesn’t ride out so much anymore. Now Elfhelm is here he lets him get on with it. I suppose it’s because he’s getting older.”
“Hmm,” Éomer thought for a moment. “He must be about sixty- four, but he’s always kept up his skills.”
“Not now.” Éowyn replied. “He’s almost given up going to the training ring.”
Éomer didn’t like the sound of that. “He seemed pretty hale and hearty last time I was here. In fact we had a bout together.”
“His trusted counselor says that he must give the younger commanders a chance. But I don’t see why that should stop him from sparring to keep fit.”
“Neither do I.” Éomer remembered Éowyn had not sounded too pleased about the new advisor. “You wrote to me about this Grima. What’s he like?”
Éowyn screwed up her nose. “I don’t like him. I think he’s slimy. In fact, not many do like him, but Uncle won’t hear a word against him. And to be honest, he does mostly give sound counsel. Take Théodred for instance, sending him to the Westfold was Grima’s suggestion. Things were getting a bit strained between him and his father.”
“Yes, I agree that Théodred needs to command in his own right. After all, he will be king someday. The time was certainly ripe for it and I am surprised Uncle did not do it before. With Erkenbrand to support him, the West-mark is a good training ground for our future king. It means he can make his own decisions without feeling someone is always watching him.”
Éowyn nodded, “That’s what Grima told our uncle.”
“So, I will withhold judgment on this new advisor until I get to know him better. I can barely remember him.”
“Well, he also supported your promotion. I overheard him saying that you needed to be given responsibility as well, seeing as you are second in line to the throne.”
“Did he now. Well let’s go and see what he has to say.”
They reached the bottom of the steps that led up to the great doors of Meduseld. Éomer wondered why they were closed on such a fine afternoon, but keen to see his uncle bounded up the steps, forgetting Éowyn for a moment in his eagerness. His long-legged sister was not far behind him though, but their progress was halted by the bulk of a tall, smiling man, wearing the uniform of the king’s personal guard.
“Ferthu Éomer hál,” he said holding out his arm for a warrior’s clasp.
“Háma!” Éomer grasped the older man’s arm with one hand, hitting him on the other with his free one. “It’s good to see you; I have missed our nightly chess games.”
Dropping his voice Háma stepped closer. “You have had other games to play, I understand. Games where we are the pawns in some plan hatched in the East, I fear.”
He might have guessed: Háma always did see the bigger picture and had no doubt been discussing the deteriorating situation with Elfhelm. Éomer glanced at his sister. “Not now, we will talk later, I must see my uncle.” Letting go of Háma’s arm Éomer took a step to go through the door, but Háma held him back.
“I will have to announce you and gain permission for you to enter.”
Immediately angry, Éomer shook off his hold. “Announce me? Since when do I need an invitation to enter my home?”
“Grima thinks we do not show our king enough respect.” Háma’s lip twisted in disgust. “He has persuaded Théoden that Meduseld needs to become more formalised and everyone has to be announced. I am afraid there are no exceptions.”
Not show their king respect! What rubbish was this? Éomer opened his mouth to argue but then realised it was not Háma’s fault. “I presume this new rule does not apply to my sister,” he snapped instead.
Éowyn grabbed his arm. “No, of course it doesn’t, Éomer, and please don’t cause a fuss. Grima has a way of turning things. You don’t want to upset him.”
“Not upset him! Why not? What’s wrong with you, Éowyn? I wouldn’t upset my King, or the commanders I respect, but from what I’ve heard this counsellor is a nobody.”
“But he has Théoden King’s ear, Éomer. Your sister is right,” Háma said. “Keep your peace and your eyes open. One learns more that way.”
Éomer chuckled, humour restored. “Háma you have spent years telling me to watch my temper. Sometimes it is worth losing it for the satisfaction of regaining it. Lead on, I will be on my best behaviour. Take me to meet this Grima.”
Háma nodded and signalled to the Doorwards to swing the heavy doors. Éowyn slipped inside and Háma took a few steps and turned. “Wait there, Éomer, will you? It will only be a formality.”
Éomer clenched his teeth, telling himself to keep his temper. “Get on with it before I march up there in front of you.”
Waiting, and letting his eyes adjust to the dark interior, he stared at the tapestry depicting Eorl the Young. Light from one of the high windows fell on the flying yellow hair. The famous warrior, astride his equally famous steed, had the great battle horn of the Eorlingas pressed to his lips. Éomer mused that if only they had a few more of his ilk they might actually see off the scavenging filth of Mordor, and retain the whole of the Emnet for their herds. If it got any worse out there he was afraid they would have to completely give up the grazing near to the Anduin, which limited the number of horses they could run on the plain. He agreed with Háma: probably there was more behind the constant raids than had been realised. But Eorllic had already communicated that intelligence to Théoden. And while Éomer had every intention of repeating it, he was really here to see his sister, hopefully share a jug with Déor and generally have a few days off. But he also wanted to see Elfhelm and find out how things were going on their Western border. From what he had heard Théodred was being kept busy dealing with incursions from the Dunlendings. They, by all accounts, had been joined by groups of orcs. Deep in his deliberations, he didn’t realise Háma had come back.
