25. Day 27: Unexpectedly Won Over (Eowyn, Lothiriel)
Eomer better find a good way to make this up to me, she thought, as she remembered one day shortly before she was to leave for Minas Tirith and eventually her new home in Emyn Arnen. She had been cleaning, going through some of her mother's things, when she came across a trunk with a sun motif, surrounded by linear patterns--what used to be Eomer's insignia--engraved on the leather. Knowing Eomer, it was likely that he had never even seen it, so she proceeded to open it. Within it, she found two smaller chests. One was labeled For Eomer. The other, My Daughter-in-law.
It had not surprised Eowyn. For a long time, she had known that her mother had left one for herself and one for Faramir, which she had retrieved the day he betrothal had been announced at the hall. What never ceased to astound her was that her mother would have thought to dispose of her things in such a way, as though she had known that she would die.
"Maybe she did, Eomer had said. "I remember she had those made after Father died. For days she worked on lists letters; perhaps it was her way of staying afloat after finding herself alone. She fell ill shortly after the chests were delivered to the house."
It had saddened her that she remembered so little. If she strained, she thought that she could remember designing an insignia for her own chest, but that was all.
And now, she found herself going back to the domain of the dead, a forgotten room where the inhabitants of the hall sent their odds and ends, followed by her future sister.
Taking a deep breath, she opened the heavy oak door. "This way," she said, lifting her lamp so that Lothiriel would have a better view and not trip. "Open the windows, if you please."
Lothiriel did as instructed, though she had to fumble with the latches for a while before she could get the windows open. Once she turned, she gasped at what the light revealed: the room was rather small, but so full of so many things! Eowyn could see Lothiriel's eyes darting everywhere. Looking for treasure, no doubt, she told herself, grateful that her husband could not look in on her thoughts. But, instead, she saw her pick up--
"A sea shell!" Lothiriel gave her a smile--one of those that her brother liked best because they gave her dimples--utterly disgusting!--and put the shell to her ear.
"Did you know," Lothiriel began, offering her the shell, "that you can hear the sound of the sea if you listen on a shell?"
"Yes, my mother left me one," Eowyn said, taking it and replacing it on the small table where it had been. "Here is your chest," she said, leading the way to prevent any more detours. She was quite ready to be done and out of there.
But Lothiriel, it seemed, had quite a different idea. With a complete disregard for the layers of dust that had gathered on the floor, she sat there, ready to inspect her loot. Eowyn could hardly leave her alone now.
She traced the engraving on the lid.
"Eomer's insignia," Eowyn supplied.
"The rising sun," she said, with a small smile. "It is very befitting. What is this pattern around it? It looks like waves, but why? Oh, from the poem of Felarof?"
"It is not waves; just a linear pattern," Eowyn said, suddenly wondering whether it was truly waves, and a little vexed at the girl's perfect rohirric pronunciation of the name Felarof. There was a trick to that r, and the sound stress, but she had gotten both right. "Go on," she prompted.
Lothiriel nodded and hesitant fingers traveled to the lock, turned it, and lifted the lid.
"Oh!" she exclaimed. Eowyn inched a little closer to have a better look. The first thing her eyes encountered was a soft red shawl, with flower embroidery on the corners. Lothiriel lifted it, amazed at the exquisite craftsmanship, and let her fingers trail over the flowers. Eowyn could now see that the embroidery had small pieces of jewelry interspersed with the threads. She could not remember ever seeing her mother wear it.
"It is beautiful," Lothiriel said.
"I cannot tell you where she got it. I cannot remember seeing her wear it. But Eomer might," she added upon seeing a small, delicate frown crease Lothiriel's forehead. It quickly disappeared, for which she was relieved; she did not want to have to explain to Eomer that she had quarreled with his betrothed; though, for some inexplicable reason, she always had a hard time keeping her head where Lothiriel was concerned.
The girl let the shawl pool onto her lap, removed the lavender sachet that had been placed inside the chest and removed the enamel box at the top. Within it, there were several pouches, including a blue one that Eowyn had received, as well, and a leather-bound book kept closed with some lengths of colored ribbons. On top of it all, there was a letter. Eowyn saw Lothiriel place it on her lap and proceed to open one of the pouches. Another exclamation was forthcoming.
