23. Enter the Ladies
Lothíriel awoke and a sigh rose almost immediately to her lips. Another day of travelling lay ahead, and she was tired of it before it had even begun. She resented long journeys at the best of times, and this one in particular. Her father's decision to take the coastal road, cross the Ered Nimrais and approach Rohan from the West had turned out to be, if not disastrous, then at least a real nuisance. It was a safe enough road, but lonely, with few settlements that could offer them hospitality, and to make matters worse, a persistent haze hid the lands that might have otherwise entertained Lothíriel on the way. She felt that the small advantage of having fewer miles to travel and shorten their journey by maybe a day was too dearly bought with insufferable boredom. It was most vexing to voyage so far and see nothing! If only they could ride faster, she thought as her maid fastened the ribbons of her gown. But it was not becoming for the Princess of Dol Amroth, let alone the future Queen of Rohan, to travel at anything more than walking pace, or so her Aunt Ivriniel insisted. Lothíriel had argued that in these empty lands, nobody would know even if she flew past in a gallop, but Ivriniel had said it was the principle of the matter. And her father, as usual, humoured his sister's notions of etiquette, for since the death of his wife, he had trusted her in all things pertaining female decorum. Lothíriel admitted that her aunt was kindness personified and always meant well, but she wished that this benevolence was paired with a little more flexibility of mind.
Ivriniel, however, was not inclined to depart from the wisdom of her foremothers, and so their journey dragged on day after tedious day. The fog rarely lifted, revealing only tantalising glimpses of trees and hills now and then. There was no sense of progress in this roiling sea of grey. The previous night, when they had set up camp, her father had assured her that they had reached the borders of Rohan, though what hidden landmark might have imparted this knowledge to him she could not tell. Yet she was glad of it, because it meant that sooner rather than later their journey would come to an end. She was almost as impatient just to be done travelling as she was to see Éomer again!
"Lothíriel?" Aunt Ivriniel lifted the tent flap and stepped inside. "Good morning, my dear." She greeted her niece with an affectionate kiss.
"Good morning, aunt." Lothíriel suppressed another sigh. "Is it time to set off?" She wasn't sure whether she would not prefer the confines of the tent to the shapeless world that awaited her outside.
"Just about, my dear, just about," said Ivriniel. "And I have an inkling that you will enjoy the ride today."
She took Lothíriel by the hand and ushered her out.
A breezy wind touched their faces, a sensation that was as welcome to Lothíriel as it was unexpected. She drew breath and pressed her aunt's hand. The mists had dissolved overnight. In the clear light, she saw that the camp nestled at the foot of a steep, rowan-clad hill. Dew clung to the grasses. She looked east, where the clouds loomed flecked with colour by the still hidden sun, peach and coral and a pale golden glow. Underneath this promising sky stretched out low, rolling hills greener than any she had ever seen. The country of Rohan lay ahead of her, lush and inviting, fresh and crisp. It would make a delightful picture.
With a moment's pang she thought of her pitiful attempts at painting. It was futile; she had no talent for the art of shape and colour, however much she desired it. Another, then, would have to paint in her stead. She would make sure to nurture him and mould him to her tastes. Silly man to lose his paints! Well, Lothíriel of Dol Amroth had ways of dealing with that!
"Is this more to your liking?"
Her eldest brother approached her, leading his horse by the bridle. He grinned and gestured at the scene.
"Much more to my liking," agreed Lothíriel. "I can see my new homeland is welcoming me."
The faintest hint of a touch made her glance downward. A lacewing had settled on her smallest finger. She lifted her hand to look closely at the delicately veined wings.
"You are such a pretty thing," she said quietly. "And useful, too, or so I have heard. You are an example to us all."
The lacewing didn't disagree.
Gléowine's challenge drove Déoric into the scribe's chamber early that morning and he set to work well before Brecc was expected to arrive. He had been awake late the previous night, talking things over with Fana, and so he had a fair idea of what he was going to write. There was an ending he would have liked to use, but whichever way he turned it, it didn't match the facts – yet. Perhaps he would just have to leave it open and see what Éomer King would do.
Déoric leaned back in the wheeled chair Léofred had fashioned for use at the Hall. It was a comfort to be back in the scribe's room. He opened a bottle of ink and inhaled the sharp smell. Not that he would use ink for drafting, which he preferred to do with a stylus, but the familiar scent took him back to his early days in this place and filled him with eagerness to meet a new challenge. Brecc had taken good care of all the tools of the scribe's trade, as Déoric noted to his satisfaction. Parchments sat in neat piles on the desk, covered with a cloth to protect them from dust. On a small wooden tray lay well-cut quills. Everything was clean and tidy. A space on one of the shelves remained empty – his box of pigments should have sat there. He shook his head to chase away the feelings of regret and frustration. Desk, parchment, stylus – he had a task to attend to and couldn't afford to mope over what might have been.