“Éomer, Théoden King bids you welcome. You don’t’ have to remove your sword.”
Éomer didn’t even deign to answer that, but marched down the centre of the Hall towards the dais, boots clacking on the tiles. Passing the huge hearth, he wondered how much time his uncle spent in here; the warmth was already making him wish he had removed some outer clothing. He spotted the man, Grima, sitting on the steps at Théoden’s feet, but as he approached the throne he deliberately kept his eyes on his uncle, studiously ignoring his counsellor.
“Hail, Théoden King.” Éomer came to a halt, bowing in front of his uncle.
“It is customary to kneel in front of the King…”
Éomer turned his head slowly and dropped his eyes to the figure on the steps. Not a pleasant sight, he decided. Dark, lank hair fell to the man’s shoulders, and deep hooded eyes were set in a pasty-pale face. He looked as though he rarely saw the full light of day.
“…But of course you being his nephew puts you in a unique position, so I imagine you can be excused your oversight.” Grima carried on.
“Imagination does not come into it, my friend. Théoden King has given me permission not to kneel in his presence except on formal occasions. I do not consider this to be one of them.”
“Of course not, Éomer, sister-son.” Théoden had risen and started down the few steps towards him, arms outstretched. “You must excuse Grima, he guards my dignity zealously.”
At least his uncle did not look much different: creased, blue eyes sparkling in a tanned face. Perhaps slightly more grey in his hair, but he still wore it plaited into warrior braids. “Your dignity is under no threat, lord. It rides on your shoulders with its head held high.” Éomer clasped his uncle’s arm and grinned as he was pulled hard against the royal chest in a hug.
“Always one with fair words, Éomer. And I have been hearing good things about you from Elfhelm. Come, let us call for ale and find somewhere more comfortable to sit and talk about your deeds.”
Théoden took his arm and guided him to the nearest table. As he sat Éomer caught sight of Grima. The man was staring at him, a look of pure malevolence on his face. Éomer stared back, holding those deeply lidded eyes locked to his until they slowly withdrew from his deliberately fierce gaze. He had been in Edoras less than an hour, but he knew he had already made an enemy.
Dol Amroth – Autumn 3012.
Amrothos hurried down to the harbour, having no idea what to expect. The message had been garbled – ‘a horse had arrived from Harad, somebody from the palace needs to collect it.’ Except for a few local fishing boats, only one vessel lay against the quay: a high-prowed trader from Umbar, already being unloaded. With the tide still high, she moved gently on the swell that rounded the breakwater when the prevailing westerly backed to the south. Men swarmed up and down the gangway, and the smell of spices wafted over as sacks were dumped on a waiting wagon. Amroth jumped a pile of ropes and narrowly missed bumping a sailor hauling a sack over each shoulder. Grinning at the tirade of foul language that came his way, he waved a hand in apology and turned to the groom trying to keep up with him. “I hope they got the horse off first, it will be smelling the land and becoming fractious otherwise.” Generally horses took sea passages in their stride, but once they arrived it was prudent to unload them with no delay. The groom nodded and then lifted up his hand, pointing an arm, over which hung a head collar and rope, towards a pile of wooden crates on the dockside.
Amroth came to a halt and stared. Tied to one of the crates was a horse. A Harad war- mare, to be exact. He had admired them when Umar had visited in the summer, and this one was a beaut. Now he knew she was off the ship he didn’t hurry, scrutinizing the mare as he walked towards her. Head held high, her large ears flicked back and forwards, taking in the frenzied activity around her, but not bothered by it. He chuckled as a porter got too close, pulling back in fright when the mare stamped lethal hooves and blew a long woof of warning though splayed nostrils. Amroth, knowing the foolishness of getting too close before she had accepted him – a snap from those teeth would be painful –studied her avidly. A light clouded-grey, the soft hair and thin skin almost translucent in the sunshine, and from where he stood she looked un-scarred. A long, low whistle of appreciation left his lips. “That is some horse,” he muttered aloud, as she kicked out at another unfortunate porter.
“Don’t often see the like,” the groom agreed. “Although I prefer something taller myself. Broader on the back than ours too, but those Southrons seem to breed them like that.”
“Yes, they make wonderful warhorses, well capable of carrying a man and full armour. But they normally guard their breeding stock jealously,” Amroth said. “I wonder what she’s doing here.” He looked around for a sign of an attendant. She must have one, as her coat shone and her neat hooves gleamed with oil. No one in their right mind would send a horse to sea without one, anyway. Then he noticed a man sitting crossed-legged on the ground, just out of kicking distance. But swathed in black, it was only when the man stood up, and Amroth saw that the red square on the front of his kaftan was adorned by the black-snake motif, that it all made sense. Bloody Umar! He clenched his fist, what was the swine up to now!