"What a beautiful hair clasp!" she said, touching it gingerly, almost reverently. Eowyn did remember that one, and a sudden pang throbbed in her heart.
Theodwyn had gifted her daughter-in-law with some of her own jewelry, ribbons, a sewing kit, and some embroidery patterns, a small book of verses. When she came to the blue pouch, Lothiriel giggled as she took out the swan feather.
"How did she know? Is the swan feather a wedding tradition in the Riddermark also?"
"No, it is not. But my grandmother hailed originally from Belfalas, remember?"
"Yes," Lothiriel said as she returned the feather to the pouch.
There were more things: some of Eomer's old toys, some clothes and some fine pieces of cloth... Lothiriel seemed delighted with every object she encountered; though, admittedly some were quite old and had little use except as memories. Eowyn could watch her as she made her way through the contents of her mother's chest, and had to acknowledge that she was lovely. Beautiful, even, with that kind of beauty that went beyond a mere shapely face. There was something vibrant and lively about her, something contagiously cheerful and warm. She imagined that was what Eomer liked about her.
It took all of her self-command to stay in that room and watch her as she slowly made way through what her mother had left her. A stranger who would now share her life. The stinging sensation in her eyes could have been dust, but Eowyn did not like lying to herself and was forced to call it for what it was. In a few days, she would go back to Ithilien, never again the first woman in Eomer's heart. The pain was indescribable to those who could not feel it, who would not understand that she did not care for gaining a sister--for more than twenty-five years, a brother had been more than enough, and now she would lose him.
What made him--her think that she could keep up with her brother's moods, that she could make him happy? And, blasted Eomer, as complex as he was, to settle on such a woman... Could she really fulfill the demands that would fall upon her? Marriage is not easy; it requires a strong commitment from both parties to make it work daily. As she looked at delicate, lovely, feminine Lothiriel, she wondered if Eomer had ever thought of more than the demands of his body when he made his choice.
A sigh escaped her and Lothiriel looked up. Determined that this woman would not see her cry, she walked away to close part of the shade.
"You keep glancing to that letter," she said, steeling her voice, trying to appear unconcerned and trying to make her guest hurry and be done. "Go on and read it while I bring someone to help you move the chest to your quarters."
"I cannot read it."
"Why ever not? You do read, do you not?"
Lothiriel handed her the parchment.
"Oh." She would not be able to read it, all right, it was written in rohirric! Of course, her mother could not have known that Eomer would find himself a gondorian for a wife, but it was truly unlucky, for now that task would fall to Eowyn as well. She was not sure whether she would be equal to it.
Moving back to the window to put some distance between herself and Lothiriel, she read:
These letters always begin thus, but, if you are reading these lines, then I will not have the opportunity to meet you under the Riddermark's sun. I try to picture who you are, what you look like, what kind of girl would capture my son's heart, and I think you must be remarkable indeed. Surely Eomer's qualities will be refined by the time you meet him, but he is a being full of love and honor, full of passion for the things he thinks important in life--including you and the family you will have together but, after a while, it is hard to have to share the man you love to so many causes outside of himself
Eowyn could not read anymore and had to gaze outside for a reprieve. The cool spring breeze dried her tears well, but her heart was in turmoil. Accustomed to meeting challenges straightforwardly, she realized that this knot at the pit of her stomach would never undo itself unless she did something about it. And it had to be soon. The wedding was in three days' time and she was supposed to stand by her kinswoman.
Eowyn took a deep breath and turned to face Lothiriel. She was looking up at her expectantly, a little self-consciously, and with a hint of compassion that Eowyn found unbearable. That gave her all the push she needed to ask what she must.
"Eomer has always been very popular everywhere he goes," she began. "The men love him because he is a good friend, strong, honorable, good-natured. The women, because he is kind, handsome, strong, passionate. He could have chosen any woman in the world for a wife, yet he chose you. I know my brother's moods; I know that your qualifications for the management of Meduseld did not figure prominently in his tally when he decided to marry you, so he must love you. What about you? Why would you marry Eomer?"
There it was. She could not bring herself to feel remorse for her rudeness and lack of civility; she had never been one to be roundabout in any aspect of her life, and she would not do it for this stranger.