He had barely filled the first page when to his surprise the Lady Éowyn entered with an infant on her arm.
"My lady! I am honoured. I hope you are well?"
"Very well, thank you. I have come to show off my child," she said. "But I hear from Merilwen that you have one of your own, so you might not be as impressed as I could wish. This is Elboron."
Déoric smiled and held out his hands.
"He is heavy," he said when the child sat on his lap. "Blythe doesn't weigh anywhere near as much."
"A few months make a big difference," she replied and sat down. "How old is your little one?"
"Not quite seven weeks."
"Oh, if you are still counting weeks…"
Elboron clasped one of Déoric's braids and tugged it.
"He is a splendid little boy indeed, Lady Éowyn. You are right to be proud of him."
"Yes." She looked around the room. "We have both changed a fair bit since that day you wrote my inventory," she said without any obvious cue.
"I know that I have. You, my lady, do not look greatly changed to me, but I would imagine that your life in Ithilien is very different from what we know here."
"Very different," she agreed, "and not necessarily as I had pictured it. The land is very lush, you know, not at all what one might think of a country so close to Mordor. In fact, we live very pleasantly, thought there is, of course, much work to do still. The biggest surprise, though, was motherhood."
"I can understand that. If there is one thing I have learned it's that things are often different from what we expect," said Déoric. "You will probably not remember this, but just before you left to get married, you told me that I might find joy again."
"Oh, I do remember that," said Éowyn. "And you didn't believe me, did you?"
"Ah, but I did," Déoric replied. "I couldn't feel it or imagine how it could come about, but I knew you were right, if you see what I mean."
"Sometimes knowing something doesn't count for much if we cannot also feel the truth of it," said Éowyn. "I knew that having a child would change my life, but it wasn't until I held Elboron in my arms that I really understood."
Déoric smiled and bounced the infant on his knee.
"I know," he said. "They bring out a soft side in us that we didn't know was there."
"I'm sure you were never very short of soft sides."
"Ha!" Déoric grinned. "I am amazed you should know me so well."
"There is nothing amazing about it. You may be a man of surprising talents, but your character is very easy to figure out."
"Is that praise or censure?"
She smiled. "You may see it as you wish."
"Well, I thank you, my lady." Déoric turned his attention to the little boy and gently untangled his braid from the child's grip. Something about the hand caught his attention and he took a closer look.
"Merilwen says it is nothing to worry about," said Éowyn, who had been watching him. "Do you find it disturbing?"
"Oh, no," said Déoric. "Only curious. He'll have the edge over other children when it comes to counting on his fingers. Besides, it's much better to have something spare than something missing."
"I do hope people will think of it like that."
"I'm sure they will." He stroked Elboron's curly hair. "There is a story about a boy with eleven fingers who after the death of his mother was chased out of his village by the elders. So he came to settle in the next village, where they welcomed him, and he grew up to be a wise man and a great healer. And so the villagers who had welcomed him were rewarded for their virtue, but the people of his home village saw that it was their loss."
Éowyn gave him a critical look.
"You are making this up, are you not?"
"And what if I did? Master Gléowine thinks stories help us to shape the future. I say, they can also teach us to think right here and now."
"You have grown bold, Chronicler of the Mark. But remember, your duty is first and foremost to record, not to invent."
"There may be some wisdom required in how we record things, too," replied Déoric and pulled a sheet over the parchment he had been writing on.
"Wisdom, yes, and delicacy, too. You were lacking a bit in the latter when you confronted your king about the Dunlendings, were you not?"
Déoric felt himself colour and he fixed his eyes on Elboron, but then he heard the lady laugh.
"Do not worry, Déoric, I have not intention of lecturing you. You said what you had to say, and you bore Éomer's wrath in response. That was the best you could do. And you have made my brother think. If nothing else, that must count in your favour."
"You are very kind, Lady Éowyn."
"I can easily afford to be kind," she said. "Have you ever noticed, Déoric, that happiness makes people generous? I have wondered at times whether the cause of evil isn't often misery. If that is so, then my brother's efforts to aid Dunland will make the world a better place in more ways than one."
"I think you are right. Here." He handed the child back to her. "He looks like he wants his mother. Thank you so much for letting me meet him."
"It was my pleasure."
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.