“My lord, I bring greetings from my master, Prince of the Black-serpent.” He bowed low at this and only the fact that he looked quite elderly stopped Amroth from attempting to strangle him. Unaware of his brush with death –and if Erchirion had been with him the messenger would definitely be gasping his last – the man continued. “I have a letter for the Lord of this Land and have been charged with delivering it, and this magnificent gift,” he made a graceful gesture towards the mare with a long-fingered hand, “to him personally.”
If the gift had been anything other than a living animal, Amroth would have thrown it over the harbour wall, but the horse couldn’t help where it came from. They would rest it for a few days and send it back. He nodded. “Prince Imrahil will receive the letter, and decide what do with the horse. For now, we will take her to the palace stables.” There was no need for the head collar they had brought; the mare wore a soft leather halter, richly embroidered in red and black.
The Southron bowed again. “My master has seen fit to part with this wondrous animal.” The curl of his lip showed Amroth that the servant did possibly not share his master’s generosity. “To return this mighty gift unwanted would cause unnecessary pain.”
Pain to whom? The horse or the messenger? Not prepared to discuss it with a servant, Amroth took a few steps towards the mare. The man said nothing and Amroth wondered if he hoped she would attack him, but already having met a few of her kin, he kept a good distance. Huge, fiercely intelligent eyes him stared at him, daring him to approach without permission. “My, you’re a beautiful one,” he said, producing a piece of carrot. He offered it to the mare but did not move forward. Her ears twitched, and she shook her head, but then she dropped her muzzle inviting him closer. The carrot snaffled, she nuzzled into his tunic, snuffling at the pockets. Fearful of hearing the material tear, Amroth quickly pushed the pocket up from underneath, so that another piece of carrot popped into her mouth. “What’s her name,” he asked, expecting something unpronounceable, but he got the translation.
“She is called, “Splendour of a Summer Morning, lord.”
“Dawn, will cover it, then.”
Concentrating on the horse, Amroth had forgotten his dour groom and stifled a laugh. “Right, let’s get her to the palace. My father will be surprised.”
Imrahil stared at the words on the sheet, unable to believe what he was reading. He’d thought the man mad, now he was sure.
“What does it say?”
Wordlessly, Imrahil passed the letter to his eldest son and turned to Sergion. “I am even more convinced that Lothíriel needs protection. Thank the Valar we took the precaution of setting up a guard.”
Four pairs of eyes questioned him, and his answer instigated a mighty gasp of astonishment. “The horse is not for me, it is for her.
“He’s given Lothíriel a horse! A war-mare? An equine warrior?” Sergion drew his brows together in disbelief.
“He saw her riding on the beach and thinks Whitewing not worthy of her. We have not provided a suitable horse for his future wife, so he will do so.” Imrahil shook his head in disgust.
“Apart from the ridiculousness of considering her bound to him, if this mare is anything like the ones they had with them last time, then I would not call it suitable. One cannot get near them unless they allow it.” Sergion replied.
“But they are fiercely loyal,” Amroth chipped in, “and will protect their owner even unto death.”
“It says here that the horse is un-proven in battle, but comes from a proven line,” Elphir said reading from the letter.
“I suppose we should be grateful he’s not sent an accomplished battle-horse,” Amroth quipped. “But from what I understand, they do not let their women ride these horses. So why would he send Lothíriel one, especially after she insulted him?”
Imrahil flung his arms up in exasperation. “Because he is obsessed with her. Because he cannot entertain the idea of not getting exactly what he desires. Because he wants to prove to us that he means well by her….because he means to have her…” he stopped, what had been niggling him suddenly became clear – someone must have told Umar that Lothíriel had returned. He tried to quickly work out the timescales of a message getting to Harad, but his middle son interrupted his thoughts.
“Send it back!”
“We can’t, Erchi. You heard what his servant said: the brute would destroy the messenger and the gift. We cannot have that on our conscience.” The thought of the horse being sacrificed appalled Amroth.
“No,” said Imrahil. “We will have to keep it. We will hold onto the horse but make it clear we will not agree to any union. I imagine Lothíriel would love it, although I doubt she will go anywhere near it when she knows where it comes from.”
“Good job,” said Erchi. “The bad-tempered nag tried to kick me.”
Amroth sighed. “I did tell you not to go straight up to her. You have to ask before you can approach them.”
“What rubbish!” Erchi snapped. “You tell a horse what to do, not ask it.”
“That’s why you are a lousy horseman, Brother.”
The argument came to an end as the door opened and Lothíriel bounded through. “Father, where did that mare come from? She looks like a desert-bred horse.” Lothíriel stopped and looked around her father’s study, surprised to see it full.
“We were just discussing the mare, Lothíriel. I take it you’ve met her.”
“Yes, I went to the stable to see Whitewing and found her. She’s lovely, so friendly. We got on famously. Who does she belong to?”
To be continued.
Many thanks to Sulriel for all the great information on Arab war-mares.
Also, Sulriel and ErinRua run a wonderful website where you will find superb horses to use in your stories, plus distances and travel times for Middle-earth journeys by horse, pony or wagon. A resource not to be missed. LBJ
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.