On her part, Lothiriel was still meeting her gaze, which surprised her. She had expected her to blush, stammer a reply, and dash outside, crying. She had not.
After a few long moments of thought, Lothiriel rose and made her way amid crates and chairs to stand beside her. Close as she was, she could see a faint blush now, but no signs of hesitation.
"I love him," she said, and Eowyn was surprised that a grave, reserved, proud gondorian would admit to such a strong emotion without batting an eyelash. "You asked why I would marry him, and that is why."
"Love is all well and good, but he is making you a queen. Surely you will say it never entered your dreams before, but now that it is a reality, you will do your best, and all that nonsense that sheltered women speak who do not know what it truly is like. My brother will have need of support during the waking hours, not just a warm bed at night.
The way Lothiriel's eyes widened told her that she had overstepped. She could not bring herself to regret it.
"I will have needs too, and I could not expect Eomer to be truly happy if he knew he was not meeting them. I thought marriage was supposed to be a partnership."
This insight surprised Eowyn but, before she had time to pursue the thought, Lothiriel spoke again.
"I wish that I could claim that I loved Eomer independently of his crown but I have always known him as a King, and as who he is, I loved him. I already know of the demands this will place upon us, upon our marriage; how I can never be the only consideration in his heart because he has a whole country to oversee first; how useless I will be to him, to the Riddermark, if I fail to give him a son to rule when he is gone; how I am condemned to loneliness when his country calls him away from me." She had to stop to look away. Eowyn could see her struggle with the quiver of her jaw, which she mastered after a few moments. "I know how I am expected to be passionate enough to keep him next to me, womanly enough to rear his children as befits the future kings of the Mark, compassionate enough to endure his absence in favor of his countrymen, cool enough to keep my head when circumstances are dire, hard enough to defend my family and hearth from threatening foes, gracious enough to open my roof to whoever seeks shelter under it in time of need, cunning enough to preserve useful connections and alliances and seek for new ones, all while putting my needs, my wants, my wishes in third or fourth place, always." A small, self-conscious smile tugged at the corners of her lips. "If that is not enough to make a woman run, I do not know what is. But I stayed, with excitement and hopeful anticipation of the future, because I believe that we can be happy together. Love may not be enough to make up for shortcomings, but it can provide the push to overcome them. And I do love him."
The confident lines of her expression melted into those of tenderness that she bore whenever she so much as glanced Eomer's way, and which had so sickened Eowyn before. But not now.
"I think you have made yourself clear, lady Lothiriel," Eowyn said. The merest ghost of mirth broke through her heart and must have shown on her face, for Lothiriel's smile widened. "No one will ever accuse you of not being forthright in my hearing."
The next morning, a parcel from the lady Eowyn was delivered to the lady Lothiriel's room. A strange gift it seemed to all who had never seen such a thing: a dictionary.
"Here Bryda, it is quite amazing," Lothiriel said as she opened the old dictionary to show her rohirric maid what it was for. "It lists all rohirric words with their meanings in westron, and on the second half of the book," she flipped through the pages until she came to the desired section, "all westron words with their rohirric equivalents. Is it not wonderful? I tried so hard to get one of the dictionaries from the library of Minas Tirith, but they would not even lend them to Rothos! Not for trivial matters, 'These are to be used for important affairs of state'! As if my learning rohirric is not an affair of state. Although," she said, suddenly turned wistful and moon-eyed, "I do long to understand what Eomer says when he speaks rohirric to me. His voice is so... But, anyway, look at the beautiful way your language is written! The words themselves look lovely."
Bryda could not share her mistress' enthusiasm but, then again, she already knew all the westron that she cared to know.
If anyone had seen the note that accompanied the gift, they might have understood.
I thought that this might come in handy. Had my mother known that Eomer would lose his heart in Gondor, fool that he is, she would have left you a dictionary herself. This one was made for my grandmother, Morwen, who was the wife of another foolish, headstrong man who lost his heart to another dark-haired gondorian. Apparently, the trait runs in the family, and Eomer was in danger from the start. I do not regret that he succumbed. Make him happy!
Notes: The custom of the blue velvet pouch and the swan feather is referenced to in my story, The Swan Feather, here http://www.henneth-annun.net/members/challenge/chapter_view.cfm?STID=2061&SPOrdinal=6&NGID=90
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